Thoughts on an almost lost summer

So, back in May, I found a tick. Went to the doc, got the Lyme Disease prophylaxis, and thought not much of it.

Did my first triathlon in a while at the Mystic Triathlon; not in great shape, but racing felt AWESOME – really brought out the desire to fly, and I thought I was on track for a great summer.

Went for 4 days on the Long Trail in June, and had one of the scouts need to be medevac’d due to vomiting and generally feeling terrible. Turned out, he had Lyme. Trip felt great for me; and was happy, healthy.

Vacation in Stowe was AMAZING as always; possibly the best week of the year by far, though my conditioning didn’t really reflect the effort I’d put in. Not sure why.

Immediately after vacation, I had a work trip to Honolulu. The first couple days I was there, my right knee swelled up, which is odd, because that’s like the only joint in my legs I haven’t had an issue with. But, it felt better when I ran, so I went with it. Plenty of good running laps of the canal, and a rented bike from Island Triathlon & Bike lead to two AWESOME days of riding.

But, I got home, the knee swelled up, and the lethargy I felt was stronger than the usual 6 hour Hawaii jetlag. So, I went in to see the doc, who, given the tick earlier in the year, said we ought to start the antibiotics, and take the test.

The test came back positive for Lyme, so I’ve got that going for me.

The course of Doxycycline seems to be working well; most days my head is clear, my knee doesn’t ACHE, though it is still tender. I went for a (REALLY SHORT) bike ride this morning, and had no lungs, though that might just be neglect.

Poop.

Call to me …

I think I’ve exorcised my Halloween candy demons.

I think.

I hope.

Gorged myself on starburst today at the office. Of which I’m not proud, not proud at all, but I think it’s important I get that out there.

But, looking at the training log for this month, I’m off to a decent start. 15 miles running so far (injury free); 50 miles outside on the bike plus a spin class, and three hours spinning. AND, we’re not done with the first half of the month.

Regardless, for the first time in a while, I actually feel fitness CALLING to me – my lungs are good, my legs are good, and, while winter’s knocking at the door, I really, really just want to say screw it and start to hammer.

Now to get my stomach on board.

End-ian summer

October and November have been phenomenal.

I just pulled back into the office after a day-ending run. Glorious sunset, near still winds, 60 degrees – I do not think there is a finer day for running in the world. Tomorrow’s supposed to be another decent day – sunny with a high of 50, but then possible snow on Friday.

My mind’s in a funny place. My body’s fat. Like, my weight is higher than it’s been in a while, but my fitness is coming back. Good bike ride with Melissa yesterday, great run today, plenty of swimming – but, it’s candy season, and somehow I cannot control myself.

January will be here soon enough.

Office Showers – Advent Day 3

As I’m sure long-term reader(s) of this blog will recognize, I’ve got to be in contention for the luckiest guy around. Loving wife, awesome kids, a great community, and worthwhile work. Absolutely no complaints on my part.

I attribute a big bit of my happiness to having only once worked in an office without shower facilities in the building. (That job was in Houston, too, which should have been clue #1 that things wouldn’t work out, but that was also back when I thought everything was better in Texas)

Office showers have been like the third thing I’ve checked on when considering most of my jobs. (The first two being if the work is interesting, and if I can continue to keep my wife in the manner to which she’s become accustomed)

For me, there’s three things that office showers make possible:

  • Lunchtime Workouts
  • Bike Commuting
  • Jeans
  • Lunchtime Workouts Bring a sandwich to eat while crunching tasking, and when office chatter dies down, strap on the sneakers and bang out 3 or 4 miles. Shower and seated back at the desk in 45 minutes with the patience to be productive at an afternoon conference call.

    Bike Commuting There are people like Bikeyface who can ride to work on elegant commuter bikes wearing real clothes. Part of me wishes I was one of them. But part of me also likes living in the semi-burbs / semi-rural / semi-forgotten wilds of eastern Connecticut providing scenery for the folks on the Acela or the United Express connector between Logan and LGA. Free-range chickens and children are passions of mine. I’m even tempted to move into one of the cool 19th century houses in New London, ‘cept I’ve still got kids in public school.

