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Archive for May, 2012

New Beginnings

Posted in P90X, Sports, Triathlons on May 23, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Like sand in an hourglass…

…if you break it, it gets EVERYWHERE.

So, too, are the days of our lives.

As you might notice, I’m having a bit of a metaphor-mixing crisis. Such is the time.

A lot is going on around the District. Today is the last day of school for students in most schools. But for us, the journey continues. We have the formidable task of switching out a great many old computers with new machines in various schools throughout the District.

This starts tomorrow, and on this occasion, we’ve hired an additional 10 employees to help with the festivities. Things should get interesting. Meanwhile, the year-end frenzy is in full swing, so people are scrambling like mad to complete everything required to have a guilt-free summer of relaxation.

I’ve been adamantly keeping up with triathlon training, nearly to the point of meltdown last week. The week began with P90X on Monday morning, then running hill repeats in Soldotna in the evening. This was tough, but over the weekend, I had gone to Los Anchorage and picked up some new running shoes. I was very pleased that my entire body didn’t have that “I’m about to rattle into a bazillion pieces” feeling during OR after the run.

For Tuesday after work, my normally-scheduled Master Swimming was not active thanks to scheduled maintenance at the Skyview Pool. Therefore, instead of Skyview I opted to meet a group going up Skyline. Skyline is a mountain about 40 minutes out of town. It’s steep. Think a two mile stretch of muddy stairs. Straight. Up. I got there as quickly as I could (No, Officer, I didn’t speed. Not even a little). I saw several other cars in the lot, and sure that my group was already summit-bound, I made haste to catch them. I didn’t. It was not because of a lack of speed. It was a temporal problem. In that they managed to start after me. So all the way to the summit I climbed. Upon my descent, I encountered my group, still intent on a summit bid. I was ready to go again, so I did. My enthusiasm was somewhat diminished the second go around, but I had a great time, and came back down the hill on less-than-top-shape legs.

Bright and early the next morning, I had a P90X Legs & Back workout that left my Skyline-crippled legs hardly able to support my bodyweight. The evening’s workout was more hill repeats, this time via bicycle. Thankfully, Celeste is an aggressive hill-climber, and despite my reluctance to do meaningful exercise, she took up the slack. She’s awesome, that way.

My legs sufficiently impinged-upon, I took it upon myself to go to the Tsalteshi Trails and try to do the first “Real” mountain biking of the season. I failed rather miserably, as the trails were a mucky quagmire. Apologies to the groomers for being too eager to go biking. But I do love a good mud biking episode.

Friday’s Tri Class consisted of transition training, where speed is of the essence as one switches between sport disciplines, such as swimming to biking and biking to running. This means doffing and donning helmets, goggles, spandex, bowling shoes, wafflemakers, and assorted triathlon paraphernalia. Having stayed late to get some last minute details up on the website at work, I actually ended up skipping this workout, but observed the hardworking athletes of my tri class, many of whom were heading up to Anchorage for the Golden Nugget Triathlon. They crushed it, and I couldn’t be more proud of all of them.

On Saturday, I did nothing. I didn’t even leave the house. I did nothing and it was everything I thought it would be. It was glorious.

By Sunday, I was eager to get out again, so drove to Resurrection Trail and rode my mountain bike as far as I could. I got a bit over three miles in before the increasing amounts of snow and mud and fallen trees forced my turnaround. Oh, and the new bike, with full-suspension, was an absolute dream on the downhill sections. Just brilliant. After Resurrection I hit the Russian Lakes Trails, and managed all the way into the Falls, but the Upper Russian Trail and path around Lower Russian Lake to the cabin was well-blocked by a rather large avalanche. But the path to the Falls was perfection.

This week has seen hill repeats on Goat at lower Tsalteshi, the reopening of the pool, and even some mountain biking planned for tonight.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be picking up grains of sand.

Turns out that when an hourglass breaks, it gets EVERYWHERE.


Posted in P90X on May 21, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

A loop to loop the Loop.

Posted in Sports, Triathlons on May 15, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

A loop is a quasigroup with an identity element e such that:

  • x * e = x = e * x for all x in Q.

It follows that the identity element e is unique, and that every element of Q has a unique left and right inverse.

I think we can all agree on this.

Well, on the topic of loops, I’ve been doing a great deal of them lately. And not just quasigroups, either; full, red-blooded loops.

Last weekend started with the Seward Triathlon, and ended with a non loop (not even a quasigroup) bike ride to Homer. I had never done the ride before, and there was a great group of people going, so I decided to try it out. We began at the early hour of 7:30 from Soldotna. The forecast was for scattered showers, and we had support vehicles with some people choosing to take turns driving for some parts of the journey.

