Category Archives: Cycling

The journeys of a boy and his bike

#131 – Inaugural St. Louis Triathlon

TriYesterday was a massive milestone for me, and if you’re a tl;dr kinda person, just read this.  I AM A TRIATHLETE!

I’ve had this race on my calendar since last year.  I don’t know how I heard about this race, but I started thinking about challenging myself with it, especially coming up against a price increase at the end of the year.  I got on the race event’s Facebook page, describing my current skills, and just asked a simple question… Would I be able to finish this?

I got an amazing outpouring of support from seasoned triathletes, every one of ’em encouraging me to go for it.  With that of encouragement, it wasn’t hard for me to sign up, and begin this crazy journey.

I knew I was lacking some of the gear that would make this kinda event reachable, so along the way, I bought goggles for the swim, a wetsuit, and a mount for my Garmin 920XT for my bike.  Of all that, the Garmin mount will be the most useful long-term, but I kinda dig having a wetsuit.  I have no idea when or how I’d use it again — maybe swimming/snorkeling in the Caribbean?  Regardless, I have it, and can haul it out again for some future need.

As I mentioned here, I had a chance to meet Rich Adams, the Race Director for the event just about a month ago as I was gearing up.  Putting this event together was obviously a passion of his, and his enthusiasm helped fuel me as I practiced some duathlon events to get the feel for that part of the race.

But there was also that swim.

Now, I love being in the water, and can stay in for hours.  There was a lot of chatter about open water being much different that pool water, but I love being in open water.  When we’re vacationing in the Caribbean, I can go out in the water and stay out until I’m a prune.  But that’s a lot of bobbing up and day, laying on my back in the water and just paddling about.  That’s way different than swimming for distance and a finish line.  If I underestimated anything in this event, it was the swim.  More on that later.

Saturday, Becky and I headed to Hollywood Casino to pick up my packet, drop off my bike, and attend the race course talk.  We got there just before lunch, and the lines were long — although I’ve seen worse at other race events!  To me, it seemed like there were a several stops to get your race materials, and eliminating that could be a time saver at pickup time.  For example, having the race number and age tattoos already in the race envelope with the bib could save time — of course, that means that there’s a packet stuffing party for the volunteers before the packet pickup took place!  🙂

My Lonely Bike
My Lonely Bike

After I had my packet in hand, we drove over to Creve Coeur Lake to drop off my bike.  The stands that had been constructed for the race were perfect, and my big ol’ bike fit nicely on an endcap.  Mine wasn’t the only “big” bike there, but I bet if you added the width of al the skinny tires there, they wouldn’t have been as thick as my single hybrid tire thickness.  Man, there were a lot of bikes!

I listened to the course talk, and soaked up everything about the event.  And while I expected this to get things put into “ludicrous speed” for me, I really didn’t get too freaked out by all this talk about the race.

Sunday morning came, after only an “ok” night of sleep.  As I have for the last couple of weeks, I awoke a lot, with the swim on my mind.  I knew that would be my weakest element, and my brain was pounding me over it.  We got up, went through my regular raceday routine, got in my wetsuit, and headed to the Lake.

We got parked, and I hauled my little bags of race stuff to my bike staging location.  Then we waited.  Someone suggested I should dip my toes in the water, and I was amazed at how good the water felt.  The air temperature was about 55°, but the water was closer to 66°, making it very nice.  I looked out at the buoys for the swim, and they didn’t seem all that far away.  Some of the nerves started to fall away.

(BTW, while standing next to one of the police vehicles, a cop was walking up to it, when his phone rang — his ringtone was the theme to Hogan’s Heroes.  Cracked me up!)

There was a little traffic problem getting everyone to the park, so all waves were delayed by fifteen minutes to give folks a chance to get parked and set up.  No biggie.  When it was time for the first start wave to go, I headed toward the starting corrals to see how it was going.

It looked like folks were having some trouble getting into the in-water starting corral, which was causing some delays between waves.  My original starting time was 7:43am, moving to 7:58am with the traffic delay; as it ends up, I didn’t get in the water until 8:30am.  Unfortunately, all that time gave me too much time to think about what I was getting ready to do — stupid Colin trick — and the anxiety began to build.

