Unexpected Consequences and Life Impact

It looks like I started this blog in 2009 and did a lot of posting at first, but now rarely do.  I hope to change that by using some of the habit-changing tools I’ve recently learned about.  In fact there are a bunch of things I want to change.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

This post is about an influential person in my life… and gratitude. And being grateful is a habit I want to cultivate.

We all affect everyone we come in contact with. Positive or negative, our actions can have long-reaching and frequently unforeseen influence. This is the story of one such individual.

This person is a man I worked with 20 years ago and he literally changed my life, but I doubt very much he knows it.

drum roll…..

Rocky Sample.

I know, I know…there is a big kerfuffle these days about the use of the word “literally” when you really mean “figuratively”…but Rocky LITERALLY changed my life and changed it so completely that barely a day goes by that I don’t feel his influence.  We weren’t really friends.  At times we weren’t even particularly friendly.  He was a manager and I was a machine operator so our social circles didn’t overlap.  He was also a little older than me. But he helped me discover  a passion that I had denied since childhood.  I was 36.

In grade school I was the kid that was always coming up with excuses to miss gym class. In high school, I was harassed and teased about my lack of aptitude and coordination with any activity involving a ball.  Consequently I identified myself as a non-athlete and experienced a fair amount of shame about it as a result.  By my mid 30’s I was a middle aged father of 2 that smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day and stayed far away from any real exercise. My wife and I  lost our baby weight together after child number one, and after number 2 was born, we set out to do it again.  20 minutes of elevated heart rate was the absolute minimum daily physical activity prescribed by the particular diet plan we followed.  My pride prevented me from being seen doing  aerobics with a videotape ( a WHAT?) on vacation in front of my father-in-law, so I decided a good way to get my heart rate up for the Minimum Daily Activity was to jog for 10 minutes down the road then turn around and jog 10 minutes back.

When we returned from our July 4th vacation, I was blabbing at work  to anyone that would listen-including Rocky- about how I jogged 1.7 miles.  Rocky said  ” You should run the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest 10K in October.”  “10K?” I asked. “How far is that?”  “6.2 miles.” he answered. “Yer friggin’ nuts.” I opined, but I got out on the road and increased my mileage in my now-familiar haphazard fashion, learning the hard way about plantar fasciitis and runner’s nipple.

When we came to the end of October 1996. I donned my cotton t-shirt, cotton gym shorts, and a monstrous pair of Nike Air Pegasus running shoes, took off at the starting gun, and marveled at myself for what I was doing: RUNNING in a RACE…with people I had heretofore identified as kooks, crazies, and whack-jobs!  Around the 5-mile mark I saw a familiar face in the thinning crowd ahead of me.  It was Rocky! I trotted past him after a brief greeting and plowed through the remaining 1.2 miles with a huge grin on my face.  I further amazed myself by kicking the last 100 yards and passed a couple more runners.

 

They say the difference between a jogger and a runner is a race number. During the ensuing 19 years I’ve run too many 10K’s to count, a handful of 5Ks, a couple half-marathons, four 30K’s, two full marathons, several sprint triathlons, a few olympic tri’s and a 1/2 ironman (70.3 mile) tri.  I went out and ran almost 6 miles before dinner the other night just because it felt good.

IMG_0337

I guess the kids on the playground were wrong.

I AM an athlete. I am a runner.  Thank you, Rocky.

