5 More k, Every Day

On Saturday I ran in another organized 5k.* This one was a fundraiser for a great organization, Ability Connection. It's an awesome organization. Simply put, they drive community acceptance, support, and inclusion of children and adults with special needs. A little more wordy: they help people with disabilities live as independently as possible at home, or within a community. They provide transportation, manage group homes, and support companion living. They offer vocational training, academic training, health and fitness programs, and independent living skills training. There's a lot more, but maybe I'll write more about Ability Connection later; today I planned to talk about a runner.

This particular race was an "out and back." Just like it sounds, you run half the distance in one direction, then turn around and return along the same path. I loved the format -- you get to see all the other runners face to face at some point, and people would smile, wave, and be very supportive of each other, whether they were front of the pack or back.

5K Number.jpg

One woman in particular stood out to me. I think she was close to my age, and she had a late-teen or young adult man (I assume her son) in a racing wheelchair; it looked like a very large jogging stroller.** This woman pushed her son the entire 5,000 meters -- up hills, through mud and standing water, across the crappy, temporary trail where the nice pavement was under repair, everywhere. I saw a lot of them because despite her extra burden, she was ahead of me most of the way.***

I can't think of a better visual example of what it's like to be the parent of someone with special needs. Sometimes the tasks are enormous -- surgery, fighting for a place in a school system, trying to find the money needed for your child to live comfortably. Many days it's more mundane -- repeating an OT or PT routine for the thousandth time, for example, or washing the sheets for the fifth time this week, or feeding the child who can't physically feed him- or herself.

Whatever the situation is, every day is another 5k, and you don't have the option to stop running, pushing, and carrying.

It's exhausting. But like I said, you can't just stop. One thing you can count on for most significant disabilities is that there's no magic bullet -- there's no day coming that your child doesn't have Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, Turner syndrome, muscular dystrophy. You won't hear the doctor say, "He's cured; you can stop running now." But you can get support from other people and get a breather every once in a while.

Thanks for a great event, Ability Connection, and thanks for everything you do to help people keep running.

* I'm going to keep running in these until I'm able to pin my number to my shirt in less than fifteen minutes. The difficulty I have in pinning that thing on without bunching up the fabric or displaying the number at a 45 degree angle is ridiculous.

** I'm not posting a picture because I didn't get to meet this family and haven't asked their permission. Just picture their awesomeness in your head.

*** Yeah. I'm not a fast runner.

Annual Day of Reflection

For eight years now I've had a habit on my birthday. I've taken the day off of work, or the Friday before if my birthday happens to fall on the weekend, and blocked the time on my work calendar as "Jeff's Annual Day of Reflection." It's only partly a joke; I actually did spend a good portion of the time reviewing what I'd done in the past year and thinking about what I wanted to do in the next year. My ADoR usually also involved a movie, golf, or a drive out to see some obscure Texas landmark.

This year was different, because I had no job to take off from. Although my work logistics for the past decade have been extremely flexible, there's nothing like the flexibility of not having a job at all.* Given that every day can easily be a day off, taking "time away" for the Annual Day of Reflection just didn't seem all that special.**

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and I realized a week before that the Honor Connor 5k run was scheduled for that day. One impulse sign-up later…

I've never run in an organized event. About six years ago I was training with friends from work to run a half marathon, but I broke my foot and never ran the event. Last fall I started running again seriously; from September through the end of January I ran at least five times per week. After January I let the layoff news from work derail my exercise; I didn't run again until, well…the week before the 5k.

In case preparation could make up for practice, I read the "How to Run Your First 5k" page. I picked up some really solid pointers. Don't wear the souvenirrace t-shirt in the race itself. Your number goes on the front of your shirt, not the back, and not on your leg. If you're not one of the competitive runners, line up toward the middle or back, so those who are really racing don't have to work their way around you.

Race day. There are more than 3000 participants and I'm adrift in a sea of race day, souvenir t-shirts. Okay, it's a fun run, and a memorial event, so that makes sense. Maybe I should have worn mine, instead of the sweat-wicking, super-breathable, space-age high-tech amazifying makes-you-look-better-run-faster-and-dance-smoother running shirt that I normally use for, well, running. Mindful of the true competitors in the crowd, I line up about halfway into the pack.

