Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Last Day of April Post

All the bells and whistles:  My upstairs neighbors and Condo Association President of Shangri-La Condo Association listed their unit for sale over the weekend.  Although the floor plan is identical to ours, they have an arguably better unit in that it is on the top floor and comes with parking.  Yes sans elevator it is a hassle but manageable for a young family.  They also have better slightly floors and nice exposed brick that makes people go ga-ga.

Our downstairs neighbors sent out an email last month saying they are moving to the burbs and will place their unit on the market on May 27.  They do not plan to rent their unit out in the meantime and they said something about not selling it for less than they owe so as not to bring property values down any further in Shangri-La.

This pleases me on several levels with some concern caveats.  If they can sell within 10% of their asking price, it sets a more recent comp in the building for the rest of us to work off of. 

If they are unable to sell then it sort of validates my efforts in 2010 to do the same thing. 

Of course, if they do sell, it does spell the end of the Golden Age at Shangri-La Condo Association.  Before these neighbors came along the Condo Board was an inept group of do-nothings. 

Reached my goal about a month early:  Checking the scale yesterday I found that I weigh 200.2 lbs!  Given that I was hovering around 215 lbs that week between Xmas and NYE, that works out to be 15 pounds in a little more than 4 months.  Here's how I did it.

In that same amount of time, I ran 260 or so miles.  Now before anyone panics, that works out to less than 15 miles a week, give or take.  In that time, according to my DailyMile stats, there were two weeks in which I only ran once and one week in which I ran 0 miles.  I also didn't even run on a lot of weekends because I was too busy playing with the new house.

As usual the bulk of the weight didn't even come off until the weather got warmer and the body's natural programming to store fat for the winter switched off.  Also as usual I did better in weeks when I did have more consistent running (duh) for instance, 3-4 times spread out over the week versus not doing anything all week and then getting a run in on Thursday and Sunday).  While I didn't make any major diet changes we have made a morning smoothie part of our daily routine.

 All of this ties in with my getting back to my pre-knee scope running form. I noticed earlier this month that it wasn't as much of a a struggle to get going on the dreadmill as it has been.  

So the question now is can I drop another 5 lbs before the Soldier Field 10 miler in four weeks.  In theory, it is doable though it will have challenges as well.  Since the weather is getting nicer, I do tend to grill more.  And working in IT does make giving up drinking a nonstarter.  Fortunately, I do have a half marathon this weekend so that should burn some calories.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why do the more comfortable Running shoes cost more

So this is as good place as any to record my latest shoe purchase.  I just bought the Aasics GT-2000 in black/brilliant blue/lime for $120 -- less a 10% coupon that knocked two bucks off the price after sales tax. 

Aasics GT-2000

They are a little more on the neon side than I generally prefer but since Runner Commandment 7 is Thou Shalt Not Buy Shoes based on Color, I'm stuck with them.  I tried on several pairs at Universal Sole while picking up my race packet for the Lakefront 10 and these were the ones that felt the best.  That’s not to say the other shoes didn't feel good, in fact any of the ones I was shown by the Felicia Day clone would have been perfectly fine.

I'm also considering getting a second pair of shoes now as backup instead of waiting until these are shot.  Conventional Runner Wisdom is to buy two pairs of the same shoes and alternate them between runs so that the cushions have at least 24 hours to decompress.  Alas, I'm:
  1. Too cheap and
  2. Too undisciplined to do something like that.

More to point #1 since I spent ~$120 on the first pair (after discount) I want my second pair to be cheaper.  So it’s likely the $58 neutral or the $90 stability I saw at Dick's Sporting Goods the other week.  I will have to go back to Dick's and see which feels better, IIRC the $90 felt better but I want to double check.

My cousin asked about the Newton Line.  I cannot say anything about Newton.  I've heard of them but I don't recall if my runner friends endorse them or not.  They came on the scene during the time I was not running as much so obviously I wasn't gonna invest $200 beans in any running shoes. 

