Monday, December 31, 2012

Bye bye 2012!

With a few minutes left, here is how I'll remember 2012:

  • 12 races on the books
  • 77 hours of strength training
  • 70 miles of swimming
  • 312 miles of running
  • 1430 miles of biking
  • and 210337 calories that aren't clinging to my waistline.
A year of challenges, victories, discoveries, and defeats. Looking forward to more, in 2013. 

So bye bye 2012!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Jingle Bell Run - 2012

Beautiful day in Long Beach. Everyone gathering on the town green for a little 5K event: Jingle Bell Run - 2012.

Took the kids. And Molly Dog. Kids bickering over who holds the leash. Everyone loves that little lion of ours. When the race began, she wanted to run, too!

Temperature started off in the 50s. Wore pants. Almost wore sleeves. Ended nearly 70. Sweated most of the way. Regretted those pants most of all.

Smooth roads. Water mid-way. No idea how many runners. Maybe 300. Many kids. Some seniors. Few dogs. Very friendly run with lots of happiness in the air.

No intervals. No stopping. Passed the folks I wanted to pass. Got passed more than I wanted to get passed. Didn't do badly, but I didn't do well. 27:33. Unofficially 83rd place. (Not everyone went the full distance.) If I actually slept last night, if I hadn't spent time yelling at the toilet, and if I were hydrated, I might have done better. But I'm happy with the performance, given my silly conditions. Great way to start the day, and I enjoyed the time with the kids. Maybe one day I'll have them running next to me. Shortly after, I'm sure I'll have to catch up with them. But I enjoy what I have. It's all good. Including the Jingle Bell Run!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

MS Coast Half Marathon - 2012

Have I ever revealed my hatred of running? It is profound. And deep seated. I hate the sweating. I hate the breathing. I hate the tedium of an endless rhythmic gait. And I hate the ungodly slow boredom of miles creeping under my feet.Yet, lunatic that I am, I take it upon myself to run a half marathon this morning. Deep. Seated!

Started off cold. Low forties. Somewhere around six hundred frozen tots enjoyed the freezer burn, too. Me all blacked out. Including OJ-style beanie. Grizzly from NoShaveVember. Either running thirteen something miles today or getting sized up for a pair of Buno Magli shoes. Probably more socially responsible to run. So I ran.

First three miles rocked. All ha ha and fun fun. By the time I said goodbye to Mr 5K, I'd lost the sleeves. And the gloves.

The second three miles started to get on my nerves. Well, mainly it was the knife-like wind howling down from the arctic that gnawed on my face and chest. But what's a little bitey bitey between friends? So I don't hold any grudges.

Third set of three miles. That's when the relation started to sour. Was still sticking to the intervals. But they were getting harder. And the voice of the lizard started to buzz in my good ear.  You know, that ancient reptilian bastard that doesn't like fitness, challenges or personal improvement. Sneaky thing, he is. Loves to eff with my head. But I didn't listen those first 9 miles. No much at least.

Last set of miles. (sigh) They sucked. Because they were actually four miles. Plus point one tacked to the end. For good measure. 4.1 miles of double extra suckitude. At mile 9, the lizard personally builds a huge brick & mortar wall in front of me. Stands atop it and declares: YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Little green bastard then proceeds to scream in my ear with each step. Telling me I cannot do it. Telling me I ain't got the chops. And telling me that I need to stick with being a geek, because I'm no damn athlete! Four point one miles of that. Trying to figure out why I shouldn't quit running. Do my legs hurt? No. Breathing off? No. Cramps? No. Dehydrated? No. So WHY QUIT? Because of that damn lizard! Standing atop the wall of my private fears. Telling me how bad I am.

That's exactly how it went down. Exactly. But, skip to the end. Two thousand calories later. I finished! Goal of 2:15:00. Actual time of 2:19:30 something. 175th place. Despite the wind. Despite my recent injury. And despite the lizard. I finished. Another notch on Ol' Jon's belt.

So. On to the next adventure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

MOVIE - Broken Flowers

Bill Murray stars in this  minimalist melodrama about a man's search for a son he isn't sure he fathered. An amazing supporting cast. Sublime, witty acting. Excellent dialogue. Good pacing. And thought provoking themes (from director Jim Jarmusch) all come together to make a beautiful, Oscar-worthy vignette that was completely ignored and barely broke $10M at the box office. Thankfully, it appeared on Netflix.

Bottom line: if you like good writing with a superb cast, Broken Flowers is a great movie. Lots and lots of things to love about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving - 2012

Beautiful day. Beautiful family. And friends. And food. Couple of striking thoughts came to mind. Rather than narrate them, I'll just spit them out.

First: mine is a generation of men raised by women. And I need to spend more time with Grandma, while I can. At 85 she is in great shape. But things spin out of control quickly. It was great to see her, give her a ride home, just hug her and let her know I love her. Sometimes, she doesn't remember. And she usually asks me if I've lost a lot of weight recently. I'll miss that. So I enjoy it while it last.

Second: Amid the usual Facebook noise, I spotted a quote I enjoyed:
It's not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.
And I think that holds true for me. When I switched from the endless pursuit of material wealth to the enjoyment of life, people, and experiences around me, I was far more thankful for everything I had. And happiness followed. Sure, I had a bigger house, I had more computers, we had new cars, and made much more money. But were we happier? Sadly, no. We weren't. But the only constant in our lives is that everything changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes. Well, sometimes not better.

Third: I read an article that suggested during Thanksgiving, the average person consumes up to 4500 calories. To put that in perspective it is almost 3 times the average daily consumption. To work it off would require four straight hours of jogging. A full blown marathon. Or nearly four hours of crazy, high impact aerobics. I'm pretty sure the list of people planning to do that level of activity contains exactly ZERO names. (At least for people in my neck of the woods.) So I moderated, across two lunches. No rolls. No pie. No sweat tea. Just a bit of stuffing. And mainly turkey.

