Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 2

Sunday dawned and it was our first morning on board. I tend to wake up early and my family likes to sleep in, so I slipped out of bed, put on my running clothes and headed down to the Deck 4 jogging track. It was a little rocky and I ran a little over a mile before I gave up. I headed up to deck 9, grabbed a cup of coffee and wandered around a bit. I found the fitness center which is pretty nice and has a beautiful locker room. I really enjoyed the quiet mornings on the ship, walking around as the sun was coming up.

Today was our first port call at Key West, but we weren't due to arrive until Noon. Our dining rotation was scheduled for our character breakfast this morning so I headed back to the room, got the family up. I took the girls out to the deck to look around and take some pictures while my wife finished getting ready.

For the character breakfast you sit with your regular dining group and your same servers. It was a lot of fun to get to know our table mates better and it was our first chance to see the kids really light up upon interacting with the characters.

Goofy, Pluto, Mickey and Minnie make their way through the room as the meal is served. They move pretty quickly, but we never felt rushed and we were able to get as many pictures as we needed with all of them. I remember being a little disappointed with the food, not necessarily the quality, but I still felt hungry after the meal. I hadn't yet clicked with the order more if you want more thing. During the meal the servers make funny hats for everyone out of napkins. They made my wife Pocahantas and I got done up as Capt. Jack Sparrow. The funniest one was when they took two plate lids and made our tablemate into Dumbo.
Arrr, where be the booty?!?
After breakfast the girls all begged to go to the kids club. I think there was a program with Snow White, so we dropped them off there. The guys then went out on the deck 4 promenade and watched the ship come into port at Key West while the ladies went shopping. They didn't realize at the time that the shops would close because we were coming into port, so my wife didn't get to put too much on the magic card.

A quick note about the magic card. When you check in the terminal each member of your party is given a key card. This is your room key and its also used to access your shipboard account so you never have to spend any real money while you're on the ship, you just put it on the card. Of course you have to be careful, but it became a running joke through the week. Don't worry about it, we'll just put it on the magic card.

We took our time and got off in Key West a bit after we docked. We didn't really have anything planned, so we just walked around the area by the port. The girls needed some sunglasses so we picked those up and then we decided to try one of the tours of the island. There are trolleys and little trains. We decided to try the little train because it looked neater, but in the end that was a mistake. I came to find out later the the trolley's had more stops and much more comfortable seats. We had to wait about 30 minutes for the tour to start, and then it took us all around the island, past the Hemmingway house, the southernmost point and was well narrated by the driver. The girls were pretty bored by it though. We ended up getting off at the first stop, which was about an hour later and almost back where we started. We saw a CVS right there and we needed to pick up a few things for the room, so we popped in there. This was the first time that I felt the ground sway even though I was on land, it was kinda funny.

Mallory Square
After that we were starting to lose the girls. They were tired and getting cranky. We tried to win them back with some ice cream, but that was a disaster. We walked back towards the ship through Mallory Square where things were just starting to get set up for the evening's festivities. Mallory Square is filled with buskers and vendors each evening where people gather to watch the sunset. We made our way back aboard and headed back to the room where we all relaxed a little bit and ordered some room service for a snack.

Later filled with people

We had plenty of time before our dinner, so I took one of the girls and walked around the ship. We watched some of the buskers on the dock and the fire jugglers from a safe distance. There is even a guy there with trained cats.

I'd really been looking forward to catching the sunset from Key West, as I'd heard that its an amazing site. Unfortunately, clouds in the distance blocked most of it. I did get some great pictures of some sail boats while we were out there though. We didn't realize it then, but we were sailing right out into those clouds and the rain they had inside.

After we watched the ship shove off,  we had dinner at Parrot Cay, which is a Caribbean Themed restaurant, and the same place we had breakfast. This was the first meal where I stopped worrying about looking like a fatty and ordered as much as I wanted. Our server always brought a few extra desserts anyway. They explained to us that whatever doesn't get served just gets thrown away, so there's nothing wrong with ordering more food. Afterwards we were all tired so we headed back to the room and went to bed.

Still not sure if this was a dog or an elephant. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 1

So after months of planning and anticipating, our cruise was finally approaching. It would be the first cruise for all of us and the first Disney experience for me and the girls.  My wife had been several times when she was a kid, but hadn't been to Disney in years. As my regular readers will know, I actually did spend a couple of days on a cruise ship a few weeks before this which gave me an idea of what to expect and a little something to compare our experience to.

We drove down to Florida on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It wasn't the ideal day to drive, traffic was thick though not terrible and we made it to her parent's just at dinner time. We spent the next two days visiting with family and friends in Florida and warming up our bellies by eating great food from all our favorite spots in and around Boynton Beach. 

We had debated whether to drive up to Port Canaveral on Friday night and stay in a hotel or to stay at her parent's and drive up Saturday morning. In the end we decided to save the hotel money and drive up Saturday morning. It seemed like the wise decision until my mother called us during our drive Saturday morning and asked "Did you see the rocket launch?" Uh, no. It seems that a rocket to Mars was launched from Kennedy that morning. We spoke to some people later on the ship who said it was pretty cool to watch... but we missed it. No big deal, but disappointing.  Probably the last real disappointment of the trip.

Because I'd driven to the port a couple of weeks prior, I knew that we could see the ships in the distance from a highway bridge a few miles out, so I prepped the girls to look out the windshield. We started getting super excited as we could see the beautiful red stacks in the distance. It really is stunning the first time you see one of these enormous cruise ships up close, and they just kept getting bigger and bigger as we drove closer. Of course, we got stuck at a draw bridge right on the other side of the port and the excitement was almost unbearable.  The girls were fascinated by Goofy hanging off the back of the ship painting the name. "Is that the real Goofy, Daddy?" was all they kept asking.

From the moment we pulled into the port, you could tell that Disney was all about being friendly and making us feel welcome. They waved us through a gate where a shore cast member checked our passports and showed us where we could drop off our bags and passengers before I went to park. My wife was a bit nervous so we decided to stay all together and walk in from the garage. We dropped off our luggage and parked in the garage. We said good bye to our car for the week and walked into the terminal. At the walkway is another place where they check you in, and who is there but the same woman who was just at the drive way. We laughed and talked to her for a moment then went through security. 

When we got to check in I asked the cast member if there were any upgrades available. We had booked a oceanview stateroom, but our Travel Agent had told us that it could be possible to get a good deal on an upgrade at the pier. The cast member said that after she checked us in, we could go down to the end and see the supervisor about an upgrade. The check in was super quick. We filled out the health questionnaire, got our picture taken and were on our way. Down at the supervisor's desk we met another super nice person. There was one balcony room available and it was a Family stateroom, which was a bit larger than the regular room. I had a hard limit on what I wanted to spend for an upgrade and this room was just under it, so it was a no brainer. We moved up to the 8th floor with a balcony and couldn't be happier. One note of interest, they don't let you pay for the upgrade right there, but they put it on your shipboard account. This was ok, but I had wanted to pay for it from a different account, which turned out to be no problem at all.  

We had our first Mickey and Minnie sightings there in the terminal, but we decided not to wait for them, figuring there'd be plenty of chances to see them through the week. We went to the kid's club counter there in the terminal and the girls got their Mickey bands on. They allow them into the kids clubs and get scanned on entry and exit. They are a little bulky and we were a bit worried that they'd hate them, but the girls didn't seem to mind them at all. We only had one little incident with the bands, but I'll get to that later in the week. You'd think they'd be able to make them smaller, but its not a huge worry.

We stopped to get our embarkation photo done and then we boarded the ship. One cool thing they do when you board, they have two people there with microphones and they announce you boarding the ship. "Disney Magic would like to welcome aboard the Baker Family," they announced and we walked into the beautiful atrium lobby for the first time. Its a little overwhelming but they have a cast member approach you and direct you to where lunch is being served. You can't get into your cabins until 1:30 and it was just after 12.

First, I wanted to head to Guest Services where I had a few things to take care of. I was able to put some money down on our shipboard account to cover the upgrade. I also got us tickets to a special Tea with Alice on one of the sea days and I dropped off a couple of posters to get signed for the girls. You can drop off two items per stateroom and they'll have the characters autograph them. We'd found a princess poster at Wal-Mart while doing our last minute shopping and asked them to have them signed by the princesses. 

