Thursday, January 31, 2013

HARPed - The Conclusion

Back in October, I started to refinance the house. Move from an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) to a 30yr Fixed Rate Mortgage. It was literally only possible for us because of the HARP program. Without it, we would have either dealt with a sliding mortgage payment, or sold enough organs to amass tens of thousands needed to pay off the old mortgage and tens of thousands more to put down 10% on a new mortgage.

So I'm quite happy to announce that we're done! Signed the paperwork and we're only 360 payments away from owning the house. With some luck, the market will have recovered by then.

Glad to have that off my plate. Now on to the next adventure.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pub Run - 01/30/13

Half marathon on Saturday. 23 mile bike Monday. 1.8 mile swim yesterday. And nearly 10K tonight. Quite a week for your wayward narrator.

Run went well tonight. Pretty sore the first mile. Warmed up by the end of the second. And at the midway point, a trio of great runners were returning so I dropped behind them. Kept telling myself to stick with them until the end of the 4th mile. Breathe and stay with them. Try to relax. Find a rhythm. And DON'T QUIT. 

Didn't quit. My miles with them were my fastest all night. Averaged 8:34/mile. If only I could keep that pace on my own, for an entire 5K, I'd be a happy camper. Something to shoot for at least.

10th Pub Run for me. Supposed to get a shirt, or a mug, or something. Allan said they're still working on it, but I was the first person to hit the number. 

Stuck with it every week. And I'm proud of myself. Not bad for a pasty ol' computer geek.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PR In The Pool

Thinking about the pool all day. Haven't had a challenge in a while. Way too comfortable. Complicit. Need to kick it up a notch. Make a new goal. Hit a new PR in the pool.

Wanted it. And got it. Sixty laps. 3000 meters. About 1.85 miles. Further than I've gone. And (imagine this!) I didn't puke, cry, or die.

Took the better part of an hour. And my shoulder (the wounded one) put up a brief fight. But in the end, victory was mine.

I'll stick with it for a couple of weeks. Won't be long before the lake is warm enough for open water swims. And I'll pick up from there. But for now, I measure my life in a series of small victories, and one more is in the books.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Monday, Part Two

Meg's turn to get sick. Fever last night. Fever this morning. Fortunately, Nana was able to watch her while Cindy & I were working. And even better, by lunch time, Meg's fever had broken. She's been fine ever since. Hopefully she won't need to stay home tomorrow and life will return to its usual shade of normal much sooner than it did with Liam.

Crushed a spin class after work. Completely drenched in sweat and barely able to walk straight. 23 miles in 54 minutes. Given my recent run, I was super thrilled with the performance. Onward, and upward.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Woke up surprisingly able to walk. It never ceases to amaze me when I discover my body has managed to adapt or (God forbid) improve due to all my training. I remember back in 2011 when I did my first triathlon, I could barely walk for three days. And that was just a 5k, that I barely ran. Fast forward to 2013. After a half marathon I'm not cripple? Now THAT is awesome.

Started to bike today. But figured it would be too aggressive. My luck: I'd tear a major muscle while half way into a 35 mile loop. Settled for some lifting at the gym. Back & Biceps. Had JUST finished a set of kettlebell swings when I nearly pinched a nerve along my spine. A fraction of a degree more on a twist, and I would have ended up on the floor with uncontrollable spasms. (Wouldn't be the first time.) Even without a fatal move all the muscles on the right side of my back turned into a giant fist. Couldn't move right for nearly fifteen minutes. Ended up rubbing against a steel I-beam. Massaging the kinks out. A seriously close call with long lasting pain. Thankfully I realized I was about to hurt something, and stopped in time. Moral of the story: getting old sucks.

Ended up alternating between the cold pool and hot tub for a half hour. 5min cold. 5min hot. Rinse and repeat. Afterwards, my legs and back felt muuuuch better. Overall, great day, and rapidly recovering. Won't be long until Ol' Jon is on to the next adventure.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Long Beach Half Marathon - 2013

Late January and yet the temperature approachs 70 degrees in South Mississipi! Beautiful day for a half marathon. Truth be told, I did it mainly to get a finisher's medal. My first and a big enticement. Stoke my fragile confidence. So I woke up early, hit the road, braved the gnats, stretched, and joined the fray.

Longest distance I've done in probably six weeks. (Only my second half marathon!) From Long Beach harbor, to Pass Christian. And back again. 13.1 miles along the beach. One whole side of  HW90 closed for racers. Flat, breezy, and water stations roughly every 1.5m, I was pretty confident I'd be able to finish without puking, crying, dying, or all of the above.

