Monday, May 30, 2011

Multisport on a Shoestring: Your (T)rusty Steed

Okay.  So, last time I took you though getting set up for the swim.  As far as disciplines go, it's one of the easiest and least expensive to gear up for.  Suit? Check.  Goggles? Check.  Cap? Check.  Easy enough.  Now however, we come to the big money item: the bike.  Bikes are sexy.  They're elegant works of art that can be used to crush dreams and destroy the competition.  They're also rather intimidating.  There are so many different styles and brands, it's easy to get lost.
Let's get one thing out of the way first.  If you're new to multisport racing and aren't sure if you'll continue racing after your first event, you do not, I repeat, DO NOT need to drop $3000 on a carbon fiber rig.  Case in point: Cory Foulk

Cory's finished an Ironman on this $15 ride. 
 All right.  Let's get started.  This first part is for the person that has a bike, but doesn't know if it's "Tri Worthy".

If you're brand-spanking new to the sport, you probably still have some kind of bike stuffed in the back of your garage and are saying to yourself, "Self - I don't want to buy a new bike, maybe I can ride THIS...".  Well, before you decide, consider the following questions:

1.  Does it work? - Take your bike out, and ride it for a while, shifting through all of the gears.  If it doesn't shift smoothly, or sounds like a rusty barn door when you turn the pedals, then it probably could use a tune-up.  If you have the know-how, you can clean and tune it yourself, have a friend do it, or bring your ride into a local bike shop.  I'd recommend the local bike shop.  In addition to doing a nice, professional job, they'll also be able to tell you if there's more going on that you can't see.  The last thing you want is to have something break during your race.

2.  Does it Fit? - Opting to use your husband's old road bike is a great idea, especially if he's kept it clean and functional.  But, if he's 6'3 and you're 5'4, you're going to have problems.  Without getting too technical about fit, you'll want to be able to adjust the seat height so that you still have a slight bend in your knee when the pedal is at it's lowest.  Too much knee bend can cause pain in the knees, and legs that are too extended can cause hip pain.  Local shops will be happy to advise you on fit, especially if you already brought in your bike for a tune-up.

3.  Is it Fun to Ride? - This is often overlooked.  Sure, just about any bike will be able to finish the cycling portion of a race.  The issue is the training.  If you actually enjoy riding your bike, you're more likely to put in the training miles needed to finish your race.  If not, then it'll sit in the garage until race day, and you won't be as prepared as you could be.  Some folks can have fun riding almost anything. That's cool.  Others need to feel like the fastest kid on the block every time they ride.  That's cool too.

Now, if you don't own a bike, or the one you have doesn't meet your needs, then you'll probably be thinking about buying new.  Great!  There are all sorts of fun rides to check out.  Again, what I have to say here is for the BRAND NEW athlete.  If you've already been around the block a few times in multisport and are looking for advice on a sleek, sexy, superbike, then you won't find what you need here.  However, if you're looking for something dependable that you can ride more than just for racing, then you're in luck.

As always, there are two big questions to ask yourself before shopping for a bike:

1.  What kind of riding will I do? - If you just want to ride around the lake trails on the weekends, that's cool.  But you may benefit from a different kind of bike from someone who say, wants to ride the county roads for 10-20 hours per week. 

2.  What's your budget? - Yeah.  This is a sticky one.  If you're crapping cash, then that's great (I'll go grab a bucket) but not everybody can affort the top of the line.  The good news is that there are plenty of other options out there for the rest of us.

Okay.  So you've decided that you want a new bike.  You know how you'll want to use it and about how much you have to spend.  Do yourself a favor and check out a loca bike shop.  They'll be more than willing to let you test ride anything that strikes your fancy.  It should go without saying, but do not buy a bike from Sears, Wal-Mart or Target.  Sure, I use these guys for stocking up on toothpaste and Underoos, but if I'm going to spend my hard-earned cash on a ride, I'm going to buy it from an expert.

Let's take a look at the 4 main styles of bikes to consider.

Mountain Bikes

Prices Starting At: $300
Who they're for: With thick, knobby tires, solid frames and up to 30 gears, these bikes are designed for trail and off-road riding.  The rougher the terrain, the more that these excel.  Many have front suspension - shock absorbers built into the fork.  Others have dual suspension so both the front and back wheels will flex to soften the ride.  Get one if you want to try Xterra or any off-road races.

