The Long Road... #2014reboot

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Better Part of Valor

It occurs to me that a certain discretion is called for when blogging about an ongoing job search. I'll try to touch the highlights without any dangerous details.

I have had a couple of interviews this week, a couple of miles at the gym, and a lunch or two with folks who care. Not a bad way to go about changing my life, I guess.

The hard part is keeping control of your own search. I'm tempted to panic and grab at the first lifeline that's thrown in the water. Tempted, but I'm resisting. Looking back, I realize that I have spend a lot of years trying to be the man I thought I ought to be, and not the man I am. As If I knew better than my Creator what a proper Pennsy ought to be.

I spoke to a friend today about a job offer. I asked her what she thought. "Is that what you want to do with your life?"

"No, not really."

"Well then, DON"T!"

Too simple to be true, don't you think? I have a plan. I'll let you know how it works out.

Peace,
Pennsy

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lunch break update

Started with a good run this morning, actually. I want to teach my legs to move faster, so I did treadmill intervals, 10x3:00 intervals alternating between 4 & 5+ mph. I wound up doing 2.25 miles in the 30 minutes, setting a new low pace of 13:20 per mile. That's as fast as I have run so far.
Date           Time           Pace     MPH   
08/09/08    3.11            14.18    4.23   
08/25/08    2.25            13.33    4.50  

This tells me two things -- 1) my cardio strength is improving and 2) I've probably been running too slowly. Judging from the way I felt after the half hour, I think I could have finished 5K. Maybe I'll try intervals on the 5K trainer program Wednesday morning.

The safety of the treadmill (and the appeal of all those flashing numbers) lets me push myself harder than I do on the road. After all. If I pull up lame on the treadmill, I'm surrounded by help. If something goes wrong on the road, I'm writhing in a ditch at 6:00 in the morning.

Since I made the decision to make running part of my body transformation strategy and less of an end in itself, I don't feel so wimpy about running inside. I'll try to do my long weekend run outside just to keep my chops up, but for now, sweating is more important.

I'll worry about tearing up the roads when I'm a little leaner and meaner.

Peace,
Pennsy

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Five Stages of Getting Canned

  1. Denial - Ah... a meeting with the boss. They're going to reward me for sticking with the company through this difficult period.
  2. Anger - Ten years for nothing? Long nights and going the extra mile for Nothing! Screw those people!
  3. Bargaining - Ok, maybe there's a way to change their minds. What if I just sold on straight commission for a while, just to prove my loyalty until business picks back up.
  4. Depression - I deserved this. I should have done better. He had no choice but to fire me. Now I'm done for. That job was the only thing I knew how to do.
  5. Acceptance - I had a job. Now I don't have it anymore. I may never really understand why that happened, but it isn't going to kill me. I'm going to take the lessons I've learned and use them to find my next job.
Today is the last day of the time I've budgeted for grieving about my lost job. I have done all the cussing and blaming and explaining and weeping I care to do about it. I have (with the help of my old boss) come up with an explanation for my dismissal that doesn't involve blaming or bashing the company. And of course, I have engaged in a certain amount of self-destructive behavior - missing sleep, eating garbage, skipping workouts.

Tomorrow I start my patented Pennsy Finds a New Gig Plan ®. I have a schedule for the coming week - one that treats looking for a job like it is my new job. I'll work out, clean up, and do house chores first thing, then work in my home office from 9:00 - 4:30. After that, I'll put work aside and set about being a husband, neighbor, and father figure to our small tribe of cats, Molly the dog, Dennis the fish, and anyone else God's infinite sense of humor sends our way.

I'll apply the things I learned as a sales manager, building a marketing plan based on defining my product, targeting the most attractive markets, and aggressively pursuing customer relationships.

Does this story belong on Pennsy Running? In a way, it does. This program is going to test my fitness on all levels - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The fact is, this kind of challenge is the reason I started running in the first place. Not just to be thinner, but fitter. More able to meet the challenges of life, whether that means the ability to get my family out of a burning house (one of my favorite definitions of fitness) or finding a new job.

As usual, I plan to make this page part of my discipline. I want to post every night to keep myself accountable. Feel free to nag at me if I don't.

Peace,
Pennsy


The image of Dr K├╝bler-Ross's model is from The Outlaw Torn

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One Door Closes...