My plan was to start at an easy pace (ran too fast, too early last time) and maintain it between each water station. Then slow down at each check out, grab a drink, and pop a Gu every other station (ie: every 5K.) If it worked, I was hoping to finish in 2hrs and 15min. (My previous race was 2hrs and 19min.)

Gun sounded and the crowd ambled up to speed. Almost immediately I spotted my co-triathlete, Lisa McCombs and fell into place behind her. She was pacing with one of her students (Keith.) And for the first  half of the race, our plans synced together perfectly. At the turn around, we were averaging just over 9 minutes per mile, and had slowed to walks at two of the stops. About 6.55 miles of music and breeze and lots of asphalt passing under our feet.

We approached magic mile #9 and my brain started to get scaly. Our old friend The Lizard was rattling his cage, trying to get free. So he could tap dance on my brain and convince me to stop. But (THANK GOD!) I had a great support crew sending me Pep Talks through Endomondo. And right on time, they started cheering me up. Their words of encouragement helped push me through my mental barriers and (amazingly!) I was able to maintain my focus almost the entire time.

Only a couple of notable occurrences otherwise:

  • Around mile 11, I was  overheating. First time EVER, I took off my shirt and ran topless. During the day. In public. Not sure how many women and small children I scared, but it was a huge relief. Unfortunately I forgot I was wearing earbuds. COMPLETELY tangled myself and brought my pace to a grinding halt. By the time I recovered and geared back up to speed, I'd slowed to a 12min mile. 
  • Toward the end, the last quarter mile, either the racers ahead of me were slowing, or I was picking it up. I passed three or four folks in the last few minutes. THAT felt awesome.
  • I got beat by a dog! He (and his owner) went the full distance and pulled away from me shortly before the turn around. And I didn't see them again until the end. Pooch was limping a little. But I eyed his pads and they were actually intact. So he beat me AND he was still in good shape. Good job, Scooby.
  • As I'm leaving, I look down and notice blood on my ankle. Didn't feel it, but the friction from my sock or compression sleeve or shoe had rubbed a spot raw. Raw enough to bleed. Better than rubbing my nipples off, but still a surprise. 
In the end, I finished right at 2hrs and 10 mins. Below my goal and I averaged 10min/mile. Personal record for the finishing time. Personal record for the pace. And I got my medal. Great way to start the day.

And another notch on Ye Ol' Geek's belt. Next up? Hopefully the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in NOLA next month. To make up for my horrible failure last year. HOPEFULLY!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fitness Friday - Group Therapy

I flew solo for almost all of my previous attempts to achieve some acceptable level of fitness. Just me. For years. All by myself. Without any encouragement, participation, or outside influence.

I changed that. Started doing group classes. Spin, mainly. And entry level triathlon training. There is more energy when more people are involved. I could push myself to improve by imitating people with better skills and techniques than myself. I could feel inspired. And, on rare occasion, I could help encourage somebody else, or provide them with a few words of support.

After getting used to group classes at the gym, I found groups of other people training in the community. Mostly based around the local fitness supply shop. They were all good, friendly folks. I integrated with them. I was never the best at anything, but sometimes I wasn't the worst. I picked up tips. Picked up motivation. Received support on training programs. Heard about other events. Made some friends. And generally turned "training" into a more social event. Now, it is extremely rare that I go to an event without seeing a familiar face. And almost every weekend I'm always getting invited to different events or training sessions.

Nowadays, working with groups is critical to my training and my fitness. It is simultaneously fun, challenging, and developmental. For people stuck in a routine, looking for something to take them to a new level, I'd highly recommend some kind of group therapy. And try DIFFERENT groups if the first one doesn't work. It may take multiple attempts before a good match is found. But once it works, it works great!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Nexus

Old phone had an accident. Involved in a hit and run. With some steel stairs. On the daily walk to the car. Two flights of tumbling. It survived, but was scarred for life. And often required several reboots a day as a result.

Replacement phone arrived today. New Nexus 4. From Google. (Courtesy of T-Mobile.) Bit of back story, the initial release flew off the shelves. They've been unavailable for months. Google finally restocked them yesterday, the 23rd. I received mine less than 24hrs after ordering it!

Small box. Nice and light. Easy to open. Phone. SIM ejector widget. Charger. Simple instructions. Fired it up. Gave it my Google account information, and it did EVERYTHING else. Cannot imagine it getting any easier or less painful.

