Win a Copy of “Idle Feet” at Level Renner

October 20, 2014

lvl-idleVisit the Level Renner blog to learn how you can enter to win a free copy of Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work! (Hint: it involves subscribing, Facebook likes, and Twitter, all of which are #Free).

Or order your own copy today to ensure you get to read what Level Renner says, “is ‘just another running book’ like the Boston Marathon is ‘just another road race’.” Pre-order by the end of October, and you’ll save 20-25%!

Pre-order my new book: “Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work”

October 10, 2014

As writer/editor/publisher/marketer/chief bottle-washer/union shop steward for my tiny little literary empire, I am pleased to announce my new book, Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work!

It’s due to be released November 5th, but if you order before November, you’ll get a Special Pre-release Price!

Idle Feet Do the Devil's Work

Click HERE to order the paperback – only $10.99
(Regular price: $14.99)

Pre-order the ebooks for only $3.99
(Regular price $4.99)

Click on your ebook vendor’s link to order

My marketing people (see above) have this to say about the book:

Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work is an entertaining mix of facts, fiction, and opinions, all written with Ray’s unique blend of curmudgeonly candor and humor.

Ray takes a wide-ranging look at why so many people risk sore knees and smelly shoes in order to cross one more finish line, maybe, if they’re lucky, just a little faster than they ever have before.

Inside these pages, Ray covers a dizzying array of topics, including his experience guiding a blind runner at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the triumphant return to Hopkinton in 2014 after the bombing, the story of a runner who sells his ‘sole’ to the devil, marathon pacing tips and the one marathon training secret you won’t get anywhere else, what your race trophies are talking about when you’re not listening, and much more.

See why Runner’s World called Ray a “New England running fixture” and why Mrs. Marble (Ray’s kindergarten teacher) said Ray “enjoys explaining his ideas at great length.”

Take a minute to “Like” Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work on Facebook. It’s gluten-free.

Read “Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work” at Fiction on the Web

October 5, 2014

cover2 (Small)Read my new short story, “Idle Feet Do the Devil’s Work” at Fiction on the Web. (It’s the title cut from my forthcoming new book.)

Is it a tongue-in-cheek retelling of the Faustian tale where a man sells his ‘sole’ to the devil?
Or an illustration that winning at all costs comes at a high price?
That some escape?
That some don’t?
That some get hurt?
That ignoring all else, the devil is in taking the short cut, the empty promise, the hollow victory?

Or is it all about the shoes?

(Some readers might recognize the specific USATF-NE Grand Prix series that I used as a base for the story. Who knows? Maybe you were there.)

iPhone Overheating? Sucking Battery Life? Kill that app

September 22, 2014

When your iPhone gets hot, sometimes it’s a hardware problem, but usually it’s a specific app causing the problem by running the CPU or the WiFi or cellular data channels constantly and straining your phone’s resources.

It’s not only annoying, but excessive heat can damage your phone. It will certainly reduce your battery’s lifespan, and it can cause other damage.

The energy heating the phone has to come from the battery (unless you’re leaving your phone on a stove or something equally dumb).  If you have iOS 8, you can often figure out which app is the problem by checking the iPhone’s battery usage stats.

When the phone is hot, open the Setting apps and go to General->Usage->Battery Usage. You’ll see something like this screen:


Note how the Roku app used 70% of all my battery usage over the past 24 hours? Given that I’d only been using the Roku app for about 10 minutes (to stream music to my Roku 3 box over WiFi), it was obvious where the problem was. I killed the Roku app and my iPhone cooled off.

Battery usage is a blunt instrument. I don’t know why the Roku app was causing the problem, but at least I know that that app was the issue. Unless the app triggered an iOS bug – you may never know.

If your battery needs frequent recharging (whether or not your phone overheats), the battery usage stats are a good way to figure out that culprit, too.

The Roku app is a convenience, nothing critical, so I just stopped using it. Hopefully your problematic app is equally disposable.

If your phone heats while sitting in your pocket, the cause may be an app running in the background. That makes the problem app harder to detect.

It’s a good idea to turn off unnecessary background processes. Not only will you reduce the chance of overheating, but by reducing the number of apps that run all the time, you’ll need to charge your phone less often.

There are two places where you can manage background app activity: Settings->General->Background App Refresh and  Settings->Privacy->Location Services. Turn off background refresh and location services for any apps where you don’t need the functionality.

Once you find a problem, don’t forget to go to the app store afterward and give the app a bad rating, explaining the issue. Who knows? Maybe they’ll fix it.

If there isn’t an obvious problem app, you can try resetting your network settings. In Settings, go to General- > Reset-> Reset Network Settings. Even if this works, the solution may only be temporary, until the problem app starts up again.

