2011 Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

Last weekend was the 7th Annual Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. This is a race I’d done back in 2008 and 2009 (didn’t do it in 2010 because that’s when I trained for a triathlon), so I knew what I was getting myself into… and that’s exactly why I was excited to do this race when I first signed up with my team a few months ago.

When Jason, teammate from the 2008 RTO, reached out to me asking if I wanted to put together a team for this year, I said yes (of course!!), and our team ended up including some classic teammates from before and some new faces – who were also first time RTO runners.

A quick breakdown of how the Odyssey works out:
It’s a 178 mile course, broken down in 36 legs. There are 12 runners per team, which makes each runner run 3 legs. I was runner number 11, which meant I was going to run legs 11, 23 and 35.
Now, there are usually 2 vans per team: on the first van go runners 1 to 6, and on the second van go runners 7 to 12. While one van is out running their legs, the other van is resting (sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, gambling in a casino). This is repeated until runner 12 runs his last leg (leg 36), and there is much rejoicing afterwards.

The Tater Trots (that’s our team’s name!) started the race at 11:30am on Friday. Since I was on the second van, after cheering at the start line when Jason took off, we had some time to kill. We decided to invest into some quality carbo loading at my favorite pizza place in Reno, Eclipse. We then spent some time decorating the van, and baking some Tater Tots to have as a quick snack on the road. We absolutely needed to have those!

At around 3:45pm, John took off with leg #7, his and our van’s first. John was a last-minute addition to our team, filling in for some last minute drop-outs, but he had just ran a half-marathon, so we knew his legs could stand the challenge. However, his first section of the run wasn’t easy, and when he finished climbing the hill I wondered if he was about to call a cab and tell us all off. I’m happy to report that this did not happen! John instead proceeded to kick ass and very gracefully finish his leg well before his projected time.

Next runner up was Marlaina, who was also a last-minute addition. She is a co-worker, and when I needed to fill in another hole in our roster, I immediately asked her to join us. In fact, when I asked her, she had just run a 50-mile race the previous weekend, and he calves and ankles were all sorts of bruised and sore… after I described the RTO to her, she smiled and said yes! Anyway, she is obviously one tough cookie, and she made a breeze out of her leg. I knew what she was going through, because I was runner #8 when I did the RTO for the first time in 2008. I’ll just say that Marlaina did much better than I did.

After Marlaina, it was Nicolle Morrison’s turn. This was something I was really looking forward to seeing, since Nicolle was a star runner in her youth, and she picked running back up when I invited her and her husband. She even kept a very fun to read blog about it all, here: http://theroguerunner.blogspot.com/
Her first leg started a little abruptly, because we barely made it in time to the exchange point before Marlaina finished her leg, but Nicolle made lemonade out of this. Since she was running along CA-89, it was pretty easy to drive the van to points where we could see her run. It was particularly enjoyable to see her set her sights on a runner ahead, and soon after sailing past the competition. It was only the beginning of the multiple roadkills she was about to rack in.

Mr. Steve James was runner #10, and he went for his run at 5:48pm. Steve is an avid cyclist, and told everyone that he wasn’t going to be a big asset to the team. Whatever, there’s one thing that is certain about Steve: he’s a big sandbagger! See, we had a spreadsheet with everyone’s distances and their estimated pace, and with some very basic math, you can project how long someone is going to take to cover a certain distance. Steve was supposed to run his leg in about 49 minutes. He brought it in after only 41:25!

My turn was next. I was ready and eager. I used my iPhone with the Nike+ GPS App, so you can see some of my run info here: http://nikerunning.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikeplus/en_US/plus/#//runs/detail/408105819/972367474/all/allRuns/. However, the GPS or the watch must have been off by a bit, because my “official” time was 41 minutes, 54 seconds for 5.3 miles, which brought me in at an average of 7:54 minutes/mile, which was a good 20 seconds faster than my target pace. Yay!
My run was pretty awesome. The course was the little bike path that goes from Squaw valley into north Tahoe, which is very scenic and separated from vehicular traffic. Right after the exchange, and no less than a few minutes of me starting my run, I passed two girls. Getting a roadkill is a pretty nice boost, and having two of them is even nicer!
I ended up passing a total of 5 people in my leg, which made me feel pretty damn good about myself. I loved feeling fast yet smooth, and even though I forgot to bring my heart-rate monitor for the race, I was at the top of my comfortable zone, and I maintained that throughout the whole thing without problems. A+ run, would run again.

