A New Garmin 620 Watch And A Pair Of Shoes

My Favorite New Shoes Are The New Balance 1010RD

My Favorite New Shoes Are The New Balance 1010RD

I’ve made two equipment upgrades that have been worthwhile enough to mention. Next to my garage door sits a shoe rack with about 6 different pair of running shoes. I have shoes best left for muddy runs, rocky trails, a pair waiting for a marathon, one for the summer when I can smell the oak leaves roasting in the warm sun, another when a soft ride is important and the rest are my grab ‘em and go pairs. I’m trying to simplify my shoe collection and get down to one or two that I can take with me and wear no matter what. Something light, that can be worn with or without socks and can be used on the trails or pavement. And I think I might be down to a single solution. The New Balance 1010RD is my new favorite running shoe.

I’m surprised because I wasn’t a big follower of the minimalist running movement. This shoe is not a “barefoot” style shoe but it does have only a 4 MM drop. Yet there is some bounce in the shoe and it is light, incredibly comfortable without (and with) socks and feels great on both the trail and pavement. I’m not sure how they would feel for 26.2 miles on the road but so far they feel great after a some runs of 7 to 8 miles.

I picked a pair up for $40 from the New Balance Outlet store and already have stashed a couple extra pairs away.

My other upgrade is a new watch. I’ve been trying out the new Garmin 620 watch and this will be my new watch. I had been eyeing the new Garmin 220 and 620 when they were announced last October but thought I’d be frustrated with only half the battery life of my 310XT (rated at about 20 hours per charge). Both the 220 and 620 claim about 10 hours of battery life when recording. But I’ve been more and more frustrated with 310XT ANT syncing and having to carry 2 watches: a daily watch to tell the time and then a “running/GPS” watch. However when I really thought about it, I realized I don’t need more than 10 hours of recording. 90% of my runs are about an hour and so I stopped worrying about having enough battery life for the exception. If the need arises where I might require up to 20 hours of recording, then I can pull out the 310XT or I’m sure Garmin will soon release an 910 upgrade.

After using the new 620 for about a week, I’m sold on this watch. For one, I’m down to a single watch. No more wearing a watch during the day and then switching to a different running GPS watch. The 620 is both a watch and GPS tracker. It doesn’t stand out or draw attention like some of the other tracking watches. And when it is not in recording mode, the battery lasts days. So within a few minutes after a run, it goes into a low power mode and only displays the date/time. Then the next time I head out for a run, I resume from the lower power mode and start recording. I was able to go 5 days between charges using it as a watch and during those 5 days I recorded about an hour run each day.

For me, the main reason for going with the 620 over the 220 was the built-in wifi on the 620. Being able to walk in the door and have the watch upload via my wifi without requiring an ANT+ connection has simplified the process. Also firmware updates are automatically downloaded. This is a natural evolution of the Garmin watches and I’m not sure why it took so long to integrate wifi. It’s too bad the 220 doesn’t offer the wifi or that would be a terrific deal. The extra $200 for wifi can be hard to justify.

The 620 has other upgrades too and if you are a data junky they might be more important to you. Along with the new heart rate monitor, the watch measures V02 Max, cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. After a week of normal running, my cadence is about 167 steps per minute, about 10.5 centimeters vertical oscillation and around 225 milliseconds ground contact time. Both the vertical oscillation and ground contact time are only measured when wearing the new heart rate monitor. And at the end of each run when wearing the heart rate monitor, the watch will perform a V02 max calculation. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but it has calculated mine at 57. The watch also includes a race predictor to predict your finishing times from distances from a 5K to a marathon. No 100 miler predictor yet for you ultra runners.

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I’m pretty sure I couldn’t run a 2:53 marathon right now, but the encouraging prediction is impressive and provides some hope. My Garmin Connect page updated with more data points when it detected the new watch. I was curious if Strava would incorporate any of the new watch features. I uploaded an activity to Strava and it looked the same to me as if I had used the 310XT.

Overall, I’d give the 620 two thumbs up and would recommend it. If you are out running 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, you might need to wait for the 910XT upgrade. For me, I’m more than happy I made the switch. The extra data isn’t that important to me but having wifi is a game changer.

The Path to Ironman Lake Tahoe

Swim Start of Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

Swim Start of Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013

The last race is often the hardest and toughest. The pain is fresh and the wounds still open. But give it time to settle, let the bruised spirit heal and the pain will soon fade. The day will eventually find its resting spot along with a list of other distant races, all tagged with a lasting epitaph to eternalize the hard fought battles won and lost. “Here Lies IMLT 2013…”

The path I followed to the Ironman Lake Tahoe race proved to be the right one for me. 11 hours was the mark I had somehow set in my head (1:20 swim, 5:50 bike and a 3:40 run with 10 minutes of transitions). I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I would be very happy with 11 hours. That was it. It seemed doable. Sure, faster would be better, but I knew better than to set unrealistic expectations. I decided early on that I wouldn’t be upset with any result as long as I worked hard throughout the day, had a good time and kept life and the race in perspective. Complacent? Apathetic? No. Just had to keep my priorities in check.

About a month and a half out from the race, my training was pretty limited. In fact there was no regular training except my evening runs. I was running about 40-45 miles a week and that was it. Plus I rode my bike about once a week for an hour. I was/am nowhere near any peak performance level. However, to survive the Ironman distance, I knew that I needed to increase my training effort. Luckily, my buddy Bob Shebest, a certified triathlon coach, called me and said he was going to work with me. We talked it over and I said I could commit to about 10 hours a week. Miracously, he devised a 6-7 week training plan, with long rides on Saturday and long runs on Sunday. This was the exact opposite of what I would have planned as I would have preferred to run on fresh legs on Saturday and recover on the bike on Sunday. Yet his reason of riding then running was to replicate race conditions. Once he explained it, the light went on.

