What Happened to Running?!

After being #MrMom for five days, crabby sick children, catching a
cold myself, a flu shot, and ridiculous on-call nights, I've finally
recovered enough to run a bit today. It wasn't much, but it ended the
week long goose egg for mileage. It is so frustrating to lose that
momentum, but I know I benefited from the streak. I'm not bitter; not

If I can scrounge up the kit, I plan on running to work tomorrow. Time
go get back on the 35 mile per week train and kick this plan in
gear. I've got Icebox 480 coming up in November, which gives me a
solid six weeks of training, with one week for a "taper". Surf the
Murph 50k on the 26th would be another nice way to end the season, and
the 50 miler would challenge me even further.

Experience on the trail this Fall would prepare me for Savage 100, my
best first chance I'd have at completing a 100 miler before July
12th. Held in May, the race has approximately 4,000 feet of elevation
change per 16.8 mile loop, equating to 24,000 feet of total elevation
change for the race. Yeoch!  The thing that killed me most on SHT was
the elevation change. Moose and Mystery Mountains ground my quads into
hamberger; bad times. Best to get going on Meghan's treadclimber over
the winter months!

So, which to race? The 50K or the 50 miler...


Run Streak Challenges and Pay-offs

I'm now going on my 37th day of my #runstreak, but I haven't yet picked out my workout. We have a house showing again today (no offers yet), so things have to look spiffy; no running this afternoon. Nora was squawking at 06:30 this morning, but she let me sleep in until 07:40 or so; I appreciated it.

As of yet, I'm still living like a night-owl. Most ultra-runners and long-distance runners seem to get their feet moving in the early morning light of dawn or pre-dawn. I just cannot seem to buy into it, valuing my "quiet time" after the children are asleep to watch television, sit on the computer, what-have-you. Yes, I realize that if I went to bed when Nora went to bed, I could get up and run before anyone wakes, but I never manage to follow through.

The runstreak has forced me to be consistent with training, however. Its is quite obvious with a rule like "run one mile every day" that consistency would be the outcome. The graph above is taken from my training log on DailyMile.com, and the trend is quite apparent; my training is right where it needs to be during the beginning phases of any program. With an average of five miles each day, or 50 minutes of running at a 10 minute mile, I'm looking at close to six hours of training. What is missing in this equation are generally my long runs. I haven't pulled out an LSDs beyond a ten miler in weeks.

In truth, what's missing is a coherent plan. I have some back-of-the-envelope calculations and general assumptions about races landing somewhere in October, November, April, June, and if I must, July, but races aren't my focus; distance is. Over the course of this weekend, I plan on spending time with Daniels' Running Formula, a spreadsheet, and a calendar. With consistency in my pocket now, it's a matter of defining how the next months will play out.


Blogstreak Broken, Runstreak Live On!

If you're paying close attention, you'll notice that I have a couple days where I didn't post to the blog. The streak is broken! I wasn't outwardly avoiding it, but I'm finding it hard to come up with interesting things to share on a daily basis. I'm developing a new found respect for professional writers, who routinely face this challenge as a way of life. How do you find new and intriguing stories, things worth highlighting?

Rather than walk you through "a day in the life of" each night, I am working to refocus these posts around specific topics. Yesterday's product review is a good example of this. If anything, expect to see things have a bit more direction and structure over the coming weeks as I fumble through this.

In any case, the #runstreak is still unbroken at 21 days! I'm planning on analyzing the last week of training on Sunday and goal setting for the upcoming week.


Product Review: Princeton Tech Vizz

I've been looking for a good headlamp recently, one with a bit more power than those you find at Menards. 100 Lumens minimum with at least a 48 hour run time, even on the brightest setting. Connor, Ryan, Nora and I stopped in at REI a few nights ago to do just that. I didn't spend too much time mulling over my decision, since the store was closing within 15 minutes of us arriving there. Petzel lamps were there, as were others, but I settled upon the Princeton Tech Vizz headlamp. It had the right price point at $49.99USD, the correct brightness of 150 Lumens, and 110 to 150 hours of run-time, or burn-time as their site refers.

Princeton Tech Vizz (copied without permission)
The lamp is controlled by a single button on the top of the housing. A single click turns the pair of red LEDs on. A double-click turns on the narrow, bright beam. A long-press of the button turns on the dimmable pair of white LEDs. Three quick clicks from off will lock the lamp in off-mode to prevent battery drain.

I've now had two occasions to run with the lamp, as I execute my late night #runstreak strategy of crossing the midnight hour to qualify two days in one run. The lamp is exceptionally bright and easy to operate. The one thing I noticed right away is that the lamp tended to bounce as I ran, which I was quite surprised about at first. However, after short examination, the reason was quite obvious. Three triple A batteries in the housing makes it a bit front-heavy. Although the hinge to the mounting bracket seems to take the bouncing without moving (something that may change with age), the whole unit moves up and down on my head while running. To combat this, I tightened the strap. Finding a happy medium between comfort and smooth operation was a challenge.

Now I understood why some runners seem to prefer lamps that use a third strap over the top of your head and house the battery pack at the back. Lighting the trail is a much smoother experience by isolating the bouncing away from the actual lamp. Going from my Rayovac Sportsman, which has this type of strapping and battery housing strategy, to the PTECH VIZZ is a distracting, albeit much brighter experience.

For me, the PTECH VIZZ gets a 3.5 out of 5 Stars. The bouncing is pretty distracting to me, but everything else is spot on.


