16 December 2010

Morning Runs

Amanda J left a question on my blog a couple of weeks ago about running at various times of day -- OK, make that 6 weeks ago (sorry, Amanda). She's a relatively new mom and has been running midday after her son goes down for a nap. Amanda's also like a second daughter to me -- she grew up in Tanzania and our families have been close friends for almost 25 years. This will be a bit long and a lot rambling, so hang on.

I almost always run in the early morning. In the US, I like to be on the road by 5:30AM. Yes, it's still very dark much of the year, but the roads where I've normally been are very good and traffic is light. Plus, if I run while it's dark, then I can't see how slow I'm going! Here, in Nairobi, Kenya, I head out between 5:50 and 6:30AM. Because the roads are in such bad shape, I'm hesitant to run in the dark -- even a headlamp doesn't show potholes very well and a lot of the roads where I run are not paved. If I go later than 6:30, traffic is too heavy and dangerous.

Plus, during at least half of the year, it's too hot for me midday or in the evening. God seems to have created me with a low tolerance for heat and humidity. Once the thermometer heads north of 70°F, and especially when the humidity is higher than 85%, it just saps my energy. The closer the temperature is to 50°F, the more I enjoy running. And, actually, there are studies that show a decrease in pace as temperatures increase above 55°F or so. I enjoy running the most when the temperatures are between 40° and 55°F -- above 50°F, I wear a short-sleeved running shirt; between 40° and 50°, I wear a long-sleeved running shirt (unless it's below 30°F, I wear shorts -- below 30°F and I pull on lightweight wind pants). So, mornings fit my thermostat better.

I have found that, assuming temperatures are to my liking, I actually run a bit faster later in the day. Still, though, I like running early, even if I'm a bit slower.

I also run early because I'm sure nothing will interfere with getting the run in. Not too many folks want to schedule a meeting before 7:30AM, so it's unlikely that a meeting will interfere with running at 5:30 or 6:00. And, running early gets my body started, my blood flowing, and I just feel better the rest of the day. I can be obsessive about running but it's mostly because I really like running, so that drives my getting out. Even if I don't run, I'm usually up early anyway.

The biggest enemy of my running early is going to bed late and not getting enough sleep. I ofter kid that by running first thing in the morning, by the time my mind actually wakes up, I'm already halfway into my run and it's too late to quit. Amanda, that can be a real problem for moms with young children. I do fine with 6:30+ hours of sleep -- better with 7:00 -- so I really need to be asleep before 11:00PM. That does make me somewhat of a party-pooper and I gave up watching Sunday night, Monday night, and Thursday night football long, long ago. When in the US, I don't watch the news at night; I don't like going to movies at night; etc. -- all of those cut into my sleep, thus cut into my running.

Physiologically, I don't know if there really is an advantage to running early versus later. Unscientifically, I think it depends on the individual. It does take some "want to" to get out of bed early enough to run early. There are those who say that a lunch-time run is good for weight loss -- primarily because one tends to be less hungry right after running and because the running cuts into the time available for lunch for folks who have limited lunch breaks. For me, though, heat and sweat prevent me from running midday -- the result of my body's dislike for warm/hot weather, is that I sweat profusely. Even this morning, after 5.6 miles in 58° temps, I was soaked. If I ran at midday, I certainly would have to have a shower but even with a shower, I wouldn't stop sweating for 1-2 hours after running. That doesn't work too well in an office.

There are others who push evening runs. They say it helps one unwind from the day -- a destressor. For me, though, besides the heat, there are too many things that can and will interfere **and** I'm usually so tired at the end of the day that it's too easy to slough off the run. I much prefer to be proactive and handle the stress of the day before it happens and I stand a better chance of being more consistent in my running if I run first rather than last.

All in all I think it's better to run early. How? Good question ... here are some suggestions:

  • Plan to just do it. Decide that you like running enough to do it first. Some Christians will have their quiet time first; I'm more alert for that after I run and have a shower.
  • Have your stuff ready before you go to bed. I put my running kit on the counter in the bathroom before I go to bed. That way I don't have to rummage through my dresser drawers in the pre-dawn darkness and it's a reminder that I really want to run.
  • Get enough sleep so that you wake up ready to run.
  • Eat something before heading out. Not always necessary -- I've done 6-8 mile runs early in the morning without eating something. This also depends on how your body handles food. If I'm going to eat "real" food, I have to get up early enough to finish at least 30 minutes before running -- and I don't eat heavy -- a banana, half a toasted bagel with some peanut butter. I avoid acidy foods (oranges). Some people like caffeine -- if I'm up early enough, I might have a mug of chai with my banana. But, since lack of sleep is the enemy of my running anyway, if I'm going longer than 4.5 miles, I'll usually down a Gu (Chocolate Outrage or Mint Chocolate are my favourites) and 10-12 oz of water right before I go out the door.
  • If you need the extra motivation, find someone to run with. You're less likely to leave your running partner standing around waiting on you than you are to talk yourself out of running by yourself. Plus, when you run early with someone else, there's someone to listen to you gripping about how early and dark and cold it is and how much you'd rather be back in bed. Of course, you also have to listen to them gripe.
  • Be safe. If I run in the dark, I wear a reflective vest. No matter when I run, I wear a Road ID and if it's dark, I clip a Firefly Supernova blinking light onto the Road ID band. (If you buy something from Road ID after clicking on one of those links, I do get a discount from Road ID.) In very dark conditions or if the road isn't quite smooth or if I think there will be a lot of unsuspecting pre-dawn traffic, then I'll pull on my running cap and clip on a headlamp. I also, with very few exceptions, always run facing traffic and am always aware of the verges so I can step off the road if necessary. Finally, I do not listen to music when I run, especially in the dark -- I want to be absolutely sure that I hear anything coming my direction -- I actively listen to what's happen around me.
Enough from me. When do you like to run? Do you have other suggestions for getting out early?

This morning, I ran farther than I've run in Nairobi in more than 13 months -- I've only covered a longer distance twice in the past year and both were at less than 1000' above sea level and I walked some on both of those runs. It was only 5.6 miles and it wasn't nearly as fast as I wanted (9:17 mpm), but it is an accomplishment. I'll review my year at the end of December but suffice it to say at the moment, that this has been the worst year of running for me in the past 7.5 years. So, running 5.6 miles is a reason to celebrate!

Run well, y'all,

04 December 2010

Good Saturday Run

It's been a long time since I last posted -- since I first got to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Running in West Africa -- Burkina Faso and Ghana -- was a welcome change from running in Nairobi. Even though Ouaga is the capital city of Burkina Faso, it's not nearly as large as Nairobi and there is not nearly as much traffic. So, the air was cleaner. I did have to watch out for hundreds of motor scooters and bicycles (thousands as work traffic picks up later in the morning). It turned out that the safest place to run was in the middle of the road rather than on the side.

Much of my running in both Ouaga and Ghana was on dirt roads. My shoes got filthy!! After we got home, I left my running shoes outside, next to our door, as usual. The dear lady who works for us here commented that I must have run somewhere besides Nairobi. Curious, I asked her why. "That's not dirt from here," she said. She was right, but how did she know?

This morning's run was a good one. It wasn't long -- none of my runs these days are long -- but it was a good 3.9 miles. The first part felt especially good. Maybe I'll get my endurance back some day. The weather was great -- I left before sunrise in the pre-dawn light -- the temperature was 59° and the humidity was a comfortable 59%. I almost decided not to run because I didn't get enough sleep last night. But, I'm really glad I went.

