Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feed Me Seymour, Feed Me!

My last workout with Adam the Terminator was Friday morning. We jogged just a little to test out the right hamstring and it was so far so good. He instructed me to keep icing it up until the race and said I should be fine.

I was still nervous about it, but I felt like I needed to jog. It’s going on two weeks without running. Over that time, I’ve been caught with trying to cut back my eating since I haven’t been working up the sweat I usually do.

I still made it to the TREC, walked a couple of miles and did weights, but it was nothing like the sweat I would work up while jogging. As I contemplate daily what to eat as I prepare for the race, I constantly hear two distinct voices in my head (and it’s not a medical condition. I think.)

One was Master Yoda, reminding this young Jedi of portion control: “Control. You must learn control.”

The other voice was the Mean Green Mother from Outer Space, the Levi Stubb’s singing plant from the Little Shop of Horrors, reminding me that I’ve worked hard and I should have no guilty feelings at all.

“Feed me, Seymour. Feed me,” that voice tells me every chance it gets.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the song “Junk Food Junkie,” where at work, I’m able to manage through my banana or McDonald’s oatmeal for breakfast, a nice homemade salad at lunch, only give into my weakness for dinner, thinking I’m about to run a 5K, I’m going to need this to just survive. The song’s chorus said it all:

“In the daytime I’m Mr. Natural, just as healthy as I can be.
But at night I’m a Junk Food Junkie. Good Lord, have pity on me.”

(NOTE: About now, you’re probably wondering “where does he come up with this stuff?” Trust me, you don’t want to go to that dark, cold corner of my mind.)

So I struggle with my addiction, day by day as I walk through the South Campus Courts-D conference room to find someone had devilishly place treats (cookies, donuts and just about everything in between) within smelling distance of my office. How cleverly Sue Honey and Cheryl Erwin would leave their candy jars on their desk unprotected as I walked by. If I didn’t know better, I would think they pulled those out from under their desk only when thought I would come strolling along.

It’s sinister I tell you. I would be blindly hypnotized as my left hand would reach for the Hershey Kisses while the right hand would grab my left hand and pull me away. I’ve had some interesting wrestling matches with myself over the past few days. Luckily no one has seen me or campus police would have been called and one of those Purdue police bulletins would have made out on me.

It would read:

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University police are investigating an incident where a man was seen wrestling with himself inside South Campus Court, Building D.

On Oct. 25, a larger than average man was seen on the fighting with himself in the hallway, his right hand holding his left with scores of small candy bars scattered about the floor. A terrified worker hiding under a desk in her office could hear the man scream “Feed me Seymour, feed me,” and then she would hear him scream again “Control, you must learn control.”

“I don’t know what’s going on, but we don’t have a Seymour that works here,” said the worker, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

Police estimated damage to the candy bars and the hall way to be $12.75.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Purdue Police Department at 765-494-8221 or its anonymous tipline at 765-496-3784. The WeTip anonymous hotline, which is used by all Greater Lafayette law enforcement agencies, also is available at 1-800-78CRIME (1-800-782-7463).

Yeah, I would be done – my mugshot on Channel 18 with the prep walk through the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. Maybe I can break free from sheriff’s deputies once outside and race toward the Wabash Heritage Trail.

Do you think any of those deputies ever ran a 5K?

A Needed Pick Me Up

It’s almost here.

And the closer it (the Turkey Trot) gets, the more I wonder “what was I thinking?” Yes, I’ve been working out since September, with all the ups and downs, bumps and bruises of your typical middle aged person trying to get in shape for a 5K run, but still I wonder. All my luck, it’s probably snow Thursday, or get tackled by the Occupy D.C. protesters who thinks I’ve been eating a little too good to be one of them.

My wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter is truly wonderful. Probably sensing I needed a little cheering up, she invited me up to Chicago last Saturday (Nov. 12) while she was in town helping her best friend Erika celebrate her birthday. Ashley’s job has an office in Chicago where she works periodically.

Obviously after not running for more than a week now, I’m getting a little antsy about the race and hoping this darn hamstring will finally heal. After years of giving her pep talks before some of her biggest races, she was more than happy to return the favor this Saturday night on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

We stopped at Ghirardelli’s (she loves chocolate) while waiting for Erika to finish shopping. A good glimpse at my daughter’s personality could be summed up at Ghirardelli’s cashier line. We both decided to get hot chocolate, right? I walked up, ordered a regular hot chocolate, paid for the drink and walked away.

Then as I tapped my finger on the bar waiting, Ashley asked for a menu, discussed with the cashier the different types of hot chocolate drinks, considered getting it with cream or not, before deciding just to get a regular hot chocolate after all. This attention to detail has served her incredible well her entire life, despite driving me absolutely batty at times. She’s so her mother’s daughter and my pride and joy.

Ashley and Erika have been best friends since their freshman year in high school. Ashley attended Toledo Christian and Erika attended their rival Emmanuel Baptist. They both played basketball and in that first game between the two schools, they spent the bulk of the contest trying to beat each other's brains in. They met later at a summer minority law program at the University of Toledo and been two peas in a pod ever since.

After Erika joined us, we went out to Francesca’s and after a snafu in the reservation was cleared up by Ashley and Erika (that poor greeter at the door may never be the same) we were seated. We talked about (we’ll I listened and Ashley and Erika talked) about little bit of everything from the Thanksgiving race, family and lives in Washington, D.C. and Columbus. We also shared a lot of laughs – and good tonic for me at the time.

Then Ashley reminded me of her superiority by saying: “Wow, the race is almost here. I guess I need to get out and run a little.”

Mind you I’ve been working on this since September. I’m so jealous.

It was getting really late, close to midnight, and I still had to drive back to Lafayette. While we talked a little about strategic race strategy over pasta, sliced chicken breast (cooked to perfection) and tomato sauce, it was an enjoyable evening and made me feel a little better about the race and the upcoming weekend.

