Monday, December 10, 2012

Fitness Process and Goals

So a number of weeks ago I wrote a post on Process, Systems and Goals and promised to discuss some of the things I've been using in my life. Today I'm sharing the first of those posts. In keeping with the recent theme of the blog I'll start with my fitness and health.

I'm not going to go to deep into my personal situation, as I've covered that already. I'm going to share what I try to do each day to control the two important aspects of wellness for me, nutrition and exercise.

On the nutrition front, I've lost almost 60 pounds over the last 18 months by making some fundamental changes in what I eat and when I eat it. Now, I'll be totally honest and tell you that this is one area where I continually struggle. I am not always (hardly ever) 100% faithful to the process, but when I am I know it works. The process itself is fairly simple in theory. Eat less calories than you burn, eat often enough that you never get overly hungry and avoid poisons such as sugar and processed foods.

The best way to do this is to use some sort of nutrition diary. When I first started I used the Livestrong website, but I've since switched to MyFitnessPal for tracking what I eat. Its important to track everything you put in your mouth when you are starting out because most people fail for lack of knowledge as much as for lack of effort. I find that I do best when I eat 5 times a day. A mid morning snack helps me from being too hungry at lunch time. A late afternoon snack helps me from being too hungry at dinner time. Why is that important? Because when I get too hungry, that's when I make bad eating decisions. The key to good nutrition is making good decisions each and every time you're faced with the question of what to eat. I found that for me, making the right decision is a lot easier when I'm not overly hungry.

So my key nutrition points

  • Avoid sugars and processed foods
  • Eat 5 times a day
  • Be aware of the value of everything you put in your mouth
Now the other half of the equation is exercise. Motivation and accountability are always the parts that I've struggled with when it comes to exercise. When I was a kid involved in sports, those things were easy, because playing soccer or basketball was fun and you had practice every day after school so you were always in shape. As an adult, it wasn't as easy.

For motivation I found myself a goal. At first it was to run a 5K race. At the moment my goal is a half marathon. The goal gives you that lingering thought at the back of your mind to incent you to get out of bed, to lace up your shoes and get moving. In addition, I made my goal public. By announcing it to friends and family I knew they'd be asking me about it and it gave me even more motivation to keep at it. Nobody likes to explain why they didn't reach a goal that they've announced.

I took the accountability step one further and started this blog. At first I wrote about all of my workouts and tried to believe that people actually read it. I joined some online communities that turned out to be very supportive. Its great to find other people who have gone through the same struggles you are, who can help provide support and understanding. I joined the community at and then later found a Twitter group called #runchat. Through these two groups I found a lot of great support and advice to help me maintain my motivation and achieve success.

Finally, I use a system to track my progress. There are several websites that provide this type of tracking. and are two I use regularly. They take the data off of my gps watch allow me to track it and share it with my friends. I can look back at previous performances and set long term goals, such as the goal I'm about to achieve, to run 500 miles in 2012.

My key exercise points
  • set a goal for motivation
  • share your goal with others for accountability and support
  • track your progress
  • Have Fun!

I'm not perfect and I have a long way to go in these areas, but following these points have really helped me make a ton of progress over the last year and a half.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tryptophan 10K Race Report

This year my family decided to not travel anywhere for Thanksgiving and instead to stay home and enjoy some time together. I had some vacation days to burn at work, so I took the full week off and we had a little "staycation." Earlier in the year the local running store announced they'd be hosting a half marathon on Thanksgiving morning. In my planning it fleetingly entered my mind but I realized that would be too soon for me, but when I heard a few weeks ago that they'd added a 10K to the days plans, I knew that was a race for me. The fact that it was just a few miles from home was perfect for me. Apparently I wasn't the only one, as there was a really good turnout for this race. There were over 300 people in the half, 164 in the 10K and almost 1000 who were running the 5K. They even had a little expo on Wednesday with packet pick up and a bunch of vendors. From my point of view, it was quite a success. 

My family was debating on whether or not to attend, but in the end the lure of the Macy's parade on the TV was more interesting than sweaty people down the street and I can't say that I blame them. I did take the girls to the packet pick up and they had fun looking at all the funny running stuff. I struggled a bit deciding what I was going to wear for the race, as the weather was in that in between zone of the mid 40's but I settled on short sleeves with a compression undershirt, my hat and gloves. It was the right choice, though I may even have been able to go without the undershirt. I took my gloves off around mile 4 and stuffed them in my pocket.

My training for the last few weeks has been going well, mostly because I've slowed myself down and not tried to push my pace at all. I ran 6 miles last saturday at a pace of around 13 minutes per mile and I didn't really have any goals in this race other than to go the distance without putting myself into any great difficulty. As this is the beginning of my 12 week plan to prep for a half marathon, I feared that a hard 10K experience wouldn't be very helpful at this point, so my goal was to take it easy, enjoy the distance and to finish before the first half marathoner.

With this in mind I lined up with the rest of the runners at the start. The half and 10K started at the same time, but we started about a half mile up the road from them, which I think was probably annoying for the faster half marathoners but I enjoyed seeing them run by me. I lined up in the middle of the pack, but stayed to the side and most people moved past me within the first half mile. I kept my pace comfortable and tried to calm my competitive mind. I found myself at the back of the pack and shortly before the first mile I heard some really fast footsteps coming from behind me. 

For the next two miles I worked on trying to stay comfortable and not push myself, tempering my pace by my breathing and occasional glances at my watch (which I realized I forgot to start about 2 minutes into the race, so I didn't have a reliable time). I was trying to stay around 12:30, not pushing too hard up hills to maintain energy. More and more half marathoners were passing me, including my super fast friend Natalie, my twitter friend Jennifer (who somehow recognized me from behind) and others I recognized from my weekly runs on the greenway. I walked a few steps through the water stop at mile 2 and soon started to see the other 10K runners heading back after the turn around. 

We turned around and headed back and it was nice to be free of the half marathoners passing me. I was feeling pretty good and I started to look ahead of me for people to aim at. The next mile and a half I was trying to stay around 12 minutes but I let myself go a little bit down the hills. It was all about maintaining and I was feeling really good, but I've felt good at 4 miles before so I knew it could still come off the rails. Then we came upon the 5K runners. Oh wow, were there a lot of them. I went from running alone chasing someone 100ft in front of me to being surrounded by people, all of whom were running just a little bit faster than me. I thought to myself, don't get sucked into running too fast and burning out, as there's still a mile and a half to go. I wished I had a sign that said "hey, I'm running twice as far as you!" but I just kept my pace.  I did pick it up a bit, but made sure to monitor my breathing and noticed after a quarter mile or so I was about 11:30 and feeling pretty good. Looking back, I think it did help me to have all that company as I think I paced a little more quickly than I would have without it.

About a half mile from the end we split back out again from the 5K runners and I started pushing. There were two people ahead of me that I wanted to catch. In the end, I caught one but not the other but I felt strong enough to really push hard the last quarter mile. I ran past my neighbor Romeo just before the last turn and that gave me a nice burst and I looked up to see the clock at 1:12 and change as I crossed the line. I stopped my watch as I came across the line and took stock of my feelings. I knew my PR was 1:12:48 from the Buford race in June, and I felt right away that I was feeling better than I had after that race. I walked around a bit, grabbed a water and a banana and reflected. This was the first 10K that I felt good after the finish, physically I mean. I recovered quickly and never felt light headed or overly winded. 

I walked back up to the corner to stand with my friends and watch the first half marathoners come in. The winner crossed in 1:17, so I barely made my goal of beating him. His wife Natalie, who is super fast, won her age group in 1:33, a PR for her. I ran back to the car to get my jacket and stayed around to cheer for the next hour or so, watching tons of people conquer a distance that a year ago I never though I could do, but in 12 short week, I'll be running myself. My twitter friend Jennifer finished in 1:57, which I found out later was her first sub-2 hour half, which is awesome. 

All in all, I felt really great after this race. 10K has always been a humbling distance for me, and finishing 152 out of 164 isn't exactly awe inspiring, but I did set my PR by 15 seconds, with an official time of 1:12:33. I plug that into the McMillan race calculator and it says my half time equivalent would be 2:41, which will be just fine with me. I'm feeling strong and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do in the next 3 months.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Processes, Systems and Goals

A lot of the work that I do in my day to day revolves around processes and systems. How do we manage customer cases more efficiently, to get them to the right engineer with the right skill set in the least amount of time? How do I measure my team's performance? How do we make sure all the various stakeholders in a given situation receive the proper information that is important to them and get it to them quickly? I could list a hundred more challenges that we have created processes to solve. By creating a process, you can ensure that you are able to repeatedly conquer the same challenge and focus your efforts on the important work that needs to be done.

The key, however is not the process but the specific goal. Blasting an email to the entire company list would achieve a broad goal of communicating information. Without the focus on the specific, getting the right information to the right people without distracting people with unneeded noise, the odds of this process being successful is very slim. At Citrix, from the top down we are very good at setting a goal and then adjusting our process to meet it. This type of thinking does not have to be limited to your work life.

