Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shopping with a 12 year old

I am currently on a long overdue vacation (but are you ever on vacation when you work from home and have a smart phone?). I chose the time of the vacation based on a marathon near my family. Sadly, it also coincides with elk season. This means that my father and older brother would not be home for my visit. Instead they would be doing their annual "armed nature hikes." I would call it hunting but that implies shooting something and they haven't done that for a few years now.

Today we decided to drive to Portland (about an hour away) and go the a mall. It would be me, my wife, my mother, my sister in-law and my nephew. I knew that my nephew would hate shopping with the women as much as me (maybe more since he is only 12) so I figured he and I could go to guy stores and have a better time (plus the women would have to listen to us complain about how board we were. Now my nephew just turned 12 and among his gifts he got, he got $60. Of course, this money was burning a huge hole in his pocket. The concept of saving money is just beyond his grasp at this time in his life. But since he would be with me, and I would not have a detailed list of what was okay for home to buy from his mother, I was worried that he would use the old "but Uncle Mike said it was okay" excuse to buy something his mother would not approve of. I had to come up with someway to keep him honest. And I must say, I think I came up with a good one. Just before we walked into the mall, I told him, in front of his mother, that if he bought anything with his money that his mother did not approve of, then that item would become mine. I asked his mother if that was okay with her and she, with a smile, said yes. And thus the two parties split ways and entered the mall.

Our first stop was to a directory as he wanted to go to a video game store. As we looked for the video game store, we also saw they had a Star Wars store. So we mapped out our two stores and headed off. Along the way, was came across a knife store and he had to go check it out. He pointed out several knifed he liked, then he spotted a mechanical Swiss army knife display that he had seen on the Tv show called the American Pickers. He was very excited about the display. However, he didn't try to buy anything from the store. He only said that he would have to come back with his mom. Our next stop was the video game store. Here the boy was in total torment as there were just too many games that he wanted to get but he could only afford one. After some heavy looking, he decided to go see the Star Wars store before making a purchase. The Star Wars store was cool to look at but all the really cool stuff was too expensive. Now we went back to the video game store were he toiled over which game to get all over again. Finally he picked one and I really hadn't thought much about my statement. However when he went to buy the game (and I knew it was a game his mom was okay with) he stopped. He wanted to call his mom because he said she didn't like the store we were in and was afraid she would not approved and he didn't want me to get his game. I finally convinced him that his mom would be be okay with it (which she was) and he bought the game.

We finally ended up at the arcade playing sone shoot 'em up together. We were still playing when the women showed up.

I remember what it was like to be 12 and have money to spend. I also remember that it was easier to get forgiveness than it was to get permission. This little trick worked really well. He knew what his mon would approve of and this just made him think before doing something (which for 12 year old boys can be quite a task).

After a nice lunch, we loaded back into the car and drove home. We all have a great day out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 Columbia River Power Half Marathon

Or how I came to dread down hills.


After talking with my cousins, who are marathon maniacs, I found out that my uncle is a sponsor for a marathon. The marathon is the Columbia River Power Marathon in Umatilla Oregon. This marathon let’s you run across the McNary dam (a working hydro electric dam) and then back across an interstate bridge. You get to cross the mighty Columbia river twice. Plus, you get to run in two states, Oregon and Washington. This sounded pretty cool.

There was no expo, only a packet pickup. Also, there were no timing chips. I have to say, I was very surprised as to the contents of the packet. In the little bag was a $500 gift card from Red Start World Wear. I was shocked to find this but I went to the web site and it was indeed a real gift card (one that you don’t have to spend money to use). Sweet!!!!!

The morning of the race was of concern as the weather forecast was for rain. In fact, on the drive to the race, it did rain. We (my wife did the half marathon too) arrived at the race start about an hour before the start. It was a little confusing as the “Start” was not very well marked. Usually they have big banners and music but there was none of that.

101_1882(To get an idea of how small this marathon is, there were only two port-a-potties at the start and there were no lines.)

101_1883 Here we are ready to run. As we gathered behind the start line, a small band (ok, two trumpets and a clarinet) played the Star Spangled Banner. I am sure someone announced that they song was going to start but no one had a bull horn or loud speaker. There were a couple of officials talking but I could not hear a word they said.

