// archives

Archive for December, 2014



My review of Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, the third novel in Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar series, was posted at SFSignal on Christmas Eve. Does that make it a Christmas miracle?

An excerpt:

In this the third (but doubtfully final) novel in the Bobby Dollar series, Williams has propped up many questions to be answered:

  • Who in Heaven has it in for Dollar and why?
  • Who is Bobby? Or rather who was he when he was alive? And does who he was in real life have anything to do with Why these things keep happening to him?
  • Who is Clarence really and who is he spying for?
  • Why don’t the all knowing powers of Heaven smite him down for his recent trip to Hell.

It is difficult to do world building in a known world. The tropes of Heaven and Hell are well known and have been written to death (poor pun intended). But Williams does create a unique vision where Heaven is not all knowing, is certainly not perfect and is prone to insurgencies just like any other Kingdom.

He’s built this world around a rouge angel who is now an advocate for the dead but used to be in the Navy Seal part of the angel corps. Dollar curses, drinks, is sometimes irreverent and always sarcastic.

“That’s not an excuse, or rather it is an excuse. Yes, I drink more than I should, and if I didn’t have a very fit angel’s body which could heal a deep wound in twenty-four hours or less, I’m sure my liver would be in a jar somewhere in a medical museum, next to Rasputin’s famous kielbasa and Einstein’s deli-sliced brain.” (pg 197)

The rules of this world and the character of Dollar are what makes this series interesting. The closest character that I’ve seen to Dollar is Constantine though there are some marked differences. Both are irreverent but Dollar shows a certain respect and fear for what those in charge in Heaven would do to him if he’s caught breaking the rules. Their motivations are different as well, as Dollar gets in trouble just trying to save his demon girlfriend, and trying to have more hot demon sex (can I say that out loud here on SFSignal?)

Henceforth details of the first two books will be included, thus noted for spoiler avoidance.

Dollar has survived Hell only to have lord of Hell Eligor trick him and keep both his girlfriend and the angel feather. The angel feather was part of a pact with some unknown angel and Eligor to create a “Third Way”, a place outside of Heaven and Hell for souls. And Dollar’s best friend Sam, who has made himself scarce as of late due to his own involvement in the “Third Way”, could have the answers that Bobby seeks.

After a drunken stupor, Dollar realizes that Eligor must have exchanged something to the angel for the feather and that whoever the angel is that is Eligor’s partner in crime has been sending nasty things Bobby’s way to try and kill him. Dollar tries to figure out both mysteries: who is the powerful angel doing these things behind Heaven’s back and where is the item Eligor traded for the feather? And can Dollar use it to get his girlfriend back?

Click here for the entire review.


San Antonio Half Marathon – December 7, 2014

SA Half Marathon CourseRace day. After 18 weeks following the Hanson’s Half Marathon training program (and two months of running before that to determine if my knees could handle running six days out of seven), it was time to put the wheels to the test. I’d targeted this race for several reasons: it was familiar territory, as I went to high school and college in San Antonio; and this course kicked my butt in the heat three years ago…granted, it beat down several runners in that heat wave. But it was good motivation.

My target was a new PR, a sub 1:50 half. My previous fastest  (1:52)  was in the New Orleans half in early 2012, when I was a spring chicken of 50 years old.

After running this race twice (my first half marathon ever with Bert in 2009 and with my brother in the heat in 2011), we knew not to try the “commute” route, as neither the congestion of being dropped off nor the park-n-ride from the AT&T Center options were enjoyable, relaxing or in any way conducive to a good pre-race routine. So I traded one of my free night coupons for a night at the Mansion del Rio hotel on the river, within easy walking distance of the starting corrals.

A not-so-quick (everyone had the same idea) pasta dinner at Paesano’s across the river, and in bed by ten led to a decent night’s sleep.

Crowds and Corals

Whether it was because of the fact that I signed up for this race very early on (since I was planning an 18 week running program around some race) or because my target time was sub 1:50, i was assigned to corral 2. We walked down Commerce street from the hotel, a nice warm-up walk in the 50 degree weather. Rain had been in the forecast, but a front that came through not only made the temps perfect, but cleared out any chance of rain. We started out under a few clouds. There was a train at the St. Paul’s Square outside the Alamodome that was decorated for the season…and yes, in spite of the pre-race anxiety, I did stop for the photo op.

Christmas TrainNow we all know that the corrals are more like “guidelines”, and all that really matters is the time when the chip on your shoe crosses the starting mats. But the setup for the race was “skinny” to say the least…when we came up from Commerce Street, we hit corral 8 or 9, so we had to wade north through tons or runners and watchers. This took a while, longer than it should have – there was limited walking space on the side of the corrals, and a lot of that was taken over by poorly placed trash cans.

We were close to my spot when the starting gun went off. No matter….but my wife (who did outstanding work as gear pack sherpa and cheerleader) didn’t know the “guidelines” rule, and got anxious. I freaked her out by taking a side detour into a porta potty (light on the feet!), popped back out…and we were off.

Some gent at the start, not a runner, was running beside me holding a large video camera and “interviewing” me….I have no idea who he was…could have just been a guy who like to jog holding a large camera.

