One Year Ago Today

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A year ago today was the first Monday I wasn’t on a plane to Kentucky for the week since before Valentine’s Day.

A year ago today was my first day back to work after spending the week with my brother following he massive heart attack.

A year ago today thousands of people lined up for my ‘hometown marathon’, and hundreds of thousands lined the streets for the Patriot’s Day tradition.

A year ago today an unbelievable tragedy struck as two bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, shattering lives and a city and a community.

A year ago tomorrow, thousands of runners got up and ran a memorial run for Boston, for those who died, were hurt, had their lives changed forever. We could not undo the tragedy, but we did what little we could.

And every day since, millions of runners have hit the roads and shown that while horrible actions can shatter lives, the human spirit will always prevail. We can never truly stop those seeking to do evil or inflict violence, but we can stop them from controlling our lives.

So today I run again, and I run for Boston, for the lives lost, the lives shattered, the lives changed, and the city and community that persists.

Sunday Runday – 2 Year Runner-versary, 23 Year Engag-aversary, and More!

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Happy Sunday – I hope that wherever you are the weather is making you as happy as it is making me! Yesterday it got close to 70F and today is supposed to be near 75F! There is so much to do … but I need to get my run in and soak up the wonderful weather! Last night I had an amazing sight as a family of deer crossed my path – it is included in the picture above, and I put it up on Instagram as well … breathtaking!

This week I have gotten a couple of ‘blogger nominations’ and mentions – and although I have done a Liebster post before, I plan this coming week to do another one … I just have to figure out what to talk about. I love how these have morphed over time, and will be looking at ones like those from Laura and Megan for inspiration doing my own.

Here are a few things rolling through my mind this weekend:

My 2-Year Runner-versary

Wait … didn’t I just celebrate my 25th anniversary of running back in February? Yeah, but this is different. I have talked about how in early 2012 I got to the point where I needed to do SOMETHING … since my thyroid had died and I got on meds, my weight dropped and slowly went back up even as I went to the gym, and tried several times to get back into running. My eating habits were more than a little to blame – the old adage “there is no exercise regime a poor diet can’t mess up” definitely held true for me!

But in 2012 Easter was the week after my birthday – April 12th – and my brother came to visit and we went for a run. Again, I have told my running story a number of times – my early years, the ‘in between times‘, and the more recent years – and as I said, I had made a deal with my brother to run the Wineglass Marathon in the fall … but in April 2012 I barely managed 2.25 miles at an 11 minute pace and quit and let him do another loop.

The two years since have been amazing – I am the fittest, thinnest and healthiest of my life, and it might sound weird, but I am younger than I have been in at least 15 years. My eating is a work in progress as it is for all of us, but with each passing week my tolerance for crap and processed foods becomes less and less. Whole, real foods fuel me day to day … and I am absolutely loving how I feel.

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My 23 Year Engag-aversary

Lisa posted this picture a week ago for a #TBT on Facebook, which is an ‘old school selfie’ from our engagement. Yes, this was with a film camera so we had absolutely no clue what it looked like until we got the prints! Not too bad for that.

It was April 12th 1991, and I took her to the Gregory House outside of Albany, NY. It was a fun time and amazingly special – and I was a total nervous wreck the whole time!

It is so much fun looking back at the pictures from when we were so young – and it is even better doing it together because we are still so in love and enjoy being together – I know I am so fortunate to have found an amazing person to share the ups and downs of life.

Are These My Favorite Shoes Yet?

I have already said I’m not so good at the whole ‘break in new shoes slowly thing’ as I did a long run in my Merrell Allout Rush trail shoes. Well, as noted I got a pair of Saucony Virratas last weekend … so naturally I headed out for a 15.5 mile run last night in the new shoes!

The Virratas are super-lightweight zero drop shoes, but with enough cushion to be very comfortable. When I tried them on last week they were like the best combination of the Saucony Kinvara and New Balance Minimus – and that is exactly how I feel after my first run.

Of course, it will be a bit before I really know how well they work for me, but after a first run I am in love with the feel – my body likes the zero drop, but getting a bit more cushion than things like the Merrell Vapor Gloves is definitely better for my legs!

Oh, the Weather! And my weekly Running Summary

As noted, this weekend is very warm – I ran in 55F temps Friday morning, 68F last night and it will be over 70 before I head out today. Yet this past week the temperature also got down to 20F with wind chills in the teens … and this coming week we have another cool-down coming with possibilities of snow and temperatures at 20 or below! That is just how April rolls …

Sunday – Rest (2nd birthday)
Monday – 30F – 8.5 miles
Tuesday – 40F – 7.75 miles
Wednesday – 20F – 6.75 miles
Thursday – 25F – 7.5 miles
Friday – 55F – 9.5 miles
Saturday – 68F – 15.5 miles

Not a bad week – I managed 55.5 miles, though I will confess that my attitude on Wednesday and Thursday was more than a bit grumbly, especially Wednesday when my hands wouldn’t warm up no matter what. Oh well, I know that my whining is more because of how much warmer it gets in the afternoons … but that is what you get being a 4AM runner!