I hope your weekend run(s) is as satisfying.

Run well, y'all,

24 October 2010

Dog Runs

No, I've not acquired a dog that runs with me nor am I doing my runs in a dog run. I'm in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Where I'm currently running in the mornings there are just a lot of dogs. This morning, I must have seen 15-20. The dog in the picture under the pot looks just like the dogs I saw -- they seem to be Basenji-Schensi. (OK, for some reason, I can't get pictures to load into the blog -- I'll try later.)

Frankly, seeing dogs when I run makes me a little nervous. About 11 years ago, I was running in a small town in Tanzania. I heard dogs barking but didn't think too much about it until I looked around and saw 6 round the corner of a building heading for me -- same general type as the Basenji-Schensi. I stopped and tried to run them off by pretending to toss a rock at them. The barely broke stride but came up to me and started circling. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous but didn't want to excite them -- not with 6 of them circling. There was nobody close around at 6AM except an old man who was sitting down a block or so away. One of them apparently decided he wanted to see what white meat tasted like and I watched him clamp down on my calf.

Fortunately, he seemed to decide that white meat wasn't for him and the dogs turned and ran off. It was the strangest thing. Frankly, it was as if an angel that I couldn't see had stepped between me and the dogs and they weren't sticking around to see what might happen. I was a couple of miles from where I needed to be -- no cell phones and no one knew where I was. So, there was nothing to do but run back with pretty nice holes on both the front and back of my leg and blood dripping down my leg. I had never had a rabies vaccine and there was no vaccine or globulin in this little town and none in Nairobi. So, the meds were flown from Johannesburg, S Africa to Nairobi and one of our mission pilots flew it down to Tanzania -- he was coming anyway, so just came a couple of days early. The missionary doctor who gave me the shots said that if someone is bit by a rabid dog, the symptoms could show up anytime in the succeeding 3 years. That made me feel really good and, frankly, I did have some concern for the next 3 years. Fortunately, either the dog wasn't rabid or the vaccine/globulin combo worked.

I still have the scars on my leg. It was hard to start running again because of trepidation about dogs and I did carry a rungu for a while whenever I ran. (Well, I was going to post a picture of a rungu but I still can't upload pictures.)

At any rate, I still have some concern about dogs when I run, especially in Africa. I'm grateful that the ones around here don't seem to care that I'm around. Most haven't even looked my way.

This morning's run was 3.7 miles at a pace of 8:52 mpm. Slower than I wished but still pretty decent.

Run well, y'all,

23 October 2010

Where Am I?

A couple of days ago, I posted about my run in a new place and asked if anybody had any guesses. No surprises for me, only a few people looked at the blog and nobody guessed. Not really a fair question — you would have to know the streets to know that I'm in Ouagadougou, Bukina Faso. Well, OK, you would also have to actually care! :-D

We're here helping out with field orientation for new personnel. One of the things that I love about running is that I can do it anywhere I go. Except for the fact that my feet are so big (12D) and my shoes take up a lot of luggage space, it's nothing to carry running gear.

The first couple of days here, I was in downtown Ouaga. Night before last, I moved to a different guest house in a different part of town. Yesterday, since I didn't really know where I was in Ouaga, I decided to run up the major road (limiting my turns) for about 15 minutes and then come back -- about 3.5 miles. Easy enough -- no chance of getting lost or turned around, right? Wrong!

Coming back, I realized that there was nothing that identified my turn back to the guest house. And, as it turns out, I was already past the turn when I started looking. So, I kept thinking that it would be the next light. Finally, I knew I had missed badly, so I turned around and headed back -- uphill, of course. I found the turn and got back. When I finally got to an internet connection to check the route, I had run 6.1 miles rather than 3 and change.

That's also one of the great things about running -- sometimes I get to explore!! ... whether I intended to do so or not. I was bushed -- that's the longest I've gone in a year and in the heat and humidity of Ouaga to boot.

This morning -- I carefully noted my turn and managed to get directly back with a planned 4.2 mile run. One challenge of running in Ouaga, even at 5:45AM, is that there are thousands of people riding bicycles and motor bikes -- far more of those than cars. So, it turns out to be safer to run in the middle of a 4-lane major road in the city than on the edge of the road!! That's a first.

Running -- rarely a dull moment.

A shout out to Ryan and Sara Hall. They have resigned from the Mammoth Track Club and are striking out in a different direction to try to move to the next step in their running. Both are great runners and really, really fine people of faith.

Run well, y'all,

20 October 2010

Run on 20102010

Today's another of those unique number days. In places where the international date format is used, it's 20-10-2010 -- twenty-ten-twenty-10. I notice that while running this morning and for a second, couldn't figure out what that number was.

It was 25° and the humidity must have been around 92%. Oh, yes, that is 25°C -- about 78°F. So, coming from Nairobi where morning temperatures have been closer to 60°, I was pretty warm. Fairly short run -- 2.9753 miles at a pace of 8:49 mpm -- slower than I hoped given the low altitude.

The picture on the left was my route. Any guesses as to where I am?

One really great thing about running is that I can explore a new place at ground level.

Run well, y'all,

01 October 2010

Turn the Corner

At least in my experience, the phrase turn the corner is used when one has been through difficult circumstances but has come to the end of the difficulties and things have improved. Well, turning the corner was a good thing during my run this morning.

I did the same run in Colorado Springs that I had done on Sunday -- a relatively easy 0.8 mile start, then 1.8 miles that went up 300 feet (starting at 6453' above sea level). The uphill ended at a corner (Chapel Hills and Research) and when I literally turned the corner, the next 1.8 miles was all downhill and the last 0.2 miles was only a very slight upward incline. Turning the corner today was actually fun!

Stats for the day:

  • 41° F
  • 65% humidity
  • 4.65 miles
  • 9:36 mpm pace
Have you had a turn the corner running experience?

Run well, y'all,

27 September 2010

Up in the Air...

Well, this morning, I had hoped to run on the US Air Force Academy compound a ways -- past the airfield and then back. Headed out and then realized that those plans meant running through the security gate. Rats! Figured it wouldn't hurt to ask, so I crossed to the median toward the MP's and stopped and asked one of them if I could run the road. Very politely he informed me that one had to have military ID to get in before 8AM when visiting hours started. "All right ... no problem ... thank you, sir" and I headed back the other way.

I was disappointed but not surprised. While I knew I was not a national security threat, there are probably all kinds of scenarios where a lone runner on a military base in the early, pre-dawn hours is a really bad idea.

Still, I had a great, though hard, run this morning. My pace for the 4 miles was almost exactly 9:00 mpm -- 9:00.76, to be exact. That's certainly my fastest run at altitude (I'm currently at 6448') in a very long time.

I hope you have a great run today or whenever you next run.

Run well, y'all,

26 September 2010

Hill Training (Sort of)

Now, this hill will not only strengthen your legs, it will rock your lungs. This was my run this morning (Colorado Springs, Academy Hotel-->Research loop) -- I altered the beginning and end slightly and it ended up being 4.278 rather than 4.177 miles. Click on the Elevation link (large) on the left to see the elevation change. Starting at 6448, dropping a bit, then climbing 300'+ from about 0.67 miles to 2.5 miles, it was tough. The last 1.7 miles was GREAT, though! Pace was 9:26 mpm, even with about 3 walking breaks going up the hill -- probably due to the last 1.7 miles.

