Thursday, December 22, 2011

Knuckle Lights Review

Do you run in the dark? Are you dissatisfied running with a flashlight or head lamp? Do you want better visibility?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then you need to get a set of Knuckle Lights.

What are Knuckle Lights? From their website, "Knuckle Lights™ are worn on the front of your hands, in a perfect position to light your path and be seen by traffic.  The extra-wide flood beams move with the natural motion of your arms and provide super-bright illumination to light up the entire area in front of you."

Dan Hopkins, Knuckle Lights Founder, was nice enough to send me a pair of these lights to try out.  I got the blue pair, but they also come in black, silver, pink, or yellow.  As an additional bonus they come with 4 AAA batteries.  If that wasn't enough they offer free domestic shipping.

I have had them for a few weeks and my wife and I have used them several times.  With winter settling in we find ourselves running in the dark more so I was anxious to give Knuckle Lights a try.

In the past, my wife and I have used small flash lights when running in the dark.  Your standard small flash light is really a pain to run with as you have to hold it in an uncomfortable position to light your path.  When you do find the right way to hold a standard flashlight while running it doesn't provide a good beam to constantly keep your path lit as it bounces all over the place.

Most of my runs are done in town.  So I will go from well lit streets to streets with no lights during a run.  The Knuckle Lights provide bright illumination that light your running path.  The lights provide 45 Lumens of double flood beams for maximum light.  These are wide beam lights so don't expect these lights to light your path 20 yards ahead of you.  The wide beam setup provides a constant and bright light directly in front of you.  You would think that with the natural movement of your arms while running would cause the beams of the lights to bounce around on the ground.  That's not the case with Knuckle Lights.  These lights provide a nice even light that moves with the natural motion of your arms while running.

Not only do they do a great job of lighting your running path but they do an exceptional job of making yourself visible to cars. I have encountered numerous vehicles on my dark runs and each car coming my way moved over at least 30 yards before they got to me.

Here is a quick video that visually illustrates what the lights look like in the dark.  I got lucky when I shot this video that a car happened to come around the corner.  As you can see the lights are very bright and are almost hard to miss.

Feel and Weight

The lights fit very comfortably and naturally on your hands.  The strap that wraps around the back side of your fingers is a comfortable silicone strap that is adjustable.  The clamp that holds the strap at your desired fit is somewhat uncomfortable.  You can move the clamp up and down to get where it is comfortable, but I think a thinner clamp would feel much better. 

I have noticed that I really don't need to tightly grip or squeeze the straps while I am running.  They are very light weight and I hardly notice them. 

The on/off switch is on the top of the lights and can be operated with your thumb. The only thing is that I wish the switch was set a little further back. For me its a little bit of a reach for my thumb.

The lights also work well with gloves on.  All you have to do is loosen the strap up and then fit them over the gloves.  I usually carry a water bottle with me on my runs.  Before Knuckle Lights I would have a water bottle in one hand and a flashlight in the other.  It was a real pain and was constantly switching the flashlight and water bottle from hand to hand.  With the Knuckle Lights I am able to carry my water bottle naturally as if I were running in the daylight.  A great thing about the Knuckle Lights is that they are so light, fit naturally on your hands, and really require no effort to keep on your hands so that you can run the way you do in the daylight.  Oh, and did I say that they provide a great wide beam of light as well?

My Recommendation

I highly recommend this product to anyone who runs in the dark that has had trouble with carrying flashlights or wearing head lamps.  Head on over to the Knuckle Lights website and try them for yourself.

Other Photos


Monday, October 10, 2011

That's It....2011 Summary

2011 was a pretty good year for racing.  I competed in three 5k's, 5 sprint triathlons, a duathlon, and a 1/2 marathon.  I placed in the top three of my age group in all but 2 races (Illinois 1/2 marathon and Indy Sprint Tri #1).  I learned a lot about my abilities, training, and race strategies.

One of the biggest accomplishments was qualifying for the 2011 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race.  I didn't go, but I did qualify again for the same race in 2012. 

In all of my races combined I competed with a total of 677 guys in my age group and only got beat by 68 of those guys.  In my triathlons I competed against a total of 90 guys in my age group for all races and only 20 beat me.  When looking at the overall field I competed with a total of 12,665 people and only a total of 574 people beat me.  The Illinois 5k and Illinois 1/2 marathon accounted for a good percentage of total participants as they were big races.

Most Difficult:  Redhawk Rampage Tri - had 2 big hills on the bike course
Easiest Race: Champaign Mini Tri
Favorite Races:  Tri The Illini, Fishers Area Sprint Tri, Illinois 5k, and Illinois 1/2 marathon
Least Favorite:  Lytle Park Duathlon - suppose to be a triathlon, but got switched due to no water in the pool.
Wettest Race:  Indy Sprint Tri #1 - monsoon rains
Hottest Race:  Redhawk Rampage Tri
Coldest Race:  Tri The Illini

Besides the races themselves many hours were spent running, cycling, and swimming.  I am looking forward to the off season to get back to strength training and finding a way to become a better swimmer.

Plans for 2012 are still up in the air as far as triathlons go.  I have decided to step it up a little and do some longer races.  So there may not be as many races in 2012 but the races will be bigger.  Two races I would love to do would be Muncie Ironman 70.3 and the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals race.  I've got a lot of options and races to choose from, but it just comes down to dates.

I have signed up for 2 races in 2012 already which are the Illinois 5k and Illinois 1/2 marathon (aka I-Challenge).  It's one of the best around and wouldn't want to miss it.

