It Ain’t the Miles Darlin’

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iStock drunk

Is it too early to set some new years resolutions?  I thought mine through on an eight mile run today.  Plural, because I might need more than one to get to where I want to be.  I’ve gained twenty pounds over the last twelve months.  Unless you’ve gained more than that, I expect you to agree with me that I shouldn’t wait to start until January.

My weight realignment though won’t target a return to 165 pounds.  That was unnaturally thin.  It served its purpose to run some really fast times.  I set PRs in every distance from the 5K to marathons over the last few years.  Under 20 minutes for the 5K, a 43 minute 10K, and a 3:30 marathon.  I enjoy racing but it’s not worth looking prepubescent.  And I can probably still maintain an 8 minute marathon pace at 175 pounds.  So my first resolution is to return to 175 pounds, which is the weight I was at for several years before dropping to 165.

My next goal is highly related to the first, because it’s how I’m going to lose weight.  I’ve learned enough over the last eight years to know that I experience weight gain and loss much more dramatically from alcohol consumption than running.  Harrison Ford was wrong, it’s not the miles darlin’, it’s the drinking.  I quit drinking for much of 2014 and that was largely responsible for my weight loss.  Probably due to my age but it was strangely difficult to start drinking again.  I rarely finished my drink, that is until this year when I seemed to rediscover my sea legs.  That has to stop, and it will.

Third goal is more complicated, yet still related in a way.  I might have gone a couple of decades without having any personal goals, until I got back into fitness around 2009-2010.  Since then I believe I’ve become more goal oriented.  Not always personal fitness goals.  Last year I slouched towards the intellectual by writing a novel.  This year I changed employers, after twenty-three years at IBM.  Both those endeavors took some commitment.  Problem is, the focus is so one dimensional.

I’ve put some real effort into learning my new job.  Twelve hour work days.  Another four on Sundays.  Which explains why I’m no longer running much.  Worse, I’m not doing anything productive at the end of the work day.  I uncork a Malbec and I’m done.  I don’t like that my interests are so myopic.  A full day should be more than just work.  More than just working out.  Like two sides to a coin.  Man and woman, husband and wife.  I don’t want to be like Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, one dimensional for years at a time.  I want to get the job done at the office, enjoy dinner with the family, and exercise a personal hobby before going to bed.  Nothing exceptional, but both halves of each day  complete in every way.

That’s what I want for myself in 2018.  My idea of a full day.  It’s not enough to just focus in one area.  Alcohol is a massive productivity killer, so I expect limiting consumption will increase my bandwidth in other pursuits.  I’m not looking for anything dramatic, I’ve had enough of that.  I know that I went through the middle-aged, little red sports car moment in 2014.  I’m conscious of the vitality kick.  After sporting a buzz cut for ten years I let my bangs grow down to my chin and ran more miles than Meb.  My bangs are growing shorter again with each hair cut.  I’m ready for some normalcy in 2018.  But normalcy doesn’t just return on its own.  Hoping my resolutions will help steer me straight through life’s winding road.

 

Christmas Party Banter

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I celebrate the holidays with my friends with an annual fondue party.  Everyone brings something to dip or the dip itself.  One person noted at last night’s get together that we’ve mostly known each other now for twenty years.

Perhaps because we’re from Colorado, or simply our generation, not sure, but we are an athletic lot.  Not necessarily healthy.  A fair number of us have replacement body parts.  Several have artificial knees and ventured how it would be cool to eventually get blade runners.  So much of our talk centers on our sports pursuits and our decaying health.   Half my group of friends could easily pass for under forty by looks, but to listen to us talk you’d guess closer to sixty.  Ask us how we’re doing and replies come back enumerating blood counts and protein deficiencies.  This has to be a sign of aging.

My friends are well educated and all lateral thinkers, so conversation can steer in any direction.  But we tend toward the inane and don’t often discuss politics.  With that said, I barely arrived last night before being asked if I believed in God, and the Russian investigation did come up at one point.  Maybe we’re maturing.  Probably not though.  As discussion turned toward the recent spate of celebrity sexual abuse allegations, there were no deep thoughts on the need to establish equality and respect for women in general.  It was all jokes, with the most ribald coming from the ladies.  Apparently aging and maturity are two different things.

