Monday, August 30, 2010

Birthday Ride

This past Friday was my birthday, and I decided to celebrate by doing something I very rarely have the opportunity to do: ride south. The riding on the Peninsula south of San Francisco is at least as magnificent as the riding in Marin, to the north, but not as easy to get to. There are a bunch of great climbs - two of my favorites, actually - and I thought it'd be a perfect birthday treat to myself to climb them both.

As an added bonus, Alex was in town for a visit. He had originally planned to do a lot of riding during his two-week stay. Unfortunately, that never materialized and he found himself dealing with questionable fitness on a borrowed bike. I tried to warn him, but he would hear nothing of it. What followed may have been his worst-ever day in the saddle.

The ride started early as Alex, Keith and I set out from the Peet's on Broderick around seven. We cruised through Golden Gate Park and then down the Great Highway to Skyline. Traffic was horrendous and the fog was miserable, but we survived to meet up with Silas just before the bike path along San Andreas Lake. When we hit Canada Road, Alex started to flag. A quick stop in Woodside gave us a chance to refill our bottles and enjoy some much-needed sunlight.

Keith and Silas wrap up OLH

Then it was time to tackle Old La Honda. The climb itself wasn't bad. I haven't done a lot of climbing and certainly didn't try to redline my way up to the top, but damn... what a beautiful ascent. Silas, Keith and I regrouped at the top and waited for a while... and waited... and waited. Alex was suffering as much as one would expect. Imagine not riding a bike for four months and then trying to tackle one of the tallest climbs in the Bay Area?

Fortunately, he had a long descent on which to recover as Silas and I (well, mainly Silas) led the way to San Gregario. The trick was not dropping Alex on the light rollers out toward the coast. It required a bit of restraint. Stage Road up to Highway 1 was a bit more painful than I remembered, but that cliff-view descent to Tunitas Creek Road made it worth the effort.

Next up: Tunitas - also known as my favorite climb in the world. I felt like I was taking it a lot easier than usual, but my average heart rate (and total time) was just about on target. The wait at the top gave Silas and I plenty of time to shoot the breeze. If Alex thought he was suffering before, the word was redefined for him on Tunitas. The sheer look of joy on his face when he finally crested the top of the climb was absolutely priceless.

Happy to be alive

The only bad thing about Tunitas is the descent back to Palo Alto - a long, twisty affair that I could definitely do without. Hunger struck and we found a noodle house downtown where we refueled before hopping on the (hottest-ever) Caltrain home.

It was a nearly perfect ride - I hit both climbs I wanted to hit, got a little bit of sun, and managed to avoid bridge-related chaos. Best of all, my legs felt fresh at the end! For Alex, I imagine it was a whole different story...

Alex full-kit, post-ride fetal nap

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shins and Shoulders

Ten days ago, I put the finishing touches on a massive week of training: 28 hours, about 250 miles on the bike, at least 25,000 yards in the pool and about 30 miles on foot. It was epic. Last week was considerably lighter - only 14 hours, and most of it at an even more relaxed pace than usual. Despite that rest week, I'm still paying for the volumes logged during that last base phase.

I'm most concerned about shin splints, my ages-old arch-nemesis, which have cropped up in both legs and have made running borderline unbearable. I could blame the new orthodics I'm wearing, but it's really my fault. I don't think I gave myself nearly enough "break in" time with them before ratcheting up the mileage.  Anyway, I'm taking all the necessary measures: ice, ibuprofen, compression, elevation... Rest is difficult, but I'm trying to minimize my running this week and next in favor of additional swimming and cycling. As long as my running injuries don't contain the words "stress" or "fracture," I'll be fine.

On top of that, I've developed a bit of shoulder pain (right side). I've never had shoulder problems before - traditionally speaking, my knees are what's always given me problems - but shoulder pain freaks me out. Fortunately, I think this is just a classic case of Swimmer's Shoulder (rotational impingement causing inflammation and tendonitis). For the time being, I am just pushing through and trying to stay away from butterfly. As above, recovery's just a matter of ice, ibuprofen and rest. And maybe some technique adjustments. We'll see what happens; I plan on closely monitoring the discomfort there.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Is the End (of Summer) Near?