Having someone plan my training helped settle any anxiety. I’d get a list of the workouts at the beginning of the week: always 6 days with one complete rest day. Weekdays were light with the longest weekday workout being a 90 minute ride on Wednesday evenings. Saturdays and Sundays seemed to be the bulk of the long riding and running efforts. For the most part I was able to stick with the plan but missed a few sessions here and there. Sometimes I would come home from a ride and grab Dylan for a 30 minute run. I only rode and ran the first 3 weeks, and then Bob started throwing in the swim sessions. Like a good coach, he started pestering: “How about a swim session this week?” “Any chance of running or biking to the lake then cooling off with a swim?” “You really need to swim!” Finally, with about 3 weeks to go, I hit Lake Clementine and Folsom Lake after work.

Week Bike Miles Bike Hours Run Miles Run Hours Swim Yards Swim Hours Total Hours
1 63.0 3:12 43.5 5:32 8:44
2 117.2 6:42 46.6 5:43 12:25
3 108.0 6:03 43.3 5:37 11:40
4 71.8 3:45 46.2 5:38 9:23
5 110.1 5:38 28.1 3:33 9:11
6 83.7 4:30 39.1 5:07 1778.6 0:51 10.28
7 112.8 5:57 30.5 3:53 2356.9 0:53 10:43
8 51.3 2:37 8.2 0:58 0:30 4:05

Lee McKinley and I were able to ride together twice during this period. We rode one lap of the course on one weekend, and 3 weeks out rode two laps (both times we skipped the Martis section), followed by a 12 mile run on the marathon course. I always enjoy the time Lee and I are able to train together and when he started to pull away from me on our last training climb up Brockway, it was obvious he was ready. That was pretty much it. We were also dealing with smoke for a few weeks from some California wildfires so there were days that I skipped as it was just too unhealthy and risky. For the most part I kept it simple. Not that it was easy. Wednesday rides finished in the dark. Instead of doing something fun Friday after work, I would spend an hour or two on the bike then meet Nicole and Dylan for dinner. And most rides concluded with a short run, which kept reminding the legs to expect to do some running after riding. I also paced the 3:15 group at the Santa Rosa Marathon in August, which fit right into the training schedule and load. However, I felt pretty lucky to have to put in only 6 weeks of dedicated training.

Everybody has their own approach to preparation. I knew Ironman Lake Tahoe was not going to be easy. I was racing against myself and the course. I wasn’t racing anyone else. Success would equal a satisfying effort and a time of around 11 hours. It could be lesson for my son about working hard and not giving up, but let’s face it, at the end of the day his concerns are Legos and The Wild Kratts. There’s a large gap between something like an Ironman and a 5 year old. And that’s the way we prefer it.

I took Friday off work and we went up to Truckee on Thursday night. Friday morning I drove to King’s Beach for a 30 minute swim to test the wetsuit and goggles. I knew I was in trouble when I was walking past the TYR tent on the beach and this guys says, “Hey man! You can’t swim in that surfing wetsuit. Do yourself a favor and try one of these on.” He starts pointing out all the things that are wrong with my equipment. I’m immediately out of my element. You mean there are swimming wetsuits? One of the things about triathlon is how easy it is to become consumed in the triathlon world. Before you know it, the unimportant becomes very important even though it’s not that important at all.

Friday's morning swim in Lake Tahoe

Friday’s morning swim in Lake Tahoe

After 5 minutes, I thank him for his wisdom and ask if the white buoys running out from the beach mark the swim course.

“White buoys?” he asks.

“Yea, the white buoys out there.” I say, squinting and pointing.

“White buoys… You mean those seagulls?” he asks.

I really can’t believe there are seagulls evenly spaced about 100 yards lined up in the water, but it’s an argument I cannot win. I check his table, find a new pair of goggles and quickly get on my way. Still worked up about why I should spend $1000 on a wetsuit, my heart rate immediately spikes as I start to swim. “Don’t panic” I remind myself and settle into a comfortable swim/float. within a few seconds I’m abrutly overtaken by a couple other racers and they literally are going twice as fast and carrying-on a conversation while swimming. Oh how I cannot stand the swim!

Friday was a beautiful day.

Then we woke up Saturday for the kids race. Dylan was full of nerves and didn’t want to do it. But he overcame his butterflies and we ran the course together. We were about halfway through the race, just after we passed Sharon McNary, and Dylan turns and looks up at me. His cheeks burning red. He says, “Oh, it’s starting to get hard now!” I think that is one of the moments that will stick with me. And I love it.

Dylan starting to feel the burn

Dylan starting to feel the burn

But a few minutes later, he could hear the finish line and the music and he took off. He pumped his arms high in the air when he crossed the finish line and was so proud to claim his finisher’s medal.

A sprint finish

A sprint finish

Not too soon afterwards the winds started to howl, the rain began falling and the temperature started dropping. By late afternoon, about 12 hours prior to the start, it was snowing. I didn’t quite know what to think. But for me, I’d rather deal with the cold than the heat.

A Few Inches Of Snow 12 Hours Before The Start

A Few Inches Of Snow 12 Hours Before The Start

Thankfully, when we woke up on Sunday morning, the skies and roads were clear. The start couldn’t have been a more picturesque setting with the lake surrounded by snow capped mountains.