Thank you for reading my race reports and thanks for the support from family and friends throughout the season.  I'll be blogging about my winter training woes and there may be one more race left to do in 2011.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Tri The Illini

On October 2nd I participated in the 4th Annual Tri The Illini.  An event hosted by the Fighting Illini Triathlon Club which is also the official triathlon club of the University of Illinois.  This would be my last triathlon race of the 2011 season.  This race, and my previous race, where strategically put on my calendar.  I wanted to qualify for the 2012 age group national championship race and wanted to do it early enough so I could plan my 2012 race schedule better.  Since I already qualified with my last race I was excited about doing this event for fun and gain momentum for the 2012 season.

I was thrilled to have my family there cheering me on.  It's always nice to hear familiar voices in the heat of battle.  My parents, my in laws, and my wife and kids made it.  Triathlon is not the best spectator sport and can be kind of boring to watch in person because you can't see your triathlete all the time.  So to have the fam there for support was great.

The goal for every race to finish in the top 3 of my age group.  Prior to the race I looked to see who was racing in my age group and knew I would have to have a good race to place in my AG.  I finished 3rd out of 26 in my age group, 18th out of all 347 age group athletes, and 38th out of the 442 total participants.  The race had 3 divisions that consisted of age groupers, collegiate, and relay.  I was pleased with my result despite losing second place in AG by only 12 seconds.  On the other hand a top10% finish in my age group qualified me for nationals.  So I guess I am doubly qualified for nationals.

Here is a summary of my times:

Swim 300M - 0:07:53
T1                - 0:01:08
Bike 14.5 mi - 0:41:45 (20.8mpg avg)
T2                - 0:00:54
Run 5k         - 0:20:44 (6:41/mi)
Total             1:12:23

My pre race routine was the same as it is for every race.  The only exception for this race was with the temperatures in the 30's that morning it forced me to do more warm up in the pool rather than my normal run warm up.


The swim took place in the 50M ARC pool at the U of I. 

Everyone was lined up by your race number which was based on your estimated swim time when you registered.  Participants were sent off every 5 seconds.  Based on my previous race with a similar start of every 5 seconds I was curious to see how the congestion would be in the pool.  As I watched there was some congestion but it wasn't as bad as my last race.  The race director and volunteers were pretty adamant about going off based on your race number.  This was good.  My last race your number was also based on your estimated swim time.  However, at that race they said you could self seed yourself.  There a lot of people, that were slow swimmers, that moved themselves up because they just wanted to get started sooner which caused a lot of congestion.

Overall good swim.  My watch recorded a swim of 6:45 for the 300M which was expected.  The official swim time includes the long run out of the ARC, up a flight of stairs, and some more running to the adjacent parking lot where transition was located to where the timing mat was located.

Out of the pool and running of of the building.  Holly cow, it's freaking cold outside.  Soaking wet and about 37 degrees out.  Whewww.  Just keep moving, just keep moving.


Coming out of the indoor pool then along the
outdoor pool deck then up the flight of stairs.
 Besides the shock of being wet with temps in the 30's, T1 was uneventful.  Everything went smoothly.  I had laid out a long sleeve cycling jersey and cycling gloves just in case I wanted them.  I made a game time decision to not use that stuff in an effort to save time.

Mounted bike good and got up to speed quickly heading south with a tailwind.


The bike route takes you south of campus and back.  The first half of the 14.5 miles was with a tailwind.  The tailwind and the sun helped me dry out quickly.  By mile 2 I was completely dry and averaging around 25mph with the tailwind. 

After the turnaround at mile 7.25 the trip back to campus would be with a head wind.  I think I averaged around 18-20mph or so on the way back.  Lost some time on the last 7.25 miles which resulted in my overall mph average being below my anticipated 22mph average.

The course was generally flat. There were a couple of decent hills just before the turnaround.  All pot holes and bumps in the road were clearly marked and the volunteers did a great job in letting us know of the hazards.  All intersections were manned my police and volunteers.

I lost a little time on some of the turns when there were other competitors that took them reaallllly slow which caused me to lose a lot of momentum.

I never got passed and I did a lot passing.  Swimming is my weakness so it's always fun to fly by those efficient swimmers on the bike course.    

Again, pretty uneventful.  This is the second race going with no socks and it worked to perfection again. 


The 5k run took you through the U of I campus.  It was a really enjoyable, relaxing, and scenic run.  There were a lot of turns but they were clearly marked and every turn had a volunteer pointing where to go.

I was looking forward to this run.  Mainly because I wanted to find out if my triathlon run in my last event was a fluke or if I have really improved.  I had the same approach this race where I would do a ladder pace.  Start out at a comfortable pace to get my legs back and then increase pace with each mile.  It usually takes me about a mile to get my run legs back after biking.

I started off way to fast the first 300 yards.  I was pacing about a 6:05 pace so I backed it down to a 6:50/mi pace, then mile 2 was a 6:45 pace, the 3rd mile was at 6:31, and the final 0.1 mile was just a sprint to the finish. 

This strategy worked again.  I averaged a 6:41/mi pace for the 5k run.  I beat my run from my last triathlon!!!  I think I have finally found a strategy that works for these triathlon runs.  My brick training is paying off.  A new triathlon run PR.


This was a great event, I highly recommend it, and will likely do it again next year. 

