January 31, 2010

Riddle Run 11

Yesterday I ran Riddle Run 11. This is a 28 mile ultramarathon held each January. You may recall that I was the first finisher at Riddle Run 10 last year, for which I was awarded the traveling trophy (a roll of toilet paper signed by the previous winners).


Last year I was in great shape, but the course was covered in 4" of mushy show. I must have ended up running twice the official distance just from my feet slipping around so much. I ran nice and easy, finishing in 4h56m. It just so happened that nobody else ran faster, so I was first.

This year I knew I wasn't in quite as good shape as last year, but we only had about 1" of snow on the ground (which, while not ideal, is much easier to run through than 4"). I was really disappointed with my run at Tecumseh last month, so I had something to prove to myself.


I started the run very easy. I picked a big group to run with and we talked and laughed the entire first (of seven) four-mile loop. I'm notorious for starting too fast and (like last year's Rockford marathon) I made damn sure not to make that mistake yesterday.

The second loop I picked up the pace a little bit, from 9:30 to 9:00 to 8:30. By the end of the second loop I was running slightly faster than 8:00 miles and I would stay at this pace for the next 12 miles or so. At the end of each loop I stopped by my car for 30-60 seconds to drink some gatorade and water and to grab a bite to eat.

"Ultras are just eating and drinking contests, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in."

-Sunny Blende, nutritionist (from Born to Run)

Over the course of 28 miles I ended up eating four mini Clif Bars, a banana, two flasks of chia gel, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and six Enduralytes (electrolyte pills)... and it still wasn't enough. My stomach was growling the last eight miles.

During the middle part of the run the miles just flew by. Each time I finished a lap I thought to myself, I was just here a few minutes ago. I was flying and the miles were coming so easily, but it wouldn't last forever.

I started to tire around mile 20. I quickly realized could no longer maintain sub-8:00 miles and I started to question whether I would finish at all. After eating I started my 6th loop much slower and I felt a lot better. I could definitely finish by running closer to 9:00 pace.

Riddle Run 2010

The last two laps were a bit of a slog, but I kept shuffling along, and I never stopped to walk (a feat I've only accomplished one other time, at Rockford). Three miles from the end a fellow runner Jason and his friend absolutely flew past me. I had last seen them exactly 20 miles earlier when I had just started to pick up the pace. It was amazing how strong they were finishing. I crossed the 26.2 mile mark at 3h46m, making this my third fastest marathon ever. On a trail. Covered in snow.

Last year I finished the run with mile 28 being my fastest. This year it was my slowest (the second slowest this year was the first mile). I dragged myself across the finish line in 4h04m, my fastest Riddle Run by more than a half hour, and a full 50 minutes faster than last year (almost two minutes per mile!).

Jason and his friend had gained six minutes on me in the last three miles, and they finished first. Matt and another guy were in between us. It's rather amazing to me that the first five of us finished within six minutes of each other after such a long run.

So that was my fourth Riddle Run, my fifth ultra-distance run, my seventh trail marathon/ultra, and my 11th marathon or beyond. Of all those runs, this one was the third fastest, yet at the same time probably the easiest for me. Considering I didn't do any training specifically for this run, and I didn't taper at all, I guess I'd have to say that I'm in a little better shape than I thought I was. That's a good sign.

January 17, 2010

More shortlist

In case it wasn't clear from my last post, I included a link to all of the photos in my shortlist (not just my top four). Here are the others (click the thumbnails for larger versions):

January 16, 2010


So there's a "Photographic Print Competition" next month at Lincoln Square Mall. Both my wife and my father have suggested to me that I enter the competition, and they're both pretty smart so I better do what they say.

I noticed the competition is sponsored by the Champaign County Camera Club, a club I had never heard of before, but sounded somewhat appealing to me. I checked out their website last Monday, just in time to notice one of their bi-monthly meetings was happening that evening on campus. I decided to go check it out. It was indeed interesting.

One of the odd things I learned at the meeting was the club members are not allowed to enter this competition for some reason. I'm still not exactly clear why this is the case. I mean, Second Wind Running Club puts on races in which club members are encouraged to participate. The same thing happens with events put on by Wild Card Cycling or Prairie Cycle Club.

Anyway, I didn't join the club yet... and now I'm going to hold off doing so until after the competition. Speaking of which, I put together a shortlist of photos from 2009 I'm thinking about entering. Participants are allowed a maximum of three entries. There are multiple categories into which these photos might fit, most of which are fairly strictly defined:

  1. Architecture
  2. Animals
  3. People
  4. Nature (absolutely nothing human-made)
  5. General
  6. Manipulated (does not interest me)
  7. Youth division (ineligible)

Here are the photos currently at the top of my list:

Nature, Animals, General

Nature, Animals, General

Urbana High School
Architecture, General

Sock monkey
People, General

I'd really appreciate any feedback on which photos people think are the best. I'm sure with this audience any picture of Will will probably get an automatic vote, but try to keep in mind that photo contest judges may not be as interested in Will as many of you.