Reaching for the Jack Daniels

With as sore as I feel, my 17th day #runstreak turned out to be stellar! Although I don't have any concrete plans as to how far I should be running (other than 1 mile per day) or how fast, I still have some inkling as to where I would like to be. 30+ miles per week seems like a nice round number, as did the 10 miles I ran today. I know it's not a big number for Long Slow Distance, but it's where my body is letting me be right now.

If you've read this blog, you know that a while back, I purchased the Daniels' Running Formula a while back. I really like the book and think it has some sound training principles. Identify your current fitness level and train to reach the next one. Train for time on feet rather than distance. Include at least two quality workouts a week, with easy running in-between. Build up your distance gradually. These are all horribly paraphrased from what I took away from the book, so don't quote me specifically. If you're a rabid do-it-yourself'er, this is definitely one for the bookshelf.

The title I chose for this blog post is accredited to my desire for a more structured program. A runstreak takes away the guesswork as to whether or not you're running for the day, but it doesn't really give much more than that. I've been loosely trying to get at least three one-hour runs in per week, with half-hour runs in-between, and a long run on the weekend. Using the long run over the midnight hour trick, I've been able to squeeze in some "rest days" despite running each day.

I'm sore. My muscles ache. My tendons are strained. I've been switching between shoes and barefoot, especially when my feet feel pounded. I was dreaming of an ice bath tonight, so things must be bad. Last time I tried one, I couldn't keep my legs submerged for two minutes. I could go buy a couple bags of ice and sit in the tub, but that brings up the next factoid: I'm tired. I just want to crawl into bed and not get up until mid-afternoon. It won't happen, of course, but at last I'll get eight hours tonight.

Most of the Daniels' programs have a 7-day running program per week, so it covers the #runstreak. Additionally, most days include at least one hour of running. I'm working up to it, reaching for it. Now that I'm consistently running every day, I'm realizing the flaw in my logic about running in longer and longer races without really building up my strength and endurance appropriately. Sure, I complete the race, but it's always at what seems like a death-march pace. I go out strong-ish but basically crawl to the finish. For my first 50 miler, I want not only to complete it but also do so with some gas left, as if I know what I'm doing. I don't of course, but wouldn't that be nice? This Fall. I don't have a race picked out yet, but I'll put a fuzzy circle around mid-October to early November.


I Should Take More Pictures

Nephew Michael (6), Ryan(6), Nora(1), and Connor(8)
I recently added an application on my Android phone that randomly chooses photos as a background, and it has had an interesting effect: dragging up old memories. Some were very good memories, and others I would prefer to forget. Some were "notes", such as photos of white boards at work or photos of wishlist items I wanted my wife to buy me, recent "newsworthy" events, or even the adorable observations my children make. Here are a few more examples:
Recent News

Connor is making new discoveries!

Explaining DKIM


Fruit Snacks

I love fruit snacks more than my children, and not just any fruit snack. I like the generic brand from Target, their "Market Pantry". Why? I don't really know. Maybe it's because they're very much like gummy bears or gummy worms, but because they're in the "snack" isle rather than the "candy" isle, they're marginally healthier. It's a comforting thought that I tell myself after I've just opened my fourth bag in a row.

Twinkies? No, you can keep your cream-filled sponge cakes. You would not include me in the throngs of people complaining that Hostess went under. Good riddance. Twinkies just took up shelf space where better eats could be displayed. I want something with a bit more "chew" to it, more flavor. You'll find them in my fuel belt along with my gels. Shot blocks?! Meh. Is there really that much wrong with a little corn syrup and vitamin C, especially when you're already taking maltos and dextros gels? I simply can't leave behind these little baggies of goodness!


Distracted and Awake, Barely

I should be in bed right now. In fact, I should have been in bed two hours ago, but I was distracted. It was a quiet night following a hectic day, and I took advantage of it. I watched some television with Meghan, drank a little scotch that I received for my birthday, and descended into our basement to hack on my computers for a bit.

I fully intended on simply coming down here to write up a blog post, but once again, I was distracted. The SunFire server log reports were telling me that SSH was receiving a lot of illegal login attempts. Easy enough to resolve, right? Just log in, install Shorewall, and configure. It turns out that my configuration-foo is a bit rusty, and I needed to spend time browsing through examples and manpages before I came up with something that works to my liking. That's life, though. With so many different things to learn, skills to obtain, experiences to gather, how can you really expect to remember it all?

An hour later, I can move on to brag about my sons. Connor, now eight going on twelve, has learned how to do a back-dive off the diving board! He was a little apprehensive, but he trusted his teacher and was resoundingly successful! He was so proud of himself, and I couldn't have been happier to share in his experience.

Not to be out-done by his brother, and perhaps because Connor did pull off the backwards dive, Ryan conquered his fear to do a front-dive off the diving board with a little bounce! He had figured out how to do the lean-over dive but was frustrated with continuing to do what the kids call a "scaredycat". It's slightly painful belly-flop with your hands and legs extended toward the surface of the water so you resemble a cat being thrown into the pool. Prior to Connor's success, Ryan fussed and cried about the attempt, so his subsequent success was a big deal! Again, I couldn't have been happier to see it happen!

Nora has also earned accolades as a walker! She is no longer bound to the earth by all fours, rather hobbles around the house in an unsteady gait on two feet! So proud! Our children are growing up so quickly!

Since this is a fitness blog of sorts, I may as well report on my own swimming today. I took advantage of my "day off" of running (due to running my runstreak at midnight this morning), and hit the pool for some easy laps.  My legs definitely enjoyed the time off. I swam mostly in freestyle at a relaxed pace with a butterfly and breaststroke thrown in for good measure. I ended on a fifty meter sprint, enjoying the rush of water! If there were a swim plus marathon duathlon, I'd be all over it!


