June 2012


Will, Daddy, & Grandma

As I explained in the previous post, I intentionally stepped my training way back for the month of June. The good news is that I’m feeling good again now, so July should look much better. I still somehow managed to run my fastest mile since I was 18.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 78.06 Mile 9 8.67333 Mile
February 75.2586 Mile 9 8.36206 Mile
March 126.15 Mile 14 9.01071 Mile
April 146.28 Mile 16 9.1425 Mile
May 166.75 Mile 18 9.26389 Mile
June 54.83 Mile 7 7.83286 Mile
Total 647.329 Mile 73 8.86751 Mile

Running 2012 6



Marin Headlands

I was able to get three good rides in on our trip to San Francisco, which really made the month. Two of the rides were just in the Marin Headlands, but I felt really good climbing some really big hills for a change. After the conference ended I went over to the East Bay and rode Mt. Diablo. I felt much stronger on that big ass climb than I did last time (three years ago). The heat was brutal though. It was 68˚F when I left downtown San Francisco and it was 98˚F on the unshaded slopes of Mt. Diablo. I drained both of my water bottles by the time I was halfway up the mountain. Luckily I found a place to refill them so I could continue on up. I flew past a number of riders closer to the top, which is always motivating.


Summit of Mount Diablo (4000 ft, 98˚F)

After returning home I did a couple of the Tuesday night crits, finishing one of them in 7th place, my highest finish yet. I also rode the Wednesday night TT for the first time and did by far the fastest TT of my life, averaging 25.3 mph for the 9 mile course (with my chain rubbing the derailleur the whole time). I think I only hit 24 mph twice on the old Seymour 10 mile course. I’m definitely getting more and more accustomed to my (relatively) new TT bike.

Bike Distance # Rides Avg per Ride
Lynskey 14.44 Mile 1 14.44 Mile
Pocket Rocket 102.31 Mile 8 12.7888 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird 165.82 Mile 4 41.455 Mile
Total 282.57 Mile 13 21.7362 Mile

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 25.33 Mile 2 12.665 Mile
February 40.08 Mile 3 13.36 Mile
March 213.43 Mile 20 10.6715 Mile
April 253.27 Mile 23 11.0117 Mile
May 322.147 Mile 24 13.4228 Mile
June 282.57 Mile 13 21.7362 Mile
Total 1136.83 Mile 85 13.3744 Mile

Cycling 2012 6


I made it to the pool a few times before taking several weeks off. The good news is when I started back again I picked up right where I left off. I love that about swimming. Maybe it’s harder to do if you’re actually any good though. I’ll probably never find out.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 0 0 0
February 0 0 0
March 0 0 0
April 1750. Yard 2 875. Yard
May 8050. Yard 7 1150. Yard
June 4100. Yard 3 1366.67 Yard
Total 13900. Yard 12 1158.33 Yard

Swimming 2012 6


Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 51.53 Mile 16 3.22063 Mile
February 42.92 Mile 18 2.38444 Mile
March 41.15 Mile 14 2.93929 Mile
April 31.89 Mile 12 2.6575 Mile
May 37.5107 Mile 13 2.88544 Mile
June 39.4 Mile 18 2.18889 Mile
Total 244.401 Mile 91 2.68572 Mile

Walking 2012 6

Fire. And Water.

It was epic. Where to begin?

As many of you know, Melissa and I spent a year living on la Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua five years ago while Melissa was studying the howler monkeys there for her dissertation. You can read all about it here. I didn’t actually do any running while we lived there (I took a 3.5 year hiatus due to my knee problems), though I did bicycle extensively. We also hiked Volcan Maderas once.


