Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Week in Running 12-10 Edition

I can't get rid of it. Running has truly taken hold of me. This week I finished out with a total of 40.5 miles. I had the pleasure of running in the snow for the first time. I even had my eyelashes freeze together for the first time ever. To top it off I set a new distance PR at 9 miles. Notably I may not have followed my diet as well as I possibly could but I am blaming that on the holidays and the abundance of temptation. My weight really didn't move anywhere but I am accepting of that when I am making strides in other categories.
The week started of great deciding to up my daily mileage to 6 miles. I ran a nice quick 1 hour flat for my first attempt. Tuesday was a bit slower, nothing special to report there. Wednesday I dropped 30 seconds per mile to finish the 6 miles in 57 minutes flat. Felt great about that. I am starting to hope/think that my race pace might be something like 9 minute miles. I will have to work up to that for the longer distances. Thursday I ran an uneventful 6 miles, slowly, at about 10:30 miles.
Friday the snow started! I was stoked. I went out Thursday morning excited to run with a fresh half inch or so of powder. It was amazing. The snow felt like soft pad under my feet and I didn't feel like I was getting half the impact I had gotten when running on the sidewalks normally. It also lit up the streets. I run early, 5:30 am or so each morning. Normally it is dark and it feels like you are running from streetlight to streetlight. With a fresh layer of snow covering the ground it was a whole new world. The moon wasn't out but I could still see clearly. The visibility coupled with the falling snow gave me the best view I have ever had running.
Saturday was a different day with the snow half melted and refrozen and a new low temperature of 12 degrees F. The snow was crunchy underfoot and there was ice everywhere. During the first couple of miles I was concerned it might not be safe conditions but as I moved along my confidence went up and up. Notably this run while being my longest yet also happened to have to most hills of any run I have done yet also. The hills did add a bit of stress to it but somehow I persevered and with a great time fore me also. I finished just over nine miles in 1:33. I don't think I could ask for much more, however I did get a little bonus. I got to watch it go from being pitch black outside with a clear night sky and a near full moon, to watching the sun rise on my home stretch. The sunrise on a cold clear morning like this was while you are out reaching new heights is an amazing feeling. I did find out that my lower eyelashes can freeze to the upper ones and that is something you have to wipe away. I also found some accumulated ice on myself when I came in the house finally. I never thought that ice would be able to form on me while I was running, however I assure you it can.
I also did just a little cross-training this week with a recumbent stationary bike on Friday night. I mostly did this so that while I was watching a couple of shows on Hulu.com so that I wouldn't feel to guilty and to test it out as a possible viable option for workout replacement on the coldest of mornings. As far as I can tell, it just won't cut it for me. Remember you can always see my workouts on mapmyrun.com by friending me, plato30, or get updates by following me on twitter @jmhalstead, or on Facebook, James Halstead in Wyoming, MI. Until next time happy running!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Week in Running