The race was well organized and had tons of volunteers.  The volunteers were very helpful and encouraging.  I tried to thank each one of them during my run because without them the race doesn't happen.  Great job volunteers!! 

Race results were posted in a timely manner and the awards ceremony was done shortly after the last participant had finished. 

Post race food was good.

Race swag consisted of the usual coupons & advertisement from sponsors, nutritional samples, and a very nice event tech t-shirt.  The first 400 participants also received tri tats (temporary race # tattoos) which was a nice touch.

Good swim venue, good bike route, and a great run route through campus.  Great event!

I've got some time off now to think about which races I want to do next year.  I really like the sprint triathlons, but I think it's time for a new challenge, so probably some olympic distance races and maybe even an Ironman 70.3 next year. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Race Report: Fishers Area Sprint Triathlon 2011

I ran my race, had fun, felt great, and qualified for the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race. 

Race Snap Shot
Swim:   0:11:20
T1:       0:01:34
Bike:    0:28:33 (21.9mph avg)
T2:       0:01:02
Run:     0:20:14 (6:45/mi avg)
Total   1:02:43

Finished 3rd in age group and 35th (out of 418) overall.  Missed second place by 13 seconds and was 1 min and 15 second behind 1st place.  Close race!

My biggest goal for this race and my race on Oct 2nd was to finish in the top 10% in my age group.  If I did that then I would qualify for the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race.  I qualified for the 2011 race but did so too late and couldn't plan accordingly.  Plus the 2011 sold out in record time.  If I qualified with a fall race I would have more time to plan a possible trip to Burlington, VT in 2012. 

Mission accomplished....I qualified.  I am extremely excited about this opportunity, but we'll wait until USAT puts out the dates for the race and determine if I can go or not.  Stayed tuned to a future blog about this.

On with the race report:

On Sunday September 18th I participated in the Fishers Area Sprint Triathlon (F.A.S.T) in Fishers, Indiana.  This was a well ran event by Tuxedo Brothers and Fishers High School was a nice venue.

The day before the race I stayed at my older brother's house.  It was great to see my two brothers, their families, and my mom and dad.  An added bonus was that his house was only 15 minutes from the race site.

Every race day starts early, and this race was no exception, up and out of bed at 5am.  It's weird that the only time I get up with the first alarm in on my swimming days and race days.  I headed out of the house a little before 6am and arrived at the race site at 6:15.  I was probably one of the first 30 or so participants there.  I found my transition rack (assigned based on race number) and began to setup my transition area.

I started to sprinkle rain at this time.  I was hoping it wouldn't rain because my race in June was in the rain and it was terrible.  I happen to glance up into the western sky and noticed a double rainbow.  It was pretty cool, and thought, well this is going to be a good day after all.

Once setup I began to do my normal pre-race warm up routine.  There would be a brief rain shower every so often so I decided to go back to transition and put my running shoes in a plastic bag and cover my helmet and bike shoes with a small towel.

Everything was ready to go and now it was just hurry up and wait.  I headed inside the high school where they were staging the participants to be taken to the pool in groups of 50.  Your race number was the order you started.  The race numbers were based on your estimated 100M swim time when you registered.

As with all other triathlons I have been in all of the athlete are supportive of each other.  Case in point at this race when each group of 50 was sent to the pool the remaining racers began cheering and hollering.

Finally my number was called and I headed off to the pool.  As you walk into the pool area you walk in front of the stands where spectators where sitting.  It was fun to look up and see my family there.  As I scanned the pool I could tell there was a lot of congestion and realized this was going to be a "touchy feely" kinda swim.

It's a time trial start and athletes are sent off every five seconds.

"Good luck today you can go"!

The Swim (500M - 0:11:20)

The swim was 500M in the 50M indoor pool at the high school.  I swam the 500M in 11:20 which was a little slower than I have been swimming in practice.  Congestion was  somewhat of an issue on some of the laps.  There was a couple of times where there were 3 to 4 people at the end of the lane trying to get under the lane line.

I came into this swim with the intention of not letting anyone slow me down.  If that meant swimming over people or going 3 wide in the lane then that was going to be the way to do it.

The first 100M was pretty well spaced out and was able to pass a few people.  From that point on it got congested.  I did a couple of passes where I shot right between the two people in front of me.  Towards the end I did get passed a few times but it was no big deal because the swim portion is my weakest of the three disciplines so I kinda expected it.

With all of the congestion involved in passing, and being passed, this indoor swim felt like an open water swim.  I have never been touched, poked, elbowed, kicked that much in a pool swim.

Overall, I was happy with my swim.

At the end of the swim I climbed out of the pool and exited the pool area through the door leading to the outside.  The transition area was about 20 yards from the pool building.

Transition #1 (0:01:34)

Transition # 1 was pretty uneventful.  Since the distance from the pool to my bike was relatively short I was a little "lost" in finding my bike.  Thankfully my brother was out there yelling at me on where to go.

Got my feet dried off quickly and put my cycling shoes on.  Grabbed my bike a ran out of transition.

This was the first race where I decided to go sockless.  In past races I have had issues, and lost precious seconds, while fumbling with putting socks on semi wet feet.

I have been doing my training rides and runs with no socks. 

The only bothersome in this transition was the guy sitting on the curb right next to my stuff.  Thankfully he scooted over and let me have my space.

Bike-10 miles (0:28:33 - 21.9 mph avg)

My favorite part of the triathlon.  Once across the timing mat I mounted the bike with no issues and got up to speed good. 

