A couple of months ago I picked up one of those Quadcopters from DJI that you have heard about in the news recently. The “media” likes to refer to them as drones, so they have a much more exciting & negative association. The media would have you believe that these things will be buzzing outside your window, snooping in on every conversation you are having, and threatening world humanity as we know it. In reality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. These machines are just plain FUN toys. If you attach a decent GoPro camera, have a small bit of patience(acceptance of failing at first), you can capture some of the coolest video footage that would otherwise cost you the price of whatever it takes to rent a helicopter.
Here is a quick snippet of some footage I captured recently just testing some things out.
A couple of things that I have learned so far:
Practice Practice Practice! Don’t think that you will be flying around buildings and other objects right off the bat. Find an open field and practice there for at least a month. Otherwise, you will either crash your quadcopter, or you will hurt somebody else.
Don’t try so hard to fly low around cool trees, etc. You’ll just crash. Fly high, above the trees, there’s plenty of room above the trees.
Understand that most of your crashes are self-induced. No need to bash the manufacturer. Just admit that you suck at flying at first and practice getting better.
Landing: Don’t worry about landing. Just let the drone( I mean quad) hover at about eye level, and just grab it by the landing skids, and throttle down. Landing is just an opportunity to crash or drive the props into the ground.
Take-off: Take off from a grassy surface or field, if at all possible. If you lose the signal and you fail back to the fly-home feature, I would rather the quad fly back and land in a field, rather than a parking lot. Just another opportunity to crash.
Don’t fly over people. I know, you can probably capture cool video at an event, but just imagine if things go wrong.
Fly early in the morning. The light is better for video at this time of day. There are less people out and about (see #6). In my area, wind is usually minimized as well. This is a great time to practice.
Update your firmware on your Quad. DJI is often fixing things in software. So if you are noticing problems with the way your Quad flies, it can likely be fixed with a firmware upgrade, or you just suck at flying(See #3)….and Practice.
Re-calibrate from time to time. When you take off, try to hover about 20 feet in the air. If your Quad cannot hold this position, and starts drifting off while in GPS mode, you should try re-calibrating using the DJI software. Else, when DJI says you may experience unpredictable flights, just know that this means you will crash into something.
Have Fun! By all means. Just get out there and have fun practicing.
Lightning has always fascinated me. Every time I see a big lightning strike, I am wondering if anyone else saw it. The flash of light and the strike is so momentary. Illuminating for split second and then forever forgotten….that is, unless said lightning hits the Pecan tree in your front yard and creates are gnarly scorched, burnt stripe all the way down to the ground.
Recently, Ann and I were across the river from Bath, NC when this spectacular light show of storms was rolling through. The view was perfect. We were on the south side of the Pamlico River, and there was a ribbon of storms skirting over the north side of the river. We had a clear line of sight across the open water.
Here is what we captured.
I only had my camera phone with me at the time, so some of the shots are a little grainy. But, I’m not sure if my handycam would have been any better, as it has a tendency to keep auto-focusing, especially as it is getting dark.
The below picture is the saddest picture of my bike you will ever see. It’s almost embarrassing. Look closely… there are no pedals. The pedals have been resting in a ziploc baggie since late June….of 2013. The last time I rode my bike was in Coeur D’Alene Idaho, but it was awesome!
In the days and months since, I had this crazy idea to see how fast I could race a marathon. Not just run it, but race it. So that is exactly what I did for the next 286 days. I’ve always had this idea of someday qualifying & running in the Boston Marathon, preferably before age 40. So, I created a plan based off several of Hal Higdon’s Plans. This was a 6 day per week plan for 20 straight weeks. In the past I honestly didn’t want to train as hard as it would take to qualify for Boston. This year I decided would be different. The Line was drawn. The time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec. I think I only missed 2 days of training.
Things that changed over the next 286 days of running:
I didn’t really worry at all about Heart Rate Monitoring, Zones, etc.
The only thing that mattered was getting to where I could run a marathon in 3:10:00, averaging 7:10 pace.
I focused on running much slower on my long runs.
I focused on running much faster on my short runs/hill repeats, intervals.
I had more fun. Long gone were the death march long runs. I knew I could complete distance. My motivation was on the speed workouts, hill repeats, etc. I looked forward to it.
