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.