Saturday, March 23, 2013

I didn't just meet a champion, I met one of my idols...and she blew me away

I've said this before but I have the greatest admiration for athletes in the top of my sport but think they'd have no reason or desire to talk to a training-my-ass-off-to-be-mediocre-age grouper like myself. To give credit where credit is due, professional triathlete Cait Snow was the first to break that idea when I met her. After meeting her at a triathlon training panel, we chatted back and forth on social media, she came to talk to me after a half marathon we both raced and she was even nice enough to come to talk to me after her 2nd place finish at Timberman 70.3 last year...asking me how my race was the day before and telling me I look great and that all my training was paying off. Ya, that kind of made me feel like a special kid.

Then I was lucky enough to attend Craig "Crowie" Alexander's book signing event last year (you can read about it here). He was honest and open in his talk and very personable when getting a few minutes to chat before he signed a picture and a copy of his book for me. But then there's Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae. She's a whole other level of athlete for me. A woman who in her rookie outing at Kona took 2nd overall (her 1st attempt at the Ironman distance) and won Kona the following year. She is a train hard, race harder, take no prisoners kind of athlete who was once quoted as saying, and I paraphrase, "...most people can't deal with the pain and that's why the won't be a champion. In order to win you have to be prepared and able to suffer"... You had me at pain Rinny...
So I was able to find out and attend a private event that Rinny was doing for World Bicycle Relief, a charity that provides bikes to third world countries where the bicycle represents an enormous leap in productivity and access to healthcare, eduction and economic opportunities for those that wouldn't have it otherwise. A charity worth your donation where $50 can provide a mechanic with tools and $134 can provide a bicycle built for the harshness of those parts of the world.
So of course I need to get there early, and if you know me that means almost 2 hours  early, in order to make sure I get a good seat. So I dragged J along with me to be the early birds. Seats staked, some other great Tri friends showed up, some only known by Twitter handles, followed by Rinny herself. Rinny, all 5'3" of her, walks in the place and I was awestruck. This tiny woman, essentially a human engine/piston, who owns the women's marathon record at Kona with a 2:56:51, walks into the place and I can't even speak. And what kills me is all these people just walk up and start talking to her. Don't they realize she's Ironman royalty?! A top 3 podium finisher almost every race she runs....destined for more Ironman wins in the future? You don't just "talk" to someone like that. Yes, utterly ridiculous I know. Since I couldn't work up the nerve to go talk to her I played the role of photographer for all my friends. When I finally did muster the courage and walk up to her it was time for the Q&A session. I'll talk to her after...I told myself.

The discussion consisted of her support of World Bicycle Relief, her background, how she'd gotten to where she is, what she enjoys doing and how much ice cream she eats. She was so humble when receiving accolades from the group and said she has no idea how we balance our lives, jobs, family and other stuff in addition to training and racing because its easy for her since that's all she does.

During the Q&A Rinny talked about: 
- what she's had to struggle with...not a natural swimmer she swims 6 days a week in order to get better. Preach it sister!
- talking about how even if events other than Ironman offer big purses or gain popularity, her sponsors pay more for participating/placing/winning Ironman events than anything else. Not to mention pro's want the "Ironman Champion" title. Implication? No one is gonna unseat Ironman from triathlon anytime soon
- explaining that she has no "mantra" when racing, she concentrates on racing faster because then its over sooner. Amen!
- and one thing I thought was very interesting is that she "eats to feel" not to specific caloric numbers when training/racing and is a big fan of eating lots of ice cream which flies into the face of what we always hear from magazines and coaches about our diet.

So with the Q&A over, I forced myself to get up and make a beeline to Rinny to get the chance to talk to her. I have to admit J, Lisa, Bryan, Jen and Joe all literally pushed me forward to get me to meet her. And there I was...staring this pint sized machine of an Ironman athlete, one of my idols in the face and I couldn't speak. Me...the guy that can talk to anybody, that could talk a dog off a meat truck, the guy my former boss said could sell ice to Eskimos...couldn't say a word. Rinny politely reached out her hand to introduce herself and I melted.

I explained how that with all my injuries, the weight gain, the weight loss, the finding my fire in was her interview about dealing with pain that I use as my mantra during training and on race day. The she is what pushes me to dig deep and work so hard to be on a podium. Her response? ME? You give me goosebumps, you're an inspiration to me! All your hard work has paid off, you look fantastic and you've had great success.

