Friday, August 31, 2012

It's best to shower for everyone's benefit

New shoes broken in this week
 I’ve talked about the challenges involved with marathon training many times here. The first and last third of the schedule aren’t so bad, especially for the Novice and Intermediate programs. At the beginning the distance for the weekday runs are less than 5 miles which is easy for most runners to get in before work, during lunch or after work even in warm temperatures. At the end you are tapering and the mileage decreases as well.

It’s the middle of the schedule that is always tough. Background on marathon training: There are typically three training programs that people follow: Novice, Intermediate and Advanced schedules. The essential difference is amount of miles you run per week, including longer LRs. For instance this past Saturday it was 15, 17 and 19 respectively.

Here’s a typical week pulled from the middle of the schedule:

Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat (LR) Sun
Rest 4 mi 9 mi 5 mi Rest 18 mi  Rest

If you don’t run before work, you have to run after or during lunch. The typical member of the RatRace isn’t going to get that 9 mi run in during their lunch “hour”. If you go by the book and adhere to expert advice, you really should allow 24 hours rest between runs and a rest day before your LR. It’s a good idea to take a couple days off after the LR once the mileage gets up to double digits.

Some people are very consistent and can adapt their lives to this schedule. SHB is one of those people though she pays a price for that ability.  For most, including myself, Life gets in the way and I end up adapting the schedule to my life. In my former Single Life, there was always some social event that promised interaction with the opposite sex and adult beverages. I’m terrible at getting up before work and running and back then running during lunch wasn’t an option so I often had a dilemma: run after work or go to the event? In the early weeks both could be done with time for a shower.

Today I don't usually have a social event to run off to after work.  Instead I'd prefer to get home before the parking disappears and enjoy some sunset decktime. Yet I still struggle with keeping to the schedule. 

Weather wise, it would have been prudent for me to run Mon, Tues and Wed with two days of rest before this week's 18 miler. Even though Saturday's run sucked, it was a cutback so it would have worked from a mileage standpoint as well.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Two Brilliant Moves Inspired by Life Hacker

Two brillant moves I've made this summer thanks to Life Hacker

1) we could not get good wifi on our back deck. If we had our door open, we got a sight unstable signal. With the AC on, we usually needed to keep that door closed, which all but killed the signal.

Gotta find a use for that extra network port
 One option was to hack my old routerlike this article suggests, and convert it into a repeater.   The IT geek in me really wanted to try this.  However, I know that since this isn't something I do every day, it would probably take me hours longer than the article suggests.  Instead I bought a repeater on the recommendation of a friend from the Low Rent Consulting Company days.  Berwyn Boy knows his stuff when it comes to networking and I trust his recommendation.

It cost $60 but it was money well spent because I didn't waste 2+ hours of my life attempting to acheive this hack. The sad thing is that I'm probably going to try when we get a house because I suspect I'll need more than one repeater and because I'd be a poor IT guy if I didn't try. So challenge accepted.

2) Through another LH article, I discovered Amazon Subscribe and Save. Changing the cat box has become my job and along with that comes buying the litter. Given that's one more thing to haul up two flights of stairs especially since we sometimes don't get to park on our block let along out front of our condo building, I decided to give this a test and ordered Kitty Litter.

The possibilities are only limited to our available storage
I read through the reviews at Amazon and there is some controversy over the type of litter they advertise and what they actually send. If you don't know this, cats can be somewhat picky about where they shat. There's also issues with dust and clumping and whatever. Basically the pet industry has figured out a way to make oodles of money on cat latrines.

We are fortunate that the brand they ship meets our needs so once the first order I arrived, I upped our monthly repeating order to a full months supply. Yes it costs a little more than at Jewel but it's totally worth it.

When we get the house, I may add other items like paper towels and toilet paper.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Armstrongs

Last week we lost two heroes named Armstrong. One through death, and the other through a fall from grace.

With apologies to Charles Dickens:

One was the best of a generation, one was his own worst enemy,
One advanced the Age of Wisdom, one apparently succumbed to foolishness,
One was the epoch of belief, one will unfortunately become the epoch of incredulity,
One invited the season of Light, one will now live seasons of Darkness,
One brought the spring of hope, one bears the winter of despair.
Both Armstrongs were heroes and had their moments in the historical spotlight. Neil avoided it, Lance exploited it.

