July 31, 2008


The wife's company just had a round of layoffs. Fortunately she made the cut.

The layoffs are result of the economy, cutting some fat, etc. Every time I hear "layoff" these days though, I wonder how much of it is sound business decision and how much of it is pandering to Wall Street. Hers is a very successful company, yet I read in the paper that some analysts think their future success could be limited to franchising or selling out to another company. Still turning a profit, still a leader in the industry, but these analysts think the end is near. I wonder how many of these "analysts" have actually run a business.

I get the sense that her CEO is making decisions that he feels are right for the company, so I hope that these moves help them weather the economic downturn/slump/recession. Of course the workload hasn't changed with the layoffs, so in the meantime those left at the company need to pick up all the slack. Hopefully the dust will settle in the next few months.

Glad she still has a job. Very.

July 29, 2008

More hills!?

So I had my treadmill stress test this afternoon. Not sure when I will get the results (as interpreted by the doctor) but the technicians seemed to think everything was OK.

I didn't do all that well on the treadmill. I was told the test would take about an hour, so I had visions of them steadily increasing the speed until I couldn't take it. I was hoping I could get up to a respectable speed before sending up the white flag.

It turns out there is a particular program they use called the Bruce protocol. You start out slow, but at a 10% grade. The speed and grade increase every 3 minutes. Well after running up hills this week during the Ragnar Relay, my calves were pretty smoked. There are 10 stages in the protocol, and I barely made it into stage 4. There was a false start because the treadmill didn't adjust until minute 5 the first time around, so I had to lie down then start over with it adjusted to 3 minutes.

I think they recorded enough information, but it was a little deflating to make it only 12 minutes or so. Poor scheduling to have it a couple days after the relay. At least that's my story.

July 27, 2008

Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

That is the slogan of the Northwest Passage RAGNAR Relay we participated in this weekend. The brief description is - 12 runners, 189 miles, 30 hours 46 minutes, from Blaine to Langley Washinton. The longer description follows.

A few of us in our little running group picked up the brochure for the relay last year thinking it would be a fun challenge to put on the calendar. It sat in the back of our mind for a few months before we all committed to running it in 2008. We had 5 or 6 ready to sign up last fall and the plans started being put down on paper. Tami and Alyssa volunteered to be co-captains for the team. It was a good combination of organization and enthusiasm. Late 2007 and early 2008 would add a little extra meaning to the relay for us all.

As I have mentioned before, Alyssa found out she had breast cancer in December, and Tami found out she had a carcinoid tumor in January. Both co-captains find out they have cancer and beat it in the three months between committing to the relay and actually signing up. We discussed team names and decided to honor their successful fight by naming our team "I Will Survive". Gloria Gaynor would be played often. Below is our team shirt:

We needed 12 runners and 5 volunteers to make the relay happen. We started talking to friends and co-workers about the event, and found several people crazy enough to join us. Alyssa found our final two runners on the relay website. The husband and wife team of Erich and Amy were a great addition. We didn't get the chance to meet them until the day before the relay, but they fit right in from the start. The wife volunteered to drive our van, and Alyssa's boyfriend David volunteered to drive van #1.

An event of this undertaking took a little planning. We met a few times to go over logistics, van rentals, food, lodging and divvying up the different legs of the relay. The way the relay is set up is there are 12 runners running 3 legs each for a total of 36 legs. There are two vans with six runners each that work in shifts. Runner #1 runs his leg, hands the baton to runner #2, then hops in the van until his turn comes up again at leg #13. When runner #6 hands off to runner #7, van 2 takes over with its six runners. The runners in the inactive van have some time to find meals and hopefully sleep while the other runners are running their legs.

We had runners of varying ability so it took a little time to match our runners to the different legs of the relay. The total distance of the legs varied from 11.4 to 18.8 miles, and some were hillier than others. No one had an easy time of it, but we tried to match the stronger runners with the more difficult legs. A few of us also met a week before the relay to do two runs in one day, but beyond the two runners that had done this relay before, we really weren't sure what we were getting into.

We headed up to Blaine Thursday night to get the last bit of real sleep before the Friday morning start. We were up early to decorate the vans before heading to the start line.

There was a contest for the best van decoration, and we had hopes of winning. The starting times are staggered with the slower teams starting first. As we were one of those slower teams, we started at 9:00am.

We all headed to the start line to see Erich start the first leg of the relay. Van #2 (which I was in) didn't need to be at exchange #6 until about 3:00 in the afternoon. We went back to the hotel to check out and decorate our own van, then we did a little last minute shopping and had some breakfast. We headed to the exchange point at a park in Bellingham a little early to cheer other teams coming in. Todd was the first runner in our van and he took the baton from just a bit after 3:00. We would be on duty for the next 5 hours and 29 miles.

