Sunday, November 30, 2008

Good to be back home

I really like going to Pittsburgh to see my family each year, but the drive is rough. That said it went as well as it could this year, minus a 60 minute meltdown by both kids just before getting to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Ct. Of course I'm all wired up from the last leg of the drive, so I won't be getting to sleep for a little while here.

We stayed an extra day this year and it helped relieved the pressure related to seeing the whole family. We were less rushed so we enjoyed our time more. The kids got to play more too (as opposed to just riding in the car for the week). Alexandra likes air hockey! I also got 12.5 miles of running in. That still doesn't make up for the calories ingested, but hopefully my body doesn't go too much into shock tomorrow when I hit the bike for an hour or so.

A special thanks goes to my lovely wife and my sister-in-law for once again cranking out a great Thanksgiving dinner.

Alexandra and Dylan with their cousins

Oh yes, this rain sucks...

Monday, November 17, 2008

No, I did not step in dog poop!

I had a pretty good run today. About 6 miles at lunch. It was clear and cool. I had my racing flats on which always seems to help when I've been suffering from slow legs. They weigh nothing. There was another guy out running today. He was 50 or so yards ahead of me when I started my run. I caught up and then passed him. He was a guy and a runner wearing a race t-shirt. That meant one thing: he was going to try and go with me as I passed. He tried.

I got back to work and noticed an aroma coming from my running shoes. Then I remembered running under a patch of ginkgo. Ever since I was a boy I remember the scent of the fruit of the ginkgo. We called them stink-o trees. I check my shoes every time...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Greetings Pointers

- You know, when you started getting invited to your ten year high school reunion, time is catching up.
- Are you talking about a sense of my own mortality or a fear of death?
- Well, I never really thought about it quite like that.
- Did you go to yours?
- Yes, I did. It was just as if everyone had swelled.

This time it's not the 10th, it's the 25th! Time's caught up, passed, and kept right on book'n. Here's the thing with me and my high school experience: I didn't really like it, not even a little. However, those 4 years played as large a role in the development of my persona as any in my life. It was sink or swim with so many unthinkable things going on. Frankly there is no way in our litigious society that the Kent School of the early 80s could be allowed to exist. It was Lord of the Flies. If it were today and just one of the many beaten and humiliated kids stepped up and talked, lawyers would have shut it down. At the same time there is no doubt I left there a different person. I'll stop short of saying better; I was not better. I was different. Where I had been a somewhat naive (not totally, as I had already witnessed/endured some of the dark side of man) boy when I entered, I left as a more jaded, at times cruel, definitely devious, and ironically self-confident and mentally impenetrable young man. I discovered that smart really could trump strong or popular. But it would be years until I learned to harness these skills which had been unearthed, and in the time leading up to that enlightenment I'd make plenty of regrettable decisions.

But here I sit 25 years later and I do think I'm a better person. Definitely better than I was then. That mental toughness carries me through grueling workouts, races, and life in general. I bend but never break. And now I do not use this talent to defy someone else, but rather I try to hold it up as an example for others. As human beings we are capable of so much more than we know. Never start from a position of compromise. Always strive for excellence and let the inner strength help you persevere. And in the end if you come up a little short of that ideal goal, well then humility helps you accept it and the indomitable spirit persuades you to try it again.

So here's the question: Do I become the person I am today if I don't go to Kent? Do I owe anything for the skills unearthed or am I owed for the scars left behind. Obviously that can never be answered. And while nobody who went there is part of my life, nor do I seek them to be, there is a bit of curiosity as to what others have discovered and/or become.

Still I doubt I'll go.

The diet starts tomorrow

Okay, I'm officially disgusted with myself. Tomorrow it's time to stop the bleeding and start reestablishing my place as a machine! Seriously I hate feeling like crap, bloated, irregular, sluggish... I know what feeling good feels like and this just ain't it. The first step is to get the workouts on regular intervals, every other day for the most part, and make sure I'm away from my desk at least going for a walk every day. Also the beer and wine quantities need to drop. I'm not a really big drinker, but it's time to make it just a couple times a week activity. Breakfast everyday, no exceptions. This is huge for regulating my sugar and energy levels throughout the day.

