Thursday, July 31, 2014

10,000 steps a day is hard!

The S Health app on my new Galaxy S5 includes a pedometer, and as seems to be typical for pedometers, it sets a default "goal" of 10,000 steps per day. Apparently, the 10,000 steps idea originated as a marketing pitch in Japan, though it does seem to correlate (not surprisingly) with some good health markers.

I've been using the pedometer for close to a week now, and it isn't easy racking up 10,000 steps if you don't count running.

Saturday (7/26), 7269 steps: Walked to lunch; went to an indoor sporting event and walked around the stadium at half time.

Sunday (7/27), 11942 steps: Ran 3.3 miles outdoors, which accounted for about 5000 of the steps. Without running, this would've been just under 7000 steps.

Monday (7/28): 29738 steps: This included a 13.7 mile run. Without that, it would've been another day around 7000 steps.

Tuesday (7/29), 4565 steps: Running was done on a treadmill without my phone, so this is the pure number of walking steps.

Wednesday (7/30), 9660 steps: Again, running was done on a treadmill without my phone. No particularly extensive walking trips other than taking the kids to summer daycare (about 0.6 miles round-trip), just a lot of chores around the house.

Thursday (7/31, as of early afternoon), just under 4000 steps: About 1000 of those "steps" came when I was on the exercise bike before I realized that the cycling motion was fooling the accelerometer on the phone.

I do live on the West Coast, and in a sprawling suburb at that, so I do less walking as a means of ordinary transportation than if I lived in one of the dense cities with little parking. It's certainly feasible for someone who relies on walking to get from place A to place B to rack up 10,000 or more steps a day easily. But if you have a white collar semi-sedentary lifestyle, it may be near impossible without incorporating running into your routine.

(One thing I am curious about is how much pacing will add to the step count. When I am teaching, I tend to pace back and forth at the front of the classroom. Classes start after Labor Day, so I will have to wait until then to find out.)

Oh, and while it has been interesting to see my number of steps taken, I haven't bothered logging the calories burned count. The effect on calorie burn of walking is pretty negligible, and anyway, I figure this is all part of NEAT.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"24" and "Mission: Impossible": 2 peas in a pod?

Mission: Impossible cast, season 5

One of the unexpected benefits of getting rid of cable TV was the discovery of MeTV, which we get over the air as part of the ABC affiliate's split digital signal. And perhaps the best thing about MeTV is that it reruns the classic TV series Mission: Impossible. Not just the theme song, which may be the best ever TV theme, but the show itself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More on the Samsung Galaxy S5

I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S5 from a runner's perspective here. It was more like "first impressions," as I hadn't had a chance to go on a long run with it, just a short 3.3 mile jaunt.

Today I ran 13.7 miles with it, using RunKeeper and Audible while also running the S Health app as a pedometer in the background. Battery drain was quite acceptable, about a loss of 15% over 2 1/4 hours. Obviously that wouldn't last the entire day at that rate, but then again, I wouldn't be having the constant GPS hit for the rest of the day.

One slight downside is that the S5 is slightly larger than my old Galaxy Nexus, and somewhere around mile 11, my left shoulder started to get tired. I switched the phone to my right hand, and not long after, my right shoulder got tired. (I normally hold my phone in my left hand, so even though I'm right-handed, I guess I have more muscle endurance on my left side for this particular context.) It's not a heavier phone, but it's wide enough that it seems to be stretching my grip to its comfortable limit.

The other funny thing is that the S Health pedometer has absolutely no idea what to do with my high cadence/short stride when running. It knows when I'm running versus when I'm walking and helpfully displays the "steps taken" bar chart in different shades of green, but its mileage calculator was way off. By the end of my run, it proudly informed me that I had covered over 20 miles on foot today. Subtracting the 13.7 miles from the run, that would mean that I'd already walked well over 6 miles too. I think the accurate figure would have been about 3/4 of a mile at that point. So the pedometer roughly overstates my on foot mileage by about 50% when I'm running.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Samsung Galaxy S5

I've been using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus for the past two years, and I've liked it a lot. However, the first one I had became extremely unstable not quite a year into the contract, and I ended up getting a refurbished replacement. That one worked well until my July 4th 5K race, when the GPS decided to take a vacation, leaving me to run essentially without any timing guidance.

A few weeks ago, I lingered a bit too long in Target's mobile phone section, and when the sales manager approached me, I was unusually receptive to learning about the available phones. I was intrigued by the Galaxy S4, which had dropped to $50, and not so much by the Galaxy S5, which was going for $170. The S5 had two new features, a heartrate monitor and a waterproof case. I didn't see much use for the HR monitor, but the waterproofing was somewhat attractive, living as I do in a rainy climate. Still, I didn't think it was worth $120 more.

Friday, July 25, 2014

RW's gag running inventions

Runner's World has a slide show with a bunch of gag running inventions, but I wonder if performance-obsessed runners like me would actually go for this "PaceProd" watch, which "delivers an electrical shock if you start to slow too much. No more looking at your watch or listening for beeps, just a helpful 2 milliamps of current to keep you on track."

