Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 273 - Turn Signals

You see that picture up there? Do you know what it is?

That's right, a turn signal. That answer alone puts you above half of the "drivers" with whom I was sharing the roads in and around Indianapolis.

When you're on a motorcycle, you notice these things. You aren't talking on your phone, texting, or reading, or putting on make-up... unlike the "drivers" with whom I was sharing the road this afternoon.

No, when you're on a motorcycle, you are, and this will be a new term for some of you, "paying attention".

You notice things like when people turn without a signal, because you were expecting them to go straight.

You also notice when people turn without a signal, abruptly, into your lane. You notice this because you think you're going to die.

Turn Signal: It's the little stick sticking out from the left side of the steering column.

Steering column: The post that the steering wheel is attached to.

Steering wheel: What you use your knee to steer the car with because you can't put down your phone or your coffee.

Whether you're in a car, on a bike, or running, assume the driver doesn't see you, and even if he does, is not terribly concerned about you.

We're on our own out there folks.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.4 conservative miles, a rest-mile day.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 272 - Breaking the Cycle

Not taking care of oneself can become a vicious cycle.

For me, it started with not stretching. Not stretching, and running, as we are all painfully aware, every day.

That led to miscellaneous bits of soreness, and tightness, and creakiness. Lots of creakiness.

That led to dreading those first steps out of bed in the morning.

That led to sleeping in. Getting out of my cozy, comfy, feels like how I imagine the inside of a kangaroo's pouch to feel like, bed, is hard enough. Know what's going to happen when I move my weight from the bed to my feet makes it nearly impossible. And definitely not a rational choice.

Sleeping in meant I was running late, every morning.

That meant no stretching, no time, and in no mood, to fix breakfast or pack a lunch.

That led to getting to work late and grabbing something to fool my stomach into thinking I'd had breakfast from the vending machine.

Being late also meant having to power through emails, which meant sitting in my chair, getting even stiffer. And crankier.

Cranky and stiff, I'd set off for my run. Though the run did make me feel better, it wasn't as good as it could have been. Every day looks sunny when you start at the bottom of a well.

Some minimal stretching and a crappy fast food lunch, and I was back at my desk, probably still behind on emails.

That meant, to get any real work done, I had to stay late or take work home.

That led to getting home late, too late to fix a decent dinner, which meant eating out, again.

At the end of these days, I was exhausted, but not from a good, productive, fulfilling day. I was tired from just treading water, and in the end, I'd sunk just a bit lower.

I could see it happening. I could feel it happening. I knew I needed to break the cycle.

But knowing what you need to do, and doing it, are two com-effen-pletely different things.

The time has to be right. You may be working on other things. Of dealing with other things. And mostly, you need to be ready to take it on.

At some point, though, you have to stop the whining, and bitching, and moaning, and take charge. Take responsibility. Take ownership for feeling good, for taking care of yourself, for living a fulfilling, rewarding life.

Yesterday was that moment for me. And frankly, over the past 9 months, there have been many moments like that, many tides that have turned.

It started with running, every day. That moment of taking back a piece of me that I'd lost, given up, actually, was the first step. And it's led to many more steps, figuratively, and literally.

As the goals are achieved, habits changed, confidence and courage and encouragement stack up, new goals are realized and taken on.

One day this running streak will end. But the strength and insight that I've gained from taking just a few minutes every day for reflection, for medication, for myself, like The Dude, will abide.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.3 on roads

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 271 - Epiphany

I had a minor epiphany today.

It came to me as I was "walking" to the bathroom without "bending" my "ankles".

I need to take better care of myself.

Specifically, I don't stretch as much as I should.

What was my first clue? How about the fact that in the morning I walk like a 700 yr old man!

Yeah, I know... I should have realized this months ago. And I knew what was going on, but it's as if in my head, running every day gives me a pass on everything else.

I'm (finally) stretching after (almost) every run. That is what a professional would call, "... better than nothing, barely... almost not doing anything... the absolute minimum required to not be accused of a really drawn out suicide".

Still, I could tell that even that little bit did make me feel a teeny bit better.

If you want to feel good, and you're going to do something as ridiculous as running everyday, the minimum doesn't cut it. You really need to step up those little things that make you feeling good. And young. And mobile.

This adventure continues to teach me things about myself. Today, it's telling me that I've been cutting corners that matter.

I'm going to stretch every morning. I'm going to stretch every evening. I'm going to get a massage. I'm gonna get my creaky body into yoga class.

I can't help getting old, but I sure as hell don't want to feel old.

If you feel creaky, it's your own fault, not your age. Is 10 minutes a day a reasonable price for 23 hours and 50 minutes of feeling good?

Thought so. Now, bend over.

Wait, that sounded bad... sorry... you know what I meant...

Good running,

Numbers: 3.1 miles with the dog on roads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 270 - Perfect Day to Run

This afternoon in Central Indiana, it's 64, mostly sunny, and there's a light, crisp breeze.

If that doesn't make you feel like going for a run, you may be a cyborg.

Seriously... step outside... I'll wait.