Of the events, it’s obvious the swim is my weakest and least favorite. But as luck would have it, the day before the race I decided to rent a full length wetsuit instead of risk turning into an ice block standing in the sand at the start. I drag myself through the water. Others have a nice effortless stroke. I paddle. My lower half constantly sinks to the bottom. And I zigzag. For the life of me, I cannot maintain a straight line. I zigzagged so much along the 2.4 mile swim course, my Garmin reported I swam 4.2 miles of the 2.4 mile course. I know the Garmin is not as accurate in the water but 4.2 miles is not even close. The wetsuit seemed to help and propelled me to a swim time of 1:15. Believe it or not, I managed to survive the swim.

Some of the swim leaders

Some of the swim leaders

I stumbled out of the water onto the shore. I caught a glimpse of Nicole and Dylan on the shore as I headed in to T1. There is no other way to explain T1 other than complete chaos and pandemonium. Hundreds of athletes were attempting to squeeze into a tent intended for about 50 people. I tried to wiggle my way in but realized it was impossible. I found an empty spot on top of a pile of bags. With bare butts to my left and right, I just wanted to get out as soon as possible. I had one sock and one glove and a shirt sitting in a puddle. I pulled up my shorts, grabbed the rest of my gear and bag and did the rest of my changing outside. It took me 15 minutes to get out of T1. I think that was better than the average. I jumped on my bike, seat still covered in the morning ice and headed out. Heated seats on bikes? There might be a market…

Enough cannot be said about the views while cycling along Lake Tahoe in the morning with the sun coming up. Cold? Yes. But beautiful. My brand new Profile Aero HC system came flying off after about 5 miles during a little bumpy section. I handed the pieces to a volunteer and moved on with one water bottle. I saw Dave Campbell riding between Tahoe City and Squaw and gave him a “Looking good Dave!”

Martis Climb

Martis Climb

I tried to take it easy on the first lap and maintain a reasonable effort. Nicole, Dylan and Troy greeted me in the middle of the Martis climb. I hadn’t ridden that section of the course and was surprised how scenic that area is. Near the end of the first lap, I glanced down at my watch for the first time and saw my lap was over 2 hours and 30 minutes. Ouch!

Moving Through Truckee

Moving Through Truckee

The two laps went by relatively fast and without any issues. A couple stops here and there to fill up and then empty. By the second round of climbing, my legs had just about enough. I could tell the run was going to be a kicker and the climbing was taking a toll on my knees. Kevin Buchholz surprised me at the top of Brockway. Before I knew it, the last of the major climbs was over. I couldn’t have been happier riding into Squaw, mentally preparing for the marathon and giving hugs and kisses to Nicole and Dylan at T2. Time on the bike: 6:06.

Grinding. Slowly chipping away, one mile at a time. That sums up my run. I felt I was barely moving along the Truckee River, but somehow I continued to overtake one runner after another. Just after mile 8, I spotted Lee coming the other way which meant he had about a 2 mile lead. A man on a mission. His eyes were focused straight ahead and full of determination. We exchanged our “Keep it going!” and he was gone. A few minutes later, Deirdre Greenholz gave me a big boost of energy at the turnaround point. And then on the return to Squaw I spotted Robin and Dave. How fun to see so many friends on the course, whether competing, cheering or volunteering.

Heading out for the marathon

Heading out for the marathon

Around mile 14 was the lowest point of the run for me. This happened to be the point when the song Royals by Lorde became stuck in my head. I stopped at an aid station, bent over for a minute and recovered with some chicken broth and pretzels. The chicken broth immediately raised my energy.

Soon I saw Bob giving me the finger (a big giant foam finger) as I headed back to Squaw. You know the pain of the final 6 miles of the marathon. Everything hurts. But the pain is par for the course. And pretty soon it’s only a mile to go. Then I see Jody Stange right before the finish area and a couple minutes it’s over. 11 hours and 22 minutes total and a 3:42 marathon. I’m satisfied. I finally have a few minutes to connect with Nicole and Dylan and my body goes into shutdown mode.

Spent

Spent

I’ve always thought Lake Tahoe would be an ideal venue for this type of event and it did not disappoint. I’m grateful for all the help along the way. The past 7 weeks, Nicole and Dylan have been very flexible and supportive of evening and weekend training sessions. I’m guilty for taking time away from other things to follow this Ironman path. Enough cannot be said about the incredible volunteers from start to finish (like Sharon). I’ve never experienced such a supportive event.

Compared to some ultras, this seemed like a cakewalk. It wasn’t like you had to run to the next aid station that was 10 miles over some 9,000′ mountain peak. Literally, you just had to run 1 mile at a time. Breaking it down into 1 mile increments made it so much more manageable. Hard? Yes. But nobody should have been expecting it to be easy. An Ironman in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is going to be challenging.

Congrats to friends Lee McKinley (qualified for Kona), Sara McKinley, Robin Soares, Dave Campbell, Karyn Hoffman and Layne Scoggins for having great races and making it to the end of their paths too.

The Accidental Ironman

2 x 10 Workout At Donner Lake

2 x 10 Workout At Donner Lake

When Ironman Lake Tahoe was announced last year, I immediately passed. I knew that committing to the Ironman distance would likely put life completely out of balance. Too much training. Too much stressing over when and where I would finish. Then a couple hours later, I began to imagine being out there on the course and being in the race instead of just watching the race. It took about 1 hour after completing the online registration page to enventually hit the “Register” button, but I finally committed to another Ironman distance race. Registering proved to be a bittersweet moment.