For my part, trying to come off sounding clever and sophisticated, I brought up bitcoin and blockchain tech, letting everyone know of my recent Amazon order for a hardware wallet.  I was immediately challenged to explain the value of this virtual commodity.  I couldn’t.  Honestly, I don’t even understand how we derive value from fiat currencies.  Some things though are like time travel, trying to understand how they work ruins the story.  I’m not investing in bitcoin.  I just like to participate in tech to better understand it.  That’s what writers do in order to speak to things.  They experience it.  I’ll purchase less bitcoin than I spent on the wallet.

In the end, it didn’t matter what we talked on, the talking itself was the means to the end.  Seeing everyone doing well and sharing in laughter has launched my holiday season with good cheer.  Karen has our house looking festive and I’m excited now to visit family at the end of the year.  Happy holidays everyone.

Another Turkey Trot

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I could mark time by all the turkey trots I’ve run.  I almost missed today’s event because I forgot about it and was instead planning to meet some friends for a mountain trail run.  Fortunately, I saw the reminder in time.  I’m thankful for Prospect’s resident Coach Jabe, for hosting this for the past eight years.  And for Suzy hosting the après run breakfast with copious amounts of early morning vodka.  Not sure I’ll even recognize the turkey later today after so many post-mimosa, bloody marys.  Pictured above is this year’s 5K winner, Joey, with his proud momma, Jen.

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This photo is from the other day, when we started celebrating Thanksgiving early with firends.  For the last twenty years, I’ve taken off the entire week of Thanksgiving.  I either travel to visit family, or snowboard, or run massive miles.  I didn’t take any time off this year, other than the two vacation days allotted me, because I lost a good 25 days of vacation due to switching employers in May.  It’s like starting my career over as an entry-level employee.  Not complaining though as I’m thankful to have a challenging job that keeps me engaged.  Being a product manager probably sounds boring, but I really enjoy it.  And the field of computer security is cool.

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This photo captures me stealing the first cream-filled doughnut with Suzy.  Thinking back on the year, I’ve been a published author now since November 26, 2016.  I took that week of Thanksgiving off as usual, taught myself Adobe InDesign by watching twenty hours of YouTube videos, and self-published my novel.  Initially I felt like a bit of a poser, but support from friends and family has been strong and I think of myself as a writer now.  Thinking of myself as a novelist has been fun.  I always wear a shirt that advertises my book cover whenever I travel for work, and I sell a copy nearly every time from the conversations it generates on the flight.  My writing is clearly more of a hobby at this phase, but then so is my running and I think of myself as a runner.  I’m thankful to have such interests that motivate me to drive myself forward.  That keep my mind stimulated.  That leave my body ready for a sound sleep each night.  Life is good.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Country of Origin

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What’s up with Greenland?  I could understand if they don’t run much up there but do they not have Internet access?  These are my running blog stats illustrating the country of origin for my site visits.  I have zero hits from countries in gray.  I’m fine with a large swath of the Middle East dissing me but I’m a bit put out by the handful of countries in Europe that apparently don’t run.  Belarus has just earned a bad place in my next novel.  I’m planning an attack from the Baltic States.  Nothing from Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania either.  I’ve already figured Macedonia into my storyline but I might rethink that now.

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The stats from my prostate blog are thinner and I get that.  I haven’t added to it in three years.  Still, does no one in Greenland ever get cancer.  Someone needs to visit to make sure those boys are alright.  I’m not above being spiteful.  I plan to do some writing this weekend and I’m making my list of enemy states.

 

Ghost Runs

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Halloween 2017

The tricksters were thick as thieves outside my house well before sundown earlier this week on Halloween.  My neighbors, on the corner, dressed up their house as a scene from the movie It.  We had some light snow that morning but the weather wasn’t scary enough to thin the crowds.  We handed out 15 bags of candy.

