Thursday, 28 July 2016

Ironman Lake Placid

Google said the trip was about 6 hours, which makes Lake Placid close enough for an afternoon drive.  I left after work on Thursday, and spent the night with the trucks in the parking lot at the OnRoute just outside of Cornwall before crossing the border into the US.  I should do that more often.  With the right planning and bedding, it would be quite comfortable.  
Run Aid Station #3, on River Road
 I arrived Friday morning with plenty of time for a full day of adventure.  First the bike.  I rode one lap of the bike course.  It reminds me of the Mont Tremblant course, only with higher mountains all around.  

Looks better in 3D
Highway 73 descends into a gorge down, down, down, like forever.  Then it finally levels out alongside the river valley.  ...and the sign for "trucks use low gear down the hill for 2 miles" comes.  More screaming fast downhill.  Finally 2 miles later levelling off.  That will be some climb coming up out of this valley.  Then another sign, "trucks use low gear down the hill for 1 mile".  I'm still chicken on the downhills, and that one set my brakes to squealing.  
Me on Mount Marcy. Fitbit says it's 400 floors for the hike.
The climb doesn't seem nearly as steep, taking almost half the course to get up the hill to the village again. 
Danger, No swimming
 I should eat and go to the washroom, but I just have an energy bar and set off for the run.  I made one lap of the run course.  It's a lonely out and back down a farm road by the river.  Lonely because it's largely inaccessible to spectators. Quite flat, which will be nice, except for a long, steep hill on the way back into town.  I got some cramps at that point, needing the room of requirement, so I walked the last few km.  
Last swimmer gets his own flotilla
Everything in town is booked, so my hotel is 40 miles away, for a long night's drive.
Sunscreen is spray-on this year
Saturday, and the highest peak in New York state is just up the road, so I drive to the trailhead and hike up to Mount Marcy, about 12 km each way.  My Fitbit records it as over 400 floors worth of climbing. The round trip takes me about 7 hours.  I wore one of my Ironman finisher shirts, so people keep asking if I'm racing tomorrow.  No, just handing out water. The peak is just above treeline.  I don't think I've ever been above treeline. Not on foot anyway.  
Kids building sand castles behind the wetsuit strippers
Well rested overnight, I make it to town to watch the swim.  I like watching the swim, especially the last few racers, for whom the crowd cheers like mad.  Then it's off to Run Aid Station #3, out the isolated River Road.  I'm there in time to see the first pro come by, and stay on into the night until the last man on course has passed.  Like last year, at dusk I set out to do roadway clean-up.  I fill about 3 garbage bags.  One item, I think is a shoelace, until I've picked it up to see closer.  Dead snake.  
Me at the aid station

I make it back to town for the last hour of finishers coming in.  There's a large set of bleachers, so the crowd is wild.  I hear that the race doesn't sell out anymore, with this being one of the more difficult Ironman courses available, but I come back Monday morning anyway, to buy my race entry.  I will be back again as a racer in 2017.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Fredericton Marathon

It's a long drive, but it wasn't for a marathon; that was a last-minute addition.  Daughter Jen is living on the army base in Oromocto.  She had a few weeks free between training camps, and I had some vacation time, so I hopped in the car Wednesday morning to drive there.  Google said 15 hours, but after that passed, it was dark, and I was still in Quebec.  The deer crossing signs changed to moose warnings.  Then came the sign with the giant image of a moose beside a crushed car.  The beasts are huge.  Then came the sign with flashing yellow lights, "Caution - moose.  Slow down at night."  Alrighty then, that's enough.  I pulled into the next motel and stayed the night.  

What's to do in Fredericton?  Not much.  There's the art gallery, but it was closed for construction.  I wandered through the military museum at the army base.  The farmer's market made the top 10 list of must-see attractions, so we went there before the race expo.  It's truly great to see Jen again.  She's grown up and gone to save the world, but hasn't lost her youthful charm.  I have cherished every minute of being with her over the last few years.  We wandered by the riverside, ate sushi (at Naru), went to Strange Adventures the comic-book store, went to a movie (Captain America Civil War -- it was awesome).  All the fun things all over again.  

Race day!  She called a week ahead to say that she was signed up, so with that little notice, I signed up too.  They did a good job of putting together a big-city race. There was water right to the last aid station.  It was well organized and operated, with race packets readily available at the expo, and all the support right where it needed to be.  We got to see the kids races on Saturday, which is a great part of the race weekend.  It's an inclusive sport, so it's good to see them have a special event for everyone.

