Friday, May 30, 2008


I talk a lot about how proud I am of myself.

Today, I'm proud of you.

You stepped up and contributed to support the fight against Diabetes with a kind word, a phone call, a financial pledge. You're the bomb.

I'm proud of my nephew.

Cody James is going to put on the robe and mortarboard and receive his High School diploma this evening up in Pennsylvania. He hasn't had the easiest life, but he reached the goal. I'm proud of him and of all the folks on Team Cody who helped him get there. We don't know each other as well as I wish we did. I'm the uncle who lives far away. But if I lived closer, I couldn't love him any more. You've grown into a fine man, Cody. Congratulations.

I'm proud of Mrs P.

Six years ago she decided to leave a career she loved, helping to heal animals. She went to school, earned a Master's Degree with a 4.0 GPA, and now she works in another career she loves, helping to heal children. She works and waits and weeps for them and tries to make a difference in young lives that a lot of people have already given up on. That's her vocation and special gift. I know because she honed it on me.

And I'm proud to be a Pennsyltuckian.

For the longest time, I thought my Brother-in-law (born in the mountains of central PA and married to a KY girl in Lexington) invented the word. Since then I've found out that a lot of people use it as an insult to the state where I was born - as if connecting a place to Kentucky were derogatory. Well, folks who think there's anything wrong with being a Pennsyltuckian don't know jack about either place. Pennsyltuckians work hard, play hard, love hard, and know where we're from. Even when we leave home, we stay connected to deep roots - steel cables through seams of coal. It doesn't matter if we're from Hazard County, KY or the Hill District in Pittsburgh -- many of us love the 'Cats or the Cards or the Pens or the Phillies with pseudo religious fervor, most of us talk funny, and all of us are tied to the rivers and mountains, mines and factories, farms and forests that make our home what it is. Two things you'll never meet: an ex-Steeler fan and a Pennsyltuckian who wants to live anywhere else. I'm proud to come from a place and a people who haven't lost their identity and don't particularly care what anybody else thinks about that.

I'm a proud man today. Proud of my friends. Proud of my family. Proud of my home. I live life trying to be fit to be numbered among them. I wish you such pride and rich blessings today.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Training Partner

Today I walked a mile for the first time in 11 days. But I didn't do it on my own. I finally found a partner I can train with.

Molly is our ancient Golden Retriever. She came to live with us after a perilously long stay at the Lexington Humane Society. We don't know how old she was when Mrs P first saw her, but judging from her teeth, her level of energy, and her increasingly stubborn nature, she is about 83 years old. She goes at her own pace, and if you try to make her go too fast, or in a direction she doesn't like, she will fall down on her side and pretend to be dying. I swear I can hear her giggling under her breath sometimes.

Molly gets a walk after breakfast and dinner every day. Over the years, those walks have grown shorter and shorter as her joints troubled her more and my belly got bigger. This trend has had a pretty negative effect on our conditioning.

So tonight the weather was cool and the sky was clear and Molly and I started off on our walk. She was looking strong and I was feeling cooperative, so we just kept walking. We took a long route that we haven't walked for a long time. By the time we were done, we had gone a mile. We were both limping a little, but we made it home.

Two weeks ago I was worried about my time in a 5K. Last night I was writing about the glories of lifting hundreds of pounds of steel. Today I'm pretty pleased to have toddled around the park with my old dog in under an hour. And I've found a runner I can keep up with. It's good to be alive.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One Rep More

My calves are still not up to par, so I've been doing a completely different kind of workout this week.

I warm up with a no-break version of low impact resistance band and body weight exercises (ball squats, crunches, calf raises). By the time I'm done, I'm soaked and well into my cardio training heart rate zone. Then I start working the iron.

Lifting weights is whole different kind of exercise experience. Cardio is about endurance. It's almost hypnotic in its rhythm. Your running feet tap tap tap on the road as you move along. The elliptical pedals turn turn turn. Before long, you can go for half an hour, sixty minutes, ninety. Your mind goes to a quiet place and everything seems to pulse with the easy in-out of your breath.

Female Powerlifter "daniela Sell" From Germany - video powered by Metacafe

Iron work is not about endurance. It's about intensity. Watch Daniela Sell preparing to bench bar-bending weight. Her concentration narrows until it is focused on a single simple object. Move this iron from here to there. From the rack to your chest and back. Until you can't move it another inch. Weight lifters sweat, groan, even shout as one repetition follows another. But repetition is really the wrong word.

When you hit your stride, running feels easy. Your steps feel light and you get the feeling that you could just keep running for as long as you wish. That's repetition.

