New Bri Tri

Today I completed my first ever triathlon…

June 22nd, 2015 I bought a bike, a Trek FX 7.3.  This changed my life.  This neon green chariot of awesome, which I was eventually riding about 100 miles a week, culminated in riding in the Saint Paul Classic where I road it 50 miles in one go.  While on one of my rides in late August (which I thought of in my head at that time as bombing runs, an hour of fun exercise outside, zipping around curves and always pushing for more speed) I wondered what I should do next.  I considered actual bike racing but quickly discarded that idea.  Competing against single sport athletes was likely going to be a source of frustration, plus looking online didn’t turn up many local newbie friendly events.  What else then?  A triathlon.  I had never swum any distance ever.  I despised running at that point.  But it seemed clear to me that this was how I could continue my passion for bike riding as my weight loss goals were becoming a reality and I needed something to keep the motor revving and allow me to set a positive active example for Gabe (Kate too, I suppose but especially at this time being there for Gabe weighed heavily on my thoughts as it does always).  I brought this up with the ever fit and active and down for whatever Derek Mooney, he agreed we should do one in 2016 and it was on.  For quite some time I didn’t mention this to anyone – as then it would be a real thing that I would need to do.  That is how I roll – but eventually I started telling people about it and then it really became a living, breathing thing to pursue.

So what really happened today?  I swam, I biked, I ran, I achieved my goals.

The Swim.

Easily the most intimidating part of the Tri for me.  Do you know that I do not like deep water?  Not in an overt way, but swimming in pools has always given me a tight chest and irrational anxiety.  Skiing and even tubing always carried an air of dread for those times when I would be in the deep lake water, swim jacket or no.  This was my second swim out into deep lake water (who swims away from a perfect good beach area where you can touch and have fun anyway?) and my first in the competitive/busy environment that is a Triathlon wave start.  It was good that we were in the second wave (yellow swim caps!) as it allowed me to watch the younger men and “elites” take off in their blue caps.  I was able to see how far out we would be able to walk/run before diving in effectively, as several of the first wave ran in, dove, then stood back up to run farther.

When it was our time to enter the water, I entered middle of the pack but just behind Derek and we both staid upright until the water was quite deep, nearly waste high.  We stayed up a little longer because there was a line of guys right in front of us – and we were walking as fast as they were swimming.  Finally, it became weedy and it was clear we needed to dive in.  The water was slightly warmer than air temperature, probably about 68-70 degrees.  It still felt cold and for some reason I had trouble processing the cold intake of water into my mouth (seems like you always get a little) along with the jostling of the people around me.  I didn’t really press though, so it wasn’t long before I was in some clear water.

That’s when things went a little south for me.  As I hit the first buoy (there was four out and four back) my brain, the part of it that operates at a primal make-sure-I-survive level, registered that I was in deep water.  I was paying close attention to my breathing at this point, and I could hear the sharp intake of breath I was taking when I was breathing.  This is not good, as it can lead to hyperventilation if you let it really short circuit your breathing for too long.  I went probably ten or twelve strokes trying to get it under control and I just could not shut it down.  I had to flip over on my back – instantly I was able to get my breathing under control.  After a few seconds (felt like minutes) I flipped back over, sighted a buoy and started swimming again.  Again, the anxiety kicked in and I lost control over the depth and quality of my breathing.  I began to contemplate how I would back out of the big Tri coming up in August that I had already registered for with Derek.  Back on my back I went, too wired to be frustrated.  Regaining my control, once more I flipped over and started swimming.

And then I was just able to keep swimming.  I think all of my pool time paid off.  I was pretty much alone at this point, way out of line with the buoys but I diligently worked my way back to the right and got into my groove.  I passed a guy resting on a kayak – a blue cap!  They had started three minutes before I had.  I started passing more yellow cap swimmers and finally reached the buoy where we swam for about 100 of the 800 meters laterally with the beach before turning and coming back.  I passed another guy and kept working.  Some short time later, I looked to my right and saw a green cap (the next wave, the women, who started an additional three minutes behind us) just fly past me.  Uhoh, I thought… then I saw more colored caps.  I swore to myself, disappointed with just how slow I must be swimming if I was in a group of green caps!  Then I realized they were blue! I was catching whole groups of the slowest blue caps!  This realization let me surge the next 200 meters or so where I swam until my hands were hitting the sandy bottom.  A whole host of support greeted me on the beach when I came up, cowbell and all.  My competition tunnel vision that had gotten me through the swim was still in full force though as I went by and tromped up the hill.  In the transition area I was selfishly pleased to see Derek changing out of his wetsuit and into his biking gear.  My investment in Tri shoes paid off and while Derek exited transition before I did, it was not by much at all.  Of course, that was the last time I would see Derek until he was just a few hundred yards from finishing while I was a little over a mile out!  Unfortunately, I took a big swig of Gatorade before getting on my bike – something I had never done during my training sessions or Bricks.

