May 27, 2008

Good things happening

Not much going on here, but you should check out the action here, and here. Amazing the power of friendship and even mere acquaintance.

There has been an amazing amount of support so far, but we could always use a little more. If you have the ability to lend a hand or donate a few dollars to the cause, I can assure you it will be put to good use. Thank you one and all for making this project happen.

May 21, 2008

Disturbing sights and sounds

Driving to a meeting then to work, I passed 6 gas stations. The first 5 had a price of $3.99 for regular unleaded, bumping up against the dreaded $4.00 mark. The last one, across the street from a $3.99 station was charging $4.09. I've always wondered how this strategy works. It is one thing if you are in a prime location, with little competition, but why wouldn't people cross the street to save $.10. Are people convinced Shell's gas is better than Chevron's?

On a break from work, I walked up to the bank to deposit a check. First I want to say I really appreciate our new office location where I can walk to the bank, post office, lunch, coffee shop and bookstore. Second, I walked by a office window with smoky glass and gold stenciling describing their services. The first one I saw was "divorce planning". Rather jarring. Before you spring it on your spouse, talk to a financial planner.

I stopped by the local Starbucks. I have a coupon that gets me a free cup of coffee every Wednesday this month. I sat down with a cup to read Total Immersion, a book to help improve swimming technique. It has been pretty helpful so far.

I'm finding swimming technique similar to a golf swing in some ways. There are lots of little things that need to go right, lots of thoughts going through my head. I struggle at times, feeling like I am thrashing rather than gliding through the water, but my speed has improved. At least with swimming, if I don't get all those little things just right, I just go slower. With golf, over thinking generally leads to disaster. With both, every so often everything goes right, and that feeling keeps you coming back.

I used to be able to tune out my surroundings and read in restaurants and coffee shops. I don't seem to have the same level of concentration any more. It didn't help that there were a couple of junior high girls saying whatever crossed their minds one seat over. Their segues were non-existent. They were also reading aloud the texting they were doing simultaneously. One guy working on his laptop got up to get out of range of conversation, and he had headphones on. I tried my best to tune them out, to limited success (there were no other chairs available).

The girls apparently had a friend going through a break up. Some guy slept with her (her first time) then broke up with her. She found out they were broken up by hearing it from a friend. They were far too young to be going through any of this. Too lacking in a filter to talk about their friend in private. It can't be easy to be a teenage girl (or a parent of one I imagine).

May 20, 2008

At a theater near you

TV land has put approximately 1000 movie trailers on their website, and you can search alphabetically, by decade or by genre.

Would you like to hear Brando scream STELLA! in A Streetcar Named Desire? How about seeing James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. How 'bout a trip through the 80's? You can check out Empire Strikes Back, or would you prefer Caddyshack instead?

It is weird to see trailers from different decades. The ones from the '50s almost seem like they're mocking themselves - brings to mind Mystery Science Theater 2000. There is a weird 80s' sitcom soundtrack behind The Princess Bride's movie trailer that makes it seem cheap and cheesy. The deep-voiced narrator we know from today's movie previews shows up somewhere in the late 80's/early 90's, and the trailers seem a little more well produced.

Check them out.

Summer refreshment

Matt was ahead of the curve - he created Jack and Coke Popsicles (Jacksicles) years ago.

May 19, 2008

Frustration

Ever have one of those days...

Things are going great, then some random thing derails you with such force that you are tempted to take your ball and go home (or throw it over the fence so no one else can play). David Miller was racing toward the finish in the Giro de Italia when his chain broke. His reaction is sudden, kind of funny, and one of those childish moments most of us wish we could get away with once in a while.



I remember a similar instance from a Seattle to Portland ride a couple years ago. A couple was on the side of the road, and the woman was clearly having a bad day. She threw her bike to the ground and was shouting her frustration to her husband/boyfriend for TALKING HER INTO THIS STUPID RIDE. It was going to be a tough road for both of them.

I can only hope that after throwing her bike, stomping around and generally throwing a tantrum, that her frustration dissipated. Hopefully the guy took her venting for what it was, and that they could both move on, together.