Who they're not for: They're tough, but they're also heavy.  Plus those knobby tires create a lot of rolling resistance.  Compared to other types of bikes, it takes a lot more work to get these up to speed.  Avoid these if you want to go fast on the road. 

What you pay for: Spending more money will get you nicer components (shifters, deraileurs, brakes, etc), disc brakes, as well as front or full suspension.  Components have come a long way.  The mid-level components today can out perform the top of the line from just a few years ago.  Some folks will get upity about getting the most impressive component spec, but don't let them convince you that it's needed.

If you really want to go crazy, you can get a carbon fiber frame that's lighter and stiffer so that you can chew up the course and rocket up those mountains.


Prices starting at: $250
Who they're for:  These are some of the most common bikes out there.  If you're finding a ride in the back of your garage, it's most likely a hybrid.  Why?  Well, they mix the upright seating of a mountain bike with the gearing of a road bike and wheels that are half-way inbetween.  This is designed to keep the rider comfortable, but also allows them to go quite a bit faster than the mountain rigs, at least on paved roads and trails. 
If you're new to the sport and aren't sure if you'll keep with it after your first race, this is a good place to start.  At least if you decide that multisport isn't your thing, you'll still have a nice bike you can take around the lakes from time to time. 

Who they're not for: Speed demons.  Compared to road bikes, hybrids are still pretty heavy.  The tires aren't quite as thick as mountain bikes, but they're still plenty beefy.  If you really wanna go fast, keep scrolling down.

What you pay for: Again, nicer components cost more money.  They're more durable and will operate more cleanly.  Do you absolutely need to spend a lot of cash?  No. Of course not.  But, it's there if you want it.  Some hybrids have front suspension forks too.

Road Bikes
Prices Starting At: $550
Who they're for: All right.  Now we're cooking with gas.  Everyone knows what road bikes look like.  They're what all those fast dudes in the Tour de France ride around on.  The riding position is much more aggressive, meaning that your hands are lower than your butt, so that you're more aerodynamic.  You have larger gears than on a hybrid, which gives you a higher top speed.  The tires are nice and narrow - usually around 23mm, so you can get up to speed and stay there. You've even got hood-mounted shifters that will change gears with just a flick from your index finger.

Also, there are some flat-bar road bikes out there as well.  If comfort is an issue and your back just can't handle leaning that far forward for so long, consider one of these as an alternative.

If you're going to spend time riding on the road, get yourself on one of these.  As fugly as my bike is, it's still just a modified Trek roadie, and it did the Ironman just fine.  I've got over 10000 miles on mine, and will probably put on 10000 more. 

Who they're not for: If you're new to cycling, $500 could be a lot to spend for what is considered a budget ride.  If you're strapped for cash and can't justify the cost, you may want to hold off for now.  Also, they're also not designed to be ridden on the trails.  With those narrow little wheels, you won't have nearly as much controll on even limestone trails compared to a hybrid or mountain bike.

What you pay for:  Carbon fiber costs more. Carbon is lighter than aluminum or steel, so you don't have to work as hard to move it. It can be molded into any shape, so frames can be more aerodynamic.  It's also said to yield a softer, less tooth-rattling ride.  Some less expensive bikes will give you carbon forks or seat posts.  Spend $2000 or more on a bike and the whole frame will be carbon.  Is it cool?  Heck yeah.  Do you NEED it?  Heck no.  Some of the fastest rides out there are are aluminum, and trusty old steel still has a nice soft ride.   
Oh, and the same rules apply for components on road bikes - they more you spend, the nicer they'll be.  Are they better?  Yes.  Are they required?  Ehhh...not so much.

Tri/Time Trial Bikes
Prices Starting At: $1000
Who they're for:  Me!  No, really.  I want one.  Bad.  These suckers are designed to go fast.  The frame geometry is much more aggressive and the aerobars get the rider nice and low.  The frame tubing is shaped like a wing so that it cuts through the wind.  Some have a rear wheel cutout that makes the back half of the bike even more slick.  These are for the serious triathlete and time trialist.

