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    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010


    Another crosswind,
    Pushing against the front wheel,
    Singing my Spokesong

    The tinny whistling,
    Background for murmuring tires,
    Free range symphony

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Stolen bike and searching for a new one

    Sadly, my 2008 Novara Safari was stolen from the Franconia Metro Station here in DC. I am pretty bummed because it was a great bike and the new Safaris are nothing like previous editions. I am not fully consumed by my search for a new bike.

    Right now the front runner is the new version of the Safari but the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a close second. Either way both bikes will require several hundred dollars in retrofits to meet my standards.

    Here is a great video on the current 2009 Novara Safari.

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Trail Race Report 24 Hr Adventure Trail Race

    It is done. Thankfully. The 24hr race was definitely a physical challenge. I took third place with 72 miles in 22:32:32 - not bad for an early season race. Athletic Equations, the race promotion company, put on an excellent event and I highly recommend any of their other events - an 8 and 12hr trail race to round out for a nice three race ultra-series. The volunteers were some of the best ever.

    The day started chilly at 7 am. I ran the first lap in my sleeves, my first two laps of eight miles were at 1:44 and 1:47 respectively. The weather was perfect early-on and I cruised the first 24 miles. However by early afternoon the humidity and heat were climbing. My watch topped out at 96 degrees. I lost my stomach for a while and about the time the sun was going down I started to feel solid again just in time for the night racing. I went through 48 miles in 12 hours, moving conservatively.

    Nightfall found me moving a bit slower, my laps were 2:00 to 2:45. While my feet held up very well and my legs were strong I had a chafed spot on my inside upper right thigh that let me know it was there with every step. My friend, Mike, came out and paced me one lap from 8-10pm. It was great to have the company.

    I ran two strong laps during the night and then at around 2:30am I caught my friend Bob in the aid station. Hot salty ramen was delicious! We turned a lap together in 2:45 and then both of us ended our races. I really wanted to go the next four miles but I would not have made it before the cut-off of 7am and my miles would not have counted.

    Amazingly I finished 3d in the men's race and fourth overall (the women's race winner finished 76 miles)! I didn't even know until my friend called me at home because I had left right at 7am.

    Thanks again Scott and Alex at Athletic Equations, the great volunteers, and the superb competitors.

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    24 hour Adventure Trail Run Preview

    To cap off my early 2010 running season I am solo-running a 24 hour ultramarathon. The 24-hour Adventure Trail Run is held within the Prince William Forest Park, located just outside Washington DC. The course is in a National Park of rolling hills, 8.0 miles per loop with approximately 700+ feet gain/loss per lap. There will be plenty of roots and rocks on the trail, but generally this is single track adventure trail run with approximately 0.75 miles on a hard packed dirt road.

    Although I am a little undertrained in-terms of raw mileage in my long runs I am good at suffering. My goal is 100 miles in 24 hours, a very reasonable one. If I make this distance it will be a new PR in terms of distance ran during a single race for me.

    I am running this race because I can; in meaning that there are a lot of people who cannot be at the starting line of such an event and I push myself to excel because of them. I LiveStrong for my grandfather, John McLean, my grandmother, June Nicholson, my Aunt Joy, my Aunt Grace, my Uncle Terry, my friend Captain Raul Medrano, and Pat Ray, all close friends and family who have survived cancer. I am also running in memory of my friends who have been killed: Captain Russell Rippetoe, Captain Jason Galus, Captain Paul Minor, and Sergeant First Class Dan Scheibner. All of whom I served closely with in different units during my military career. I run for each and every one of them...

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Recent addition to my commuter bike

    My daily commuter is a Novara Safari. All in all it is a good solid bike for my requirements. After my commuting days in Germany - three years straight on a Jamis Nova 13 miles one way in all seasons - I know a little about what I want in a daily commuter for urban mixed trails.

