Community Charity work

A couple of weeks ago inspired by George and Chris's efforts I asked everyone some questions about writing a book and got a ton of good feedback. Man everyone was so nice... its always a boost to the ego that even though I let die a death a few years ago that so many folk still care enough to comment and email.

So while I've not made a decision I have to say you encouraged me to really think about it again. Watch this space in a week or so when I'll go over some ideas I have.

Some other feedback:

  1. Honestly I didn't mean to demean other authors, but I got the impression I probably did. Everyone has work they do for reasons other than money - lets call them our community charity projects. I've probably spent more time in the xna, and prior to that the msdn, forums than any of the authors have spent on a book and nobody paid me a penny. Its helped me get a few jobs for sure but the $ per hour is probably less than any author ever got. So yes I know you didn't write a book for money - you did it for the same reasons as I have blogged, answered questions and spoken at user groups. I understand why you did it, you do it and why you will continue to do it.
    The post was really more about *me*. Writing is not something that I do 'for fun' so it feels like a job and for that I want what seems to be a fair compensation. Fame and reputation are not enough when I feel like I already have a fair amount of that. The feeling of 'I wrote a book' is something I get and probably the reason its always at the back of my mind. I guess its just not as big a goal of mine as it is for others - that's fine everyone has different goals.
    Additionally my experience with some of the publishers makes me feel that there is a certain amount of exploitation going on and I don't like how that feels. I've also seen how books are rushed to market, often by no name authors with release date and buzz words being more important than technical correctness. Books become a risk management strategy for the publisher who has to make a profit so I understand that to. I just don't like it!
  2. Several folk suggested I go all web 2.0 publishing and either offer content for free, ad based or payment based. Right now I feel like I do plenty of free community work - ask my girlfriend who is not above pointing out when the forums are more important than her. Ad based sites are great but really the $$ are enough to cover your hosting, a few books and maybe a new hard drive once in a while. At peak I was lucky to clear $500 a year in ads and amazon associates on the ZBuffer. As for payment based content - that either means a commerce system and hackers/paypal woes, a DRM system and annoyed users or me trusting people to pay and sorry but I have little faith in the majority of the internet there. So while I love my blogging and one day I hope to find some time to update the ZBuffer once again that will continue to be what I consider my community charity work along with the forums. I can do this as and when I like without a commitment and without paying customers at my throat . It does get me an MVP award with a few benefits and the reputation to get jobs and most importantly I love doing it. So sorry - web content isn't going to happen. At least not just web content...
Things are a bit busy this week and next but whatever I decide to do there will be a post summarizing the questions (so if you have not given feedback then feel free to comment) and probably some more questions about how I might be able to make this work and stay happy.

 Oh and for those who have read this far someone sent me this link - a very inspiring read for wannbe authors

Old file formats - how to read Microsoft Works 4.x files

Its not just NASA that has trouble reading old files sometimes those of us with less important missions have problems too. J has been doing some family research recently and came across a CD that had been sent to her some years ago by a distant relative, G,  who has since passed away. G had spent a lot of time doing the same research and after questioning lots of family members he had recorded his notes in a state of the art application called Microsoft Works. Apparently the family tree was also somewhere on the CD too.

There was a handful of JPG files which were easily read - SCORE #1 for mass supported open formats.

The rest of the CD contained a single .PAF file, multiple .WKS, .WPS and .MAX files.

The .PAF file is from a program called Personal Ancestry File and even though the file was last saved in 2002 and was multiple versions old it imported into the newest version of the program with no apparent problems. SCORE #2 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The .MAX format is a proprietary format used by ScanSoft for their scanners. Its likely that the latest version of PaperPort will open it but I wasn't about to drop $99 jut in case especially since I only had a handful of these files. After some google time I found a direct link to the old ScanSoft ftp site which is still up and has the PaperPort 7.0 viewer available. There is no export but viewing the images at 100% fitted just fine on my monitor so SnagIt was able to grab it cleanly.

Which left me with the .WKS and .WPS files which are both from Microsoft Works. But which version? There's no way to tell. Word 2010 will import Works 6-9 and it wouldn't read this file which matches the 1998-2000 dates on the file. Its likely Works 4.x or 2000. Excel doesn't even try to load Works files in .WKS format. I found a commercial conversion tool for the WKS to Excel conversion which is only $10 and has a trial. I found an online conversion tool called ZamZar which was a complete failure. I tried opening them in notepad and realised I can see the text - but several of the files I know have images that we really needed (scans of 2 civil war letters). There is plenty of evidence that older versions of Word (and Excel) would read the files. Thankfully I have an MSDN subscription that contains old versions of office back to Office 95 and so that I don't have to mess up my normal machine I have a handy VMWare virtual machine running Windows XP. So I spent the morning installing Office 95, Office XP, Office 2003 and not a single one of them would read my files. Thank goodness for the VMWare snapshot feature - after each failed attempt I could roll back the machine to its previously clean state with a couple of clicks. The more I researched the more I came to the conclusion that Office 97 or Office 2000 were the versions I wanted but those are not available anywhere. We can thank the Sun lawsuit for that apparently. At this point I'm ready to head over to ebay to buy a copy of works but I still don't know if its 4.x or 2000 and we really needed to open these files this weekend.

So I broke the law... sorry Mr Gates/Ballmer but I fired up a torrent client and found myself an installer for Works 4.x and a license code. (No I'm not going to help YOU break the law find them yourself). Its pretty clear that even in the pirate world nobody cares about old versions of Works. It took a lot of looking through sites with naked ladies on them (yes all the ads on torrent sites seem to be adult in nature) to find what I needed. Of course I have to be paranoid about viruses and the like. Thankfully I have my virtual machines and even on those I install Microsoft Security Essentials. Once I'd downloaded the file I disconnected the VM from the internet and installed it. All the files loaded first time and allowed me to save them in old versions of word which will happily load into Office 2010 for conversion. I've also saved each document in PDF format too. Both proprietary I know but I suspect they will be around for a long time to come.

It made me think though that as more and more of our life becomes digital what will our kids and grand kids be able to see when they inherit an old machine/usb key whatever with family 'heirlooms'. Paper has its own problems too. I'm looking at pictures from 50 years ago that are horribly faded and damaged and newspaper clippings so delicate I don't want to touch them. Seem like 'the cloud' may be a good solution. I assume if JPG ever becomes unused Flickr/Picasa will be able to do a batch conversion for me. Of course then there's a privacy issue that some folk don't like.


Writing a book ????

Every since XNA was released my visibility in the community has meant I get the occasional email or phone all about authoring a book. I've resisted for several reasons.

  1. Its a BIG time commitment and I don't have much of that
  2. The $$ return is terrible

When I mention #2 to the publishers they always tell me that "many authors do it for the increased visibility and not for the profit". I usually point out that they are calling me because I already have the visibility which rarely goes down well.

So how little money do authors make? Its hard to get all the details of course but you can find general information out there. I have a good book on self publishing that might be a little out of date now.

Lets take 7 XNA 3.1 books (I ignored Dan's book as it seems to be on super sale). The average 'list price' is $38.55 and the average actual price is $25.23 so pretty much every book is sold at a 35% discount.

