Robots Are Forever

Rob­bie the Robot has a con­sid­er­able film career that spans fifty years. He has been star­ring in film since just after being born (in 1955) all the way up until appear­ing in Pamela Ander­son­’s tele­vi­sion show last year and an AT&T com­mer­cial this year. Many humans would kill for that kind of suc­cess, although I doubt they’d mess with Rob­bie. He is a robot, after all.

Happy Thanksgiving – ’06 Edition

I hope every­one has had a won­der­ful Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day. My mom has been vis­it­ing with us since Tues­day and we’ve had a great time. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog, so I’ve just been adding a lit­tle here and there. Here’s the past few days in one post.

Thursday

We met up with our next-door neigh­bor, Ter­ri, to go to the annu­al Turkey Trot 10k at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rich­mond. Mom had been look­ing for­ward to this one since last year, but unfor­tu­nate­ly the weath­er was near­ly as favor­able this time. It was about 40° F and rainy, mak­ing run­ning seem just a bit more sil­ly than usu­al. The weath­er only added to the abun­dant med­ical issues: mom has had knee pain, Angela has a recov­er­ing ham­string and stitch­es in her knee, Ter­ri has pain in the bot­tom of her feet, and I am now con­vinced I have a stress frac­ture on the top of my right foot. Nasty weath­er, run­ning with injuries, and a very hilly cam­pus were tough on all of us, though. Any­way, we all did our best and cer­tain­ly earned some turkey for that evening.

When we all got back home, we cleaned up and Angela start­ed mak­ing a huge brunch. Our friend (and Ange­la’s co-worked) Ross came over to play some Wii games and join us for brunch. We had mimosas with waf­fles, sausage, and eggs, all of which were deli­cious.

After Ross left to go to his Dad’s, we all took short naps before begin­ning cook­ing some more. Angela had a great spread for din­ner this year: turkey (of course)1, mashed pota­toes, sweet pota­to casse­role, green beans (in olive oil), home­made dress­ing, and pump­kin creme brulée for desert. Ter­ri joined us for din­ner that evening (just as the turkey set off the smoke alarm, which it seems to do every time we make one). It was real­ly nice get­ting to hang out with our newest neigh­bor.

Terri Made Us A Pie

Ter­ri even brought us a great look­ing and even bet­ter tast­ing pie. It was cher­ry filled with a choco­late crust and all home­made.

Black Friday

We did­n’t try and brave any of the large crowds ear­ly in the morn­ing this year. I had had my fill of wait­ing in line the pre­vi­ous week­end. Also, there just did­n’t seem to be any killer deals on any­thing we want­ed to get for any­one this year (or even our­selves, real­ly). Angela worked Fri­day, but mom and I did get out some to got to a few stores. The shop­ping is lim­it­ed in Jamestown, or even when she dri­ves to Cookeville, so it’s a nice chance for her to find some clothes and such. I was look­ing for a cheap router for her birth­day present since she is get­ting DSL next week, but the price on Ama­zon is just too good to pass up. So much for “Black Fri­day” and all the great deals (although Sta­ples did have real­ly cheap SD cards, but still no cheap­er than Ama­zon).

Mom and hung out most of the whole day until Angela got off work. That evening, we made apple-chick­en sausage in spaghet­ti for din­ner. Angela played Ray­man on the Wii until late in the evening. She’s get­ting real­ly good at whomp­ing bun­nies.

Wii Time

Mom and Angela work togeth­er to drown some bad bun­nies in Ray­man. This is one of the games where you can actu­al­ly sit down, although you def­i­nite­ly can’t sit still. This par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge almost made my left arm fal out of its sock­et!

Saturday

After a short stop at the mall to pick up some works shoes for Mom, we head­ed up to North­ern Vir­ginia to vis­it Mom’s cousin Bar­bara and her fam­i­ly. We rarely get to see that branch of the fam­i­ly so it was good to get to spend the after­noon with Bar­bara, Jacque, and three of their five chil­dren. Greg, the old­est son, is a mem­ber of the Army Spe­cial Forces (just like his dad was) and after serv­ing in Koso­vo, Afghanistan, and four trips to Iraq, was home for a cou­ple of months (he had been home sev­er­al times in between). He had come up to Vir­ginia for the hol­i­day and we were glad to get to see him, as well as his sis­ter Chantel (their broth­er Michael could­n’t stay for long). Sean­tel is a chemist, so she and Angela had all sorts of things to talk about that I can’t real­ly fol­low along with. After a real­ly nice din­ner, Greg showed us a lot of the pho­tos he’s tak­en while on trips to var­i­ous places in Iraq. He and his out­fit have got­ten a chance to seen almost the whole coun­try, tak­ing in both the beau­ti­ful and the ugly. While some of his pho­tos make it look won­der­ful, I know I don’t have the guts to vis­it any­time soon. Well, any­way, peo­ple like Greg are smart and pro­fes­sion­al and it’s good to know that there are men and women like him through­out the armed forces, even though they nev­er seem to be the ones get­ting the press (for bet­ter or for worse). It was great to spend some time with them and we did our best to con­vince them all to come to Rich­mond some­time so we can return the hos­pi­tal­i­ty they showed us.

Greg Shows Us Iraq Photos

Greg gave us a slideshow of some of his favorite pho­tos from four trips to Iraq with the Army SF team he is a mem­ber of. Chantel then showed us all her dog’s Hal­loween cos­tume, since Greg had­n’t had a chance to see it yet, either.

One Last Thing

We all give thanks for many things this year, and I should be first in line since it seems like I have every­thing I need and some­times more than I could ever even want. How­ev­er, I think this year I have to say I’m most thank­ful for my aunt Martha, who has done such as won­der­ful job of tak­ing care of my grand­ma in Birm­ing­ham. Grand­ma Edith is still with us and has been in good hands thanks in no small part to my aunt.

  1. The turkey here is always pre­pared by our stan­dard high-heat-oven-roast method, which is from The Joy of Cook­ing. []

Wii Havin’ Fun Now

Okay, so we’ve had the Wii for a cou­ple of days and I’m final­ly try­ing to find some time to blog about it. I’ve real­ly just been being occu­pied with play­ing, but I’m going to say that I want­ed to Angela to have a chance to play some as well before I wrote much.

