Training Tuesday: Lake Guntersville Duathlon (4/25/15)

Continuing my series of catch-up race reports…

Summary: 4th in my AG—missed the podium by 0:51. Damnit!

I hadn’t planned to run this, but thought it might be fun to do as a light workout. Alex encouraged me to race it, and Dana decided to sign up for it too, so I signed up the week before. The day before the race, the local (and national media… I’m looking at you, Weather Channel) bombarded the area with dire warnings of high winds, strong thunderstorms, and maybe even a tornado or two late Friday night into Saturday morning. The race organizers decided to delay the start by an hour, and in the end none of the bad weather showed up here overnight– just some rain.

Race day dawned and we loaded up the bikes to head out. It was cloudy and in the low 60s as we drove down to Guntersville, but the forecast called for steadily clearing skies and a high around 80, so I wasn’t too worried about the rain.

This particular duathlon is pretty small; there were about 70 participants, including a few relay teams, and the crowd was full of familiar faces from the local tri and running community. That always makes for a fun race. The course was an 5K out-and-back loop along the lake shore, a 16.2mi bike ride around part of the lake perimeter, and another 5K on a slightly different lakeshore loop. The course organizers didn’t post a course map beforehand, which always annoys me a little, but from talking to others who had run the race before I was comfortable that there wouldn’t be too many surprises.

After the half-marathon, I’d been having persistent and unpleasant calf pain, in slightly different locations on each side. That was really hampering my runs– even when Alex had me doing slow Z2 recovery-style runs, I was really uncomfortable and felt super slow. I was worried about how my legs would hold up, but as it turns out I needn’t have worried too much. The first run went very well. I held an 8:45 pace. If it had been a true 5K distance it would have been a PR; as it was only 3.02mi, so not quite long enough for a PR. I had a little tenderness in my right Achilles on the first half-mile or so, but after that zero calf pain throughout the race. I’m not sure why, as I didn’t do anything different other than a bit of extra stretching and taking SportsLegs an hour before race time.

Transition went fast– less than 2min, which is lightning-quick for me. I tried really hard to keep a steady cadence for longer stretches () but was only partly successful. One thing I found was that on any kind of downhill I had to slow my cadence even in top gear to keep from bouncing. For some reason on the road it’s realllly hard for me to hold a steady 80. Part of this is that on the trainer, I can look at the TR display, see my cadence, and adjust accordingly. I handlebar-mounted my old iPhone and ran Strava on it but it didn’t see my cadence sensor—have some hardware adjustments to make. Nonetheless, my average speed and total time were both better than the bike leg at Heel & Crank 2 weeks ago.

On the second run, I paid the price, with a dragging 10:20/mi pace. In retrospect, I am angry at myself for not pushing harder given how narrow the margin to the podium was, but at the time I just felt gassed. Lesson learned.

Post-race, the organizers had a great spread of local BBQ, local beer from Rocket Republic, and homemade snacks. Dana and I had a very pleasant al fresco parking lot lunch while chatting with friends while we waited for race results– and she took 3rd in her age group! That put an excellent cap on an excellent race experience.

One thing I noticed right after the race (and ever since, ouch): I have a large pain in the butt because my saddle impinges on the top of my right hamstring such that I have a sore butt in that one spot after any more than 5-7 mi. I am going to head in to Bicycle Cove and get a new saddle and refit this week. Thankfully I don’t have any real leg soreness except for that one spot (and some residual burn in my quads)– a good thing considering that my first powerlifting meet is coming up in less than a week.

Onwards…

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Training Tuesday: Bridge Street Half Marathon (4/12/15)

So about that 35.1 challenge…

I spent the rest of Saturday relaxing and resting my sore legs after Heel & Crank. I also was battling a bad case of bubbleguts– cramps and gas sufficient to clear out the room. At first I thought it was because of a new endurance supplement I’d used during the race; it’s made with waxy maize and I thought maybe that was the problem (and maybe it was, but I now think it had much more to do with what I ate post-race, as I’ve had similar symptoms after drinking post-race beer elsewhere). I took some Advil and SportsLegs, washed them down with diet Coke, and made sure I had all my race stuff ready. Of course, that’s much easier for a running-only race– I needed my headphones, race belt, shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, and runderwear… oh, and BodyGlide, the endurance athlete’s best friend. If you’re not familiar with BodyGlide, think of it like WD-40 for your body– put some on the neck of your wetsuit, the seams of your bike shorts, or any place else you want to reduce friction during repetitive motion.

