Saturday, December 29, 2012

#416: Of Juice, Smoothies, and Life in the Food Chain.

Yes, I saw it. It seems like everyone has seen it. If you haven't, I recommend Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead for your holiday viewing. It is an inspiring story about a man who saved his own life, then set about helping others to save theirs. Mrs P and I were moved when we saw it, and it has stuck with us.

The means by which the film maker, Joe Cross, saved his life is juicing. Cross is a proponent of a whole foods, plant-based way of eating that uses juicing as a way of extracting nutrients from a large amount of vegetables without having to consume pounds and pounds of fiber in the process. My supper last night involved a mountain of produce that I could never have eaten whole in one sitting. Juicing is an approach to nutrition that makes a lot of sense, and we're giving it a try at our house as we wrap up the old year.

I have a couple of goals with the program. I want to clean out my system a little bit after a Christmas of guilt-free self indulgence. I gorged at Mum's table and pantry like there was no tomorrow. It was fun, but I know that I set myself back a little with all those candies and cookies. I also want to jump start my weight loss program. Coach Carrie and I will be working on getting me down to racing weight as I prepare for my Spring Marathon. I am confident that a juice based diet can help me get there.

So, what are we eating?

  • Breakfast yesterday was Carrot, Apple, Ginger Juice: a very simple start to the day. It was sweet and zingy. 
  • For lunch I had a Mean Green: a very intense beautifully dark green juice made with cucumber, celery, apples, kale, lemon, and ginger. This is a classic vegetable juice mix, and is a real energy booster. 
  • Supper was a unique combination called Sunset Blend. It contained sweet potato, carrot, red bell pepper, beets, apples, and oranges. At first it tasted very earthy, as if I hadn't really cleaned the roots thoroughly, but soon, the rich flavors of the beets and sweet potatoes won me over. I had two helpings of this rosy beauty.

This morning, I fell off the juice wagon a little. I mixed up a smoothie with pineapple, banana, raspberry, yogurt, chia, and almond milk. I was hankering for fiber, and this fruity cocktail should do the trick.

So here I am at day two of my liquid fast. Yesterday, I was feeling very run-down and had a head ache, but I'm not sure that wasn't a combination of fatigue from our long drive home and my body battling whatever the bug was that the family was incubating while we visited. The day after we left, many of them took to their beds, and yesterday, Mrs P hunkered down with the cats, some Kleenex, and a pile of library books for a long weekend under the covers. I feel a lot better today, but don't think I'll run outdoors, just in case I'm fighting that bug myself.

I'm going to stay off the scale until New Years. My weight when I returned home was obscene, and I want to get a little juice boost before I start measuring. In the mean time, my energy is good, my belly feels fine, and I'm not showing any signs of changing colors. All in all, a successful experiment so far.


Friday, December 14, 2012

#415: Intervals: Just Keep Going

There are a lot of different kinds of runs. One of my favorites is the Long Slow one. I usually schedule one a week, at least 8 miles: longer if I'm training for a race. This is pure endurance training, miles for their own sake. I always record my time and pace from these runs, but I rarely pay much attention to them while I'm on the road. More often than not, I'm enjoying the scenery or the company if there is any.

A Recovery Run is great after a hard workout or race. 2-4 distance. Easy jogging. Lots of walk breaks. I use it to keep the joints moving and get the blood flowing. A Recovery Run is a healing run.

Tempo Runs are more aggressive. They're all about speed. If you have a time goal for an upcoming event, you might try to hit your goal pace for part of a run or even the majority of your workout. Tempo Runs can take you a little beyond your threshold of comfort.

Then there are Intervals. Intervals take you way past the threshold. Yesterday's was an interval workout. I jogged about a mile to warm up, then set my timer to go off every thirty seconds. For the next three miles, I tried to hit progressively faster speeds, for half a minute, with walk breaks in between. By mile 4, I was running at 8 MPH: that's a pace of 7:30 per mile. That's about as fast as I can go no the treadmill which makes it about as fast as I can go.I was pleased that I could keep the intervals up for the entire last mile.I guess the next step is to start making the quick ones a few seconds longer. In any case, yesterday had more than it's share of frustrations, so I was glad for the chance to blow off some steam out on the trail.

The run got me thinking about "intervals" in general. You know, the way life can sometimes feel like you're either going full speed or not moving at all? I'm sure everybody has times like that. During a depressive "spell," it seems like that's all there is. You're either frozen, not daring (or wanting) to move, or else everything around you seems to be moving at light speed and you don't see any way in the world of keeping up.

