End of a Season

The large conference room was packed full of bodies today, as we discussed the changes and their impact with this month's upcoming release. I had pulled up a folding chair next to the western facing window and gazed periodically at the scene unfolding below. Most of the leaves on the trees have fallen, but a few hung tenaciously to their perches, fluttering golden defiance to the wind.

Few people were about, a lull prior to the lunch rush. On the sidewalk, the workers for the City of Saint Paul had begun framing out the ice rink foundation in front of the famous Landmark Center. "Winter already," I realized in wonder. Where did the time go?
Nora,hanging out

A mere four months prior, we welcomed our newest child to the family. Nora is already eating solids and rolling around the floor. She's not quite mobile, but the day will quickly come when she realizes her potential.

Connor and Ryan at Pine Tree Orchard
Ryan has been enjoying his first two months of Kindergarten, and is amazing Meghan and I with his reading skill. Already devouring first level reader books, he has an uncanny ability to work out brand new words. Honestly, what is his teacher going to do to keep him engaged?!

Connor is improving by leaps and bounds in everything he applies himself to. Recently, he has joined the YMCA swim team and has already competed in his first swim meet! It is a lot of fun to see how far he has come in the last year alone.  Both boys are in scouts, and Connor has started his Catholic education with CCD classes.

Meghan is recovering from childbirth and enjoying her new tread-climber, a cross between a treadmill and a stair climber. She despises it less than the elliptical that has taken up space in our house for a few years, relatively unused. (I hated that thing, too.)

Connor's Second Swim Meet
I'm recovering from a late season training injury, after accomplishing most of my goals. It didn't seem that long ago when I was nervously asking myself if I was ready for Moose Mountain Marathon, only to have completed it forty five minutes faster than my previous attempt. Awesome-sauce!

The question begs, "What next?" My training and running dropped off precipitously following Moose Mountain due to laziness and then injury. A calf-muscle strain has left me side-lined for a couple weeks now, and getting started back up has been a challenge. My free-time has similarly disappeared due to volunteering for the boy's Cub Scout pack and Connor's swim team.

Next year's goals include completing a few 50K and couple 50 mile marathons in preparation for a 2014 100 miler. I'd like to be strong enough to avoid injury and fast enough to stay in the middle of the pack, realizing that I've got a long way to go before I'm competitive. No idea which races I'll be signing up for, but I'm also planning on working in some volunteering time. Like I had stated above, I stretched myself a little thin this year, and the flu prior to Zumbro 100 this April knocked me out from that possibility. As John Storekamp stated, "You don't want to be the reason someone DNF's." Definitely not!

Cement Making Silos near the Mississippi
Now is a good time to think short-distances and cross-training. Running to and from work becomes a bit of a challenge in the winter, having to plan out clothing drops, etc. I'll likely ride the bus into work on Monday morning with all my gear and lunch supplies for two days, then run home Monday evening. Run in to work Tuesday morning and bus home. Bus and swim on Wednesday, then repeat the bus/run pair on Thursday/Friday. The tread-climber, as much as I hate to admit it, might be a good substitute for hills/hiking; something I could focus on for a week or two at a time.

Matthew Patten has issued a Winter Challenge that sounds like fun! Not sure how it'll work just yet, but stay tuned!


Legal Discrimination? Smokers Need Not Apply!

Although I probably shouldn't be surprised, I learned something new today: employers can legally discriminate against smokers in the work force - at least in 20 States of the Union. They're not required to provide "Equal Opportunity" for open positions to this subset of the workforce. I do not condone habitual smoking nor would I any such behavior, but there is something fundamentally wrong about allowing employers to exclude you from consideration based upon a personal decision.

Image capture of job text: NOTE: Non-Smokers OnlyI'm not currently looking for new employment, nor am I a smoker. I'm simply too lazy to unsubscribe from the Twin Cities Linux Users Jobs List, and when I saw the following post, I was incensed. I needed to know more.

I stopped in to the HR office to ask if it was possible in the state of Minnesota to post a job under these restrictions, and I was surprised to find out that smokers do not belong to a "protected class" of workers. From Law.com:
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoker protection laws that limit that practice, according to the American Lung Association. But despite laws prohibiting the discrimination against smokers in the hiring process, Banzhaf hasn’t “found a single case where there’s been a holding in favor of a smoker” in such a case.

Interesting. Even if the law is on your side, you're not going to get the job. Being a smoker today is a rough, discriminatory life. I hope you're able to quit, if that's your desire, or able to find employment if you still enjoy smoking. In the very least, I would suggest you keep it low key. (Or vote Libertarian!)


Social Not-working

"I don't even like Facebook."

I shake my head in disbelief and stare at the screen. Once again, proof illustrated via an "unfriend" action on Facebook that friendships are best kept up close and in person or at a distance. It's the fuzzy in-between world of internet social networking that ruins us, social not-working.

"Was this person ever interested in me?" you ask yourself about a twice-remove classmate of a sibling who has just requested a "friend" or "link".

You find out quickly that Friend A, although close to you at one point in your past, has drastically different political or religious viewpoint than you. Maybe Friend A was best kept as a study partner in College. Friend B was your best friend for a period of time, and now to find that B's memory of you is less than favorable via a comment on someone else's "wall."

Social not-working brings us too close and yet keeps us far away. It becomes a soapbox, a podium, a platform that you would never stand on in close company. Friend C was always so mellow and easy going, but you've discovered C's on-line personality  makes "timelines" less enjoyable, tedious, draining.

You discover what you have in common, or rather where you differ and ask, "Is it really worth spending my time reading about topics that interest me about as much as having my teeth pulled without anesthesia?"

Over the last few months, I've asked myself, "Why would I want to post anything topical anywhere other than a forum where other people want to participate?" Is Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ really a good fit for what people are trying to use it as, myself included? The answer is an emphatic, "No!"

