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My 2016 Year in Review – Topping My Charts

I have just returned from another fabulous Winter weekend in the Adirondacks to celebrate the New Year. While I was there I had gotten in some ample cross-training time skate-skiing, hiking and some photography. This outdoor time gave me a good amount of time to reflect upon the last year. I keep hearing others saying over-and-over how 2016 was such a horrible year, but for me, not so much.

Cascade Moutain – Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

You would think that as one gets closer to the big 5-0 that PR’s and things would become less frequent. But my 48th year was full of them. What is up with that? Perhaps the fact that I had well preserved myself well during my 20’s and 30’s may have something to do with that.

December(2015) was full of Winter cross-training in Banff National Park in Western Canada. They had gotten a good amount of early season snow there and Lake Placid had none. We hit the downhill slopes at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, got some snowshoeing in on the Bow River and a ton of photographing the beautiful Winter scenery on the Icefields Parkway leading to Jasper.

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First Light on the Icefields Parkway

In January, we had plans to spend a week in the warmth of Sedona, AZ but that was cut short due to a blizzard that delayed flights for several days. We still ended up with an amazing, activity packed long weekend there. We got out for some amazing hikes and photography some beautiful scenery. I replenished my vitamin D store with the clear skies and bright sunshine. It was a great reset before turning my attention back to the long Ironman training season that lies ahead.

Chillin’ on the Bell Rock Vortex

In February I started up my official Ironman training season with Todd Wiley. I had gotten to know Todd over the last year or so through some of his workshops and Lake Placid training camp and really like his personality. He was a prior pro triathlete and has had a lot of success with some pretty high-level athletes over the years, so I thought I would see what he could do with this old, average dude. My goals for the season was to increase my IM run performance while maintaining my bike and swim and finalizing that with a sub-12 hour Ironman.

In March, I had my first official race of the season, The St. Pat’s Allentown 5k. While it is only a 5k, this would be the first test of my fitness to see what I had accomplished during the last two months. I would also use this as my Lactate Threshold(LT) test for my training. It did not disappoint. I finished with a 1 sec PR of 22:45(chip time) over my prior PR from 2013. 3 years older and getting faster.

St. Pat's West End 5k 2016

St. Pat’s West End 5k 2016

In April, I took things up a notch and competed in the local St. Luke’s Half Marathon which I hadn’t run in since 2013 when I ran with my wife. I was planning to run it in 2015, but got a stomach bug the morning of and had to bail. My current PR for this race, and half marathons in general, was from back in 2010 when I finished with a 1:46:41(chip time). I also had challenged my co-worker Steve, who is what I would consider more of a “runner”, to a duel for this race. It was a bit of a stretch, but I thought the extra competition would bring out a little extra in motivation for me. Although I didn’t come close to beating him, I did manage to eke out another PR for myself finishing in 1:45:10 after 6 years. 2 races and two PRs…not too shabby a start to 2016.

Next up was my first triathlon of the season, the French Creek Olympic Triathlon. I had never done this race before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I knew it was a pretty brutal race with a very hilly bike and run, so you could not even compare it to any other Olympic Distance race. I obviously did not PR this race, but I did end up on the podium by taking 3rd in my age group. This was the first podium since my very first multisport race, the Belleplain Duathlon, back in 2008 where I finished 1st in my age group. So now 3 races and 3 top outcomes.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

In June I traveled up to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse triathlon. Another race I had never done before, but was hoping for a good finish here given the prior results so far this season. The race started off well with one of my best half-iron swims and a decent bike leg where I felt I hadn’t “burned too many matches.” The run leg was a different story. The sun came out and the heat turned up towards the end of the bike and my body turned to mush. Reminiscent of the Ironman Couer d’Alene run I fell into a walk-run for the very hilly run course. Ok, you can’t have them all! So with no PR to be had this time, I took my setbacks here and turned it into motivation for the true goal “A” race of the season at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Finish Run Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016

Hurtin’ for Certain – Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 – High Temps on the run left a little to be desired for this race.