Weight reps never feel easy. The whole object is to go till you fail, until you can't lift any more -- and then one rep more. When it feels easy, that's good news. You can add more weight. The physiology of weight lifting as I understand it is about breaking down and building up. Lifting until you can do no more does damage - micro-damage to the fibers that make up bundles of muscle tissue. In the following days, that tissue heals and is supplemented by additional fibers. Your body needs to be stronger to do the work, so it grows stronger. It's like watching yourself evolve and adapt to your environment.

The process requires two things. You have to rest to let that healing growth happen. And you have to make each workout, each routine, each rep harder than the last. This "progressive resistance" is what makes iron work so much different than road work. It's as if you started running up a hill that got steeper and steeper until you were finally running up a ladder until your legs wouldn't move anymore.

I like lifting weights. It's easy to track progress and measure improvement. I lifted more today than I did the last time. I like the feeling of going till you can't go any more - then doing another rep. And one rep more.

Aerobic exercise burns fat better than weight lifting. But weight lifting builds muscles, and muscles burn fat all the time. Those big quads and glutes that you build from doing squats and deadlifts are burning fat while you sleep. I haven't run a step in a week and a half, and yesterday at my weigh-in, I had finally broken below the 360 lb plateau I've been stuck on for almost a month. I'm not giving up running. I really want to run. But when I do, it's good to know that I'll be doing it with a body that is even better tuned to burn fat.

Till then, just let me do one rep more.



Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Sugar" That Isn't So Sweet

In the language of the Bluegrass, people with Diabetes have "got the sugar". We recently learned that Mrs P has joined their ranks. It isn't as sweet as it sounds.
Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States. Since 1987 the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45 percent, while the death rates due to heart disease, stroke, and cancer have declined...
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease. The Dangerous Toll of Diabetes

You know someone living with diabetes. I do too. You know what this disease costs them and you know what it takes from them.

Based on death certificate data, diabetes contributed to 224,092 deaths in 2002. Studies indicate that diabetes in generally under-reported on death certificates, particularly in the cases of older persons with multiples chronic conditions such as heart disease and hypertension. Because of this, the toll of diabetes is believed to be much higher than officially reported.
Dangerous Toll ...
We can do something together that will help. One week from today, on May 31, I will be walking with the folks at Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes. That is my goal - slow and steady. Please join me with your feet or with your pledge.

I want to raise $600. Thanks to Team Pennsy sponsors Paul, Debbie, Mark, Cathy, and Bev we're almost halfway there.

Please click the thermometer or the American Diabetes Association logo on this page and add your support to theirs. You can pledge using ADA's secure web site. You'll be doing a good thing AND I'll hoot your name on the next Team Pennsy video from the historic Keeneland race track.

Click. Pledge. Help.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Keep a-goin'

It's been a strange week of highs and lows. I started out still glowing from finishing the 5K, even as my left leg became weaker and more painful. When a bruise started to form on the back of my calf, it became clear that this was more than just a charley horse.

I consulted "Dr. Google" and checked off my symptoms.
  1. Sudden, painful onset
  2. Loss of strength
  3. Painful to the touch
  4. Visible bruising
Yup, I strained my calf. Not badly - but you know- badly enough. I had planned to take Monday and Tuesday off from the gym anyway. As it turned out, I couldn't have gotten from the car to the locker room without help. By Wednesday I was feeling some improvement, so I decided to take one more day of rest. I stayed home from work, walked around with Molly a little, and kept the leg wrapped and elevated.

By Thursday I was jonesing so bad for exercise that my skin was crawling. I was irritable at work, losing my temper at one point and slamming both fists on my desk - very melodramatic. I had had enough of frustration. At quitting time I drove right to Promatx. I did a little time on the bike and a little on the elliptical, but cardio was not what I was aching for. (and to be honest, they both hurt my leg a little.) I hit the weights and worked my legs and lower back as hard as I could stand. I was cautious of the injury, but rather than compensating with other muscles, I concentrated on maintaining good form and taking my time.

When I had finished my workout, I was a little lost. I had done all I intended to do, but I really wasn't ready to leave. I stood by the water fountain and looked out over the machines and the faces and the mirrors. I was so damn glad to be back. After a quick sauna, I checked the scale to see how much damage I had done on that front. As I suspected, I had gained two pounds which the meter confirmed was mostly fat. I don't think missing a couple of workouts did that, but filling the idle time with food did. To be honest, I was glad it wasn't worse.

I've been stuck at this weight and body fat % for weeks now. I keep fiddling around, changing this meal, increasing the intensity of that exercise. I'm going to dig out the blender and start making smoothies this weekend. Maybe that will help me to balance my diet a little better. Now it looks like it's going to be at least another week before I can run again. My plan is to spend that time building lean muscle mass in the weight room and learning about food without eating so much of it. I still want to do the July 4 10K here in Lexington, but it's looking more and more like a walk/run than a run/walk right now.

