Sunday, July 31, 2016

We are refugees from Talisman, we said

This last week Talisman has been hosting a big swim meet so there isn't much lane space for us recreational swimmers. I didn't mind taking a week off, but I wanted to swim today. No, really, what I wanted was the hot tub. While checking lane availability at Talisman I noticed the hot tub is out of service till further notice. Catastrophe!

Then I noticed they had made an arrangement with the Y to accept Talisman memberships during the swim meet. I call that good service on the part of both organizations. I got all excited about swimming in Seton, as I remember a buddy of mine saying she had a job there. I couldn't find any swim times though, and there was a blurb about construction starting in 2018, which seems odd to me.

Eventually I called the Shawnessy Y, and confirmed swim times. Me and my famous swim buddy strolled in, and tried to show our Talisman cards. "We are refugees", we said. He sent us back to another person. She took a copy of our Talisman cards and drivers license. Then started asking about emergency information and contact numbers.

Michelle gave hers, but I was baffled. I gave them our home number, which is the number we give to people we don't want to talk to, but told her she had to talk to the answering machine before someone would pick up. She asked for a cell number. There is no point giving Linda's cell number, so I told her my wife didn't have one. I got this look of stark disbelief. Then she wanted mine, and I was trying to explain it would be in my pants pocket, in a locked locker, doing no good to anyone. In the end, I just told her to find Michelle if I was hauled out of the pool drowning or spasming or something.

The pool would be sunny if it wasn't raining out. It's odd the guys locker is upstairs, and the women's is downstairs, but ok. The locker rooms are nice, and they have the little spinny swimsuit dryer. That's a nice touch.  We had a lane to ourselves for most of the swim. Mostly an older crowd that time of day.

My flip turns were slightly off. I think the way they've tiled the lines is slightly different and it threw my perspective off a bit. Still, I had a nice swim. Maybe 1 K or so, nice and easy, mostly, with a tiny bit of fast. I couldn't really see the pace clock very well unless I stopped to look. Can't have that.

The hot tub is nice. We were in there for a while, me stretching and enjoying the heat on my legs, Michelle recovering from specialty workouts of her own.

Napped with the cats. Easy core, going through the motions mainly just to get used to it again. Contrary to what some of my fitness buddies think, you don't just jump into core, and bang out 2 minute planks, and dozens of push ups and pull ups and squats and who knows what else all. That will put your body into shock and it just might pack up the whole show in protest. No, you have to sneak up on it, gradually working in more and harder core stuff. There is a list. Of course there is a list. I even found my old jump rope, and that's supposed to be excellent conditioning. Before the patio the only place I could use it was the front sidewalk, and I just couldn't. Now the patio will give me some privacy, so when the rain stops, I'll have a go.

I have the run plan up on the fridge. I suppose I could put it in my phone to remind me not to schedule anything else. I already know the weekend of Aug 13, 14 is going to be tough because of the writer's convention I'm going to. Let's hope there aren't any really really compelling panels first thing in the morning.

All you people that have done a marathon. I know some of my readers have done this. What advice do you have for someone tackling their first stand alone marathon, and wants to finish under 5 hours?  What got you through yours? What did you wish you had known before you started? Any funny stories? Would love to hear what you have to say in comments.

 It's still raining, so the grass is still wet, slowly turning into a jungle again. I don't think Calgary has ever seen so much rain. I'm sick of it, myself. If I wanted this much rain I'd live in Tofino.

Here's the last major treat before going into serious marathon training. And Curtis, supervising me.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The marathon plan, and MCK explained

MCK is going to be my motto till October 22. That's the day I'm going to run a marathon. It's the last one of the MEC races of the season, starting at Telus Spark, running down to the Bow river and noodling through Inglewood, then west to Silver Springs and back. Mostly flat, with a big hill at the turnaround.

I consulted with Katie, who coached me through IMC 2010. She is so enthusiastic, and started researching a training plan for me. We met up for coffee to discuss it, and I took Michelle along, almost in self defense. I think Katie forgets how old I am, and she has boundless confidence about my ability to soak up training. I'm less sure. Michelle suggested a minor modification to the plan that just might save my ass.

As I knew she would, the words 'More Core Keith' came up. MCK. That's my motto for this training. Run my ass off, with some swim and biking for variety. Plus lots of core. Lots and lots of core. I need it. Weak and flabby, thy name is gut and butt. Make of it what you will.

Technically the plan starts tomorrow, with a rest day. Today I was out and ran 16 K along the ridge near Douglasdale. The view to the west and towards downtown is stunning. No wonder those people paid big bucks for those homes, and every one of them has a big deck to enjoy the view from.  Not that I saw anyone doing that. Maybe it gets old.

I've walked there a long time ago, before most of those homes were built. It's different now. Much of it is a very nice run, but the bit beside the golf course got hot coming and going. The intent was to run easy on the way out and a little faster on the way back. No matter what I did, I couldn't run much slower than 7 min/K on the way out. My breathing is easy, and my legs are happy. The way back was a bit harder, with a big steep hill at the bridge beside the Fish Creek plant that I walked. I don't think I negative split it, but it was pretty even so I didn't miss it by much.

My phone says it was about 20 C, so not too hot, but the sun was pretty fierce. I sprayed on a good layer of sunscreen. Technically this is the last non-training run. Thus far this year has all been building base. I'll find out how well I did in the next 12 weeks.

I've been looking forward to this 4 day weekend for a while. Yesterday started with the consultation over great coffee from Monogram. Then meeting up with some buddies to see Life of Pets, then tea and munchies after. The rest of the afternoon was taking it easy.

Linda has been tending her garden, and worrying about hail. We've been hailed on 4 times now. Once a year is more like it. Mostly it's been fairly light by Calgary standards, though the most recent bout was almost dime sized driven on a strong wind. These particular lilies have been through a lot this year. They were attacked by lily beetles, we don't think they like the soil, and the hail has been really hard on them in particular. Still, they're trying. See?

After my run I fired up the BBQ for bison burgers, then started writing my blog and editing some photos. Here's my support.

Laptop, wine, Madagascar vanilla ice cream with fresh BC blackberries, and the camera to take photos of the building thunderhead to the north. Or the garden. Here's my view the other way.