July turned out to be a pretty hot month, so I gained some pretty good acclimatization to the heat while training. If Ironman Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was going to cook me like Syracuse, I was now prepared. Well, as much as someone who does not like the heat can be.

August came around quickly and tapering was in full swing as we made our way up to Mont-Tremblant for the peak race of my year. When race day came I could not have asked for better weather conditions. It was very cloudy in the morning as I prepared to hit the water. A fighter jet buzzed us so close it brought tears to my eyes. Then the cannon blasted and we were off. The rain started during the swim and poured down all day! For me, that was perfect conditions. I was like a pig in the slop.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Bike Rain

Terrential Downpours on the bike leg of Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016

Due to some choppy lake conditions, my swim was not as fast as I thought it would be, but still one of my faster IM swims. My bike was one of my fastest so far but yet I still held back as I planned to save something for the run. The run was my best ever Ironman run. The rain came down and kept me cool while cranking out some 8:30-9:00 pace miles. I felt amazing the whole time. I blew away my sub-12 hour goal by about 14 minutes and coming away with an Ironman PR of around 50 minutes! I chopped off almost 30 minutes on my IM run time alone. Mission accomplished!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finish

So now 5 races completed for this year and 3 of them were PR’s and 1 podium. What more could I ask for? A fabulous end to an epic season for sure. Proof that aging does not mean you get slower. At least not yet. Maybe by the time I am 50 I can qualify for Kona? 🙂

Usually with the last race of the season comes a little depression that it is all over for another year. I like to schedule something big for after my last race that keeps me on the up-and-up. Just when you think things can’t get any better we headed to Iceland for a two-week journey around the island in a camper.

Kirkjufellfoss – Iceland 2016

I let my body recuperate a bit and broke out my camera for an incredible trip. It was the perfect diversion for someone who has only thought about training for the last year. The scenery was out-of-this-world and it was a great end to all the hard work that was put in over the last 8 months. I have been working on a full report blog post on this trip which I hope to be published very soon. Stay tuned for that.

While you would think that was all for this year, I had to do one more race. I signed up for the local South Mountain 10-miler run which was kind of a birthday run for me. I had never done this race before, but it looked to be quite challenging. It starts not too far from the Lehigh Univesity’s Goodwin Campus fields and a makes it was up to the very top of South Mountain, turns around and heads back down again. It is very steep and a big slog. I ended up 40th overall and 6th in my age group. Not a great result really, but I maintained a 8:12 pace which is just a bit off my half marathon pace. It was more for fun so I am not too worried about that.

I concentrated on my photography a bit for the remainder of the year, which tends to play 2nd fiddle to my training. I made a couple trips to Lake Placid and a short trip to Salt Springs State Park(PA) for some photography sessions. I came away with some keepers and also started getting more active with my Instagram feed. I dug back into my photo archives and found some great pictures I had taken in the past that never made it off my laptop.

So now as we head off into 2017 and I set my sights on Ironman Boulder and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this year, I have great memories looking back on the amazing year that was 2016. Despite what many others have felt. I have so much to be thankful for. I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year.

I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year. Although, it is already shaping up to be a pretty full one. I have several races on the docket and plans are already being hashed out for an amazing trip to Croatia and Slovenia during post-race season. As for goals, Ironman Boulder should be a challenge in itself given the altitude so I am not putting any time goals on myself for that. Perhaps working on pacing myself would be enough. I think Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid may be my A race for the year and I would like to shoot for a half-iron distance PR there.

My other goal for 2017 is to get back to regular blogging here. I have fell off the wagon a bit over the past year so I hope to pick that up again. I have just “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription, so besides saving money I plan on spending a little less time in front of the tube.

If you are reading this, I hope you had a great 2016 and a even better 2017 as well. Thanks for reading!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Bike Course Comparison: Ironman Lake Placid vs Coeur d’Alene

IMLP vs IMCdA BikeSeveral people have asked me how Ironman Coeur d’Alene compares to Ironman Lake Placid, namely the bike courses. So, I decided to attempt to answer that question with a bit of a comparison of the data that I accumulated from the last two races. It was fairly difficult to find any one tool that conclusively compared the two courses, so I used a few different methods. It is a bit off-the-cuff, but it might help to give some people a little idea of how similar or different these coursed really are.

