Post race awesomeness

Itch scratched. Must keep itching.

In my last post I outlined the calendar I had for the fall, and now I’m almost done with that list, which means it is a perfect time to revisit it, right?

September 1: Hot August Nights – MTB Race in Central Park. My first mountain bike race (and just plain bike race), and it was a blast. It was also at Central Park, where I had crashed hard in mid July and hadn’t been back to since. What could go wrong? Turns out, not much.

HRRT Hot August Nights #2

I started about 3/4s of the way through the pack, and sat behind a junior for the first half of the first lap until they had to pull off. At this point I realized that the speed limit imposed by the junior was helping, because my technical ability went out the window as I started flying. I went to ride over a log, clipped my handle bars on a tree, and slammed the horn of my saddle into my inner thigh (OW!), but I finished the first lap, skipping boards and riding through the dirt next to them, and walking my bike across the bridges to and from the back section.

HRRT Hot August Nights #2

When I got back to the gravel road to start the second lap, I thought I was doing great. I started making the turn into the trail for lap two and got up on the pedals to quick… skrissh I put my pedal into the step which is just past the first part of the trail. Everyone around the tent was concerned, but I shouted “I’m good! I got this!” Much to my surprise (and delight), that seemed to trigger a chorus of “he’s good!” from those gathered which definitely gave me a little boost. In the finish for this lap, I ended up neck and neck against a friend, and spun out going 20 mph on gravel. (I lost by a bike length)

September 3: 10k. DNS. Went for an awesome bike ride instead, climbing Rector and then Washout before wandering around Glenville and Charlton. Bikes are fun. Cate ran it though and had a good time.

September 12: MHCC Century Weekend. 98.6 miles. Turns out when your front wheel starts doing this at mile 55, it is a long way home:

I still finished though, and the Best Bike Shop Ever got Trek/Bontrager to warranty the repair. It was a great experience though. Cate also rode the 50 mile, which was over double her longest previous ride!

September 15: Hot August Nights (again). Learning from my last experience, I think I did better this time. Getting the hang of this whole thing. Don’t I look like srsbzns?

HRRT Hot August Nights #4

September 26: Drops to Hops! Woah. I entered the “B” race at 23 miles. I was with 2 teammates in the breakaway, and got dropped about half way up the second climb. Even with that though, I ended up coming in third in my age group!

Drops to HopsDrops to Hops

I recorded the race on my Virb, and noticed something: I spent way too much time cutting through air. Next year (I’m doing the “A” race), I’m keeping my nose behind someone else’s wheel for much longer. It was still an awesome experience though, and I learned a bunch.

Drops to HopsDrops to Hops

October 18: Mohawk Towpath Duathlon. Hell yeah! This was kind of my big deal race to close out the year. I’ve been having a nagging foot thing (probably shoe related) that I need to address, so I wasn’t running much, but even then I’m super impressed with my result. (Second in age group, 1:26)

Mohawk Towpath DuathlonMohawk Towpath Duathlon

Even more impressive were these two, who both did their first Du’s and I got to cheer into the finish!

Mohawk Towpath DuathlonMohawk Towpath DuathlonMohawk Towpath DuathlonMohawk Towpath Duathlon

I also accomplished some other things this fall too… Last year we went to a friend’s party at Thacher Park and I had the (then) crazy idea that I wanted to ride up the road to the park. Check!

Atop Thacher!

Ride my bike to the end of the bike path in Albany? Check!

At the USS Slater

Oh, and my goal of riding 2,000 miles this year? Check+!

Screen Shot 2015 10 19 at 2 17 04 PM

And we’re only halfway through October.


Race Planning

The itch is back!

Here’s what I have signed up for (or am planning to do) for the rest of the year:

  • September 3: 10k Race @ work, flat course, no real goals
  • September 12: MHCC Century Weekend, going to do my first 100 mile century
  • September 26: Drops to Hops! This will be my first “bike race” and I’m super excited
  • October 4: HRRT Sweat N’ Fall Metric
  • October 18: Towpath Duathlon
  • November 22: HRRT Sweat N’ Ice… Metric or 32, haven’t decided yet
  • November 26: Cardiac Classic 5k. Troy Turkey Trot crowds are just too insane.

Next year, I really want to do some of the Brinkerhoff races, as well as Battenkill (possibly even the race and not the fondo).

Basically, a whole lot less in the running front compared to last year. On the other hand, I set a goal this year to do 2,000 miles this year. At this point I am only about 190 miles to go, and so I’m going to blow that out of the water.


“Automation is just as much about consistency and accuracy as it is about time”

Dr. Drang at the end of a recent post:

People often cite this cartoon by Randall Munroe to point out that automation doesn’t always save time.
XKCD 1319: Automation
But automation is just as much about consistency and accuracy as it is about time. I feel more confident in my corrected directions because they were done by a script instead of by hand.

I’ve said this at work too… I write tools to do my job, especially mundane tasks, because I inevitably screw it up. If I can teach a computer to do it once, it’s repeatable.

(I do smooth out the curve a bit… for one report I make I have an excel book that I can cut and paste the contents of an automatically generated CSV into. The tradeoff here is that I didn’t write Python that could edit the original excel workbook)


Where I’ve run and biked…

Personal Heatmap

After finding some heat map tools while researching a different project, I decided to try to load all of the FIT files from my watch and bike computer into a map and see what comes out. Some patterns definitely show up too… Obviously there’s a dense blob where I typically run around the house and the office. But also: the large loops to the north are from my Tour de Cure rides; the yellow gash down the left edge is from when my watch turned on when I was flying home from Toronto (back when Albany International Airport had international flights); that same yellow gash cuts through two different times when I left my watch running when leaving the Christman Sanctuary.