The average relay leg works out to be about 5.25 miles, but they varied from 2.9 miles to 8.5 miles in length. Todd and Wendy had shorter distances to start, but almost all of the climbing for this round. Todd led us through Fairhaven and out of Bellingham, Wendy went by Lake Padden, Dan ran past Lake Samish, my route took us back out toward the coast, Tami's took us closer to the Pacific before heading south, and Cherie's leg headed south ending at waters edge of Padilla Bay about an hour before sunset.

We were able to meet the runners in van #1 at the exchange point. One drawback of the relay is that you only get to see the runners in the other van (briefly) at the major exchange points. With 150 teams participating, the inactive vans are not allowed on the route because of the additional traffic it would cause. While there we found out that Amy, who was sick at the start, had taken a turn for the worse and needed to head home. She had completed her 8.3 mile first leg, but was in no shape to continue. Her other relay legs would need to be picked up by the other runners. Fortunately they were shorter, but it still meant bonus miles for Erich and Gary.

After seeing van #1 off, we headed straight to the next major exchange point to take a shower, have some dinner, and try to get some sleep. Sleep was going to be difficult because we only had three hours to do all the above. Some were able to grab some quick zzz's in the van. I stretched out on the grass, but was unable to get to sleep. Our volunteers Michelle and Cheryl were also working at this exchange point so we were able to see them and thank them in person.

We were back on duty at about 11:45pm Friday night. The relay goes on non-stop, so we would all have a chance to run in the dark. We had reflective vests on and a headlamp to partially light the way. We had a couple friends volunteer to ride their bikes to give us additional light and keep us company. David rode with the runners in van #1 and Brian kept us company in van #2.

It was a really cool experience to run in the middle of the night. My shift started at 3:15am and I was running a route into Anacortes. Looking at the route now it looks like I would have had some nice water views, but of course it was a bit dark for that. I also was concentrating on running a fast leg. I ran the fastest 4 miles I have ever run, averaging 7:49 minute miles. Even so, there was a runner who passed me easily. During this night shift, several of us were passed by runners on elite teams that started long after we did.

While your van is on duty, you drive the same route the runners are on. You end up leapfrogging them a couple of times, stopping to cheer them on and hand them some water or other aid if needed. We also tried to cheer on every runner that passed us by. Even when your not running it seems you are always on the move, checking the map, getting ready for or recovering from your run. On this night shift we needed to keep the cheering to a minimum so we wouldn't disturb the local residents trying to sleep, but we made an extra effort to watch for and encourage other runners without bike support.

Todd, Wendy and Tami all had longer legs this time around, and Todd and Tami's were very hilly to boot. Cherie finished off our second round by running across the Deception Pass Bridge. Wendy and I joined her in crossing the bridge, and it was a beautiful sight with a mix of moon and pre-dawn light.

We passed the baton to van #1 at 5:30 Saturday morning. After driving back toward Anacortes to drop Brian off, we again decided to head straight to the next major exchange. After stopping for gas (and a wrong turn diversion) we arrived at a school in Coupeville. After a shower I decided to skip breakfast in hopes of getting my first sleep since Thursday night. I found a mat in the gym and tried for a quick nap. Unfortunately the fire alarm went off two times, so I don't think I got any deep sleep. I think I was able to string together an hour to an hour and a half of shuteye.

We were back on duty at around 9:30 or so. I had created a sheet to predict when each runner would be taking off, but it really was just an estimate based on each runners past 10k and half marathon times. We were running a bit behind, but not too badly.

This set of legs took us south along Whidbey Island to the finish line in Langley. The temperature was rising, and there was still plenty of climbing to do. In exchange we were rewarded with some great water views. With the hotter temps and the fact that we were all running a bit low on energy, the van stopped a little more frequently to support the runner. We had squirt guns and iced towels to try to cool down each runner.

After seeing Cherie at mile one of her last relay leg, our van headed to the finish line to meet up with the runners in van #1. It is traditional that all the runners join up near the finish line so that they can all cross together with the final runner. Erich and I headed back on the route to run with Cherie as she trudged up her final climb. The finish line was a welcome site after nearly 31 hours on the road. We shared a few stories, talked to a couple other teams, and enjoyed a well-deserved slice of pizza and glass of beer.