Is that sky?
Cold. Windy. Overcast. Damp. Foggy. Gray. These are words I could use to describe just about every training ride I've logged since the middle of June. Weather-wise, this has easily been the most miserable summer of my entire life, and one of the worst that San Francisco has seen in many years.

But then, just last Wednesday, I saw this. Yep. See that vibrant, blue crack in the depressingly thick cloud layer? That's... the sky! Blue sky! On a morning ride!

I can't tell you how excited I was. I think I told everyone I know. "There was sky on the ride today. Actual, blue sky!

Twelve hours later, that crack had sealed up so tight I thought it would never open up again. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were awful. Thick, moist, rolling fog. Bone-chilling gusts off of the Pacific. General crappiness. The works.

Then yesterday happened. It was a beautiful day that started beautiful and stayed that way - a stark contrast to the previous night's frigid temperatures. I wasn't sure the weather would stick - it rarely seems to, any more - and prepared for the worst last night as I set my gear out for this morning's 50-mile cruise over the bridge and through Tiburon.

Much to my surprise, it did stick. And this morning was awesome.

Free at last, free at last?

The sun didn't peak over the horizon until I was already descending into Sausalito and by the time I got to Tiburon itself, it was shining low in the morning sky. Does this mean summer's almost over? Are we finally free of the fog?

A variety of songs tend to play in my head as I ride, but today, I could really only think of one: "Hey, It's The Sun!" by Polyphonic Spree. I don't even really like that song, but if that's what it takes to keep the gray away, I'll happily pay the price.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The To-Buy List

Enormously important races double as great excuses to spend copious amounts of money on unnecessary gear. Ask any cyclist worth his salt and he'll say the same thing. Big race coming up? Better get to the bike shop and pick up a new pair of arm warmers, or maybe a carbon-fiber bottle cage! It doesn't really matter if you need them or not. You almost never need anything. Most of the time, in fact, a pre-race shopping spree doesn't even yield a single piece of gear that will actually "make you faster."

At least 95% of the time, however, the mentality is as follows: "I'm going to buy X, Y and Z and then I never need to buy anything ever again. These are the last possible items I will ever need in my life." Seriously, that's how we think. (Of course, it's never true. we can always find something to upgrade.)

It is nearly September, which means only a little more than three months remain until the Big Day. And this particular Big Day being the Biggest Day of my life, it's also turning into the biggest Pre-Race Gear-Up of my life. Ever wonder how a Fred decides what gear to buy? You're about to find out.

Some people have To-Do lists. I have a To-Buy list. Until this blog entry, that list has existed as a little Post-It note stuck to the side of my monitor here at work and it does a good job bullet-pointing the items I've earmarked for inclusion in the "spending spree." True to my statement above, I'm not sure any of them will actually improve my finishing time - but they might make the whole ordeal a bit more comfortable.

Disclaimer: I am incredibly good at developing very small lists that happen to contain solely expensive, gadget-y items, and really not wanting a whole lot outside of those lists. My parents hate this because very few things on these lists of mine actually translate to affordable birthday gift ideas.

Anyway, here's what I have on the docket. Over the next few months, I'm basically going to operate like a one-man stimulus package. Fortunate, once I finally get around to buying all of this crap, I'm going to be SET FOR LIFE.

Sleeveless Wetsuit or Speedsuit
This is a question-mark. There are some changes underway in what the World Triathlon Association deems as "legal" as far as swimwear is concerned. The water in Busselton is going to be fairly warm, so I can get my hands on a legal speed suit (extra-thin wetsuit), I will. If I can't, I may pair down from my current, full-body wetsuit to a sleeveless version. My current suit may actually be too tight around the shoulders - I might actually be faster if I lose the sleeves and don't have to deal with restricted movement.

