In my previous post, I wrote about considerations for traveling minimally. Merely thinking about and researching this has inspired me to once again strive for minimalism in my own life. Last time I tried this, I believe I failed because I tried to get my family on board with it – something they simply are not ready for. Really though, when I look at my house, a good bit of the “stuff” is mine. I do have a lot of things I never use that can go. I’d like to take another stab at it, this time focusing only on my stuff. Perhaps in doing so, I will inspire others in my household.
Successes and Failures
I’ve gotten really good at letting go of clothes. I just took a pile out this morning to take to the thrift store. Where I fail is with the small stuff that I don’t consciously think about – DVDs I never watch, LaserDiscs and VHS tapes I don’t even have equipment for, boxes of wires and connectors I never use, old software that won’t run on modern PCs, the 14 Bibles I have when really I only use one or two of them, the drawer full of ties I have when I only ever were the same one or two, all the belts that are too big for me, Military uniform items I’ve shrunken out of, combat boots that are no longer authorized for wear with the uniform, the furniture in my study that never gets sat upon. That’s just the stuff in the house. Don’t get me started on the stuff in the attic.
What I Want
I read yesterday (I think on theminimalists.com) that minimalism is not necessarily about big empty rooms. Well, that’s what I want. If I lived alone, I’d want a small house with only one big table and one chair in it. That’s it. However, I don’t live alone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to live with less.
How I’ll Get It
Often in our home, the tendency is to think that buying more means by which to organize our stuff is the solution (although it’s true our house is woefully lacking in cabinets. It’s like the people who built it didn’t plan on owning towels or bed linens). Really though, the best way to organize our stuff is to have less of it. As I stated previously, I’m not going to beable to force anyone into going along with me on this. I can only handle my stuff.
Each day for a month, I’m going to get rid of something. I saw a game on theminimalists.com that says to start with one thing, and increase the number by one each day. That sounds cool, but I’m not going to do that. In the spirit of what I’m hoping to accomplish, simplicity, I’ll keep this simple. I plan to get rid of something, preferably more than one something, each day for a month. I’ll take the 5 days I’ll be gone to SF for VMworld out. So, until the 18th of next monts, I will rid myself of at least one or more material possession each day.
I started today. I got rid of all those ties, last year’s VMworld backpack, a stack of pants a friend gave me that I don’t want (and don’t fit anyway), a blazer I never wear, some pants I only wore for my dad and Mom’s wedding, a shirt I don’t really like, two pair of combat boots, an old digital camera, all but one of my belts, a polo shirt that’s too big, and these Nantucket red shorts I bought this summer, but that just aren’t “me”. Wow, that was liberating. Perhaps I should list the things I get rid of each day.
It’s that time of year again – time for VMworld (I couldn’t decide if this should be here or on my IT blog). Last year I wrote an article on my IT blog, whomademeanexpert.com, about traveling lightly to VMworld. It travel at least twice a year, once for the Air Guard, and once to go to VMworld. In either case, I absolutely can’t stand being heavily laden with unnecessary junk. Last year’s VMworld was my first experiment in minimalist travel. While it was nice to be able to move with ease through the airport with only one bag, I could have done better. My aim here is to explore my pain points from last year an hopefully refine my process to streamline my travel this year. In no particular order, here were my issues as I recall:
1. My bag was too bulky, thus was a pain to carry through the airports. This was largely due to my Hoka One One running shoes and my Patagonia jacket.
2. At VMworld, while I didn’t pick up hardly any swag, I did take the backpack. I used it to carry my laptop and essential items. Carrying that became cumbersome and irritating. Also, I now had two bags to try to bring back.
3. Being a recovering clothes nerd, all of my garments are 100% cotton. Wearing only two outfits for a whole week didn’t work well as my clothes began to smell bad. I longed for a fresh change of clothes.
4. I carried my jacket around because it gets a little chilly at night in SF. The jacket was too hot during the day, and very bulky in my backpack.
Those were my main issues. This year I plan to try traveling lightly again, but with an eye toward solving the above-mentioned problems.