Fast forward nearly 10 months later, and the competitive fire I thought would be burning by now has yet to be ignited. When I look inside myself, there’s nothing about the race that excites me. I’m having a hard time justifying spending hour upon hour training and taking my weekends away from time with Nicole and Dylan. Work already consumes about 50 hours a week. I try to get out for about 40-60 minutes of running 6 days a week. This gives me time to decompress from work and once or twice a week Dylan will join me on his bike (he’s great for about 5 miles at a 7:30 pace). And more than once as I’ve been lacing up the shoes for a brisk paced run, he’s asked to join me. And anytime he asks to go I always will choose a slower workout together over a workout alone. Any time a child is asking to become involved, it’s an opportunity to engage that child in the activity instead of leaving them on the sidelines. I have some great memories of us strolling down some dirt trail.

So two months before race day, I realized I needed to do some sort of focused training. My running endurance needs to increase to the marathon level and I need to spend time on the bike. I used to be able to ride about 50 minutes once or twice a week during lunch. This year I’ve been luckily to ride once a week on Fridays. My training for the Devil Mountain Double was one 80 mile ride and a couple of 50 mile rides. I try to avoid talking about how many miles I can train as it is somewhat similar to discussing money and how much one banks. “Hey everybody, I just deposited my paycheck this week and it was …” For the most part, it does not interest me, except I realize there’s a minimum amount needed for completing Ironman and not imploding. Without going crazy, my plan is to increase the training to:

July

  • Running 50 miles a week with working up to 18 mile long runs
  • Biking up to 100 miles a week with 2-3 rides a week, with working up to 50 mile long rides

August

  • Running 60 miles a week with working up to marathon distance
  • Biking up to 150 miles a week with working up to 80 mile long rides

Honestly, this is the best case scenario. Most days, by the time I am done with work I am more in survival mode than training mode. I have no real expectations on finish times. I simply want to have a good experience and work through the challenges of the day. I love the venue of Ironman Lake Tahoe and am sure there will be some competive juices bubbling up during the race.

July is coming together close to the plan. Last weekend, I was able to get my longest run of the year while pacing Bob Shebest to his Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Run victory. Bob had run the race twice before and his third attempt was masterful.

Running that trail also provides some special memories. Views are spectacular. The section along the Snow Valley ridge at 9,000 feet under the stars is a favorite. And Bob didn’t fail to deliver an epic performance. He finished about 2 hours ahead of 2nd place and never let up one bit the last 80 miles.

Bob is also a student of the sport and loves to share his experience and what helps him succeed. If you want to know the secret to winning the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile race, check out his blog:http://smoothflow.org/2013/07/25/2013-tahoe-rim-trail-100/

Before I know it, this too shall pass.

Red Flag, Jets and Jail

B2 Coming In For A Landing

B2 Coming In For A Landing 

We made our 2nd annual trip to Las Vegas where Nicole attended the International Wedding & Portrait Photography Conference. I’m not a big fan of Vegas and wanted to avoid wandering up and down the strip for the six days we’d be there. A week before the trip, Dylan broke his right wrist skiing so our physical activities were somewhat limited (no mountain biking in the desert or tennis with Andre Agassi). A couple of nights before we left, I googled local activities and news stories and came across an article warning local residents about increased noise levels due to activity at Nellis Air Force Base, a large base on the north side of Las Vegas. A little reading revealed that “Red Flag” was just beginning at Nellis and we would be there right in the middle of it. “Red Flag” is a massive air combat exercise with all types of helicopters, jets and other planes that lasts about 2 weeks. Think of something like Top Gun school with not only United States military aircraft but also aircraft from other allied countries. It’s not a public airshow that provides grandstands for seating. There’s no ticket to purchase. You just need to find a good spot close to the base to park the car and catch of glimpse of the takeoffs and landings.

The Nellis website warned increased flights between noon and 5 PM. So on Sunday, Dylan and I drove out to watch the activity. I’d read that the best place to watch was across the street from the base at one of the entrances to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Big mistake! My googling failed to warn me of the NASCAR race also taking place on Sunday. About 5 miles from the base, we were stuck in traffic that was not moving. I soon realized we were part of a massive stream of cars heading towards the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its 130,000+ seats. Red Flag was under the radar but NASCAR on Sunday appears to be popular. It was clear we were not going to be able to use the Vegas Speedway as a viewing area or even park anywhere close. So we turned around with plans to return on Monday.

Our morning routine was dropping Nicole off at the MGM and then heading over to Einstein Bros. for some bagels and coffee. Usually, the morning commercial air traffic brought the jets right over our heads as they landed at the Las Vegas airport directly across the street from our breakfast. It was during these morning breakfasts that Dylan decided he wants to be a pilot.

Breakfast Under The Jets

Breakfast Under The Jets

Luckily on Monday there was no traffic and we pulled into the empty Vegas Speedway parking lot at 11:45 AM. There was one other guy sitting in a parked car but that was it. So we sat and waited. And waited. About 45 minutes later, two F-35 jets came flying in but at the complete opposite end of the base. We were sitting at the wrong end of the runway! We jumped in the car and raced about 5 miles to the other side of the base in hopes of seeing other jets landing. That proved to be the wrong decision. It took us 20 minutes to navigate to the other end of the base. And as soon as we arrived we heard the unmistakable roar of fighter jets at the other end, the end we just left. We made another U-turn and decided to head back to the Vegas Speedway end and stay put. At around 1:30 PM, we started seeing Blackhawk helicopters flying overhead.