First off, I tried using Garmin Connect. While it is pretty easy to select two rides and click compare in GC, having IMCdA recorded as a “Multisport Activity” from my Garmin 920xt proved more difficult to compare since IMLP 2014 was recorded as just a single ride. Then I had to export the IMCdA Ride as a TCX file from the MultiSport activity and re-import it again by itself. When I did that, it didn’t calculate my Normalized Power watts at all and my average watts were off by about 3 watts. I then filled them in manually. So I finally got them in a table format which is below.

Garmin Connect IMLP vs IMCdA Ride Compare Table

Garmin Connect IMLP vs IMCdA Ride Compare Table

So, these courses above look very similar. The only major differences was my power output for Coeur d’Alene was about 20 watts less on average and normalized power. Note that I used the same Stages Power Meter for both races. The corrected elevations here show only 400 more feet of climbing at Lake Placid and about 500 more feet of loss as well.

Next I jumped over to Strava where I have the Stravistix extension which provides some more information on the grade of the courses. Thanks to the Stravistix Google Chrome Extension for Strava from Thomas Champagne for the statistics below…

IMCdA 2015

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2015 - Bike Course Grade Stats

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015 – Bike Course Grade Stats

IMLP 2014

image

Ironman Lake Placid 2014 – Bike Course Grade Stats

Here again, the courses are very close. The only thing that really stood out to me was that IMCdA has a little more flats and IMLP has a little more downhill.

Equalizing Course Profiles at 0 Elevation

I also was able to import the original Garmin FIT files into Golden Cheetah, which allowed me to the export the raw data points from each ride/course into a spreadsheet. I then imported those rides into my favorite analysis tool, QlikView.

I equalized the starting elevations for each course to zero for each race profile. Next, I adjusted the rest of the points elevations’ by the difference from that starting elevation to zero. Plotting this way then moves the course profiles on top of one another(below) as if they started at exactly the same elevation. This gives us a interesting perspective of the courses that I would not have seen looking at the numbers above. While the numbers look the same the profiles are very different.

The Coeur d’Alene course is much more up-and-down in the range of 0-500′ climbing. Lake Placids’ long downhill section into Keene provides you with a nice long and speedy descent, but then you pay for that later with the very a very long, gradual climb from Jay all the way back to Lake Placid. This climb continues on into your second loop at LP too after heading through town. So if you like a constant gradual climbing then Lake Placid is more your style, whereas CdA is more for the folks who like big rollers.

Equalized comparison of IMLP vs. IMCdA Bike courses

Equalized comparison of IMLP vs. IMCdA Bike courses

The one thing I didn’t take into account here was the wind. For Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015, the wind was coming out of the NNE mostly at around 7 MPH. This provided a nice tailwind from mostly the first turnaround at Heggins Point all the way out to the second turnaround. Coming back to town thought was obviously a headwind. Not a bad one, but I could definitely feel it. Lake Placid in 2014 was a little higher at around 8+ MPH out of the South. It always seems to just whip right up through the Wilmington Notch as you are grinding your way back to Lake Placid. 2014 also had a the nice edition of nasty thunderstorm on the first half of the first loop too.

EFD -Effective Flat Distance Overall

For one last comparison, I had stumbled upon the Flacyclist.com site by Tom Jordan. Tom has a calculator tool he put together that figures our what the Effective Flat Distance(EFD or EDO) of a ride is. This is basically how long the ride would be if you took into account the climbs and descents and just flatten everything out. It seems pretty complicated, but probably a more accurate way to equalize different courses for comparison.

