Category Archives: Reviews

Gear Review: Stages Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

I figured after an entire season of using the Stages Power Meter I was in a good position to be able to fairly assess the product. This is not a highly technical review, but more of a review of my experience with the product and my dealings with the company support. If you are looking for a more in-depth, technical review of the product and comparisons to other products, check out DC Rainmakers’ reviews here and here. I never buy anything without checking DC Rainmakers’ reviews first.

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Stages DuraAce 7900 Power Meter

Being a triathlete and a bit of a techno-geek, I was chomping at the bit to get a real power meter. The prices of them definitely had me putting this off for sometime. I also started coaching myself and felt that this was critical to properly assessing and measuring my bike workouts. I thought the money I saved from a coach would help to cover the cost of the power meter. Many units are well over $1000, but the Stages Power Meter came out which was the first real possibility for under $1000.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Stages Power Meter with black electrical tape

I had a little introduction to using real power/watts with my Kinetic inRide unit on my Kinetic Trainer. The only thing is this only works on my trainer, when I am using TrainerRoad. I really wanted to quantify my road rides now that I had a little taste. I eventually added the the Cycleops/Powertap Powercal power/heart rate monitor which calculates your power based on a heart rate algorithm. While this seemed to do a pretty good job assessing an entire ride based on the averages, the instantaneous measure was all over the place. I also had my doubts about its accuracy given that you provided no individual input other than your heart rate. Despite is magically does a fairly decent job for a $100 power meter.

I broke down at the start of the 2014 training season and purchased the Stages Power Meter and replaced my Shimano Dura Ace 7950 left crank arm with the Stages version. It was around ~$900 and change. I probably could have installed this myself, but they recommend using a torque wrench to do it and I have yet to purchase one. Instead I decided to head out to see John at my favorite bike shop, Sleeping Dog Pro Cycles, and have him do it correctly. He indicated that I probably didn’t need to a torque wrench to do it. Ready to roll.

Pros

  • Cost <$1000
  • Accuracy
  • Great support
  • ANT+ & Bluetooth(BTLE)
  • Firmware updates easy
  • Installation(relatively easy)

Cons

  • Portability
  • Single-Leg Measurability
  • Battery cover sealing issues

The unit worked well from the beginning. Since it was Winter when I put it on, I was mostly using it on the trainer in the basement with TrainerRoad. Since I also had the Kinetic inRide going too, I tended to have conflicts with that over Bluetooth. Usually the inRide would prevail, but I was never really sure which meter was being used. I eventually figured out that I could determine which by doing single leg drills with my right leg, since the Stages would not show power when I did that. TrainerRoad has since done a better job of distinguishing the two and have separate lines for both now.
This was more an issue with what hate about Bluetooth(BTLE). You can only pair one specific type of device to a computer/phone at one time. And this is better why? This is why I still prefer ANT+ over BTLE and I think ANT+ will be around for awhile because of this limitation. The nice thing about the Stages Power Meter is that it has both ANT+/BTLE so you are not pigeon-holed into one communication type.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Battery compartment door of Stages Power Meter

The cost of the Stages Power Meter was surely the most appealing factor to me. Although as I write this, several other companies have announced new power meters in this price point just in the last week or so. One is that Garmins’ new Vector system now has a one-pedal option for about $800 with the ability to upgrade to two pedals in the future. The nice thing about that system is that it is easily tranferrable to another bike.
My biggest issue with the Stages device was after I had broken of a couple of the small tabs on the battery compartment door which allow it to lock in place. After I did that I was not able to lock the door in place. I notified Stages and they quickly mailed me out a couple new doors and gaskets. The Stages support is outstanding and they are very responsive to your issues. The new doors still would not close shut, so as a temporary measure I wrapped the unit in black electrical tape.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Backside of Stages Power Meter with black electrical tape

The tape worked fine until I decided to give my bike a good thorough washing. Then it stopped working. Ahh!! Turned out it just shorted the battery and after replacing it with a new CR2032 I was back again. I decided to take a harded look at this situation using a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Turned out one of the tabs that broke off were lodged inside and was keeping the new door tabs from locking. I extracted the broken tab and the doors immediately locked shut. I could have left the electrical tape off at this point, but with my A race at Ironman Lake Placid coming up, I didn’t want to take any chances.
I am glad I did that I took that precautionary measure because we experienced a deluge of rain at IMLP this year. Despite that my Stages Power Meter continued to output my power readings to my Garmin for the entire 112 miles. Some others were not as fortunate. Like my friend Shanna would also has a Stages meter which failed on her during IMLP this year. I think I will keep wrapping it with tape from here on out.