Once you reset, to reconnect to WiFi you will have to select your network and put the password in again.

My First Tri (and First Bike Race) – the 2014 Josh Billings RunAground

September 16, 2014

Last weekend, Ruth and I went to Lenox for the Josh Billings RunAground Triathlon. I don’t swim much, so I’ve never done a typical tri, but the Josh has a 5 mile paddle in between a 27 mile bike leg and a 6 mile run, making it ideal for not only my first tri, but my first bike race of any kind. So Saturday morning we threw the boat on the top of the car, hung the bike on the rack, and took the Mass Pike west for the race.

This was my third Josh, but my first as an Ironperson (solo athlete). I did the boat leg as part of a pick-up relay team in 2011 and had so much fun that I formed a team with some friends for 2012 and did the run leg.

It doesn’t hurt that the event is held in beautiful countryside, and that the early fall weather is usually gorgeous. This year was cooler than the other two, but still sunny – excellent weather for racing, though not quite as nice for the spectators.

I was looking for a (hopefully fun) learning experience. I knew I wouldn’t be totally recovered after my century ride three weeks before the race, so I didn’t really train to compete, just to make it through the event in good shape.

IMG_0892 (Custom)The bike leg starts at a Price Chopper in Great Barrington and follows hilly roads to the boat put-in at the Stockbridge Bowl.

I didn’t want to wipe myself out with a paddle and run to follow, so I didn’t go all-out. I’d call it “fast touring” pace, always pushing, but keeping a high cadence and not straining.

I started at the back of the pack since it was my first bike race, figuring that I could weave my way through slower riders if the opportunity presented itself, the same way I’d do in a marathon.

But riding alone was more of a disadvantage than I realized it would be. I’d heard that drafting was important in bike racing, but I found was that it was much more important than I’d guessed.

Back where I was in the field, I could go by most of the riders without too much effort on the uphills. That left me riding by myself once we reached the top of the hill. The riders drafting in a pack would easily reel me back in, especially on the downhills.

The trick is apparently to find the right pack early in the race. Over time I managed to drop the slower packs and catch up with the one ahead, but I would have been much better off to go with a faster pack from the start. If I race again, I’m sure I’ll make the opposite mistake, and try to go with a pack that’s too fast, but it should be a lot easier (though more depressing) to drop to a slower pack than it was try to catch faster packs while riding alone.

It was a learning experience, which was fun. After hundreds of running races, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be the newbie.

The 27 miles took me about 1:40, an average of 16 MPH. Not all that fast, but it was faster than I’d ever ridden for any distance before.

IMG_2052 (Custom)Ruth was waiting to help me through the bike/paddle transition. Once I got off the bike and on the water, I started regularly passing people. It didn’t hurt that I had a better boat that most of the other slow bikers. Ruth’s friend Allison volunteered at the boat/run transition, so she was there to help deal with the boat while I struggled to get socks on over my wet feet. My time for the boat leg (which includes both transitions) was 1:11.

The run was a lot like the last 6 miles of a marathon, if I had done a poor job of pacing the first 20. My legs were tired from biking and stiff from an hour cramped in my kayak. But I have a vast amount of experience running on dead legs, more than most people, so I continued to pick runners off as I made my way to the finish at Tanglewood in 49:30.

IMG_2055 (Custom)I finished in 3:41:10, 299th out of 502 overall. I was 375th overall after the bike leg, but my splits improved to 270th on the boat leg and 206th for the run, so I picked up about 40 places on each leg.

My time was 64th out of 138 Ironpeople, 102nd on the bike, 41st in the boat, and 32nd on the run. In my category (50+ men with kayak), I was 15th out of 23, 19th pedaling, 15th paddling, and 3rd perambulating.

I had fun, learned a lot, and gained a massive amount of respect for the effort involved in training for and competing in a triathlon. I’m not sure I’ll ever want to spend all the time needed to train to be good at three sports. One is enough – the others can remain cross-training.

Here’s the track for the bike leg from my Garmin:

and the track for the entire race: from my watch:

And here’s a tip for future Josh Billings Ironpeople: get your boat back before cleaning up and putting on dry clothes. You have to put your boat back in the water to get it from the storage spot to where you can take it out.

“Pushing the Curve” in Sept/Oct Level Renner

September 3, 2014

In the new issue of Level Renner magazine, I present some ideas about marathon pacing, and some data that …well… doesn’t contradict my theory.

Read “Pushing the Curve” and decide for yourself if you want to give my strategy a try in your next marathon.

When a Six-Pack Isn’t Enough

August 12, 2014



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