I guess the short review is: this thing is insane amounts of fun.

The Sell

Now, Angela was­n’t as con­vinced as I of this fact before we had played the sys­tem. I had been fol­low­ing quite a bit of news about the Wii ever since Nin­ten­do’s announced that its code-named “Rev­o­lu­tion” was going to have a very dif­fer­ent con­troller. It was most­ly just out of gen­er­al curios­i­ty about what the big N was doing, as I had thought that the DS was a real­ly inno­v­a­tive hand­held and the fact that Nin­ten­do was mak­ing games for peo­ple of all ages and inter­ests seemed real­ly cool. Each new rev­e­la­tion about what would even­tu­al­ly be named the Wii got me more and more inter­est­ed. Some­time a cou­ple of weeks ago, I found myself get­ting excit­ed about Novem­ber 19th. I had­n’t ever planned on buy­ing a gam­ing con­sole ever again, as PC games were much more my speed and inter­est (plus the fact that con­sole emu­la­tors are easy to find for clas­sic sys­tems like the NES and the Sega Gen­e­sis). How­ev­er, I found myself get­ting real­ly excit­ed about the Wii. This past week I decid­ed: we were just going to have to get one. At first, Angela real­ly was against the idea, cit­ing the fact that we already waste way too much pre­cious time doing non-active things.

At din­ner on Sat­ur­day at Joe’s Inn, I told her: you’ll thank me lat­er, but I have decid­ed I want to buy as Nin­ten­do Wii. She calm­ly said: “Okay, but you’ve got to sell me on this thing. Give me five rea­sons. You can think them up while I’m in the ladies room.”

“Can the first one be because it’s insane­ly fun?”

“No. Five real rea­sons.”

So, here are my five rea­sons as I list­ed them to Angela:

  1. It’s enter­tain­ment that will require us to get up off the couch. You have to move to play the games on the Wii.
  2. There are a lot of clas­sic con­sole games that we down­load for a small fee each and play in our liv­ing room again (just like when we were kids).
  3. The sys­tem comes with a bun­dled game, Wii Sports (most sys­tems don’t come with games any­more).
  4. We can down­load the Opera web brows­er to surf the web in the liv­ing room.
  5. The Wii will even­tu­al­ly be able to play DVD’s, allow­ing us to have one less device in our liv­ing room (our cur­rent, much larg­er DVD play­er).

Okay, I’ll be the very first to admit that there are sure­ly bet­ter or more inter­est­ing rea­sons that these1. The Wii has built in WiFi (with WPA encryp­tion) and it also has some real­ly great games at launch, just for starters. How­ev­er, I was under severe time con­straints and was­n’t try­ing to sell this to you or any­one else; I was try­ing to sell Angela on it. Any­way, after me talk­ing it up here and there over the past month or so and then giv­ing her some of the detailed low-down over din­ner, she agreed it sound­ed like a lot of fun.

The Overnighter

She then want­ed to know my game plan for get­ting one the next morn­ing (or at mid­night, whichev­er). I explained to her that all accounts on the inter­net made Tar­get sound like the best bet to score one but that there were already three or four peo­ple lined up out­side the Cen­tral Rich­mond store. Fur­ther, one per­son had been out­side the Short Pump store since noon that day! She agreed Cen­tral Rich­mond Tar­get sound­ed like the best bet, but she felt like it was going to be nec­es­sary to get there that night and just camp out in line.

Okay, just in case you are read­ing this fast, let me stress this point once more: Angela, my ratio­nal and sane wife, want­ed me to camp out in line at a Tar­get store all night in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures to get a game con­sole the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

We went home and I got some cold-weath­er clothes on, grabbed a cou­ple of books, and packed up my sleep­ing bag. I went over to Lib­by Place, first stop­ping by the Star­bucks and Barnes and Noble to get a ven­ti cof­fee and then into Tar­get before the closed. I want­ed to get one of those camp-style2 fold­ing chairs to keep my but off of the freez­ing side­walk. I got out of the store just a cou­ple of min­utes before eleven o’clock, just as they were clos­ing. I got my bag from the truck and found my spot at the end of the already grow­ing line, about fif­teen peo­ple so far.

The crowd that was there all night was real­ly tame. I think most every­one I talked to any­way was there to get a sys­tem for them­selves, as opposed to just flip­ping it on eBay for a prof­it. These were real Nin­ten­do fans and they had been look­ing for­ward to this since before I had been, even. We all chat­ted the night up, get­ting to know one anoth­er and even more so, what games every­one was look­ing for­ward to get­ting in the morn­ing. One of the guys wait­ing in line with his fiance was a Tar­get employ­ee and as the night went on I real­ized that all the stuff I had read online in the week pre­vi­ous was exact­ly how this was going to go down. From the num­ber of Wii sys­tems this par­tic­u­lar store had (39) to the vouch­ers they would pass out an hour before open­ing to the fact they were plan­ning on serv­ing every­one in line soda and pop­corn the fol­low­ing morn­ing just before open­ing; it was all spot on.

The thir­ty-ninth per­son showed up in line some­time around 5:00 am, I think. My orig­i­nal plan to show up at 4:00 like­ly would have got­ten me a Wii but, to be per­fect­ly hon­est, I enjoyed hang­ing out all night and meet­ing lots of friend­ly peo­ple. I think I brought up the aver­age age of those folks out all night be at least a cou­ple of years all by myself. Even so, every­one was real­ly fun and I enjoyed get­ting to make some new friends. A cou­ple of girls even picked up two box­es of donuts dur­ing their hunt for a civ­i­lized bath­room (some­thing about the drainage ditch beside the store did­n’t appeal to them). I shared some brown­ies I picked up ear­li­er for us and every­one was doing their best to make sure that every­one else did­n’t freeze (loan­ing blan­kets, chairs, and sweat­shirts). Even the next morn­ing, when Tar­get employ­ees hand­ed out the con­sole vouch­ers, the 40th per­son and on in line did­n’t make any big fuss that they did­n’t get one. There was no push­ing or shov­ing and cer­tain­ly no need for the police to use non-lethal weapons to sub­due the crowd. Prob­a­bly the exact oppo­site from my pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence of wait­ing in a long line else­where in Hen­ri­co Coun­ty.

