Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Half-marathon race report: Not So Normal Run, Carrboro 2017

After scrapping the WB half marathon for family reasons, I discovered there was a convenient half-marathon in town the following weekend.  This one's called the Not So Normal Run in Carrboro. Carrboro is a hippish little town just west of Chapel Hill. Lots of fun things to do.

I didn't rest up and stayed up too late the night before. I had psyched myself up for a flat half marathon at the beach, not a rolling type course, and my chi and chakras had sort of gone floopy and floppy with the preceding travel and a busy week in general.

But, like the super duper trooper I am, I decided that if and when I awoke, I would put on my happy face and DO WORK. If I felt good. And had enough coffee. And something to eat.

I arrived early.  Almost too early! I had enough time to run to the site, get my stuff, run back to the car, drive the car closer, and drink more coffee on the drive.

Here is a file recording part of the warmup and the drive to the new parking space. It's exciting!

The weather was perfect. Perfect I say! 40 degrees and not moist. Dry, is a word. Yes. It was a cool, dry morning. Perfect!

I lined up. There were around 400 people total between the 4 different races. I was in the second line of runners. Not the very front. Perfect!

Once we started, I discovered that my watch was in bike mode. Since it told me I was riding nine miles an hour and my power was zero. Damn. How will I run without a watch to bleep and blurp at me. This is unacceptable!

As I attempted to change the settings on the watch without slowing down and without my reading glasses, a local racing buddy pulled up next to me. Joy! I asked what pace he intended to run. "Around 1:30," he said. Perfect! I shall latch onto him if possible.

I fixed the watch. My legs felt good. Kit and I chatted throughout the run and kept a very consistent pace. It wound up being a good day and we finished just under 1:32. I am pretty sure he could have gone faster but his wife just had a new baby and he was new-daddy tired.

The course wasn't flat but it wasn't terribly hilly either. I was pleased to have a good run and look forward to attempting another shot at breaking 1:30 in the fall at some local race or another.

I didn't take any other pictures, except with my mind, which is like a Polaroid. Shake it around and something might turn up.

Bird up!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March 2017 update

March has come and gone.  Like everything in life these days. It is whizzing by. Have a minute to breathe?  Let's throw something new at you. That's how it goes. Won't stop, can't stop. Wanna stop? Can't stop.

I made it to the Azalea sprint triathlon on March 12 this year.  Haven't done that one since 2010 or so. I had a bad case of the cold wets that year and scratched this one off my list. But the promise of cool skies and a day at the beach called to me.  Like a Siren. A siren screaming in my ear. My alarm, the siren. My ear, the screamy-into-thingy-of-the-Siren. F***ing useless prose, this is.

Anyway, I got up at 4am or some other nonsense to drive 2hrs to get this one in.  Bri asked me, "Why are you doing this, again?" And I said something along the lines of, "Well, I'm a triathlon coach, and we sponsor the series, and it might not be bad for me to show up at some events sometimes." To which she replied, "What time are you waking up, and what room are you sleeping in?"

Touché, my dear.

I didn't resize that, on purpose. You go figure out the alt codes. I am all about cut and paste.

Yack yack yack. Swim short in pool.  38 degrees outside so I spent time bundling up. Cold short 9-ish mile bike. Run flat and not short. Felt good on run.  12th overall or so. The end.

I was happy to get back to this race after many absences. As always there are some tough competitors and folks are ready to start up the new season.  It would have been nice to spend the day in Wilmington but we had much family fun stuff to do in the Triangle area. I don't recall what we did.

Fast forward a handful of weeks and we're coming up to my big spring race. The Wrightsville Beach half-marathon.  Where I would make a glorious and triumphant stab at breaking 1:30.  I haven't done that (break 1:30) in a long time, so why not.  But, that didn't happen.  My Mom got sick, so instead Junior Awesome and I drove to Florida to visit. And as you can imagine, while it's a serious trip, a trip with Junior Awesome also has to have some fun stuff.

So: Mom is doing OK, she is stable and recovering.  Thanks to the good surgeons, doctors and staff at ORMC. It was good to see her and let her know I care. I'll leave that there.