One of the hard lessons a runner has to learn is "Run Your Own Race" If you have a competitive bone in your body, you always feel a little tug when another runner passes you. You don't want to get left behind by that kid or that old guy or that pregnant lady pushing a stroller. But the truth is that sometimes, runners are just faster than you are. You have to learn to let them go. I guess that's how I manage my dark times nowadays. I remind myself that I'm running injured. I can't go as hard as I'm used to going. There are some parts of life that I just have to let run on past me. That's tough. I may not be a champion, but I'm pretty driven to always give my best. It's tough to take when your "best" only feels like 45%.

I started on the new, higher dose of "nerve pills" yesterday. The chemistry takes time to adjust. Time. It's just one more of those things that you have to let go at their own pace and trust that you'll catch up eventually. In the meantime, the people who love you suffer right along with you. Harsh words are spoken, promises are broken, plans fall through. At its worst, the disease tries to convince you that the only solution is to stop running and get out of the race. I know that voice well. It spoke to me with screams around mile 16 of my marathon when my legs started cramping at every stride. All I could think, all I could say was, "Just keep moving." Every time my watch beeped for another walk break, I just wanted to put my hands on my knees, fall to the curb, lay down in the gutter and quit. But I knew people were counting on me. I was counting on myself. "Just keep going."

On the track, you can make it through the intervals by reminding yourself that they don't last forever. Your lungs burn and your legs ache, but you know that the sprint only lasts for a few more seconds. You know that the hard part doesn't last. You can make it. You just keep going.

And in the end, what's left is the strength. Your heart comes through stronger. You recover faster. You move a little quicker. That's why you run intervals on the track. And I guess, I do them in life for the same reason. I just have to trust that they'll be over eventually and I'll be stronger for having gotten through them.

Just gotta keep going.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#414: Warm Thoughts on a Frigid Morning

Lord, but it's cold out this morning. 24° when I turned on the defrosters in the Honda at 4:45. My little girl is 12 years old now, but she still fires up like a dream. The stars were breathtaking, or maybe it was the temperature that stopped my heart for just a second.

I spent years as an evening person. Show business and all. Many times my friend Noah and I watched the sun come up as we wandered the streets of Manhattan after a long night of music, billiards, beers, and smoke. Now, my bed time is much earlier, but the payoff is these pre-dawn hours to reflect on yesterday, plan today, and enjoy the peaceful breathing of Mrs P, Kizzie, or the pack, depending on who's sleeping where.

Yesterday was not a bad one. I got to work early, then enjoyed my regular running date with my friend, Christy. It really helps having a partner to run with. I can talk myself out of almost any other workout, but knowing that my friend is going to be there, counting on me... it makes my Tuesday run one that I really look forward to. We did four fairly quick miles on the Legacy Trail. "Too cold to dawdle," is my mantra this time of year. Once my own workout was done, I met with a client and we had an hour in the gymnasium doing indoor laps, banging the medicine ball around, and learning some fundamental kettlebell skills. By the time I got home, I was ready to pass out.

I wake with a start. Pitch black. Kizzie purring softly beside me. What time is it? 7:30!!! Oh no! I was supposed to open the gym at 5:15! Why didn't anybody call? My phone! It's charging in the den! I didn't hear Coach Melissa's call. She probably had to get up and drive to the Y in the dark to open up. Damn. Pull on some pants. Shoes? Where? Damn. Go find my phone. Call Coach. Where's Mrs P? The lights are on in the den. The dogs are awake. Mrs P is watching Netflix. "What are you doing up? Why didn't you wake me?" A light blinks on in my head. I lean against the wall, panic subsiding. "It's not morning, is it?" My wife smiles the tender smile of a woman who knows that she's in love with an idiot and she's come to accept the fact. "No, honey. It's Tuesday night. You were so tired, I let you sleep. There's tuna on the stove." I skip the casserole, pour a bowl of cereal, watch half an episode of Lie to Me, and go back to bed.

I have a long day planned today. After my morning shift, I'll take a water aerobics class, then find a quiet corner to swing the kettlebell for a while. I have an idea that I may start my group exercise career teaching water fitness, so I'm trying to observe and pick the brains of the more experienced teachers so I'll be ready if the opportunity comes. I'll see the shrink this afternoon, then for the rest of the day and evening, I'll do intake interviews for the January LIVESTRONG at the YMCA class.

