Award Post Part 2 – Even More Stuff (you didn’t care to know) About ME!

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OK, I am a total slacker … over the last month I have been nominated for SIX Liebster and other blog awards, and been meaning to do a post about it ever since the first one from Running Boston and Beyond. My initial problem was that I did one of these posts back in February, and felt like I was spent in terms of personal reveals … but now I am ready to give it a go – and these nominations each have plenty of interesting questions so you can learn even MORE stuff you didn’t care about!

Running Boston and Beyond

Let’s start with Kelli from Running Boston and Beyond (and yes, she did run Boston in 2014)! She is a 40-something wife and mom who loves running and her family and has a great blog – definitely check her out!

1.How did you choose your blog name?

I initially had a blog since ~2006 called ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ where I wrote about stuff I couldn’t post on any of the game review sites I wrote for … and had basically zero readers. So when I got serious about running went beyond what I could comfortably write about for Gear Diary, I needed a new outlet. I was getting older but not ‘over the hill’, and my new focus on ‘serious’ running was a different take on a familiar habit – so not really ‘turning the corner’ or ‘changing course’. So more “Running Around the Bend” … and I landed on WordPress rather than Blogger (where I also have an account) because that name was in use on Blogger.

2.What is your favorite thing to write about?

If you read my post ‘mostly the miles are boring’ you know that running isn’t my favorite topic; nor is cooking and eating – again, because I eat pretty much the same things for 12 or so meals every week (breakfasts and weekday lunches).

But if you read this blog even occasionally you know my favorite things in the world are my wife and kids … so writing about stuff we do together is my fave thing in the world.

3.Why did you start blogging?

I started doing ‘game reviews’ back on USENET in the 80s before the web, then started writing for early websites – again gaming opinions. Then as time went on I started writing editorials and other opinion-based stuff – and from there I found the limits and needed to express myself more. Like I said, at first I was basically writing for myself, and left it behind for a few years.

But last year, after ‘becoming a runner’, and having gone through a long running streak, and done it all mostly posting to Facebook with some stuff written for ‘official posts’, I again found the limits (or rather, they were pointed out to me). So I kicked back into my blog, started using that in my comments … and just over 7 months later here we are!

4.What kind of workout makes you feel the best after it is all over?

Running … is there another kind?

5.What is your favorite post workout recovery food?

Smoothies! Seriously – in the cold weather I like water and later some coffee, in the warmth it is water and then something cold like a smoothie. Or homemade peanut butter ‘fudge’ (melt a bit of butter, stir in peanut butter, add some confectionary sugar and chocolate syrup and stick it in the freezer!)

6.What motivates you?

Love.

Sounds odd, but love for my wife, for my kids, for my friends, and for myself is what motivates me.

7.What is your “A” race or biggest fitness goal for 2014?

I still want to run an Ultra … but aside from that just PR everything I do (no biggie, right?). But really – if I am still running 5+ miles 5+ days a week by the end of the year I will be incredibly happy.

8.What is your favorite motivational song?

Maybe it is because I saw it in theaters in 1976 when I was 10 … but Bill Conti’s ‘Rocky’ theme still gives me chills. I don’t use music for workouts, though.

9.What is your favorite “fun” thing to do besides run/train/work out?

Aside from stuff with my family (already mentioned), I would say music. I am still finishing setting up my old studio again and re-adapting my song files to the new configuration (which is simultaneously fun and annoying) … but eventually I will share stuff here.

10.If you could give your 16-year old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Focus more on being happy, and stop caring what other people (including your family) thinks.

11.Are you going to pass on the torch and nominate 11 fellow bloggers?

Can I ignore this one? Seriously I am not going to for one main reason – I already skipped out on it last time because everyone else had already been nominated. Still true.

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The Gluten Free Treadmill

Next we move on to Laura from The Gluten Free Treadmill. Now I am going to embarass Laura by saying that she is absolutely one of the most wonderful people I’ve met since blogging and a truly treasured ‘internet friend’. She writes about powerful and important stuff and we share loads of common thoughts on things. I have loved seeing her site continue to gain traction and followers – well deserved!

1) What is your spirit animal and why?

I have always been the ‘bear’. Solid, strong, even-tempered and ready. I had a teddy bear from when I was in the hospital at 4, and later on Lisa gave me one for when I was traveling. Even though my size is no longer ‘bear-like’, I will always be the bear.

2) What is your happy place?

On the couch with Lisa, drinking coffee or wine. My ‘personal’ place would be out on a run.

3) What is your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Chinese food of all types, from junk at the mall food court to gourmet stuff in a big city to more exotic stuff to things we make at home. Love the flavor profiles and ingredients and pretty much everything about it.

4) What was your favorite food as a kid?

Steak, from an early age.

5) What is your favorite food today?

Hmmm … would have to choose between sweet potato and … yeah, steak.

6) What are you typically doing on a Wednesday at 11:30 AM?

Something related to work … specific to most of the last two months or so on my new project, either at my desk or in our development clean room … likely thinking about lunch!

7) Why do you blog?

Because I have felt the need to express myself in the digital world ever since that was a possibility. I have always found writing a cathartic outlet, yet never had an interest in pursuing it professionally (to the chagrin of my AP English teacher in high school) … so for me blogging was a natural. And more recently I have found less of a desire to do reviews and more desire to ‘do my own thing’.

8) What do you do when not blogging?

Well, my job at Corning keeps me busy about 50 hours per week, and I have a very busy life with Lisa and the boys and the dogs and the cats. Music, video games, house-related stuff and so on take up the rest.

9) What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about nutrition/food/health?

Food is fuel. Get rid of the good / bad labels, the ‘meat is murder’ mentality, and just figure out what best fuels the life you want to lead … and stop judging yourself and others.

10) What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned to date about something other than nutrition/food/health?

Honest, open communications is the key to everything – it is more important than talent, intelligence, or looks.

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Life Between the Miles

Then I was nominated by one of my more recent blog discoveries, Sara from Life Between the Miles. She is from Massachusetts, recently ran the Boston marathon, is married with a cute little boy, and writes a fun and honest blog I look forward to reading all the time.

1. If you could spend the day with one famous person, who would it be and why?

On the one hand, I would love to get the chance to talk to a whole variety of historical leaders, freedom pioneers, artists and musicians and ground-breaking scientists … but on the other hand I can never choose just one because what I would ultimately want is to understand the person behind the story. I place very little value on ‘fame’ or ‘wealth’ and even less on pure ‘celebrity’, so spending time with a person because they are ‘famous’ has no draw for me.

2. What is an attribute you admire in others?

Honesty. In crowded engineering fields, saying ‘I don’t know’ can be seen as weakness, so people will sometimes pretend to know things they don’t. In my personal life I’ve had many people say things for no reason that are clearly not true (why?). Yeah, for me it all starts with honesty.

3. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would be the 3 things you would take with you?

OK, I am assuming Lisa, Danny and Chris is cheating?

4. If money was no object, what would you choose as your career?

I would still be working, but would push the measurement science side harder. When I was younger I thought music store or studio, or book store, or teacher or something … but none of those really appeal to me enough to mitigate the downsides.

5. What is YOUR greatest achievement?

While professionally my direct contributions to the first 1GHz microprocessor technology, or significant work in the development of the technique of Scatterometry for sub-100nm semiconductor measurements are probably my ‘biggies’ … for me it is marrying Lisa, as even having our boys stems from that.

6. Why did you decide to start blogging? *answered in the first group*

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

People who have no regard for others.

8.What is your favorite pizza toppings?

When I was young I used to get onion, pepper, hamburg and linguica … now I would say just cheese.

9. What is the theme song of your life?

Miles Davis Bitches’ Brew – within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

10. If you had $1,000 that you could spend on anything, what would you spend it on?

Funny thing that as such a techie I am also not very materialistic … so I don’t immediately think about some new gadget. Instead I think about paying off things like the one car payment or working down the mortgage so she the kids are done with college we will be more free to choose our path forward.

But since I should really choose stuff … I would get Lisa some Hoka One Ones to support her ankle and redo her Pandora bracelet so it fit better … and myself some running gear, and the rest for some clothes and shoes for the boys.

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She’s Going the Distance

Next the hilarious and sarcastic dude Cori from She’s Going the Distance (yes, like that Cake song). Both she and her fiance Cameron have great blogs I enjoy, and I look forward to reading about their wedding later this year (yes, I am a total sappy romantic type):

1. Do you have a night before or race day ritual that you HAVE to do?

Nothing on the creepy superstitious level, just make sure my crap is ready and try to get some sleep.