The conditions were good.  It was a little wet from the rain earlier but that did not effect me at all.  The wind was generally light and the course was flat with a few gentle rollers. 

Once I got up to speed I settled into my aero bars and hammered on.  My goal was to average 22mph and I came close (21.9mph).
The course was setup in a way that a mile from the school there was a 4 mile loop you did twice then headed back to the school to get the 10 mile distance.  This course really fit my style and was just like my training rides on the country roads back home. 

I never got passed and I did a lot of passing.

Once back at the school I had a good dismount heading into transition for the run.  Ah the run, the wild card in my races.  My run times after the bike have jumped up and down all summer.  Let's see what happens today.

Transition #2 (0:01:02)

T2 was good.  The "sockless" game plan worked to perfection.

When I got back most of the other bikes on my rack were gone so I got my bike racked pretty well.  Helmet off, bike shoes off, running shoes on, grabbed water more leg left.

Run - 3 miles (0:20:14 -6:45/mi avg)

I had a different game plan with this race on the run.  I was going to do a ladder pace.  This is where each mile I would increase my pace.  This would allow me to get my legs back in the first mile while getting settled in.  My run splits were:

Mile 1 - 6:55
Mile 2 - 6:45
Mile 3 - 6:35

As you can see I increased my pace 10 seconds every mile.  My problem in previous races has been I start my run doing a 6:35 or faster pace then can't finish strong.  This time around my approach worked really well as I felt in control and fresh the entire run.

The run route was relatively flat.  The first mile was on the sidewalk (run/walk path) and it had a steady incline most of the way.  The second mile winded through a subdivision that was pretty flat.  Then the third mile was in the subdivision then around and behind the high school. 

I carried my own water bottle but there were two water stations.  One right out of transition and the other about halfway through the course.

I was very pleased with my run and hopefully I got this race pace technique figured out and it's not a one time fluke.


This race was well ran and organized.  The results were posted near the finish line (not in the gym like I was waiting around for) in a timely manner with the awards ceremony done in a timely fashion.

The post race food had a wide variety of hot and cold foods and they were all good.

The volunteers did a wonderful job in directing the athletes on all corners of the bike and run routes and were energetic and supportive.

If I had any recommendations it would be:

-For the swim....give more time before sending off each swimmer maybe 10 or 15 seconds instead of 5 seconds.  With over 400 participants that may not be ideal as it would add quite a bit of time from the 1st and last swimmer.
- Pre Race Meeting - use the microphone system that was used in the awards ceremony.  The bull horn that was used in the pre race meeting was hard to understand.

Great event, great race!  Yes, I would do this again.

One more triathlon left for this season.  It's been a great season and hope to finish strong.


Other Pics:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Golf, Hunting, Fishing, Triathlon

People often tell me that I am crazy because I do triathlons and the training that goes into it.  Six days a week I am running, swimming, or biking and sometimes a combination of the three on the same day. 

My response is usually, "I'm crazy?".

Once I got to thinking about my time commitment to training for triathlons it became clear that it is more or less a hobby.   It's kinda like golf, hunting, and fishing.  Each of those hobbies involve a lot of time, investment in equipment, and preparation.  So am I really crazy for having a triathlon hobby?

Think about it for a second.  A deer hunter doesn't just wake up one morning and say, "hey I want to kill a deer".  There is a lot of preparation that happens before the hunter reaches the stand to sit there for hours in the morning in hopes of a buck passing by.  There is a lot of time getting the stand ready, getting the bow or shotgun working properly, and making sure you have all the right gear.  These folks are crazy too, right?  I mean why else would you get up at 3am to spray yourself with deer urine.

A golfer spends at least 4 hours per round and we all know that golf isn't the cheapest sport.  Golfers, including myself, they're crazy too, right?  Why spend 4 hours and $50 dollars to chase a white ball around that all it does is make you mad.

Fishing also takes time and a lot of money can be spent on getting the right equipment.  Are fishermen crazy?  They spend hours on the water casting the latest and greatest lure below a surface in which they have no idea what lies beneath. 

The sport of triathlon is no different.  And yes I guess we (triathletes) are perceived as little crazy too.  We train for countless hours to do something on a weekend that most people don't fathom doing.  Why would someone torture themselves with swimming, biking, and running on the same day?

It's the same reason why people hunt, fish, and golf.  They enjoy being outdoors, they like not knowing how the day will end up but are prepared to have their best day, they like the adrenaline rush of getting the catch, its a time to get away from the daily grind, they have a passion for it, and they just love doing it.  It's that long drive or impossible putt that goes in, pulling that huge bass out of the water, or that 14 point buck.  That's also way they do it.  So does that make them crazy? 

Each triathlete from the pros to the age groupers all have a story in how they got into the sport of triathlon.  If you did a Google search you would probably find a thousand stories and each story would be unique, inspirational and different.

I do it for many reasons.  I do it to stay healthy and fit, to change my workout routine up a little, to do something most people don't, to be a roll model for my kids, to meet "crazy" triathlon people like myself, to get my mind away from the daily stresses, to hopefully inspire others around me, to get race shirts and medals, to get that adrenaline rush and butterflies on race morning, but most importantly I tri because it fuels my competitive personality.

When a small amount of people do something the thing they are doing is inherently considered weird, crazy, and different.  Really though it's just normal to them.  It's their hobby and they just like doing it. 

