Running Addiction

“Running is healthy”, “Going for a race? Good for you!”, “You are such an inspiration”

Bullshit: considering how lazy our society became over time, being inspiring is not too difficult. Of course, exercising and especially running will make you a healthier person: there is strong scientific evidence that regular exercise prevents diseases and improves your overall well-being. Being active a couple of hours per week improves your health, there is no doubt about it. But running can also be an addiction and an obsession: day after day, you are looking to get your shot every day. You want to get high.

Fitness-In-America1This is underestimated in our society, probably because of its rarity: not so many people are addicted by physical activity. This is the exception, not the norm. The mass is rather focused on passive (and often indoor) activities that requires minimal effort so that fitness addiction is very unlikely and less probable than other usual drugs (like alcohol or tobacco). And as its benefits are valued everywhere, people are less likely to think that it can be dangerous. Consider this: between a guy that smokes 2 packs a day and another that is running a marathon every morning, few people will consider the second guy as an addict and even less will say this is an issue. But the fact is: both have an addiction that impacts their life.

There is also some science behind it and not getting your daily workout can lead to arguments and disagreements with your friends, partner or colleague. Missing a run can then change your mood and makes your grumpy for the next hours. But other than you, nobody cares if you run or not today but people remember that you was an ass for a few days. Day after day, you become more isolated and running becomes the only activity you want to pursue to get away from your life. Instead of running to enjoy your life, you run to get away from it. Pretty sad.

There are multiple contributors to this addiction: as the brain delivers endorphins, you feel good after your workout, you are valued in your community as being the crazy-healthy-runner, you seem so “special” or “inspiring” and also, you look (from a physical perspective) better than the average Joe in his couch. For these reasons, you continue without really paying attention at the effects.

exerciseThere are not so much a difference between this addiction and others. The fear of missing out is real and can impact your social life without a doubt. You can’t stop thinking you will loose your fitness level or be the fatty guy again if you stop exercising (the take away: is total bullshit – and would rather help you to recover and be faster). For these reasons, you keep going at all cost: you need your fix, have a run and get high. Or just go for a simple workout, whatever you can get. If some folks are getting their fix at the corner of the street and give away all their money for a few grams of weed, others get their fix on the trails and give my money to race directors, runningwarehouse and other local running stores. Both are just unhealthy and counter-productive: by balancing your activities, your overall mental and physical well-being will improve and each aspect will benefits from taking rest.

I started to realize that until recently when I was injured and clearly not able to train for obvious physical reasons (e.g. I was even not able to stand and getting out of the bed required to be pushed – I was unable to even move). At that point, you realize how obsessed you are then and how destructive this addiction could be, from both a physical and mental perspectives. Having no solution than laying on the bed force you to realize that missing a few runs is no big deal. It will let my body and mind recover from weeks of uninterrupted training. And this is by managing food, exercise and balance your life that you can become faster and stronger. Realizing you are addicted can be hard, especially when you are so focused on a particular objective (race, losing weight, increase weekly mileage, etc.).

Keeping a balance between running, work, social life and other interests is challenging. But this is what will pay off on the long run. Our resources are limited: we have only one life with 24 hours per day to do what we love. Let’s just try to do our best, pursue our dreams and enjoy this time as much as we can.

Avoid the flat, Hit the hills and Run Pittsburgh!

hillsWhen looking for a race, people usually are looking for flat or downhill courses. Two years ago, when volunteering in Richmond to present the Pittsburgh marathon I was surprised to see how many runners were reluctant to sign up because of the elevation profile. The city is known for its hills and the race directors did a great job to avoid steep hills (look at the five steepest hills to get a general idea). But when presenting the course, you have to come with an elevation chart to convince them it was not too hilly.

The general idea is that a flat course (or a downhill one) will be easier on your legs and require less efforts. Of course, this is obvious you are going faster on a flat course but was the elevation never change, you are working the same muscle group. And if you choose a downhill race, this can also put a lot of stress on your joints. Even for a flat race, you are putting all the efforts on the same muscles group and exhaust them until the last mile. If you are going to try to qualify for a particular time (Boston qualifier anyone?), this can be (1) very exhausting and (2) hard to recover as your body is not used to such long and intense efforts on the same muscles.

