Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Horror of Outlying Data

A week and a half ago, I set a PR, and it’s caused nothing but anxiety.

Specifically, I ran my typical “short” training run (a 5K), and did it in 25:54. That’s 15 seconds faster than my previous fastest 5K time. Yay?

Then, because I can make anything negative, I started analyzing. The run was phone-timed and -measured, which can certainly be wrong, so my first thought was that the time was wrong this time too. It was also a full minute faster than any 5K run I’d done this year, which is suspicious—I’m still getting into running shape but time improvements have been happening in dribs and drabs rather than big chunks. And my previous best took place in a race rather than training, and I’m normally a lot faster in races. Adrenaline, you know.

But I reviewed the route the phone measured, and it didn’t seem terribly wrong. Moreover, the run felt fast, at least for me.

So I’m willing to accept, at least tentatively, that that’s my 5K time now.

But then the bigger, more fundamental anxiety kicked in. Because I’ve run now 4 times since then, and I haven’t come close to that pace. So now I’m wondering: Is the magic gone forever? Have I peaked, and now I’m just going to have to desperately chase that one pathetic moment of borderline competence forever, even though it continues sliding further and further away?

There may be legitimate excuses. One of the runs was a long one, so I wasn’t pushing the pace. Another took place in 90+ degree heat, and I did it with the interval training feature (AKA chases) of Zombies, Run! on, so it’s not really a pure comparison. Most amusingly, one of the runs featured a bit where I tripped on rough ground and fell, only I almost recovered and it took me about seventeen steps to actually hit the ground. Even before the fall I was pre-exhausted and not trying to push the pace, so I’m OK with that one.

But still… It would be nice to have some supporting data to back up my first-ever sub-26-minute 5K. Or a certificate. Maybe a nice quiche, even. Something to make me feel like this is something I can actually do.

World, get on that.





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Bambi’s Revenge

This tale begins in 2009. That was the year I visited the Grand Canyon, and, in addition to clapping my eyes on some of the most majestic vistas ever created by nature, I also had the pleasure of witnessing possibly the best warning sign ever created.

It instructed all park visitors not to attempt to approach deer they might see because—and these words have stuck with me—”Deer hooves are sharp like swords.”

Angry deer

angry deer?” by w3nkman, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I was living in Chicago, where deer were a rare sight, so I have rarely had to apply the information I learned from that sign. But in Ohio, they’re much less so.

I’ve spotted deer three or four times while I’ve been living here. I like seeing deer—they’re pretty animals and all. But every time I’ve seen them, it has been approaching the duck hours and I’ve been on the bike paths.

Now, I’ve waxed rhapsodic about the local bike paths before, and I stand by both the wax and the rhapsody. But there’s one thing I may not have mentioned that has become relevant to the waxody: The paths don’t really occupy much space. They’re a few feet of pavement, with a few feet of grass on either side, and then woods.

So, when there’s a deer on the path, if you want to get past it, you’ve got two options: Either you can approach it or you can wait in a ruminant standoff until the deer scampers off.

Every time this happens, my quasi-rational fear* of samurai deer emerges. I have always chosen the ruminant standoff approach. I’ll attempt to make comforting noises, trying to translate “Hello, Mr. and/or Mrs. Deer, I think you’re a wonderful creature but I need to get to the other side of where you are and I’d appreciate it if you’d step off the path so I could be certain I could do that without being decapitated by your katana hooves, not that you would do that, but I’ve heard that it’s possible” into Cervinae.**

There’s also, of course, the quasi-rational fear that a startled deer might inadvertently—or perhaps advertently—barrel into me, which would hurt a fair amount. But mostly, I’m concerned about the swords.

Is this a concern that I need to have? It’s hard to say.

The internet has reports about moose attacks, killer chickens, vexatious kangaroos, herds of sheep, and Canada geese (which are not a surprise—they’re nasty buggers). Also, this article thinks your bike route is adjacent to a meth lab, because needless fearmongering is a thing our society is good at.

