Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My First Marathon

For anyone who doesn't want to read through everything, I finished. I'm incredibly proud of myself, and I fully intend to make marathons a regular part of my year. A full account is after the jump.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Playlist

I just spent way too much time setting this up. I started, I ended up with a 15 hour playlist...and then chopped and chopped and chopped. As it stands, this comes in at a little under 5 hours, which seems just about right. I start slow and loose . . . and I get progressively faster and angrier (mixing some inspirational stuff in). My main goal - keep relaxed. Hope you enjoy.

Artist Name
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
P.M. Dawn Set Adrift on Memory Bliss
Aerosmith Just Push Play
The Beatles With a Little Help from My Fri
Elton John Rocket Man
The Kinks Lola
Blues Traveler Hook
The Black Crowes Remedy
Dave Matthews Band Ants Marching
Michael Jackson Billie Jean
The Killers Tranquilize (Feat. Lou Reed)
Black Eyed Peas Pump It
Janis Joplin Me And Bobby Mcgee
Def Leppard Pour Some Sugar On Me
The Beatles I Am The Walrus
Eminem Without Me
Queen Under Pressure
Black Eyed Peas Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night
Everlast What It's Like
Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication
OutKast Ms. Jackson
Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive
Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O' Mine
Geto Boys Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta
Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory
Pixies Where Is My Mind?
Red Hot Chili Peppers Breaking The Girl
The Rolling Stones Paint It Black
Warren G (featuring Nate Dogg) Regulate
Beastie Boys Sabotage
Kid Rock Cowboy
Bob Dylan Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Kid Rock Only God Knows Why
Temple of the Dog Hunger Strike
Aerosmith What It Takes
Kid Rock I Am
Black Sabbath Iron Man
Metallica Whiskey In The Jar
U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday
Rocky Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)
Metallica Enter Sandman
Faith No More Epic
Bon Jovi Livin' On A Prayer
Red Hot Chili Peppers Scar Tissue
Dinosaur Jr. Feel The Pain
Kanye West Jesus Walks
Red Hot Chili Peppers Suck My Kiss
Midnight Oil Beds Are Burning
Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit
Orff Carmina Burana
Eminem Lose Yourself
OutKast The Whole World
Outkast Hey Ya
Queen The Show Must Go On
Red Hot Chili Peppers Cant Stop
T.a.T.u All The Things She Said
Toad The Wet Sprocket Walk on the Ocean
Vangelis Chariots of Fire
U2 Beautiful Day
Kid Rock Bawitdaba
Queen We Are The Champions
REM Everybody Hurts
Survivor Eye of the Tiger
Dr. Dre (featuring Eminem) Forgot About Dre
LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Plan

In two-days time, I'll actively be on the marathon course. My excitement is hybrid of that felt before a big concert and a first date. I'm giddy. I'm nervous. I'm confident that I'm going to rock, but at the same time I'm running through a list of things that could go wrong. I feel that I'm both criminally over-prepared and horribly under-prepared. This is all new.

My plan for the next few days is pretty simple. I've been abstaining from caffeine all week (save for a single cup a few days ago because the kids had me up and I figured it would be bad to fall asleep at the office). I haven't had a drop of liquor since CJ's birthday party. I'll start "carb loading" with pasta today, which means that I'll simply have some pasta at meals (as opposed to the "eat tons of pasta because it's there, I'm not changing my eating habits, just choosing to eat portions of pasta instead of a sandwich or salad).

Tomorrow, outside of chores & "daddy duties," I'll drive over the Harrisburg to pick up my race packet. I'll organize my running play list. I'll drink lots of water. I'll try to stay off of my feet as much as possible.

Sunday, I'll wake up early and make myself a big cup of coffee. I'll drink that with a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of water. I'll be completely done putting liquids in my body by 7, when I'll leave for the run.

The run starts at 8:30. The most important thing from that point forward is that I truly do not care about my time. My goal is to finish. Plain and simple - finish the run. I'll follow my time, surely, but that will be a curiosity thing. I will finish. I will not care about my time. Maybe, if I chose to run future marathons, I'll have a time goal - but not on Sunday. Just cross the finish line, having been powered by nothing by my own two feet.

Tapering my running this week has lead to some very interesting side effects. First off, my legs are itching to go. I mean, I can almost hear them asking me "what's up?". I've gone on two small runs this week, and that's it. My legs are ready for something. Second, I have a true explosion of energy. I haven't had any coffee today, yet I am "wide awake & busy tailed." Maybe it's just adrenaline kicking in early, but it really feels like my body is starting to say "you need to do that thing you trained for, and soon!" Of course, there's a significant amount of excess energy in that department, too. Ahem. I shall say no more.

So, I'll be posting as I can to Twitter and Facebook throughout the weekend. And, of course, expect at least two posts here - one with my playlist and one with a breakdown as I go.

Thank you, all, for cheering me on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Last Run

I'm hesitant to post this. There's a chance that my kids will wake up screaming before the butt crack of dawn the next two days, and then I'll be wide awake. Of course, then they'll go straight back to sleep, so I'll think "screw it, I'm running." Barring that highly likely event, however, I think this morning was my last run before the marathon.

I ran four miles - and rather than the new route through two neighborhoods that I've been running (3 miles in total), I ran my original 5k training route. Four-tenths of a mile to the trailhead, then seven-tenths of a mile per lap for 4 laps, then six-tenths of a mile back home (via a different route). I worked up a little bit of sweat, but I was hardly "tired".

For a "last run," it was simple, but it was a good one.

Now, my dear reader, I need a favor. I have somewhere between 3 1/2 and 5 hours that I'll be running on Sunday. I am allowed an iPod. I need a playlist. I'll be starting "relaxed" and working my way to "super-motivational" (e.g. "angry"). What songs do I need on this? Obviously, I'll post my running playlist after the run.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why I'm Running

I think there's something in New Providence's water supply. Seriously, when I look through my Facebook friends (specifically people I went to high school with), there is a seriously disproportionate number of serious athletes. Marathon runners, triathletes, cyclists, distance swimmers, cross-country skiers, rock climbers . . . you name the grueling event, I can point you to a former classmate that participates. In fact, for most of the above, I can list at least 3 or 4 individuals. This person biked across the country. That person has run four marathons. This person has not only completed, but has been competitive in half-Iron Mans. That person popped out three kids and would probably qualify for the olympic triathlon team if it weren't for her fear that she'll be eaten by a shark in the open water.

My graduating class was 94 people. It seriously feels like there are significantly more endurance athletes that I went to school with than non-endurance athletes.

I'm not running this marathon to join the ranks of my classmates.

People participate in endurance events for great causes. However difficult it is to run 26.2 miles, or bike 100+, or swim until you're pretty sure your skin is so saturated that it will just fall off your body, that's nothing compared to overcoming breast cancer, or fighting diabetes every day, or living with an physically abusive spouse, or losing a loved one to prostate cancer. For some people, the act of waking up, getting out of bed, and trying to "live a normal life" requires more effort, perseverance, and inner strength than the world could ever know.

I'm not running this marathon to raise money or awareness for a noble cause.

I am running this marathon for myself. Somewhere along the way, I told myself that I could do this. And, at that point, it became mandatory. In five days, I'm going to show myself that I can set a goal and do it - even a seemingly impossible goal if you knew the John of a few years ago.

I don't care about my time. I don't care where I finish. The only thing that matters is that I will have traveled twenty-six miles and three hundred eighty-five yards, powered by nothing but my own two feet. I will do this. And I will allow myself to be proud of the feat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yes, I'm still ignoring my weight

I've kind of gotten used to the fact that there will be a segment of the population that simply won't believe that I don't know, exactly, how tall I am. When people ask, I tell them "about 6'3" ," but inevitably somebody will say something like "my second cousin's next-door-neighbor's kindergarten teacher's father was 6'3" and you're way taller/shorter than that person!" Of course, I have no comeback to that - the truth is that I've been measured anywhere from 6'1" to 6'6". Most of the time, it's right around 6'3", and that's what I say. I know there are people who are adamant that they are 6'4" that I'm taller than. I know there are people that claim to be 6'3" that I'm shorter than. It doesn't matter to me - but it seems that the vertically challenged portion of the population absolutely refuses to believe that "that number" doesn't really matter.

Well, since I've started running, I've been getting a lot of "how much weight have you lost?" questions. This time, I can't even give a guess. I, honestly, do not know. And, not knowing is keeping me a bit more sane. See, the last time I got serious about my weight loss, I weighed myself daily: nude, 6:30AM, after a workout, at the gym. I'd track this number, chart this number. I'd fret if the number didn't move in the right direction or if it moved "too far" in the other. The important thing was that I was making myself healthier, and I was working out and I was eating right (well, maybe not eating enough at the time, but that's a story for another post). I was doing things that were doing good for me. That fact should have been enough, it should have been all that should have mattered. But, I obsessed about "the number".

