…Today I participated in my third San Antonio Half Marathon.    As I noted in previous w2 blogs, I did this after a one month training program, which I commenced after completing the Bike MS: Valero Alamo Ride to the River in mid-October.   It was my goal to complete the event in 2 hours or less, which is one of those milestone things half-marathoners strive for.  I had everything going in my favor – very cool weather, a training regime that included three long runs a week (including a 12-miler last week), plus a very enlightening conversation I had with a very experienced runner prior to the event that explained everything I’ve ever wanted to know about running in one quick, bite-sized, 10-minute lesson while waiting in the Porta-Potty line.  (This guy had participated in over 150 marathons, so I listened closely.  His recommendation:  Walk through the water stops instead of trying to run and drink, and stop at every third one regardless of the temperature and how much you think you are sweating.)   I drank 13 glasses of water a day for the last week (which probably doubled the size of my bladder), and refrained from alcohol use for a whole week (this, my friends, was very painful).  In the end, it was a matter of pacing.  I tried to stay on a consistent pace for the duration of the run, but I ran too fast at certain points, which caused me to slow down at others.  Around mile 10 (the traditional half marathon wall), my legs felt a little wobbly, and I was tempted to walk for a few minutes.  But, a quick glance at my Garmin showed that a two-hour finish was within the realm of possibility.  In the last few miles, I tried to increase my pace, but it would only last for a few minutes before I slowed down again.  In the end, I finished at 2:02:34, which was 9 minutes and 12 seconds faster than last year – but, still not the elusive two-hour mark.  Maybe next year…

10750 Peter Ray M 45-49
Half Marathon Start:   Gun 7:17:02     Chip 7:27:45
Splits: 5 Km 10k 7.6 Mi 10 Mi Finish O’All Sex Div
Times: 29:18 58:00 1:08:21 1:32:45 2:02:34 4313 2736 330
Pace: 9:26 9:20 9:00 9:17 9:21      


Here are my 3 year numbers – steady progress, and not bad for a guy who runs one month a year.   I keep saying that when I turn 50 I want to run a full marathon.  That is only a few years away, and is coming up quick.   And yes, I’ll have to train a lot more than a month to get ready for that.

Year Bib Age Chip Delta Overall SexPl DivPl
2008 22221 46 2:14:59   6184 3073 381
2009 12659 47 2:11:46 0:03:13 5133 3031 344
2010 10750 48 2:02:34 0:09:12 4313 2736 330


Finally, I have to give a shout out to my playlist.  I worked on this for hours (which, in hindsight, was time I should have spent running).  I searched the web for recommendations on songs to inspire runners to complete that two-hour half, songs with that 140-160 BPM range that drive every step to meet your target pace.  Plus, I mixed in songs that resonated with me personally for various reasons.  Here’s the playlist I listened to – some oldies, some goodies, but in the end, every song worked and helped me achieve that PB.

Here's the playlist I listened to for 13 miles. The intimate relationship you have with music is one of the things that I truly enjoy about running.

This is data from my Garmin watch showing my pace throughout the run.


At the finish line. Alex was there to show some support from the family. The other side of his sign was inscribed with, "Run faster Pansy!"

Posted by: wheelywonka | November 8, 2010

Final Training Run, Now It’s Time to Rest and Rejuvenate

…I was visiting family in College Station this weekend, including a trip on Saturday to the Texas Renaissance Fair.   But, with the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon only a week away, I had to squeeze in one more long run to insure I was ready for the big event.  One of the things I really like about running is that it’s a very portable sport.  All you need is your running shoes and some shorts, and you can run anywhere – which gives you absolutely no excuse to not maintain your training program, even while traveling.  So, after spending all day reveling in the wine and the song and the medieval merriment that is the Renfest, I woke up Sunday morning, laced up the New Balances, and headed out on my longest training run of the year.  I managed to do 12 miles in just over two hours (2:03 to be exact), which once again is not going to get me to the World Games, but is respectable for a guy shin deep in a one month training program.   …The other thing I like about running is that there are always new routes to run.  In this case, I ran down George Bush drive to the George Bush Presidential Library, where I did a few laps around the lake and gardens, and passed that great monument to freedom and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  On the way back, I ran past the Texas A&M Football stadium, including the burial site for the Revelie’s of years past (aka, the Aggie mascot).   All in all, a great end to a great (but short) training season.  For the rest of the week, I’ll lay low, maybe do a few Yoga classes, and a short 3 mile run – but that’s it.  This is a recovery week, where I just need to focus on eating well, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest.  Can’t wait for the big run with 30,000 of my closest friends!   