I'm eager to see the Psychiatrist, too. We're tapering in a new medication, and so far, it isn't making much of a difference. Still edgy. Still irritable. Still angry at nothing and everything. The only thing I'm noticing is that I've gained about 5 pounds since starting it. That's not OK. I hope we can get the meds and my brain stabilized soon, so I can figure out what other changes I need to make to keep my girlish figure intact. My goal for the winter is to drop some pounds so I'm ready for the spring racing season. I'm moving in exactly the wrong direction, but like Cool Hand Luke, I got to get my mind right or the rest of my wellness is going to come apart. First things first.

I've been writing this in the gym, which is against the rules, but the Y is pretty low maintenance in the early morning hours. Keep the coffee hot and the non-members out of the locker room. Men come in to use the bathroom and warm their hands for a bit in the wee hours. When there are kids around, I have zero tolerance for such goings on, but at this hour and at these temps I don't have the heart to run them off without a little bit of hospitality. You never know when an angel is going to wander in looking for a cup of coffee. Christmas is not the time for "no room at the inn."


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#413: Same Goal, Different Foe

Been quite a hiatus since my last post. My bad. I've let a lot of things distract me from my center. Some important, some irrelevant, some seemingly insurmountable. There have been other priorities: getting the taxes done, (finally); increasing my workouts to build strength and speed; dealing with finances and paperwork; blah, blah, blah, etc. There have been time wasters: solitaire and Words with Friends; way too many hours spent on Facebook; Netflix. Then there's my old friend, depression. I've said that cancer was easier to live with than depression, and I meant it. Both are potentially fatal diseases. But only one is curable. I'll spend the rest of my life as someone who had cancer once, but I'll always be a man living with depression. It's never going to beat me. I'm not going to let that happen. But it's going to keep trying.

Depression is a cruel disease. The things that help the most are exactly the things that depression tried to keep you from doing. Get out of bed. Remember your meds. Exercise. Tell a friend you're hurting. See the doctor. Visit the therapist. Fighting cancer is a pretty passive process by comparison. Mostly, it's about enduring. You suffer and you take it. You know that cancer will either kill you or it won't and you just hang on for as long as you can until that resolution comes. But fighting depression requires action. Getting this blog back in motion is one of the actions I think I want to take as part of my own fight. I'm not going to let the darkness win. Ever.

There's been lots of good news since summer. Maybe the best is that I've taken one more step toward a dream that was born even before I got sick. Two weeks ago, I signed a contract as a Personal Trainer for the YMCA. I got a little misty as I put my signature at the bottom of the page. I flashed back to the day during radiation treatments when tried to make it to the bathroom and couldn't get out of bed. I threw up all over the floor and sat there weeping as Mrs P cleaned me and the bedroom up. I thought of how weak I felt that day, and how her faith in me was often the only reason I had to keep fighting. Her love kept me alive through the worst of times, and now it felt like the best of times were ready to begin. I'm still a rookie trainer. I'm studying hard to earn that NCSM certification that will be my real credential, but for now, I'm doing the work I love: helping people to fight for their lives.

I ran two Half Marathons this fall: the beautiful Iron Horse Half in Midway KY and the Monumental in Indianapolis. The Monumental was particularly special because I got a chance to finally meet and run with a friend and inspiration: Charlie the Javarunner. His blog, Running With Coffee is an informative and authentic telling of his own journey and struggles as a runner. We've been friends for over a decade online, but never met before my trip to Indy this November. It was a joy and an honor to meet him and spend 13.1 flat Indiana miles together.

I've been training with Coach Carrie for most of the running season this year and it has paid off. This year I set personal records in the 5K, the 10K, and the Half. She encourages me to work hard, and inspires me to keep going through the pain and fatigue that comes when I approach my own limits. More than once, I have heard her voice on the road or in the weight room when she isn't even there, pushing me to finish that last mile or pull that last rep.

It's funny. I've never been very big on combat metaphors. I was very competitive when I was a kid, and since I wasn't really very good at any of the sports we played in the neighborhood, that hunger to win produced a lot of anger and frustration in me. I tried to give up fighting for anything, but cancer taught me that some battles are worth taking on. Today, my battle is against another disease: one that hurts a lot of people I love. It is relentless and insidious. It wants to take my life.

And it's gonna find the Fat Man and Mrs P to be a formidable team.


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