See!?! Doesn't it feel effen-awesome?!? Doesn't it fill your spirit with the joy of life as much as it fills your lungs with fresh, cool, not insanely humid goodness?

Our lives are too short. There are only so many days between birth and death. And let's face it, most of those days are too hot, too cold, rainy, or worse.

We only get so many perfect running days. If you have the slightest urge to run, make this the day.

Reconnect with the runner inside you, inside all of us.

Dig some shoes out of the closet and trot around the block. Go for a walk and jog a few steps. Trot to the end of the driveway when no one's looking.

Don't let this perfect running day slip by.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.5 miles on trails.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 269 - Sunday

Posting mobile tonight.

Realized after going to bed that the day had evaporated on me and I'd yet to visit the ol' blog.

That's what happens when you're living your life.

If you're just existing, time passes like a bad homecoming parade.

But living your life, like playing a night game of kickball, and organizing a paper plane throwing contest, and playing Wii with the kids, and watching a movie with the kids (while you ice your heels to help them recover from the kickball game), and going to your nephew's intersquad baseball game, and using the women's restroom because your sister mistakenly locked the men's room, and sitting at the counter at Steak n Shake, and grabbing a quick run, and packing lunches, and two trips to the grocery to get stuff for lunches, and writing notes for the kids lunch bags, and settling down for a movie with the kids, and then hitting the hay early only to bolt upright when you realize you hadn't written anything, well time can get away from you.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.6 miles on grass.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 268 - The Woods.

The day started so well...

For the first time in weeks, it didn't feel like the welding gnomes had snuck in during the night and fused together all of the bones in my ankles.

And my hip didn't feel like there was a pineapple wedged in between the muscles.

And I have no idea why.

I didn't do anything different.

It just happened.

And thanks to whatever forces aligned, I was soon basking in a cloudless morning, cruising on the cross country course my son was about to race on.

This was the first time I'd run the course. And the first time I'd ventured into... the woods.

Several times I've seen the runners go in to the woods, and emerge later. And I've wondered what happens in there.

Turns out, what happens in the woods is lots of gravel, a few interesting growths that look a lot like orange cones,  and a trail that goes up hill... the whole way.

I know my geometry, but I can't find the downhill for this long-ass uphill. It's as if the course was designed by Escher.

I survived three trips into the woods and had a wonderful run. It was one of those runs where I felt like I could have run forever, and I hated to see it end.

The boy ran great, too. Better than I did, for sure.

And we were both done for the day before 10:30a. The morning was still clear and crisp, and with our legs warm and loose, our lungs and heads clear, we were ready to enjoy it.

Hope you did, too.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.1 miles on grass and gravel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 267 - Homecoming Game

Took the kids the the high school's homecoming game. And by taking them, I mean I bought our tickets and they ditched me.

The team got slaughtered.

The marching band performance was uninspired.*

There were 13 girls in the Homecoming court. 13!

But the most disturbing sight was the meeting of the mascots. I'm not sure which was creepier, the blow-up doll without a mouth, or the maniacal David Letterman.

Good running,

*When I was in school, people came to the game to see the band. Seriously. And I'm just saying that because I was in band. Anyone else who was in the band will back me up.

Numbers: 1.4 squeezed in between cleaning up the dog's crate-bound poo explosion and cleaning up the dog's puke.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 266 - The Gift of a Run

The gift you receive for being a runner is that peace of mind is always just a run away.

Today, I needed a run. And I was so glad it was there for the taking.

Work is piling up. Questions, so many questions.

I'm a Product Manager at a software company. At this particular time, as we plan our next release, that means that I am the source of information, and the decision maker. I have to make a hundred decisions, on the spot, that will determine the course of the product, the specifics of its features, and the work for dozens of super smart engineers over the next few months. And all of that work will cost the company a lot of money.

There's a lot of pressure there.

Typically, a project manager will ask me something like "Does feature X need to support sub-feature Y?"

And then they stand there, at the threshold of my office, waiting for an answer. An answer that could mean that the feature doesn't meet the market's needs, or pushes out the schedule, or costs me the chance to implement something more important, more valuable.

And this happens all day.

And I really enjoy it.

Still, a good hard run on the trails, the type of run that leaves dirt on my ankles and a couple scrapes on my shins, takes the edge off, resets the system.

After my run my head was clear. I was ready for more questions, and more decisions.

And I can promise that those decisions were better than they would have been if I hadn't had accepted that gift of a good run.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.6 miles on trails.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 265 - The 12:30 Meeting

You may remember what I think about 8:00 am meetings.

I am also not at all fond of 12:30pm meetings. I know there are only so many conference rooms, and only so many time slots when everyone is available, and you can only wait so long for these critical decisions*, but lunch meetings that do not include free food are uncalled for.

Scheduling a meeting over lunch is like farting in an elevator. You just don't do it. You squeeze your cheeks. You find another time slot.**

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the finer social graces. I had a 12:30 today.

So sure was I that no one would do such a thing in a civilized world, I went out for a run over lunch. Luckily, I'd already planned on a short one because of this...

