Macklind Mile

Ever since we moved to St. Louis I have been fascinated with this race. It’s an open 1 mile, which is pretty rare. It’s net downhill, so it’s particularly fast. It’s around Independence Day, so it’s ridiculously hot.

I ran it last year, with mixed results. I was happy to finish in 5:01, but a bit disappointed I was so close to being under 5 minutes and I couldn’t quite finish it off. I was in good shape, but I screwed up royally by doing a (too) hard track workout a few days before the race and I was still sore on race day.

I told myself this year would be different. I was in even better shape in the spring than last year, so I might be able to pull off something really special. The problem is that I was really starting to feel worn out by my spring campaign by the end of May. I was exhausted and I was starting to have some minor knee pain creep into my runs. This scared the hell out of me, so after the U. City 10K I stepped my training way back in an effort to let my body recover. One easy week turned into two with our trip to San Francisco. Two turned into three in the hectic week after we returned. Three turned into four when my knee just kept not feeling right. Before I knew it the Macklind Mile was a week away and I was feeling incredibly unprepared. But I had been looking forward to this race for a year. What could I pull together in a week?

Well, I went for a short, easy run and had no knee pain. Good. A few days later I went for a slightly longer, slightly faster run, again with no knee pain. It was hardly ideal preparation, but it will have to do. On race day my warmup went well, so I figured I would just let it rip and see what happened. I started out about the same pace as last year, only I didn’t slow down, I kept speeding up. My third quarter was the fastest, whereas last year it was much slower. I passed a lot of people in the last half of the race and finished strong in 4:52, my official chip time. My own watch, which I started before I crossed the start line and stopped after I crossed the finish line, indicated 4:49-4:50, which I like better. Anyway, it was a significant improvement over last year and it came after nearly a month of none-to-light running. This is faster than I ran when I was 15. I’ll take it.

One of these years I’m going to get this race right.

After my run, I had the pleasure of watching my mom run her first race (at age 60). My parents were in town visiting and my mom (who I didn’t even know started to run) decided to run the race on the spot. Congratulations to her for quite an accomplishment.

At the starting line

Will toes the starting line with Mommy

A little while later Will ran the kids quarter mile run. He started off well enough, but after about 15 seconds he just sat down in the middle of the street and started crying for no apparent reason (I think what happened was a grown-up running with their kid bumped into him and he didn’t care for that). After minutes of bargaining with him and even carrying him a little while we finally got him to run. And run he did. He was fast. He passed a bunch of people and ended up (even after the fit) finishing two minutes faster than he did last year.

And they're off

Shortly after the start and shortly before the fit


Will crosses the finish line with great form

Will, Daddy, & Grandma

Will with Dad and Grandma after our races

Then I ran 7 miles home in 100˚F heat.

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.

Gateway Cross Cup

I need to pay more attention. The weekend before last I randomly decided to take a load of old cardboard to the University City recycling center at Heman park. As I passed the park (something I do maybe once a month) I saw a sign advertising an “international professional bike race” to be held at the park in a few days time. It didn’t add up. International? Professional? At a city park a mile and a half from my house? On a Wednesday? The instant I got home I looked it up on the internet, and sure enough, it was true. The Gateway Cross Cup was a new cyclocross race that attracted many of the top American professionals, and a few Europeans as well. It was a little weird to have a midweek race, but if that’s when the pros can make it I guess that’s when you have it. It was an all-day event with additional amateur races and a “5K” cross country run. I guess I had better take the afternoon off.

For the uninitiated, cyclocross is a type of bicycle racing that takes place on grass/dirt/mud/sand/snow on a closed loop course. The course is narrow. There are many sharp turns. There are barriers and steps placed in the course that force the riders to dismount their bikes, run over the obstacles, then remount and continue. This race had a flyover, basically a wooden bridge where the course crosses over itself to make a figure eight. Riders run up steps on one side, then down a very steep ramp on the other side. Then later the course goes beneath the bridge. I was aware this sort of obstacle existed, but I had never seen one in person (much less raced on one).

Cat 4 Race

I showed up about an hour before the first race (cat 4), enough time to take a few warmup laps. It was very helpful to familiarize myself with the course. Not doing so sufficiently was one of my two major problems in every previous cyclocross race I’ve done. The other was getting off to a poor start (due to the frequent sharp turns it’s sometimes difficult to pass people), which I also rectified here. Since I was one of the few people to preregister online I ended up with a starting position in the front row. After the long paved straightaway at the start I hit the first turn into the grass around 8th place. And I moved up from there. I was in 5th after the first lap, then 4th. With one lap to go I was in 3rd, with two guys nipping at my heals. They both passed me mid-lap, and I passed one back by the end to finish in 4th out of 34 (just barely off the podium). It was by far my best cyclocross race ever.

