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Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal

I enjoy writing reviews but I admit I am something of a wimp in doing so. Writing a book is a difficult task, despite what the proliferation of self-published tomes indicates. Each of the ones I’ve written is an exercise in perseverance, self-discipline and repetition. I applaud anyone who has successfully gone through that process.

Which is why I really dislike writing negative reviews.

For the most part, if I usually read a book if I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. Most readers are like this, no doubt, as we are all influenced by what we have read before, and our time is precious so we do not want to invest it in reading something that may not bring us satisfaction, wonder and enjoyment (or knowledge, if reading non-fiction).

This brings us to the review just posted on SFSignal of The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, the first in the Vault of Heavens trilogy.

It is probably the most lukewarm, middle-of-the-road review I’ve written…and, in spite of it, I am plowing through and thoroughly enjoying the second book in the series, Trial of Intentions.

The version of the book I reviewed is labeled “Author’s Definitive Edition.” I have no idea what changed, though I have read in other places that the original book was a lot like The Wheel of Time series. Though I admire what Robert Jordan (and after him, Brandon Sanderson) have accomplished with that series, I could not finish it – it just got too boring and convoluted in the middle. I saw some similarities, but they were the same fantasy tropes that you find in all fantasy series.

An excerpt from the review:

It’s a bit of a rocky start, with a lot of jumping around, and references to characteristics of the world that are undefined and confusing (e.g., the creatures that are being held back by the veil (and sometime breaking through) are called “the Quiet”; I may be slow, cause I didn’t get it for a while). And I have the unfortunate vice of being a map hound…and, even with reading glasses, it looked to me like distances were not making any sense in the group’s travels.

At this point I almost gave up on the book. Life’s too short to have to force your way through a book that is meant to entertain.

And yet…there were intriguing characters with interesting problems and a complex world that was developing and deepening. The main character, Tahn, has forgotten a large part of his past, and is limited by the power of the chant he must says before he uses his bow. The Sheason can use “the Will”, the life-energy of this world, as a weapon at the cost of draining his own life energy. And the concept of the Veil, which is failing (as evidenced by the Bar’dyn from the other side that they encounter) and which would launch a third all-out war, sets up much of the impetus of the plot. Political intrigue is added by introducing a faction bent on modernization, believing that old stories of the Veil, the creatures beyond it and the first two wars are mere fairy tales, and that all who believe in them should be subdued to make way for progress.

The story follows some oft-used tropes: a forgotten past; an unlikely hero who is more than he seems; music as power. But, each unwinds in interesting ways:

 If you’ve read it, I’d appreciate your comments.


Old Newtons and New Newtons

Pikes Peak Ascent training – Week 2

The week 1 post is here.

Week 2 is five EASY RUNs with Monday and Wednesday off on both the Hanson Half and Full/Beginner training plans. This is the same basic schedule through Week 4 on both plans. Week 5 adds a tempo run on Thursdays. Week 6 starts the “run 6 days out of seven” putting a easy run on Monday and speed work on Tuesday.

My previous Hanson’s training started in August and ended in December, all in Houston…i.e., it went from too hot to run to good weather.

This time, I’m starting in April, running in Houston through the end of June, then running in Denver in July and August.

That previous week 2 post had some charts on running in the heat, which I won’t need this time (unless we get one of those Houston June heat waves) but you can review them at the link.

Week 2 schedule:

  • Monday:off day – EASY RUN 4.34 mi in 40:42 9:23 min/mi
  • Tuesday: easy 2 mi - EASY RUN 5.0 mi in 46:09  9:13 min/mi. The Hanson plan is to pace the easy runs 1-2 minutes slower than your projected race pace. Even though my real race pace will be 16-18 min/mi up the mountain, I’m training for an 8 minute pace. Given what I’ve read about training at high altitudes, it would be a good thing to run a true half-marathon after spending some time running in Colorado. These runs, though I am just loping along, seem easy…mostly likely due to the fact that I went through this same training August-December, and only took a bit of time off at the end of December and early January.
  • Wednesday: off day
  • NewtonBocos NewtonBocoBottomThursday: easy 3 mi - EASY RUN 3.5 mi in 34:15 9:47 min/mi. I didn’t run far or fast, trying out my new trail shoes (with no trail or hills to be found). I did get a pair of Newton BOCO trail shoes, and man do they feel quite different from my other Newtons (Sir Isaac). You can click on the photos of the shoes to the right to see larger versions. These shoes have the normal Newton ridges across the front, but also have quite a bit more in the heel and across the toe, for gripping on the trail (I presume). It will take a bit to get used to these; I plan to save them for running trails when we get to Colorado. And yes, my Newton Sir Isaac’s are PACKERS GOLD, these we’ll just call PACKERS GREEN! The larger image below shows the tread of the non-trail vs. the trail Newtons (Sir Isaacs/Yellow on the left and BOCO/Green on the right). A lot more grip on the sides and the raised part of the BOCOs.

