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Marathon managed! (03 Aug 2008 at 15:56)
Oh, red laces! You did not let me down.

So, this morning I got up at 4:30, made coffee, and biked 3 miles to downtown on a funny folding bike (courtesy Jake) to run the San Francisco marathon. This was my first marathon. I've been "training" for it for about 2 months, which for me means running a hard 4 hilly miles every day, or a semi-gentle longer (10–15-ish) one on the weekend. I was also trying to watch my calorie intake, which is much harder than running every day, it turns out. Anyway training is boring and over. Let's not talk about that. I was a little worried about running in this race because I had never run that far before (the previous farthest was a very painful 22 miles with a number of pain-increasing circumstances), and I was worried that it would be really physically hard (particulary as respects "The Wall"). I was even more worried about injury, particularly to my right knee which has a chronic pain issue at distance and had been acting up this past week. (I think that I get these pains psychosomatically to some degree when I know I'm about to do something intense, like I actually think my body is inventing pain to try to discourage me from doing it because it usually goes away after I tell it Shut Up and run for a few miles.) Even though I did a half-marathon in like 1:40 or so, and I'm much better than I was then, I had my expectations set pretty low (it turns out, stupidly low) for this race: I said to myself and those who asked that I would be happy with 3h45m and disappointed if I didn't come in under 4 hours. My sights were stupidly low because I finished in 3h23m04s, which is approximately the 90–95th percentile (depending who you count)! And I definitely could have done better. Here's what happened. I was a little late to the start line because the biking was slower than I thought and the chaining of the bike was a more complex knotting and folding problem than I thought, and the lines for the porto-potties were a lot longer and slower than I thought, so I ended up starting with the 4h–4h15m wave, which is even a slower pace than I thought I wanted, and is definitely a lot slower than I now know I want. And that's fine because it's actually pretty fun and encouraging to be passing people the whole time, and you get better cheering when you do so, as long as there is enough room to be passing people safely and non-obnoxiously. And so I was carefully running a 7:55/mi pace which felt sluggish but I thought it was the right thing because I didn't want to feel shitty later when I got to the last 10 miles. Then we got to the Golden Gate Bridge. This is almost certainly the most beautiful part of the course. They blocked off two traffic lanes for us; one out and one back. But the lanes are pretty narrow and there was no out-of-band sidewalk option, so I kept getting stuck behind some people who were running side-by-side and I couldn't get around them, not even if I was signaling and dashing to the other side of the lane, because over there were some other more people bunched up. I can't even blame them because they were all moseying along at the same pace that was appropriate for the wave they started in because they are more punctual than me. But this was really fucking annoying because 7:55 felt slow already and 9:15 or whatever was really slow. So when I finally finished this bridge part, which is about mile 11, and I was not feeling basically any fatigue and I was feeling this annoyance of not having been able to go as fast as I had wanted, and finally there was room to run around people, I really opened it up and that felt great. My knee was hurting and then later my foot, but I ignored it and it eventually went away. I ran the rest of the race at what I would guess was an average pace of 7:00 or so. I could have pushed harder there, but it didn't feel sluggish at least and I was still a bit worried about body changes at mile 20ish, so I was content to continue and get a much better time than I had thought. I'm honestly a little disappointed that it wasn't harder. It didn't feel bad or hard at all until mile 22, even, and then I only had to check my watch to push a little to keep up the 7:00 pace. Only at mile 24.5 did I turn to someone else and go, "This sucks!" and at that point you can hardly complain. So I am certainly happy with my time and I'm definitely happy with being able to run continuously (ok, with one bathroom break) for that long although I feel a bit like a chump for underestimating myself. If I had just pushed a smidge harder from the beginning I could have almost certainly qualified for Boston (3h10m), which I had previously thought was like a life-long goal of mine but now I think I should just do the next time I make marathon.

Here are some things that worked out well:
  • The bike was a good way to get down there. At 5:20 there is nobody on the road. I didn't have to deal with any parking nonsense.
  • Arriving in SF yesterday with EDT jet lag made it much easier to get up at 4:30.
  • I "carbo loaded" on Friday and Saturday and this seems to have worked? On Saturday with dinner I had 3 beers of light strength. This is a personal racing trick. They contain carbs too, and make it easier to relax and get a good night's sleep, as long as you don't get dehydrated. I think I did the right thing drinking at the water stations and having power-gel at mile 18 because I didn't have any wall problems that I could detect.
  • Red Laces worked out great. Thank you blog-readers for putting me at ease about this choice. I was scared at mile 8 when the knee pain came, but it went away. I also have this chronic under-nail blister that I think is going to result in one of my toenails falling off (gross) but I don't think that is a shoe issue but a weird toe angles issue.
  • The clothes were right. This was a concern for me because San Francisco has such weirdo temperatures and micro-climates. I wore shorts, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat. In the early morning and on the bridge the long-sleeves were good. Then I ditched that layer and ran the next 8 miles with the t-shirt, then I ditched the t-shirt and ran the rest in just the shorts. I held onto the hat, because it is light and it's something to wipe up sweat with. Not carrying stuff (including clothes on your body) does make a noticeable difference. I could have ditched earlier, but I'm glad I had the long sleeves for the bridge.
  • I ran hard on the downhills. This is a good place to make up time, and it is especially fun because you get good cheers when you are conspicuously pushing hard. I think the concern is acute injury, but I have a lot of practice from Pittsburgh hills.


