A Jim of All Trades

Triath . . . er, I mean Duathlon race report

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Yesterday I had a race, here’s how it went…

The start/finish and transition were on a big island with a sports complex on it in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital. This was supposed to be a triathlon, with the swim in the river, but unfortunately the swim was cancelled due to a very high e coli (bacteria) level in the water. So, the swim was replaced with a short run.

I covered my training in my last post so won’t recap that all here. In short, I’ve been working more on building my mileage and endurance, but not a lot on speed/intensity. This was a short sprint distance race, so I thought I might not be fast as I could have been for it. I did work some more short intervals and pickups in my training over the past two weeks, and did cut my volume a bit last week to get ready. My legs actually felt pretty dead at the start of last week, but with some foam rolling, stretching, and reducing the training volume last week, they felt quite good on Sunday.

It was actually sort of chilly in the morning and I was shivering a bit before I started my warm up. It stayed clear, mild, and comfortable all through the race though, which was a welcome change after a heat wave we had last week.

For a warm up, I ran 1.5 miles easy about 30 minutes before the race started, with ¼ mile at goal race pace in the middle, and another 30 second pickup closer to the end. The run felt good and I felt ready to go at the start.

Run #1
The race was started in waves, my wave starting first. It followed a path around the island which was mostly flat and advertised as 1.5 miles, but ended up being 1.7.

I wasn’t quite sure how to pace for this so started in roughly the middle of the group and just ran by feel, settling into what felt fast but comfortable enough to maintain. It ended up working out well because I was pretty steady, was only passed by a guy or two, and passed maybe five or six other guys. I don’t think I could have held it much longer, but also didn’t feel spent on the bike.

Distance: 1.7 miles
Time: 11:10.36
Pace: 6:35 / mile

The first transition went very smoothly. I had spent time practicing transitions the week before, took time to visualize them in the morning before the race, and I really think that paid off. Maybe I could have saved a few seconds here or there, but didn’t make any mistakes and even did a running mount without nearly crashing like I often do.

Time: 40.2 seconds


setup in transition before the race – notice the empty rack behind?… I got there early!

The bike course was out and back, crossing a bridge to the shore, riding along the river to the turnaround point, then coming back the same route. It was quite flat, though with some very slight grades and false flats. There was also a slight headwind on the way out, which became a tailwind on the way back. It was advertised as 14.5 miles, but really measured 14.

I just tried to settle into a hard maintainable pace for the distance. Considering it was a flat course I was able to stay in the aero position for the entire time, tried to hold a consistent effort level, and only had to shift between a few gears depending on the grade and wind. I kept an eye on my heart rate and it stayed right around 160, which is about as high as I felt safe maintaining for the distance. I passed around 6 or 7 guys and was passed maybe 3 times.

I ended up averaging just a smidge under 22mph. I had hoped to be a bit faster, but really I can’t complain; I gave it all I had and would just need better conditioning to go faster.

Distance: 14 miles
Time: 38:16.25
Pace: 22 mph

bike file from Strava – includes 10-20 seconds in T2 because I forgot to pause my watch, and is estimated power, not actual

Transition 2 went very smoothly as well. No complaints, I’m very pleased with it.

Time: 37.76 seconds

Run #2
The second run crossed another bridge to the shore then followed a walking/running path next to the river to the turnaround point and back. It was very flat aside from mini hills you had to run up/down at each end of the bridge. It was advertised as 3.1 miles (5k) but ended up being only 2.8.

I left transition at the same time as 2 other guys. One of them fell back fairly soon and the other guy and I ran a lot of the way together. My goal was to average sub 7 minute miles, and he was running about 6:50, so I tried to hang on. I felt good, like I could maintain it for a while, but eventually the day started to catch up with me. We talked a bit and exchanged places a couple times, but around mile 2 he pulled ahead and I had trouble holding on. When we hit the little hill to get back on the bridge I couldn’t hold the pace and he opened a large gap. Around then another super-fast guy came flying by me too but that was the only other time I was passed. I got my legs back a bit when it leveled off on the bridge, but was really feeling the pain at that point and just held on as best I could to the finish.

I did manage to average under 7:00/mile, which I’m very pleased with, and think I still could have held that had it been a full 5k – on this course. It being so flat definitely helped, of course.