Training for the Rock and Roll Marathon at the Texas Renfest

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 31, 2010

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Running For…

Well, the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon is two weeks away.   The streets and parks of our fair city are full of runners and wannabes huffing and puffing their way to a PB (personal best).   That includes yours truly, who is once again engaged in my patented one month crash course in preparing myself to run a half marathon.     Today I got up, laced up the New Balances, and ran 10 miles on my usual training route – from my driveway to Walker Ranch Park and back, with lots of little variations along the way to add miles and variety.  Today I did some trail running for the first time, which I really enjoyed.   I also ran back and forth a few times on the elevated bridge over the dry creek bed just to experience the little bounce it provides to my step  – and also because it has that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom feel to it, in which I fully expect armed bandits to swing from the trees at any time to try and steal my sacred Sansa Clip MP3 player.

Speaking of the Sansa, I mentioned last week that running is about three things – will, pain, and the perfect playlist.   The thing I like most about running is the solitude and the intimacy you feel with the music you are listening to.  Over the years I’ve searched the web looking for people’s opinions on the perfect playlist for running.   When you hit the wall, and your legs start feeling heavy and tingling with the twitches of an impending cramp, there is nothing more rejuvenating than the right song starting at the right moment on your carefully crafted playlist.     I listen to music from all decades, but I can’t escape what I am – a guy pushing 50 – which means most of my impactful tunage is from the 70s and 80s.  This period contained the soundtrack for my high school and college daze, and the best of that era rarely failes to pump me up.  So today,  at mile 3 when T Rex’ “Bang a Gong” came on, my mph increased dramatically.   At mile 7, when I got the Clash’s “Clampdown” and the Knack’s “My Sharona” back to back (!) – of course I picked up the pace.  And when I was at mile 9, and beginning that last set of climbs up the many hills between Walker Ranch and my humble abode, U2’s immortal “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” comes on, and the last mile or so just melts into that incredible, anthemic chorus which tells (of course) the story of my life and was written by Bono and the gang just for moi.

Finished in around 1:40, which means I’m averaging 10 minute miles.  Not going to the Olympics anytime soon, but I can live with it.

See ya’ on the road!  Got a date with my latest toy on the back porch – the 3rd generation Amazon Kindle with 3G, which is one of the coolest pieces of single purpose high technology I’ve ever encountered.  Unlike the iPad, it only does one thing (eReading), but she sho’ ’nuff is fine at it…

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 24, 2010

Lacing Up the Sneakers for the Upcoming San Antonio Marathon

…Well, I have fully transitioned the focus of my fitness from cycling to running in order to prepare myself for the upcoming San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, which is three weeks from today.   I’m following the playbook I’ve used for the last two years.  After 12 weeks of cycling to get in shape for the Ride to the River, I participate in the event (which was incredible!), take a few days off, and then get back into the gym, on to the treadmill, and back on the road, for an accelerated program that prepares me to run 13.1 miles.   (I’m no fool – with this kind of last-minute preparation, I only do the half…although I keep saying I want to run a full when I’m 50, which is two short years away…)  Because I’m going through this transition, it gives me an opportunity to compare and contrast cycling and running –

  • Running is all about will.  There is no drafting, or coasting down hill, no advantage derived from a light, carbon fiber bike with effortless shifting.  It is about your brain sending signals to your muscles to keep moving forward.    Constantly, without a break. 
  • Running is about pain.   There are people who run lightly like birds, who seem to just float above the pavement, and whose movements seem so graceful and fluid.  I am not one of those folks.    I often feel like I’m constructed out of heavy bricks, and it takes a superhuman effort to lift my legs and press forward.   Some friends from work asked if I wanted to run with them on Thursday.  I had to decline – at this point, running is a pain best endured alone.
  • Running is about music.   When cycling, I don’t listen to music during organized events, and usually ride with the volume down and just a single bud in during training rides.  When you are riding in a group and going 20+ mph, it’s important to be in constant communication with your teammates – if you’re distracted and miss a call out, you can lose control and cause a massive wreck that results in lots of broken bones and road rash.  Running is a much more solitary experience.   It’s just you and the road and your playlist.  I joke with folks that last year I spent more time preparing my playlist for the marathon then I did actually training.  (This is only a slight exaggeration…)   This year is no exception.  I’m a huge fan of Carlos Santana, was a wanna’ be guitar hero in my youth, and (because of my age) was raised on music they call Classic Rock now.   So, Carlos’ new album Guitar Heaven is a triple threat for me – some of the best guitar songs of all times played by one of the most amazing electric guitarists in history.    For this training season, this has been the first hour of my long runs, and never fails to push me beyond or near a PB.