Maybe I am not so crazy after all....just doing something out of the ordinary that makes me happy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Mahomet 5k

 On Saturday August 20th, 2011 I ran the Mahomet 5k race.  This was the 16th edition of this race and the first time I have ran in it.  It's a hometown race for me.  Expectations were high for myself as I wanted to finish in under 20 minutes.  I knew it was going to be somewhat of a challenge because the 3 times I ran this route my time varied between 20:23 and 20:39.  Complicating my under 20 minute goal was the fact that nearly half of the race was uphill with rollers.  I was banking on race day adrenaline to push me to a new 5k PR.

The weather was perfect at 68 degrees, light winds, and cloud cover.  Since I only live about a mile from the start line I decided to jog to the event to avoid the parking crowd.  Upon my arrival I stopped and visited with some friends before I started my pre-race warm up and stretching.  Everything was going as planned and I felt great.

Photo Courtesy of The Photo News

Prior to the 5k starting the 1/2 marathon runners and wheel chair racers went first.  Once they were off it was then 10 minutes before the 5k race started.  I got up towards the front near the starting line.  The gun fires and here we go!

The first half of the race is slightly downhill and flat.  I got off to a great start.  In fact, it was so great that I ran the first mile in 5:56.  That is really fast for me and I have never ran a mile that fast before.  In most cases I would back off a little and run a 6:15-6:30 pace, but I was feeling good and the rhythm was there, so I kept pushing on. 

The first part of mile 2 was flat and I maintained my pace while only slowing just a bit.  The second part of mile two was the beginning of the rolling uphill journey to the finish line.  I made up Turkey Farm Road better than I planned to.  My pace obviously slowed down since I was going uphill but my pace was good at 6:34 for mile 2.  At this point I was right on track to get under 20 minutes.

My weakness of the entire course was just ahead of me....mile 3 (State Street).  Its an up and down rolling street.  It doesn't seem that bad when you drive it.  The problem is running this street after just going up Turkey Farm Road. 

Physically, I knew I had it in me.  Mentally I knew this part of the route was my weakness and I think I let my mind beat me this time.  I ran the 3rd mile in 7:02.  My goal was to maintain a pace of around 6:30-6:40 during the 3rd mile and sprint to the finish.  My goal of getting under 20 was lost on State Street.  If I could have maintained my goal pace I would have gotten my goal time.

The race ended after one lap around the high school track.  There were two runners ahead of me as we entered the track area.  I did my best to catch them in the last 400 meters.  The 12 year old (the one behind me in the picture who past me just before we entered the track) ahead of me beat me by 5 seconds.

Even though I didn't get my goal time I was happy with the race.  I think I left some on the race course, which aggravates me a little, but that will motivate me in the next 5k race.  The majority of the race I felt really good and was able to maintain a fast pace comfortably.  Makes me dream of what my time would have been if the course was generally flat.

My official clock time was 20:23.  I finished 13th overall (out of 296) and 2nd in my age group (out of 15).  Another race....another medal.

Now, it's time to switch gears back to triathlon training.  I have two triathlons left this season and at least one more 5k race.  Can't get enough it!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Champaign Mini Triathlon

1st Place in Age Group Medal
On Saturday August 6th, 2011 I competed in the 2011 Champaign Mini Triathlon in Champaign, IL.  This was the site of my first ever triathlon a year ago.  I was excited about this event because this would be my first event I have repeated and could gage my improvement from a year ago.

Before the 2010 race I never really ran or swam that much prior to the race. 

Since that race I became a very active runner, a better swimmer, and overall improved triathlete.  So I went into the 2011 race with great expectations. 

My goal was to finish in under 38 minutes, finish top 10 overall, and finish 1st in my age group.  At the end of the day I finished in 38:14, 13th overall (11th in male division), and 1st place in my age group.  Came really close to accomplishing all three goals.  However, the most important thing to me was that I was 3 minutes and 13 seconds fast than last year.

Overall, I was pleased with how the race went.

The official timing of this event is pretty low tech.  Every participant is sent off every 15 seconds.  There were no timing mats and therefore no splits.  My split times below were gathered from my Garmin 310XT.  By the way, the Garmin 310XT is an awesome tool for training and racing if you are a triathlete.  Sounds like a product review in the works.


The swim portion at this event is 400 yards.  The first 200 yards are in the lazy river.  The purist in me says to swim it, but I also know the difficulty in swimming in 3 feet deep water.  So I decided to go with a dolphin dive approach in the lazy river.  This is what a majority of the other competitors did as well. 

Once out of the lazy river you have to run around to the main pool and do eight 25 yard laps.  This part you actually had to swim.  The water depth was only 5 feet so I guess you could have walked through it if you wanted.  This portion of the race killed me last year due to lack of any meaningful practice time in the pool.  This year it went really well and completed the 8 laps in under 4 minutes.

Race traffic in the pool wasn't too bad.  I passed a few slower competitors and nobody really got in my way.

Total swim time (lazy river, run to main pool, swim in main pool) was 6:17.  My goal time for this portion was 6:25.

Transition #1 (Swim to Bike)

My T1 time was 1:51.  The transition from swim to bike has always been a struggle for me.  I always seem to take longer than I plan to.  I was hoping to be about 20 seconds faster in this area, but I had a little trouble with getting my feet dried off enough to put socks on.  I am thinking I may need to learn to cycle with out socks then put socks on before the run.  That way it would allow my feet to dry and thus be able to more quickly out socks on.

