Run 586: Technically faster than Run 585

Run 586
Average pace: 6:03/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 11:19 am
Distance: 5:02 km
Time: 30:25
Weather: Sunny with high cloud
Temp: 20-25ºC
Humidity: 53%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 164
Weight: 162.1 pounds
Total distance to date: 4510 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8

Rather than exactly duplicating the last run, I decided to actually start on the other side of the dam, at the official 0K marker. I then took the three side trails (Spruce and Conifer Loops, Piper Mill Trail) as usual. This should have resulted in me hitting 5K before the actual 5K marker. Instead I hit 5K pretty much right at the 5K marker, so another 300 m or so seems to have gone missing again. This was backed up again by the fact that even though I immediately switched the activity to an Outdoor Walk, I was passing each km marker by a good 300+ m before dinging the next km on the app.

My theory is I have no theory. It’s just weird. I’m going to try the next lake run with just the watch, to see if it’s GPS produces different results. If they’re the same, then I’m just going to assume the earth’s rotation has changed or some kind of witchcraft is at play. If they’re different, then obviously I’ll have to spend $1300 and get a new phone this fall.

The run itself was technically faster. The pace was the same at 6:03/km, but today the overall time was a whopping seven seconds swifter. The splits were very consistent, all clustered between 6:00-6:06/km. I felt mostly fine, though I felt I was flagging a little around the 3K mark. One annoyance dogged me for about the first three km–the underside of my right foot was strangely sore, in a kind of “funny bone” way. It wasn’t painful and in fact it almost made me want to giggle in the same way hitting your elbow does. I think it may have slowed me up a little. I’m not sure what I did to my foot last night. Just another part of this weird run.

Even the trains were weird. I started on the Spruce Loop and there was a train trundling off to the right, as happens semi-regularly. I ran almost a full km before the train finally moved on–and it wasn’t exactly tootling along like it was being driven by a nice old grandma. What I’m saying is it was a mega-long train. Later, I became strangely entranced by a train while running the Cottonwood Trail. The trains do not normally entrance me, I’m not sure why this one did. As it happens, I looked down just in time to avoid stepping on a snake that was being unusually tardy in slithering off the path. It was also a drab brown instead of that splendorous black and gold, so it was obviously going camo. I think stepping on a snake is considered bad luck. Especially for the snake.

Finally, as I moved onto the trail adjacent to the sports fields and the final stretch, the geese were again lounging about in their new favorite spot, directly on the trail. As I approached the two geese actually in my way I clapped my hands, the universal gesture for “I have the right of way, you stupid geese” and they very casually waddled just enough to let me by. They were acting so chill, so cool, I had to check to see if they were wearing Ray Bans. Still, it beats them attacking me with their beaks.

The resurfaced South Shore Trail is pretty much done now and is all run-ready. The signs say they are also working on the Pavilion Trail, which is quite gnarly, so I’m curious to see how that goes.

Here’s a before/after shot of the same section before and after it was rolled/compressed.

I was farther back in the first shot, the pile of gravel was not twice as massive before they rolled it.

For someone in an ORV the resurfaced trail is now 200% less fun.

I actually had a good amount of stamina after the run, so I fell into a pattern where I would start running when I hit the next km )on the watch) and run until I felt like stopping, though sometimes I challenged myself with specific mini-goals (“Run to the end of the next boardwalk” or “Run until the bear stops chasing you”, things like that). My fastest walking pace was 6:36/km, which is actually not far off from my worst run pace, so I did quite a bit of running.

I’m not feeling any particular ill effects now and I’m going to start stretching to see how that affects the knees.

In theory my next run will be on Tuesday but it looks to be hot and I’ll be back at work, so no guarantees. I’ll definitely run in my mind, though. Yes.


Reading the comments: Why you shouldn’t, Exhibit 279

From a WatchMojo video of the “Top 10 Most Difficult Songs to Sing” comes this, a brief surreal study in unprovoked insults:

Maybe there is important context missing (it almost seems like it), I just like how The Forgotten Ones interjects on how strange the comment chain is, befuddling the person who apparently calls some (all?) a Nazi.

