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.