Sports Barn Triathlon The Good And The Bad

Well another year and another crack at the local Sports Barn Sprint Triathlon. While I posted my best time of my 4 attempts, read on to learn why I probably won’t return next year.

First the Good.  While the 1 hour barrier continues to torment me at 1:00:24, I again shaved a few minutes off of my previous time.  I also set a personal record on both my swim and bike times.  Unfortunately my run wasn’t the only painful thing about the race this year.

The Bad:  The race was largest it’s ever been but the race support wasn’t prepared to accommodate these larger numbers. Here’s a breakdown of everything that went wrong.  The transition areas aren’t getting any bigger and at some point the Sports Barn is going to need to limit the field or change locations.  You can only fit so many bikes into a set amount of space.  The 3 bike racks for 500+ race numbers was a joke as there were 660+ finishers.  This was made worse by the fact that race numbers were apparently not by registration date as in previous years.  Meaning you could register early and still get screwed on your lack of bike rack space.

Pre-race was even worse.  The race table wanted to see your race number to give out your chip and mark your body.  Not only was this never required in the past but it doesn’t even make sense.  USAT rules state that you only need your paper race number on during your run.  Which is why many seasoned triathletes leave their number on a race belt or shirt next to their shoes at T2 – 8 miles from where the chips are handed out.  Not only that the race table ran out of chip bands delaying many participants pre-race prep as well as the entire race.  Now races start a few minutes late.  It happens.  But half an hour is ridiculous for a race that takes 40-80 minutes to complete.

These delays and the large number of people led to even more confusion because the 10 watt announcer speaker which was a bit sad years back with 300 participants was totally inadequate for informing and directing 800 people.  You could not hear announcements in the majority of the crowd or even down at the starting line.  Many people were in the water too early and in the way.  Some people even started in the wrong waves giving them an unfair advantage on their times.  I know because I passed a 36 yr old female early in the bike course.  And since she should have started 4 waves behind me that would mean she completed her swim and T1 in less than 1 minute!  Now I’m not saying she was a cheater (even tho she was cheating) I’m saying that the starting line was chaos – especially for newbies.  But it sucks for everyone else as her time will show up as much faster than it really was.  Heck, if the nearby crowd hadn’t counted down the last 10 seconds with the announcer, racers would have been unprepared for the starting horn.  I also passed a half dozen people that didn’t have any markings on them whatsoever and I only saw a small section of the field during the race.  Just another example of how poorly the pre-race was managed.

Finally post-race problems.  I’ve been doing this race since 2002 and while the race keeps getting bigger the amount of food, drink, and lines to get each have stayed the same.  The registration fee is supposed to cover the after race food.  With twice as many participants there should be twice is much food.  And running out of water is tragic.  If the sponsors can’t handle a bigger “block party” then they need to limit the race to the amount of people they can serve.  Or perhaps stop the last minute registrations if you can’t get the extra people, food and drinks together at the last minute.

As for me, I seriously doubt I’ll participate in this race again.  I train too hard to have my race day messed up by inadequate planning, staff, and foodstuffs.  And since Triathlons are the fastest growing sport in the country, I will easily be able to find other better run races nearby.

Gateway Sets Itself Up To Fail

While netbooks & nettops have been pouring into homes around the country, many netbook users have been craving a bit more power.  Nvidia has promised this power bump with few comprises in their new ION platform which couples the ubiquitous Atom processor with a 9400M GPU instead of the standard integrated solution.  This spring many saw demos of the added power ION brought to the table and the anticipation for real products grew.