I had a near catastrophe on race morning. Driving downtown on race morning, I was only 4-5 blocks from race start line when I realized I had totally forgotten to grab my race nutrition and put in my gear bag. For a split second, I contemplated the possibility of running without nutrition. I put the car in reverse and drove backwards up the exit ramp shoulder in standing traffic back onto Western Blvd. A quick couple of sketchy U-turns and I was heading back home to grab my EFS nutrition out of the fridge. Long story short, I parked at a church and quickly jogged about 1 mile to the starting line, arriving with under 2 min prior to start time.
So, typically it works best if I break things down into chunks. For a marathon it helps if I split it up into 4 x 6.55 mile segments. Mentally it’s just easier; and easier from a pacing standpoint to correct things if your pace starts to slip. So at each split, I just reset to target my goal pace.
First 6.55 Miles: 7:05 Pace, Check!
Second 6.55 Miles: 7:14 Pace, Check!….Avg 7:09
Third 6.55 Miles: 7:30 Pace, Oh Damn, trouble ahead! Trouble with math at this point….Avg 7:15ish pace. Need to push the last 6.55
Fourth 6.55 Miles:7:37 Pace. No!!!! You can see how relatively smooth my heart rate was during the first 3 splits. I pushed a bit harder from mile 19-22 to try and get back on pace. At about 22 miles in, the wheels start to fall off. At this point I was in a real situation…heart rate was dropping even as I tried to run faster, then I would slow down, and my heart rate would elevate, just like a yo-yo. In short, I was bonking. I took my remaining salt tablets, electrolytes, and a gulp of some sugary sports drink from the nearest aid station.
Somewhere around mile 23-24, the 3:15:00 pace runner passed by me. He asked if I needed a pacer. I said yes, and said I was shooting for 3:10:00 (even though I knew this was evaporating before the road in front of me. He picked up the pace, and I went with. A short but agonizing 2-3 miles later I rounded the corner and saw the finish line ahead. The clock was ticking 3:13:XX and change. 3:10:00 was out(total Boston bummer) today, but my old PR of 3:16:13 from 1998 was going down today!
Finish Time was 3:13:53, Woot! Good enough for a top 3 in my age group, 25th Overall.
After the race I double-checked the Boston Qualifying Website and noticed in the fine print that the qualifying times for Boston are based on the age that you will be on the race day of the Boston Marathon in which you are attempting to qualify. As luck would have it, I will clicking the big 4-0 this year. So, I thought my time to beat was 3hrs 10min 00sec (for 35-39 year olds on race day). But, for 40-44 year olds(on race day), the time to beat is actually 3hrs 15min 00sec. GOAL!!!
The last three months I have been incredibly busy with work, so I have not had much time to post anything. I’m not complaining, as I don’t handle boredom very well. In addition, over the last 4 months we have spent pretty much every weekend at the coast, fixing one thing or another at the Anntique. I tried to keep my camera by my side or close by if at all possible. Many times I would just set the camera up for timelapse, and continue working on whatever project(hard manual labor) was underway. Every once in a while, I would end of up with a sequence that was a keeper. There was even an instant where a bear came within 20 feet of the house.
After recording several hours of video, and thousands of photos, here are the 4 minutes that turned out pretty good.
After three days at Yellowstone, we headed south for about an hour into Grand Teton National Park. This country was simply stunning. I can’t really describe the things we saw in a way that would do any justice.
I nearly drove off the road on numerous occasions because I just could not stop looking at the mountains in the distance. The view was spectacular.
Once I got my head around the incredible views of the mountains, I started to look closer and notice all of the wildflowers in bloom right under my feet. This was not planted for show in someone’s garden, but rather just a wide open prairie. Everywhere you looked seemed to be straight out of a postcard. The mountains were perfectly placed in the background with the colorful valley below with all of the flowers in bloom.
Hiking one of the trails near Jenny Lake. Perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen. When I saw this, I just wanted to jump in and swim all afternoon.
This was taken from the old empty Cunningham Cabin. Makes you wonder why one would ever leave a cabin empty with a view like this.