Nearly 77 hilly miles and four hours later, we rolled into Homer, gorged on excellent pizza, and drove back just as the rains hit. Timing is everything.

The next day, a Monday, the tri group braved the wilds of lower Tsalteshi to experience the wonder of loops firsthand. We ran around the whole Wolverine Trail, then did repeats on the shorter loop. The trails were still quite muddy. Our homework assignment then featured a hill repeat on the Old Bear Trail, which happened to be an absolute quagmire of mud. Seeing something incrementally less saturated, we went to New Bear Trail (also called “Bear Trail”) and started up. I wondered why my compatriots were stopped beneath me on the hill and pointing until I saw I had run right past a moose, who seemed content enough with grazing to not give me the stomping of a lifetime. We crept back into the spaghetti bowl where the trails meet, and tried another hill. This, too, was moosey. We ended up jogging back with a new respect for woodland creatures.

Wednesday found us again aloop. This time the loop in question had specific icthyological roots. Our planned rendezvous was at the parking lot by Cohoe Loop, in Kasilof. We met and the wind decided to join us, blowing hard out of the East. We started riding South on the highway, the wind doing its best to blow us into the ditch. When we made the turn East, we flew. The gorgeous rolling hills flew by underneath Celeste, and there was nary a car in sight. After making the turn to make our way Westward, progress slowed to a crawl with the fierce headwinds. Progress was further diminshed by the road conditions, which, though paved, were remniscent of the surface of the Moon. Downshifting radically, I tried to keep my cadence up and shoulders low. It was great streamlining practice.

My goal was an hour for the 18.2 mile loop. I made it in just under that, so that wasn’t too bad.

Friday saw us being hit with a brick. A swim / bike brick, the same distances and route as the first two disciplines of the Tri the Kenai; a 500 yard swim and 10.1 mile bike. This would be a great time on testing my times to see if I was in the ballpark of my goals. Such was not the case, as I suffered from Hitting-the-Wrong-Stopwatch-Button-itis, and screwed up my swim time. It felt good, though, and I had a quickish transition outside to my bike, where I began recording (correctly, I might add) the course from Skyview to Echo Lake Road. This was another road I had never explored, but was fun, hilly, challenging, and thankfully not crowded. The hills at the beginning forced me to a nearly crawling speed, but the later long downhills made up for it. I finished in a respectable 32 minutes. My race day goal is under 30, which should be achievable. I did do some lightweight jogging after the brick, just to simulate (briefly) raceday fun.

So, I’m happy to report that x * e = x = e * x for all x in Q.


Tri, tri again.

Posted in Sports, Triathlons on May 8, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

What an eventful weekend. True to its etymological roots, my weekend was full of events.

The end of the week began in Seward, where the weather was behaving in a decidedly Alaskan Springlike fashion.

It was snowing. Luckily (?) the snow quickly turned to rain, so my first ever triathlon – the 21st Annual Seward Pink Cheeks Triathlon – got underway.

I had signed up in advance for a morning swim, before the other events, the idea being that I could get it out of the way, and not have to wait for the pool to clear out after the run and bike.

When my lane cleared of the previous swimmer, I took a quick warm up lap, then asked the volunteer counting laps to notify me (by putting a bright orange board down into my lane) when it was my last lap, so I could really turn it on. Yes, I know it’s only 18 laps, but I have a hard time counting above the number 3.

I felt pretty good in the water, but was sharing the lane with someone slower, so was constantly on the lookout for collisions. Toward the end of the swim, I kept looking for the orange board, but it never came. Then I was being yelled at by the volunteers to stop swimming. They didn’t put the board down, so I kept going for an extra lap. Oh well. I appreciate the volunteers – they have a lot to do. I was hoping to be under 13 minutes for the 900, but I ended up at 13:32. Decidedly not my best.

Outside, I tried to keep warm enough in the drizzle for the 5k run. A giant crowd gathered around the start line, and before I could dwell too much about my dislike for running, I was chasing the fast people down the first hill. Somehow, I managed to incorrectly set my watch, so I had no idea of my time or speed, but it kept its promise as an accurate heart rate monitor. It remained firmly into the high 170s to mid 180s the entire run. I tried to keep up with the fast kids, but that didn’t last long, and I fell into a fast (for me) pace.

I kept my place after the first few minutes, and was proud of my breath control. I heard someone trying to catch me before the last hill up into the school, breathing hard. By the top of the hill I couldn’t hear him at all. Thanks, Coach Angie, for all the hill repeats.