Finally: I actually STARTED my day with a private little 5K run. Record pace. Record time. Twenty five minutes and some change. No intervals. No water. Just running and breaking personal records. All of which, I'm thankful for!

Friday, November 16, 2012

On The Run

Decided to try a little run. (Since swimming went well.) And survived a private 5k around the neighborhood. Nothing spectacular, but the miles went by. And nothing felt broken. Or painful.

Needed the open space. And time alone. Swat all these angry wasps. Buzzing inside my head. Sting sting sting. Buzz buzz buzz. Mostly noise. Distractions. Amber wings brushing the back of my head. Traveling from Point A to Point Z. Had to put some space between us. Those angry bugs and Ol' Jon.

The trip went well. I survived. The swarm got lost. And I got found. Good to be back on the run.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In The Water

My first training day in a week. And I pick up where I left off: at the pool. Took it easy. Forgot to stretch. Cranked up the music. Breath. Reach. Twist. Clean kickoff. Breath. Reach. Twist. Forty laps. Non-stop. Trying to forget about last weekend.

All these beautiful moments happen. Small victories. Then they're gone. And I'm left clutching the memories of them. Becoming half-lit shadows. Trying to catch what fragile pieces I can. Hold them a little longer. As they sift through my fingers. Like so many pale grains of sand. Under the surface, nobody can hear me scream. So, it is good to be back. In the water. A clean start. All over again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Odds

Not keen on starting work at 0530. Especially on cold days. Not a drop of sunlight as I ride down the beach. No coffee. And plenty of room for disaster.

Replaced a couple of fiber switches. Actually no big deal, as it turned out. Finished in record time. Didn't set off any alarms. Or rouse any dragons.

But, then. The damnedest thing. On one of the servers, two drives in a RAID5 died. Same server, same day, same array. What are the odds? Have to approach Power Ball level stuff there. Been doing IT approaching twenty years and I've never seen it happen. Never!

Fortunately, good hardware support from the vendor and good backups saved my pale narrow butt from the fire. A day of downtime for the users who needed access to the server, but it could have been far worse. No data lost. And I'm rocking two new fiber switches. I'll drink to that!

MOVIE: Cloud Atlas

Vast. Breathtaking. Immersive. Visual. Intertwined. Romantic. Exhilarating. Grandiose. Philosophic. And remarkable. Just a few of the words competing for space in my head after catching a showing of Cloud Atlas this evening.

Based on the 2004 novel by British author David Mitchell, the movie does a far better job than I thought it would do. The settings (especially Neo Seoul!) were perfect and unique unto themselves, helping keep the different pieces of the story clear without being distracting. The special effects almost kept themselves out of the way, but felt contrived in a few places (especially Neo Seoul, lol!) Excellent pacing. Fairly good writing (maintained by sticking somewhat closely to the book.) Pretty good dialogue. But some unremarkable acting in a couple of places. I felt the visual aesthetics played a more critical part than the character performances. And the message of the movie was in the unfolding of the story, not in the accomplishment of the actors.

The original book told six separate, but inter-connected stories. Their settings spanned several centuries, and countries. Mitchell fastened everything together with over-lap characters whose adventures manage to affect all of the other characters and stories with the intricacy of a finely crafted, perfectly balanced pocket watch.

The central theme of Cloud Atlas is that we are all appearing at different points in time, and our paths are crossing infinitely, moving through these ascents and descents together. Sometimes heroes. Sometimes victims. Sometimes villains. But even though our perceptions are fixed, all of time and all of these stories are unfolding simultaneous. Everything at once. What we call the past, present, and future, are all one event. And all of our selves and our partners in these adventures are affecting one another at the same time: the past affecting the present, the present affecting the future, the future affecting the past. Each of our choices touching everything, everywhere.

As Mitchell wrote:
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
Have you ever met somebody you instantly liked and knew things about them quicker than you should? Somebody you felt so comfortable with that you notice their absence? That having them in your life feels as natural as two pages of one book next to each other? That's the connection. We have pasts, presents, and futures with certain people in our lives. Trapped in orbits that we're trying to escape. But our private gravities keeps pulling us back to each other. Again. And again.

Two things really bothered me in the translation from book to movie. And it takes a bit of background to get to the heart of my discontent. So hopefully you'll bear with me.

First, the novel contains six very distinct and individually separate stories that are being unfolded to the reader by the characters either reading or recounting those stories. It all starts (and ends) with "the Pacific Journal" by the character Adam Ewing. The reader follows Adam's voyage directly, but eventually Adam literally writes "the Pacific Journal" that (a century later) is read by the next character, Robert Frobisher. Frobisher (a talented but inexperienced composer) is enthralled by Ewing's novel and later produces a musical piece called the Cloud Atlas Sextet. That music (a sort of story) is picked up by Luisa Rey (third character) in the 1970s, who eventually writes a manuscript, called Half Lives, of her adventures. Tim Cavendish (forth character) is an elderly, modern day editor who considers trying to publish the manuscript but ultimately finds it boring and works on a screenplay for his own adventures. Two hundred years later, Somni-451 (fifth character) begins a rebellion influenced by her viewing of a fragment of a movie called The Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish. And finally Zachry (sixth character) believes in a religion based around Somni-451's "declarations" that have been handed down for generations based on a holographic message (an "Orison") that she made before the end of her adventure.

SO! That's a long way of saying that each part of Cloud Atlas starts with somebody's story, they create their own story, which is later picked up by another character, who creates a new story. I don't think the movie was verbose enough about that. Stories within stories and nothing new gets created without the contribution of other people on our lives.

Second, the novel did a fantastic job of depicting our brief moments of absolute lucidity where we realize time is just a fragile human concept and we are actually able to grasp our present as it sits next to what happened before, and what will happen later. The concept of the future affecting the present or the past is a tough one. I don't think the movie did a good job with it. It was easier to see in the novel because the stories actually reversed the direction of influence very clearly: Zachry's granddaughter likes that Somni-451's declaration" is inclusive of everyone and everything, which reaches back and influences Somni. Somni's last wish is to watch Cavendish's movie, which shifts to his story, and backwards, and backwards, until we arrive where we start, with Adam Ewing. Again, I thought the book was able to articulate a difficult concept far better than a movie. However,it took  days to read the novel, and not even three hours to view the show. So I guess a film has to make due with a far more limited experience.