Weekly numbers

Still holding at 179 pounds. It looks like publically posting my numbers has done nothing to motivate/guilt me into changing my behavior. From here on out I won't bore you with the weekly details, but will hopefully have something positive to report in the future.

I started my training up again after a week off post-marathon. I plan to include some biking starting this week as well. Last weeks numbers were:

Running: 12 miles
Biking: 4 miles (while following runners at Beat the Bridge 8k)
Swimming: 1/2 mile.

May 16, 2008

Lightning provides a spark

There is a great entry over at The Most Significant Thing on the movie(s) Back to the Future. It is hard to believe it has been over 20 years since the first film came out. I really enjoyed the films, and strangely it is what got me reading on a regular basis.

Looking back on the dates of release, it was probably part II that did it. I went to the movie with one of my roommates Kathy, who was a big reader. As we were leaving the theater, she said something like, "well if you like time travel and the ramifications of changing events in history, you should read this book".

I was not much of a reader as a teen/20-something. As an example of my reading avoidance, and laziness, I wrote several book reports reading only the first chapters. I even remember writing a book report on Ordinary People based strictly on the book jacket. It probably doesn't say much for our school system either.

It is odd because both of my parents are voracious readers, so I was certainly brought up in an atmosphere that encouraged reading. I had both Nature and Nurture pushing me to reading, to no avail. Must have been the Atari 2600.

Anyway, back to the book. The book she recommended was Lightning by Dean R Koontz. It deals with a time-traveling stranger that jumps into a woman's life at various points to protect her. Just coming off the visuals and story line of Back to the Future II, the book captured my interest, and I have been a reader ever since.

Possibly owing to how I started, I have continued to read most all of Dean Koontz's novels. His characters are well developed and the plots are generally page turners. His main characters are often "everymen/women" who rise to the occasion of unusual challenges. He began in the horror/supernatural genre, but broadened his subject base some time ago (also dropping his middle initial).

I have been thinking about this book lately for another reason. My wife's hairdresser (stylist, whatever the term is now) mentioned to her that he has never read a book cover to cover. I met him once, and he's no kid, probably in his late 20's early 30's. He is interested in giving reading a shot, and now is getting recommendations from many people as to what his first book should be. It is hard to pick out one book to hopefully spark an interest in reading. Some of my favorite books might not grab a new reader.

I have thought of recommending Lightning since that is what hooked me. Looking at the review by Publishers Weekly on Amazon, it appears Lightning was not Koontz's best work. I should re-read it sometime to see if it is as good as I remember, and whether it might spark someone else's interest in reading.

May 13, 2008

Rays of hope


Does our lack of sun put your health in danger?


The Northwest's dreary winters are infamous for inducing depression. But being starved for sunlight can do more than kick you into a psychic hole.

A growing body of evidence suggests it can raise your risk of cancer, increase susceptibility to heart attack, diabetes and other disorders, and at least partly account for the region's sky-high rates of multiple sclerosis.

The reason is vitamin D, an essential nutrient produced in abundance by skin exposed to the sun's rays. Long dismissed as being important mainly for strong bones, the so-called sunshine vitamin is now recognized as a key player throughout the body, including the immune system.

Vitamin D is found in several foods, particularly cold water fish. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D as well. As mentioned in the article above, our skin creates vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately here in the Northwest, we don't get adequate sunlight for half the year.

The last time I was at the doctor, I was tested for vitamin D among other things. Not surprisingly, I was deficient. I was prescribed a 50,000 IU tablet to take once a week for four weeks. The daily recommendation is 400 International Units (IU). I don't know if it was enough to jump start my system or not (haven't been back to the doctor). My daily diet and multivitamin clearly aren't doing the job.

Fortunately there is hope on the horizon...

