Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Great People

“I'm not really sure what to say. Like I've been telling people all day, 'We know great people.' That's the way this whole thing has come together.”
--My Grandfather at my Grandparents' 50th Wedding Anniversary

My wife and I have always viewed our marriage as an institution that can be a source of strength to our friends. We got married first out of our group of really close friends (second out of an extended group of friends from college) and so we have tried to be of great help to our friends as they enter new chapters in their lives. We have four major get-togethers a year which serve as a way to check in with folks and bond as we all age and grow. 

The first major event (as I think of it) is "Friendsgiving" which is a sort of Thanksgiving about three weeks early in November. We have done that for about eight or nine years now, having started it during a year when I did not return home for the holiday. We usually follow that up in December with a Christmas/Holiday get-together, featuring a "Cheap Yankee" Yankee Swap where all the gifts are valued at under $5, and from New England institutions you would rather not get a gift from.

In April we celebrate my wife's birthday, and in June we celebrate our wedding anniversary, which also is very close to the date we moved into our house. These events are really important to me, because for some of my friends it is the only time I get to catch up with them due to really busy work schedules. We also try to be supportive to our friends at other times of the year, of course. If someone needs us or makes plans, we do our best to be there for them.

We have been known to drive five or so hours to help friends out of state move from one apartment to another.

I think those types of things are what good friends do, and my friends are really good at being there for me, too. When my Dad got sick when I was in my junior year of college, I didn't have to look hard for friends to talk to about it. When my wife and I got married, I didn't have a moment of doubt in the friends I had in my groomsmen, and I knew we could even rely on the people who helped at the wedding but weren't in the wedding party.

What can I say? We know great people.

As we enter this new chapter, my wife and I had a long talk about what we wanted to do in terms of “god parents”. We're not religious people. I'm an atheist and my wife is agnostic. I think, though, that it is good for a child to grow up with other adult role models that they can look up to, talk to about things, who are not directly related to them but have their best interests at heart.

Almost all of my friends are in long term relationships of two partners. We figured by picking two of the couples, we get the benefits of having both couples involved in our child's life. We've picked folks who represent profoundly different life experiences, but they are both really strong, and can impart a broad base of knowledge and empathy no matter what direction our child's life takes.

I'm a little worried that the people we didn't select will be offended. The truth is that I have a good many people that I consider close friends. Logistically, you just can't have that many people in a role like this. There is a lot that plays into a decision like this. I guess all you can really do is do your best and hope everyone accepts it and moves on. That's being kind of fatalistic, maybe, but I don't like the idea of hurting anyone's feelings.

As far as nomenclature goes, we're thinking of “Fairy godparents” (which my wife thinks is hysterical) or “Secular Godparents” (my personal favorite if a bit more dry.)

As I draft this post in August, for a September release, I have been having some crazy workouts in the hottest part of the New England summer. Four really, really hot miles today in 94-degree weather. The humidity was pretty light, though, so that was nice. When it's overly humid the body can't get rid of sweat, which is the main way humans can actually cool their body temp. 

Living in New England it is fairly uncommon to have low humidity at this point in the summer, but I'll take it.

This was a dial-back week for me, meaning that I put in about 35 miles to keep up my base, but avoid the exhaustion of over-training. Then it's back to building up mileage for a couple of weeks. I'm hoping to get two 50-mile weeks in before my fall races.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Throwback Thursday #4 -- Resolutions

In continuing with this series of throwback posts from my MFP blog, I share a post about goal setting and the "New Years Resolutions" I made. Some of them are silly in retrospect. Commentary added on the 2014 ones.

Resolutions for 2013, and their outcomes.

