Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting Ready for MTCC Experience Ride 2017

A few weeks back, I contacted my older brother to see how he might feel about dropping down our distance for next week's MTCC Experience Ride from the full 100+ route to something more along the lines of the 50 mile edition.  It isn't that I'm out of shape or anything, but in all honesty, I haven't been able to put in anywhere near the miles that a full century ride requires.  I mean, I might actually be able to do it, but it would be downright painful, and extremely ugly.  Having suffered through the full distance a few years ago, it just makes sense to dial it back a bit this year.

Setting up downstairs= time-saving training!
The truth is, I haven't done a lot of outdoor training on the bike in the last few weeks.  Instead, I've been putting time in on the trainer.  I recently added a Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer downstairs, and along with the Zwift virtual ride, I've done most of my recent rides indoors.  This is something that I've wanted to do for a while, and while I know that there's no comparison to being outside, it has certainly helped in terms of being a time-saver and efficient way to train.  It will be "interesting" to see how this type of training stacks up against the real thing. I do know that the times I've been outside I've felt that the indoor training has been worth it.

That said, I certainly won't be looking to break any records on Saturday.  In fact, I plan on taking my time and enjoying the ride a bit more.  The shorter edition still has plenty of climbing involved so I'm sure to take some breaks on the side of the road, or one of the established aid stations when necessary.  This isn't always so easy to do in the 100 mile version because you are competing with the clock a bit more since it's going to take the better part of a day, and you also don't really want to get caught in a late afternoon rain storm, etc. Not so much of a problem on a ride half the distance, where we should be able to finish by late morning, lunch at the latest.  With any luck, I might be able to hit the pool that afternoon! Look for a follow-up report sometime next week! Ciao!


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Palmer Lake 24 hour . . . Make that 10.5 Hour. . . Death Race Report

Happy Easter morning! As I write, The Palmer Lake 24 Hour Death Race officially end less than an hour ago.  For me however, it ended yesterday evening.  I'm not disappointed, recognizing that I did as much, if not more, than I possibly could.  At any rate, I'm definitely feeling the pain in my legs and feet after a little over ten hours of running.

This event is very casual affair that simultaneously bills itself as both a "death race" and a "fun run."  The setting is the .82 mile loop around Palmer Lake which sits nestled at the top of Monument Hill, just west of I-25 about 4 miles.  You could describe this event in many ways and I think they'd all fit.  It's a test of your physical endurance and personal will power as you circle the lake again and again. Or, it's a chance to run and drink beer! Or, it's a picnic interrupted by lots and lots of jogging.

I don't know if I have never approached an event of this magnitude in such a casual manner.  Don't get me wrong, I've done plenty of long runs relatively speaking (over 200 miles in the first 3 months of the year) , but definitely not to the level necessary to go a full day and night.  I also spent the first few days of last week dealing with a case of bronchitis, and while I was mostly "healed" by Saturday morning, that was still an "X" factor going into the race.

Unlike many events, such as Ironman, the pre-race preparations for an event of this length are somewhat different.  Take nutrition for instance.  For most triathlons, marathons, etc.  nutrition usually centers around scientifically formulated gels, powders and drinks.  These are designed to deliver a precise "dose" of energy to maximize performance.  The picture below shows my nutrition "plan" for the 24 hour race:

Scientifically crafted Nutrition for Ultra runners!
Uncle Kenny was my partner in crime for this undertaking, and with our gear and enough food to last a week, we headed out bright and early on Saturday morning.  The official race start time was 8:00 a.m., and arriving about 7:15,  we had plenty of time to arrive and get ready for the race.  We spent most of this time, getting our respective food and drink laid out in the back of the car which was conveniently parked just off of the trail.  We would use this as our "aid station" throughout the day, stopping on an off for 4-5 minutes of grazing (read inhaling) on a variety of cookies, chips, sandwiches, etc.

In most races, the one who covers a designated distance in the shortest time is declared the winner.  This works conversely in a race such as Palmer Lake.  The person who covers the most distance in a designated time is the winner.  Runners track their own laps throughout the day and submit this at the end of the event, and this can be different for each individual.  Some folks are out there for the entire 24 hour event, while others may only run an hour or two.  And like me, somewhere in between.  That's the beauty of ultra running, it is unique to each individual in so many ways.