This Year’s Plan
Twice above I mentioned my jacket being a burden. It was really too heavy a jacket. This time I’m considering not bringing a jacket at all. It gets a little chilly in SF at night this time of year , but not that chilly. In addition to my jacket, my running shoes of choice, Hoka One One Mafate 3, are HUGE and take up too much space in my bag. Ideally, I should get some minimal running shoes, but I’m not used to running in those. This time I’ll bring my Brooks Ghost 5s – they are a little less bulky than the Hokas. If I could get past how dumb it would look, I could just wear the running shoes all the time and leave my boat shoes behind. It certainly would be more comfortable.
I still would like to get by with just two outfits, however I still only have all cotton clothes, which get smelly. Minimalists like Leo Babauta would probably recommend washing my clothes in the sink or shower. If I did that, my cotton chinos and OCBDs would never dry in enough time to be worn again. Nearly all of the minimalist travel blogs I’ve read suggest synthetic, or merino wool t-shirts and pants. I’m just not going to buy new clothes, especially when I don’t like the way they look (slouchy). When I think back to my earlier days, I remember always wearing undershirts. If memory serves me well, the undershirts made it so I didn’t have to wash my outer garments nearly as often. My plan is to get a couple pair of “active” underwear and technical shirts to be worn as undergarments. This should help keep me dry if I sweat any, and keep the funk off of my clothes. Plus, synthetic garments can be easily washed in the shower and will dry quickly. The shirts will double as my running shirts.
My main issue, really, is what to carry around all day. I am the only IT person for my company, and as such, I can guarantee that I will have to remote in and work on something. In that same vein, I MUST keep my phone with me and keep it properly charged. For this reason, I need to carry my phone, my portable phone charger, my MiFi, and either my MacBook Air or my iPad 3. I even did an experiment yesterday to see if I could remote in and work effectively with my iPhone – I can, but if I had to do something out of the ordinary, would that suffice? Probably not. At the very least, I’d need my iPad. If it was solely a matter of weight, the MacBook weighs 3.0 pounds, that iPad with my leather targus case is 2.4 pounds (1.4 without the case). The iPad wins
Whch piece of gear I carry also dictates which bag I use. I can use my 5.11 Tactical Rush MOAB 6, which is a small messenger type bag to carry my iPad and related gadgets around during the day. If I didn’t have to bring two pair of shoes, I could even fit all my clothes in the Rush 6 and hand carry the iPad in the airport. If I bring the MacBook, I will need to use my backpack, the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12. Since these two bags are designed to strap together, I could bring both and simply detach the Rush 6 to carry during the day.
As I think about this more and more, I seem to only further confuse the issue, although I am leaning closer to a decision. This year, when I travel, I want to be where I am. I don’t want to be burdened by my stuff. At the same time I have to be able to live and work and be clean. I’ll post again when I come up with my final solution.
A co-worker of mine and I occasionally look at “Top Ten Drummers” lists (I don’t know why we do this). Thankfully, the
authors of all of these lists have the good sense to put Neil Peart on the list. However, to my chagrin, I believe some
drummers make it onto the list just because they’re famous (like the one at Rolling Stone that includes Ringo Star…
really?). After seeing all of these top ten lists of drummers, I feel inspired to make my own. You can pretty much
disregard all other lists, as this one will actually be correct.
Below are the best drummers of all time, in no particular order as they all shred in their own ways:
Rush is my favorite band, so it stands to reason that my favorite drummer is Neil Peart. His painstaking attention to
detail combined with his overall approach to musical composition in his drumming make him, hands-down, the best drummer
alive. He alone has inspired me more than any other musician. The solos he performs at Rush concerts are stunning musical
peices all on their own. What is truly remarkable is his limb independence. There are parts of his solos in which he will
keep a simple waltz pattern with his feet while playing in a completely different time signature with his hands.
Before Rush, I was seriously stuck on Primus. Tim Alexander was their drummer at the time (and on most of their albums).
The complexity of his playing echos that of Neil Peart’s. Earlier in my life as a drummer, it was Tim’s work with Primus
that inspired me to aspire to use more complexity in my drumming.
