Why won't my google account sync on windows phone 8.1? Try enabling the calendar.

Boy 2012 since I last posted... I better do something about that. Lots of exciting things to report.

Anyway I spent today at home with a poorly tummy so I decided to update my Windows phone to version 8.1 using the developer preview. . The first thing to note is that when you download the preview app it really is an app - it doesn't kick off the update by itself you have to go run the app and then tell your phone to look for updates. Once I realised that it was smooth sailing.

Once I was updated I noticed that all of my google email accounts required me to login again to grant permissions - this worked great for 3 out of the 4 accounts but the 4th just get saying that it 'required attention'. Very strange - I checked the password multiple times. I cut and pasted from last pass. I type it in - yes all 16 characters of random gibberish. I tested in on the browser and my other machine. I even changed the password to make sure things were correct. But that one account would not sync. All of my accounts run on google apps - so I started looking at the settings to see what the differences were. The only obvious thing about the failing account was that I had calendars disabled. Once I turned that on then windows phone happily sync'd everything.

The annoying thing is that you can't disable calendar syncing until after the account is setup for the first time. So its going to keep failing and asking for your credentials and then failing again. If you are not the admin of your google apps then you are going to have a problem getting your email and contacts!

30+ years in the making - The ZMan (in association with Exato Games) presents GunCraft

Almost 7 years ago I quit Microsoft mid career to go out on my own with the hope of writing games. Its been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid but once of those things that I never really got round to doing.

Since 2005 I've had many different projects - Microsoft timed the XNA release to coincide with my leaving which gave me several opportunities to work for them doing XNA Demos over the years. I've been awarded the MVP award for XNA for 7 years now and through that and the XNA forums I've just about managed to keep myself employed. There's been good years and there's been 'ok' years - I've probably averaged less $$ than I would have at Microsoft but most of my projects have been more satisfying than being a manager, writing reviews and going to meetings which is where my career was heading. I've paid my bills, I've been on vacations and life is good. But none of those projects were shipped games... and working between jobs hasn't lead to any games of my own (though many started!)... so one of my goals was still missing....

Then 18 months ago I spotted an XNA job in Seattle - XNA jobs are few and far between let alone local ones. Turns out it was a small local startup called Exato Games - who had been working for a while on a game they called Progenitor... by the time I joined them the game was about to undergo a major design change and they had decided to hire a full time experienced XNA guy to upgrade it to XNA 4, Sunburn 2 and hopefully finish it. After working on it for a solid year we have a very playable nice looking demo. Sadly the judges in several competitions and other publishers didn't seem to agree with us! We had a choice of ploughing on without additional funding and a small team or changing direction.

During a lunch time conversation last year we noted how well minecraft clones were doing and we joked about doing our own but realized that being 6 months late wouldn't add anything so we decided that clearly the game was missing one important thing - GUNS! You know how these conversations go and before long we had 100 great (ok not all great) ideas and a name - GunCraft. Then we promptly forgot about it and carried on with Progenitor

But the idea was mulling around in John's head and he decided to put Progenitor on hold and go for a much shorter project that we could do with a very small team.... I seriously went on vacation and when I came back the whole team had changed direction!

Today we have a very playable alpha that we've had a couple of 15 player games - though its still rough in places all of the basics are in place and the game crashes less than most AAA titles at release. A final release is in sight and at that point I can probably officially check off all the goals from 7 years ago - in fact it will be around 7 years since I handed in my notice and around 30 years since I told my parents I could write a video game if they bought me a computer

So today I present 2 things to you:

ONE - please visit our kick starter - the funding will help the final release process, get you some great swag and allow you to preorder the game.

TWO - check out our parody trailer - the MW3 fans will recognise it right away I am sure! A great job by our artist Stephen Scott

Running with The ZMan 2011 edition

Its been a while since I updated you about my running shenanigans (and for the record only Mr Clingerman actual ran the 5k with me and finished - though he did look a little green at the end).

After my double marathon at the end of 2010 (hmmmmm I never did post a race report) I decided to back off the distances a little and just run half marathons this year. But just a couple wouldn't be enough. So I decided to run one a month. 12 seemed like a nice round number.

But then one month I had a chance to run 2 becuase one was free and 13 didn't seem much like a good number so I found a couple of extra to run and finished the year with 15. When I look back at my running history I discovered that up until 2011 I had run a total of 14 half marathons. So in 2011 I ran more half marathons than I had run in total in the previous 6 years.

