Tuesday, January 29, 2008

218.2 - X = 157.4

X = 60.8

Because that's how much weight I've lost. I crossed that 60-pound barrier! Now, on to 65...

In other news, I did my first interval workout today for my first day of half marathon training. Unfortunately I was forced indoors due to rain and had to do it on a treadmill. While not as nice as being outside, the treadmill allowed for a more precise level of control over my pace. I wanted to do each 400m interval at an 8:00/mile pace (7.5 mph) and doing so required no more than pressing a few buttons every couple of minutes. It certainly kept me right on track!

So this is it. I'm off and...running...and on my way to that sub two-hour half. Fredericksburg, Virginia, here I come!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chelsea Library Best Small Library in America!

I have to give a hearty shout-out of congratulations to the fine people of the Chelsea District Library, who helped make our little library become Library Journal's choice for Best Small Library in America for 2008!

The new CDL opened in the heart of downtown in December 2006 following more than a year of construction. I went to the library during the grand opening celebrations and got my first library card in over 10 years. I can walk to the library from my house, and being able to do so brings back fond memories of my many childhood trips to the library in my hometown in California, when I used my bicycle to get from my house to the library. My bike had a large wire basket on the back and I would routinely return home with 10-15 books crammed into it. One week to 10 days later I would be back at the library, looking for more books to feed my insatiable reading appetite. I learned to read when I was 3 years old and I've never stopped.

Hooray for the Chelsea District Library! I have to give special props to my friend and fellow Smith College alumna Edith B. for being the most awesome youth and teen librarian ever!

Spirit of the Marathon

Last night I met Tina at the Showcase in Ann Arbor for the one-night-only showing (or not-- apparently now there's an encore showing on February 21) of the documentary Spirit of the Marathon.

The theater was packed. I think it was completely sold out. We lucked out with some awesome seats right in the middle not too close and not too far back. During the film, everyone laughed at the same parts (like when one of the first-time marathoners featured in the film reported that some of her friends asked her, "Do you think you're going to win?" when she told them she was going to run the Chicago Marathon). When repeat marathoner Ryan was told he had a serious knee injury and could not continue his training nor compete in the marathon, we groaned right along with him. When elite American runner Deena Kastor talked about her training schedule, there was an audible intake of shocked breath around the room as she said she had run 145 miles for the week. When a totally spent Deena managed to hold off a surging second-place runner to win the 2005 Chicago Marathon, people clapped. When the film ended and the screen darkened before the end credits and music started to roll, the room was completely silent. No one moved or made even the tiniest sound. Then the spell was broken and there was scattered applause as people began shuffling around. For an hour and 45 minutes several hundred like-minded individuals had come together as one to watch human beings push themselves past normal limits of endurance.

I am more excited than ever to run the Detroit Marathon in October. Watching the emotions pouring out of people as they crossed the finish line was overwhelming. I found myself getting a lump in my throat, thinking, That could be me in nine months.

If you can, try to see this film when it's shown again in February. It really is wonderful.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Can't I Be Independently Wealthy?

I can think of only one thing right now, as I look out my third-floor office window to the sunny outdoors:

*sigh* "What a beautiful day. I wish I was out there running instead of sitting in here."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


59.8 pounds. That's how much weight I have now lost on Weight Watchers. I was only a lousy 0.2 lbs away from 60 at weigh-in last night. That's 3.2 ounces. 3.2 stupid measly ounces. I was pretty disappointed. I really wanted to hit 60 lbs. Well, you know what? I'll get there next week and there will be much fanfare (and feasting upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats...)

Since our meeting resumed on January 8 (we had two weeks of no meetings for Christmas and New Year's Day) there has been a steady stream of new people at my meeting. The January 8 meeting brought in the biggest influx; the stack of "get started" packets must have been 12 high. I have seen a lot of unfamiliar faces. I have been a part of this group since August 2006 and I recognize all the long-term members. We're a big family. A big family who suddenly gained a lot of long-lost cousins.

I don't think I was as aware in January 2007 (after only four months on WW) as I am in January 2008 of all the new members. Now, I can't help but wonder, how many of these people will I still see in three or four months after their initial 12- or 16-week membership expires? Let's face it, many of them are there as part of a "gotta lose weight this year" New Year's resolution. And we all know how long most of those last.

