XTERRA Scales Lake

For a few years now I’ve wanted to try a XTERRA (off-road) triathlon. Granted, mountain biking is not my forte (though I do find it enjoyable), but the swim would be similar to any other triathlon and I love trail running. I was hoping to have fun more than a top performance.

Dirty car

Last weekend I was able to make it over to Boonville, IN for the Scales Lake XTERRA sprint race. This was the third consecutive weekend in June I participated in a type of race I’ve never attempted before. Melissa, Will, and I went over the day before the race and camped in the park where the race would take place. This gave me the opportunity to quickly reconnoitre the mountain bike course. And I’m glad I did. Most of the trail was fairly straightforward, but there were a couple places where I had to stop my bike and think for a moment, how am I going to get through this section alive? I didn’t want that to happen during the race. Really the only reason I raced the Lost Valley Luau the previous weekend was to gain enough confidence in my mountain biking skills to attempt this one.

Big boy swing

Our last night-before-race camping experience at Berryman was quite different, as everybody camping there was participating in the race the next morning and all went to sleep at a reasonable hour. This campground was full of people on summer vacation. There were unsupervised children still playing at the playground next to our campsite at midnight, and cars were driving in and out all night long. Despite the lack of sleep, I fortunately didn’t feel like a zombie when I awoke in the morning.

I arrived early to check in at the race and to get a good spot in the first-come-first-serve transition area. This left me a lot of time to kill before the race, which is better than rushing around at the last minute. I did a quick warmup on a short section of the bike course before running the last section of the run course. A half mile from the finish I passed a sign reading “Mile 4”, which was particularly interesting given the run was advertised as 3.3 miles. A longer running course would be an advantage to me, but would it be enough to make up for my relatively weak mountain biking?

IMG 1933

Finally it was time to head down to the water to get ready for the start of the half mile swim leg. The swim start was fast. The swim start is always fast. After I settled down into a good rhythm I could look up ahead and see a couple leaders way in front of me, but there weren’t that many people between us. I noticed there was a guy in a bright red suit just in front of me and he was moving at the exact same speed. So I was able to keep my eye on him to make sure I was swimming in a straight line, looking up to see the orange buoys less frequently (looking up slows you down). I was 11th out of the water and began the run across the road to the transition area.

IMG 1942

A couple people passed me early on the 11 mile bike course. I would stay with them for a short while before eventually falling behind. I was really glad I rode the course the night before. Nothing caught me really off guard. Of course, I was going much faster during the race. The higher speed made some of the obstacles easier (there were lots of short, super-steep hills) and some of the numerous tight turns more difficult. A total of five people passed me during the first 5.5 mile loop. On the second loop one person passed me, but I passed a different person, so I maintained my position. Towards the end of the second lap I was passing slower riders who were still on their first lap. Since there was a big difference in speed, these passes weren’t too difficult.

IMG 1953

Towards the end of the second lap I thought to myself, I’m starting to get the hang of this, I could go for another lap. Just in time to get off the bike and start running. My run started fast. Normally in a triathlon I’m a bit cooked after the bike and I have to ease into the run a bit more gradually. This time I wasn’t held back on the bike at all by my fitness, I was held back by my moutain biking skills (e.g. making extraordinarily tight turns at high speed).

I was pretty fresh for the run, and it went by fast. I passed one person in my race, and several people who were on relays or who did the shorter one-bike-loop race. I really had no idea how well I was doing, but I finished strong anyway. I got a medal at the finish line, which I promptly gave to Will, who was waiting there for me with Melissa. Will is really into Wreck-it-Ralph at the moment. One of the central points to the plot of the movie is that the protagonist wants a medal. So Will loved the medal.

IMG 1956

I finished in 1:47:48 for 9th place overall and 3rd in the 35-39 age group (I’m 34, but I will turn 35 before the end of the year). Everyone who finished ahead of me absolutely destroyed me on the bike, while I faired better at the run and swim. It’s clear where I need improvement for this type of race. But I absolutely did meet my goal of having fun.

Lost Valley Luau

My Quantum Mesa cycling team put on the Lost Valley Luau mountain bike race this past weekend. I volunteered to help out with the race, but I kind of really wanted to participate in the race as well. The organizer was kind enough to put me on registration duty so after registration closed I’d be able to hop into the race.

I’ve never done a mountain bike race before. The closest I came was in the Tracks N Treads off road duathlon last spring, but in that race the run came first and I had a huge lead going into the bike leg. This was going to be a mass start mountain bike race with everyone making a mad dash down a gravel path in order to get to the single track trail first. I was quite curious how this would play out, yet utterly terrified at the same time. Complicating matters was the fact that I missed the beginner race earlier in the day due to my volunteer duties, so I was racing in the sport class (above beginner level, but below expert). Also, I’ve only ridden my mountain bike once in the past 14 months.