I was hoping that I would get faster as the year went on but it turns out that as my legs tired I became prone to some annoying minor injuries that forced me to take things easy in the latter half of 2011. There was one race I probably shouldn't have run but it was crucial to my 15 total so I sucked it up and them limped for 4 days. There was another race that was so hot I walked the final 4 mile lap and fell twice.

So whats the plan for 2012? Well I'm back to running marathons - well I have one planned for sure in May. Otherwise I don't have any goals for the year firmed up yet. You'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Count Date Race Time Comments
1 1/16/11 Arizona RnR 2:11:28
22/21/11 First Call Presidents 2:07:49
33/26/11 Lake Sammamish 2:00:51 Fastest run of the year... Soooooo close to breaking 2:00
44/17/11 Bainbridge Island 2:16:06 Hilliest run ever - legs very sore after this one
55/21/11 First Call Spring 2:08:29
66/5/11 Mud and Chocolate 2:32:54 Trail run
76/12/11 Beach to Chowder, Long Beach 3:16:11

Walked with J who had a bad back and should have done the 5k. Rained the whole way.

87/16/11 Windhorse, Bellingham 2:29:05 Smal but fun race. I believe I was actually the last runner in from my starting group.
98/21/11 Mud and Chocolate 2:59:23 Trail run. TOO HOT! Fell down twice
10 9/5/11 Labor Day Half, Woodinville 2:26:56
119/25/11 Black Diamond 2:15:14
1210/16/11 Race For a Soldier, Gig Harbor 2:15:22 Lots of great supporters out on this one
1311/6/11 Mud and Chocolate 2:52:13 Ran with bad ankle - bad idea. Walked last lap and limped for a week
1411/27/11 Seattle 2:31:00 Would have been sub 2:25 if women could pee in less than 4 minutes each...
1512/31/11 Yukon Do It, Port Orchard 2:23:00 Leg still stiff for 1st half but turned out to be a decent race in the end
How to use an Xbox Live Gold code if you have a family account

Since I occasionally need to test XNA networking with more than 1 gold account I upgraded to a family plan last year. Worked out great! J can have her own gold account and I can have 4 'testers' if I need. All for the cost of just 2 accounts.

A couple of days ago Amazon had a great deal on 12 month gold cards. So I got one. When I converted to family you get your gold months converted 2:1 - seems fair since a family plan costs twice a single gold account. I mistakenly assumed that a 12 month code would add 6 months to my family plan.

On Xbox.com you get the error "An error has occurred during the transaction. Please try again later". A totally useless error because no matter when or how you try it always says the same thing.

On the xbox itself it says "You cannot buy this membership while your current Xbox live membership remains active"

However I found a sneaky way around this that might help if you have less than the current maximum 4 gold accounts

  1. Make a brand new live and xbox live account using hotmail or some throwaway address
  2. Use the code to make the new account Gold
  3. Make sure the profile is on the same Xbox as your family plan
  4. Add the new account to your family plan

It will tell you that you get 6 months added to the family plan!!!

I've not tried yet but I believe I can remove that person at any time... there's limits on how many you can add or remove each year and how many months the account can transfer in but it just saved me $40 so I figured I should share the tip.

Oh and happy 2012

Wednesdays in the pub with Steve

Its Wednesday night - I should be in the pub happy with a couple of pints and laughing at how badly we've done at pub quiz. But Wednesday nights are not going to be the same any more. Instead I'm sitting and home looking at pictures of a good friend who I will never see again. So I decided it was a good time to write down some memories.

I met Steve Lacey in 1998ish - his girlfriend (now wife) had moved to the USA with the same company that imported me and I had been chatting to her in email about the move, houses and lots of other things. When we finally meet at a party - she brings along this dude with a pony tail. Before I can dismiss him as some sort of hippy I find out that he was a) a nice guy b) a smart guy and (most importantly) c) a GAME PROGRAMMER. As a lowly IT guy with 20 year dreams of making games this was wonderful. I probably bent his ear off that night - you know like when you meet a doctor at a party and everyone wants to show him the boil on their butt!

As the years ticked by we bumped into each other at events until Nabila and he bought their house and it was in the same town as me - walking distance (for Brits) even - and we hung out a little more. I found out he played guitar in a band - seriously how cool is this guy! - and went to some gigs, we watched England get kicked out of the world cup at Smokey Joe's at 2 in the morning, many good times. Soon enough he got married and started making babies but we all still managed to get together occasionally. He dog sat my dogs several times - including carrying one of them up and down a flight of stairs 3 times a day because she had surgery - I (thankfully) only had to dog sit his crazy but lovable dog once!

