Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Product Introduction – November 2014 Release Date

I have been given the opportunity to manage the release of a new product in November 2014. I am proud to announce the engineering model shows potential to bring this product into the marketplace. There is a significant amount of planning involved that could affect my existing activities. Some of the challenges that need to be considered include the following;
  • Project Alias
  • Product name at time of release
  • Fluid Monitoring – Required
  • High Throughput (feed rate)
  • Multiple leak sources and waste management
  • Elevated DB levels in surrounding ambient environment
  • SOP for nightly shutdown sequence
  • Limited resources 
The design team will be moving this project into the second stage of development I look forward to all your suggestions as we move ever closer towards the final trimester, true labor and hopefully a timely, scheduled release in mid-November 2014!

Work hard, train hard, play harder!
Mark...............and Astrid!

Engineering Model

Is the world ready for this?

....or the world hoping for this?

Product Marketing Image

Let's Meet the Design Team!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Seven Sisters Trail Race - "Right of Passage"

"knarly trails | scenic overlooks | endless hills | all the basalt you can eat"

 (Photo by Greg Saulmon)

Trail racing is something I would never have considered because I am no longer defined as a runner.  I just do not run anymore....Period! Over because of complicated knee issues I have not resolved.  "If it hurts, don't do it" is the logical approach I have taken the last 6+ years dealing with the knee.

It felt a "twang" in the knee, like something sprung loose. I could not ignore the horribly uncomfortable pain which stopped in my tracks. Time off running, several Orthopedics, physical therapy, cross training. Test runs result in pain and immediate frustration. I have not run more than half mile since that time. I really loved running, the intensity, the camaraderie and of course, the races. There is a certain solus in running and escaping for but a moment from everyday living to literally "catch up" with yourself.  Those days seemed to be behind me.....

In the spirit of venturing, I signed up as a solo competitor in the Haglöfs Åre Extreme Challenge. A popular multisport event being held on June 28 in Sweden in which the middle event is a 15-km Mountain "run" well over 1000m in elevation gain. How was I going to prepare for this challenge? I decided to start training hill intervals on trails at speeds of roughly 3.5mph average over 5-6 miles total.  These are aggressive speeds for me with my knee issues and did I mention, I also have weak ankles with chronic knee sprains. I am such a mess.

My buddy John signed up for 7 Sisters and proudly updated his Facebook broadcasting for all to see that he would be racing what appeared to be an incredibly difficult trail race in Western Massachusetts. I immediately thought how this possibly could be a perfect trainer for Sweden. I found the following review in Runner's World which considered the 7 Sisters Trail Race the "HARDEST UP/DOWN RACE" in America.
"In what is one of the most technically demanding trail races in New England, runners are sent along a very rocky, out-and-back roller-coaster ride up and down a ridge-line of the Mt. Holyoke Range. The 12-mile singletrack route burns your lungs as you climb a total of 3,700 feet, then it fries your quads as you retrace your footsteps back to the bottom on the same treacherous terrain."

John and I all "suited" up and excited to get this party started!

Asked permission from my wonderfully loving and beautiful wife and signed up. John and I would both be racing the 7 Sisters for the very first time!  What was I getting myself into I thought?  This is going to just crush me and there was a huge risk for injury that might very well set back my training.  I knew it would be difficult but I also knew if I could overcome this then I would surely be capable of tackling the climb over Åreskutan in Sweden!

Race preparations:

  1. Salomon XZ Pro 3D Ultra 2 GORE-TEX
  2. Bike Shorts and Compression Short Sleeve Top by Body Glove
  3. Pearl Izumi thermal sleeves and Under Armor socks (fight off the chilly morning)
  4. Trekking Poles and   Dakine Bike Glove
  5. Platypus Hydration Pack with 40ozs sports drink
  6. Balance Bar Protein and Cliff Shots
  7. Ankle brace and medical bandage
  8. Lightweight shell: In case of injury, so I did not get cold working my way out.
  9. Bike Helmet with Contour Roam Cam mounted
  10. Droid: To enable Endomondo App for GPS tracking.

For the record, I apologize to all the purists out there.  If you knew me you would understand completely!

Goal: Realistic ~3.5mph and a 3.15:00 finish. I always consider the what if, best case scenario if planets were to align and the hills filled with the sound of music!  That would be ~4mph pace and break 3 hours.