    My recent addition to the daily beast is the classy "Pine State" milk crate to haul my backback and assorted groceries. I was jealous of my wife's nice basket but couldn't bring myself to spend the money on one and was not about to leave panniers on the bike while locked up at various bike stands throughout DC.

    I dig it.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Trail Race Report Spring Backyard Burn Race #4 at Prince William Forest Park

    The fourth installment in this year's series proved to be quite different than races in the same park in the past. The majority of the course was double track or fireroads. However, EX2 saved the best for last and the final two miles were on some very fun and fast singletrack. Gone were the two rather steep and long climbs within the last half-mile, they were replaced by a gradual long climb in the last quarter-mile!

    The course ran very fast. The start included a six-tenths of a mile prologue on the road to stretch out the runners on an out and back loop. I re-crossed the start line with the lead group at something like 2:45 - very fast. Prince William Forest Park is comprised of a series of draws and hills based around some creek drainages which make for interesting racing. The downhills are sharp and quick and the climbs (generally!) short but steep. One of the interesting highlights is crossing the swinging bridge, you cross it twice during the race. It is much more enjoyable on the second crossing when less people are on it at once!

    I ended up placing fourth on the day with a time of 35:29 for five miles and change of racing. However, because I was able to consistently finish in the top two or three during the other races I was able to take the series prize. This was difficult because the competition was stiff and it only takes one bad race to blow your chances.

    The good thing is that I can now focus on long slow runs and not have to worry about a six day taper/train period. I have a few weeks before my next race - the 24 Hour Adventure Trail Run on 1 May, 2010; between now and then I will be out logging some real mileage.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Final meters of my last trail race on video

    My wife shot this footage during the final few meters of my last trail race at Fountainhead Park. The trail climbs up a good sized hill from a lake and runs along a ridge for a short distance before turning out of the trees and finishing directly into the 'chute.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Trail Race Report Spring Backyard Burn Race #3 at Fountainhead Regional Park

    Today's race was great because I was able to get my wife out to watch me run. She shot some solid pics and stood around in the unseasonable cold Spring morning to watch me run. The course was solid and in good condition. It rain more like a fall than a spring race. There were a lot of leaves down on the trails and the recent rains had everything damp and moist. The creeks provided some cold times!

    Although I finished well at 3d place I think my race could have been better. My pre-race went well; plenty of sleep, good breakfast, and of course coffee. Once I checked into the start I went out for my usual warm-up run. My legs felt flat and I knew it would be will power and not speed driving them around the course today.

    The combination of last weekend's race effort and some hard gym sessions with some solid runs during the week left me a little under-recovered. Thankfully the next race is not for two weeks. Although I am about to start ramping up my mileage for my season's "A" race, the 24hr Adventure Trail Run on 1 May in Prince William Forest Park I will have more time before the last race of the Backyard Burn to recover. I plan to use it wisely. Currently I am in first place in the overall points standing and another good effort could see me clench first overall.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    2010 Spring Backyard Burn Race #3 Course Preview

    The course for this weekend's race is at Fountainhead Regional Park, which is situated along the banks of the Occoquan Reservoir in Western Fairfax County. This park is beautiful and feels surprisingly remote for being so close to Washington D.C. The racecourse consists mostly of hiking trails (including the Bull Run Occoquan Trail), horse trails, and old dirt roads.

    This is a moderately technical and fast course. The race begins in the main parking lot and runs down the paved entrance road for approximately a half-mile over rolling hills. The course then dives offroad and runs along some excellent singletrack over a wooded ridgeline. A short but sharp descent brings the racers to an intermittant stream crossing with its subsequent climb. Last year there were a number of tumbles at this creek crossing. The course then climbs out of the draw and loops through more of the scrub oak forest before merging back into the ridgeline where you run out the same way the track entered the woods.

    Once crossing the entrance road the course follows alongside the road for a little ways before going back into the farther reaches of the park. The race course from there until the finish is a series of rolling ups and downs with numerous stream crossings. The course feels very isolated on these back stretches because the numerous draws keep the majority of runners out of view from each other.