Anyway, I gathered up all my stuff and Dana drove us to Bridge Street– she graciously decided to volunteer at the food tent. I got there just as my training group was assembling for a group photo, so I spent a very pleasant few minutes chatting with my running pals and trying to ignore my normal pre-race jitters. Today’s jitters were more intense than usual; my most recent long run was only 10 miles, and it was nearly a month before, so I was concerned that I would have problems hitting the distance.

Most runners set goal times for big races. At first, I did the same for this race; I wanted to set an aggressive goal, but I decided it would be better for me just to enjoy the race, since it was my first, and work on goals later. Accordingly, I decided to run with the 2:15 pace group. If you’re not familiar with distance running, you might not know that at most races there are volunteer runners who hold a steady pace throughout the race, often carrying signs. Running a marathon or half at a given speed thus becomes a matter of finding your pace group and sticking with them.

The weather was perfect: clear and cool, with a few clouds. Bridge Street is known for being a flat, fast course. Because it winds around Research Park, the scenery isn’t much to behold unless you like big office parks.However, I had a blast on the race– I sustained the pace I wanted, my legs were a little sore but not terribly so, and I was able to enjoy brief chats with a number of my running friends as the course went on.

Having said that: two+ hours is a long time to run. I don’t think I have much ambition to do a marathon.

The course finish took us up Explorer along the route where I normally finish my Thursday Panera runs, which was fun and familiar. We ran past the entryway of the Westin, along the eastern boundary of the mall area, and then took a convoluted path to finish on the titular bridge– but whoever laid out the race course had a pace sign well before the bridge, along with a balloon arch, so I started my kick a little too early and then was surprised by how far away the finish line actually was. I’ll remember that for next time.

Thanks to the excellent steady pacing of Dennis, Carrie, and Tom, I finished in 2:15:09. I got my medal, stuck around to chat with Alex and other friends as they finished, then raided the food tent to relieve Dana of some of her goodies. Along the way, I also had a chance to take a picture with Deena Kastor, three-time Olympian and record holder in both the marathon and half-marathon. (That sets my personal pace to meeting one Olympic medalist every 29 years, so check back with me in 2044.)

WP_20150412_003After the race wound down, I had a light lunch…. ahhh, who am I kidding? I ate approximately 25 lbs of food.

And, of course, once I got home, it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labor: the coveted 35.1 challenge mug, filled with one of my favorite beers. And some Advil.

WP_20150418_004All in all, it was a great experience, although I don’t plan on running any more races of this distance during triathlon season. In the fall, maybe, after the season’s closed out, I’ll consider it, but for now it’s back to the 5K / 10K distances I’m more accustomed to.

 

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Training Tuesday: Heel & Crank Duathlon (4/11/15)

Last year, I was delusional… I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for two races on consecutive days in order to qualify for the coveted 35.1 Challenge swag. To qualify, all I’d have to do is complete a duathlon on Saturday and a half-marathon the next day. Seemed simple enough from the comfort of my couch in October, so I signed up. The two goal races were the Heel & Crank duathlon and the Bridge Street Half Marathon.

Side note: biathlon is the cool Olympic sport where you ski and then stop every so often to shoot at targets. Duathlon is what triathletes call a run/bike/run event, as opposed to an aquabike (self-explanatory, that).

Fast forward to late March. I’d been training for the Bridge Street Half and the running was just wrecking my calves and Achilles tendons. I reluctantly decided to skip Heel & Crank. Thus it was that I went to volunteer at packet pickup for the half-marathon. “As long as I’m here I’ll pick up my Heel & Crank packet,” I thought. When I opened it, this is what I found:

WP_20150410_003Through pure luck and/or overeagerness in registering, I’d scored race number 1. At that point I felt obligated to run the race, so.. I did.