What’s the worst that could happen?

My expectations were low. I wanted to finish the race. I didn’t want to crash. I didn’t want to cause someone else to crash. I didn’t want to have a mechanical. I believed there was a realistic chance I could finish dead last, but that didn’t bother me. I was there to have fun and to learn.

The start of the race was much faster than I expected, and rather than go into oxygen debt at the start of a 2 hour race I just let the fast guys go. After the scariest steep gravel descent I’ve ever ridden (my arms were shaking violently from side to side, which is not what you want when you’re traveling 30+ mph) we made it to a long ascent–Rob’s time to shine. I passed a lot of people who had gone out faster than me and I got into a good position for the single track.

It was immediately obvious I was outclassed by the technical skills of the riders around me. I tried to stay in contact with them for as long as possible. A couple riders passed me in the early miles, then a couple more a bit later. We came out of the woods onto another gravel road and I cranked up the speed a bit and gained some ground back on my fellow riders. In the next two section of single track I did a bitter better, and my confidence grew a bit.

The whole time we were constantly passing people on the side of the trail who were stopped with mechanicals, or picking themselves back up after a crash. I expected to see a few mechanicals, but there were far more than I would have guessed–dozens, I’d say.

I passed another handful of riders on the gravel road leading to the finish line at the end of the first loop. I headed back out for my second 11 mile loop with nobody in sight ahead of me.

Photo courtesy of Karen Einig

Photo courtesy of Karen Einig

I was cooked at the bottom of the long gravel ascent, so I took it much slower than the first lap. Just before I reached the single track I felt raindrops. Then a few minutes later it began to pour. I was stuck behind a guy going a little slower than I would have liked and I thought about passing him. But the dark skies made it difficult for me to see (my transitions lenses got me again) and the muddy trail slowed me down even more. I eventually took off my glasses, but then I had to deal with mud in my eyes, which was almost as bad. I stuck with him for several miles until we reached the gravel road again, then I finally passed.

The last two sections of single track again went fairly well for me, though they were much slower on account of the mud. I passed 1-2 more riders in the final gravel road section before the finish line. It was still pouring down rain at the finish so I had to wait until later in the day to find the results online. I finished 13th of 43 in the sport race, and 4th of 12 in the 30-39 age group. So it went pretty well (even if it did end my streak of 11 consecutive top ten race finishes).


Another rider in the sport race captured his first 20 minutes on video, which was fun to watch. About 1 second into this video you can see my orange jersey on the far left side about two rows ahead of the camera. Enjoy.

Runs on Plants

(I stole the title of this post from No Meat Athlete).

Photo courtesy of Fun Memories Photography

As of May 2013 I’ve been a vegetarian (eating plants, dairy, & eggs) for 14 years. I try not to mention it much because I don’t like to evangelize about it. My diet works for me, though it may not work for you. I have many, many reasons for eating the way I do, but you may or may not agree with any particular one of them. Big whoop.

As of June 2013 I’ve been a vegan (eating solely plants) for 1 full year. I never really even mentioned the change to anyone (partially because I didn’t think it was a big deal, and partially because I wasn’t sure it would stick) unless they happened to be preparing food for me. I was vegan-curious for quite some tome, but I put off making that leap for two reasons:

1. pizza
2. milk chocolate

I honestly didn’t think I could live without pizza (although I think Imo’s Pizza here in St. Louis is awful enough to turn anyone vegan). I gave it a shot and after about two weeks I didn’t even want pizza any more. That was easy. I’ve eaten vegan pizza a couple times in the past year and it’s so-so. Restaurants tend to use too much Daiya cheese substitute (a little Daiya goes a long way). Melissa makes the best vegan pizza. I used to eat pizza once a week and now I eat it once every three months.

Milk chocolate was another staple of my diet. I’ve since discovered what many people probably already knew: milk chocolate sucks. Semisweet and dark chocolate taste way better. Ditching milk chocolate also made it easy for me to cut out a lot of types of junk food from my diet. I used to eat crap like Nutty Bars for a snack, while now I eat apples and grapes. Real food trumps shit every time.

Becoming vegan was far easier than I ever expected, though a lot of that had to do with having an already-vegan spouse. I have fewer options at restaurants, but that just means eating more real food at home. I typically eat more food, I eat healthier food, and I feel better.


Anyone who follows my usual posts about endurance athletics my be wondering how this diet affects my performance. It turns out the past 12 months have been the most successful 12 months of my life for endurance racing: 21 races, 17 top ten finishes, 12 podium finishes, 4 wins. All with a plant-based diet.

There is certainly a strong correlation between my diet and athletic performance, but there’s far from enough proof to suggest my diet is responsible for my performance. So I’m not going to suggest everyone start eating the way I eat. On the other hand, it would be pretty difficult to argue that a plant-based diet is hindering my performance, wouldn’t it?