Who they're not for:  There's a saying: "Tri bikes are built for races, road bikes are built for life".  Meaning, a road bike is much more versatile than one of these beasts.  For example, since it's bad form to ride in the aerobars on a group ride, I'd be riding uncomfortably up on my base bar during all the Twin Cities Spoke rides.  They can also be a pain in the butt to maintain.  Kind of like sports cars, the more you spend, the more you find yourself tinkering with it.

What you pay for:  The same holds true for carbon fiber on tri bikes.  You'll see it used create more exotic shapes.  It can be softter vertically to absorb more road bumps, but stiffer from side to side so that all of your pedaling effort is transferred into the pedals rather than the flexing of the frame.  But hey, if you've got pockets deep enough for a carbon fiber tri bike, you probably knew that already.

Buying Used
There are plenty of deals to be had on Craigslist and eBay.  I know that the Twin Cities area has a fairly robust cycling presence on Craigslist.  If you really want a road bike, but still want to be able to afford gas and groceries, definitely give this a look.  I know it goes without saying, try to test ride the bike and confirm that everything is clean and in good working order before handing over your cash.  If something smells fishy, walk away.

My Ride
So, what do I ride?  Well, Rusty is a 2007 Trek 1500.  I got him on sale in preparation for RAGBRAI back in 2008.  Since then, I've added aerobars, flipped the stem to get lower in front, and rotated the seat tube 180 degrees to get more forward in the rear.  It's as close to a real tri position that I can get to for now.  The water bottle bolts rusted out, so I keep my fluids strapped between my aerobars and duct-taped the hole that was left when one of the bolts was 'extracted'. 
Even if I do finally save up enough dough for a dedicated tri bike, I'll still keep Rusty around for group rides, commuting, or nice rides around the lake.

My buddy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with Beginner Triathlete

Yesterday, I posted my second article in a series designed to help The Wife and several of my friends as they dive (pun intended) into the world of multisport.  I put quite a bit of effort into it.  Well, as much effort as one can expect from someone who has a full-time job, trains for triathlons and is a bit of a lazy-ass to begin with. 

Now, fast-forward to this morning when I hopped onto to find any updates on the local forum and check on any new articles.  Well, what do you think I found?  A wonderful write-up entitled "What a triathlon beginner needs to get started: The Swim".

Dang it.

Don't get me wrong.  The article is great.  It's comprehensive, includes advice for both men and women and even has some products that I omitted - I mean really, no newbie is going to want to use Swedish Goggles.  They also include some purchases, such as wetsuits and racing gear that I'll be covering later on.  So, if you're new to the sport and are still looking to get yourself set up for a swim, do yourself a favor and check out their article

HOWEVER, I would still recommend that you check back with me over the next couple of days.  Why?  Well, mostly to keep from injuring my fragile little ego.  But I'll do my best to give you things that Beginner Triathlete might miss.  Sure, there's likely to be some overlap between their advice and what I have to say.  But I'll try to keep my focus on the budget-minded folks who still aren't sure if they'll want to keep training after their first race.  For example: can you compete in your first tri using that 10-year old WalMart bike hanging in your garage?  Absolutely.  Will you WANT to?  Ehhhh.....

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Multisport on a Shoestring - Gearing Up for the Swim

Disclaimer:  I'm no pro.  So, take my advice at your own risk.  However, I have managed to train and race on a conservative budget for the last several years.  Also, I'm not sponsored by anybody.  If I recommend any equipment it's because I've actually used it.  

For a lot of folks, coming to grips with the swim can be the most intimidating part of getting ready for their first triathlon.  It takes us out of our comfort zone - you know, walking or biking around surrounded by air - and puts us in a strange environment - you know, bobbing around surrounded by water.  Most of us have seen coverage of the Hawaii Ironman with 2400 swimmers all thrashing around like the world's largest human washing machine.  During my Ironman swim, I was elbowed, grabbed, kicked in the eye and kicked in the family jewels (twice!).

Sure, the swim can be scary, but it doesn't have to be.  If you're new to swimming, the best thing you can do is get comfortable in the water.  If your first race has a swim leg in a pool, then hit the pool.  If your first tri has an open water swim, then in addition to your pool time, you'll want to swim outside too.  Open water is a completely different animal, and takes a little getting used to.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's set you up with some gear first.