When the horn sounded I started shuffling toward the mats which activate your race sensor. That part is another cool buildup; you slowly pick up the pace as you get closer to the line and people in front of you disperse. Cross the line -- and I'm stymied. Stuck immediately behind two women, walking side by side, chatting away as they push their strollers.

And one's a double stroller.

For the first two or three hundred meters I dodged my way through a horde of people walking. People with strollers, people with their kids on razor boards…at one point I'm pretty sure I struggled my way around a set of conjoined sextuplets.  I probably burned more energy on crazy Ivans in the first half mile than the rest of the race, looking like Marion Barber running twenty lateral yards for every yard of progress downfield.

I eventually broke free of the pack, though, and spend about 4.5k trying to catch up with a few of those serious runners. I did make it; I ran the entire way, actually made a time that I was happy with, and didn't have a heart attack. I think I can call that a good day.

*Of course, not having work AND not having money would put a real damper on the whole flexibility thing, but I'm not going to get into that. This isn't an economics class, you know.

**No, I haven't been watching Netflix and playing Heroes of Might and Magic III*** for four solid months. I've been working, but since all my efforts are entrepreneurial, I don't have to coordinate with a team or manager to be away. If you've been there, you get it.

***I admit, I have played a lot more Heroes of Might and Magic than I should have in the past few months…and I may have binge watched "West World."

Technology - Screwing Me Up Faster and Easier

First, a kinda apology for the blog hiatus. I've had two vacations* in the past month, plus general busy-ness with various "Is this what I'm going to do for my next job?" projects, and I just haven't taken the time to blog. I've been writing during that time, though, so I should have a veritable slew of blogs coming out soon. Fear not, my three loyal readers, there's more to come.

Maybe I should get a smaller music device...

Maybe I should get a smaller music device...

I ran three miles this morning to sweat out some of last night's Johnnie Walker, and as I've mentioned before, I don't run without music. Running without music would be exercising, and since exercise is strenuous and tiring, I try to avoid it. My current Spotify playlist for running is "Dr. Usual's 5k Run." I know, very original. The song selection is important. Each song has a good tempo for my 5k running pace, and most have a running theme.**

Just over one mile in, Spotify jumped to Men At Work's, "Who Can It Be Now?" Now, I like Men At Work, but I know Colin Hay and friends are not on my running playlist. Somehow, Spotify had switched to radio mode, whereby deep data analysis, alchemy, and wild guessing, it attempts to serve up music I might like.

You know what music I'd like during my 5k run? That's right -- my 5k running playlist.

I fumbled around at the Spotify controls while trying to keep pace. Pace and heart rate are important. I definitely can't stop or walk. It takes about two walking strides for my legs to say, "Hell yeah, looks like we're done here! Let's go sit in front of the computer for a few hours!" So, while running at a consistent 165 BPM, watching for cars, and avoiding the massive Texas drains where Pennywise the Clown hangs out, I had to get Spotify out of radio mode and back to my playlist.

Mission accomplished -- or so I thought. Though the playlist was back up and running, my ear buds* were silent. While bumbling my way through the Spotify menus I apparently switched the playback device from "This iPhone" to "Dr's Tap." That's right, the Amazon Tap, sitting on my desk back at home. I'm sure my wife and daughter were delighted with Saga's "On The Loose" suddenly blasting from my vacant office.

I diverted into the park, where I at least didn't have to worry about traffic, and got my devices sorted out, then enj-- finished the run without any more technological assistance.

The next step in my fitness regimen is pretty obvious.  Design a new skin for Spotify with three and only two buttons: "Volume Up," and "Call 911." Make a note, Spotify. This stuff doesn't have to be complicated.

*How does one have a vacation when one is unemployed? Let me explain. I scheduled these trips before Microsoft decided to replace me and my team with outsourcers on the other side of the world. Therefore, on my calendar they're both still referred to as "vacation." Travel scheduled AFTER my former manager replaced us with contractors from his former company is referred to simply as "travel." See? Easy definitions.

**Here's a link to the Spotify playlist. Get running.

***That's right, ear buds. Screw you, Apple, I'm not paying for your Air Buds. Headphones shouldn't cost as much as a damned phone. Especially when there's a chance they'll fall out of my ears and roll down there with Pennywise.