The recession has come to Pennsyltucky. Pennsy got layed off yesterday. (I also had a really good run in the morning, but frankly, the day's events kind of overshadowed my best time ever in the mile.)

I had a good job, making great money, working for super people. But the truth is, it never really touched my heart. I gave it everything I could... everything but my passion.

The boss was sad to let me go. We like one another, I think. But I was an expensive middle manager. Cutting me loose will probably save the jobs of a couple of guys who might have a harder time than I will getting a new gig.

I'm sad too, of course. But there's a part of me that is hopful. I wonder if God has a place for me where I can feel that fire again. Who knows... maybe even picking up towels in a gym someplace.

I'm taking the opportunity to create my own future. There is a dream inside me. I haven't found the words to wrap around it yet, but maybe some time running and lifting will help me find them.

"In my Father's house, there are many rooms." Time for me to jog down the hall and peek through some new doors.

Peace,
Pennsy

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Champion Among Giants

I'm watching the amazing women's marathon from Beijiing. Heres a shot of the leader, Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania. (image from let'srun.com) As I begin this post, they have been running almost two hours. I am amazed at their courage, their physiques.
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I cannot imagine the exhilaration of leading such a race. The leader  keeps pulling away, the chase pack keeps trying to reel her in. It's a classic and primal contest. I have a feeling that the marathon is about 30 percent ability and 70 percent will. That's the impression I have from watching the handful of marathoners I have known. It is certainly what it looks like on the screen.
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Watching an entire marathon is a unique experience. It unfolds slowly like a screw turning a tiny tick at a time. The numbers fall as the screw turns. 10 miles. 20 miles. 2 hours.
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Mrs P says that they look like they are miserable, like what they are doing hurts. It probably does hurt, but I see something else in their eyes. Determination. Each has a goal and a plan to reach it. The goal is out of their sight, the greatest obstacles are as present as their own hearts. I see warriors who refuse to be defeated. Not by weather. Not by fatigue. Never.
 
The runners whose pain is so great that they must drop out have their own courage and tragic glory.
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My God. She just ran into the stadum. She is all alone. They were actually unrolling the tape as she ran past. What an amazing thing to witness. What an inspiration. 38 years old.

And after the winners come the rest of the heros. Limping. Cramping. Gasping for air. Battling agony. These women are giants.

Tomescu-Dita. What a name. What a champion.
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The Marathon seems to be to be the most Olympic of events. All nations competing at once. Nationality seems to fade away. The parochial "where are the Americans" of the announcers no longer matters. It may not be great television, but it is great drama.

It makes a Pennsyltuckian want to run.

Peace,
Pennsy

Pennsy's Bookshelf: The New Rules of Lifting

I read too much. Too many books and not enough doing. At this moment, when I ought to be at the gym for my Saturday morning sweat-fest, I am instead writing about reading.

My brain has always been my favorite muscle and it shows, but it is always easier for my body to follow when I understand what I am asking it to do. So here's a book I got myself as a birthday present, and the authors are teaching me a lot.

The New Rules of Lifting is organized around two lists. One is the list of twenty rules based on common sense and a good humor. The last is "If it's not fun, you're doing something wrong." The narrative voice of New Rules... belongs to Lou Schuler who has a rare combination of expertise, humility, and humor about himself that keeps the text light and effective.

The other important list - the one that provides the spine for the functional part of the book is this one:

  • Squat
  • Bend
  • Lunge
  • Twist
  • Push
  • Pull
These are the basis for all human movement. They are also the basis of  the programs designed by Alwyn Cosgrove. They are simple routines, designed to be achievable in an hour. The way they are designed applies several principles.
  • Periodization - stick with a good program for an extended time, then switch when your body starts to adapt to it.
  • Variety - don't repeat a workout. Try to lift a little heavier, a little faster, a little more powerfully each time you go to the gym.
  • Compound movement - do a full body workout every time. 
  • Using muscles the way they were designed to be used - There aren't a lot of situations where you will be required to stand still and bend your elbow under a heavy load the way you do with arm curls. On the other hand, bending over and picking up heavy stuff is a daily part of life. Strengthen your arms as part of a bigger movement like a deadlift or a clean and press (honey, can you pick this up and put it on the top shelf for me?)
  • Intensity - Work hard and fast. Because the workouts are so simple and so short, loafing through them is a waste of time. Rest between sets is built in, but as Schuler points out, Work = Strength + Speed. I've been watching olympic lifters lately and they exemplify this principle as much as anyone. It isn't just that they move amazing amounts of iron off the floor - it's that they move it so fast that they can hop underneath and push it up over their heads. 
I am going to try the Fat Loss program. There's also one for strength and one for hypertrophy (that's muscle growth.) It looks hard, which I like. It also lasts a long time, also a plus. I have been experimenting and learning, but now I want to get a little more focus into my training. There's a whole year's worth of workouts. I don't know if my attention span can handle that kind of discipline, but if it makes me pretty, that may be motivation enough.