The run was during the long dawn -- it was cool at 42° but really nice for running. It was nice to have to wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves for a change. According to weather.com, the sun was due up at 6:50 -- I started about 6:10 but it was quite light the whole time. Seeing the Rockies getting that early morning light was something else!

Run well, y'all,

22 September 2010

A 57⁴ Run

Nothing spectacular today — just another run in Nairobi. Kind of a neat coincidence, though: 57°F, 57% humidity, 5765' above sea level, 5.78 minutes per kilometre. Now, if I'd just run 5.7 mile! :-D

As it was, I ran 4.5 miles at a pace of 9:18 mpm or 7.29 kilometres at a pace of 5:46 mpk. For now, that's good. It's not where I want to be. I want 4.5 miles to be my short runs and a 9:18 mpm pace should be my easy runs -- I'd like to get back to 8:00-8:15 mpm on a daily basis. But, patience, grasshopper.

Run well, y'all,

20 September 2010

A Cure for Smelly Shoes

I have an incredible gift! No, it's not the speed to run faster than (or anywhere near as fast) as a speeding bullet; it's not the endurance to run long distances and finish wanting more; it's not even something as exciting or desirable as the gift to make money hand over fist. No, I am an effective heating machine -- I have the gift of sweat! Yes, I know, GROSS! I can head out for a 3-5 mile run when the temperature is 51°, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and come back looking like I have stood under a waterfall for the past 25-50 minutes. One good friend saw me after a run one day and commented, "You sure do have an efficient internal heater!"

One downside of that "gift" is that my shoes are wet at the end of a run. Wet shoes lead to stinky shoes and that always happened. I tried Lysol spray; I tried Fabreeze spray; I tried newspapers stuck in the shoes; I kept them outside at all times; and nothing helped. Then, one day I listened to Ashland Dave's podcast on StuffItts. He said they had worked for him -- you know, the kind of worked like playing country music backwards -- your wife comes back, you get your pickup back, the bank doesn't foreclose on your home, your dog becomes your best friend again -- that kind of worked. So, I decided to try them. I went to the StuffItts' web site and ordered 4 pair of "Speed Demon Black with Neon Yellow Strap" StuffItts. At the time, they were having a closeout on an older model -- the inserts are not replaceable but they were only $9.95 each.

I live in Kenya, so I had the StuffItts sent to my daughter who gave them to someone else who was coming to Kenya for a meeting. Granted, the StuffItts caused quite the stir -- "What in the world...?" When I finally got them, I put them to immediate use. What a difference!! ... I got my pickup back, my dog liked me ... oh, wait, that's the country song! Almost immediately, my running shoes quit smelling like something that had stayed out of the refrigerator for way too long. Now, I have to tell you, they don't destink my shoes to the point where I want to drape them around my neck but I no longer pass out when I get within 20 yards of them and I no longer have to defumigate my suitcase when I travel. They are great and I would heartily recommend them to anyone who has sweaty feet (no, don't get anything for telling you that ... though, if StuffItts wants to compensate me for the endorsement, I wouldn't refuse -- LOL). I keep a pair in my morning running shoes (the worst offenders), a pair in my afternoon walking shoes, and another pair rotates among the shoes I wear for work -- one pair is still in reserve.

Funny thing. The other day, after our afternoon 3+ mile walk, I sat down to take off my shoes and insert my StuffItts and had this overwhelming flashback to my childhood. Do you ever hear or smell something that transports you to another time and place? Well, all of a sudden I had the sensation of opening a fresh bag of cedar shavings to put in my hamster cage. Now that's a great smell and that's what the StuffItts smelled like (and no, I wasn't holding them up to my nose), even after living inside my shoes for 6 months.

Running? Oh, yes, I still do that. This morning, my body did not want to go but my mind overruled for once. It wasn't a pretty sight but I managed a slow 4.4 miler. It was really slow and it didn't really wake me up and I'm stiff all over -- but it was a run and for that I'm extremely grateful.

Run well, y'all,

14 September 2010

Gearing Up For a Run

This morning, while running (4.8 miles at a 9:31 mpm pace), I thought about doing a post on essential gear. Then, while eating breakfast, checking e-mail, and catching up on Facebook and blogs, I found that a long-time friend and almost daughter had posted a comment on my blog of 9-Sep, Bare Your Sole. She is right at completing a full year of running and asked what kind of running gear I might recommend as a reward to herself. I couldn't have paid her for a better lead-in. So, Amanda, here's my answer (it's a little on the long side) -- and congratulations on finishing your first year of running.

What you get depends on what you already have and what you are willing to spend.

First, make sure that you have have a good running kit as your base -- good shoes, running socks, shorts, shirts, and, for the female runners, support undergarments (obviously, I can't make recommendations about this but check Runner's World for reviews). You don't have to spend a lot of money on the socks, shorts, and shirts -- I like Target's shorts and shirts and they're imminently affordable at $12-$15 each. For socks, my favourites are Balega Trail (made in S Africa) and WrightSocks' Running socks (double-layer). Socks always seem a bit pricey -- I seem to spend $6-$9 a pair -- but well worth it. Don't run in all cotton socks unless you have this thing about wanting blisters. Personally, I also want a watch to track my runs. I don't have anything fancy -- I use a Timex Ironman Marathon watch that tracks 100 laps (it uses 2 laps if I'm just tracking the total time of my run and not tracking intervals) and it doubles as my all-the-time watch. If you run during the sunny times of day, a good pair of sunglasses and a running cap are pretty essential -- protect your eyes!

If you have the basic kit, then add some safety gear. Get something that identifies who you are and contains emergency contact information. If you are involved in a running accident and can't communicate, this may well save your life. Personally, I use a Road ID wrist band with the interactive ID plate and wear it on every run, day or night. (Note: if you purchase something from Road ID after clicking on that link, I do benefit in some small way -- a discount or something.)

If you run in the dark (or at dawn or dusk), then get some good safety gear. Again, you don't have to buy expensive stuff, you just want to be clearly visible by drivers. A reflective vest would be my first purchase -- you should be able to get a good one for less than $15. A light is also a good idea both for safety and for seeing the road/trail. I have a clip-on blue Firefly Nova from Road ID and set it to blink. It goes on my Road ID wrist band. I also bought a 3-light LED clip-on headlamp from Wal-Mart that clips onto the bill of my running cap. I'm not interested in getting hit while I run!

Then, if you run in cool or cold weather or in wind/rain, add gear for that. How much you need to wear is very individual. Over the past 7 years, I've worked out what to wear based on the temperature:

  • >/=50°: shorts and short-sleeved shirt
  • 40°-49°: shorts and long-sleeved shirt (my favourite is a Brooks, bright green/yellow half-zip), light gloves in the low 40°'s
  • 32°-39°: shorts, short-sleeved shirt, light sweatshirt/vest, light gloves, running cap (ears uncovered)
  • 26°-31°: light wind pants over shorts, long-sleeved shirt, light sweatshirt, gloves, running cap
  • 20°-25°: same as 26°-31° but I'll wear a light fleece instead of the sweatshirt and substitute a stocking cap for the running cap so that I can cover my ears. If I have them, then a pair of less breathable shoes made for inclement weather.
  • <20°: running tights under either the shorts or the wind pants, heavier fleece or sweatshirt under the light fleece, heavier gloves, 2 pair of socks. The one time I've run in less 10° (it was 5°), I overdressed because I was afraid of the cold.
Once you have that gear and want more, then is when I would start looking at fancy gear. Sometimes the higher priced shorts and shirts really are more comfortable and better than the Target/Champion level of kit. The Nike+ iPod Sport Kit seems to be a good, inexpensive (if you already have a compatible iPod) device for tracking your runs. If you want something that gives you more information, then a Garmin 405 (expensive) is really nice. Add a heart-rate monitor if you'll actually use it (I just do a quick finger-on-the-pulse check at the end of my run). I don't listen to music while I run but that's because most of my runs are on the roads and I want to be able to hear what's going on around me. But, if you run on trails or a treadmill or maybe even on sidewalks, then another piece of gear would be an iPod (or, shudder, other MP3 player -- recognize my bias?). I can't stand Apple's ear buds so I would also get a set of sweat/water-resistant sports head phones -- my preference are the in-the-ear kind, not buds. The iPod Shuffle is a $50 splurge and adds almost no weight to your gear. For the running parents (Amanda), a jogging stroller lets you share the joy of running with your child and adds some Umph! to your run.