A Tricky Runstreak

Two times in one week, I've pulled the same runstreak trick: span one run over midnight to qualify as two days of running. It may seem like a cheat, but it has legitimate benefit. Think of it this way: a runstreak is running a minimum of one mile per day, every day. If you're training for anything other than a 5k run, most of your runs will be longer than one mile. We know that our bodies require rest periods to heal from the stresses we put it through, and training does this by design. A runstreak, therefore, is in direct conflict with the concept of "rest days".

By spanning a longer run over the midnight hour, I get to accomplish a couple of very important things: blow off steam, qualify two runs in one outing, I get to try out my new headlamp, and give myself at least 32 hours before I have to run again. If I had run in the morning on the day prior, there would be another 32-38 hours between runs. In the span of four days, I still run every day, but rather than having them evenly spread in 24 hour segments, I get longer rest periods in between.

To take this strategy to the extreme, consider that running every other night starting prior to midnight with sufficient time to finish at least one mile would allow almost 47 hours between runs. It still counts as a run per day, but it also gives an exceptional amount of rest between.

So, if you're getting burned out from running every single day and need some time off, consider a run that spans the midnight hour. Even one of these in a week is enough to give you a "day off" while technically qualifying as a run per day, keeping your streak alive!


Texting and Treamilling

Texting and Treadmilling

My 12th day of #runstreaking found me on the YMCA treadmill once again; twice, actually. The first time was 15 minutes prior to my youngest boy's swim class, and 35 minutes during. Connor was already in the pool for swim practice, and Nora was up in Kids' Stuff. She's really been doing well, only crying when I drop her off and when I come to pick her up. My voice gives it away. I need to remember to whisper when I show up so she doesn't start to cry immediately.

While I was running, there was no real disconnection from the world around me. Texts rolled in for on-call service events -- luckily, for things that generally clear on their own -- and escalations from clients. It was client need that prompted me to cut the run short at 50 minutes instead of 60, pack up the kids, and head home early. I wasn't planning on leaving the Y until at least 20:30, but we were out the door by 19:45. Fun times!

Oh yeah, something weird happened today during my first 15 minute run. The arch on my right foot felt as if it was pushing against the shoe, or perhaps the other way around. I concentrated on relaxing the muscles in my feet and calves and landing squarely mid-foot, and after a couple of minutes, the "bulge" feeling went away. The shoes were comfortable again. Weird. Here I thought the shoes had gotten to a point where I'd have to replace them. (Size 13 Brooks Pure Grit - yes, trail shoes on a treadmill.. Not quite right.)

(I slightly "cheated" on the blog post. Since most of what I want to share is about running, and I generally share this at Daily Mile, I copied my workout entry there. Technically, this is far more detail than any micro-blogging site, so I feel I've covered my bases! I could have reduced the detail on DM to save it for here, but what's the point?)


Luckily, the customer escalation didn't appear to be a major problem, which makes for a restful night. Life was very busy at work today. In a Support Engineer position, everything is interrupt-driven. You may feel that you've got a handle on your "plan" for the day, but essentially it's just a loosely defined "TODO" list that you may or may not be able to complete. Custom scripting, SQL research, log diving, software release coordination all comes with the territory. It makes for a challenging and fast-paced day; never boring. I'm glad when the day is over, and I hold out hope that the "pager" stays quiet throughout the night.


All is Quiet

Except for the droning of the server fans, all is quiet in the house. Finally. Work on Monday's is generally a catch-up day, where people who didn't get their high priority tasks fulfilled are asking, "When will it be done?" There are always high priority tasks that need to be done yesterday, but you need to take it all in stride in as a Support Engineer. Set new expectations, communicate, and hopefully keep things running relatively smoothly. Sometimes the ride gets a little bumpy, but by and large, it feels good to be helpful.

That sometimes means that you get out of work late, like today, and you run behind with almost everything else. I tried to stop by Pad Thai restaurant to pick up dinner, but when I got there, I learned it was closed on Mondays. The backup plan was pizza at Red's Savoy — back to downtown Saint Paul on 7th Street. What was supposed to be dinner at 6:30 PM turned out to be dinner at 7:30 PM.

We had no groceries in the house, of course, so with all three kids, I ran errands. First stop, REI for a new headlamp - mine isn't all that bright, and the battery life is questionable. A few minutes later, I had a Princeton Tec 150 lumen headlamp (that could last up to 110 hours!), Gu gels, and a couple pair of Injinji socks. (I tried the socks on at home, and didn't really like the fit, unfortunately. They were VERY low-cut styled.)

Off to the grocery store (Target) we went. I didn't realize how much time was burnt just trying to keep Connor and Ryan under wraps. Ryan is constantly moving, and Connor just likes to push his buttons to see how long he can keep it up. At least Nora was a patient little angel... yeah right. She twisted around in her seat to grab things out of the cart and throw them about. At 10:30 PM, I was happy to call it a night. We arrived at home, fought over who would help bring in the groceries, and listened to Ryan scream and throw a fit over bugs circling the backyard light. "He's six," I have to remind myself, "and tired."

Off to bed the boys went, and soon Nora followed. The groceries put away and a cold beer in hand, we finally had time to relax and slow down. Hopefully, on-call will be a quiet night tonight. I'll probably try to wake up and fit a run in before I go to work tomorrow. I enjoyed my afternoon run today, hitting the hills of Saint Paul, but I generally like to keep that activity to the mornings. It's cooler, and generally the production issues just don't surface until mid-afternoon. It's nice making that afternoon run, since someone at work can usually cover, but it's also nice not having to ask for that help.

