28 January 2015

Dude, where's my flex?

Shamelessly stealing the meme from terri...

I was going to post a follow up to last weekend's run, but that seemed a bit redundant. Instead, I chose to regale you with my latest saga/drama.   

Over the past few years, the company has been aggressively promoting healthy living.  We have an onsite workout room, hired a trainer to teach various classes (zumba, latin dancing, boot camp, etc.), hold regular contests to encourage wellness (winner gets their insurance premiums paid for a year), and other activities to improve the health of the employees.  Two years ago, they handed out FitBits to everyone - one of those a neat little electronic wearable monitors that tracks your activities/steps you take.  FitBit is one of several in the field (Nike Fuel) and is fairly accurate and simple to use.   It wireless and will sync to your cell phone or laptop so that you can track your progress on line and send you progress reports or alerts on your status.  

Initially, I got a FitBit Zip - a small monitor about the size of a key fob that you year on your belt.  It's the low end version of monitors and I've worn it pretty religiously since last year.  It was nice to keep track of my activities/mileage.  It alerted me when I achieved any of the set goals (10k steps) and posted up progress to my FitBit account online.  They even have FitBit communities that you can join to track progress with others in your group.  The company has a good number of people on our account that we complete for the most active persons over a period of time.  I wore my Zip during last year's half marathon and it worked great.  I even bought a pair of FitBit Flexes (the wrist version) for my son and DIL for their anniversary last year and they love them.

Sadly, I lost my Zip back in November.  Had it on my belt when I went out for some shopping but it fell off somewhere along the way.  I liked the Zip enough to buy another but decided to upgrade to the Flex.  I even bought one for momma for Christmas so we all had one.  I waited until Christmas to start wearing mine and have been using it ever since.    

The Flex is different from the Zip - it is rechargeable and has little monitor lights that show you when you have completed part of your goals.  It is an upgraded version to the flex with a few more bells and whistles.  It will vibrate and flash when you hit your target and constantly syncs with your smartphone and provide updates as you run/work out to track you progress.  I wore it during my recent half marathon and it worked just great.  There is even a Map My Run app that will track your route and location (big brother is really watching). 

While I like the new Flex, it does have a few drawbacks.  I'm not really a fan of the rechargeable deal - the Zip ran off a watch battery that you replaced every 3-4 months.  The Flex you have to recharge every 5-6 days.  The wristband has a clasp that is prone to becoming dislodged if you put on a long sleeve shirt or jacket.  In the short two months I've had the Flex, it has fallen off 4-5 times.  

Saturday I was out running some miscellaneous chores (the vet, the gas station, Wallyworld, the trailer, the auto store) around town.  When I got back to the house, I noticed that my flex was missing.  Panicked, I immediately began to search back through the house and the truck looking for it but found nothing.  I looked in every potential location but No Joy.  I considered back tracking where I had been but that was a lot of ground to cover and I figured the chances of locating were slim.  I was frustrated enough to log onto the FitBit blog site and log a complaint to the company about the wrist band.  Spent some time in the community board and found a section labelled "I've Lost My Flex" with a lot of comments.  Seems like this problem is a bit more widespread.  Depressed, pissed off, I gave up looking for it figuring I had to go get a new one.  

Sunday I got up and re-read the community board and some of the advice I had received from other users (Thanks Odyssey13!) about helpful hints on trying to locate their devices and some of the home grown fixes that others have used to prevent the flex from falling off.  I did revisit the situation and decided to use my iPhone to backtrack  my trip around town, but I did not hold out much hope.  The flex was in constant sync mode and the last time it updated my phone was between 1200-1215 Saturday and I reviewed a few receipts and found one from Wallyworld at 1223, so I figured it was might be there.  Jumped in the truck and drove up to WW to check it out, but that is still a long shot.  As I was sitting at a traffic light a few miles away from WW, I opened the FitBit app to try and force a sync and noticed it said "connected".  While I was sitting in the truck!.  I tore through the truck on Saturday but didn't see it so I would swear it was not there but the app didn't lie.  Pulled over and dug back through the truck and eventually found it wedged back behind a seat still running about 50% charge.  Elated, I did go retract my snarky comments to FitBit about losing my flex but my concerns with the band still exist.  Now I hope to apply some of the homegrown "tricks" to insure this does not become a crisis again.  Finding something that was lost is a great feeling.  Now, if I can only find my mind...

19 January 2015

One foot in front of the other

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger (Friedrich Nietzsche)  
But it may hurt like hell afterwards.   (me)

Despite all the rumors to the contrary and my worst intentions, I managed to pull off another half yesterday.  Number 7 is in the bag.  13.1 miles later, another medal, another shirt, a few more stiff joints, and some sense of accomplishment.  