Volcan Maderas

A couple years ago I somehow heard of this new race on Ometepe Island, Fuego y Agua (fire and water). It was a 50K (and 100K) footrace from Moyogalpa (the big city on the island) to Merida (the town where we lived), traversing Volcan Maderas in the process. Since I had done a few ultras before (though all were slightly shorter than this), and I had hiked Maderas before, and I spent a year living at the finish line of this race, I thought this would be the perfect event for me. I looked forward to it for months. Then I learned the December 2010 race was canceled, so my plans would be put on hold. However, the organizers pushed the race from December to February and they were able to get it going slightly over a year later in February 2012.

I looked forward to this race for over a year.

I was running really well for shorter distances last fall when I began to ramp up my mileage. I ran into some hiccups along the way. I had some good long runs in October. I sat out for three weeks in November with knee pain, before a fairly productive December. I sat out for three weeks in January after throwing out my back. I got in one long training run and a medium length preparation race before proceeding to throw out my back again… three weeks before the race. At that point I was in a full-on panic. I would effectively have a six week taper prior to what would be the hardest race I’d ever attempted. That’s too long.

Even as we boarded the plane to fly to Nicaragua I was still experiencing the last remnants of this back pain. I felt kind of bad for asking Melissa to carry most of our luggage, but I didn’t want to chance any more problems (which would certainly have knocked me out of the race). Fortunately the back problems subsided shortly after we arrived, and I was even able to do a good training run a few days before the race.

Our entire trip was great fun for all of us. Melissa covered it all in detail in her blog here, here, here, here, and here. I’ll just focus on the race.

Pre-race dinner

Pre-race dinner

The 50K and 100K start at 4 a.m. In the dark. It may sound horrible, but I greatly preferred the pre-dawn start. The thing that scared me most coming into the race was how I would deal with the tropical heat (I’ve been known to have problems) coming from the midwest in the dead of winter. The 4 a.m. start meant that most of the running part of the race (the volcano is far too steep to run) would be over around the time the sun came up.

Race ready

Ready to race

I had been waking up early and going to bed early ever since we left Saint Louis. The night before the race I was about to crash right around the time the German tourists staying at my hostel started a techno-reggae-guitar-jam-singalong outside my room. I was so tired I fell asleep anyway. I woke up just as they finished around 1 a.m. and didn’t get back to sleep. Whoops. I got out of bed at 3 a.m., prepared everything, and walked one block over to the starting line of the race.

Fuego y Agua start

Starting line

There were 20 participants in the 50K and another 18 in the 100K. Headlamps ablaze, we started as some fireworks exploded overhead. Immediately three local guys shot off the front. I started comfortably, running the first mile in 8:30, at which point I could no longer even see the leaders. We immediately turned off the main paved road onto a dirt road I’d never been on before. So much for using my knowledge of the island to my advantage. The ground was a bit soft and mushy, with every runner in front of me kicking up dirt into the air. It was difficult to see with my headlamp reflecting off the particles. I didn’t really like breathing it in either. So I made an attempt to leave a bit of gap to the front and sides of me.

Things started to settle down and I found a few other runners going my same pace. 2.5 miles in I tripped on a tree root and went down. I was already sweating heavily by that point (I’m a heavy sweater), and the soft, loose dirt was now clinging to my knees and my hands. I spent the next few miles trying (with little success) to clean my hands and to catch up to my pack. I caught back up shortly before we hit the main paved road again, just before the first aid station. I introduced myself to Joe and John (both 100K participants) and we ran together for a while.

I vividly remember the hill coming out of San Jose causing my lots of problems the many times I biked it, but it wasn’t a problem on foot. It was actually my fastest mile of the race… which probably wasn’t a good idea. Anyway, Joe and I kept going while John was just a little ways behind. We turned again off the paved road onto another dirt road I didn’t know. We paid close attention to the reflective course markers that would guide our way. We almost missed an important turn while we ran on the wet sand along the shoreline, as the marker was more visible from the deep, mushy sand further inland.

Fuego y Agua 50K

We followed the trail for a while before coming to an intersection that wasn’t marked. There were three possible paths to take, none of them obviously the correct path, and none of them marked. We spent close to five minutes going a short distance down each path looking for markers, but we found none. By this time John caught back up with us and he had a gut feeling about one of the trails, so we just went with it. 300-400 meters later we saw a marker, confirming we made the right choice.

