Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate
N.K. Jemisin

This is the follow up to Jemisin’s incredible, mind blowing, the Fifth Season and its good. Very good, even. Jemisin’s prose is top rate, and the story churns forward revealing more about our characters and the world they inhabit, while still keeping up the mystery and allure that made Fifth Season so wonderfully strange.

But its hard to follow up on a classic. I don’t know anything about how Jemisin wrote these books, but the sense I get is Fifth Season was painfully crafted, perhaps over years, every sentence worked to death, then every paragraph, then every chapter, then back again. The Obelisk Gate doesn’t have the same feeling. It’s a damn good book, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have the clock work precision of Fifth Season.

Still and all, if excellent SF/Fantasy is your thing, odds are you’ve already read this. If gorgeously written novels struggling with identity, gender, race, and the nature of relationships interests you, you should get over your genre prejudices and check this one out.


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Back In The Saddle (And Top Posts for 2017)

I took a pretty extended break from posting here, and wondered, really, if it was something I was even going to do anymore. But I miss writing for no other reason than the joy of it, I miss chronicling my ups and downs in fitness and life, and I miss sharing the many many stories you send me about qualifying for Boston.

So, I’m back.

To celebrate, here are the top posts and pages for 2017

1. The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – no surprise here, the page collecting the hundreds of stories runners have shared of their journeys to the Boston Qualifying Time remains the number one page.

2. Data Analysis of the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – my analysis of the data on how you get a BQ.

3. About – the perennial favorite i.e. the what the fuck is going on here page.

4. David Goggins Inspired Body weight Work Outs – a collection of body weight work outs inspired by navy seal and all around bad ass David Goggins.

5. S-Town’s John B. Mclemore: A Reading List – a collection of all the books cited by John B in the incredible podcast S-Town.

6. 2016: My Year in Books – an overview of everything I read in 2016 (2017 coming soon!)

7. Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals – a light hearted post on the fitness regimes of Generals Paterues and McCrystal

8. Milo of Croton – A resource page on the ancient greek wrestler for whom this silly project is named.

9. How I read 52 Books a Year – A guide to reading more.

10. The BQ(Q) Sage Canaday – Pro runner and all around nice guy Sage Canaday shares his story of the first time he qualified for Boston

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Nicolson’s Why Homer Matters

Why Homer Matters: A History
Adam Nicolson

This one hit all my sweet spots. A book about Homer that is part travelogue / memoir, part meditation on deep engagement with a text, and part ancient history primer. A must read for the ancient history enthusiast.

Nicolson’s easy erudition and his deep emotional connection to the works of the great bard lead to a book that is really very special.  Much of the historical and linguistic knowledge here is well known, but Nicolson’s application of it, to his travels, and to his life, resonated with me and helped deepen my own understanding of why Homer remains so important. Nicolson travels to the main sights of the texts, and engages with them as he sorts through his own complex and fraught life. Through these experiences, he brings us a little closer, I think, to answering why these stories of marauding and duplicitous Greeks, plagued by desires and loves which lead some to ruin, and some home again, still resonate.


If you haven’t read Homer, I suggest you do (probably the Fagel’s translation), and I suggest you pair it with this book.




*But if you haven’t this is as good a place as any to start.

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The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – Simon, Raymond and Benard

This is a cool one, and a first for the project. Three runners from the same club all qualified at the same race and sent in a joint response! For two of them, it wasn’t the first time they bq’ed, but for one of them it was.

Its also worth mentioning that Bernard Onsare is an elite runner, he WON the calgray marathon in 2013. Interesting, he also doesn’t track his miles.

Anyway, cool to see a group of runners do this together. Thanks so much for taking the time to share you story Raymond, Simon and Benard!



Raymond, Benard and Simon

Names: Raymond Ong

Simon Ong

Benard Onsare


Club Website:

Raymond’s Social Handles:

Simon’s Social Handles:

Benard’s Social Handles:


Sex: Male


Age: Raymond Ong 24 (first BQ)

Simon Ong 29

Benard Onsare 34



Raymond Ong, Simon Ong, Benard Onsare 5’8



Raymond Ong and Benard Onsare 58 kg (127 lbs)

Simon Ong 78 kg (171 lbs)


At which marathon did you get your BQ?

Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2017


Tell us about the race

Toronto Waterfront Marathon is one of the fastest running courses in North America. The organizers claim it is the second fastest course in North America. Although there are “mini” hills, the course is pretty flat and fast. Race morning starts with a temperature of 14 degree Celsius, which is optimal for anyone looking to run a personal best, or to obtain a Boston-qualifying time. There is relatively no wind, unlike previous years. However, as the race progresses, the temperature can reach to as high as 21 degree Celsius, making it hard to maintain the planned marathon pace. There is an aid station at every 2 to 4 km, which helps the participants to stay hydrate and fuel.


How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

Raymond Ong earned his first BQ this year, and he has started running consistently for 3 years.

Simon Ong has earned his first BQ at Toronto in 2014, but this year, he managed to earn a second sub 3 marathon under his belt. Simon has been running for 6 years.

Benard is running his 23rd marathon, and has been in the elite marathon field for over 20 years.


Did you run in college or high school

Both Raymond and Simon have no running experience in high school or college. As in the article found in the Impact Magazine (, Raymond went through a struggle with alcohol and smoking, and Simon went through a weight struggle. Raymond took up running under the influence of his brother, Simon, who lost over 60 pounds from running alone. Both Raymond and Simon took up running in their early mid-20’s.

Benard ran at a very early age.


What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

Raymond Ong’s approximate lifetime mileage before his first BQ: 4,000 km in the last 3 years of running

Simon Ong’s approximate lifetime mileage before his first BQ in 2014: 6,000 km, however for this training, he put over 2200 km for the 22 weeks of marathon training (this year)

Benard Onsare’s approximate lifetime mileage: Does not count his miles


How many did you run in the year before your first BQ?

Raymond ran 2,524 km this year before his first BQ.

Simon ran approximately 1,880 km the year before his first BQ in 2014. This year (2017), he put in 3,800 km before his BQ and sub 3.

Benard does not really keep track of his mileage.


Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

Raymond ran 5 races this year before his first BQ (‘1’ 3 km race, ‘1’ 5 km race, ‘2’ 10 km race, ‘1’ half marathon)

Simon ran 10 races this year (‘1’ 5 miles, ‘1’ 5 km race, ‘4’ 10 km race, ‘4’ half marathon)

Benard ran 6 races this year (‘4’ 10 km race, ‘2’ half marathon)


Did you follow a canned program?


Our training philosophy is to challenge the body and legs, but giving it enough time to adapt before adding a new challenge or stimulus. We believe in order to be a well-rounded runner; we must do a mix of everything (hills, speed, easy, tempo, long run). It’s like cooking chili, we cannot emphasize on only one ingredient. We must listen to our body, if our body is not ready for the next challenging workout, we either rest or do easy recoveries run. We limit to approximately 2 hard workouts a week, and the rest would be very easy conversational run.


Did you run with a club or utilize a coach?

We do not have an official club, but Benard Onsare has started the OB Athletic Club (based out of Calgary, Canada). It’s open to everyone. It is beneficial to do run as a group, because it keeps everyone honest, and accountable. Also, we are able to motivate each other, and to give each other feedback.


Did cross training play a roll? If so, how?

Both Raymond and Simon do weight training as their cross training. It improves speed, but also prevents running injuries down the road. However, to be good in running, we believe we have to run a lot, as we get good at what we practice often (Rule of Specificity).


Did speed work play a role? If so, how?

Most of our speed work is from doing hill work. When we are able to run fast uphill, then running fast on flat ground would seem much easier. Also, it teaches the body to run with better form, and it builds strength to handle the distance of a marathon. We often say to see running hills as “opportunity” to become faster.


Any other thoughts you’d like to share with those of us working towards a BQ?

It is important to see your training in a bigger picture. What we are trying to say is, there will be moment where you will experience the lows in training (e.g. GI upset, minor injury, sickness, unable to complete the workout or long run, etc.). In that moment, it is important to remind yourself that one “low” moment will not ruin your whole training plan. Treat it as a learning experience, and move on! Learn to trust your training plan, fitness, and have faith in yourself. If you do not believe in yourself, then it is very difficult for your mind to direct your body to achieving your desired goal. Do not be afraid of failure, as failure is part of the road to success, but success is much further down the road. Keep working, and sooner or later, you will achieve your BQ!

