I’m on a bus

My baby takes the morning train

Well, I’m on a long ride from Champaign to St. Louis and this Greyhound bus has WiFi so I might as well use it. I spent a few days back in the office this week for the annual Wolfram Technology Conference. Mathematica 8 was officially announced and will be released next month. I actually did put a fair amount of work into this release before I refocused my efforts on mobile products a year ago. Of course, I’m having trouble remembering what my contributions to Mathematica 8 were since I’ve been so consumed by other projects for so long. The conference went fairly well though, and I even had a few productive days of work while I was there.


I spent the first night at our old house (which hasn’t sold yet, anybody interested?) before staying the next two nights with Cara, John, and Ashlynn at my previous house. I can’t seem to ever move away!

In addition to friends and coworkers I also made it to a Second Wind Fun Run and even saw one of my cycling friends randomly on the street as I was riding my scooter from the bus station to work on Tuesday. After spending so much time alone, or with just Team Ragfield, it was really great to see everyone again.

Rear view


Wild Card Cycling’s training camp in southern Illinois was last weekend. I knew what I was getting into after the past two trips. I was a little concerned about my lack of miles this year, but I ended up riding a little better than I thought/feared I would.

Wednesday evening was our regular weekly fight ride. It was tough.

Thursday we left for camp, drove in the pouring rain, arrived in the pouring rain, unpacked in the pouring rain, and rode (you guessed it) in the pouring rain. It was slightly miserable, but not too bad. My legs were not fresh after Wednesday’s ride. I actually felt like crap for about 20 miles. The good news was that I didn’t feel any worse after the next 20. We rode from Giant City to the top of Bald Knob (the highest point in southern Illinois) and back. It was a very hilly 50 miles. Even though the speed wasn’t super-fast, it was still tough.

Friday the sun was shining, but it was cold when we left for the ride. We had some logistical problems and ended up riding in two separate groups after the two groups apparently couldn’t find each other at the predetermined ride start time. No matter, we still had a good ride (again) to the top of Bald Knob and back. After a few detours I ended the day with a (very hilly) 66 miles and a slight sunburn on my exposed left calf below my knee warmer.

Saturday the goal was 100 (very hilly) miles. My legs were toast at the start from the previous three days of riding. I started the ride with a comfortable 18 miles with just Martin. I ended the first 50 tagged on to the back of the fast group, which was too fast for me. I felt like crap and I was 50 miles from my cabin. I made a conscious decision to take it easy and things got better from there. I rode for a while with just Scott. Then we picked up a group who opted for a shorter loop. The last 18 miles I rode with just John S. At 90 miles I felt better than I had 50 miles earlier. That was the biggest surprise of the weekend, that despite never feeling great, I always ended the rides feeling as good as (if not better than) I did at the start. I guess it’s taking me a while to warm up. Anyway, I got an even worse sunburn on Saturday on my left calf below my knee warmer.

The sun be a harsh mistress

The light red line is from Friday, the dark red line is from Saturday.

Saturday night was dinner at Giant City, which was good times as usual.

Sunday morning it was pouring down rain so everyone ended up leaving early rather than do a dangerous set of hill repeats in the pouring rain. It was very good to get home to see Melissa & Will after a few days away. We made the most of the afternoon with a trip to the park.

The Strangest Marathon

I was moving along at an easy pace. The guy in front of me had just taken a downhill section of the trail very gingerly and nearly tip-toed across a creek crossing. I passed him on the uphill section on the other side of the creek and began to pull away. Then, out of nowhere, I hit the wall. Well, not exactly. I’m not talking about the glycogen depletion “wall” where my fuel reserves have run dry. This was something entirely different and unfamiliar to me. This small incline got my heart beating so fast I was gasping for air only to find I was physically unable to maintain my modest pace. My worst fears had come true. I stopped to walk up the hill. By the time I reached the top I was seriously contemplating dropping out of the marathon.

This was at mile four.

