Tuesday, September 2, 2008

All We Want to Do is Eat Your Brains*

First, let's get the obvious out of the way: this blog entry is NOT about running. Not even a little. However, it's about something else that's equally near-and-dear to my heart: world peace global warming lemurs television. If you like television, too, and particularly sci-fi and fantasy television (you know, shows about things with lasers and/or that go bump in the night), you owe it to yourself to check out the Television Zombies cult TV podcast and blog. TVZ describes itself as follows:

Discussing the best science fiction and fantasy shows on television. Each week, Tina, Chris, Jeff, Jonah and special guests discuss the latest news and happenings in the world of science fiction and fantasy television, as well as review new episodes of favorite (and hated) shows. From Lost to Doctor Who to Battlestar Galactica, we look at the latest, greatest and lamest (we’re looking at you, Bionic Woman!) and give an irreverent view of new TV. Bad TV may be a brain eating monster lurking in the dusty corners of your living room, but Television Zombies are along for the fight!
I discovered TVZ about a year ago and quickly became a fan. Now, in addition to being a fan, I'm also a contributor. You can check out my first review, but I suggest you take some time to check out the site as a whole, and to listen to the podcast; it's time well spent.

*We're not unreasonable - I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lila!

Posted by ShoZu

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rain Delay

No running for me this morning - Tropical Storm Fay is still blustering its way through my area. Last night we had Tornado Warnings through most of the night. The rain was so heavy, at points, that at about 2:00 AM we gathered up the kids and pets and went into our "safe room." We spent a good portion of the night watching the news and listening to the rain pelting the windows. It was not fun. This morning the effects are still being seen. It looks like there was some tornado damage in areas not far from our home, but we appear to have survived unscathed thusfar. Definitely not safe to be outside running, though. I'm not yet sure whether my office will be open today. School is out, and government offices are closed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Feel The Need... The Need.... For Sleep!

Wait, no, that's not right.

This morning I woke up raring to go. Yesterday my attempt at a morning run was thwarted by uncooperative technology: my iPhone was of the belief that it had no music or podcasts on it (SO not true, iPhone!), and it also decided to stage an impromptu app-strike - all apps kept quitting on launch. Restarting didn't cure anything, so a full restore was in order. I was all geared-up and outside and everything, but defeated I headed back in. I'll get you next time, gadget!

Today was different. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and all my tech was reporting G-for-go. Run Keeper established a GPS lock so quickly that I feared it might actually not be working. The dulcet tones of Robert Ullrey's voice piped merrily through my earphones. The run was uneventful and great.

Since RunKeeper worked well this time out, I actually have a map I can post of the run, generated in real-time as I ran. Only 2 miles, but that's W2D3 of C25k for you. As I ran, I thought about last night's Olympic Marathon and how amazing those runners are. My goals aren't nearly so lofty: I just want to get in shape.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Runs, 2. Runs Kept, 0.

Whew, this morning it was a balmy 2345345 degrees outside with 34123123123% humidity! It felt like I was running through a bowl of hot jello. Or so I imagine: I've never actually tried running through hot jello...

I did W2D2, and I must say it kicked my butt just a tad. It was good to be out there, though. At the end of the run the sprinklers celebrated my arrival back home. Those things must have either a motion sensor or a sense of humor. They always get me!

I was looking forward to today's run: Now that I know about (and how to avoid) the bug I inadvertently discovered in RunKeeper that kept my run from being uploaded the other day, I was excited to have this be my first recorded RunKeeper run. Sadly, RunKeeper was unable to lock on a GPS signal the entire time. I don't blame the app, I blame the GPS of the phone. But the end result was the same: nothing recorded this go-round. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We are Borg.

Today I've added a bit of new tech to my run: RunKeeper, an iPhone app. I'd say it shows promise, and I'll probably wind up loving it, but right now I'm still working out a few kinks and so I recommend it but with reservation.

[EDITED TO ADD: I wrote to the author of RunKeeper with a description of the problem I was experiencing. It's a known bug that has already been squashed in an update that will be available shortly at the app-store. I now recommend RunKeeper with no reservations whatsoever - it's a great app, and well worth far more than the $9.99 being charged].