Tonight I had another great workout. I used the resistance bands to warm up for about fifteen minutes, then hit the weight room. Chest and upper back. I love when I finish an exercise and I can feel the muscles across my chest or between my shoulder blades. It's like something coming to life in there.

Slow and Steady. I've decided to take Aesop's Tortoise as my totem. He'll be up there in the corner of the page for a while. I know I'm not a hare. No amount of work will make me one. But patience, determination, and a tough hide will get me where I'm going just the same.

Author: by Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927)
If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin'!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a-goin'!
'Taint no use to sit an' whine
When the fish ain't on your line;
Bait your hook an' keep a-tryin'--
Keep a-goin'!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin'!
Though 'tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin'!
S'pose you're out o' ev'ry dime,
Gittin' broke ain't any crime;
Tell the world you're feelin' prime--
Keep a-goin'!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin'!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin'!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like singin', sing--
Keep a-goin'!
I have no idea why I remembered this poem just now. Reading it again, I am struck by that last stanza. "Drain the sweetness from the cup," That's good stuff. That's American stuff.

Kind of makes a Fat Man feel like singing.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Things I Learned from my First 5K

Ego is the enemy.

I really pressed the last leg of the race I wasn't really thinking about my time. I wanted to pass the two girls in front of me. I not only exceeded my training, I also wound up with a brutal cramp that still has me limping a day later. I now understand what they mean when they say an athlete "plays within herself." My race isn't with young girls, It's with the Fat Man, and he's been winning for a long, long time. I need to be patient. As it turned out, the time I gained by pressing and the time I lost by limping just about canceled each other out.

Water, water everywhere.

I did not drink enough water before the race. Hardly any, actually. The fact is, I just forgot. I was excited. I need to make water a bigger part of my training. That may have been one reason for The Big Cramp


OK, maybe Jeff Gallaway is right on the run/walk business. There were two LITTLE girls, like 11 or 12 year old girls who pretty much kept pace with me for most of the race. The older of the two kept telling her friend, "It's okay, we need to pace ourselves." They would run like fawns for a while, then stop and walk. I would pass them and they would be chatting away, having a blast. Then they would run some more, passing dozens of adults at a time. The continued this for the whole race. Gradually, I stopped catching them. They just got farther and farther off into the distance (even though I was getting faster and faster.) They pulled away running, walking and laughing. They finished several minutes ahead of me and Mrs P said they crossed the line holding hands. I should have followed their example. I intend to do so in the future.

The most important meal of the day

I had a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of Crystal Light for breakfast. The oatmeal was a good choice, but I should definitely have thrown a banana or two in there. The drink was a bad choice. Icould taste that weird grape flavor for a good part of the run which was just ickey. A more balanced meal would have served me better.

Keep Moving!

I had a reasonably long cool-down, but coming home and crashing probably made the stiffness worse. I could have mowed the yard, walked the dog, or just gimped aimlessly around the neighborhood to flush the lactic acid out. Instead I flumped down and fell asleep. I awoke in a state of near paralysis and made my way to the gym and the recumbent bike. Slow easy spinning helped to clean things out, and long gentle stretching followed by a hot shower left me moving slowly but much more smoothly.

My wife is idiotically in love with me

She got out of bed at 7:00 on a Saturday. She made me a sign and cheered me on. She was the official photographer for Team Pennsy. She cried when I finished. Everyone on Earth should know what it is to be loved the way Mrs P loves me.

With God's help I can be a fighter..

I have quit on an awful lot of things and people in my life. It is easier to walk away that to stay and fight. Yesterday, I did not quit, even when I knew I would not win or even look good finishing. But I by-God finished. I am grateful to God for letting me run. I am proud of myself and eager to discover what I can do next. Pride without arrogance is a new experience for me. I like it. It feels clean.


I'll take a couple days off from working out. I'm going to eat smart, sleep well, and do some heinous chores around the house. Then I'll start training for the Bluegrass 10,000 which is in six weeks!


Who Sponsored This Run/Walk?

Chrysalis House is a drug and alcohol treatment facility for women and their children. This carefully structured treatment program addresses the many interrelated problems of a female addict. Chrysalis House heals and strengthens each woman for her return as a fully functioning member of society. When a woman successfully completes program, she typically has been drug and alcohol free, is fully employed, and has permanent housing. Chrysalis House is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team made up of case managers, clinicians, and administrators. Some of the staff are graduates of Chrysalis House. A volunteer board of directors, made up of social service providers, community leaders, members of the twelve-step community, and former program participants, oversees the agency.