Around 2005 in the middle of a breakup I started going to the pub quiz with a group of my running friends. It was a new pub in town and apparently we started going on the 2nd time they had pub quiz. We became regulars - eventually getting our own booth, waitresses that knew our names and drinks and a good time was had by all. And at some point Steve was there. I know he wasn't there at the beginning and I don't remember how it happened but Steve liked pubs - he probably just smelled the beer, heard my voice and sat himself down. From that point on he's been a regular too. The runners all stopped coming apart from the one who decided to move in with me rather than drive to pub quiz each week. Steve started bringing along folks from his neighborhood, from Google, from his murky past at Smokey Joe's... We've been doing the same thing on Wednesdays for 6 years now and Steve's been there for over 5 of them.

All the other blog posts you will read about Steve are going to tell you quite correctly how brilliant he was. But let me tell you this - when it comes to topics such as cross stitching techniques of the native Hungarians, one legged golfers and US presidents with beards he was as dumb as the rest of us :-)

After many changes in team name we settled on "striving for mediocrity" because that’s where we placed every week. When you tell people that you do a pub quiz they always ask if you win. We place in the money (top 5-6 spots) 2-3 times a year. I don't remember the last time we won. I can tell you the last time Steve won - he deserted us for a table of ex Flight Sim people who clearly cheated! But he always came back to the fun table - it’s never been about the winning. We talked about families, what we've been up to - you know the sort of things friends do when they hang out. Steve always bought his new gadgets to show us - you didn't need to read reviews when Steve is around he was the proverbial early adopter.

Our team has, for the majority of the time been very unbalanced - mostly male computer programmers and often Brit heavy - so sports, literature and topics that we rely on our computers for are pretty weak. We got video games once in 6 years and still only managed 9 out of 10 (which pacman ghost is replaced in Ms Pacman?).

Which brings me to my first Steve story: The round was spelling - the word was truncheon and Steve disagreed with everyone. But he played his joker card with the irrefutable point that his grandfather was a policeman so we used his spelling. It was wrong and we never let him forget it!

One of the other funny moments I will always remember involved the previously mentioned pony tail. Steve often told us that having a pony tail is drug addict code for dealer. We didn't believe him until one day a very drunk guy seemed to accidentally sit at our table after the quiz was over. We tried to make small talk but it was clear that he didn't know any of us nor did he really want to talk. So we started to ignore him and then as quickly as he had arrived he was gone. When we asked Steve if he knew him he smiled and told us that as soon as we looked away he had asked for 'the stuff' and left when he didn't get any. The only drug on the table was Steve's Stella and he wasn't sharing that with anyone.

Steve - in a few weeks we'll be back at the pub. We'll miss you and your cheery 'hellooooooo' when you arrive and we'll even miss your bad spelling. We'll likely drink a Stella or 2 in your honour. We'll strive to be more than mediocre but we'll remember that pub quiz isn't about the pub or the quiz at all - it’s about good friendship, good times and good memories. Thanks for those things.

Interesting Microsoft DOES host domains on live.com

As I investigated the various cloud service offerings from Google and Microsoft I discovered that I was wrong. Microsoft will let you host your domain stuff on live.com - see https://domains.live.com/default.aspx

Just like google you can also link subdomains and have http://mail.example.com http://calendar.example.com etc.

Google still seems to have the upper hand though with blogger and picasa which appear to be superior to Windows live spaces and Photos. Though otherwise the services seem to offer much the same. See Windows Live Services vs Google Apps

There was even something about cobranding your site login by providing branding and you can have an open site where you don't have to create accounts. I don't know if that means you can create a live enabled website trivially but it seems quite interesting.

But Microsoft - I'm still pissed at you for leaving me stuck with all my contacts in outlook so don't think this means you are winning any business without a fight. I'm moving a couple of unused domains one to google and one to live so I can compare and contrast and test with the new phone.

So Microsoft - you want me to use gmail now?

So I got my windows phone. I had access to some early units and read a lot so I knew I was going to be pretty happy... and I am.

I really like the people hub - with a few clicks it bought in my facebook people and my live messenger people. Where people are in more than one place you can link them and it magically keeps everything in sync. Very cool. Once I visit the phone store to get my contacts transferred I will have almost everyone in there.... ALMOST...

