Sunday, September 30, 2012

Some weighty issues for world's slowest human

Day 53, Sept. 30, 2012

Today I'm 188.4 pounds of rolling thunder.

And after all the junk I ate yesterday to stay awake on the late shift, it's amazing the scale didn't register 208.4 pounds.

I'm going to start my day with a tip of the hat to a family friend who underwent successful surgery on Friday to have a brain tumor removed. There's no hill, or wind or weather that I could face on the road that requires the kind of courage and determination this kid and his family need to face this ordeal. Our thoughts and prayers are with them on this odyssey.

Today I did something I haven't done in forever. At least not as a part of my daily running regimen. I strapped on a pair of 5-pound ankle weights and hit the road.

I originally bought the weights to use while cycling on a stationary bike indoors. But all that shaking with each pedal stroke usually just resulted in ankles that were rubbed raw and little benefit.

Back in the day, my first taste of wearing ankle weights was as a high school freshman. We'd strap them on and then wind tape around them and wear the weights for our two-hour practice every day. The theory being that if you worked out in weights you'd be able to run faster, jump higher and eventually leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Now there are all sorts of theories about how beneficial or detrimental working with weights can be. And over the years, I've subjected myself to ankle weights, weighted vests, wrist weights and even carrying simple dumbbells while I run.

Generally, I've had good results. In high school, I could actually touch the rim of a standard basketball goal, and I suffered few ankle or joint injuries.

But I've never really stuck to a workout program using weights other than in high school.

So for whatever reason I strapped on my handy weights and hit the door. Maybe it's my new-found energy. Maybe it's the success I've been having with wrist weights. Whatever it is, I decided to take the plunge.

So I hit the door at an even more plodding pace than normal. I gave myself the benefit of a slight downhill as I rolled out for an hour-long jog. I set my sights on a neighborhood ramble that included several hill climbs. I made all the climbs with little problem.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it all went. I made my loop, eased down the hill and caught the end of the Chiefs loss to the Chargers.

I'm not sure when I'll crack the weights out next, but if you see the world's slowest human plodding even slower than usual, give me a wave.

Friday, September 28, 2012

World's Slowest Human Faster? ... Maybe

Day 52 -- Sept. 28, 2012

Today I am 189.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

There's an old saying that goes even a broken watch is right twice a day. Well, yesterday I found out that even a broken clock on a radio is in the ballpark -- right?

I decided yesterday that since I've been running so well I'd test myself against the clock -- again. What was I thinking? Hadn't I sworn off the 3-mile run of doom after posting a really, really slow time on Tuesday? If you missed it, I pretty much had done so.

But I was full of myself and my new found stamina and resolve, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and try my 3-mile route again. This time, unfortunately, I was toting my portable radio with its sketchy time-keeper on the front cover.

Now this fine piece of electronics is the best you can buy at Target for $15. It's neither water resistant nor reliable to keep your preset stations in its memory. But the price was right, and I've nursed it along for about a year.

So I got to my usual starting point at the top of the hill and waited for the dial to tick over to the next minute and off I went. My main thought was to keep loose on the downhills. I read somewhere that it should feel like your falling forward, so I tried to loosen my hips and relax my upper body and it seemed to work.

I made the first mile in under 10 minutes. Or at least I thought it was under 10 if the clock was working correctly. I knew if I was under 21 at the 2-mile point I'd be doing well (remember, these are world's slowest human standards). 

The trick here was I had to count 40 Mississippis at the stoplight, and when I hit the corner, I'd have to do another time count to find out where I was on the running clock. So what did I do? I ball-parked a number and kept going.

It was downhill from there with two more dead-stop stoplights. Dang. More Mississippis to count.

I finally made it to the last stretch of about three city blocks with a slight incline and somehow found some acceleration in my legs. I clicked my radio to off so I could see the time and begin my count so I'd know where my seconds were.

About 70 to 80 counts into my calculation I gave up figuring my $15 time piece wasn't going to pay any dividends. I'm figuring I was three to four minutes faster than last time. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

So if you see the world's slowest human, who might just be a little faster, out on the street, give me a wave.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Say No To Veg-O-Matic

Day 51 -- Sept. 26, 2012

Today I'm 191 pounds of rolling thunder.

It's been just over a month since the lung exerciser came into our home.

If you've been reading along, this was the device I ordered off to help increase my lung strength and breathing capacity.

Now I'm about the biggest gizmo and gadget skeptic as there is out there. To me the Pocket Fisherman and Veg-O-Matic are strictly non-starters.

That's not to say I haven't tried my share of mega-shakes, wrist-strength builders and other revolutionary gadgets that came with promises of weight loss, muscle gain and general stamina increase. 

But I've always been a poor runner and after four or so years of running on a regular basis I decided to roll the dice and try the lung exerciser. My idea was to find something that works but not so expensive that if it was a total fail I'd get upset every time I saw it collecting dust on my nightstand.

