Sunday, February 28, 2010

Morning run

It's 9:24 and I've already got my run in for the day and showered.  It was the first run I've done outside in a week and boy is it harder to run in the cold (38 degrees) than it is in a nice climate controlled gym.  Have I mentioned I can't wait for spring?  Off for a day with the family!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day off

Not much to report today.  I took the day off from exercising.  This morning was taken up by renewing my drivers license and this evening we went out to dinner.  I guess the one running related thing was that I've been trying to decide which 5K to run in first.  There are a few coming up in March and I'll probably do one.  I'm looking for one with a 1 mile fun run for Jen and/or the kids to do.  I'll keep ya informed.  Tomorrow I "hope" to get up and run a few miles before heading to the train museum.  Choo!  Choo!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Honeybuns, tea, and a diet on the mend

With this new lifestyle I'm trying to make, running and other exercise isn't the only thing I'm trying to change.  Food is another BIG issue I've had to tackle.  Growing up, I was addicted to three things; fast food, Dr. Pepper, and snack foods (think Little Debbie snacks).  About the last two - three years, I've been making a shift.  I rarely have Dr. Pepper.  Maybe once every few weeks.  I mainly drink water at home and tea when we go out. Even coffee has been limited to about 1-2 times a week.  Hot tea is my beverage of choice to wake me up now.  I love me some green tea or earl grey, or Darjeeling, or yerba mate, or........ the list could go on and on.  Now getting back to food, When I was working a pest control job,  I mostly ate on the road and became very accustom to 7-11 taquitoes and hot dogs. I've since given them up.  Lately, I'm working hard to eat a healthy lunch, something like a rice dish or noodles.  For dinner we, as a family, have been eating much healthier.  Our fridge is stocked full with fruits and veggies, and when we cook, it usually consists of something simple with healthy sides.  Jen's gotten on board with the health kick and has started working out to the Wii in the evenings.  Things are going well.

Now everything isn't peachy however.  I have two downfalls to my daily dietary dilemma.  First, I've started grabbing a honeybun in the mornings from my works vending machine.  I know, I know, bad James!  I generally don't eat breakfasts (yet another unhealthy choice), but lately I've been getting hungry on the way to work. so I started grabbing a honeybun.  These are on of the most devilish things.  Oh so yummy, but loaded with sugar and calories.  Yesterday I broke down and bought some Special K breakfast bars.  Lets hope I can avoid the temptation of the buns.  Second, late night cravings kill me.  Around 9-10 I start raiding the fridge looking for something to snack on.  It used to be a frozen pop, not terribly bad but full of sugars.  Then I started making a sandwich or something else substantial.  I'd wake up the next morning and have a food hangover.  Here lately, since we've got so much fruit around, I'm trying to eat some of it.  Last night I polished off the grape/cantaloupe/honey melon mix from two dinners ago.  

Compared to my diet three years ago, I'm a model of eatery fitness.  But compared to where I should be I've got a ways to go.  Now that Jen's jumped on board, and we're all eating healthier, I'm hoping we will continue to improve our health...... if only I can avoid those damn honeybuns!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feeling like a hamster.

Yesterday I tried decided to workout on the treadmill.  The last time I recall using one was back in 2000 when I was working at MEMC.  My and my roommate John used to go over to the company gym after work to play basketball and workout.  As I remember it, trying to run on the treadmill was horrible compared to actually running.  I felt like my legs were slamming into the machine and trying to stay at the speed of the machine just didn't work.  I swore off treadmills then. However, yesterdays experience was great.  The machine was brand spanking new (as are almost all the machines there) and was very easy to use.  I ran a great 30 minutes, plus 5 minute cooldown.  Adjusting the speed and incline was a snap.  It even calculated my heart rate.  I will be back on the treadmill frequently, at least until the weather is better so I can run around the lake!  The only bad part was seeing my pace.  A 10 minute mile used to be easy.  Even four years ago, the last time I was in a running routine, I was running under 10 minutes pretty easily.  The damn machine said I was running at a 13 minute mile today.  Now that I've been at it around a month and feeling ok within running,  I'd better start working on my speed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feeling better

My hamstring is feeling much better today.  Yesterday, after we got out and about, it started to feel better.  It was still sore, and made my knee feel weak, but by last night it was well on it's way out.  Today..... not a trace of pain.  I took it very easy on the bike today.  Only did 25 mins at a low pace.  The rest of the time was spent on upper body weights.  Tomorrow, I plan to tackle the treadmill.  Not something I'm looking forward to as I've never liked running on them.  It's just not the same.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A hopefully minor setback.