As an author you will negotiate your pay usually in 2 ways. An advance and a per book percentage. Obviously both vary but O'Reilly are very up front about their 10% rate and 5% on translated copies on publisher NET sales. If Amazon is selling our imaginary XNA book for $25.23 you know they paid less than this so lets assume the publisher sold the book to amazon for $20. So from the $38.55 'list' price the author is going to see about $2 a copy.

That's not too bad if you are Stephen King but technical books have a rather limited audience. I've seen several places that talk about 10,000 copies in the 1st year being considered a 'best seller' in the technical book space. Lets say the average book sells 5000. That's a grand total of $10,000 before any taxes for your hard work. I've seen advances around the $10,000 mark so its no surprise that common advice is to negotiate as big advance as possible because most books will never pay beyond that.

So how long does it take to write a book? I asked a few folk some years ago and though it was a pretty wide range the estimates were between 500 and 700 hours by the time you have got everything done, edited, proof read and produced the code samples, supporting web site etc.

That gives us a pay range of $13-$20 an hour assuming your book. I've mentioned this figure to some authors and been told thats 'if you get lucky'.

So back to the publishers - how many of them pay their staff $20 or less an hour? It just seems wrong to me that the person who puts in the effort gets the lowest wage? When you buy that XNA book does it cross your mind who is getting rich off it?

So last time I was asked to write I suggested a $25,000 advance to make it worth my time and you can imagine how well that went down.

So why do authors continue to write books? Well there are many intangible rewards. Some folk do it for the increased visibility which can get you jobs, MVP awards, speaker gigs at conferences, some folk do it because seeing your name on a book is just plain cool. Others do it as a challenge - its something that they have always wanted to do. Others think that $20 an hour is worth their time as a second/side job. I can totally understand all of these reasons and heck I need to thank many of the authors for doing it - I own hundreds of your books. For some folk its just a hobby that they would do for free so the money is a nice bonus - heck I've probably put in more free hours on the forums over the years and rarely felt exploited.

However I just can't get over the feeling of being shafted. I can bill much more than $20 an hour for regular work and as my blog readers know I have plenty of other hobbies that take up my time.

But.... with George and Chris writing a Windows Phone book the topic has come up once again in my circle of twitter friends and I've got to admit it would be nice to see my name on a book in a book store.  

So given there is no way I'm working for $20 an hour (max) I've dug out the self publishing book and taking a look at the options there.

Here's some questions I posted on twitter and I'd appreciate feedback in comments or email.

  • How much does the publisher of the book vs the author name affect your buying decision?
  • How do you find your books? Brick and Mortar browsing? Online browsing? Other?
  • Do you still buy paper or are you all buying eBooks now? Do you care about DRM? Can I trust you not to upload the eBook as soon as you get a copy?
  • How big do you expect a book that costs $25? I understand you care about content but if you are in a book store and you grab a thin book you are less likely to buy it. The 7 XNA 3 books range from 336 to 792 pages. Average is 496. The bigger the book the more 'value' in terms of pages per $. That ranges from 25 pages per dollar down to 12 pages per dollar.
  • I also asked about color as I see it starting to appear in technical books. I see its use in game books and in reading VS code but after a quick look I realised that its just not economical for self publishing yet.
  • What do the big publishers get wrong? What drives you nuts that would make you buy MY book instead?
  • What is missing in the XNA books? What do they do wrong? What do they do right?

No this doesn't mean I'm going to write one for sure... all of the time constraints about still apply and it seems like the successful authors have some amazing ability to sleep less than 4 hours a night and let me tell you - I love my bed!



Yes I know its over a week late... I'm a busy guy. Procrastination takes a lot of effort you know!

So what happens after you run a 50 miler?

Well right after the race I was moving around well. I got my own food, drink and walked around and stretched just fine. I even made plans for a celebratory drink even though the others were correctly skeptical. knew I had a blister on one foot - i had felt it burst at mile40 something. I had a little chafing on the inside of my thighs, but I've had worse. Overall pretty good for 50 miles and 11 hours.

Once we got in the car things started to go downhill as the euphoria wore off. My legs got very restless. Suddenly the front of the car seemed like a very small place - I wanted to stretch out so badly. Its only a 40 minute drive. I'm glad I wasn't driving. Once we got home I just lay on the bed for 20 minutes or so. Man that felt good. My legs were starting to stiffen up and I had no energy to get up and stretch. My feet were so hot - I got J to wet a towel and drape it over them.

Eventually I felt up to stepping into a cold bath and spent a happy 20 testicle shrinking minutes. My feet were still very hot and the water felt so cold that I couldn't dip them in at first. The fatigue of the day started to take over here. Getting up at 4am and running 11 hours apparently does that to you. Out of the cold bath and into the shower. I was actually more mobile now though bending over to wash my feet and lower legs was beyond me... thankfully I had a helper. At this point I realised just how tired I was and we cancelled the drinks. By 8pm I was back on the bed and after some TV I think I tried to sleep around 9.

But it was a restless night. My legs were not sore or stiff, but very twitchy and tingly. I guess all the muscles were busy healing themselves. I didn't sleep too well and when J headed off to work in the morning I tried to sleep in but that wasn't working.

Waking up was fun. My legs were very stiff and I couldn't straighten my right leg all the way which was new for me. I had decided to take the day off so other than blogging and emails I spent most of the day catching up on TV. As long as I kept moving I was fine. But even after 10-15 minutes of sitting down my legs started to stiffen up and the 1st few minutes of moving was hard. In the evening we had a 30 minute walk which turned out to be quite doable. The blisters were popped and covered, the chafing was covered in Vaseline and all was well.

Tuesday things were much better. I slept well and my legs were far less stiff when I woke up. I went to running class that evening and though I didn't run I still managed to do all the circuit exercises other than the crunches - who knew 50 miles used your abs so much!

Every day since then has been an improvement. My walking was back to normal by Wednesday, the chafing was gone by the weekend and the blisters are pretty much healed. I ran on Tuesday and Thursday this week and though my legs were tired they worked just fine. The right leg is still tight when I straighten it but thats pretty much it. This is good as I have a half marathon in less than 2 weeks... yeah that was a smart move!

I am reminded that the training I did wasn't just to prepare my body for the day, but also to teach it how to recover. Hard to image that 3 days after running a 50 miler there were almost no visible side effects.

What did you do on Sunday?

Here's what I did:

4:15am - got up
4:20am - got dressed
4:30am - ate a bagel with some bacon
4:45am - drove to Mt Si High School
5:30am - went to the bathroom
5:45am - ate a energy bar and drank some Gatorade
5:50am - went to the bathroom again
6:00am - ran 50 miles in 11 hours 13 minutes and 30 seconds
5:15pm - drank a beer
5:30pm - got driven home
6:30pm - sat in a cold bath
6:45pm - had a shower
7:00pm - lay on the bed and didn't move till Monday!

