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Monday, September 29, 2014

Week in Runs & Rides

Back on the Bike (Monday)

Being my first bike ride since the CATS Sprint Triathlon and my trip to DC I took it pretty easy and just road the River Trail.  I did throw one sprint for good measure which the iBike Newton+ said peaked at 1,100 watts!  I can only hope that is true.  Also, given that I am doing the Heber Springs Sprint Triathlon next Sunday there really isn't a lot of time for training.  More like just trying to maintain.

Tuesday Night Run (Tuesday)

In the same vein as my ride on Monday my Tuesday night run was more about just getting out and getting some miles in before I need to start easing up for my next event.  Seems kind of silly to try and cram two events together in 3 weeks after missing basically the entire season but I guess we'll see.  My run was just a 2.6 mile trip around downtown Little Rock at an average pace of 9:06/mile.  Yeah it is definitely slower than my time in the triathlon but again it was more about just getting some mileage in than anything, plus it was hot at least comparably. 

First ride with Stages Power Meter (Wednesday)

The UPS man dropped off some nice packages today one of which happened to be a Stages power meter!  I couldn't even contain my excitement so I had to change my plans and immediately go out for a ride to test it.  Nothing conclusive yet but I was pretty impressed with how it tracked with perceived effort.  Also, I will say installation was a breeze!  Literally took me like 5 minutes to swap it out with my existing crank arm.  I will have an in for review post out shortly followed by a review.

Monday


Tuesday


Wednesday



Friday, September 26, 2014

My Trip to DC

Last week, right after doing a triathlon (read about that here) I flew out to Washington D.C. for the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network National Summit & Lobby Day.  Man that title is WAY too long!  But it was great a trip even though my scheduling was maybe not the best.  Getting up before 5am, then doing a triathlon, then arriving into DC around 10 something pm probably isn't the smartest way to go about it.

My flight left from the Bill & Hillary National Airport in Little Rock, if she runs for President they will probably rename the city of Little Rock after the Clintons if not the entire state.  But from there I flew to Atlanta because all Delta flights out of Little Rock go to Atlanta and I mean ALL!  Funny enough Nicole's aunt happened to be on the exact same plane that I was on and she was kind enough to show me the quickest way to my next gate.  My flight from Atlanta to DC left only 30 minutes after I arrived in Atlanta so time was not in abundance.  Luckily with her help I got to my gate with plenty of time to spare.  Even with the time change I still didn't land in DC until after 10pm at Reagan International so I decided to scrap my original plane to take the metro downtown to my hotel.  I don't know what the crowd is like on the metro at 10:30 on a Sunday night but I figured I would leave that question unanswered.

All of Monday day was spent attending the ACS CAN Summit but that night myself and a couple other members from the Arkansas delegation decided to take a hop-on, hop-off night tour of the sights.  I am usually not huge on those "touristy" things but what the hell it was fun.  The double decker bus had an open top level which funny enough was actually almost a little too cold to ride on.  When you factored in the wind from moving it had to barely be in the mid 50's which made me wish for a jacket.

The bus tour lasted about 2.5 hours and we passed all of the big monuments and got to hope off to walk through a handful of the more prominent national monuments including: the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the FDR memorial and the Dr. King memorial.  I think out of all of the monuments the Lincoln was probably the most interesting but I was pretty dissapointed we didn't get to tour the Jefferson Memorial which I think would have been a cool one to walk around in.  But alas it was still a great tour.

From FDR memorial looking across the Tidal Basin at the
Jefferson Monument
On a side note I actually though the Tidal Basin as a whole was one of the more interesting parts of DC.  The sheer amount of water it displaced from the Potomac River is staggering and it is really cool to look at when it reflects all of the city lights.  It would definitely be a great location to run around.

Also, I would strongly recommend the night tour it was cool to see all of the monuments at night all illuminated, even though it did make pictures a little more difficult.  The monuments were also nowhere near as crowded as I would assume they are during the day except for the Lincoln memorial which still had a pretty good crowd.

On Tuesday myself and the other members of the Arkansas delegation spent the day up on the Hill meeting with our federal senators and representatives who well I guess represent us and our interests in Washington.  We were asking them specifically to make cancer research and prevention a national priority so that we can end cancer as a major health issue in my lifetime.

It was definitely interesting to see all of the behind the scenes pieces in the office buildings that make up our federal government's legislative body.  There is literally an entire city underneath the buildings you can see to keep the government functioning with items like cafeterias, even AT&T and Verizon stores for the congressional staffers.  I think they get worked pretty hard and can't exactly visit them during normal business hours.  After a day full of meeting with Senator, Reps, and staffers we got a brief break before the lights of hope ceremony.  Most everyone else went to a CAN fundraising dinner but I thought it would be more fun to walk the National Mall and maybe even get in a brief ride on a bike share bike.  Sounded like a great idea but didn't exactly go as planned!

