Ran and Finished the Louisiana Marathon

After months of training, I got to take my shot at the full 26.2 miles of the Louisiana Marathon and I finished it.

My first marathon, it was one of the hardest physical things I had ever done before in my life. Those last six miles were brutal, breaking down into longer and longer periods of walking and shorter and shorter periods of running. My legs-my entire body-ached, but not so bad I couldn’t move. Hell, I even ran up that god-forsaken overpass in the last couple of miles. I just felt like I ran out of gas, literally like a combustion engine trying to run on fuel fumes.

I think a few things contributed to this. First, I tried running a slightly faster pace than what I trained for, which is always a mistake, but I kept it up for 18 miles or so. I finished my training schedule more than a month early (You can read about that here.). While I did my best to maintain my conditioning, the weather, the holiday food and booze, and family concerns worked against me. And the race day temperature started in the mid-60s and got into the low 70s with some humidity, so it was significantly warmer than it had been for any of my long runs.

I also knew some friends and coworkers that ran into their own problems. One fell down early in the marathon and scraped up her hands and knees pretty badly. Another pulled a muscle around mile 19, but had been running at a pace fast enough that he had time to limp the rest of the way home before the sweep bus came along.

So, my finish time wasn’t great, 5:20, but it was still a finish time. And I have the medal to prove it. After running that thing, just the accomplishment of doing it is enough for me (for now).

Louisiana Marathon 2017 medal, a cypress shoe.

Covered in body salt (and probably stinking terribly), I made it to the victory party with plenty of time to spare. There was a variety of food from several different vendors. Most of it was just free and didn’t require using one of the six stamps on my event bracelet. The Abita Brewing Company was out there with its trucks serving up its most popular beers. I had a Purple Haze, but there was also the Amber and The Boot – Louisiana Exclusive. It’s all pretty good beer, but after chugging a gallon mixture of water and powerade for the last 5 hours, my stomach wasn’t quite ready for beer or food.

Still, I had what I could stand out of principle, at least until I got back to my car and stopped at Jack in the Box on my way home. Eating an Ultimate Cheeseburger meal has become my post-marathon and half-marathon tradition it seems.

Post-marathon #Abita Purple Haze and a bowl of jambalaya, tasted like bitter, awful, God I felt like I was going to die victory, but victory nonetheless.

I wish I had my own pictures of the course itself, but I didn’t want to fumble with my phone while I was concentrating on staying with the pace team. The first half is great, aside from some rough roads. It goes from downtown Baton Rouge to Tiger Stadium on LSU’s campus by way of the streets around the LSU/Baton Rouge Lakes. This is obviously a matter of (completely biased, damn those last 10 miles!!!) opinion, but the second half of the route was just kind of plain. You were running through neighborhoods. I had more than my fill of that during my training. It was psychologically disheartening in a way. Still, there were tons of spectators and police officers and volunteers along the either leg to cheer you on.

People dressed in Batman and Super Troopers costumes shouted for us to keep going. Others offered us snacks and drinks and funny signs reading things like, “I don’t run marathons. I watch them on Netflix.” And the pace guy I ran most of the race with, as well as most of the runners, waved to and thanked each of the officers we passed. It was a good show of solidarity after such a rough year for the state.

With the marathon over and the training (thankfully) behind me, I’m turning my focus back to writing now. But really, writing a new book is just another kind of marathon. That’s depressing to think about right now, so I’m just going to stop.

If you’re curious, you can view the 2017 Louisiana Marathon results here.

#thelamarathon #running

Oculus Rift and Beer at the Tin Roof Tap Room for Tech Tuesday

A little over a week ago, I went with a couple of buddies to enjoy some free beer at the Tin Roof Brewery and a demo of an admittedly older version of the nifty VR headset, Oculus Rift. And after my house being broken into, a lot of my stuff stolen, and all the insurance paperwork that comes with that, I needed the night out.

I had been to the Tin Roof Brewery’s Tap Room before for a beer dinner, so I was already familiar with their beers. The first beer I had was the Rougarou, named for the mythical shape-shifting, swamp monster that haunts South Louisiana. Despite being rated at 108 IBU’s, I didn’t find it nearly that bitter. After some party snacks, I followed the Rougarou with the Perfect Tin Amber Ale. I wanted something lighter on flavor and alcohol content with a bit of maltiness to it and this beer hit the spot.

If you’ve never visited the Tin Roof Tap Room or the brewery, it’s worth checking out at least once if you find yourself in Baton Rouge looking for something to do.

Beyond the beer, I got to try out the Oculus Rift as part of a tech demo organized by the Louisiana Technology Park. LSU Digital Media Arts & Engineering Director Marc Aubanel was on hand to give a little presentation about the technology and its applications for gaming and learning. Marc was a cool guy and an old fan of the Ultima series. You can learn more about him in this interview on YouTube here.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift demo running on a nondescript Intel-powered laptop. The two images shown on the screen are what is displayed to each eye when the headset is on. The motion tracker mounted on top of the laptop follows your head movements.

