Just this afternoon I finished up another round of scans at Mayo Clinic — my standard regimen of an hour-long MRI of the abdomen and a CT scan of the chest / lungs. Everything went routine and the worry level leading up to it the past couple weeks was as low as its ever been. So that’s a victory.
I was thinking about how many times I’ve actually gone through this process and I’ve lost count. I think it must be around 12 times now, with how often I had to get them done during the first couple years after treatment....
We had a hurricane blow up part of a week of productivity around here, but I still limped along with some middling progress on the year’s goals. I’m behind the targets this year late in the game, but I’m still happy with the results. I can still close the gap on the running target, at least.
I’ve been thinking about an idea Patrick O’Shaughnessy wrote about recently on “growth without goals” — setting up systems to be able to pursue and achieve personal growth without having hard numbers on a scoreboard. Using...
These updates during the quarantine are weird. In some ways time feels like it’s standing still, in others it feels like it’s flying by. Every day feels mostly the same. Even though some has opened up in our area, we’re still basically in isolation from friends.
Just a quick update this month. With the pandemic still going, lockdown in a state of unknown non-committal from any authority, and the madness going on around the nation the past week, all of this seems kinda trivial. I’m sure we’ll power through past it, but I’m just doing my best to keep the habits going. I’m still fortunate to get to plow forward mostly unimpacted by it all.
So many bits in this post from David Smith resonate with me. He committed to getting in shape 3 years ago, and this post is a summary of thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. A key takeaway is one that should be obvious (but clearly isn’t for many people), that many details about workout effectiveness are personal. Some things work for some people, others need to take a different tack.
I liked this point on tracking data about fitness. Feels true to me, as well, in my case with tracking run data:
April was the first full calendar month of COVID lockdown. In the beginning of the month I started getting comfortable with the working-from-home setup. I have a decent desk setup and a large master bedroom-slash-office space, which until early March I’d barely used since we moved in. It’s gotten a workout now for 2 months of all-day work. I’ve got one of these adjustable desks that’s nice and wide, with plenty of light in the room, so aside from the zero separation between work and life zones, it’s not too bad.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest global event that’s happened in my lifetime. It hasn’t impacted me personally that much (yet), but the financial and public health implications are clearly already disastrous, and bound to get worse.
Most concerning, though, is how little we know today about what’s in store for the rest of 2020 and beyond.
I don’t use this outlet to make predictions, and I’m generally not a fan of trying to call shots on uncertainties. But as an experiment, let’s set down some open-ended questions to revisit in 6 months to see...
Tom MacWright on chess. Reduce distraction, increase concentration
Once you have concentration, you realize that there’s another layer: rigor. It’s checking the timer, checking for threats, checking for any of a litany of potential mistakes you might be about to make, a smorgasbord of straightforward opportunities you might miss. Simple rules are easy to forget when you’re feeling the rush of an advantage. But they never become less important.
Might start giving chess a try just to see how I do. Haven’t played in years, but I’m curious.
A quick update for February. No big revelations or movements on goals, just slight progress.
I’ve struggled with building longer meditation sessions into my routine. I think the only way it’s going to happen is if I can get a pattern of sitting down in the morning before the kids are up. At night...
Tyler Cowen’s recent piece in Bloomberg makes the case that technology is helping, not hurting the cause of containing the pandemic. The openness of the web was certainly instrumental in forcing transparency on the part of the Chinese government.
Scientific information about the coronavirus has spread around the world remarkably quickly, mostly because of the internet. The virus has been identified, sequenced, and tracked online, and researchers around the world are working on possible fixes. The possibility that the failed ebola drug remdesivir may help protect against the virus is now well known and the drug is being deployed....
I just committed to my first race of the year, a 10K in the St. Pete Distance Classic. Sort of a seat-of-the-pants commitment, but should be able to do a competitive personal time (maybe a PR if I feel good enough). I promised to do more races this year, so gotta stick to the plan.
The weather’s cooled down for the weekend, and a 6:30am start time should make it comfortable for a speedy run.