If you're doing long runs, then get hydration gear. Carrying a Dasani water bottle is fine but can get tiring. I have a simple Fuel Belt Sahara 22 oz bottle with a handstrap. Having the handstrap means that I can actually let go of the bottle to relax my hands. I also have a Nathan waist pack -- it does bounce a bit and that and the weight on the back of my waist take some getting used to but it's nice for long runs since I don't have to hold it. A lot of folks like the 2 and 4-bottle waist belts from either Fuel Belt or Nathan or other suppliers.

So, Amanda, those are my suggestions. Treat yourself to some nice gear and enjoy your running even more.

Run well, y'all,

11 September 2010

Long Run -- Sort Of

I guess long run is a relative term. Fourteen months ago, a long run would have been 10-14 miles. Right now, on my way back to a good weight and a decent level of fitness, a long run for me is 5+ miles. So, today, I headed out for a long run. The temperature in Nairobi was 53° and the humidity was 57%. At 6:30, the sun was just coming up. So, it was a beautiful, almost perfect morning for a run. It was hard -- I haven't gone more than 5 miles in Nairobi in a very long time -- since 11-Nov-09. I ended up taking several walk breaks. My pace was only 9:45 mpm -- a full minute per mile slower than that Nov-09 5-miler. Still, considering my current fitness level and weight, I'm satisfied.

Have you ever had to struggle to get back in shape?

Run well, y'all,

09 September 2010

How to Run Really Fast

According to this page, Run Faster -- How to Run Faster, I could run a 0:59.0 half marathon if I weighed 54#. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to give up my dream of beating Ryan Hall. Whadda' ya' think?

Well, OK, I guess I haven't fulfilled the promise of the post title. I think the secrets to running really fast are: genetics, hard work, tough mental state, and did I say hard work? I think I'll set more realistic goals, like getting to an appropriate BMI weight and running 10KM without feeling totally exhausted.

This morning's run was awful -- only 2 things good about it -- the temperature was 53° and I actually ran. Otherwise, 4.36 miles at an abysmal pace of 9:55 mpm. It didn't feel that hard but the numbers don't seem to be lying. Oh well, a day with a bad run is better than a day without running. (That is true, isn't it?)

Run well, y'all,

03 September 2010

Bare Your Sole?

I don't think it's either just my imagination or that I'm reading different bloggers than before, but the last year seems to have seen an awful lot of people talking about barefoot running. For a time, I considered getting a pair of Vibram Five Fingers but decided that I need more protection where I run than the VFFs would provide.

One of the reasons given for running barefoot or in very minimalist shoes is that it forces you to run naturally, meaning less heel strike and more mid- or forefoot. Recently, I came across several blogs that seem, to me, to bring common sense thinking to this issue, and related issues. They're not anti-barefoot but talk more about footstrike and the results (benefits, negatives, neutrality).

  • Elite Males in Slow-Motion at the 2010 Boston Marathon -- video clips of Cheruiyot, Merga, Kebede, Kigen, Goumri, Keflezighi, and Hall at the same point (about mile 17) of the Boston Marathon. Hint, they don't have the same footstrike patterns and they are all very fast -- sub-5 minutes per mile.
  • Bare Your Sole? Just Shorten Your Stride -- talks about how to reduce stress on knees and hips (one of the touted benefits of barefoot running) by increasing stride rate or turnover which reduces overstriding.
  • On Running Form, Variability in Elites, and What it Means to You (and Me) -- using stills from the same video clips that he used in my first reference above, Pete Larson looks at footstrike, arm carriage, and body orientation (straight up versus forward lean) variability among elite runners.
  • On Running Form II: Where Should Footstrike Occur? -- this was the most striking of all the blogs. Larson addresses the question of footstrike occurring in front of the center of gravity, directly under the center of gravity, or even behind the center of gravity. He concludes that the optimum is ... well, check the blog.
On a personal note, I briefly considered trying a pair of very minimalist shoes -- actually one of the Vibram Five Fingers line. However, given the kinds of surfaces on which I run (really bad roads in Nairobi, Kenya), I decided to stick with my Etonic Jepara SC's.

After a really odd injury/joint condition (pelvic symphisitis) that hit me around Thanksgiving last year (late November, for non-US runners), I ended up not running at all for about 7 weeks. One problem, though, was that my appetite didn't diminish and I ended up gaining about 12 unneeded and unwanted pounds. When I finally was given the green light to run again, it was awful. Even before the injury, I was struggling with my endurance -- I think it had to do with both a greatly increased travel schedule and a period of near burnout. What I've discovered is that at 56 years old, it's much, much harder to lose the excess weight and it's much, much harder to regain one's fitness level. While I'm still running slowly (9-9:30 mpm), I seem to have had a break through this week. I've run farther and, on 2 of 3 runs, faster than in a long time. Today's run was the longest in Nairobi (i.e., at altitude -- >5,000 feet) since mid-November -- 4.6 miles at 9:36 mpm -- and, while a hard run, was very satisfying. So, maybe I'm getting back.

Run well, y'all,

23 June 2010


What else can I say? USA and England both through to the final 16 after each won their match 1-0.

Run well, y'all,

17 June 2010

Running or Cycling?

An interesting report of a study on the possible differences in carbohydrate oxidation between cycling and running. The study detected an insignificant difference in carb oxidation (and I assume that in regular-people-speak, that means carb use) between the two sports. However, running resulted in a higher fat oxidation.

Carbohydrate Oxidation from a Drink during Running Compared To Cycling Exercise

Decent enough run this morning - 3.07 miles in 28:07.24 (9:09.8 mpm) and that included a couple of brief, 20 second, walk breaks. After I finished, I added some barefoot strides and cross-overs (running sideways, alternately crossing one leg in front and then behind the other). This is the second day I've done that and my feet are sore! Running barefoot really does change one's stride.

Funny incident -- at about mile 1, I turned around. There was a Kenyan trotting down the road right behind me (after I turned around). He passed me and I saw that he was wearing a coat, long trousers, and street shoes -- obviously headed to work. Nothing like that to make one think, "Wow! I'm really slow." I didn't consciously speed up, but I know I did. A couple of times I caught him and even passed him but he always repassed me. We stayed together for about 1.25 miles until I turned. My consolation -- I'm probably 25 or more years older than he. Still, he was in street shoes and a jacket, for crying out loud! For his part, at some point, he probably realized that this man who is as old as his father was staying with him and there was no way he was going to let his dad stay ahead of him!

