Thursday, August 25, 2011

All the Best Steve

By now if you haven't heard the news you must be in space. Even then that's hardly an excuse. Steve Jobs yesterday submitted his resignation as CEO of Apple, Inc to the Board of Directors. It's hardly surprising this happened given his health matters since 2004 when he took his first (of three) medical leaves but that doesn't make it any easier to hear the news. Steve Jobs is an irreplaceably amazing man who has shaped and reshaped the way we think of technology.

I've never met the man but over the years I've read piecemeal about him and his various adventures, from starting Apple, to releasing the original Macintosh to his 1984 commercial. I was probably first impacted by Steve's work as an undergraduate when our mathematics lab had NeXT computers. I had no idea how to use them but they were there.

But it wasn't until graduate school that I fell in love with the Macintosh. I had a loaner iBook from the graduate department which was the only laptop available. Reluctantly I took it but after 1 hour I couldn't put the damn thing down. It was running Mac OS X 10.0 at the time but luckily got my graduate professor to spring for the then-new Mac OS X 10.1. It changed how I looked at computers and how I worked. I was hooked. Apple had me in their palm and I was perfectly fine with that.

From that point to today I've started reading Apple related news, particularly news related to Steve Jobs. For whatever reason, the world that man lived in was not the same as the one most of us live in and I wanted to know how to get there. I wanted to know because it must have been a world full of such wonderful magic. After all, it's from this world that all our magical Apple products come from: iPod, iMac, MacBook, MacBook air, iPhone and iPad. He lives in a place I greatly desire to be. And the products produced by Apple is his way of letting us have a piece of that world that we can't get to on our own.

I know I'm pontificating about something completely off base from this blog but after reading the blogosphere and other news sites for the past 12 hours I have to express my thanks. It's all too emotional for me to be quiet about it. A man I've never met has had a profoundly significant impact on my life and I wish to say simply: "Thank you, Steve!. Best wishes to you and your family."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5K-10x200 Sprints by jasheldo at Garmin Connect - Details

5K-10x200 Sprints by jasheldo at Garmin Connect - Details

It's a lot of fun doing workouts that are so short it's like doing nothing at all. Actually, calorie-wise it IS like doing nothing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Redefining Myself

We're almost half way through 2011 which marks my 9 month anniversary in Chicago. As you know it's been a wonderful and rocky road. While I'm confident my move to Chicago was the right one and Devra is the right woman for me, it's been a huge year for change.

Change, as a word, is fairly innocuous. We change all the time whether we realize it or not. In fact, each day in and of itself is a change we all experience and none of us can do anything about. The change happens. Some days we approach with fear. Others with exhileration. Regardless, these changes happen and we typically take them in stride and build them into our day in the least disruptive way possible.

Over the past 9 months I've experienced close to as much change as any one person should experience in that amount of time. On the surface the change felt straight forward. Yet, over the past 9 months, the journey has been anything but. My life, as I knew it back in Minnesota, no longer exists. The active triathlete who had his entire life in control from sun up to sun down has had a very long, drawn out and painful death.

None of this was anticipated. I took the word "change" to be the benign form. How much impact could moving to a new city have? How much impact could a new job have? What's the problem with moving in with your significant other? How much extra work is getting a dog?

The answer? A LOT! A lot more than I ever anticipated. Enough change to necessitate the death and rebirth of my life. At this point, after 9 months, I feel comfortable saying that it's now time to pick up some of the pieces that make sense, leave the rest behind and find out how to become an active, healthy, happy triathlete in this city with a fiancee, puppy and a pile of great friends. Now that I've finally had my full breakdown and partial recovery it's time to find that answer.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bike the Drive 2011

Chicago is an interesting city. It's teaming with a rich and deep history. Every weekend you can find (literally) hundreds of things to do to keep you entertained. And there's never a shortage of unique people to speak with or stare at. But this weekend is Memorial Day weekend and it seems that's a uniquely interesting time for Chicago. One fun thing was the low flying fighter jets yesterday. The thunderous roar of the jets overhead was great.

Today was another spectacle. Lakeshore Drive was shut down from 5:30 to 9:30 for Bike theDrive. Essentially from 6000 north to 6000 south bicyclists owned the road. A few friends of mine and I hit the ride with the expectation that we'd ride a century. I knew this wasnt happening for myself for a few reasons but mostly because I physically can't finish 100 miles in 4 hours. What made this particularly special for me was it was the second time I'd be riding the drive. The first time was last year for the LifeTime Fitness Tri. I had a stupendous bike last year so I wanted to see if that would happen again. Plus, with Escape from Alcatraz less than a week away and being extra out of shape I was excited to see if I could survive.

