Saturday, March 25, 2017

So many podcasts, so little battery time

Important Note: This post is a baldfaced attempt by me to get leads on other podcasts I should be listening to.  I should apologize for that, but, well, maybe it will work.

During the week, I spend about 60 to 90 minutes a day driving back and forth to work. I also spend about 40 minutes a day doing "exercise," which usually involves either wandering around the neighborhood where I work or trying to wear out our treadmill.

On the weekends, there is usually a fair amount of time (two to three hours maybe) Mrs Notthat and I spend driving to and from some race or other, and there is usually some dog walking time and such.

All of this is to say that I have about 8 to 12 hours a week where having something interesting to listen to can be extremely useful. It's important to note that this is time I can really focus on what I'm listening to - I can't listen to podcasts at work since I can't listen and read Facebook at the same time.

Following is a list of podcasts I listen to, grouped by type, and in alphabetical order (I don't want to play favorites, at least in an obvious way).

But first…

What's a podcast?

Podcasts are like radio shows that you can subscribe to for free. I use the somewhat-maligned Apple Podcasts app, which, once you get used to its quirks, works reasonably well for downloading podcasts from the iTunes store, where almost all podcasts are available. There are many other podcast apps available.

Most of the following podcasts have a weekly show that lasts from 30 to 60 minutes (exceptions are noted).

Podcasts are currently generally free, although there is a movement to potentially have some sort of subscription fee at some point in the future. Most podcasts have commercials, although they are often read by the podcast hosts, and the smartest ads let the hosts have fun with the ad read, making them a lot less painful and often even fun.

Some podcasts have "stores" where you can buy stickers, shirts, and other things to help support the show. Others are using a Patreon system where, if you subscribe and pay a small monthly fee, you get bonus content or other perks.

Running Things

You can't swing a pair of worn out Hokas without hitting a running podcast. I've listened to the odd podcast or two from a wide variety of sites, but here are the ones I regularly listen to.

Ginger Runner LIVE

Ethan Newberry (who I actually met one time at HURT!) does a live video show, generally on Monday nights, where he interviews a wide variety of runners. I've watched a couple, and they are a blast, but most of the time I end up waiting for the show's audio to get posted as a podcast.

The interviews are always fun and often informative, and a unique feature is that people can send in questions (helpfully read by Kimberly) during the interview, since it's live. (My favorite episode was an interview in October with Kaci Lickteig, where she announced that she had named a stray cat she had adopted "Last Chance" after the aid station at Western States that I work at!)

Ethan also does product reviews and such - his website is a great resource.

Running Stupid

ALL DAY!!! Ken Michal is the guy behind this often wildly entertaining podcast that's a mix of interviews and race reports. I'm a little partial to it since I know Ken and his significantly better half Karen. Well, and Mrs Notthat and I were actually mentioned in the podcast once (in a HURT race report).

The worst thing about the podcast is that it's a bit sporadic. But that just makes it that much more special when a new episode shows up.

Talk Ultra

This podcast, put out by Ian Corless, is a bit different from the others in a couple of ways:

• It's based out of England, so it tends to have a lot more interviews of runners and reviews of races outside of the normal US-centric runners and races the others normally cover.

• It's long. Most of these podcasts average about an hour long. Talk Ultra is often three hours or more, although since it comes out every other week, it works out to be about the same amount of content as the others, just in bigger chunks.

A cool thing about this podcast is that the Speedgoat himself, Karl Meltzer, is often the co-host, and it's fun listening to Ian and Karl talk about trail races, speed golf, and who knows what else they think of.

Trail Runner Nation

The Trail Runner Nation podcast has a bit of something for all trail runners. Don Freeman and Scott Warr are the hosts of this show that tends to go places that even they don't plan on. There are several, ummm, field correspondents that try really hard to keep things on track. These include Andy Jones-Wilkins (of I Run Far glory), Jimmy Dean Freeman, and Sally McRae (who provided one of my favorite moments when she said how much she liked pie at aid stations, and when pressed for a flavor, came up with "cheese cake pie"). I'm sure I'm leaving out a few other regulars.

The show often has interviews, although sometimes there is a game show or a drop bag or some other theme. The show tends to have a lot of episodes that delve deeply into various aspects of trail running, whether it's the mental side, nutrition, or injury recovery.