We went up a long hill and wound our way through some banana fields. There were five runners ahead of us at this point and we saw one only about 50 meters up the path. This was strange, given that we had just lost five minutes, but whatever. He disappeared soon enough. While climbing over a downed banana tree, about 13 miles in I had a cramp in my hamstring, which was a very bad sign. I was feeling great, I was staying hydrated, and, most importantly, I was staying on top of my electrolyte pills (which usually prevent the cramping). Maybe the heat calls for more? We’ll see.

Aid stationing

This is actually the third aid station, but you get the idea.

We soon reached the second aid station. I asked the volunteers how many people were ahead of us and they said four. There had been five, but (as I later confirmed) the guy we saw just ahead of us earlier got lost in the banana field. It was also around this time I was noticing a blister had started to form on my little toe. I’ve been running in Injinji socks (toe socks) for a few years and I haven’t had a single blister since I started wearing them. I didn’t know what to make of this development.

We made our way back out to the paved road again. We were now on the isthmus, where it was windier. The sun was rising and I no longer needed my headlamp to see. The breeze cooled us down a bit, but not really enough. Joe started to pull away from me and I didn’t really want to chase. I was slowing down, but I knew what was just a few miles ahead and I needed to hold back as much as possible.

Eating a banana

As I turned off the road up to the El Porvenir aid station I saw Melissa. She ran/walked with me up the hill to the aid station, offering me a banana as we went. Once we reached the aid station I sat down to examine the blister situation I mentioned earlier. It was really starting to bother me and I had one hell of a hike coming up. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I took my shoe off. Getting dressed in the dark in my sleep deprived state I put my two smallest toes in the same toe hole, leaving an empty toe hole off to the side that was just rubbing and rubbing my little toe. It was easy enough to fix, and that was the end of the toe problems… no blister.

Wardrobe malfunction

I picked up my trekking poles from my drop bag, said goodbye to Melissa, and began the long uphill journey to the 4000 ft peak of Volcan Maderas. It started off gradually so I convinced myself I could run for a while, but that didn’t last long. I was hiking. And hiking. And hiking some more. I didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t horrible. Yet.

Starting up the volcano

Fairly early on a few guys passed me. The further we went the more people passed me. As the climbing became more vertical, and there were lots of step-ups I started to have cramps. First in my calves. Then in my hamstrings. It got to the point where I had to do the step-ups as quickly as possible or my legs would cramp up and I wouldn’t be able to move. Every step was agonizing. And I was only a quarter of the way up the volcano.

1/4 the way up Maderas

I continued to put one foot in front of the other. While I was cramping fairly frequently, it never actually got worse. I can’t really remember what was going through my mind the rest of the way up the volcano. I was kind of out of it. It was all I could do to keep a count of how many people passed me. I kept eating, drinking, taking my electrolyte pills. The terrain got harder and harder. Then came the mud. First it was damp, then sloppy, then ankle-deep, then calf-deep. A few patches were literally up to my kneecap. When my foot sunk in like that I could only hope my shoe stayed on my foot as I pulled it out.

Another racer filmed the mud. I can’t watch this without laughing my ass off.

Closer the top I hiked a long way with a British guy named Andy. It sounds kind of awful, but it helped mentally to know that someone else was suffering as much as I was. Misery loves company. Eventually, he moved on as well, but that didn’t matter because I somehow managed to make it to the top. I can’t express how glad I was to see a wooden sign, presumably marking the summit, though, to be honest, I didn’t stop to read it. The glorious feeling was short-lived as the trail immediately (and steeply) descended into the crater. It was nice to switch from uphill to downhill for a change, but I knew I was going to have to climb right back up on the return trip.

Another racer filmed the top of Maderas.