Initial reactions upon using the new Nexus: Wow this thing is light. Wow this OS is smooth (thanks to Jelly Bean!) Where's the SD slot? (There is none.) The screen is huge. huge The screen loves fingerprints. It loves wireless hotspots. It automagically configured itself based on settings from my Nexus 7, I barely had to do anything. Enclosed battery, but built in induction coil for wireless charged. Front facing LED? Hope it does something clever. Guess I'll store everything on my gDrive. Maybe I need more space?

Including a picture of both phones. New hotness on the left. Busted ass old crusty on the right. Overall, very happy with the phone. Painless setup. Intuitive interface. Crisp response. Staggering video performance. All the clever Google widgets tie together flawlessly. Simple. Clean. Efficient. That's how technology should work.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pub Run - 01/23/13

Ran entirely solo tonight. Not too cold. Not too warm. A touch shy of 10K. Did some loops and added extra distance. Last one to return. But felt much more confident afterwards. With only three days until the Long Beach Half Marathon, I needed to make sure I could do at least half of it without any problems. The LB Half should have fuel stations every 1.5 miles. If I slow and catch my breath at each one, I'll be done after like 8 of them. Stick to the plan. Ignore the lizard. And above all: don't quit! Should be fine. But only time will tell. For tonight, another decent run under my belt.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rut Gets Filled

A sunny Saturday. Just right to cross a project off the list. Rounded up the tots. Broke out the yard tools. And had them fill a rut in the yard.

Some team work. Some muscle power. Some sweat. Rut gets filled. And everything is good at Chateau McDougal. 

Thanks, kids!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fitness Friday - More Than You're Doing Now

One of my biggest struggles in getting better. Faster. Stronger. Further. I hit these plateaus, especially with running, and somehow my brain fails to realize what I have to do next. And I think many non-athletes, like me, do the same. But the answer is always going to be the same: Do more than you're doing now.

I started my running program on treadmills. When that stopped producing results, I moved on to the elliptical. Then the indoor track. And finally the road. From struggling to do 5K, I eventually started going 10K. And now I find myself working on half marathons. Always moving forward, gradually progressing. Slowly doing more and more.

Biking went the same way, slowly doing more. Swimming went even slower. And I am still making gradual progress on weight training.

Plateaus are normal. They're a sign that our body has adapted and can do more. Our brain doesn't want to accept it. Doesn't WANT to do more. But that's the only way to improve. At least for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pub Run - 01/16/13

Trailed Amber & David for most of tonight's run. Their pace faster than mine. Amber with a long stride and a lift to her step. David with a shorter stride and a quicker pace. I stuck with them for the better part of five miles, including a long loop at the end. Just shy of 10K. Couple of drinks and caught up with some wounded allies afterwards. Good night, for a Wednesday. I almost don't hate running when there's cider involved. Almost.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Our Monday

The Cough hung out this morning. Clinging to Liam like a second shadow. Cindy had to work. I worked remotely. Made Liam wear a mask around me. Possibly a touch insensitive. But The Cough doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather not risk it.

So we spent our Monday with him trouncing suckers on Battlefield 3 while I remotely pounced upon unsuspecting digital dragons.

Doctor doesn't think it is the flu. Asthma-induced bronchitis more likely. The Cough, for short.

Hopefully he is over it soon. We all need some sleep.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Series of Trainwrecks

Sunday starts off with a loud bang. Loud meaning an insistent, semi-silent drone. Bang meaning a cell phone skittering across the nightstand like a hungover. It is four in the morning. Either somebody is in jail, or the ER. Or it is Las Vegas. And something is broken. Badly enough that multiple people are affected. And they want it fixed. Regardless of the time. Which results in a two hour adventure. Ultimately due to somebody mis-typing a password.

Next up? Big Red decides to stage a revolt against bedtime. Totally not going down without a fight. Fight meaning a Golden Globe worthy dramatic performance of how she cannot POSSIBLY go to sleep because the rain is keeping her awake. And 8:24P is far too soon (as opposed to her normal 8:30P) She ISN'T ready. She CAN'T do it. (That terribly difficult process of sleeping.) But! She can try, if she's in Mom's bed. Which requires at least an hour delay on Dad's schedule. Even though he's tired from the early wakeup call.

Any other adventures? Glad you asked! ? How about Ol' Liam and his new friend: The Cough. They met Friday. Quickly turned into bestest buddies. Now they're apparently inseparable. Especially at night. Like, when the parents are trying to sleep. You know, that rare gem in the dark jewelry box of their day? Um, yeah. That quickly turns into an endless dance of drifting off, suddenly hearing The Cough, checking on Ol Liam, and getting back in bed with muttered prayers for sleep. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

And thus Sunday concludes as a series of trainwrecks. Up too early. Back too late. And no serious sleep available for those in need.