In 2014, they taped several shows with a live audience at Way Too Cool. Mrs Notthat and I sat through a couple of the tapings and it was a lot of fun (and I won that pair of yellow gloves you see me wearing often).

Ultrarunner Podcast

The Ultrarunner podcast may be the original ultra podcast, and has been hosted by Eric Schranz for many years. He has a couple of regular guest hosts, Sarah Lavender Smith and Eric Veneklasen, and primarily does interviews of runners ranging from the elites to back-of-the-packers - anyone that's got an interesting story to tell. 

In addition to the podcast, the site also has equipment reviews and, one of the best things on the internet (if you are into trail running), the URP Daily News. The Daily News comes out early in the morning and has links to a wide variety of things going on in the sport (and some related and not-so-related areas).

One fun thing about his podcasts is that he usually ends the interview with a few rapid fire questions, with the last one being "What's your favorite beer?" I'm waiting for someone to say "Coors Light" just to see if his head explodes.

Technology Stuff

This list is very Apple-focussed since, well, so am I. One interesting thing that all of these have in common, is uncommonly good sound. I used to wonder how they managed that - in most podcasts where someone calls in, the person sounds exactly like they called in, and often that's not great. These podcasts rarely have that issue, and it's because anyone that calls in also locally records their end of the interview. Once the show is over, they send their high-quality local audio recording to the host, who then edits it into the show. It makes a remarkable difference!

Clockwise

The Clockwise podcast, hosted by Jason Snell and Dan Moren (you will see these two names a lot in this podcast section - I don't think even they know how many podcasts they are on), has the premise of always being 30 minutes long. They have two guests, and between the group of them there are four topics that are covered. The show can be funny, but is generally about a wide variety of current tech-based topics (not always Apple-based). 

The Rebound

The Rebound podcast is one of my favorite, but I'm danged if I know why. It's a tech-focussed podcast that's hosted by Dan Moren, John Moltz (of Crazy Apple Rumors fame), and Lex Friedman. It definitely has an Apple focus, but can wander into many other areas, such as game consoles and Marvel movie bits.

This podcast sounds a lot like three guys getting together to try to make each other crack up while also making fun of the others. It's a podcast that I move to the top of my list as soon as it's released. I would also give it a sporadic R rating for language, although mostly it's fine.

The Talk Show (Daring Fireball)

The Talk Show podcast is by the Daring Fireball's John Gruber. This is a pretty hard core Apple focussed show, although large chunks of the show can be about completely unrelated things, depending on who his guest is. The show is longer than most, often being just a bit over two hours. It's generally both entertaining and educational - while John is an unabashed Apple fan, he does not hold back on things that are not right at the company.

Humor and General Info

This is a big category, and covers a LOT of ground.

Answer Me This

This is a bit of a strange podcast from England that earns a pretty solid R rating for language. It's hosted by Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann, with help from their sound man Martin Austwick (who I believe is married to Helen). The show has been going for a bit over ten years and is generally very funny, with the premise that listeners send in questions about all sorts of random things, always prefaced with "Helen and Olly, answer me this - why…"

When I started listening, the show came out twice a month. Apparently the show came close to ending this winter, but instead now comes out once a month, with a repeat of an earlier show to fill in the every-other-week hole. In any case, When a new episode comes out, I'm all over it.

It's worth mentioning that the show contains lots of British references that most Americans won't get - names are often dropped of personalities and stores that I've never heard of - but this usually doesn't affect the entertainment value.

The Allusionist

The Allusionist podcast is hosted by Helen from Answer Me This fame. It's official tagline is "Small Adventures in Language," and it generally spends its short 20 minutes or so picking apart some quirky bit of the English language. The content can vary widely from PG to R, depending on the bit of language being picked on. It's funny and educational, sort of, and goes to the front of the line when it comes out every two weeks.

Ask Me Another

This is a fun and challenging NPR podcast/puzzle show sort of thing, hosted by Ophira Eisenberg and the music of house musician Jonathan Coulton (who I had never heard of, but have since discovered some fun, geek culture songs he's done, including "Re: Your Brains" and "Code Monkey"). Art Chung is normally the Puzzle Guru.