Some of you might know my boss hinted my contract will not be renewed at the end of August. I've heard this before. I don't know if he was expecting me to break down and beg for my job or what, but no. I've got things to do in September. August too, come to think of it, and the original plan was end of July. In any case, if it does end, I'm not broken up about it. It started May 2012 going till the end of the year with no idea about renewal. 5 or 6 renewals later, here I am, surviving the departure of almost everyone I knew.  There isn't any particular virtue in it, I think my particular skills lined up with what Penn West needed.

My retirement theory was that I'd look for interesting projects to work on. If one of those is a paid gig, so much the better. I figure a few months at my current hourly rate covers my average yearly expenses, so why should I work any more than that? Every year I do that, puts off drawing on my retirement savings another year.

Now, I drafted that plan back before the price of oil crashed. Lots of my buddies are looking for work, and telling me there isn't much. That's now. The Calgary and Alberta economy is a roller coaster. Sooner or later the price of oil will go back up. It has to. There is a limited supply of the stuff, and it's one of the most useful commodities around. Sooner or later demand will come back.

The question will be if I'm drooling on my shoes by then. That would be too long. But I've had nearly 5 years of work with only minimal vacation, so I'm not going to mind several months off, or even a year. If I'm thinking about doing Calgary 70.3, it would be nice to be not working till this time next year. What with photography, novel writing, the blog and working out, plus whatever trouble my buddies get me into, I expect I'll be busy.

For those people that might be thinking of hiring a guy like me, keep in mind I'm willing to talk about all sorts of projects, in oil and gas or not. A bit of advice is free, and even the paid stuff isn't too expensive and well worth it according to some people. There's all sorts of pies I've had my finger in, and I'm willing to taste others. But keep this in mind. I don't need any argy-bargy about working hours, and I'm not interested in monkey turning the crank entry work. I'm looking for interesting work requiring thought, and figuring stuff out. Building processes to get the best value out of software is fun. If you have any of that, get in touch. Remember, lots of my SQL statements start with WITH, not SELECT. Ask your data guru what that means.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gradual build triumph!

One of the recurring themes here is that I suck at gradually builds. I don't know how many times that appeared on the training plan, and every time I failed. When difference between doing the activity at all, and doing it at top speed is very small, the idea of a gradual build doesn't work so well.

So for example, my swim cruise speed is about 110 seconds per 100 m and I've done that over 3 k. My all out pace is ~90 seconds for 100 m, and not 25 m further. Not much space for a gradual build. Running and biking was much the same idea.

But running Tuesday! Holy totally by accident doodle! Check out these splits.

I started feeling pretty good after a warm up walk from my office to the downtown Y. My thought was mainly to run smooth and light, and trying to recruit my butt into helping run. It seemed like every time my phone chirped the time and pace info, there was noise around me so I didn't hear it very well. On the way back from the Crowchild bridge I could feel my running really settle into the groove. At times it felt effortless. I was beginning to feel my breathing a bit, but knew I didn't have far to go.

Seeing the splits after was astonishing to me. I hadn't planned to run each K faster than the one before, but that's nearly exactly what happened. And the final 2 K I was working, but it wasn't hurting, and I could have kept going for a little while anyway.

I'm not sure where all this has come from. Partly it's consistency, getting out there 3 days a week. I've shed a little weight, so the existing leg muscle doesn't have to carry around as much. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of this running thing. I'm planning a bike ride this weekend, and it will be interesting to see if the run fitness carries over.

I ran Thursday, first attempt at hill repeats since forever. 3 x a little hill. I didn't puke. 5 K overall, 32:30, legs feeling kind of clunky and heavy.

I am loving the new camera lenses! I took the 100 mm to the race. If I got the focus right, I could shoot through the fence and it totally disappeared. Neat trick. There was a morning thunderstorm building, and the wide angle let me get it all in.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

YYC70.3, part 3, the famous Michelle

Last year I did the swim, and Michelle did the bike and run. This year the swim was all hers! Take it away, Michelle!

I wasn’t ready to swim, bike and run all by myself yet but was delighted when half a dozen friends answered my call to form a team.  We ended up with two teams.  Yarn Bombers and Triple Threat.  The story continues…

Friday I did my practice swim at Auburn Bay in about 42 minutes and figured I had seriously shorted the course but was able to practice sighting.  My swim cap and goggles slipped off so I made sure to crank everything down for race day.  Friday package pickup went smoothly.  The information on the website wasn’t consistent with information in the promo video, on FB and twitter and the maps at package pickup but it was the same thing last year so I just didn’t sweat it.  Luckily, someone filmed the athlete briefing and posted it there so I was able to get that most reliable information very easily and it answered all  my questions. 

Saturday:  Bike drop-off had some challenges but luckily I had lots of time to deal with them.  As I added air to the tires of Tigerlily for Antje to borrow for her ride, I noticed the back tire was 50% flat and was hissing as I added air.  I discovered a horizontal slash in the valve stem.  The pump had not been put straight on and had pushed the valve against the sharp hole in the aluminum rim.  I took both wheels off, zipped over to MEC for new tubes, hubby ground off the sharp edge on the rims and we re-installed new tubes before I dropped her off.  I made sure to ride her and adjust the brakes and check the quick release before checking her in.  Good thing I had nothing else planned for the day.  We all made sure to stay hydrated and carbo-load.  Pasta for dinner for me (although it was a bit too much in hindsight). 

Sunday race morning:  I woke up around 3 a.m. (an hour earlier than my alarm) so just got up to have breakfast and get ready.  Antje and I drove to the start for 6 a.m., parked at the hospital and got Jennifer to do our body marking.  Jennifer was volunteering to do body marking and wetsuit stripping at T1 before she headed to T2 to rock the run.  We found the bike, checked the air in the tires.  The front was good but the back tire needed a top up.  We had been told not to bring pumps as volunteers would be on hand with pumps but we couldn’t see any.  A nice gal next to us offered her pump to us.  I supervised so the valve wouldn’t go sideways while pulling my wetsuit on.  Unfortunately the pump seal was broken and wouldn’t put air in.  The back tire was about 80 psi and should have been 90 but we just went with the flow. 