We made our way up to Topsiders, the buffet up on the 9th deck and though it was crowded we found a table and ate our first shipboard meal. I don't remember what we all ate, but I know we were happy and started to realize that we were finally on board after all the anticipation. The girls kept wanting to know if we were moving yet, if we were on the water yet, if we were on the ship yet. When we finished eating it was just  after the time that they opened the rooms, so we headed down to our stateroom. We were on the 8th deck, on the starboard aft side (that's the back right). The room itself was fantastic, bigger than we had hoped, with the famous split bathrooms that are in most of the staterooms on Disney. It really helps when a full family is getting ready. Our luggage hadn't arrived yet so we dropped off what we had and decided to roam the ship a bit. 

We found a little sundeck on the back of the 7th deck and took some pictures. You could see the huge space shuttle building at Kennedy off in the distance. We were so glad to finally be aboard! We got our first free ice cream and mommy and daddy got their first margaritas and we exhaled deeply. We stopped by the Kids Club to check it out and the girls didn't want to leave! A good sign of things to come indeed!
The only time these girls relaxed the whole week

This is what Daddy will look like later this week.

Our first ice cream of the trip
After we wandered a bit it was time for the the safety drill. I wouldn't normally mention this, but it turned into another one of those magical moments that would define our trip. For the safety drill you have to go to your appointed assembly point and they give you a little speech about what to do in an emergency and such. Our assembly point was in one of the restaurants and we were pointed to a table in the corner. A really sweet cast member approached us in her "assembly leader" vest, hat and life jacket and started talking to the girls. She talked to them about their favorite princesses and told them little stories. She was sure to let them know that she'd be there to help them if there was an emergency and was just generally super nice. We asked her what she did on the ship and she told us that she's a "performer." She told us about the princess gathering later that week, which of course I knew about from all my research, and my wife and I smiled at each other. It became a joke between us that maybe she's a princess. We were certain that she was one, though I joked that she's probably one of the wicked stepsisters. Well, I won't ruin the surprises yet, but we would be seeing plenty of her during the trip.

After drill it was time for the sail away party up on the pool deck. They handed out streamers and the girls got right up front for this one. It was a fun show with all the characters and plenty of singing and dancing. At the end they pulled all the kids up on stage as the ship started to sail away from port. We had a great time, met some people around us who we'd stay friendly with for the rest of the cruise and heard that legendary ship's horn for the first time. If you didn't know, the Magic's horn plays "When You Wish Upon A Star." I got a little choked up when I heard it I must admit because I'd been thinking about this trip for so long now.

After the party we went back to our stateroom to get our luggage and watch us sail away a bit more. We watched the harbor pilot boat come up to the ship and the pilot jump aboard. We all waved and yelled "Thank You" and he yelled "Bon Voyage". The cabin next to us were smokers and we were a bit concerned at this point that we'd be smelling their smoke during the whole trip, but really only this first time was it bad. We watched the land move away, unpacked our things and settled into our home for the week.

We had late seating for dinner, so we had time to change and get to our first restaurant by 8:15. The ship has three restaurants and you rotate through each of them on an assigned basis keeping the same table and the same servers throughout. Here is where Disney pulled off another bit of magic. We were assigned a table of ten, with the four of us and two other families of three, each with a daughter who was also 6. We couldn't have asked for a better group to spend the week with. Dinner that night was great, though I think we were all just not yet ready to really take advantage of the "order whatever you want, as much as you want" freedom of the thing. We started to get to know each other and the girls all hit it off. 

Dinner was in a restaurant called Animator's Palate which is dedicated to Disney animation. The decor is entirely black and white with pencil drawings on the walls and some video screens that display some sketches. As the night goes on, though, it starts to fill with color until Fantasia Mickey comes in and makes the room fill with color. It was pretty neat and a great intro to the fun that the week would bring. Dinner and dessert were great and afterwards the girls all begged to go to the kids club. We dropped them off and met the other couples for a couple more drinks in one of the many lounges on board to round out the night.

We found our first towel animal back in the room when we finally got back, exhausted from our first day on board and ready for whatever adventures were to come.  

Our Ocean Voyage - Prologue

Now that I've had a few days to catch up, I'm ready to start blogging our trip. Of course its been a couple of weeks so there may be details I forget, but this should be a fun way to look through all our pictures and various trinkets we collected to remember. I only took about 800 photos from Thanksgiving and the cruise. 

I'll start with some history. My wife and I have gone on a few weekend trips, but we haven't taken a real vacation. We both have family in south florida, so when we've taken extended trips over the last couple of years, it has been for visits and not true vacations. No offense intended for anyone, but visiting family is NOT a vacation. So we've traveled quite a bit, but not taken a vacation. We had decided that this year, for the girls' 6th birthday we would take them to Disney World. So my original plan was that sometime in September or October we would take the girls to Disney for a couple of days, then continue south, drop them off at the grandparents and take a few days to go to the Keys and spend some adult time. However, I forgot this plan when I volunteered to coach soccer for the fall, so it became impossible for me to get away for a week in those months. 

That pushed us back into November and we started looking at spending Thanksgiving at Disney. The more I thought about that, the less I liked the idea. Taking the girls to Disney by itself is decidedly not a vacation for me, as it would only be running and going, no relaxation. Plus, I don't think we could have dropped the kids off at the grandparents for Thanksgiving and take off by ourselves. I honestly don't remember how we shifted thinking to a cruise, but when we started looking into it, it seemed perfect. Access to the Disney characters, fun for the kids, relaxation for parents, food, drink, aahhhhhh yes. We priced the week of Thanksgiving and it was pretty ridiculous, however the week after Thanksgiving was pretty well priced, so we booked it thinking a week away from school in Kindergarten wouldn't really hurt the girls. 

Now, since we needed to be in Florida on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we really couldn't come up with any reason not to go for Thanksgiving and visit the families. Believe me, we tried and tried, but nothing worked. So the plan was complete. We drive to Boynton Beach on Wednesday, spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws, Friday with my mother and then to Port Canaveral on Saturday to board the Disney Magic.

I have to make a confession here. I think at this point I became a little bit obsessed about planning for this trip. I was definitely the most excited in the family at first. We made the reservations in July, so it was hard to fathom but I started researching activities and such. I didn't want the girls to miss out on anything that they could experience on the ship, and I wanted to make sure that we took advantage of everything the ship had to offer. I found some message boards dedicated to Disney cruises and made myself as expert as I could. I do feel that this all worked out for us, because we were able to experience a lot of special moments and knew some secrets that others had previously discovered. I'll take some credit for that.  

In fact, it was doing this research that I found out about the 5K held on the Disney island Castaway Cay. I thought it would be a lot of fun to run, though at the time I wasn't yet running. It was the spark that started me on my running journey.

Now the only thing left to do was to wait for the trip to come. We had a lot of fun talking about Mickey's ship. We even had Mickey call the house to tell the girls about the trip. It seemed like it would never come, but it did and what a trip it was.

more to come...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

So when we left our intrepid hero, he was headed off to a lovely relaxing vacation with the family. Aaaaahhhh, that was nice.  Now its over.  Well, its been over for some time now, but getting back into the routine of life after vacation left me with little energy for blogging. I'm going to try my hand at travel writing and make a few posts to review our cruise vacation, but since I've been focusing this blog on my fitness, i'll start with a post about that. In short though, our cruise was fantastic. All four of us had a great time, each of us getting to do the things we wanted and we can't wait to do it again. The only bummer was that we missed stopping in Grand Cayman because of the weather and my wife was really looking forward to shopping there. On the bright side, I saved the money that my wife was going to spend in Grand Cayman!

As for running, while I wasn't pushing myself while on vacation, I did manage to get several runs in. Thanksgiving morning I ran a little under 3 miles at my in-laws house. It was a tough slog but I got it done. Then I ran twice on the ship, a little over a mile each time. The first time on the jogging track and the second on the treadmill. I was getting up early almost every day, watching the sun rise and checking out the ship while most people weren't around, so I used that time to exercise. Then on Friday when we visited the Disney island called Castaway Cay, I ran a 5k. Short story, it wasn't my best effort but I struggled through it and finished in just over 35 minutes.

I'd been reading about the run online for a while now and I was really looking forward to it. I'd read various different reports about the course and the organization of the thing, as well as different stories about the swag that they gave away, so I didn't know what to expect. The ship newsletter the night before said that you had to sign up on-board at 9:30 and the run would start on land at 10:15. I made it down to the meeting point on time and they were taking people's names and stateroom numbers. There were about 30 people there running and for the most part they seemed very fit. I guess you don't get too many casual joggers who want to run on vacation.  The group left the ship together and took the tram out to the start point. The crew member in charge had given the group the choice to walk to the start or take the tram. Two people said tram and nobody else spoke up so we took the tram.  I heard several people griping about it on the way, but I didn't mind so much. We got out to the start point and they showed us the course on a map. it was very well marked on the island too, so no getting lost. They gave us each bib numbers to keep and after a group picture we were on our way.

