Tuesday, July 12, 2016

2016 Garrett County Gran Fondo

2016 Garrett County Gran Fondo
AKA - Using my Fitness to do Cool Shit Part 2
AKA - That was totally wicked!

My early season training calendar was wide open and I’ve been using that fact to have some fitness enabled fun!  So far this season I’ve run the Pittsburgh Marathon and the 50K version of the Laurel Ultra.  My triathlon season does not officially start until late August, so my “have fun” plans are not even close to finished yet.  Next up?  The Garrett County Gran Fondo.

First off, what the hell is a Gran Fondo anyway?
Google says "noun, a long-distance cycling event in which a large number of cyclists ride a marked route."

The Gran Fondo Guide website (who knew?) says "Gran Fondo is an Italian term which loosely translates to 'Big Ride'."  That site also says "Gran Fondo's are designed for everyone."

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at the Garrett County Gran Fondo (GCGF) offering.

The GCGF offers 4 main route options from 44 miles up to 124, all of which are designed to take cruel advantage of the local terrain.  For the more triathlon focused readers, if you've heard of the SavageMan triathlon, you probably know all about the "hills" of western Maryland.  If you've never heard of SavageMan, you can learn more here.  Because of the hills, all of the routes are tough, but the mac daddy is the Diabolical Double, a double metric century with over 16,000 feet of climbing.  The DD contains all of the 7 timed KOM climbs plus a slew of small, and large, untimed climbs.  Average grades near 10% are common, even on climbs of over a mile in length!  

My goal was to complete the Diabolical Double as the second leg of an extreme duathlon, where the first leg was the Laurel Ultra two weeks earlier (report here).  As it turns out, I was not the only person thinking this way: I ran into, and rode with someone, who I met on course at the ultra.  It's such a small world.  

Now if only there was some crazy open water swim on July 9th...  Not.

Although this was fitness related fun, I’m in no shape to actually compete for anything in this ride: this was just a big training day for me.  Actually, it was a really big training day.  This was also the first really hardcore  cycling specific event that I've ever done so I was surprised by all of the $15K bikes, the shaved legs and the massive quads.  It turns out that some people take their cycling very seriously.  Me, I was just out for a fun and challenging ride with some friends.

Some of the ride highlights (and lowlights) include mechanical issues nearly ending my day early, some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever biked past and a band with not one but two stand-up bass players on the side of a gravel road, in the middle of BFE!  

The start/finish for the ride was Garrett County Community College in Garrett County Maryland and it was a great place to queue.  Coach P., if you’re looking for a great location for a mid-summer camp: one with an olympic indoor pool, 9 billion hotel rooms and some of the most challenging, scenic and least traveled cycling roads I’ve ever experienced, hit me up and I’ll tell you all about it.  I’ve always thought of this place as the home of amazing, class v whitewater, but it turns out it’s also home to amazing, class v cycling!

Garrett County CC was a new start/finish and as a result, the new route started at the bottom of the local ski resort, instead of at the top.  I’ve not done the ride before, but I have to say, starting a large group ride with a tough climb seems much smarter and safer than starting with a steep descent.  Overlook Pass was a nice warmup for the legs and a great indicator of what was to come.  On many occasions before and during the ride, the organizers were pushing people towards the easier routes and that was certainly true here, if you had any trouble with Overlook Pass, then the DD or the Savage Century were not the routes for you!

The first 20 miles went by quickly and before I knew it, I was in line at the port-a-john in aid station 1.  One stupid-biker mistake later and my day was nearly over!  When it was my turn for the port-a-john, I leaned my bike (derailleur side out) against the john and went inside to do my business.  When I came out, I found my bike laying neatly in the grass, several feet away from where I left it.  I also noticed that my saddle was rimmed with mud.  Rut Ro Reorge, looks like my bike took a tumble…  I dusted it off, did a quick check and everything seemed normal, so I headed off to refill my bottles.  Insert ominous music here…

Just outside of AS1 is Limestone Hill, the first major climb (1151 feet) of the ride.  Coming into the climb, I started shifting up in the back and it was clear something was not right.  My chain was jumping around and it would not hold a gear.  I stopped and did a quick assessment, made a few turns of the the barrel adjuster and got it sorted out, or so I thought.  I got back on and things seemed good until a few second later when I shifted up and right off of the inside of the cassette, into the spokes.  Yikes, that’s not good.  I got the chain back onto the cassette and did another assessment.  Everything seemed normal except that the bottom pulley was awfully close to the spokes and I was on the top cog but with another position still available on the shifter.  More sad music and the realization that I bent either the hanger (replaceable!) or the derailleur itself.  Regardless, the good news was I was able to trim things out and keep moving forward, as a 9-speed rig instead of 10.