Run 585: Reptiles, roadwork and strange results

Run 585
Average pace: 6:03/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 12:47 pm
Distance: 5:04 km
Time: 30:32
Weather: Cloudy
Temp: 19-23ºC
Humidity: 69%
Wind: light
BPM: 163
Weight: 161.4 pounds
Total distance to date: 4505 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8

Today I ran the same route as my previous run, with a few differences:

  • I ran in the early afternoon instead of early morning
  • it was more humid
  • it was cloudy
  • it was 19-23ºC instead of 24-28ºC

That last one is the big one.

I actually felt kind of energetic and in fact my first km was under the six minute mark. The rest were not, alas, but I still came in at 6:03/km, a nine-second improvement over the last run and a move (ho ho) in the right direction. My knees are a bit sore after but I really don’t feel they made a difference in the run itself. My right calf is also a bit sore, but not from the last run. I think I pulled it while sleeping, perhaps while dreaming of some future dystopia I may yet live to see.

Overall, then, I was pleased by the improvement (BPM also down to 163), but was left a bit disappointed that I didn’t break the 6:00/km mark..and a bit puzzled, too.

Normally when I run counter-clockwise at the lake I run the three optional loops. Because I start a bit past the official 0K marker, the additional loops help pad the difference, so I usually end a 5K run near the actual 5K marker. But today that didn’t happen. In fact, I finished well past the marker, as illustrated below.

Google Maps put this at about 365 m, which is, well, quite a bit past 5 km. I’m not sure if the tracking just went bonkers for a bit or what, but I remember looking at the watch as I neared the 5K marker and when it reported 4.67 km I was displeased. I was displeased for another 365 m. :P

But overall I’m happy with the run, regardless of how the technology recorded my efforts. I felt zippy enough to do a lot of running on the way back, at one point bringing my walking pace below 8:00/km.

This was the first run of the season where the FIRE DANGER signs were out, ironically on a day that started cloudy and cooler than the past week. The sun came out shortly after the run and it warmed up, but I was fine with the clouds. That and the increased humidity kept my mouth from drying out. Also being a weekday there were few others on the trail. They were doing active work on the Southshore Trail, piling on more gravel. Running clockwise would have put me on this, which would be less than ideal for running. Once they roll this stuff down so it’s nice and compacted it will be a thing of tree root-free beauty.

On the reptile watch another sneaky snake slithered silently into the brush as I approached. It was a black and gold garter snake. I’m thinking there’s one giant black and gold garter snake family here. I also noticed, for the first time, a turtle sunning itself on a log in one of the ponds adjacent to the lake. He looked very content.

I am tentatively planning another run on Friday and the weather looks to be similar, so it shall prove interesting to see how it compares to the last two.

A few random pics from Central Park and Metrotown

Yesterday I bought a new desk fan. This is as exciting as it sounds. The brand name is Vornado, which is a portmanteau of vortex and tornado, which seems a bit redundant as a tornado is a vortex by definition. Then again, calling the fan Tornado would probably not conjure up the right image, either (“Imagine the destructive power of a tornado in your living room, in a convenient, compact form!”) so I guess they made the right call.

Anyway, before acquiring the fan I enjoyed some of this absurd summer weather by strolling about Central Park. A few of the pics I took didn’t turn out well (tip: your iPhone camera will auto-focus on a face, it will not auto-focus on a flower, unless you make that flower the center of your image or tape a picture of a face to it). But a few did.

I like the composition of this one, but the white flowers are a bit fuzzy and blown-out.

This one captures some nice detail in the flower and surrounding leaves.

And then there were the fish in the lower pond. Given how hot it was it’s not surprising some of them were barely moving. I watched one lazily swim toward the edge of the pond and drift until it hit bottom, at which point it bolted backward, like a cat that turned a corner to find a banana on the floor. Here’s a shot of them collectively hoping for cooler temperatures.

Trying to swim somewhere cool. Also, I think those kids in the background are feeding the trout.

And here are some fish demonstrating their fancy camouflage. It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” except wetter and stinkier. The one in the center of the image is the fish that ran aground, as mentioned above.

