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.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

MacBook Pro

Got a MacBook Pro 15" as the new work laptop. Ooooooh, shiny. Used to be all PC all the time. Then convinced work to get me a Mac Pro desktop. Then I got a hackintosh netbook. Now the work laptop got refreshed to the MacBook Pro. Nice machine overall.

  • Design, packaging, owner experience. Sleek. One indisputable advantage of Apple products over most of their PC counterparts.
  • Browsing web with gestures. One-handed and easy to control navigation for scrolling, forward, and back. Other hand free to do...uhm...whatever, you know, and stuff.
  • Click-drag. Physical analogy makes a lot of sense. Only place where clicking the entire pad really wins me over.
  • Enough battery life to make the non-removable battery a moot point for me. Impressive.
  • Remote control. Not a new MacBook Pro feature but useful when I use the laptop for temporary media center duties.
  • SD Card slot. Makes me want to upgrade my DSLR to something that handles SD cards instead of CF.
  • Magnetic power slot doohickey.
  • Sharp edges digging into my forearms as I type this.
  • Effort required to click the track pad (enabling tap to click is a good workaround though).
  • Track pad click is LOUD. I hate noise.
  • Tap-to click response. Always seems to be half a second slower than I like.
  • Those damn edges are really frakking annoying.
  • Not enough buttons. No home and end buttons. I'd die in Eclipse without home and end buttons. Need another control button. And those arrows buttons are not comfortable. Tiny little stingy chicklets.
  • Mini display port and the expensive adapter nonsense. Machine is very portable otherwise but that's just one more thing to remember/carry.
  • This sharp edge is really pissing me off.
  • Back-lit keyboard. Neat looking I guess but meh.
  • Caps-lock indicator on the key. Again, kinda cool I guess but why do we still have caps lock? Caps Lock = missing the tab or shift button. No other use. Meh.
  • Fire wire. It's nice but it's not like a fire wire cable has ever come with, like, anything. So I have to go out and buy another cable? Meh.
  • Display resolution: I'm a screen real estate whore and work all day with a 2560x1600 and a 1200x1920 monitor. Even the old laptop was 1600x1200. 1440x900 makes thing easy to see, I guess, but everything looks too big and...fuzzy. Meh.
I'd post more impressions but my forearms are bleeding too much. Need to go get some band-aids.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Targeting Muscles

The base training I've been doing has a 3 weeks of progress--1 week of rest schedule. It's only recently that I felt, viscerally, how important that can be. That and how targeted a base building program is, in that it focuses on mileage, not speed.

After some vacation time and not running for almost 3 weeks, I came back with 30 mile (a little too aggressive), 20 mile (see 30 miler), and 25 miler weeks. I threw in a bunch of hills and speed in there so without those, I think I'd be at 30 miles per week of slow paced runs. The base building scheduling takes me to about 35, which is what another couple of weeks would get me. Close enough.

Last week was supposed to be a rest week. I did my heart rate experiment, which was fine. And then I made the mistake of trying to sprint around for a while playing ultimate frisbee. The reason why I needed a rest week became pretty clear: barely half an hour into it and my quads were done. Was sore for days after. Looking back, I compare it to doing a max weight low-rep set of bench presses after tiring yourself out with 3 weeks of push ups. Good way to freak out your muscles.

So after walking around like an old man for a few days, back in to it. Couple of slow 3 and 4s, 1 steady 2, and end the week with a slow 7. Also, I get real pace targets now too! Aiming for a sub 4:00 so put in a target 3:50 as upper limit, which gives me the following (with corresponding heart rate targets, based on a 206bpm max):

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


I'm pretty confident about holding a 9:50 up to 20-22 so that pace seems right. I've also done a 10 miler in the 8:50 range already so that steady goal looks legit too (and the longest marathon pace run in the schedule is just only 10 miles actually). Conveniently, that 10K pace puts me in shooting range of a sub 50 10K and that Brisk pace puts me in similar range for a sub 1:50 half marathon. All the stars are aligned.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Experimenting with my Heart

A little background. Way back in the day, Albert and I were working for Latitude and we both said something like "we should do a marathon." I remember starting to train before I fell off a bicycle and sprained my ankle.

Fast forward to 2004 and Albert ran a marathon. He told me to sign up for the Big Sur Marathon so I did. I trained. I finished the 2005 Big Sur Marathon. I got a serious case of ITBS less than a month before the Marathon date but whatever. I paid my $130 and I was going to get my money's worth, damn it! So I finished the Marathon but it was kind of a pyrrhic victory, physically, since my knee was busted for like the next 6 months. Mentally though, I was Haile Gebrselassie. With jet boosters.

So while I was busy being lazy and injured, Brandon (who managed me and Albert at Latitude) started training pretty seriously and eventually did a great marathon in 2007. Then he kind of lost it and started running up mountains, doing 50-mile races, and progressing irritatingly quickly into a running stud. After a couple of aborted training seasons for me (more injuries), I'm finally back on track and trying to ketchup to Brandon.

Recently, Brandon started talking about how he's going to switch to pacing his workouts by heart rate rather than speed. It's what the studs do. It happens that although we're not that many years apart in age, we have wildly different heart rates. He thinks his HR max is around the canoncial 220 - age, so around186, and my Garmin 305 heart sensor has measured 206 before for me, way past my theoretical max of 192. So after a slow 10 miler recently, Brandon wondered what my pace would be at 142bpm, his average for that run. Hence the following experiment.