How Quickly We Forget

Also this weekend we are getting the boys ready – it is their April break and they are headed to Washington DC with the marching band, and will play at the World War II memorial. They also get quick visits in a number of spots from the memorials to Smithsonian, Ford’s Theater, Pentagon Mall, National Zoo and more. It is fun getting them ready, but also loads of work.

A colleague at work who was works in a lab where we get some special testing done and was also on an earlier project with me is headed on vacation to Daytona this week – and when I said ‘get some relaxation’, he woke me up with ‘you remember having two kids under 3′ … and I DO – you get back needing a vacation from your vacation! There is endless chasing around and constant watchfulness as the little ones find adventure after adventure to get into!

It is funny, Lisa and I were looking through the album of our first Disney trip in 2001 with the boys, and it brings back all sorts of warm and wonderful feelings. It is a reminder that as time passes, you forget all of the frantic running around and hassles, and remember the good times having two little wide-eyed, full of love boys ready to accept just about any new adventure that comes along!

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SMOOTHIES!

This was my recovery smoothie last night – loaded with fresh and frozen fruit and some flax-chia blend and coconut milk. It was awesome – and reminds me that in the last week I have had at least one smoothie every day, with breakfast being a smoothie each day and a few dessert smoothies as well!

The Nutri-bullet came with a small booklet, and my mother got me a ‘smoothie recipes for runners’ guide … but honestly while I browsed both, mostly I am just doing my own variations to see what works well for me. I am happy with the results so far – but I bought some kale and spinach (we were out) so I am looking forward to some serious green machines this week!

So tell me about your weekend, running, favorite smoothie recipes, or anything else!

Five Things Friday – Inspiration, Perspective, Screens and More!

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Happy Friday! I have to confess that Wednesday I woke up and while running I thought it it was Thursday … and had an ‘aw crap’ moment realizing it was just Wednesday! It has just been one of THOSE crazy kinds of weeks!

Well – I am glad it is Friday, not just for the weekend, but also because the weather is supposed to be awesome this weekend … before possibly dumping more snow on us next Tuesday! The image from the top is this morning – which is 30 degrees warmer than yesterday!

I wanted to do a Five Things list of stuff that has been on my mind this week, and hook up with Amanda at Running With Spoons for her ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series. Here we go!

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Running (and Biking) for Dummies

Being a year-round outdoor runner, the month of April reminds me of the first snowfall – suddenly you have loads of drivers out who seem to need re-training on basic snow driving procedures every year, resulting in loads of accidents and dangerous situations!

And I have already seen it – bikers riding side-by-side along a road that is already narrow for two cars, runners with headphones running the wrong way down the street, not paying attention when crossing, not wearing bright and reflective gear in the early mornings and so on.

Every workplace talks a lot about safety – the mantra is that no one comes to work with the desire to get hurt … and the same is true for those heading out for a run! We go out for exercise, to clear our mind, or whatever … and should expect to come home in the same condition as we left – well, perhaps a little more sweaty and smelly!

So PLEASE be careful, and if you see someone being an idiot, don’t hesitate to tell them. And if you are driving, use extra caution to avoid hitting the people who might have forgotten that the road has different challenges than the treadmill!

Screens Before Bed are Ruining Your Sleep

One of my things for Lent was to limit pre-bed screen time. I have not been perfect, but my goal was to get back to reading more – and also to focus more on getting more and better quality sleep.

For a while now, research has shown that electronics before bed – video games, social media, whatever – tends to act as a stimulant and mess with your ability to get to sleep and have a restful night. There are a load of resources on this, so feel free to search it out if you have questions – or just ask in the comments and I can follow up.

Now we also know that the artificial lighting from LCD-type screens emits radiation that suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps us from getting restful nights of sleep! This BBC video talks about how our obsession with ‘one more check of Instagram’ can be ruining out sleep.

Back to my Lenten challenge … the problem? My Kindle died, and I have been using a Kindle Fire HDX – which is no better than using an iPad or laptop because of the screen technology. So while I have solved half the problem (by reading) the other half remains! Fortunately the people at Amazon are amazing, so between working with their service and using some credit I have built up … I will soon be reading on a Kindle Paperwhite. Yay!

Runners and Perspective

Are you a runner? Chances are you have uttered the phrase ‘easy’ or ‘quick’ related to one of your runs … and chances are that any non-runner around you rolled their eyes.

Last week I ran a ‘double’ – 8.5 miles in the morning and 9.5 in the evening, for an 18 mile day. On Instagram I used some of the typical runner words ‘quick’, ‘easy’, casual or whatever else. When Lisa got home she told me how annoying it was – that is the honesty that comes from 25 years together, and I appreciate it!