It was a great experience and I would absolutely do it again. The event and route was very well organized, especially considering the distance covered and number of teams and runners involved. Every team we met on the road was very supportive and seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. If you are interested in seeing pictures, you can find ours here, Wendy's here, and Tami's here. Wendy and I will be putting a video together sometime in the next month, and I hope to be able to post them here as well.

Many thanks to:

Our volunteers: Cheryl, Michelle and Judy.
van #1: Erich, Kristin, Amy, Caitlin, Alyssa, Gary and David.
Van #2: Todd, Wendy, Dan, me, Tami, Cherie and the wife.

July 24, 2008

Every little bit helps

I was running late for a meeting, and I only had a couple of minutes to grab lunch on the way. Well I wasn't really late, as our meetings never seem to start on time - but that is a subject for another day.

Since I was pressed for time, I stopped by McDonald's. I ran into the restaurant rather than going through drive-through. I remember reading some tips to save gas, and skipping drive-through is a good one. Roughly 7 cars were in line, all of them idling for 7-10 minutes. You can do the math on their gas mileage for those 10 minutes. As an added bonus there was no one in line inside, so I was in and out in a minute or two.

So next time your grabbing lunch, stopping by the bank, or getting your coffee consider hopping out of your car and saving some gas.

July 23, 2008

Neighborhood excitement

So this was outside our house today.

They've been doing a bit of paving in nearby streets. It looks like we're going to get a new coat on our little cul de sac. I wonder if I stand outside with a few cases of beer if I could talk them into doing the driveway while they're at it.

July 22, 2008

Checking under the hood.

Went to the doctor today. The basic reason was to get my allergy medicine prescription refilled. Since I was going in anyway, I decided to get my heart checked out. With the marathons and other events I have done, I thought it would be a good idea to make sure everything was OK. They taped a bunch of wires to me, and the EKG came out clear. Quick and painless, except for the hair they ripped off afterward.

I have an appointment next week to do the treadmill stress test. The EKG (from what I understand) shows a snapshot in time, but should indicate if you have had any episodes in the past. The treadmill is supposed to be a bit more predictive. I wear a heart rate monitor when I exercise, so I have seen how my heart reacts to a certain level of stress. I'm not sure how hard they push you during these tests, though. I'll be interested to see the results.

Resistance is painful

Apple's niche of world domination can be frustrating.

When shopping for a MP3 player, I chose not to get an Ipod. The main reason was the inability to replace the battery. When I was shopping, Apple was having a brief publicity problem. The first wave of Ipods were having battery problems as they have a expected life of about 18 months. When people contacted Apple to get the batteries replaced, they found out that there was no way to replace the battery, and that they should just buy a new Ipod. This guy actually sent his Ipod addressed to Steve Jobs and found that "Buy a new one" was the company policy. They later changed their policy to charge $99 to replace the battery (now $67)

As I am not a fan of disposable products, I bought a Creative Zen Micro. It has a replaceable battery, and the package actually came with a spare. I have been happy with its performance, and the battery is still taking charges. As it is not an Ipod, 99% of the supporting products out there don't work with the player.

The real problem has been buying songs online. Until recently, Itunes was about the only game in town where you could buy a single song without paying a monthly fee. As my player was not an Ipod, Itunes vast library was no help as the file type is proprietary and not compatible with other players. Thankfully Amazon.com has entered the market and I can now buy MP3 files online.

Except...there are artists that are exclusive with Itunes. I went looking for a U2 song last night and I could only find it on Itunes. In order to get the song, I would need to add the Itunes program to my computer, buy the song, burn the song to a CD, then rip it back off onto the computer as a MP3. My laptop has a nearly full hard drive and is already moving very slowly, so I had no interest in adding another program to gum up the works.

But I really wanted the song. My desktop computer has a new, relatively clean hard drive so I decided to load Itunes there. Unfortunately it is not connected to the internet as the phone jack is dead in that room. So I downloaded the program on the laptop, transferred it to the desktop, and installed Itunes. Since I couldn't get online, I had the wife buy the song on her laptop (she has an Ipod Shuffle, but no cd burner) and I copied it to the desktop. After jumping through all the hoops I was ready to start the burn to CD/rip it back off process.

Except...the song is right-protected. The wife bought it on her laptop and it needs to be authorized for the desktop. I typed in the password and waited for it to unlock, but it needed internet access to complete the authorization. So I dragged the desktop out to the living room to plug it into the wireless router.

Clearly it is time to upgrade from DSL to fiber optic and get the desktop back online. Plus I recently received a free Ipod Shuffle, so now Itunes is set to partially absorb me. The Shuffle is still in the box for now. It is best if we step away from each other for a bit.

