Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dinner Time! Cajun Style!

Down in Lafayette, La. Can't miss the crawfish! 3lbs at Dwight's awesome!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spa City 6hr - Around and Around

This year I decided to enter the Ouachita Challenge, so when looking at great training opportunities this race was a great fit.

The Spa City 6 hr takes place at Cedar Glades Park in Hot Springs.  Cedar Glades Park has just over 10 miles in MTB trails, along with other activities for the family, playgrounds, climbing wall, disc golf course, and RV plane runway.

The weekend before the race I went down to pre-ride the course just to get an idea on what was ahead.  I did two laps that weekend which gave me a great idea and what I could do for the race.  The course is a mixture of ups and downs with some great flowing trail towards the end of the course.  Pre-riding the course also allowed me to see where I could have issues since my technical skills are still at a beginner level.

On race morning, I awoke around 4am.  I had a good breakfast of cereal, OJ, banana, and some coffee.  I loaded up the bike and make the 1hr 40 minute down to Hot Springs. I arrived right around 7.  At this time, there was still a slight chill in the air with temperatures in the mid 50's.  The forecast was calling for the temps to raise quickly into the mid 70's to just about 80.  The cool thing I noticed was all the tents and coolers set up in feed zone.  There was a great atmosphere in this area for the race. I prepared my things and then went to go rack my bike.  Yes, I just said rack my bike.  No this isn't a duathlon or a triathlon, but in order to hopefully spread out the field.  We racked our bikes at the bottom of big grassy hill.  The start line was at the bottom of the hill and we were to run up the hill, grab out bikes and ride on.

The rules of the race are to complete as many laps as you can in 5 - 6.5 hrs.   You can not stop riding before 5 hrs to be an official finisher.  My goal for this race was to at least get 4 laps by 5-5.5 hrs and maybe 5 as a long goal.

By 8am, the sunny was shinning brightly, and everyone was lined up.  It's go time!  I run/jog up the hill to my bike.  I wasn't in a real hurry to get to my bike because my goal for the first lap was to relax and take it easy.  The course starts off going across a field and onto a road, before heading back into the Park and hitting the trails.  Even with the running start, there were still a couple of bottle necks the first couple of miles of the course.  Once we got going, though I could tell my addrenline was flowing.  As we went through some quick turns, I ran off the course almost hitting a tree.  I hope this wasn't the sign of the day.  A few more small ups and downs, and a bridge crossing and is towards the part of the climbing part of the course.  By the time, we started the climb, the field had spread out.  At this point, I was feeling great and relaxed and worked through this section of the course.  I was having a great time!  After this section comes the blue section, which has small hills, followed some great trails that flow really well.  At this point, my chain had dropped off the front a couple of times, but nothing to worry about.  I finish the first lap in around 1hr 20 minutes.  I was happy with that.

The adventure begins on the second lap!  I worked through the first section of the course really well again now that the field had spread out.  I made the climb up the hill and was heading down the switch backs along a straight section when I experienced a first.  As I was heading downhill, either I hit my breaks a little too hard or I hit a bump, but the next thing I know I'm going over the front of my bike.  I land on my back and looking bike uphill and see my bike flipping over right towards me.  The bike lands on me and I'm down on my back.  A couple of other riders were behind me and quickly helped me out.  I checked myself, no blood, no bones, sticking out, and the bike appeared to be in good order!  I jumped back on the bike and rode on.  I can say after though, I was a little tentative.

By this time, I could tell the weather was starting to warm, and I was pretty thirsty, not good.  Towards the end of the second lap, my chain popped off again and this time wedged itself in.  I pull off to the side and spent about 5 minutes working on it.  For a second, I was worried that I wouldn't get it out, but was able to work it out.  It was back on the bike to finish lap two.  I refilled my water/HEED supplies and I'm off the third lap.  The goal for the third lap was to stay in control and have a great finish for the fourth lap.  Also, at this point, I knew I was going to be able to reach 5 laps, but I would be happy with a four lap finish.  The third lap was tougher than I thought.  My right leg was already starting to cramp just over half way through this lap.  By the time, I finished the third lap, I was whopped.  The fourth was going to be survival mode.

