Monday, March 31, 2008

Visit to Consumerland

I was never fond of listening to music while running. My early attempts to do so in college aptly demonstrated my tendency to follow the rhythms and tempos of what I was listening to -- helpful in dancing, not so much when you're trying to maintain an even pace or a regular cadence on a run. And it wasn't just a problem of making me run too slow or too fast, it could actually mess up the rhythm of my breathing and give me cramps.

No, not helpful at all.

And while I like being able to tune out of my brain, I also enjoy tuning in to the world around me -- the birds, the crunching of gravel or leaves on a trail, wind, water. Not to mention the advantage of hearing the traffic barreling up behind you.

But when I decided to train for a half-marathon a few years ago, and facing the prospect of regular runs of more than an hour (not to mention finally sucking it up and running at the gym), I thought it might be time to reconsider. Thankfully, I found that with the slower tempos of the long runs, I was able to just cruise along without significant trouble, mostly. A few songs would get me going, but overall it didn't mess with my head too much.

At the time, I was using a moderately crappy Rio sport mp3 player with a 512MB card in it. It got the job done, mostly, but on particularly cold days it would decide to hard fail in a fairly unpleasant manner. More recently, I've been borrowing the SOOTTAD's iPod, but it's hers, and it has her tunes and playlists on it (which are excellent, btw) and it's a bit bulkier than I'd prefer to carry or stick in a pocket and, well, it'd rather not keeping sweating all over it, or worse, possibly break it.

All that to say, I finally sucked it up and decided to buy an iPod for myself.

Price and features finally hit the right spot for me. The new iPod shuffles have 2GB of storage and are comfortably under $100. I originally tried to get one on Amazon, which afforded me an additional $5 in saving. (not to mention the *cough*absence of sales tax*cough*) The listing said the average shipping time was 1-3 weeks, but I wasn't in any particular hurry, and I was trying to maximize my value with that WHOLE FIVE DOLLARS OFF.

Just under 3 weeks later, and I notice while checking the status that the current shipping time has now been updated to 1-2 months. I think to myself suckers! good thing I ordered mine 3 weeks ago... until I get the email saying that my deliver date has been pushed back to end of April/mid-May.

Ok... Fine. I'll go to the Apple store.

I'm planning on being in the Natick area over the weekend, so I check online to see if there's a store there, since the only one I'd personally stumbled on in my own travels was the one in the Burlington Mall. For those unfamiliar with Natick, I have numerous acquaintances who tell me that there isn't a national retail chain that *isn't* in Natick. And, lo and behold, I find a listing for a store in Natick that, according to Apple's website, is near some place called the "Natick Connection."

Basically, it's a giant mall. (Actually, it's the old Natick Mall, but I guess having the word "mall" in the name of your mall is just so...Mall-ish.) I'll just say it was kind of overwhelming. I found the parking lot (with "premium" section, several multileveled structures, secondary roads with rotaries, backed up with traffic, a large proportion made up of SUVs) to be kind of a clusterfuck. The mall itself is quite upscale, and clearly benefits from having some thought put into its design -- nice open space with seating, the contours of a walking path through fake, abstracted birch trees, handicap access, "family" bathrooms. But oy. Nice aesthetics, but all I could see was BUY! BUY! BUY! And crowds... the crowds on a random Saturday afternoon. I guess I just don't get out much.

Anyway, I wandered through the mall, getting my bearings. Got to the Apple store, poked around a bit -- probably the first time I've actually spent any real time in one. (Ironically, wearing an Apple hat that the SOOTTAD got me when she was doing work for Apple.) Checked out the new Air (managed to only disconnect the power (connected magnetically) when I picked it up, as opposed to the guy across from me who set off the alarm when he accidentally pulled out the USB connection they use for security) then got to the back of the store to get the iPod. They keep them in a drawer behind the Genius Bar.

