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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hot Chocolate 15k

The Hot Chocolate race is a fun race with some good giveaways.  I'd done this twice before and I like the course (mostly).  My wife decided to walk it with a friend and I have been getting some consistent running so I thought I would actually try to race it as opposed to just running it.  The main difference for me is that when I race, I look at my recent running (ideally racing results) and decide a target pace.

Based on my last 10k on Thanksgiving (8:51 mpm according to MapMyFitness), I decided to shoot for a 9:00 minute per mile pace.  I felt this was a bit aggressive but based on my earlier results (I was shooting for at least 9:30 mpm on Thanksgiving), I thought I had a chance.

I said Good Bye and Good Luck to Christine and her friend and they went to stand in line for the port-a-john.  I decided to do a little warming up and did a little slow running and then several pickups speeding up to a sprint before backing off.  Once I was feeling loosened up, I headed over to my corral and got my app and watch ready to start and started looking to see if there was a 9:00 mpm pacer.

I found him and chatted a bit and then we were off.  The pacer said the plan was even splits and he kept his end of the deal, with the furthest off according to my app being 8 seconds over or under depending on water stations, but averaging right at 9.  I managed to stay with him till after the 7 mile marker and my last 2 miles averaged 9:44.

Overall, I'm happy with this, especially since I hadn't done very many long runs leading up to this.  It was a good course with my only complaints being a couple of narrow areas and several u-turns that break momentum.  I picked up a couple new pairs of running shoes at the expo for an added bonus.  I also like the jackets they give instead of t-shirts.  Definitely enjoy this race and will do it again in the future.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Oceanside Turkey Trot 10k

When we decided to spend Thanksgiving in Oceanside, I didn't think about doing a race while we were here, but when I saw my friend Rich Cruse post about the Oceanside Turkey Trot and I realized it started less than a mile from where we were staying, I thought it would be a fun way to start Thanksgiving.

The start of the 10k was 6:45 so I left the condo at about 6 and walked over.  It was a little chilly but as long as I was moving I was ok.  I had forgotten my water holder belt, so I decided to just go with water available on the course and drank a water bottle on the way and while waiting for the start.

It only took a few minutes to get there and find the race bib pick up. The only downside to the process was that even though they had plenty of volunteers, it looked like everyone who had pre-registered had numbers in the same range so there was only 1 volunteer that could help everyone which caused a line.  Not a big problem for me because I was early enough so I got my number pinned to my singlet and walked around the start area where I found my friend Rich and said hi. Rich is easy to spot, just look for the guy with a bunch of cameras.

Just before the National Anthem, I lined up based on my planned pace of 9:30 min/mi and made sure my watch and phone app were ready to go.  My plan was to start at between 9:30 and 10:00 and then assess and speed up halfway if I was feeling good.

The first mile was 9:11 and I was feeling good so I just kept going and didn't try to slow down.  Actually I ended up speeding up and passed the second mile in 8:33 which ended up being my fastest mile.  That could have hurt me, but I don't think it did since my slowest mile was the first and the next slowest was the last full mile at 9 flat.

It was great at about the 3.5 mile mark to see my favorite cheerleader. I stopped for a quick kiss from Christine and then kept going.  Mentally the last 2 miles were tough, but other than the short ramp up to the pier, it was dead flat or downhill so it was just a mind game to keep my legs moving.

I guess the lesson for me is that I am faster than I think I am.  That should be a factor in my final race plan for the Hot Chocolate 15k a little over a week from now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Four Peaks Challenge 2016

This is the second year for this event which consisted last year of a hiking challenge.  The hiking challenge included 4 hills in the area for a total of about 11 miles of hiking.  This year, they added a new option.  Instead of driving to each trailhead, you could sign up for the Elite challenge and follow a route of roads and trails to get to and from the Four Peaks.  This version consisted of about 20 miles of trails and hills.  Yes, if you know me at all, you know I elected the crazy long version.

I got there about 6:00 for registration which was handled smoothly and efficiently.  They had pancakes and bacon and oatmeal.  I had some oatmeal and put my race number on and then dropped my stuff in my car.  The nice thing about small races is parking is not a huge nightmare.

At 6:20 they had some announcements for those of us doing the long race including some notes on the course.  Then we lined up at the start line for the countdown to 6:30 and we were off.

The first couple miles were pretty flat and easy and most of the pack stayed within sight of each other but people started to find their own paces.  We got to Calderwood and the the group really started spreading out.  There was one spot on the trail where I got a bit turned around and almost took the wrong route which would have bypassed the summit and cut some distance. i think some others may have accidentally done that since I know there were more people behind me that I didn't see again till they passed me when the route doubled back towards the start/finish line later in the race.  I grabbed a water bottle from the aid station and filled my water bottle at the bottom and took off, trying to focus on keeping my breathing from getting too labored.



