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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Preparation

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"?