When I finished my leg came another moment I had been looking forward to a lot. My handoff was to Don Morrison, a good friend of mine of a few years now. Don tells me I’ve influenced him by inspiring him to run, and that it’s because of me that he has discovered something he enjoys.
I’m not sure when, but it was over a year ago, I told him about the Couch-to-5k running plan. He stuck to the plan and has been running since. We’ve done a couple of the Run Amuck mud races together, so I had already gotten to enjoy his company while running, but this RTO was going to be something bigger, something much more difficult and competitive for him, so I had been thinking about this moment for a while… and then, it happened:
I handed off the baton to Don, and he was off! He got to run next to Lake Tahoe, with snow-capped in the distance (which was actually very near, it was cold!). He looked great, specially with his bright running shoes and the fancy reflective safety vest.
As customary with everyone else, we pulled the van over 3 or 4 times along the way of his leg, to cheer him on and hand him water (and take some pictures!). Every time Don swooshed by, I smiled.

After Don’s leg was over, Van 2 took off towards South Lake Tahoe for some food and rest. We almost slept through all the phone calls from Van 1, but we made it to the van exchange point at almost midnight, and we did it all over again!
John climbed all the way to the top of Kingsbury grade, which is one brutal way of waking up from 45 minutes of sleep. Marlaina and Nicolle flew down the other side of Kingsbury grade into the Carson Valley, beating their estimated times by over 10 minutes each. It was amazing. Steve coasted on his leg and into Genoa, where I was waiting for him… inside a Porta-Potty.

I walked out of the dark and cold  (but clean!) portable bathroom at around 2:27am. I figured that since I was about to go on my leg, I’d trot on over to the start line… where all of a sudden I saw all of my teammates waiting for me! I had apparently taken a little too long to go pee  (but that’s because I did more than just pee) and I just switched it from warm-up trot to cruising speed. Once again, here’s the Nike+ info: http://nikerunning.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikeplus/en_US/plus/#//runs/detail/408105819/1039314567/all/allRuns/. This time, the fancy iPhone app clocked everything in right, and I did indeed run for 6.1 miles in the middle of the night, with an average of 8:47/mile.
Running in the dark is pretty fun. My headlamp gives me a strange goggle-effect, where my eyebrows cast a shadow around the bottom of eyes, and it feels like I’ve got blinders on. Regardless of that small annoyance, it’s a fun time: All you can hear is your own breathing and the constant sound of your footsteps. It’s easy to fall into a trance, a zen meditative state, where all you do is put one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible, and rhythmically take air in, push air out.
The only distractions from this”zone” happen when a team van drives by, or when you catch up to an unsuspecting runner. I passed 5 or 6 people in this leg, and I’m pretty sure I startled at least a couple of them because they were in the trance themselves!
Anyway, this leg ended with a long and smooth uphill that I wasn’t mentally prepared for. I felt very slow going up, but I eventually made it, covered in sweat even though it was probably in the low 40s outside.

After Don ran his leg – which happened to be a 5k, and also happened to be his fastest 5k time ever – we were ready to get some rest. Lucky for us, old teammate Nate has a little farmhouse just 5 minutes away from where we finished, so we headed there to crash on his quiet lot.
Well, that was the plan anyway. What really ended up happening was that Nate cooked some awesome waffles and Steve, John and me talked to him for over an hour while Don, Nicolle and Marlaina slept in the van. When we realized that we had about 45 minutes left before we were going to have to get going, we got in our sleeping bags and snoozed a little bit.
Funny story about Nate: He was originally supposed to run in the RTO with us this year, but had to drop out. His was one of the holes that John and Marlaina filled. I didn’t ask him why he didn’t run the RTO, but I can only assume it had to do with him wanting to be with his baby boy… or the fact that Saturday was his birthday! Yes, the same day that he woke up at 4am to make us waffles and let us sleep on his porch! We were all oblivious about this detail until after the fact, but it just went to show what a class-A gentleman Nate is: he welcomed us, treated us to a delicious and nutritious homecooked breakfast, and went back to sleep when we left. Yowza! Thank you, Nate! I hope you had a great birthday!!

At 7am on Saturday, we were in good old Virginia City, ready to get started with the last 1/6th of the course. The weather was particularly unwelcoming then and there. The cold temperatures from the last 24 hours had now been joined by some pretty strong winds, which definitely made more than a few bones shiver as we waited for Joe Dito, who was running his and his van’s last leg. By the way, Joe has ran in every one of the 7 Reno-Tahoe Odysseys! He’s a super cool guy to know.