Even better is the PaceProdPlus, "which delivers twice the electricity if you try to remove it before you’ve reached your target distance for the day."

You have to wonder how long the battery lasts, though.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yikes, killer dogs!

DFP 0724_DFP_dogs_kill_man_WEB_HANDOUT

This is not a comforting story . . . a runner in Detroit got mauled to death by a pair of dogs. A fortysomething man, just like me(!). From the news story:
The dogs were apparently running free on the road where the attack took place. Neighbors fired shots into the air to try to scare the dogs off the jogger.
Afterward, the dogs retreated to their owner's home.
It certainly makes my coyote chasing not such a great idea, it seems. I did get kind of attacked by a dog once while running. The dog's owner had him on a leash, fortunately, but when I ran past them going uphill, the dog lunged at me with a paw before the owner could pull him away. It didn't rip my tech shirt or otherwise break my skin, but it did leave a long and not insignificant scratch on my chest.

Now I try to give dogs wide clearance.

A very optimistic take on why "24: Live Another Day" will get another go-around

HuffPo has a long article speculating that "24: Live Another Day" will get another limited series order because it managed to revitalize itself in today's increasingly chaotic world:
With comments from the head of the Fox broadcast TV network this week to the effect that he is looking forward to another season, it's clear that the return of 24, which wrapped up a 12-episode limited series run last week, has been a real success. Given that the show had seemed near played out when it ended its eight-season run four years ago, the question is why the longest-running espionage TV series in history seems still to have a lot of life left in it 13 years after it first ran.
I think it's a combination of the revitalized quality of the show and the very disquieting nature of the times we live in.
I was hoping that there would be an announcement of a tenth season at today's "24" panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, but alas, nothing on that front. There was this interesting tidbit, though:
Well, I'm going to do my part to try to persuade Fox to bring it back: can't wait for "24: Live Another Day" to come out on DVD....

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book review: The Sports Gene by David Epstein

I just finished reading David Epstein's The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who's interested at all in the "nature vs. nurture" debate about how people become elite runners, basketball players, etc. Epstein draws upon lots of cutting edge research into genetics and sports performance to explain, among other things, how professional baseball players can hit 95 mph pitches when the reaction time available to them is barely more than the time it takes to coordinate a thought into action (answer: years of experience has given each of them a "memory map" that enables them to make reasonably good predictions about how the pitch will travel based on a split second view of the pitcher's delivery) to why Kenyans and Ethiopians seem to dominate middle- and long-distance running while Jamaicans seem to dominate sprinting (answer: a combination of factors ranging from cultural to the proportion of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers favoring sprinting or distance running to, in the case of the East Africans, living at the sweet spot of altitude training ~ 6000-8000 feet above sea level).

In any sort of work on sports performance and gene science, race inevitably looms in the background. To his credit, Epstein doesn't shy away from discussing race, but neither does he channel Al Campanis (who infamously blundered into the subject with the sensitivity of a drunken rhino). As the sprinting vs. long-distance running example mentioned above demonstrates, people from different parts of the world excel at different types of athletic competitions. Epstein points out that the individual record for the 100 meter sprint in Kenya isn't good enough to qualify for the Olympics; as dominant as the Kenyans are in the distance events, they're totally uncompetitive in the sprints. Epstein doesn't say this explicitly, but what I drew from the book is that when we Americans talk about "race" and sports, we do so in a very obtuse way because we lump people into "white," "black," "Latino," or "Asian," when in fact there can be a significant amount of diversity within those crude racial categories.

If there's a book that The Sports Gene reminds me of, it's Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which similarly examined race and cultural through a completely new lens (of geography).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I wish I'd seen this when my boys were babies. . . .

I wish I'd seen this book when my boys were babies. I also wish I'd gotten one of those jogging strollers too. But then again, I didn't start running until my younger son was in pre-school, so I suppose it wouldn't have made a difference. Or maybe it would've inspired me earlier . . . ?

NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" may have a silly title, but it's actually a good show!

The blogosphere has been abuzz over Kacy Catanzaro's impressive performance at the Dallas finals, in which she beat the course to move on to the ultimate Las Vegas finale:

The show's title may be silly, since ninjas are kind of the stuff of low budget 1980s movies and kids' Lego toys, and some people might think they wouldn't be interested in the show as a result. But in fact, it's really a super-difficult obstacle race where amateur athletes are (sometimes) able to accomplish incredible feats of strength and coordination.

Possibly the best thing about the show/competition, however, is that it exhibits a really cool ethos of athletes supporting one another. Though there are plenty of characters (some showing up in costumes, others playing to the crowd), there's no trash-talking; indeed, during Catanzaro's run, you can hear the crowd repeatedly cheering for her. Some of that might be because she was the first woman ever to finish that stage of the competition, but still. . . . The same kind of positive spirit is one of the things I really like about the running community, how people cheer for one another during races.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fun with BMI percentile calculators (don't take this stuff too seriously)

Huh, this BMI percentile calculator, which incorporates your gender and age, considers me "underweight" and at the 3d percentile for M40-49. Gaining 2 pounds would bump me up to "normal range" and 5th percentile, so I guess it doesn't really think I'm that emaciated. This page (same website) has some interesting "ideal weight" calculators, including one based on what other people of the same age/gender/height/weight think is their ideal weight - according to that one, I should gain 9 pounds. But then, the page notes that:
  • Many men tend to think that their ideal weight is near-to or higher-than a BMI of 25, which is the upper limit of the "medical" non-overweight range. This indicates that men generally under-appreciate the adverse medical risks of being overweight, including diabetes and heart attacks.
So maybe I won't go gorging on ice cream just yet. . . .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Will "24" be coming back in 2015 or 2016?