2. Do you love your job?

Yes I do … like the line in Real Genius ‘I love solving problems’. Today I helped a young engineer figure out a critical experimenal problem on her project, taught her some statistics and more details about some software. She was super happy and grateful … which makes it all worthwhile!

3. Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

4. What is your favorite running shoe brand?

Right now I am loving Saucony – I’m on Virratas now, but I just saw Amazon clearanced the Kinvara 4s as they prep for the 5! Might have to grab a pair cheap!

5. Ice cream, popsicles or milkshakes?

#alltheicecream

6. Where’s the last place you traveled?

Glorious Troy, NY! The trip to RPI and my fraternity was worth enduring Troy, as I wrote about the other day!

7. Power song to run or train to?

Music for running?

8. Beach or Mountains?

Beach! We watched one of those ‘house hunter’ shows the other night just because it was all beach houses!

9. Are you afraid of heights?

Not at all – I seek out heights and rollar coasters.

10. Favorite show on tv currently?

I tend to ‘lose track’ of shows fairly easily, so for me it has to be something we all can enjoy. Right now we’re doing Grimm, Castle, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Hannibal. The BBC shows are less frequent, and the others we watch on Hulu more often than not due to schedules.

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Run Salt Sun
Next came Lauren from Run Salt Sun … or just #mamaSalt, who has gained quite a bit of success both as a speedy runner and a ‘mommy blogger’ – though she is not typical of that breed (thankfully). She has an adorable little girl, and a husband who loves her in spite of her running ‘problem’ 🙂

1) Who is your favorite Sesame Street character?

The Count! I was just 3 when Sesame Street launched on PBS (when there were all of a half dozen stations between UHF/VHF), so I mostly know Big Bird, Kermit, etc. But the Count was always a fave.

2) How do you feel about treadmills?

Aren’t those the things they make lab rats run on for experiments?

3) Are you good at math?

My job is as a statistician and metrology (measurement) engineer. Does that answer the question? Ask my family … I torment them with math,

4) What is your favorite brand of running shoe?
5) Coolest celebrity you’ve met?

For me the coolest thing was riding the elevator with jazz guitar legend John Scofield in the late 80s – I was going to see him play that night, so it was cool to chat in the elevator and he was awesome.

Also, at a wedding of one of Lisa’s friends we got to see Chet & Nat – two Boston news icons.

6) What is your dream job?

You know … I really have no idea. I am pretty happy where I am, no desire to move, and get to spend enough time with my family. Seeing so many people try small businesses has shown me that is NOT what I want … and really most of my hobbies I am happy with as hobbies.

7) What is your favorite kind of pie?

Lisa makes a killer apple pie (yes, despite being allergic) with a sugar cookie top-crust. Yeah, probably that.
8) How many brothers and sisters do you have?

I have one of each and I am the middle child (explains a lot, really). Both of my siblings are divorced at this point (within the last few years), and each has had significant heart issues. My brother lives in NJ and my sister in MA.

9) Why did you start blogging? *answered in the first group*

10) Do you take selfies at races?

Sometimes afterwards, but generally I have some part of my crew so they take pictures of me.

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And finally Abby from thesecretlifecoachofdc, who is a fun and energetic young blogger with a great philosophy that “all aspects of a healthy lifestyle (fitness, nutrition, social, mental, sleep, etc) are intertwined”. All about balance!

My Questions for My Nominees

1. What are your three favorite things to do in your down time?

– Spend time with my wife and boys.
– Go for a run.
– Make music

2. What is your life motto?

I had one ‘find excess within moderation’ that I liked a lot when I was younger … and while I haven’t ever really been a ‘live by a motto’ person, I still like it.

3. What is your dream job? *answered in the previous group*

4. If you described yourself as a color, what color would you be and why?

A bright vibrant blue … because it is my favorite color, shows energy with a certain coolness, and has higher photon energy than all of those ‘warmer’ colors!

5. If someone wrote a book about your life up until now, what would the title be?

“Why the heck are you contemplating buying this boring story about a happily married, well employed middle-aged family man with no addictions or tragic flaws?”

6. Who would you choose to play you in a movie?

Another weird one – and again no clue. Many people I might have chosen ages ago I feel have aged poorly (James Spader), or are too good looking (George Clooney) and would seem arrogant. I dunno – who would YOU think?

7. If you could be a professional athlete, what sport would you choose to be a pro at?

Running for sure – it used to be basketball but that has lost its allure to me, whereas I would be fine being a pro runner, traveling around meeting other runners, and getting to enjoy all of the incredible races.

8. Who do you look up to the most in life right now?

My wife – she has had to go through many things in her life, yet she approaches every day with bright eyes and an open and loving heart.

9. What is your favorite thing about blogging?

The people – definitely the people. Sure I like writing and reading stories and perspectives and all that – but ultimately it is the people BEHIND the blogs that I find intriguing.

10. What stores do you frequent the most (online or in-person)?

Online I am very much an Amazon person for … well, everything. In the real world I would love to say it was someplace more glamorous or gourmet … but it is Walmart. Because it is close, convenient, and cheap.

11. Favorite book right now?

Fave is always tough … but I am re-reading the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. They are translated from Russian and a decent fantasy series. I started re-reading it because the English translation of the latest book is coming out later this year.

Though if I had to choose a singular favorite it would be ‘Cat’s Cradle’ by Kurt Vonnegut. It is a book that I read and re-read, and it always either shows me something different or strikes me differently.

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My Final Thoughts

As I finish this I realize how much more useless crap I could talk about – so I started a ‘random facts’ post that I will do some time in the future.

I mentioned that I wasn’t going to nominate anyone – since this cycle started a few months ago I have been reading about all of these different cool things about bloggers. Pretty much everyone has had at least one Liebster post, so I couldn’t find anyone to nominate!

But – if you are reading this and have not done a Liebster post, or you want to do another one … consider THIS your invitation. Here are the rules:
– Pick 10 questions from the ones above.
– Answer them.
– Link back to this post so I can see you’re post.
– Nominate someone if you want.

And that is it! Happy Thursday everyone … we’re getting close to the weekend!

15 Things I Learned at My Fraternity 150th Celebration Weekend

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Seen on my run … First Time I ever Saw That Sign!

As I noted before, this past weekend I headed to glorious Troy NY for the 150th anniversary of the founding my fraternity Theta Xi. One of my best college friends and one of the guys I brought into the house as a sophomore was instrumental at making this happen, and it was a weekend that I had committed to attending 5 years ago – which was the last time I made the trip.

The reality is that not only am I a very different person than I was 25 years ago, I am a different person than I was 5 years ago! So I took on this weekend in a different way than I ever have when visiting Troy … and learned a bunch of stuff along the way. Let’s dive right into it:

1. By the numbers:
As we went into the weekend we got some amazing feedback from RPI and the National Theta Xi fraternity organizations:
– Some history: Theta Xi was the only fraternity founded during the Civil War, AND was the only national fraternity founded at RPI.
– This was the largest non-class reunion event EVER at RPI.
– This was the largest chapter event EVER held by any Theta Xi chapter.
– We had more than 25% of all living alumni back for the weekend.

2. The ‘Flattening Effect’

What do I mean? There were 375 people there, ranging from 18 year old college freshmen to several guys in their 80s and even a 90+ year old who had fought in World War II! And yet suddenly we’re all 20 years old again, recounting small and large items of fun and mischief.

You can see it in people’s eyes as they are chatting with others that they went to school with – some have seen each others through the years, others haven’t been in touch in decades. And the stories … as the stories started flowing you could see the years and decades just peel away, and suddenly we’re hearing about people passed out all over the floor in the ’50s making a New York City newspaper, a car-to-car paintball battle that ended up catching a Dean in the sights, parties with lines out to the street, and on and on.

Falling in the middle between the undergrads and those from the 50s and 60s, this flattening struck several of my peers. And since my kids are within a couple of years of most of the active members, feeling like you are with a bunch of 20-year olds is even more unsettling.

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Our chapter house was declared an historic landmark

3. My Weight Loss Remains a Defining Factor in my life

Here is the reality – when I joined my fraternity I weighed close to 300lbs, and had a pretty decent appetites for alcohol and food. Over the course of my time there, I gained nearly 100 lbs and was downing nearly a case of Beck’s Dark each week, would occasionally eat cookie dough from a cereal bowl, and so on.

