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Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 10: I Feel the Need...

The need for speed training. Ouch. Tacky, I know. This was the first week however for speed training, track workouts. So something new for the week. Exciting. I like new things. As noted previously new places and and activities keep running interesting.

Since I had finished up with hockey for a while I now had Monday evenings free, so I decided not to get up early to run. This gave me the ability to keep up with going to more interesting places and I found myself back at Memorial Park for my Monday run. I know it is the same place I have been running a lot recently, but it is still far better than running in my tiny park in the morning. Plus there are people there. While they present obstacles to run around, they are least present a constantly changing scenery.

I went into this run a little overconfident. Having had a really good run this past Saturday I wanted to keep it up. There were however a few things I did not really think about fully. The primary one was the fact that it was actually really nice out Saturday morning. That was not the case this Monday afternoon. The heat had returned in full force and it was pushing 100 again. The second thing was my total lack of being able to pace myself properly. I wanted to run 9 minute miles. That is about what I averaged for 10 miles this past weekend, so I figured that should be no problem now. Unfortunately I started my run at a much faster pace than that without realizing it. I finished the first three miles of my run in 24 minutes, which was a good minute pace faster than I wanted, and it killed me. I finished the next two miles of my run in 21 minutes. So I did get my 9 minute per mile pace that I wanted and I ran just over five miles during my 45 minute run, but I did it in the most ass backwards way possible.

Tuesday was the first track workout. We were going to a high school track north of Houston, so it was a little farther of a drive then I cared for but I wanted to do these speed workouts. It was actually a surprisingly short and surprisingly easy workout. We started off with a 10 minute warm, and drills similar to those that we performed prior to hill training. Then we moved on to the speed training for the day, which was eight sets of 30 seconds sprinting, 30 seconds jogging. So when all was said and done it was an eight minute workout. Kind of shocking after the 50 minute hill training sessions, but the key thing to remember is most injuries happen due to speed training. It is one of the quickest ways to over stress your muscles. So we needed to start off slow and start getting our bodies used to a different kind of running workout, then slowly build up from there. On a side note the photo of the smoke from my last post was actually from right after this run. Fortunately all of the smoke was still up in the air and and had not descended to a level where it caused breathing issues.

Thursday's run was again planned for the morning, and again due to the fact that I had stopped running in the mornings we did not get up. Again we planned to go running in the afternoon and again life got in the way. Our internet was out so I had to hang around the house waiting for the repair guy. We were given a window of between 4pm and 9pm, seriously? The guy actually got there at 4:40, it just took him several hours to fix the problem. On top of that my wife got home really late from work. Another Thursday another missed tempo run. It is becoming a habit and it needs to stop.

The Saturday long run was interesting. We were going on an 11 mile run. This time instead of starting in the middle of the pack I made sure I was with the front runners right from the start. I didn't want to waste needless energy just trying to catch up with people. Nothing to this point is interesting I know, basically learning lessons from the previous week. What made the run interesting was actually the route. For the second  week in a row we had a somewhat convoluted route, which was complicated by running in the dark. You can't always see where you are going. We were running through a park and almost ran into a fence at one point. That could have been tragic. Then we made a series of wrong turns while trying to work our way through the park, one in particular that separated me from the group I was running with. While these made the run interesting, the most fascinating part of the run was the clover leaf portion.
 The clover leaf was the answer to the fact that we had switched from hill training to speed training. We stiill need to get some hill training in so smack dab in the middle of the 11 mile run we did two loops of the clover leaf, basically running up and down the entrance and exit ramps of highway. Because we were doing two loops a lot of the different speed groups got tied up here making it a pretty large Charlie Foxtrot on top of the fact that we were doing hill runs. For some reason, maybe because I had taken to the hill training rather vigorously, this is where I got my second wind. I finally caught sight of the group I had been chasing since getting separated in the park. Myself and one other runner set about at a pretty good clip to try and catch up with them then, an effort aided by the fact that they eventually reached the second water stop and were refilling their water bottles. After that it was smooth sailing back to the start. Some folks pulled away right at the end in the park, but that will always happen. I was just amazed at how much energy I have left at the end of an 11 mile run. I never thought I would be able to run sub 8 minute miles at that point in a run.