The start:  I was a bit frazzled by then with everything going on around me.  Antje recognized my parents who came out to cheer us on.  Tara came over around then and it was great to chat with her to calm my nerves.  I headed out to the beach and recognized Saskia (way to go girl – she is competing in worlds!) who sized me up and asked if I had already been in the water.  Nope, I had not.  Jeez.  I ran in to get some water down the front of my wetsuit and get my face and goggles wet before the start.  Back on the beach, I was looking around for my parents and Keith but couldn’t see them.  I heard the announcer tell us to all go over the mat if we were in the first two waves (pros followed by relay teams).  I heard the first horn go and figured that was the pros.  I was still looking around.  Then I heard the announcer say the relay teams were off but hadn’t heard the second wave horn!  I looked over, and my eyes focussed on a pod of swimmers wearing green caps.  My pupils dilated… OMG, that’s supposed to be me!  I ran into the water and threw myself in and paddled like crazy. 

The swim:  We headed west and then north around the first buoy and by then the male age groupers were coming up behind us and passing us…  I remember thinking “I don’t like this.  I don’t think I want to do another open water swim ever.”  I got bumped but not kicked so I know I got off easy.  I sighted the additional buoys on the route north, then around that big buoy and headed east. 

Somewhere around the north end of the lake, I got off course.  I found it quiet and peaceful… because all the swimmers were off to my right.  Argh!  Time to sight more and head back to the pack.  By now, I was getting in the groove.  I definitely ate too much and felt heavy and burpy but my inner shark came out!  I pulled hard!  I even kicked!  I had now graduated from “Goldfish 101” and was taking the test for “Shark 201!” 

Heading east into the sun, it was hard to see the buoys.  I realized my goggles were completely fogged up as I almost swam into the corner of someone’s dock.  I was able to put my feet down and touch the bottom, pull my goggles forward, dunk them in the water and stick them back on and keep swimming.  Much better.  Much clearer.  Stupid anti-fog treatment I used the night  before. 

Around the next big buoy and it was time to head south.  I just kept swimming and tried to stay clear of the breaststroke kicker beside me.  He was a fast breaststroker and/or I was a slow front-crawler!  There were swimmers doing head-up front crawl.  I agonized over learning to front crawl for two years.  Jeez!  Right then, I caught a tsunami wave off the elbow or foot of another swimmer and gulped in a cup of water, dog paddling, coughing and choking.  Wheezing until my breathing returned to normal.  Face down, arms forward, pull, kick, keep moving.  This thing is ON!  

Swim finish; T1:  I could see the triple yellow triangle buoys and knew I was almost done.  Pedal to the medal.  Go go go!  Around the first triangle buoy and heading east to the finish line.  I kept swimming toward the shore until I could dig my hands into the sand the way Keith had me practice before jumping up to run over the finish line, and heard Amy call my name before heading into the tennis court to hand off the timing chip where Antje was waiting with Tigerlily to head off on her 90K ride to Bragg Creek and North Glenmore Park.  (That was possibly a run-on sentence but that’s how my brain was).

(Ed note, I think this picture says everything there is to say about how the swim went!)

The bike:  This story belongs to Antje. (Her blog, but at publication time her race story wasn't up.)

I tracked Antje on Find Friends and knew she was fine when I saw she was in Bragg Creek.  I had time to have coffee with Keith and my parents before heading home for a shower and to meet Jennifer at T2.  My parents really enjoyed hanging out with Keith during the swim as he broke everything down for them and gave them the play-by-play. 

Tigerlily is so proud to wear her shiny new sticker on her stem.  She spent many years collecting dust listening to the odysseys and journeys and feats and accomplishments of another road bike named Estela.  Tigerlily is my favourite bike.  She is so enthusiastic all the time like “Pick me! Pick me!” while Luna is a little more reserved and deigns to let me ride her if I treat her like royalty. 

At T2, I found parking (yay!) and met up with Jennifer to chat while we tracked Antje and waited for her to arrive at T2.  Transfer done and Jennifer was off like a flash!  I got video of that. 

The run:  This story belongs to Jennifer.  

While Jennifer ran, Antje and I sat on the grass between the two paths to watch for her and cheer her on but sadly, we completely missed her.  Eventually we headed to the finish line.  Everyone thought our Cookie Monster “Ride bike, Eat cookie!” jerseys were hysterical and many people asked where we got them.  We waited for Jennifer to run and both started getting suddenly very hot, thirsty and hungry. 

The finish:  Yay!  Jenn was there and we ran in with her but the video I took didn’t work.  Grrr.  We each got awesome medals and finisher shirts.  Time for some refuelling and visiting.  Thank goodness the sausage was gluten free and there were yummy little potatoes.  My favourite gluten-free Cliff bars were on hand as well. 

Reflections:  Two years ago I couldn’t swim.  Last year I biked and ran while Keith swam. This year I worked really hard on my swim and was so happy that Antje biked for our team and Jennifer ran.  I have been biking with Antje on her long rides and commuting to work as well as running with Keith on his long runs and running at lunch but my focus has been on the swim 3-5 times a week before work.  Keith has been a great coach, mentor and training buddy!

I was really worried up until about two weeks before the race that I might not make the cut-off in 70 minutes but was pleasantly surprised by a fast swim and then a second and third fast swim to reassure me it wasn’t a fluke.  I’m now a MID-PACK AGE GROUP SWIMMER!  How did THAT happen?  I’m no longer a dork-a-saurus goldfish.  I’m a SHARK too now!  I can’t wait to swim, bike and run solo in IMYYC 70.3 2017! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

more storms

It was a perfect weekend for the race. Even this morning was nice, though I was still too tired to really appreciate it. The clouds rolled in late this afternoon. By the time I was home and selecting run gear, the rumbles of thunder started. Then the lightning, off in the distance and getting closer quickly. The sound track could have been used to build tension in a suspense movie.

I had time for a bison burger and tweaking a couple of the race photos for a fan that wanted them. (Thank you!) There were tiny drops coming as I scampered out to shoot some Dahlias and other lilies that are blooming. Back in just as the rain really started.