Man, Motion, and More Music

Yesterday I mentioned in a tweet that John Parr's Man In Motion was on my running play list.  That song has been on my running list for a long time; besides the obvious theme, it's got a good beat for my stride length.  Also, I've loved the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack since it came out in 1985.  After sending that tweet, though, I was a bit embarrassed* to realize that the only other John Parr song I could name was Naughty Naughty

(At one point during game development we played with the idea of adding music and soundtrack elements to Film Tycoons, but ultimately took that out; we just weren't finding a way to fit it into the game flow.  We might revisit that in future editions, since movie soundtracks account for some of the best music in the world.)

In fact, there were a number of artists with great songs on the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack, a few of those artists were pretty much unknown to me beyond their soundtrack contribution.  Did some of them record one and only one song before moving on to a career as a database analyst somewhere?  Or have they had decade-spanning, prolific careers, and just somehow stayed under the collective radar of my demographic, geography, or social group?  I started out with a hypotheses that John Parr is similar to Cliff Richard** in that both are fantastic artists whose major body of work has managed to escape the ear of 40-something guys in Texas. 

Research time, starting with one of my favorite tools, Spotify.

Bingo.  To say "Parr is prolific" is somewhat akin to mentioning "water is wet."  But Spotify neatly summarizes (and unfortunately, perpetuates) the "American audience" versus "non-American audience" of many great artists.  Despite offering six John Parr albums, including the truly enjoyable Letter to America (with 29 tracks!) Spotify's "John Parr Top 5" songs actually shows only three songs: St. Elmo's Fire (twice), Naughty Naughty, and Restless Heart (twice).  Expand that to ten songs and you get six distinct songs.  What the hell, Spotify?

Side note: apparently Mr. Parr is touring the U.K. in November with two other favorites of mine, Foreigner and Asia.  Clearly, this is worth a trip to London.  Especially if Asia will play Days Like These and Don't Cry.

Back to St. Elmo's Fire.  After the discovery of so much more great John Parr music, I decided to have a closer look at each artist on the soundtrack.  Here's a summary for my other audiophile friends or 80's music lovers:

  1. St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) by John Parr.  Covered above, right?
  2. Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire, by David Foster.  I'm already familiar with the amazing David Foster, and trust me, you are, too.  He's written or produced a couple million hits.  If you're in a trivia contest and get the question, "Who (wrote/produced) this hit song from the 1980's" and you have no idea, just guess David Foster.  Good chance you'll win.  Incidentally, I think Foster wrote or co-wrote every song on this soundtrack.
  3. Shake Down, by Billy Squier.  I'm just going to classify Billy Squier as popular enough in the U.S. that if you don't recognize him, you need a more remedial music appreciation*** guide than my quick blog.
  4. This Time It Was Really Right, by Jon Anderson.  You probably recognize the voice -- he's the lead vocalist for Yes and responsible for some of my favorite Yes songs, like Leave It and It Can Happen.
  5. Saved My Life, by Fee Waybill.  Ah, yes.  If you grew up in the 80's, you know Fee Waybill without actually knowing Fee Waybill.  Remember She's a Beauty, by The Tubes?  That's Fee Waybill.  Every music device I've owned since fifth grade has included She's a Beauty.
  6. One Love, by David Foster. 
  7. Stressed Out (Close To The Edge) by Airplay.  First of the "I don't know who this is," groups on the soundtrack.  Turns out Airplay was David Foster and Jay Graydon, and was fairly short-lived.  However, listening to their offerings on Spotify, it's very clear that most of Toto is in the band, and you can easily hear the style that Foster brought to Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago.
  8. Young and Innocent, by Elefante.  One of the most evocative songs on the soundtrack, but who the heck is Elefante?  Apparently there are two Elefantes, John and Dino.  John was the frontman of Kansas for a time, but it looks like the brothers have spent more of their careers producing.
  9. If I Turn You Away, by Vikki Moss.  Wow, talk about weird coincidences.  First, Ms. Moss's singing career was apparently sadly short lived.  There isn't much available from her other than this excellent song.  While researching, though, I realized that I've actually seen her brother before, many times.  Joey Moss is a locker room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and frequently appears on camera during the national anthem.  He has Down Syndrome, and of course, I love to discover positive examples of people with DS being accepted as happy members of society.  Very cool connection to stumble upon this morning.
  10. Into the Fire, by Todd Smallwood.  Looks like I'm stymied for the first time on this soundtrack.  From what I can find Smallwood has written for Mick Fleetwood and for some additional movie soundtracks, like Under Siege, but his web page is defunct, no Wikipedia page, and Spotify has very little.  Still, I found a number of songs that made it into my Spotify library -- particularly Funeral In Berlin and Leave The Radio.
  11. Give Her A Little Drop More, by Todd Smallwood.
  12. Respect, by Aretha Franklin. 
  13. For Just a Moment, by Amy Holland and Donny Gerrard. I think many people don't realize that there ARE lyrics to the soundtrack's love theme.  The instrumental version got massive airtime, and I don't recall ever hearing the lyric version on the radio.  But it's great; excellent lyrics and excellent performance.  First, Ms. Holland.  She's another long-time contributor to soundtracks, and she's married to Michael McDonald, with whom she's collaborated on some of her work.  This morning I listened to her 2016 album, Light on My Path.  She's got a great voice, it's nice to have finally found her "other work" after 30 years of listening to just one song. 