The Console Itself

Okay, so not too long after­wards, I was home and warm and ready to unbox my new toy I’d wait­ed so long to get. First of all, the pack­ag­ing is real­ly very nice (Angela said it real­ly remind­ed her of an Apple prod­uct). How­ev­er, once it’s out of the pack­age, the first thing that struck me was just how small this con­sole is. For all the talk of how “under­pow­ered” the Wii is, it is still an amaz­ing work of engi­neer­ing. the entire device is rough­ly the size of a 5–1/2″ exter­nal dri­ve enclo­sure (like a USB DVD burn­er, for exam­ple). This is slot load­ing dri­ve, moth­er­board with proces­sor and graph­ics chips, Wi-Fi… all of it. It’s real­ly just a very hand­some and sleek device that does­n’t scream “I frag!” to any­one who walks into your liv­ing room.

The longest part of hook­ing up the Wii was just pulling out our rather weighty A/V head to hook up the video and audio cable. I think it took less than five min­utes and I real­ly anal reten­tive about this sort of thing, so nor­mal peo­ple could prob­a­bly do it in about a minute. The Wii menu, or home page, is a pret­ty nice UI. It’s well laid out and intu­itive for any­body. I still haven’t even opened up the user man­u­al and real­ly don’t know why I would unless I ever need­ed to con­tact Nin­ten­do. I got the lat­est firmware updates3 and then got online to see about down­load­ing the Opera brows­er. It’s not yet avail­able, but it will be free through June of next year once it is avail­able.

The Games

I got a sec­ond con­troller and nunchuck so we could at least play two-play­er games, which was also a big deal to Angela (prob­a­bly should have been one of the five rea­sons, since the DVD capa­bil­i­ty might not hap­pen for a while in the states). I played most of the games on my own to begin with, though, since Angela had gone to work by the time I got home that morn­ing with my scored loot.

The first game I gave try was Wii Sports. I was­n’t expect­ing too much from a bun­dled game but this thing is loads of fun. I actu­al­ly enjoy golf­ing and bowl­ing. There are some practice/training sec­tions which are okay, but the actu­al sports are where all the fun is at. That night I boxed the com­put­er for three match­es and was actu­al­ly sweat­ing by the end of thir­ty min­utes. The con­trollers are a lit­tle slug­gish in box­ing, but I was still able to win all three bouts. Ten­nis match­es are also a lot of fun and my Mom (who is cur­rent­ly vis­it­ing for the hol­i­day) was able to beat me in two straight match­es. Golf and ten­nis are loads of fun and although I can­not actu­al­ly play those in real life (nor do I real­ly have any desire to), the con­trols seem like a very good sim­u­la­tion. I’ve not played a full base­ball game yet, but bat­ting prac­tice seems to be what I am the least good at so far.

I’ve played The Leg­end of Zel­da: Twi­light Princess some and so far I real­ly enjoy it. I’m not real­ly far enough into the game yet to real­ly say much about it, though. I’ve spent most of the time play­ing with anoth­er per­son and Zel­da is sin­gle play­er only. How­ev­er, I fig­ure that game is a long term invest­ment. I know that some peo­ple have already beat­en the game, but I don’t mind spread­ing out over weeks or even months. I real­ly want to feel like I’m explor­ing that world and not rush­ing through it, kind of like I was get­ting vaca­tion there.

I had got­ten Ray­man’s Rav­ing Rab­bids since it had a lot of quirky mini-games think­ing it might inter­est Angela. How­ev­er, after I got home I was almost regret­ting spend­ing more than I had ini­tial­ly intend­ed to (I had­n’t planned on buy­ing but one addi­tion­al game and that was Zel­da). How­ev­er, I am glad I decid­ed to break it out. Angela and I are hav­ing a blast play­ing all of the very stu­pid yet incred­i­bly addic­tive mini games. We absolute­ly love whomp­ing bun­nies in the face with plungers. I don’t know if this qual­i­fies as a first-per­son-shoot­er, but we love it.

The Wii’s Have It

Well, Angela has now played the gam­ing con­sole, along with my Mom and we all agree it is so much fun we almost feel guilty. I spoke with my broth­er Dave ear­li­er tonight and he jok­ing­ly asked me if I was a gamer now. I hon­est­ly answered no, I’m not. This is real­ly all about enter­tain­ment and fun with friends and fam­i­ly. The machine itself (and it’s con­troller) is more than just a nov­el­ty, though. This is what gam­ing can be. I still don’t con­sid­er myself a gamer, at least not that it is a seri­ous hob­by. How­ev­er, I am glad that I have a fun new device in the liv­ing room that is much more than just sit­ting on the couch and push­ing some but­tons.

You can play it that way…

Pen­ny Arcade weighs in on the Wii Remote’s attempt at get­ting gamers off the couch. Angela and I and con­tin­ue to look like tool­box­es, regard­less. Thanks to Bit-Tech’s Will Har­ris for point this out on this week’s TWiT.


  1. I prob­a­bly should have con­sid­ered con­sult­ing Glam­our as appar­ent­ly they have a dif­fer­ent take on five great rea­sons a girl would want a Wii. []
  2. No one actu­al­ly takes those camp­ing, unless they are doing it out of the back of their pick-up truck, though. Those things weight like ten pounds. []
  3. There have been a num­ber of reports about some peo­ple get­ting seri­ous Error Code mes­sages and essen­tial­ly brick­ing their con­soles. For­tu­nate­ly, that did­n’t hap­pen to me. How­ev­er, it would have been too late by the time I learned about any of that. []

Wii’re Crazy

I wait­ed in line overnight at the Cen­tral Rich­mond Tar­get for the launch of the Nin­ten­do Wii con­sole. It was loads of fun, and the Wii is even bet­ter. How­ev­er, I’m real­ly tired and need to eat and go to the office for a cou­ple of hours this after­noon. I’m also using the TS defense for that cheesy title, but it seems that I’m not the only one doing that sort of thing. Any­way, blog­ging about it is just going to have to wait a few hours until tomor­row (I’ve been play­ing some games and hang­ing out with some friends).