In college, my good friend Matt introduced me to a band called Dream Theater. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan, but I
was definitely blown away my the magnificantly stunning musicianship of this band. At the center of it all – drummer, Mike
Portnoy. I recall being abslolutely amazed at the complexity and sheer precision exhibited by this drummer. What can I say,
I like flashy drummers who play big drum kits.
If I had a top two, (and I do) Brian Mantia would be in it with Neil Peart. Brain (as he’s often called) is the antithesis
of drummers like Peart and his Primus predecessor, Tim Alexander. In fact, I was a little disheartened to find out that
when the Brown Album came out, Tim wasn’t on it, but instead it was Brain. Over time, Brain’s drumming grew on me, and as a
result, infused a little bit of funk into my own playing. Brain favors a simpler, more straightforward style, but don’t let
that fool you. The dude can shred. Additionally, Brain’s two instructional videos are the best I’ve seen – whether you’re a
beginner or someone needing to get back to basics.
He’s the drummer for Bruce Springstein. I couldn’t name even three Sprinstein songs (my taste when it comes to music is
very narrow). Max was also the jazzy drummer/band leader on Conan O’Brien – that’s where I saw him. When I used to watch
the show, I always used to say to myself, “man, that guy with the four peice is ripping!”
Carter Beauford is the drummer for Dave Matthews band. I’m not a fan of Dave Matthews Band, but one of my former bandmates,
Keith, was. I’ve heard enough to know that Carter is actually probably better that most of these other guys on my list. It
irritates me to not see him on other top ten lists.
Nobody probably knows who Christian Eigner is, unless you’re a Depeche Mode fan. Now, why would I include a drummer who
tours with a band who traditionally had no drummer on my list? For starters, and ironically, I’m a hard core Depech Mode
fan – they’re my second favorite band. Secondly, the dude can play. I recall late last year being at a Depeche Mode concert
with several of my old friends. Among them was my former bandmate, Keith. Keith was my guitarist, but has since turned
drummer. He has a deep appreciation of good drumming. Many times during the show, I remember Keith turning to me and
saying, “dude, that guy is ripping!” Indeed. There is someting to be said for being able to seemlessly add very skillful
drumming into places where it shouldn’t even fit (unobtrusively even) – all while keeping time perfectly with electronic
Dave Grohl was the drummer of Nirvana. He was my first favorite drummer. Everything I know about being a rock drummer came
from this guy. He’s not as flashy as the others on my list, but definitely solid. Sometimes providing what the music needs
aesthetically is more important than straight-up raw shredding, and Dave Grohl provided just that. You may also know Dave
as the fromnt man for the Foo Fighters.
So that’s my list. I know I left some very good drummers out, but it’s my list.
In the wake of being forced to give up, or rather put my goal of running an ultra on hold – I’ll write a post about that
another time (and it’s not because of physical ability, difficulty, desire, or motiviation), I still had it in my blood to
do something crazy. That’s when I remembered that when I was browsing the web looking for milages on the Longleaf Trace, a
41 mile paved bike path not terribly far from where I live, I saw that there was going to be a century ride on the trace
the next weekend. Initally, I had written it off because there would be no way to do it since it was on a long run day.
Though, now, with my schedule free I wondered if I shouldn’t give it a go.
The events that day were a 30 mile, a 60 mile and a 100 mile ride. This was not a race, but it was a paid event with the
proceeds going to support the Longleaf Trace, a trail my family uses often. I did some research to see how running milage
relates to cycling milage. I figured since I can run 17 miles, I should be able to bike pretty far. I decided I wasn’t
ready for 100 miles just yet, and instead opted for the 60 miler.
If this was a running race, my wife and I would have had everything squared away the night before – mostly because she’s a
big planner, and I’m more spontaneous and last minute. However since i was going this one alone, my procrastination almost
ended in disaster. My loose plan was this: Get up, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, load up bike, go to wal-mart and get
a bottle cage for my bike, go by work and get my Brooks running shoes (left them at work, and I AM NOT going to ride in my
Hokas), then head to Hattiesburg. Well, I got done at wal Mart and realised that I left my office keys at home – 11 miles
in the opposite direction of where I needed to be headed. Convinced that I wouldn’t make it, I tried anyway. I went home,
got my keys, went to work, got my shoes on, and managed to install my bottle cage and make it to Hattiesburg with time to
spare. Whew! The lesson here – prepare the night before!
