Monday, June 24, 2013

Halftime...Copper Creek Triathlon

It's been 19 weeks since I began training for the 2013 season.  I've progressed really nicely since beginning in terrible shape back in February when the basketball season wrapped up.  I have raced 4 times and won all 4 of them.  Sunday was supposed to be my 5th race at the Copper Creek Triathlon in Pleasant Hill, Iowa.  I originally planned to go to Kenosha, WI to race an Olympic Distance event but after Jen's great race at the QC Triathlon last weekend we decided the best move for the two of us would be go race at Copper Creek.  This race is a very competitive 1/2 Olympic distance sprint format.  The 1/2 Olympic sprint format is not one that suits me terribly well because the swim is longer than a typical sprint at 750 meters and the bike portion is only 12.5 miles.  Last year in this race I was 6th and the race pays well but only for the top 3 spots.  Jen was 5th last year but is mightily improved and we thought she had a good shot at placing high in this year's race so we got signed up and planned to take the kids with us since my oldest brother Jason lives less than a mile from the start line. 

Since last Saturday's race I have been dealing with some swelling in my lower right leg.  I did not know what the injury was but have since learned it is a swollen anterior tibialis...a tendon that runs along the outside of the shin from the foot up the leg to near the knee.  The swelling was noticeable after my race on Saturday so I decided I would just ride last Sunday.  I didn't think riding would affect the tendon but after riding 100 miles on Sunday the swelling was much worse.  Walking was painful early in the week so I knew I would have to take it easy which actually played well for this race.  Since I have no races planned for the next 6 weeks I decided to go through an extreme 6 day taper hoping for a good race result before this long race layoff.  I knew this race would complete the first half of my season and I would be looking forward to moving to longer distances after my long race layoff.  It would also make this week a good week to take a few days off as part of my halftime break before increasing my training volumes to prepare for the longer races.  What I found is that this swelling in the anterior tibialis is the first real injury I have had in over the past 2.5 years.  I think I jinxed myself last week when I was telling Dr. Kaminiski at Kaminiski Pain and Performance Care how remarkable it is that I have not had any injury in the past 2.5 years since my Achilles tendon was surgically repaired.  I only ran once this week...on Wednesday and it caused the tendon to swell a great deal.  I biked easy on Tuesday and then rode some hard interval on Thursday which also caused swelling to increase.  Swimming was not bad but if I kicked much the swelling would go up.  I swam every day but used a pull buoy for most of it so I could minimize the amount of kicking I was doing.  On Saturday night I was still unsure if I should be racing.  I rode the 12.5 mile bike course Saturday and afterwards the tendon swelled a lot and was really tight.  I knew it would be a bad decision to race and do further damage that could make racing the last event of the Scheels Duathlon series tough to compete in.  If an injury keeps me from doing that race I will not win the series that I am currently leading.  I had trouble sleeping because I didn't know if racing was the smart thing to do. 

Sunday Jen and I were up at 5:30 and had a light breakfast before we made our way to the race site.  We immediately learned that the water temperature was not wetsuit legal (80 degrees) but the race director had shortened the swim to 500 meters which was great news for both Jen and I.  I opted not to run for my warm up because I wasn't sure how many run miles this tendon had in it.  I decided to ride the entire bike course again for my warm up.  After returning to the transition area after about 40 minutes on the bike one of the race officials said we were going to start  the race early because a line of thunderstorms was moving in.  I quickly grabbed my Kiwami skin suit that I wear in non-wetsuit swims and headed for the start area.  Jen and I were waiting there when the race director made the announcement that the swim had been shortened to 350 meters.  This was more great news for us.  Then about 10 minutes later the bad news came.  The director reported that the storms were too close to start the race and we would be delaying the event until they had a better idea of when it was going to clear the area.  Robert White, a friend and athlete I began coaching a few weeks back had driven to Des Moines to watch us race and he was kind enough to let us stay in his car as the storm moved through.  We looked at the radar and it did not look good.  We waited about an hour and I got out to see what the word was and we heard that they were going to change the event to a 5k run.  When I told Jen I could tell she was pretty excited.  The chance to go after the 1st place prize of $1,450.00 in her own element of running was good news for her.  I knew there were at least 2 guys who were faster than I was.  Those two would have beaten me even if the race was the original triathlon.  We got our shoes and warmed up again anticipating the start of the 5k.  My leg was questionable at best but I was going to start and see how it went and decide whether continuing was the best option.  Just before we started the race director came over and told us that he was going to evenly divide the prize purse among all the elites that had stayed around for the 5k.  The finish of the 5k would not determine any prize money.  Many athletes had gone home.  I knew that the best thing to do would be to get my training shoes back on to minimize the damage to my tendon.  I missed the start of the race while I was changing shoes but still got back to the line so I would be in the results.  I ran the 5k a little slower than tempo pace just to finish.  Although it sucked not getting to race a triathlon Jen and I were still excited that the race director decided to pay all the elites that stuck around.  The day should bring about $350.00 to the iHope Foundation.  Had the triathlon happened I would have been in a great battle for 3rd judging by the althetes that were there.  I could have ended up with $425.00 or I could have ended up with nothing.  I do think Jen could have been in the mix with the other elite females for a shot at placing really high.  Either way the decision to cancel the triathlon was a smart one in the interest of athlete safety and we were fortunate the race director still decided to award prize money to those of us who stuck around. 

