Linux Printing Has Come a Long Way

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) has a whole new meaning...
Back in 1999, I had given up on Windows. It had crashed on me one too many times, the hideous "blue screen of death."  I had been playing with a dual-boot system with Debian GNU Linux and Windows 98, but the "burn it to the ground and re-install" cycle with Windows had left me distraught and down-trodden.  That fateful Winter night, I had wiped Windows from the hard drive completely.

Linux had many challenges in 1999, not the least of which was printing.  In general, if you wanted to print from Linux, you had to make certain you had a supported printer or a network-enabled Postcript printer.  I happened to be using an unsupported HP Deskjet 722C, an inkjet printer that used a proprietary protocol over a parallel port cable.  After a bit of searching, I found a filter application for Ghostscript called pnm2ppa.  It was a hack, a crack of the protocol that enabled me to print in color to the relatively expensive printer I was in no hurry to replace.

Over the years, that printer has moved with me from apartments to houses, and it has performed with reliable quality.  Regardless, I had always wanted to pick up a copier/scanner/printer model, or at least pick up a copier/scanner.  Whenever I asked Meghan about it, she would "poo poo" the idea.  What we had worked just fine, plus I knew that buying any hardware that I intended to use with Linux would require some research to ensure it would perform.

At some point, I must have mentioned it to my mom in conversation.  She squirreled that fact away and later produced an awesome and unexpected Christmas present: an Epson Stylus NX420, an all-in-one inkjet printer!  I brought it home excited and unsure, but optimistic.  At worst, I could use Meghan's Mac Mini as a printer server, and at best, I might get lucky.

In the last few years, there have been a couple of very important changes in printer technology in the *NIX world.  The fist is the advent of the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), a new print server software.  It made setting up printers and sharing them on the network quite easy.  The second most important thing that happened was the adoption of the CUPS software by Apple for its new OS 10 platform.  With a popular hardware and operating system vendor championing the product, the printer vendors started supporting *NIX through proxy of Apple!

I shouldn't have been surprised when five minutes into researching driver options for the printer, I was able to find this gem: All-in-Ones (Multifunction Inkjet Printers) | AVASYS CORPORATION.  This company provides not only the printer drivers for Windows and Macintosh, but also provides Debian and Red Hat packages!  The scanner as well was supported by another set of packages!

What blows me away about this is that my mom, who is not a very technical person by any means, had simply picked a printer off the shelf that she thought was a good value.  Not only did it turn out to be good, but excellent!  Thank you Mom and Dad!


Waxing up the Skiis!

It's that time of year again, and by golly, I'm going to be out on the trails on my almost new, five-year-old classic cross-country skiis! I bought a pass last year and used it once! Once! Not again! I'll be hitting the trails with vigor, especially with all the beautiful snow we've received in Minnesota already! The temperatures are perfect, and the classic trails are ready. Jessica Dunn pointed me off to Skinnyski.com to get trail conditions; what a great site!

Ski on!


CM6.1-RC1 2708port (for new radio+spl) - CyanogenMod Forum

Simply enough, I followed these instructions for installinig a new radio, SPL, and modified CyanogenMod 6.1-RC1, and my old T-Mobile G1 is ROCKIN'! I love open-source!


Week in Review - Tapering?

It appears that I'm in a taper, again. This week has been a tough one for me. The last three weeks, I had started back on the path to building up some basic mileage; I am a distance runner for crying out loud! I encountered a few blockers this week, mostly my own fault: poor nutrition, poor sleep, and some over-training (yeah, that last one baffles me, too).  It appears I've have picked up a cold, to top it all off.

One of the marked differences between this effort and my last is that I'm committed to running as close to barefoot as possible.  My guidance is a book titled "ChiRunning" by Danny Dreyer.  Danny's focus is on applying the principles of Tai Chi to running. Some of the key concepts are "Cotton and Steel", "fall forward" and let gravity carry you, "land underneath your knees", "shorten your stride", and "high turnover".

I am changing my stride from a heavy-heel striker to a light mid-foot to fore-foot striker.  The goal is to run injury free for life!  I like running far too much to risk not being able to do it into my 80's and 90's!

The odd looking Vibram Five fingers you see here, which I purchased in June, are quite comfortable, and well worth the $80!  If you're following trends, you'll probably recognize these shoes, but rest-assured, I'm not simply trying to follow a trend.  I'm trying to fix my stride.  These shoes, and running barefoot in general, seem to force me to run "better".  The principles of ChiRunning seem to fall naturally when running barefoot, whereas trying to apply this change in stride in traditional shoes is just hard!

I have noticed two things with this running style, though.  The first is that my calves kill me after long runs!  I've been able to build up to a seven mile run barefoot, but it leaves me limping for days afterwards.  Ice, ice, and more ice certainly help, as does Ibuprophen.

The second is that I get blisters!  This is more of a factor of the shoes themselves and my soft-padded feet.  Over time, I've been able to build up some callouses, starting with low mileage runs and ramping it up.  I can now run up to 3 miles without socks, but anything over requires me to put on the Injinji's.  As winter approaches, I'll probably need one or two layers of socks anyway.  Wet and snowy days are going to be a bother.  Time to find a new pair of shoes for the Minnesota Winters.

Last week's Sunday run left me really sore, both in my calves, but also in my right hip.  I'm exercising muscles I don't use effectively, it appears.  My left hip was the problem one earlier this year, so maybe this means that this strength training is actually paying off.  My left hamstring is starting to feel better, perhaps stronger.  I'm just looking forward to the day when I can strap these shoes on and head out the door without worrying about aches and pains.

The pain, the fatigue, and nutrition -- fast food this week -- have all left me a bit ragged.  I took Wednesday through Friday off.  This doesn't get me off the hook for my Saturday core workout, but it does mean I'm going to have to reevaluate my training schedule.  I'm starting to get my head out of the clouds with this pipe-dream of the Superior Sawtooth 50 by 2011.  I think a more realistic goal would be 2012.  Next year may be the "Year of Half's and Tri's".  One solid year of building up and aggressive cross-training.

I still haven't gotten that 5k out of the way, but the Living History Farms Cross Country Race is fast approaching!  I can't wait to get out and race again.  Hopefully, I'll be able to get out and train more effectively for the next two weeks.  Wish me luck!

Runs with d6's: Gaming

Runs with d6's: Gaming: "I'm big into table-top games! Yes, big! My sophomore year in college, a group of friends introduced me to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd..."


Possible Rune Magic for GURPS - Thoughts

As some of you may know or guess by the title of my blog, I'm a big fan of table-top role playing games such as GURPS1 and Dungeons and Dragons;2 I've been playing such games for years.  Recently, my cousin Dwayne expressed interest in playing in a Mage campaign in a fantasy setting with a special interest in a character that practiced Rune Magic.  Although there are published rule options for Rune Magic in GURPS and possibly D&D, I have not yet obtained these alternate rules.  I thought I might take a stab at the mechanics to support Dwayne's view of how the ritual of casting might happen and with what I know of Runes in general.

Runes are letters in a real-world alphabet Germanic in origin that predates the adoption of the Latin alphabet.  There are a number of versions of these alphabets tied to different Germanic cultures and times, and the Elder Futhark, the Younger Futhark, and Anglo-Saxon Runes are commonly referenced.  Cultures typically handed down the meaning and use of runes through poetry known as Rune Poems.  These meanings were used to apply Runes not only for use in literature but also in divination rituals and magic.

By in large, magic in GURPS is handled through an advantage called Magery, which can be purchased in levels for character points.  It accounts for the character's ability to cast magical effects, which are considered extraordinary compared to the average human.  Different levels of Magery can be purchased to represent power and accessibility to certain spells.  Spells are learned as Skills, which describe the difficulty for casting, the spell's affects, duration, range, prerequisite skills that the character must also have, and cost to cast.  In general, GURPS magic does not distinguish on the style of play or source of magic.  The spells available to a magic user are the same for a cleric, someone who receives this ability through the favor of the divine, a mage, someone trained to cast magic through ritual, or a sorcerer, someone who simply "knows" how to perform magic.

