Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Goals Reimagined

Midway through my next phase, perhaps it's time to evaluate where I've been and where I'm going. Surgery basically killed 3 weeks of my plan. I still ate reasonably well, but I got very few steps. So that goal is out the window. The biggest challenge will be still moving with a new baby, but I think we're up for it. Long walks will just be part of this kid's life, as will race day.

Let's detour into race day, shall we? Recently I cataloged every race Kacey and I have done. It's funny how this little semi hobby has turned into such a huge part of my future. I went from considering it a fun diversion to thinking of it as one of the biggest things to look forward to several times a year. I hope to never miss Shamrock weekend, for example. The baby will hopefully enjoy race day. There is lots going on, and just a happy, healthy vibe whether it's Shamrock, the Monument Ave 10k or a local 5k. Today I got an e-mail about the Santa 10 miler (and 5k) and I definitely plan to do that in December 2013.

We've been trying to downsize our stuff for the last few years. At some point, you realize that having a lot of stuff can be suffocating. So I've decided to only collect one thing: race medals. The beauty of charity races is they realize people are willing to pay a little more for a keepsake. Race number sheets wear out, shirts get old, but no matter where we end up living I'll find a place to display my medals. Who cares if everyone gets one? It's there for the memories, not bragging rights. I just wish every race gave them out!

Here are my current PRs:

5k - 40:09 (Harrisonburg Autism 2011, 12:55/mile)
8k - 1:25:59 (Virginia Beach Shamrock 2012, 17:18/mile)
10k - 1:27:08 (Richmond Monument Ave 2011, 14:01/mile)

My original goal was to PR a 5k on October 20th. I'm back to walking a lot, but jogging still feels stabby. So that isn't likely. But when I wrote down every race I've done, I also realized I've done every Sherry Anderson 5k, so I might do the 4th annual on Oct 13th. At the worst I'll have fun long walks on consecutive Saturdays. But for a PR, let's just plan to PR all three race lengths over the next 15 months. That gives me several chances at 5ks, and perhaps more than one 8k to get a PR.

Here are the rest of my goals, keeping in mind that I'm just past halfway done:
  • Desserts: Keep not eating it. Got it? Got it.
  • Other food changes: Just be sensible and really try to track calories.
  • Cardio for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week
  • Take the baby for many awesome walks.
  • Lift once a week, do back exercises 4 times a week (I go back to the doc on Monday)
  • Only drink water, sparkling water with real fruit in it (or natural flavors at the very least), or unsweetened almond milk. Absolutely no soda, milkshakes, etc.
  • Cigars: 1, on or around September 15th.
  • Alcohol: Drink no more than two nights a week, beer or wine only (no sugary mixed drinks). This will not take effect until well into P2, as two weeks into JFJ I swore off alcohol until Kacey can drink again. Once the baby is here, this will be the only exception to my rules on what I can drink.
  • Just eat better in general (Veggies, cut down on meat from ~14 times a week to ~7).
  • Steps are up in the air. At this point I want to walk as much as possible after the baby is born, but it won't be my focus.
  • Get down into the 220s. I'm close so I think I can do it.
Lastly, since I haven't touched alcohol in months, I wanted to list my favorite beers. I look forward to moderately drinking the following:
  • Chimay Red
  • Landshark
  • Shocktop
  • Legend Brown Ale
  • Heavy Seas Loose Cannon

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Invisibility and Other Musings

"Oh, it's just the tech guy."

I laughed when two people who work in my building were having a genuine, silly conversation, only one of them realizing I was there. When the second person saw me, she first got embarrassed about the frank discussion I had been privy to. Then she realized who I was and said, simply and truthfully, "Oh, it's just the tech guy."

This is not an insult. It's sure not a compliment either, it's just the way the vast majority of people feel about us IT folks. We ARE the equipment. When something breaks, we're to be yelled at or panicked to. When we fix it, we're living legends. But most importantly, when we're there working on something that isn't an emergency, we're window dressing. I've been working on computers during intense disciplinary meetings in principal's offices. I've witnessed the dressing down of employees by bosses. I've been put in front of screens with highly sensitive data (not a click away, just sitting there open). I've seen office politics at its worst and office romance at its least subtle.

And sometimes, instead of pretending I'm not there, people involve me in the discussion. They talk badly about their bosses, their employees, their families, and I engage. Because for some reason, everyone trusts the tech guy. It makes sense if you consider that IT can see all your shit anyway if we want to (we don't). So what is there to hide? We're not messing with your private files, we're on your side, and we want your equipment to work as much as you do.

Babies and Food

Most people have been very supportive of my quest to get healthy. But reactions certainly run the gamut from encouragement to selfishness. The first reaction of some people is to worry about how it will affect them. Others feel like my choice to abstain from dessert means I'm judging them. Why do so many office/life events center around food? And how do we avoid participating in the food portion without making some people feel like we think we're too good for their birthday, etc? I can't have dessert once a week. It doesn't work for me. So I have to turn it down all the time, but I'm not faulting those who don't. My new reality is that the two times I've lost significant weight, 2012 and 2003-04, it involved no dessert. Sometimes is not an option.

We have lots of birthdays coming up, mine included. I know my close family won't be upset with me for not eating cake, but why is there a small part of me that worries about it? We're conditioned to eat crap at events, and thanks to the event industry, new obligations pop up each year. There are cards and desserts and plastic garbage for "special" days, both very real (birthdays, major holidays, Talk Like A Pirate Day) and completely made up (Valentine's, the super bowl). Now I'm not complaining about gifts, more the excess of holidays, when back before I became a cranky old man we used to just spend time together and give small, personal gifts, and that was love.