    After dropping down to run beside the Occoquan Reservoir for a short distance the final stretch climbs quickly back up to the ridge top and runs over a few small hills before bursting out of the woods and literally directly into the finish chute.

    Hopefully the weather will hold and it will be cool yet dry this Sunday. Stay tuned for the race report.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Trail Race Report Spring Backyard Burn #2 at Hemlock Overlook

    Today was a brilliant first day of Spring on which to have a trail race. The temps at race start were in the low 50s and warmed quickly as the sun came out. The sky was perfectly blue too!

    My pre-race routine went very well. I actually got to sleep and logged about seven hours of z's prior to the race. This is a highly unusual set of circumstances. Made it out to Hemlock Overlook early with enough time for a solid warm-up as well. My usual warm-up consists of some stretching, coffee, a slow 15 minutes run (when racing at or around 10km), water, and then a bathroom stop.

    The race start was fast because as always the Ex2Adventures' courses have a prologue that does not count for the race distance, today it was 7/10 a mile! The key to the prologue is to get people a little strung out before the single track. I was in the initial dozen people or so off the front and make the prologue, including a wet part across a dam and a short steep climb in good style.

    The course then headed down a dirt road before turning back onto single track that began down in a draw and then wound its way down to the river. The river sections on this course are great. Literally boulder hopping just by the water with some flats to make up the lost time. At about the two mile mark the course climbed up away from the river. This first climb is long and steep. It broke my speed and the photographer got some very unflattering shots of me I believe.

    Then the course runs back past the start area over a small hill and down to the river. Proving Newtons law a rather long climb awaited me after another short fast riverside section. This was a challenge today but I ran strong through the hill. After the long hill you cross a few meadows and run along some single track that wraps around a small hill before it dumps you into a fireroad about 200m from the finish.

    I was neck and neck at this point in a dead sprint with another race for first place. We were both sprinting hard to the finish....but he got me at the last stride to take first place. I cannot complain, I raced well and ran strong for a second place finish in 40:31. A long extra second on my time!

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    New hooves!

    Placed a special order last week at VA Runner in Woodbridge for a pair of New Balance MT 100s. I have been wanting to try this shoe for a long time and finally decided to get some now that my Montrail Mountain Masochists need replacing.

    Looks great and I love some of the features of this shoe. Although I will probably not run in it until Monday afternoon the trail running blogosphere has plenty of reviews in case you are curious. Here is an excellent in-depth review from the blog Run 100s.

    Special thanks to the staff at VA Runner and in particular Owner/Runner Jeff Van Dorn. It is service that keeps me driving about 30 miles round trip to buy shoes from Alexandria!

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Today's race postponed - sad face

    Late yesterday I received an email from the Backyard Burn Series race director. Apparently the Bull Run River which much of the Hemlock Park running course runs directly beside was flooded.

    The director's email said, "I just returned from running the Backyard Burn course at Hemlock. At least 200 meters of the trail down by Bull Run is under at least 2 feet of moving water."

    Although last year's Highland Sky 40 was conducted in a deluge of epic proportions the racers at an ultra are a little different than the mix of weekend warriors who show up at a local trail run series. Since I have been fighting a sinus cold all week I definitely do not mind and plan to get a few more speed sessions in before the race is made-up on 21 March - next weekend.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    2010 Spring Backyard Burn Race #2 Course Preview

    Sunday's race will be at Hemlock Park in southern Fairfax County. It is a really nice park situated on an old farmstead. The terrain varies greatly - steep short hills, scrub oak forest, and open fields. The southern edge of the park is bounded by the infamous Bull Run Creek; farther upriver is where the famous Civil War battles were fought.

    The race starts with a very fast slightly downhill prologue that follows a dirt road before winding between some old farm buildings. The course crosses a small field and then runs along the sides of a farm pond before hitting the first short hill. This portion of the race was very fast last year!

