So, today is interesting for two reasons.
First, the lottery entry period for the New York City Marathon is now closed. The wife and I have decided to do a destination marathon at the end of the season this year and this is one of the two contenders. As neither of us is anywhere near the times you need to be guaranteed a slot, we entered the lottery and now, along with over 125,000 people, we wait to see if we get to race. The race site says that they expect 8% to 12% of those in the lottery will be selected. I'm not a huge fan of those odds, especially as they have a new disclaimer that says the number may well be even lower in 2011 due to an increasing number of applications...sigh. Also adding to the uncertainty, is that we both entered the lottery individually and there is no way to do an all-or-nothing option where we either both get in or we do not. Many races offer this type of registration, but NYC does not. So, the worst case would be if one of us got in and the other did not, as you are required to register (and pay the costly registration fee) if you are selected. Anywho, the drawing is on 27 April, so we've got about a week to go until we find out if we got in. Oh yeah, I did say that this was one of two contenders and we'll do NYC if both of us get in via the lottery. If we don't, well, let's just say we'll be one-upping our game (and distance!) should it come to that. :)
In other news, today is Earth Day. Rather than write something original here on the topic, I'm going to pass on two links because these two ladies have done a really good job with their pieces and you should go read them. Now.
There you have it. I should also point out that if you bring a reusable coffee conveyance to Starbucks today, they will fill it with delicious coffee for free. Sweetness. Have a great Earth Day folks.
Some exciting news is that the wife and I have a new vehicle. Our first race of the year will be the Florida Ironman 70.3 and we are driving down from Maryland. We both have smaller cars (Civic Hybrid represent!) and neither of us is very comfortable with our hang-off-the-back bike carrier, despite it being a really good one. Since we planned to go all the way down the Florida, and for other reasons that we don't need to get into, Cin and I decided to buy an SUV as an additional vehicle, with the requirement of being able to transport the bikes inside it while leaving lots of space for all of our other race gear. We did a lot of shopping around and ended up being a Honda Pilot SE 4WD. It's a really sweet truck. One really good feature is this accessory. Yep, that's an interior bike rack attachment, to stand your bike up inside the Pilot.
We bought two of bike racks with the truck and then I went to install them. The general idea is that you mount the attachment to the cargo lid, which is a flip-up door that forms the floor of the cargo area. I did some measuring and experimenting before drilling into it, and it would fit fine...for a bike without aerobars. We both have aerobars, so this was a non-starter. With the attachment located at the back of the truck, connected to the cargo lid, there is simply not enough space for the handlebars to fit. After some experimentation, I decided to mount the bikes in the opposite direction, facing front, by mounting the attachments onto the back of the second row of seats (which we fold down). Mounting to the cargo lid is pretty elegant; you drill some holes and then use thick bolts to connect the attachment to a metal plate mounted on the other side. Nice and easy. Mounting to the back of the seats was a little more difficult as the seat frame is solid metal. Some self-tapping metal screws proved to be a perfectly good solution to this.
Here is a close-up on the installed attachment, on the back of the second row seats.
The attachment holds the fork and then you use a provided strap to secure the frame to some of the hooks on the backs of the seats and on the sides of the truck. This took a little while to figure out, but once you know what you're doing, takes about a minute or so to lock a bike in. We have both attachments set up in our truck and both bikes fit great. The ends of the aerobars are a good foot away from the front seats and the rear wheels are no where near the tailgate. The one downside to this is my seatpost; the vertical clearance of the truck is not tall enough for me to fit my bike in with the seatpost on, so I need to pull that off the bike to get it in. The wife's bike fits just fine. :)
Here is a picture of the whole thing, with both of our bikes mounted in the truck.
As you can see, there is plenty of room left in the truck for all of our other race gear. We're pretty happy about how this turned out, as we can now protect our bikes very well as we transport them and we have a solid vehicle for whatever race we want to get to. I'm also going to replace the seatpost clamp with one with a quick release so removing and reinstalling the seatpost will not be a bother.
Transport solution achieved. Success!
Yesterday was one of the first really nice days of spring. Yeah, we've had a couple of warm days (including Monday, which somehow got over 80 degrees!), and the wife and I have taken advantage of them by getting some good walks in around Centennial Lake (home of the Columbia Triathlon) and some good, warm, runs. But yesterday was a yearly rite of passage that brought spring into full effect, the first outdoor bike ride of the season. As you may recall, I spent a good amount of time (much more than ever before) on the bike trainer this winter. A large part of the motivation for that is the fact that my first triathlon of the season is a half-Ironman, and the bike is currently my weakest leg. With that race only a little more than a month away (yikes!), it was time to get the bikes out on the road...where they belong.