I was barely two months old when Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon. So I cannot accurately speak of what it was like to be there when it happened. Ironically, we didn’t have social media, yet achieved something fantastic with technology and budget probably significantly infantile when compared to the infrastructure of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

News sources agree that Neil was truly reticent. He downplayed his role in history, and didn’t reach for supersized share of the glory pie. I’m guessing he wasn’t part of the one percent, though I doubt anyone would begrudge him if he were. He was content to retire in a suburb in Ohio and teach at University of Cincinnati. Very modest for someone who went where no man has gone before.

Lance Armstrong is the polar opposite of Neil. An opportunist, he leveraged his battle with Cancer and his passion for cycling to raise millions of dollars for cancer research. His other claim to fame was leaving his wife for Cheryl Crow. We may never know the intimate details as Kristin has been nothing but classy about it on her blog.

And while I thought he was such a pompous ass when he attempted to run his first marathon that I not so secretly wished he would break a leg, I too cheered when he broke the record for Tour de France titles. After all, it gave French people yet another reason to hate Americans.

In the minds of his detractors, Lance fought USADA because he was a cheater. And he gave up the fight because he was a cheater. Can’t have it both ways. Maybe he just realized it was a no-win situation. In no-win scenarios, heroes are expected to make the best, right decision not the easy, popular decision.

I don’t know if Lance cheated and neither does the average Joe. Only Lance and his maker know for certain. According to my quick Google-fu, Lance never failed any tests and there hasn’t been an official trial. There have just been a group of people who testified that they saw him doping. Either the guy found a new way to dope that eludes testing, or … Occam's razor might apply here.

Both Armstrongs were heroes, which are always harder to believe in than martyrs. And because they are harder to believe in, they are judged harder and held to a higher, perhaps impossible standard.

Neil held to that standard by staying out of the limelight and true to his beliefs that “The space program was one with many, many moving parts, and he was only one of them.” He worked within the system to find the balance between giving the public what they wanted and maintaining his privacy.

Lance attempted to outpace that standard and was seduced by opportunity. He bucked against the system time and time again and when the music stopped, he had more people who wanted to see him fall than rise.

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Different approaches to the same goal

Not one of our more active weekends.  MIL is in town staying with us for the weekend because she has a nearby work assignment during the week.  So we are dragging her along on our errands and house-hunting adventures.  We were walking around the neighborhood of a house we are going to look at and found a gem of a second hand store where I picked up a nice little book for our future children.

Hopefully this gives them an edge at Hogwatts
 Nightingale has been coming to the downtown site to do some running with one of our friends. They are training for the Detriot Half Marathon so it makes sense for Nightingale to meet up with her before the sun gets too hot.  With MIL in town, Nightingale was anxty about getting home as quick as possible. 

This is one of the ways we don't operate on the same wavelength.  I figure her mom is capable of keeping herself entertained for a few hours while we go about our routine.  Nightingale believes that her mom is in town and they should spend every available moment together.  It's probably how normal people do it but I was raised by wolves.

We still made time for breakfast and social maintenance with our runner friends.  SHB asked me how my run went and I didn't seize my moment quick enough so she started talking about hers.  With her I feel like I have to either say everything I want to say in that moment or yield the floor.  After a 12 mile run, it sometimes takes me a minute to gather my thoughts.  I did make a little better progress getting talk time in at the Starbucks though that is probably because there were only three of us.  When there's an audience SHB doesn't give up center stage very easily.

In any event, this run was not as good as the 15 and 16 milers probably because it was hotter and humid,  and I also wasn't properly hydrated especially since Nightingale, MIL and I went through four bottles of wine.  At least I did go to bed early enough even though they stayed up and argued politics until midnight.

It's hard for me to determine if my struggles are simply that I haven't run this much mileage in a couple years and my body is making normal adjustments or if it's my knees, or both.  To be sure, the knees do experience some soreness.  There's also some tightness in the quads, hamstrings and even IT band.  This is usually somewhat normal for runners training for a marathon.  I need to err on the side of caution however and slow down or cut out miles if it gets to be too much however and live to run another day.  After next week's 18 miler I should know better whether it's soreness or pain.

