Minnesota Half Marathon Race Report

My long road to a Half

It was a long time ago that I decided that I was going to run a half marathon. My original running race goal was to run a 5K. I felt like when I could run that far without stopping, it would be a good way to get a judge of how I was doing and get a feel for a race. At that point I had been running a while, and I already knew that I was planning on running a 5K as my first race. I actually ended up signing up and committing to both a 5K and a half marathon before I actually ran the first race.

I started running last year, when I was starting to get a bit bored on my exercise routine. I was doing a brisk walk rather regularly back then, taking a short loop around the neighborhood and listening to podcasts. I was feeling pretty good about my health because I was a ways through my planned weight loss, and I was starting to think I might want to do some running around. I jogged a few blocks here and there - I would basically just run when I felt like it, and then stop running when I got tired. Usually that meant that I would run for a three or four blocks.

After doing that for a while, I took a long walk and spotted Hart Lake on the GPS map. It wasn’t too far away, and I wanted to see if it was any good as a lake, for walking around or lounging or whatever. It turned out to be pretty crap as a lake, but I liked the route that I took to get there. I started running intervals, with the first goal to be able to actually run them all the way through the 4.5 mile loop, which didn’t actually include the lake.

I started with 90 seconds walking, and 60 seconds running. At the start, I couldn’t even run the intervals for the whole time without skipping one or two. I ended up backing off to 2 minutes walk, 1 minute run. As I got better at that, I would increase the running time every few weeks or so. It worked out okay for almost 8 months - by the end I was doing 3:15 runs and 1:30 walks I think. Then I ran Goldy’s 5K as my first race. Almost immediately after I had signed up for the Red, White and Boom half marathon, and I needed a plan.

Looking for a plan online, I quickly found Hal Hidgon’s website. He’s pretty easy to find, and was one of the first results when I googled I think, and also recommended highly by some people at the running subreddit. He had two plans for novice half-marathoners. Since I had been running for a while, I decided to look at the Novice 2 plan, which has more running in it. However, it was already less running than I was already doing, on a per-week basis, and it didn’t go to the half marathon distance at all until the race day. So I modified it a little, adding 2 miles to every run.

Training was hard sometimes, but mostly it was just a lot of running, more than I had done ever in my life. I felt really good about three weeks before the race when I had my long run that was a whole half marathon, and I finished it without any problems. The next week was a lot different - I could barely get through it. It was a slog, but it was also a good thing for me, because I finished in about two and a half hours. It gave me a time I think would be the slowest I could run. I also went 14 miles the week after without too many problems, in the same time. Twelve weeks after I started, I was ready for my first half marathon.

Too Hot for This Half

When I went to pick up my race packet on July 3, I found out as I walked in the door at Twin Cities in Motion that they had shortened the race from the half marathon to a five mile run because of predicted high heat. I wasn’t happy, because I felt like I could run in lots of heat. At the same time I understood - with the forecast at 90 with over 80% humidity, it was basically a recipe for heat stroke if you wanted to run 13.1 that day.

I ran the five mile course without any problems - which basically a lot of streets that I already run, since the race was in my neighborhood. I finished in 44:46, which was on pace for my planned half. Considering it was so hot, I had that as a victory.

Five miles isn’t a half marathon though, so I picked out another race to get the job done. I picked the Minnesota Half Marathon which was about a month after the July 4th Red, White and Boom. For training, I just turned back the clock four weeks and continued with the same plan.

Half it at Last

My last three long runs went pretty well better than the ones that I had in the first time around. The training went basically as expected, especially since the weather was actually cooperating more often, and I had already done it once before. When race day was coming up, I stopped by for the packet early again, and scoped out the race route. It was pretty boring compared to the first one, and it’s shown above.

On the day of the race, I got up on time, and drove to the race. There were a lot of people there! It was a multiple race event though, including a duathalon using inline skate and racing for the two legs. I had to make a pit-stop before the race, but things worked out. I found my pacer too, which was great. I have a hard time running at a consistent speed over the whole distance. There were actually two pacers helping for the two hours from the MN Pacers Team. I wish I remembered their names, because they were great.

We also had a little group with the two hour pacers for the first few miles. It was interesting to run with a group, and it bolstered me for a while. When the first water stop came around, I didn’t want to stop and the group was slowing down so I ran ahead of them for a bit. I wasn’t having problems with running ahead of the 9:10 minutes per mile pace, so I just kept running along for a while. When the second water stop came around I grabbed some water, and then walked for a while and formulated a plan. I would run until the water stops and then walk it until the pacer caught up with me.