Losing the weight I have hasn't been easy. It's been really hard, slow, and long. At the end of February I will have been on the program for 18 months. I'd like to say I will be at Goal by then but I really can't be sure. Things happen. Weight is gained, then lost. I've lost almost 60 pounds on the program, but I also gained little increments totaling 42 lbs along the way. (If I had gained 40+ lbs over my highest weight...I'd be pushing 265 lbs by now). I'm just fortunate that my overall loss outweighs my occasional gain. But I can't deny those gains are tremendously frustrating. They can easily derail a person who expects consistent weight loss week after week. I had a gain in my second week on the program! I was terribly disheartened. However, I told myself to tough it out, that this was the first small step of many, and my goal was too important to lose sight of this early.

I wonder if the new people know what a long and hard road it's really going to be for some of them. If I had known when I started WW that almost 18 months later I'd still be trying to get to goal...I might have quit right there. I would like for all of them to stick with the program. There are some folks I've seen in meetings over the last few weeks who really need to be there. I am glad they have at least taken the hardest step of all: the one through the door. The next few months will slowly winnow out the more determined. I hope that some of the new members join our family permanently

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Something Good, Something Bad

I saw two stories today that have stuck in my mind. First, the good one:

Marathon runner says she caught suspect after break-in at her Lighthouse Point home

Woman also has karate black belt

Marathon runner chases down would-be burglar

Marathon runner chases down would-be burglar
Margo Foster, a marathon runner who holds a black belt in karate, surprised an intruder in her house. The burglar tried to escape out this back door, but Foster chased the man down over seven blocks and held him until police arrived. (Sun-Sentinel/ Michael Stocker / January 21, 2008)

A would-be burglar met his match when he tried to elude Margo Foster, a marathon runner with a black belt in karate who also knows kickboxing and kung fu, police said.

On Friday morning, the 53-year-old Lighthouse Point resident returned home from tennis practice to find an intruder rummaging through her bedroom.

Without thinking twice, she said in an interview, she bolted through the living and dining rooms and followed the startled man out to the backyard. Police said he had one of Foster's backpacks strapped on his shoulders, filled with her property. She wanted it back. A seven-block-long chase had just begun. Lighthouse Point police corroborated Foster's version of events, and without endorsing her gutsy conduct, said she had evidently been up to the challenge.

"Luckily, it turned out OK," said police Commander Mike Oh, a spokesman for the Lighthouse Point department.

As related by Foster, the intruder began to climb the 6-foot-high wooden fence in the yard, when she "grabbed him by the neck, ripped him off the fence.. threw him to the ground, and put my knee to his chest."

The two struggled for a few minutes, Foster in her white tennis skirt, before the burglar dropped the bag and started running again.

"Go ahead and run," the former yacht detailer said she yelled. "You're not going to get away from me. I've been running for 40 years."

Police said the burglar headed north on Lighthouse Drive into the city of Deerfield Beach and then turned right on Southeast 14th Street, before he got tired and started walking. Foster followed behind and flagged down a motorist, who called police.

"I outran the kid," said Foster. "He had no cardiovascular system."

Gregory St. Germain, 24, was arrested by Lighthouse Point police and charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling, battery, possession of stolen property and grand theft. Police said Foster recovered all her property, including what Foster said was a gold identification bracelet given to her as a teenager by a boyfriend as a Christmas present. "He almost got away with the most sentimental thing I've kept for years," she said.

Oh, the Lighthouse Point police spokesman, described Foster's actions as "courageous," but cautioned that burglars are often armed and dangerous. "She's had some advance training and obviously is very physically fit and confident," he said.

Foster said she'd trained for years for such a situation. "I wasn't going to sit back and let something like this happen," she said.

Next, the bad one:

Two-time Grandma's Marathon winner slain in Kenyan violence

Article Last Updated: 01/21/2008 07:07:27 PM CST
Wesly Ngetich crosses the finish line as the first finisher in the 31st annual Grandma's Marathon, Saturday morning, June 16, 2007, in Dulth, Minn. (AP Photo/The Trubune, Derek Montgomery) (AP {SOURCE} DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE)

Two-time Grandma's Marathon champion Wesly Ngetich was reserved and modest until he pinned a number to his chest.

Then Ngetich, who died during ethnic violence in his homeland of Kenya today, became a tiger.

According to Race Results Weekly, the 5-foot-5 Ngetich was shot in the chest with an arrow during fighting in his hometown of Trans Mara.

Hundreds of Kenyans have been killed in ethnic violence that erupted after the East African country's Dec. 27 presidential election, which opposition leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of stealing.

"Words cannot express our feelings at this moment," said Scott Keenan, the executive director of Grandma's in Duluth, Minn. "Our sympathies go out to Wesly's family and friends, and our thoughts and prayers will remain with them during this extremely sad and difficult time. We loved having Wesly here at Grandma's, and he enjoyed coming here. It is difficult to imagine that he is gone."