The first month of 2020 is already in the books. 31 days blew by already?
It’s been a rollercoaster of a first few weeks, with some vacation at New Years, shot out of a cannon with a reinvigorated team at work, a trip to Miami, and a trip to Jacksonville.
I already fell behind on the targets with all that’s been going on. Once I can fall into a better rhythm with some normalcy in the schedule (which should be happening over the next couple weeks), I think I’ll be fine to catch up.
Last year was my first serious attempt at setting goals at the outset with structure and plan to hold myself accountable to each one throughout the course of the year. “Goal orientation” is not my native approach to motivation, but being able to quantify results in data-driven terms (for good or ill) is something I’m compelled by. If, for example, I can’t track a run with Strava, I don’t even want to do it. The inanity of this compulsion is not lost on me, but the way I think about it is that if any strategy keeps you going (even...
Continuing my summaries from a couple weeks ago, this post covers some statistics on running throughout 2019.
I track all of my runs with a Garmin fenix 5 watch synced to Strava, but also have been logging each one to a spreadsheet as I complete them. That way I’ve got an easy dataset to work with for analyzing and charting the results.
Here’s the overall breakdown of stats for the year:
This one is part book review and part reflection on some personal experience, a chance to write about some science related to a harrowing past experience.
A couple of years ago I had a run in with genetics-gone-wrong, a life-altering encounter with cancer that would’ve gone much differently if I was older or had the run-in in the wrong decade. The short version of that story (which I still plan on writing more about one day on this blog) is that I made it through the gauntlet. A stage IV diagnosis, 6 months of chemotherapy, and 2 major surgeries, and...
The goal at the start of 2019 was to hit 500 miles running this year. Tonight’s run pushed me up to 602 miles for the year, with a couple of weeks left to go.
150+ miles more than any prior year
Through the mid-summer time I was only averaging 42 to 45 miles a month, which was barely keeping me over the pace mark week to week. I would log my runs and watch the moving plus/minus number I track and see myself float above...
This was a busy one. Between the All Hands earlier in the month and the week off for the holidays, those are brutal to maintaining the routine (though great to get a break and spend time with both workmates and family, respectively).
Today I finished my first half marathon. Felt great until about mile 10 when things got a lot harder. The final mile was painful, but I got it done and even ended up pushing it to under a 10 minute mile average pace (a goal I decided to shoot for around mile 8 when I was still feeling good and thought I could push myself).
In September the training push continued for the half marathon. I did a personal record 88 miles in the 30 days, for an average of just about 3 miles per day the whole month. Somehow I’m not dead yet, but the aches and pains were there to prove it.
I’m almost at the two-month mark since upping my mileage at the beginning of August. I did about 72 miles in August, up from an average of less than 50 per month the prior months of the year. With 3 days left in September I’m over 80 miles, with a couple of runs left to do:
A few notes on how that’s gone so far:
Slowing down my pace has been essential to push the activity durations higher (obviously, to lower the average HR).
The kids had a great holiday — a beach day with their cousins, lunch on the beach together, then an evening playtime slash barbecue over at a friend’s house for dinner. It was the first beach trip here at home since probably Fathers Day of last year. We need to do it more often on the tail end of the summer.
I even got a 5-mile run in while everyone was napping and relaxing after the beach trip.
Jason turned me onto this Chrome extension for Strava data analysis called Elevate. It’s a pretty amazing tool that adds deep analytics on top of the already-rich data Strava provides natively as part of their Summit plan.
In addition to having its own metrics like this fitness/freshness curve, it overlays additional metrics into the individual activity pages on the Strava website. My favorite ones are this (which Strava has its own simpler version of) and the year-over-year comparison graph, which lets you see your progression in total mileage...
Our SNI running club on Strava keeps expanding. We’ve got 12 members now and counting. Two people are committed to marathons in the fall, and two of us to half-marathons.
Somewhere in reading about marathon training I read that the community aspect of the training plan is one of the most important: finding a group of people around you for mutual support and motivation along the way. Proper training (aside from the physical effort) is time-consuming and requires consistency to get 4 or more activities in per week, without falling off the wagon. It certainly helps to have the visibility...