Sure enough, I was just surviving on the fourth lap.  I worked my through the course trying to stay hydrated and in control.  By the time, I got to the blue section I was ready to finish.  I slowly worked though this section and finally cross the finish line in exactly 6 hrs with four laps complete!

Wow, this race was learning experience.  Here are some of my takeaways:
1.  It was my first MTB race, so I got the chance to see how tough these races can be.

2.  I learned that I still have a lot of work to do on technical skills.  In the future Cedar Glades can be a great place to go.  I find it more technical than Burns or Iron Mountain.

3.  Hydrate, fuel, rinse, and repeat.  I feel behind on my fueling and paid for it quickly since it was warm and dry during the race.

4.  HTFU, I did this and was able to get through.  I felt my fitness was still pretty good because even the next day I didn't feel that bad.  Of course, that could also mean that i didn't push hard enough.

Overall, the experience and race was great!  Even with my little spill, I hope to come back next year.

Below is a video put together by Arkansas Outside with a short perspective of the race. Enjoy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Little Rock Half Marathon 2013

Well after 4 months of training the day had arrived for the 2013 Little Rock Half Marathon.  I had decided to run the half in November of last year.  I wanted to train for an event that would get me through the winter.  I chose the half because I was looking for a fast time.  I set my goal for under 1:40:00 with 1:35:00 being my ambitious goal. 

I knew that I would have to up my running in order to reach this goal.  Throughout the summer, I had steadily been increasing my distance per week and number of times I ran per week.  I wanted to grow my base before I really started to focus on speed.  My "speed" workouts would be small races that were ran across the area.  The training number throughout Nov, Dec, and Jan were really good.  I was feeling great and running well.  I accomplished more effective training for this half than I did for any of my previous marathons.  In Feb, I would decrease the miles while shifting the focus to more pace related work.  This worked out well as I was able to run a minute and half PR in the 15k.  As the date approached, I knew I was ready to run!

During the week of the half, I took it easy with a short run and a massage just to make sure to keep the body loose and ready.  The only concern for the race was that it was going to be cold.  The forecast for the week were calling for lows in the mid 20s on the morning of the race. I decided to go with a cheap jacket that I could pitch right before race start, gloves, skull cap, long sleeve tech shirt, and shorts. I woke around 4:30am to get ready for the race. For breakfast that morning, I had peanut butter sandwich, banana, coffee, and some orange juice.  I left my house around 6:00am and got downtown around 6:45.  I found a parking spot in one of the parking garages and decided to chill out in my truck for awhile.  Eventually, I had to use the restroom, so it was time to go out and brave the cold.  After using the restroom, I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses, so I used the chance to warm up and run back to the truck.  I still had plenty of time before race start, so I wasn't rushing too much.  I went back to the start area, dropped off some clothes for after the race, and then went and warmed up for about 10 minutes.  Eventually I made way to my area with about 10 minutes to go and waited for the start!

I was in the corral B, so we were the second the group that would go off.  The clocked reached 8 and the first group went.  We all moved closer to the start line and just a minute and half later our group was off to the races.  I knew that to reach my goal of 1:35:00 I would have to put in around 7:15 min/mile.  I wanted the first mile to be easy and use it as a warm up.  I was feeling good and trying not to let the excitement get to me.  I hit the first mile at around 7:20.  As I was getting into the second mile I was beginning to fell a slight side twitch come on.  I focused on my breathing and relaxed myself.  I was still running well and feeling good.  The second mile came in about 7:06 with part of it downhill into North Little Rock.  Running through North Little Rock, this part of the course is flat, but I was start to feel that I was going to be able to hold my 7:15 pace.

Thinking to myself, it's alright, still 10 miles left.  I was able to average about 7:20 through mile 4.  From Mile 4 to Mile 5, you head pack to Little Rock, and go up the Broadway Bridge.  As I was running up the bridge trying to control my pace, my time really dropped.  I was hoping to pace myself a little up the bridge, but this was to slow.  I hit mile with a 7:41 pace, uggh. 