Stages Power Firmware Update on iOS

Stages Power Firmware Update on iOS

Firmware updates for the unit come out very frequently which is nice to know that that are always looking to fine tune the product. The updates are done via your iOS device or smartphone which is convenient. You have to keep the unit triggered so I usually do it will I am riding with my iPhone in the back of my jersey pocket. I have not had any issues doing this.
The unit is very accurate from what I have seen. More importantly it is consistent though. But the numbers I get with my Garmin showing the 3sec avg make sense to me and are not jumping all over the place like the PowerCal did. I am loving training with this tool now. My Garmin 910xt screen now just displays 3s Power, HR, HR zone and Time. I don’t even look at my speed anymore, which doesn’t tell you much anyway unless every possible variable is the same every time. Which it never is. I can also now plan ride workouts based on power zones which has made a huge difference in my riding.

Cycling, Stages, bike, component, gear, power meter, thing, watts

Side view profile of power sensor. Stages Power Meter left crank-arm

The fact that unit only measures one leg could seem like a big one, but I really don’t think it is. Maybe if you are an elite or professional it may be something you need to look at, but for the typical age grouper, we have so many other things to work on this is minor.
All in all I have been very happy with this product. I would recommend it to anyone looking to take their training and races to the next level without breaking the bank. The company is doing well and they firmly stand behind their product. There should be some major advances in power meters coming down the pike so who knows how this may change by tomorrow.

Hope this provided some help and thanks for reading! 🙂

 

Round The Valley 2014 Century Ride Recap

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Pastures

I decided I needed to see some new territory on my long bike ride this week. This along with Longswamp Township decided to cover their entire road system in oil & chips, confirmed that I needed to get out of dodge. I searched around the internet for some century rides and came up with the Round The Valley century out in Lebanon County. It was only an hour and twenty minutes west via a easy drive on I-78 and the registration was a mere $30 + $15 for day of registration. The ride was described as scenic and challenging on the website, and it certainly lived up to that.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Farm

The ride started at the Campbeltown Fire Station where i arrived around 7:30am. The parking lot was nowhere near full, which I was rather surprised. It was a pretty low key event. I went inside, registered and made a bathroom stop and headed on my way. They offered a vegetarian option for post-race food which I was happy to see. I also picked up some car window stickers displaying the 4 feet law for vehicles which I will gladly post in my back window.

I noticed on my drive it was quite windy, but it had seemed to subside a bit since arriving. The ride wound out through some beautiful farmlands and then ascending with a nice climb into some wooded mountainside. The roads were all well marked with an orange “V” with a circle around it with the pointy end of the V indicating the direction. The wind had picked up a bit but the ride was very well protected and it really did not cause that much issue.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Mt Gretna Straightaway

The ride had a great variety of scenery as well as terrain.  We went through some tiny old Furnace villages, gamelands, and forests. My favorite part was the long flat stretch through the Mt. Gretna area. It was mostly flat, well-shaded and nicely paved large shoulder. I was able to get down in the aerobars for the majority of the stretch just cruise.

I was really surprised at the size of the shoulder on most of the roads on this ride. I really didn’t think that PennDOT knew what a paved shoulder was, but apparently they do in this part of PA. The majority of the roads were in very good condition on the ride with only a few that were a little rough. I only remember hitting one that was recently oil and chipped, but they must have swept up the extra chips because it was pretty nice. Apparently Longswamp Township does not know what sweeping up chips is all about.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Cornwall Furnace Village

The rest stops had a good assortment of foods with water and Gatorade. Not quite the level of the Suburban Cyclists for the Nockamixon ride, but more than adequate. I actually skipped a couple of the stops all together since I brought my own race-day nutrition consisting of Amrita Bars, Skratch Labs and Chunks of Energy. There was also SAG vehicles monitoring the ride which was probably difficult since it was not very well attended by riders.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-Farm

I was frequently riding alone but would occasionally pass people here and there. It was reassuring to see others every so often just to make sure I didn’t miss a turn. On one wide-shouldered section of Rt 322 I came up behind 2 guys and a girl with matching kit going at a pretty casual pace. Instead of moving single file and letting me pass, the guy put his arm around the girl and started pushing her faster. What the hell is that? Then the third guy on the left, who had been riding just a foot or so behind them sped up and put his around the other guy. WTF? Is this a love-in or a bike ride? So they still would not let me by and the traffic was steady enough I could not get out in the traffic lane. They eventually caught up to another pack with similar kit on that was going even slower, so with no vehicles I was finally able to get out and pass by them. I really don’t understand why they could not let me by them.