    Plus, I sweat. A Lot.

    So, the work shower is key. Ride in, shower off, look and smell good, with the glow of smugness that comes from a workout before coffee.

    Jeans Being an engineer is interesting. It’s a profession, for sure, but it doesn’t come with a lot of the trappings of other professions, like having to wear matching clothes or ties. But, unless you’re crazy brilliant* or doing real field work**, it really is expected that you’ll wear slacks and a shirt with buttons. Ironing used to be expected, but modern no-iron fabrics are a miracle.

    I prefer to commute in jeans and sneakers when I drive. So, having a shower and locker at the office means that I’ve got a place to change when I get to the office, so even when I leave the house looking like it’s Saturday morning and I’m not planning on seeing anyone, I can be showered, shaved, and pressed about 5 minutes after getting to the office, and can change again for little league, scouts, or soccer before I leave the office.

    * I’ve met many, many “crazy brilliant” engineers. Folks who are  quite literally the smartest dude in the room on some obscure but critical nugget of how to make something work. Most of them appear mostly normal, but there have been a couple who have either given up on appearance and hygiene, or who occupy another astral plane in which their area of expertise is easy but things like clothes and food aren’t, strictly speaking, necessary.

    ** “Real Field Work” is why I like being an engineer***. Because everyone loves trucks and cranes and towers and engines and loud stuff and explosives and the smell of diesel and being out in the weather and the beauty of seeing an idea actually come to fruition. But it’s hell on clothes. Usually, as an engineer, you can get away with wearing jeans any time you have to wear steel toed boots; however, I’ve found it’s usually cheaper to treat khaki pants and polo shirts as semi-disposable than it is to do that with good denim.

    *** “Real Field Work” is made more enjoyable because it’s an interlude to office and lab work. The men and women who are out there every day are made of much, much sterner stuff than I am.

    Pushups – Advent Day 2

    Pushups. Bleh.

    My first real introduction to pushups was down in Pensacola in 1994, where my Drill Instructor spent much, much, much time personally ensuring that I was doing them properly, and doing enough of them so that (Briefly), I could look like a steely-eyed killer worthy of a commission in his Navy.

    I’m trying to love them again. Trying, trying trying.

    It’s almost a perfect exercise – fully engages the core, balances out the emphasis on the glutes that running and cycling give, and working the arms that pretty much lay uselessly next to me while I run or bike.

    So, I’ve been doing them. Most every day. And it hurts. And it’s frustrating that I’ve got the upper body strength of a 9 year old. But, I’ll keep working it.

    Fall (ing)

    Man, I have no idea where this summer went. Between vacation, and camps, and not knowing if I was going to be working or not (I’m a fed, so the furlough thing hit close to home. Not in the “Oh my golly we’re going to lose our house” kind of close to home, more in the “Yippee! A summer full of three day weekends!” kind of close to home. Savings rate would have taken a hit, but, hey, who really retires these days?), and a couple other things, I never really felt like I was getting to relax.

    More importantly, I never got into the groove this summer of doing bike rides with my lovely bride.

    We rectified that this morning – 7 AM, out the door, and rolling down the road.

    One of the reasons I love to ride (and only like to run) is that riding isn’t nearly so weather dependent during the summer as running is. As soon as you get moving, the miles just kind of click on by, and the temperature pretty much self-regulates. Make your own wind and what not.

    Today was a great day for that. Wet and sticky, not hot in any way, shape or form, but uncomfortable nontheless (love New England summers!). But, once we got going, the weather was nice. Go too fast, and the humidity started choking the oxygen from the lungs. Too slow, and everything just felt damp. But, cruising along, watching the stone walls go past, everything was good.

    We pulled into Stonington Boro about the time 7 AM mass was letting out; all sorts of confused by the huge volume of traffic coming over the railroad bridge – wondering if we’d missed a tsunami warning or something while on the road. Did the lap to the point and back, past the cannon that held off the British in 1814.