La Sportiva Mountain Cup attracts some stout competition! (Photo by Greg Saulmon)

The 7 Sisters is nationally recognized and on the La Sportiva Mountain Cup circuit which is very impressive.Chip timing and wave start was new to the race this year and I believe a record showing of 400+ competitors.  All racing on a 3 foot wide trail!

I got in a little trouble before the race began trying to get some video of the lead wave going off and messing up the feed to the timing system waking back and forth nearby to find a good position. I only held up the race by 10 minutes.... Just kidding and sorry about that!

Start of the 7 Sisters Trail Race 2014!

Wave 4 is pumped up, ready to kick it in gear. 300 runners ahead of us! (Photo by Greg Saulmon)

Starting out fast in the lead pack of wave 4 felt amazing, like old times. John (red shirt) was just ahead of me as I set pace a couple spots behind him. Greatest feeling running in a race with one of my buddies again!

Scrambling up Bare Mountain before we catch the previous wave.

Bare Mountain is the first of the 7 lovely ladies we tackle. This is a talus scree path and boulder garden up some ~470' in elevation. We caught the third wave within 3 minutes and well, things slowed down tremendously. Let the games begin!

Climbing with this many people breathing heavily almost felt apocalyptic!

Getting up and over Bare puts you onto the heights of the Holyoke Range, an extensive ridge with multiple "peaks" or perhaps better referred to as basalt crags, some more challenging than the next. Natures obstacle course turned runners roller coaster ride, coming down short stretches of steep building your momentum and crashing into a short steep, craggy boulder strewn path, up and over the other side. This happens literally countless numbers of times.  Stay in control of your heart rate and keep your whits about you, there are plenty of rogue rocks and fallen trees to ruin your day.

Coming off another short, twisting and winding flat into a col and back up the other side!

This is the section of the race, where you strategically make your time. Racers start to form in scattered groups across the entire ridge. If you can latch on and draft one for a little, save some energy and attempt to move past....then your off to find the next little patrol. This is seemingly a never-ending process of runners very slowly picking each other off.  Recommend finding a similar paced group or even a single runner hang on for the ride.

The Summit House on Mt Holyoke is unmistakable and marks what becomes the longest decent during the race ~570' in one mile.  Downhill stretches and some flat sections in the trail is where my knee would begin to scream at me. I would just back off a little intensity and let the pressure subside.  My knee would remarkably reset on every climb or uphill scramble and any uncomfort would dissipate.

"Not Your Average Runner" (Photo by Greg Saulmon)

There are very few lengthy opportunities to get into a rhythm at normal pace.  A good effort by an average runner would have you paced in your comfort zone for approximately 3 miles of the total race. Collectively this is still 2.5 miles more than I would have ever thought possible!

There are times you start feeling more like a deer following a herd path as you really get up close and personal to nature. The 7 Sisters will try to assimilate you with your every stride, hopping, skipping and jumping along the trail.

So much fun...  Smile for the camera :-)

Passing people in both directions is actually quite exciting. Especially seeing the top athletes and this is just a sign of things to come.  Waves upon waves of runners working their way up the long slog back up Mt Holyokoe.  Your turn would come all too soon. We were all in this together and it was so impressive knowing every single person exerting such an outstanding effort to crush this course.

Here comes a strong group  holding tight formation and pushing their way back up Mt Holyoke.

Hordes of people ahead of you have turned around and coming back in reverse direction. This is a unique aspect of this race when you have everyone on the course cheering for each other around every twist and turn in the trail...... such great spirit!

I even had the opportunity to meet and greet a fellow racer and this years Tuckerwoman winner at the Tuckerman Inferno Pentathlon. Such a small community of outdoor enthusiasts its not uncommon to start seeing the same people at wildly different events. Way to play hard Nina! ....She fast!

High Five John.  Powerhouse!

At the bottom of Mt Holyoke was the single largest spread of energy snacks I have ever seen during the middle of a race. Sucked down a cup of water and grabbed some Cliff Shot Blocks. What an excellent show of support from the volunteers at the 7 Sisters!

A magnificent trail runners Smörgåsbord awaits you at the turn around!

What comes next is the dreaded turnaround! Just like that Wam Bam!  Down 570' and back up 570' all in two miles... This is definitely the hardest effort of the race. Energy is at a premium and muscles are fatigued. Racers can very likely cramp up or completely bonk. Hopefully you saved something in reserve for the return trip to the finish line. The only thing going for you is your more familiar with the course and trail ahead than you were earlier.