I skipped the $40 extended warranty, figuring that the incremental cost of buying a new one would be comparable in price. (there's that disposable world thinking again.) $72.45. I pay by credit card. I hand him the card, he swipes it, he hands it back, asks if I want a receipt (to which I say "yes," though it can be emailed to me -- cool) and then hands it to me.

I feel like I missed a step: there was no signature needed.

This can become more and more common these days. I've been to a number of places that have minimums of either $20 or $50 before you need a signature. Conveniently, I think that's commonly been the deductable if you discover fraudulent charges on your credit card statement. But I was surprised that it wasn't necessary for something over 50 bucks. Are they just taking into account the devaluation of the dollar or something?

I was thinking about it on the drive home -- I guess it's not that crazy given the frequency we pay at the pump with just a swipe, or buy stuff online with just an expiration date and occasionally the extra magic number thing on the back of the card these days. There's a certain level of security and trust that's built into the system now. I'm sure they could track you if you tried to buy a bunch of stuff and then claim it wasn't you -- shipping records, IP addresses, calls monitored for quality assurance, what have you.

But, how do you prove that you *didn't* buy something? Both the SOOTTAD and another friend of ours had that problem when their credit card numbers were stolen. And while they both got the charges reversed, there was still a lot of bullshit with shipping charges for returns or lost stock. (we still have two packages of vitamins that we never ordered.)

And reason that this kind of thing is on my mind? (other than that this stuff is always on my mind to a certain extent.) Well, there's this:

Yarp, my credit card information has been compromised AGAIN. That's twice in 6 months. And of course, now I get to change all my auto-billpays. AGAIN. I kind of want to call Citibank to see if they can tell me who keeps losing their credit card data, so I can STOP USING THEM.

So that's one. The other has to do with our phone service. We switched to Vonage over a year ago. Love it. Emails when there's a voicemail. No extra long distance charges. We moved and all we did was plug the phone adapter into the new network and we were good to go. Awesome.

When we switched over, I cancelled the service with Verizon and that was the last I ever thought about it.

Until last month.

Last month, when I got a statement from my old long distance carrier.

Did I mention that I liked Vonage because there were no long distance charges?

So somehow a call, made through Vonage, someone found it's way to the billing system for a third party company. No problems -- I called the long distance carrier and they reversed the charges. When it happened again this month, they reversed the charges and deleted all the records of my closed account. I also called Vonage this time around, just so they'd have a record of it. Verizon, maybe? Dunno.

But it sure gives me warm fuzzies inside. How 'bout you?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chicago: music and running

So, the X show was awesome.

They sounded great, and looked good for a bunch of aging punk rockers in their 50s. (Exene definitely had that "mom" look, but she still rocked out and looked good doing it.) I don't totally get that they were labeled "punk rock" but maybe that's just because I picked up on them after they got a bit more mainstream in the mid-80's. Definitely wish I could have seen them back then in L.A., but that was high school, and I was too busy being a nerd, trying to be a good student, studying for APs and other exams and "working like a demon" to get out to any of the *real* venues (outside of that one Cure concert in '84 at the Palladium and the occasional Oingo Boingo show at the Greek not withstanding).

We were feeling kind of old, except that we were probably the youngest people in the venue, barring the staff and the teenage son who was tagging along with his punk-rock-loving mom. That was cool. An interesting crowd certainly. A mix of people still trying to hold on to their old rock and roll selves, dye-job hair and decked out in leather biker jackets and folks who had moved on and gone "grown-up" but came back to enjoy the memories.

We hadn't actually planned to go, but we saw a flyer after eating at Lula and picked up the tickets when we discovered that the show wasn't sold out. (Yay, late show on a school night!)

The original plan was to come and see the Magnetic Fields and Pink Martini who were both playing the same weekend in Chicago. By the time we got our act together, the Magnetic Fields show was sold out, but we got the Pink Martini tickets anyway, and it turned out that the SOOTTAD had to be in Chicago anyway for work so we decided to stay the week.

I hate to show my limited vocabulary, but I have to say that the Pink Martini show was also awesome (as expected), although clearly, a different sort of show. Perhaps a better word might be "fabulous." Also quite pleased that they ended their encore with "Brazil" -- one of my favorites.