But over all, an incredible movie. Glad I saw it on the big screen. Thrilled to have so many lessons from the novel refreshed in my mind. Especially one from Zachry:
“...there ain't no journey what don't change you some.” 
I may not enjoy the outcomes of all my adventures. But they all change me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Liam's Symphony Training

Late night becomes an early morning. Up with Liam, driving to Hattiesburg, MS.

Liam's strings instructor invited him to USM's Fall symphony training. To  listen to one of the world's greatest bass players, hang out with other musicians, and pick up some additional tips and techniques.

Hopefully, some of it stuck in his head. He already understands so much about music that it boggles my mind. And the way he intuits everything, from one instrument to another, is nothing short of amazing. Gifted, talented kid. Doing my best to keep involved and motivate him. Not easy when it's a teenager involved. But he stuck with it. Even though he was the youngest person there. And rocked during the two hour jam session.

Long but pleasant day. Nearly twelve hours from beginning to end. With some Mugshot's thrown in, for lunch. Kept me distracted from the cauldron of anger and rage boiling behind my eyes.

If I can heal and keep from going super nova for a couple of weeks, maybe I'll be able to put all this behind me. And, maybe not.

Good day though. Taking them one at a time.

Friday, November 09, 2012

70.3 Training - Final Week

Supposed to be another taper week for me. Took it all kinds of easy. 5K runs. One hour rides. Three quarter mile swims. Nothing even remotely challenging. Recovering. Resting for the big event.

Supposed to be sleeping in New Roads, LA, right now. Resting for an early morning adventure. But, of course, somehow I derailed the whole thing on Wednesday. And I get to back out of my first 70.3. After more than two months of training... That's just great, ain't it?

Par for the course.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Slight Sting

The night before I leave, and I feel a slight sting. (Pointing to my head.) That'd pride effing with me. Eff pride! Pride only hurts. It never helps. I gotta fight through this spit. (Compliments of Marsellus Wallace.)

Now I'm crushed. Defeated. Embarrassed. Grim. Depressed. And bordering on an anxiety attack. My woes from late yesterday continue. Something below the belt is sprained. Not badly. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is no more than a 3. But taking a 3 with me to an Ironman event will result in a long term 9 or 10.

I cannot risk surgery, then six weeks of recovery, and six months of therapy just because I want to maintain my pride. I stayed home today to rest and soak and try to recover. Not sure how much, if any, good that has done. If I still feel this way in the morning, I have to do the unimaginable and throw in the towel. Cancel my room, cancel my drive over, cancel the whole damn thing and NOT compete. Not do what I've been training eight weeks to do.

Yeah, Marsellus, I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it really badly. And I don't like that sting. Not one damn bit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Um... This isn't good. Not good at all. Did an extremely light workout today (3/4 mile swim, 30 minutes on the bike) and hours later I'm feeling something entirely too uncomfortable below the belt.

An old wound? Not sure. But if this keeps up, I'm not going to be able to do a 70.3. Something lightly injured will become something VERY injured by the time I finish. If I finish.

Not liking this!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Not So Close Afterall

Everything I heard from both sides of the media was a paraphrase of: It is going to be a close race. 

First: It wasn't a close race. Second: I was wrong. Third: Many people were far more wrong than I was. 

Barack Obama was re-elected in a crushing mandate of a victory. The momentum Fox News promised for Romney did not appear. The Undecided voters Fox News promised would vote against the incumbent did not vote against the incumbent. Women and Latinos did not vote "for the economy" instead of "for their rights." The youth vote showed up. And hard-working, middle class white folks came out against Romney. Almost everything I heard Carl Rove say for the past week was absolutely wrong. (Despite his Ross Perot-esque attempts to explain his version of voodoo political math where uncounted ballots from urban minority districts were somehow going to turn the tide in Romney's favor in Ohio.) 

However, I'd like to openly confess my predictions were wrong. I predicted Romney would take FL, NC, and VA. In fact, he did not take VA and it looks like he may not take FL. He  is only the clear winner in NC. 

I was also wrong about the popular vote. That wasn't close, either. I predicted 0.05% - 0.08% for Obama. The counting won't be complete for a while, but the media is predicting it could be as much as 1.5% for Obama.

Despite the explosive outcries of "No!" and a myriad of tears at his headquarters when Fox News called the election for Obama, Mitt Romney had a gracious concession speech. He challenged his supporters to pray for the President, pray for the country, and work with their opponents to cross the divide in order to help restore the county. 

I propose we all line up, give each other high fives, and say: Good game. Regardless of which team won, it was a good game. 

Now let's clean up and go home!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Predictions 2012

For the last couple of weeks I've been fascinated with the STATE polls coming out for the election. Let me be clear: NOT the national polls, but the much more narrow state polls conducted usually by people and organizations within a very specific region. Historically, they appear to be more accurate and less biased, to me. As opposed to the national polls, which generally have a slight leaning in one direction or the other. So I pay far more attention to the state polls. Especially since they don't appear to get much media attention.

Based solely on my reading of the state polls, and focusing solely on the SWING STATES, it doesn't look like too many states are actually close. The tightest races only appear to be in Virginia and Florida. 

I know what you're saying, "But Jon, what about Ohio! Romney has been picking up momentum since the first debate, there are lots of undecided voters who traditional vote against the incumbent, and women are going to vote for the economy and not their subjective rights!" 

Hey, whatever. I'm only looking at polls. Not asking specific questions of specific people. And if you look at the 14 polls that came out today, 13 of them give Obama the lead, and only one says it is a tie. Exactly NONE of the Ohio polls put Romney in the lead. I do not think that indicates any kind of a tie. OH, PA, WI, NV, and CO all show similar tracks: Obama wins. 