All in all, we drove about 2000 miles(and flew another 5k) in our little rental car and hiked/walked whenever we felt like it was a good area. I am really happy I was able to see the Northwest part of the United States, though I still want to check out Washington, Oregon, and check out more of the Pacific Coast. We still need to figure out a way to explore Utah at some point as well.
I hope everyone enjoyed the pictures/video. We sure did.
After three days at Glacier, we had to pull ourselves away and convince each other that there were other cool places to see outside of northern Montana. So we loaded up the rental car with all of our gear and headed on the seven hour drive south to Yellowstone National Park. I failed to mention earlier that part of our rental car excitement in Glacier National Park included a boulder rolling down the mountain and smashing into the car as we were driving on one of those windy narrow roads. The scary part wasn’t so much the microwave size boulder that hit the side of the car, but rather not knowing if there were other rocks hurtling down the mountain towards you at the same time. Lucky for us it was just the single boulder and not too much damage to the car.
Anyway, eventually we arrived at Yellowstone, and here are some of the amazing things we saw.
Yellowstone is one of those places that has something for everyone. Tons of wildlife to see, beautiful river canyons with waterfalls, open views that are hard to imagine, and the world’s largest collection of geysers.
Here are a couple of random pictures that turned out well
I was kind of surprised by how tame much of the wildlife was. They didn’t seem to care in the slightest about people walking by. This elk just plopped down in the grass on the side of the road.
Honestly, my favorite part was looking at all the geothermal areas of Yellowstone. I expected to see geysers, because everyone has heard of Old Faithful. But I didn’t expect to see so many hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. These things were everywhere, and they are constantly changing. Walking around here and seeing the contrast in colors was like being on another planet.
The day after Ironman Coeur D’Alene, we packed up the rental car and headed Northeast for about 4-5 hours to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. The drive through northern Idaho and Montana was great, but nothing like what we saw when we arrived at Glacier. There is a spectacular road that basically traverses the park called Going-to-the-Sun Road. Lucky for us, this road was just opened about a week prior after plowing all of the winter snowfall for the year. This road is an incredible scenic drive and has some of the most dramatic mountain views I have ever seen. The road is only open for 3-4 months out of the year.
Below is some of what we saw along the way over the next 3 days.
Most of the park sits in the 7000-8000 foot range. Not too bad in terms of hiking, but we were a little fatigued in the first few days after the Ironman just walking up gentle inclines. But who cares, we weren’t in any hurry. The thing I found so interesting about this place is how dramatically different it is from one side of the park to the other.
First, on the western side you have dense evergreen forest like you seen in the Pacific Northwest.
Next, you can drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Western side to the Northeastern side. On the way, you cross over the Continental Divide(Logan Pass ~8000ft), where you still have significant amounts of snow on the ground. This is only about 30-45 minutes away. Quite a bit colder and at least a foot or two of snow on the ground. This area is much like the Colorado Rockies.
Once you get down to the other side to a place called St. Mary, you can go to two other parts of Glacier National Park. If you drive south about 30-45 minutes towards Two Medicine, the climate and the scenery change to that of the open prairies of Montana. Just amazing…open…vastness(and lots of wildlife).
However, if you drive north 30-45 minutes, towards Many Glacier, the climate and scenery change back from prairies to that of the Colorado Rockies.
We spent almost three days at Glacier driving and hiking all over the place. The first day and a half it seemed to rain quite a bit, but I really didn’t mind at all. It was fascinating to see how fast the clouds would roll in, dump some rain and wind, and then clear right up in 30 minutes. This would repeat itself over and over, rain, wind, sun, etc. I guess this was the last stand of spring as the rains were finally giving way to the summer sun and warmer temperatures. In the days after we left, I heard that the skies were clear and that the Northern Lights were really starting to fire up. We’ll have to make a special trip back some day.
Race Day finally arrived1 There’s only a couple things we do before a race. Eat breakfast, and get our mindset right. I found this video a couple of years ago, and for some reason it does the trick for me. I know it’s over the top, but it makes me think of all the great coaches that I’ve had in my lifetime(I’ve been lucky). The best coaches are those that really know how to motivate you above and beyond your potential. Thank you to any coach who has ever been tasked with coaching me.