If there is one word to describe how I felt when I approached the starting line to the ride, it would be “poor”. All of the
cyclists there had very expensive bikes complete with all the biking gadgets one could ask for. Even though I’ve put
considerable effort into customizing my ride, I felt almost embarrassed. Granted, nobody there actually made me feel that
way – in fact, everyone was pretty cool. One guy with a big tire pump even helped me out when he saw me trying to get my
tires up to 85 PSI with my little portable pump. Still, I remember tweeting something like, “I must be the only one here
with a tricked out Wal Mart Single Speed bike”. As a matter of fact, I’m quite sure nobody else was riding a single speed.
Whatever. I love my bike, and I was ready for the challenge.
It had just rained and there were little thorns from the trees along the trace all over the path that day. The talk all day
at all of the aid stations and bathroom stops was of flat tires. I couldn’t help but grin a little on the inside when in
the first three miles I saw five people replacing tubes under their expensive bontrager tires while I rolled merily along
on my el-cheapo Nashbar 9 dollar tires. Of course they were all riding on true road tires. Mine are “city tires”, and are
tough and knobby.
At the restrooms at Sumrall station, as I was about to continue my ride, an older gentleman rode up and said, “three flats,
and I give up.” He was about to install the last of three tubes he brought along, and was out of CO2. I stuck around so he
could use my pump. He aired up his tire, but when he pulled the pump off of the valve stem, it ripped the little valve
right off. As all the air came wooshing out, the guy said, “well, it wasn’t meant to be.” I felt horrible for him. He jsut
got robbed of his chance to ride his hundred miler. I was mortified at the thought that my pump did that, but was somewhat
relieved when he said that it had happened to him before.
The 60 mile ride was from USM in Hattiesburg to Bassfield and back. I’ve run on the trace many times. I’ve even ridden on
it, but always with my family so it’s always been at a slow pace. I’ve never ridden anywhere near the distance I was
attempting that day. The ride was pleasant and the weather was excellent – nice and cool. Running the trace, I never got a
feel for the inclines and descents. Riding it is a whole different story. In particular, from Sumrall to Bassfield it seems
like it is all up hill. I figured I would catch a break coming back, but surprisingly, there are a number of uphill
stretches on the way back. These are not steep grades, as this was once a train track, but instead, the inclines are all
gradual, sometimes lasting miles. This is no trouble for the folks with their umpteen geared road bikes, but for me and my
single speed it can be treacherous at times. Regardless, I made it to the finish just fine.
At the end of the ride, I looked at Map My Ride to see the statistics of my ride that day. I was astonished to find that I
burned 4135 calories – that’s almost twice as much as I’d burn at a half-marathon. The ride was about two hours longer than my
previous half marathon, but I felt immeasurably less beat up afterwards. After my long runs, I feel drained, hurt, and
beat-down. I get cold, even on hot days. I feel like eating a house, and I’m definitely not doing a single thing for at
least a day. Not so with this bike ride. Sure, I felt tired and hungry, but not anything like after a long run. I’m
starting to like this bike thing more and more.
I love race-day vibe. The social aspect of events like these is what really makes the whole thing worth-while. Still, at a
race, often times people are focused on accomplishing their goals for the day and are therefore not terribly talkative. I
don’t know if this was because the bike scene is different from the running scene or simply because it wasn’t a race, but
the people seemed more talkative. I was alone for a good bit of the ride mostly because I couldn’t keep up – these guys can
go 20+ MPH on their multi-speed bikes whereas I have to work hard to get 17-18 MPH. However, at the rest stops and aid
stations I managed to talk to someone every time.
The guy at the first aid station I came to said he liked my single-speed and hoped to build one soon. We spoke breifly
about gearing and such. Then there was the aforementioned guy with the tire tragedy. There were two older gentlemen (when I
say older, I mean definitely old enough to be my dad – not as an insult) that I talked to at every rest stop. One finally
noticed on the way back that I was riding single speed, and was impressed that I was making it okay. After the ride, the
race people served pizza, and these two guys sat and talked with me for a while. I discovered one of them lives in Columbia
very near where I ride at lunch every day. They told me about a monthly ride that the coast bike club does that I might get
into since I’ll be down there for a couple of weeks next monts. Overall, I found bike people to be very enthusiastic and
What started as a desire to do something ambitious has sparked a love affair with cycling. I feel like I’m cheating on my
girlfriend (her name is Endurance Running). I’m hooked.