Bicycling, Bike, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Pedalling, Sports, century, ride

Round the Valley Century Ride 2014-No Passing Love-In

I have to say this is probably one the best century rides I have ridden so far. The scenery and challenge of the course was extraordinary. I cannot believe this ride is not more well-known. If you have a chance to ride this course or do the actual ride next June I would highly recommend it.

Race Report-San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon 2014

I immediately got online and started searching for endurance-related races after receiving word that I would be attending the Microsoft Build Developers Conference in San Francisco. Low and behold, the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was running the Sunday immediately following the conference on April 6th. The best part was, it was running back-and-forth over the Golden Gate Bridge. How could I pass that up? I would need to do a two-hour run anyway that day, so might as well.

MS Build, San Francisco

Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Expo

Everything continued to fall into place with this too. The packet-pickup and expo was in one of the Moscone Center buildings, which was where the Microsoft conference was. The race ended in the Civic Center Square, which was only a couple blocks from my hotel. The race also provided bus transport from the Civic Center Square. Logistically perfect!

Packet Pickup and Race Expo

We headed over to the Moscone Center on Saturday morning after fueling up with some breakfast at Dottie’s True Blue Cafe. Dottie’s is reknown for their breakfasts and TripAdvisor had warned of long lines to get in. We got there early enough and we were seated right away. Getting to Dottie’s is a bit of a treat too. It is right in middle of one of the scarier sections of the city. If you go there, beware of having to walk amongst some of the street folk making random outbursts as you sneak by. The food was pretty good, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. That is until we left. They had some amazing looking baked goods in the case when we left. Guess I didn’t order correctly.

After breakfast we headed over to the Moscone Center to for Packet Pickup and the Race Expo. The packet pickup was a bit over-organized. They almost had too many volunteers because it was highly over-specialized. Each item of swag was handed to you by a different volunteer instead of prefilling the swag bags. Then they force you through the race store to try to persuade a purchase out of you.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

Trying on a pair of Hoka’s(aka dork shoes). I am slowly warming up to these, but am still not ready to buy a pair. They look like those goofy rocker shoes women wear.

The race expo was actually pretty good and a decent size. It was much larger than most of the Ironman triathlon event expos I have been to. We spent a bit of time there too listening to some sales pitches and even trying on some Hoka’s. I am still not up to buying a pair of these things yet, but there freakish looks are starting to grow one me. My wife is actually entertaining the idea of buying a pair since she thinks it may help her knee pain.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden

Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

We walked through the Yerba Buena Gardens after the expo which is right in front of the Moscone Center. It is a pretty little oasis amongst the concrete jungle of the city. There are also a couple restaurants and shops that surround it too. It was getting to be around lunchtime now so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our road ride to Sausalito and Tiburon, which you can read more about in my previous post.

Places, San Francisco, city, garden
Pano view of San Francisco from Yerba Bueno Gardens. Yerba Buena Gardens, St. Patricks Church & San Francisco

