Monday, June 11, 2018

PHIT America Fundraising & Awareness Campaign


I am proud to support, PHIT America
They are doing some amazing things to fight the ‘Inactivity Pandemic', while getting kids 'off the couch' and physically active. 
We hope you can support PHIT America.  
Any support will help. 

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Friday, May 18, 2018

50 Miles - Part 1


I will be using stick figures for picture of my run
because the event wants to charge an additional $80 for event photos.

I kept thinking, what did I get myself into? Kept telling myself, don't quit!


Every Fall I look ahead and attempt to put one spring race/event on may calendar to stay on a training plan through the winter. I’ve always felt like a good hard event early in the season springboards me into summer and having the ability to hop into a variety of races on short notice.

For the last few years, my running has been getting slower and my ability to go particularly fast at any distance has diminished. This cannot be all attributed to age, the largest contributing factor is that I have not dedicated the time and effort to get any faster. During training I’ve been enjoying the longer slow runs more and less inclined to do intervals and faster, higher intensity efforts. Going hard and fast hurts. Going slow and enjoying the scenery hurts less.

In the fall of 2017, I read a few books and articles about ultrarunning, and found that type of suffering to be fascinating. Since doing an Ironman, the Leadville MTB 100 and Wilmington/Whiteface 100K MTB, I’ve always wanted to stretch into longer and bigger, but never considered running to be a strong suit nor enjoyable for extended amounts of time.

Time to test my new found appreciation for the long run and see if an ultrarunning race was the correct event to focus on over the winter.

I targeted The North Face Endurance Challenge Series stop atBear Mountain, New York as it was fairly close to home and at a good time on the schedule the first weekend in May. Also, I had some part in creating the whole series for The North Face back in the early 2000’s when I worked at Rodale/Runner's World. I delayed shelling out the cash for the entry until I could get past a few of the longer training runs and felt confident I wouldn’t be a liability on the course. That confidence never really manifested, and I didn’t register until a few weeks before the race.

My training plan started in late November and was built from my reading and exploring a number of different philosophies and plans. I went with the theory of building into back-to-back long runs on weekends, rest days (light spin on bike, walk or jog) on Mondays; harder efforts on Tuesdays; easy long(ish) day Wednesday; hill work on Thursdays; and a rest day (again light spin on bike, walk or jog) on Fridays. Every third week, I would back it off and have a bit of a recovery week.

I did my best to stick to the training plan, but had to adjust on the fly with work, life and motivation factors. At first, I would do a long slow run on Saturday and then a long bike ride on the bike Sunday as my big back-to-backs to ease my body into so much running. I missed a few days and augmented the workouts over the holidays while skiing in Colorado, but I figured if I was putting a lot of time into being on my feet and fatiguing my legs, I was helping the process and building different kinds of leg strength that could help.

Once President’s week passed, I stuck closer to the plan and was knocking out solid 10/10, 15/15 and 20/20 back-to-back mileage days Saturdays & Sundays. Better yet, because it wasn’t all about mileage, but time on feet, I was making those runs slow over varying terrain. There was nothing easy about running 20 miles/5 hours on a Saturday and then doing it all over again Sunday, but I was hoping the payoff would be worth it.

About two weeks before the event, as I was tapering, I started having extreme stomach pain. I hadn’t changed anything in my diet or lifestyle to point to a clear indicator. Through some assessments, it was determined that I was suffering from stomach ulcers. This was thought to be a result of stress and too much NSAIDs for too long a time. I immediately stopped taking ibuprofen and started Nexium to try and help right the ship. My body was not happy, and the taper wasn’t helping; I felt like I had restless leg syndrome and was as cranky as ever.

Finally, race day was here…

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Friday, May 11, 2018

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series - Bear Mountain 50 Miler


The North Face Endurance Challenge Series - Bear Mountain, New York (50 Mile version)
Big brands and companies don't care about the customer.

Sign-up/Price:  Easy sign-up. Fair price for an event with these type of logistics and access to significant terrain.

Pre-Event Communication:  Good communication. Easy to follow through social media and timely emails.

Packet Pick-Up:  Simple and straight forward at The North Face retail location in NYC.