When I got to the 10k mark, I was around 45:00 minutes and my legs were feeling heavy.  I was just trying to hang on already and still had half a race left.  Miles 6-10 were pretty tough.  At times, I would try and pick up the pace to only find that I was going now where fast!  My breathing felt good, but legs were lead.  I was already getting sore throughout my quads and could almost feel them cramping up.  I continued to run as hard as could to reach the under 1:40:00 goal.  I can usually finish a race strong, but at this point I was looking to hang on.  Miles 10-13.1 were paced around 7:40!  I finally reach the final chute down Hwy 10 and run as hard as I can pushing towards the finish.  I reach the finish and cross in 1:39:01.  A new PR and a hard fought one at that!

After crossing and slowing down to a walk, I made sure not to allow my legs to cramp and fall to the ground.  It was a slow walk to receive my heavy medal.  While not as gigantic as the marathon, it was still a heavy and nice piece of hardware.  I picked up some snacks and then onto picking up my clothes.  A great race finished.

Over the course of this week, I tried to think what happened and why this race didn't go as well as I had planned.  Talking to a friend, they mentioned that sometimes now matter how hard you think about, some days aren't meant to be.  This was probably that day.  While my legs were hurting when I crossed the finish, I still felt like I could have run all day.  I didn't feel tired.  I still reached my goal of under 1:40:00, set a PR, and had a good day.  Another plus on this journey, I was able to train consistently and did not get injured. Hopefully this early season training will allow for more good results throughout the year!

Next up is the Spa City 6-hour MTB race on March 16th and then Ouachita Challenge on April 6th.  Also, on April 27th, I'll hopefully be testing for my 4th degree black belt. I have a lot of training to do over the next two months, but I'll fun out there.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

96 Hours in San Francisco

Back in January, I talked to one of my friends that lives in San Francisco about visiting the weekend of Presidents day.  This is what I did with 96 hrs in San Francisco, or just north of it actually!

When planning the trip, I wanted to maximize as much time there as I could without missing a lot of work.  The great thing about traveling west from Arkansas, is that I was able to work all day Wednesday and take a 6:00pm flight out of Little Rock to Dallas and onto San Francisco.  The flight was scheduled to land around 10:20pm.  The worst part about going out west, is that if you want to leave on a morning flight out, you basically travel all day before arriving back home.  For example, I a 7:00 am flight out of San Francisco doesn't get me home until around 3:00 pm.  So, I decided that I would take a long commute to work on Monday and take a red-eye.  The plan was to leave Sunday/Monday morning from SFO at 12:35am and arrive Monday morning back in Little Rock at 8:35am just in time to go to work!  I also wanted to see what it was like to take a red-eye to gauge any future trips out west.

The flight out there was pretty easy.  I arrived on time and my friend picked me up at the airport.  The first hours are pretty boring.  A drive from the airport to his house in Fairfax which is located in the North Bay area.  Tomorrow is where the adventure starts.

Thursday started early.  My friend was having to go into work in the area around Petaluma, CA, so I rode up there with him and then took his car for the day.  My adventure for the day was paying a visit out to Pt. Reyes.  I had explored a website www.trailstompers.com while looking for trail runs in the area.  I wanted to do a run and found the run Bear Valley to Arch Rock.  This run would take me from the Visitors Center down to the coast.  The run was about 8.2 miles, so I figured this would make for a great run.  It turned out to be very beautiful run. Here are some pictures from the run.

After the hike/run, I drove around a couple of spots around Point Reyes and eventually ended up on the beach for a little stroll.

By the end of the stroll, I was getting hungry since it was around 12:00.  I decided to head into Point Reyes Station for some food.  I ended up at the Station House Cafe.  One item on menus that I love try especially when I'm near the ocean is fish and chips.  It was a tough choice between that and the burger.  I decided to go with the fish and chips which was a good choice.  After lunch it was back to exploring, I headed back north on Highway 1 for drive.  The scenery is amazing on this part, but I know there is even more amazing scenery that I didn't get a chance to see.  I couldn't imagine cycling length of Hwy 1 with all the ups and downs on it, but it would be worth the challenge.  I eventually ended up in Boga Bay before heading back to pick up my friend.