Ngetich, 34, won Grandma's in 2005 and again last June, but it was the 2006 race where he demonstrated his competitive streak. On a hot, humid day, he seized an early lead and pushed the pace before he was finally caught on the course's famous Lemon Drop Hill in Duluth. He ended up sixth.

"Last year, I took the lead early," he said after winning the 2007 race in 2 hours, 15 minutes, 55 seconds. "I just didn't understand how the humidity would have an impact.

"This year, I hung back."

Ngetich recorded his best time of 2:12:10, when he finished second in the 2006 Houston Marathon.

Ngetich was expected to return to Duluth to defend his title this June in an attempt to become the first three-time winner of the event. Four others - Garry Bjorklund, Dick Beardsley, Doug Kurtis and Patrick Maturi - have won the race twice in the event's 31 years.

Ngetich reportedly had planned to run in the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon in Phoenix on Jan. 13 but could not get out of Kenya because of the violence.


I hope the other fine athletes of Kenya stay safe. That is a really unfortunate story.

In other news, I was laid low with some unfortunate stomach flu virus over the weekend and haven't run since Friday. I feel great today (finally) and would really like to squeeze in some kind of a run before my Weight Watchers meeting, even with the snowfall we are currently experiencing. Today's weigh-in might be A Really Big One as my scale yesterday afternoon, if it is to be trusted, will have me at 60 pounds lost at the meeting tonight. Finally!

I don't recommend The Stomach Flu Virus Diet as a way to lose weight, however!

UPDATE: Snowstorm over. Sun currently shining (for the next few minutes, anyway...this is Michigan, after all). Outlook for run this afternoon: excellent!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm (Quasi) Famous

Late last week I sent Steve Runner of Phedippidations a long, rambly email about "my running story." He saw fit to kindly include me in the runner email segment of the Phedippidations podcast this week. It's "Fdip 131: The Big Boom." You can hear Steve talking about me beginning at 36:46 into the podcast.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's A Small Runner's World After All

Tuesday evening I was sitting at the bar at the Arbor Brewing Company in downtown Ann Arbor enjoying a pint of Big Ben House Mild. I was waiting for John, who had dropped me off at the ABC before heading down to the South Main and Hill St. area for a band audition. I had been sitting and staring at the back of the bar for about 30 minutes, occasionally checking the door over my shoulder. I heard the door squeak open and looked back to see a couple of guys come in. Immediately I thought, No one wears something like that if they're just out and about. Those guys have to be runners. A further quick assessment: Running shoes...check. Nylon pants and jackets...check. Hats and gloves...check. I turned back to my beer and thought, We runners are everywhere!

Then I heard a voice at my elbow asking if the seat next to me was taken. It was the running guys. I couldn't help myself; I blurted out: "Were you guys just out running?"

One of them said, "Yeah, we were!"

Well, one thing led to another and soon we were yammering away like old pals. I discovered that they had just gone on their first Running Fit 501 training run, that they lived in Dexter, that one of them was an experienced marathoner with 30 races under his belt and the other was training for his first marathon...also that one is a hydrogeologist (yay for geology!) and the other owns a printing company that does all the coursepack printing for a former division of the company I work for now (yay for Company Q!)...

I informed them of the Wednesday evening group run at the Running Fit HQ which they both got very excited about since that location is much closer to Dexter than the downtown Ann Arbor location.

That's another thing I love so much about being a runner...I feel like I'm part of a real community. We love our sport with varying degrees of intensity, we all have different ability levels...but we're all simply runners. We all have that in common. We can talk about races, training, weather, or crazy yappy dogs even if we've only just met. We all have a "how did you get into running?" story. We can cross paths in a bar as total strangers and after 20 minutes part as friends.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Finally Get It

Something just occurred to me. For my entire life, my dad has been a runner. He started running in the early 1970s before I was even born. He ran a series of marathons in San Francisco in the early 1980s. Incidentally, he is also going to be running in the Marine Corps Historic Half with me.

During the winter, he always went running no matter the weather. My mom's constant refrain as he prepared to head out the door into a blizzard or 10-degree air was, "Bruce, I don't know why you want to go out when it's like this! Please stay in, just this once!" I didn't get it, either. From my warm, comfy perch indoors on the couch, the winter landscape of northeast Ohio was an inhospitable place indeed and only a crazy person would venture out on foot. On purpose. Without driving somewhere, like the mall.


I finally understand what drove him out our front door every single day. He was incapable of sitting idle. He was addicted to running, if such a thing actually psychologically exists. I have been similarly afflicted. I can't not run when I reasonably could go for a run. Like yesterday. Even after going to the grocery store after work and spending what felt like forever putting groceries for the next two weeks away, finishing at 5:00, with snow starting to fall, all I could think was: "I have to go for a run. I have to." I just couldn't say, "It's too late/getting dark/too cold/snowing/rush hour/too slippery to go for a run." The need for physical exertion was too strong. I had to get out there and get my daily fix.