Goodie Bag:  Pathetic virtual goodie bag with only two paltry discount coupons. Physical race packet had nice buff and the reusable collapsible cup but nothing else. Disappointing.

Venue:  AWESOME. Outside of having to park a ways away and take a shuttle to the race village, this place was beautiful and perfect to accomodate an event of this type.

Course:  Tough! Not a looped course, so every section was different and all equally challenging.

Course Marking & Volunteers: Excellent course marking and directional signage. Volunteers were good but too few as aid stations were backed up and lacking staff to look after runners.

Finisher Medals: Terrible. They gave everyone the same medal just with a different ribbon. You'd think they could do something a little better for 50 mile runners.

Race Photos: Good photos, but who is going to spend an additional $70 for theirs?

Post-Race Food:  The finish village was basically shutting down by the time the final finishers were coming in so there was no post-race food for us.

Medical:  Excellent medical. I had a stumble on course and ripped a pretty nasty gash on my right forearm. Medical took care of it and were extremely nice.

Post- Event Communication: Nothing yet outside of please buy your race photos.

Travel: Not a bad drive from Long Island, although brutally early in the morning.

OVERALL: I would expect better from The North Face, but I guess it is a brand that likes to cut corners and maximize margin. The course, volunteers and scenery were the big winners. The North Face, Sierra Nevada and other sponsors left a lot to be desired. This event is geared toward the lesser distance runners and nothing special is done for the 50 mile runners. I'd rather support a small grassroots event director who makes the event special for everyone rather than one of these corporate shindigs that just takes your money and cheeps out on the rest.

RACE REPORT: Coming Soon


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Friday, October 6, 2017

Motiv Fitness Tracker Ring - UPDATED

UPDATES at bottom of review

Product: Motiv Fitness Tracker Ring

MSRP: Price: $199

Description: An activity tracker that's always on

On for all the hours of your day. Be inspired to meet your goals and have a better understanding of your body and overall health - without sacrificing style or comfort.

Durable and waterproof
Battery life typical use 3 days*
Activity tracking, adding and editing

Review:
I had high hopes for this product, only furthered by the positive early reviews. Unfortunately, this product and especially the consumer experience on the app was disappointing.

I have tried a number of fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone, but have never seen much use for them as I normally wear a true sports watch (Garmin, Polar, Tom Tom, etc.) when I workout and have never needed to track my steps throughout the day. Additionally, I like wearing a tradition ‘style’ watch when not training and adding a ‘bracelet’ to my wrist has never appealed to me.

More recently, I have been increasingly interested in my sleep and how it is effected by various environmental, dietary and activity choices. I initially, and now continue to, use the phone app Sleep Cycle.

Curious about how accurate the data is from this app and looking to dig deeper with something connected to my body, reading and providing a true tangible metric such as heart rate, I began looking for options.

At first, I tried wrist based product but since I never sleep with a watch or anything else on my wrist, it became more of a distraction.

When I can across the Motiv ring I was intrigued and signed up to get one as soon as they were in production.

After a few months I was notified that my sizing set was on its way. The day after I got the notification email the package arrived in the mail. I initially tested the various sizes on a few different fingers and then settled on the most comfortable and wore the sample ring for a few days and nights to see how it felt throughout all my daily activities.

Once I was comfortable with the size and finger choice, I made the order of the actual ring on the app and a few days later it arrived.

The box was a little beat up, but nice packaging. 
Felt premium.

The packaging and presentation was sleek and fitting of the $200 price tag. I charged up the ring, got it synced with my app and got into full daily activity test mode.

I had no issue with the way it looked and didn’t feel like it distracted me during my daily activities or at night while I slept.

After the first full day and night, I was eager to check my data and see what it had to say about my activity and in particular my sleep.

I was completely underwhelmed and disappointed in the app and ring’s performance. There were a ton of gaps in heart rate readings, it gave me no sense of deep sleep, light sleep, waking up, just an approximate amount of time I slept and average heart rate number.

I could only wish to sleep for 9h 21m!

When I looked at how it tracked during my workouts I was equally underwhelmed and disappointed to find that the amount of time it tracked and heart rate reading were way off. I wore a chest heart rate strap and Garmin watch to be able to compare.