The strategy that Kenny and I deployed for the race was to go slow throughout the race, taking plenty of "walk breaks" along the way.  A pace of around 14:30 or so, would result in covering about 100 miles if one were to complete the entire event.  And even though that seemed far fetched, we used that rate as our benchmark throughout the day.  Every 5 laps of the course was the equivalent of about 4.1 miles which we sought to cover within an hour.  Even with walk breaks, we did pretty well with this pace during the first 4 hours.  In fact, I don't know if I've ever felt more comfortable after running 16.5 miles.  Our pace dropped a bit during the next section, but we were never too far off that pace throughout the day.

Every four hours, as you completed a lap, the race would switch directions.  This was extremely helpful especially through the middle of the day as the wind picked up a bit.  It was a bit "brisk" at times, but it had a nice cooling effect.  The weather was pretty much in the lower to mid 60's throughout the day which was absolutely ideal for running.

I did 50 laps covering about 41.5 miles.
After a couple of direction changes and about 9 hours in, Kenny finally decided to call it quits.  He'd covered 34 miles throughout the day, a personal record by far, and earning him official status as an "ultra runner." As for myself, I'd realized two things at that point.  One, I was not going to make it through another 14 or 15 hours of running.  I wasn't completely wiped out, but the thought of still being less than halfway finished, seemed just too far to reach.  Two, I really didn't know what I had left in me.  Could I get forty miles? Fifty?  Something more than that?

I ran most of the next four miles with just a few short stops, increasing the pace and trying to pull back a bit of time.  When the 10 hour mark came, I'd covered 39 miles and something like 47- 48 laps around the lake.  I slowed down a bit more around lap 49 and as I started in on lap 50, I began to assess my circumstances.  Throughout most of the day, I'd felt good and at least okay through 35 miles.  But now, in addition to my feet starting to hurt more, I was starting to feel really, really tired.  Not just physically, but mentally.  Coming off of an illness the week before,  I was a bit worried about a relapse.  I debated finishing the lap and maybe walking a few laps just to see if I could push past.  And maybe I could have, but then I reminded myself that this is the first event of the season. And knowing that I was just a month out from my next "big" ultra race (12 hour Tommyknocker Ultras), I decided that 50 full laps was probably enough.  So after 10 hours and about 30 minutes, I turned the bottom of my race bib in, having covered 41.5 miles.  It was a lot of fun!

Feeling good . . . early on!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Ride a Bike: A quick start guide for Teaching & Learning

You might imagine that as a Triathlete and Dad, that my kids would have gotten an early start and by now they'd be able swimmers, riders, and runners.  While my daughters have shown an increased interest in both swimming and running the last few years, cycling hasn't been something in which they've expressed a lot of interest.

Circus aside, riding a bicycle is a uniquely human experience.  No other creature on earth has utilized the simple machine of wheel and axle as a means of self-propulsion.  It is a conveyance that is used for a multitude of purposes: recreation, business, exploration, necessity.  To my mind, knowing how to ride a bike is a life skill, on par with learning to swim, build a fire and how to cook. So yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised when my youngest daughter, suggested that she'd like to learn to ride a bike.  This guide chronicles what we did to make that happen in an afternoon.

Though nearly eleven years old, my youngest child has limited experience with a bicycle.  The majority of her riding was done via an "attached" bike that fastened to the seat post of my mountain bike.  Although equipped with pedals, she was more passenger than rider with that contraption.  She's never ridden a bike with training wheels either.   Teaching her to ride meant that we were essentially starting from scratch.

What you'll need: 
  1. A bike
  2. A helmet (place this on your child's head before starting)
  3. Patience
  4. A few long stretches of road including flat, slightly uphill, and slightly uphill (some folks recommend a stretch of grass or dirt road in case the kid falls.  IMO, a scraped knee or elbow is a "badge of honor" that comes with learning to ride).   Many neighborhood streets will work just fine and are preferable to highways and interstates.  
Recommended equipment:
  1. Pedal wrench
  2. Allen wrench to adjust seat height
  3. An adult size bicycle and helmet (this is for once they're riding and you get tired of chasing them up the street on foot).  
Step 1: Learning to balance: The key to riding a bicycle of course, is balance.  One cannot ride a bike without the ability to make those tiny micro adjustments to their weight, steering, and body position, all while moving.   Obtaining an adequate level of balance takes time and will vary based on a number of factors including your student's age, gross motor skills, level of fear, and frustration threshold.  However, this can be accomplished in a single afternoon, with only an hour or so of practice.  The good news is that once balance is achieved, the subsequent steps of riding are fairly easy to accomplish.