101_1884 As it turns out, this race starts and stops at the highest point of the race. This comes into play later.

101_1886 This is the from the top of the hill.

101_1889 This is the view of the dam from the top of the hill. The first mile had a very nice down hill. However, all I could think was “and I have to go back up this hill to the finish?”


As we entered the dam, this guy greeted us. He is the mascot of the Oregon Potato Growers association. I think he is supposed to be a red potato. I high-fived him as I ran by.

101_1894 The approach to the dam. It was pretty cool getting run across the dam.


Mile two was on the dam. The view from the dam was pretty cool.

101_1897 There is the bridge that we get to come back across on.


The first water station of right after the bridge on the Washington side. They had Gatorade, water and bananas.


Miles three and four was a gradual hill climb. The weather was cool (in the 50s) but not rainy.


At mile 4, there was a sign that the photographer was just up ahead. Since I didn’t want to spend $20 for a digital copy and since I had a camera with me, I snapped my own picture.

101_1902 Mile 5 was a long flat stretch along a road. The only exciting thing here was when the cattle truck drove by and it stunk (see pic).


Mile 5 1/2 was a nice down hill into Plymouth, Washington.


Mile 6 was a long flat stretch back to the bridge.


The was a water station just before the tunnel under the freeway.


In this case, you wanted to run towards the light. There was a tight left turn after the tunnel that I kind of missed as it was only marked on the ground. This took you up a path to the bridge.


The bridge had a foot path so we didn’t have to run on the road with the cars, but it was still very loud. Mile seven was on the bridge.


There is the dam that we crossed (as seen from the bridge).

101_1911 This is a few from the bridge of where we run next. After the bridge, we take a hard left turn and run back to the dam.

101_1913 This section was a nice flat section of the course. We ran back to the dam and crossed our path where we crossed the dam.


Next we ran through the port. There was a very short section of gravel here and of course I managed to get a rock in my shoe.


Almost through the port. This turned out to the be the bottom of the hill as next we had the long mile climb to the top of the hill.

101_1917This is the view as I started up the hill, looking back. Ti was a nice little park. Mile 11 denoted the top of the hill and the last climb. After this, the views got a little less desireable.

101_1918 We got to run along side the prison…


and the lumber yard. Miles 11 – 12 where flat along a road.

101_1920 The last mile was on a nice walk/bike path around a golf course.


The finish line was little subdued. In fact, had there not been runners a head of me I probably would have missed it.

101_1925 After the race, there was a potato bar. A baked potato with chili, cheese, sour cream and butter for everyone. They also had bananas, yogurt, Clif bars. I was surprised at how well the potato hit the spot after the run. An of course, they were the best potatoes on the planet (they were from my uncle so I am slightly biased.).

Now for the swag….


You got a nice t-shirt (given when you got your packet) and a metal for finishing. Note that both say 26.2 even though I only ran 13.1. That is because that is what they all said. I finished my half marathon in 2:23:13 (thanks to my Nike+ GPS for time). Overall I had a good time on race. It was a lot hillier of a course than I had done before but I still managed to run the whole way (I didn’t walk any of it).

So now for the big question, what did I learn:

  1. I am pretty good at running up hills. I kept passing people that would pass me on the down hill or flats.
  2. I really enjoy running half marathons. I am not sure I want to run a full marathon again. I find the halves more enjoyable, easier to train for, easier on my body and most courses have all the cool stuff to see on the first half of the full marathon anyway.
  3. You know how pilots  say that “What goes up must come down”? Well I think runners should say “What goes down, must come back up.”

I am glad I did this marathon but am not sure I will do it again. If you are a person that does not like running under power lines, this might not be the race for you. Otherwise, I think everyone should do this run at least once.


So my next half marathon is in two weeks and I guess it is a pretty hill course too, only you start at the lowest point. Happy running.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Running Pictures

It is always a good feeling when you run a race (5K, 10K, Half or Full marathon). Most of the big races have people that take pictures of the runners. This is cool as it is nice to have a picture of you running the race, especially if it is your first. But many times, these pictures do not come cheap. For my first marathon, they wanted $20 for a digital copy. That is per picture. What a rip off. Although it would have been nice to have a picture of me running, I didn’t think of having a friend take a picture of me as I ran by them (and none did) and I am not about to shell out $20 for one of the official ones.

