Monday, January 30, 2006

Stupid wind

Well running wise this weekend was a wash out. I was hoping to go for a long run on Sunday, but a big wind storm blew through and I did not feel like picking sand and gravel out of my teeth and hair all night. But it was beautiful today, so I got out for a nice 50 minute loop through Bluff Lake again. This is rapidly becoming my favorite run at work. It's long enough to be a good workout, with a couple of hills and of course lots of wildlife. It will be even better once they finish construction, and take down the stupid signs that are blocking the whole sidewalk.

I also put my marathon training schedule into my calendar today (I'm doing the beginner plan). I was a bit surprised as it looks like it will not be as intense as I had first thought. That's good as I want to build my confidence with this marathon, not destroy the desire to ever do one again. It looks like I'll only have to do a couple of runs during the work week and then long runs on the weekend. With the timing of the race, the longest runs will fall right into some of the nicest months of the year here in Colorado, I'm looking forward to that. It all starts on Valentine's day!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Crazy Like a Fox!

Today I managed to find half an hour to go for a run. This was quite a feat with all the goings on around the lab today. Today's wildlife encounter was a fox about 15 feet away from me. He looked a little startled to see me, and I didn't hang around for long. So this week that was 2 bald eagles, a falcon of some kind, a fox and too many ground hogs to count. All in all a good week of running, although I've been too busy to really write about it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America)

Went for a 50 minute run at lunchtime today. I ran down "ground-hog trail," which I named for the hundreds of ground-hogs that live along it, to the Bluff Lake Nature Center and back again. I was running along, enjoying the view of the mountains when I look to my right and see a huge bird in a tree near the trail. When I got close enough, I realized that it was a Bald Eagle! I had to stop and reflect on the size and majesty of this bird, it was quite a treat. After my circuit around Bluff Lake I came back and it was still sitting in the same spot, keeping an eye on me. I couldn't help but wonder at the damage this bird could do with its beak and talons if it decided it didn't like the look of me. The whole experience left me really appreciating being able to run in Colorado.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Long Run!

Today was gorgeous, a little cool, but nice and sunny. I went for my long run, 6.8 miles, took me 65 minutes, and it is a hilly circuit. We have a lot of hills near us so it is a part of every run here. On one hill I was passed by a bicyclist on the way down, and then I passed him on the way up the other side. I think that's the longest run I've taken here since we moved. I used to go that long all the time when we lived in Denver, but my mileage fell off in the fall. This weeks total mileage is over 28 miles, so if I can keep that up I'll be in good shape to start marathon training in February. I think running every day helps as it sets a routine that is easy to keep up. If I miss a day, then that becomes my rest day for the week. Tonight I'm relaxing and enjoying time with Melissa. There truly is no place like home.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Home at Last

Yesterday I left sunny CA to go to snowy CO. Our class finished two days earlier than we thought, so we were able to get a morning flight back yesterday rather than coming in at 11 tonight. That was a nice treat. Elijah showed me his new trick and we spent some time goofing around, but it was still not enough. Oh well, that's what the weekend is for I guess. I had to come in to work today to start catching up on all I had to do, but I still found time for a 40 minute run. It went pretty well considering I'm back at altitude. Since the snow has ended and the sun come out it's perfect weather for a run, just a little sloppy in some parts. Quite a difference from the run I took on Wednesday in Palo Alto. I still liked today's run better though.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Almost Done

Today was the penultimate day of the course! If you are not sure what penultimate means I highly suggest reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. We did nothing but troubleshooting today, which I really enjoy. It's like solving a little mystery. Tomorrow will be more of the same after we wrap up all the little administrative details. I'm still hoping that we will be able to get out on standby on Thursday so that I can get home to see the family; I'm glad that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Did a fast run today, only 25 minutes but at a 7.5 min/mile or so. I'm not sure exactly how fast I was going as I decided not to bring my watch. It was a good workout regardless. I took a different route though and ran out of sidewalk at some point. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised given how often people walk in California, but it's still a pain. I'll probably get to go again tomorrow, but I'm guessing Thursday will be tough. With any luck I might get to go when I get home. We'll see I guess.