There's also a version for women whose subtitle is Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess. I have not read that one, since that isn't really the look I'm after, but I would be surprised if it doesn't share many of the qualities of the one I have. 

The authors don't speak very highly of running. I find this to be pretty common among resistance advocates. Runners tend to speak ill of the weight room too. Typically, I have managed to delight in two antagonistic activities. Since I haven't really found a guru who says much about combining them - except for old Arnold Schwarzenegger who used to run a lot while competing - I'm going to have to find my own way to reconcile them.

And now, off to the gym. Seriously.

Peace,
Pennsy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Working Out for the Long Haul


I've been taking a break. The race on Saturday was a real high for me. It also left my legs and butt pretty sore and tired. Yesterday was my first trip back to the gym after four days off and I felt it. I did Pullups, Woodchoppers, Lunges, Bench Press, and Deadlifts, but when I tried to run, my legs were so wobbley that it felt like the treadmill was turning over. Not hurting, just absolutely out of gas. They wouldn't hold me up or move me forward.

Good time to call it a night.

So here's what I mean about the long haul. I have this long-range goal. I want to be a personal trainer some day. If I can get there, I think I could put together a very persuasive sales pitch - starting with before and after pictures.

The reason I've been thinking about during this break is that I have started to feel a little distracted. I change workouts every two weeks. I finish a 5K and start thinking about the next 10K. I read about this or that exercise, and immediately throw it into the mix to try it out. Those are all good things for a beginner to do, I think - and I am aware that I'm still very much a beginner at all this - but looking back over the past few weeks/months I think I've started to lose focus a little. I want to be a body builder. I want to be a runner. I want to be a powerlifter. I'm like a kid who can't decide between being a cowboy or an astronaut.

Fact is, if I want to be any of those things, everything I do for the next couple of years needs to be focused on transforming my body. I'll do that by running and lifting and yoga-ing and whatever else comes my way, but that new body is the city at the end of my yellow brick road. I need to build a new body. Along that road, I'll learn the things I need to know in order to help other people turn their lives around.

So I've decided not to fret about the 10K on Labor Day weekend. Especially since I still have jelly legs 5 days after a 5K. I am working on a simplified program that I can stick with for the long haul. I've been laying a foundation - turning myself into a fat burning engine. Now it's time to learn how to operate the machine.

Peace,
Pennsy


The beautiful photo of an Arizona highway is by Stefano Roddaro and is available on stock.exchg

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving Forward Toward 10K

A new distance looms, and I have a plan to get there.

Speaking in broad terms, I intend to follow Jeff Galloway's program of long weekend runs to extend my endurance and two shorter runs during the week to maintain my conditioning. I'll use weight lifting, yoga, and the elliptical as my cross-training workouts to keep the fat-burning engines chugging. I'll start tonight with Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges and a three mile run/walk on the treadmill.

While the writers I've studied disagree on the priority (based on personal focus) all seem to agree that if you are going to combine leg work with weights and running, you should do them on the same day so those muscles get their full two days of recovery time.

On upper body days, I'll do dips, pushups, bench, clean & press, and cable woodchoppers, a new addition that I'm putting in to work my core. Here's a good illustration of woodchoppers from myfit.ca.
I understand that I've set a very ambitious goal for myself here. I will need to pay close attention to what my body has to say about doubling my longest run in three weeks. If the legs don't want to go, I'll find a race in the autumn to work toward, but I would really like to do this by Labor Day. 
Peace,
Pennsy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

VICTORY!