    After crossing the same road the race started down the course goes into the trees on some relatively tight singletrack as the course winds down towards the Bull Run. Once along the creek the route becomes very "technical," literally running riverside over a very narrow rocky path.

    This portion of the course ends with the longest climb of the day - a series of two steep climbs that bring the runners back level with the farm. Into the singletrack around a series of fields the course picks up speed as you cross several open areas and then race around the farm pond againt to the finish.

    Last year I finished 5th at this course with a time of 40:15 for 5.8 miles. I am hoping to place into the top five again; although it will be hard to earn another top three podium finish like last week!

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Trail Race Report Spring Backyard Burn #1 at Wakefield Park

    The race went very well. Weather was perfect, starting out in the mid-30s but feeling like mid-40s in the sunshine after about a quarter mile into the run! The course was adjusted somewhat for the recent heavy snowfall because it is run on a mountainbike trail and some of the north facing trails were still covered in ice/snow.

    I ended up liking the re-routed course even better than the original. Mile number 4 was a huge up and over and up and over again hill before a flat dual track mile into the finish. It definitely got the runners and racers' attention.

    My time was good - 35:51; as always subjective on trails but about three minutes faster than my last race on this course. I finished third in my age group and eight overall out of a couple hundred runners.

    Now the hard part is a race coming up this next Sunday. It means I will have to pay particular attention to my training this week to make sure I do not put too much speed into my legs so that I am relatively fresh for another hard effort this coming Sunday. It was a great race and thank-you to Ex2Adventures for another excellent event.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Arla's Saga Classic Blue Brie

    Recently, I was looking for a decent bleu cheese and came across Arla's Saga Classic Danish Bleu Brie. Having never tasted this particular cheese I purchased a five ounce wedge. This cheese's quality was surprising and a superb value for only five dollars. I would not hesitate to buy this product again.

    I unwrapped the cheese an hour before serving so it would warm to room temperature. Although chilled, the aroma had a gentle pungency without being overpowering with a fresh earthy mushroom fragrance. The thin off-white mold rind was tasteless and did not detract from the cheese. The pale off-white color with a slight yellow tint highlighted the marbled dark mold veins. When cut the double cream cheese texture is soft.

    This cheese tastes simply and straightforward, as expected from a mild bleu cheese. It starts tangy with a vibrant mushroom flavor, but not your average kitchen sliced pizza topping. The taste reminded me of wild German Steinpilzen. A very mild briny finish accentuated the crushed peppercorn crackers and grapes served with the cheese.

    I would not hesitate to buy this cheese again in the future. The cheese paired well with a Riesling and Pinot. The earthy flavors were complimented by the sweet wines. The Saga Classic Bleu Brie is a great daily cheese and inexpensive enough not to warrant a special occasion.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    2010 Spring Backyard Burn Race # 1 Course Preview

    The first race of this year's edition is at Wakefield Park in Annandale, VA. The course is the least hilly of the four courses on which the race series is held. Generally it runs fast from start to finish throughout the entire race.

    The course begins with a short prologue that is approximately a half-mile on pavement. This portion of the course is FAST. By the time the trail makes the sharp downhill left-hand turn to descend to the Cross County Trail the field is spread out from the turn back to the start point!

    The cross country trail follows double-track through a tall grass field for another half-mile. The second mile snakes around and between the lower softball fields and makes for some fun running on the grass. I am normally in the first few folks through here and the tall grass leaves you soaked.

    At just over 1.5 miles the trail turns toward Accotink Creek and runs into the woods before it runs along the creek and doubles over on some fast rolling hills and switchbacks. One particularly gnarly section is a very "technical" stretch of head sized boulders.

    The trail breaks back out of the trees after 4.5 miles of racing. The last mile winds through some high grass fields under some powerlines on downhill switchbacks before joining back up with the Cross Country Trail. This takes you back to the ballfields where there is a very short but slightly upward slope to the finish.