One week prior I was in great spirits, having wrapped up my long training runs and raced fairly well at the FOLEPI River Trail Classic. I showed up at work on Monday feeling as good as possible and left work that evening with a sore throat. My throat got worse through the night and was a full blown illness by Tuesday morning. I went to work (even though I clearly shouldn’t have) only to discover my coworkers were already sick.

By Wednesday my throat started to get better, but the snot and sinus pain got worse. By Thursday evening I was finally starting to feel like I was getting over the sickness. I still wanted to race. I trained really hard for Tecumseh and I wasn’t going to let the sniffles take that away from me.

Friday I travelled to the Nashville, IN area with fellow Buffalo Ken, Brian, and Jen. We stayed at the same paintball/cabin place as last year (though with far fewer people this time). Despite feeling back to normal that morning, by Friday night I felt terrible again. Ugh.

I awoke Saturday morning before the race feeling as fresh as a daisy. Whatever I had seemed to finally work its way out of my system. I thought. We drove to the race finish area, picked up our packets, and loaded up onto the buses to the starting line miles and miles away.

Tecumseh course map

Last year I started way faster than I wanted to, but it was kind of necessary because of the congestion on the single track trail that started 2-3 miles into the race. I vowed to start off slower this year. I ran nice and easy the first mile only to look down when my GPS beeped to read 7:20. The exact same time as last year (and faster than my first mile at the Rockford Marathon where I ran my PR in May). That was the bad news. The good news was that I felt spectacular. Even though that pace felt super easy I made a conscious effort to slow down anyway. For the trail was not nearly as congested as it had been the previous year at this point. Despite the superior weather conditions (sunny rather than snow storm) everyone else was moving slower.

I hit the second mile at 7:29. So much for slowing down. It still felt really easy. I was barely exerting any effort. Still, I decided (once again) to consciously slow down. I hit the third mile in 7:23. Oh, come on. This was too easy. That would be the best I felt all day. We entered the single track trail through the woods, ran down a hill, over a creek, and started back up the other side when my world began to fall apart. This was not going to be my day.

After the first miserable uphill I walked I tried to shake it off and continue on like nothing had happened. I got back up to a comfortable pace on the flat sections of the course, but on the next uphill I found myself gasping for air and walking once again. If after four miles I wanted to quit, then after six miles I really wanted to quit. At this point I decided to stop racing. At the current rate I couldn’t possibly have finished. Instead I slowed down (a lot) in the hope of just dragging myself to the finish line, regardless of time or place. Tecumseh was now a training run. Or so I told myself.

Rob at Tecumseh Marathon

I ran super slow the next four miles, frequently stepping aside to let people pass me on the trail. At the 10.6 mile aid station Ken passed me. Prior to the race I was voted by the others the mostly likely to finish the fastest of our group, and as such I was entrusted with the only key to Ken’s car. Here, 16 miles from the finish and still slowing down, I quickly whipped out the key from my back pocket and handed it to Ken, who kept it for the remainder of the race.

I ate a banana at this aid station and it actually started to bring me back to life. For the first time in many miles I didn’t feel like I was about to die. Ken pulled quite some distance ahead as I walked up the next few hills. Once I got to the flat and downhill sections I just ran a comfortable pace and I actually caught back up with his pack. The thought entered my mind that I might actually be able to keep up with him until the end. Of course, the next uphill section would put that thought out of my mind and I fell behind again. But what goes up must come down and before I knew it we were together again (briefly) at the 15.8 mile aid station. We were running different races, but by not keeping up with him I had just kept up with him for five miles. We ascended once more, and once more I was alone.

Prior to this point I just felt bad for much of the race, but around miles 16-17 I actually started to get tired. I wasn’t picking my feet up, and as a result I stumbled a few times. I almost went down around mile 17, though I was able (with great determination) to stay upright. But this came at the cost of both calves, both hamstrings, and my right hip cramping at the same time while I tried to catch myself. Shaken, I walked for a bit with my head hung low. After a couple minutes I heard someone yell at me from behind, “Hey, you missed the turn.”

You have to pay attention.