It sounds cold and analytical, but setting goals and processes in our personal lives can actually be very freeing and motivating. Over the past few years, when I've set specific goals for myself invariably things in that area of my life have improved. Any reader of this blog is well aware of my fitness goals and the running that I've done. I set a goal, devise a plan, gather data and track metrics, then adjust my process to target my goals. I've tried to tackle my personal finances, my weight loss and even career and education with in the same manner.

I'm certainly not conceited enough to think that I've been 100% successful in everything or that my way is the right way. I certainly wish I'd figured this out in my early twenties and not in my late thirties, but since I don't have a flux capacitor, I can't go back in time. I steal ideas from others all the time. I believe in art that is called inspiration. But for the most part in the last few years I've been able to pull things together fairly well. In the next few weeks I'm going to do some posts that talk about what I've done in each specific area of my life and hopefully someone out there can steal some of my stolen ideas to help themselves.

If anyone has any requests or suggestions, drop me a note, I'd be happy to hear them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Atlanta Marathon Relay

After putting together a group to run in the Peachtree, I found out about the Atlanta Marathon Relay and thought it would be fun to put together a team. When I put out a call for volunteers, I got 8 responses, so we made two teams. We made up some cool t-shirts and had a couple of group runs to get everyone in the mood. Finally, it was race day.

The race is presented by the Atlanta Track Club and they are very organized. There were 4 legs, though they were not all the same length. The course is a loop of the city, starting at Atlantic Station and going counter clockwise, hitting most of the major sites around the city. I ran the first leg which was 5.5 miles through Georgia Tech and past Centennial Park, the Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Phillips Arena, CNN and the Georgia Dome. It was a pretty cool leg, though there was about about 300 feet of climbing with a net gain of over 120 feet.

The weather was pretty great for running, in the high 40's at the start with a slight breeze. We car pooled down to the start and arrived about 5:30 for the 7am start. The people taking the later legs took buses out to the exchange points and the bus for the first exchange left at 6, so the timing was good. I ended up running in my short sleeves with gloves and my visor. I checked pants, a long sleeve T and jacket for after the race and kept a long sleeve T with me that I ditched at the start. I'm pretty happy with my clothing choice as I felt comfortable the whole run.

I headed over to the start and tried to stay as warm as possible until the gun. My plan for this race was to start slowly. I knew there were going to be hills and I didn't want to burn out too early. I knew the guy running the first leg for the other team was faster than I am, but I also knew that our second leg guy was the fastest of us all, so I wanted to stay close enough so he could pass the other team during his leg.

This race was awesome for an entirely different reason than the Peachtree. The Peachtree was full of energy and I talked a lot to the runners around me. This race was quietly inspiring. Here I was running 5.5 miles and I was surrounded by folks who were going 26.2. I was just grateful to be out there. I paced by effort up the hills, walked at the top of a couple of the longer ones and took advantage of the downhills when I could. The first half mile was difficult, probably because I didn't warm up, I had a lot of nervous energy, but once I got up the first hill I had a sense that this was going to be my day. I can't say that I was blazing fast, but I was strong and never once felt out classed by the course.

When checking out the race map on Friday, I noticed that I was going to run a small portion on Baker St. I thought this was pretty cool. Baker St. in Atlanta is right by the Aquarium and Centennial Park. When I turned left on to the street I was pretty pumped. After the turn, I was even more pumped. The whole 2 block stretch of Baker Street was downhill! This was probably about 3 miles in and I opened it up and flew down that quarter mile stretch. Man that felt good. Of course, in this race what goes down must come up, so I slowed again as soon as we turned back to find another uphill stretch past CNN and Philips Arena. Just before mile 5 I looked off to my right to see the sun rising in the East. Unfortunately there wasn't much more sign of the sun the rest of the day, but that was a pretty moment.

Soon, I saw the yellow flag and heard the commotion of the transition point. I saw my team mate, slapped the wristband on him and it was done. I was probably about 30 seconds late stopping my Garmin, but whatever. I'd done it. I got one of those fancy foil blankets, a banana and of course my medal! They bussed us back to the start/finish area and my work was done. Fortunately I had packed some warm clothes to put on, because as comfortable as I was while running was as cold as I felt when I was done.

I changed and made it to the finish line in time to see the marathon winner come through at 2:23, just an amazing time on that course. As the runners from each leg made it back we talked about our stories and our runs. The only negative was that for them, waiting around for their race start was a very cold experience. I was lucky to have done the first leg. In the end, my team won our little internal race by 2 minutes. Everyone had a great time and it looks like our Peachtree group is going to be at least a dozen for next year.

I'm in awe of people who can run 26.2 miles, I really am. At this point, its hard for me to imagine that I'd ever want to put in that effort. On the other hand, the dominating thought in my mind after finishing today is that I cannot wait to do my half marathon. I know this journey is going to be difficult, but I'm amped to get into it.

Race moments

  • In the first quarter mile there was a man standing on a corner with one of those big Swiss cowbells hanging on a leather strap, ringing and ringing. As I passed him, I heard a shout from the apartment building behind him, "Stop that F'ing Bell!!! I'm going to call the cops!" Pretty funny, but I'm sure Id be pretty pissed at 7am on a Sunday morning too.
  • Favorite sign "I thought they said Rum!"
  • Coming down Baker St. I saw a race photographer aiming at me. I flashed a smile and the rock n' roll horns, I hope that picture comes out good!
  • As we were waiting for the first woman finisher a woman came running down the chute. They put up the tape and were cheering her in when they suddenly realized that she was part of a relay team and not the women's marathon winner.  Lucky for her they noticed too late and she got to run through the tape like a Kenyan!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lily's Run 5K Race Report

Today was a pretty moving day and while I didn't have the best race physically it always feels good to be around inspiring people. This is the fourth year they've held this race to benefit a group called Kingdom Kids which helps provide relief to the families of children fighting cancer by fulfilling a wish for them. The race started for Lily Anderson, who is now 11 and still fighting this terrible disease, but also benefits several of the kids supported by the organization. Their stories are inspiring and heartbreaking. The courage of a little girl to face such unimaginable difficulty makes our regular every day challenges pale in comparison. The fact that suffering like that has to exist in the world breaks my heart. I ran this race last year and was certain that I'd do it again this year.

The race itself has moved to a new venue, one which I have run in the past and I know is quite difficult. Worse yet was the 1pm start, which isn't my best time for peak performance and add the fact that I ate a terrible breakfast, my mind was already in the wrong place to do well today. I'd decided I would just go do what I can and enjoy the day, especially since my girls were going to run the mile fun run as their first race ever. They were super excited and that wore off on me.

I started too fast as much of the first mile is downhill and completed the first mile in about 11 minutes. I was hurting already and knew the rest would be tough.  There's a long uphill stretch in the second mile and I walked about half of that hill. Fortunately the race turned around at the top of that hill and I was able to roll a bit down the hill on the way back. I just tried to maintain a steady pace around 12 minutes when I was running. At this point I was passing a lot of people who went out fast and were walking, so at least I had that going for me.

Mile 3 went a little better and I walked a couple steep inclines but made sure to run in between. There was one guy who was walking and started to run a bit as I passed him in the last quarter mile. I was afraid he was going to try to pass me so I gave it my all, helped by the downhill to the finish and came across the line about 37:45. Nowhere close to my fastest time and honestly not one that I'm proud of, but I put in the effort and made it around.

Afterwards there was a one mile fun run. I asked the girls if they wanted me to run with them, but they said they wanted to do it themselves. "I want to be a brave big girl," one told me. So they headed out on a loop around the school where the race was while my wife worried about them. At the word go, one started out like a rocket, running fast with some of the other kids off the front while the other loped along at a steady pace. By the time they'd come around the other side where we could see them again, they were both walking. The fast one started running again as soon as she could see me though. As they reached us we told them that they had to go around one more lap and she asked if I'd run it with her. So I took off with them both. My "fast" daughter was about 50 yards ahead of the "slow" one, who just wanted to walk more. I tried to stay in the middle of the two of them and whenever I got close to the front one, she'd turn around, see me catching up and take off. It was pretty funny. She kept turning around and taunting me, which raised a few laughs from some of the people around us.

They both finished running, which was great and both told me separately later that they had fun. Overall it was a great race. Even being disappointed in my own performance, it felt great to come out to support some great kids who need our help.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cycling, Doping and Lance Revisited

A year and a half ago I started this blog with a post I felt very passionate about writing. I think it was around the time of Tyler Hamilton's appearance on 60 Minutes and the cracks in the wall around Lance Armstrong's reality were beginning to form. In that post I argued that the cycling world would be better served if all those of that era would just tell the truth, confess to what they did and let today's riders move on without that spectre hanging over them.

This week, the USADA released its evidence and argument in its case that Lance Armstrong and others surrounding him engaged in systemic cheating. No less than 11 of his former teammates signed affidavits telling the story of the doping they did, how many of them knew of or witnessed Lance's cheating and the reasons behind their decisions.