The plan worked for the most part, with the walking time getting shorter and shorter until near the end of the whole race, when I was just running with the pacers. The last couple miles were pretty tough though, with some low grade hills. I was really bolstered near the end, and came in strong for a finish with the gun clock reading just over 2 hours. I thanked the pacers (who, again, were really awesome) and then headed to get a banana and some more water from the post-race snack tent.

It was a pretty great experience all around, and finally I had run a half marathon. My official time came in just a couple hours later that day, 2:00:23. 23 seconds away from my sub-two hour goal, but I think I might be able to live with that for a first half time. I just discovered that you can see me cross the finish line in video. I’m the one in the white shirt who looks like he’s been rained on.

Looking back, it’s been a long time since I started running to the end now. In the weeks after the race, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next. I wanted to keep running I was sure, but didn’t have another race planned. I started just running some of the same types of runs that I had near the end of the training. Vacation came soon, and I was able to get some good runs in there too. I think I’ll be running another half marathon soon though, and maybe a whole marathon next year. It seems like a good challenge. I got a medal for finishing this race, and for the five mile (that one says half marathon too). I’m going to have to figure out what to do with those eventually, especially if I keep running races.

July and August Diet and Exercise Update

I’ve been absent from the blog lately, and there’s not really any good reason. I’ve been lazy I guess. Bad lazy blogger, bad! It’s been an okay time for my weight and the running has been going okay, though. I’ve got a lot of new data to show you, since I’ve been slacking off on the posts so much.


2012 July and August weight graph

So the last couple of months has been a little… Rollercoastery. I’ve been baffled by the scale’s reluctance to budge, but understand when I realize that I have not been keeping track of my calories that much. I don’t have any fault with the giant hill at the end of the graph (vacation, it’ll do that), but in the middle, I just don’t know what was up. I was about on target to make no change at all before vacation rolled around.

2012 July and August weight graph ytd

The year-to-date graph looks a bit better, but it still shows the source of some frustration, starting around June and working it’s way through August. There isn’t really anything to do except keep on the path that I’ve been going on for the last couple years, and that is to keep track of the calories as well as I can, and make sure that I’m working at a calorie deficit as planned.

In the past year, I’ve been on the goal to lose 12 pounds, more because I wanted to see what it was like staying around this weight for a while, and partially so that I didn’t have to focus so much on my weight and not being hungry. I really want to get to a point in my life where I can eat on instinct and just count on my body to say when I’m done.

It’s pretty much a fact that when I’m on a weight loss stretch, I get hungry and just have to suck it up sometimes. People who don’t go on the caloric restriction diets because they just eat naturally or something just don’t understand that I am actually eating less food than they are, regularly, by a significant amount. If you’re 200 pounds, and you want to lose 2 pounds a week - a rate that is gradual and more likely to stick than higher numbers - you need to have a caloric deficit of 1000 calories a day. That means that you are only eating around 1500 calories. The recommended calories for a person who is of normal weight is 2000 calories. If I want to lose weight, I need to eat 25% less than a normal person. You’re starving your body, on purpose. You also need to eat the right food, because you are eating less of it you can’t just count on getting your vitamins and nutrients.

If you’re a person who hasn’t dieted like this before, imagine just skipping lunch every day. Nope, you don’t get lunch. You don’t get to have a big breakfast or dinner to make up for it, you just don’t get that much food anymore. Oh, and you normally eat two lunches just to stay the weight you are now. It’s a bit of a life change, and you’re bound to get a bit hungry.

Because I’ve been dieting so long, I learned to ignore the hunger, that just comes with the territory. I need to wean myself off of ignoring that somehow, while not eating too much again. Part of this will be choosing the right foods, but part of it will just be reteaching my mind how much food is needed for a hungry belly. It’s a whole new challenge.


Diet trouble is one thing, but I’ve been like a star on my exercise lately. It has been feeling great to run around, see myself make gradual improvements to time and make some big goals happen. Last post I reported that I signed up for the Minnesota Half Marathon after heat and humidity made the original half marathon that I signed up for shorten it’s course. I am happy to say that I finished both the restarted training and that race without any issues, and I either met or just barely missed my goal time, depending on how you count. I’m planning on posting a whole post outlining my experience with that first race, so I won’t talk about it much here.