Pumpkin Run 10K race report

The 2013 Pumpkinfest Pumpkin Run is in the books! My third attempt at getting back into age-group running was a success. I failed to show at the 2012 P-fest, and I failed to show at the Holidayman Triathlon back in Aug. (Gimme a break, I had a medical emergency!) This race was the first competition I participated in since 2010 and I couldn’t be happier.
I had a goal of finishing in under an hour, and I’m happy to say I finished in 57:16. YAY!
It was a gorgeous fall morning with bright sun and a definite chill. I’ve run this race many times before and it just keeps getting bigger every year. Out of the 1650 people running, I managed to keep 900 of them behind me, finishing in 750th place. I hope the little girl that finished 751st is OK after I pushed her out of my way gave her encouragement as we raced to the finish line!
In my age group, I was 54th out of a total of 89 men 50-54 years old. I compared a few of my times from previous years and although my overall pace has gotten slower, so has the pace of my age group, so I still occupy the same position in the pack. I guess that’s good???
They used a chip timing system that has the RFID chip embedded on the back of the race number you wear. I started running in the stone age when they would give you a numbered popsicle stick at the finish line and you went to the official timer to turn it in and get your time. Of course, time itself seemed to run slower back then.  That’s kind of a Zen thought.

I was so full of pride and hubris that I decided to run the 2013 Gobbler Hobbler in Oswego two weeks later! Another cold, sunshiny day, but the difference was that I brought my favorite running partner with me.

Gobber-Hobbler2013

Although I look like I’m in pain, please enjoy the almost bored look on Riker’s face.  Next year I’ll put the race number on him and see how well he does.

I’ve pretty pleased with my progress this summer and now the challenge will be to continue my progress through the off season so I can do a couple tri’s next summer.  Time to get in the pool. Ugh.

The reason I LOG my runs.

What rolls down stairs?

Alone or in pairs?

Runs over your neighbor’s dog?

It fits on your back,

but not good for a snack,

It’s LOG…LOG…LOG!!!!

When I was learning and earning my pilot’s license I remembered that it is NOT necessary to carry your flight log in the airplane with you by imagining the flight log as a wooden log…I wouldn’t dump a heavy log in in the back seat of my Cessna, now would I?

However, I recommend the use of a running log, and here’s a dandy example of why.

The last time I ran consistently was 2010 (also the last time I participated in any races.)  My lack of motivation really showed itself in 2012.  The first half of the year I didn’t log any runs worth mentioning.  During my Spring physical I discovered my weight had ballooned to …are you ready for this?….243 lbs.   Holy Crap!   In June I started to run again but was such a fat-ass so overweight and out of shape that I could barely do a mile at at a time.  I logged 24 miles that month. My running log shows 164 miles for the entire year of  ’12 with peak months being September and December.  2013 has been a different story! My weight has dropped to 215 which made it easier to be more active.  After a slow start in the winter, I’ve logged almost 405 miles this year. (I still have 30 lbs to go)

The running log has provided written, concrete evidence of my fitness successes and failures.  What works (running) and what doesn’t (not running).  I’m starting a more detailed log also to record other workouts, weight, etc.  I have a new goal in mind for 2014 and I want to get the most basic motivational tools in place to help me along. (Us old guys need all the help we can get)

You may remember from my last post I FAILED MISERABLY to even start, let alone finish the HolidaYman Super Sprint Triathlon in Lake Holiday.  I took a week’s rest after the Rhino-Rocket incident and I visited our friendly local ENT specialist, who cauterized the inside of my nose with a cheery attitude and a disturbing German accent.  After I had what amounted to 2 weeks off, though, it was not as difficult to get the running habit ingrained in my brain again as it was in 2012.

Losing a little weight has made it much easier to run.  So has a decent pair of running shoes.

NewshoesNike Run 2013.

I had been running in Nike AirMax something or others.  They had way too much heel and I believe contributed to the re-emergence of my plantar fasciitis.

These have low heels and lots of padding in the forefoot.  Nice roomy toe box, too.  Smooth ride.  I love ’em.  If I could figure out how to add a link to another page, you could read my blog post on an earlier attempt at minimalist running gear. “Time Wounds All Heels”.