I got back on the trail and started running, fighting cramping muscles. There was a big hill at mile 19, a moderate hill at mile 21, then it was mostly downhill to the finish. I got another banana in me and, again, it brought me partly back to life. I was able to pick up the pace a little and before I knew it I had caught up with and passed Ken… just in time to trip and go down. I remained on the ground long enough to work out the cramp in my calf. Then I was back up and moving quickly again.

I had to concentrate really hard through a short, beautiful section of pine forest where the tree roots stuck up really far from the trail. As much as I had been dragging my feet I thought for sure I was going to hit the deck again. I didn’t.

My pace continued to increase. I wasn’t running for a faster time. I was running to get to the finish faster so I could stop running sooner. People often joke about doing exactly this, but I’m completely serious here. I took a short break to walk up the final hill with less than a mile remaining then ran all the way through the finish. Heading into the chute I caught up with a young woman who heard me cough right behind her and took off that last few meters. I congratulated her on the fast finish after the race at which point she informed me she thought my cough sounded like a woman and she really wanted to keep her top 10 finishing place. Ha!

Another 26.2

I finished in 4:20, my slowest marathon yet (by a mere two minutes). Last year, on the same course, in the snow storm, I ran 3:54. That was a really great race for me. I knew I didn’t have the fitness for the same performance again this year, but (given the better conditions) I thought for sure I would be able to equal that time. No dice.

This was a very strange race for many reasons, perhaps the strangest I’ve ever run. I felt great, then crappy, then okay, the crappy, then just fine (and so on). I ran fast, then slow, then moderate, then slow, then fast (etc). I was freezing, then comfortable, then hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. I actually ran about 8 miles wearing a single glove because my left hand was cold but my right hand was not.

The really strange thing, though, is that none of these dichotomies coincided with each other. I ran fast while feeling good. I ran fast while feeling bad. I ran slow while feeling good. I ran slow while feeling bad. I was hot while running slow. I was cold while running fast. And every other permutation of the aforementioned states.

Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome of this race, but I did finish and I did learn some valuable lessons. Namely, you can’t run as fast when you’re sick as you can when you’re healthy, AND trying to do so will make for a fairly unpleasant experience.

The Birth Day

This kid sucks. I mean that literally, of course. William is a sucker. He will suck on anything near his mouth, he will suck hard, and he will not stop sucking. His favorite thing to suck is his entire fist.

We got around 2-2.5 hours of sleep (spaced out over three naps) after William was born in the wee hours of the morning yesterday. We had a few people come to visit. We received plenty of phone calls and emails from our wonderful friends and relatives. Thank you all so much for your kind words and support. The consensus seems to be that he will go by Will (or possibly Guillermo en Español).

We will go home tomorrow morning. It will be a nice birthday present for Melissa. Until then it’s likely to be more eating, sleeping, sucking, and pooping… more for some of us than others.

Grandma Nancy

Grandma Nancy

Grandma and Grandpa Raguet

Grandma and Grandpa Raguet

Will sleeps

Will sleeping

William & Mom rest

Will and Mom

John & Cara with William

friends John & Cara

John practices his footbal hold

John practices his football hold

Grandpa and Grandma Schofield

Grandpa and Grandma Schofield

Grandma Barb with William

Grandma Barb

Rob & William

Daddy & Will

Team Ragfield

Team Ragfield

The Homer Fireworks

“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”

My friend John and another coworker of mine were helping out with the fireworks show at Miller Aquatics and Health Club, just outside of Homer, on Wednesday. They invited us out to watch, though I didn’t think I’d be home from my bike ride in time to make it out to Homer by 9 pm. Fortunately, I was home in time and we decided at the last minute to go.

The show was really well done and we sat very, very close to the launch site, so we had a different perspective than I’ve ever had for fireworks before. As you can imagine, I brought my camera to try to get some good shots of the fireworks. It took some getting used to, but I think by the end I started to get some good photos.

It's that time of year

The Cobb Park Crit

Yesterday was the Cobb Park Criterium in Kankakee. This is one of the closest bike races to Champaign-Urbana, so a lot of my Wild Card Cycling teammates participated. Unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with some knee pain the past two weeks. It finally seems to be getting better, but I definitely didn’t want to aggravate it by racing again too soon.