A big, nasty storm was coming my way. I didn't recognize it at first. Not surprising since we haven't had rain here since the Carter Administration.

Since the run had to be quick, I hit the trails by the office.

Remember how I've said that on trails, you need to be present? If your mind wanders off too far, for too long, you might fa- LOOK OUT!!!

See that root there?

I didn't.

My big toe hit it square. And firm. And really, really hard.

So hard that I did the Dick Van Dyke prat fall all the way past the far end of that log. Would have fallen on my face had I not grabbed a hunk of some leafy ivy.

As I stood up, taking a quick roll-call of my body parts - all present - I wondered out loud, "How much you wanna bet that was poison ivy?"

It wasn't. I owe karma one for that.

Moving along the trail, I was glad to see that the nettles dying...

See ya, stupid nettles.

When I took my phone out to capture this wonderful sight of annoying vegetation meeting its end, I got the friendly/shocking pop-up notice telling me that I had... sigh... a 12:30 meeting.

And it was 12:19.

I scurried back, cutting short my already short run, and made it to the office, at 12:30.

Just so you know... if you schedule a 12:30 meeting, there's a pretty good chance I'll be there, but I won't be happy... and I probably won't have showered.

Good running,

*Like these meetings ever produce any meaningful decisions.
** Don't get cute... you pick a time slot before 8a or after 5p and we'll bury you... alive.

Numbers: 2.0 miles on trails.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 264 - Leaf Catching

Way, way.... wuh-haaaay back, when I was younger and faster and more durable, I worked at Bell Labs. It was an ok job, but the best running conditions, ever. We had a great locker room, another whole room to stretch, and some gorgeous places to run.

And run we did.

There were 5 of us, all engineers, or some other form of geek, who ran pretty much every weekday over lunch.

Running with the same guys, every day, rehashing the same debates, it could get a little stale.*

As one summer turned to fall, and the temperatures fell, and the humidity relented, we were invigorated. The usual runs weren't cutting it. And so, thanks to Kent, the wise one, The Heritage Park Leaf Catching League was born. You may know it better as the HPLCL. But probably not.

The rules of Leaf Catching are deceptively simple:
  1. Catch a leaf, get a point.
  2. NFL pass defense rules on interference. If you interfere, you lose a point.
  3. You can't camp out waiting for leaves to fall.
  4. Person with the most points are the end of the run, wins.
But the best games have simple rules. The complexity doesn't show itself until you play.

At first, you might feel a little silly. You look for leaves near you. You might even see one, but catching is a different story. You realize you need more notice, more lead time.

You start scanning the sky for targets within reach, but right in front of you, and not straight up, but out at about 45 degrees, where the catchable leaves will be.

You start watching the wind, noticing what types of trees are dropping lots of leaves, and which leaves are falling predictably, drifting down, easier to catch than the ones that tumble and flutter, bobbing away just as you try to close your hand on them.

And soon you remember that you're competing with other players. You find yourself maneuvering for the best position, up front, in the middle of the lane just so when a leaf falls, you get the first crack.

You look for leaves that might not be within your reach, but could be in the other guy's reach, and you wait to see if he sees it and makes a move to know if you should defend, or keep looking for your own leaf.

And the closer you get to the end of the run, the end of the game, the more aware you are of the score. If you're behind, you scan, more anxiously now, for any sign of anything falling. If you're ahead, you look for any sign that your competitors are making a move toward a leaf, hoping you can knock it away, or screen them from it.

And before you know it, the run is over. The miles have slipped by unnoticed. The winner is congratulated, and the losers rally their excuses.

This is what happens when geeks on a run are left to their own devices. It probably seems like a silly, pointless game. And it is, until you play it.

It's Leaf Catching season folks. Get a couple running buddies out near some trees, and give it a try.

If after you play a few rounds, you think you've got some game, maybe we'll give you a crack at the big leagues.

Good running,

* Don't get me wrong, we loved it. In fact, despite being scattered by site closings and finding other jobs, we've all maintained a virtual running club. We check in once a month, report our miles, whine about our injuries, bemoan getting old. Even without seeing most of the gang for months, and some for years, I still consider them good friends.

Numbers: 4 miles on asphalt trail, and 4 leaves, good for the win.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 263 - Colts v Giants

Thanks to my very good fortune to have landed a way cool brother, and his good fortune to have landed a very cool girlfriend, and all of our good fortune that she works for the folks who built Lucas Oil Stadium, and our even better fortune that she is supremely generous and gracious, I had unimaginably great seats for the Colts v Giants game last night.

That's football, in case you don't follow.

Anyway, the view from the second row looks something like this...

Yes, that was sideline reporter Andrea Kremer. She is amazingly tiny, and she's better looking in person. And unbeknownst to the guy next to us, she is NOT going to turn around, even if she hears you bellowing her name. She thinks you are creepy. And a doof. And a moron. Give it up.

I was also maybe 7 feet from Bob Costas. Also tiny.