If we use "weight" as a barometer for one's health (and, we shouldn't, but it's such an easy metric to follow that it's difficult not to), it's best to treat it like a retirement investment account. If you must check "the number," check in on it only every now & then. Just make sure that it's traveling in the right direction, moving toward a goal. The best analysts will tell you that, if you trust your strategy, follow your strategy and know that the results will be there when you need them. If you obsess about a $100 drop when you're looking to make $1,000,000, well, you're going to go crazy. And, the last time I was looking out for my health, I think I may well have been crazy. As I approached my "goal weight," I'd obsess, plain & simple. I wasn't healthy.

So, when I re-launched this blog, my goal was to be "healthy." The goal was never anything more than that. Sure, I have goals like "run a marathon", "complete an iron man", etc. but I don't have a picture in my mind of what I'll look like when I'm "healthy." There isn't a scale reading that will say "hey, look, I made it." "Healthy" is a commitment to yourself for forever. And, it's wonderfully vague. I'll never be able to obsess.

Well, all that was a longwinded way to say that, yeah, my clothes are fitting me differently. My face is thinner. I can squeeze places that I wasn't able to squeeze at some point. People who have known me ask how much weight I've lost. I always have to say "I haven't a clue." Nobody believes me. That's fine, though - I'm feeling pretty good about myself these days.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feeling Good, though I Didn't Run

I did not run this morning. Did you hear that?

I did not run this morning!


All in all, I feel pretty good about it. The kids, well, they had me up for some weird hours of the night. It was Duffy's day to run (she's doing the Couch to 5k, running Tuesdays, Thursdays, and a day every weekend), and the bed just seemed extra comfy at 4 in the morning. I ate well on Monday. I have no regrets in getting a little extra sleep.

Tomorrow, though, I'm out the door by 4.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Enough Excuses (Back to Writing)

I keep on saying "hey, I'm going to post to this blog more," but then time passes and I don't. So, yeah, I suck - but y'all knew that anyway. Well, we're at the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I'm 13 days away from my marathon, I've promised myself that I'd write for an hour a day a long, long time ago...It's time to stop making excuses for not writing this blog.

Personally, things are as crazy as they've ever been - CJ turns one on Thursday, Leila is growing like a weed. The dogs like to bark. The cat has decided, now that it's getting cold out at night, to spend more time inside (meaning that she whines a lot more to get the human servants to abide by her wishes). I still have symphony rehearsals on Mondays and band practices on Thursdays. Work is everlasting. I'm still running.

The marathon is in 13 days. The marathon is in 13 days. Actually, I think I'm well-prepared for this run. Over the past several weeks, I've done some pretty kick-ass training runs on the weekend. A week after I won a motherfucking medal, I returned to the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail and ran it. I started in Newville and ran to Shippensburg, took a quick rest break and then ran back. Round trip, it was twenty-two miles. I was tired. I was hungry. I was sore. But, I wasn't dead. In fact, I was able to drive myself back home without stopping at a diner and ordering the menu. I was proud of myself.

Of course, it took me a little while to recover. Three or four days went by before I ran again, but I eventually ran again, and it felt good. Then, two weeks ago, my mom was in town to help with some babysitting duties (as Duffy and I were both involved in the Carlisle Theather's production of Beauty & the Beast), and with her still around in the morning, I went for a run. This time, it was "only" 17 miles, but it was my favorite 25k biking loop. It's a hilly 17 miles. I'll admit that this was significantly more difficult than flat 22 mile run. But, again, I made it. I got back, didn't die, somehow managed to clean myself up. I made it to the theater for a 2PM matinée, then out to dinner with my wife & mother, then played a 7:30 show. I went to bed quite tired, but also with a great feeling of accomplishment.

Again, I took a few days off of running after that run - just to let the legs recover (I'll likely take a full week off after the marathon), but I was back out, training, before too long. And, I swear I feel stronger pounding pavement each time I'm on the road.

Of course, then there was a tiny bout of panic. I was running along, barely paying attention to the road when I misstepped. I hit a ditch on along a gravel path and my ankle felt a bit funny. I walked it off, and it was still a bit sore. I went home, went back to bed, slept for an hour with it iced, kept ice on all day, and then gave it two days of rest. In all honesty, I probably over-babied it . . . I actually think I could have completed my run that day (the lure of my bed for an hour, though, proved a Siren's call), and then sleep issues the next two nights were as much a part of my not running as the ankle recovery. Still, an injury that close to the actual event, well, it freaked me out a bit.

So, I started being extra careful when I ran, and last weekend, I completed my last "long" training run. Twenty-two miles - that hilly 17 mile course, with a 1 mile loop thrown in, then a 4 mile meandering ending. For the most part, the run was great. It was a beautiful day (started cold, but I had on a long-sleeved shirt which I ended up stripping off at about the 15 mile mark), the roads were barely trafficked, and I just kept on going. Well, until my last climb. This is a hill that I climb a lot - I work up it as part of my typical morning run, and while it's not very long, it's very steep (18% grade). I started the climb, and *nothing*. I tried to make my legs go, but they just wouldn't. So, I stopped and tried again. And again, nothing. Just standing there. I reached to my water pack, had some water, gave myself a minute, and powered through the climb. I reached the top of the hill and, then, the last mile until my "cool down" point. That, well, was weird - but considering the general flatness of the Harrisburg marathon, I don't think I need be worried. And, even if the marathon were hilly, I did manage through - it just took a little while.

So, I got home, made macaroni & cheese for an afternoon party, played with my kids, showered, and then partied. Again, I went to bed exhausted, but I went to bed feeling accomplished.

Now I'm 13 days out from the "big run." I ran 5 miles this morning, I'll run between 5 and 15 miles each morning this week. Saturday, I'll run a final training run - probably 13 hilly miles - and then take a full week off.

And I'll post here every day between now & the marathon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Won Something!

I started running on my own. I did it for me (well, I started a little bit for Megan, who talked me into my first 5k), but I made myself a promise that I wouldn't care about other runners. I'd always be slow - I would never concentrate on winning...if I finish an event, it means I "won". I wanted to enjoy running, not get caught up in my time, somebody else's time, or where I rank among my peers. I wanted to concentrate on my distance and how I felt at the end of the run. Sure, time would play into things (most marathons stop providing runner support after a certain time, so if you can't finish in 6, 7, 8 hours, they need you to register specially, and nobody would want to do that), but it's a curiosity. It's much like my weight - I have a time when I complete a run, and I have a weight as I go about during the day. If I find out either, fine, but I don't care. However, if you post it, I might just take a look.

My friend Michael drove in on Saturday night to run the "Fall Down on the Trail" 5k with me (as an aside, I've driven nearly 200 miles to run a 3 mile run . . . he just drive over 100 to do the same . . . clearly, there is something logically wrong with runners), and we got up early to run. We managed to get to the Newville trailhead of the Cumberland-Valley Rail Trail with a good 45 minutes to go before the run. After registering, we talked at length with a very excitable man about the Carlisle extension (the current trail runs 11 miles between Newville and Shippensburg - the extension will be another 11 miles and will put the trail basically to my front yard) and then it was time to run.

There were "only" 93 runners, and the congestion at the beginning of the event simply wasn't there, so my "asshole approach to running" wasn't called for. On a very chilly morning, I ran my pace. At about the first mile, I started to see some separation between myself and many of the other "non-serious" runners (it should be stated that the entire Shippensburg University cross-country team came out to this event, so there were some very fast runners). With no timing on the course, though, I never knew how I was doing - just that I was feeling pretty good.

Well, one of the runners that I passed around the mile mark passed me soon after the turnaround but then stayed directly in front of me (almost like he took it as an insult that I passed him). Well, when we hit the 2.75 mile marker (and things changed from packed gravel to pavement), I had a little left in my tank, so I picked up the pace. Soon after I started my kick, I was able to see the clock at the finish line. I thought I saw 28:00, and I was quite happy with that time. As I got closer, though, I saw it was 24:00 clicking through. Hmmm, maybe my eyesight isn't as good as I once thought it was (I'll blame the cold - it was less than 50°F at race time with a little bit of a breeze, so my eyes were watering). I picked up the pace as much as I could and finished with a time of 25:27.

I hung around the finish line for my friend, who came crossing just a little bit later. We both commented that it's really difficult to hold back your pace at the end of an event whenever people are cheering you on at the finish. In fact, it's easy to over-exert yourself.

Well, we hung around talking to people, and I answered a bunch of questions about my silly shoes when somebody mentioned that they listed the times.