So this is the last weekend that DrDrea and Tracy are both leaving Chicago on Monday.  DrDrea is moving to Houston to be with her husband and Tracy is starting a new position in DC.   Normally we'd do something with them this weekend but again, with the MIL in town, it isn't very feasible.  I hope DrDrea understands: welcome to Married Life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's hard to run when you have your foot in your mouth

I worked from home (WFH) on Wednesday so that I could get my midweek long run in and also go to the concert in the park. It was 8 miles and I had intended to run earlier in the morning or at least no later than noon, since that would be the lunch hour and I'm least likely to get bugged by work related events. Unfortunately a call took longer than expected so it wasn't until 1pm when I got out the door. Even at my peak form it would have taken me an hour to run 8 miles and when you factor in traffic, water fountain stops and whatever else, we're talking the better part of 90 minutes all said and done.

Getting an 8 mile run in city streets requires a very carefully planned route. I usually run east to Sacramento and then head north until I can connect with Ronan Park. An out and back on this route gives me 6 miles. By running California Avenue, and then north through the windy Ravenswood Manor streets I can usually add an extra half mile each way. So I would have had to simply find another mile at the end, perhaps run up another north-south street to Irving Park and back.

Alas, I just wasn't feeling it. Though I'm getting stronger, I'm not in peak form and with the cloud cover gone and the sun, it wasn't an effortless run. Plus I was stressing in my mind about not having enough time to do all the choirs I’m able to attend to while WFH and still make it downtown to meet Nightingale for setting up. So I opted to cut the run short. I was going to come back up Sacramento Avenue to catch the light at Lawrence but wanted to hit one last water fountain. This is where i goofed and went around the wrong side of the Water Reclamation plant, not only missing the water fountain but extending the route that i was trying to shorten.

The point is that because I started my run late, ran it at a diminishing pace and took a different street home than planned, I ran into none other than Yoga Instruction Julie.  Julie use to teach a yoga class at St Ben's and I (and later Nightingale) would attempt a session or two. 

I had seen on FB that she had recently had a baby and it appeared her and her husband moved from their condos to a SFH. I just sort of assumed they bought one in the Green Zone. While we were catching up, she mentioned that she lived nearby. She actually told me the cross streets and had I not been in the middle of a runner's high induced lack of concentration, i would not have put my foot in my mouth. I told her we were house hunting too and she asked if in this hood. We were on Ravenswood Manor side of Montrose and I blurted out "no we cannot afford here." I assumed Yoga Julie and her husband had simply sold their GZ condo and managed to find a home here. Then I realized she was walking toward West Horner Park, just a half mile or so from my place.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ravinia Learning Curve

Every summer we talk about going to Ravinia and Ravinia-like events as much as possible. It's fun to pack a picnic, grab some wine and enjoy music with friends under the stars. We go through what I call the Ravinia Learning Curve. The first time we set out, we usually forget many things like paper plates, plasticwear and the all important corkscrew. Or everyone brings a lot of the same things (chips and salsa, and tons of hummus).
We try to grap a spot near the bathrooms but not too near the bathrooms

By the end of season we're experts in what to bring and how to pack and then the winter comes and we somehow lose our learning curve.

Last year Nightingale's schedule was not Ravinia friendly and I ended up going to a couple of concerts without her.  Now that she is done with school and has a more marriage friendly work schedule, we were determined to make it to more events this summer. 

We haven't made it to Ravinia yet -- and probably won't as Summer winds down -- but we have gone to two free concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park. I think I like these better because you don't need a ticket (yay for free) and its easier for us to get to than Ravinia.  Nightingale already works downtown so we load her car with the blankets and non perishables and then I meet up with after work (either working from home or the downtown office) and we go claim a spot.

We were there yesterday and while I did invite some of my imaginary guy friends, they must have had their invisibility cloaks on because none were there.

The people in front of us

More people in front of us

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Blog Design Issues

I'm currently trying to clean up the look and feel of this blog. Blogger doesn't have a lot of leeway with its WYSIWYG interface nor does it allow a lot of customization.  When you couple that with my dusty outdated web design skills you get a bit of Design Growing Pains.

Bare with me, I'll get it looking less like a 90s Geosites web page soon...i hope.

Update:  I was able to clean it up some, move some things around and go back to a more friendly background.  Hope my 3 readers appreciate the effort.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Depends how you look at it I guess

Perhaps we need a better Marketing Campaign:  One of my pet peeves is when someone refers to living within the city limits of Chicago as being Downtown. To those of us who grew up in the city, Downtown is the section of Chicago that surrounds the Loop including the Magnificent Mile and a few smaller areas like River North and parts of the Gold Goast.