Here it is Sunday morning at 7:00.  Am I up this early to run?  no!  I woke up in the middle of the night to a strong pain at the base of my hamstring to my right leg, just above the back of my knee.  It took me 5 minutes just to figure out how to stand up and walk without sharp pain. Yesterday when running, I had a "minor" stumble when turning down my street.  I didn't think anything of it since it didn't affect my ankle, but looking back now, it sort of twisted my entire leg and I can see that this was the cause.  So now I've taken one of the "good" pain killers and going to lay back down.  I hope it helps fast, today is Jen's birthday and we have things to do.     Grrrr...... I hate injuries! 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2 Miler

Today was the first day I've run since Monday.  Tuesday through Thursday I was at the gym at work using the exercise bike and machine weights.  Yesterday I decided to take the day off since I used the bike the previous 3 days.  I decided to do my normal route, I'm calling it "up the hills" because it takes me up and down two relatively steep inclines, then finishes up relatively flat around the house.  I forgot just how much I dislike hills.  My legs are still fairly sore from the biking and trying to go up the bigger of the two was tough.  I could really feel the burn in my calves.  I sure will be glad when the tons of snow melt away so I have some better route options.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Back in 7th grade I was really into cycling. I had a pastor (yeah at the time mom would drag me and my sister to church on Sundays) that was an avid biker and he got me interested. I had an old ten speed bike. You know, the kind with 1/2 inch wide tires and weighs about 100 lbs. It was nothing special but I loved to ride it. We lived about 1.5 miles from school and after taking the bus home, I would hop on the bike and ride back up to the school and all around. There wasn't much around, a school, a convenient store, and a church, that was about it, but I lived in the country and there were a ton of country roads to ride on. I even participated in a road race once. It was in a small national park (well technically it was considered a national recreational area.) and consisted of a bunch of up and down hills. I signed up to ride a 14 mile course, two 7 mile loops. I finished the first one great but the second time around I had to stop and walk up this long hill. I still consider it a success though. Well, to make a long story medium, I quit biking in 9th grade, not sure why, but I've always loved the feeling of freedom with biking. Jen and I have talked about getting us all bikes. Maybe we should do it this year.

SO why am I talking about bikes on a running blog? I've been riding the exercise bikes at the gym all this week and it's got me thinking about biking again. I do love running and want to primary focus on it, but biking can be so much fun, and without having to be a workout. Just a leisurely bike ride. The wind on you face. The thrill of coasting down a long hill. The fun of quick turns and speed take offs...... Yeah, I think we'll have to find bikes this spring.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gym or is it Jim?

Yesterday I finally decided to check out one of the gyms here at Fort Meade. I've known I had access to them since I started but never attempted to go. Why? Probably because I didn't know what to expect. Would it be a room filled with active soldiers doing their PT on free weights or would it be like your typical gym with a mix of everything? Since our winter deluge last week, roads and sidewalks have been covered with snow. I've made due around the house but here on post, most places haven't been cleared. Less than half of the parking areas are available and yesterday morning I had to trek myself through two feet thick snow cover for about 50 feet just to reach the building. My trail around the lake is still covered and probably will be until it naturally melts away. So I decided to head to the gym.

Gaining access was easy enough, walk in, show my Army ID and I'm in. I entered to find a large gym filled with probably 50 exercise bikes and 25-30 treadmills along with various free weights and weight machines. At the time I went, about 11:00 a.m. there were only around fifteen people using the gym. Not bad, it gave me the freedom to choose what and where to do it.

I picked a bike and hopped on. It was the sit down exercise bike type. I began to pedal, went through the instructions and selected a basic weight loss program for 30 minutes. It was supposed to have alternating easy and hard segments. I didn't notice a difference between the first two and tried to up the resistance. I pushed it as high as it would go and still it felt like a warm up. I was pedaling as fast as possible and couldn't make it any harder. I kept at it for the 30 mins and reviewed the workout. I rode over five miles worth, with an average heart rate of 33 and max of 34! What? Something must have been off. The only settings were program, time, weight, and age. Where O where did I go wrong? I decided to try another routine and chose a 10 minute hill workout. This time it worked correctly. Plenty of resistance and it really wore me out. Legs were like jello.