The interface is spot-on. It's exactly how I would have designed it myself. It gives a very Nike+ minute-by-minute bar graph of your run as you go. It acquired a GPS lock very quickly. Unlike Nike+, there are no audio prompts to cue you in to how far into your run you are. Your phone has to remain on for the duration, so battery life is going to be an issue (though the developer says they're working on possible solutions to make it better). For what it's worth, I ran for a half hour, starting with a full battery, and at the end of my run I was STILL showing a full battery. I was listening to music as I ran, and I would have expected a noticeable amount of battery drain. It could be that there was a glitch in the battery display.

At the end of the run, I was given the option of saving or discarding the data. I saved it, and RunKeeper is now keeping a history log of the runs (again, just like Nike+).

The big problem I'm having is that RunKeeper was supposed to automatically upload the data to their website, to display it on a map, but 10 hours later it still hasn't done so and I haven't figured out how to force it. I tried a second test and that got uploaded to the website quickly. (But still not the first one).

[EDITED TO ADD: As stated above, this is resolved in the upcoming update. Occasionally, if you quit out and then resume, the whole run's data will be viewable on your iPhone but only the portion prior to your closing out the app will upload. This morning, it happened that I quit out almost immediately, in order to start up my music].

And, interestingly, the map doesn't look super-accurate. It showed my general path, but where the road curved it mapped it out as if I was running dog-legs, as though the GPS is being polled for data points too infrequently or something along those lines. If that's the case, I question the overall accuracy of the distance it is reporting. I have an e-mail in to the developer to see what input he can give me about these issues I'm having. We'll see what he says.

[EDITED TO ADD: Per the developer, the better the GPS signal, the smoother the map tracking will look. This makes sense. I'd have thought I had a pretty good signal, given that I was out in the open, on a clear morning, but maybe it wasn't that great. I wish there was some way the iPhone could show you how many satellites you've acquired, like a dedicated GPS does...]

Running with the iPhone is actually much better than I anticipated it would be. I'm used to having my phone with me when I run, and the iPhone is a bit larger and heavier than my old phone, but not by much. I'm pretty happy with the Marware Sportsuit Convertible Armband.

As for today's run, I did W2D1. I was going to continue on with W1D2, but iTunes deleted that podcast from my iPhone and I didn't realize until I was already outside. Fortunately, I already had week 2 uploaded and so I just did that instead. And it was good.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Sort-of-Triumphant Return

Like Rocky Balboa, a cockaroach, or bad Mexican dinner (choose your metaphor), I am back! This last month away from running was just a brief intermission, prompted by my getting an iPhone. I carry my phone with me when I run, stashed in an armband, for emergencies. The new phone necessitated a new armband, and it took me a while to find the right one and then get around to ordering it. (Once I finally ordered, though, it came near-instantly: I ordered on Wednesday night, and it arrived at my doorstep on Thursday morning. I wasn't sure how that was even physically possible, until I looked at the return address: apparently Marware is located just about 20 miles from my home).

I also used the month away to see if my left knee would start feeling any better - it had been a bit achey. There was zero change after a month, and so I figure that it's probably not running-related. Since running doesn't seem to make it any worse, and not running doesn't seem to make it any better, and I enjoy running, I decided to get back on track.

As for the armband, I'm pretty ambivalent about it. It's a Marware Sportsuit Convertible. It is designed to be an all-in-one phone case. It has a belt clip attachment, or it can be used without the clip as a sleeve. It has an armband attachment. It even has a little key pocket attachment. It slices! It dices! It even plays Crysis! It's a breath mint! It's a candy! Tastes great! Less filling! ...Whatever. The belt clip seems too flimsy to trust, and I don't like the case enough to use it on a 24-hour basis as a sleeve, which means I'm going to be switching cases every other day. All in all, a minor nuisance. The armband part is super-comfortable, at least. On the bright side, the iPhone means that I no longer need to wear an ipod armband on my right arm and a phone armband on my left arm, making me just a teensy bit less geeky-looking as I run.

Since this was my first run in a month, I decided to take it very easy and just did W1D1. During the walking segments, I took a few photos of my route using the iPhone's camera. It was a morning run through the park, not a weekday-dead-as-night early morning run. No sense posting pictures from those, as they would just be black squares.

1. Leaving my development...

2. Greenacres Park, about a quarter-mile from my home. Ah, Greenacres - it's the place to be. (Official City Motto. No kidding).