The bulk of my contacts are in Outlook. Sure some are duplicated on the old phone, facebook and messenger but the ones I can edit and keep up to date are in outlook. Surely Microsoft has a way to sync those... OMG NO THEY DON'T

Hey windows phone has a calendar - that would be cool to have in my pocket - how do I sync that from outlook? OMG YOU DON'T

Lets see what google says about this - it knows everything right: Survey says.....

Wow lots of choices there - and not one of them allows you to keep your master contact list or calendar in outlook. There's nothing that automtically syncs outlook to any of the 'cloud' services. I can import them but its a one shot deal. Maybe that would be OK as the primary store if outlook would then use that as its calendar/contacts list - but no thats an import the other way. Also I have my own domain for email so I really dont want to use hotmail or gmail.

Essentially the message from Microsoft here appears to be "we don't care much about the 10+ years of people and events you have in outlook if you buy a windows phone". Unless you want to pay for hosted exchange of course.

So now I begin the search for my 'cloud based' life... since google is the only one that will allow me to continue to use my domain with google apps I'm not really seeing much choice here. Hopefully some of you out there who enjoy the Microsoft lifestyle have a reasonable solution.

Catching up, Kmart still sucks and Coleman is AWESOME

I know, I know I've been all quiet of late. The news from the ZMan is that I started a new job at the end of last year that involves me going out of the house and working in an office during the daytime. Its messed with our schedules a lot and only now do I feel like I'm on top of some things. I can't say much more other than its an XNA game, it uses the Sunburn Engine and its going quite well. We have an early build due next Friday so I'm working lots of hours.

So while I take a little beer break from my coding I thought I would catch you up on some things:

  • The double marathon was completed 5:06 and 5:24 - my 2 slowest marathons 24 hours apart. So a grand total of 10:30 for 52 miles which implies correctly that it was easier to do than 50 miles in one go which took me 11:13
  • The weight loss did well and then Thanksgiving and Christmas happened and I put it all back on. We're planning a tropical trip later inthe year and clearly I need to fit into my speedos so its time to buckle down. J's on a no/low carb thing for a while so I joined in... boy its hard and we've had some interesting recipies with coconut and soy flour but I'm down to 228 so its working. A few more weeks and then we slowly increase the carbs back. Yes folks other than a few squares of dark I am chocolate free for 3 weeks now! (Thankfully not bacon free). I have however used up a few carb credits on beer
  • My Kmart return finally got a refund 9 weeks after the order was started. I had about 10 more stupid emails like the ones in that blog before 5 in one day finally meant they escalated to someone with authority. Its the worst customer support I have ever had. One day I will post the whole thread for you to laugh at. They did send me a $35 amex gift card which I will NOT be spending at Kmart. I doubt I will ever shop there again and I'm in half a mind never to use sears online as they are all part of the same company

Just to prove good customer service exists I would like to highlight Coleman - they make camping gear - we got some camping plates etc for Christmas this year. I opened the box at the time and all looked good. A week or so ago I decided to move the stuff in with the camping supplies and dicovered that one of the plates and one of the cups was damaged. Enamel everywhere. I enquired with Amazon (where they were purchased from) and they told me it was too late to return them. So I emailed Coleman to see if there was some way to get one plate and one cup. To my amazement they replied in under 12 hours, the email was clearly written by a human and didn't come from some database of customer support sentences and to finally blow my mind they offered to ship out an entire new set. No cost, no obligation to even return the previous one. All I had to do was send them some photos of the damage.

So ZMan says - screw KMart - buy Coleman!

...and have a nice day everyone. Its raining heavily here in WA!



Come to the MVP Summit and run a 5k - yes YOU!

Back in the days when I worried about the lack of documentation in Managed DirectX I met a guy called Jason Olson who worked at Microsoft and was also interested in Managed DirectX and blogged about it at 'Managed World' - some of you old timers may remember it - heck he even has a link from that good old ZBuffer site ;-)

Several of us that know Jason have often given him a lot of grief because he struggles to actually finish a game. Over design is a problem that many of us suffer from but Jason is, I'm afraid, a terminal case. I think he's still working on the API architecture and the coding standards for the first Xna3way ;-)

While those of us who call him a friend have given up on him changing and think he'll still be writing Tic-Tac-Toe in the old folks home we are all rather more impressed with his recent fitness and diet changes. Jason's a big guy - has been since the day I first met him - and this year he's done a solid job changing that. I think he's down 50lbs+ and working out more than I do - he even sounds convinced about eating healthy which is something I've never managed to do ;-)

A couple of weeks ago he dropped me a note asking about running a 5k and what I thought he should do to get there. I told him what I tell everyone - as long as you have a proper pair of shoes and you train for it then anyone can run a 5k (or 10k, half marathon or whatever you want!). I told him I'd happily run with him if he wanted company too.