Let me start by saying, it was another successful week.  No matter the distance or the speed I run, it is a success if I complete it without an injury or illness. I was shooting for a total of 33 miles on the week. I ended with just a bit more, 34.28 miles. I don’t know that I have mentioned this yet anywhere in my blog, however I was 293 lbs just a short while ago. In late June of this year I started a diet with my wife We started the Atkins diet. We followed it to the letter to begin with. I got down to about 250 lbs doing just that. As of today I am sitting at 224. This new weight is something I haven’t seen since a couple of months after graduating boot camp, 12 years ago. I digress, the reason I started running was to keep losing weight, now I run just to run, but I am continuing to try and lose weight.
Running this week didn’t necessarily go as planned. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday all went off in a rather boring fashion, no surprises. Thursday I decided to find a more scenic route, that more scenic route lead to adding a touch of distance at almost five and half miles. Then on Friday I was in a hurry and decided to do a there and back type of route instead of my usual loops. Well I made this decision after I left the house, not the best plan ever. I got back to where I started and realized my distance was a full mile off. Luckily I was able to improvise and I ended up with five and half miles again.
Saturday, my normal long run day, I was considering doing a special event for the upcoming May Riverbank run. The event had a one mile option or a four mile. It was a kickoff event for Riverbank training. Now based on my current schedule I was supposed to be doing eight miles. Even though the run was shorter than my plan, I still wanted to be involved. I wanted to try mid run, refreshments and a running with a group of people at different paces. However, fate decided otherwise and we made plans with my wife’s family. Now they live about 40 minutes away and we were spending the night so the kids could play together among other activities. So, I had to find a route to run up near their house, out in the country a bit, in an area I do not know well. As expected, the route did not match up with the map. One of the roads that was supposed to go through as a matter of fact I saw the street sign for the road, only it went the other direction. I did find out latter that it wasn’t just me running in the dark missing it, it just didn’t go through. So I had to improvise a bit. This put me onto a much busier road, with no sidewalks. One large truck even decided to swerve off the road, onto the shoulder a few feet right as it went by me. That was frightening, but I had luckily already moved well of the shoulder for my safety. My new route, I was sure wouldn’t make it the distance I was going for, so I started adding a few small side streets into the run. In the end I finished 8.18 miles in 1:26. I could not have been happier with the distance, the pace, or how I felt at the end. I am excited about my future in running.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta Review


This past weekend I had the pleasure of testing out the latest MMO coming to market, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Luckily a couple of my MMORPG playing friends also got into this beta test. It was mostly set up as a stress test to several of their systems and servers. They did several tests throughout the weekend restarting the servers, with ticketing, and the knowledge base. I appreciated that they tested these systems out in a structured way. More importantly, on to the good stuff, what was the game like?
First and foremost I will tell you that I enjoyed this game. While MMOs are often similar in many ways this game had several unique features that put it ahead of others I have played. I will say that most importantly to me, combat was FUN! This was especially true in parties. We took on tons of enemies and the action hardly ever stopped. When it did stop it was because we were trying to push into content we had no business being involved with. Also, the game has no auto attack feature even for melee characters, so if you aren’t engaged with combat your character isn’t doing anything at all. I felt like this improved playing a melee class, it felt more engaged.
I started out as a Jedi Knight. I played this all the way through the first zone and continued on to the first instance, which I tanked. FYI, the Jedi Knight has no real threat generation abilities up until it hits 14 so tanking the first instance as a JK is not necessarily recommended without some friends along with you to coordinate and cover for you. As you level you find many more actual tank abilities and your survivability increases greatly. From what I understand JK is still one of the least effective tanking classes in the game. Notably I really did enjoy playing it though, even a bit in pvp.
Next I played a Jedi Councilor. The unfortunate part about this is that the Knight and Councilor both have the same starting zone. In the games current form I could not find a way to skip dialogue for classes I had previously completed on my other character and this made the leveling experience drag a bit more. Now there is still a separate class story for the two classes which made a good part of the questing different still. Jedi Councilor was not as fun as far as the first ten levels went. Once I hit 10 and specialized into what is effectively the “caster” role, Sage, and it became a boat load of fun. Again, for the first instance you are limited in the tools at your disposal. You have one healing ability, but that gets better quickly. I did level this character to 15 and attempted the second instance again with this one. However due to some party limitations we were not able to down the first boss, mostly we were using a pet as our fourth and needed more damage.  Now unlike some games my healer class still had a significant amount of damaging ability and did not feel weak in the slightest for soloing. If I do play this game I imagine this will be the class I play.
As I mentioned above we used a pet as the fourth in our team. Every character gets a companion pet in the first few levels following the story. As far as I understand you can even get several of these companions as the game progresses. These companions are effective party members that can do decent damage or tank for you. As I understand it there are also companions that can heal, I did not run into any of those type. Your companion also plays a very important role in your crafting.
To craft you send your companion away, he, she, or it(robots) then goes out and makes, something or gathers something on your behalf. Crafting items seems to be a consistent 1 minute per item and the missions for gathering have at this point(up to 100 crafting) been between 3 minutes and 10 minutes. To add a bit of intrigue, when gathering, you are charged credits to send your pet out. This is a new system to me but it seems an effective way to control the economy. Of course in a beta test economy is unrealistic to release so I don’t have much to say on that function. I did try out one other piece of the game though.
PVP with the Jedi Knight was a bit disappointing. I did not find that I could do the necessary damage to take people out nor control people enough to slow them down. Alternatively, on the Jedi Councilor I had a great time. I was able to be number one on the healing chart in every match I played as well as putting out some significant damage to help out my team. I also had a decent arsenal of 
stun, slow, and knockback effects to keep enemies off of myself.
Overall the game felt polished and ready for release. Some of the dialogue, especially the ability to skip dialogue in flashpoints(instances) needs to be added into the game. I for one would recommend this game if you just love Star Wars or if you are an MMO fanatic. I cannot speak for end game at this point but I will say that based on what I have seen, I have high hopes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Week in Running



