“There are no short buses in outer space” and other random thoughts from the Soldier Field 10 Miler

29 05 2011

At 3:50 a.m. when the alarm clock goes off:  “Already?  No way.  OK, guess I’ll get up.”

Jotted into the Notes section on my iPod during the preliminary speeches etc. before firing the starting gun:  “This is really just a training run for the Berlin marathon and in many ways I am not taking it very seriously.  But it sure is hard not to get caught up in everyone else’s sentiment.

“With 15,000 signed up, what a great people watching experience.  I am always amused by the variety of athletes that turn out.  Upon entering the parking lot even the license plates begin the story:  JSTDOIT, RUNBYKE.  These are clearly folks whose entire identities are at one with this sport.  I’m secretly glad I’m not one of them.

“Having arrived at 5:45 a.m. to be assured a parking spot, there is time to kill.  And since it is pretty chilly outside, I hang out in the parking garage for the first hour with the other earlybirds.   While eating my breakfast in the car I eavesdrop on a few small groups sharing stories of past races, opinions about shoes and gear, and hopes for the day ahead.

“Finally making my way through the gathering throngs, I am comforted to see some of us “normals” scattered among the predominance of young sinewy competitors ambitious enough to tackle a 10 mile event.  However, when lining up in my corral behind the “14:00/mile” sign, I note that I am ensconced by the rest of the old, the fat and the slow. Or to quote one of my favorite movies…. Mohammed, Jugdish, Clayton, Sidney and Flounder.

“It reminds me that although I am extremely grateful to this old body for getting me here and that just by showing up I have already bested those who never left the couch, I still have a long way to go.

“Being back here in what is tantamount to the short bus of running at once comforts and shames me.  Two years ago I ran 12:00-13:00 paces depending upon the distance.  Now I’m older, fatter, slower —  both embarrassed and determined to get fast enough again to return to this event or another with a better position next year.  I’ll bet there are no short buses in outer space.

“I’m grateful that it’s a cool day with overcast skies so at least the usual rivers of sweat will not be a distraction.  I really hope we get going soon.

While waiting the 30 MINUTES it took for my corral to advance to the start line after the official gun:  “Seriously?  What am I doing here?  I could have done a 10 mile training run at home.  I’m cold and it’s windy.  Let’s get moving.”

When at mile 1.2 on my Garmin I observe the elites running toward me as they return from the turnaround at Mile 5, nearly done with the race I have barely started:  “Wow.”


Training done in the past week:

Friday — a rest day

Thursday —  4.3 miles of speed intervals

Wednesday — personal trainer session, worked on core and legs

Tuesday — “active rest”, about 4 hours of gardening

Diet progress in the past week:

4 “Perfect Days” as previously defined.  2 mediocre days and one I’d like to forget.

Vulcan logic is like cold steel…

24 05 2011

…sharp and precise as it cuts through the bullshit.  When mixed with human emotion however—-well, Spock can tell you more about that than I.

My previous post presented the logical side of my mindset.  I have a goal.  I have a plan to reach it.  I must follow the plan to achieve the goal.  If I do indeed intend a successful outcome, deviance from the plan would be illogical.

End of story.  Right?

My intellectual mind knows these facts.  It is like Spock:  full of discernment, reason and measured action.  My emotional mind is like Kirk:  adventurous, energetic and sometimes a loose cannon.  When working in concert, this is a highly effective pairing.  Out of balance, we could be in trouble.

The past three days have been “perfect days” as previously defined, with intake and output precisely within the boundaries of  a 600-1000 calorie deficit per day.  72 hours (three days) is well known to be the entire lifespan of the typical “diet”.  Even though I’m not calling this plan a “diet” since I’m eating pretty much everything except junk, I am trying to control portions and content so there is the element of self-control at work.  And for me three days is usually when logic begins to wear off and emotion seeps in.  A reason to celebrate, a rough day at the office, a boring day off and the whispered temptation of  “eat, eat, eat”  becomes too persistent to hold at bay.

So today will be a test.  I feel incredibly tired today due to poor-quality sleep last night.  I have a day off from work .  My son is coming over to do laundry.  Tired = weak-willed.  Day off = possibility of boredom.  Son visiting = temptation to go to lunch, have a beer, have another, have a third, forget about goal, party hearty, regret it tomorrow.

On this day, I need Spock to keep Kirk in check in order to succeed with my training program.  Logic must overcome emotion.  Just for today.  One day at a time.



Yesterday: in the morning, a pesonal trainer session — core and upper body;  in the evening, a couple miles walking with the dogs.

Sunday: the Splish Splash 8k in Gurnee  — I was slower than I wanted to be and this emphasized my need to work on speed as well as distance.

Saturday:  “active rest” — a couple hours of gardening.

Consuming everything in sight like a giant space amoeba is no way to lose weight

22 05 2011

OK, so I didn’t try to eat the starship Enterprise but sometimes it seems like I’m trying to eat pretty much everything else.  For someone who often complains about the need to lose weight, which would indeed ensure continued good health and promote better athletic endeavors, I do not seem to work with equal consistency toward achieving that same goal.