Early this week I was bringing my younger son to percussion ensemble rehearsal and they had to run the mile as part of their annual physical fitness assessment, and he was asking about how far I usually run in the morning, and I said ~7.5 miles or so on average. And he said ‘that’s insane, I just did ONE mile today and my lungs were screaming and my whole body still aches’!

He is young and active and not overweight … which puts into perspective exactly WHAT we are all doing … and highlights that we all tend to lack perspective! When I was running ~12-15 miles per week, the thought of running 7.5 miles was a big deal – this morning it was just a great relaxing run. Running a mile in less than 9 minutes? Not something I would have thought about even 2 years ago – now that is pretty much EVERY mile.

So when you talk about your ‘quick 10 miles’ or your easy 50 mile week or whatever … if there isn’t someone there to roll their eyes at you and call you annoying, remember that for most people, that falls somewhere between a landmark achievement and bragging.

I am wondering … WHY are you here

Have you ever looked at the little ‘about’ blurb on many blogs and seen something like “I’m __, a 20/30-something boy/girl from ___ who is trying to balance fitness, healthy living and a busy life, and sharing my journey”? Yeah, too many times to even count!

And that is fine – but what about when you look deeper? What is it that you REALLY hope to accomplish? That is what Harold asked this week in one of the most thought-provoking posts recently – about the larger sense of WHY he blogs.

When we are young, we all want to think that our voices will be heard by some grand audience who will appreciate the unique things we have to offer, to make some grand mark that will cause strangers to know about us in times to come. But the reality is that of the more than 7 billion people in the world, perhaps 0.001% will have a lasting document created for them.

The rest of us? We have friends, family, pictures, and other things. Here’s an example – I had a plaque at my undergrad alma mater with my name on it that a few years ago I found out had been stolen, and wasn’t replaced, but instead the area of the building was redone and new things are on the wall. Sure it had been 25 years, but it is a little disappointing to have your time gone by so quickly.

I don’t pretend that anyone outside of Lisa and my boys will really remember me more than a year after I’m gone … and I am OK with that. I would love to leave a bit more behind – create more music, maybe finish writing one of the books I’ve started for NaNoWriMo … but ultimately I am good focusing my energy on helping my boys realize their dreams and helping them build the lives they want.

It is something to think about – what sort of legacy are you trying to build, and how does blogging fit into that?

How Much Time Do You REALLY Have?

Going from morbid to MORE morbid, amongst the inspirations for my ‘Take Care Tuesday’ was a post by another of my absolute faves, Danielle at T-Rex Runner, called ‘Plenty of Time’. She talks about a friend of hers who died tragically at a horse show 11 years ago, and it is a reminder that none of us has a slip of paper telling us when we or our loved ones will die. The answer is simple – live every day like your last, and love those around you as if you will never get the chance to tell them you love them again.

This week has been filled with sadness in my extended family and friend group: an uncle of mine died, and my parents are down for the funeral. An aunt would have been there, but they discovered cancer in her mouth and she is dealing with that. Another aunt is in terrible health at a young age, and my parents are stopping to help her, but it is unclear if she will ever leave assisted living.

A friend from our infertility support group in the mid-90s (they ended up with twins) has cancer, and the treatment isn’t going as quickly, easily or successfully as initially thought … which is really hard for the family. And two Facebook friends I went to high school with lost parents this week … it is just that we’re getting to that age, but that doesn’t make it easier.

I remember being a little kid and having a girl named Kimberly who we played with all the time, but who had a bad heart condition. She had numerous surgeries and was proud of her scars. But one summer – we were all of 10 at the time – she never came home from the hospital. It was a very sad and confusing time for us, because pretty quickly the family moved away.

I have also talked about the difficulties when Christopher was born and how for a little bit I worried that I might be going home without a wife OR son!

We don’t know how much time we have, all we know is we have NOW. So take a second and look over at the ones you love, make a call, send a text or email, and let them know that they are important to you.

The Vocabulary of Runners

I love when sites put together lists with runner-specific terms and expressions and ‘translations’. This week, Competitor put out a ‘Runner’s Dictionary’, and Carina had a post about a ‘Google Translate for Runners’, from which this one made me laugh (because I know my family would laugh as well):

“Yeah, I enjoy running.”
Translation: “Let’s hope I never have to choose between running and my firstborn.”

But over at T-Rex again, Danielle talks about her dislike for the ‘running as therapy’ line. Her point is she has spent enough time in therapy – and running – to know the difference, but being sidelined with injuries and upcoming surgery, she appreciates the ability of a run to keep you from ‘going over the edge’.

That is something I definitely see as true for myself – running allows me to center myself, focus my thoughts, and distance myself from situations … my kids have asked me when I am ‘edgy’ whether I’ve gone for my run.

