October 2008 - Posts

Victoria... nice marathon but what to blog?

I know you all expect tantalizing images of lycra clad bottoms, 'jet powered' runners and other humorous stories but either I was not paying attention in Victoria this weekend or nothing much happened because there was precious little in the way of entertaining blog fodder.

But back to the beginning for those who wish to read more in the epistles of ZMan the runner..... J had scored a great hotel by booking 8 months ago however we did not realise that the marathon was over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday which meant that the obligatory ferry crossing was going to be very crowded. So over 2 hours was spent sitting in the ferry terminal before we could even get there and crash on Friday night.

Saturday was spent relaxing and visiting the marathon Expo (not a good one 3/10 on the Zman expo rating which is largely measured by free samples! - some great free beer glasses from Irish Times and Bard and Banker pubs) and then off for a nice dinner. Well we tried... we like to head off to The Olde Spaghetti Factory before a race - nice carbs, good for the vegetarians and can handle a 10+ size group. Well the one in Victoria obviously prefers to get bad reviews. Firstly they won't take reservations "because we can't promise a time when its busy" - how odd, every other restaurant in the world can handle it - and secondly they make stuff up on the phone "I've worked marathon weekend for the last 2 years and I can promise you that it won't be more than a 20 minute wait" - when we got there it was 2 hours. Thankfully we found somewhere else so we didn't starve.

And then the 'trouble' started.... we got back to the hotel to find they had some sort of 'alarm' (we never found out what but heard rumours of sprinklers). No evacuation but you couldn't get up to your room so we had to sit around which wasn't great for me because I was about to make one of several urgent dashes to the bathroom that evening. Yes ZMan's normally cast iron stomach wasn't too happy about something. Thankfully once I had dealt with things (a few times) I wasn't actually feeling sick or ill and we tried to get an early night. Alas it was not meant to be - around 10ish the alarm repeated and we were treated to warnings to stay where we were every 10 minutes for an hour, and every fire engine in Victoria seemed to come for a visit. Apparently I managed to drop off before the warnings ended so I got some decent sleep.

At 8:30am Victoria is a late starting marathon and our hotel was right at the start line so if it wasn't for J and the others running the half which started at 7:30am I could have stayed in bed. But I've been supported well over the years so its time for payback and I got up with everyone else to see them off at the start.... and THEN I went back for a quick lie down. 45 minutes later back down to the finish to see the 8k runners come in and then walk around the corner to head off on the 26.2.

Temperature is perfect for me. Race plan is to aim for 2:05-2:10 for the 1st half and then see how I feel. I should be able to PR from that start if I'm feeling good but the rule for this one is no heroics because I'm running Seattle marathon in 7 weeks. We stand pretty close to the back of the pack. The over 5 hour runners are already on the course - they set off at 6:30am so most of this pack is way faster than me. Of course they go out like a bat out of hell and I'm well under 10minutes for the 1st mile. So I slow down and let people go past me. Going through the park I pass a girl who is either i) singing very badly with her ipod ii) doing some Buddhist type chant or iii) having an orgasm - some very odd noises and she still has more than 20 miles to go. My calf muscle doesn't warm up as quickly as usual so I'm a little concerned about that and though I'm not feeling sick or anything I can tell my stomach and intestines are not quite right. Of course you can never remember how you felt at the previous race so maybe this is all normal.

By mile 5 I'm settled in nicely at 9:45 average and feeling very comfortable. The course is mostly residential and occasionally picturesque as we hit the coast. We see the half marathon people coming back toward the end of their race. M&M seem to be taking it easy and chatting! J totally doesn't see me even though I'm waving madly and I have to cross into the oncoming 'traffic' to get her attention. I also see the Joggler and the guy running his 300th marathon (I cheered him and he seemed surprised - I guess few folk knew who he was but I had read that he would be wearing #300). Its not as flat as I was expecting so there is some fluctuation in my miles but in general I'm running around 9:30pace plus water stops and I get to the half way feeling great at 2:08 (spot on the goal) with a 9:40ish (its obvious my GPS watch is off track here as I get to 13.1 about 400m before the actual measure). The turn around point is actually a couple of miles further out because the 'out' route winds around the city and some parks at the start and the 'back' route is direct. At the turn around point I treat myself to my special race food - specially imported Kendall Mint Cake - well I would if I could get the damn thing open. I think I wasted a couple of minutes on that but MMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm. It has the added bonus that I feel like I just brushed my teeth too.

