Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Note

December 2014
   Happy Holidays! I wish everyone reading this a safe and warm winter. 2014 was another adventure-filled year for me with mountains, marathons, and many many miles. Despite all the travel, I am still employed at ARM, where I will soon reach 14 years of employment.
   I didn't climb many literal mountains this year, the notable ones being in Mexico in February. On a one week trip around the Mexico City area, we warmed up on 14,636-foot La Malinche, trained on 17,160-foot Iztaccíhuatl, and reached a high point of 18,491 feet on Pico de Orizaba. Orizaba is the tallest mountain in Mexico and number 3 in North America. The lead guide, Geoff, was also a guide on my Denali (#1 in NA) trip in 2013. I'm hoping one day he'll guide me to #2, Mt. Logan, which is also the highest point in Canada.
   In 2014, I did two more Ironman races, 10 weeks apart. At the end of June I did one in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho amid beautiful scenery. The swim was one of the nicest I've done, in the cold crystal clear waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The bike course was challenging with long climbs, made worse by strong winds. The marathon was a bit cruel, going over the same hill four times. My finish time was my best yet, and for the first time there was still a touch of daylight when I crossed the line. The best part, though, was that my mother and her two sisters traveled to watch the race. It was the first time I've had my own dedicated cheering section at a race. Recovery and training went well for Ironman Wisconsin in September, but the race itself did not. The swim was more of a fistfight, the bike course had a lot of rolling hills and poor roads, and the marathon had a demoralizingly steep hill. It was my slowest Ironman yet, but I notched finish number 4.
   This year I started a quest to run a marathon in every state. Having previously done three in Texas and one in Kentucky, I added Louisiana in February with a Personal Record 4:15 in New Orleans. This later led to doing back-to-back marathons in October. I did a marathon in Dover, Delaware on Saturday, drove to Atlantic City and did the marathon there on Sunday. A leg injury serious enough to require stitches one week later put my planned Las Vegas marathon in November in serious jeopardy. After three weeks of almost no exercise, I was able to complete the marathon, though it was quite painful in the latter miles. "For fun" I did the San Antonio marathon three weeks after that and it did not go much better. With Idaho and Wisconsin, I now have 8 states where I have done a marathon. For my efforts I have gained entry into the Marathon Maniacs club. With one more marathon for 2014 on New Year's Eve, I will have done 8 marathons for the year. And then I'll start 2015 with another marathon on New Year's Day.
   I am still pursuing my other goals of visiting the highest natural point and the Capitol of each state. I made a slight (1,000-mile) detour on my road trip to Madison for the Ironman to visit the North Dakota highpoint for number 41. The original reason for choosing a marathon in Delaware was to also go to its highpoint. I spent a day in Washington, DC with my parents after the marathons and visited the highest natural point in the District for 42+1 (state+territory) highpoints. In my various travels I also visited the SD, ND, MN, IL, MD, DE, and PA Capitols.
   I did numerous shorter races in 2014 as well. I did well enough in stair races around Texas and at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas to be ranked #23 in the US for the year. I once again completed the Texas Tri Series, though some races I volunteered for and did not race. Besides the marathons, I ran everything from 400 meters to 30 kilometers.
   I had a nice visit with my family over Thanksgiving. I didn't get much time at my parents' home in Virginia as we drove to New York on Tuesday to avoid a foot of snow that fell on Wednesday. It was nice to get lots of home-cooked food and see my sister, niece, and old friends. The only other non-racing travel I did was to Windsor, England for business in May. It turns out the Queen has a summer cottage nearby.
   Looking forward to 2015, I have plans to ice climb in Ouray, Colorado, run across the Grand Canyon, and do two more Ironman races in Lake Placid, NY and Cambridge, MD. I hope to add others to my state marathon and highpoint lists as well.

Season's Greetings,

PS for all my news and musings, follow my blog, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram @mldarm.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monster Mash / Atlantic City Marathon Double

If you read my previous post about my road trip to Ironman Wisconsin, I hinted at having something a bit crazy planned for my next state highpoint. Well, after I decided to try and do a marathon in every state (roughly the time of number 3), I started looking for fall marathons, particularly anything within reasonable proximity of a state highpoint I hadn't done yet. I wound up focusing on Delaware, since it's a super easy highpoint and it's something of an outlier on a map of completed highpoints, being surrounded by states I've already done. I found two marathons quite close, the Monster Mash Marathon in Dover, DE, and the Atlantic City Marathon (New Jersey). I wasn't sure which I wanted to do, and then I realized since Dover is on a Saturday and AC the next day, it would be possible to do both in one trip. I floated the idea in my head for a while, ran it by my running coach, put it out to my Facebook friends, and essentially couldn't come with any reason NOT to do a double. I figured if I can finish an Ironman, there shouldn't be any reason I couldn't do marathons on consecutive days. So the weekend of October 18-19 added two tick marks each to three state lists- marathons, highpoints, and Capitols (bringing me to 7, 42+DC, and 32 respectively).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