But I also agree with T-Rex’s sentiment – my issue is that I don’t like using serious conditions as casual joke-terms. Therapy is a helpful and important thing and is only more recently being viewed as a serious thing to do rather than something for crazy people or Woody Allen neurotic types. The same is true with terms like ‘obsession’ (which should be a negative term for over-the-top attention rather than something you think is cool), ‘OCD’ – again, a serious disorder, and my favorite for runners – eating issues. I will talk more about that in an upcoming post …

I AM Enough

I have said this before and will say it again, but this week on a blog I consistently love the message came up again and I needed to share. Kate Bortell’s ‘Serious Thoughts Taken Not Too Seriously’ has a Christian focus which would often be something to drive me away (even as a Catholic) – but she is smart, funny and sassy and always writes stuff that makes me think and laugh.

Her topic this week was ‘Yes, You ARE Good Enough’. Which is absolutely true … so go check out her post and remember that you ARE enough!

Well … that is about it for me! This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous – we’ll be getting the boys ready for their trip to Washington DC with the marching band, hopefully getting some yardwork and shopping done … oh, and of course some runs as well. But this won’t be quick, easy or casual – they will be hard, grueling and stupid-long! :)

So what are YOUR weekend plans?

Take Care Tuesday – Your Health Matters, Don’t Take it for Granted!

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A year ago yesterday I posted the following on Facebook:

Asking for thoughts and prayers for my brother John Anderson, recovering from a very serious heart attack … yesterday morning he had the heart attack while at the gym, and fortunately they have a nurse on staff and the person next to him was a doctor. but it was a massive heart attack. He woke up briefly tonight, which was a very good sign, but he has a long road ahead.

The picture at the top is from this past Christmas – so you can be assured there was a happy ending! But when I wrote that, my brother had suffered a major heart attack, and had yet to really regain consciousness. It was slow going, and even now he has to deal with a new reality in how he goes about his life – but he is here, with his kids, friends and family.

It took a while for him to understand and accept how serious things were, even though he’d already had one heart attack (a minor one in 2006) and even as they implanted a defibrillator in his chest!

At that point I decided it was really time to get a full cardiac workup – not just because of my brother, but because I was the only one left in my immediate family who hadn’t had serious heart issues. My dad had a very serious heart attack at 45, and now with my brother having two at 43 and 49 – it was time for me at 47 to get myself checked.

The wonderful thing is that although there is that great saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ – that isn’t how our health care system works. Think about it – between co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance and so on, the up-front costs are enough to keep healthy people from ever getting routine checkups. Then there is the ability to get anything beyond a routine checkup … fortunately I have a good relationship with my primary doctor, and she made sure I was able to get into a cardiologist in the same practice.

I wrote about this before, but basically where my brother got all the bad genes – cholesterol, blood pressure, etc – I got all the good ones. And aside from my thyroid my heart and cardio-vascular system is in great shape.

My message? Take care of your health – make figuring out your risks a priority, even when it is more money than you want to spend. Especially when you are younger – during your 20s and 30s you might still feel indestructible, but these are the years where a history can build. Learn your numbers, where your body is strong and weak, what you need to watch and what you don’t and so on. You don’t want to be feeling lousy when you need to know what is ‘normal’ for you and have no idea.

Take care of your health – eat reasonably well, stay active, keep to a healthy weight (and more and more research says weighing a bit too much is better than weighing to little), and keep a regular set of checkups. And know your family history of risks and make sure your doctor is aware of them. Do everything you can to make sure you are around for as long as possible with the ones you love.

Happy Tuesday!

Six Birthday Things, Monday Motivation and New Running Shoes!

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In my last post I vaguely noted that one reason I love April is it is my birthday month. I failed to note that I published on April 4th … and my birthday was the 5th! There are a couple of reasons for this – first my post was a bit of a ‘coming back’ theme and I felt saying ‘my birthday is tomorrow’ was a bit too much like fishing for birthday wishes. But also it just isn’t in my character to advertise it like that … I don’t hide it, but nor do I flaunt it.

Anyway, this was my birthday weekend, but we are also cranking up college tours for our older son, so Lisa took off the whole weekend and we decided to head to Rochester and make a day of it. Ultimately this meant having my birthday cake and dinner on Sunday, which was fine by me! Here are another few thoughts from my birthday weekend:

1. It really IS the Thought that Counts

It is a bit of a paradox that I love things that are expensive (generally technology-based items), I am really not very materialistic. I am much more interested in someone showing me they care in a small but real way than getting a material gift.

So I am very fortunate to have so many people who took a moment this weekend to wish me a personal happy birthday. Sure there were all of the basic Facebook ‘happy birthday’ notes – and trust me, I love those as well! But there were more personal notes, pictures shared, texts, calls, and some great emails. I got some great emails and messages from people I have never met but that I consider friends through blogging or other online writing through the years.

Combine all of those great feelings and a family that made me feel special all weekend … it made for an amazing birthday!

2. SMOOTHIES!

OK, so while I didn’t necessarily NEED anything, there were things I wanted – and a Nutri Bullet was one! Lisa was listening, and I was thrilled to unwrap the big box – even being pretty sure what was inside!

Because of the weekend schedule I never got to make a smoothie – but I was so excited I had the entire thing washed out before we left for Rochester Saturday morning.