PlaceName Age Div/Total Time
1 Jacob Korir 27 1/213 14:34
2861 Pennsy 48 128/136 44:06
 
There it is. I finished 2861st out of 3209 runners, 128 out of 136 in my age group. My time was 44:06. That's more than a minute and a half faster than I ran back in May. I took two walk breaks, both during the second mile. I didn't time them, but I don't think either was much longer than a minute. Mrs P was there at the start and the finish. She also made her way to the half-way turn to cheer me on. My wife is the bomb.

No chasing anyone this time. When I felt myself tempted, I just raised my gaze up to the horizon and ran along to my own tempo. I wore my iPod, and that may have helped me to stay within myself. There was a woman I paced myself with for a mile or so, but I let her go when I took my first walk break.

One of the unique things about this race was its start time. The gun was at 8:30 PM. I don't actually remember the sun going down, but I was dark when I finished. At around 2.5 miles, right about the time my leg blew up last time, Bruce Springsteen came on my headphones singing Born to Run. I just started laughing and running. Bruce got me almost all the way to the 3 mile split. After that, I took off my headphones. I wanted to hear everything. The crowd clapped and encouraged us from the shadows as we jogged, walked, and rolled our way into the light and over the line. No accolades. Just Mrs P and God and Me, all three knowing that something kind of special was happening in the cool Kentucky evening.

No injuries to report. My glutes are sore, but I always find that kind of encouraging. I figure that if I'm working those big old butt muscles hard, then I'm doing something right.

So I feel very good this morning. I am proud ofcoming back, and grateful for Mrs P. I really don't think I would have kept trying if it weren't for her believing in me.

I'm not kidding myself here. I know I'm not ever going to be competitive. The men who win in the 50 & 60 year old divisions are running about twice as fast as I do. I may not ever hear my name called at the award ceremony, but after the way I lived most of my life, every step I take is going to be a victory.

 Today is a day off, then tomorrow I'll resume training for 10K on August 31.

Peace,
Pennsy

Friday, August 8, 2008

Last workout before Saturday's 5K

Last night I ran a simulated 5K on the treadmill after my Yoga class. I wanted to squeeze it in so I could have two days of rest before Saturday night's race. Of course after all that yoga I was plenty warmed up, but I still did a quarter mile of easy walk/jogging before starting the 5K Trainer program. I ran the simulation in around 46 minutes (I forgot to record the actual time) which is just slightly slower than my peresonal "best" which tore my legs up for months afterwards. There were probably five walk breaks in there of one to two minutes each.

Rather than shower at the gym, I jumped in the car, stopped to pick up a Gatorade and a bag of ice, came home, filled the tub with cold water, dumped in the ice, and sat down in the cold bath for about 15 minutes, dreaming I was actually in a chilly mountain stream in the Catskills.

This ice bath trick is something I read about in a couple different places. I also checked in with my marathoner friend whose eyes rolled back in her head in extacy at the very thought of plunging into a freezing tub. I did it Wednesday morning with a little ice, and Thursday night with a whole bag. I could probably have used another bag, to be honest, but my goal is therapy not machismo so I'm working my way up to the hard stuff. I leave my compression shorts on, not so much to conserve body heat as to protect a bit of manly pride when Mrs P walks in on her fat old husband whose - um - "Wee Fellow" has shrunken to the size of a cashew in the icy tub.

While soaking, I ceremonially presented my bride with a yellow "LIVESTRONG" bracelet. I picked up one for each of us at Dick's Sporting Goods (a fine Pennsyltucky corporation, by the way). Unlike many of the online merchants for whom Satan is preparing a special chamber in Hell, Dick's sells them for $1 each - same as livestrong.org.

The totem is appropriate for us in several ways. Mrs P is a social worker who has spent plenty of time counseling cancer patients in hospice care. Like every other family, we each have a long list of loved ones who have fought the disease over the years. And like everyone else, we are always struggling to find a little more strength to do the work God has given us to do in this world. Knowing that this little yellow rubber band links me to my bride, and to thousands of people who have fought to stay alive -- it inspires me.

Tonight I'll get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we'll do some household chores, and then in the evening I'll make my way downtown to the starting line. My goal is to finish the race without getting hurt so I can continue training for a 10K run at the end of the month. In spite of the fact that I'll be wearing a timing chip, I'm just going to let that take as long as it takes. (though it would be nice to finish before a few of the walkers, anyway.

I'll probably spend some time looking over this post. One of the best things about a blog like this is that it helps me remember and learn hard earned lessons.