Lights of Hope Bags
16,000 TOTAL
I walked down the side of the Mall heading away from the hill towards the Washington Monument until I found a bike share station.  I then followed the instructions to a T but when I went to get my bike it didn't come out.  I put in my code (after paying) and the lights just blinked yellow, then red, and no bike.  I tried several other bikes to see if I just picked the broken one with no luck.  It turns out that they bike share system believed I had that original bike out even though it was still securely attached to its docking station.  It ended up taking me a handful of calls to their customer service (which wasn't too stellar) and them sending a technician out to verify that the bike share bike was still there.  I am not 100% sure who would want to steal bike share bikes anyways!

Luckily I didn't have to wait around for them to sort all of this out but it did mean I was unable to get my bike therefore cutting short my trip down to the Washington Monument as I had to return to the hill for the Lights of Hope ceremony.  I guess at least I managed to get in a nice walk and the weather couldn't have been better!

After the Lights of Hope ceremony I decided to catch back up on some sleep, I am not made for actually getting up at a reasonable time in the morning.  Then it was a farewell breakfast the next morning and off to Dulles International Airport which is in the middle of no where (40 minute ride from downtown) for my return trip to Little Rock.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

EasyAcc PowerBank PB5000C Review

I don't usually review items that aren't related to sports technology on this site but I did want to briefly cover the EasyAcc PowerBank that I have been using to charge my iPhone and other devices recently whenever away from home.  The PowerBank PB5000C is a 5,000 mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery for giving your electrical devices a little more power whenever you are on the go.  I have recently used it while traveling to DC and Wisconsin but I also usually carry it around in my briefcase just in case I run through a little more juice on my iPhone or iPad than normal.  Unlike most of my reviews I didn't get this item from the manufacturer I actually just bought it for myself; I believe off of Amazon for around $20.  I think it was part of hitting the minimum amount necessary for free shipping for which I am a HUGE sucker for!



In the Box

Basically just being a large battery there isn't a whole lot that comes in the box with the PowerBank.  You basically have the unit itself which is about the size of an iPhone 5 but about half again thicker.  There are also two micro-USB to USB cables of different lengths.  The shorter one is about 8 inches long and the longer of the two is around 1.5 feet.  Sorry I was just too lazy to actually get out a tape measure and measure them for you all.  These cables are used to charge the EasyAcc Powerbank itself but can also be used to charge another device off of the PowerBank if said device accepts a micro-USB.  Being an Apple person I have to keep both a Lighting and a 30-pin USB cable around for my iPhone and my dinosaur of an iPad.  Also, there is the obligatory warranty information/user manual which I never even bothered to open given that working a portable battery is basically idiot proof.

So How Does it Work?

In laments terms you basically just plug devices into the PowerBank, push the button on the end, then sit back and watch your devices get charged up.  Now obviously you have to actually charge the PowerBank itself up every so often but luckily it will hold a charge for quit some time, I have actually never killed the thing.  To charge it you just use one of the supplied USB to Micro-USB cables; plugging the micro end into the PowerBank and the opposite end into a power source be it your laptop or a wall USB charger.  There are 4 LED lights on the top of the EasyAcc PowerBank that will all shine illuminate when the power button is pushed to show the amount of the current charge in 25% increments.
Now to charge off of the PowerBank you can use an cable that has a USB end which will go into the PowerBank.  That is opposite from charging the battery so it makes it pretty much impossible to get things backwards.  Once you have your device that you want to charge hooked up to the EasyAcc PowerBank you push the only button on the battery thing and charging begins.  Like I said it is rather simple.

My Experience

I have personally used the PowerBank to charge several different bike computers/GPS devices but honestly use it most often to charge either my iPhone or my iPad.  I haven't done specific tests on how much charge you can get from it although EasyAcc claims about 2 charges of a smartphone and one full charge of a full sized tablet.  In reality I usually use it before my device completely dies (around 20% battery left) as the purpose is to prevent it dying.  In that form I have charged my iPhone back up from the low battery zone to at least 70% if not higher 3+ times without recharging the EasyAcc PowerBank.