Ah, the joys of running!

Run well, y'all -- burn that fat,

16 June 2010

NRR -- 'Lego'lights of USA-England

Not running-related, still ... that why I titled this blog, Random Thoughts.... I'm also not sure that one could accurately say "highlights" when the figures used to recreate the excitement are less than 2" tall.

Enjoy reliving the exciting moments of the match:

Stayed up too late last night watching Brazil-N Korea, watching the Southern Baptist Convention meeting via streaming video, and Tweeting/Facebooking about both -- so, no run for me this morning.

Run well, y'all -- and go USA and South Africa!

14 June 2010

Gu and Altitude

Major discovery this morning -- a Gu does nothing to improve breathing! (Duh!) Headed out this morning for another short (3.1 mi), slow (9:32 mpm) run. I had decided to down a Gu to see if the addition of a few sugar calories would make a difference. While I do think it helped fuel my legs, it did nothing for my breathing. The oxygen at 5700' seemed extra thin today.

I also decided that I don't particularly care for Tri-Berry flavoured Gu. I think I'll stick with Chocolate Outrage.

It was a bit misty which made it darker than normal. That makes it difficult to see irregularities (of which there are MANY) on these obstacle course trails that Nairobi calls roads.

I decided to try some barefoot strides after I cooled down a bit -- and after I got home to our smoothly paved entry drive. A sports doctor recommended I do that to teach my body the proper running form. They felt pretty good.

Run well, y'all,

13 June 2010

The Incredible Benefits of Running

Here's why you should run:

I'm enjoying the World Cup -- Gooooooo Bafana Bafana! Gooooooo USA! I don't even know if it's even possible with the groupings, but I'd love to see South Africa and the USA in the finals -- two underdogs.

Run well, y'all,

12 June 2010

Keys to Total Fitness -- Balance and Flexibility

I suspect that most regular runners might pass this test with relative ease -- Discovery Health: Flexibility & Balance Assessment. I'm "No sweat" in 5 of 7, "Breaking a Sweat" in #6 (I need to work on balance with my eyes closed), and "Swimming in Sweat" in #2 (though I can bend over and put my forehead on my shins w/o bending my knees, I can't raise my leg to 90° w/o assisting with a towel or my hands when on my back).

The subway situation that introduces the article is probably not applicable to most, but the premise is right -- flexibility and balance are important factors in overall health as well as in running. How's your balance when you hit an unexpected irregularity in the road or trail when running? What about in a race when you get squeezed in a crowd and your heel gets clipped from behind?

    • What do you do to work on improving your flexibility and balance?

  • This morning's run: short and slow again -- 3.1 miles @ 9:30 mpm -- I loved the 54° temperature!

    Run well, y'all -- and stay loose,

    09 June 2010

    Legs Tired? No, It's All in Your Head

    Say what? Can it be?

    More Proof That Fatigue is Voluntary

    So, all this time when my legs give out, then my legs aren't really tired -- I'm just lazy and quit?

    Now, I'm not a scientist or a doctor or even a trainer or physical therapist and I accept that fatigued muscles will respond enthusiastically and vigorously to an external stimulus like an electrical shock. You can apply an electric shock to the legs of a dead frog (even to severed frog legs) and they will react as if the frog is jumping but that doesn't mean the frog could just decide to keep on jumping.

    I suspect there's more to the story than just simply, Fatigue is in your head.

    Still, if you want to shame your running partner into going farther, just point him/her to that web site. Or threaten her/him with electric shock treatment.

    This morning: 3.1 miles, slow (9:23 mpm), 52° (eat your hearts out, American south running friends). I quit because I was ... (1) tired?, (2) lazy?, (3) a long way from anyone who would hook me up to an electrical current?

    Run well, y'all -- and don't quit,

    PS -- Personally, my unscientific opinion is that our brains tell us to quit before our legs give out completely in order to protect us from injury or death. But, hey, what do I know?

    05 June 2010

    Hopelessness -- Search for Meaning (Jeff Allen Cleans Up His Act)

    Not running related.

    Earlier this afternoon, I posted a video clip of Jeff Allen's comedy. In this clip, Jeff talks about a radical shift in the direction of his life. He talks about trying to make sense of life and find meaning and how that finally happened. The audio and video were out of sync but that might be my Africa connection -- not the best internet connection in the world.

    Run well, y'all -- and have a meaningful life,

    Dieting -- Jeff Allen Comedy

    Pretty funny -- sneaking in cookies, rice cakes (do you think of cake when you taste one of those?):

    Slept late this morning so no run. First time in ages that I've slept more than 6 1/2 hours.

    Run well, y'all,

    04 June 2010

    (Chocolate) Milk Does the Body Good

    Why pay for expensive artificial ingredients, when low-fat chocolate milk serves as a perfectly good post-run recovery drink? This report from The Times of India is just one of many reporting on studies that show that low-fat or no-fat chocolate milk is just as good for refueling as specially designed sports drinks. Besides, in my opinion, chocolate milk tastes so much better!
    Chocolate milk speeds up post-exercise recovery
    Pour me a glass, please, and make it cold!
    Run well, y'all,

    19 May 2010

    "Thinking About It" Is All I'll Do!

    At $188,185.59, the closest I'll get to owning one of these is as a random thought while I'm running! But, if you want the most exclusive (25.5 carats of diamonds and 22 ct gold), you can purchase it from Stuart Hughes:

    Run well, y'all -- and dream on,

    Compliment or Insult?

    I'm not sure whether to feel complimented or insulted by this invitation that I received via e-mail :-D
    run like a girl Richmond, VA

    Dear Bob,

    Spread the word... it's the last chance to register!

    If you've registered but have friends, co-workers or family members that are procrastinating there are only about 200 spots left for the 3rd Annual Women's only running event: run like a girl.
    Ah, the joys of e-mail mass advertising!

    Run well, y'all,

    18 May 2010

    NRR: Google Cool

    OK, this has nothing to do with running but it is random:

    Run well, y'all,

    09 May 2010

    Back on the Roads (Again)

    At the risk of being repetitive and someone(s) saying, "Sure", I want to say I'm back on the roads again. Since Thanksgiving, I've been dealing with an odd joint issue that put a huge crimp in my running and then finally got me off the roads for 7 straight weeks, from 23-Jan to 15-Mar. (A bad side effect of that hiatus was that though my activity level dropped, my appetite did not. Let me just say that it was a waist-full 7 weeks.) I was at the point where every 2-3 weeks, I had so much pain for 24-36 hours in the pelvic area when moving that I could just barely shuffle-walk and even that was almost unbearable. Then, the pain would leave almost as quickly as it came and I would be fine until the next episode.

    The orthopedist finally said he thought it was symphisitis. Runner's World had an article on syphysitis here. He said he had no clue what caused it or if I would get over it. The only treatment he suggested was to take 100mg of Voltaren once daily for 5 days if the pain reoccured. When I asked him when I could start running, he said start, build gradually, and if it hurts, rest.< Both sites linked above indicate that symphisitis is an overuse injury. Not sure about that, either, as (1) I had actually reduced my running mileage prior to the onset of the problem and (2) there seemed to be absolutely no correlation between running and the onset of the pain -- even during the 7 weeks when I didn't run a step, I still dealt with the pain 2 or 3 times. At any rate, while I don't have complete confidence in the diagnosis of the doc or in the articles, I have used the doc's advice to, at worst, manage the pain. Whenever I feel the discomfort that I knew indicated the problem was reoccurring, I took 50mg of diclofenac (an NSAID). It's now been almost 2 months since I've had the debilitating pain and I'm gradually building my mileage back.