In the mean­time, you can check out pho­tos at Flickr from the past night. Oh, in case you’re won­der­ing, it was a real­ly quite and low key evening. Not at all like this (and yes, that’s the exact same store):

Hen­ri­co Coun­ty police attempt to con­trol a row­dy crowd out­side of the Cen­tral Rich­mond Tar­get with talc pow­der guns (not pep­per spray as some are shout­ing. You would hear loads more scream­ing it that was pep­per spray, and it isn’t usu­al­ly shot from a gun). There were over 250 peo­ple in line for only eight PS3’s.

One game that appar­ent­ly isn’t yet avail­able but Angela and I are real­ly anx­ious to get is “Big Brain Acad­e­my,” which is essen­tial­ly “Brain Age” for the Wii. We’ll leave all this sword fight­in’ and shootin’ up to the young whip­per-snap­pers.

Moving Pictures

I’m going to a post-marathon par­ty at some friends’ house tonight so we can all cel­e­brate not dying last Sat­ur­day morn­ing. Angela took some great pho­tos of them, so I’ll Flickr ’em1 and have Tar­get print them for me. At ¢20 for a 4“x6” 2, com­bined with the fact that Tar­get is only about 3/4″ of a mile from our house, it real­ly beats try­ing to print them our­selves. For com­par­i­son, 4“x6” pho­to paper goes for about ¢9 – ¢21 per sheet at Sta­ples (which is, inci­den­tal­ly, just about six blocks from our house). Essen­tial­ly, we use Web 2.0 to out­source our print­ing. How cool is it that we can do that?

Any­way, here’s a cou­ple of non-Angela shots from last Sat­ur­day. Just about every race with over a few hun­dred peo­ple (and some even that small) have pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers at them now who hope to sell you a pho­to of you run­ning. I’ve bought a few, but they tend to be very expen­sive. That, plus, who does­n’t look like total crap when run­ning that far? Oh yeah.

Somewhere In NorthsideSprinting Down The Hill

  1. How­ev­er, don’t both­er going to look for them. I usu­al­ly just send those to a pri­vate set and delete them lat­er. []
  2. It’s actu­al­ly just ¢15 each if you have them mailed to you, but I don’t know how much ship­ping is. []

Going For The Duece

If you don’t have the time or desire to read a fair­ly long post from me, let me give you the short & sweet: don’t try and run two marathons in two weeks time. More impor­tant­ly, the next time you hear me talk­ing about doing some­thing like that, slap me and then make me read this first para­graph.

Okay, on to the rest of this entry…

So, I felt that I was able to recov­er from the MCM fair­ly quick­ly. I had a sports mas­sage the day after­wards and with­in just three days of run­ning, vir­tu­al­ly all the sore­ness was gone. A week ago (Sun­day evening), I went out and ran a fast five-mil­er and my legs felt good (oth­er than chaf­ing from the cold wind, but that’s easy to cor­rect for). That evening, I made the deci­sion to go ahead and run Rich­mond this year. Thurs­day evening, Angela and I went down to the James Cen­ter to pick up my race pack­et and our t‑shirts1. I also got my Sports­back­ers Train­ing Team race sin­glet, which although I’d have pre­ferred a t‑shirt to pre­vent some of that nasty chaf­ing I had dur­ing last year’s marathon, I fig­ured I’d just put it over a thin t‑shirt. The next day I picked up an iPod arm-band and sport head­phones, both for cheap, so I could have that dur­ing the race if I felt like I need­ed some extra boost. I ate well and got to bed ear­ly that night, although I’d been a space-case at work all day and was glad just to be able to get ally things in order for the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

Angela dropped me off near the James Cen­ter (where the race fin­ish­es) so I could make it to get in the group pho­to for my team. I found a few friend­ly faces I had­n’t seen in over a month (since my train­ing sched­ule had to be altered for an ear­li­er race). I head­ed up to the start area and got my bag all checked in. That morn­ing was great weath­er for a race, but we all knew it was going to get a lot warmer (the pre­vi­ous year we had to start in jack­ets and wear­ing gloves). I saw some more famil­iar faces in between the 4:00 and 4:30 pace2 groups that I decid­ed to begin in and hav­ing some peo­ple to talk to always makes the race go by faster.

The Richmond Marathon Course

The course of the Rich­mond Marathon as record­ed on my wrist­watch GPS unit.

Before long, we were all head­ing across the start line and down Broad Street. The first few miles of a race like this are so filled with antic­i­pa­tion and adren­a­line that they go by very quick­ly. I remem­ber look­ing at my Garmin every few sec­onds to force myself to a 10:00/mile pace. After a few miles, my pace becomes steady enough I don’t have to check so often, but in the excite­ment at the begin­ning, it’s too easy to run fast and burn out too ear­ly (not that it was going to make a lot of dif­fer­ence today). At around mile four, I came up on Angela who was tak­ing pho­tos with the D50 and cheer­ing every­one on. I felt real­ly good at that point and was so glad to see her. She was wav­ing her “Go Jason” sign and rat­tling a noise mak­er, both of which she’d got­ten at the expo. I stopped for just a few sec­onds to dis­cuss where she’d be next on the course (Main and Boule­vard). I head­ed on down the street, pass­ing our friend Karen (who was act­ing as a course mar­shal). Karen’s the one who con­vinced Angela and me to sign up a cou­ple of years ago for the train­ing team, so it was good to see here out there as well. The train­ing team coach­es, many of whom had been act­ing as pac­ers for us, dropped off at mile five. That’s right about where my right foot start­ed hav­ing some pain, just under my shoe laces. It’d hap­pened at the MCM, just three miles lat­er into that race. I decid­ed I’d take some ibupro­fen after the mile six water stop to deal with it, hop­ing my first ener­gy gel would help to off­set any nau­sea asso­ci­at­ed with ibupro­fen on an emp­ty stom­ach.