So now I have my wish, most of the riders that I respected have come clean about what was going in in their era. All except for one, of course, Lance. Is it within the realm of possibility that he didn't cheat? Yes, but that would mean that over a dozen people have decided to lie under oath about being dopers in order to be vindictive to the man who made it all possible for them to earn the wages they've earned over the past 15 years. No, as I've said before, its impossible to believe that there was no cheating going on.

In the end though, its not the doping that is the most disturbing part of the stories I read. Everyone was doping. Lance needed to dope to stay in the race. Lance did it better than anyone else around and beat them at their own game. Fine, I can accept that. What really bothers me are the stories of bullying, of intimidation, of careers ruined for daring to make a decision different than that of Mr. Armstrong. Anyone who left his cadre through the years tells similar stories of threats, explicit or veiled. We've all seen Lance ride up the road to chase down a break with a rider who dared to say something about him or his Dr. in the press. Levi Leipheimer tells of his wife receiving threatening text messages from Lance after testifying to the Grand Jury initially investigating this case.

I can forgive doping. I can't forgive being a jerk. Yes, he's done a lot of good things for the cancer community. His positive impact on the sport of cycling means that people actually care about this stuff. But an asshole who does some good things is still an asshole. If you're going to think that your version of the truth is important enough to destroy other people, then you are an asshole.

I'm glad that this story broke after the cycling season ended and I hope that next year once the Giro and the Tour roll around that people pay attention. There are some fantastic young riders from the US who are out there making a difference. Taylor Phinney and Tejay van Garderen did fantastic things this year and bring hope that majesty of the sport of cycling will continue long after the smoke of doping dissipates. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012


This has been a tough week of training for me. After last Saturday's run I felt so good that I immediately signed up for the half marathon. Of course you all know that was my plan, but it was just one of those powerful moments. However, from there things got a little rocky. I did get my 3 miles in on Monday, but they started rough and were difficult to get through. Now, Wednesday was Yom Kippur, so I didn't plan on running but I came up with an alternate plan of running on Tuesday instead. Here's where things went awry. I woke up late on Tuesday and decided not to run. Then Wednesday I was weighing whether I should run, then Thursday and finally I got back on my schedule on Friday. Now, I'd really only skipped one run, but I made it feel like three by changing my mind again and again.

What I've learned over the years, for me its important to be consistent, to make a schedule and to keep it, otherwise it becomes difficult for me to start again. Now missing one run isn't a deal breaker by any means, but the more I can string together, the better off I am. There is a productivity technique that is supposedly credited to Jerry Seinfeld called "Don't Break the Chain." The premise is simple enough. Jerry was asked how does one write good jokes. He answered that to write good jokes, one has to write a lot of jokes, to practice. To practice, one has to write a again and again, so he came up with a method where he would mark an X on a calendar every day that he wrote jokes. Soon, as his calendar started filling up with X's, it looked like a chain, so if he skipped a day it would break the chain. So, by making sure he wrote jokes every day, he would never break the chain.

To get good at anything, you need to practice, to be consistent and to not break the chain. Nobody is perfect. I certainly know I am not, please see first paragraph for proof. So what do you do if you break the chain?  Start another one.

So on Friday I started another chain. I ran 2.5 miles Friday, 5 miles on Saturday and today I went out for a little over 3 miles with half of it through a trail. Now, I'm not planning on running everyday, but it sure feels good to be able to without killing myself.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Being a Dad

This week has been one really cool week for me. It started on Tuesday when I was able to make a presentation at the school PTA meeting about the WatchDogs program. WatchDogs is a way to get fathers and father figures more involved in school by giving them opportunities to volunteer in school and at special events through the year. Dads come in to help with the car rider line, help out in classrooms, around the school and doing things like building playground equipment through the year. Its only our second year at this school, but I'm constantly amazed at the level of parental involvement. We had a couple of dozen fathers volunteer already. Really amazing.

Work was busy and I've adjusted my running schedule so that I barely see the girls before school three days a week. But the weekend is filled to the brim with them. I think any parent would be lying if they said they never had a moment when they hoped they could get away from their kids for a while. I'm reminded constantly of how important it is to give them a positive role model. Last night we went to a birthday party at a friend's home. They have a 15 year old girl who had a boy over and of course all of the dad's at the party were watching this kid. He's a good kid, respectful and friendly. My thoughts kept turning to my own little girls. How can I be sure that they won't be attracted to the "bad boy" when they are that age.  Well, I know I can't, but what I can do is make sure they see in me the way a man is supposed to behave, the way he's supposed to treat a woman and hope they hold any boy to the same standard.

I'm keeping similar thoughts in mind while I'm running too. I want my girls to see that fitness needs to be a regular part of your life and hope that they'll again see me leading by example. One of my daughters is constantly asking to go running with me, and I've been hesitant to bring her along. There's enough of a challenge for me without having to motivate her as well. Yesterday during my long run I saw a woman and her son out on the trail. He rides his bike along as his mom (I assume its his mom) runs. I've seen them out a couple of times and realized that I could do that with my daughter. If she's riding her bike I don't have to worry about pacing with her and she'd be able to go a lot farther than if she were on foot. So next weekend I think I'll give it a try with her, or maybe even with both of them.

OK, sappy time. During the Olympics I think we all saw the say Aly Raisman's parents were so invested in her every flip on her routines. However, the parents who really stuck with me were Missy Franklin's. They were stuck up in the rafters during some of the most important races of their young daughter's life. They hadn't seen her for days and NBC showed her finding them outside the arena afterwards. The look in her eyes and the way they cried during the moment really touched me. How many 17 year olds would be that excited to see their parents?

My little girls turn 7 next month. There are so many more influences in their life now, from school and media and other kids' parents. I think its more important now than ever to be the best role model that I can be. That doesn't mean I have to be perfect, because nobody is perfect and kids shouldn't think that they have to be, but to be positive and do things right. I read a quote on Twitter a while back from Bruce Van Horn who said "There is a sermon your children will pay close attention to; it's the one you live in front of them daily." I'll try to Preach On!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't Let the Fat Guy Beat You!

I've worked out the logistical questions and I've decided that the A1A half marathon in Fort Lauderdale is going to be my goal. The race is Feb. 17, 6 days after my 40th birthday, so it'll be a great way to usher in a new decade in my life. I announced the other day on Twitter my new training motto and I thought I'd expound on its meaning a bit more in today's post. Now, over the years I've been known to try to make a funny comment only to realize later that it was entirely creepy or inappropriate. I remember during a couple of my spring races coming up on some runners near the end of the race and the thought popped into my head to attempt to inspire them to move by saying "Don't let the fat guy beat you." Fortunately, I resisted the urge, or more likely I was breathing too hard to talk and I didn't say it but the thought popped into my mind again the other day when I was contemplating what I'm about to embark upon.

I was running the other morning and thinking about the challenge I've laid out for myself. I'm going to run 13.1 miles. How in the world am I going to run 13.1 miles?!? While I've shed over 50 pounds in the last 18 months, I'm still about that much over my goal weight so I still think I'm the fat guy. In realizing the power of my thoughts, it occurred to me that the one who is doubting, who can't picture myself accomplishing the challenge is the fat guy. The fat guy inside of me who let himself get to 320 pounds. The fat guy who chooses the wrong foods, who chooses to sleep in, who chooses to give up a run early and not finish it out.

So my personal mantra for this journey is "Don't Let the Fat Guy Beat You"

I've talked to a lot of people this week about training for a half marathon. I decided that the more people I tell, the more accountable I'll become, at least until I register for the race. Each and every one has been very supportive. None showed any doubt that I can finish. The only one with any doubt is the fat guy, so that's why I've decided to crush him.  I will not let the fat guy beat me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Its Scary to Take the First Step

We all have moments in our life that stick with us no matter how far away they are. I remember standing on the edge of the 3 meter high dive at my swim club, staring down at the water practically paralyzed with fear, not wanting to go forward and not wanting to go back. I remember a rappelling trip at summer camp, standing at the top of a 40 foot drop, again frozen with the thought of crashing down against the rock. While in both of those moments I did eventually go the way I was "supposed" to go and you can say I conquered my fear, I also never did either one of those things again. It wasn't the first step in a long history of high diving or rock climbing. It was the first step in me realizing that I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm very afraid of falling from heights.

At the time of those events, I remember being embarrassed by my fear, ashamed that I didn't just leap like some of my friends. It was much later that I realized the important lesson I learned in those moments was that I could move forward even when I was afraid.

Recently the fitness team at my company (yes, we have a person who's job it is to create and manage fitness programs) announced that they'd been given 10 entries to races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January. Knowing those races are pretty expensive and I'd probably not pay for it myself, I entered the drawing for the half marathon with the thought that if I won it would be a great push to start me on the path to my first 13.1. The drawing was held last week and I did not get one of the entries, but then the crazy part of my brain started thinking. If I was willing to train for a free half in January, why not just find a race to run. I believe this is the same voice that started me up the ladder to the high dive and talked me into signing up for rappelling.

The races in the Atlanta area are just a bit too hilly for me to comfortably tackle for my first half, but a little research found two possibilities. The St. Pete Rock'n Roll half is on Feb. 10 and the Publix A1A Marathon and Half is on Feb. 17. The fact that my 40th birthday will be on Feb. 11 fit nicely into my vague goal of doing something I never thought I could do by my 40th.  I've spoken to my wife and she's supportive, so here I am standing at the top of this cliff again.

