Running (from) Nutrition

Like a fool, I have grand plans to run a marathon in just 5 short weeks.

Running a marathon is not the problem.  I crossed that one off my bucket list last year.  The folly is that, like many 2nd time marathon runners, I have certainly shirked my training responsibilities.

Two weeks ago I ran the Cincinnati Heart Mini Half Marathon, having not run more than 9 miles in training this season.  I kind of died.  Not really.  I actually did better than last year, even factoring in the fact that I got a bit–pukey–at around mile 11.  I chalk it up to a combination of poor choices in food (Gu I had never eaten before), salt (something I have to take or I stop sweating) and lack of water.  Together that did not make for a fantastic metabolic combination in my belly.  So I put on a show for the viewers at the Purple People Bridge until a kind cyclist race assistant offered me his water bottle. That watered down the contents of my stomach enough to continue.

Lesson learned: at this stage in the game, it is not so much the physical limitations as it is the psychological and nutritional ones that will stand in my way.

My struggle at this stage has unfortunately been a marriage of the two, specifically my psychological control of my nutrition.  I have been “maintaining” my weight loss for almost 2 years now.  I’m not sure if the success is so much about what I eat as it is about how much I exercise to counteract how much I eat.

A case in point: This past weekend I went to yet another conference with my co-workers.  My self-control on these trips is deplorable.

I started my day at home with a 11.5 mile run.  I felt great.  But it plummeted as my day progressed.  We had a lacrosse game for the kids that ended with a White Castle sliders lunch.  Then I had to head to Columbus. I had a monster steak (probably the equivalent of 3 servings) and mashed potatoes for dinner.  And maybe three glasses of wine.  Then maybe I had a Yuengling–or 5– after dinner.  The next day, in a fit of I-blew-it-anyway-ness, I gorged on a McDonald’s breakfast, all-out Mexican lunch, and La Rosa’s Baked Buddy dinner.  I probably consumed 4000 calories in that 24 hour period.

Then I wonder why my run that night I got back felt like there was lead in my feet. It was the hardest 5 miles I had run in a long, long time.

Now, I know there is a direct correlation between what I eat and how I feel when I run.  I read Men’s Health.  More importantly, I have learned to read my body.  I know that processed food makes me drag.  I know that starchy carbs and empty-calorie sugar make me tired, grumpy, and ineffective. I know that these nutritional mistakes are destroying my running.

So why did I have 3 servings of pretzels at school today?  And a bag of candy? And 4 slices of Little Caesar’s Pizza (and maybe 2 pieces of Crazy Bread) for dinner?  It’s like I want to psychologically and nutritionally sabotage myself.

All I know is this:  I need to eek out a 15-18 miler tomorrow, but have nutritionally racked up a crappy foundation for it.

It’s like I am intentionally trying to set myself up for failure.

At least writing this prevented me from eating yet another slice of pizza for an evening snack…right?


I sure hope so…


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Posted in health

100 Book Challenge 16-19

The pace is slacking.  I’m going to have to pick things up if I plan on meeting this goal…

Book 16: The Sword and the Stone– TH White.  Rereading this for my honors English class.  I like it.   I don’t think they do very much.  The first book reminds me a lot of Thoreau and Walden.  There is a surface reading that is pretty easy and moderately boring.  The depth and understanding comes from the analysis and reflection on the text.  That is why it is a much better re-read than a first read.




Book 17: Sanctus– Simon Toyne- Religious conspiracy theory a-la-Dan Brown style.  I actually really liked this story, but unfortunately it strikes me similar to Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code and The Last Templar.  Though the writing was good, plot solid, character development mostly strong (though the names were pretty similar and at times led to confusion), I think I just read it 2 books too late.  Quick read and worth the time, but nothing that I’ll remember in 6 months.




Book 18: 19 Minutes: Jodi Picoult.  I’ll admit, I’ve never actually read a Picoult novel until this one. She’s actually a pretty good writer, though not necessarily my taste. It is kind of unfortunate that it was about a school shooting, and 3/4 of the way through, the tragic school shooting in Cleveland took place.  There was an interesting twist in the end that surprised me.  I will say, I could have done without the contrived love story between mom/judge and the police chief.  It didn’t really serve a purpose and seemed way, way too convenient a way to attempt mom to look human.  I do like the way Picoult treated the subject matter of bullying, suggesting that everyone is a victim of it within their lives and that those scars are deeper than anyone ever suspects.  It sadly highlights the fact that there is no solution, that really there isn’t even a good way to deal with bullying in general.