I crossed the line somewhere around 15th or so, and made a wobbly transition to my beautiful bike. I had a terrible mount, but luckily no one was right behind me. I shot down the first hill, and noticed that the rain had increased. I passed the guy in front of me on the bike path through town, and passed another person before turning up to the very steep hill around the pond. I felt my front tire slide out a bit on the turn, but luckily held on. That particular shot of adrenaline helped boost me up the hill, and I managed to pass one more person back on the pavement. The interesting thing about this triathlon is that the biking is a mixture of on and off-road. I opted for the road bike, which is risky, in light of tire blowouts, which would end my race. Fortunately, Celeste did great, and I managed to pick off a couple more people on the hill up into the high school. Toward the end, I had a great drag race with a guy who had passed me earlier. I caught him on the downhill and used the momentum to keep in front of him to the school to finish a mere four seconds ahead.

I finished the run/bike part of the race somewhere around the #10 mark. My final placing would depend on my swim time. Before the race, I had really hoped for a top ten finish, and I thought I might have gotten that.

Unfortunately, I had to wait an excruciatingly long time for the results to get posted. Then, late last night, they got it figured, and the results were in!

I knew my swim time, but was surprised to learn that I had a decent run time – 21:16, which translates to an average of  6:50 minute/mile – way better than I had hoped.

My total time was 57:23 – good enough for 6th place in the Men’s Overall. Oddly enough, the guy just behind me on the bike had a swim time of 4 seconds faster than I did, so we had the same time, but I finished a split second ahead. Oddly, he finished first in the 20-29 year old age group, and I got 5th in the ultra-competitive 30-39 group.

So, I was very pleased with my result in my first ever triathlon.

The next day I biked from Soldotna to Homer. More on that soon.

Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement – it really means a great deal to me.


Dawn Breaks over Brickhead.

Posted in Sports, Triathlons on May 2, 2012 by Webmaster Mike

Training update: One month in.

My class has been doing extremely well, even if its main features are to expose exactly what I need to work on most. “Everything” comes to mind…

Navigation in particular. Last update I spoke of my aspirations to cycle the Loop in under an hour. This was not the case, not because of lack of speed on the bicycle – that seemed fine. It took longer than an hour because I ended up riding a few extra miles.


This time in Kenai. We left the Sports Center bound for Kenai. Across the Bridge Access Road, conditions were blustery. It was blowing dogs off chains. A headwind, naturally. I had been advised that the main streets in Kenai hadn’t been swept, and with the 5:30 traffic, to duck behind the high school and then connect up to the bike paths later. Things were going well until I got onto Lawton Street. I rocketed past the school, helped by a little tailwind. I could see a long, straight road ahead. What I didn’t realize was the road changed from pavement to gravel a few miles past the school. So, I backtracked, and tried my best to find a path that found its way to the highway and associated bike paths.

In the interim, a few of the others had passed me, and I knew my chances of beating an hour were fantastically reduced, unless I could somehow conjure an average speed of nearly 30 mph. I did happen to go over 10 miles in just over a half hour, with the wind against me, so I at least know that an hour loop is theoretically possible.

This past weekend saw a definite ramp-up in our training, as we participated in a Miniature Triathlon on Saturday. With our last planned indoor swimming slot, we maximized our pool time by swimming for a full hour before transitioning outside to the bikes. I tried to simulate race day fun by swimming an additional 200 yards at race speed after the workout. I ran outside to the bike transition area and found out something important.

Compression shirts are difficult and hilarious to put on when you’ve just exited the pool.

I probably looked like the shirt was eating me alive, as I thrashed and fought to don it properly. I wasted a good deal of time with that bit of fun. The good thing is I learned some helpful strategies to expedite this process. Once on the bike, I did my best to catch the people in front of me. It was a short ride, just from Skyview High School to Echo Lake Road and back. It is a short ride, but ever-so-hilly. I felt cold and stiff by the time I came back into the transition area. This one was markedly improved from the first, as I slipped out of my cycling shoes and into my trail running shoes with relative ease. I even remembered to remove my helmet. It’s the little things, really.

The running was worse than I had anticipated. The brick feeling was back to stay. It wasn’t my heart or lungs that were having the most difficult time of it, it was purely the act of moving my feet one in front of the other.

Limping back to the finish, I had done my first swim-bike-run brick ever. Final thoughts? It didn’t kill me.


200 yard swim: 2:40 minutes
18.7 mph average bike – 4.8 miles
7:17 min/mile pace run average – 1.7 miles

So, aside from the dead legs and shirt-related trauma we’ll just refer to as a “wardrobe malfunction,” I am pretty pleased. I hope I can boost my time averages by a little bit before a real triathlon, but that’s not so likely, as my first is THIS VERY WEEKEND. It’s in Seward. I’m excited.

I think it will go well, provided I don’t get lost. But there’s no chance of that, right?