Black Hawk Helicopter

Blackhawk Helicopter

Then the Thunderbirds did a fly-by and some of the bigger support aircraft started to take off. Since it takes the larger planes longer to fly to the warzone, the support aircraft leave first. We also saw fueling tankers so the fighter jets could refuel in the air over the desert without having to return to base.

Command Control

Command Control

Around this time, a couple of vans pulled off the road next to us and about 2 dozen photographers unloaded. We started chatting and learned they were a group from Europe that had come all the way to Las Vegas this week to watch and photograph the aircraft. Around 2 PM, the fighter jets and B2 bombers started taking off. Each B2, which looked like a UFO when their landing gear was up, is estimated to cost about 1 billion dollars. The roar of the engines was loud even from where we stood. Probably around 30 jets blasted off including what looked like some Raptors. We had a great time enjoying the sites and sounds.

Doubtful This Jet Would Pass California Emissions

Doubtful This Jet Would Pass California Emissions

Around 2:30 we had seen and heard enough and were getting hungry so we gave a thunderous round of applause and headed back toward The Strip. It appeared most of the activity took place between 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM so keep that in mind if you want to watch the aircraft.

Later that night, we saw Recycled Percussion, a group of drummers that can play a beat on almost anything (ladders, paint cans, their own bodies and even upside down drums hanging from the ceiling). The worst part of the evening was the 20 minutes leading up to the show. As we entered the auditorium, every member of the audience was handed a pot or pan and a drumstick to use during the performance. You can imagine the noise a couple hundred people (adults and kids) can generate banging on pots and pans waiting for a show to start. A minute before the show started, one of the ushers asked if Dylan and I wanted to move from the rear to the front. Sure! And so she moved us to the very first two seats at the center of the stage. It was a fun show and we got a kick out of the “Random Cookie Break” when right during the middle of an act, “Random Cookie Break!” flashed on the screen and all the band members stopped playing and immediately started passing out freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to the entire audience.

Recycled Percussion Redefines Convertible

Recycled Percussion Redefines Convertible

Near the end of the show one of the drummers asked Dylan to go up on stage for one of the acts. With the spotlight on him, Dylan froze and wouldn’t stop shaking his head, a clear indication he had no interest to be on stage. Eventually when they realized even bribes were not going to do the trick, they said Dad would need to take his place. I didn’t get to play any drums but did win us a bag of M&M’s.

Tuesday, I had planned to drive to Indian Wells to watch some of the pro tennis matches with Dylan, but another 9 hours in the car didn’t sound too appealing so we opted for a UNLV basketball game. Our tickets got us into 2 afternoon games: Air Force vs. UNLV and then New Mexico vs. Colorado State. By the end of the first game (a blowout by UNLV), all that was on Dylan’s mind was the swimming pool back at the Excalibur. Unfortunately, we skipped watching my alma mater: Colorado State.

Air Force vs. UNLV

Air Force vs. UNLV

On Wednesday we wandered the shopping areas then all of us (Nicole too), went to see Penn and Teller. We enjoyed the show but thought they would reveal how each magic trick was performed. They only explained one trick yet kept reiterating there is nothing magical about magic. Much of it was part comedy and part magic. During the “Cut the Woman in Half” trick, we kept reassuring our wide-eyed 5 year old that it was not real.

After returning home from Vegas, it was only a few days before I left again for New York. I had a work trip to visit a new customer and that took me to the jail on Rikers Island. I only had to spend a few days in New York and it proved my most interesting business trip yet. Two days were spent on Rikers Island. Cell phones are not allowed so I don’t have any pictures to share. However, even without a camera, the images will be hard to forget. Passing through multiple security checkpoints. Walking the corridors between the blue painted lines on the floor while the inmates stood against the wall. Observing how the pharmacy dispenses and inmates receive their medications. Hearing the shouting matching between inmates and officers. And taking a look at the “Wall of Shame” that displays recently confiscated weapons found in the jail. The trip could not have been less interesting. Even the hotel room (of a certain size when the room door bangs into the bed when you open it) across the street from the Queensboro Plaza subway station was something to remember. The trip was one of those that cannot be replaced by WebEx and conference calls. Their needs are not all that much different than a normal behavioral health institution but the terminology and workflow is different enough that you have to see it to fully understand it. Just when work appears to be getting a little mundane, things get real interesting.

Lance Armstrong And How To Measure A Man

“The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he would never be caught.” – Lord Kelvin

Yes, I watched most of the Oprah and Lance Armstrong interview and here are my thoughts. A few years ago, I had already realized he was not the man most of us thought he was. From the gaps in the book “Lance Armstrong’s War” and then after reading “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports”, it became clear as to how far some of our heroes go to reach and stay at the top. I was a big Lance fan. Like so many others, it was inspiring to watch him attack in the Tour de France mountain stages. He was a machine. But when I started reading the stories of how he treated other people, people like Greg LeMond, Tyler Hamilton, Frank and Betsy Andreu, Emma O’Reilly, Floyd Landis and anyone who dared to try and stand up to Lance and tell the truth, it became evident he was not a man of character and honor. Sure he was a fierce competitor, but there’s more to life than competing and winning.

What has been interesting the past few months is how we have reacted to the revelations. This has unfolded like a Greek tragedy. A champion born from nowhere. Almost killed but returns from the grave. Then dumps his wife and kids to chase movie and rock stars. He ascends the mountain again. Regains the throne and is crowned the champion. He is loved by the people and becomes a symbol of hope. An icon with hard work and determination as pillars of his success. But all the while he is hiding a secret that the success is built on cheating.

