Monday, June 22, 2009

Tri For Fun

This past weekend, a group of us participated in the Pleasanton Tri for Fun. It is a sprint distance triathlon: 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. There are no official times, so the race is fairly low key. In fact, many of the participants do their first tri at the Tri for Fun.

Josh Redstone and I did the whole triathlon while Peter Brende (swim), Jeremy Cotter (bike), and Ryan Barrett (run) did it as a relay. This was Josh and Jeremy's first tri, so congrats to them! We had a really good time and all completed the event successfully.

The lovely Tina woke up before sunrise with us to take pictures of the whole thing. She's something special. :)

Castle Rock

Tina and I went camping at Castle Rock State Park a couple of weeks ago. We got a bunch of backpacking gear from REI as wedding presents, and this was our first chance to use all of it at once!

Castle Rock is just South of Hwy 9 on Skyline. Here's a map to the parking lot where you can park overnight:

View Larger Map

The State Park website has a nice brochure that contains a map to the campground. Camping plus parking was only $10 for the night. What a deal!

We drove into the parking lot on Saturday afternoon, got a little orientation from the ranger stationed at the entrance, and started on our hike. The campground is about three miles away from the parking lot, and the scenery is beautiful the whole way. It starts out with a canopy of tall trees that blocks out enough sunlight that there is very little underbrush. Large sandstone boulders are popular with rock climbers.

About a mile into the hike, the view really opens up:

We arrived at the campsite well before dark. It was empty except for a small group of Boy Scouts. We picked a secluded site and set up camp. During the evening and night, the rangers came by multiple times to make sure that we had not started a campfire. The fire danger in the area is very high, so they were extraordinarily cautious.

In the morning, we took an alternate route back to the parking lot. Along the way, we discovered the largest forest of poison oak that I've ever seen.

All of the low, leafy plants in the picture are poison oak! Tina didn't like the idea of walking past it, but we didn't have a choice. Amazingly, we didn't catch any of it.

In all, we had a great time at Castle Rock. I highly recommend it for a day hike as well as for backpacking overnight.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Giro d'Italia

I watched the Giro d'Italia during the month of May on Universal Sports. It is a lot like the Tour de France: lots of long days on the bike, big mountains to climb, different types of stages, and enthusiastic fans.

The end of the race was incredible. Denis Menchov had a 20 second lead on Danilo Di Luca going into the last stage of the race which was an individual time trial through the streets of Rome. It started to rain as the leaders got on the course. Menchov was doing really well until the last kilometer (takes a little while to load and there's a commercial). Oh man, was that exciting!

By the way, the commercial that runs before the Menchov clip is for a series of short documentaries about Cervelo Test Team. You can watch them at I recommend taking the time to watch them. The production quality is surprisingly high, and I found it very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes of a bike race.


Those are the steps that lead from our driveway to the front door. You can see that they're a little overgrown. Tina says that they need a Brazilian wax. :)

PS- In writing this post, I came across this rather entertaining video (somewhat risque if you are at work).

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It took me a couple of weeks, but here is my writeup of the Wildflower triathlon.

On May 3, I completed the Olympic distance of the Wildflower Triathlon. It felt really good to cross the finish line after all the training I've done. I finished in 2 hours 54 minutes. Here is the breakdown:
Swim29:1031:18 min/mi
Bike01:27:2117.07 mi/hr
Run52:2808:27 min/mi

The official results are up too.

Tina and I drove down with Tomas, a coworker and Team in Training teammate, to Lake San Antonio on Friday afternoon. We wanted to get our campsite set up before dark. It was raining lightly on Friday, but it cleared up by the time the long course event started on Saturday morning. Team in Training had its own section of the campground-- there were hundreds of TNT people competing in the two events that weekend.

We had a pasta dinner on both Friday and Saturday night. Representatives from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society told us how much money we raised: a few million dollars just for this one event! After 29 years, Team in Training is on track to raise its one billionth dollar by the end of this year. That's an incredible amount of money to go to cancer research and cancer patients.

On Saturday morning, Tina started a long search for a Starbucks where she could get internet access to do work while I went down to watch the long course event. Near the transition area, there was a large expo with food and vendors. Music played all day while announcers told us how the race was unfolding. I cheered on my teammates as they came out of the water and got on their bikes. Once I had seen most of them, I hiked a mile uphill back to the campsite for lunch. I ate, took a nap, and then watched the run portion of the race since it came right through the campground. By that time, Tina had returned after many hours of driving, and we hiked back down to the finish line in time to see my mentor, Ellen, finish the race. We had another pasta dinner, and I went to bed early (with earplugs) while the long course folks partied.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early to get ready for my race. After some group photos, we climbed on our bikes and rode down to the start/transition/finish area. Using a permanent pen, they wrote my number on both arms, both hands, and both legs. I thought this was a little excessive since they had already given us numbered stickers for our bike helmets and a paper bib number for the run. While I was being marked up, John Tannaci walked by. We chatted for a bit, and I learned that he planned to swim in the 63 degree water without a wetsuit. Yikes!

I set up my very small transition area, applied my body glide, put on my wetsuit, ate a packet of Gu, and made my way to the starting line. The first wave, collegiate men, started at 9 am, collegiate women started at 9:05, men 17-24 started at 9:10, and my wave, men 25-29 started at 9:15. Once the 9:10 wave started, we were allowed to take a few minutes in the water to get warmed up. We regrouped at the starting line, and I decided to stand a few rows back from the front.

