Reflections on a year of running with a 10-year-old half-marathoner

2021 did not turn out to be the year of running that I thought it might be.

Entering the pandemic in 2020 upended life. With everything closed, I coped by running more, clocking 5 marathon-distance runs in five weekends in the spring, then 6 marathon-distance runs in six weeks in the spring, closing out my distance season with a marathon PR. Then as fall turned to winter, I found my speed at shorter distances had increased– all my everyday runs were no notably faster.

With my gains in both distane and speed, I predicted races would resume in full force in 2021. I felt ready to set some new PRs, maybe run another block of weekly marathons.

Instead, my 2021 running season went in a different direction. In the next posts I’ll share what changed and now it turned out.

Alex half-way through a 19-mile training run.

Black Friday Special: Tesla announces new 4,000 pound outerwear, Model JKT

Tesla’s (TSLA) new 4,000 pound wearable technical shell will soon be available, dubbed Model JKT. The wearable tech features breakthrough technology that allows it to be comfortable from 0 to 100 Fahrenheit, as well as completely wind and waterproof.

man sitting on car front seat
Tesla JKT

The new “wearable car” concept is not only effective for long trips, but also provides incredible weather protection for short trips when you might otherwise wear a winter coat or rain jacket.

The genesis of the concept came from in-car surveys Tesla ran when the car detected that the only use for taking a car on the trip was weather protection. The car asked questions like “Have you considered just using the umbrella in the hall closet?” and “Did you know they sell lights for bicycles?”.

While Tesla expected only yes or no answers to the survey questions, they received vigorous answers from their customers like “Please don’t make me walk”, “What about my hair?”, “This is why I bought a car”, “Sorry, I might sweat” and “Are the liberals behind this?”

Based on the robust customer feedback, Tesla determined there was a viable American market for driveable athletic wear targeted at trips that could be accomplished in 5 to 10 minutes by foot or by bike, or might induce sweating.

According to Tesla, “this vehicle is very well equipped to keep you comfortable for quick trips to the neighborhood grocery, nearby parks, or your friend’s house down the block.”

Beta tester feedback has been enthusiastic. Testers reported that they no longer plan to purchase some of the lightweight weather gear they were considering, and in other cases are selling Patagonia Nano Puff jackets on eBay. On tester commented “It used to be that on really cold days I would wear a heavy wool coat and insulated boots for short trips. With my 4,000 pound wearable Tesla, I can remotely pre-heat it and just take it instead.”

The innovative technology no longer requires choosing between walking or biking with with rain jacket on coat on shorter trips and taking a car for longer trips. Tesla’s 4,000 wearable Model JKT handles even the shortest of trips with the same sedentary ergonomics users love from Autopilot. A Tesla spokesperson said the tech is a new way of thinking about efficient use use of energy and space.

On the surface, it’s wildly inefficient to use a two-ton car to move a 200 pound person a distance that is easily bikeable. Tesla thinks American’s are willing to pay for the convenience of a wearable car.

While some neighborhood coffee shops have started to replace a single car parking spot with parking for 18 bikes, Tesla reports they don’t the inefficient size of the vehicles to impact demand for short trips.

Photo illustrating that bikes, walking and transit are far more space-efficient methods of moving people than a car.

Richmond, Indiana 15th and South D intersection improvement

Here’s a suggestion to improve walk-to-school safety for a Vaile Elementary School in Richmond, Indiana. I sent this to the Richmond City Planner in 2013. Although it was well-received, Google Maps shows the intersection remains with all the same problems. I’ve since moved to a new town
but found this during an email inbox deep cleaning. I’m sharing it here in case anyone in Richmond finds it useful.

15th Street and South D Street in Richmond, Indiana

15th and D Intersection in Richmond, Indiana

This intersection is one block from Vaile Elementary– the children who go there don’t drive and many live within walking distance. Despite being a wide street just one block from the school, there are no crosswalks to cross 15th Street here. A couple things compound the situation to make it dangerous cross on foot. For reasons that are not clear, there no stop signs for traffic traveling on 15th street, although it’s a residential area, and there is busier street one block over– 16th is wider and and has no stop signs along it.

At 15th and D, the view of the potentially fast moving traffic is obscured by on street parking along both sides of the street. To cross the street safely on foot you have to walk about 10 feet into the street. Then, lean forward to see if you are about to get mowed down 40 mph traffic. Finally, cross the street. I lived just a few blocks from the school with small children. I would felt comfortable with my child walking there by herself if it wasn’t for this dangerous intersection.

Bumpouts shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, improving safety.

The cheapest improvements would be to install stop signs, but the best solution would to also install “bump outs” on both sides of the street to shorten the crossing distance by about half. You can see from Google map imagery that the center two lanes are colored differently because travel lanes are worn from traffic while the lightly used parking lanes are a different color. The bump outs would extend the sidewalk to the far side of the parking lane, so you could stand /there/ and see if there was oncoming traffic, instead of of standing in the middle of the road.