Here goes nothing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Now that was out of the blue

Life can take you in different directions in a flash and in quite unexpected ways. At times, it will come completely out of left field and you just have to adjust the best you can and roll with it.
That happened to me twice in the span of three days regarding Thanksgiving. I think something sinister is about.
Sure it seems coincidental enough. When I started working out in September for the Turkey Trot, the last thing I expect was a hamstring injury that would bug me until now. Working out with Adam the Terminator Monday evening, there it was again. As the sun started settling along the trees in light rain near the TREC the pain returned. It had been just fine but I hurt it Saturday running before I took off for Ohio.
I iced it Sunday and thought everything was better but it was hurting enough Monday to force the Terminator and I back to the TREC in a slow walk. After telling him not running the Turkey Trot was not an option, he suggested that I take the rest of the week off and I should even consider not running again until the race itself.
What? Nothing? Nada? Zippo?
“You should be happy that I’m telling you not to run,” the Terminator said with a laugh that almost sounded like Arnold. “You’ve got the mileage in. You’ve already done a 5K so you know you can do the distance. You’ll be fine.”
Little did he know, over the weekend, I got the worse news of Thanksgiving. Saturday night, my brother Greg from Texas called me out of the blue. Greg is a computer techie for Marathon Oil near Houston. He and his twin brother Gordon, two of the best brothers anyone could ever have, just had a birthday, but more on that later. Greg is one of the best persons and fathers that I know. What I do for my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter pales to the father he is. He and his wife Wayna raised a niece Nikki who grew up to be a wonderful young woman.
Nikki is now married and living in Laurel, Md. Do you know what they did? Sinister, I tell ya. Greg announced that his family will be flying to Laurel for Thanksgiving and now he will come out and SEE THE TURKEY TROT!
Noooo! I wasn’t supposed to have family from Texas involved. I was partly doing this race for the sadistical enjoyment of Ashley, her boyfriend and a bunch of people who don’t know me. I don’t need this embarrassment spreading around Texas like a wildfire.
Why can’t he just come over to Thanksgiving dinner, eat all the food and steal the last turkey leg? That fate would be much better than him watching me die on the vine in near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum during the Turkey Trot.
 I could have told him the race was moved to Seattle, Washington from Washington, D.C. Since I’ve blogging about this freaking thing since September, posting it on Facebook and all, I quickly realized it would be impossible to cover my tracks. Besides, Greg was the track star in the family in high school and the fear of him putting on his shorts, entering the race cold to blow me away just for family bragging rights has crossed my mind.
Now the Terminator is telling me no running until the race? Man, I’m desperate here. I gotta do so something.
Any other time, I would have just been happy beating my Dayton Dash time considering the situation. Now with Texas family here, I’ve gotta come up with a plan. Maybe I can stop Thanksgiving from coming? Ok, too much like the Grinch. That idea’s been taken, without too much success if you remember.
So, this evening I’ll start weightlifting and whatever else I can do while trying hard to obey the Terminator’s orders. If I would have listened to him the first time and knocked off in early October I wouldn’t still be dealing with the hammy, but that’s another story for another blog. So Aleve will become my drug of choice and constant companion. I wonder what’s the street value for Aleve on the streets of D.C.? I wonder how many Aleve junkies I’ll find on the corner, trying to lure me down a dark alley with a blue and white bottle. “C’mon man. I got the Aleve that will set you free, man. Don’t you hear Eli Lilly calling your name?”
Oh, what we do for brotherly love.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Hate Myself for Loving Me

I received one of those spam emails this morning, probably sent to thousands of people, but it seemed to speak directly to me. In my struggle to get in halfway decent shape to run this 5K run on Thanksgiving, it seemed to read my every thought.

It went:

“Are you depressed? Do you hate yourself? Do you loathe the freaking ground you walk on?”

I starred at the email for a second after my 5:30 a.m. workout, after I had to drive back home because I forgot my dress shirt in the closet mind you, I thought, “Yes. That’s me. Heck yeah.”

Five o’clock came way too quickly this morning. I sleep with the TV and the two faces I absolutely hate to see when I crack one open are Liz Nichols and Jamie Jackson – the morning crew from WLFI-TV (Channel 18). I wanted to wipe their smug little smiles off their faces this morning because it was the sign that I must pull myself out of bed to head for the TREC.

They seemed to laugh at me, mocked me even, as I stumbled around looking for my new Asics "motion control" running shoes (I'm so impressed with myself. Right.) and my too-big-for-my-butt sweats. They continued to read news copy with glee in the voices as I grabbed lunch and other stuff I should have organized the night before so I can make it to the TREC on time.

But if I truly loved myself, I would have been able to think of a good excuse to stay in bed. I was supposed to run with Adam the Terminator after work on Thursday, but when I got to the TREC, I found out I forgot my shorts. Did I forget or was it a stroke of genius? The Terminator was disappointed but we scheduled workouts for Monday and Thursday afternoons. No forgetting such essentials this morning. Not only did I get out of my place in time, but I was able to blindly get everything in my bag that I needed. How could I?

Everyone seemed happier than me today. What it just because it was Friday, or they knew I felt I HAD to work out today after missing Thursday? They all walked passed me with a gleam in their eyes as I walked over to the mats to stretch.  The all seemed to whisper and grin as I walked to the treadmill like it was the electric chair.

“Fat man walking,” I could hear a guard say. Or was it one of the TREC staff?

See, if I truly loved myself, I would have asked for clemency from the Supreme Court, i.e., my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter, on the grounds that 5K runs are prejudicial to old, out-of-shape people. Since I’m about five years away from joining AARP and I’m still technically overweight by Weight Watchers standards, I should qualify. Right? Throw myself on the mercy of the exercise bike.

After my five-minute warm-up, I cursed myself for every second of the next 10 minutes at 5.5 mph.

“Why are you doing this to yourself? You were perfectly happy when you were big and lazy? Where is this workout stuff getting you anyway? Who are you trying to impress? They won’t be impressed anyway.”

So much for cheering myself up. I slowed down the treadmill to catch my breath for five minutes before I went head long again when I did something that only confirmed my depression. First, instead of slowing the treadmill down to 3.5 mph like normal, I only allowed myself to slow it down to 4.0 mph, a quick walk for me. “What am I doing,” I thought. Then, I cut my walk two minutes short before I started again. No explanation. No reason. I just did it.