The same sound track could be used for the US presidential election. Polls now are meaningless, but it makes me just a little uncomfortable that Trump is going up in the polls, and might even win if the election were today. I can't think off-hand of anything more catastrophic to happen to the North American economy, or anything more detrimental to continental safety and security. Trump is practically a billboard of hatred and intolerance, and a walking recruitment poster for Islamic terrorist groups.

Although my calm demeanor hid the excitement, I was pretty charged up watching the swim part of the race yesterday. Here's some of the relay wave starting their 1.75 K swim; I'm not sure if Michelle is in the picture or not.

As triathlon swim packs go, that's pretty spread out,and not very big. What's important is that someone who couldn't swim 2 years ago is in that group, swimming confidently. That is such a huge step for anyone to take, and I'm so happy for her!

Their swim went really well, but I was channeling the gong show from last year.  Now that they've got the bugs out of the route, I'm tempted to try it again. Not just the swim. The whole thing. Not just to finish, (been there, done that) but aim for at least mid-pack. This year mid-pack in my age group means 6 hours. The winner was well under 5 hours. That means I need to start bike training again. That will help the marathon training too.

Gives me a goal. Will you follow along? Want to join me on race day?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend meet blur

If this is what retired life is like, I'm not sure I can take it. I'd better go into training.

Ran Thursday, kind of a clunky run, still feeling the half-marathon. I'm not sure what else happened all last week that kept me from blogging.

Up and tackled the lawn-jungle. That goes into the books as a workout! Long wet grass is no fun.
Then off to the 70.3 expo. My race shirt from last year is a L, but is a small L. I tried to trade it in, but the guy said just buy another the right size for $5. I guess he's heard it a lot. No, I'm not doing the race this year.
Coffee with my buddy Neil to talk lenses. I did a round of research ending up with expensive lenses, then more budget priced. Then Neil asked what I was taking pictures of and what I wanted to do. That got me recommendations for two different lenses (see below).
I rode up to Monogram, and back the scenic route around the reservoir, with only a bit of rain.
Cleaning wine bottles. They've built up lately. Can't imagine where all the empties come from.
Slept like crap.

Up to help Linda prepare for a rampage and trample expedition with a buddy to the Millarville Market. The buddy showed up and we had a lovely coffee and visit on the patio.  (Look out world!)
After they left, I went and picked out these bad boys.

Home and some quickie photos of the garden. It was like the first time I got on Estela. I'd been riding a bike all my life, but getting on a carbon race bike is a new world. These lenses are a new world! Focus and depth of field is critical!

15 K run 1:40. The weather channel said 20 but it was hotter, maybe 22 or 23, and direct sun. I was trying to run easy, keep my heart rate low, stay hydrated, and keep my cadence and pace even. Mostly it was good, falling off a bit towards the end. I never got to the place where it felt like the heat would overwhelm me and make me stop. For all that I was trying to take it easy, this turned out to be the fastest 15 K of the 6 I've done recently. Yay me!

After some putter around I scouted out a great place to watch them install the pedestrian bridge over Anderson Road. I was up till midnight watching. Here's an iPhone shot, and a T6 shot. I think I've picked out the two shots from the same time. The T6 is only slightly edited.

Up early and off to the Calgary 70.3 race to cheer on Michelle, and play with my new lenses. She had an awesome swim, and her team, 95 Yarn Bombers had a super day! Here they are, about to get started.

Then out to Bragg Creek for a garden viewing though the Horticultural Society. Very nice. The idea was to go into Bragg for lunch, but that took much longer than it should have. Traffic was terrible, but the rest of it was nice.
Home, short nap. BBQ bison burgers. Edit photos. Write blog, drink wine, out on the patio. So lovely.

Bang! Weekend over. I need a weekend to recover.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Odds and ends

Half marathon recovery has gone well enough that I ran today. I achieved a big goal at work and I rewarded myself with a mid morning run. The only problem is that I somehow turned on auto-pause for almost the entire run, or my phone lost track of the satellites. I figure it was 4 k, 26 minutes, feeling pretty good. Downtown must have got quite a bit of hail and rain. There were leaves and little branches all over the path near Stampede grounds, and technically, the path under Macleod Trail was closed because of high water. I ran there anyways. It was only a little damp.

I don't spend a lot of time concerned about my readership stats. This blog is to amuse me, and if it amuses others that's a nice bonus for them. I'm still surprised at what gets the readership. Sometimes I know. The NIMBYISM post got lots of retweets, and the issue hit the news. The followup had some retweets but didn't do anywhere near as well. The children of the canola got ONE, count'em ONE retweet, but that was enough to power it into 4th place for overall readership, and slowly inching towards third.

Stock at Large is by far the earliest post in the top 10, and I'm pleased to see it holding it's own. I know why, but I suspect many of you don't. Any guesses?

Once upon a time, "Boobs, a rant" was proudly the second most read post. Lately it's fallen out of the top 10 where it's harder to see readership. I'd mentioned it to one of my buddies, who was in shock they hadn't read it. There you go, happy early birthday.

I could wish Blogger was better about stats. I see page views for individual posts, and an overall page view number, but the latter is usually far bigger. Lately I think I've been hit on by bots that artificially inflate the count. I tried Google stats, or whatever it's called, but there's something I don't get about it.

So far it hasn't rained today. There's been a lot of that lately. My lawn is turning into a jungle, but it's still too wet to cut. The garden has had a little more hail, but seems to be doing ok. Here's a lily leaf hanging in there.

I like this contrast between the plant and two pots.

There's a tonne of photos I'm working on processing. Even though I knew the RAW format size was huge, I'm surprised how quickly it ate my laptop hard drive. This is the first time ever I've had to think about hard drive space. Some photos have already been shuffled off to an external drive. I need to figure out if I want to keep any significant number of the photos I take, or just the ones that have been tweaked in Lightroom. Still thinking. The latest batch of photos are 25 to 30 MB each. EACH. I took nearly 1000 in one weekend. That's 25 to 30 GB, which is a good sized chunk even on a TB sized drive. Good thing they aren't expensive. Also thinking about just how big a dedicated photo drive and backup needs to be. Lots of fun. Still lens shopping. Any advice?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

MEC half marathon

It struck me I hadn't done a race report in a while, which I suppose is the inevitable result of not racing in some time. In some senses today was a very cerebral race for me, so I thought I'd talk about the whole experience.

