January 31, 2009

The Riddle Run 10

Today was the 10th edition of the Riddle Run, a 28.35 mile ultra-marathon fun run. Last year I showed up fairly unprepared but I still cranked out a decent run. This year I felt much more prepared than ever before. I just ran a good trail marathon in December, and I've been doing a long run almost every weekend since then.

Sunrise at the Riddle Run
Sunrise at Lake of the Woods park

This year's Riddle Run set another registration record with 125 people signed up, though I don't think that many showed up. The temperature was similar to last year (20˚ at start, 33˚ at finish), but last year there was just a light dusting of snow on the ground (which melted during the run). This year there was about 4" of mushy snow covering the entire trail. Running in mushy snow is quite the challenge.

Snow covered trail

But what was more concerning to me than the snow was that I badly bruised my shin while mountain biking last Saturday. I've run twice since then (Sunday and Tuesday) and both times my shin caused me pain with every step. As it turns out, my worries were misplaced. My bruised shin didn't bother me the slightest bit.

Shortly after 8 a.m. the runners gathered to listen to Jeff Riddle (the run's coordinator) give instructions. Then we were off.

Run coordinator Jeff Riddle explains the rules

Runners listen to Jeff's instructions

The snow was tough. I started slowly, chit-chatting with others for the first mile or two. I finished my first loop in 43 minutes. By the second 4.05 mile loop (of seven) the snow was packed down a little bit, and that allowed me to run a little faster. My second loop was around 40 minutes, as was the third. I ran the fourth loop with Chris (who recently whooped me a the Siberian Express) and Matt (last year's Riddle Run winner). They both stopped at the end of the lap with 16 miles total, as they had both planned to do.

I was still feeling very good and I was running a steady pace. There were two other guys with roughly the same time as me (though we weren't running together as we chose to run the loops in opposite directions at times). I stopped at my car to grab a bite to eat at mile 8, 16, 20, & 24. I drank a lot of Gatorade throughout. It worked, as I never ran out of energy. I took an Endurolyte tablet each time I stopped in order to try to avoid the muscle cramping I experienced at Tecumseh. This also worked, as my muscles never cramped.

Each of the last two laps I walked up two of the hills. This was the only walking I did the entire time, and it probably only slowed me down by a minute or two.

At 24 miles Jeff told me I had the fastest time so far by a couple minutes. Most of the runners didn't run all seven laps, they stopped early. There was a crowd of these runners gathered around a campfire near the finish line. They all began to cheer as I began the final lap. I continued the same steady pace I had been running all morning. Then came the surprise of the day... something that's never happened in six previous marathons/ultra-marathons. I picked up the pace the last mile as I approached the finish. Not just a little, but a lot. In fact, my last mile was the fastest mile I ran all day. I still had some gas left in the tank.

I finished. I was the first one to do so. The crowed cheered as I crossed the "finish line" and pelted me with snowballs. This wasn't really a race, it was more of a fun run, but Jeff declared me the winner. The first place male in the Riddle Run gets a traveling "trophy" (which it turns out is a roll of toilet paper signed by each previous winner).

Jeff awards Rob the 1st place travelling trophy
Jeff awards Rob the traveling "trophy"

After the run I changed clothes, ate a delicious cupcake, and warmed up by the campfire.

Jeff's wife baked delicious cupcakes for all registered runners
Jeff's wife baked a cupcake for every runner

Post-run campfire
warming up by the campfire

Ken and his dog Cayenne finished about five minutes after me. Then Jason was another five minutes behind Ken.

Cayenne was one of two dogs to run the full 28.35 miles
Cayenne was one of (at least) two dogs to run the full 28.35 miles

Pat Mills was pelted with snoballs upon finishingPat Mills was pelted with snoballs upon finishing
Pat was the next finisher. He too, was pelted with snowballs.

Just behind Pat were Becky & Ellen, the first two women. They were running together. Becky crossed the line first in a photo finish.