3. Running through the park...

4. Some wildlife: a couple of geese, an egret (I think), a squirrel, some white birds, some ducks. Camera-shy: Snails.

That last one is near the area where I once saw a small alligator. That was several years ago. Which means the next time I see him, he'll be a big alligator....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

C25k: Week 4, Day 3

C25k W4D3 - snails and spiders and sprinkers, oh my! I took quite a dousing at the tail end of my run this morning. I guess my timing was off and the sprinklers came on just as I approached them. I don't mind getting wet (it's kind of nice, at the end of the run), but the sprinklers around here use lake water, which smells very sulfurous. I love the smell of sulfur in the morning. (Not really - if I wanted that, I would just stay in bed with my 14 year old gassy dog). All quibbles aside, the run went very well. On to Week 5!

Last night I finished up Week 2 of the pushup challenge. I have to take another endurance test to find out at what level I should be doing Week 3. Even the lowest level looks pretty darn intimidating...

In other news: this morning I weighed in at 179.9! I was shocked, considering what I've eaten in the last few days. Let's see: There was home-made pound cake made for me by a client. There was "Lobster Monster" sushi from Lemongrass, our favorite local restaurant. There was a big bowl of ice cream. There was brisket. I was really anticipating a weight-gain, so I'm very pleasantly surprised that I dropped .3 pounds and broke into the 170's. I should eat poorly more often! (Wait - you mean that's not how it's supposed to work?)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

C25k: Week 4, Day 2

I'm four weeks into C25k now, and this was my first spider run this go-round. It must be that time of year again. I must have run through spider-webs every 100 yards or so, the whole run. I was constantly picking threads off of my arms and head. Apart from that, the run went well. When I came back home, I weighed myself and I am almost back in the 170's again! (180.2 was the official number for today, so hopefully on Thursday when I next weigh I will achieve that milestone).

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Rest for the Weary

Today was to be a running day, but I had a rough night and getting up at 5:00 AM to run would have meant just a few hours of sleep. So I'm using my built in "use it if you need it" extra day of rest today. I did do W2D2 of my pushup challenge last night, though.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

C25k: Week 4, Day 1

My run this morning was great! Not only was it a weekend run, which means I was able to go through the park in daylight, but it was also the start of Week 4, Day 1. This is one of my favorite weeks of all of C25k, because Ullrey's podcast for this week includes the song "Operator." It's the only music selection of his that wound up making its way into regular rotation on my ipod. Something about that song just gets me going. Week 4 also contains the first 5 minute run. Running for five minutes straight is, in my mind, something that separates runners from non-runners. I think that just about anyone, at practically any fitness level, can run for a minute or two or three. They may end the run wheezing and out of breath, but it can be done by the untrained. On the other hand, I think that to be able to run at a sustained pace for five minutes straight takes some degree of training. Since I was able to run for five minutes straight, twice, to me that means that I'm getting back into shape again. My weight-loss pace has slowed, and, I'm not seeing any muscle gain yet from the pushups, but running for five minutes feels like a real solid benchmark I can wrap my arms around nonetheless.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

C25k: Week 3, Day 3

So this is how W3 ends, not with a bang but a whimper. My W3D3 run this morning was pleasant and uneventful. There were a few unpleasant crunching sounds under foot at various points, which doubtlessly means that the snails must have been out in force, but it was too dark to see them. Yesterday, I finally remembered to change out the battery on my arm-band, so this morning it was glowing cheerily once again. It's this cool thin armband that looks reflective-yellow when unlit and that glows like a bright orange glowstick when powered up.

The best thing about being done with Week 3 of C25k is I don't have to run to that annoying "My love is your love, and your love is mine" techno song Robert Ullrey chose to play during most of Week 3. Ugh. I can hear it echoing in my head, even now. (You know, I think I might have said something very similar in my blog entry for the end of week 3, the second time I did C25k. At least I'm consistent).

Last night I finished up week 1 of the Pushup Challenge. On the one hand, I'm skeptical that doing pushups for just a few minutes, three times a week, is going to have any visual impact on my physique. On the other hand, at the beginning of the week I struggled to do 7 pushups in a row and by the end of the week I was able to do 13, only struggling on the last 3. I guess that means I must be getting better, stronger, faster - right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

C25k: Week 3, Day 2

Today was W3D2 of C25k and, as my 8 year old daughter would now say, "all is well." (She's started wearing a digital wristwatch. Every few minutes, she announces the time to anyone nearby. After hearing her do it for an hour or so, it started getting a little old. So I decided to have some fun with it: I've told her that whenever she feels compelled to announce the time, she needs to also say "...and all is well." I don't know that anyone besides me thinks it is funny, but I get a kick out of having my own personal town crier).