Distance: 2.8 miles
Time: 19:25.02
Pace: 6:56 / mile


Overall: 1:10:09.59
Overall place: 11 out of 195-ish
Age Group Place: 4 out of 31 (10 year age groups)

I’m very pleased with how this race went. It would ALWAYS be nice to be faster, but looking at everything I don’t think I could have done any better. I paced myself well in all three events, both transitions went super smooth, and I don’t think I made any big mistakes that had an impact on my result.

It was disappointing that the swim was cancelled, I wanted to use it to judge my swim training and get some open water race practice, but I don’t mind duathlons and was really happy with how my race went.

So overall it was a very good day!
Now, back to training…

Like always, here’s how I celebrated…

this flavor is delicious!

And here are a couple phone pics from the island – it is quite scenic

some guys were fishing in the early morning

a look back at Harrisburg

Thanks a lot for reading and happy racing!


Written by Jim

July 9, 2018 at 9:14 pm

Triathlon Training Report

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I’m doing a sprint triathlon this Sunday and wanted to post about how training is going.

But first, the big news is that I have signed up to do a half iron distance triathlon later this year! The “half iron distance” distinction is intentional in that it isn’t an IRONMAN brand race, but an independent race that’s about the same distance as a HIM (actually, it’s a tad longer). Anyway, I’m excited about it and a bit nervous. The race isn’t until late September and I began training for it in May, so I’m confident I’ll be prepared till it gets here, but the distance is still a bit intimidating. I sort of expect it will be the only Half I do, but we’ll see how it goes.

Since I am training for the Half, I am not expecting to be overly competitive in the sprint this weekend as I have mostly been working on building up my endurance and mileage, but not doing much speed or intensity work, which is important for short distance racing. Here’s how the training has been going for each discipline…

Swimming: I’ve been swimming 3 times a week pretty consistently, sometimes sneaking a fourth session in if I have the time. I’ve still been following the Swim Smooth program, typically doing one drill/technique session, one threshold (“Critical Swim Speed” in SwimSmooth speak), and either one speed or endurance session per week. Though I’m still very slow, I’m seeing little improvements here or there. My speed is improving bit by tiny little bit, but I’ve noticed a bigger improvement in my endurance/stamina, and ability to hold a pace for longer sets and sessions. Not that I don’t tire out and drop off, but it’s getting better. I will never be one of the first ones out of the water in a race, but I’m more concerned with building my endurance and will take any speed improvements that come along with it.

Biking: For cycling, I’ve been following a training plan I found online in a Half distance training program, though the name of the site where I found it escapes me right now. I’m cycling 3 times a week, typically doing two sessions during the week, both 45-60 minutes, at a moderate effort level with some short pickups or intervals worked in. Over the weekend I do a long ride at moderate effort, though I do try to work in some harder hills and/or some segments at higher intensity. Cycling is still my strongest area and needs the least work out of the three, but I still feel that, to ride over 50 miles strongly in a race, I should be putting in more work. I tack on some extra miles here or there as I can and know I’ll have built up a big base of mileage till race day.

Running: Running is the area where I’ve made the biggest training change, I’ve been following the “BarryP” running plan. If you’ve spent any time on the Slowtwitch forums you’ll likely have seen this referenced before (for example). Check out the linked name, but to describe simply, it’s a high volume low intensity run program that is highly regarded, at least on Slowtwitch. You run 6 times per week, doing 3 short runs, 2 medium distance runs, and 1 long run. All are at a very easy pace to start while you build mileage, then you do a block with some race-distance-specific speed work once per week, and then another block with a second speed work session, until you begin to taper.

Before this I ran 3 to 4 times a week, and usually at least 2 of those sessions had speed work or hill repeats built into them, so this is very different than what I’m used to. The whole idea is that the easier running allows you to add more and more miles without it taking a huge toll on your body. I have bought into that in that I don’t feel as beat up from my runs as I used to and a nagging injury I’ve had for months has improved since I started this program. At the same time, I’m worried that the lack of speed work will end up holding me back. While I’m happy to build my endurance, in the race if I’m only able to run at a really slow pace, I’m not sure if all the extra running will have been worth it. And, to be honest, I find running slowly all the time very boring, so there’s that. All that to say, I’m going to see the program through to the end and do trust that it’ll help get me ready for the Half.