Then Chris Williams (another 1/3 of the XNA 3 way) chimed in - he ran a 5k earlier in the year and was thinking about another. He'll be in Seattle at the end of February for the MVP Summit and a plan was hatched....

There's only one 5k the Sunday before the summit and its at Seward Park  - http://www.fitnessforvitality.com/5k10k.html - Chris, Jason and I will be there and we'd be happy for any of you to come along too. Its the one on the 27th February - entry here.

Pretty much anyone without health or injury problems should be able to get to a 5k in 8 weeks - here's a very well known plan Couch to 5k that will get you there. There's plenty of others. All you need is a decent pair of shoes (those tennis shoes you've had for 5 years don't count - get yourself to a running store let them help you out).

If you are worried about being slow then don't worry - most 5ks have entrants from those who run the whole thing in 16 minutes to those who take over an hour to walk it with their kids or grandparents. Nobody will notice or care if you alternate running and walking if that's what it takes to finish. Save enough energy to run the last 100 yards because that's where your cheering friends and family will be with cameras and hopefully cowbells and honestly its amazing how you find extra leg energy when you can see the finish line.

So if you are coming to the MVP Summit, you live in Seattle, you know me, Jason or Chris, you've always wanted to run a 5k or you are an experienced runner who was looking for something to do that weekend then sign up and drop me a line. No obligation to run with anyone - go at your own pace and then cheer in those behind you. I'd recommend you sign up ASAP - I find $30 and a 2 month commitment to be a great motivator!

Posted 26 December 2010 08:47 PM by zman
Filed under: ,
Dear KMart, you suck. Love The ZMan. xxx

Christmas eve, J is busy making me a birthday cake and I finally have time to blog about my double marathon. But before Christmas starts and I have to be nice to everyone I need to rant about KMart and their terrible online service.

At J's office they have a 'giving tree' type of thing. You know how it works - folk who are down on their luck can put gift requests on the tree so that they have a reasonable Christmas. At J's work they support a woman's shelter.

I always like to find something for the kids - they rarely ask for anything crazy and its usually easy to find a simple request like 'a lego car' and blow them away by getting them a metric ton of legos.

This year we had a request for a pink dump truck so ordered this on the 1st of December.

Pretty cool for a little kid I expect. We also ordered this

because - who doesn't need more lego bricks?

KMart had a good price and both in stock so we ordered from there and they shipped on the 2nd and arrived on the 7th - plenty of time for the 13th which was the delivery deadline.

Except they shipped the wrong colors for the extra blocks and that is where everything went bad.

I sent a message through their website. No confirmation of getting it - nothing for 24 hours. So I found an email address and tried that - nothing for 48 hours. I sent a 3rd message which was a little more 'to the point' and pinged their twitter account and this time got a reply about 18 hours after the email (on the 11th December). I know its Christmas and everyone is busy but 4.5 days to reply is terrible. But maybe they understood the urgency and were sending out a replacement.

NOPE. I got the usual form letter built up of small cut and paste phrases that some idiot manager thinks sounds professional but really sound patronizing. Let me share some samples with you.

Thank you for contacting Kmart Personal Shopper! regarding the order XXXXXXX. I am glad to assist. I apologize for the inconvenience caused regarding the normal color instead of pink you received for your order item which you placed under the Order XXXXXX. I also understand that you have received incorrect item. I'll be glad to help you with your concern today. Normally we check all the items before we ship. However, I'm not sure how this has happened. It's a very rare issue and I'm sorry it happened in your case. We will always stand behind our products and will help you to resolve your concern to your satisfaction. I once again apologize for the inconvenience caused to you in this regards. If you have any questions regarding this issue or with any issue. Please feel free to email us, so that we can help you further.  We thank you for your patience and cooperation. We are here for you! Please reply should you have any further questions. We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future. Have a wonderful day!  I appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience.  We want to make you happy. Take our survey to tell us how we are doing. Look for great bargains throughout the store and find Kmart exclusive brands like Thalia Sodi, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Jaclyn Smith.  Make sure you're registered at www.kmart.com for emails, so we can stay in touch! Happy Holidays!