Becky & Ellen were the 1st & 2nd women to finish
Becky kicks Ellen's ass (just kidding)

Jeff awards Becky the 1st place travelling trophy
Jeff awards Becky the women's traveling trophy

The women's traveling trophy is a little stuffed buffalo. It's nice, but it probably couldn't be used for wiping in an emergency, like the men's trophy. Well, at least not more than once.

It was a good time. The run was hard. The times were slow. My winning time was 4:56, the second slowest winning of the 10 Riddle Runs. I'm moving around now better than ever before after a run this long. I take that as another good sign. Now that I've survived the Riddle Run I took the plunge and finally registered for the Illinois Marathon. I've been planning to do it, I just hadn't registered yet. Now I just need to avoid injury for 2.5 more months.

Interestingly, the Riddle Run winners were also awarded the chance to register for the 30 mile Clinton Lake Ultra in March, even though that race is already full. It's a nice perk, but I'm probably going to pass on it. I'd love to race Clinton, but it's two weeks before the Illinois Marathon, which is my primary objective for the first part of the year. I wonder if this award is transferable, and if so, how much I could get for it on eBay... Just kidding, Chris.

January 24, 2009

The Macintosh

Today the Macintosh computer is 25 years old. The Macintosh 128K was released on January 24, 1984. This machine had no hard drive and only 128 kilobytes of RAM (currently available computers typically have 2 gigabytes of RAM, or roughly 16,000 times as much as the original Macintosh 128K). It was the first computer available to consumers that had a mouse and a graphical user interface. While much has changed in the Mac's user interface of the past 25 years, most of the original concepts (mouse pointer, icons, windows, menus, buttons) are still used.

I actually owned a Macintosh 128K, though not when it was released in 1984, but rather when I found one in a pawn shop in rural Virginia in 1999. I had a day off my job at ASP when I was exploring the area. I browsed around this pawn shop when I was shocked to find four "classic" style (the original all-in-one design) Macintosh computers. I had to have them. Even if they didn't work, I always wanted to have a fish tank. The price tags said $20 each. I examined the machines and found that two of them had been completely gutted and had no hope of ever working, but the cases were still intact. The other two seemed to have all the parts, but they were so old the chances of them working were pretty slim. I explained to the shop worker that they probably didn't work, but I would still pay $20 for all four of them. We had a deal.

The two that didn't work were a Macintosh SE and a Macintosh SE/30. I was delighted to learn the two that had all the parts were a Macintosh 128K (the first ever Macintosh) and a Macintosh 512K (the second ever Macintosh). Unfortunately, the 128K didn't work. However, the 512K did work. These machines don't run without a system floppy disk, which didn't come with the pawn shop computers and which I clearly didn't have. So I found one for sale on the internet for a few bucks and once it arrived I had a working 1984 era machine.

Happy 25th birthday Macintosh

Now, this machine isn't terribly useful for anything other than nostalgia, but it still works to this day. It still surprises me how fast these old machines boot up. Here's a video where the machine can go from off to fully booted in 16 seconds.

I have owned dozens of computers over the years, all but two (I think) have been Macs:

Performa 620019951995recycled
PowerBook 5300 CS19951996in my closet
iMac19981998sold to relatives
Macintosh 128K19841999recycled
Macintosh 512K19841999in my office
Macintosh SE19871999recycled
Macintosh SE/3019891999recycled
9 x Macintosh IIcx198919999 x recycled
Macintosh IIci19891999in my storage room
PowerBook G3 (work)20002000returned to work
iBook SE (Melissa)20002001gave to relatives
PowerMac G420002001in my office
PowerBook G4 (work)20022003returned to work
PowerBook 12" (Melissa)20032003in my office
PowerMac G520042004gave to parents
Mac mini20052005gave to in-laws
MacBook Pro (work)20062006returned to work
MacBook (Melissa)20072007Melissa's primary computer, in Melissa's office
MacBook Pro (work)20072007my primary laptop, in my office
Mac Pro20082008my primary desktop, in my office
PowerBook Duo 25019932008in my office

January 18, 2009

The Major Award

Gawking Neighbor: Say Parker, what is that?
Old Man Parker: Not now, can't you see I'm busy?
Gawking Neighbor: Yeah, but what is it?
Old Man Parker: It's a major award.
Gawking Neighbor: Gee, I wouldn'ta know'd dat. It looks like a lamp.
Old Man Parker: Well, it is a lamp, you nincompoop. But it's a major award... I won it.
Gawking Neighbor: Sam hell, you say you won it?