To be a Rune Mage in GURPS may simply involve describing your character as drawing runes, or calling out their names, perhaps using a piece of wood, a coin, or some other object that represents the rune while casting the spells.  You would still purchase Magery and the spell skills as defined, and fulfill the prerequisite ladder to have access to more advanced spells.

Random Draw!
The problem with this approach arises with how Dwayne wanted his character to use runes, to have a bag of inscribed runes from which he randomly draws at the time of casting, trusting in the gods to provide the tools to defeat his enemies.  For example,  the runic mage Egill draws the three runes while in combat with a group of giants: Uruz (ᚢ), Raido (ᚱ), and Isaz (ᛁ).  These runes might represent strength or the ox, travel, and ice.  Perhaps the spell effect would be to call forth a giant oxen made of ice, who can charge the giants at exceptional speeds.  The challenges here are interpreting the runes, then deciding what scope of affect the mage has ability or access to cast.  If the mage has no experiencing in summoning, then Uruz might simply represent an increase in personal strength and speed.

So, we've raised two concerns: meaning and affect.  Now, what about cost to cast?  Access to individual runes themselves?  Time to prepare?  Action to activate?  How do you translate the above action into dice rolls?  Arg!  A simple concept can quickly become complicated.  Hmm...  "trusting in the gods". Problem solved, it's GM choice!  I do think there's a mechanism that can be defined here, but it will take some thought...

...or reference!  After preparing much of this post, I decided to splurge and pick up Phil Masters' "Thaumatology" for GURPS 4th Edition.  In it, he describes a Symbolic Magic system that uses runes in pretty much the same manner I outlined above.  Cost is determined by what the rune represents: noun, verb, and scope.  Affects are defined by combining runes, as listed above.  Definitely worth it.  It also turned out that Dwayne wasn't really interested in a random-draw casting, rather more structured.  I think we have a good fit!

Another part of rune magic is divination.  This type of use generally departs from the magic systems established by gaming systems.  A divination example could be taken directly from many of the published Rune books in the Alternative section of book stores.  There's almost no reason to further explore the ritualistic aspects of this for gaming purposes.  Essentially, a diviner forms a question in his or her mind to ask the gods or goddesses and casts either a set number or the entire lot of runes within  a circle, upon an animal skin, or other sanctified ground.  Different casting patterns are used for different purposes or types of questions, and the runes are interpreted by the diviner.  From a game mechanics point of view, the only thing important here are the Magery ability and a Divination skill.

All in all, I think a Runic Mage is entirely workable.

  1. Generic Universal Role Playing System by Steve Jackson Games.
  2. Dungeons and Dragons was originally created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson for  TSR.  It is now owned by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro.http://sjgames.com/gurps/books/thaumatology/


How Do I Get Ready for an Ultra?

I feel stalled.  I'm sure it has something to do with training setbacks from Grandma's Marathon, but I'm a bit tired of talking about it.  The drive to run and compete has winnowed down to a smolder rather than the fire I had earlier this year.  If you've been following this blog or my DailyMile training, you would know that I had my eyes set on ultras and and that the triathlon holds little appeal to me for some reason.  Developing overall strength and versatility, not to mention a stronger upper-body is a nice outcome of CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance, but none of it seems to bring the much needed oxygen to the fire.  What is it that I need right now to get me moving again, rather than haphazardly trekking out for a run here and there?

I need a goal, an outcome, something to reach for, something attainable yet challenging.  It's not enough to work-out, rather it needs to have meaning.  I really want ultras, but I know my body isn't ready for it now or even the near future.  My current comfortable distance for my knee and hip is seven to eight miles, the distance it all fell apart this June.  That's one-seventh the distance of a 50 miler, which is obviously not going to happen any time soon.  I think that is what my problem is.  I can't see far enough out to say when it's going to happen.

Is one year enough?  50 weeks of training between now and the Superior 50 miler next year, less than that for the Northface Endurance Challenge.  Surely, two years would be more than enough, but too far to keep me driven?  How do I put together a plan I know will work, that will keep me motivated and pointed in the right direction, while maintaining injury free performance?

I'm trying to look back at how I trained for my first half and my first marathon, what mistakes I made, and places I could improve.  I've read prolifically on training, and I've got a relatively good idea about how to go about it.  With that in mind, I'm going to try to rough out a plan to move forward.  The key principles I'm going to apply are:

  1. 5-6 days of training.  At least one planned day off per week.
  2. Alternating hard and easy days
  3. 3 week cycles of increasing distance, 20% in week 1 and maintain for 2 (Lydiard)
  4. Plan my peak performance and health for my goal race
  5. Develop my distance in stages (5-8k, 10k-Half, Marathon-Ultra)
  6. Cross-train like banshee (swimming, Crossfit, whathaveyou)
  7. Set realistic, yet challenging goals at each stage
  8. Be patient with setbacks and generous with recovery
  9. Finally, don't overdo it!
What I need right now is a 5k or an 8k race to suss out my current fitness level, my current pace.  Any suggestions?


Can't We Find Better Things To Worry About?

I'm going to have to throw my support to Wulfgar's statement from the 11th of August, "I've Had Enough." Honestly, what is wrong with our culture when The Washington Post publishes articles like Elizabeth Tenety's "Under God: Obama's religion: does your president's faith matter?" I have nothing against Tenety's article, just the simple fact that someone had to write it. In fact, she opens up with a quote from the constitution, Article VI, Section 3: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

I find no relevancy in this question to President Obama's ability to lead this country. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the separation of Church and State or even religious pluralism. Judging by the Constitution, it appears that the authors at least understood the importance of these concept insofar as to limit its influence upon secular politics. Despite their best intentions, the political stage in the United States does not embody "freedom of religion." Why not?  Perhaps it is because the body of citizens aren't chosen for their neutrality and solid grasp on reason; they're not chosen at all.

I find it terribly interesting that this headline follows a proclamation by Interview with a Vampire author Anne Rice. "Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out." I had caught an interview on National Public Radio a couple weeks ago, and it gave me quite a bit to think about. At the time of writing the The Vampire Chronicles, she was an abashed Atheist, later to become a reborn Christian and devout Catholic. I encourage you to read or listen to the NPR article, which goes into depth as to why she made this statement on her Facebook page:

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."
This statement didn't earn her many fans on the Christian side of the isle, and I can't say I disagree with her. The same could be said for many organized religious groups. Personally, I find it hard to stay involved with any religious group. As some of you may know, I'm a Nichiren Buddhist, only loosely involved with the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) - USA community.  Loosely because although I enjoy meeting with like-minded individuals, I place higher priority on other things: family, friends, work.  I enjoy personal pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment, but the truth is that I'm not passionate about it; certainly not enough to evangelize about it (this will probably be one of the few times you'll hear me mention it).  There are many good things I can say about SGI, but I'll save that for another time - only if you really want to hear about it.

With President Obama, I think we'll be just fine.  Others agree.  Let's hope the rational citizenship pays no further heed to such headlines and judges our President on the merit of his Administration rather than breed of his Religion.  Really, don't make me give up!


Race Report: 2010 Grandma's Marathon

(Continued from "Grandma's Marathon - Pre-Race Report".)

A few short moments after the fly-over, the racers started crowding up to the front of the chute. It was time to begin running! Or, maybe walk for a bit. "Hurry up and wait" came to mind as Clem, Dave and I chuckled and joked about the pace. When we did finally get moving, I was feeling pretty optimistic. My knee was feeling pretty good, and having great company definitely helped.

Clem did his homework regarding the pacing, and I learned that the 3'50" pacer's name was Jack. The strategy was to stay within sight, either in front of or just behind Jack. This went well, and the first few miles disappeared into the past. Around the second or third mile, I recognized a slight discomfort in my left knee. We met another runner by the name of Chad, also running his first marathon, one by the name of Dan, a young 20-something kid, first time marathoner, and I believe a marathon veteran by the name of Darin. Chad and Darin sported their names on their jerseys/shirts, and Clem was a veritable chatterbox.