Ready to Swim
Ready to Swim

I slipped into the water, trying to avoid the rocks that were slowing everyone down, and got in place.  I saw Becky on the shore, waved to her, and heard the countdown… and then we were off.

I knew that this swim was gonna be tough, and folks had indicated that novice swimmers should be able to knock out the 750m in about 30 minutes.  I exceeded that… by a lot.  I was in the water almost 54 minutes, and fighting for every meter I could get.  I knew that if I needed to rest, I could just flip over on my back, and float — one of my favorite ways to relax.  When you do that in an event, however, it gets folks excited, and so I had a bunch of folks in boats and paddle boards coming by to make sure I was ok.  And of course, I was.

A Short Swim in the Park
A Short Swim in the Park

As it became clear that I was just about the last person on the swim — and I knew that from all the radio traffic I could hear — I ended up with a couple of guys in boats and boards going along with me, making sure I was ok, and giving me floating rest stop, if needed. Full disclosure — I did take them up on that twice, but mostly, I just kept moving, talking with the folks who were making sure I was fine.  By this time, I was doing the breaststroke, slowly but surely, and continued to chatter as I made progress.  This kept my mind off the distance and what was left.  And I be lying if I said I never thought of having someone haul me to shore.  This swim was the hardest single component of any race I’ve ever done, and I just tried to keep it in consumable chunks, going from buoy to buoy to buoy.

Last Ones in the Water
Last Ones in the Water

There was another swimmer — Jessica — that was also taking the course in chunks, 25m at a time, with rest stops in between.  We cheered each other on, and knowing someone else was out there made it much more bearable.  There was a guy named Phillip atop one of the boards that stayed with both of us most of the segment.  I know he made a huge difference for both of us.  But really. all the folks on the water were amazing to both of us, ensuring we were never alone, and that we’d both finish this swim.

I Was Never Alone
I Was Never Alone

And we both did.  As I approached the shore, I heard a ton of folks calling out to me, cheering me by name — I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!!!  I crawled up the sandy boat launch to get to land, saw Becky, and was checked by a medic — I think they were a little worried about me — and was cleared to continue on.

Transition was a bear.  I walked to my bike, and folks were finishing the bike leg, getting ready to start their runs.  That was really a punch in the gut, knowing that I still had two full segments to go.  However, I marched on.

Cue the Stripper Music!
Cue the Stripper Music!

Getting out of the wetsuit wasn’t a problem — someone on the boat launch unzipped the back for me — and I got into my clothes pretty quick.  I dried my feet, removing the little sand and gravel from between my toes… and then started to put on shoes and socks.  I don’t know if I was just that tired, or it was just that tough, but it took me forever to get them on!  I finally got my self assembled, and walked my bike to the start of the bike course — fifteen minutes in transition, some of which, I’m sure helped me regain some strength.

I started the bike course, and quietly, a guy named Chris rode up beside me.  He had a volunteer shirt on, and said he was gonna ride the course with me.  It’s at this point, I knew I was the last person on the sprint course.  Happy to have company, I introduced myself, and started on the ride.  We chit-chatted, and I was astounded that he was gonna accompany me the whole way.  As it ended up, it was good that he was there.

I made a turn early on the course, and found that my left shoelace had gotten tangled up in my pedal.  I hollered at Chris, and he offered to help.  I stopped my bike next to a curb, and tried to put my left foot down.  Since it couldn’t go down without the bike going with it, me and my trusty steed fell to the ground with a soft thud.  Chris quickly came to see if I was ok.  And so did a race coordinator for that intersection.  And one of the police officers.  And I was just laying on the ground, straddling the median, with my head in the road, bike atop me, cracking up.  Only I could slo-mo wreck like that! Chris got me untangled, we all had a good laugh, and I continued on.