88 DEGREES!

May 12, 2008

On average, I can't compare

As I mentioned before, I tend to pore over stats on my marathon to see how I did and where I slowed down. I haven't quite got to the Excel spreadsheet madness yet (Matt), but it isn't far off. I was looking at my splits and here is how I paced myself:

Miles:

0 - 6.2: 9:48 minute miles
6.3 - 13.1: 9:27 minute miles
13.2 - 20: 9:40 minute miles
20.1 - 26.2: 10:43 minute miles

Overall, pretty good pacing for me. The last 6 miles were obviously a drop off, but still a big improvement over past performances.

Then I looked at how I fared in my age group. Though I cut 20 minutes off my time, I did noticeably worse at Eugene than I did in San Diego. I am guessing that most of this is due to many more first timers and charity runners at the Rock n Roll Marathon. Not that I will ever compete with other runners in my age group, or that I even try. I am only competing with myself out there. Still, it is interesting to see where I fall.

I looked up statistics on Marathon finishes in 2007, and it turns out that I have made my way to to the middle of the pack. According to Running USA Wire, the median male marathoner in 2007 was 40.3 years old (me) and their median time was 4:20:04 (me). According to MarathonGuide.com, the average male marathoner in 2007 was 40.5 (me) and their average time was 4:29:52 (I'm above average!).

As I mentioned previously, my current goals for marathon and half marathon times are to run at twice the world record. This would mean 4:08:52 for a marathon, and 1:57:50 for the half. My intermediate goal for the marathon was to beat 10:00 minute miles, and I did that at Eugene (9:54 miles). I can't imagine qualifying for Boston (3:20 for my age), but cutting another 10 or so minutes off my marathon time is an achievable goal in the near future.

Then this morning I read that a new world record for race walking was set. Russian Denis Nizhegorodov race-walked 50 kilometers (31 miles) in 3:34:14. This equates to a 3:00:40 marathon. This 37 year old could qualify for the Boston Marathon by 15 minutes - walking. I remember catching up to a woman race walker at Eugene around mile 14.

Glad I don't compare myself to others.

Weekly numbers

It was rest and recovery week after the marathon on Sunday. I tried swimming on Wednesday, and even that wore me out. It was also a week of indulgence on food this week, so I was pretty relieved to see just a half pound bump to 179. Back to training this week, and more of a focus on food as fuel (apple fritters are not a fruit).

Running: 0
Biking: 0
Swimming: 1/3 mile

May 9, 2008

Stupid writers strike

The season (and possibly series) finale for Scrubs aired last night. It was clear that the episode was not intended to be a finale. Not only was there no cliff hanger (or closure), but the episode wasn't even sequential in the season. Kelso, the chief of medicine had retired two episodes ago, but he was back to work in the finale. The episode was probably picked because it was a themed fantasy episode that was distinctive.

This was originally supposed to be the last season for Scrubs. There are rumors it will be revived by ABC, or that the missing episodes will show up when the final season is released on DVD. Scrubs is one of my favorite shows, so hopefully the fact that the strike messed up this season means they will come back to finish it off right.

We'll leave the light on

A low wattage light bulb has been burning at fire station no. 6 for 107 years. The bulb in Livermore, California is a world record holder according to Guinness and Ripleys. It was only dimmed for 22 minutes when it was moved to the new fire station in 1976.


In 1901, when the bulb was screwed into place inside a so-called hose-cart house, it cast its light on a simpler era, when horse-pulled carts carried water to fires.

The bulb burned day and night, hanging at eye level from a 20-foot cord. Its job: break the darkness so firefighters responding to calls wouldn't have to fumble to light the wicks of their kerosene lanterns. Manufactured by Shelby Electric of Shelby, Ohio, the bulb outlived its maker, which closed in 1914.

Later, in the main firehouse, it illuminated more modern rigs as horses were replaced by gas-fed engines.

It didn't always receive kid-glove treatment.

Climbing atop their engines, firefighters returning from World War II and Korea often would give the bulb a playful swat for good luck. The next generation used it as a target for Nerf basketball practice.

Full Story

May 8, 2008

Landscaping with the ultimate guy toy — a flamethrower

Seattle Times story

Once you have your own home/garden flamethrower, you begin making your own rules. Such is the power of the flame, which makes you not only master of your home universe, but Lord of all Weeds...