The big prize is often an Ask Me Another Rubik's Cube, but the real prize is getting to listen to some of the most strange trivia and puzzle contests you ever heard. To be clear, this is all mostly just an excuse to make lots of weird jokes and to interview a celebrity "VIP" (Very Important Puzzler).

Mrs Notthat really likes this show, so it's one of two we listen to on the way to/from our weekend races.

Liftoff

The Liftoff podcast comes out every two weeks, and covers all things related to outer space. It's hosted by Jason Snell and Stephen Hackett, and while it has funny moments, it's really all about learning things about space travel, our solar system (they did a moon draft once that was fun - I was amazed at how many weird moons are in our solar system), and the universe in general.
The Modern Mann podcast is hosted by the second half of the Answer Me This podcast, Olly Mann. It has three sections: 

• The Zeitgeist with Ollie Peart, which is generally funny and absurd, even overlooking that both guys are name Olly, sort of.

• The interview bit that can be about almost anything. Not humorous so much as interesting.

• The Foxhole with Alix Fox which is very R rated, with discussions based around a "question of sex" from someone.

As with pretty much all of the British shows, there can be references that mean little to an American, but that rarely detracts from the fun of this show.

No Such Thing as a Fish

This podcast is hilarious and educational, although mostly in a non-useful way. There are four hosts (James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski and Dan Schreiber), and each brings a "fact" that generally sounds totally absurd. Each fact is followed by much snarkiness and a number of follow-up facts.

This is another British show (yeah, I know - I've got a problem). It always moves near the top of my playlist when it comes out. Even better, there's a TV show called No Such Thing As the News with these same hosts and format, and since we are not in England watching BBC, we get to see it on YouTube. It's always fun (and often startling) seeing the actual people behind the voices.

Odd note - in the beginning of each show, you hear a woman's voice saying something that is hard to understand. It turns out that it's hard to understand because it's in Japanese, and it's a talking toilet. I think its complimenting what you just deposited. (It's possible that it's actually a talking bathtub - I don't remember exactly, but like the idea of a toilet telling me I did a good job going boom-boom.)

Stuff You Should Know

The Stuff You Should Know podcast is by the How Stuff Works people. When I first checked it out, it didn't really do much for me, so I dropped it. But then later they had an episode I was curious about, and now I'm back on the bandwagon (although I do skip shows that don't sound like something I care about). Josh Clark and Charles "Chuck" Bryant work well together, and there is a fun, but often dry humor to the episodes.

Episodes come out twice a week and can cover almost any subject - recent episodes talk about the hyperloop, solitary confinement, and the Trail of Tears. Definitely educational. And Not British at all.

Trailer Trash Show

The badly named (since there are a LOT of sites using the same or similar names) Trailer Trash Show podcast is not for everybody. It's often not for me. John Moltz and Jon Armstrong watch a couple of movie trailers and talk about them. The issue is that the movie trailers are generally something nerds get into - the Marvel Universe, Transformers - things like that. I rarely watch movies like that, but these "reviews" are generally fun, regardless.

Turning This Car Around

The Turning This Car Around podcast is yet another with a mix of guys from other podcasts (John Moltz, Jon Armstrong, and Lex Friedman). It's theoretically a parenting podcast, but it's really for dads (I suspect most moms would be horrified by some of the stuff that goes on in this show). Actual show content can go almost anywhere before one of them attempts to tie whatever tangent they've wandered off on back to raising kids.

Having said all that, there often are good parenting tips and bits. My kids are long grown up and out of the house, so the parenting stuff isn't all that applicable, but I move this show up on my list because it's often so dang funny. These guys are just like any three dads trying to out snark each other, making fun of the other guys, and generally causing mayhem. Note that there can be R rated language occasionally.

Like a lot of these shows, you may have to listen to a few episodes to start to get it. (Although it's possible you won't make it through a single episode before rolling your eyes and questioning my judgement.)

Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!

The Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! podcast is a blast, produced by NPR. It's billed as a quiz show, but is really just a way for the host, Peter Sagal, the Judge and Scorekeeper Bill Kurtis, and three panelists to make a lot of wisecracks based on current news (including things that really don't qualify as news).

Each show has the same format, with a couple of segments that involve listeners calling in and an interview of someone famous who is then put through a quiz called Not My Job, where the questions are about something that is completely outside of that person's expertise.