I'm not sure where we'll be going to dinner tonight. I'm thinking maybe Italian again. I have to swing by Trader Joe's again and pick up some peanut clusters for Melissa. I'll probably grab something for me too, just to get me through these last couple of nights. Chocolate can make almost anything better.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Day 6 - Pneumatics

Today was a good day at training, we got to do a little more troubleshooting. We have pretty much covered everything now, so the next two days are basically just troubleshooting. Our instructor "breaks" the console and we have to fix it. It is good practice for the real thing. Melissa gets back home today so I will start getting pictures of Elijah again in my mail. The last movie I got from her he was climbing stairs so I'll have to ask her about that tonight.

Did a half hour run today at a 8.5 min/mile pace, which was a good workout. Yesterday's run was 7.2 miles it turns out, so that put me around 10 min/mile. This is good to know because it means my pace hasn't fallen off significantly with my lack of training. If I keep the 10 min/mile pace for the marathon that would put me at 4:20, so the training pace I'm shooting for is 9.1 min/mile. I think I should be able to accomplish that goal.

Went to Chef Chu's for dinner tonight. In case it's not clear from the name it's a Chinese restaurant. I think this may have been my favorite dinner so far. We shared a couple of dishes and still came away under $30 for the two of us. The place was hopping busy, and it's clear why with the quality of the food and the prices. I'm getting really tired of restaurant food, but at least we haven't had to eat at the same place twice so far.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

If you're going to San Francisco...

Today we went into San Francisco for the day. Originally we were planning on going up to the wine country, but after looking at the length of the trip we decided just to walk around San Francisco instead. We found a parking garage near Union square and walked down to the waterfront along Powell street. We mostly just walked along the waterfront checking out the sites as we went. I got clam chowder in a bread bowl for lunch at the Boudin bakery. We walked back through Union station and drove back to Palo Alto with the top down (we got a convertible for no extra charge). It was fairly cool today, but the sun was out all day. It was perfect weather. I got back in time to have a little run, so I took a long trip around the Stanford campus. I was out for 75 minutes, it was really nice. Went to dinner at Baja Fresh, and stopped in for ice cream at Coldstone. After being away from my wife for a week I really need dessert to get me through the night. At least it's only a few more days now until I go back.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Go Broncos!

Way to stick it to Tom Brady and the Pats, that interception by John Lynch at the end was great. He's definitely one of my favorite players on the team, a great leader for that defensive line. We'll find out tomorrow who we get to play next!

Road Trip

Took a little trip down to Monterey today. It rained on and off most of the day so it was good to be indoors most of the time. The aquarium was amazing as always, although it seemed more expensive than I remember. It really made we want to go diving though. We got back to Palo Alto in time for me to do laundry before dinner. I had to find a laundromat nearby, and hang out there for an hour, but it was better than having to check a bag. I'm not even sure I own enough clothes to last me two weeks. Tomorrow we're considering heading up to Sonoma to check out a couple of wineries. Hopefully the rain will hold off for us. Tonight I'm just watching the game and packing it in early. Go Broncos!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Day 5 - RF

I was dragging a bit today after yesterday. I guess that should teach me. Still had an interesting day, and a good troubleshooting session to cap off the day. So one week down and one to go. Tomorrow I'll be making a trip into either Monterey to see the aquarium, or to San Francisco, depending on the weather. I'll have to fit time in to go to a laundromat as well. As for tonight it's off to bed early for me, although Thunderball is on TV so I'll probably watch that first.

Had dinner at an indian restaurant tonight, which really cleared out the sinuses. I had a lamb curry, called Rogan Josh. It was very tasty. We hit Trader Joe's on the way back and I got some Peanut clusters to snack on tonight. It really sucks being away from home on the weekend, I miss Melissa and Elijah a lot.

I'm getting too old for this

Had free dinner/drinks tonight on Pfizer's dime. Great Mexican food and conversation, plus smoothing out our relations with Varian. I'm getting too old to be out this late.

Had a good run today though, half an hour and my legs started feeling normal again. Was a little creaky after yesterday. I found out today that I will not have a running partner for the marathon. I'll probably go for it myself anyway. Still a bit of a letdown though. Oh well. Tomorrow, more RF training, then a weekend to get through. I can almost see myself back home now, after the weekend I'll be on the home stretch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Day 3 - Hardware at last

Today we finally started on the hardware part of the course. It was really interesting and I learned a lot. Plus at the end of the day we got opportunities to fix the console after it had been "broken." Today the problems were pretty straightforward, but they progress in difficulty as the days go by. Should start getting more interesting from here on in.