Poor John had to run some more hills on his last stretch, but at least he did get to squeeze in some flats and downhills in this one! And once again, Marlaina and Nicolle had a feast with their downhills on Geiger Grade. By the time Steve’s turn came, we were at the very south-east end of town, on the valley floor, and bringing in it. Calculations were starting to happen, it was 8:45 when Steve took off, and if we finished before 11:30am, we’d be done in less than 24 hours, which is a pretty awesome little accomplishment. Steve, me and Don had to nail our runs, and we’d clock in at exactly 24 hours… but we each had some pretty long distances to cover, and we were tired. It was going to be difficult.

Sandbag James once again ran it in well below the estimated time, and sporting a smile from start to finish. He handed off the baton to me, where I was to start my final leg of 6.2 miles (a 10K!).
Here’s the Nike info:  http://nikerunning.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikeplus/en_US/plus/#//runs/detail/408105819/1576358416/all/allRuns/

My run started off pretty well. There was a girl in front of me setting a pretty mean pace of about 7:45/mile. I figured I’d hang on and just try to keep up with her, and see if I could push it harder for the last stretch. But my strategy went to hell after about 10 minutes, when my stomach turned into a knot and I felt a combination of a sideache and a few shoryukens. I decided to let the girl go, and slowed down the pace a bit.
My legs were starting to burn too, with a particular focus on my quads. I didn’t want to slow down anymore, so I swallowed up a PowerBar gel…. and while that helped my legs feel better, it didn’t help my stomach situation. When the guys in the van offered me some gatorade, I asked for water instead, because I couldn’t take in anything else with any kind of flavor. The water helped, and it was just a matter of pushing through the grossed-out feeling until it went away, or until I was done running.
The run went on for what felt like forever. If it wasn’t for my iPhone telling me every 5 minutes how I was doing, I would have thought I was dragging ass. It turns out, even with all the discomfort, I was doing alright, just a little bit above my projected pace.
When I turned into Lakeside, I knew I was close to done. I had to run up Windy Hill, and then it was literally downhill from there. So, inspired by the HTFU mantra, I pushed it. I climbed Windy Hill with what I felt was a respectable pace, and as soon as I got to a parallel, I turned on the jets and went as fast as I possibly could. I know I was tired, but it definitely felt like I was going faster than 7 min/miles, and that was good enough for me to finish once and for all, and feel proud of my effort.
I ended up running the think in 53 minutes, which put me in at an average of 8:32/mile for my leg 35, and I was (and still am!) OK with that.

Don took it from there, and he had exactly an hour to do his 5.4 mile leg. And that, he did. In fact, he ran it in less than 50 minutes, which brought us in with an official finish time of 23:48:52, which put our team in 23rd place out of 204 teams.

When Don crossed the finish line, I gave him a big hug, and words failed me at the moment and all I said was “good job”. I have since then corrected this and told him how proud I was of him and his performance, and that it meant a lot to me to have him (and his wife!) on my team.

But instead of having sweet emotional conversations, we did what everyone should do after finishing the RTO: We got our team picture taken, we received our medals, we exchanged high-fives, and eventually all went on our separate ways.
Regardless of goals broken, or how many roadkills we got, or how awesome John’s hair looks in all the pictures, there’s one thing that assures me that this year’s RTO was a success: As soon as we finished, everyone started talking about next year.


MOvember 2010

For the 4th year in a row, I’m growing a moustache during Movember (the month dedicated to growing a Mo to raise funds and awareness towards prostate and testicular cancer).

On the 1st of the month, I shaved off the goatee I’d sported for the last 10+ months. Kelly was there supporting me, and she shed some tears as I immediately aged 15 years backward and I looked 13 all over again.

The whole point of this ridiculous effort is to get the word out about cancers that affect men. People ask about my looks, and my answer is clear: the hair above my lip is my ribbon in show of support for survivors, and my desire to find a cure and better treatment.

If you’d like to make a donation to the cause in the name of my Moustache, just click right here. Your donation is tax deductible, and will certainly be put to good use. It’s not just about giving men all across the globe an excuse to look dapperly handsome, the Movember foundation is certainly making positive outcomes a reality.

Last year, we started the City of ReMO team, and reached out to hundreds of citizens of our little city to raise just a bit over $11,000 for the cause. It was great, and we did a good job at getting the word out.
Building on what we did last year, this year the City of ReMO is a network of teams, covering over 400 people with one common goal: raising $25,000 in one month. As of this writing, we’re right on track, but check out the network’s official page to see the amount raised live: http://us.movember.com/mospace/network/remo.

This year I’ve been interviewed a lot, which has been fun! See for yourself:

  • I was on the “15 minutes” of the Reno News & Review.
  • The Nevada Sagebrush wrote a pretty good article, and I’m quoted there for yet another bit of immortality.
  • Chris Payne from 100.9 KRZQ FM hosted us for a 15 minute PSA that aired on a Sunday morning. It was great chance to spread some information, and you can listen to it here: http://tindeck.com/listen/egej.
  • Channel 2 news (KTVN) interviewed me and I was on TV three times on one day (slow news day, yay for me!). I can’t find the video up anymore, but a transcript of sorts is available right here.