It’ll snow again Monday.  Fall is fading to winter.  I didn’t get in any runs during the week but ran ten miles today.  I planned for only eight because I’ve lost enough conditioning to where ten miles seriously wears me out for the rest of the day.  And I run the risk of being too tired to run at all tomorrow.  But fall is just so ideal for running, I can’t help myself.  Running past red barns flanked by golden aspen, I took the red pill at the fourth mile and kept on going, deeper into colorful foliage.  Who wouldn’t?

I will have to start reducing the weekend miles though.  With my daily runs disappearing like ghosts, I know I risk injury of pushing myself too hard on just Saturday and Sunday.  The answer is perhaps weights during the weekdays.  I could sneak those in while working in my basement office.  I haven’t lifted weights in several years but they are arguably better for a man my age than running.  It’s on my agenda as winter nears and running becomes even less likely after the paths ice up.

A Good Fall Run

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With twelve hour work days this week, there was no running.  A shame because the temperatures dropped and we got some snow.  Today’s run made up for it though.  A gray blue sky that lets you know summer has long passed.  The musk of decaying leaves in the air.  Enough chill to call for a long-sleeve T.  Running past dead corn stalks, their color fading to dust.  Perhaps five days away from the trail amplified my gratitude, but I had a good fall run this morning.

Source Material

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IMG_1611Want to flatter a writer?  Send them a selfie reading their book.  Works for me.  This man has nerd written all over him.  My target audience.  My tribe.

Cyber War I is as much a primer on computer security as it is fiction.  And as far as fiction goes, I didn’t make much up.  DDoS attacks.  Ransomware.  I took everything from the headlines.  I figured there might be a market for cybercrime fiction because I couldn’t find any.  Some stories play it up by saying a massive DDoS attack leads to some sort of dystopia, but that’s about as much tech detail they provide.

I read a number of nonfiction books for source material.  I will say, they were very good reads.  Such good stories that they read like fiction.  Fatal system Error by Joseph Menn and Kingpin: How One Hacker Took over the Billion Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen.  Reminds me of the first cybercrime book I ever read, a solid twenty years ago, The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll.

I’m still outlining and researching more than actual writing, for my next novel.  I would tell you that my new job has slowed down my progress, but that’s not to say it’s because I’m too busy with work that I haven’t the time to write.  It’s that all the discovery involved in a new job occupies my free thoughts.  I wrote my last novel during my ten and fifteen mile runs.  Nowadays, my free thoughts center around all my work projects.  It’s so hard to discipline random thoughts.

I’ve discovered a new trick though.  My buddy Dave has prompted me to listen to podcasts again.  Dan Carlin and Sam Harris.  Something I used to do more regularly ten years ago.  I downloaded four cyber security podcasts and began listening to them on my ten mile run today.  Excellent method to obtain source material for my next book.  Absolutely brilliant use of my time.

 

Is/Is Not

I can count on one hand the number of posts I’ve reblogged from others. George is a hiking buddy from Austin who will make you want to get lost in the mountains.

My Name is SCHOOLS

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It’s a simple sign, and all I had to do on my last hike in Colorado.  “Go right!”

It’s hard to mess up something so simple.  It’s not like there are twenty different trails up there, just the CDT and the CT.   My friend Rob shuttled me to the Cunningham Gulch trailhead after leaving my car at my Little Molas Lake endpoint, then hiked with me as far as the section of the Colorado Trail that follows the Continental Divide Trail.  I’d planned on three days out, he thought it could be done it two, and all I had to do was hike to this sign and turn right.  I didn’t even take a map because . . . well, there aren’t twenty trails up there.  Turn right, hike down the Elk Creek drainage, up over 10,899 ft Molas Pass, and find your car.

Isaiah 41:10
“Do not fear…

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Game Ender

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IMG_1604I find myself this morning faced with an epic moral dilemma.  I don’t play facebook games.  Those analog chain letters with specious purpose.  At their worse, they propagate stealthy adware.  At best, they strive to trend a positive mood for the world.

I was nominated to post photos of nature for seven consecutive days to flood facebook with color, life and hope.  The catch is I have to nominate a friend each day to do the same.  And if everyone were to play, there would indeed be an electronic flood, the likes of which could theoretically crash facebook’s servers.  Not surprisingly, facebook doesn’t condone such games.