The announcer counted us down, and my wave charged into the water. As you can see in the photo above, the entry into the water isn't very wide. The mass of men entering the water meant that I barely had to paddle to move with the group because the current was so strong. I'd heard stories of triathlon starts with people being swum over, kicked, and elbowed, but my start went smoothly. After a couple hundred meters, I was able to settle into my rhythm. I veered off course a couple of times during the swim, but overall it went well.

The transition to the bike was good, and by the time I got on my bike, I noticed I had passed a couple of collegiate women (remember they started 10 minutes ahead of me). I felt good on the bike and mostly continued to pass people. A few kilometers in, I came up on a kid trying to reach something under his seat while he was riding. I heard something metal hit the ground, and I figured he had dropped one of the CO2 cartridges used to inflate a tire. He stood up to look back and his seat fell off! Pretty tough to go the remaining 30 km without a bike seat. Luckily, nothing bad happened to me on the ride. I ate my Shot Bloks, drank my water (they handed out full bottles on the course!), and paced myself until I got back to the transition area.

I felt strong going into the run. The first mile (of six) is pretty flat. Miles 2 through 5 were uphill, and I really felt it. I didn't walk, but I was running pretty slowly by the time I got to the top of the hill. I tried to drink water at the aid stations, but my stomach wasn't interested. The last mile was steep downhill and I barely had anything left. A girl tried to pass me in the last 100m, but I wasn't going to let that happen. I dug deep and sprinted into the finish. It felt so good to be done!

Thanks to Tina and my teammates for taking pictures:

During the race, one of the things that impressed me was all of the cheering I got because I was wearing a Team in Training jersey. Supporters were all over the course yelling, "Go Team!". It made me feel really good and gave me an extra boost. It felt even better to hear Tina cheering for me. :)

After the race, we struggled back uphill to the campsite where we packed up and started the long trip home. With only one road out of the campground and tens of thousands of people trying to leave, the traffic was horrible. It took an hour to go just a couple of miles.

The weekend was a bit too much of a production for my taste though: the long drive, camping the night before the big race, the hike in and out of the transition area, and the traffic on the way out. I plan to do more triathlons in the future but probably not Wildflower again.

In all, it was a great experience, and I'm really proud of all the training I did leading up to the event. Finishing in under 3 hours was great too!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We have a lot of bamboo in our yard. The landscaper was careful to put all of the bamboo in rhizome containers because bamboo is known for spreading like a weed. A few clumps of bamboo are buried in the ground, but most are in black plastic, 10 gallon buckets lined with a plastic mesh. These buckets just sit on the ground around the yard, screening us from the neighbors.

With spring around us, I had noticed some large sprouts in the buried bamboo clumps. They grow really fast! I then noticed some sprouts well outside the buried rhizome containers. In fact, these sprouts were close to one of the black plastic buckets. Then I saw another sprout near another bucket.

I tried to pick up one of the buckets, but it had grown roots. The bamboo had broken through the plastic liner and snuck out the four drainage holes in the bucket. I grabbed my hand clippers and tried to snip the roots. Too thick. I went back into the garage and pulled out the three foot lopper. After loosening it up a bit, I gave a good yank on the bucket and it came free. Here are two of the buckets:

I spent the next few hours digging around for all of the roots. Here is one rhizome trying to make dash under the fence into the neighbor's yard.

It turns out, all of the buckets in the yard had roots growing out of them. Only three were really bad. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it. In the short term, I'm going to lift the buckets weekly to break any new roots escaping from the buckets. In the long term, I could buy a container and put the bucket in that, but I'm concerned about the lack of drainage. Any thoughts?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Something in the water...

Today we did another open water swim at Redwood Shores. We did a similar swim about a month ago. The water was just as cold and murky as before: I couldn't see my hand with my arm extended.

We swam to the middle of the lagoon as a warm up. I was almost to the middle when I felt something bump my leg. I pulled my head out of the water and looked around. The closest person to me was about 20 feet away. I figured I had imagined it and kept swimming.

Then something bumped my arm.

It felt like I had swum up against a fish, but it was hard to tell with my full wetsuit on. I kept swimming.

Something bumped my other arm.

I started to get nervous. It isn't like fish to bump into people. Something was wrong, but I couldn't see anything through the water! I started to get scared. I thought, "Maybe it's the tail of a much larger animal. Like a dolphin." Here comes the scary thought, "Or a shark."

Another bump on the leg.

I was freaking out. I pulled my head up and looked around for my teammates. I was not the only one alarmed by the mysterious sea creatures. People all around were shrieking and yelling, "What is that?!" Someone finally caught sight of one: jellyfish.

Great, we're a couple hundred yards from shore and surrounded by jellyfish. I woke up early on a Saturday for this?

We did whatever we could to get back to shore without touching any more jellyfish. One of the best swimmers delicately kicked on his back. The jellyfish seemed not to be right at the surface, so I did my best water strider impression. As we got close to the shore, the coaches tried to reassure us, "The jellyfish aren't dangerous. They won't hurt you."

"Oh yeah? Then why aren't you in the water?"

But it was true, I hadn't been stung and neither had my teammates. It turns out they are Moon Jellyfish which are harmless to humans. Even so, I didn't enjoy bumping into animal life in murky water.

We did the rest of the swim close to the shore where there weren't any jellyfish. I was expecting to bump into more jellyfish the whole time, so it was hard to relax. I will not be swimming there again.

After the swim, we ran around the lagoon a few times. I felt really good the whole time.

With just one week to go before Wildflower, we are going to start tapering our workouts. No hard efforts, no long runs, etc. Our coaches told us that we should expect to feel a little lethargic as our bodies recover. I'll let you know how it goes.