The last week has been the hardest I have had so far in my short running career. I decided two weeks ago to take out my mid-week rest day, that didn’t seem so bad. The issue came in when I decided to play full court basketball for 2 hours on Tuesday night without removing a run.  I have to say I felt great out there on the court. While I still can’t shoot worth a darn, I could definitely run. I was at the lead of the pack most of the night even with a couple of younger and smaller guys playing. I worked and I worked. When it was all done, I was in pain… I ended up with three blisters on my feet. Apparently my basketball shoes either don’t fit properly or aren’t broke in enough yet. I digress, this post was supposed be all about running and all I have talked about so far is basketball.
Like I said even though I played ball on Tuesday I still decided to run all 6 days. I started Monday and Tuesday with 4.5 mile runs, these both went smoothly. Wednesday after the fateful night of basketball and several layers of Biofreeze I got up feeling good and went on out. After a wrong turn trying something different this run went just a touch longer than planned at 4.7 miles. Thursday being Thanksgiving day, I was with family and invited my parents to ride their bikes with me, as well as my wife, who is almost always with me. They came along and I took a little run in the country by their home. Since it was Thanksgiving and I knew I would be eating a bit differently than normally I went for the extra half a mile. 5 miles and afterwards my feet started to hurt but I felt I had to add a little something for the holiday.
I’m not quite sure why, when my feet still hurt I decided to still go for the 4.5 on Friday but I ran through. This was my slowest run by a decent shot, running 11 minute miles. That brings us to Saturday. Due to some plans we made my wife could not join me on my long run(it’s never the same without her next to me on her bike). I went for 7 miles. This was a new distance for me. I got out and started going and my phone started telling me my speeds at 5 minute intervals. I couldn’t believe it, muscle sore and in a little bit of pain I was running faster than usual. I was running 9 min to 9:30 miles for the first 3 miles and I barely fell off even a little. My slowest was 10:28, that is pretty good for me. I finished 7.13 miles in 1:12:02. This brought my weekly total to 30.32 miles. A long hot bath after my long run always makes me feel great and that new distance and speed made it even better. Overall a very successful week but I am worried that I am on the verge of overtraining with my new found zeal for running.
If you would like to follow my training feel free to friend me on mapmyrun.com or follow my blog.

A Feast for Crows (Book four of A Song of Ice and Fire)