De Soto tri suit
I haven't actually settled on a specific suit (this one or this one?), but it sounds like these guys make some very good stuff - especially for warm weather (and it's going to be worse than warm in Australia). I have a Pearl Izumi tri suit, but I get the feeling I can do better.

De Soto sun sleeves
I don't know how I'm going to acclimate to Busselton's sun and high 80's, especially after two years in San Francisco's fog and mid-60's, so I think I need to do everything in my power to avoid overheating during my the bike and run legs of this race. These should help. I'm also thinking a pair of 2XU compression calf guards (in white) might be worth a small investment...

Giro sunglasses
My current pair of sunglasses (Oakley M-frames) don't get along very well with my time-trial helmet. The arms are too wide and too long - they scrape the sides and back of the helmet, and when worn together, don't sit right on my head. I've tried on a bunch of different pairs of sport shades and Giro's seem to fit best. I'm leaning toward the Havik 2 (compact), but the Filter is in the mix. Support for multiple lenses is key - I want to get a clear lens to go with the default tinted one for those early/foggy mornings (the latter frame actually ships with two lenses... too bad they don't come in white).

Garmin GPS watch
I've been thinking about selling my bike-mounted Garmin 705 and buying a really nice wrist-mounted version that I can use while running. The 310XT even tracks your speed in the water! (Yes, that's a gimmick.)

Gels, Drink Mixes, Vitamins
This is almost an ongoing thing, but I'm coming due for another round of nutrition products. Right now, I'm using primarily Hammer gels, Accelerade powder mixes and GNC vitamins. I may bite the bullet and move over to the (more expensive) First Endurance line for these few months leading up to the race.

Already purchased:
  1. The bike I'll be riding: a 2009 Cervelo P3.
  2. A Speedfil hydration system. Thanks, Oli, for selling me on that!
Pending purchase(s):
  1. Wheels - Zipp 808's with a power meter. Also, new aerobars.

    Monday, August 16, 2010


    I love to sleep. You may not believe me when I say that because I seem to sleep so little, but it's true. There are very few things I love doing more than sleep. In fact, I'll list those things, plus a few others for context.

    Andrew's Favorite Things To Do

    1. Grow a beard*
    2. Find $20 on the street
    3. Sleep
    4. Wrestle with my dog
    5. Eat a 100-Grand bar
    6. Sneeze
    7. Talk Phillies/Eagles with fans in strange lands
    11. Swim a 200-yard breaststroke
    12. Climb Tunitas Creek Road via bike
    Dude, where's my car?
    13. Host, organize and/or facilitate good parties
    14. Play Drinkball
    20a. Relate real life to Seinfeld
    20b. Quote Seinfeld
    21. Fit favorite number into everyday conversation
    22. Listen to music
    23. Drink good beer (Bell's FTW!)
    724. Clean the bathroom
    725. Spend time in airports
    4,437. Sit in on meetings
    10,493. Drink shitty beer
    10,944. Take public transportation
    6.02 x 10^23. Eat brussels sprouts
    . Get paged (added after Sunday)

    * - Hypothetical. I can't actually grow a beard.

    As you can see, I'm a fairly simple person. As you can also see, sleep is third on that list. There are only two things I enjoy doing more than sleep and one of them's not even possible. (Sigh.)

    Anyway, the question I get most often is, "If you like to sleep so much, why do you get up so ridiculously early all the time?" Well, the answer's simple. Sleep when I'm not tired is not so great. Sleep when I'm exhausted is super great. I enjoy sleep so much that I deprive myself of it in the name of future enjoyment. If you get too much sleep, it loses it's luster, kind of like foul language in a Tarantino movie.

    As it turns out, "sleeping" also trumps "writing blog posts," so... that's it from me today!


    Ironically, I wrote most of this post on Saturday afternoon before my sleepless Saturday night/Sunday morning of epic ultra crapitude. I don't typically write drafts and save them for later. I'm not sure why I did this time... but yeah, the irony kills.

    For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter, I helped a friend throw a party on Saturday night. Two hours after hitting the sack, my phone started, how they say, "blowing up." It was work. Something was broken.