I started this blog because I felt that the Social Not-working platforms were poor platforms for thoughtful introspection or longer works (and I missed posting to my ~/.plan file). I post about running, my family, and gaming. Periodically, I've posted things about Buddhism, but I've avoided politics. When I do post, I try to place labels on them so if you are a reader, you can select the ones most interesting to you via the RSS feed filter options.

I participate in sites like DailyMile because there is value in a focused, topical forum for fitness in its many forms. Reddit has had me as a regular visitor again after years of using other sites because I value the ability to focus in on interesting tidbits of information about a specific topic. I've been using my Twitter account for those short, light hearted conversations, updates about running, and I'm starting to really like the idea of having separate accounts for separate interests and focuses.

With how ridiculously easy it is to make new blog, twitter, and social accounts, perhaps anonymity should be considered a viable way of focusing one's energy. It might even save a friendship or two.


Achilles, Why?

Sunrise on Selby and FairviewOn my first run in these new size 13 Brooks PureGrit shoes, my left Achilles flared up again. Am I a barefoot-only runner now? I hope not. It can get really cold in Minnesota, and the Winter road slush is worse than snow alone. This does give me an idea for an equipment mash-up: Gortex zippered boot covered Huaraches!


Busy, busy, busy...


I've been wanting to write up the race report for this year's Moose Mountain Marathon similar in style as to last year's report, but for some reason, I just haven't felt the drive to get it done. Today is no exception. Instead, I just want to relax, catch up on some Redit reading, and maybe throw down a few thoughts here.

The race itself was an awesome experience, one that I'll be excited to tackle again some day. After shaving off 45 minutes from last year's time, I found a formula that works. Four weeks later, after taking a break from running and being forced to sit on the sidelines with a nasty cold for two weeks, I'm starting to get back into the swing of things. Next year will undoubtedly be a challenge as I progress toward my goal of completing a 100 mile marathon before I'm 40. I have until July 12, 2014, so next year will be quite important in building my endurance, strength, fortitude, and willpower to complete such a feat. I draw inspiration from the incredible runners of UMTR. It can be done!

One thing that I will be working on are hills; long, winding, soul-sucking hills. Out of the different stretches along SHT, the ones that were the most challenging were the steep climbs and long switchbacks. I'd like to be able to run up them rather than walk!

Family Things

Today is going to be a family day in Big Lake to celebrate Connor's 8th birthday. He's getting so big! Meghan found her crafty side this season and is sewing a Link costume for him. He's sticking with Nintendo characters, but at least he's graduated from Mario and Luigi!

Well, things are starting to move, so we'll have to pack up the kids and get out the door. Have a great week!


Migrating old .plan entries to Blogger

You're probably going to be seeing a bit of activity on this blog as I pull over my old ~/.plan files. The server I'm running in my basement is getting old, and it's time to find another home for some of my old posts. Hopefully, I'll be able to publish this stuff in such a way that you won't see them as "New" stories.

Happy Labor Day, folks!


Daily Running = Sore!

Besides being tired all the time, I've been working hard on remaining consistent with my training and diet. By in large, I've been successful at both, with a few stagger steps along the way. To accomplish my running goals, I've been commuting to work on foot with Osprey Talon 22 backpack and water bladder. When stocked with my work clothes, water, hygiene kit, and food it weighs about 12-15 pounds. I often forget to update my weight on Daily Mile for these runs, which us used to calculate the calories expended during the workout. It's a good thing I'm not too worried about it!  I'm more worried about whether or not I'm consuming enough calories to offset those burned!

In general, I'm trying to run each day, though I haven't really gotten into a full seven day streak. In the very least, I run five days, with an occasional sixth thrown in for good measure. Where I've really fallen behind this season is in getting out of  Phase I, or mileage and base building. Like my friend Keath[1], I've been using the Daniels Running Formula as the basis for my training. Unlike Keath, I haven't been able to make it very far in the plan! I do have excuses, and they're relatively good ones. The fact remains that I haven't really had time to put in some quality workouts, those not run at an Easy - slower than Marathon - pace.

I'm still not sure if anyone has really applied Daniels' approach to ulra-marathon training, but I'm not yet an ultra-marathon runner. with over 4,600 feet of elevation gain[2]Moose Mountain Marathon doesn't really fall into the "marathon" or even "run" buckets.  Frankly, it's more of a hike separated by running and walking. To prepare, I need to strengthen my quads and hamstrings, but to benefit from this work, I need about three weeks of time from the effort. With less than four weeks to the race, this is the week for quality!

Sunday, I started it out with a hill repeat run. After a 3 mile warm-up run around Lake Joesphine, I ran repeats on Edgewater Avenue up to Lexington Parkway. The hill is about 100 yards long and 50 or so feet of elevation gain. I didn't sprint for the eight repetitions, but I'm sure I went far faster than an Interval effort, hence the designation of a Repeat. Hopefully it will pay off in September.

One thing is for certain, my legs have "felt it" ever since. A combination of my increased, yet still very modest, mileage and the hill workout has left my legs sore. Wednesday night, my quads started to cramp up while sitting in a recliner and my shins were starting to say, "Give us a break!" Although there are no real scheduled "rest days" in the Daniels' plan, I took Thursday off! I'm feeling better today and will get in a half hour to 45 minute Easy run in before mowing the lawn, packing, and heading off to camp!

1Keath recently completed the MOOnlight Half Marathon in Davis, California. Congratulations!
2Aid Stations, Map and Data

Tired all the Time!

Baby Nora at seven weeks!
The Walstrom house has been full of diapers, bottles, and a crying baby, but her cuteness makes up for the mess and lack of sleep!  Nora is our third child and first girl and will have the honor of always being our little baby.

