Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Block Party

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Loveland's Amazing Race - Halloween Edition

This year brother Dave S., Sister-in-law Molly and her Fiance Dave D. and I decided to enter Loveland's Amazing Race - Halloween Edition 2011 because we have always thought about doing the actual race but it sells out a year in advance and who knows if they will be available a year ahead of time. So the Halloween Edition seemed like a good way to check it out.

The Halloween Edition is less obstacle course or physical challenges and more of a scavenger hunt.

Making The Costumes
So we didn't exaclty know what we were getting into with the event but we decided to go big with our costumes (who has a Halloween event without costumes? Or a costume competition? Answer below).

We ended up with some awesome costumes!

1) Need some boxes (which took hours to make - you'll see)

2) Tablecloths and 225 yards of Gorilla Tape

3) A healthy love of tetris

4) Getting into formation!

5) Costume accolades!

On to the write-up of the event. Here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good
When we got to the event out costumes were a big hit. We had a lot of time to hand around and someone from a local paper interviewed us and took our picture and a number of random others took our picture.

Our competitive natures led us to take off the costumes for the scavenger hunt and it was a good call - it would have been impossible in the Tetris costumes.

The event was fun - over 90 minutes we ran all over downtown Loveland. There was a mix of things we had to do. There were random pages of tasks (see more detailed feedback in the section called - The Event - The Bad) so it was a bit all over the place and we split up sections amongst the 4 of us so we each were responsible for noticing when we could complete a task.

1) Identify 10 locations of Halloween Masks located at various businesses (mandatory)
This part was actually pretty fun because it gave you a reason to cover the entire area, and once you got to certain locations in Loveland there were activities whewre you could earn extra points for complete tasks like juggling, naming songs from the 80s, sculpting clay, etc.

2) Answer trivia questions
You had lists of trivia questions you'd have to answer like "What's the fine for illegally parking in a handicap space in Loveland" or "When is the next zoning committee meeting" which you could randomly find the answers to as you cruised around Loveland.

3) Identify where certain random pictures were located
This was in theory pretty cool because from the close up pictures they gave us you didn't know what the locations where until you passed them. I screwed this part up  - in part because in scavenger hunts for work we had to take pictures of stuff so instead of noting the locations of these obscure images - we took pictures of them. In fact we combined a few with tasks of taking pictures thinking we'd get double points for everything. We got no points for this section. People who know Loveland well might have been able to do this without actually finding these locations.

4) Take pictures of random things from a list
This was cool because you had to take a picture of your entire team on a ladder, in a fire truck, in a canoe, in a dumpster, etc. Some descriptions were really vague like take a picture of a stuffed tiger in a boa and you wouldn't know where to go - you'd have to keep that long list of random things handy so when you ran into it you could complete that task for points. You received double points if you could combine 2 "tricks" into one photo.

If you find a mail box that says "take one" - do it!
Dave S. gets the award because we had to find this mail box and take a picture of it - and while it might seem obvious to open it - we think many teams didn't! Inside was another task that was mandatory and in theory any teams that missed this didn't get any points!

This picture section included taking videos of random tasks. In one of our best moves of the evening we combined 2 of the toughest video challenged in one as our Team "Serenaded a stranger (woman) to 'You've lost that loving feelin'" while the woman was part of a groups of strangers we had to convince to sing the national anthem.

It looks a little like this:

5) Other random tasks
Somehow if you bought specific candy and or specific items like 1/4" nuts and bolts you could get extra points. We did a few of these which was fun as it also helped these businesses I am sure!

The Bad 
There were warning signs. Initially we missed them.

When we arrived almost no one was in costume. Unless you call Bengals sweatshirts a costume.

It also looked like like we stumbled upon Loveland's 25th high school reunion - and we weren't invited.

Why was everyone 35-45 and why are they drunk in public in Loveland?

When we arrived our costumes were a big hit for most, but a few had stupid comments like they didn't know what we were (which I gave them a pass for because they were too old to play Nintendo when it came out). Also others didn't get why we were dressed up for Halloween when they were about to compete in a scavenger hunt. There was some sort of local journalist who took our picture and was going to write something about our costumes. We should have seen the warning signs when she asked "Did you all go to high school together or are you family?" Instead of trying to explain the complex associations of Adults we said "Family".