A couple more people (including the first place woman) caught me right as I reached the final aid station in the crater. I had run the first 20 miles in a little under 3 hours, then the next 5.5 miles took slightly over 3 hours. I was the 6th person to start the volcano climb and the 20th person to reach the top. I spent a few minutes eating, drinking, refilling my hydration pack for the first time, and reflecting on my collapse. Then it was back up and out of the crater.

The trail coming out was different, and much more difficult. It was no longer possible to climb only with my legs while using my arms to stabilize me. Now I had to pull myself up with my arms as much as push with my legs. I had hiked the whole way up with my trekking poles, and I think they did help me (at least mentally, if nothing else), but now they were really getting in the way, as I needed my hands for climbing. Eventually, I just gave up on them, folded them up and wedged them between my hydration pack and my back. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was my only option other than leaving them on the volcano. I had planned to hike back down with them so I didn’t plan to store them anywhere.

The jungle gym

After some more deep mud I reached the jungle gym section of the trail where we had to climb over/under/through tree branches. Oddly enough, it was this point where I started to come back to life. I had resigned myself to feeling like shit for the rest of the race, so this was a welcome surprise. The more I descended the better I felt. I started hiking faster. Then I started trotting where I could, grasping trees with both hands to keep from falling over. I swung myself from one tree to the next the way I imagine Tarzan would if he were exhausted and descending a volcano. When the trail was straight for more than five feet I ran. I actually ran. A few hours before I was certain the next time I ran would be back in Saint Louis.

Meli & Simeon

Melissa and Simeón

Then I saw Simeón. Simeón was Melissa’s field guide in the forest. He helped her find the monkeys when she was getting started with her research. He helped her cut trails to follow them. He also takes tourists up the volcano. He had hiked nearly 1,000 meters up, apparently just to check on me. He shouted, “¡Rob! ¿Como estas?” (Rob, how are you?), to which I quickly (in broken Spanish) replied “No muy bien, pero mucho mejor que subiendo” (Not very well, but much better than climbing) as I ran past.

Around this same time I also started passing people–people who had blown by me on the way up. This was a truly unfamiliar experience for me. In most races I do well on the uphill sections and suck going downhill. My role was completely reversed now. One guy I ran with for a while was wearing Luna Sandals. It turns out he’s the CEO of the company that makes them. I couldn’t believe he had hiked the volcano in those, but he seemed to be doing quite well with them–a ringing product endorsement.

Finish line

The 50K finish line

As I got lower in elevation the temperature got hotter. There was less shade from tree cover, and more open fields to run through. I was running surprisingly well, given how tired I was and how rocky the path was. I really didn’t want to trip on the difficult terrain, but I was running so well I didn’t want to stop. It was approaching noon, and the heat was absolutely brutal the last two miles. It finally broke me and less than a half mile from the finish I had to walk some more just to cool down. This was the same trail we had hiked five years earlier, so I recognized where I was at this point. I ran the last quarter mile into the finish line where Melissa was waiting for me, kind of freaking out at how many people had come through with me nowhere in sight. The last 11 miles took me 5 hours, even with me running a few of those miles.

Crossing the finish line

Exhausted, hot, muddy

I finished in 7h55m. My average heart rate was 161, my max was 185. I burned 6762 calories. I consumed 1200 calories. My fastest mile was 8:12, my slowest mile was, well, close to an hour. Once you take out the 100K runners ahead of me I ended up in 9th place for the 50K. My first 50K. While this is quite a bit lower than my usual placings of the top 5%-10% in shorter races, I will gladly take it. This was the hardest race I’ve ever done. I was completely out of my element. It was epic. And I loved it.


I cooled down in the shade at the finish line, drinking and trying to eat. After a short while I actually convinced myself that I could go farther. I wasn’t completely dead. The rest of the day, yes I was tired, but I wasn’t nearly as sore as I typically am after a road marathon. The next day I had very little soreness. The second day after the race I had a bit more soreness in my legs and shoulders, but still not as much as I expected. Then, after that, I was fine. I had no long-lasting injuries and within a week I was back to running as normal, feeling better than I had in months. Rested even.