That might seem odd but running a race with some elevation variation can be easier on your body. As your running form is changing according to the elevation, you are not using the same muscles and when a muscle group is used, the other can rest for a while. Of course, this will not be easy, but if you are trained and used to take some hills, it will be definitively easier.

One example on the east coast is Erie and Pittsburgh. Erie is a big Boston Qualifier race: very flat, the course takes place in what one might consider as ideal conditions (perfect temperature most of the time, completely flat race). This is a two 13.1 loops on Presque Isle. Needless to say, pretty boring: after the first loop, you have only one wish, finish as soon as possible. On the other hand, Pittsburgh (or even Richmond) have some slight hills and is considered more difficult. But as long as you are used to run some hills, your body will recover quicker. And the course is nicer: you experience most of the neighborhood and the volunteers are pretty awesome. No matter if you are a Pittsburgh native or a new visitor: you will experience the city from a different perspective. Better than doing two loops on the same course. If you never experience the Steel City, I just recommend to come and experience this race. This would show you why Pittsburgh is one of the best city to live in the USA.

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Dude, keep the outdoor speaker at home (Dirty Kiln 2015 Race Report)

On April, 4, just one week before Forget the PR 50K, I ran the Dirty Kiln half-marathon. This race is organized by the Allegheny Trail Runners and is either a 5-miles or a half marathon. As last year, I did the half-marathon. The race is a basic 5 miles loop plus an additional 8 miles. Each loop as two stream crossing and of course, a lot of mud. Some hills are very challenging as well so that it might be better to walk them.

The 2014 edition was epic in the sense that the weather was really windy and cold. The 2015 edition was way better: not so much wind, some sun but still a lot of mud (and so, fun)! This was then supposed to be a great run. The race is organized by the Allegheny Trail Runners group, a non-profit that supports local charities. So, instead of going for big events that are rather big money makers for a company or an individual, this race is organized by trail lovers to benefits people in need. Very sweet.

godPre-race

Last year, I booked a crappy motel in the Altoona area to stay before the night. The bed was terrible, did not sleep so well and I had pain in the back. I decided that this year, I will take a better place and chose the Hampton Inn that includes a breakfast. That was a good idea, especially because they provide basic runner food for breakfast (peanut butter and bagel anyone?), which was perfect: no need to pack anything, the breakfast is availability when you wake up so you do not have to worry about that aspect.

There is no race expo or packet pick up before race day. The race starts at 0900 so you have plenty of time to get there and get it. The packet contains a tech t-shirt, your bib and chip. No fancy stuff inside but for $35, this is already more than enough! If you do this race, be there at least 10 to 15 minutes before the race starts to make sure you get your packet and put your chip on.

The race

batmanThe race is a 5-ish loop plus an additional 8-ish loop. You run mostly on single-track trails with very muddy spots. There are also stream crossing. The first loop is not very challenging or difficult without any high elevation. So, this is a great warmup. The second loop is  more challenging with a good elevation and a lot of steep hills. So steep that you will have to walk them and not run them. If you run it and plan to finish in less than 2:30, it is wise to start in the beginning of the pack. Many people will not let you pass them when being on a single track trail because they just do not listen to you. I was stuck in the beginning by two persons that discuss and never heard me when trying to indicate that I wanted to pass them. So, just try to rush the start to avoid that.

The race is marked with flags so it is difficult to lose yourself. Also, as you do (more or less) the same loop twice, this is easy to remember where you passed before and you can easily recognize parts of the race. Be careful to keep track of the flags, otherwise, you can get lost on the trails.