Old Newtons and New Newtons

  • Friday: easy 3 mi - EASY RUN 4.52 mi Run / Jog 44:02  9:44 min/mi.
  • Saturday: easy 3 mi - EASY RUN 4.01 mi Run / Jog 37:02 9:15 min/mi.
  • Sunday: easy 4 mi - EASY RUN 8.01 mi Run / Jog 1:18:14 9:46 min/mi. I tried a new running app today called “iSmoothRun” (not the best name for an app). I’ve been using MapMyRun and it has some accuracy issues – (a)it is inconsistent in pace, and (b)it is frequently asking me to spin the iPhone to calibrate, which does not exude confidence. MapMyRun is free, and iSmoothRun is not, but I’d read about its interval training, its ability to drop back from GPS, and the capability to automatically capture weather. It also has the capability to handle intervals, and has a built-in metronome (I was using a metronome app for pacing). Today I was running both programs together, to see what the different results were, and the results were not good. iSmoothRun has an auto-pause feature, and apparently every time I put it into the background (to change the music, for example), it apparently when into “auto-pause” (I knew this because when I brought it back to the foreground, it would say “auto-paused” and then quickly “resumed”. I contacted iSmoothRun support, and, on a Sunday, they responded very quickly…but they told me that the app should indeed work in the background. More experimentation with it tomorrow, as it has a lot of promise.

Total recommended: 15 mi (2+3+3+3+4 easy)

Actual: 29.4 mi (4.34+5+3.5+4.52+4.01+8.01 easy) (last time through – 22.5 miles in week two)

Next week’s schedule (week 3) is a total of 21 miles (5 easy runs, two off days) on both plans.


Pikes Peak Ascent training – Week 1

For those interested, the introductory strategy post (A Hopefully Logical Approach to the Insanity of Running up a Mountain) is at the link.

As I described in that post, I’m going to follow the Hanson’s Half plan, but lengthen some of the runs where I have time. Since the Hanson beginner Marathon plan is very similar to this idea, I’m going to track that plan (found on Hanson’s website) as well.

Week 1 schedule:

  • Monday: schedule doesn’t start until Wednesday - EASY RUN 3.5 mi in 32:50  9:22 min/mi
  • Tuesday: schedule doesn’t start until Wednesday - EASY RUN 3.59 mi Run 32:53 9:10 min/mi.
  • Wednesday: off. Did this one better than Monday!
  • Thursday: easy 3 mi  (this week, the Hanson half and full/beginner schedules are exactly the same)- EASY RUN 4.51 mi Run 40:08 8:54 min/mi. In Dallas for business, my normal hotels near the Campion trails were booked. New hotel we near Thomas Jefferson park in Irving. Nice park around a lake. I noticed most of the people I passed were Indian (not Comanche/Choctaw/Cherokee like me, but from India), then I saw this memorial in the park. From far away I though the statue was wear a lei so I was wonder why a Hawaiian would have a statue. Then I got close enough for my bad old eyes, and had the aha moment.

GhandiMonument In a park, in the middle of a bunch of apartments, a very nice monument to Mahatma Ghandi. Pretty cool.HillInIrving

  • Friday: off - EASY RUN 4.16 mi Run 36:33 8:48 min/mi in the same park in Irving. I waved at Ghandi on the way by…and I found the only hill in this part of Texas!
  • Saturday: easy 3 mi - EASY RUN 4.01 mi Run 38:22, 9:35 min/mi. Back in Houston
  • Sunday: easy 4 mi - EASY RUN 6.75 mi Run 1:03:58, 9:29 min/mi; feeling a lot better than when I started last time

Total recommended: 10 mi (3+3+4 easy) but the scheduled didn’t start until Wednesday

Actual: 26.5 mi (3.5+3.59+4.51+4.16+4.01+6.75 easy). Last time through the plan, 20.5 miles in Week 1.