My friends and I started off at North Ave (great for me since it's less than a mile away from my house) and headed north. We quickly got separated because of different speeds and expectations but John and I took point and tried to push the pace.

Ultimately it was a nice ride but it had a few shortcomings.

Why was it a nice ride? There's a lot to like about having 4 lanes of one of Chicago's most beautiful roads open to you for biking. In Chicago proper you're not going to find any better place to ride. The lake front path is nice but too windy and congested to make for any decent training. Lakeshore drive is gorgeous and you can really hold a nice pace.

What made it fall short for me was mostly myself. To be sure, there were just too many people out there riding slowly in the fast lane. Is made me more angry than not. I had to keep slowing down to make sure I didn't kill anyone and myself in the process. Understandably, this is a "ride" and not a "race" so getting mad at slow people is just dumb. What's even more dumb, though, is being slow in the fast lane. Ink of how aggravated you get while driving somewhere and in front of you is someone driving at half the posted speed limit. But they're in the passing lane so there's nothing you can do.

Yes. Very annoying! I greatly dislike congested rides for the obvious reason.

Where the problems fell on me are with my expectations I came with. No matter how I look at it, no ride is an acceptable ride unless it meets the standards I had back in the twin cities: mainly clear roads, smooth pavement, diverse geography and easy to get to. I got extremely spoiled up there. Let's face it. And it's going to take me a long time to get over it. Until then, I have to spend the time to realize that I didn't order myself a shit sandwich by moving here but instead got a Chicago style burger: good and special in its own way but not the same flavor that I've grown to know.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A New Study in Chicago

Adapting to a new lifestyle can be difficult. Adapting to that new lifestyle in a new city makes it at least an order of magnitude more difficult. Ever since moving to Chicago and completing Ironman last year I've found my motivation to exercise wane as other life events have taken over.

Part of the difficulty I have with getting back on the exercise wagon is what happens to me every year. Affectionately I'll refer to it as seasonal affective disorder. This is a normal part of what happens and something I'll get over once the weather improves and the sun is visible more than once a week. It's the normal ebb and flow of human emotion. Granted, I'm convinced I reach far greater extremes of elation and depression than most but so far it's not something that's unmanageable.

Another difficulty is the location change. Since I'm not motivated to exercise like I used to I'm also not motivated to do much to change that behavior. It takes a lot of work to find new friends, meet up with them, and develop a habit of exercise. The problem is also exascerbated by my thoughts. In a prior life, exercising was simple. In fact it was so easy I took it for granted. Where I used to be able to ride a bike out my front door and ride in any direction I wanted for 100+ miles along beautiful, windy, hilly, scenic terrain, I now have to drive more than 30 miles out of the way just to get to a place that's reasonably acceptable to be on a bike. Where I used to run on any of a few dozen paths, mostly ones I made up, I now have to stick to a small handful, most of them with endless stoplights.

But this change isn't completely negative. Swimming is kind of an improvement. I now live within jogging distance from a 1-mile long lap lane in Lake Michigan. Also, the gym is within walking distance from my house. The lap lane there is 25 yards but at least it exists.

It needs to be impressed that these are just growing pains. It's on my shoulders to adapt to my new environment, pull up my big boy britches and accept what I have while at the same time understanding that I don't have what I used to have. What I lost was a lot of convenience which is making it that much more difficult to get out of my funk. But I'm certain it can be pulled off.

Devra and I also recently got engaged and acquired a new french bulldog puppy. These changes are amazing and I'm very grateful for all of it. Somehow I caught her in a weak moment and she said "Yes" so we're now busy wedding planning. The dog, while a great asset to our relationship, needs a lot of time and attention.

Needless to say, there are a lot of changes and obstacles in my life that don't add up to giving me time to train. It's my hope that when the dust settles (who knows when that'll be) I can return to being the active self I enjoy being.

In the mean time, I'm getting out about 2x per week to do some running and ensure I can run the marathons I've got on the schedule. So far so good.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm Honored

Not sure what I did to deserve this nor am I smart enough to figure out how to put this on the side of my blog but I guess I've got an accolade:

If not for my athletic ability at least I get recognition for my rantings. I'll figure out how to put this on the side of my blog but for now rock on.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Be Fair

Because of my extreme disappointment with the Wahoo Fitness receiver in the previous few posts it's only appropriate I follow with the resolution of the matter.