I knew I had finished somewhere between 25:00 and 26:00, but a neighbor of mine ran and I could not remember his first name - so I looked through the list to see if I could determine it (his last name happens to match the name of his business, and he drives a van with that on it, so it was just a matter of hoping that there weren't too many people who shared that name . . . there weren't). Well, I found his name as Dennis and I asked him what he thought about his time - he mentioned that this was his personal record and that he finished first in his age group (40-49). Then, he asked how I did, so we looked up my name - and there was a red "2" next to it. Turns out that I finished second in my age group (30-39). This was quite unexpected.

Before anybody makes a big deal about me finishing where I did, I would have finished 7th in the 40-49 bracket and well into the teens of the 20-29 bracket (because of all of the Shippensburg runners, none of whom finished with a time more than 20:00), but it still felt really cool to be handed a medal.

As for my goals or approach, they haven't changed in the least. I'm going to continue running when I can, pushing myself to go further and further whenever possible. I'm going to continue to treat my time as a curiosity and nothing more. If future runs have me winning more stuff to take home, great. If I never get another medal for finishing, great. I'm going to run for the love of running.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Mud Run

As I get closer and closer to the marathon, each run gains a bit more importance. I need to remember my posture. I need to keep my breathing in check. I need to take closer inventory of my body. Now, I've learned to really love running, but there is a bit of an element of "work" - it's not pure fun.

At least, there wasn't until I ran the mud run.

As much in my life does, this started on Twitter. I've become friends with a group of people in & around West Chester, PA. It just so happens that running happens to be one of the things that this group is into. A few months ago, I drove out & ran a 5k with them - and when Kim sent out a note asking who might be interested in running a mud run with her, well, I jumped at the opportunity without really thinking about what a mud run might involve.

After agreeing to run, I looked things up. The mud run was basically a 5k race on a dirt trail that would include muddy obstacles. It was going to rock.

I woke up at 4AM on the day of the run to drive out to Wende's house because it was easy to park (it's now 6AM). We drove out to and picked up Kim before driving down to Delaware to pick up T before driving out to a Wawa where we boarded Kim's sisters' (Tina & Gina) minivan and drove into the event.

Early on, we noticed that the "costume contest" wasn't taken lightly. The four of us were dressed comfortably, but without coordination. We quickly discovered that many of the teams, however, made their own shirts for the event. And not a small fraction of teams came in full costume - for awhile, it seemed that each costumed team was more creative than the last. There were professional wrestlers, angels, princesses, superheroes. "The Smurfs" won the costume contest, hands-down.

After people watching for awhile, preparing for the race, and checking out the hardcore tailgaters, it was time to start. Normally, in any running event, I maintain my "asshole technique" and hang out at the start line until the crowd is all gone. Then, I run - the elite runners, well, I never stand a chance of running with them anyway. But, starting a minute late allows me to get the feeling of passing a bunch of people while never getting passed myself. Hey - I'm an asshole, it's about time you learned to deal with it :-)

However, since we were a team here, the asshole technique wasn't going to work - we ran. The event was supposed to have three heats - since we signed up early, we were part of the first heat. Well, I say "supposed to" because a shitload of runners with numbers outside of that first heat ran with us. That, in itself, is fine, because really, at the end of the day, a mud run is about having a good time and raising money for a charity (because cancer fucking sucks). But, it means that the start is super congested, and considering this was a trail run, it made for some very, very slow going.

Still, though, we made it out of the weeds and it wasn't too long before we hit the first obstacle - simply the trail was cut away and the hole was then flooded. In other words, we ran through a big muddle puddle. There were two of these, and then a little more running, and then a third. Somehow, during this third mud puddle, I took the absolute slipperiest route getting out of the muck. Poor Kim, who weighs like 1/3 of what I do, had to help me up.

Throughout the rest of the run, we encountered several obstacles. Some were as easy as hay bales that we had to hurdle over. The longest span of straight running was probably right around a single mile with a pretty significant hill, and the guys ran to keep an eye on each of the female runners (there was a LOT of drinking on the course, and some of the teams wanted to get a bit handsy . . . I may not be a specimen of fitness, but I'm 6'3" with a good amount of heft behind me -- if it looks like I'm looking out for somebody, you might think twice about copping an unwelcome feel). The obstacles ranged from simple (hay bale hurdles) to truly complex (tripwire that you had to cross underwater). All said, there were two walls that we had to scale, a set of log balance beams, a rope climb (where you had to pull yourself up a rope in order to get to a higher point), a two-rope bridge (where you walked on one rope using another rope to keep your balance . . . here, I felt really bad for Kimmie because I'm quite tall and she's quite short - I ended up having to be near parallel to the ground in order to cross this obstacle where she could have just kept her hands at eye level and gone across vertically), a tripwire grid (where you had to step through the holes in the wire), a barbed-wire dirt pit (where you had to "army crawl" under the obstacle in loose dirt), and two sets of sewer drains (each were about twenty feet long, with water coming up about 1/3 of the way - you had to propel yourself through them).

Finally, the last set of obstacles were a large hill followed by a large mud pit with a barbed-wire mud pit (meaning you had to fully submerse yourself in water to get across).

We finished the run, the four of us hand-in-hand, at about 40:00 . . . finishing in the top 10% of all teams.

This, easily, was the most fun I've ever had working out.

As we got cleaned up and stuff, we realized a few things. First, we need to make sure that we come in costume next year - we're thinking nude body stockings. Teams are set as teams of four, but there's nothing preventing us from coming with multiple teams all geared together. And, while we had a few beers for a post-race cocktail, we need bloody marys for a pre-event high. As we pulled away, I saw that my "asshole running technique" would absolutely have failed, as there was a long line for many of the obstacles.

This is certainly something I plan to do again, and I highly recommend any mudrun to anyone who enjoys running.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I come in from the run, sweat pouring down my body, and switch the shower on. I disrobe. I'm nude, unadorned - my thoughts are my only armor.

I climb in and sit in the Lotus Position, letting the water fall around me. I close my eyes.

Breathing in with my nose, feeling my body fill with air. The air is full of colors - red, blue, purple, green, yellow, brown, black . . . and suddenly my body is full of those colors. I breathe in until my body can simply take no more - no more mass, no more air, no more color. I hold.

I ignore the water splashing about me. I ignore the sweat still seeping from my body. I ignore the songs playing in my head. The thoughts/concerns that accompany me everywhere disappear. I'm full. I consciously stop breathing. It's me - and only me. I feel inside and wait for a heartbeat. One, two, three, four. Those colors inside switch to white and I slowly release from my mouth.

My eyes still closed, I watch the white fill the shower with my mind's eye - then the bathroom, the house, the street, the neighborhood, the city, state, country, world, solar system, universe. White travelling to all areas at once, until there is no breath left inside of me.

Again, I find my heartbeat. I allow the water splashing over my body to re-enter my consciousness, then my nakedness. I listen for an internal song, never surprised when it's right there. I look for my thoughts, and I find that the day's concerns are slower to find their way back to me. Slowly, I open my eyes, and again find my heartbeat.

I close my eyes.

Breathing in with my nose, feeling my body fill with air....

Friday, September 17, 2010

When things are going well

I have not forgotten about this blog. The issue is, when things are going according to plan, it's really boring to write about. "I ran 10 miles this morning before work". "I ran 18 miles on a Saturday morning". My training is going well, my diet is working. My "healthy" stuff, well, is boring.

But, well, some updates.

  1. I've solved my chafing issue. For awhile, anytime I went on a "long" run (anything more than 7 or 8 miles), I had some serious issues with raw skin between my legs (and lets not forget my nipple bleeding). I purchased some compression shorts and that seems to have solved my issue. My longest run since ensuring that I was wearing them while running has been 18 miles, and I haven't had any issues on any run. I've also purchased compression shirts, and my nipples have been thanking me.

  2. It's a good thing I run primarily before sunrise. With the compression wear, well, there's not much to the imagination. Especially if my mind wanders during my run.


    Anyway, I typically wear loose fitting clothing over my compression wear so as to not make any passers-by sick to their stomach as I run by. This morning, though, I had to kick off the shorts. They were literally falling off of me as I ran.

  3. Fat is melting off. Try as I might, I can't deny this. I may have an image of a "robust" John in my head, but my body is actually becoming that of a runner. Clothing that used to be loose on me simply falls off. Heck, clothing that used to fit me "just right" is getting dangerously big around my middle. Dress shirts that I used to avoid because they were tight around the chest now actually look good. I'm at the last hole on my favorite belt.

  4. I'm eating intuitively without even trying. I eat when I'm hungry. I snack all day at work on fruit & veggies. I eat helpings with dinner because my body is saying "you should eat". This is a good feeling. Knowing when you're actually hungry is a difficult step.