“Ok, now I really need professional help,” I thought. Maybe Dr. Melfi from “The Sopranos” can give me some of the wise wisdom she use to give to Tony before he went off and whacked another victim for not giving him his share of the take. I told myself I would go five minutes tops for another break. But I went seven minutes.

Now I’m really hurting as I pass the 1.5-mile mark and I told myself take the full five minutes walking this time. You earned it. Love yourself, will ya. I didn’t, but I got closer, going four minutes to before going again. Another seven minutes and I’m really huffing and puffing. After another short walk, I was back at it again and what did I do? I pushed the treadmill up to 6.0 and then 6.5 mph to finish.

If I truly loved myself, I would have walked the rest of the way, going 2.5 mph, asked someone to get me some Gatorade and watched ESPN on the monitor in front of me with ease. But low and behold, I was in front of the TREC television screen with Liz and Jamie again, yucking it up. Oh, won’t they just stop! There are people trying to work here.

I never found out what the rest of that spam email ad stated. Just as well. It’s not easy being or loving me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Keeping Up With the Cars and Dashers

For full disclosure, yes, I was beaten by an 8-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, but I’m taking the Dayton Dash as a major milestone on the road to the D.C. Turkey Trot. After weeks of hamstring problems that slowed my training, I needed to see just where I was in this quest. And yes, losing my car for nearly a week because of transmission problems was definitely a buzz kill. Did I tell you how hard it was to run without the right arm and leg I used to pay for those repairs? But I digress.

Last week I was able to complete a 5K on the Purdue TREC treadmill going 5.0 mph. I probably did the last half-mile or so at 5.5 to test the hamstring. While the last mile was a struggle, I made it through – another accomplishment. On my birthday, I would have whined about trying to do one mile at virtually any speed that was more than a leisurely walk. I foolishly thought it was time for a road test.

One of my Weight Watcher friends Sara Behnke suggested the Dayton Dash Saturday at Dayton United Methodist Church. Sara’s husband is an assistant professor in HTM at Purdue and she works in procurement services. They both are part of the loyal, but sleep deprived, 5:30 a.m. weekday morning crew at the TREC, which is where we formed our bond. Dayton, not be confused with Dayton, Ohio, is small town outside of Lafayette. I assumed this would be a nice, small run where I could completely embarrass myself and no one would notice and, more importantly, tell me exactly where I am and how much more will I need to improve before Thanksgiving.

The night before, West Lafayette’s sectional football game with Crawfordsville could not end quickly enough. I was counting the seconds because I still had to make a Walmart run for sweats (remember The Hill), long-sleeve t-shirt and Aleve (better running through chemistry) for the hamstring, knees and what other pain I fully anticipated. Of course, I would have loved the Happy Juice Tony Romo got for his ribs or to find the West Lafayette outlet for the BALCO lab, but neither one was available.

I arrived at Dayton UMC about 8:30 a.m. and immediately noticed, “There’s a lot of cars here for such a small race.” Much to my surprise, there were more than 100 runners at the event. I started noticing people walking with t-shirts from other races they participated in. I saw marathon shirts. Mini-marathon shirts. There was one person who took off a 5K shirt to show off his 10K shirt under it. Needless to say, I was thoroughly intimidated. A few people walked up to me and started a conversation until I told them this was my first 5K race since high school. They immediate gave their condolences and ended the conversation. “Oh, he’s a dead man,” they must have thought. I felt better when I saw Sara and two of her running partners come in so I knew at least one other person. 

An elderly gentleman named Bob walked up to me. With a friendly voice and a smile, he welcomed me to the church and race. He talked about how he had open heart surgery a several years ago and how much he cherished just getting out and jogging and walking as much as he could. Probably sensing my nervousness, he encouraged me just to have fun. After the conversation, I felt better. I thought, “That was so nice. There’s a least one person I could beat here.” Kidding aside, the chat the very much appreciated.

There were several things I picked up on immediately before the race. First, I needed gloves. One would think I would have thought about this before the race with it being October and the D.C. Turkey Trot in November and all. I saw a lot of baseball-style caps. I have plenty of those around the house. I was going to buy my fancy running shoes before this race but Adam the Terminator talked me out of it. He told me it would be a mistake trying to break in new shoes during an actually race and I should break them in by training in them first. So I struck out with my black “Walmart Specials.” More on the sneakers later. Finally, I need a “running” mix on my Ipod. While I do like my music, I quickly found that Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston and Josh Groban were woefully inadequate for the inspiration needed to run down teenagers, hardened 60-year-olds and the “Glory Days” athletes you’d find at an average road race.

As we walked to the starting line, the announcer said, “If you think you’re a faster runner, you may want to move to the front of the line, so you don’t have to run over anyone.” I didn’t make it an issue when he looked right at me when announcing the second part, but the inference was clear. We were off and running and actually the first mile wasn’t so bad. In fact I found an older couple to follow behind and get into a nice comfortable pace. The Terminator warned me not to go out hard since this was only going a gauge and not suppose to “really” be racing. When the first couple of elementary school kids passed me, I did get a little offended.

“Where are your manners?” I wanted to say to them. “Aren’t you suppose to at least say ‘excuse me’ or something to make me feel a little better while you’re leaving me in your dust?”

Along this endless country road, we had run up the I-65 overpass. Whoa. No one mentioned an overpass! Needless to say, that was my undoing and died halfway up. OK, I was able to go a little more than a mile before I started walking. I’ll just go about 200 meters, get my second wind to start jogging again. I was getting close to the halfway point where we would turn around and repeat the course, so I wanted to look good to the people giving out water, so I started jogging again. The good ole right hamstring started to tighten up, which left me walking again just before the turnaround.

By this time, a mother was jogging with her young daughter. She would jog ahead, and stop and waited for her daughter to catch up. Yes, even they passed me. By this time, pride took over. I knew if I wanted to finish this race with any kind of dignity, I had to stay in front of them. So with tight hamstring band all, off I went.