I downloaded Toms’ spreadsheet version of the calculator and filled in the data. Getting some of the required fields tooks some data wrangling. I used the ride extract from Golden Cheetah and then did some Excel magic to figure out the climbing(> 1%)/descending(< -1%) distances. I had also downloaded hisorical weather info from Weather Underground site. I used some default values for area of rider and things like that. I set the wind direction at 45 since both courses were basically out-and-backs so there was a combination of headwind and tailwind. You can view the calculations here…

Looking at the two course calculations above, you can see the (EDO or EFD)Effective Overall Distance for each ride is in the 2nd to last row of each image above. The first distance value is taking wind into consideration the other is not. Based on the no wind calculations here, the IMLP was equal to about 121 miles in EFD but the IMCdA course was just a couple miles more at 123 giving it a very slight edge in difficulty. But not much

Taking the wind into consideration, IMLP 2014 averaged about a mile or so more per hour(8.24mph) over the time on the bike course than IMCdA 2015(7.4mph). With an equivalent amount of head vs tailwind, this effectively evens both the courses out at about 142 miles and some change.

This comparison also seems to point to both courses being very comparable in difficulty. The only difference being what type of ride do you prefer? Do you like to maintain a steady uphill climb over a long distance or do you prefer more shorter ups-and-downs?

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

Personally I liked both courses in their own way I guess. I really feel like I could have PR’d the Coeur d’Alene course under normal temperatures this year. Once that heat kicked in, the wheels just fell off. Despite that I was still able to come in only 5 minutes later than Lake Placid the following year. I was under 3 hours for the first 56 miles while the temperatures were still reasonable.

I hope that was somewhat helpful to anyone considering either of those races. They are now moving the full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene to August next year, so 90-100 degree temperatures may be the norm for that race now. Some locals told me that that weather is more typical at that time of year there. That pretty much takes that off my list of races to try again! Hopefully next year I can compare the Ironman Mont-Tremblant course to these two courses.

Thanks!

 

Gear Review: Garmin 920xt First Impressions

Garmin 920xt BigTime watch face

Garmin 920xt BigTime watch face

Ever since I heard about the new Garmin 920xt coming out, I have been chomping at the bit to upgrade. I have used the 910xt for several years now(on my second one, since first had to be replaced) and I really liked it. I also use an activity monitor and have gone through 3 Jawbone UP’s and 2 Garmin VivoSmarts. The VivoSmart was ok, but I don’t want to have to wear multiple things on my wrist. When the first VivoSmart died on me after only 3-4 months I also was not as impressed with it.

I had started putting some money aside for the new device as soon as I knew it was being released. I was going to wait and let all the bugs get ironed out of it before I actually bought one.  I am a regular listener of Brett Blankners’ ZenTriathlon podcast, and he had recently purchased one and kept mentioning how great it was. So I could not wait any longer and I “pulled the trigger” on it. Fortunately, I used the PayPal no interest or payments for 6 months option and automaticallly scheduled $100 taken out of my savings account for the next 5 months, so it wasn’t too much of a splurge.

BTW…If you are looking for a very in-depth technical review of the Garmin 920xt, please check out DC Rainmakers’ review on it here…

Here are my favorite features of the Garmin 920xt so far…

Drill Mode for Swimming

The inability to account for kick and drill sets has always been a big pet peave of mine. Sometime in the last year or so, sites like TrainingPeaks.com and Strava started only using actual swim time(when both arms are moving) instead of total elapsed time from swim workouts. Since kick/drills sets are not registered by the accelerometer on the watch you get no credit for this part of the workout, which is total BS. So then I had to edit every swim workout and change the workout time or use the SportTracks Swimming plugin and edit the workout.

Garmin 920xt Swim Drill Mode

Garmin 920xt Swim Drill Mode

But low and behold, Garmin introduced the Drill mode screen on the 920xt so that you can flip up a screen and hit the lap button and the timer starts up. When you are done you can hit lap again and select the distance that you did. It is also nice for when the watch screws up and misses a lap turn(not too often) or you forget to hit the start or lap button(a little more often). This saves me a bunch of time editing my workouts after uploading.

Automatic workout uploads

Another big time saver here. My wife always gives me crap about how when I get home from a workout the first thing I do is run to my computer and download my workouts from my Garmin. Not anymore! Now, with your watch paired to your iPhone the workout automatically uploads to Garmin Connect as soon as you are in earshot of your phone.