Down­hill on Riv­er Road to the first ‘par­ty stop’ at the Star­bucks and the first real­ly large crowd since the start­ing line. It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing for your neigh­bors to come out and cheer for you like some sort of rock star. While the crowds seemed a lit­tle thin­ner than last year, I appre­ci­at­ed all the peo­ple call­ing my name out. A lit­tle lat­er in the race, one fel­low run­ner asked me if I was the may­or or some­thing because so many peo­ple kept shout­ing my name. I just point­ed out that it was writ­ten in large let­ters across my (bright­ly col­ored) shirt. I caught up with some fel­low team mates on River­side Dri­ve and kept up with them for quite a ways, until I stopped to stretch out my calf mus­cles on For­rest Hill Road. I was hop­ing to avoid the nasty mus­cle cramps I had got­ten at the very end of last year’s marathon and that had plagued me dur­ing the last 10k of the MCM. Around the 14 mile mark, on Semmes Boule­vard is where I (and appar­ent­ly many oth­ers) began to feel the day get­ting warmer. I had put on my head­phones at this point and could even notice the heat around my ears. I had made the deci­sion before the race to up my intake of ener­gy gels to one every 30 min­utes, but by the begin­ning of the Lee Bridge, just past mile 15, I could bare­ly even get half of one down. Hav­ing the pain killers along with extra dos­es of ener­gy gel (which is like cake frost­ing with the con­sis­ten­cy of hon­ey, if you’ve nev­er had one) was begin­ning to make my stom­ach turn and the heat only made it worse. There’s almost no shade for near­ly two miles while head­ing back north to Main Street, and that’s when I began to feel the sense of exhaus­tion that would beat me down for the next two-and-a-half hours.

Cruising Around The Corner

The smile’s not fake, but the look of run­ning hard sure is. Glad to be able to ditch that t‑shirt with Angela, I tried to recov­er from fatigue at mile 18, but it was short lived.

I was hav­ing to stop and walk a block or so at every mile at 17, and Angela bust­ed me in a cou­ple of pho­tos com­ing around on to the Boule­vard. I was able to jog a few steps to fake it, but it was more of a joke on me than any­thing else. I was look­ing beat and I felt it. How­ev­er, after run­ning that far, you sure can’t just give up just because you see a pret­ty face cheer­ing just for you. I stopped and stripped my t‑shirt, stretched, and got a pep talk from Angela. We cheered some fel­low run­ners togeth­er before I got back on the road up the Boule­vard. I luck­i­ly grabbed a hand­ful of pret­zels from a guy on the side­lines a cou­ple of blocks away and shoved them in my pock­et. After all the sweet stuff all morn­ing long, some salty pret­zels were a per­fect source of ener­gy. I trudged on for a cou­ple of more miles, final­ly catch­ing up with one of the fel­low team­mates I’d ran with for three miles ear­li­er that morn­ing.

“I had a plan.” Ruben quipped, “But that got dashed today. So I’m just going to walk for a bit here and there. I’ll still get my same medal.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll just walk some with you.”

…and that’s just what Ruben and I, along with some oth­er train­ing team mem­bers we caught up to along the way, did for the last 10k of the race. Many of the team coach­es were there along the last cou­ple of miles, run­ning along side peo­ple and cheer­ing them on (and cheer­ing them up, in many run­ners cas­es). As tired and lousy as I felt, the last half mile in Rich­mond is real­ly awe­some. You can see the fin­ish line from quite a ways back and it is down Cary Street, which for those who don’t know, is quite a steep hill. I did my best to pick up some speed and fin­ish as best as I could muster (hav­ing long since blown away my hopes of fin­ish­ing under 4:30).

My final time was 4:52:16.

Heading For The Finish Line

Head­ing to the fin­ish line, and home.

I could bare­ly even keep stand­ing after cross­ing the fin­ish line. I found some­one to remove my tim­ing chip, hop­ing I would­n’t ruin their day by vom­it­ing on them. The vol­un­teers at these events are like­ly to be bliss­ful­ly unaware just how quick­ly they could regret their deci­sion to help out. I got my medal placed around my neck and, while very proud of what I had just done, it real­ly hit me all of a sud­den just how dif­fer­ent I felt from the pre­vi­ous two marathons. Rather, how I did­n’t real­ly feel near­ly as much. The first race was filled with a sense of pride of accom­plish­ment that I had real­ly ful­filled a life goal. The sec­ond was a sense of awe and respect for my sur­round­ings, fel­low run­ners, and the Marines putting on the whole affair. I sim­ply did­n’t have the emo­tion­al invest­ment in this race as much as I had pre­vi­ous ones, and that sim­ply can­not be dis­count­ed. You’ll hear it time and time again: run­ning a marathon is a men­tal effort as much as a phys­i­cal one. I sim­ply did­n’t have the desire which gives me those lit­tle adren­a­line rush­es through­out a race that keeps me push­ing on this time. Maybe just as much as the heat affect­ed me, my heart just was­n’t into this one.

Angela found me at the exit area for run­ners and walked me to get signed out (the train­ing team keeps track of all their run­ners on every run). I grabbed a slice of piz­za and once I got my bag back, changed shirts and shoes. After­wards, it was home for a show­er and a nap with the dogs. Angela took me to get a sports mas­sage that evening and then out for a reward din­ner at a local seafood and steak place. I can’t say that real­ly did any­thing to earn any of that, oth­er than just being bull-head­ed. How­ev­er, it sure did make me feel nice. Hav­ing peo­ple in the city come out and cheer me on was great, but hav­ing Angela around dur­ing and after the race was even bet­ter.