Training schedule said 6 miles. I planned 2 miles at 140bpm at the beginning and 1 mile at 140bpm at the end, to see how the speed would change. The 3 in the middle I would run at whatever felt good, usually 160+. The short version is this: I can't run at 140bpm. It's PAINFUL. It's so slow, I felt kind of pointless, like I could have been getting the same exercise value by eating a Big Mac. On one hand, it's kind of nice since the pace was beyond conversational (oratorical pace?) but on the other hand, I went out to get exercise and have fun, not to get nowhere very slowly.

So the stats:
Mile 1: 10:23, 140bpm
Mile 2: 11:08, 147bpm (great, too fast already)
Mile 3: 9:38, 158bpm (this is more like a slow pace for me)
Mile 4: 9:36, 159bpm
Mile 5: 8:51, 169bpm (this is what felt fun but not too fast)
Mile 5.5: 11:55 pace, 152bpm (I couldn't run slow enough to get my heart down)
Overall: 5.5 miles at 10:06 / mile, 153bpm (got back to my house at 5.5. Too bored to do another 1/2 mile.)

So what's my pace around 142bpm? It'll probably stabilize out to around an 11:30, which, as I implied earlier, is unrunnable. It's like the no-man's land between a really slow jog and a fast walk. Pace purgatory.

But on the other hand, it kind of makes sense. 143bpm is about 77% HR Max (186) for Brandon. Taking my 206 HR Max at face value, 77% is 158bpm, which is just where I settled into for the middle 2 miles. Nevermind that I find that pace kind of annoying and almost always try to run faster. Point is that "slow" for Brandon is "slow" for me in terms of %HR. It also means that my HR Max is weirdly high. It also means that Brandon's "slow" is a good 40 seconds per mile faster than my "slow".


Monday, July 13, 2009

My Perfect Point and Shoot

My current P&S is a Casio Exilim Z-750. Lurve it. Great features, manual control, does video, long battery life, never lets me down. Except on picture quality but it's a dummycam so I can't expect something in such a small form factor to have good pictures right?

Enter the Leica D-Lux 4!

24-60mm 35mm equivalent focal length. F2.0-2.8 (fast!). Purty design. Snooty red Leica dot. Perfect.

Of course, I could also just get the Panasonic LX3 for a bit cheaper but it's not as pretty. So, my birthday is coming up...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


It's a mild form of silliness, I suppose, but this blog has at various points in the past been turned into "geeky statistics about my slow-ass running" (don't you shift that hyphen). That association must have wormed itself into my brain because the lack of posts over the last year or so has corresponded to a lack of any significant progress in running. Now, I finally have something I think deserves a post, geeky statistics notwithstanding.

So what's happened? A bunch of things, most of which I won't describe right now both because it's too mundane and I want this post to be just as running-focused and geeky as my earlier posts. I'm nothing if not boring. No, consistent. No actually, boring.

Around October last year (at a Halloween party actually), I got pwned by a single solitary step. Walked off a porch in the dark and next thing I know my left ankle was all bent out of shape. Next morning it did a very good impression of a sprained ankle, swelling up like one of those dinosaur-in-a-capsule toys and displaying all sorts of dark and interesting colors.

I seem to run into an injury every time I try to train for a marathon. A decade back it was falling off a bicycle. Then it was ITBS from over-training. Then it was ITBSv2 (socially networked!). Then the aforementioned sprain. I keep on thinking some punk deity or spirit somewhere is getting its kicks off giving me obvious signs. Puck, perhaps, not punk. Bastard.

Because I keep injuring myself, I try to learn. Slowly. Regretfully.

The biggest lesson has been in experimenting with changing my stride/gait to adjust to and compensate for my natural biomechanical dispositions. What I'm increasingly settling on is a slightly smaller stride so that I'm not banging down on my heel, destroying any chances my calves might have of cushioning the repetitie pavement pounding. I also "sit" a little bit lower depending on my legs and my energy level, allowing for additional cushioning by using more quads. This can require more effort over all but it gets me away from just planting my foot down and letting something other than my muscles stabilize myself (read: too much strain on the ITB). Still learning, but getting better.

I'm starting to have more successful bargaining with my body. I used to love the last 5% of effort, speeding up at the end of a long run, going an extra mile or 2, throwing lots of hills without changing the speed, etc. Problem was, that last 5% often ended up being 100-105% of what my body was willing to tolerate without injury. No more! Now I keep things at 90% so the 5% doesn't kill me. And another 5% for safety margin. In return, my body is willing to stay at 90% for a lot longer. It' s a fair deal.

The current goal is to just finish another damn marathon. But since I'm giving myself quite a bit of lead time this time around (for both base building and the specific training schedule), I'm shooting for sub 4:00. 3:59:59 will do. I'll also take all the help I can get and so to that end am aiming for the Cal Int'l Marathon in December. Very fast course. Bonus: if I do hit asub 4:00, I can tell people I improved more than 40 minutes between my first and second marathon.

Mini Milestone
After another minor ankle twist and about a 2 week rest period, I'm back! The fabled and momentous events that precipitated the revival of this blog were:
  • First double digit run again (Had been doing 9s up until now)
  • First consistent 30 mile week
  • 4 months of training already, which is longer than what used to be my entire Marathon training schedule
That's it. I told you I wanted to keep this blog fairly boring right?