This morning I finally got to use it to make myself a post-run breakfast smoothie: banana, mango, broccoli and nutty granola. SO good! I left it a bit ‘textures, because I actually like it that way (the rest of my crew thinks it is gross). My mother sent along a ‘smoothie recipe book for runners’ … can’t wait to try those out!

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3. The Emperor’s New Clothes

I love shopping, but am always hesitant to buy things for myself. Again, I just don’t have a huge desire for ‘more stuff’. As a result, when I say something like ‘I need pants’ … Lisa grabs her car keys, grabbing the opportunity before it passes! I have had to pretty much revamp my entire wardrobe over the last year – for the first year my previous ‘skinny clothes’ still fit, but at this point I am the thinnest and fittest of my life by a considerable amount, so they were getting ridiculous!

As I have noted I have a fraternity 150th anniversary coming up at the end of the month, and was just noting that I no longer have a suit that fits, as I had been looking at a picture from the last even I went to five years ago where I wore a suit that didn’t really fit – and now I am at least 35 pounds lighter!

So naturally she and the boys totally surprised me with a great outfit – fitted dress shirt, tie (with tie clip) and dress pants! For the banquet I’ll wear my fraternity tie and school alumni tie tac, but I was so thrilled that they thought of me and made sure I had something nice to wear!

4. Clueless Health Food Bag!

I will readily admit to being pretty clueless – so when Lisa and Danny had to head to the local food bank so Danny could get a signature for his National Honor Society project, and Lisa came in with organic sunflower seeds and licorice from a new health food store that had opened … I really didn’t think twice and just said, we’ll have to go check it out together soon!

It seems so obvious now that she had bought me a bunch of stuff. I mean, um, ‘duh’?!?! The smoothie I made had some of the granola from the bag, and I look forward to checking out everything else. The Kind bars are the only things I’ve tried before.

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5. My Selfish Second Day

When we were discussing how to work the weekend, Lisa said that presents the morning of my birthday was non-negotiable. But we decided to grab a quick breakfast out, also knowing that dinner would be in a restaurant. So what I said I wanted was dinner and ‘cake’ on Sunday, and a ‘second birthday’ where we spend time together and watch a movie Sunday night.

Lisa made a really cool ‘eggs in a basket’ from Cooking Light’, we got loads of things done before dinner, and after dinner we watched ‘American Hustle’. Not the best movie I’ve seen, but pretty decent. We noted that neither Gravity nor American Hustle really blew us away, but they were solid (and we were glad we only rented!) with some good writing and performances.

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6. The Joy of Family

Ultimately on Monday morning I felt what I could only describe as ‘birthday afterglow’ – which is the exact opposite of ‘birthday letdown’. I had such a great weekend that I was still gliding along, despite being annoyed that the temperature at 4AM was back down close to 20F and my hands just refused to get warm on my run.

What made my attitude so great? Three things: Lisa, Danny and Chris. No matter what else is going on, I already have the best gifts I could ever hope for by my side.

Shoe Shopping!

OK, so I did make one other selfish birthday request – I wanted to go to the Medved Running Store in Rochester. I knew my shoe situation was getting to the point where I needed to think about getting new shoes (translated from Mike-speak: it was getting desperate), and as it turned out my parents and Lisa’s mom both sent birthday checks … so I had cash burning a hole in my pocket! Time to check out shoes and possibly buy!

My criteria were pretty simple:
- Lightweight to ultra-light
- 4mm drop or less
- Available in size 13
- Loud colors always preferred.

So what did I try on – and my quick thoughts on why I didn’t get them?
- Altra Instinct – the rubberized toe band was terribly uncomfortable on the shoes that fit me. I saw toenail issues in my future wearing those …
- New Balance these were a 8mm drop, and frankly made me feel like I was wearing heels! And with my Minimus ditching out after <400 miles … I am not paying more than $50 for any NB’s!
- Saucony Kinvara 4 – I LOVE these shoes, even though the toe-box is narrow, they are still so comfortable for me. I would have bought these again.
- Nike Free 5.0 – the only type they had in the new line … and I really hated them. I tried on my old Free Run 3.0 when I came home to confirm … yeah, they screwed up that line for me!
- Hoka Conquest – this wasn’t my choice, and honestly I can’t think of anything I liked about these – they were light and technically low-drop, but were boxy and clunky and just about the most awful things I ever put on my feet!
- Brooks Pure Connect – the tongue was disconnected and drove me nuts as I tried them on and did a quick lap …
- Brooks Pure Drift – these were better, but they didn’t have my size and the tongue continued to be an issue.
- Pearl Izumi N0 – they didn’t have the right size for me, so I couldn’t get the right feel, didn’t either love or hate them.
- Merrell Mix Master Move – given how much I like the Vapor Glove (ultra-minimal) and Allout Rush (trails) I was surprised at how much I DISLIKED these …
- Mizuno Wave Sayonara (? or Hitogami, tried both and forget which I liked better) – I could have bought these if it wasn’t for the Saucony! These technically have a higher drop, but unlike some of the others that felt really sloped, these had a natural grade that was incredibly comfortable.