The other cool side-note about Movember this year is that I’ve taken the opportunity to take some creative self-portraits. It’s been a lot of fun, getting goofy in front of my camera, and you can witness the full set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicoyogui/sets/72157625283171459/

Seriously, if you think any of this is interesting, cool, funny, innovative or worthwhile, please make a donation to the cause. Even though I put humor into it, it’s a serious fundraiser, and I’d appreciate your support of my efforts. Just go right here and donate what you can. Even a dollar makes a difference.

Donate to my silly Mo!

Movember 2009 recap

Well, Movember came and went, and it was awesome.

Our City of ReMO team kicked ass. When Don and I talked about Movember at the end of last year, we had a few things in mind:

  • Better planning and organization: Plan things in advance, spread the word, and try to make things run smoothly.
  • Bigger focus on the actual goal of Movember, and put the fun and good-looks on the second plane.
  • Raise a lot of money.
  • Reach out to more people in Reno.
  • Get local businesses involved.

It’s a big source of pride and accomplishment to be able to say that we can check all of those.

At the end of September, we laid out a list of things that we’d like to do, and we set our minds to make them happen. Before Movember officially started, we had a pretty well outlined calendar of what was going to happen, when and where. This helped us spread the word. This was a much better approach than planning things on the go, since most people make plans far in advance… So this year, we gave them notice, and the plans they made were to attend our events. Fantastic!

Talking about Men’s Health issues was easier than imagined, and it came naturally. When people asked us about Movember, it was the first thing we talked about. (The second thing was about how sexy we looked). I think this was in part because of our “experience” in the subject, and the conscious decision to focus on getting the word out.
Certainly, humor had its part and no talk about the actual reason behind Movember went without crude mentions of balls and assholes.

Our goal for this year was to raise $5000. At first, that seemed like a huge number, considering that last year we’d raised right about $1600. We figured that it was a good goal, a nice round number, and something that would definitely identify us as a “serious” group committed to the cause.
To our surprise and joy, the $5k mark was met before half of the month even passed, and this was before most of us even had decent moustaches to be asking for donations!
The first thought was to call it good and declare “Mission Accomplished!”, but we were just starting to gather steam and MOmentum, so we decided to step it up, and declare a new goal: $10,000. Ballsy move, one could say, but this was after all very much about the balls.
On the day 30, the $10k mark was met with much rejoice. The final number is yet to be computed, because of cash and check donations, but the accomplishment is there, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know that we made it. If $5000 was a lot of money, we raised two lots of money.

Last year, we felt that our efforts in reaching out were successful when Anthony joined our team. We didn’t know him, and he joined because he thought it was a good cause. Our “campaign” had transcended the circle of people that we knew, and I took that to be a very good thing.
This year, that effect snow balled. The members of our team kept growing and growing. I received an email when someone joined the team, and I remember being excited when it showed that we had 25 members in our team. Quickly after that, our total was up to 40 people. And fifty… and a hundred.
Who were these people? Some of the names sounded familiar, but there were many Anthonies. We even got David Bobzien to join. Way cool!

Eclipse Pizza joined us last year in our official team, and we knew we could count on them again for this year. But what we didn’t know was how well other businesses were going to receive the idea of teaming up, and the response was a very positive experience.
KRZQ (100.9 FM) gave us a lot of airtime with ads, and even put us on a show in the middle of the day! One of the owners of The Sierra Tap House, Zach, became very involved and helped us put together some very successful events. Shannon from SOAK Lounge invited us to her business which caters mainly to women, and organized a very creative and fun occasion. The Biggest Little City Club hosted us on a couple of different nights, and made us feel really good. We went to Butcher Boy for lunch, got Rockstar haircuts and had tons of fun bowling with a lot of the ReMO team at Starlite Lanes. The local restaurant Amendment 21 organized the Reno Beer Crawl with proceeds benefiting our cause, and promised to be a big helper next year.
Long story short: local businesses rocked our world. I’ll be making a longer write up about it all on the City of Remo website soon, so I’ll spare the details for that post.

On a personal note, none of this could have happened without Kelly’s support. Despite almost crying after seeing my clean shaven face after many months of sporting a goatee, she encouraged my efforts to make our team a successful one. As if putting up with a prickly upper lip wasn’t enough, she had to tolerate my distracted attention and need to be involved in a lot of things.
That is the job of a “Mo-Sista”, and she did it well without much reward. Rest assured, I’ll be making sure she knows how much I appreciate her.