Song price 99 cents - but it was no where near that cheap.

July 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Buzz

Weekly numbers

A little catch up on the numbers for the last two weeks. The week of July 7th was skewed pretty heavily toward biking with the Seattle to Portland bike ride. The following week a hodgepodge as I was out of town. The running and biking were very hilly, and the swimming took place in the Columbia river.

July 7th - 13th

Running: 9 miles
Biking: 229 miles
Swimming: 3/4 mile

July 14th - 20th

Running: 16 miles
Biking: 11 miles
Swimming: 25 minutes

July 17, 2008


A friend asked me to bring along some "good old American rock n roll" over to the 4th of July party we were heading to. I looked at my CD collection, and I wasn't really sure what would qualify. So I hastily put together a playlist to put on my MP3 player. It was dominated by some heartland artists like John Mellencamp and Bob Seger, with some Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Eagles thrown in. The mix opened with Fozzie Bear singing "America" from the Muppet Movie - a classic.

The CD player is still broken in my truck, so for the wife and my latest road trip I had my MP3 player going. We were traveling through eastern Washington farmland and listening to the mix I had made for the 4th of July. After leaving the freeway, we traveled along a smaller country road. The kind that features signs letting you know what crops are growing in the fields your flying by at 50 miles an hour.

In one of the fields there was a father with two daughters and a dog in tow, working the sprinklers for his crops. It was a nice Americana moment with the sun setting in the sky, complete with a soundtrack playing in the background.

July 16, 2008

Seattle to Portland

This was my 5th time participating in the two day ride from Seattle to Portland (STP). It has become a nearly annual tradition to do this ride with some close friends. Our group has shrunk to three, but there is hope to entice a couple new riders for next year. The ride is still difficult to challenge each of us, but still provide a fun day in the saddle. The STP puts a firm date on the calendar to spend a weekend together catching up as we peddle down the road. It always ends up being a good time.

The ride has grown in numbers each year, and this time there were over 9500 riders on the road. This is simply too many riders to support. Though we improve a bit in fitness each year, it is offset by the increasingly long lines at the food and bathroom stops, so we don't seem to roll into town any sooner. Our wonderful support person (the wife) has provided us with Subway sandwiches the last couple of years, but until we start towing our own porta-pottie, we are still stuck standing in line behind the increasing number of riders. It is frustrating, and unless something changes the STP may fall off our calendar of events.

The Seattle to Portland bike ride is one of those events that becomes a goal for many new bikers. Someday...they think. Roughly 20% of the riders on the road are participating in their first STP each year. There are people of all shapes, sizes and ages out there, and it can be a pretty encouraging community. It can also lead to some chaos on the road with so many different skill levels sharing the road. The Cascade Bicycle Club did a better job of promoting safety, and it was noticeably better this year. There were of course still people not following the rules and making it more difficult for everyone, but that is true of almost any endeavor I suppose.

The heat slowed us down quite a bit this time around. We have enjoyed good weather every year so far, but the temps topped 90 degrees this time around and it really sapped our energy. That beer at the finish line tasted that much sweeter.

Happy Belated Birthday Bill

July 10, 2008

Kicking a man when he is down

My (our) friends Matt and Holly have been going through a extremely tough time this year. Their baby Annabelle has been diagnosed with Spina Bifida, they found out Holly has an ovarian cyst, their income declined with the housing downturn, their cat recently died, and now Matt has lost his job through downsizing six weeks before Annabelle's due date.

You're Kidding, Right? Is Someone Filming Me?

They could use your hopes, prayers and support as they rise from the canvas one more time, and try to make ends meet and cover insurance costs while Matt searches for a new job.

From the mouths of babes

We were at a party over the 4th of July weekend, and this story was passed on by the mother:

A boy and her mother often took walks around their neighborhood, and would frequently pass by a cemetery. After a while the boy asked what that statue was they kept seeing. His mother explained it to him.

Later, when the boy saw his Aunt he excitedly whispered, "Auntie Diane, Jesus Christ isn't just a swear word, he was a man."

July 8, 2008

Tour de France

The tour started on Saturday, and it is a little different this year. Professional cycling is under a huge cloud of doping suspicion, and they are doing what they can to clean up the sport.

Floyd Landis, the winner in 2006 has lost his last appeal and has been officially stripped of the win. Alberto Contador, the winner from last year, and Levi Leipheimer who came in third, are on a different team (Astana) this year. Team Astana withdrew from the Tour de France in 2007 after their team leader Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping. Even though all the riders and team directors are new this year, and the only thing the same this year is the sponsor, Team Astana was not allowed to participate this year.