In spite of all of my drama, Limestone Hill, which was closed for the event, was simply stunning.  For much of the way I put my head down and hammered, trying to catch up with my friends.  Even still, I could not help but notice the serene beauty of this climb: car-free and quite, until I started to hear what sounded like bluegrass music.  Out in the middle of nowhere.  Then I rounded a corner and sure enough, there was a bluegrass band, with not one, but two stand-up bass players.  It was really something to see.

That sense of joy carried me into aid station 2, at the very tip top of Pig’s Ear & Keyser’s Ridge (1142 feet), the 5th KOM timed climb.  I hopped off and racked my bike (learned that lesson…) and then queued for food and water.  I waited for my group, Michael (who I’ve known for years) and Michael (who I met that morning!) to catch up and I chatted with some other riders.  While I was milling around in aid 2 I ran into Jason, who I first met two weeks prior, on course at the Laurel Ultra!  Turns out Jason has an interesting story, which I’ll summarize by saying that he was out testing newly earned fitness and that he was happy too.  Aid 2 is also where I first ran into two gentlemen on a tandem.  This itself would be unremarkable but for the fact that the stoker was blind.  As someone who can’t imagine giving up control enough to even sit in the stoker seat, the idea of sitting back there with my eyes closed - that’s just more trust than I have in me.  Of course if the alternative was not getting to ride at all, then maybe the stoker seat would be worth a try.  For what it’s worth, those guys were happy too!

After Pig’s Ear, we lost “long-known” Michael to back spasms but “just-met” Michael and I picked up Jason, so we were back to being a group of three.  We cruised through one more timed climb before hitting the split at mile 68.3 where the DD goes left and the Savage Century turns right.  The three of us chatted up the tandem guys and we talked through the fact that 24 additional miles probably isn’t that much.  However, the difference between 12K of climbing and 16K makes those 24 miles more significant.  We also talked about the fact that none of us really knew each other and so the left/right decision was something that we would each have to make ourselves.  In the end, we all stuck with our original plans - Michael and I along with the tandem guys all went left and Jason went right.  Ironically, I know the three of us spent at least a little time regretting our decision.

Shortly after the split came Blue Lick, an untimed climb up a great gravel road - just over half a mile at a 10.4% average grade.  The road conditions were decent, but I sure appreciated the new 700x32 slicks that I was riding!  

Right out of aid station 4 there was a long, un-timed climb.  Then there was a long descent, one of the longest of the day, down along a stream into aid station 5, at mile 101.  That descent was super sweet and pretty, another truly scenic piece of road that provided a welcome relief from all of the climbing.  That relief was short lived though as the final timed KOM climb was right around the corner.  “Just-met” Michael looked pretty rough at aid 5 and it seemed like he took a good, long look at the sag van.  I know I spent a minute or two thinking about the fact that I would already be finished if I had chosen to go right and not left back at the split.  Since that decision was not to be undone, Michael and I agreed to go our own pace out of aid 5 and potentially meet up again at aid 6, after the final timed climb.

I managed to find my second (maybe third?) wind coming out of aid 5 and I cruised up Dry Run Road (1070 feet), KOM timed climb #7 without issue.  Unfortunately, my Garmin couldn’t find its second wind and it died at mile 116  This was the first time I’ve used turn by turn navigation on my 520 and it worked really well.  This was also the longest ride I’ve done with my 520 and I now know that the battery life, at least while using the navigation, is about 12 hours.  Live and learn.