The weather was overcast, with not much wind, and the rain was finished by race start.  After a short loop through downtown, we crossed the converted rail bridge, and used the rail trail for a double out and back.  For the first half, we stayed close to the 2:30 pace rabbit, with lots of walking in the second half.  We even met a lady from London, who raced at the Forest City Road Races a week before.

Finish time:  5:33:33

On your marks

Me in my Sporting Life 10k shirt

Start off with a loop through downtown

Of course, some people do go both ways

Bridge across the Saint John river

Sure, you look happy now

Much of the rail trail is paved for us

One more bridge to cross

Back at the start, we keep right for 2nd lap

Jen in the race shirt

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Forest City Road Races

I love their slogan, "Any age, Any ability". 

It's a fully inclusive event.  Bring your friends, your family, invite strangers.  Run as far as you dare, at whatever speed you can muster.  As long as you are making forward progress, they will wait for you at the finish line with your medal.

I entered the half marathon.  It needs its own name.  I often call it the 20k.  It's a long long way that you can't finish without some prep.  What a strange course.  A short loop around the river, then a long loop to the north end of town, finishing on the same path by the river.  The river is scenic and I like running there.  I wasn't concerned about timing, so I didn't check my watch the entire event.  I just pushed as hard as I thought to be sustainable.  

Fitbit map of FCRR 21 km route
It was still really cool in the early morning, so I wore my jacket.  The sun came out for us, so I unzipped and let is slip down my arms.  As I got crossed the street back to the park, with  a half loop of the park to go, they sounded the horn to begin the 10k, which starts 2 hours after my race. I kept to my pace, and finished just seconds under 2 hours, about the same time as 2012 in Milton. I got cold quickly, and headed home to walk my dog.

Most everyone in my running group were aiming for the GoodLife race the next weekend, so they went for a short run apart from this event.  I did see Mitch, however.  At about my pace and age group, I often ran with him during the group runs.  He and his wife ran the half, finishing shortly after me.  

It's good to be out there competing.  They gave me a medal and a tree.  The tree is lost in the tall grass now.  If I can find it I will help it along. 

I planted the tree back there

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Long run with the group

Long run with the group. From The Running Room through the park by the river, and back along city streets.  This week I ran with John, who is running an ultra in June for 100k.

Run through the park

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Ironman Chattanooga -- Volunteer

It was most of the day driving for me to get to Chattanooga from the guidestones monument in Georgia.  Right away I was put off by the strange layout of Chattanooga's roads.  It took ages to find the hotel.  The city is bisected by a tall ridge.  The tunnel through the ridge to get from downtown to my hotel was closed for construction.  None of the gas stations where I stopped had a map of the city, and the attendants were entirely useless at giving directions.  The streets were busy, with little indication of being accessible by bike.

Heading to the water
The next day improved my feelings towards the city.  The downtown core has many bicycle routes marked. I followed one such southward, looking to follow the bike course.  Sadly, the expo had run out of guidebooks, so I didn't have maps or directions.  I came to the Georgia state line and was again disheartened.  I found it difficult to believe that they would cross out of Tennessee.  That was incorrect, with most of the bike course being in Georgia, down to the town of Chickamauga.  I ran one lap of what I remembered to be the run course, and got it roughly correct.  For my next year of training it will be in my head, like Wisconsin was all this summer.

The directive is to jump. No diving.
Race day I made it to the swim start before dawn.  The start is delayed to 7:30 because dawn comes later this time of year.  The time-trial start looked like a problem for those further back in line.  The line up went on for a long ways down the path through the park, so those towards the back half had some running to get to the start and onto the dock.  Your time starts when you get on the dock.  The day was mostly cloudy.  The water was 77 degrees, making it wetsuit optional.  It took until 7:55 to finish all of the non-wetsuit athletes.  They got to go first.  Then another 10 minutes for the wetsuit wearers.  I'm not going to wear mine. This is my big chance for a non-wetsuit race.

TT start, but still a mass of swimmers

Go that way! Over there!
Life is worth swimming
From the bridge, it was interesting to watch people's swim form.  Some of the slower swimmers had poor arm movement, not extending forward on entry, then bending their elbow for the propulsion stroke.  Can you do the iron swim using dog paddle?  Yes, there was a guy doing that.  He barely made his own headway at all, moving along largely due to the river current.  There was a competitor in the rescue boat.  Don't know what his story was, but that would suck to be out of the race before leaving the water. 