In 3rd

As for the question everyone is thinking, how do you get enough protein, the answer is simple: from all the food I eat. It’s a non-issue.

You must do a lot of running

Saturday I participated in the USO Mud Run. It is a 5K cross country obstacle course race. I’ve never done an obstacle course race before, but I’ve run plenty of muddy trail races. I thought, I can run a good 5K, I love cross country, I love muddy races. The obstacles were the unknown here for me, but I figured I could probably do them as well as anybody else.

Making the event even more interesting was the heavy rainfall on Friday night, and continuing rainfall during the race. Without the rain the course probably would have been pretty dry except for the mud mountains. With the rain the entire course (except a gravel road section) was wet and muddy, and there were a few sections of deep water.

The ~900 participants started in three different waves. I was in the first wave with all other individuals. The other categories of participants were female teams, male teams, and co-ed teams. Each team had five members and they had to finish together.

As was typical in a road race, a handful of slower runners sprinted off the starting line to get a big lead for about 200 meters before slowing drastically. After working my way through them I was alone at the front with a high school aged boy.

We stayed together for the first half mile through the wet and muddy grass until we reached the first series of obstacles, about six mud mountains in a row. Each one started with about 20 meters of thigh-deep water, followed by a steep pile of dirt/mud we had to climb over and down, followed by another 20 meters of thigh-deep water. It was impossible to run through the water, we just had to walk quickly and hope our shoes didn’t get sucked off our feet by the mud at the bottom.

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Photo from here

Next there was a runnable section of shin-deep water for about 100 meters. After that was the easy section of the course, which was a long straight gravel road. I had a small gap on the other guy after the obstacles and I tried to open it up on this fast part of the course.

At the end of the road we had to make a sharp left turn and go down into a big steep ditch filled with water and back up the other side. I had to laugh. I was the first person of the day to reach this part of the course and as I made the turn one of the volunteers said to me, “Be careful. We actually have no idea how deep the water is.” So I used a bit more caution. It up to my chest and wide enough that I could have swam across.

Once up the hill there was a mud crawl where (I think) we were supposed to go under the flags strung across the mud pit. I don’t know for sure because nobody explained it before or during the race and I didn’t have anyone in front of me to watch.

The final mile had some more muddy cross country, a few more ditch/water crossings, and one more mud mountain. The final obstacle was a huge plastic tarp slip-n-slide. Which was great.

I finished 1st. It was a super fun race. I was done before the 2nd and 3rd waves even started, so I was able to go back out to watch (and film) a lot of the team participants, which was just as fun as running the race myself. The vast majority of the people there weren’t really competing, they were just there to have fun. And I can see the appeal of that. This was not the typical crowd you see at a road race. There were a lot more smiles here.

I ran another 5-6 miles after my race. After the Nth time I passed one of the race volunteers (before, during, and after the race), he says to me:

You must do a lot of running.

He had me pegged.

May 2013


Sure, 40% of my monthly mileage came in one day, but I recovered from Berryman pretty quickly and I’ve been getting some good training in since then.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 131.5 Mile 13 10.1154 Mile
February 87.4286 Mile 10 8.74286 Mile
March 162.84 Mile 17 9.57882 Mile
April 169.12 Mile 16 10.57 Mile
May 133.61 Mile 12 11.1342 Mile
Total 693.749 Mile 69 10.0543 Mile

Running 2013 5


I certainly got off to a slow start with cycling this year, but the last week of May things really started to come together for me. I should be in race condition in no time.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 3.7 Mile 1 3.7 Mile
February 15.2 Mile 4 3.8 Mile
March 123.14 Mile 16 7.69625 Mile
April 114.22 Mile 12 9.51833 Mile
May 157.33 Mile 14 11.2379 Mile
Total 413.59 Mile 47 8.79979 Mile

Cycling 2013 5


My times keep getting better, though they may be reaching a plateau. I’m approaching the point where I can swim 1000 yards at nearly the same pace as 200 yards. So in order to keep dropping my 1000 yard times I’m actually going to have to do speed work. Yuck.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 0 0 0
February 3950. Yard 3 1316.67 Yard
March 18900. Yard 11 1718.18 Yard
April 15600. Yard 10 1560. Yard
May 13200. Yard 8 1650. Yard
Total 51650. Yard 32 1614.06 Yard

Swimming 2013 5


I did lots of walking and hiking as active recovery from Berryman, and it seems to have worked really well. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered from an ultra this quickly.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 37.64 Mile 12 3.13667 Mile
February 50.6 Mile 21 2.40952 Mile
March 92.9 Mile 37 2.51081 Mile
April 41.5 Mile 21 1.97619 Mile
May 91.75 Mile 33 2.7803 Mile
Total 314.39 Mile 124 2.5354 Mile

Walking 2013 5