The observant amongst you will notice the large jump in the middle of that day. Yes Sunday was the big day. Sunday was the day I've been training for for the last 6 months. In reality though the training for this has been 5 years - you don't just decided to run a 50 miler 6 months before. There were many years of 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, triathlons, full marathons and 50ks before I even decided to go for this one.

In fact this really all started 4 years ago. I was training for my first marathon I think and was on a long run - just me and coach N talking about crazy races like eco challenge and ironmans and I happened to say 'wouldn't it be cool to run 50 or 100 miles'. Well at the next team training she announced that 'Andy wants to run 50/100 mile ultras' and we all had a good laugh about it. Who knew eh?

The last 6 months training went to a new level of crazy. No more tapering down before marathons or 50ks - no those were now just long training runs. Instead of my usual 2 training sessions and a long run at the weekend I had 3 days of training and weekends with very long runs or even 2 days of long runs. There's been a couple of times I have wondered if tired legs is the new normal for me. Thankfully I remained injury and illness free for the entire time. I think I missed 1 workout due to travel and had to walk one due to tiredness but otherwise did everything coach said. I ran long runs in England in the snow (26 times round the soccer field), did 3 hour runs the day BEFORE a half marathon and changed in a hotel at 8am becuase it was too early to check in so I could get a 3 hour run over the Golden Gate bridge.

Honestly, 50 miles is so much its been more than my brain can comprehend - other than a few nerves when I looked at the map the build up wasn't bad. I've done so many races now that I tend not to worry about them. This is good. Some of my running friends are more nervous about races than me - I can't imagine how they would feel with a 50miler on the table.

Friday and Saturday we packed the drop bags. You can have 2 bags - one at mile 6/14 and another at mile 29 - this means you don't have to carry 50 miles worth of supplies. We've been making a list of things we might need for 6 months now. Changes of clothes, hats and shoes in case of rain, layers and gloves in case of cold, a big selection of food and drink, body glide to stop the chafing, wipes/TP in case of 'trips into the woods', refills for my camelbacks and gel supplies. It was like going on vacation and it was clear to us both that we likely had over packed - but it was my first and I wasn't going to miss the end because of a missed item.

Tried to get a early night on Saturday but I'm just not an early sleeper and 4am comes round very quickly. Load the bike onto the car for J to ride with me and we are off. As we drove into the school we see the 5am starters leaving. If you think you won't do it under 11 hours they let you start early. Its a bigger group than I expected and I feel a little nervous. Those are likely the people running my pace. I need to be at mile 29 in 6.5 hours or I will miss my bag. Plus they take the finish line down at 11 hours. I expect to finish sometime after 10h30m (12:30 pace) so I know it could be close but I chose to take the normal start anyway. The weather is in the high 40s so no need for the layers... I start in my shorts and just 2 shirts. I've been promised nothing above 58 which is perfect for me.

6am comes round quickly and off we go. Some of my running group have arrived for their 6:30 relay start so I have a good crowd of cheerers to see me off. As I jog out easy I hear 'so are you trying to break 8 hour today?'... Hmmm better drop back... wow these guys are going a bit fast too... drop back more. OK now there's only 2 people behind me... maybe I should have taken the early start. Lets check my pace on my GPS watch... thats odd its not on... Beeep... look again and its off again.. Beeep... looking carefully 'Battery Low'... and off again. OK there goes my only accurate pace guide. Thankfully I have my normal watch on my other arm so at least I know the time and how long I've been going.

The sun is slowly rising and after an hour or so I'm getting close to the bag drop. I realise the bag drops are 5.7, 14, 29 so I can work my pace out there. As I hit the first one I realize that I'm running under 11 minute pace. Normally a nice pace for me but way too fast here. I drop my bad watch, my long sleeve shirt and grab some food and drink and head off resolving to slow down. There's still a few people around me but they are pulling away so I assume I'm doing well on that front. As I pass 7 miles the leader is coming back the other way. He's already 6 miles ahead of me. For the next 3 miles I get to see how far in front everyone else already is. Thankfully I'm under no illusions about my speed so its not as depressing as you might think. With fresh legs its much harder to tell 11 minute pace from 12 minute pace so as I hit the turn around at mile 10 I'm slightly annoyed to find I'm there in 1h50m - in other words still at 11 minute pace.

I double my efforts to slow down on the way back. The 6:30 relay runners are 30 minutes and about 2 miles further behind (they have an extra run to the changeover point) but the lead teams are now coming towards me. After a little while I spot L who is concentrating very hard on catching someone up and doesn't see me at all until I yell - I think I made her jump - its nice to see the team. I make it back to the 14 mile bag drop at 2h40m and eat some food and my average is 12:30 pace for that segment... great back on track. Overall I'm still ahead of goal though (11:40 pace). That's good because it means there's almost no chance of missing the 29 mile bag drop deadline. I head out at the same pace. Legs feel great, weather and scenery is beautiful and I've only got 36 miles left to run !!!!!

At mile 15.5 or so I see D from our other relay team. They started at 8:30 so they are heading out on the first leg. He's looking for me so we have a quick manly high 5 and continue on our way. I've been running for almost 3 hours now and they are just getting going. As I approach the steps (yes there's several sets of steps - its mean) that take me from the trail back to the road section my gut is starting to feel uncomfortable. This isn't good.. I have 7 more hours to go at least. I can't work out how serious it is but its not something I want to run much further with. Thankfully I know there's a relay checkpoint coming up and they always have porta potties - no need to 'go like a boyscout'.  After a few minutes of personal time (though no reading matter  - come on guys you can only read the cleaning log so many times!) things seem a bit better so off I go. J is waiting at the next checkpoint, a mere 4.5 miles away. The running seems better but within a mile or 2 my belly is once again fermenting away. I'm a little concerned now. The next toilets are 2 miles away and there's not too much cover to hide behind on this segment of the trail. The runners dilemma here is 'do you run faster or slower'... I manage to run it out without the evil alien bursting out my stomach and as I see J I yell 'off to the little blue huts' and dash across the carpark for the 2nd time. 27 miles still to go - this may not be a fun day.

After mile 20 you are allowed to have a 'pacer'. Fast runners need a pacer - people like me need 'company' or a 'distractor'. Someone who can ensure that I don't think too hard about how tired my legs are or how far there still is to go. Even though she has a busted sesamoid in her foot that is going to be removed on Friday J was not going to miss the chance to be with me on the race. The plan is for her to bike me up the 8 miles to Rattlesnake Lake where she will rest and cheer our relay teams while I do the upper 10 miles. Then she will meet me for the final 10 miles.

Mile 23 is in the middle of the long boring flat and straight part of the course - this is also miles 45-50 on the way back when its going to be even more long boring straight and painful I am sure. However right now I am feeling very good other than the nagging gut. My time is 4h40m right around 12 minute pace. After 2 more miles a couple of things happen... 1. My gut seems fine... (Boy are you glad you don't have to read 12 more toilet stories!) 2. We hit half way! 3. We start going up hill.