The term even more specifically applies to the section of the community area surrounded by the circuit formed by Chicago's elevated "L" trains. The circuit runs along Lake Street on the north, Wabash Avenue on the east, Van Buren Street on the south, and Wells Street on the west. The name, however, predates the elevated loop, coming from a streetcar loop in 1882. Currently, most residents probably consider it to be the area bounded by the Chicago River on the north and west sides, Congress Parkway to the South, and Columbus Drive to the east.


I suppose to someone living in Naperville, Aurora or Oswego, neighborhoods like Jefferson Park are as much downtown as the South Loop. But if you grew up in the city, they are as far apart as Northbrook and Tinley Park. 

And I suppose in some ways that's more democratic than the transplants who move here from the suburbs or border states and think Chicago is nothing more than Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Old Town and Lake View.   I'll just have fun saying "Oh you're from Michigan, isn't that like Ohio?"

Longer Distances Actually Feel Better:  Two weeks ago I had a bad 13 mile LR. My knees were awesome but my body quit on me. I took a slight break from training, only running the short distances and skipping the next Saturday's 10 mile cutback. This past Saturday I had a decent 15 mile run. The first 12 were great and then my knees started feeling sore and my leg muscles were tightening, so I had to drop back and do some walking.

What's interesting is my cousin is having a similiar experience with his training. he's more than a decade my junior and his training issues are more of the Life Gets in the Way variety than physical limitations. But he also reported having a great run until the last three miles of his LR.

So now my latest Hair Brain Scheme is to sign up for the Detriot Marathon instead of the half. The reason is the cost is essentially the same. And If I can get my body to run at least 20 miles or so of a marathon, I can walk the rest and get another finisher medal and marathon 22 in the books maybe even under 4 hours. Not that I really need to do that.  

Twenty-one marathons proves I can push my body through 26.2 miles of whatever.  Most of the 21 marathons have been of the first 13-16 miles were good and then the wheels came off variety.  I'll see how the remaining 8 weeks of training go.  If I only suffer through the last three miles of every run longer than 12 miles, then it's a go.  If things go even more south of that, then I'll have to switch to the Detriot Half Marathon as originally planned.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Someone Else's Wedding Weekend

The weekend was tied up with DrDrea's wedding activities so we didn't really accomplish too much outside of watching two more people marry the person they love in a country where not everyone is free to do so.

Friday's rehearsal dinner was an adventure that we tried to avoid yet couldn't. Before we left for work that morning, Nightingale was trying to figure out if she should drive or take the El and then the Metra out to La Grange. I asked, with uncanny foreshadowing accuracy: "which do you want to deal with traffic or getting on the wrong train?"

We decided to save the planet for our grandchildren and only take one car to La Grange. Of course Nightingale got on the wrong train, an express to Naperville no less. This definitely supports the argument not to move to the suburbs.

The reason people get on the wrong train at Union Station is because it's designed for people who take the train every day. If you know that 5:43 train leaves from Gate 8 every day, with maybe one exception every 300 days, you don't need a very complicated system.  If you only use the Metra once in a blue moon, you need a big f-ing sign  that says This Is Not the Droid Train You are Looking For.

Even getting to church was a little more stressful than it had to be because of traffic and leaving 10th hour. Because I was doing a reading, skipping the ceremony was not an option. Once my reading was over I could relax and enjoy the ceremony. As it went on, I noticed that the windows were getting darker. I suspected we were going to get some rain -- there go the wedding pictures!

What started out as a hot, hot 90+ degree day became a short term flash flood followed by a cool 70 degree sunny afternoon.   DrDrea kept her cool but she had this look on her face like oh no, what else can go wrong.  She already had tuxedo snafus and bridesmaids todos.

The rain did not last very long, in fact by the time we completed the short drive to the reception, it was sunny again.  The hotel was very elegant and it would have been interesting to see what the rooms looked like.  Unfortunately, we didn't secure a room in time.  They released the block of rooms a month early -- not standard wedding procedure -- because of Lalapolloza.

The next closest hotel down the street required a minimum of two nights stay on the weekend and the rooms cost just slightly less than a iPad.  We decided to curb our drinking and drive home.

Weddings should really be about the two people who are getting married.  And Wedding Receptions should be about the couples having a good time and the single people hooking up.  Unfortunately, it is never that easy.  I only had one single eligible guy friend to invite to my wedding and a table full of single ladies were fighting over him.  Naturally he hooked up with the fun, easy going, exotic indian chick.