Last week the Wahoo Fitness team sent me a new too via express ship to my house. The moment I connected it I got a signal and it worked like a charm. Apparently as of this writing I'm only the second of all their shipments that received a faulty receiver. Such is life.

After using it a few times I'm very pleased with the ease of use and how simply it integrates with some other pieces of software such as RunKeeper Pro for iPhone. A huge THANK YOU to the Wahoo Fitness team for quickly and professionally resolving the issue I had with the Ant+ receiver I bought. It's a great tool and I look forward to the improvements they'll make along the way.

Now, it's time to get the RunKeeper Pro app up to speed. It's a beautiful tool and does a great job but there's lots of room to grow. For instance, we should be able to train according to our heart rate zones. There should be an option to receive audible feedback when we're outside the specified heart rate zone.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Not Connected, Eh?

It bloody well is connected. Make it right, Wahoo before it starts raining fire and brimstone.


Wahoo Fitness Fisica Fitness Sensor Key

So I jumped in and ordered a Wahoo Fisica Fitness Sensor Key for my iPhone. It just arrived this afternoon and ever since I've been trying to connect it to my iPhone. However, I get these two lovely messages:


Needless to say I'm very grumpy right now.

Week 6 Long Run by jasheldo at Garmin Connect - Details

Untitled by jasheldo at Garmin Connect - Details

Friday, February 4, 2011

Out of Balance

In as much as the resolve was made to make this week (Week 6!) of training the first where I was back on track, I wound up yet again missing more days of training than I would have liked. Something is wrong with the formula of life I'm living right now and up until this morning I couldn't put my finger on it. This morning I decided to sleep in because of all the extra hours of work I've been putting in. Both of my bosses are out on business today and since I'm caught up through the end of the month it was my executive decision to execute a 3/4 work day. The alarm went off at my usual 5:15 but this time instead of hitting snooze, I turned the alarm clock off thinking I'd wake up in 30 or so minutes to turn it off. However, the next time I looked at the clock it was 7:30 and I still felt like a bus had hit me. After taking a few moments to reflect on this, I came to the conclusion that my life is very much out of balance. Work is consuming too much time, I'm staying up too late and waking up too early. That's a formula that does not yield much success, as my training clearly reflects. So, starting this weekend I need to find balance again. It isn't clear where or how to find it but a few things are clear:
  1. I need more sleep.
  2. I need to become more efficient at my work so it becomes a less time consuming portion of my day.
  3. I need to get my personal life on track.
Of those listed, I think the first is the easiest to address. I just need to go to bed earlier. If I can do that and wake up refreshed then getting to the gym at 5:15 will be a non-issue. The third item will just take time. Being in a committed relationship commands very different time management skills than does being a bachelor. As for work, I'm actively working on implementing a new system at work that will make work more efficient for everyone. That day is my personal holy grail. I'm working like crazy to make it happen sooner than anyone is anticipating. Hopefully before too long we'll be up and running with this new system. It's my hope that as soon as I can solve some of these issues that life will get back on track. Here's hoping I'm right and it happens sooner than later.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Garmin 305 vs Apple iPhone 4 (Runkeeper Pro)

A few months ago I made a brave move and relocated to Chicago. On the whole this has been a positive experience and I'm glad I did it. But like all changes in life, it came with some pros and cons. For instance, on the plus side I have a 0.5 mile long lap lane in Lake Michigan within jogging distance from where I live. Also, within a half mile radius I can get everything I need to survive: food, firewood, dry cleaning and an Apple Store. I also don't need a car so I sold it - that's been a huge money saver.

But there's also the downside. I now have nowhere to bike. And please don't say I can bike in the burbs. Stop kidding yourself. The burbs are better than Chicago proper but are still too congested to get any reasonable training done. Also, if you enjoy running there's essentially only one place to go: the lakefront. It is a beautiful route but there's something to be said about variety. And no, running the opposite direction doesn't count as variety.

But all things equal, the number one annoyance has to do with my Garmin Forerunner 305. It's been my trusty companion on well over 5,000 miles of logged running and biking over the years. The watch, combined with Garmin Connect and Garmin Training Center has proven to be a great tool to summarize my workout life. It's seen emotional highs and lows, been with me through my ups and my downs, my success and my struggles and always performed up to my expectations. I describe this thing like it's a friend with a soul and in a way it is. But ever since moving to Chicago it's been less and less reliable. I've reset the watch so it looks for new GPS satellites but I still have to wait over a minute for it to get signal. I'm blaming all the buildings for this issue but it's where I live. I can't make the buildings go away so I need the watch to step up its game and get with the program.