Ah the hill.... from mile 25 to 35 its a slow gradual climb - its only 1000ft over those 10 miles so you don't really notice other than you slow down a bit. I've run this hill several times before but never after just over 5 hours and 25 miles. Yes folks you heard that right at half way I was right on 12 minute pace and feeling pretty good about it too. Everything was going well now. Was there a chance of finishing closer to 10 hours than 11 - I admit it crossed my mind at this point though I should have known the hill was going to slow me. As we hit mile 26 or so we see the winner coming down. He's at mile 45 - just 5 miles to go - and he looks like he's out for a morning jog.

As we go up the hill J reads me the emails my friends and family have sent - some are funny some are touching and some make her cry! Thanks to everyone who sent words of encouragement in whatever form - it helped the hours melt away on the up hill. And then we are there - the bag drop comes into view and mile 29 comes into view at 6h - wow that took longer than I expected. Remember what I said about the hill and tired legs! Those 4 miles took me almost an hour to cover. I take a fairly long bag break here - switch out my water bladder, change shirts, eat some Mac and Cheese, Cadbury Creme eggs and potato chips... Lube up the places that are starting to rub, refill my gel supplies and give J some extra food since I won't see my bags again till the end. We leave at 6h10m so my pace is now over 12:30. All my 10 hour illusions are gone thankfully but you know I'm still feeling pretty good so no complaints. We run on for one more mile when J stops for her rest and I go solo for miles 30-40.

I don't know if it was the lack of company, the continuing hill or the fact that in the next 3 miles I passed 31 miles and 6h30m of running into new territory but this was the first part of the course where my legs started to let me know that what I was doing was not actually something they had planned to do that day. They've done some long runs over the last few months but I guess they hadn't got the memo about the extra 19 miles and 4 hours they were going to have to find today. The relay turn around point is 2 miles up the hill so you run past the 2nd worst sign on the whole course. It says "Ultras straight ahead, Relay turn around". The relay folk have been passing me for the last 5 hours and its good to see them even though they are going fast - plus they almost always cheer you and say nice things which helps. At this point I wont see them for 6 more miles till I'm on my way down. All I will see is the tired faces of the ultra runners coming back. I keep plodding on telling myself its only 3 more miles till I too get to turn around but its taking forever. My run schedule is run 20m, walk/eat/drink for 2m and I've managed to keep that schedule for the whole race so far. On one of my walk breaks I feel like a muscle in my hip has seized up and there's no trees nearby for me to hold onto to stretch it out. I don't think at this point its wise to balance on one leg to stretch. So I hobble to the next bridge and stretch there. I'm a little worried because it doesn't seem to help much. I try to run and it actually feels better and in a few minutes it has loosened back up and at the next walk break all is well again. The numbers of runners coming towards me is dwindling and I start to recognise a few who were near me at the start of the race so I know there isn't far to go. And then there is it the worst sign on the course... how can that be you say? The sign is telling you its time to turn around and you are just 15 miles form home. If only it was that simple - the turnaround is at the bottom of a hill. Yes we've climbed for 3 hours now we go down to the trail head and then we have to walk back up. Its was evil at mile 17 on the 50k and its even worse at mile 35 on a 50 miler. But you have to do it so down I go. I eat at the bottom and say hi to the guy who has been chasing me for the last 20 miles.

I walk up the hill and man my legs hurt... ONLY 15 miles to go says the sign at the top. It doesn't sound far especially when thats a medium length training run. I call J to tell her I'm a bit behind schedule so not to worry. I'm at 7h35m so it took me 1h25m to go 6 miles - wow 14 minute pace. Average is now 13:00 so I'm back to a 10:50 finish time. But no time to worry - there's running to be done. It helps that at this point you have a pretty good feeling that you can complete this. You are running home. 15 miles doesn't seem that much and the end is totally in sight and the last uphill is done.

Off I go.. and guess what - its not so bad. The downhill is helping, the slight wind is behind me and I feel pretty good all of a sudden. I rip though the first 20 minutes and when I stop for my gel/water/walk the guy behind me finally passes me... I never saw him again. He did a better job pacing than I did I guess and took even more advantage of the downhill than I did. After 3 miles I see the relay turn point and right on time there is M from our 1st relay team... cheers and high 5s and she goes off like a bat out of hell. At least she can tell the teams to hang around to cheer me. A couple miles later I see M from the other relay team - he lets me know my mileage and carries on. I'm only 4 miles ahead of that team so they will easily catch me before the end. 12 minutes later I pop out of the forest to a wave of cheers - both teams are there and J is ready on the bike. I've run the 5 miles down in under 12 minute pace and the 33-35 mile funk seems to far behind me. Coach N decides to join us for the next 7 miles so I have 2 distractors. J continues to read the words of encouragement and her and N both have tears in their eyes at some of them - girls eh? At other times they just rabbit on to each other so I can just listen and run and before I know it we are at 45 miles and there is no more downhill.

There's JUST 5 miles left, 10% of the course... at this point you know that you will make it... you can walk it, you can crawl it in... though my legs are tired and getting worse with every step. The hip muscle I had trouble with earlier tightens again so a bit of stretching and once again I run it out thankfully. We lose N at mile 46.5 and she heads off to the finish to prepare the reception committee 11 hours is looking unlikely at this point and I know she knows the race organisers.... "Don't let them take down my finish line" I think were my last words to her.

As I mentioned these last 5 miles are a long straight line - I'm slowing all the time I can feel it. The 20 minutes runs seem to take forever and for the first time I can't finish some of them and have to take some extra walk breaks. In reality I should be happy to still be running at this point I know but I'm a little annoyed. J asks if I want her to shut up - apparently I've gone all quiet and am not responding to her witty repartee. I tell her no keep going I need all the distractions I can get but I'm concentrating on just getting to the end so don't expect too much response.

Finally at mile 49 I can hear the finish line to my left and all I have to do is run to the bridge and loop back into town. The bridge is less than half a mile away but its a struggle to get there... my watch ticks past 11 hours and all I care about is that the finish line is still there. But even if it isn't I realise that all my friends are still there and I will still have the best finish crowd of any runner that day. This is the best reason for running with a team. Eventually the bridge appears and I walk down the stairs (YES STAIRS!!!!) and J carries the bike down. She heads off to get the cowbells and cheering ready and I struggle on the final small incline. I take one last sneaky walk break because I'm not going to walk in front of the team... then I run around the corner and head down the street to the school. There's one last little loop into the school drive and the team are there with cowbells, signs and high 5s all round. And the finish line is still there too...

I cross the line arms raised in 11h13m30s, 13:27 pace - the winner did 5h54 but I doubt he had the cheers I did.


There's a beer waiting for me and it doesn't last long, nor does the chocolate milk.. after a few minutes I'm feeling pretty good. I stretch a bit and chat about the race and nothing seems to hurt too bad. I guess its the euphoria. Man I am so happy to be done. I get a cool glass medal to show I finished and really thats what its all about for me. I'm very unlikely to win anything but I think there's not many people out there who have run 50 miles.

This is way too long so most of you stopped a while ago but for those still reading I want to thank N for all the training, the team for waiting at the end end to cheer - I know you could have all gone home because you you were a bit tired and my friends and family who sent words of encouragement.. I know most of you think I'm 100% crazy.

