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Friday, July 31, 2009

Planning a Triathlon: Nutrition Strategy

I can't help it; there's a reason why I am studying urban planning. I love plans. City plans, race plans, Friday evening plans: all are great in my book. As the Cleveland Triathlon rapidly approaches (race is on Sunday!), it's time to plan it out. And just as a good city plan involves many facets (transportation, housing, environment, etc.), so must a triathlon plan.

First off is the nutrition. This may only be a sprint triathlon, and I may have been a distance swimmer, but a 19 minute 1650 (I swam DIII for a reason, okay?!) as my longest race is now seeming nice and short next to what might be up to a two hour long race for me. After consulting Amy, this is how it is going to go:
  • Clif bar and/or Larabar for breakfast and some fruit (banana?) and soymilk
  • 1 gel, post-swim
  • Drink a 1:1 mixture of Gatorade and water during bike
  • Eat Gu Chomps during bike
  • Depending on how feel, 1 gel before run
  • Drink water at the run aid station
Post-race? Something tasty and hopefully not sweet! I'm reading this over and it's all sugar, sugar, sugar. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

runCLE: Exploring downtown through running

Background: I signed up a few weeks ago to be a City Advocate for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA), who is the downtown improvement corporation for the business improvement district downtown. Phew, that's a lot of mumbo-jumbo, eh? Well, a business improvement district is a special area that decides to get together, tax themselves an extra amount, and use those monies to provide services to that area. Those services can include street cleaning, safety ambassadors, marketing, etc., and the downtown improvement corporation administers the whole shebang. In an effort to court young professionals, the DCA set up an innovative program where you can sign up to a "City Advocate" where one does about 20 actions of varying levels to promote downtown. You can find more information here, as well as a new way to stalk your favorite Furmanator. The carrot being dangled in front of us is a potential position on the board for the DCA... clutch, eh? My end goal is not to be on the board; rather, it is to promote downtowns because I believe in them, in any city. Having watched my home city turn itself around, I know Cleveland's can, too. I might not be a wealthy developer or heck, even a planner for the city, but I can do my little part. Always leave a place better than when you got there, right?

My first idea is to start a running group downtown. This idea stems from a few sources. After a discussion with the City of Cleveland's bike planner, I discovered the Cleveland Clinic has a lunchtime cycling group where they meet once a week to bike around. I had also recently done a search looking for a running club/tri club practices/master's swim team based either in the Heights area of Cleveland (where I live) or downtown (where I work and attend school). It was a fruitless search. I'm still training mostly on my own. I did find a swim team, but then my work schedule changed completely. All the group runs or practices were far out in the suburbs. Donuts, anyone? I also see a lot of people running downtown during the lunch hour. Something clicked between these three influences, and of it my brainchild was born: runCLE. (This name is not set in stone, but my "clever" side seems to be still on vacation). 

At first I thought it would be as easy as saying "downtown runners, meet in front of Tower City at noon on Wednesdays and we'll run together." Ha. The practical side of me realized people run at different paces, I'd need to lay out routes (and at what distances?) ahead of time, and how on earth do I get runners to show up? An email to the group of fellow City Advocates illuminated another problem: the post-run shower. I'm a spoiled brat at my internship: we have a shower/locker area in our office. This is clearly not the case at most places. Luckily, someone came up with a brilliant idea to combat the shower problem, we just have to flesh it out first. 

As for the routes... that might be an easy problem to solve. I explore cities through running; hence, I'd like the routes to feature Cleveland landmarks. I also make maps for a living, so mapping won't be too hard. Plus I could always utilize or Google Maps. An excellent suggestion was to end the runs at non-sit-down lunch places (Subway versus Applebees) where runners can grab a quick bite before heading back to the office. 

As for different pace groups... that's where the maps come in. We can take a minute or two to sort out pace groups before starting, and give small maps out (think photocopied quarter sheets of paper). 

As for getting the word out... social networking! Facebook, twitter, the DCA blog, a new blog for the running group, press releases, word of mouth. Emails to those suburb-based running and multisport clubs (some of their employees have got to work downtown!). 