Aside from, you know, the game, I really enjoyed the hubbub of the sidelines. Not just the players. The officials, the cable pullers, the poor security dudes who spend the whole game with their backs to the field, looking up into the stands, where nothing is happening except for the occasional Andrea Kremer stalker. (Though apparently, one of the Giants, meaning to slam his helmet to the ground, let loose a little early, sending it about 10 rows into the crowd. And the crowd wanted to keep it. There was laughing. Then security. Then police. Then things weren't so laughy. Shortly thereafter the helmet found its way back to the Giant.)

But my favorite part of the sideline commotion is the boom camera that shuttles back and forth, up and down, following the action. At the end of the boom is a basket. Inside the basket is a camera. And a camera man. Or in this case, a camerawoman, who did not let decorum keep her from getting her shot...

Squatting for the show

But my favorite favorite part is the guy behind the wheel...

Duuuuuuh, I drive duh cam er uh!*

The Colts were ahead early. And they stayed that way. This really bummed out the Giants.

They spent A LOT of time bummed out.

Especially Eli Manning, Peyton's brother...

who spent the evening either bummed out, or on his back with Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis sitting on his chest.

These guys were bummed out, too, but for different reasons. 91's named after the act of tipping a stripper. And 72's name sounds like an STD.

But the big question of the night is "Wow it's possible  PF Chang's doesn't understand the concept of a 'reservation'". If you have a "reservation" for 7:00p and you arrive at the hostess stand at 7:00p, then they are supposed to have "reserved" a table for you, not a buzzer.

Good running,

* I'm sure this camera driver is a perfect nice and intelligent person. That didn't stop me from saying "I drive duh cam er uh!" every time he drove by.

Numbers: 2.8 miles on sidewalks and roads

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 262 - Pomme Frites

Peckish after a movie last night, with time to spare and feeling adventurous, we went off the map, and as it turns out, off the hiz-ook, for a snack.

We went to Brugge.

Brugge is in the wrong direction, further away from home. It's also in Broadripple, the center of the 20-something dance-club-hopping, social scene. That means the area is thick with loud girls, dressed like call girls, smoking, and filling the air with F-bombs as they wait impatiently for some guy, any guy, to buy them a drink, and guys wearing loafers without socks and way too much AXE*, scanning the crowd for a girl who won't  disappear as soon as he buys her a drink, but won't force him to dance.

It also means that finding a parking spot is challenging. Like finding Osama Bin Laden is challenging.

That explains why it's taken us so long to get to Brugge.

Brugge is a Belgian styled restaurant. They also make their own seriously delicious Belgian-style beers.

But, the reason to make the trek to Brugge, what makes it worth the trip, is what they do to potatoes.

Pomme frites
(with Triple de Ripple and Wapihani brews)

These are not your children's french fries.

To accompany these unbelievably great fries are your choice of 12 house-made dipping sauces. They even make their own ketchup, people.

They come in three sizes. This is a large, perfect snack for two. But my favorite size is...

If I could choose my own nickname, it would be L'Enorme.

On an only remotely related note, and it's only remotely related because after Brugge, we walked down to The Monkey Tale to listen/watch some live music courtesy of The Bread and Butter Crew to make sure we got our money's worth out of the extortion/parking fee, if I had something to say about it, every band would have at least 2 drummers.

Good running,

*Any AXE is way too much AXE.

Numbers: 1.4 miles on the "rest day" course.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 261 - No Shortcuts

Most of the time, when you try a shortcut, you break even. You hit unexpected traffic, miss a light, or it's just not really shorter.

Sometimes a shortcut pays off. Maybe you come to an intersection. You want to turn right at the corner. Cars are way backed up. To your immediate right is a church parking lot that also happens to let out on the street that you want to turn on to anyway. A quick, opportunistic trip through the parking lot, taking the hypotenuse, saves distance and time. No harm.

But there are some shortcuts that seem harmless, or we convince ourselves are harmless, but they cost us in the end.

For example, say that you don't really care much for stretching. So you skip stretching, just a day or two. What's the harm? You'll stretch extra tomorrow.

You survive that unscathed, so you skip a little more often. No harm in that.

And maybe your stretching habit turns into a not-stretching habit.

Thing is, this isn't a short cut. It feels like a short cut. You get to lunch sooner, or out of your sweaty clothes sooner, or plopped in front of the TV sooner.

But it's not a short cut as much as a loan. You're borrowing from your future. And there's interest to pay.

If I don't stretch after my run, I'll be extra stiff tomorrow. Who am I kidding? I'll be extra stiff in a couple hours. I'll be uncomfortable. I won't run well. I might even be sore.

And if I keep taking these loans, the interest piles up, and tightness and soreness becomes injury... like really sore heels.

And the interest payment might even require you to sit with your legs in a bucket of ice water for 20 minutes while you write a stupid blog entry about how you always end up paying big for not doing what you know you should.

Ok, so you're shortcut might not be skipping stretching. Maybe you skip a run, or a workout. Or maybe you skip this week's check of your budget status. Or maybe you put off [Fill in the blank with something you know you should do but don't really want to do] tomorrow.

