Thursday, June 27, 2013


A massive open online course (MOOC), according to Wikipedia, is an online course aimed at large scale interactive participation and open access via the web and it's free.  Wait a minute - nothing is free!

I decided to give it a try - signed up for a few courses, for free  : )

Using Coursera as a MOOC provider, I signed up for things that interested me and did not overlap on the calendar.   You do not actually get college credit for these, but for me - I just want the knowledge.  We'll see, should be interesting.

Years and years ago, before the (gulp) internet existed, while in graduate school, I did a practicum titled "Using CAI (computer assisted instruction) to Teach DOS in a Business Environment".  To me, MOOCs are just another step on this path of whatever this really is.  So if the CAI (implemented with 5 1/4 floppy disks!) approach was when this was in its infancy, maybe MOOCs would be like a teenager. I think it still has a ways to go, but it does seem to be picking up momentum.  

One of the most interesting sites I found while googling for MOOCs is a blog titled "degree of freedom" where the author is attempting to take four years of courses in 12 months for zero dollars.  It's worth a look if you are interested in MOOCs.  

I'm curious if any of you have taken any MOOCs and if so, how was it?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things I Will Not Miss When I Retire

Spending roughly 250 hours per year just to get to and from work!  And my commute really isn't so bad, a half hour each way.  This will not be missed.

My commute is 17 miles each way, five days a week.  The traffic varies as do the lights so it's a minimum of a half hour but there are occasions when it can take an hour.

That's a ballpark of about 250 hours a year, roughly six work weeks extra each year.  And then there is the expense, not even including the wear & tear on the vehicle, insurance, maintenance,... but just the gas is about $1000 annually.  Yep, I will not miss this!

But then I looked at it from a 40 year career standpoint - maybe I shouldn't have done this, it's quite discouraging.  Just the time aspect (250 hrs/year as an average for 40 years) 10,000 hours!  A normal work year is ~2000 hours, that would be five extra "work" years spent commuting!!!  That is crazy.  I don't even want to think about the money...

I wish I could walk to work and back.

When I do retire, I will not miss my daily commute.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Great Manhattan Bridge Walk

Just recently found this walk - it is now on my bucket list!

The Great Manhattan Bridge Walk is a 27 mile walk that goes over all the bridges that one can leave Manhattan Island on foot.  I will not be able to make it this year as it is a week from Saturday, but it is definitely on my bucket list now.

This event is hosted by Shorewalkers, the same organization that hosts the Great Saunter.  They appear to be a very active organization - looking at their calendar they have many walks planned.  It is stating the obvious, but you really do see so much more on walks like these versus driving through an area.

It does not matter if it's urban hiking or nature hiking - it's just good to get out there.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Race 37 Rope Mill Trail Half Marathon

There were four really great things about this trail race:

1.  I did not get stung by bees this year (stung 5 times during race last year)
2.  I did not fall in the river this year (there was no river crossing this year, last year got completely soaked)
3.  No knee pain - walked the entire race - no running.
4.  It was free!  For volunteering for a previous race, they gave me a free entry.

Hard to beat that!

Being an early person, had no problem getting to the race early enough to snag one of the 50 parking spaces - once filled, participants had to park a half mile way.  With plenty of time I decided to explore a bit and came across a WARNING NOTICE that said:

Use of these trails is at your own risk.  This site contains ruins of the historic 

Rope Mill...foundations, slab, and flume are unstable...extreme caution.

Yeah, this sort of got my attention...

Actually the trails we did were in a different area, so that was good.  But the sign intrigued to find a  bit more about Rope Mill.  Apparently it was a mill that produced cotton ropes that were used for plow lines and well-water buckets prior to 1900. 

At 7:45 the Race Director called us all together to go over a few pre-race items. 

note the beach ball...
Although this year's race did not contain a water crossing, Lisa (RD) did have an "alternative' for those who just would not think the race was complete without going into the water.  Note the beach ball in the picture above - these were tied with string and a rock and each contained some type of giveaway.  They would throw these into the river and whenever you were passing by that part of the river and wanted to get one - just go for it.

In case you are wondering - I did not partake in the activity, was glad to stay dry : )

At 8:00 AM we were off for the half marathon and at 8:10 the 5Kers were off.  We did a lot of zig-zagging and up & down.  I'm not sure what the total elevation gain was for the race but it was pretty hard.  I know it is not possible but it seemed like we were always going up.

Truth be told, at about mile 8 I was ready for this to be over with.  It was getting hotter as the sun got higher in the sky.  Seemed like every time I turned a corner (and there were a lot of them), I was going up hill again.  And, it appeared that the course might actually have been more than 13.1 miles.  My Garmin read 15.62 miles when I finally finished.  I do suspect my Garmin  (FR60 with Footpod) might need a calibration check, but at most it would probably be plus or minus 5-8%.  

However, I did finish the race, and for me, that is what counts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Charging for Airline Seat Assignments?