Also the start of the event "the judges parade" had nothing to do with the judges checking out the best costumes, it literally was a parade for them to show us how great they thought they were before they began to berate the crowd by yelling stupid sh*t in a microphone like "court is now in session - quiet down or you'll be held in contempt!"

All of that being said we had fun for the 90 minutes of competition and had the night ended then we would have said it was a good time. Instead - when we got back to the Judges tent at 8:28 (just 2 minutes before the event ended and we assumed you wouldn't get any points) it took another 60+ minutes standing in line for the judges to score the teams. The scoring takes a while in part because all of their papers and questions are a bit unorganized, but also because they have to review pictures and tally up random objects we obtained during the event. There were more than 10 judges with 10 teams per judge - but if it really takes 5-10 minutes to score a team then they were woefully under staffed! No matter how much fun you had for 90 minutes - who wants to do the event again next year if it takes 60 minutes to turn your score in! We were second to last in our line and the team behind us left early and said "eff-it".

After the event they were supposed to give us drink tickets for the after party and we were planning to get back in costume and mingle by the fire. Instead we stood in line for 60 minutes in the freezing cold behind some obnoxious drunk woman who was 35-45 and should have acted more like an adult.

The BEST MOVE of the night is that the obnoxious lady's team who was in front of us in line was harassing us for a tick tac because they didn't get one and it was worth 25 points, we bought a whole package of tic tacs and easily had one to spare but they were so annoying Dave D offered to trade their spot in line for one. They took us up on it and it was the best move of the night!

When we got in line at 8:28 we felt like we had a lot of fun and were in a pretty good mood. By the time we got to the judge no one was happy. We missed the after party and all of our drink tickets were worthless, plus we couldn't get into the 4-5 eating establishments where the awards would take place because the lines were out the door by the time we were done.

If that wasn't bad enough we messed up the one section of activities because I didn't understand the rules to that part. One thing I know from Consumer Research - men don't read directions. Especially in a crazy unorganized packet during a race. If you want to know what the location of a picture you show is - show the picture and say "where is it?" instead they had multiple pages of pictures with numbers on them and later some random page that you had to write in the name of the location for picture #1 etc. That section was my fault and our score suffered as a result. But worse - our judge was not friendly. To quote Parks and Recreation "I don't use the word butt-head lightly, and I think in many cases butt-head is overused, but in this situation I can say with confidence our judge was a dick!" She was trying to be funny but was completely rude about making fun of us for being from Mason instead of Loveland, she was also a teacher in Sycamore with some sort of chip on her shoulder against engineers and P&G in general, and she had some drunk guy hanging out chiming in with her "witty banter". After it was over she did apologize saying something like "I hope you know we were just kidding" - I didn't saying thing but I was thinking "it doesn't matter - everyone on my team has a terrible impression of you and your Loveland Townies from this sh*t!"

All of this took some of the fun out of the event and made us unlikely to return - but I think the deal breaker of an event like this is in Loveland's Amazing Race - Halloween Edition it was obvious that you can't compete honestly and have any chance of winning. Our team followed the rules and didn't open the clues until the gun went off, we stayed together as a team instead of splitting up - and we didn't know any other teams and didn't "share answers" like so many we saw. In short - You can't win honestly. That takes a lot of the fun out of the competition of the whole Event. If you want to just have people run around and do fun stuff then don't pretend it's a competition. If you want it to be a competition it has to have a lot more integrity than this event.

In hindsight we would have had more fun staying in our costumes, not trying to compete and getting back to the judges so early that you missed a lot of tasks but could enjoy the after-party.

The Ugly
By the time we were done it was 10:00pm and we were all hungry and the establishments that were part of this event were mobbed out the door. So somehow we took our post game party to steak and shake.

As I was telling the tale of the one and only time I have had food poisoning and how it was from Steak and Shake our "waitress" came over. She was maybe 16, had a tattoo inside her ear (I'm not judging - just hadn't seen it before), and she started off by saying "this is like my first day and I don't know anything and I don't know what I am doing." There were a few typical waitress mistakes along the way - but when she returned with our food - literally while she was passing it out she was sniffling and said "I'm so sorry guys I am really sick." Where's the Board of Health - oh that's right - budget cuts. Time to pollute the streams for profit too while we're at it.

Doctor Dave said it was unlikely that our waitress had a pathogen that he hasn't been exposed to already.

Our team took it like champs - and because we were starving we ate everything!