Basically, I'm moving in a new direction, and hope others are or will start. We're getting rid of clutter in our house, trying to live smaller. We're moving toward a diet that consists largely of fresh food. And I definitely want to give fewer "things" and start addressing more "needs" for those around me. I'm starting to see the light about gift cards or stone cold cash as gifts. Because if someone handed me cash instead of a gift, right this minute, I would either indulge with a GPS watch or running shoes for me, or just go buy things like diapers. My point is lets start giving less and be together more!

And we want the same for the baby. I grew up with a reasonable amount of toys. I wasn't drowning in them, and I used my imagination a lot. Too many toys, too much reliance on TV or other electronics, and I feel like kids have a harder time just being on their own, outside, imagining and building. Then again, I'm not a parent yet so I'm not allowed to have an opinion on child rearing (or so I've been told repeatedly).

Having a baby causes great excitement among friends, family, and sometimes people I don't even know. Babies are awesome. But much like getting healthy, there are a few people it just plain bothers. Some complain about how we won't be able to hang out anymore. Many say "just you wait" as if we'll finally pay penance for our year of DINKhood.

But nothing matches the reactions of some of my mother-in-law's clients. She has been harassed about when the baby is coming (as if she can predict the future). Several people have scoffed at the idea of her taking time off to help us out. A few have said they are no longer going to use her because she can't guarantee her availability. It's amazing and sad how low some people can be, and I say good riddance to them. If they beg to come back, which they will, charge double.

Perhaps Some Positivity

Strong desires for dessert still kick me in the face occasionally. I can quickly dismiss them most of the time. It's starting to feel like dessert is a sphere and as I address the need for it I can sense my hand gripping that sphere. Each week I go without, each time I smell it and feel weak but refuse anyway, every time I move past and have gum or fruit instead, I smile. And I squeeze that sphere tighter. And it's starting to crack, and that's good news for me, because soon it's dust and I'm never going back.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Friday, August 17th

We went to the County Fair with the Neitzey's. I had barely noticeable stomach cramps, but thought nothing of it. Considering it was the fair, I ate pretty well.

Saturday, August 18th

I woke up pretty early and did the final day of Couch to 5k week two. It consisted of a 5 min warmup brisk walk, 1:30 jogging and 2:00 walking alternating 6 times, and a 5 minute cool down. I was dogging it. Sluggish, unmotivated, and generally just beat down, but I didn't know why. I returned home and had really annoying stomach cramps. They would go away after a few minutes, but bloat and general discomfort would follow.

After a shower, we had breakfast with the Neitzey's and went to JMU for Football Day, aka Let the Average People Walk Around The Clubhouse Area and Spend Money Day. I was able to eat half of a hot dog, but basically my stomach was in knots. Acid and gas relievers did nothing, but we had a busy weekend so I toughed it out.

I barely made it through a dinner party that night. I ate what I could, turned down what I thought would make me worse, and tried to laugh through the near-constant cramping. Sleep would surely bring improvement.

Sunday, August 19th

The discomfort was still there, only now pressing on my belly brought on a bit of pain. I went to the bathroom, at which time Kacey decided I was going to the hospital. While in the bathroom I coughed. Then doubled over in pain. Hmm, let's try that again. Cough, followed by searing pain in my right lower abdomen. I walked out, looked at Kacey, and said "I need to go to the emergency room." "Yes. Yes you do." So at 8:30am we made a trial baby run to the hospital.

The intake person looked at me after I described my symptoms. "Do you have your appendix still? You might not for long."

I can't remember my doctor's name, but it was awesome and he was awesome. He didn't offer up platitudes or bullshit. He had a great sense of humor and kept us both calm. The worst part of the day was after all of the tests had come back except for the confirming CT Scan. At that point we knew I was in terrible pain and my white count was up. If it wasn't my appendix, what the hell was it? When the doctor returned at about 3 he said "Well guess what" and off I was to surgery 40 minutes later.

The surgeon came by to shake my hand and brag about all the holes he was going to make. Then he made a funny joke about using staples to put me back together, which I later learned was neither funny nor a joke.

Then they knocked me out. Good times.

I woke up shivering in recovery, luckily with the sarcasm half of my brain still intact. It was a tough crowd in there. At about 5:40pm on Sunday I was pushed into my room, down an appendix but having made friendships that would last forever. It was the best summer of my life. That may have been the drugs, though.

Blatantly going against what all the doctors said would happen, I didn't feel that groggy and I went to sleep after midnight. However, I did need help to get up on my own at 9pm to go to the bathroom.

Monday, August 20th

Man, they really want you out of the hospital when they think you can go home. One of the nurse's even tried the "it's not you, it's me" line. Eventually we got tired and left.

Monday night I took my one and only dose of painkillers ("the good stuff"). There's an entire bottle left. Why am I against painkillers? They make me feel weird. Also, they can be a little TOO fun, and I don't need anything replacing my cupcake-shaped hole in my diet. But most importantly, and I can't stress this enough, they make it hard to poop. And I was having enough trouble doing that.


After a week of hardcore recovery, including daily stabby pain, I started to walk a bit more (about 5,000 steps a day). Now two weeks in, I'm looking forward to getting my staples out Thursday the 6th. And I'm looking forward to getting back to my jogging program. But most importantly I'm looking forward to carrying my baby around.

Yes, this has caused me to take a few steps back from a food and exercise perspective. But I'm not going to obsess over it. I still haven't eaten dessert, I had two sips of soda, and I've actually hit the 22 pounds lost mark since June 30th (32 pounds from my peak in the spring). A little slowdown won't stop me as I try to become an annoyingly health-obsessed father.