After the Dry Run Road climb there was nothing left but small rollers to the finish.  I feel like I finished strong and I’m super pleased with the way that the day turned out.  I’m curious how much stopped-time I could take out if I tried that route again.  Hopefully I get to find out next year.  I’m also curious how much time my mechanical issues added to my day.  Regardless, the day was about finishing, which I did.  Just-met Michael finished up the DD ~15 or 20 minutes behind me.  I imagine this was the longest ride he’s ever attempted, so I’m sure he’s super psyched about finishing.  Long-known Michael rallied and finished the Savage Century.  Jason finished the Savage Century with energy left in the tank.  I’m sure next year he’ll make the left at the split and go for the DD!

Life is short, go have some f’n fun. Get outside and celebrate the fact that we can get outside!  Do something cool.  Meet new people.  If there’s any way you can get here for this ride, you owe it to yourself to get here and share in this fantastic experience!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Laurel Highlands Ultra 50K Race Report

Laurel Highlands Ultra 50K Race Report
AKA - Using my Fitness to do Cool Shit

The Laurel Highlands Ultra is a great event(s) with a long and rich history.  You can see the 70.5 mile website here (link to Laurel Ultra) and the 50K specific website here (link to 50K).

This event has a lot of history and personal meaning for me.  I grew up hiking on this trail with my family.  My dad, my brother and I backpacked and cross country skied and camped here.  The trail continues to be a special place for me and when I first learned of this event, many years (and many pounds) ago, I watched in awe and wondered what it would be like to actually try something so crazy as a 50K.

Flash forward to an ordinary trail run in June of 2013.  I had just finished my first ever Ironman and it dawned on me that I could run 50K for sure.  Unfortunately, this is a popular event and the 2013 running had been sold out for months.  Undaunted, I watched the website and signed up for 2014 as soon as it opened.  I was doing IMTX again in 2014 so I figured I would be fine from a fitness perspective.  Right?  One of my first interactions with Coach Rich was a season planning session where he asked me "Who the hell signs up for a 50K four weeks post Ironman?"

In 2014, I finished strong and had such a good time I knew I'd come back again at some point.
Link to 2014 Race Report
Link to 2014 Strava Activity

The lead up to 2016 was quite different.  Without an early season IM and with an early season run focus I've been logging lots of miles on both the road and the trail.  At this point in the season, I'm not as fit or as light as I was in 2014 but my running legs feel stronger and I'm better rested.  From a planning perspective, I reviewed the race and nutrition plans from 2014 and made some adjustments because it was going to be hot and humid!

Take it easy through mile 19, that was the plan, and then see what I can do on the back half of the course.  I didn't have a firm time goal but 7 hours seemed about right.  Here is the link to the Strava activity for 2016.  I guess they call this foreshadowing, but I seem to have had some trouble "taking it easy".  In the Strava link, please notice the PR on the "ohiopyle to maple summit" segment.  That segment is the first ~12 miles of the race and it's the worst 12 miles from every perspective.  It didn't feel like I was moving that quickly, honest. I'm not at all proud of this PR...

I hit the first aid station in need of a porta john, only to find out that there were none. Ugh.  I refilled my supplies and started off again, hoping I could make it to the shelter area near mile 19.  This would be a small detour off course into the camping area, but there are primitive bathrooms in the camping area and in my book the bathroom seemed worth the detour.

Continuing the theme of having trouble taking it easy, my split through aid station two (near mile 19) was about the same as 2014 but this one included the run to and from the bathroom, plus the bathroom time.  So minus the bathroom break, this was probably another unexpected and ill-advised PR.

And then it all caught up with me...  I started to run out of gas somewhere after mile 20 and after the uphill from mile 25 - 27, I was totally spent.  Getting down the hill between miles 27 and 28 was awful, I didn't trust my legs to hold me up after any meaningful impact. The hill at mile 29 was bad and somehow, compared to 2014, mile 30 was even worse!  Actually this maybe makes sense as I probably picked up my pace for mile 30 last time while I'm sure I slowed down for mile 30 this time. Regardless, if you look at the splits, I lost ~15 minutes over the last five miles...