I’m still well above on track for finishing my goal of 1200 miles in 2012, getting 27 miles or more in every week, which definitely will put me over the edge. Currently it looks like I’ll be crossing 1200 just before November. Here’s a snapshot by week of the year.

2012 Running Graph

After the race, I started to just kind of try to work into a groove, keeping some of the training still going, and running a reasonable amount every week. I haven’t skipped that much. I did a bit less on the week that we went on vacation, but I was also enamored by the trails that I could run through the smoky mountains, so I ended up still doing 25 miles that week, with a bit more elevation than I normally would too.

One of the things that I have been actually surprised about since I started running is how much I actually want to run when I am in a different town or place. I’ve found that it’s a really fun time to find a place to run, and get a route planned out, and then just go see all of the new things that I have found. Trails have been prominent in the last couple of times that we took a little break, but I think that if we were going to an urban area I would try to run around a bit too. We really have some great running trails and routes here in the Twin Cities, but having new scenery makes things go that much faster.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do for my next race yet. I think I might be wanting to scout out some 5ks and do some of them, because I think that I can beat my current PR by a few minutes. It feels okay to me to try to break the 25 minute barrier for getting through 5k, to get a little faster. It’s also a goal that’s not too much of a hurdle. Eventually I want to get a marathon done, but that seems like such a huge goal right now, and it’s a bit early to be planning out for marathon season in 2013 yet. It will also give me some impetus to increase my speed a little bit, which I think I can do. So it’s faster and shorter for the time being. If you want to track my training a bit more closely, I have a dailymile profile that I update rather regularly, which also has some nice routes that I’ve been running.

July Diet and Exercise Update

It’s been a while since I’ve put up a post about my diet progress, so I have a bit to report. More about my running and progress there than there is about my actual dieting, but let’s start with the vital stats, shall we?

2012 July recent weight graph

More than two months are on this chart, and it shows my dismay. I started having a lot of days where I was stepping on the scale and being unhappy about it. It progressed for a few weeks, and I was starting to get a bit concerned at the beginning of June. I didn’t really change anything, and something happened to break it though, so I ended up with a negative trend line which is actually not too far off from my goal in the long run.

It’s interesting to find that I wasn’t really doing anything that different than earlier in the year, when I was losing weight just as I should have been expected to. Keeping up my daily diet log helped me persuade myself that I was always on track, by making sure that I wasn’t overeating consistently and causing a problem. It also helped to look at my progress this year.

2012 July YTD weight graph

Last month I was complaining about a big red swath in the yearly graph, but it got matched and dwarfed by the May bump. Little hills on this graph in the weighted average trend line worry me a bit, because it either means that I am backsliding significantly, or something has gone wrong with my diet and exercise. I guess it’s also possible that an event a bit more complex happened, like having modified my set point.

However, while I’ve had some trouble with my diet, the running plan has been going quite well. I signed up for the Red, White and Boom Half Marathon after my first race, which I reported on in May, and my training progressed as planned, along the Hal Higdon Novice 2 schedule - but when an added two miles for every run on the schedule and shifted into the middle of the week for the long run. It was working pretty well, and I even got three runs in that were half-marathon length or longer. My first half-marathon distance was even almost exactly on pace for my goal time of two hours.

The weather had other plans though. My second 13 mile run was a lot slower, and I was drenched in sweat only halfway through. I ended up walking a significant portion of the last half of that run. I resolved that it was just the heat and humidity though, because it was quite warm that day, and the humidity at that point was starting to creep into the uncomfortable range. My shorter runs were still going just fine though, so I soldiered on. The next week, just one week before the half-marathon, I did my longest scheduled run of 14 miles, and it went better, covering one more mile in about the same amount of time. I also had this happen though.

14 mile injury

My big toe got all banged up, probably on the steep downhills around the Walker museum that I was running down. It got a subungual hematoma which was starting to get painful, and very tender to the touch. I went to the clinic, and they poked some holes in the toenail, drained it and then left me with this comical bandage. Di wanted to write little messages on it. It put me out of running for four days or so, but that actually worked out okay because I was already on the taper part of my plan already, so I only had to skip one workout.