And no chasing coeds this time!!!

Peace,
Pennsy

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Finding the Inspiration to Keep Going

Unlike men of better character, I have always found it easy to quit. On projects. On relationships, On jobs. On myself. Yesterday morning around 5:36, I came very close to quitting on the whole stupid idea that I might ever be fit.

I had taken a week off of any workout at all. My legs hurt. I was tired and depressed and I really wanted to take one last shot at running in the 5K this weekend. Since the race is Saturday night, Wednesday morning was really my last chance to try if I was going to get two runs in before the event. Tuesday night I laid out my running clothes before bed. Wednesday the alarm went off at 5:00. I spent about 15 minutes waking up, then about 15 minutes getting ready.

Outside in the dark morning it was comfortable. There was cool in the air from the evening's rain and the streets were quiet. I walked for about five minutes. So far so good. I tried a little jog for a block.

The pain shot through my right calf and I pulled up. "That's it," I thought. "I'm done. I can't run on it if it's hurt. Hell, I probably can't run at all." I turned around and started limping back home in my clean dry shirt.

Then two of the people I had spent my weekend with caught me up short.

During her visit last week, Mom gave me a book, Keep it Simple by Terry Bradshaw. It isn't a very good book. Brad's shtick is that he's just a big dumb hick who says funny stuff. Well he is big, but he's not dumb. He probably stopped being a hick several million dollars ago, and the stuff he says is sometimes funny but sometimes it's just goofy. So no, I didn't care for his book. But by the time I was finished, I really did like him. His writing is so odd and quirky and genuine that his character delighted me much more than his style annoyed. And here's what I took away from his delightful, annoying book...
  • Life can be hard
  • Love can seem impossible
  • Keep living
  • Keep loving
  • Never give up
He talks about his divorces. There are lots of references to his transition from the Boy Wonder of little Louisiana Tech to the benched former starting quarterback of the never-won-a-thing Pittsburgh Steelers. He has been dumped by wives, booed by strangers, bullied by bosses, betrayed by teammates, and he has never given up. Instead of limping home in his clean dry shirt, he got back up and got back to work.

During the weekend's depression over not being able to run, I went looking for inspiration online and started watching YouTube videos of Lance Armstrong. Just about everyone knows his story by now. A hard charging up-and-comer, America's next great cyclist washes out at the Atlanta Olympics and learns he has cancer. A lot of cancer. 40% chance of survival type of cancer. He goes after cancer like he goes after a mountain on his bike. It tries to kick his ass. He could have limped home in his clean dry shirt. He kicked cancer's ass instead. And he's been kicking ever since.



I thought about those two brave men. They weren't better than me. They had stronger, younger muscles sure, but it wasn't muscles that got them back on their feet. It wasn't their principles or their up bringing. I was raised by good, hardworking people who taught me right and wrong. Where did their strength of character come from?

Practice.

Muscles get stronger when you use them. So does courage. They chose to act courageously. They practiced persevering, staying hopeful, setting their jaws and moving their feet. And never going home until their shirt was soaked.

So that's what I did. I turned my self around and I limped till I could walk. I walked till I could jog. I jogged till I could run. And by the time I got home, my stinky soggy shirt told the story. Three miles before breakfast. Then a long cold soak in a tub of ice water. Ahhhh...

I have decided to take the advice of two guys I got to hang out with this weekend.

Keep it Simple
Live Strong
Peace,
Pennsy

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bushwacking

That's what my training feels like this week. Like chopping through vines with a dull machete.

Running is all I really want to do, and each run leaves me with sore calves and ankles, a stiff, limping gait, and the nagging feeling that the dream may not happen. I don't know if my legs will ever be able to run me around the Bluegrass.

I've tapered my weight lifting way down to save energy for running, but instead I just feel logy. I guess these feelings of doubt are part of the journey, just like the achievements. That perspective ought to give me some comfort. Ought to.

I have a 5K training run scheduled tomorrow morning, after two days off. I'm hoping that the rest will help my legs to come back. I really don't want to limp for three miles in next week's race, and I also don't want to blow it off.

Yeah, I'm listening to my body like the trainer told me. I just don't care for what it has to say today.

Thanks for sticking with me. I'll go chop some more vines now.

Peace,

Pennsy
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