The race offers also a great view when doing the second loop and being on top of the hills. Being there on a sunny Saturday morning offers a wonderful scenery. While the view is great, it seems that some folks enjoy the view but not the silence. A dude was stupid enough to bring a portable speaker in hit bagpack (or whatever he brought on the trails) put his music on while climbing on the trails. Earphones are forbidden for safety reasons, but heck, when you cannot bring headphone, what is better than annoying everybody with a bigger sound system? Let’s just bring the phone with a portable speaker (or just use the phone speaker, who knows). Seriously, what is the f*ck!ng reason you would like to take your radio on a race? Who takes a speaker when going on a trail race and experience the nature? And why putting your music on a speaker to bother everybody around you? (private message: dude, if you read this message, stay home with your speaker and enjoy your music alone and just enjoy the nature when going on the trails). If possible, I would just suggest to the race director to forbid any listening device: if you go on the trails, this is not to reproduce your gym environment with a lot of electronic equipments. Otherwise, just stay at the gym and watch Discovery channel when exercising: the benefits will be similar. This is just unfortunate to have a dude like this on such a great event.

In terms of support, there are volunteers on the course to guide you and help you to cross the streams. There is an aid station on the course with water/gatorade and gels. You can also take water after the first loop. So, in total, you get 3 potential stops to get water or gels. The volunteers are very (very) friendly and helpful and make sure you stay safe on the course (especially at the stream crossing). Again, all the race is very well organized and accommodates beginners or experienced runners.

Post-race

Once you are done, you get a wood medal and a bottle of water. There is also pizza and snacks provided to all runners. Unfortunately, no beer as in Rock’n The Knobb (the other race organized by the same non profit) that might be a better idea, especially if you are driving right after. The state parks typically offers showers if you want to be clean before going back home. The race pictures are taken by volunteers and available … for free. Yep, nobody that tries to take your monthly income for 3 pictures of you! Sweet, isn’t?

Let’s do it?

Yep, there is a lot of mud ...

Yep, there is a lot of mud …

Heck yeah, as long as you are able to avoid the obnoxious dude that carries his speaker when you explore the nature, this is definitively one of the best race in Pennsylvania and I do not see any red flag that will tell you not to do it! First of all, this is pretty cheap ($35), fun. There is a lot of mud, which can be challenging. Then, there is pretty steep hills that will also change from your usual workout. The support is very good and volunteers are very friendly as well. Also, the race pictures are available for free! And finally, all the profits goes for a charity. So, there are definitively no reason for not going there!

Thanks again to the Allegheny Trailrunners group for organizing this race. So, far, Dirty Kiln and Rock’n The Knobb are among the best races I have done. Pretty cheap, very friendly and supporting charities, this is a fantastic non-profit and I hope you’ll get a chance to experience one (or several) of their races!

See you at Rock’n the Knob 2015 then!

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Gear Review: UltraViz Spry

Since several weeks months more than than a year, I was using the same backpack to commute from home to work. So far, it has been a really good bagpack but after a full season and going through the summer, winter and taking my sweat for hours, it was time to switch!

UltraViz Spry

UltraViz Spry

The requirements were pretty simple:

  • lightweight: as I use it every day, it has to be light and put minimal weight on the back
  • small: need to carry only a wallet, an access card and eventually a set of keys
  • reflective: have some reflective band to increase visibility at night
  • cheap: less than $50

I found the UltraViz on leftlane for $16.25 (the MSRP is $54.95). Having tried the AK vest in the past, I was curious to see if it will fit (the AK was clearly not ok and bruised my elbows). So, I just gave it a shot: after all, it is always possible to return it.

After about a month of using the UltraViz, I have to say that it is a great choice. Very light (4.5 oz), small at a great price (with the discount), it is a very good vest! If you are going for an ultra and do not need a bladder, it might be a very good option as well. The vest has good reflective materials. So, if you are looking for a good, light reflective vest, this might be the one you was looking for!