It was off and on like that the entire race. I knew they would send out the cadaver dogs out to find me if I didn’t finish soon. About 800 meters out, the hamstring started to feel a lot better and I raced in like I almost knew what I was doing. I crossed the finish line never looking at the clock and by the time I thought about it, it would have been impossible for me to guess. I thought surely I was in the 40-minute range. I finished yes, but I was hoping for better. The race, though, taught me a lot of lessons. 

Back in the Dayton UMC gym, I hovered over the poor timer girl like an impatient editor waiting for a reporter to finish a deadline story. Feeling my heavy breathing over her shoulder, she finally posted the times and I was actually surprised: 35:36.9. No, that’s not 35 hours, but 35 minutes. The kicker was I was second in my age group and actually received a medal. I asked if there were only two in my age group. Actually, there were two others, so I felt special.

I was one hurting puppy the rest of the day, but finally a time to beat and another reason for my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter to yell at me for. I’m a month out now and it’s on. Turkey Trot or Bust? It’s still in doubt.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Respect

I have come to believe there are more joggers and runners in Lafayette-West Lafayette per square mile than anywhere in the country. Maybe I’m just noticing them a lot more since my quest to run in the Turkey Trot and my longing, “I wish I was them.”
My hamstring still has me slowed to the point of light treadmill jogging, but everyday I walk on campus – whether it’s the morning time, walking to the Memorial Union for lunch, or even after work on the weekend – I see numerous joggers and runners in their own little world.
I decided Sunday that, “I don’t wish to be them. I am them!” Knowing full good well about my fragile state, I took off from my Fourth Street apartment determined to jog as much of my usual walking route as possible. It didn’t take me long, well before I reached South Street, that my hamstring talked me out of it.
“Whoa, where are YOU going?” it seemed to be saying as pain darted up the back of my right thigh. “Did I give you permission to do this? Why do you want to be like THEM? I guess if they were running off the Wabash River bridge, you’d want to run off it, too?”
Needless to say, I walked the rest of the route, pretty discouraged. After clearing The Hill, to Five Points and returning downtown on Main Street, I saw a couple heading my way. They were doing a couples’ jog, surely a way of bonding with each other in the morning, and again, I had that warm, “I wish I was them” feeling return. That was until these running snobs told me to get the heck out of their way.
“Excuse me! A little room here,” the man said as they tried to whisk past me. Hey, who gave the running snobs a permit to the runner’s parade? I know I’m a little overweight, but I wasn’t taking up the whole sidewalk. And even if that was the case, does “single file” mean anything to you? Too good to share the walkway with us slower folks?
So much for the “I wish I was them” feeling. By this point, I was trying to think of a way I could trip both of them and escape down an alley as they passed by. My hurt hamstring would slow my escape. Let’s nix that idea.
Now, my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter would have called this “hating” and I don’t want to be a hater, so I chilled. They passed me unfettered. One day I won’t have to submit to the, “a little room please” taunts of these nose-in-the-air, too-good-for-walkers kind of snots.
I made a beeline to Wal-Mart to find sports wrap and a reusable icepack for my hamstring in hopes to speed up the healing process. I approached the pharmacist for advice, telling her I was jogging and hurt myself and she gave me this look of skepticism.
“What happened big boy, lose a race to the buffet line,” her eyes seemed to say as I explained my situation. She just frowned, pointed to an aisle and pretty much left me standing there looking dumb, which was probably wasn't too hard to do at this stage. By this time, I was pretty much feeling like Rodney Dangerfield: I get no respect at all.
“My running’s so bad, the police tried to arrest me on my last jog for indecent exposure.”
“My running’s so bad, strangers would ask if I needed a lift just to get me to stop.”
“On Halloween, parents would tell their children to run like me to each house.”
“I took out a subscription to Runner’s World. They sent me a note back asking, ‘why?’ ”
This running thing isn’t getting any easier.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Broken Down Old Man