I left the park and went to Metrotown because I love crowded suburban malls, especially ones with working air conditioning. The Grand Court (which I’d say is more Grand-ish) was having some kind of panda awareness event.

And one more from the escalator. I think the fake pandas on display here actually outnumber the real pandas out there. Actually, I have no idea, but I wanted to say that.

After this I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond, grabbed my fan and left for home (well, I paid for the fan, too). The fan works well, and unlike the previous one, it’s not missing any rubber feet, so it doesn’t need to be propped up on a dish towel.

The one downside is it has a strong “new plastic” smell, being new plastic and all, and that new plastic smell is getting blown constantly into my face. It’s kind of gross. But after a few hours it’s much better and the breeze is otherwise pleasant and welcome.

Run 584: 22 days off and I can still run, hooray

Run 584
Average pace: 6:12/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 11:21 am
Distance: 5:04 km
Time: 31:18
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 24-28ºC
Humidity: 50%
Wind: light
BPM: 167
Weight: 162.6 pounds
Total distance to date: 4500 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8

I hit a new milestone today, or, I suppose, a kilometerstone, passing 4,500 km officially run. It’s actually more than that, but I wasn’t really tracking much (or at all) in the early days. 4,500 km is enough to pretty much go from the west coast of Canada to the east coast, depending on where exactly you start and stop. It did take me nine years to reach this, so jogging may not be the most practical way (for me) to cross the country.

My last run was 22 days ago, on June 22, and with the return of warm, sunny weather, my goal today was to simply finish and not feel horrible after. Mission accomplished!

While the pace of 6:12/km is certainly not blazingly fast, it *is* ten seconds better than my previous run at the lake, which is kind of impressive given that happened 27 days ago. I actually did not feel bad and managed to pick up the pace in the last km, too. I did feel the knees, but they were no better or worse than the last half dozen runs or so. I was surprised my stamina held up as the temperature climbed from 24ºC to 28ºC during the run. Equally surprising was the minimal sweating, perhaps due to the humidity hovering around 50%, coupled with a light and refreshing breeze. For an Africa hot run, it was pretty tolerable.

Also, a few new things on the trail since my last run. The UH OH BEARS sign is out again for the season, and the stretch of trail from the western boardwalk to the area resurfaced last year has also been resurfaced, with one small section still waiting its top coat of compressed gravel/dirt. This was a pleasant surprise, though it did mean the one unique corner on a hill was smoothed out. It was also fun to cut in short when going counter-clockwise, but now it’s just a regular corner.

The Cottonwood Trail remains as rooty as ever, but they are running out of sections to resurface, so it may get done in the next year or so, if they stick to the same rough schedule.

Overall, this was a pleasant return and went much better than it might have, given the conditions and the time between runs. Now to build on this without my knees collapsing.

The best part actually came after I finished the run. There was a woman jogging ahead of me, but her pace was what one might describe as languid, so languid that I actually caught up and passed her–while walking. That’s definitely a first. Shortly after passing her I turned a corner and saw the poopmonsters were again cluttering up the trail at the north end of the sports fields. I eased up to let the “jogger” go first and draw their fire. It turned out that not much of anything happened. You can see one goose in particular still flapping its wings in umbrage in this shot as she passes by, but the rest just went about with their usual goose-standing, goose-grooming and, of course, goose-stepping:

Book review: Seriously…I’m Kidding

Seriously... I'm KiddingSeriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked DeGeneres’s previous two books, you’ll like this third volume as well. Like the others it’s a collection of oddball riffs and ransom thoughts, a pleasantly weird collection of stories both fictional and real, with recurring themes playing throughout. Like eating almonds in a casino and how you should never, ever do it. The affection for her partner Portia also shines through.

It’s also relatively short. The chapters are only a few pages, so if a joke doesn’t quite grab you, there’s little time to lament the fact before she’s moved on to something else. There’s also a coloring section for kids. Very thoughtful. A bit tricky for the audio book version, though.