All and all it was an interesting Halloween. We didn't get to carve pumpkins this year because we carved boxes for Tetris. Our team had fun spending time together and running around all over Loveland.

If you aren't from this area you can't get into the town rivalries and it seems petty and small. If you are from Loveland and want to have a reunion with your high school class - this event is for you! Literally.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Seems like forever ago but right before Anna was born I was in London for work. We were pretty busy so I didn't take many pictures but the group I was working with at the time was awesome and we had fun out a dinner and even hit up a London club.
Ew. Prawn pringles - and they look too much like the original.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Little Miami Triathlon - Fall 2011 Results

The FALL2011 Little Miami Triathlon on October 2nd was a great time! The temperature turned out to be PERFECT! It was 38 degrees when I arrived but 48 degrees by the start so I just wore my tri shorts and Jersey with a long sleeve shirt underneath and I was fine. It was probably still only 53 degrees by the finish.

This year we had 1 team participate:
Dave (brother) and I were DOS GEMELOS which means two twins in Spanish.

But Dave S. was sick so Dave D. stepped in and canoed with me which was awesome!

Meanwhile Molly (sister-in-law) and was there as the ATHLETIC SUPPORTER and my parents were tracking my GPS online. Meghan was home being pregnant. :)

"Hey Apple Jacks - Are you the guy with the blog?" - YES I AM!
For the second Little Miami Triathlon in a row someone recognized my Apple Jack Jersey and said they had used my blog to help prepare for their first Little Miami Triathlon. I guess I will have to keep racing in the Apple Jacks Jersey. Blog: Tips & Tricks blog for the Little Miami Triathlon.

On to the results: PERSONAL RECORD!
After figuring out how to run the Little Miami Triathlon I was stuck in the 3:30 range. The 3:28 was before the "cobbles" were added to the bike course so I consider them to be equivalent. I finally broke through and though it doesn't seem like a huge difference - after 3 triathlons where I couldn't find a few extra minutes this was definitely my best finish and by far my best percentile finish (by about 10 percentage points).

Canoeing ~6mi [60 min, +1 mins from last FALL]
Dave D and I were in an interesting canoe heat. There were a number of teams with the fiberglass canoes as they were in the "masters" division so they seemed to have much faster canoes than our huge metal canoe. This led to a lot more traffic initially and in general the water seemed slow.

It was perfect weather for canoeing and we had a great time. I was very appreciative of Dave to step in at the last minute and help me set my Personal Record in the triathlon. I only drank one water bottle on the canoe but ran with the other and finished it after a few miles which worked out well.

In the personal record department - it was my 5th Triathlon in a row getting the "inside lane" for the canoe start which is tough to do every time!
Molly got a great pic of us from the bridge!

Running ~5mi [63 min, +2 mins from last FALL]
The run was great. With the cool weather I felt good and my heart rate was fine.I know it says I was 2 minutes slower from last fall but that was also the year I ran the half marathon so I think my running was in better shape then. I was 2 minutes faster than this spring which was hot.

Killer Hill + Transition ~0.5mi [11 min, -2 min from last FALL]
I think the cool weather helped me feel great on the hill too. I was blindly following some people ahead of me and we took a wrong turn on the hill and had to backtrack, but otherwise I felt the best I ever had at the top and didn't need any time to recover before getting on the bike.

It seems no matter how I slice it - I end up getting on my bike with 1 hour and 15mins to go to beat my PR and it usually takes me 1:15 to bike - so I was in the exact same place here as I have been in my 3 previous triathlons. It all came down to the bike.

Biking ~18mi [71 min, -6 mins from last FALL]
At one point I realized how slow the first mile is of this triathlon. You have to bike uphill through the Fort Ancient Park traffic and I tended to go slower than most other miles of the biking. This time I decided to just go as fast as I could for as long as I could from the very start. Since this summer my mantra for biking has been "You can bike faster than you think" which came from Cousin Christopher as we were talking about biking. I think it's true - people often get faster by biking with a group of "faster" bikers not just because they are training but because they train themselves to expect to be going faster in your natural biking state. If you aren't paying attention and just biking - you have to set your status quo speed to a higher setpoint to improve and the funny thing is you really can bike faster than you think.

