Friday, February 17, 2012

The Quest for a Silver Buckle and another 100 Mile Endurance Run Finish

2/17/2012 Rocky Road 100

It’s Friday and I’m sitting here too anxious for focusing on work. In a little more than 12 hours I will be toe-ing the line for my second official 100 mile endurance run.

After finishing such a stellar 24:34 at Rio Del Lago 100 in 2010, I’ve been a little shy to get back out there for fear that the accomplishment would not be repeated. But if I was afraid of such silly things then I would not be an Ultra runner… so here I am just hours from another fabulous journey of the mind, body and soul. It’s only slightly odd that I don’t feel overly nervous. Something about the quantity of races I’ve completed over the last 10 years has given me a very physical awareness of what it’s going to feel like during the invite. The good part of this is that it helps minimize the inevitable ‘butterflies’ in the stomache feeling.

Rocky Road 100 by the looks of it will be far different than my true 100 miler at RDL100. The terrain dare I say, looks quite manageable, and with a 15 mile loop I won’t even be carrying a hydration pack but rather just a bottle or two for each loop. I’ll grab substance from each of the aid stations and my vehicle (if I can park close enough).

Though I’m very excited for this race and know that I have the mental tenacity to get through I do have one somewhat regret. That my numero uno cheerleader, friend, and partner… my wife, will likely not be in attendance this time. She has only missed one ultra before which was a small one which I had repeated a couple of times. Even when I’m at my worst physically, mentally, and emotionally if I know that she is there it just lifts me up and quite honestly makes me feel like Superman. I don’t know how she does it or why I’m so moved by it but I absolutely feel convinced that I am a Superhero when she is near, especially at races. It was just unfortunate that this race dictates differently. I’m ok with it because I know she would be there if she could. Due to the looping of this course it will help that I have a few friends doing the 50 mile and one other doing the 100 mile option, I won’t be alone. My wife and I are so happy with such good memories that she will still drive me to the finish even if she were 100 miles away (pun intended), I only need to think about some of our fonder memories to make me smile... and a smile can carry me many miles in darkness and in light. No matter what I know she is already proud of me and me of her. We will enjoy the post festivities and she will be present for many many more races to come. It’s a Wonderful Life.

So with this race almost at foot (harhar), I can now let out my secret goals and divulge my hopeful efforts: First as always is simply to show up and go for the finish, secondly is a PR, and third and very desirable in my mind is it would be freakin’ awesome if I could shave off those 34 minutes for a sub 24 hr finish. I will indeed be thrilled simply to receive a buckle no matter what but a Sub24 hr finish would just be cou’de’gras….

So with that I will just keep moving forward one step at a time, and by the end of this weekend let’s see just what color that buckle is !


Friday, December 9, 2011

Western States 100

The lottery is tommorow.. and all I can do at the moment is sit and wait... waiting... waiting...

Everyone seems to have their own opinions or thoughts on how the lottery percentages work, but it seems as this being my second time official lottery entrant (two additional years but those were raffle entries) it somewhere about 10% chance of being selected.

I'm honestly not certain how I feel yet about the potential of being picked but one thing for sure; I'm going to be COMPLETE RACEZILLA until raceday if it happens!!!

Best luck to all in the lottery

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wagon Tail Saloon

The Saloon continues to take shape.  I'm often finding myself anxious to do more work on it so it can be done, but I don't want to sacrifice my design or quality... so easy goes it.  Since tearing down the first version Bar#1 (it was not following my idea from the beginning, but the ball was already rolling and I had to jsut wait for it to come to a stop before picking up the pieces and moving on), I've been very pleased with this rendition of the DIY L Shaped Bar #2.  I was careful this time to build the framing from my design before letting anyone else in on what I was doing, this ensured that now I have no-one but me to blame if something does not work or fit ;) You may also noticed we've modified our Saloon name to something a bit more fun with some word play on it.

The bar framing is complete and decorative stained planks are becoming the bar top and working counter top (as you see in the above pic).  I'm having some trouble locating the edge piecing for bar top but patience is key I've learned.  Sadly it will not be even close to ready for our Christmas party but at least the form works and I can cover it with tarps until I get around to finishing the stain and clear coat for top.

Last night I started on electrical and some audio wiring.  Also test fit the fridge and whew it's a perfect fit!  I'm hoping another month for completion and then we can have our ribbon cutting to the 'Wagon Tail Saloon'

Friday, November 18, 2011

Remember the Planjo Banjo project?

Well, some may recall that over the summer I let myself get wrapped up in the project of trying to build an instrument.  NO I am NOT a Luthier... and trust me the craftsmanship on this Banjo I built lacked a lot!

The important thing was more about what I learned and whether I thought I could suffer through learning an instrument.  This project told me that if I had the patience to see this through, whcih I did... perhaps I deserved a well built instrument?

Lo and Behold I started looking around using the knowledge I gained while building my Banjo.  I was first shocked at the cost of a new instrument.  Like many other things though the theory "buy the most you can afford" holds true for instruments as well.  I just began scouring ads and postings for a decent lightly used Banjo.  Then after many weeks and months of looking I came across a perfect price point for a Classic Goodtime 2 Banjo made by Deering, and the best part is that it was new and un-opened.  Could not pass up the deal so yes I treated myself early... now I gotsta' lern to play the banjer'

Tired Dog Saloon - The adventure begins

For a couple of years now we've been tinkering with the idea of building a bar.  Not just any bar with a top but something themed.  We took an excellent roadtrip to Montana last summer and did some extensive research all along the way.  I can't count how many bars and saloons we checked out, but by far and without doubt our most succesful research was of that in Virginia City, Montana.  This place has the most incredible history and some great stories that are still being told.