Things are much more spread apart on the way back.  So you will find yourself alone if you have not found a group or runner to stick with. I luckily found someone and stuck with him for about 45 minutes. Great to have some conversation and we both have a Swedish wife. What are the chances!

Here he is running down a fallen tree!

The pipes mark the final push for the last summit on the backside of Bare Mountain. Almost done!

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling!

Getting up and over the final summit is an amazing feeling of accomplishment but do not be fooled. The final decent is probably the most treacherous on the trail through the entire race.  Your tired... and your running down a scree path of sharp talus rock, need I say anymore.

Bare Mountain talus scree path on the final decent.

Screaming downhill at 12.1mph clocked on my GPS! (Photo by Scott Livingston)

Finding a similar paced runner like Andrew here made the return trip that much easier!

Result: I averaged ~4.2mph for a 2.49:00 finish and 114 of 433! The only thing I can explain is adrenaline was pumping, endorphin's through the roof and I relied on a solid foundation of cross functional training.

Endomondo elevation profile and overview of Holyoke Range

John finished 27th overall at 2.22:19...  He is such a stud! 

This event felt like what Tuckerman's Ravine is to skiers, a quintessential "Right of Passage" taking a runner above and beyond, achieving a new level of intensity, an escape from the norm. It was the hardest single event I had ever competed and I am still smiling even after the more than 48 hours of necessary recovery. Six years after the "twang" I can honestly say it felt wonderful to be a runner once again!

Will I do it again? Only if they let me back! haha :-)

Come back soon for the video edit...

Work hard, train hard, play harder!

This is what I look like after 12 miles and ~3700 feet elevation gain!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Endomondo Review

"Endomondo is a sports community based on free real-time GPS tracking of running, cycling, etc. Bring your mobile on the track and get a complete training log!"
After sending the Blackberry into the abyss of obsolete electronics, I have updated to the luxury of a droid smartphone. I now have GPS capabilities to conveniently track my workouts. Logging training sessions was never prioritized, I could not be bothered. The droid gives me the added flexibility to use my phone as a fitness tool.  

Now time to choose an app that would get the job done. Reading multiple reviews came down to Strava and Endomondo? I did not want to turn this into a chore having to compare, contrast between two apps as I wanted to get started immediately. I decided to install Endomondo, primarily because Strava appeared much too focused on logging cycling and running activities from the phone app. Endomondo clearly allowed the user to log workouts with specificity. You begin to build numbers by a given activity and this level of detail can help you negotiate your fitness goals.

Over the last several months I have been tracking the majority of my workouts and active pursuits with Endomondo. You can also track all workouts manually by activity on the website. Just enter a new workout and you logged another workout in less than half minute.

Email updates: Monthly notifications show how kick arse or generally lethargic you became :-)

Total Training Overview: Summary of all your workouts combined with filters to toggle the view.

Monthly graph showing steady ramp in mileage over 3.5 month period January through April.

As the weather began to break with the arrival of spring I was able to get outside more and the mileage progressively goes up. This is an important view because too much mileage too soon, to fast can lead to fatigue and injury. Its also a good plan to negotiate mileage in upcoming months and set some proper attainable goals.  For example, in May I want to duplicate my efforts in April as I prepare for the Haglöfs Åre Extreme Challenge in Sweden.

Specific Sport Analysis: As a Spin Instructor I have fairly regular indoor cycling patterns. 

After about 6 weeks of Spinning regularly I started to experience random weakness and fatigue.  I checked my workouts and realized my weekly calorie burn spinning alone is pretty high. I either eat an apple before and protein bar afterwards to help counter the fatigue.  If its a double session, typically rowing into spin or spinning into TRX, I make sure to do both.

Calendar view: Easily navigate your monthly workouts and view a summary of that activity.

GPS Graph: Review your elevation profile and speed, review lap times over distance traveled.

In summary, Endomondo has been an excellent application for logging my workouts easily without too much extra effort.  I might eventually go Premium but that will only happen if I decide to upgrade and get a Bluetooth heart rate monitor compatible with the droid phone. This will give me the data I need to track my intensity levels and heart rate zones.

One last thing to note, the app will even report how many burgers you have burned!  Makes it almost feel good to go back to Five Guys wolf down a double all the way.

Work hard, train hard, play harder!