Lenovo announced what would be the first ION netbook the IdeaPad S12, with promises of pre-orders in June and deliveries in July.  Unfortunately when those promises became reality, Lenovo admitted it had fibbed a bit.  While you can now buy a S12 – if you want an S12 with ION (the whole reason to buy the S12) you would have to wait until September-October. Marketing students will now ponder what Lenovo hoped to accomplish with such a deception…

Enter Gateway’s LT3103. Launched seemingly in response to the Lenovo bait and switch – another 12″, full keyboard, netbook with a better GPU just after the IrONic truth came to light.  The company couldn’t have timed it any better if it was staged, but will this gift of circumstances translate into gang-buster sales?  My guess is no.  Sadly, Gateway completely missed the boat and provided customers with the opposite of what they wanted: instead of more power the gave less. Let me explain:

The LT3103 uses a AMD Athlon 64 L110 Single-Core Processor – which from what I can tell is an old Athlon 64 2800+ chip underclocked by a third. Now while Athlon is a more powerful CPU than the Atom, the power drain of the old CPU led Gateway to lower the clock speed significantly.  Still the Athlon running at 1.3Ghz should be on par with the Atom at 1.6Ghz.  Unfortunately, Gateway set the chip to 1.2Ghz.  Strike 1.

The Radeon X1270 GPU in the LT3103 scores a meager 328 on 3DMark06 (todays reference for GPU power). While this is better than the 100-ish scores that Intel’s integrated graphics receives it is vastly below ION.  The Asus N10 has a Atom chip + 9300M GPU (the closest real world product to the ION) scored 1417 3DMarks.  ION netbooks with the better 9400M will probably score somewhere between 1600-2000 once they are on the market.  And the slight gains here will be offset by the slight CPU losses. Strike 2.

Finally, Gateway has avoided making any battery claims thus far (always a bad sign) but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here.  We’ll assume the LT3103 gets OK battery life.  The older CPU and GPU will both consume more power than their standard fare netbook bretheren as will the larger 11.6″ screen.  So it is safe to assume that battery life will be on the low end of the netbook typically long life spectrum – if not worse.  Now had Gateway included enough extra umph in their latest offering to offset the power loss it would be one thing, but if it isn’t going to perform better than the average netbook… why would you settle for less battery life? Strike 3.

Now let’s look at what Gateway could have done to create a wildly successful product. The standard is well established: 10″ screen, Atom CPU, etc. etc.  No guessing here.  And customers are calling for larger screens, full keyboards, and more power – all without losing the portability and price.  Now with AMD parts you can’t do all of these things but you could do all but one – and Gateway could have cornered the market for 3 months until ION really rolled out.

Take the LT3103 and split the difference on the underclocking and put a competitive GPU in it.  Now we’re looking at 1.5Ghz Athlon besting the Atom by 15% and ATI X1400 with 3x the horsepower (1064 3DMarks) of the X1270 and a significant boost over integrated solutions.  While this won’t best any full sized notebooks, you at least can wipe the floor with any netbook on the market.  The CPU price should be the same and the GPU cost increase should be small. Meaning that only one area would be lacking in the checklist of “perfect” netbook: battery life.  The power drain of this upgraded device would be even higher and most likely take it out of the realm of netbook longevity and down into notebook times.  But here’s the thing: no one would care.

OK some people would care, but those people aren’t going to buy a 4-5hr life device anyway (assuming the original LT3103 could hit those times), they’ll go with one of the 8+hr devices out there.  But many people would trade longevity for power as long as the size, weight, and most importantly price all remained in line.  Gateway could have easily brought the upgraded device to market for $449 (instead of $399) and possibly thrown in a 2nd battery at $499. Many customers would gladly find an outlet or grab a second battery to have the most powerful netbook available.  And right now those customers have 0 choices on the market.  This fall there will be several.  Gateway those sales could have been yours.

iKindle Review

Well today I finished my first full length ebook, Ender in Exile, with the help of my Kindle iphone app.  In a word: I love it – ok that’s 3 words.  The iKindle is great because I can read in bed without the muss semi-direct lamp light.  I can also spend “dead time” reading a good book instead of “wasting” time with game or web site that I wouldn’t bother with if I wasn’t waiting in line (or whatever).  As I am now looking for my next read, I have discovered that you can now get free samples of Kindle books – a great way to try before you buy.