And finally most thanks to J - you've got up early with me, you've biked with me, you did 20 slow miles reading stuff without falling off and you washed my legs and feet when I couldn't bend over. I couldn't have done it without you. love you xxxx.

[Tomorrow: What happens AFTER you run 50 miles]

50 mile nerves

Yesterday I was checking out the website for the 50 mile race I'm running in April. They have a link to the course and while I was looking at it the enormity of the situation started dawning on me.

I have to start at 6am which is fairly normal for a race but then I read you have to be done by 5pm. I had to look twice. Normally if I start a marathon at 6am I'm done by 10:30am, showered and eating lunch by noon with the rest of the day ahead of me. For this race I will be running from when its dark in the morning until its getting dark at night. I'd love to think I can average a 12 minute pace which would be 10 hours total and finish at 4pm but its probably more realistic to think of 11 hours and 13 minute miles. I honestly can't think of anything I've ever done for 11 hours straight - even slept.

The course has a 10 mile out and back so after 20 miles of running I will be almost right back where I started and I won't even be half way. 5 more miles of flat in the opposite direction and at roughly half way, and having almost done a marathon I start a slow 10 mile uphill. Half way there I will pass 31 miles and from there on its all new territory for my legs and there's still 19 miles to go.The turnaround point is at the bottom of a short but steep trail access which of course has to be descended and climbed and then there's just 15 miles to go. As I learned on the 50k I did here its downhill but your legs don't really appreciate it. Well until you get to the bottom and the last 5 miles of flat feels like the worst up hill ever.

Training is going very very well - no injuries, no missed runs and other than some tired legs its all going great. I've got my list of supplies I need ready and I'm breaking in 2 pairs of shoes so I have a spare pair. All systems are go.

Don't get me wrong I'm excited to do this but every time I look at that map I feel a little queasy.

Longest (training) run ever

In terms of distance it was identical to my last 50k almost 2 years ago. In terms of time it was longer. I was running for 6 hours 29 minutes which is the longest I've probably been on my feet ever including hiking.

But the really different thing about this 50k was that it was just a training run. Yes ladies and gentlemen there was almost no taper down before the race and I got no time off after the race. I ran 50k on Sunday and then I did my normal training runs Tue/Wed/Thu. I did get to miss out of some speed work on Thu and my weekend run the week after was only 90 minutes but essentially there was no break. It was rough. On Tuesday my legs had a clear maximum pace that they were not going to go over and my legs felt tired whenever I would start to run. It is obvious that the last few years of marathons have increased my tolerance and decreased my recovery time. The evening after the 50k I went to a party and played ping pong (playing was fine, bending over to pick up the ball was NOT) and when it comes to general walking around you really couldn't tell I'd run 31 miles. I remember hurting more after 5ks.

Since this 50k was just part of my training for the 50 miler the goal was to finish and feel comfortable. No injuries, no hitting the wall just a nice even run. The course was a 9.6 mile loop so I had to run 3 laps and then add in a short out and back to make up the distance.

The first lap had plenty of folk to run with as there were 9.6 and 19.2 mile runners but that meant the pack disappeared quickly. I had some trouble with my camelback tube and had to stop and 'rewire' it. One of my running group caught up and so I ran with her for the rest of the lap. It was slowly raining - so everything was getting damp but on the positive side it wasn't hot. The course is a bit hillier than I expected so I timed my walk breaks to align with the hills. I finished the 1st lap in 1:51 which is just under 12 minute pace. No point in rushing, I changed some damp clothes, grabbed a bacon sandwich and some cookies and picked up my running mate for the 2nd lap. I suspect I was hanging around for over 5 minutes.

We could choose which way to run the loops after lap 1 so we headed off in the other direction - we got to see the other runners from my running group who were out on the course going in the normal direction. Going in reverse was easier for most of the lap but all the hills were at the end which meant you had to think about it all the way round. M had kindly offered to keep me company for this lap - its great having people to talk to to keep your mind off things so I got to hear all about her wedding in Hawaii. The rain stopped by half way so I was able to run without a hat on finally. My head gets so hot with it on. The final hill up to the start/finish is evil. Probably only 100m but totally unrunnable by mere mortals but we come in for a 2:00 lap. With that 5 minute break thats actually 1:55 running so I'm pretty happy about pace. My legs are feeling great still. Back to the car and I change socks and shirts for dry ones and leave my jacket and hat behind. This time I eat pasta salad, almonds and more cookies. My partner for lap 3 is a different M so after another 5 minute layover we head out. While I wait for her in the most disgusting porta pottie ever I see the 2nd and 3rd place 50k runners come in. Yes they are done and I have 11.8miles left to run. The winner has been in for half an hour. He ran 50k in 3:32 - thats 6:50pace. I can run that fast for about 800m. [Edit: Oh and I just looked at the results and he's the same age as me so I can't even claim its some young kid.... I did see him though and he weighs about half of what I did so I suspect that has something to do with it too]

Final lap I run the normal way to get the hills out of the way at the start. This time round there appears to about 3 more hills than I remember so there's more walking happening. But in general my legs are feeling pretty good. We hit the marathon mark just before 5h 30m so I'm over 12 minute pace but my pace is still good so its not a concern. It started to rain again... no fun but I'm very warm now so I don't really mind and I know its not far now. I round the corner to the switch over with a 2:05 lap. I've slowed as expected but I'm at 28.8 miles and still running just fine.

I don't bother stopping other than to grab some Cadbury's and a kiss from J (who was going to run the last out and back with me but is now changed into warm non running clothes) and head out for the final 2.2 miles. Remember that really short but steep hill I mentioned? Well that was the 1st thing I went down which means...... drum roll...... I have to run back up it at mile 30.9. Its cruel, very cruel. I run the mile out to the turnaround and there's few people still out on the course. Even fewer seem to think I'm funny when I ask them if someone moved the white line. Eventually there is it, I pause for some water and turn around. I can see the hill in the distance and in less than 12 minutes I stop to walk up it and then I'm done.

As I said - final time was 6:29 but best of all I was able to keep going for the whole time. I walked the steeper hills and stopped for food breaks but by the end I know I could have kept going. I'm sure I could have lasted for one more lap which would have taken me over the 40 mile mark. I'm less sure if I could have done a 5th lap to hit the 50mile but thats OK because I still have 10 more weeks of training to get me there.

Since it went so well I finally signed up for the 50 miler on April. There's no way out other than injury now. This is serious stuff - the 50k seems doable after a marathon. "Its just an extra 5 miles". The 50 miles is an extra 19 on top of that, or an extra 24 after you finish the marathon. The further you run the less 'amateurs' like me there are too. I was 72nd out of 80 on the 50k and I expect to be even closer to the back on the 50 miler.

Its been 10 days now and last nights run felt almost back to normal. I was able to hold a good pace even though it was only 40 minutes. My weekend runs are now doubled up - Saturday AND Sunday - and my week runs are going to get longer.

Yes me an official Ultramarathoner... hard to imagine isn't it!

Kissy Poo update

Its been pointed out to me that I am slacking off on blogging... so lets catch up on some things...

