My Running Story – The ‘In Between’ Years

Hween2006Mike

I never really thought all that much about my first real shot at weight loss. I mean, if anything I was a bit embarrassed about it for years. I started exercising, changed my eating habits and controlled my portions and … BAM, weight loss. Sure there were challenges along the way, times when I wanted to give up, when it didn’t seem worth all the effort and control …

But it is easy to look at my weight loss story and hear the Rocky theme in the background, with me climbing those steps, triumphantly dancing at the top and so on. It makes a great story, and I’m sure that if I really worked at shaping and nuancing the various experiences I had it would be an even better and more compelling read.

Do you know how all of these inspirational movies seem to end with a sort of assumption that everything continues on for the good? The guy gets the girl, wrongs are righted, good fortune continues, love triumphs over all?

Well, the reason the movie ends there is because the rest is just all boring hard work that doesn’t make for a great movie.

So we rejoin the story just as:
– I lost the weight
– I got the girl
– I got the job

This was 1991; I had lost more than 175lbs, and through a mutual friend from college I had reconnected with Lisa in 1990 at a time in both of our lives when we were actually ready – and our friendship quickly blossomed, and by the fall had become much more, and on April 12th 1991 we were engaged.

Engagement Photo

I had been working at Bruker Instruments since May of 1989, which allowed me some fun travel, working with great people at the company as well as joint development efforts at UPenn, Univ. of Georgia, BOC, and Bruker in Karlsruhe. But as Lisa and I became more serious (OK, engaged) I wanted to actually be home, so I switched jobs to laser company Lambda Physik – a job that was much more promising than the reality (but more great people)!

As a result in early 1993 I joined Shipley in Marlborough, where I would spend the next 15 years. While the overall story isn’t worth telling, what is worth mentioning is that I had started looking for a job and had again gone through multiple interviews with LabSphere in New Hampshire, a place I loved, and they decided to shut down hiring. Soon after there was an open house at Shipley, but I really didn’t feel like going. Lisa was the one who said ‘you’re unhappy, just go and the worst that will happen is a waste of an evening’. It took forever, but eventually I was hired.

Ken and Heather Wedding

Shipley was a great place to work for many years – it really allowed me to blossom, gaining recognition in my field, and so on. When I first started, we lived in a town called Acton, which was perfect because I worked 20 miles in one direction and Lisa worked about 25 miles in the other direction. When we bought our house in Townsend, my drive became 35 miles and hers became 40. Because we were in the Boston area, that translated to about an hour and close to 1.5 hours.

The problem with long commutes is that your life is spent in transit … literally! Suddenly your 40 hour job (as if THOSE ever existed) becomes 60+ hours. For me, this became a constant balancing act, especially once we had kids.

Daddy and Danny at beach

So … here is the bullet list of how things generally went over the 15 years I was at Shipley:
– Get up at 5AM and go for a 30-45 minute run, ~4 days a week (no weekends)
– Get ready and head to work
– Get home at 6PM or so
– Time with kids before bed
– Time with Lisa and then sleep
– Repeat

Of course there were problems as well:
– Work demands required extra hours
– Travel demands
– Babies sometimes don’t sleep

Daddy and the boys

Work – One thing that would happen was that when work got extra demanding, I would sometimes stay up extra-late, or get up and work early … and not end up going for my run. And because I would only run on weekdays in the morning, missing the morning meant losing the day. And a few times over the course of those 15 years, a day turned into a week turned into a month, and pretty soon I started to gain weight and then had to get back on the running habit! Twice I got as high as 225lbs, directly related to this.

Travel – Working at Shipley I had at least a couple of trips a year, mostly out to Sillicon Valley for a conference and for a joint project with one company or other. These were great, and most times I would do well with getting in a run – nothing like leaving Boston in February for 55F temperatures in San Jose! My breakfasts were also generally pretty good – but I would always allow myself pretty much whatever I wanted for dinner.

In 2000 this became an issue as I was taking a statistics class one week a month in Philadelphia while conducting a Six Sigma Blackbelt project at work in Massachusetts while having two little kids and a busy life … all of my habits and routines broke down before I finally re-started my running – after I reached 240 lbs and was miserable.

DSC00491

Babies – surprisingly having babies didn’t really kill my running. After Danny was born I got back to my normal routine pretty quickly, and if anything I allowed it to occupy me too much at first until I found balance.