Even more personal, and somewhat geeky: I was more or less “the” photographer of the things we did. I won’t be asking for money to take pictures anytime soon, but I’m pretty happy with the moments I captured in still images. Most of the pictures ended up on Facebook, if you’d like to see for yourself.
For the Stache-Bash (aka end of Movember party), I got to play with some fancy photo gear I borrowed from Mo-Bro Kyle Walker. The pictures from this event look specially good thanks to the lighting equipment and the improvised photo booth that I put together. It kind of made me want to have a flash and fancy umbrella to be able to do it more.
At any rate, I took pictures of my moustache growth on a semi-frequent basis, so if you’re ready to see how it all went, check it out right here:

Finally, I’d like to say thank you on a personal level to those who donated to Movember and “sponsored” my moustache. Thank you Kelly, Joan, Elinor, Kathy, Zach, Willie and Roger. My prostate and testicles appreciate it!

I was on the radio!

Today, Don and I went to one of our local radio stations in Reno (which also happens to be one of my favorites), KRZQ FM. They invited us over so that we could talk a little bit more about MOvember, and it ended up being more than just a little.

Don and I were there for more than just a little bit. We were on air for almost 24 minutes!
At first it was awkward knowing that my voice was being broadcast over the air, but after a bit I got over it, and it was just plain fun.

Did you miss it? Are you sad about it? Don’t be anymore, because you can listen to it below.

Movember 2009

For the 3rd year in a row (see 2007 and 2008), I’m going to do this:

  1. On the 1st of November MOvember, I will shave all facial hair.
  2. During the rest of the month, I will only allow hair to grow above the lip. Well, maybe just a tiny bit under the lip, but not on the chin.
  3. I will be asking for donations to “sponsor” my ridiculous appearance.
  4. Make a difference, and raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer.

Just like previous years, this is all happening in the Biggest Little City, the City of ReMO. My friend Don and I have been talking about this year’s Movember for a long time, and it looks like our efforts are paying off.
As of this writing, it’s not even MOvember 1st yet, but we have 56 members, and over $500 raised to benefit the Movember Foundation‘s partners: The Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (aka LIVESTRONG).
Our goal before this whole year started was to put Reno in the map by raising over $5000, but at this rate our hopes are shooting at double that figure.

Why am I doing this? It’s not about being irresistibly sexy anymore. I’m getting older, and 1 out of 6 men suffer from prostate cancer. This scares me, and I want to do something about it. Sure, I can eat right, exercise, and keep rodents away from my behind… but that would only go as far as making sure I’m one of the 5 guys out of the 6 that doesn’t get the cancers.
In other words, I do this so that the chances of a guy suffering from cancer hopefully diminish, and soon.

Day 25There’s certainly a fun factor to all of this, and that’s why we’ve planned lots of events with the City of ReMO that will keep people entertained. They are also secretly designed to have non-participants wonder why a group of 20+ men with moustaches are hanging out, with the ultimate goal of getting them involved by either raising awareness or funds -or even better, both.

A noble goal, with many pleasant side effects… all for the price of a shave, and looking like an ’80s porn star for a month.

Do you want to help? Awesome! Here’s what you can do:

  • Join MOvember. If you’re a guy, grow a Moustache. If you’re a lady, you can register anyway, and raise funds in honor of your favorite man.
    In Reno, the option is obvious. Register with the City of Remo: http://us.movember.com/register/799.
  • Make a donation (which is totally tax deductible, by the way). A dollar, ten, or a hundred, it all makes a difference, and gets us that much closer to a cure or a better treatment. You can donate with a credit card or paypal: http://us.movember.com/mospace/1753

If you’re interested, stay tuned to the City of ReMo’s feeds on Twitter and Facebook. I will post my daily shots on Flickr, and at the end of the month, I’ll share a sideshow for your enjoyment.

Pyramid Lake Triathlon

My new year’s resolution has been fulfilled! I wanted to do a triathlon, and I now have done so!

It happened on Saturday, August 1st 2009. The event was put on by the Reno Area Triathletes group, and it was a great experience for my first triathlon ever.

The race started at 8:30am, and the first stage was a half mile swim on Pyramid lake. The water was not cold at all, and it took me 18:30 minutes to finish it. I took it easy on this part, since I hadn’t really trained for swimming, and there were people that were going to swim all over me if I dared to pass someone. I attempted to freestyle, but the adrenaline and the inability to see exactly where I was going made it feel futile. I swam most of the time in a very peaceful breast stroke. By the end of the swim, my arms were quite tired.