In the last year I've probably read 100 race reports and training stories, people talking about their fears and their triumphs, successes and failures. They are all very inspiring, but nothing really prepares you for stepping off the edge and making this type of commitment. Am I mentally strong enough? Can I be consistent in my training and my nutrition for the next 5 months? What if I'm not? Which would be more painful, succeeding or failing? Can I deal with the pain of either?

As I learned as a kid on the high dive, you won't know unless you give it a try. I still need to work out logistically which one of those events I'm going to do, but I'm committed in my mind, sometime within a week of my 40th birthday I will run a half marathon. There, I said it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day My Labor Day

OK, there will be no politics in this post, I promise. I don't mean this to become a political blog, just felt there were a couple of things I wanted to get out there. Today, back to being personal.

Labor Day has always been a special holiday in the Baker Family. My paternal grandparents lived in Wildwood, NJ, which is a beach resort community. I have terrific memories of going to visit them when I was young, walking on the boardwalk, going on rides (except not the ones that go inside, my grandmother would never allow that!), eating French Toast at the Surfside Restaurant and taking long walks on the beach. Most of all, I remember spending time with my Grandpop Sam. Labor Day was always his favorite holiday, because it was the end of summer, when he could finally rest after working hard during the busy season. He'd call each of the grandchildren and sing us a song, to the tune of Old Tannenbaum, that went "Labor Day My Labor Day, OH Labor Day My Labor Day."

Its one of a thousand little memories that I have of my grandfather. He was a tough man, but one who in my adoring eyes was liked by everyone he met. I remember sitting at the foot of his chair late on a summer night watching the Phillies as he dozed. When someone asked "Hey Sam, how are you?" invariably his answer was "Never Better!" Even in his later years as he retired and moved to Florida with my Grandmother, they lived an active life, volunteering, travelling, playing golf, always busy, never better.

Its been 16 years since the last time my Grandpa Sam sang his Labor Day song to me. It saddens me of course that he's gone, but also that I never got the chance to show him what type of man I became. When my Grandpa died, I was floundering. Struggling with the transition from boyhood to manhood took me longer than most, certainly longer than it should have. My grandmother was able to meet my wife and the twins, but Sam never got that chance.

Two weeks ago, I felt like I had that chance for him to see that we're doing right. That weekend my uncle got married ... again. (he'd want me to point out that he's my favorite uncle, which he does win by default as I lack any other uncles) It was the first opportunity for all of my grandparent's great grandchildren to be together. 6 of them, of which 2 were named for my grandfather. We had a great time at the wedding and the following day on the beach, just enjoying the sand and the sun. I head my grandmother telling me not to let my girls get too deep in the water and my grandfather laughing.

The next day, on our drive back to the airport we stopped at the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. Its tradition on Judaism to leave a small stone on the grave marker when you go and visit a loved one. The girls were excited to find the perfect stone to leave for GG, as they still remember her. There were a lot of stones already on their marker, more than any of the others around them. I pointed out all of my aunts and uncles in the area and I told some of the old jokes I remembered hearing from each of them as a boy. I stopped by my grandfather's grave one last time and imagined him calling me "Jamie Baby" one more time and I said "See you later, Grandpop Baby!"

Now, I'm not one to be invariably positive. I read a lot of fitness blogs and leadership blogs where the writers seem impossibly cheery and motivating. But when I'm feeling down, when I'm crushed by work or frustrated by children who are learning to press every one of our buttons, I will try to think of Pop Pop Sam, that someday I'll be able to answer the same way.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

To What Standard?

Most of you know that I lean to the left in my politics, but not religiously so. Fiscally conservative, socially liberal was a very popular term when I was growing up and I always felt it described me well. Looking back at what he said and did as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was the kind of Republican that I probably could have supported. Then came his big turn to the right, his change of point of view on important social issues and I turned away. His choice of running mate sealed the deal for me, because I find it very hard to support a man like Paul Ryan. I could never put my finger on why I didn't like him until just this week, and I'd like to thank him for making me sure.

Maybe I'm being harsh, but this story from Runner's World magazine really made me angry. The gist of the story is that Rep. Ryan, during a radio interview, stated that he ran a marathon in less than 3 hours, "in the high 2's," he claimed. That's an extraordinary time, one that most of us who run would have hanging on our walls and lit up in glorious light. Runner's World did some digging and found out that Rep. Ryan never ran that time, in fact he never ran close to that time, having finished one marathon in just over 4 hours. The campaign seemed to laugh off the inconsistency with a joke about Ryan's brother giving him a hard time at dinner over the claims.

So here's where I get to the question that is the title of this post. I'm sure we've all made little false statements in life to make ourselves look better, to give a good impression. And yet I am really troubled with a man who would blatantly lie about something seemingly so trivial in the grand scheme of what he is trying to accomplish. Saying he ran 3:59 when he really ran 4:01 is one thing, but to shave over an hour off of your time is hard to laugh off as a simple gaffe. 2:58 would put his finishing time in the 96th percentile of men 19-30 according to 4:01 is the 60th. I wonder what the reaction would be if he'd altered another performance standard. If we were looking at SAT scores, he would have said he scored 1490 and really scored 1090, according to this chart from Wikipedia. Would people brush that off as well?

At the end of the day, we each have to decide our candidates and our votes for ourselves. Maybe I'm becoming a "birther" or rather a "marathoner," but to me if someone can feel that its fine to embellish something like that, I worry about what else he may be stretching the truth about.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Sometimes I wish that I could write blog posts while I'm running, because I always come up with great ideas out there but they slip away when I'm sitting at the keyboard. Some of these ideas have been percolating around my head for a while now. I was recently asked in a survey to provide my favorite running tip. I thought about this for a while, about all the things that I've heard that help me keep going, warming up and pacing and getting the right shoes. But I came back to the one idea that really helps me to run and more importantly, helps me to keep running. Whenever I run I try to stay positive, to force all negative thoughts from my mind and to keep moving, one step at a time. I have a few silly mantras that I play in my head sometimes, but the common theme among all of them is positivity. I think this is a big reason why I tend to really be able to work up good ideas while I'm running. I'm flooding my brain with positive thoughts, with encouragement to work hard.

I contrast this to the world we live in and the culture that surrounds us. There is so much negative influence, so many messages that are born of fear and hatred. I believe in positive messages, and I don't agree with anyone who is "Anti" anything. Of course, in the world of marketing and appearance, there are no "anti" positions. All of these are magnified in an election year. There are those who spout out about "losing our freedoms" who in the next breath argue that two people in love don't deserve the same rights as two different people in love. At the same time they tell you to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated and tell you they are "pro-marriage." Where is the threat to freedom there?

After I started writing this post, I came across this article on the Huffington Post about some statements that Congressman Ryan made about rape and abortion. Setting aside the writers complaints about defining rape as a "method of conception," I think a logical follow up question would be, "what if a loving gay couple wanted to adopt that baby?"

In my mind, if your message is about taking rights, freedoms, money or safety away from anyone else, then your message is negative. I am trying to teach my children to be accepting of others, to understand that every person has the right to live and be happy, that sometimes people need some help and just because someone needs help once doesn't make them a bad person. Unfortunately, I also have to teach them that there are bad people, and because of that we must listen critically to any statement. All those who look like us aren't right, and all those who look different aren't wrong. Judge a person by their content. Love is better than hate. Friendship is better than opposition.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Running Slow

I got a very interesting reaction from people when I described myself recently as a "slow runner." There is a twice monthly event on Twitter called #runchat, which is a sort of moderated discussion where the organizers ask 5 questions and then people give their answers. Its a great way to interact with other runners on Twitter and find some interesting and passionate people who are out there running. There are ultra marathoners and noobs, fast and slow even a famous coach like Bart Yasso joins on occasion. The chat starts with people tweeting an introduction. Last night's chat I introduced myself as a "slow runner," because, well, I am.

I am slow and I am ok with that. Those of you who have read my blog know that I'm typically much closer to the back of the pack than I am to the front. Now, I'm certainly not the slowest person out there most of the time, but it would be stretching the meaning of the word to call me quick. I understand this and I have no problems with it. I realize that for me, improvement is my race. Getting stronger, running farther and yes, running faster are my goals. But I don't ever expect to be winning any prizes. I am slow and will likely always be slow.

Now, when I said this, I got several encouraging replies that were meant to reaffirm my confidence, but admonishing me for calling myself slow. The gist of most of them were "a runner is a runner and it speed doesn't matter. you're out there and doing it, that's what matters." What struck me is that describing myself as slow seemed to trigger to people that I needed this reinforcement. I doubt that if someone described themselves as a fast runner, that the same people would jump in and say "its ok, you're still a runner to us!"

Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate the words of encouragement. One of the things that I really enjoy about the #runchat's and the running community in general is the supportiveness of a guy like me. I get a lot of cheers at races, even when I'm finishing at the back of the pack. The fact is, though, that I am at the back of the pack. When we run races, there is a clock for a reason... to measure our speed. My speed is a lot lower than most, so I'm slow. I love being slow. I joke with the volunteers along the route. I try to make those around me smile as I go by. Will I get faster someday?  I certainly hope so, but for now, that's who I am. A slow runner, trying to enjoy every moment of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My First Week with a Mac

One of the (many) cool benefits of working for Citrix is the BYOC program, in which the company will give you a stipend to purchase your own computer that you can then use for work and own yourself. It allows us to use any device we like rather than being stuck with a standard corporate issue device. For the last 6 years I've had a couple of corporate issued Lenovo ThinkPads and I'd been very happy with them. They were reliable and well built but somewhat bulky. As my warranty was coming to an end last quarter, I had the option to enter the BYOC program, so I started looking around for a machine that I might like to own.

I knew I wanted something small but I didn't want to give up power to get it. There are a number of ultrabooks out there these days that could give me what I wanted, but one stood out, the MacBook Air. I had the opportunity to try one out around the office and I really liked the way the trackpad made navigation intuitive, liked the feel of the keyboard and of course the size of the machine. Its lightweight without feeling flimsy and its quite good looking. Of course, the one thing that held me back was the obvious ... the OS. I'd been a Windows user since 3.1 and I was very comfortable with it. I rationalized that I could always dual boot it with Windows or even install Windows on its own on the Mac hardware, so I took the plunge.

While I was waiting for it to arrive (which was excruciating even if it was only a couple of weeks) I started playing with the team's Air more and got used to using OSX. By the time I got the laptop, I'd decided that I'd give OSX a try without Windows to see how I'd get along.

So its been 8 days now and I have no regrets. I absolutely love using the multi touch track pad on this thing. I don't even miss using a mouse. I can scroll easily, quickly move between workspaces and navigate webpages super quick. With the Citrix Receiver, I'm able to access any Windows apps for work that I need with relative ease. I have yet to find a task that I performed on Windows that I cant do on this thing. There are a few frustrations though. Its a little more difficult to navigate between multiple windows of the same application and its taking me some time to get used to some of the different keyboard shortcuts, but all in all I'm pretty pleased.

I'm lucky enough to have a few helpful Mac users on my team who are helping me find cool and productive apps, but if anyone has any suggestions, I'm open to trying most anything. Next up for me, learning to use iMovie so that I can put together some cool videos that I've taken of the kids in the last couple of months.

Edit: OK, one thing I noticed just now is that the first two posts I did from this Mac were formatted all screwy, but I just fixed that.  Sorry to anyone who struggled through the big block of text in the last post, it should be better now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peachtree Road Race

I guess its about time that I wrote up a race report for the Peachtree Road Race. This race had been the main goal of my first half of the year. The race itself is an Atlanta tradition and is the largest 10K road race in the world with 65000 entrants. I'd geared my spring to build up the mileage to be able to survive the day and had a couple of 10K races under my belt so I felt confident that I'd finish without a problem.

I'd been stressing a bit for the days before the race because I wasn't sure of the best plan to get my family down to the course and meet up with them after. We decided to take the Marta together to the start, then my family continued to the art museum area where they'd watch the race at about mile 5. Then afterwards I'd come back up the course to meet them and take the train home. So with that plan worked out, there was nothing left but to do it.

I was a little frantic getting the family up and out in the morning. The race start was at 7:30, but my wave didn't go off until 8:09. I'd gotten train tickets the day before so we skipped that line and I kissed the family and got off the train near the start right at 7:30. The energy from the train platform on was amazing. It was a short walk from the train to the start area and the organization of this race was amazing. Volunteers at every corner directing people to the proper place. With 20 start waves and 65000 runners, its one heck of a job, but they do it well.

I found my wave and as a group we creeped forward to the start. There was music and announcements playing through the PA and each wave started of with loud cheers. Finally wave J made it to the front, heard the countdown and took off.

It was pretty warm, but not unbearably so, probably around 73 when I started. The sun was low enough in the sky that for most of the route, there was plenty of shade. The first half of the race is mostly downhill. I settled into a comfortable pace that was probably too fast, but the energy was irresistible. There were spectators lining the road everywhere and music playing on almost every block. Bands were set up, DJs from the radio stations, DJs from the bars and lots of cowbells.

I was feeling pretty good, pacing some runners, watching others fly by me, but the pace that I kept was too high and as we started hitting the hills of the second half, I was struggling. I went through waves where I felt great and moved along, and other parts where I could barely push myself to keep going. I walked about half way up the famous "cardiac hill" and then kept moving. There was plenty of water on the course and they had hydrants open spraying the runners. I was pouring water on myself and ran through one of those sprays, but I think that was a mistake. I felt a bit waterlogged near the end of the route.

After cardiac hill you could tell who was hurting and who was strong and i wasn't one of the strong ones. But I kept moving because I had my family to look forward to. I knew about where they would be, though not exactly, so I kept looking ahead for where the art museum would appear. I knew the train station was on the right side of the road, so I was staying to the right, assuming that they wouldn't have crossed the street. But they had. Fortunately, I looked over to that side and caught sight of them. I cut across the entire road and snuck up on them. Time for a quick hug, a picture and some kisses and I was off again.

At this time I was hurting, and then when the road turned left to the park and the shade went away my energy drained. I was in the last mile and I had to walk for a bit. Then I saw the "fake finish" they set up for pictures and I started running, waved to the cameras and continued on to the real finish. I came across the line and stopped my watch, 1:17:30. I was disappointed because I know I can go faster, but this race wasnt about time for me. I grabbed my t-shirt, took a picture and went to meet up with my group from work for our group picture. There were 6 runners from my office out there and we found each other and shared our stories.

I made a few mistakes today, for sure. Not the least of which was after the race, where all I grabbed to eat was a banana. I felt lousy for the rest of the morning and I should have tried to get more protein to help recover. The finish area was a bit overwhelming, everything was so spread out and I didn't want to end up walking 300 yards across a field in the wrong direction. Because of this, I felt pretty lousy for the rest of the morning, to the point where I was dizzy standing on the train home. But once we made it home and had some Cracker Barrel, I felt much better.

The race was a lot of fun and I do look forward to running it again and again.

Some observations:

- On the way to the start I saw a woman with the following written across the back of her shirt "Does this shirt make my butt look fast?"

- Lots of costumes, including two guys in my start wave wearing nothing but their captain america underwear.

- A man wearing a shirt that said "I'm 93 years old, what's your excuse?"

Monday, August 13, 2012


So the summer has flown by and the kids have started school again.  I have a ton of things that I've been thinking about, but haven't taken much time to get any of them down in the blog. Why?  who knows. When I left off, I'd just finished my first 10K and it was quite an experience. I'm happy to say that even though I wasn't very consistent with my blogging, I did keep the running up through the Peachtree.

I continued to work hard after that first 10K. I made my longest run of over 7 miles later that month, and on June 2 I ran my second 10K. The weather was perfect, about 55 and sunny at the start and I felt great for the first 5 miles. The last mile was a struggle as it started in a headwind and had a couple of short steep hills, but I powered through and finished in 1:12:49, which cut almost 5 minutes off my previous time. I felt pretty good about that and tried to just maintain my level of fitness for the next month up until the Peachtree.

July 4th came and it was fantastic. I struggled a little bit the week before the race but I did alright. My finish time was 1:17:28, which wasn't great but I felt good. It was definitely a difficult run, with heat and humidity, but the atmosphere was unbelievable. I don't remember a single part of the course that wasn't lined with spectators. There was music on every block, from bands, DJ's and people singing, plenty of cowbells and cheering. I'll try to write a post dedicated to that race, but suffice it to say I was very happy that I did it, and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

After the Peachtree came time to decide whether I intended to continue pushing my limits and commit to a half marathon in the fall, or to push that for another year. I quickly realized that I risked burning out if I continued with the constant increase that I'd need to be comfortable to try a half, so I decided that I'd give that a shot next year and try to maintain through the end of this year. Then we had some houseguests for a few weeks in July and without a concrete short term goal, I let my running slip. After the Peachtree through the end of July I only ran two times.

Now its time for a reset. This past Saturday I went out for a light 3 miles, not pushing myself at all and just making sure I was moving. Today I did three more and I'm planning one more three mile workout this week, before we travel for a wedding this weekend. I'm going to target some 5K's for the rest of the year, maybe 2 or 3 and not try to push myself too hard, but maintain consistency. Build a base, as it were. Ideally, I'd like focus on one long distance race in the spring, maybe the Broad Street Run in Philly, and then attempt a half next fall. More importantly, though, I want to develop a consistent habit of fitness.  Continue to work on my diet, focus on doing the right things right each and every day and remain motivated without any particular goal, but with the journey in mind.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The One Where I Learn Humility

A serendipitous turn of events led to me deciding to run in a 10K race this weekend. I'm sure now that this was the universe teaching me a lesson, but at the end of the day I'm really glad that I did it. 