I got to run both yesterday and today. I took it easy yesterday and went for a half hour, but today I really got into it and was out for an hour. I went right into the Stanford campus and circled around the "quad" area. It's a nice campus, but I think that CU Boulder is more scenic. The rain is still holding off for the most part so I'm trying to get my runs in while I can. Depending on what we decide to do this weekend I'll probably take those as my rest days.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tomorrow is the Stevenote!

Day 1

Well after day 1 of the course I am slightly disappointed. It looks like it is not nearly as intensive as I was hoping, and a lot of what I was hoping to do is not part of the course any more. But I will make the most of it. The hotel (motel) that I am staying at is a bit of a dive, but is close to the training center, so at least I get a walk out of it. I just got back from a nice run. Stanford is about two miles from here so I took a little jog up there and skirted around the campus a little before heading back. It was a nice little 40 minute trip. I got passed by a runner from their track team so I took a few mental notes on his form and tried to do it myself. He had his elbows way back behind his back, which really straightens out the back and opens up the chest. I can see that after a long distance run, form like that will keep you in the running where a curved back would keep you from breathing properly. In a marathon it's really what you can do at mile 20 when the body starts to break down that counts, any little bit can help. Tonight we are going to the Fish Market for dinner. It came well recommended by some co-workers, so here's hoping for some good seafood.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Still running

Yesterday was a rather busy day at work, but I still managed to sneak in a 45 minute run in between the helium fill and the nitrogen fill. The rest of the day was spent preparing everything there for my absence. I was glad to be able to go for a longer run. I kept the pace lower and was able to finish the 45 minutes no problem. This tells me that my endurance has not suffered that much, only my cardio has been affected. But with 4 days of running in a row (yes I went today too for half an hour) I can definitely feel my strength returning. With my trip to California these next two weeks I hope to be able to get in a few good runs. I just hope the rain will let off for me. I'm going to have to find time to go in the evenings I think as my days will pretty much be filled with the training sessions. I'm really looking forward to all that I will get to learn, and it's likely that if I do blog over the next two weeks it will only really appeal to NMR jocks. But it's going to suck being away from my family for that long. Elijah seems to be developing so quickly that it feels like he will be ready to move out by the time I get back. As it is I'm just enjoying the weekend, and looking forward to the next one I will get to spend home.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

By request for Melissa

I fixed our garage door on the weekend. It seems that I have found my niche as a handyman of sorts (it's kind of what I do at work too). Ever since the cold weather hit, the door from our house to our garage has not closed properly. It was fine in the fall, but now that winter is here things seem to have shifted a bit, in this case enough that the latch for the door did not line up properly with the strike-plate. At its worst you had to really pull up on the door handle in order to get the dead-bolt locked and unlocked, and the latch would not latch at all. It was easy to see what the problem was as the gap between the door and the frame was not the same all the way down, but I did not have any ideas how to fix it. A quick trip to the internet later and I was able to find a solution to the problem. The first thing to try was to tighten the hinge screws. When I did that I found that most of the screws were turning without tightening at all. So I decided to take the door off the frame altogether and start from scratch. I stuck matchsticks into all of the screw holes with some glue and waited for the glue to dry before nipping off all the parts that stuck out with a utility knife. Then I drilled pilot holes for the three long screws (the rest I discovered were self tapping which is why they kept turning instead of tightening) and got Melissa's help to hold the door while I got ready to attach it to the frame. It is a fire door, however, so that is not an easy task, the thing weighs a ton! After getting everything lined up I slipped a shim (in this case a cardboard coaster) in between the bottom hinge and the frame. This pushed the bottom of the door out a little and moved the latch up. When all the screws were back in place, I gave it a test close and it latched perfectly! Now it closes easily, and the dead-bolt can be unlocked without two hands (a big plus if you are carrying a baby in from the garage).