I  entered the 2013 Sycamore Pumpkin run 10K AGAIN scheduled on Oct. 27th.  The last time I ran it was 2010.  I signed up for it last year, but was too fat, lazy, and unprepared    undertrained for the the race  but got a spiffy technical long-sleeved T!  I really want my finish time to be under 1 hour but I ran the route last week and it took me 1:07.  At least I could do it and still walk afterwords.   In years past this race has been an afterthought after all the triathlons and other long distance events I participated in.  After the HolidaYman debacle I think I owe it to myself to be prepared for this one! Who knows, maybe I’ll get all crazy and do the Canal Connection down in Utica this year, too!

Keep your head up and  land on your feet!

HolidaYman 2013

When I started this blog, I wanted to document my glorious return to fitness and health with frequent and inspirational entries that I just knew would cement my name and epic story in the annals of athletic achievement and blogdom in general.  What happened instead was a predictable and pedestrian pattern of a flurry of inspirational, pertinent, and hilarious posts that quickly disappeared from sight; my sparkling wit and blog-thusiasm  extinguished by the demands of day-to-day life and the general malaise that surrounds incipient old-age.  In other words, I got lazy.

I did not, however give up on my goal of returning to triathlon.

The Holidayman Mega-Sprint Tri was being held in Beautiful Lake Holiday, Illinois on July 28.  The whole thing sounded well within my ability and enthusiasm level.  The distances were longer than the Batavia Tri I’ve done so many times before, but Batavia was in the beginning of June, and the  water was always ice-cold, so July sounded like a better bet.  700 meter swim, 18.6 mile bike and 4 mile run.  Not easy, but not as intimidating as an Olympic-length. So I registered.

My training habits are unorthodox just plain wrong, so I followed no particular program, schedule, grid, or plan.  I just ran and biked.  I swam in the lake and river in Wisconsin and managed a few laps in the pool at the Y.  I had no delusions about actually competing for a podium finish, I just wanted a finish and if i wasn’t dead last, that would be the icing on the cake.

Ten days before the race, I developed a sore throat.  My theory was that some pool water got lodged in my sinuses and drip-drip-dripped on my tonsils all night. Nevertheless a little ibuprofen and I was doing a brick workout on Sunday which consisted of an 18.5 mile bike followed by running as long as I could, which came to about 2.5 miles.  It was exactly one week before race day.

The brick really wore me out, but I relaxed the rest of the day and took Monday off from any exercise.  I had started taking some cold medication on Monday because my sore throat had migrated back up into my sinuses.  Tuesday after work I felt pretty good, so I went for a 5 mile run before weightlifing class at the Y, and felt fantastic, but I had a hard time sleeping that night.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were exercises in patience as I popped Advil Cold geltabs and Mucinex to keep my cold at bay.  My sleep was interrupted by coughing fits and I had to stop using my CPAP machine, so I was up a hundred times a night to pee.

I don’t know if the Mucinex and cold meds had depleted my electrolyte levels or otherwise screwed up my body chemistry, but Saturday morning I was beset by muscle spasms on the left side of my back, between my ribs.  I could hardly stand up or walk.  I drove down to Sandwich, Il to pick up my race packet for the next day and it took all of my willpower to walk into the hotel lobby and not look like a cripple.   In my mind, though, the race was still on!

Sunday morning, after the 5th night of tossing and turning, I got ready for departure.  I had packed my bag the night before: bike shoes, wetsuit, helmet, water, towels for transition, race numbers, peanut butter and pickle sandwich quarters.  Put the bike in the back of the pickup. Everything was ready to go.  I sat down in the kitchen at 5:15 AM and asked myself: “Are you really ready for this?” After much mental hand-wringing I had an answer: “No”  I didn’t want to get hurt.  My back was still a problem.  It had clenched a couple of times in the pre-dawn hours.  I hadn’t slept well for days.  I hadn’t gone on the short, light training runs and rides I had planned for the week before the race.  This was supposed to be fun, and it plainly was not going to be.  So I took off my running shoes and sat in my chair to lick my wounds.

