Thursday, August 27, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Headlights - Light and Motion Stella 200N

I haven't done one of these for a while since the topics are either something I don't use or something I don't really have experience with or an opinion on. This week I feel like I have a little bit to put out on the table.

For last year's Leesburg Baker's Dozen and 24 Hours of Big Bear I had a pretty horrendous lighting situation (in retrospect). I was using a cheap 10 watt Performance brand light taped to my helmet along with a big clunky NightRider road rat on the handle bars. Neither light was particularly bright or long lasting, adjustability was nonexistent and generally these lights served simply to get me home safely but quite slowly. For general commuting purposes these lights worked just fine, enough light to see and be seen and with both at under $100, relatively affordable.

This year I knew I needed more for the racing since I was likely to be racing quite a bit harder then last season. I ended up getting the Light and Motion Stella 200N a small but powerful little light. The retail price was about $180 so it was more then my other two lights but still way less then a lot of the other big time lights that are available out there. Turned out I made the right choice.

The light output is substantially better then the other two combined and allows me to easily run just the one light on my helmet with plenty of light to see what I need to see. In the future I may pick up another to mount to the handlebars for the dual light setup but for now I never really felt held back with the one. The Stella comes with a helmet mount and a simple clasp closure that makes it easy to throw on with bars with no tools or additional mounting pieces necessary. That also means it'd be easy to switch between the commuter and the mountain bike (or whatever other bike you want it on) without having to move any mounting brackets or anything.

One of the most impressive things about this light is the run time. At the highest output the stated run time is 5 hours! So far I have not ridden through the battery including a few rides of 1-2 hours without a charge in between. So, unless you'll be out for a full night of riding the Stella should be able to light your way with no problems.

My single complaint about this light goes right along with my praises for it. While the mounting clasp is great with it's ease of use and overall accessibility, it can also cause problems in certain situations. Since it essentially uses a rubber strip wrapped around a bar the light can rotate up or down around the bar fairly easily. This was never a problem on it's own, even over the extremely rough terrain at the 24 Hours of Big Bear. Low hanging branches however can cause a serious scare.

I believe it was a night ride at Rosaryville wear I found this out. In one corner of the inner loop there is some overhanging vegetation you generally have to duck under. On one of the MORE night rides The branches caught the light and whipped it straight up and I was suddenly without a light in a near 180 degree turn with who knows what coming up. I made it out of it that time ok but I could see how that could have turned out pretty nasty.

A second bar mount light could probably save me there and with the brightness, longevity and ease of use I get with the Stella I'm more then satisfied with what I've got.

For another enlightening post on "lights" go see Jim's review for today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some bits and pieces...

A couple of random things.

First, I've been struggling a little bit with finding the perfect socks for running in my Montrail Highlander trail shoes. They fit great and feel great all around, except for my right pinkie toe. Any run over about 6 or so miles and my toe starts to get rubbed a bit too much and blister is either formed or rubbed off.

Saturday for my long run, due to all my other decent athletic socks being in the wash I decided to try the supposed winter weight DeFeet Woolie Boolies I bought specifically for winter cycling since my feet get so cold in the winter. Turns out they were by far the best socks I've got for the job! My feet felt awesome after the run and never felt over heated by the heavy wool socks. They weren't even as soggy as I would've expected considering my shoes were soaked through by the end of the run. Just a bit of body glide and these socks and it looks like I've found my magic solution.


Another thing. My training log on Runner's World keeps track of shoes and mileage for me so always know where I stand with my shoes. With my run last night I broke 100 miles on my Montrails which I only just bought in June and really started using more heavily over the last few weeks. In comparison, my Nike's I bought back in August of last year have just over 140 miles on them. My Asics which I bought a bit before the Nike's are around 230 miles but unfortunately are exceptionally close to retirement as they're just about broken down entirely. I've heard this is one problem with Asics shoes; much shorter life spans though they are awesome shoes while they last.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The good, the bad and scummy

All week I've been eagerly waiting for this weekend to come. I had big plans and with Aimee in Florida through the end of the weekend, I had no commitments to speak of. Perfect for a couple of long days out in the great outdoors. I tossed around the idea of a backpacking trip with Brian, or maybe a fast packing trip, just me and my pup; 20+ miles on Saturday and another 20+ on Sunday with super minimal gear. Could be pretty sweet, if of course I could work the gear right. Then I was thinking long ride, Shaffer and Hoyles Mill and Black Hills and maybe more if I could figure it out for Saturday. Sunday, change it up with a sweet long trail run.