We headed down to the swim start area with 2700+ other athletes to attempt to warm up in the chilly Lake Coeur d’Alene waters. After a couple out and backs it was time to make our way to the starting corral around 6:25a.m. I kissed Ann and gave her a big hug and made my way to the front line. I was thinking 6:30a.m. was the start time, so the next 5 minutes was agonizing….
Swim: “If I see an opportunity, I am going try and break 1 hour.”
Suddenly the race started and we all just started sprinting through the race chute to the water. I went wide right from the onset on this counterclockwise course. I wanted to be far outside of the pack for the first 900 yds. to the first turn buoy so I could get into a rhythm and avoid the blender of arms and legs. I kept only the farthest buoy in my sight and kept heading directly towards that from the outside. I took the first turn about 5-10yds wide on purpose, then proceeded to the second buoy. As I approached the second buoy, I saw a gap between swimmers, and cut through to pass the 2nd buoy touching my left hand as I passed by. Then it was a straight shot back to the shore for the end of the first of 2 laps. I eventually exited the water, passed the timing matt, and looked down at my watch. 29 mins! Ok, “just chill’, I thought. Same thing second lap….stay a bit wide(but not as wide as the first lap), and just get back into a rhythm. First turn buoy, no problem. Second turn buoy, “go hard”, I thought. There was plenty of open water in front and a direct line back to the swim finish. I increased my effort a little but not so much that I was going to regret it later. I exited the water, crossed the timing mat for the 2nd time, looked down and saw 58: something. Sweet!! This was my first time going under 1 hour.
Swim: 58:52 1st PR of the day!
I was a little disoriented from the up and down motion in the water and the chilly temperature of the water. I made it through the wetsuit strippers in about 3 seconds, grabbed my gear bag for the bike, ran into the change tent, put on bike shoes, helmet, all very fast. I think my total transition time from water to bike was about 3 minutes, definitely my fastest yet.
Bike: “Just focus on wattage and nutrition. Go hard if I still have the legs after 80 miles.”
Well Crap… As I turned onto Sherman Ave to head out of town, I looked down and saw that I had somehow lost 2 bottles of nutrition during the first quarter mile. I only had one bottle of nutrition on board, and 2 more waiting at mile 60ish…..I needed 5 bottles total.
Note to Self: If you ever do one of these races, just realize that the day is long and everything will not go exactly as planned. It’s not a crisis, and your day is not over. You just have to problem solve and find the best solution to the current situation.
I don’t remember too much about the bike. I was so focused on having a solid bike split that I just tuned out everything. My only focus was my wattage and nutrition. I was feeling like it was a real effort to keep things in the 190w-200w range instead of the 200w-220w range. I was light on the pedals going up the hills and passing plenty of folks, but they just seemed to drag on, and I was starting get a stitch in my side. I figured this was from the new untested food onboard at this point. I just wasn’t hitting the the 20, 40 mile markers where I thought I should dreamed I could. Somewhere near the end of the first 56 miles I realized mentally that I was just slowly working my way into a funk. I had to let all of that negative thought just go.
New outlook: I am racing an Ironman! I am biking in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. I have an endless buffet of food and pretty much a closed bike course. It’s sunny and 70F with no humidity. So I just put on a smile and kept spinning. Slowly all the negative worries about wattage and stomach cramps disappeared. Instead I noticed the Indians from the local tribe beating their drums to help you climb the hills. I noticed the awesome bagpipes(loved this) playing on the next steep climb. I noticed the incredible farmland country in the mountains that I was biking through. I noticed the totally awesome 2.5 mile down hill that I was getting ready to fly down like it was the worlds largest roller coaster. Woop Woop! I used every gear I had, until I spun out. It was exhilarating.
Coming back into town on the bike was the best crowd reception that I have ever seen during an Ironman. The local news station was expecting huge crowds(nearly 30k), and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Going down the main street to start the second lap was standing room only behind the barricades. We were zipping through town on our bikes so fast, I was actually a little worried of a wayward kid or a dog stepping out onto the street. Traffic control was awesome! Crowd was awesome! Lets do this! More bagpipes please. I kept up this outlook for the 2nd lap even though I knew nutrition was starting to be a problem.
Bike 5:50:33 2nd PR of the day.