Now that I have got my first marathon under my belt and a couple of halves, I started thinking that I really don’t care all that much for pictures of me running. What I really want are pictures of what I see as I run. Many of the marathons allow you to run right down streets through the scenic parts of cities or other places. For example, the Las Vegas marathon runs right down the strip. How cool a site must that be. Or the Half marathon I am doing this weekend, the Columbia River Power marathon lets you run right across a working hydro-electric dam and an interstate bridge over the Columbia river.  Compared to those views, what is a picture of me? So the question then becomes, how do I take pictures while I run?

I asked this question on Twitter and got the same response from several people: “With a camera.” Not really the information I was looking for. I thought about some type of spy camera or one built into a hat, but I don’t run with a had and most either cost too much or are just too cheep. So that leave just carrying one. However, being this is a running race, I don’t want to have to stop to get out the camera, take the picture, and then put it away. That means I have to have the camera in hand at all times and be able to operate it with one hand, without looking (or at least without taking too much focus away from my running). I do run with my iPhone (I use the Nike+ GPS to track my runs) so I would have that with me, but if you have ever used an iPhone to take a picture, you would know that it is not one-handed friendly at all.

That brought be back to my old trusty (and cheap) Kodak Easyshare C713 camera I bought at Wal-Mart. It was one of those in the plastic on the rack and not on display with the other cameras. I have taken this camera with me all over the country.


Although it looks rather warn, it still works and takes great pictures (7 megapixel). What I think will make this camera perfect for taking pictures on the run is that 1) it fits in my hand 2) has a wrist strap so I don’t drop the camera, 3) I know it well enough that I can turn it on and take a picture without looking at that camera, and 4) is has a stabilization mode. I even practiced with it running up and down the hall taking pictures.

I get to run across that Dam on Saturday and I hope to have lots of pictures to share with you all. I will also let you know how running with the camera went.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chicken Stroganoff- Men's Health style

I LOVE to cook as much as I love to eat. However, when I started on my weight loss journey, my cooking habits had to change. You tend not to lose weight when everything you make is cooked in butter, wrapped in bacon, and smothered in gray. But this does not mean that I will give up my favorite foods. After all, a guy can only stand eating salad so many times a week before the cat starts looking pretty tasty. That means finding low cal ways to make my favorites. To my rescue come Men's Health Magazine with their " A Man, A Plan, A Can" series of cook books. If you do not have these cookbooks in your kitchen, you need to get them. And it doesn't matter who you are, there is one for you. There I even on for microwave cooking (college student). The recipes are easy to make, with most measurements in units of cans. They are also in plain English (no special cooking terms). They are just the best cookbooks out there for the non chef and chef alike.

Anyway, while thumbing through one of the cookbooks, I came across this recipe for chicken stroganoff an thought I would give it a go. As always, the recipe was easy to follow. Best of all, it is also very yummy. This recipe goes into my keeper collection of recipes. Give it a try for yourself an see. Here is the recipe.

Chicken Stroganoff


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
9 oz can sour cream and onion dip
6 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/4 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup sliced onions
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

In a small bowl, mix the garlice powder, 1/2 tsp of the thyme, and 1/8 tsp of the pepper. Cut the chicken breasts in half crosswise, then coat all over with the spices. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until browned all over. Remove to a plate. Dump the onions into the pan, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or unitl soft. Dump in the dip, mushrooms, broth, Worcestershire and the remaining 1/4 tsp thyme and 1/8 tsp pepper. Return the chicken to the pan, covering with the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.

Calories: 300 Fat: 12 Carbs: 13

The great music/no music debate

As you get into running, you find out there is a debate about whether or not you should listen to music while running. There are pros for both camps. Those who are pro music (which is the majority) say that music helps pass the time and helps keep your mind off the aches and pains. This can be big when it come to "the wall." The no music camp talks of safety and social aspects of running. If you gave headphones on with music playing then you can't hear cars and other things around you. Things that can hurt you as a runner. Some marathons have banned headphones, however this is rarely enforced. The social aspect is the ability to strike up a conversation with fellow runners.