The weather race morning could not have been better: clear and cool. The H&C course has changed a bit over the last few years; what hasn’t changed is that the start is in historic Mooresville (site of Alabama’s first post office, among other things). This year the run was an out-and-back on a hard-packed dirt road that was somewhat muddy after recent rains. I wore my trail shoes, so that wasn’t going to be a problem. The bike course was a loop around some lesser-traveled Limestone County roads. Part of the course covers territory I’d ridden before on the weekly Jetplex group rides, so I knew that apart from a few gentle rollers there wasn’t much to worry about.

My plan was to hold a slow pace for all 3 events– just hang in there and finish without doing too much damage to my chances of finishing the next day’s half. I got set up in transition, lined up for the start, and ran the first 5K in just under 31 min– a comfortable pace, although my calves were complaining after about the first mile. I had a leisurely transition to the bike and rode well, but with uneven cadence, for almost exactly an hour. There was a stiff wind from the west for most of the race, which helped going out but hurt coming back in. Overall, though, the flatness of the course worked in my favor.

2015 Heel & Crank (821 of 1401)-L

Surprisingly, on the second run I was able to maintain a 10:44/mi pace, which was faster than I expected given that I was planning on taking it realllly easy.

I finished in 2:07:29, which was barely acceptable to me considering that I was going slowly on purpose– it was still frustrating to notch a low finish though. The excellent post-race setup took some of the sting out, though; the organizers had provided not only the traditional pizza and fruit, but also pancakes and beer from a local craft brewery. It was delightful to munch and talk with my local friends, standing in the warm sunshine while the sweat dried. Thus fortified, I went home to get all my real running stuff together and get ready for the next day’s half-marathon….

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Training Tuesday: New Orleans Sprint Triathlon (3/28/15)

I’m really behind on my race reports; as I write this, I’m resting after my fourth race of the season, but better late than never, etc.

For my first race this year, I wanted to do a sprint triathlon, and the stars aligned perfectly so that I could run the New Orleans Sprint. The timing would be tight; Dana wanted to accompany me, because she’d never been to New Orleans before, but she had the McKay Hollow Madness trail race on Saturday morning, and I had to get the airplane to Atlanta on Monday so I could catch a flight to Nebraska for customer meetings. We decided to leave right after her race, spend the rest of Saturday sightseeing, and come back Sunday right after my race. My mom was able to arrange her schedule to drive over from Alexandria and meet us, which added a lot to the overall fun factor.

Our flight was lovely; we had stable air and great visibility, although on our descent into New Orleans Lakefront we came uncomfortably close to another plane who wasn’t talking to ATC and obviously wasn’t watching where he was going. Mom met us there and after a little fiddling with the bike rack, we were off to find the hotel, have lunch at Deanie’s, and enjoy some sightseeing. We spent ome time touring the French Quarter (including Dana’s first walk down Bourbon Street; luckily it was in the afternoon so we only saw one dude passed out in the middle of the street).

WP_20150328_005Right after we took this picture, a teenage boy walked up to us and asked, in an impeccable British accent, if we knew where the cathedral was.

By day’s end we were too tired to go restauranting, so we had dinner at the hotel– surprisingly good nonetheless. I suppose hotel chefs have to up their game to stay relevant in a city so dedicated to food.

The next morning we all saddled up and drove to the South Shore Marina for the race. The swim was held inside the marina, which is part of Lake Ponchartrain. The water temperature was forecast to be in the low 60s, so I wore my wetsuit and was very glad of it. As is typical of mixed distance races, the Olympic-distance swimmers started first, so I spent a fair amount of time in line with the other sprint distance men from my age group. Finally I was at the end of the pier, got the signal, jumped in the water, and.. promptly forgot pretty much everything I knew about swimming. A combination of adrenaline and the shockingly cold water propelled me to start out at almost double my normal 100m pace.. which would have been great if I could have sustained it. In the pool, I can normally turn out a steady 2:00-2:05/100 time and I averaged 2:26/100. Not at all what I was looking for.