A couple days later, and two days before the race, I discovered that it had been shortened to 5 miles because of extreme heat and humidity. I was a tad annoyed, but understood, as the heat and humidity was edging higher and higher. 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity was predicted. On July 4, I ran the modified race, and got my results almost right away - 44:46, which was on-pace for me, and surprisingly so in the heat and humidity. Diana was wonderful and drove me to and from the race, and found me at the end to congratulate me. I got a medal (that says “Half Marathon”) and was pleased.

After being annoyed at not being able to run an actual half-marathon, I signed up for the Minnesota Half Marathon. It was about a month away when I signed up, so I just turned the training calendar back the correct amount of time. I’ll be following it and hopefully running my first true half on August 4. TCM events were nice about the shortened race anyway, and they have given a partial credit back, so I suspect I will run another race from them in the next year too. It’s almost like I actually enjoy it or something.

May Diet and Exercise Update

Let’s start this entry with the bad news. My 30 day trendline is going up.

2012 May 30 days weight graph

This isn’t the first time this has happened (it also happened [before the 2010 holidays][1]), but it was a little bit frustrating this time, because I have gone a long time without a contraindication. Granted, it’s pretty low, because the blue trend line is still down over the thirty day period, but for a week or so there, it was not fun to get on the scale. I can usually handle a set of three or four days with numbers that are higher than I expect, because it all corrects itself in the end, but I was starting to see a trend.

2012 May YTD weight graph

The yearly graph shows it as the largest chunk of red so far this year. Hopefully it will be the biggest chunk in the whole year. I’m getting kindof close to my yearly (modest) goal of hitting 212 in the year. I might be reporting in the next diet post about making it. It won’t mean that I will be stopping, but I will at least have a nice mid-year accomplishment.

In last month’s report I reported that I was signing up for Goldy’s Run 5K, with a goal of completing it in less than half an hour. I am happy to report that I ran it without any problems. It being my first race, I was a bit nervous about going into it and making sure that I had everything in order, so I elected to pick up my race packet the night before. There wasn’t really anything of note in the packet except for the bib, and some coupons that I don’t think I’ll be using anytime soon - also a bunch of ads for other races. I guess it makes sense, but I was hoping for some more information about the race in the packet. It would have been useful to have a course map to look at or something.

The day of the race, I parked the car in a spot and filled the meter. I had arrived before the 10-mile race that was being run in the same day had started, so I got to watch the 10 milers start, and a couple of stragglers too. The 10 mile was chip timed so I guess it didn’t matter if they crossed the start line a little late. Then the mass of people who were running the 5K lined up. I found a spot near the back and snapped a picture.

There were certainly a lot of people there. The start line is up there somewhere. I made some really small talk with some of the people around me, and then they started the race. The crowd started to shuffle kindof slow. I made sure to start my personal timer (RunKeeper on my Android phone) as I crossed the start line to make sure that I had as close to an actual race time as I could get.

In the first stretch down University Ave, there were a lot of people. I mean, most of the people in front of me at the start were still in front of me. They were going slower than I wanted to, so I ended up bobbing and weaving through a bunch of people, and started to find some lines where other runners were also trying to forge a way through the people. I don’t really blame anyone but myself for not lining up a bit closer to the front where the “faster” runners like myself were though. It wasn’t so bad, and it started thinning out as we progressed along the first long straight part.

When I hit the first corner, it was not too much traffic at all, but more than I had ever run with before. Of course, that would be a given – since I started running last year, I had never really run anywhere with another person before the race. My runs are a kind of alone time, even if I am usually listening to my podcasts while I am doing it. It was strange to have to worry about other people’s feet, and working out how I was going to pass this person or that person, which side to run on, and whether I should just fall in line at the same pace or go a little bit faster.

The course winded through the campus, in between both of the labs that I have worked at for countless hours and taking a nice run around the mall. There were water stations, but I didn’t really need any. I am sure that the 10-milers were happy to see them about 2 miles from the end of the course. It ended up curling around the new TCF stadium and crossing the 50 yard line was the finish. I had never been in the stadium at all before, to watch a game or for anything else.
When I stopped my timer right after I crossed the finish, it showed 26:49. I was pretty happy. Goal achieved, 5K under 30 minutes.

After the race, I was happy to go home and have breakfast with Diana. I think it was a good race to run, not really impacting anything and a lot of people around who were more casual runners like me. I was not completely tired at the end of it, which means that I could have probably run it a bit faster than I did. I should have run faster when I saw the 2 mile sign, or started with a faster pace once the pack started to thin. I really just wanted to make sure that I finished though, and didn’t start too fast and end up being slow at the end. It would have been a real failure for me if I had to stop and walk part of it, because in my training I was running longer than this distance without stopping regularly. It was a great experience for a first race though!