CFF Dallas Stair Race

On Saturday, 10/25, I did my fifth stair race of the year and second race up the 70-story Bank of America building in Dallas, once again benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My time of 12:52 was more than a minute slower than last year's 11:44, but let's just say my physical state was not nearly what it was last year. In addition to the sniffles and a cough I had for the week leading up to this race, the two marathons the previous weekend definitely slowed me down. Yes, I raced a marathon on a Saturday, another the next day, and ran up 70 stories of stairs the following Saturday. Yes, I need professional help. Despite my slow time, I still finished seventh out of a very small field of 84 climbers. While the public at large did not show up for this race, West Coast Labels/X-Gym did, taking 8 of the top 12 spots overall (male and female), plus three more.

Saturday morning I jogged the half mile from my hotel to the office tower race venue and had plenty of time to hang out and catch up with my "step siblings" before the race started. In addition to the usual Texas/Arkansas folks (Scott, Robert, Chuck, Heather) there was Steve (who passed me at the Strat), Michael who did this race last year, Wayne whom I met in Austin, Cindy who was also at the Strat, Ken whom I've seen at several races, and no stair race would be complete without George Burnham Sr. Also of note was Ignacio, whom I met Houston, up from Mexico, who just edged out Scott for the win. So a lot of good folks and some fun times. Except for the actual race, that kind of sucked.

For one thing the timing company didn't show up because of some crossed signals. It's fortunate it was a small field, otherwise it would have been a nightmare to manually time this thing. Remarkably the timing worked pretty well, better than some chip-timed events even. The race director had a little trouble sorting the results for awards, but the times seemed to be pretty accurate for having stopwatches top and bottom and noting a time for each competitor. The real sucky part for me was that my legs would not work the way they normally do on stairs. Even the first 5-10 stories weren't super fast, and it only got worse from there. When I got to the 24th floor I went for the water, but unfortunately it was just half-liter bottles, far from ideal. I took one and sipped and walked for 10 stories, stowed the bottle to jog 10 stories, and more or less repeated like that until floor 67 when I mustered whatever I had left for a solid finish.

Most of us hung around for a little at the top as more finishers arrived. People started dropping off as the morning went on; I stuck around for the awards to get my medal for second place in the 26-39 age group. I walked back to my hotel, showered, checked out, and decided to get lunch before heading home.

As for what happened that evening, that's a story for another post sometime down the line...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kerrville Tri Race Report

For my last triathlon of the year, I once again went out to Kerrville for the "Triathlon Festival," two days of racing with three distances. However I flipped the scripts from last year and raced the sprint on Saturday and volunteered for the half/quarter on Sunday. The reason I didn't go for the half was that being three weeks after Ironman Wisconsin, I had no idea what shape my body would be in. Of course I couldn't do the quarter if there was a longer distance on the same day; regular readers will know my crazy wouldn't allow for that. I like to commit to events well in advance, so this was all set in place well before Wisconsin; I feel I've recovered enough that the half wouldn't have been so terrible, but still not advisable. I actually offered to run for a relay team, but they didn't wind up taking me up on it. While I had a decent day two years ago doing this half 5 weeks after an Ironman, it was probably best not to race today.
As for the race I actually did- in a word, it was sloppy. More the weather than my performance- it rained the entire race and I finished with a time of 1:19:12, good enough for 4th in my age group and 20th overall.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Capitol Cruise (Road trip to Ironman Wisconsin via ND highpoint)

Way back a year ago when I volunteered for and signed up for Iroman Wisconsin, I didn't have a plan for how I would get there. Eventually I decided to drive, since it's "only" about 1000 miles from Austin. Some time after hightpoint #40 in December, I started looking for excuses to go to the rest of the state highpoints. For fun, I added White Butte, North Dakota's highpoint, as a waypoint on the route. When I saw it doubled the mileage, I laughed it off as a crazy idea. If you've read my blog, you might know that a certain brand of crazy is sort of my stock in trade. My original plan for race week was to volunteer for TriRock on Monday, go to work on Tuesday, and drive straight from Austin to Madison on Wednesday. When the idea of stopping by White Butte creeped up in my mind, it almost seemed sillier to go to work for one day than to take off on a road trip. Of course once I was already going to be in the Dakotas, it was only natural that I would also stop at the state Capitols. Watch this space for my next crazy adventure cooked up around another highpoint.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Jack's Generic Tri Race Report