Let's see... Eleven days down. I still haven't formulated a real plan regarding my pre-40th birthday 100 miler, but getting in daily miles and one or two quality workouts a week is going to have to suffice for now.


Email Issues: Debugging Emacs23 on Wheezy

Upon migrating my data over to my children's computer, I ran into problems trying to use MH-E from Emacs23. When creating reply emails, a crapload of octal data was being added to the headers of each email. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on, so I started to move aside all of my custom nmh/mh format files, thinking it may have had something to do with incompatible versions of the NMH software.

When that wasn't successful, I switched to the command-line and used the nmh tools directly. No issues. Back to Emacs, I created a new message and noticed something: MH-E was trying to add X-Face/Face data, the image icons that get displayed next to your "From:" header. This was interesting, because I didn't recall creating a ~/.face file anytime in the past. Poking around revealed that Gnome had added my login icon as a ~/.face file! MH-E was dilligently trying to do what it thought was the right thing, and included it in each email I sent. I'm not sure why the process took so long, other than the image used was HUGE. Silly rabbit!

So, the following line in my ~/.emacs file guaranteed it didn't try this again:

(setq mh-x-face-file nil)

If I ever need to start including an X-Face or Face header, I'll update that with the appropriate path.

The second issue I ran into was found while trying to research the answer to this first one, the `dir' file for info wasn't being displayed from `emacs' when it worked perfectly well from the `info' command-line application. I uncovered this bug, and did a quick test. I decompressed the /usr/share/info/dir.gz file. It worked! (I also took the opportunity to edit the file and use English instead of German for the introduction. Not sure how that happened.)

In comparison between Debian Wheezy's version of Emacs and info file integration  (emacs23) v.s. the Homebrew install I have running on my MacBook at work (emacs24), I'd have to say that the Homebrew install is winning out here. I may have to make a local build to keep up, or pull in some backports.


Upgrading to Wheezy

The blog post will be abbreviated today on account of the software upgrade on my sons' eMachine. The last update was May of last year, and now that backups are done, it is time to become current. Long have passed the days of my Debian development, but I remember all of the valuable lessons of package management, systems installations, and upgrade dragons. Hopefully, this one will run smoothly.

Meghan, the kids, Peter, and I visited a few houses in the Stillwater and Lino Lakes area today. We fell in love with one house, newly on the market. Hopefully our house, which we recently reduced the asking price for, will sell quickly now. We spent our lunch at Red Robin for burgers, fries, and and rootbeer. I tried their Blue Moon shake, which had beer, orange liquor, and ice cream.  Pretty tasty!

I still haven't run yet today, but I'll get a late night one in after Nora goes to bed in the next hour or so.


8th Day Streaking!

The 8th day of my #runstreak was spent at a good clip looping from my house around Lake Como and back. It's a route I travel often, and frequently at night. I don't however, generally go out on a Friday; the traffic is awful! The two-plus miles to and from the lake are filled with stop lights and stop signs, the ever repeating grid of streets and sidewalks. Knowing this, I wore my headlamp and reflective vest to give me the maximum chance of being noticed. I'm alive, so it must have worked!
After seven days of running, my calves and Achilles are a bit sore, but surprisingly my left hip is relatively OK. The 200 yds of swim with a kickboard on Tuesday seems to have helped. A good stretch before I turn in for the night should help as well.
It really was a beautiful night out tonight, especially coming off a long stretch of hot and humid weather. Kevin Smith read JLA #13 and #14 on his podcast, "Fatman on Batman." I'm going to have to go out and buy JLA #15 now!
I find that three hours is not enough time from your last meal to wait before strapping on your shoes and running. I had heartburn from ten minutes onward. Not a great way to spend your time on the road. I managed through it and rewarded myself with a plain yogurt, fresh mango, chocolate chip, and shredded coconut "sunday" when I finished the run. Yum!
And for those counting, this is indeed my 8th blog post in 8 days! Streak on! (For some reason, I'm craving a steak.)


So Hot. So Tired.

I have to say, I'm glad I got my run done this morning.  As humid as it was at 9 o'clock, the afternoon was much worse. I was hoping to get a swim in this evening, but I had to give my shorts to my eldest son, who had forgotten his at home. The shorts I was wearing were not fit for pool activity unfortunately. Nora and I waded in the tots pool, while Connor practice and Ryan generally had fun. Despite the heat it was a rather nice evening.

However I'm exhausted it's time to go to bed. I know I meant to have a meaningful   post, but I just can't keep my eyes open.


Loss of Energy - Eat Better!

It happened again! I was too busy to eat properly, resulting in a loss of energy; my performance suffered. A mere five miles today felt like twice that. It didn't help that the "air-conditioned" environment at the YMCA fitness center did little to keep me cool. At the 30 minute mark, I took a five minute break to cool down and to fight back the dizziness that was creeping up on me.

Tonight's meal? A Wendy's Double Pretzel Bacon burger with fries and a drink. Assessment: not all that wonderful. The pretzel bun is a bit too chewy for my preference, and the whole thing was a bit greasy. Some days I go for it, but not today. I'm satiated, but exhausted; I may just crawl into bed now rather than wait until midnight or one! (YAY!) First, time to spend some time with Meghan in our now quiet home.

Breaking News! My son Ryan has just lost another tooth. That's four teeth in four weeks, three in the last two weeks! The tooth-fairy is strapped for cash these days due to inflation: $2 per tooth! Ryan's raked in $8 and has spent it on chips and Nintendo games.


Freaking Starving, and Houses

It's four minutes to midnight, and I'm starving! I've eaten three pickles -- no, four -- had a beer, had an amazing scotch that my parents bought for my 39th birthday, and I'm famished! (Why I listed alcohol as if it were a food group, I'll never know. Just stating the facts, folks.) Perhaps I'll drink some more water...