Right after that, I had to get on my bicycle to ride for 14 miles. The course was on the road that goes around the lake, with a few rolling hills but nothing impossible. I managed to finish in 50:28 minutes, with an average speed of 16.6mph.
Quite a few people passed me on this stage, particularly on the uphill sections. I made myself not think about that, and I set my sights on a guy who was in front of me. My goal was to pass him by the half-way point, and to never see him again. And I did that.
It was hard for me to put a lot of weight on my hands because my triceps were burning. But I HTFU‘d  and kept on trucking. The second half of the ride I apparently found my spot, because I only passed a handful of people, and I only got passed by two.

The last part of the Tri was the run, so I rode my bike into the transition area, changed into my running shoes and headed out to the trail.
My legs felt like potato bags. I listened to my body and jogged. I didn’t run, but I certainly didn’t walk (because of HTFU, you know).
Slowly, my legs came back to me, and less than a mile in, I was feeling like I could run again. And run I did! I picked up the pace, and before I knew it I was catching up to people -and passing them.
The circuit was a little dirt trail that looped around. It was around 10am and the sun was already making things very hot. I was thirsty, I was sweaty and I was tired. But there was only a little bit more to go.
At the very end, just yards before the finish line, a lady was sprinting up to pass me. I wouldn’t have it, and I literally finished the race running as fast as I could, on a full-on sprint. The lady didn’t catch me, but neither did my breath, and I finished with a major side ache.
Oh well, that didn’t matter. I was done! After wiping some sweat of my brow, I looked up and found my time. I had beat my goal of finishing under 2 hours, and the pain was immediately replaced by feelings of accomplishment and self-pride.
The run course was 3 miles long, and I finished in 28:52 minutes. Not bad for having swam and ridden my bike earlier.

My official total time was 1:41:57.2. I finished 142nd (all the results are here), and I felt damn good doing it.

Some things to note for the next one:

  • I really should train in swimming. It had probably been years since I’d swam for more than 15 minutes without stopping.
  • I should invest in a wetsuit. The extra buoyancy would make the swim easier, and it’d keep me warm if I were to participate in Tris in places like Donner or Tahoe.
  • My bike sucks. I recently discovered that it’s not a “custom bike” as I was sold, but it’s instead a GMC Denali. My bike limited me, and it’s time for me to upgrade to a real road bike.

Notice that I said “the next one”. I decided I’d be doing this again right after finishing this Triathlon. I loved the feeling, the challenge and the adventure. And now, I have a time to beat!

Snoop Dogg and Incubus concerts

I’d never been to a big concert before, but a couple weeks ago, my cherry was popped in double, by Snoop Dogg and Incubus. Here’s a tale of how it all went:

Snoop Dogg played at the Grand Sierra in Reno, on July 9th 2009. Kelly, her brother Kyle and I went, and since we got in early we planted ourselves only feet away from the stage, hoping to be able to see a super-famous rapper from up-close.
The opening act was Stephen Marley (son of Bob). He put on a good show, with lots of people on stage, a little kid waving a Jamaican flag the whole time, and playing for almost an hour. By the way, he does sound a lot like his late father.

Since I didn’t know how things worked out, I expected Snoop Dogg to just come out as soon as the Marley troupe was gone from the stage, but I was told that they had to set up, and that it usually takes a good 30 minutes or so for the main act to come onstage.

Thirty minutes went by… four times. That’s right. A whole two hours later, Snoop Dogg showed up to do his thang. In the meantime, a lot of pushing and shoving went on in the crowd, and some drunk skanks got kicked out of the venue for getting in fights.

Regardless, as soon as Snoop showed up (he apparently was delayed because they were driving from California and got stuck in traffic), the crowd went wild.

Since he started so late, his setlist was cut in half and he ended up playing for less than an hour. He left the stage, and the crowd cheered for an encore. Staff started taking instruments down, and the cheering quickly turned into booing. It got so bad that they just closed the curtains to the stage.
I’m guessing this came from the GSR cutting it short, and it was pretty disappointing to have stood shoulder to shoulder with several hundreds of people for 5 hours, to only see a couple of hours of  spectacle.

On Sunday, July 11th, my mediocre experience was absolutely redeemed. We flew down to Las Vegas for the weekend. Besides doing the Vegas thing -walk around with a huge adult beverage in hand-  we had one major reason for being there. Incubus was touring, and this was the closest they’d get to us, so we were going to see them!

On our way to the venue, the Hard Rock Hotel of Las Vegas, we walked past a door where Ben Kenney (bass player of Incubus)  was hanging out, smoking a cigarette with a security guard. We came up to say hi, and we was very friendly, and Kelly even got a picture with him.