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The Boston Qualifier Questionnaire – Dave Munger


Dave Munger (



Age (at the time of first BQ):




Weight (at the time of first BQ):


At which marathon did you get your first BQ?

Richmond 2011

Tell us a little about the race.

Richmond was the perfect race to qualify for Boston — perfect weather, perfect terrain, perfect race organization. I needed a 3:25 to get in, which worked out to a 7:49 pace. I opted to go out around 7:30 and kept that up for the first half of the race. With some time in the bank I kept it under 7:49 through 20 miles. Then it was that tough slog to the finish. My slowest mile was 8:30 but I managed to hold it together enough to finish in 3:22:55, a 15-minute PR and a BQ!

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ?

30 years

Did you run in college or high school?


What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?


How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?


Approximately how many races did you run in that year?


Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

Yes, Jack Daniels

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?


Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Not much. I did a little strength training, Pilates, that sort of thing.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, I did a lot of intervals and tempo work. I think that helped get me comfortable and strong for MP

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

For me, high mileage is the key to a marathon training plan. I need to run a lot of miles at an easy pace. Just getting those miles under my feet seems to be the only way to really kill it on race day. And of course, always be aware of your body and deal with any signs of injury sooner than later!

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Reset: diet

Here is what my blood tests, DNA tests, and time on the toilet all tell me:

  • If not entirely allergic to, I am at least highly sensitive to dairy and gluten
  • I gain weight easily, especially when eating a diet high in saturated fats.
  • I need significantly more fiber than i get on the diet I have become used to.

With all this in mind, I will very likely do well on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, with some meat and fish, and little to no gluten or dairy.

In theory, these guidelines are easy to follow and not particularly restrictive. But in practice, I have found modifying my diet to be an enormous challenge. Like many, I eat not only for survival, but socially, and (dare I say it?) for comfort. Coming to the point where I eat the salad at the dinner party, but skip the cured meats, or turn to a cup of tea (and not a bag of chips) to calm me after a stressful day is, and probably always will be, hard. That isn’t an excuse to not try to be more present in my food making decisions. There’s no need to be doctrinaire (and in fact, doctrinate may be unhelpful) but it is important to be thoughtful, avoiding the bad and favoring the good.

Attention to my diet is likely to be the health struggle of my life. Given the time, I’d work out all day. Exercise has always been a joy to me. But food, food is something else, something harder,


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Reset: fitness

I’ve been rethinking my fitness and diet regime (again). As a dude in his mid-forties, I’ve begun to feel some of the aches and pains of middle age, and I’ve begun to think much more about how to train to be fit for a lifetime rather than fit for a specific high performance endeavor.

With that in mind, I’ve added back into my routine more strength training, more flexibility and mobility work, more balance drills. If I plan to be active and healthy well into old age, I need to focus on these essential skills now.

To make room for this work, I’ve taken the running back a step. Still doing it, but focusing on very slow MAF style runs*, and not at all concerned about weekly mileage or time. The goal is to be active every day in a production, injury free way.

Here’s the plan for the week:

Monday: The recommended routine from reddit’s bodyweight fitness group coupled with addition flexibility and mobility work and a short, extremely slow, run

Tuesday: An hour long, MAF style run

Wednesday: The recommended routine from reddit’s bodyweight fitness group coupled with addition flexibility and mobility work and a short, extremely slow, run

Thursday: An hour long, MAF style run

Friday: Off.

Saturday: a long run or bike ride

Sunday: an hour long run and an extended flexibility / self massage session.

Nothing fancy, nothing hard right now. In three months of so, if this goes well, I’ll reassess and determine if I its time to switch it up again.

*The MAF method, for those that don’t know, is the method of running developed by the controversial endurance coach Phil Maffatone. Maffatone has a whole philosophy for fitness, not all of which I buy it, but I do like the simplicity of his heart rate based training approach. It is’t simplest form, its 180 minus your age give you the highest number your heart rate should hit during training. For an old man like me, this means I never train above 138.  Clearly, this is an over simplification, but it’s one I find helpful.

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