Where ya at, Monday? Bring the thunder!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Brief Relief

Still not feeling right. Overslept by SEVERAL hours. Missed a run in Biloxi because I was so tired. Tried to do a 10K training run through the neighborhood. Threw in the towel after just over three sloppy miles. Completely NOT into the run. And my time showed.

Found brief relief in food. A incredibly delectable cheese burger. And a cup of duck gumbo. Yes, duck. Yes, gumbo. Both from Lookout. Bit loud. (Exposed brick walls and yards of glass are poor audible insulators) Couple of party people. Nice service. Eeeeexcellent grub. Especially the duck gumbo. Perfect for when the soul is worn thin.

Chased it down with tunes and beer. Initial sounds courtesy of The Quarter. And an odd quartet called: Dirty Play. Lured in with some sounds from Black Crows, then broke into unrecognizable renditions of songs from AC/DC and KISS. Not sure about those guys. Never have guessed any of them were in a band you encountered them on the street. One beer. Small. Yuck tunes. Didn't stay long.

Final stop: Irish Coast Pub. Loud. Busy. Slow on the service. Couple of Angry Orchards. Some covers from the multi-talented Ian Taylor. Cops aplenty on the roads. Stayed mostly sober. And called it an early night.

Made up for the bad run. But hope my awesomeness returns soon. Bah humbug.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fitness Friday - Doing Something

When people learn about the dramatic transformations I've gone through, many of them ask some version of the same question: What should I do to change?

I've always tried to keep things as simple and maintainable as possible. And the simplest answer for somebody looking to make a positive change in their life is: Remember that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Many people are literally doing nothing to improve or maintain their health. Some think it is too big of an undertaking. Some spend more time making plans than acting on them. And others want to improve, but don't know where, or how, to start. And to all of those folks I say: Just do SOMETHING.

My "something" was strength training and treadmill work. ,(It was a long time before I even thought about triathlons, let alone was in shape for them.) But walking is "something." Playing an hour of basketball is "something." Even taking the dog to the park is "something." All of which is better than doing nothing.

Eventually, a little something leads to more. And more. For me, it started on the treadmill and gradually transformed into running half marathons. My progress was terribly slow. Never as easy or good as I wanted it to be. But rather than sit around doing nothing, I chose to DO SOMETHING. 

And that is my simplest suggestion. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shut down my belly aching

Dark so early. Vague hint of winter. Rain on black roads. Continued delays on overdue projects. Snuffing the last few embers of a tax train wreck.

Saps the strength. Right through the bottom of my feet. Down. Down. Down. To the center of the Earth. Never. To be seen. Again.

Gonna call it an early night. Perchance to sleep. To recharge. Wake up renewed.

My old buddy Kimmer laughs at my little woes. Puts everything in perspective. When I need it. Last week he shut down my belly aching with the most awesome piece of advice: "Yeah," he says. "That was yesterday. But this is today."

Glad to say that. Tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Pub Run - 01/09/13

Pretty sure it was January when I woke up today. Then tonight's run. Approaching seventy. Fog to the point of slicking my glasses. Needed windshield wipers. And shorts. Drenched in sweat. Could have run shirtless. If I weren't in mixed company. Brief respite from a mild wind. Except it was so strong it slowed our first mile considerably. Four miles in 39 minutes and some change. Not my best run. But not horrible. All things considered.

Supposed to have a drink and grub with Jason. Didn't show. Grubbed solo. Delicious concoction of fried peanut butter and chocolate with caramel sauce. Terribly destructive. Likely twice the calories that were already burned. But worth the effort.

Hot night. Cold beer. Didn't die from the run. Not bad of an old geek.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


So I'm used to rolling to the gym, finding a spot up front, getting personal attention from the bored staff, walking into nearly empty rooms, and not having any problems getting on the machines. Then comes the damn New Year!

I get there yesterday, straight from work, to find the parking lot is packed. The check-in is PACKED. The locker room is PACKED! And all the machines ARE PACKED!!! The whole place is full of Future Resolution Breaking TOURISTS, hogging my space, breathing my air, and consuming my personal gym resources. They've been vegging all year, but now they want to invade my gym when I'm trying to get my fitness on. (sigh)

If 10% of these people make it 90 days, I'll be impressed. I don't know the exact numbers, but I bet the gym is predicated on only 20% of people ever sticking to their goals. The other 80% keep paying, but never show up after a certain period of time. Gotta find somebody who works there that will covertly share their secret sauce.