And finally, Donny Gerrard, the other voice from the love theme.  Need a definition of "smooth?"  Go grab his song Darlin' from Spotify.  Then you've got to listen to some 1970's Skylark.  (Which, not surprisingly, featured David Foster on keyboards.)  You might remember their best-known hit, Wildflower

And that's my music appreciation session for today.  After following St. Elmo's Fire a bit deeper I've got a fantastic new set of music to enjoy -- not to mention tickets to buy for November.

* Yes, it's possible to be embarrassed while alone.  I do it all the time.  Usually the embarrassment is accompanied by a mental image of Rob Garden saying, "Dude, really?"

** I love Cliff Richard's work, but face it, most Americans only recognize We Don't Talk Anymore and perhaps Devil Woman.  There are only a few of us with Suddenly on the Xanadu soundtrack, and I'm going to guess that nobody else reading this recognizes I'm No Hero or All I Ask of You.

*** I've always wondered what goes on in a music appreciation class.  Not having taken one, I'm going to assume that if you start to look behind the music a bit more, you're appreciating it.  Or maybe you just have to watch Pop Up Video marathons.

Running Time: In Search Of...

This week I got back on the horse.  Or at least, back on the treadmill.  About ten days ago I overdid it a bit; I was running on a Saturday and feelin' fine, getting my In Search Of on.  In fact, I was enjoying the run so much that I watched nearly four episodes: "Atlantis" first, then "Psychic Detectives" and "A Call From Space," followed by half of "Learning ESP."  Total time was 71 minutes, or just over seven miles.

Can you think of a better hero for a 13 year old girl?  Besides her dad, of course!

Can you think of a better hero for a 13 year old girl?  Besides her dad, of course!

The next day I got through the second half of "Learning ESP," just about one mile.  Almost immediately my knee started to hurt.  I thought I'd "run it out."  That mile was enough to convince me that I was "running it worse," so I called it a day and researched iliotibial band syndrome instead.  Short story: overuse.  Rest until it doesn't ache, then do more cross-training.

Fortunately for both of you who eagerly awaited my next 70's TV review I was able to run again this week.  I caught "Nazi Plunder" on Tuesday and "Amelia Earhart" Thursday.  Since things are holding up pretty well my next run will include both "Dracula" and "The Easter Island Massacre."

One thing struck me about both "Nazi Plunder" and "Amelia Earhart."  As of today both these episodes stand the test of time.  Numerous tantalizing hints exist pointing to yet-unfound treasure ditched by Nazi officials fleeing the fall of the Reich.  And of course, despite tremendous research and searching, Amelia Earhart's disappearance has yet to be definitively explained.  Considering that these episodes are 40 years old and covering subjects from 30 to 35 year prior to that, it's pretty impressive that they can still be intriguing today. 

Running Time: In Search Of...

Hello, 1970's!  For Christmas someone sent me a box set of EVERY EPISODE of In Search Of, a documentary-ish series that ran from 1976 to 1982 and was hosted by Mr. Spock, er, Leonard Nimoy. I've run through six episodes so far.  The episode lengths are perfect for running; at 22 minutes each I can do an easy weekday morning run of 2.2 miles or the two-episode runs of 45 minutes for a nice 4.5 miles.  (When watching episodes 1 and 2 on weekdays I just ran an extra three minutes each time to get to a nice, even 2.5 miles.)

