Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keepin' it Real

On Sunday, I was at the second of my four free personal training sessions at the Y, and I made an offhand remark that, in hindsight, I think was kind of dickish. It wasn't really directed at anyone other than myself, but as I thought about it later, it was insulting to a lot of runners, including myself, and also completely dishonest.

My trainer asked how my run on Saturday had gone. I replied that it had been fine except that I was still feeling the effect of being sick, but that:
"I'm going to try for five miles this Saturday. Then I'll feel like a real runner again."

The fall of 2006 is a long time ago, but not so long ago that I don't remember how cool I felt when I was doing the Couch to 5K plan and could first run five minutes without a walk break, then 10 minutes, then 15 etc. And my feeling of accomplishment at crossing the finish line of my first 5K in 2007 was probably equal to that at the end of the first marathon. I definitely felt like a real runner, whatever that even means.

It was a cool feeling the first time I ran 5 miles, and added new personal distance records after that, but I ran two full seasons of 5Ks before ever running, much less racing, any distance longer than 3.1 and I definitely thought of myself a real runner during those two years.

Sure, I'm frustrated right now that some pretty minor injuries have given me a pretty big setback. I'm looking forward to getting back to miles 5 and above. But there's no reason to be an elitist jerk about it.

I didn't mean any ill-intent by my remark and I don't think anyone was offended (and none of you would have known about it if I hadn't told you!), so I don't write this as an apology, but just because it made me think as I considered what I'd said.

So, I ask you, my readers, how far or how much did you have to run before you thought of yourself as a runner? In my case, I'd say it wasn't yet when I first started the Couch to 5K, when the one-minute intervals of running were really, really awful, but I would say it was at a point before I'd ever ran my first 5K (which was also the first time I'd run three miles).

There are probably people who would say there are right and wrong answers to these questions. Despite my stupid remark on Sunday, I'm not one of them. I think that if someone thinks of him/herself as a runner, they are one. There's no speed or mileage requirements for this club.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Date

A little over 16 years ago, I got turned down for a date.

Since this is Earn Your Donuts, and I've got a long, rambling story for every occasion, there's obviously a lot more to it than that. The point isn't that I got turned down, it's that I asked at all.

In a previous episode, I admitted that my random placement on Founders B-2, resulting from a non-selection of "no preference" regarding dorm placement, had played a huge part in making my life what is today. Most of my closest friends are my college friends or people that I met through them. I met my wife through one of them, and took a job in Philly after graduation, which led to the job I have now, to be closer to her.

But luck will only get a guy so far. This is the rest of our story -- my half of it, anyway.

It was the icy winter of 1996. I lived with a bunch of antisocial jerks who were my best friends, my classes were easy, life was basically good. My track record in meeting girls -- women, I mean! -- was not good. I had one date in high school. Not girlfriend -- date. My longest relationship -- if it even qualifies -- was two weeks.

Confidence levels were low, but I decided just not to worry about it. Hang out. Play video games. Lose at sports. Study really, really hard. Enjoy college life.

But then I met her. I met her at a college dance in the Annenberg Center on a Friday night. She was talking one of my friends who introduced us. Her name was Chris (it still is, actually). She was with a friend from home, who was visiting that weekend, and the four of us went wandering around frozen Etown till about 2am. The next night, after a comedian, same thing.

We hung out a couple of times. I wanted to ask her out. I think I even may have tried to imply it. But I was terrified. I did ask her ask to the Valentine's Dance. But that's not a date! I mean, maybe it's a group date, but not really a date. She turned me down, anyway.

Luckily, it wasn't because she thought I was weird or creepy, but because she had a forensics tournament that night. Unluckily, that meant I had to work up the nerve to ask again!

The chance presented itself a little over a week later. The men of Founders B-2 had just returned from another double-digit loss on the intramural basketball court, and I had a "Writing & Language" paper due at 8am the next morning that I had to start.