The venue (aka the Joint) at the Hard Rock was far superior than the GSR’s ballroom. It was clean. The staff were friendly, and I didn’t have to smuggle my camera in my underwear, because they allowed them.

Incubus put on a great show, and I enjoyed it much more than Snoop Dogg’s antics. The sound was fabulous, they had a very cool light show that went with the music and there was an LED screen in the background that played clips to go with it all. Fantastic:

Now, I was able to say I’d been to a concert. A real one, with a band that shows up when they should, provide great entertainment, at a venue that knows how to accommodate concertgoers.
However, my favorite part of it all wasn’t the awesome show. It was having Kelly next to me singing her heart out. I felt so lucky to be able to share with her, as her favorite band rocked her socks off.

This all makes me very excited about Outside Lands, which Kelly and I are planning on going to this year. More concerts!

Reno-Tahoe Odyssey 2009

Last week was the 2009 edition of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. This is that crazy 178-mile running race that I did last year, and I enjoyed so much that I signed myself up for to do again – and probably will do again next year. The RGJ has a decent article on it, which even includes a small interview with my team’s captain, Joe Dito.

This year, I was runner number 5 (out of 12). The course is divided in 36 legs, so each runner gets to run 3 legs of about 5 miles, on average. My leg assignments added up to 13.4 miles, and here’s the breakdown of how it all went.

  • Leg 5: 5.8 miles – Moderate rating.
    The weather was great. Overcast skies, and the wind that an hour earlier was making me concerned was now a gentle breeze. I don’t think I’d ever ran such a long distance (even in my training!), but I was ready for it. My goals were to finish it in less than an hour, to never stop to walk and to avoid getting passed by someone running behind me.
    I accomplished all of my goals, and ran this bad boy in 48 minutes, putting me at a pace of a mile in 8 minutes and 16 seconds.
    Since this was such a long haul, and there were a few hills to climb, I brought along some Luna Moons for a little energy boost. They’re designed marketed for women, but I got them in my goodie bag for the race, and I was sure I’d put them to good use… and I did. I’m not sure how much they helped in my actual performance, but they certainly took my mind off of the task at hand when I had to go up a steep grade. The flavor was good, but the best part was that they’re so chewy that they got stuck to my teeth and gums, and I was too busy trying to clean up the mess inside my mouth with my tongue to wallow in the effort I was putting in.
    For the last couple of miles, I had a horrible side ache (aka Side Stitch). I wanted to walk it off, but I also wanted to perform well, so I exercised a little bit of focus, controlled my breath a bit more, and kept on pushing.
    Soon enough, my leg was over, and I was finally able to catch my breath and rest up. I was dead tired, but as soon as I found out that I beat my goal by 12 minutes, a feeling of accomplishment overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t in pain anymore. Or at least, I didn’t feel it.
  • Leg 17: 4.2 miles – Easy rating.
    I thought this was going to be my strongest leg, but I feel like it was my weakest of the three. It was a pretty flat course, without much traffic. My goals were the same as before, and I was shooting for 25 minutes.
    I finished in 30 minutes, but I didn’t get passed, didn’t walk, and I also didn’t get eaten by a bear… which was a concern while running through the woods by South Lake Tahoe, at midnight.
    Maybe I was going fast (after all, I was doing a 7:08 – mile pace), but I felt like I was just cruising along. I blame the beautiful starry night and the silence, the feeling of being so small when you’re running in the darkness with a tiny headlamp lighting up only 20 feet in front of you, the lack of sleep and the fatigue from the earlier undertaking.
    The temperature was around 50 degrees, but I once again finished my leg nice and sweaty. No side ache this time, which added to my feeling that I didn’t push it hard enough to make my goal. Oh well.
  • Leg 29: 3.4 miles – More Challenging rating.
    Saturday. We woke up at 4AM, south of Carson City. Our Odyssey was almost over, but we still had quite a few miles to go.
    I was nauseous, sleepy and starting to feel tightness in my muscles. One by one, the runners in my van did their legs, and my turn was coming up.
    My leg was going to be the toughest one yet, going up from Highway US 50, into Silver City. A whole lot of uphill. And even though it wasn’t even 7am when I started running, my shirt came off less than a mile into it, thanks to the sun and the toughness of the road in front of me.
    I was tired. I was going very slowly, yet I never walked. I just kept on going, hoping to finally pass someone. I hadn’t been passed by anyone, but I hadn’t gotten any “roadkill”, and some of my teammates had gotten to pass more than a handful of people.
    Halfway there, a lady in her late 30s (I guessed at the time) ran right past me. Holy smokes, she had energy, and she was going at least 2 mph faster than me. I try to go a bit faster, and I see her passing someone else, not too far ahead from me. I think to myself that I might not catch the lady that passed me, but I made it my goal to catch up, and pass, the other person that she’d just passed as well. At least to break even with the roadkills: get passed once, pass someone once.
    On the steepest part of my leg, I caught up to this other person. It was another lady, with a tattoo of a maple leaf on the right calf. I was right behind her for a good 5 minutes, slowly but surly closing in, and feeling like if I kept up the effort, I’d pass her.
    Sure enough, I passed her. Damn, I felt good. But I also noticed how tired I was right after I passed her. I wanted to give her a high five, say “good game” and walk the rest of my leg. But to hell with that, I kept on pushing, making sure she wouldn’t catch me. If I maintained my gain, I would finish the race proud of my performance, and that was my motivation to not give up.
    Less than half a mile to go, my teammates are cheering me on. They’re telling me I’m almost there.
    Eric hands me some water and tells me that if I really push it, I’m going to pass a guy right before finishing. And then, he starts running next to me, even though he’s dead tired and he’s all done with his assigned legs.
    I turn up the effort to “balls deep” and I see the guy. Eric tells me that right after a curve about 100 yards away, I’m done. I think I can give it my all, but I’m really hoping that he’s not lying so that I turn up the heat, because I’m really running out of juice.
    Turns out, he wasn’t lying. I’m doing my best impression of a sprint after going 3 miles uphill, and I pass the guy. In less than a hundred strides, I’m also done. Once again, covered in sweat. But also, with a huge smile on my face, feeling like I truly did give it my best shot.
    I ask what my time was, and they tell me that I finished my leg in 32 minutes. Slow, but I didn’t care, because I really didn’t feel like I could have gone any faster. I also don’t care because I’m done, the race is over for me. And I finished with a positive roadkill ratio, 2 to 1!