My focus this week is on getting healthy.  I'll use my local team at Kaminski Pain and Performance Care along with my good friend and local physical therapist Dan White to see if I can get to 100% by the end of the week.  I'm planning to take as many days off training as necessary so I can get past this injury and get started on my training for the 2nd half of 2013.  My big events in the 2nd half are the Pigman Longcourse 1/2 Ironman distance race on August 18th and Beach 2 Battleship full ironman distance race on October 26th.  I think Jen will be racing both of those with me.  We are also planning to do a sprint race in Florida in the 2nd half with Robert White.  I will be ramping up the volume after this injury is healed in hopes of doing my best racing late in the season.  I'm excited by how the 1st half went.  My season goal was to raise $1,500.00 for iHope and I'm already over that amount with some big races to go and a Scheels championship prize of $1,000.00 looming.  At the end of the season my parents are going to generously match whatever I have earned through racing.  It has me excited about a goal of ending the season with over $10,000 in the iHope Foundation.  That would nearly put iHope at the endowment level needed for the interest to pay for a gift every year.  I've been blessed by the support of contributions from numerous individuals through this website and of 8 local businesses.  If you would like to make a tax deductible iHope contribution and help us get to $10,000 you may click here.  Thanks and DREAM BIG!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Iowa City Duathlon Race Report and Results

On Saturday I elected to race a duathlon in Iowa City over the local Quad Cities Triathlon.  The reason was pretty simple.  Although I enjoy racing the premier hometown event I was leading the Scheels Duathlon series and could not afford to score 0 points at the 2nd race.  A series win would mean a huge financial lift for iHope with a $1,000 series prize looming.  I made the drive to Napolean Park in Iowa City early Saturday and the stormy weather was just clearing up as I pulled in.  I was dealing with some serious lower back tightness that had me worried a bit about running two 5k's (1 to start the race and 1 to finish it).  I got a good warm up in of 2 miles and went through more stretching than I normally do before a race and my back loosened up significantly. 

RUN 1: The first run went out fast.  Right now I feel strong and able to hold a tempo pace of around 5:45/mile for a long time but running 5:20 pace is not as comfortable right now as I'd like it to be.  The leader went through the mile in 5:10 and I was about 5 seconds behind.  I moved to the lead about a 1/2 mile later and held the lead into transition with a 5k time of 16:35.  I thought the course was a tad short as my GPS expected me to come in just under 17:00.  I really botched the first transition.  I had a hard time getting my helmet on over my sunglasses and my lead of nearly 30 seconds was down to 20 leaving transition.  My run split for the 1st run was the fastest of the race. 