When I committed to the half marathon for October, I also enabled one of Strava’s Summit training plans to keep me honest on the times and distances I should be ramping up with as I prep for that race. My personal goal isn’t to hit some target time in the half; it’s mostly to finish in a comfortable time frame. I chose a plan that has a 10-week training course, 4 activities per week with rest days and/or cross-training in between.
Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been trying to manage my activities...
This is the kind of stuff that gets you out of bed in the morning and really gets the motivators up to do things like Fulcrum Community to support disaster relief efforts.
When Cyclones Idai and Kenneth steamrolled into East Africa beginning in March, the crew from Team Rubicon was deployed to help with EMT response and recovery in Beira and Matarara, Mozambique. They used Fulcrum to record patient data after prior experience with another partner of ours, NetHope:
After a long ride today, I was looking at the stats on Strava and wondering how wattage calculations work to determine power. Strava has a built in estimate it uses for your power rating if you don’t have a power meter on your bike. From looking into it, their calculations look pretty sophisticated for estimating power pretty closely, unless you’re really riding in extreme conditions:
The power produced while riding is made up of several components:
Power produced to overcome the rolling resistance of forward motion.
I’ve committed myself to running my first half marathon, coming up in October. This sort of happened on a challenge from a couple folks at work. I didn’t really intend to throw something like this into the schedule that could interrupt my regular goal progress, but in looking at Strava’s training plans, their half marathon one starts mid August and scales up in a way I think I can tackle relatively comfortably. It starts off with easy runs in the 40-60 minute range, with weekend long runs up to 75-90 minutes. I’ll need to bring the...
I had surprisingly good results on goals this July given how much was going on all month.
On the exercise front, I was able to get the same quantity of runs in even though we started out with the holiday weekend, which always makes sticking to patterns and habits challenging for me. Plus all...
Dr. Keith Flaherty is an oncologist specializing in targeted therapy treatments, with a background in studying and treating varieties of melanoma. I listened to this extended interview with him on Peter Attia’s The Drive podcast, which was an excellent deep dive into lots of oncology subjects.
Keith dives into the topic of immunotherapy, probably the most exciting recent development in cancer therapy, and also provides us a rundown of his notion of a different approach to cancer that attacks all the essential pillars of cancer growth and survival.
This week I tried out commuting on the bike, like I posted about earlier this week. It’s a comfortable, nice ride with a dedicated bike lane the whole way from my house, a block away from the Island Loop through Shore Acres and Snell Isle. I haven’t done any rides to the office from the new place yet; it’s a decent morning workout of about 6 miles when connecting up to the North Bay Trail route downtown.
There were some crazy summer thunderstorms all week long. I had originally intended to work in a Tuesday / Thursday...
Wearables have become such a big market these days that there’s a wide variety of options to pick from if you want to monitor activity metrics. From the basic Fitbit step counters to more ruggedized outdoor watches to full-blown smartwatches, there’s a device for everyone.
I’ve been a devoted user of Garmin’s activity tracking watches for years now, starting out with the Forerunner 220. A couple of years ago I upgraded to the fēnix 5 model, one of their highest-end watches.
Last weekend I got the bike back up and running again. It’s been out of commission in the garage since the move a few months ago. Just had to clean it up a bit and put some air in the tires and it’s good to go. I’ve got a budding plan to start commuting down to the office, thinking I’ll start with a target of doing that two times per week to start. It’s about a 6 mile ride each way, which wouldn’t take much longer than driving, but in the summer heat here it’s plenty to require a shower...
I tried this out the other night on a run. The technique makes some intiutive sense that it’d reduce impact (or level it out side to side anyway). Surely to notice any result you’d have to do it over distance consistently. But I’ve had some right knee soreness that I don’t totally know the origin of, so thought I’d start trying this out. I found it takes a lot of concentration to keep it up consistently. I’ll keep testing it out.