Initially, our little peanut would have at most two ounces of formula, and she would be up every 2-3 hours. She's now drinking six ounces, which really amounts to seven when you've added the formula, and sleeping anywhere between 4-6 hours. Occasionally, we get luck and have an entire night of sleep!

Meghan has been a real trooper, and we've had some real moments of stress due to the lack of sleep. I'm starting to see light at the end of this tunnel, and Meghan has been noticeably more relaxed and rested. Of course, "rested" is relative these days.

Ryan (5)
Connor and Ryan have adjusted well to live with a baby, though we do have lots of reminders to, "Be quiet. Your sister is sleeping!" They have been enamored with their Nintendo 3DS games, with Ryan making some outstanding leaps in proficiency. Most of these games include in-game written instructions on how to play as you progress, teaching you new techniques and strategies. Ryan has been amazing me with what he can recognize and understand. When you have real motivation, you can accomplish amazing feats!

Connor had a similar experience, though I attributed it (and some Ryan's growth) to a different gaming platform, the Leap Frog product line. Their games are specifically designed to teach reading and arithmetic, whereas the software companies that create games for the Nintendo line of products generally focus on entertainment. If you're looking to purchase a digital gaming system for your 3-5 year old, concentrate on Leap Frog, or shop specifically for titles on the Nintendo platform that focus on education.

Ryan (5) and Connor (7)
in the Rocket Ship Slide
The common thread here is that education needs to be fun! Speaking of fun, Connor and I will be attending an overnight Cub Scout camping experience this weekend at Camp Phillipo in Cannon Falls, MN! I think I'm more excited than he is, and Meghan is terrified about being home alone with Nora and Ryan! If anyone wants to come over and keep Meghan company, take Ryan off her hands, or just watch the kids for a few hours so she can catch a nap, I'm sure she would be very appreciative!

Take care, and have a great weekend!


Plantar Fasciitis?!

More Injury News

As if I'm not having enough trouble with injury, pain, and running. Now, it appears that I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. The pain is excruciating! It looks like I'll be backing off the mileage, just as I started getting into it. I've been icing nightly and bought an ice pack for work. Rolling my foot on a tennis ball provides a bit of relief, and the pain seems to be localized near the heel and instep more than anywhere else on the foot.

I'm sure this is all due to my barefoot running, which places more stress upon these muscles. I did run in my racing flats this morning, and my KSOs this evening. The New Balance MT101s I used at Afton are also minimalistic in nature with little cushion. Perhaps I'm hurting myself more than necessary here. Time for a cushioned shoe with zero drop and perhaps a little arch support while I heal? Newtons need not apply!

Hopefully, I'll be able to bounce back from this one faster than the Achilles tendonitis, which by the way, is healing relatively well, even with my double day today -- a run commute of five miles in one direction, ten mile round trip.

Tomorrow, by necessity, will be a rest day. Funny how I don't own a pair of arch support shoes any more...

Baby News

Meghan has turned in a little early tonight to catch a little early sleep, and Nora's due for her next bottle at 00:30. She's a little firecracker, that one, and she's left Meghan and I a bit ragged. We're making due, and things are getting better on a daily basis. The old habits and tricks for taking care of a baby are coming back, as are the memories of those really difficult nights.

Meghan found a new style of bottle that seems to be performing really well, the Avent bottles. They're sized and shaped more closely to a breast, have two holes instead of one, and have multiple vents that allow air to pass into the bottle. They're touted as helping babies with colic, which thankfully Nora does not have. She hasn't spit-up on me since the switch, so they're definitely worth the investment!

Anyway, time to turn in -- after a quick snack. All of this running has been sapping me of much needed calories!


Race Report: 2012 Afton 25K

Awesome Race!

The Saturday trail race at Afton State Park was awesome this year! We couldn't have asked for better weather. Friday night, Mother Nature delivered to us a reprieve from the heat in the form of rain and wind, and the morning started absolutely gorgeous! Thankfully, the State of Minnesota didn't run in to the same political problems as last year, and we were able to run at the park! The end result was a stupendous experience, almost 30 minutes off my last 25k time, and a chance to cheer on my friends! Suffice to say, I had a blast!

Leading Up to the Start

If you've followed my blogging in the past, you'd know that the last few weeks and months have been filled with challenges and changes. Namely, ITBS from 2010, a pulled or torn Achilles tendon from November, and more recently, a newborn baby! Meghan had been taking the bulk of the feeding responsibilities, since she had still been sleeping on the reclining couch -- she was exhausted, in pain and frustrated. Friday night, it was time for a change -- yes, the night before the race!

We went to bed early, with Meghan taking the first shift of bottles. At 04:20, it was my turn, as Nora's hunger acted a biological alarm clock. I hadn't slept well anyway, with strange dreams of missing high school track meets. Still tired, I was actually grateful for a chance to get up and spend time with Nora. She didn't quite fall asleep after her bottle, so Meghan took over while I got ready for the race. (I learned later that Meghan's fix was to remove the stocking cap from Nora, who apparently was overheating.)

I didn't take much time getting out the door and on the road.

Afton, and the 50k Start

I arrived at Afton about ten minutes before the start of the 50K race. John Storkamp, the race director, was giving instructions about the race and thanks to the volunteers. He also introduced a contest to identify the race number of the man who was sporting a new tattoo of the "Afton Bird" on his person. (I never did find out who it was.)

I looked for Jason Tintes, who I knew was running the 50k, but didn't see him. I would later congratulate him at the finish line after finishing the race myself.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous, atypical for this July race. For the last week, Minnesota was hot and humid across the state. Early Friday night, a storm system pushed through and cooled us down. Morning temperatures were not only tolerable, but cool and the air was relatively dry.

The 50K race started without much fanfare, as the runners funneled on to the narrow trail, and I turned around to make my way to packet pickup.