After we got into my sister's house, I realized that turning around and driving back in two days would be brutal.  So I looked online and discovered we were in town for the Winter Park 10k, hosted by Trackshack.  This is a big event and the site of my 10k PR from yesteryear. I signed up. I showed up. I raced!

Have you ever run a perfectly positive split race? I have. My Garmin doesn't lie. Here are the oh-so-gory details. Preamble: I was super duper happy to run a recent life PR in the 5k.

5k: 19:42 or so
6:23 pace for the last .2.

40:44 chip time. Yay for me!

Junior, meanwhile had a nice time hanging out with his cousins and big, funny uncle.

A nice breakfast with an old friend, a visit with Mom, and we packed up and headed to...dramatic pause...

The Daytona Speedway! Yes, Junior Awesome got to see, in person, the site of the Daytona 500.  And we had a moment with the Champions car. And spent an hour in their museum. It is well worth it, if you're a racing fan. And he is. So by extension, am I.  Had a good visit with an old college buddy who was displaying his classic car at a car show on site. Junior was psyched.

Then we drove to Savannah, GA and had a late dinner.

In the morning, we found a cool park in the morning (Lake Mayer park). They have a 1.6 mile trail with a rubber track around the lake there, check it out if you're traveling the east coast!  Got in a short run/bike ride and played played played.

Then we drove on home.

That's the end of this Captain's Log. Stardate whatever.  I found another half to do on Sunday, April 02 but I won't add pictures to this blog until till tomorrow, so I'll post that as a separate report.  Wow, two blog updates in close succession.

Triple syllable finish, mic drop!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Playing hooky

Our son has got the right idea.

"I think there should be fifty weekend days, and then only two work-school days!" He has declared more than once. I agree. It would be nice if we could all do wonderful fun things most of the time. That's not the case for most of us. But it is fun to talk about. And occasionally engage in.

Last week, I agreed to extend the weekend a bit. So Junior Awesome and I took a Monday off and went to do fun fun things. It started with a leisurely morning around the house.

Good morning world!

Then we met one of my athletes for a 4 mile run. He doesn't mind the runs, as he gets to play BB racer in the stroller.

After, we hit the nearby greenway for a quick ride to the local park and some fun time.

Strong muscles!

Big gear riding.

Then, we had lunch with Bri. I forgot to take a picture, but here is proof that she was at work that day.

That's a real office.

After work, we headed over to our local pool for another hour of fun.

 Playing squid smash wrestle chase race.

Then it was snack time, and nap time.

After nap time we played Stuck in the Mud and getting eaten by monsters. This is more funner than it sounds.

 I took this one.

Someone with shorter arms took this one.

Time flies by. It is nice to grab a moment here and there and take it with you into tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Safe cycling tips (January 2017 article from One Step Beyond)