Fuego y Agua

After reflecting on the race for a couple weeks a few things are clear that I could have done differently.

  • The frequent injuries prior to the race and the six week taper were a problem. I didn’t have the base fitness to race that far.
  • I should have done more hill work. I did run hills, but nothing in the ballpark of the Maderas climb.
  • I should have started slower. Even though I felt great for the first 20 miles, I just didn’t have enough left in the tank for the climb.
  • I should have taken more electrolyte pills. Every 30 minutes just wasn’t enough for the amount of sweat I produced.
  • I should have started with a less-than-full hydration pack and filled up at the aid stations rather than carry all that weight for the entire race and only fill up at the last aid station. The day after the race my shoulders were more sore than my legs.
  • I probably should have climbed without the trekking poles. They helped me mentally, but I’m not sure they helped me physically, and they got in the way a lot.

Anyway, we’re already thinking about the trip next year. The race was a very unique adventure, and it was incredibly well organized. I got the sense that pretty much all the other runners had similarly great experiences. This race is going to explode in popularity. I wouldn’t be surprised if they reached their 100 participant-per-race cap as soon as next year.

FOLEPI River Trail Classic

Another Thanksgiving in Peoria means another chance to run the unique FOLEPI river trail classic. The four mile race takes place on a paved shared-use path where the final three miles are entirely gradually downhill. This makes for super-fast running. In my 3rd attempt I set a new PR, despite the very strong headwind nearly the entire length of the point-to-point course.

Interestingly, I executed the race more like a bike race than any foot race I’ve ever done before. Usually that’s probably not a great idea, but it somehow worked out well. I tried to start conservatively, which put me about 30-40 places back right from the gun (err, whistle). After a few hundred meters we turned into the wind and I hunkered down behind someone tall, hopping from one person to the next as speeds varied.

3/4 mile in I found myself in a bit of a conundrum in that I had moved past everyone in my group and there was a sizable gap up to the lead group… and they were also moving faster than I was. Rather than continue at my own pace I did what I wouldn’t hesitate for a single second to do in a bike race, though in a running race it was unthinkable–I burned a match. I put in a huge effort to accelerate and not only stop losing ground to the lead group, but also catch back up to them. The gap was probably only about 20-30 meters, which seems fairly small. But I’d say it took more than a minute running over 12mph to close the gap. I caught up right as we passed the first mile marker (the flat mile) in 5:18. It was a bit faster than I hoped, but I was in good position. Or so I thought.

Not a moment sooner than I joined the group did we hit the downhill where the group exploded. What had been 10 guys tightly bunched together blocking the wind for me quickly turned into singles spread out across the path. I stayed behind a young guy for the next mile or so just trying to recover from my earlier acceleration. But you can’t really recover running at that speed.

As we passed the 2nd mile marker inside of 11:00 another guy came up from behind and passed us. Not really thinking in my hypoxic state I latched on behind him and took off. This guy maintained a very steady pace, which was good. I stayed glued to him, as he was running exactly the pace I wanted to be going. In the final half mile he started to waiver a bit so I moved in front of him to return the favor for him blocking the wind. He seemed to recover a bit, as he passed me with a couple hundred meters to go.

I finished in 22:05 (5:31/mile), my fastest time yet at this race. This was reassuring at a time when I’ve been doing lots of long runs and very little speedwork. I was 10th overall and 2nd in my age group (behind the guy who I ran with most of the race).

Where I come from we don’t forget about hills like that

So it’s no secret that our former hometown of Champaign-Urbana is the flattest place on Earth. For a long time I assumed most of the midwest was similar, but it most certainly isn’t. Last Sunday I did a 50 mile ride with my friends Nick & Mike, along with a new guy Kurt (or is it Curt?) who showed us a heck of a route about a half hour west of the city.