What they do:  Unless you're Aquaman, you'll need some help seeing underwater.  They'll also protect your eyes from chlorine pools.

Need Factor: 10/10
Cost Factor: $10-$20

Where to Shop: Triathlon Shops, Swimming Shops and Sporting Goods Stores will all carry the same brands.  If you have questions, definitely check out your local tri shop or swimming specialty store.  You may pay an extra dollar or two over the big-box chain stores, but knowing that you got the right product will be more than worth it.  I would stay away from department stores like Target or Wally-World.  The brands may be the same, but they're often a lesser quality version and not worth any potential savings.

What to look for: Goggles come in a couple different flavors. First, there are your standard competition goggles.  They have small individual lenses, a plastic bridge to connect them and 1 or 2 straps to lash them onto your skull.  I go with the Speedo Vanquisher, but there are similar products from TYR, Dolfin and a number of other manufacturers.  They each have a slightly different contour, so you'll likely find that one brand fits your face better than the others.

The best way to test the fit is to take it out of the packaging (don't worry, it's not stealing) and press the goggles gently into your eye sockets without putting the straps around your head.  They should create a solid seal and hold in place on their own.

The other style of goggles you'll encounter are designed more specifically for open water swimming.  They are built with larger lenses and sturdier frames.  Some still have individual gaskets (the rubber parts that suction cup to your face), while others have a single gasket - similar to what you would find on a SCUBA mask.  While they are somewhat more bulky, the larger lenses provide a better field of vision, and the thicker strapping systems can provide some with a more secure fit.

Why Spend the Extra Dough: You'll get quite a bit of bang for your buck with goggles.  When properly cared for, they can last years.  Spending $17 at a specialty store versus 7.99 at a department store will get you better rubber gaskets, higher quality plastic lenses and more adjustable straps so they're easier to fit to your head.

Swim Caps
What they do:  Control your mane, make you super hydro-dynamic, warm your noggin and keep your goggles in place.

Need Factor: 6/10
Cost Factor: $5-$12 (or FREE with races)

Where to Shop: See 'Goggles' above

What to Look For:  There are two types of swim caps: latex and silicone.  They also come as one-size-fits-all, so even you guys with monster craniums are in good shape.  So, just pick a color you like and snap it onto your head. 

Latex caps are the most common.  I've gotten one from every race I've ever done.  They're color-coded to match the wave I started with.  I shave my head though, so a cap doesn't make me any more streamlined in the water, nor does it contain my flowing mane (unless I pull it down over my eyebrows).  The only problem I've noticed with latex, is that after a couple of months in the chlorine pool, the material starts to fade and get thin, which leads me to the other type of swim cap...

Silicone caps usually run a buck or two more than their latex cousins.  The material is thicker, and not quite as stretchy.  Though, you still shouldn't have any problem putting it on.  Silicone's strength is its near indestructibility.  I've had the same black cap - seen in my profile photo to the right - for the last 3 years.  Do I take care of it?  Heck no.  I usually ball it up and stuff it in my bag in between my shower sandals and towel.  After one quick rinse to knock off any sand, it's ready to wear again. 

I'd also recommend silicone if you're prone to ice cream headaches when swimming in colder water.  The thicker material helps keep my melon warm.  Now, you're probably wondering, "why does he wear a swim cap if he's already bald?".   First of all, I'm not bald.  I CHOOSE to shave my head as a preemptive strike.  Second, since most tris require that each racer wear a cap, I may as well get used to it in practice.  Third, if you put your cap on over your goggles, it'll help hold them on your head.

Why Spend the Extra Dough:  Don't.  Seriously.  All swim caps do the same thing.

Swim Suits
What they do: Cover your bits 'n' pieces.

Need Factor: 10/10
Cost Factor: $15-$60+

Where to Shop: You know those goggles and swim caps?  Well, would you believe that you can get your suits there too?

What to look for:  Before I get too far, let me remind you, I'm a boy.  I have boy parts.  If you are a lady, with all those wonderful lady parts, please consider checking out a swimming specialty store or tri shop if you have any questions about fit.  Also, for now, we'll just take a look at suits for training.  I'll cover racing clothing later on.