This week I planned on running Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On Monday I was feeling lousy and only got 2 miles in. Wednesday I did a steady 4 miles on the treadmill, felt a bit better and planned on doing another 4 miles outside on Friday and stretch it a bit to 5 or 6 on Sunday. Well Thursday night my wife's old friend arrived to stay with us and I drank a little bit too much wine. I slept through my alarm Friday morning and didn't make it to work out at all.  I was a little disappointed with myself to say the least. Then on the ride home from work Friday night I saw a billboard that reminded me that there was a 10K race Saturday morning that was taking place on the Greenway, which is where I usually run.  

I looked up the race information when I got home and decided that if i can get out of bed, I'll go and run there instead of just going on my regular 6 miler. I was confident that I could finish 6.2 and figured I might as well get someone handing me water along the way. This seemed like a simple decision, but it led to me learning how far I really have to go.

I arrived early, around 6:30, and registered for the 10K. I walked around the area there, put my stuff in the car, pinned on my number and hung out for a bit. It was at this point that I started to realize I had a good chance of a DFL (dead f'ing last) for this race. There were about 20 people lined up for the registration and every single one of them looked in shape. I grabbed a bottle of water and got on a bus to the start. The start of this race was quite unorganized. We were the first bus to get to the start area, which was in an abandoned housing development and nobody seemed to know where we were supposed to be. 

On the bus I sat next to a guy who ran a marathon last weekend and was just doing a "recovery" run. As more and more people arrived at the start, I didn't see very many who I could confidently say I would be near at the end. I started to get a little nervous, but figured I was here already and there was no way back but to run, so that's what I did. Somebody finally showed up to set out the start line and everyone gathered. They called out a 5 second countdown and we were off. I had to put my headphones into my ears as we ran down the starting straight.

The first half mile around the development were downhill and I was just moving along pretty quickly for me, but almost everyone else was quicker. As we turned onto the bridge for the greenway, I looked behind me and all I saw was a volunteer on a bike. I was the last person onto that trail and I started to panic a little bit. I started to look ahead of me and picked out a few people (I say people but it was all women in the back of the pack) that I thought I could keep up with and I did that for the first couple of miles. It was dead flat and I was just trying to maintain a 12mm pace. I did pass a few people and caught up with a couple of Gallowalkers (people who run a minute, walk a minute, repeat) who I played leapfrog with. I felt good through the first two miles and I started to get into part of the trail that I was familiar with. 

My pace though was far from competitive and it was a mental struggle to keep myself steady and ok with that. I knew that everytime I pushed my pace a little bit that it was going to cause a struggle for me at the end. The last two miles contained all the hills on the course and I had that to look forward to. I started losing sight of almost everyone ahead of me. There was one pair of women who I was keeping in sight and there were the three Gallowalkers who were pacing with me, catching on their runs and falling back on their walks. They were wonderfully supportive and credited me for running the entire way.

As we left the trail and ran through the neighborhoods near the finish, the rolling hills came in. I slowed up them but kept running, and tried to recover as best I could through the downhills. The last mile was on a main road that was supposed to be closed off still had several cars on it who were inching down the road and squeezing between the cones and the few runners left. There was a steep hill about a quarter mile from the end and I walked a few steps up that one, but then came in just as the clock flipped to 1:17.

I don't know that there is much that I could have changed in my approach to the race other than to be in better shape and lose more weight. Going 10K is a lot different than going 5K. I was much more wary about burning too much energy early and maintaining a steady pace. The mental battle I had with myself was interesting. It was very hard to swallow my pride and not try to catch up to people. It was very hard being the last man on the course and being beaten to the line by a group of run/walkers. I can't say that I'm happy with my performance, but I do know it was the best I can do at the moment. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Music has always been an important part of my life, though I think most people can say the same thing. I remember when "Fight for Your Right" was released and became a big hit. It was catchy and funny and had a cool video.  All the kids at school loved the song. I distinctly remember having a conversation in class where I took the position that the Beastie Boys were idiots, and while the song was catchy, that type of ridiculous kitsch wasn't sustainable. I'm sure I didn't use those types of terms, but my point was the same.  These guys are a bunch of fools jumping around and shouting, not musicians.

Little did I realize how wrong I was. Fast forward 10 years and I was a huge fan of their music. Check Your Head was in regular rotation in the dorm room. Ill Communication blew me away. But not only the music had improved, they also took on a more mature approach to their persona. The one thing that I was right about in their early style was that they were idiots. But as a group, following the lead of Adam Yauch (MCA) they took great pains to rectify that. See those early roles they played were just that, a role. An image that was funny, sarcastic and over the top to effect a reaction from their audience. As they matured, they began to realize the influence they had over their fans and started to use that for positive causes.

Adam Yauch who passed away late last week was the driving force behind that maturation. After all the misogynistic lyrics of their early albums, they opened Ill Communication with Sure Shot, where Yauch raps:

I Want To Say a Little Something That's Long
The Disrespect To Women Has Got To Be Through
To All The Mothers And Sisters A And The
Wives And Friends
I Want To Offer My Love And Respect To The

Not your standard rap fare, and certainly a departure from their early works. But it was important to them that now that they had the ears of their audience, that they used that power to share a positive message. Yauch went on to champion causes he believed in, such as the freedom of people in Tibet. He left that drunken idiot persona behind, and made me realize that it was just a persona while he did what he could to make a difference with the people he influenced.

Any of us can change. Most of us have the ability (and the responsibility) to influence at least a few people, maybe not the millions that a chart topping artist can reach, but at the very least our friends and family. Its important that we are always aware of that influence and ensure that we use it responsibly.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Boulder Dash 5K

Today I raced one of the races I'd been really looking forward to. The Boulder Dash 5K is run through the rock quarry here in town and provided some cool views and a neat course that's different than what I usually run. Short version, I finished in 33:56 on my Garmin, a new PR for me.  I started near the back of 1000 runners so my official time is probably going to be a few seconds longer, but I"m not counting the slow walk to the line while everyone started. (edit: Official Results 34:03 491/1209 OA 35/53 AG)

Now onto the long version. The race started at Northside Forsyth hospital at 9am. I got there just after 8, parked the car and walked around with the family for a bit, looking at the big cement mixers parked at the start.   Parking and registration were pretty well organized and there were a lot of people milling around. About 30 minutes before the start I did a half mile warm up. After warming up I said good bye to the family who got on busses to go to the finish and I joined the mass at the start line. I think I may have warmed up a little too early, but I don't think it was detrimental.

I lined up about 2/3's of the way back at the start and watched the mass start to run from front to back. I clicked the Garmin when I started running and off I went. The first part of the race was downhill so I let gravity help me along, feeling a good pace without pushing too hard. Of course, it was pretty fast but I wasn't pushing so I let it go. We hit the road between the hospital and the quarry and went up hill.  I didn't push too hard but tried to keep comfortable on the uphill. I was passing people and being passed a bit too. We turned into the quarry and headed downhill into the quarry. I passed the 1 mile mark just as the Garmin beeped and I noted I ran the first mile in 10:45 A bit faster than I should have been, but I was feeling good.

The quarry road was gravel and I was trying to be careful not to hit any ruts. My ankles are kind of weak and I didn't want to hit any awkward footing. The hills were rolling and I tried to use the momentum to move downhill and not push too hard going up. I picked out a few people to try to pace off of and kept pushing. It was tough, especially going up hill but I was still feeling pretty well. I concentrated on form, midfoot striking and keeping moving. It was just past the halfway point that the leaders streaked by in the opposite direction. I walked for a few steps at the water table to throw down a few sips and dumped the rest on my back. I was still feeling strong but I knew I was at my limit and the last mile was going to be a struggle.  I finished mile 2 in 10:53.

We hit the turnaround just before the last mile. It was a loop around some of the quarry equipment. I took a quick walk break up the steepest part of two hills during mile 3. Neither one was more than 20 seconds or so, but just enough to keep me under my limit. A couple of people passed me while I walked, but I caught most of them during my run. I was pacing with a few other people now, passing some folks I had seen earlier in the race. Plenty of walk breaks around me but I kept pushing through. I was at my limit but knew the end was near.  The second walk break was about 2.6 miles in, and then I focused on getting through the last half mile. Up the hill and then down again to where I could see the finish. I didn't really care so much about the time, but I was pushing as hard as I could. I tried to smile at the camera and then finish hard to the line. I stopped the Garmin a couple of steps past the line and it froze on 33:56. Knowing that my previous 5K PR was 34:44, I was pretty happy.

As organized as the start was, the finish area was a bit of a disappointment. There was a big backup in the finishing chute where everyone was ripping of their tags to hand to the volunteers. One guy even jumped the line in front of me so when I see the official results I'll know I really finished in front of that guy! Then, once we were through that, they had placed the tents with water another 200 yards up the gravel path. I was hurting pretty bad at that point and just frustrated that I couldn't get a drink right away. My wife, daughters and my mother were there and giving me high fives, so I wasn't too mad.

All in all it was a fun time. I really wasn't expecting such a good time, but I think the work I've been doing lately has been paying off. I definitely need to do more hill work before the Peachtree, but I'm glad that I was able to do a 5K that averaged less that 11 minutes a mile.

