Friday, July 26, 2013

Lost and Found Podium Part 2: Padden Road Duathlon

Last weekend, I did the Padden Road Duathlon. Again, down the street from me. I told my teammate Bart the other night that the real reason I'm running these days is that it pissed me off that I couldn't run a couple miles without hurting myself. I don't think I quite knew it myself until I said it, but now that I have, I realize that's the primary reason. My wife would say that since I had some trouble with running, now I had to conquer it.

This is a local duathlon put on by the City of Bellingham Parks and Rec department. Everyone shows up from serious triathletes to people who couldn't think of something better to do with their Saturday mornings. It's one lap around Lake Padden, then a 19ish mile bike leg around Lake Sammish, and finally another lap around Lake Padden. The Padden lap is fairly hilly by running standards, and the bike leg has a moderate climb right at the beginning, rolls for a while, and finishes with a pretty stiff climb.

In keeping with my current attitude about pace, I did the first run as fast as I could - actually I think I might benefit from a little pacing in running, at least until I develop either better running fitness or a better sense of my efforts when running. I jackrabbited the start a little bit, so a lot of the "real" runners passed me in the first mile, and my position was still eroding a bit by the time I got to the first transition.

I don't practice transitions. This is my second multisport event and I will probably continue to do them at a rate of around two a year. But I at least stage my stuff, and I was running in shoes with elastic laces. So I managed to get out in about a minute. The transition area is at the bottom of a steep driveway, which is itself at the bottom of the moderate climb. I got to pass quite a few people on my way up to the top, which was kind of fun - all the stronger runners who don't ride that much. After that, I was more-or-less just racing the clock, although there was a group of three cyclists who were in front of me for probably about five miles. I knew I was faster - I'd had to chase on to visual distance. But they kept hanging out in front of me for a while and it really took until we all hit a grade that lasted a little longer for me to pass. A few people on TT bikes passed me during the leg. The sound of the carbon is unmistakable. I think if I was going to be serious about an event for which TT bikes are legal, whatever that means, I'd need to acquire one. Kind of a problem with our sport, but c'est la vie.

The course finished with another climb, so of course I buried myself on it. I had this idea that whether I wanted it or not, I was getting a break during the transition. I did get some Strava PRs, so that's something... My second transition was not as smooth as the first. For some reason.

The second run was really hard! As soon as I started running, I felt uneven, and my hips and hamstrings felt tight. I was sure I had to be going at a snail's pace, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. The first time the course went up slightly, it took me real force of will not to walk. And the first time the course turned down, once again, it took me real force of will not to walk. After that, I still felt awful, but I felt like I was at least at a pace that I'd be able to sustain until it was over. The three people it had been hard for me to pass during the bike leg caught me, but I think I managed not to get passed by anyone else. That has to have been purely on the strength of whatever cushion I built myself on my bike! Finally, I saw the big inflatable arch over the finish line. Purely as a "best practices" thing, I forced myself into what passed for a sprint at that point, and ran the last 100 meters or so. There was a guy about three seconds behind me when I crossed, so I guess my best practice held me one more place.

In training, I've often been attacking hills when I run, and then recovering, much as I do when I ride my bike. At race pace, this really didn't work. I guess I'd heard that runners go for more of an even effort, and in future, I think I'll try that too. In the first run, there was a runner who passed me near the foot of a climb, who I passed back, and who then repassed me. I didn't see her again until I passed her during the bike leg. Certainly made the "attack hills" thing feel pretty dumb in the context of running. I think it's something about only rolling when things go really wrong during a run, whereas a bicycle is supposed to roll all the time.

There weren't many bicycles in the transition area when I finished that leg and I didn't get passed by many people when I ran, so I figured I probably did alright. The results came out yesterday, and it turns out I finished 3rd for my age group. There were only 7 Men, age 30-34, so maybe not the most highly contested 3rd of all time, but I've been having several weeks of being pack fill, so why not. The first, second and third place overall went to men, in the 20-24, 40-44 and 30-34 age groups. Only 107 people finished, so I think the groups were sliced a bit fine, but maybe USAT wants it that way.

I'm bummed out to be further away from the MTB scene, and it looks like road is further away than I want to travel on the weekends. But Bellingham puts on a lot of things locally that are fun too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lost and Found Podiums Part 1: Padden Mountain Pedal

It's been an odd season for me. As a lot of you already know, I got married in April. I also moved and got a Real Job, and I had a couple of difficult classes in the winter. While a lot of this stuff is really positive, I've been struggling a bit on the track and I've been to exactly zero of the BuDu Racing races.

On the other hand, I've actually done some (gasp) intervals and I have a Book.