The Ride.

Not nearly so much to talk about here.  I got on my bike and mostly passed people.  There were a couple of road bikers that passed me, but most were of the crazy Super Bike with full aero wheel varieties.  This made me feel better about my preseason bike purchase, without which I would had been about 4 mph slower.  That is a lot when it comes to bike speed!  Unfortunately, a guy ahead of both Mooney and I took a header on some railroad tracks about four miles into the ~12.5 miles and needed medical attention – ambulances and the whole bit.  I was able to catch Matt Shwartz who was riding bike for his team, who I gently razzed as I passed – but he did not take it that way.  A t0-do for the week is to make sure he really knows that was in good sportsmanship, I really wasn’t looking to give him a hard time.  As I finished the bike, I was greeted in two separate places by family and friends, which gave me some fire heading into transition.  The whole step out of shoes on the bike thing is something I need to work on.  I ended up stopping just past the dismount line to take my shoes off – I would be taking them off anyway, and that let me run my bike the rest of the way into transition… where I got lost.  I went down the wrong row and was really confused for a few heartbeats.  I finally figured out what I had done and had to go the full the length of the area and circle back.  I quickly changed into my running gear and was back out.  Again, in addition to taking pulls off my hydration kit (normal) while riding, I took a big swig of Gatorade.

The Run.

I set out and after just a bit looked down at my watch.  I was unpleasantly surprised to see that I was pushing something like a 6:20 pace (my realistic goal pace is 8:00) and it was not going well.  Alarmingly, my stomach was feeling very swollen and a little sour.  I slowed up and pushed on, looking down a bit later and saw that I was still tracking a 7:20 mile.  I further pulled up on the reigns and tried to focus on good form… but my stomach pain was growing and I felt like it was impacting my ability to breath effectively.    Mile one came and went – 8:30 at the mark.  Disappointed, but feeling powerless to change my pace effectively, I pinged my legs and got a message back that they were ready to go… but cardio wise I was out of gas.  Again, family and friends were there for support as I crossed through what would be the finish area on the out and back portion… I pushed into the trees as far as I could, completely consumed by discomfort in my abdomen.  It was like I needed to burp, but there was no burp there – only fullness.  As hard as I could, I focused on triggering a gag reflex and finally it happened.  I stop and stood and coughed out some water… I started walking, and again managed to cough out some more water.  Standing there, hands on my knees, a gal headed back the other way shouted at me, “you got this bro!”  I cracked a smile (at least mentally) and got moving again.  Soon I was running again and some people who had passed me a few minutes before I was then able to pass.  Derek went past me the other way, and I was relieved that I had been able to get through my standing spell before he came by… I was able to keep pushing and the last half of mile two evaporated in another disappointing 8:46… but I was picking up speed.  I finished the last mile in 8:07 and managed to really dial it up when I ran past the people yelling support and through the finish line… where I forgot to end my run :)  My band says my last .02 mile was run at a 104 minute pace!  I guess standing there doesn’t produce a lot of results!

Verdict.

http://www.frontrunnerusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/newbritriresults2016.txt

I did place 67th out of an unknown number of people who started the race (probably 160+).   My goal was “better than average” so 69 should make the mark!  I was aiming for under 1 hour, 30 minutes, and finished in 1 hour, 24 minutes.  Additionally, I wanted to finish withing 10 minutes of Mooney, and he finished in 1:15.

I am very lucky to have so much support.  Without Kristin as an enabler, this would never have happened.  She did so much from watching the kids to sacrificing our together time so I could train…  Thank you!

Despite my early swim misgivings, I am doing this again.  I am convinced my anxiety can be overcome with additional positive exposure.  It was quite a chore to overcome in the pool, I am confident it can be done again.

Gabe was there and got to see it all.  He is very proud of what I did and proud of the pictures he took – another goal achieved and maybe the most important.

Pancakes – a new favorite!

About six months ago, we ran out of bisquick but we still wanted to make pancakes.  I looked online and found a very good recipe, and we have since stopped using bisquick for pancakes!

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup general purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 (generous) tablespoon white sugar

1 1/4 cup milk

1 egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup (+) fruit, optional (blueberries, etc.)

Directions:

Start heating up your griddle.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

After beating these items together, make a indent in the center and add the egg, milk, butter and vanilla.

Mix until smooth.

Fold in fruit/chocolate as desired.  Personally, I add these things to each pancake individually to spread out the awesome consistently.

Using a spoon or measuring cup, put about 1/4 cup out for each pancake.

Let brown, flip, brown, serve!