Race Morning

I woke up around 4:45am on race morning and immediately fueled up with a Vega Performance Protein Bar, an Amrita Bar and some Starbucks Via coffee. I had prepared and laid out all of my clothing and race bid the night before so getting ready was pretty easy. Running races are generally so much easier to get ready for compared to triathlons. Plus, this was a casual run for me, so not a lot of pressure here. I was tip-toing around the hotel room with my headlamp on the whole time so not to wake Denise up. She was actually sleeping quite soundly which is odd for this time of the morning. She is typically an early riser. Around 5:15am I headed down the elevator and out the main lobby towards the Civic Center Square, which was where the race transport was, to get to the starting line. The Civic Center is located right in the heart of the shadiest part of San Fran, so I was a bit anxious about getting there by myself. I was hoping I could join up with some other people that were going to the race as well. To my misfortune there was no one leaving the hotel at the same time. As I started into the thick of the scary sections I started jogging a bit. I needed to warm up and this would get me quickly past most of the folks lying about in the streets. I eventually located a couple a few blocks ahead of me, so I sped up a bit to try and tag along with them. I passed one homeless fellow sitting on a hydrant or something that looked at my as I scurried by and said “good luck!” I laughed and said “thanks man!” as it took me by surprise. There was also one street corner that had a bunch of homeless folks congregating on it and they were all yelling at one another. I found this a good opportunity to cross the street here. I soon caught up with the couple, but by then we had reached Market St. which is well lit and was pretty full of runners heading to the square. Whew…Safety at last! The lines were pretty long at the Civic Center, but they were rolling and loading the yellow & black school buses through pretty quickly. Before long I was on a bus headed to the start line. The ride was around 25 minutes or so and I had a seat all to myself to spread out. When I finally reached the starting line area which was situated along Ocean Beach on the west side of San Fran, I was in a B-line for the port-a-loo. There were a ton of them, but they all had huge lines. I walked down to the farthest one thinking the lines would be less, but no such luck. I settled into a line and waited. It seemed like forever. There was a couple girls behind me who did not shut up the whole time. It surely made my patience wane even more. I was a bit more disturbed when they continued to talk through the National Anthem. The race was a wave start, so each finish time-based corral would start every couple minutes. I didn’t realize this at the time, so I really wasn’t that concerned about starting with the race clock. I had my Garmin so that is all I really cared about. And…I had to pee really bad. I eventually got a port-a-john and let the floodgates release. I quickly dropped off my post-race gear bag off and headed to the start line for the 2:00 hour finish corral. I still had plenty of time will my wave went off.

The Race

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon start

And we were off. We headed down Great Highway and quickly made a right turn up Balboa St., were we encountered our fist hill of the day. It wasn’t terribly steep, but just kept going up and up. The first mile was pretty slow since I was dodging people as we ambered up the hilly course. I am also not one to start out too fast. I need to ease into my pace and sometimes it takes me a half hour to settle into a groove. Guess that is why I like the longer distances.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon sunrise

My times gradually increased as the crowd sorted itself out and I got into my groove. The exception to that was on Lincoln Blvd, right before the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a pretty healthy climb. This and the fact that there was a lot of picture taking going on with its unique view of the GG Bridge. This helped sort out the crowd for the very narrow cattle chute that we had to endure crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a bunch of jugglers and guys riding huge unicycles too which helped distract you from the pain. San Francisco Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Elevation Profile

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Each direction had one full lane of the bridge. As we made the first cross towards Sausalito, many were drifting over into the opposite lane since the fast runners had not made it there yet. I stayed mostly on the left side up against the yellow rope that separated us from the bridge traffic. Both directions on the bridge were tight and it was difficult to find any open running room. There was a girl running in some rainbow-colored hairy boots that I found myself following for a while. It was pretty cool running across the bridge though and I took the opportunity to snap a few pics along the way.

Once across the bridge, the crowd thinned out quite a bit with the wider road heading down into Crissy Field. We were now at least half way through the race and we finally encountered a band playing. I almost forgot that this was a ROCK ‘N’ ROLL event! The band was playing so quietly though that you may have missed them if you didn’t see them. We did encounter a few more bands after this which got subsequently louder after this.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Heading down to Crissy Field

We then headed through the city again on our way back to Civic Center Square finish. With the city came more hills again…ugh! On one of these hill I started getting so nauseated that I thought I was going to puke. I managed to keep it in though and it eventually went away. I also started getting down into the 7-8min/mi pace as the raced thinned a bit and we hit some flatter sections. I started to pick it up a bit too since I felt good and I thought I would try to negative split the race.

Endurance Sports, Half Marathon, Race, Running, San Francisco, Sports, expo, run

San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon-Rocker Dude

As we were heading down Polk St., towards the last mile or two, they diverted us straight where others had been making a left towards Larkin St. This was kind of cool because it felt like we were in the front pack of the race for a little while. Eventually we were sent left to Larkin and joined in with the rest of the bunch. The last mile was a downhill cruise to the finish where I was running in the low 7’s. My wife took a picture of me and it looks like I was severely putting the brakes on.  I crossed the line in 1:55:11 which isn’t too bad considering I wasn’t really going for time. It was more of tourist sightseeing tour. I grabbed my finisher medal, a couple of waters and searched around for some decent food. I managed to find some banana’s and pisctachio’s among all the other post-race crap they call food. Some of the worst was the Cheez-Its and of course the worst of all…Chocolate Milk!!! Yuk!! The worst thing was people were grabbing it like it was going out of style. It kills me how they can push this crap off as some kind of health food. Why don’t they just hand out some Mountain Dew while they are at it!

