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Category: life

Taking Stock

When I started this blog back in 2006 (I just now realized this site has been around for more than a decade…wow), it was as an outlet for me to comment on the things that interested me.  Over time, it’s evolved and devolved, changed platforms, changed focus, and lost focus, but mostly just existed.

Almost 2 years ago, I introduced the Midweek Music Break series that, in all honesty, I started as a motivation to blog more regularly.  It was supposed to be the intermission between more regular postings on my random topics.  However, that portion never materialized, and the Midweek Music Break took over as the central focus of my blogging, with me setting myself a weekly reminder to stay on top of it.

While I always enjoy sharing my broad musical interests, that’s not what I want to focus of my blog to be.  It should be a sidenote, but there wasn’t a main article.  In fact, I hadn’t much considered what I wanted the main focus of this blog to be, and thus, it never had a focus.  Sure, there were technical discussions, I was able to share some of my baking and cooking interests, and I was able to talk about my development as a runner, but most of the time I just never felt I had expertise worth sharing…or at least not interesting enough for others to read.

Over the last year, I’ve come back around to realize that I do have a story to tell, and I believe it’s a matter of putting pen to paper (or at least “fingers to keys”, but that sounds weird).  So, I’ll probably still have posts about running, baking and other current events.  However, I also want to make more of an effort to share insight from my career in Product Management.  I’m in a very exciting position at Thomson Reuters, and want to help develop the profession through discussion.

So, I’ll be working to find the central story to this blog, and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey.  Hopefully we’ll all learn something along the way as well!

Washington Wild Things Sleepover

Last Friday, my son and I got a chance to do something that was really cool with our local Y-Guides (formerly Indian Guides) group.  We went to an independent league baseball game, saw some fireworks, and then got a chance to camp out on the field overnight.

For the game, we saw the Washington Wild Things (of Washington, PA) take on the Traverse City Beach Bums.


Unfortunately, it wasn’t too much of a game, as the Bums got out to an early 6-0 lead and ended up with a 7-0 win.  However, the boys still had fun and got to get up close and personal with the Wild Thing.20150605_195022

After the game, we set up the tents and the boys got a chance to play some kickball and run around the field.  We also got to watch a movie on the jumbotron, which the boys enjoyed.20150605_231904Here’s a good panorama of the stadium with everything set up.


Morning ended up coming early (With a 6am wake up call!), but it was still a great experience.20150606_060915He had a blast for his first night sleeping in a tent!  And he probably won’t forget it anytime soon.

Closing In On Marathon Fundraiser Goal

90% Funded
90% Funded

Thanks to my very generous friends and family, I have now raised 90% of my goal to raise at least $500 for The Mario Lemieux Foundation as I run the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon.  I’m extremely thankful for everyone’s support thus far, and race day is still over 5 weeks away!

If you haven’t yet contributed and would like to help me get over the hump, please visit my Team Lemieux page and add your donation.

A Half-Day For Building A Simple Marble Roller Coaster

This afternoon, I took time off from work to go in to my son’s preschool and help the kids build a “simple” marble roller coaster (using this video as my motivation) as part of a “simple tools” unit they’re working on.  I showed up with a base and a screw-based elevator, and had the kids help me thread the tubes with wires, make holes in the tubes, and use screws to connect the tubes together and to the posts to make the track.  After an hour or so and a lot of helping hands, we had the following simple loop built.

Simple Marble Roller Coaster

While I had originally hoped to build something a little more complete, the kids had a great time.  Not only did they get to help build something fun, and learn other applications for a screw, for many of them it was the first time they got to work with actual screws and screwdrivers, and hammers and nails.  I made sure that each one of the dozen (or so) students got a chance to help out and assemble parts of it.  It was a lot of fun working with the kids and their enthusiasm.  While I had to overcome my desire to make something perfect, the kids couldn’t get enough of it.  They practically mobbed it in shifts afterwards:

Playing with the Marble Roller Coaster

Again, while it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty good for a relatively short window of time while having an overabundance of helping hands, and hopefully I was helping to inspire an interest in building things and “making” in general.

And now I’d love to take a little more time and build an even better one to keep here at home!

School Days Are Here…

Well, for the first time in my life as a parent, the school days are here.  This morning, I sent my oldest off to Kindergarten.