“5K” Cross Country Race

I took it easy for a couple hours before the “5K” cross country run. I keep putting “5K” in quotes because the actual race distance was quite a bit farther. I found while warming up the loop was 2.05 miles, so two loops would be 4.1 miles (a full mile farther than advertised). Oh well. I didn’t see very many other runners there (I was literally the only one who preregistered for the race, which is how I ended up with number 1). Right before the start I saw three guys wearing college jerseys. Shit.

Gateway Cross Cup 5K run bib

It turns out they weren’t the ones I should have been worrying about. From the start some guy shot out to the lead and before too long I could no longer see him. I ran in the chase pack with the college jersey guys (who I later found out had all graduated a few years ago and were no longer in their prime) until they slowly faded one by one. I finished 2nd, but it hurt. It was a (long) hard race on a (long) hard course that came after an earlier hard race.

That makes four consecutive races with top-four finishes, and seven total races in the month of September.

UCI Pro Race

I caught bits and pieces of the other amateur bike races between eating dinner and going home to fetch my camera. The pro race was pretty awesome to watch. I’ve been reading these guys’ names in results on for years so watching them race past me was somewhat surreal. One other really cool bit was watching a friend of mine (and multi-time state cyclocross champion) from Champaign, Jason Rassi, who saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and registered to race against the top pros.

Teal Stetson-Lee takes the win

Women’s winner Teal Stetson-Lee emerges from beneath the flyover

Jeremy Powers takes the win

Men’s winner Jeremy Powers

Todd Wells finishes 5th

Current US Pro champion Todd Wells

Jonathan Page bunny hops the barriers as Ben Berden runs

Former world championship silver medalist Jonathan Page bunny hopping the barriers

Chase group climbs the flyover near rowdy fans

Rowdy fans cheering riders running up the flyover

Jeremy Powers

On top of the flyover

Jeremy Powers leads down the flyover

Down the flyover

Chasers climb the steps

Up the steps

Men’s single speed race winner Craig Etheridge runs up the steps in slow motion

Jason Rassi

Jason working hard

Jason Rassi finishes 17th

Jason finished 17th

It was a heck of an event to watch. The top pros are so strong and so skillful at this difficult discipline, I was in total awe.

Freedom Day

I ran the Freedom 5K this morning at 11am. It was 90˚ and sunny, very undesirable conditions for a short, fast, violent effort. On top of that my legs weren’t moving quite right after 75 miles of cycling yesterday. Yeah, that was a bad idea.

Are we having fun yet?

For some reason this race has way more competition than all the other local 5K races. All the area high school runners show up, which is not typical. This means about 20 runners will finish under 18:00, whereas a typical local race will have 2-5 runners that fast. Of course, the race started super fast. I was well off the leaders’ pace and I still passed the 1-mile mark in 5:32. Ugh, too fast.


It was blazingly hot and I started to fade. My second mile was slower, and my third mile was even slower. I finished around 20th place or so. The clock read 17:55, though my watch read 18:09, a substantially larger discrepancy than usual. Other runners mentioned the same thing. I wonder what the official time will be… The race went okay, considering the horrible weather.

After the race I quickly changed gears and got the family ready to ride Big Red in the parade. Each year the Champaign County Bikes advocacy group invites members to ride in the parade. We’ve done this a few times before. This would be Will‘s first parade.


Ready for the parade


Two sweaty guys

Again, it was blazingly hot. We stood around in the staging area for a little before finding a tree to rest under for a few minutes. Just minutes before we were to start the parade the rain began to pour. Everyone else ran for cover, but I relished the welcome relief from the heat. I was soaking wet and it was the best I had felt all day. The rain slowed to a drizzle as we began on wet streets. A few blocks into the parade it stopped. By the end the roads were dry.

Parade start

Parade start


Champaign County Bikes in the parade

On the back of the tandem

Melissa’s view never changes

Gary rides the “Jazz-cycle”

Parade Ragfields

Team Ragfield in parade mode

Finally, after the parade Will took his first swim in his new pool.


Good times were had by all. We’re not watching fireworks right now. The boy’s asleep and we’re exhausted, so that’s probably a good thing.

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.