Several teams have put in place their own controls to try to root out any cheaters. Team Garmin-Chipotle tests its riders every 14 days, and is using a new method.

"...rather than testing for individual drugs, the testing establishes baseline biological markers for each rider—blood composition and hormone levels. ACE can quickly identify any variance from this baseline without needing to identify a specific doping product. By watching for variances from a baseline, the testing eliminates the cat-and-mouse game in which athletes and their doctors constantly search for new performance-enhancing drugs before tests have been invented to identify them. To use an analogy: by watching for changes in baseline biological markers, the testing agency does not have to look for the needle in a haystack, but instead only has to identify changes to the overall height of the haystack."
One other bright spot in this year's Tour is that there are two American teams competing. Both Team Garmin-Chipotle and Team Columbia are competing in their first Tour de France. This is the first time that two American teams have competed in the same year.

I'm still Tivoing the 5am broadcasts. The doping scandals has certainly taken a bit of the shine off the event, but I still love it. Unfortunately there will be that little doubt in the back of my mind when a cyclist breaks away and does an incredible ride. Hopefully last year's Tour will be the one that brought about sufficient change to save the sport.

Tour de France - Brand New Start

July 4, 2008

4th of July

There is a wonderful entry over on Sean's blog regarding the Declaration of Independence and the history of the 4th of July.

I rolled out of bed early this morning to volunteer at a local 4th of July 5k. Originally I was supposed to help register runners, but at the last minute they needed me out on the course. I was stationed on Main Street just before the last turn to the finish line. My job was simply to make sure they made the turn and that the spectators stayed out of the way.

Main Street was lined with lawn chairs in preparation for the holiday parade.

The parade wasn't going to start for another hour and a half, but people got up early to stake their claim. The 5k started at a local park, and there were several families there at 8:00 am to secure a good picnicking area for their 4th of July celebration. Holiday fun takes planning, dedication and some early risers.

A little later as people started to filter in for the parade, this gentleman passed by handing out mini flags.

He was all smiles and clearly proud to be there. There were a few other veterans in uniform or with a cap emblazoned with their ship or unit. I also met Sol and George:

I had a chance to talk to George while waiting for the runners to arrive. He and his wife have been coming to the parade for about 20 years. They both worked for the police department in some capacity, and he chatted with officers and the mayor as they passed by. When people had questions about the parade, and they came to me since I had an official orange vest on, he was happy to help them out.

A wonderful start to the holiday. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Happy Birthday Kelly

July 3, 2008

July 3rd

Woke up to a wet world. We had some thunder and lightening last night accompanying our first rain in a while. It is probably for the best with the fireworks flying around tomorrow.

Many cities in Western Washington have banned fireworks. Safety, fires, etc. We technically live outside city limits in a pocket of unincorporated county. This means we've been hearing fireworks going off for the last few days. Of course tomorrow it will be much crazier.

Our street really does it up. We moved into our house four years ago a few weeks before the 4th of July. We had our housewarming on the 4th, and we were treated to quite a firework display. Our neighbors obviously had gone to one of the Indian reservations and got some of the good stuff. They had a table set up in the middle of the street with mortar-like cylinders to launch the air shots.

The last couple of years we have gone over to a friend's house for the 4th and have missed out on the show. The debris in our yard the next morning let's us know what we missed.

I may water the lawn one more time tomorrow.

July 1, 2008

They're tracking you

I found this website that compiles your race results. Not ones you send in, ones it has found by searching all race results. Some of the results have you living in different states. My Marine Corps Marathon had me living in D.C. for example. If you sign up (free) you can claim the ones that are yours and have all your results in one place. I'd say 90 to 95% of the events I have run were already there.

It is cool, and almost a little creepy, to search your name and find all those race results. Even from a small 5k you ran three years ago. It is called Athlinks. Check out the dossier they have on you.


From Liz's Big Ride Across America blog this morning:

"We had been told that this particular segment of the ride was especially scenic. The route did not disappoint. The only challenge was the lack of light in some nooks, where I could see a beautiful scene but not quite capture it inside my digital camera. And the scale is impossible to convey. The hillsides and lakes are massive. You end up just trying to capture just a corner of the fabric and having to try to explain the rest. We watched for moose, and other wildlife along these first 30 miles or so. The air was still and if you made the effort to stop and just listen, it was entrancing. I was very aware of being just a visitor passing through this beautiful landscape that is home to so many creatures and plants."