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.

    Friends Push – Advent Day 1

    Sunday dawned grey and misty. Not terribly cold, not dry, not wet. Yay.

    I’m rounding a corner mentally. Work’s back to being a place I want to be, home is good, and volunteer life is excellent – I’m at a place where I feel I can say “no” on occasion, and have a network of other volunteers with which we’re really clicking.

    And part of the rounded corner is routine. I’ve needed for a long time to make getting out a top priority, and seem to have rounded the corner on keeping it there.

    A big part of that has been using friends and colleagues to stay motivated. Sunday morning, Steve R. was my motivation to be standing in the Haley Farm parking lot at 0630.

    Steve is one of my heroes. A couple of years ago, we were both training for a marathon, and Steve had just started cycling. Now, he’s faster than I am in every possible medium, and much, much better than I am for just getting out there.

    Anyhoo, we did the traditional loop – Haley to Bluff out to the point, back to Bluff parking lot, and back to Haley. And, having Steve there kept me moving – longest run since I gave up on Hartford Marathon back in September.

    Yay Steve!

    24 to go.

    Spinning, spinning, spinning

    Unlike Dianna, I avoided running in Snowmageddon 2014-01 this morning, and headed over to the YMCA to hit the 0515 Spin class. Good times.

    I will accept a certain amount of guilt about heading over for spin class instead of, say, actually riding a bicycle on the actual road, with some insulation and some reflective materials, except for:

  • There’s like three hours total of daylight up here at the high latitudes
  • Unlike when I run, when I ride I do generate at least enough wind to get some effective windchill
  • While drivers up here are pretty accommodating when it comes to cyclists, there does seem to be an open season between November and February where drivers seem empowered to act like jerks
  • It’s cold as balls
  • Which is why I head to spin.

    The 0515 spin instructor, Noreen, is AWESOME for being up at the crack of dawn. She’s usually got some pumping tunes, and hits exactly the right tone – reassuring and competent, which is what you want at 0515.

    I’ve heard my wife talk about some of the other instructors who cover the classes later in the day and say things like “high energy” and “perky” – this early in the morning, instead of being motivating, I’m guessing that I’d probably throw a water bottle instead of responding well.

    Playlist is excellent – good, solid rock and/or roll, with a couple of throw-aways (I’m sexy and i know it). And, every month or so, we do “Dark side of the Moon”, usually on a Friday morning. It’s dark in the spin room, and lit with blacklight, so the combination of still being mostly asleep, fluorescent lights, oxygen deprivation, and eventual endorphins – wow.  Almost as good as beer.

    So, I’m there for about the next 4 or 5 months, Monday and Friday…

    Follow us for the funky behavior


    May be my absolute favorite holiday EVAH.

    Good food, time with good friends and good memories of other friends, and none of the guilt about gifts associated with Christmas. No bad music.

    We had the office Thanksgiving lunch today – community turkey and potluck sides, and way, way, way too much dessert. Tryptophan coma after lunch, which was OK as I was clicking through some annual training for the dozenth time.

    About 3:45, the sun was almost gone, so I realized that if I was going to have any sort of workout, I had to hit the road. Perfect late fall run – high 30’s, sky spitting moisture, and every shade of grey from silver through soot.

    The beginning of the evening commute traffic hissed along the road, headlights and taillights blending into each other.

    Then – the transcendent.

    I passed a grove of trees for the umpteenth time, and finally realized that the two straight rows of cedars marked an ancient street – almost an alley, but lined with green and carpeted with needles, connecting one main street with another marked as a dead end.

    Dead end to cars, maybe, but a throughway for foot and bike traffic.

    100 yards of unexpected trail running, and a good run becomes a great run.



    There’s nothing quite like the first few really clear, cold mornings in New England. The leaves are off the trees, and clear sky stretches from horizon to horizon. Late autumn mornings start slowly and drag on, until the sun creeps far enough above the horizon to throw everything into sharp resolve – shadows snapped sharp, the cold air making the bright visuals stand out.


    Woke up early enough this morning to take the mountain bike out to Bluff Point for a loop. It’s been a long, long while since I’d ridden fat tires on loose soil, and for a little while, I was 13 again, barreling through the trees, branches whipping and grabbing my clothes. I don’t know if it was just enthusiasm, but I was clearing stuff I hadn’t previously cleared, and on a couple of the downhills, just felt absolutely like flying.

    The ride was too short (Stupid work). But the bike’s in the car, and there’s only 30 days of less daylight until we start heading back to the endless days of endless light we call summer around here.

    Great things afoot at the Jank household – need to write more later.


    I didn’t run the Hartford Marathon.

    Training was going great through the New Haven Road Race – mileage was adding up easy, weight was coming off, life was good.

    Then, the summer ended, opportunities in the form of a couple of new job opportunities arose, obligations with social commitments grew, and training just kind of fell by the wayside. Not enough to where I couldn’t have gutted it out and ran another 4:30 marathon. But enough to where I really didn’t want to devote an entire day to another mediocre marathon.

    So I bailed. Just flat out didn’t show up.