Speaking of training, the training for running the Red, White and Boom has been going basically according to plan. Moving the rest days that I was previously doing to different days has worked out quite well, and while I wasn’t happy with turning down the total mileage at the start, the addition of a long run to my week really gives me a great feeling of accomplishment every time. So far my farthest run has been just over 9 miles, but I have a scheduled double-digit coming up in a couple days which I see as a big milestone. I’m going to have to start carrying some water soon, I think.

Adding the race report to the middle of this has made this entry a bit long. I’ve got some more interesting running tidbits to share, so maybe I’ll make some more posts in between the regular updates. Until then, wish me good training - and thanks to everyone who is motivating me. It’s surprising how much a “Like” means.

April Diet and Exercise Update

Well, I’ve plonked out of the blogging for a little while now, but I hit another mark in my log book, so it’s time for another diet and exercise update. Weight is still going down, although not as fast as I would want it to, in general. The exercise is going pretty great, and I have some exciting stuff coming up in the near future. Overall, I have been pretty happy about how I feel, look and weigh in the last month.

2012 April 30 days weight graph

Looking at the last month or so graph is pretty interesting to me. There is a lot of strange patterns going on here. I don’t know what the heck is going on, that there seems to be a pattern of me gaining weight and then followed by a precipitous drop down to a new low. The trend continued today when I reached my lowest weight, only one pound away from my (modest) goal for the year. Some of the points on the upper end of these sawtooth type patterns are above my weighted average line and pull it up, but most are still below, and the linear estimate still shows a caloric deficit. The year graph still looks good, even though it is more roller-coastery than I would like.

2012 Year to Date weight graph

My running habit has been getting a little more serious, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about it. The training schedule I’ve been on in the last few months has been working pretty good, although I am thinking that it might be less of a training schedule and just more like a running schedule in the last couple weeks. I like the routes that I am on, though. I have been increasing the lengths of my long walks on Sunday for a little bit, and I really extended them this month. I’ve done about 10 miles or a little more on the walks in the last three weeks. The extended range of these walks feels pretty good, trouncing all around the city and reaching places that I haven’t been able to get at before.

Running has been getting faster, and now I’m running consistently at around 9:30 per mile or faster. I lowered the amount of time that I am walking on my run / walk interval runs. I am thinking that I will be lowering the walking by a lot, and cutting it out completely possibly, in the next couple of weeks though. Lots of you I’m sure see my Dailymile profile posts to Twitter and Facebook though.

Last month I have been starting to get serious about doing at least a couple of races this year, just mostly for fun and to have something to aim towards. Well, my big news this month is that I have signed up and will run a 5K race next week. This is more of a race to get me used to races, or to do a smaller length race before I do something more serious later in the year. I’ve signed up for the Goldy’s Run 5K and will be aiming towards a time under half an hour. I regularly run intervals which are much longer than that, so it shouldn’t be a problem to finish and hopefully get a good time. I’ve never run with a lot of people before - not really with anyone before, so I am wondering how I will react when there are a lot of people around actually running a race. I initially considered signing up for the 10 mile race, but it was probably a little more ambitious to think about doing that only two weeks before the race when I was only walking that distance.

I also have decided that I want to run a half marathon before the year is out, and I don’t really want to do it in the winter, so I’ve set myself a goal to run the Red, White and Boom! TC half marathon on the 4th of July. Luckily I’ve made this decision basically at the exact right time. I’ve found a 12 week novice training schedule online, and I am about exactly 12 weeks out from the race day. So I’m starting on the training schedule this Wednesday and following it closely. It starts with less running than I am used to, so I am modifying it a little to keep the total amount of miles that I cover about the same. I am a little worried because I usually am walking sections when I am running, and I will need to find some other routes that are slightly longer than I run now. I don’t want to overdo it, but I have been pretty good at listening to my body about changes. Wish me luck.

Big Bang Theory Intro #17: Cave Face

From faces above ground last time, we switch to below ground faces this time. I’m not quite easy to know what to say though.

This is just a random cave face carving, which I can’t really say much about. The source image isn’t that much help, it just says carving of a face in the description.