Familiar Faces

One of the great things about these trail races is the strong community. You tend to see the same faces, time and time again; people dedicated to and enthusiastic about the sport, who volunteer their time to ensure a great experience is had by all. I truly appreciate their effort and enjoy catching up on their lives.

Brian Woods, who recently finished the Black Hills 100 mile ultra-marathon in 19th place, and is one of only 6 people still in the Gnarly Bandit Trail Series, was handing out T-shirts. Later, I would see him manning the barbecue, grilling hamburgers. I hadn't seen him since the last Afton, and the 2010 Zumbro race prior to that. He was in high spirits and smiling, as he always seems to be.

In the parking lot, I ran into a woman I ran the 2011 Moose Mountain Marathon with, Marise Widmer. We had both made a wrong turn toward the peak of Oberg Mountain, and then talked and ran together for the remainder of the race. I would pass her on the downhills and she would pass me on the uphills. She finished that race in 6:43, three minute ahead of me!

Shannon Lindgren from DailyMile was also at the race with two of her friends, Leah and Anne (I believe). Shannon had a chance to run Boston Marthon this year! We took pictures, caught up, and wished each other good luck.

Race Start

With MyTracks engaged and tracking my progress, I started out somewhere in the middle of the pack. My strategy for the day was to keep my pace as comfortable as possible, since this was to be a training run for the Fall Moose Mountain Marathon race in September. There were lots of elevation changes similar to the Superior Hiking Trail that makes Afton a great training area. I obviously wanted to do better than last year's race of 3:20, but comparing the two times is frivolous. They were drastically different courses and the weather conditions weren't even comparable.

I tried not to start out too quick, but found myself moving ahead to gaps in runners, trying to get comfortable. My left heel was feeling a bit sore, but not bad, and my right arch was a bit stiff. The shoes were well-fit with two pair of socks, and I was feeling pretty good. For this race, I hadn't found anyone to pace or run with, so I would strike up conversation with people as we went along.

The first part of the track looped South of the starting line, directly into wider, shaded paths. Turning North, it was largely downhill for the better part of a mile or so, when it turned up into a long climb. MyTracks has a neat feature that highlights the track based on the speed that you are running. My strategy to run the straights, hike the uphills, and bomb the downhills, it's easy to see on the map where the hills were.

I was pleasantly surprised on how relaxed I was feeling for the first half of the race, still able to take three or four step per inhale, with four or five per exhale. I don't really know why I paid attention to that metric, but I found it interesting at the time. I did focus on ChiRunning principles, even though I wasn't running in my Vibrams.

At the Western-most loop of the course, we were greeted by Steve Quick, directing traffic for the runners along a short stretch of shared trail. I said, "Hi" and thanked him for coming out. We met up later again at the finish line and talked about running, asthma, and his new project of hiking the peaks of Minnesota.

It didn't take very long before we had run up on to the sunny plains of the park, but because it was so early and the weather so mild, it wasn't the sun-baking experience I had expected for the day. The Africa Loop/Trail was fun in that you could see far ahead of you over the rolling hills of grass. If you haven't had a chance to run or hike Afton, take the time to do so. It is really a special place.

Hills! I have to say one of the most fun parts of this course are the plethora of hills, which range from easy rolling to long slogs, to the steep and technical. Of these, I liked the technical downhill sections best; I have a tendency to "bomb" them. On a few occasions, I swear I passed a good dozen or more people by removing the breaks and letting my wheels spin. You just need to pick your heels up under your rear and let gravity do the work. Keep your cadence the same and pick your way down the hill. The challenge is land softly enough that you have control and don't jar your entire frame. Land with your feet under or behind you, never in front, or you'll ruin your knees. I love it!

I tried to get in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible, mainly to just keep moving. This approach worked well, and I avoided some of the bottle-necking that happens there. My phone had quit working at 08:30. (In truth, the display and inputs quit working, but the GPS continued to track my progress.) I decided to schedule at least one tablet of salt and one pack of gel per leg of the race, which averaged 2-3 miles per leg (20-30 minutes). The aid stations were stocked well, and everyone was very helpful!

I felt the most tired during the long road stretch along the river, in the second to last leg of the race. My right quad was starting to tighten up, so I concentrated on keeping good form and tried to relax my muscles as much as possible. I walked for a bit, popped another salt tablet and downed a gel. There wasn't much left of the race, so I had to just keep going.

At the Finish

After the last aid station, we had the snowshoe loop left, a big hill up to the road level, and a quarter mile stretch to the finish. I didn't really want to change my strategy now and increase the pace. I was there for a training run, not a PR.

On the last hill, I ran into a young 23 year old runner by the name of Brandon Veber, a Mechnical Engineer from Falcon Heights. He had recently picked up running again following his completion of college, and this had been his first trail race! We agreed to walk up the last hill, then jog into the finish together. He dropped back a little near the end, but I waved him forward to finish side by side.

There was a wave of excitement shortly after I had finished as the female winner, Eve Rukavina-Rembleski of Watertown, crossed the finish line in 4:21:29, 7th place overall. She looked energetic, as if she could run another 25K right then and there. I congratulated her when she had a free moment and she greeted me like an old friend.

Jason was pretty psyched about his finish (5:31:29) as he reconnected with his running partner for the day, Mike Bunda (5:29:10). I had a training run once with Mike last year in Afton and was excited for their strong finishes.

I really love this sport. I enjoy the challenge of it, the community, and the time you spend talking with others who love it the same way I do. I lounged around at the finish line for a good two or so hours, cheering in runners, talking, and eating a fair share of hamburger, watermelon, lemonade, and M&Ms.

What Next?

Eight weeks of training for Moose Mountain Marathon is next! I recognize that my left heel is still not 100%. Saturday night, I iced it and took ibuprofen to reduce the burning feeling. Perhaps it's time to see a sports physiologist on strategies for recovery.