BIKE: The bike course was two 10 mile loops so there were a total of three speed sucking 180 degree turns.  The course was nearly dead flat with a headwind going out the 1st and 3rd five mile sections.  I wanted to push the bike really hard hoping that would leave me with the option of not running very hard on the 2nd run.  I began pushing hard early but was not real comfortable.  I always tend to ride better on gradual climbs or into winds.  I knew I would get lots of time checks with the out and back double loop format.  At the first turnaround I was leading by about 1 minute.  I knew it would be a fun ride back with the wind at our back.  I was only averaging about 23 mph on the way to the first turn but was able to hold about 29 mph average over the next 5 miles bringing my average speed up.  At the 1/2 way point my lead was only about 1 minute and 10 seconds.  Frustrated with myself for only gaining 10 seconds in the 2nd stretch I pushed on harder when we turned back into the wind.  I tend to ride better with longer courses and was hoping to make more time on the 2nd half of this one.  At the 15 mile mark I was up about 2 minutes so that was a good stretch into the wind.  Coming back with the wind was about the same 29 mph average and I got off the bike up a little over 2:30.  For the ride I averaged 25.0 mph which was the fastest ride of the race. 

RUN 2: I headed out on the 2nd run knowing I did not need to run hard.  I didn't know how my back would feel or how my legs would feel because I had pushed the ride really hard.  I felt like I was running slow but checked the watch and I was holding just under 6:00 pace.  I got into a rhythm and was able to just run tempo effort negative splitting the 2nd run and I ended up running the 5k in 17:43 although it was also a tad short and I probably would have been closer to 18:00.  My run split was the 2nd fastest of the race.  My overall time was 1:23:04 which was good enough for the race win.  With 1 more race in the series I need to finish only 4th or better to win the top Scheels prize for iHope.  This race win earned $150.00 for iHope which is awesome because with my parents generous matching funds to whatever I win racing that means the day earned over half of an iPad gift for a low-income student displaying tremendous character and work traits.  If you'd like to make a tax deductible contribution to the iHope Foundation you can do so by clicking here.  I'd be so thankful to anything you can do to help.  Complete results from the race with splits can be found by clicking here

The best news of the day came shortly after I finished the duathlon.  I was thinking of my wife Jen who was racing the QC Triathlon.  I quickly got to my phone and called her.  I heard she not only won the race but shattered her time from last year by nearly 4 minutes!  I knew a year ago that Jen could be a stand out triathlete if she decided to devote more time to the sport.  I can honestly say she still has not done that.  She did train more for the race than a year ago.  I'd say she swam 4 times this year compared to 5 minutes last year before the race.  She also rode outside 4 times this year compared to twice last year.  Where she made her biggest training increases was riding the trainer indoors.  This year she rode about 8 times while last year she only rode twice.  What helped Jen the most was that she started doing Cross-Fit at QC Cross-Fit last winter.  The amount of strength she has gained is obvious just from looking at pictures last year compared to this year.  I know some people think Cross-Fit will cause athletes to put on bulky muscle.  Although Jen is a lot stronger than last year she still weighs the same.  She has added lean muscle and gotten rid of some fat.  I knew this was the case when she did her first trainer ride about a month ago.  I put her on my Cycle-Ops Powerbeam Pro trainer that you can control power output with.  Last year she started to whine when the resistance power hit 140 watts.  This year it got to 180 watts before she said it was remotely uncomfortable.  The only difference between last year and this year was cross-fit. 
I watched her swim on Thursday this week and I was really impressed.  She takes less strokes down the pool than I do and I've swam over a million yards over the past couple years.  She was doing 50 repeats just a few seconds slower than I do them.  I knew she was going to shatter her swim time especially since last year she did not have a wetsuit and this year she is swimming in an Xterra wetsuit.  If she actually starts to train for this sport she'll be do so much better than I ever could.  This upcoming weekend we are looking at possibly going to a race together which would be fun.  She hasn't gotten to be at any of my races yet this year.  Also, a HUGE congrats to Corey Towle for winning the men's division of the QC Triathlon.  I knew Corey was going to be a tremendous triathlete and he's just touching the tip of what his potential in the sport is.  Corey is a standout runner that has run 5,000 meters in 14:40.  I knew he could run before I started working out with him but what impressed me the most was his ability to swim very fast.  At one of Stacey Zapolski's swim clinics I saw Corey swimming and thought, "he's really good at this."  When I went open water swimming with Corey it was even more of an eye opener as he swam effortlessly away from me as I desperately tried to stay on his feet.  His biking has gotten a lot better over the past month and it's only a sign of things to come.  Yesterday I was glad to have him with me for 80 miles of a 100 mile ride.  Finally, a BIG congrats to everyone who was out there competing in either Iowa City or Davenport.  I talked to some who finished their first triathlon and said there would be many to come.  The sport leads to such an active and healthy lifestyle and if you've never done one I'd encourage you to give it a shot. 