So, the house. We're sitting at a decision point: stay the course with our current price, or drop in hope that people will bite. We've had a lot of potential buyers see the property and walk away. "It's nice, but not for us." "Great upgrades, but not for me." The gutting: "I like it, but I'd like it more if it was $30,000 cheaper." Who wouldn't?!

I understand the buyer's mentality; I do it myself. You walk into a potential purchase with a budget in mind and a set of features or criteria that must be met. In order for a property to qualify, you consider its current price and the money you'll have to spend to get it where you want it. Now, we're terribly proud of the work we've put into our 113 year old house, but not everyone will see it. They won't have the context of "before" and "after", and frankly, they shouldn't have to worry about those details. To say, "You should overlook your misgivings because we've already done X, Y, and Z," is to be disingenuous to the nature of "buyer" and "seller".

I do hope that someone finds the same value in our house that we hold. It's time that we move on and let another family build memories here; I know we've build some great ones of our own. Could we continue living here? Absolutely! We could totally make it work, but we'd have to sacrifice sleep and sanity to do it; Nora and Meghan respectively. Frankly, I would like a rested child and a sane wife.


Get it out of the Way

Not much time for a blog post today, since time seems to have a mind of its own. A lesson difficult to learn, no doubt, is that if something is important enough to do each day, it wise to complete it early. Tasks, interruptions, and tangents will drain whatever reserve you think you have to quickly. Although this post is after midnight,  I'll still count it as part of the streak.
To keep the runstreak going, I snuck it in between work and Gaming tonight. It was hot and muggy, but nice to get out non-the-less.


She's Walking! Almost!

My little baby girl, Nora, is starting to walk! Last night, Meghan and I encouraged her to walk between us, and wouldn't you know it, she did excellent! She's been standing on her own for some time now and walking along the furniture. She hadn't yet walked to get from point to point. With our help, at almost 13 months of age, I counted nine steps of a good, solid, balanced effort!

Today, I did more of the same, just to see if last night was a fluke, but she walked without hesitation to me. My heart swelled up with pride. This afternoon, while we celebrated my 39th birthday in Big Lake with my parents, and she blew kisses to everyone. It's moments like these that makes being a father so fun!

We did have quite a bit of fun at the lake today. The boys swam with their cousin Ben, and I threw Ryan into the air a few times. Nora was getting a little too brave for my comfort, and Ryan gave me a scare in the inner-tube. Everyone walked away unscathed and with my thanks to Ryan's swim teachers at the YMCA.

I'd write more about it, but I need to get to bed soon. I did manage to get a run in around 1930CDT: a loop around Lake Como from my house. I changed the route a little, and the direction of travel, just to mix it up. I'm starting to feel the stress of running every day with sore calves, shins, and hips, so I plan on a short 1-3 miler tomorrow, easy pace. The foam roller did its job tonight, and hopefully tomorrow I won't feel like a truck hit me in the side.


A Showing, a Movie, and a Loop

Saturday is generally a day for household chores, family events, or
just plain laziness. Meghan let me sleep in until nine or so, getting
up with Nora at 0730CDT, which covered my laziness for the day. After
that, it was a constant "Go" mode. We all needed to be out of the
house at 11:00 for a 11:15 showing. I took care of the kids and
straightening up the upstairs while Meghan took a short break - well
deserved - and took care of some last minute details.

We packed everyone, including our dog Peter, into the van and took a
short trip to McDonald's for breakfast, then sat in the van parked
half-a-block from the house to wait. Showings generally take 10-20
minutes, and Nora was having her nap postponed for the event. We
wanted to get back into the house and get her to bed as soon as the
visitors left.

When we did get back into the house, it was "quiet time" for Nora, so
I packed up the boys and we watched "Despicable Me 2". It was a
surprisingly good movie, and the boys enjoyed it thoroughly. For some
reason, I was exhausted after the movie and took a cat-nap on the
couch. It was short-lived, at best, and I soon needed to get up and
cook dinner. I made an old favorite, a tomato soup meat sauce and wide
egg noodles; simple but delicious. Nora enjoyed it, but was
over-exhausted and promptly brought upstairs for a nap.

After the boys were settled in and getting ready to go to bed, I threw
on my KSOs and ran an easy loop of Lake Como from my house
(approximately 7 miles in about an hour). I played around with some
FOSS software on my Android phone for the run: GPSLogger and
Pedometer, both available from the FDroid market app. GPSLogger has a
very simple controller display, with no visual map or charts to speak
of. I like it in that it seems to save battery over MyTracks and other
run logging applications. I still need to download and view the GPX
track, so it'll be interesting to find out how accurate it is and how
best to tune its settings for my use case.

Pedometer didn't work at all. Apparently the accelerometer is
unavailable when the screen is locked, and it doesn't appear to be
override-able. This brings up a beef I have with some of the Android
settings. There are applications we need running with resources we
need access to, even when the screen is shut off. Consider trying to
be as frugal with your battery as possible, where you don't need to
watch the screen to "use" an application. This simply needs to be
improved. There was a setting in the Pedometer application to keep the
screen awake, but I was already running at 30% battery when I
started; I needed it for the GPS.

In any case, it's high time that I do a proper backup of the data on
this phone; my next chore. Like my computer, it's a part of my
life. Without the data on it, I would be lost, or at least I would
suffer a major setback. Scary, huh?