It also points out to me how close Saratoga and the portions of central-western Saratoga County (north of Ballston) really are. I want to build some mileage during the summer, so seeing how close those places really are is encouraging, since there’s a lot of activity in that area on the Strava Global Heatmap.

I may throw the code up, but it isn’t deserving of being called crude. I have a local cache of FIT files that I save off my devices periodically, and the script just opens those files, looks for all of the latitude and longitude pairs in the activity, and adds them to the heat map (roughly 222k points). All of the coloring and stuff is handled by heatmap.js.


Thoughts on HealthKit

Initially, I believed that HealthKit shouldn’t be panned as much as it is. I didn’t think the point of HealthKit is the Health app.

To me, HealthKit is just like HomeKit: it’s a clearinghouse (or wire nut) for information for one app to write to another. I currently do this through some hacky magic between Fitbit, Garmin Connect, MyFitnessPal, and Strava. If Fitbit would write my weight to the health app and Strava and Garmin could read it from there, that would be great. People who open the Health app and expect magic are thinking of the “now.” Now that apps are out there, I think developers will start shaking out what they’re planning on doing.

Then, last night, I saw this commercial.

(I realize now that this commercial is old. I don’t watch much TV.)

Honestly, I wouldn’t be promoting the Health app yet. I would wait: let the app developers figure out what metrics they’re going to collect and upload to the app over the next year, let the watch come out and start recording fitness, etc. and then once people’s Health apps are already populated with a large corpus of information, start pushing Health as the dashboard.

Right now the app is empty. I have a 6, so it logs my steps, but they’re not my actual steps since I leave the phone sitting around a lot. If Fitbit could write the steps it records, that would be more accurate. Currently my weight is not automatically getting added, and I’m too lazy to enter it by hand from my INTERNET CONNECTED SCALE.



Is 2015 the year of the multi-sport?

Last weekend I completed my first multi-sport event: The Mohawk Towpath Duathalon. It was a 2 mile run, a 17 mile bike, and then back out onto the running course for another 2 miles.

It was bitter cold and windy before the start. Don’t believe me?


It was kind of a dreary overcast too.


I set myself up on the back row of transition, furthest from the entrance and exits of the course, but I had tons of room. For my first time I figured that was important. I looked around at the other bikes, and they thankfully were quite varied, with everything from a kid on her 16″ bike, to a guy on a single speed cycle cross bike, to people on hybrids, to road bikes (of varying vintage), to the guys in the front row of transition with their Specialized Shivs and aero helmets.


Everyone huddled around the start to get our instructions (and to stay warm).


Off we went for our first 2 miles of running. I felt good, and I kept pulling myself back a bit because I didn’t want to go out too hot. About 15 minutes later, I came back into transition.


Got my helmet and bike shoes on,


And headed out for a 17 mile ride.


Thankfully the ride starts on a downhill, which makes it easy to struggle with your clips. After that quick jaunt where I averaged just over 18 miles an hour (fast!), I climbed back up that hill to return to transition.


After having shoe issues in transition, I ended up kneeling on my left leg for quite a while, probably close to a minute. It may look like I’m enjoying myself in this picture, but I’m really not. I can’t contract my left calf. It hurtssss.


After about a quarter mile, my leg started relaxing. I wasn’t fast, and I wasn’t springy, but I was moving forward and that’s what counts. I must have made up time as my leg felt better, because my average pace for the second run was 8:06.


Finishing in about ninety minutes, for my first multi-sport race, was really satisfying. TurnsOut(TM) that I placed third in my age group (we left before awards) according to the official results.

Of course, I was at Riverview Orchards, so I had to have some athlete food after!


The Strava record is a mess from trying to “fix” it to show up as three sports. Here’s the Garmin version, it should be clear what the 5 laps are.

After doing this, I really want to do more of these multi-sport events next year. I just need to learn to swim (efficiently). And I want a watch that understands these things, but I can’t have everything.


So I bought a new phone

Release day, like an absolute tool, I was standing in line in front of my local Apple Store to pick up my new iPhone 6. Here’s what I think of it and iOS 8 after having it for a little over a month:

The size is ok. When I look at my 5c, it feels small, almost like the 4 to 5 transition. I don’t have any pocket fitting issues, but the cup holder insert that came with the car for holding the phone no longer fits the phone. Apps which needed to be scaled up to fit the phone (like Facebook until yesterday) had a bit of fuzz, but I enjoyed the larger text size. (I must be getting old)

It’s fast. I’m coming from a 5 and 5c, so even my wife’s 5s felt snappy compared to it. And ‘dat screen…

It’s thin, light, and wider. I was terrified of holding it until I stuck it in a case. I bought an Apple leather case like I had on my 5. It adds a nice feel to it.

Touch ID is nifty, but anything beyond laziness is limited for me. Some of the things that it unlocks like 1Password are great, but I’m not going to make my master password (more) complicated since I still have to log in on three computers and an iPad with a keyboard (like an animal).

I was super excited for HomeKit, but skeptical. ADT, Lowes/iris, etc. all make money through lock in. Collaboration and interconnection with other apps from other vendors did not seem like something they would partake in. I wanted to play with it too, but all hardware has to pass MFi, ruling out any hobbyist tinkering. I bought some GE Link bulbs which work with Wink, but without an API, they’re mostly toys. I have some Hue bulbs on my Christmas list, which I hope to get and play with.

I’ve used Apple Pay twice. The first time at Panera I had no idea what to expect, and I don’t think the cashier did either. The second was at a self checkout at BJ’s, where the only time saved was the time swiping the card, and it actually ended up being slower because I already have to get my wallet out for the membership card. First world problems.

I’ve got thoughts on HealthKit but I’m breaking them out into another post.