Results in 12-14 pancakes.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

We’ve been rocking this recipe with Blueberries and Apples for a bit now – its delicious!  A very moist muffin recipe.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups Uncooked quick oatmeal OR 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 oil
1 cup fresh OR frozen blueberries

Topping:

Granulated Sugar (Sugar In The Raw) to taste.
I put a healthy amount on each muffin.
Start with 1 Tablespoon for the pan and adjust from there.

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 425
  2. Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  3. In separate bowl, combine milk, egg and oil.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix until moist only.
  5. DO NOT BEAT.
  6. Fold in Blueberries.
  7. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
  8. Sprinkle topping sugar over muffins evenly.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!

–Nat

VHS to DVD Conversion

A while back, maybe a few years back, Kristin said that I should convert our tapes to DVDs and get rid of them.

She may have said this a few times.

Then it made it onto my official “to-do” list, and I am pleased to say that I am now taking this seriously and have acquired the means to do so.

At one point I thought I would just use Windows Media Center and record from the TV setting.  This seemed simple and genius – I have TV tuners to spare.

It also doesn’t work.  Sigh.  Some technical reasons that I don’t really get prevent this from happening.

From there I was stuck, but the Internet is full of information.   I found this article and promptly picked the worst, cheapest converter on the list.  Reviews at both Amazon and NewEgg convinced me that with a little perseverance I could make this work.  I’ve modified drivers, spun up Linux VMs to repackage installers, etc. so I hoped that I could make it work.

Turns out I didn’t need to hope.  This Kworld USB converter works fine with Windows 7.

The important bits were covered by this NewEgg review:

Here’s how it works. You plug the USB into your computer. You plug the audio cable into your computer input as well. You install the driver from the driver disk, then you install the two porgrams from the program disk which are both included in the box. You then hook your VCR up to the RCA or S-Video jack. You attach your audio cable from the VCR to the RCA Jacks. If you only have one audio cable, use the left channel. Open the Power Director program and use the capture tab on the upper left side of the screen. It should then look for the signal, and then show you what your VCR is doing on the little screen. To record, DO NOT use the red button on the program. I keep getting copyright protected errors. Instead, press the button on the kworld device (it’s oval and should have a green light lit next to it). It will start recording the video. Make sure you have it going into the file you want and in the proper format. It works, but could use much better instructions.

One brief stumbling block that I had was that I wasn’t getting any video.  Messing with the VCR, it appears that the front outputs are no longer working – ore are secretly inputs?  No idea, but plugging the cables into the back of the VCR brought up the image fine.  Issue number two is that there wasn’t any audio during the capture so the only way I could judge audio sync was by stopping the recording and watching the preview.  Not good.  Googling it led me to this forum entry and this answer:

You can always monitor the output audio of your VCR (headphone) or video camera speaker while playing back the video to be captured, or also use the windows recording mixer to monitor, so you can know if your material have audio or your audio channel is having any problem. But if you can find out how to monitor the audio level during capturing on PD9, please let me know.

It was really that easy, I opened up the “Recording Devices” control panel by right clicking on the little speaker system icon by the clock.  Then I checked this box:

ListenLineIn

Check this box!

Now I can hear the capture audio while it is in flight over my PC speakers and have a good idea of the incoming volume.

Next up – re-encoding the files in Handbrake for portability.

–Nat

 

Apple Muffins

This is about feeling better about eating “bad” food by making some “good” food.

As I ate leftovers for lunch last Saturday – delicious reheated take out Chinese – I got into a bit of a funk. What is in that food? How much MSG had I just eaten for the second day in a row?

So I decided to make some muffins. Apple muffins, made from things in the fridge and the pantry. I won’t claim that they are “healthy” as they are made with whole milk and butter, but at least I know what’s going on.

Delicious Muffins

Delicious Muffins

There is also a loaf of Honey Wheat bread made from my recipe doing its thing in the bread maker. I feel a little better now…

And I really hope that Gabe enjoys his afternoon snack!

Recipe:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
---
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil or butter, melted
---
1 cup sweet-tart medium to large apple, cored, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12-cup muffin tin or use paper liners. With a wire whisk combine first set of ingredients. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add chopped apple and wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir only until moistened. Spoon into prepared muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until tested done with tester.  Credit goes to baking.about.com for having this simple recipe that had a lot less going on than many of the others I looked at.

I added 1/8 tsp course “in the raw” sugar to each muffin before baking.  I think I’ll double that for the next batch.  Added a good touch of sweetness and little desirable texture.  I also used whole wheat flour – today I bought some non-bread white flour for another go at these and will probably do one cup wheat, one cup white to “lighten” them up a bit.