I’m a broken down old man. I came to this simple truth over the past week. I’ve started to reach some milestones in my training and each milestone created new challenges (problems) that made me realize the obvious – I’m a broken down old man. Even when I started to feel like I was making progress to the point I could smile just a little, peril was just around the corner.
Case in point, my workout with Adam the Terminator on Sept. 28. It was my hardest workout yet. I ran a mile at about what I think is race pace, 6 mph. I’ll have to average 6.5 mph to reach my goal of under 30:00 for the 5K. It was a challenge but I made it through.
After a short break, the Terminator said he wanted me to do a half-mile. Trusting his judgment and not mine, I jumped on the treadmill again and couldn’t wait for those minutes to fly.  Between the 0.3 and 0.4-mile mark, he sped up the treadmill to 7.0 mph. I looked at him, thinking, “Dude, what’s the deal?” He smiled and said, “It’s just for a short time to get you use of pushing through the run.”
After another short break, he said he wanted me to do one more half-mile, but I found out later this was a ruse. I started grudgingly, wanting to get this over as soon as possible when the Terminator did something unexpected. He covered up the digital distance readout on the treadmill. His excuse was that I wouldn’t have that aid during the race so he wanted me to get use to running without it. Again, grudgingly, I believed him.
So I’m running . . . and running . . . and running. I’m thinking, “This should be over soon shouldn’t it.” When the Terminator took the sticky note off the distance readout, I had run 0.65 miles. I felt like Admiral Akbar. “It’s a trap!”
“Look how far you’ve gone? You’ve got 0.10 to go. That’s so small, you can’t even measure that on a course,” the Terminator said.
“Since they can’t measure it, that means I can stop now, right,” I responded. Not a chance. He just kept pushing me to get to 0.75. I was the happiest person on the planet when I reached that point. Total running mileage for the predawn morning: 2.25 miles, mostly near race pace.
I slid off the treadmill thinking, “He’s fired. He’s so fired. Wait until I catch my breath and I swear he’s fired.”
I never caught my breath until after my shower and by that time the Terminator was long gone. And a cooler head prevailed. He did exactly what I needed him to do. In fact, he really should have made me run the entire mile on that third repeat (Yeah, I wasn’t thinking that on the treadmill then.)
I was really hurting, sore but as the day went on, I thought about the milestone. Easily the most distance I had gone at that speed. I’m really getting close. Man, I’m about ready to rock!
The Terminator then emailed me my weekday schedule. Saturday, he wants me to do four 400 repeats at 8.5 mph! Whoa. Really? But look at what I’ve just done. I’m ready. I had to judge a Toastmasters speech contest in Logansport Saturday morning, taking me out of my routine, but no problem – the TREC and my fans will all be waiting on me when I get there in the afternoon. I was confident. Cocky even.
I walked into the TREC about 2 p.m. with a John Travolta Saturday Night Live strut, with “Who Let the Dogs Out” playing in the background. I felt everyone was looking at me and I was looking at them looking at me. I wanted to tell them, “Come over to this treadmill and let me show you how it’s done.”
I stretched with this big smile on my face that would have made people think I just won the Lotto. I strolled to the treadmill with the confidence of Rick Perry at a Tea Party Rally. I turned on the treadmill for a two-minute warm up before my running show for all of these folks. Ready to go, I started to kick the treadmill up from 3.0 to 8.5 mph.
Well, okay. That’s kind of fast. Uh, that’s really fast. Now, I’m falling to the back of this treadmill. Wait a minute. Maybe I should slow this thing down.
I went the entire 400 at 8.5 but it was not the fun I thought it would be. Now mind you, that’s roughly the speed my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter use to run 5Ks in high school – on her slow days. I always knew I couldn’t keep up with her on my best days, but wow. That was ugly. I tried the second 400 at 8.0 mph.
I managed to stay on the treadmill this time but the result wasn’t much better. I was sucking every bit of oxygen out of the TREC and I had two more 400s to go. That’s my workout so I was determined to get it done. I took a longer rest before jumping on the treadmill again for another stab at it.
Midway through third 400 I felt it – the right hamstring. Pain. Hurt. The last time I had a hamstring pull? It was Odom Jr. High, seventh grade football game. We were playing Vincent Jr. High and we were just crushing these guys. I was starting defensive tackle and chasing this little quarterback who ran the option. By the third quarter, this quarterback had performed several Houdini escapes from me but this time I was going to get him. He faked the handoff to the full back and made a wide turn toward my end and I chased him with everything I had and then I felt it – the right hamstring. Pain. Hurt.
It’s a feeling you don’t forget after all of these years and I exited the treadmill immediately, hoping – this time – that absolutely no one was watching. Grimacing, I walked away, a broken down old man. After that Odom Jr. High game, I was out for three weeks. I knew three weeks would put the Turkey Trot in jeopardy. I started to think for the first time for all of my good intentions, I actually may not be able to do this thing.
I left the TREC. No John Travolta strut. No Who Let the Dogs Out. Just me – sweaty, humbled and with a noticeable limb. I emailed the Terminator Sunday after I woke up Sunday and noticed the hammy wasn’t feeling any better. He put me on the shelf until our session on Wednesday, reminding me that it’s no sense trying to workout if you’re hurt.
For the next three days, I was bummed out, worried about if I could really do this. When I get like that, I turned to the one thing that made it all better – Golden Corral. Yeah, I know I’m doing Weight Watchers, but I needed a pick me up. I really paid for at my weigh-in, too, but that’s another story.
I got to Wednesday morning’s workout and the Terminator is nowhere to be found. Probably given up on me. Broken down old man. I decided to do one of the easy workouts, a 30-minute walk to test the hammy. About 15 minutes in, it was so far so good. I still felt a tweak, but I had to see how far I could go. I pumped up the treadmill from 3.0 to 5.0 mph. So far so good for the next five minutes. Okay, let’s try this at 5.5 mph for the next five minutes. Tweak but nothing that would say stop. I did that for another five minutes before a cool down. Hmmm. It’s not heeled but I can still jog. Wow.
I jumped off the treadmill with a sigh of relief. I’ve had a setback but this was the first sign this broken down old man may recover in time for the race. During the day, I saw this video of the 61-year-old guy who went back to college and is now the field goal kicker for his college team. I have to admit that fired me up again.
I don’t really know where these future workouts will take me as I get closer to Thanksgiving, but I’m doing this Turkey Trot if I have to crawl. This broken down old man is back in the game.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mr. Hughes, I regret to inform you . . .

I needed a Toastmasters speech last night and decided to let my fellow Toastmasters in on what has been tormenting me for the past month -- this quest to do and actually complete this 5K run in Washington, D.C. I also added the top five reasons why I should not run in this race. Can't blame me for still trying to get out of this, right?

The Terminator is threatening to take me outside in the rain our next training session, so if I have a chance to bail, this may be it. I'm not really sure how these excuses will fly with my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter who is equally as determined to make sure I scratch this off my bucket list.

So here it is, in David Letterman style, the Top 5 Reasons Clyde Should Not Run in the D.C. Turkey Trot, despite killing himself for three weeks now.

No. 5: I HAVE NO SHOES -- When my daughter was in high school, I single-handedly kept this place called Dave's Running Shop in Toledo open with our semi-annual trips to get my daughter running shoes for her various races. It was all so scientific. Employees would watch her run outside, wet her feet and have her stand on this paper to determine her running style. By making this determination, they can suggest what kind of (always expensive) running shoes she needed for the upcoming cross country or track season. Fair enough. Just imagine me, Mr. Middle-Aged-Haven't-Run-Anything-Since-the-New-Millennium, walking in there looking for the same (always expensive) running shoes. After watching me run, I can imagine seeing the employees holding in their laughter and then walking up to me only to say, "Mr. Hughes, I regret to inform you that you have no running style. We can't sell you shoes here until you actually develop one. Have a nice day." Not running in the 5K would save me the ultimate embarrassment of finding out that I actually have no running style, forcing me to quit my job and live the rest of my life as a homeless vagabond. This is a life altering decision, don't you think?