The run was very good, it was just runner that was less prepared.  0700 Sunday morning, clear skies, temps hovering around 48 at the start, streets were dry, the pack of runners were anxiously awaiting the starting gun.  30,000 runners crammed along several blocks in the predawn light made for one hell of a party.  
Waiting for the start
Heading for the starting line (20 minutes after the gun)

Since this is my 7th time on this merry-go-round, I knew what to expect, how to prepare.  Got up obscenely early (couldn't sleep) and drove downtown at 0400 just to make sure I could park next to the convention center.  I know, that is a bit A/R, but I like having my truck nearby so I don't have to hike a mile away just to find my ride home.  That and I ain't about to pay some guy $30 to park in one of the lots next to the convention center (I may be crazy but I am definitely cheap).  Got there early enough to find a good spot and prepare for the run.  Took the opportunity to revise my running attire - the weather was cool enough but not too cold, so I changed my layers. dropped the base shirt and went with the sleeves.  It is always interesting to see how people dress for the start and then watch how many clothes/jackets/gloves/sleeves/hats are discarded within the first two miles.  My strategy worked out OK for me - wasn't overheated nor too cold.  I bought a new spibelt this year - one that was waterproof and had extra belt loops for my Gu and I can hook the race bib onto directly.         

With that many people to cram across the starting line, it took almost 20 minutes for my corral to cross the start after the gun had sounded.  I like the whole event, but that kind of mob takes some of the shine out of it.     

I ran OK, but, my lack of prep runs showed.  Typical jackrabbit start and then lose steam on the back half.  I held a decent pace the first 6 miles, but the second were slower.  Not as achy as last year, but a bit off my time from prior years.  Not a pace I am particularly proud of (2:41), but at least I conquered the course/objective.  I won't bore everyone with the entire montage of the run - it was a good run, I was slow and some things worked better than others.  Developed a hot spot on my left foot.  Not sure if it was the new shooz or due to my lack of conditioning.  I am happy with completing the race, just not happy with my progress.  I should prepare better but things just seem to keep getting in the way.  In my mind, the race is not against the clock or even against other runners (no way I am in that class of running).  To me, the race is against yourself.  My competition is internal.  I try to beat my prior times, push the envelope to improve myself and best my previous attempts.  I spend a good portion of the run going over things in my head, arguing with myself, running through a list of chores/to-doos.   

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other (something a sage old running mentor once told me).  

This year I decided to change up my run strategy and focus more upon what was around me (the here & now).  I was trying to enjoy the entire event and the surrounding hoopla (ergo my slower time?).  The sideline action was almost as much fun as the runners.  Some of the slogans along the round this year:

A few others were:

  • Worst. Parade. Ever.
  • It's my birthday.  I expected a better parade.
  • I like your stamina.  Call me. xxxx
  • Run like you are being chased by zombies.
  • Romo wouldn't have made the first mile (not a Cowboys fan).   
  • When they said Marathon, I thought they meant Netflix Marathon   

Of course, you always see the most interesting people/characters along the course:

Now is the dangerous time for me.  The post race euphoria.  Now that it is over & done and I am back home warm and dry, the thought creeps into my head about next year. They've changed the registration system again for next year and gone back to old system of first come, first served.  They opened up the registration last night for the first 10,000 enrollees.  Lord knows, I just may be stupid enough to try for 8.  Somebody please stop me...

16 January 2015

Some days you run the road, some days the road runs you.

Yea, it’s that time of the year again. Time to see if I can still run with the big dogs or should just stay on the porch.  

Sunday morning is the annual Chevron Marathon/Half Marathon.  This will be my 7th trip down that road of insanity.  7 trips on this merry-go-round means I am either really committed or really stupid (hint:  go with the latter).  

Common sense says I should say home warm and dry and watch some more football and play with the dogs, but NOOOO, something inside of me says I have to do this.  Some silly, warped sense of pride/drive keeps me coming back to the same starting line.  Honestly, I feel no better prepared than previous years.  I haven't been running or training as much as I should have been.  I could list all sorts of excuses, but that is all it really is:  excuses.    At least I know the course and the system and how to best prepare for it.  I've laid out my gear, charged up the iPod, heading downtown this morning to pick up my race packet and bib number and buy some more race crap that I really don't need (need me some more energy shots).         

Come early Sunday morning, I'm quite sure I will be seriously questioning my resolve and sanity, but it's too late to back out now and we'll have to see what the weekend brings.  At least the weather looks to be decent - sunny with no rain and mid 40s at the start.  I've run in a number of different conditions, but rain and cold really seem to take a lot of the fun out of it.  Regardless, I will be hitting the dark, chilly streets of Houston at o-dark-thirty with 30,000 other nut cases.  

Besides, it's all about the shirt...

1 Corinthians 9:26 - Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.    

Perhaps a more appropriate prayer (for me) would be:  Lord watch over me and my fellow runners.  Keep everyone safe and whole.  May the streets be dry and smooth, the weather fair and the course run true.  And Lord, if it is my time, please at least wait until I cross the finish line.  