2016 2014 Delta
27 17:00 14:48 +2:12
28 15:05 13:11 +1:54
29 18:52 14:57 +3:55
30 18:04 12:32 +5:32
31 14:51 13:21 +1:30

Final thoughts...  I followed my nutrition plan pretty well: drinking a fair bit more than I planned and eating a little less.  It was hot and humid and sunny - a far better day for the beach than a trail run, but you don't get to pick the weather.  I was curious going in how I would hold up over such a long day and if I was properly prepared.  It's not clear if I was under prepared or if my issues were more related to execution.  Most likely it was a little of both.  I've run many, many more miles this year versus 2014 but my longest two activities were the Pittsburgh Marathon (3.5 hours) and a 20 mile trail run (~4:00 hours).  Neither of which approached the 7:00 hours I expected to be on course on race day.  Lesson learned.

Most importantly, I had fun and I seem to have finished without injury or issue.

Now to recover for my next endeavor...

Pittsburgh Marathon 2016

Clark's Pittsburgh Marathon Race Report

The lead up to race day was pretty normal.  My long training runs all went well with no injuries or significant issues.  I was able to train on the actual course quite a bit so that was confidence inspiring.  The only real question mark coming out of training was some disconnect between RPE and heart rate on several of my long runs.  In spite of this, I felt prepared, healthy and ready to go.

Race day logistics were EASY.  The start was only a mile from my house and my route to the start was not impacted by any of the nearly one million road closures that come with a major city marathon.  I was time seeded into the A start corral, which closed at 6:45, so I left the house at 6:20.  My wife dropped me off, I did some warm up running and I slipped into the corral at ~6:40.  I found a spot in the very back and ran into a coworker, Tim, who was in the very front of the B corral.  He and I were both shooting for similar times, so we chatted for a bit until the time was right and then he slipped into A so that we could run together for the first few miles.

Tim ran the Pittsburgh Marathon last year, his first, and he had some early pacing problems, so I think he was happy with my plan to go out relatively slow.  We ran together for the first three, or so, miles (8:32, 8:10 and 8:23).  We talked some about RPE and the disconnect that I've seen between heart rate and RPE. I know my first three miles were all RPE 1 because we carried on a seamless conversation the entire time. This is not at all consistent with my measured heart rate for those miles and that is a theme that's going to keep coming up in this race report...

At around mile three Tim decided it was time to pick up the pace and we parted ways.  I wished him good speed and told him I hoped to see him at the finish.

The next several miles were pretty routine (8:06, 8:40 and 8:09).  The weather was generally cooperating, which was unexpected but nice.  The slow rain was helping to keep things cool without raising the humidity or really getting my feet wet.  Things seemed pretty good so I decided it was time to pick up the pace before I dug my time hole any deeper.

Miles 7, 8 and 9 (7:53, 7:53 and 7:46) all went by without incident.  However, the disconnect between RPE and heart rate persisted.  Those are typically high Z2 paces for me and are inline with my expected marathon pace.  However today they were at a solid Z3 heart rate.

In mile 10 I finally stopped to pee and discovered that "holding it" was not the best strategy because peeing took forever.....  I finally ran out of the port-a-john and my watch beeped an 8:45 split for mile 10. Ugh!

In the middle of mile 11 (7:58) I got to see my wife, which is always great!  Mile 12 is the one major up hill on the course (8:38).  At the end of mile 13 (7:44) the mental math started up and I knew I would need to keep up a strong pace if I was going to slide in under my 3:30 goal!

Miles 14 - 23 all went pretty much as planned (7:44, 7:55, 7:40, 7:34, 7:47, 8:00, 7:41, 7:44 and 8:01) with the slower splits coming from elevation change and not fatigue or loss of effort.

Right at the end of mile 23 I caught up with Tim.  He was moving along well but as I passed him, it was clear that he was not going to try and keep up.  I was still trying to make up time, so I wasn't slowing down!  Mile 24 is the only major downhill on the course (7:17) so my pre-race thought that miles 12 and 24 would cancel out turned out to be on the money.

Mile 25 was flat and slow (8:06).  I'm not exactly sure what happened here but I was certainly not expecting to be back above an eight minute pace.  I picked up the pace for miles 26 (6:57), but not to the extent that my split indicates.  The course runs back into down town here so perhaps the buildings messed with the GPS data.  