I'm what you call an adult onset runner. I ran in high school, then nothing to speak of till about 9 years ago. It's been a long slog, trying to build milage. I'd get to about 10 K, then it seems I'd push too hard and have to rest.

I was a swimmer, but as the triathlon saying goes, you can't win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose it. You can win it with a strong run, which I don't have. Again and again I'd get out of the water in a reasonable time, and then everyone would pass me on the bike. The only reason people didn't pass me on the run is they had already finished.

For whatever reason I've wanted to do a stand alone marathon for a while. This year I got serious about running consistently. As I got to a long run of 10 K, I stayed there for a while, till it felt comfortable, then started adding distance again. It really helps to have a run buddy who is amiable about distance, doesn't care about route, and naturally runs about the same pace I do. (Hi MC!)

Gradually the distance grew, and the times got a little faster. One of them she snuck in a faster pace on me because I hadn't been paying attention, which sort of got me off the plateau I'd been on. All good. Then the 10 K earlier this year was essentially an hour, which was a surprise to me. My weight had been slowly creeping up a bit since Ironman, but this year it's been sliding back down. That helps the running too.

This race was a big step for me, to see what my time was, see how I felt. I've no need for another medal or shirt, so the MEC race was the right venue and the perfect time. This is the first one of their's I've done, and I'm impressed. The race experience was flawless! It started on time, there appeared to be enough volunteers, the aid stations were where expected, and a good time appeared to be had by all. There was the faintest rain shower during the race, and shortly after I finished it started coming down cats and dogs.

I didn't have specific goals, though my recent training had me thinking I wasn't likely to be faster than 2:15 (a 6:24 per K pace or so) and I wanted to be faster than 2:30 (just over a 7 per K pace). I pretty well nailed it, so I'm quite pleased. I deliberately hadn't looked up previous half marathon times, and it turns out this is only a few minutes slower than my fastest one. Yay me again!

The pace right from the start was surprisingly fast. Within the first K I was running nearly alone, a few behind me, most out in front. It took a few K to settle into the groove, and I chugged along averaging about a 6:10 pace. I was happy and comfortable, and would have been able to chat, if there was anyone to chat too. For most the race I was leapfrogging a woman doing a walk run, but we didn't talk.

About 9 K I was getting some chatter from my legs and I slowed down a little, then about 12 K my pace fell again to about 6:30. K's 14 to 18 were tough sledding, with my pace falling to 7 per K. I was focussed on keeping my legs moving, thinking about my posture, trying to keep my hands and arms relaxed. I was determined to run the whole thing, no walk breaks. The cadence stayed about where it was, but I could feel my stride shortening and becoming stiffer. I got passed by a couple people that had been staying behind till then. I still wasn't breathing any harder, but my legs were starting to protest. I kept moving. There was a funny niggle up the outside of my left thigh to behind the hip bone. Never had that before, but kept my feet going. It got a bit easier as I got closer.

I tried staying with the people that passed me, but they ever so slowly pulled away. Sometime during the last mile I got another wind and my legs picked up, so the last K was a 6:20 pace.  Photos and buddies and bananas at the finish line!

Overall, my phone thinks I ran 21.56 K in 2:19:56.  The big surprise of the race is that the 5 K best pace was 30:36 and the 10K best pace was 1:02 which is essentially the pace I ran the 10 K in. Maybe that means I started too hard, but it didn't feel that way. My legs liked the pace and my lungs were happy.

The phone thinks the half marathon pace was 2:16:57, which is nearly exactly what I ran the 2010 Hypothermic half in.

I think it's clear I need to work on leg endurance, to be able to keep running at a desired pace. Core. Hill work. Hope it doesn't snow for Oct 22, MEC race 7.

Here I am finishing, photo credit Patricia.

And a couple more, credit Ken. This qualifies as a focussed look, I think.

My buddy Patricia, happy after a great race.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Number 35798 on the MEC race 5 program, but number one in your hearts!


Number one in your hearts?

Come on guys. Number one. No?


Picked up my race package tonight, and chatted with a buddy I chanced to meet who is also doing the race. She is speedy and will almost certainly finish before me. Good for her. Will I see you out there on Saturday to cheer me on, amidst all the other Stampede revelry?

The other number is 5999. It's been that way for a while. I burn to see it change, but it's not up to me. It's up to you, hint, hint.

The children of the canola has vaulted past almost all my posts to become the 4th most read post. It hit the top 10 in about 12 hours. Such is the power of a retweet by Neil Zeller. Hope some of those readers return every now and then.

I'm planning on sleeping in tomorrow, and spending the day puttering around. Learning more Lightroom functionality sounds like fun.

What are you up to on the weekend?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

That first night shot

Untouched. You saw this in  Monday's blog. What you didn't completely get was how gobsmacked I was after following the process. It's night, set the ISO that way. Open aperture all the way. I just guessed at exposure settings. Then to get this image out of the camera!

Yes, there is stuff wrong with it. Note the slight tilt of the buildings. The trees along the river are kind of murky, and the the clouds are blah. I'd like it if the reflections in the water were sharper. But as a first attempt at a night long exposure! Wow!

After a few Lightroom tweaks.

A few seconds in Lightroom have cleared up those issues, along with a few other tiny tweaks, and I've cropped it a bit. I think it looks much nicer.

I'm hardly an expert with the tool. These are very basic adjustments, and an expert might do things quite differently and achieve quite different results.

Here's another tweak, with a slightly longer exposure, and somewhat different cropping and adjustment choices. Note the bright lobby windows are a slightly different shade of yellow, though I may have brightened it slightly too much. The vertical brown strip off to the left seems a bit clearer. I think the photo over all is a bit crisper and brighter, at least that was the intent.

One could do this all day. At the moment, I like this one best. The future me after learning more about composition and Lightroom tweaks might gag and hide my face.

I'm taking a break from swimming this week. I'm doing the MEC half marathon race on Saturday, so this is taper. Plus parking overall is brutal the later it gets in the day during Stampede. I had a short clunky feeling run on Monday, 5K 33 minutes. Oddly enough, the fastest K was the first one, when I was feeling most clunky. Then I slowed down. No surprise.

I'll do another short easy run with some faster bits on Thursday, and hopefully that will set me up for the race.