To get started, remove the pedals from the bike and lower the seat far enough that your child can place their feet flat on the ground with just a slight bend in the knees (you don't have to remove the pedals, but it does make it a bit easier for this phase).  Have them practice pushing or walking the bike around in a seated position for a while.  Then, using a slightly downhill stretch of road, they should try to lift their feet slightly off of the ground as they roll forward.  They will probably want to look down at their feet as they do this, so remind them to look up.

Have them practice the downhill stretch several times.  On the way back up, let them get a feel for riding a bike by holding onto the bottom of the seat as you push them forward (some people will place a hand on the handlebars too, but I like to use only the seat, as this gives them a sense of steering).  After they've practiced a while, challenge them to try and balance for a count of "three" before having to put their feet down.  This encourages them to keep trying to balance and not just mindlessly pushing the bike around with their feet.  Eventually they'll get to a three count, and then they'll want to try five, ten, etc.  Once they can balance for a good 8-10 seconds, they're ready for the next step.

Step 2: Put the pedals back on the bike but leave the seat in the lower position for now.  Continue to practice balance, but have them try putting their feet on the pedals after they've gained some momentum.  Their natural inclination will be to start pedaling, and that's fine.  You'll likely discover that they are just about riding at this point.  They'll ride a few feet at a time, before putting their feet down to stop.  Soon they'll be able to pedal all the way down the street.

Step 3: Although they are able to coast and pedal at this point, your child may still have some trouble getting started from a standstill position, especially when they're facing a slight uphill.  Have them place one foot on the pedal, and push off with the other.  If they aren't successful after a couple of tries, it's perfectly fine to hold onto the bottom of the seat and help them get moving.  The more they actually get to ride their bike, the more fun they'll have, and the more they'll want to try.

Step 4:  Within just a few minutes, riding will start to click for them.  Now is a good time to adjust the seat height a bit.  You may need to move it up a bit so that their leg is just slightly bent when the pedal is in the bottom position.  This is also the point where having your own bike comes in.  Hop on and ride up and down the street with them for as long as they'd like.  Congratulations, you now have a bike rider!

Dealing with frustration: Learning to ride a bike can be frustrating and even scary for kids.  Your first goal in teaching them should be to mitigate their anxiety by staying positive.  Positive praise when they balance for even just a second or two will encourage them to keep trying.  Frequent reminders of how much progress they are making in a short time is also helpful for building their self-confidence.  If you feel stuck on step 1 for an extended time (like an hour), take a 10 to 15 minute break.  If they don't get it on the first or second day, keep trying.  You are never too old to learn how to ride.  Older kids may even get the hang of it faster.

A note about helmets:  Having your child ride a bike without a helmet is the same as putting them in a car without a seat belt.  Do you want your child to be able to make a living as an adult using both their hands AND their brains? Then have them wear a helmet.  And don't give me that line "In my day, we didn't wear helmets, and I turned out just fine."  For every hundred kids that didn't have a problem, there's one that did.  Do you want that to be your child?

There's an expression that once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.  And this is surprisingly and pleasantly true.  The muscle memory and coordination required embeds itself in the brain fairly quickly (unless you don't follow the note about helmets above).  You have given your child a gift that will last the rest of their lives.  As they become more proficient at riding, your adventures can begin to expand beyond the neighborhood.  Have fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Rez Run

This morning my oldest child had a speech and debate tournament, and since I'm her personal chauffeur, I found myself out near the Pueblo Reservoir in Pueblo West this early this morning.  The weather in SoCo has been unseasonably warm the last couple of weeks think (65-75 degrees) and though it was a bit cool and cloudy this morning, it made for perfect running weather.

My route included a mix of paved trail, dirt roads, and mountain bike trail.  I also managed to accidentally work in about a half mile of "off piste" when I happened to run out of discernible trail.  All told, my run was sixteen miles.  Here's a map of the route:

The "rez" is fairly quiet this time of year, unlike the summer where there's plenty of boaters, campers, anglers, and other "outdoors enthusiasts."  The fact that it was just a bit after seven in the morning also helped. I saw only a few cars here and there, along with a few people.  I also used this run to do a little "recon" for some potential Paddle Boarding locations.  The far end of the lake seems to be the ideal location for hanging out.