I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions, and as I started my weight loss in July, fitness had never been much of a focus for me before this year.
I did set some goals last year around this time, and I wanted to post a follow up on them (although, I never posted them on here, so whatever.)
On January 1st 2013 I jumped into the Atlantic ocean (ending my holiday running streak) and set to work on the goals.
I resolved the following things for 2013:

  1. Get down to 150 lbs (I came close, ~152 around the time I ran my Marathon)
  2. Run a half marathon
  3. Run a full marathon
  4. Train more on roads
  5. Go barefoot (Did this one. Sort of. Part time.)
Having them to focus on was nice, they weren't things I was doing because I resolved them but because I had interests that led me naturally to them. #4 looks funny to me now, it's so easy to forget that a year ago I was doing most of my running on treadmills and I was actually very self-conscious about people seeing me run outside.
I've set out the following resolutions for 2014. They require a bit more focus and follow through, but I think they'll also be good for me.

Resolutions for 2014:

1. Swim in the Atlantic Ocean once every month
2. Sub-20 5k (This remains a dream, but I get closer each year, if even only by seconds...)
3. 1:30 HM (This one was a case of setting a really ambitious goal, and not training specifically for the event to meet it. d'oh! I still PR'd my half that year at 1:40, so it did drive me to more progress.)
4. Summit a mountain (I really wanted to do this after Pikes Peak. However, I never managed to prioritize the time for it. I still remain enthusiastic about it.)
5. Maintain in the low 150s for the year (Building muscle meant that I actually gained quite a bit, now sitting around 163 on average. I've changed how I see the number on the scale, though. I'm less obsessive.)
6. Consistent Vegan for two months of the year (non-consecutive) (Didn't pull that off. Still helped me remain conscious about what I was eating, though!)
7. Run a trail race (I did this in May at the Vermont Dandelion Run! Loved that trail run at the half marathon distance. Will write about it later!)
8. Run the Hat Trick @ Heartbreak Hill (5k, 10k, HM all same weekend) (Did this and had one of the most enjoyable running weekends ever. Would strongly recommend, should RW ever manage to bring it back.)

I will post a new blog each time I meet one of these. Should be a good time.
Any of you making any resolutions?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Impending fatherhood, and the resources we lack

There is a real lack of good resources in the world for new dads. Back a couple of years ago when my wife and I started thinking about starting a family, I bought several books to sort of see what was written about it. The disappointment was palpable. I started calling these “bro-dad” books, because they were all written to appeal to people much younger than me, with no real idea of anything beyond Monday Night Football.

“Dude-bro, that's a baby, dude-bro. Bro, you can't just feed it cheetohs. It's not always miller time.”

I mean, OK. So that's an exaggeration. But still, that's how watered down the material that we're dealing with is.

I may try to jam some advice in here from time to time? I by no means have any or all answers. I simply know what's worked for me, so I'll try and work those nuggets in here and there. I can say so far during the pregnancy the one thing that has worked is this: I do what my wife tells me (for the most part.)

If she asks me to make her breakfast? I do that. If she tells me she wants to take a bath? I draw the bath. If she says she isn't hungry? Well, I go and get her food anyway. I mean, just in case. Let's not go nuts here.

I will admit to being scared of certain things. You never know how things will go, and the stories that come to mind tend to be the ones with the worst and most tragic outcomes. Fortunately I also have a great group of friends who I can bounce things off of. At no point in my life can I recall having a higher level of support that I have right now.

A great concern of mine as we approach the later part of this pregnancy and then having a newborn is my ability to keep up my work outs. I know that may be selfish, but I need them for my sanity. I'm all about being a team player, and this child is thoroughly wanted and loved, but I won't be any good to anyone if I can't get a run in now and then.

As of right now I train about six hours a week, averaging thirty-five miles. I know that I probably won't be able to get that kind of volume in, but I have talked to my wife about it and she thinks at least the time frame may be reasonable. Of course, what seems reasonable now may not seem reasonable later, so we'll have to roll with some of those particular punches.

I also know what kind of runs and workouts I need to keep up a decent level of fitness. I have run through winters now that contained multiple blizzards, and still found a way to train so that I could keep my 5k time in the low-20 minute range. I'm thinking this winter I may also take up snow-shoeing, provided that the time allows me to do it. It has always seemed like fun to me.