This is one of my top features for sure. And if you have Garmin AutoSync hooked up in TrainingPeaks or Strava, your workouts are also synced up there too without doing anything. One example is when I get done my swim workout I go to the locker and get my shower stuff, my workout starts uploading immediately and I start getting Strava kudos from people while I not even done my shower.

Live Tracking

While I haven’t really used this yet other than just testing it out, I think this may be handy for those longer bike rides when my wife tends to worry where I am. It would be really cool to use it in a race, but they typically do not let you have your phone with you. I guess you could just stash it in your bag though. I think it would be nice so your race fans could time being able to come out to see me whiz by at the right moment.

Update 3/17/2015: One issue I have found and also submitted to Garmin Support is when you try to share your LiveTrack via Twitter. If you have more than one Twitter account configured on your phone the Garmin Connect Mobile app will hang the app when you enable Twitter. You will have to kill the app on the phone to get out of it and everytime you go back into LiveTrack it will hang again. You have two options here. Either delete the app from the phone and install it again from the AppStore or remove all but one of your Twitter accounts. I think the latter is BS not a valid workaround.

Update 3/23/2015: One thing I was curious about was how much battery power Garmin Connect Mobile would use while doing a LiveTrack session. In order to do LiveTrack the phone is using Bluetooth LE(Low Energy) and GPS, so I was fearful this would drain my iPhone battery rather quickly. I have a year and 3 month old iPhone 5s whose battery barely lasts a full day with regular usage. Yesterday, I did a 2.5 hour run while using LiveTrack and also listening to an audiobook on Audible app. When I started out the battery was in the high 90’s percentage. I was quite surprised to see that it was only in the 70’s by the end of my 16 mile run. Impressive Garmin. Next text will be a 4 hour bike ride, so stay tuned.

Garmin Connect Mobile LiveTrack Multiple Twitter Account Hang

Garmin Connect Mobile LiveTrack Multiple Twitter Account Hang

Activity/Sleep monitor & Triathlon watch all-in-one

Like I mentioned before, I had been wearing an activity watch for the last year or so and went through multiple Jawbones and a VivoSmart. Wearing multiple things on my wrist is a bit geeky, so only having one thing to deal is pretty nice.

Garmin 920xt Daily Step Activity

Garmin 920xt Daily Step Activity

The activity features on the 920 are pretty much the same as the VivoSmart. The biggest difference is that the 920 is a bit more readable and easier to navigate. The sleep tracking in Garmin Connect is pretty lame compared to most other monitors. You just get a graph of your sleep, but no real statistics of how much deep vs. light sleep or snoring etc. I use a Beddit monitor for that anyway.

Garmin Connect Daily Sleep Graph

Garmin Connect Daily Sleep Graph

iPhone Notifications

This was another feature that I had on the VivoSmart which I grew to like. Again, the notifications are so much easier to read on the 920. The best part of this is that I can easily survey notifications while I am working and determine if I really need to get my phone out and respond or not. My wife can then just send me FYI texts just to let me know something and I don’t have to interrupt my workout or whatever to respond.

Garmin 920xt Notifications

Garmin 920xt Notifications

Longer battery life

I noticed that my battery on my 910 was just about out of juice when I finished my last two Ironmans after 12.5 hours. If I was any slower I may be out of luck. The 920 supposedly lasts about 40 hours in activity mode, which hopefully I never have to test that out. You never know though. The longer battery life also allows you to wear this as a regular watch or activity monitor.

I typically charge it once-a-week, but that has been mostly through the Winter where i haven’t been using as much GPS. Once I get into more outdoor workouts and the longer bike & runs on the weekends that may become more like twice a week. Charging it hasn’t been a big deal though. I usually just keep the charging connected to my laptop and plug it in while surfing the web or watching some TV.

Custom Profiles

The 920 comes with activity profiles for Triathlon/Multisport, running, running indoor, biking, biking indoor, pool swim, and open water swim. This is nice so you can customize each type of workout, whether you want GPS or not and what things you want to see for each. So now I don’t have turn off the GPS everytime I do a trainer or treadmill workout. You can also define your own custom profiles for other things like skiing, strength training, hiking, etc.