So here's to runCLE, and here's to hoping I didn't bite off more than I can chew. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'm back and Amy is going to Kona

Apologies for the lack of posts recently; I was traveling the past ten days. Things like "email" and "blogging" fell by the wayside in favor of "going to the pool" and "spectating at Ironman Lake Placid." All in all, it was a really great trip, and of course: too short.

The early portion of the week was spent at home with my family. Got to go to the pool several times, officiate a swim meet (and disqualify someone who started swimming freestyle in the backstroke... silly), tour a swank retirement home for my grandmother, get brunch with a high school friend, and shirk all my duties as president of the American Planning Association chapter at my graduate school. 

Also got a few decent workouts in during the trip. For some reason, swimming at the pool makes me feel really, really slow. I grew up swimming there, surely I should be used to all the jets and the very shallow shallow end, but still, felt slow in the water. I must have been compensating for the jets pushing me around because my elbows started to hurt, meaning my technique was off. Not a good feeling, but it is nice to swim outdoors. Ran a bit, too. One 30 minute run easy, one track workout, and one semi-tempo run while in Lake Placid. Also while in Lake Placid, I got to swim the Ironman course (the race is done with 2 1.2 mile loops). Once I got my stroke together (not used to sighting), I felt AMAZING in the water. I only intended to swim about 20 minutes, but ended up swimming the whole 1.2 miles. I suspect it took me around 30-35 minutes. Passed just about everyone else swimming (they were all in wetsuits) except for one guy who swam next to me for maybe a quarter of a mile before *finally* pulling in front of me. While I know everyone was swimming easy pace to prepare for the actual race, I wasn't swimming very hard either (except for about 20 yards to sort out my stroke), so I feel super confident for the swim portion of the triathlon next weekend. I was also proud of myself for not panicking much in the water (I did for about 10 seconds when I started swimming due to seeing plants underwater, but once I couldn't see anything, I was fine). I cannot remember ever doing a lake/river/ocean swim before without fighting off a panic attack at some point during it. I read Swimming to Antarctica earlier this year, and actually had to put down the book at one point because reading the author's descriptions of her open water swims made me panicky. Not sure what changed between now and then, but I'm not questioning it. I am now hoping to dominate the swim during the Cleveland Triathlon (less than a week!!!) since it is unlikely I could dominate the other two disciplines.

I'll write about Lake Placid more later, but I'll give you this spoiler now... okay it's not really a spoiler since Amy is probably the lone reader of this blog... but AMY IS GOING TO KONA. Yes, the world championships for Ironman. Not only does Amy finish her first Ironman, she beats her goal time by 20-odd minutes, PRs her marathon time, gets second in her age group, and scores a spot to Kona through the roll-down (first place girl already qualified this year). I kid you not. This girl is baller. Read her blog here. Hopefully she'll post her race report soon, and hopefully I'll get around to writing about my side of things: support, sherpa, and security! 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bringing the sunshine home

I arrived home Saturday afternoon around 2pm, after a somewhat strange train ride. Basically, I got kicked out my seat quite rudely by some Amish. Maybe I am mistaken, but aren't they supposed to be known for their friendliness? Except for that, I was lucky to be able to mostly keep to myself. I had downloaded some excellent world music albums from Amazon (seriously, check out their extensive free music offerings), and read most of The Shack, until the deep religious themes got too overwhelming. The last bit of the trip is incredibly scenic along the Mohawk River with its mostly pristine shores and old towns and all the locks. 

Apparently the weather here in NY this summer has been rainy, rainy, and... rainy. So far it appears I brought the sunshine with me, as it has been warm and sunny since I arrived. Here's to hoping I can bring it with me to Lake Placid for Amy's Ironman. Even us volunteers were miserable in that pouring rain last year, let alone the athletes. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This just in: All registered

I finally put the plastic down and ponied up for the Cleveland Triathlon this morning. Experienced a bit of sticker shock... but I did have to pay extra to join USAT for the day. Anyways, no backing out now. Time to put my head down, keep training, taper a teensy bit, and be on the starting line by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at 7:25am on Aug 2 ready to race.