It's a fun series to watch, if you can avoid getting into the "40 years later we know better" mindset.  So far I've viewed topics such as plant empathy, the Nazca Lines, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, and killer bees.  First thing that struck me was the disclaimer at the beginning of each show -- the producer points out that this show is only meant to introduce a few possibilities, not back any particular theory or claim to know fact.  I thought it funny that that seemed important to do, given that today people make whatever moronic claims they want on TV without the slightest concern of veracity.  Go figure.

Second thing I noticed is that a lot of the clothing reminds me of my childhood.

Although you have enjoy the series while keeping in mind that forty years have passed (much like watching Ray Harryhausen special effects and still loving Perseus taking on the Kraken) one more serious lesson did occur to me while watching the episode on Bigfoot.  One segment includes an anatomist who has viewed the Robert Patterson Bigfoot film in "minute detail, frame by frame."  He swears that the film must be authentic and goes into great scientific detail about why Patterson couldn't have faked the film.  You've got to believe him, right?  After all, this is the specialty he's studied for decades.  Of course, in 1998 a fellow named Bob Heironimus admitted to being the man in the Bigfoot costume and other evidence surfaced to show that the film was entirely faked.  Sorry, Science.

Running Time: You Only Live Twice

Since I have nearly all of the James Bond movies on DVD now (I used to have them on VHS.  I haven't been using the VHS player for a while) I realized I could run about ten marathons while watching my way through the entire collection.  And that's even skipping the truly crappy films.  This last week I hit You Only Live Twice, mainly because it's one of those that I haven't seen for years.  Keep in mind that Bond movies are LONG.  This one clocks in at three minutes less than two hours, so I ended up watching it in four runs: 3 miles, 2 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles. 

It's also one of the worst-written Bond movies.  It's overly fantastic, even for a Bond film.  Yeah, normally James gets a metric crap ton of the old willing suspension of disbelief, but this one defies all boundaries.  Worse, though (and what relegates this to the ranks of lesser Bond films) is that the believable parts of the script just don't make sense.

Ignore the fact that SPECTRE has perfected a VTOL spaceship that can capture other spaceships and bring them back to Earth, without either the Americans or Soviets able to track it.  We'll just let that go via "it's a bond film."  More annoying is that to "infiltrate" this small Japanese fishing island, Bond must a) be made up to pass as a Japanese fisherman, b) marry a local villager to establish bona fides and c) train to be a ninja.  All in three days, no less.

You know who the least Japanese-looking man on the planet is?  Sean Connery-san.

Of course, none of this subterfuge is really necessary because SPECTRE apparently knows where Bond is all along.  He's attacked twice at Tiger Tanaka's secret home and ninja training ground, so why he needs to marry a local woman to gain access to the volcanic island base is beyond me.  Not to mention that Tiger manages to infiltrate a hundred commando ninjas onto the island without marrying them off to the locals.  Apparently SPECTRE will be alerted by a Single White Male setting foot on the island, but 100 strangers in a village of 50 people doesn't raise an alarm.

Here's the one thing I really like about You Only Live Twice: it was written by Roald Dahl.  That's right, the same Roald Dahl who wrote Matilda and The BFG.  I looked up Roald after watching and found his story far more entertaining than the movie.  He was also a World War II fighting ace in the Royal Air Force, but this came after he'd already crashed one plane in the African desert and severely injured himself.  Guess there's always a chance to rekindle your career.

Running Time: The Man in the High Castle

Specifically, season 1, episodes 1 and 2.  The introductory episode runs 61 minutes, while the second brings you back to even with 59.  I watched "The New World," episode 1, in two runs on the same day; 30 minutes in the morning, wanted to see the rest enough to watch during another three mile run late that afternoon.  Episode 2, "Sunrise," was also a two-run view, but it was forty minutes in the first run and just a two mile finisher the next day.

(I also watched Episode 3 while sitting on the couch one night this week.  The whole series doesn't have to be viewed from a treadmill.)

I'm loving this.  I've been a big fan of Philip K. Dick for years, and The Man in the High Castle was one of my favorite of his novels.  Despite that, I'm pretty certain this is going to be one of those rare occasions where I find the film better than the written story.  Sacrilege, I know, but it happens.  Face it, Bladerunner was a much better film (and comprehensible story) than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was a book. 