Post Race

I claimed my gear bag and we headed back to the hotel to pack and check out. The race was really fun with great views and a challenging one with the hills. I would recommend it as one to check out, but not if you are going for a PR. The lack of music along the course was a bit of a let down for a Rock ‘n’ Roll branded event. The local St. Lukes Half Marathon in Allentown is Far better with regards to course music. This race made me appreciate how good a race that is. I believe there was a concert and free beer after the race, but we weren’t going to be sticking around to find out. We were on route to Yosemite this afternoon. Thanks for reading!

Gear Review Update: PowerTap(formerly CycleOps) PowerCal

This is an update since my previous gear review post on this product and also the post where I compare the power output versus the Kinetic inRide power. It appears that the PowerCal company is now PowerTap instead of the former CycleOps. The weather has been very conducive to riding outdoors for the last few months, so I really don’t have much data on comparing this device to another power meter. It seems pretty consistent and it is all I have to go by, so for me that works.

cycleopsPowerCal

cycleopsPowerCal

Biking and Power

One area that I do see an extreme difference is when comparing to other riders on equivalent segments in Strava. Below is one example of a speed run segment in my area shown below. My top result is highlighted below in between others for that segment. As you can see for roughly equivalent speeds, I putting out 201 watts compared to everyone else running around 270 to 290 watts. Hmmm? 70 to 90 watts off? Now most of these powers were calculated using Strava’s algorithms, but the entry just above me used an actual power meter of some sort. That power meter seems more inline with what Strava is calculating for others compared to the PowerCal. So again, while the PowerCal is consistent, I don’t believe the accuracy of wattage is very good.

 

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Problems on the Run

I also use my PowerCal for monitoring my heart rate while running. This is one area that I have had the most issue with this product. It appears to “flip out” frequently at different times during my runs. What I mean is that the heart rate just goes crazy and maintains a spiked reasding well outside my max heart rate. The first couple times this happened I kind of panicked at first, thinking I was having a heart attack or something. Eventually I realized it was just the unit. I always use a gel for the contact patches to help eliminate these spikes, but it doesn’t really help. I have also tried new battery, tightening the strap and taking the unit off for a few minutes. The latter seems to have the best affect on resolving the issue. You can see from the heart rate graphs below from my runs what this looks like. The strange thing is that it doesn’t occur on bike rides. It could possibly be from the up and down motion of running.

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2013 Rev3 Quassy HalfRev Race Review

Race Name: Rev3 Quassy HalfRev

Race Location & Country: Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury, CT, USA

Date: June 2 2013

Race Category: Male 45-49

Why did I do this race? Within driving distance(3.5hrs). Supposed to be a good prep race for Ironman Lake Placid, which I am doing 2 months later. Heard Rev3 races are very well down and organized.

The Swim

1.2 mile clockwise triangle. Fresh water lake swim. Very clean. Running start from beach. Wave start. 2nd leg was VERY difficult to sight due to swimming directly into sunlight. 3rd/last leg was had sun on left side breath, but eventually went behind trees. Buoys good distance apart. Had paddleboarders on inside and kayakers on outside provided helpful to keep straight when I could not sight buoys. This swim was a personal fastest swim for half-iron distance at 32:45 minutes. Also, I was in the very last wave of the race, which kind of sucked. Did a lot of passing all day long.

The Bike

REv3 Quassy Bike Finish

56 miles. Hilly to say the least. I think almost every road had the word “Hill” in it. I really like this course despite the amount of difficulty. I liked the variation of it. With the hills come some very fast downhills too, which you need to take full advantage of. I was a little cautious on some of them since I had not ridden the course before. The one downhill that ends near a reservoir, was a little tricky as it made a right turn at the bottom which forced me to take the turn a bit wide into the opposite lane. The course was not closed to vehicles too, so extra caution is required. There were 2 aid stations on the course the were perfectly placed distance-wise for my hydration needs. I definitely tried to conserve some energy on bike for the run, but still ended up with a 3:11 time(~17.5mph). Considering the ~6400 ft of elevation gain, I was ok with that.