    Insert enormous string of profanity here. I had to go into the office at 5 AM on a Sunday morning and spend four solid hours troubleshooting and work-around'ing. (Side note: you'd be surprised [or not] how quiet the office is at 5 AM on a Sunday.)

    I knew if I went to sleep afterward, I'd screw my whole schedule up pretty good. Instead, I stayed up, got my usual workouts in (a swim and a ride) and generally lived in zombie-mode until after dinner. Then I closed all of my blinds and crawled into bed before the sun went down for some of the 10 best hours of sleep I've ever had.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010


    I seem to be asked that question more and more often lately. Or maybe not. It could be that I'm just asking it of myself every three minutes while suffering through the boredom of a foggy, six-hour Marin ride: "Would someone please explain to me why I'm doing this again??"
    Unfortunately, there isn't just one single answer. So here's an FAQ of sorts.

    Why an Ironman?

    Short answer: It's on my bucket list.

    Long answer #1: I know I want to complete (at least) one Ironman before I die and, as Alex said so long ago, "It's not going to get any easier." I have a window of opportunity here, professionally and personally, that I am seizing with full force.

    Long answer #2: I've been a swimmer for most of my life but "retired" after college. Cycling took over. In November '09, I burnt out and needed a change - so I joined a swim team. Before long, the pressure to "do a triathlon" was just too great for me to resist.

    I've never been a sprinter - not in the pool or on the road. The greater the distance, the better I fare: endurance is where I excel. So I knew if I wanted to find some measure of success with triathlon, I'd have to go long. So I am.
    [Side question] What is an Ironman?

    Short answer: A triathon consisting of a 2.4 mile (3.8 km) swim, a 112-mile (180 km) bike ride and a marathon (26.2 miles/42 km) run.

    Long answer: Are you serious? Who doesn't know what an Ironman is? See "short answer" above.

    Why Australia?

    Short answer(s): Why not Australia?!?! The prospect of doing an Ironman race in Australia makes doing an Ironman race in some place like Idaho seem positively dull.

    Long answer: When I worked up the desire and motivation to sign up for an Ironman, I went to their website to see what was available. This was in February, and all 2010 Ironman events were sold out - except one. Western Australia. The next available one after that was New Zealand, but that wouldn't have been until March.

    February to December. Hmm. I figured I could handle ten months, mentally - but not thirteen. And training through the winter months (December, January, February) would have been unpleasant. San Francisco's Indian summer is going to lend itself well to my Build phase. I'll be boarding the plane to Australia just as the weather takes a turn for the worse.

    Related answer #1: I found myself bored enough to entertain the idea of registering for an Ironman in late February. As many of you know, late February is one of the most boring months of the year because:
    1. Football season ended a few weeks ago.
    2. Baseball season doesn't start for a while.
    3. The weather sucks.
    I guess you could say I just needed something to fill the void. When I get excited about something, I go all-out.

    Related answer #2: Seriously, Australia seems like the coolest place ever. An entire nation of people who actually care about the sport of swimming! Deserted, white-sand beaches as far as the eye can see! KANGAROOS!! I've been looking for an excuse to go Down Under for a while. Now I finally have one!

    Australia's far. For how long will you go?

    Short answer: 3 weeks.

    Long answer: The plan is to arrive a week early, acclimate, adjust, preview and race. Then I'll have two weeks to relax and sightsee. It will be summer there, and I am going to celebrate completion of my race by doing very little (e.g. sitting on a beach) for a long time.

    Why are you training so much?

    Short answer: It's an freaking Ironman, dude.

    Long answer
    : Right now I'm in "Base Training," which is designed to be lots and lots of high-volume, low intensity work. It's like laying the foundation for a skyscraper: the taller you want it to be, the broader and/or deeper the base. In mid-September, I will begin the "Build Phase," which is where I'll back off on volume (slightly) and incorporate intensity (intervals, etc.) into the mix. Build will peak toward the end of October and then I begin a taper period leading up to race day on December 5.