February makes for a calm, tranquil time out at the reservoir
The first five miles of the run flew by fairly quickly as most of it was on paved path or dirt roads.  There were a few rolling hills here and there, but nothing too dramatic.  A ways into the trail, that changed a bit. Miles 5.5 to 7.5 were a mixture of short, steep climbs, and winding mountain bike trails.  This was also the point where I found myself losing the trail and just running among the scrub brush that dots the landscape.   I tried a few times to pick up a path, but nothing lasted for more than a few hundred feet.  Thank goodness it's the middle of winter so I didn't have to worry about snakes (the reservoir area is prime rattlesnake country).  I was high up on a ridge line skirting the side of a few cliffs and since I'm not the biggest fan of heights,  I finally doubled back and caught a trail that eventually spit me out into a neighborhood in Pueblo West.  I followed a few streets that led back toward the trails before coming to "the end of the road."  Fortunately for me, the sign below only referred to vehicles!  It wasn't a true dead end, but rather a trail head.

I worked my way back down to the trails and under a railroad bridge.  I was now on the return leg of my out and back run.  Although the trail was steep in some points, it was nothing compared to last weekend's slog up the side of Pike's Peak along the Barr trail.  That run was only a total of about six and a half miles, although it felt much longer.  Although I had to stop a time or two to get my bearings, I was not doing my usual 5:1 run:walk ratio that I often do on long runs.  I tried to keep a bit stronger pace throughout the run today.
The railroad bridge near the reservoir.
Close-up under the bridge

Just past the bridge, I ran up to the point where the railroad maintenance road comes to an end.  I'd run by this point a few miles earlier and noticed that there had been a recent bonfire, perhaps from the night before.  As I passed by again, this time I noticed that some of the wood from the fire was starting to burn anew.  Although it wasn't out of control or anything, I decided I better let them know back at the entrance gate in the event that the wind started to pick up.  There's plenty of brush or trees, and coupled with the dry warm weather, it could turn into a bad situation pretty easily.  However, when I arrived at the gate, it was still closed. I did manage to find the number for the visitor's center and I gave them a quick call to let them know what was up.  Better to be safe than sorry, they decided to send a couple of park rangers over to check it out.  With my citizenship badge earned for the day I continued with my run!

I still had about 5 more miles that I needed to run.  However, because I'd made a straight line for the park gate, I was only about a mile and half from the car.  I turned right and ran back down towards the reservoir picking up another trail (Skyline) which followed above the water line.  Eventually this trail slid north and kicked me back out onto the road.  I passed back by the gate again and checked my phone.  This little loop had added about three and a half miles, so I was able to head towards the parking lot and my awaiting car.
For some reason, I started thinking about Golf at this point, even though I don't play!
I made it back to the car with a total moving time of two hours and forty minutes.  Overall, I felt pretty good.  My legs were a bit tired, but I chalk that up to a bit more trail running than I'd planned.  I'll do another lower mileage run next weekend before making a push up into the 25-30 mile range in two weeks.
Nice view of Pikes Peak from the path.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Years

This past weekend, my blog ticked over the 5 year mark.  In many ways that's very hard to believe.  I've certainly had a lot happen both personally, athletically, and professionally in that time.  So here's a look back at my top 5 posts of all time (Note: these are ranked for no particular reason other than my own preference.  Click on the link if you want to read an entire post). 

I kind of have to start here don't I?  This was my first entry back in 2012.  I seem to recall having the house to myself that night, and having some new home brew to drink.  Truth is, I've made very little beer since that first year or two.  But this was the post that started it all. 

A little over a year later, I'd just completed my first ultra trail run, a 50 miler in Buena Vista, Colorado.  Just a few weeks later, I leveraged my physical conditioning into an epic Memorial Day Weekend.  Couple that with the end of the school year, and this was just a great time. The post covers it all!

Any post that involves family and friends is going to be a favorite.  This was actually the second time I recorded the Bolder Boulder in pictures, but it marked the first time that the whole family did the race together.  This year will be the third!

I haven't done a beer retrospective of this level for a couple of years.  Maybe 2017 will be time for a return of this post.  Already in 2017, I've had some great beers.

Okay, probably not a surprise that this one rounds out my top 5 favorite posts.  It was one of the most fun to write because I got to really savor the experience all over again.  Since I first wrote it, there have been a number of views.  It was fun to see the spike in "views" in late July/ August last year as expectant 2016 IM Boulder athletes visited the page.  

With a number of events planned for 2017, I'll continue to enjoy reading and sharing my experiences with endurance and beer on this blog.  Whether you've been here since the beginning or you just started today, thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Rewards of Ultra Training

Tonight I'm sitting on the couch, my legs stretched out in front of me, each foot ensconced in a slightly worn Hotel Catalonia slipper, a souvenir from a trip to Mexico a couple of years ago.  Whenever I shift in my seat, a dull soreness traces up and down my legs, and if I try to stand, I'm met with a reluctant protest from my lower half.  To watch me rise to my feet, you'd think I was double my age.  The pain however, is a good pain, not born of injury, but rather the "reward" for a day's training.