    Yesterday, I ran 5.69 miles, the farthest I've run since 19-Nov-09. I say ran, though I did take 3 brief walk breaks. This morning, I ran (all the way) another 4.5 hilly miles with no side effects.

    These runs were at relatively low altitude (about 1000'). I've lost a lot of the speed that I had. For instance, 8 months ago, I regularly ran at 8:00-8:20 mpm with occasional training runs between 7:30 and 7:45. Today, my run was at 9:14 -- at altitude (5700') in Nairobi, I've been running 9:30-10:00 mpm. Pre-injury, my weekly mileage was 30-35 miles; I'm back up, now, to about 14 miles per week and anticipate running 16-17 miles this week. But, as I build back up, I anticipate (hope) that my speed will continue to drop and my endurance will increase. Let me tell you, it's a whole lot tougher to get back in shape at 56 years old than it was in earlier years.

    I've been at my parents' house in Greenville, SC for the last 3 days. Though I've run here a lot, I ran a different route today. I knew it would be a challenge with some uphills. What I didn't count on, though, was a 1.4 mile stretch that was a steady climb of about 180'!! The elevation map from gMaps-Pedometer was interesting, so I thought I'd post it -- the thick lines represent intersections/turns. The actual route is here.

    OK, this may interest no one but me but, hey...it's my blog. (grin)

    Have you come back from an injury?

    Run well, y'all,

    04 March 2010

    East African Runners

    During my hiatus from running (week 6, now), I can't exactly have random thoughts while running. Ideas for this blog haven't just popped up. However, today, I read another blog that I wanted to share.

    One of the enduring mysteries of distance running is Why do middle and long distance runners from East Africa completely dominate these events? Davie, from Scotland, addressed this question in a blog post in September, Glasglow Running Seminar 2009, Part 1. He followed that post with 2 more on the rest of the seminar. His report makes for interesting reading -- he gives a good summary of the information presented on East African runners. His style is informal and non-technical, making it easy to read.

    Summarizing the conclusions of one of the presenters, Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, FACSM: Research Scientist based in Glasgow who acts as Scientific Adviser to Global Sport Communications, regarding the domination of East African distance runners, Davie said:
    • Solid base - 60% of E African elite runners report running to school as children
    • High Altitude camps
    • Non scientific approach - natural instinct
    • Aerobic training
    • Interval training (known to them as bone-breakers)
    • Altitude training different from western approach; (E.African athletes live at varying heights from 2,400m to 3,000m, but when they leave home to run they start by climbing even higher. They do drop down to do speedwork but generally the rule is "Live high, train higher) as opposed to our athlete's rule of "live high train low")
    • Cross country training
    • African diet (86% vegetable, 14% animal and 77% carbohydrate. Much of the diet is maize, 64%, eaten in the traditional form of Ugali. Staple drink is tea.)
    • Non scientific approach to training (no drugs, supplements or technology) only high tech apparatus is a stopwatch - no Garmins!!!
    • Superior fatigue resistance
    • Low body weight (average Kenyan runner's weight is almost 10kg less -- 22 pounds -- than the average US runner)
    The most important conclusion, though, seems to be mental -- East African runners have the attitude that they can run long and fast. Davie covered this in more detail in Part 3. In Part 2, he summarized information on hydration and heat build up in the body.*

    Seems to me that there are lessons in this for those of us who are (much) less than elite runners.  My summary: Eat right and simply, train hard and simply, train your mind. Frankly, I think I run better when I take a more simplified approach to training versus a more regimented approach. What about you?

    Run well, y'all,

    *Unlike the presenters in the seminar, I can't and don't attribute the running abilities of humans to evolution. This is a complicated subject, so what I say here will be overly simplified -- a sound bite -- but, while evolution seems logical as an overall theory, the devil's in the details. When I read explanations like the first part of Davie's Part 2, I find it just makes more sense that humans were created this way, not that we "developed" these abilities. But, that doesn't change the validity of the explanations for the dominance of East Africans in distance running.

    22 February 2010

    Haile Gebrselassie Revealed

    These are about 2 years old, but still good. CNN did a 3-part series on Haile Gebrselassie's quest for the marathon world record in the Berlin Marathon.

    Run well, y'all,

    Planned Break From Blogging and Running

    Not a long break from any blogging but I'm heading out of town for a week of meetings. Doubt there will be time to blog.

    Running, though -- this is my 5th week off. So far, no pain in 2 solid weeks, even after moving. That's a good sign. Still, I should get the doc's OK before I start running again.

    Run well, y'all,

    18 February 2010

    How Do You Train?

    I'm at the end of my 4th week of no running -- nada. The doc is not sure, yet, if my problem is tendonitis or osteitis. Hopefully x-ray and bone scan will show what's going on. While the symptoms don't seem to be directly correlated to running, he advised me not to run until we find out what's going on. Boy, I do miss being on the road!

    In the meantime, I'm giving some thought to how I might change what I do and how I run. I would really like to set a new PR for a 10K (current: 46:19) and break 1:50:00 again on a half marathon (current PR: 1:48:and change) I'm fascinated by the recent reports of new research on the impact of footstrikes (pun fully intended). While I cannot imagine running barefoot on the streets of Nairobi, I can focus on ensuring that I hit more midfoot. Even toying with getting a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers to try.

    In the process of reading about these impact studies, I discovered Steve Magness' blog, On and Off the Track. Excellent technical blog about running. I also follow Steve on Twitter (you can also follow me on Twitter). Steve's post last night on Twitter, is very interesting: How do Norway's top XC skiers train? 700hrs/yr 76% easy, 6% medium, 5% high, 4% speed dvlpment, 9% strength training. Hmmm. I wonder if that formula would work with running.

    Check out Steve's blog for some really interesting running discussions.

    I'd have to do some calculations to determine my running mix. I haven't done much strength training at all and I do plan to change that. What kind of mix do you use when you're training?

    Run well, y'all,

    12 February 2010

    How to Run More Slowly

    Over the last few years, there have been many warnings about stretching prior to warming up one's muscles. Much of what I have read suggests that stretching prior to a run is at best neutral -- it produces no benefit. Worse, it might actually damage muscles. However, this article reports on a study of the effect of static stretching on endurance performance. The study concluded that static stretching prior to a run reduced running efficiency and endurance: Sweat Science >> Stretching is bad for power… and endurance running

    It seems the best strategy, if you're going to stretch at all, is to stretch after your run when your muscles are well warmed up. Of course, there are a number of people who believe that there is no benefit to stretching at any time.

    Well, for me, I'll continue to stretch after my run as I have done for the past almost 7 years.

    Do you have a stretching routine? Do you stretch before or after your run -- or, perhaps, after a short warmup?

    Run well, y'all,

    08 February 2010

    Interesting Milestone

    I like interesting number sequences. For instance, my in-laws' phone number has always been easy to remember because it goes down sequentially and then goes back up. I find it mildly entertaining when the odometer on my vehicle hits a sequential number (54321) or a repeated number (55555) or a number with interesting relationships (41612 -- 4-squared=16; 16-4=12). And, yes, though I don't understand the math, I do like the show Numb3rs.