As a boy, I'm fortunate that my suits cost a fraction of those the ladies wear.  Why are they cheaper?  I would imagine it's because they use considerably less fabric.  In any event, training suits come in a few different varieties.

The first is nylon shorts.  These are baggy, may have pockets and are conservative enough to wear to the beach without drawing too much attention to yourself.  The good news is that nylon is highly resistant to chlorine, so shorts like these can last pretty much indefinitely.  However, since they're loose, they'll slow you down in the water.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as training with a little extra resistance can serve to make you stronger.

Next up are your more serious training suits.  I'm partial to the Speedo Endurance line of products.  You can check out my review of their square-cut shorts here.  The longest option are jammer shorts.  Wearing these is like wearing cycling shorts without the pad.  If you're more modest, but still want a fast suit, jammers may be right up your alley.

As the legs get shorter, you come to the square-cut shorts.  I usually opt for these because they're a little less expensive than jammers (less fabric) but they still cover my tushy.
Finally, you have briefs.  These are what most people think of when they hear the word 'Speedo'.  No, they're not for everybody, especially the self conscious of us.  But heck, once you're in the water, nobody's going to be paying attention to the suit you're wearing.  So, try a few different suits on and go with what's comfortable.  If you want to sport some briefs while you train, knock yourself out.

Why Spend the Extra Dough: Honestly, as long as you're comfortable in the water, there's no need to spend a crazy amount of money on a suit.  If you do decide to invest more, I would highly recommend the Speedo Endurance line since the fabric will last much longer in the pool than standard brands.  Sure, the shorts will run you an extra $10 compared to their standard counterpart.  However, they'll last 4-5 times longer.

Well, there you have it.  Once you've got a suit, some goggles and maybe a swim cap, you're ready to hit the pool at your local Y, health club or rec center.  We've got 2 more sports to get geared up for, and once we've got you set up for cycling and running, we'll be ready to train.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Multisport on a Shoestring

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  Long time.  No post.  Don't worry.  I've got stuff coming down the pipe, and I'm hoping that today's post will be the first in a series to help out those of you who are just getting in to multisport racing, or are trying to train in race on a less-than-liberal budget.  You see, within the last couple of weeks, The Wife signed up to do her first duathalon.  Plus, not one, not two, not three but FOUR of my close friends have also signed up for their first races.  Some will be doing the YWCA Triathlon in August and one will be doing the IronGirl Du along with The Wife in September.  It's pretty exciting stuff.

Folks sign up for their first Tris and Dus for all sorts of reasons, but for the most part they fall into two categories: those with a bucket list, and those seeking a lifestyle change.  The bucket-listers see their first race as a new challenge, but may not have any long term plans after the race is finished.  Then, you have the lifestyle-changers.  Sure, their first race is a big deal, but they also have some other things lined up further off in the future.

Either way, getting set up to complete your first race could be a substantial investment.  Here are just a few expenses that you may have to look forward to:

Sprint Triathlon Race Fee: $50-$150
Bike: $250-$2000
Running Shoes: $50-$120
Cycling Gear (Helmet, Jersey, Shorts, Gloves): $100-$300
Gym Membership: $20-$50 per month


It's easier for the lifestyle-changers to justify the expense because they know they're likely to continue to use all their new gear.  It's a little bit different for the bucket-listers.  Understandably, it's harder to stomach the cost when it might be just a one-time deal.  Nobody wants to be looking at a $1500 bike sitting in their basement that hasn't been ridden in years.

My goal will be to help you spend your hard-earned cash effectively so that you can get the most bang for your buck.  I'll go over things like choosing what kind of bike to use, how to get set up with running shoes and how to fuel yourself without breaking the bank.

If you've been racing for a while now, I'm really not going to cover anything that you don't already know.  The 'Multisport on a Shoestring' series will be for my wife, my friends and any other newbies out there that just need a little nudge in the right direction.

Am I a pro triathlete or a coach?  No.  But, I do know how to eek every last ounce of value out of my dollar.