  1. Part of sign­ing up for the Sports­back­ers Marathon Train­ing Team is the entry fee to the Rich­mond Marathon, even if you plan on run­ning a dif­fer­ent race. Lot’s of peo­ple here use the train­ing team to get ready for Chica­go, New York, Marine Corps, and even races as ear­ly in the Fall as San Fran­cis­co. So, even if you don’t run Rich­mond, you can still get a nice, long sleeve t‑shirt, so Angela got hers even though she did­n’t run this one. That smart girl. []
  2. That’s total time for the entire race, or four-and-a-half hours for the entire marathon. That boils down to about a 10:15 minute mile on aver­age. Hope­ful­ly that will give some back­ground on the two dif­fer­ent “pace” mean­ings I use often. []

Election Day 2006

I Voted Today

Yeah, saw this on Kot­tke and jumped right on the band­wag­on.

Okay, so we actu­al­ly had some pri­maries and such ear­li­er in the year, but today is the day that real­ly decides who rep­re­sents and leads us. I’m such a nerd when it comes to vot­ing and I nev­er miss an elec­tion any­more. I got up at about 6:00 am to walk over to the polls, although it was clos­er to 6:30 when I final­ly made it over there (I’m so slug­gish pre-cof­fee, and I spent some time try­ing to con­vince Angela to go with me). I brought my pock­et digi-cam to take some pho­tos, part­ly for the Polling Place Pho­to Project, but also to get a record of my vote. Our elec­tron­ic touch-screen vot­ing machines don’t pro­duce a paper receipt, so I fig­ured some pho­to doc­u­men­ta­tion would be the next best thing. I’m not try­ing to be on of those para­noid tech­no-phobes, but things do go wrong and I fig­ured this was an easy way to have some evi­dence of my intent.

I walked in and reviewed the sam­ple bal­lot. No sur­pris­es there on the races that were I would be vot­ing on, nor for the three bal­lot ques­tions. I was glad to see plen­ty of infor­ma­tion on the three bal­lot ques­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly the first regard­ing the so-called ‘def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage’ since any­one read­ing the whole amend­ment can see it goes way too far. Gay mar­riage is already ille­gal in Vir­ginia and that’s just not like­ly to change any­time soon. To pre­tend that I need the state to step in and help define my mar­riage is a com­plete crock. My mar­riage is between Jason and Angela and we deter­mined that all on our own with­out the help of the state or fed­er­al gov­ern­ments. We’re smart and in love like that.

Any­way, upon walk­ing up to the elec­tion offi­cials, I proud­ly declared my full name and address, in very dorky fash­ion. There’s just some sort of rush I get out of pub­licly stat­ing my name at the polling place. I don’t know why. It’s far from an act of brav­ery in today’s cli­mate, but I can imag­ine what it must have been like dur­ing the first nation­al elec­tion here in the new­ly mint­ed U.S. and that kind of makes me proud. Any­way, I got my tick­et and head­ed over to the pair of vot­ing machines. I vot­ed on an AVS WIN­Vote [.pdf] machine, which are wide­ly used here in Vir­ginia and I’ve used a cou­ple of times already. The machine itself is pret­ty well designed and I don’t have any real com­plaints, oth­er than it’s a closed, black box and there’s no paper receipt (this is where you came in, isn’t it?).

The whole expe­ri­ence was actu­al­ly very pain­less and only took me about 15 min­utes, includ­ing walk­ing time (we live about 110 feet from the polling place, as it’s moved just down the street). How­ev­er, there is news of some prob­lems hap­pen­ing here in Vir­ginia of vot­er intim­i­da­tion. That how­ev­er, does­n’t seem to have affect­ed the pub­lic here. News reports claim record turnout for a mid-term elec­tion, which is good no mat­ter who wins, I think.

Marine Corps Marathon

Well, the big day kind of snuck-up on us. Angela had been get­ting over a ham­string injury pret­ty much all of Octo­ber and we had gone on vaca­tion ear­li­er last month. There­fore, when the end of the month came out of no where, we almost felt sur­prised that an entire month had gone by with­out either of us run­ning all that much. I had run my sec­ond twen­ty-mil­er before our Alas­ka vaca­tion and real­ly had­n’t run much since dur­ing my taper peri­od. Poor Angela had­n’t run any dis­tance since her fif­teen-mil­er back in late Sep­tem­ber. We both went out and ran a six-mil­er the Sun­day one week pri­or to the MCM and Angela deter­mined that her leg felt good enough to run on, though. Hav­ing Dave in town the day before the race real­ly helped dis­tract us though, which was prob­a­bly a good thing.

We had reserved a room at the Sher­a­ton very near the start of the race, a cou­ple of blocks from the new Air Force Memo­r­i­al. This would prove to be great the morn­ing of the race, but dis­as­trous after­wards. We parked at Pen­ta­gon City and took the Metro to the Armory to get our chips and bib num­bers. There was actu­al­ly a line out the door of the Armory and down the block, which was sort of alarm­ing. Peo­ple were stream­ing in from every­where to get in before 7:00pm (some peo­ple had come straight from the air­port via taxi, with lug­gage in tow) when the race expo shut down. We made it in and picked up our stuff and pro­ceed­ed to wan­der around the expo for a lit­tle while. We bought a cou­ple of those throw-away Tyvek jack­ets since it would be cool and very windy the next morn­ing. We loaded up on free ener­gy snacks and oth­er swag1. Clif was doing some pace-groups and hand­ed out pace bands, which proved to be pret­ty handy. I enjoy using my Garmin GPS (a lot), but hav­ing the mile splits writ­ten out helps on over-all pac­ing a great deal and reduces the amount I have to keep check­ing my watch2 We final­ly decid­ed we’d filled up our tote bags (mine actu­al­ly start­ed rip­ping), so we head­ed back out to the Metro to go find some din­ner.