So … what DID I get?

Saucony Virrata 2

- Saucony Virrata 2 – the fit on these was very much like the Kinvara, but tighter to the ground and with a zero-drop and a feel closer to the New Balance Minimus that I have been loving. The sales person and Lisa both noted how I lit up when I tried these on, and everything after that became a comparison – and nothing compared!

Summing up

Going back through the years I have always enjoyed my birthday – it has always been celebrated, and because of whatever reasons on occasion as a child it would span a couple of weeks to get in all the gifts and visits and celebrations. So I am not so concerned about celebrating ON my birthday as I know the celebration will arrive eventually!

And as always this year I had a great birthday thanks to my wonderful wife and boys. The weekend was filled with rushing and relaxing, fun and food and loads of laughs.

How do you do your shoe shopping? And how was YOUR weekend?!?

Five Reasons I Love April, My Quarterly Running Summary and More!

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Happy Friday everyone! I hope everyone is doing well and is ready to roll right into the weekend! Life has been busy on this end … I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks, but have enjoyed keeping up with everyone’s blogs! More on that stuff later …

As I write this we are coming off our third straight warm day in a row. Today was in the low 50s compared to the 60s we’ve enjoyed the last couple of days. Of course, running in the pre-dawn hours means dealing with much colder temperatures – two of those three days were in the 20s!

But tonight I was able to relax after dinner because Lisa had to work, so I decided I was going out for a run … and it was great! Between the 8.5 miles I did this morning and the 9.5 I did tonight it was a solid 18 mile day – and with the week I’ve had I really needed the nice relaxing feeling of getting out in a single layer with shorts before the temperature dropped too much!

Although I talk about wishing away the year because of the cold weather, I have had a pretty solid running year so far – so let’s see how he first quarter went in a bit more detail!

First Quarter Running Summary

One good thing about doing so many weekly summaries is that it is easy to pull it all out and summarize! I dropped it all on a bar chart just to see how I have been doing. Take a look:

Miles Q1 2014

For the most part a solid and impressive first quarter. By the numbers:
- Total miles – 713 miles (through March 29th)
- Average weekly miles 55 miles.
- One week I broke 60 miles, but all weeks were above 40 miles.
- Longest run 18.5 miles
- Shortest run – 5.75 miles

I did a bunch of ‘runs with purpose’ throughout the period, which was about what I wanted since most of the mornings were sub-zero either in temperature or wind chill. Most of those were long weekend runs or hill challenges – again, I’ll take it!

Considering my goal was to break 2000 miles for the year … I would say I am well on my way. I just need to keep it up and start incorporating more speed work and other stuff on my weekly plan … but I’m not worried!

Races: None in the first quarter, and nothing planned for the second quarter as of right now. My first one I’m signed up for is the Ultra in July … but I assume that some time in May or June I’ll do something.

April is a special month for me, so as we lunch into it, here are five things that make it special to me:

Five Reasons I Love April

1. It WILL Finally Get Warm!

Sure it has been warm in the afternoon – but in the mornings it is COLD! Most of the year we get 20 degree differentials – 70 in the afternoon and 50 in the morning, or 20 in the afternoon and 0 in the morning. But in the Spring and Fall we see 40+ degree differentials regularly! That means I will be running in 15F temps and then walking around without a jacket when I get out of work!

By the end of April temperatures will make for some amazing morning runs … aaahhhhh, I just can’t wait!

2. My Birthday Month

Yay! Happy birthday to me! Well, not today … but soon enough. I have never had an issue with my birthday, never fought the march of time or wished for the years back. I have had some amazing times in my life, so why wish that away?

When I was a kid, often we would have birthday celebrations on different weekends to accommodate all of the family and friends. So I was never fixated on ‘that one day’ …now as an adult I am still pretty relaxed. but can always count on Lisa to do everything she can to make my actual birthday as special as possible.

3. Our Engagement Anniversary

One thing I always say is to never be ashamed about celebrating your love – no matter what! Lisa posted a photo of this yesterday for #TBT, and it remains a key highlight of our lives. She was still at Albany Med, I was traveling more and more for Bruker Instruments, but through that year we made it work and got engaged at the Gregory House on a romantic weekend and prepared to spend our lives together!

4. Fraternity 150th Anniversary Celebration

Belonging to Theta Xi Fraternity is one of the best things about my undergraduate years. Learning responsibility and irresponsibility, and meeting some of the greatest people who continue to populate my life (including Lisa), it was a great four years – but also full of ups and downs, missed opportunities and minor regrets. But also a huge amount of pride, as I joined a house that was crumbling, and was part of 8 guys who rebuilt it from the ground up – with plenty of help from alumni – and enjoy seeing it now.