Is it possible to ride your bike in complete and utter safety? It is, if you stay indoors and make sure your trainer is secure (and your body is healthy, and you're surrounded by pillows). Otherwise, you're taking a risk anytime you head out the door. So your job is to mitigate that risk as much as possible.
Any amount of riding puts you in danger of falling. You could have trouble unclipping, hit a random bump, or let a bunny rabbit scare you off your seat. If you fall from five or six feet in the air without your feet under you, you can land on your head. Your injury could range from a bruised ego to severe brain damage.
Obviously, step one is to wear a good helmet. Your helmet can save your life. I am amazed to still see people riding a bike without a helmet. It's foolish. Even if you're just pedaling down the street, wear your helmet.
The helmet needs to be securely fastened. It it's too loose and slips out of place at a critical moment, your head is in danger. If your head is in danger, your life is in danger. Do you see the line of reasoning?
What else can you do to lower your risk?
Let's talk about distracted driving. Distracted, and influenced, drivers are the biggest risk to all of us out on the open road. They don't see you, regardless of your neon jersey and flashing lights. They're oblivious. They're out of control. There is little you can do about some nut job hitting you from behind. But you do have control of yourself.
So your number one job on the road is to maintain situational awareness. If you hear a car approaching from behind, stay balanced. They may come close. Don't veer into their path. Don't veer off the road, either (unless you know they're aiming at you). Get ready for a truck to blow a bunch of wind your way. If it hasn't happened, it will.
Prepare for every driver to make the worst possible decision for you. If they pass you, prepare for them to immediately slow down and turn right (in front of you). If they stay behind you, prepare for them to come perilously close when they finally do pass. Imagine that virtually no approaching or cross-traffic drivers see you and expect them to fail to yield. It doesn't matter if you're in the right. What matters is not getting hit by a 3,000 lb vehicle.
You can and should wear bright clothing. With reflective stripes. And put some lights on your bike. Light that sucker up like a Christmas tree. Who cares if your roadie friends giggle every time you mount up? Riding a bike is a time to be seen!
Avoid road cycling at dawn, dusk, and nighttime. Visibility is poor at these hours and your chances for distracted or impaired drivers increase in the latter two. If you do ride at these times for commuter or scheduling reasons, find the least traveled roads you can. And turn on the Christmas tree.
Avoid rush hour cycling. People are angry, hungry, and they're catching up on their Facebook feed. If you must ride at or near rush hour, find a group. There is safety in numbers in these situations. Personally, I am opting out of any more rush hour riding in my life. If I do go, it'll be on dedicated greenways or bridle trails.
Maintain your bike. If the chain pops off on a steep climb, you're going to tip over. If you blow out the sidewall of an old tire on a steep descent, you have a high chance of crashing. This is not rocket science.
Don't wear headphones while riding. You lose situational awareness. I don't care if it's a great podcast. You look stupid.
Which brings me to: The safest sort of cycling you can do outdoors. Greenways and bridle trails. Safer than roads by a large margin. If there are no cars, there's no chance of being hit by a car. You can still crash into a pedestrian or another cyclist. Typically you are speed limited, but at some point the lure of safety might overpower your desire to hammer. And riding a fat tire bike increases resistance, so you can still get a good workout if you so desire.
I don't list singletrack riding here because two of my local buddies only recently got over devastating injuries they received riding on singletrack. You can definitely hurt yourself on a mountain bike. It is still safer than road riding by a decent factor. You might want to read this fascinating article about cycling injury rates.
Now, before you get all paranoid and hang up your wheels, let me leave you with a few quotes!
Don't give in to your fears. If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart. - Paulo Coelho
I have accepted fear as part of life - specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.... - Erica Jong
Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift
- Dante Alighieri
I tend to scare myself. - Stephen King
Happy riding, my illuminated cycling friends!
Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Marty has been coaching endurance athletes since 2002. You can read more about OSB coaching services at

Saturday, February 4, 2017

January 2017 update

So things are good here in Marty world. I am running 20-30 miles a week with some harder efforts in there. Had a solid run at the UGTB Grind'n 10 miler at Harris Lake County Park last weekend. This is a great trail if you are ever in the neighborhood. I don't have any pictures from the trail but here is a GPS map with pace and elevation.  OMG so cool are you super duper psyched to look at this?!?

I had a pretty good race and finished 15 or 16 overall.

Afterwards Bri came out with Junior Awesome. She ran the trail 1x while we did some fishing.

Junior caught a pine needle and I caught a big stick. It was a good time.

We also went to see monster trucks. These were lots of fun. Smash boom crash. 

The weekend prior we did the Occoneechee Speedway relay with our buds the Hughstons.  This is a ~22k broken into 20 x 1.1k laps. We took 2nd in the 4 person co-ed division and 5th or 6th overall.  This is a fun one if you like running and team-ish fun.

I am enjoying swimming 2-3 x a week, getting in more strength training than years past, and riding twice. Life is good. I don't care if I'm going to be a lot slower on the bike this season. Blah.

Here are a few pics and a couple videos from Dec 17 2016 to Feb 04 2017. Random order. 



 The Lowery clan

We're just two wild and crazy guys!

Ice skating. Random fun-ness

Junior and Chunior

We still like each other.

Crazy hair! No hair!

This kid is not ours, but we like him.

Snow angel, snow angels, the ones I adore.


A couple pretty pics on a snowday run.

Monster eyeball recipe.

Good work kid.

Adding the veins. Eyeballs need veins.

Who's gonna help me eat all these monster eyeballs?

Science museum. Shark. Get into nature.

Junior Awesomeicasso

 Monkeys jumping on a bed, onto an exercise ball, into a table.

After all this blogging, someone is worn out.