What I Love:

  • It charges all of my gadgets!
  • Great battery life
  • Charges quickly
  • Small & lightweight

What I don't love quit so much:

  • I guess I could prefer a different color scheme

Bugs

Sorry Spider Dog but no bugs here

Summary

I really don't feel like there isn't a lot to love here so I feel safe on just resoundingly recommending this product.  There are smaller such devices on the market but you usually get way less battery charge from them and they still aren't small enough for guys to fit in their pockets.  And for girls with purses it doesn't make any difference so you might as well get something with some juice.  I feel like the 5,000 mAh is enough battery to get some serious charging off of it but not enough to be bulky or weigh you down.  In my day to day usage and normal travel it has been more than enough even when I have had to go over 24 hours without plugging my stuff in.  Maybe when I use it for longer periods backpacking this fall I will change my mind but I don't seriously thing so.

Support This Site

I hoped you enjoyed this review and if you want to get yourself a new piece of sports technology joy please support this site by clicking through on the Amazon referral link below.  It allows you to get an awesome product at a great price (amazon is usually the cheapest) and I get a small percentage back from amazon at no cost what so ever to you..  So to recap: you get a great product and I get to keep writing some way overly detailed reviews...Sounds like a win-win to me!

Monday, September 22, 2014

CATS Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

The CATS Sprint Triathlon in Conway, AR on September 14th was my first triathlon of the season.  Yeah, it's pretty safe to say the season hasn't exactly gone as planned with multiple surgeries (read about them here) but at least this particular race went well.  Aside from getting up so damn early!  Why do these events have to be at the crack of dawn?  Couldn't we all go have a nice brunch and then maybe get around to doing the triathlon thing around like 3pm?  That just sounds so much more enjoyable to me than getting up at 5am!

The big issue I had been having leading up to the race was temperature.  Normally in September you don't have to worry about temperature in Arkansas because you know it'll just be HOT!  Well that wasn't supposed to be the case on race morning.  The water temperature was expected to be around 80 degrees but the air temperature was expected to be around the low 50's Fahrenheit upon the swim exit.  This left me in a bit of a pickle as I normally start wearing arm/knee warmers right around 50 degrees but to compound the issue I would be wearing a skimpy little tri top and shorts and also I would be wet when I started the bike.  I agonized over the decision of what to wear for the couple days leading up to the event.  I even took to some triathlon forums to post for some advice some of which was really good!  I ended up just going with my normal tri top and bottoms with my cycling arm warmers rolled up on the ground so I could grab them if I felt the need.

Pre-Race

So like I mentioned it required a 5am wake up to accommodate the 7:25am start time of the event.  There was an Olympic distance triathlon that started before at 7:00am so the transitions closed at 6:30.  Given that I was picking my packet up on site I needed to arrive by 6 at the latest and it is a 35ish minute drive.  So 5am it was!  Luckily I had packed the majority of my stuff the night before and loaded it into the car which pretty much just left actually getting up as the major obstacle of the morning.  After Nicole took Lilly out for a quick bathroom break and I made us morning espressos we loaded  up the rest of my gear into the car for the drive up to Conway.

Lucky #244
We arrived at the event site and it was still completely dark which makes sense given that it was still like 5:45am!  Parking looked a little iffy when they sent us off into a damp grass lot with a large ditch to cross.  My little Nissan barely managed to make it through and I though it would be horrible if the grass turned to mud from all of the vehicles and we got stuck trying to leave.  But alas it worked out fine and the dewy grass didn't turn to mud.  Once we got everything unloaded from the car we headed over the registration pavilion where I presented my IDs and quickly got all of my race numbers, event shirt, and a goodie bag.  Then a quick trip to the timing table for my timing chip and it was on into transition once they checked my bike for bar plugs and my helmet.  I have never known why they focus so much on bar plugs.  I get that a crash without them could cut someone but a crash really shouldn't result in a pile up in a triathlon given the no drafting part so the only person hurt would be the offending party.  I get something to avoid but I just figure there have to be bigger issues to watch.

After the inspection I found me a good little spot towards one end of the bike rack.  Luckily you entered/exited at opposite ends of the transition area for the different events so there really wasn't a big advantage to one side or the other which seemed a fair set up.  You basically were just choosing when you would have to run more in transition not if you would have to.  

The actual Swim, Bike, & Run Part

Swim - 500 yards 10:01.3

Before the start of the swim I tried to work my way to the front of the outer left edge but I think in hindsight I ended up right in the middle of the start line which is way I got pulverized for the first 200 yards.  The start was in the water, about waist deep luckily even though I needed a jacket while waiting the water was nice and warm; so after bunch of times clearing my goggles at the last second they called the start and off I dove...right into someone.  I don't know what it was but I was just constantly hitting people the entire swim leg.  To be fair I knew this was going to be my weakest part of the event given that I hadn't actually done ANY swimming in almost 3 months, maybe longer.  But even then I wasn't expecting to just run into people for the entire course.  I would run up onto someone from behind so I would slow down just a bit but then someone would hit my legs from behind.  I would then try to swim to one of the sides but then it would seem like the person in front of me (whom I just ran into) would follow my exact course.  It is possible that I am the one who couldn't' swim straight but I prefer to blame others.