I'm a person who has always kept somewhat strange sleep patterns, getting up absurdly early anyway. I'm hoping I can roll that into being useful for 2 am feedings, getting in my workouts before work when my wife wakes up. That will also allow me to cover evenings so she can rest and recover, or so that my mother-in-law, who will be helping us out can get some time to herself, too.

With regards to fatherhood, I am really scared by how delicate newborns are. I'm not a delicate person. Hell, I'm kind of a klutz. I know that I'll be much, much more careful when the time comes to handle the child (they call them 'kid gloves' for a reason, right?) but the unpredictability of it worries me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Race Report: Jamestown Half Marathon (Jamestown, RI)

I like to run half marathons towards the end of my training season, heading up to or using them as my long run in taper. I know for some people "tune-up" races are a normal part of training, and for others they aren't. The common wisdom on this changes in every other issue of Runner's World. So I just do my own thing.

When I started running longer distances (up to the half) I really became interested in this "Triple Crown" event thrown in Rhode Island. It consists of three different half marathons throughout the course of the year and in different areas in the state. This is a beautiful state. Running is a really great way to see it.

Unfortunately every year I missed at least one of them, so I could never justify registering to do the triple crown. I ran the Providence HM as my first half, and then today I ran the Jamestown race.

I received some confusing emails in the week before the event regarding instructions -- one with the mistakes and another couple of correction emails. The usual stuff about packet pickup and placing yourself based on intended finish times. No matter, I figured, I'll head to the island early on Saturday and do all the pickup stuff before the race. They also mentioned that parking was not plentiful at the start point.

I got up at 3 am, had some Greek yogurt and got my kit together. I went outside to put stuff in my car, and noticed the fog. A thick, heavy fog hanging over the ground. I headed down to Fort Getty Park (takes about 45 minutes from where I live). I got there slightly before 4:30 am. Still very thick fog. Very few of the race folk were around at that point, so I decided to take a cat nap until the registration tables opened up at 5 am.

I woke up to my phone alarm a half hour later, and also heard a race volunteer telling another runner not to park where we had parked. Maybe they thought I was on staff, or maybe they saw me sleeping and figured they'd deal with me later. No matter. I started the car and headed to the parking area.

A quick check of the NOAA weather app on my phone confirmed that not only was it foggy, it was also 96% humidity. This is problematic when you're engaged in endurance sport. If the sweat can't evaporate off your body, you can't cool yourself down to ensure really optimal performance. I went into the pavilion to pickup my packet, and could barely see the table at the other side. Because there was fog. The fog was inside the pavilion, too.

So after getting the stuff, I dropped it at the car (I don't like to race in t-shirts in fall, and also, it is nice to have a dry shirt at the end to throw on.) I went to find the bathrooms. They weren't marked. I also don't think they had dropped any port-o-johns off at the registration area at that point. I found a state park facility. When it was my turn to head into the stalls I noticed that the door didn't have a latch. The toilet was also too far away for one to sit on it and hold the door shut. I tried to make my feet VERY evident under the stall walls.

Sorry, that was gross. But I also thought it was kind of funny.

So with all of that out of the way, I got my stuff together and ambled off into the fog in search of the starting line. I found it, speakers blaring out irritating pop music, and people gathered around stretching. The race director said, "We have a nice cool morning for you!" and the reaction was mixed.

Because the thing is, if you're out running in the fog, you're having a strange day to begin with.

But if the sun comes up and the fog doesn't burn off, then you just get steamed to death.

And also, you paid $70 for this.

Heading out of the chute I felt pretty good. I was trying to hold back a bit, figured I would save my real pushing for when the pack had thinned out a bit. I fell into rhythm with a few different people in those early miles, and that was cool. When you're running with someone else, even if you don't know them or talk to them, you can still use them to push you psychologically. Not even in a competitive way, really. I'm not an elite because I don't have a "killer instinct". I'm a pacifist. If I had to kill an animal to eat it, I'm not sure I could. Fortunately I'm a vegetarian, so we'll never need to find out.