Off To School

It is amazing that time has gone so fast, yet I’m mostly excited.  There were no tears this morning, as everyone was excited for the new beginning.  Mostly, I’m relieved that it has finally come and now my son can begin enjoying his education as I did so much.  It feels like a new phase of life, with changes and new responsibilities, but I’m enjoying watching my kids grow and being a part of it.  It’s been 29 years since I started school myself, but I’m still learning to this day, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Someday, he’ll realize that this was just the beginning…

Where did April go?

Where has the last month gone?  Oh yea, a week of travel plus a Game of Thrones marathon with my wife (starting from the beginning of the series)…

Ok, so I wasn’t that motivated to post, though there were things worth noting.  I’m hoping to circle back to some of them, but for now I’ll just provide some running updates.

I was a little more intermittent with my running in April than I would have liked, but I also got in my first two races of the year.

First was the Martha’s Run 10k which they have in my hometown, which also happens to be very hilly.  I ended up running a 58:03, which was less than 30 seconds off of my PR that came on a downhill course.  So, overall it was pretty good, but still three minutes over my sub-55:00 goal on the year.

Second came the Pirates Charities 5k Home Run, which finished at home plate in PNC Park.  Here’s a shot of the finish line:Pirates 5k Home Run Finish In that race, I managed to set a new PR of 26:18, which was 35 seconds than my previous best.  I went out a bit fast and died in the last mile, so I think I am getting closer to my sub-25:00 goal.

So, two races down, and both were pretty successful.  Still a ways to go, but I’m glad to see the marked improvement.  That helps motivate me even more on my regular runs, knowing that they really are helping make me a better runner.

So, I guess it’s 2014 already…

So, I’ve been a little remiss about getting a New Year’s post together (How is it January 26th already???), but it’s about time I got around to it.  Let’s take a look at what I planned for last year and what I’m looking forward to for 2014:


#1 – Lose An Additional 15 Pounds

Well, I had completed this goal at one point during the year, but slipped back around the holidays.  I started the year at 245.2 pounds.  On Nov. 9th, just a week before my marathon, I checked in at a low of 222.9 lbs.

However, the cutback in my training combined with a metabolism/appetite that hearkened back to my high school days and an far to prevalent attitude of “I just ran a marathon, so I deserve this…and this…and this!” brought back some of that weight.

In the end, I finished the year at 233.4 lbs.  It was still almost a 12 pound weight loss, but I know I could have done better.

#2 – Complete Six 5k or Longer Races

This past year, I completed exactly six races:

  1. Emerald of Mt. Washington 5k (3.1 miles) – First race of the year as well as my shortest, and a new PR in 26:53 (by more than 4 minutes!).
  2. Ruckus 2013 (4 mile obstacle course) – Ran this because I won a free entry, and now the series has gone out of business.
  3. Tough Mudder “Pittsburgh” (10.5 miles) – Technically in eastern Ohio, and technically not a race, but a trial of will.  It took me almost 4 hours to slog up and down the hills of this course.  It was well worth doing, but not sure if I’ll be tackling something similar in the future.
  4. Pittsburgh Great Race 2013 10k (6.2 miles) – One of my favorite race events of the year on a mostly downhill course through one of the main arteries of the city.  Another PR here, this time by more than 9 minutes over last year’s time.
  5. EQT 10 Miler (10 miles) – This was supposed to be the tune up for my Marathon (just two weeks later) but it was the best I felt running all year.  I managed to run negative splits throughout the race and finish feeling great!
  6. Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon (26.2 miles) – This is the race that I spent half the year training for and the pinnacle of my training for the year.  While I struggled through the second half of the race, I’m still very proud of making it to the end.

#3 – Blog More

In 2012, I only managed 16 posts.  In 2013, that number went up to 28.  So, that’s an improvement at least, though I didn’t set any firm goals for “more”.


#1 – Get (and Stay) Under 225

So, I made progress with my weight, but I still have room to improve.  I’m also now using the fitbit Aria scale to help me be more consistent in recording my weight.  Just a few weeks into the year, I’m already down a few pounds to 231.5, so I’ve just got to keep that momentum going.

#2 – Get Faster

While I focused on stretching out my distance last year, I’d like to focus on completing my shorter distances faster this year.  Time-wise, I’d like to get my 5k time under 25:00 and my 10k under 55:00.  I think both are within my reach with the right training.