Next week’s schedule (week two) is a total of 15 miles (5 easy runs, two off days) in both the half and the full/beginner schedules. I plan on keeping to my 20+ miles per week, and will match up with the Wednesday off days.

Skyrunner.com Altitude charts

Pikes Peak Ascent – A Hopefully Logical Approach to the Insanity of Running up a Mountain

The one word email response I received from my brother, he of the many marathons include Boston and others, states the reaction of most when I inform them I have signed up for the Pikes Peak Ascent (PPA).


He is, as usual, probably right.

For background, I just set a PR in the San Antonio Half, which I used for my qualification run for the PPA. At 53 years old, setting PRs is not difficult, since I didn’t start distance running until basketball and rugby killed my knees.

And I truly love hiking in the mountains (see the Grand Canyon app for perilous adventures).

So this is just combining the two, right? A half-marathon with an uphill hike.

After the PR I was looking for the next mountain to climb (poor pun intended).

We shall see.

Any other runners who read this and have run the PPA, and have further suggestions or comments, I would certainly appreciate the advice.

Course Overview

This is certainly not a race that one can just “go out and run” (well, a much younger and faster person might). A familiarity with the course will certainly help. There is a nice description on the web site and several folks who have run it have posts. This is the most relevant description:

From the Manitou Springs City Hall, the races proceed west on Manitou Avenue for 0.42 miles to Ruxton Avenue. At Ruxton, the course turns west for 0.8 mile to (and past) the Cog Railway Depot to Hydro Street. At this point there has been an elevation gain of approximately 300′ for an average grade of 4.5%. At .23 of a mile past Hydro Street, or 1.45 miles total, the asphalt ends, and the course continues on a dirt/gravel road which parallels Ruxton Creek. At the end of the dirt/gravel road, there is a fenced area, and the course stays to the north side of the fence before meeting up with a small trail on the right. This trail, commonly referred to as the “spur trail,” connects to Barr Trail in .1 of a mile. From this point to the summit at 14,115,’ the course follows Barr Trail. The width of the trail will vary as will the grade (steepness) and surface (footing).

From Hydro Street to No Name Creek is 3 miles with an elevation gain of 2,150′ for an average grade of 13.4%. From No Name Creek to Barr Camp is about 3.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,450′ for an average grade of 8.3%. This is the fastest section of the course and even includes several slight downhill sections roughly 1.25 miles above No Name Creek. Barr Camp to the A-frame shelter at treeline is another 2.6 miles and 1,800′ in elevation gain for an average grade of 13.1%. From the A-frame to finish/turnaround (~14,050′) is about 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of 2,050′ for an average grade of 12.4%


Altitude – I am, by definition, a “flatlander.” There’s air down here near the Gulf of Mexico. The elevation here in Tomball is 187 feet above sea level. The ascent starts in Manitou Springs at an altitude of  6,300′ (1,920m) and the summit is 14,115′ (4,302m). My new math tells me there is a big difference between where I am normally training and where the race is.

Skyrunner.com Altitude chartsThere is a great albeit technical article by Tony Eckels written specifically about this challenge and for this race. In it, he uses the graph here to show the amount of oxygen your body is used to (100%) and what it will experience at the start and finish of the Ascent. Basically, since I am near sea level, at the start of the race I will be sucking in 80% of the oxygen my body is normally accustomed to, and at the Peak a whopping 61%.

This could suck (or suck wind).

So I have a couple of choices to face this challenge: 

  • I could rent one of these and simulate a high-altitude, but not only is it more than I want to invest in this race, but it is much too Lance Armstrong-ish.
  • I could ignore the altitude differences, and assume, as the Pikes Peak Ascent website states, that I will add 30 minutes to my time
  • I could train at altitude.