My psychobabble two-cents:  I do think that while research and technology has improved the running shoe, I do wonder how much of a game changer a $200 pair of shoes can be.  If we got in our Delorean and took a pair back to the First Boston Marathon, would the winner who ran 2:50 have run a 2:30 instead?  Unless there is some new breakthrough in shoe design or materials, we might be at the threshold of what a shoe can do for us.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lakefront 10miler Report

It's all about the Finisher Medal
Yesterday I ran my third race of the year, the Lakefront 10 miler. Based on the finisher medals in the basement, I've run this at least half a dozen times. Though there were undoubtedly years when they didn't give a finisher medal.  Personally, I prefer my race entry fee go towards a finisher medal to the T-shirt they generally give though there has been a switch from useless cotton T-shirt to Technical Shirt that you can run in, which kinda makes sense for runners. 

I arrived about 15 minutes before race start (based on the timestamp of my parking meter receipt) which was enough time to get to the start but not enough to risk gear check.  Fortunately, when you park so close to the starting line, your car is a better gear check anyway.   Saw B before the race and MH on the course twice. Did not see SHB and couldn't find race results for her. I suspect she didn't make the race after all.

There was the expected pre-race acknowledgement of what happened in Boston last week and more people paid attention during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner than usual for a race.  I've always thought it was ridiculous to ask runners to take off their headbands and hats for this.  After the race started I saw someone from my CARA summer training group and said hello.  It turns out several of our 8:30 pace group was running this race. 

Thursten Howell the IV told me that everyone was talking about meeting for breakfast afterwards and considering one of my past suggestions, Julius Meinl.  Since I knew I was not going to be able to hold pace with Howell the IV so we made plans to meet at a designated spot post race. 

They actually had a good range of songs
I had a better race than I did last year. My overall time (1:24:27) was about five minutes faster and my pace was a good 36 seconds faster than last year's effort. That said, it was still a tough run. I haven't run more than 6 miles at a time this year and I'm sure I posted positive splits. I ran the whole thing with very short walk breaks at select water stations. This was to give me a quick rest and often a chance to adjust my tights. It felt very warm during the run, too hot for three layers but too cold for only two. At the finish, I cooled off very quickly and couldn't wait to change into my dry shirts.

Last year I finished just under 1:30 and I recall I walked a little more. This year there was a better experience though I did notice more people passing me than the other way around. Assuming I can be consistent with my running and shed a few more pounds (203 lbs that AM) I should be able to shave a couple more minutes off my time at the SF10 next month.

So after the race, once I caught my breath, I found everyone and since we were getting cold, we opted to head for Meinl skipping the post race party (who really needs a cold beer at 9:30 anway).  It was a very large group and we took over the back section of Meinl.

We talked about what we had been up to and what we were training for, and what we were gonna do this summer running wise.  We talked about Boston, of course.  One of the young fast runners who is also very involved in the young adult catholic community pointed out how great it was that our runner community is so positive and uplifting and friendly.  I kinda wish our Catholic Community could be the same way I almost told him.  I didn't want to burst that bubble though.

Just past Mile 9

He is onto something though.  The Runner Community has this shared bond that the Catholic Mass attempts to achieve through the Communion Ritual (with various degrees of success).  Except for a very small number of self-centured or standoffish runners, most of us are able to connect with each other whether you've run 1 marathon or a dozen, or even none-at-all.  We've all had races were we ran like the wind and runs where we sucked wind.  If you do this long enough, you've had the joy of acheiving a new Personal Best along with the sorrow of missing a BQ by that much

It's a community I felt exiled from in 2009 and 2011 when I wasn't training for a marathon.  It wasn't an intential exile unlike the one I'm experiencing with my Catholic Friends but rather a out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of exile.  Hopefully I can continue to improve my running stamina enough to avoid that exile again. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Bar is done, just in time for Happy Hour

So it took a little bitof time but we managed to get the most important room together. The bar

Some stuff is DIY, other stuff requires Professionals

If only it were that simple

So one of the things I was able to work on during the brief warm front last weekend was work on this leak. We call these our wizard of oz doors and there was a small leak coming into the basement. The previous owner probably put some caulk to deal with it short term with the intention of fixing it permanently once the weather was more cooperative. However the temporary fix was probably good enough to put off fixing it in lieu of other projects. Then he decided to sell the place so now it's my problem.