At DrDrea's there were a few more single people to go around but I think the challenge was they already knew and weeded each other out.  I think the perfect wedding hookup requires a carefully measured dose of We'll Never See Each Other Again Unless We Want To.  It a hard combination to achieve. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Terrapin 5K All Corporate, hardly runner friendly

Thursday we ran the Terrapin 5K as part of DrDrea's wedding week ramp up.  We did a 5K the Sunday before our wedding and DrDrea wanted to do the same thing.  Unfortunately, 5K is about the only thing the two events had in common.

It's not like you're coming after work from far away or anything
 DrDrea had a lot of last minute issues (surprise) come up before her wedding so she was stressed.
Mr Massage and a few other random people I know also happened to be there.  As for the race itself I did fairly and averaged sub 8 mm, which is something I haven't done since my peak running years.

I have been taking it easy this week because of last Saturday's not so good Long Run.  It was supposed to be 13 miles and since I was needing to walk before the halfway point, I dropped out at mile 10 and took a cab back to the site.

So I only did one run on the treadmill earlier this week and the 5K on Thursday.  Today's LR is a cutback and since I'm doing a reading at DrDrea's wedding, I figured I'd exercise one of my excused absenses and not group lead today.  I will try to get out tomorrow morning when the temp goes back to normal and work off the wine and wedding cake.

Back to the race.  There are a few criteria we judge our races on:

Registration - In order to sign Nightingale and me up, I had to go through the registration process twice. You'd expect this in 1999, but in 2013, most sites have a register another person button all coded up.

Packet Pickup:  Mostly my fault for not getting our gear sooner, it might have saved some stress.  They did have race day pick up which is fantastic.  However, they only had a small window from 2 - 5:30 to pick it up. Most people work until 5 so I was lucky that I WFH and was able to leave early to get our stuff.

Course:  Standard 5k course going south of Soldier Field through the tunnel at McCormick Center along the lake front.  For a hot day it seemed ill equiped water wise on the course itself.  And since it was a really hot day, they lacked water before the race and ran out for the slower finishers at the end.

Post Race Party: They gave us a dougnut and a fake cheese quasi-qasidilla that was terrible and we didn't eat.  Only give one drink ticket.  That's not terrible in and of itself but with the amount of people, it just wasn't worth it to buy more drink tickets and wait in those long lines.
Swag:  I like the goodie bag simlpy a dry-fit vintage concert T-shirt and a gear bag.

Unfortunately, I think this event was tainted a little before it even began and all its flaws certainly didn't help make an arguement for doing it again.  I was more than a little pissed off that DrDrea didn't think to pick up our packets when she got hers. I know she has a lot on her mind with the wedding but this was her idea and I got everyone's packets last year at our wedding 5K.  We met up for a few minutes after the race but I was never able to get Nightingale and her in the same space.  By the time she answered my last text, we had decided to get going since we had to be at work the next day.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The House Hunting Continues

So we decided to take a pass on the awesome house we found.  While it's a great home, the commute would not likely be pleasant for either of us. It also is the nicest, most expensive house on the block and while someone has to own it, it isn't going to be us.

Currently the bank is asking for $425K for the house.  In my mind, the neighborhood cannot support that price point on any house.  It's the classic the person who wants to live there, cannot/will not pay $400K for a home and the person who can afford $400K for a home doesn't want to live there. 

Having said that, there are apparently already two offers on it.  According to the agent representing the bank the offers are "around the $400K amount."  That can be anywhere from $395 to $351K depending on whose interpretation of around the amount you believe.  Even so, let's assume he's telling the truth and someone has decided the house is worth $400K, it's still a tough sell for me.

First, this same house in a better neighborhood is definitely worth $400, $500 even $800K.  But unless the city decides to build a new transit system out by the Brickyard Mall, it will be hard to re-sell this for as much down the road.

Second, we did have the option of putting in an offer at what I felt this house in this nabe was worth. I even thought about putting in an offer for $375K just in case the first two fell through.  [I really wanted to put in an offer of $350K and ask for the bank to pay my closing costs but realize how unrealistic that would be in light of them having two offers already.]  Nightingale felt that since we had a tough time on our beta commute test and our financing issue (now resolved), it was a sign that this was not our future home.

Incidently, the second house that we would have considered had we not seen this one is already under contract.  The commute might have been better but Nightingale insists she really didn't like it.