FL and VA have more mixed signals, but they slightly (less than 1%!) favor Romney. And North Carolina favors Romeny. 

"So, Jon, what are you saying?" you ask.

Here's what I'm saying: In the critical swing states, Romney will win NC, Romney barely wins FL and VA, but Obama will win the others, including OH, PA,  NV, and CO. Obama wins the electoral vote. 

"But, JON!! The electoral college is a dinosaur and needs to be put out of our misery! What about the popular vote?" you cry. 

Given the fact that the Republicans have lost the popular vote in four out of five of the last elections (Bush v Kerry was the only popular victory since Reagan!) I think Obama wins by 0.5% - 0.8%.

"Yeah, but what if you're wrong, smart guy?"

Romney could still win. But the bookies give him only 1 in 4 chances. I'd give him as little as 1 in 10. That still means he'd win once if the elections were held ten times. And maybe 2012 is that once. If Obama does NOT get the young vote (like he did in history measure in 2008) then he could lose. If women and minorities do what Fox News says they're going to do, then Obama could lose. If there really are hordes of Undecided voters and they really vote against the incumbent, as Fox News says, then Obama could lose. So I'm not saying that Obama will win. I'm just saying it is much more likely. If he loses, I'll admit I bet on the wrong guy.

And, no, I'm not saying all of this because Obama is "my guy." Ron Paul would be "my guy." John Hunstman would be "my guy." Obama, is not my guy. However, the polls clearly favor him. Despite all the cries of "it's going to be close" that we hear from the media. 

But who knows? Until this time tomorrow!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Minor Reunion

Sometimes, Facebook proves invaluable. This weekend, for example, I saw that one of my old middle school friends had come into town, from Tampa, FL. Plus, I needed a drink. Put one and one together, and you get: Downtown Gulfport. Rooney's. The Quarter. Bacchus. Met up with John H. and Melva C. for a minor reunion.

Amazing what time, marriage, and kids can do to people. John was a chef in NOLA and FL for a few years. Now manages his father-in-law's legal practice. Has a three year old son. Fishes every chance he gets. And has probably lost three times as much weight as I did, when he stopped being a chef.

When last I saw Melva, she was a foot taller than me and I had no chance of taking her in a fair fight. These days, she's married to the owner of a local auto magazine (with several hundred thousand subscribers). And no longer taller or broader than me. Though, I probably still couldn't take her in a fair fight.

Things went along the normal lines of adult reunions. The usual dialog over a couple of drinks (I practiced excessive moderation!) in a loud Saturday night crowd. Bridging the gap between the modern 21st century and the chaos of the raging Eighties: What are you doing these days? How did you end up doing THAT? How long have y'all been together? How many kids? How old? Yeah, it is crazy tough being an adult and raising the next generation of hooligans!

Not sure when we'll meet again. Good to catch up. A brief trip back in time. When things were simpler. Enjoyed it while it lasted. Everything changes. Nothing changes. We're all still those awkward young rednecks inside, regardless of the weathered exteriors.  Well. At least I'm still awkward. And uncomfortable. And unsure of what I want to be when I grow up. But. Too late now.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

70.3 Training - Week 8

The race is one week from today. In fact, I should be finished by now, hopefully recovering after my first 70.3 Ironman.

This is my first of two "taper" weeks. In theory, I pull back a little and peak the day of the race. Having never done ANYTHING like this before, I just follow instructions from my trainer: Luke.

Bought new tires. Bought new cycling shorts. Both worked well on a 30 mile ride. Swimming wasn't strong this week, but I've been training with 1+ mile swims for a while now. Running was only a 5K and a 10K, but I did well on both of those.

This coming week is even slower. But I'm going to nail down my fuel plan, stretch, rest, and hydrate. Overall, I'm much more confident than I've ever been. If I can "stick to the plan," and keep positive, I'll do well. (At least by my low standards.)

Radish Festival 2012

Long Beach held their inaugural Radish Festival today. Town green. About two dozen booths. The usual Farmer's Market vendors, plus some other newcomers. For their first one, it turned out nicely. Helped to have beautiful weather. And a friendly crowd.

One of the local farmers brought out some of his cows. A great big ol' girl. Crazy full of fresh moo juice. Sadly, forty something years old before touch a cow. Then, woo hoo, we milked that ol' girl! Surprisingly easy, too! Meg gave it a shot. And she was able to rock that cow's world! At one point, there were like three kids around sitting around and tugging on the udders. An old fashioned Southern milk war!

Walked around the festival for a bit and completely found an area setup for  bocce ball. Yet another first for Team McDougal! Time to get some! I'd never played it, let alone seen it. And the kids were all about it. Then played a couple of rounds while I hung out with Molly Dog and enjoyed the weather.

Speaking of Molly Dog, forgot to mention we took her with us. And she met a BUNCH of new friends. Surprisingly odd number of small white dogs at the Radish Festival! Seriously. Like half a dozen of them. Funny to see their odd greeting ritual. Sniffing and such. Always the same dance each time Molly would find a new friend. Thankfully, no fights or bloodshed erupted amongst pets.

Ended the visit with some snacks. Cookies from local bakery and milk (no, not straight from that cow) the Country Girl Creamery. Liam cracked me up with his selection of an Elmo cookie. And Meg went for (surprise!) Hello Kitty. Some crackling for me.

Hopefully next year will be bigger and better. We'll be there!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Man Parts Saved

Ordered some new biking shorts. Needed to diminish the medieval torture-like pain I experiencing after a couple of long bike rides. Something akin to a midget practicing his tee shot directly under my 'nads.

Aaaaanyway... Took a thirty mile ride this morning. Clocked it at 18MPH average at 27 miles (my goal) and afterwards, so pain in the nether region. Definitely taking the new shorts to the 70.3 with me. And I think my sensitive man parts are saved from further woe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

That time of year. Sugar. Ghouls. Princesses. Heroes. Villains. And lots of tired parents. Me among them. But it is worth it, for the kiddos. When they're happy, I'm happy. And I certainly want to be happy.