Don’t think I couldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t have to drive far for a trail run that would provide glorious fall photos.  But in my present mood, I instead walked out into the middle of my front street and snapped this shot of the tree canopy, where branches vie to reach one another across the chasm as they succumb to the seasonal pause in growth.  For me, this captures how I intend to play this game.  I won’t be nominating anyone else to continue this folly.

Not because I don’t have friends capable.  I have four friends currently on a bike tour through Vermont.  They would no doubt excel at this game.  Maybe they even started it.  I could easily nominate seven friends.

Maybe my reason is simply spite.  I was nominated by two friends at once this morning.  Without being deeply engaged with the rules of this game, I suspect that’s a foul play.  I’m of a mind to nominate them right back.  Without granular guidelines defined, think of the circular consequences of such an action.  It could break the Internet.

I will not allow myself to be put into that position.  The possible electronic destruction is too dire.  Instead, I am taking the bold action to end this game.  Let it die in digital dust.  Still, I’m posting this one photo.  Isn’t it sort of pretty?

 

Zion: Day Two

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Keith

The 12 mile Gooseberry Loop at Zion presents trail runners with a tad bit of exposure.  Keith took this photo during his run today.  The rest of his crew took the day off, to rest for tomorrow’s 19 mile epic run through the Grand Canyon.

But Keith is a bad-ass.  He finished yesterday’s half marathon at Bryce Canyon 44th overall out of 650 runners.  He took a spill today at one point, fortunately not at this point.  His QOTD: “The more I run to ward off death, the more I seem to be running right into her arms.”  I’ve never personified death as a woman myself, but why not?  I’m anxiously waiting on tomorrow’s results.

Bryce Canyon: Day One

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I couldn’t attend the 3-day Grand Circle Trailfest, but my running buddies kept me connected to their group chat, sharing photos with me of this awesome spectacle.  David, Rychie, Jen and Bob huddle together here in the sub-freezing shade before the start of the half marathon for day one in Bryce Canyon.

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The smarter runners of our team pose in the warm sun with towering hoodoos as a backdrop.  Joey, as an 8th grader, would go on to win his age division.  Keith and Steve, forty years wiser, no doubt paced themselves, knowing they have another thirty or so miles to run over the next couple of days.

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I was surprised to learn Jen and Bob completed today’s run without injury.  The thousand foot climb between miles 5 and 8 perhaps tempered their speed.  That’s a run-able slope for this crew, but I imagine it was a brutal climb at altitude.

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Steve looks to be running up to an aid station here.  The course would warm up by 40° before everyone finished, but it must be early still if he’s wearing full gear.

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Jen’s smile is enough to warm up these sandstone hoodoos.  I suspect she’s still smiling as her son Joey is a champion.  I can’t imagine racing victoriously on such a dream trail while so young.  It was Joey’s day for sure.

A Slow Burnt Orange

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bridgeHeil Valley Ranch presents a runner with pine trees.  Not aspen.  Fall still shows herself though in the slow, burnt-orange grasses.  Trail runners feel entitled to watch the change of seasons, to heighten their discernment of the dimming light.  Upside down from spring growth, life is pausing toward winter death.  Trail runners know the color of this pending cessation.  They’re not satisfied until they smell the air, and feel it on their skin.  My running has kept pace with the fall cycle, winding down until my legs are in preservation mode.  Immersion in the season with a mountainside view makes everything okay.

I’ve determined if I’m to be running less for the next year or so, I’m going to take more advantage of the trails, to add quality to my runs.  So I drove out to Heil Valley Ranch, the trailhead off Greer Canyon.  There’s actually another, newer trailhead, just past the turn off Left Hand Canyon.  I didn’t run this new trail but it looks to catch up to the original trailhead.

I always start on the Lichen Loop.  It might add a few meters but mostly it adds a nice warm up hill.  And it’s prettier than the gravel road start.  This joins Wapiti for a 2.5 mile climb.  I saw mule dear half way up.  My legs loosened up at the top where I ran the 2.6 mile Ponderosa Loop.  Got in about 8 miles in all, my longest run in quite some time.