Urbana Grand Prix

Starting line

The weekend of racing concluded on Sunday with the Urbana Grand Prix, another criterium, this time in downtown Urbana. The course was shorter than Saturday’s course and it was actually modified at the last minute to include a 180˚ turn (the course was shaped like the letter “b”). This would be tricky to navigate.

Frenchy in the 180˚

Mark rounds the 180˚ turn in the cat 3 race

Slow motion video of 180˚ turn in cat 3 race

Another situation to deal with was the heat. It was unseasonably hot at 80˚ on Saturday, while on Sunday it was even hotter at 90˚. With two hard races in my legs the day before, this race had disaster written all over it.



Alexei & Luke

Alexei & Luke

Fortunately, I had a few things in my favor. Despite the previous day’s efforts I felt somewhat fresh. Also, Sunday’s race was cat 4 instead of cat 3-4 like the previous day. I would not be up against many of the fastest riders from yesterday’s race. Also the field was smaller, so it wouldn’t be quite so crowded in the corners.

Despite my best effort to start a little farther up the field I ended up about 3/4 of the way back at the first turn and I gradually drifted backward from there. I wasn’t off the back yet, but I was dangling there pretty quickly. The first four turns each loop went fairly well, but the 180˚ was a killer. The group accelerated really hard out of that turn, and at the back this effort was even further exaggerated for me. I would slip off the back, chase for 2/3 lap, catch back on just before the 180˚, the slip of the back again.

I wasted a lot of energy this way, but I hadn’t completely popped yet. A dozen or so short laps into the race a guy crashed in front of me in the 180˚, forcing me to swing wide and nearly come to a stop. At that point I had no chance of catching back up, but I hammered on. I chased solo for a few laps, then I started working with another rider, then another. We would catch up to another dropped rider around the time someone from my group would slip off the back. I spent the rest of the race in a pack of 2-5 riders. I think I was taking longer pulls than the others, but I didn’t really mind. At that point I was in it for the workout and the race experience. I wasn’t going to finish high up in the standings.


Rob chasing alone

Rob & Erik

Rob chasing with Erik

Chase pack

Chase group. It’s kind of funny how my face never changes.

Before too long we got lapped by the field. Not too long after that we got lapped a second time by the lead breakaway of two riders, including my teammate Jason (2nd in the cat 4-5 race the previous day). He looked very strong. He pulled away from the other guy and went off on his own. It was the last lap before the rest of the field lapped us the second time, apparently the other Wild Card riders did a good job at disrupting the chase, bettering Jason’s chance of staying away. He won by a sizable margin. Three other Wild Card’s finished 4, 6, & 7. I ended up 21. Of the 10 or so criteriums I’ve raced, I only managed to finish with the lead group once. This type of racing does not suit me… but I feel a lot better about it now than I did one week ago.

Razzle Dazzle

Jason finished 1st in the cat 4 race

Later in the day was the cat 3 race, featuring Wild Cards Mark & Nick. Both were active in breakaways early on, but eventually fell off the pace and both dropped out.

Frenchy working hard


Nick out of the 180˚


Hot day

The heat was brutal

The cat 3 race had a photo finish, which I captured with the high speed camera. I guess this wasn’t a great angle because I still can’t tell who won. The judges awarded the victory to the rider nearest to my camera (in the orange).

Thanks to Melissa for the photos of the cat 4 race.

Robot 1-X

Six weeks ago Apple announced the iPad, a portable touch screen computer. It runs the same operating system and application software as the tremendously successful iPhone and iPod Touch devices, but it has a larger screen and faster processor. A lot of geeks panned it as just a big iPod Touch. Sure, an iPad is just a big iPod Touch in the same way a swimming pool is just a big bathtub.

The geeks didn’t get it. I got it, but that’s because I had actually used one. This device doesn’t do everything a geek would want to do with a computer, but it does everything a non-geek would want to do on a computer. And it does so in an easily understandable way, without software installation/configuration headaches, viruses, malware, etc. In other words, it’s not targeted at the geeks, it’s targeted at everyone except the geeks.

I love my new toy

Work has been ridiculously busy the last six weeks. I’ve been laboring, around the clock at times, to enhance my company’s iPhone app (WolframAlpha) to work as well as possible on an iPad. About halfway through that time we hired another employee to help with this project (and future projects). It was a little slow at first, as I had to spend some valuable time actually training the new guy. By the end he was working productively and actually made significant contributions to the project. We ended up with an app that works pretty well.