Then it started raining and any and all of those plans went down the tube. Well, almost all.

While I knew any sort of mountain biking was out for the weekend I figured I could try and squeeze in a long run somewhere. I headed up to Patapsco to see what the trails were like with the intention of heading to Columbia to run some errands if they were bad. What I found were surprisingly tacky and solid trails all around.

So, I donned a lumbar (fanny) pack with a water bottle holder, bungees for my rain jacket and pockets for cell phone and gu's and hit the trails with Cass. I stuck to trails I never ride and trails away from heavy run off and river valley areas and saw tons of areas in the park I've never before seen. After tooling around some of the different routes up between Avalon and the 195 park and ride entrance I headed out the paved Grist Mill trail searching for some different trails and different areas. I found a way across the train tracks and made it up eventually to the Hilton area and headed out further from there.

At this point we'd been out running for about an hour and a half to two hours and it was starting to rain. The trails were holding up and the rain barely seemed to be coming through the leaves so I decided to keep going since I was still feeling good. Headed out a few trails that eventually brought me back down to the paved trail (still grist mill maybe?) and a dam where I circled back around on Buzzards Rock Branch Trail. At this point the rain was starting to pick up so remembering a few key things from a park map I'd looked at back at the Hilton area I headed back in the general direction of where we came from, all the while sticking to different trails.

Eventually we made it back down to the parking area at the trail head (middle?) of Soapstone and started on the final stretch, deciding to stick to soapstone since it was about time to be finished. The cloud cover was starting to make it dark in the woods and it was getting late (much later then I realized). Soapstone was beginning to get a bit nasty though it generally is probably one of the first trails to get bad as the water tends to run and puddle on the trail there naturally.

When we finally made it back up to the trail head a bit over 3 hours later I think both Cass and I were ready to be finished, dry and fed. Unfortunately, some scumbag had decided my truck looked money and that there was probably something of value in it. They smashed my passenger side rear window with a rock (which they left me as a souvenir on Cassie's bed along with a wonderful pile of glass and only charged me a wallet! How wonderful a present.

Oddly enough they left my (outdated?) ipod player sitting in my center console where the wallet was as well as my GPS navigation device which had slid out from under the passenger side seat and was sitting in plan view when the passenger side door was opened (which they had done). Strange... apparently these guys were too good for my electronic devices! Though they did take my ipod car charger I think.

BofA had called me while I was running which I guess I'd missed hearing coming from wrapped in a plastic bag in a pocket near my dairy-aire. Apparently they spent some $70 at MacDonalds before attempting to rack up about $1000 at Walmart. Pretty easy to ID the fraudulent purchases there since I REFUSE to eat MacDonalds and haven't been to a Walmart probably since I was at school in Pittsburgh.

This is going to be a fun week. New driver's license, new work ID, NEW REI MEMBER CARD!!!, new smart trip card (which had some $80 still on it), new health insurance cards, (damn it, they stole the cross I kept from when I was young serving at my church as an acolyte! S@#$!), new AAA card, phew, I just took my social security card out of my wallet a little while back..., oh yeah new debit card, new costco card... Let's see. Anything else? I think that's more then enough. I'll be really pissed if they got my Cosi card.

Ok, I'm done. I think I've blown off enough steam for one night. If you made it this far... sorry!

At least the run was great!

Friday, August 21, 2009

We're all gonna die!

The other day I mentioned my office's pan-flu briefing (you know, where I spread my swine flu germs around?)

Well, this morning while I rinsed my coffee mug in the bathroom sink, the speaker and all around emergency planner guru for our Agency came in and used the facilities. When he came up to wash his hands when he was finished he gave them a 2 second burst of water, dried them off and walked out of the bathroom.


This is the same guy who was telling us all on Monday we should sing happy birthday to ourselves while vigorously scrubbing our hand with soap and hot water (for 20 to 30 seconds) everytime we use the facilities to help prevent the upcoming devestation of the pandemic flu!

When it happens I'm totally blaming him.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dirty swine

A week and a half ago I went to Florida for my buddy Mike's bachelor party, stretched over 4 nights in Orlando and Tampa. Pretty much went as I'd expected with way too much alcohol and high school antics for my old body to handle so my own celebrations were cut down to only 3 nights. Sunday I spent the entire day in bed listening to brain numbing bass coming from the full time DJ at the Tampa resort we were staying at.