I...was...blown...away. Rinny spent the next 10-15 minutes (yes, almost 15 minutes!) talking to me about nutrition, power, training, recovery and our expectations of pro triathletes. She liked my "there's only 2 ways to finish...crossing the finish line or being carried off on a stretcher" line and couldn't have been more genuine, engaging, caring and sweet. I was awestruck to say the very least and couldn't be more happy that I finally got the chance to meet her. I can't wait to see her at Rev3 Quassy and can't wait to see how she does at Kona this year.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Does My GPS Not Match the Course Measurements?

The following article, which appeared in Road Race Management Newsletter and was taken from the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run site, helps explain why sometimes a GPS might not agree perfectly with the calibrated and verified course.

Among the phone calls and emails a race director inevitably receives from runners after an event complaining about stale bagels, long bathroom lines and T-shirt shortages are sure to be a few (and sometimes a lot) claiming that your course was the wrong length. Usually, they state that the course was too long (funny how no one ever seems to complain when a course is short, isn’t it?), and some will go so far as to request/demand that their time be adjusted, particularly in the case of a marathon when a Boston qualifier is on the line.

Virtually every one of these will come from runners who wore a GPS device during the race and found out the distance was anywhere from a few hundredths to several tenths of a mile off. What can a race director do with these claims, aside from hitting the “Delete” button on your email? Well, there are several reasons you can provide that should convince all but the most irrational runner that, to flip Shakespeare on his head, “the fault lies not with us, but in the stars.” More accurately, it’s in the artificial heavenly object known as satellites that are cause for much of the error. GPS units calculate distance based on triangulation of readings taken from a series of fixed orbiting units, but the degree of accuracy depends on several factors.

GPS watches typically worn by runners, costing several hundred dollars, can’t achieve the results obtained by survey- or military-grade units, which sometimes use two base units that can read the satellite signals at a higher degree of precision. Even the best commercially-available GPS unit is only accurate to about 12 feet at any given time, and can be hundreds of feet off in accuracy. Most units will indicate what their current accuracy is, and it can vary from 12 feet to 350 feet or more.

GPS units must have a clear view of at least three satellites to get a reading, and the more they can acquire, the more accurate they are. However, trees, buildings, and even a runner’s body can interrupt the signal, making it less accurate at any time.

Further, they only check their position periodically, not constantly. Some units check every second, some every 20 seconds. The user can sometimes set the unit to check at certain time or distance intervals, but if it has lost contact with the satellites, it can't tell where it is, so it misses that checkpoint. So, if someone is running quickly, they may make a few turns while the unit doesn't have contact, so that section will be measured incorrectly.

The other part of the equation is the way the runner ran the course versus the way it was measured. A certified course is measured along the Shortest Possible Route (SPR), a line that cuts all the tangents just one foot from the curb or road edge. Very few elite runners, with an unimpeded road available to them, tend to run that tightly. For those farther back in the pack, the crowd of runners around them makes this almost impossible, and possibly not worth the extra effort it would require to weave through the field to follow the SPR. Also, runners may start their watches before reaching the actual starting line and stop them after the finish.

These two factors are the primary cause for readings that don’t agree with the actual course distance. Tests performed by members of USATF’s Road Running Technical Council have found that runners usually will get a reading indicating the course is 1 percent long. (Several threads on the topic are available on the RRTC Bulletin Board at

Strictly speaking, all certified courses are long, since a 0.01 percent Short Course Prevention Factor is added to ensure they don’t come up short and fail validation in case of a record, that is probably not enough to explain the longer readings obtained by runners’ GPS units. The RRTC has not fashioned an official statement on GPS measurements, save to state that they are not accurate enough for course certification, but increasing requests from race directors may lead to one being created and voted on at the next USATF Annual Meeting.

Of course, it’s crucial that you make sure your course was set up and run as certified. It’s a mistake to rely on memory when locating critical points like the start and finish, and it’s equally important to make sure runners didn’t inadvertently go off course due to poor marking or course monitors’ errors.

In short, the best response to runners claiming your course was long is to tell them their GPS unit isn’t quite as accurate as they think (something many won’t believe or want to hear), and that they probably didn’t run the course as tightly as it was measured. Stating this beforehand, on the race website on the course information page, should go a long way toward reducing those post-race calls and emails.
Oh yeah, and get fresher bagels and a few more PortaJohns, too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Saucony Virrata...its like strapping cheetahs to your feet

Be warned, this ain't gonna be a short post. I take running shoes seriously and plan on writing a review that I would want to read before I go out and drop $100 on a pair of running shoes.