The weather wasn't too bad, sunny and in the low 70's, but for me who was used to running in the cold, it was hot. I started near the back of the pack, but still went out too quickly for me. I just tried to stay in touch with the back group of runners. I realized into the first mile that its important for me to follow my regular routine and warm up, because i was struggling more than I normally do. I walked through the water station at the end of the first mile and then took off.  The front runners were starting to return from the turnaround point at this time and I was feeling pretty bad. I kept pushing and made it through the second mile and stopped to walk again. I had to do two more short walk breaks in the third mile, but once I got to the last 1/2 mile or so, I ran again. There were only a couple of people behind me and 2 who were at my pace. I passed them both with about a quarter mile to go. I heard the man try to encourage the woman to pick it up and finish strong, but she didn't have it.  He came running past me near the finish.  I thought about trying to out kick him, but then I noticed that they were taking pictures of us finishing, so I let him get far enough ahead so I could get a solo picture.  I checked my watch across the line and saw 35:14.  They gave us a finishers medal and later I got a certificate sent to my stateroom.

The race was a lot of fun and then I got to spend the day on the beach. Considering how much I had eaten that week and the fact that we stayed up late the night before trying to help our friends finish off a bottle of cuban rum, I did ok.

When I got home, I tried to focus on getting back into my 4 day routine. I ran 1.5 miles on Tuesday and did some weights, then did 3 miles on Wednesday and another 1.5 on Friday with weights again. Sunday I went out to the greenway and did my 3.5 miles there.  I felt great through that run. I realized that if I can maintain a consistent approach, it'll make everything less of a struggle. So this week I'm doing the same thing and I can't wait to run on Sunday.

I don't have any races planned at the moment, but I'm going to start to increase my mileage after the first of the year. At the very least, I want to be able to run the 10K Peachtree Road Race next summer and a few more races along the way.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vacay Baybay!

The last two weeks have been pretty hectic and I've neglected blogging quite a bit. Stress has been building with our upcoming vacation, making sure we have all the right documents, all the right clothes, all the things we need to have a relaxing time. We leave Wednesday morning to drive to visit family for Turkey day and then Satruday we board the Disney Magic for a 7 night cruise. It will be the first cruise for all of us (i'm not counting what I did a couple of weeks ago, because that was decidedly not a pleasure cruise) and the first Disney experience for the girls. We're all really looking forward to it.

Running has been going in fits and starts the last two weeks. A week ago satruday I ran 4 miles, which was my longest run ever. Then on Sunday I took the girls out to run with me for about a mile, but that didn't work out as I'd hoped. One daughter is into running and would probably run most of the way with me, but the other wants nothing to do with it.  She just doesn't want to be left home while we go to run. Next time I'll just take one of them and we'll see how it goes. 

Its been difficult to get up and out of the house for runs in the morning these weeks. I made it to the gym once each week to run on the treadmill, but I haven't been getting in the 3 or 4 days a week I feel like I need. I'll buckle down more after vacation. This past weekend I paid for it when I could barely make it through my 3 mile run. I'm still planning on running during the trip, and will attempt to run the 5K on the Disney island when we visit there next Friday. 

My sister ran an 8k this past weekend at the Philadelphia Marathon. I think the half marathon there would be a great goal race for me. I love the city of Philadelphia and could turn the trip into a family outing as well. Still in the very infant phases of thought.  I'm not sure that I'll be ready to run a half in 12 months. I know that I could probably do it physically, but I don't really want to commit myself to something like that until i'm sure that I could do it well.  I don't want to survive, but I want to run! Under 2:30 would have to be assured for me to consider it. That might be 2 years away at this point. We shall see.  For now, I need to focus on running consistently and building base miles.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm Sailing Awayyyyy

I'm back on dry land after what can probably be described as the most unlikely business trip location I've ever had. I spent 3 nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, helping with the implementation of a pretty cool use of the technology that I've made my living with for the past 8 years. I can't say that it was a lot of fun, because we worked long hours, but it certainly was interesting. Back in my younger days I tended bar, so working in a place where other people are having a good time isn't new to me. But then I was at least working with the people having a good time, here I was just working where they were having fun. The ship was beautiful though and I did get a chance to run a couple of times in the mornings.

The ship has a track on the top deck that measures just under 1/4 mile. The sign said 4.5 laps per mile. So Monday morning I got up early and hit the deck at about 7am and immediately headed off into a 35 mph wind. Whoa, talk about slow going. Between the wind and the fairly pronounced movement of the ship, i was all over the place.  It was pretty cool when I turned the loop and had the wind at my back though! I kind of lost track of how many laps I did, but I ran for just over 20 minutes before I got really sick of battling the wind and called it quits. I'd guess I did just under 2 miles. I tried to run out there again Wednesday morning but it was rather rainy, so I went into the fitness center and used the treadmill instead.  I'm not a very good treadmill runner as it is, but throw in the rocking of the ship and I almost ran off the side a couple of times. I finished my run with some time on the weight machines and felt pretty good about my trip.

As for food, well that was a struggle but I did pretty well. We ate almost every meal at the buffet and while I didn't always make the best decisions, I did well with my portion sizes and stuck to the sugar free desserts. I weighed in at 268 before I left sunday morning and today I was 266, so I call that a success. 

Overall it was a cool experience. I got a little taste of what cruising can be like and its really got me excited for our trip in a couple of weeks. Now I know that we're going to have a great time. When I debarked yesterday in St. Thomas, the Disney Magic was also docked there and it was a thrill to see her. Can't wait to get on board.

I bought a runners world magazine in the airport for the ride home and it started a couple of really nice conversations with strangers. One of the flight attendants started telling me about his running. He once ran a half-marathon in Amsterdam on a layover. Then the lady sitting next to me told me that her husband ran the Marine Corps Marathon last week. We talked about running and how he trains for his runs. He's missed qualifying for Boston twice now by seconds.  Well, actually this year he qualified by 12 seconds, but the race filled up and he wasn't able to register. Heart breaking. I'm feeling good about my current running even though I haven't been increasing the mileage as quickly as I planned. With the vacation coming up in 2 weeks, I'm going to maintain where I'm at for now, run the 5K on the cruise, then I'll start to ramp up over the winter to get ready for a great spring.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Life Gets Busy!

So my running build up hasn't really started yet.  The last couple of weeks other things have gotten in the way, but I've been maintaining my 9 miles a week. This morning I ran race #3, another 5K benefiting the local Special Olympics. This one was fun even though I ran for the first time all alone. It was cold early when I got there, but I warmed up pretty good and was dressed well. Shortly after the start I began to have trouble with my shorts falling again. I had to stop twice to tighten the drawstring and finally got it right the second time. As I passed the first mile marker I heard a guy on the side counting just past 11:30, so I knew I was moving pretty good. The second mile had a pretty long hill on it, and I walked about the last 100 yards. The good thing was the top of the hill was the turnaround and I flew back down the hill. There was a lot of crowd support on this run as we went past the start finish area twice, so that was really cool. The local high school cheerleaders were out there keeping the energy high. After the first mile I really didn't get passed by anyone other than when I was walking, and even then I passed them back when I picked up the run. So I felt pretty good. I finished at 35:45, which is exactly an 11:30 pace, my fastest yet. The only people that passed me were right on the finishing straight, a dad and his 12 year old daughter who I'd passed earlier on the hill came sprinting by.  I cheered them on as they passed. I felt pretty good after and really enjoyed this run.

I finished right behind a couple who were alternating pushing a stroller through the race. I joked with them after that I was going to protest because they were able to pass off their extra weight but I was stuck with mine. Even though I didn't beat the stroller guy, I did beat 2 out of the 3 dogs that were out on the course, so that's something.