At this point you would expect that the finish would be in sight, but actually, it's not!  The half marathon has a nice straight path to the shared finish line, but the full marathon requires a 90 degree right turn before you can see the finish.  Working off of my 26 mile split time, I knew things were going to be close.  I was in a full sprint at this point and the only way I was going sub 3:30 was if the finish line was right around the corner.

It wasn't.

I kept up my sprint and crossed the line at 3:30:21, which is a fantastic time for me and is 26 minutes under my best Ironman marathon time.  Of course, it's also 21 seconds over my 3:30 Boston Marathon standard time.  I have no illusions that a 3:29:59 would actually get me into Boston, but I was really hoping to turn in a qualifying time.

Final details: 3:30:21, 14/202 in M45-49 and 317/3652 Overall

So what do I take away from this and where do I go from here?  Although I took this day very seriously, my real goals were more around Ironman and less around Boston or marathons in general.  I'm not planning another marathon this season and I'm totally comfortable with that decision.  Based on my Ironman training, I figured a 3:30 stand alone marathon was possible and clearly I've proven that.  Now that I've actually experienced the pace and the effort, I hope I'll be able to translate that experience into something meaningful for Ironman.  I'm not saying I'm going to go run a 3:30 Ironman marathon, cause that's not going to happen.  However, I do think I learned some things that will help me improve both training and running for IMAZ this fall, which is my A race this season.

Next up on my schedule is the Laurel Highlands Ultra in June.  This is a small, local, trail-race with two distances, 50K and 70.5 miles.  I'm doing the 50K again (previous race report) and I'm really looking forward to having FUN.  Although they make me wear a number, that day will be about having a good time and running on a trail that I first experienced as a Boy Scout back in the 1970's.  The last time I ran this race I was four weeks post IMTX and although it was a tough day, I had a blast!  I'm curious to see how my current fitness measures up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Recessed Z Wave Door Sensor Install

As you know I've been playing around with some home automation tools recently.  One thing that I've wanted to install is a contact sensor for my front door.  The issue has been that the trim on the door makes it very difficult to install a traditional, flush mount sensor like I used for my pantry door project.  While searching online the other day, I found this recessed sensor, which seemed perfect for my application, so I ordered one up.  It arrived on Wednesday, so over the weekend, I got around to the install.

Package contents: sensor, magnet, small screws and instructions.

The physical install seemed like it would be straight forward but before I started drilling holes in my door frame I needed to be sure the sensor would pair with my Almond+. 

Pairing the Sensor 
The first step here was to remove the cover so that I could pull the battery saver tape.  It would be nice if you could do that without removing the cover but no dice.  I set my Almond+ into pairing mode, pulled the strip, watched the LED light up and... no love.  Ok, time for the directions.  A quick scan of the directions indicated that the device does not start up in pairing mode, you need to push the little Z Wave button with a paperclip.  I put my Almond+ back into pairing mode and then I pushed the Z Wave button and bingo, done!

Screen shot of the configured sensor from the Almond app.

Physical Install
With the pairing finished, it was time to move on to the physical install.  First up I had to drill a 3/4 inch wide hole in my door trim.  I chose to do this along the top of the door because of the way my door fits into the trim.  The clearance on the long side of the door is pretty tight, while the clearance along the top is more loose.  I think it would have worked on either side, but since I had the clearance, I took advantage.

One hole drilled into the top trim of my door frame.

Next I dry fit the sensor into the hole to see if I had drilled the hole deep enough.  The sensor mostly fit, but it did not fit flush, so I drilled slightly deeper and tried again and that did the trick.  Notice that there are three holes in the cap of the sensor, two for screws and the center hole for pushing the Z Wave button with a paperclip.

The dry fit sensor before I added the screws to hold it in place.

The last step for the sensor install was to add the two small screws.  Again, notice the center hole to reach the Z Wave button.

One sensor, fully installed.

Next up, I needed a hole for the magnet.  This time I used the same bit to drill a shallow hole into the top of the door.  Again, I did a quick dry fit and found I needed to make the hole a little deeper before I got the fit I wanted.  Super simple.

There's a hole in my door...

Push the magnet into the hole. 