The cold doesn't bother me; I have warm clothes and after a little while I'm generating so much heat I often get uncomfortably warm even when it's 25 degrees outside. Now I know how my dad could go running when it was zero degrees. I'll probably find myself out there, too, at that temperature.

I think the only time he ever stayed in due to weather conditions was in January of 1994 when we had a tremendous cold snap that had us in -20 to -25 degrees F temperatures for several days.

Yeah, that's cold.

But still...with the right gear...

Smoky & Creamy Corn Soup

Yum, can I say, yum! for this one. Also extremely healthy. And very fast and easy. The only prep is cutting up the vegetables; everything else comes from a package.

(From Weight Watchers All-Time Favorites cookbook.)

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen yellow corn kernels
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a nonstick soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes until the vegetables are slightly browned. Add the corn kernels, 1 cup of vegetable broth, and the chipotle chili powder to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Transfer soup mixture in batches to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return soup to original pot, add remaining 3 cups of vegetable broth, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until heated through. Serves 4 (1 1/2 cup servings).

Now, what I did differently was instead of completely puréeing the entire soup mixture I briefly spun half of it in the blender so that some chunkiness was retained. I like my soups to have some bite, you know? There were still whole corn kernels in it. Then I really puréed the remaining half. I also only added two cups of vegetable broth at the end because the soup looked thin enough already. The chipotle chili powder provides the interesting smoky flavor, but I'm sure regular chili powder would do in a pinch. I was fortunate to find some chipotle powder (McCormick brand) at the grocery store. I also courted kitchen disaster by not letting the soup cool before transferring it to the blender!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Healthy Start Festival of Miles

Saturday morning John and I participated in Running Fit's Healthy Start Festival of Miles, a free-for-all no-pressure event at the University of Michigan's indoor track facility. We arrived around 9:45 and started circling the track. The event was billed as an excuse to run in shorts in the winter. However, I was able to run in shorts outside last Tuesday...

I lost count of how many circuits I made of the 200-meter track and instead decided that because I ran for one hour at a moderate pace with only two brief breaks I probably covered close to 6 miles. John was by my side for most of it but he had to stop after about 3 miles as he was pooped.

I saw a bunch of people I know or at least recognize, including Tina, Victor from the RF store, and some people who were at the Wednesday evening group run last week.

John was hurting yesterday, a pain I know quite well: the aching quads. He's a cyclist and his muscles are used differently for biking. I encouraged him not to give up on running. The hardest part is going out for that second run when your legs feel like they're going to fall off. It was that feeling that made me almost quit cross-country the first week of practice when I was a freshman in high school. I'm glad I stuck with it instead.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Tina got it exactly right; the person I quoted in yesterday's entry is none other than Steve Runner, a self-described "goofball from New England," of the (brilliant) podcast Phedippidations. Fritz made a casual mention of it a few weeks ago and I promptly forgot about it until yesterday, whereupon I subscribed, downloaded about 40 of the 130 episodes, and for the past two days have been listening to nothing but Steve's "rambling diatribes" about running. And let me tell you, folks, if you're a runner you should be listening to this podcast. This is not a suggestion. This is an order. You will not be sorry.

In other news, I did make it to my gym yesterday for some much-needed weightlifting. But I ran there (2 mile round trip).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Kindred Spirit

A few of you may recognize the man behind the words I am about to quote.

"Well, I've joked with you before that one of the reasons I love to run is because I love to eat pizza. Well, the funny thing about that is that it's not a joke."

"You know, I hope this hasn't happened to you, but about a year after I started running and was in training for my first marathon, someone called me a 'running psycho'. Big deal, right? Of course they were just joking around, they didn't mean it...except that they really did mean it. As my training went forward and my excitement about our sport increased, the label of 'running psycho' became a recurring theme in their attacks."

On the former, I have to say: hear, hear! Life is not worth living without pizza.

On the latter, the label that has been applied to me most often and with increasing frequency is "obsessed." I've heard that from both friends and family. And you know what? It's true, and it doesn't bother me. I want to be an obsessed runner. It's the obsession that keeps me going. If I was not as passionate about, nay, obsessed with running, I wouldn't be doing it. I love doing it. I love it so much that I now listen to a guy I don't even know talk about running and I think, "Oh, man, that is so true! This guy rocks!"

Bonus obsessed-runner points to those of you who know who/what I quoted.