Maybe your goal is to get fit. Maybe it's to raise your family. Maybe you just want to stay alive.

If any of these things matter to you, then addiction, any addiction, is standing in your way. It doesn't matter if you abuse ice cream, tobacco, alcohol, or crystal meth. It may be gambling, porn, 14 hour work days, or surfing the internet. Addicts give their lives away to their addiction. The only reason to stay an addict is that you don't want to be alive.

Chrysalis House is in the business of helping addicted women and their families to reclaim their own lives. Recovery means doing the hard work of buying your life back from the devil. You can't do it overnight and you can't do it alone. You need to admit what you've done to yourself and the people you love and you need to ask for the help you need.

The people who sponsored this 5K do holy work every day. If you want to escape your own addiction, there are people who have committed themselves to helping you get free. I know these things are true because I have lived them.

If you are an addict and you want to die, then stick with it. You're on the right track. If you want to live, then get help, tell the truth, and you can get well.

The Fat Man isn't running from death - he's running toward life. I invite you to run with him.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Video: What Mrs P Saw

That's What You Get...

More tomorrow, but tonight I just want to share a story.

I called Mom to tell her the news.

"I made it. I finished."

"Wonderful. I was thinking about you this morning. How did it go?"

"Well, about 3/4 of a mile into the race, the first pair of walkers passed me - two perky little sorority looking types who zipped by without the least nod of respect for their elders. There were a couple of housewives walking along at my pace too, but the little blonde and her brunette walking buddy really stuck in my craw. For one thing, they were walking. For another thing, they didn't appear to be walking very hard. I tried to keep up, but no chance, so I fell back into pace with the other old ladies.

"After two miles I was feeling stronger, right at the pace where I had trained. I got to the bottom of a long hill and at about 2 1/2 miles I saw the pair ahead. They were slowing down! I felt fresh, my second mile had been faster than my first. I figured if I was going to catch them, it would be on this last climb, then I'd just have to keep it up on the short down hill to the finish line. I kept my stride short, but quickened my pace, just like I had practiced. I was reeling them in! I wondered if they could hear my footsteps. I could hear Jim McKay from ABC sports announcing this remarkable turn of events. 'In the waning moments of this contest, with the battle almost surely lost, the Fat Man is making his move! He is gobbling up ground with each step! The sorority girls eyes are widening with desperation as he closes in like a panther ready to strike!' I looked up ahead. They were within 10 feet of me. We had plenty of hill left - plenty of time to pass and let them watch the Fat Man fade off into the distance. I could see it in my mind, but my lungs were aching. My heart was pounding and my breath was coming much too hard. At this pace, I might catch them before the top, but I would never make it back down without a stretcher. I decided to be smart. I let them go and slowed down to walk a few yards and get my wind back.

"The first walking step that hit the pavement, I caught a cramp. Now I have had cramps. Writers cramp. Stomach cramps from bad Chinese food. The leg cramp that wakes you up in the middle of the night clutching the bedsheets and wondering what the hell happened. This wasn't like that. It wasn't like anything. It was the most sudden, clenching, crippling pain I have ever felt in my calf. I not only lost my stride, I nearly fell over backwards from the jolt of the thing. I managed to hop to a nearby port-a-potty and stretch it out enough to walk up the rest of the hill, then I picked up my feet and hobbled my way to the finish line doing something between a limp and a jog. I probably added about three minutes to my time. It's been about 5 hours and it still really hurts."

Mom paused for a moment to take it all in. "Well," she said wisely. "That's what you get for chasing young girls."


Friday, May 16, 2008

A Healing Workout

Molly and I just returned from our walk and much to my surprise, I feel better than I have in days. Wednesday I ran the 5K course we'll be using tomorrow. I managed to twist my knee, not during the run, but when I was pulling my warm-up pants on after I was finished. So the Injury Gremlin has a sense of humor, too.

I wrapped the knee in an ace bandage Mrs P gave me and went to the gym last night. I had planned to lift weights and do some light cardio, but climbing stairs was too much to contemplate (I had to use both handrails like crutches to navigate the ones at work) so I just chucked that whole side of the room and made my way straight to the bench press.

I'm still a little clumsy with the free weights. No one has been hurt, but there have been a few close calls, particularly with the curling bar which is just small enough that not all the spring clips stay in place. when something slides of the end of the bar while you're working, it can be pretty unnerving.

Fortunately, Bo the Promatx Pro seems to always be close by when a mishap occurs. That may be just luck, or he may be my personal lifeguard. In either case, he has come to the rescue a couple of times when I was doing something stupid.

As I get more comfortable in the weight room, I'm starting to move more manly weights, but I'm progressing very carefully. A screw up back there can hurt more than just me.