So Meg decided to combine genres this year. She was an undead prom queen. Completely with black nails, black lipstick, pale makeup, and black boots that stopped fitting two years ago (but she wore them anyway.) Liam put up the typical "I'm Too Cool" defense, at first. But then the lure of candy overrode his desire to preserve his social status and at the last minute he cobbled something together. An acid trip hippy or something. Complete with 1970s pimp hat. Good enough, right? 

Since our neighborhood has longer streets and fewer nice people who will answer their doors (meaning a longer walk for few treats!) we went to Gigi's house. Uncle D & Aunt Amy had brought their youngest kids (Tolar  was Darth Vader. Alex was an Egyptian princess) so we merged the teams and tackled the night, together.

Actually went better than I thought. The four kids managed themselves. For the most part. A minimum of goal tending by us Dads. Meanwhile, the women gossiped and drank wine. Clear skies. Nice temperature. No surely teens to cause trouble. And after a couple of blocks, the crew was ready to wind to a close. All in all, an excellent outing which didn't result in any drama, tears, or bloodshed.

Afterward, I ran 10K. Yeah, I'm THAT weird. No, I wasn't dressed up. Unless you count looking like a frumpy old geek. But I'm always dressed up like that.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy, The Results

Thankfully, all good news! None of my friends were excessively affected by Hurricane Sandy. Of everyone I knew (Ron, Margaret & Philip (from CEHS) and Chris F (architect) the worst damage I'm aware of was loss of power. Now that's not pleasant in this day and age, but it is far better than it could have been.

This is going to sound strange, but I'd much rather be a victim of a storm than worry about my friends going through it. They're usually (no offense!) not prepared. At least their community isn't, even if they are.

Morning came around and I heard, directly or indirectly, from all of them. Huge sigh of relief. Especially for Ron. Last year a flood engulfed his place. He's STILL recovering. Another flood would have been devastating. But he's alright. They're all alright. And that makes me alright! Well, a little more alright, if nothing else...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Approaches

As the day draws to a close, Hurricane Sandy approaches some of my friends in the North East. Ron, Margaret, Phil, and Alex's Mother, to name a few. The region isn't prepared for even a CAT1. Let alone a so-called "Super Storm" that results from Sandy colliding with two other fronts. All right over the heads of people I cannot stop thinking about. At the least, they'll lose power for up to a week. At worst, well let's not talk about that.

Here's the sad and weird part: I'd rather be directly in Sandy's path myself than to be a casual observer as she hits my friends. I hate the idea of not knowing what will happen to them. Constantly fearing the worst for them. Wanting to help them in any way I can, even though we all know there's nothing I can do.

Instead, I'm confined to my own existence. Watching their new one unfold in real time across the news, Facebook, Twitter, and private IMs. Powerless, except to watch. And wait.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I like to think I work hard. I like to think I train hard. I provide for my kids. I provide for my wife. I provide for the mop-headed dog, even. I don't ask for much. I sacrifice and make sure everyone around me has what they need. All at my own personal expense. 

So I don't feel guilty for spending a few dollars and a few hours decompressing my crushed spirit and recharging my dwindling internal batteries. Okay, my relaxing happens to take place in an Irish pub. It includes a couple of pints of Woodchuck cider. Occasionally some Rotel dip. Sometimes hearing a local band. If that's a crime, I'm guilty as charged.

I'm not going to sit in a silent house, trying not to wake the sleeping masses, and idle my remaining sane years away. I think I earn some solace. Anyone who feels otherwise needs to speak now. Or forever hold your peace. In the meanwhile, you know where to find me. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

70.3 Training - Week 7

Hardest week, yet. The peak of my training. Never pushed further or longer than I did this week. And I'm feeling GREAT! If I'm not ready now, I won't ever be ready.

Swimming was on par. I've never been worried about the swimming. I might not be the fastest fish in the water, but I've been doing a mile during training for a couple of months now.

Biking could have been better. Needed one longer ride. But I felt pretty good on what I did. On race day, with the adrenaline and lots of sleep under my belt, I'll do fine.

Running was great! Did 12.2 miles in just under two hours. The interval training has paid off enormously. No doubts that I can do the distance now. Keep focused. Keep positive. Stick to the plan. Rinse and repeat as needed. Very proud of my progress on the run and I'm doing distances I never (EVER!) thought I could do.

The hard part is over. Now I start to taper off. Let my body recover. Focus on sleep and food. Then kick all kinds of buttocks on race day. River Roux, here I come!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jon On Tape

My property donated time to Books On Tape, today. Just a few minutes out of our shift to record audio for the blind. I'm guessing young blind children. I picked "STOP THIS BIRTHDAY!"

I coyly changed the Birthday Faerie to a boy, instead of a girl, and tried to sound like Liam. And I did the protagonist (Zephyr) as if it were Meg talking. I doubt anyone will ever know. But I was proud to record Jon On Tape with subtle tributes to my kids. They're probably never know. But I will.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lesson Learned

Mile in the lake. Wet suit. Good times. Two hours on the bike. 40 miles. Feel bruised where a man doesn't want to feel bruised.

Made the mistake of not eating a proper dinner. Then having one (or so) too many drinks after hours.

But it helped. Been trying to work out all these mental clashes in my head for a while. Haven't made much ground. Until tonight. Ultimately, soothed by the song of cider, I decided to fall back on my favorite mantra: this too shall pass.

What seems difficult and horrible now will be laughable down the road. I've gotten over worse. And I'll probably have terrible challenges in the future. So: this too shall pass.

Thank you, Woodchuck!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

70.3 Training - Week 6

The astute observer will ask: What happened to the Week 5 update, Jon? Ah, ha! Good question. Answer is that Week 5 training was diminished because of Mighty Magnolia.

I registered for Mighty Magnolia months before I registered for River Roux. Didn't want to skip it. Didn't want to miss seeing everyone. And I wanted to see how I had improved.  So Week 5 wasn't really for 70.3 training. But thanks for asking!