A Feast for Crows (Book four of A Song of Ice and Fire)
By George R.R. Martin
I finally finished this book over the weekend. It certainly took me long enough to get to. It seemed other books just kept coming up. I have so far, been impressed by Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. This book hooked and held me just like the others but in the end left me feeling disappointed. In an attempt to not give anything away, it just plain left me hanging.  I was looking for more of a climax to finish the 4th book of this series.
This particular book did spend time with one of my favorites, Samwell Tarley. I have always seen his inner strength and rooted for him throughout the series. In this book he stepped up again to do what was needed and seems to have found himself in a precarious position to finish the book. Also, in a bit of intrigue, he comes dramatically close to running into another of my favorites, without quite running into her, Arya Stark.
Arya has moved into a dark world of death and dying, in the House of Black and White. Sadly I didn’t feel her story moved forward much but she did provide us a nice little surprise.
Cersei felt like she ruled this book, just like the kingdoms and well, I just love to hate her.  Maybe my despise is why it felt like she was lingering on the page.  Her plotting and scheming is putting her into a tighter and tighter position. It seems Martin is content to let her fate be decided at a later time, die Cersei, you are evil.
Jamie is off to war and continues to prove to be a better man than he was with two hands. He tries to serve his king and to still keep his oath to the deceased Catelyn Stark.  He proves to be a skilled commander and a decisive leader while taking Riverrun. Jamie is a character I find myself liking more and more as the series progresses.
The stories of both Brienne and Sansa seemed to lack luster in this book.  Overall not much worth mentioning, they did however have several chapters. The only notable points seem to be that Sansa has grown up quite a bit since leaving King’s Landing and Brienne seems to continue to be who we have thought she was throughout.
In general this book while engaging and entertaining right until the end, left me disappointed. It didn’t feel like a complete book and while it was already quite long, I would have gladly read another 500 pages to come to a conclusion. If this book was the first book of the series you picked up I would imagine it to be a huge letdown. All that said, I am too engaged in the characters to leave the series and I will be continuing with book 5, A Dance with dragons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Runner's High

The famous runner's high. I thought I would take a moment to discuss this topic. I am not sure that I fully understand this myth. I do however know that when I pass the half way point of my runs they seem much easier for me. This morning for example, when I hit the 2.5 mile mark, of 4.5, I felt like the run was all downhill from there, despite several hills and miles to go. Is this the runner's high? I can tell you it seems to work this way for me on all my runs. When I know I have passed the mid point, my mind starts telling me how I won't have any trouble finishing.
Now to let you know, I just looked at my mile splits and while I felt the last 2 miles were easier they also were slower than my first 2. What does this all mean? Am I just not getting to the runner's high? Will I see it later? Does it matter at all as long as I enjoy running? Let me know what you think and if you can describe the runner's high you feel to me.
~James

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hunting

Today for the first time, I introduced my youngest son to the sport of hunting, specifically firearm deer hunting. While it did not go perfectly we did get some time together, alone, out in the woods. We didn't see any deer to speak of, but we did develop what I hope is some good camaraderie and maybe even a bit of an understanding of why I hunt. Like I told him today, it is not all about going out into the woods to get a deer. It is much more. An opportunity to get away from the digital world and think about how the world used to be. To think about how some people even live today, choosing to be "off the grid."
Hunting gives you that time to be out in nature, hopefully away from the world. The world slows down out there and as soon as you can convince yourself to be still long enough, the forest wakes up around you. Squirrels birds, and chipmunks all around you, scampering around, flitting from branch to branch. Hunting for me is much more than just the hunt, it is a chance to feel like I am a part of the world.
~James

Friday, November 18, 2011

So many topics, so little space, oh wait this is a blog

First, my poor Scheflera had an accident this week. I was moving it from home to my new office and I was running a bit late, I mean I made it right on time exactly, not like me. So anyway due to it being a new to me job I am not really good at figuring out exactly where the drive is located, the building is a bit back off the road. Well when I slammed on the brakes the plant went a tumbling around the floorboards of my front seat. Unfortunately I broke about five branches off and lost a few more leaves and soil. I am happy to report that this happened on Tuesday and while it is a bit worse for the wear, my baby seems to be doing surpisingly well. I even see some of the branches moving themselves to collect a bit of additional light in the new environment. I am lucky this is a hardy plant otherwise I would have killed it long ago.

Second, my new job is going well. I don't deal with customers, I'm not on the phone all day, and I mostly am left to do things as I please. There is a lot of data entry but thats a lot of what accounting is all about. The company seems great and my coworkers are fun to be around. I have flexibility and camaraderie, what more could I ask for in this day and age.

Third, this has been a breakthrough week with my running. I am just hoping I'm not pushing too hard. My daily runs were 3 miles last week and this week I have done 4 miles. That in and of itself isn't a huge deal but I also decided to not take Wednesday off but run then instead. That puts me just over 20 miles so far this week with 6 more planned for tomorrow. I have felt a little more soreness in my muscles and well I did run a bit slower this morning than any other day this week but I have mostly just enjoyed it. I just don't want to overdo it like everyone online seems to talk about. I don't want to be the next guy to end up with a stress fracture or torn ligament because he pushed himself well beyond his limit.