Meanwhile, Chris, who lived in Schlosser, on the other side of campus, had chosen that night to study for a history test in our side lounge with Kim, a mutual friend who also lived on B-2. Studying in the B-2 guys' side lounge meant that you weren't studying at all. (There was a girls' side lounge -- the floor was co-ed with a guys' side and a girls' side -- that was virtually silent at all times, but our side lounge was mostly a venue for Nintendo and loud, nonsensical discussions.)

This was the perfect chance to go talk to her. But I had no guts. And I had a paper to write. Without the rather threatening intervention from Loic, our exchange student from France, I may have missed out on love. Basically, Loic was twice my size and he yelled at me until I asked her out.

But, I did ask. And luckily for me, she said yes. Our first date was 16 years ago today at Mookies, which no longer exists. Luckily, the site of Mookies is now occupied by TJ Rockwell's, a restaurant well-known to any Elizabethtown College graduate. Tonight, like we have been almost every February 28 since we moved to Central PA, we'll be at Rockwell's, celebrating that memorable evening 16 years ago.

(Schlosser Residence Hall Main Lounge, February 28, 1996)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Last Chance, First Impressions, and One Year Ago

Last Chance!
I'm sure you're tired of reading about it, but this really is the last day to enter the First and Last Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to You by Road ID). I thought I'd give it one more mention since I usually get more page views during the week than on weekends.

If your bad race photo is voted the winner (by commenters or poll voters, not me) you get a $35 Road ID gift card. 2nd prize is a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card. You can either leave a link to the picture in the comments of this post or the original (below), you can e-mail it to me at I won't post your full name on my blog or spam you or anything.

Go here for all the details:

I'd like to get the entries up for voting later this week, but this is kind of a crazy week. I don't think it would be fair to both of our contest entrants to extend the deadline, though!

First Impressions
Ok, with administrative matters far as actual running, last week was kind of a washout. After Monday's three, I didn't run again till Saturday because I was sick on Wednesday and Thursday, and by the time I felt better on Friday afternoon, why bother? Saturday is a regular running day anyway. I ran four miles again, which was my plan all along. I was a little slower than last week, and felt the most out of breath since starting to run again, which I think was just the remains of my cold or allergies.

I'll go for three miles tonight, most likely. It is supposed to be in the 60s today, which is great, I suppose, except 1) I can't stay healthy the crazy fluctuating weather we've had this winter -- I have never been sick this much in one winter; 2) I actually like running when it's in the 30s and 40s; and 3) I suspect this is going to come back to haunt us in a really hot summer. If this week goes well, I'll try for five this weekend.

I did my leg program for the first time yesterday (finally getting to the "First Impressions" mentioned in the title). It included leg press, leg curls, leg extensions, hip abductors, hip adductors, calf raise machine, and I did abs, too. The fact that I'm largely pain-free today probably means I need to add a lot more weight if this going to actually do any good.

One Year Ago
This is a week of anniversaries. One year ago today my wife ran her first half marathon, the 2011 Disney Princess Half Marathon. She did great, but she wasn't sure at the time whether she'd run that distance again. We know how that turned less than a month from now she'll be running her third half! Congratulations again, Princess Chris!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

OMG!!! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!! PANIC!!!! (Bad Race Photo Contest)

So, soon I won't have to pimp it in every single blog post, because the First (and let's face it, Last) Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to You by Road ID, who are probably very disappointed in me) is coming to an end tomorrow (Monday) night at 11:59PM.

So if you were planning to enter -- and I'm sure you were! -- you better get a move on. Your opportunity to win a $35 Road ID gift certificate is running out.

Details here:

Thanks very much to both our entrants so far for playing along, and particularly to Danny for the link on his blog, The Quest for Running Perfection.

I went on a long run yesterday and have my second training session this afternoon, so maybe I'll put up a real post later. Maybe.

(I thought this contest was a good idea.
Just like I thought that carrying an
imaginary dachshund while I ran was a good idea.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Bunch of Stuff that I'm too Lazy to Think of a Witty Title For

  • I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but there's only a few days left to enter the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to You by Road ID). We've got two entries that I think are classics, but there's no other brave souls out there willing to make fun of yourself a little for a $35 Road ID Gift Certificate? Send in entries as instructed or leave a link to your photo in the comments, whichever's easier for you. Submissions will be accepted until 11:59PM ET on Monday, 2/27/2012.