Book 19: Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide– Ralph Fletcher. I grabbed this one in the hopes of renovating my approach to writing this semester.  I forgot how basic it was.  It isn’t bad; it is just intended for a reader who is completely clueless to the idea of writer’s workshop.  I’m not.  I also forgot that it is very, very “free choice,” the writer’s version of Nancy Atwell.  Though a great idea, it doesn’t always nicely match up with the more standardized, quarterly, multi-teacher aligned, standards based teaching (and writing) curricula that are expected to be built and taught by today’s teachers.  It didn’t really help me find what I was looking for.

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The Cost of Weight Loss

Something that no one ever warned me of on my weight loss journey was just how outrageously expensive that journey was going to be.

Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t undo it for anything in the world.

However here are my 5 lessons about the cost of weight loss and the exercise it takes to maintain it:

1. Healthy food costs more than non-healthy food.

I learned early on to shop the perimeter of a grocery store.  Now I rarely go down the central isles, unless I need to get cat food, toilet paper, or pasta.  Even then, my diet most of the time consists of primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, and Clif bars (with an occasional Skyline 4-way tossed in).  But here is a sad reality: Fruit and vegetables cost more than a box of macaroni and cheese. For that matter, canned mandarin oranges cost less than the real thing in the produce aisle.  Plus fresh fruit and vegetables go bad. Fast.  I can keep a box of Hamburger Helper in my pantry for at least a year.  I know because maybe I have one.  Raspberries are good for two days, tops.  It took a while to predict this family’s produce eating habits in order to avoid really ripe, really expensive trash.  Even then, I still threw away half a carton of strawberries last night.

2. New wardrobes cost a fortune.

I know this because I’ve had to purchase two in the last two years.  In case you don’t know, you will probably have to replace some clothes about 55 pounds in.  Then you’ll have to do it again after the next 50.  Now again, I’m not complaining.  I pitched my 44 inch waist pants and have replaced them with 32s.  My 2XL and 3XL shirts have been swapped for mediums and larges. But there are other wardrobe elements that most people don’t think about.  Imagine getting rid of all your underwear and t-shirts. Or having to donate of all your jackets, hats, and winter coats to Goodwill.  And did you know that your feet shrink when you lose more than 100 pounds?  Do you know how expensive it is to replace all your socks and all of your shoes?  Trust me.  A lot.

3. Exercise starts cheap, but the exercise wardrobe quickly grows expensive.

When I first started exercising, I did it in secret.  Running outside in the dark, counting steps. Nobody saw me.  I didn’t care what I looked like.  I wore the tennis  shoes I used to mow the yard, an old t-shirt, and a crappy pair of pajama shorts.  Shortly after I seriously started running, I developed knee problems.  This was easily solved by sage advice from a more physically fit wife of mine: go get “real” running shoes.  I did.  A $110 later, my knees felt a lot better.  Now this is a recurring purchase I have to make every 3 months.  Also, the more I ran, the more I realized I needed to buy real exercise clothes, something that my family wouldn’t be embarrassed to let the public see me wearing.  Granted, I still keep my running wardrobe on the cheap side (Target, not Under Armour), but I did see the value in moisture-wicking shirts (one episode of bleeding nipples is lesson enough!), arch-supporting running socks, running jackets, and one good pair of cold weather running pants.  Plus, you have to buy enough exercise clothing to not let “dirty laundry” be an excuse to not exercise.

4. The race bug is expensive to medicate.

Races.  Most every runner I have met signs up for a race.  In the beginning, it’s a goal.  It’s something we sign up for so we can’t back out. So we run a 5k.  Then another.  Then we challenge ourselves to a 10k.  Next thing you know, we’re registering for half marathons, marathons, and God forbid, triathlons.  Here, my friends, you have breached a point of no return; gear sticker-shock kicks in.  You don’t just need shoes. You need training watches, heart rate monitors, bikes, helmets, clip-in bike shoes, wet-suits, tri-swim suits, off-season biking wind trainers, and gym memberships to sustain cross training.  On top of all of that, you have registration fees, parking fees, travel expenses, and hotels.  Add a spouse who does them as well, suddenly you need a second job to support this highly addictive habit.