From there, it was back to the Fairfax area and choose dinner.  I do like to sample local brews in an area when I get chance, so for dinner we ended up at the Marin Brewery.  I tried a couple of their IPAs and thought they were good, but not anything to brag about.  For dinner, we all ordered a pizza which turned out good, but nothing to write about.  Overall, I would call the place a good place to check out if you happen to run into it.  After dinner, it was off to a local bar for a little bit before a big ride that was planned for the next day.

The first part of the morning on Friday we figured out what we were going to do for the weekend.  We decided to rent house up in the Russian River area.  Once we got that figured out it was off for a ride in the Marin Headlands area.  I knew the ride was going to be mostly climbing, but I didn't know it would start so soon.  We had about a five to ten minute "warm-up"/me figuring out to shift on a bike I was borrowing before it was time to start climbing.  During the first climb up to the Alpine Lake area, it was nice to be able to enjoy the scenery and the views.  The only issue I was having is that my lunch was sitting to well, so I backed off a little and just enjoyed the ride.  We eventually decsended to Alpine Lake before starting the climb to Mt. Tempalis.  It was amazing to be able to ride through the redwoods just along the rode and enjoy the cool shade and temperatures.  The scenery changed quickly as we got higher in the Marin Headlands and it finally opened up to fields and views of the Bay area and the Pacific ocean.  The day was a bright sunny and clear day and you could see for miles.  As we were getting to the top, my friend and issues with his bike, so got to the top and decided to head back.  The ride back was a nice decent followed by riding through town.  Overall, this was an amazing ride and I wish this ride that I had in backyard. 

After the Ride, we packed up and headed up to the Russian River where we were going to rent a house for 3 days.  I would be there only two however.  The ride up was uneventful, but we did make a quick stop at the Russian River Brewery where I got the chance to enjoy a Piney the Elder IPA which was excellent.  We drove the remaining 15 minutes and ended up at our house.  It was an amazing 3 bedroom home.  The two bedrooms where upstairs and then a lower guest bedroom downstairs and outside.  The house even included a hot tube! 

The next day started out with a ride from the house down west to the ocean.  After the ride the previous day, it was nice to have a flat ride. 

Following the ride, we ate at a place called the Garden Grill.  I had a hamburger which was excellent, but the best part of the meal were the garlic fries which were awesome.  That evening we cooked out some steaks at the house and went and explored the Gurneville.  During the winter, it was kinda of quiet, but we still enjoyed the evening.

The last day of my trip was a full day.  We went out to Louis Armstrong park where I went on a trail run that had around 1200 ft of elevation change and everyone else went out on a hike.  The run was great.  It was fun to run through the redwoods on the cool morning.  After the run, we out for brunch at the The Diner and then back to the house.  We decided to go ahead and do a wine tour.  Now we are west of Napa and Sonoma, but still there were hundreds of vineyards in the area.  The first one was around 3 miles from the house.  We were able to stop at 4 different places from about 12-5.  The wine was excellent in that area.  I can't even imagine how long it would take to first and taste them all!  The four we visited were VML, HKL, Porter Creek, and  Moshin.  I thought the best wines were between Porter Creek and Moshin, both of which had excellent Pinot Noir.

Once we were finished with winery visits we headed back to the house to cook up some dinner and around 8 my friend brought me to a bus stop in Larkspur which would take me direct to the airport.  This would finish up a great trip to San Francisco.  My flight left around 12:45 am and I was back in Little Rock on Monday morning around 9:00am.  What trip and hopefully I'll get the chance to go back out there again!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Batch #2

The hard part about the day before a race is trying to relax. So today, I went ahead and brewed my second batch of beer. I was hoping to use Amarillo hops, but the store was out. The batch included 4lbs Amber DME, 1lb crystal malt, 1oz Simcoe, and 1oz Cascade.

Little Rock Half Tomorrow!

I'm ready to run