My first experience with the gym went well, barring a 30 minute ride at full speed going down hill pedaling the entire time. I don't think I'll be using that program again. But anyway, I really enjoyed the gym. Being around others helps motivate me to try harder. I didn't feel self-conscious like I thought, and the atmosphere wasn't intimidating. I plan to return today and hopefully integrate it into my exercise routine. The best news of all though.......... No damn gym fees!!!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why O Why?

Yesterday I had a great day out with the family for Valentines Day. About midway through, I was itching to go running. When we got home, I told Jen I was going out for a run. She must have thought I was nuts. Freezing weather, possible ice, and in the dark. I just wanted to go. It was a good run, nothing too fast but when i was done and inside, I wished that I had done another 1/2 mile or so. This got me to thinking.

Why is it I'm so excited about running? Do I enjoy the pain that goes along with it, not really. Although when I'm running other things like my sinus troubles just melt away. I can only think of the struggle in my lungs and legs to keep going (but that's a good pain right?). Is it the fact that I'm doing something productive? Something that will get me in shape? Well yeah, I enjoy that. I'm tired of feeling sluggish all the time and the health benefits that go along with running are definitely a positive. Or is it that I'm trying to "recapture the glory days"? No, not really. I was never the top runner. I do miss the camaraderie that goes along with training on a team, but I'm definitely not in this for glory. Otherwise, I'd better pack my suitcase and hit the road. So what is it then?

I've come to the conclusion that when I'm running, weather it be a dead slow pace or a sprint, I love the feeling of being out there. In part, it has to do with my recent mobility issues. Five months ago, every day I woke up not knowing if I would be able to walk ok that day. Just knowing that I am running makes me feel 10 years younger. The joy I get from just being out on the road, going where I choose, when I choose to, and how fast I get there is liberating. It makes me feel like I can do anything, if only I persevere.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Movin' Metrics

Here I am back in freezing Maryland. I just returned from a run and what did Jen say "didn't last long" I explained to her that I'm no where near ready for anything of significant distance and that I've been running about 1.5 to 2 miles on my runs. Next, I used an awesome site www.mapmyrun.com and wouldn't ya know it, I only ran 1.25 miles. Granted it was freezing and I had to avoid all the snow and ice from our recent deluge of around five feet, but I still feel like I wimped out. I'm not about to head back out to make up for it though!

This got me thinking. What is it that runner's use to gauge their performance? time vs distance. Since returning, I've been careful not to try and gauge my performance in this manner as I know I'll be disappointed. At my peak, I was running a thin margin behind the 20 min 5K mark. If memory serves, I think my PR was a 20:19. I never did break the barrier but still, that's a good pace. Now, I'd be lucky to break a 30 min 5K. Or so I think. My last official race was in the fall of 2005 and I ran a 25 min something sec 5K. I'm looking to run my next 5K sometime in late March to early April. My goal is to beat 25 min.

I've made a decision regarding my running, at least until I hit the serious marathon training anyway, to not gauge myself. My goal is to make this a lifestyle change and if I start measuring my performance, I'm certain to get frustrated and likely give it up. Therefore, all my runs will be solely based on one of the two metrics: distance or time, not both. Mostly I plan to run based on distance. I'm currently around two miles. I could care less how long those two miles take, just that I complete what I set out to do. Maybe this strategy will work, maybe it won't, but I'm sure planning to find out.

With all that said, I have to justify my shorter distance today. Being that I'm an entomologist, I'll have to say that the bugs are rubbing off on me. Insects are directly tied to temperature. The hotter the temperature, the faster an insects physiological processes work. In forensics, for example, time of death of a person can be calculated based on the life stage of the flies found on the body and the recorded temps near the location. Conversely, the colder it is, the slower they function. Since I've been in Florida this last week, and have been running two miles all week in 50-60 degree weather, I think it's reasonable to say that a 1.25 mile run in 28 degree weather is pretty good.

Float like a...

Written Friday Feb. 12th.

I've been in Jacksonville Florida this week for an entomology convention and have been running in a great place, The Naval Air Station. First of all, it's Florida so the terrain is flat. Makes for a nice run. Secondly, The view is awesome. I've been running along the water watching sail boats, sea gulls, and the occasional mock sea rescue. A much better place to run than in Maryland at this time of year. It's given me the opportunity to relax and not worry about ice or my ears freezing off.