Around mile 7 I was pushing a bit more to keep up with three folk in front of me. One of the guys had really excellent form -- very consistent and smooth. We were running up and down the rolling hills of Jamestown, and I don't think his pace dwindled much at all, it was just very even. When we hit mile 8 I was stunned to find myself running down a paved road through a lovely little patch of forest. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of this place! I was motivated to keep pushing on.

But I was weary to push my pace too much, because I don't really know the course for this race. I didn't want to be all out of drive and then find I had to climb the highest hill on the course.

Around mile 9 the guy with the really good form and I were running side by side and matching strides. He said something to me, and I slung my headphones off and gave him a "What was that?"

"Have we hit mile 10 yet?"

"I think so? I don't know. I've seen about enough hills today, is what I know."

"I hear you."

So we started talking and he filled me in on the course, what to expect for big hills, and he also threw me a bit of enthusiasm by saying, "You know, you're going to be a lot closer to your PR then you expect. We've been running close to 7:30s."

I felt really lifted by that, because despite having my Strava going I wasn't really listening to the splits. Just letting it record, and running by effort and managing my breathing. I didn't expect a PR on a difficult course and in 96% humidity.

We started to pass some folks on the course, dropping them as we went up hill. I turned to look over my shoulder at mile 12 but my running buddy had dropped back a bit on one of the hills. I decided to push towards the end and see what I could do.

I crossed the finish line at 1:40:16, 7:39/mile and in 31st place. No PR, but I feel better knowing I'm in good fighting trim for my return to the Baystate Marathon in October.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday #3 -- Running Books

In this third installment of posts from my MFP blog, I list and discuss some books about running that I absolutely love, and recommend to anyone interested in the sport.

Recently a friend asked me for some books about running, as his brother was just getting started on the process. I came up with a quick list of books I've read since last year, ranging from inspirational to technical.

1. Runner's World Complete Book of Running, Amby Burfoot (Editor)
This one I rate as a must have, even though it doesn't cover everything. It has a great 10 week beginner program that I wish I had started with. I also still comb through it from time to time for info like pre-race nutrition, injury treatment, etc. Burfoot's little paragraphs at the end add a nice friendly charm to the book. There are several other titles out published by Runner's world, and I've looked at them, I don't think they offer much more than this book has which makes this a good 'one stop' place for basic running info.

2. Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
Obviously, I am a big fan of this book. I have a quote from it emblazoned on my profile page. I've read it four times. McDougall's incredible story telling ability is what gives it such incredible appeal, and if you haven't read it, you really need to read it.

3. Why We Run, Bernd Heinrich
 I picked this up sort of as a whim after reading Born to Run (which mentions the author). It is part biology/anthropology textbook and part stories from the author's life. I found parts of it really dry, but others very enjoyable. Definitely worth picking up if you're interested in the "running man" theory of evolution.

4. Eat and Run, Scott Jurek
 Jurek's book has stories from major runs in his career, and he pairs them all with vegan recipes at the end of each chapter. It's $8 and change on the kindle store, which I think makes it a steal. I use the recipes in the book (especially the hummus filled tortillas with kalamata olives, and the vegan buttery popcorn) multiple times a week. At 273 pages it's not a long read, but it's very worthwhile as the recipes alone keep you coming back to it.

5. My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon, Bart Yasso This book has a great sense of humor paired with impressive story telling. It's not much on the technical side of things, but I think it's certainly a worthwhile inspirational book.

 6. Barefoot running: Step by Step, Roy Wallack and "Barefoot" Ken Bob Saxton
 So, I'm interested in barefoot running. I've run much of the last year in Vibram FiveFingers minimal shoes, and I've noticed much less tension in my knees and hips because of it. I recover faster from races, too. This book has some fun stories (including one about making sandals out of a race marker) but it is for the most part a very dry technical book. I still consider it worth reading if you are transitioning to minimal or barefoot running, because the form exercises are really good, but it was a bit of a slog to read.