Only my best friend JT and the guy who was the driving force behind the weekend have seen more more than a few times over the last 25 years, and NO ONE has seen me since I have gotten serious about running. So for most people, having ‘thin runner Mike’ show up … well, it was a ‘mind-f&%k’ as one guy told me.

For many people who were alumni I met when they returned, I had to point to my composite (which is the picture of everyone in the house as individual pictures) picture to remind them who I was. It was bizarre – I would introduce myself, the name triggered memories but not the appearance, I would show the composite, they would register recognition, look at me and say ‘whoa!’. This happened at least a half-dozen times to me with guys who graduated in the late 70s / early 80s.

Even one of the guys I brought in who was a year behind us didn’t recognize me (he’d seen me thin just once, in 1989), went to introduce himself and when I introduced myself his chin hit the ground and he said ‘no effing way’.

Basically, my weekend was dominated by the following things:
– My weight
– My running
– Normal catch-up stuff – talking about wife, kids, career, location.
– Fraternity history and my role in some key events.

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Troy Official and a few brothers at the dedication

4. You Can Go Back, but Can Never Go BACK!

You know what I mean? You can return to the place – but you are only making a physical trip to a physical place. Both you and the place have changed in some way with the passage time.

As I stood in the dining room chatting with a few guys, I was watching people attempt to over-stuff a trash bag in a can … stuff was starting to fall out. After a couple minutes I grabbed the bag, removed it and gathered up the trash. As I was doing it the chapter president came and grabbed it from me … which is something I would have done – and felt mortified about – if I saw an alumnus doing work when I was in school.

But over time how you view dirt, clutter and filth changes. Looking in the kitchen they had obviously been working, but it was also obviously the kitchen of 40+ college kids approaching finals. Same for the bathrooms.

As an adult with kids nearly that age, I constantly found myself pulled between looking at how young these guys (and girls) were, and also feeling the pull of the decades as I was asked to place myself back into the mid-80s and explain the situations. How rooms were built, wiring done, who lived where, and mostly as many details as possible about the restructuring and what led to that moment.

And it made me realize that while you can bring your brain to recall details of things, you constantly re-contextualize your feelings and understanding … so while I could remember sitting together with my pledge class during any number of moments – like when we won the pub crawl – it is hard to remember exactly what it was like to actually BE that kid.

5. What I did at 19 Remains Incredibly Powerful Today

The fraternity I joined was obviously divided – there was a strong set of seniors when I was a freshman, as well as some great sophomores and other freshmen – but the juniors were largely absent and irresponsible, as were half the sophomores.

What I really didn’t anticipate was the extent to which the seniors held the whole thing together. It took a bit at the beginning of my sophomore year for things to fall apart, but fall apart they did. So late in the fall myself and two other sophomores, all new brothers, started our chapter down the path of reorganization. The way we saw things – RPI wanted us gone, we were an embarassment to the National fraternity who wanted to pull our charter … so it was a choice between taking action or letting things die.

Bottom line: without myself and two others initiating things, many of the people I spent the weekend with would never have had the opportunity to join the fraternity, and everything would be different.

This weekend put both the power and the amazing courage of those actions into perspective. I mean, I was all of 19, just a kid – and we knew what we were getting into to a greater extent than I would credit kids of that age now.

During the weekend I had a number of people who knew me by name because I was ‘one of the 8’, who thanked me for what I did … but what really stumped me was asking what it felt like. Again, I can remember many events, but it is hard to contextualize feelings from nearly 30 years ago.

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View of EMPAC from a rainy morning run

6. Running is a THE BEST Way to Learn a New Place

One of the first things I did when I got to Troy was to put on my shorts and t-shirt and head out for a run! I had mapped a couple of routes that allowed me to see lots of the city and end up at the fraternity house – which is only 0.75mi from the hotel!

I lived in Troy for 4 years, spent time at every fraternity, all of the buildings associated with campus, spent loads of time in downtown Troy at Russell Sage College, as well as bars, pubs, restaurants and so on. And yet while running on Friday I saw more than I ever had before.

It is really just amazing to me, but it puts things into perspective. When I head anywhere new I run around the area and gain a great feeling of what the place is all about. But this was the first time I’d ever run in Troy, and so I gained a new perspective on a familiar place.

Have you even done a first run in a place you already knew? Was it as strange as it was for me?

7. Age Hits Everyone … But Differently

I think most of us have met people and learned their age and thought “I assumed they were younger” or “I assumed they were older”. Putting them together with a group of people the same age shows just how differently everyone ages.

There was a huge contingent of people from the late 70s, and looking across a group of people who were within two years of each other, I saw people who looked just a bit older than me and others who looked closer to my parent’s age.

I saw the same thing to a lesser extend with my contemporaries, with one guy who had really aged, most had aged what I considered in line with reality, and one who looked pretty good. I was remarking to an old friend about this when he interrupted me, saying:

No, Mike, you don’t get it – you are the only one here who looks MUCH better than when in college. Sure you look older, but you still absolutely look better in every way. It is effing nuts how good you look. At best the rest of us are ‘aging gracefully’, but you look better than a lot of the guys who are 10 years younger than us!

It was a singular moment that really made me stop and think … and realize I have no idea WHAT to think.

Theta Xi Trip 05

About 200+ gathered for picture time at the house!

8. No Two People Live Life the Same Way

Lisa and I have a fairly ‘vanilla’ life – happy marriage, two smart, healthy, wonderful kids (who ARE still teens, no rainbows & unicorns here!), nice house, comfortable income, and so on. I am working in a field related to what I went to school for … and in general things have been pretty solid.

So the weekend was interesting in how it presented an amazing variety of ways people have lived through the years: one friend who was a senior when I was a freshman was similar to me – same job for 29 years, married ~25, two teenagers, etc. Then there is another guy from my class year who was married a few years ago has a baby who just turned two months old! Yes, that means he will be 66 when she graduates high school!

Some people never married, some have married more than a couple of times; some have kids, others do not, and still others have kids spread across multiple marriages – making life a challenge for all involved.

Some are in the same field they got their degree, others couldn’t be further away; some have gone through a ‘normal’ (whatever that is) career progression, others have switched careers multiple times; some are still immersed in technical roles, others are managers, still others now run their own businesses (and look like they wear every stressful moment), and so on.

Some people are very happy, some are clearly unhappy or at least not satisfied with their lives, and others appear to mostly just going day to day. Even without collecting data, I couldn’t begin to establish a correlation between what people were doing and whether or not they were happy.

The point is that RPI is what I would call a ‘narrowband’ school – mostly what people went there for was engineering or computer science, with some pure science mixed in. So the people who went there were naturally less diverse intellectually – very smart, math & science centric, and so on. So to have such an incredible diversity of the paths people have take was amazing to see.

Theta Xi Trip 06

The herd moves across campus

9. Sometimes it is Like The Conversation Never Ended

One of the people there was JT, one of my best friends and someone I have known since … well, so long that it isn’t clear exactly when. Let’s just say we weren’t speaking in sentences yet, so perhaps 2 or 3 years old. Then there were a few other guys from my time, two who were part of the same freshman class. A couple of my best friends were unable to make it, but having some good old friends was great.

The funny thing is – even though I hadn’t seen JT since before we left Massachusetts (2008), and even though our email exchanges are infrequent … we said hi, gave a hug (sorry, I left the distant handshake thing behind long ago – so if I ever meet any of my blog friends in person, be forewarned – you’re getting a hug 🙂 ) and just started chatting. The conversation veered all over the place, people came and went … and in many ways it could have been 1AM back in 1987 in his room with a nice bottle of Cabernet and some Stilton cheese we had bought on a trip to Wolf Rd in Albany earlier in the day.

And for a few friends that was SO true – back then we were talking about parties and classes and people who didn’t think washing the OUTSIDE of pans was important … now we’re talking about wives and kids and jobs and laughing about all of the old stuff. But it is the same conversation, y’know what I mean?

10. Those Kids … Could Be My Kids!

Due to the amount of people at the banquet, we were separated with the Actives (and dates) in one area and Alumni in another. At first I thought that was odd, but knew that because there were so many we needed to use both rooms. Then all of the active fraternity brothers arrived in the buses that brought them from the house – and I showed a picture of my son and his girlfriend from earlier that day in their senior prom pictures with a bunch of their friends … and my friends (all with much younger kids) remarked ‘wow … they look pretty much the same’.