So I was looking for some cave carvings, and I thought about the Mayans, who had some pretty elaborate cave carvings. They don’t really look the same though. There have been a lot of people talking about the Mayans recently because of their calendar. There are quite a few carvings of the calendar that you can find around the web. People say that it predicts the end of the world in 2012, but I’m not convinced. At any rate, that looks like a dead end anyway.

So I was wondering about some of the other cave carvings, and I remembered that there were quite a lot of carvings and statues in the Indian mountains. These are mostly statues though. Lots of them are of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, of which there are a lot. There are at least 33 different vedas described in the Rig Veda, but some people say that there could be 330 million gods. Even others would say that 330 million was just supposed to be a impossibly large number (like a hojillion), and it really meant infinity. Again though, those statues don’t look a lot like the crude carving that you see above, in fact they are quite intricate, so I continued my search.

I hit up Google for just a random search of cave face paintings, and I found another path that I investigated in Hellfire caves in Britain. There are some strange rooms in these caves, and one of the rooms has quite a few faces carved in chalk. These look a little more like the picture above, but I think that they are probably a bit more recent, and they are in white, not the distinctive brownish rock that you see in the source picture. Some of them do look quite similar though.

I think this is the first solid picture that I just don’t have a good handle on. I kept looking for a while, but I didn’t find much else. There was one cave in Australia which had a very similar color and a face which was similar, but it looks like my search was fruitless. I may come back and try to search out the photographer of this later, to see if I can find something more.

March Diet Update

Another month has gone by, and that means that it’s time for another Diet and Exercise Update. I’ve been pretty happy with my progress in this month, which is really pleasing to me. That’s somewhat strange to say this time, because the 30 days of progress graph doesn’t show much in the way of progress.

2012 March 30 Days Weight Graph

2012 Year to Date Weight Graph

Thirty days doesn’t look good, does it? Except for that little dip down near the end, I don’t really show a lot of progress on the scale. I can’t say that I was unhappy to wake up this morning and see the lowest weight that I’ve achieved yet (and only about 3 pounds from my year goal), but I haven’t really been focusing on it this month. Partly that is because of the scale starting to go up and down without much of a prompt from me. The other part of it is that I have been happy with other stuff that’s been going on.

The first thing is that I have been making progress on my running habit and it’s been going pretty well. The training schedule that I outlined last month has been working out okay, and recently I’ve added some mileage to my interval workouts. I switched out my interval route run for the longer one that I was previously doing on my “As You Like” running days, because the original route was consistently less than 45 minutes.

That means that I’m running about a third of a mile longer than I was before. It also means that I’m also trying to find another route for my longer runs just to keep it interesting. I’ve tried a couple of different routes on my walking and Thursdays, but haven’t settled into anything yet. I’ve been exploring around the neighborhood on my walking days lately, trying to find a course that is only 10% or so longer. All of the easy answers are kind of boring. I’ve found one last Thursday which I ran that was a good distance though, or at least felt like it. It was technically longer than I was looking for, but I like the route because it goes over a massive train yard, and apparently I am still 12 or something. At any rate, my running goal graph shows me 6 to 7 days ahead of my plan, which feels pretty good.

In the last month, it’s been probably some of the coldest running days. This winter has been very mild, in major contrast to last year. I still had to don some of the gear that I would normally have to work out with when I went outside though. I wasn’t really running last winter, so I didn’t know what was really up. I did some research when it started getting cold and got what I needed though. Over the last three months, I’ve worked out what I need to stay comfortable in the harsh climate while I am running.

First off, I don’t run when it is dangerous outside. That means that I won’t run when there is a lot of ice, or the snow is high enough that I can’t see obstacles or ice patches that I might need to avoid. I also don’t run when it’s raining or snowing significantly hard that I would worry about my phone breaking in the moisture. I got lucky enough this year to not have to switch to an inside workout or switch some of the days of the workout.

When it gets colder, I go through multiple stages of upgrades to the wardrobe as it gets colder. The first thing that I’ll do is switch to a long sleeve shirt. I have two different long sleeve shirts now, one that is a little more breathable than the other, so I will use one first and another if it’s windy or a bit colder. In the past I have felt strange wearing long sleeve shirts and shorts at the same time, but the rules of running are different. I will go around with just shorts and a long sleeve shirt until it is about 35 degrees or so.

Once it gets colder than 35, I’ll consider switching out the shorts for running tights. I hadn’t really experienced wearing tights before, but they work remarkably well for keeping the legs warm while they have a good compression feel on the legs for running. If it’s colder than 30, I will almost guaranteed to have the tights on. Once it gets below 20, I will wear a compression top that I got as well, which layers under the long sleeve shirt.