 7. Running & Being: The Total Experience, George Sheehan Definitely a philosophical kind of book on running, Sheehan talks a lot about the personality traits of the long distance runner. At times, I thought it was a bit too influenced by religion (which makes it hard for me to connect with, not being religious) but it was a good book.

 8. Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine, Tom Jordan A good biography of American running legend Steve Prefontaine. I absolutely loved the stories about his workout schedule, and man did that ever push me to kick it into another gear. Worth checking out, it's another Kindle title under $10.

I'm still working through  Haruki Murakami's "What I talk about when I talk about running" and Budd Coates' "Running on Air". Obviously there are many more that I've read that I didn't really feel warranted a mention.

 Do you have any favorite running books technical, inspirational or otherwise? Comment below!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beginning Running

The marathon is 26.2 miles. It is meant to represent the distance the Greek messenger Pheidippides covered returning to Athens to deliver the news that the Athenians had been victorious against the invading Persians at the battle of Marathon.

Of course, I didn't know that back in June of 2012. I mean, I knew the marathon was an obscene distance. I had no idea what it took to really do that. I didn't know about heart rate zones, or much about a good diet.

See, in my life, I've always been pretty average. I mean, I always viewed myself as an artist growing up (yep, I'm that pretentious at times.) In high school, I subscribed to the idea that an artist is not an athlete. Those things aren't the same. I was friends with nerds, hell, I was a nerd. You don't do athletic things when your world view is so myopic. The most athletic thing I ever did was walk the mile to and from school, and that had more to do with not wanting to be accountable to my family's time frame.

So in 2011 when I was hired for my first real teaching job, I was not in great shape. I had just come off of four years in college, the last three of which involved some really lousy eating and some very heavy drinking. I graduated in the fall of 2009 right into the height of the depression and couldn't find any work for two years. It was a rough time. There were doldrums.

Then I got hired for the job in 2011, and what could have been a bright light that helped rebuild me shattered me even further. I worked in a hyper-conservative town over an hour away, which meant massive commute time and a huge culture shock. The school board in that district was very anti-teacher and mandated an hour of work after school a week. Since I only served students once a week as a music teacher, many of my students did not require extra help and so much of the year I spent that hour alone in my room preparing lessons. I prefer doing my prep work at home, and combined with a rude and domineering administration, I had one of the worst years of my life.

At the end of that school year, I weighed about 230 pounds. I passed out on a boating trip. I was in my late 20s. That was scary.

So, my wife and I decided to start logging our food, and I began (secretly) a run/walk program. It was really tough. It hurt a lot at first. Gradually, the weight started coming off. I ran my first 5k in October of 2012. A year later I would run my first Marathon. In that time I lost 65 pounds. My face changed totally, and my attitude towards life became much more laid back. I let go of things now. I make peace and move on.

Running saved me in a lot of ways. Strong friendships and a great family helped, too.

I will flesh out more of the details of my running over the next several years. This is just a basic intro on me as an endurance athlete. It still feels odd to call myself an athlete.

I want to take a couple seconds here at the end of this post to plug the running plans on About.com, which I used to train through my first Run/Walk, 5k, 10k, Half-marathon, and Marathon. I can personally attest that they work really well, and if you're like me and didn't want to do the same C25k everyone else was doing, they were really nice. The plan I started with was written by Christine Luff, and it is excellent.

Check it out in it's entirety over here.

I took the plan, copied it into an OpenOffice file, and I tallied off the workouts as I completed them. That page looked like this:

Notes on Beginning Running

Use your breathing as your guide when running. You should be able to carry on a conversation while running and your breathing shouldn't be heavy. Proper breathing will help you avoid annoying side stitches.

Drink water at the end of your workouts to rehydrate. If it's hot and humid, you should also drink some water (about 4-6 ounces) halfway through your workout.

Stay conversational on all of your exercise sessions. This means that you should be exerting yourself at a low enough level that you could talk. It's okay to take deep breaths between sentences, but you don't want to "huff and puff" between every word.

As the runs get longer, be sure to keep your blood sugar boosted by eating an energy bar (or equivalent) about an hour before exercise. Drink water continuously before and during exercise and with all food.