January 9, 2010

Little guy

This little guy decided to join us inside at some point (in the last few days?). Well it was pretty weak and barely moving by today. We trapped it under a glass long enough for me to take a few photos then I let it go outside. With the 0˚F temperature, I'm not sure whether this was better or worse for the Yellowjacket wasp than just letting it die inside. We'll never know.



For what it's worth, here's how I took the photos. The little guy was crawling around on a piece of paper with an upside-down glass covering him. I had my trusty Canon 50D on a tripod just barely above that level with the lens about 8" away. I used my 60 mm EF-S macro lens at f/18 for a relatively large depth of field. I had a studio strobe with a soft box at 3/4 power just off my right shoulder, providing ample light for the fast shutter speed (1/125 second), small aperture (f/18), and low ISO speed (100).

The little guy was crawling around, so I waited until he was in a good position. I then focused on it, briefly tiled the glass back (for an unobstructed shot), quickly pressed the shutter, then set the glass back down (so the thing would fly away). The final images here are cropped to roughly half the width and height of the original 15 megapixel images.

January 7, 2010


We got a fair amount of snow last night and into the day today. I skied the 1.8 miles into work, which in these conditions was A) faster than walking and B) safer than cycling.

Most of my trip follows Kirby/Florida Ave which has a lot of grass off to the side, perfect for skiing. It gets a little tough around the Assembly Hall where there's a whole lot of pavement and not much grass.

Urbana welcomes you

I expected to be pretty sweaty by the time I arrived at work, but I wasn't that bad. I had a brutal headwind the whole way there.

Mistaken Identities

A commenter on Flickr recently suggested I look a little like German electronic music artist Paul Kalkbrenner (who I had never actually heard of before this comment). Perhaps a little.

2010 RobPaul-Kalkbrenner-2.jpg

Other random celebrities I've been compared to in the past 15 years include Chris O'Donnell, Kevin Spacey, Ewan MacGregor, and Ivan Basso.

Who do you look like?

January 4, 2010

Lights and such

I decided to take the plunge and invest a pair of inexpensive studio lights. The whole kit cost less than my portable Canon 580 EX II hot shoe flash (I italicized portable because that flash by itself is twice the size of most point-and-shoot cameras).

The studio lights arrived today. They run on AC power and put out more light than a typical flash, so I'll be able to work with faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures indoors.

I'm no expert at lighting, so it's going to take some practice.

Hoodie 1

2010 Rob

Or maybe not.


January 3, 2010

Getting things done

Stuff sure takes longer than it used to. I used to be be able to get things done in a timely fashion, but frequent interruptions are making that a little more difficult. I'm still not exactly sure how Melissa finished her dissertation with Will in the house. She's pretty hardcore.

Will doesn't like to sit still. If I'm trying to work on the computer while holding him I generally can't sit at the computer for more than 30 seconds before he becomes agitated. Then this morning, out of nowhere, he actually fell asleep while I was working. It was wonderful. I got a solid hour of uninterrupted computer work done. Sure, I had to do it one handed, but whatever.

It was cute until he started screaming

Then after he woke up I was able to get him to sit in his Bumbo seat for a while. He didn't like it so much on the ground, but up on the desk it was okay for a few minutes. He was quite adorable until he started screaming. Then, like that, it was over.

January 1, 2010

The End of 2009

Photo of the Day


My Photo of the Day project was a success for 2009. I took a photo every single day of the year and posted them all to Flickr. I created this nifty poster-sized image below, which is being printed as I type and will soon be hanging on my wall. It contains all 365 daily photos.

Photo of the Day 2009

This project really took a lot more time and effort than I initially thought it would. On the bright side, I think I've improved tremendously as a photographer over the past year, and I have some really great photos that will last a lifetime.

I am tentatively planning to continue the project. My motivation has been to do so has not been great lately (and I've completely run out of ideas on a number of occasions), but I've recently found a few good sources for inspiration. So I do plan to continue for the foreseeable future.


Tecumseh Trail Marathon
FOLEPI River Trail Classic
Allerton Trail Race
Danville Memorial Day 5K
Rockford Marathon
Twin Cities Twosome
Masters Swimming 500 yd TT
Tri the Illini
Illinois Marathon
Hillsboro Roubaix Cat 4 RR
Land Between the Lakes 23K
Masters Swimming 500 yd TT
Riddle Run
Siberian Express
*personal best for the distance


Rob at Tecumseh Marathon

My running in 2009 was really one of extremes, both high and low. I started the year with some really strong races and a spectacular build-up to the Illinois Marathon, which ended in spectacular failure on my part. I bounced back quickly with a great run at the Rockford Marathon, only to notice a gradually worsening pain in my right knee (my good knee) less than a month later. This knee injury kept me from running for over 10 weeks, and severely cut back my cycling. Around Will's birth I finally started running again and slowly built up both my speed and my endurance. I had a couple of good (though not great) races this fall before the horrible experience for me that was the Tecumseh Trail Marathon.