Where the bar will go
Upon return from our trip we tried to sort through what pictures we could and make a pile just for Saloon and Bar ideas.  It seemed the right thing to do for conveying an appropriate theme was to remodel the entire room, not just add a new piece of furniture.  So forward we go!

We are taking the front room space and over the next 6-15 months (due to other project constraints and cost) and will turn this space into a an "Old West Saloon".  It's going to be a lot of creative work since we still want some current technology in this room, but not detract from the theme. 
The plan already went into motion by tearing out the grey carpet and installing a tile floor which mimics the color and shape of old wood planks.  Now we are starting with the bar...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Banjo moves forward through the knowledge of its past

The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo... When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey…ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!

~ Mark Twain

Nov. 4th, 2011 on PBS "Give me the Banjo" airs for the first time... I can't wait

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"the BarkBox 1.0"

“the BarkBox 1.0”

We are coming up on one of our favorite volunteer activities of the whole year, the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run SD100. Our Aid Station is one of the most critical, fun, entertaining, busy, and everything else... but this leads into my latest project the BarkBox. One of my duties is the music and means of supplying said beats. I’ve been using a really old analog super low power old school boombox, I think the abuse it received last year was the final straw and it’s speakers and internal amp went South and not in a good way… but that’s ok because I think I’ve owned this thing for something like 20 years! Geez , I think I earned a new one.

Well for most folks (and me included at times) would just go start shopping to find a suitable portable stereo. Of the plethora of varieties and prices out there it would be fun shopping; however, based on my unexpected success and results of my previous project the “Planjo”… oh yeah, and my lack of funds, I decided why not see what I can do with what’s in the garage. Thus BarkBox was given life, it has a long way to go and I got some really fascinating ideas for version 2.0 but you’ll have to wait and hear about those once I start building (after the current project of the Bryan Saloon is done).  BTW - Thank you to my very very patient wife who endured my few 2am working sessions.. including one of those where I was testing Volume and Gain on the individual Amps.

The name BarkBox is derived because this was built mainly for the use of our Sunrise Aid Station at the SD100. Our station is themed and aptly named “the Dog Pound” so what better compliment that then to build “the BarkBox”!

Goal: My aim on this project was initially just to build a speaker enclosure for two fairly decent 8ohm 5” DVC speakers I had sitting around (well, actually they are gathering dust waiting for me to finish yet a different project.. surprise surprise). Though since the AMP I was using previously (my store bought boombox over 20 years old) could not handle anything larger than small room listening I needed something that could broadcast and be heard over the mountains in a wide open space. The objective here was to see if I could replicate something as a prototype with minimal funding and be creative with what I already had available to me. It also had to be low power and run of readily available batteries (2.0 will hopefully be solar) and be able to charge whatever device the tunes are playing from.

Cost: about $30 (not counting whatever I already had laying around like speakers and some of the electronics). I actually spent a great deal more than that but I was also replenishing my electronics toolkit and plan to return any unused items.

Time to build: All together about 20 hours, after all I did have to go back and re-teach myself soldering by deconstructing an old VCR (YES, a VHS VCR…ever seen one of those kids). This had the added result of harvesting some ‘new’ LED’s, Capacitors, and some micro switches and buttons… COOL!

Result: AWESOME! Somewhat surprising to me was how well this worked once everything got packaged back together.

  • Two Amps, a Left and Right channel @ 7 Watts each
  • Two speaker enclosures capable of running any format speaker wiring since they are Dual Coil Voice; I can run them as 4 or 8 Ohm, 65Watts output capable, and can be in a single or double stereo setup
  • USB Charger (properly built circuit for you critiques out there, this is not a straight drop down from 9v to 5v regulator)
  • Rugged enclosures and very discreet. I love that it looks like nothing but packs some great performance
  • Can operate on 8v - 15v (9v battery or 12v setup like 8xAA which is what I use)
Other Notes: To save even more money, and since the store was not open at 1am durnig testing I fashioned my own heat sinks as amps and regulators tend to lose a lot of energy through heat.  Yes, not the most efficient project but it works great, I LOVE how it looks, and I have some amazing ideas for version 2.0.  Some of you may also note the kit boards on the amps.  Let it be known I actually did build my own two Amps using the LM386 IC design, unfortunately those produced serious noise problems and static at anything over a Dishwasher volume level.  Not satisfactory for my use so I opted for another IC designed for more power and just a better all around Op Amp.  Only problem is that I could not find these IC's standalone and in my search came across a kit so admittedly I did buy the kit, funny fact is that the schematic was identical on the kit to the one on my breadboard save for some resistance and capacitance values.

We all love pics so here are a few of them and the rest of them will be in my Picasa library (links are on this page in the menu)

A plain old litter box which we have several of sitting around

Your basic $3 dollar cheapo plastic 'Stanley' box

Speakers  with terminal blocks mounted on back-side

Terminal Posts used on bottom to allow for various speakers configs and add-ons, plus a little sound proofing for bass response

Getting Started and needed a based for mounts for PCBs and add to sturdiness

YAY! Breadboarding, which actually was fun and should always be done before soldering

Mounting of the different boards and connections on all sides

Bonus tray in tool box.  Battery access without damaging electronics

RCA inputs, Speaker outputs and Gain/Volume control for each channel, oh yeah and a couple of fans to pass the heat through box

Switches, USB input and LED's  Oooh ahhh

More breadboarding for the USB charger and my home-made heatsink

Tada!  and IT WORKS!!!! :)