Bloomington, Indiana has been applying this pattern to a number of pedestrian routes. The bump-out or “neckdown” pattern improves both safety and comfort by slowing traffic, improving sight lines when crossing and shorting the crossing distance.

I only sketched bump-outs on one side of the road, but they would be
welcome on both sides.

I realize this might inconvenience the snow-plowing that happens a few times a year, but I think the better things to optimize for are daily foot traffic of students and their families.

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Richmond, Indiana Reeveston Road and 24th Street intersection makeover

Here’s a suggestion to improve walk-to-school safety for Charles Elementary School in Richmond, Indiana. I sent this to the Richmond City Planner in 2013. Although it was well-received, Google Maps shows the intersection remains with all the same problems. I’ve since moved to a new town but found this during an email inbox deep cleaning. I’m sharing it here in case anyone in Richmond finds it useful.

Reeveston Road and 24th Street

The intersection we’re looking at here is Reeveston Road and 24th street.
Charles Elementary School is just out of the frame in the upper right. This is the corner of the school’s lot.

Reeveston Road and 24th Street in Richmond, Indiana

From the birdeye view of Google Maps, you can see a strange thing happen. Just a block away in Reeveston, there are nice, wide sidewalks on both sides of the road, offset from the road by several feet, with standard crossing distances at intersections. As you get close to school– where none of the students are of legal driving age– everything gets worse. The sidewalks disappear from one side of the road, the sidewalk get narrower, and they are pushed right up to the edge of the road, where it’s less comfortable and less safe to walk. Some crossing distances nearly double.

The planning to make pedestrian conditions /worse/ around an elementary school baffles me. Let’s fix some of the worst problems here. When approaching the school from the West on Reeveston Road, the crossing distances are incredibly long– easily more than 50 feet to get across the street in either of the two crosswalks at the intersection. (One crosswalk appears to just drop you in someone’s yard with no sidewalk on the opposing side!).

Shorter crossing distances near the school and sidewalks on the south side of Reeveston.

A solution is to narrow Southeast Parkway a bit near the intersection, forming something close to standard 4-way stop. This design update would both slow traffic some through there, and also cut the crossing distance in approximately half. I’m sure a version could still accommodate the necessary bus traffic.

I also sketched an improvement for the second north/south crosswalk in the same drawing. Since it’s just depositing pedestrians on someone’s lawn, it’s baffling why a long diagonal is used there, instead of the shorter perpendicular option. I changed that, and also went ahead and sketched in proper sidewalks on that of the street, attempting to continue the nice sidewalk system that’s present to the west on Reeveston Road.

I also find it incredible that there are no sidewalks connecting the direct route from Charles Elementary to Test Middle School, just about four blocks away from each other. Surely, there are families with kids at both schools who live within walking distance from both. There’s another wasteland of excessive asphalt in the intersection of Southeast Parkway and South A street that is ripe for improvement.

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Review of Black Diamond Distance 15 and Osprey Daylite Packs (for run commuting)

The Black Diamond Distance 8 and 15 packs recently came out. My first impression of the Distance 15 is that it could be a strong contender to de-throne the Osprey Daylite as a favorite run commuting pack. My first impression of the 8L was that it was obviously too small to hold a laptop and other stuff I need. I’m sending it back unopened.

About the Black Diamond Distance 8, I’ll briefly say this: It costs about the same as the Distance 15, it weighs about the same as the Distance 15, but it carries only about half as much. The Distance 15 comfortably handles with small or mostly empty loads. The Distance 8 is more of a single-use product while the Distance 15 while find users around town as well as on the trails.

Family-friendly, make-ahead recipes for family bike camping

When I’m packing two kids and myself on a cargo bike for our Mother’s Day Off bike camping trips, I often target the stove and tableware as equipment I can leave at home for a single overnight trip. The equipment can still fit with us on the Yuba Mundo, but simple is nice.

Here are some make-ahead, family-friendly recipes to save time and gear for camping trips.

These recipes and lots more tips and stories for family bike camping will be in my upcoming book Let’s Go Family Bike Camping. You can sign up to be notified when it’s released on the site.

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Cargo Bikes vs Bike Trailers

When we were planning our recent family bike tour, one of our big decisions was whether to use a bike trailer to carry one or two children in or to just use a cargo bike at home.

After seriously considering a bike trailer, we ultimately to just use a cargo bike instead. Here are some we considered in our decision.

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Building and Maintaining Back Health

I would not have been able to enjoy my recent bike camping trip if I hadn’t improved my back health. When my back health was worse, sleeping on a mat in tent each night made it worse. Multiple days of tent camping would only compound the problem.

Here’s my story of how I got bad sciatica then recovered and made some changes to keep my back healthy in the future.


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Counting Cows: Our Favorite Family Bike Touring Game

To pass the time while we were riding my wife taught the rest of us a car game she learned growing up in Vermont. The game involves counting animals you see along the road. The game itself is now near extinction as a car game with the amount of driving that now happens on interstates and in cities.

She knew the game as “Bury your Pooches” or just “Pooches”.

In her childhood version,

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