    The race is not long and is not anywhere fancy; but Ex2Adventures puts on great events that are a lot of fun. They also help me get some good race-pace speed work in during the early season that easily piggybacks on my training plan with my earlier in the week long runs.

    During my last race on this course I finished in 5th place. Check back this Sunday for my results!

    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    Skiing with my dad and son - Life is Good

    We have made it out a few times this year for ski-weekends with the kids. Here is a short video I shot while skiing with my dad and son. I hope they had as much fun as me!

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Pool time! with a short video

    Today I did my usual 2000yds at the local indoor pool. My workout is usually a 1000yds main set and a 1000yds of drills. I broke my laps out today in the following way: 5x100yds, 10x50yds, 2x200yds with buoy, 2x200yds with kickboard, 100m breast stroke, and 100m kick-on-side drills.

    I shot this video of a hundred yard interval with my HD Flip Camera. I was just trying to keep a nice even stroke for the camera to critique myself later. I notice on my return lap that I seem to be crossing the middle. However, I think my elbows look okay and my turns are decent. Note my ripped back! :) Please any swimmers out there feel free to post a critique in the comments!

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Early 2010 racing season and future plans

    The first half of my 2010 racing season is taking shape. Plans have changed drastically since I did not move to California. I have not done much distance running since October and the ridiculous winter weather here in the mid-Atlantic has kept me on the tread mill. My new work schedule is also impacting my workouts.

    No-longer can I easily get two-a-days in an excellent gym at work. I am reduced to slumming at the neighborhood gym and making off to a local gym I can use for free. What is really impacted is my ability to do a quality swim three times a week and couple running with solid strength sessions. I have taken up doing Cross-fit after my aerobic work. So far I am pleased with the results; after being a hater for so long. I'll post more on my workouts in the future.

    I registered for the Ex2Adventures Backyard Burn Spring Trail Running Series. These races take place at numerous parks here in the Northern Virginia area. The series comes in five and ten mile editions. Since I am not fast enough to be competitive at the longer races I have registered for the shorter five mile races. I have consistently placed in them during past events and finished in the top five overall for the four race series. The races:

    Race #1 March 07 - Wakefield Park - Annandale, VA
    Race #2 March 14 - Hemlock Overlook - Clifton, VA
    Race #3 March 28 - Fountainhead Park - Fairfax Station, VA
    Race #4 April 11 - Prince William Forest Park - Triangle, VA

    Taking me into the middle months of the year I am registered for the 24 Hour Adventure Trail Run which is also held in Prince William Forest Park at Triangle, VA. It starts on 01 May at 0700 and finishes on 02 May at 0700. The course is a mix of single and double track through mostly rolling young hardwood forest. It is a great location and I am very familiar with the trails from past races there.

    I am not quite sure what the final month of my season will look like. I move to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July. A nice 50 miler in late June would be great and I am still seeking one that fits my needs. However, most likely I will end up doing a few open water swim races. In late May there is the Jim McConnell Two Mile Open Water Race and in mid-June there is the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (which I did two years ago with my friend Raul). I may finish my running with the 24 Hr and concentrate on the swims. Another option is to run the Highland Sky 40 Miler again.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Taking advantage of epic snowfall

    As many of you know the Washington DC metro area has received record snowfall numbers in the last week. Although the snow has indeed paralyzed the greater metropolitan area I have taken full advantage and have made it out on my cross country skis every day for the past five!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Haiku #6

    crenelated ridges
    white origami napkins
    recall alpine days

    (photo taken during February 2006 in the Bayerische Voralpen)

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    2010: Haiku Project

    My project for 2010, amongst many others, will be to write one haiku per day. We will see how long it lasts. While I will not post them all I will keep them handily recorded in my chic Moleskine notebooks.

    New Year's arrival
    closes another behind;