I'm really excited about the generosity and compassion people have been showing towards iHope.  It's my motivation for racing this year because I have been able to see 3 different times the difference an iHope gift can make for a child in our community.  Just thinking about their reaction when being presented with a gift...the tears of joy, hope, and confidence that is built fuels my motivation to train hard and race well to support this foundation.  Thanks for reading.  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Holiday Lake and Accel Triathlon Reports and Results

This past weekend I attempted to do 2 races back to back for my first time ever.  I really don't think it's something that's crazy.  I train enough that if I'm smart about recovery after one race the next should be fine.  The two races were the Holiday Lake Triathlon which was a sprint distance race taking place at Holiday Lake in Brooklyn, Iowa and the Accel Triathlon which was an Olympic distance racing taking place at George Wyth State Park in Waterloo Iowa. 

Holiday Lake Report
I woke early on Saturday and chose to drive to the race morning of.  The race didn't start until 9:00 am which was nice for those who wanted to drive the day of the race.  I asked Siri to take me to Holiday Lake and things were great until I reached "my destination" and was on a gravel road in front of a farm with nothing resembling a lake or a park nearby.  I was in a panic.  It was 7:30 and I still needed to find the race site, get my packet, and warm up.  I turned the car around and went to the end of the gravel road and started to look for maps on my phone.  Just then a car zoomed by with bikes on the top...perfect!  I followed the car with the bikes to the race site and adjusted my warm up to fit the time I had left.  My only mishap was heading out for my run I ran right into the rope that ties down the finish line blow up arch and it scraped right over my eye and hurt something fierce...hopefully not a sign of things to follow. 

SWIM: The swim was supposed to be 500 yards.  We started in one big wave with all the guys racing.  I should have started on the outside but was late getting to the line and picked the inside.  We started and after some dolphin dives I was off swimming.  I have swam not even 1/3 of the yards this year that I had last year up to this point so I knew I had to be careful not to get out too fast.  I tried to settle into a comfortable rhythm.  I was hoping the guys from the outside would collapse down on me and give me some good feet to draft off but by the time they came to the inside of the swim they were too far ahead.  I swam solo and exited the water in 7th place.  My swim time was 5:28 but I'm guessing it was at least 100 yards short of the advertised 500 yards.  I had one of the quickest transitions and probably started the bike in 5th or 6th. 

BIKE: Out on the bike I could see the leaders and those between me and the lead motorcycle.  I quickly moved up the road and by mile four I settled into the lead.  Around mile 5 we hit our first of 2 turnarounds.  It gave me a chance to see where the other riders were at.  One guy was still right on me.  The rest had dropped back a ways.  The course consisted of a lot of long rolling hills and we had ridden the first section into the wind but would have the wind at our back for the next 7 mile or so.  I pushed really hard on the hills to try to shake the rider right behind me but he was extremely tough.  I could not shake him.  We were hitting speeds of over 40 mph on some stretches.  I chose to ride the Zipp 808 rear wheel because I heard the course was hilly and I have slightly better climbing gears on this wheel.  I wished I had stuck with my Zipp sub-9 rear disc because I rode much of the section with the wind at my back in my biggest gear and would have liked another gear.  At the 2nd turnaround near mile 12 I got to see where things were at again.  I had opened about a 10 second gap on #2.  The others were about 1 minute down.  We had a couple really long hills back to T2 and I pushed them hard hoping to extend the lead not knowing what kind of runner was chasing me.  I rolled into T2 with about a 20 second lead.  I averaged 24.8 mph on the bike course which was the fastest bike split of the race by about 1 minute. 

RUN: I knew the run was on a brutal course but had no idea what I was in for until I got out there.  The course would end up being the toughest 5k I have ever run.  It was one steep hill after another.  The down side of the steepness these hills brought was that going down was as painful as going up.  Running down hills that steep is awkward because you feel like you are going to lose your balance and you actually have to try to slow down so I was running on my heals a lot.  The downhills also place tremendous stress on the quad muscles and I didn't want to beat them up too bad knowing I had a race the following day.  I was hoping to get a decent lead by the turnaround and be able to relax the way back in.  It felt like forever to the turn.  I'm not joking when I say I bet I went up and down 8 different times just getting to the turnaround.  The longest flat stretch was about 200 meters.  I could tell I was putting ground on 2nd place but the chase pack looked like there might be some really fast runners.  They were a lot of tall lanky college kids who I was thinking may be really fast.  At the 1/2 way point I was up about a minute and a half so I knew I could relax.  I shut things down on the way back in but the hills still required effort.  I ended up with the 2nd fastest run split at 18:46 which shocked me because it felt like 22 minutes.  My overall time was 1:03:11.  A HUGE congrats to all who finished this demanding course.  Complete results with splits can be found by clicking here