Earlier this afternoon, I pushed through my weekly long run with the help of i-Tunes, my hydra pack, and late January weather that was downright balmy compared to my long runs the previous two weeks.  The run was a mere 23 miles, which is well short of ultra status, but still long enough.  I felt pretty damn good through the first 20 miles.  The last three, completed primarily on sidewalk, were the roughest, as my drop in pace would attest.

It actually doesn't matter how far I ran, so much as how long.  My training in this first part of the year is in preparation for a 24 hour race, so today's run only accounted for about a sixth, of what I'll try to accomplish in April.  I've got some time between now and then to stretch the hours, and the mileage.

With any luck,  a few weeks from now, my long runs will extend to 6 hours, and the ground covered today will seem like small stuff.  For now, I'll just sit back and enjoy the soreness.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Namaste: 5 reasons to consider adding Yoga to your life

Last summer I decided to join my wife for a yoga class on the rooftop deck of a local brewery in town.  I'll be honest that the real enticement for going was that it was a package deal, an hour of yoga with a pint of beer to follow, all for less than $10.

Other than a bit of practice with some videos several years ago, I really didn't have any experience with yoga.  But by the end of that class, I was hooked, and not just because of the beer (that didn't hurt!).  Since that afternoon, I've gone to  yoga class at least once a week, and on a few occasions when my schedule has allowed for it, even hit two or three classes in the same week.  Six months later,  though I'm far from being a yogi master, I do have a few takeaways from what I've experienced so far.

Yoga is cheap.  Apart from the cost of a class ($5 to $20 for a "drop in" class), yoga is inexpensive.  Most studios have mats that you can use (usually the high quality mats), and you really don't need anything more than regular workout clothes, a hand towel, and a water bottle.  If you already have a membership to a YMCA or other health club, there's a good chance that they offer yoga classes either as part of your membership or at a discounted rate.

Yoga is not easy.  It might appear that standing, sitting, and bending on a mat for an hour is a low intensity experience.  I assure you it is not.  When you truly engage in a class, yoga provides a solid "fitness" experience even for a well-trained athlete.  I was surprised at how challenging it was.  Who would have thought that holding a pose for ten, fifteen, or even twenty seconds would be so exhausting? Try repeating that or "flowing" more quickly through a series of poses with one breath for each movement.  Now try Hot Yoga, where you do all of these things in a room set to 85-100 degree temperatures.  Yes, you will be sweating!  There are all kinds of yoga classes available, each having a somewhat altered focus.  The most common, and a good starting place are the "vinyasa" or "flow" classes.  There are also classes that combine yoga with spinning, and even yoga done on a paddleboard.

Yoga is NOT a "chick" thing. While the majority of participants in a yoga class tend to be women, I've yet to take a class where I was the only male participant, and I've even been in a few where there have been as many, or more men.  If yoga is a "chick" sport, then so is running.  A 2015 report shows that 57% of finishers in U.S. running events were women, compared to 43% men.

Regular yoga practice improves flexibility, core strength, and balance.  These three aspects of yoga are extremely valuable for the endurance athlete.  As a forty-something aged guy, I've long struggled with flexibility to the point of not being able to touch my toes.  Six months in, I can definitely see an improvement in my flexibility and range of motion.  My balance has also drastically improved. Several of the poses in yoga strengthen your balance and increase your "body awareness" in space.  There is also quite a bit of core work in yoga.

Yoga exercises the body, mind and soul.  I don't want this to come off sounding like some hipster, new-age type of thing.  My point is that just like a good run, or long bike ride, you feel really good after a yoga class.  In fact, the feeling is probably most similar to the way I feel after a swim workout;  A bit tired, maybe a little sore, but also refreshed and relaxed.  Each yoga class concludes with about 5-10 minutes of "Shavasana."  Basically, you lie on your back with your eyes closed and you relax, focusing only on your steady breathing.  I've found that since starting yoga, my stress levels have been reduced, and my patience has increased.  This seems to extend into the rest of my life and that, in and of itself, makes it worth it.

While I doubt that Yoga will replace other athletic endeavors (I will always love racing and other endurance challenges), I am certain that yoga has become a permanent part of my fitness routine.