Italian Giro Coverage, complete w/ Theme Song

Now, by all means, I hope that everyone in the US reading this heads out and pays for OLN’s webcast of the Giro, then sends OLN a nasty message about needing to support Macs (Since serious cyclists are more intelligent than average folks, and hence more likely to use a superior computing platform – vis, a Mac).

However, if you want to see a polished version of the Giro, click on over to Rai, who, I’m guessing, is the Italian Network carrying over the race. Select “Sport” in the left hand column, then “88th Giro”, then “Si Gira” (or any of the content in the right panel”, and lastly any of the stages. Sit back, turn up your speakers, and wait for the theme to begin. It’s followed by programming. I don’t speak Italian, but having taken French and Spanish, I can pick out enough to make fun to watch.

Proof of Concept

There’s not much more to be said about the Bluff Point Trail Race from Friday. I ran hard and finished without too much left in the tank. Could I have gone harder? Yes – there’s this guy in a blue shirt that passed me at about the 4 mile point who I trailed until the last water stop, but then let go who I think I really could have caught. Oh, and the high-school cross country runner who passed me right before the last water stop. But, I can’t be upset – I met my goals, met the Running Chicks, and had a great evening.

And it turns out I did tweak my left ankle on the absolute last bit of bedrock at about mile 3.5. Jake was down hopping on the bed at 7:01, just like every Saturday morning (He’s such a great kid – he’s got a wake-up time, just like he’s got a bed-time, and won’t get out of bed until his digital clock says “seven-oh-oh”. Though some mornings about 6:45 we hear a thump-thump-thump over to the bathroom, a flush, and some playing in the faucet as he washes his hands, gets a drink, gets another drink, etc. Then, he’ll sit and play quietly until 7, at which time he’s down the stairs like a shot.) I pretended to talk to him until the baby woke up, and about fell over when I put weight on it. It got better, though.

Saturday was complete and total rest. I went through the annual ritual of “Crap, new rock – let’s go get a new mower blade” thanks to frost heave. AND we had folks over for burgers and s’mores, courtesy of the trees I dropped last weekend. Mmmmmmm, s’mores. It was downright cold Saturday evening – everyone was huddled around the fire. Which is interesting with small children. Especially when they’re fascinated with new categories – “what will burn” and “what daddy will freak out over before I can see if it will burn”.

Today – I got the virtual elbow in the ribs from my wife (I was in the foyer with the baby and a runny nose) when the preacher mentioned how he was at peace with his 5 year old bike even though there were shinier ones out there. (Little does she know – I do still like my bike). Legs were feeling better, so after Jake and Melissa got back from a youth orchestra thing (she’s trying to get him the music bug, mostly by keeping him as far away from me as possible when I sing), I hitched up the trailer to the MTB and dragged Jake and Nate to downtown. We went and picked up a new helmet for Jake, gave his old one to Nate, and pitched the lid that was on its fourth baby. Then, we went to see the drawbridge, and to play on the playground downtown. Rock on.

Ride back was good. There’s still the one hill near the house which is absolutely brutal, but I managed to drag the trailer up, with two kids, and with the front deraileur unable to move the chain out of the center sprocket. Yeah, baby, I’ve got legs. Stats: Who cares? Probably about 5 miles each way, about 30 minutes each way.

Bluff Point Trail Race

Will post more later, but wanted to get the following blowing through the ether:

1. The Running Chicks, Dianna and April-Anne, are both as gracious, witty, intelligent, and lovely in real life as they are in cyberspace.
2. Dianna is, in fact, famous. But I’ll let her tell that story.
3. It was cloudy and cold before the race started. When we found April-Anne, the sun broke through, and the skies cleared up throughout the entire race. When it was time to go, it got cloudy again. Freaky.
4. I (pretty much) met both of my goals for the race. On section by the tracks between loops, where there was two way traffic, I only got passed by one guy, the eventual race winner, before I started the second loop. AND, I finished in under an hour, which completely rocked.
5. Thanks to being a Gen X’r and growing up in a world where nothing is spoken without a twinge of sarcasm, when TRCWTOH said “Hey, Speed Demon” at the beginning of the race, I thought I was going too slow through traffic. SO, I saw an opening, zipped through, and after about 30 seconds looked back to make sure TRC’s were following. They weren’t, and I suddenly felt rude.
6. I ran the rest of the race in fear that I’d bonk, or slow up, and get passed by them, and get laughed at for being a jerk.
7. (That wouldn’t have happened. See comment 1)
8. No one noticed my post-race hiccups.
9. Clam Chowder is not a good pre-race lunch.
10. Jeff – be advised, there was a spectacular sunset waiting at the end of the race.