Friday evening was the Second Wind Running Club annual banquet. Melissa & I attended, as we have in previous years. We ate food, shared injury stories with friends (runners have a lot of injury stories), and watched an awards presentation. The club awards prizes for participating in the most club functions or succeeding in a circuit of local races. I finished the year leading the race circuit standings for my age group. I competed in many of the circuit races and did quite well in each of them. For this I received a nice pair of gloves (something I can always use).

The club also hands out runner of the year awards for males and females in the following categories: high school, masters (40+ years), ultra-marathon, new runner, and overall. Once or twice in the past I thought I might have a chance to win one of the runner of the year awards, but even when I had good years, there was always someone who had a better year. Since recovering from my knee injury I had never even given them a second thought.

I was curious to know which of my friends would receive these awards. I listened intently as the winners of each category were announced until they reached the final award, male runner of the year. I found it a bit strange that Melissa chose this moment to get out her camera and turn it on. Before announcing the winner, the club president started listing the winner's 2008 racing accomplishments. They sounded all too familiar, for you see, they were my 2008 racing accomplishments. Indeed, I was honored by the club as the 2008 male runner of the year.

I can honestly say that I was quite surprised by this. Don't get me wrong, I had a good year, but the list sounded much more impressive with somebody else reading it...

A major award

It turns out that Melissa knew about it beforehand. It was her duty to make sure I showed up to the banquet. I was actually just as surprised that she was able to keep this a secret from me. I wonder what else she could be hiding...

January 14, 2009

The Domestic Travels

I enjoy traveling, and I love geography, so I was very excited when a friend of mine recently mentioned this website that allows people to track their travels, county by county, across the country. I spent a couple hours entering my data (thanks to some helpful information from my dad regarding trip routes from my childhood) and now I have this wonderful map.

Click to enlarge

I categorized the counties thusly:

In cyan (light blue) are places where I've traveled in an automobile (or other motorized land vehicle). These include:

  • Seattle/Olympic National Park
  • Silicon Valley
  • Grand Canyon
  • El Paso/Juarez
  • Dallas
  • Galveston
  • New Orleans/Baton Rouge
  • Nashville
  • Des Moines
  • Minneapolis
  • Green Bay
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Cedar Point/Sandusky
  • Washington DC
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Hilton Head, SC/Savannah, GA
  • Hawaii & Kauai islands
  • Most of Illinois, Indiana, and central Appalachia
  • Everything along the way to these places

In magenta (light purple) are places where I've been bicycling (and probably travelled by auto also). These include:

In dark blue are places where I've been, but only in the airport (i.e. I had a layover there). These include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix
  • Salt Lake City
  • Kansas City
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Honolulu

It's exciting to remember all the great places I've been, and just as exciting to think about all the places I have yet to explore. I've still never set foot in 19 states:

  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Alabama
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • North Dakota
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Nevada
  • Alaska

I've got places to go. Hopefully I will keep the map updated along the way.

January 11, 2009

The Three Sisters

I ran at Forest Glen this morning with the Buffalo. This is the hardest trail in the area. It's 11 miles long with some big hills (which happen to be concentrated towards the end). The last mile, in particular, has three monster hills, which have been dubbed the three sisters. I don't know the full story behind the name, but that doesn't stop me from using it. Once you conquer the third sister, you're pretty much done with the trail.

Forest Glen trail run this morning (photos)

The run was at an easy enough pace that I was able to repeatedly stop and take pictures (I brought a camera along in my waist pack) before catching back up with the other five runners. The trail was in pretty decent shape. Someone had run through when it was muddy, then it froze a little unevenly. The wooden planks across all the stream crossings were a bit icy and required extra caution. There was one stream crossing without a bridge that required a single step in the water. That woke me up.