Now my next race will be on our cruise in 3 weeks. Looking forward to that one. Speaking of cruises, through some lucky timing and positioning by me, I'm headed out on a cruise for a couple of days this week. Its a working trip, so I don't know if there will be too many margarita's by the pool, but it will be cool to spend a few days aboard a cruise ship, as it'll be my first time. The family are all a bit miffed that I'll be cruising first before them, but I've assured them that I plan on having no fun at all. Oddly enough, though maybe so considering the nature of my blog, the part I'm most looking forward to is running on the track aboard ship. I'll be aboard the Freedom of the Seas and from the pictures, it looks like the track will have some excellent views.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Starting to Build Up

Life plods along much like ... well much like the way I run. I've been pretty steadily running 9 miles a week for the last few weeks. I had planned on running another 5K race on 11/12, but have since come to find out that the race is sold out, so the only organized run on my schedule is the 5K on Castaway Cay during our upcoming Disney cruise. I had a vague notion of trying to increase my mileage but I wasn't entirely sure how to do it. Well, I mean obviously you do it by running more distance, but I wanted a way to do it without risking injury and with the best chance of being successful. I happened upon a program in a thread on the Runners World Forums that had a link to a "Novice Spring Training" program by Hal Higdon that is designed to increase from 9 miles a week to 15 miles a week in 12 weeks.  Hey, I'm running 9 miles a week now, so maybe this will work. And it calls for 4 days a week of running, which is exactly what I wanted to do. So I've started that program this week. It gradually builds, starting with 2 1.5 mile runs and 2 3 mile runs until you finish with 3 3mile runs and 1 6 mile run each week. I think that will be great because once I run 6 miles, I can then start thinking about running 10K, which just so happens to be the distance of the Peachtree Road Race.

Its been pretty cold in the mornings while I'm running, mostly in the low to mid 40's, but its not too terrible. I'm still struggling at the end of my 3 mile runs, but I do feel a lot stronger than I was a month or two ago. I just have to keep in mind that this is the long haul, that every run is building something and that someday I'll look at these types of runs as easy ones.

I've been struggling with my eating since I hit a low of 268 at the end of last week.  I pigged out at the fair and have hovered around 271 since then.  I think I'm getting back into the groove now, though eating a McRib sandwich tonight probably wasn't the best idea. I had hoped to get down to 250 before Thansgiving/Cruise time, but I'm probably not going to get there without some serious starving. I just need to refocus myself and I can hope to get below 260 by then and try to limit the damage on the cruise as best I can by making sure I work out on-board. I'm actually looking forward to running on the ship, as there's a track on board that is three laps to a mile.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Slow and Steady

I think slow and steady is a pretty appropriate description of many things in my life. Certainly it describes my running, though only for short periods of time. I did 8.5 miles in three runs last week. I'm struggling to get 3 miles in each time I run. Without a steady program, I'm finding it a little hard to get into a rhythm. I don't like running the loop at the park because its too short and I'm tempted to stop rather than go out on another lap. I tried to run on the greenway path, which I think will be better for me because the real decision on how far I run will be made when I turn around. However, its really really really dark out there in the morning. I'm not really afraid of anything, but its somewhat uncomfortable not being able to see while i'm running. I might have to go out and buy one of those headlights if I want to continue that. So I've been mixing it up. Last night I stayed up later than I wanted, so I ended up running at the gym after work. I did a full 5K on the treadmill in a little more than 38 minutes.

So for now I'm thinking that I'd like to start to increase my mileage, but I think I'll do that by adding a day of running at first. This week I'll run 3 miles 3 days, then next week I'll add a day, maybe one a little less or 4 full 3 mile runs. I'll try to keep that steady through the end of the year and then build up some more mileage through the spring until I can run at least one 6 mile run a week with a target of running a 10K next summer.  Hopefully that will be the Peachtree, but if I can't run that one, I'll find another.

I know its going to be a tough go through the winter.  Hopefully this winter will be mild and I'll be able to get some good runs in outside. And I need to continue losing weight. The only way that I'm really going to be able to increase my speed will be to drop more weight. This past saturday I tipped the scales at 268lbs, which is 49 from where I started and probably the least I've weighed in 8 years. I celebrated that with a semi pig out at the fair, so 50 lbs may be a week away, but I'll get there.

I don't know if its because I'm more aware of it, but I'm finding that there are a lot of people that I know who are runners. I'm still too slow to enjoyably run with them, but I look forward to being able to run socially as well as just pushing myself. I can't wait for the day that someone who comes along with me to a race doesn't have to hold themselves back to stay with me.

One more cool thing. I got a ChromeBook today at work.  Its a nifty little machine. I like the interface, because I use the chrome browser all the time anyway. The Citrix Receiver works great on it though I don't think that we have a site set up for external access, so I can only run my apps at work. The battery life seems to be really good too. Well, too bad I can't keep this one, but it may be a good cheap alternative for something portable at home.  I think it comes with 3G built in too, though I don't have it set up.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Race 2!

Today was the second 5K of my infant running career. It was a race on the other side of town that was benefiting some families of children with cancer. The stories of these children are at once heartbreaking and full of hope and it did make me feel good to participate. I brought my wife and the girls to the race as they had a lot of activities set up for kids, like bounce houses, balloons and such. We got to the festival about an hour before the Noon start time and met up with a friend of mine who I conned into running with me. He's a good runner but he held back and stuck with me the whole way.

There were a couple hundred people running, lots of families and kids. We started directly up hill and then turned left into a nice steep downhill. I definitely went off a lot more quickly than I did last week and paid for it later on. The course directions were well marked, but there were no distances. I'm guessing that it was during the second mile that I really started to suffer. There was a long drag up hill and it took a lot out of me. We were leapfrogging with a couple of people and I tried to remain steady.  I did walk two short sections after uphills to recover. My HR must have been through the roof and my breathing was more labored than it's been in a while. We had a good time though and as we finally reached the finish area there was a nice crowd cheering us on. I found my family and gave them a wave as I went by into the finish straight. The clock read 36:30 at I crossed the line, which surprised me a bit. It makes sense looking back that I struggled so much, because I was running at a pace about a minute per mile faster than I had the week before, and definitely faster than I'd ever run in training.

While I was a little disappointed that I couldn't hold my pace, I'm happy that I did try to push myself and I keep trying to remind myself that I'm still racing carrying 270lbs.

Some moments I remember from the day -

  • A team of youth football players was running behind us most of the way, but several of the kids were shooting ahead and then being called back by their coach. I think some of those kids could have beaten me by 10 minutes or so.
  • Near the end we caught up with a few women, one of whom was pushing a kid in a stroller. The woman, kid and stroller all together probably weighed less than me.
  • This was the first race where I ran into people I know or at least who I recognize. I saw the trainer at the gym who runs the boot camp out there in front of me, and I passed the lady who runs the pottery place my girls like.  I passed her because she was with 4 kids at the time.  That was a theme for me, I only passed people who had to start walking because of their kids.  
  • When I was struggling at my worst, a  woman passed us who, shall we say, chose very wisely when she picked her compression tights for today. We nicknamed her "motivation" and tried to keep her in sight for the rest of the way. After the race I never saw her again, so I'm convinced now that she was just a hallucination.

I felt a lot worse physically after the end of this one. Not sure if it was the time of day (it started at noon) or the fact that I hadn't eaten in hours or just the heavier effort, but I was physically down until we ate some lunch some time later. I'm going to try to increase my mileage in training for the next couple of weeks. My next race will probably be in the middle of November, when I'll try a local race through a holiday light display for toys for tots, and then one on our Disney cruise.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I got back into town yesterday afternoon/evening on one of those flights where lots of little annoying things went wrong. I tried to keep a mellow attitude through it all, but the 2 hours it took me to drive home from the airport was almost too much for me to bear. And then to top it all off, the baseball game broke my heart. About a month ago I thought that I had a serious shot for both my favorite football team and baseball team to play for championships this year, but alas it isn't to be. In years past I'd be much more heartbroken about it than I am today, but its still very disappointing.

One bright spot, I did go pick up my race packet for Sunday's 5K last night. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and running again. I ran a couple of miles on the treadmill at the hotel on Thursday. The treadmill is placed right in front of a mirror, so you are forced to stare at yourself while you're running. I enjoy the trails and the rabbits run away when I'm running outside, not so much watching my shirt get wetter in the mirror.  Oh well, at least I got a workout in.

It looks like I'll be running by myself (well alone in the crowd you could say) tomorrow. My goal is to beat my time from last week, but it really isn't that important.  I don't think there is chip timing for this, so I'll just try to go hard the whole way and see how it pans out. Now that I feel pretty settled in with my running schedule, I'm going to go back to doing some weights to help increase my strength. Yesterday I was showering at the hotel which has one of those bathtub showers. When I put my foot up on the bathtub to wash my legs, I was surprised by how well defined the muscles in my calves have gotten!  Now I just have to do some of that with the rest of my body.  I used to joke when I was younger that I have a 6pack stomach, its just hidden under a layer of fat.  I'd like to be able to make that joke again next summer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Aftermath

I learned a valuable lesson after the race on Sunday. Don't forget to stretch!! Being caught up in the atmosphere of the race and not in my regular routine, I didn't stretch at all, and didn't do much of a cool down other than walking around slowly. Monday I was sore, quite sore. I'm sure some of it had to do with the effort of the hills, but I know there was some tightness in my hip flexors that could have used some serious stretching. 