In regards to training, where I need most of my improvement and work is my uphill strength and endurance, and perhaps getting back into a run following the climb. I don't expect my strategy to change much for Superior, but if I can ascend a bit quicker and transition into a run quicker, I can shave off enough time to make it sub-6 hours.

We'll be renting a room or cabin at Caribou Lodge for a day prior and few days following the Superior run. I don't want to run into the logistical issues we had last year with the vehicle, and how much time I spent at the event afterwards. By mid-afternoon, Meghan had been chomping at the bit to get away from the hotel she was at and wasn't expecting my obsession with hanging out at the race site all day. This year, we need to give my family options and means of escape if need be.


People at the Race


Humidity, What Ya Gonna Do When It Comes For You?

Tuesday's humidity was oppressive, and today looks like it will be just as bad. Stepping out the door just prior to nine o'clock to let out Peter has me thankful for air conditioning. I cannot imagine living in a house without it. First world problems, I know. Unlike yesterday, I have not yet gotten my run in. I stayed up a bit later last night taking care of Nora while Meghan had a "Girls' Night Out" with her sisters and mom; she needs more of these, I think. She came home in good spirits and wanted to try sleeping upstairs again instead of the recliner.

I didn't set an alarm, and woke to help Nora sleep once around midnight. I Meghan this morning on the reclining couch again, with Nora in the bassinet. She had come down at two because her hips were bugging her again from SPD, Symphesis Pubis Disorder, something women often have in the last part of their pregnancy as the hormones in their bodies prepare them for birth. Their ligaments and tendons loosen up to allow baby to pass more easily through the birth canal. For Meghan, this problem started much sooner than normal, so she's been sleeping in a recliner for the last six or so months.  You think that might be nice, but it's not really all that comfortable compared to a bed.

It's now almost 13:00, and I've yet to run my mile to keep the "secret" #runstreak going. Honestly, I would like to keep my training schedule on track with a half-hour run, but mid-day on one of the hottest days of the year does not appeal to me at all. I'll do some stretching and maybe fit in a run around Lake Josephine later this evening, maybe after the temps come down a bit. Tomorrow's run will be early morning again, with a short run for Friday and the Afton 25k Trail race on Saturday morning. I'm a little nervous about the race, though I probably shouldn't be. I want to treat it as a training run for Moose Mountain and run the pace I expect there, sub-six hours for 26.2 miles or 14 to 15 minute miles. Given that I train at 9 minute miles as an Easy pace, I'm going to count on the hill climbs to slow me down to a walk.

The diet is still on track, for the most part. I need to pick up some olive-oil Helman's for my tuna and salmon lunches to avoid the vegetable oils. Yesterday's meals looked like this:

Breakfast: 4-egg Omelette with broccoli and cauliflower. Coffee. Coffee...
Lunch: 2 cans pink salmon, Helman's mayo (2 tbsp - has gluten/pressed oil - couldn't avoid it), green onion and celery. Cantaloupe. Water.
Dinner: Polish sausage and sauerkraut, peaches, 1/2 cup rice.

Today, breakfast was also a bit of lunch:

Breakfast: 3 fried eggs, bacon, cantaloupe, coffee.

No idea what lunch or dinner will have in store for us, but I'll be sure to bring some proteins along to the Stokes' house. It's Anna's birthday celebration today, as well as Independence Day, so there will be much partying and swimming.  Enjoy your day off!


Back to Work

First day at work, and it is a cooker out! I chickened out of the morning commute run due to projected record high temperatures reaching or exceeding 99F. Add in the humidity, and that spells disaster in the late afternoon sun. Instead, I opted to run a neighborhood three mile loop. Although toasty, I completed it in my requisite 30 minutes.  Day one of week two done.

Work has been more about catching up on emails and conversing about the difficulties over the last two weeks. With the outage due to an electrical fire at Visi Internet Services, our company is working hard to add in more redundant features to our platform. Things are pretty exciting right now at GovDelivery.

I'm still on the bandwagon with the Paleo/Archevore diet, though I didn't eat anything until I arrived at work around 08:00 this morning.

Breakfast: left-over eggs in a nest (x3), cup of plain vanilla yogurt and a grapefruit, coffee.

Lunch: curried red potatoes, left-over 50/50 bacon burgers, left-over broccoli and cauliflower, cantelope (1cup), orange, water.

Dinner: Rats on a Stick (hamburger, seasoned with Thai red curry, cumin and salt), pineapple, and a romaine lettuce salad with 1,000 Island dressing (a little cheat here -- it had soybean oil in it).

Off to bed!


The Eve of Work

We had a special moment today in the Walstrom and Stokes families: Nora's Baptism! I'll hoist a picture up here once we've uploaded them, so you'll have to trust me when I say Nora was adorable! The last few days, we've been spending time at our in-laws to take advantage of the lake and spend time with out-of-town family. It has made me miss living on a lake, but has renewed my hatred for raking out lake weeds!

It's a few minutes past 22:00, and I'm trying to wrap my head around how this week is going to work out. Baby Nora is not really on a schedule per-se, but she's getting up every three of four hours to eat. Meghan is taking the night shift, and I'm hoping to help out with the morning bottle. She's worried I won't get enough sleep, and I'm worried about her in the same way. We'll work it out, but it might take a bit of trial and error before we get it right.

At least for tomorrow, I plan on getting up at 05:30 to 06:00 to start getting ready for my run to work. It's a five mile jaunt with a few hills (though mostly downhill) down to the Skyway YMCA, whereby checking in on a daily basis, I'll earn my monthly $20 discount with the health insurance company on the membership fees. Worth it, I say. Besides, a consistent daily five miler will work beautifully for training. A run home makes it a double-day for ten miles, but I don't plan on working that part in for a while. In the mean time, a $2.25 bus ride will work out nicely -- slightly more costly than gas and free parking. I'll have to talk to my co-workers about the compensation plan at work for bus travel.