I thought the weather was great and I felt really good on the bike. It was a bit windy as usual but I would say it was in a favorable direction compared to some other years. I didn't really have any cramping issues - I only had to stop pedaling a few times but no major cramps like some previous years. I did pass a few people walking their bike up the hill over the highway which is one of the toughest spots. I again saw some poor guy wipe out and be covered in blood all over his face on the transition from the paved road to the tar and pitch "cobbles". Don't worry - he was receiving medical attention when I passed and he looked to be in good shape and standing besides being scraped up.

The "cobbles" - tar and pitch road surface.
I think I only drank one of my water bottles on my bike and I was fine - the cool weather made it easy.

I was counting down the miles and checking my personal best time and it was close every split. I wasn't sure when I hit the finish how close I was but I thought I had a good chance to beat my time. I felt great when I finished and had a meaningful improvement (finally) in my time. It was so hard to get these minutes that I think in order to take more time off have to dramatically improve my running AND biking - which will be my longer term goal in this triathlon.

Anatomy of a 6 minute bike improvement:

Well - it was another great triathlon and I look forward to breaking my PR (Personal Record) in the Spring!
If you read this blog to this point you must be interested enough to try it in the Spring of 2012!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hueston Woods Triathlon - Mission Accomplished

Appealing aspects of the Hueston Woods Triathlon:
1) Less than 1 hour away
2) Cold water ~65 degrees (great for those who want to wear a wetsuit)
3) Supposedly 4 foot deep open water swim in Acton Lake
4) No e. coli in the water (unlike Caesar Creek)
5) It was on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

I think the Hueston Woods Triathlon lived up to the hype. It was probably a better beginner triathlon course for an open water swim than Caesar Creek. I remember waking up at like 5 am in order to get there in time to pick up my race packet. It was still dark at 6:30am when we got there and people in the transition area were wearing lights on their heads like miners in order to get ready.

Plus I knew another triathlete there so it was fun to see him and talk triathlon.
Swim 750m (0.47 mi)

No buoys were harmed during the making of this triathlon. The swim was advertised as being in 4 foot deep water for the entire course. This was only true for the first 10% of the course. Meghan overheard some other folks saying the water was higher this year. Fortunately this wasn't an issue for me as I didn't need to stop at all while swimming. The water was colder so I felt better in my wetsuit than Caesar Creek where I was too hot during the swim. So I didn't need to take a buoy break this time :) If success can be measured by swimming 750m slowly without stopping than this was a success. For those who didn't wear a wet suit they said 65 degrees was shockingly cold at first and they lost their breath when they dove in but warmed up as they went. For me I wouldn't have made it since I don't do well in cold water but even in 65 degree water my full wetsuit was hot so I would consider a shorter sleeved wetsuit to balance out a bit.

One fun thing about the swim is that when you look out at the course from shore it always looks longer than you think. So when I went to look at this course it looked RIDICULOUSLY long! When I got to shore people were literally freaking out over trying to figure out the swim. Turns out one of the buoys that marks the swim got loose and floated away making it look like an impossible swim. They fixed it just before the start.

Bike 20 km (~13 mi) - Time Trial deja-vu! Again! For the 3rd time.
I thought this was going to be a relatively flat course. Again. Caesar Creek was a bit hilly, but this course had a few steep climbs. You know it's steep when people are walking their bike up a hill during the triathlon. I was not one of them - which usually makes me feel good when I pass them - but it had a few tough spots.

The green "sharks teeth" are the steep hills - especially the last one.

Run 5 km (3.1 mi) -
The run was better than Caesar Creek because it was on paved roads instead of a gravel road over a dam. Other than that I wasn't crazy about the course because it just winded around the property which made it seem long and boring for only a 5K. I'd rather run an out an back course or a loop than wind around and around.

Apple Jack a Hit
This course may have set a record for most Apple Jacks Jersey compliments. At one point I ran by a guy who said "I'm sure you've heard this a bunch of times but that is a sweet Jersey." 

In Summary - I would add Hueston woods to my race calendar again next year. I like the timing in the schedule better. It seems like triathlons peak in July/August when it is 95 degrees out - I'd prefer more in September.

I took 11 mins off my Sprint Tri time from Caesar Creek. And though my swim and run are still slow among triathletes my bike was good and dramatically higher in percentile finish than my swim, run or overall finish - which is good since I spent most of this year biking. I think this was a prelude to my Morgan's Tri bike record. It's funny that my absolute biking time was slower that Caesars but I had a much stronger bike finish compared to other triathletes versus where I placed in Caesars bike so I think the Hueston bike course was tougher.