I really enjoy having these little jobs to do around the house. The week before it was a leaking sink drain. At the rate that they seem to pop up though I can imagine that if I did not stay on top of them that it would eventually become an overwhelming task. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of tools, so these things inevitably require a trip to Home Depot. Thank God we live close to one. Elijah is quite the little helper too. Helping to crawl all over my legs while I have my head under the sink, helping to moisten all of my tools before I use them, he does it all.

On another note, I went for another run today. Just 25 minutes again, but at a little slower pace. I need to get into running more days a week for my training so I figure I might as well start now while the miles are still low. The weather is great for it today too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The holidays have not been good to me!

Well I can't really say that I guess, the holidays were great to me. At the expense of my body that is. The lack of running coupled with the overabundance of tasty Christmas treats have done a number on me. I definitely feel a little soft in the midsection, and my pants fit just a little more tightly now. The most evidence for this is from my running though, today I was pooped after a 25 minute circuit. Granted I started off a little faster than I should have, but I was eager to get back into it. Plus, I got new shoes and I wanted to try them out.

When I first started running I did it in a pair of Big 5 $10 sneakers. After those wore out, I found a pair of Brooks trail runners at REI on special for $40. They happened to fit pretty well, but I think I got lucky on that. I ran in those for a year and a half. This year for Christmas I got a gift certificate to Runner's Roost, so I went in to actually be fitted for a proper running shoe. They checked my pronation (the motion of the foot from side to side when walking or running) and took a video of my feet on the treadmill while I ran. The result of all this was that the Brooks shoes seem to fit my foot pretty well (which is why I got lucky, the other shoes I tried did not fit well at all) but that I needed a shoe with more stability to support my feet a little better. Today was my first chance to get out and try them on the road. I'm glad that I decided to limit my distance though as these shoes need to be broken in a little, but I can feel a big difference in the support they offer. I'm looking forward to ramping up my miles this month in preparation for my marathon training.

I conducted a little experiment on Monday night that really appealed to my inner chemist. I polished our silverware. It does not get much use around our house, so it has never been polished before (almost 9 years now). Needless to say, some of it was in really bad shape. Being the lazy man that I am I have never really got into the idea of buffing each item to a shine. I remembered some years back reading about a method that cleaned the silver electrochemically, so I investigated further. It turns out that the reaction is a simple redox (reduction/oxidation) reaction. Silver tarnish is actually a reaction of silver with sulfur compounds from the atmosphere. Anywhere you get humidity with suitable concentrations of the byproducts of fossil-fuel combustion you get tarnish. This pretty much happens everywhere, but if you happen to live near an airport in California, you really get tarnish! The reaction that you want to have happen to reverse the tarnish is:

Ag2S + H+ + 2e- ⇔ 2Ag(s) + SH-

This is a reduction reaction (gain of electrons, reduction/loss of electrons, oxidation) with a half-cell potential of -0.272 V. In order to drive this reaction to proceed we need an oxidative process with a large positive half-cell potential. It turns out that the oxidation of aluminum is just such a reaction:

Al(s) ⇔ 3e- + Al3+

with a half-cell potential of 1.677V. Balancing the equation we get a redox reaction of:

3Ag2S + 2Al(s) +3H2O → 6Ag(s) + Al2O3+ 3H2S

Note that the generation of hydrogen sulfide gas means that it is a rather stinky reaction, but on the plus side all of the silver that was turned into tarnish is redeposited on your silverware, rather than ending up on a rag. So in order to get this reaction to go you just need to drop your silverware into a container lined with aluminum foil and filled with an electrolytic (i.e. salty) solution. It turns out that you also need to add a little baking soda to the mix in order to make the solution slightly basic. This softens up the oxidized aluminum on the surface of the foil and allows the bare aluminum to react more efficiently. Of course all reactions are not just about thermodynamics (as the designers of the Hindenberg knew), there is kinetics to think of as well (as the designers of the Hindenberg found out), so it doesn't hurt to add a little heat to the mix to help things move along. In the end, bringing a pot of water to a boil with a fair shake of baking soda and salt added, and pouring this over your silverware in a pan lined with aluminum foil, will leave your silverware shining brightly, and your kitchen smelling slightly of rotten eggs. This will leave you feeling vaguely suspicious that you are getting something for nothing, until you think of the huge amount of energy required to remove aluminum from bauxite ore, at which point you may think more seriously about recycling your aluminum cans.