My weekly time goal for running is five hours at an Easy pace, as I'm starting over with Daniels' Running Formula approach again. I did well for two weeks, and then got "busy" again. I've put in some faster runs this week, so I'm not sure what my VDOT (38) based workout points will be. I'll figure it out tomorrow and post here as a follow-up. Technically, I'm on a 7 day #runstreak, which I may as well keep going.

I've done relatively well with the Paleo/Archevore diet over the last couple of days, but without documenting the journey, I'll probably forget what works and what doesn't. I do have to say I've enjoyed my almond-milk, honey, iced coffees -- it was toasty out! I included red potato hash-browns for breakfast, since yesterday's run was so horribly sluggish. Subsequently, by noon I was feeling strong enough for a run, which I would have otherwise skipped. I wasn't terribly hungry, unlike yesterday. I find that I feel more satiated if I sit down and eat a full meal rather than snacking.

Breakfast: Mini-pizza egg patties, hash-browns (not strictly Paleo - but I need the carbs for my running), plain vanilla yogurt (not paleo - but I really, really love it) with grapefruit. Coffee (x2) . Water. Almond milk-honey-iced coffee (x2).

Lunch: (At the Stokes house) Smoked beef roast with bernaise (not sure about Paleo on this, but it should be OK), lunch meats, blueberries and blackberries, tomatoes (fresh) in balsamic vinegar, and a really tasty spinach, candied walnut, and cranberries salad. One glass of white wine (not prohibited, but not part of the 30 day "detox" program). If there was any gluten in the diet, it would have been negligible. I did avoid dairy (though I DO love cheese).

Dinner: (At the Stokes house, again) Basically, the same as above. We ate left-overs from lunch. No wine this time, just coffee.

With that, it's time to turn in. 6 o'clock comes early , and it's almost 23:00 now!


Trying Hard Not to Stay Up

Nora Vivian Walstrom

Newborn and New Schedule

I'm trying hard not to stay up late at night, and here's the reason why... Our little princess has her own schedule, and we bend to her will. Who else can instantly change a family than a newborn child? Nora is no exception, and we couldn't be happier for it. I was told by numerous folks that she would have me wrapped around her little finger on Day One. I don't think I resisted beyond the first minute.

With Nora's arrival came a priority shift and schedule re-organization for me, namely the time slot in which I can run! There is no remaining doubt, I must use the early morning hours to do it. Meghan is taking the two night-time feedings, and I'm picking up the morning feeding. I need to do my run when Meghan is still on "bottle-duty". That way, I don't risk forcing her to wake and attend Nora while out on a run. Two weeks of Personal Time Off (PTO) at work has made this transition much easier.

I suppose it was time for me to officially flip from a night owl to a "morning person", especially if I'm going to take this whole "ultramarathon" thing seriously.


The other big change in my life is committing a diet change, choosing a Paleo diet over the high-carbohydrate, cereal grain focused, American diet. I've been waffling on this for some time, partly because of the general inconvenience of it all. Cereal grains are in everything. I don't know how my celiac friends manage!

Make no mistake, it is a commitment, eating healthy and free of gluten, but I'm hoping that I am making a positive change in my life and setting a good example for my family. The change is all my responsibility, since I do the majority of cooking in the house. Meghan does not woff, ant to have to cook every meal, every day, though I might be able to convince her to pick up one or two.

A huge challenge is deciding what to do with all of the pasta, beans, flour, and other cereal grain derived foods in the house. Perhaps a little outreach on social networks will result in a good home for the food, though perhaps I wouldn't be doing them any favors on principle alone.

Eat Like a Dinosaur!

One thing I wanted to accomplish with this change in diet was to benefit my family's health along the way. I may not be able to convince my children and wife to give up glutens entirely, but if I can get Connor and Ryan excited to cook food, the transition might be easier. I found an excellent cook book, targeted to children and families, that addresses this very thing.  It's called "Eat Like a Dinosaur" and it's written by The Paleo Parents. We bought the Kindle edition, and the plan worked! Connor has been very excited to make his own food and help me out in the kitchen.

With that, I should close the browser and head to bed! Off to run tomorrow morning for two hours! (It's too late already!)


GnuPG Transition to a New, Stronger Key

In reading the Debian Planet RSS feed, I find by example of
Vincent Bernat: GPG Key Transition Statement 2012
that I'm pretty late to the party in transitioning off the vulnerable SHA-1 digesting algorithm and transitioning from my old 1024 bit DSA key on to a new 4096 bit RSA key. I'm going to follow in suit.

You can find the following statement signed by the new key here and detach signed with the old key here.
Hash: SHA256

I am transitioning GPG keys from an old 1024-bit DSA key to a new 4096-bit
RSA key.  The old key will continue to be valid for some time, but I prefer
all new correspondance to be encrypted in the new key, and will be making
all signatures going forward with the new key.

This transition document is signed with both keys to validate the

If you have signed my old key, I would appreciate signatures on my new key
as well, provided that your signing policy permits that without
re-authenticating me.

The old key, which I am transitional away from, is:

 pub   1024D/206C5AFD 1999-11-15 [expires: 2013-07-23]
   Key fingerprint = B4AB D627 9CBD 687E 7A31  1950 0CC7 0B18 206C 5AFD

The new key, to which I am transitioning, is:

 pub   4096R/606A941F 2012-06-16 [expires: 2015-06-16]
   Key fingerprint = 9FCF 24D9 FFE7 4D25 ACCD  D51D 4A67 0D2C 606A 941F

To fetch the full new key from a public key server using GnuPG, run:

  gpg --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --recv-key 606A941F

If you have already validated my old key, you can then validate that the new
key is signed by my old key:

  gpg --check-sigs 606A941F

If you then want to sign my new key, a simple and safe way to do that is by
using caff (shipped in Debian as part of the "signing-party" package) as

  caff 606A941F         

Please contact me via e-mail at  if you have any
questions about this document or this transition.