I still wanted to support the team so I went up to watch the category 4 race (the one I would have been riding). We had six guys in that race — Mark, Q., Chad, Thomas, Luke, and Nick. Earlier in the day Alexi, Scott, and Art rode in the cat 5 race, while Greg & Karl rode in the masters 50+ race. As with many other types of racing I’m much more accustomed to competing than spectating. I always forget how fun it is to watch friends race.

Mark jumps off the front

Chad in is first race with Wild Card

Just think how fast Luke would be without all that extra hair

Q. takes a flyer

Nick looked as cool as a cucumber the entire race

Thomas takes a flyer

One lap to go

Karl and Scott cheer on the team with one lap to go

I took a lot of photos of my friends (some of which can be seen here, or in the video below), as well as some video footage. I mounted my little Flip video camera to the hot shoe of my Canon 50D DSLR and captured video while I was taking pictures.

I planned to quickly throw together the video clips late last night and post it online. I thought it was kind of cool how the sound of my still camera’s shutter can be heard clicking in the video so I spliced in some of the still photos around the time they were taken. Once this was in place the video clearly needed a soundtrack, so I added the greatest cycling music from the greatest cycling movie (American Flyers). This took considerably more time. I finally finished around 2 a.m., but it was totally worth it.

If you can watch this without a huge smile on your face you clearly haven’t seen American Flyers enough times.

The Memorial Day Weekend

This Memorial Day weekend flew by. We got a lot accomplished, but not as much as we had hoped. I can’t help but feel partly responsible.

I had Friday and Monday off work, which is pretty rare. I celebrated by sitting around in my underwear until noon or so on Friday. I followed that up with my first post-marathon run, five miles easy. It went well. I had some tight muscles with a few aches, but no major injuries. I spent most of the afternoon mowing the lawn and doing other miscellaneous yard work. In the evening we went to Target to look at baby items.

Kickapoo mountain bike trails

Kickapoo mountain bike trails

Saturday morning I mountain biked at Kickapoo with Gene and Greg. I haven’t been there in a few months, so I wasn’t quite at the top of my game. The trails were a little muddy, but not nearly as bad as they could have been. Gene and Greg took me onto the “new” section of trail, which was absolutely ridiculous. Most of the trail is challenging, but this new part was downright sadistic. The single track trail was very narrow (18″?), cut into the side of a very steep hill, slanted downward, with tight and steep switchbacks. I made it through okay. Actually, it was dangerous. There, I said it. The rest of the trail pales in comparison.


Many unplowed fields across Illinois and Indiana had bright yellow flowering plants (which I assume are weeds) this weekend.

Saturday afternoon we drove to Indianapolis. First we visited Babies-R-Us to look at cribs and other various items. Next we went to Aimee & Brett’s house to pick up a few baby items they wanted to give us. Then it was on to Aunt Jeanne’s house to meet up with the family. Finally, we went to Zionsville to my uncle Dennis and (new) aunt Sally’s wedding reception (the main event of the trip). The reception went well, and it was great to catch up with the cousins, aunts, & uncles. Sally is a wonderful woman and she and Dennis seem very happy together.

Dennis & Sally

newly married Dennis and Sally

Sunday morning I got a little cleaning done in the office, but not as much as I (or Melissa) hoped. It’s never as much as I hope. I also worked for a little while setting up one of my old computers for my grandparents in Bismarck. After lunch we went swimming (our first family swim). Then we went shopping for new stoves. We’ve been on the brink of getting a new stove since Christmas. I think it’s finally going to happen this week.


Danville National Cemetery at the VA on Memorial Day

Monday morning I drove over to Danville for the Memorial Day 5K race at the VA. It rained during the race, which kept the temperature somewhat cool, but also made the roads a little slick. Right from the start a large pack of high schoolers shot out to the front. I tagged onto the back of the pack, maybe 12-15th position for the first half mile. I was running way too fast and I knew it. What were all these jokers doing?

Entrance to the VA on Memorial Day

The 5K course followed the road around the VA, which was lined with flags for Memorial Day.