The Holiday Lake race was extremely well put on.  There were a ton of volunteers and they gave away about 40 door prizes.  In addition to winning the top cash prize of $250.00 for iHope I also won a prize pack from Headblade for being the 1st bald finisher.  I can say this is the first race I've ever done that had a special award for the first bald finisher.  Headblade is a special shaving razor designed for the head.  It was great seeing one of my students in this race.  Sam Lundry is only 14 years old but has an extremely rare work ethic and is VERY dedicated to triathlon.  Sam has gotten special permission to compete in longer triathlons because most of the long ones don't let kids his age compete.  He has proven he is well trained to not only finish them but finish them really well.  Sam placed 14th of about 100 in a time of 1 hr. 13 minutes.  He just got permission to race a 1/2 Ironman at Rev 3 Wisconsin Dells in August.  I'm sure he'll be ready for it. 

Following the race I got a good 2 mile cool down run with Sam and then before I left the park I got back in the water to swim about 500 yards.  I've always found swimming to be one of the best ways to get an active recovery and feel better afterwards.  When I finished the swim I drove about 90 minutes to Waterloo, Iowa and got my packet for the Accel Triathlon and then stayed with my good friend and college teammate Randy Bill.  Randy was just back from doing a running relay from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois.  Randy told me about this relay in which he teamed up with 11 other guys.  They each ran 3 different legs of the journey.  Randy's total mileage was 19 and he averaged under 5:15/mile for the total distance.  Needless to say this 2:22 marathoner has some major talent.  He finished his first triathlon last weekend and is preparing for a 1/2 Ironman distance race in August. 

Accel Race Report
I felt pretty good on Sunday morning.  I was at George Wyth Park plenty early to get a good warm up in.  I knew a solid warm up would be important after racing on Saturday.  The water temperature was about 66 degrees which is a great temperature.  I like cold swims in my Xterra Vendetta wetsuit.  I had switched wheels so I'd be riding the Sub-9 disc on the rear since the course didn't have any major climbs.  All of the Olympic distance guys would start together at 7:00 am.  The conditions were overcast, cool, with about 13 mph winds out of the south.  It was expected to rain during the race but the major storms stayed away.

SWIM: The Olympic distance swim is much longer than the sprint so I knew it would be even more important not to start to fast.  The swim was an out and back course but the line of buoys curved and resembled a 1/2 moon shape.  I figured it would be best to take the straight line to the turn buoy and chop off the extra from swimming along the rope.  However there were kayaks not far off the line and I figured the kayaks were there to keep people from taking the straight line so I started right along the line of buoys.  When the siren sounded to start the race I took off relaxed and on the inside.  I was breathing every 3 strokes.  About 1/2 way to the first buoy which was 250 meters I noticed the main crowd was taking the straight line to the far end and they were about 20 yards to my right.  I moved out slightly.  I wanted to get on feet if the opportunity arose but it never happened.  Because I started conservatively the guys I was passing were going too slow and the stronger swimmers were already ahead.  I felt really relaxed and actually felt strong on the way back in rather than my normal feeling of heavy arms in the 2nd half.  I knew before the turn that one guy was way ahead.  He was at least 2 minutes ahead of my at the turn if my counting was correct from the time I saw him go by on the other side of the rope.  I swam hard on the way back in and exited the water with the 5th fastest swim in 22:58.  I haven't done a lot of Olympic distance races the past few years but this was one of my better swims time wise over this distance.  I had the fastest transition of the race and was on the bike ready to make up some ground. 

