As a runner and first-time marathoner last fall I was shocked along with the rest of the country at the attacks out of nowhere at today’s Boston Marathon today. I can’t imagine being caught in the midst of this only feet from the finish line. It’s such a great race that won’t ever be quite the same after this. There aren’t really words to describe how disgusting it is for anyone to be killed or maimed at such a fun, open, and historic event. But, I still want to run it and know they’ll pull it together, stronger than ever, in the years to come.
I also realized I’ve now posted twice in row about something terrible happening with crickets in between. This isn’t intentional, and I actually have plenty else going on that’s blog-worthy, but it turns out living life takes precedence over blogging about it sometimes. Even so, I’ll try to stop procrastinating and get it up here. Starting tomorrow.
For now my thoughts are with the runners, friends, and families in Boston tonight.
I ran my first marathon, the Boulder Marathon, last week! After an intense but super fun past couple months of seemingly constant running when I wasn’t working, sleeping, or spending weekends and evenings with family (hence the lack of blog posts) I was totally ready and super proud to finally finish a big one.
I’ve been running casually since the end of college, at first intermittently between travel for work – something I did a ton of the first couple years after school – and then more consistently after getting married and being in town most weeks. But for a couple years this was once or twice a week for a mile or two at most without any thought put into distance, route, or pace, and I had no interest in signing up for a real race. Heck, living around Boulder I’m not sure that was even enough to call myself a runner!
Three events really changed this for me. First, watching the 2008 Summer Olympics four years ago which were first games where I was also running on a regular basis during them. I especially loved seeing Michael Phelps dominate, and after his last gold medal thought to myself, “if he can do that I can actually be more than half-assed at all these runs”. So I pulled up Google Maps and specced out an actual 5k, looked at the clock, ran it, and when I got back figured out my total time and pace.
Second, RunKeeper. This amazing app is an iPhone lover’s ultimate running companion. It’s beautifully designed, completely free of adds and other garbage (in both the app and website), and most importantly Just Works. After stumbling on it I was instantly hooked on running with my iPhone instead of the iPod Nano (despite the bulk – I have no problem with an armband!), hearing my distance and pace real-time each mile throughout my runs along with looking at my route afterwards. I know this is cliche to everyone who’s run with a stopwatch well before the existence of such niceties but as someone who entered adulthood with the advent of stats and achievements in online games, social media, and everywhere else it was perfectly natural and fun to have this immediate feedback as part of my runs. In fact, I craved it and immediately started getting much faster and more consistent. In no time I could feel my pace within +/- 30s per mile and knew the distances of every corner or landmark along the local paths. As RunKeeper added achievements proper I loved hitting them and it fueled me even more.
Third, having a kid. This was the most unexpected catalyst because I thought in advance the post-partem craziness would put running on hold, and depending how much free time I had left maybe even kill it altogether. But I was itching to run the day we came back from the hospital (and had a chance to, thanks to knowing grandparents who took care of everything for a couple hours while we did whatever we wanted that first day back!), and kept doing it whenever I could squeeze time in around lack of sleep and new baby wowness. Even more than before it became a crucial relaxation point of the day any time I could get a run in, and as opportunities for lots of other “fun” stuff evaporated it was one thing I could do solo and keep adjusting around any schedule. Then as soon as Cayden was old enough to ride in a BOB stroller, first in the little infant carrier and then eventually by himself in the big seat, runs became something even more amazing: a ridiculously epic trifecta of doing something fun that’s also great exercise for myself, an activity I can share with my son that he absolutely loves doing with me, and giving mama a break to do whatever she wants by herself while we’re gone.
If you don’t have kids you will not understand how rare and precious such things are, and I was totally surprised and thrilled at how much Cayden enjoyed it. He’ll ask to go on runs now, babbling, singing, pointing, laughing, or even snoozing the whole way, cheering when we get home, and never getting bored or complaining. I don’t know how he does it when he can’t even sit still for two minutes most other times, but I’m lucky. So within a few months of being into serious runs with a kid in tow I decided to up my game a little more and sign up for a real race, the Bolder Boulder. I ran it with a respectable time and kept running longer and harder after it, finishing the Sombrero Trail Run, Colder Boulder, and a few others over the next year.