Run/Walk Program

Week one: Walk for six minutes, then jog at an easy pace for one minute. Repeat three times. Aim for three sessions with that same sequence for week one.

Week two: Walk for five minutes, then jog for two minutes. Repeat three times. Aim to do three sessions in week two. ||||

Week three: Walk for three minutes, then jog for four minutes. Repeat four times. Aim for three sessions in week three. ||||

Week four: Walk for two minutes, then jog for five minutes. Repeat four times. Shoot for three of those sessions in week four. ||||

Week five: Walk for two minutes, then jog for eight minutes. Repeat three times. Do three of those sessions in week five. |||||

Week six: Walk for two minutes, then jog for nine minutes. Repeat three times. Try to do three sessions for week six. ||||

Week seven: Walk for one minute, then jog for 11 minutes. Repeat three times. Do three sessions this week. ||||

Week eight: Congratulations on making it to week eight! For your first run this week, try walking for five minutes to begin and end the workout, and run for 20 minutes in between. |

By the end of the week, try to run for 30 minutes without stopping. ||||

That was it! That was the whole thing that started my running journal. I started keeping a more detailed journal after that, with duration, calories burned, footwear, etc. You name it, I pretty much documented it. Down to how many and which blisters and where. I may share some of those pages later, we'll see. Maybe just for fun.

Anyway, my point in sharing that is that you don't need much to start: if a tally sheet helps, use a tally sheet. If not thinking about it at all helps, do that. But I'd recommend a tally sheet if only so you can look back at the end of each week, and think "Who knew I had that kind of drive in me?"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Throwback Thursday #2 -- Year in Review, 2013

Continuing to share from my old MFP blog, here is the "Year in Review, 2013" post of November 2nd, 2013:

I don't usually post blogs, but I've been logged in for 475 days now, and as I just turned 28 I've been thinking about the progress I've made and the difference in my life between now and when I started.

When I was a kid my family lived near the water in a small town in New England. Combined with our large back yard, this meant lots of running and playing, biking, swimming, kayaking and rowing. I wasn't a particularly active kid, I don't think I was more active than most, and certainly not athletically gifted, but I loved being outside and running around.


When I was a teenager, I developed a really bad depression problem. There were a lot of factors for that, but it meant sleeping a lot (usually 12-16 hours a day). I didn't actually gain weight, when I look at pictures from then, that's what I think of as my "normal" weight. I certainly wasn't active, aside from the occasional kayaking trip, but I didn't feel unhealthy aside from the crazy amounts of sleep. That continued really until I was about 25. Always worse in the fall and winter, and it made college really difficult. The depression got to the worst it had ever been when I was 26.
In 2011 I was hired for my first ever teaching job, working in a rural district. The circumstances around my hiring were strange (one person on the interview) and the entire year I was compared to the person I replaced. The kids, my boss, my coworkers all compared me to the previous teacher. To top it off I got the distinct impression from my boss that they believed "Men can't teach elementary school".

To put this in perspective, when I look back on it, that was totally insane. I had a good bond with the kids (I have the Christmas cards, posters, and notes from them to prove it.) I had positive interaction with parents, and I learned so much that year. But the pressure from all sources telling me I wasn't good enough was killing me. I hit 225 pounds, slept an unbelievable amount and would regularly polish off a box of swiss cake rolls instead of eating real food. Combine that with the 120 miles a day I was commuting to get to school and home, it was a crap situation.

In the spring of 2012 I was on a kayaking trip with my grandfather and what I call the "old man paddling club" (a group of retirees we regularly kayaked with that year.) We were out in some extreme heat, trying to navigate a narrow river (my grandfather and I in out 15 ft. kayaks) and about four hours in, I started to feel really lousy. I had to get out of the boat immediately. I made my way for a nearby embankment, near the local gun club, half-fell out of the kayak, and proceeded on to shore where I lost conciousness. Two members of the club made their way to shore, put some cold water bottles on me, and a gun club member very kindly took my grandfather to get his car to come pick me up. My wife took me home, put me to bed, and took care of me.