Moments that stand out in my memory

  • A mother and her 17 yo daughter at the start struggling to break open a package with a new pair of ear buds for mom to listen to her iphone on the course.  They got it open about 30 seconds before the start.
  • A guy in a Fred Flintstone outfit, complete with a bone club. He passed me after the first mile. 
  • Lots of high school runners really going well as the leaders passed. I also noticed the woman who won the last race I did go by near the head of the pack.  Turns out she won again. She's the running partner of a good friend, so that was cool
  • A kid wearing a storm trooper outfit. I came up to him in the last mile and he was walking. As I passed, I turned to him and said "This is not the walk you are looking for." He took off again saying "Thanks for the Jedi Mind Trick."  Apparently my force isn't very strong, because he was walking again about 100 yards later and I finished well ahead of him
  • A lot of parent child combinations out there running together.  I really do hope that I get the chance to run with one or both of my girls as they grow up.
  • It would be nice to see Weight Class results.  I'd be willing to bet I'm near the top of the over 250 lbs weight class.  The volunteer at the tent handing out XXL shirts said I was the first person to pick one up. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Razor Sharp

For a long time I've looked for a better way to shave. Like most guys I dreaded doing it, but I was never one of those lucky ones who could grow out a good looking beard, so it became a necessary evil. Its not like I really dreaded the act, its just that I could never get results that I was happy with. Then about 5 years ago I discovered traditional wet shaving. I bought a badger brush, a safety razor with double edge blades and some nice smelling soaps and creams. I began to really enjoy it and after a little learning curve I was getting better shaves than I'd ever had in my life. I joined a couple of shaving forums on the web (yes, there are communities of people who are really into shaving). I learned a lot, tried some different soaps, creams and aftershaves and started reading about guys who use a straight razor instead of a safety razor. These guys talked about the smoothest, closest shaves that anyone can imagine and though the idea of using a "cutthroat" scared me a bit, I was mighty curious.

About 2 years ago, I figured I'd learned enough about technique to buy one and give it a try. I ended up buying 2 different straight razors and a cheap leather strop. The learning curve for a straight razor is very steep, and as you can imagine the mistakes you make tend to hurt. Over the next couple of years I tried them on and off, maybe giving a shave or two at a time but never really committing to it, as I still wasn't good enough to get a good result. I'd put them down for a couple of months and then pick them up on an odd sunday night when I had some time to play. In the meantime, I'd gotten a little lazy with my safety razor and didn't want to put in the effort to do the 4 pass shave that was required to get the ideal shave that I was looking for.

Last month I picked up my straight razor again, sharpened it and this time I got a great shave. I did two passes with the straight razor and finished the tough parts (my chin and upper lip) with the safety razor. The results were fantastic. I decided that it was time to commit to the straight razor, and since then I haven't shaved with anything else. I bought a few new aftershaves and creams. I refined my routine and my technique and now I am getting great shaves almost every day. I still have some bad days where I get a few nicks, but I haven't cut myself really badly in a few weeks and there are no scars! And even though my wife likes to tease me about my "hobby" of shaving, I'm pretty sure she enjoys both the smooth face and the nice scents I've been wearing. 

Occasionally I'm going to post my reviews of some of the products I use in case any of my readers are interested. If anything, it'll break the monotony of my running and dieting posts.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I know a lot of bloggers come back from a "hiatus" with excuses and promises, and I'm not going to do either. For me, there are only so many things that I can focus on at one time and this hasn't been one of them. But really, I think its because I felt like what I wanted to write about was pretty negative. My running has been going pretty well, but I've been struggling with my eating and I've added a few pounds since I hit my low weight. Further, I've been struggling with refocusing on eating right and continuing along that path of weight loss. I know what I've accomplished was difficult and that I should be proud, and I am.  But there is still more to go. A baseball team can be proud of having an 8 game lead at the all star break, but if they don't keep winning, then they won't reach their goal of winning the division.

So I think the real reason I haven't been writing is that I haven't been real proud of my direction in my weight loss so I'd rather not write than broadcast that to the world. I started getting a lot of readers after my cruise review series, and it sort of paralyzed me.  All in my head, I know, but it is what it is. So now I'm refocused and getting back on the path to my goals.  I'm going to take each day as it comes and do what I need to do to accomplish my goals for the year.

On the running side, I've been doing very well. Those of you who follow my twitter or dailymile have seen that I've been consistently getting at least 3 and sometimes 4 days a week in. My mileage has increased too,  averaging 12 per week in the last 5 weeks. Last Sunday I did my first 6 mile run, and yesterday I made the full 10K (which is 6.2 miles). I'm still not moving very quickly, but I feel much stronger.

I'm registered for 3 races in the next few months. The Boulder Dash 5K here in Cumming next week. Its been in my mind from the beginning because it runs through the local quarry and I think that'll be pretty neat. I don't have high expectations for my time, as I think it'll be pretty hilly and I've only really done one day of hills this year. Then I'm registered for two 10K's. One is the Peachtree, which I also don't have high expectations for as I hear the crowds are thick, but its an event and I'm really looking forward to it. Because I don't think it'll be a good test of my fitness, I signed up for a 10K the month before in Buford. The Buford Run the Rails 10K will be in June and I look forward to seeing how I can do there. I hope to be able to break 1:15 there.

A long term goal is beginning to gel out of the mist as well. I've mentioned before that I'm thinking about a half marathon in the fall. Ideally I'd love to run at the Philly marathon, but I don't think that's going to work out for me logistically, so I'm looking at the Savannah Rock n Roll on Nov. 3. Its fairly flat and not too far away. I know people who ran it last year and they all said they really enjoyed it, though there were transportation problems at the start. I haven't registered yet, as I want to see how the next few weeks go, how I make it through the increased distance, but I have booked a hotel in Savannah for the weekend, and one that's near the start in case they mess up the shuttles again. I know that in order to be successful in getting through that distance, I'm going to need to continue to lose weight. So I'll use that as motivation to make the right decisions for each meal and continue to focus on making my runs.

Of course, I couldn't finish without saying that I do want to push myself to continue writing, good or bad. I must force myself to write about the bad times as well as the good. None of us are perfect and I'm learning to accept that bad days, bad decisions are going to happen but if I can minimize their impact by not letting them pile up then I can keep on going. One day at a time is pretty cliche, but cliche's become cliche's because they are pretty apt. So, I'll take it one day, one meal at a time. I have long term vision and long term goals, but as any runner knows you get to the finish line one step at a time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Where I'm At

I'm going to do one more post to recap our whole Disney vacation, but before I do that, let me take a moment to give an update of where I'm at and what I'm doing as I'm sure you are all (well all of you who read this for me and not for the Disney stories) are wondering.

We're 6 weeks into the new year now, and while I'm not blowing the doors off, I'm still feeling pretty strong. One of the areas of discipline that I've always struggled with is the restart. If something ever popped up that stopped my progress, it would usually be very difficult for me to get back started again. I faced such a hurdle over the last couple of weeks and it seems that I've been able to get back on track.

I'd been averaging 9-10 miles a week through the first few weeks of the year. At the end of January, I had to do some unexpected travel and while I was able to maintain through that travel, when I got home there were some struggles. My wife got sick for a couple of days, then one of my daughters got sick. This forced me to skip a few morning workouts and I barely got 5 miles in that week.  Then I got sick. I tried to run on the weekend and barely finished.  I didn't get running again for a whole week. Here's where in the past I would falter. Its always difficult to get started again. It hurts, your body needs to get used to it again and who wants to hurt? But, this time I did it. Yea, the first couple of workouts were difficult, but I forced my way through it and made sure to get right back into my regular routine.

Last week I ran 11 miles, my biggest weekly total yet. I know its not a huge amount, but considering where I was this time last year, I'll take it happily. I have my eyes set on a few races coming up this spring and of course I still want to do the Peachtree, so I'm really looking forward to a great spring time. Right now I need to continue my discipline in keeping my schedule and I have to do better with my nutrition.

Yesterday I went to the inaugural meeting of a pipe club we're forming in the area. We've decided to name ourselves the Lanier Smokers Pipe Club, as most of us live in communities that are close to Lake Lanier, and it sounded better than the North Georgia Pipe Club. For me it was pretty neat, as it was the first time I'd ever smoked my pipe with someone else also smoking pipes. There were a half dozen of us there, sharing different tobaccos, talking about different pipes and pipe makers and getting to know each other. We're going to continue to meet each month and I think it will be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 7

Another beautiful day dawned and it is our last full day of the cruise. Today was a day we'd really been looking forward to, a visit to Disney's Castaway Cay. It is Disney's private beach island in the Bahamas. We didn't have anything on the agenda today but relaxation and Daddy's little run around the island. Once again, I got up early and this time headed to Guest Services to get our bill and see how much we spent for the week. We were still under budget so I was feeling pretty good!

I went back up to the room and hung out on our balcony as we approached the island, taking pictures and enjoying the sunrise.