No. 4: I AM WANTED BY THE FBI -- Even the thought of me running a 5K race has left people in such a state of laughter and bewilderment that it would damaged their thinking process. The FBI has determined this a sort of mind control and don't want me anywhere near Congress. Since the race course goes right by the Capitol, that's too close to comfort for the FBI, which has promised to arrest me at registration if I showed up. Surely, my daughter wouldn't want me arrested. I think. Excellent excuse.

No. 3: PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS DECLARED MY BODY A DISASTER AREA -- Next to the Joplin, Mo. tornado, earthquake damage in Virginia and forest fires in Texas, my body is in terrible need of federal funds just to even walk the 5K course, much less run it. FEMA has determined I would do so much damage to the streets of D.C. trying to run on Thanksgiving, it would need an extra $1 million. And you know how the Tea Party has government spending on lockdown. Until Congress can appropriate those funds to make my body safe for racing humanity, this will just have to wait. I'm on a roll here.

No. 2: RACE ORGANIZERS FORGOT TO ORDER CALENDERS -- You see, race organizers would need a calendar to time me during the 5K instead of the normal stop watch, since there are probably not enough digits on a stop watch to possible count how long it would take me to finish. The lack of a calendar would throw the entire race into chaos and why would I want to do that to the rest of the runners who thought there were running and fair and square 5K race? Another great excuse.

And the No. 1 reason Clyde should not run in the D.C. Turkey Trot, despite killing himself for three weeks now:


My fellow Toastmasters enjoyed it, but I don't think my daughter, or anyone else for that matter, will take my excuses very seriously. Back to the drawing board.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Going 'gangsta' on The Hill

It’s been nearly three weeks of workouts with the Terminator and decided today (Sunday) would be the day I would tackle one of my biggest demons – the South Street Hill. It would be The Hill or me!

I really don’t know what The Hill is called, or how high it is, but I started walking up it shortly after I arrived in Lafayette. Its elevation begins on Ninth Street continues seemingly straight up to 14th Street – five blocks of punishment. I remember how it was pure torture when I first tried to walk up it nearly four years ago.

I noticed how I have to give my Ford Taurus some extra gas just to get my car up it driving through Lafayette (that's what happened to my transmission). Walking up it has always been chore and not for the weak, but today, I’m going to RUN up it. The Terminator reserved this day for a nice easy walk, but I decided I can walk the rest of the route from my apartment on Fourth Street to the Five Points intersection near Walgreens. Today, I will plant my jogging flag on top of The Hill.

It was a simple strategy really: Run up the hill as fast as I could and make it to the top before I got really tired. It’s just five blocks. No sweat. It was a little chilly and wet, so I put on a sweatshirt and sweat pants, but the extra weight would not stop me from my conquest.

I started my walk as usual, from Fourth Street and Wall to downtown Lafayette to South, then I made my approach to Ninth, motivating myself along the way.
“You can do it. The Hill can’t stop you today. In fact, I heard The Hill talking about my Mama the other day. Oh, The Hill is going down.”

I had a stop light at Ninth, giving me just enough time to get into a runner’s start and when it turned green, I was off with my “fast start” strategy. By the time I reached 10th Street, I realized I had to rethink my strategy. My fast start strategy wasn’t really much of a strategy as it was wishful thinking. Needless to say I was into my huffing and puffing “dead man” breathing and I hadn’t gone two blocks, but I kept running – at a much slower pace.

There were two things I didn’t plan on. Because of my weight loss, my trusty all-purpose sweat bottoms were not staying on me as I imagined. They would fall and I used one hand to push them back up. They would fall again and I would push them back up. I immediately thought of the guy on American Idol singing “Pants On the Ground.” Yep, if I had a do-rag on, I would be straight up gangsta at this stage looking to see if the Lafayette Police were behind me. 

I also didn’t plan of scaring the begeezers out of the St. Mary parishioners showing up for Mass at the intersection of Ninth and 11th streets. Here I was running up the hill next to expensive and well-kept cars and SUVs, out of breath and holding up my sweats up with one hand. I saw at least one woman clutch her purse and pull out her cell phone. Maybe she’s calling the LPD or paramedics. Or maybe she was calling TMZ.

“Hey, I found the rapper Biggie Smalls. He’s running up this hill on South Street in Lafayette, Indiana. He’s not moving very fast, so you should be able to catch him.”

Sure, I could have stopped and pulled up my sweats, which are now around my thighs, but then The Hill would have won. I’ve got two blocks to go.

My pace slowed as I started to stumble over the sweats but I was able to pull them up just enough reach the top of The Hill on 14th Street. I made it.

“Okay, I’m done,” I thought, thinking I should stick out my thumb and hitchhike my way back. Then I thought, “Right, I breathing like I’ve got asthma, sweaty with sweats that don’t even fit. I wouldn’t pick me up. Nevermind.”

I slowly walked to the Five Corners intersection and started my slow descent down The Hill on Main Street, with a smile on my face, thinking I just had my first real accomplishment in this 5K workout stuff.

But at what cost? Did I really have to go gangsta with the sweats and show my underwear to the world? Did I really have to scare half of St. Mary’s Cathedral? Since the police didn’t show up, I guess it wasn’t so bad.

Imagine if that would have happened at the Turkey Trot in D.C. Oh, I would have been picked up by Homeland Security, stuffed in a box and stored in this big warehouse with the Lost Ark, the Alien from Area 51 and Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate, never to be seen again. In that light, I think I’ll be purchasing new sweat bottoms this week.