If it’s colder than freezing, I will wear some nice running gloves and a hat, which will protect my hands from getting frostbitten. When it was just starting to get cold, there were a couple incidents with my hands getting cold and not being able to move them earlier this year, which was bad, so I got these and they have been working good. They also have some mitten parts which come out, and block the wind while they also are hot yellow for visibility.

I have two different pairs of tights now, a lighter pair and a pair with a wool lining. The pair with wool lining is extremely warm, and I wear it when it gets below 15. If it gets colder than that, I will start layering even more on the top. I have a coat that I could wear, but I have never had to this year, and I also have a set of loose pants that I could put on top of the tights, but honestly with the wool lined ones, they were almost too warm even at the coldest day this year.

It’s getting warmer again, which means that I haven’t had to change from my default outfit of shorts and a running tech tee or long sleeve tee for a week or two. With any luck, spring has sprung and there will be a lot of good days from now on. I’ll have to figure out some storage scheme for the winter stuff.

Big Bang Theory Intro #16: Moai

The great mysterious monuments continue on this next picture. I haven’t been to this one yet. The source image was pretty easy to find.

These are the statues called Moai. They are human figured carved from the rock around Easter Island. Easter Island is interestingly, owned by Chile, even though it is over 2,000 miles from Santiago. It’s a quite small island in total, with only 63.1 square miles, and only about 40 miles if you walked around the whole thing on the outside. Mostly because of the statues, it’s a popular tourist destination.

Speaking of the statues, they are mostly carved out of volcanic ash which had been compressed after many years. There are lots of them on the island, 887 that have been found. They are carbon dated to around 1100 AD, which means they’re not all that old. They were carved by hand out of that stuff, using stone chisels which are actually much harder than the ash. Thirteen of the statues were carved out of basalt, which is much harder.

Interestingly, almost all of the statues are faced inwards. They would normally be placed on a big stone platform called an Ahu. The only ones that are facing the ocean are quite far inland at Ahu Akivi. Most of the statues aren’t on their platforms anymore, because there was a time in Easter Island’s past when the islanders got into a intra-island war and they toppled all the Moai, breaking a lot of them.

These ones have head dressings which are of a different stone and are called Pukao. They’re carved from a different volcanic stone, which is actually red which you can see in the color version of this photo. There’s actually a dent in the bottom of them, so that they can stand atop the statues like that.

The statues themselves are still being excavated actively from the island, with regular reports from the people at the Easter Island Statue Project. Their aim is to locate them all, document them, and also understand the context of all the statues that exist on the island. They’ve done some interesting experimental archaeology on how the statues were moved from the original quarry that all the rock came from to the different places on the island that they are at now. They’ve also laser scanned one which has been in the gallery at the British Museum for a while now.

Book Review: Consider Phlebas

I picked up Consider Phlebas after I got it recommended to me on a list of great sci-fi books that I saw on reddit. Shortly after I noticed it on the list, it came up as a special on the Kindle store, and I picked it up immediately. I had heard some good things about these books, and I was looking for a good fiction book after reading a lot of YA fiction in the last year or so. I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed.

Bora Horza Gobachul is the protagonist of this book, and a pretty good one as well. Set up as a Changer, the reader slips into the eyes of someone who can change their appearance pretty easily. Also, the book starts with action and stays there for a quite long while, not stopping for a breather until you’re well into the book.

Horza seems to jump from one predicament to the next, each being small enough to be bite-sized, but every one illuminating more about the characters that continue to reappear and we gain more insight into throughout the book. The first part introduces Horza and Balveda, which are parts of two opposing sides but both not completely entrenched into their beliefs too much. Unfortunately, Horza is being executed quite unpleasantly at the start.

Someone saves our hero though, and we’re thrown into the Culture-Iridan war. Consider Phlebas is part of a larger universe that Ian M. Banks has laid out in a number of books, with Phlebas being the first published, but not the first chronologically in the universe. The entire backdrop of most of the books revolves around the Culture, which is a set of humans who have put a bunch of their faith into sentient machines. This of course has made them very technologically advanced, and make some very large ships and stations.