So, stay tuned and feel free to drop me a line if there's something that you'd like to see covered.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

2011 Ironman Bike Ride

Last weekend was heavy on the events.  Not only did I have the Get in Gear 10K, but there was also the Ironman Bike ride.  This was my 4th time doing the ride and my 3rd time in a row.  This ride is infamous for it's brutal weather conditions.  It seems that every year, the weather figures out new and creative ways to beat the crap out of us.  In 2002, I did my first Ironman through 6 inches of wet snow.  In 2009, it was torrential downpours.  Last year, we had freezing rain.

This year was the most difficult of all.  The word of the day was "Wind".  This was no Spring breeze mind you.  This was 20-30 MPH sustained winds with gusts that could peel the skin off your face.  Sure, the temperature at the start was in the low 30s, but it felt closer to the mid-teens.  Yikes.

Now, if it had just been me, I would have considered wussing out and just doing the 30-mile ride.  But, there was a crew of 10 riders from the Twin Cities Spoke who had come out to tackle the 68 and 105-mile routes.  Well, shoot.  I wasn't about to let them have all the fun.

The wind was blowing straight from West to East, so naturally, the first 23 miles were predominantly straight West.  Ugh.  We started out as a cohesive group, but with a few different ability levels we were soon spread out.  For the first 10 miles or so, I didn't know if I was going to make it to the first rest stop in Jordan.  My legs were still sluggish from the 10K on Saturday and the wind wasn't helping.

Then, at about mile 12, while I was plugging along, I started getting passed by a large group of cyclists.  There were about 40-50 in the peleton.  My first thought was "Holy Crap!  Look at all of those delicious wheels to suck on!".  I shifted over into the pack and immediately my speed when from ~15 MPH to ~18 MPH.  It was great.  It really helped me appreciate the impact that drafting can have on speed.  I was able to ride this wave all the way into Jordan before stopping for some food and to regroup with the rest of the team.

At that point we had a decision to make.  As much as I wanted to do the 105-mile route, I knew that it was probably asking too much from my body.  Sure, I probably could have finished it, but really, that just seemed like unnecessary abuse.  So, as the group split up, some of the he-men continued on their way into the wind and the rest of us turned South.

The good news was that the wind was no longer in our faces.  The bad news was that it was now trying to blow us into the ditch.  I saw a guy riding with a disc wheel who I'm pretty sure is still airborne somewhere over Wisconsin.  Soon though, we were in for a treat.  A few miles before the next rest stop, we turned to go with the wind.  Holy Moley!  For the next 5 miles, I cruised along at 28 MPH.  WOO HOO!

We made another pit stop in Lonsdale and grabbed some more grub.  If anything, the ride organizers did a great job of stocking these rest stops with all sorts of goodies.  I didn't realize how cold my body was until I tried a cup of hot chocolate.  I could feel ever drop going down my throat and warming me from the inside out.  Plus, there was a fire pit in the parking lot for us to warm our buns.  Man, that felt good.

The next 23 miles were interesting to say the least.  The route was a North and East zig-zag back into Lakeville. The wind had picked up, so it's impact was even more significant.  There was one particular stretch where we turned back into the wind for about 1 mile.  I was going all out, downhill, and hit a blistering 10.5 miles per hour.  I was scared that if I stopped pedaling, I'd get blown back up that hill. 

Fortunately, that didn't last too long before we were back to alternating between leaning into the wind and shooting across the countryside like a rocket.  Soon, we were back in Lakeville and on our way back home.  When it was all said and done, I had ridden 67.4 miles in 4 hours and 22 minutes.  That gave me an average speed of only 15.4 MPH.  Sure, it wasn't fast, but I earned every one of those miles.

Will I do this ride again next year?  Eh, probably.  I figure that after snow, rain, sleet and wind, what could possibly be left for the weather to throw at me?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Get in Gear 10K Race Review

Summary: Sometimes you get the bear.  Sometimes the bear gets you.

Okay, you probably wanted a little more detail than that.  Fine.

The Get in Gear 10K is actually a whole lot more than just a 10K.  Sure, the 10K is the main event and has the most racers, but there's also a 2K fun run, a 5K and a half-marathon.  There were a little over 3100 runners registered in my race, 1800 in the 5K and 1000 troopers in the half-marathon. So, at any given time during the race there were close to 6000 people out on the course.

It's kind of a big deal.