I rode my bike rollers for 1:23:35 
with an average Heart Rate of 124 according to my Garmin

The ring fit well, it was not too loose, if anything it was on the tight side and did not slip or twist much.

I understand the product is not meant to replace a training device and is meant as a general activity tracker, but the user interface is way too basic for a $200 price. Optical heart rate tracking has also had its flaws, but products such as the Tom Tom Sports watch that I have used with it have been reliable and accurate.
Unreliable data and very minimalist and basic app function 
make this a no go at $200!

I have sent my ring back for a refund and will keep my eye out for something else.

UPDATE 10/17/2017: BUYER BEWARE!

Per the Motiv website and return procedure, I contacted them for a "Return Merchandise Authorization (RMS) on October 2nd and received the information on the 3rd.

You may exchange or return your Motiv Ring for any reason within 45 days of receipt of your ring for a full refund.   No need to return your Motiv Ring Sizing Set.  You can recycle it or share it with a friend.

  • Contact our Customer Care at support@mymotiv.com to obtain a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number and a prepaid return shipping label.
  • Carefully pack the product with all accessories originally included with your purchase so that it will not be damaged during shipping. We suggest using the original packaging if possible.
  • Print and affix the provided return shipping label to your return package.
  • Drop the package in any USPS mail box.
  • Once we have notification of receipt of your return package, we’ll issue you a refund.
  • You will get an exchange or refund confirmation email with your transaction details once the return has been received.

I packaged the ring up and dropped off at the post office on the 4th. A week passed and I had heard nothing from the company and had not seen the refund hit my credit card, so I sent the company an email.
No reply from the company and no refund processed almost two weeks after returning the ring, I have had to dispute the charge with my credit card company to get my $199 returned.

UPDATE 12/7/2017: STILL NO REFUND

After disputing this charge on my credit card Motiv contested the dispute forcing me through more hoops to get my money back.

I provided the package tracking number and proof of its delivery to the Motiv offices. During this a Motiv representative emailed me:
Hi Bouker,
Thanks for following up about your refund. I'm so sorry you haven't received that yet!
I'm seeing from the USPS tracking number that it was marked as delivered in San Francisco. However, we never received the return, which prevented your refund from being processed.

Not to worry, sometimes this happens with USPS. I've escalated to a supervisor, who can process your refund for you. We'll get back to you as soon as that's done, hopefully within 1 business day.

They then emailed me back to let me know that because I had disputed the charge with the credit card company and they were contesting that dispute, they could not process a refund and I would need to wait for it to resolve itself or contact the credit card company to drop the dispute.

Never once did they offer to go the extra step to drop their contest of the dispute and get me my refund ASAP.

I have contacted my credit card company to drop the dispute and have email Motiv to process the refund...still waiting...

UPDATED 4/20/2018: FINALLY! A REFUND

It took forever, but after constant follow up, Motiv finally issued me a credit for the ring AFTER SEVEN MONTHS. You might want to consider this prior to doing business with this group.

The Oura Ring looks to be a better buy than Motiv

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Brands Cycle & Fitness Muddy Tire 2017



Brands Cycle & Fitness Muddy Tire (CAT 1 – Single Speed)
Small race directors are some of the most dedicated and committed. Participants often don’t know how lucky they really are...
I haven’t done a lot of racing this year, as a matter of fact, this would be my first race of 2017. Instead of boring you with the details of life that kept me from racing, I’ll just get to the event.

Sign-up/Price:  Easy sign-up, Bikereg is an easy site to use. Extremely reasonable price for this event. 

Pre-Event Communication:  Race Awesome is a great outfit and they do a great job with athlete communication. The emails and Facebook page gave me all I needed to know and more.

Packet Pick-Up:  Simple and straight forward the day before at the Fat Tire Festival.

Goodie Bag:  Disappointed in the standard environmentally unfriendly plastic grocery bag. Run of the mill sponsor fliers, nothing special. Great t-shirt.

Venue:  AWESOME. Plenty of camping, parking and space to roam. Playground for kids. Great trails with some good variety for all levels of rider.

Course:  Excellent course. While I did not enjoy the “new” section and the challenge it presented, it added to the difficulty of the race.