Today was my fourth Jack's Generic Triathlon, the second since the venue was moved and an intermediate distance (1000m swim/26-mile bike/6-mile run) was added. Overall I was 4.5 minutes slower than last year for a time of 2:34:46. The swim was different this year but otherwise the course was the same. I'm pretty sure the slowdown is because I went 3 minutes quicker on the bike, leading me to be almost 7 minutes slower on the run.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Couples Triathlon

I recently did the Couples Triathlon my second time, and cut 9 minutes off of last year's race. This time the race was two weeks after Ironman Coeur d'Alene and further proves that it's better to train for swimming, biking, and running than just being at altitude (having been hiking at 20,320 feet 9 days before the race last year). This time I paired up with a friend of a friend for the "couple" aspect; we finished fourth in our category (of 23) but would have been second (of 2) in the "mostly strangers" category if we had gone for that category instead of "friends (co-ed)." Of particular note is that this is the first race of the season I've averaged less than 2 minutes per 100 meters in the swim. The previous 4 (from 300 meters to 3800 meters), I've averaged around 2:10. This swim may have been shorter than the advertised 800 meters, but even for 750 meters my average was just under 2 minutes per hundred. Perhaps most interesting, to me any way, is that I set a PR on the Strava segment that makes up the bike course, a course I have ridden many times, most recently during the Rookie Tri.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lake Pflugerville Triathlon

For perhaps the first time in 2014 (I didn't check that thoroughly), I set a new personal best at a race. I did set marathon and 70.3 bests this year, but those were both races I had never done previously. It may have only been 12 seconds, but it was still nice to beat last year's time at the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon, for a 1:11:27. Quick race stats (these exclude the open wave): I was 13th of 71 in my age group; 53rd of 678 overall; 51st guy out of 396 total men; 161/32/85 ranking for my swim/bike/run splits.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ironman Texas / UK / Autism 8k / CapTex Tri

In a characteristic whirlwind week+, I spent more than 20 hours volunteering for races and more than that on airplanes. Starting with Ironman Texas, flying to the UK for a company conference, and coming back to volunteer for the Autism Speaks 8K running race and CapTex Triathlon, it was pretty exhausting.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fight For Air Houston

Yesterday was my second time doing the American Lung Association's Fight For Air climb in Houston. Unfortunately my time was 12 seconds slower than last year and I dropped from second overall to fourth. More important though was that I got to hang out with my "step siblings" Sarah, Robert, Heather, and Dan (whom I'm not sure I had met previously; he used to live in Texas but is now in the Seattle area). Frankly, if it wasn't for them I probably wouldn't spend six hours driving for eight minutes of racing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Shiner GASP / The Rookie Triathlon

In what now seems almost "normal" to me, or at least not surprising to anybody, I did a 100-mile bicycle ride on Saturday, and a super-sprint triathlon on Sunday. I had done the Austin-to-Shiner ride twice before, but last year (which I didn't do) they changed the route a little to make sure it was a little over 100 as opposed to being slightly under 100 with the previous route. I hadn't bothered to look at the route map, so I was unaware of this; if I had realized I would have stopped at the last aid station and not pulled into the brewery desperately thirsty. Even after lots and lots of water that afternoon and evening, I was probably still a little dehydrated Sunday morning. While I felt like I did reasonably well at the Rookie Tri, I was a minute slower than last year. Plus my sweat seemed particularly salty.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Texas Race Report

On Sunday, April 6th, I finished my sixth half-distance triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) at Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston. Thanks largely to favorable winds on the bike and my stomach holding together, I improved my personal record for the distance (previously held by my last triathlon in Kerrville last September) by nearly 12 minutes. I had PR bike and run splits, and finished in a time of 5:33:38. The weather was both challenging and beneficial: The wind made the swim very difficult, but somehow gave more on the ride out than it took away on the ride back; the threatened rain fell pretty much only on the far end of the island; the air temperature was warm enough, but not too hot, helped by the cloud cover. I finished 140th out of 297 in my age group, leading to my new tagline ("I'm a very average athlete, and I have the data to prove it"), which I mean as an encouragement to others, ie you don't have to be extraordinary to do the kinds of things I do.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fight For Air Austin