So I researched a caulk and ordered a general purpose one that will bond between metal and stone. Someday I will have to involve us waterproofing or some similar company. In the meantime, I had my in-laws available so I put them to work. I stripped away all the old caulk then FIL dug up and realigned the nearby pavers. This was to get water to drain away from the doors. Finally MIL recaulked the doors because she is really good at those things.

Unfortunately, there is still a leak.  On top of that water is also getting into the garage.  Therefore  I have to call the pros.  Since we had a pseudo-Monsoon in Chicago yesterday, the earliest appointment I could get was middle of May.  At least that gives my wallet some time to rest.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Slowly getting the Artwork on the Walls

Boulevard of Broken Dreams is too
college to be shown in family room
Little by little we are slowly getting around to hanging up what counts for artwork around here. I have what I consider two cool pieces of grown up artwork, along with a couple of other smaller items that cover the walls nicely. Nightingale has some pieces that have nice frames but she isn't happy with the pictures per se.

She also had a bunch of paintings of her family's farm in Michigan, which was sold years ago. We had them in our Condo and I hung them in the dining room the Friday after Thanksgiving of that first year she moved in because I was tired of them living on the floor.  I was certain she was going to hang them here but somehow tthey migrated North for her sister's new home in Gross Pointe. 

Picked up this painting in Virginia Beach
So the goal is to find things at estate and garage sales throughout the summer. Now the conflict is that I wanted to hang as many things as we could so the corner of the attic the paintings were sitting in would be freed up. Nightingale was afraid that once we hung something, it would be permanent. So we compromised, and found places for the two grown up pieces that I have.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon becomes Boston Massacre

So for those that don't know -- or in the event this blog is something the alien overlords read centuries from now when they return to earth, bored out of their minds from an extended millenia of Intergalactic carpooling -- a couple of bombs went off at the Boston Marathon yesterday. 

What was otherwise an ordinary spring day quickly turned into a bloody massacre when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon killing two and injured more than 100 people on site.

As information slowly trickled in, and I watched as much of the broadcast feed as I could get, the news reminded me of 9/11 all over again.  How many times are we gonna have to see this movie, I thought.  I wish I had said this:
"The human garbage who commit these atrocities take advantage of the fundamental American freedom to move and associate freely. And they cowardly target defenseless people who not only pose no resistance to them but have no idea they are even part of whatever conflict the terrorists think they're engaged in. Terrorism is cowardice."

When I got home, after fighting back tears during my drive, I went for short run yesterday, in the rain.  it wasn't a quality run but I like to think it helped a little bit.  I've never been good enough to get into Boston and would have been fine just qualifying all those years ago.  I've long since put that desire on the back burner.  Now I kinda feel like I need to figure out a way to run that racecourse, a course that will forever be changed.

What to say about yesterday that hasn't already been said.  One of the bloggers on ChicagoNow said it pretty well: 