Now the hole has a nice magnetic cap...
And, just like that, I'm ready to create some automation rules.  The first rule I created really isn't a rule at all.  I setup the new sensor to trigger a notification anytime the sensor state changes, but only when the Almond+ is in "Away" mode.  Home and Away are some of the first things I created with my Almond+ but I don't think I've posted about that process.  I'll save the details for another post but in general if Cath's or my cell phones are connected to the wifi then the Almond+ sets itself to Home and if neither phone is connected, then it sets itself to Away.  This is great because it uses our phones as a presence sensor so no need to buy a Zigbee or Z Wave presence sensor.  Now if anyone opens the front door while neither Cath nor I are home, I'll get a notification via the Almond app.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about this sensor or the install process feel free to leave me a comment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Laurel Ultra 2016 Training Day

I'm running the 50K version of the Laurel Ultra again in June and this time it's my 50 for 50 birthday celebration.  I ran this awesome race back in 2014 (link here) and I run on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) all the time, so I'm super happy that my schedule cleared out and I'm able to run the race again.

I was hoping to do a rim-to-rim-to-rim run, across the Grand Canyon and back, as my 50 (miles) for 50, but the logistics of that trip just did not work out, so the Laurel Ultra is a great substitution.  I'll get the R2R2R trip done some other time...

The last time I ran in the Laurel Ultra I was four weeks post Ironman, so I was in great physical condition but I was definitely still recovering.  My training had been spread across swim, bike and run, so I was probably under trained from a run perspective.  Also, I was way under trained from a trail run perspective.  I think I put in fewer than 30 total miles of trail running leading up to race day.

This year, training has been quite different.  I raced Ironman this past November and I'm not racing Ironman again until November of this year, so the early part of this season has been mostly run focused.  This ski season has been "challenging" (aka non-existent), so I've been able to get in some solid running miles on the trail.  Most of my trail miles have been from 7 Springs to RT 653 since I've been running back to the house after a morning of snowboarding.

This past Saturday was different: the weather had been so warm I had no interest in even trying to snowboard.  Instead, I had Cath drop me off in Ohiopyle with the plan to run from Ohiopyle back to the house (~20 miles).  This would be both my longest trail run of the season and also my longest run overall.  Add to that the elevation gain between Ohiopyle and RT 653 and the fact that I ran long on Thursday and I knew I had a big day ahead of me.

The weather was great and there were lots of people out on the trail.  Usually I'll pass one or two groups of people on the trail but on Saturday I think I passed by closer to 10.  There were some through hikers with fully loaded backpacks stopped at the first observation spot out of Ohiopyle. There were three or four couples with dogs and three or so more without dogs.  And there was one solo hiker who I passed as I was climbing the Conn Road hill.  One thing I didn't see was other runners. 

My pace was pretty reasonable, for me - not slow (but not fast) and steady.  I felt pretty good as I crossed the road at Maple Summit (my I can't go any further safety bail out point), so I called Cath and told her I intended to keep going.

Somewhere around mile five I started thinking about all of the bridges on the trail and I wondered how many bridges there are on the entire trail.  My initial guess was 140 - 150 (~2 bridges per mile which seemed reasonable if not low).  I started counting at some point and most miles had 2 or three. The most I counted in one mile was 6 and the least was 1, so I'm revising my guess up to 175, unless there's a penalty for going over :-).  Maybe one of these days I'll do a more formal count.  For the record, I'm calling it a bridge if I take two or more steps along the length of a split log or 6x6.  If I step off of wood, onto land and then back onto wood, that's two bridges, but if two sections of wood meet without a step onto land then that's one long bridge.

This mental exercise really helped to pass the miles between Maple Summit and RT 653.  I mostly jogged and counted bridges as I ran more and more out of gas...  I struggled up the steep hill past the camp site trail head and then ran along the flat to the road.

Ironically, the worst part of the whole trip was walking down the road to the house.  I was pretty spent and since I was walking I started to get cold.  Plus I was out of water and I was pretty thirsty. Cry me a river...

I took Sunday off as a recovery day.  It was Cath's birthday and we had plans to go to Nemacolin or 7 Springs but we ended up spending much of the day cooking and lounging on the couch.  It was a great way to end the weekend.