In mulling over the various justifications for this behavior, some common themes appear:  (1) “I was stressed out and didn’t care.  I wanted the ______ [fill in blank with any greasy, sweet and/or readily available unhealthy indulgence] and so I ate it.” ; (2) “The food was there and it looked/smelled good.  I couldn’t resist”; (3) “I brought healthy food to work but when it was time to eat it, I wanted something else instead”.    Often all three of these work in concert.  And finally, the rarest but still too-plentiful of excuses:  “I was bored.”

These are unacceptable cop-outs.  At this point, I have not failed to finish (or even suffered greatly during the completion of) any of the events which I’ve started.  But this great big 26.2 mile marathon is larger (by 100% in fact) than anything attempted thus far.  Saying I wasn’t able to give it my all because “I was too stressed out, I flip-flopped on healthy eating and I couldn’t resist cake” is going to sound really stupid if I am not in good enough shape to go the long distance.  “I was too bored to eat right” sounds even worse.   When my patients come to me with excuses like these as to why they can’t control their blood pressure or glucose levels, I feel like they are being irresponsible and will surely be sorry later if they even live to regret their mistakes. It is time for me to practice what I preach.

I’m going to take a hint from the 12-step programs I promote at my volunteer job.  I’m going to take it one day at a time.  A perfect day will be one in which I consume 600-1000 calories less than I expend.  For every seven of these days that get strung together, I can lose 1.25 – 2.00 pounds.   I know how to do it.  I’ve done it before.  I teach it to people every day.  All I really need to do is BE SERIOUS ENOUGH to ditch the excuses, postpone immediate gratification, and FOCUS on the absolutely ginormous reward of finishing that race.

126 days remain before the Berlin Marathon.  Somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds wait to be kicked to the curb in that interim.  It will be done.  ONE DAY AT TIME.

More later…

The Klingons say gagh is best when eaten alive….

20 05 2011

….and that may be true.  It would have to taste better than the thing that flew into my mouth when I was running this morning.  I saw it out of the corner of my eye being sucked in as if by tractor beam when I simultaneously inhaled while turning a corner and ran smack into a gaggle of flying “things” right at face level.  The bug was round, unexpectedly large and rather gel-cap like, as though it would make a popping sound if I should bite it.  I spit it out.  It was far too early in the day for exotic food.

I ran four miles this morning and felt pretty good about myself for doing it.  No aches and pains, but the troublesome left Achilles tendon let me know it needs to be stretched and I will oblige.  I sprained my left ankle very badly twice in the last 10 years and then followed those insults with the Achilles strain.  I’m sure there’s a messy conglomeration of scar tissue there which deserves more attention than I give it.  Job #1 this weekend will be implementing regular flexibility work into the regimen so I don’t end up back in physical therapy (where I spent all of last autumn instead of running).  The twice-weekly yoga class is still in the planning stage but will happen when I can find one that dovetails with my work schedule.

Yesterday morning I had another personal trainer appointment.  We worked on balance and strength.  Since I don’t necessarily burn a lot of calories at these sessions, I’ve decided to add an evening dogwalk to those days.  I will get closer to the daily recommended 10,000 pedometer steps with that strategy and the girls will get some exercise too.  It was hot and I was tired last night after work but we walked almost two miles.

On Wednesday, I had planned to do some speedwork but a night of lousy sleep sapped the necessary energy so I just did some run walk intervals (although more walk than run).  Sleep is such a crucial training element!  I tell my patients all the time that “sleep time is healing time”.  I could use more of it for myself.

Tuesday, my day off work, got sucked up in errands and chores.  No training was done.  I took the girls for a short walk through the woods after their vet appointment and that had to suffice.

Monday was another personal trainer day.  Strength and core.

Of course, none of these days made up for the weekend indulgences of rich food and strong drink with friends and family in Chicago.   Eating and drinking, whether gagh or quiche and bellinis or sliders and beer, seems to be the central element in all of our celebrations.  How wonderful it would be if I was naturally thin and didn’t have to concern myself with balancing calories in/calories out!  How great if everyone I knew was athletic and health-obsessed so that our social encounters revolved around salad bars and sprinting!   And I’d be absolutely ass-over-teakettle if I had a personal chef to bookend the personal trainer, thereby ensuring easy access to an athlete’s diet!  But alas, none of this is the case so I find I must concentrate on eating like the athlete I want to be instead of the 50-something fat-ass that it’s easier to be.

More later….

A “captain’s log” this is not

14 05 2011

According to my favorite Star Trek site, Memory Alpha, the captain’s log is  “used to inform the captain’s superiors of what is happening on a mission and to record historical facts for future generations”.   I find this to be a possibly interesting but dissimilar thesis since future generations may never find it and I haven’t any overseers concerned with my performance.  Nonetheless, I’ll keep on writing because it’s a form of accountability to myself.

