Thursday, December 31, 2009


Work: (part of
Run: California International Marathon '09 at 3:59:51
Travel: Sydney, Australia

Looks a little sparse, but more to come in 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Desperation and Stupidity

This is so stupid it even inspired me to write a blog post.

So there was a terrorist attempt. Thankfully, basically no one was hurt and the plot was foiled. Yay.

Oh wait. No. I forgot the part where things get fucked up.

So supposedly after this terrorist plot, we have to tighten security again. How? Well if you read the rumors of the new rules, it seems like TSA has basically taken a detailed account of how the bombing attempt went and forbid exactly those set of circumstances. Since the terrorist tried to ignite the bomb during the last minutes of the flight while it was landing, everyone must not remain seated and not move around during the last hour of the flight.

First of all, why the fuck stop there? He had explosives strapped to his leg. Why not prohibit passengers from carrying legs on to the plane? Oh, he only had it strapped to one of his legs? OK, then we'll prevent one leg from coming on to the plane. And for added security, we won't tell you which leg we'll allow at which airports so you can't game the system. Also, since the most recent attempt was foiled by a Dutch film director jumping across the aisle to stop the fire, all flights will now have equal numbers of passengers and Dutch film directors. All passengers shall be jumped by said cadre (you tell me the collective noun for Dutch film directors) of directors some time during the last hour of the flight. Phew. Disaster averted.

Second, why are we still playing out this charade? Scanning for explosives and going through metal detectors and x-ray machines at the airport, fine. But there's a shoe bomber and you start checking for shoes. There's a last-minute bomber and you start restricting people from moving about at the last minute. Dear TSA: If the last knee jerk reactionary display of theatrics didn't save you from this latest terrorist attempt, what in the world makes you think another knee jerk reactionary display of theatrics will do the trick?

I know it's not easy preventing terrorist plots. It's probably something on the order of finding a needle in a haystack and then trying to thread that needle by launching it on a crossbow aimed at a thread half a mile away, on horseback, while having sex. Just because it's difficult doesn't mean it helps to just throw some reactionary shit at it and hope that it goes away. I'm thankful there are people trying to keep me safe. I'm thankful that those people care. But making people take off their shoes because there's been a shoe bomber is like telling a murder not to murder, specifically, the person he/she just murdered. Doesn't really address the problem.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

California International Marathon 2009

It's done! 3:59:51. A little off target.

The second half of the training was a little bit more difficult with more runs missed and too much yo-yoing; hitting 16 one week killed the legs, which meant more days of rest, which meant I was less prepared for the 18 next week, which killed the legs more, etc. Still thought I could hold 8:46 pace for 3:50 but that changed...

The biggest factor was probably the cold. With a 27F starting temperature, my whole body was frozen. Significantly, I could feel my right ITB tighten up and refuse to loosen for the first 4-5 miles. Staying with the 3:50 pace group was easy but by mile 7, the right ITB struck. Shooting pains up the ITB had me hobbling more on my left leg because the right would try to collapse every once in a while.

So I pinched my butt. It was like some kind of odd massage for the ITB and it alleviated some of the pains. After figuring that out, I started to try to adjust my gait to compensate for the ITB weakness. By mile 13-14, it seemed my legs had adjusted: no more ITB pain. I knew that the ITB was still blown up but at least it didn't hurt. And I had stayed with the 3:50 group this entire time so I had a glimmer of hope of keeping 3:50.

Then came mile 18. I could tell that all the energy I spent from 7-14 adjusting my gait really took its toll. Still held pace (just) but I knew that I would blow up at 20. And then came 20 and the legs blew up. Both my legs were gone from the gait change so I decided to just hobble along best I could. I had already thought about stopping multiple times but I figured at 20 miles I might as well finish. As I progressed, however, I didn't even know if I would hit 4:00.