    Do you have a coach? Do you train with people?

    Short answer(s): No, and usually.

    Long answer: I'm following a training program set forth by Triathlon coach guru Joe Friel in his Training Bible and Going Long books. I will admit, I probably bit off a bit more than I should be chewing, but now that I'm two months into the mix, there's no turning back or backing down.

    I don't have an official "triathlon coach," but I bounce ideas off of various cycling and running coaches that live in my network of friends. I swim on a swim team. Many of my runs and a lot of my base rides are solo, but I ride with a cycling club, for the most part. So yes, I am "training with people," but no, I am not training with anyone who's training for what I'm training for.

    Why don't you take an extra rest day/get drunk tonight?

    Short answer: I haven't missed an hour yet. I'd rather feel good on the bike tomorrow than feel good at the bar tonight. And by the way, I'm f$%@ing tired.

    Long answer: I'm on a roll. I'm just about eight weeks into this training program and I haven't missed a minute. This is pretty cool, especially when you consider the sheer number of hours I've been putting in. The first three weeks contained 70 hours. The past three? 75. It's borderline insanity. And at the same time, it's kind of like Brett Favre's unbroken 265+ game start streak - all I want to do is keep it alive. And I'll go to great lengths to do so.

    This means making a lot of sacrifices. I'm okay with that. Hitting these targets is fun for me. You may not understand, but I enjoy destroying myself on my bike more than I enjoy being hungover.

    What's with your diet?

    Short answer: I needed a change to something healthier.

    Long answer: I used to eat a lot of junk food. A lot. I have removed dairy, sugary snacks and starch from my life. They don't really have a whole lot of nutritional value. I feel great about it. They've been replaced by extra fruits and vegetables. It's all based on this book.

    What's your goal?

    Short (but unrealistic) answer: Kona.

    Long answer: I'd really like to finish within the 10th hour of the race. I'd really really like to break 10 hours. I'd practically give my left arm to qualify for Kona. (Of course, I'd need to hold onto said arm for a few more months, in that case.)

    But... why?

    Short answer: I love a challenge.

    Long answer: I love a challenge and this one is both physical and mental. Can I complete an Ironman? Sure. I think anyone can. But can I conquer this oh-so-aggressive training plan? While maintaining a full-time job? While completely exhausted? Can I run a sub-4-hour marathon after a 112-mile ride? Now that Alex is out, can I do this whole thing solo?

    It's not just one big challenge in December - it's six whole months of challenges. Every week is a puzzle where I try to fit all of my scheduled workouts around my meetings and (admittedly limited) social obligations. I love it. Physically, I know I can do it. Mentally, it's the most extreme test of discipline I've ever faced.

    And in all honesty, this I want to go into this knowing I did everything in my power to be as successful as possible. I want to nail every training session. I want to find the right equipment, practice the right transitions, get the right amount of sleep, eat right... do whatever I need to do so that I know that when I take the start in December, I will have reached my absolute physical peak.

    So maybe that's a better short answer. All I want to do is to know that over the course of six months I've pushed every limit I have to it's maximum. I want to know, even if only for one day, what it feels like to be the absolute best that I can be.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Bike Update!

    I just received word that my TT frame's return authorization was accepted and a replacement is en route. I hope to have the bike built back up by the middle of next week. Awesome news!

    In the meantime, I've been riding my road bike - which, for all intents and purposes, is the better of bike of the two. But I need to spend as much time as possible over the next four months in that time-trial position. Before losing these two weeks, I had been splitting my time between the P3 and the TCR, but now... it might be time to retire the Giant for a little while.

    Backtracking a bit, I bought this bike at Shop A. When I found out it needed to be warrantied, I took it back to them. They told me they no longer deal Cervelo bikes, so they couldn't handle the warranty. They told me to take it to another dealer, so I took it around the corner to Shop B. They are handling everything well, but they want to charge me $150 to break down the old bike and build up the replacement.