Let me start off by saying I'm a Saucony guy. I've found that the Kinvara and Hattori have become my shoes of choice. While I only use the Hattori for 5ks and below, the Kinvaras have become my "workhorse" shoe I use to train and race at all distances. I've tried other companies minimalist shoes and been disappointed, so when I heard that Saucony was coming out with a minimalist/zero drop shoe of their own I was chomping at the bit to run in a pair.
All you need to know at a glance
Lucky for me, a pair of them landed on my doorstep for me to tryout. Now, before we even get to the shoe, can we talk about the box? I LOVE the fact that rather then get the plain brown box that has the shoe brand and maybe shoe type/size on it, which leads you to have to ask someone at the store about the shoes and whether they're right for you (by the way, does the 18 year old kid working in the shoe department of Dick's or Sports Authority EVER know anything about shoes?), Saucony has taken the extra time to explain what the shoes are right on the box. In a glance, you can actually see which shoe it is, a description of the shoe, its weight, its "type", the offset AND the heel to toe height! Way to go Saucony! Everything I need/want to know is right there! I'm sure it costs a little more for this type of packaging, but when it informs the user its totally worth it. I know most people wouldn't get excited about a box but when you've been buying running shoes for decades, its finally nice to see someone actually take the time to make packaging for the runner customer!

Okay, so onto the shoe. You know that shows can be fantastic, but if they don't look cool then you're probably just not going to
buy them or wear them. I was sent the black/red/green pair...and they look awesome! The first time I wore them out for a run with a group of friends, everyone literally stopped to ask me what cool new shoes I was wearing.The shoe has a great color combination with the matte and shiny accents and reflective details. The shoe is eye catching in all versions of color combinations.A nice addition I like is the shoe's "name badge" right on the side of the shoe for all to see. There's nothing I dislike more than looking at shoes and other than being able to tell the manufacturer, having no idea which "type" or "version" they are. The internal bootie construction with the breathable mono mesh not only makes the shoe comfortable (we'll get to that in a bit) but makes for an attractive sublimated color-look as well. Saucony, even the Russian judge will give you a 10 for style points on these kicks!
The shoe bends naturally with your foot
 Now lets talk about the shoes! The Virrata is Saucony's lightest (6.5 ounces for men, 6.0 ounces for women) and most flexible shoe. For the uninitiated, let me explain what the big deal is about "weight". The heavier a shoe, the more work you have to do in order to pick it up and put it down with every foot strike. Over time and mileage that will lead to fatigue With a lighter shoe, there's less weight on the end of your legs, which should lead to a quicker turn over. A quicker turn over means means speed...speed equals good.

Don't worry, I bought this pic

The midsole and outsole is made almost entirely of EVA+ material (a strong, durable foam). There are 24 independent EVA+ "pods" on the bottom of the shoe to make contact with each foot strike and each pod is deeply cut out allowing the show to bend and flex...naturally, like your foot would. What does that mean to you? It doesn't feel like you're wearing a shoe at all. The lightweight shoe and flexible "pod" sole, feel like an extension of your foot. The shoe doesn't "tell'' your foot where to strike, rather the shoe works with your natural stride and foot placement. The upper (top of the shoe) is comprised of a mesh covering and interior sock-like bootie which not only reduces weight but provides a snug fit without restricting the natural movement of your feet/toes during foot strike. An added benefit? Because I run in the snow, mud, wet environment of New England, I find the upper dries out quickly which really helps to keep my feet dry and from freezing on long runs. So, the combination of the sole and the upper makes...dare I say it...a plush feel for not only a shoe but a "minimalist" one to boot! Even for a heel striker like me the shoes feel fantastic. To be honest, I've found that because of the lighter weight and quicker turnover I've become more of a "mid foot" striker. Thus far I've taken them out on 5, 7, 9 and 10 mile training runs and have had no issue. I wore them for the Celtic 5k last weekend, (yes, I bought the image, relax Capstone) and I didn't think about or feel any pain in the feet, ankles, knees or hips...which sadly left me plenty of time to focus on the pain of turning the first mile on a 5:40 (I still owe a race report for that race...I'm getting to it I promise). Rarely do I tell everyone I know that "you should really try this shoe"...but this is that time. I think once you strap on a pair of'll be a fan of them like I am.