Week 6 went well. Swimming has been tight for months. No worries there. I can swim 1.2 miles without any significant concerns. (And who would have thought I'd ever say that?) Been training in the wetsuit. Somewhat more challenging, but not severe.

Running went pretty well. Broke a new Personal Record last night, 10 miles! I feel much more confident having broken into double digit territory. Previously, my record was 8 miles, and that was a long run with Luke, prepping for the Rock N Roll.

Biking was off, though. Work got in the way and I didn't get the road time that I wanted. I'll likely have at least three hours during the race. Haven't touched that distance, yet. Needed to, but couldn't make it work. Did a lot of spinning, though. 

Overall: Feeling strong. Getting much more comfortable. Looking forward to the personal challenge. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

In The Long Run

I like Friday because it is the end of the work week.

I don't like Friday because it means I have a long run in the evening.

Today was no exception. Supposed to do An hour and forty seven minutes. (Luke makes the schedule. I just do what he says. No idea why it is an hour and forty seven minutes.)

Picked a mild pace. About 9:30/mile. But with interval training it turned closer to 10:30/mile. 1 minute walk and all. By the end (an hour and fifty minutes) I had traveled 10.3 miles.

Another personal record. A distance I'd never covered before. And wasn't sure I could do. But I did. And it didn't kill me. Nice weather. Proper hydration. Good fueling through out.

Everything came together, in the long run.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Life With Meg

Just when I think I'm feeling low all week, I get to experience the unpredictable joy of life with Meg!

She comes blazing out of her room, on the back of an inflatable horse. Complete with a Megtastic cowgirl hat! She's galloping around the living room, whooping and hollering, and yelling "Giddy up!"

I'm laughing so hard, I can barely hold the phone still long enough to take a picture.

Absolutely amazing treat from Little Red. Completely surprised us with that Wild West show. And I'm already feeling better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pedal Power

At least I'm rarely bored.

If something isn't invading my personal space, it is launching an assault on my workday. And sometimes I get dragged down for hours in the most trivial of issues. But, I'm glad to be employed. I'm happy to be able to do something I enjoy.

Anyway, didn't get to hit the road for a long ride, so I did two, back to back, spin classes. Generated a ton of pedal power: 37 miles and almost 1350 calories.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cheaper Than Therapy

A long (1.2 mile) swim. Followed by a 10K run. Amazing how two or so hours of exercise can improve your mental state. In a really bad mood most of the day. Should be happy about my checkup. Should be happy about the progress of my training. But I'm all sideways about trivial stuff. And having trouble shaking the negative thoughts. 

Fortunately, the training realigns some of my thoughts. Takes the hard, sharp edges off my mood. I'm not going to win any geniality medals, but it works. And it is far cheaper than therapy. And more effective. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Win some. Lose some.

Win some: clean bill of health from the doc. Including 118/70 blood pressure and 55BPM heart rate.

Win some more: Dropping below 185lbs for the first time in probably 15 years. Empty stomach and buck naked, I might even be 180. Booyah! Celebrated my healthy diagnosis and weight loss with several pints of Woodchuck and a serving of Fried Shepard's Pie. (Yes, fried!) 

Lose some: I'm completely bummed out by the realization that after two years of triathlons, I'm barely out of the bottom 50% of competitors. And I'll likely never get a medal unless I hold out for another 25yrs and I'm one of three (or less!) competitors in my age group. Yeah yeah, I know I should be happy that I can finish. I should be pleased with my personal records. That I'm getting better every time. But it is a complete pisser to be beaten by guys doing their first triathlon and to see EVERYONE getting awards, except me. Hey, I'm super happy for them. They all trained hard and deserve their awards. But Ol' Jon trains pretty damn hard, and he'd like an award, too. Or a medal. Or just a pat on the back and a carton of cigarettes, "Smoke up, Johnny."

So I've got that clogging my head. Too many thoughts and recent disappointments. Everything co-mingling and completely sapping my strength. Giving me ideas like: "Why bother?" 

And as the Woodchuck buzz wears off I remember how mad I used to be. Back when I wasn't happy. 

But. This too shall pass.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Dive. The Hall. The Meg.

Never a dull moment these days. Always an adventure waiting to be had.

On the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager becoming the first human to break the speed barrier (by piloting an experimental rocket powered aircraft) Felix Baumgartner successfully completed Red Bull's Stratos skydive attempt. After dangling in a one-man space capsule under 30,000,000 cubic feet of helium for two hours to the very edge of space, Felix leaped from a height of  128,100 feet, reached a maximum estimated speed of 833.9MPH, and would free fall for 4:22 before landing in near Roswell, NM. Started watching it live on YouTube, then CNN picked it up. But they had LOTS of distracting talking heads. Ended up catching it on Discovery, with a lack of sockpuppets drowning in the background and naught but the chattering of Mission Control as Felix soared through the sky, like Buzz Lightyear writ large.

In the meanwhile, Jon had to whittle away at his never-ending list of To Do items. Today's chore: cover up the water stain on the ceiling. A hold over from the @#$!ing AC drain pipes got clogged and spilled over the collection pain. ($200 that I didn't have for a smiling plumber to "blow them out.")

Drop cloth. Step ladder. Killz. 3" roller. Then it takes me longer to set up and clean up than it takes to roll out the paint. Of course I'll have to put down a second coat next weekend. But it's looking much nicer, now. And maybe, just maybe, SOMEBODY will get off my back long enough for me to catch a breath and relax for a few minutes. Then again, there's always Woodchuck for that.

And speaking of God-only-knows-what-to-expect-next, there is life with Meg. One minute the girl is writing philosophical quotes on the dew-covered hood of my car ("Energy follows thought" in this case) and the next  minute she is screaming at the top of her lungs how she is tired of going to The Dock "the last seven times we went out to eat!" and WANTS MEXICAN! Meg screaming about her dinner plans is akin to an ice pick to the eyeball. Over. And over. And... ...over. For the next 7 years. Or more?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mighty Magnolia 2012

Mighty Magnolia was supposed to be my first triathlon, back in 2010. Days before, I caught pneumonia. Didn't quite make it that year. So Tradition's was my first triathlon, in 2011, and Mighty Magnolia was my last of the year. Normally, it marks the end of the season for the triathletes around here. Since I've been training for a 70.3, I didn't give any extra thought to preparing for it. I was pretty sure I'd be ready.