There is the camp that thinks everybody cheated and he is no worse than all the other riders. In fact, some say, he still beat them so he is the greatest cyclist. Yes, let’s still idolize him and admire his accomplishments of being the best cheater and liar among a race full of crooks. No, I don’t buy it. We were sold a bag of empty goods and some of you seem to be OK with it. There’s the argument he’s done so much good with LiveStrong. But in the end, gifts and money should not overcome our bad deeds. That is blood money. I hear that we need to focus on the good things he has done, like LiveStrong. But maybe he’s caused so much harm and vindictively ruined so many lives that in this case the bad overshadows the good. Sure, we are all flawed and none of us are perfect. But being flawed does not equal destroying lives, people’s careers and dreams.

There’s no honor in what Lance has done or is doing. We need to put honor back into sports/life and hold honesty and character as our highest values. Throughout the interview, Lance gives the impression that even the interview is a competition that he’s trying to win. Multiple times, I had the impression Lance was referring to himself in the third person. Not taking personal responsibility but referring to some character in a story and the story just got out of control.

One of the most telling parts of the interview for me was the part when Oprah asked about suing Emma O’Reilly. I failed to see any signs of him being contrite or empathetic to his victims.

Lance: “She’s one of these people that I have to, uh, apologize to…”

Oprah: “You sued her.

Lance, with a laugh and smirk: “Uh. To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people I don’t even. Uh. I’m sure we did.”

My first thoughts were, “You haven’t already apologized to her? And you honestly can’t remember?” But then I wonder if this was just another lie often heard on the witness stand: “I don’t recall.”

The one point in the interview when Lance came remotely close to looking remorseful was when he reflected on being honest with his own son. Only when Lance’s son finally saw Lance for what he is, that almost brought Lance to tears. Yet, there was no sorrow or sign of empathy about destroying Emma O’Reilly’s life or Greg LeMond’s life.

What Lance could have done was start the interview with a short message, “First Oprah, let me start by publicly saying sorry to some of the people I have hurt. I have here a list of people who have been telling the truth but I’ve been saying they’ve been lying. First I want to apologize to…”

For those who still hold Lance in high regard and consider him a great athlete, I think you have misplaced your values. This is not a person who has a place in sport or in the history books. Those we admire should be people we would aspire to become or want our friends and kids to be like. I’d rather I finished last than cheat and finish first. Even if everyone else cheated. Let’s not justify cheating and destroying other people’s lives. Two wrongs do not make a right. If we continue to applaud cheated wins, we are saying the ends justify the means. The message we seem to be giving, which seems to be the message in most sports these days, is that the cheaters are better off. The upside is you’ll have better results, more fame and probably more money than if you didn’t cheat. The downside is you may have to pay a small price. So cheat. In the end, you’ll likely come out ahead. Eventually, the fans will forgive and forget. But placement in competition should not be our most prized measurement. Honor, honesty and integrity should be our highest values. Lance continues to show he is not a man of his word. If he was sorry for what he has done, beyond the lies, then we could forgive him. But to have his back against a wall and then have such a matter-of-fact attitude like “sure I’m sorry” and “I wish I hadn’t come back” (meaning I wish I hadn’t gotten caught) and “I am flawed”. Lance we are all flawed. That’s not an apology.

Do not be blinded by the results of a crook. The results, the legacy, the image are built on lies and do not stand up.

California International Marathon: Bring Your Mask and Snorkel

Dylan waiting with Nicole at mile 13

Dylan waiting with Nicole at mile 13

Last weekend, we had the California International Marathon (and a rocking Bruce Springsteen show at Oakland). For the most part, previous years at this marathon were run in good to excellent conditions. Yes, some years had been bitterly cold with temps below freezing at the start, but nothing compared to this year. Everybody was worried about the forecasted pineapple express storm and a lot of questions at the expo centered around the weather, the rain, the wind and how much it would slow everybody down. One of the pacers had estimated the wind could require an effort of 30 seconds faster per mile. That meant if you were going to run a 3:15 marathon at about a pace of 7:30 per mile, with the forecasted headwinds, you would need to run at about a 7:00 pace effort to maintain the actual 7:30 pace. The question I received from most runners at the expo was whether they should adjust their expectations and run with a slower pace group. My answer depended. For someone running their first marathon, it might be wise to run at a slightly slower pace and not blow up trying to maintain a nearly maximum effort in difficult conditions. For those who already had some marathon experience and had spent months training for a 3:10 finish, then I encouraged them to stick with the plan. Few races are run in ideal conditions. And we still had no idea what the conditions would be like on Sunday and if the wind would be that much of a limiting factor. The optimist in me still held out hope we’d wake up to blue skies with a gentle tailwind. Why go into a race lowering your expectations and giving yourself an excuse not to perform your best? Instead, approach it with a “can do” attitude and give 100 percent. What a disappointment it would be to have trained to qualify for Boston, run the marathon with reduced expectations and miss qualifying, only to cross the finish line with a little left and knowing you could have gone faster and could have qualified.

But at 3 AM, when the wind and rain hitting our bedroom window woke me up on Sunday morning, I started to have my own doubts. This was not going to be easy. At 4:45 AM, I pulled myself out of bed and in about 15 minutes was out the door and walking over to Kayden Kelly’s house where Robin Soares was picking some of us up and driving us to the start line. I walked into Kayden’s kitchen and had to smile. Here it was pouring outside, literally filling buckets. There would be no chance of dehydrating and Kayden was filling up the biggest CamelPak I’d every seen with fluids as though we were about to embark on an unassisted 50 mile trail run in the middle of summer. Like me, maybe Kayden was still holding onto the hope of blue skies. Soon enough Robin rolled up with the minivan and we piled in and headed down to the start. We made a quick stop at Starbucks, but as we pulled in thinking they would be open at 5:30 AM, the store was dark. Then we noticed a couple of flashlights moving around inside and we realized, of course, the power was out. But the power wasn’t out as lights were on in the parking lot and other stores. Not sure what was going on but we may have surprised a couple of coffee thieves.