OK, so that’s a lot closer to being a full race report than I’d anticipated. Wow. In any case, this was probably the best “race” I’ve done. Granted, I don’t race a lot, but it was nice to achieve goals.

I’m majorly sore, though – I think that I might have overtrained in the last week, with a tough ride Sunday, epic run Monday, pretty decent run Wednesday, and an all-out effort tonight. There might be something to the taper thing. Maybe I’ll try it next time. Not helping was the roll my left ankle took on quite literally the very last bit of granite in the rocky section. The ankle twinged, and my knee started aching, and I very nearly considered abandoning. But, I slowed up for about a half mile or so; things felt better, so I trundled on. I’m gonna hate life in the morning.

The race had the best start ever. We were all milling about the starting line, and the race director got up to give the usual pre-race speech – you know, be safe, etc, and so on. Then, about the time he should have said “OK, now let’s line up to start”, he said “On your mark, get set, go!”, and 95% of us said “Wha? For real?” and started running. Good times, and kind of funny.

In any case, it was great seeing others from the RBF in real-life. Now I’m off to hit the Advil.

Five Easy Miles

(Didn’t think I’d be writing that a couple of months ago.)

(Heck, Tuesday morning, I didn’t think I’d be writing that anytime soon)

Stopped by Bluff Point on my way from bathtime to “back to work”. Figured I’d just take an easy jog along the second loop of the race course, do what would be about 3.5 or so with the little extra to get from the start/finish to where the first loop lets out. No map again, but after staring at it Monday Night, it’s now burned into my head.

And the second loop is that easy. No real hills of which to speak. The part I’d skipped turns out to be darn pretty, in my opinion, too. There’s more along the tracks, true. But then it heads up to the Haley Farm parking lot through a wide-open field along a backwater from the sound. Probably because New England is pretty much completely wooded these days, actual acres of open space that aren’t parking lots are pretty spectacular.

Rather than head back over the railroad bridge, though, I figured I’d take the wrong turn again to see how tough it would be to get back to the entrance to the park. Not tough at all. There was a semi-paved trail (as in it’d been paved maybe 10 years ago) almost all the way back, then a short jaunt on roads to the park. Figure it added maybe a half to a whole mile. I was comletely electronics-free tonight. Not even a watch.

Took Tuesday off. Smart idea; I was sore something fierce. Today, I felt fine. After jogging tonight, I’m almost wishing I’d really pushed – my legs feel let down, and my lungs are wondering when they’re going to get a chance to work again. And since I’m saying this in public, I’m sure to bonk on Friday, and wander in at about 1:40 or so…

Reasons to love the Giro:
1. The Giro Theme Song – If y’all haven’t plopped down $6 for access to OLN’s video feed, do it. The Giro Theme Song starts at about 6 minutes in – big band horns, guy singin’ in Italian “El Grande Giro, El Grande Giro” the something about first one to arrive, I guess. I need to find time and figure out how to rip this to an MP3.
2. Today Danilo DiLuca, the guy wearing the Pink Jersey (leader of the Giro, not yellow like the Frogs) got dropped, and rather than sitting up, the peleton tried to leave him behind. Yeah, baby. Were this le Tour, there’d be whining and crying about that not being sporting.
3. Sprints – The last kilometer of many of the stages have finished twists, turns, and hills – completely thrilling sprints. And no-one’s whining. Plus, it seems like most of the good sprinters today are either Italian or Australian, so there seems to be even a little more gusto.
4. Podium Girls.
5. The computerized course map and weather forecast – provided by the Italian Air Force.
6. Again, the music in the video feed is the greatest – either European Big Band, or really cheezy EuroPop. Makes me want to head up to Logan and stow away.
7. Italians are just that much cooler than everyone else in Europe. So cool, in fact, they don’t have to make a big deal about it at all.
8. Mario Cipollini. Yes, I know he’s not racing. Yes, he is, indeed, that cool.
9. Fassa Bortolo, for at least keeping the idea of a great Italian leadout train alive. Yes, they’re having a rough Giro. but, I still catch my breath when I see them form up near the end of a stage. Plus, like Johan’s been all-over, they’re riding the insanely sweet new Cannondales.
10. That Cunego and Simoni both ride on the same team. All that’s lacking is a fat lady and a score by Puccini.