I got home from work a little early and loaded the bikes into our new vehicle (more about this is coming soon...with cool pictures...so, wait for it...). Once the wife got home, we changed into cycling gear, and headed out to one of our favorite bike courses, the Airport Loop around BWI Airport. This loop is about 10.7 miles around and fully encircles the airport. It also connects to the B&A Trail that provides a really great bike/hike path from Baltimore to Annapolis, but that is a course for another post. We did the Airport Loop twice around, for a total of 21 miles. Despite some pretty-strong headwinds, this was a great ride. It was a bit chilly (the temperature ended up being in the mid-50s) but both the wife and I were comfortable with shorts, jerseys, and arm warmers. The first two or three miles was awesome...there is nothing like the fresh air hitting your face when you ride outside for the first time in a long time. Pure bliss. Then, you get to deal with all the drivers who don't yield to bikes when turning right on red, and other general crapiness, but this is a small price to pay for such a great time.
After the ride, we put the bikes back in the truck (again, more on this development later) and took them over to our LBS (LBS = local bike shop, for those not down with the lingo ;)) for their yearly tune-ups, replacement of the handlebar tape, and so on. One of the purposes of this ride was to make sure we knew every little quirk that had popped up since last season so they could be taken care of during this work, and I think we accomplished that. We then headed over to a local Italian restaurant that we had not been to in a while, Luna Bella in the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Cin had a salmon, risotto, and whilted greens platter, while I settled on a pizza fresca, which had sauce, sliced tomatoes, cheese, and chopped basil. Delicious stuff and a great dinner after a great ride. We hadn't been over here in a while and it was really good to be back...the food was even better than we remembered it being. And since I'm going a little off topic and talking about food from a local place here, I'm going to inject this funny little tag - hocofood@@@ - here and watch the HoCoBlogs magic happen. :)
First outdoor bike ride of the year is in the books. And it was great.
The wife and I have done the Outback 5K race (hocoblogs@@@) every year for the past four and enjoy it for a number of reasons. First of all, the major sponsor is Outback, and they do all of the catering after the race. Now, we used to go to Outback one-to-two times per week, back when Cin was in college and swimming a crazy amount of yards every day. Now that we work all day and train a lot less than she did in college, we need to limit the amount of times we go to Outback as we are big fans of their steaks and delicious cheese fries. So, we have a once-per-month rule that seems to work out well for us. When Outback hosts a race, however, we're in. Second, the race is local and does not start until 8.30am, so we do not need to get up until 7.30am. Third, it benefits a good cause. Last year, this race was somewhat difficult for me as I raced the National Half-Marathon the day before (so I was running on horribly sore legs), but this year there was a week's separation from my first half-marathon of the season and the Outback 5K. Much better physical conditions.
The morning was somewhat chilly with a 41deg temperature at start time. We got to the Outback, got our bibs, chilled in the truck (to stay warm) for a little while, and then lined up. They pulled the start line back a few hundred feet from the past couple years, which was somewhat confusing and some folks missed the start as they were at the previous starting line. The race started off pretty fast and I pushed myself, running a 6:46 first mile (that's crazy fast for me). My second and third miles were a little slower, largely due to the hilliness of the course...this run seems like it should be flat, but it is not. Not in the slightest. I ended up with very little energy coming into the finish line (which was still on a slight uphill) but was running side-by-side with another runner all the way in...until he surged and edged me out. Nuts. I still finished in 22:09, which is easily a PR for me in a 5K race and gives me 7:07/mile as an average pace (again, very fast for me). That was good enough for 30th place overall out of a couple hundred runners and 5th in my age group of 30 to 39 year old men. Pretty darn nice.
I waited for Cin to finish and then we walked down to the Outback, where they were just opening up for the post-race meal. Sweet. Now, the first year we did this race, the food was all outside and they had small steaks, small chicken breasts, Caesar salad, and baked potatoes all available; you walked up and asked for what you wanted and you got it (including more than one trip up!). This was awesome. The next year, they did the food inside and you went through a serving line where they had steak cut into strips, chicken also in strips, salad, baked potatoes, and bread; no multiple visits this time. The third year (last year), they again had the serving line but had no steak, only chicken. As things had been getting a little less generous (this race still only costs $25/each), we were expected the same this year but still hoping for steak. No such luck, the same menu as last year was available...and that chicken was delicious. This does, however, make me ready for this month's Outback visit...for steak and cheese fries.
After eating, we waited around for the random drawing prizes and each won something, towards the end when they just keep calling out numbers until someone pops up. I ended up with a new pair of swim fins (random!) and the wife got a reflective running belt. Not too shabby. So, that's it for the Outback 5K for this year. We'll do this one again next year...and hope the steak comes back. :)
jeffsix.com / All content created by Jeff Six and may not be used without expressed permission.