Now, I don't even have to explain to you weeders out there what a life-changing thrill this can be. Not only was the weed gone, literally in a flash, but it was never going to come back, in any way, shape or form. My heart leapt with sheer delight. I grinned maniacally and went after the next one. And the next. And the next.

Damn the dandelion!

Post marathon blues

The days after the marathon can be a bummer. After spending four or more months preparing for the big day, there is a bit of a hangover afterward. Your coming down off the high of the day, but your body is trying to recover from the damage you've inflicted on it. It can be hard to walk, and stairs can be torture. You are also pretty spent mentally.

You relive the day a few times, but high fades away. You check the marathon website repeatedly to get your results. Once you get them, you analyze them to see how well you paced yourself, and where you broke down. You check the photo website until they finally post your pics, then you remember how ridiculously expensive they are.

You can't train, so you look for other outlets. What helps is to have your next event planned. If I'm honest with myself, I know I won't exercise regularly without a goal to shoot for. Having a tangible target gives me structure as well. It of course helps to have something to look forward to as well.

So next up is a half marathon in June, with a relay run and a triathlon later in the year. It is also time to get my bike out of mothballs.

More on spam

- they have found Views from two wheels. I have had ten or so comments posted that were spam pointing to websites. They seem to pop up right after I post, so it seems to be automated somehow.

When I first started the blog, I had comments sent to me by e-mail before they posted. I figured there might be some random inappropriate ones that I needed to filter out. It ended up being unnecessary, until now. I may need to reinstate some sort of filter. Thank you for all your comments, and my apologies if it becomes a little more difficult in the future.

May 6, 2008

A Nigerian Prince would like your help

Spam turns 30.

Thirty years ago today
(yesterday), the first unsolicited commercial e-mail went out over the research network that was the Internet's predecessor -- and the modern aggravation of spam was born.

That e-mail, sent to advertise a new machine from the now-defunct computer manufacturer Digital Equipment Corp., was swiftly and forcefully condemned by the tiny community of engineers developing the Arpanet, or Advanced Research Projects Agency network, named after the Defense Department office that funded the project.

"It was rather an insult to one's sensibilities to have an obvious commercial message sent out over a research network," said computer scientist Peter Neumann of SRI in Menlo Park, Calif., who was one of the 393 recipients of that primordial spam.

Full story.


Spam has obviously come a long way (baby). It is estimated that spam costs the U.S. economy $42 billion annually. Now spam has become smarter.

Computers crack anti-spam codes. You see these all the time when you are signing up for things on the web:


By entering the blurred, oddly shaped text, you verify that you are a human rather than a computer signing up for service. Previously, computer character recognition programs had difficulty reading the deformed text on a cluttered background. According to the article, it looks like new programs are now getting by this safeguard too.

Like any other virus, spam is adapting.

If it were only this easy, part 2

The wife and I both noticed a billboard on the way to Eugene. On the billboard was a picture of a woman's ripped midriff. Something like this:

Was it an ad for a gym? Training program? Bowflex? No, it was advertising for liposuction.

The billboard not only implied that they could give you a muscled stomach like this. It actually spelled it out that you could get it "without sweating" by getting liposuction. Maybe it's that simple. Maybe we all have six packs hiding under all that insulating fat. Nurse, suction please.

The new fanny pack

I picked up a SPIbelt at the marathon expo. I have used RaceReady shorts for the past couple of marathons to carry my gels and salt pills. All those pockets are really handy, but the material of the shorts store static like nothing else.

The SPIbelt pouch is made of a stretchable material. I was able to fit 4 gels and a pill packet in there easily, and get at my gels without yard-saling everything. The fanny pack is back, fashion be damned.


Quotes of the day

"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg LeMond


"Act like a horse. Be dumb. Just run." - Jumbo Elliott

- I thought about this one a lot on Sunday.