The quick synopsis: it's 1962 and the Allies did not win World War Two.  The Pacific States of America are occupied by Japan, the eastern seaboard is under control of the Reich, and a thin band of mountain and desert states in between are an uneasily free Neutral Zone.  Although people have settled somewhat into a new way of life, tension is already mounting between Germany and Japan, with heavy foreboding that Hitler's death will result in new conflict as Germany completes its quest for global dominance. 

Add in an American resistance network and you've got a great background for very compelling stories, not the least of which is the Man himself.  The Man in the High Castle is a semi-mythic figure who's distributing film -- newsreel footage which shows an alternate history of the Allies winning the war. 

It's not the same story as the Philip K. Dick novel.  IMDB's message board is full of purists and trolls bitching about how different the story is, or nitpicking the least essential details in an effort to show off to the one or two other people who care.  (It's called "film adaptation," kiddos.)  So far it's a great show, though, and pleasantly surprising from a production point of view; I didn't know Amazon Studios had this good of filmmaking in them.  Go figure.

Running Time: Across the Pacific

First full movie I've watched while running.  Obviously I'm running on the treadmill, because who wants to carry a 55" screen with them on a job outside?  In the past I've always listened to music while running and if I'm on the treadmill I'll try to find something on TV that can distract me visually, but I realized I was putting too much time into looking for the right kind of movie for visual only, and since I'm most often running in the morning there are no hockey or football games on.

I'm a very devoted Bogart fan and I hadn't yet watched cross The Pacific o I took in the full hour and forty minutes in three running sessions, two 30 minute runs and a forty.  Since I do longer runs at 6 mph, you can do the math and figure out that it's a 10 mile movie.

Let's start with the irony, because I love irony: though the vast majority of the film takes place on a boat, they never actually go across the Pacific.  The boat sets sail from Halifax, travels down the Atlantic coast, and the story ends just shy of the Panama Canal.  Yeah.  No Pacific at all.

But wait!  Perhaps "across the Pacific" refers to the imminent threat of Japanese invasion?  The story takes place shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor (Bogart film, remember?  It has to be set somewhere around WWII) and the boat upon which Bogie, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor are sailing is a Japanese cargo boat with limited passenger space.  In fact, it's pretty much limited to just enough passengers for this story.

Across the Pacific doesn't have the emotional depth of Casablanca, but it definitely has a bit deeper/more complex story than the typical Bogart movie.  Not that the plot is complex as, say, The Usual Suspects or L.A. Confidential.  Again, it's a Bogart/John Huston movie; there's no such thing as a subplot.  It's more that the backstories for the characters have a bit of depth that's more common in more recent movies.  Also, this is one of the better mysteries among my Bogart collection -- rather than the "will he or won't he?" question of Casablanca (the greatest film ever made) you spend a great deal of the movie trying to figure out exactly what happened in Rick's (Bogart) background and whether Alberta (Astor) is just along for the ride or if there's more going on with her.

The dialogue's as witty as ever.  Huston and Bogart always seem to have great dialogue written no matter who they enlist to scribe.  Likewise, Bogie and Mary Astor are fantastic together.  Their fun interchanges are Bogie at his best, and she's right on par with him. 

Sydney Greenstreet's character, Dr. Lorenz, is also interesting from an historical point of view.  On the one hand, Dr. Lorenz is one of the earliest film characters I'm aware of who professes an adopted identity with a significantly different culture (the Japanese).  On the other hand, while describing the beauty of some of the Japanese traditions and way of life he simultaneously manages to expose unabashed racism through condescending general comments, such as, "they make excellent servants." 

1942.  Take the historical context and move along.

It's an excellent movie.  I'd place it in the top tier of Bogart films, not one of the many Bogie filler material you find in the rest of the catalog.  Next time you're on a ten mile run you should give it a try.

Best Laid Plans...

I thought I'd take a day off from running today.  Since I finally decided back in September that I was tired of being overweight (really, truly, completely tired of it this time.  Really.) I've been doing two things: keto diet and getting cardio exercise at least five of every seven days.  (That's right.  A perfect five out of seven.) 