–Nat

Now with better performance…

We’ve been trying to make Magento perform better – and one of the most simple things to do is have your php code cached. APC is a package that does this…

Since Ubuntu VM is of an ancient distribution (8.04LTS) I couldn’t do it the super easy Zend Framework way, but this blog got me through.

http://www.mcdruid.co.uk/content/installing-apc-on-ubuntu-linux-and-benchmarking-drupal-6-performance-improvement

Down in the comments there is a helpful post about using wget and compiling it – worked like a charm! Then just move the apc.php file into your wordpress directory and bam, off you go!

Probably should secure that somehow…

–Nat

Furniture

We are doing some “Gabifying” of the basement and need an 8′ long barrier and toy holder.

Thinking of this:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-bookshelves/#step1

Painted like this:

http://www.thenester.com/2010/08/painting-pine-furniture.html

might be a good fit.

Any thoughts out there?

–Nat

Crashing Crashplan

I’ve recently started to use Crashplan to back up a rather large file server. It was crashing repeatedly around ~1.1TB and ~300k files.

The error message we were seeing on our remote host was “target lost” which led us to many hours troubleshooting disk performance and network connectivity. After attaching a “local” disk to the VM for local backups, waiting the ~12-14 hours for the initial backup to get to the same spot – and then fail – it appeared that it was something more systemic.

Contacting Crashplan support yielded this very helpful response:

Crashplan Rep Response:
It appears that the CrashPlan backup engine is running out of memory.

Running Notepad or any other text-editor as an Admin, edit the CrashPlan engine’s CrashPlanService.ini file to allow it to use more java memory:

1. Stop the backup engine: http://support.crashplan.com/doku.php/how_to/stop_and_start_engine

2. Locate the Notepad program, right-click and Launch as Administrator

3. Go to File > Open, and navigate to C:\Program Files\CrashPlan\CrashPlanService.ini

4. Find the following line in the file:

-Xmx512m

5. Edit to something larger such as 640, 768, 896, or 1024. E.g.:

-Xmx1024m

This sets the maximum amount of memory that CrashPlan can use. CrashPlan will not use that much until it needs it. I would recommend starting out setting it to 768, and go higher only if you continue experiencing problems. You can set it as high as 2048 on 32-bit systems, or even higher on 64-bit systems.

6. Start the backup engine.

Outcome:
We set it to -Xmx1024m after increasing the memory allocation by 1GB as well. The server is running like a top and backups are consistently running successfully.

Troubleshooting backups, especially mulit-TB datasets, can be a huge pain as they take so long to redo and reproduce. Props to Crashplan for getting back to me within two hours on our free trial, which has since been converted to their family unlimited plan for two years. *thumbs up*

–Nat

The Wonders of Communication

Just a couple nights ago, Gabe and I were chilling out on the main floor while Kristin was upstairs. Just before going upstairs, she had decided that we would try to keep our pantry, full height cupboard closed with the rings that snap together as the velcro loop was a slight PITA.

Doing his thing, Gabe walked over there and pulled down on the rings, causing them to come off. You are supposed to pick you battles with your toddler according to the Internet, so I just followed him and stood a couple feet away, observing. He pulled out of the pantry a big bag of candy that we had purchased after Halloween either last year or the year before, inside it had a jumble of mini-bags of Skittles, double packs of Starbursts and then a variety of other candy that had been consolidated into it.

He loves this bag, it is always the first thing he takes out if he opens the right hand door. Pulling it out for the umpteenth time, he sat down with his legs sprawled out on either side of the bag. He reached in and grabbed a bag of Swedish Fish, which he carefully laid on the ground beside him. Next up was a bag of Skittles. I asked him if I could have it, and he held it out for me. I took it, and that’s when a little magic happened.

He made the “more” sign to me, he eyes asking the question. I said yes, I would like more, and made the sign back to him. He proceeded to hand me five or six more bags of Skittles until he hit gold, a Starburst. He put the Swedish Fish back in the bag, picked the bag back up and put it back in the pantry. Then he shut the pantry door and went off, Starburst clutched tightly in his fist.

Maybe it was a little thing, but that bit of back and forth communication, and him wondering what I wanted, well, it was very special couple of minutes.

–Nat

Editing DNS in Ubuntu 12.04 Server

http://askubuntu.com/questions/130452/how-do-i-add-a-dns-server-via-resolv-conf

That link really helped me out.  Essentially you just follow through this example:

Edit the /etc/network/interfaces file. The same configurations that you would have written to resolv.conf can now be in the same file as your network adapter configurations like the example below:

# The loopback network interface
auto lo iface lo inet loopback

# The primary network interface
auto eth0 iface eth0 inet static
address 192.168.1.2
netmask 255.255.255.0 
network 192.168.0.0 
broadcast 192.168.1.255 
gateway 192.168.1.1

dns-nameservers 75.75.75.75, 75.75.76.76
dns-search local
dns-domain local.domain

I found this sample very handy in setting up a 12.04 Server instance. So many posts are about the network manager, but that isn’t available with out installing many other packages, etc.

–Nat