One of the nice things about the course was that it was generally flat, with only a few rises here and there… and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  I didn’t have to worry about any cars.  Chris was happy to stop along with me when I needed to drink — since I’d already proven I could wreck a bike when it wasn’t moving, I didn’t need to try to drink and ride! — and rode ahead at the intersections so we knew where to go.  It was like having a personal spotter along the way.  We even avoided a little black snake on the road.  🙂  And someone along the way, someone in the opposite lane hollered from a car, “You got this!”  Really made my day!

I was aware that there was a car following us to ensure our safety as the roads were being reopened to traffic.  We pulled over with about 2km to go, so I could refuel, and then I realized just how much the race team bent over backwards to bring the last rider home.  Behind the race staff vehicle were easily twenty cars, all being held to my crazy slow cycling speed.  When we pulled over, I told Chris that we should just stay on the shoulder until they all passed.  Refueled, and the traffic jam gone, we headed toward the finish line for the cycling leg.  I thanked Chris, and headed off to the porta-potties to take a quick break before starting the run leg.

Back from the Ride
Back from the Ride

I dropped off my bike and helmet, slathered on some sunscreen, and Chris found me, saying he’d catch up with me on the run course in just a few minutes.  Whaaaat?

As it ends up, I think he was tasked with ensuring that the last guy on the course, finished.  And that last guy was me.

I got on the run course, and run as fast my tired, rubbery legs would go, and once Chris caught up to me, I started walking.  I was spent.  However, just chit-chatting about life, the universe, and everything, made the time go by, and in no time, we’d hit the turn around, and were heading toward the finish of the event.


He told me I was gonna run the last little bit to the final timing mat, and once he said “go”, he split off, and I cruised through the finish line!  There were folks cheering for me, and I quickly found Becky.  I hugged her, kinda fell into her arms for a moment, and began wandering around the finishing area.

I saw Chris again, and thanked him profusely.  Obviously I could do the last two legs, but having someone keep me safe while I gutted that out made sure that I did complete the last two legs.  And despite anything he said about his small role in my finish, it was huge to me.


I gathered my pilsner glass, filled it with some kinda red beer, and sat on the grass while age awards were being handed out.  I didn’t get one, and that’s no surprise — my award was finishing! — but it felt good to just sit on the grass and relax.  For the first time in three-and-a-half hours, I wasn’t moving, and that was a good thing.

When the awards were over, I found Rich, and thanked him profusely for his work on the race, his support and the support of this team.  After a big ol’ bear hug, Becky and I headed to the staging area, where there were no longer very many bikes, gathered my stuff up, and headed home.

Thinking about the race today, with a much clearer mind, I realize this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I know there’s no way I could’ve completed this without the amazing support of Rich, his staff, my dear sweet wife and so many friends.  As far as I’m concerned, this was a team win!

There were definitely some takeaways:

  • The best stroke for the swim leg is probably not the breaststroke.
  • Tuck your shoelaces into your shoes on the ride so you don’t crash your bike while standing still.
  • Transition is a great place to rest, but you’re not resting if you’re struggling to get your socks and shoes on.
  • Swim shoes would be a big help if there are rocks in the swim entry zone.
  • Crawling out of the exit chute for the swim is completely acceptable.

I haven’t yet decided if there’s another one of these out there for me.  I loved the event, but it might be good to try something at a shorter distance.  Regardless, my swimming has to get better before I can try this again.  That swim sapped all my strength, and was the toughest part of the course for me mentally.

But to say it again — ’cause I’m still not believing I can say this… I AM A TRIATHLETE!!!!

Race Course


#128 – Spring Duathlon

As some of you know, I’m working toward participating in the inaugural St. Louis Triathlon, taking place just a month from now. At various times, I’ve been exuberant and confident; at others, terrified and cowering under my desk. 🙂 Yesterday, the race director of the event was at the grand opening of the newly moved Swim, Bike, Run shop on Clayton Road, and I thought I’d go meet him. Now, I’d exchanged messages with him a ton on Facebook, and I even became the poster child for the social media impact of this race, which he mentioned in a podcast a little while back (about 21 minutes into the podcast).  However, we’d never laid eyes on each other.

I walked up to him, introduced myself, and he told me he already knew who I was. Well, how ’bout that?!

