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.