Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Today is July 30. We are a month beyond the year’s halfway mark — past time to take stock of how things are going.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? I actually don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore. I stopped making them several years ago when I realized (or admitted to myself… I’m not sure which) that if something is worth doing, you don’t need a special day on which to initiate the thing. Life, as it turns out, is too short to wait until January 1st to make a change that you want to make, or should make, or ultimately need to make.

I also think that change is necessary in order to grow. Change doesn't have to be drastic, and the kinds of changes/challenges I undertake usually aren’t huge upsets to my routine. Here are a few of the things I’m currently working on.


I’m a very goal-oriented person. I like having a target at which to shoot, a direction in which to go. Ironically, one of my goals for growth this year has been to be more mindful of life as it is instead of as I think it should be. As such, I’ve taken to doing mindfulness practice more regularly, trying to get in five minutes a day four or five times a week. It’s a practice because our animal brains aren’t naturally wired for this kind of introspection and self evaluation. Combine that with the constant inundation of stimuli in our current environment, and most people wind up with squirrels in their heads (including me). So, five minutes a day of sitting still, focusing on something simple (like breathing), and gently bringing that focus back to the breath every few seconds has been a challenge and treat for me.


Over the past year, I’ve taken on several fitness challenges. To be clear: Tanya and I have been trying to work towards improved health through changes in our diet and exercise for a while now. But last October, I had bilateral inguinal hernia repair surgery. Combine that with the recent annual physical that revealed that my glucose was at pre-diabetic levels, that I have slightly elevated cholesterol levels, and top it off with my deficient vitamin D levels, and I needed to focus on losing some extra fat. I’ve lived in the 210- to 220-pound range for twenty years or so, which is at least twenty pounds beyond the ideal range given my height. Changes in diet alone never seemed to get me below 205, so I finally bore down and started lifting some weights combined with running regularly and more strict adherence to healthy foods. This has required me to sacrifice sleep, which isn’t ideal, but the benefits have outweighed the costs so far. As of the time of this writing, I’ve spent the last month in the 195-197 range, which means I’ve got about seven pounds to go to hit the ideal weight (according to the notes from the annual physical). It’s strange to have plateaued there, but I think it’s an indication that I, once again, need to change something. I've said it before and will say it again: change is good!


Regular followers of this blog will know that I’ve been trying to read more for the past few years, and have succeeded pretty well. However, I noticed that last year, I was trying to “hit the number” instead of reading what I wanted to and enjoying it along the way. This year, I decided to still have an aggressive reading goal, but would not beat myself up if I didn’t hit it. I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed reading more, and have punted on stuff that I didn’t enjoy more easily as well. I’m also trying purposefully to vary my genres and authors, which has been enlightening in several ways.


Ah, so many things to touch on here.

Books. Or rather, Book

First of all, I am declaring the book I started with NaNaWriMo 2016 “done.” I don’t think it’ll ever be DONE done, but I don’t particularly want to futz with it anymore. It’s been through two simple revisions, and I think is good enough to get the story I wanted to tell told. I’m strangely unsure of what to do with it next. I think the general process would be to have other people read it, so if you’re interested in an electronic copy, let me know. ;)


Beyond the book, there’s this blog. If you’re here, you know how that’s going — I’m at roughly the same pace I set last year. The truth is that I write something here when I feel inspired, or it occurs to me that I haven’t had a post all month.


The other thing I’ve tried doing, with very limited success, is journaling. I’m not talking about typing stuff into yet another electronic gadget; I mean full-on, hand-written journaling. I made mention in a post this year about fountain pen experimentation, but haven’t actually written a blog entry about it yet. Suffice to say that I am using a fountain pen to write in a paper journal on occasion. This type of writing is the one for which I find myself making the least time. Yesterday, I was challenged by my friend Pat to change that habit. I plan to rise to the challenge, and will hopefully report back here relatively soon on successful efforts!


Tanya and I have made it a point to increase our travel over the past few years. She’s now working for a company that does quarter off-sites, one of which was in London. We took that opportunity to explore that grand city (as detailed in the London Vacacay blog series). We also typically take a summer trip with the boys. This year, we hadn’t planned to do anything, as the boys had already been on a cruise with their mom and her family, and only like our “active” vacations so-so. However, since this is the last summer Garrett will have free, we decided to get out of town at least for a few days and stay in a cabin in the woods in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. It hasn’t happened yet, but is impending. We have at least a couple more trips in the queue this year, so stay tuned for future entries about those.

So, at this point in the year, I’m quite satisfied with the way I’m growing. I sincerely hope each of you is enjoying a fantastic year so far, and encourage you to make resolutions to grow every day — you don’t have to wait until New Year’s…

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Running...

For those of you that aren't aware, Tanya and I are signed up to participate in the Humana Rock 'N' Roll half marathon at the end of next March. We've been training by working up to a decent 5k, then we'll train for a 10k, THEN finally get on the half marathon program. Hence, we've been running off and on since April/May of this year.

However, now that Texas summer is fully upon us in all its hot and humid glory, we realized that it's more difficult to get good performance in those conditions. Tanya recently read an article on "running in the heat" which further validated our experiences.

The good news for us is that it's possible for a human to relatively quickly adapt to running in the heat. The bad news is that the adaptability is highly individual, meaning one person might have a harder time adapting than another, or one person might not adapt as well as another. Case in point: Tanya gets overheated relatively quickly, while I seem to be able to soldier on through more hostile areas of the thermometer.

We also learned a couple of things with regards to performance at various temperatures.

From 50 - 59F: "Most runners don't think of these temperatures as hot..." Being from Texas, these temperatures could be considered downright chilly. Tanya and I would most likely have running pants and jackets on in order to get a run done in that coolness. Apparently, we're delusional. These are pretty ideal running conditions.

From 60 - 69F: "These are the temperatures at which most start to view conditions as less than optimal." Hehe, suckers! Upper 60s/lower 70s is where I'm most comfortable while running. But, according to the article, these conditions will slow a 40-minute 10K runner down by about 6 seconds per mile.

From 70 - 79F: Sub-elite marathoners can be expected to slow down by about 20 minutes.  That translates to just under a minute-per-mile pace loss. For reference, my current level is sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-elite 5Ker, I think.

From 80 - 89F: "There comes a point where additional sweating doesn't do you any good." This is where Tanya and I typically run, even if we're out the door by 7:00 a.m. It feels like stepping into a sauna that's just getting under steam. I start sweating about 7 seconds after exiting the house, just before I start the timer for the run.

At 90F+: "The hotter it is, the harder it is to excel." OK, this entry isn't all that helpful or enlightening. The summary is about training in conditions similar to those you expect to race in.

We commonly run in the upper 70s/lower 80s with about 80% humidity, provided we start before the sun rises. Once the sun is up, the temperature seems to climb in direct proportion, as if each passing minute were somehow incrementing the numbers on the gauge.

Given all of the above, perhaps we should take up swimming for the rest of the summer...? :-D