I admit I was a little disappointed with the demo, but only because my expectations were higher than they should have been. As an AMD fan and stockholder, I’ve been keeping up with the graphics card maker’s virtual reality efforts and had read about crazy custom PCs boasting a pair of Fury X graphics cards running Oculus Rift headsets with modern survival horror game demos at high resolutions and the necessary 120+ fps frame rates to prevent motion sickness. What I got instead was an older, simpler version of the headset running off an Intel mobile iGPU. Yeah, it was kind of a bummer, but I got free beer and food out of it.

I did put the headset on and I could clearly see the potential for gaming (and business and training applications galore!), despite the resolution of the little space flight simulator being akin to smashing my face against the screen of an old Pac-Man arcade machine. It sensed my head motion and could track where my eyes were focused to fire lasers at various targets. It was also relatively light and comfortable, but I couldn’t see myself wearing it for an extended period of time if not just to keep from sweating all over it. It was in full color and a little blurry at the edges of my vision/the googles. What really hurt it, however, was the lack of sound—any sound. With some decent headphones and a good sound card pumping out directional audio, it would be ideal for a turret-based shooter. Think a 21st century rendition of the old Atari classic, Missile Command.

But still, the Virtual Boy this was not, and I was glad someone thought it would be cool to set up such an event for a Tech Tuesday. I mean, you can’t go wrong spending an evening drinking free Tin Roof beer and demoing Oculus Rift.

 

1,792 Stream Processors and a Couple of Beers

 

I got the Gigabyte R9 380 4GB graphics card in the mail last Friday. The box was pretty slim and didn’t contain anything other than packing material, a quick install guide, and the card. I kind of thought there would be a disc with some Gigabyte utilities, but nope. I installed the card in the desktop with no problem. See the picture below. The “Windforce” text lights up blue when the fans come on and that’s pretty cool and fits with the blue LED fan in the front of the case.

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The only tricky part of the install was I didn’t uninstall the old AMD drivers, because I didn’t want to uninstall the A10-7850k’s graphics. I was hoping the Catalyst utility would have detected the new card and prompted an update, or even Windows, but both seem satisfied that the A10-7850k was installed and didn’t care about the new card that was currently running everything. So, I went to AMD’s website and manually selected the drivers and installed them.

For the price, it really is a powerful and relatively low power card. It kept prompting me to run Windows with Virtual Super Resolution turned on, but I passed. I made a few more tweaks, like capping the FPS at 60 with Frame Rate Targeting and adjusting the desktop size to get it to fit on my TV screen properly.

As far as gaming, I tried several different games, but I don’t have a benchmarking tool and the most graphically strenuous game I have is either Alien Isolation or Civilization Beyond Earth. I ran Alien at 1080p with everything I could turn up to max up to max. It looked great, but I think the character model teeth, lips, and tongues could have used some more work. And there is so much dust floating around in the air! Do none of these spaceships or space stations have dust filters on the air intakes?

Civilization Beyond Earth doesn’t look much better than when I run it on my other desktop with an old Radeon 6850, but I also didn’t play more than a few minutes. There was a lot of screen tearing whenever I panned map, too. I suspect I need to play around more with the frame rate targeting, vsync, and my TVs refresh rate.

To sum up, it’s a great card. It’s quiet, seems to run cool, has some nice power saving features, and can max out any game I currently own. If the price on this card creeps down with a holiday sale or the release of a 380x, it’ll totally be worth picking up. There are plenty of benchmarks out there now if you want to see some hard numbers.

As far as the card being bottlenecked by the APU, I haven’t experienced it, yet. And I’m not sure I would know if it did happen. With Windows 10 dropping soon, I suspect if the problem does it exist, it will be mitigated somewhat by DX12.

After installing the card, I felt the need to do a little celebrating. Below is an 18% ABV stout by Mikkeller that I got on sale at my usual pirate-themed haunt. I think it’s just called “Black,” but the site seems to indicate it’s called “Black Fist.”

Whatever it’s actual name, it does hit hard up front and finishes a little bitter and smokey on the back. It’s not an every weekend beer. I’m not sure it’s even a once a year beer. Best just to split a bottle with a friend or three.

 

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Since discovering Hitachino Nest’s beers, I’ve been working through their offerings as I’m able. I got to try XH and didn’t want to pass up the chance, despite putting down the above mentioned monster. While I love me some sake, this one just didn’t measure up to my expectations. I could catch a hint of the sake–the dryness of it–but not much. Just stick with the Red Rice Ale.

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Closing this one with a shout out. Check out Dirty Coast. It’s a locally-owned clothing and art store in New Orleans. They have some pretty neat stuff and also sometimes run events to benefit local charities. Check out their website or visit one of their stores in the Crescent City.