I'm not sure what went on there last night that helped my lower joints to feel better. I did some dead lifting, but everything else was focused on the chest and lower back. Maybe just wrapping it for a while, moving around, and then coming home to some chicken, fish oil capsules, and an ice pack was enough to do the trick. Rest can mean getting more sleep, but it can also mean backing off on the throttle a little and just letting the motor run for a day. I'm still not firing on all cylinders, but the joints are much better lubed than they have been in a while.

Tonight I plan another short night -- just arms, shoulders, and upper back, then early to bed to prepare for my first organized run.

I'm a little excited about it - even though I fully expect to re-injure every part of me that has hurt for the last two weeks. After this Sunday's weigh in, I am going to take a few days off at the gym. I have a 10K in mind for July 4 and I want to start training strong.

When you hear from me next, I'll have earned my first event t-shirt. Mom says when I get enough of them, she'll make me a quilt. That will take a while. But I do look forward to wrapping up in it.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Frustrating Aches

Old people ache. Fat people ache. Sedentary people ache.

Fat, sedentary, old men who start running ache a lot.

Here's a brief survey of the gremlin's work on my slowly improving frame.


The Achilles tendons are improving and recover faster than a few weeks ago, but they still hurt a few hours after a workout - especially in the morning or when I get up from my chair.

My response is strengthening my calves. I do calf raises at every opportunity, stretching up onto my toes whenever I have an idle moment and nobody judgmental is looking.


Mercifully, the knees have recovered from their early pain. I addressed them carefully, using light weights and high reps to strengthen the quads and hams that support the knees. Easing up on the treadmill seems to have helped too.


This is a new one, and it has me worried. I have soreness high in my hips, just behind the iliac crest. Running aggravates it and it leaves me limping.

I don't know how to respond to this one. I think it is a combination of weight stressing my joints and weakness in some muscles in there that I haven't been able to isolate. The gremlin keeps telling me that it's my hips disintegrating. That soon I'll be back in my recliner eating potato chips and feeling stupid for trying to get fit. I can deal with the little monster, but need to get some good counsel on the hips.


The right one feels great, my delts are discernible for the first time in my life! The left one is still sore in a way I have a hard time chasing down. Rowing my arm back isn't too bad, but pressing forward is worse and lifting to the side is the worst of all. The ache seems to be toward the front of my shoulder, but sometimes it feels deeper into the joint. This is another one that I'm not sure how to help.


All these things seem to improve when my heart gets pumping and my blood is flowing. But when I'm not exercising, everything just hurts. Halting my way into the gym and limping my way out is not on my top ten list.

Last night I got frustrated with a project at work. On top of everything else, I just went straight home, did a couple of chores, walked with Molly, and went to bed. I'm hoping that more rest and more gentle workouts will help my body to heal. I'm also taking fish oil twice a day and vitamin E in the morning to bolster my anti-oxidants and mend tissues.

I'll get over this, and I'll get well. I know all that. Aches and pains are just part of the program, and acknowledging that is part of telling the truth. The gremlin is my companion for a while, maybe always, but I am determined that he will not be my master.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Preparing for my First 5K

I’m running my first 5K next week - the Chrysalis House 5K Run/Walk. The event benefits Chrysalis House, a center for women and families here in the Bluegrass.

I went out and ran the course today.

Its a loop around a big meadow (soon to be some kind of development, I’m afraid). The hills are gentle and the scenery is lovely. The course starts at a dog park, which got my spirits up right from the beginning. I walked for about 9 minutes till I felt warmed up, then ran the whole rest of the way. I expect I’ll finish behind most of the walkers, but at this point in my career, all I want to do is finish.

Mrs P and I may go to the gym later to do some resistance training. I got a copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. It’s a really great book. His knowledge of the subject is - well - encyclopedic, and his passion for the sport that made him famous burns on every page. I was expecting a to-do book with a celebrity endorsement in the front. This book is much more than that.

So I’m hoping to put some of what I’m learning from Governor S to work in the weight room.. Then back to the never-ending yardwork.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Hi Mom!

It's what athletes say when you point the camera at them on the sidelines. Mom has been my biggest fan for as long as I can remember. Even when there hasn't been much to applaud.

I've never been an athlete. There were no games for her to attend, but Mom has driven thousands of miles over the years to see me play onstage. She has come to Kentucky and folded our laundry, done our grocery shopping, and embraced Mrs P like her own daughter. She even learned to love our cats which was a real stretch for her, trust me.