  • Here are some mistakes:
  • As mentioned, the worst thing was being super wrong about the pace I'd be able to keep up. Embarrassing. Even if I had known the actual time to qualify for Boston (I thought it was 3h30m) I could have pushed harder in the second half and probably gotten it, once I realized. Well, there are lots of marathons. I will try again.
  • In training, I should have started calorie restriction later, since I was at my minimum weight last weekend, not this one. And that process is not fun.
  • I wrote a crazy-long and boring blog post about it. Seriously, a lot of people have been telling me that they want to hear "all about it", etc., so I hope those people are happy, and regular readers who like to read about interesting things and projects are simply not reading this far.
  • I knew that I was planning on ditching both shirts, so I definitely should have left a backup shirt with the bike. That was dumb. It is cold when you are not running. They had these mylar blankets that they were giving out as some kind of weird robot/superhero swag, so what I did was to tie that around my naked upper body and then punch holes through it for my arms, which looked absolutely ridiculous. Biking down was a great warmup, but the bike trip back uphill in the cold and looking ridiculous after running that far actually rather sucked. It was a little disturbing how few comments/looks I got, which I guess speaks to San Francisco's level of weird-tolerance in general.


  • Finally, some observations:
  • San Francisco is famously hilly, of course (though not as hilly as Pittsburgh, in my opinion). The marathon route is amusingly flat, however. The biggest hill is the one going up to the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn't really that bad. Like when I was running in Portland, I definitely noticed the locals (at least I assume they were predominantly locals) suffering substantially on hills. I just thought this was funny in Portland, but I was disappointed with the San Franciscans, who I feel should be representin' the local terrain. The Pittsburgh marathon, which is coming back in 2009 and does not go out of its way to be flat despite the naturally hilly terrain, will be interesting for this reason. In my opinion we should actually craft the course to be maximally brutal, which, coupled with Pittsburgh's unpredictable weather and poor air quality, could help us get a reputation as one of the most abusive US marathons. Because we ought to excel along at least one dimension, right?
  • I like trains a lot.
  • It is weird and I don't understand why I saw so many people running on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the marathon. What are they doing?
  • It is weird and scary when I see someone running like this:
    Disturbingly non-ergonomic running style
    Scary not just because I don't have my regular drawing tools with me and so I have to draw this awkward animation on this crappy mac trackpad, but scary because I think if I ran 400m with this kicking the heels out to the side style—let alone 26.2 miles!—I would ruin my knees forever. I saw at least 4 women running this way. I think that they have bad friends.


  • OK: I apologize for this post. Do not unsubscribe. I promise the next will either be short, or be about an interesting project, or written in an amusing style. Right now I am too wiped out to do any of those.
    Categories:  popular  momentous  races (30 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    Things that are getting less weird over time (08 Jul 2008 at 18:01)
    Things that are getting less weird over time:
    • When the headphones are much larger than the musical device that they are connected to
    Category:  popular (21 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    Harris Grill catches fire (12 Aug 2007 at 00:49)
    Harris Grill catches fire
    1200×800 version
    I used to think that I had some kind of special connection to Harris Grill because I ordered the very last lentil burger that they ever served. I've been going there ever since moving to Shadyside six years ago (then it was originally under a different owner and I like the second incarnation better, although they should not have discontinued the lentil burger!). But now I have a new special connection: I was eating there when it burned down this evening. Cortney and I were getting dinner and beer to celebrate her returning safely from DC and me recovering the 7th Pure Heart in Super Paper Mario, and we were just finishing up our beers like so many other pleasant trips to Harris, when one of the staffers came upstairs and said, "We have to evacuate! The side of the building is on fire!" I've been in buildings before when they were "on fire" so I didn't think this was a huge deal, but on the way down the stairs I could feel the heat and see the flames through the ice brick glass window... only a few feet from us. Clearly scare quotes were not warranted. Everyone got out fine before the fire really started to get out of control and shooting flaming debris and stuff (props to the Harris Staff for a safe and efficient exit). Right under the side of the building that was on fire is the parking lot, so a bunch of people (somewhat crazily, in my opinion) were getting in their cars and getting them the hell out of there, hitting each other a little bit, as people were evacuating and other people in the various bars in that area were emerging with beer in hand to take a gander. I thought it took a long time for the fire department to arrive, especially since there's a fire station only about two blocks away. But a lot of fire trucks and fire fighters did come. We were watching the licking flames crawl up the side of the building and devour its wooden (!) fire escape, but then there was some kind of hissing sound and someone declared that it was a gas leak, which even though I did not particularly believe this tattooed nose-pierced authority, I still thought it was probably safer to not be standing merely on the other side of the street as if two empty lanes could protect us from an explosion, so we moved a bit further out until the FD got the fire under control. I grabbed my camera from my house and took the above shot of firepeople climing the fireladder. (Click for a much larger version.) You can see the damaged ice brick window I was talking about; inside that burned door where the oxygen tank guy is, is the second floor where we were seated. The Great Divide Hercules Double IPA is a good beer, by the way. I didn't get any pictures of the licking flames but if there is some site where you can search people's shitty cell phone camera pictures, just search that because there were several hundred bargoers around who couldn't stop triggering their fake shutter noises.