BIKE: Going on the same time as the Olympic distance race was a sprint race.  That made it feel like my old days racing in amateur waves of Ironman when I would start in the 8th wave and have lots of bikes to pass by the time I was out of the water.  Most of the athletes I was passing were sprint distance athletes.  I actually had no way of telling who was a sprint athlete and who was in my race.  I rode hard and with everyone I passed let out a "way to work" Coach Olsen style.  The ride was so fun compared to when I race professionally and I'm on my own for much of the bike due to my poor swimming.  At about mile 10 the Olympic distance racers turned off on a detour to make up the extra distance.  I had no idea what place I was in.  I couldn't see anyone.  I asked a volunteer and they said one other athlete had gone by.  I put my head down and dug deep to pull back time hoping to see this athlete...and I kept hoping...and hoping...and never saw them.  There were stretches I could see 3 minutes ahead and still I saw no one.  I was trying not to get discouraged but it was frustrating not seeing anyone coming back.  I was riding hard and was averaging near 25 mph.  When I got back to the park I had a great dismount and had the fastest 2nd transition of the race.  I had no idea how far back I was but thankfully Randy was there and told me I was 2:30 down to the leader.  My bike time was 59:33 which was right about 25.0 mph average.  It was the fastest bike split of the race. 

RUN:  The run conditions were perfect.  The course was completely flat which was great for me because I'm such a rhythmical runner.  I do a lot of tempo workouts and train myself to get into a running rhythm and stick to that rhythm.  I did not have a GPS but felt pretty good from the first step.  There were no signs of cramps and I didn't feel tight at all.  That's probably thanks in part to the ART work from Kaminski Pain and Performance Care on Thursday.  The run course consisted of two 5k loops.  I still couldn't tell who I was chasing because sprint athletes were also on the 5k.  When I went through the first loop Randy said the lead was down to just under 1 minute.  I dug deeper not wanting it to come down to a sprint finish.  When I got to the turn on the 2nd loop with 1.5 miles to go I caught the leader.  Josh Otis had raced really well and went with me for a quarter mile or so.  I was relieved to get away and pushed hard on the way back fearing that he was right behind me.  I thought a lot about how bad I wanted to win this race because the win would pay for an iPad for iHope and my parents match so the win actually meant 2 iHope gifts.  I crossed the finish line in 1:59:21 which was my best Olympic distance time by a few seconds.  I never thought I would break 2 hours because I have not put in near the amount of training yet this year as I have in years past.  I'm heavier but also very strong right now which reminds me that body weight is not the tell-all sign of fitness.  My 10k run time was 35:51 which was the 3rd fastest of the race.  Complete results of  the Accel Triathlon with splits can be found by clicking here

The Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier ran a story about my race and the mission of my racing.  You can read that story by clicking here

All in all I was stoked about the weekend.  Big Thanks to Randy and Jaime Bill for letting me stay with them on Saturday. The races were both extremely well organized and both had the feel of races that are into giving back to the community rather than races that want to make as much money as possible.  It made me realize deciding to support non-Ironman branded races in 2013 was a great move.  Both races had lots of giveaways and provided great value.  The organization was nothing less than the organization of an Ironman branded event and they gave more back to the people who signed up to do them.  The two race wins allowed me to earn $750.00 for the iHope Foundation.  With my parents match that means the weekend will fund 3 iHope gifts for low-income students who display outstanding character and work traits.  My yearly race winning total is at about $1,200.00 and my season goal was $1,500.00 which will certainly be surpassed now.  I'm so excited by what this foundation does for kids in our community.  Big THANKS to Seth Long for making a tax deductible contribution this week.  If you would like to add to the weekend total I was able to earn for iHope click  here to make a tax deductible contribution.  You can either enter paypal information or provide credit card info.  The other way would be to mail a check to our school's administration center.  That address is on the iHope page of this blog.  I'm looking forward to racing in event #2 in the Scheel's Duathlon series next weekend. Thanks for reading!  DREAM BIG!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

"I'm not afraid anymore"...Week 16

"I'm not afraid anymore."  This actually has nothing to do with racing.  The title of this post is a quote taken from Kevin in Home Alone when he gets over his fear of the two bad guys trying to rob his house while he is alone for Christmas.  This is also the exact same thing I have thought this year in regards to the vicious Redwing Blackbirds that are in prime "kill" season. 