Programmability – Custom Watch faces & Data Fields

Garmin just released their ConnectIQ SDK which allows you to develop new custom watch faces, derived data fields, widgets and apps for your device(or anyone elses for that matter). Being a developer I was pretty excited about this one. I started downloading the SDK but haven’t had a chance to start writing anything yet. It requires Java and learning yet another language called “Monkey C”, so it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be.

If you are not a developer, you can take advantage of what others have developed from the ConnectIQ store. You can download new customizations via the Connect phone app or through Garmin Express on your laptop. I have updated my main watch face already to the BigTime watch face which is pretty nice.

BigTime watch face for Garmin 920xt

BigTime watch face for Garmin 920xt

Smaller size

 Bigger isn’t always better. That’s why I am not upgrading to the iPhone 6 anytime soon. The 920xt is a bit smaller with a lower profile on my wrist compared to the 910. It definitely doesn’t look quite as obnoxious as the older version, so wearing it 24×7 is not an issue. Plus, with everyone else sporting their new FitBit’s I think the 920 just looks more like a watch.

So that is basically my highlights for the 920. The navigation and buttons on the 920 are a bit different than the 910, so I did have a little trouble learning that at first but I am starting to get the hang of it now.

Garmin Connect Running Analytics Graphs

Garmin Connect Running Analytics Graphs

I also purchased the HRM Run heart rate monitor strap. This monitor has an accelerometer in it too and it provides some additional metrics like Ground Contact Time and Vertical Oscillation. I thought these would be cool to know from a running efficiency standpoint, but after seeing it the first time the novelty has worn off quickly. My readings are pretty much in the good range, most-likely from all the Chirunning training I had, so I really don’t pay attention to it much anymore. Also the strap had rubbed my skin raw just like the previous strap from the 910, so ended up moving the sensor to my Polar strap that I used before.

Update 2/23/2015: One issue I notice is that the accelerometer in the watch does not do a very accurate job for treadmill running. I tend to have a fairly consistent running cadence regardless of how fast I run, most likely a result from my Chirunning training. What I noticed was that the pace on my watch did not change consistently with the speed on treadmill. My treadmill pace is not accurate either, but I would expect to see them change relative to one another and they did not. My 920 basically stay around the same pace, while my treadmill increased. I have paired my old Garmin footpod up with my watch now and wore it on my long run outside on Sunday in order to calibrate it. I am hoping to see more consistent results on my next treadmill run.

All-in-all, I am glad I upgraded to the 920 and it is a pretty awesome multisport/activity watch.

Pre-Race Scouting Report: Black Bear Half-Iron Bike Course

I have the Black Bear Triathlon half iron distance race coming up in a week and half. It is a fairly local race for me, so I thought it might be a good idea to take a run up there and preview the bike course for my LSD ride for the week. I have been up to Beltzville State Park before to do some open water swims but haven’t really checked out all the roads in the area. I heard the race was hilly, but I had no idea how REALLY HILLY it was. Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

 

The half iron bike course consists of approximately two 28 mile loops around the area, so with a planned 4 hour ride today I thought I would do at least the two loops and then maybe a little extra to fill in the time. It was a very nice, partly cloudy, with a light breeze of around 7-10mph.

Here is the link to my Training Peaks Workout too…

I arrived in the main parking lot in the later morning, unpacked my bike, geared up, and started on my way out the main entrance. There were a few other cars in the parking lot with bike racks and triathlon related stickers, so it was nice to know there were others out there riding too. There was also another guy in the lot unloading a bike with a Endurance Multisport jersey on, which is a local triathlon club.

The Course

The route starts out paralleling Beltzville Lake on Pohopoco Drive, which is a bit of a rollercoaster ride to get started. A series of up-and-downs, some larger than others, that prohibits you from creating any bit of momentum throwing your legs into a tailspin. The last couple rollers before making a left onto Sheller Hill Road are the worst. When I first saw Sheller Hill Road, I thought “that can’t be the first turn”. I was wrong and my Garmin quickly indicated this by flashing a “Off Course” on the screen. As I turned around and now made a right onto the road, the Endurance Multisport rider was turning there too. We exchanged a couple pleasantries and then he filed in behind me.