  • So, I guess I'll get the update on the Great Comeback of 2011 out of the way -- it's going fine. 3.1 miles on Monday in 28:28. I felt really great for the first two miles, as if all my mediocre powers had returned, and then kind of died at mile 3. Today was supposed to be running day, but I took a day off because I've felt sick with cold symptoms plus a huge headache all day. If I feel better tomorrow, I'll run 2 or 3 miles. If not, I'll probably just put it off to Saturday to get back on a regular schedule.

  • I took the day of on Monday. We didn't do anything exciting, but it was a nice relaxing day. However, we did go to the gym that evening. I rode 6.5 miles on the bike in half an hour and did (ellipticalled?) 3.1 miles on the elliptical. I slept really well Monday night!

  • I don't like to talk about my job very much on the blog, but on Tuesday, I had one of the worst days of work I've ever had in eight years of my job. It's pretty common for me to be stressed or burnt-out, but this day just left me really, really, "want to punch a wall angry". I know that doesn't end well, so instead, I took my frustration out in the weight room, and let's just say that I should lift every time I'm really mad about something. Increased weight in everything. Note to self: download a bunch of older Metallica albums for the full angry lifting effect.

  • I went my first of four personal training sessions at the Y later on Tuesday night. It's more of an informational session/orientation than a real workout, or I wouldn't have lifted before. This evening's session was an introduction to all the leg machines, and let's just say that I was a little sore today just from the one set of everything that I did. Leg press, leg curls, leg extensions, calf raise machine, hip abductor, hip adductor (don't ask me to remember which is which!).

    I've barely done any legwork at all (Except, you know, running), so I think this will make a big difference in improving my endurance. Hopefully will make me a little quicker, too. (There'll be some instruction -- which I need! -- on free weight leg exercises, too, but that's a later session).

(It's not a very good picture,
but I was trying to be sneaky so that I didn't look creepy.)

  • This has been another pretty boring entry. You know what that means: ADORABLE KITTENS!!!

(Carl, the orange tabby, and PT, the brown and white tabby,
were two of my pals from the Adoption Center at Petsmart.
Luckily, they've both found homes.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The First Honestly Earned Donut of the Year


The Road is Calling; Today is the Day

Four miles in 36:41. For me, that's a decent pace at this distance, injury or no injury. Running outside was definitely tougher than the indoor track. Compared to my other routes in Manchester and Mt. Wolf, this route is pretty flat but even the moderate hills on Board Road felt like mountains today.

It was great to be out in the cold, and this was a gorgeous morning for a run of this distance: Low 40s, no humidity. I'd worried that I'd lost my acclimation to the cold, but nope, I took my long-sleeve shirt off about 2-miles in. That said, I foolishly wore my Nike Dri-Fit Elizabethtown College shirt, which I'd previously decided should probably be reserved for days when it's closer to 30 (or below). It was a poor wardrobe choice, but it was my first run outside in over a month and I wanted to look cool.

My legs felt ok. My quads still seem weak. I can't quite explain it, but they didn't feel the same as they did in December and January where it seemed like they were burnt-out. I think I just need to build strength back up through continued running and by adding some strength training. My knees felt a bit creaky, but they usually do on cold, dry days.

As I mentioned in my last post, it's humbling how challenging four miles was for me today and how far away the distances of the relatively recent past seem after only a month off, but it was great to be back on the roads on such a perfect morning.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Approximately three months ago, I finished a marathon. Right now, I could possibly run five miles if the living dead were after me, unless of course they were Kenyan zombies. I've run three 3-milers, and I'm trying a four-mile "long run" on Saturday, so we'll see how that goes.

It's frustrating, especially as the marathon that I was training for approaches. I'll probably sign up for the 8K so that I feel welcome at the post-race party, but it's hard to get excited for that when I ran the same marathon last year and ran 10 miles three or 4 times a week last summer. Basically, it's like I've gone back in time three years in my running career.