All that is in between looking around for photo opportunities.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The children of the canola

882 photos later. My eyes are tired.

No, I'm not going to make you scroll through that many photos. Many, perhaps even most are experiments with camera settings; some wildly over or under exposed, some are essentially duplicates with slightly different settings, some are badly composed, or have other problems. Some are successful experiments in trying to produce a particular effect but are otherwise uninteresting. A few seem promising to work on as actual photographs.

No, this one isn't mine, you can see me off to the left. This is a screen shot of a Neil Zeller photo showing all of us hard at it, practicing our craft.

No, we aren't trampling canola, there was some patchy dirt where we were standing.

What an awesome weekend though!  Saturday was classroom theory and practice, then doing some evening city shots. Sunday was road trip day. After the car show in Alderside, we headed down the Cowboy Trail, till Neil got excited and yelling "stop the van, stop the van!" I never knew canola could do that to anyone. Still, we all piled out and started clicking. As we were getting in after, there were some corny jokes about 'children of the corn' and that's where the blog title came from.

So back to the beginning. You knew I'd bought a camera as the first step to exploring photography. I've bumped up against the limitations of the iPhone camera, and wanted to better control what was going on. I have to admit all the settings on a camera with manual controls are just a bit intimidating. A lot intimidating.

I explored for a bit, and though I understood what ISO, aperture, and shutter speed were, and knew they were related, I didn't really get the relationship. Nor how to go about getting some of the neat effects I've seen. My explorations weren't a waste of time, but I didn't get very far.

Neil and I have been buddies for a while, and I still get people that find my blog through his dormant barefoot running blog. When he opened registration to a weekend course to learn how to actually use your camera in manual, I snapped it up. It's the best value I've had in a training course ever. I loved the combination of theory and practice. This is really the only way to learn, by actually using your camera and twiddling with the settings. There is no rush. You have all the time you need.

There were just a few off-hand things (for Neil) that were major aha moments for me. I was afraid I'd get stranded deep in the menu and mess up some settings, and didn't know what most of them were. Or why. Some are still a mystery, but that's ok. Start with the basics and move on.

The class was 10 people, essentially all beginners, and a couple of more advanced people showed up a bit later in the morning. Neil has a ton of his own gear, and brought some loaner gear as well. I had always thought camera gear was delicate and would break at a cross look. It is delicate in some ways, but surprisingly durable. Looking at Neil's gear you can see it's been used hard in the real world. I'm still going to be careful with it, of course. Everybody that borrowed an expensive lens was walking very carefully on the rocky ground near the falls.

The difference between my kit lens and the professional lenses was astonishing to me. I came back after one sessions wanting to buy all the lenses! I spent a bit of time today at lunch shopping and reading lens reviews. What fun!

The evening trip around Calgary was 4 different places. We were a bit disappointed in the sunset over the Weaselhead, but several of us noted the next day that the photos looked way better on a computer, and the sunset had more interest than we thought. Poppy Plaza blew my mind. Here's the first long exposure shot of the night for me, dark skies, straight out of the camera raw, no processing at all. (Did you notice the pun?) Nothing special for a lens, just the kit 18-55 mm.

Now that I look at this a little more, I might fix it up in Lightroom just to be able to show the difference in a later blog.

I'd thought of going there just after buying my camera, but it would have been a waste of time. I see now I had a fundamental misunderstanding of how it works, and there would have been no results. We all had a blast trying different things, and were astonished at the results we were getting. Of course we walked downstream a bit and shot the Peace bridge.

It was just as well we were done for the evening, because I couldn't shut my left eye and look through the viewfinder with the right anymore.

Sunday we were off again for a road trip. Alderside, through Nanton, over to Chain Lakes, down to Lundbreck Falls, the Burmis tree, Frank Slide, then several sites near the Oldman River dam just because the light was astonishing! Your trip might be somewhere else, based on weather, time of year, or what Neil hasn't seen recently.

Here's two waterfall shots, one a few seconds after the other to show the difference settings can make. Same lens, same spot, completely different look. This is a screen shot straight out of the camera, no processing at all.

I could go on and on about images. But really the weekend was about learning, experimenting, and having fun. Neil had a great way of explaining why the smallest f stop number is the biggest opening.  I always had to think about it. Then you get to experiment. He completely removed the intimidation factor from the camera, and showed how much fun it was to go out and photograph stuff. Even if I do hold the camera wrong, and he winces every time he sees that. Something else to work on.

So if you have a camera that has lots of buttons, or maybe a dial with an M on it, and are afraid to play with, sign up for Neil's course. Now I'm going to go look at those 882 images to see what I can learn from them, and play with some of them in Lightroom. If I'm not back in a while, send a search party.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The inukshuk is gone

A few days ago I was in shooting photos in Fish Creek, and found a little inukshuk. There is a photo of it in this blog.

I ran past there this morning and it's gone. Such is life. Things are here, then they're gone. Flowers bloom, then the blooms fade or fall off. Or get eaten by a critter. Or there's a hailstorm. The lilies have been beaten up a bit by hail, and the peony bloom was getting on so it was past it's best before date. At least the hail wasn't so bad that the buds were damaged. (crosses fingers and hopes not to tempt fate.)

In any case, flowers are still pretty even when they are past their prime. You may expect to see flowers in all stages.

The point here is that there really is a season for all things. You have to enjoy it while the enjoying is good. Stop and smell the rose. Play the age appropriate games with your kid and don't worry about your dignity. Cuddle your cat and wave the laser pointer. Take your dog for a walk and throw the stick.

That TV show will always be there, immortalized on Netflix or on DVD. Get out for a run instead to enjoy the day. There will never ever be another sunrise or sunset quite like this one. Or go for a walk or a bike ride, whatever makes you happy. To date, nobody on their deathbed has said they wished they spent more time in the office working.

I had lunch today with a buddy, and we had a wonderful time. She's got a book on the go, and there is a deadline. (A sequel, I can't wait till April!) She's put a bunch of other stuff on hold till that's done, but still made time for me. I'm quite flattered. I've got lots on the go as well, but no deadlines at the moment. What was important is that we found a quiet place with good food, and had a lovely wide ranging chat. People time is important.