So that’s a wrap on the month of June. This was my best month so far in terms of a consistent plan and feeling more productive with staying on target. Even with an out-of-town trip to visit the Cape and Jacksonville for a few days, which threw a brief wrench into the running plan, I was still able to climb enough above the target line get to my highest mark so far.
I just got back from a trip up to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for the every-three-month scans cycle. MRI and CT scans clear with only a couple minor things to monitor. These weekends are always a bit of a mental “reset”, and a relief to be done with. Laying in a tube for 90 minutes is never fun, but I’ve done it enough times now that it’s sorta routine. Being proactive about monitoring change is more important than a little discomfort for a couple hours.
This year’s annual target for running (pinned at the 500 mile mark) has me trying to figure out my own personal flow — what it takes to get a consistent, comfortable process for building the habit. The number one factor consistency: making the appropriate time and not breaking the promise to myself is the foundation of being able to hit the target.
It’s also important to get your kit in place. One of the great things about running is its minimalistic nature. You truly need nothing but your own body and motivation to get started. As you get...
For the second half of the month I got into a good rhythm with every-other-day running. I was even able to push almost 5 miles beyond the pace target to end the month. I started running with the kids again in the jogging stroller, which I haven’t done really at all since Elyse was little (2015-16). It’s good because it gets them out of the house, adds some cargo to push for additional workout, and gives Colette a nice break if I take them when I get home at the end of the day.
I’m making quick work of the streets of Shore Acres. Yesterday I set up a quick and dirty local database that I could load the tracks into. I’m just using the GPX export feature on each activity and the ogr2ogr command line utility to import each one.
Now I can see the streets get painted as I complete the job.
I ran a quick calculation on the street centerline data to estimate the total distance of roadway and counted about 37 miles. Once I’m done...
This year has been an experiment for me in how one goes about forming habits — at least those of the healthy, positive variety.
We’re all familiar with falling into negative habits and how easy that can happen. There are automatic gravitation-like forces pulling us toward unhealthy habits all the time. Eating junk food, lazing around the house watching TV, not exercising, not reading, spending too much time with social media. What all of these things have in common is short-term gratification. In fact, I struggle to think of any easy traps like this that only have a delayed, long-term...
With all my commitments each day between work life, kids, and other things, it’s hard to fit exercise into the schedule. Combine that with the struggles I have personally with rising before the kids to get running in, and the only option left is running at night.
For the past 9 months or so I’ve been pretty consistently running at night time after the kids are asleep — anywhere between 9 and 10:30pm. I actually enjoy it, even though it took a while to get comfortable making that commitment to still get out of the house that late. It’d be easy...
For no particular reason I decided to try and run every street segment in my neighborhood. A while ago I saw this project from ultrarunner Rickey Gates where he ran every single street in San Francisco. Of course my neighborhood is a fair bit smaller, but attempting it will keep things interesting. You can already see the progress zigzagging through the street spurs of waterfront property, with canals in between each row of houses.
I’ve been doing a route regularly out onto Venetian Isles. This will mix it up and give...
This is an interesting project on GitHub for syncing data from the Strava API for analysis from a local database. I’ve had my eye out for some way to do this cleanly — to use the Strava Activities API to sync each track and its metadata to a local Postgres database. My interest is in being able to put the tracks on a map (mostly), but some of the analysis shown here is pretty cool, too.
In this author’s case it’s about cycling data. I want to be able to run SQL on the...
Since I do so many of my runs at night (even as late as 10-10:30pm), I’ve always been mindful of being visible for safety. Until we moved last month, I used to drive down to the Coffee Pot Bayou area and run on what’s called the North Bay Trail, since runs in my old neighborhood were boring. That whole route was on a dedicated trail set back from the street, so visibility was less of an issue. Now that I’m doing most runs in the neighborhood, even though the sidewalks are good, there are plenty of...
I still haven’t published the long backstory on my cancer battle from 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress. There’s a draft going, but I want to make sure I do justice to the whole story properly, and it’s a little hard to spend time on. One day soon I’ll get it out there.