Slippery when wet. Wet. Slipping. Crashing. Hurting.
With everyone in the water, I biked back to the start.  The wooden bridge is slippery when wet, and my back wheel went out slamming me down to the walkway.  It left a bloody welt on my hip.  

Lunch was at Noodles and Company, a franchise that Noah I discovered in Chicago. You order and pay, then sit at a table where they will bring the food to you.  That feels so much nicer than standing in the McDonalds lobby.

I should have just started my volunteer shift, but after locating the station where I was to be on duty later, I headed off to Lookout Mountain by bike. The road is a moderate incline for six km, for a total gain of over 250 meters.  It was a tough ride, leaving me spent by the time I made the top.  Having enough of riding, I went for dinner at Five Guys, then to the aid station.  

Run aid #1.  My crew
The most requested item was ice.  Although overcast, the day was warm, and the runners struggled in the heat.  Some rain would have been nice to keep them cool.  

By nightfall, the runners had thinned, so I made a clean-up pass down the road.  Lots of Gu tabs.  Runners were coming out from special needs, so I found some strange items.  A couple shirts.  Cans of pop and energy drinks. A little hotel bottle of mouthwash.  A toothbrush -- because you want to brush your teeth during the race, right?  Cookies. Towel.  This one thing looked like a pair of socks on the road. I picked it up.  Nope -- dead squirrel.  I moaned for the next couple of runners to thank me for supporting them, because that was nasty and way beyond what I signed up for.  

I ended up selecting Chattanooga as this year's race because the lunar eclipse was happening at 9:30 that evening.  The moon came out for about a five minutes at 8:30, then it was cloudy for the rest of the night, so no joy there.  No blood moon over the race.

After the last runner, who stopped at our station and decided to abandon, I stayed on station cleaning and packing until the work was done and the captain said it was all over.  The trash was piled, and the cardboard recycle as well.  

By the light of the moon

I went down to the finish, but was too tired to stand there cheering.  They didn't have bleachers. On towards the midnight close, there were a few stragglers on course, and I hurried the one guy, yelling that he could still make it, but needed to run for it.  He found the speed, and ran the last minute to the line, crossing just as the clock ticked off midnight.  It seems like everyone who managed to finish was recorded an official time, as if the customary midnight cut-off didn't apply. The book still says that you get 17 hours, so maybe midnight doesn't matter here.  

Wanting to get out of town early, I didn't go back in the morning to buy my ticket.  It shouldn't sell out for weeks.  I signed up online when I got home.  Ironman 2016 I'm back to Chattanooga. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Great Smoky Mountains

On my trip to Chattanooga, I wanted a side-trip to visit the Georgia Guidestones.  On my map, it's only "that way" about an inch, but it's a map of the South-Eastern states, so an inch is a few hours drive.  The direct route is from through the Great Smoky Mountains.  All off the routes made mad wavy lines in that region.  Thinking of Deliverance and Wrong Turn, I didn't want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, so I chose the highway based on how easy it looked to navigate the backwoods. The first major city was Gatlinburg.  Did I say back woods?  This place was like Vegas South.  It was a long strip of hotels, shows, and attractions.  That was a surprise.  This was really the wrong place for me.  

Sunset from Clingman's Dome

Then comes the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In an instant the crush of tourist-trap nirvana is replaced by endless woods and hills. 

My GPS watch says it was 280m up the hill

I got directions to the highest point around, and went for a hike.  Clingman's Dome is a peak on the ridge separating Tennessee from North Carolina.  It really did seem endless driving out of the mountains.  It was a couple hours just to get clear of the park, and then I drove for several hours through the mountains as night fell.  Then it started to rain, so I abandoned drive for a nearby hotel.  

Let These Be Guidestones To An Age Of Reason

So is translated the hieroglyphs at the top of the monument.  As with other great stone monuments worldwide, the designers of the guidestones are unknown.  Operating under a pseudonym, a man arrived many years ago, acquired the small plot of land, and hired the local stone cutter to build them.  It's not exactly a great mystery.  Whoever put them here knows why.  In a few hundred, or even several thousand years, they should still be standing, as a message to the future.  

Selfie at the Georgia Guidestones

Tuesday, 29 September 2015