The second half mile I slowed down, but all the kids around me slowed down even more. I moved my way up through the pack. I reached the first mile in 5:36. I ran mile two in 5:50, by which time I had moved into 4th place. My heart rate was through the roof and it was starting to wear on me. The last guy I passed tagged along behind me and stayed with me for the third mile. He passed me back with around a quarter mile left. My last mile was 5:55 and I finished in 5th place (out of a record 398 participants), 1st in my 30-39 age group. I was worried I might still be feeling the effects of the marathon eight days prior, but my legs felt perfectly fine. It was a tough race, mostly because I started too fast (didn’t I just learn not to do that?). Well, racing a 5K is a world apart from racing a marathon. Incidentally, my heart rate hit 194 in the last tenth of a mile, which I believe is the highest I’ve ever recorded (my theoretical max heart rate is 195).

After the race I went to visit my grandparents. They’ve been having some health problems recently and I hadn’t seen them in a few months. They seemed to be doing fairly well, all things considered. My dad and I worked to get their computer problems straightened out. Then we had a pizza lunch before hitting the road. I drove my dad back to Danville in the new car, which he seemed to enjoy.

Finally we spent this evening at a cookout with Cara & John at our house. John got a nifty remote controlled speedboat for his pond. Good times.

The Water Drinking Contest

I was recently reminded of a humorous experience from 2003, the water drinking contest.

Water drinking contest

My friends Brett & John argued about who could drink a liter of water the fastest. There’s really only one way to settle such an argument. Brett won the contest by a small amount. Then he made the unfortunate decision to quickly repeat the contest against me. He beat me, then immediately ran to the bathroom to vomit. That was the night we learned the human stomach does not hold two liters of water.

The Illinois Marathon

For the second time in my life I’ve run a half hour PR and been bitterly disappointed afterward. I’m glad I finished the marathon. I’m glad I ran it faster than any other marathon I’ve run before. I could have run faster. I just fucked it up.

Rob at start line

Rob wrapped in a garbage bag trying to stay warm before the marathon

Bun in the oven

Melissa & Fig ready to run the 5K

One would think I would have learned my lesson after road marathon #1. Then again after road marathon #2. But I didn’t. I started the Illinois marathon too fast, and as a result I finished rather spectacularly (and not the good kind of spectacular).

Marathon & half marathon start

Marathon & half marathon start

My goal for the race was 3:05, which I still believe was reasonable. However, in the back of my mind I thought there was a chance I could run 3:00, which was probably a bit of a stretch. So when I ran the first few miles on pace for a 3:00 finish I wasn’t too worried. It felt easy. Really easy. It felt like I could run that pace all day. Sometimes the mind and the body don’t always agree on these things.

Rob 3 miles into marathon

Rob gives the thumbs up at mile 3

The first half of the race flew by. I was cranking out 6:50-6:55 miles like clockwork. I ran a very steady pace and I was passing many runners who slowed significantly after the first few miles. I first saw my parents around mile 3 and I was feeling great. The course wound through Meadowbrook Park, through Urbana residential neighborhoods, and back to campus. I saw my parents again at mile 9 and I still felt great.

Rob 9 miles into the marathon

Rob still gives the thumbs up at mile 9

After crossing campus we ran through downtown Champaign where the half marathoners split off from the marathoners. Most of the runners around me turned off, though one guy I had been running with for six miles or so forged ahead. We ran side by side for over an hour, though never spoke a word to each other. Shortly after mile 11 we passed the Melissa’s friends from the Anthropology department who were partying at a professor’s house. Melissa, by this time finished with the 5K, wanted to be there by the time I passed but she hadn’t quite made it yet. She was behind schedule and I was ahead of schedule. No matter. There would be other opportunities for her to watch.

Around mile 12 the running was no longer easy. I still maintained my steady pace, but it was taking more and more effort. My thigh muscles started to hurt. This didn’t happen in any of my training runs. At this point it set in that I had been running too fast, but I didn’t slow down. I stubbornly continued.