7:30 AM, about the time I would have been getting out of the lake after a 700 M swim, my nose started to bleed.  And bleed.  And bleed some more.  I thought it had stopped, and it started up again. I tried all the things I thought would stop it.  And it bled. I could feel it running down my throat. I would get big clots of blood in my mouth and gag.  I sneezed and it got worse. It was no longer dripping, it was streaming out of my nose.  My bathroom looked like a crime scene.  I saw “HEALTER SKELTER” scrawled on the wall.     It was time to wake my spouse and go to the hospital.

Ever hear of a “rhino-rocket”?  Pray that you don’t.  After about 45 minutes in the ER convincing them that I had insurance, the doctor crammed  an inflatable tampon up my nose all the way to my prefrontal cortex.  Finally after pumping this medieval torture device with air, the bleeding stopped. I was dazed, sitting on the little ER bed with a bedpan full of blood and cotton.  My head felt like it had been inflated like a bicycle tire, and I spent some time considering that I had been bleeding rather severely for 4 hours.  The doctor explained that everything I thought I knew about nosebleeds were wrong, gave me a prescription for antibiotics and sent me on my way.

If I look miserable, it's only because I am.

If I look miserable, it’s only  because I am.

So, ultimately, my attempted return to triathlon was a failure; whatever Karma, Dharma, or Universal Justice League there is again demonstrated it’s profound indifference to my wishes.

The training was good for me and I’ll complete the distance later in the summer.  Next challenge: Sycamore Pumpkinfest 10K!

Spring at last!

This weekend the temperature here in frigid Northern Illinois got above 40 degrees and we had some actual sun for a change so I think it’s time for a running update and get this running season started right!

March was a tough month for me to stay motivated.  I lost my second job in as many years.  After 25 years of continuous employment this Brave New World is dishing out some b.s. I’m not very excited about dealing with.  In an effort to put lipstick on the unemployment pig I vowed to run every day that was practical and not wallow in self-pity!  So, “How did you do?” you may ask!

Short answer: GREAT.

Long answer: see below

I have had some help with motivation from an unexpected area.  The kids got me an iPod for Christmas (welcome to the 21st century, Dad!) loaded with a program called Nike+. When I plug it into my laptop, magic happens and my run data automatically downloads to the Nike website and they show you a bunch of charts and graphs showing your mileage and pace, etc.  I used to track all of that with a watch and my little 2-year calendar, but modern technology has made time-distance calculations so last century. When I ran without music, I would track my pace as I ran.  It gave me something to think about besides food and failure to be able to calculate my pace in my head was a good indicator that I was pretty tired.

I got to the Y frequently and managed to run 21 days out of 31 both outside with the dogs and at the Y on the track.  A total of 64.4 miles went under my feet.  I have not run that many miles per month since July 2010 when I ran 83.5.  That was also the last month I ran regularly at all, choosing instead to rest on my laurels (and ever-expanding posterior) for the last 3 years.

Long runs notwithstanding,  I remain fat.  Wait…I promised myself not to use self-defeating language on my blog.  This is supposed to be a positive experience for me, not a journal of self-deprecation!  I have been trying for a year to get myself motivated to do daily running and I’ve certainly made great strides (pun) towards that goal. This time last year I was weighing in at 243 lbs, and I’m down to 218.  Still 18 lbs above my short-term goal, but last year when I was trying to run I was so doped up on anti-depressants that all I could think about was the couch at the end of the universe.

I started this post many weeks ago and I think It’s high time I post it to the internet

The Pointless Pedestrian Prowler.

Since some of you may not live in Illinois (God love you), I must preface this story with an explanation of a Fact of Life one must deal with when calling this desolate, frozen, miserable wasteland the lonesome prairie home.  From about December 1st, to May 31st your car is more than just transportation.  It is a life-boat.  Once the snow starts, you basically give up on trying to keep your car neat and tidy and you are just happy that the damn thing runs when you need it to.  Each day you get in the car and valiantly try to knock off whatever snow  clings to your shoes,  but by the time you have to dig your car out of 2 feet of snow, you’ve really stopped caring and tend to collapse into the driver’s seat with the heat controls set as high as possible and the roaring vents blowing air just below the temperature of the sun on your feet and hands. All winter, the carpet on the driver’s side alternates between being covered by a puddle of dirty, cold water and a solid block of ice.  Also, the pedals and the floor become encrusted with sharp shards of salt and sand.  Therefore, barefoot driving becomes an uncomfortable affair regardless of temperature.  It is to this circumstance that the subject of the following tale owes his life.