The people who love me have always had a rough road. For most of my life, I lived with an undiagnosed mental illness - a bipolar disorder that wasn't bad enough to keep me from functioning, but was severe enough to make me unpredictable, moody, and often irrational. I frequently lash out at those closest to me. Through all those years, Mom didn't know my condition had a name - she just knew it was the way I was and that was good enough for her. I was a lunatic, but I was her lunatic.

When my body got broken - flu, fractured bones, mono, knee surgery - Mom's was the cool, soft hand that felt my forehead, made me Jello and brought me books to read. When my heart was broken, Mom was the one who listened to the story, who wept with me, who always took my side.

We cut the apron strings many years ago, but the heart strings are strong as steel.

Mom isn't perfect but in spite of all the reasons I have given her over the years, Mom has never given up on me - and I have given up on myself many many times. She sees something in me that I can't see.

So this morning when I got the email that someone had pledged support for my part in the ADA StepOut on May 31, I didn't even really have to look to see who it was. She's still there in the audience - the crazy lady who buys tickets to every performance in the run and shows up for all of them. The one who puts the walnuts that my sister hates in the poppyseed cake because I'm coming home. The one who has taken grief and returned faithful love for almost 50 years.

Last night Mrs P volunteered to be my camera crew when I hoot my sponsors names at the Diabetes walk. You don't have to guess who will be getting the first hoot.

Hi Mom!

Happy Mother's Day.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Time for a Day Off

I’m taking tomorrow off, but first, I have some business to attend to.

Shameless Plug

Hey, please check out the link to Step Out, the American Diabetes Association walk here in Lexington. I will walk it, may even run some of it. Diabetes has come to the house of Pennsy and I would like to see a stop put to all this nonsense. So cough up a pledge, pardner. Do it and the Fat Man will hoot your name during his historic first public walk. Maybe Mrs P can video the moment and we can figure out how to post it.

Weight Report

My weight did not change last week, still 366, but my body fat percentage is down from 33.1 to 32.8. Not much of a change, but the readings are consistent, and I am still building muscle, especially in my upper body. I hope I reach the tipping point soon and start another big fat burn. The plateau is not a fun place to hang out.

Injury Report

The ankles are improving a little after my big run on Sunday. I’ve learned that Achilles' Tendon pain is pretty common when treadmill runners go out into the real world. I have not run or trod the mill since then, but have been doing bike, steps, and elliptical to keep up my cardio conditioning. I wore elastic compression braces on my ankles today and was pain free. I am doing calf presses every time I encounter a staircase to strengthen the muscles around the Achilles. I really don’t want to see this turn into a chronic thing.

The shoulder (left) just plain hurts. I jerked it somehow during an errant Ball Slam yesterday and the Gremlin is having a field day in there. Other than rest, there’s not much for me to do with it at this point. I’m hoping a couple days off from upper body resistance training will give it a chance to heal.

Fashion Report

I bought some pants that fit yesterday! They are actually a little tighter than I would prefer, but they won’t be for long. They’re pretty ugly, but again, I won’t be this size for very long either. Just passing through the neighborhood of fat-guy pants, on my way to those groovy styles with waists below the half-century mark.

Best Laid Plans

I was going to try to repeat Sunday’s run this weekend, but I may go for something less ambitious. A mile at a reasonable pace will probably do me more good than another pokey 5K that leaves me lame for a week.

I’m also going to start moving from machines to free-weights. There are few movements the machines allow that can’t be done more effectively with dumbbells or barbells. Free weights have the added advantage of working more than one muscle group at a time. While your arms are working to execute a shoulder press, the rest of you is working to keep from tipping over. Having to control the weight with 360ยบ of possible directions is more work than controlling weight that can only move in two. so I’ll start translating some exercises from the machine floor to the free weight floor.

I’m going to try the following program.

  • Day one (Monday) - upper body, and moderate cardio (run or cross train)
  • Day two - bands, and moderate cardio
  • Day three - lower body, and moderate cardio
  • Day four - rest.
  • Day five - Bands and a long, easy run,
  • Day six - long, heavy lifting, and
  • Day seven - intense run (pace or endurance)

I’m going to avoid the treadmill for a while. My ankles need to learn how to cope with Mother Earth again, so I’ll try to do the bulk of my running outside.

I’m also realizing that my reluctance to track food is probably more denial than avoidance. Sooner or later, I’m going to have to get more serious about nutrition if I want to replace those last pounds of fat with muscle. If I find myself stuck in a plateau that just won’t give, I’m going to have to break down and do it. For now, I’m just trying to avoid junk and binges. “Those last few pounds” are still buried a long way down.