The only thing really unusual about this run was that it seemed shorter. Not in terms of time, though - I just didn't go as far. Maybe I was taking shorter strides, or moving more slowly? It didn't feel like it, though. I started at 5:30 and was done by just after 6 AM.

I also did Day 2 of the pushup challenge last night. It was a total of about 35 or so push-ups, separated into intervals with 90 second rests throughout. I was feeling a bit sore from the first day's round of push-ups, especially in my upper pecs (whatever those may be called - the area right below the clavicle?) My arms weren't hurting nearly as much. I guess my arms are stronger than my chest, currently, and so my chest has more catching up to do?

In terms of weight, I'm still trending downward at a rate of about 1.7 pounds a week, which is pretty much right on target. I dropped .7 pounds since the last time I weighed (on Sunday), which means I am now down to 182.2.

I'm thinking about starting to do crunches, but I'd like to find something equivalent to C25k or the Hundred Pushup Challenge. Anyone know of anything similar, for crunches or situps?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Before: 183-pound weakling

I figured that since I'm now serious about getting in shape, it might be fun to have some Before and After pictures. Technically, I suppose I should have taken the Before picture at the start of C25k. I'm already in Week 3, and have lost nearly 10 pounds already. But close enough, right? Hopefully, I'll be able to post an "After" picture at the end of C25k and the Hundred Pushups Challenge that looks substantially different.

C25k: Week 3, Day 1

I now have W3D1 under my belt. Since today is a Sunday, I did this as a park run. I misjudged the time just a bit, though, and by the time I woke up and had my running gear on it was already almost fully light outside. That's a bit of a problem when you live in Florida, in late June. It was a few minutes to 7 AM, and it was already bright, hot, and humid. I think today is gearing up to be a scorcher. I enjoyed the run, nonetheless. This time through, I've been feeling it in my knees more than anywhere else. Nothing too painful, thankfully.

It's funny how time alters perception. I remember my first time through C25k - at the beginning of week three, I thought that I'd never be able to run for three whole minutes without stopping. But I also remember looking back at week three from the end of the program and thinking "ha! Three minutes? That's nothing!" Now, here I am once again, looking at that same three minute run and thinking that it is quite an imposing hurdle. But I did it today, and so I'm proud of myself. And I'm looking forward to doing it again on Day 2. More than that, though, I'm looking forward to the fact that in a few short weeks I'll be looking back at the three minute runs of week three and thinking how laughably short they are.

In other Dan Health News: Yesterday I started with the Hundred Pushups program I mentioned in my prior post. It begins with a test of the maximum number of pushups you can do, to set a baseline and determine at what level of the program you should begin. I was only able to do 7 measly pushups before collapsing. That put me in the second tier. Then, a few hours later, I started W1D1 of the program: with 60 second breaks in between each, I did: 7 pushups, 7 pushups, 5 pushups, 4 pushups, and 8 pushups. I thought I'd be feeling it in my arms or chest today, but I'm really not. It so reminded me of that classic pushups scene from the beginning of "Stripes," with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis:

I bet you can't do five pushups.

Five pushups?

I got $10 says I can do five pushups.

Okay, let's go. Five good ones. Come on.

- Not Marine pushups.
- No, simple pushups.

I've never heard bones creak like that.

That's none.

- I'm praying.
- You ought to.

Let's go. There's a time limit here.

He's almost set. He's eyeing that rug.

And that's one. All right. He's off. He's moving now.

That's two. Not that good though.

That's three.

I think you're ready for the Special Olympics.

That's three.

- That's four.
- Four.

I was testing you.

And here goes five. Will he do it?

Congratulations. You just doubled your money.

I gotta get in shape. I gotta dry out, or I'll be dead before I'm 40. The Army's my only chance.