I did the Padden Mountain Pedal about a week and a half ago. I was a little nervous about this because I haven't been riding my mountain bike as much as in some years, and I wasn't really sure if my fitness was where it was at the same time last year. But it's a course I know well and it's now, quite literally, down the street from me. So I went.

It was even more sparsely attended than last year, which is a real bummer. I really like the race course behind Lake Padden - there are real climbs and descents, so while it's not the huge loop of, say, White River, it definitely feels like mountain biking.

One of the things I've learned from starting to use more gadgetry in my cycling is that if I think I'm pacing myself, I'm really just selling myself short. So I hit the climbs as hard as I could all four times, and finished four laps in a 1:35 - par for me, so at least I'm not slower. All of three people showed up for Sport Men 19-34, and I beat one of them. Podium for me. While I did have positive splits over the course of the race, my last lap was maybe two minutes longer than my first - so a less than 10% slide from beginning to end. Compared to my lap times when I think I'm racing smart, much faster. To hell with racing smart!

This is a great course, so I hope to see more of you out there next year! While there are some races that I don't really care about coming or going, the Padden Mountain Pedal has been going on for over twenty years and it would be a real shame for it to fail.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A Couple of Reflections on Car Sharing

I'm thinking about this because I was recently made aware of a promotion from a new car-share company.  I have a car, but I was curious about them because their model is that their cars are parked all over a designated area, in this case a good chunk of Seattle, and one simply gets in a car, drives it somewhere, and then leaves it there.  It's really a little more complicated - it's possible to reserve cars and they have to be left inside the designated area.  But it seems like it should be very easy.  The promotion was that it was free to sign up, while normally there's an application fee, and I get 30 minutes of free driving - they charge primarily by time, with a mileage charge that can kick in if someone drives a lot of miles.  Like, 180 - seems pretty unlikely.

The last encounter with car sharing in a post-rental model that I had was with a company that had a much more complicated system.  They had a lot of different cars at a lot of different rates.  The cars had to be reserved, and they had to be reserved for a certain block of time.  So I might reserve one for two hours.  There were penalties for late return.  The cars had to be picked up from and returned to their designated parking spaces.  I found it very stressful.  Things took longer than I expected and I had to return the car before completing everything, and I felt like I spent a lot of my reservation just dealing with the location of the share car, not actually doing my errands.

One of the things I like about renting a car is that while it certainly has all of those rules, I have it for the whole day.  I don't need to worry about things taking a little longer than I thought, I don't need to pad my time estimates, and if I want to take care of a couple of other things that are easier with a car but not the reason I rented it, I can do that.  Possibly in response to car sharing, a lot of rental companies have also expanded their locations, meaning that if I have to go and pick up a car anyway, chances are not bad that there's a rental near me.  At least one rental company allows people to set up an accelerated renting process, so that a lot of the rigmarole associated with renting a car is streamlined out.  They've decided to keep competing with the car sharing companies, meaning that the car sharing companies offer much less that's different or easier than they did when they first started.

The thing that attracts me about the new sharing approach is that they really are all over my city, much more so than the previous type, and while I still have to get to the car upfront, I don't need to budget time in my rental to return the car once I'm finished.  I can just park and walk away.  Also, I don't have a set end time on my use of the car.  If things take longer, fine.  Finally, they can be driven one way.  Most models require that cars be returned to where I pick them up, at least to avoid an upcharge.  But there are a lot of trips I might do for which I only want the car in one direction.  I might be picking up or dropping off my own car from the shop.  I might be doing a series of errands by foot and picking up something heavy at the end, or taking something awkward in one direction but not the other on a commute I usually do by foot; this could extend to buses if I used them.  The airport isn't in the area for the new sharing service yet, but that seems like an excellent application to me - getting to and from the airport on public transit sucks, but my car is just costing me extra money every day if it's in a lot next to the airport.  In other words, I have the ability to use one of these share cars the way I'd use a taxi, except that I drive it myself.

The last thing that appeals to me about the car sharing concept is that it seems like one of the places for self-driving cars to start to be commercialized.  Car share companies have the ability to offer a better service if their cars can drive themselves, no driver base to alienate, and they spend more on fleets of cars every year, so may have the ability to have self-driving modules installed before they become common on personal cars. And if there's anything I'm looking for from driving a car in the city, it's not having to drive it.

I'm going to have to try the new car sharing idea when I get my membership card.  I'm very curious - will it turn out to be as good as I think?  Probably not.  I can also imagine finding it doesn't work very well for me if, for example, the density of the cars is low enough to make walking to get one very annoying or there are never enough free ones at the time that I want one.