Prior to physically entering the theater, I was beginning to think that Chicago was fucking with me again -- all four of the people with whom we were going to see the show dropped out and we ended up selling one of our $35 + ticketbastard fee ticket to this total PITA for $30, who wanted change for her two twenties. (I had a fiver, but she couldn't find it within herself to pay the 5-dollar difference. Not a compromiser, this one.) And finally following her to the other line where she could get her friend to make change for her, the SOOTTAD ran into her long-lost college roommate who was heading into the theater. (which is actually even more super-awesome if you knew the details. sorry.)

So it was apparently just the universe trying to align itself for this to have happened; although I'm still convinced that Chicago was fucking with us. Just in a nice, trickstery way, if you can call it that. Not really my thing, but y'know, that's cool.

Anyway, the shows were awesome. (Did I already say that?) As much as I knock Chicago, it never fails to impress me what a great town it is for music. It's probably a good thing we don't get Time Out Chicago at the house anymore, because we kept seeing shows we wanted to go to. In Chicago. (I kind of liked their movie reviews, too.)

We had some good eats that the SOOTTAD write about, if she finds the time.

And I did manage to get some runs in.

The upsides to running in Chicago:

  • pretty art and architecture downtown (I particularly liked running past the giant bean in Millenium Park
  • mostly flat
  • nice path that runs along the lake

The downsides to running in Chicago:

  • The time change. Chicago is in central time, which means that initially I was waking up an hour earlier, when it was still dark. (stupid daylight savings time) I was also afraid that I'd be shifted late once we got back to Boston. (so far, I've still been waking up at 7AM, but not liking it at all. Not to say that I was really liking it all that much before, but, I think you can catch my drift...)
  • hard to do hill workouts. (see "mostly flat" above.) Not the worst thing; I swapped the hills for an interval workout I was supposed to do next week.
  • Chicago, being a real city, has real traffic. This translates to many more unplanned stops during the run.
  • downtown Chicago buildings are tall enough to interfere with the GPS, screwing with the distance and pace statistics. (I'm sorry, delusions of speed aside, I cannot run a 3-minute-mile.)
  • They also seem to be do a better job of holding the car exhaust at street level.
  • And the cigarette smoke. Either that, or a heckuv a lot more people smoke in Chicago than in (Metro-)Boston (burbs). Or, at least, when people are visiting Chicago.

Unfortunately, after Tuesday's interval workout I seem to have discovered a flaw in my training plan -- I've been running tempo runs at my DESIRED 5k race pace, as opposed to, say, my ACTUAL 5k race pace. Not that I know exactly what that is, but what I'm realizing is that what I can actually run, is clearly a bit slower than what I'd even like to think I might eventually be running. It seemed like running at my goal pace would be a good thing, but I'm regularly running out of gas on my runs, so I'm thinking not so much.

Somehow it didn't occur to me that the reason that the qualifying times for the Boston Marathon get slower for the higher age brackets might actually be because people get slower as they get older, and not out of some kind of "niceness" to let more old folks into the race.

Hmmm. Got Old?

The upshot of this, or perhaps downshot, really, is that I think I overdid it and now things are a bit hurty. I took 2 days off after the intervals (6x880m) and ran Friday when we got back (6.5mi), and that didn't feel so great either. So I took another day off before running today (11mi). And now I'm thinking that I upped my milage too quickly again. So next week is going to be a REAL recovery week, and I'll just do a bunch of short 3-milers and maybe a really slow 8 over the weekend if things are feeling ok by then. Hopefully from there I'll be back on track, but we'll see how it feels.

Crossing my fingers.