In my experience, I have found that if I keep the volume down while running, I can have the best of both worlds. I can have the music to keep my mind off the tine and aches, but I can still hear what is going on around me. Running with or without music is a matter of preference.

Lately though I have found a new subject matter to listen to while running. During long runs, music loses its ability to keep my mind occupied. What I have been trying lately are audio books. By listening to the story, I the time passes quickly and I don't focus on every little ache and pain. (I like for books.) What is your view point in the music/no music issue? What do you listen to while you run?

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 Famous Idaho Potato Marathon

After taking a year off from running (blaming my sore foot but mostly just lack of drive and motivation), I started the year 2010 off with the goal of running a full marathon in the spring. Since I know that the Famous Idaho Potato marathon was pretty flat and would make a good first marathon, I picked it. I spent the first 1/3 of the year training and managed to put in almost 400 miles in training for it (including two 20 milers). Sadly, on my last 20 milers, I managed to pull a thigh muscle so I spent the three weeks before the marathon not running much, trying to nurse it back to health. But life couldn’t stop there, my work decided to get very stressful (added with the stress of running my first marathon). By the time the Marathon started, I was not sleeping well and was worried to death that I would not be able to finish the race.
The race started at the Luck Peak Reservoir, just like last year.
This year, my wife decided to do the half marathon. I figured my time would be around 4:30 and since she was walking, we would finish about the same time.
(Wow, I take dorky pictures). There was pretty good turnout for marathon and half marathon. They start both at the same time and this is one thing I would like to see them change. The path starts off on a two lane road but quickly narrows to a bike path. It can get pretty cramped when that happens.
Photo0116 I was really nervous for the race as when we started, I forgot to say by to my wife. I started off pretty good, running my pace. At the half way point I felt great and was going strong. My leg was doing well and my feet didn’t hurt any more than expected after pounding on them for over 2 hours. My only complaint would be that the race is on the Boise Green belt. It is a public path way that they do NOT close for the race. As such, you end up not only looking out for other runners, you have to watch out for people out for a stroll, dogs, bikes, skateboard, etc. A few people even seemed rather annoyed with all these runners. The few people cheering for the marathoners were great. One family had even setup a Margareta station for runners.
For this Marathon, I was rather mixed about the whole music/no music issue. I had done some training without music and decided to try the marathon without it. I have to say the results were mixed. I learn that you can orders some cute tutus from a catalog called “Firefly” (there were three women running in tutus). There were a few other nice conversions with runner. Sadly though, I also got to (over) hear about how a new medication was causing this woman’s period to be more than normal. That was just WAY too much information. I slowed way down and let them pass me.
Once I passed the half way point, the number of people on the trail (both runners and general public) dropped dramatically. It was around mile 18 that things started to go down hill for me. First, my bowel decided that it has more business to attend to. (I thought we had taken care of all that business before the race.) Fortunately there was a port-a-potty at mile 18 so I made a pit stop. After that, the wall hit. I managed to push through ok until I stubbed my toe and pulled my thigh muscle again. Given all the stress I had been under, I just lost all drive to run at that point. I ended up doing a lot of walking after that.
After the turn-around point, I came across a couple of girls, one of which was feeling dizzy and running out of energy. She managed to get to the next water station and had a half a power bar. After that, she felt better and they took off again. Finally at mile 24, I came upon a girl who was going about my pace (run a little, walk a lot). We chatted a bit and we ended up finishing the marathon together (although she out sprinted me to the finish line.
My wife was a little worried about me as I took much longer than expect (and my time at 18 miles was on schedule). My final time was 5 hours 35 minutes and I was not the last marathoner to finish. It was not the race I wanted to run and I learned that I need to 1) learn to better manage stress and 2) work on my core more. But in the end I refused to be down about it.  I reminded of the wise words of my father who told me once when I was younger “Do you know what they call someone that graduates last in their class at medical school? Doctor!” I might not have run as fast as I wanted to but I finished and that makes me a Marathoner, a member of the 26.2 club.
(Sorry I don’t have any pics of me running the race but they wanted $20 a digital copy of each photo. What a total rip-off.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2009 Famous Idaho Potato 1/2 Marathon