Think long and hard before you skip. Don't let it become a habit.

Immediate short-term gain for deferred suck is a bad trade.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.1 miles on sidewalks and streets.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 260- Wine Whine

Are you kidding me!?!

The first wine club wine booty, which thanks to the backward podunk 1835-style laws of my home state on Indiana, has to be delivered to the GF's brother in Chicago, have shipped.

And on their way to Chicago, where do you supposed they passed through?

That's right... from Oakland to India-friggin;-napolis... 30 minutes, with traffic, from my house. I would have been glad to pick it up.

But no...

Then, it went up to Chicago, totally blowing out my carbon footprint.

The good folks who have agreed to babysit our wine, have a life. Not a surprise that they aren't sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the FedEx guy to show up. So, it's made two round-trips between Skokie and the Northside of Chicago.

Rather than having the goods arrive safely, and efficiently, and in a slightly more earth friendly manner, at my office, yesterday, they've spent two days wandering around greater Chicagoland.

These laws are anti-competition, anti-interstate commerce, and stupid.

And they've made me cranky on a Friday night. And fired up to take it out on someone.

I'm going to Ask Mitch.

Good Running,

Numbers: 4.4 miles on roads.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 259 - Bobby Unser

I never really cared much for Bobby Unser.

If you wonder why, then you don't know who Bobby Unser is. Or you are Bobby Unser.

Bobby is a 3-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He raced in the tail end of the golden era of american open-wheel racing. Those are good things.

Personally, I always thought Bobby was an arrogant, self-egrandizing, braggart.  Being a 3-time Indy 500 champion I suppose there's a lot to brag about, but still... there have been a lot of drivers, and people in general, who have accomplished more and spoken about themselves less.

And, in my opinion, he stole the 1981 Indy 500 from Mario Andretti. Which is unforgivable.

But then, a couple says ago, I came upon this picture - the one right up there - from the fantastic Gasoline Alley unplugged series by Donald Davidson, Indy 500 historian and savant. It's from Bobby's last pit-stop in the 1968 race.

First off, you gotta love that car. Gorge. Us. And the jackets on the crewmen... I'd kill for one of those.

Bobby's engine was an Offenhauser, and they were monster powerful. And fast. The only problem was that they didn't like to get going from a dead stop... the kind of dead stop required for every pit-stop. It wanted to stall, so crew members would push the car out of the pit as the driver engaged first gear. Not a big deal... everyone had an Offy and everyone managed.

But Bobby had another problem. His gearbox. He had only top gear. No first gear. Or second gear. Or third gear. Nothing except his tippity-top gear.

Here he was, racing in the greatest race in the world, and he had just one gear. Luckily, that one gear was the one he needed to go fast. Unluckily, he also needed to stop on occasion for fuel and tires.

When he stopped, his crew would push him out, furiously. Bobby, and his car, and his Offy engine, would chug, and chug, and lurch, and chug out of the puts. And down the back stretch. And down the front stretch. It took him more than a lap to get up to full speed.

I could, if I were a crass person, list a dozen drivers who would have parked that car as undrivable.

Not Bobby Unser. He not only carried that car to the end of the race, he took it to victory lane. That's right, he won his first Indy 500 in a car with one working gear.

That, my friends, takes skill, and determination, and balls, and more skill.

I thought of Bobby this morning.

Despite all of that stretching, and greatly improved running, for the past few weeks, when I get out of bed in the morning, my calves are tight as banjo strings. I walk like Frankenstein. It's not fun.

As I was clomping to the patio door to let the hound out, I thought of Bobby. And I felt like that car. I thought about how the easy path to feeling better was to take some time off of running... to abandon the streak.

But rather than cursing my condition, and giving in to my plight, I imagined myself in this body as Bobby Unser in that car, chugging out of his pits, determined to keep it going as long as it would go.

The universe messes with us. It destroys our plans. It drops obstacles in our path. It chuckles as we age.

We can either bemoan our fate, and wish, hopelessly, for things to be different. Or, we can accept our situation as our situation, and make it work. One is an exercise in ego infested pointless whining. The other is the path to a positive, rewarding life.

And just maybe, your face on the Borg Warner trophy.

Probably not, but who knows.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.4 miles on roads.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 258 - I Hate Stretching

I didn't used to hate stretching.

I used to enjoy it. It was relaxing.

But back then, I was flexible. Really flexible. Stretching was easy. And it felt good.

Now, I'm still flexible... for my age. It's like being good looking, for a tortoise.

Thing is, I KNOW it's good form me. To run every day, I NEED to do it. And it does make me feel better.

But while I'm doing it, it's not relaxing... it's work. I sweat. I grunt. Things pop and crackle. If I didn't have to do it, I wouldn't.

In fact, it's to the point that my body needs stretching so much that I've had to bring in a professional. (Hi Kathy.)

I submit myself to Active Isolated Stretching. Or as we like to call it, expensive elective torture.