That about sums it up. I’ll post a race report sometime after the sprint, and expect another post or two about training before late September. I’m not expecting anything grand and just signed up for this sprint because I wanted to try it  and couldn’t go the whole summer without working another race in since I enjoy it so much. I’ll be pleased to put together a solid race, and if I end up with a decent time, well that’ll just be a nice bonus.

Thanks for reading and happy training!

Written by Jim

July 5, 2018 at 10:00 pm

Redline Conquest Cyclocross Bicycle

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I recently picked up a “new” bicycle, a Redline Conquest cyclocross bike.


I’ve been wanting a more traditional bike for a while, mainly to use as a backup when I don’t want to ride my tri bike or for convenience when riding to the gym or pool, or in bad weather, etc. After going to a cyclocross race last year, I’ve been pretty determined to get a cyclocross bike because it will be more versatile for a number of different riding conditions, and so I can try ‘cross out at some point.

This Redline is from 2003 (I think). I got it from a member of my tri club who had also gotten it used, commuted with it for a bit a while ago, but hadn’t ridden it in years. I had to clean it, replace the brakes, tubes, tires, and pedals, and do some tuning to get it riding smoothly, but now it seems to work well and I’ve been putting some miles on it. I still might have to replace the cables and some other parts to adjust the fit/comfort, but it’s ride-able now as-is.


I have a spare set of wheels from my old tri bike with road tires on (pictured directly above and in all below), and I put knobby tires on the wheelset that came with the bike (first pic at the top), so between the two I have convenient wheel/tire options for if I want to ride on or off road.

My only real complaints about it are that the saddle is uncomfortable for longer rides and that it has an 8-speed Shimano Sora groupset…


Sora is a low end set of components and, combined with age, it doesn’t shift very smoothly. I’m going to live with it for a while because it is still functional, but I can see eventually making some upgrades based on what my riding style ends up being with it.

Overall I’m really happy to have gotten another bike and have enjoyed riding it. I actually did a 51 mile charity ride on it this weekend with the road tires and it went well.



The tri bike will probably still be ridden 90% of the time, but I do anticipate riding this regularly in a number of situations. Though it would great to get a nice road bike at some point, too, all of my bicycle “needs” are more than taken care of.

Thanks a lot for reading – happy, and safe, riding!

Written by Jim

June 3, 2018 at 8:44 pm

Baby Bunny

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My wife and I were in our yard this evening and I would have walked right past this little guy/gal (?) had she not pointed it out to me.


It was just sitting there, still as could be. I went inside, got my camera, came back, and it was still there… hadn’t budged. This picture is from about 10ft away, lens zoomed to 230mm, @ f/13. Viewed full size it is not sharp at all, mostly due to me shaking I think. The colors straight out of the camera weren’t great, either. I’m a little color blind (fun fact!) so it’s always a crap shoot as to whether I get the colors accurate in processing, but it’s fun seeing baby animals, so here you go. This thing is really tiny, comparable to the size of a not very big baked potato. (How’s that for a size reference?)

Thanks for looking and happy shooting!

Written by Jim

May 21, 2018 at 9:20 pm

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5k Race Report

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Last Saturday morning I ran a 5k. This wasn’t on my race calendar, I had just been looking around online to see what local runs were coming up and noticed this one. It was a fundraiser for a local school and the inaugural year for the race. I only decided to do it on Wednesday. 

So I wasn’t really training for this and didn’t try to taper or peak for it. I had done a tri a few weeks before, and I had taken it easy the week before and after that, so felt a little refreshed, but I handled last week like a normal training week with some hard workouts. So my legs definitely weren’t as fresh as they could have been for the 5k. 

It rained in the morning before the race, so it was a little humid, but the roads were mostly dry, and it was cloudy and cool when the race started, so it was good running weather. Only about 90 people participated, many of which were kids, walkers, or joggers that were just doing it for fun or to contribute. Since it is a small private school and the race’s first year, with little to no advertising, I’m sure that kept the numbers down, too. 

I knew what speed I wanted to run, but didn’t really know what was realistic to expect. My goal was 22 minutes, preferably under, hoping to average a 7:00/mile pace; which is attainable for me. 