On the night in question, I headed off to the local Dairy Queen for my nightly large M&M Blizzard. (You may live in Illinois if: You wear a winter coat and gloves to eat ice cream) I usually drive my pickup, but tonight I had on my flip-flops and didn’t want to have to work the clutch with bare feet, (You may live in Illinois if: you wear a parka and flip flops at the same time) so I took the family van.   As I was pulling out of the driveway, I saw something suspicious under my truck in the glare of the headlights. It looked like one of those kraft paper bags used for lawn waste that had blown under the truck.  (You may live in Illinois if: there are still lawn waste bags blowing around the neighborhood in mid-February). Whatever it was, it didn’t belong there.  In the finest tradition of the Hardy Boys, I got out to investigate.  I got down on my knees… in the dark…with the headlights shining on the offending object…and literally could not believe my eyes.  There was a young man, about 20-something,  laying under my pickup.  Time slowed down.  I had this Gollum-like conversation with myself:  “There is someone laying under your truck”, I said.  “That’s impossible!” I answered.  “But there he is, nonetheless!” I cleverly retorted.  “How did he get there?” I asked.  “I don’t remember hitting anything.” I chimed in.  “What’s should we do’s about it, precioussss?” I asked. (I was really losing it)  Finally one of the voices told me to “get that guy out from under there”. I opened my mouth to begin issuing stern commands, but all that came out was a high-pitched, squeaky “hey!”

What I feel like I drive

What I feel like I drive

Chevy S10

What I actually drive

But the spell was broken and I was soon indignantly demanding an explanation.  He claimed he was hiding from “some guys” that were after him.  He asked for help getting out from under the truck.  I told him that he got there alone, he could get out, too.  I informed him of my intent to call the cops.  He didn’t seem to be too keen on THAT idea.  My brain had finally processed what the hell was going on and I realized he was actually an idiot.  No one hides from “some guys” under a Chevy S-10.

I called 9-1-1 and had TWO squad cars in front of my house in less than 30 seconds.  The “guys” he was hiding from must have been the police.  Still, by the time they got there, the interloper had trotted off.  As he was departing, I asked the only thing I could think of: “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Jim” he said.

He may have been an idiot, but he was a lucky one.  If I had put on shoes before stumbling out into the night, I would have taken the pickup truck and gotten lots of blood all over our freshly re-paved street.

One actual Jeff Foxworthy joke: You may live in Illinois if: You think 0 degrees is “a bit chilly”.

Thumpety Thump-Thump

We have been dog-sitting a “nephew” dog for a couple of weeks, raising our home dog population to 4.  If you’ve ever had 4 dogs in your home you know the kind of chaos they can create.  8 eyes ever vigilant to the passing pedestrian and 4 voices ready to warn at top volume of such neighborhood normalcy.  Oddly, they all completely missed the prowler I found hiding under my pickup one evening.  (Yes, a real human laying under my truck.  That will be a blog entry unto itself!   They are much more well behaved when you get them out for a run or walk every day or two to let them work off some energy

2013-02-03_13-37-40_797So we all went to the Illinois-Michigan Canal down in Utica for a 5 mile hike in the snow and ice. The dogs had a great time and although the trail was covered in snow-mobile tracks, we saw nary a one.  I’m still not smart enough to put captions on my pictures, so L to R: Kipper, Boo Radley, Izzy, Riker!

You see, this is why I live in Illinois.  The year-round summer-like weather.2013-03-02_14-04-27_2502013-03-02_14-59-41_820