Course Marking & Volunteers: Excellent course marking and directional signage.

Finisher Medals: I did not get one. Did not see anyone at finish handing anything out, but I wasn’t stopping to loiter as I needed to tend to some injuries.

Race Photos: Some of the best I’ve seen in a long time, free and available within at least 24 hours after event.

Post-Race Food:  I did not see or partake, again as I headed right to camp site/car to tend to injuries.

Medical:  I had no need for it, but very close. The volunteers and course marshals were very present and vocal. Excellent to have this support on course.

Post- Event Communication: Nothing yet, but assuming the permitting process for this venue and event is not easy.

Travel: Easy drive from home (1 hour) on LIE.

OVERALL: I love this event and how it comes back so I can make it a part of my yearly racing calendar. 

MY RACE:

Did I mention this was to be my first race of 2017? The weather was perfect, cool, but not cold and sunny. I started to get ready and headed out for a little warm up and leg opener. We had the National Anthem and it was off to the start line for the Cat 1 9:00am start.

I lined up toward the back since I was on my single speed and with the flat opening loop of the open field knew I had no chance to be up front. I met Reggie the other single speeder in the Cat 1 division and we shared some pleasantries before the horn sounded.

Horn. We were off and I was officially racing for the first time in 2017. I was happy. I love racing. I love the adrenaline. I love pushing into the suffer zone and trying to go beyond.


I spun my legs as fast as I could to get as far forward as possible before we dove left into the single-track. I was probably in the top 20 riders strung out through the first section. I made a couple passes on the early uphill sections and maybe advanced five places to get in what looked to be a second group. There were a few slower riders holding the group up and they graciously pulled to the side when prompted, except for one guy. This guy let a gap to the front group open and had a line behind him yelling for him to move over. Even one of his teammates was calling him by name to let the faster group pass.

Well, this is where I screwed up. I was too antsy and eager not to fall further behind so I was glued to the guys tire in front of me in hopes that we would get an opening to pass.

Key point in the race happening at the 6:25 mark...

Around a corner over a hump one more left then a quick right and….BAM…I was off my bike, airborne, then off a tree…and…THUD…hit the ground! It all happened so fast. I could hardly breathe, my bike was somewhere, guys were yelling, I was being asked if I was OK. I gathered my wits and located my bike, hopped on before checking to see if there was any damaged and started riding again.

I had been left behind by the group and passed by a few others. I took stock of any injuries and started riding again. My left side had taken a beating. I took a hit to my ankle, hip, elbow and shoulder. I was amped on more adrenaline so I rode myself back into a rhythm and started chasing.

The adrenaline helped mask the pain and my desire not to go out on lap one of this three lap race kept me motivated.


I started catching riders and making some passes. I got through lap one and started to see familiar kits up ahead as I embarked on lap two.

I caught a small group of riders I was with when the crash happened and Reggie, my new single speed friend. My left hip was starting to hurt when I cranked up the power with my left leg, but otherwise I felt good. I made a hard charge past the group to get some distance going into lap three.


Hitting lap three, I knew I had a good gap on the chase pack, no clue who was ahead of me. I rode hard wanting to take the single speed win and get some crash comeback gratification.

This race was utilizing a new section of trail that had just been cut in the last few weeks. It was soft and still raw which made it hard to get a rhythm and forced one to use a lot of energy. I hit this new section on lap three and bonked. The combination of the crash, my hard effort on lap two, the energy zapping terrain and my lack of training/racing build up had caught up to me.


I kept turning the pedals over, but the effort with my left leg was getting more difficult and I felt like there was something more than sweat going on under my sock on my left ankle. The proverbial wheels were coming off. I did my best to keep it going and was not going to quit as I knew my son was probably waiting at the finish line. In our family, we finish what we start unless we are carted off by an ambulance. I kept telling myself “power hard to the last section and then the open flat lap and you can finish this off on top…GO!”


Apparently, that power was not enough as I was caught and passed by my little group and Reggie with less than two miles to go. I was disappointed, but more relieved that I would still finish and that I’d gotten up and put in a good effort after the crash.

It was a fun event. Even though there was not a lot of climbing, it was hard. The twisty-turny course kept you working and leaving no time to coast.