After Chris was born it took a LONG time for Lisa to get back to healthy (she was in the hospital for two weeks), and pretty much EVERYTHING changed – I used to NEED 8+ hours of sleep per night, now I rarely sleep more than 5-6 and am an incredibly light sleeper. I guess that is what happens when you watch your child turn blue in front of you and end up in the NICU and have the chief of surgery of a major hospital hanging out in your wife’s room post-baby.

OK … so where does that leave things?

Between when I first lost weight in 1989 and the end of 2006, I largely kept up my running ~4 days a week for a few plodding miles, ate decently most of the time but using a lot of now frowned upon foods (fat free dressings, processed meals, rice cakes, other ‘chemical soup’ items and so on). My weight stayed mostly around 200 lbs, with 2 excursions to 225 and one trip to 240. I never hit the 185-190 I was at in 1990 again.

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2007 – A Pivotal Year

As I started 2007 my resolution was pretty simple – get happy in my current job or leave.

Early in the year I moved from R&D into Quality – I had been serving as both metrology engineer and statistician and carrying around loads of old projects that took way too much time. The metrology role had essentially lost any innovation as the company would now only buy technology rather than internally develop. So I chose to be just the statistician. Unfortunately the quality group NEEDED but did not WANT a statistician – they wanted another quality engineer. So … not happy.

At the same time the company had started ‘quarterly waves’ of layoffs. Things in the semiconductor economy were already plummeting before the larger economy tanked, so the job cuts hit Engineering, R&D, and eventually Quality. In the summer I started looking for a jon in earnest, and in late September had some quality leads with a couple of different companies. I had an interview scheduled for October 9th, but the week before that, just after Danny turned 11, I was one of 200 people company wide in Quality and Manufacturing (and other areas as well I found out later) who got escorted out the door that day. It was a very stressful experience – but really for the best.

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Amazingly I got the job I interviewed for a week later, but we never came to a full agreement so I did it as a 3-month contract with option to go permenant. I also kept interviewing, and ended up with offers in North Carolina, Seattle, Boston … and this little town in New York called Corning. Fortunately I took that job – because the other three jobs are long gone as two places have shut down and the other place ‘consolidated’ that division after the product it was making was pulled.

But one thing I did right after getting laid off (one of many excellent outplacement suggestions) was to get a full final physical. I had been down and lacked energy and drive, and basically never got up to run while I was laid off – but Lisa and I basically assumed I was just down and depressed from being laid off, and so while I cooked and took care of things in general, I didn’t run. What the physical told me was that my thyroid was dying rapidly.

FamilyPicAtMikes

Actually that is a funny story, because it was December and I was interviewing in North Carolina and in Corning, and was in the airport when Lisa called because the doctor was trying to get in touch with me but wouldn’t tell her anything, so I had to contact them to find out while sitting in the airport. At that point the readings were ‘abnormal’ but not urgent and the decision was to follow-up when I had a new primary care doctor.

I closed out 2007 with four employment possibilities around the country – and working at a small start-up called Advanced Electron Beams (now defunct) on a 3-month contract, while choosing between Corning and Medtronic (already decided against North Carolina) for my job. It is obvious which I chose, and I am very happy I did – not only would I have been out of work otherwise, I have been very happy with Corning as a company and a location for our family.

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Oh, and as I closed 2007 I also wasn’t running, using the 1.5 hour each way commute as an excuse … and was starting to gain more weight again.

For the final chapter, I will pick up in early 2008 for the ‘Corning Years’.

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13 thoughts on “My Running Story – The ‘In Between’ Years

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. Always interesting to get to know the person behind the blog more! I had my own career ups and downs (and one major layoff down) but I never had a job where I had to travel. I was always kind of secretly jealous of those that got to, but as I got older I realized how much I crave daily balance and that would have made life challenging for me. I’m looking forward to reading the next chapter!

    • Thanks Tonya – I really struggled, because unlike the first part I found this one ‘boring’ because it was about sustaining.

      Travel can be fun – I really liked my annual San Jose trips, as it afforded me to see friends, wine country, San Francisco, Route 1, and so on. This past year back and forth to Kentucky every week for a project? Ugh. No thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks for the comment! Commutes in general I hate – it feels like time tossed into the void: you aren’t working, and you aren’t at home. So I am very glad for my tiny little commute in Corning now ๐Ÿ™‚

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