Due to the exertion spent at the end of the run and the fact that I was one of the first people back to the meeting location I decided to jump in line to get one of the free sports massages they have there every weekend. Holy hell, that stuff hurts. I almost wanted to say "Stop torturing me, I'll go run more!" but dealing with the pain there really does help. My calves were really tightening up before hand but felt OK the rest of the day. So I might have to do that more often, though the thought kind of fills me with dread. Fun times.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 9: Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

Holiday weekends breed laziness. I did not want to get up and go on my Monday morning run on Labor Day. So I didn't. I slept in, and it was nice. But I did end up going running in the evening. The weather had actually cooled down from the previous hellish month so it would be more bearable running in the evening. The other part of the reason I was able to convince myself to go out and run was that this past weekend had taught me an important lesson. You need to run in interesting places.

In the previous I had been saying how the Monday run was becoming one of the hardest ones. I had been doing all of my timed short runs in the city block sized park close to my home. There is really nothing fun about running in a circle for 45 minutes. Going to different places keeps things interesting. I was excited to go on my run in New York because it was new; it was a mild adventure running in a place I was totally unfamiliar with. So when I can I need to get away from my small park and go somewhere else. So I went to the big park instead. Memorial park where our long runs usually start off at are has a 3 mile trail to run on. Its still a big circle but it is a much more interesting big circle.

It was cooler and I was going to a more exciting place to run. With those things in mind by the time I set out Monday evening to run, I was now looking forward to it. That's because I was not expecting two separate anomalous events that would attempt to ruin my run. The first was clearly noticeable upon stepping outside. Texas has been experiencing drought conditions for several months now. Most recently this has culminated in a huge number of wildfires all over the state. Some of which were not too far north of Houston. Smoke from these fire's was clearly noticeable in the air. The sky was a little hazy but it was the smell that made it evident.

This smoke made the run not nearly as fun or easy as I had expected it to be. About two miles in my eyes were burning and I felt sick to my stomach. This was really disappointing after I had gotten into a good mood about going on the run. Neither issue cleared up the remainder of the 4.5 mile run. The second issue fortunately only kicked in right towards the end. I had been wearing my new running shoes for about three weeks now. I wasn't expecting any big issues with my feet anymore but towards the end of my run I got some serious hot spots on both feet in the same spot. I actually had to shorten my run slightly because I really didn't want to get bad blisters on the bottom of my feet. Blisters on my toes I can deal with, bottom of my feet, not so much.

I'm not really sure what the cause of the foot issue was. The most likely culprit was my socks. I have two different types of socks I run in. Both types are Asics and are specially designed for running, but one type is much nicer. Fifteen dollars a pair nicer. Apparently that extra money is for something because I wear those socks for my long runs and have never had issues. I was wearing the cheaper pair for this run with poor results. To counteract that issue I now use Body Glide on my feet too help.

Tuesday was a big day because it was my last day of hill training. Fortunately the cooler weather was still prevailing and the smoke issue cleared up immensely to where it wasn't noticeable during the run. The run consisted of the very similar workout of the previous weeks but with one major difference. The previous weeks had been 4 on 2 off seven times, 4 on 2 off eight times, 5 on 2 off seven times, so it seemed that today would be 5 on 2 off eight times. Correct, with the exception that the recovery time had been reduced to one minute between sets. At first this was a worrisome prospect but shortly into the run I was feeling really good and I really had no issues with the workout. Another sign I was on the right side of the workout wall. I was finally feeling in shape again.

Thursdays run ended up not happening. The plan was to get up and go on a morning run, but getting out of the habit of morning runs made that more difficult than anticipated. It wouldn't have worked out even if we did get up to run because the smoke in the city was even worse that morning. When I went out to go to work I was immediately concerned something was burning in the vicinity of my home, the haze was so heavy and the smell so strong. Fortunately that was not the case. However, the plans to go running that afternoon also fell through when my wife came home not feeling well. I was talked into not going on the run, but only as long as we don't make it a habit. We'll see.
A later date, but it gets the idea across. That is smoke, not clouds.

Saturday rolled around and it was another big run to cap off a fairly big week of important runs for me. A ten mile run. My first run ever that would hit double digits. I looked on this as a big step. I was looking forward to this run. Everything seemed to be showing that this run would be a good one. Despite a few missteps I was not disappointed. I started off the run in the middle of my group which was pretty normal for me. About a mile in I came to the conclusion that I was not pushing myself as hard on these runs as I could. During the hills training I could keep up with or lead most of the runners who lead the long runs. If I could keep up with them there, surely I could keep up with them here, right?