I also need new shoes. It hadn't registered, but it dawned on me in conversation yesterday that my shoes are almost 3 years old. (Bought a few weeks before the Big Lake Half Marathon in 2005) Granted, I actually bought two pairs of shoes and alternate between them. And the number of miles dropped off significantly after the race, but 3 years is 3 years. And I've already put in about 200 miles this year alone. (And if that was a single pair, they'd already be at least halfway to retirement.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Things were better before they voted for whats-his-name

Finished up our fun activities in Chicago with an X concert at Metro last night. \m/

by John Doe, Exene Cervenka (1983)

"Honest to goodness
the bars weren't open this morning.
They must've been voting for the president or something.
Do you have a quarter?"
I said yes because I did.
"Honest to goodness
the tears have been falling
all over this country's face."
It was better before, before they voted for whats-his-name
This was supposed to be the new world.

And stupid Hillary is ahead in the polls for the democratic nomination again.

Dear America,
please don't make me vote for another compromise weenie again. Thanks!

More later...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Right Foot and Mr. Crankypants

I thought I got off on the right foot this morning -- I woke up without much effort by around 6:45AM and lazily got up around 7AM to get ready for my run.

Not a bad start really. Especially considering yesterday's rude awakening to the alarm at 7:30AM (I almost never use an alarm) -- a gym workout, an overall zombie day at the office with a tic developing in my left eye late in the afternoon. I only made it through a late-evening massage session with the aid of a 30-minute power nap in the comfy chair.

A lot to do today, though. Laundry, dirty dishes, errands, packing. And, of course, work. But I'm getting a massage this afternoon and some friends are getting together after work so there are a few things to look forward to.

And no problems this morning. Things seemed grand...

...and that lasted for all of maybe an hour, or about halfway through the run.

A bit under 6.4 miles today; I figured I'd bump up the tempo a bit to push that "lactic threshold." Perhaps, a mistake. A little too ambitious. I ran out of gas about halfway through mile 5. (Note to self: let's try working on starting slow and hitting negative splits next time, m'kay?)

It was also cold this morning. The numbers didn't suggest anything unusual (27°F), but maybe because I was running harder, it just felt worse than it normally did. Or maybe because it was still kinda dark. (I'm pretty sure the sun was supposed to be up, but it seemed pretty gray.) So at the end of the run, my head was cold. It actually kind of hurt. Blargh.

Stretched, the core-strengthening thing (I was actually doing the plank variation to help the hamstring), shower, breakfast, then work.

No wait, I tried to sync my GPS to download info from the run...and my computer wouldn't recognize the device anymore.

Computer: What is this thing? Whatever you are, you DEAD to me.
Me: Dude, this worked, like, 2 days ago. WTF?

Microsoft troubleshoot failed to find the problem for the millionth time. (Has anyone EVER successfully gotten a problem resolved using this POS piece of software?) It ended up forcing a reboot of the machine. And then it's all kittens and puppies again.

Computer: Oh, hi GPS! How's it going? Wassup? Where ya been?
Me: *sigh*

Ok, I can sync my GPS now. After the reboot, Windows takes the volume control icon off my taskbar. (This is an on-going problem.) I go into the control panel and put it back in by "removing" it and then replacing it. It gets old, but at least it still works. Sort of.

And THEN work.

And then, some belly unhappiness which has been creeping around the edges since I finished the run. Gastro-intestinal distress. It's been a while since I've had this problem after a run. *sigh* Probably again with the running harder than usual and the cold weather.

Not too much progress with work -- a bit stressed, actually, trying to get things done before heading out of town tomorrow. But finally got some momentum after moving downstairs for a change of scenery. Somehow I seem to work better in the kitchen or at the dining table. (better writing surface? Better light? Dunno.)

Stressed and getting cranky. I bag the get together, head out to run errands and get the massage. I hit 5 of 5 red lights on the way to Petco, and 5 of 6 on the way to the massage.



Yay, massage.

Highly recommended. All the craziness seems like yesterday.

It's a fresh start.

A new day.

I'm putting things into perspective -- if I hadn't hit all those red lights, I would have been crazy-early to my appointment. I had no issues at Petco. The craziness forced allowed me to pick my priorities, decommit so I had time to deal with the important things.