Problems with iphone ebooks? 1) Back light.  This can be handled by turning the brightness WAY down (or off in the case of late night reading).  Being able to select an off white color would help in this area. 2) Landscape.  Without landscape mode, you can’t set the font too large or you get a bunch of hypenated or excessively spaced words.  This should be an easy upgrade for Amazon.

eBook vs Real Books… You have to give up underlining/highlighting of text when you go iKindle.  The impact of this is largely based on if you are researching or not in your reading.  However, I would estimate that I will read about 2x as fast from start to finish on average books, because of the ability to capture all those dead moments in life and read something you want instead of what’s available.

Tri Shorts Testing

Today was my last big ride before the race and the official wet test of my new running shorts.  There are actual tri-unitards that the pros use.  I personally don’t like them A) they run well in excess of $100 B) they have a bike pad in them.  Bike pads are great for biking – not so great for running. I recently added true bike shorts to my workout arsenal.  I have learned that once you cross about 20 miles on a bike, better shorts become more necessary.  So while I use bike shorts for long bike rides, they don’t work well for multisport – at least for me personally.

Anyway my new running shorts featured a very breathable tech short with a pseudo-spandex compression short underneath.  In order to simulate race conditions I thoughly soaked the shorts before my ride today.  They passed with flying colors – by mile 2 they were as dry as my sweating would allow and induced zero chaffing.  They are made by Asics, cost $40, and come in a few colors.  Check your local running shops for them.

I tried several different clothing solutions, but this was by far the best and I wholeheartedly recommend them to tri-beginners not ready for the unitard duck waddle running.  I was glad to find them as my race is only a week away.

  •  Bike 21 miles – 1:26:08 (14.7mph, 968cals) a hilly course was choosen as the race course is hillier than most.

OggSync 4.0h Crap

In my quest to slowly remove Billy from my life (as much as possible in this MS Windows dominated world), I have grown tired of moving my giant email archives every time I have to reinstall windows to make it happy again. I had moved over my main acct to Gmail last year but my Windows Mobile phone syncs up with Outlook (only).  So I set out to find a way to replace this function with google (the next world dominator).

There are serveral programs that will sync your WM calendar with your google one from your device (google has something that can connect from your computers outlook and sync), but only one that claims to sync your contacts as well. That is OggSync 4.07.  Here’s how it went….

The calendar syncs are a tad slow even on my EV connection and for some reason it had to put my mom’s birthday on a totally seperate google calendar (shrug).  Other than that oddity it seem fine.  However the contact syncing was much worse.  The fastest way to sum it up is from my emails to support [notes added]:


Syncing my contacts A) took way too long [MUCH longer than the calendar sync we’re talking over an hour] B) made duplicates of many of my contacts on my device… not cool. C) I had to go and resetup my speed dial list

It defeats the purpose of a direct sync from my device to gmail if I have to then use a sync to outlook to clean up the mess OggSync made.


Sorry you are unhappy.  You can undo the sync by unchecking the “enable sync” and syncing again.  It will put the device back into the state it was before you started.

It is best if you start with a clean device to begin with. [this was not mentioned anywhere on the site, in the setup process, etc]


Ok, since I could “undo” the changes I figured I would give it another try.  I deleted some of the duplicate contacts on the google side and then tried syncing again.

This attempt was worse than the first.  It still believed that every contact didn’t match and therefore “updated/changed” every single contact even though were only 2-3 new contacts. It created even more duplicates & removed all my speed dial associations from my Sprint Touch.

Thus over this useless software, I tried your “unchecking” method.  After FOUR HOURS of “deleting contact xxx” (which i assumed was removing all the duplicates) it finally finished.  So I went to my contacts to see how the process worked.  My contacts list was EMPTY!  Trying to remain calm, I rebooted my phone hoping that would help: it did. My contacts were mostly back but in an EVEN WORSE state than before.

“Undoing” the sync created even more duplicates — we’re up to 4 copies of many contacts now and for some reason 8 of others and while others only 1.  Not only that anything that had been on my speed dial list was completely deleted.  That’s right the people I call the most, now I can’t call at all.

And to go one step further the FONT on my phone screen changed with the “undo” process so it doesn’t all fit on the screen!  I am now going to have to hard reset and re-install everything on my phone just to get it working properly again.

A refund was given.