However, it wasn’t just about me. A big part of the fun of this race is the teamwork, the encouraging of your teammates as they run for miles and miles. I was very lucky to have an awesome crew, which definitely enhances the experience.
I’m not a hardcore runner, I do this kind of stuff for fun. I can’t imagine being in a team where everyone is dead serious the whole time, and I’m very thankful that that wasn’t the case.
Josh, Eric, Karin, Bryan and Amy: Thank you for making the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey about a lot more than just running. You are all wonderful people on top of being speedy runners.

Nevertheless, this was a race. Sure, we had fun. In fact, we had a lot of fun. But we also kicked ass. Our team, Venetian Skunk, ended up placing 7th overall, and there were 110 teams signed up. Oh yeah, we kicked a lot of ass.

Now, I leave you with a picture of me at the finish line, after having taken a shower and a quick 20 minute nap. If you click on it, you can get to the album with the rest of the pictures that I took.
Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Medal

Bike to Work 2009

Today is the official Bike to Work day in 2009. I hope you rode your bike if your commute is less than 10 miles one way!

Purple BeanAs for me, I started the day early. I took off at around 6.45am, and headed to one of the participating coffee shops, the Purple Bean. I showed my helmet, and they hooked me up with free coffee! Yeah!
The barista was very friendly and attentive, and asked me what I wanted. I told her I had no clue, since I never drink coffee… so I asked her to make me something sweet, and she served me a Mocha. It was delicious!
MochaI sat outside while I drank my coffee -it’s kind of hard to sip on a very hot beverage and ride in traffic- and watched the day roll by. A lot of people in their car checked me out as they got their coffee at the drive-thru, but at least there were banners everywhere that explained why there was a silly guy sipping on coffee next to his bike. I nodded at those that established eye contact as I chilled out.

After finishing my coffee and leaving a small tip, I moved on to the Reno Bike Project.RBP pancake feed
Just like last year, they were doing free breakfast, which included pancakes, bacon, hash browns, fruit and coffee. However, this year was better than last. It was at their new location, which is a lot more visible, welcoming and easy to find. There was also a DJ, who was playing some very cool chill-out music.
The RBP staff did a great job at keeping the food available, and there wasn’t even a line to get food! They opened their garage door and set up a small kitchen facing 4th street. It was perfect, and it showed that they thought it out very well. The RBP continues to be a kick-ass place, and I’m really glad that they’re only a couple of blocks away from work.
RBP kitchenI hung out at the Pancake Feed for about 30 minutes, and chatted it up with a few strangers. JP Zunini (whom I met when I was an exchange student) from KRNV was there and interviewed me, so I might be on the news.

A great way to start a Friday, and now I have a lot of positive energy from having had such a good start to the day. If you’d like to see how my ride went, you can check out my bike route here.

Good day!