The Wife and I woke to some gloomy weather.  It had been raining most of the night and the forecast said that it wasn't going to clear up any time soon. I suppose it wasn't that big of a deal.  Last year was rainy too, so it wasn't something that either of us couldn't handle.

We each ate a bagel with some peanut butter and snarfed down a banana before hopping in the car to head to the course.  After about 10 minutes on the road, I realized that I had made my first mistake of the day and left my bib number back at the house.  Crap.  So, after a little bit of lead-footed driving and a little bit more cursing, we swung back home, grabbed the missing gear and got back on the highway.

Lesson Learned: Get your act together the night before the race. C'mon, you've done this before.

The Wife's mom lives about a mile from the start line, so we met at her place and strolled over to Minnehaha Park.  Our friends Ike and Maggie (and their baby, Ruth) were there too.  Heck, even my mom made it this year.  She was always there to cheer for me back in high school, so it was cool to see her today.

Even with all the rain, there was still a fairly intense crowd at the start.  One of the hardest parts of a race this size is picking a good place in the crowd to start.  If you start too far forward, you end up getting trampled by speedy folks.  Start too far back and you'll be running zig-zags around the slower runners. 

By the time my chunk of the crowd reached the start line, approximately 4 1/2 minutes had gone by.  It was pretty jumbled up, but at least everyone was running off the start.  Adrenaline kicked in and I did the best that I could getting to my goal race pace of just over 8:00 per mile.  At the same time, I was playing a game of human Frogger and probably ran a couple of extra blocks going side-to-side to move up in the pack.  So, my second mistake of the day was starting way way waaaaaay too far back in the pack.

Mile 1: 8:09
Lesson Learned: Be more careful when seeding yourself at the start line.

The next couple of miles were frustrating..  By miles 2 and 3, I was starting to overheat.  As it turns out, I didn't need long sleeves after all and would have been better off with just a tri-top and lightweight gloves.  Also (and I don't know if overheating had anything to do with it) I just couldn't get a good rhythm going.  I knew that I could run faster, but every time I pushed a little harder, I just couldn't maintain the pace I wanted.

Mile 2: 8:34
Mile 3: 8:54
Lesson Learned: It's better to be cold at the beginning of the race than to be hot in the middle.

After stumbling through mile 3, I started to get angry with myself.  I mean, for crying out loud, I've averaged 8:54 in easy workouts before.  I tried to run with better form, focusing on mid-foot striking and leaning slightly forward with good posture.  It seemed to help a little bit as my splits started to get a little better, but still weren't anywhere near my goal pace.

Mile 4: 8:43
Mile 5: 8:29
Lesson Learned: I had better start to work more on my running form.
Lesson Learned: A little rage while running isn't always a bad thing.

For the last mile and change, I tried to force every last bit of energy I had into forward momentum, but it just wasn't happening.  Usually, I get an adrenaline rush that helps me finish strong.  This time: no rush, just more frustration. On a positive note, I heard my mom yelling my name as I headed towards the finish chute.  It took me back to cross country races back in high school.  It was pretty cool.

Mile 6: 8:25
Mile 6.3: 2:12 (Remember all that zig-zagging?  Well, it added another .1 miles onto the run.  No biggie.
Total Time: 53:29, 8:31/mile.
Goals Reached: None.  Not even my 'Meh' goal of 52:30
HOWEVER:  I DID break my previous 10K record by over 3 minutes.  So, um, yay!

Lesson Learned: Suck it up buttercup.  Sometimes a strong performance just ain't in the cards.
Lesson Learned: Moms that always cheer for you are awesome.  Plus, they don't care how crappy you think you did, which is awesome-er.  AND, I had 2of them there for me yesterday.  So, I suppose that's doubly-awesome.

After finishing, I stumbled around looking for where all those cheers came from.  In the process, I ran into The Wife, who had just finished her race.  I gave her a squeeze and slapped her on the booty in a 'good game' kind of way.  I'm glad I saw her first after the race.  Then we met up with the rest of our crew and made our way back to the cars.

As a special treat, Ike, Maggie, The Wife and I went to the 5-8 Club and treated ourselves to Juicy Lucy's.
Nothing says 'Sorry about the crummy race' like cheese wrapped in meat.