I mentioned a bit about my immunotherapy treatment a few weeks ago. Long story short is that there’s been good news recently, uneventful scans and visits (other than those 90 minute sessions in the MRI tube — not a good time there).
Found via Tom MacWright, a slick and simple tool for doing run route planning built on modern web tech. It uses basic routing APIs and distance calculation to help plan out runs, which is especially cool in new places. I used it in San Diego this past week to estimate a couple distances I did. It also has a cool sharing feature to save and link to routes.
There’s been a draft post in my archive for months to tell a longer version of the story on my cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s been something that’s hard to write up in detail — hard to muster the motivation to spend time on the topic any more than I have to. I’ve had good news since late 2017, but still dwelling on it too long is not something I’m interested in....
As I’ve been pushing onward with daily meditation practice on Headspace, the “streak” number has been climbing higher and higher. I have mixed feelings about this in terms of driving motivation. Is the desire to increase a number a healthy way to motivate positive mental health? Is it pushing the right buttons for the right reasons?
Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe recently wrote on exactly this topic:
Some people love this feature, viewing it as a source of motivation, a record of accountability, and a...
We just crossed month number two of the year, so here’s another pulse check on how I’m tracking against some personal goals for 2019. I’m tracking on all fronts, slightly better positioned against the pace marks than I was at the end of January.
This is the first year I set some goals on a few things. I’ve never been strongly goal-oriented, so I thought I’d put some stuff down to hold myself accountable and see if it helps build some healthy habits into my routine. Also, I thought it might be fun, as long as the goals were aggressive but attainable.
For the month of January, here’s how things stack up with each area. We’ve got my progress in the first column, the pace mark I should be at to keep on target, the total goal, and “plus-minus” is where...
I’ve listened to a few of Peter Attia’s The Drive podcast episodes. This one was a stand-out conversation between him and Dr. Zubin Damania. It’s a wide-ranging discussion about the health care system, diet, creativity, and meditation (among other things).
I’ve spent a lot of time right in the thick of the health care system the last couple of years (thankfully with a good experience). Insightful thoughts on what’s wrong inside that ecosystem that ring true from first-hand exposure.
2018 was a good year, both personally and professionally. Rather than a long-winded post about everything that happened, here’s a brief summary of accomplishments, major events, family stuff, and travel.
I’m blessed to work with a large group of veterans these days. I’m thankful for the service of all veterans for making that amazing sacrifice. It’s easy to get wrapped up in nonsense, shortsighted, heated politics — Twitter these days is nearly unbearable with its tribalistic bickering. It’s worth taking a moment to zoom out and see the bigger picture; to see how many out there are playing their part and putting skin in the game for something larger than themselves.
My Veterans Day was made even better thanks to some excellent news on the health front. I’m overdue for...
The experiment was designed to test a theory in motor learning that distinguishes between directing your focus internally or externally. A large body of research suggests that focusing externally, on the consequences of your actions rather than on the actions themselves, produces better results. For example, you’ll do better shooting a basketball free throw if you’re told to focus on seeing the ball go through the rim than if you’re told to focus on the angle of your elbow or the motion of your wrist. Focusing internally on the details of your movements disrupts the “automaticity” of these familiar...
After a tumultuous 8-10 months since last summer, I’ve gotten regularly back into running the last few months. I did over 50K in distance during August. I haven’t checked, but that must be a personal record. There were 2 weeks in a row with 3 10K runs a piece in there. Running late in the evening has turned out to be good for multiple reasons; I can always guarantee the freedom on the schedule and the weather is more manageable at 10pm in August and September.
But I think all those long runs in that spell screwed up my right...
The concept of activity tracking is getting ever closer to ubiquitous nowadays with the prevalence of dozens of mobile apps, wearable wristbands, and other health monitoring tools like Bluetooth-enabled scales and video games based on exercise. Now the world’s largest tech company is even rumored to be working on some form of wearable hardware (and software APIs), at which point the whole concept of “life tracking” will reach 100% penetration. Everyone will be tracking and recording their lives like characters in cyberpunk literature.
I’m a casual runner and cyclist, and started testing a handful of...