    Hmm. Seems a bit ridiculous to charge me $150 when the whole reason this is happening is the manufacturer's fault... though I do understand that Shop B needs to cover their labor costs somehow. Who should have to pay for this? I'm thinking the original shop (A) should spot me the $150.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010


    Today's ride was kind of awesome in the same way that my last 5.5 hour ride was kind of awesome. (Slight aside: there's a definite difference between fun and awesome. I don't know that either of these rides were that much fun. Very few training rides are actually fun, now that I think about it.)

    Just like last time, this ride started like any normal ride - but by the time I had reached Nicasio and hadn't yet clipped out, it became another quest for the elusive "zero-stop" ride. This being a base-mileage ride, it wasn't very fast. I do my best to keep my heart-rate pretty slow.

    Last time, I rode to Pt. Reyes and then back via Samuel P. Taylor and down to Tiburon. This time I went to Pt. Reyes and then turned around and rode back the way I came. Curiously, both rides resulted in almost identical numbers. Mileage. Time. Average heart-rate. Average speed. Average "fake computed" power output. Weird. At least I'm consistent.

    Anyway, the highlight of this particular ride is: I was successful! I rode out and back, just over five hours and thirty minutes, without stopping or pausing a single time. Crazy.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    "I did it."

    "Oh, my God. I've done it. KAGE, COME HERE, I WANT YOU!"
    "What?! What?! God! I was sleeping dude! What are you talkin' about?"
    "Oh, my God..."
    "I did it."
    "What'd you do?"
    "I've done it... I f@#%in' did it."
    After months of back and forth, obsessing over the cost of flights, suggested itineraries and so forth, I finally took the plunge. I booked my flights to and from Australia tonight. Shit just got serious.
    "Rock singers are only rockin' you half the time. But not anymore, baby!"
    I leave San Francisco the evening of Saturday, November 27 and arrive in Perth on Monday morning. By Tuesday, I hope to be in Busselton with my bike and all of my gear. Some light sightseeing during that week leading up to the Ironman will probably happen, but I'm saving most of that for afterward.

    I'll have about a week and a half in Western Australia (Perth, Freo, and the surrounding towns) after the race. On Thursday, December 16, I fly to Sydney for just shy of one week. On Wednesday, December 22, I fly back to San Francisco and close the book on what will surely be one of the most epic trips of my entire life.

    I don't know how the itinerary's going to work out. Am I spending too little time in WA? Too much? Everything is so darn far apart in Australia, it's really hard to see a region without buying a car (seriously) and driving, driving, driving. Whatever happens, I'm sure it's going to be awesome.

    This is the part where I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. I'm glad to have that weight off of my shoulders.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Race Report: Vineman Relay

    On Saturday, a motley crew of athletes known as Team UpDog set their sights on Sonoma's Vineman Relay, and Ironman-distance event through the heart of wine country. Team UpDog is:

    Union Jack
    Real Name: Oli Ryan
    Discipline: Bike
    Background: Imbued with superhuman time-trialling abilities by early exposure to [Air Products and] Chemicals (NYSE:APD).

    Real Name: Kevin Weil
    Discipline: Run
    Background: Former collegiate athlete "snapped" (head trauma?) and now actually enjoys running. Use extreme caution.

    Real Name: Andrew Valko
    Discipline: Swim
    Background: Raised by a pod of orca whales off the Alaskan coastline.

    The day started early, and by early, I mean 3 o'clock in the morning. Union Jack & Sanny picked me up around four. By six, we were getting our transition area set on the shore of the Russian River in Guerneville.

    Mine was the first segment: two laps in the river totaling 2.4 miles. Unfortunately, mine was not the first heat - relay participants were the last to take the start, twenty minutes behind four other groups of future Vinemen and Vinewomen. This meant that with my target finishing time of 60 minutes, I'd be catching members of the first wave targeting 1:20 or slower. Translation: I was going to be swimming over people the entire time.