The course was a 3 sided rectangle with only 2 turn buoys so after rounding the first one I set in for the long side of the course.  Adrenaline through the first side perfectly fine but on the second side I actually swam rather well and didn't feel too bad given my lack of swim workouts.  I actually managed to get into some sort of rhythm and not run into other participants.  That all ended on the second turn buoy where my form started to sink and someone felt the need to follow my exact; inefficient line.  I have to think I added some solid distance on the last section of the swim course by veering all over the place trying to avoid the person in front of me; my degrading form might have also factored in ever so hugely.  Either way I made it safely to land and started the uphill run to T1.

Transition 1 - 0:46.4

Transitions were definitely one area that I was thrilled with all around.  I don't feel like you can argue with the free time that you can pick up there and coming out in only 45 seconds is really good to me.  I managed to throw the swim cap/goggles down and wipe my feet off before grabbing my sunglasses and helmet.  At the mount line I was not quit as smooth as I would have liked.  My shoes were already on the bike and I had planned for a flying mount (even practiced it the week before) but my training didn't exactly account for how my legs would feel after the swim.  So they flying mount became more of a flopping mount!

Bike - 46:22.1


In the transition I decided against the arm warmers so I set out on the bike leg which the Sigma Rox 10.0 said averaged 53 degrees Fahrenheit wearing soaking wet tri gear!  Actually it did turn out to be the right decision as I dried off quickly and felt pretty comfortable on the bike.  The only part of me that was cold ended up being my feet probably due to being trapped in my tri shoes with some water not to mention they are pretty breathable.

The bike leg was a 15 mile out and back course described as mostly flat to rolling with one significant climb.  I figured it might be a course that would work to limit my losses due to not having aero bars on my road bike.  Actually the course turned out to be way more flat than I had expected and you could definitely stay in an aero tuck for almost the entire course, if I had aero bars that is.  I mean for example I only left the big chain ring one time each way for the "climb" which turned out to not be bad at all.  It was about 0.5 miles and picked up only a couple hundred feet of elevation at around 5-6% average.  Definitely a climb that is possible Chris Froome style aka in the tuck position looking at your stem.  Although luckily for me I passed quit a few riders who were getting out of the aero position a LOT!

Back to how I actually road it took me a bit longer than expected to get my cold feet into my tri shoes on the bike but I managed to get them in successfully before the course reached the actual road.  Once I got to the road I was passed in short order by a couple of faster athletes who I had passed in transition which made me worry that the bike leg was going to go poorly but I actually would end up not being passed by too many more and actually passing a few myself.

The course began with a lumpy section which grouped myself and about 4 other riders together to the point I was starting to get worried about drafting penalties.  Basically we would kind of work around passing each other every so often and although I did my best to stay out of the draft zone they would never get too far ahead before a little uphill section on which I would pass them to begin the process anew.  Also, coming out onto the course I thought I was having problems with my iBike Newton+ power meter as it was reading almost 400 watts for the first section.  I knew it was possible that I started a tad strong but 200 extra watts strong seemed questionable.  I restarted it but still got 400 watts for the next 1.8 miles and 267 watts for the entire ride which is by far my best power output ever!

After the first 10-15 minutes which seemed a little tough I really got into a great rhythm of putting out 250 watts and flying along around 19mph.  After one climb I managed to tuck way down on the descent to fly down it at around 35mph.  Before I knew it I hit the turn around point and I was headed back.  I have to say I really like the out and back nature of the course because you could really easily gauge your effort.  You didn't have to second guess your computer to think have I really gone 8 miles according to the course or just my computer?  The "climb" was steeper on the back side but still something that was easily manageable and I doubt it went above 7% gradient but it was steep enough I could get out of the saddle for a little while to stretch my legs.  I did actually run into a little congestion on the downhill as I was being passed while at the same time I ran into someone from behind requiring me to use my brakes for the second, maybe third time of the day.