Monday was a rest day, and was actually my daughters' birthday. My wife and I went to school and read to both of their classes, then took them out to Cheesecake Factory for their birthday dinner. They love that place and because we were there early for dinner, the server had the entire staff come out to the table to sing them Happy Birthday. It was really cute. The girls are cute in that they know I can't eat any cheesecake and they almost feel bad about it, but in their eyes I think they realize it just means more for them.

This morning was time to get right back onto the horse. I was a little worried that I'd be fatigued or too sore, but once I got moving I felt pretty good. I did just over 3 miles in 39 minutes, so right on the same pace that I ran on Sunday. Today I did a full cool down walk and my full stretching routine.  That and a little Advil seemed to have kept the soreness to a minimum. My legs still feel pretty good considering. Tomorrow I'm headed out of town for a couple of days on business, but I'm bringing my shoes and I'll get my run in Thursday morning on the treadmill at the hotel. Then Sunday I'll be doing my next 5K. 

I'd like to be able to increase my mileage per week over the rest of the year until i'm doing 15-20 miles a week.  Right now I'm at just about 9. I could add another day running each week and slowly build the miles of each run until i'm doing 4-6 per day. I think that will carry me well through the winter and put me in good shape to tackle a 10K in the spring as well as have a launching pad for an attack on a HM next year. I just have to be careful not to do too much too soon, listen to my body and make sure I enjoy myself.  

I started out running as a way to keep accountable, to tie my exercise to specific fitness goals and help with my weight loss. That has worked but I've also discovered another unforeseen benefit. I know realize that I'll be able to run better and faster as I lose weight, so I'm being more careful about my nutrition to help drive my success at running. It really is wonderful to use the perpetual cycle on the positive side rather than the negative.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

The First Race

I didn't get to post at all this week, but it was a very full week. I got my two runs in on Tuesday and Thursday, though I didn't get to go the full 3 miles because I was tight with available time, I did 2.5 on Tuesday and 2.8 on Thursday. Felt good on both days, stretched and the legs were feeling fine.

This was another busy weekend with a soccer game and the girls' sixth birthday party on Saturday and of course my first 5K on Sunday. Since this blog is my selfish attempt to focus on me, I'll just say that the soccer game was great, we tied and the team is getting better. The girls party was a lot of fun too. I took a lot of pictures and video with the camera and thanks to my wife's great friends there wasn't even a lot of clean up to do. After the party we went over to the neighbors for some football and to let the girls burn off some energy. We came home at 9pm and all of us were off to bed.  Why to bed so early, you ask... well because the race started at 7am and was bout 25 miles away, so I was picking up my buddy at 5:30 for the ride.

We got off to a good start and made it down to the race location at about 6:15. The "main" race for the day was the Atlanta 13.1 series half-marathon and we were running the 5K that goes along with it. It was really well organized, so parking was a breeze and the start/finish area was well signed. Being my first time, I was feeling a little out of place, but I decided to just plaster a smile on my face and have a good time. There were about 2500 runners for the half marathon and it was just really cool seeing all these people gathered in one spot for such a neat thing. Did I mention is was about 45 degrees?  Brrrrr.  I'm ok with the cold, but you could tell a lot of people hadn't yet gotten used to the season change around here. We walked around the start area for a while, just soaking in the atmosphere and people watching. With about 5 minutes before the start, we headed towards the back of the crowd so I didn't block anybody's path through the start.

We started at the sun started brightening the sky to the east. Walked up to the line with the crowd and started my trot as we crossed the line. As we turned left onto the main road it was awesome to look ahead and see all those bobbing heads filling the road. There was a pretty good downhill in the first half mile and then a rise. I was having some trouble with my pants sliding down and stopped once to retie them. Then my shoe came untied, which has never happened on any of my runs, so once again I was off to the side to stop and retie. My buddy was running with me and he just laughed at my "first race disasters." We turned into this nice neighborhood and passed the first mile marker at 18 minutes clock time. We weren't sure how far after the start we crossed the line, so we figured we were about 13 minutes.  We heard one woman start getting worried as she saw the clock. "Wow, that's a really slow mile," she said to her friend, who then had to explain to her about chip time and clock time. (For those of you who don't know ... they start the clock when they yell go and the first runners start, but each runner has a chip in their race bib and a mat at the start and finish record your "actual" time).

There were some pretty significant ups and downs in the second mile. We were still moving along at a pretty good pace, but we hit this bitch of a hill and I took it at my regular pace.  I was passing a lot of people on the hill and when I got to the top I was struggling. I was able to keep going though my breathing was labored.  Around this time we got to the water station which was cool, having all those cheering people. Shortly after the water station there was another tough up hill. I was hurting through this one, thought about walking to for a few moments, but kept focused on the top and pushed it through. Just after the top they split off the 5K runners to head back to the finish while the "real" runners kept going. I was able to catch my breath on a nice down hill section that led through to the last 1/2 mile.

This last part was brutal. We had driven in on this road and I saw that it was uphill almost all the way to the turn where you go about 150 yards to the finish. We started up the hill and I saw the finish but it was not close enough. There was a roundabout at the turn and I saw they put us on the outside, going around the left before making the right hand turn. I thought that was mean but I knew we were almost there so I kept going up the hill. A cop at the roundabout was going all "drill sergeant" on the group in front of us who were walking the hill. "You can't walk up my hill!" he was barking. We got up there and we smiled and waved as he said something about personally designing the course. IT was then that I realize the reason we went left around the roundabout . We didn't turn right down the drive to the finish, but had to go another 50 yard or so up the steepest part of the hill before we turned around to come down.  After commenting on the cruelty of it, the volunteer at the turn around cheered us on and said "its all downhill from here."

We had seen the clock said 44 minutes when we passed the roundabout, and it was about 44:30 now. I really wanted to beat 40 minutes, but as I said, I didn't know how much cushion we had from the start. We turned the corner together and I told my buddy the Giants fan (the guy from last week) that since they had won he could finish first. He said no its cool, and I jumped him and took off, laughing as I did. They called out our names on the PA and I came across the line, feeling really darn tired but proud and smiling. Trying to figure out what each volunteer was trying to hand me, between water and powerade and bananas and cookies and towels and who knows what else, got our pictures taken and then we were out. My legs felt great, buy my lungs were hurting on this one. It was a great feeling to finish and walk back through the fairly empty start/finish area.  We walked through to the other side to grab our bags and stood to watch the half marathoners go around on their second loop, then went back to the finish to watch the winners come through in 1:03, amazing times.

Some moments that stick out from the day...

  • Running past a man pushing his handicapped son in a stroller up one hill and having him fly past me on the downhill.
  • Seeing a cop pull up and get out if his car at the bottom of the last hill.  I asked him "Do you have your radar gun?  How fast was I going?"  He says "I got you at 1.2!"  I laughed, "All right, my fastest yet!!"
  • Drill Sergeant cop telling us we were doing a great job.
  • Turning to my left to spit and noticing at the last minute that a woman was passing me on that side.  I lowered my head and spit in front of me and she said "Bless you" as she ran past, because she thought I'd sneezed.
  • Walking past the results table after the finish, I asked the girl there "Did I win?" She says, "Did you beat the bear?"  "There was really a bear?? I thought I was hallucinating" was the funniest thing I could come up with.  Apparently the sponsor's mascot is a bear and they had some guy in a bear suit run the 5K. He came in second.
Thanks for reading if you're still there. It was an awesome experience. I had a great time though I was hurting through the end. I can't imagine running 13.1 miles on all of those hills, but I definitely want to give that a try.  Next week, race number two.

Oh yea, almost forgot ... my buddy checked our times on his Iphone on the ride home. My chip time was 39:48, which means I beat my goal even with my early race disasters.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

What a Weekend

Wow, its been a busy couple of days over here! I posted last Wednesday and then Thursday morning I ran another 2.25 miles. Thursday evening I traveled to my old college stomping grounds to recruit at a job fair. I arrived on campus Friday morning at 8am and realized that it was probably the only time I was ever awake at that hour on campus since my Freshman year. Friday night I had a fantastic dinner with a couple of my oldest and closest friends. We don't get together nearly enough, but we always have a great time when we do.