So I decided to test out my theory, and set forth quickly moving up the group until I got to the back of the pack of fast runners. Unfortunately, the group of fast runners had missed a turn in the run and actually cut a mile off the run. This was relayed to use when we hit the first water stop. We were told when we reached the planned end of our run we would need to run an extra mile to make up for it. This was kind of a pain but not too big a deal. I just had to run with someone who had a GPS watch that would know how far we had gone. So the run continued. We got held up by traffic a little more than I was used to which was frustrating, but its unavoidable sometimes when you are running on the street. The run eventually took us back to Memorial park and would have ended shortly after the end of the three mile loop if it were not for the short cut we had taken.

It was while running through the park that I experienced another minor set back. When I had woken up that morning my stomach felt a little out of it but nothing serious. This feeling of unease came back a lot stronger while running through the park. It got to the point where the coach I had been following started getting a pretty good lead on me, because I was cramping up. I feel it is inevitable if you run long distance that you will eventually run into this problem, and it is actually one of my biggest fears for the marathon, too eat something that just totally messes with your stomach during a long run. Fortunately I was able to run through it, settle down, and eventually catch up with the coach. For the last mile and a half of the run the coach and I fed off each other to keep pushing ourselves. She was trying to hit specific splits for the run and was dragging some. My arrival on the scene helped push her and her knowledge of how much distance we had to go allowed me to keep pushing myself knowing how close we were to the end. It worked out well. We finished up the run at an awesome pace to finish at 92 minutes for the ten miles. I was really excited by that because it meant I was much closer to a 9 minute pace and was able to keep it up for 10 miles. This is something hope to keep up as the training goes on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week 8: Hope, a Preview of Things to Come?

Coming off a relatively easy week with only a six mile run I was approaching my second big hitch that I was expecting in my schedule. On Friday September 2, 2012 one of my best friends was getting married in New York. I would be attending, and it would throw a wrench in my routine. This was a week we were supposed to start building up mileage again and I really didn't want to get a step behind. So adjustments would have to be made.

Monday started things off with a 45 minute run. At this point despite hockey in the evening I planned on going for my full run as my wife was up to the same time with her half marathon training. I figured this far into the training program I should be a little more capable doing more in a shorter period of time, especially since ice skating is considered acceptable cross training.

Tuesday was more hill training in the evening. I was a little better prepped for it this time. I had been drinking water, and I had my Gatorade primer this time, unlike the previous week. We were back down to seven iterations of hills but had increased the time for each iteration to 5 minutes from 4. We still had two minutes rest between runs. I could tell I was doing better because I was able to keep up with or out run people who had easily out distanced me in the previous week. So it was a good run, but still tough with the heat. There was a nicer breeze this week though.

And that was the extent of my normal training for the week. Thursday morning we were off to NY at 6:30 am. So I didn't have time to get my run in. The question was what to do about my long run for the week which was  nine miles. There were two options, the first was to run it in NY either that Friday or Saturday. The problem with this was I was supposed to be partaking in various wedding activities, most of which involve some form of drinking. Drinking and running don't really go well together as previously noted. The other option was to wait until I got back to Houston and take advantage of of the long weekend to get my run in anyway.

All it really took to make my decision was to look at the weather forecast. The high on Long Island was 80. That is cooler than Houston is when I get up to run in the mornings. If I got up early in New York it would be in the 60's. There was no way I could pass up an opportunity to run in such cool weather.

So in the days leading up to the trip I used Google maps to look at potential routes near the hotel we would be staying at. The day we arrived we went on a drive around and looked at the route I thought was best. It seemed like a good one. So the run was planned for the next morning, meaning that night I had to take things easy. So I had to give up one night of "partying", but it was still fun to catch up with friends and meet some new people.

The next day we got up at 6:30. I had brought all of my running needs with me. Gatorade primer and recovery drinks, shorts, shirt, shoes, socks, body glide, Accel gel, and my water bottle. After getting properly appareled and equipped we set out. Going outside the weather was amazing. It was in the mid-sixties, nice and cool. Compared to the miserable heat I was used to, I was in heaven. So I set off on the run, and it was quite pleasant. The cooler weather made the muscles in my legs a little tight, but it couldn't take away from how nice it was out. Since I was running on unfamiliar roads I brought my phone with me in case I ran into trouble. While running I decided it would be fun to take a few pictures of where I was. Since I didn't want to stop at all I took the pictures while in motion. I found the results to be really interesting.