5. Exercise takes a lot of time.

I started with the commitment to do an hour of exercise a day. Sometimes, with travel time and marathon training, this can stretch to an hour and a half to two hours.  I know this seems like a lot, and a lot of people say they just don’t have time to exercise that much.  I call bullshit.  Even with all the things I have to do in my life, I decided that I didn’t have time not to exercise.  I had spent the last ten years making excuses of why I couldn’t.  If I waited for the right time, a time where I wasn’t too busy to exercise, then I would be waiting for an eternity.  Instead I examined my life and chose to make exercise a priority over things like television, the computer, and grading.  It just had to come before all of that, even if that meant trudging out to the gym at 9:00 at night, or running the neighborhood at 10:30.  (I don’t do early mornings. I don’t get runners who do.)

Now, I don’t regret one minute or one penny I paid for where I am today.  But I do wish someone would have warned me ahead of time.  I probably would have saved up first.

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Posted in health, life reflections

100 Book Challenge: Books 13-15


Gotta get in gear.  I let school trump my reading.  I’m hoping to carve out more time to do this.

13.  The Power of Myth– Joseph Campbell.  In recent history, if there were to be a book that made me feel dumb, this was it.  I consider myself to be pretty well read and reasonably logical.  I probably read this book twice, considering all the times I went back and re-read.  That being said: brilliant.  I’d kill to have him in class!

14: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us)– Tom Vanderbilt.  I listened to this audio book on my commute to work. Ironic to listen to a book about the dangers of multi-tasking while driving, while driving.  Though full of lots of research that I didn’t really follow/ care for, it did make me think about my own driving as well as all the people around me. Interesting, but I am not sure I would have finished it had I read it traditionally.  The research would have been too tedious.

15. Mystery: an Alex Delaware Novel– Jonathan Kellerman-This is the first Alex Delaware Novel I have read.  It was good, but not great.  I’m not real sure I continue this series.  I’ve a feeling that his style is pretty formulaic, and I’m not sure his predictable structure will warrant the effort another time around.  However, great beach/ airplane read.  Quick and easy.


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Toys Are Not Us

Today is my son’s birthday.

Like any other responsible parent, I waited until the last possible minute to go out and purchase his birthday gift.  Actually. that’s a lie.  He got a fantastic bike from us during a family birthday party this past weekend, but we wanted to have presents for him to open for his actual birthday.  Great idea.  We hadn’t gotten around to actually buying them yet.

So, in my normal procrastinative (I think I invented that word…) self, I was out purchasing said birthday presents last night.  This was an increasingly frustrating endeavor.

I went to an unnamed local toy store that may or may not have a backwards letter in the name in order to pick up what we knew he wanted.  This store was just sad.  I would say that nearly half the shelves were simply empty.

(photo credit: Matthew Simoneau on Flickr)

Now unless I missed some major post-Christmas toy buying holiday that everyone else secretly knew about, surely two weeks is adequate for after-Christmas restocking.  Or at least rearranging.  Shouldn’t they make it look like their livelihood, their toys, actually exist.  For God’s sake, you are a toy store.  Shouldn’t you keep toys in stock?

But no.

Instead there seemed to be plenty of nothing in this store.  The empty shelves should have been a sign.   He had mentioned three things:

Skylanders figurines (any),

Beyblades (any),

or a new Wii remote.

I started with the Skylanders figurines.  That is what he wanted the most.  They had an entire EMPTY wall of hooks for them. There was probably 120 square feet of pegboard and price tags only.

On a side note…this game is one I don’t understand.  My son tried to explain it to me.  He said that when your characters run out of energy, it takes a really long time for them to “recharge.”  Like days.  So the best option to keep playing is to buy a new figurine in order to start fresh.  His friend Jimmy, clearly the expert in all things Skylanders, evidently told him that it is best to have , like 14.  Now this reeks of scam to me.  The game itself is like 70 bucks.  But then you can buy up to 30 new characters for 15 bucks a pop.  Holy crap!

However that didn’t matter.  They didn’t have any.

Wii Remote? Out of stock.

BeyBlades: Zip.


Now I will admit that I am a bit slow when it comes to social technological advances.  I’m not archaic.  I do plenty of bill paying on-line.  I have a cell phone. We ditched a land line for a Google Voice account.  We have eliminated cable in favor of streaming Netflix and Hulu.  I text (though my daily text stats generally stay in the single digits).  I clearly have a blog.  But I still prefer paper to a Kindle, coffee with a friend over Skype, and a run over a movie.

But when it comes to spending my money on products, things,  maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned.  I like to go to a store.

I’d like to think I’m doing my part in helping support a local economy, even if it is limited to paying a minimal salary to a local employee as opposed to funneling that money into the great invisible Internet pockets.  If I want to buy a book, I start at the local Goodwill or Half Price Books (supporting local economy–yes;  cheap–absolutely!).  If I have no luck there, I’ll hit a Kroger or Target or Sam’s Club.  I’d go to a bookstore next, but most of those have closed.  Only after all that failure do I turn to the online old-faithful Amazon.