If I hit the $123 million Powerball tonight, I’m dropping everything, and jumping on my bike to see if I can ride my 32 year old butt into cycling shape. An American’s got to win this thing sooner or later (which may be part of its charm)…

Recherche des Femmes

So I read Warren’s post about scouting the race course, and I think to myself “Self, that sounds like a fine idea. Plus, today’s so FREAKIN’ BEAUTIFUL a run at Bluff Point might just set things straight in the world.” So, I head there (while I’m on my way to Waterford to do a little bit of work in the evening) with the plan of knocking out a quick lap of the point, and leave the other section, the one I haven’t ever run, as a surprise for race day.

I didn’t take a race map, which turned out to be a mistake, though in the end quite a pleasant one. You can look at one here. Just a bit of warning – this is a long post.

The loop on the point goes counter-clockwise. I usually run it clockwise, so this was the first stretch for me. The start of the race is going to be pretty fast – it’s flat from the parking lot until after crossing a small creek at about .75 miles. After the creek, there’s a couple of minor hills until you get out to the Sound. This was a great change for me – somehow, running this leg south rather than north seemed fraught with possibility – the wide expanse of water stretching out while I ran. Good stuff.

Once you get out to the actual point (with the bluff, natch), the course turns uphill. There’s a pretty steep section just around the first corner, then it’s downhill towards Mumford Point. As the course turns north, things get pretty steadily uphill. Not steep by any means, but certainly uphill.

This was a fun section today – As I made the turns east and then north at the point, I caught glimpses of someone riding a MTB, and not going particularly fast. Not that there’s anything wrong with taking one’s time, especially on multi-use trails, but the whole “small dog” thing kicked in, and I wondered if I could catch the cyclist on the uphill. I’ve ridden it a few times, and it’s kind of a bear pedaling while trying to avoid babies’ heads and sand and loose gravel. Anyhow, about halfway to the Foundation (old colonial Governor’s house – colonial as in the time period, not the house – there’s nothing left but the basement walls), I see said cyclist, and realize he’s about 12. I pass a couple of words of encouragement (something along the lines of “Hey, downshift and spin – you’re doing great!”) and he flashes me a toothy grin. Man, I can’t wait to get the boys out on the trails. I caught his dad about 20 yards later. You could tell he wasn’t thrilled about being caught by a runner, but he was beaming as he looked back and saw his boy chugging along.

At the foundation, I took the right down towards Mumford Cove. This is a deceptively tough section, as my tendency when running downhill is to land on my heels. Which, on this section of trail, is a sure and certain way to bring on shin-splints and possibly throw a knee. The upper section is just good old Connecticut babies’ heads and hardwood roots, but when the trail gets down along the water’s edge, it becomes either mud or straight up exposed granite. For this, and this reason only, I’d possibly suggest a straight-up road shoe, instead of trail shoes, to cushion against heel strike. Downhill on granite is tough, no matter what kind of Chi or Pose you’re smoking.

Past the granite is a flat, grassy section. Unless it’s muddy, pace will pick up here something fierce, as the rest of the course is relatively flat. After the grassy section, the course takes a right onto the road that runs parallel to AMTRAK. This is where I’d planned on turning back to the car, but I was pretty happy about then – I’d done 4 miles in 33 minutes, which isn’t shabby, considering I kept dialing back my perceived effort. So, despite not having a map, and never having run Haley Farm, I channeled a little bit of Jeff, and figured “Hey, what the heck? Why not go explore?”

The road parts aren’t bad at all – cinders and a little dirt. However, there’s about a half mile that’s run on actual railroad ballast – jagged, strawberry sized rocks. There’s a singletrack there, but I imagine I’ll be dodging runners coming the other way.

I’m completely sketchy on the map at this point – I’d never run Haley Farm, but will include it in my future plans – very nice property. Looking at the map, my best guess is that the race goes over a pedestrian bridge over the tracks, then turns right and runs parallel to the tracks on the north side for a while. I didn’t take this road today, but it looked like a really nice dirt road. Again, I think that once the race gets off of Bluff Point, it’s going to be fast and flat (with the exception of the overpass). The turnaround is at the parking lot for Haley Farm.