Buried in the middle of that is

I have requested a UPS call tag to be released immediately. This is a free service where you have to do nothing expect keeping the item ready for UPS to pick up from your door steps. You will also be contacted regarding this issue within 24-48 hours with further details and provide you the details of your pick up service.

Well I suppose after 4.5 days its better than nothing eh? They don't offer to send the correct replacement but I've already driven to Target purchased the right item and its already on the way to the people who organize the thing.

So I wait 48 hours and I hear nothing. I wait another 48 hours and hear nothing. So I drop them another friendly email on the 15th December and hear back on the 19th December - seriously apparently 4 days is normal turn around time for them. Was it an apology, was it an explanation??

NOPE! They had forgotten all of our previous conversations and need to know what it is I want to return!

Thank you for contacting Kmart.com.We understand that you received the wrong item in your shipment. However, since there was more than one item on this order we need to know which item your did not receive and a description of what you received instead so we may make arrangements to have it picked up and sent back to the warehouse. Please advise. We will be awaiting your response.Look for great bargains throughout the store and find Kmart exclusive brands like Thalia Sodi, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Jaclyn Smith.

At least I didn't get too many cut and paste insincerities this time! I reply the same day with some choice words and the information they want and of course hear nothing back until the 22nd December - I admit to being impressed with their 3 day turnaround!

Thank you for contacting Kmart.com regarding order XXXXXX. Please accept our apologies for the confusion regarding the item you received wrong. I understand that you received the regular colors set instead of the item #004W377418110003 Description: Large Bags, Alternative Colors. We are making arrangements for the the wrong set you received to be picked up by UPS, and returned to our warehouse. You will receive a confirmation email when our arrangements have been completed, typically within 5 business days. Still have your packing slip? Make sure to put this in the box. If you don't have the packing slip, just include a note in the box with your order number, and reason for return clearly visible. This will ensure that you receive proper credit. Also, if you no longer have the original box, that's okay, any box will do. You will receive an e-mail notifying you of the credit to your account once your return has been processed. We want to keep you as a customer. If you choose to place a new order in the next few days, please respond to this email with your new order number and we will gladly remove the shipping charge. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. Thank you for choosing Kmart. We do appreciate your business. Enjoy the rest of your day! Your opinion counts. Take our survey to tell us how we're doing. Make sure you're registered at kmart.com for emails, so we can stay in touch! Look for great bargains throughout the store and find Kmart exclusive brands like Thalia Sodi, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Jaclyn Smith.

Does any of that look familiar? It should do - because its almost the same as they sent me on the 11th.

So expecting another 4 days I do nothing with the box and and so am very surprised when at 10am yesterday (23rd December) the UPS guy catches me pre-shower and tells me he is here to pick something up! I have nothing ready but he leaves me the tag and I can have them pick it up any time.

Any bets on how long before I see my money back?

This story was in the Seattle Times yesterday "5 years after Kmart merger, Sears remains a tough sell" - well guys maybe if you would treat your customers better they would buy more. I know its pretty unlikley I'll be trying this again!

So now I have got my ire out on the internet I am free to wish you all a jolly good Christmas (or whatever excuse you need to buy presents and have a good time with your friends and family).

See you in 2011!


Posted 24 December 2010 11:37 AM by zman
Filed under: ,
Double or Nothing

Another running blog post.... move along if that sort of thing bores you.

There are less than 5 days to go before my next crazy run. 2 marathons in 2 days. Saturday 26th I run the Ghost of  Seattle and Sunday 27th I run the actual Seattle marathon. The weather is not great in Seattle right now but the snow is supposed to go away by the weekend - we might have some rain but I can deal with that.

Like the 50 miler I'm not sure about how this is going to feel. The distance and time is still beyond what my body knows. The plan is to run a nice easy 5 hours for the first one. Thats 2 minutes per mile slower than my best and about a minute a mile slower than my normal everyday marathon speed. Then a cold bath, a very relaxing afternoon in front of the TV, a short stroll to see my local Xmas lights, another cold bath and an early night. On Sunday I have several running buddies along for the ride - they are hoping to run a sub 5 hour and I'm hoping to be right with them. Who is pacing who is the question and I'm humble enough to be dragged along if need be.

The weight loss has not been an outrageous success with barely 7lbs down instead of the 20 I planned. J did just force me (I was threatened with torture) to open some mint M&Ms so I probably put a pound back on already. So that's not going to help my cause.