By mile six, I voiced my discomfort to Clem's question. "I'm feeling it." He expressed his concern. "I'll stay on pace as long as I can," I said, but I told him to run his own race. Right around mile 7 or 8, I started to drop back. Clem was on pace, and he looked back to find me. I waved him forward and he nodded acknowledgement. Someone would need to finish on goal, and it wouldn't be me this day.

When the knee pain did arrive, it came quickly. Illotibial Band Syndrom (ITBS)is a relatively painful inflammation of the Illotibial Band, the tendon that runs from your hip, outside your thigh, and wraps along the outside of your knee, attaching to your tibia. When you run, this tendon can get inflamed in two spots, at your hip, which causes a painful bursitis, or at your knee. I encountered the bursitis last Fall while preparing for the Monster Dash half marathon. It took me out of the running for months. I didn't speak with a doctor or physical therapist about it, opting to try to fix the problem with cross training and stretching. Apparently, it only partially worked.

By mile 9, the pain was intense. I decided that it was time to try something, anything to reduce the pain. I had seen a National Guard first aid truck on my way through the mile 9 water station. I turned back and limped to the truck. Inside was a ratherdespondent runner. When I asked what was wrong, he didn't respond verbally, but indicated that his quads hurt. It was likely he was one of the 27 elite Kenyan runners invited to run Grandma's this year. This would be the closest I would come to meeting one today, unfortunate circumstances, indeed. I pointed at my knee while the trooper prepared the ice for me.

I walked away from the truck, sat at the side of the road, iced my knee and watched runners flow by. I could drop out here and no one would fault me for it, but for some reason, I wasn't ready to give up. The minutes ticked by, but I exercised restraint and continued to ice the knee for a full 10 minutes. I couldn't wait any longer. I ran through the water stations for a second time, this time with a pleasantly numb knee. Rather than pain, it felt like there was a rock underneath my tendon. Weird.

The race changed dramatically for me from that point on. It was a race of little goals. My family was waiting for me at the finish line, and I wanted more than anything to run through the chute. From the beginning of the race, I either passed or was passed by people wearing pink shirts, cancer survivors or cause shirts. I knew I was in pain, but I kept thinking that there were others in greater pain than myself who couldn't or wouldn't have the opportunity to run a marathon. I wasn't running for them, but I wasn't ready to give up either. Emotionally, I was an inspired wreck. I acknowledged that my body might not carry me that far, but I was going to try. I resolved to make it to the half-marathon point, which also happened to be close to first of the medical drop-out points.

The miles didn't tick off as quickly as before, but I tried not to stop running. Where running was painful, starting and stopping was more so. At the 11 mile aid station, I tried to do get an ITBS support-style taping, but I was too sweaty and hairy for it to work. Instead, the aid volunteer ACE-bandaged my thigh.  I took a couple of Tylenol to dull the pain, which I think helped slightly. The wrap didn't really do anything, but mentally it added to my effort.

The half-marathon point came and went, and the medical drop-out point loomed ahead. I stared hard and long at it as I jogged on by. "Not yet," I told myself. Walk, jog, walk jog. By mile 16 or was it 15, I felt I had to do something else to manage the pain. The wrap wasn't working, and I had some longer stretches of walking I wasn't happy with. I turned and walked back to the aid station... again. This was the Cadillac of aid stations. They had recliner chairs, potato chips, and gummy worms. I iced my knee in luxury. The people there were great and quite familiar with sports injuries. They identified my hamstring wrap as unhelpful and instead re-wrapped it as a knee-compression wrap.

"How does it feel?" the aid volunteer asked. "It feels!" I grinned and thanked him. More optimistic, I set out again. I was going to finish this race! I hoped. The next four miles were filled with running and walking. I passed the same runner and walkers when I ran, only to be passed when they ran. We were the back of the pack, the injured, and the determined.

At mile 20, my right quads were cramping up and I began walking again. I called out to a fellow walker, a long-haired runner wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. His name was John Gannon, and this was his first marathon in the barefoot-style shoes. We talked quite a bit. I asked him about his shoes, and he asked me about my knee. He brought my spirits back up from a very low point, and for that I'm truly thankful. He pointed out that I had already succeeded, that I had already won. My family was waiting for me at the finish line, and I had just completed 20 plus miles on a bum knee. I couldn't fail; there was no stopping now. Although my quads weren't participating, and my knee wasn't happy, I could still succeed. I only had to walk across that finish line; I didn't have to run.

Run I did, for another half mile, before walking again. I managed to do this for another two or three miles, but finally my quads gave up. I walked and reached out to another walker for conversation.  Hannah was also a Duluth alumnus running her second or third marathon, I believe.  She was having a good time of it, relatively speakingg. We walked and talked, laughed at the college spectators' jokes. Like many runners, we walked up Lemon Drop Hill, where Clem told me later his own quads gave out on him. At St Benedict's sandwich shop, Hannah started running again, determined to finish the race sooner than later. I tried to keep up, but my quads cramped up again.  I was going to walk it in, it seemed. Emotional low point; I was glad I was wearing my new sunglasses.

At mile 25, I met up with Dave Mari again. He had been running on a stress-fractured toe and was still taking pictures with people. I waved him to go on ahead of me, letting him know I would be walking it the rest of the way in. He made me smile, and I was resigned to my fate. I simply wanted the race to end at this point. I knew there was only one way to do that: keep walking.

Walk I did, until I rounded the final bend and was looking at the finish line. For some reason, I couldn't just stroll in, I had to at least try to jog. I coaxed my knee and my quad into action one last time. Starting was always the most painful part of the days' run, but I had yards to go. On the left, I saw my whole family cheering me on. We exchanged high-fived, and I smiled my way across the paint. I had done it. Somehow, I had managed to push past the pain, past the emotional low points, and drag my sorry carcass across the finish line [Edit: in 5:45!  Only two hours later than originally planned!]


Next: Grandma's Marathon - Post-Race Report


Pre-Race Report: 2010 Grandma's Marathon

This race report is long overdue, but I wanted to write it down while it was still relatively fresh in my mind.

Despite a known issue with ITB Syndrom in my left knee, I decided to make the attempt to complete the 2010 Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN.  Being an eternal optimist, I envisioned finishing in my goal time of 3:45.  Being a realist, I knew that I was going to have problems, I really just wanted to finish.

On suggestion from a few friends, I visited the Tria Orthopedics in Edina and met with Dr. Robert Jones.  He tested my knee, its stability, and pain threshold; he gave me the "All Clear" and an order for four PT appointments.  "You're going to be in pain," he said frankly, "but maybe we can help you a bit before you try."

I didn't manage to get an appointment until late Wednesday.  After a quick strength check, my physical therapist Eric stated, "You're strong, but not strong enough for twenty-plus miles."  He did ultrasound treatment of the ITB near the knee, gave me a few exercises to strength my glutes and muscles involved with the ITB, and wished me luck.  He did also offer a Cortizone treatment, not the shot but some sort of patch.  I passed, thinking it was a bit premature for me to go down that route.

The clinic and PT were both very well run, and the Doc and PT were receptive and knowledgable.  I would definitely recommend them to anyone.

It is a well known fact that Duluth goes through mini-inflation during large tourist events, such as the marathon.  I figured correctly that for a couple of days, I would easily spend $450-600 on lodging alone. Rather than dump that money into the tourist economy, we rented a friend's house for a week!  Yes, it was a perfect time to incorporate a vacation, something we haven't had much of in the last two or three years at this house.  (Thank you, Bakers!)  How can you beat a three bedroom house on the beach a mere block away from Canal Park?

