Saturday, May 28, 2016

Capital of Texas Triathlon Preview

Monday I'm going to be running in the 25th Capital of Texas Triathlon!  It's my first triathlon (Olympic distance) in twenty years and I'm pretty jazzed.
Steely-eyed determination 20 years ago. :-)

One of the great things about triathlons (and running races in general) is that you get to occupy unusual spaces: the last ones I did were Leon's Triathlon in Hammond, Indiana, a couple of Bud Light triathlons and others in Chicago. Leon's had a swim in Wolf Lake (shudder), followed by a cycle leg on an elevated highway that ran past the old U.S. Steel plant, and a run leg through an industrial downtown.  The Chicago ones were on the lakefront, just north of Navy Pier, with a bike on Lake Shore Drive and a run along the lake.

2013 CapTexTri
The CapTexTri also has a great location in downtown Austin, with a 1.5k swim in Lady Bird Lake; a 40k (24.8 mile) bike on a quadruple loop through downtown Austin, including Congress Avenue and Cesar Chavez; and a 10k (6.2 mile) run through Zilker Park.

The only thing I'm not too keen on is the bike route, since it requires you to do the same loop four times with a bunch of corresponding hairpin turns.  I don't like loop routes because I always think of how many more times I have to do the thing...Still, going up and down Congress Avenue without any cars is going to be pretty cool. As long as there are no poles in the middle of the road, I should be okay. :-).

Don't ask.

I feel fairly good about my training.  I've maintained good running mileage after the Austin Marathon and Austin Distance Festival and got some good workouts in even while traveling doing school visits.
On Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis
The swim is probably my weakest event -- I could stand to do more work on technique and probably do more open water swimming, but the distance won't be an issue.  Also, Lady Bird Lake isn't going to have waves (I seem to recall a couple of triathlons in Chicago with 3-4 foot waves on Lake Michigan (and this was on the near side of the breakwater).  Also, I won't have to deal with a wet suit.  My biggest concern is to not get kicked in the face. :-).
Lady Bird Lake during 2013 CapTexTri
The bike I'm feeling good about as well.  I'll be using the bike I used for my triathlons back in the day - a Trek 1000 I bought when I was in grad school for $450 (a guy at one bicycle shop here tried to sell me a new one, asking if I had a "nostalgic attachment" to it.). I do, but I also don't think a new bike is going to drastically transform my performance.  At least not $2000 worth :-). (A guy at another bike shop told me the Trek 1000 was his first road bike and he wished he still had it.  It's possible he was being kind :-)).

Tomorrow is packet pick-up, bike drop-off, and a chance to scope out the transition area, which I'll need because I can't see without my glasses...:-)

Oh, well.  Qapla!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Austin Distance Challenge!

The famous Distance Challenge fridge magnets
It's been a few months, but I finally have some time to sit down and blog my having completed the Austin Distance Challenge (long course), sponsored by the Austin Runners Club.  I'd done most of the events before, but decided to do the challenge itself (six races, culminating in the Austin Marathon), because I wanted to put more structure into my training for the marathon. I'd done several in the 90s, but this was my second of the century and I wanted to do better than my last one (2013).

The first race was the Run Free Texas 80s 8k (for those who don't think in metric, that's about five miles) up in Cedar Park.  Naturally enough, there were a couple of DeLoreans, each outfitted with a flux capacitor.  Time travel being what it is, they were obviously the same car but from different time periods. :-).  The course was through residential neighborhoods and parks and had some rolling hills -- nice for a beginning of the season race.