The show is a lot of fun. It's our second place show when it comes to podcasts while driving to/from races.

Kid Stuff

We rarely have to worry about having podcasts that kids would like, but there are times when we have the grandkids captive in the car for an extended period of time, and we need something for them to listen to. I tried a couple of things (like old Sherlock Holmes shows), but nothing worked very well. And unlike most podcasts, you will find a number of kids podcasts that use a subscription method.

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian is a serialized science-fiction story for fairly young kids (I really think it's aimed at kids in the single-digit age range, but the grandkids really like it anyway) put out by Jonathan Messinger.

It's about a group of kids on a space station that end up on a variety of adventures. There are silly things that happen, slightly scary things occasionally, and cliffhangers that make you want to listen to the next episode (the episodes are pretty short at about 20 minutes, with some non-story bits before and after the show).

An interesting thing - the show is free and does not currently have commercials or ads. I think Jonathan mostly does it to humor his son, who makes an appearance at the end of the show.

No Longer Happening

These are podcasts I used to listen to, but they have kind of petered out. I still have hopes of a comeback for these though.
This show started out mostly as a trail running podcast, with Tim Long and Gary David talking about whatever happened to come to mind, with occasional guests. As their interests changed, the show did too, with more motocross and cyclocross content. (Tim still posts a lot of dirt biking videos to YouTube - they can be really entertaining.)

The show was really interesting. Sometimes one of them would say something that would make me want to delete the podcast, but then a few minutes later they would have me laughing. Their back catalog has a number of great interviews that would be worth digging up and listening to.

How To Do Everything

This podcast was hosted by Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag, two people also connected to Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! It involved answering (after a fashion) a question posed by a listener. It also involved occasionally trying to get Peter Sagal to do a taste test of things that often should never be taste-tested.

The shows were short (about 20 minutes) and I got a kick out of them. Their back catalog is still available, so you might want to give them a shot (the content was rarely topical, so being a year or two old wouldn't matter much). 

What Hurts

The What Hurts podcast was hosted by Dave Pell and Phil Bronstein, and mostly sounded like two old guys complaining about just about everything in current events. It was interesting, sometimes funny, and often educational (I learned how "Qatar" when pronounced right rhymes with "butter").

I found this podcast through Dave Pell's great daily email called NextDraft. He finds links to a wide variety of interesting current events and often adds funny/insightful commentary bits, although the most fun are often the titles of the sections, which are usually very clever plays on words.

And that's about it!

There are so many podcasts out there that cover almost every subject you might be interested in. Some are just a guy talking into his computer while others are professionally produced. I know I'm missing out on some really good shows, but there is only so much listening time. Still, I'm always looking for something new to try, and hopefully will get a few suggestions out of this.

That's it - move along…

Saturday, January 28, 2017

It nearly felt like an ultra

First, a bit of an update on my progress since the last thing I posted.

I've run seven races, all 10Ks except one 5K and the Half Marathon last weekend that required me to write this post.

First up was my favorite San Francisco-based race, the Coastal SF race. You start in the Crissy Field area, run up the hill and under the Golden Gate Bridge, then keep going along the coast until you get to Baker beach, where the 10K turns around and heads back. (The Half goes to the Sutro Baths, which is even better.)

I've turned around and am heading back into this amazing view. The North Face Endurance Challenge is going on over in the Marin Headlands on the other side of the bridge.
The next day I joined All Day, Mrs CK, the Chicken of Success (and her keeper), and met Ajcila (not her real name) at an aid station for the North Face Endurance Challenge day two. [I just found this - Jamil and Schulyer did one of their videos at this race, and if you look closely, you can see us at the Alta aid station - All Day gave Schulyer a donut! I love that I'm in one of their videos, even if it is so brief you will not see me!]

Even for a Bay Area trail race, the aid station was a bit, ummm, colorful. And All Day is NOT a yeti.
Two weekends later we ran the 10K at the Inside Trail Woodside Ramble. All races in the Huddart/Wunderlich park area are so much fun with amazing trails and trees.

The Huddart Park trees are so fun to play around in, and the creeks were running nicely.
(It should be noted that Mrs Notthat is back to consistently beating me at these races. All is right with the world. At least that part of it.)