Todays run was what running is all about. 10 K, 1:05:30, for a 6:32 pace, trying to run nice and steady. It was warm but not hot. My legs were happy to run, which is a good feeling. I'd been thinking about running yesterday, but there was no way. My legs felt dead, and I ended up napping for 4 hours in the afternoon. I've been working hard on the running, so the drained feeling wasn't a surprise. Time for a rest day. I'm going to miss my long run on the weekend while I'm in a photography course. This should be lots of fun. If I pay attention and apply what I've learned, you should start seeing nicer photos here. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 8, 2016

All about the bees

Bees, not bass. And no treble!

Now that we're all on the same page.

Once upon a time as a child I was stung by a bazillion wasps. I was watching a neighbour plowing, and he offered me a chance to ride on the tractor. Duh! So I was jumping from rock to rock in the ditch to get to the fence. One of the rocks turned out to be a wasp nest. Things get a little hazy for me then.

The odd thing is that I have no fear of them, or getting stung again. I've only had one sting since, when out for a bike ride. I don't blame the bee. There it was flying along minding it's own business when it's clipped by an inconsiderate human.

One of the things that really pleases us about our garden is the little ecosystem we have going now. There's always been a few bees and ants. Now we've got at least three species of bees (with photo proof yet!), several different kinds of birds, ants, lady bugs, and I don't know what all else. It's so nice to sit there with a glass of wine, watching and listening to the activity. Even when we're hunting the disgusting lily beetles the rest of the critters don't seem to mind us.

I think one of the bee's nest is under the driveway, another is between the blocks of the retaining wall and probably into the hollows of the block, which would be a lovely safe place for them. I don't know where the other species is nesting.

Some of you will know that I love honey and have ever since I was a child. My mom's dad kept bees, so I got honey straight from the source, partially crystalized, which is the right and proper way for it to be. On home made bread. I'm not sure if the butter was churned from their own cream or was store bought. A couple of my readers might know.

Lately bees have been under threat. They've been dying in droves, and that's very much too bad. There is discussion about the problem being pesticides, mites, or other diseases. Considering how important bees are to the ecosystem and us continuing to eat, I think it's prudent to err on the side of caution. Cutting back on the profits of big-agra doesn't bother me one bit.

Here's the three different kinds of bees. I like taking pictures of the flowers, and if I get the chance I'll chase the bees. This isn't talent, to get the bees in focus. This is luck. Shoot enough photos and you'll get a useful image sooner or later. Later today I want to go clean out the images where the bee is a smudge, and the lamb's ears are in perfect focus. I've got lots of those.

Without further ado. Any of my readers know which species these are?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


No I'm not. Not yet. Not for a while. A long while.

Today was 70th blood donation. It wasn't the routine same old, same old. They sent me an email this morning with instructions to have a good breakfast and get a good night's sleep. Nothing like after the fact instructions. Then they wanted me to fill out the questionnaire on line. Except the link didn't work. Probably every other person in Canada donating blood today was trying to do the same thing. Then you have to create an account. I wasn't in the mood to do that first thing, so I ended up having to do it on a tablet on site. That part's fine, aside from the tablet being slow.

Then waiting for the interview. Turns out the tablet has all the questions, so all the nurse does now is take your blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate, then labels the implements of donation. This was a long wait.

I ended up using my right arm because I don't like waiting. The nurse missed the shot and they end up throwing all that stuff away. Then wait for a left arm chair to open up, then wait for them to go through the procedure to get a new bag and needle and such. Good thing I wasn't in a rush.

The actual donation part is easy and the fastest part. I admire their efforts to streamline it, but really, what I want is the grocery store 12 items or fewer line. I've done this a whole bunch, I know what's going on, I'm married and haven't strayed, no risk complications, nothing new since last time, now stick the damn needle in me and let's get this over.

Which leads me into a rant. This whole creating an account on line thing is getting out of hand. I don't even know to the nearest dozen how many on line accounts I have. I have a list in a secret highly secure place, but I don't think it's complete. All too often I create an account away from that list and don't update it. Oops. Later this leads to rage and frustration as some place I've never heard of tells me I have an account, and I end up going through the reset the password thing. Usually this happens when I'm in a rush, which gets me THIS close to a complete melt down.

It was bad enough when you had to carry a special card, one for each place. Then I drew the line. I started telling retailers that if Rogers could set up a database that remembered what DVD's (back when there was such a thing as rented DVD's) I'd rented, and when their bonus points kicked in, and prompted the clerk to tell me I could pay for it with the points, or take some of the cost off, or go get another for free, they darn well could too, and they could shove their loyalty card where the sun don't shine.

If they've got my name, address, and the phone number I give to people that I don't want to talk to, they can also remember whatever bonus points I get. I shouldn't have to show them a card, or keep track of the points myself. Apple is really good at this. I called one time to ask about repairs to the iMac, but wasn't sure if it was still under warranty. Before I finished the question the guy I was talking to knew the date of purchase and everything else relevant about the computer, and me.

Plus the whole password thing. Tell me true, how many passwords do you have? Do you really use different 6-12 character passwords with at least one numeral and one special character that is not your name or email address for every single on line account you have? Of course you don't. You either use a service you trust, or you have your computer remember them for you, and heaven help you if it gets stolen, or you use the same password for several accounts.

One of my tasks this set of vacations is to go through my secret list and update passwords. My plan is to group them in several tiers. A bunch of the low importance, low usage sites are going to get the same password. My banks have long hugely complicated but easy for me to remember pass phrases about 30 characters long. Those are fine, or if they aren't there is no hope. Then there will be a few sites that are some combination of important or used a lot that will get a unique moderately complicated pass phrase. Should be fun updating all this.

There's got to be a better way. We've been taking the first steps towards having our phones recognize us without having to type a password. It would be nice if there was some way of having the phone know it's us, and then it reassures the remote site, and we get on with whatever the business at hand is. There's still some work to be done on this front. The fingerprint to get into my phone fails about half the time, more after a swim. Maybe we should be letting the phone look at our eyes.