I've been booking my own flights for years and the standard protocol towards the end of the process is to select seat assignments.  So with an out of state race coming up in the Fall, saw some good deals so I recently booked flights online.  Towards the end of the process I clicked on Seat Assignments and saw this:

Pricing for Seat Assignments 

I thought, nah, this must be for something else.  Nope, every time I made a selection, dollars were added to the total amount the flights would cost.  If you wanted to select your seats the price structure is, per ticket, per flight:

$13-15 Priority Seating (first to board)............

$20 Exit Row (more leg room & first to board)

$6  Standard Seat (advance assignment)..........

So if my wife and I wanted Exit Row seats, coming and going, add $80 to the total price.  If we wanted Standard Seating, add $24 to the total.  Otherwise, I suppose you get your seat assignment at the gate.  Maybe we will get to sit together and maybe not.

Now I do not know where all of this is going with airlines charging for all sorts of things, but this did remind me of a Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman skit about a No Frills Airline...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

22 Weeks to Chickamauga

It has been said that anyone, barring physical limitations, can walk a marathon.  I believe that is a true statement.  I also believe there are two huge variables that should be considered as part of that statement:  one - how long will it take to complete it and two - how will you feel afterwards.

I signed up for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November 2013 and it is my intention to walk every step of it.  The walk every step of the marathon will be a first for me.  I've done a few other marathons, but in each of them did include some running.  But after the knee pain that came on during Soldier Marathon and the subsequent discovery of it only hurts when I run, I gave up all running.

So with the goal of finishing Chickamauga under 6 hours and not feeling like crap afterwards, I have put a training plan together including fartleks, tempos, LSDs, and a bunch of easy walks.  Hopefully it will all work.

Last week was a good training week, it was any easy week, but that is how the plan works.

from Saturday's LSD

Week 1 Training for Chickamauga
Fartlek Workout
Fartlek mins/mile pace, really fast, fast as I can, walk: 8:15, 8:33, 9:06, 8:28, 8:23

I will have to check the calibration on my Garmin (FR60) footpod.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

LSD Saturday

Along with Fartlek Monday & Tempo Wednesday, the last piece to this puzzle is LSD Saturday.  That would be Long Slow Distance Saturday.  The theory here is to continue to add more & more distance, but to do those miles slowly, on Saturdays, to acclimate my body to being out on the course for a really long time.  This is necessary because it will take me the better part of 6 hours to complete Chickamauga Marathon.

This Saturday's LSD was 10 miles, the plan is to build that up to 24 miles over the next few months.  The other learning aspect of doing the longer distances, you figure out what works for you in regards to eating & drinking while doing this.  Currently I tend to 'fuel' my longer distances with Gummi Bears, Granola Bars, water, and orange Gatorade.  I'm sure I'll experiment with different foods & drinks to see what works best.

I am told and have read that the LSD is the key to being able to do the marathon.  They do emphasize that one should actually go slow (slower than race pace) on these.  So, with my goal of walking the entire marathon (26.2 miles) under 6 hours, that would mean my average pace during the race will need to be less than 13:43 minutes per mile.

Pace Calculator

Actually I'm shooting for a 13:00 minute/mile race pace, so that means my LSD speed would be ~2:00 per mile slower, 15:00 minute miles or roughly 4 MPH.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tempo Wednesday

So just like Fartlek Monday for the next 23 weeks, Wednesdays will be Tempo Wednesday.

This is the first time I've put a very specific plan in place for a race.  Sure, I have half-heartedly prepared for races in the past, but I have never seriously approached it.  Just figured I give it a try and see what happens.

Anyway, my tempo workouts will consist of a warm-up period, walk slow/normal pace followed by going "race pace" and finishing with a slow walk cool down.  For instance, this being the first of many today, I did a 10-10-10 (10 minutes slow, 10 minutes race pace, 10 minutes slow).  I will build the "race pace" part up to 40 minutes for a 10-40-10.  But for now, the 10-10-10 will be fine.  

And just like the fartleks, I'll let you know in about 23 weeks, after the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon, if this actually works.

Tonight's tempo was fine until the pouring rain started : ) about 8 minutes in.   So I got soaked, but it actually felt pretty good.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fartlek Monday

It's fartlek Monday and if my plan works, it will be fartlek Monday each Monday for the next 23 weeks.

I'm told, and have read that fartlek means "speed play" in Swedish.  It is a training method created by a Swedish coach, Gösta Holmér in 1937.  Basically this method includes short bursts of going very fast for short periods of time with longer periods of recovery in between.  You can read more about it here.   

My guess would be that most people who do fartleks are runners.  But for me, a former runner who does a bunch of of walking now, the technique should still work.


In all the races I've done so far, only three have been marathons - just felt like challenging myself to do another.  The problem, it has a 6 hour time limit, which is about how long it's taken me for each of the three I've done so far - which all included some running.  But with the recent knee issues/pain, I've eliminated all running.  The good part - no pain, no knee issues since eliminating the running.  The other side of that though, I go slower.  The going slower is fine with me, but then I signed up for the 6 hour time limit Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon.

I'll let you know if fartleks work in about 23 weeks.