    Back in downtown Mystic, Missy had to cruise on home to get ready for church. I loitered; had a coffee at Bartelby’s, and watched the Sunday morning crowd roll by. Downtown Mystic’s a great place to watch bikes on a weekend morning – there’s everything from the green stickers of bikes refurbished for Mystic Community BIkes (Free bike share for way longer than most places in the US) to the dude who rolled up to wait for a group ride on the Parlee with Lightweight wheels. My favorite, by far, are the tourists for whom this is like their only weekend on a bike, and for whom cruising down River Road (awesome road, next to no traffic, plenty of bikes, runners, rollerbladers, etc, so cars kind of feel like jerks for driving on it) and doing the short spin in traffic on Main Street (lots of cars, but enough pedestrians, parallel parkers, etc that noone honks at cyclists) leaves them feeling like I live in a bikeable community.

    Ended the ride with a trip up to Old Mystic and B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill for a half gallon of sweet cider and a dozen cider donuts. Tucking the cider in my jersey was surprisingly refreshing.

    Today was a good day.

    I ought to be asleep right now, ready for the New Haven road race, but I’ve been unusually productive today, and can’t quite spin down. Which means I ought to crash hard once I get on the road.

    Funk, but not really

    I’m actually having a great late spring – lots of bike, pretty regular running, and about a swim a week. Weight’s come off a little bit – down 5 pounds, thanks, as always, to MyFitnessPal, counting calories, and not losing the bubble every time I lose a pound or two.

    Tough week – A couple of huge deadlines at work, a couple of huge deadlines at home, the end of extracurricular stuff for the kids, and the general middle class, mid-life malaise has made it really easy to stay up too late, and hit snooze instead of getting out for a run in the morning.

    Think I’m on the verge of picking back up. Lots of vacation this summer, lots of good projects in the air. I’m pretty happy in general, it’s just a matter of staying off of my butt.

    About to start off on a goal – Hartford Marathon 2013. Training kickoff date kind of snuck up on me, but I’m where I want to be – held a 15 mile base all spring, PR on the half at the Vermont City Marathon, and survived the Bluff Point Twilight Trail Race. All sorts of good.

    What are y’all looking forward to?

    Galloway

    So, we’re up in Burlington for the Vermont City Marathon (again). The greatest thing is that there’s absolutely zero pressure this year – Melissa, my longsuffering wife, and I are running the two person relay.

    It’s an odd concept to consider, that a half marathon is an “easy” thing. It’s not, of course, for folks who haven’t been wearing out sneakers for a good long while, but Missy and I are both around a half dozen full marathons each. For the record, she’s faster. And base runs each week have included an hour and a half or so for each of us for the last couple years.

    Plus, we’re not actually “racing” the relay, though when she ends up posting a faster split than me on Sunday I’ll not hear the end of it.

    Anyway, going WAY back, I’m a huge fan of Jeff Galloway. Back in 1999, coming off of a couple years assigned to a fast attack submarine as a professional Steely Eyed Killer of the Deep, Melissa bounced a copy of Galloway’s Book On Running off me one night as we enjoyed our DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) bliss. “Hey, if we do this, we could head down to Orlando to run the Disney Marathon, assuming the world doesn’t end at Two-Thousand-Zero-Zero (Party over, whoops, out of time).

    I took a look, and the book made sense – keep using your legs regularly, even if you have to walk a little, and they’ll get stronger. Build slowly, and you’ll avoid injury. All sorts of good stuff.

    So, we jumped into the training program, little knowing that our first marathons would end up postponed by a kid, two moves, two career changes, another kid, a war, and general malaise.

    After Missy found out we (she, to be completely accurate) were pregnant with J, I stuck with the training program. Check the day, run the mileage, and amazingly it kept getting easier to crank out miles. I topped out the weekend after Veterans’ Day with a 16 miler that I finished without really feeling winded, but then Connecticut winter set in, the reality of traveling to Florida with an extremely pregnant wife became apparent, and we decided to take a pass on the Marathon.