We hit the buffet one last time for breakfast. I needed to be in the sports bar on deck 3 at 9:30 to sign up for the 5K run, so I got suited up, packed a bag with my bathing suit for later and left the girls to get themselves ready. There were probably about 25 people that were running the race, most of whom looked like pretty serious runners. I knew I wasn't going to be getting a top 20 in this one, but I was going to have fun. We all debarked together and headed to the starting point, where they explained the route to us and handed out race bibs. Right when we were about to take off one of our table mates was getting off the tram and yelled "Go Jamie" which was pretty cool.  My first ever race fan!

I'd love to say that the race was a breeze, but I was struggling. I tried to keep a group ahead of me in my sights but after the first mile I was cooked. I probably went way to fast, and I'm sure the week full of eating and drinking wasn't the best preparation. The route takes you through the bike path and then up the long airplane runway to the adult beach, then back around the bike path again and returning to the start point.  At least the loop back allowed me to see the other runners again. And of course, like every other part of this trip, who did I see out jogging while I was running?   our fairy wicked step sister.  I ran the course in 35:14, which was  a pretty good time for me, but it was a struggle with several walk breaks. At they end they were taking pictures as we finished and handing out Mickey medals, which was nice. They said the pictures would be posted on a facebook page, but I've yet to find them.  Still, this moment was the inspiration for all that I'd accomplished in running so far this year, so it felt really great.

Just as I was finishing, my family was getting off the tram. We headed out onto the beach and claimed some chairs. There really is plenty of space on the beach, with palm trees and umbrellas for shade. I'm sure the larger ships fill the place up a bit more, but we had nice chairs near the food, the bar and the water slides. I changed into my suit and sat down for a minute before the girls wanted to hit the water. I left an order for a drink with my wife and headed to the water with the girls.  Oh man, it was cooold. If we thought the water in Cozumel was chilly, this was frigid. We decided to try the water slides. They have a barge about 50 feet off shore with two water slides. You have to swim out to the barge and then climb up to slide down. The girls put on life jackets and we headed out, after taking a few minutes to ease all the way into the cold water.
Pelican Plunge Water Slides

The water slides are a lot of fun.  There's a slow one and a fast one. Of course, I always went down the fast one and the girls did the slow. We did that 4 or 5 times and then I'd had enough. The girls went to play with some of their friends by the water and I went to my seat. By this time my drink had arrived and I sat with the wife enjoying the sun and sipping a lovely rum concoction. Lunch was a barbecue with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs served right there on the island. It was really delicious. The ribs were phenomenal. I may have gone back a couple of times for more. But I'd just run so I deserved it.

After lunch the girls wanted to go back on the slide, so we hit that a couple of times. Then I was pooped, so I flopped onto the beach chair and let mommy take over. The girls had talked all week about getting some braids in their hair so they went off to find the hair braiding while I fell sound asleep on the chair.

We headed back to the ship to shower and rest and ran into Daisy along the way, so of course we got more pictures. Our cabin was on the side of the ship that faced the beach, so I took some shots from the ship back onto the island as the sun went down. After we got cleaned up, one of the girls fell asleep. Mommy took the other to the last show Remember the Magic, and I stayed behind while the other napped. One other cool thing that got us through times in the room were the movies. The TV had Disney movies on all the time and we watched several of them several times. I watched Harry Potter and had a glass of wine.

We packed our bags before we headed to dinner and set them out in the hall.

Tonight was our last dinner with our friends and we made the most of it. The girls all played with glow sticks and the parents enjoyed a final stuffing at the hands of our great servers. We gave them their tips and gave last handshakes and hugs. After dinner there was a Til We Meet Again party in the atrium. All of the characters and performers from the whole week came in to music and then were available for pictures around the whole area. Of course, we took this opportunity to hunt down our friend and get a picture with her and the girls.

After this, the girls wanted one more chance to go to the Kids club, so we sent them off and had a last drink with our friends. We all exchanged facebook and email to make sure we could keep in touch and headed to bed knowing we had one more meal in the morning.

On Saturday morning we woke up to the worst view of the trip ... the dock in Port Canaveral. We gathered all of our things and my wife called her family to let them know we'd arrived. Because we had late dinner, we had the later breakfast, and there were plenty of people heading off the ship before we got to breakfast. The food was pretty good, but everything was a bit rushed, understandably because that afternoon some other lucky family was about to take our place. We all hugged and headed out back to the real world.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Our Ocean Voyage - Part 6

Thursday is Day 6 of our cruise, another planned sea day as we sail from Cozumel to Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. In my original plan for this day, it was going to be filled with relaxation ... but there's just so much to do on board that we filled it up very quickly. My wife and I had brunch at Palo planned this morning plus the girls were part of the big Friendship Rocks show this afternoon. More on that to come.

Once again I got up early. Today was a picture morning for me. Getting out and around the ship early gave me great opportunities to take pictures without any of the crowds blocking my views. I spent a good hour wandering every deck taking pictures. The details and design of this ship is simply fantastic. I really enjoyed playing with my camera and trying to capture as much of the beauty as I could. Of course, the real beauty was not the ship, but Mother Nature. The sunrise was glorious and I snapped it the best I could.

Just after Sunrise with Cuba in the distance

The girls were sleeping late now, and instead of getting them up to go to a dining room for breakfast, I brought them some cereal from Topsiders and we served them breakfast in bed.  They really loved it. We got them dressed and off to the kids club so that we could make it to Palo's for our 10:30 brunch.

My first plate
The dinner at Palo was fantastic, but the brunch is another thing all together. They start you off with a mimosa and they take you on a tour of the buffet area. This is supposed to be for the appetizers, but its so much food. There are breads and fruits, cheeses and meats, fish, shrimp and crab legs, caviar and then a whole table of sweet danishes and donuts. Then after that, you order a main dish that is brought to the table, anything from eggs benedict (three different varieties) to veal saltimbocca or chicken parmesan.  Oh, and I cannot forget about the pizzas. They serve little thin crust pizzas. We ordered one that was Gorganzola and Grape. Trust me, it tastes 100x better than it sounds.  Simply phenomenal. We ate and ate and then ate some more and enjoyed every single second of it.

After we finished, we went and gathered the girls from kids club. We stopped by the future cruise sales desk to talk about doing this again. They give you a good deal when you rebook on board, and there's no risk if you cancel so its worth doing. Well the second princess gathering was just ending in the atrium as we were there, and we just happened to be standing at the top of the stairs as the Princesses were leaving. They each stopped to talk to the girls and give them hugs and allow me to take more pictures. Cinderella and Tiana both remembered our girls and were really sweet to them. The girls lit up again and we had another one of those magical moments that we'll never forget.

My wife wanted to rest a bit, so I took the girls up to eat some pizza on the pool deck. We had a great time enjoying the sunshine and I think the two of them together almost ate a whole pie! But, it didn't last long, because today was the big Friendship Rocks show. Its like a good bye show for the kids, and they all get to go up on the big state in the Walt Disney Theater and sing a song. I brought them back to the kids club and went off to find my favorite spot on deck with a book and a nice strong rum drink.

 The show was really cute. All the kids got t-shirts and they marched them up on stage where they got to sing a song with Mickey and Minnie. Our girls are pretty tall, so they were stuck in the back, but they saw us and had a great time waving and jumping up and down. At this point we've already had a pretty full day, and it was only 5:30. We had a little time until the Disney Dreams show for today, so we gathered the kids from the club and wandered until they opened the doors.

The show was another really nice story. Its about a girl who wants to fly and Peter Pan has to help her believe in all the fairy tales before she can fly. They travel through some more of the Disney stories, including Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Lion King. The special effects in this one were pretty cool too. They even made it snow.

After the show, our stateroom attendant had asked if the girls wanted to learn how to make towel animals. Duh, yea, of course!  Of all the things that they did today, this is the one they kept talking about, the one they couldn't wait to do. He came with one of the other attendants and showed us how to make all the different animals. He made an octopus, a lobster, a dog and a monkey. Then he showed the girls how to make little baby chicks out of two wash cloths and gave them to the girls to take home. They are so cute they both still keep them on their dressers to this day.

Now it was time for dinner. Tonight was semi-formal night, so we got dressed and headed to Lumiere's. The menu tonight was lobster and I love me some lobster. Everyone was having a great time. The girls at the table ate their Mickey bars and had a crazy face making contest while the adults took their pictures. The head waiter came to our table and shelled each person's lobster tail. We all joked because we'd seen very little of him the whole week, but tonight, the night before tips, he is suddenly there. We ate and ate, and had a great time.

The only characters we hadn't yet gotten autographs from were Donald and Daisy. And they just happened to be making an appearance right outside the dining room when we finished dinner, so we all lined up and got pictures with them in their lovely formal wear. They were really hamming it up,  with Donald getting mad when some guy took a picture with Daisy. The girls were cracking up as Daisy calmed Donald down.

Now, you'd think these kids would have been tired and wanted to head to bed after this busy, full day. Nope, they all wanted to go back to the kid's club and who were we to argue! So the kids headed to the club and the parents went up on deck where they were showing a football game on the big screen. We sat around enjoying some rum and some great company until midnight when they forced us to pick up our kids.

I don't think we could have packed more into this day even if we tried, and looking back now at the newsletter for that day, there are tons of things we didn't do.  Oh well, good thing we stopped by the future cruise desk.