Last year I finished it in 1:40. This year I finished it in 1:34. Wanted closer to 1:30. I have a big problem with my time in the water, but I finished, and I did better than last year. So I'm thankful for that.

After a great night's sleep at Aunt Judy's house, I was the sixth person on site. Numbered. Chipped. Setup my transition. Then debated: wetsuit or no wetsuit. The water was cold enough to wince for a second but didn't feel cold enough to suffer through a suit the whole swim. I would have been hot after the first 100 meters. And it would have affected my stroke the whole time. Ultimately, I decided to do the swim without my wetsuit.

The start was a bit late. And they manually tracked our time (more on that later.) Not many buoys in the water but lots of kayaks. No big issues in the water. Just a slight bit cold. Plenty of energy. No lizard brain whispering to me. Didn't need to stop once to catch my breath. And came out of the water feeling great.

Ultimately, my time was 11 minutes and some change. Somehow worse than my time (10:34) last year! Even though I thought it was one of my best swims ever, it was one of my worst times. Several folks said the same thing. The working theory is that the manual start times were very off. But if they were off for everyone, then it is what it is. However, I still felt great and thought it was a magnificent performance. Damn the clock!

Ride turned out great. The road was super rough in several places. One hill (at 12 miles) was steep enough to make me stand up. But I was behind Lisa McCombs (seen posing with me) and pushed hard through the whole race. Over all, only six people passed me, including Lisa, and I was happy about that. Last year, my average was around 17.7MPH. This time, it was close to 19.5MPH. A significant improvement and (again) I felt great the whole time.

Run was good. For the first time in a race, I didn't stop to catch my breath. Not for water. Not for fuel. Not for anything. I found a good pace and stuck to it. Finished below thirty minutes (my time last year was 29:21.)

So, Mighty Magnolia was a good warm up. I almost hit my goal. I question some of the times. But I have much more confidence that my run training is paying off.

Four weeks from today: showtime at River Roux!

Friday, October 12, 2012

On The Road

Was supposed to have today off. Didn't have today off. Too many irons in the fire. Hot ones needing my attention. Did leave a bit early, but traffic from Cruisin' The Coast turned my twenty minute commute into an hour of gridlock. Eventually made it home, packed for Mighty Magnolia, I was on the road again.

Headed to Hattiesburg. Family farm. Aunt Judy. Uncle Terry. Baby McKinley. Pitch black roads. Lots of quiet. And (surprise!) a bed only 10 minutes from the race site tomorrow.

Mighty Magnolia, here I come!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Perceptions

My father picked up some of my pictures today. Rocketman photos. (I'm pretty happy with them, too.)

Dad checks them out and says, "Geez, look how skinny you are, son!" 

"I'm not skinny, Dad. I'm just not as overweight anymore."

"You weren't overweight! If you were overweight, I'm really fat."

"I was almost 220lbs. Down to about 185lbs, now. Actually pretty close to my ideal. First time in more than a decade." 

"Well, you weren't fat." 

Maybe I wasn't. But I certainly wasn't healthy. And I didn't feel good. And I wasn't happy. Forty five pounds later, I'm much better. 

Maybe I'm skinny? I don't know. My belly isn't. But I'll suffer being skinny if it means I sleep better, feel better, and go through life better. I'll take skinny any day. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Diversity 2012 - Day Two

Last night, I slept like a baby. And needed it. Diversity 2012, Day Two, was as dynamic and challenging as Day One! Another 10+ hours of helping and coaching and challenging and supporting and running and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Couple of surprising demonstrations at my expense. Had to start off the morning with a dance. And anyone who knows me should know I would rather set my manparts on fire than dance in front of people. Concluded with a very personal, very revealing public revelation of my fear concerning my first attempt at a 70.3 next month. A huge mental barrier for me, and I put my mind and body into breaking through it today.

After the final class exercise, the Diversity Instructors from LV thanked us for our efforts and sacrifices, then presented us with a very unique lapel pin. (I'll post a picture and details later.) After their polite words, I offered a few suggestions to everyone. Suggested that we are honored to have any manner of impact on their lives or thoughts, but experiencing the class with them and coaching them had affected all of us (coaches) Their journey has also been a journey for us. And I left them with the final thought: lasting results only come from lasting changes. They cannot practice the lessons they learned once or twice and expect to remain changed forever. They have to commit to lasting changes. And only then will they achieve lasting results.

The 600th Diversity Graduation followed. The Champions celebrated. Existing Champions cheered them on. Food. Drink. Cleaning up. The long drive home. And thus concluded Diversity 2012, Day Two. Until next year!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Diversity 2012 - Day One

The first rule of Diversity training is: you don't talk about Diversity training. So I'll skip the fine details. The heart of the matter is that I had a fantastic day with my fellow Diversity Champions as we helped coach the next generation of champions through their first day of training.

Andra Berry is one of the Founding Fathers of MGM's Diversity. He's a seething fireball of energy and inspiration. I enjoyed every moment of his presentations. Even when they brought us to verge of tears. It was a rare treat to work with him and I am only saddened to see him once a year.

I'll say this about Diversity training: It is a very different experience to go through the training the first time than it is to help coach new students through it their first time. To see the change as it swept across the class was amazing. To observe them the first morning, all sullen and suspicious, then compare it against their faces as they leave.. it bordered on magical. But it was painful not to help them through certain exercises. We had to let them fail. Then we picked them up. And encouraged them. Before sending them out on their own to try again.

On a personal note, Andra hit a surprising note with me. We were talking about his last visit and he remember meeting me. Said I look much happier, now. Smiling more. Standing straighter. Holding my head up. He asked what was different. Why the change? I brushed it off a little, glad that outwardly I appear as happy as I am internally. I said things were clicking better in my life for me. Training and such. He said, to paraphrase, whatever has happened to me has happened for a reason. There are no accidents. We are the architects of our own happiness. And whatever I'm doing to be happier, stick with it.