We talked about the event, and he gave me some much needed advice about different parts of it, and even came in SBR to help me shop for goggles for the swim.  And as we chatted, it was obvious to me that I needed to string together some events.  I can run 5k, and I can cycle 20k — the swimming is still a bit of an unknown! — but I haven’t done them back-to-back.

Knowing I had some training ahead of me, I found a virtual 10k/5k duathlon, and figured I oughta sign up.

This morning, fueled by dreams of a successful triathlon, I headed out on my bike.  Now, one big difference between the race course and my neighborhood is flatness.  The race course for the triathlon is pretty dang flat.  My neighborhood is replete with hills, and I think I found most of ’em.  I’d ridden about 7.5km, was passing the house, and thought about just calling it done.  Somehow, I squelched that voice, and rode on, putting in a little over 10km in the saddle.

Upon getting back to the house, I transitioned from riding to running, doffing my helmet, getting some fuel for the road, and ensuring I had water.  Frankly, I was surprised how easy the first kilometer came.  And then the heat started to hit me.

I ambled around the neighborhood, and eventually ended up walking the middle part of my distance, peppered with a little running here and there.  Once again, I was at the house, about 3.5km into the run, and once again, the voices in my head were trying to convince me to just be done.  I knew, though, that if I did that, I’d regret it all day, and even if it was slow, I could get through it.  I plugged along.  And just like a dog getting a treat for doing the right thing, I was rewarded with some kind of weird second wind, and I was running the last kilometer, taking me home.

This was probably the hardest race I’ve done since Gasparilla in February.  The difference here was that not only did I have to overcome the course, but I had to overcome the noise in my noggin.  With me passing by the house, I had the means to bail on the race — something that would’ve harder to do in Tampa — but had to find the gumption not to.

Neither of my times were stunning — about 40mins for the 10km ride, and around 54min for the 5km run.  I suspect my splits for the ride in the triathlon will be better due to the flatter course.  So, extrapolating, let’s assume 30-40mins for the swim (those are estimates I’ve been given), 70mins for the 20k ride, and about 50min for the 5k run, and that puts me right around 2.5hrs for the triathlon course.   Anything under 3hrs is fine with me, and if it’s closer to 2hrs, so much the better.

I only had two real issues.  The first was with my Garmin.  I set it up for duathlon mode, but there was obvious operator error, and it stopped tracking me after the bike ride.  I’ll have to figure that out.  The other thing that was a surprise was how sore my hands were from the handlebars.  I’ve got nice, new cushioned cycling gloves but I suspect there’s something else afoot — perhaps goofy positioning on the bike.

So color me more convinced that the triathlon in a month’s time is really, really achievable!!!

Race Courses



Race #103 – PTSD Awareness Virtual Cycle Race

Tonight, I rode my first virtual cycling race — a short one, just 10 miles — on the stationary bike in the basement.  I had no idea virtual cycling races existed until I started poking around a bit, and found this one through Races for Awareness.

The medal is really cool, too.  Many, many virtual races are trying to stand apart from the others by adding some kind of motion to the medal.  In this case, the inner gear spins, making this a huge, unique medal on my shelf!

This race benefitted PTSD Survivors of America.

Say Hello to My Little Friend

iPod Shuffle (4th Gen)
iPod Shuffle (4th Gen)

I’ve had a love affair with music since I was a kid.  I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a huge piece of my life.  And because of that, I love running with music.

A long time ago, I picked up a tiny little iPod, the iPod Shuffle (2nd Generation) to carry music with me when I went cycling or traveling.  I loved that little thing, and it still works very, very well to this day.

However, as I’ve started to do more running, I’ve discovered that you cannot control that model of Shuffle with the on-cable controls — no volume adjustments, next/previous track, etc.  When I’m running, I’ll find that a particular track at a particular time doesn’t hit me quite right, and I wanna skip it.  Sometimes, I’ll find a track that was so good with my pace that I wanna repeat it.  While you can do that from the front of the Shuffle, you sorta have to fiddle with it on your waistband or pocket, and that’s a little distracting to me.