Since graduating RPI I have gone back to the house many times, and the first few years I went to the biannual conventions a couple of times – including the 125th convention in St. Louis in 1989. Now we have hit 150, and everyone is converging on Troy, NY. Not everyone can be there, but it will be great seeing so many guys – a lot of whom I haven’t seen in person for 25 years!

5. Celebrating Everything with My Boys

Last weekend was the school musical, Chris had a DJ gig, this weekend we’re looking at schools in Rochester, later this month Danny goes to senior prom, both boys compete in the NYSSMA school music competition, are going to Washington DC to play and march with the school marching band … and on and on. There is so much we’re doing, and I have so much pride at the amazing young men they’ve become. I so enjoy the time we all get together, and so I look forward to a busy month running around!

My Blogging Hiatus and Plans

First off I want to thank Carina for her comments, saying “so prolific to so quiet with no warning”. She gave me a bit of a shove to post sooner than later. So what happened that I went from nearly 300 posts in 6 months to none for almost 2 weeks? Well, that is a bit of a story that I couldn’t find a way to post in a positive way – but suffice to say that not everything about a blog (or about participating in the blog community) happens in the public eye. It had little to do with anything outside of blogging, but being extra-busy exacerbated things. Here are a few things that got to me:

- Trolls – yeah, after all these years I allowed myself to get sucked into troll battles.
- ‘Lucky T-Shirt Science’ – Laura talked about this and referenced me … and as a engineering and statistics guy seeing some of the awful ‘studies’ out there and the incorrect use of them on blogs drives me nuts.
- Liars – for all of the ‘OMG that is SO TRUE’ comments on blogs, there are SO many dishonest moments out there. It is frustrating and disheartening – but discussing it isn’t allowed.
- Trampled toes – here is the thing, this is a hobby for me, so if I feel I am trampling on what you are trying to do on a blog that supports your profession or you are trying to build a blog to earn a few bucks … I feel bad. I did it at least a few times over the last month, so I already decided I needed to make some changes.
- Getting sucked into the vortex … I unfollowed, unsubscribed, removed, etc about 90% of blogs. RSS feeds and so on.

From here … well, I really don’t know. To an extent I will continue posting, but I have no schedule, no plans for specific weekly topical posts (he says as he adheres to ’5 things Friday’), and really no plans other than to post when I feel like it.

Bottom line is I love running and learning about eating healthy, and enjoy the community here and at several blogs I follow, and want to continue enjoying them. So regardless of how much I post, I’ll see you at your blogs!

What are your weekend plans? How was your first quarter of running? Has warmer weather come your way>

Motivation Monday – Stuff to Do In Your 30s, Merrell Preview, and Monday Mixtape

Danny Chris1

I can’t believe how exhausting this weekend was – or how fast it went by! Everything went better than we could have expected – and the cold weather and snow even pushed off a day so the kids had mid-40s and sun for the prom pictures! The image at top is both boys at the hair salon – each got a pretty radical cut, and I just love this picture! This week promises to be every bit as much of a blur as last week, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts my blogging schedule!

This past week I was reading ’10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s’, which is a result of a survey conducted by the author was just turning 30 who asked his subscribers aged 37 and older to give advice to their 30-year-old selves. The results – well, to me anyway – are not particularly surprising – ‘save more money now’ is the mantra no matter where you look.

In my estimation you would largely get the same answers if you asked 50 year olds to advise their 40-year old selves, and so on. But that doesn’t make things any less true or interesting. Here are five pieces of advice, with my thoughts:

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

“Your mind’s acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body’s aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don’t want it to happen.” (Tom, 55)

While it is true that it is never too late to get in shape, eat right, start exercising and so on – the longer you wait the more of an impact it will have on your day to day life. There are people in my life who never did that – and you can see the difference between them and their healthier siblings who struggled with the same risk factors but came through their 30s in much better shape.

By making choices to take care of yourself, you are investing in your own future – saving money is great, but if you are unable to enjoy it there is little point. None of us can guarantee our future, but why not set ourselves up for the best possible chance of being able to do the things you want when you finally have the time to do them?

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

OK, I have written about this more than once at this point, but it is such an important point I will continue to drum away.

As Sartre said, ‘hell is … other people’. At the same time, I also think heaven is other people – and one of the key things in life is discovering the difference.

One thing worth noting in the comments for my ‘healthy boundary’ post? That older commenters (sorry!) had great confidence in their ability to do this. In your 30s you are in between the point when you are still attached to your parents and siblings from your childhood roots, and then when you seek to appreciate whatever time is left as parents and relatives age and die. So your 30s and 40s are the time to make the most of these relationships – or eliminate them if they are toxic.

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

This is the flip-side of the last one – surround yourself with people who are good to you and build up your strengths. That isn’t to say you should be surrounded by ‘yes men’ – something I see too often in the blogging world where 99% of comments are affirmations rather than critical questions.

Too often I see people become fixated on the one person who doesn’t like them rather than the 9 who do. This is the time to realize that those other 9 people also have other friends, are developing their own lives and interests, and that when you realize you have been wasting your time chasing the one who doesn’t like you … the other 9 are gone.

