Category Archives: life

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?


    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.


    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 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.

    Juneathon 4/30

    It’s not completely kosher, but I’m counting my youngest kid’s little league game as 4 June’s Juneathon.

    My true intent was to head to the Y and do some strength after the kids were put away for the evening. But, the evening was wet, windy, and 55 degrees. The boy had a tough outing at the plate, so we hung out for a half hour after the game, playing catch and throwing batting practice.

    Tomato soup and margherita pizza to shake the cold got me ready for bed, not the Y.

    Road User Safety

    I’m going to run on at the mouth for a while.

    I don’t understand why such a vast swath of the country lets careless drivers completely off the hook. Cars and trucks are the deadliest things we touch on a regular basis, especially now that smoking has become completely unacceptable.

    In 2007, the last year for which the CDC has posted mortality data on its website, almost 44,000 Americans were killed in motor vehicle accidents. Lung cancer and emphysema killed almost three times more, but I’ll guarantee you that there are way more than three times more commercials encouraging Americans not to smoke than there are encouraging them to slow down and be careful when driving. In comparison, “Water, air and space, and other and unspecified transport accidents and their sequelae” (Plane crashes and non-automotive crashes, including bikes) – less than 2,000 fatalities. And this includes drunk boaters, stunt pilots, everyone who is petrified of flying ’cause it’s ‘unsafe’ and idiot cyclists.

    My Ma had a woman in her neighborhood hit and killed by driver yesterday. My mom was pretty seriously affected by it – she and Dad were out walking when it happened, and saw the helicopter fly off with the woman’s soon-to-be-lifeless body. She posted about it on Facebook:

    Tuesday, as the sun was setting, Bill & I heard sirens as we were returning from a walk. Then Air Lift landed. A young mother of two was struck by a car as she walked. She died last night. A stark reminder that each day we have is a gift. If you walk or run on the roads Please face traffic and don’t wear ear buds. Be alert!

    What torques me off about this is that almost everyone’s gut reaction is to suggest ways to be safer when using the road as a runner or cyclist, rather than to point out ways to be a safer driver. The KGNB article said:

    Troopers say the driver of the car will not face any criminal charges since the incident has been ruled an accident. But DPS officials strongly urge joggers or walkers to stay on sidewalks as much as possible, and if you’re going to walk or jog in the street, to do so going AGAINST the flow of traffic.

    When I protested that the driver bore much of the blame for the woman’s killing, my sister-in-law said:

    Appreciate your point Billy, but I also think that we have to be smart and reduce as many risks as possible and be responsible for our own actions. I almost hit our neighbor’s dog who was crossing the street because the sun was in my eyes when I came around the corner.

    To me, the knee-jerk reaction to suggest things that the runner could have done differently is akin to saying “Well, she was asking for it” when a woman gets raped.

    Yes, there are things that runners, pedestrians, and cyclists can do to reduce their exposure to traffic, but the right to use public roadways should not come with a government individual mandate that every citizen purchase an automobile and petroleum or forefit their right to use the roads. Furthermore, the moral responsibility for protecting life should rightly rest with the person with the most ability to do harm – the person operating the two-ton motor vehicle.

    In this case, the runner was in a very low-population density neighborhood, on a straight road with pretty big shoulders and good sight-lines. My rewrite of the incident would be more like this:

    A young mother of two was killed last night by a careless driver, driving faster than was considered prudent given the limited visibility due to the setting sun. A stark reminder that each day is a gift. If you drive, make sure you do not take that gift from anyone else.

    If the driver had blown 0.08% on a breathalyzer, the driver would be in jail right now, regardless of the sun conditions. Sadly, for a sober driver, the setting sun seems to be implicitly endorsed by the Texas Department of Public Safety as a good reason to commit vehicular manslaughter.

    (The Driver) was “impaired by the sun” and did not see the bicyclists, officials said. Both riders were wearing helmets, the DPS said. (“Because the cyclists would be completely at fault for being run over from behind if they weren’t wearing helmets”, the DPS implied)

    The roads are a public good. That the dead woman was jogging for health or recreation is immaterial – she would be just as dead if she were walking to pick up her kids from a playdate, or riding her bike home from work – using the roads for transport. There should not be an implicit unfunded individual mandate that the only way to use the road is to purchase gasoline and an automobile.

    I didn’t know the woman who was killed by the careless driver in Spring Branch yesterday, but this is personal to me. I’d like to think that I’m just as protected from careless drivers by the law when I ride my bike to work as I am when I drive to work, but all the evidence suggests that a driver who plows into me from behind will get off scott free if I’m on my bike, and only be held accountable if they total my VW while killing me.

    Transport for America has a great interactive website that goes through fatalities by state, but I’m not convinced that just spending money on ‘infrastructure’ will save lives. People need to be held accountable, even if it’s ‘an accident’, when they kill a pedestrian or cyclist. Do it often enough, and the bloodshed will stop.