WolframAlpha on iPad

When the app was initially launched last October it was priced at a premium, $50. I only found out about this price literally minutes before the app went on sale. I was a bit upset. I figured nobody would buy it and all my hard work would have been wasted. I was wrong. It sold remarkably well (close to 10,000 copies), which completely blew away my meager expectations. It was a lot, and the company made money on the app, but the app wasn’t serving the exact purpose they wanted.

A few days ago the company announced a radical shift in the direction of the project. Instead of making money on the app directly they wanted to get more people using the service. Presumably they’re making money somewhere else. I don’t know about these things, I just write the code. Anyway, as of a few days ago the new price of the app is $2. It runs on both iPhones and iPads. Within hours of the announcement (humorously made on April 1st), the WolframAlpha iPhone app became the top selling application in the entire iTunes app store. A few hours later it became the top grossing app (total money earned) in the iTunes app store. It stayed at the top of the charts for a couple days. As of right now it’s still near the top, at #12. In other words, the response has been incredible.

On top of the tremendous success of the WolframAlpha app, I was somewhat involved in another side project. My boss, Theodore Gray, collects chemical element samples, photographs them, and writes books about them. Theo saw the potential of the iPad as the killer electronic book platform and put a huge effort into making a really amazing eBook: The Elements. The text and photos are largely the same as the printed edition of the book, but the images are not static, they are interactive, animated, and rotatable with the touch of a finger. It’s hard to describe, you really just have to see it.

Anyway, in addition to giving advice and answering technical questions, I worked to create an embedded version of the WolframAlpha app that pops up from within The Elements app.

It would be nice if that was the end of the story, but there is still much work to do, features to add, problems to fix. Hopefully the hours will be a little more sensible for the foreseeable future.

Robot 1-X is a character from Futurama. It is the new model of robot that immediately made all other robots obsolete.

The Chia Gel

Iskiate is a refreshing energy gel consumed by the Tarahumara (running people) indigenous population in Mexico, and the Aztecs before them. I was fascinated by the description of this chia seed gel from the book Born To Run:

Months later, I’d learn that iskiate is otherwise known as chia fresca–“chilly chia.” It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime

As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3S, omega-6S, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants. If you had to pick just one desert-island food, you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease; after a few months on the chia diet, you could probably swim home.

Okay, so there’s probably a bit of hyperbole in there, but nonetheless, I had to try some. Local health food stores like Strawberry Fields and Common Ground Food Coop sell chia seeds (at a hefty price), and they’re also available on the internet for a little bit cheaper. The good thing is that a small quantity of seeds goes a long way.

I turned to the internet to figure out how to make it and found the results quite lacking. I ended up using the basic directions on the chia seed packaging I got from TheRawFoodWorld (chia and water only). Then I added sugar and lemon or lime to my liking. Here’s a brief instructional video I made.

I tried adding the sugar and lemon/lime both before and after the chia seeds. I think it works a little better adding the chia seeds before the sugar and lemon/lime. I’ve tried both lemon juice and lime juice for flavoring, and I prefer lemon.

I eat the gel sometimes with breakfast, and I’ve been eating it from a gel flask during my long weekend trail runs for about 6-8 weeks or so. I’m not sure it’s a perfect replacement for traditional energy gels (like Hammer gel), but it’s a very good compliment. I’ve really enjoyed my homemade chia gel during my long runs. It’s a lot easier on my stomach than Hammer gel.

The Most Adorable Fit I’ve Ever Seen

Last night was the neighborhood holiday party. We dressed Will up in the Santa outfit Uncle Brad gave him. Shortly thereafter he threw a little fit that, in that particular outfit, was rather adorable. I couldn’t help but to preserve the moment.

Anyway the holiday party was a success. Will received a great deal of attention from the mostly-grandparent-aged crowd. We left just a couple of songs into the singalong so we could get Will home to bed, but we were there long enough for everyone to enjoy themselves.

The Gift of Brownies

Simpsons episode CABF14, Trilogy of Error:
Homer: Oooo! Can I have a brownie?
Marge: They’re for after dinner.
Homer: Oooo! Can I have dinner?

I am a brownie fiend. You all know it. I was fortunate to receive a very unique gift for my birthday a couple weeks ago, a gift certificate to an online gourmet brownie store (Vermont Brownie Company). I ordered a box of their Signature Brownies and a box of Peanut Butter Brownies.

Internet brownies

Oh. My. Goodness. Are they ever delicious.


The first couple I ate cold, directly from the fridge, and they were good. But then I started to microwave them for 25-30 seconds, which is so much better.

Anyway, I love the brownies. Thanks so much to Michelle, Mark, & Logan!