That’s it, actually.  I’m already planning on getting in some more races in these shorter distances, and I’m getting through this harsh Pittsburgh winter by completing a second round of INSANITY, as it did a good job of keeping me in race-shape last year.  But, mostly, I want to keep my goals focused so that I can make sure I stay on top of them.

Running Further, Running Thinner

Between last night and this morning, I hit two pretty big personal milestones.  One going upward, and one going downward.

On the upward tick, I ran the furthest I ever have last night, logging my first 10+ mile run with a 10.35 mile jaunt around town.  I managed to complete the run in just over 1:45, making a 10:10 per mile pace.  That was pretty close to my targeted 10-min mile pace, so I was very happy with the effort.  I was definitely a bit cottonmouthed at the end of the run, so I’ll probably look at getting some kind of hydration pack for similar runs in the future.

In the other direction, my weight continues to drop, and with this week’s weigh-in, I officially hit the 40 pound weight-loss mark.  That amount is in just under 17 months.  At this point, I feel like I can still lose some more, but I’m not quite sure what my new target is now.  Since I’ve already gone below my initial target for the year, I think I’m just going to take things 5 pounds at a time, and try to focus on improving my running.

So, two major milestones for me within 12 hours which I am very proud of, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement!

Congratulations, Dr. Nilsen!


Dr. Nilsen

Congratulations to my wife, who is now Dr. Nilsen, on completing her PhD in Nursing!  It’s been an (nearly) 8-year journey that she has taken on and managed to complete, and I am extremely proud of her.  I may not be an expert (though I have read most of her papers), she has done a lot of hard work and had a bright future ahead of her in the Nursing field.

It’ll just be weird opening mail for “Mr. and Dr. Nilsen” now…

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013


Since I actually made resolutions last year, lets take a look back at how things went.  I had two goals in 2012:

#1 – Lose 30 Pounds

Well, I made some progress with this goal, but didn’t quite achieve it.  Here’s how the year played out:


I started off at a hefty 267.6 pounds, and weighed in this morning at 245.2 pounds, leaving me with a total loss on the year of 22.4 pounds.  While I was optimistic I would be able to reach my goal, I really didn’t do a good job of trying to lose weight early in the year (I only lost 5 pounds in the first 5 months), but things really took off after I started running in June.  I managed to get down as low as 241.8 pounds early in December, but kind of slacked off in my last month, but still managed to keep my weight down.

The greatest thing about losing the weight is bringing back my energy and confidence.  I had gotten bigger than I had ever wanted to be, and I felt terrible about it, and it’s hard to be energetic and confident about being a fat sack of crap.

Overall, I’m very happy with my progress, but know much more work is left to be done.  We’ll get back to this in a moment.

#2 – Run Four 5k Races

This one I managed to reach fairly easily.  Not only did I go beyond my goal (I ran three 5k races, one 10k race, and a 4-mile obstacle course), but I continued to progress with my times in each race.  I managed to run my last race in December at a 9:38 pace, which is quite an improvement from the 12-minute miles I was beginning my training with.

Still, it has left me eager for much more!


Looking forward at the coming year, I’m going to try to keep my list of resolutions down to three:

#1 – Lose An Additional 15 Pounds

I may be a bit conservative with this, but I don’t want to be unrealistic either.  I’d like to get my weight down under 230, and losing 15 more pounds will get me pretty close to that.  I want to both be in better shape and eat better in the coming year to be a good example for my kids and improve my health and well being.  I already feel much better, and would like to continue that trend.

I also got a FitBit for my birthday to help track my activity as well, so that should make this even more fun (yes, I totally geek out over data).

#2 – Complete Six 5k or Longer Races

In the coming year, I’d like to compete in a running race each month, plus the Tough Mudder that is being planned for Pittsburgh.  Also, as part of this goal, I’d like to get my race pace down under 9:00/mile (5k minimum distance), which may be tough, but would be a real personal achievement for me.

#3 – Blog More

A much different direction from the last couple of goals, but I do realize that I’ve spent much more time as a consumer of content than as a creator of content, while I’ve probably got more to share than I give myself credit for most of the time.  I won’t be writing daily, but hopefully a few articles a month at least.


So, that’s the direction I’m taking for 2013.  If you would like to track your progress with mine on either FitBit or MapMyRun, let me know.  Good luck with your goals as well!