The next day, I ran the 5K at the Coastal Quarry Lakes race. Alert readers might remember that we had just done a race there three weeks earlier, and time traveling readers will know that we will be back here in two weeks. The trails are pretty flat, mostly gravel, and not all that interesting, other than that they wind around the various small lakes that make up Quarry Lakes. One thing in this race's favor is that it's fairly close to home.

Lakes, blue sky, and green hills. What more could you want!
Two weeks later was time for the Brazen New Years Eve/New Years Day races. This year, since New Years Day was on a Sunday, the races were one right after the other. One change was that the NYE race was held at Quarry Lakes (as opposed to its traditional location of Lake Chabot). The advantage of this was that, for the first time, the Brazen Streaker Prom could use an amplifier (which is not allowed at Lake Chabot), which made that process a bit more fun.

A bit of a rain threat for this race.
On New Years Day, we headed back to trusty old Lake Chabot. This is a very not flat 10K, so given my legs were already a bit tired, my expectations weren't very high. Which was a good thing.

Allets and her person, Ymmat (not their real names), flying down the Live Oak hill.
Two weeks later, we were signed up for the Inside Trail Pacifica Foothills race. I was looking forward to this, since I had never run a race in this area. A fierce mid-week storm though, played havoc with that goal. The park cancelled the race due to so many downed trees and flooded trails. ITR though, didn't give up, and quickly came up with an alternative location at China Camp State Park, where we had run a very wet race back in November.

China Camp State Park has some of the most fun trails around, and they actually held up really well.
It was clear on race morning, but the trails were very soggy and there were a number of trees that had to be detoured around.

And now, you are all caught up to me deciding to attempt the Half distance at the Brazen Coyote Hills race.

I had not run a double-digit mile race since my Run-De-Vous 50M race way back in the middle of August. I had not run a Half Marathon since WAY back in the middle of June! This astonished me, and I don't have a great explanation. The ankle injury certainly affected races since September, but that's still a REALLY long time between Half Marathons.

In any case, I was really happy with how the ankle had been responding to all those 10K races, and decided to upgrade to the Half at Coyote Hills. The Half there is two loops of a long 10K course, which isn't my favorite idea of a race, especially since there is a lot of pavement, but there were some fun very muddy bits that helped. The course isn't flat, but the climbing is less than some of those 10K races, so it seemed like a nice ankle test.

The course wasn't really as confusing as this makes it look.
We're trail runners. This was WAY too nice of a bus for us. I'm not sure they were able to save these busses after they hauled us muddy runners back.
One thing about this race is that you can't park anywhere near the start/finish festival area, so most end up riding a shuttle bus to the start.

My cheering squad! (And concerned race people making sure I've signed my liability release.)
I had decided the night before this race to upgrade from the 10K I had originally planned to the Half. There was a bit of a cheer since there were a lot more runners downgrading than upgrading. (It had rained a lot the day before, and was threatening again, plus it was pretty dang cold.)

My very own start line!
We had built in an arrival buffer to account for the shuttle bus, but apparently it was a pretty big buffer since there was no bus line, which meant we got to the start pretty early. Mrs Notthat pointed out that I could do an early start and reduce how long she was going to have to sit around waiting for me to finish (she ran the 10K). I missed the official 8:00 early start, but was allowed to have my very own start at about 8:20 (the real start was at 9:00).

This turned out to be a very wise decision on my part, even if it did mean I would be on my own for the first several miles.

The Emergency Backup Cone of Turnaround.
All the rain forced a minor course alteration that shortened the course a bit, so an out-and-back (only run the first loop for the Half runners, and also run by the 10K runners, but not the 5K) was added. I've got to believe this was very congested for the normal Half and 10K start - the trail isn't all that wide and it was so early the runners wouldn't have spread out much. But since I was on my own, it worked out pretty nicely!

And me without my swim fins.
That's a boardwalk we normally run on. During the drought years, it was nearly dry on the sides of the boardwalk, but wow - this was a bit extreme!

Some volunteers are more helpful than others.
In place of the boardwalk, we stayed on the paved trail/road for a bit longer than normal.

"That's the only flavor you have?" No, I didn't really say that - but I think I broke his heart since I didn't take the GU.
Before long, I was at the first aid station, about mile 1.5.