My anonymous friend and I passed the half marathon mark at 1:30:15. I had been planning/hoping to feel fresh at this point in the race, but I was far from fresh. I glanced at my heart rate monitor which read 180, well above my aerobic threshold. My muscles were consuming oxygen faster than my heart and lungs could supply it. The only way to overcome this deficit is to slow down. Significantly.

Still on pace at mile 14, I began to struggle mentally. I knew I had no chance of maintaining this pace for the rest of the race. What would my fallback strategy be? 15 miles in I began to crack. I lost contact with my buddy as I slowed for the first time. Mile 16 was my slowest of the race so far… until mile 17… then until 18… I was on a downward spiral. My quads were screaming out in pain like nothing I had felt for years… perhaps since my last road marathon. Every step was painful.

Around mile 18.5 one of my training partners, Chris, flew past me. We had similar abilities, training, & goals, but he ran a wise race while I did not. He tried to motivate me as he passed, but it was too late.

I knew it wouldn’t be much longer until the 3:10 pace group caught up with me. I hoped I could hold them off until mile 23 or so at which point I hoped maybe I could pull it together for the last 3 miles and tag along. 3:10 is my Boston Marathon qualifying time. I honestly thought I would have no trouble finishing under 3:10, but as the miles (slowly) passed it was looking less and less likely. They finally passed me at mile 21 and I was unable to lift my pace even the slightest bit. This was the lowest point in the race for me. I felt like a complete failure.

Rob 21 miles into marathon

The 3:10 pace group passes a fading Rob

About a block later I had my biggest cheering section of the race. Melissa, friends, and family were there to cheer me on. I felt so terrible I couldn’t even bear to look them in the eyes. Sorry guys, I know you were trying to help. Mile 21 was my slowest mile of the race.

Rob 22 miles into marathon

Rob shuffles along at mile 22

I didn’t give another thought to my finishing time for the remainder of the race. I no longer cared. I was in agony, but I knew I just had to keep moving forward for just a few more miles. I walked through each aid station while drinking water & Gatorade. Drinking while running is not comfortable. On the other hand, the first few steps running at this point were excruciating. I was willing to live with the tradeoff.

The last 2-3 miles I began to come back to life. I actually sped up a little bit. Many people were still passing me, but for the first time in 10 miles I passed other runners. I skipped the final aid station at mile 25. I felt like I was on a roll and I couldn’t be bothered with slowing and/or stopping. The final mile down Pennsylvania Ave. felt like it was in slow motion. Once on Kirby Ave. I dodged some half marathoners as the two races re-merged. Then came the ramp down to the football field. It was steeper than I imagined and running down it killed my legs, but there was no stopping me at this point.

Rob after final turn

Rob rounds the final turn

Rob finishing on big screen

Rob’s image on the scoreboard

I ran a lap around the football field before lining up for the final drag into the finishing chute. My image appeared on the scoreboard during those last few moments. I finished in 3:22:15, a half hour faster than my previous fastest marathon 6 years ago.

Rob & Melissa getting food

Melissa & Rob post-race

Once I stopped running my muscles tightened up even worse. I was barely able to walk. I required assistance walking up the stairs off the football field. I was freezing cold after I stopped running so my dad gave me his coat to wear. Melissa & I grabbed a quick bite to eat before hobbling out to the parking lot to head home. The marathon was not pretty, and neither was the trip home.

Marathon finisher medal

I think I’ve done a pretty decent job explaining many of the things that went horribly wrong for me in this race. But it certainly wasn’t all bad. In the interest of ending on a high note I’ll enumerate some of the good things.

The race was very well organized, particularly for a first year event. My family and friends were very supportive of me. The crowds were great. The course was excellent. I trained very well and I was very physically prepared (though apparently not mentally). I did finish. I did get a half hour PR. 3:22 is a pretty good time for a marathon, even if I could run faster.

So how long will it be before my next half hour PR?

(Many thanks to Melissa and Barb for the photos.)

The Training Camp

This past weekend was my cycling team’s training camp in southern Illinois. We spent four days riding on some very hilly roads (particularly compared to the very flat roads of Champaign County) in what turned out to be some fairly nasty weather (much like last year).