Last Year of My Dirty 30's

Here I am in the basement of my house once again, typing away on the computer in an uncomfortable folding chair made slightly more comfortable by old couch pillows. It's far from quiet due to the constant droning of fans from the old SunFire X2100 I obtained while working at Zayo Managed Services. It was a neglected machine in the hosting center, destined for the scrap heap, but it was a solid piece of engineering that begged to have Linux installed on it. Today, it hosts my website and acts as a local network host: overkill.

Its presence was appreciated when my hand-built whitebox workstation gave up the ghost, as was the Buffalo NAS. The real hero of the story was the little emachines desktop workstation named `icarus', after Connor's favorite Nintendo 3Ds game, an AMD Athlon II X2 220. With it, I was able to recover all of my personal data from `skuld'. Now that I have redundant backups in place, I'm finding the little workstation quite useful.

The basement is a familiar setting, one I haven't frequented in the last few years. I attribute this to family, laptops, and mobile devices. It's far more comfortable to sit on the couch, watch television, watch my children, and generally be around than to try to retreat to the cave. Oh what I wouldn't give for a proper office.

None of this is really relevant to the title of this post, which is "Last Year of My Dirty 30's". Let's give credit for this title where credit is due, my wife's post on Facebook. Was the last nine years of my life really all that dirty? And will the upcoming year be any worse? I'm curious to find out!

The first day of that journey began today, and with it a number of challenges I've placed upon myself. I've logged 512 miles of running so far this year, I've made a great start toward completing a 1,000 miles by December 31. To help me along the way, I have started a run streak — one mile per day, every day. Today's run was a 5K Birthday Run! My penultimate goal is to complete a 100 mile marathon before July 12th next year, but you already knew that.

My second challenge is a blog streak. You've guessed it: a blog post a day, every day. I'm not really sure I have enough material that is worthwhile to write, let alone worthwhile to read. I've given myself some loose rules to follow:
  • Micro-blogging does not count, obviously.
  • Provide some value to the reader, even if it is only me reading it.
  • Find out what it means to approach 40.
Hopefully that means I'll be somewhat entertaining, but at least I'll be consistent.

I had a few others that didn't make the cut: a beer streak (I already like beer way too much to have another excuse to drink it), 100 push-ups (although I may do this anyway), 100 pull-ups (pull-up bar necessary), 100 sit-ups (see a trend here?), a photo a day (not really a shutter-bug - this would just be work).

With the conclusion of this sentence, the journey begins!


Never been so happy over bad hardware...

Some time over the last few months, my personal computer at home took a nosedive into disaster. Through power outages and careless monkeying with circuit breakers, it refused to boot to a working prompt, and when it did show signs of life, it looked as if my most precious information was lost forever: my home directory partition. Yes, I know that a filesystem is more robust than that. There's no such thing as a complete and catastrophic failure when it comes to generic issues with home computers. My heart sank, none the less, when I couldn't run the standard file system check (fsck) utilities on the problem partition.

This evening, while the children slept and my wife was out visiting with her sister, I crept downstairs to see what I could do to recover my personal, electronic life of close to two decades. I powered the system off, held my breath, and powered it back on. beep. I watched in anticipation as GRUB announced that it found something bootable. YES! My heart skipped a beat when I saw the display flip to frame buffer and a higher screen resolution. OK. I grinned when the status updates indicated that there were working filesystems on the mirrored hard drives! And there! My chewie partition was alive and well, passing the journal recovery! YES!!!

And then I saw the kernel panic! The hardware is fubarred. It could be the CPU, memory, or the motherboard itself. The last message indicated a video card issue, but with memory or CPU failures, it could be deceiving, a false lead. I wouldn't be able to initiate a system back-up this evening to other media, but I did find out that my old life still lived! The $200 desktop PC I purchased for my children will come in handy for recovering my old life. The two disks won't be able to live in the small form-factor machine, but the hardware will be instrumental in reading the data and backing it up elsewhere.

I have hope again that my folly of poorly administered personal backups may not be a complete failure after all. (I had disparate backups scattered over different media, but nothing concrete or systematic.) What's sad is that I know how important such backups are, and yet I still had the hubris to believe that my little Linux system in the basement would live forever. Or perhaps it was simply my busy life as a husband and father that shifted my priorities.

Could I live without the data on those two hard drives downstairs? A few years ago, I probably would have become a hermit in that basement while trying to recover the old vestiges. Now, I realize I have a little more time.

So, what are plans then for the Wookimus network? The Buffalo NAS device is aging and the firmware buggy. Although Meghan still backs up data to the mirrored drives there, these drives themselves are not backed up anywhere. We've paid for CrashPlan, and I'm actively backing up Meghan's iMac with it. I'm tempted to purchase a RaspberryPi and build an OpenMediaVault host and replace the Buffalo, then install Bittorrent Sync.

I think it's high-time for a new personal Debian laptop. The ASUS UX51Vz-XH71 15.6" Ultrabook Silver Aluminum has caught my eye. It doesn't have as much memory capacity as the MacBook, but 8 Gig is plenty for my own use. It's powerful, light, and I've found evidence of successful Linux use. I know that it contains proprietary hardware, but what doesn't these days. I wish I could be more idealistic these days, but not everyone can be Richard Stallman and still make a living; Yoolong is a bit short on power.


Chippewa 50K Photos by Mike Wheeler

Mike Wheeler took an outstanding set of photos at the Chippewa 50K and 10K Trail Race this year! 1,668 in total, it'll take a while to browse through them. I haven't asked permission yet to use these, but wanted to pass the link on to those that were interested! Thanks for taking these great pictures, Mike!

  1. Listening to Jeff
  2. Getting Started
  3. First Mile
  4. Snow!, #2
  5. Still having fun!
  6. Something was funny!, #2
  7. Done!