But I can say 100% that without Kathy and AIS, I wouldn't be running today. Or tomorrow. After exercise programs, 3 personal trainers, 2 physical therapists, a chiropractor, and my sports medicine guy, it was AIS that fixed me. Those other things helped. They alleviated the symptoms, but they didn't fix what was wrong.

And really stretching isn't fixing, as much as keeping everything tuned and working properly.

So as much as I hate it, it's kept me going.

So let's all take a minute to think about the yucky medicine in our lives that we know we should take, that we know would make us feel better, and commit just 5 minutes today to fitting it in.

And maybe it'll be worth it.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.4 miles on grass.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 257 - Cross Country

Man, I wish I'd run cross country when I was a kid.

I went to The Middle One's cross country meet this evening. Third meet of the season.

With each meet, I get more jealous.

The team environment is so different from Track. Everyone is in the same race. They're all in it together. They're racing each other. Even teammates are racing each other.

Being passed could mean your team loses. Being passed by a teammate could mean you get bumped from varsity.

Everyone starts together, spread out across a line in the grass. The gun goes off. The race begins.

It's one race, a hundred kids against each other. And it's also a hundred races, each kid against the clock, the course, himself.

The race unfolds over thousands of meters, thousands of footsteps, hundreds of decisions about how fast to go when. Do I push now, or hold back, saving it for later? Do I pass this kid here? Can I pass this kid? Is that other kid trying to pass me? Can I surge the uphill and still fly down? Is that kid fading? Is that other kid coming? How much do I have left? How much can I burn right now?

For some kids, it's a survival task. Just get to the finish line. Try not to be last, but no matter what, don't quit.

For other kids, a rare few, it's about winning. It's funny, there are so few runners who have ever won a race, yet every race has a winner.

For the vast majority in between the winner and the back of the pack, it's a game of chess played out in the woods, or across a field, with sweat, and dirt, and spit, and emotion, and grit. It's tense.

And yet, as I walked back to the team's camp after the race, my boy said, "Dad, I really like that all of the runners are such good sportsmen." He went on to tell me that in the finish shoot, the boy that he had just out-sprinted to the line put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Nice finish."

Runners are good people, even when they're just starting out.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.8 miles on the cross country course before the meet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 256 - 2^8

256 = 2^8 = 2*2*2*2*2*2*2*2

It's the number of numbers between 0 and 255 inclusive, which means it's also the number of numbers that can be represented in an 8-bit byte.

Yeah, I'm a geek.

Truthfully, geek is relative. For example, in my office, at a software company, surrounded by guys who have devoted most of their lives to honing their geekiness, I'm not considered much of a geek. I just don't measure up. For example:

  • I haven't built my own arcade game.
  • I've never been to GenCon.
  • I've never been to Comic-Con.
  • I own a Mac.
  • I use an iPhone.
  • It isn't jailbroken.
  • I don't speak Klingon.
  • I have no desire to speak Klingon.
  • I use a commercially available DVR.
  • I have never used any form of the word "Necromancy" in conversation.
  • My house is not wired with CAT5.
  • I haven't read Lord of the Rings.
  • I own zero comic books.

But compared to the general population, I peg the geek meter.

It used to be worse. Much worse.

As an undergrad, I majored in Computer Science and Math.

I know.

You can imagine how that impressed the co-eds.

Back then, when people heard CS major, they pictured something like this...

... and generally speaking, they weren't far off.

I spent countless nights, entire nights, in the basement of the math building, waiting for my computer time*, with 50 guys who looked just like that dude. And another 50 not nearly that cool.

When mixed in with the general student population, I could blend in ok. But as soon as someone found out I was a CS major, you could see the "dork" bit flip from 0 to 1 in their brain. "That's great." they'd say, voice trailing off, eyes scanning, desperate to find someone, anyone else, any normal person to talk to.

And being a math major was worse. Hard to believe, but true. People could understand that with a CS degree, you could pick your job. But what the hell did you do with a Math degree? Why would anyone choose to take more math?

So there I was, prime of my life, at the crossroads of the two most socially devastating majors.

And yet, I made it into a fraternity. No, not an engineering fraternity. A regular guys, without slide rules, with parties, that included actual girls, fraternity. In fact, I was elected president of my chapter. By my peers, not their parents.

How in the name of keg stands could that happen?


Track, specifically. My meager status as a non-scholarship walk-on track and field athlete was enough to tip the scales from dweeb to dude.

So, for you runners out there, don't underestimate the respect and esteem that others give you for your dedication and courage.

And for those tempted to reconnect with your inner-runner and rejoin the running community, consider, along with all of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits, what doors it might open for you.

Running makes you healthier, happier, and most definitely cooler.

BTW, it's totally not fair that now geek is chic and that the computer-guy image is closer to this...

Timing... It's all about timing.

Good running,

*Back in olden times, people didn't have laptops or computers in their dorm rooms. Computers were massive, massive machines that filled entire rooms. And there were only so many terminals. So, you went to the lab and put your name on the chalkboard**, a waiting list, for one hour - one precious pressure packed hour - of time to work. When your hour was up, you went back on the waiting list. And every class had big projects due at the same time, so it was usually a 2-4 hour wait until your next one-hour block. And the big projects took 5-8 hours of terminal time to complete.