We had bro­ken out our D.C. trav­el guide books in hopes of find­ing some great Ital­ian restau­rant for our pre-race calo­rie-fest. How­ev­er, there did­n’t seem to be any that real­ly stood out to us, although D.C. has some of the great­est places to eat and I’m sure the ones we read about are fan­tas­tic. How­ev­er, being tired and real­ly just want­i­ng to get checked into the hotel, we opt­ed to just eat at Cal­i­for­nia Piz­za Kitchen. We enjoyed our rel­a­tive­ly soul-less, chain restau­rant food well enough before dri­ving past the Pen­ta­gon to our hotel. I would rec­om­mend the Sher­a­ton Nation­al for any­one trav­el­ing to D.C. since it is very nice and the bed was insane­ly com­fort­able (we decid­ed we want­ed that very bed for our home), except for one thing: it’s no where near any Metro stops! The near­est is the Pen­ta­gon, and that is still near­ly a mile away. We regret­ted that most of our time in the hotel was spent look­ing at the backs of eye­lids, since it was pret­ty nice. We did­n’t get to par­take in break­fast, either, since that’s a bad idea before run­ning a marathon.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we got dressed and prepped for the race, and then head­ed out into the cold to walk to the start­ing line. It was a very chilly hike down­hill around the ceme­tery and past the Pen­ta­gon to the bag check, at the Pen­tagon’s north park­ing lot. We met up with about 32,000+ oth­er run­ners there and head­ed into the mass­es to find our spots in the queue. Angela got in near the 6:00 pace group and I kissed her good­bye after we wished one anoth­er a good race. I found my way into the 4:30 pace group and wait­ed. Even though we had got­ten there just as the first of two waves was to start, there was an admin­is­tra­tive delay which had pushed that back 15 min­utes or so. I should have tak­en advan­tage of the time I had to stretch my legs out some, but did­n’t and I regret­ted that lat­er on. Before too long, Ver­mont Sen. Patrick Leahy made an short state­ment just pri­or to the begin­ning of the race. He men­tioned the MCM For­ward in Iraq [.pdf], where 600+ men and women of the armed forces there would be run­ning a marathon along with us (obvi­ous­ly not at the exact same time, since it would be the mid­dle of the night there). That kind of got both my mind and my heart rac­ing, and it was clear I was­n’t the only one. It was excit­ing to know that those men and women would be doing some­thing ‘fun’ and ‘nor­mal’ along side us in spir­it. Some­time lat­er, the sec­ond wave final­ly got mov­ing for­ward and before I knew it, I was run­ning in my sec­ond ever marathon.

2006 MCM GPS Plot

A plot I made using the data from my Garmin Fore­run­ner 201 and USAPho­toMaps.

The first part of the course, through Ross­lyn, was some­what dull although at one point a incred­i­bly large Amer­i­can flag was hang­ing between two large build­ings. It was just the first of many, many reminders of where we run­ning this race: in the nation’s capi­tol. The crowd was so thick, it became dif­fi­cult to get any­where near my goal pace of 10:18 per mile. How­ev­er, after three miles or so, run­ning down­hill to the George Wash­ing­ton park­way, I heard shouts from behind me: pace group, com­ing through! I real­ized this was the 4:30 pace group behind me (I had start­ed off just behind them) and was deter­mined to try and stick with them. I let them blaze a trail through on the way into George­town, where the path widened some and I was able to pick up pace to where I want­ed to be. Over the course of the next few miles, we ran fast. So fast, in fact, I went from about two min­utes behind pace to over four min­utes ahead of pace. At some point, I lost the pace group, but fig­ured I could just stick to about a ten minute mile and keep my four min­utes in my back pock­et until lat­er. Around mile ten, the course comes into the mall area, near the end of the Arling­ton Memo­r­i­al Bridge. If there is a ‘prop­er’ way for one to enter D.C., I’d say that L’En­fant had to have intend­ed this to be it. The mall was absolute­ly stun­ning. I just want­ed to keep run­ning up and down it over and over, to tell the truth. Usu­al­ly, I enjoy look­ing around while run­ning but I was in awe the whole time. Not only had it become a beau­ti­ful day, but here I was part of the cen­ter attrac­tion in D.C. It was as if the mall was all ours to enjoy. I think I near­ly strained my neck look­ing at all the build­ings and mon­u­ments as I ran by. It was­n’t as though I had­n’t seen all of them before, but this was just some­thing so much more spe­cial. Today, these all belonged to me in a whole new way. It remind­ed me why I enjoy run­ning crazy things like marathons: it’s a huge ego trip to be in such an amaz­ing city among the most incred­i­ble build­ings and stat­ues while all the peo­ple are cheer­ing for you. I’ll nev­er know what it feels like to win the World Series, an Oscar, or a Nobel Prize. How­ev­er, when run­ning through a city that has opened up for you, it feels just as good.

Well, if all good things must come to an end, mine did some­where around mile sev­en­teen. I was away from the mall now, run­ning along side of the Potomac (inside Potomac Park) head­ing towards Haines Point . I noticed I was slip­ping off my pace quite a lot all of a sud­den and need­ed some extra ener­gy. I had just done an ener­gy gel, and it was going to have to be some­thing else. I decid­ed I’d stop to pull out my iPod Shuf­fle and give music a chance to pick me up. It seemed to the do the job quite well for the next three+ miles, until the bat­tery died! I had­n’t charged the USB stick up enough to have it play very long at all (30 min­utes or so). Much to my dis­ap­point­ment, this hap­pened right around mile 21, when I real­ly began to hit the wall. My upper calves, which had been twing­ing for the past few miles had now begun to cramp up. Near­ing mile 22, sud­den ‘char­lie-horse’ cramps forced me over to the bridge guard rail to stretch out my calf mus­cles. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it was about this point when I had slowed down so much that I had already eat­en up my four min­utes (part of which was spent mess­ing with the iPod, though). I had lit­tle hope of regain­ing that time since the cramps in my calves weren’t going any­where (there still there, actu­al­ly, near­ly a week lat­er). Any hope I had of keep­ing my 4:30 was gone.

I made it through Crys­tal City and around the Pen­ta­gon, but I was hav­ing to stop more and more often to stretch out my calves. The cramps were get­ting so bad near the end, near mile 26 actu­al­ly, I could bare­ly stand. My foot was being pull down by the intense spasms in my calf mus­cles, to the point that even walk­ing was get­ting dif­fi­cult. At the turn uphill to the Iwo Jima Memo­r­i­al, right at mile 26, I near­ly cried when I saw just how steep a climb that last lit­tle leg was going to be. I tried to keep my head up and just plod up the hill, main­tain­ing what I was now call­ing a run. How­ev­er, I sim­ply could­n’t main­tain even that pathet­ic shuf­fle and was reduced to walk­ing the last 50 feet of the hill until it lev­eled out, right in front of the bleach­er seats. It was humil­i­at­ing, but I picked up pace for the last 200 yards to the fin­ish.