As I got close to the next trail segment, I caught up with a guy and we chatted and then a lady caught up with us and the three of us kept pushing each other on for the next several miles.

This event is organized by my church and supported extensively by a lot of volunteers.  It was fun to see a lot of my friends out there supporting the event.  One of the aid stations for the runners was manned by Pastor Brad who was supportive and encouraging.

When I passed the 10 mile marker, the volunteers said 2 hours and 12 minutes and I was feeling a bit tired but overall pretty good.   Even though we had passed part of the West Wing trail, we had not climbed that summit so East Wing was technically the 2nd of 4 summits.  By the time I got to the top, I was starting to feel dead legs.



On the way to the last peak, the route took us up to the summit of West Wing.  By this time, there were more hikers on the trails and congestion started to play a role.  That didn't play a huge role for me because I had started to have an upset stomach and had started doing more walking in an effort to get it to settle down.



By the time I made it to the top of Sunrise, I was feeling a bit lightheaded and was mostly walking.  I stopped long enough to take a panoramic picture.  I like this shot because you can see Calderwood to the left, West Wing straight ahead and East Wing to the left just past the dam.

About a mile and a half from the finish line, my lightheaded feeling got pretty bad and I had to sit down for a bit.  A group of hikers stopped to make sure I was ok and one of them went back to one of the volunteers to get some extra water.  After a bit of cooling off I started to walk again and when he caught up with me and gave me some more water, I started feeling a lot better and made it to the finish line.

All-in-all, this was a great event and a very tough, challenging course.  I will plan on doing this one again, hopefully with a bit more training and improving my approximately 6.5 hour time.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

FitBit Blaze - Review

First of all, I had the FitBit Surge before this and I loved it.  However, the band started to wear badly after about 8 or 9 months of hard use so when I fell and the screen got scratched, I decided to use my extra warrantee and trade it in.

I went in to Best Buy planning on simply exchanging it for another Surge and I had been happy with it so I had not done any research into the other products on the market at that time.  When I got there, I needed someone to unlock the display to get the new Surge out and they started telling me about the Blaze.  I liked the look (more watch-like, less sport-tracker) and the associate assured me that it also had GPS and I could use it to track my runs without my phone. Turns out that is not true. I don't know if he was mis-informed or just mis-represented the product, but that is the only thing I had been unhappy with and that is not anyone's fault but mine for not looking into the product a bit more.

So I've been using the Blaze for about 5 months now and other than the GPS feature have been pretty  happy with it.  I've had some cases where it stopped alerting me for incoming calls and texts, but after updating the firmware, that was almost completely resolved.  I also like some changes they have made in the latest version.  One feature in particular is to alert me when I have not moved a certain number of steps during the hour.  This helps me avoid getting so caught up in things that I forget to get up and stretch my legs once in a while.

The accuracy of the tracker when synced with my phone (currently Samsung Galaxy S5) is among the most reliable I have had experience with.  The only downside as I mentioned is I need to bring my phone with me.  That is not a big deal most of the time since I usually bring my phone with anyway, but the problem is when I travel outside of the country, I do not have international data on my personal phone so I am not able to track my international runs with my Blaze. MapMyFitness on my work phone fills in admirably though so at least I get an international map of my run.

The heart rate feature of my FitBits has been one of my favorite features.  I've found my Blaze to be fairly reliable, recording my heart rate nearly 100% of the time, regardless of where I wear the watch, how tight the strap is or how sweaty I get.  Yesterday however, a few hours after a run, it suddenly stopped reading my hear rate.  The green LED's on the back are still lit up but no hear rate.  I googled it and found several excellent troubleshooting articles on the FitBit site, but unfortunately they didn't get it working again.  Everything else still worked, my step counter was working, notifications were working, but no hear rate.

Today I went to the FitBit help site and started a chat support session.  In just a few minutes, the agent had determined that the troubleshooting I had done based on the articles online was sufficient and didn't make me go through it again.  They asked for my shipping address and said a new one was on its way and should arrive in 5-7 business days.  Hopefully I will update this blog post in a few days and say "It worked!" but till then, I will probably dig out one of my other fitness devices to track my heart rate while I work out.

UPDATE:  I received my replacement Blaze in less than the promised window. I was able to get it up and running quickly and easily. I've used it for about a week now and the heart rate seems to be tracking consistently, although when comparing to my Timex Ironman GPS watch, it seems to read my heart rate about 15-20 beats per minute slower.  This means I will probably be using my Timex for my high intensity workouts. Now I will wait and see if this replacement unit lasts a bit better than the first one.