I knew switching jobs would impact my running, so while I’m not happy about it, I expected it.  Today it became obvious that if I’m to run less, I need to make the most of Boulder County’s trails.  Quality runs only.

I’ve could have titled this blog post, Two Weddings and a Deferral.  I’ve been to weddings on the previous two weekends in a row.  And then I had to make the painful decision to cancel a trail race I had planned for next weekend.  Problem was, driving to Utah for the three-day race meant taking off Wednesday through Friday.  Work is like college finals right now and I can’t afford to miss a single day.  The only good news is that I was able to defer my registration to next year.  So I’m running that Grand Circle Trailfest event eventually.  Maybe a year when my personal running is in a growing season.

Dmitri and the Wallet

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DmitriHow big is your wallet?  Look at the objects on this tabletop.  I bet your wallet is not as big as Dmitri’s is.  I don’t really know his name.  Like any other guy, I was minding my own business in the hotel lobby when I was engulfed by a gaggle of techies attending some international conference for the betterment of humanity.  This guy sits in front of me, blocking my view of equally attractive people, and proceeds to pull out his wallet. Seemingly to make room for, not just one, but two smart phones.

To his credit, he used both mobiles at the same time.  Possibly dueling the same issue that was so important to him that he worked it while his comrades drank voraciously nearby.  Sounded more to me though that he was working some tech issue with skilled subject matter experts on the one phone, to the point he could set it down occasionally, while he yelled at the Help Desk on the other.  The wallet, despite serving as a focal point to at least me, was lost in all this performance art.

If you think it’s bad how I’m making fun of this guy, you should consider how much worse it is for me to take a photo of a complete, non-celebrity stranger, and post it online.  I don’t care.  This guy has earned a role as a European hacker in my pending novel.

Day 3

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Wrapped up my final sessions today for this weekend’s writers workshop.  I swear, the alliteration in that previous sentence was unintentional.  Or maybe the result of so much learning.  I didn’t focus this year on a single area.  Last year I did focus on sessions related to character development and story arc.  I mixed it up this year.

I took one marketing type of course that gave hints on how to write good cover copy.  That’s the advert an Author writes on their back cover for paperbacks, or inside jacket on hardcovers.  A publisher would typically write this if an author has one, but indy writers have to do most things like this themselves.  There is a convention to writing cover copy that I didn’t know about, although I actually followed the rules fairly well on my initial novel.  I write my share of product announcements at work.

I took a course on writing subtext, which is another thing I believe I did well at just naturally, but then subtext does tend to write itself.  The other classes were about character development and story structure.  My most unique class, taught by Diana Gabaldon, was on white space, which is the absence of words.  What to leave out.  And also a bit on the aesthetic quality of positioning words and paragraphs on the page.

Overall, the conference was both interesting and fun.  It’s cool to be with so many others doing the same thing as me.  I’m struck by the large number of writers in their 70s and 80s.  Writing is their hobby.  This interests me, and I take the opportunity to talk with them, because writing is my retirement plan.  It’s a really good hobby because books can require extensive research, which is good for an aging brain.

Another objective of this workshop was to motivate myself to get back into a regular writing routine.  Time will tell but I’m optimistic.  Diana Gabaldon told the story of how she makes time.  Her three kids are grown now but she started writing when they were all under six years of age.  She would wake up at midnight and write until 4am.  She continues this practice today.  I’m simply going to target the evenings between dinner and bedtime.

Day 2

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8am

RMFW’s independent writer of the year for her young adult fantasy, The Rampart Guards,  Wendy Terrien poses with me at 8am for a photo.  “Much too early for a photo,” Wendy said.

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Because writers tend to read, I consigned some paperbacks to the conference bookstore.  Haven’t noticed any sale yet, but I’ve also been aggressively handing out my writer business cards.  Karen and I came back from dinner tonight on the hotel shuttle with a number of attendees of another conference just starting to arrive – the International Open Source Software Foundation.  We joined the crowd in the bar for a nightcap.  One one side, my writers’ tribe, on the other, my tech boys.  I’ve never felt so included.