And it was very true – I was chatting with a new brother who was a freshman and was still 18 – and Danny will be 18 in October, so while he is 2 grades behind, he is just a year younger. It is that mindset that really had me off-kilter, because I am looking at my kids and thinking in the context of high school … and then suddenly I have that context flipped into my college years!

Even in our room there were many kids who had graduated recently and were ~25 or so, with girlfriends/fiancés/wives who were wearing cocktail/prom style dresses and who all looked SO YOUNG!

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At Theta Xi Corner, commemorating the fraternity on campus

11. 375 Pounds … That’s Pretty F-ing Heavy

One of my best old friends was always quite blunt in his assessments, and as we were walking to the bookstore we had the one guy a year younger than me who didn’t recognize me at all. So the topic of my weight loss hung heavy, and when my post college weight came up, he said ‘375, that’s a lot … that’s pretty freaking heavy’. And it was said in the same matter-of-fact way that he always said things, and the group of us couldn’t help but laugh – and I think the laughing helped dispel some of the tension.

Because exactly HOW do you deal with someone who was once really obese, and who in your memory will ALWAYS be huge … even is now they are one of the thinnest guys around?

Apparently if the guys himself is OK with all aspects, that relieves a lot of tension. Interestingly, very little discussion came up about me when I WAS really fat, just about life since then and since I lost weight and my running and all of that.

My point – inside every fat person, thin person, tall person, short person … is a person. And after the tension was dispelled, that was all that was left and it freed every topic for discussion. And suddenly my obesity – which was a defining thing in college – was no longer that interesting.

Theta Xi Trip 09

With a few friends from my era – Paul, Jeff, Mike, JT and me!

12. Some people are consumed by regrets

Lisa and I were just talking about this, but I think we all know people from our college years who had all-consuming romantic relationships that dominated everything; we also knew people who were constantly heading home or to another town to visit their significant other every weekend. Most of the time, these relationships are a very distant memory by the time you’re 25 years out of school …and in their place is a sea of regret.

The same can be said about study habits – people who did nothing but study often regret what they missed out on socially or with clubs; people who didn’t spend enough time studying might wish they had done more – or maybe even switched majors.

Over the weekend I talked with a number of people with a variety of regrets – and one person who said that it was actually hard for him because as he looked around he was just filled with regret … it took a little while of talking to get past all of that and back to remembering all of the positive stuff that went on.

A bunch of us also talked about people who had no interest in returning to either the school or the fraternity, some who were very conflicted, and some of us had people we could email back and forth with, but who wouldn’t talk about the fraternity or the weekend.

My message to anyone dealing with regrets or conflicted feelings about an event like this? There WILL be a flood of feelings both positive and negative when you go to a reunion, but the important thing to remember is that if you have friends there with you THEY will have similar feelings and you can all experience them together and end up having a great time together.

Theta Xi Trip 10

A panoramic attempt to capture the huge crowd of more than 375!

13. You Know Everyone Older, and No One Younger

I remember after the re-org that we were fortunate to have a number of alumni from the late 70s and early 80s come by to help us out, along with a few guys from the mid-60s who became very active with fundraising. Sadly the three main guys from the 60s are all passed away, and one of the 70s guys has advanced ALS and cannot even speak anymore. But a few others were there for the weekend, and I made a point of introducing myself. After pointing out ‘fat Mike’ on the composite they did remember me, and we all chatted during the weekend.

In a similar way I saw guys who were in school in the 90s who I met before on earlier visits who knew me … who I recognized but couldn’t place. One of the best things this weekend was the amount of time I spent talking to a bunch of people interested in my running and eating and weight loss and lack of injuries (tell someone you’ve run >6000 miles since April 2012 without an injury and you’ll have their attention, trust me!) – and also talking about the situation in the house around the time of the re-org. As people in their 30s and early 40s they have a new appreciation for these situations, and because the age gap becomes meaningless at this point, it was just a blast talking to them.

One difference was that the group from the late 70s had managed to assemble pretty much everyone who could travel to NY, and so they were a fairly self-contained group. The same was true for some of the 50s and 60s classes (though there were fewer surviving members). Whereas the attendance from our era was rather spotty, unfortunately, leading us to talk to loads of different people – which ended up as a rather mixed thing.

One thing I have enjoyed already? Making new Facebook friends – and with one guy I got to chat with (but unfortunately not run with) who lives in London, and coincidentally on the same day we ran nearly the same (15.5mi) distance! Funny stuff and great to share!

Theta Xi Trip 11

A representative from National. His name? Michael Anderson, of course!

14. I Love My Wine … But Have No Interest in Getting Drunk, or Even Buzzed

On Friday we had a small dinner at the hotel bar then moved to a private area for a hang-out. By the time we had moved, there were a couple of people who were barely comprehensible … and who were 40-ish years old. As we talked to one, a classmate of mine and I had just gotten a nice big glass of water between drinks to stay hydrated. Yeah, party animals! 🙂

That first night I had two drinks across about 5 hours … and the second night I had three drinks across 7 hours. Which was fine with me: I enjoyed my glasses of wine – and a Sam Adams draft – but really didn’t want any more.

This might seem like an ‘um, yeah, so?!?’ thing – but when I lived in the house we had a ‘sign-out beer fridge’ on the 3rd floor landing, which is pretty much something you could never do now (or for like the last 20+ years). And for the most part across my three years in the house, there was a single name and single beer that ‘led the count’ – me, and Beck’s Dark. It got to the point I would just have a case in my room every week (sorry Mom!) … and a new one for the following week. So me and drinking a decent amount? It was kinda ‘a thing’.

And a few guys remarked on it – more that it was amazing how much I could drink and be functional, and that weighing so much less now I would probably die drinking as much as I did some weekends. Yeah, probably.

Theta Xi Trip 12

The dining room the next morning …

15. The Bonds of Friendship Are Amazing

Aside from hanging out with friends new and old, I spent a fair amount of time just watching this weekend. Seeing the active members interact you could see that there were cliques and factions, but also that when push came to shove they were all united in love and service of the house and the fraternity. It was a moving scene … actually there were more than a few moving moments.

The same is true amongst the older guys, including myself – the depth of friendships formed with these guys transcends the decades. Like I said before, it was like the conversation picked up where it left off, but there was a deep sense of caring, of sharing that mattered. This wasn’t just ‘hey, how you doin’ – how’s the wife, how’s the job, how’s the family?’ sort of thing, but rather a deeper look at where things have gone. Sure there were the normal BS moments where people want to look happier or more successful than they are … but those faded away before the end of Friday for the most part.

I think all of us hope that these people we think will be our friends for the rest of our lives actually WILL be our friends forever. And guess what? It really can happen!

Bonus – Prom Time!

OK – while I was away the family had a busy weekend. The boys both had NYSSMA performances on Friday, which are judged behind closed doors, so no pictures. But on Saturday Danny went to his girlfriend’s senior prom, and Lisa and Chris went out for dinner at a local restaurant where her coworker’s husband is chef. So here are a couple of great pictures from that!

Theta Xi Trip 08

Prom Weekend Lisa and Chris1

If you’ve made it here … congratulations! You deserve some type of award!

Hope you have a great week!

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

Sunday Runday1

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.

Engagement1

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!

Smoothies1

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!

(Twenty) Five Things Friday – My Quarter Century Runner-versary!

You know it is love when someone will touch you after 26.2 miles in July!

You know it is love when someone will touch you after 26.2 miles in July!

OK, so maybe I am a bit late on this one, but perhaps not by much … I never really marked my ‘start date’ for running on a calendar, but I put it pretty accurately in February 1989. That means I have now past 25 years as a runner. I have detailed the history here, here and here. But I thought it would be fun to list out 25 things from all of those years!

1. While I can place the date at February 1989 … I really have no exact idea of WHY I started running.

2. I can still visualize my first route – about a mile, maybe a bit longer with the cul-de-sac road.

3. Five things I learned right away:
– It made my muscles burn
– It made my lungs burn
– It made me feel exhausted and exhilarated all at once
– It made my metabolism kick into overdrive and the pounds drop
– It opened a part of my brain to me that I never knew existed

4. My first ‘long’ run – it was an accident. I was on business in West Palm Beach, FL and glanced at the map (this was 1991, remember) and headed out. I decided to go one block more, not realizing that the next block was an elongated parallelogram, so I ended up close to 10 miles!

5. Once I started I was hooked, and ran early mornings as I traveled for work – over the 2.5 years I was at my first job I ran in MA, CT, NY, NJ, WV, GA, MS, FL, IL, MI, CA and Germany. And probably other places I’ve forgotten.

6. I wasn’t as early morning at first, starting at 5AM … 4AM came after we moved to Townsend in 1995, and particularly after we had kids.

7. Lisa tried to join me when we first moved into an apartment in Acton, but quickly declared it ‘cold, dark and scary’ and never tried again. Now between joint issues and arthritis it will never happen.

8. Running safety came early – in Acton we lived on ‘Great Rd’, which is Rte 2A – a very busy road and poorly lit. Safety and awareness was key.

9. I have always been a year-round runner, gearing up for whatever came my way.

10. Until 2012 my running shoes were whatever was on sale/clearance for <$50 at the mall and was comfortable.

11. Until 2012 I ran in cotton t-shirts and basic shorts, and my thermal layers were non-wicking … I went cheap on clothes as well.

12. Four ‘firsts’ on my wedding day:
– First weekend run
– First run with someone else (my brother)
– First daylight run
– Oh yeah, I got married 🙂

13. In Townsend, we lived in the ‘snow belt’ and would routinely get >12″ storms. I would regularly run in those.

14. There are no running pictures of me before May 2012.

15. Running when traveling for work can be loads of fun – with Shipley I got annual winter runs in San Jose in February as part of the SPIE conference. The hotels were always in great spots for running.

16. I have never had a ‘running injury’ – I have gotten a few bumps and bruises, including being pushed into a ditch a couple of weeks ago that had me take an extra rest day, but

17. Having my thyroid die has changed everything – my running, energy, and how I deal with cold.

18. Before this winter the coldest temperature I had run in was -10F. Now I have run several below -10, a few lower than -20 and the coldest was below -25F. If I never have to do THAT again it will be just fine!

19. I honestly feared being laughed at and coming in dead last in my first 5K.

20. Total wardrobe shift – It has gotten to the point where last fall my kids asked ‘are you going for a run’ after I had just showered after a long run … and then said ‘at this point, pretty much all of your casual clothes look like running clothes’.

21. ‘Crashing’ at the end of my first half-marathon taught me two things: I had no clue about fueling, and I had no clue about actually being hungry.

22. Probably the most fun running away from home was either trail running the side of a mountain at 8500ft elevation in Park City UT in 2012, or running the Silver Strand on Del Coronado in 2013.

23. A few stats:
– My longest ‘streak’ was 65 days, which I have talked about before
– My longest run was ~28.35 in fall 2012, then 27.75 in 2013
– My pace now is ~33% faster than when I restarted in 2012.

24. I cannot say enough about the support of my family – they have been there to support me tremendously, but also give me a rough time and the occasional reality check.

25. I had a great run today, and can't wait for my long Saturday run tomorrow!

How long have you been running and what have you learned?

My Running Story – The ‘Corning Years’ Through Today

Running History - Aug 20081

So we have gone through the dramatic opening chapter of my running story, the rather blase middle years, and up through the start of 2008. As I mentioned I had accepted a job with Corning, which meant selling our house and picking up the family for a move … more of a challenge because I started work a month before our house closing!

One note on this post – the pictures often don’t go with the text, but they are in strict chronological order from spring 2008 through the end of 2013.

So as we hit the spring of 2008 here is where we find ourselves:
– I’m starting work at Corning
– I have no energy and am waiting to see a new primary care doctor.
– Lisa and the boys are at home prepping the house for closing.

Just a quick bit on the house – as I have found is entirely too common, the home builder was a slimebag who wanted to build more houses on the chunk of land he bought, so he moved a brook. Yeah, really. Water has this way of not giving up so easily, and as a result some of the houses in the neighborhood had water issues – and so did ours every now and then … and with increasing frequency. When we bought it was completely undeclared and not found by the inspector, but when we sold we fully declared.

That didn’t make the massive melt and moisture any more pleasant for Lisa to deal with while I was in Corning, and she has basically said that she spent pretty much all of March angry at me, but felt (a bit) bad when the new primary care doctor talked about just how bad my condition was with my thyroid.

Running History - June 2009

We also decided to put our boys into the new schools for the end of the year so they wouldn’t be ‘new’ in the fall. I’m not sure it was a bad idea, but neither was it good! Danny was stuck in the ‘leftovers’ class, which had trouble kids, transfers, and so on. It wasn’t a great 6 weeks for him; for Chris it wasn’t as bad, but nor was it great.

My First Gym Membership

One great thing with my job at Corning is that I had a 15-20 minute commute. Another great thing is that the YMCA was right next to the engineering building. Yet another great thing was that they offered subsidized memberships with great family benefits! So I joined the Y and got started with my workouts soon after I started on thyroid medications.

Joining a gym was really interesting – the Y had a bunch of stair machines, ellipticals, bikes, treadmills, and a double set of circuit machines as well as an indoor track, pool, weights, classes and so on. For me, what I keyed in on was the elliptical and Nautilus circuit. Doing 30 minutes on the elliptical, 15 minutes on the bike, and a full set of upper and lower body weights on the circuit was an amazing workout.

Running History - Fall 20091

The gym time along with my thyroid medication meant I dropped weight quickly and got into pretty good shape. It was different because suddenly I was doing stuff other than just running. Things went pretty well for the first year, then I needed to get my thyroid meds adjusted as my energy was starting to drop and my weight was going up.

Shifting Schedules Means No More Gym

Then suddenly in the fall of 2009 both boys were in the middle school and the change of schedule was such that getting to go to the gym and still make it to work was problematic. My work project work had me in different Corning areas that made the schedule just unworkable … so I tried to get back into running – but it just wasn’t really happening much.

Running History - Spring 2010

During the 2009 – 2010 time, I hit the gym a couple of times every couple of weeks … and eventually we canceled the membership. I tried to keep up running, but it was sporadic at best. My energy was good due to steady thyroid levels, but I couldn’t really seem to ‘get back my mojo’ for running like I used to have.

I blamed my failed thyroid.

Running History - Spring 2010b

The Marathon Challenge … of 2011

Now here is the thing – by this time, my brother’s marriage was seriously failing, and he was re-asserting his independence in many different ways. He was working hard getting into shape, and had decided to run a marathon. He had hoped that we could run together so he chose the Corning Wineglass Marathon. I gave a half-hearted ‘yeah’.

Running History - Fall 2010

But I just never got myself going … if anything I kept gaining weight a little at the time. 2011 was not a year where I did a lot of exercise … I would try to run every now and then, but it never stuck.

Come October of 2011, my brother became a marathoner … and challenged me to join him in 2012. And I really wanted to do it.

The Marathon Challenge … for 2012

Running History - Fall 2010b1

As we entered 2012, I had gotten even heavier but wasn’t running. I knew it was getting bad – the year before I had bought size 40 dress pants and jeans … and I was starting to feel they were getting tighter. At New Years my big goal was to get running, lose weight and get running.

But what I did was ‘make a resolution’ … NOT set a goal.

If you want to know why I feel so strongly about goal setting rather than resolutions, THIS is why. I knew what I wanted to do – but I didn’t set up a plan to make it happen. I just kind of thought I could go out running and it would stick and I would lose weight and then by the fall I would be ready for a marathon.

Running History - Spring 20111

What a moron.

The Easter 2012 ‘Reality Check’

As I’ve said, I kept trying to restart my running, but instead I found a different pattern – I would run 4 days in a week while drastically restricting calories during the day, reward my hunger on Friday, then sometimes get out there again the following Monday. In late March I started what seemed like the same cycle yet again, and quite frankly RUNNING SUCKED! It was a hard push, but I was doing it. I had managed three weeks of 4 or 5 days with mediocre eating habits when my brother came to visit over Easter (2nd weekend of April).

Running History - Oct 20111

This was from an app called ‘Everyday’ … you take a daily picture. I got too depressed with pictures like these and stopped. Now, of course I wish I had kept going!

He and I went out for a run on Saturday, and it was then that – thanks to his Garmin – I discovered that I had been running only ~2.25 miles each day. I also found out that the pace I was running was SLOW … because we did 11 minute miles for those 2.25 miles and I thought I was going to die.

My brother dropped me off and went back for another loop – at a more reasonable pace.

Ugh.

I did weigh myself just after my birthday, and was ~275lbs. The second heaviest of my life, and the most I had weighed since 1989.

Ugh.

Running History - Feb 20121

Starting Over … Again

On the following Monday I got up, and headed out to run for about 4.5 miles. I had plotted out my route, knew that just changing how I got to the main road added 0.75 miles, then another mile to get back to where I started, and finally I was able to tack on an extra half mile by running down one cup-de-sac off my main route. To confirm the mileage, I put my Motorola Droid 4 GPS to good use.

Still not loving it, but there was NO WAY I was giving up.

Running History - May 20121

The shirr is GlassFest, the race is the ASA 5K

That week I slowly started increasing my mileage, and over the next two weeks I was up to running either 5.75 or 6.25 miles per day.

And you know what – with each day, with each mile I could feel it happening. I could feel my body getting stronger, I could feel my eating habits getting better.

But most importantly I could feel my running mojo coming back. Just a bit at a time, but by the end of April, I was hooked.

Running History - July 20121

I Run My First Race … a 5K at 46. Then another … and another …

And right around that time, a woman in my department at work sent out a general email about a Komen 5K in our area, and I knew I needed to learn about running in public before I could hope to do a marathon. So … I signed up to run, and Lisa and the boys were doing the 1-mile walk.

The day before, I decided to do a ‘training run’. That would mean two things: running on a weekend in daylight, and also tracking my pace for real. My goal was to do better than a 12-minute mile average pace. I went out the day before and things went well, and for my 4 mile run I just barely exceeded 12 minutes pace.

At the Komen 5K … I had two fears, that I would be dead last, and that people would laugh at me. All of that goes back to my childhood, and were ‘demons’ I carried into adulthood.

Running History - Aug 20121

But guess what? I fell in mid-pack felt great the whole time … and finished with a 10:18 per mile pace. Wait – WHAT?!? I was so surprised at that time I really couldn’t believe it!

Two weeks after that there was a 5-mile (8K) race as part of the Corning Glassfest. This was definitely a much warmer day, and Chris came along to take pictures for me. I had been running more than 5 miles most days, so I wasn’t concerned about the distance. Again my only goal was breaking an hour (better than 12 minute mile). I pushed a bit harder and ran out of steam at mile 4 a little and ended up at a 54:43 time – just under an 11 minute pace.

The following weekend there was another 5K, this time as part of a local Catholic school fundraiser. I dragged Danny out with me – and it was cold so he was miserable. That is just how things go in June – you can go one weekend at 75 degreed and the next at 45! It is funny looking at pictures of myself then – I was still close to 250 lbs and for me it really shows. At the time I could see how much thinner I got … now I see how fat I was. That pretty much sums up my life. Oh – and this time I broke 30 minutes for the 5K. Not impressive on a grand scale, but I was happy – making progress.

The following weekend there was another 5K, starting at 10AM with temperatures already over 80F. My goal here was to again break 30 minutes, and I certainly did – I ended up with a pace that was just over 9 minutes per mile. That was actually my last race shorter than a half-marathon.

Learning About Eating … the Hard Way

Hyundai-Drive-Time-44-500x375

At that point I had increased my daily runs to close to a 7 mile average, running 6 days most weeks, meaning I was doing 40 – 50 mile weeks, and feeling pretty good. The weight continued to come off, and by the time I took a trip to Park City Utah to review the new Hyundai Santa Fe (I know, tough life, eh?) I was close to 200 lbs. That meant I had lost 75lbs in about 4 months – which averages to more than 4 lbs per week. Of course weight loss isn’t linear, you lose more at first and slowly plateau.

My next race was a half-marathon (yes, I have never run a 10K), and here is something interesting – I had absolutely no idea about planning to run a half marathon. I had run distances up to 14.5 miles on weekend runs so I wasn’t worry. But here were a couple of key elements missing:
– Tapering
– Nutrition

I knew enough to buy some Gu, but I was still eating in ‘weight loss mode’, and I was also running full out the whole week before. You can probably see where this is headed, right?!?

I headed out on the Catherine Valley Trail Half Marathon in 60F temperatures (in late August no less!), and absolutely cruised through the first 6 miles, passing people left and right and feeling great. I had forgotten my GPS watch, and learned how little I knew about my pace without it (yet another mistake!) – and I decided to hold off taking a Gu pack until the half-way point, also skipping a water table along the way.

Naturally I started running out of fuel and the too-fast pace going out also caught up with me – along with other runners. By the time I hit mile 11 I was in rough shape, but I kept running. I finished in 2:03, which was definitely slower than I hoped – considering the first half I was done in about 55 minutes! My estimate was I ran a 8 minute pace the first half and 10 minute pace the second, since my overall was about 9 minutes.

I. Felt. Awful.

Lisa wanted to hug me or high five me or … something. But I just had absolutely no clue what was going on. I had overdone it, and couldn’t eat anything. I had some water and tried to eat a bit, but as soon as I felt a bit better we left.

I learned a lot about running an endurance race that day … including that I had done pretty much everything wrong.

Oh yeah, My Eating Habits CAN Get More Stupid

Leaving the half marathon, I was determined to do things better for the full marathon that was in 5 weeks, so I learned more about fueling, hydration and tapering.

At the same time I had the opportunity to review a ‘juice cleanse’ product, so I did. I made up the ‘tea’, the ‘protein drink’, bought the fruits and juices, and got ready. I started on a Friday night and decided to take the weekend off … so I could spend it on the toilet. I love fruits, so the eating part wasn’t bad – I was never hungry.

But come Monday morning I went to head out for my morning run, and didn’t make it a half-mile down the road before I had to sprint back … yeah, THAT ended my ‘cleanse’. Of course, the reality is that no one needs to do a cleanse, most of the ‘benefits’ have been debunked, and the best course of action is just to eat healthy. But I am not going to lie – going to the bathroom SO MUCH really does make you feel lighter and fresher in some ways … but it also makes you feel like you have dysentery.

Marathoner … So I am a REAL Runner?

Now I had a month before the marathon, and had never run more than 20 miles, but I also knew I needed to allow two weeks to taper. Aside from my running 50+ miles every week, I really needed a long run under my belt for confidence. So I set myself a goal of a super-long run two weeks before the race. I actually ran 27 miles that day, broken up because I needed to pick up the kids from something at school. That worked well since it allowed me hydration and potty breaks.

Tapering is … interesting. Since I was now down 85 lbs from April but wasn’t quite done, I still had a weight loss mindset. This meant that every day was a struggle. Every meal was a struggle. I had to force myself to eat for fuel, and as I was tapering miles I needed to maintain my fueling levels. Now that I have done it a bunch of times it is ‘easier’ … but I still recall that struggle – I was sure I was gaining weight every meal and was undoing all of my hard work. I definitely give myself credit for persevering.

Running a marathon with my brother was one of the best days of my life, not up with our wedding or having kids, but still a major life-changing event.

Running History - Oct 20121

I was really ready, and nervous as hell. We had throw-away sweatshirts, I had a Gorilla Glass hat I could lose as I warmed up and my running gloves, and the forecast had it starting at 40F and finishing near 60. The goal was to go out with the 4:20 group for a steady 10 minute mile. The Wineglass Marathon is incredibly scenic, happening at the end of September / beginning of October in the Finger Lakes of New York. Just gorgeous. And the course is mostly flat with just a few minor hills. Nothing like what I run on a daily basis, so I knew hills wouldn’t be a challenge.

The pace felt great and having my brother there was excellent. However, after about mile 6 and definitely at mile 8 I noticed he was lagging coming out of the water stops … and wasn’t feeling great. We had dropped back behind the 4:20 group by a decent amount, and by mile 10 he sent me ahead. I protested, but he insisted. He could tell I was ready to run … and that he wasn’t.

I spent the next two miles catching up, but eventually was back with the 4:20 group! The race was just fantastic – the weather was perfect, the pacer was loads of fun, and overall we just were cruising along, and I stayed with them throughout. She had us doing deep breaths and working out our arms and other things to keep from tightening and cramping … and basically preparing us for ‘the wall’.

By the time we got to mile 20 I was still doing great, and was just ahead of the pace group. I was slower through water stops so they would get closer, then I would run a bit faster. And suddenly we were in Corning, and I realized … just over that bridge and I would be on Market Street headed to the finish … I had DONE IT!

And as I rounded onto Market Street the cheers rose up and I felt swept along – I spotted Lisa and the boys cheering me from the side, and I sprinted my way home, passing several people who were out of gas. I cruised across just under 4:20 for what officially was a 9:57 pace. I walked through the finish area, had the best chocolate milk ever met my family and was ready to eat. Lisa had no idea what to expect … but I looked and felt great.

I had done it – I had run a marathon without ever stopping to walk. I could finally call myself a ‘real runner’.

Yes, I know how stupid that is, but that was my mindset. My brother? Well, he did more than a bit of walking, really didn’t feel well at all and finished more than an hour later. But hey, considering he had a near-fatal heart attack 6 months later and was likely running with 90%+ blockages, not too bad really!

But … Can I keep it Going?

Running that marathon changed my life. It changed my relationship with my body and running, and gave me the realization that I should be proud of myself as a runner. It was a major paradigm shift for me.

A month later I had signed up for a half-marathon in Corning called the Red Baron Half Marathon. Combined with the Wineglass you could do a ‘dual finisher’ package and get a cool shirt:

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I did it in under 2 hours, which was really great and made me happy. Then I took a couple of days off, and with all of the tapering I had been doing, I felt fat and lethargic and wondered if I was losing my mojo.

Right around that time I heard about the Runner’s World Streak, and I saw an opportunity. I documented it here so I don’t need to go into more details.

Running History - Jan 20131

2013 – A Year Of Sustaining and Learning About Myself

Suddenly we were into 2013 and I could look back and see:
– I had lost nearly 100 lbs
– I had run my first road races
– My pace by the end of the year was 33% faster than in April.
– I had run 1975 miles during the year
– I’d run two half-marathons and broken two hours.
– I ran a full marathon and broke 10 minutes per mile
– I had completed a 65 day running streak and done about 500 miles during the streak

Running History - May 20131

So what did I want out of 2013? Basically to break 2000 miles, run two marathons and at least one half. I had put doing an Ultra as a 2014 goal, but I really wanted to do it in 2013.

But in January I learned from work that I was being assigned a project that was located mostly at the Harrodsburg Kentucky Corning plant, meaning I was going to spend a lot of time traveling. And while SOME travel is nice … weekly travel when you have a wife and kids you actually like spending time with? That sucks.

Two things came from that: I got to run more ‘doubles’ and some great trails at the Shaker Village; and I decided not to run many races. Really, the thought of chewing up weekend family time with races was out of the question for me. Plus we were sending Danny to Europe for the month of July, so those race fees had a better destination!

Running History - Summer  20131

But I did run three races in 2013 – the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Marathon, Wineglass Marathon and Red Baron Half Marathon.

I did full reports at the links above, but I did manage to PR at both full and half marathons, so I consider THAT a victory. I also learned about my priorities:
– Family comes first
– The ability to ‘get up and run tomorrow’ trumps any pace, race or other running goal.

What else did I learn? I learned a lot about running shoes, about compression, that I could wear running tights, about nutrition, and more. I also learned that I really wanted a personal blog … and was finally willing to make the effort.

I also decided to not do a running streak – by mid-December I had run 37 of 39 days since the Red Baron Half, but that was by choice. Not doing the streak freed me up.

So … What Does 2014 and Beyond Hold for Me?

Running History - Fall  20131

For 2014 I have already laid out my running goals, and have gotten on the wait list for a 50 miles this summer. Right now I am in the ‘week to week’ mode that comes with an average temperature at 4AM hovering close to zero for most days this year. I am really looking forward to breaking back into truly goal-oriented weekly runs when spring arrives.

Who knows other than that – I would love to do a couple of 5Ks, maybe a 10K as well. I also want to re-do that Catherine Valley Half Marathon this year and do it much smarter than last time. I already decided NOT to run the PA Grand Canyon – too expensive, too much of a hassle … and I would rather do something new. Wineglass? Haven’t signed up yet, but it is so close and so much fun I count I will pass it up!

February also marks the 25th anniversary of my running, and I will write about that in the upcoming weeks – and that gives me much to celebrate. This year is the 150th anniversary of my Fraternity founding at my alma mater, and some people will see me thin for the first time ever. It will be an interesting time.

So … that is my story – and I hope that in another 25 years I will be able to report about how I have kept running through the years.

Running History - Marathon  20131

What I Learned From My 2012-13 Running Streak

Running Streak Finale1

Two weeks ago I got my last ‘running streak’ update from TimeHop on my iPhone, meaning that a year ago I stopped my running streak after 65 days. I started the streak because right after my last half-marathon of 2012 I took a couple of days off and didn’t have a goal and was concerned I would lose my ‘mojo’. I had seen the Runner’s World Running Streak, which was meant to be 35 days from Thanksgiving through New Years. I started the second week of November and went more than half-way through January.

1. The numbers – here is a summary of what I did:
– 65 days
– ~500 miles
– average of ~7.5 miles per run
– Minimum distance 4 miles (Thanksgiving and day after with my brother)
– Maximum distance 16 miles
– temperature: average temperature 20F, ranging from -5 to 45, winds still to 30MPH.

2. I really CAN run every day

Like so many other things I have attempted, I had no idea if I could do this. Would I get injured, would I get sick, would I just somehow find myself unable to continue? What did I find? Every morning during the week, every day on the weekends, every holiday, every post-holiday … I got up.

Not only did I get up, I got up when the temperature was below zero, when the wind chills were approaching -20F, when I had been up past midnight, when there were stresses or other things that would have allowed me to say ‘I’m taking today off’. Instead I used it to help me focus, to relax, to meditate, to be present in the moment.

3. Your Motivation Changes when you make this promise.

I remember reading that the irony of the streak is that it is liberating. Committing to this streak is a thing unto itself.

Looking back there was really no question I would succeed – I mean, all I have to do is dip into the willpower (fueled by fear of failure, very likely) that has helped me with weightless and pursuing and completing multiple marathons.

But still … having a new day dawn and think, I AM running today, just like I ran yesterday and will run tomorrow.

4. Running and Breathing and Form

Everything you are doing wrong is amplified when you don’t rest. When I look at my old blue Nike Free Runs, the bottoms are not uniformly worn … yet the orange Nikes, Saucony and both New Balance shoes are all worn near perfectly. I worked on my form, I worked on doing fartleks and other things, I worked on the ‘running on air’ breathing techniques, and I worked on totally clearing my head some mornings. It is amazing what you can do.

5. There is no such thing as a bad run

Sure there are days when you don’t FEEL like getting out there, when you are out and the pace just won’t cooperate, when the hills feel more punishing, and so on.

And yet, each day there was something – I looked back through my Facebook logs and each day there was something there, something that clued me to the runs and reminded me of some reason I was glad I went out.

6. There is nothing worse than a strong arctic wind

It might seem odd, since I’ve been running for nearly 25 years through pretty much every sort of weather from 90+ heat to -20F chills … but until recent years I never did more than glance at the outdoor thermometer before heading out for my runs. Cold was cold, whatever. When it hit winter I bundled up to varying degrees, but until 2012 I wasn’t running the distances that required that much care.

But running ~7.5 miles every day for 65 days through the middle of winter meant hitting everything – and what I noticed most was the impact of the wind. Some days when temperatures were warming the air might be cold but you were comforted by a ‘warming’ wind. But most times it was cold and the arctic blast just drove right through you … one run I was reading about from last January had me going out in 40F temperatures, but with a very cold 25MPH winds carrying colder temperatures. My remark the next day was I would take the 5F without wind over the previous windy day 100% of the time!

7. And yet, when it is done, you will be relieved.

And yet, when it was over, I was glad. I was glad because I knew I was getting sick, and for the previous two days everything else was suffering more than it needed in order for me to keep running.

I was also glad because while it was liberating for a very long time, after the new year it began to be an obligation. It became something I needed to do everyday, and I worried that hyper-focus could become an unhealthy pursuit.

So I went back to my normal 6 days, ~50 miles schedule … which I have kept up ever since and have continued thoroughly enjoying my running. I never had the desire to do the Streak this year – because I had already proven what I needed to myself, and as I’ve noted I was actually doing about 6.5 days per week anyway and had taken just 2 days off out of 40 by mid-December, but not in pursuit of anything, just because that was how my schedule worked.

Did you do a running streak? Are you considering one? If you did, what did you learn – share a link to your summary post if you have one!

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’.

Truth for Tuesday – What I Hate About Running in the Extreme Cold

Hey Im Alive

A number of blogs are participating in something called ‘Spill It Sunday’, where you answer some questions about yourself. There is one thing that I have been thinking about lately, and realized it wouldn’t make it into any other post I’m thinking about writing – so it is perfect here.

I have lived my entire life in places that get very cold and snowy, and have always loved the changing of the seasons. And since I have been running for nearly 25 years, that means running outdoors in some very cold conditions through the years. The coldest temperature I have run in is -17F, and the lowest wind chills were below -20F.

Last week saw snow and ice storms blow through much of the country, leading to way too many injuries and deaths due to accidents on the road and in the home for those not used to such conditions. I also saw many blogs where people in the south were excited to pull out their winter running stuff for a day or two. For those of us up north, 30F isn’t ‘cold’ … in fact, during the winter it is a great temperature for running.

Last Monday we had our coldest day yet – it got to ~10F with wind chills at my house down to 3F. This is not *extreme* cold … but it is pretty cold. It made me think of a couple of things. First, the contrast between Monday’s cold and the 30F temperature on Tuesday reminded me of how differently our brains work when it gets very cold; and second, I learned that my very warm new gloves are questionable for sub-zero temperatures!

When I ran on Monday, I knew the route I was running, and just focused on the run and staying warm and covered, especially when the wind was coming at me! On Tuesday I was suddenly playing with pace and form and thinking all sorts of different things – it is a reminder of what our brains and bodies do when extreme cold hits.

Which brings me to the one thing that bothers me about extreme cold: fear of hypothermia and frostbite.

Now for those who knew me at RPI this might seem a bit bizarre – I used to go to classes in a couple of feet of snow wearing boat shoes with no socks. Yeah, I was young and very large … and apparently the joke about all that insulation was more or less true.

After losing all the weight I found I would get cold more easily in the winters, and particularly recall ice fishing with Lisa’s dad and my feet never feeling anything but cold … but it was really after my thyroid died in 2007/8 that my cold tolerance – especially in my fingers – has gone down considerably. As a result, being in the cold for a long time and having my fingers get really cold? No thanks!

So where does this fear of losing feeling and eventually losing fingers or toes come from? A book and movie called ‘Hey I’m Alive’.

Way back in 1975 a TV-movie came out with Ed Asner and Sally Struthers, based on a book which was based on true life events. The story is about two people in a small single engine plane that goes down in bad weather and how they survive for 49 days in the cold remote winderness before getting rescued.

I was 9 when the movie aired, and I also read the 1964 book the movie was based on, which was a retelling of events by the woman who survived. Not surprisingly, the book was able to delve deeper into things, particularly the dark periods when there seemed to be no hope. All that time the possibility of freezing to death was very real.

In that context, the end result of frostbite and having a few toes amputated seem fairly minor … but as a 9-year old who had fingers and toes go numb every winter playing in the snow, suddenly I started wondering at what point that numb feeling becomes dangerous?

As an adult I know that with fully covered skin encased in Thinsulate gloves, even over a 90 minute run I have no danger of frostbite – if anything, it is the exposed area of my face I should be most worried about! But that has never stopped the irrational fears of a 9-year old boy from creeping back in and making me worry that out on a run with cold hands I was in danger of losing my fingers. I am just fortunate that my fear of getting fat trumps my fear of losing fingers … that means I will still go out running all winter long!

What about you? Do you have any irrational fears? How do you deal with them?

You can see info for the book at Goodreads, and the film at IMDB. And actually, you can even watch the whole movie on YouTube!

My Running Story – In The Beginning …

Mike Running Baseball

When I had someone message me and ask about how I got started running and so on, I realized I have not written about it here. Time to rectify that! But before I get to my running history I need to dig deeper, to that kid in the picture above and beyond.

In The Beginning There Were Husky Jeans

I was never ‘small’ or ‘thin’. Like my own boys I was always one of the tallest kids, and in spite of a life-long love of fruit and vegetables, I wouldn’t describe my eating habits growing up as balanced or portion-controlled. As a result, when I was growing up my pants came from the ‘husky’ section at Sears.

When it came to sports I had talent- but running wasn’t it. It was a joke that I was fortunate I hit the ball as far as I did in baseball … or else I would never have gotten even a single. To put it another way, my mother described me running the bases as looking like the way they did the motion in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ … slow motion. Likewise, I remember in 5th or 6th grade having to run some distance timed for a state performance evaluation, and our gym teacher, who was a joker but very sarcastic, made a number of (in retrospect) rather rude comments about my speed and physical condition.

Things like that shaped my self-image, which can be summed up as ‘slow and fat’.

Not that I liked running – I remember getting a hairline fracture of my sternum on the freshman football team, and as I tried to recover I found it continuing to hurt each week. But honestly, looking back I think it might well have been just tight breathing from being so out of shape and not wanting to run.

The interesting thing is that I don’t look at the picture at top and see ‘fat kid’ in the same way I can walk into a school today and have that thought – I suppose that is how our sense of proportion (no pun intended) has changed through the decades.

But make no mistake, by the time I finished college … I was huge by any metric. I weighed in at 275lbs when I graduated high school and 375 by the fall of 1988 after I was out of college. I am not really certain of my maximum weight, so I use 375 as an estimate. Let’s just say that I was in a size 48 waist pants … and would have grown out of them before much longer.

How did I get there? That is pretty easy – an unhealthy relationship with food. I remember being in the kitchen at the fraternity house and we’d make a mega-batch of chocolate cookie dough … only I would grab a bunch and take it back to my room in a bowl and eat it. I would eat my emotions – happiness, sadness, pain and joy.

Somehow, when I look at the picture below all I can hear is Animal House “fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”.

Mike Big View3

And Suddenly Enough Was Enough

I remember being in an interview in early 1989 and there was SOMETHING – a look, comment, moving around or just something odd – that really brought home how large I was and how negatively it was impacting how everyone saw me. This was a job I felt was MINE – the phone interview went very well and they had lined up a full slate of folks very enthusiastically based on our discussions. I was already unhappy – I was without a job and just didn’t see where I was going in life, but didn’t like wherever it was at the moment. So I decided to lose weight, even those I really had no idea what I was doing.

For some reason I can’t really remember, in early 1989 I started jogging. At first I started doing it at night, but found that I was full from dinner and tired from the day (I was working a couple of part time retail jobs), so I switched to the morning. It wasn’t much – a mile or two at most and at a very slow pace – and honestly after a month I didn’t notice any difference, and no one knew but my family so I was about to give up.

That same week someone from one of the part time jobs made a comment about noticing I had lost some weight and was looking good! It was incredibly motivating, and I kept up the effort.

It took more than a few months, but finally in May of ’89 I started working at Bruker Instruments – in my field and working on some cool technology – and was also well on my way to being a normal sized person. I am sure I was losing weight way too fast … as evidenced by this picture from August of ’89. 7 months and more than 150lbs lighter?

Mike Early Running2

In The Beginning I Had No Idea What I Was Doing

The reality is that I had spent my first 23 years avoiding physical exertion and eating pretty much whatever I wanted, so when it came time to exercise and diet to lose weight I really had no clue.

In terms of eating, it is easy to look back and say that I was doing ‘calorie restriction’ at an extreme level. I would have a slice of unbuttered toast and a half grapefruit without sugar for breakfast. Salad with non-fat dressing and rice cakes for lunch. And a very limited dinner – at times I would have one food group per day for dinner. All while running a couple of miles and playing basketball for about 20 minutes daily.

I was fascinated with the feeling of being hungry, convinced that it meant I was losing weight and doing the right thing so long as it was just a hungry, empty feeling and I continued eating 3 meals per day.

But the fall of 1990 my weight had stabilized pretty well below 200lbs – here is a great picture of Lisa and I at Ken & Heather’s wedding in September of 1990.

Mike Early Running1

Within two years Lisa and I were married, I was still just as thin, continued running 4-5 days a week for a few miles per day and ate pretty healthy and stayed active all around. It was interesting how my body normalized slowly to being thinner – I got all sorts of comments during that time about how my face looked, and I knew how my body was adapting to the changes … honestly I think it had no idea what to do and was very reluctant to tighten itself up.

Well, that is the first 25 years of my life … next time I will be back to fill in the ‘in between years’ – two babies, three jobs, a layoff, a thyroid and a family move!