I'm in and out of Trader Joe's in maybe 10 minutes. Feeling good. Efficient. Thinking about the work problem I've been puzzling over -- I think I can be productive. This'll be awesome.

I grab the grocery bag in one hand, the small case of cat food balanced on the bucket of cat litter in the other. Close the trunk. Nice. Efficient.

And three steps later, all the cat food is on the sidewalk.


I over-committed. That's a lesson. We're cool. Bring the other stuff in. Go back out and collect the cat food.

Sit down at the computer and...

Why is the computer off?
don't worry, it's just because you set the power mode to hibernate after prolonged inactivity.

Ok, cool. Um, so why is that amber light lit up?
La, la, la, not listening... just turn the computer back on. It'll be fine!

Um, it just shut itself off again.

Dude, you're supposed to be the calm one here.

So, apparently... apparently the outlet I used for the computer is dead. So I'll just go and grab an extension cord and plug it in over here and it'll be ...

Ok, so my computer performed a hard shutdown.


Well, at least the auto-save should mean that I won't lose too much work.



Remember auto-save? Piece-of-shit auto-save that interrupts my work half the time? WTF is the recovery file that you keep auto-saving?!

Computer: Yeah, uh, so do you remember that time when you found out that your copy of Visio that you bought and paid good money for was actually a pirated copy?

Ok, so I did finally scream at my computer. Once.

It didn't make me feel any better.

I started reconstructing my work, but I couldn't stay focused.

And that is why I've just burned an hour and a half blogging.

I still don't feel any better.

And now I'm hungry.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


So, I did manage to eventually drag myself out of bed at 7:30 this morning and go for my run. It actually felt pretty good, all things considered. I felt... fast-ish. (running fartleks today) And I wasn't falling asleep at the office, although I must admit that I wasn't particularly productive -- a lot of trouble staying on message. I feel like I'm going to crash at any moment and my hope is that today was enough to get me back on track after the weekend debacle.

In today's low productivity zone, I did stumble across a good read: Seth Roberts blog, the Berkeley professor known for doing research through self-experimentation and who came up with the Shangri-La diet.

An interesting serendipity is that one of the examples in his paper describes the relationship between eating breakfast (breakfast being defined as eating before 10am) and early waking and the quality of sleep. The paper also cites relationships with exposure to morning light and standing.

So maybe it's not the cardiovascular activity that was syncing me up after all. (In case it wasn't clear from that comment, I generally eat after I run, which means that on morning when I run, I typically eat several hours after I get up. In today's case, around 10:30am.)

We'll need to do more research, but I'll leave that to others for now...

'cause I'm going to bed.

Almost Back... square one, it seems.

I finally gave up trying to fall back asleep after tossing about restlessly for a little over an hour and a half. Residue from the weekend shake-up? I do have a few things on my mind tonight, so that isn't helping.

Just had some hot ovaltine and a few cookies; it remains to be seen whether I'll be able to get up at 7AM to run as previously planned given that I've only gotten about 90 minutes of sleep* so far, with the max limit at 5.5 hours and counting. Down.

Even if I manage it, I'm not expecting to be particularly functional at work tomorrow.


* On a small nerdy positive note, I suppose this reconfirms my understanding that people generally sleep in 90 minute increments; something I just mentioned to the SOOTTAD not 4 hours ago. (Actually, almost exactly 4 hours ago.) Did I mention *sigh*?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The System is Down

Not all systems, but the waking up and exercising one, certainly.

The adjustments made for the weather* and stupid daylight savings time pretty much wrecked havoc on the new waking and training schedule. And it was a pretty fragile ecosystem to begin with. Work stress hasn't helped -- I slept fitfully this morning worrying over the current problem I'm dealing with, trying to hold onto possible solutions gleaned in the dream-state. Blargh.

I did manage to go for a run in the wind and sun yesterday (yet still barely above freezing, unless you counted the windchill) when nobody showed up for the frisbee game. (which was just as well -- the wind would have made the game... unpleasant.) But that was late morning, so it wasn't helping the cause for the early morning run pattern.