That being said, training between now and the race is going to be interesting. I have an incredibly bizarre schedule now that we started the driving portion of my internship. Basically we spend about 6-7 hours in a car spread out over three time periods (morning rush, midday off peak, and evening rush) in one day. This is repeated 3x: Tuesday-Thursday. I end up working about 10-11 hour days. I can squeeze in a tiny workout, but there's just not a long enough break between driving shifts. It is... less than fun, but it's only for this summer. I am also traveling home sans bicycle for a 10 day stay in the great upstate New York. Guess I'll just have to focus on running and swimming!

The last weekend I am at home - the one of July 26 - is my friend Amy's first Ironman in Lake Placid! We volunteered at it last year so I've seen it before, but I'm excited to see her race. Someone to look for out on the course! Look for a blur on a Felt bike, that's probably Amy.

When I go back to Cleveland it'll be only a few days before the tri!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Landscape Urbanism @ MOCA

The nifty thing about a blog is that I can defy chronological order. Linear time? Nah! I've been meaning to post about a landscape urbanism lecture I attended last Friday (and, separately, a happy hour about advancing Cleveland last Thursday). Apologies for the tardiness- it has taken me a little longer to pull my thoughts together on this.

The Landscape Urbanism::After the Post-Industrial City lecture was sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art - Cleveland and the architecture/design school at Kent State University. It featured an architect and a landscape architect, both from Milan, Italy. I had a bit of a hard time understand their accents so I assume I missed out on a lot of good stuff, but their imagery and basic concepts were excellent.

Essentially, they had been charged with creating a master plan for Milan. Oh, the opportunity! They focused especially on the "greening" of a post-industrial city. Sounds familiar? There's a reason why they were invited to Cleveland! Their basic concept was the "green ray." Eight greenways radiated out from the city center with the goal of making the city more permeable and more connected to the parks. I now am envisioning green rays radiating westerly, southerly, and easterly out from Voinovich park next to the Rock Hall for Cleveland... e.g., Euclid Ave but even greener.

Other gems I gleaned: design the landscape THEN the architecture; utilize microprojects; the goal is "not to project - to protect" (no more sprawl); make the inner city *new* so that it draws people back (can't offer the old one still); informal planning flowing into formal strategy; and marketing/branding of one's vision. To speak more about the last 'gem' there, they hired retirees to travel the proposed routes for their green ray project and to record their experiences in a diary. The diaries were complied and then published. What an innovative way to do the traditional 'site visit' with fresh eyes and to simultaneously build support!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good old-fashioned ingenuity: Cleveland's Ingenuity Festival

I went to undergrad and grad school in the same city, two different schools. Very, very different schools. It's been interesting switching from a dynamic, private research university to a large, public urban university. Rarely do those worlds intersect. Today, at Cleveland's Ingenuity Fest, I am pleased to report they actually combined in a nice synergy. 

I went down with some undergrad friends and met up with one of my graduate school friends there. Located in Playhouse Square, the festival featured live music, interactive technology displays, art exhibits, and your standard fair fare. I love the idea of an ingenuity fest: show off cool innovations that were locally driven. My undergraduate university was one of the main sponsors of the event, yet it took place adjacent to my graduate school. 

The neatest innovations I saw were map-related. One was an interactive LCD screen table with a map on it. You could touch the map and it would pop up a little window that had some information about a video shot at that location and a button to vote for it. After the current video on the movie screen was finished, the video with the greatest number of votes was played next. Interestingly, we discovered one of the videos was shot at a bonfire that two of my friends were at! I could see a lot of use for urban planning with the touch screen mapping. How about a special map created for a master plan that citizens could play around with to learn more about it and build support for it? The other neat mapping invention was this rotating map table. You could rotate it one way and it would zoom in; spin it the other way and it zoom back out. Tilt it forward, it would pan up, and so on and so forth. The detail of the aerial shots was incredible. It was a very easy and fun way to play around with aerial imagery on maps. 

Other cool things: use of empty storefronts as temporary exhibition spaces, Amy Casey's paintings, bands playing in back alleys, playing Atari video games for the first time, going to AJ Rocco's afterwards and hearing local musician Charlie Mosbrook play (a folk musician and triathlete!), and best of all:  A TESLA COIL PLAYING PACHELBEL'S CANON IN D. No joke. And to top it off, it set the styrofoam robot scenery on fire. Never a dull moment.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

No foot down commute: Success!