Once I had everything on I grabbed my bike and ran to the mounting cone.  Mounted bike with no issues.  The only problem minor mishap was my bike was in "granny gear" which didn't allow me to get up to speed as fast as I wanted.


The 6 mile bike portion (actually only about 5.85 miles) is three 2 mile laps around the park.  There are four turns and two long straight aways.  It's pretty most of the way around the circuit.  There is a slight incline going up Kenwood Road and as you turn right on John Street.  Then its a slight downhill from there until you get back where you started.  Had a headwind on the down hill portion and a tailwind on the uphill portion. 

My goal on the bike was to average 22 mph.  I was able to maintain that speed consistently throughout the entire 6 miles.  This biggest change from last year is that I put aerobars on my bike and purchased an aero helmet.  These two items alone are a life saver.  They allow me to gain every bit of aerodynamics available and keep me refreshed for the run.  The only piece of air cheating equipment I need now is a tri bike.

Never got passed and did a lot of passing.  I was pleased with how my bike split went. 

Transition #2 (Bike to Run)

Transition 2 went very well.  I dismounted with no issues and ran to my transition spot.  I had some difficulty racking my bike.  The bike racks weren't big enough to secure the bikes properly.  At most events you rack your bike by placing the seat over a horizontal bar.  The racks at this event are like you see at a park where you put the wheel in between two slots, etc.

The first attempt at racking my bike resulted in my bike falling over.  I was tempted to just leave it, but I didn't want to effect anyone else's transition setup.  The second attempt I took a few extra seconds to make sure my bike was properly racked.  This took precious seconds off my race time.  I was hoping to do T2 in 30 seconds, but ended up at 50 seconds.


The run portion is 2 miles and takes you on the same loop as the bike portion.  Except you run on the sidewalks instead of the street.  My goal was to run the 2 miles at a 6:45/mi pace.  Learning from past mistakes of starting too fast I decided to start my run doing about 6:55/mi pace then speed up a little faster about every quarter mile.  This allowed me time to get my run legs back.  Towards the end of the run I was able to maintain a significantly faster pace which brought me to the finish averaging a 6:48/mi pace.

I was pretty much by myself the entire run.  Only passed a couple of competitors.


I was very please with the overall outcome of the race and was excited to see my improvement over the course of a year.  A couple of little mistakes here and there cost me my goal time, but all in all, it was a great race.

My only gripe about this event, as it was last year, is that the transition area is really a free for all.  They have bike racks which aren't big enough for most adult bikes.  The transition area is not really marked off that good.  One would assume that the area is where the bike racks are.  But people were placing their bikes anywhere in the general area.

If I had known you could setup here I could have saved about 20 seconds

Transition area.  View from transition exit

 I got there early to secure a good rack position, but really I should have just waited because I could have gotten a lot closer to the transition exit if I knew it was more of a free for all.

Also a lot of participants, from bike to run, will just dump their bike around the transition entrance and not return it to their rack.  I guess one could do this if they wore tennis shoes on the bike portion.  I think the event organizers could do a better job educating participants and volunteers on transition area etiquette.

Again, this is more of a family friendly event, so I try not to complain that much.  It is a good event for all types of people and especially younger kids getting involved in the sport. 

I haven't decided if I will do this event again next year.  The next time I do this event will hopefully be with one of my kids doing their first triathlon.  After participating in USA Triathlon sanctioned events I appreciate the rules and structure that USAT events provide.

On to the next race.  I have two more 5k races and two more triathlons before I settle into my winter routine.  Hopefully I can qualify for the 2012 USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals before this racing season is over.

Train.  Race.  Repeat...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Race Report: Redhawk Rampage Triathlon

First Place in Age Group!
On July 2nd, 2011 I participated in the 2nd Annual Redhawk Rampage Sprint Triathlon in Charleston, IL on the EIU campus.

I finished 1st in my age group and 12th overall out of about 70 participants.  Since this was a USAT (USA Triathlon) sanctioned event I was able to qualify for the 2011 USAT Age Group Nationals to be held in Burlington, Vermont in late August 2011.  Unfortunately, I will be unable to go to Nationals this year.  Nonetheless, it is a pretty cool feeling and accomplishment. 

I can qualify for Nationals with a sprint triathlon but the National race is an Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500 meter swim, 24.86 mile bike, and 10k run).  Hopefully I can qualify for 2012 Nationals early enough that I can properly train for that event and make travel plans.  Never been to Vermont, but I hear it's nice.  We'll see!

I beat my closest age group competitor by 40 seconds.  He was faster in the swim, barely faster in the transitions, about the same in the run, but I gained 1 minute and 45 seconds on him on the bike.  The bike portion won the race for me.

For this being the second time doing this event the Lincoln Trails Council Boy Scouts of America did a great job with this race. 

The race featured a 300 yard swim in Lantz Arena, a 12.5 mile bike, and 5k run.  The run course was generally flat with a couple of hills.  The bike course was challenging as it had two big hills.  One hill is known by locals as "Stairway To Heaven" as at the top of the hill is a cemetery.  It was fun flying down the hills at 41 mph but really tested my determination going up them at about 12 mph. 

The Swim

The swim went pretty good.  It was in a 25 yard pool with 6 lanes.  This meant we had to do a snake swim where you go down and back in one lane, go under the lane line, and repeat.  When I started I forgot to turn my watch on until about after 50 yards.  The only mishap was my right eye part of the goggles had a leak for some reason that threw me off a little.  Congestion wasn't that bad.  However, me and another guy ran into each other when he drifted over on my side of the lane.  Once out of the pool you have to run probably about 135 yards out of the arena and into transition.  Not that bad, but the timing mat that calculates your swim time is right before the transition area (135 yard away from the pool) which makes it hard to get a feel on how you actually swam the 300 yards. 