Kissy Poo has been doing very well. Our predictions were not high. Its a niche product on a platform dominated by grown up games and while we are quite proud of it we also know that its not done with high production values that most people expect. of course 4 year olds don't care about the production values but the folk with the credit cards often do. We passed Georges prediction of 500 copies at the end of December and sales were down to under 5 per day - it looked like it was going to be a long time before we hit my prediction of 1000. We'd run out of friends to ask to blog and tweet about it and were both busy on other things. Then we heard that Majors Minute was doing a kids game special because they asked us for the original footage of Georges son playing Kissy Poo - we didn't get any notification of if we were included for sure, or when it was going to be on. When it came out not only were we one of only 3 videos included, but thanks to Tennyson's cuteness we had more of the precious minute screen time than any other game. They don't keep the archives on the website so if you want to see it you will need to go to 'Inside Xbox' on your console, scroll over to 'More free videos' and then look in the Majors Minute archive for "Got Kids? Find fun games for them on your xbox". Looks like they keep 16 weeks on there so it will eventually roll off.

So what is the Major Nelson effect? Well here's a chart of the downloads and sales for January... lets see if you can spot the day the video came out!

Kissy Poo January Sales - Image Hosted by

As of yesterday the sales and downloads are almost back down to normal levels but its fair to say the additional exposure was worth about 600 extra sales and 1300 extra trial downloads. Thanks Major! George and I will have a beer and toast you.

Sadly none of this can be used to anyone's advantage. Its just about impossible to predict in advance what will be on the minute, there's no reliable way to get your game in front of the team that do it either. Even being an MVP didn't help much. It certainly meant that the XNA GS team know of our game, and it meant that they knew who to email for the extra footage but from what I gather the XNA GS team filmed far more than 3 games for the slot and the xbox/major nelson team made the final decision. We think that the cute kids footage probably helped more than anything.

Don't forget to be a friend on facebook for any future news and if you have not already done so we always love to get good ratings on xbox live marketplace.

Kissy Poo is live!

It is done... after a speedy review (it pays to be 1. Well known, 2. A good community member and MVP, 3. very well tested) we waited 48 hours and then a few more for the game to propagate to Xbox live.

Download/Buy it here

If you like it you can also rate it there

Check out the website and the facebook page

And now I'm going to have a beer to celebrate!!!

Sometimes you've got to quit...

Well those on facebook have probably heard the news but of course I need a proper race report.

Saturday was a VERY early start. Up before 4am to arrive at the start line just after 5. I've never run at this park before even in the day light and this race starts with 3 laps in the dark. Once I got my number we sat back in the car to stay warm but it wasn't long before the race briefing and we were off.

The course starts at the low point of the park so you don't run very far before you hit the first up hill. 80+ steps and more than 200 ft of gain all in one go right to the top of the park. It seems that everyone is sensible and walks this at varying speeds. Its very cool to look behind and see the train of headlights. The next mile or so is mostly downhill with some uphills and several smaller flights of stairs to bridges and then you start going up again. There was about 3 places on the course that I decided were walk only. The last one was up to the top of the park again and then it was a steep downhill back to the start line. 1st lap 28 minutes for slightly under 2 miles... wow that took longer than I expected. But I walked 1/4 of it maybe and it was dark so you have to take your footing carefully.

Went to find the ladies for 1st lap supplies - they were chatting and not napping like they were supposed to. They looked so tired ;-) After a few minutes chat and eat I was off again. 2nd lap everyone was already getting spread out and I ran most of that and the 3rd lap on my own. I actually enjoyed it - its pitch black other than your headlamp and a few glowsticks marking the course. All my laps are about the same - just under 30 minutes with a few minutes of refuel/break at the end. Everything is feeling pretty good. The 1st hill is rough but its not killing me and the rest of the loop is long enough that you forgot about it till next time round.

Lap 4. M is running with me in the light - its nice to actually see the course and try to remember features from the headlight. The sun is coming up and its looking like a beautiful day and nothing like the 80% chance of rain we had been promised.

Lap 5. Another runner shows up to run with me - lets call her M2 ;-) - so I have 2 pacers for this lap and the sun is now fully up. Chatting all the way round takes your mind off things. People are passing us which means I'm being lapped already. No matter how crazy you are there are others more crazy.

Lap 6/7. M goes back to the car with J and M2 and I head out for another go around. Legs are still feeling pretty darn good considering all the hills. We spot a runner going the wrong way and call them back. Good job I was paying attention to the turns on the earlier laps.

Lap 8. I was supposed to have walked one by now so M2 and I walk this one. My costume (its Halloween) isn't running friendly because I have a fake cat attached to my head so I wear it on this lap. You have to wear the costume for a whole lap to count for the competition. Lots of people pass and everyone loves the costume. M has a jelly donut ready for me and the girls are finally awake and have a little camp site set up. The weather is nice so they don't need the canopy or the heater we bought as a contingency. At the end of the lap its time for a new dry shirt. I started in 'will run for chocolate' and now I choose 'will run for beer'.

Lap 9. Back on my own so I start naming bits of the course "Spikey tree", "Tree with arrow" etc. I fully expect to be naming the leaves on the floor by late afternoon.  Time to start doing the math. 21 laps is one every 34 minutes and I'm doing quite well on that. I'm very sure I can do over 50k now and that's a nice thought. 40 miles might actually happen as my legs are still feeling fine. The aid station people see my shirt and someone finds me a can of beer.... excellent! J has started with her crafts and so I have a 'Go Andy lap 10' banner on my return. Doesn't look like we will need the 4 changes of clothes but one of my socks is rubbing so I stop and switch them.

Lap 10. Almost half way to 40 miles and well past half way for a 50k and I notice the stairs are a bit harder. I'm very impressed with the people who are passing me for the 3rd and 4th time. This lap takes me over 30 minutes so I figure the slowing process is beginning. Also my right foot feels a little odd. Like my shoe is too tight. I mention this to J at the end of the lap and retie the shoe. Maybe next lap I will change to some different ones. It doesn't seem too bad though and I'm going to get a 2nd walk lap in to help it. J has chilli ready for me on the camp stove and makes me eat some bagel too. Fuelling is going very well.

Lap 11. Officially half way to the 40miles on this lap and as I go up the stairs the foot pain gets worse - much worse. I start adjusting my walk when I get to the top and there's a short steep bit that I jog down and I realise the foot isn't good at all. I stop and take the shoe off to make sure its not that or a twisted sock or anything. Still hurts so I try to keep weight off it and I think maybe I will be ok. But every downhill puts more weight on it and I can feel it getting worse. By the time I'm 3/4 of the way round I am pretty sure this is it for me. If I knew the park any better I would have found a shorter way home but I limp through the last 1/4 mile which is mostly downhill and head back to 'camp'. Its taken me almost 50 minutes to get round. I got credit for the lap though. I take off my shoe and sock - no hint of swelling or anything. I ice the foot for 15 minutes and then try to walk/jog on it and there's no change at all... Game Over!

I might have been able to struggle home if this had been a longer trail run but at this point I was 6.5 hours in with 5.5 left to go. Carrying on wasn't going to prove anything other than I wanted to make my foot worse. I covered just under 22 very hilly miles and I was really only just starting to feel fatigued which I think was a good result on that course. I have other races coming up and I can always try again next year!