After taking the winter off from running, I decided to start the summer running season off by running a 1/2 marathon in the spring. A local (Boise, ID) marathon called the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon in May. I thought this would be a good 1/2 marathon to start with. I did enough training to do a half marathon but the week before, while running, I managed to hurt my foot. I spent the next week off it trying to get it better for the run. The start and finish at 13.1 miles apart. As such, you park by the finish and they have busses that drive you to the start. They also provide a bag service that will take your back from the start and have it for you at the finish. The marathon starts at the Lucky Peak Reservoir and follows the Boise Green belt trail system.
Mike1The race is pretty much flat the whole way (actually, it follows the Boise River so it technically is down hill.
Mike3 Sadly, my foot was not doing well. I did manage to find a way to run without too much pain. It is a very pretty course and that helped keep my mind off my foot pain.
Mike5 I managed to finish the 1/2 marathon in a minute faster than my previous 1/2 marathon 6 months before. Overall this was a nice small 1/2 marathon that I would recommend for new runners.

Sadly, the foot pain kept me from running the rest of the year.

2008 City of Trees (1/2) Marathon.

My first race I ran was the City Of Trees 1/2 Marathon in 2008. If you do not know where the City of Trees is located, it is the City of Boise, Idaho. I was both excited and nervous about this run as it was my first race ever. 7 months before I was a couch potato that couldn’t run if his life depended on it. I had lost 60 pounds by then and put in the miles for training.  Of course, Murphy's Law was in full affect as I was sick the three days before the race. The day of the race was the first morning that I woke up without a sore throat. I arrived at 7:30am.
The full marathon started at 8am and the 1/2 started at 9am. I was surprised that there were not that many people doing the full marathon. I thought there would have been more. It was chilly, so I kept pretty bundled up, but as the time approached, I found myself feeling really good about the run. Since it was chilly (mid 40s), I decide to keep on my outer running jacket. 
This proved to be a mistake. I was glad I was there for the full marathon as I could not hear the announcer as I was waiting to start the half.
At least I knew what he was saying. The portable PA he was using was bad. There were a lot more people to do the 1/2 marathon than the full. I started off pretty good. I tried really had to run my pace and not get caught up in the race. There were a couple of people that started walking in the first mile. I followed my coach's plan of walking at each water station and this made a real difference (plus, you don't run 13.1 miles, you just run from water station to water station).
Basically, the race is pretty much up hill the first 1/2 and down hill the last part. Most of the climb is gradual with only a couple of steep spots. It was between miles 4 and 6 that I had a wardrobe malfunction. I went to take off that running jacket and of course, it pull off my head phones. I managed to keep running and fix them and then tie the jacket around my waist. Sadly, I have the waist of a carpenter: I have no hips. As such, the jacket soon was falling down. I went to readjust and that is when I found that the headphones were completely tangled with the jacket. I had to stop and fix the whole mess. It took a one more adjustment to figure out that it worked best if I wore it like a sash. This was the only way it would stay up.  The water stations started off being every 2 miles, but after mile 6 they switched to three miles. The being sick part didn't really hit me until after 10 miles. That is when I had to walk a bit. From there on out, I did some running and then some walking and then some running.
I still managed to finish in 2 hours and 22 minutes. My coach guess I would do it in 2 hours and 19 minutes. If I hadn't been sick the days before the race, I probably would have done it. Everyone that finished got a really nice metal. They are pretty kewl.
OK, now for the damage. Other than the normal aches and sore muscles, I got a really nice blister on my foot and major nipple chafing (I used Vaseline before the race, but that didn't even help).

Overall it was a good race and afterwards I felt like I could do anything.

First Post

Welcome to my blog. Let me introduce myself. I am a middle aged computer programmer who is trying to get healthy and feel better about myself.  I started my second life journey a few years ago when I was 330 pounds and a certified couch potato (and that is an Idaho couch potato). Since that time, I have lost 80 pounds, and run two 1/2 marathons and 1 full marathon. I also love food and love to cook. My intension is to blog about my runs, races and any great new recipes that I find. Cheers