Getting up at 8 this morning was painful. And really, I've been feeling like ass in the mornings all weekend.

Speaking of stupid daylight savings time, I've seen a little buzz about how there was a study showing that daylight savings time actually wastes energy, due in part because people turned on lights and heaters in the morning (presumably during the early spring, and late fall) and air-conditioning in the afternooon (the summer). I'm certainly bitter about it right now, but I'm also thinking that maybe people are just spending too much time sitting at home running the A/C and watching TV. Daylight savings time may not have had a measurable savings in the 70's, but it doesn't seem like it was more expensive -- technology creating too much of a good thing? 'Course, I've been in Chicago in the summer, not to mention Houston -- thems places is no fun in the summer.

A few other articles:

  • Wall Street Journal A commonly linked article
  • San Francisco Chronicle DST good for retailers, golf industry and OIL COMPANIES, bad for cows.
  • Huffington Post Also, toothpaste.
  • Yahoo!'s tech blog which has my favorite quote which addresses some of the stupider comments I've seen from the masses:
    "In related news, it was also revealed that Daylight Saving Time actually creates no additional daylight."


* Expected and non-materializing

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Meteorological Observation

The ground is wet, but it doesn't seem to have rained much at all this morning -- so much for heavy rains and local flooding.

Clearly, The Powers That Be are just fucking with me.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Run! Don't Run! No, Run!

I'm resisting the urge to turn this into a marathon training blog. For one thing, I barely have time (read: I don't have time; I haven't had time) to post some of the other things that have been on my mind these days. (read: because I'm so lame that I'm usually in bed before 11pm these days. We went to bed at 9:30pm last night.) But, here I am, wanting to talk about how the training is going.

And how it's going is that it seems like it's going ok, all things considered.

Tuesday felt great. I did a hill workout, and I felt pretty good, aided I'm sure by the mild temperature (51°F) and the unexpected sunshine.

3 miles on the dreadmill on Wednesday to stay out of the rain. Fine.

The run yesterday kind of sucked. I went 7-1/2 miles, and I totally ran out of gas halfway through it. It was also back to the below-freezing mark again (I think it stay around 31°F the whole time), which certainly took some of the potential pleasantry out of it as well. (I can't fathom the guy I saw running in shorts and a T-shirt, or the other guy picking up stuff in his yard in his boxers or the middle school girls in miniskirts and/or single layer tops with the plunging necklines -- I guess I'll just chock up my incomprehension to being a pussy from southern California.)

Then there are the long runs. The long runs are about building endurance. When I eventually get into the thick of the actual marathon training this summer, these runs are going to be around 20 miles and take over 3 hours. (Technically, I'm only training for a half-marathon in May right now -- the plan is to use that to build up my base and then start in on a 4-5 month training schedule for the marathon in October.)

The long runs are on the weekends. Except that I ended up running this week's long run today because tomorrow is supposed to be all rain, all the time -- Wunderground says "definite rain" and a friend of mine told me that she heard "soaking rain." Neither was particularly appealing. I considered running on Sunday, but that forecast indicated greater peril -- it was supposed to be clear, but cold; dropping below freezing sometime in the wee hours of the morning, just after the rain stopped. Meaning: ice.

Ice bad.

So I was planning on just sucking it up and running on Saturday in the rain, until I heard over the radio about the potential flooding. I was ready to get soaked, but the idea of 12 miles of waterlogged shoes put me over the edge. The run went ok -- just a little colder than expected because of a steady easterly wind. The only downside was that I didn't get a rest day between the 7-1/2 and the 12 today; in my head, I'm pretending that I got some benefit out of running in the afternoon rather than in the morning, giving myself a few hours of extra "rest," not that it was actually rest or anything.