PS>>Hey, don't forget Mother's day! (The cats want me to take them shopping tomorrow night.) Maybe we'll just pile Molly the Dog, Mo, Buddy, Kizmet, Maggie, Sniffy, and Dennis the Nervous Fish into the Honda and go out to IHoP on Sunday. Kizzie loves international cuisine. (Molly just loves farting in the car.)


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Weighing in on the Girl Horse

It's been 72 hours now and I get the impression that an awful lot of people wish we would stop talking about it. I can't stop thinking about her. Eight Belles should not have died.

It would be great if there were an easy answer to all this. If we could find the right person to blame and punish them. I'm not a PETA member, but I'm not a PETA hater either. There is some good and some bad in the proposition they've laid out in Eight Belles Should be the End of Racetrack Betting --
PETA is calling on the racing industry to suspend the jockey and trainer, to bar the owner from racing at the track, and, at the very least, to stop using young horses who are so susceptible to these types of horrific injuries. We're also demanding that the industry stop racing horses on hard tracks and switch to softer, synthetic surfaces, which would spare horses' bones and joints, in addition to calling for a permanent ban on the use of whips.
The youth of the horses is something I hadn't really thought much about. Is a three-year old horse still growing? Is she too young to train so hard? I don't know, but it's a terribly important question. The age of horses who die from racing injuries should be easy data to gather if anyone bothers to keep track of it. The emotional impact of Eight Belles death is undeniable. I'd like to know more about the rational science.

Keeneland has an artificial track. From what I here, the spring and fall meets in Lexington are among the most beloved in the sport. It doesn't seem to have done any harm to the profits, and again, I'd like to see the data - are there fewer injuries on artificial track surfaces?

Whips - yeah, whips are part of racing regalia. The jockeys are whacking those horses hard in the stretch. Does it hurt them? I don't know. I weigh 366 lbs. Would a 36 lb person smacking me with a leather stick hurt me? I'm not sure. I'm not sure it wouldn't be worth it to try racing without them.

Punish the Jockey? The trainer? That's just stupid. Most jockeys are not rich celebrities. If you aren't a racing fan (and I speak with authority on the matter) you can't name three Jockeys. These men and women are among the most exploited and poorly paid athletes in professional sport. The same is true of most of the people behind the scenes in the equine world. There's something else that's true about those people.

They love horses.

My friend Alex has been one of them for a long time. She's a Kentucky girl, just like Mrs P, and Bluegrass women love furiously. Don't be dogging on me when my wife is in the room, and don't be calling horse professionals cruel when Alex can hear - you'll get an earfull (and maybe a jaw full as well.)
How dare you call these people cruel? These people who have a symbiotic relationship with the horse, at work hours before most people hit the snooze button for the first time, and still at work when most people are relaxing after dinner. They care for the horses, and the horses give them all they have in return. I challenge these PETA members, these "animal lovers" to talk to me about one time they have sat with a dying horse (or any animal), talking gently to her as she draws shuttering breaths, praying to God that the vet will arrive to end her pain. Wishing that you could turn away from such a site, but knowing that you can't because the love you feel for this animal tells you that you can't let her die alone, with no kind words, no soothing touch to calm her. Each of those experiences takes a piece of you, and you will never be the same, you will never forget that horse, you will smell her in the air and see her in the shadows, and in the end you are a better person for it. I have been in that very position, and I know most people who have worked on racetracks, farms and vet clinics have had the same experience. How dare you, how dare anyone call that cruel?
Horse workers should be scrutinized, if only to show the world that most don't deserve such judgment. I don't think many would mercilessly drive a horse to it's death. I don't think that's what happened on Saturday.

So if the people with horse smell on their hands aren't to blame, where do you look? Like most white collar crimes, you follow the money. Who's getting rich from this sport?

Track Owners?
As long as it's possible to make fantastic amounts of money from racing the way it is, racing won't change no matter how many protests are held. The marketplace may eventually bring pressure, but there are a lot of reasons to leave well enough alone at every betting window. The industry has self-regulatory bodies in place who are in the best position to analyze the data and do the right thing about unsafe facilities, inhumane practices, and diluted gene pools. The fans who flock to the tracks to make money need to recognize that they drive the machine. Bettors who care only about winning tickets are the ultimate source of revenue for the racing industry. They can change things by staying away from the windows. I'm not naive. There's little chance many of these things will happen. But if they don't, big brother will eventually step in. The government should be the last option - few legislators know enough to act wisely on these matters, and outside pressure has a way of making us Pennsyltuckians circle the wagons.

In Salon, King Kaufman has written a moving piece called Where's the Girl Horse? about his young family's experience on Derby day. Even people who don't hang out in the barn or do the hard and often painful work of birthing and training and euthanizing horses, even ignorant folk like me feel the breathless awe of watching these magnificent creatures break into a run.