By that point I’d had over a year of really solid running under my belt and was ready for another step. So this past spring I decided it was half marathon time, and I ran three of them along with the Bolder Boulder again in between. The first couple were mediocre, but by the third I was nailing my pace and ran every mile consistently getting in under two hours. At that point I decided it was time for the big goal: a marathon. Half marathons had always seemed in easy reach based on a starting point of being fit and running easy 10ks, but a full marathon was pretty daunting. It just didn’t seem like a whole lot of fun to run for that long, and even worse to do it for all the training lead up to it. But after a couple 15 mile+ hard runs pushing a BOB stroller the whole way (which I’ve come to realize is at least a 20% difficulty hit, but awesome way to make every step of a long run really count!), I knew I could do it. So I signed up for the Bolder Marathon and started putting in the rigorous mileage necessary to be more fully prepared than the half-assed training I had put in for any of the shorter races leading up. My first marathon was not going to be a DNF, and also not going to be walked through the second half!
Thanks to a great summer of training, especially all the long runs with running buddy Cayden along in the BOB and mama’s patience as the schedule did get crazy a few weeks, I went into race day totally ready. The weather was perfect, with beautiful fall colors on the Boulder backroads, clear skies, 50-60 degrees the whole time. I even had a random stray goat run along with me for a couple miles which was a hilarious little break from my usual focus. The first 20 miles felt great, and I actually blew through my half marathon PR over the leading 13. But if there’s one thing I’ve heard about marathons that rang true, it’s that they are a 20 mile warmup followed by a really fucking hard 10k. It was just stupid how drained I was over the last few miles, even with all the water, gatorade, and gels I packed in on schedule, and by the final mile I was really on my last legs. Still, that’s not unlike how the last few miles of my first half marathon felt, and more importantly I felt pretty great after a nap through the rest of the day, only a tiny bit of soreness through the rest of the week, and the next weekend I was out again enjoying a casual five mile run with Cayden.
So, I can do marathons, and they don’t make me hate life during or after – meaning I can probably push even harder. I’ve been thinking about it, and rather than just do more marathons I’m considering a couple goals: qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, and really kicking it up to do an ultra marathon. Some high elevation or other particularly difficult marathons seem fun as well, and will give some nice variety to the slew of them I’ll probably run on the way to these goals, but having them out there gives me something else to focus on. That is, when I’m not working, sleeping, or raising a kid… just like when it all started! I will try to write more about it though. Reading about the running adventures of others has reminded me that it’s a worthy topic to pour myself out about every once in awhile.
In the meantime, I’m super proud to have knocked the marathon off the list and will now say without hesitation – even in Boulder – that I’m a runner.
I’ve been using a new MacBook Pro with Retina display for the past week or so and it’s by far the best Mac laptop upgrade in quite awhile. For various reasons I’ve used a whole bunch of different Mac laptops over the past few years leading up to it:
- Pre-unibody 15″ MacBook Pro
- 13″ unibody MacBook Pro (core 2 duo)
- 15″ unibody MacBook Pro (i7 dual core)
- 13″ MacBook Air (i7 dual core)
- 15″ unibody MacBook Pro (i7 quad core)
Of these, everything up through the last 2011 MacBook Pro was not a desktop replacement. In fact, the inability to be one is what pushed me towards the MacBook Air to at least have something light and small for travel and meetings since at both work an home I had separate 27-inch iMacs for the heavy lifting. The quad-core MacBook Pro with an SSD upgrade and ability to take 16GB of RAM finally made a totally viable desktop replacement again, and became pretty much the only computer I used for the last six months. But, it was painful after having embraced the MacBook Air to be back to such a (relative) clunker. Since most of the features continuing to date the unibody design were things I had long given up using (optical drive, ethernet, firewire) I was more than ready for a slim MacBook Pro without these.