  5. I'm not sure where the fat ends and the skin begins. This is an issue I dealt with the last time I dropped weight, and it's an issue now. I know there's still plenty of fat around me, but there's a whole lot less than there was only a few months ago. At some point, my body is going to start telling me that I either need to eat more or work out less. When I reach that point (and I do believe that I'm "in-tune" with my body well enough that I'll recognize the signs when they're with me), I'll have to decide whether a surgical option to get rid of the skin should be investigated. Fortunately, I know of some kick-ass people who have chosen to go through with the surgery, and to live with loose skin. Heck, I even know somebody is planning on going through with the surgery at some future date. Whatever I chose, I'll post here.

  6. I have been meditating. I'm planning a post to talk about what I go through, just because several people have asked me what advantages I get out of it, and how it works.

  7. My work schedule has been hectic. This means lots of conference calls. Yes, I'm still enforcing the "every time I close or open my office door, I do 10 pushups" rule. My elbow isn't always happy with this (especially on rainy days), but I'm getting through the pushups without strain (as opposed to when I started this rule). I may be switching to 15 pushups per door opening.

  8. I'm two months away from the marathon. gulp.

  9. I'm realizing that I have more than just four speeds. It used to be that I had "stop", "walk", "go", and "sprint". "Go" was, essentially, slightly faster than a brisk walk. When I started running, that meant 12:00 miles, and now it means about a 9:30 mile. However, at the end of all of my runs, lately, I've kicked things up - far from a sprint, but much faster than I've been running (I'd guess I'm coming in at 6:30-7:00 mile pace). When I find engage this gear, I'm able to keep up for up to a mile and a half. For my first marathon, I'm going to lay back for the entire thing (unless I hit mile marker 25 and realize that I have a lot of juice in the tank), but I'm actually excited that I've been able to kick in something at the end. It reminds me that I'll be able to push things faster in the future. Because, well, I always need a goal, and this "run a marathon" thing is pretty big - I don't want to gear myself up to run it and then have nothing to work for.

  10. Speaking of stuff to work for, I'm still thinking about an Iron Man.

  11. I have absolutely no desire to weigh myself, despite the number of people who ask how much weight I've lost.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When Inspiration Goes to Seed

I was sitting at my desk, playing with a grapefruit (hey, my office, my play things), minding my own business, when he walked by. This is an old coworker. At one point, I reported to him via "dotted line" in the org chart (as a liaison to the European business users), though I've only had very infrequent dealings with him. I work for corporate, he works for one of our divisions, but we always got along.

When I first met him (while on a IT Governance summit in London), he surprised me - he was a big person. I mean, I'm big, and have been quite large, but he was bigger. A lesser person would feel good about the fact that there was somebody so obviously larger.

This person works in the UK, and while any dealings with him were quite infrequent, face-to-face meetings were just plain scarce. In my first three years with the company, I saw him twice. So, it was a bit surprising when I saw in a corporate bulletin that a few of my company's employees had completed the London marathon in 2008 - and the employee with the best time was this employee. Upon seeing the bulletin, I was quick with an email of congratulations, and we went back & forth about weight loss, and running (he started by saying "yeah, I lost so & so many stone so I got into running") and biking (by this time, I was biking into work pretty frequently -- he stated that there was an American employee who worked in his division that was a "Category 2" cyclist at one point, which is no small feat).

Since then, work interactions between this person and myself have been limited (his role continues to be division-centric while my role remains at the corporate office), but the fact that he ran a marathon is a big part of what got me off my ass to start training for one myself (and you better believe that I'm running the Harrisburg marathon in November). "Person X did it, so can I" has been running in my head.

Whenever speaking to this person about work-related stuff, cycling was always near the top of our conversations. I was going to pull the "nobody saw this coming", run the Harrisburg marathon, then tell this person that his running the London marathon was part of what got me to consider training.

All of that leads to today. There's a bit of an IT Summit going on in the corporate office this week. Since Monday, there's been a steady stream of people into & out of my personal office to say "hi" (I'm one of the people that just about every user in my company, and most especially every IT user, has to deal with at some point). For some people, this is the first I've seen them. For others, they're familiar faces. I was curious if this weight-losing marathon runner was going to be part of the summit, though I never asked around.

I just saw & heard him walk past my office door. There's no mistaking the gray, disheveled hair or the grating cockney accent. That weight he lost? Well, he's found it. And I think that maybe any fat he had lost got busy, had babies, & when he found those original lost pounds, whole families of fat moved back in.

I'm being unfair, but this is really hard to take. Working for my company is downright stressful at times -- there's constant talk of reorganization, they opened an offshore office to hire talent at a fraction of the cost of American/European talent, "going lean" is the mantra (which, no matter how it gets stated, means that you do more work with less people), it's not uncommon for entire projects to be scrapped at the 23rd hour. Heck, I'd be surprised if he kept in the tip-top shape he once was in. This, however, is far from what I had expected.

In the grand scheme of things, this is but a mere speedbump. I'm not changing my approach (try to eat right, train for endurance events to the point where I'm able to just go out & run a marathon or bike a century as if it's not a great big thing), The only thing that'll be different is that there will either not be a "thanks" email, or if I choose to write said email, it will be carefully worded.

I suddenly feel like John Larroquette's character in the one episode of the John Larroquette Show that I watched. Larroquette was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when they were doing roll-call. When asked for new members, David Crosby, Larroquette's sponsor, stood up. Apparently, Crosby had been the stalwart for Larroquette's recovery from addiction, and here he was, admitting he had fallen off the wagon.

Person X's influence on my life was much, much less than this, but I'm still taking it as a blow. I'm moving on, I'm not changing, I'm getting healthy (if I'm not there already) . . . but I was really looking forward to writing that email the first work day after the marathon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vacation: eating poorly, sleeping oddly, drinking lots, and bloody nipples

Well, hello my trusty followers (yes the hardy half-dozen of you). I've been on vacation . . . from work, from twitter, from the blog, from most everything. I spent last week at Chincoteague Island, VA with the family, and extended family, and their friends and family. All in all there were twenty-two of us (7 of whom were less than 4 years old), so as you might imagine it was a grand old time.

The near-accident

Driving to the shore in the dead-middle of the night leaves one thing, near guaranteed that you won't have any traffic. We made it through Route 15 with barely a car around. Then around Baltimore without having to slow. Over the Bay Bridge with nary anybody around. It was great.

Well, I was cruising around in the right-hand lane sometime between 1:30 and 2 in the morning when something funny happened. Suddenly, I didn't see any lights ahead of me. This is a semi-commercial area, and there were cars on the road; I should have been able to see something. And, if I looked in the left-hand lane, I saw plenty of lights. So, I stepped on the brakes and stopped about 50 feet in front of a vehicle on its side.

Slowly, I inched around the car in the left-hand land & pulled over to the side of the road. Running to the car (a Ford Explorer, I believe), I saw the driver's side door open (though the driver's side door was straight up in the air) and an arm reach out of it. Another driver who had stopped to help came by and we provided an anchor for the driver of the vehicle to get himself out. While part of me thought the safest thing for him might be to keep him still, the thought that somebody would plow into the vehicle at high speed was enough to want to get him out of the car (fortunately, right around now, another oncoming driver realized what was going on and parked to the side of the road but focused his headlights to the overturned vehicle, illuminating it).

With the driver out of the car, we were able to figure out what happened - he fell asleep, went off the road, then back on, and overturned. He appeared completely unscathed, though we were able to talk him into being evaluated by the paramedics on their way (fortunately, many people out driving at this time at night are medical professionals, which certainly made for a better experience). He was more pissed off than anything else.

As soon as it was obvious that the situation was in better hands than I could provide, with assurances that medical and road cleanup crews were on their way, we got going again.

Check-in at the house was on Saturday, though we didn't arrive until very, very early in the morning on Sunday - see, I had a gig with my band, Landslide that took us until 10PM. It was a 5 hour drive to the beach, and we went through the night. Since this allowed the kids to maintain their regular sleep schedule, however, it was probably not all that bad an idea (though the near accident...sidebar... was something I would have liked to do without).

After getting to the house & setting up the bare necessities (CJ slept in the bed with Duffy & myself, Leila in her pack and play), off to bed (though I was so pumped full of caffeine that I barely slept), we woke up to the kids rumblings around 7 and prepared for the day. Alas, my dreams of napping the day away on the beach were dashed as soon as we got there (I had biked, Duffy had driven). There was a driving rain and a steady wind . . . it was cold and near miserable. After trying to brave the conditions for awhile, the skies truly opened up & we called it a day -- there was to be plenty of napping on the beach throughout the rest of the week, however.

As I was on vacation, my dietary rules were quite relaxed -- no non-seafood meat, try to eat something for breakfast, be "good" for lunch (typically a peanut butter & honey sandwich), snack casually, be reasonable at dinner, and don't go overboard on the drink. For the most part, diet-wise, I did well . . . I'd have done much, much better if Martin's potato chips qualified as low-calorie. Of course, every night I had copious amounts of booze - whether it be wine or beer . . . I did limit my margarita intake, though -- lots of sugar included there (whatever I can do to convince myself that I'm healthy, right?)