This run was a pretty good test and I'm happy with the way it turned out.  I was spent by the time I reached RT 653, but I could have kept going if I had to.  Factor in the fact that I was running on tired legs and I'm even happier.  Overall there's still lots of work to be done but I'm happy with my progress thus far.  I'll be on the trail again this weekend and hopefully I'll get in another Ohiopyle to 653 day in early April.

Hopefully you enjoyed your weekend training also!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Zigbee Automatic Pantry Light

Yes, I know that my blog is mostly sports related posts, but I'm into technology also and I'm trying to create some more interesting content, so this is my first home automation post.

I recently got an Almond+, which is a combination home router and Zigbee/Zwave controller. Using the Almond+ and connected devices like contact sensors and light bulbs I'm able to create automated actions.  In this case I've automated my pantry light so that the light comes on when you open the pantry door.

Here are all the things you need...

Any brand of door/window contact sensor that will work with your hub. 
GE Link connected LED bulb.
Almond+ router and home automation hub. 

Contact sensor

GE LED bulb


The steps required for the project:

  1. Pair the contact sensor to the Almond+. 
  2. Pair the light bulb to the Almond+. 
  3. Install the light bulb and turn on the switch. 
  4. Install the contact sensor. 
  5. Create the automation rules in the Almond+.

Here's a picture of the contact sensor installed on the door frame.

Install the magnet. In my case I installed it on the inside of the door where it would match up to the sensor.

Program the automation rules in the Almond+

First one to turn the light on when the sensor is open. 

Then one to turn the light off when the sensor is closed. 

Finally, here's a brief video of the light turning on and off as I simulate the door opening and closing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

Syracuse was an interesting race for me on many levels.  As is often the case, when I committed to this race I had a specific plan in mind but in the months leading up to the race, the way things played out was nothing like what I had planned.  Due to minor surgery and some unrelated health issues, I didn't start my out-season program in January, I started it in March.  The result was that my out-season ended with the Syracuse 70.3 on Sunday instead of a simple 10K or half marathon.

This change did not sneak up on me, I knew what was happening and I made some changes to my plan in preparation for the race.  I adding in longer weekend rides (about 4), some longer runs (about 2) and a race rehearsal brick (56 mile bike followed by a 10K run) as well.  My out-season training plan does not include any swimming, so I added in some swim sessions, just to make sure I wouldn't drown.

I arrived in Syracuse feeling ready but with some questions lingering about my endurance.  Syracuse was never intended to be an A race for me, so I was in the right place in my head and I was comfortable treating the day as more of a fitness test than a race.  My A race this season is IRONMAN Arizona in November, so regardless of what I learned on Sunday I have plenty of time to react and adjust.

Syracuse is only my third HIM and from a course layout perspective, it's probably the most challenging.  My most recent HIM was a very windy day on a very flat course at Cedar Point in 2013.

All tuned up and ready to race!
Part of the "deal" on entering Syracuse was that it coincided with a family reunion weekend for my wife's family in up-state NY.  As a result, we loaded up the car and hit the road for Lowville, NY immediately after work on Thursday.  That's about a 7 hour drive with the requisite stops for gas, food, bathroom, etc. so we pulled into the hotel parking lot at about 1:00 AM Friday morning.  Friday and Saturday morning were dedicated to NY family and friends, which was great fun.

Welcome to the village!
I left for Syracuse around noon on Saturday knowing that would give me plenty of time for race check-in, transition setup, dinner and a good night of sleep.

No line for all world athletes. Sweet

My corner of transition
Race morning was pretty uneventful.  My swim wave started at 7:36 but transition closed at 6:55 and I had heard horror stories about traffic, so I got up at 4:15, got breakfast and got on the road by about 4:30.  I didn't hit any traffic and I was parked by 5:00 or maybe 5:15, so I set the alarm on my phone and went back to sleep in the car until ~6:15.

I woke up in a driving rain, so I hung in the car for as long as I could before I headed out to pump tires, add bottles and arrange my transition space.  I think I went into transition at 6:45 and I was back out and in line for a porta john by 6:55.