 

VxWorks653/Apex support in VxWorks

When using VxWorks653, the initial example does not use the Apex. Instead, it uses the regular vThreads library. In fact, there is no built-in example that works out of the box with the Apex. In case you are trying to figure out how to quickly add the Apex support from the original example, there is how to proceed (assuming the ARINC653 system project is called foobar):

  1. Edit the Makefile.vars from the foobar_PartitionOS project and add the following line at the end
    SSL_OBJS += apexComponent.o
  2. Edit the foobar_PartitionOS.xml file in the foobar_PartitionOS project. You should have something like the following
<Shared_Library_API
    xmlns="http://www.windriver.com/vxWorks653/SharedLibraryAPI"
    xmlns:xi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XInclude"
    Name="vThreads"
    >

    <Interface>
    <Version Name="template"/>
    <xi:include href="$(WIND_BASE)/target/vThreads/config/comps/xml/vthreads.xml"/>
       <xi:include href="$(WIND_BASE)/target/vThreads/config/comps/xml/apex.xml"/>
   
    </Interface>
    
</Shared_Library_API>

Raccoongaine 2015

Some weeks ago, some folks on the North Park Trail Runner facebook group suggested to go out on a Sunday and participate to Raccoongaine, an orienteering/scavenger-hunt game. This is not a race: you have to find targets in a state park within a time limit (3 hours or 6 hours). This reminds me the City Spree in Pittsburgh, except that you are really on your own and have to really know how to read a map.

In a nutshell, you show up at the starting line one hour before it starts, get a map that shows the targets location and you are good to go and find them. When you find a target, you an electronic device register it (it is used to trace what targets did you find once you finished). Each target you find will give you a number of points (targets far from the starting line gives more points of course). The map shows the trails, the elevation profiles and routes/roads. Needless to say, GPS devices are prohibited, you are just allowed to use a compass.

If you expect to run the whole thing: forget it. You have to go through branches, steep hills, cross streams, etc. Also, dress accordingly. There are a lot of brambles so, in case you wear shorts, your legs finish bloody. On the other hand, this is a great way to cross-train on a rest day: this is time on your feet, you exercise other positions and climb steep hills. Definitively useful and a great way to train for coming trail races.

Our team did not get a lot of points and we spend a significant number of time trying to find a target (that we never found). On the other hand, this first experience was great and there are some advices if you are considering doing it:

  1. Wear pants, sunglasses and protect your body: there are brambles and lot of thorn. This was my mistake. As soon as I came home, I applied alcohol on my legs, which was very uncomfortable and, well, painful.
  2. When you do not find a target quickly, move on and go somewhere else! We obviously spend too much time looking for a target we never found. According to somebody we meet before, it seems to be a usual rookie mistake.
  3. Establish a plan to try to maximize the points by reaching targets that will give you many points.
  4. Learn to use a compass. I do not know who in my team really knew how to use a compass. I do not (which is very bad) and this is probably the reason we lost so much time trying to find a target
  5. Learn to read a map, not only the location but everything. By analyzing the area around a target (fences, walls, roads, elevation change, etc), it would be more easy to find it

These are just some recommendations after a first experience. I will definitively try other events like this, this is a great way to spend time outside and have fun with friends while cross-training for trail races! If you plan to do it, register quickly, the event was sold out for this 2015 edition. The same club do other event like this over the year, so, you might check out their website.

Morris “Doc” Turner 5K Run/Walk

Unfortunately, this will not be an undie run

Unfortunately, this will not be an undie run

Everybody knows that I love running long distances, being outside of the city and admire the nature at work. The loneliness of the trails, the beauty of the trees, the rivers, all of this helps me to meditate and get rid of the daily stress. This is my outlet, my way to replenish my energy.

This is why I invite you to join the Morris “Doc” Turner 5K, a wonderful run in the city that will take place on a wonderful Sunday (May, 31). This race is all about what I love: short distance in the city, it is gonna be packed with A LOT of folks! So, why should you sign up? There are a few reasons:

  1. This event is promoted by a Steel City Road Runners friend, who is awesome and love running. She is awesome, probably not as much as the author of this website, but just for that, you should sign up.
  2. You support your local community: this event raises resources for the Highland Park Tennis Club’s Dr. Morris E. Turner Medical Scholarship which will be presented to a student in the Gateway Medical Society who is majoring in the medical field and for the Highland Park Tennis Club’s Free Summer Tennis Clinic
  3. There is a team for cool kids, called SCRR4EVER. This is dedicated to the Steel City Road Runners members but all the cool kids are welcome. So if you do not come, you are not a cool kid at all.
  4. If the weather is great, we can hang out together afterwards in the park. There will be yoga and exercises classes, music, food – everything for a great party!
  5. You can run there, do the race, have a good time with your friends and run back. Yep, an ultra for the price of a 5K (with food to fuel you in between)

As the event is a run or walk, there is no reason to pass. Sign up today on active.com and join the team SCRR4EVER.