May 5, 2008

Weekly numbers

It was taper week before the marathon, so the training was much reduced to save energy for Eugene. Fortunately I only gained a half pound during the week, up to 178.5. Training numbers (including the marathon) were:

Running: 31.2 miles
Biking: 0
Swimming: 0

Eugene Marathon

A marathon is 26.2 miles long. Whether you run a marathon in three hours and 27 minutes, or five hours or six or more, it is always the same 26 miles 385 yards. Each time, you meet the person you are that day. - Michael Lebowitz in the Eugene Marathon guide.

I felt like I was pretty well prepared for the marathon this time, but I've felt that way before. I've had IT band problems for the last year or two. These problems have caused significant knee pain in my last two marathons. At San Diego it happened at mile 14; at Surf City in February it happened at mile 6. My long run a couple weeks ago went well without any knee issues, but it did last time too. You just never know which version of you will show up.

We drove down to Eugene Friday afternoon. This time I wanted to get there a day early so I could get a decent nights sleep. Saturday was lazy, sleeping in a bit and hitting the marathon expo in the afternoon. Our friends met us at the expo, and we did our carbo loading at a Thai restaurant since the Italian restaurants were packed with runners.

Sunday morning I was jarred awake at 4:08 am when I bent my leg and felt a stabbing pain in my knee. I wasn't sure if I dreamt it, so I tried bending my leg again. Stabbing pain. Not the most hopeful sign. I stayed in bed until my alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:45 am. Getting up and walking around the knee felt OK. We'll see.

We couldn't have asked for a better day on the horizon. The forecast was for a temp of low 40s at the start and mid-60s in the afternoon, with little chance for rain. Our hotel was pretty close to the start so we were able to walk there.

The marathon started next to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, home to racing legend Steve Prefontaine. The marathoners and half marathoners started all in one big group, so there was lots of people (and energy) crowded in at the start line. Cherie and I started out together, and we ran next to each other until her watch beeped for her first walk break.

The route matched the beautiful day, winding through the towns many parks and finishing next to Autzen Stadium. The route was mostly on paths rather than on city streets, and the last 12 miles were along the Willamette River. It really was a beautiful route.

The spectators, though not everywhere on the route, were very enthusiastic. One guy stood screaming on his front steps as Eye of the Tiger blasted from his stereo. As it was 8:00 am, and the guy was college age, the runner next to me joked that he was probably still up from the night before. Further down the road a group was decked out in costume and a guy dressed as Nacho Libre was high-fiving everyone. Another great human being was passing out dixie cups of beer at mile 24. Yes I stopped.

My day went pretty well. I held a pretty steady pace for most of the day. My hips started to tighten around mile 10, so I waited for the knee pain to begin. Fortunately it never came. There were twinges in my hamstrings and calves, but no muscle pulls. My legs did slowly fill with lead from about mile 18 on, however. My wife and Wendy surprised me at mile 23 which was a great boost when I really needed one.

Our friend Wendy has this habit of whipping out the video camera to tape our possibly embarrassing moments. She asked me what my goal was for this marathon. I told her that I would be happy with a 4:30 finish, but that I was really hoping for a 4:20.

I crossed the finish line at 4:19:12. I beat my best time from San Diego by 20 minutes and my last marathon time by 30. A pretty stellar day all around.

Wendy gives Cherie a boost


Pushing toward the finish


A well-earned beer at the finish

May 3, 2008

Taper week

The taper period is the week(s) leading up to the marathon where you reduce the amount of miles you are running to allow your body to be at its best on race day. I have tried a two week taper for the last two marathons, mostly because 3 weeks of it will drive you nuts (taper madness).

It would seem like a thing to look forward to (the reduction of miles), but it seems to mess with your head and body. After ramping up your mileage over 16 weeks to get in shape, suddenly as the race date nears you are doing much less. Worry about whether you're really ready creeps in. You gain weight because your still eating like you were when you were burning more calories. Every little muscle twinge leads to thoughts of disaster. You start watching where you step so as not to turn an ankle or bump your knee into something. You start wishing your world were a little more like a Snapple commercial...



Just get me to the start line healthy.