At least the rain stopped for the race!
I warmed up a little and then got back out of the water to join my group in line for the start.  I'm not a big fan of the wave start, but I understand that the lake is really too small to support a mass start with that many people.  I had no trouble finding a clear lane but the smaller group makes it harder to find feet and also other people to sight off.  There was not too much contact during the swim, except that I did get kicked in the thumb.  This actually hurt for about a week, but it's better now.

Both of the turn buoys were clear and overall the swim was pretty uneventful.  I was least prepared for the swim, having only been in the pool 6 or 7 times prior to the race, so I was pretty happy to come away with a 41:56 which is a PR for me.  What can I say, I'm a slow swimmer.

Look at that focus
Transition was slow.  I had to stop for a wetsuit stripper, who had trouble getting the wetsuit off of my feet.  Then I had some trouble with my bike jersey and finally, there was quite a bit of distance to cover from the swim out to the bike mount.  My goal time was 4:00 and my actual time was 6:08.

I was really excited about the Syracuse bike.  I've been doing a lot of climbing as part of the out-season plan and the "rolling hills" that everyone talks about at Syracuse sound like home to me.

The Syracuse course starts with a mile or two of fast flat followed by ~10 miles of serious climbing.  My heart rate coming out of T1 was high - really high actually - so I soft pedaled those first few miles to try and bring it down.  Once the hills started, I tried to keep a lid on my power output, but that was hard given the steep and long hills.  By mile 15 the biggest hills were behind me and I was able to settle back to my planed power output.

Thanks to a friend's prerace ride and forum post, I took the time to drive the course on Saturday and that was a smart move.  I shifted early in several sections and skipped the whole "wrong gear" and "dropped chain" drama that many others endured.  I think I counted at least 5 or 6 people who started into steep climbs in the wrong gear and either dropped a chain or simply had to stop to recover.

Actually looking where I'm going - winning
Overall I worked a little harder than I wanted to but not so much so that I did any damage.  My goal time was anything under 3 hours and my actual time was 2:55:33. What's interesting about this time is that I was at 1:34 at the halfway mark of the ride, so my second half was something like 1:21, which is really fast for me.  The second half of the ride was net downhill and my times prove that.

The look of pain
As usual, your day always comes down to the run and even more so in my case as 1) I came in with questions about my endurance and 2) I rode harder than I planned.  Not to worry though, it all worked out in the end.

My heart rate did continue to settle over the duration of the bike, so I was curious to see what would happen as I started running. Coming out of T2 I set out at my planned pace, but I kept a close watch on my heart rate.

If you've not seen the Syracuse run course, it's really something.  As in, I'd like to meet (and punch in the face) the person who set it up.  It's filled with grass and mud and absurd hills, and then you get to do it all again!  I reminded me of a High School cross country course.

What this meant was that it was hard to pace and it was hard to judge my overall effort.  Some miles were fast and others slow so I just tried to stay cool and smart.  I held back a little on the first "out" leg, since the out is mostly up hill and then I bumped things up on the "back".  I notched up again on the second "out" and then I notched up much more aggressive on the second "back".  This plan worked for me as I managed to speed up quite a bit on that second "back" leg and I negative split both of the measured splits on the second lap.

It was pretty hot and humid out, so I used my transition ziploc bag for ice during the run.  This gave me access to cold water and ice between aid stations and that was really helpful.  

Looking strong!
My goal time was anything under 2 hours and I ran a 1:57:24

Overall my goal time was anything under 6:00 and I went 5:44:05.

My best ever HIM is 5:35:27 (Cedar Point) so no PR today but given where I am in my season and the challenges I've overcome from a training perspective, I'm really happy with this result.  I'm also especially happy with my run execution.  The hills were soul sucking, many people walked them, so the fact that I was able to power-shuffel through them withoug blowing up really made me happy.

Hopefully you had a great day for your last race!


Technical and nutrition details
I consumed 5 gels and ~8 scoops of Skratch Labs SDM (~128oz) for a total of 1140 calories and 3130 mg of sodium.

There are too few aid stations on the ride.  I anticipated this and adjusted accordingly.  If I would have raced only with on-course nutrition, I would have come up WAY short on hydration.

Bike Power:
Bike NP - 192
Bike IF - 0.87
Bike TSS - 220

Over the entire run I consumed 2 gels, 2 salt tabs, lots of gatorade and just a bit of coke.