Will keep you posted .   See ya’ on the road!

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 11, 2010

One Picture, One Smile, A Thousand Words

At the start of the 2010 Ride to the River

This photo is from the Day 1 start of the Bike MS: 2010 Valero Alamo Ride to the River. I won’t burden it with any commentary. The smile says it all – after 11 years of cycling (and counting) I still feel like a like a little kid when I’m waiting for a ride to start.

This will be the last Wheely Wonka blog for a while. I’ll take a few days off from working out, then I start training for the half in the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, which is a little over a month a way.

Thanks for letting me share my stories from the road with you.

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 10, 2010

2010 Ride to the River – OMG!

I just got out of the hot tub, where I was soaking my weary legs after riding two days and 160 miles as part of the 2010 Ride to the River. I promise that this blog will not be my usual wordfest – I’m really tired, and just want to record a few things before heading off to the land of nod. Yesterday I did the century, which was my first in two years and one I did in my fastest time ever. Today I did 60 miles at a slightly slower pace, and waited at the last rest stop to collect some of my Velo Valero team members, which I led to the finish line in the San Antonio Alamodome. This was a lot of time in the saddle for a Wheely, and I feel it…

But before I call it a day, let me share two things with you.

On Sunday, as we rode East on 1346, and would occasionally see the skyline of San Antonio off in the distance, my heartbeat began to increase and the adrenaline began to flow. San Antonio is where I’ve lived the longest in my life – almost a quarter century – and it is the place I call home. To see the Tower of the Americans and the Alamodome get larger as we approached, knowing that’s where the finish line was – in the heart of our great city and my hometown – this was a special experience. From about 20 miles away, it looked like the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz shimmering in the distance – a place of magic and potential and new beginnings. And, as we passed the AT&T Center (home of so many great memories I have of the Spurs championship seasons), and then down the Commerce Street into the heart of downtown, the experience only become more intense. …I was on the committee that changed the route for the Bike to the Beach into the Ride to the River, and this was the way I imagined the end of Day 2 would be. Last year we didn’t get to experience this because Day 2 was rained out, but today more than made up for it. Thank you Tony and Cindy and everyone else from the MS Society for having the courage to change the route. We have all the elements to make this one of the premiere destination rides in the country, and I promise over the next few years, it will grow into this!

…The second experience was sharing parts of the ride with my father-in-law Stan. At age 72, he rode 50 miles on Saturday, and did all of the 60 miles on Sunday. After I got to the Alamodome on Sunday, I showered and waited for a call from my mother-in-law on his position. At around 12:40 she told me he was less than 5 miles away. I hopped back on my bike, and along with Velo Valero Team Captain Andrea Shull, we pedaled out to the intersection of Cherry and Commerce and waited for Stan to arrive. When he appeared, we pedaled next to him, and rode the last mile together – up to Durango, one last climb on the bridge over the railroad tracks, and then coasting into the Alamodome together. One of his first comments when he got off his bike was, “I need a beer.” Fortunately, the Alamodome concessions were open, and I was able to get him an overpriced ($7) but worth-every-penny Bud Light. Sharing a meal and beer with him in the dome, as we sat and watched other riders finishing the course, was everything I imagined it to be and more.

See ya’ on the road! If you’re not cyclist, what are you waiting for? The next Ride to the River is just a year away, and you have plenty of time to get ready!!

Crossing the finish line in the dome with Andrea and Stan

I encountered this while attending a workshop today, and (of course) it made me think about cycling and pacelines and teamwork and 160 amazing miles on some of the smoothest pavement in Texas this weekend during the Ride to the River.    It was written by a Robert McNeish, Associate  Superintendent of the Baltimore Public Schools in 1972, and is frequently used in team building exercises.

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Geese in flying V formation

Click here for a great multimedia version of this.

One last Hillfest tomorrow, then it’s time for the Ride to the River, and it looks like the weather will be unbelievable! 

See you on the road!