Now I'll grant you $40 was a high price to pay for some plastic pipe, a converted plastic mouthpiece and a tiny plastic ball, but you know what? This just might be Viagra for your lungs. OK, not Viagra, but definitely a form of performance enhancing drug.

In the last week, I've run my normal 6.5-mile loop twice without stopping to walk, as well as my 5.5-mile trek yesterday. And while I'm no faster than before, I find that I'm not stopping for my heart and lungs to catch up with each other.

And the great thing is, no 'roid rage. You just have to be sure and use the device daily. And, of course, wash the thing out on a regular basis.

Now I'll be the first to admit I sound a lot like Darth Vader sitting there wheezing in and out of my lung exerciser while I type away at my computer. And I look a lot like a person on one of those late-night infomercials.

But so far, so good. I made my normal long loop today with only a few stop light stops, but more important, no walking. It was a mild day, and that may be part of the difference in my success, but I chugged down the last hill with enough energy to keep going.

So if you see the world's slowest human out hitting the streets with a new-found spirit, give me a wave.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Did I Ever Race The Clock?

Day 50 -- Sept. 25, 2012

Today I'm 193.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

It's been a while since I raced the clock. Quite a while in fact.

One of the nice things about being the world's slowest human is never having to punch the clock.

But every once in a while I indulge my vanity and try a little test of speed. And just as often I get a punch to the gut that tells me that I'm not fooling anyone.

Nevertheless I've been running well lately with few if any breaks to walk, so I thought I'd test my mettle with a 3-mile timed run. I have a 3-mile route that is a mixture of stop lights and small hills, so timing is everything if you want to keep momentum going.

I warmed up by jogging up the hill near my house. It's a half-mile stretch that tells me where I'm at for the day. Run all the way up, and it's going to be a good day. Run/walk/run and it's OK. Run and then walk, and you're asking for trouble.

But part of the reason I start on top of the hill is to give myself a rolling start. I know downhills are tougher on ankles, knees and other joints, but so far it hasn't been an issue.

So I jogged to the top of the hill and took it as an omen that it was going to be a good day out on the road. I stopped at the corner to stretch and loosen my muscles, which, by the way, are genetically hard-wired to be tight as piano wire.

It was a mild yet humid day, so sweat came easy as I punched my wrist watch and started down the mile-long descent to the first turn. And even though you say time doesn't matter, just once it would be nice to look down at the half-mile or mile marker and be surprised by the number staring back at you.

There was no surprise at the half-mile mark. The number on my watch was large and getting larger.

I made the mile turn in a time that could as easily have been measured on a sun dial as on a digital wrist watch. Ouch! But I was still running. No walks.

I rounded the corner and began the second mile, which is filled with rolling hills and a single stop light. A long stop light, but the only one along the way. Catch it just right and you can maintain momentum from the hill you're on as you ascend the next one. Miss it, and it's a long wait for green.

I figured I'd be OK if I was only a minute slower in the second mile -- not proud, but OK. So moral victory No. 2 was making the second mile with all its hills without walking and only a minute slower than the downhill mile at the start of the run.

I turned the corner and headed for home. A half-mile downhill followed by a long flat (with two lights) and then a gradual ascent to the finish. I saw a walker in the distance so I pushed to try and catch her. I made the stop light and passed the walker on the flat.

I made the second light with little delay and rolled up the final climb. My time was horrible, but I had gone the distance without a walk or much of a pause. Victory was in the doing and not in the time was my rationalization, and I'm sticking to it.

So the next time you see the world's slowest human out on the streets, give me a wave.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My New Motto: Just Enjoy Doing It!

Day 49, Sept. 24, 2012

Today I'm 192.6 pounds of rolling thunder.

Sometimes I think it's more like blogging for my life. As a contract writer/editor, you move from one big thing to the next big thing always taking that leap of faith that there will be a next big thing. The reality is that sometimes it's not so much a leap of faith as a push into the chasm of "what the heck am I going to do next to put bread on the table?"

Someday, before all my grown-up days are played out, I hope someone will explain to me the difference between a passion and just the things we like to do every day. Am I passionate about running? I don't know. I enjoy it. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel fit and sleep better. I miss it when I don't do it for a day.

But I have no desire to race. My days of have any real speed are well behind me. I just like doing it. Maybe unlike Nike's "Just Do It" motto, my credo should be "Just Enjoy Doing It." So if you see that on a T-shirt somewhere, remember it was me, me, me who brought it to you first.

I was brought up in the sports tradition of being stoic in both victory and defeat. It was the old never let them see you crack mentality that was fostered in a previous generation. 

Sort of a Bjorn Borg -- yes; Jimmy Connors -- not so much mindset.