    I regretted not getting to see Dianna and my buddy Doug run, and regretted not getting the sweetest beer in the world in the tent at the end of a long race. But, I got to move tables with my Cub Scout pack. Got to enjoy a fall day with my lovely bride. And a last (and first for this year) dinner at Abbott’s for the year.

    And y’know what? In hindsight, I’m glad I bailed.

    Not sure if I’m going to register for another marathon for a while. I may train for a few smaller ones that I could run if training goes well, but for the time being, I’ve decided that there’s enough in my life. Running and biking is part of that; committing to a giant race doesn’t have to be.

    So, that didn’t suck

    Good news, everybody – looks like Sunday’s tough run was due to the flu vaccine rather than anything actually serious.

    Yesterday – beautiful day. So, what did I do? Hit the pool for the first time in like freaking forever. Only 500 yards, but pushups and situps after.

    Today? Humid but cool. Snuck out of the office before a late lunch, cranked out 4 miles. Felt great. Can’t wait for long run on Saturday.

    Finally – USA! USA! USA! I won’t claim to be a terribly knowledgeable soccer/futbol fan, but watching the World Cup(s) is like watching the World Series, Super Bowl, Tour de France, and NBA Finals all rolled into one. You’ve just got to do it – excellence in anything is worth investigating. Regardless, it’s always more fun when the home team’s doing well. And in Brasil, I won’t even have to switch time zones to watch.

    Good times.

    The miles flu by

    Glorious weekend. Absolutely glorious weekend. Crisp, dark nights, bright pleasant days – just doesn’t get any better than this.

    Of course, I worked Friday and Saturday, but still managed to get in a great run Friday evening, and a good run and bike* on Saturday afternoon, followed with some beers with friends in Newport before heading home.

    This morning, I woke up early, strapped on the sneakers, and headed out for a run. Three miles in, felt like absolute and complete dog meat. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t turn over the legs – nothing. Which was very odd, considering A) I’d had a great weekend running last weekend at New Haven 20k, and B) I’d had great but not terribly draining runs the previous two days.

    I cut the run a little short, slowed way, way down, and suffered through. Got home, made breakfast, went to church…

    About halfway through church, it hit me – my government-provided health care (Navy Medical) had given me a flu vaccine on Saturday afternoon. Me, being the brilliant guy I am, had gotten the spray up the nose, and then immediately proceeded to do 2 hours of pretty solid workout making sure I was sucking that virus down into my lungs. BRILLIANT!

    Napped instead of having lunch, still feeling about 50%.

    Stupid flu.

    *So, the bike ride, as always, was awesome. Riding Ocean Drive never, ever, fails to bring a smile to my face. There was a little bit of breeze out of the southwest on Saturday – not so much that heading south to the point was super tough, but enough so that the ride from the Southwest corner of Aquidneck Island over to the mansions had a sweet tailwind the whole way. 20 MPH without breaking a sweat is always fun.

    Anyway, we’re heading down Bellevue Ave back towards downtown, and there’s bumper-to-bumper tourists trying to find parking for supper in a town that was laid out in the 17th century, instead of just walking or riding. Bellevue’s pretty wide, and there’s usually plenty of “Bike Lane” between the cars and the curb – very pleasant place to ride, even in traffic.

    Saturday afternoon in high tourist season – not so much. Drivers are pretty happy to give you the gutter when they’re passing you, but when you pass them …

    We’re about two blocks from the stoplight on Memorial when all of a sudden a BMW SUV executes a perfect “Right Hook” in front of me. Traffic wasn’t moving, and the driver, I’m sure, figured they could take the side street around the light. Good plan, except he didn’t signal, just threw over the wheel and hit the gas.

    I grabbed two fistfulls of brakes, heard the pleasant screech of Contis on concrete, and simultaneously put my left shoulder into the Beemer and unclipped both feet. I hit the car decently hard – good solid “Thunk”, bounced off, and managed to stay upright with my feet on the ground.

    To their credit, the occupants of the car stopped, rolled down the windows, and asked if I was OK. Quick check of me (Nothing in pain, a decent amount of adrenaline, no blood) and the bike (No wobble in the wheels, handlebars still aligned), and I said “Yeah, I’m OK – didn’t see you signal the turn” with the “Jerk” left implied.

    They asked again, I said “No I’m fine, please signal next time”, clipped back in and rode off.


    1. Be Alert – can’t be said enough to both cyclists and drivers. Signal turns, know where you’re going to bailout, make eye-contact, check 6.
    2. Practice – Bike handling needs to be learned. Go to a parking lot or field and practice grabbing brakes and unclipping at the same time. Play some hoops or soccer, and practice making contact and staying upright. Jump curbs.

    It didn’t make me feel lucky to be alive or anything – ultimately, it was a slow speed bump, not an “accident” or anything. Preventable, sure, probably by both me and the driver, or by better construction of roads – a painted bike lane would at least remind drivers that there may be cyclists cruising past when traffic backs up.

    Good to get shaken up occasionally; but also a chance to think about the riders who don’t bounce off the car that hits them.