Training camp

My cabin at Giant City State Park

The ride schedule was mostly the same as last year. About half the team went down a day earlier this year to get in one additional ride. We started out on Thursday from Giant City State Park and did a quick climb from Makanda up to route 51. This is a two mile long climb that got the heart pumping right away. On the way back down I hit 45.3 mph trying to keep up with fearless Jay. Last year on this same hill I only hit 39.1 mph.

Jay descends into Makanda

Jay descends like an animal

From there we headed to Bald Knob, the highest point in southern Illinois. This is the same climb we would be doing on Friday, so this was just a warm up. We intended to go nice and easy, but those intentions never seem to work out. We rode a litter harder than we planned, and probably a little harder than we should have.

I was pretty exhausted by the time we returned to our cabins in Giant City to clean up. We drove to Carbondale for dinner at the Italian Village, followed by some window shopping at closed bike stores, before picking up Dan who took the Amtrak train from Champaign. After returning to Giant City I slept for 10.5 hours.

Six grown men ogle bikes through the store window

a Carbondale drive up liquor store

Friday we rode to Lick Creek to meet the rest of the team members who were staying in cabins there. From there we rode over to Bald Knob again. The entire group was much bigger and rode much faster. I was pretty tired from Thursday’s ride, so it was tough just getting there.

At a gas station stop I made the mistake of taking too long to strap my little Flip video camera onto my bike and ended up missing the group as they rolled out. I had to chase for a couple miles, including the really big hill were the group split up. I caught up with several riders on that hill and a few of us hauled ass to try to catch up with the lead pack. We didn’t quite make it as they reached the Bald Knob climb before us and we picked our way through the remnants of that group on the way up the climb.

Training camp Friday elevation

Friday’s elevation profile

The remainder of the ride was much easier as everyone was tired by this point. We refueled afterward with a big dinner at the Giant City lodge, which, despite not having any vegetarian entrees on the menu, has a number of delicious sides, including wild rice, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, etc. After dinner I quickly fell asleep for 9.5 hours.

Saturday’s ride was 100 miles, going from Lick Creek to Golconda and back. At the start of the ride it was 50˚ and drizzling rain. The rain came and went all day, but the temperatures got colder. During one two minute stretch I was even pelted with pea-sized hail. We split into two groups. Given my fatigue from the previous two days (and the fact that I am supposed to be tapering for the marathon) I wisely chose to ride in the slower group. We faced a stiff headwind the entire first half of the ride. Despite the nasty weather we had a pretty good time. It was a tough ride, very hilly. The group would split up on the uphills they we’d come back together on the flats and downhill sections.

Training camp Saturday elevation

Saturday’s elevation profile

Half of our group chose to turn around at 37.5 miles rather than ride the full 50 to Golconda. The first 10 or so miles after we turned around were actually somewhat pleasant. Sure, I was soaking wet, but we had a good tailwind and as long as I kept moving I stayed plenty warm. Around this time the sun actually came out for about 30 seconds. Soon after came lighting, thunder, driving rain, hail, a drop in temperature, and a change in wind direction. We faced a headwind the rest of the way back.

After the ride I changed into dry clothes, munched on some snacks and chitchatted while we waited for everyone else to finish. Then we all packed up and headed over to the Giant City Lodge for a team banquet. Saturday was all you can eat fried chicken night at the lodge. This is going to sound crazy, but that’s actually what I ordered. I simply didn’t eat any of the chicken. The meal also had all you can eat mashed potatoes, corn, rolls, etc. Everyone placed the same order and huge plates of food were served to us family style.


We awoke Sunday morning to temperatures in the mid-30s, howling winds, and damp roads. The ride was much shorter, but still challenging. We coasted down to Makanda then took turns climbing the two big hills heading out of the valley. One was long and gradual, the other was short and steep. I did five climbs before deciding my toes would fall off if I did any more.

The last descent of the last day of training camp

And that was it. Training camp was great fun. We had some tough rides in tough conditions. Most importantly, I don’t think it screwed up my marathon preparations. We’ll know for sure in less than two weeks.