It looks like I ran the “back” portion of the Haley Farm loop this evening as the out portion. It’s a great stretch of road – it’ll be a long, slight uphill from the parking lot to the railroad bridge. Just after the parking lot, there is one of the finest rock walls I’ve ever seen. It’s almost nice enough to have been like a solid wall – the top corners are exceptionally square, and there’s a really nice corner where two sections of wall come together.

(*** NOT RACE PREVIEW ***) In any case, when I got to the parking lot, I figured “Hey, my guess is that the folks planning the race are going to want to kill us”, so I took the trail that looked like it’d have the most climbing. A couple of wrong turns later, I ended up on one of the fields at Fitch High School, frightening about a half-dozen wild turkeys who were coming out for an evening scratch. Wow. The school had great facilities. And a view that, quite frankly, I couldn’t believe a public high school could afford. Go Falcons!

A couple of minutes of jogging the school perimeter, and I couldn’t find a well defined trail back down. So, rather than doing what a sane person would do and going back to the place from whence I’d came, I started bushwacking downhill, figuring that I’d either hit railroad tracks or something else. Eventually, I found a trail, and took the path that looked the most westerly and the most downhill.

Of course, this was the wrong way. I kept wondering when I was going to find the railroad bridge again, so I called up the Forerunner’s handy “breadcrumb” map. And lo and behold! I was already paralleling the tracks I’d run on the out. I could have gotten back by taking the north side of the tracks all the way to the park entrance, but that would have added mileage, and I was already pushing six for the afternoon.

So I turned around, saw another deer, and headed up the hill to take the fork that I was pretty sure would take me back to the bridge. Quick note on the deer – I saw, quite literally, a ton of deer (assuming an average weight of slightly less than 200 lbs – I saw probably a dozen) this evening. The funny thing is that they didn’t run when they noticed I was headed their way. They looked at me for a while, then kind of wandered into the bush. Pretty cool. (*** End the wrong turn ***)

Finally found the railroad bridge, and absolutely flew home. The last mile and a half are flat, flat – quite possibly even slightly downhill. Finishing strong should not be an issue.

So that’s the course. The first mile and a half are pretty easy – straight out to the Sound, a couple of rollers. The next mile is a decent uphill – not steep, per say, but consistently up. Next mile – downhill, significant part on bare rock. The rest of the race should be decently flat, with the exception of the railroad bridge.

Useless Stats – today I did 8.4 in 76 minutes. Not shabby at all. Like I said, the first 4 were 33 minutes flat. The killers were mile 6 and mile 7 – those were the mile from the Haley Farm parking lot up to Fitch, and the mile where I was lost and wandering through the woods. Wildlife was a dozen or so deer, half-dozen wild turkeys, and a bunch of squirrels. Fallout of going almost 3 miles further than my previous long run for the year (6 miles as far as I can recall) in a pair of shoes I don’t usually wear is a blister on the ball of my left foot, and a blister on the heel of my right foot, just below the Achilles’ tendon. I’ve already drained the blister on the ball, the other one’s small.

Recovery beverage was 20 oz of Guida’s Strawberry reduced-fat milk. Kind of like a sports drink with protein. Went with the Guida’s over NesQuick. Why? Because, the Guida’s was 170 cal per 10 oz serving, while the NesQuick was freakin’ 200 cal. Which was kind of amazing, since the NesQuick was made with skim milk (“Fat Free!” the rabbit said), and the Guida’s was either 1 or 2%. So, I was getting a better recovery balance, and avoiding (some) processed sugar.

Today was an important run for me (Important day at the Giro – Petacchi, arguably the best sprinter in the world, finally won a stage). I haven’t gone this long since September in Norway. I’d been really concerned about the race because of that. But, I showed I could make the distance, and I finished with a little bit left in the tank. I’m totally psyched about the race. If I can manage 8:15’s without getting lost, I should be able to come in at under an hour. I’ll be happy if I can come in under 65 minutes, which’d be right around 9 minute miles.

Next project – the 8 lbs between me and 159. Which should get me to the last week in June and the start of Marathon training in earnest. (And the pipe dream of a Boston qualifying time).