We learned to check our emotions at the door, and if you did score a touchdown, make a basket or win a game, you were expected to act like you'd done it before. No fist pumping, tweet chirping, Facebook posting vibrato. Doing well was its own reward.

It's hard to know if this was fertile ground for growing many passions.

You can tell people who have a passion in their lives. It might be their work, their art or their music. You can tell because it occupies every corner of the being, both conscious and subconscious.

I admire that in people. Our older son told me the other day that he has the unique problem of being good at many things, so it makes the struggle to choose a college a little more difficult. And recently a neighbor talked about her child's passion for music but lack of academic prowess.

Hmmm, which is better? To have so many options but no single passion, or a passion that drives your every waking moment? I suppose philosophers and great thinkers have pondered this issue for generations. I know in my personal life being a jack-of-many-trades has been both a blessing and a curse. Many times I've been referred to as a good writer for a photographer and a good photographer for a writer.

But I'm not sure either is a true passion. It's just the things I enjoy doing and feel I have a little bit of talent at. If somebody branded it a passion, I'm not quite sure I could live up to that moniker.

So is running my passion? I enjoy the clip-clop pace of my daily run and the endorphin rush that is associated with it. But a passion? I'm not quite there yet.

Regardless of your passion, if you see the world's slowest human out on the streets today, give me a wave.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Should Have Been There ... Magic!

Day 48 -- Sept. 23, 2012

Today, I'm 192 pounds of rolling thunder.

Which isn't bad since I took yesterday off from my usual running regimen.

Instead, we went to watch our older son race at Rim Rock Farm. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

 Today I found a gear I didn't know I had. Because it's a weekend day I did an hour run with no preset patch. I just went out and wandered with a basic loop in mind. There were hills and flats on a gorgeous cool morning that was sun-kissed from the get-go.

I got passed by the usual folks -- the serious runners; the people who run with dogs; jugglers and guys in gorilla costumes. It's not easy being the world's slowest human.

But with time running out, I felt the need to try and power up the last hill. That's right, I said power. 

Now the casual observer might not have noticed it, but I could feel the surge as I made my way up the climb. And instead of walking from time to time, I was able to accelerate.

Now my little victory was nothing compared to what we witnessed the day before at Rim Rock. This was something of an elite race with competitors from throughout the Midwest. But the performance by Shawnee Mission West's Alli Cash was nothing short of remarkable. 

Cash covered the hilly, wind-swept course north of Lawrence in 13:59, shattering the 4K course record and finishing 14 seconds faster than any previous high school girl had ever completed the loop. 

A week ago we had seen her finish two minutes ahead of the pack, so we knew something special could be in store. But with the hills and the wind at Rim Rock, who could predict she'd run this fast.

Hats off to the Vikings' senior. She's got that ease of stride that the great one do that make them appear not to be exerting at all while pushing their inner red line to give it all they've got.

So if you missed my special charge up the hill today, it wasn't so great. I'll just leave you with some pictures of someone you should have seen. Magic!

Read more here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

You've Got To Put Something Out There ...

Day 43, Sept. 21, 2012

Today, I'm 191.2 pounds of rolling thunder.

A not-so-famous philosopher once said, "You've got to put something out there, if you expect to get something back."

For the past 14-plus months, I've been a part-time runner, full-time contract writer/editor and an avid job seeker.

During that time, I've seen my weight go up and down. My endurance ebb and flow. And my focus to get healthier take three steps forward along with the occasional two steps back.

And during that time I've worked for a network of news websites under one ownership group. I've worked as an editor for three specific television station news websites and led all three to 30-day page view highs. I helped one site nearly double its monthly page views and assisted in their redesign and migration to a new content management system.

During that time, I've seen the ups and downs of most job seekers in today's economy. I've interviewed with small companies and mega-companies. I've been in talks with folks from the public and private sector. All told, I've interviewed with more than 20 companies, which I take as a good sign. 

The one thought I come away with is that any candidate that tells you the economy is recovering is not looking for a job. 

So I keep pushing, both out on the road and on the job seeking front. Each has its own rewards. I've met a lot of neat people while looking for jobs in industries I'd never really thought much about. And I've surprised myself with the improvements I've made in my running.

Besides, it was our younger son who offered that sage wisdom beyond his years when he said, "You've got to put something out there, if you expect to get something back."

Today, I'm going to put something out there when I go for my run and as I look for a full-time job. How else will I ever get something back?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Not So Much I Run, But That I Continue

Day 43, Sept. 20, 2012

Today, I am 188.8 pounds of rolling thunder.

But that doesn't really seem to matter so much today. So what?

It's funny how life can change in an instant.

One minute you're a working person defined by the things you do every day at the office or computer terminal. The next day, you're a job seeker grasping onto whatever lifeline the new normal sends you.