Workout-wise, I did much better. I went to the beach on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday -- each time I went, I biked both there and back (yes, even through the driving rain on Monday). It's the better part of four miles to the beach, so these were hardly "taxing" bike rides, but they were low-pressure, relaxed ways for me to get in a bit of extra exercise.

I was very, very happy with the amount I was able to run, though. I managed only two runs (Monday and Thursday), but they felt good, and I'm near-certain that I managed at least a half-marathon each time.

The Monday Run

  • From the house to the Wildlife Loop at Assateague Island is approximately 2.5 miles (source, Google Maps)
  • The Wildlife Loop is 3.2 miles (source, posted signs)
  • Approximately 2/3 of the way around the loop is a .5 mile trail to beach access (source, posted signs)
  • Along the beach, I ran for half an hour in one direction, took a quick swim, and then half an hour back in the other direction (somewhere between 1.5 and 4 miles each way)
  • Back to the beach access trail (another .5 miles)
  • Complete the Wildlife Loop
  • Back to the house (another 2.5 miles)

All told, this is somewhere between 12.2 and 17.2 miles

The Thursday Run

  • House to Wildlife loop (2.5 miles)
  • Wildlife Loop (3.2 miles)
  • Beach Access Trail (.5 miles)
  • Run along the beach to the parking area (2.5 miles - source, Google Maps)
  • From the beach to Wildlife Drive (1.8 miles - source, Google Maps)
  • From Wildlife Drive to the Wildlife Loop (.5 miles - source, Google Maps)
  • Complete the Wildlife Loop (-.5 miles as there was a section that I skipped - source, Google Maps)
  • Wildlife Loop to house (2.5 miles)

This was approximately a 13 mile run

The first run was just a fun "let's go out & stretch my legs". The weather was about near perfect and I was in a "it's my first day of vacation" mood. Along the way I saw an otter (too slow with my iPhone to get the shot), several wild ponies (too distant to make an iPhone shot worth it), beautiful shorelines, a horseshoe crab (by the way, that thing on the back of it, it's not a stinger -- a woman who was around me was damn near terrified of the thing when I ran past), some funky shells, and I found that if you run for far enough, you run to a point where there simply is nobody around you (this allowed me to take a swim with some privacy -- as I wasn't looking forward to wearing overly soaked clothing while running, it worked out well).

The second run was a more "let's get it over with" run, and I didn't dally (there was napping on the beach to get through). However, during this run I encountered a few firsts. The first was passing somebody in a run-down . . . she was running ahead of me, going her own pace. I was running my own pace, which was just slightly faster than her's. She looked back constantly. I passed her. Then, near immediately after that, I looked behind me to see another female runner gaining on me quickly. Now, those of you who know me know that I really don't care about my speed - and I certainly don't care if a woman runs faster than me. I was just curious if I could hold off any runner who was "running me down" (when I run most any event, I start toward the back and work my way up throughout the run, passing lots of people and barely getting passed myself -- though normally, when I'm passing people here, it's because they started out too quickly and simply couldn't keep up their pace). Well, I picked up my pace, and she ran past me like I was standing still. So, I had both sides of the experience in the span of about 10 minutes.

After getting back home, Duffy looked at me & horror was apparent on her face. I figured that, since I had neglected to put on sunscreen prior to an early morning jog, I was horribly sunburnt and I simply wasn't feeling it. "Your shirt!" she exclaimed & I looked down.

You know those tales that runners have "nipple issues" when they run? Well, I found that I'm far from the exception there. Bloody nipples that didn't really hurt until the next day (and are still horribly sore now). I'm claiming "badge of honor" on the shirt (though I did manage to get the blood out). But? Ewww.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Upcoming Events

I'll be posting in just a little bit about the last two runs I had - the corporate mile & Alyssa's 5k (I enjoyed the latter MUCH more, and will actually have pictures to share). But, in the meantime, I thought I'd post my upcoming schedule from Active.com (a horrible event-finding search engine, but a great resource for training and registering for specific events).

  • Friday, September 10: The Great Prostate Cancer Challenge in Harrisburg, PA (City Island). My grandfather was a prostate cancer survivor and this is the first time that I'll be running with my sister (who is totally going to kick my ass).
  • Sunday, September 19: Three Creek Century in Carlisle, PA. Hosted by the Harrisburg Bike Club with proceeds benefiting a local battered-women's shelter - just a pretty ride in a beautiful time of year.
  • Saturday, October 2: Fall Down on the Trail 5k in Newville, PA. The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy is my all-time favorite charity (though I fully acknowledge that there are charities that do much more for the greater good).
  • Sunday, November 14: Harrisburg Marathon in Harrisburg, PA. I figure, if I'm registered for it, I might actually follow through.

The great thing is that I have some sort of musical entanglement later in the day after each of these (whether it be a wedding to play, a gig with Landslide, or a solo effort). I'll be obnoxious about the music stuff on Twitter leading up to each (assuming the events are open to the public) and I'll try to post my results as soon as I can.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My plans for a "Kindness of Strangers" tour

There are lots of weird thoughts that run through my head. "How can I complete the Transporter as shown in Star Trek?", "Can I write a series of books that will catch fire with 13-15 year old boys like Stephanie Meyer did?", "Why haven't I written my first symphony?", "It's great when I realize just how many people who I know only online are awesome", "I'd really like to see every baseball stadium", "Ooh, shiny!".

When I start organizing my thoughts, though, things fall into two main categories:

  1. stuff that makes me tired (running, biking, hiking, etc)
  2. stuff that could make me rich if I could ever follow through (inventions, creative endeavors)
Despite how silly I think it sounds, I can't shake one idea (warning, tangent approaching).

I've always told myself that, if I were independently wealthy with no great obligations, I'd hike the Appalachian Trail, solo. I'd simply tell those important to me that I'd be heading out to Maine one summer day (because I'd totally do it north-to-south) and that I'd keep in touch as much as I could over the next 6 months. Along the way, I'd rig up some sort of crank power charger & take copious notes on a lightweight but rugged laptop. I think I'm a talented enough writer that people would want to read about it - and if I got enough to read, maybe I could sell some advertising on the site & actually make a few bucks. Maybe somebody would be interested in "dead-tree" publishing & I'd make a few more bucks. The more I think about it, though, the more distracted I get by it - the more I want to do it. Obviously, though, I'm not in a position where I can do it right now.

However, it's been done before - there are great books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, and while I'm sure it'd be beautiful, my interactions with others would be limited. In other words, I'm sure I'd enjoy thru-hiking the AT, but I think I could do better.

Then I start thinking about my interactions with people on Twitter/Facebook, how I really want to see every baseball stadium, and Three Men in a Boat.

Start in Miami at the beginning of the season with a bike loaded with gear & go. Tweet/blog as I go about. If a friendly follower happens to ping me, stop by. If they offer food/beer/lodging, take them up on it. If they offer tickets to a game (major or minor league), REALLY take them up on it. If nobody is around, pitch a tent (hehehe) someplace safe, cook myself some dinner, & call it a night. Bike around, take pictures, write about it, get to see the country, get to know some people - this is right up my alley.

Now, will this happen? I don't know (but the fact that I'm writing about it makes it more real than just a "think I'm thinking about"). This isn't something that would happen anytime in the near future -- kids need to be more grown up and I'd need a LOT more money in the bank to be able to pull this off. Maybe a few years from now, maybe I'll convince one or both of my kids to take a year between high school & college to do this with me. Maybe this will be a "got both kids through college" present to myself (but, geez, I'm looking WAY ahead -- if I were planning this 18 years ago, the concept of "tweeting to find a place to stay" would have had me scratching my head -- let's suffice to say that I'll intend to use whatever the media-norm is to post my progress whenever I move ahead with this harebrained plan).

What say you, commentariat? Something feasible? If work/obligations weren't stopping you, what "big thing" would you do?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Garlic-Parmesan Black Bean Burgers / Sangria Smoothie

Garlic-Parmesan Black Bean Burgers

Anytime I post what I'm making from scratch, I'm flooded with recipe requests. So, here goes.


  • 2 cans black beans
  • garlic (I use a big package of minced garlic & throw in a tablespoon)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled & shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs


Mash black beans with garlic. Add rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Grill on low heat for 25-30 minutes, turning every ten. Serve on buns with cheddar cheese.

Sangria Smoothie

I really like good wine, but I hate paying for it. Usually, I end up buying "middle of the road" wine, usually in boxes (cheaper that way). However, my local wine shop started selling "Bully Hill Banty Red", which I had to buy because it was like $9.99 for a 3 liter box. Well, the wine sucks. But, the old adage "sucky wine, great sangria" holds true.