~Running Fool

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running

I can't get away from it. I think I am addicted to running. While I am still taking a few days off here and there, at least once a week, I think about running all the time. I am constantly searching the internet for more information. Reading blogs and articles, talking to the people I know who run, and in general it is on my mind. I talked to my chiropractor this evening about my distance. I always have these new questions, am I running too much, too slow, too little, too often. Today it was should I work on my speed or my distance.
What he told me was until I get into the distance I want and I have reached my personal weight goal I should worry more about the distance. Running at a slow pace, an aerobic pace, is best for the burning of all fuels it seems. Once you speed up to an anaerobic pace your body starts to conserve energy. So I am going to instead of adding a short 2 mile run to the schedule add another shorter distance run of at the moment 4 miles. This will bring me up to 4 miles a day Monday through Friday with Saturdays at 6 miles. I am going to keep increasing this roughly 10% per week until I find a good place to stop. My goal for the moment is 5 miles and 10 for the longer run. I would tell you I am going to hold steady there but I don't think I will. Once I hit that goal we will see what happens. Maybe 10 and 15? Who knows? I am sure I will keep posting.
~James

Monday, November 14, 2011

A New Week

4 miles this morning, I feel accomplished. It really is a great way to start your morning and feel like you got something done. Today that seems especially important to me as I am starting a new job in couple of hours.  I will be doing bookkeeping for a mortgage company in the greater Grand Rapids area. Everyone seems to be asking me if I am nervous but I really am not. I am more excited than nervous, but mostly I'm just not sure. I will know much more once I get there and see what the job and the people are really about. I am also interested in figuring out what their holiday schedule is considering we are right in the thick of the holidays now. Feels a bit like a strange time to start a new job but the situation sometimes dictates that you have to do things a bit differently.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lions Week 10

Today was a bitter defeat for Detroit Lions fans everywhere. It had all the reminders of the Lions of the past. Terrible passing, receiving, running, and special teams. This game wasn't just a blow out, it was an atrocity. I sat and watched and watched and rooted and rooted like I always do and they let me down, like I should expect by now.  Somehow every week I get my hopes up again that Detroit is a new team and they are going to show the world that there was a reason I have stood behind them all these years.
Little glimmers of hope, and flashes of brilliance, these are the straws I grasp at. When will I learn that the Lions will be the Lions and to just enjoy the game for the sake of the game and quit hoping and wishing for a team that will perform. Maybe, just maybe if I let them go, they will finally find a way to make it. Not that I hold any fascination that anything I do will have any impact on the outcome of a professional football game, but maybe I can survive my fan-hood long enough to see it happen.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Netbook and Ubuntu

This morning I decided to install the newest version of Ubuntu to my netbook 11.10. I have to admit they keep making it easier and easier. I do have to do a bit of tweaking to get it to run well on my EEE-900 with only a 4GB main SSD and a 16GB secondary SSD. For some reason with these two small drives if I install everything to the smaller faster disk it runs horribly. I have found the perfect formula though.
I make an ext2 boot partition on the 4GB drive of 100MB. Then I make the remainder of that disk an ext4 partition for "\" or basically the majority of the operating system.
Next on the 16GB disk I make my swap partition. This is the part that I thought was counter-intuitive because of the relative speed of the drives. I assure you the swap being on this drive makes the machine significantly faster. Plus, by doing it in this way we can make a nice large swap file of 2GB. I also make sure the swap is the primary partition and resides at the beginning of the drive. The last partition I make is the remaining space on the 16GB drive for "\home" this being the majority of the user files as far as I understand. Setting it up this way makes a nice responsive machine with little to no space issues.
So far I am by no means a Linux pro, I have been messing around with it here and there but I continue to run a Windows based PC as my primary. I do have a Linux virtual machine or 3 installed on this machine though to use some specific Linux utilities and play with occasionally. Generally one or two of my flash drives have a Linux bootable OS on them.
I love the "idea" of Linux, I just cannot bring myself to make a full life conversion, yet.