Robin was going to drop us off at Beale’s Point. But when she drove us to a dark parking lot and pointed to an even darker path and said the start is about 1/2 mile jog down that path, we asked if there were any other options. “Any chance of driving us right to the start?” So with the rain coming down a little harder and the wind howling, she drove us to the drop off at the start line and let us take shelter in the van until about 6:20 AM. With the wind and rain beating against the van, it was hard to find the motivation to open that door and make our way to the start. She kept the van warm and radio on long enough to drain the battery so when it was time for her to leave, her battery was drained. What a giver she is. Luckily the car next to her gave her a jump so Robin could make her own start at the second leg of the relay 6 miles away.

With only about 30 minutes to the start, normally the start line would be packed, but not this year in the rain. Most of the runners were huddled together trying to stay dry under the roofs of the gas stations. I know some people locked themselves in the porta potties until right before the start. As a pacer, we had a tent near the start line that we could stay protected from the wind and rain until about 15 minutes before the start. Then we lined up to gather and prepare our groups.

I usually start off a little slow and work into the pace intentionally. My first mile will usually fall around 7:40 to 7:45 instead of 7:15 right out the gate. But with a big headwind the first mile and not knowing what conditions would be like along the rest of the course, I told everyone I was going to stick with 7:15 right from the start. The second half can be faster than the first but with headwinds I couldn’t assume that. As I was waiting for the sound of the starting gun, I was shivering uncontrollably and already drenched to the bone. The starting gun sounded, I turned to the group and gave a half convincing “Thumbs up!”. There was no starting banner due to the winds and there would be no timing clocks along the course. When I realized we had already crossed the start line, I started my watch and could tell my Clif Bar pace tattoo was not going to last. Of all the times to try one of the Clif Bar Pace stick on tattoos, I had picked the wrong time. In only 20 minutes, the rain was already washing the ink and the splits away. The fading tattoo would prove to be a problem after mile 13.

That first mile was a little treacherous with all the debris of runners dropping garbage bags and other clothing. I’m hoping that next year the marathon encourages runners to use the drop bags instead of just discarding clothes and garbage bags on the road at the starting line. I think the rationalization runners make is the clothes are given to charity but what a mess at every marathon. It’s bad enough that there’s nearly a 26 mile trail of water cups and gels after a marathon. If it’s cold at the start, we need to put our clothes in a drop bag or hand them to a family/friend at the start. I think we can be more civilized than just dropping old clothes on the road that requires volunteers to come and pick them up and donate them. Trail races have less runners but nonetheless you never see that type of waste and garbage strung along a trail marathon course.

Right away in the first mile, the wind hit us head on. But miles 2 through 6 weren’t so bad as the wind blew more from the side. It was just wet. Miles 6 through 10 were probably the toughest with a good headwind and driving rain. Troy Soares flew past the group during this section as he was running the second leg of a 4-person relay. Around this time I also passed a guy in a mask and snorkel. He may have also been wearing a wetsuit but I can’t be sure. That was a fitting image for the day. I had a group of probably 40 runners up through the halfway point and we hit the halfway point exactly at 1:35. Nicole and Dylan waited under their umbrellas and we exchanged high-fives as we passed the halfway point. By this time my Clif Bar pace tattoo had started to wash away and the splits were nearly impossible to read. For the most part, I know we need to run about a 7:11 according to my Garmin to finish just under 3:10 at CIM. If I paced off the Garmin and ran consistent 7:15 splits (what should be a 3:10 finish time), I’d actually finish around 3:11. So I always remind the group at the start, don’t trust your Garmin because your Garmin is going to tell you are going faster than you really are. If you trust your Garmin and run at a pace which Garmin reports at 7:15, you are not going to finish in 3:10. Your Garmin is going to tell you are on pace for a 3:10 finish time, but when you see the finish line, it’s really going to say 3:11 or more because the course is measured as if you ran every corner perfectly and always in a straight line. You need to account for a slight margin of error, or understand that you are going to run more like 26.4 or so, if relying solely on a Garmin.

Miles 14 to 20 were pretty consistent but I seemed to slow ever so slightly on a few miles. I hit mile 20 and still had a good size group pushing to the finish. However, when I reached the stop of the bridge just before the mile 22 marker, I looked back and the group had suddenly disintegrated to just a few. And it was around mile 22 where I realized I needed to make up about 45 seconds. So where normally the last few miles I can put it on cruise control and nearly coast into the finish, this year I couldn’t let up for a second. I even had to slightly increase the pace without dropping the few runners hanging with me. I passed Jim and Barb Carlson working the Sutter aid station in a downpour just after mile 24 but had no time to stop and chat. At mile 25, my pace sign slipped from my hands. Criminy! I had to turn around and pick it up. Bending down I thought for sure my right quad was going to tear. My poor right quad had been complaining the entire second half and was not happy to have to stop, turn around, bend down then sprint back up. As I was shouting encouragement that last mile to the handful of runners left in the pack, I was also directing those positive thoughts to my right quad. “The finish is just around that corner! C’mon buddy just hang in there with me!”