    Of course it's too soon to know if they'll be able to reopen the restaurant any time soon, but a 3-alarm fire is pretty serious, so Shadyside will probably have to (again) live without one of its gems for a while. Sorry to see you go, Harris!
    Categories:  popular  momentous  favorites (24 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    16 words? hah! (16 Jan 2006 at 18:35)
    Limiting oneself to 16 words? ha! Take this, William Carlos Williams; haiku is the one true minimalist poetry form factor:
    i have a wagon
    it is red and has some wheels
    in fact four of them
    Category:  popular (58 comments — almost 12 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    UPD: Escape Beta 3 (12 Oct 2005 at 19:33)
    By popular request, I have added bombs to Escape. These are pretty cool, but you might as well play the tutorial in order to see how they work. Since I also added a bunch of new features (like bookmarks) and did some graphical cleanup, I'm calling this a "beta 3". There's been a recent slowdown in Escape activity since everyone is going back to school (etc.), so I'm hoping that this will help pick things up.

    Also, since the old feedback thread has gotten way too long, I've started this post as the new one.

    Enjoy!
    Categories:  popular  video games  escape (497 comments — almost 5 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    Space Names! (14 Nov 2003 at 15:56)
    I made this "space name" generator to name space characters in my book.

    What's your space name?

    Word count: 22796
    Categories:  nanowrimo  popular (61 comments — almost 5 years ago)   [ comment ]
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    Bathroom? Mushroom! (04 Sep 2003 at 10:38)
    Bathroom? Mushroom!
    800×533 version
    Here's a weird thing. My bathroom is not really a paragon of lickable-cleanliness (whose is?) but it's no Grand Central Station, either. Nonetheless, sometimes a mushroom grows in one specific spot in the grout by the bathtub. It pops up quick, like two days!

    I guess I'm the kind of guy who thinks that's pretty cool, even though I pull it out and then pour bleach all over the spot. Here's a nice image of it.
    Category:  popular (402 comments — almost 2 months ago)   [ comment ]
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    BAD SAT SCORES (10 May 2003 at 11:53)
    Some of you might remember that during college I talked a lot about going back and taking the SAT to try to get a perfect "0" score on it. (Since you lose points for wrong answers, this would mean getting every question on the test wrong, not just leaving it blank.)

    Well, now some guy has already tried. It turns out that your lowest possible score is still a 400 -- slightly lower than the 470 or so that you'd get if you left the whole thing blank. Anyway, he ended up getting two questions right, and so he didn't get the worst possible raw score, but it is still a funny page to read.


    Category:  popular (327 comments — 4 months ago)   [ comment ]
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    UPD: Embed / DMCA threats (23 Apr 2002 at 00:57)
    My new foes Agfa Monotype and International Typeface Corporation are at it again. They've sent me several letters of varying vagueness and causticity about my program called embed, which lets font developers change fonts to make them embeddable in (for example) MS Word documents. Their argument, which they finally have spelled out in today's letter, is that my program is a circumvention device under that sleazy law we've all grown to hate, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    You can read our discourse at the new page I set up. The best quote (gotta love those scare quotes) is:

    An embedding bit is a "technological measure" that "effectively controls access" to their copyrighted works under the DMCA.


    Uber-Troublemaker Dave Touretzky has been a great help so far. Thanks Dave!
    Categories:  fonts  popular (113 comments — almost 9 months ago)   [ comment ]
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    Quake 3 Done! (01 Dec 2001 at 12:25)
    Quake 3 Done!
    400×300 version
    Due to some combination of me fixing my mouse and my pent up frustration this weekend, I managed to beat all of the levels that I had never been able to beat before in Quake 3 Arena. (on Nightmare skill!) Actually, I had always thought that the last level was just impossible (this dude Xaero just basically kills you if there is ever line-of-sight between you and him), but it turned out to be "Q3DM18" that was the hardest for me to beat. Anyway... it took me only 3 years; I'm ready for Doom III!
    Category:  popular (246 comments — almost 4 months ago)   [ comment ]
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