4th and 2nd Generation iPod Shuffles
4th and 2nd Generation iPod Shuffles

As I started to research, I got tangled up between the newer iPod Nano (I have an older one of those too!) and the newer Shuffle.  The new Shuffle pays attention to those on-cable controls and is really teeny, but the new Nano had Bluetooth for headphones.  I even bought some new Bluetooth running headphones to see if I could get them to fit my earholes and get used to them.  No deal.  You see, I love my Bose sport earbuds, despite being cabled.  They fit my ears like they were custom made for them, and ultimately, that’s what made my decision easy.  Shuffleland, here I came.

A few things of note.  First off, the price now is about half what I paid for my first Shuffle.  They both only sport 2GB of storage, but with an option in iTunes, you can “down convert” files to 128kb/s, putting more music in the small space.  Even at 128kb/s, the audio quality is fine for my old ears when I’m out running or riding, and 2GB has always given me plenty of variety when I’m out putting trails behind me.

I’ve had this little thing for a couple of weeks now, and I really love it.  It’s teency, even smaller than the previously diminutive Shuffle.  This time, I even got it engraved at the factory. The only complaint I have about the engraving is that it is really, really small, and is more like a printed message, making it very hard to see.  Still, I know it’s there, and that’s a good thing.  🙂


I was struck with the reduction in the size of the packaging.  In the photo, you can see the difference in size between the little plastic coffins these two devices were shipped in.  Apple’s gone to some lengths to minimize the amount of packaging in many of their products, and it really shows with the tiny little box for the new one.  One casualty of that move — you only get one Apple sticker, instead of two.


The charging system has also gotten smaller.  With the second generation device, there was a long cable and a little dock.  The new Shuffle has a little pigtail cable that plugs directly into the headphone plug.  I kinda like that, especially given that I’ll be traveling with this one to races around the country.  In fairness, it is a little awkward to plug into the back of a Mac or iMac, but works great with my MacBook or a USB hub.

So, after a couple of weeks of putting it through its paces, I think I’ve decided this new little piece of gear is a keeper.  Hopefully, it’ll last as long as my first Shuffle!


Today is the anniversary of one of the biggest changes in my life. A year ago yesterday, I had colon cancer. A year ago today, I didn’t. I was NED… “No Evidence of Disease.”

It’s really hard to believe that it’s been a year. I had really intended to use the gift of what I consider to be “bonus time” to do some big things. And I have done some big things, but I’ve still got plenty of road to travel.

So what were those big things for me this year?

I ran. For the first time in two decades, I ran. Now, I haven’t been very regular about it since the heat came during the summer, but now that the cold weather is here, I’m really driven to get back on the path.

I biked. I returned to the Katy Trail after a four year absence, exploring the new trailhead in Research Park. I thoroughly enjoyed this return, although I shoulda put more miles under my butt.

I started a new job. During my recovery from surgery, I accepted a new position within my company, returning to a team and technology that I left nearly a decade ago. It’s been a blast, and I have found a new joy in going to the office every day.

I returned to Florida. When I was a kid, I spent a ton of time on Pine Island in SW Florida. Becky and I returned there in September, marking at least 30 years since I was last there. And it was amazing! I desperately want to return to the island soon, and put some more “relax” in my soul.

Those are pretty big steps. This year, I have a few new things in mind, and I definitely want to expand on some the things I’ve learned through this last year. The thing that I learned through this is that I have more strength — with God’s help! — to tackle much higher obstacles than I ever knew I could. Remembering that and applying that to my running and cycling, as well as other parts of my life, is the biggest goal for this year.

Oh yeah… I’ll also try to write more here, and I’m thinking about taking up a “Project 365” effort again this year.

A New Trail

The powers-that-be have been working on a multiuse trail atop the Chesterfield Levee for a while. My understanding is that it’ll encircle the Valley, providing a 17 mile loop. Sounds pretty cool.

This morning, Darla mentioned that it was really nice outside, so I figured I’d go tackle this paved trail. And ya know what? It was a very cool ride.

I rode from one end to the other, dead end to dead end, which was just a tick under 16.5 miles. I was thrilled to be able ride that distance! I even sprinted up the few hills on the course.