After a few more rollers I turned off of the road back to the transition area where I got my cold feet out of my tri  shoes ready to try and improve my dismount over my earlier flop mount.  I did end up having the ride of my life averaging 267 watts for the ride (minus the first mile which got cut off when I reset the iBike) which is well over the 180 watts I can usually manage for a longer ride.  That gave me an average speed of 19.4mph for the official timing and took 46 minutes and 22 seconds for the 15 mile course.  I really thought I would give up a bunch of time on the bike riding without aero bars but I actually managed the 3rd best bike split for my age group; definitely better than expected.  Now it just makes me wonder a bit of what it could have been on an actual triathlon aero bike!

Transition 2 - 43.3

My transition off of the bike was much more smooth than my flop onto it.  I got my feet smoothly out of my cycling shoes heading up towards the finish line and was able to ride standing on the left shoe right up  to the dismount line.  There I made a quick hop off to jog through and onto my rack spot.  I wasn't quit as quick getting my running shoes on as I would have liked given that I had speed laces on them but hey it was still a sub 45 second transition again.  After the shoes I grabbed my number belt and a hat before heading out through the back of the transition space and onto the run course.

Run - 25:02.5

Tan lines are NOT sexy
After the shoe change I ran down the backside of the transition and out through the run exit hitting start on my Garmin as I crossed the line.  I didn't really have a pacing goal in mind but I was hoping to somehow run under 8:00 min/mile for the event as a whole.  The course started out cross country style which is actually kind of cool and a nice change from running on the road.  After about 0.6 miles you came off of the cross country section and onto the road until the halfway point, the course being out and back just like the bike.  The first mile flew by pretty quickly with a decent pace of 7:51.  I got some water from a boy scout troop that was nice enough to help out with the event right around the mile marker.  I was starting to get my confidence up a little bit as only one person had passed me on the run so far.

Right after the halfway point though a guy with 50 written on his left calf came flying by me.  Yup, I got dropped hard by a a fifty year old.  I guess it was just the motivation I needed after my 8:07 second mile as I started to work my pace up as I passed the boy scout troop.  Then it was back onto the cross country section where I continued to try and go just a little bit faster; I did manage to keep the older guy in sight at least!

The finish was a little confusing and I wasn't 100% sure where to go but likely the fast, old guy in front kind of lead me through the finish line.  Which wrapped back around the entire transition area then split off to the right on the backside to finish up at the arch that you previously passed on your way to transition.  Like I said a little confusing but I guess they needed that little extra distance.  with a final spring effort on the stretch I managed to make it across the line without stumbling, always my personal fear!  After I handed another boy scout my timing chip I wanted to collapse at which moment the girlfriend took the the opportunity to take some choice shots.

Total - 1:22:55.9


Post Race

After the race I relaxed on a pavilion and enjoyed some post race food in the form of hot dogs and pretzels although I think Nicole stole all of my pretzels!  They also had Gatorade which was really nice but honestly what I really was craving was a Coke.  I have no clue why but a Coke just sounded perfect at that moment.  We ended up waiting around for about an hour or so because of the Olympic distance triathlon before the transition area was opened up but at least that gave me time to change clothes into something a little more comfy.  We then took all of my stuff to the car and headed back to the main area for the podiums.

It seemed like it took forever but finally my age group was up and I got called up to get my medal which was a really cool experience.  I have never been on the podium before and wasn't expecting to that race.  I couldn't have been more thrilled with my results.

Lunch & to the Airport

After the road trip back home, which included a stop for my Coke, we arrived back in Little Rock to unload all of my triathlon junk.  Which is definitely not my favorite part of triathlon!  After we let the Pad Girl out to go to the bathroom we headed to The Fold for some delicious Mexican brunch to thank Nicole for being my support team.  After that it was back home to finish up packing so that we could head to the airport so I could catch my flight to Washington D.C.  I am not sure what logic told me yeah go do a triathlon then get on a plane, it won't suck, it'll be fine!  That logic was moronic and I wanted to fall asleep while I was waiting to board my plane.  I then got to spend the next 3 days pestering the Arkansas federal legislators to make cancer treatment and prevention a national priority so at least it was a good cause.



Friday, September 19, 2014

I need a Vacation from Vacation

Shut Up Vacation!
So I'm taking one!  I guess that is one of the advantages of being a bike blogger after all; the care free lifestyle and oh the fact that you don't get paid at all might figure into the vacationability.  Luckily I'll be back next week and should actually have some stuff to write about with my race recap from the CATS Sprint Triathlon on Monday, my Wahoo TICKR Run review on Wednesday, and my trip to DC on Friday.  So it'll be a busy weekend of writing but just to leave you all with something to do tomorrow and in case you missed it below is Jens Voigt's hour record attempt.  Pretty impressive stuff - Shut Up Hour!