Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 2013 New England ElliptiGO Summer Classic


Before I tell the story of the first ElliptiGO race ever held on the east coast, I need to thank some important people. Number one is my wife who encouraged me to get an ElliptiGO ten weeks ago, even while knowing the expense, but also knowing that I needed to exercise. In fact she said she knew I would get one as soon as showed her what an ElliptiGO was (she knew right away that it would fit my personality and my need for exercise).

Bryan Pate and John Childs before the Saturday morning group ride.
That leads me to thanking race director John Childs. He is the guy who put together the New England ElliptiGO Classic. I saw a post on this race right before the Boston Marathon this year and was immediately intrigued. I was somewhat curious about the ElliptiGO, but did not find elliptical machines very satisfying and they sometimes hurt the muscles around my hip from my surgery two years ago. I made a point at the Boston Marathon Expo to seek out the ElliptiGO booth and rode the ElliptiGO set up on a stationary stand while I talked and asked questions about it with Steve Burton from ElliptiGO. I found the motion very satisfying and more like running than an elliptical machine's motion. I was intrigued enough to ask Steve about who I should contact about renting an ElliptiGO so I could just do the race for fun (I thought my running was moving along enough at that point that I would be able to do 50 mile weeks all summer and was pointing towards a trail marathon as my summer goal). I contacted John Childs and he mentioned that he was an ex-runner who rides an EllliptiGO because he could exercise pain-free from his knee and hip problems (something similar to what Steve Burton had said about his ElliptiGO riding while at the marathon expo). Of course, I signed up for the race and put my name down for renting an ElliptiGO. I then found that my running was not progressing and I was very limited in what I could do and that is when my wife encouraged me to get the ElliptiGO. I did a few days later and cancelled my rental with John. I was now an owner and the fun has just not stopped all summer long. If John had not put on this race, I may never had been encouraged or curious enough to become an ElliptiGO owner and I do not for one second regret that decision.

Bryan Pate and I having brunch at a beach house
in the middle of our group ride.
The third person I want to thank is a guy named Bryan Pate. He is a former cyclist and Ironman triathlete who could no longer run because of hip and knee injuries. He envisioned an elliptical bicycle and became one of the inventors of the ElliptiGO (history here). Bryan came down from California for the race and it was a pleasure to meet and thank the guy who was the catallyst for creating the ElliptiGO. It was fun to hear his stories about how the company came to be and to have him show us how to fix some issues that might crop up on the ElliptiGO. After the race on Friday, he mentioned that my chain was very loose and showed me how I could fix it. The next day on our group ElliptiGO ride along Boston's south shore, my loose chain popped right off when I stopped at one point. That would have been a disaster if it happened during the race. Bryan then fixed it for me and gave me some pointers on keeping my ElliptiGO running smoothly. How often do you have the chance to meet and thank the guy who invented something that gives you so much joy?

Bryan giving a lesson on ElliptiGO repairs.
So thanks to Sarah, John, and Bryan as well as a big thanks to all the ElliptiGO racers who came out to the race and to the group ride along the south shore the next morning. What a great group of people. The only racer I had met before the race was Matt Byrne from Extreme Fitness Equipment. He is the guy who sold me my ElliptiGO and it was good to see him racing too.After the race, I got to talk with many of the other ElliptiGO riders (there is a friendly debate about what to officially call us: ElliptiGOers or Elliptians?), I am not sure how to describe them: originals? pioneers? visionaries? or what, but I found all the ElliptiGO riders to be both  fun and enthusiastic, and those are some of the best types of people to be around. I was thrilled to make many new friends through this shared experience!

The Race:

First off, heavy weekend traffic almost kept me from getting to the race on time! I had wanted to ride the course few times before the race, but that was not to be.

Start of the ElliptiGO Summer Classic (photo by ElliptiGO)
When I did get to the starting line, I saw a lot of young (and older), fit, and strong looking athletes ready to race. I immediately thought, I would be happy to get top five in this group and probably would be lucky to be in the top ten if all went well. I wasn't even sure if I was going to get on the front line, until they moved us up past a barrier and I was able to squeeze in on the right side. Having never raced an ElliptiGO before, I wasn't sure how chaotic the start might become or even if it would be crash free. At the starting horn, I and everyone else got off safely, I found myself in fourth place. There was a lead rider and two ElliptiGOs side by side following right behind. I thought this would be a fine place to be and was curious to see if you could draft on these things. After about a minute or two, there might have been a short uphill (things were happening quickly) and I went left by the two ElliptiGOs just to see what might happen. Then I noticed I was slowing just to stay behind the first 'GO so I sort of drifted right to the front and from that point on, my race demeanor changed. No longer was I wondering how this thing might work out, but I was in the lead. I half expected a lot of surging and jockeying of positions to happen real soon, but I just started grinding away as hard as I could.

There was (thankfully) a motorcycle up ahead guiding the race and after a less than a minute, I noticed it was a bit quieter behind me. I stole a glance back and saw I had about a 30 yard lead. Due to arriving close to the start of the race, I didn't have time to ride the course except for the beginning and end to see what it was like. I had previewed this video and knew the course would be confusing and I also knew that at the one mile mark we would hit an off-road quarter mile section over a rocky fire road.We had been warned about this section and were told to take it easy here, but I was in the lead so only backed off a small bit, but made it through OK, except for a jangling sound near the back of my ElliptiGO that had me worried that something was loosening or maybe a spoke was broke (it was the loose chain I later found out).