image 

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The RunREv3 Quassy Run Start

13.1 miles of more hills. This run course was brutal! Other than the first mile or two, it seemed to be up and down after that. The worst was the dirt road with what seemed to be an endless hill. This course took all I had and then some. I have not seen that many people walking since volunteering at IMLP last year. Temperature also did not help as it was humid and in the mid-80’s. It  was shady in spots and I am sure if you were either faster or in an earlier wave you may have gotten more of that. Aid stations were pretty much every mile to mile and a half. They even had salt tabs at some of them. They were also well stocked with ice which is usually out by the time last wave people like me come through. At around mile 9 you run by the finish at the park and then head out for another 3 or so miles. While this provides a little boost from fans, it is short-lived as you head away from the finish line. The hills continue too. For future reference, make sure you save a lot of energy for this run. I finished with a 2:05, which considering the terrain, I am more than happy with.

 

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Transition

Transition is probably one of the best I have seen. Each spot is marked with your name and bib # on the wooden framed “racks” on the ground. The frame has a narrow section to stick your rear tire of your bike and a wider section for your bag. Your race gear is then laid out in front of the wood box. It is very clear what real estate is yours and there is adequate room. I was 3 rows from the swim and entrance and run exit which was nice. Bike in/out was a bit of haul, but still not too bad.

Transition Setup

 

Race Organization

Race was very well organized. Venue was a good location base for race, although I had a bit higher expectations for Quassy Amusement Park. I thought it was more along the lines of Dorney Park, but it was basically just a more glorified carnival. Nonetheless, it provided ample room for race expo, registration, store and feeding area.

My one gripe, which is actually a gripe with many races, is the “mandatory” pre-race meeting. First off they are usually Rev3 Quassy Pre-Race Meetingin the middle of the day, which pretty much disrupts you for doing anything unless you are hanging out at the venue which we usually don’t do. The other thing is they are anything but mandatory. No one is checking off your bib # when you show up. I did get some helpful information, but stop with the mandatory crap.

Post-race food was good and they even had a good variety even for a plant-based vegan. Baked Ziti, salad, veggies and another veggie-pasta casserole was all you can eat. They even had veggie burgers, which I would not have know about if not for the girl behind me didn’t not ask. They also had burgers and hot dogs too, for the carnivores.

Top Tips

  • Wear polarized/tinted goggles for swim. Sun on second leg makes for difficult sighting. Use the lifeguards instead of buoys.
  • Be ready for hills. Spin easy gears on the climbs and bomb the downhills. Save your legs for the run.
  • Pace yourself on the run. Go easy, but consistent on the big, dirt road climb and remember there are more hills after that.

How did you do?

I PR-ed at the Half-iron distance with a 5:54:52 on what was an extremely difficult course, so I am pretty stoked about that. This race also gave me good confidence for my upcoming first Ironman at Lake Placid. It is a good test of your fitness for that race. During the run I felt like I was not doing well because it was so demanding, but when it was all over I was very happy with the result.

Rev3 Quassy Finish Photo

Verdict

Great race if you are looking for a difficult and challenging race. Good prep gauge for Ironman Lake Placid. Race is also very family friendly too. Family members are allowed to run down the race chute with you. Amusement park and beach provide additional things for kids to do and they also have other activities such as a glow in the dark 5k and adventure race. Rev3 is a class operation. Look out WTC!

2013 Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon Race Report

The alarm went off at 5AM on Sunday morning. 5AM has become a normal time for me to wake up anymore, even on a Sunday. Today was the 2013 St. Luke’s Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. I had run this race once before, but his time the goal was getting my wife to the finish of her 1st half marathon. A task we thought would not have even thought possible a year ago. Dealing with fatigue issues, she had trouble running a mile a year ago. Well, she could run the mile, but she paid dearly for it afterwards. But through diet and lifestyle changes she has made it through the training, granted a few aches and pains, but today she had the chance to complete that goal.

I had run this race for the first time back in 2010 while on the path to my first olympic distance triathlon. It was a cold, rainy miserable day but I still managed to squeak out a 1:46 half. Today it was really just a Sunday training run for me. I had been running this distance every Sunday for the last several weeks in prep for Ironman Lake Placid, so covering the distance was no different than any other week. It was nice though to be focused on someone else’s goal for a change. Especially for someone that eagerly goes to all of my triathlon events, lasting waiting many hours, for the couple of minutes that I pass by in transition to the next discipline.