It wasn't raining then, but they did get a shower shortly after I left.
The pretty bay shoreline.
Not too long after I left that aid station, a light shower started up. It didn't last long, and once it was over, that was it - no more rain.

"Which way do I go?"
I had been looking forward to this point, where we headed out on the real out-and-back, and off the pavement.

The Endorphin Dude!
It was on this out-and-back that I finally started seeing more runners (and weirdly started passing a few). Note that the trail looks pretty good at this point since very few runners have been on it so far.

Great looking shoreline and green hills.
Sunshine!
At the end of the out-and-back, there was the second aid station, about mile 4.5.

The really close toll booths for the Dumbarton Bridge.
Look at all that sunshine! And note the trail still looks pretty good.
Again, some volunteers are more helpful than others. (I'm pretty sure his daughter is telling him he's doing it wrong!)
It didn't take long and I was back on pavement and heading to the end of the first loop.

I'm going to talk a lot more about Kcnarf (not his real name) the paparazzi later.
After a short bit of pavement, we got to head up this fun hill on the only sort of single-track trail on the course. (Only the Half runners get to do this section.)

Don't blow away!!!
At the top of that hill, was the early leader for Volunteer of the Year - she was loud, perky, and a lot of fun! (Especially considering that it was pretty breezy and cold up on that hilltop.)

Acire (not her real name) ordering a pizza.
As you come down that hill, the trail splits. On the first lap, you stay to the left. On the second lap, you get to go right and storm the finish line.

Aid station 3, about mile 6.5.
"Which way do I go?"
For the start of the second lap, you don't do that bonus out-and-back.

"Which way do I go?" The fourth aid station, about mile 8.
The second loop was a lot like the first one, but with no rain and a lot more runners on the course. The one big difference was…


… on that dirt out-and-back. A LOT of runners had been on it (and there had been a small shower) since the last time I had been here, and it was a lot sloppier. I loved it!

Somebody is sure happy to be leaving the fifth aid station! (About mile 11.)
A milestone of sorts - just before I hit this aid station, I crossed into double-digits for the first time since August. I was tired and walking stuff I should have been running, but I wasn't having any pains (ankle or otherwise), so I was happy.

And then I looked at my watch and realized I had a realistic chance to break three hours. At the start of this race, I was thinking 3:30 would be a fine time - I was really surprised to find 3:00 in my sights. But I would have to hustle - no more walking bits I should be running.

Back to that final hill, and sub-three is still possible!
OK, so now lets talk about Kcnarf. In the above picture, he's up on that hill (in the white hat).


Once he got the shot, he sprinted back down to get a shot of runners coming up to the hill.


Then, depending on the traffic, he would bound back up that hill to get another shot of the runners. He easily did more climbing than us Half runners!

Picture by Kcnarf. I think this was on my first lap.

This time, I get to turn right!
Mrs. Notthat waiting for me to finish.
I managed to survive a pretty scary (if short) downhill sprint and crossed the finish line a bit over a minute under three hours! Wow was I tired at this point, but I was thrilled with the result.

Roving gangs of volunteers trying to get runners to eat multiple ice creams.
The shiny medal and muddy shoes.
The robot coyote shirt, medal, and bib.
Wow. What a race. I'm beyond thrilled to have come out of it without any pain and in less than three hours. The early start definitely helped (a huge thanks to Mr and Mrs Brazen for letting me do that) and the relatively good weather also pitched in. The volunteers were awesome as always (set up the day before the race was a wild task with the, umm, vigorous weather).

My plan is to try the 25K at the ITR Fort Ord next week if it all works out. It won't be as fast since it has a bit more climbing, and there's an early threat of rain that day, but it will be a nice test. And that will be followed by another shot at Ageless Wonder (a 10K in fewer minutes than your age) at the Brazen Bay Breeze.

It's fun being back to a full schedule!

That's it - move along…

PS: If you are keen to see more pictures of the above races, here they are:

Coastal San Francisco
North Face EC volunteering second day
ITR Woodside Ramble
Coastal Quarry Lakes
Brazen NYE
Brazen NYD
ITR Pacifica (China Camp Edition)
Brazen Coyote Hills

Whew!