We arrived in Duluth in the mid-afternoon on Thursday the 17th, well ahead of any traffic issues due  to the construction.  My sister-in-law Katie, her husband Izac, and their one year old Maizie joined us for dinner at Little Angies Cantina and stayed through Sunday.  Dinner was pretty good, but I wouldn't say stellar.  Meghan enjoyed her fajitas, but the rest of us had a mediocre experience.  Connor and Ryan did enjoy their Kidoritas!  I had asked for a tall beer, and man was it

Meghan and family left me alone to finish my beer and go pick up my race packet.  Rather than sit alone at the table, I went up to to the bar, where all the other lonely people go to drink their time away. There I met a couple in their 50's who were in town to cheer on their daughter who was running the marathon as well.  It was a time for parents, apparently, since my own dad call at that time to iron out plans for meeting up on Friday night.  I was going to have a rather large cheering section for the marathon on Sunday!  Angie, Chris and their children would be up as well!  My entire immediate family would be there to cheer me on.  I wouldn't realize how important that was to me until Saturday.

Race packet pickup was rather uneventful.  I "test drove" a pair of Newtons in the convention center  and received a few pointers on mid-foot strike running. I found I was still heal striking, big surprise.  Packet in hand, it was back to the house and then off to the grocery story for food, diapers, pull-ups, and assorted essentials.  I could deal with a few chores with vacation.  The day was long, so when I turned in for the night, I slept like a log.

Friday was a day for the beach, swimming, and simply lounging about. I ran barefoot up and down the beach with Peter, our Boston Terrier, partly to feel out my knee as well as wear the dog down; he gets a little high strung at times.  My knee felt good, with no recognizable pain.  Maybe things would work out!  Connor, Meghan, and Ryan looked for beach glass and played in the surf.

When Ryan took his nap at 3:00, I went in to the kitchen and prepped for a baked, stuffed chicken dinner.  Yes, I was cooking on the night before the marathon -- which I thought was fitting.  I'm told not to change things up drastically before a big race, and since I'm the cook in the house, why not keep things as normal as possible.

At 3:45, I strapped on the shoes and headed out to the DECC to meet up with some of my friends at Daily Mile.  It was great to finally meet up with people I knew only through a social website.  After a few pictures, we walked over to Grandma's Sports Garden for a beer and conversation. Jeni managed to get everyone's names and profiles linked in a note on the site here.  Everyone was pretty psyched for the race to come!  If you can't get excited under these conditions, you need to check your pulse and make sure you're still alive.

I headed back over to the DECC to do a little shopping.  I needed some new racing socks and a pair of sunglasses.  There were plenty of vendors to choose from, and the place was a lot busier than Thursday night.  Mission accomplished, it was time to head back to the house to resume duties as cook.

My parents had come in to town and set up the 5th-wheeler at the boat marina down the street from our rented house.  They arrived at the house just before I made it back from the DECC and took the boys back out on the beach while I prepped dinner.  It was a bit of a challenge finding all of the supplies I needed for dinner, but I managed to pull off a stuffed chicken dinner with salad, mashed potatos, and asparagus.  I didn't fill up, just topped off.  No need for a huge dinner before a bit race.

I didn't get much sleep that night.  Although I turned in early, I couldn't seem to calm my mind enough to drift to sleep.  I woke up multiple times, and generally tossed and turned all night.  At 5:00 am, it was time to get up, get dressed, and make my way to the bus that would take me and the other runners to the starting line just South of Two Harbors.

The bus trip up, I met a veteran marathon runner about my age by the name of Bob (I didn't catch his last name).  One of the most enjoyable part of these races is talking to new people.  What wasn't so wonderful was the school bus.  They really don't place the seats far enough apart for people over five feet tall.  My 6'2" frame didn't quite "fit" in the seat, and I was reminded of all the uncomftable rides to and from games or track meets during high school.  If I never ride in a school bus again, it'll be too soon.

We arrived at least a half hour before race start, and although I saw Clem walk past the bus I was in, I didn't run in to him until we lined up in the chute.  I did run in to Dave Mari, yes the famous Marathon Maniac.  He's hard to miss in his monkey T-shirt.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, he's been making quite a name for himself. What I did recongize immediately was his propensity to take a lot of pictures using the same pose.  A double peace sign and a big smile or pursed lips.  Look for him at your next marathon, and you just might see him.

Dave and I met up with Clem again just behind the 3'50" pace runner, Jack, snapped a few more pictures, and waited in excitement for the race to start.  Clem cautioned me to be careful and listen to my body. I agreed and said I would stay on pace as long as I could, but would let him know when to simply take off.  The National Anthem was sung, sans flag, and at its completion a pair of  Thunderbirds, the acrobatic jets, flew overhead.  What a way to start the race!


Training - Cross It Up

After two weeks of some major mileage, my left hip has acted up again.  It's generally sore, but not to the point of limping like last October.  Rather than tough it out, I've been laying low and running slower shorter distances this week.  I even managed to get in to the pool on Tuesday, but I've been feeling general workout withdrawals because of it.

I know it's probably time that I commit more energy to core workouts and strength training.  I've proven to myself that I can put in the requisite time to run 20+ miles, and I understand under which conditions I'll feel well during those performances.  A light week of running followed by a rest day before a Long Slow Distance (LSD) leaves me with energy and feeling generally indestructible.  Well, that might be a bit too far fetched, but I certainly feel good enough to sing and smile while I'm running.  Something must be right about it.  I'm still pursuing consistency with a mid-foot strike, and will be looking for a more minimalist approach to shoes this coming season -- hopefully one that won't break the bank.

At a mere 177 pounds, I'm the heaviest I've been in two months, averaging around 173 to 175 depending upon when I weigh myself.  At 6'2", I've become damned skinny once again - time for new jeans.  This was to be expected, though, with the number of miles I've been putting in.  Growing up, I had never had the problem of thinking I'm not skinny enough, rather the opposite one.  I was the tall beanpole with no muscle mass and whose only talent, discovered late in my high school years, was for running long periods of time.  I was never that sprinter, and even though I was a two-way lineman on the football team my senior year, it was more out of team numbers than size that put me there.

I find running "easy", relatively speaking.  Sure there's work and pain involved, but its something I know how to cope with well enough to stay healthy and continue enjoying it.  However, I think I've come to a realization that skinny and long slow distance isn't enough anymore.  What is missing is general core strength and conditioning and more intense interval training.

I started down the route of cross training hitting the pool for recovery workouts this winter; it was and is a good direction.  With training and time, I've found another sport that I thoroughly enjoy, something that is a close sibling to running in many ways.  With very little change in the mechanics, you can go from a long, slow, endurance workout into a very demanding anaerobic one.  Bicycling as well falls in this category.  Triathlons are a possibility now that I have a very nice entry-level road-bike (Thank you, Meghan!) -- which I have yet to take out this year.

Through my recent trail running experience at the Zumbro 100, I learned about another fitness program from Matt Patten called Crossfit and a sister site called Crossfit Endurance.  I've been trying to wrap my head around its general approach.  Crossfit has three Fitness Standards:
"Crossfit's First Fitness Standard: There are ten recognized general physical skills. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power,  coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. (See “General Physical Skills”, pg. 4, for definitions.) You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills...

Crossfit's Second Fitness Standard: The essence of this model is the view that fitness is about performing well at any and every task imaginable...

Crossfit's Third Fitness Standard: Total fitness, the fitness that CrossFit promotes and develops, requires 
competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines [Phosphagenic, Glycolytic, and Oxadative]...Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others and not recognizing the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training." -- Glassman, Greg. "What Is Fitness", Crossfit Journal, October 2002
The primary Crossfit site is a bit intimidating, however.  The Workout of the Day (WOD) consists of those more appropriate for Olympic weightlifter's and gymnasts.  I can handle the multi-modal sprinter workouts, but the other two scare the hell out of me.  The high school football I mentioned left me with a left shoulder that likes to sublux on occasion.  Skiiing in college left me with a right shoulder that periodically dislocates if I decide to throw a fastball or go up for a rebound in basketball.  And there's something genetic about my body composition that thrusts my left hip out further than my right and dips my right shoulder lower than my left.