That really hit home with me. As well as the rest of the day. It was all exciting and enjoyable and enlightening. But it tires you fast. And I'm ready for some sleep at the end of Diversity 2012, Day One.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

70.3 Training - Week 4

Interesting week of training for our would-be Ironman. Continuing to improve and gain more confidence each day.

  • Booked a room at the New Roads, LA, Cypress Inn. Two nights. Figured a nap would follow the race. And perhaps the legs will not be too cooperative until after a long break.
  • Started thinking about fuel plans during the event. Won't be able to burn upwards of a thousand calories an hour without good fuel in the tank. Luke says munch every thirty minutes. Keep things simple. Just have to experiment and dial in the details over the next few weeks.
  • Started wetsuit swims. Regretting the long sleeves while the weather is relatively warm. A good bit more work on the arms. Having to caught my breath a little every 200 yards, right now. But in early November, they'll likely be a godsend. Not to mention the added buoyancy!
  • Crushed a run on Monday. 6 miles in less than an hour. New PR. But failed miserably on Wednesday's short run. Calves like lead. Tasers for feet, shooting bright doses of pain up shins and quads and eventually vertebrae. Maybe 2.5 miles, mostly walking, in 30 minutes. Good run tonight, though. An hour and fifteen minutes. 7.2 miles. A pitstop and a funked up phone created minor delays. 
  • The cycle reset this week. Last week was a peak. This week, start building up again. Culminates in two hour runs and three hour rides by the end of the month. 
Hoping to have less distractions. Stick to the plan. Train solo if needed. But stick to the plan. 

Only four weeks to go. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Hodge At 40

Misery loves company. So it was with warm regard that I welcomed my man Gregory Hodge to the "Over The Hill," club today. We all float down here!

Celebrated the end of his youth with a visit to our favorite Biloxi haunt: The Fillin Station. An experimental crawfish piroux for birthday boy. A Biloxi Blues wrap por moi. Always good food. Always good drink. And the 20-something waitresses know we're harmless old men, so they came out in droves to chat up us lame-o casino geeks. (That's Courtney in the photo.) Concluded with the bringing of a nummy slice of birthday cheesecake (Hodge spared a lone bite) and lots of goodbye hugs, for him.

And that was the highlight of my Friday. Won't mention the lack of training. The new leak. Circular arguments. Or wasting half an hour in traffic where (as a 40-something) I was one of the youngest drivers on the road. For all those woes: this too shall pass. In the meanwhile, very proud to spend a day with Hodge at 40.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


I don't know where we reside on the timeline of The Great Recession. I'd like to think we're at least half way through. Who knows? What I do know is that when I bought my house, nearly seven years ago,we were still  at the peak of the housing bubble. Compounded by the lack of available homes in the wake of Katrina. We paid too much. And we had an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. If things had gone according to plan, we would have sold the house for some kind of profit, and upgraded. Or at least refinanced at a better rate.

Flash forward to the present. Ouch. The market imploded. Despite pouring between twenty and forty grand (not including all my personal man hours) into it, the house isn't worth what we paid. And it probably is not even worth the value of the mortgage. Let alone capable of returning our investment. We've become one of the millions of families "trapped" in our mortgage.

Refinancing was going to be tough. We spent a big chunk of our reserves on the kitchen. (No debt on it, thankfully!) In the best possible world, the house would be worth the value of the mortgage. To refinance it, we'd have to pay down ten to twenty percent of it. (Fifteen to thirty grand.) Plus the fees and blah blah blah associated with a new mortgage. (Maybe seven more grand.) So on a good day I'd have to come up with twenty two - forty grand. Just to keep the house. On top of losing our initial 10% we put in when we bought it. On top of remodeling many rooms. On top of remodeling the kitchen. Tens of thousands MORE. Just to keep floating. 

That's a big burden for a man to bear. It weighed down many of my thoughts. And certainly made me want to drink rather than deal with the sad reality of the situation. 

But (drum roll) I found some help. The HARP Program. I'm sure it benefits the mortgage companies SOMEHOW, but the program is going to allow me to refinance the house at a lower, fixed rate, without having to get it re-appraised. The HARP Program assumes it is worth what I paid for it. And the fees are a fraction of a normal mortgage. Sounds too good to be true, right? God, I hope not! But we'll find out shortly. 

In theory, I pay <$200 in fees, and my mortgage is converted to a conventional one. My monthly rate won't go down (I wasn't paying any principal on the old mortgage, but now I am) but I don't have to pay upwards of forty thousand dollars, that I don't have, to get stable. 

I'll take it. Huge burden lifted off my chest. Now let's get HARPed!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Slings & Arrows

It is a shame that we're more affected by the bad things in our lives and the good. We take so much for granted. Health, money, food, cars, houses. We go through the majority of our lives with an abundance of choices and abundance, rarely stopping to realize how blessed we are. With our air conditioned, always-connected homes, running water, and access to modern medicine, we live like modern gods compared to the majority of the people on earth.  

Example? I complain and beat myself when I have a bad run. Like tonight. Calves made of lead. Shins tight like snare drums. Getting madder with each step. Ended up walking most of the way.And could not get through 5K (3 miles) in a half hour. Horrible, godawful performance, and I should have just stayed home.  

But in the end, I have plenty to be thankful for. Including two absolutely amazing kids that continue to surprise me with their talents and abilities. Example? Miss Meg dancing around the house, drawing little cartoons & characters on stray slips of paper, and playing her fiddle for me. It's like living with a magical Disney character where nothing is every grim or impossible. Another example? Young Mister Liam and his unparalleled affinity for musical instruments. Sitting on his futon tonight, playing music HE wrote, and combining it with everything from Jaws to Adele. 

I'll suffer any number of slings & arrows, as long as I have my kids to come home to at the end of a long run.