However this experience made me wonder if there is some teeth in the assertion that brick and mortar stores are on the way out.  I want to say no.  But this particular store was doing very little to encourage me to actually invest in their minimum-wage employees’ future.  There simply wasn’t anything to buy.

After showing clear signs of distress and moping towards the door to try my luck at Target, a super-helpful worker literally chased me down waving a remote he found in  the back room.  Victory.  Maybe I had lamented my frustration that they didn’t have anything as  he  walked me from empty rack to empty rack, embarrassment creeping deeper with every disappointing failure.  However, he had found redemption: a Wii remote.

Sold.  As I stood in line, I noticed a BeyBlade shoved in among the candy bar displays, just mingling with the Fun-Dip and Butterfingers. I grabbed it.

Score.  Presents bought.

But I’m not  anxious to return.  Though Mr. Nice Smile was doing his best to win me over, who wants to shop in an empty store?   I would think that the retail businesses may want to redouble their efforts, before everyone gives up on them.  I know my patience is wearing thin.  It is much easier to do it from my couch.

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Prerequisite Effect

My wife and I can be so ridiculous some times.

It all starts with this idea that winter break for two teachers should be anything but relaxing.  So instead of lazing on the couch, soaking in a book around the fire, mindless television murmuring in the background, we attempt to tackle home improvement projects of epic proportions in unreasonably tight time constraints.

Welcome to my life.

I really do imagine a time in my life where lazy idleness will reign supreme.  But I am starting to think that time will never ever come.

Instead I find myself  knee-deep in fourteen half-finished projects and only 1 day left on break.  Make that 1/2 a day.

This is no new scenario for me.  We have a tendency to be a bit impulsive with our home renovations right before something big is about to happen.  We’ll paint rooms just a day before a birthday party for our kids.  We rip out and redo a bathroom a week before a first communion party.  We’ll jump into a monstrous landscaping project 3 days before we leave on vacation.  Why would this be any different?

On top that, this particular project involves the prerequisite effect.  You know,  in order to do one thing, another MUST be finished  first.  Thus a  simple project grows instantly complex.

The ultimate goal: prepping for a kitchen renovation this summer .  But in the process 3 other rooms get revamped first: a laundry room/storage room, a basement family room, and a kid’s play room.

So we begin.

But in order to do that we must:

1. Move all the books and shelves out of the dining room turned library (which will eventually be part of the kitchen) and into the basement family room (which is currently the kid’s playroom, but won’t stay the playroom).  See how this is already complicated?

2. Before we move the shelves though, we need to replace the flooring in said basement family room because it is old and smells bad.

3. To do that, we have to move everything out of the basement family room (and buy the floor, and schedule the install…).  But there isn’t anywhere to put it. Our solution?

4. Take everything out of the laundry room first and install way more effective storage shelves that let us put all of the adult stuff in the new laundry room/storage room.

5. Which allows us to take all the kids stuff and put it in the former storage room/soon to be play room.

6. So the family room is cleaned out, empty, and ready to be floored.  But we might as well paint it right?  Geez.

You get the picture.

Needless to say, progress has been made. Sort of.

Laundry room storage shelves installed: check.  Basement family room emptied, carpets ripped out, painted (a way, way bigger project than we expected), new floors installed, new lighting instrument, plugs and light switches installed, and the shelves moved and filled with books. Check. Library emptied: check.  Kids playroom started: NOT EVEN CLOSE!  Now I am currently digging through everything we took out of every other room and stacked in that playroom and putting it where it goes (or 9 times out of 10, putting it in the Goodwill box or trash) so we can find the room to renovate it.

But hey, I’ve got what, 6 hours, before I have to go to bed, right?  No sweat.

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Posted in life reflections

I Wanna Be a Stay At Home Dad!

On a conveniently extended winter break this year,  I believe I have found my second calling in life.

I want to be a:

We’ve been on winter break for almost three weeks now and I must say I could get used to this.  The fact of the matter is, I am a pretty darn good one, too.  I really like having a structure to my day that doesn’t involve work.

Granted, I might be cheating since my kids are actually at school.  So stay at home dad, really just means not-working-at-the-moment-anal-retentive dad gets to do all his stuff without the kids getting in the way.  It’s the same stuff I do every day: clean the house, do a load of laundry, make the bed (okay that doesn’t happen every day…On a normal week, I’m the first one awake and out the door; it seems silly to make it in the afternoon when I get home), go to the gym, help with homework, play chauffeur.  The difference now is that it doesn’t get undone before I finish doing it.