And then, there are the days when you get tragic emails. Yesterday was one of those days when one tiny two-sentence message changed everything by jarring you back to the reality of what really matters in life.

This message came from a friend telling us that a young man who we had seen grow from crazy preteen into a quality young man was extremely sick. And while the prognosis is unknown at this point, the reality of how unsettling it is to the teen's life and the lives of those around him stands imminently and abundantly clear.

The note also served to remind me not only how fragile life is but how genuinely nice people can be as they rally around the family. Messages of support and well-wishes have flooded in, and countless people have pledged their support.

It all kind of puts my feeble attempts at being a better runner into the category of so-what.

So what that I struggle to make it over the hills? So what if I'm not as fast as a woman running with her dog? So what if my shoes are old and my shorts aren't from a designer label?

So what?

Today's Runner's World kick in the butt quote comes from runner/writer Hal Higdon who says: "It's not so much that I began to run, but that I continued."

So that's the what? That we continue to embrace each day. That we embrace each mile. That we embrace our friends and families even more so now that we see how quickly things can change in our lives.

Now when you see the world's slowest human out on the street today, just give me a wave and say, so what.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Any Movement Is Good Movement

Day 42, Sept. 19, 2012
Today, I'm 188.8 pounds of rolling thunder.

I say, if you can't run, at least walk. 

Several of you have sent me notes telling me they're inspired by this blog but can't run for medical reasons -- knees, hips, shins, etc. All legit reasons, I say. No need to take the needle like a certain football coach in our area might suggest.

My feeling is any moving is good moving, especially if it lifts your heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes. And remember, you won't always be able to measure your improvement on a weight scale, sometimes it will come in improved range of motion, clothes fitting better, or just a general feeling of being more fit and having more energy.

Yesterday was another good biorhythm day for me. My breathing and circulation were in sync, and so I ran my entire short route with weights on my hands.

Now a lot of running experts will tell you not to run with weights, and if you try it, you need to listen to your body. Even light weights (1-3) pounds in each hand can throw off your balance; change your stride; affect the muscles in you back, shoulders and arms and a variety of other things.

So just be warned, if you try running or walking with weights, be careful. Start with light weights and work your way up in time, distance and/or weight.

Back in the day, we used to run with ankle weights trapped to our legs to improve our jumping ability, or so the theory goes. I pretty much remained Earth-bound, but you never know, I could touch the rim of a basketball goal and now I'd struggle to reach the net.

Oh, to have those young legs again.

With the temperature dipping as we head into autumn on Saturday the air has become less humid and the running more enjoyable. Whereas a month ago, slogging through 100-degree heat was a labor of running love, today it's enjoyable to get out and enjoy the weather.

My only run/walk/run for the day yesterday was on the first hill, which is more of a warm-up and barometer for how the rest of the day will go. My secret now is to not limit the walking but to limit the duration of the walks so that my overall walk time is lessened.

So today looks like another good day to hit the bricks -- weights or no weights. It's my long day on the streets, so you'll have even more time to wave at the world's slowest human.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Call Me A Biorhythm Believer

Day 40, Sept. 17, 2012

Today I'm 192 pounds of rolling thunder.

Either that or my digital scale is stuck at 192, and I'm just a random amount of rolling whatever, but we'll go with thunder for argument's sake.

So today was a long run day, and the weather was cooperating when I hit the pavement for my 6.5-mile jaunt. 

The first hill is normally an indicator of how the day will go. It's about a half-mile from bottom to top, so if I start sucking wind in the first 100 yards, I pretty much know it's going to be one of those days.

You don't hear people talking as much about biorhythms as you did some years ago. The theory being that your body has physical highs and low on a relatively regular cycle.

I guess I fall into the camp of believers. There's just times when my lungs move easier and my heart keeps beat without as much stress.

And while this belief is purely anecdotal on my part, I'm going with it. I think there are times when we all perform better than others. But I'll admit to a certain amount of serendipity to my biorhythms. I definitely have never tried to chart my ups and downs.

Today was an up. I felt good from the moment I stepped out of the door and started off on a trot to the moment I got halfway up the first hill. But my breathing was easy, so I got my mind around the task at hand and made it the rest of the way up the hill.

I completed the long rise that came next without issue and started in on the next big hill. I made it to the top of hill No. 2, which is shorter, but steeper than the first. It's always an accomplishment for me to make it up this hill without walking, and it felt especially good today to cruise down the back side even picking up my pace as I continued down the hill.

Boy those biorhythms must have been peaking because I made a few stoplight stops but didn't really walk until I got halfway up my nemesis hill. But even that one only got the best of me a few times.

And the hill in the sixth mile took some of the snap out of my legs, but I managed to only walk for two short bursts. Then I charged down the final hill and called it a day.

Tomorrow is another day, so we'll see how that one treats me. But if you see the world's slowest human, remember to wave at me.