Friday, February 28, 2014

Further Planning for the 2014 Texas Independence Relay!

For my sixth consecutive year I'll soon be running the Texas Independence Relay with a great team called the DOGS.  Despite the predictable last minute scheduling challenges, I'm excited!

To see our latest plan, see the individual GoogleMaps' leg-by-leg views shown below or this GoogleEarth KML file for the 2014 DOGS.  Finally, the following very helpful one was recently posted by the TIR organizer.

Sleep Shift 1 Vehicle Rick MarkU David Ruth Don Janet
Leg 1 01-Rick 08-MarkU 09-David 10-Ruth 11-Don 12-Janet
Leg 2 27-Rick 26-MarkU 25-David 29-Ruth 28-Don 30-Janet
Leg 3 33-Rick 32-MarkU 31-David 35-Ruth 34-Don 36-Janet
Leg 4 38-MarkU 37-David
Relay Miles (Legs) 14.2 (3) 19.5 (4) 19.8 (4) 14.3 (3) 15.6 (3) 13.0 (3)
Sleep Shift 2 Vehicle Paul MB Kim Tim Kath MarkO
Leg 1 02-Paul 03-MB 04-Kim 05-Tim 06-Kath 07-MarkO
Leg 2 13-Paul 14-MB 15-Kim 16-Tim 18-Kath 17-MarkO
Leg 3 19-Paul 20-MB 21-Kim 22-Tim 23-Kath 24-MarkO
Leg 4 40-Paul 39-Kim
Relay Miles (Legs) 20.9 (4) 16.4 (3) 17.9 (4) 18.0 (3) 14.1 (3) 14.5 (3)

Versus the plan posted a month ago we had the additional challenge of replacing yet another DOG who had to withdraw due to an illness or injury.  As with our prior unexpected personnel withdrawals we were again fortunate to quickly identify a willing and capable experienced runner to fill the void.  Last night upon realizing that to avoid the second sleep shift needing to be awoken 90-minutes short of their well deserved sleep allocation (to avoid being charged an extra night's stay by violating the hotel's Noon check-out) I again reshuffled the DOGS' running order.

I'm quite satisfied with the results, which can also be visualized - with great emphasis on the hilliness of the 30-miles east of Gonzales - via the following customized elevation map:

TIR runners can have the entire course on your smart-phone, with your own location shown (as the blue dot) so that you could always see where you are relative to the course.  This is very helpful both for potentially lost runners, and for the passengers in the support vehicles to follow their runners along:

1) Click on the below link (while reading this on your phone).

2) A message may come up about GPS tracking or using your current location... you'll need to accept / ok it.

3) You should see the TIR route come up on your phone (on your phones web browser and NOT Google Maps app), but maybe not a blue dot that shows where you are.

4) Touch the little icon near the top that looks like a diamond sign with a turn (to the right) arrow on it.

5) then a screen with "Directions" at the top should show up. Click on the icon with the person hiking (this is just to the left of the bicycle icon, and beneath "Add Destination - Show options")

6) Then touch the little icon with the map with the pointer on it (to the immediate right of the word "Directions" at the very top)

7) Now, you should be able to see a blue dot at your current location (representing you!). We now see you, too! Just kidding.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Austin Half Marathon Race Report

Finished! After this morning's Austin Half, I was, quite simply, very glad to be done.

My pre-race planning and preparations started well enough, waking-up early enough for my normal Breakfast of Champions (Starbuck's non-fat Venti Cappuccino, Gatorade, yogurt, fruit, and granola.) I arrived at the start corral north of the Capitol with enough time to avoid weaving around the back-of-the-pack runners. My physical condition was acceptable, though clearly nowhere close to my best, as a result of the six-week interruption to my training caused by a calf injury which is now, thankfully, only a painful memory (thanks again, Connie and Sean!) This being the Austin Half Marathon I had intended to do more hill training in preparation, but life got in the way and was only able to do a dozen or so loops around Houston's Miller Outdoor Theatre versus my hoped for Conroe runs.

Despite the reasonable 60°F starting temperature, I didn't factor adequately into account Austin's hills and especially this morning's dripping 100% humidity. These led me to seek to match or improve upon my recent Houston performance, thinking incorrectly that my somewhat improved fitness would overcome the heat and hills. By the eighth mile, running briefly alongside my wonderfully supportive wife inquiring my condition, I was several minutes off my hoped for pace so knew I had to reset to my back-up plan.

Fortunately, I had one! My new plan was to beat two hours total time, thereby to be below 9-minute average pace. However, with continued hills and growing fatigue working against me I knew it would be a close call as I sprinted the final downhill section past the Capitol to the finish line. I just made it with a 1:57:38 time and an 8:58 average pace. Through my inadequate planning I proved myself not to be a sufficiently loyal disciple of Coach Sean Wade, who preaches incessantly - but evidently, not sufficiently! - about the importance of every runner achieving a negative split on each race and training run.

Ultimately, I'm OK with the result. It's being healthy and able to run that's most important; performance is secondary. In the coming days I'll give my body some much needed rest, then will begin my preparations for the Houston Rodeo Run 10K and the always fun Texas Independence Relay!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

RoadNoise Safety Vest Review

Through the organizer of the excellent Texas Independence Relay I found out about the RoadNoise. As is shown in the following video, the RoadNoise is a safety vest with small speakers in the shoulders which allows the runner to safely listen to music while remaining clearly visible. I will use it on the next Texas Independence Relay, as headphones (but not the RoadNoise) are appropriately prohibited as it is run primarily on the shoulder of public roads shared by high speed traffic.

To test the product's visibility I wore it after dark while running on the shoulder of the road, observing when approaching vehicles first saw me - evidenced by their moving over or slowing down. I was delighted to see every approaching vehicle do so while at least one hundred yards away. Conversely, in prior evening runs despite wearing a bright yellow running shirt a couple of drivers clearly did not see me - thus proving that bright colors alone do not make a runner visible!

While engaged in this experiment I enjoyed music via the RoadNoise's built-in speakers connected through the earphone jack of my iPhone, which is held securely in place in a Velcro enclosed pouch sufficiently large as to accommodate devices up to a Samsung Galaxy 3. I was impressed that the audio quality was not bad, once I set the equalization to "small speakers" (an important item to test on any new speaker system.)

I was also impressed that even with music played sufficiently loud to clearly hear the lyrics that I was still easily able to hear approaching vehicles and pedestrians. So, I have no hesitation recommending that runners try the RoadNoise. Particularly at this time of year, when days are still relatively short yet the improving weather encourages us to go outside, we need to be ultra-cautious with the potentially deadly combination of heavy vehicle traffic and increasingly distracted drivers.

The RoadNoise is well constructed and designed, and its mesh construction does not restrict air flow so allows you to run cool. Note, however, that as its speakers are powered from your device, you will find its battery to drain much more quickly than normal; consequently, be sure to fully charge it before your run. Also, though the RoadNoise's speakers are water resistant, the vest offers no weather protection for your electronic device, so be sure to protect it (I recommend via a clear plastic sandwich bag.)

From my experience exchanging my previously ordered medium, which proved too snug, to a large I found that RoadNoise's customer service is both courteous and prompt. I received neither a promotional product nor an incentive for this review. Bottom line, I highly recommend RoadNoise!