What I like most is just how nice DeGeneres is, without sacrificing any of the humor as a consequence. A lot of the anecdotes and observation had me giggling. The whole thing is just kind of adorable.

If you’re looking for serious observations on life made easier to digest through the use of humor, you’ll want to give this book a pass. If you delight in the absurd, this is an entirely delightful way to spend a few hours.

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Book review: 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter

5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This very short book provides some basic advice for how to crank out more words for writing. Some of it may come off as the “well, duh” variety, but it’s presented earnestly, enthusiastically, and with no filler.

And that’s my biggest criticism of the book. Fox deliberately eschews providing personal anecdotes to fill out the book and it feels unnecessarily lean as a result. There are a few references to the neuroscience behind some of the techniques discussed, but little else. Still, for someone struggling to write more and to write more consistently, you can’t go wrong with the advice, which comes down to:

  • Write in sprints. This is something that is strongly encouraged for National Novel Writing Month (which Fox mentions), where your goal is to write without stopping to edit or even fix typos. If your writing sprint is 20 minutes, you write for 20 minutes, always pushing ahead, never going back. That comes when you specifically go back to edit, which Fox himself only does after finishing the complete manuscript.
  • Write sprints regularly, preferably daily and for at least an hour.
  • Track sprints using a spreadsheet (Fox links to one he created if you are not inclined to create your own).
  • Avoid all distractions when writing. Fox suggests indulging/checking things like email before beginning your sprint.
  • Create a space for your writing. This is not just a physical space, but a time and place where you will not be disturbed, such as very early in the morning when all sensible people are still in bed.
  • Develop a positive mindset, allowing yourself to see the possibilities of what accomplishing your goals will look like. Also, improve your life beyond writing to boost your overall frame of mind.
  • Learn to type faster. This is probably the main “Well, duh” piece of advice, but he makes a valid point. Typing 5,000 words per hour amounts to 83 words per minute. If your typing speed maxes out at 50 WPM, you have a problem there.
  • Do your fingers fail you (mine certainly do)? He also suggests dictation software for writing, noting that most people can speak much faster than they can type, and as sprints aren’t intended for editing, it’s a perfect fit for cranking out great loads of words. I’ve seen dictation software mentioned before by other authors, and am now intrigued enough to consider testing it.

Overall, despite its slim size, this is a good book full of sensible advice and tips. Recommended.

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Summer vacation 2018 Day 0: New Westminster

Summer vacation 2018
How I Learned to Have Fun
No Matter How Many Mosquito Bites I Got
(Which was Roughly a Million)

Day 0 – Saturday, June 30, 2018
New Westminster

Technically this is not actual vacation time, but it is my first of 23 days off, so it sort of counts as something.

I spent most of the day doing exciting vacation-related activities such as laundry, shopping and getting my new glasses, which arrived a week early, hooray.

The sunglasses make me look much cooler than I am and the regular glasses make me look normal, but with everything now in focus, just the way I like it.

That was pretty much the day, so as first vacation days go, it was not the most exciting, but it did leave me reasonably prepared for the actual vacation to come.

June 2018 weight loss report: Down 1.4 pounds

Although I had no infections or other maladies to assist me, I maintained my losing streak and was down for the month, shedding another 1.4 pounds. I benefited from a massive 2.1 pound drop on the last day of the month (today) but would have still been down regardless, so yay for me. I now stand 11.6 pounds from my official™ goal of 150 pounds. With a week and a bit of travel up north to Barkerville, I would expect the hiking and whatnot will at least let me hold the line, even as we indulge in hot dogs and other yummy but perhaps not calorie-wise camping foods.

For the year to date my weight loss is actually, for the first time, an actual loss, down 0.7 pounds. With the body fat also down, it appears I am finally starting to lose weight for real and getting back to the ultra-sexy form of a few years ago.

I will, as always, resist having a donut to celebrate.

June 1: 163 pounds
June 30: 161.6 pounds (-1.4 pounds for the month)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 161.6 pounds (down 0.7 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
June 30:
17.5% (28.4 pounds of fat (down 1.8 pounds)

Book review: Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type: Some StoriesUncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tom Hanks is a good writer and these are good stories.