  • Don't blame anyone social, political, religious, or ethnic group for the attack. Namely, don't blame the Middle Easterners or Muslims. Blame just the person(s). Evil isn't a consequence of heritage. Evil is evil.
  • Don't generalize. One person in a social or ethnic group can cause damage but don't extend the guilt to everyone else simply because of their heritage or nationality.
  • Don't blame President Obama. Or Bush. Or Al Gore. Or another political party or person you disagree with.
  • Don't immediately use the tragedy to promote your beliefs or causes. People from all sides in politics are already guilty of this.
  • If you are not a 'believer,' don't make fun of or fault people for praying. Even if you don't believe it provides material assistance, it can't hurt. And it is often of comfort to both the pray-er and the pray-ee.
  • If you are a believer, don't denigrate people who don't believe or make fun of them when they are supportive of your own beliefs and desire to pray. It's an act of generosity, people. Of solidarity. The atheists who are tweeting these things *understand* that now is not the time to make show of our divisions or differences.
This is a time to move carefully and cautiously.  There will be plenty of time for accusations later.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Shamrock Shuffle Report late recap

This recap comes a bit late because I was under the weather and busy dealing with the Perils of Corporate America all week.  Last Sunday, like 40k other Chicagoans, I ran the Bank of America Shamrock shuffle. I've run this race every year since 1997 or 1998 (I'll have to look that up on Athlinks) except for 2007 when I was supposed to be in Atlanta running a marathon. 

Us pre-race

That year was a terrible year for my running, my career and my social life so it kind of made sense that missing out on the Shuffle was like the ominous warning in a Greek Tragedy.

Ahem, back to the present.  Like it does to many, this race once represented the official start of the Running Season to me. That is until I became a year-round runner and discovered that people who run year round run other races and the Shuffle is more of a fresh-soph event than varsity.

Still, it represents something and I'm quite happy to have run it so many times that I am awarded with a decent starting corral in spite of my declining racing times.

About a decade ago they enacted a corral system and IIRC the first year signing up early got you a preferred start.   The email came in November or something and I signed up within minutes of receiving it, breaking my previous pattern of avoiding making plans too far out. 

A few years later they started associating start times with other race results And past Shamrock shuffle results.  At the same time my race times had started to improve and I was getting faster.  The combination worked out splendidly.

It turned out to be one of the warmer Shuffles in recent years
One year they had two types of pre-starting corrals --Preferred Start and Qualified Start -- and then the regular start.  SHB had gotten a Preferred Start and was kinda bragging among our group.  I quietly said "that's cool, I didn't get a Preferred Start this year."  She knew me well enough to avoid the set up I was placing her in and she said "that's because you probably got a Qualified Start."

She knew me very well. 

Ahem, back to the present.  The first year I introduced Nightingale to the Shuffle (2010) it was cold and she was actually running under a friend's bib.  Her seed was in the Second Wave which wouldn't start until 45 minutes after the First Wave, when I would be finished, even in my then reduced speedy capacity.

This meant that she had to wait in line for over an hour before she even crossed the Starting Line and then another hour until she finished.  While it somehow worked out the first year, the problem that does occur at this and many other races is meeting up afterwards.  At most races, I usually know a lot of people and I want to spend some time talking to them.  This means I sometimes forget to make it back to where we said we would meet up post-race.  If I didn't get to gear check and didn't have my phone with me, it was hard for Nightingale not to get pissed to figure out what was going on.

So luckily we have B's place.  Ever since B got her South Loop Condo, she's almost always had some type of pre and post-Shuffle party. Understandably so, for the last few years it's been more informal and just a place to stow your gear and grab some coffee, with light munchies afterwards. This year it seems she's working toward swinging toward the other end of the pendulum as she had more people and some wonderful chili.

I got to enjoy a couple of beers while waiting for NG to finish

Now the plan is to make our way back to B's place at whatever pace we can.  If she gets there before I do, she's not alone and has people to talk with while she waits for me to do my Mayor of the Running Group thing.

It's All Relative:  Oh this year's results.  So I averaged 7:47s and finished just under 39 minutes.  Not my best time but it should be enough to keep my B corral/Preferred Start.