I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVED "24: Live Another Day." I'm keeping all 12 episodes saved on my TiVo Desktop until the DVD set is released. In the meantime, I've been scouring the Internet for any hints on whether it's coming back. Here's what I've found:

This article suggests that 2016 would be the earliest it would come back but none of the producers sounds particularly positive. It does include a quote from Mary-Lynn Rajskub (who plays Chloe O'Brian) to the effect that "it's not a matter of if, but when."

This article points out that "24" is going to be the subject of a panel at next week's Comic Con, which could simply be a tie-in to the announcement of the street date for the DVDs . . . or for a renewal announcement.

This is a more optimistic account with six things that season 10 have to deliver, including sticking with the 12-episode format.

You cannot be serious . . . Badwater x4???

The Badwater 135 advertises itself as the world's toughest foot race - imagine running 135 miles in July through the California desert and finishing on Mt. Whitney!

The record for finishing is just under 23 hours, which is pretty staggering to think about.

Now imagine running it back to back.

And one more time.

And one more after that.

That's what Lisa Smith-Batchen accomplished this month. 584 miles! Not surprisingly, she did this as a fundraising event for Badwater4Goodwater, a non-profit she founded to help build wells for clean drinking water in Ethiopia and India. It makes sense that running for a goal like that is what it takes to run Badwater four times in a row.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fox's "24: Live Another Day": season finale review

That's it, season 9 of "24" is in the books. Will there be another mini-season in the future? Did this season hold up?

Yellowstone running (and Grand Teton too)

North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

I just got back from a week in Wyoming, first at Grand Teton National Park for a couple of days, and the next five at Yellowstone National Park. As this was a family vacation (including my dad), I didn't get to do nearly as much running as I normally would've. But I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to get in some miles in national parks!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"24: Live Yet Another Day"(?) - plot idea

With only the season finale left for Fox's "24: Live Another Day," I can only hope that the ratings and hype have been enough for another limited series event next year. A 1.4-1.5 rating, which is where the show has settled at, isn't great, but (1) summer ratings tend to be lower than those in the regular September-May season; (2) it's better than most Fox shows; and (3) I think (but am not positive) that "24" does pretty well in the DVD market.

I imagine that substantial factors affecting whether it comes back next year (or in 2016) are Kiefer Sutherland's desire to reprise the role and the producers'/writers' ability to come up with a plotline that excites them. Although "24: Live Another Day" brought back a number of "24" tropes (moles, magical override devices, Chloe's ability to do her hacktastic work from coffee shops/bars), the use of drones and a Wikileaks-like organization made it seem fresh and relevant, as opposed to, say, season 6's tired retread of yet another nuclear bomb on the loose plot.

What might work for a tenth season?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

For fans of "Zombies, Run!"....

When I first started getting into running, I was intrigued by the idea of the "Zombies, Run!" app, which lets you play "missions" while running, and using the GPS on your smartphone to track your "progress." At various points, the app will take over the audio feed (whether you're listening to music or whatever) and narrate storyline-related events, including pursuit by zombies.

I had moved beyond needing any kind of motivation of this sort by the time an Android app was available, so I never bothered with it. But for those who like these sorts of games, Kickstarter has a similar but secret agent-themed one called "Subject 00." Check it out.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book review: What Makes Olga Run, by Bruce Grierson

I received a complimentary review copy of Bruce Grierson's What Makes Olga Run? from Amazon in exchange for a review.

I tend to put running books in two categories: those about how to run faster/better, and those about runners. This is in the latter category, so reading it is not likely to make you run faster or better - unless, of course, you aren't running at all right now but get inspired to start.

The main character in the book is Olga Kotelko, an international track star based on her incredible age-based records in a whole host of track events ranging from sprinting to high jumping to javelin throwing. She's doing this at 92 years old! A good deal of the book is about how she got into track at an advanced age (70+), what her training is like, and what scientists and doctors have learned about her from her voluntary cooperation with their research. Another part of the book is about author Bruce Grierson's developing friendship with Olga, and in the most self-critical parts, comparing his own relatively bad state of fitness to Olga's. Along the way, Grierson provides a lot of exposition about the current state of research about fitness and longevity. It concludes with a set of guidelines for living better; while readers are unlikely to be as dominant in the age 90-94 bracket as Olga is, the guidelines are workable.

I enjoyed the book. As a protagonist, Olga is not the most interesting person, but as a study in what is possible at such an age, and what tangible benefits result from such activity, she's pretty fascinating.