Race Report: 2013 Chippewa 50K

I am now officially an ultra-marathoner, having completed my first race this year at the Chippewa 50K in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 6:58:38! Spring 2013 has had some chaotic weather, dumping significant snow volume on the Midwest in weekly bursts followed by warm weather melts. In the sheltered, wooded space of the Chippewa Moraine State Park, the snow presented an interesting challenge for the runners. The North and East-facing slopes held on tenaciously to their drifts and ice slicks, hiding streams of ice-cold melt, while the South and West-facing slopes were alternatively dry or muddy. The conditions would make for an interesting day!
My alarm woke me at 3:45 in the morning after a restless sleep; I was too worried about waking up on-time. My pre-race meal was an oddly delicious mixture of grapefruit, plain vanilla yogurt and fruity pebbles! I threw in the cereal on a whim, but discovered it to be quite tasty! I didn't make coffee like I usually do, but I didn't really miss it. I pulled in front of Steve Quick's house at 04:50, who was raring to go and great company on the road as we made our way East to the race site. We arrived early and found a parking spot right up front. The temperature was a cool 40 with a light breeze with a promise to warm up into the low 70s!
An hour later, after picking up our race packets and fussing about what equipment to run with, we gathered with around 275 runners (unofficial guess) at the starting line for the 6th annual race briefing by co-race director Jeff Allen. Aid stations were positioned at mile 3, 10, and 15 (the turn-around), a nice and even spread. I opted to carry only one water bottle and no belt, though I would have liked to have something to carry gels and S-Caps (something to remember for the next race). Two of the northerly slopes were labeled "WALK" due to the grade of the ice covered descents, and we were informed that miles 12 through 15 were the "worst" on the course. It didn't sound promising.
No one really wanted to stand up near the front, so I lined up near the front third of the pack, contrary to what I originally planned. Given how the race played out, it might have been wiser for me to start further back. Fired up and ready to rock, the race started and we headed out onto the challenging course. Within the first mile, I slipped and drew blood on the ice and sticks; not a great start.
It was soon evident to me that my Brooks Pure Grit shoes were not cut out for ice on the hilly slopes. A lot of energy was expended to stay on my feet, but I was able to continue to push forward. The downhill snow-covered slopes were most easily traversed by "skiing" down them, but it made for wet cold feet. You couldn't be sure what your feet would find underneath the snow: ice, mud, or trail. Miles 10 to 11, however were predictably unpleasant: slushy, snow covered ice melts. There was absolutely no way to avoid it or the frozen toes. Eventually, it tapered off and dried out again.
Somewhere around mile 12 or 13, I ran into Steve, who wasn't feeling well at all. We ran together for a short period, but unfortunately, his stomach problems distracted him from running. We separated, and I didn't see him again until the turn-around. Around mile 13 or so, we entered a pine stand with more sheltered snow drifts. These hills weren't nearly as icy, but there was knee-high snow in some points. Again, the "skiing" technique worked effectively on the downhills, and the duck-walking uphills allowed me to move forward. The trail cleared out again before the turn-around for some fairly runnable stretches.
I arrived at turn-around in 2:59, where I changed into dry shoes, my New Balance MT101s, and socks. It wouldn't take long for them to be soaking wet again, but starting out with dry feet was a plus. John left at 03:10, and I left at 03:12. In a couple of minutes, I managed to catch up with John Taylor and Marty Kanter-Cronin from Wisconsin (who runs with the Lapham Peak Trail Runners). We ran together and talked for a good hour, before I got a second wind and pulled ahead.
The dreaded mile 19 arrived, with the return trip through the icy slush. Whereas there were a few spots you could step without getting entirely soaked on the way out, you couldn't avoid it on the way back. The warm temperatures had melted a sufficient amount of snow to make the trail a veritable icy stream frosted in slush and snow. I couldn't help but giggle uncontrollable at the absurdity of it all. Here we were, grown men and women playing around in the mud and slush. It took no time at all to freeze my toes, and the woman in front of me couldn't stop laughing at my own mirth.
The second-wind didn't last long after that, and I had to switch to a run/walk strategy to keep moving forward. A few miles later, at mile 23, a well intentioned but mis-informed spectator was out encouraging us. "You have only 5 miles left, 3 miles to the next aid station!" It was possible that my GPS was off, but not necessarily off by two miles. I have to say that his intentions were well placed, but the misinformation was more discouraged than helpful.
John was running strong, and he passed me early in this stretch. The next aid station turned out to be four miles later, not three. I counted the miles in estimated time left on-foot. Averaging about 15 miles per hour, it was a slog. When I made it to the last aid station, the volunteers there were awesome. They were very encouraging and brought a smile to my face. I could do this. Only 3 miles left, and I could be done.
With two miles to go, we traversed up one of the two hills labeled "WALK" on the way out. When reaching the top, a mere 25' further was the site of the start and finish, but by the course, it was another 2 miles away! ARG! From an emotional perspective, it seemed that a few of us were in a funk, a low. At least two runners I spoke with were ready to have the race over with, myself included. Interestingly enough, this spurred me to run rather than walk. I wanted simply to be done and be able to sit and relax.
The final mile, a nice, dry, groomed trail, was such a relief. You could view the finish-line, up on the hill at the visitors center, a hill with teeth. Rather than charging up it, I simply walked most of the last mile. Marty and two others caught and passed me on that last hill, but I didn't mind. I was done! Official finish time 6:58:38.
The next couple of hours was spent trying to recuperate from the run. There was plenty of food for the runners and beer! Jeff signed the Finisher's Picture for the race, which I think was a very cool alternative to a medal. He mentioned that ultra-runners form a different type of community dynamic than your typical marathoners closer to a family than simply acquaintances. I certainly got this feeling as we all sat around, chatted, and cheered in the remaining runners!
I am an ultra-marathoner, and I can't get enough of it! (Even though it hurts to walk today!)