Something had to change.

Something clicked in my brain.

I had a friend who linked me to mfp, and I talked about it with my wife. We each had our doubts, but I felt like I really had to try something, so we signed up and agreed to support each other. A lot of that first month was just logging what we ate, eating consistently, and going for walks in the evening.

I started using the about.com running guides (the run/walk one) and kept it a secret from my family. I have an aunt who is a triathlete, and I was actually worried if she found out she would make me run some crazy race I couldn't handle! I didn't really see anything to brag about, anyway.I was only covering a mile or two a day and I wasn't moving quick at all. There were some really lousy days, and it was really hard work. I had shin splints for two weeks straight at one point. My hips clicked when I walked. I never stopped, because I couldn't see another way out of the situation.

Then the weight started to come off. I used the running time to center myself, found my confidence, and went on several job interviews. I won a job (the job I have now) and resolved to run my first 5k.

By August I was down to 206 pounds. By the end of that month I was at 197. It kept going, I kept adding mileage, and lost more weight steadily. (180 pounds in October, about the time I ran my first 5k and finished in 28:42.)

I also invested in a sun lamp to help ease the doldrums and combined with the running I had the first depression free year I've had in a long time. It still gets hard, but I have my coping methods now and I use them -- frequently.

These days I weigh about 152 pounds. I used to think I'd like to weight 150, but what I've learned is that I don't care so much about the number, just about feeling energetic. I still go overboard on what I eat sometimes, but I do it a lot less frequently, and I keep a much more active lifestyle. I find I get frustrated with people I've met when they don't recognize me. It takes a second to put that in perspective: 60 pounds doesn't seem like a lot of weight to lose, but it makes a huge difference in appearance.
I'm off today to run a 5k by the water with my wife and a friend. If you read all this nonsense above, I hope it provided some sense of inspiration. I really appreciate all the friends I have made on this site. Seeing your workouts and consistency pushes me to keep up. Reading your run reports makes me think, "Man! I want to do *that*!"

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

the Social Obligation of Introductions

First, a little introduction on your humble author. I am a professional musician and teacher. Pretty soon I'll be someone's father. I'm also a long-distance runner. I consider myself to be fairly well educated, goofy, laid back, and the kind of person who works well in chaos. I'm a fan of science, science fiction, movies, macaroni and cheese pizza, and all sorts of music.

If you had asked me - about me - ten years ago, I probably would have given you a cynical, self-deprecating reply. I'm attempting to be a more optimistic person.

I have been a musician since I was in fourth grade. I have played in many types of bands, and I have found a lot of fulfillment in the non-verbal communication through sound. I'm also a teacher of music and at different times over the past several years I've served around two to three hundred students a week. That's quite a bit of work.

My life is complicated in that one of the biggest loves in my life is music. Until I was about 19 years old I listened solely for joy. Solely for entertainment. About that time I started to consume the art form more for education, for work, and somewhat less for joy. Don't take that the wrong way – I think that's a good thing. You should go outside of your comfort zone whenever learning about something new. But for me music has made a lousy hobby for the same reason it has made a great job. I like it and I could spend forever with it. This means I don't mind putting in an eight hour day teaching scales and rhythm, only to come home and study four hours of music history and aesthetics on my own. It is inescapable in this way but that means that for recreation it isn't the best outlet.

Starting in about 2008 I started trying different hobbies to fill the gap of my once-recreational music listening. I learned how to bake bread (which I'm pretty mediocre at.) I learned how to brew beer (which I am downright terrible at.) I started reading novels by the great Russian realist authors and books on eastern thought. All of those things were good at filling the time and letting me try different skills. Each thing seems to have some connecting philosophy – each takes work, lots of preparation, and focus. In each trade tiny changes to any aspect of the development process effects the final product. As I'll cover in my next post I took up long-distance running thinking it would be something totally different, and thinking that it would change me for the better. I think I'm more at home in distance running but it isn't entirely dissimilar from the other disciplines I've studied.