Running

So this morning I made it to a new distance for me, 5.54 miles. While last weeks 5.17 miles left my legs rubbery and I thought I might not be able to go much further, today I felt great. As a matter of fact this route had much more in the way of hills and I had to stop briefly for a pit stop, it only took me a minute and a half longer. The run this morning has made leaps and bounds in the motivation department. I am confident now that I will be able to do the 25k Riverbank run in the Spring and I have high hopes to complete my first marathon next year. Now I am just trying to figure out how far it is okay for me to go each day and when I will need to start working on my speed.
Every day I do more and more research about running and keep trying to figure out what the formula is for doing it safely and enjoyably. My only issue right now is that tomorrow is supposed to be a day off and I want to run some more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Phones

Yesterday I picked up two new phones, one for myself and one for my wife. I picked the Motorola Photon, so far I am very impressed. the dual core processor is truly epic. I am able to do anything I want on it. It seems that it could definitely replace my laptop for many of my day to day tasks.
For the wifey we got the Samsung Galaxy II. Now this phone is "pretty." The screen is bright and large, the phone is thin and sleak. I don't think she could be much happier about it. She started by immediately downloading a ringtone/background app and digging through them all. She spent the entire evening playing with it, I'm worried I am rubbing off on her.
Busy day today, only a few more days until I start my job so I have to try and get as much done as I possibly can before I run out of time.

New Pants

I decided to break down yesterday and got some actual running pants. I tried them out this morning and they were quite a success. I also tried a new tool that gave me my pace every minute, that helped me push my pace a bit. It was my first run where I broke a 10 minute mile pace, not by much but I broke it. I am getting excited now to start training for the Riverbank run in May. I think I have a real shot at it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

For a rainy afternoon

While my title simply states the weather I have lots to talk about. It has been a busy morning.
I started with a run this morning and I did just over 3 miles again which seemed to go suprisingly easy. I felt for the first time today that there might be a chance of me actually completing the 15 miles of the River Bank Run in May. While three miles felt fine this morning though I do know that the 5 miles I ran on Saturday left my legs feeling like rubber so I have a long ways to go if I am going to make it.
I have accomplished a ton of small tasks I had planned for today, so many in fact I got the overshare badge on Foursquare and I believe I still have a few more stops this evening. I know my task list for the day isn't complete. It is amazing how much you can get accomplished in a few days off. It's also amazing how much of a mess you can make.
Hopefully some basketball yet tonight but if not I have plenty left to fill my schedule.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hatchet

Well, one of my last days of transition so I decided to finish the book my oldest son asked me to read, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It seems this is a classic that every child reads in school but somehow I missed it. It was a quick read 197 pages of widely spaced text but I enjoyed it just the same. When you are reading several other more difficult books it is nice change of pace to read a nice light novel. I would recommend anyone who is going through changes in life especially to read this novel. Until next time.

First Post

Well it seems to me that almost everyone is trying to start a blog these days and well why not me? I just would like to have a place to put down some of my thoughts an share my life. I assume that this will mostly be for me but if someone else gets something out of it then well so be it. Let me say a few things about myself that may clear some things up. I am 30 years old at the time of writing this, I am married with two sons, Michael and Christopher. My bride is the lovely Stephanie. I am going through a bit of a life transition at the moment including some trials and some major changes. My wife and I have started dieting together, quit smoking, and started to live a generally healthier life. I now run most mornings and have lost 60 lbs so far doing that. We also started attending church again recently. Then about a month ago, the business I ran with two other partners had to close up, for several reasons, but mostly, money. We ran an IT business for about 18 months before we had to call it quits. Next week I will be starting my new job as a bookkeeper for another business and I am excited to go back to the 8 to 5 schedule of a regular office job. I am an avid reader, until recently I played way to many video games, and I enjoy food a great deal. I suppose that is a bit of a long winded introduction but hey, this is my blog so I get to do what I want!