Since my last post, I’ve seen the personal trainer twice a week to work on strength, balance and core.  I believe my training efforts will be better for it because he has been where I am and knows where I want to go.  His is one of those “fat-to-fit” success stories that resonates so well with me, and he has a great sense of humor.  Since he is a tri-athlete now, he certainly knows the journey and how to help me get further along the road with specific exercises for my chosen sports.  I’m really happy about that.

Flexibility is still an area where I need a push.  At my age, it is probably the single most important means of staving off aches and pains  —  especially with me pounding the pavement while weighing over 150 lbs. (way over….but that’s all I’ll tell you).  I do a bit of token stretching before and after each activity but not enough.  I believe I’m going to seek out a twice-weekly yoga class somewhere that I can do in the early evening after my workday is done.  An evening class will provide the added benefit of getting me to do something besides collapsing on the sofa and being sucked into the vortex of mindless television.

As far as running etc. goes….I did the 7.5 miles mentioned in the last post.  Since then I have also done a short (12 mile) bike ride.  I’ve been to Zumba class twice.  Ran 3 miles this past Thursday.   And put in 90% of the vegetable garden.  Today I’ve got an “almost 9 mile” run planned for this morning before I head into Chicago to spend the rest of the weekend with friends and family.

Eating continues to be a work in progress.

That’s pretty much it for this week.  Nothing historical or memorable, but I’m talking about it anyway.



8.75 mile run done.  Great weather for it today:  55 degrees with a stiff wind.   Running  into the headwind was near-impossible so that’s when I did my brisk walking.  But I was free to sweat like a Tarcassian razor beast and none of it ran into my eyes.  Nice!

I swear to Kahless I have not been trapped in the transporter pattern buffers!

3 05 2011

Remember the episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation called “Relics” where they found Scotty trapped for 75 years in the pattern buffers of the USS Jenolan?  How I wish I had such a good excuse!  The truth is I’ve just been lazy.

After signing up for the Berlin Marathon, I had a huge burst of inspiration and went all out for a good month:  three runs a week, two cross training sessions, planning meals to include proper nutrients and recording calories on the Livestrong website.  I did pretty damn good too.  For a while anyway.

You see, in recent years winter has become a bit of a struggle for me.  Its long dark days and bitter chills make me want to hide even as I bristle against the sense of captivity hiding brings.   As Thanksgiving gluttony folds into Christmas craziness, I begin to feel trapped.   There is relief when the conclusion of New Year celebrations maneuvers the zeitgeist back toward sanity.  A new year and new goals are very refreshing to me.  Regardless, by mid-February I’m usually ready to snap.

However, I decided last year that I was going to break the cycle of midwinter misery by finding a way to enjoy or at least tolerate the awful season.  For me that means finding a way to embrace the tundra instead of despising it.  So I signed up for a snowshoe 5k in January and a frosty 5k in February which I linked to visits with friends (in order to ensure I’d actually get out and do both as well as enjoy the reward of pleasant company).

The two races were so much fun!   I lost my snowshoe virginity in the Glacial Park Snowshoe 5k while having a blast with my friend Pam, then went up to Wisconsin for the Frostbite 5k and a catch-up visit with my best buds from college.  I was doing great —flexibility, cross-training, weight lifting, Bosu work, running negative splits  —  and even the weather was getting better by the day.  Then it all went horribly wrong.

At some point in mid-March a cold snap hit and the skies turned grey.  I had planned to do a St. Paddy’s Day run in Chicago with a couple of friends.  Both ended up cancelling.  I don’t know why but that sent me into a tailspin.  It was like the giant dark cloud of winter depression which I had thus far managed to escape had suddenly overtaken me.  After a 7 mile run on the weekend of the aborted race, I just quit.  Each time I tried to work out the following week, I felt a leaden fatigue too heavy to shake off.  So after a couple of half-hearted trips to the gym, I gave up.

A month of lethargic bog-wallow later, I couldn’t stand myself anymore so I began to look for a way out.  I eventually concluded that if perceived abandonment helped break me, maybe a fitness support group was the answer.  This revelation came as I was watching an episode of  “Ruby” where she gathers her friends to petition their help after falling off her diet.  Envisioning the same scene in my own life, I fell back in raucous laughter.  First of all, I’d have to spend $300 on snacks and liquor just to host them all.   Then came the vision of Carie jogging in her Kate Spade shoes with martini in one hand and cigarette in the other or Fred beside me at Pilates class grunting like a newborn potbelly pig.  I couldn’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh!

So I hired a personal trainer.  I figured, “WTF, if you can’t find someone to work out with you, just pay someone to make sure you do it.”

And thus I am pleased to announce my return to serious training.  I had a great weekend of nutritious food and vigorous exercise with plans ahead for more of the same.  In fact, I’m sitting here right now procrastinating a 7 and 1/2 mile run as I write this post.  But I shall get off the sofa, leash the hounds and head out the door to do it.



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Bless you Scotty.  You will dwell in the pattern buffer of my heart forever.