I remember trying to do a handstand once in high-school track, just after said football season.  My left shoulder slid out of socket, and I had to do a pseudo Lethal Weapon move to get it back in.  Surgery didn't fully correct my right shoulder problems, and several dislocations later, I've learned that sports that demand upper body strength are simply excluded from my regimen.  The prospect of doing handstand pushups, or handstands for that matter leaves me more than a bit worried.  Olympic weightlifting moves like the snatch and the clean and jerk send my shoulders into nervous spasms just thinking about it.

There are some other oddities about the Crossfit programs, departures from general sport-specific training, but despite the fear of complete shoulder destruction, I'm intrigued.  I'm not so stupid as to think that I can or ever will try some of the WOD's on the Crossfit site, but finding suitable and safe alternatives for my own body quirks might be a workable solution.  It is something they encourage.  With access to most of the required equipment at the YMCA, I may soon turn my attention more seriously to strength training and weightlifting.

I know Meghan won't object to me turning down the mileage and focusing more on cross training.  She's not at all impressed with my desire to run ultras, but as I start to focus my attention at trail running, more minimalist approach to gear, and a heavier focus on cross training, maybe I won't destroy my hips before I'm 50.  Beginning this week, I'll be commuting to work on my bike every chance I can get and continue to incorporate swimming into my workouts.

Now that I have a pretty solid aerobic base, it's time to start looking at interval training, perhaps a bit too late to benefit in time for Grandma's though.  I'm pretty psyched to run the upcoming marathon!  It has been a while since the question of "Can I finish?" turned into "What time will I finish?"  Any finish will be a PR for me, since this is my first Marathon event.  3:45 seems entirely attainable, but who knows. :)  We shall see!

If any of you have had experience with Crossfit or other cross-training programs, please pipe up and let me know how it's working for you!


2010 Zumbro 100 - A Pacer's Recollection (2 weeks later)

"You're going to do what?" was a frequent question I had regarding plans to pace for Adam Schwartz-Lowe on his journey to complete the Spring 2010 Zumbro 100 mile ultra-marathon.  Why I would want to run 20 miles in the middle of the night on some pretty technical trails, headlamp strapped to my head, seemed an unanswerable question to my friends and family.  This was eclipsed by the fact that Adam was going to run in addition, 4 times that distance!  "I need to make sure he doesn't hallucinate and try to chase a dryad off a cliff in the middle of the night."  For some reason, rather than laughs, that comment only drew disbelieving stares.

The race is held in the Zumbro State Wildlife Area Southwest of Wabasha, Minnesota.  We arrived in the West Assembly Area in the late afternoon for packet pickup and a welcome dinner.  Larry Pederson, his wife, volunteers, and racers were gathered around picnic tables and a smoky campfire enjoying the cool evening.  This certainly wasn't the type of race packet pickup I was used to.  Absent were the vendors pushing their wares, people corralled into lines delineated by subsets of letter ranges, "A-E", "F-J", "H.." to pick up a plastic bag filled with fliers in addition to their race materials.  No, this was a handshake and a smile, and exchange of stories, and a feeling that you were immediately welcome.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

After getting our fill of food, Adam and I split off to settle into camp.  The entire area was as of yet unclaimed.  At $16 for a night of camping, it was also quite cheap!  50 yards away from the Start/Finish shelter, we put up Adam's tent, threw in our sleeping bags, and went back to the shelter to chat.  Over the next few hours, I listened to John Taylor spin tales of seemingly impossible feats of endurance and willpower racing completely unsupported over 130 miles pulling a sled in the frozen North at a race called the Arrowhead.  Matt Patten, John Storkamp and other seasoned runners chimed in with their own amazing tales.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

I was honestly awed at both what I was hearing, and at how open and inviting these people were. The fact that I was standing there seemed good enough to be welcomed in to the group.  Runners are truly amazing people.

The night brought a chill and eventually some frigid temperatures neither Adam nor I were prepared for.  I think my sleeping bag is rated for 20F at best.  I was in three layers of clothing and was getting ready to put on my down vest in order to stay warm.  Adam and I both tossed and turned that night, and I worried for Adam's sake.  He had a very, very long day ahead of him and needed his REM sleep.

It was a frosty morning when we finally got out of bed.  Adam got ready and I wandered over to the Start/Finish shelter.  It took a good hour or two for my toes to feel warm again.  I couldn't complain too loudly, though, given the stories from the previous night.  If only I had invested in a bivy sack or brought another sleeping bag to double-bag!

Matt Patten brought out a very welcome sight...  A row of coffee machines!  If anything could warm us up, it would be a fire (thanks to John Storkamp!) and coffee!  These machines were destined for the other aid stations, which had more powerful generators to power the Kuerig single-cup brewers.  (I love those things!)

From 2010 Zumbro 100

Not everyone in the race camped overnight, and soon the place was starting to get a bit busier.  Granted, we're talking about a couple to few dozen runners and their families or support crews.  Runners were lining up in shorts and t-shirts, and I stamped the cold out of my feet.  Larry gathered everyone to explain the rules of the race.  They were simple and to the point, then he led them out a few yards away from the shelter, past the small cabled fence and launched the runners in a highly unremarkable start.  To a person used to seeing 5k, 10k, or even marathon starts, it would appear that these runners were simply going out for an afternoon jog!

From 2010 Zumbro 100

And that was it!  I was "free" for about four to five hours until Adam completed his first loop.  What the heck was I going to do with myself?!  I decided to pitch in and help Larry's wife, Caroline (Is that her name?!) set up the Start/Finish shelter as an aid station with her daughter, volunteer Misty and veteran runner, volunteer Donny.  We unpacked the support trailer, set up tables, and prepared a bag lunch for the volunteers at the other aid stations.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

Donny Clark and I fell into a long conversation about running, family, and life in general.  His forays into Alaska were highlighted by his fatherly pride for his sons.  His camp stove wouldn't start after losing its flame, so I offered up Adam's camp stove to finish off his potatoes and sausage breakfast.  (Thanks, Adam!)  A simple recipe, but wow was that delicious.

I had managed to eat up a couple hours of time, but had some more waiting to do. It hadn't warmed up appreciably yet, but it was getting there.  I wanted to wait until Adam finished his first loop before trying to catch a nap in the sun-heated tent that afternoon.  I grabbed my journal and headed back to the shelter.  There I found Misty, trying to catch a cell phone signal.

From 2010 Zumbro 100
It was a futile attempt.  The high-ridged hills weren't letting any wayward signal reach my T-Mobile phone.  She managed to get SMS messages to send and receive, but couldn't establish a signal to make a phone call.  I did say I wanted to be un-plugged for the weekend, and I got my wish.

John Storkamp surprised everyone by blasting in through the chute at 3:10!  Kyle Gulseth came in some 15 or 20 minutes later, followed by Brent Bjerkness, and Bob Triplett about 10 minutes apart.  These guys were haulin!  I have to say I was a bit surprised when Adam came trucking in at about 4 hours!  I knew he said he would be running 15 minute miles or slower for the night run I would join him in, so 12 minutes per mile seemed a bit fast.  I would later learn that this indeed was faster than he planned on going.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

I had Adam's bottles prepped and clothes laid out for him as we had discussed.  The stop went smoothly, and he was back out for loop two!  I stuck around and took photos of the next few runners to enter and leave the station, including a chatty runner from St. Cloud named Brian Woods.  Little did I know we would have much more time to talk later that night.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

I did manage to catch a few winks that afternoon in a much, much warmer tent.  So warm in fact that I couldn't actually sleep in my sleeping bag.  I didn't, however, get a very long nap.  I had too much to think about, apparently.  I had a bit of lunch, and headed back over to the shelter.  I prepped Adam's fuel bottles again, and waited for him to arrive.

He wasn't running 12 minute miles any more, and was much closer to his predicted 15 minute miles, though still running faster.  I don't recall the exact time, but I think it was closer to 4:40 split his second time around.  He looked worn out and told me as much.  "You're going to have to push me out of the shelter the next lap," he said with a grin.