My swim time was 6:46.  I would estimate my actual swim time (in the pool) was closer to 6:10 or so.

Transition #1 (Swim to Bike)

Leaving transition after swim
  After running 135 yards to my bike I once again struggled with getting my socks on.  This is due to being wobbly from the swim and wet feet.  I need to maybe think about riding and running without socks.  That would require some conditioning of the feet to prevent blisters on race day.

Got sunglasses, bike shoes, race belt, and helmet on without any issues.  Mounting bike was good too.  Transition 1 time was 1:13.

Once on the bike I started off pretty good as it was pretty flat for the first few miles.  Averaging about 22 mph.  Once we got out onto the country roads my average dropped a bit as the course presented several rolling hills and quite a few curves.  I only got passed once and that was right at the very beginning of the bike leg. 

As we got into the rural area of the course I knew what was ahead of me.....two big hills.  The first hill around the cemetery going out was down hill.  As I started down the hill I gained pretty good speed and kept pedaling.  What a rush this was.  I topped out at 41 mph on the downhill ride.  Once I reached the bottom I knew there was another one just ahead so I tried to maintain momentum.  I arrived at the first big uphill which was about a 1/2 mile.  It started pretty good then the more I went up the hill the slower I got.  I was at a snail's pace around 11mph.  I should have been down a couple of more gears.  I was going to shift but I was putting so much torque on the bike I didn't want to risk downshifting and breaking/slipping the chain. 

Once at the top the course flattened out and got curvy.  Picked speed back up to around 21mph until the turnaround.  After the turnaround, and still maintaining good average speed on the flats, I was looking forward to going down the hill I just went up.  At the downhill I got really good speed again and carried it to the next hill....."Stairway to Heaven".

The "Stairway to Heaven" hill was tough, but I got in the right gear this time, and slowly made it to the top.  I am not sure if that was the "Stairway to Heaven" or the "Highway to ...." because that was exhausting. 

After I got through the hills I concentrated on a fast cadence and trying to maintain a 20-21mph average to the finish.  I gained back a little time that I lost on the hills.

Overall, the bike portion went well given the terrain.  My official average on the bike was 19.13 mph. 

Transition #2 (Bike to Run)

Coming into transition

Flying into transition #2 I got the bike slowed down and got unclipped from my pedals.  Got the bike racked pretty well.  Put on running shoes, threw helmet off, grabbed water bottle, and I was off running.

T2 time was 0:40 which was pretty decent. 


Start of the run

The run started off pretty good.  My pace was a little behind what I wanted to average for the run, but I wasn't prepared on how much the hills on the bike would tire my legs. 

It was an out and back run course.  The first half was generally flat with a slight decline the first half and a slight incline on the way back.  The only hill of significance was the hill going into a park area about a half mile or so from the turnaround.

Overall I was satisfied with my run performance.  Anticipated doing it faster as I have done in my brick practices, but pleased overall.  I averaged about 7:19/mi.

Final Official Results

The Hardware
 The official results:

1st in Age Group
12th Overall

Swim     0:06:46
T1:         0:01:14
Bike:      0:39:12
T2:         0:00:40
Run:       0:22:38
Total     1:10:30

Well onto the next race and thanks for looking!

Miscellaneous Photos

The Finish

Getting all setup


Waiting to start swim

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Another Pair Retired

As I got my new pair of running shoes I looked at my old ones and thought about all the miles they took me on.  Being a numbers guy I track all kinds out data when I am working out and one of them is obviously mileage.

I generally get about 200 miles or so on a pair of running shoes.  I don't really go by mileage when determining when to get a new pair.  It is mostly determined by how my legs are feeling.  If my feet and shins starting hurting when I am running then it is usually time for a new pair.

I have become a big fan of Brooks running shoes and this pair was my second and recently got my third pair. 

This pair of shoes took me for quite a ride over the past several months.  Within the first month I put nearly 100 miles on them training for the Illinois 5k and Illinois 1/2 Marathon.  They propelled to a PR in the Illinois 5k and got me through my first 1/2 marathon.

I gave them a short break before the next 5k two weeks later.  Then helped me stride to a good finish in my first duathlon.  They weathered the monsoon in my first triathlon of the season.  Finally, bowed out gracefully at my second triathlon of year which got me to a 1st place in my age group.

In the end they endured over 200 miles that included countless training runs, a 1/2 marathon, two 5k's, a duathlon, and two triathlons.
As they bow out and become an everyday shoe I hope my new pair takes me for an even better a ride.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Race Report: Indy Sprint Triathlon #1

On June 18, 2011 I participated in the Indianapolis Sprint Triathlon held at Eagle Creek Park.  It was a very well organized event.

The day started with my arrival to the race site at 6:00am.  The only bad thing about this day was the heavy rain.  It rained very hard up until about 8am.  Race started at 8:20am.  I brought the appropriate gear for rain (umbrella, plastic bags, etc) to keep my stuff dry.  I was hoping the rain would stop so I could at least get my transition area setup without be drenched, but that wasn't the way it worked.