Tom Hanks is also obsessed with typewriters. They inform the title of this collection, they pop up in many of these stories, and a typewriter takes center stage in several of them. Typewriters are the glue that binds everything together in Uncommon Type, and what a typewriter symbolizes reflects directly in many of the tales–a simple machine from a simpler time, a nostalgic callback, an evocation of memories both warm and bittersweet.

The first story actually defies all of this, though, and perhaps sets an inadvertently light tone for the remainder of the collection. “Three Exhausting Weeks” is just that–a story about friends that become more than friends, with the go-getter Anna driving the protagonist (and narrator) to exhaustion with her frenetic lifestyle over a stretch of just a few weeks. It’s breezy and funny and very unlike many of the other stories, which trade on sentimentality, a yearning for a simpler world and are often more character studies or mood pieces than fleshed-out stories.

This is not to say the more meditative stories are bad, but some of them never generate much heat, they just ramble along amiably and then end with a quick sign-off.

Another favorite, though, is the seemingly inevitable time travel story, “The Past Is Important to Us.” This seems much like a lot of the other tales, filled with lovely, warm people sharing wonderful times together, but it twists beautifully, in a way that I don’t feel is diminished even when the twist seems unavoidable.

“A Month on Greene Street” was another I enjoyed. A cynical single mother moves to a new neighborhood and thinks the worst of her likewise single next-door neighbor. For added flavor she also has occasional visions of the future. Hanks does some nice character-building here and the ending is both sweet and satisfying.

“A Month on Greene Street” also highlights both a strength and weakness of the stories. The women are complex, multilayered characters, but most of the men are much simpler, and less interesting as a result. I’m not sure if this is actually a fault of Hanks’ writing or if he just sees men as less interesting in general, but it was something that began to stand out as I read through more of the stories. One exception may be the newspaper columnist Hank Fiset, whose columns are interspersed throughout the book. His voice is clear, loud and colorful as he rambles on about the future of the paper he writes for and, of course, typewriters.

Overall, even when a story didn’t make my socks roll up and down, I was still entertained by the surprisingly sturdy wordcraft. As I mentioned at the top, Hanks is a good writer, and there are certain moods and technologies and emotions he is very fond of and obviously enjoys writing about. If you are up for some low-key character studies about mostly decent, but variably flawed people, Uncommon Type will serve you well. Jut don’t go in expecting explosions and car chases. There is bowling, though.

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A haiku for a soggy summer start

The rain falls in June
I know the sun will return
Burn my arms again

Which is true. No matter what I do I always end up with some degree of sunburn on my arms, it’s like one of the laws of the universe. This year I’m using sunblock to see if my body is actually resistant to active sunburn prevention.

I will provide photographic evidence as needed in the near future to demonstrate the outcome of this.

Brainstorming in the USA

Actually, Canada, I just like riffing on “French Kissing in the USA” whenever possible, because it’s a goofy little song.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any real brainstorming, but I love lists, I have a brain and it’s often stormy in these parts, so I have all the ingredients in place.

The goal here is to plant a few (dozen) seeds and see if any of them grow into big beautiful stories or writing exercises while I ponder other projects.

Here we go.

  • a story based on the song “Eat to the Beat”
  • what if they really are lizard people?
  • three wishes/Invisible Weekend redux: getting to try out as a shapeshifter or some kind of shapeshifter story
  • worst superpower ever
  • a talking duck (walks into a bar?)
  • when the line between waking and dreams blurs completely–how risky do you become in your actions?
  • a monster that feeds on hope and optimism (no, not Trump)
  • angry trees
  • the world is suddenly depopulated by 99.6% (30.4 million people–about 7 million less than the population of Canada)
  • getting stuck in the past
  • a bar walks into a man
  • a haunted playground
  • a Stage 4 cancer patient acquires a time machine–can traveling to the future lead to a cure?
  • seeing a person on the train, but only as a reflection in the window

The next task: pick one of these and turn it into a lovingly handcrafted tale of thrills and adventure that tugs at the heartstrings (which sounds pretty unhealthy when you think about it).