Crossing the finish at 3:09:49, I’m not sure if I could have gone much faster those last few miles. It felt so good to put an end to this one and, although the conditions were difficult, it wasn’t that bad. (At least we didn’t have to battle mud like the North Face 50-mile racers the day before!) And on the way home, the skies cleared to usher in a nice, quiet and dry afternoon. This is a year that we’ll talk about.

Here’s my Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/248757292

What Are We Waiting For?

Morning run in San Juan

Morning run in San Juan

What would you give if near the end of life, you had the opportunity to start over? Imagine facing certain death and being given the opportunity to go back and start over with another chance. Some of us might give everything to live a second time. Yet the problem you face at the end of life is that most things have very little value. And there’s not much you really have to use for bargaining that’s going to be yours much longer. But if you metaphorically died and forced yourself to start again, would that be like getting a second chance at life? You could take everything you learned in the first act and apply it to the second act but you would start with none of the possessions you accumulated. The things you had spent a lifetime purchasing and buying would be wiped away (houses, cars, all the earthly possessions). Any job/career built would be surrendered. You would be forced to start over with the gift of having a second chance at life, a forced opportunity to remold your life. This doesn’t mean that everything in the first round was a mistake. There are some relationships that I would never trade. So let’s say things like family and friends don’t change with the restart. In the second life, you start near the beginning of the adult life with your family but no job, no possessions, no debt. The slate has been cleared. You can take a completely different path, try something new, make the decisions you wish you would have made years ago.

For the most part we live a very simple life. I’m lucky enough to have a career that allows me to work from home. My wife and I share one car. And I enjoy riding a bike around town for errands. It’s not uncommon to see my 4-year-old son and me riding our bikes around town on a late summer evening. We try to keep our expenses low and live below our means. The question that I keep coming back to is when, even when you have what you want, it’s OK to want to want something different. I’ve been struggling with this question for the past couple of years. But it’s too easy to go with the flow and make the easy choice, but probably not the best choice.

The last few months at work have been busy with adding Surescripts e-Prescribing to Ascend. e-Prescribing enables doctors to send prescriptions electronically to Ascend and the pharmacy. We’ve had this on the hospital/inpatient side for a couple of years but the retail/outpatient side is a whole new animal. A major milestone was reached this week when we finished our certification testing which had been keeping me occupied and somewhat stressed the past two weeks.

We welcomed September with our annual vacation. Our vacation this year was a return trip to Puerto Rico and a 7 day cruise through the Caribbean. Last year we did the exact same cruise and had a blast. So much that we wanted to do it again this year. We went with some friends and enjoyed it as much as last year. The highlight had to have been the last day on the cruise where we took a small boat around Saint Maarten and stopped for a couple of hours off the coast at a spot where sea turtles lay their eggs. The boat stopped just off shore and the water was about 50 feet deep and you could easily see all the way to the bottom. Large sea turtles swam everywhere and would surface for air about every 20 minutes. Nicole, Dylan and I mainly just floated along with the current for about 90 minutes, sometimes within a couple of feet of a surfacing sea turtle or passing jelly fish. The entire week was filled with terrific memories and we hope to visit the islands again.

Swimming With The Sea Turtles in Saint Maarten

Swimming With The Sea Turtles in Saint Maarten

On the running front, I’ve run a couple of marathons the past couple months, both pacing for the 3:15 time. In August, the Santa Rosa Marathon needed a pacer. Even though I grew up in Santa Rosa, I had never run the marathon and wasn’t familiar with the course (flat and fast). My weekly running has been averaging between 50 and 60 miles and it was reassuring to run the flat course with a moderate effort and have a good time pacing the 3:15 group. I spent a few miles chatting with a couple of Google employees but since my pace seems to increase when I start getting lost in a coversation, I had to limit the talk during the 2nd half. Then the St. George Marathon was last weekend with ideal conditions. When I arrived at the expo the afternoon before the marathon, I was relieved to see Chris was slotted to pace 3:05 and my picture was next to 3:15. That 10 minutes of extra time is like an eternity! We had a nice tailwind the first 6 miles but my group of 40 was down to 20 by mile 16. And I had just a few runners those last few miles. Some of the runners in the group raced on ahead between miles 18 to 20. And most of those runners didn’t end up as road kill. It was nice to see some happy faces with some new PR’s waiting at the finish. I hung around the finish, enjoying the free Coca-Cola and ice cream. I watched Deirdre Greenholz unleash a sub 4 marathon and she seemed to be moving better than me after the finish line. The main thing I notice with my lower weekly miles is the recovery period of the longer runs. I was still feeling the pain of St. George five days later. But the hours I’ve recovered from fewer miles has given me the chance to spend more time doing other things, like playing tennis with Dylan.

Tomorrow Dylan turns 5 years old. We can’t believe how much fun it has been to have him in our lives. I do wish for a 2nd (3rd, 4th…) chance at times when parenting. Just to have someone step in before I say or do something stupid would be invaluable. As I’m about to tell Dylan to do something different, what I really need is someone to stop me and tell me to do something different. “Hold on! Now before you say or do what you are about to say or do to that boy, let’s think about that for a moment.” Having someone correct my “dad correcting son moment” with a different approach is sometimes the real corrective action needed. But mostly it’s just spending time together, interacting and doing things together – getting him involved. When I thought about spending time and interacting with our son, I always pictured the period of time when he was 7 or 8 years old and we could play catch together. It never occurred to me that we could do these things (mountain biking, tennis, free swimming in the ocean with sea turtles) at 3 and 4 years old. But that is what we have done and those are experiences I would do over and over and over.