11 January 2015

No good deed goes unpunished

I'm still wrapping things up from the holiday.  This past week was a bit a stretch for some - after the long holidays and week off, it was hard to get back into a rhythm.  Reports and projects that were postponed prior to the holidays have returned with a vengeance.  We are already working at deadlines and projects due by the end of the month.      

At least at home I am making some progress in returning things to a quasi normal state.  I took the Xmas lights down after returning from the New Year's rally.  In the old days, we would typically leave them up until the Super Bowl, but that was when it was in January.  I started dismantling the tree and packing it up in the attic.  This year I broke with tradition and change the lighting scheme.  Our company was encouraging everyone to decorate in purple (designated color for Epilepsy Awareness) so I bought several purple led strings.  Made for an interesting display - purple is a bit darker than the typical white bulbs and most of my pictures did not come out well.  I am spending the day packing the ornaments and decorations away while watching the playoffs.

Yesterday, I went to turn in recycling.  The city had a hazardous recycling day where you can recycle things like electronics, batteries, chemicals, paint, etc..  Things that are not normally in the recycling chain and you don't want to throw in the trash.  I've done two of these before and they were well run.  Yesterday was not.  I drove by the drop off initially and the line of cars was down the block and not moving.  Ran off to do some errands and came back and the line was longer.  I didn't have much (got rid of a lot our electronics last summer) - just a couple of cans of paint and some batteries so I decided to try it anyway.  I sat in line for a good 20 minutes before I decided (like a few others) to park and just carry it over to the drop off only to be rudely told "no walk ups" and we had to drive through in our cars.  There were several other who has the same idea only to be turned away.  More than a few simply said screw it and left.  I decided to do my bit for queen & country and stick it out.  I understand that the people were working hard and it was a miserable day (rain, cold) and they were overwhelmed by the number of vehicles, but 1.5 hours to turn in some cans of paint and batteries?  I did the right thing for the environment but many people were unhappy with the total chaos and lack of communication.   

At least I did do one good deed over the holidays.  While out at the New Year's rally, I had to run into town to get some supplies to make wassail.  Went to the small town grocery store in Bellville - Brookshire Brothers.  Got my supplies and had checked out and decided to buy a lottery ticket on a lark.  While waiting at the counter, a young woman and her daughter came up aside of me.  A typical harried young mother with highly energetic and bubbly daughter.  Since the woman looked like she had her hands full, I waved her on in front of me.  For a brief moment, I started to regret my chivalry when I saw she was cashing her paycheck and had to go through all sorts of confirmation and authentication, but I figured I had time and she didn't.  Took a some time for the cashier to verify her id and count out the bills - had to be a decent check since I saw several 50s and a few 100s cross the counter.  She wrapped everything up and collected her daughter to pick up a few things in the store and turned away.  As I stepped up to the counter I noticed a nice crisp, clean brand new $100 bill still on the counter.  Took me a nanosecond to recognize it and where it came from.  I picked it up and turned to go find the mother.  Fortunately, they hadn't gotten far and I was able to hand it back to her.  I can tell she was a bit embarrassed and thanked me profusely.  When I stepped back to the window, the elderly gentlemen behind me gave me a thumbs up and nodded in approval.  I said that it was the right thing to do.  It may be the boy scout in me but I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't done that.     

10 January 2015

Playing catch up

Slowly working our way back from the holidays break.  We had a good Christmas and fairly sedate New Year's.  Spent time with family, friends.  Ate too much, spend a bit more than we had planned, watched several movies and tv marathons, generally slacked off.  

A lot of different shows on this year.  I recall from a few years ago that one channel ran a James Bond Marathon on for New Year's week.  This year the BBC channel ran a Doctor Who Marathon.  Dang it.  And I had things I meant to do... 

I did manage to get back out to the annual New Year's rally with our Airstream club.  This is at a rural campground about an hour west of town.   We drove out in the pouring rain, my brother got his rig stuck (had to pull him out with my truck), the weather was wet and dreary for most of the week.  Not sure if it was because the holiday fell in the middle of the week or because of the weather but the number of attendees this year was pretty light.  My folks did not go because they are still recuperating from their wreck and have no tow vehicle.  We are not sure of their long term plans.  I spent part of the holidays with my dad and I got the general feeling that his wreck may be the writing on the wall for them.  I kinda got the general impression that they are questioning the possibility of hanging it up.  Maybe a few more local runs/rallies but they are definitely not doing any more long term road trips.  Some of their friends in the club have already retired and many of them were younger than my folks.  We'll have to see what the year brings.  

A few shots from the rally.  At least the dogs enjoyed getting out to the house for a while. It was fun and the heater worked well this year (yea!).  It wasn't as challenging or exciting as camping out in the back yard in a tent in the snow/freezing weather.