Sheller Hill Road was gradual at first, but then jutted up to a short, steep little climb. I was then down to the intersection of the first out-and-back section on Smith Road. Smith Rd. was mostly downhill on the way out and then a mostly uphill starting at the lollipop-like turnaround and then back again. There is one steeper hill right before a descent back to Smith Rd. heading back again.

Wild Creek Reservoir-Penn Forest Rd.-Bethlehem Water Authority

Reaching Sheller Hill Rd again you stay right and then soon make a right onto Penn Forest Rd. You then head downhill for a good stretch, but the road is fairly beat up so you need to stay alert. It eventually levels out right as you pass a nice mountain lake(Wild Creek Reservoir) which seems to be a false flat area. Again the road is pretty beat up still. You eventually reach a new bridge right before it starts descending uphill again. I am not sure how far up the course goes before it turns around. I went half way up the first loop and all the way up the second time. It is a pretty steady climb. Then you turn around and head back again. The ascent up was to Sheller Rd again was not as bad as I thought, but it is another climb in easy gears nonetheless.

Next, is back down to Pohopoco Drive for another roller coaster ride. One big uphill and then make a right on what I think is Lakeside Dr. After a sharp left you come to a fork at Lovitt Rd. When I first saw this road and the steep climb I thought we could NOT go that way, but again I was wrong. This is yet another short steep section. There is a nice long quiet descent through the woods after though.

The course usually turns right onto Owl Creek Rd, which I did, but the road is marked closed and the bridge is blocked off further down the road. It is actually a nice little stretch that you can gain some speed and I was able to slip past some barriers and the large pile of dirt on the bridge to get through. Not sure what they will do for the race though.

 

Bridge Out! Road closure and bridge out on Black Bear course.There is one pretty steep climb after the bridge. I found myself saying “you’ve got to be kidding me” when I made the turn. The really were not bashful with this bike course. The rest is mostly flat or downhill to the park entrance before doing it all over again.

Course Summary

I heard this was hilly, but holy crap it was brutal. Granted I was doing a long, slow distance ride, it still kicked my ass. Last year I did Rev3 Quassy and I though that was a hilly course, but after checking my logs this course has almost 1000 more feet of climb over the same distance. It is 1000 less than the FULL Lake Placid Ironman bike course of 112 miles.

This is definitely not a course to go out like gangbusters. You could really cook your legs in a hurry and have a rough half marathon to run afterwards. The only solace is that the run does not appear to be quite as hilly. I ran part of the course for a brick run and it wasn’t too bad, but it was on dirt road and trails. I think this would be a good race to ride a road bike instead of a tri bike. There is a ton of shifting to do! Unfortunately, my old Cannondale road bike is NOT race ready. Oh well it is my B training race, so it will be a test of my fitness.

CyclOps PowerCal with Heart Rate Review

Update 7/12/2013: Please check out my updated review additions to the CycleOps(now PowerTap) PowerCal unit update post here…

I am fairly at how fairly accurate this unit is based on that it uses heart rate and no calibration. It is fairly consistent, so if it is all you are using to gauge your workouts, then it is worth the money. If you are comparing your numbers to more accurate numbers then it will not be totally on the mark.
I have done a side-by-side comparison of this unit with the Kinetic inRide on my Road Machine Trainer(accuracy +/- 1%) and the Powercal is usually about -10-12kw below the inRide for the Avg power for a workout. Not too bad.
One other thing I noticed that when your heart rate doesn’t increase as normal for a given workout(usually a sign of overtraining and time for recovery), then the power measure is affected and the readings are lower than normal. Whereas with a real power meter the power would be more accurate and just your heart rate would be lower.
Now that I have a baseline for this unit from comparing it with my trainer, I can transfer that to my outdoor rides without a very expensive power meter. So if you want power with a little less investment this may work for you.

cycleopsPowerCal

cycleopsPowerCal

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.

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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!