I’ll take little victories where I can get them, so today, I plant my flag on top of the South Street Hill, whether it likes it or not.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Situation vs. The Predicament

I’m not a fan of “Jersey Shore,” but this guy, Michael Sorrentino, is everywhere, including his abs, which he calls “The Situation.” I have to admit I would love to have a six-pack like that one day, but I’m only dreaming. What I do have is a one-pack, a keg, you could say. If Sorrentino can call his abs “The Situation,” then I can certainly call my abs “The Predicament.” Yes, I’ve been trying hard to shrink The Predicament, but have had my most success this year with Weight Watchers and working out.
I’m hoping this 5K training will push me over the top in my fight with The Predicament, but at today’s workout, The Predicament showed he still had some fight left in him. Adam the Terminator didn’t make things easy, either. The Terminator kicked up my workout this morning. We went to from doing 400 and 200-meter repeats to 800 and 400-meter repeats with about a couple of minutes in between for rest. I started to look around for the closest defibrillator.
In the middle of the workout, the Terminator noticed my breathing. He said, “Clyde, your breathing seems a little shallow.” Translation: “You’re breathing like a dead man. What’s up with that?” He tried to give me some breathing tips, breathing in every two steps and breathing out the next two steps. I never got it. The Terminator said it will come naturally eventually, because, “you don’t want to use up to much energy breathing, as strange as that sounds.” Okay. I have no idea how I’m suppose to make that happen, but if it’s important to the Terminator, it’s important to me, I guess.
I was dog tired and thinking how in the world am I going to work the rest of the day, when the Terminator announced we would finish up with an abs workout. Here is where The Predicament started to play mind games with me. There is a guy who is part of our 5:30 a.m. morning crew at the TREC. He’s about 6-2, tall, lean and wears a 20-pound padded vest to work out. Let’s call him the Conan the Chin-Up Barbarian, because he does chin-ups, sit-ups, crunches, jumping jacks with the kind of intensity that makes everyone else in the TREC stand and watch. Conan usually wears a red t-shirt under the vest, which must mean death to anyone that tries to emulate his workouts. Going into these, though, I had Conan on my mind. I wanted to look at least a quarter as impressive as he does.
But as I got into the heel touches and sit-ups, it just was not working out. Yes, The Predicament was winning the battle as I tried to pull my chest all the way up to my bent knees. The last effort in a set of three sit-ups was pitiful as I looked around to see if anyone was giggling. The Terminator could have stopped me there and called it a morning, but noooo!  He said, “We’ve got five minutes left, lets try some crunches, just for the fun of it.” Fun of it???
Crunches are kind of like half sit-ups and I thought I could get away with it. This time, The Predicament wouldn’t let me off the floor. I was barely lifting my shoulder blades off the mat for all three sets. I could hear The Predicament taunting the whole time:
“How you like me now? You’ve ignored me for the better part of the year with your foo-foo Weight Watchers diet trying to bring sexy back. Knock yourself out with those sit-ups and crunches, but you’re never gonna get rid of me. NEVER. I’m on you like a rash. You hear me, a rash.”
Trying to lighten the mood after my total failure with the crunches, the Terminator smiled and said, “Okay, we can work on those.” I thought, “Ya think?” Yep, The Predicament won this round, but we’ve got nine more weeks to go and hopefully I’ll see a little less of him by then.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Daughter's Revenge

Throughout these posts, you will hear a lot about my wonderful Washington D.C. lobbyist daughter Ashley. For those who know me, this will hardly come as a surprise. As I mentioned before, she’s one of the reasons I’m doing this. In turn, she’s been my virtual training partner, cheerleader and coach.  
The training objective of this father-daughter 5K run is that I won’t completely embarrass her in front of her boyfriend, friends, colleagues, family and anyone else who shows up just to make fun of me. Ashley has been running competitively since elementary school, part of an evil plot by her mom and I to burn off all of her seemingly boundless energy and tire her out by nightfall.
It didn’t work.
She ended up a four-year all-conference runner at Toledo Christian, regional distance track qualifier throughout high school, and ran Division I track at American University. During this time, I made “that” promise to do a father-daughter 5K, thinking I’ll be dead and buried before she ever remembered it. I would have gotten away with it to if it wasn’t for darn Weight Watchers and dropping these pounds, taking away my primary excuse all of these years – I’m too fat. Well, I’m still that, but I’ve now loss enough where I could no longer use it as a crutch.
Ashley has seen a lot of sporting events, usually riding shotgun while I dragged her to trips through Mid-American Conference arenas when I covered Bowling Green for The Blade and seen a lot of very bad Minor League baseball when I covered the Toledo Mud Hens, among scores of other stuff from the pros to high school. I can only remember missing one of her numerous cross country meets from junior high through high school, screaming instructions and encouragement at her the whole time. There was one thing I didn’t expect – revenge!
I remember waking up in a cold sweat one night, thinking, “Do you think she will remember all of the things I yelled at her during cross country and track meets?
“Surely she won’t remember what I said to her after a girl passed her at the end of the Tiffin Carnival race where she could have won first place. Surely she won’t remember winning the Fostoria Invitational and me throwing cold water on it by bringing up her time. And surely she won’t remember what I said to her when she struggled to make it up the big hill her senior year during the TAAC championships at Maumee Bay State Park. Naw, of course not.  Go back to sleep Clyde. You’re in the clear.”
Last week or so, I remember saying something to Ashley about my workout. I can’t remember what, maybe it was not working out because of the rain or something else affecting my workout. What I did remember was her response.
“What? You would have NEVER let me get away with that when I was running cross country,” Ashley snarled (okay, maybe not quite a snarl, but you get the idea.) “You remember, don’t you?”
A stone cold chill came over my body. I was speechless for a moment, but I bounced back strong.
“Yeah, I remember,” I said barely above a whisper, playing the sympathy card to the hilt. “You . . . you won’t hold that against me will you?”
I got the response with a steady stream of emails to websites. The “Couch To 5K Run Workout” link came first. Then came the link to the Eating Healthy website, followed by the “Best Nutritional Bars” website. Hurt shin? There’s a website for that, too. Then she sent the registration site for the Turkey Trot. The underlying message from my daughter was clear: “Dad, I won’t let you punk out of this, so don’t even try. I got this 5K on lockdown!”
I’m grateful that Ashley is willing to coach me along. It will be interesting when she starts to channel her inner Bobby Knight again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Workout like the Terminator

Here I am early Wednesday morning, doubled over and breathing like I'm trying to suck the last bit of oxygen out of the Earth, and Adam The Terminator looks at his stop watch and says, "You did great. You must be feeling really good." Unable to lift my head up for another 30 seconds, I'm thinking: "What part of me right now makes you remotely think I'm feeling good?"