    Well, ClustrMaps tickled my interest in numbers today with the stats on my blog -- they do the world map hit-counter in the sidebar. It reported a gross total of visitors to my blog, since I added a ClustrMap on 9-Oct-2006, as being 7777 as of 5:16AM today.

    Out of curiosity, I checked my wife's cooking-from-scratch blog, Yummy Y'all, and they had registered 888 visitors to her blog since 27-Oct-2006.

    Numberwise, I'm satisfied today. And, no, it doesn't take much to entertain me. ROTFLOL!

    Run well, y'all,

    06 February 2010

    Is Running a 'Waste of Time'?

    If you believe an article (4-Feb-10) in the Telegraph, then yes: Millions of people 'waste their time by jogging'.

    But, according to Runner's World, this is an example of overblown, misleading media spin by the British newspaper. The Telegraph was reporting on a new paper published recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology. RW quotes a report by LiveScience/MSNBC on the same study:
    The researchers stress that exercise has benefits, regardless of whether or not a person can improve aerobic capacity. You can still lose weight, and other health factors such as cholesterol levels could benefit.
    Dr. Claude Bouchard,Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Tulane LA, also told RW:
    Running and other forms of exercise are always the right thing to do, because they can improve your health even if they don't increase your vo2 max.
    What to do? OK, maybe I'm one of the 20% of the population who, whether I run 25 miles per week or 100 miles per week, won't see a huge difference in my vo2Max. I also know that regular running is no guarantee that I will avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. But I also know that regular exercise carries many benefits -- it improves the odds that I will be more healthy for more years, it helps me control my weight (burning 100+ calories per mile is huge), it helps me feel better. What difference does it really make that I can never be an elite runner? I think I'll keep running -- it's not a waste of my time.

    See RW's full report here: Peak Performance: Feb. 4: "Running Is a Waste of Time": Grabby Headline, Bad Reporting

    Run well, y'all,

    02 February 2010

    Stay Bundled Up

    For some of my running friends in Richmond, this is awful news, but there are a few who are glad that warm weather will be postponed a bit:

    Run well, y'all -- and run carefully,

    Ode to Forgetfulness

    Do you ever find that you've misplaced something that you never misplace? Or, forgotten your children's names? Or wondered why you went to the kitchen? If so, then this video is for you:

    Just don't forget to run and when you run, don't forget how to get home.

    Run well, y'all,

    31 January 2010

    What Do Running Shoes Actually Do?

    In his blog post, Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot Running, Steve Magness challenges some strongly-rooted assumptions about the benefits of running shoes and puts forth his opinion that the current categories used for running shoes -- cushioning, neutral, stability, and motion control -- should be rethought and replaced based on what really happens in a runner's stride.

    Magness surveys several research studies that tried to look at the real relationship between impact forces, shoe correction, and injuries. The thing that struck me the most was Magness' contention that shoes, or at least the wrong shoes, interfere with the body's natural adaptation to forces.

    The human body is an incredible organism. Judaism and Christianity have long acknowledged that fact. The writer of Psalms said: ...I am fearfully and wonderfully made... (Psalm 139:14, NIV)

    Science agrees and Magness affirms that viewpoint:
    we underestimate the human body! It’s an amazing thing, and we never give it the credit it deserves. The body adapts to the surface that it’s going to strike, if you give it a chance. The body adapts to both shoe and surface adjusting impact forces via changes joint stiffness, the way the foot strikes, and a concept called muscle tuning.
    My take-away from the article? For now, at least, I have no intention of giving up my running shoes. Though I love going barefoot*, I've worn shoes while walking and running for 55+ years and suspect that my feet have adapted, for better or for worse. Besides, they are definitely not tough enough for Nairobi roads. However, I think I'll work on mimicking the style of running that the body seems to naturally use when running barefoot -- attempting to ensure footstrike beneath my body's center of gravity rather than out in front, shortening my stride length, and increasing my turnover rate.

    Provocative article. What do you think? Would a change in your stride or you shoes make a difference in your running?

    Run well, y'all,

    *...barefoot... -- I like the dress code for my current office. Since I office in my house, I can and do go barefoot a lot. It's great. TCK's (third culture kids) in Africa are notorious for going barefoot whenever and wherever possible -- I'm not one but in that respect, I'd make a great TCK! :-D

    27 January 2010

    Opportunity knocks…but not always at the front door

    Have you ever been waiting for an opportunity but found you were waiting at the wrong door? Great story and lesson here:

    Opportunity knocks…but not always at the front door

    Run well, y'all,

    21 January 2010

    Everyday Life in Kenya

    A good friend, Bert Yates, has posted, on Facebook, pictures of some common, colourful scenes in Kenya. Not sure if you can access them unless you're either a FB friend of Bert or myself.

    Run well, y'all,

    15 January 2010

    Getting Back on Track

    Well, if I run in the morning, I will have run about as much this week as in all of December. And, based on the last 4-5 years of running, this week has been a short mileage week.

    The runs have been relatively short and slow, but I've been out there and building back my mileage:

    Monday: 2.9 miles Pace: 9.43 mpm
    Thurs: 4.1 miles Pace: 9.37 mpm
    Friday: 3.3 miles Pace: 9.28 mpm
    Saturday: Planning on 4 miles

    I'm glad to be back on the road.

    Run well, y'all,

    12 January 2010

    Look, Ma -- No Wires!

    This has nothing to do with running but it's fascinating stuff.

    My wife and I have said, many times, how much we wish someone would come up with a way to recharge stuff without having to have wires running everywhere. It's moved from Sci-Fi to real life. I had seen the PowerMat charging system for cell phones, etc, but the technology is moving ahead very quickly. The following was in a report of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) from TidBITS (#1009, 11-Jan-10)

    Finally, we come to the blender. It was a perfectly ordinary blender, sitting on a black box. It whirred like all blenders do. Then I noticed that there were no wires attached to the blender. It ran, like the toaster that sat next to it, on inductive power. There have been inductive power pads around for a while for charging low-power devices like cell phones, but blenders and toasters are orders of magnitude more thirsty for electricity.

    The magic in the black box comes courtesy of Fulton Innovation's eCoupled technology, which uses magnetic induction to create a current in receiving devices. eCoupled electronics communicate with the black box to tell it how much power it needs. Electronic devices within range of the box which do not communicate with it are somehow left out of the induction field. When I expressed concern that other devices would burst into flames while the wireless power was active, the presenter turned on the blender, put his cell phone down next to it, and offered to let me make a call.

    I can't say that I have an engineer's understanding of electricity, but I was under the impression that magnetic induction is an all-or-nothing sort of thing. Fulton has apparently managed to create a power supply which can feed kilowatts to intelligent devices, without affecting other electronics within range. I think he probably could have cloned a cat, รก la Nikola Tesla in "The Prestige," and I wouldn't have been any more surprised by the demo.

    Common implementation of ubiquitous wireless power would completely change our relationship with technology. Picture a laptop with a battery that never runs down, because it's constantly being charged. There isn't a single electrical device that couldn't benefit from this technology, and many would be transformed by it.

    I can't say whether Fulton will be the company that succeeds in bringing inductive charging to the mass market, but it was immediately clear to me that this technology is the future.

    Here are some web links to additional information. The Wikipedia article on inductive charging talks about the development of proximity transmission of electricity (versus the device having to actually be in contact with the power source as is the case with the Powermat and the above blender):

    eCoupled Wireless Housing
    Wikipedia Article on Inductive (wireless) Charging
    Wikipedia Article on Wireless Energy Transfer

    The techie/gadget-loving/geeky side of me sort of wishes I had gotten the Powermat. :-D This is really cool.