Of course, here I am in my 40s, finally going to the gym year round. How long did I pay without going? How long was I one of the 80%? And does the gym secretly lose money because I go 5+ days a week? 

Anyway, I'll be glad to have the place to myself again. 30 days? 90? Won't be soon enough for us geeky gym rats!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Welcome to the BOSU Ball

Rocking a new core routine!

  • Myotatic crunches on a bosu ball, 10 x 3 sets
  • Transverse Abdominal contractions, 10 seconds x 3 sets
  • and (next time!) adding planks, 60 seconds x 3 sets
Haven't specifically worked my abs in MONTHS. Either I'm doing those exercises wrong, or I'm in better shape than I thought. They weren't EASY, but they didn't clobber me, either. And I was the only one in the house that could do myotatic crunches. Maybe hold some dumbbells next time I do them? 

Anyway, hoping that working my core will help with my running. Make it easier or more effective. Longer strides. Higher knees. That sort of thing.

Gonna give it a couple of weeks and see how it goes. Felt it a LITTLE today. Hoping to feel it more moving forward. But, as usual, lots of my experiments have negligible results. I'll stick with what works and ditch the rest. I don't have time or sanity left for ineffective adventures.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Bar Phunk

Busy day. From the gym (1.2 mile swim) to Mom's (wireless firewall installed) to Grandma's and over to my favorite ultralocal drinking establishment: Irish Coast Pub. The proprietor, Ben put out a call for help, on Ye Ol' Facebook, and I offered my services. Turns out that beer (oh noes!) has been sloshing behind the main cooler, stinking the place of barely and hops! Everything had to be emptied, pulled out, and cleaned. Your wayward narrator was strictly muscle. Helped hoist a few kegs. moved the biggest coolers, and offered kindly words of advice for those about to scour away the pent up bar phunk.

Not a dull day. Great swim. Cold weather. And I did my good deeds. Valhalla, I came coming!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Running For The Beads - 2013

Let's run! Perfect weath for a Souther Fried 5k! 45 degrees and lightly raining. The Gulf Coast Carnival Association's first ever Race For The Beads, in Biloxi, MS. Not the most pleasant of days. Not a very big crowd. Not the most memorable route. But the roads were nice. The people were festive. And the after-party included non-seafood jambalaya along with an assortment of beads and adult beverages. So I have a good time. Plus, my bro-in-law was there with some of his family. He beat me by about a minute. His daughter, Lindsey beat me by three minutes. But for an old pudgy geek, I was able to hit a PR and officially finished in something like 26:19. But that was 3.19 miles. 3.1 miles and I probably hit 25min and some change, which is alllll new territory for me! Over all, good event and I look forward to the next one!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Michael Grimm - 2013

Long, torturous day at the office. Usual villainy: over-due projects, disappointments from vendors, and salesweasles nipping at my heels. Too much trippin' and my soul's worth thin.

Rare treat followed. Neighboring casino: Hard Rock. Great view of the Michael Grimm show. Watery drinks. Wonderful performance.Fantastic music. Really impressive stuff. Including the rest of the band and the backup singers.Proud to have that guy from my home state. A shining star.

Haven't enjoyed such a good show in a long while. Shame it is so rare. Have to do to something about that for the rest of 2013. More happiness. Less woe. That's what I'm thinking.Let's make it so...

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Pub Run - 01/02/13

Ran solo for the most part. Started off in front of the pack. Ended up behind it. Last mile went well. Was chasing down a trio of ladies that I thought I could pass. But I couldn't. Made for an interesting challenge, though.

That's my issue, not challenging myself. Whenever I bump up against difficulty, I pull back. Throttle down. Rarely try to break through my self-imposed limitations. Hardest when I run. Probably why I hate running the most.

I'm working on it. Not sure of the payoff. But I'm working on it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Day - 2013

Hello, 2013. Nice to meet you! Be kind. Okay?

Started with a haphazard bike ride through north Gulfport. Guess the spirit was upon me because I crushed the majority of it. Was averaging around 20MPH and Lisa wasn't able to keep up. (Never done that!) On the way back... crazy strong headwind! Slowed me down from 20MPH to just over 14MPH. Thought that I was tired, but everyone else was affected, too. Ended up with almost 18MPH average. Pretty happy, given the conditions.

Cleaned up and went to visit my Grandfather's grave. Would have been 93 today. Died 5yrs ago. On my parents' anniversary.

I think about Doe all the time. Especially when I'm running. Sometimes I feel like giving up and thoughts of him bring me strength. Sounds strange, but I thank him for his energy. For inspiring me. If it is possible and he is out there, I know he's watching. And I hope in some small fashion I make him proud.