It’s done. I’ve finally gotten it exactly how I want it. If you ever looked at my gear page prior to this, you’ll see that my bike is the “infamous” Thruster Fixie from Wal Mart. Well folks, this ain’t no Wal Mart bike no more! I have upgraded nearly everything but the frame.
This bike was just the right price to get me started riding Bikes. Plus, everything on it is standard sizes, making it an excellent candidate for modifications. As I have had a little extra money here and there, I have been able to slowly upgrade this somewhat childish looking bike to a very respectable, very smooth riding grown up bike. Here is the list of modifications and their costs:
Wellgo alloy Pedals – $7.00
Retrospec Track Style Drop Handlebars – $14.00
Shimano UN55 Sealed Cartridge Bottom Bracket – $20.00
Vuelta ZeroLite Track Comp Wheels – $80.00
Nashbar Comfort City Tires – $18.00
Nashbar Presta Valve Tubes – $6.00
XLC Aero Brake Levers – $22.00
ACS Single Speed Freewheel – $17.00
SRAM Red Bar Tape – $11.00
Someone might add all of this up and say, “You could have just bought a $300.00 bike”. I don’t usually have $300.00 to spare. This bike originally cost $99.00, and I bought it with Christmas money from my dad. It got me riding, I learned about working on bikes, and was able to get it where I wanted over time. Now, I have a bike that rides like a dream, and looks friggin cool!
Each weekend as my Wife and I train for our ultra marathon, we search for a nearby trail to run. After all, the ultra will be a trail race, so it is only fitting that we do our Saturday long runs on trails. I have meant to document each long run we do on this blog, but I have gotten behind. We have run several trails already, but the most treacherous thus far has been the mountain bike trails at Clear Springs Recreational Area. There are several trails here, but only one was open, Richardson Creek Trail – a 10 mile loop in the Homochitto National Forest.
As I ran this trail, the one thought that kept recurring in my mind was, “how the heck do people ride bikes here?”. The trail was very narrow, and in some places very close to very steep drop-offs. There were a great many wet spots, as it rains frequently here in Mississippi, which we tried mostly to avoid. The course was extremely hilly. Everything that I have read about ultra running suggests that one should walk up hills rather than running. There were so many up hills on this trail that I’m not sure that I could even call what I was doing running (I’m exaggerating, of course). As we finished the loop, my wife turned to go on the trail again, and I said, “No! I want no more of that! We’re doing the last three miles on the roads!”.
Now, all of that is not to paint a bad picture of this trail. It was quite scenic, and definitely a fun challenge. I’d like to be able to say how we did, as far as time and pace, but both of our phones died before we finished. We are not seasoned trail runners by any means, and I’m sure that once we get the hang of it, we’ll come to appreciate trails like this more and more.
I’ve been using these long runs as test beds for nutrition and hydration strategies. On our 12-miler at Bogue Chitto State Park, I finished the run absolutely famished, to the point of actually shaking. I’ve never felt so terrible. I know that this was due to improper fueling, so for this run, I decided to make sure to bring along some food. I emptied my 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 backpack, and packed in it my 2 liter hydration bladder, 2 granola bars, and 2 of these soft peanut butter granola bar-esque things (package said they had 240 calories). Additionally, in the bottle holder on my backpack, I packed my Nathan water bottle filled with Powerade (I prefer Gatorade, but some gas stations only have one or the other).
In addition to drinking water from my hydration bladder at each mile, we stopped at the one hour mark and ate the soft granola thing and drank some sports drink. At the 9 mile mark, we ate the granola bars and had some more sports drink. This proved to work out pretty well. At the end of the run, I did not feel terribly hungry nor did I feel nearly as bad as I did at our previous week’s run. My wife won’t eat much while running. She seems to do fine, though. Perhaps the fact that she weighs 60 pounds less than me means she needs less fuel while running.