Home Remodeling - Please Be Done Soon

There is a fine layer of dust on everything in the house, a constant reminder of the remodeling taking place to gussy up this old bird for sale. They're not big jobs, but they all take time and manage to push our usable living space from room to room. So far, we have the upstairs bathroom 95% complete, the dining room 95%, the kitchen 95%, the downstairs bathroom 95% (for three years now). The living room is at 75%, with lots of painting left to do. The upstairs bedrooms are 90% complete, with lots of trim painting and some touch-ups to do.
Why are we moving? Two reasons: space and schools. At ten months old, Nora is still a frequent napper. Quiet time is a challenge for the boys, who are six and eight and full of energy. We need to either send them outside in the back yard or get them out of the house, which is not always feasible. Having a finished basement family or entertainment room would alleviate much of the stress that permeates the house now. It would also be nice to give the boys their own rooms, since they share a smallish room now.

The second priority is education. Currently, the boys go to Highland Park Elementary, a Primary Youth Program and International Baccalaureate school. It's a relatively good school, when you compare it to other Saint Paul public schools, but it pales in comparison to offerings outside the Twin Cities districts. There's one exception to this, Capitol Hill Magnet School for gifted and talented students. Connor and Ryan both qualify, but due to a strict lottery system for enrolling students, only Connor will be admitted next year. The following year, Ryan's 2nd grade year, would give him precedence over lottery students, but we're not comfortable waiting that long for his education.

Taxes are done, so now we can apply for a loan pre-approval and find out how much house we can afford. The market is full of possibilities, and we've been looking at houses and communities for four months or so now. There are some favorites on the list, and a long list of must-haves. Hopefully, we'll remain reasoned and logical in our selection rather than be swayed by something on our nice-to-haves list.

I hate cleaning. I hate house work. I would really like this to be done now. If anyone wants to help paint, you're more than welcome to come on over! With Spring right around the corner, we're planning on doctoring up the outside as well for some curb appeal! Gardeners welcome!


Legs Trashed, Nose Plugged

I feel like I've overdone it a little this last week. From Monday through Sunday, I logged in around 40 miles of running, the most I've done in a very, very long time. If you count yesterday, I'm at 47 in 8 days! The closest I have to this type of output was August of last year. It feels good, and sore, and tiring, and awesome.

I'm also fighting another bout with rhinovirus, which gifted me with a freaky, haunted nightmare last night. We're currently trying to fix up our house in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul for sale, and we're looking to move into the Woodbury or Cottage Grove neighborhoods. Apparently it's stressing me out a little, because I dreamt of being pinned down in bed by a ghostly figure without a face, silently screaming at me from a gaping, undefined maw. What the hell?!


Game Application Review: Zombies, Run!

For motivational tools, there are few things better than games, and for an activity like running, sometimes you need a bit of motivation to get out the door. Pairing the two seems a natural fit, and the geniuses at Six to Start have created a winner: Zombies, Run! It is a mash-up of a run logging application, a horror role playing game, and a Civilization-style base-building game.

Playing the game is relatively simple, you simply chose an unlocked mission, your music playlist, and any other settings, then hit "Start Mission." Audio clips are interspersed with your chosen music list , immersing you in the story of "Runner 5" and placing you in the middle of a post-apocalyptic setting full of zombie swarms, intrigue, and suspense.

As you run, you automatically pick up items that can later be used to upgrade the buildings in Able Township, your base of operations. You don't need to interact with your phone in any way during your work-out, which makes it relatively safe to use. There is one option you need to be aware of: Zombie Chases. To really tune into the horror and suspense of the game, enable this option, but only do it when you can run and sprint in a safe location. The sidewalks and roads in Minnesota are very slick in February, so this one remains disabled for me at the the moment. Having to out-sprint a swarm when you're in the middle of a 50 yard sidewalk ice-slick is a recipe for disaster!

Tracking is done via GPS or Accelerometer. Your running-style and location will affect your choice, and it will also affect how Zombie Chases work.  When they start getting closer, you'll hear their moaning and a warning announcement of, "Zombies, 100 meters." If you slow down and walk or stand still, the swarm will start to catch up. The key is keeping a good pace, relative to your own running speed, then turning it up when the swarm gets closer. If you're not successful in running away from the zombies and you've picked up items, you'll drop one and get away. I have yet to let the zombies catch me to find out what happens, but I'm assuming you're turned into a zombie and game is over. Who knows!? I'm not sure I want to find out!

One tip if you do have Zombie Chases enabled and you're running in the city. When you hear the zombie alerts, speed-up to escape pursuit. When you reach a corner and would have to cross a busy street, simply turn and run around the block. The zombies are not GPS location aware, just "pace-aware"; the game will not force you into a dangerous in-real-life situation. Be smart about it.

I've participated in building up Able Township, but I'm not really sure what end-result it has in game affects. At the moment, it appears to be an interesting side-play without any real impact on the running or the game itself. That may change with the release of Zombies, Run! 2, slated to be released on April 16, 2013. The updates look exciting!

There are a few things I would really appreciate: a workout log (which is currently available at their website), the ability to "Share" the GPX track (so I can use Tracks2Miles to post to DailyMile.com), and maybe a way to listen to podcasts instead of music playlists.

I have to say that this game is a significant contributor to my recent, renewed commitment to running. With the Chippewa 50K race fast approaching, this is a welcome addition to my training. Thanks, Six to Start, for adding the "game" element to running!