Despite the significant time off, I still ended up running about 17 miles farther than in 2008. I guess training for three marathons and an ultra-marathon will do that. I took it easy running for a few weeks after Tecumseh to make sure I wouldn't injure myself again. I'm relatively healthy at the moment, but I'm far from peak condition. I really wanted to run the Siberian Express tomorrow morning, but a cold this week put a damper on that. Running is the one sport I have going for me at the moment, which isn't saying a whole lot.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January109.34 Mile1010.934 Mile
February55.83 Mile77.97571 Mile
March108.792 Mile1010.8792 Mile
April74.85 Mile89.35625 Mile
May64.5669 Mile97.1741 Mile
June7. Mile17. Mile
August16.3 Mile53.26 Mile
September39.78 Mile75.68286 Mile
October42.52 Mile76.07429 Mile
November112.5 Mile1110.2273 Mile
December41.04 Mile410.26 Mile
Total672.518 Mile798.51289 Mile


Rob finishes the bike

Cycling was one of my disappointments for 2009. I started the year decent enough, but I was really concentrating a lot more on running for the Spring marathons. Once I injured my knee in June I cut way back on my cycling and never made up for it. I ended 2009 with less than half the miles on the bike as 2008. I only competed in one cycling race and one triathlon, despite my intention of focusing completely on these events after mid-May. Fortunately, both were fairly successful for me, so it wasn't a total loss.

Sadly, I don't think 2010 is looking that great for me. I'm horribly out of shape on the bike. I've struggled to keep up with my friends on the last few easy training rides I've done recently. I really need to get my act together here before it's too late. 2010 starts now.

December 2009

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi19.4 Mile53.88 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird65.82 Mile321.94 Mile
Total85.22 Mile810.6525 Mile

January - December 2009

BikeDistance# RidesAvg per Ride
Bianchi611.15 Mile1394.39676 Mile
Big Red12.07 Mile43.0175 Mile
El Fuego75.2 Mile89.4 Mile
Pocket Rocket329.78 Mile447.495 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird1857.4 Mile4640.3783 Mile
Total2885.6 Mile24111.9734 Mile

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January139.41 Mile226.33682 Mile
February232.35 Mile2310.1022 Mile
March411.9 Mile2615.8423 Mile
April372.18 Mile2713.7844 Mile
May347.83 Mile2414.4929 Mile
June209.21 Mile239.09609 Mile
July206.74 Mile1217.2283 Mile
August275.94 Mile2212.5427 Mile
September287.11 Mile2113.6719 Mile
October219.2 Mile239.53043 Mile
November98.51 Mile109.851 Mile
December85.22 Mile810.6525 Mile
Total2885.6 Mile24111.9734 Mile


Rob starting 500 freestyle

I had a good start to the year swimming. My swims mysteriously stopped around August 12 for some reason. Anyway, I swam a personal best of 06:48 for 500 yards in May. I did swim 25% farther than I did in 2008. I really need to get back into this. Again, 2010 starts now.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January1.87452 Kilo Meter30.62484 Kilo Meter
February14.9504 Kilo Meter62.49174 Kilo Meter
March19.5224 Kilo Meter72.78892 Kilo Meter
April13.3502 Kilo Meter62.22504 Kilo Meter
May12.7806 Kilo Meter71.82579 Kilo Meter
June17.15 Kilo Meter82.14375 Kilo Meter
July15.55 Kilo Meter62.59167 Kilo Meter
August7.9 Kilo Meter32.63333 Kilo Meter
Total103.078 Kilo Meter462.24083 Kilo Meter



I didn't plan to keep track of walking stats, but now I'm kind of glad I did (at least after my June knee injury).

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
February3.75 Mile21.875 Mile
April8.51 Mile42.1275 Mile
May6.7 Mile41.675 Mile
June11. Mile33.66667 Mile
July29.52 Mile102.952 Mile
August35.02 Mile142.50143 Mile
September29.82 Mile122.485 Mile
October19.42 Mile92.15778 Mile
November41.17 Mile123.43083 Mile
December29.65 Mile83.70625 Mile
Total214.56 Mile782.75077 Mile


Skier Rob

I'm certainly not good at skiing, but I enjoy it. There was just very little snow in 2009.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
January26.67 Mile64.445 Mile
December10.36 Mile25.18 Mile
Total37.03 Mile84.62875 Mile


Urbana welcomes you

It sure seemed like more than that. Well, it was a transitional mode of transportation anyway.

MonthDistance# WorkoutsAvg per Workout
July13.4 Mile43.35 Mile
Total13.4 Mile43.35 Mile


I ended the year with roughly half as many blog posts as last year, with the rate of entries really dropping off in August. William has tried to pick up some of my slack with his blog.

Additionally, I assume you have noticed how all the titles of all my blog entries begin "The ...". It has been a lot more difficult to maintain this naming scheme than I originally thought it would be two years ago. In fact, there are a number of times when I thought about writing a short entry but never got around to it because I couldn't think of the right name. I think it has been holding me back a little. So it is with mixed emotions that I declare this will likely be the last entry to strictly follow that convention.