The turn around point is a mere 10 miles to go so I'm starting to feel a little fatigued. In fact a little more than I remember from previous races. I see C going the other way looking good (though stomach problems are going to hit him later too) and also one of the local maniacs Bob Dolphin who has run around 440 marathons and is 79 years old - most of us hope to be walking straight at that age! Sure enough my pace starts to slow and there's a couple of hills to go up that I *really* don't remember running down. All the sugary goodness that I normally love is doing a number on my guts too. Thankfully nothing major enough to need to stop or visit porta potties but I feel a little bloated so its adding to the normal end of race discomfort and I'm getting a bit sick of burping up Gatorade. Slowly but surely my watch which has been sitting at 9:39 average pace for the last 15 miles begins to turn the other way. Each mile loses a few seconds and by mile 20 its pretty obvious that a PR is going to take some heroics. But since this is race #1 of 3 that's not part of the plan and I'm VERY grateful because my legs are starting to hurt. I see N&J with 5k left to go and take a much needed extended walk break to catch up on how the rest of the team did. Lots of PRs and fast times in the half. N thinks its funny that Mr Ironguts can't face any more Gatorade or Chocolate Gu ;-) I'm not sure that laughing at me at mile 23 would be seen as encouraging coach behaviour but of course I wouldn't be at mile 23 if it wasn't for her and I would of course have done exactly the same if the roles were reversed.

The last 5k seems to take a long time and its another winding part of the course so even though I can see my hotel through the buildings I seem to be getting no closer. Eventually I turn the last corner and the cowbells are already ringing even though I cannot see where they are. I'm so far off the PR that there's no point in sprinting and possibly hurting something so I spy the team and run over for the long set of high fives before cruising across the finish line for a 4:27:40 which turns out to be my slowest marathon by 20 seconds. My gut is still a little grumpy and my legs are more tired than I remember.. (I wonder if my legs are more tired or I just don't remember well!).

Great after race food - Jam/jelly donuts, cookies Mmmmmm I think this is the 2nd best race food after Portland. Chocolate Milk - Yeeeeeeeaaaaahhh.

Just as I am walking back I hear them announce that BJ McHugh has just broken the womens 80+ marathon world record 4:36 - yes you read that right she was less than 10 minutes behind me. Amazing.

Back to the hotel for the obligatory cold bath and then off to lunch. Since they gave us such nice freebies we went to the Bard and Banker - food was excellent but the waitress messed up part of the order and wouldn't fix the bill at the end. We total up that the 6 people at the table have raced 96.7 miles today between us. Back to the hotel where the power was out... when it came back on we went out for ice cream but due to the power failure all the ice cream shops were closed. We eventually found a place with some ice cream bars and then back to the hotel and crashed big time.

7 weeks till my next marathon. Expect a much slower time for that one as I will be taking it slow on purpose ready for another marathon 4 weeks later. Then I can have my own page on marathon maniacs. I doubt I will ever get to 300 or 400 like some of those guys but since I already have #9 planned I'm trying to think up what would be a good #10 celebration next summer.

Making money The ZMan way...

I've been called a skinflint and a tightwad many times in my life and while there are a few times I've over done it, in general I'm proud of my thrifty lifestyle - its enabled me to buy a house, quit my job and fly on zero-g planes without worrying too much about my day to day finances.

But I understand that not everyone has had good jobs or a mostly free education so I love to offer my friends and family my money saving tips even if they don't want to hear them.

Last month I came upon an awesome deal:

  1. Get yourself a cash back credit card and make sure you pay it off every month - especially ones where you get extra for gas, supermarket and, most importantly, drugstores.
  2. Head off to Walgreens at the start of every month and grab the coupon catalog.
  3. Note the FREE after rebate stuff.
  4. Buy the FREE after rebate stuff - special bonus if there is stuff your girlfriend would like such as nail polish.
  5. Fill in the rebate online.... yes no paper or stupid rules just type in the numbers from the receipt.
  6. Choose to get your rebate on a gift card and get 10% extra.

So lets say I buy $30 worth of free stuff. My credit card gives me 2% back and Walgreens gives me 10%. So not only do I get my $30 refunded I also made 12% pure profit. All the stuff I got for free is usable so this is $33.60 of free money. This isn't much if you have to go out of your way but I'm usually in a Walgreens once a month anyway so its really no extra effort. The only downside is that everyone else is onto this deal so they are often out of stock. Oh and this month there is bugger all of any use on the free list.... damnit.