When I ran the half + full at Disney I felt great until mile 16 in the full. When I did the 50 miler I felt pretty good until mile 45. So I'm expecting similar this weekend. One downside is that the Seattle marathon course hills are all after mile 18 which isn't going to help my case. The supporters have promised to be at several places on the course after that. I doubt there will be much lycra clad ladies to inspire me up the hills either - its going to be chilly.

Training has gone well again - no illness, no injuries and a nice taper that means that my legs should be pretty fresh.

4 weeks ago my biggest runs were a double half. I surprised myself by running a 2:10 and then a 2:13 the next day. The second race was half up hill and half downhill and though tired I was able to pick it up for a great finish. That made me feel pretty positive even though it was just half the distance.

So keep your fingers crossed and if you are local feel free to come and cheer... assume 5 hours with even miles and you should be able to guess where I will be at any time.

Posted 22 November 2010 10:00 PM by zman
Filed under:
New Challenge Accepted!

Well its done.. I am now signed up to run a double marathon at the end of November which will make me more of a maniac.

I had a little leg relapse after my previous announcement. My calf muscle decided that it had not had enough rest after the 50 miler and just went very tight. After various rest periods didn't work I found a massage place that was more PT than candles and oil and the masseuse beat my leg into submission. Weekend runs are almost all doubles from now until the race and my legs are starting to feel the permanent tiredness I remember from the 50 miler. I am already looking forward to my next weekend sleep-in on December 4th. This must be how people with kids feel except they have to wait longer than a few months!

The sign up form for the Seattle full asked how many previous races half or above - 11 halves, 10 fulls, 2 50ks and an 50 miler thank you very much. The Seattle full will be exactly 5 years to the day after my 1st half and by then the total will have increased to 13 halves and 12 fulls if all goes to plan. How time flies.

In other news clearly the pain of the 50 miler has passed. I watched a TV program about a guy obsessed with running and they showed him running a 100 mile race. My very broken instinct was to think 'that didn't look as hard as you would think - I could probably do that'. Still, I won't be signing up for that any time soon. It did look very hot where he was running and I don't do sunny races if I can avoid it.



Old and Fat -or- why the ZMan needs to stop snacking

One would think that being able to run 50 miles would also mean being fit, thin and healthy - well lets check off just the 1st one there.

Last doctor checkup I was very happy to find after 4 years of running my 'good' cholesterol was finally reflecting my active lifestyle. However I was not so happy to discover the bad cholesterol had gone up and was over 200. Time to dig out my previous results I think. I will refrain from a spreadsheet as there's not quite enough numbers

          Total (under 200)    LDL[bad] (<130)   HDL[good] (>40)     Triglycerides (<150)
09/2000           193                    128                      34                              153
01/2003           180                    116                      35                              141
03/2006           184                    126                      37                              102
03/2009           211                    137                      47                              134

(I started running in March 2005 and hit marathon distance in May 2006)

03/2011 will be my next checkup and I really don't want to be on drugs - I'm seeing too many of my friends starting to take them because of health issues. Thankfully I'm not seeing anything yet but its probably best to be defensive here since I've really never bothered to much.

Weight wise I've mostly hovered around the 220-225 for as long as I can remember. I used to be real skinny (160??) till I went to university and discovered that I could eat whenever I liked and drink beer.

Running didn't have the effect on my weight I wanted it to which is a major disappointment to me. With a little bit of cutting back on sodas when I was at Microsoft I managed to lose a few pounds and then in 2006 when I was marathon training I managed to cut out snacking for a while and got under 210.

Fast forward to 50 mile training in the last year. Even with running 5 times a week and increasing my distances a lot there was no significant change. Then I went to England for Christmas and ate too much. In the past a few lbs of chip, bacon, turkey and chocolate fat would just disappear in January but not this time. In fact I suspect I may have run my 50 miler a pound or 2 over my heaviest.

After the 50 miler - back to 3 runs a week with shorter distances, several vacations with good food and in the blink of an eye I'm over 230. I'm pretty boring and predictable in my eating and we dont eat out often so I dont think there's been any major changes other than the trips.

And here we are today... I weighed in just over 235 and in the last couple of weeks I've been getting some leg issues when I run so, dear body, I'm taking the hint. As fast as I increase my working out my body gets older and slows down and now I'm at the point where running alone isn't even maintaining. Damn this getting old sucks.