Minor changes to one aspect of your training certainly changes the outcome of a race.

But I feel like the relentless “bang my head against the wall” attitude that I take when I'm enthusiastic about things is certainly more rewarded in endurance sport than it is in baking bread. In bread making, for example, you can "eat your mistakes". But no matter how much you love bread you can still only eat SO MANY mistakes. That limits the number of mistakes you can make in a week. I like being able to make unlimited mistakes.

I'm going to stop saying 'mistakes' now.

Anyway, I took up long distance running in 2012. Three years ago. The impact was pretty stunning. I'll have plenty of time to go into that in later posts, but rest assured that one of my life-long goals is to keep running. Allow me to be clear -- I'm not an elite athlete. I have no desire to be that. I just want to be an active participant in my own existence, and a big part of that is seeing the world through running.

I would love to be the 90 year old guy showing up on the weekend to rock out a 5k and get a t-shirt in addition to some sun.

I know the studies suggest that fetuses can begin to hear sounds as early as 19 weeks, but that doesn't seem quite real to me yet. One has to wonder exactly how much they absorb from sound in the outside world? I mean you don't form memories that early in your life. Still, is this established pattern of sounds what makes these familiar sounds comforting in our lives? One has to wonder.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday #1 -- Scaling Mountains

In honor of this new blog, I thought it would be fun to share some old posts from my MyFitnessPal blog. I never blogged very regularly over there, but the posts I did make were things that were pretty big to me. So, without further ado, Scaling Mountains from August 14, 2013:

Today I hiked to 14,110 feet of elevation and the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado. It took about 12 hours. 
I know it's not a milestone for some of my more athletic friends, but this is not something I could ever see myself having done a year ago. Running down the mountain from the summit, I was really encouraged by people who kept asking if we (my family and I) were running the Marathon there this Saturday. 
Maybe someday, but for today having covered the mileage and elevation is a huge victory for me, and one I'll always remember.
And if you are wondering, the donuts at the top only taste good because you've just spent six hours hiking.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

the Beginning

I've tried many times before to start a blog. While I think of myself as someone very much committed to things when I start them, I also have a bad habit of being over-worked and distracted. As such it can be hard for me to follow through on some things. I'm going to attempt to make this different by giving it a time frame: I want to blog at least once a week for ten years.

Ten years might seem like a long time, but that time frame aligns with my goals: I want this place to serve as an archive of who I am at this point in my life. I want to create something that my descendants can look on and feel that they have some sense of who I am. I would also like to be able to look back on this myself, and remember events, feelings, where I was, and maybe maintain the sense of where I'm going. 

There is an advertisement this year on TV I hate. In this ad a man going through life recaptures his youth by purchasing a sports car akin to the one he had as a teenager. As he drives around winding roads with coastal views, the narrator says, “Something new reminds you of when you were you,”

What? I don't want to lose who I am. That is terrifying to me. And also, I would like to think that I'm not going anywhere. I'll evolve -- maybe -- but I'll be the same goof-ball I've always been (I hope.) My firm belief is that new experiences don't erase us: they are just new. New isn't bad. It is different. Different can be good. Maybe I'm over thinking a thirty second car commercial?

So there are 52 weeks in a year. My count has that at 468 posts over 9 years, plus the posts for the last three months of this year. That comes out to about 480 posts. I imagine that the number will be somewhat different in the final assessment, but still, it is a goal to strive for.

As of my writing this, my wife is about 20 weeks pregnant. At our last doctor's appointment we were able to see the spine, organs, and profile of our baby-to-be. We didn't want to be surprised by the gender, and so we learned that we are to have a little girl. I found myself overwhelmed at the detail in the spine, her face and hands. I find myself overwhelmed with all the cliché things you think as a parent.

I'm hoping to find a good balance of talking about endurance sport while covering the details of the emerging chapter. At times it may be more one than the other, and I'm not sure if this will make this blog more or less relevant, but I'm going to give it a shot, anyway. We'll see what happens.