Posted by: wheelywonka | October 3, 2010

Not the Time to Eat Like a Hollywood Starlet

This morning’s blog was inspired by an article in today’s Star Magazine, which reported on the prima donna-ish behavior of the cast of Glee, including my girl and head diva Lea Michele, who has apparently dropped down to 90 pounds, and is approaching the frightening “her head is too big for her body” stage…

…I’ll admit it – Sunday is the only day I do any cooking around the house.  Typically I’ll prepare breakfast for the crew, and then barbecue something for dinner.   I noticed today as I was opening a package of Hill Country Fare hickory smoked bacon that even though it was low in sodium vs. (I guess) your typical hickory smoked bacon, it said right on the box, in big bold letters, “Not a reduced calorie food”.  Well, those of us who exercise regularly and care about what we eat (a recent development for me), we have been conditioned to avoid anything that is so bad for you it has to put that on the packaging.   But, a week before riding back to back days of the Ride to the River, it may be a good idea to eat a little more than usual.  In the immortal words of the title of today’s blog, this is not the time to eat like a Hollywood starlet… 

This became clear to me yesterday, when I joined my Velo Valero team members for 85 miles of rolling countryside on the east side of San Antonio.  This was our last organized ride before the big event, and John, Chuck, David, Jeff, and I wanted to get close to a 100 miles in to ensure we could do the full century on Day 1 next weekend.  (NOTE:  A full century is a hundred miles, vs. a metric century which is around 60 miles.   The full century is one of those notch-on-your-belt milestones in cycling, similar to a full marathon for runners – something not everyone can do, and something you really need to train and prepare for).    The route John designed for us was fast and furious, with lots of wide shoulders and smooth rolling asphalt.  It included many fo the roads we’ll be on next weekend, such as the glorious 1346 which passes through St. Hedwig.   After months of grueling hilly routes on the other side of town, it was great to do a route like this for a change.   At one point,    as we were blasting south on 467 and 526, averaging 22-24 mph and racing towards Sutherland Springs, I made the comment that riding these roads was almost unfair – in fact, it was like “playing the JV”.   This was going to be my longest ride of the year, and at the rate we were going, I’d be home by 1.   I was even ready to suggest to the guys we add some miles and make it a full century…

It lasted like this until we got to Lavernia, and I hit the wall.  Hard.  Right outside of the city my legs grew heavy, and my muscles just weren’t responding the way they were before.  For around 15 miles, until I got to the c-store at 1518, it was a struggle.  I felt like I was pedaling through thick peanut butter, and briefly contemplated calling for a SAG.  (Until, of course, I realized we didn’t have SAG on this ride…)  At the store, I met up with the guys, and pounded a 20 oz Dr. Pepper, which, according to the label, had over 600 calories in it.  This was enough to revive me, and allowed me to pick up the pace again.   By the time I was on Lower Seguine, I was back up to 22 mph and feeling strong.   I finished the ride at 17 mph for the 85, but it could have been much faster…    

In hindsight, the reason I bonked was from a lack of  fuel.  I have done better this year, in terms of eating breakfast before each ride.  (I had two breakfast tacos before Saturday’s ride.)  But, this is not enough.  You have to eat regularly in the weeks leading up to a big event, and you have to eat as much as you can during the event.    Depending on how hard you ride, you may burn five to six thousand calories during a century – that, my friends, is 2 to 3 days worth of eating.    Since I haven’t done many rides beyond 60 miles in the last two years, this was a lesson I unfortunately forgot.     And, you need more than just the occasional Gu or energy bar – you need something solid, that (as my Aunt Mary is fond of saying) “fills the hole” and keeps you feeling full.    

I have a friend from work named Mike, who as I mentioned before, rode with the Texas A&M cycling team back in the day.  I rode Day 1 of the Bike to the Beach with him a few years ago, and I was amazed at how he ate constantly doing the ride.    At every rest stop he filled the pouches of his cycling jersey with sandwiches, bananas, and so on, which he steadily snacked on while pedaling.  I joked that he looked like a chipmunk hoarding food for the winter, and that he’d be the first cyclist to gain weight during a ride…  But you know, I’ve never seen Mike bonk during a ride.  And, after yesterday, I’m reminded of the reason why.

So, once again, even the experienced cyclist can learn something new (again).    This is not the week to diet.  In fact, order that milk shake when you get a chance – I promise if you ride both days of the Ride to the River and ride it hard, you won’t have to worry about gaining any weight…

See ya’ on the road!

P.S. I’m not a licensed sports nutritionist.  (As you can probably tell by the fact that I drank a sugary soft drink to revive me during the ride). 