Normally I alternate running: HIIT one day versus a steady pace the next, trying to keep my heart rate in a particular zone.  I also alternate between the treadmill, the track at the gym, and the great outdoors.  Every once in a while I take a day off just to give my knees and feet a break, make sure everything's still functioning the way it should.  Today was going to be one of those days, but by round two (i.e., 15:15 CST, when the second round of football games starts) I was feeling seriously sluggish, and eventually I did this:

That's the second quarter of the Giants-Packers game, minus the first minute I missed while finding my Zune.  (Probably seemed like a lot longer for Eli Manning, especially while he watched Timmons run 58 yards after picking him off at the goal line.)

So, yeah.  Planned zero miles, ran four.  When I say I have a plan, I mean I have a hand drawn roadmap.  And when I say I have a roadmap, I mean I have a route in mind.  And when I say I have a route in mind, I actually just have a destination, and that destination was probably a whim that seemed like a good idea at the time.  But at least I'm going somewhere, and the Giants lost.  Double score!

Gamifying My Daily Run

I have a rule about running: I don't run without music.  Unlike bicycling, running for the sake of running holds no pleasure for me.  If my headphones are broken or Spotify won't work and I don't have a handy MP3 player, I'm not running.  I'm talking about running for exercise, of course. I will run without music if I'm being chased by a bear, an ex-Nazi dentist, or the giant incarnation of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  Though in the case of the latter I'd probably be part of a montage and thus, there would be music.

This practice began long before I grew interested in Octalysis, but it was an obvious subject for analysis once I read Yu-kai Chou's Actionable Gamification.  (The first time.)   The primary Core Drivers motivating my running are pretty obvious: I run so that I'll be healthier and look better.  Looking fit is the easy one; CD#5: Social Influence.  I think being healthier is most commonly CD#8: Avoidance (hopefully avoidance of young death) but I also like to think of it as being somewhat on the White Hat side of CD#4: Ownership.  I.e., I wish to possess a long life.  With White Hat's propensity for driving long-term results, I feel that viewing the motivation through the CD#4 lens rather than CD#8 might be a better choice. 

(That little theory alone tempts me to sign up for Premium option on yukaichou.com, since I'd like to know what Yuk-kai thinks of that concept and might be able to ask him during office hours.  But I'm digressing here.)

Now that I'm well in the habit of running I also run for the challenge: I used to struggle to run one mile without feeling like I'd collapse.  Then it was two, then three.  I constantly have that urge to "be able to run just a little bit more," despite not feeling like I ENJOY running.   (Incidentally, I feel this way about eating spinach, too.)  As soon as I feel like I've hit a comfort level with one distance, I'm pushing for the next.  CD#2: Accomplishment.

But here's what I think is the really fun part of the game.  Remember the music I mentioned?  I almost always use a Spotify play list when I run, and that list contains some of my favorite songs.  As a rule, I don't listen to them any time other than when I'm running.  Aha!  CD#6: Scarcity.  Also, I vary my route every single day.  Why?  Because I use a Microsoft Band to track my running, and it buzzes my wrist at every mile.  I don't want to know exactly where it's going to happen because then I'll be training my body to hit only the immediate goal, not the stretch goals.  Variation of the route, CD#7: Unpredictability.

I realize these are both Black Hat motivations, but I don’t see any problem with that.  The desired action here is not to make me run for an extra three hours on any given day, the goal is to make each run a bit more enjoyable, so that tomorrow I'll feel like I want to run again.  The short term Black Hat motivators do that pretty well.

There are a few more elements to this game.  My Spotify play list tends to include only songs with a title or theme related to running.  Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, Starship's Run Away, Bon Jovi's Runaway, etc.  Michael Jackson with Don't Stop is making an appearance this week, too.  (And I admit, The Village People somehow snuck in there with Macho Man.)  Since I try to regulate my pace such that my heart rate stays in a particular zone, I also look for songs with a beat to match my stride.  (Saga's On The Loose was the first of these.  A live version, great guitar solo.)  These little mechanics around compiling the song list are quite fun to me and I'll actually muse about other songs to add while I'm running.  CD#3: Empowerment of Creativity. 

And let's hit one last motivator while I'm at it.  I like to share my playlists with other runners and see theirs, which is very obviously CD#5.

There you have it, my first attempt at some Octalysis Core Drive analysis.  Not a game design, of course, and I didn't even touch on actual Game Techniques, but it was certainly a fun and worthwhile exercise.  Thanks Yu-kai!