Friday, June 27, 2008

C25k: Week 2, Day 3

Another week down! Not much to comment on for this run. I woke. I ran. I blogged. It was good.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

C25k: Week 2, Day 2

I originally planned to run W2D2 yesterday, rather than today. Like the two previous times I've done C25k, I am sticking to an every-other-day schedule rather than a 3-times-a-week schedule. That way, if there is ever a scheduled day in any given week I can't run, I am still technically on-schedule. It's kind of like having one free pass each week. Yesterday, I had to use that free pass: doing laundry until 1:00 AM the night before meant I was just too tired to get out of bed at 4:45 to start getting ready for the run. I got up, shut off the clock, and went back to bed until 6:30 AM. Today, Wednesday, I got back on track and did W2D2. The run was fine. A few barking dogs took interest in me, but thankfully all were leashed or fenced. Otherwise, the roads were pretty unpopulated.

Last time through C25k, I tried but didn't really succeed at adding a strength-training routine to my running schedule. I think part of the problem was that C25k provides a great graduated structure, but I didn't really have anything similar to follow for an upper-body workout. I've now found what I think will be perfect: http://hundredpushups.com - I'm excited to start with it tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

C25k: Week 2, Day 1: Cracks in the Pavement

Today was my first weekend run. I rolled out of bed at about 6:45 AM (I got to sleep in!) and was on the road by 7. It was already fully light, but not yet too hot. Perfect running weather. I sprayed myself down with bugspray (we've had a lot of rain lately) and headed off to the park. This was my first run through the park in about a year. It's funny how it has changed during the course of a year in minor but noticeable ways: the palm trees are a bit bigger and more covered with spanish moss and kudzu, there's a bit more graffiti, and there are a few places where tree roots have begun to buckle the running path, pushing it up from underneath. I wonder what it will look like in a few more years if it is let go? I guess the park and I share a bit in common: we're both a little more overgrown, and we both a few new wrinkles, but we're still holding it together for the most part.

The run itself was fine: Week 2 always seems easier than week 1: tacking on 30 seconds to each run isn't hardly anything, and the intervals between the runs are longer (2 minutes, as opposed to the first week's 90 seconds) and there are only 6 runs rather than the first week's 8. I am really anxious to get back to the uninterrupted runs that comprise the final weeks of the C25k routine, but I know that my body is not ready for me to jump right back to that. Slow and steady wins the race.

Friday, June 20, 2008

C25k: Week 1, Day 3

In order to write this post, I first had to set the WayBack Machine to Friday, June 20: Although I ran on Friday as scheduled, I didn't have the opportunity to post until Sunday morning (which is now).

W1D3 concluded well; I'd say it was the easiest of the three runs this week. Not much to report. I'm looking forward to my first weekend run, which will take me back through the park route and which will be the first run of Week 2. After this run, I weighed in at 185.7, so I'm moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

C25k: Week 1, Day 2

I now have W1D2 under my belt. I felt a little sore yesterday, which is to be expected, but it didn't prevent me from getting out there this morning. It was a perfect morning for running: low humidity and mostly clear skies. It was fully dark when I set out, and the sky was just starting to lighten when I returned home. I went out to walk the dog a half-hour later and it had started to drizzle. I looked up and saw a beautiful full-arc rainbow crossing over the route I had just run. I'll take that as a sign that I'm back on the right track.

Monday, June 16, 2008

C25k: Week 1, Day 1 - third time's a charm

I rolled out of bed this morning, geared up, and hit the road just as dawn was starting to break. The run felt great! I could really feel it in my calves. I'm looking forward to feeling sore tomorrow. Right now, I feel like I have a spring in my step, and I'm so glad to be back on the path to good health. It was good to hear Robert Ullrey's voice again, giving me encouragement through my headphones as I ran.

When I weighed myself after running (which was -- is -- my normal routine), my weight was 188.6. I assume that my weight last night of 194.5 was a false reading, artificially high due to it being post-dinner and taken at the end of the day. Still, seeing the drop first thing this morning was nice.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hit the Road, Jack

After a long hibernation, I am back and motivated to get back into shape. I'll be restarting C25k from the beginning. For all those keeping score, this will be my third time through C25k. I've graduated each of the other two times, and I intend to do the same this time around. Only this time, after I graduate I'll keep on going. And going. And going. Unlike the second time, where I completed it but didn't lose any weight, this time (like the first time) I plan on keeping to a better diet so hopefully I'll be shedding some pounds: My weight is 194.5, which is just about as heavy as I've ever been. My sportbrain needs a new battery, as does my Nike+. But I'm not going to let lack of tech keep me off the road. I figure I can pick up a new battery for the former at CVS tomorrow. Getting a replacement battery for the Nike+ is a bit more problematic as I think I may have to send the whole unit in, or something like that.