I don’t remember this. I’ve become pretty fast at transitions by keeping every item I need in a big Ziploc baggie. So all I do is put on my running shoes and run out of the change tent with my Ziploc. I’ve got my hat, race belt, nutrition, and emergency stuff all in smaller snack size bags. So I just grab and go and sort it all out while I’m running. About 2 minutes.
Run: “Run fast early, because you sure won’t run fast later.”
As I looked down at my watch I saw that I was under 7 hours by about 5-10 minutes. My first thought was, “I’ve got this…Today I’m going under 11 hours.” My second thought was, “Don’t be a jackass..You have 26.2 miles to run with some serious hills….Anything can happen.” I started out feeling pretty good. I was actually running at about 7:40 pace for the first 2.5 miles. I knew I would eventually slow down significantly, but I wanted to get as many quick miles in as possible before the suffering set in too much. Sooner than expected(probably about mile 5) the suffering showed up and started to camp out in my head. I usually hit this point at mile 16-19. I was starting to feel really nauseous, like I was going to vomit.
Repeat Note to Self: If you ever do one of these races, just realize that the day is long and everything will not go exactly as planned. It’s not a crisis, and your day is not over. You just have to problem solve and find the best solution to the current situation.
Sub Note to self: Pack an “Oh No” baggie with Anti-Vomit(Tums), Anti-Crap(Imodium), Anti-Pain(Advil), and Anti-etc(sh*t happens)…and whatever else you can think of.
So I hit mile 5 feeling like I was just going to hurl. I chewed one of the six Tums that I had with me, and a sip of Coke(yep, not good, started Coke at mile 5). This calmed things down after about 5 minutes as I tried to keep my pace up. After another mile or two I was so nauseous again that I just could not take in any more EFS Liquid Shots or I would surely lose it. I switched over to Ann’s routine, which is 1 pretzel and 1 sip of fluid every mile. This seemed to be palatable until it wasn’t, so I would then chew another Tums to calm things down. This whole time my mind is waging absolute war with myself. On the one hand, I’m telling myself to just walk, because that’s the only way for the nausea to pass. On the other hand my mind is yelling HOLD!!!! DO NOT WALK. YOU CAN ONLY WALK FOR 10 SECONDS AT THE AID STATIONS. WE ALREADY DISCUSSED THIS. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. EXPECT THE PAIN AND USE IT…HOLD ONTO IT!!….Back and forth, with the mind games…I run and do not walk. My stake in the ground is to concentrate on keeping my cadence at 92 and my pace as close to 9 min miles(under the 11 hour mark) as possible.
At the end of the first lap you go through downtown Coeur D’Alene again. The feeling is so intense through here. You can see and taste the finish. The crowds are really pushing you on. Their loved ones are out on the course as well and they’re hoping everything is ok. The music is loud, intense, rib thumping…You can’t possibly quit in this section or the shame would overwhelm you for the rest of your life.
For the second lap I made sure that I gave out high fives and fist bumps to anyone that was offering. I went through 6 chewable Tums throughout the marathon portion, but it actually was enough to keep everything down(until 1 hour after the race). Around mile 23, I saw Ann, or rather Ann saw me and yelled. I was so delirious at this point, but so relieved to see her. I hadn’t seen Ann in several hours since the middle of the bike course. She was smiling, which made me smile. We will both finish today, no matter what, and I knew it.
Mile 24, huge seizing cramps in my adductor muscles in the front of my hips. “Don’t blow it now”, I thought. I took every salt tablet I had left at that moment(4), and a sip of water and Coke. Go, Go, Go…Have to keep running to be under 11 hours. Eventually, I rounded the last corner to see the finish line straight down Sherman Ave about a 1/2 mile away. I looked down at my watch and read about 10:49:00. I was good to go. I slowed down to take in the moment. I was going to be under 11 hours and I didn’t care in the slightest by how much.
Run: 3:56:34 3rd PR of the Day(barely)
Finish: 10:51:17 new PR by 12 minutes.
Finally, I broke the elusive 11 hours(for me) barrier. So happy I was able to PR on the hardest course I’ve ever done. Ann was able to finish her 3rd Ironman after some severe motion sickness for 2 hours in the cool, choppy Coeur D’Alene waters. I honestly don’t know how she overcame that to even start the bike course. One of these days, she’ll have a race that goes like clockwork, and she’ll knock 3 hours off her time. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store.