Forest Glen trail run

Map your trip with EveryTrail

January 5, 2009

The Siberian Express

I ran the Siberian Express on Saturday. It is a winter trail race over near Danville put on by neighboring running club Kennekuk Road Runners. I ran this race twice during high school, and once again about six years ago. In all three previous attempts at this race I underperformed (i.e. didn't have a great race).

Usually this race is held on a 7.6 mile trail at Kickapoo state park, but with the park closing scare by the recently-arrested-for-massive-corruption governor, the venue was changed to a 7.1 mile trail at nearby Kennekuk county park. Good. Perhaps a different trail (which I've run more recently) will get me out of my Siberian funk.

Siberian Express map

The first mile is relatively wide, then the trail gets very narrow. I knew I would have to run the first mile fast in order to be well placed when we hit the narrow section, because it would be very difficult to pass people later on. This strategy worked well enough for me at Tecumseh.

Unfortunately for me, this race has a lot of very good competition, and everyone else seemed to have the same strategy. We started fast. Really fast. Super fast. At the one mile mark my watch read 5:52. This is almost as fast as I would run in a flat road 5K. This race was on a hilly rugged trail which was more than twice that distance. I was in about 15th place when the trail narrowed. I slowed significantly after the first mile... and so did everyone else.

Siberian Express race bib

The rest of the race was just a really long struggle. I used up all my energy and I had nothing left just a few miles in. I watched the runners in front of me. They were going so slow, but I just couldn't catch up to them. I did pass a couple of other fast starters early on, but as the race went on a dozen or so runners passed me. Here's a photo.

I finished 25th place out of over 400. This was my best finishing place in a Siberian Express, so it wasn't a total loss... but I was not at all happy with how I got there. My streak of underperforming at this race continues for at least another year.

Siberian Express award

I hobbled over to the car and grabbed my camera. I didn't have a great run, but maybe I'd be able to get some photos of friends finishing the race. After seeing a few come in and taking several pictures, I looked at my camera to review them only to see the words "NO CARD" displayed on the camera's screen. Crap. I had taken the card out to transfer Friday's photos to the computer and I forgot to put it back in. As soon as I got home I put a spare memory card in the car so that hopefully never happens again.

The Camel Clutch

Watching TV a bit ago, my story ended and professional wrestling came on next. I haven't watched pro wrestling in 20 years, but 20 years ago I watched it a lot... mostly with my brothers. There was a lot of un-professional wrestling that took place in my house growing up. Being the youngest, I usually got pounded. I did have a few chances for revenge, though. I recall giving my brother Travis an unusually harsh camel clutch hold one time that he didn't like too much. The camel clutch involves laying your opponent on their stomach, sitting on their back, and pulling their head back by the chin. If it were real, it might actually hurt.

Camel clutch

While working for ASP 10 years ago I made friends with a boy named Tim, who liked pro wrestling. Here is a photo of the sexy hermit demonstrating the camel clutch on Tim in the summer of 1998. Don't worry, it was fake. It's all fake.

January 4, 2009

The Spiderman Mask

While celebrating Christmas with my mom's extended family, my cousin Scott noticed this doosey of a photo on the wall at my parent's house.

Kids in the 1980's
cousin Scott, brother Andy, little Rob, circa 1983-1984

Andy's cut-off shirt and breezy short shorts can surely be explained by the fact that it was the early 80's. But why am I wearing gloves and a Spiderman winter mask? Why are Scott & I wearing capes? Why am I wearing no shirt and why is Scott wearing no pants? Why does Andy have a piece of the Death Star on his arm? This photo raises more questions than answers.

January 2, 2009

The Photo of the Day

A few weeks ago, I started a project where I take (at least) one photo every day and post it to my Flickr account. The idea is simply to practice with the goal of becoming a better photographer.

My Photo of the Day site is here. The most recent photo should always appear on the left side of my blog. If you're interested in following along, add this feed to your RSS reader (Google Reader, Apple Mail, Safari, etc.). I'm also taking part in a Flickr group called Photo A Day 2009, where (starting yesterday), hundreds of other people are doing something similar.