Transition was an easy run up the dock and into the corral. The race organizers had thoughtfully provided wetsuit strippers, which greatly eased my transition, but I was tired already as I got onto the bike. That was reflected in my craptacular 4:40 time for T1: almost inexcusably slow. Once on the bike, I regained a bit of my equilibrium as I headed out, buoyed by seeing Dana and Mom cheering for me on the outbound chute. The course paralleled the lakeshore, which was nice, and passed very close to the airport, which I enjoyed. I was feeling pretty good as we reached the halfway point and that’s when it hit me.. the wind, that is. Take a look at the upper right corner of this picture:

new-bike

That little “16” with the arrow indicates that we had a 16mph wind (with higher gusts, of course) from the east. That made for a lovely tailwind on the way out and a very unpleasant headwind on the way back. Let’s just say my enthusiasm wilted more than somewhat. The wind was strong enough that I had trouble controlling my bike (especially on the gridded metal road deck on the Seabrook bridge). I was glad to get back into the corral, transition (with another terrible time: 3+ min), and hit the road.

About the run: let’s just say I finished it. It was neither my worst nor my best; the route wasn’t very scenic either. I did appreciate seeing spectators on both legs of the course, and my Waffle House jersey provoked a lot of comments, so that was fun.

My entourage met me at the finish line, where I scored a really spiffy finisher’s medal and a towel inexplicably labeled “NEW YORK CITY TRIATHLON.” Maybe they ran out of the New Orleans-branded ones, or maybe they were promoting the NYC event? Who knows?

The post-race corral area was nicely set up, with pizza, fruit, soft drinks, and beer, but it was kinda flat– I think most finishers headed out to celebrate elsewhere as soon as they could gather up their stuff and get on the road.

My total time was 1:38:50, which was on a par with my races from last year. Still some room for improvement, especially on the swim but also on the run. I’ve got to work on building my pace off the bike; even running 9:30/mi off the bike would let me pick up an easy 3+ minutes, which in this case would have put me in the top 5 for my age group. Something to work on.

After the race, it was back to the hotel for a badly needed shower, then we walked over to Manning’s for a very pleasant al fresco lunch. Mom drove us to the airport and we had a perfectly unexceptional flight back– a calm end to a somewhat harried, though very enjoyable, trip.

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Fixing SharePoint Online OneNote “something went wrong” errors

I recently ran into a problem with a SharePoint Online site that had previously been created on BPOS and moved around through various iterations of Office 365. None of the site users had ever used the OneNote notebook associated with the site, but the link was present in the side navigation bar. When I tried to access it, I got the infamous “sorry, but something went wrong” error page. (For another day: discuss the Fisher-Price-ization of service error messages; the low information content doesn’t scare end users but makes it impossible to troubleshoot problems.)

A little binging turned up a plausible solution: “SharePoint 2013 OneNote Notebook something went wrong error“. I was a little leery of turning off the feature for fear that it wouldn’t turn back on. However, I took the plunge. After disabling the feature and re-enabling it, I was able to open the OneNote Online notebook, but I wasn’t able to use the “open in OneNote” link until I added some content in OneNote Online. All’s well that ends well. This may not be the only solution for this problem, but it has a 100% success rate for me so far.

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A brief rant about the Mac Lync client

I’m supposed to be working on my Ignite slides, but I just ran into something that has flipped my safeties.

I just don’t understand.

Sure, I know the Lync/Skype for Business team has a lot of irons in the fire, what with their new product line and all. And I get that the Mac install base is small relative to the other things they have to do. But there is no reason I can see for the Mac Lync client to be as buggy and underfeatured as it is. They’ve had years to improve it.

The Lync PG has proven they can do rapid engineering work, as evidenced by the excellent speed and quality of the Lync mobile apps for Android and iOS.

And they’ve proven they can build a robust client, as evidenced by the history of the Lync desktop client for Windows.