It breaks my heart that I've had to shelf the watch because on numerous occasions I couldn't get a signal. But if it's not working well I need to keep my eyes open for another solution.

And during the last week of December a solution did indeed present itself. I got an email from a vendor stating that the iPhone app RunKeeper Pro was going on sale for $0.00. For that price who can say no. So I promptly shelled out the zero dollars for it and put it on my iPhone.

After giving it a few runs I've decided it's quite a handy app for city running. It audibly notifies me every five minutes of my total distance, total time and pace. It also has no problem picking up GPS signal in the city. The app is beautifully designed and with the click of a button it stops the workout and uploads it to both Twitter and Facebook. It's also great on the iPhone battery. After a 13 mile run I still had over 85% battery left. In a word it's amazing. There's even a HRM that works with it though I have yet to buy it. It's also unclear how that would impact the battery life but if I ever decide to open my wallet for that I'll be writing all about it.

Now that I have two tools that do essentially the same thing I wanted to try them both out at the same time to see what kind of results I get. After all, if they're both getting GPS from presumably the same satellites so the information should be relatively identical.

Today's run was 13 miles using both my time tested Garmin Forerunner 305 and an iPhone 4 with Runkeeper Pro. Results from both the Forerunner and the iPhone are available for review. I started them seconds apart near the corner of North Ave & Wells. I then proceeded to run all over the west loop to the south loop then over to Soldier Field, across to the planetarium, around the aquarium, along the lake shore and finally home.

Garmin Results

Below is a screenshot of the results from the run with the Garmin Forerunner 305. It's disappointing to see the Garmin Connect service is using Bing for their maps but that's more of a problem with me than anything else.

You can see the Forerunner has me clocked in a 2:01:19 and has me ending pretty much at the same corner as where I started. Good planning on my part. Their calorie count is around 1800 calories and a total elevation change of 81 feet.

It was obnoxious getting a signal at first and I did lose signal from time to time in the city but did manage to get it back within a short time span.

Garmin Results

iPhone and RunKeeper Pro Results

Below are two screenshots, both listing the results of the same run using the RunKeeper Pro app. Comparing it with the map above from the Forerunner you can see it's identical though it looks far more attractive because it's using Google's map service instead of that craptastic Microsoft "solution". That aside though, the two tools got GPS data beautifully.

RunKeeper Pro has me logged in at finishing the 13 mile run at the 2:00:57 mark with a total of 1900 calories burned and 927 feet of climbing. I'm assuming that's net of decents because Chicago's almost as flat as it gets.

Screen shot 2011-01-29 at 6.07.52 PM.png Screen shot 2011-01-29 at 6.08.03 PM.png

The RunKeeper Pro app has me finishing the run almost one minute sooner than the Forerunner. That difference I believe is because the RunKeeper app is able to get a better GPS signal than the watch. Also, there's no function to tell the app to stop when you stop whereas the Forerunner is programmed to stop when I stop and then continue again when I'm moving again.

All in all, looking at these results I can say with confidence that the difference between the two is, based on one run, trivial and so I can use either one as my needs dictate.

Now if I can just find an app that'll make me run faster.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the Fast Track

Almost three weeks ago I started training for the 2011 season. It's an interesting mix of races I'm doing and decided to approach the season differently than I have in previous years. I'm combining a half-ironman training program with a marathon program. Since I have such a challenging triathlon in very close proximity to my twomarathons I need to make sure I'm prepping for everything.

This is a typical week in my training life:

DayWorkout 1Workout 2
MondayEndurance Swim
TuesdaySpeed BikeWeights
WednesdaySpeed RunTable Cell
ThursdaySpeed SwimWeights
SaturdayEndurance RunWeights
SundayEndurance Bike

So far so good. I'm able to keep up with most of it without sacrificing too much of my life. I know it looks a bit odd having all the endurance stuff during a 3-day stretch and then all the speed workouts during another 3-day stretch. There may be some rearranging of the workouts at some point but at least up to now it's working for my needs.

I'm now able to say taking the time off at the end of 2010 was completely necessary. I'm loving training and loving the process. Sure it gets frustrating from time to time but the burnout I was suffering from is nowhere to be found. In fact, it's gone from a loathed pass time to a wonderful adventure.

I'm tracking my workouts using either the Garmin watch I've been using for years or my iPhone with the Runkeeper Pro app. The iPhone seems to get better GPS signal but lacks the heart rate monitor and the ability to stop the clock when I'm stopped. That winds up being a big deal since there are so many stoplights and stop signs in Chicago. Hopefully this will be an improvement in later releases of the program. But for now it's onward and upward.