Saturday morning I got on a plane in Newark at 6:30, landed in Atlanta at 8:30 and drove right to the soccer field for our 10:30 game. The kids played great. Its really cool to see some of them starting to understand the game a little bit. After a nice nap in the afternoon, we went to our neighbors for a great barbecue/birthday party. After a night with my old close friends, we had a night with our new close friends. Unfortunately one of those friendships took a turn for the worse the next day, but more on that later. Great times with great people.

Sunday morning I got up and ran. After two days rest I was ready to go for broke and my goal was to run the entire 5K distance. I ended up running 3.5 miles in 44 minutes. I have tons of confidence now going into next week's race. I know I can make the distance without stopping to walk. Hopefully there aren't too many hills on the course. I'm going to run 3 miles on Tuesday and Thursday, then take two days rest before the race Sunday.

One of our neighbors came over for the football game on Sunday. Unfortunately he's a Giants fan and I'm an Eagles fan. The gods of sport obviously made me suffer for allowing the enemy into my house and intervened in the most wretched of ways. Well, fortunately for him he's got a lovely family so I may consider spending time with them again, but it will be painful. He's running with me next week, so I may just have to make him suffer through the humiliation of being out run by a fat guy.

We capped off the weekend with another great dinner with another set of friends. It was a beautiful night with great food and great conversation. This was one of those weekends that just make you thankful to be surrounded by wonderful people and be able to enjoy being with them. Might not have been the best weekend for my diet, but I can truly say that it was 3 days filled with life's treasures, and that's what its all about.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Miles Like Its Nothing

OK, maybe not like its nothing, but I did another two miles yesterday. I'm headed out of town for a couple of nights tomorrow, so I wanted to make sure I fit in two runs before I leave. I did 26 minutes at 13mpm on the treadmill last night. It was a struggle because it was after dinner and time tends to drag along on the treadmill, but I didn't quit and finished the run. Today was a day off and tomorrow I'm going to run in the morning, the same loops that I ran on Monday Morning.

We got more great news on the family front today. My SIL's pathology results came back benign, so everyone breathed a great big sigh of relief.

I'm guessing that Google+ got opened to the world today, because I suddenly got invited into Google+. If anyone is a member, let me know and I'll put you in my circles or something. Quick one tonight, have to pack and take out the garbage. 10 days till the race.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It Was a Good Day

Yesterday we picked my wife up early at the airport. The girls were so happy that their Mommy was back and I was ecstatic to have my wife back. We had a nice relaxing afternoon and just enjoyed family time. Today I was scheduled to have a colonoscopy (long story from a colitis attack earlier this summer) but with everything going on I decided to reschedule and take the day to just spend some alone time with my wife. We had a great morning together after my run. The girls and I then had Dad and Kid Pizza night at school. There is a father volunteer program called WatchDogs and this was the intro night. Its really cool to see how many other Dads there are at this school who care and get involved. Its so important for the kids to see that their education is valued by their parents.

Good news on the family front, my SIL was sent home from the hospital today. My BIL (on the other side, my sister's hubby) did a 25 mile bike ride this weekend and is doing a 75 mile charity ride next week.

The most exciting part of the day ... my wife got her first paycheck in 6 years!  She embarked on a new career several months ago. The job is all commission and today she earned her first commission. She was so proud and I'm proud for her. We're lucky that because of where we live we are able to support ourselves on my salary so its great for her to get this money with no pressure and then we can do something fun with it.

Now, I think all of this good stuff for the day started with my run. Today was the third day of week 6 of the program. It called for a 25 minute run. During the 25 minutes I ran two loops of the .93 mile trail in the park and I felt pretty good, so I tacked on another .35 miles around the shorter loop to bring me over 2 miles. It felt awesome, I came home and stretched and my legs felt pretty good all day. Some soreness but nothing crazy.We'll see how they feel tomorrow. I need to compress my schedule a bit this week because I have to travel Thursday night to Saturday morning. I'm going to try to run again tomorrow night and then Thursday morning and Sunday morning.

I have less than two weeks until the 5K and I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll be able to run most if not all of it. I'm going to start looking into more races for the fall too.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rise to the Challenge

I haven't been able to post this week because we've had some challenges to overcome here. My wife's sister had a major health scare and Monday evening my wife traveled to be with her family and help with her nieces. That left me a single parent for the week. Thankfully, as of today everything is looking positive and my sister in law is recovering well. We haven't always seen eye to eye (she's a Giants fan and I'm an Eagles fan) but family is family and we all hurt when one of us is hurting.

I've been able to get my runs in so far this week, doing the 6th week of the program. I decided to run this week in my neighborhood, which has a couple of rises in the half mile loop. Wednesday was a step back to five, eight and five minute runs and I got through that pretty easily. Today was two 10 minute intervals and it was a struggle. I think the week of being a single parent caught up with me. I did get around a little over 4 times, so just over 2 miles in 30 minutes, 10 of which was walking. I'm feeling pretty good about my pace.

Its been a tough but fun week with the girls alone, but I'm really looking forward to my wife coming back on Sunday. Then she can watch the girls while I go out and do my 25 minute run.

I've decided that past the immediate goal of getting through a couple of 5K's this fall, I'd like to challenge myself for the next 18-24 months. I will be 40 in that period, and during that time I will accomplish something that seems impossible to me today. I don't know yet what that is, maybe a marathon, maybe riding a 100 mile bike ride, a triathlon, I don't know, but I want to do something physically that I never could have done in my life before. If anyone has any reasonable ideas, let me know.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Victory and Defeat, Then and Now

Yesterday was our first soccer game. I knew we were in for trouble when the other coach told me his team has been together for 3 seasons. The only two players on my team who have played in the past are my two girls, and they aren't exactly world beaters. The kids tried hard and never gave up, so that was good to see, but its tough when they just don't listen. I guess I'll have to start making them run laps in practice. Its a good thing we don't keep score. After practice the girls had a birthday party to go to and I let the sting of defeat go with a nice nap.

The victory came this morning, when I went out and did my first non-stop 20 minute run. I was a little nervous about it and I couldn't decide whether to run on the treadmill or outside. The race isn't on a treadmill though, so I decided to run outside. I went to the same park where I had to give up my run 2 weeks ago because its near the house and has a nice nature trail as well as the paved trail. I really felt great through the whole run. I kept the pace slow and steady. There was very little discomfort in my legs outside of what I'd expect from running and when the time was up I think I could have gone a little longer. In the end, I think I ran almost a mile and a half, because I ran the nature trail twice and the paved trail once. I stretched after and my legs, though  a little stiff and tired, felt pretty pain free most of the day. This gives me a lot of hope for the race in three weeks.  I may not be able to run the whole way, but I'm sure I'll be able to get by with minimal walk breaks.

When I got back from my run it was about 8:30 and I flipped on the TV to see some of the 9/11 memorial from ground zero. I broke down as I watched families read the names of their lost loved ones, some children who were younger than my girls on that day. For my generation the 9/11 attack is our "know where you were" moment, like Pearl Harbor for our Grandparents and the Kennedy Assassination for our parents. Today, though, I didn't think about where I was, but instead I thought about who I was. The life I led 10 years ago bears very little semblance to who I am today. I was unproductive, untrustworthy and unmotivated, working as a waiter and bartender and barely caring about a future farther away than the next party. Any good poker player knows that there is a sucker at every table, and if you don't know who that sucker is, then its you. Every group of friends has the one person who nobody really likes, and I realized later that I was that guy with my friends. I was sitting at a football game several weeks later when the President announced that they had started bombing in Afghanistan. 70,000 people started cheering. Cheering that more people were dying. I sat there aghast at the reaction and wondered what those same people would have said if there had been news of a soccer stadium in Saudi Arabia or Yemen that erupted in cheering at the news of the 9/11 attacks. It was at that moment that I decided that I could no longer live my life as a selfish asshole.

The thing that strikes me the most about those days personally is that I never cried. I sat there watching thousands of people dying on live tv and though I was stunned I never cried. I lived less than 90 miles from NYC at the time, spent the next several days making sandwiches to be delivered to those working there, but as I watched the horror that was going on around me, I never cried.  It was only a few months later that I left NJ for Florida and decided to grow up. This morning, as I watched those families read the names, I cried. I cried thinking about how at that time in my life, I'd done nothing of worth, and these people who had families were slaughtered. I cried thinking about the way my daughters look at me, and how painful it would be to have that torn asunder. And I cried thinking about how many other lives have been lost since that day, in lands far from here, both American and others. I'm really glad that I've grown enough emotionally to cry.

In order to make myself a better person I had to stop being an ass. I had to stand up and say "I will do the right things right, I will work instead of play, I will grow up."