    Swimming in the river
    The horn sounded and we were off. I sprinted the first 20-25 yards to distance myself from the pack and then eased off and attempted to settle into the draft of another swimmer. The first length was painful - he was swimming at a pace I didn't think I could hold. At the first turn around, he gapped me. I was secretly happy for this - it gave me the freedom to settle into a rhythm and race within myself.

    The water was warm and extremely shallow in parts, but that did not bother me quite so much as the congestion. Those 2.4 miles without walls made this the longest continuous swim I'd ever done and it felt that way. My arms and shoulders were on fire by the time the transition flags came into view. As soon as the water was shallow enough, I put my feet down, ran into T1, handed the timing chip* to Oli and got back into the water for a short warm-down.

    On my way to T1

    While was lazing about in the river, Oli was busily stomping the 112-mile bike course. We only had one relay competitor ahead of us after the swim and Union Jack was able to reel him in within the first ten miles. From that point on, it was head's down as he blazed across those Sonoma Country roads. Our hopes were almost dashed at one point when a handful of deer decided to dart across the road just ahead of him. Thankfully, he came out of the encounter upright and unscathed.

    Oli dominates

    The bike leg is long, so we didn't see much of Oli until he was mashing his way into the finishing straight as just the fourth or fifth male rider on course overall. He hit transition and handed off to Greenlight, stopping his clock at roughly 5:03 - an average of almost 23 miles per hour over 112 miles!

    Kevin enjoys the first lap
    By the time Greenlight started his 26.2-mile run, the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was climbing by the minute. Kevin is a ridiculous ultra-distance runner, but ahead of him lay three laps of a hilly, hot, exposed 8.5-mile course that broke even some of the strongest professionals. His bright green shirt made him easy to spot in the long stream of runners dashing by in either direction (and provided part of the inspiration for his alias, above).

    The heat was no joke and the suffering was painted on his face after the first lap. "There was a rest stop every mile, and every time I'd grab two cups of water and just dump them over my head," he said afterward, "Then I'd feel good for a few minutes, most of the way to the next station. If there hadn't been an aid station every mile, I don't think I would've made it."

    The final stretch

    Fortunately, it paid off: Kevin was the second male finisher by ten minutes to a pro triathlete who we spotted 20 minutes at the beginning of the day. We dominated. The next best-placed relay was over thirty-minutes in arrears! The aftermath was fairly low-key - we were all exhausted, but happy. High-fives all around.

    I have to give enormous credit to Oli and Kevin. A low 5-hour bike leg and low 3-hour run leg (in that heat!) are both totally out-of-control! Those guys are absolute beasts. I'm grateful that they decided to give me the opportunity to be a part the team. Props must also be given to Sara, who made the whole Kevin-Oli-Andrew connection possible, and Sanny, who took all the pictures you see here. All in all, it felt a little bit like Ocean's 11 - three freelance specialists assembled for one big sting. It was a raging success -- and now we all go our separate ways.

    Until the sequel, that is.

    * - Turns out, our timing chip never actually activated. Lame.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Under Warranty

    Can you spot anything wrong with the picture of my three-week old Cervelo P3, below?

    No? Let's take a closer look.

    WTF is that metal bit keeping the seatpost clamp away from the carbon?! That shouldn't be there.

    The other side is flush. This is how it should be.

    When you take the clamp off, it's fairly obvious that something's effed up. Why does the left side have a weird, metal sleeve drilled/glued into the carbon, while the right side is simply threaded into the frame?

    To keep the seatpost from falling while I ride it, I have to over-tighten the right-hand side, torquing the carbon post itself and causing the metal screw sleeve on the left-hand side to slide even further out of it's cove. This is not how it's supposed to be.

    I'm not going to point any fingers, but this should have been apparent to the shop guys when they built the bike up in the first place. Maybe they didn't realize something was amiss. Maybe they didn't care and just wanted to move this lemon off the lot. Who knows? As long as they help me set things straight, I don't even care.

    I took the frame in today to be warrantied. It should be on a truck back to Cervelo by tomorrow afternoon. A replacement had better be on it's way back to me by the end of the week or someone's going to pay.