Before we knew it was 8:00am and the race was starting at 8:10am. We started to panic a bit. Denise really had to go, so there was not many options for her. We stood there for a few minutes more and then as the other lines next to us thinned out. W could see even more toilets with what seemed to be no lines. I told her to run up there and see and if she was not back in a couple of minutes I would be up. Sure enough, she never returned and I ran up there right into a toilet. Ahhh!

We met up outside the toilets and booked around to the other side of the school. They still had not started and we jockeyed our way right up to the corral we needed to be in. And then the starter said “Go!” Nice timing.

There was a ton of people running and all you could see was a sea of runners filling the street sloping downhill from the starting area. We slowly weaved through the masses until we found an area that was paced similar to us. As we headed out along Cedar Beach, the 5k runners were coming back along a narrow chute bordered by an occasional orange cone. Several half-marathon runners had spilled over into the 5k lane and one 5k guy yelled at HM guy to get out of the way. My manager, Steve, was running in the 5k, so I was hanging by the chute looking for him to come by.  I gave him a shout as he flew by at blazing speed(brown-nosing here 🙂 ) and then blended back into the masses of running to catch up with the wife.

We made a left up Ott St. lined on each side by the pinkish-purple blooming crab apple trees and then another quick left down through Cedar Beach Park. We started settling into a steady rhythm after cresting the little hill on St. Elmo St. I had set my Garmin screen to show average pace for overall, lap and current. All three were showing 9:11min/mi. We maintained that pace for the entire stretch down Martin Luther King Boulevard.

We hit most of the rest stops for water and I ended up getting caught up in one for a bit and had to catch back up with Denise again. The run down MLK Boulevard goes pretty quickly since there is a lot to see. Both directions of runners are utilizing the entire street in a UK driving fashion, so watch the other runners coming the opposite way keeps your mind distracted from the task at hand. There were some people in crazy costumes, fireman in full gear and even a couple people I knew. There are also several bands playing along the way jamming away some pretty good tunes. There was apparently another girl named, Denise, running behind us who apparently knew many spectators. This was driving my wife bonkers since she kept hearing her name called all the time. Before we knew it we were crossing the little humpy bridge at the halfway point and into the gravel paths of the parkway. Time on clock said 1:00, but my watch said 0:59 due to the gun vs. chip time difference.

I run down the parkway pretty frequently, so this is like home sweet home. We continued to tick off the miles still maintaining our 9:10 pace. We hit the hilly section right past the Police training grounds which slowed us down a bit. We did start to pick it up a little bit after the halfway point, but not too much. I told Denise that if she wanted to pick it up more that I would let her set the pace. She indicated a slight niggle in her calf, so she wanted to wait a bit.

As we approached the covered bridge crossing the Little Lehigh Creek there were tons spectators lining the sides of the trail. It was pretty loud. I was scanning the crowd, but didn’t see anyone we knew. We made our way through the covered bridge watching each foot step on the uneven boards comprising the floor.  I mentioned to my wife we had lost some time with the hills and I think that pushed her a bit. We passed a guy singing Bing Crosby-like tunes along the way, which was kind of different from most of the music playing earlier. Jam it dude!

Next thing we knew we were out of the park and back on MLK Boulevard. My wife just got the words out saying “we can up the pace at mile 11” when we rounded the bend displaying the 11th mile marker. I said “Ok.” We than started into the 8-8:30 min/mi range which was actually feeling pretty good. We really started to pass some people as most were starting to fade a bit at the later miles of the course. On girl called out something to the tune of “nice pace” as we buzzed by. It didn’t sink in at first, but then we said “thanks” after we were about 15 yards past her.

2013 Half Marathon Finish

2013 Half Marathon Finish

Next we could hear the thuds of the big drums pounding as we approached the short hill into the stadium. As we got onto the track for our little victory lap to the finish, my wife really started to crank up the speed. So much so that I was caught off guard and had to catch back up with her. She pointed out the finish clock time of 2:01 as we rounded the turn and I suddenly realized we could make it under 2:00 hours. I glanced at my Garmin and it read 1:59:48. I told her to “book it” and that we had 10 secs. We cranked it even more and crossed the finish with arms raised. Unfortunately it was 5 secs shy. Finish time: 2:00:05.