A lot of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve thoughts after the race, plus, I’d felt like I had been hit by a car…

Sunday afternoon, night and Monday were a bit rough getting around but I was still on a ‘high’ from racing again and finishing. I was back at my desk Monday morning looking for pictures and came across the video of my crash. As weird as it may sound, I was also juiced to find another race before winter gripped the east coast.

This stuff is addictive!

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Monday, October 2, 2017

C.L.I.M.B Fat Tire Festival 2017


EVENT REVIEW – C.L.I.M.B Fat Tire Festival
Communing with nature and riding bikes…
This was a weekend of events with the C.L.I.M.B Fat Tire Festival on Saturday and the Brands Cycle & Fitness Muddy Tire race on Sunday.

My buddy Scott and I decided to make a camping weekend of it with our boys.


Saturday – C.L.I.M.B Fat Tire festival

Sign-up/Price: I renewed my membership to C.L.I.M.B a few weeks prior so it was easy as visiting a table to get the necessary wrist bands for the BBQ. I think my family membership is $45 for the year. It is well worth it to support an organization that does so much for the Long Island mountain bike community and provides the opportunity to have such great access to trails.

Pre-Event Communication: I used the C.L.I.M.B website and forum to get most of my questions answered. There were a few things that came out in the emails that caused confusion and needed some clarification as it related to camping and how accessible campsite were. This is an awesome location and the camping is fun to make a weekend family activity out of it, it should be publicized more.

Packet Pick-Up: N/A

Goodie Bag: N/A

Venue: AWESOME! Cathedral Pines is a very cool park with a ton of trail miles that suit all abilities. The open space is great to be able to see what is going on and have a focal point of all activities.

Course: (Kids Race) Great distance and not too tough for younger less experienced riders.

Course Markings & Volunteers: (Kids Race) Course was not marked and even though they took the group of kids on a preview lap, kids got confused on where to go. Would be nice to mark the kids course to make them feel like it is a real event.

Finisher Medals: Great. Perfect little rubber ‘medal’ for kids.

Post-Race Food:  N/A. 

Medical:  N/A

Race Photos: None for the kids race, would have been nice but I was able to get some good shots with my phone.

Post- Event Communication: 
None so far

Travel: Easy drive out on the LIE.

OVERALL:
 Great day for the family. Would be nice to move some of the rides and adult activities later in the day to allow more people to travel out. People brining families don’t get out of the house on weekend mornings quite as fast as those without.

THE DAY
We all headed out Saturday morning on what started out as a beautiful day. Part way through our drive East on the LIE there was a torrential rain storm and we had doubts about our luck at the event site.


Arriving at Cathedral Pines State Preserve Park, we got a camping spot and set up camp while our boys took off on their mountain bikes to explore. After we were all settled we headed over to the Fat Tire Festival, got the boys signed up for the kids’ race, checked out the booths and took part in the lunch BBQ. After lunch Scott took all the boys out for a ride on the trails while I hopped in the car to run an errand (had to pick up the ashes of our recently deceased dog at a nearby funeral home). Scott, boys and I all made it back in time to make our way to the start line for the kids’ race.

The boys did great. My son had a digger on the parade lap that needed some TLC, but he was a trooper, bloody knee and all.

Once the kids racing had concluded the skies decided to open up. We took the opportunity to pile in the car and head to the nearby grocery for cookout supplies. The timing was perfect as we got back to the campground the rain stopped and I was able to get a fire going in the fire pit.

The boys could not get enough of riding their bikes to find sticks and then come back to carve them up with their Swiss army knife. Scot and I drank beers and got dinner ready. Burgers, hot dogs, chili and beans filling the stomach we made room for s’mores and more beer. The boys ran around in the dark with flashlights having a blast.

We retired to our tents, Scot and one of his son’s in his two-man tent and me with my son and Scott’s other son in our three-man tent. After some rough-housing and storytelling we all fell asleep.

I love sleeping outside. The air, the sounds and the environment. There is not much more relaxing sleep than in the middle of nowhere in a tent.

The boys woke us all up at 6:30 the next morning and we were full speed with campfire, bagels and coffee cakes right away.
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