On the list of achievements in my life, this is pretty much around the bottom, but I managed my first "no foot down" commute on Friday morning. That's right- the entire bike commute done without stopping. 

Considering there are 7 stoplights before I even get to the main part of my commute (which has too many stoplights to count), this is kind of exciting. Obviously I rolled through a few stoplights, but safely and always watching for traffic. I wasn't even aware of the concept of "no foot down" commute until I read this strip from local bicycle comic, Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery. It's a lovely comic about this guy Yehuda who works at a bike shop. Even better: the suburb I currently live in is featured! 

I had been incredibly close to achieving the "no foot down" commute on Wednesday morning, but was foiled a few blocks from my destination by some lost travelers in a mini-van. They pulled up next to me in crisp white shirts and ties, and in a deep Southern drawl, asked me where the Salvation Army was. I was so surprised that I stopped (therefore putting the foot down and voiding the quest) and gave them directions. You never know what you are going to see in Cleveland.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Inspiration, when you least expect it

Immediately after lunch today, I got a message from a friend of mine who was a team leader on a Bike & Build trip last summer. Apparently one of his riders from last summer was leading a group on the Northern U.S. route this summer, and their group was riding through Cleveland today and were a little bit lost. I grabbed a spare bike map from our bike planner, hit the pavement, and met some of the riders in front of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We ended up going to get lunch and I did my best to satisfy their request for cheeseburgers. Apparently after riding 60 miles in the morning, nothing sounds better than a cheeseburger!

The four riders I ate with (mind you, this was my second lunch of the day) were really cool. I know "cool" is one of those generic, somewhat-meaningless-by-this-point terms (along the lines of "nice"), but really, there isn't a better way to describe them. It was really inspiring to hear their stories and their tales of the trip so far. I had been considering applying for the trip for next summer after talking with my friend; meeting with these riders just reaffirmed my decision. Screw the traditional backpacking across Europe trip, I want to bike across the country!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Get lost: When 2 turns into 3.5

In honor of our country's birthday, the powers-that-be deemed we get Friday off at work. The prospect of an entire day off begged the question: what to do? The weather finally cooperated, so I decided to spend some quality time with Jay, my 1981 Peugeot PH8 touring bike. I intended to ride for 2 hours, maybe 2.5.

Well, apparently my subconscious had other plans for me, because as I was toodling around the Chagrin River Valley area, I managed to take a wrong turn. Me! The one who studies maps of the area all day at work! I ended up riding another 1.5 hours due to my wrong turn for a total of 3.5 hours of riding. I even had to stop for directions (and re-fueling by that point). When I had some weird premonition to bring cash with me (I normally don't encounter any convenience stores or the like), I should have known something was up. As Amy pointed out, apparently I made up for all my days off due to rain this week!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Live free or drive. Sorta.

I miss my bike, Jay. Where did it go? you might be wondering. Nowhere.

That's the point. It's been an awfully rainy week here by the shores of Lake Erie, and I haven't been able to bike commute. I have fenders on Jay and water-proof bags, but I haven't a waterproof cycling jacket nor a hat with a brim for under my helmet. I also have an enormous hill to descend on the way there that requires quite a bit of braking of which my steel-rimmed wheels are not up to par. So, for the past few days I've been riding the train downtown. I love the train, don't get me wrong, and I love the occasional "day off" from the saddle, but three days of cold rain?!

So there Jay sits, in my living room, getting a little dusty, while every morning I scrounge up 8 quarters for transit fare. I'm a huge proponent of public transit, but at the same time, I appreciate the flexibility of not having to line up my life according to the train & bus schedules & routes. Being unable to afford a car, this leaves me with my bike(s), which is fine most of the time. For odd trips that require a car, I have a membership to a car-share program. I am realizing, however, that cycling is my favorite mode of transportation. It's not ideal for everything, obviously, but I've made it work quite well for commuting (with cooperating weather, of course). I love the freedom and the perspective. Missing my bike is proof. I'm not anti-car, I'm pro-bike.