It does make me wonder whether somebody is trying to tell me something. Sometimes when you decide to do something, it couldn't be easier. It's like it was meant to be -- path of least resistance, easy like Sunday morning. (so long you're not getting up early Sunday morning to run in the cold for 2 hours.) And then there are times when it's... hard. It's not easy. Hurdles are getting dropped in your path. (that's ok, I ran hurdles in high school...) Challenges. Difficulties.

The weird ankle thing isn't bothering me so much this week, but my hamstring has been acting up a bit. (did a little research, gonna try to add some strengthening to the training plan.)

And JEEZ, the weekend weather has just SUCKED the last few weeks. I've been running almost daily since the beginning of February and started following a relatively formal training for about 3 weeks now. The first long run two weeks ago (8.2 miles), we had a blizzard that Friday -- I had to shovel to get to the road. And while the roads were well plowed, in places when I couldn't run on the road, the sidewalks weren't so great. (how many of you would wake up at 7am to shovel your sidewalk, just in case some dumbass might have decided to do his training runs in the early morning after a blizzard?) Last week, it pretty much snowed DURING the entire run. (11.5 miles -- it was supposed to be 10 but I took a wrong turn. Whoops.) And of course, maybe an hour after I finished the run, it stopped snowing, and was actually sunny. And of course this weekend was going to suck, so I took measures, as it were.

So, is somebody trying to tell me to stop? To end the madness!? (I've already had one friend tell me that it was a bad idea.)

Or are they just helping me fight my insecurity about being a quitter and giving me the opportunity to struggle a little and feel like I've accomplished something? Or at least give me something to whine about.

I tell ya, I have the hardest time telling them apart.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Accepting Progress

Finally sucked it up and updated my Blogger template.

Not sure I'm all that happy with the new look, but it's "late" and I want to go to bed now.

Monday, March 03, 2008

linky dinks

The Story of Stuff
Interesting, informative and imminently depressing, even when you know the score. But still worth watching. We try to do our part. We try, we try. But in the end, even as lower than average consumers, we are consumers all the same and are contributing to the problem. (We put out a not-quite-full trashcan maybe once every other week -- and usually a bin of recycleables. On the other hand, I'm regularly amazed at how much stuff I see out on the curb on trash day -- veritable mountains of garbage bags, furniture, bicycles, and of course, the TVs, which sit on the curb for weeks yearning for someone to call the hazardous waste pickup people.)

8 Careers to Help Lower Your Stress Meter
From the Yahoo! featured article headlines. (we'll see whether the link sticks around or not; historically, Yahoo has been pretty bad about that.) Also known as, 8 careers, most of which are not really low-stress jobs at all except by comparison if you happen to be stationed in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or work in a prison. Also known as, a link-fest to Yahoo's advertising affiliates. (I guess they're really trying to drum up revenues what with that whole Microsoft hostile takeover business...)

I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.
The secular Sabbath: take some time off, it's good for you.
UPDATE: here's a link to the same article on The Ledger, so you don't have to fight with the NYTimes stupid login page.

Self-discovery and forgetfulness

Found this in the archives, dated March 23, 2005:

Sometimes self-discovery is a lot like figuring our where the wall is by banging your head against it.

I know that 2005 had a few rough spots (jeez, every year seems to have a few of them) and I have a vague idea what it was about (something about establishing boundaries, dealing the others), but I'm happy to have forgotten the details of the experience and simply hope that I've at least internalized the lesson.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Potential for Irony

So, sometime last year, I decided that it'd be a good idea to run a marathon.

Actually, let me rephrase that: sometime last year, I somehow got it into my head that I should run a marathon.

In 1998, I was planning on running the Bay State Marathon with a bunch of people from work. Ah, the halcyon days of my early career in computer engineering, working at a company that had its own staffed fitness center. We'd take two-hour lunches and play some hoops or go for a run, maybe do some lifting, grab a shower, and then eat at our (respective) desks.

Anyway, that year a bunch of people decided to train together for the marathon, myself included. It was maybe a month out from the actual race, when somebody asked me how many miles I was doing. I can no longer recall my answer, but I do recall that the person who had asked the question didn't think that I was running nearly enough miles to be ready for the race.