Hope to see you there on May, 31!

How to serialize an EObject from Xtext

The Xtext framework is pretty awesome. It includes a lot of built-in features: syntax highlight, custom editors, etc. This is the framework we are currently using for most of the Eclipse development for OSATE.

However, recently, I wanted to build my own EObject instances and serialize them into a string to eventually write them into a file. Damned, this was pretty hard and after googl’ing a lot, I did not find a solution. After digging into the Eclipse TMF forum for a while, the TMF folks helped me and I got a code working.

I think it might be useful to share that since serializing an eobject can be something of particular interest for everybody (well, this is something you do every day, no?)

There is the code example, hope it could help some folks!

 

EObject myEobject;
/*
... create your eobject using your language
*/
Resource res = set.createResource(URI.createURI("foobar.mydsl"));
/*
 * Here, we create a fake resource that will contain the eobject.
 * This might be useful for the serializer.
 */
res.getContents().add(reqSpecModel);
/* We add the EObject to the fake resource */
IResourceServiceProvider rsp = IResourceServiceProvider.Registry.INSTANCE.getResourceServiceProvider(URI.createURI("fake.mysdsl"));
ISerializer serializer = rsp.get(ISerializer.class);
String s = serializer.serialize(myEobject);
/* Serialize the EObject */

InputStream stream = new ByteArrayInputStream(s.getBytes(StandardCharsets.UTF_8));
newFile.create(stream, true, new NullProgressMonitor());
/* Write the EObject into a file */

Tobacco Road Marathon: Race Report

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The 2015 medal

The Story

A friend of mine familiar with the North Carolina area told me that there was a fantastic race around called Tobacco Road. It was also selected by Runner’s World as one of the top 10 marathons in the USA. As the registration fees for early birds were pretty cheap ($50), I registered immediately. The course seemed wonderful and is really flat. The race director highlights that this is an  ideal Boston Qualifier: pretty flat with good temperature, you might get a good time and qualify to run the mythical Boston race.

If you plan to do it, I would recommend to register early: the early bird registration is $50 and the fees goes up to $110. At $50, this is a fantastic deal but for $110, it seems too expensive for what it is and you might prefer to sign up for another race (Pittsburgh?). While the race was not sold out, it might be a good idea to register as soon as you know you can make it to save on registration fees.

How I got there

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Natty’s Greene Brewing Company

Many friends decided to run the race but as a matter of fact, for several reasons, I was the only one to finally make it it. As I never DNS or DNF (for now … knock on wood!), I went there alone! As I was working in DC the week before, I take the drive from Washington, DC to Raleigh. This is a pretty straightforward drive.

The conditions for a horrible day were met: I fell few days before the race and injured my arm/hand and I was sick two days before, so, I was looking forward to see what will happen. Also, this is the first time I tapered before a race and did not run on Saturday before the race and took plenty of sleep. I wanted to see the impact of sleep over my performance and ability to race.

I arrived in Raleigh on Friday. Packet pick up and the race expo are at the Embassy Suites hotel on Friday and Saturday. You cannot take your packet on race-day, so, be careful to get there at least a day before. The expo is pretty basic with running stores, shoe sales, etc. I took my packet on Friday and want to Natty Greene’s, even if I was sick. The race is sponsored by Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, so, this was also a good opportunity to go and try their beers! In a nutshell: the food is ok and the beer is average. But obviously, they sponsor the race, so, what the heck, give them your bucks!

On the other hand, I was totally sick on Friday and was just hoping it will eventually get better after a few hours. The strategy was just to try to sleep as much as I can and avoid to overload my stomach and just try to keep something inside. Very romantic week-end in perspective. I got plenty of sleep during Friday night and Saturday and did not do any carb-load or special nutrition strategy. It will be definitively an interesting race!