Tuesday, nice 7 K run, 45:12 for a 6:26 pace. Nice evening for a run, just letting my legs do what they want. This morning was a swim, 1 K 19:30 long course, taking it easy, dodging a floatie that was briefly in my lane. Wanted to water run with Katie but her lane was a gong show of floaties and breast strokers. Fortunately a life guard told us they had just opened the deep bath tub. It was that warm. Wow. Good thing we didn't want to swim laps.

Ran and chatted. She is the second person all excited about planning my build to doing a fall marathon. I think they just like making plans. I was going to wing it, gradually building just the way I have been, but I've been told you can't do that for a marathon. There has to be a plan. With intervals, hills, speed work, fartleks, long slow runs, and I don't know what else. What do I know?

Here's another garden photo. I've been putting nature photos on Facebook every day, trying for a different one here. I don't really have the camera equipment to capture bees, but when you shoot lots of flower shots, and get a little bit lucky, you get this. We have at least 3 species of bees in our garden, and I think I've got photos of all of them now. I have to wait till I get the photos out of the camera and into Lightroom to see what I've got. Still figuring out and trying to streamline this workflow thing.

And another for you, just to see how it looks on the blog itself. This is a rain chain.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The thunderstorms continue

Last night we were watching this.

It sort of rolled in, took over, and rumbled off to the east. Later another one rolled through. There's one overhead as I write, and there was one earlier today.

The day started with an ok swim. My shoulders are still feeling cranky. Water ran with my buddy Katie.

The office is closed today, and Friday, so I took the whole week as vacation. The cats were delighted to have me home all day, and made it clear what their demands were. Food, lap, cuddles. I snoozed with them a bit, then spent a bit more time working with Lightroom on existing photos, and went and got a few more. I've got the hang of the basic basics, but need to watch some more tutorials.

So far I've been working on trying to make the photos better, as photos. Later I'll try to dress them up a bit more, and turn them more into artwork based on a photo. First things first. I'm looking forward to the photo workshop this weekend.

Did I mention? I actually signed up for the MEC race on July 16, doing the half marathon. Starts at Fort Calgary and goes to Edworthy Park. Then back. I'd like to be under 2:30, and about 2:20 would be about as good as I can expect on current fitness.

And how could I not include this shot of Curtis. I think he's looking very handsome here.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Shooting a swamp, then this happened

There I was, deep in the heart of Fish Creek park trying to get a shot of trees reflected in the swampy water, when I got that watched feeling. I turned around and there it was.

As soon as I moved, it started trotting off. I've no idea what the camera settings were, I just clicked off a bunch of shots, and this is the best of them. It was probably 10 feet away there, wary but not frightened.

Out of the 188 shots I took, many are garbage where I was experimenting with camera settings. This is to be expected. Some are ok, though a few of them I wonder what the heck I was thinking. Some I played with just to start learning Lightroom. There are 5 or 6 where it looks like I nailed it, and the shots right out of the camera are pretty good. I'll be tweaking them a bit more and will publish them. I got that Facebook nature photo challenge so they will end up there and here. Just to fill you with anticipation, it's swamp water. I know, you can't take the suspense. Sorry.

Earlier this year I found that someone had been creating art with rocks in the Bow River near Crowchild. I guess their younger sibling is just learning. I found this Inukshuk in Fish Creek.

Today was a long run with my ex-work buddy Patricia, and the famous Michelle. I'd been wanting to do Bowmont park in the far NW for a while. I'd hoped to have a native guide (Hi Leana!) but her life has been a whirlwind lately and the timing hasn't worked out.

This is a stunningly beautiful run! I'm going to have to do this one again, even though it is on the other edge of the city. Great views (bring a wide angle lens!), good hills either way, nice breeze, a porta-potty just where one was needed, what's not to like?

Along the way we saw this giant raptor bird. All black or dark gray. Too big to be a hawk, I thought maybe an eagle with that huge hooked beak, but Patricia thought maybe a vulture. Doing a bit of research it might have been an immature bald eagle. Pity it turned it's head just as I took this. Birders?

15 K, 1:45:30 for 7:02 pace overall but I walked one hill and that slowed me down. Breathing was good, legs feeling tired. Even so, I'm all signed up for the MEC half marathon July 16. If I'd been on the ball with planning training properly, I'd have done a somewhat shorter run Friday, and the 18 today. Oh well.

As I was getting ready for the run, Celina was giving poor Curtis an earful, and tried to dominate him. Good luck there. Home again, the cats ignoring me as I'm using the laptop. They're deeply involved in important cat business.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Post-run dotty? Or just potty?

Linda and I had a long and serious discussion over dinner tonight. (BBQ chicken on a bun, w cheese, if you were wondering.)



It's Canada Day today. (Yay us! Go team go!) We didn't do anything special. The serious discussion was about when we did something special for Canada Day. Last year? Two years, three? More? We clearly remembered wandering around downtown, having fun, taking part in the festivities, nibbling from the food trucks, watching the fireworks. But when?

In the end I had to consult this very blog. It turned out to be two years ago. Remember how you used to say your older relatives were getting a bit dotty? I fear that is becoming us.

Then again, I was out for a run today in the hot sun. 11 K, 1:15, 6:49 pace. It was all good, till the last three K. I was fresh for the run up to the reservoir, then in the shade to the top of the hill and back. Then out in the sun for the last 3 K and I was beginning to feel the heat. It was cloudy when I started, 19 C, so I wasn't as thorough with the sunscreen as I should have been, and I'd left my sunglasses in the car. The sun came out, it got up to 23 or 24 C, and humid for Calgary. Maybe this explains the dottiness. I hope.

The rest of the day was sleeping in after a very weird night. Not dreams, at least I don't think so. I woke up at 2, listening to a rumbling diesel. Not the police helicopter that wakes me up sometimes. I wandered out to get a drink, and peered out to see a huge tow truck hooking up a somewhat smaller one. Behind that another big tow truck had hooked up to a commercial truck of some kind. Bigger than a cube van, but smaller than a semi. Several normal sized tow trucks were nearby, watching. All the same tow fleet. No idea what was in the truck that required such a big tow truck. After a while the convention moved off, amber lights flashing. I was wondering if I could work that into my book, but didn't get anywhere.

Linda found more pots, and got a great deal on them. Right now she is out filling them with flowers. The garden is mostly recovering from the battering earlier this week. Most of our closest neighbours had some water in the basement.