You can find out more about the Saucony Virrata and order you own pair from the Saucony store here. Now I'm off for a run!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Healthy living sustainability tweetathon? Yes please!!!

So to start, I’d like to announce that I was chosen as ambassador for Diet-to-Go. If you’ve read my blog, you’ll see that I’m a huge fan of their meals as a perfect complement to my fast paced, high volume, training and racing life. I couldn't be happier to be a part of their company and proudly display my ambassador badge over there on the left side of my blog.’s even MORE great news! Diet-to Go is hosting a tweetathon starting Saturday,  March 16 9am EST and ending Sunday, March 17 at 5pm. The goal of the event is to get people from around the country to participate in a Twitter discussion about a common sense approach to weight loss and developing habits that MOST people can embrace and succeed with long term.  Look, we’ve all either personally dealt with trying workout after workout and meal plans with little to no success or made strides to drop weight only to put it back on...or know someone who has. Here's a easy to join n on the discussion and find out new ways to develop healthy habits that MOST people can embrace and succeed with long term

The kind of things that are up for discussion during the tweetathon:
Incremental, achievable life styles
Accessibility (what’s available at your local grocery store)
Exercise (you don’t have to go to the gym or spend 3 hours training, little changes like walking more, watching less TV, or always taking the stairs are small things to add in your weight loss regimen)
Room for movement (its ok that you can’t eat perfectly everyday)

Most importantly sustainably (all those small changes lead to healthier habits, which lead to a healthier lifestyle, which should in turn be sustainable over time.

It couldn't be easier for you to participate in the conversation either...just use the hashtags: #diettogo and #tweetathon. And...and...and...your participation makes you eligible for some awesome prizes like : a free week of Diet-to-Go meals delivered fresh to your door or $100 Amazon gift cards! The more you participate, the better your chances at winning. You can find out more about it here.

So, warm up those fingers for a tweet-tastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Please don’t stop the music…

Ever notice that when you’re in the gym either lifting, on the treadmill, doing cardio, a spin class or whatever…there’s ALWAYS music going? The one constant across all of exercise (even in the pool now, yes waterproof music players and headphones…crazy), is that music has become the “rhythm” of our training life. Everyone who spends any time sweating has a music player nearby and has their playlist of choice queued up and ready to go for the sweat fest. You’ll notice that every image I snap in the gym I’m wearing headphones. I use music as my motivator to get through the hours of training I log. 

My go to playlist is “Bloody Nose” and includes:

Ladies and Gentleman, Saliva
Cochise, Audioslave  
Feuer Frei, Rammstein
“Till I collapse, Eminem
Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, Cage the Elephant
Pretty Handsome Awkward, The Used
Remember the Name, Fort Minor
Name of the Game, The Crystal Method
Warrior, Nelly
Hell Above Water, Curve
Pornstar Dancing, My Darkest Days (featuring Ludacris)  
Mercenary, Panic at the Disco

Ya, it’s a little diverse but I’m all about good rhythm/baselines to keep my tempo up while training. And that’s just one of my playlists. I don’t have the time to break down my “No Rest for the Fluffy”, “Death on Two wheels”, “No Excuses” or “STFU” playlists.
What’s cool is Polk Audio (yes, the award winning high end audio product manufacturer) recognizes how music impacts our life and has started “The Love Music Project”. The online project is aimed at getting people to share stories of their personal relationships with music. The site (accessible by computer, tablet or smart phone) allows users to upload their music “love story” and then push it across social media. Everyone who uploads content will be entered to win a pair of Polk UltraFocus 8000 noise cancelling headphones (a $349 value).  Not to mention your video will get posted alongside a couple of big athletes that use music to fuel their life, Ultra Marathon runner Josh Cox and Baltimore Ravens wife receiver Torrey Smith. Cool right?!

So, as a little incentive to get you to check them out and post a video of your very own…I have a CONTEST! Each entry gets you into a drawing for a $50 gift code for you to use at the Polk online store!!! How do you get an entry you ask? Well, a comment below will get you an entry. You can share the post on Facebook, tweet a link to this blog with the hashtag (#lovemusic), with me in ‘cc (@rangerducth) and with “I wanna win” in the tweet…and…you get an entry EVERY TIME you tweet it. Winner will be picked by random number generator.

Don’t forget to check out Polk Audio on FaceBook (, Twitter (@polkaudio, hashtag #lovemusic), and Instagram (@polk_audio). And to quote Shakespeare…”if music be the fruit of love…play on”