Today's Fight For Air climb in Austin (benefitting the American Lung Association) marks the start of three years as a stair racer, and one year as a member of the West Coast Labels/X-Gym national stair racing team. It's been fun, even if it is a ridiculous sport, and I have no intention of stopping now. I really enjoy getting to see my "step siblings" at these races, since none of them live in Austin to run into the rest of the time. While my result at today's race is not what I had hoped, considering I've had a cold most of the week, it was better than I thought it might be. I was nearly a minute slower than last year in the "extreme" double climb, and my third single climb (later after some recovery time) was nothing spectacular. None of my climbs were under 4 minutes, but at least none of them were over 5. I wound up finishing fourth in the extreme, 10th in the single. I would have been second in the extreme if I had matched last year's time. Oh well. I'll come back next year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LBJ 100 / Enchanted Rock Duathlon

On March 30, I did the Enchanted Rock "Extreme" Duathlon for my second and, unfortunately, probably last time (the race director said he won't be able to do this race again in the foreseeable future). Also unfortunate is that my time this year was two minutes slower than last year. If there's any one cause for the slowdown, it was probably that I biked 100 kilometers the day before in the LBJ 100 ride. It was a really nice ride, the weather the whole weekend was beautiful, my legs weren't trashed, but they did feel less than completely fresh for the 5-mile trail run, 16-mile road bike, 1.1-mile run duathlon, ending at the top of a big bald pink granite knob.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Scale the Strat

Sunday I participated in my first "Scale the Strat" stair race, 1455 stairs up one leg of the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas. The finish is called the 108th floor, but it is not nearly as high as the 103rd floor of the Willis (Sears) Tower since it is not an occupied building for most of its height (the Stratosphere is a roughly 850 foot climb to Willis's roughly 1350). While this was not the tallest stair race I've done, it was very unique and quite challenging. I can't say I'm entirely satisfied with my 10:48 time, at least it gives me a mark for next time. This race was also the US Stair Racing Championship. I may have finished last in that (I'm not entirely sure, I was 29th American male overall), but it was an honor to have qualified for it by finishing in the top 50 in the US for 2013.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rock'n'Roll New Orleans Marathon

A while ago now (I've been behind), on Sunday February 2nd, I ran the Rock'n'Roll New Orleans Marathon, finishing in a time of 4:15:01, cutting 20 minutes off of my previous PR from last March. It was a good race and a nice weekend; the weather could have been better, but the course was better than I thought it might be. It was warmer than I would prefer (mid-60s) and very humid, making for a lot of sweat; the roads were almost all asphalt and in great shape, none of the broken pavement or cobblestones I was worried about. My body held up better than I thought it might- other than nearly debilitating leg pain, my feet fared well, no significant blistering, no dead toenails. My biggest concern was that I hurt my foot Friday evening during a short run after driving all day, but that wound up bothering me less than my right Achilles, which has had some flare ups recently. I had plenty of energy and was in good spirits, really it was just the legs that slowed me down. In the end, I would have liked to have gone a little quicker, and had more of a chance to experience New Orleans, but it was a nice visit, and a PR is never a bad thing. Also, I recently decided to try to finish a marathon in every state; this makes 3 states (along with Texas and Kentucky).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

LLS Big D Climb

Saturday was my first stair race of the year, the 52-story Big D Climb benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This event had over 1100 participants (much more than my last Dallas climb), including quite a few uniformed police and fire fighters. There were about a dozen climbers in the "elite" wave (notably Norbert Lechner from Austria), plus some really fast folks among the rest of the field. I may not have had my best race ever, but I was able to finish in the top 10 with a time of 7:51.

Monday, January 20, 2014

3M Half Marathon

Sunday was my fourth straight 3M Half Marathon. While I didn't go as fast as last year, I really had no intention to do so. While my run didn't go exactly according to plan, I did hit my goal time of 1:45. My plan had been to run an even 8-minute mile pace, but I wound up going quicker for the first half than the second, contrary to what I (or certainly my coach) would have liked.

The weather was just about perfect, about 40 degrees, low wind from the north (for a tail wind most of the way). I waited as long as I could to take off my sweatpants and jacket and drop them off. I was a little cold before the start (not nearly as cold as the 30K two weeks prior), but warmed up quickly; I took my cap off about a mile in, my gloves another couple miles after that. At the end my long-sleeve t-shirt was soaked in sweat.