Sometime in late May Redwing Blackbirds begin to infiltrate rural Scott County by laying nests in tall grass of the ditches along all my bike routes.  I have narrowed down the week when these birds must lay eggs because it was exactly 2 weeks ago when the blackbirds began to become very territorial.  While out on my lunch time run at the junior high I hadn't even gotten off school grounds when the blackbirds began puffing up their tails and letting out their war cries at me.  The birds were pretty non-aggressive until last week when they started actually making the dive bomb attempts at my head.  These birds used to scare the crap out of me.  In the summer of 2009 I was hit on my bike 9 times by these birds.  A local doctor, Dave Juehring was actually hit by one and it caused a bad accident that has kept him from riding his bike outdoors ever since.  In 2009 I actually stopped riding outdoors for some time because I was so afraid of these birds hitting me while riding.  2013 is different.  I am not longer afraid of these birds.  I hate them with a passion but I don't fear them.  These birds sit high in trees or on telephone lines and wait for riders to pass.  Then they give chase from behind high overhead before dive bombing with one thing in mind...kill!  Last week when one charged at me while running I stopped and grabbed a handful of rocks and began yelling back at the bird.  It quickly took shelter high in a tree where I proceeded to pelt rocks at it.  I won the battle as the bird flew away in fear.  +1 for the good guys!  Last Monday I was riding and one attacked me and hit me in the helmet.  It didn't even phase me.  I've learned these birds are weak and harmless.  They are actually quite stupid.  They always hit me in the head while biking which is protected with my helmet.  I was hit again yesterday early in my ride in nearly the same spot...for all I know it was the same bird that hit me last week.  Once again I was hit in the back of the helmet and barely noticed.  Both hits this year have come unannounced.  In year's past the birds would follow behind me before dive bombing and letting out a terrible screech before colliding into my helmet.  I've thought about attaching little razor blades to the back of my helmet and tempting them by riding really slowly through the battle grounds.  One thing that won't happen is that I skip an outdoor ride for fear of these birds.  I've learned a few things about these bird attacks which you can take as advice. 
1.  The birds always hit the back of the helmet.  I've been hit over 15 times and every one has been the back of the helmet
2.  The birds have never attacked me when riding with other riders.  I think they are intimidated by groups even if the group is only 2. 
3.  The birds are at their worst from the first of June through about the 3rd week of June.  The babies must be hatching and they are so protective I have seen them attack hawks 20x their size...not to mention human beings
4.  Speed matters...when riding through the war zones if you are riding less than 20 mph you are dead.  If you ride 20-25 mph you have a chance...25+ and they won't attack.  If you want to lesson your chances of getting hit ride fast. 
5.  The birds are weak.  Monday I noticed the birds don't handle wind well.  They could hardly move forward when trying to chase me into a 20 mph wind. 
Feel free to share your Redwing Blackbird attack stories or advice in the comments this week. 

If you are traveling out in rural Scott County beware of the birds but don't fear them.  They think they own the territory but show them who's boss. 

My highlight of week 16 was getting out for a 107 mile ride on Sunday with Cassidy Moulton.  The winds were strong but we rode almost entirely into the wind the first half of the ride and then had it at our backs the 2nd half which made for a great ride.  I stopped in DeWitt for a slice of breakfast pizza and later in Eldridge for a slice of regular pizza, a coke and the key...Peanut Butter M&M's.  By the time we got back down to McCausland headed for home I was at about 90 miles in and feeling like a million bucks.  I decided to push the hilly 7.3 mile stretch from McCausland to Argo Corners really hard and I averaged 26.8 mph...keep in mind I had a 20 mph wind helping push me and it was great.  At mile 101 I tried to max my power on a steep hill and I hit 953 watts which was a number I couldn't hit fresh last year when I had lost a lot of bike power trying to get too lean.  This year I'm much stronger.  This weekend I'm attempting to race my first double ever.  I'm going to race a sprint distance event on Saturday and come back Sunday for an Olympic Distance race.  I'm excited about the challenge and the opportunity to raise some funds for iHope.  Big thanks last week to Ed Allen out of Chicago and Adam Less from Davenport for iHope contributions.  If you would like to help contribute to the iHope Foundation that provides low-income students with great character and work traits with iPads click here.  We began the foundation mid-March and were thrilled to give these life-changing gifts to two students in the first year.  We'd like to be able to do many more in the years to come.  Thanks for reading.  Check back next Monday for reports on both races to see how I held up.  DREAM BIG!!