So we called it a day early. Called other friends who were coming to watch/run with me to let them know and headed home to cold bath and a beer....

Overall a little disappointing, but one of those days where you have to go with the flow and listen to your body which clearly was saying stop.

I wasn't too stiff after the race but Sunday and today I am suffering a little with my quads and glutes. The stairs and downhills are rough on the legs and I did them 11 times. I think I would be suffering more if I'd gone further. As long as I keep moving I am ok. Apparently my costume didn't win any prizes which was a little disappointing but hopefully it will get my picture in the maniac newsletter next month!

Many thanks to J&M who got up very very early to be the support crew, M & M2 for running and J&P who showed up to cheer just as I stopped... What are you all doing October 30th 2010? 



This blog was supposed to be about writing game wasn't it... remember that. It was a long time ago when I quit the big M to write the next Halo. Well today I'm happy to say I'm a mere few week away from that. Yes that's right sometime in November I will be rolling in several million dollars as a result of my efforts. I do intend to get it in singles and put it on the bed if you are wondering and yes I'll post a picture.

Ladies and Gentlemen I proudly present KissyPoo:

[YouTube Video if you dont see it in your RSS reader:]

You may notice that this one isn't really going for the Halo audience ;-) Its targeted for young kids. We've had happy playtesters from 18 months up to 8 years old depending on the kids though the younger ones have the most fun (the older ones have been known to play only when they think people are not looking!)

It started off as a potential job for someone that didn't happen. George and I had already thrown together a very simple prototype so we re themed it and tired it with some kids. It was so successful we had reports of tears when the game was taken away. We knew we were on to a winner. So we tidied it up and put up a playtest version to get some feedback. We got a lot. Initially we rejected some of the feedback becuase it was obvious that the adults wanted changes the kids didn't even care about. But as time went on we ended up doing pretty much everything.

Georg's wife, Shawna, did a great job with the  graphics and the game looks so good as a result. The singing is all George with help from Songsmith and the sound effects are mostly his kids. Thankfully they work very cheap but I promise I will personally buy all 4 of them new bikes if we sell 100,000 copies!!

This week we put the finished version up for a 2nd round of testing. I doubt we will add/change any features now - just looking for bugs and bad things.

If nothing is found we will be going into peer review next week or so which means a release on xbox sometime in November. Its a peer review system so you can't predict an actual date.

If you want help: 

  • Become a fan of KissyPoo on facebook 
  • Blog, twitter, link, facebook... get the word out to folk with kids and xboxes
  • If you are a premium XNA creators club member you can get it here.
  • If you are a trial  XNA creators club member you can get it here
  • If you want to try a windows build get it here. Note that this hasn't had quite the testing of the xbox builds but it seems to work on most PCs. You can use the keyboard but a wired xbox controller works best (or wireless with the receiver). Sorry other gamepads/joysticks not supported.
  • And when the game comes out tell all your friends and buy it... its going to cost a grand total of $1 and its worth at least $1.22 so its a bargain

If you have any feedback be sure to email it to me

Running from Washington to Oregon and ultra training

Its not as far as it sounds if you start on the edge of one state and run to the other but what makes the Grand Columbia Crossing 10k interesting is that you get the once a year chance to run across the Megler Bridge (more pictures).

Its an early start as always becuase they have to bus 3000 people across to the start line. So you either get their early, ensure you get a bus and wait at Dismal Nitch in the cold or you show up late and wait in line for a bus in the cold. You can pass the time standing in lines for portapotties or you can wear a silver cape from a previous race and pretend to be in Zoolander

Zoolander in silver

There's a 1 mile run to the bridge and then 3 miles in a long straight line. As always a lot of people go like a bat out of hell just to give me someone to pass for the rest of the race. The views are great even though you are down low to the water. It takes forever to get across the flat bit and then the climb starts at mile 4 for a little over half a mile till you get to the top of the high bit. I was taking it pretty easy due to lots of training so I used these opportunities to take some pictures. I think my camera is on the way out - they are really not very good but check them out anyway.

Once you are at the top its a fast downhill to what looks like the finish line but wait, that's only 5 and a bit miles.... where are they taking me.... oh no a half mile out and back to make up the distance. But wait, I'm feeling pretty good here and people are slowing down I can look like a real athlete here and pass people. One guy got screaming past me so I chase him to the end and we pass lots of people. I almost catch him but he crosses the finish before me. Final time 56:18 - my slowest 10k ever! My splits were 10:20, 9:16, 8:58, 9:03 (start of the hill), 10:24 (uphill, photos, downhill), 8:15 (for the 1.2 miles which is actually 6:52 pace which suggests a bad mile marker or short race to me!). Either way a great race and lots of fun. I think there were more walkers than runners so if you ever feel the urge to walk the bridge its a good day for that too and you can wear more sensible clothing.

I've alluded to lots of training for my upcoming 12 hour. When I first started running a 5k or 10k would earn you a few days off training to recover. You got a whole week for a half marathon and longer for a full marathon if you needed it. Now I'm doing really long races everything else becomes a minor blip. In the last month I've done 2 half marathons purely as a long training run and no I don't get time off after them, even the one that was my 2nd fastest half ever. This weekend the 10k simply wasn't going to cut it so the day before I got up at 6am and ran 2 hours as a warm up before Sundays extra 6 miles. There won't be any days off after this either. I think its only going to get worse until next April - I already have a 50k planned as a training run!

On the other hand it does feel quite cool to say I'm a ultra runner doesn't it?

Lets play "How far can The ZMan run"?

Well its 5 weeks until the next crazy race. The Carkeek 12 hour. The premise of the race is simple. How many times can you run round a 1.93 mile loop in 12 hours. I start at 6am in the dark and I end at 6pm also in the dark. Only whole laps count. Just to make it interesting the trail has 430 feet of elevation gain including a flight of stairs and a nasty hill. This is going to be a real leg killer.

Here's some blog posts about previous races: 
and a cool video  

So here's the competition. How many laps do you think I will do. And how long will it take me. Time will only be used as a tie break for people who guess the same number of laps. Time will of course be less than 12 hours! No I dont have any prizes other than I will mention you in the blog which is pretty special.

Since many of you will like to be analytical in your calculations here's some facts.

If I run at my best paces for other races these would be the distances I could cover in 12 hours:

5k pace = 92 miles / 47 laps
10k pace = 89 miles / 46 laps
half marathon pace = 82 miles / 42 laps
full marathon pace = 75 miles / 38 laps
50k pace = 63 miles / 32 laps

The longest I have been on my feet running for was 7 hours in a treasure hunt type race with lots of stops and lunch/dinner breaks. I covered 26 miles in those 7 hours and was still in good shape. I could have kept going but I don't know if it was 5 hours worth of 'keep going'.

The course records for this very hard course are 54 miles (28 laps) for women and 62 miles (32 laps) for men. I am not even close to the calibre of the people who did this.

430 feet of elevation in 2 miles is considered pretty hilly running.