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 10.08.14 PM.png

We started at Matson Hill Park (any hill with a name earns my immediate respect), near Defiance, MO. Traffic was relatively light, which was a welcome change from the city. There were 10 or so good hard climbs in the 200-400 foot range, many of which were extremely steep, a few were in excess of 20%. These suckers were tough.

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 10.08.46 PM.png

Aside from the big hills the route had rolling hills that dwarf anything in Champaign County almost non-stop the entire way. As we approached one of the big hills Kurt turned to the rest of us (who had never seen this route before) and said:

Oh… I forgot about this hill.

He then beat me to the top rather handily. When I eventually caught back up with him the only response I could muster was:

Where I come from we don’t forget about hills like that.

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

July 2010 Stats

Washington University in St. Louis

I guess the big news is that we’re moving to St. Louis. We’ve been traveling back and forth a lot. We found a house nice and close to the Washington University campus, Forest Park, and The Loop.

Garage sale

We had a fairly successful garage sale early in the month. We’re gradually getting organized, packed up, and ready to move. I won’t lie, it’s pretty stressful. On top of that I’m once again busier at work than ever before. Let’s hope we all keep our sanity in the coming weeks.

Photo of the Day



Are we having fun yet?

Photo by Melissa

It’s too hot to run, though somehow I wound up with more mileage in than last month.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 109.05 Mile 10 10.905 Mile
February 76.18 Mile 8 9.5225 Mile
March 84.86 Mile 10 8.486 Mile
April 83.15 Mile 9 9.23889 Mile
May 57.95 Mile 7 8.27857 Mile
June 17.98 Mile 3 5.99333 Mile
July 54.62 Mile 8 6.8275 Mile
Total 483.79 Mile 55 8.79618 Mile


Photo by epon

It’s almost too hot for cycling. I think the people I ride with are getting tired of the steady stream of sweat dripping off my face and flying back onto them.

August 2010 Cycling by bike

Bike Distance # Rides Avg per Ride
Bianchi 21.6 Mile 6 3.6 Mile
Big Red 22.9 Mile 3 7.63333 Mile
Pocket Rocket 51.36 Mile 4 12.84 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird 294.73 Mile 6 49.1217 Mile
Total 390.59 Mile 19 20.5574 Mile

January-August 2010 Cycling by bike

Bike Distance # Rides Avg per Ride
Bianchi 278.6 Mile 43 6.47907 Mile
Big Red 49.4 Mile 8 6.175 Mile
El Fuego 40.9 Mile 11 3.71818 Mile
Lynskey 31.8 Mile 2 15.9 Mile
Pocket Rocket 266.1 Mile 13 20.4692 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird 1672.38 Mile 47 35.5826 Mile
Total 2339.18 Mile 124 18.8644 Mile

January-August 2010 Cycling by month

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 166.25 Mile 20 8.3125 Mile
February 140.67 Mile 12 11.7225 Mile
March 508.83 Mile 18 28.2683 Mile
April 318.98 Mile 13 24.5369 Mile
May 365.89 Mile 20 18.2945 Mile
June 447.97 Mile 22 20.3623 Mile
July 390.59 Mile 19 20.5574 Mile
Total 2339.18 Mile 124 18.8644 Mile


Walking around campus

It seemed like I walked more than usual, as I frequently walked to work last month whilst listening to live Tour de France coverage on my phone. I guess the previous month’s trip to San Francisco added more miles than the Tour.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 28.66 Mile 9 3.18444 Mile
February 51.45 Mile 16 3.21563 Mile
March 34.7 Mile 10 3.47 Mile
April 44.35 Mile 11 4.03182 Mile
May 48.75 Mile 14 3.48214 Mile
June 64.2 Mile 16 4.0125 Mile
July 56.3 Mile 15 3.75333 Mile
Total 328.41 Mile 91 3.6089 Mile

Peoria Classic

We traveled to Peoria on Sunday for the Peoria Classic (formerly Proctor Classic) bike races. I did the cat 5 crit in Peoria in 2006 and 2008. Both times I was separated from the main field by a crash directly in front of me and I finished off the back all by myself. I didn’t have high expectations.