Realize that friendship is a two way street, that all relationships ebb and flow, and that no matter what you might think, many of the friends from your 20s won’t be there in your 40s … so just enjoy all of your friends and celebrate life.

5. You can’t have everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

“Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can’t have it all. Accept that.” (Eldri, 60)

I love this quote. And while it might sound cynical, I eye-roll when I see those ‘you can be anything’ motivational posters.

Sorry to burst your bubble with a truth bomb … but you really do need to make some choices, and once you do it becomes harder – but not impossible – to un-make the choices. It is like the fork in the road – sometimes there are ways to cross between forks, but often you have to go all the way back and then start down the other path.

Oh – and by its very nature you cannot simultaneously be on BOTH forks simultaneously.

But rather than get stressed or down, instead use this time to focus on your passion and skill-set and make the most of things. If you are in a very specialized area it will take more effort. But I have friends who have gone from engineering to health and fitness instructors, real estate, and so on.

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

When most people are coming to the end of undergraduate school, a division happens – some go on to graduate school, others head for jobs. Those heading to jobs are often ‘done’ with school and are not looking for more classes. By the time they are ready to start seeking more training they might be married, maybe own a house, some pets and possibly kids on the way … it gets hard to find the time and focus.

The same is true with exercise and healthy eating – jobs, family, limited time … all of these end up making it increasingly difficult for you to focus on maintaining and improving yourself. There is always the thought – when I have more time.

Guess what? It doesn’t happen. You will always have things in the way, but need to make continuous education and focus on health a priority or it just won’t happen.

10. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself

Here is the thing – if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else really will. It isn’t that others won’t do nice things for you, but ultimately you need to make sure that not only your needs are met, but that you ensure that you connect with yourself at a very deep level.

For me, running and music and technology provide that connection, and my family makes sure I have the space to explore those things.

So What is the Motivation?

The great thing about this article is that it is both an inspiration and a ‘warning shot’. It is too easy to lose track of time and priorities, especially in your 20s when you feel invincible and immortal.

By the time you are in your 40s chances are you know more than a couple of people who have died of ‘old people diseases’.

The challenge is to look into the future and see the person you want to be 10 or 20 years from now, and start being that person NOW.

I didn’t realize that was exactly what I was doing in my 20s … but it was. I lost more than 175lbs, focused on positive relationships, sought education to broaden my technical focus to include statistics as well we engineering and optical physics, and chose a path that would mean less money but more time with family and closer connection to things I enjoyed working on.

And as I have entered my ‘second running chapter’, I can see the results from that – I look and feel younger than I have in years.

Merrell AllOut Rush Preview

I have been checking out the Merrell AllOut Rush, which are 6mm drop trail running shoes with 5mm lugs that protect you without picking up rocks. This shoe is intended as a protective, dedicated trail running shoe with a very solid feeling rock plate. I recorded a quick preview after taking a 15 mile run in them, and will do a full review when I get more time on the trails. For more info head to Merrell:

Monday MixTape!

This past week as I was changing up my iPod contents I came across a recording I had bought on an Amazon sale last year but really hadn’t listened to – ‘Liquid Spirit’ by Gregory Porter. This is a highly acclaimed recording that won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album this year, and upon giving it a solid listen, I can see it deserves all of the accolades. I am a huge jazz fan, but not so much into vocal jazz. But I wanted to highlight a few great jazz vocalists whose stuff I love:

1. Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit – this is a fantastic recording that mixes soul and jazz and funk and standards. The silky smooth vocals nuance through the lyrics and offer a compelling listen.

2. Esperanza Spalding – Black Gold – the wunderkind who beat Justin Bieber for best new artist took a more commercial turn with her most recent recording, and although I preferred her previous album, solid offerings like Black Gold show off the depth and breadth of her skills.

3. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit – You really can’t get through the history of female vocalists without Billie Holiday. I chose this one because it is very late in her life, as years of drugs and alcohol and ‘hard living’ have taken their toll but she remains an incredibly gifted interpreter of song.

4. Joni Mitchell – The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines – While Joni isn’t really a jazz singer, her work with jazz composer/bassist Charles Mingus at the end of his life in the mid-70s remains some of her greatest work. She had alreday been exploring innovative harmonic spaces and intervallic leaps, and bringing together a group of young jazz talents produced an incredible set of recordings.

5. Ella Fitzgerald – One note Samba – there are few vocalists who possess the skills of Ella, and this recording of her working her instrument is just incredible to behold. Even much later in her life when I saw her live she was just amazing.

6. Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane – Lush Life – I have had this CD for ages, and it is one of those things like ‘Kind of Blue’ or ‘Time Out’ you can put on and everyone will love it, it can sit in the background or hold up to intensive study. The contrast of Hartman and Coltrane shouldn’t work … but instead it is stunning.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Or, if you are 37 or older, what advice would you give 30-year old you? Also, what is spinning on your iPod today>