    But I kept coming back to Galloway’s book. A huge personal accomplishment – doing something actually athletic is daunting to a bookish, overweight engineer – was broken down into an algorithm that I had evidence could actually work. So, it kept nagging away at the back of my head. Big rides were the first milestones I knocked down – Spent 99-2004 chasing Lance Armstrong’s myth, and went from being amazed I’d ridden the Colchester Half Marathon course without stopping to doing 20 on a regular basis after work, and eventually knocking out a couple centuries in Texas. But even cycling worked on Galloway’s model.

    I eventually ran a marathon on Galloway’s plan. And a couple more, though I’ve tweaked the strategy.

    This afternoon, I actually got to see the Man himself. He was signing books at the VCM expo. We’d driven up to Burlington early, let the kids skip school, checked into the hotel, and hit the Marathon expo on Friday night instead of Saturday after the YAM Scram.

    Galloway was packing up after signing books. Wafer-thin dude, jeans and a long-sleeved tee.

    It’s tough meeting a legend. “Hey, you changed my life” or “So, like that book you wrote way back when, yeah, that one was pretty good, and I’ve spent the last decade and a half trying to live up to it” or just throwing myself at his feet in supplication. None of that seemed appropriate.

    The general feeling was like back in 8th grade when you finally go up to a girl to ask her to for-real slow dance. Knew I wanted to say hi, but also knew that, late in the day Galloway was probably way more interested in packing up and getting supper. So, I , like many, many others, I’m sure, thanked him profusely for the huge effect he’d had on me. He shook my hand, said something gracious. And much like my first real slow dance, as soon as it was over I ran off to talk to my wingman (in this case #1 son) and figure out how the whole thing actually went.

    Despite being a bleeding idiot socially, though, I love this whole running thing. Got to run with Bart Yasso when Missy did Philadelphia through the Runner’s World meetup. Get to train on a daily basis on the same roads that John Kelley and Amby Burfoot cut their teeth on. Meet interesting people from all walks of life through races, training, and the internet. And get to talk about tough stuff like it’s old hat (most of the country still says “Woah” when you say 5 miles).

    I got to meet one of my heros today, and tomorrow, like a couple of days a week for the last decade-plus, will be a better day because of him.

    Steam

    Good morning run with #1 son. High 30s, overcast, dry. 3-Ish miles, conversational pace.

    On one hand, nothing special. Its morning, so we get up, run to rake care of mind and body. Then food and a day of good work.

    On the other hand, holy crap, it doesn’t get more special than that. Some mornings, can’t get two words out of the guy. Other mornings, he just won’t shut up. But he’s here, and I’m here, and its just what we do.

    Run and talk.

    And I sit on the porch rocker watching steam pouring out of my shirt and big clouds rolling away when I breath, and cannot wait for the next normal day.

    Keep Kickin’

    Back from a week’s vacation up to Stowe, Vermont. We do this pretty much every year, and it’s one of the highlights of the year. I usually try to climb Smuggler’s Notch (VT State highway 108), and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve been successful.

    Made it this yearOn top

    Can’t say I set any speed records, but I made it. Up in the better part of an hour, down in about 10 minutes. Rest of vacation was focused mainly on relaxation, which was fully accomplished.

    Now that I’m back, my next big goal is the New Haven Road Race (Today’s the last day to register for cheap). That also means I’ve got my annual meeting with this guy (which isn’t often enough, but the internet world and the real world work at completely different speeds, and, despite being early bloggers, I know I’ve chosen to stay rooted in reality, family, and stuff I can touch).

    Anyhow, we’re both working on getting svelte, and by coincidence, we’d both landed on MyFitnessPal.com. I’d used it last year to drop about 5 pounds and get consistiently under 181 (though it looks like age-related shrinking is setting in, and 175 is probably safer). But it’s got a great iPhone and android app – track calories where you are. Scans barcodes, has most chain resturants, and lots of user-generated data. Always in my pocket, so I remember to use it.

    What’s interesting to me is that it doesn’t look like the site has a business model… Just works, and works well. (Can’t figure out how DailyMile makes money, either, but still love them, too)

    Enough. Time to sneak in a lunch run and earn a sandwich.