  Chad Walstrom
Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux)



May Checkin

Time for a check-in of sorts. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in my running as of late. I have a dozen excuses which distill down to three main causes: injury recovery, illness, and poor discipline. However you wish to look at it, the result is the same, I'm far behind where I want to be on May 18th. I'm disappointed that I had to miss out on the May 5th Runnin in the Ruff 10K in Milaca due to a really nasty cold. I was out of commission just two weeks before that due to a really horrible flu, which resulted in me getting two liters of intravenous saline at Urgent Care. I can't help but be envious of my friends running the Spring Superior Trail 25K and 50K runs this Saturday and those that completed the Ice Age 50 this last weekend.

In talking with Meghan this last week, I realized that I often use the phrase, "I wish I [were, had, was]..." or "I want to..." For example, "I wish I was developing more software." "I wish I were running more." "I want to go camping sometime." Enough. I've had it with these phrases. Instead, I'm changing over to "I am..." I had summed up the difference eloquently that night, but I don't recall the exact verbiage I used. It went something like this:

I refuse to live by wishes and desires, but by definition of action.
I know, pretty corny. Put another way, get off your arse and DO something. Yeah, that sounds about right. The good news here is that I am developing more at work, I am running more. I am getting help from a sports chiropractor for my hip and knee. No news on the camping front yet, but I'll get something put on the calendar soon enough.
The schedule for the rest of the year is going to be relatively loosely defined. The most important events in boldface.
  • June 2: Cub Scouts Rocket Launch!
  • June 18: Baby Nora Vivian expected to be delivered into the world!
  • June 24: The Lakes Run 8k  (Baby expected!)
  • July 7: Afton 25K Trail Run (registered and hopefully I can run it)
  • September 7: Superior Moose Mountain Marathon (hoping to have a family weekend at the resort for this one)
Well, it looks like the pictures and videos are now transferred off my phone, and it's time to turn in for the night. G'night!


Core Workout: Deck of Cards

A fellow DailyMiler'er and marathon runner, Jeffery J. Miller, had posted "I have felt a lot more pain throughout my entire body last two days and I have to assume it was from getting out of bed and jumping right on treadmill. So today I went back to doing my 340 push-ups and 340 pull-ups PRIOR to running instead of after the run and felt much better after the run.".

That's a lot of push-ups and pull-ups to be completing after a 21 mile workout! He explained how he had come to the rather specific number of 340 in the comments of his post, "deck of cards - 52 sets in 52 minutes (spent almost 6 years in federal prison!) I start with the kings and finish with the aces - quality is crappy in the beginning and flawless in the end. King = 10 pull-ups &10 push-ups - I have done a full deck of cards of push-ups everyday since July 6th, 2007 and a deck of cards of pull-ups everyday since Mar 31st, 2009! I am all about consistency, persistence, perseverance etc..." Astounding!

A bit of web research uncovered a multitude of workouts around the use of a deck of cards (1, 2, 3). The gist is to assign from one to four different types of exercises to either the deck, the colors, or the suites and perform a set for each card using the face value as the repetitions in the set. Jeffery assigns 10 points to each face card and one point to Aces. Others assign the Jack, Queen, and King the set values of eleven, twelve, and thirteen respectively. I've seen Aces assigned a value of 20, and Jokers assigned 50. In short, feel free to make up rules as you go.

I see a simplistic beauty in the system: it's portable, consistent, and requires no special spreadsheets, weekly progression charts, or smart phone applications. It promotes quality work on short sets and speed on longer sets. You can apply it to multiple exercises, and as you get stronger, you progress further through the deck or assign higher values to face cards. As a reference tool, it's cheap, ubiquitous, and you can still use it for Poker, Gin, and the best game in the world, cribbage!

I'm certainly not as strong as Jeffery, but I'm inspired to use the deck of cards in my own core fitness workouts. I've started with selecting the aces through fours for all suits as my push-ups workout for a total of 16 sets and 40 reps. A single suit and value-based selection of the cards will probably work better and allow me to throw other exercises into the workout. For example, I'll use the hearts suit, ones through nines for push-ups (Total: 9 sets, 45 reps) and do something similar for pull-ups (once I install a bar in the basement), sit-ups, air-squats or dips. To progress incrementally I could drop the nine and add a ten, or I could simply add in another card of the suit until I'm using them all.

If you can't tell, I'm a fan already!


Grandma Carpenter's "Polish Stew"

Grandma Carpenter's "Polish Stew" is really a meaty, tomato ribbon pasta dish.  I don't know where the recipe title came from, but certainly not Grandma who is very, very Irish. She's so Irish that where ever she steps, four leaf clovers sprout of the ground! (Edit: At least, that's what the Stokes would have you to believe. Meghan has just informed me that, "She's not that Irish." Well, I'm just going to go with it.)
All of the ingredients! Yep. All of them.

Grandma Carpenter's "Polish Stew"
1 pound ground beef (whatever percentage of fat you like)
1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
1 can Tomato Paste
1 tsp Dried Basil
1/2 bag of Wide Egg Noodles
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water for noodles. Brown the beef in a non-stick pan, add a little olive oil if needed. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato paste, the tomato soup, basil and fill each can with water and add that as well. Add the noodles to the boiling water. Simmer the sauce for 5-6 minutes while the noodles cook. Add the noodles to the sauce when they're slightly al dente and incorporate fully.  Add pasta water if you would like the sauce a little looser. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Serve.

Why not onions or garlic? What about oregano, thyme, savory, marjoram, or rosemary, you ask? Grandma's a simple woman with simple tastes, and she downright hates onions. No need for the silly Hamburger Helper. This dish is about as basic and cheap as you can get, and the entire family loves it.



No Swim, but Fun Anyway!