To be honest, I know where most of my problem is - I snack too much. I'm home all day and its pretty easy for me to grab stuff that's not good for me and eat way too much of it. It's not just chocolate I have no will power over. I can happily eat a whole bag of goldfish in a day convincing myself that since they are baked they are not so bad (840 calories, 30g fat). I know I need to eat more fruit snack. Odd thing is I actually enjoy fruit - I just prefer good old refined sugar more ;-)

Several of my friends have been using http://sparkpeople.com to track their intake so J convinced me to sign up there. It will hopefully let me know where I'm going wrong. I am already so embarrassed by yesterdays snack total of 1275 calories (550 of those were my once a week beer night so lets amortize that out eh?) that I've not got up and eaten anything this morning for fear I will have to admit it to the internet. Thankfully some of those snacks were finishing up bad leftovers from a weekend party and there is no more of that left. Unlike most people I respond well to shame and guilt so feel free to force me to publicly tell you my weight at any time.

I've often thought the 'Shame/blackmail' diet would work for a certain percentage of people. It works like this: You sign up and give me $1000 and let me take unflattering photographs of you in your underwear. If you lose the required weight I return 80% of the money to you along with the original pictures. If you don't lose the weight I start spending the money and sending you pictures of all the cool stuff I do with it. When the money runs out I put your bad photo on the internet for strangers to mock. Actually that would probably only work for me - maybe I should get J to take a horrible picture of me tonight as a threat.

I need to do something other than running too so we decided to go with last years cool thing and do 100 push ups for starters. I often wonder how many of my friends ever finished that program because though I remember the initial bragging I dont remember anyone bragging about doing 100 and I promise that when I do it you will all know about it!

The plan is to get down to 200lb for my double marathon in November because seriously nobody should be carrying the equivalent of a small child when they run 50+ miles. Then 180lb by my doctor checkup in March in the hope that will also help out the cholesterol. 180 (well 178) would just about scrape me into a 'normal' BMI too. Plus I'd be able to fit into my prom dress.... oh is that TMI?

Posted 29 July 2010 09:01 AM by zman | 5 comment(s)
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Saving money with Alaska Air

I'm a fan of Alaska Air (other than their useless customer support but that's a problem with most CS these days) for most of my flying. In general my opinion of airlines is that they are all in a race to $0 fares with everything else charged in fees so at best Alaska seem to be the best of a bad bunch. But I recently found a feature that means it will be hard for me to use other airlines unless there's a real bargain.

I like to book early - I'm a planner like that and it usually means the cheapest prices. But there's nothing worse than booking early and 6 months later finding out there is a sale and you missed it. I've been told that many airlines will give you the cheaper price if you call them. But you know what that involves? Talking to a human, probably one at less than minimum wage, or one with a sales commission in mind. Thanks but no thanks. My thoughts are that the airline knows this. Other airlines have a change fee. So it might cost you $50 a ticket to change it - not worth it for a $15 sale discount.

But Alaska allow you to do the whole thing online for free here https://www.alaskaair.com/booking/ssl/garr/GuaranteedAirfare.aspx. Its so simply I can't believe that a team of managers and business people had anything to do with it. You type in your name and booking number and if there is a cheaper price than you paid they put the difference in your wallet. Sadly its the Alaska air wallet not cash but it lasts a year so I will have no trouble using it. Even better you can keep trying. I have some California tickets for later this year that were originally $291 each. I've price matched twice and got $31 and today another $11.

Now I never need to worry about early booking. All I need now is for them to do this automatically whenever they do a sale... but I guess if they did that everyone would get the discount and they would probably not be able to afford it any more. Probably better if only me and a few of my close friends know about it.

Posted 22 July 2010 03:30 PM by zman
Filed under:
How do you top 50 miles in one day?

52.4 in 2 days.

Its been a while since I qualified for Marathon Maniacs by running 3 in 3 months so its about time I graduated to the next level of insane. Running a 50 miler doesn't count because this is a club based around running lots of marathons. But if I can run 50 miles on one day surely 2 marathons in 2 days can't be so hard eh? Well that's my current logic and though I don't expect many of you to follow it that's going to be my plan for November.

As you can see from the crazy list 2 marathon in 2 days will take me from 1 star (bronze) right to 4 star (iridium). I think on top of the 50k training run and the 50 mile race a double marathon will be fine end to a my running year.

My legs seem mostly recovered from the 50 miler. Still some tweaks when I try to run fast which has got annoying but otherwise everything is working well. My training will have to ramp up to teach my legs how to run very tired the day after a race but I did several double runs in the build up to the 50 miler. As part of the training I intend to do a double half too which will be fun.

So Ghost of Seattle Nov 27th, followed by the real Seattle Marathon on the 28th is the goal. Then in December I rest (and eat).

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