At around 20:00, I changed in to my running gear in preparation for joining Adam in his third loop around the wildlife area.  It would be his 61st mile, my first for the night.  I was getting excited and was having trouble containing myself.

At 21:15 or so that night, a car pulled up next to the shelter, and I watched a cold, tired, and haggard Adam slowly get out of the passenger door.  He looked awful!  As we shuffled him off to his equipment crate to get warmer clothes, he relayed a tale of GI distress.  He had gotten dizzy at around mile 45 and tried to push it a bit further, but it just wasn't going to happen.  For 45 minutes he battled with it, and finally decided to throw in the towel at one of the aid stations.  We bundled him up in warmer clothes and fed him soup.  He suggested that if I really wanted to run, that maybe I could offer to pace for Brian Woods.  Why not?!

One or two more runners filtered in to the shelter after Adam arrived.  Finally, somewhere around twenty after ten, Brian trotted in with a smile on his face, eager to get fuel and get on his way.  Immediately, I posed the question to him, "Want a pacer?"  He was concerned over Adam, but was happy to have company for his fourth loop.  By 22:30 we were on our way on a comfortable pace, not overly fast, a quick jog.

Over the next five and a half hours, we talked almost constantly.  I learned that Brian had not really taken up running until six or so years prior, and that he had been a two-a-pack-a-day smoker.  I find it terribly interesting that there is quite a few runners in their 30's and 40's that never ran in high school or college, and that many of them were either overweight or heavy smokers.  What is it about running that is so therapeutic, so healing that these stories are not uncommon?  What draws people to the road and trails, to lace on a pair of shoes and run?  Brian excelled at his newfound sport, and in short order was entering marathon and greater length races.

By aid station four, Brian no longer had a sweet tooth.  Nothing sounded good to eat, but he managed to have some soup and coffee.  Believe me, coffee at that time of night is definitely welcome!  Up and down the trails we ran, over rolling rocks, hidden roots, and leaf covered sticks.  I don't recall at which point exactly it happened, but I do recall the environment.

Brian had me running lead to keep the pace up.  We were running through an old hardwood grove, thick with leaf litter, when I took my one and only header for the night.  My left foot landed on what I thought was a root, and my right foot was instantly caught by the business end of a hidden branch.  I was launched in to the air and landed flat upon my left shoulder and side.  It was so fast, that I almost rolled completely out of it into a run again.  Instead, I opted to slowly rise from the ground rather than risk another more serious tumble.  Had that happened on one of the steep, rocky descents, I would have been one hurt boy.  As it stood, I was simply shaken up a bit.  Technical trails, indeed.  I later joked that I bounced off the ground so hard that I probably sounded like a handsome male grouse thumping on a log for the ladies.

The rest of the loop was eventless, which is how you want it, especially after a tumble like that.  We arrived five and a half hours after we started.  Brian thanked me for pacing him and said to look for him in seven hours.  He wasn't going to push his last lap too hard.  The guys at the shelter teased me for leaving my runner, then handed me one of Matt's homebrews.  Did I mention that the volunteers at this race were amazing?  No?  Well, they were.  I managed to stay awake for another half hour, then retreated to the tent for some sleep.  It took me no time at all to fall fast asleep.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

Adam and I woke up about the same time, too late to see John Storkamp finish in first, but early enough to watch Brad finish in second.  Bob came in third and Brian, the first time'er from St. Cloud came in fourth!

From 2010 Zumbro 100

His family was there to congratulate him and give him some well deserved pampering after his long journey.

From 2010 Zumbro 100

I have to say that this whole experience was exciting, painful, fun, and wonderful.  Matt had read the fun I was having on my face and predicted that I would probably be running longer distances soon enough.  I have a feeling that he is absolutely right.  I've already got plans to run a 50k or 50 mile race this Fall in the same fashion that I had planned to run Ragnar Relay shortly after, or was it well before, I had completed my first Half Marathon.  Perhaps I'll tackle Zumbro on my own next year...  Who knows.

I do know that I've been uploading photos and typing for the last couple of hours, and I have a long, slow 18 miles to run tomorrow.  Time for bed!

-- Chad


Lunch in the Lobby

Just taking a quick break for lunch before heading in to a two hour meeting; mandatory training. Work has been very busy lately, and we could really use a couple good Support Engineers to balance the load. I'll be sliding over to Systems Engineer when te positions get filled! (I'll post the job link later.)

Stepping out of the office I find refreshing, time to focus on other things and decompress for a while. The weather held out long enough for me to sit on a park bench and have lunch, but not long enough for me to type this. The pigeons were entertaining, with their Spring colors and haughty attitudes. It seemed that the ladies weren't too impressed, though perhaps that's the way of a city bird.

There wasn't enough time to get a lap swim in this afternoon, but maybe this evening. The difficult part about swimming isn't the exercise, rather being on-call. Most pool areas are surrounded by thick concrete walls, making receiving a signal a little iffy. Tomorrow's my last Tri-Swimming class for this session, and I have yet to sign up again. I need to; such a great class!

Tonight is Meghan's Night Out, so the boys and I will need to find something to do. Should be interesting. ;)


A Week in Review...

I've cracked open the computer for leisure time for the first time since Wednesday night! What a challenge it was at first to unplug, since there is always a couple dozen things that need to be done at work, and a half-a-dozen things to do personally. Right now, I'm sitting on the bleachers at the YMCA indoor pool while my two sons have their respective swimmigng lessons. Connor in Rays, for the 4-5 year old children, and Ryan in Pike I, for the "just beginning". It's a good time for reflection over the past week while watching their progress and encouraging them to have fun and pay attention to their teachers.

The week itself started with Easter Egg Hunting at Maime and Papa's house at around 15:00 on Sunday. Ellie, Ben, Connor and Ryan all thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of finding so many eggs! Connor created a new variant of the "Freeze Tag" game called "Super Mario Brothers Freeze Tag". He was Mario and Ben was Luigi, each with a special power. Mario with freeze ball, and Luigi with fire ball. The rest of us ran around like loonies while Connor froze us, and Ben thawed us! There was more to the game, complete with sound effects, but I think you needed to be there to really enjoy it! I enjoyed visiting with my family and being able to rest on the recliner while they played with their cousins and catch a few winks. At 19:00, we packed it up and headed down to Grammy and Papa Stokes for a quick visit. It was a busy Easter, to say the least.

Monday at work seemed pretty normal. Sunday morning I had put in some extra time to stage and hopefully finish a long standing project. I fleshed out the final touches by the end of the day, but I didn't want to execute anything without having a full day to iron out wrinkles. I wouldn't get the chance. That very night, a 4:00 AM on-call page started my day in a firestorm. By 9:00 AM, I had already put in five hours of work on about 2.5 hours of sleep (My mind was racing as always, and although I had gone to bed at 23:00, I recall looking at the clock at 01:30 and thinking, "WHY CAN'T I SLEEP!?"). I finished the day by a little after 13:20 and took a long nap at 14:00, the same time as Ryan.

It was Tuesday afternoon, and my youngest son made a milestone with his third birthday! He is growing up so quickly, and I don't simply mean stature. His vocabulary and curiosity grow as well. He's a counting madman and is learning to sing songs in tune! The kid has a natural talent for pitch; his mother is quite proud. :) His birthday was low-key. We ordered McDonalds for the boys, had cake and ice cream, and opened presents. He liked gifts and couldn't wait to play with them outside in the light of day.

They had to settle for playing with their hand-held games. Both of our kids have absorbed technology as if it were second nature. We have two of the Leapster platforms, the Didj and the Leapster 2. It didn't take long for both of them to understand the basic of side-scroller games, and the Leapster platform is excellent for providing education as well as entertainment. Connor is learning to spell and read with X-Men Wolverine, and Ryan is learning his shapes, numbers, colors, and letters with Diego and Finding Nemo. If you have kids, these are definitely the toys that I, as a parent, have no qualms letting them play.