Back in my younger days (Makes me sound like an old grandpa!) I was always restrained by my lungs for my running. It wasn't very often that I was held back because my legs were giving out. Except for when I injured my left ankle during senior year cross country (I really should have seen a doctor on that one), my legs never gave me much grief. I know I wasn't the most graceful runner. I'd liken my running to the flying of a housefly (erratic) than a butterfly (graceful).

Since having my feet problems, I've noticed the opposite. It didn't take too long for my lungs to catch up to speed on running, but my feet just are not fluid at all. I've had to adjust myself, and now, after about 3 weeks into it, my feet feel stronger but not near what they used to be. Maybe it's all in my head and I'm being over sensitive because I don't want to injure myself. Or maybe it's true and I look like the most awkward runner on the road. Regardless, I'm out there for myself and not what others think of me. So as the saying goes I might not float like a butterfly, but I'm doing my damnedest to sting like a bee. Ok, maybe a sweat bee. lol

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Seventeen Years

Seventeen years, that's how long it takes a particular species of cicada to develop into an adult. The so called "seventeen year cicada" is a biological, and cultural phenomenon in the Eastern United States. One particular generational population (Brood X) exploded into adulthood nearly six years ago. The same year I moved from Texas to Maryland. I recall my first few days as a Maryland resident collecting specimens and marveling at the shear number of cicadas seemingly everywhere. it is amazing how this simple creature can survive underground for seventeen years before emerging for it's brief stint as an adult. A long life of sucking away on root juice, digging it's way around, waiting... waiting for the one night where it makes the long journey up the tree to the surface, then continues to climb until the perfect spot for it to shed its nymphal skin and emerge as an adult. Taking flight to mate, lay eggs and die. Leaving behind it's progeny to sit, eat, and wait for another seventeen years. A lot can happen in seventeen years.

For me, seventeen years ago, I unknowingly took a leap into the world of running. My school hired a cross country coach, and on referral from my neighbor, I got a call from him thinking I might be interested in joining the team. I went to an informational meeting and after hearing some inspirational speech, I joined the team. Prior to this, I wasn't much of an athlete. I was on the basketball team, but wasn't too good at it. I had heart though, and that was what counted. So I began my junior year as a runner. I can't particularly say I was good, in fact, my first race I came in last place. my failing was that I took off too fast and died a quick death. I didn't give up and finished the course though. From this humble beginning, I learned, improved, learned more, and before I knew it, I WAS a runner. I spent the next two years loving running and even dragged my lil sister into it. Once I was hooked, I had always dreamed of running a marathon. I always imagined I would attempt it in the near future. Seventeen years later, I still dream of running a marathon...... someday.

Since high school, my running has been an off again, on again love affair. A couple of months of running followed by a year or so of no running, with a 5k fun run sprinkled about. Since I moved to Maryland, my running has gotten even less. Life simply got in the way. A nasty stint of temporary insanity (nearly four years of smoking) and several medical setbacks has kept me from running at all in nearly three years. All the while, I've maintained my dream of running a marathon.

The last two years or so, I've suffered from gout, a condition that caused me many days where I could barely walk. I could go to bed fine and wake up without being able to take a step without excruciating pain. Through coping with this problem, my running mojo was nearly lost. How could I run when I could barely walk. My ideas on running changed, and I longed to be out on the road, moving. I began to get the pain under control through dietary changes, medicine, and herbal supplements. I am proud to say, I haven't suffered a gout attack in about four months. I'm hoping it's gone for good.

With this renewed ability to walk without fear of pain, I've slowly begun running again. It's been about three weeks now and I'm starting to feel like a runner again. When I'm out there, I can't help but be happy to be moving again. It's tough, but I have set the goal of running the Baltimore Marathon this October. This gives me nine months to prepare for it. I can only hope that no future setbacks will get in the way.

While I'm attempting to do what I set out to do seventeen years ago, my ultimate goal is to make a lifestyle change. I want to stop the back and forth and make a full commitment to running again. That is where this blog comes in. I want to chronicle my efforts in the hopes that it will keep me motivated through the difficult task of a permanent lifestyle change. I can't say I will write daily, but I hope to write often. So like the effort it takes the nymphal cicada to climb that tree in the hopes of metamorphing into an adult, It's now my time to push through and metamorph into the soaring lifetime runner I know I can be.