My wife was pretty happy with her results. Her original goal was to stay under a 10:00 min/mi pace which she far exceeded. The best part was that she felt great the rest of the day and even the rest of the week. No soreness or anything. I would say that was probably a bigger goal met than just finishing.

After the race, we decided to skip the race food due to the extremely long line and head down to Allentown Brew Works for lunch. I did have a celebratory IPA, which blew my 80 days of no beer. Oh well, I only had one anyway.

Next week is a race week with my first triathlon of the season. Back to training…

 

 

New Wheels!

I have been toying around with the idea of renting or buying carbon fiber race wheels for some time now. The cost of new wheels being around $2000-$2500 a set has really taken that option off the list, so that leaves either buying used wheels or renting them on race day. Race day rentals are brand new wheels which is nice but changing equipment on race day without having used them before is not something I want to do. That left me with buying used ones.

I had been looking at buying some old Zipp 404 Carbon Clinchers over at Race Wheel Rental for around $1300. This is about half the cost of new ones, but these are older wheels and have some miles into them so that is a little risky. Last month I stumbled onto a sale on Reynolds carbon wheels over at Performance Bike. I did some searching around on reviews and everything I could find was positive. I settled on a Assault/Strike combo, which is a 46mm deep wheel in the front and a 66mm rim depth in the rear. They were on sale for $999(now $1099) and usually listed for almost double that, so I jumped on it. New wheels for less than the cost of new ones…nice! Yeah they are not Zipps, but hey I am not Pete Jacobs either. I think any little bit will help. 2013-03-16 12.15.15

I had the wheels delivered to the local Performance Bike shop and picked them up on the weekend after I ordered them. I also ordered a Shimano Ultegra CS-6700 10-speed cassette to go with it which matches the one on my current wheelset. I picked up the tires, tubes and tools I needed at the store while I was there and my Performance Points added up to cut that bill in half as well. Savings-O-Rama!

I eventually got around to putting things together about a week later. The installation of the cassette was pretty painless, which surprised me since I thought that would be most difficult. Fortunately, Shimano provides instructions which were helpful. Some men do read the directions. The biggest issue was the tubes, mainly the presta valve on the rear tire. See the longest inner tube valve size they had was a 60mm valve and the rear wheel rim depth is 66mm, so you can do the math. To solve the issue Reynolds provides these little black “valve extenders”. The problem is they provide absolutely no instructions on how they work and their website provides no help either. I could not even find a support email address either. I figured out that they screw onto the base valve and extend out where you can put the pump valve on. The problem was the air just came back out again.

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I did some searching on the Internet and found others that had suggested using plumbers tape on the base valve to help make a good seal. The valve insert must be screwed out all the way to let air in. Despite doing this I was still losing air. I ended up emailing Reynolds warranty department and they did respond with some suggestions. They said what I did should work. I left it sit for a while and came back to it again the following weekend. Turns out the tube I purchased had a pinhole in it which was causing the leak! Doh! So I tried again using the 3rd backup tube I purchased and all was good. Ugh!

Next up I had to swap out the standard brake pads for the special, blue colored pads that must be used with Reynolds carbon wheels. This seemed like an easy task, but the little 2mm hex screws kept stripping on me and some I had to use vise grips to get out. I got the rear brake pads on and had to scavenge a screw from my road bike to do so. The front pads were totally hosed up and I left them out. Hopefully they don’t fall out!

I got the wheels on and took them out for a spin around town. I didn’t want to do my full ride on them since I didn’t have a spare tube and my wife(support crew) was working so I didn’t want to be stranded in Kutztown somewhere. The ride around was pretty nice and I could feel the difference already. The weight of the bike itself was substantially lower. I was afraid that crosswinds may cause issue, but I did get to one area where it was totally hitting me sideways and could not feel anything. It was also a very windy day too. Later on, riding with my old wheels actually seemed worse than the new ones.

I ended up tracking down some tubes at TriSports with 80mm  presta valves which may get me some more length. I also found some “deluxe” valve extenders that allow you to remove the valve insert from the original valve and add it to the extender which seems a little more robust. They should be in this week so we shall see how they go.

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The bike portion of a triathlon is the most stressful since it is the longest and has the most chance of mechanical failure. Given my previous experience with this past, I really try to remediate this from happening again. It is one thing when you have to quit due to your body failing, but it totally sucks when your equipment fails.