That weekend I did a 7 mile run and a 13 mile run, and by the end of the second run I had a sharp pain in one of my knees that forced me into a slow, awkward stride. I had a hard time walking the following week. Shortly thereafter, I managed to put myself out of my misery by spraining one of my ankles playing ultimate frisbee.

I quit. And vowed to never be so stupid as to try to run another marathon. The experience taught me that my body just wasn't designed for that kind of abuse.

Fast-forward 6 years to the fall of 2004. I'm at another company, post-dot-com bubble. We don't have a staffed gym, but we still have a weight room and a shower, which is all I ever needed, really. Long lunches playing disc and going running, maybe a little lifting followed by a shower and lunch at my desk. (Nevertheless, slightly less halcyon, FWIW.) And there's a small group of runners that are talking about running a half-marathon in the spring.

I'm reluctant. It does have the word "marathon" in it, after all.

Then, a confluence of events. Well, event. I get laid off from my job. Meaning, lots of free time. And a friend willing to be a running partner.

We sign up for two races, and this time, older and wiser, I actually set up a training plan. (And there are far worse things to do with your time between jobs than having a set training schedule.) And sticking with the plan, both races go pretty well, all things considered.

Which I must admit was somewhat unexpected.

A little less than two years later and about a year ago, perhaps a few weeks before finishing the massage therapy program, we were asked in class to do a goal-setting exercise. And I thought to myself:

Y'know, I'm getting old...
gonna hit one of those big milestones next year...
maybe I could... RUN A MARATHON to prove that I'm not "old" ...
yeah! there's an idea...

And now, here I am, one month into a new training schedule.

The crazy part is that I've been running in the mornings before work. There's no longer a shower at the office, so I could only run in the afternoon on weekends or days that I was working from home. And running after work is suboptimal because, being winter, it's dark outside (not to mention cold and often icy), the gym is usually packed, and when things run late, I'm also wicked hungry. So any number of things can tank a workout.

So I switched to mornings. It forces me to do the workout. And because I know I have to start working at a reasonable hour (say 10am, worst case), it forces me to start early. And for the most part, it's worked pretty well: I haven't missed any planned workouts, the regular workouts have helped improve my mood (it's always been a form of self-medication for me), and on average, I'm actually getting to the office earlier than I used to. The primary downside is that it's often colder in the mornings (say 10°F instead of 28°F) in which case I'm stuck going to the gym. (But it isn't any worse than going to the gym after work, and it's less crowded in the morning.)

I've also found that my sleeping habits have finally settled down. For the most part, I've been falling asleep pretty easily and on the occasions where I do wake-up in the middle of the night, I haven't had any trouble falling back asleep. Of course, the down side to that is that a lot of nights, I'll be wanting to go to bed at 9pm, which is just sad. It really messes with the social calendar, although I'm hoping to eventually adjust. Actually stayed up past 11 last night! Woo, uh, hoo...

So, I've opened myself up to the potential for some serious irony. The obvious one:

Things seem to be going pretty well so far, but I have had a nagging hamstring problem since last fall which may well be due to an adductor injury last summer. It seems to be holding out alright, but of course, I'm only a month into the training plan so far. It may be that when I get to the 16 mile or 18 mile runs, my body will just give up and stop working. So it may be that this exercise to prove that I'm NOT old may just prove that I am. Subjunctive oops.

The other potential irony?

Well, what do I mean when I say "old?" What do I think of?

I've already mentioned the part about the body breaking down, unable to handle the rigors of youthful exuberance. Or running several hundred miles (possibly over a thousand) over the course of the next several months. There's also a "responsible adult" component... I'm already guilty of some of that -- got a mortgage, saving for retirement, think about the consequences to your actions (look before you leap... and we won't talk about exactly how I got that adductor injury last year). But there's also the teetotaling, conservative, restrained old guy -- too old to be silly, too old to have any fun, too old to stay out late at night...

um, OOPS.