I was really expecting to have a bunch of blurry images considering how I took them, but it really just warped them somewhat. Not something I was expecting so it was cool to find out that I actually got some interesting shots after the fact. So the nice views of running through the farmland and neighborhoods of east Long Island made the run even more enjoyable. I finished up the nine mile run in about 85 minutes, which meant I actually paced myself fairly well. 

The nice weather, nice views, and good run I hope is a look forward of things to come. It won't stay 100 degrees forever in Houston. It will get cooler in the fall and winter months. I look forward to the days ahead that resemble this pleasant morning. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week 7: The Novelty Wears Off Fast

Another week another Monday morning run. This week I was scheduled for a 40 minute run and I was starting to actually run the full time of my Monday runs despite having hockey in the evening. Today however I was just not feeling it. I think a big part of the problem was I didn't have any Gatorade which had become a big part of my routine. I really enjoy the primer pouches that Gatorade makes. I look on them as a kind of gel to use before a run. Without the extra little bit of hydration and carbs I was dragging. My knees were also acting up a bit again, so I ended up following my wife's training technique of five minutes of running with and one minute of walking. It is kind of annoying because this run is supposed to be one of the easiest of the week and it is turning into one of the harder runs. It's the first run following a long run, so I'm still not fully recovered, and it is on a Monday morning, come on.

Last week I said I really enjoyed the hill work out. As noted in the title however, the novelty wore off quickly. The hills run this week kind of sucked. The 100 degree weather felt like 100 degrees. I had tried to stay hydrated during the day but when stuck in meeting for a couple of hours I wasn't able to get more water. With that in mind I was not as well hydrated as I should have been for running in that weather. I also was not fueled properly. I had a granola bar shortly before the run which is pretty typical for me but I still had no Gatorade and I really like those little primer pouches. This weeks hill routine was changed slightly by adding one additional hill to the course and increasing the reps to eight. I think I might have pushed myself too hard right off the bat,so despite the fact that I maintained a fairly consistent pace through out the whole workout, it made it a lot harder.

Fortunately the rest of the week was kind of a down hill battle. Two runs left. The first was the usual temp run for 35 minutes. The second was a six mile run. This was a recovery week. After increasing mileage steadily for 6 weeks, it was time for a breather. So we took a step back in mileage to allow some extra recovery prior to starting the climb again. So despite some difficult runs during the week, the end tapered off nicely. I had no issues with the tempo run.

The six mile run was a little tougher than expected in someways, but I still finished it in just over the time I ran my previous six miles. The biggest difficulty was despite showing up at the park at the same time I normally do, the park was packed and there was no parking. So I ended up having to park quite a ways away from where the group meets and I ended up in the meeting area with no time to warm up prior to starting the run. I started off in the back of the pack away from the normal people I run with. I eventually moved up toward the front but never did find the runners I am normally with. I eventually found someone running at a good pace and finished up the run with them. A good warm up is important to having a good run though, so this one wasn't as comfortable as it should have been. C'est la vie.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 6: Head for the Hills

So my last run was bad, really bad. Which was a big downer since I had been trending upward to that point. The good thing was that I had gotten a few runs in during the previous week when I was at a low point physically, and a lot of my problems were equipment based. So there were a lot of things that could be easily corrected. The first solution of which was don't party all weekend, which I didn't.

Monday started off with the regular short easy run in the morning since I was attending hockey practice in the evening. Now I had skipped out on the hill training the previous Tuesday due to the fact that I still needed to catch up on sleep, but I had decided this week I was definitely going to attend. There were two time slots scheduled for hill training, 5:30am and 6:30pm. Now it had been consistently over 100 degrees for several weeks now in Houston so the plan was to stick with the morning run to try and avoid the heat. This required me to get up a little before 5am. I usually don't get back from hockey on Monday nights until around 10. By the time all my gear is hung up to dry, I get cleaned up, and actually go to bed it is after 11. So getting up before 5 was going to be a challenge.