"If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse." – Jim Rohn
Ironman Coeur D’Alene! We are just a couple of days from doing this, and I can’t wait. We are both 100% healthy. We are both fit. We’ve managed to keep the bike tires on the pavement, despite all the rain, hail, wind(oh the wind), and sleet this year. No running injuries, no swimming mishaps, and no dog bites. Just lots of solid, intense training.
For those newcomers that don’t know what an Ironman is, here is the deal:
Swim 2.4 miles(about 60-90 minutes of swimming hard)
Bike 112 miles(6-7 hours of biking hard – no drafting)
Run 26.2 miles(A full marathon, this can take anywhere from 3-5 hours depending out how hard you ride the 112 miles)
The vast majority of the participants fall somewhere in the 11:00:00 – 14:00:00 hour time. The cut-off is 17:00 hours(midnight), and not everyone finishes. The last 30 minutes before midnight is the highlight of the race, as EVERYONE cheers on those trying to beat the cutoff. This is where you see the amazing human spirit.
Outside of these distances that must be covered, there are numerous things(See !@#$ happens) that can go wrong. For example:
Someone could get tangled up in your zip-chord on your wetsuit during the 2.4 mile swim, unzipping your wetsuit and filling up with water…not good.
Someone could fall off their bike onto your bike, knocking your wheel off in the process before you even start the 112mile ride.
You could get stung by a bee that is stuck in your sleeve while descending at 40 miles an hour on the bike. That same bee could be so pissed off for being stuck in your sleeve, that it stings you 3 more times just for spite.
You could be forced to take 2 Benadryl because of said bee incident. Have you ever tried to bike 112 miles after taking 2 Benadryl?
It could also monsoon rain on you for 18+ miles of the 26.2 mile marathon.
All of this actually happened to Ann last year, during Ironman Mont-Tremblant. At some point, the obstacle becomes the path. She’s the toughest person I know.
The race is this Sunday 6/23 at 6:30a.m. Pacific. We’ll hopefully finish anywhere between 5pm-10pm_PAC. We will be joined by 2800 athletes from over 50 countries. If you would like to see how we are doing, you can go to the following site throughout the day:
Ironmanlive.com (click “Ironman Coeur D’Alene” link or "Live Race Coverage")
Jeff’s Bib# 1532
Ann’s Bib# 732
Just finishing one of these things is an unforgettable experience. As long as Ann and I can safely finish the swim and bike without incident, nothing else matters. We can both walk 26.2 miles if needed to finish.
It’s tricky to throw out numbers for something 140.6 miles long. But, I feel if you don’t state goals out loud, they’re not likely to happen. Last year my stretch goal was to break 11:00:00 hours. I came oh so close at 11:03:00. I was happy with my time but still really wanted to break 11:00:00. This season, I still want to break 11:00:00 hours. THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN. But I don’t want to just barely squeak by. I’ve trained way too hard this year to simply shave off 3 minutes. So here are my real goals that I haven’t told anyone out loud:
Swim: 0:59:00. Break 1 hour on the 2.4 mile swim. I’ve never done this before, but I’ve been really, really close.
T1 – 5 min(Not sure how far away the transition area is)
If you would have asked me 12-14 years ago if there would ever be an Ironman event in Raleigh, I would have said you are crazy. It’s funny how things change. Raleigh used to be a sleepy little medium sized city with the State capital and a few universities. Today, Raleigh seems to always be on the top 3 list of best places to live/work in the country.
I was excited when Ironman made the announcement that they were coming to Raleigh. Then I was bummed when I learned it was 3 weeks out from Ironman Coeur D’Alene. No race for me, but lots of good opportunities for spectating. I really enjoyed seeing all of the familiar faces.
Here’s what I captured
After being on the spectator side of the fence for this race, I really have a better appreciation for all of the coordination/planning it takes to put on an event of this length. When you factor in Police, EMS, volunteers, Aid Stations, Water safety personnel, road closures, etc…and then spread that out over 70.3 miles covering 2 counties, you’ve got plenty of opportunities for problems. From what I could tell, everything went flawlessly.