Here is a video of the race course:

Exiting the fire road safely, I glanced back again to see that I had extended my lead. From there the race went quick. I am not a sprinter and this felt like a sprint. I just followed the motorbike. I got a little cheeky and almost caught it on one downhill as I surged to see if I could. The course had a lot of turns and had somewhat of a rough surface, but it was nothing that shook the ElliptiGO too much. I looked back every once in a while and at times could see my pursuers and at other times they were out of view behind the corners. I may have had about a 100 yard lead, but it seemed like a safe enough distance and I just wanted to make sure someone didn't have an incredible last half of the race. I went on the short up and downhills and around the swooping corners as I kept the motorcycle in sight. Without that guide, I am sure I would have been lost. At one point after about 4 miles, it got ahead around a corner and there was a road going off to the right as well as the road continuing straight. I couldn't see the motorbike on either road due to the curves and had a moment of panic, but I chose correctly by going straight. At this point I started being a bit more careful so as not to make a mistake by crashing and eased up just a tiny bit to preserve a win. Pretty soon, I saw the finish and sprinted on in. I got off my ElliptiGO quickly, thanked the motorcycle driver and went to cheer on the other racers. They came in fast and furious and kept going riding beyond the finish line. I had a momentary panic that maybe I didn't finish the complete course and it might be further up the road where all the other riders seemed to be going. Nope, I had finished at the correct spot and calmed back down.

Here is a video taken at  three parts of the race. The start, the halfway point, and the finish.

It was a thrill to win the first ElliptiGO race held on the east coast. It was a bit of an unknown as to how it would pan out, but in the end, it was a supreme and total blast. I was at full intensity the whole race, something I can no longer do with my running body and that felt real good. It was fast. I did the 5 miles in 16 minutes and 21 seconds. The race had me spinning my legs as quickly as I could go while pushing over the undulating course which made it seem somewhat like I was riding in a go-cart style race. It very much reminded me of doing triathlons in the 1980s with all the unknowns of a new sport and the faster speeds of cycling.

After the race, I finally got a chance to meet and talk with other ElliptiGOers. The first people I talked with were the older riders like myself. It was funny because we were all comparing hips: operations on the left or right? contemplating surgery or has surgery already been done? arthoscopic surgery or replacement surgery?What does that tell you about the ElliptiGO? It is the tool for broken down athletes. The places that people traveled from to get to the race was amazing: Texas, Mississippi, California, Arizona, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and other locations that I am sure I missed. I guess I could be considered a local guy as I live only an hour and 1/2 away. Anyway, everyone was smiling as like-minded ElliptiGO enthusiasts and pioneers had a chance to get together for a truly fun event.

The next day many of us got together for a wonderful ride along the south shore of Boston. It was amazing to finally see other ElliptiGOs in action and to be part of a historic east coast event and get-together.

Not a sight you see every day, but maybe in a few years this will be normal!
(photo by ElliptiGO)
ElliptiGO brunch and rest stop on the beach!
(photo by ElliptiGO)
I hope to be able to put up some aerial views of the race in a couple of weeks as Dragon Fly Aerials had flying drones on hand to videotape the race. Here is a Runner's World article on the drones being used at the race and a humor piece on the topic.

Meanwhile, if you haven't tried an ElliptiGO yet and it intrigues you or injuries are preventing you from running, then you might want to check out the ElliptiGO website and find out where you can take a test ride. And then, some day you can thank me! I can't begin to tell you how much fun you can have riding an ElliptiGO.

This was my first week with mileage under 100 miles as I tapered a bit and spent a couple of days on vacation in the White Mountains with my wife.

August 19-25
Monday: 20 miles
Tuesday: 6 miles
Wednesday: 12 miles
Thursday: 0 miles
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: 24 miles
Sunday: 20 miles
total miles this week 88 miles
overall total ElliptiGO miles: 1422 miles in 9 weeks


Michael said...

Ran before it was cool. Did Tri's before it was cool. Now ElliptiGO. Jim Hansen - Trailblazer! So happy for you.

PS. Can I have your kick bike. :)

Jim Hansen said...

You want to try out my kickbike or ElliptiGO, just let me know. It's just what you need: another way to work out!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Jim .. Congratulations on the win. Great to see you enjoying yourself again.

You are a pioneer.

Greg H.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Greg,
I am having a blast and it is good to be moving again!

Anonymous said...

Jim...congratulations!! Have really enjoyed following your Elliptigo journey. Video of the race was especially cool.

Paul F
Hyannis, MA

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Paul! Good to hear from you. It has been awhile. I hope you are running or exercising in some way.

Andrew W said...


It's been a while since the event and just found your post. You summed up the event and the joy of the GO nicely. Are you using it as a stationary trainer over the winter?

Also, it looks like the event will be on again in 2014! Hope to see you there.


Jim Hansen said...

Hi Andrew,
It was real fun racing the GOs. It just was over too quickly. We need longer races!

I am riding on a trainer. I am getting in about 5-6 hours a week and did a birthday indoor ride of 55 miles in January!

It helps to have Netflix and a speed sensor on a Garmin to track things. I had to lower the wheel circumference setting so that my indoor miles and efforts matched my outdoor stats. Otherwise it recorded me going too fast without the wind resistance.
See you at the race!