I figured I was just tired and hungover at that point. When I came home Monday with a hgih fever and chills and the tell tale signs of the FLU I realized otherwise. Turns out at least half the group came down with some form of the same thing; Mike told me he was sitting at work drooling on himself while staring blindly at his computer screen. I was fortunate enought o have sick days I could use but my feelings of last week are about the same.

So, back to reality, after a one and half day work work I headed to PA to bring up some stuff to the folks and spend a relaxing weekend. Did a little light rowing and kayaking and very brief hike and otherwise just generally rested. Sunday when I got home I tried to run and did 5.5 miles over at GNP with Cass. I had to walk a few times and definitely ran slower then I can remember running but I'm glad I got out and did it.

I still feel like I have asthma and walking up a flight of stairs still leaves me straining a bit for breathe but every day I'm feeling a little bit better. Yesterday we had a pandemic flu briefing at work so I of course made sure to project my coughing out over the entire auditorium so we can get this ish over with; with a flair of irony.

Tonight I'm hoping to get in an easy dirt ride, maybe at Rosie to see how the lungs are progressing. With Nation's tri only 3 and a half weeks away, I'm likely going to have to resign myself to the base fitness level I'm at with maybe a couple more LT work outs thrown in before I have to cut and run with what I've got.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fight like Susan

I only knew her, and him through my enjoyment of the blog, yet this morning after reading this I'm fighting back tears; not for the first time after reading a post by Elden. This one hurts just a little bit more though.

Fight Like Susan.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

At least the Nationals have some sort of entertainment value...

Ok, I admit. Even though I've only been to one Nationals game and I'm still way more a Balitmore O's fan then a Nat's fan (I don't think I could handle that deep of a low without at least some semblance of a history that included some form of winning), I've really enjoyed the occassional news about the President's races at every home game. Poor Teddy...

Pittsburgh on the other hand has the Pierogies. And as we all know, Pittsburgh is known for their win at all costs style of play. (yes, the costs there are beating MY teams!)

So when I saw this, I was both livid and heart broken... Well, and laughing my ass off. What a hit!

Monday, August 03, 2009

There's more to life then sport?

Between the longer then usual recovery period after the Pittsburgh Tri, (my legs were sore for 4 or 5 days after the race) general never ending house work and the added bonus of having my Father and Bro-In-Law slated to help with that this weekend and prepping for Aimee moving in at the end of the month, my workouts took a major backseat to the rest of life. Friday I managed to squeeze out a quick loop at GNP between work and a date night with Aimee but the remainder of the weekend was full of house work/prep and family time. I'm not complaining about though.

On Saturday my father came by with Brian and they helped bust out the long anticipated molding work for the living/dining room area of my house. I'd been putting this off for way too long so it was great to finally get it going. For the base board we did basic 1 x 6 for a clean and simple look. In checking out a few neighbors' houses lately I'd noticed how nice the crown molding made their downstairs areas look so I was really pumped to get this put up in my place. I'd say it turned out great!

Molding and the new light I installed last week. The place is starting to look like a home.

There is still some painting and sanding to do but the improvement is stunning and undeniable. The area is really finally coming together and starting to look great. A major thanks to Brian and Dad for all their hard work this weekend!

After all the work was done we all headed down to downtown Silver Spring for dinner at Adega. If you've never been I highly suggest it. By far my favorite place (other then Pacers of course) in DT SS.

Gratuitous dog shot.

This morning after a a rough night of sleep (an inability to fall asleep for 3 or 4 hours is never nice) I decided to turn off the alarm, wake up a bit late and get the pup and myself out for another loop at GNP, though this time at a much slower pace. Friday I felt heavy and sluggish from a week of not working out and eating too much though the legs were pretty fresh from the rest. Today the legs were tired and sore (and my pace showed it) and my upper back, shoulders and neck were very noticably tensed up and uncomfortable. It may be time for another serious message before the Nation's tri comes and leaves my muscles all jacked up again in September.

In other news got word today that the pics from the Pittsburgh Tri were ready. Generally a bit dissapointing but in the end we don't do it for the pictures.

Some decent shots of me coming out of the water. I look like I put some work in there. Search for racer 387 for the other 2.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


I really only tri for the cool caps...

Sorry Cole, guess I didn't warn you this was likely to go public...