The Mac Office team, for their part, has shown that they can produce high-quality clients that reliably work with Microsoft’s services.

So why does the Mac Lync client make me want to start throwing things?

Today’s example: I am signed into Lync with my work account. I want to create a meeting in my personal Exchange calendar, invite attendees, and set it up as an online meeting. This is trivial using Windows Outlook and the Lync (and, now, SfB) client: create the invite, click the “Lync meeting” button, and boom.

On the Mac, however, this scenario doesn’t work– clicking the “Online Meeting” button produces an obnoxious dialog telling me that I must be signed in to the same account in Lync as I’m using in Outlook.

This is just the latest in the pecked-to-death-by-ducks experience of using the Lync client on a Mac. In honesty, the client is more stable and has more features than its predecessors; hell, it even supports the Conversation History folder now. But what I want is a robust client, with feature parity with Windows, that works to enable the same scenarios I can easily perform in Windows. That’s not too much to ask.

I don’t know (and, as an end user, don’t care) which team inside Microsoft owns this. And I don’t have an opinion on who should own it. All I want is a solid client experience.

(And while I am on a rant: damnit, the Windows Phone sync client for the Mac is a giant pile of fail. Microsoft has apparently abandoned it in place. Bug reports go into a black hole. Latest example: after months of prerelease availability, Apple released the Photos app and… surprise… the WP8 sync app doesn’t work with it.)

 

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Preparing for Ignite

I’m heads-down working on my materials for the upcoming Microsoft Ignite conference. This year, I have three sessions:

  • MVPs Unplugged: Real-World Microsoft Exchange Server Designs and Deployments. This is a panel with Jeff Guillet, Nic Blank, and Sigi Jagott, so I am really looking forward to it. I love panels in general, and my co-presenters are incredibly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of large and small Exchange deployments.
  • Exchange Online Archiving: Notes from the Field. Archiving is one of those topics that isn’t interesting to everyone— but for people who are interested, they tend to be very interested. In this session, I’ll be talking about various aspects of EOA, including what it is, how it works, and how to efficiently move to it.
  • Servicing Microsoft Exchange Server: Update Your Knowledge: this is a joint effort between me and Microsoft’s Brent Alinger. As you may know, he is Mr. Exchange Servicing. I’m really excited to have the chance to be onstage with him. He has some very interesting (dare I say “provocative”) things to say. I consistently find that people misunderstand (or maybe under-understand) how Exchange servicing works and why Microsoft does things the way they do, and I think this session will help shine a brilliant beam of knowledge down from the mothership.

As always, Microsoft has deployed a whole behind-the-scenes infrastructure for managing all this stuff; this year, the system allows attendees to register their session preferences, and we see projected attendee numbers in the speaker portal. When I check these sessions in the speaker portal, all 3 of them are shown as having more enrollees than the currently booked rooms can support— that’s an excellent sign.

Of course, I have to point out that the session schedule is still not 100% set in stone, and sessions may change both times and locations. That’s a good thing, as right now my EOA session is up against Julia White’s keynote, generating the following exchange:

Google ChromeScreenSnapz013

(Just for the record, Julia, you are more than welcome in my sessions, and I promise to come up with better jokes before you arrive!)

In addition to our assigned sessions, Microsoft has asked each speaker to conduct peer review of other presentations. In addition to the sessions I’m presenting, I’m peer-reviewing sessions on Clutter, Office 365 Groups, and SharePoint enterprise search (pretty sure this last assignment was an accident). We’re also all supposed to man the show floor Office 365 booth, plus there are various side events to plan and RSVP for. In particular, if you haven’t yet requested an invitation to the Scheduled Maintenance party, you’d better act quickly; I hear it will introduce a new level of awesomeness.

Apart from my sessions, the only logistical item I have to complete is to book my flights; until the session schedule is finalized, I can’t. While I’d much prefer to fly myself, Microsoft only covers commercial airfare for speakers. I might fly myself anyway, though!

The workload is ramping up quickly as we get closer to the event, but it should pay off with some excellent sessions. I’m looking forward to Ignite– drop by and say hello if you’re there!

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