The Culture is really a quite deep society, and we really only scratch the surface of it in this book, seeing it as we do throughout the eyes of the adventurers that we look into. Horza is opposed to them on philosophical grounds, which I find refreshing. There aren’t a lot of really cut and dry villains and heroes in this book, or in the larger universe in general, and that gives a realistic bent to the writing which I really like. I can see upsides to both of the sides of this battle, or rather, I can see the reasons that people would be for or against the Culture as a concept.

Technology isn’t really fawned over in Phlebas that much, with Banks opting to take us on a roller-coaster ride through a bunch of tough situations. Horza doesn’t really get his footing until about two-thirds through the book, jumping from one seemingly untenable situation to another for a while. Through all of these situations, we start learning bit by bit about the technology that makes up the daily lives of the people in whatever universe that we are peeping into, from the Anti-Gravity to the Warp drives, and even peeking into mysterious sub-ethers of the grid without really explaining it.

Some would consider this meandering start to be a downside, but I really enjoyed it for the most part. Horza ends up being picked up by what could only be called a band of adventurers, really more like con-men or thieves. It has a somewhat Firefly vibe to it, which doesn’t do it bad in my eyes. Not everyone gets along, and lots of things go wrong in the little missions that they head out on, just like you would expect. Unfortunately, Banks’s universe which can be somewhat forgiving to, for example, being executed or wounded, can be particularly harsh as well, and many of the characters don’t survive through some of the missions.

There are a lot of really great scenes here, but eventually everything gets settled down and the main plot, which has been started and was somewhat kept going through little interludes throughout the book where the first-person perspective changes to other characters briefly, starts taking over. The final third of the book really shows how gritty and harsh reality can be in the world.

Overall, I really enjoyed diving into the Culture and liked the way that Banks took us through, introducing things in a way which wasn’t overwhelming but also made it very certain that we are sure that there is a lot of depth that we don’t really see, things that have been thought out. While some could argue that there are stories at the beginning of the book which could have been left out completely with no story changes, I think that they just serve to make our entry into this complex situation that much less of a brain-dump. I rate it a A-, only because of those criticisms, which are founded. I will be looking for another of the Culture books, and probably reading them just as quickly as this one.

How’s the Thesis? - Recent Developments

My thesis work has been going along somewhat smoothly lately, although in the next few weeks, I’ll be a little bit worried about how I am going to get working on the second and last experiment of my thesis. I’ve been putting polish on the first experiment client while I wait for the IRB paperwork to come through so that I can actually release and start the thing. At this point, the client and website are looking pretty polished, although I am somewhat worried that if I keep adding statistics-crunching stuff to each results page, it will take a long time or not respond well under load. I guess we will see when the client actually releases.

In preparation for the second experiment of the thesis, I’ve been starting another literature review, to check and see what has happened in the HRI field, or more specifically developments either tangentially or fuzzily related to my thesis topic, in the last year. One of the problems of working on the thesis while having a full time job is that the progress is a bit slower than normal, and some stuff can actually happen that you need to be keeping up on.

In the last two weeks, I’ve set aside one day, approximately two hours, to look at the recent conferences and journals and pick out papers which seem related. It had been a while since I had been looking through, so I really do have almost a full year of conferences to wade through. Some of these conferences, like IROS 2011 and ICRA 2011 are really large, with 70+ pages of titles and abstracts in IEEExplore. Add to those the journals like Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics which not only have 6 fairly large issues a year, but early access to unpublished but accepted articles as well, there’s a lot to go though.

After sifting through the papers and categorizing them in “really related”, “tangentially related”, “somewhat related”, “non-thesis interest” categories, I move them over to my Dropbox account and then get to reading them. I used to read on my Kindle which worked pretty well, especially with the note leaving feature, but I’ve started using Goodreader on the iPad which has a number of ways of marking things, and then happily emailing me the marks which not only works great for point out passages or commenting on the entire article, which I like to do at the end, but it is pretty great for highlighting references which I will look up later.

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the reading day set aside. I’ve read two articles which are really relevant to my thesis work. One which got really close to what I am doing in my first experiment, but is different in a significant way, and another which took a truly interesting look at the analytical side of things and has a modeling angle that I might seriously consider for future work. I’ve also got partway through a journal article which I am hoping that I will finish this week, that has a pretty good overview of the last year or three. I think that I’ll keep reading at least one day a week, so that I can keep up on the latest developments as they happen from now on, instead of waiting for it all to pile up. Also, it’s a great way to switch up the normal work that I have to do and relax into the weekend.