Four other Wild Card riders were in the cat 4 race this year, Luke, Jason, Nick, and Mike. At the start of the race they announced the names of the top five riders in the Illinois Cup series. Jason was 5th and Mike was 2nd. None of the other three riders were there so two guys from our team made their way to the starting line before everyone else. This meant everyone else in the race would be keeping an eye on us. I would have preferred to fly under the radar.

The race started and I somehow ended up leading the pack into the first turn, so I figured I’d get things started. I lead for most of the first lap before moving aside for the next guys in the line. I dropped back into the pack nearly at the back, where I stayed for most of the race.

The race was fast (26 mph average speed for 40 minutes) and there were eight turns per lap. Turning at high speed in tight packs is not my favorite thing, but I handled it much better in this race than in any previous crit… which is good. The first five turns were straightforward. After the sixth turn (into the headwind) of every lap I had to sprint to catch back up to the group, just in time for everyone to slow down before turn seven. On the finishing straightaway I had the opportunity to move up a few places and start the whole thing over again. My average heart rate was 171, right at my aerobic threshold. So I was definitely working hard.

With four laps to go I moved up a few too many places on the finishing straight and somehow went off the front. So, like the first lap, I lead the group for most of a lap, then pulled off and dropped back again. The race was super hot and by the end it was really taking a toll on me. I stayed with the pack the final few laps and into the finish. I had nothing left on the last lap to move up much. I finished near the back of the lead pack in 26th place out of 42 riders. Mike was 4th, Luke was 12th, Jason was 17th, Nick stopped just before the end after trying to help set Mike up for a strong finish.

I’m fairly happy with how the race went for me. I wasn’t expecting spectacular results, and I didn’t achieve spectacular results, but my steadily improving fitness gives me greater confidence for the next race (whatever that may be). I think a couple guys on the team were hoping for better results, but we did okay regardless. There will other races.

The many hills of San Francisco

Last week the whole family was out in San Francisco while I attended Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). This was my ninth WWDC (two in San Jose and seven in San Francisco), missing out only in 2006 when Apple held the conference in August (for some reason) the week after we moved to Nicaragua.

The conference was good, even if the ridiculously growing size does get a little more frustrating each year. The technical sessions are all covered by non-disclosure agreements, so I won’t discuss any of them (as if you cared).

The keynote (which some of you may remember I participated in back in 2005) was also good. Unfortunately, due to the size of the conference I keep showing up earlier and earlier to get in line for the keynote and I keep ending up farther and farther back in line. I showed up a little over three hours early this year. The line was nearly one mile long, and I barely squeaked into some of the back rows of the conference room filled with over 5,000 people. The new iPhone looks pretty awesome. In fact, William just bought me one for Father’s Day. Wasn’t that nice?

Will in the big city

While we were there I purposely didn’t adjust to the different time zone so I would continue wake up early to go for a ride on the Pocket Rocket each morning before the conference. The first morning I tackled Twin Peaks, which, at over 800 feet above sea level, is one of the highest points in the city. Shortly after the climb begins it kicks straight up to 17%, which was a tough first hill for someone who lives in Illinois. It stays steep for a good long three city blocks before leveling out to a more reasonable 11-12%. Of course, it was super foggy that particular morning, so I couldn’t see anything at the top. If I could have seen anything it would have looked like this (photo from last year).

Market Street

Anyway, I had to hurry straight back in order to stand in a really long line for hours. It was just eight miles with a total of 850 feet of climbing entirely in the third and fourth miles.