And, as I used to, I stopped to smell the roses here and there, taking photos and detours, and treating this ride more like touring than training. That’s the way to do it!

Katy, But Westward This Time

I feel like the smartest guy on the planet.

We were supposed to by in the mid-to-upper 90s today, but I figured I would go ahead and ride from the Busch trailhead down to the Katy, and go west toward the Weldon Spring trailhead. But it wasn’t 95.

It was 83!

It was the coolest day we’ve had in weeks — 23 days of 90+ led up to today — and I took total advantage of it. I hadn’t ridden the Katy out toward Weldon in a long, long time, and I was pleased to see that it was pretty much what I remembered. A few rough spots from some old washouts, but aside from that, it was pretty smooth sailing.

I am so enjoying getting back in the saddle again!

Back to My Mistress Katy!

It’s been four years. Four years since I’ve put my backside on a bike. Four years since I’ve pedaled my way down the trail.

I’ve been enjoying my running, but the weather’s gotten blistering hot, and I just can’t run in that kind of heat. I can ride on the Katy Trail in that kind of heat, though.

I put in at the Busch Greenway Trail. When I was last on the Katy, this connector was just being built. I had no idea it would turn out so nice. Three-quarters of a mile of paved path down to the Katy, paralleling and crossing little flows of water… it really turned out nice.

I hit the trail, and headed north. And rode, and rode, and rode. It was wonderful! I finally got to the end of the shaded trail, and turned around. Before I knew it, an hour had passed, and I’d ridden almost ten miles. It was just like old times.

What surprised me more was the difference in calorie burn. For the speed I run — which is glacial… three-toed sloths have been known to pass me by — it’s almost a two-to-one difference as compared to running. Add to that the lessened impact on my knees and feet, and suddenly cycling looks like my vehicle for the summer.

Watch out Katy… poppa’s back.

Return to the ‘150

If you’ve looked at the right side column on the blog, you’ve probably noticed that there’s some info about the upcoming MS150 in September. After being off my bike for a couple of years, and away from the ‘150 for four years, I’ve decided to rejoin the ride.

I have no doubt that it’ll be quite a hard road, but I can’t wait until it gets here. I’ve been training on my stationary bike for a couple of weeks, and have a training plan that oughta get me ready in time.

Once again, I’ve also decided to donate 10% of my photo sales (either through my web site, or through Framations) to the cause. You buy an image, I give some money. Pretty cool, eh?

I’ll be running more info on here periodically about the event, and where I’m at with my fundraising. If you can help — thanks!!!

The Boone Bridge and Cyclists

The westbound part of the Boone Bridge complex, crossing the Missouri river between Chesterfield Valley and St. Charles county, is ancient. It’s well over 70 years old, has been restriped to put three lanes of traffic where two were supposed to run, and is scary bad to drive across.

Tonight, MoDOT had a meeting in St. Charles county to show some plans for the bridge. There’d been some rumors about keeping it as a footbridge and/or cycling bridge between St. Louis and St. Charles counties, and I got pretty excited about that. However, tonight, MoDOT revealed that that option is off the table. That means if you walk, hike or cycle through this part of the world — and there are a TON of cyclists through this area due to the Katy Trail — you only have two places to legally cross the river, as the Boone is now part of I-64.

One is just south of downtown St. Charles city, at milemarker 42.8, and is on the deck of the Page Avenue bridge as a separate bike lane. The next crossing to the south is 28 miles south on the Katy, crossing the very dangerous Hwy 47 bridge at Washington MO. This is such a dangerous crossing that a whole business has been built around folks carrying cyclists and their bikes across the bridge in vehicles, in order to keep things safe.

A pedestrian crossing at the Boone would give folks a way to cycle or hike from the Katy Trail (which crosses directly under the Boone) into the Chesterfield Valley, where a new loop around the Valley has been constructed. It would also be a valuable connector from St. Louis into St. Charles.

Chattanooga figured out a way to do that with the Walnut Street bridge, and it’s turned into a real boon for downtown renovation. Admittedly, the two ends of the Boone are either retail or light industrial, but think of the start this could be.