Mr Massage and I lined up together and I thought he took off but I ended up finishing two minutes ahead of him.  My friend THS, who got me started on this pay to run races things nearly two decades ago, finished 20 seconds ahead of me, and he even stopped for a bathroom break.  A really fast runner friend who has also been coming back from injury finished exactly six minutes before me.  She was a little disappointed that she didn't finish faster.  I finished with a time like hers just once and I was sad that I hadn't had enough in the tank to break 30 minutes.  I don't think I'll get another shot at that so good luck to her.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Another Bad Week for Blogging

In the middle of the night Sunday I woke up in a cold sweat.  I had a fever and also felt nauseous  This was surprising because I had not had much if anything alcoholic to drink.  I went to the bathroom in the basement so I wouldn't wake Nightingale and threw up.  It wasn't the "I drank too much" throw up we are all familiar with from our college days (and beyond unfortunately).  It was the something is wrong with you, something is disagreeing with your body and your body is trying to kick that something's ass outside the door  throw up.  And if you won't go out the mouth then let me introduce you to my good friend diarrhea.

Apologies for the graphic description and TMI.  The point is that I ended up with what appears to be some type of food poisoning that also sidelined me.  I did manage to sleep through most of the night and thought I was well enough to go to work on Monday.  Only once I got there I was uber sleepy.  So I told my boss and he sent me home.  Luckily we have a very strong "get your sick ass home and don't spread your germs" policy at TopFive -- in fact I'm sure that's how it's referenced in the Employee Manual. 

LeadBelly just opened in our hood,
 i'm gonna have to run a lot to eat there 
So I got home around 11:30 and slept until about 2:30, logged in and learned that Mr Magoo had canceled our 3:30 call (he was sick too, poor baby) and hadn't bothered to come into the office at all.  I watched 10 minutes of the Cubs game and while it didn't make me any more nauseous, I went back to sleep until Nightingale came home.  Feeling better, we went for a walk around our new neighborhood.  We walked to Portage Park and then stopped for dipped ice cream cones at Dairy Queen.  We then walked West on Irving Park Rd (IPR) and then headed home because the wind shifted and it got cold.

So the rest of the week I felt better but my appetite didn't return until late Wednesday so even though I've done no exercise since Sunday morning's Shamrock Shuffle, my scale tells me I'm at 202 lbs today.  Not the way I want to lose weight but now I do have a better appreciation of the instant gratification of anorexia if not an understanding of why one would risk the long term consequences.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Scale giveth and the Scale taketh away

Coat Rack Monstrosity
So earlier this week I weigh around 205 lbs. That number is suspect, of course, because I ran 6 miles late Sunday so when I weighed myself Monday, the 204.3 lbs was probably more dehydration than true weight.  And it doesn't help that this week I've only run one other time.  I had a good workout Tuesday night but then skipped running yesterday in lieu of a nap.  Of course that didn't stop me from eating like I was going to run 6 miles after work during the day Wednesday.
Still that's 10 lbs. off since the last week of December, give or take.  I was at 207 in February and was thinking I'd easily lose another 5 lbs that month.  Unfortunately I managed to pull a muscle in my lower back.  It was 90% healed when I went out and reinjured it.  So between that and the cold weather, I was only able to maintain not lose weight.

My real point is that it should be entirely realistic to weigh 200 lbs. by the time I run the Soldier Field 10 on Memorial Day weekend.

In fact, that is very conservative.  Now that Winter is essentially over and our caveman programming to store fat for the winter should end, it should be feasible to weigh 200 by the first week of May and perhaps even 195 by SF10.  With some diligence -- eating right, more consistent exercise and the reduction of alcohol intake during the week, it shouldn't even be much harder.

Speaking of winter ending, I'm really really hoping that Nightingale will settle on one coat or jacket and release some of the coat hooks we have back into the wild.  I've mentioned the hallway project we hope to undertake once our credit cards get some breathing room.  In the mean time we have to rely on three built in hooks. 