  • Large glass of shitty red wine
  • Frozen berries (I buy them in bulk from the grocery store)
  • Banana (just to make it seem more like a smoothie & less like an alcoholic's wet dream)


Blend in blender until smooth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vanity / Self Image

Yesterday was #boobiewednesday on Twitter. Those of you who know me in real life probably don't know of my Twitter addiction. See, as I work at a computer all day, it's very easy for me to be a "Social Media junkie". Facebook is great, but it's blocked at work and is relatively slow-paced. Pictures of your kids/friends/vacations? It's the perfect venue - but for discussions of the designated hitter, or the new bar that's opening, or strip-club etiquette, or who needs what plastic surgery where? Facebook isn't the best forum.

Well, Twitter is, dare I say it, perfect for the "barely there" attention span. Don't want to participate in a given discussion? Wait a second & another one will come up. You can hop-in, hop-out of anything at any given time. Something shiny come across your line of sight? Post about it & distract a world. It's kind of cool.

Well, one of the Twitter memes is #BoobieWednesday, where women post (G-PG13 rated) pictures of their knockers to raise awareness for Breast Cancer research. It's a cute thing more than it is a perverted thing -- lots of cute bras, some creative shots, and every time you see somebody's avatar it's easy to think about how important it is to destroy the disease that is breast cancer. My step-mother is a survivor. One of my favorite Tweeters is like my hero (she's a breast cancer survivor and single mother all before 30). And, well, I'm all about boobs.

So, what does this have to do with vanity? Well, I was dared to post my own #BoobieWednesday avatar on Twitter (since I have man-boobs, or moobs instead of boobs: #MoobieWednesday). I'm horrible at saying "no" to a dare, so I did. My first go had mixed opinions. Taken in my office, a purple dress shirt unbuttoned to my belly, it clearly showed my bare chest & a nipple. Some people enjoyed it, some did not - but it got a laugh & I got use it as an excuse to say "men get breast cancer too", and since men are so much more unlikely to check themselves or report something, it's generally "too late" by the time a doctor gets involved in the case of male breast cancer.

Following that semi-successful post, I took a #MoobieWednesday week off, as I had a very cute picture of my daughter napping on my chest as I napped myself (pictured, right) as my avatar, and I had little desire to change that. I mean, Leila is a doll, right?

Well, that week, a few of my followers asked why I wasn't playing with #MoobieWednesday. I simply said that more people wanted to see my "awww" picture than something silly, and left it at that. However, between the time I posted before heading to work and arriving at work yesterday, I had six "why hasn't your avatar picture changed" tweets directed at me. So, I unbuttoned my dress-shirt & decided to take a "no nipple picture". It actually turned out ok (below).

Much to my surprise, I didn't have any negative feedback - I mean, it's an ok shot by my standards, but it seems everybody really liked it. So, it got me thinking about my own body (which, as I've stated before, I rank somewhere between "average" and "kind of handsome", though my impression is always much closer to the "average" side of that scale). At what point do you start thinking that you actually "look good" as opposed to "look better" or are "not actively made fun of for being a walrus"?

This is hard to admit, but I really have a hard time accepting compliments about my appearance. Part of me thinks the complimenter is:

  • Misinformed, has poor eyesight, and/or just plain wrong
  • Being sarcastic
  • Has an ulterior motive
I simply cannot easily take them at face value. To me, I'm always pudgy, despite the fact that I have shorts that I can't wear because they fall right off me or that I need to buy new belts because I have them as tight as they go. I always see myself as a weakling, despite the fact that I'm taller than most everybody I know and I'm working my way toward one-hundred pushups. I'm see myself as always pimply faced, despite the fact that I'm nowhere close to being a teenager anymore (though, when stressed, I do tend to break out -- have I mentioned that I have a stressful job and am the father of two?).

So, to any/all who enjoyed the #MoobieWednesday pic, thank you -- I promise to try to accept your compliments more easily in the future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Know I'm Going to Break a Rule

There are a few rules that I abide by when I work out - probably first & foremost is that I do everything for me, I simply don't care about others. If I pass somebody as I'm running? Great. If I get passed by a million cyclists & their grandmothers & a kid on training wheels? Great. I'm out there for me - I'm pushing myself. I may be fast. I may be slow. It's about me and, really, who cares about what anybody else is doing.

But, one week from today, I'm going to abandon that rule. A few weeks ago, I was working on a project with the head of Accounts Payable at my office. I do a fairly good job of avoiding any/all "everybody in the corporate office" messages during the course of the day (I read them off hours). Typically, any "opt-in" event that doesn't involve pizza in a conference room is something that gets ignored - it's not that I don't absolutely just love my job, but unless I'm heading out for drinks with a few coworkers that I know/like, I'm not a big "hang out while not working and not getting paid" kind of guy.

However, I was working with the head of Accounts Payable when she sent one of these "all corporate office" emails, and rather than leave it for later, I opened it. It was a request to get runners for a run. It's just a mile, some corporate challenge. Local corporations will enter teams of 5, and there might be some sort of prize for the corporation that has best 5-person time. I signed up.

My act of signing up started a ball rolling. First, we went from 8 to 15 people because I was simply talking about the run in a break room, and I'm loud, and a few other people (who had successfully ignored the email) signed up. The next was that I told my coworkers that I'm training for the Harrisburg marathon. The final item was a talk of the timing.

While I don't really care about timing, I do time myself every now & then. Part of it's a curiosity thing - "hmmm, I wonder how fast I'm running", and part of it is logistical -- most marathons ask you to not "compete" (using that word loosely) if you can't complete the marathon in 6 hours or so. So, I run between an 8:30 and a 9:30 mile if I'm just running. However, if I actually push myself, I've gotten the final mile of a 5k (3.1 mile) run down to 7:14.

Well, as we were talking about timing, it seems that I have the best mile time. So, now I need to win. I certainly don't need to win the race against all others. But against my coworkers? I do. During my morning runs, I'm pushing myself, HARD, for the last mile. I feel odd actually caring about a result (other than "finish" and "did not complete"), but, there you have it. Funny that a competitive moment came about.

After a long time of near-drought, it was pouring this morning. No walking the dogs, and I slept in. I refuse to feel bad about the decision. I'll do my "conference call pushups", and I'll be back into cardio stuff tomorrow. Today, I'll let the legs rest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Running with the Dogs

It started mostly as an innocent question. "What would happen if I tried to run with the dogs?" For any who don't know, I have three:

  • Hobbes, a blond ten-year-old cairn terrier with little food motivation but loves his walks
  • Snickelfritz, a brindle nine-year-old border terrier who loves food and generally avoids any physical activity that isn't chasing after a tennis ball
  • Cosmo, a black three-year-old yorkie-poo who is a complete spaz

I realized soon after I had the question that logistics simply wouldn't work out. These are three excitable dogs -- while running, the first bunny we passed would make me trip & that would be the end of the experiment. However, taking the dogs individually might work out.

The obvious choice for a workout buddy is Cosmo. First, he's the youngest & he easily has the most energy of the three. However, he's simply not comfortable without the other dogs around. The first time I put him on the leash without either of the other two dogs, he just sat down & refused to go. Since then, I can get him to walk -- but if I run, he walks, meaning that I either drag him or I walk too. So, Cosmo doesn't work.

Snickelfritz won't work, either. The dog is actually built like a truck (his favorite activity is to bury a tennis ball in a blanket & dig it out - it makes for puppy muscles), but his only real motivations are food & tennis balls. He has no wanderlust at all - walks as simply a meal ticket (I commonly won't feed him breakfast without taking him for a walk - he's willing to accept that as the cost of the meal).

So, yesterday I decided to run with Hobbes. When we walk in the morning, he always has a hopeful look on his face after breakfast - he knows that I'm going back outside . . . so I let him come with me yesterday. As soon as we left the house & he saw that I was running, he was running. The thing about dogs, though? They can run a lot faster than I can. We never really caught a good pace together, though. I really only have one speed ("go"), and that speed seemed to be a rate that Hobbes was just unable to reproduce. He'd either go so fast that I had to reign the leash in or go to a fast walk, which meant that I had to slow down so as to not drag him.

A mile into the run, though, he was done -- kaput, that's it, I ain't running anymore. I walked him back home.

This morning, he wasn't overly interested in me heading back out the door again (I managed a 5k in very humid conditions) - but something tells me that we'll be running again, and soon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Active Weekend

I really think this marathon thing is going to happen.

This weekend was a really busy one for me - the last two performances of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat took up Friday & Saturday nights. The Carlisle Theater is relatively small, maximum capacity of 940, but when every one of those 940 is standing & cheering & just into a performance? Well, I don't know if there's a better experience in life.