** Chalkboards are what used to be where all of the whiteboards are now.

Numbers: 4.4 miles on roads.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 255 - Running with the Boy

I never ran with my dad. Or my mom, for that matter.

When the Middle One and I headed out this afternoon, I tried to put myself into his shoes.

They didn't fit, so I put mine back on. Sorry...

He's a second year budding cross-country athlete with lots of potential, but not a lot of confidence.

He's also the nicest, most considerate, most caring person I know.

Today's run wasn't a Walton's moment. It didn't help that it was a longish run for him. (His coach set the distance, not me.) I tried to break the ice, chill the mood, by talking about some silly things his brother had done, and asking him to slow down a little, at least until his old man was warmed up. But he seemed so serious, determined. For exactly what I wasn't sure. There were some spurts of frustration. Some stops for a sore ankle. And then more spurts.

Maybe he felt like he had to run fast. Maybe he thought I expected him to push hard. I tried to slow him down, telling him he didn't have to go so fast, but he kept hammering. And when he had to walk, for his ankle or his lungs, well, let's just say, he wasn't happy.

But by the end, as we took a bit of a cool down walk, we were good again.

I don't want to be the dad who pushes his kid. I want him to come to things at his own pace.

I use his coaches orders to get him out the door. I run behind him, not always by choice but necessity, so he doesn't feel pressed. I encourage him to keep going, tell him he looks great, but cheerfully walk whenever he wants to walk.

I've told him how proud I am of him, how when I was in 8th grade I had no idea what I was doing running track, how I never had the courage to run cross-country.

I don't want him to think of me as a coach, just a supporter, a cheerleader, his biggest fan.

I'd like to see him push himself harder. I'd like to see him go a little faster than he thinks he can. I'd like to see him challenge himself, and his teammates.

But what I REALLY want is for him to enjoy his new season, and to build on it toward some confidence and pride.

And I wouldn't mind a bit if he turned into a kid who asks his dad to go out on a run.

For now, I'm just happy we had a run together today.

Good running,

Numbers: 2.4 miles on roads.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 254 - Man v Food

Great day filled with family fun.

Farmer's market, auto show, little guy football, and cooking for my family and sister (who gets all excited when she gets a shout out).

The evening drew to a close with slot cars and a paper airplane fly-off (congrats Mikey Michael).

And suddenly, it's 11:30p and no time to blog.

So instead of trying to pull one out of my rearage, I'm going to bail and watch Man v Food with the boys.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.4 miles. Heels very tender, so tender that after the run I spent 10 min in a bucket of ice water.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 253 - Free the Grapes

For those of you who live in forward thinking, free-market states, please forgive the indulgence.

My state just recently jumped on that crazy bandwagon called Daylight Savings Time. Yeah, we're on the cutting edge.

While everyone else in the civilized world was doing it, we were jumping between time zones twice a year.

Seems harmless, until you try to do business with someone who isn't living in 1853. "Uh, no, we aren't on Eastern Time, right now... I know we were last week... now, we're on Central. But, we'll be back on Eastern in the fall... for a while. So the meeting will be at 2:00pm your time, or maybe 1:00pm, or maybe 3:00pm... no one's really sure."

Yeah, those were great times, when customers and partners laughed at our unnatural attachment to our old-time hick identity. I'm sure glad those days are over.

Except they aren't.

Last week, while touring some of the wineries in Napa, I learned to dread the question:

"So,where is everyone from?"

"We're from New York." "Great., I love New York."

"We're from Ohio." "Oh, that's nice."

"Hi, we're from Illinois." "Excellent. Go Illini!"

Then it was our turn...

"Uhmm, we're from Indiana.", we'd say, sheepishly. "Oooooooo, that's too bad."

The next question was always "Do you have any friends or family who live close by?" with the subtext "... in a state that isn't a puritanical backwater?"

Yeah, it was a little humiliating.

Ya see, the problem is, the great state of Indiana has laws in place that make it illegal to ship wine into the state. Even to private citizens.

Think about that one for a minute... we brought back nearly a case of wine on the plane as checked luggage. It wasn't easy, but it was legal.

We could have driven to Napa in an SUV and brought back cases and cases of wine. But having the good folks who take great care to make fine wine ship us a bottle or two a couple times a year? Not happening.

It just doesn't make sense. Who are these laws supposed to protect?

We can order cheese, sausage, lobster, steaks, and any other food online and have it the next day via FedEx.

But wine, not so much. Are they worried we might actually drink it? We can buy wine any day of the week. Ok, except Sunday, but still.

Are we going to put all of the fine Indiana wineries our of business? I don't drink any Indiana wines now, and they seem to be doing just fine.

No, the laws are on the books to protect distributors, the institutionalized middlemen of the beer, wine, and spirit business.  The distributors, with their monopoly, are so greedy and power hungry that they have made it impossible to buy wine in Indiana unless it's through them... and they get a cut.