At one point I had to make the decision to go ahead with the transition setup because the race would be starting shortly.  I got it all setup and covered my shoes and socks with a trash bag to keep dry.  Since this is the first time doing a triathlon in these conditions it kinda through my pre-race routine off a little.  I didn't eat my pre-race pop tart and didn't get a warm up jog in.
Weather aside, I had a good race and finished 121st out of ~450 participants and finished 14th out of 39 in my age group.

 My times were as follows:

Swim 500M     - 13:37
Transition 1      - 01:27
Bike 10 Miles   -29:43 (20.2mph)
Transition 2      -01:12
Run 3 Miles      -23:24 (7:48/mi)
Total               1:09:25


The swim was in the Eagle Creek Reservoir.  This was my first open water swim.  I was initially nervous about how I would do in my first open water swim.  If I panicked I knew I could fall back and do the breast stroke until I recovered.  However, I was able to shake those fears by doing a quick warm up in the lake before the race start.  This really helped me mentally.

The swim start was staggered with each participant going off about every 2-5 seconds.  I had a higher number so I was closer to the back, but I jumped in line a little early because I was ready to go. 

And here we go!  I ran into the water and dolphin dived until I was out far enough to stroke without hitting the bottom.  The goal of the swim was not to start off fast and maintain a good consistent stroke throughout the 500 meters. 

It was definitely different swimming in open water with no black lines and walls telling me where to go.  I didn't really have any issues sighting the buoys.  I swam over a couple of competitors on the turns and some swam over me.  It was really strange the first time a swimmer swam into me because I am just not used to being touched while I swim. At least I wasn't punched or kicked in the face.

The swim was slower than what I normally swim 500M in but I was fine with that since the goal was to go easy and "just finish" the swim.  As I exit the lake and head toward the transition area I've got the wobbly run and dizzy head feeling going on.

Transition #1 (Swim to Bike)

Still trying to get my wits about me led to minor issues finding my bike rack.  As I arrive at my bike I threw my swim cap and goggles to the side, slipped on my socks and bike shoes, put on helmet, grabbed bike and off I went.

The only thing I forgot was my race bib belt.  I about fell over while putting on my socks and bike shoes.  After being horizontal for 13 minutes then turning vertical and trying to do things in a hurry can make you a little disoriented.

The distance from my bike rack to the mount line wasn't that far.  Once I got there I jumped on the bike and took off.


The bike portion of the race went well.  I averaged 20.2mph over the 10 mile out and back course.  I would say the course was good with the exception of it being wet which limited speed on some of the corners.  It had rolling hills and one or two steeper hills but weren't that bad.

The start of the bike course it straight uphill right out of transition.  The course then led you through the park with rolling hills and one sharp 90 degree downhill turn.  Once out of park the course was relatively flat with either a steady incline or decline.

I felt really good on the bike.  I was able to get good speed on the downhill parts, able to power up the hills good, and maintain a good pace on the flats.  I don't have any hills to practice on where I live, but I guess riding against strong wings is paying off.

I did a lot of passing on the bike and don't remember ever getting passed.  The aerobars I put on my bike really helped with wind resistance and overall comfort.  The bars were money well spent.  The only other purchase that may help gain a little speed in these races may be a aero helmet.  I would really like a tri bike, but for now my road bike works just fine.

What goes up must come down.  The end of the bike course heading back into transition was all downhill.  With it being wet I had to go a tad slower to make sure the brakes were working ok.  Once I arrived at the dismount line I hopped off my bike and began the long run with bike around the transition area to my rack.

Transition #2 (Bike to Run)

I got my bike racked with no problems.  Slipped of bike shoes, put on running shoes, threw off helmet, and began running out of transition to the final leg....the run.  Once again I forgot my race belt with my bib number.

The run started off just as the bike did, straight uphill.  The run course was an out and back through the park.  Once you got to the top of the initial hill the remaining course was pretty flat.

My overall run was below average and slower than I anticipated.  Not sure what the deal was.  My first mile was 8:04, second mile was 7:52, third mile was 7:07, and the last 0.08 miles was 0:22 (4:47/mi avg).  

I was hoping to have an overall run average of around 7:00-7:15.  That is what I was averaging during my brick workouts.  I didn't get my legs until about halfway through.  I think I lost the mental battle on the run as I conserved for too long. 

I was able to pick the pace up heading towards the last 1/2 mile or so when I got passed by another runner.  This made me speed up a little more in hopes of catching him.  As we took the final turn to the finish line I was about 20 yards behind him.  At that point it was all downhill to the finish.  I let loose and went into an all out sprint and passed him right at the line.

The bike to run is the most physically and mentally demanding part of a race for me.  I tend to go slower during the first mile of the run until I get my legs back then pick it up to my race pace.  Physically I can do it, but I've got to win the mental game at the next race. 

This was a great event that was very well organized and professional.  The post race food and drinks (chocolate milk) were perfect.  Results were posted in a timely manner.

I wish I could do this same race in July or August but the schedule doesn't permit it.  It would be fun to do this same race without dealing with a monsoon.

This was my first triathlon with an open water swim.  With all the anxiety coming into this swim....the swim actually went well (slow, but well).  I actually enjoyed swimming in open water.  I am glad I got that fear out of me because that will allow me maybe try other triathlons next year with open water swims.  The Chicago Triathlon is a race that I want to do someday.  It's a longer race, but I like the challenge.

Another neat thing was my younger brother and my parents were at the race cheering me on.  It was their first time witnessing a triathlon.  I think they all had a good time.

Now I've got a couple of weeks until my next triathlon.  See you then!

Miscellaneous Photos