    Run well, y'all,

    11 January 2010

    Clawing My Way Back

    One of my reoccurring dreams has to do with running. I wish it was about running with some of the great East African runners and feeling good. But, it's usually an exhausting dream where I'm trying to run up a long, steep hill that's usually deep sand. Instead of running, I'm barely moving forward, digging my hands into the sand and pulling myself uphill.

    Well, I think that's how my running is going to feel for the next couple of months. Due to a variety of reasons (travel, an odd injury, boredom with my routes, a cold), I've only run 6 times since 21 November with this morning's run being the first in 3 weeks. I'm not completely starting over but at 55 years old, I think I lose fitness more quickly than ever and it will take me longer to get it back. But, I'm committed to getting it back.

    My goals:
    • Get back to 100+ miles per month
    • Run a half marathon in Nairobi in October
    • Lose 20 pounds

    There I've said it -- here goes. This morning's run was only 2.94 miles at a pace of 9:42 mpm -- SSD (short, slow distance). I'll bump up my mileage slowly and see what happens.

    Have you ever come back from a running slump? Any advice?

    BTW, if you want to listen to a running podcast by a regular guy, check out Ashland (VA) Dave's Running in the Center of the Universe

    Run well, y'all,

    09 January 2010

    Cost of Running: Shoes

    the Ringmaster, who blogs at Mile by Mile, posted an interesting blog the other day. She talked about the shoes she had used during 2009 and had figured out her cost per mile for shoes. As much as I like numbers, that is one calculation I hadn't done.

    So, I went back and ran the numbers for all the shoes for which I've tracked miles over the last 3+ years. Interesting. In that time I've run in and retired 6 pair of running shoes. I currently have 2 active pair. My average cost per mile was $0.134 per mile. Some other stats that caught my attention:
    Most expensive: Brooks Adrenaline GTS7 (2007)
    $99.75, 454 miles - $0.22/mi
    Least expensive: Etonic Jepara SC 1 (2008)
    $72.00, 714.4 miles - $0.10/mi
    Longest lasting: Etonic Jepara SC 2 (2008)
    $93.00, 817.7 miles - $0.11/mi
    During 2009, I used 4 pair of running shoes. One pair, Brooks Adrenaline ASR, was a pair that I bought at the end of 2005 for cold, wet runs. When Richmond, VA had 9+ inches of snow in March 2009, I dug out these shoes for 2 or 3 runs to keep my feet as warm and dry as possible. I would not have wanted to run on dry pavement or for very far with those shoes as they were worn out -- but, they kept me drier than other shoes would have done.

    I wore out a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 2's that I had started wearing at the end of Oct 2008. I used those until June 2009 and had 817.7 miles on them. Then I started using a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 1's. When the rainy season started in Kenya in October, the SC 1's became my mud-run shoes and I added in a pair of Etonic Jepara SC 2's for drier runs. The SC 1's now have 504.6 miles and the SC 2's have a measly 62 miles.

    Enough stats for now.

    Run well, y'all,

    Follow the Footprints

    Living in another culture can be so interesting. Just before Christmas our daughter came home to spend Christmas with us in Kenya. I was in the US for a meeting when she arrived and before I returned, my wife and Stacey drove to the Kenya coast to visit some friends before we took a few days of vacation on the Indian Ocean coast. When I returned, I flew to Mombasa to meet up with them.

    When I arrived at the Mombasa airport (Moi International Airport), we deplaned on the tarmac. As we headed to the terminal, the airport employee who was directing us told us to just follow the footprints and we would get to the right place. Sure enough....It was funny but effective.

    Hmmmm. Life lesson here. If you follow the right footprints, you end up in the right place. Whose footprints are you following? (Joshua 24:15)

    Run well, y'all,

    08 January 2010

    Why Do They Call It a "Dashboard"?

    Earlier today, a co-worker was explaining a new online process for our personnel to use in accessing and tracking budget information. The new finance program, FE, uses an online dashboard. This co-worker did an excellent job of explaining how to use the process but then posed the question, Why do they call it a dashboard? I wish I knew. He quoted the definition from Wikipedia which only referenced the Dashboard module of the Macintosh operating system (OS X). Since I had struggled with the concept, I thought I might be of some help.

    He said it helped him. So, perhaps, though not running related, this will help someone else. Here's my response to him:
    More, I'm sure, than you want to know -- way more -- but when I saw the trailer on your note [his question and the Wikipedia definition], my geek side kicked in. This is a layman's understanding and may not be a technical explanation:

    "Dashboard" was a confusing term when I first encountered it in computer usage. It helped me to think about the dashboard in a vehicle. It contains gauges or lights that give the driver information about the state of the vehicle -- speed, miles, RPM's, heat, fuel remaining. Newer or more expensive vehicles give even more information -- my daughter's Civic tells her when to change her oil; my mother-in-law's Buick shows her the air pressure in her tires and real time MPG. The dashboard also contains some "items" that are interactive, allowing the driver to control various aspects of the vehicle -- cruise control buttons, audio system controls, HVAC controls, One Star controls, etc.

    In computer terms, dashboard is used in the same sense and it's used in a lot more instances than just the Mac OS X. For instance, web hosting sites use the term dashboard or control panel to talk about a web page where a user goes to get information about or to manage his/her account. The page will most often display icons that link to pages relating to various aspects of ones accounts. For instance, for the [regional] web site, my dashboard/control panel shows how much of my allotted disk space I've used, how many e-mail accounts I've set up, and icons for setting up e-mail accounts, setting up automatic forwarding, managing FTP sites, controlling filtering, managing files on the server, etc.

    Every person who has a gmail account has a Google dashboard, that gives the user information about the overall account and allows him or her to manage settings for various accounts (Gmail, Calendar, Analytics, Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, Web History, etc.) under their Google account umbrella. Those who have a Blogger account (another Google "service") have a dashboard that shows all the blogs that one is managing and allows one to customize the appearance of the blog, manage settings, post/edit blog entries, etc.

    In the Mac OS X, the dashboard is the virtual desktop that, when activated, shows mini-programs (widgets) that do various things. Though I can't recall the term that Microsoft uses, Vista has a similar functionality with some differences in implementation. On my Mac laptop, I have a bunch of those widgets installed: a program that shows the status of my battery, one that shows the status of my network connections and the heat output of various components of my laptop, one that gives baseball scores and division standings, one that shows the weather, one that shows keyboard shortcuts, one that will compute my running pace, etc. So, the concept is the same as Google or web hosting dashboards -- the dashboard contains programs that either give information or allow the user to manage various aspects of the computer.

    Sounds like FE has adopted that usage of the term, dashboard. The dashboard is where the user gets information and manages, in this case, reports related to his/her finance account with the company.

    Ahh. Forgive me. Now back to real work. :-D
    There you have it. I hope that's helpful to someone. Now I really do need to get back to real work. I'd rather be running.

    Run well, y'all,

    07 January 2010

    Everyday Traffic in Nairobi

    Great blog post from a Daily Nation (Nairobi) writer. This kind of traffic is not an occasional thing but an everyday occurrence. It starts about about 6:30 AM and continues until 9:00 PM or later. The only day it's not like this is Sunday. Now showing on Nairobi roads

    Because of the crazy traffic, I have to run at 6:00 AM or put my life at the mercy of some of these people.

    Run well, y'all,