So I took my time, jogged slowly, and did lots of mental calculations. At mile 25, I started speeding up again to try to hit sub 4:00. I knew I would probably be within seconds. My entire body started buzzing from lack of oxygen and I couldn't unclench my hands. Fuck it. Speed up more. Finally hit 26 and saw barely 1:40 left till 4:00 by my GPS. FUCK! Speed up more! Screw form, screw how I looked, screw everything, just move the legs! Would I make it?

200 feet from the finish line and I saw 3:59:50 on the watch and I knew I'd make it. Crossed the finish line dead. Glenn was there to tell me I broke 4:00, and Shryh was there to welcome me back to the land of the living.

So am I happy with the result? Not entirely since I knew I could have done a lot better but given the conditions I was satisfied I broke 4:00. 3:50 feels like it's in the bag once I strengthen the ITB a bit and redo the last half of the training. And besides, my last marathon was a 4:41:49 so I can claim a 42 minute PR!

Thanks to Glenn and Brandon for all the training advice and inspiration, Naveen and parents for the place to stay and awesome post-marathon food, Andrew for moral support, and Shryh. Couldn't have done it without you guys!

Not sure what the next Marathon is at this point. Can barely walk. Maybe a 3:50 at Big Sur? A 3:45 at a faster course? All seems doable with just a bit of training. After I hit 3:45 I'll feel like I've reached a milestone. And then three more giant leaps to Boston: 3:30, 3:20, 3:10!

Geek data:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kindle Stuff

  • Stanza (the OSX desktop version) conversion from pdf to kindle doesn't always work. Converted the OSX default "About Stacks.pdf" into azw format. Nope. Not sure why. Converting to .MOBI didn't work either.
  • Sent the same pdf to and Don't see the conversion on my kindle or on my computer yet. Weird, been more than 5 minutes.
  • .MOBI files downloaded from Project Gutenberg work pretty well for the most part but they make the menu (while you're reading a book) grey. Not familiar with the MOBI format but I wonder if it's some kind of style declaration embedded in the Gutenberg .MOBIs that's overriding the Kindle menu styles.
  • Want manga on your kindle? Go to Mangle. The default Kindle picture viewer is a little unpredictable when it comes to which file/folder it'll choose to read first so this program is a bit of a help. Windows only right now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Progress Update

Quick check on where I thought I was a while ago and where I am now.

Pace Now
Up to 142
Steady (Marathon Pace)
Brisk (1/2 Marathon Pace)

So progress is being made. In other news:
Month Mileage Time Speed BPM Elevation Gain Runs
March 21.69 3:27:45 6.3

April 32.25 5:09:55 6.2
May 54.22 9:24:51 5.8
June 31.48 4:49:55 6.5
July 74.99 11:50:43 6.3 164 7798 13
August 68.82 11:27:07 6 162 8115 13
September 118.62 18:15:02 6.5 160 9027 21

The so called "elevation gain" is all bogus though I did do some hills workouts. But nice to see progress on this front as well. From run to run I don't feel any different BPM wise but it's nice to see that's coming down as expected. Should be 30+ miles per week easily from here on out.

Latest fun is this current week. Aiming for 50+ with a 15 miler in the middle. Get myself out of the marathon training groove and get my body used to more mileage. Should be at a solid 40 miles a week or so by marathon time. Have a 1/2 coming up on the 11th. Thinking 8:10 pace for 1:47. And then CIM in December. Still going for 3:48:16!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Body as a Powertrain

Been pretty steady with training but not entirely satisfied: I keep on missing 1 workout a week, which has kept me in the high 20s for weekly mileage. Should be closer to mid 30s. So using that as an excuse, I turned today's Easy 4M into another experiment.

Near the beginning of the run, I started thinking about how I always have a pretty high HR on these runs. Wondered if that was just normal or a symptom of something. I know my max HR is higher than normal but that doesn't necessarily mean I have to be running at 180bpm all the time.