I was hoping that Wednesday day would find me finishing that long-time project, but it was a day of putting out fires again. I didn't leave until late, but when I did finally arrive home, I was able to switch gears quickly. Meghan went to Katie's for her "Mom's Night Out", and I worked on Taxes. I have used TaxACT Online for the last few years with great success. I couldn't find a couple of documents, so I had to hold off finishing until Thursday morning. To celebrate and unwind, I mixed myself a white russian and waited for Meghan to return. It was still hard to unplug from work, but I tried my best. It was, after all, the beginning of my first real day off in months, and it was a welcome event.

When she did arrive, we talked a bit about running, family, and other things that we were thinking about. I really value our evenings together, as I do our daily family dinners around the table. It would be two nights before we would have the chance again, as I would be in Wabasha with Adam Schultz-Lowe running with him in his effort to complete a 100 mile marathon in a single day (stay tuned for a blog update on that one alone).

Thursday morning found me making a few phone calls to finish up with taxes and pack for my trip. For such a short week, so much happened. I am so thankful it did. Stay tuned! (Pictures to come.)


Burning It Up - Sleep, Food, and Nutritional Facts?

Time to start paying more attention to food and sleep!  I've proven that I can "burn it up" as a DailyMile'er friend Leigh put it, but I don't want to burn out.  I'm exhausted today, and I felt pretty down in the weather yesterday.  Only two weeks from my last bout with the flu, I'm struggling to keep healthy this weekend.  It's discouraging!

Gone are the days when I could stay up until two in the morning and still get up in time for a seven o'clock class.  I'm not eighteen anymore, and my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that it is unacceptable for me to get less than seven hours of sleep.

With my increased focus on swimming and increased mileage with running, I haven't successfully increased my caloric intake.  Instead, I keep dropping in weight, down to 178 pounds.  I haven't been this light since I graduated from college in '97.  To put this in perspective, last year at this time, I weighed around 195.  Weight loss was not my focus for running, rather finishing a marathon.  Now weight loss has become a concern.

So, this week's focus will be getting to bed before 11:00 pm, and making sure I'm eating many small meals throughout the day.  I often skip breakfast, and sometimes skip lunch -- if I'm too busy at work -- then have a large evening meal.  From what Meghan has been reading, this is entirely backwards.  Adelle Davis, the renown (or notorious) nutritionalist and biochemist, is quoted, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."

I've heard this phrase before but didn't know its origin.  I was about to leave the blog post at this, but like a good researcher, I dug a little deeper.  What was the premise for this statement?  How really does this benefit us?

(Image linked from Wikipedia.) Google to the rescue, or perhaps not, as the waters are now muddied by QuackWatch.  "Despite this training, she promoted hundreds of nutritional tidbits and theories that were unfounded. At the 1969 White House Conference on Food and Nutrition, the panel on deception and misinformation agreed that Davis was probably the most damaging source of false nutrition information in the nation.[emphasis mine] Most of her ideas were harmless unless carried to extremes, but some were very dangerous. For example, she recommended magnesium as a treatment for epilepsy, potassium chloride for certain patients with kidney disease, and megadoses of vitamins A and D for other conditions."  You should definitely read the entire article.  It paints a very unflattering picture of Professor Davis.

So, where does this leave us with nutritional advice?  Looking for more.  As I understand the diets of Ultra marathon runners such as Scott Jurek, they incorporate more beans, legumes, and vegetables in their diet than what most Americans are used to.  I can't say I'm ready to tread the path of a vegetarian, but I'm perfectly happy to add more vegetables.  Especially if it produces results like this.

I have no illusions of grandeur here.  I won't be winning any ultras any time soon;  I just hope to remain healthy and have fun along the way.  If I'm going to run 8 miles and burn a thousand calories, I should definitely replace them or find myself feeling like I do today!  *BLEH*

One other adjustment I think I need to make is to stop burning so hot.  I have been keeping my pace too high on what should be long-slow-distance (LSD) runs.  I'm not trying to do race specific training before Grandma's, rather just build up a nice base of mileage while cross-training with swimming.  It's time to keep the miles up, but slow the pace down appreciably.  If I'm planning on finishing a marathon in sub-4 hours, I should be training slower than that, rather than faster...  I've been doing it backwards yet again.  It's just so fun running fast!

Anyway, time to prep dinner for the family before tonight's Nickelodean Kid's Choice Awards, an event that Connor is quite excited about!  Yep, I'm a dad... :)



The sun was just extending its arms into the sky when I got up this morning.  Early!  With triathlon swim lessons scheduled for Thursdays at 6:45 in the morning starting next week, I figure this week is a good time to program my body for this new early schedule.  It is less likely that I'll skip the lesson if I get up at the crack-o-stupid every day.

Yesterday was my first day on the new schedule, and I started out punching the keyboard shortly after seven in the morning.  Wow!  It was quite nice being able to get some focus-specific work done without anyone there.  No interruptions lent to some good productivity.  When 11:45 rolled around, I was more than ready to take my lunch.  As life would have it, I didn't leave until almost 12:45.  So be it.  I still managed to get in a great swim, get back to work, and solve problems.  The evening found me cooking again, but I threw in a twist: chicken breasts with a side salad, croissants, and croissant-covered, baked Brie.  Yum!  All in all a great day!

From Drop Box

Although I didn't get to bed until close to midnight last night, I was still confident that getting up early would pay off.  The morning started out fine.  I steamed along at work, attending emails and trying to move forward on a long-standing task.  I didn't get as far along as I wanted, and the dreaded Tuesday meetings started.  Soon enough, it was noon, and I was stuck in a 90+ minute meeting.  We did get lunch, but I wasn't knocking off tasks as I would have liked.  Right after the meeting, Jesse and I spent time with co-workers explaining some of the more interesting and confusing characteristics of HTML-based email.  Not a half hour later, I was in another hour-long meeting.

Four thirty was staring at me, and a high-priority fix consumed another hour.  Conspicuously missing: my workout!  My run!  It didn't happen.  In fact, I didn't get out of the office until 18:00!  Arg!  I started out early hoping to carve out time in the afternoon or leave early and neither happened.

"Block out time, at the same time of day, every day, and people will schedule around you." This was the advice given me by my boss about a month or so ago.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  Life, and all that comes with it, sometimes shuffles priorities and timelines around you.  I said I wanted to complain, and if I left the post here, it might qualify.

In fact, I headed home in a sour mood, forewarning Meghan before I got there.  I wanted to order supper, deliver, and then run while everyone ate.  That's when I learned that our back door was stuck.  Connor had slammed the door once too many times.  The hinges had loosened in the old frame, and the doorknob bolt was stuck in the extended position.  I couldn't have a fire hazard in the house over night, so back to work I went.

It just so happened that I had a set of new door locks awaiting installation from last August or September.  After cutting out the old slide with a saws-all and remounting the door, I picked up dinner at McDonalds and finished up the lock installation by around 20:45.  All in all, I've had approximately 30 minutes of down-time today.

The whole day today has been about dealing with the pot holes on the road that life takes you. One after another I dodged, swerved, or jumped over them. I'm not always graceful, and I don't always land on my feet, but I always get up and keep moving.

Tomorrow?  Another early day.  In fact, it's time to turn in.  I have a plan, and this one involves a morning run while dropping off the car to get an oil change.  I know I'll make this one, since there won't be any interruptions from work to deal with -- lesson learned.  Still, who knows what's going to happen.

From Drop Box
I've finished my favorite night-cap, so it's time to say good night!  Here's to a pothole-filled day!



Bigbee's Sloppy Joes

Night had arrived early, as it does this time of year, and brought a howling wind to toss the new snow about.  Even with proper attire, you would be hard pressed to stay warm.  As I began cleaning the kitchen to prepare for dinner, a solid knock was heard above the ruckus outside.  On the stoop leaned an older man dressed in strange attire, carrying sacks and bags over his shoulder and attached to a wide army belt.  His grey beard whipped about, and tufts of grey hair stuck out from under his stocking cap.  He coughed before speaking.

"Pardon me, but my car has broken down around the block.  No one is answering their doors tonight.  Could I be so bold as to ask to stay inside and borrow your phone to call a towing agency?"