The next day I rode up one of the steepest hills I’ve found in the city (Kearny between Broadway and Vallejo, the road is closed to traffic). It’s somewhere in the ballpark of 25-30%. I had to lean really far forward to keep from tumbling over backward. Yes, that steep… but only for a block. After that was Telegraph Hill up to Coit Tower. This climb was used in the prologue of the Tour of California the first few years of the race.

Financial district

But that was just the first few miles. I followed the bay shoreline to the Golden Gate Bridge and rode across to the Marin Headlands. I intended to climb Hawk Hill, but the road was closed half way up so I took a detour to somewhere I’d never been before, which was amazing.




Tuesday’s ride had 2200 feet of climbing in 26 miles.

Wednesday I took a break because I felt a little twinge in my calf after Tuesday’s ride and I didn’t want to risk making it worse. Fortunately the twinge only lasted a day and by Thursday morning I was back at it. I hit Twin Peaks again, this time better prepared for the steepness. Instead of turning around there I continued on through Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, past the Cliff House, the Legion of Honor, the Presidio (along the bike course for the Alcatraz Triathlon I did in 2003), across the bridge to the Marin headlands, and partway up Hawk Hill before turning around and heading home. Just for kicks I rode up Russian Hill and Nob Hill on the way back through town. Russian Hill on Hyde street is 23% for a few city blocks–too steep to sit, too steep to stop (you wouldn’t be able to start back up).



Thursday’s ride was 2800 feet of climbing in 27 miles.

Friday I tackled Mt. Tamalpais for the Nth time. Last year I rode Mt. Diablo instead, so I was happy to be back on familiar ground. After cool weather all week it was super hot on Friday. This made the mountain that much more difficult. I doubt I made my fastest ascent of the mountain that day, but I steadily knocked out each of the 10 miles from bottom to top.

Mt. Tam may not be as high as Mt. Diablo, but it sure is a lot more scenic, offering a lot more wooded areas, as well as ocean views.

Mt Tam

Mt Tam

Mt Tam

Mt Tam view

Mt Tam view

San Francisco from the top of Mt. Tam

Bridge and Mt Tam

Here’s the opposite view: Mt. Tam from San Francisco

Friday’s ride was 4114 feet of climbing (2500 on Mt. Tam) in 50 miles.

Saturday I skipped a ride in favor of lots of walking and hiking with the family. Here’s William and me hiking the coastal trail, which was part of the run course for the Alcatraz Triathlon I did in 2003.

Two sweaty guys hiking the Coastal Trail

We all had a great trip. Check out William’s blog for lots more family photos.


William already shared his insights on our trip to Albuquerque last weekend. I’ll add a few other random tidbits.

Albuquerque botanical gardens

I photographed the entire weekend with my (reasonably) new 30mm prime lens. Since it has a fixed focal length, zooming with this lens is extremely manual (i.e. the photographer must physically move). I was a bit concerned this might be too much of a burden, so I actually packed a zoom lens but I ended up not using it. Also, since it has a large maximum aperture of f/1.4 I was able to shoot a lot of indoor photos without a flash (which I didn’t even bother to bring).


The Albuquerque airport shares runways with an air force base. Fighter jets are super loud when they’re flying… and they’re even louder when they take off. It was kind of amusing to watch them take turns with the commercial jets. They were very loud even all the way across town.

Running at 6000 ft of elevation was definitely noticeable in the first few miles, though it didn’t seem to bother me much after that.

Albuquerque sunrise

New Mexico apparently has a lot of dinosaur fossils.


Albuquerque has Bicycle Boulevards with lane markings clearly indicating cyclists are entitled to the full width of the lane. Of course, this is true on nearly all public roadways… but most motorists don’t understand this.

Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle Boulevard

Mexican food is quite popular.

The hand that feeds you

The Rio Grande has way more water in it in Albuquerque than it does downstream in El Paso/Juarez. I guess it’s all channeled away for irrigation.

Rio Grande

It’s really hard (impossible?) to get the white balance right when photographing an aquarium indoors with low light. Either we ended up too red or the water ended up to green.

Albuquerque aquarium