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Safety measures were already up on Saturday

The Race

The race organizers did a pretty good job to make the area safe and convenient for runners. On Saturday, there was already signs to indicate there will be runners on Sunday. This might be be so significant but it shows the attention and efforts the race director put into his event.

The race is well organized. Parking is limited at the start so you have to park few miles away and a shuttle bus connect the race site with this parking. There are a lot of portable toilets as well, either at the start/finish line or even on the course (there are not many but they are there very often).

 

 

The elevation profile - pretty flat

The elevation profile – pretty flat

 

The race starts with 2.5-ish miles on the road and after, you run on the Tobacco Road trail. You start a first 6-ish out and back (so, 12 in total) and do another 5-ish out and back  and finish by taking back the road (2.5-ish) to the starting line. Simple course, not exactly flat (it has slight hills, see the elevation chart) but definitively not an aggressive elevation profile. This makes this race a great Boston Qualifier for those who do not like hills! There are many aid stations with Water/Gatorade (probably even 2 to 3 miles) and some propose GU gels. Also, the second turn around (about mile 19-ish) is more an ultra-station with Peanut Butter & Jelly, Pretzels, etc. The beer enthusiasts will be happy to know that there is a beer aid-station (probably not official) around mile 7-ish and 9-ish). I appreciate the initiatives but on this day, I did not want to try such a thing, especially so early in the race! But it shows the support of the local community and how nice and friendly is the people around!

Over all these miles, you can see the nature, run on bridges, listen to the birds: that sounds very romantic. But what seems a great race on a sunny day could be a nightmare with more rain. We were lucky that the race was on a sunny day but in case there is rain it can be a complete muddy course. So, your race experience might be impacted significantly by the weather.

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Get ready at the starting line

Once you finish, you get your medal (yeah!) and you can go to the dedicated finish area to get chocolate milks, beers, pizza and bread! The beer was nice and pour were smalls so that you do not drink too much  (which can be hazardous, especially if you have a long drive right after!). The bread was great and tasty, the Great Harvest Bread Company did a great job, their products were definitively the most appreciated sponsor here! I would have made my complete post-race recovery with bread and butter but I did not want to take too much!

The medal is very cool and original, another good reason to sign up! The ride back to the parking lot using the shuttle takes about 10 minutes, the system set up by the organizers is really efficient!

As for popular Boston-Qualifier race, the emphasis is put on the PR bell, the potential BQ for every runner, etc. Fortunately, a runner from Steel City Road Runner got her BQ at this race! So, it seems to be legit!

Lessons Learned

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Representing the Steel City Road Runners

This race was the first one after a long time. As I was injured, the training was really different and this gave me an opportunity to learn a lot. Some thoughts:

  • sleep is definitively underrated and carb-load overrated: the race was done on an (almost) totally empty stomach but after two 9 to 10 hours night of sleep. During the run, I was able to put down three gels and a peanut butter square. I felt great (no bunk) and not tired at the finish. No wall effect as well.
  • walking might be necessary and do not impact significantly your time: the pain related to the injury started to come back sometimes, making running extremely difficult and painful. When it happens, I just walked for one to two minutes and then, the pain disappeared. It happened three times during the race. This is probably better to lose 6 minutes on your finish time than suffering for four hours.
  • running is definitively a mental process: all the conditions were met to have the most terrible experience. Previous injury, not having the friends I was expecting, being sick before the race, the list might be long and I could just decided not to start. But putting your ass on the starting line is probably the most important step to finish. Do, stop whining or complaining: put your ass on the starting line and do your thing. Action matters more than anything else.

The Take-Away

This is a great beautiful race if you run it on a sunny day. For $50, this is a great deal and I would not consider to run it for more (I would consider running another race). If you want to qualify for Boston, this is a great opportunity, especially if the race takes place on a sunny day.

The race is really well organized and there is nothing to complain about, there is truly a great event! This can be a great opportunity to make a road trip with other friends and discover North Carolina! Plus, you can meet famous people: Sean Astin, an actor in “The Goonies” and “Lord of the Rings” ran the race! Pretty cool!

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