I figured one for NG coat, one for my coat, one for our bags and/or guests.  NG figured three for her and I get the dining room chairs.  ah marriage equality.
SNeed an answer for this space before Winter

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Protocol faux pas probably won't be an issue with Gay Marriages

With all the talk about marriage equality this week, it brought to mind some memories of my wedding and some of the weddings I've attended.  We made the decision not to do a receiving line.  Typically, couples stand outside the church and thank everyone as they exit for coming, or they do this at the reception. 

Ostensibly we didn't do it because we wanted to maximize the time for everyone to get from the church to the reception hall.  You just never know how Saturday afternoon/evening traffic will turn out.  We also wanted to have the most time for our pictures.  We thought we would have time at our reception to go around to every table and say thank you, but we didn't.  We still got to talk to our guests, we just had to divide and conquer to cover the whole group.  At first Nightingale was upset about that but in time she came to realize that all weddings have their little hidden snafus and in the grand scheme things it didn't make a difference. 

Two prior weddings that also helped influence the decision were Na's and B's which were less than a year apart.  At Na's wedding in 2009, the first one I brought Nightingale to and sort of officially introduced her to the running crowd, there was an awkward moment in the receiving line outside the church.  The chick in front of us was obviously a close friend of Na's or at least had a lot to say because they started chit-chatting.  Na's husband was left trying to talk to us until Na was done gabbing.  He had met me once perhaps twice and we didn't have much to say to each other beyond congrats and thanks for coming.  In reality it was really just a minute or two but it felt like a week or more.  Note to brides:  your job here is to keep the line moving.

The next year was B's wedding.  She did the receiving line at the reception, although the ceremony was there too so it was one-stop shopping.  I wasn't even going to bother going through the receiving line but we decided at the last minute to do so.  As such, we were the last couple in line.  At the moment we got to B she said "sorry gotta kick you out of here, we need to get into the dining hall."  Her wedding gift dropped 25% in value that moment and I was certain she wouldn't be invited to ours.

I was very pissed because, again Nightingale was just starting to meet and interact with all my running friends and I doubt B would have done that to SHB or anyone else in the group.  Treat me how you want but be respectful to my future fiancĂ©.  Over time I've come to realize that is how B is hardwired.  She values practicality over politeness and function over common fucking sense.

Fast forward a few years and the relationships between Na and I, and B and I are much better thanks to their liking of Nightingale.  B and Na of course aren't speaking to each other and Na has relocated for a job.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Abusing my role as an IT Guru

Or the less popular kitty porn
A common misconception that non-techy people have about techs is that we are computer gods. I do my best to discourage this thinking and educate people whenever possible. However, recently I couldn't help but use it to my advantage in the most guilty manner

My FIL likes to forward inappropriate emails. I happened to mention that my Mallet of Loving Correctness for dealing with those sorts of senders is to hack their accounts, steal their identity and sign them up for Russian porn. Gay Russian porn.

Todays Public Service Announcement: When someone cancels 11th hour, there are usually two possibilities.

1) something legitimately came up at the last minute and they couldn't make it.

2) they never really want to be part of whatever was going on, but didn't have the ability to communicate that until the pressure overwhelmed them and they panicked at the last minute.

Not Mine but an idea for our yard
Without emperical evidence, it's hard to tell the two situations apart. Usually time will provide enough situations where you can make an educated guess on which one it is. Sometimes you can tell right away.

On of my favorite lines from A Few Good Men is "I'm sure you don't have a good excuse, so I won't force you to come up with a bad one."

A lot of people do come up with a bad one when they are trying to get out of something. Maybe they are trying to cushion the disappointment or maybe they just had an extra helping of lameness that morning. They don't think beyond the excuse so they not only disappoint but they insult your intelligence.

So my PSA for today is if you want to show you were the victim of uncontrollable events instead of simply being a lameass, the next time you cancel 11th hour take the lead on re-scheduling or planning the next event. You don't have to do all the heavy lifting, but you should be to one to say "hey how about we try again next week/month" or "Let's get together for that drink Thursday."

I'd say the amount of work you need to do is inversely proportional to the lameness of your excuse. You're welcome.