You need to be eating more than Lea is these days

…After months of training in the South Texas inferno, we finally have some decent weather.  No, not decent – that word does not do it justice.  My friends, we are having PERFECT weather for outdoor exercise.  Nights are in the 50s, the mornings are brisk and cool, the days heat up slowly but steadily to the mid-80s, the skies are clear, the air is dry, and the winds are negligible.  If you are an outdoor athlete of any type – football player, runner, tennis player, cyclist, soccer player whatever – man, you need to be outdoors this time of year.  I always feel an incredible surplus of energy during this first cool front – in many ways this is our spring, the time of year when the world feels reborn and full of potential after the endless blast furnace of summer…  

…I was so inspired by the cool weather this week that I went ahead and signed up for the half in the upcoming San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon.   And, even though I’ve done very little running this year – a mile or two here and there on the treadmill has been about it – I laced up the New Balances on Wednesday during lunch and ran the venerable Valero 3.3 mile loop.  And I tell you – I felt like Iron Man 2 on steroids.  I forgot my Garmin watch so I had no clue how fast or how far I was running, and the batteries were dead on my MP3 player so I ran only to the sound of my heartbeat, my breathing, and my feet regularly landing on the pavement.   I finished in under 30 minutes, which for me at this stage of my training for the RNR, is not too shabby.  And, I attribute this not to beginner’s luck (this will be my third year to do the RNR) – I attribute it all to this amazing weather, and how energizing it is.

And, since the Bike MS: 2010 Valero Alamo Ride to the River is only 8 days away, I also had to do a little cycling on Wednesday.  As regular readers of this blog know, we do a little training ride on the Northwest side of town we call the Hillfest.  Our ranks for this ride have really thinned recently as the days have gotten shorter and we can’t ride as long,  but there’s no shortage of enthusiasm among the faithful for these hills.  It was Ray, John, and myself starting at our usual 5:45 time.  We chatted during the early part of the ride about how many years we had trained on this route, and about how each of us could probably ride it with our eyes closed.  I knew my legs were a little spent from the run earlier, so I hung with the guys until we crossed Boerne Stage, and then slowed down a bit and let them take off.  I pedaled all the way to Dos Cerros, then turned around and reversed course for a total of 22 miles.  With the wind at my back on the return trip, my pace picked up and I ended up with a 17 mph average.    Not a century, and not a PB, but yet another workmanlike training ride that proves to me I’m ready to ride to New Braunfels and back next weekend.

Yes, indeed – can’t get enough of this weather.  Will join up with Mike tomorrow to ride our bikes to work, and then we have the last Velo Valero training ride on Saturday, our traditional end of season jaunt on the East side of town in the rolling farmland around New Berlin (which, no doubt, will include some tacos at Brietzke’s…).   And, I get to enjoy yet another night of High School football Saturday night at Comalander, and this will be our first game with some real football weather.  It don’t get no better than that!

See ya’ on the road!

Posted by: wheelywonka | September 26, 2010

The Joy of Urban Cycling Adventures on the East Side of Town

I mentioned this in a blog a few weeks ago – i.e., the idea that there are great cycling adventures you can do inside the city.   This afternoon I headed out on a short, eight-mile sojourn on the east side of downtown San Antonio.  I was actually doing reconnaissance for a brand new Halloween ride I’m contemplating that includes the new Hays Street Bridge,  all those incredible cemeteries overlooking the city, and ending with a visit to the new 13th Floor Haunted House.   The weather was cool, I was on my Fat Tire (aka, the Trek 4300), and I had the spectral music of the Welsh witch Enya on the buds enhancing the ghoulish mood.   I started and ended at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which allowed me to sneak in and see the new photography exhibit after the ride.  I’ll keep this blog short and sweet, because a new season of The Simpsons is starting tonight and I can’t miss that, plus I have a date on the back porch later with a good cigar and my friend Sam Adams.  I’ll conclude with a few photos from my urban adventure.  (NOTE:  I apologize for the low resolution – these photos were taken with my iPhone 3g..)

Google Earth view of my route

Sign outside of the Lutheran portion of the cemetary

Tomb of the Unknown Dead in the military section of the cemetary, with the city skyline in the background

Tagging the Friedrich Air Conditioning Building on Commerce Street

Way scary entrance to the 13th Floor Haunted House

My faithful Trek next to one of my favorite all time phrases on the wall in the SAMA parking lot

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