And this system has made sure that the distributors have enough money to invest in legislators to get this made into law.

It's one of those things that you can go your whole life without even knowing it's going on. And that's the way they like it.

But, if you do find out, you can't help but ask why on earth this is allowed to happen. And then you get angry.

And then you feel helpless.

But then you get angry again. And then you want to do something about it.

And then you do a web search and you find

If you have the gumption, email your congressman and senator and ask them why in the world you can't get great wine from Napa, or Sonoma, or anywhere in the USA delivered to your doorstep when your friends in Illinois, Ohio, New York, and just about everywhere else, can.

And ask them if they think Thomas Jefferson would approve.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.4 miles on heels that are showing signs of improving.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 252 - To thine own self...

I saw a girl with "To thine own self be true" tattooed on her arm.

Before you think about that... how weird does the word "tattooed" look? Doesn't look right, not at all. But Google assures me it is. Strange.


When I saw this tattoo, I almost instantly build up the scenario. It was an overreaction to a break up. Having her heart broken by a louse masquerading as her soul mate, she decided that the best thing to do was to write a note to herself in the most invasive and ill-advised way possible, to remind her not to be fooled again.

It just a snap conjecture, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went down.

I think I'd have put a Post-It on the bathroom mirror.

Still, I found myself thinking about that tattoo today, well, the words actually, not the tattoo.

It's easy, at least for me, to not be true to myself. I am ever so easily drawn away from my best judgement for the sake of making someone else happy.

It's taken me a good chunk of a lifetime to understand that even though it seems like a good thing to do everything, and I mean every, damn, thing, for others, it's not really healthy.

There's a little voice inside each of us telling us what is right, what we should do, what we want. Problem is for many of us, that voice is very quiet. We usually don't hear it. And even when we do, it's so faint and weak, we don't pay much attention to it.

For those people, I say, give that voice a megaphone! Listen to it. Give it serious attention. And make sure that if you don't follow what it's trying to tell you, you have a damn good reason.

I'm not saying you have to become completely selfish. But a little selfish is ok.

And may I recommend a running routine to help you find that voice. Taking a few minutes each day, or just most days, or as often as you can, and devoting it to fitness, self-exploration, self-examination, and listening to what your mind and heart and body are telling you, is a fantastic way to give that voice a podium from which to speak, and to put you in the right frame of mind to listen.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.4 miles, still nursing these finicky heels.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 251 - Summer Wrap-up

Ok, a couple days late, thanks to air travel and phone-to-computer syncing issues, but it's time to cap off the end-of-summer 10-day jamboree.

We've got the run out of the way in the photo-free mobile post.

We packed a lot into that last day. Rather than a play-by-play, I'm just going to post some of my favorite pix from the day.

First, a fountain...

Garden outside Bottega 

Couple guys from Cake Bread winery doing pH checks on the grapes just picked from the various vineyards.

Maybe the best job ever.

Here are just some of the barrels in one of the barrel rooms. And these go back 5 or 6 rows, just like these, to the back wall.

Lotta wine, people.

Know what these are?


That's what I said... bungs. They are what they put into the holes in the sides of the barrels.

Know what the holes are called?

Bung holes.

I am not making this up.

While at Cake Bread, I spied the solution to our biggest problem... getting the wine home. And it only cost us $7.

Purpose built of cardboard and styrofoam, baby.

We took a few minutes to enjoy our patio and view there from, one last time before checking out.

Easily the lowest frill winery we visited was Pina. Charming in it's casual approach.

Here are almost all of the barrels at Pina.

And see those front 6 with the white labels?...

The owner's private stash.
It's good to be the owner.

Art at Pina

At the other end of the spectrum was Hall Winery with it's hidden, gated, gotta have the code to get in entrance.

And their art was a little more arty...

Tons of art all over the estate.

And dig the cave.

This tunnel leads you to the testing room...

After the tasting we stopped for a snack at Bouchon...

Spinach, Mac and Cheese, and Pommes Frites (French Fries).
Best fries, ever.

Then, alas, it was time to start heading home, so we hit the road, which happened to pass right by Infineon Raceway.
Me on the podium. Where's the Izod Trophy girl?

Pano of the race track.

We also squeezed in a quick trip to see the huge-mongo redwoods at Muir Woods.

I'll spare you the stupefying details of SFO airport and it's cruel trick on tourists that is the rental car return.

But we did manage to get the wine checked. And the airline guy was nice enough to put several "Fragile" stickers all over the box, right before he flung it to the belt. I'm not kidding.

Wine bottles and travelers made it safely home, unbroken.

When we walked in the door, I was taken aback, seeing all of my stuff from MotoGP still on the counter.  I'd been gone longer than I thought.

But what a great way to end the summer. MotoGP, IndyCars at Chicago, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma. Great food, great wine, and great fun.

Travel is about experiences, both planned and unplanned, fun and challenging, new and revisited. And the memories and the stories that travel creates are part of the spice of life, and the things we'll tell our grandkids, or the other folks in the nursing home, or anyone else who sits long enough.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.1 miles or a very tender left heel.