I came in at 4:42:05.

I sup­pose after almost five hours of exer­tion, I was a lit­tle weary, but I thanked the Marine who placed a fin­ish­er’s medal over my head when he told me con­grat­u­la­tions. I mum­bled out that we all ought to be giv­ing them medals and he just laughed a bit. The Marines cer­tain­ly always had my respect, but the way they put on this event (yes, it is most­ly staffed by Marines), cheer­ing us on and con­grat­u­lat­ing us was fan­tas­tic.

I hob­bled for­ward with the crowd, gath­er­ing up some food and such on my way to get my checked bag. After final­ly mak­ing it through what seemed like a mile of crowd, I found a spot of curb to sit down on and eat. I changed to a dry shirt, as is my cus­tom after a long run, only to notice I was­n’t real­ly all that sweaty. Fun­ny, did­n’t I just run a marathon? Why am I not drip­ping with sweat? It had been so windy, it had kept me dry. How­ev­er, I was cov­ered in a thick lay­er of white pow­der; salt crys­tals, actu­al­ly. It was almost as if I had been rolling in salt all morn­ing. I sat and wait­ed for Angela for a while, and even­tu­al­ly got up to move around. I made great use of the lit­tle alu­minum foil blan­ket a Marine had thrown around my shoul­ders (which was done for every­one as they passed the fin­ish line) while hob­bling back to the bag check, and then on to the Nether­lands Car­il­lon near the memo­r­i­al, our agreed upon meet­ing place. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I had just missed Angela and while head­ing back towards the bag check, I hap­pened to catch up with her. She had fin­ished about 20 min­utes ear­li­er and had been wait­ing on me. How­ev­er, both of us were too tired and too glad to see one anoth­er to be real­ly upset.

Angela had run a heck of a race for the first 20 miles, in order to ‘beat the bridge.‘3 Giv­en the fact that this was 30% fur­ther than she had run at any time since last year’s Rich­mond marathon, that alone was quite a feat. She had promised her­self she would­n’t have to push her­self so hard beyond that point, and once you’ve made that kind of bar­gain with your­self, you’d bet­ter damn well keep it if you plan on your legs car­ry­ing you for anoth­er 10k. She walked and ran on and off the remain­der of the race and fin­ished in 6:43:42. A respectable time for some­one who was­n’t even sure she could run six miles the week before. Angela real­ly put forth a hero­ic effort on her own part to just attempt this race and I was real­ly proud that she toughed it out and fin­ished. I know she is proud, too.

We caught the Metro at Ross­lyn down to Arling­ton Ceme­tery, hop­ing we could walk back to the hotel. How­ev­er, traf­fic was now on the Jef­fer­son Davis High­way and it was get­ting dark (and cold­er). We walked over to the entrance gate of the Ceme­tery to ask a secu­ri­ty guard if there was any­way to cut through the ceme­tery. There isn’t, but the gen­tle­man stand­ing next to the secu­ri­ty guard offered us a ride, say­ing it was on his way and he was about ready to leave. It turns out, this fel­low is a trum­pet play­er for the Army Band Cer­e­mo­ni­al Band. Angela enjoyed not only the short dri­ve back to the hotel cour­tesy of our new friend, but also get­ting to ask about play­ing music with one of the coun­tries most pres­ti­gious bands.

We had checked out that morn­ing, but were still parked in the hotel garage. We ‘bor­rowed’ the lob­by restrooms to change into some warmer street clothes before leav­ing. We agreed a nice din­ner would be great, but did­n’t real­ly have the ener­gy to find some place nice. This meant that we agreed to just stop in Fredricks­burg and eat at Out­back (yet anoth­er chain restau­rant, but oh well, we did­n’t go to D.C. for the food this trip).

That night, nei­ther of us slept a wink, even after load­ing up on ibupro­fen and Tylenol. Some mus­cles are just that sore. My calf mus­cles are still killing me. How­ev­er, Rich­mond is in one week and I’m think­ing: what the hell?

Note: Although I brought my cam­era, I did­n’t take any pho­tos the entire two day trip. Although Angela and I agreed it was some of the most amaz­ing sites we’d ever seen, we did­n’t have the abil­i­ty to pho­to­graph it. We may post up a few race pho­tos we’ve ordered, though.

  1. Did you know? Swag is actu­al­ly an acronym; short for stuff we all get. Oh, sure, some peo­ple spell it schwag, but does that real­ly make any sense to any­one? []
  2. It did­n’t make too much dif­fer­ence in the end, but I think wear­ing a pace bracelet is some­thing I’ll do for now in races. I also cir­cled the times when I would take an ener­gy gel (it just so hap­pens, I like Vanil­la and Orange Cream Clif Shots), which reduced the amount of think­ing and made sure I did­n’t miss one. I don’t take quite as many as Clif rec­om­mends, appar­ent­ly, though and had to make my own marks. []
  3. The 14th street bridge is re-opened to traf­fic five hours after the start of the race. A pair of bus­es are dri­ven along the course and any­one who has­n’t made it past the bridge at that point, is put on board and dri­ven on to the fin­ish. []

Stephen Simmons Show

Stephen Simmons Show 1


The Coal Men were sup­posed to be play­ing in Ash­land tomor­row night (the fourth), but as things hap­pened, that show fell through. How­ev­er, Tues­day before last, Dave called me up to let me know he’d be in town with Stephen Sim­mons to play a show on the 27th. I real­ly enjoyed Stephen’s show last time and this time even more so, since I had been lis­ten­ing to a cou­ple of his albums and knew the music. I tried to take a bunch of pho­tos, but I still real­ly suck at low-light stuff. The best of them made it to Flickr. Speak­ing of pho­tograph­ing live music, if you haven’t seen Scot­t’s pho­tos of Mojave 5 from that same week­end, you should check them out. I’m going to have to hit him up for some advice.