Generally my cooking and cleaning routine takes roughly 3 hours.  I choose to spend my time that way and I’m okay with it.  To pick up/clean the kitchen, family room, bathrooms, and bed rooms, plus knock out the laundry takes some time.  And I like to have things clean.  Additionally, I will also graciously recognize that my wife lets me fit in a run (about 50 minutes) or a trip to the gym (two hours, travel time included) just about every day.  It may be the trade-off for all the cooking and cleaning I do.

Needless to say, by the time I get home from work at 4:15, I don’ t have time for much else.  I choose that. I don’t watch much TV.  I don’t really have time for movies.  And truthfully, most of my down time is divided between overly ambitious home improvement projects, grading, and burying my face in a book.

But today, today, I was done by 12:30: Workout done.  House clean. Laundry clean, folded, and put away.  Heck, I even cleaned out 1/2 a hallway closet and moved my remaining books from the library-soon-to-be-kitchen-addition to the basement-half-turned-into-my-new-makeshift-library. That meant I could read and play on the computer until it was time to pick up the kids from school.

I could get used to this.

I just haven’t figured out how to collect that paycheck.

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Winter Break Reading: 100 Book Challenge Books 9-12

9. Stone Cold: David Baldacci– I appear to be reading this Camel Club series in random order, but I don’t really mind.  This is the third book, but it is certainly written so that you can drop in to the series anywhere and still follow.  This is such a good genre.  I love the government/conspiracy theory/ vigilante-doing-the-right-thing kind of novel, and Baldacci nails it every time.   Definite winner.

10. Nothing Serious: Rich Orloff- A collection of short plays.  I liked the plays individually most of the time, but I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed (or really understood) the connection with all of the pieces.  I don’t think the idea of “do take anything to seriously” works in this case.  It seems a bit like a collection of SNL skits–a collection of good ones albeit– but still not much glue to stick them together.  The opening and closing were humorous to the educated theatergoer.  But that is not my audience.  I don’t think they would get it.

11. Said and Meant: Randy Wyatt- Another collection of short plays surrounding the idea that what we say is sometimes not what we always mean.  I liked that the plays are accessible, developed, and smartly centered around a central conflict with strong,well-developed  characters.  Actually, I’m strongly considering this one for production.

12. Murder in the Knife Room– Jonathan Rand- A play that makes fun of stock characters.  (Hey can you tell I am in a play selection phase…) Fun, though meaningless show to read.  Meaningless, because the plot is not there.  There are 20 different stock characters in a room when the lights go out and a murder occurs. Then the detective proceeds to explore why each character has a backstory and motivation to commit the murder.  About half way through, it gets tedious.  You can only run the joke for so long, and when you don’ t care about any of the characters, you just sort of give up.  Good for exercises in characterization, but I can’t imagine pulling it through a full production.

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100 Book Challenge Book 8

You Hear Me?  Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys: Edited by Betsy Franco.

This book is a collection of poetry written by teen boys and gathered by writing teacher Franco.  As a high school teacher, I found it to be at the same basic writing level as my students and explored some similar ideas.  I picked it up thinking it might be of interest to my poetry lovers.  But unfortunately, it seems to hover on the poverty of inner-city life and dwells often in the projects, a little too gangster for my suburbia/ rural population.  Not to mention that I didn’t check the publication date: 2000.  So it is a bit dated, considering most of my students were in the 2-3 year old range at the time it was written.  There were a few gems, but maybe not enough to warrant the book.

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Posted in 100 Book Challenge, Uncategorized

100 Book Challenge Book 7

Gone For Good– Harlan Coben

I hadn’t realized that this was actually a reprinting of his 2002 book.  That didn’t really matter.  I plowed through it in no time.  Even though I know the nature of this type of book, I was still surprised with just how much I liked it.

Coben’s writing gift is not necessarily line by line writer’s craft.  What he offers in that neighborhood is a bit forgettable.  His characterization, to be honest, it a little obvious and flat.  But his ability to spin a plot, to engage the reader to read just one more chapter to resolve the hook placed in the previous chapter, kept me up late into the night.

To put is simply.  I was sucked it.  I will even admit to multiple verbal outbursts while reading this book, something I am not generally prone to do.  It was the perfect winter break read–a book that forces the rest of the world to cease to exist, at least temporarily.

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