In order to end the cycle of violence, someone has to stop killing, someone has to stand up and say "not another life will be extinguished." I hope that happens soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back in Business

I realize I've been slacking in updating the blog, but the workouts continue. Today was a kick ass day. Back on Monday I ran W5D1 which was 3 five minute intervals. I took Tuesday off, from working out and ended up cancelling soccer practice because it was raining, so that helped the knees out a lot. Wednesday I did weights and the elliptical and I felt great after.  I came home and stretched too.  I've found a pretty good routine of stretching my quads, calves, hip flexors and hamstrings. Hopefully over time that will pay off in more supple muscles and less pain.

Today I would have run in the morning, but I had a Dr. appointment. Its been six months since I was diagnosed with diabetes. In that time I've lost 43 pounds, plus my BP today was 120/78. It really felt great to walk out of there without a warning of impending doom. Now we'll see how my blood work comes back next week, but I'm feeling pretty damn positive about all that. Then after my wife made a delicious dinner of baked chicken, spinach and tomatoes with basil and mozzarella, I went to the gym.  Today called for 2 eight minute intervals and I nailed them. Well, I was struggling a bit through the end of both of them, but I finished. About 2 minutes into the second interval I realized that I wasn't even breathing heavy yet and I couldn't imagine how just a few weeks ago I could barely make it through a 90 second run. I broke into this huge smile while I was running, which probably made the other people in the gym think I was crazy.  At least I wasn't yelling out or laughing. So after the negative feelings just a week ago, I'm feeling back on track and excited about the journey. I don't know if I have enough in me to get through the first 5k without walking, but I know it will come.

I've been having some pretty good discussions with colleagues at work about happiness and feeling content but still wanting more. For a little over 6 years, ever since I saw the ultrasound picture with two little spots on it, I've been driven to achieve, to advance in my job, to make "something" of myself and be able to provide a good living for my family. By many measures I've done all of that, but of course there is always more to do. But last year someone asked me what I do for fun and I couldn't really come up with a good answer. That really got to me.  I like football ... I like music but what was I passionate about? What did I really look forward to doing? Well I couldn't come up with anything outside of spending time with my family and I realized that if I can develop parts of myself outside of work, I could be content more often. I started searching for things that I like, and my wife can tell you I explored a lot of options with varying degrees of success. A few things have fallen into place, with the running, with taking pictures and even with writing this blog and I've come to realize recently that I am able to find contentedness and achievement outside of work. As I lose weight, as I run farther, write more and take better pictures I can advance, achieve goals and feel that same sense of accomplishment that I used to get from solving a problem at work or being recognized with a special project or promotion. Does this mean I'm not going to continue to strive for greater things at work?  Absolutely not (in case any of my readers are wondering :-) ). But now I'm able to not become down during times when work isn't going as well as I'd like. Plus I think its helping me be able to create ideas and take risks at work without fear of disaster.  Hopefully this will make me a happier person, a better husband and father and keep me motivated in all aspects of my life.

I think all of this is part of me trying to psyche myself up for Sunday's 20 minute interval.  I'm pretty sure that if I can get through that, I'm well on my way to becoming a runner.  24 days until my race.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day My Labor Day

Labor Day has always been a special day for my family and I woke up today thinking fond memories of my father's family and the Jersey Shore  (the good parts, not the ridiculousness that the world has associated with it these days). Took the kids to breakfast and picked up the soccer uniforms at the Y. Its a rainy day here today so we didn't really have anything planned. My legs were feeling great so I decided that I would try to run on the treadmill today and pick up the workout that I couldn't finish last week.

I also decided to wear my old shoes. I don't know if there is a causal effect, but my knee pain started after I bought new running shoes. I figured I'd try my older shoes to see if I felt any better running with them. So I got to the gym at around 11 and it was as crowded as I've ever seen it. I hopped on a treadmill and started walking. Since this workout was 5 min run/3 min walk for 3 runs, I didn't need a podcast and just used my own music. I felt pretty good.  I set my run paces at 4.7 mph or 12:45 min miles. This was pretty comfortable and I got through all three runs fairly well.  I was struggling a bit at the end of the third run, but I got through it and finished just over 2 miles in 30 minutes. Half of that time was spent running. My knee was feeling a little sore at the end, but not too bad. If I can keep up that pace of 12:45 for 5K, I'd finish in less that 40 minutes, which would be absolutely amazing.  I don't expect it, but it would be great. There were several times when I felt I had to slow myself down a bit to keep from running off the front of the treadmill, but I don't really want to push my pace much faster until I know I can run some longer times.

So I did feel some lingering soreness for the rest of the day, that got worse after dinner time.  I'm going to take a day off tomorrow, then do weights on wednesday and try to run again on Thursday. I'm thinking I'll stick on the treadmill for now until I can run without pain in my knee and then try outside again.

At least now I have some more hope that I won't be sidelined forever.  Though I may have to swallow what I paid for those new shoes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day at the Zoo

Day off from exercise today after a great dinner with friends last night. The kids played and had a great time while the parents made dinner, drank wine and laughed a lot. Lots of fun but I woke up a bit groggy this morning. Took the family to our favorite breakfast spot and thought about what we wanted to do today.  Movies were a possibility, but then the thought struck me ... the Zoo. The weather is cooler than usual and it was overcast so it was pretty comfortable.  It did rain a little bit while we were there, but never very hard and it felt nice. This was our first time visiting Zoo Atlanta, but we bought a membership so we'll be back. The year long membership is only a few dollars more than admission for the day, so its a no brainer.

We only made it through about 2/3's of the zoo, but we had an awesome time watching the gorillas. We caught them at training and feeding time, so they were very active and right by the viewing area. The girls were right up against the glass and a couple of times some wrestling adolescents charged right at them. It was really funny to see them jump. I got some great pictures too. 

At one point we rolled up to the reptile house to find a couple of big ole tortoises in the pen outside doing the deed. It was really funny to hear all the parents trying to explain what was going on. We heard one lady tell her kids that he was "looking for the bathroom."  I'm not sure if he found the bathroom, but he did find a lady friend.  At least I hope she was a lady... not that there's anything wrong with that.  He was even making some pretty graphic noises.

So we did a lot of walking and the legs felt great.  Tomorrow I'll hit the elliptical again, and hopefully the knee will feel good enough to run later this week.

Friday, September 2, 2011


So tomorrow I will be regrouping and starting my exercise program again, this time not running for the rest of the week and focusing on strength and cardio. I'm also going to refocus my eating habits, as I've been letting them get away from me over the last couple of weeks. I have a goal of weighing less than 250 by thanksgiving and if I don't step things up, I am not going to make that.

I'm still up in the air about what I'm going to do long term about running. I hope that this knee pain is just temporary. I really like the idea of running a few races a year to keep up my fitness goals and I'm having a hard time thinking of alternatives. If anyone has a bike they want to give up cheap, let me know.  :-)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wish I could kick my low knee in the hiney

So after feeling pretty good over the weekend and during Tuesday's workout, I had pretty high hopes for running on Wednesday. This was the first run of week 5 of the program, which had three 5 minute running intervals. I woke up and my knee had no pain, so my mindset was good heading out to the park.  I decided to run at a park closer to my house, one that has a sidewalk trail around a field that measures about .35 miles. I started out walking and felt a little stiff, then ran the first interval. I couldn't seem to get my form and stride right, I just felt tight. Then when I slowed to a walk ... BAM my knee started screaming at me. Each step was painful and it didn't get much better through the 3 minute walk. When it came time to run again I started, but after less than a minute my body just stopped running. I was so frustrated I wanted to scream. Of course I was at the far corner of the park so I walked it back around to the entrance, sat on a bench and berated myself for a bit. It was really disheartening. Here I was, less than 12 hours after planning 12 months of races and now I can't even run for 5 minutes without pain.

I've decided that I'm going to take a week off of running completely. I'm going to replace those runs with workouts on the elliptical and continue to do strength training to try to strengthen the muscles in my leg around my knee. My legs didn't feel too badly for the rest of the day Wednesday, but today they were really sore all day long, even after 3 advil. I didn't do any exercise today, but I'm going to hit the gym tomorrow. I'll see how things feel after a week.  Worse comes to worse, I'll just run/walk the 5K in October. Maybe I still need to lose more weight before my body is going to be able to stand running again. I'm still 275 pounds and that's a lot of pressure on weakened joints.  So I'll keep eating right and continue non-impact exercise to increase my fitness and we'll see where this goes. The most frustrating part is that I feel fit, my heart and lungs aren't giving me a problem at all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plodding Along

Back to work yesterday, but day off from exercise. My knee was feeling ok for most of the day. I tried to do some stretches at the end of the night, as they felt more tight than in pain. Last night was Curriculum night at the girls' school. Both girls got great reports from their teachers, and both of the teachers got great reports from my wife, so it was a success!