Unlike our recent Saturdays, we did not swim today. The children's swimming lessons were scheduled to begin at 10:50 and end by 12:15. Originally, I had planned on bringing Connor and Ryan to the Ramsey County Cub Scouts Sheriff Day from 9:00 to 10:45, but we ran late getting there. I had to double-back for my on-call laptop, just in case I had to act as secondary for a co-worker and friend, Jeff Mattfield. It's his first weekend of being on-call, and I figured it would be rather poor form to not have the right tools to help out if he needed it. We didn't show up until almost 10:15.
Connor getting printed; squish!

We joined a group in a conference room to talk about safety in different situations, and Connor was a very good participant in the discussion. The officers were informative and patient with the children, and they seemed to be having fun. Ryan played the shy, yet unstoppable youth. He was like an electron, circling around me repetitively, making me downright crazy.

Ryan getting inked!
The coolest part of the visit was the K9 unit demonstration at 11:00.  I don't have any pictures of it, but the dogs were definitely the stars of the show. It made me miss our Siberian Huskey, Pasha, since they're quite similar to the European German Shepards. She's living well in Duluth with friends of ours, but I still miss her. Maybe someday soon, we'll get a bigger dog for the family. I would love to have a lab, sheppard, or boxer, though not necessarily in that order.

Fencing (From Wikipedia)
We stopped at Arby's for lunch and headed over to the Minnesota High School Fencing Championship tournament hosted at Saint Paul Academy. This was one of Connor's learn and visit events for his Tiger Cub badge. I've always liked fencing, admiring the skills on the big screen as well as a few fencing bouts I participated in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Many of the athletes were quite good, and it was fun to watch these youths parry and strike! There are very few state high school teams,  and I wonder about the accessibility of the sport to children in the public school system.  (Meghan tells me that the boys will most certainly be going to private high schools -- time to save up.)

With Connor and I starting Hong De Kung Fu two weeks ago, I don't foresee fencing in our near future anyway; one martial art at a time! According to Connor, he wants to go every day, so I think it's safe to say he likes it. He's a quick learner, too. I was practicing the first few steps of our form in the kitchen tonight, and he corrected me when I missed one of the steps. Learning the basic stances has been challenging for both of us. It's all new to Connor, and to use my old Tae Kwon Do master's observation of me at his age, "You look like a newborn giraffe, all arms and legs and no balance."

For me, Kung Fu is a viable alternative to strength and agility training. Who needs free weights when all of the stances make my thighs burn and my legs ache! I'm so glad that Connor is finally older than seven, because I've been wanting to do this for quite some time. Having him along gives me the perfect excuse to get out of work early, and get out of cooking dinner!

Without my afternoon swim, I felt the need to get some sort of physical activity in today. Basic skills class at Hong De had finished by 3:00 pm, so that wasn't an option. Instead, I strapped on the New Balnace MT101's and ran my old familiar neighborhood 3.2 miles, but not before purchasing a subscription to ChinesePod and downloading one of the lessons. The run itself went well. My heel didn't hurt much at all, just a few aches here and there, reminding me to mid-foot strike rather than fore-foot strike. I really felt I followed ChiRunning principles well, though I could use some review and drills to really make it solid. All in all, a very enjoyable run.

Seriously, watch this!
If you saw my post on What to Buy A Geeky Runner Dad post from June, you probably know that I've been thinking about taking a Chinese course for some time. A couple of years ago, I had signed up for the the free trial period of ChinesePod and listened to the podcast as I ran. I really enjoyed the lessons, and the website, was designed well. Knowing that I was learning something new, like introducing yourself to someone in Mandarin, made it that much more fun.  I practiced a bit on the site's lesson pages and armed with this new knowledge had a little Chinese discussion with Connor tonight! So cool! (His elementary school teaches Chinese as their secondary language.)

Besides, I would really love to understand what's being said in movies like Kung Fu Hustle, which I saw for the first time last night on G4, without having to rely upon subtitles or English dubbing. Great movie, by the way; a must see!


Chicken and Rice

At a price of $1.89 per pound, the package of chicken thighs called out to me from chilly meat isle. "Buy us! We're flavorful and cheap!" How can I pass up such a siren's song? The chicken thigh is such a versatile and often overlooked cut of meat. Many people have an adversion to bones, which immediately rules out anything but a chicken breast as viable poultry protein.  For my recovering vegetarian wife, it is too close to Real™ for comfort. That is a problem easy enough to solve; I've become much better at pan roasting the more sensitive cut of meat. This doesn't mean I have forgotten the forelorn thigh.  Oh, no. I am most certainly a leg-man.

I obtained this recipe for Chicken and Rice - or a semblance thereof - from the author and cook Mark Bittmann, a New York food columnist and cook book author.  I had obtained one of his little green cookbooks, a precursor to "How to Cook Everything" or maybe an early version, which turned out to be a real eye-opener. In the spirit of simplicity, Mark breaks down some of the more complicated dishes into its core components, making it accessible for us average spatula wielders. He then provides variations on the recipie that change the flavor profiles from Asian to Spanish and Italian.  I don't have the book any longer, as I had gifted it to a friend before she left for Florida, but I'm getting ready to buy an eBook version of HtCE soon.

Without further delay, the recipe.

Chicken and Rice
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6

2 pounds chicken thighs
1 cup long-grain rice (or medium, but NOT minute rice)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

While you bring the water to a boil in a tea kettle or sauce pan, saute the onions in the olive oil until soft in a high-walled skillet. Stir in the rice and roast for 2 minutes.  Pour in the hot water and bring to a simmer.  Trim the skin and fat off the thighs, salt and pepper them, and nestle them into the rice. Cover. Reduce heat to low and walk away.  Turn off heat at 30 minutes and let sit for 5 minutes.

This is one of my favorite recipies for its simplicity and flavor. Give it a try.