But, this post ain't about that. No, I had the busy weekend in that those two performances plus to do what I can with the raising of two children. Saturday, I woke up a little before 5 because the boy was crying . . . picked him up from the nursery, took him into bed with me, and fed him a bottle. Within 15 minutes, he was back asleep.

However, at 7:00 he was fussing again & the dogs were quite ready for their breakfast, so we all went downstairs. I've written about my dogs before, but they're strange. Hobbes, the oldest (blond, cairn terrier), has almost no food drive. Snickelfritz (brindle, border terrier) is only motivated by food & playing ball. Cosmo (black, yorkie poo) is just an absolute spaz.

Because Hobbes has no food drive, he didn't bother to come downstairs with the boy & I for breakfast (he wants a walk in the morning, no more, no less). By the time I convince him to come downstairs to eat (because he's a freaking dog and dogs are supposed to want to eat), CJ was showing that he was ready for a nap, but this means that he was fussy. So, I abandoned the doggy breakfast idea (much to Snickelfritz's chagrin), into the jogging CJ went as I took everybody around the block.

Get back, feed pets, head into the basement with a few toys (CJ still hasn't napped and is still fussy). After playing around on Twitter for awhile (because, let's face it, I'm addicted) and watching CJ simply crawl from one corner to the next, I realize that he's not going to nap without some form of intervention, and the whining needs to be dealt with. So, back into the jogging stroller her went.

I didn't really have a plan - just, well, run until CJ woke up from a nap and/or until I was too tired to go any further. I made it around the .7 mile park loop 14 times until I started hearing babbling from the trailer. So, that's 9.8 miles, plus the .4 miles there . . . I'll call it an even 10, and I was back in the house & showered by 11:30.

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing with kids, napping, and heading out to the show. I think I ate a salad somewhere in there . . . with leftovers for dinner.

Sunday, I woke up & went for a walk with the whole brood - wife, two kids, three puppies. We actually made it nearly all of the way around the block before Leila started crying (this is saying something - as she's my biological child, she's ALWAYS hungry). Got back, fed the kids & I decided to head out for a bike ride.

As many of you know, bike riding is my preferred form of masochism, though I haven't been able to do it all that much (if something happens that needs my attention as I run, I simply turn around & head home . . . I might be 10 minutes away from the house at my furthest point -- when I bike, however, I'm sometimes hours away from home). Still, though, I threw caution to the wind & went for a long ride.

All told, I biked what I believe to be 68 miles (I recall that figure from doing the ride previously -- without my bike computer, everything is just a guess). There were a few decent climbs (most notably, King's Gap, which is turning into my favorite climb -- little traffic, and what little traffic there is happens to be beyond bicycle friendly, beautiful all of the way up & all of the way back down).

As I completed the final portion, however, I realized that I may not have been super smart. I passed one of those electronic signs that reads the weather & temperature and saw "100" in bright red LEDs. The day was a beautiful day, but I didn't realize just how hot it was. I stopped at the next convenience store & picked up some Gatorade, realizing that I was still thirsty when I was done (I was drinking water the whole time, refilling both bottles at the top of King's Gap - but that was just to keep myself going). Got home, drank a ton of water . . . and I was fine.

Chinese for dinner, relatively early to bed - and then a run this morning (I'll save that for it's own post, though). All in all, a very good, active weekend :-)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weight is Just a Number, Right?

So, I'm pretty steadfast that I don't care about my weight. I care about what I eat, certainly, and I care about how much I work out. The vain side of me does care about what I look like (both with clothes on and naked), but weight, well, I don't give a shit, it's just a number. I made a promise to myself that the only number I'd care about at the doctor's office would be my blood pressure.

Ignoring one's weight at the doctor's office is actually more difficult than it would seem, however. Fortunately, I've explained my plight to several of the nurses at my primary care physician. They need to take my weight every time I go in, and that's fine. I close my eyes & they shut up about it. They're happy, I'm happy.

Well, all was happy until I was completing the latest round of paperwork for the adoption. Part of the adoption process is showing that not only would you be able to care for the child, but that there's no reason why you wouldn't around for awhile in taking care of the child. It makes sense that a child-care agency would have misgivings about allowing somebody to adopt a child if you have some condition that would have you either in & out of the hospital or with a limited time to live.

So, I had to have a form filled out & signed by my doctor -- no biggie. I haven't been for a physical in awhile, but I'm a klutz who gets sore throats & headaches and I've gone in for random things over the past year. Basically, the doc said "John shows no signs of passing away early. kthxbai", but the top of the form had a whole bunch of numbers. One of them was my weight at some random visit. I looked, it was 271 pounds.

I've been wrestling with this number since seeing it. My doctor says I'm healthy. The BMI chart, though, which I hate with a passion, has me firmly in the "obese" range. I know, when I look in a mirror, that I have some fat around the middle that I'd like to get rid of - but I think I rank somewhere between "average" and "handsome". It's possible that this measurement was taken in the middle of the winter, just as I was starting to run and that the number would be markedly smaller if taken today. For all I know, I was wearing jeans & my winter coat, had my pockets full of change, keys, cell phones, and my utility knife. No matter how much that 271 may be invalid now, it's still haunting me; it shouldn't.

Now the question is, what do I do about it? I'm tempted to weigh myself right now, just so that I'm not working off of old data - but that just simply flies in the face of my entire approach. I should simply forget that I saw the number, but do you know how hard it is to forget something intentionally?

Since seeing that big fat 271 on paper, nothing really has changed - though I've taken more care to go to bed early to get my morning workouts in (shoulder still bugging me, so it's just been running, though I plan to get at least one good bike ride in this coming weekend, and my situps & pushups will resume once I can raise my left hand without cringing).

On top of my knowing what my weight was at some point in the recent past, some of the people that I follow on Twitter have been posting that they're looking to lose X, or lost Y.... and if that works for them, it works for them. Me? I'm still trying really, really hard to not care what that scale reads. It just sucks knowing what it once read & not liking that number.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Injury & Motivation

Ok, it's really, really freaking hot right now. Like 100° hot. I'd rather not being outside, ever. That said, I do have this silly marathon that I'm hoping to run in November (and I need to get off my butt & actually register for it, though I don't want to if something is going to get in my way of running it - I'm cheap like that). So, I should be running, even if it's pretty darn hot when I wake up at the buttcrack of dawn. Today, I did not run. I'm trying really hard to not feel guilty about it.

Lately, I've been really having issues motivating myself. Yeah, there's a lot of stuff going on, but all of that positive energy I had when I wrote about my goals is just poof up & gone. When I do run, I'm lucky to get 5 or 6 miles in (I was hoping to do 8 every morning, plus long runs on the weekends). When I bike, well, I still love biking, though biking into work just hasn't been in my cards lately.

Then, on top of everything, I have my silly work routine. See, I used to make myself do 10 pushups every time I closed my office door (which is a lot lately). I'd easily get a 100 pushups in during the course of the work day. However, last week, I hurt my shoulder getting out of my mother-in-law's car (I don't really fit in most cars). To this day, it's still uncomfortable - enough so that I'm afraid of really screwing it up by resuming this regimen.

This isn't supposed to be a pity party post - it's just that, well, it feels like I'm finding excuses to not workout. What say you, my readership, how do you get over the "motivation hump"?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dealing with Changes

So I haven't posted in awhile. My excuse is better than yours. For anybody who doesn't know, I went from being the father of a beautiful baby boy to being the father of a beautiful baby boy & a beautiful baby girl. Leila joined us on Monday, June 14. My world has been a whirlwind since then.

I've been quite good to myself in some areas with everything going on, quite bad in others. As far as my Mental Health Goals go, I'm failing left & right. I'm writing, but nowhere near an hour a day -- maybe 10 minutes one day, none the next, and then an hour because I make myself. And, whenever I make myself do anything, it feels like work, and that's just entirely counter-productive to what I wanted. I don't think I've been able to meditate at all since the 14th. I'll make myself sometime soon. No, I won't make myself, I'll set aside the time. There's a big difference in there.

As far as eating right, I've been doing that, mostly . . . may be sneaking in some non-raw food for lunches, but I've been running when I can, been snacking healthily (except when the mommy's group brings over lemon bars - you see, because lemon bars are especially evil and therefore must be attacked), and continuing my "pushups whenever I have to close my office door" routine. Things are working, mostly.