This morning I got up and went to the gym for strength training. I warmed up on the elliptical, did weights and then did another 30 minutes on the elliptical. My knee felt pretty good during the workouts, though there was some pain when I did the leg extensions and the leg press. Once I got off the elliptical I was sore, but by the time I got home and ate breakfast I was feeling better. Work was darn busy and I didn't think much about my knee most of the day and it didn't hurt enough to wedge its way into my mind.

After work I had soccer practice and that didn't turn out so well for the knee. The kids did pretty well today, listened better than the first practice and I did my best to wear them out. But the lateral movements and ball striking really did a number on my knees. Its pretty sore right now, so I took some advil and I'm going to put some bio-freeze on it. I'm planning to run in the morning so hopefully it'll feel alright. Tomorrow is the start of week 5 of the program, which starts with a 5 minute run, then an 8 minute and another 5 minute. I'm going to try to run in a different park this time, one that has a running trail that has less curves then the regular track. Still staying on track as best I can.

Today I looked up some future races, there's a nighttime 5K at a nearby park that runs through their holiday light display in November that looks pretty interesting.  Somedays I feel like I'm never going to be able to run one race, and the next day I'm thinking of when my first marathon will be.  OK, well maybe half-marathon.  honestly, I'll just be happy if I ever can even try to run Peachtree.  We'll see.  One step at a time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I started this post Friday afternoon, but didn't get to post it because I had family visiting for the weekend, so I'm going to post it now and then continue it with today's post ...

This morning I was really really down.  My knee started hurting so badly during my run that I couldn't finish. I hurt a bit on Wednesday after I ran, but started feeling better later in the day and felt ok most of the day on Thursday, until later in the day. Last night when I was sitting on the plane it got pretty sore. I figured this was because I was jammed into those little damn seats (I don't fly enough to get the fancy seats up front). It was sore walking through the airport and a bit when I got home, but nothing unbearable.  This morning I went to the track and everything started fine.  I did my first 3 minute run, no problem, then during my 5 minute I was tired but no pain. But when I slowed to walk after that run, my calves tightened up and my knee started really hurting. I kept walking and hoped that it would fade again when I started running again. But when I started to run this time it hurt more than before. I tried to go on, but made it halfway around the track and had to start walking again. At this point I totally lost my motivation and when I got back to the gate i walked out. I sat on a bench for a little while with my water bottle pressed against my knee and my face in my towel.

Now all these thoughts started running through my head ... what am I going to do now?  Is this over before I even got started?  What else can I do to keep myself going?  Am I going to have to go buy a bike?

I drove home and iced my knee on the couch for a half hour then limped up the stairs to take a shower.  it hurt the most trying to climb stairs.  I was really disappointed and my wife tried to cheer me up, but I don't want to give up on running. I took some advil and by the time I got to work, it started feeling better.  There were twinges of pain throughout the day, and also some times when it didnt hurt at all.

OK, now back to today ...

I felt pretty bad all day Friday. My knee was sore, though not terribly so, but thoughts of being derailed so early on in my effort swam through my head. I know a ton of people start journey's like this and never make the end. I know I've done that in the past, but this time its too important to me to give up. I thought that maybe I'd take a couple of extra days between runs, running every third day and realizing that I won't be up to 30 minutes before the race on Oct. 2, but if I have to walk that weekend, I'll walk. There are races after that one too.  I had family visiting for the weekend, so that distracted me a bit.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling ok, took some Advil anyway and then had my first soccer practice with the kids. Its tough to wrangle 10 5 and 6 year olds to try to run drills, but we got through it and I think most of the kids had a good time. Cutting back and forth and kicking the ball to play with the kids made my knee ache, so that was kind of a bummer.

Sunday should be run day, but a combination of waking up with a sore knee, being out with the neighbors too late, drinking a bit too much and having my houseguests leave early in the morning kept me from running early.  Instead I went to the gym early in the afternoon and tried to run on the treadmill. I think I've mentioned before that I don't like the treadmill because the pacing is hard for me, but I thought it might be easier on my knees, plus its hot outside here in the afternoon.

I was able to get through the entire workout on the treadmill without too much pain. I still get some pretty wicked tightness when slowing from a run to walk, especially after the longer runs, but I was able to get through it. But, as soon as I was done the last run, the pain came on. I had to cut my cool down a little short. I went home and iced it again for a full 30 minutes and I started feeling better. Now its a few hours later and I can get around without limping, but if I keep the knee in the same position for a couple of minutes, its gets stiff.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. I think that I'll get up tomorrow and do some weights and the elliptical and see how I feel.  Then I'll take Tuesday off and try running again Wednesday morning. Then I'll run again Saturday and plan the next weeks from there.

On a high note, I got through all the runs today pretty well.  I was struggling a bit for the last one and I slowed the pace down a lot, but I finished.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chasing Storms

I'm out of town for business this week.  I got the last run of W3 of the program in on Sunday morning. I woke up a bit late and got to the track around 8am, so this was my first run in the sunshine. I didn't realize that the track ran straight into the sun on one side. This run was a bit of a struggle but I got through it. My right knee has been pretty sore since then. The rest of Sunday was a fun day with the kids and a trip to Wal-Mart where I bought some cheap "tech" gear. I guess "tech" is a fancy name for polyester, but its much more comfortable to run in than cotton. Cotton absorbs water so as you sweat it gets heavier and hangs on your body. So I bought socks, undershorts and a t-shirt. Today I ran with them on and I do feel a difference.  I'm in South Florida and its damn hot, even at 6:30.  I sweat a lot, but the shirt didn't hang, was very comfortable.

So I took Monday and Tuesday off from exercise, got a lot of work done and was able to catch up with old friends for dinner each night. Lots of fun. I have to admit it was tough to get up and run this morning, but once I got started I felt pretty good.  Today the intervals went up to 3 minutes and 5 minutes.  I was struggling at the end of the last 5 minute run, but I got through them all.  No pain during the run, but the knee is sore again.  Just sat here in the hotel room for 30 minutes with ice on my knee, now I'm into the shower and off to the office.

Seems like the hurricane is going to miss Florida, so I'll be able to get out of here ok tomorrow night. I was on the phone with a couple of people back at the office in Georgia yesterday when the earthquake hit.  They all noticed the building moving and were a bit freaked out, but when I called my wife, she and the kids hadn't felt anything. Pretty crazy to have a quake that big on the east coast.  The movement was actually really shallow, so that's why it was felt so far away. The paranoid conspiracy theory part of my mind wonders if there was some type of experiment gone awry at some secret government laboratory, but I left my tin foil hat at home, so that thought will be quickly erased by the mind control satellites. 

If all things go well, I'll be home Thursday night and will run again Friday and Sunday. Saturday will be our first soccer practice.  Oh, and my dad and step-mom are coming to visit this weekend too.  Keeping busy!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Goals Saved Me

Yesterday was the perfect example of why I exercise better with a concrete goal to achieve. Thursday was a difficult day for me and I was still excited to run on Friday. I got up early and headed to the track in the dark. This was the second day of the 90sec/3min intervals. During the first 3 minute run, I started to feel a cramp on the outside of my right calf. I ran through it, but when I slowed to walk it got really bad. If I didn't have this goal to work towards, I would have stopped right there. But I didn't. I pushed myself through the two minute walk and then it started to feel better during the 90 sec run. The last 3 minute run actually felt pretty good, though I still struggled to keep up my pace near the end. I really want to get myself to run this 5K and I will!

I felt more spent during the day than I had all week. I started to feel a little soreness in my knee throughout the day. So I decided that Saturday would be a day off. I had worked out 4 days straight so I'd rather recover for a day and do my final run of week 3 well on Sunday.

I've been a bit lax lately with my eating.  Nothing totally out of whack, but I'm going to start being more careful with my choices. I was convinced to go to 5 guys by a couple of saboteurs yesterday. At least I only ate a small burger, no bacon.  I didn't order any fries, but when these evil souls poured fries on my bag, I caved and ate some. These are my struggles!  With friends like these, who needs McDonalds.

So today when the girls wanted pancakes, we took them to IHOP but I had fake eggs with turkey bacon, 400 calories.  And last night when I was playing poker with the neighborhood guys, I didn't drink at all.  You'd think it would have helped being the sober one at a table of drunks, but my cards sucked and I got wiped out.