That's the Termination, my hand-picked personal trainer and tormentor through the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. Forever the optimist (and not because I'm paying him to be one), answer man for all things running and besides from the workouts he's putting me through, a pretty nice kid. I can stay that because I'm probably old enough to be his dad, but he doesn't use that excuse to let me off the hook. That's another plus for Adam the Terminator.

I nicknamed Adam the Terminator because he's a former high school soccer player turned marathon runner. If you ever watched soccer players and how much they run during the course of one game or marathon runners by their very nature, they are pretty much indestructible. Besides, those 400-meter runs he put me through on Wednesday never seemed to stop. Thus, Adam is now the Terminator. He played at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy High School near Cleveland. Since Ashley went to Toledo Christian, we had a new topic to talk about between runs.

Now I have to admit, some of my instructors haven't earned such flattering names like the Terminator. Some of you who have kept up with me on Facebook, know of my love-hate relationship this summer with my aerobics and Zumba instructors who I affectionately dubbed Lil Satan. To be accurate, it was Lil Satan 1 and 2. Joani, Lil Satan 1, put me through the paces in Cardio Blast, out in the 90 degree heat outside the Purdue TREC. Jenny, Lil Satan 2, did Zumba in the sweltering indoors of the TREC on Thursdays. Joani and Jenny were both really great at what they do and their workouts were brutal. Alright, they were sorta fun, too. Not to mention I was the only male in both classes that I swear must have been all filled with former cheerleaders and gymnasts. I stayed in the back of the class praying no one would notice my complete failure to keep up.

So, actually, it was honor to have the nickname Lil Satan. No whimpy instructor would have earned a name so feared. I left each of their workouts dragging my gym bag to the car hoping to have enough strength to turn the ignition and make it back home.

So far, the Terminator has taken up the slack without a problem. Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. (EDT mind you), while all of you were in your comfortable beds, dreaming of ice cream sundaes and chocolate cakes, the Terminator had me running 400 and 200-meter repeats with short breaks in between. It was worse than one of Coach Morgan track practices (those who attend Hebert High School in Beaumont will get that one.) In between there, I did squats and a lot of stretching. My left shin started to hurt (really, honestly, it did), so the Terminator gave me Thursday off. I must have found a soft stop. I did a light jog today but back to grind on Saturday with workouts fit for . . . well, a Terminator. I've got to do them because I know, "he'll be back."

Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud. Of Adam, not me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

80 Percent Pizza

But I was hungry. Really hungry. I worked hard this week, so I was going to have a half slice of pizza at my Toastmaster's meeting Monday night. I knew I had my Weight Watcher Weigh-In on Tuesday, but I was feeling confident after my first 5K training session last week with Adam "The Terminator." I'd done everything he asked of me so far -- intervals on Friday, two five-minute runs separated by a five-minute walk on Monday. What did I have to fear?

I even had a solid weightlifting workout Tuesday morning and properly starved myself before the Weigh-In? No sweat. So, I was still confident when that half-slice of chicken pizza, turned into a whole slice. Then into a slice of pepperoni pizza. And then another slice sausage pizza. It was our Toastmasters Callout meeting we were expected a few more visitors. Well, I couldn't take it home with me, could I?

After I went home, I suddenly remembered Saturday. I was in Franklin, Ind. to see Franklin College's football team take on No. 1-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater. Coach Shawn met me in the parking lot, walked me through the stadium to the Franklin Touchdown Club Tailgate. Franklin takes their tailgating seriously. How could I turn down such hospitality? I knew I could just pick out the healthy stuff. Okay, there's the baked breast chicken (dipped in barbecue sauce). I skipped the bun (2 points, Clyde). Baked beans. That's healthy. Pile it on. Potato salad. Those are real potatoes. Grown this morning. That's healthy. Still more room on the plate. Whoa! Hot dogs. I haven't had one of those since . . . last week. Since I skipped the bun earlier, it's okay to get the bun this time. Cookies? No more room on the plate. I'll wait until halftime.

Oh, that wasn't such a good day, was it? Thursday was the volleyball match in Rossville. When I decided to take this one, I had no idea it would last five long games. Afterward, I was hungry. Really hungry. But I worked hard this week, so on to IHOP I go. I did the Garden Omelette (good). What? It comes with three pancakes? Well, I don't want to waste them. Why would IHOP put a Garden Omelette together with pancakes if they weren't both healthy anyway? I got that workout on Friday. No sweat.

That was probably not a good idea, but I'm ready. I take to the scale Tuesday and I start to explain to Weight Watcher Amy my week, as I start to anticipate the worse during my Weigh-In. Results: Up 2.2 pounds. Wait. I finished my first week of 5K training and I GAINED 2.2 pounds? How is that even freaking possible? How did that happen? I told her about my training and I could see it in her eyes. "Yeah, good luck with that one, Pizza Boy."

Then I remembered my daughter Ashley telling me that losing weight is 80 percent of what you eat. That means, I weighed in feeling 80 percent pizza. So, tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., I start my second training session with The Terminator heavier than I was last week. Something's wrong here.

What was I thinking?

OK. This is a disturbing way to celebrate a birthday.

I woke up about 6 a.m. and ran about as hard as I could for about five minutes (that would be about 8 mph on the treadmill). I chose today as my first day of training for my first 5K since high school.

Celebrating my recent weight loss and longtime promise to my cross country-running daughter for a father-daughter 5K, today is my start to make good on that promise. Ashley has graciously picked the venue -- the D.C. 5K Turkey Trot, just outside of our nation's Capitol on Thanksgiving. I even hired a Purdue student personal trainer (a former soccer player turned marathon runner) to work with me once a week. Yeah, it's that serious.

Yes, I know this is a terrible idea (and this morning felt like just that) but here I am. So it's Turkey Trot or Bust (which one remains in serious doubt about now) but there's no turning back. So maybe a down payment on an AFLAC insurance policy may be a good present.

Thank you all for the kind birthday wishes. Prayers would be nice about now, too.