This third selection is actually easier for me. My work requires an airport and wifi (and an occasional change of clothes) and my wife’s BFF lives just south of Denver. Several of the articles I’ve read state a couple of common rules for training at a higher altitude: (a) don’t run hard once you get there, as it takes your body a few days to produce more red blood cells to carry the oxygen; and (b) it still takes a while to adjust. So we’ll head to the area a few weeks before the race, curtail the hard part of the training for the first few days there, and hope that helps.

Elevation and grade change - The other part about being a flatlander is…well…it’s flat. And I am normally the runner who curses any hill put on the track (are they just trying to slow us down?). The normal course that I run is along a bayou, with an elevation change of maybe 20 feet when I cross the bayou.

The relocation piece toward the end of the training will help. But I’ll also add in a bunch of quad work, as suggested in several of the articles, like step-ups (one guys say find a car bumper to step-up on to prepare for the “Golden Stairs” at the end; sounds up-lifting) and knee lifts with leg weights after my flatlander running. Just gotta be sure and protect those knees.

Time duration – Though this is a half-marathon in distance, the time it will take makes it more like a marathon. The suggestions for predicting your finish time are to double your half-marathon time…and, if you are a flat-lander, add 30 minutes. My recent half time (which is my PR) is 1:47:44, so doubling is about 3:30ish. Add a half hour and that’s four hours…so I put in 3:50 as my projection.

I really enjoyed the Hanson Half Marathon training program I used for the SA Half (blog posts for the entire 18 weeks start here). Not only did I PR, but I avoided injury, and did not feel completely wiped out after the race.

The question for the PPA is: train for a half (which is the distance) or train for the full (which is the time)?

Unfortunately I have to work for a living. The Hanson Half program was a pretty large time commitment, and the Hanson full program is even more so. Therefore my current plan is to use the same Hanson Half program…though I may either (a)crank up the mileage on the easy runs or (b)use the “Advanced” plan (vs. the Basic plan I used before).

The 18 week program will begin April 12.

Trail surface – this is a trail run that changes surface types many times. Because of past knee problems, I’ve changed my gait and my shoes, and now run in Newtons. Newton makes a trail shoe called the BOCO, which I plan on adding to my rotation. I may wait until I get to Colorado to add it in, as that will still give about six weeks of break-in period for the shoes.

Dehydration – I’ve been to Denver for work, and always need to drink more water. Humidity down here in SE Texas is almost always high, quite the opposite of the location of this race. I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water, and need to get in the habit of over-hydrating during training here in Texas, and carrying that habit over to Colorado. The first part of the training (mid-April through June) I’ll do here in Houston where it will be quite humid. I’ll carry more water and work on a habit of over-hydration.

Weight – I like beer….a lot. But, if I have to make a choice between carrying five extra pounds up Pikes Peak or cutting back on the beer….well, it will be a tough decision. My previous PR at the New Orleans Half, I weighed 169. My current PR at the San Antonio Half in December of last year, I was about 175. And most of the poundage is beer weight, many of them blamable on Packers games and the Untappd app (and me drinking the beer…but let’s not get personal). The PPA is before Packers season starts, and I just hit my 1,000th unique beer on Untappd. So I’m out of excuses.

Lack of tunes – the PPA is a “no earphones” run, for obvious safety reasons. This should not be a major issue, though I do run while listening to music or podcasts. I’ll have to get used to listening to the sounds of my own panting for breath.

Yoga, Chi and other esoteric add-ins – when I did Karate, I was much more flexible. And I believe that flexibility helped avoid injuries and to recover sooner after workouts and runs. My beautiful wife has me going to yoga class with her. Not only does it seem to be helping with my flexibility, but also helps with core strength. Hey, if it works for Aaron Rodgers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it can’t hurt.

I’ve also been experimenting with using the Small Circulation of chi while running. Mostly this involves keeping my tongue pressed up against the roof of my mouth and being mindful of the chi passage. This is hard, as it gives me one more thing to think about (gait, breathing pace, etc.) while running. I’m not certain if this will be helpful, as the usage of the chi while running is mostly in the legs, and the Small Circulation is all upper body. But the chi circulation path that goes through the top of the mouth and through the tongue is key. I will at least concentrate on that part.


I’ll continue updating as the training goes, and would, as always, appreciate any comments, advice and support. The first week’s training post can be viewed here.

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