The Retina MacBook Pro was is this plus a whole bunch of display awesomeness. It’s nearly the agility of a MacBook Air with RAM, CPU, and storage that performs like a really fast desktop. But the display… well, having spent a lot of time using retina displays on the iPhone and new iPad it’s exactly the beauty you’d expect, now happily married to desktop tasks like software development. As an iOS developer, it especially stands out having Xcode and the iOS Simulator quietly render all of the Retina assets at full quality using the @2x versions just like the real device would, and working with high-res assets in Photoshop is also a joy. But even simply scrolling and reading tons of text (an inescapable part of writing code) is much easier on the eyes with the Retina display, and of course everything about the core OS just looks great with it as well.
I was also surprised by how useful the other scaled HiDPI resolutions are. Going up from the Retina default of 1440×900 (which is perfectly doubled) to 1680×1050 (the old 15″ hi-res native resolution) is quite readable and sharp, great for lots of workspace when the MBP is your only display. Going up to 1920×1200 still stays quite clear in terms of scaling but is a touch small for my taste, and 2880×1800 – absolute native resolution, and only achievable through a third-party display utility like SwitchResX – is quite absurd, really only good for marveling at what your display is capable of and then quickly changing back to avoid a headache!
Of course I obviously don’t miss the lack of optical, ethernet, or firewire, but beyond the slim form factor and display my favorite sleeper feature has been finally having a multitude of external display ports. While single thunderbolt works well for a cinema display or iMac in target display mode, a basic side-by-side setup of multiple 1080p LCD’s (a cheap and common desktop setup) always required some imperfect solution until now: either get a display splitter that connects two displays to the single DVI connection and acts like one giant desktop across them (menu bar and dock with a monitor edge down the center? no thanks), or connecting one natively and sacracifing the other to a very mediocre and laggy DVI-over-USB connection like DisplayLink. But with the new MBP it’s possible to connect not just two but three external displays, all with full hardware-accelerated capability.
It’s worth mentioning that the flash storage is ridiculously fast as well, but having already converted to exclusive use of SSDs over the past couple years I can’t say I noticed a difference; it’s just something that finally comes standard without a ridiculous add-on price or need for a third-party drive swap anymore. Battery life seems as good as the previous MacBook Pro which is not stellar but good enough (I’m going to be charging this thing every day anyway), and other minor upgrades like better speakers and inclusion of USB 3.0 are handy but not something I use on a daily basis.
If there is one downside to the Retina display it’s probably the unavoidable glare of a glossy screen, and while it’s a huge improvement over the earlier MacBook Pro’s (and from what I can tell, also a tad better than the recent MacBook Air), side-by-side with a matte screen in front of any direct window light or unfortunate overhead fluorescent lightning it’s still quite obvious. I’m sure this would bother me more in a typical corporate office, but since I’m using it for now at a scrappy startup loft, random coffee shops, or on the couch at home it hasn’t been a problem. But on the flip side I can’t say I use the display for watching a whole bunch of movies where the glossy finish might shine either so it’s sort of a non-feature for me.
A supposed downside I keep reading about is the lack of upgradability. There were basically two things the last MacBook Pro let a user easily upgrade: the storage drive and RAM. While not user-upgradeable now, it’s a reasonably-priced BTO option to include 16GB of RAM (the most that could be upgraded with current sticks and two RAM slots anyway), and of course the built-in flash storage, while expensive, is equally fast and high quality. For a laptop I’m going to replace every 1-2 years anyway this is more than a fair trade for slender, light form factor, and having already embraced it with the MacBook Air it doesn’t bother me at all.
Overall, if a Mac is your daily laptop you will love the Retina MacBook Pro. It’s a huge upgrade and undoubtedly sets the bar for a new generation of power-user laptops led by Apple.
After a couple months of hard work I’m proud to see MobileDay in the App Store! If you join or create conference calls from your iPhone check it out and share it with others. It’s a great tool for easy one-touch calling to any conference service from any meeting in your calendar and we have much more to come! You can also read more about the company and app at mobileday.com.