But none of these reports are terribly, how do you say, authoritative, so I’m left wondering about whether Bambi is out there, planning revenge for the money-grubbing Bambi II, and the even worse Bambi on Ice, and for forcing him to make that frankly horrifying turn as Sam Carmichael in the film version of Mamma Mia. And, of course, this:

Some may say, “Be brave.” But I’m a coward. And so, from here on out, whenever I see a deer, I’m going to assume it’s after human blood.

* My quasi-rational fear is rather odd for my new town. Most of the people here are terrified of tornadoes. It kind of makes sense: In 1974, there was a really serious tornado that fairly devastated the town. But what doesn’t make sense is that everything now is a tornado, even if it’s just a light drizzle that is later discovered to be caused by a lawn sprinkler, or a cloud that blocks out the sun for a couple of seconds. I shudder to think how people will feel about the eclipse in August.

** Deer language. Druids can choose it as one of their starting languages, while other classes may learn it by spending twelve months if they have an intelligence of 12 or higher.

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Goal Review: A Bouncy Month

So, May was a bit odd goal-wise. There were a couple of very rough patches that were mercifully short but still reduced the overall effectiveness at goal achievement. Overall:

Weight: This is where there was the most noise, with 10-pound swings within a single week. Overall, by the 7-day average method, I dropped a bit over 3 pounds. I think the reality is a bit better, since things were on a downward trend and the average incorporated unusually high numbers.

Pull-ups: My goal was to get 6, and my best was 5. And to be honest, the 5th wasn’t terribly good form. Better consistency would have helped—the week after Spartan/the road trip was particularly bad and set me back.

Crow pose: My goal was to hold it for 20 seconds, and my best was about 13. This one I feel a bit better about, though, since I was generally improving throughout the month.

Dips: If I count yesterday morning, then I got 8, which was my goal. But as yesterday morning was technically in June, I should only claim 7. Here’s one where I need to work on form, particularly depth of the dip—but it’s a weakness of bodyweight work that when you have enough bodyweight, getting quite deep may not be feasible.

Biking: I mostly made it around the county. I made it to nearly every one of the easily bikeable towns—Cedarville was my only omission, and I have biked there before. Losing two weekends to races and travel really hampered this one.

Running: One goal was to build my long run distance to an 8K, which I did, albeit with a poo break in the middle. (During which I discovered that I live closer to an auto race track than I do my primary grocery store.) The second was to run a timed 8-minute mile, which I made no attempt at. Also, as a side note, I did 5K training runs under 27 minutes twice, which is a nice threshold for me to meet.

Writing: My goal was to write outside of work every day. This didn’t happen. Output was far from nothing, though. I’ll give myself a low C.

Transitioning to living: This hasn’t really happened the way I’d hoped, and I’m still not sure exactly how to go about it. I’m considering getting back into improv just as a way to start it off. And because I’m addicted to being laughed at. We’ll see.

Goals for June:

Weight: A classic. My 7 day average yesterday was 248.14, so I’ll try to drop that to 240.14.

Community: I want to begin at least one regular activity. In addition, I want to find some kind of workout group—preferably one dedicated to OCR and other nontraditional workouts—or convince myself that such things do not currently exist in my area. Which is entirely possible.

Running: I want to build my long run at least to 10K.

Writing: In addition to writing here, I want to build my current main project (Uncle Greg’s Guide to Uncling) up by 15,000 words. That’s technically editing, but as the edits involve changing the authorial voice significantly, there’s a lot of re-writing involved.

Crow pose: 20 seconds again.

Pull-ups: Build to 8.

Handstand push-ups: This is something I’d like to be able to do with anything resembling range of motion. My current ability is to lower my head by maybe an inch; I’d like to get all the way to the ground, although that’s probably overly ambitious for just this month.


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