Tidy Office

I'm not the most tidy person in the world and I am king of the procrastinators so its no surprise that working at home means my office is often a mess. Well recently I had to find more room on my desk so I finally caved and purchased a fancy double monitor stand from Ergotron as recommended by Mr Jeff Attwood. Now Jeff got his stands for free so as he says we have the right to be skeptical. Well I paid $200 for mine and they are worth every penny.

These things are seriously built very well - they have to be to hold a 21" LCD on the end of an arm. I assembled everything in under half an hour and I screwed mine through a hole drilled in the desk and now it looks like my 2 monitor setup is just floating there. The spring loaded arms are easy to adjust and much easier for me to move things around when i need to get behind. Plus they rotate easily so its very easy to play Ikaruga in portrait mode as God (choose a Deity that makes you happy) intended. The extra space underneath is going to be very useful for things I can not speak of!!!!

Oh and if the Ergotron guy who hands out free stuff wants to send me a 3rd one that will be very useful when I get myself a 3rd monitor..... you know who to email. (oh and if people want to send me that 3rd monitor and 2nd graphic card for free too that would really help out). The rest of you can buy one at Amazon and send me some referrer dollars.

New Monitor stand

While I am showing pictures of things I finally hung my XNA posters, my MVP certificates (with space for next year!) and my Procrastination poster:

Pictures

 

Comcast - maybe not as bad as I implied

Never let it be said that I'm not capable of admitting when I am wrong.

After my last blog post where I wasted several hours on fixing up email when Comcast pulled the plug on port 25 I got a blog comment directly from Comcast. Initially I was very impressed when companies seek out problems and try to react proactively. The same thing happened when I bitched about network solutions but when I replied to them they completely ignored me.

So Comcast - lets see what you have got:

  1. They searched out my complaint and offered to help   +1 
  2. They replied to my email - in under 2 hours.... very well done  +1
  3. They said they did try to notify me:

    We normally send an email to the primary Comcast.net email address (if you do not use your Comcast.net email address, I do recommend forwarding it to an email that you do use). 
    Well yes apparently I do have a comcast.net email address - which I never use of course. Sane people stopped using email addresses that change with your ISP many years ago and they have no way to give them an alternate.
    So I checked the account and sure enough there it was. Score one more for comcast and I take back my comment about not being told.  +5

  4. But wait a minute lets just read the email.....

    ACTION REQUIRED: Comcast has determined that your computer(s) have been used to send unsolicited email ("spam"), which is generally an indicator of a virus. For your own protection and that of other Comcast customers, we have taken steps to prevent further transmission of spam from your computer(s).
    I find this VERY unlikely - I run plenty of security scans, I am behind hardware firewalls, I rebuild my machine regularly and I've very paranoid about running software.
    Note also that nowhere in the email does it tell me WHAT they have done? There is no mention of port 25 anywhere.

    If you use Outlook Express, the steps we have taken to protect the Comcast network will not allow you to send email until you apply a simple one click fix available at http://www.comcastsupport.com/alternateport.
    Well I don't but even if I did are they seriously suggesting I follow a link and DOWNLOAD AN ACTIVEX control... heck this is how most of their customers probably got infected anyway. Of course this update can only possibly fix things if you are using the comcast mail servers because every mail provider seems to use a different alternate port.

    If you are using a third-party client other than Outlook Express (Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc.), please click here for instructions.
    Note that the link initially takes you to a page all about Outlook Express and finally we see our first mention of port 25. But it tells you to change it to port 587. This port doesn't work for any of my mail providers.
    The email never mentions what to do for 3rd party mail providers - so while the email would have speeded things up for me it wouldn't help anyone who just follows the instructions on GoDaddy or whatever

    Overall  -10 on the email guys.

  5. My response to them explained how useless the email is to many customers and then they went quiet. I guess there is no canned reply for someone with good suggestions... more minus points. I also asked for proof I am sending Spam - I would like to try to tidy that up if its true... no surprise they sent nothing. You would think if they wanted to help they would be able to do something there. And Yes I've scanned with all known tools..

So I apologize for saying Comcast doesn't tell you - because they do. However I still maintain that they need to be able to have technical conversations with their customers instead of relying on canned responses.

 

I predict an identical comment being attached to this blog by the comcast RSS feed bot ;-)

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