So challenging in fact that when my alarm went off the next morning I said "Hell no" rolled over and went back to sleep. So the 6:30pm run it was. It was somewhere between 103 and 106 without the heat index which actually had me really worried the entire day leading up to the run. I drank a lot of water.

The run actually turned out to be really fun. I met with the Houston Fit group at a park and we did a warm up run of just under a mile over to the nearby bayou. Over at the bayou we did some warm up drills of high knees, butt kicks, and long strides to stretch out a little better. Then followed the actual hill part of the training. The bayou was sunken down below the streets and the coaches had basically set up a course marked by flags that went up and down the side of the bayou. We were to run the course for four minutes, with a two minute rest window and repeat the activity seven times. During the rest we would mainly continue walking the course or go get a drink of water.

The hill work was difficult since the rest of Houston is so flat and I barely ran on hills anymore. As I said though it was fun because it reminded me of my track workouts from high school. Nothing like a little bit of nostalgia to get you through a difficult workout. Also, while it was hot out, there ended up being a nice breeze and most of the run was fairly well shaded. So it wasn't nearly as bad as I had worried about, at least this time. After we finished our intervals we did a recovery run back to the meeting location and finished with a core workout. All in all a good day.

This hill run really got me back in the right mindset. Running was feeling good again instead of painful. The Thursday morning run was good, another 35 minute tempo run, no problem. So I was feeling good again. Now to fix the equipment problems I had been having. Texas was having their back to school tax free weekend, which one of the Houston Fit sponsor's Luke's Locker was participating in. Additionally being a member of Houston Fit provided me with a discount card there for 20% off for one use. So this was the weekend to go buy new stuff.

The first task was new shoes. I had noted earlier I really liked the pair of Asics I owned and had been using that particular type for a long time. However, on top of the fact that my current pair was too small, my knees were starting to be affected negatively it was time to look and see what else was out there. I tried on four different brands at the store Asics, Brooks, Saucony, and Nike. I ran around the store and my big test for them was how they felt on my feet, but mainly how they made my knees feel. It ended up coming down between the Saucony and the Nike. To me the Nike's felt a little lighter which ended up being the deciding factor since they were pretty evenly matched otherwise. So now I am the proud owner of a pair of Nike Pegasus 28's.

So problem one taken care of. Problem two was my hand going numb from carrying a Gatorade bottle with me the whole run and not swapping hands at all. So I purchased a water bottle designed to be held during runs. It is a Nathan product. I will say I like the strap and the pocket size on bottle. It's good for carrying gels and other items, but I am not a fan of the bottle itself. I was hoping for a more automatic nozzle like one's I have seen on Camelbak products (jet valve), but this one I have to open and close every time I take a sip. Beyond that the threads don't seal the bottle very well. There have been several times I squeeze the bottle and water pours out the sides instead of only through the nozzle. So the bottle is alright, but not as good as I'd hoped for what I paid. 

The third problem then was lack of energy in longer runs. I had been reading about energy gels but I had to this point not used any. I had been warned that different products can mess with people's stomachs so try them out and find the right one for you. The store had a good selection of products, which I looked over. I noticed a lot of them contained caffeine which I wanted to avoid. This is mainly because I am a recovering caffeine junkie. I love caffeine, mainly in the form of coffee. The problem is that I am extremely sensitive to caffeine withdrawal and it dehydrates the ever living hell out of me. So I end up with massive headaches if I don't have any. It is no fun being dependent on a chemical in order to feel OK. So before I started all of this training I stopped drinking coffee. Actually, while I had the stomach bug I couldn't drink it and just went from there. I was already miserable enough the caffeine headache just fit right in. So no caffeinated products. The only one I found that did not have any was Accel gels. A little research (finding that link) revealed some of their flavors do have caffeine, but I went with Key lime which does not. 

So my three main problems were assessed and hopefully fixed. While I was there I also grabbed a couple new shirts, shorts, and another pair of ridiculously expensive socks. A good but costly trip.

So newly equipped I set out the next day on an eight mile run, and a good run it was. My new shoes needed some breaking in. I wandered around the house all of the previous evening wearing them but that only does so much. So the shoes ate at my toes a little, but my knees felt 100 times better. The water bottle was good to run with and the gel gave me no issues with my stomach. They may not be the best tasting thing ever but I really did feel like I had a ton of energy not too long after I ate it. Probably some placebo effect in there as well, but it seems like a good product that I will use going forward.