The next two weeks, however, are especially crazy -- it's tech week for Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Carlisle Theater, so I have rehearsals most every night. I may be able to run some, I may not. I may be able to keep my food intake according to schedule, I may not. I may find time to meditate/write, I may not. My immediate goal is to simply keep my head above water. Don't stress, just "be healthy". Tough times will pass. Choppy waters will become smooth. Just weather the storm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Setting Goals

I knew when I started to get back into regular workouts & trying to eat right that I needed to set goals for myself, both long & short-term. The only other time I've tried this, there was really "don't look like a fat bastard in your wedding photos". It mostly worked (didn't look fat, always look like a bastard), but since I didn't keep my eyes on anything down the road, my plans unraveled shortly after the wedding.

So, these are my goals . . . my rules for my goals are pretty laid back. No goal is too large. No goal is too small. Goals can be modified at any time. If a goal has to be removed, for whatever reason, it still exists in my head, to be resurrected when the time comes.

Endurance Goals

These are quite easy to define. I'm learning that, as long as I don't care about my times, I'm not so bad at endurance sports.

  • Run a marathon - I'm eyeing the Harrisburg Marathon in November of this year. This means that I need to continue training at my current pace (despite the fact that there will be an additional baby around any day now).
  • Cycle a century every month. Yes, century = 100 miles. It's far, but I know I can do it, and I have plenty of pretty scenery to help me.
  • Complete an Iron Man. Yes, it's crazy. I know. But, I really think it'd be an accomplishment that I'd always be able to look back on & smile. Maybe the Lake Placid event in July of 2011, maybe some future one -- I'm not setting a timeframe for this. I just want to do it. Of course, this means that I'll have to start swimming regularly at some point.

Mental Health Goals

Because, let's face it, if I'm struggling mentally, what's the point of anything else?

  • Write for at least an hour a day. I need to be creative - the writing can come in the form of blog posts, a short story, a novel, music . . . just create something that wasn't there before, whether or not other people will ever read it.
  • Meditate every morning. I've gotten really, really good at getting up & making myself go. It's what I do. For just a few minutes, though, I need to make myself stop. It doesn't have to be long - but for just a few minutes, turn off my mind, turn off my body, & just be.

I managed a second workout yesterday. Duffy took the baby to her sister's, so I had a little while with nobody around at home, and the weather was beautiful. Since I skipped the morning run, I decided to fit an afternoon run in . . . glad I did. 13 laps around the park (9.1 miles) & felt great afterward. This morning, I went back up to the bedroom & spent some quality time with the kid after dealing with the puppies before running 4 miles. Legs right now, a bit sore, but they'll be fine by this afternoon.

So, what about you, my reader? What goals do you have set? What are you working for?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Non-Scale Victories

When I did my "serious weight loss" before & immediately after my wedding, I modeled everything after the Weight Watchers plan. My then-fiance did Weight-Watchers, I figured out the "point formula", and ate according to that plan. I never went to meetings, though - I'm just not really a "share your feelings" kind-of guy (that's why I have a blog, so that I don't have to look at you when I do share my feelings), and it always seemed that meetings were more like group therapy than anything else.

As I've written before, however, that whole plan blew up in my face when I stopped following the plan. If you look at the chart, you'll see that I was becoming obsessed with numbers - and those numbers are essentially meaningless unless you're a prize-fighter.

So, now that I'm completely & unequivocally ignoring my weight, what are my landmarks? Well, Weight-Watchers talks of the "Non-Scale Victories" (NSVs). These are the times that you've noticed something, physically, that aren't related to a scale reading.

  • I still have the tuxedo I owned in high school (hey, when you're a musician, you need to own a tux). For awhile, symphony concerts would consist of me debating whether it was better to shove my fat ass into my tux pants or simply leave them unbuttoned (hoping that the jacket would cover things). My last concert, I not only fit into these pants, they were a bit loose.
  • I can take off many pairs of shorts without undoing the buttons and/or I need to wear a belt to keep them up.
  • I find that I actually want to run when I have the choice between running & walking from point A to point B.
  • I'm able to do more push-ups in a single-sitting than I was ever able to, even when I was skinny & taking Kung-Fu.
  • At the grocery store the other day, somebody actually said to me "you look like you're in your 20's, how's the night-life in Harrisburg?"
  • I've actually passed another runner during my morning jogs (I'm still not a speed freak, but it is nice to know that I'm faster than "random person X", as "random people A, B, C, and D" all typically run right past me on these same jogs).

How about you, my health-conscious viewership? What have you noticed as "better" that has little to do with a scale reading?

I started my workout this morning fully intending to run. But, being outside just wasn't doing it for me. The weather was so humid it was sticky, and the fog was so thick that I couldn't really see across my street. So, instead, I changed things up just a little bit: twenty minutes on the spinning bike, twenty minutes on the rower, then my standard push-ups & sit-ups.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How not to get healthy

My roommate my senior year of college had some weight issues. I don't take such a statement likely, as, well, my "in my head" version of myself includes seven chins. But he had weight issues, and they trumped my own.

Now, my senior year of college was probably my strangest one with regards to my health. Since I only had a partial meal plan, I did a lot of my own cooking for the first time ever, and I actually discovered that I loved to cook (to be vulgar, eating is nearly as good as sex to me. Cooking? it's mindblowingly-awesome foreplay). I certainly didn't understand food as I understand it now, but for a college senior, I ate a pretty decent diet.

I didn't have any classes until 10AM, yet my then-fiance was leaving for student-teaching by 7, and I felt the need to get up with her. At least an hour of that time between me getting up & hauling my ass to class was spent at the gym just about every morning (the other time, reserved for studying, was spent in front of a computer or the playstation, because I was awesome like that). I was hardly "skinny" or "fit", but I wasn't obese, either.

My roommate, however, wasn't quite following the same lead, and was eating truly astonishing amount of crappy food. So I was surprised when, suddenly, one day, he came home with a case of Slim-Fast. It looked like he was going to up & make a change for the better.

So the first day I was home, after he brought the Slim Fast home, I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was going about things all wrong. The program was "a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, a sensible dinner." He ate his normal "bag of tater-tots" breakfast, washing it down with a slim-fast.

A better friend would have told him to change things up, to explain what he was doing wrong. But, sometimes, I fail, miserably, at friendship. The only plus to his plan was that he severely cut down on snacking between meals while this attempt lasted. I don't know if he gained or lost weight, but, on a college-student budget, he couldn't continue the plan for long (that shit's expensive!), so it was back to whole milk before too long with breakfast, and snacking throughout the day soon thereafter.

So, why the hell am I telling this story? It's not to be mean, it really isn't -- my old roommate, if he reads this, is a kickass band director with a beautiful family these days & I wish him only the best. No, I'm posting it because I L-O-V-E to eat, and I could totally see myself walking down the same path as he was walking down here.

What would I do differently, if I were a better friend & had a time-machine? First, I would have convinced him to completely avoid the gimmick. I'm sure Slim Fast has worked for millions, but I'm also sure that it primarily works for people looking to lose a few pounds here & there, not to combat a lifelong battle with "how to be healthy".

Next, keeping budget in mind, I, personally, would have cut out "bad for you snacks" altogether at the house. I was burning a LOT of calories during the day, and could afford empty calories (in addition to beer, an absolute staple of my college diet). But, you know, if you're making a ton of money, you might be able to afford going to a strip club every night -- but that still doesn't mean it's something you should do. Instead of Doritos, tortilla chips, & pretzels (my staples), I'd have snacked on carrot & celery sticks, apples, pears, bananas... basically, the diet I'm eating at work these days. Yeah, I know it sounds sucky, but after a day or two, the "chip craving" leaves me. And, I'm not looking to solve my roommate's problems here - I'm simply trying to be as good an example as I can be, offering whatever I could (and considering how much cheaper the "rabbit food" is than the "good snacks", I'd have had more than enough to share). For those times when my body called for something more than "rabbit food", maybe a little cheddar, or some yogurt, or a peanut butter sandwich.

Again, I love food, and the idea that anybody would restrict their food intake (as somebody who has done just that) sickens me. I'm all for eating massive amounts of food when your body says "I would like to eat massive amounts of food", I just make sure that when I'm eating said massive amounts of food, that my choices are providing nutrition & not just caloric intake.

And, if you're going to eat tremendous amount of food, make it good food. Tater tots are fine - they're fun, they're bit-sized, but, as an adult, they kind of suck. In the time it takes to preheat the oven & get the baking sheet out, you can make a kick ass guacamole, bean dip, or hummus. A few minutes more? A bruscheta. This stuff isn't "difficult", it just takes two minutes with a recipe.

If I've learned anything from eating as I'm eating now, it's that my body does actually say "I'm full". When my weight is rising, it either didn't say so very loudly, or I was completely not listening. Intuitive eating works - it just takes a long time, sometimes, to communicate with your hunger level.

As for my own workout this morning, I walked the dogs & my ankle just wasn't fully right . . . I probably overdid it in the run yesterday. So, I skipped my run this morning, opting to lift weights & spin. I watched the first half of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death while working up a sweat, because I needed something silly this morning.