Normally, I would ask for the person to stay on the stoop and hand the phone to him, but it was not a night for leaving someone out in the cold.  He didn't seem drunk, nor was he trying to sell me anything.

"Please.  Come in.  My name is Chad, and these are my son's Connor and Ryan." Peter was jumping all over the man, of course.  The little Boston simply can't contain his excitement.

"Oh, ho, little one."  The name had a pleasant smile and a crackly chuckle. He reached down to pat the incorrigible dog.  I tossed him the wireless phone and invited him to make himself comfortable.

"Pardon me, but I've got supper to make.  Connor, Ryan.  Tubby time."  I figured having the boys in the bathroom and not in the stranger's way was a good move.  The boys hopped to, happy to have time in the bubble tub.  Meghan was off at Katie's for the night, her Wednesday routine.  I'd definitely have to tell her about our visitor when she got home.

Time to turn back to dinner, or rather deciding what to make with the meager pantry.  I had hamburger, bread, some ketchup and and onions.  I needed something that was quick and delicious to a 5 year old and toddler.

"Could I be of some assistance?"  The old man still wore his coat with its many assorted, draped bags and sacks.  "I believe this should work nicely."  He handed me a 3x5" recipe card with the following inscription:

Bigbee's Sloppy Joes
1 lb ground beef (93/7)
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 tsp Worchteshire sauce
1/4 tsp ground mustard seed
1/2 tsp chile powder
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper

Brown the beef and drain.  Saute the onions in a little vegetable oil.  Mix the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard seed, and chile powder.  Return the beef to the skillet and add stock and ketchup mixture.  Simmer 5-10 minutes.  Serve on toasted bread or hamburger buns.

Bigbee?  Now, where have I heard that name before?  The old man smiled and nodded.  "Thanks for letting me borrow your phone.  The wrecker will be here shortly.  I'd best be at the car when it arrives."

I escorted the old man out the front door and locked it behind him, shook my head, and prepared dinner.  The boys ate with gusto, leaving not a morsel behind.  It didn't hurt serving the sloppy joes with tater tots.  Ever since that night, I've wanted to properly thank the man for such a kind gift, but I never heard from him again.


Slow workout week on account of busy...

Busy.  Always busy.  This is something I think everyone has to struggle with, how to accomplish all of the goals you set forth for yourself through the week and beyond.  This week was a tough one for me.  I seem to lose momentum on the weekends, as Saturdays are generally reserved for taking care of the boys while Meghan gets a day to sleep in and then run afternoon errands.  I plan on running my long-slow-distance on Sundays, but that rarely comes to be.  It has been my day to sleep in then cook an afternoon brunch of waffles, pancakes, Eggs Benedict or other terribly satisfying and lethargy-inducing food.  It was waffles today.

Monday's weight-lifting workout did happen, but it was in the early evening rather than mid-afternoon as planned.  We had a potential issue at work that needed investigating, one that I thought had a higher priority than it actually proved to be.  I managed to eek in the workout before heading over to my friend's house for late night Cribbage game and a little Scotch.  Yes, "Dad's Night Out" can be quite rewarding!

Tuesday, I missed my afternoon run with the gang on account of busy!  This one was perhaps my fault.  I scheduled a production release of software before lunch, which can sometimes run long for unforeseen issues.  I should know better.  Lunch didn't happen until 14:30 CST, just two hours before I had to leave to bring Connor to swimming lessons.  I was going to leave at 15:30 to get my workout in, but had another deadline to meet by the end of the business day.  I didn't get out until 16:30 anyway.  My boss' comment, "Make time for yourself. Plan to be gone and people will adjust around your schedule."  Lovely!  I immediately blocked off an hour and a half for lunches every day.

Wednesday, I made it for my swimming workout!  Wahoo!  It seems that I am effective in applying  the "Total Immersion" principles to my swimming. I spent a lot of time focusing on form and keeping my head down, as if I were trying to hold an orange between my chin and my chest. I aimed deliberately for arm re-entry and tried to remain balanced in the water. I did falter a bit when I got tired and sub-luxed my left shoulder (a half-dislocation), and I'm still feeling the after-affects today. I may have over-worked my shoulders on Monday's lifting workout, and the moment I lost my concentration was when it happened. I just need to remember that with good form, I prevent injuries, my efficiency improves, and I swim better. The results showed this: two 400 meter legs with only a five minute break between them. My goal is 1600 meters, 64 laps, in an hour -- no stopping.

Thursday was a nice run with our afternoon "club". We ran West along the river and back again. The pace felt a little fast for me for some reason, I think perhaps because I didn't have a good breakfast at all and had coffee all morning. I really need to eat healthier throughout the day if I want to get the most benefit out of these workouts. It's early in the season, so I can afford to make these little mistakes and adjust accordingly.

Friday was a loss on account of busy. This time it was a company lunch! I knew ahead of time, though, and should have adjusted my workout to the morning. Failing to do so meant lost potential and momentum.

You of course know what happened Saturday, my rest day, and today: waffles. So, what dos this tell me about the upcoming week? Plan effectively, eat healthy morning meals, and remember that form is everything.  Oh, and waffles are REALLY tasty!



Helping out a Debianite!

The week started out busy and stayed that way.  Sunday afternoon, I spent my time helping out a good friend Renee with her Debian desktop.  Years ago, she and her beau (now husband, IIRC) had been pinched for cash and tired of the BSoD's.  Carl, an old co-worker of mine, and I suggested Debian as an alternative.  About once every two or three years, they ask for a tune-up, and Sunday just happened to be that day.  She was having issues playing sound and installing fonts.  Usually easy things to fix, I spent the better part of the afternoon debugging the sound issues.

Carl and I apparently weren't very thorough with our initial setup.  With the Gnome desktop, there is a nice little utility called gksu that prompts the user for either the root password of the system, or ties in to sudo, which apparently I mis-pronounce as "pseudo" rather than sue-doo, to allow a privileged user to enter their own password.  This is the same type of setup that Apple's Mac OS X uses.  Renee and Chris couldn't find the root password (easy enough to change), and gksu wasn't configured to use sudo!  Awkward.  As a result, over 460 packages needed to be updated for security or usability reasons since the release of Debian 5.0 (Lenny).

The second mis-step in our setup was forgetting to assign Renee's account to all the right local hardware access groups, such as "audio", "video", etc.  Sound setup in Lenny was a bit weird anyway, so I downloaded and installed the PulseAudio packages.  Took me a bit of hoop jumping and research to figure out all the right things to do -- turned out that it was a simple answer of adding Renee and Chris to two groups rather than one.  Only took me a couple hours to find that one.

Lastly, of course, was trying to get Flash 10 working in Lenny.  I found "The Perfect Desktop - Debian Lenny" to be extremely helpful.  The difficulty with Debian in general continues to be its strict adherence to what it considers free.  Adobe's Flash Player is definitely not free, and thereby does not warrant support. However, your browsing experience is seriously impinged upon if you do not include the latest Flash and Shockwave language.  Free software has a natural latency to this level of support, it's always behind when trying to provide compatible variants to otherwise restricted rights software.

I can only think of one acceptable alternative to Debian, though: Ubuntu.  Being a Debian-bigot, it's a natural fit for me.  For the average user, not the monkey-wrenching geek like me, Ubuntu has all the benefits of the Debian operating system with the polish and support you would like to see in a desktop operating system.  Ubuntu package selection is a bit more strategic than Debian's when it comes to "fitting in" to the current computing environment.  This has earned Ubuntu the "black sheep" stigma from some hard-core Free Software pundits, one that is undeserved in my honest opinion.  (I can guarantee you that it isn't on Richard Stallman's Top 10 list of Linux derivatives.)

Ubuntu would be a great fit for Renee and Chris.  I'm using it on my laptop and my work-desktop right now!  Works great!  Perhaps the next time they need a tune-up, I'll convince them to switch over.  Wulfgar, if you're reading this and tired of the BSoD's, look to Ubuntu!