And we all share a responsibility for the girl horse's death.

We all share the responsibility to help the very big job of making her fate more rare.

PETA understands that. But their response is short sighted. Even if all their ideas were embraced, I don't see them addressing the root problems. Scapegoats are convenient band-aids to the public conscience, but punishing them rarely heals the wound underneath.

Racing, there are too many people who love you for you to continue doing business this way.

Heal thyself.



Sunday, May 4, 2008

Takin’ it to the Streets

I found a cool web site called that lets you, well, you know, map your run. You plot your run and the application tells you the distance and elevation. It also has a place to save your trips and to log your workouts. I laid out routes around my house that are a mile, 5K and 10K. You can also save runs publicly to let other runners in your area know about good routes. Of course, since all mine start and end at my house, I’ll be keeping them private.

Today I tried one out. I mowed the lawn, then put on my running clothes and hit the street for the first time. Real world running is very different from treadmill running. For one thing, there’s real topography. Sure you can change the incline on the treadmill, but real hills are different somehow. Sunshine, neighbors, dogs, dogwoods -- It’s harder, but more rewarding. There was a point, after I had climbed the last hill that my breath started coming easier, my feet felt lighter.

Look, I’m not going to lie. I was barely running. I stopped to walk several times, and most of the time I was hardly lifting my feet. I ran 3.3 miles in just under 50 minutes. Average speed? 4mph. At that pace, I could run a marathon, but I’d have to rent a room along the way. I think someone passed me using her walker.

Still, I know I can run a 5K now. Running in the sun - that’s what I’ve been wanting and actually dreaming about. Today I began a new chapter of the story of the Fat Man. I can’t wait to see what’s on the next page.


Didn't get to the gym so weigh-in will be tomorrow.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Why I hate horseracing...

I wanted to take my last post down, but that seemed dishonest. I feel like I helped to promote a murder by even mentioning the race. Alex, I love you, but I hate this sport.

Horses were killed in the last two races I've watched on TV. Great horses. Gorgeous horses. At least this filly didn't have to suffer for a year first.

Did I call them "athletes?" I go to the gym and see men and women who push themselves to the breaking point. Their will to excel is stronger than their instinct to quit when it hurts. I admire these athletes. They do amazing things that nobody bets any money on. I have never seen anyone ever whip one of them to perform until their bones broke.

Horses love to run. They do. But left out on the farm, how many of them run themselves to death? How many hundreds die on race tracks every year? Tracks without the Goodyear blimp and Tom Hammond to record the event?

If you want to see horses, come with me and we'll drive through the most beautiful farms in the world and watch horses run till the sun goes down.

Nobody betting on them.

Nobody whipping them.

Nobody driving them until their bones splinter from the strain or a misstep.

Secretariat could run like a god. But so could Carl Lewis. The difference was, Lewis knew the game and the rules. Dale Ernhardt loved to race as much as any horse. All Ruffian or Barbaro or Eight Belles knew was to keep running till someone told them they could stop.

Athletes choose. Horses can't.

I will watch another Derby when it features a bunch of millionaires in seersucker being chased for a mile and a quarter by the Thoroughbreds they love. I wonder how many of them would have to be killed while the crowd cheered for the survivors.

I love my Kentucky with all my heart. But God help me I hate horse racing.

Derby Day

If you don't recognize the big red champion in this photo, stay out of Kentucky.


Maybe you’ve heard. We’re having a little horse race in the Bluegrass today. After a loud, blowing rainstorm last night, the sun is out, the roses are red, and the grass is as blue as as Bill Monroe’s mandolin strings.

I’m no racing fan. I don’t understand the language and watching Barbaro break his beautiful leg made me wish I’d never heard of horse racing. I’d much rather watch people risking their own necks in stock cars.


These horses are just about the most beautiful athletes in the world. I’d rather see them in the pasture than the paddock, but I’ll be watching them today, praying that no one gets hurt and the bravest one wins.

My friend Alex likes Pyro, I’m leaning toward Eight Belles, but only because I think it would be a hoot to see a lady dressed in roses. Mrs P agrees with Alex. Molly likes Big Brown - draw your own conclusions. The cats think the whole thing is just stupid.

I hit the gym ready to go this morning. After two days off, I wanted to get back to work, but I wanted to start easy. I did 10 minutes on the Step climber, getting better every day. I took another shot at the resistance band workout that I failed so badly on Wednesday. I finished, but I still cant believe what a workout they give me.

The run felt really good. 2.25 miles in 30 minutes. The fastest I could walk was 4.5 mph. Today is the first day I ran faster than I could walk. It seems like every day is a new milestone.

Now, where did we hide the good bourbon?

Peace, y’all

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