In other news, last night I attended what I hope will be the first of many Wednesday-night group runs out of the Running Fit HQ. I ran five miles, which makes 18 for the week. Today I will spend cross-training at the gym. I need to do some strength training.

I also ordered a RoadID bracelet. I had a RoadID dog-tag necklace years ago but the information on it is totally obsolete. I decided that as I embark on my heavy training schedules this year (first for the half marathon in May and then the Detroit Marathon in October) which will include runs stretching to 20 miles I need to have something on me in case of emergency.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I had to take advantage of the freakishly warm weather and go for a run. I only had to wear my Nike cropped pants and a Nike Fit Dry shirt. No gloves! No jacket! No heavy pants! It was 64 degrees! In January!! OMGWTFBBQ!!!

I also strapped on my iPod, freshly loaded with music. I hadn't listened to music while running for about four months. What to listen to...what to listen to...I went with the music of my youth, Depeche Mode. Black Celebration, 1987.

I set out. Clear sidewalks, warm temperatures, less clothing, totally rocking tunes. I was on fire! I felt like I had wings on my feet! I was definitely moving at less than 9:00 per mile, but I refrained from peeking at my Garmin because I didn't want to fall into the psychological trap of "this is too fast I have to slow down" when I am physically capable of keeping such a pace. I just decided to run as fast as felt comfortable and hopefully I would have a nice surprise at the end of my run along the lines of "holy crap, I averaged 8:30 per mile on a four-mile run!"

I got a surprise, all right, but not a pleasant one. Closing in on the end of my run I sneaked a quick peek at my Garmin, hoping to catch with my eye only the distance field on the display (I wanted to ensure I ran a full four miles). To my dismay the device had shut down and the screen was blank. It had run out of battery power before I had even run 0.75 mile (the distance it did manage to record was 0.72). I thought I had my music turned up loud enough to drown out the lap alert beeps; I didn't hear them because it wasn't making them at all.

Well, phooey. That left me kind of deflated so for what was left of my run (maybe 0.25 mile) I slowed down and just moseyed along. I hadn't made note of the time when I left the house so I couldn't even see how long my run had taken according to the clock.

The first thing I did when I got home was plug in the Garmin for charging.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Too Much is Never Enough

In the past two days I have run 15.7 miles (9.5 on Saturday (aka yesterday) and 6.2 on Sunday (aka today)) which is more than I ran over the previous 10 days (15 miles).

Too much? Perhaps. Inviting injury? Maybe. (I admit I'm a wee bit sore today.)

But did it feel sooooooo goooooood?


Oh, and on another note, for my Michigan readers, hello warmer weather and melting snow! Maybe those blasted sidewalks will clear up after all...

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Finally, FINALLY, I was able to get outside for a run yesterday afternoon. I hadn't run at all since Sunday and that was only 4 miles on the treadmill at the gym. The last time I was able to run outdoors was a week earlier at my parents'. I hate it when circumstances keep me from running. This was a combination of really bad weather and the holiday (gym not open at normal times). Thus I was very antsy and agitated and sad to say feeling very fat. I figured the snow removal situation was under control enough for me to brave the sidewalks/roads of Chelsea. Yesterday it was cold and sunny and IMO, perfect for a nice post-work run. Which I did. Five and a quarter miles. Thank god. The sidewalk situation was severely sketchy, with some stretches being well-tended and free of snow while others were untouched or poorly cleared. It's official: I hate people who don't clear their sidewalks. After weaving on and off the sidewalk via driveways I just gave up and stayed in the road. This meant more slippage in the mushy stuff at the road's edge (sometimes I felt like it was a "two steps forward, one step back" situation) but at least the road was basically clear. I got some "WTF?" looks from people I passed in driveways and such. Yeah, yeah, I'm clearly nuts.

It was all made worthwhile as I had probably the nicest run through the cemetery ever. The road was unplowed but a few brave vehicles had passed through, creating a two-track of firm snow. The rest of the cemetery grounds were a smooth, pristine carpet unblemished by foot or tire. The snow clung to every tree branch and twig. The smaller headstones were reduced to white lumps. It was very, very quiet; the only sound was the squeak squeak of my feet on the packed snow. The sun was setting so the snow was beginning to glow blue and purple in the twilight. I wished I had a camera with me. I wished the road was longer because I could have run like that forever.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Scratch that idea

I know a few of you are from southeast Michigan and thus it will come as no surprise that I did not run in the midnight Eve On The Ave 5K in Jackson Monday night.

Too bad, though, because according to the race results I probably would have won my age group had I run.

I got my New Year's workout by shoveling 5,000 pounds of snow instead.