Think of this as my off season conditioning program beginning. I need to bring it up enough so I can start with Tim in mid-December. I think I'll start logging all my workouts like I used to because it'll keep me more honest. Speaking of which, I did have a really excellent run last Thursday. It was 7.75 miles at lunch. I was moving well and felt good. There was another runner out who was moving well also. Even though we didn't run together it was motivating. Fast people make me run fast. It's that ego thing.

I ran 4.25 yesterday and it wasn't so good.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Catching up

As I write this I'm sitting on my trainer spinning an easy gear. It's actually not that easy to do, because the keyboard keeps moving. I'm in the middle of my weekly 90 minute "parachute" training session. I call them that because their purpose is to slow my loss of fitness, not prevent it. I hope to hit the beginning of the real preparation (after X-mas) feeling unfit from a mental standpoint, but actually in okay physical shape. Mentally I am near the point of feeling sloth-like, complete with self-loathing. Physically the metrics are still pretty good. My mile repeats are still sub-5:40.

My performances seem largely governed by neuro-muscular response, and not overall strength. Put simply I'm efficient, not strong or fast. I compete by not slowing down. Years and years of repetition work in my favor. I also "remember" what a given effort should feel like. It's hard to fully explain that to people, but it is this ability to draw on past sensations that I feel gives me my above average ability to pace. The running version of perfect pitch.

So with my body handling these workouts without interference from my brain, I'm able to think about many things, e.g.:
- The election. For me it said something unexpected about our country. Personally I don't care who you voted for; I myself struggled a bit with this. I do care why you voted. I don't believe in just voting against someone by voting for someone else. "I'm voting for the white guy" was the most discouraging comment I heard. Fortunately it appears those people are the minority.
- My family. I'm spending more one-on-one time w/Dylan and we're getting along better for it. I had a good day with him yesterday, and we're raking leaves today. As for Alexandra, I'm just trying to keep up with how quickly she's changing. We have that special father/daughter bond. And Leanna, well that's the toughest part. Still trying to be a better husband. It's not easy.
- Work and Personal finances. I try to keep this to a minimum, but it always sneaks in. Most of the time is spent figuring out how I can reduce the demands of work so I can focus on the important stuff.

It's my generation's time to lead. And you know what? I'm not sure how to start. There's a guy from NYC who organized peace runs in Kenya this past spring following the country's post election violence. I wouldn't even know where to start. I have a wacky idea about following in the steps of Bill Bowerman. No not in founding the corporation that would become Nike. Instead it's to follow in his footsteps with regards to getting the community engaged in activity, and to center that activity around track. You see the town where I live sports a pretty decent outdoor running facility, complete with tartan surface and lights. I've had this idea of Wednesday night track night for residents of the town. I wouldn't be fostering world peace, but maybe I can try and do something about childhood obesity. Maybe just getting a few families involved could have a snowballing effect. Maybe. Maybe I'm dreaming too. But then again some guy from New York put on races in Kenya (oh yeah, he also runs a charity which donates shoes to Africa).

It was one of those perfect fall running days. A little bit of coolness in the air, but the sun was strong and warm. Shorts and a long sleeve shirt. I really enjoyed just being on the road today. Only ditching the watch would have made it better. Yeah I had the watch. Hopelessly addicted to performance metrics. My pace was well off today. While anxiety always has me fearing that the "big slowdown" has finally started, I think it's a safe bet the real culprit was the mile repeats on Friday. "Thick" legs makes for slow turnover, but my endurance was good. So I'm about 2 miles into the 7 mile run, thinking about those things I think about. My mind starts to wander and I recall my high school x-country days, and I start to remember, again, my one and only real running partner Brian. I've written about him before, 4 years ago actually. Today I thought about how I never really pursued the issue of discovering the manner of his death. I didn't really want to find that he never outran his demons. Then I think that thanks to my little muffin and her sidekick, I've beaten mine for good.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Unexpected performance limiter

I can address most limitations that appear in my training. Diet, weight, work stress...eventually I can put them to rights. However I'm now confronting a new challenge: Monsters in the closet. That's right, I had heard it can happen anywhere and at almost any time, and it has finally happened to us. Our closets have monsters. I've also been told we occasionally have one or more under the beds as well. Now I have to figure out how to get rid of them. Think they'll take 3 fitty?