Back to the Future!
The second race of the Challenge was the Run for the Water Ten Miler.  The course was along Lady Bird Lake and up through Tarrytown and then back downtown, There were some great hills on this course and let me know I needed more hill work...And, ironically enough, it was raining. :-)
Rain and hills
Race three was the Decker Challenge, a half marathon in early December with a course around Decker Lake.  It's notorious for hills and really bad weather.  (The last time I ran it, it was in the 40s and pouring rain).  If anything, last year, it was a bit too warm.  The hills were pretty brutal, though. 
My face when attacking the hills
But Santa was there!
After that, we had a month break until the Rogue Distance Festival 30k (about 18.6 miles) in early January.  This one was fairly cold and probably my least favorite of the events.  It was up in Cedar Park again and ran through residential neighborhoods which was fine.  There was an issue with marking the course, though, so most of us got off track, which meant the mile markers were out of order so it was impossible to figure out a pace. (I think at some point, we were going in circles -- and ended up going about a mile farther than we should've.).  Still, it was my longest run before the marathon and I was kind of glad it happened that way. 
Yay!  I'm done! :-)
With four events done, it was all downhill from there.  Literally.  The 3M Half Marathon starts up in the Great Hills area and runs a straight line down to downtown. It also has a swag bag filled with useful (and not so useful) 3M products.:-)
Leo checks out the swag bag
This one also started out pretty cold and way too early :-). 

Before dawn, in the warm car before the cold race.
I really enjoyed this one, though, and it was a nice preview of many of the neighborhoods on the marathon route.
The piece de resistance, of course, was the Austin Marathon in mid-February.  I like the course, but the first time I ran the Austin Marathon, it was all downhill, starting up north and snaking its way downtown.  Now, there's a good bit of uphill until around mile 18.  I still like the course, though, and it's not like the hills from the Decker Challenge or the Run for the Water races.

I was pretty happy with my time -- my second fastest of the century!  I did it in under 4 hours, which had been my goal.  Next year, I'll work more on speed, but this time, I just wanted to not have my quads seize up in the last two miles :-).

Running through UT campus
Made it! Best time of the century!
Anyway, thanks to everyone involved in putting on the races and the challenge itself: organizers, volunteers, emergency personnel, and all the rest!  You keep Austin running!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Midwest Schools and Bookstores

I'm just back from a twelve day trip up to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, where I did a bit of research and visited a bunch of schools and children's indie bookstores.

The trip started inauspiciously, when my flight was canceled because the wind blew the plane onto a belt conveyor.

Eventually, I made it to Chicago, though, where the weather looked like this:
Still, I had arrived ahead of time so I could go down to the Museum of Science and Industry, which has a World War II German u-boat and a chicken incubator.
Next two days were the actual school visits, arranged at Henry Puffer Elementary  and Liberty Elementary by Anderson's Book Shop and at Attea Glenview School and Rondout School by The Book Stall.  Afterwards, I got to hang out with Robert from The Book Stall and stopped by for a couple of pics.
Posing with posters


Then I was off to Milwaukee for a school visit at Atwater Elementary arranged through the Boswell Book Company.
It was my first time I'd ever been to Milwaukee, but sadly didn't have a chance to sightsee, because it was off to Minneapolis-St. Paul for three days of school visits.

Visits at North Trail Elementary and Brimhall Elementary were through Addendum Books; those at Crestview Elementary and Little Canada Elementary were through the Red Balloon Bookshop; and at Valley View Middle School, through Wild Rumpus Books.

I had some free time, so I went over to Addendum Books for some pics and had a fun lunch with Katherine and Marcus, the proprietors.

In front of the "Purple Rain" wall

Since I was there over the weekend, I spoke at Red Balloon for the Minnesota SCBWI about Research and the Suspension of disbelief.

I also had the chance to go run a couple times on the Mississippi Riverfront trail and visit the Science Museum of Minnesota.

After Monday's school visit I had a fun lunch with Drew and Jordan of Wild Rumpus Books at Pizzeria Lola (a separate Pizza-a-Day Diet post will be forthcoming).  Then I visited the bookstore, where I met the menagerie.
Copper oven and decorative birch logs
Then I was back to Chicago and spent a day at the Field Museum of Natural History and showed Madeline Smoot of CBAY Books a bit of the city!


Many thanks to all the librarians and booksellers and Blue Slip Media and everyone else who made this happen.  Thanks also to Quinette Cook and all the folks from MN SCBWI who came out for the workshop.  It was great fun meeting you!

For information on how to book me for school visits for the 2016-2017 school year, contact Carmen Oliver at The Booking Biz.

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