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.