I started out a bit too fast, but not unreasonably so, and tried to stay around 7:00/mile after I settled down. It as an out and back course that included a few hills; not super long or steep, but enough so that I pulled my pace back so as not to explode. The first half went smoothly but after the turn around I began to struggle. The last half mile was mostly uphill and my pace slipped… I had been averaging about 7:00/mile to that point but that last mile ended up being about 7:30. The hill leveled off a bit before the finish and I sped back up again, but there was not enough room to improve my average pace. 

So, I finished with a time of 22:26, in 7th place. Not far off my goal, but 26 seconds is a lot in a 5k. My legs really were tired till the end, I’m guessing partly due to being fatigued from the week, and partly from just being under trained. I’m still not in the running shape that I was at the end of last year and think I need a few more months of solid running outside to get back to where I was. 

Overall I’m treating this as racing practice, which I think is important, especially for me from a pacing standpoint and getting used to “suffering.” I just can’t simulate this effort in workouts so think it’s smart to do a low priority race once and a while where you know you won’t be at your best, but can practice strategy and experience the pain of racing… that’s something I haven’t done enough of. 

Next on my calendar is another 5k in late May, though it might not be a serious “race” since I could be running it for fun with a young nephew. After that, I’m doing a sprint tri in early July. Otherwise I’m just continuing to train and work on building my distance and speed in the swim, bike, and run. 

Thanks a lot for reading and best wishes for your training and racing!

Written by Jim

May 16, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Posted in Triathlon & Endurance

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At the bird feeder…

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These were not the types of birds I was expecting to find at my bird feeder…

This pair of ducks has been coming and grazing under the feeder every morning this week. I’ve tried to sneak outside to get a better picture of them, but they’re super vigilant and quickly waddle away anytime I poke my head around the corner of the house. So this picture through the patio screen will have to do. A funny thing to see in the morning, anyway.

Have a great day!

Written by Jim

May 10, 2018 at 7:11 am

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Electric Cigar Box Guitar

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A little while ago I made another cigar box guitar. Here’s a write up and some pics, a video is at the end.

This one is a fairly typical three string CBG, but there are a few unique things about it that I hadn’t done before…

First, I made the pickup for this one, rather than using a simple piezo pickup or a regular electric guitar pickup. An electric guitar pickup is basically just a magnet(s) inside of a wire spool. I don’t understand the science behind it, but when you pluck the metal guitar string, the wire and magnet create a voltage, which is what ends up making the sound out of a guitar amplifier. Somewhere online I found that power adapters – the older big bulky heavier style – have wire spools inside them, and you can make a pickup by gluing magnets in the center. So that’s what I did:


becomes this:

Taking apart the adapter is easier said than done. I didn’t take pictures of the internals before I gutted it but there are a lot of metal pieces that have to be drilled/cut out to access the wire spools, and it’s very easy to damage the spools. So if you do it, proceed with caution, and with power tools.

I got some rare earth magnets that fit inside the spools from Home Depot, glued them in, and soldered it up with a jack and potentiometer for volume. The Altoids tin is just there for decoration.

Otherwise, the other differences about this one are that I used heavier strings on it. Usually I use the highest three strings from a set (the G, B & E), typically tuned to open G (G, D, G). This time I used the A, D, G strings. It gives the guitar a lower voicing, is much easier to tune to open G, while still being very easy to tune back to standard. I really like the versatility with these strings and the voicing compared to the higher “twangier” sound with the high strings.

The only other major difference is that I used a router for rounding off the back of the neck, shaving down the headstock, and some of the other wood work. I usually do all of this by belt sander and hand tools and the router made things 100 times easier. Seriously, I had the neck done in a fraction of the time it usually takes with the belt sander. I love the router!

It sounds okay, though the pickup has really low output. The amp in the video is actually turned up fairly high with an overdrive pedal on (as well as a delay), that’s the only way I could get decent volume out of it. Since the pickup is small and centered under the middle string, it picks it up much louder than the outer two, so it takes purposeful playing to make it sound balanced (that’s not to say I played it that evenly). Next time I make a pickup like this, I’m going to play around with the orientation of the magnets and positioning to see if I can make it sound better.

Well, that about covers it. I have some ideas for other guitars, but my time is limited and motivation fluctuates, so who knows when they’ll get made.

Thanks a lot for reading – happy playing!

Written by Jim

May 1, 2018 at 9:13 pm