Metronome pacing

In an earlier post, I discussed (and over thought) my race strategy. In the end, I listened to my big brother (there’s a first time for everything), and “trusted my training.” During the tempo runs, I’d trained to maintain a cadence of 180 steps per minute. Before changing my stride to accommodate a bit of knee arthritis, I ran with long strides, with much fewer steps per minute. I’d used a metronome program for my iPhone to help me keep pace during the tempo runs. Though I thought it might drive me slightly more bonkers, I had the metronome pinging in the background through the entire race…and, in the last few miles, it certainly was a big reminder to keep on pace.

Bombay Bicycle ClubFamiliar course

Except for the one hill (did I mention the hill? Trust me, I will), the course ran through many familiar places and old haunts. Of course , after heading north from the congested confines around the under-utilized Alamodome, we headed east towards downtown and ran it by the Alamo (see the sure-to-be Oscar worth Alamo running video below). The course zig zagged roughly north out of town, past new condo and townhouse developments, and went through the site of the old Pearl Brewery, now home to shops and cool book stores. It then turned up N. St. Marys, home to many of the bars and pubs that, as a college student at Trinity University, I heavily invested my hard earned dollars. After crossing under 281, I laughed out loud, much the the confusion of the runners next to me: we were passing by Bombay Bicycle Club, the bar where after final exams my friends and I held our near infamous “bar exams”…and now I was running by it.

TrinityThen we got to the one hill on the course. To a flatlander like myself, who training in Southeast Texas has to run the gullies to get any hill training, this was a large elevation change (in reality, it was a little over 100 feet). I’d driven this hill almost everyday commuting to Trinity for several years, and my old car could barely get up it. But the Trinity faithful lines the course, many of them wearing oversized Trinity Tiger paws which made for a nice fuzzy high five…about a hundred high fives…thanks for the support and motivation.

After winding through the Trinity neighborhoods, there was a nice straight shot down Main Street back toward downtown – about a three mile shot that at mile 10 dumped us out somewhere in the King William district, amongst all the old buildings. I’d set myself up on the runner tracking so I could see the official times (my lovely wife was texting them to me as well). At mile 10, I needed to be under 84 minutes to hit my goal; I was at 82:28, so I had a minute and a half to spare….not a lot of slack.

TowardDowntownSAMy brother had suggested I check myself at 10 miles to see if I could push the last 5K. It was a great idea, but I contented myself with keeping to the 180 beats per minute pace…and I’m glad I did, as maintaining that pace (which was around 8:13) the entire way was a lot by the time we got to the Finish.

The Finish area was straight, for a change. The last layout of this run had you turning a corner and seeing the Finish right in front of you. With this layout, there was about 3/4 of a mile straightaway to the Finish banner. I pushed with what little I had left to be certain I was under the 1:50 banner, and was done.


Below is the oscar-worthy Alamo-while-running video.


I did indeed meet my race goal, as per the stats below. The fact that there were 48 other old farts in my division that were faster is a source of amazement and motivation. My wife looked at the clock time, and was ecstatic that I’d beaten my goal…then we got the text with the chip time, and the party was on.

Race results

Pace chart

Half-marathon training: Race Strategy, or, I *may* be overthinking this

Pace chartAfter 18 weeks of training, using the Hanson Half Marathon program, the targeted half marathon (the San Antonio RnR Half) is tomorrow. During training, my targeted race pace has been to finish in under 1:50 (my previous best is a 1:52). At a steady pace, this would be about an 8:23 pace.

Steady paces are not negative splits, though. All the folks I’ve spoken with, all the material I’ve read, talk about negative splits as the strategy for setting PRs. The theory behind it is to do the first half so that you have gas in the tank for the last half. The Hanson’s program talks a lot about training you to “run tired” which would tend to lend itself to negative splits.

With this in mind, several strategies are possible:

  • 1st half of race at 8:28ish, last half at 8:18ish.
  • steady pace of 8:23ish
  • the “trust your training” and check at 10 miles strategy

This last one is from my brother, and it makes sense: if you’ve been training your body for 18 weeks (longer for me) to run at a certain pace, just get into that rhythm, check at halfway and at ten miles, then push it for the last 5k/3miles.

As long as I am near 55 minutes halfway and just under 84 minutes at ten miles, this strategy will work.

As far as other race day planning, unlike the last two SA Halfs I’ve run, we will not be experience the thrill of driving to the event from my mom’s house north of town. Not only is this a royal pain, but it is too hectic and taxing; when I’ve had my best times, I’ve gotten a hotel room close to the start line and walked over. It’s quite a bit more calming. I used one of my free nights to get us a hotel within a mile.

Weather is shaping up to be near perfect – low 50s, low humidity, small chance of rain. It may not be cool enough for me to wear my special PACKERS running outfit (the receivers gloves make it sharp), but we will see.

The race has one hill, a hill I am quite familiar with as it goes up to my alma mater, Trinity University. I drove up that hill many times, and it is a steep sucker. But the downhill slope on the other side will be nice. Short stride up, longer stride down.

I’ve been getting into the habit of eating the same meal before runs to get my stomach used to it: a scoop of peanut butter and a yogurt (plus coffee, of course). We’ll match that pre-race tomorrow.

Thanks to all who have sent in support through this blog or various other social media. All that’s left is the race…and the next one…and the next one…


Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

click on the image for more info and to support this blog

Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


%d bloggers like this: