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Dec 15 14

Where I present the unforeseen downsides to getting in shape

by John

No – this isn’t one of those tongue-in-cheek “you don’t rest midway up the stairs” lists. I still don’t know if I truly consider myself “in shape,” I’m certainly in better shape than I have been, previously, at any time in my life, and I can tell you that there are some downsides to being in better shape that I did not consider, when I started this journey.

Being Cold
I used to jokingly say that, if I could get away with it, I’d never wear pants. No matter the weather, if I were heading to a holiday party? I was going in shorts. Sure, work functions, typically, frown on shorts – but I was the guy who, in the middle of winter, wore shorts. But as your body fat drops, there’s less insulation — I get cold, now. Heck, I’ve thought about getting myself long underwear, just so that I can make myself a little more comfortable if/when I’m heading somewhere that just might be chilly.
The Toilet
When my legs are sore? When I have pushed them especially hard the previous day . . . and sit down on the toilet? Well, I’ve given some serious thought to taking my work laptop into the bathroom at work, just because standing up, when I’m done, requires serious commitment, and the thought of sitting with my laptop on my lap, all afternoon, just seems easier.
Letting Down Friends & Family
A few weeks ago, I was at a family event, and chose not to have a cupcake. My mother-in-law, who made the cupcakes, made sure that I knew that she made a selection of cupcakes without chocolate, especially for me. I, basically, had to say “thank you, but no thanks” because a cupcake, while delicious, provided empty calories; I was trying to “keep myself good” ahead of Thanksgiving. I can’t help but think that my mother-in-law took the cupcake refusal personally.
It doesn’t really get easier
Well, maybe it does get easier, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Maybe it’s because I’ve “been down this road before.” As much as I want to say that, “yeah, but this time is different,” I’m afraid of falling off the wagon like I have, so many times before. So, I keep on top of my calories. I watch my macros. I ensure that I get enough fiber while limiting my carbs. I prioritize protein intake at most every meal. I especially don’t allow myself regular “cheat days1” or allow myself a reward for hitting a goal/target (I cringe when I think about how I allowed myself to stop & get a cinnamon bun on the way to work, each and every day, provided that I made myself sit on the exercise bike for at least 10 minutes in the morning . . . I was doing far more harm than good, back in those days).
Your complaints about your body don’t go away – they just become more specific
We all hate our bodies. I just watched Pumping Iron (the bodybuilding documentary that essentially launched Arnold Schwarzenegger from a bodybuilder to a movie star), and I’m convinced that, Schwarzenegger, at the height of his body-building career, when he was Adonis, personified, had a constant list of stuff that he wished to change about his body. Instead of thinking “I want a flatter belly,” you start looking at the loose skin around your stomach, wishing it weren’t there. “I want more muscles” morphs into “I want bigger shoulders”. Self-complaint doesn’t go away . . . it just becomes far more specific.
Clothes shopping becomes a different kind of stressful
It used to be that I would fear going clothes shopping because I’d have to try on clothes and, gulp, I didn’t know if I, maybe, had gone up a size. Now? Well, I’m cheap . . . not long ago, I went to TJ Maxx to look for a new pair of dress pants. I had no options in my size — 30″ waist and 34″ inseam pants, apparently, are, simply, not available at discount stores. So, I’ve essentially given up on shopping at discount stores, and thrift stores . . . and even the big box stores – well, shorts are easy enough to find – but pants? No. Heck, even on eBay, I commonly strike out, and I’m loathe to purchase anything that I can’t try on.
You still think about food just as much as you always have
They can say “nothing tastes as good as being fit feels,” but I really don’t know about that. The enjoyment I get from food is, truly, astonishing. The saving grace is that, because I’m so careful about what I eat, and want to ensure that every calorie “is worth it” (meaning that it’s going to taste great and provide nutritional value), I spend as much time daydreaming about cooking, and figuring out what I want to make myself to eat as I daydream about eating. All that said – I’ve been having flashbacks to the feeling of opening a fresh back of tortilla chips . . . you’ll have to forgive me if I need a moment.
You’ll always need the occasional kick in the ass
“Not feeling it” happens to everyone. Seriously. The most disciplined person in the world will, still, need a pep talk every now & then. Honestly, I treat a skipped workout or a cheat snack much like I imagine an AA member treats a beer — I text/tweet when I’m feeling vulnerable. I have several great resources who live inside my phone, and, when I have a serious case of the “not feeling it’s, they’re great at telling me “it’s just 15 minutes” for a workout, or reminding me that “a doughnut isn’t going to actually make you any less hungry”.
People will come from anywhere to ask you how you did it, and always be disappointed in what you tell them
You know, it does feel good when someone notices that you’re “looking better” (though the little old Greek ladies at church have been asking if I’m sick, lately, so it’s probably time for me to doubly-ensure that I’m maintaining my body mass), but “hey, you’ve lost weight” or “wow, looks like you’re working out” is, almost always, followed by “how did you do it?” Whatever you answer, you’re going to disappoint the person. Did you have gastric bypass surgery? Well, then surgery will scare the person. Did you focus on diet & exercise? That’s “too much work”. Did you adopt a low carb diet? The person will need their bread. Really, anything short of “I sat on my ass and ate pizza and bonbons” is going to be “too much” for someone looking to casually follow what you’re doing.

1 I do allow myself some cheat days – but I try to make them few & far-between, and to follow the calendar. Thanksgiving, for example, I allowed myself to eat what I wanted, and as much as I could eat. If anybody has been following my My Fitness Pal Diary closely, you might see that I’ve been especially strict at of late . . . the reason is because I’m looking at a string of: Christmas, Anniversary, Birthday, and New Year celebrations, all in the same week.
Dec 9 14

Where I think about how I got here.

by John

After 40 minutes of pedaling, I was a sweaty mess thinking “I can’t believe I used to do this all the time.”

See, I haven’t been doing much in the way of cardio lately. Heck, I’ve barely been doing any cardio. But, it was a Monday, my legs were sore, I had over an hour to kill between work & symphony, and taking myself out to dinner that entire time would have meant over-eating (because I don’t trust myself with spare time on my hands), so I chose to try some relatively-light cardio to see if it might alleviate the ache in my legs (it did, somewhat, but that’s not what this post is about).

It used to be that I’d head to the gym, do a 30 minute “isolation” circuit: 10 stations of muscle isolation “station” exercises for a minute apiece, 10 stations of stair running for a minute per station, 10 minutes of rest (broken up into 20, 30 second intervals between the machines and the step) before sitting at an exercise cycle or elliptical machine for whatever time I had remaining, making myself good & sweaty.

I was telling myself, in my sweaty state, that, well, “if I only knew then, what I know now, I’d have done everything differently.”

But, well, that was wrong. Because I don’t think I’d have had any success if I had been doing what I do now, back when I started getting serious.

In January 2013, I weighed over 250 pounds (and wouldn’t even look at the body fat reading on my bathroom scale) and joined a weight-loss challenge. I lost weight – a fairly drastic amount, if I’m honest, by logging everything I ate (I’d turn it into a game by logging what I planned to eat before I ate it). By cutting caloric intake and doing a lot of cardio, I created a sizable calorie deficit; I dropped weight.

And the scale showed it. There was near-instantaneous feedback . . . every week, on Wednesday, I’d step on the scale and it would show a number lower than the previous Wednesday. And I was happy. And I continued.

But the mind and the body have a funny way of playing together as you work toward a goal. As the weight stopped dropping as quickly, I was feeling “skinny fat.” Simply, there was less of me, but I wasn’t feeling all that much better (though, well, I was able to climb the steps while carrying both children without getting winded . . . so I should have felt better than I did before I started – but it’s easy to look past stuff like that when you’re caught in the now). However, I knew I wasn’t following a sustainable plan. My days were getting busier and busier (funny how kids and a job do that), and I had already had to cut cardio from 4-5 hours a week to less than 2 hours/week. I was still logging my food – but I wasn’t eating at a deficit . . . I was getting hungry more often, and when you factor in the reduced amount of time that I was doing cardio, well, I stopped losing weight . . . and there were times that I started adding weight.

So I started research to see how I could make my working out more efficient – and it looked like strength training was the answer. So, I left that circuit behind and learned how to squat. Suddenly, instead of having to carve out, at least, an hour for the gym, to make it worth it, a gym session that lasted a full hour, even when combined with a shower, was the exception. My weight . . . it stayed right where it was. But I started to get stronger. It appeared that my body was more than happy to burn fat and build muscle.

And then I started karate with CJ.

And with that, I read a little about Bruce Lee, and his workout philosophy, and his diet, and how he eschewed refined flour & sugar, well before the term “paleo diet” was even a gleam in a young marketer’s eye, because their calories were empty. I thought I’d try kicking refined flours and sugar for a little while (well, I’ll allow myself a glass of wine most nights . . . so I’ll have some sugar), just to see what happened.

Over the past three months, I’ve stepped onto my scale every morning — this is a scale that sends an electronic pulse through your body to try to determine your body fat percentage. Over these past three months, I’ve seen my body fat percentage, according to this device1, drop from 17% to 13%. All along, the times that I actively feel “hungry”? Well, that’s happening far less often than when I was dealing with a strict calorie deficit.

The hardest part of this change has been trying to ignore the amount of fat I’m ingesting . . . living in a “low fat/no fat” world, it’s difficult to wrap your brain around “eating fats doesn’t necessarily make you fat”.

My fitness plan, at present, is as such: focus on strength training and only do cardio (and light cardio, at that) if I have time on my hands2. Worry about the quality of calories, as opposed to the volume of calories (though I continue to log everything). Avoid processed foods as much as possible, making whatever I can (just to ensure that I know what’s in it; besides, I enjoy cooking).

And a big part of me wishes I had been following this plan since January 2, 2013.

But, with this plan? The weight shown by my scale? Well, I don’t worry about it nearly as much. That drop in body fat percentage? 4% over 3 months, if that’s accurate, that’s a fairly sizable jump in a relatively short amount of time — but on a week by week basis, there would, barely, have been movement. And with the finicky nature of my scale, there are weeks that it’d show in the wrong direction because of Chinese take-out the night before, or something, despite a mostly on-target week. If I were following my current plan, when I first started, the lack of immediate results would have discouraged me to no end; I would have quit..

It’s easy for me to say “what I’m doing now is better than what I was doing yesterday . . . but if I hadn’t done what I was doing yesterday, I’d have never gotten where I am. I know that . . . and, it’s entirely possible that, tomorrow, I’ll find something that works, even better, for me.

TL;DR;: do what works for you, adjust accordingly. Accept that others are doing what works for them, unless you happen to know where they happen to be on this fitness journey.


1 I debate the actual reliability of this device — depending on time of day and the amount of salt/water I’ve had over the past previous 24 hours, this reading can appear quite different . . . but I do trust the trend of the numbers.
2 For example, last night, I was home with a whole hour of unscheduled time . . . so I sat on my spinning bike and played video games. And it felt wonderful.
Dec 3 14

Where I determine my favorite super hero

by John

The other day, my son asked me a pretty simple question, and, well, I couldn’t answer. I really couldn’t even come close to answering him. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to . . . but I’m finding that this question was just as difficult for me to answer as “what’s your favorite song1“. I don’t think my son realizes just how good he has it to be growing up in an era of superhero movies.

So I’m left trying to answer him.

So I’ve been debating the merits of the Super Heroes that I know, in an attempt to answer.

I should note that I’m not looking up any facts as I write this, so I don’t know when I’m referencing a movie, or a comic book, or a TV show, or my own faulty memory in detailing what I enjoy, don’t-enjoy about a certain character. Everything below should be read with a big giant “not checked for factual consistency” sic.

Iron Man

Part of me wants to answer Iron Man: a super-rich, super-smart, hard-drinking misogynist who seemingly has the ability to alter time so that he can build his Iron Man suits and protect the world from evil and bang hot chicks. Seriously, he kind-of defines what bachelor-John wishes he were (minus the “spent time being tortured in the desert” and having to have an electromagnet operating to keep shrapnel from stopping his heart stuff).

But, the truth is that, until the first of the movies? I knew Iron Man only as a Black Sabbath song – and Black Sabbath was one of those heavy metal bands that I wasn’t supposed to listen to, as a kid, because some kids were freebasing crack and trying to listen to the record in reverse and decided that Ozzy was saying bad things to them.

So I discounted Iron Man.

Super Man

Superman is a bit too perfect. Seriously, he feels like Cartman in the ninja-episode of South Park, where, when someone needs a new super power, well, Superman gets that power. Heat Vision? Cold Breath? X-Ray Vision? Super Strong? Ability to fly? Ability to revise history? Super farts? No, there’s too much in Superman.

I know the quote belongs to the next superhero I’m going to evaluate, but “with great power comes great responsibility,” and, well, there’s too much responsibility with Superman.

Spiderman

Spiders, honestly, freak me out a little bit. And, while I know “family is what we make of it,” well, I am a family guy. Someone who has lost so many of his family members and seems to always see those family members that he hasn’t lost placed in danger . . . that’s just too much for me.

Batman

Batman, honestly, is how I wanted to answer, originally. I remember watching the old Adam West Batman episodes each & every day, when I got home from school, on Nickelodeon. At least, I think it was on Nickelodeon. Anyway, I truly enjoyed that show, and I really like Batman: unbelievably smart, unbelievably rich, unbelievably powerful, takes care of his body, has a great set of friends to call upon to help him.

But my son? He loves Batman above most any other character . . . I, happily, play the Robin to his caped crusader. I don’t want to make him feel that he’s sharing the character.

The Other Justice League Members

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman may be the most under-appreciated superhero out there. But, I know incredibly little of her backstory.

Aquaman

I remember being painfully upset when I watched an episode of Super Friends & Aquaman wasn’t featured. Seriously, I got irrationally mad when this happened (not like the disappointment I felt when watching an Adam West Batman & Batgirl wasn’t featured . . . I liked Batgirl’s motorcycle, a lot, but that was just disappointment when she wasn’t there. Aquaman, I got angry that he played a minor role).

That said, I don’t know all that much about him – Aquaman was just a dude that I hoped I’d see on a television show I watched. I don’t know that I ever really envied him.

Captain America

I remember having a Captain America thermos, or something, and cherishing any site that I saw of him — but I was never a “comic book kid,” so, as I grew up in the 80’s, there was very little Captain America that crossed by me.

Voltron

I loved Voltron as a kid . . . but, sadly, I don’t know that I can name much in the way of details or character names, aside from the big robot that saved the day only when the five cat-robot-things worked together.

Optimus Prime

Wise, strong, always trying to ensure that good is being done, always looking out for his own. Seriously, Optimus Prime should, probably, be whom I base my parenting on. That said, I had an Optimus Prime toy as a kid, and it broke nearly as soon as I put it together. And then I got a new one, and it broke in the same way. So fuck Optimus Prime.

Lion-O

The leader of the Thundercats gets serious consideration. The Sword of Omens is a great weapon. But, while he had a, truly, kick-ass ensemble of sidekicks, from what I remember, Lion-O either found himself needing to be saved by someone else, or needing to save his friends/family because of something stupid someone did. Maybe my memory is especially faulty, but it seems that the Thundercats’ biggest enemy was their own stupidity, just amplified by Mumm-Rah.

He-Man

I really, really disliked how whiny Prince Adam was, when he wasn’t his bulky alter-ego.

The X-Men

Wolverine

Here we go with, again, someone that I would chose as a bachelor. As a kid, I marveled at his claws, but, when I watched the X-Men, it was all about:

Cyclops

Here we have Superman’s laser/heat vision without the “you must constantly be saving the world, all the time” thing. But, when push comes to shove? He’s kind of a dick.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If these hit their prime sooner, I’d have been all over them . . . as it stands, though? They were a “kid toy” when I was trying to delude myself into thinking that toys were for “little kids2.”


So, we’re left with one, single character, that I can recall from childhood that I’d say “yep, that’s my favorite.”

The Incredible Hulk

I remember watching the Lou Ferrigno series as a kid, and, even now, can distinctly remember being awed that there was a character who was always trying to “do right,” even though people from all sides were trying to mess with him. The Hulk maintained the ability to look through what had happened and see the path that he should take. At least, from my little boy memory, he seemed to be the most moralistic superhero (at least he was among the non-self-righteous superheros).

Though I’m trying to remember if there were entire episodes where Bruce Banner never changed into the Hulk, or if I would just get bored whenever the green fella wasn’t on the screen.

Now? He’s built like no one else — I’ll often tell myself, when talking myself out of lying back down after walking Benji “no way you’re going to be like the green guy if you don’t do your pull-ups right now”. On top of that? He’s, like a meditation master. And keeping my mind grounded? It’s something that I need to focus on, more.

On top of all of that? One of the toys that survived my childhood? A Hulk action figure that CJ absolutely cherished being able to play with. When he first received it, it was the first time I actually felt that he sensed that his dad was, once, a kid, just like him.

So, CJ? Who is my favorite super hero? We’re going to go with the Hulk.


1 A question that, when asked of me, drains color from my face and redefines the “deer in headlights” look. I have a favorite piece of music (Second movement (Largo) of Dvorák’s Symphony Number 9 in E Minor “From the New World,” but song? That can change weekly daily any time I listen to a new song.
2 While parenthood is, hardly, something minor – becoming a parent is a huge change that will alter your life in ways that you cannot have even fathomed. But, being able to play with toys again? It’s one of the great benefits.
Nov 30 14

Where snow brings out The Force

by John

The day before Thanksgiving, I worked from home. What started with “maybe I should work from home because the office will be a ghost town” turned into “I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it into the office to ensure that I’m there for a 6:30 meeting” turned into “no way I’m leaving home to drive home in an afternoon driving snow when I’d need to be in at 6:30, anyway, and, with the extra people traveling and the snow anticipated, getting in by 6:30 was iffy to begin with….”

So I worked from home.

And snow, it did. There wasn’t a tremendous amount, but it was enough that I was glad to not be driving in it. The kids, however, spent the day just begging to go outside. “Dad, can we play in the snow?” was heard, every few hours minutes seconds. Before too long, however, it was time for me to shut down the laptop, and we went outside.

First, we put on the snow clothing – snow pants, winter jackets, boots, hats, gloves . . . the works. Then, I dug the sleds out of the complete mess that is my garage. Then we went sledding . . . again and again and again. We have one really good sledding hill in my yard, and we, essentially, went down the hill, again and again, until the hill, simply, wasn’t traversable. At this point, The La started to complain that her fingers hurt, so we started toward the house.

But CJ begged us to stay. Then he begged me to push The La down the hill, one more time, as he ran into the house.

When he ran back, he had with him his blue toy lightsaber.

The toy’s hilt was buried in the snow. The boy asked me to pick him up by the ankle. Once suspended he tried, with all his mental might, to make the lightsaber fly to him.

I <3 my geeky son.

Nov 21 14

Where I present five random facts about myself #oldschoolblogging

by John
  • If you asked me, until the time I was about 11, what I wanted to be, while there was a chance I might have responded “fireman” or “policeman” or “doctor,” more than likely, I’d have answered “mad scientist.” To be honest, Doctor Horrible is kind-of my hero.
  • No question stresses me out more than “what is your favorite song?”
  • Whenever I visit somewhere where the sports scene is different than what I’m used to in the US, I make it my mission to understand the intricacies of a new sport. When last I visited Canada, I happened to be there over the Curling World Championships, and feel that I understand curling as well as a spectator might. When last I visited the United Kingdom, the Cricket World Cup happened to be played. I have no freaking idea what the hell I watched, and couldn’t have told you who was winning or losing or, really, anything about the game. I think I could officiate a game of Calvinball better than I could explain cricket.
  • I learned to cook because my mom was in a horrible car accident. After she got home from the wreck, she couldn’t cook. So I would help her (or blindly do whatever the heck she said, because I had no idea what I was doing). I seem to remember Christmas cookies (especially ricotta cheese cookies) and pepperoni bread being among my very first lessons. I love to cook, now, in part because I feel that I’m half-decent at it. And because I love food. Like, I really love food.
  • I first encountered the Inkheart effect (where you can recall vivid details about a vacation by thinking of a book you were reading on said vacation) in Norway, reading Interstellar Pig (a required book for summer reading) while on a cruise with my grandfather.
Nov 20 14

Where I chronicle an exceptionally busy day

by John
Benji cuddles

My alarm goes off at 5am.

Yesterday, however, my day started just before 4am.

Benji was outside, barking. Duffy went downstairs to bring him back in — but, after he came in, there was still noise being made, because Pip, our lovely cat, was caterwauling. Duffy came upstairs as the loud meows continued.

“She’s stuck in a tree,” I heard, my eyes still closed as I hadn’t given up, entirely, on the hopes of falling back to sleep.

I stood, put on shoes (exciting Benji, as he believed this was his cue for the start of a walk), put on my jacket (further exciting Benji, who really wanted his walk), walked outside, stood on the railing to our deck (which, had it not been hours before the buttcrack of dawn super early in the morning, or if I held the ability to think, I would not have done), extracted our cat from her frozen/scared state, escorted her to the basement (where dogs cannot visit), and went to lie back down.

Before I knew it, my alarm went off.

So I walked Benji. Then I fed both dogs (Snick, still, will not get out of bed to walk, especially in the cold. It’s funny, though, because Benji comes back from his walk and heads upstairs specifically to wake Snickelfritz up so that they can have breakfast together . . . this, I think, more comes from Benji’s enjoyment of food than for a real comraderie with Snick, however), then I talked myself into working out.

Then I did half of my eye-opener workout:

  • 7 pull-ups1
  • 10 parallel bar dips
  • 5 pistol squats (each leg)
  • 7 pull-ups
  • 5 pistol squats (each leg)

Then my alarm went off again, so it was upstairs to dress my still-asleep children (which, honestly, is just as much of a workout as what I had just completed) and then brush The La’s hair.

With each child in clothing (The La is going through a “girly” phase, so she ALWAYS wears tights and a dress, always . . . the first dress I put on her was, well, one that she had grown out of, so I had to fight the sparkly purple dress (her favorite) off of her, because I’m *that dad* and my daughter will dress modestly while I have still say over things).

Then it was downstairs to start the coffee (a process which makes me look like Captain OCD, but, as I’ve yet to actually have any coffee, a strict routine is the only thing that works:

  • Fill & place four mason jars of tap water in the microwave
  • Turn on microwave
  • Grind beans for Duffy’s latte
  • Pour water into percolator for Duffy’s latte
  • Put ground coffee in percolator for Duffy’s latte, assemble percolator, turn on burner
  • Grind beans
  • Add chia seeds to the top side of the filter in the French press
  • Add ground beans to the French press carafe
  • Add to blender:
    • 2 Tablespoons Ghee
    • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
    • 2 Tablespoons Maca powder
    • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Pull tart cherry juice, eggs, and skim milk from the fridge
  • Start milk frothing for Duffy’s latte
  • Add to blender:
    • 1 Tablespoon tart cherry juice
    • 2 eggs
  • Put milk, tart cherry juice, eggs back in fridge
  • Put a Splena in Duffy’s travel mug
  • Pour half of the now-percolated coffee into Duffy’s travel mug for her latte
  • Pour other half of the now-percolated coffee over measuring spoons in the blender so that I don’t waste any of those ingredients
  • Pour hot water from microwave into very large French press, place filter on
  • Add 1 scoop of whey protein isolate powder to the blender
  • Add frothed milk to Duffy’s travel mug, close lid on that latte

As my coffee was still brewing, I helped-to-get and saw my children out of the door before heading downstairs to complete my eye-opener workout (same as before – another 14 pull-ups, 10 dips, 10 pistols on each leg).

Then my phone rang.

Due to a tricky scheduling situation in the afternoon, I had flirted with the idea of working from home. But, now there was an 7:30 meeting that I needed to attend, and would have to serve as presenter . . . I needed to either rush out the door to get to the office in time (praying that there wouldn’t be traffic) or work from home. So I chose to work from home . . . I went upstairs, noticed that I could actually see defined abs (so I took a mostly safe-for-work selfie . . . because, hi, I’m vain, but that’s not news to you), got my computer, grabbing a basket full of dirty laundry on my way down, set up my computer, logged into the VPN, and actually took the time to think through what I would be presenting before blending (I wash any dirty dish I can find as the blender runs . . . because there are enough solids in the mixture that, well, the more time I give things to blend, the less time I spend chewing th concoction) then enjoying the monstrosity that is my morning coffee.

Because Abs!

I presented. It went well.

Immediately after the presentation, I ended up on a conference call (no computer sharing), and I started a load of laundry and folded the laundry in the dryer while participating on a detailed process call.

When I was off the phone, I started playing horror movies for background noise (I had just finished the audiobook of If Chins Could Kill, Bruce Campbell‘s autobiography, so I was quite tempted to watch the Evil Dead movies, and that’s just what I did) as I built & modified Java Server Pages.

The dryer ding went off just before my next conference call, and, again, I spent a call folding laundry, throwing the wet load in the dryer, and putting the now-folded laundry away (except for Duffy’s stuff — I don’t entirely know what goes where, we are best left to leaving each others’ clothes for the other to put away).

Then it was just about lunch time, and I was going to head downstairs for yet another workout (I do the eye opener every day — then on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays, I try to do a full-body routine, with Tuesday & Thursdays as days for stretching & yoga), but something Duffy said that morning stuck in my head: “it’s cold out there, but at least the windows weren’t frosted.

Our garage has turned into…a dumping area. Now, my truck doesn’t actually fit in the garage, so having one side of the garage as “large, random storage” isn’t all that bad a thing. But, the “large random storage” had taken up both bays of the two-car garage, and Duffy has been parking in the driveway. For the most part, this isn’t that big a deal — but, well, look at the morning schedule, I don’t have time to scrape windshields (I, myself, have just enough leeway in my schedule to start my car before I dress, and therefore deal with a frozen-over windshield). So, instead of a second workout, I cleared out the one bay of the garage, throwing out a bunch of stuff, moving other stuff around so that it’ll be a real pain to get out & ride a bicycle2.

By now, it was time for yet another conference call. I ate the last of the first back of noodle jars for lunch, and then made the next batch of six jars, then folded & put-away another load of laundry, all while discussing programming best practices.

Shrimp Pad Thai noodle jar

Then it was time to present, once again, so I went back to my computer. And presented details of how we take measurements against Quality Inspection Plan documents.

By now, it was almost 3, and I was still in my pajamas, so I threw on some clothes and went to pick up the kids, taking them to the grocery store before heading back home.

I started Jake and the Neverland Pirates on the TV for The La (CJ, through a series of bad choices the day before, had lost the ability to play video games) while creating a Unix daemon process on a server back at the office before I decided that “the work day was over,” which, coincidentally, coincided with the ending of Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

By now, it was CJ’s turn to pick something to watch on TV, and he wanted the Star Wars where “Anakin turns into Darth Vader,” so I put on Episode III and started dinner as The La painted with her water colors.

Dinner was a simple affair:

  • slather a little olive oil on chicken drumsticks before tossing in some spices
  • toss a little olive oil on a bunch cauliflower florets
  • poke a bunch of fork holes in some washed sweet potatoes
  • cook all that shit at 400 for an hour (turning at 30)

Roasted Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Cauliflower

As dinner baked, Leila & I played some complicated game of house, involving her Littlest Pet Shop figurines.

Then we noticed that CJ had fallen asleep. So The La wanted to watch more Jake & the Neverland Pirates, so I put that on, put away dry dishes, and cleaned the dishes from making lunches.

Getting The La juice, however, I noticed something green in the fridge . . . upon investigation, it was cheese. So I went through everything in the fridge, chucking anything that either had obviously gone bad or was a leftover where I could not remember the original serving. In this cleanup, I ran across some pumpkin that I had, previously, baked and set aside . . . it was still good, but I knew it wouldn’t be good for much longer. So, I started making my plantain pumpkin pies, in cupcake containers:

  • 3 cups roasted pumpkin flesh
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons milk
  • 6 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix all that shit together, slice three plaintains, line cupcake tin with sliced plantain so that they, kind-of, look like pie crusts, pour in solution, bake at 425 for 15 minutes before reducing heat to 350 and backing for another 30 minutes.

I took my dinner out just as I had the cupcake tins ready to go in, so I enjoyed my dinner while The La ate watermelon and pasta and watched TV and CJ slept.

Then CJ woke, but he was really, really grumpy.

So I tried to get him to eat something, but he was having none of that, so I declared that it was bath time. And a bath we had.

However, the still-grumpy CJ simply was *done* with things after I had washed the children (normally, bath is where he’ll sit and play with his guys3 until the water is cold), so he & I left Leila to play with Littlest Pet Shop creatures while we put on his PJ’s. By now, he was hungry, so we got The La out of the tub, put some pajamas on her, and I went downstairs as short-order cook: watermelon and pasta for CJ, a hot dog for The La as the twosome watched Justin Time on the TV.

In preparing the kids’ dinners (second dinner for The La . . . it’s surprising how much she takes after me), I noticed two severely overripe bananas on the counter . . . these was nearing the “rotten and not even usuable in banana bread” stage. I noted this for later action.

I delivered the kids’ food to them on the bed, because, well, I’m a pushover as a parent, and I let my kids eat while on my bed — there are, simply, bigger fish to fry, in my life.

With the kids eating on the bed, I pulled Benji off the bed, lest we get a situation where a child, too focused on the TV show, doesn’t notice the mutt eating whatever was in his/her hand. Benji took this as me saying “let’s play,” so he went to jump and wrestle.

I moved.

His paw caught the “happy early christmas because there was a really good deal on a Smart TV” present that Duffy & I got for each other.

The TV toppled to the ground.

Sound continued, but the picture? Didn’t.

Cracked TV

Fortunately (because television is a crutch that I absolutely leverage in parenting, and “each kid getting to pick a show to watch before we read books before bedtime” is a routine that works incredibly well), I still had the old, heavy TV & the old Roku around . . . so I set that up. In just a few minutes, all was right in the world again.

We brushed teeth & watched Justin Time.

Benji cuddled.

Benji cuddles

We turned off the TV and read books.

Duffy got home from conferences as I was lying down with the kids.

I went downstairs and made banana bread:

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee
  • 4 Tablespoons honey

Mix that shit together, pour into two mini-bread-loaf pans, bake a 350 until done (35-40 minutes in my oven).

I cleaned the dishes from dinner as that baked. After removing the bread, I went back upstairs, watched some TV with my wife (while laughing at the inane items that CJ will find to complain about in order to keep himself awake when he’s had a late nap) and promptly fell asleep.


1 I start every morning with a limited number of pulls, presses, and legs. My goal is to have everything done before too much time elapses, but I really want to get myself doing 20 pull-ups in a single set, so my sessions focus more on pulls than anything else. I start the week at x pull-ups per set (this week, it was 5) and I add one pull-up per set per day until I fail (today, I failed on my 8th, so I did 7 per each set — if I don’t fail, I’ll continue to the number prescribed: 5 on Monday, 6 on Tuesday, 7 on Wednesday, etc…, next week, I’ll start with 6 on Monday).
2 Temperatures have been well below freezing, and this winter is shaping up as an especially brutal event . . . I won’t be riding my bicycle until there are leaves on the trees once again.
3 Star Wars & DC comic figurines
Nov 17 14

Where my #symphonynight selfies take on a life of their own

by John

Nov 17 14

Where I try to get all fancy with my lunches

by John
Ginger Beef Noodle Jar

Yes, the title is “Daddy Runs a Lot,” but I don’t run all that much, to be honest with you. When I do run, it’s typically for long distances, and I enjoy running — but, I don’t run like I once used to (I just don’t have enough time). I do try to keep myself fit, however . . . which is a necessity for someone who thinks about sex food all day long.

From the moment I wake, until the moment I pass out from exhaustion go to bed, I’m thinking about sex food1. That said, I’m fucking busy — week days, I’m up at 5. On an “easy day” I might get home after sunset from karate with CJ, and will throw together something quickly for dinner . . . other days? I get home just in time to head back to bed. This means, if I want to plan ahead & choose to eat healthy throughout the week, weekends are my only opportunity.

It used to be that I’d throw: chicken, spices, & chicken broth; pork, spices, & pork broth, beef, spices, & beef broth; or chicken, spices, chicken broth, coconut milk, & tomato paste in the crock pot over night Sunday or Monday evening, and pack everything up for the week, for a low-fat, high-protein, relatively low-calorie, and mostly-healthy lunch. But, that didn’t include much in the way of vegetables.

So, Sunday, before church, I started wrapping sweet potatoes in aluminum foil, let them cook while I’m off playing with my organ serving as church organist, so that I had sweet potatoes for a veggie, and then cook meat overnight, Sunday night, and wrap it all up in the morning, before dressing the kids, on Monday morning.

But, I really like to work out first second thing in the morning2.

So, the other day, my friend Cameron posted about her adventures with “noodle lunch in a jar” answer to the Serious Eats “just add hot water lunch” project. And, boy, did that look yummy. So I had to try it, myself . . . primarily because it could be prepared in MINUTES (the crock pot doesn’t require a whole lot of “on” time, but it does mean that I need to plan out when to put everything in the pot, and when to get everything out of the pot. This, I only needed to space out a single time.

Ginger Beef Noodle Jar

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 tablespoon Better than Bullion, beef flavor
  • 6 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 6 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 bag of frozen, chopped broccoli
  • 1 bag of frozen snow peas
  • 1 bag of frozen, sliced carrots
  • 1 package beef jerky, cut into small bits
  • 8oz flat rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil
  2. As water is boiling, split the Beef stock starter, ginger paste, & garlic among 6 mason jars
  3. Split the vegetables among those mason jars
  4. Split the beef jerky among those mason jars
  5. By now, the water should be boiling, if not, wait for water to boil
  6. Place rice noodles in boiling water, cook for 3 minutes
  7. Drain and shock noodles with cold water
  8. Toss noodles with sesame oil
  9. Split the noodles among the mason jars
  10. Cover & close jars, store in fridge for up to a week.

When you’re ready to eat, fill jar with boiling water, shake, let sit for a few minutes, eat/drink.


Making six of these means that I have lunches set through Wednesday, when, through some fluke of my schedule, I’ll actually be home all night, so I’ll make another set for the latter part of the week.

Shrimp Pad Thai Noodle Jar

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6 tablespoon Better than Bullion, vegetable flavor
  • 3 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 1 bag of frozen snow peas
  • 2 heads of bok choy, chopped
  • 8 oz pre-cooked, frozen “salad” shrimp
  • 8oz flat rice noodles
  • 1 can bean sprouts
  • 4oz dry roasted, chopped peanuts
  • 1 bunch scallions

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil
  2. As water is boiling, split the stock starter, peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil among 6 mason jars
  3. Split the vegetables among those mason jars
  4. Split the shrimp among those mason jars
  5. By now, the water should be boiling, if not, wait for water to boil
  6. Place rice noodles in boiling water, cook for 3 minutes
  7. Drain and shock noodles with cold water
  8. Toss noodles with sesame oil
  9. Split the noodles among the mason jars
  10. Split the bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions among the mason jars
  11. Cover & close jars, store in fridge for up to a week.

Again, when ready to eat, fill with boiling water, shake, and allow to sit for a few minutes


The important things to note are that you can’t really count on the addition of boiling water to cook anything (there is talk about bacon being thin enough to cook in the hot water, but I’m not sure I’m going to trust that . . . that said, I’m thinking of using bacon jerky) . . . veggies that you put in, you need to either pre-cook or enjoy them raw. The meat needs to be pre-cooked – smoked meats actually work well, because they absorb the water, remaining “firm” without being “chewy.” The noodles need to be “ready to eat”.

In future weeks, assuming I’m not too tired of these by then, I plan to really experiment with different flavor combinations (lox & bacon & avocado to feature prominently in my plans, though, perhaps, not all at once). I’ll try to report back on what works & what doesn’t.

To eat, I plan to use chopsticks, and then drink whatever is left of the broth.


1 Yes, I’m thinking about sex, too. I consider discussing recipes as an advanced form of “talking dirty”.
2 Benji demands his walk once my alarm goes off . . . wind, cold, sleet, snow, rain . . . doesn’t matter, he wants his walk. So I have little choice but to walk first thing, every morning . . . but, after I’m done with that, before I dress the kids, I much prefer working out than packing up a week’s worth of lunches, as doing so just means more cleanup before coffee . . . and that’s no fun at all.
Nov 10 14

Where accomplished & discouraged intersect

by John

Saturday, I mostly rested. Saturday night, I prepared my breakfast as I made dinner, went to bed early, & mostly slept well. For the day before a marathon, I was far-better prepared than I’ve ever been, previously.

I got to City Island, got my bib, prepared myself.

The horn went off, and I started running.

I wish I could tell you tales of accomplishment & how I “kicked asphalt” all along the way. But I can’t.

It was cold, but not too cold right at the start. I felt extraordinarily good. I was light on my feet.

I found myself, from miles 1-4, hanging out with the 3:45 crowd. I was hoping to break 4-hours1, but, again, I felt good, and never thought about slowing down.

I knew I had been neglecting my long runs . . . it was intentional: my plan was to make my body stronger, make myself leaner, not burn myself out running on the road. I had hoped to be strong through mile 18, when things started to get hilly. I planned to be running at mile 20, when things got flat once again. From there, I planned to ignore the pain and “just run a 10k”.

I got more discouraged than I had anticipated when I saw the faster runners working their way back from the HACC campus to Wildwood Park.

I knew I’d slow down over the hills – it was all in my plan. And I did slow down on the hills. But, speeding back up didn’t happen.

When I exited Wildwood Park, I sipped some Gatorade. Both of my hamstrings were twitching. I tried to move faster. I thought I was moving faster . . . but looking back on my splits, I was not.

The Gatorade sat, fitfully, in my stomach. I started spitting more than usual2.

But I continued running.

I started thinking about punching any spectator who was telling me that I was “almost to the end.” But chose against it because punching someone would have taken a lot of effort, and I didn’t trust myself to start running again, if I allowed myself to stop.

I accidentally unplugged my headphones, so I took them out.

My shirt started to hurt against my skin, so I took it off.

I started running along the river for the last time.

And then I knew I had an issue — something was going to come up & out of my stomach, whether I wanted it to, or not. Stopping held little interest. Again, I didn’t trust myself to get started, if I stopped. But trusting that I’d be clear of a runner if I puked while running? Well, I can ensure that I don’t spit or blow a snot-rocket on someone . . . but I wasn’t sure what might happen here.

I puked into the Susquehanna

My hamstrings, upon being allowed to break, rejoiced.

I started to try to run. It didn’t happen.

All told, I think I walked for about two, maybe three-tenths of a mile, before I urged my legs into a trot, once again.

I climbed the hill to the bridge, and gave everything I had for the last two-tenths of a mile.

I finished.

My time was 6 minutes, 11 seconds more than my target time.

I’m proud of myself . . . I went out & ran a marathon. I bested my best time, at the distance, by over 40-seconds-per-mile. I bested my best time for this event by over a minute-per-mile. I didn’t allow getting sick to stop me.

But I wanted to break that 4 hour barrier, and I didn’t.

I’m signed up for a marathon in the spring — life got in the way of my plans3, this year . . . I had hoped to win the “Road Apple” award between the Garden Spot Village Marathon & Bird-In-Hand Half-Marathon4, but didn’t run the latter . . . so, I’m trying for the same, again, in 2015, but I was giving serious consideration to retiring my attempts at the full-marathon distance. I’m so far away from qualifying for Boston that I can, honestly, call such a goal little more than a pipe dream5. I can “pull a half-marathon out of my ass,” to this day, but the full — well, yesterday told me that I’m still far away from considering a marathon “just another run.”

Last night was a rough, rough night. I believe my “this shirt is bothering the fuck out of me” and stomach issues were a direct result of dehydration. I started consuming fluids, as quickly as possible, after the run . . . and I’m wondering if I may have over-hydrated (while I didn’t have a LOT of wine, I’m sure the wine that I did have didn’t help). Last night, I put myself to bed far too early, waking up almost every hour, on the hour, to pee and/or retch. Regulating my body temperature was…difficult, to say the least. All in all, I was in bad shape (I’m feeling far better today . . . my knees aren’t exactly fans of taking the stairs, sitting down, or standing from a sitting position; I have chafe marks & blisters on some of my more sensitive areas, but all of that, I anticipate, will be remedied by tomorrow).

Despite the suck, though, I’m not done. I’ll be back on the course. Next year, I’m breaking 4 hours.


1 15 minutes, over a 26.2 mile race, might not seem like a huge time differential, but, trust me, it is.
2 Yeah, I spit as I run, especially during long distances. I’ve been known to blow a snot rocket or two. And fart. Don’t you want to run with me?
3 A close family friend got married . . . so I went to the wedding, rather than run the race. Because family always wins.
4 Both of these runs head through Amish country, meaning that there are a good number of horses on the road, and with horses on the road, there is horse poop on the road, so runners are best served avoiding these “road apples.” If you run both races, in the same year? You get the “Road Apple” plaque, which is a plaque with petrified horse poop shellacked onto it.
5 I say that, yet I have improved my marathon time by over three-minutes-per-mile from my first marathon (though it’s hardly been a linear progression), when I hit 40, the times for Boston Qualifying start to turn to my favor . . . so I can say that qualifying for Boston isn’t a goal of mine, and it isn’t . . . but the damn idea is in my head.
Nov 7 14

Where I think to Sunday’s Marathon

by John

This Sunday, I’m running.

At the end of a marathon, it’s going to hurt whether you’re speeding up or slowing down. You may as well push.

– Summer Sanders

I’m running 26.2 miles.

Marathon running, like golf, is a game for players, not winners. That is why Callaway sells golf clubs and Nike sells running shoes. But running is unique in that the world’s best racers are on the same course, at the same time, as amateurs, who have as much chance of winning as your average weekend warrior would scoring a touchdown in the NFL.

– Hunter Thompson

In some ways, I’m better prepared than I’ve ever been, for a run. I’m stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been in my life. I know the course well. I’ve set-out, and, in my mind, have conquered the trickiest portion of the route.

When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.

– Haile Gebrselassie

There is less of me to drag around the course. And the me that remains is better-suited to do it. I stand in good shape.

The marathon can humble you.

– Bill Rodgers

But the fact that I have been running far less than I ever have, since I started getting into running, has me a bit worried.

I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.

– Bill Hanc

And that I’m getting over a cold has me doubly worried.

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

– Lance Armstrong

Still, I plan to finish strong.

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

– Steve Prefontaine

The race will start on a closed road, with high hopes, anxious energy, and loud music.

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.

– Doug Larson

I’ll run through the streets of downtown Harrisburg, keeping in mind that this is my race, and I will try my damndest to keep from spending too much energy trying to run past slower runners, or being bothered by anyone passing me.

Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.

– Tim Noakes

The spectators will grow sparse and the roads will turn lonely. I’ll get my first glimpse of those runners who run far faster than me. I’ll keep my head held high.

The feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running.

– Sarah Condor

The crowds will return, street bands will play, I’ll keep myself from getting too excited.

The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals

– Hal Highdon

Again, the crowds will leave as I run along the river. I will find solace in the beauty.

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.

– Jacqueline Gareau

I’ll weave my way through residential housing, waving to those, warm, enjoying a cup of coffee from their porch, watching those of us who are out there, willing ourselves further.

Few things in life match the thrill of a marathon.

– Fred Lebow

The crowds will return, I’ll refrain from getting too excited, keeping my stride in tow.

Marathoning is just another form of insanity.

– John J. Kelly

I’ll catch another glimpse of those who will be finishing before me. Those who will be in comfortable clothing, and comfortable shoes, and off their feet. I’ll refrain from trying to sneak across the path to skip a portion of the race.

No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes. More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes.

– Don Kardong

The hills will hit. I’ve run them before. I’ll plow through.

In the first half of the race, don’t be an idiot. In the second half, don’t be a wimp!

– Scott Douglass

I’ll be able to taste the finish. I’ll will my legs to keep going. Back through residences, back to the river.

That’s the beauty and the horror of the marathon, that it has that sense of, ‘Am I going too fast? Could I blow up? Am I gonna hit the wall?’ And there’s something about overcoming that.

– Ryan Lamppa

I’ll appreciate the beauty of the river, and I’ll use the solitude to focus on the cheering crowds at the end.

Finish: Even if you run a slower than expected time, you succeed in any marathon when you finish

– Hal Highdon

The hill to the last bridge will not destroy me.

Do, or do not. There is no try.

– Yoda

I will pull out my earbuds (possibly having to remove my earmuffs, first, though something tells me I’ll be throwing those in my pocket well before the end, if they even make it to the start) and sprint my way through the bridge.

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

– T.S. Eliot

I will cross the finish line with my head held high, a smile on my face, ignoring the pain in my body.

Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.

– Lori Culnane