I broke it down into components: Air intake, Heart beats, Cadence, Leg power. To use a car analogy, the air intake (manifold, super/turbocharger) can control the specific power output of the engine, assuming a steady stream of gas (which in this case is available ATP). So the more I take in to my lungs, the greater amount of energy my heart can deliver to the rest of my body by enriching the oxygen in my blood a bit more. Cadence and leg power make up the transmission. Assuming equal power, pumping my legs higher/harder gives me greater "torque" while increasing cadence should give me greater speed.

In a modern car, there are electrical systems controlling all of these things and it can optimize the combination of these systems for different characteristics. For distance running, we want decent speed and efficiency, kind of like cruising at highway speeds. Analogously, I thought about how to get my bio-mechanical parts to function efficiently. Also, since I can't actually consciously control my heart rate, I assumed that the heart was sort of like a constant speed engine responding to need. Obviously it goes faster and slower but given a specific power output, the only variable I can alter is air intake to affect power.

So what I really wanted was a CVT. Keep my heart operating at an efficient pace and use transmission to effect acceleration and/or maintain speed. I noticed that I almost always have two-step in-out breathing cycles. Makes sense for higher work but filling and emptying my lungs that fast is wasteful for slow runs. So item 1: either breath more shallowly or slower. I chose to go for slower. Down to 4 steps for breathing in and 4 steps for breathing out.

The slower breathing should mean conservation of power, which should mean a decrease in heart rate. That would also mean a decrease in speed if I didn't change my transmission to a higher gear. So to compensate, I sped up the cadence and decreased power per step, the way decent distance runners do.

That was kind of a long walk for something people do naturally anyway but visceral results always work better for me when I have theoretical analogies in my head. Even applying it as I was thinking about it today made a pretty big difference though. I did a slow 8M about a week ago at 9:28 pace and 168bpm average. Today, the first 4 miles gave me a 9:39 pace and 148bpm. 148bpm! I never have heart rate that low. I then played around with breathing in/out on 3-step cycles, which gave me a 8:51 pace and 164bpm for mile 5. I then stopped thinking and just jogged and came out with a 9:44 pace and 159bpm. This last one was when I wasn't trying to speed up cadence and limit breathing so even though it's the last mile, I think the inefficiency shows. Big upside to this kind of running is that at the end of it, I was back down to 90bpm within a couple of minutes. It's just as fast but a lot easier on the body. Less waste.

Of course, changing my cadence dramatically means there are little bits of my joints and muscles that probably have to catch up. Also maybe my lungs. Goal is to have total freedom of all the controllable variables (air intake through lungs, cadence, and leg power) so that I can vary as needed. Kick down the transmission to power up a hill, kick it back up to cruise, and then pull out all the stops for the negative split.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

MacBook Pro impressions continued

  • Useless battery indicator button with the funky green LED lights. I like this now. I put the computer in sleep whenever I'm not using it and it's not plugged in most of the time so it's nice to be able to check battery levels without having to turn on the computer.
  • Supports dual monitors but only with 3rd party solutions.
  • No docking station.
  • Gets hot as hell. Probably not a MacBook Pro only complaint but not a comfortable lap machine when the CPU starts to spike.
So the verdict is, I think, that the Lenovos are still better "mobile workstations" than the MacBook Pro. There's a docking station, there's dual monitor support, it's more comfortable to work on when away from a desk, and it has enterprise security stuff the IT people like (biometric). I just luck out since I mainly work on a desktop that makes a lot of those points moot for me. I actually get to treat the MacBook Pro as a secondary/mobility machine rather than my main.

This was impression mainly based on hardware. Software, it's kind of between six and half a dozen. I'm happy with both OSs though in a corporate environment there's often less overhead to stick with Windows since that's what IT supports. On the other hand, because IT supports it, the windows environment is often a lot more bogged down. If I ever need massive corporate IT support (NEVAIR!), I guess I can always Boot Camp this machine and then I'll just have a very pretty but annoying (hardware wise) Windows machine.