Stairs are leg killers. My plan is to walk (briskly) the stairs on each lap becuase there's no point in running the first 2 just for the hell of it.

I have been running a training loop which is about 4 miles, 350ft of elevation and 220 stairs once a week to prepare my legs. Hills and stairs have got noticable easier to do.

I will have supporters cheering me every loop and running buddies have promised to come and run/walk/crawl some laps with me to help. This may not be as useful as you think if I am down to 20 minute miles on bloody stumps.

My personal goals for the race are:

  1. Go further than I have before (31.6miles/50k) and run for longer than I have (7 hours)
  2. If #1 looks good then I would like to hit 40 miles (about half way between a 50k and a 50 miler)
  3. Other than injury or fatigue like I have never felt before I intend to go for all 12 hours - walking as needed

Remember - how many 1.93 laps and how long to complete those laps.... post your comments..

Singing Jonathan Coulton while you swim across the lake.

So why would a fairly sane guy do such a thing. Well I could run a 5k every weekend and I'd probably get faster but to be honest I like the variety of trying new things instead.

I've swum since I can remember but never was any good at the old freestyle and certainly never good enough to swim any distance. Thanks to some tips from J and lots of practise I managed to get up to a nice 800m for the triathlons but out there in Seattle is a lake with only 2 ways across it and I figured I should try to find a third. Thankfully I didn't have to work out the logistics myself as there is an annual race which goes across a fairly narrow part. They claim its 1.5 miles but they moved the start line so I think its now about 1.4. Either way outside my one long practise run when I did 100 lengths (which is about 1.4 miles) this would be my longest swim ever. Its certainly my longest swim without anything to touch every 40 seconds!

So just like running up we got at  5:30am for an early breakfast and a drive to the other side of the lake. The parks service apparently were still in bed and there was chaos as the car park and toilets were still locked. Thankfully I was changed and didn't need to leave a car so I was fine. A couple of agave Chocolate #9's(these things are good) to keep me going, on with the wetsuit (the water was very warm but it helps with the buoyancy) and before I knew it they were counting us down and I was waving good bye to J&M who came to see me off. Really the park on the other side didn't look all that far away so I figured I would be there in no time ;-)

One of the biggest problems swimming in the lake is sighting on your destination. You have to break your stroke somewhat and correct. Today I had the super hero power of perfect direction. Though I checked often I was on target every time. Sadly I can't say the same for everyone. At one point I swear someone swam perpendicular to me! It took me a few minutes to get in the groove and since I wasn't trying to go fast I just went at a nice even rhythm. When I checked my line as suspected the other side had got no closer at all whereas the place I left had already got much smaller. It was nice to see there were more people behind me than in front of me too but I could see the faster waves had already started to leave so they will be passing me soon.

For some reason I ended up singing a few Jonathan Coulton songs as I was swimming (ok to myself in my head - its cheaper than an iPod people and more waterproof) - I have no idea why they popped into my head but whatever floats your boat (or wetsuit). A few renditions of Code Monkey and I think I am half way. The faster swimmers still have not caught up to me and I'm pretty sure I've only been out here 15-20 minutes. WOW that would be a great time. I try a few verses of Mr Fancy Pants and I Feel Fantastic and realise I don't know the words. Skull Crusher Mountain seems to be around the right pace and I have vague recollections of that buzzing through my head for the rest of the swim. The odd thing about the middle of the lake is that the park I am swimming to really doesn't seem any closer than it did when I started and only the relative position of the boats that are protecting us from yahoos on jet skis gives you any indication of progress. Still at least there is progress eh?

Suddenly people whiz past me in orange and pink caps - these guys started 5 and 10 minutes behind me and they are moving. At this point I realise the other side is slowly growing and I can make out people on the bank. I think I've been out here about 25 minutes now and it doesn't seem far to go... but it is of course. More fast swimmers go past me and I put my head down and just plug away. I'm in a good groove, its not feeling hard and I'm certain I am on a great time so no point in pushing it. Good job because as you are sure to have guessed I am further away than I think and there's still lots of swimming to do.

And then I see the weeds at the bottom and realise I have less than 50m to go so I pick it up a bit 100% sure that I've somehow swum 1.4 miles in 35 minutes. I have no idea how.

J, M, M and F are waiting to cheer and as I stand up I realise that its quite odd going from horizontal to vertical and I wobble a bit. I ask J my time - 50 minutes she says. No way! I guess as well as the distance being hard to judge time in the water is hard to judge too when you don't have to go back and forth. 50 minutes is still a fine time for 1.4 miles so I'm still very happy. I have to ask her again just to check because its hard to imagine I've been gone that long. A few more wobbles and I get my finishers breakfast - no bacon which is a damn shame! I think I was a bit excited at this point and I'm sure my mouth was just working overtime.

In the end it was much easier than I expected thanks to Coach J for the workouts of course. I honestly think I could have turned round and swum back which means I should be able to go faster next time... or maybe I will just do what I normally do and  double the distance.

Of course I'm still training for crazy running races so I don't get the weekend off and I didn't want to run yesterday and tire myself out. So 30 minutes after I finished the swim I put on my running gear and went for a nice 9 mile run. In the end the whole lot was done before lunchtime. What a good day that is!

New Challenges

Its official - with my 1st marathon of the year out of the way the resting is over and its time to find some new and interesting challenges. There are so many strange and wonderful races out there.

  • August 2009. Swimming fun. Next week its time to start swimming again but this time I need to build up to 1.5 miles to swim across the lake for the Park to Park swim. Not only will it be the longest I have ever swum but I will have swum across the lake which is very cool
  • October 2009 - my first 12 hour race. There's no fixed distance - you have 12 hours to go as many times around a 2 mile loop as you like. You can stop as often as you like, eat and drink whatever you like. I'm sure there's a very different attitude to dealing with this as the 'end' is so far away so the 'just 2 miles to go - that's less than half an hour' optimism goes out of the window.
  • Jan/Feb 2009 - multiple 50ks. Remember when I ran my 50k and you all thought I was crazy. Now I need to do multiple of them as part of training for....
  • April 2010 - my first 50 miler. Nuff said...

Its not all about new things there's still plenty of running in between that lot - and there's some races you just have to plan in advance...

  • December 2009 - Rock and Roll Las Vegas - well I've got to get my bonus medal after running Seattle Rock and Roll.
  • March 2010 - Disney Princess half marathon. The ladies have wanted to run this for a while in their princess outfits and apparently the men are going to get dressed up too. We have been given previews of the outfits but I'll leave that as a surprise. Who wouldn't want to do a race with 99% women AND a free subscription to redbook?
  • Sept 2010 - DisneyLand half - if you do a Disney event on the East coast you need to do the West coast one to get the bonus medal....
  • January 2013 Goofy Challenge/Disney Marathon as it will be the 20th anniversary of the marathon so we think they will do extra cool medals again.

That schedule means I need to pick 2011 or 2012 for my Rock and Roll year of many medals (as long as I can save up the money) and then hopefully I will run the Tahoe Triple one of those years... its been up there on my totally crazy list for quite some time now.

Posted 01 July 2009 10:51 AM by zman
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