I started pretty close to the 1:45 pacers, but didn't really intend to stick with them. People generally seemed to have seeded themselves appropriately- there weren't too many slower runners to dodge. The adrenaline of a race, especially one with a field this large (5000+), often causes me to start too fast; passing people compounds that effect. I tried hard to rein myself in mentally, and a 7:47 for the first mile seemed reasonable. I'm not sure what caused me to go 7:33 for the second mile, but when I realized it was too fast I tried to throttle back. The next four miles were around 7:50, closer to my target. Mile four actually probably would have been slower except that a fast friend of mine caught me as she was essentially cheering folks on from "the inside." She wasn't going super fast, just a touch quicker than I was looking for; after a brief chat I fell back and she zipped on ahead. Miles 7 through 9 are where I started struggling with the pace. I was feeling my Achilles and was caught between maintaining pace and slowing way down. I never intended for this to be a real race, the main thing was to not hurt myself. A big enough part of my brain wanted to keep a good pace that I kept on. The last four miles was a fight against The Blerch; my pace was 8:10-8:20 but I always felt ready to throw in the towel and walk the rest of the way.

This race may be so large as to be nearly unwieldy, with its long port-o-pottie lines and huge continuous line of runners, but it is an iconic race and I saw numerous friends before, during (running and cheering), and after, notably the announcer calling names at the finish. It is also well-run, which is critical for a point-to-point race, with bag drops and buses back to the start. I just wish I had thought to put a dry t-shirt in my bag; since mine was soaked I took it off and just put on my jacket, but it was a touch warm for the jacket by the time I finished. I was still sweating a little, but at least I wasn't freezing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Rogue 30K

Sunday I raced in my second 30K, part of the Rogue Distance Festival, which expanded this year to include a half marathon in addition to the 10K and 30K. It was quite a change from last year- the course was quite different, it was earlier in the year, and the weather was about the opposite (cold and windy this time). I went in planning to treat it more as a training run than a race; to that end, even though my time was slower than last year, it felt like a better run. I didn't walk at any point (even though I really wanted to toward the end), and every mile was under 10 minutes. My overall time was 2:45:19, with a split for the first 10K of 55:40. In the "for what it's worth" department, I was 21st in my age group and 154th overall.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Year in Review

I summed up most my highlights of 2013 in a previous post, my annual Holiday Note. I did take a trip to Portland after that, during which I climbed Mt. Hood and visited Crater Lake National Park.

To review how I did against my goals for the year:
  • Improve my full Ironman time. Done 5/18, now 14:48:49 (I also set a half PR)
  • Run a marathon. So/so, 3/9, I set a new PR of 4:35:32, but I wound up walking quite a bit of the second half
  • Climb Denali. Summited 7/5 (still haven't finished a blog post). I also added the Montana, Illinois, and Oregon highpoints, and removed the asterisk from Washington for a grand total of 40 state highpoints.
  • Run a 5k in 18:30. Not even close, but I did lower my PR to 20:30
  • Run a sub-6-minute mile. The closest I came to a real attempt was to run 1500 meters at an all-comers track meet in August; it wasn't too pretty at 5:59. I did knock a couple seconds off my mile PR (as reported by my watch) to 6:08
  • Hit a peak power over 1000 Watts. Done 12/21, peak of 1052 and 1000+ for 5 seconds.
I'm hesitant to set any specific goals for 2014. Of course I want to set new marks for every record I have, but to me that's self-evident. My main goal, really, is to stay healthy, stay energized, stay positive. My schedule is already so full, I don't have much time for anything else. My current 2014 commitments are: Rogue 30k 1/5; 3M half marathon 1/19; Big D stair race 1/25; New Orleans marathon 2/2; Mexico mountain climb 2/15-23; Scale the Strat, the US stair racing championship, 3/2; Enchanted Rock Duathlon 3/30; Galveston 70.3 4/6; Fight for Air Austin stair race 4/26; The Rookie Tri 5/4; Ironman Coeur d'Alene 6/29; Ironman Wisconsin 9/7. I would like to get a few more state highpoints. I really want to try ice climbing. I have a crazy idea for something to do after Ironman Wisconsin. There's a remote chance of bagging another of the 7 summits. Somehow I hadn't realized my parents now live next door to a National Park I've never visited, that's something I definitely want to do.

2013 End-of-Year odometer readings/mileage totals:
  • Fat Boy: 115,486 (980)
  • Night Train: 8,331 (72)
  • Volt: 22,751 (8165)
  • Secteur: 3074 (302)
  • Cervélo P3: 2838 (1333 miles)
  • Cervélo R5 (new addition to the fleet): 85
  • Run: 799.8/29.0 outdoors/treadmill miles.
  • Swim: 12.6/115.0 outdoors/pool miles.
Other random facts from 2013: The longest period between races was 5 weeks. I spent a total of 20+ days at or above 10,000 feet elevation. My swim and bike total mileage were lower than 2012, while my run total was about the same; I attribute that to traveling so much, and that it's a lot easier to run while away from home than it is to bike or run. I lost a big toenail three times; I lost count of how many times I lost one of the others.