It was a good cap off to a good week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 5: Hangovers Are Bad

So I had a fun weekend. Too much fun by some accounts. The problem with that much "fun" is it typically doesn't leave you energetic and ready to exercise. In fact I was extremely dehydrated and totally exhausted. So this had a dramatic impact on my activities throughout the week. Monday rolled around and  I passed up my morning run so I would at least be able to play hockey that night. Then knowing that I was going to lose sleep if I stayed up to play hockey I ended up skipping that too.

So my first real activity of the week was my Tuesday morning run. It was supposed to be a hill run but as I was just getting back into things after rowdy weekend I just did a 45 minute normal run. It went fine all things considered.

I was able to finally get my first tempo run in this week as well. A tempo run being basically a run with two different paces. A normal start up/warm up pace for about 10 minutes, followed by a faster pace for another 10 minutes, and back and forth and so on. This run was only supposed to be 35 minutes so I got through one iteration of pace changes. I didn't quite finish the whole 35 minute run because, while escorting my wife back home from the park (we don't live in the greatest of neighborhoods, though really it isn't too bad) I had to stop because we found ourselves with a stray dog between ourselves and home. He eventually went on his way and I didn't feel like running anymore so I just went in.

Onward to the weekend and the long run. I was a little apprehensive about this run because it would be setting a new distance best for me. The furthest I had ever run in the past was a 10K race. I will note it was in the mountains of Taiwan so it was a little harder than your average 10K but 10K it was. The run his weekend was 7 miles, so close to a mile longer than I had ever done previously. It turns out my apprehension was warranted in this case; maybe a little bit of self fulfilling prophecy. This run was awful, and for many and sundry reasons.

The first of which was I still had not acquired new shoes. I was waiting for the upcoming tax free weekend to go buy new ones. So about five miles in as my feet started to swell I could feel my toes smashed up against the front of my shoes, and it was quite uncomfortable. The second reason was because I was starting to get into runs that were long enough to require extra fuel and I wasn't using any. I had lost my running partner a little prior to half way mark of the run and was pacing myself poorly. The combination of these two thing resulted in my being pretty exhausted about five miles in. Beyond any of these issues though was that during this run my knees hurt like hell. I was tired and hurting, bad. In my previous group runs I had spent my time slowly working my way up the group, this run I spent my time slowly working my way back.To add to the fun I was so focused on these other issues I hadn't been swapping my Gatorade bottle between hands. After holding it in the same hand for an hour my hand went totally numb. A very weird sensation. Despite all of this I did finish my run, for what its worth.

So I had all sorts of issues. If my six mile run was my "I can do this run", this run took a firm stance against that. My knees felt like someone had been hitting them with hammers the rest of the day. I needed to make some changes moving forward.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Brief Book Review: Anathem by Neal Stephenson

As noted in some of my older posts I like the idea of doing book reviews but I am terrible at them. It is hard to really talk about a book and say how you felt about it with out delving into the plot. I don't want to delve into the plot because the whole point of a review is to say whether I think it is worth a read or not. In this case I definitely think it is and I wouldn't want to give away what the story is about.
But I really enjoyed this book. I thought the world building that was done in it was absolutely fantastic. Its a really clever idea that was well executed. The characters were well developed as well. It was interesting in a way because a lot of books that take place from a first person perspective always have the main character at the forefront of the action. This wasn't necessarily the case in this book.

Because that is the case it is not a quick paced book. It just treads steadfastly forward. At no points is it what I would consider slow though because you are always learning new things about the world, the characters, and the history. It was almost frustrating at first not knowing what they were talking about but I began to realize if something was mentioned you would get an actual explanation somewhere down the road. All part of that world building process.

On top of all of that the book makes you think. It actually delves into a lot of philosophical issues, various mathematical and physics theories, and does a pretty good job of helping you understand what they are talking about. I enjoyed looking up more about the various topics it broaches after the fact and will probably continue to do so. The author Neal Stephenson has a link to references in the back of the book to allow you to read further on the them.

So there you go, a review where I say almost nothing about what the book is about, and tell you why I like it. No idea if this is helpful or not, but suffice it to say if you have any interest in philosophy, physics, math, and don't mind lots of detail, this book is for you.