The only other lesson I learned is that I need to make sure I charge my phone adequately if I want to map my runs with it 🙂
I wasn’t… I’m kidding, of course. I’ve seen it said by others that if you want to set a goal that really motivates you, it has to be a big scary one that really gets you inspired. Well, for me that was a half marathon. Now that I’ve done two half marathons, I feel like I need something bigger. The next logical step would be to run a marathon. In fact, that was my and my wife’s goal – to run the Mississipi Coast Marathon this year since our first half marathon was at the same race last year. However, for some reason the idea of running a marathon just wasn’t doing it for me. I needed something bigger.
At our last half marathon, a trail race through the beautiful Bogue Chitto State Park in Louisiana, there was a 50 mile ultra going on that same day. Something about that struck me. Seeing those guys completing their first loop as we all got ready to start the race, knowing that they had three more to go was awe inspiring. That feeling wouldn’t leave me. THIS is what I wanted to do. I wanted to run an ultra. I mean, even the name sounds awesome. Ultra. “I’m an ultra runner”, now that has a nice ring to it.
I knew that 50 miles would be out of the question at my level of training. What about a 50k? Could I handle the training for a 50k? I contacted Doug Hay, author of the blog, Rock Creek Runner, about his “Discover Your Ultramarathon, A Beginner’s Guide to Running an UltraMarathon” book to ask if it would be advisable to go from a half marathon to a 50k. He said it should be doable, so I bought his book. The guide is chock full of good information, and the training plan starts with mileage on the Saturday long runs that is less than a half marathon, and the mileage during the week isn’t much different that what I would run anyway. The plan is 20 weeks for a 50k. I found a race that is exactly 20 weeks from the week I bought the guide. I haven’t signed up yet, but for all practical purposes, I’m going to run it.
The first week got off to a rocky start. Our long run was supposed to be 11 miles. We had a wedding to attend that day (my Mom and Dad got re-married, yay!) and were pressed for time. We hit Percy Quin State Park in McComb, MS since it was on the way to where the wedding was. We were only able to squeeze in 8 miles, though it was a good 8 miles. The trail was rough – lot’s of roots, mud and obstacles to dodge.
The next week’s long run was at Bogue Chitto in Franklinton. We took turns running our 12 miles on the trails there while the other watched our two boys. I went second, and was already a little tired from chasing them for two+ hours. After that run, I was hungrier than I’ve ever been in my life, and began to question why I was doing this. Fortunately though, that feeling subsided after I got some food and a shower. I think I need to pay more attention to how I fuel before and during these long runs, which will become more important the longer they get.
So far so good, although I do have one concern. I try to eat healthy (being a vegetarian is a big part of that), but long runs make me crave absolute crap for more than a day afterwards. I find myself quite prone to eating candy, drinking sodas, and generally pigging out. According to Map My Run, I burned 2400+ calories on the 12 mile run, which I realize is more than a person should even eat in a day. Still, I hope that fueling properly before and during will help me not make such bad eating decisions.
The toughest part of all of this is finding the time while it is still daylight, and holding down a job, two kids, and a very active church life. So far though, I’d say we’re dedicated. Let’s see how we feel about it when the Saturday long run is 22 miles!
Previously, the only blogging I’ve done has been on my IT/Virtualization blog, whomademeanexpert.com. Everything I’ve read on blogging would suggest that for a blog to be successful, the focus should be narrow. However, I’ve found that to be too restricting. Plus, when things go smoothly at work, subject matter for my IT blog becomes scarce. I’ve quite often had things I want to chronicle or share, but felt that they wouldn’t fit into the scope of my IT blog. Now, in light of the fact that my wife and I have decided to train for and run an ultramarathon, and that I’m looking for a place to share my experience on this journey, I’ve decided to start a new blog. This will be my place to share everything I’m into and not just IT. After all, there is much more to all of us than just our jobs. While IT is more than a job to me, I have many more things that interest me – running, biking, drumming, electronic music, serving Jesus, vegetarianism, art, and more!
It is my hope that as I document what interests me, I can help or perhaps even inspire someone else in the process.