Here are a few of the most recent photos of the day:

Little cones


Light painting




January 1, 2009

The End of 2008

2008 was one of the most successful years I've had for racing. I competed in running (5K to ultra-marathon), cycling (road, crit, time trial, cyclocross), swimming (50-1000 yard), triathlon (sprint & olympic), and duathlon races. I set new PRs (personal records) in 5K time, ultra-marathon time and distance, olympic distance triathlon time, 40 KM cycling time trial time, 1000 yard swim time, and yearly cycling distance.

In case you missed them, here were a few of the highlights:


This was the worst December weather I've seen in 30 years living in Illinois. Everything (streets, sidewalks, & grass) was continuously covered in ice for several weeks.

Icy streets

As a result I only did one recreational bike ride in December and fell short of my best case scenario year end cycling goals for 2008: 6,000 miles total & 366 separate rides (2008 was a leap year). For the purpose of my records, separate rides are two consecutive rides on different days, on different bikes, or wearing different clothes. This means I count riding to work in the morning and home from work in the evening as one single ride. I probably would have been closer to 600 or 700 separate rides using a different standard.

Despite not making my best case scenario goals, I'm still quite pleased with these numbers. 5,838 miles is much higher than my previous highest yearly total of around 4,600 miles.

Cycling: December 2008 by Bike

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Big Red4.2 Mile14.2 Mile
El Fuego73.2 Mile135.63077 Mile
Pocket Rocket13.7 Mile34.56667 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird16.43 Mile116.43 Mile
Total107.53 Mile185.97389 Mile

Cycling: 2008 by Bike

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi682.99 Mile1096.26596 Mile
Big Red299.04 Mile2213.5927 Mile
Dahon164.63 Mile295.6769 Mile
El Fuego121.6 Mile167.6 Mile
Litespeed334.465 Mile1325.7281 Mile
Pocket Rocket1051.23 Mile6416.4255 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird3184.03 Mile8935.7756 Mile
Total5837.99 Mile34217.0701 Mile

Cycling: 2008 by Month

MonthDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
January136.72 Mile216.51048 Mile
February340.15 Mile2911.7293 Mile
March590.33 Mile2920.3562 Mile
April597.9 Mile2920.6172 Mile
May665.06 Mile3618.4739 Mile
June785.95 Mile3125.3532 Mile
July774.115 Mile3621.5032 Mile
August715.01 Mile2627.5004 Mile
September591.615 Mile3616.4337 Mile
October328.34 Mile3110.5916 Mile
November205.27 Mile2010.2635 Mile
December107.53 Mile185.97389 Mile
Total5837.99 Mile34217.0701 Mile

In early December I ran the Tecumseh marathon, which was my big goal for the end of the year. Then I eased up a bit on the running in order to recover.

Running: 2008 by Month

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January90.18 Mile811.2725 Mile
February23.35 Mile45.8375 Mile
March53.6469 Mile95.96076 Mile
April49.3 Mile86.1625 Mile
May28.3569 Mile74.05098 Mile
June21.25 Mile45.3125 Mile
July47.7537 Mile85.96921 Mile
August29.24 Mile47.31 Mile
September43.0637 Mile85.38296 Mile
October97.91 Mile910.8789 Mile
November94.17 Mile109.417 Mile
December77.49 Mile98.61 Mile
Total655.711 Mile887.45126 Mile

I did very little swimming in December. I will probably not do a whole lot in January either, given the restricted pool hours on campus during winter break.

Swimming: 2008 by Month

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
April1.55448 Kilo Meter20.77724 Kilo Meter
June4.1148 Kilo Meter50.82296 Kilo Meter
July11.5446 Kilo Meter101.15446 Kilo Meter
August11.2774 Kilo Meter81.40968 Kilo Meter
September18.9329 Kilo Meter131.45638 Kilo Meter
October16.7335 Kilo Meter62.78892 Kilo Meter
November12.8016 Kilo Meter52.56032 Kilo Meter
December6.4008 Kilo Meter41.6002 Kilo Meter
Total83.3602 Kilo Meter531.57283 Kilo Meter