In another sense, though, I'm seeing it as a positive: a chance to correct some of the many mistakes I've made. I can do the leg exercises I should have been doing all along; I can do some speedwork; and most importantly, maybe I can get the fun back. I enjoy running, don't get me wrong, but as I trained for Philly it felt more and more like something I had to do, rather than something I wanted to. I enjoyed some of those long runs, but others were just torturous. I am -- barring injury, I always have to say -- going to run in the 2013 Shamrock Marathon, but on the way back up marathon shape I want to try to pay attention to what distances I actually enjoy the most. 26.2 isn't something I wanted to just "check off a bucket list", but right now I don't see myself as a guy who's going to want to run multiple marathons every year or even one every year. That said...I think I can make marathon training a little less daunting if I can make myself stronger.

I've been running at the indoor track at the Y, since I can hit the stationary bike afterward and burn some more calories, and it's given me a chance to watch other people running. I observed a runner on Saturday who was just running with a completely effortless stride (and lapping everyone). On the other hand, I've found that I really don't feel very light on my feet most of the time when I run. Sure, some runs are better than others, but I need to put more spring in my step. The Supernova Sequences have been pretty good to me, but maybe it's time to try another shoe. More importantly, I want to do a better job lower-body weightlifting and core strength, and maybe I need to play around with changing my stride (I feel more powerful at 1-mile pace than normal pace...but I guess that's the point?). Since I'm just starting to run after a layoff, it's hard to tell if the body-weight exercises I've been doing are helping, but I know I need to do more. If I can make my legs stronger, and every stride more powerful, these long runs won't be so bad.

On the positive side, though, I've been eating a lot better and my weight's moving in the right direction -- it's only been two weeks, I know! -- and I've done a great job lifting since the end of November. Other than my reduced mileage, I actually feel better overall than I have in a long time. But my mileage is greatly reduced, and I think a re-setting of goals is in order.

Previous 2012 running/fitness goals:

1. 5:59 or better mile.

2. 22:59 or better 5K

3. 4:50 marathon

4. 10 races total

5. Lift weights 3x/week

New 2012 running fitness goals:

1. Half marathon in the fall. There are several we're considering in October.

2. 5:59 mile -- with no marathon likely to be on my schedule this year, this is the holy grail. I'll be training myself up to a half so I can't totally forsake distance, but I need to shave 21 seconds off of my one-mile PR to do this. Hello, speedwork.

3. Rediscover the fun -- I know this is vaguely defined, but this is important and I think my other goals line up with this. With a half on the horizon instead of a full, I don't need to worry about torturous summer mileage as much as I did in 2011. I hope to run 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks and a half this year. I can may more attention to whether I enjoy shorter, faster training runs for the 5Ks or longer, more peaceful runs as I build distance back up.

4. Make legs stronger -- more lower-body strength training. Since I do so little of this now, I think it will make a huge difference.

5. Bench press my own body weight -- I've been doing well with lifting, but I've never been able to do this. (I probably could have a few years ago if I'd had a spotter). I can help myself with this not only by sticking with lifting, but by making myself lighter, too! I'd like my weight to be in the low-to-mid 130s, I should be able to bench that.

6. New 5K PR -- I'm not sure about this one and I'm not going to sweat it too much if it doesn't happen. I think it will take me awhile to get my speed back. Having a goal will make the 5K schedule more fun, but I'm usually fastest in the cold and I don't want to kill myself racing for PR in November or December because...

7. Get back to the Shamrock Marathon in 2013 -- I want to do everything I can to make sure I'm healthy and ready for marathon training. As long as I'm up to 14 or 15 miles by the end of the year, I know I'll feel ready. But I'd not going to unduly risk injury by going for broke at Celtic Solstice or Jingle Bell. I have no aspiration of Boston (although I was really fired-up after my first run last Saturday and I was thinking "I'm going to come back!"; "I'm going to run marathons again"; "I'm going to Boston...wait..ok, dial that one back), so this is my Boston. 26.2 miles in Virginia Beach on Sunday, March 17. Everything other running goal needs to lead up to that. My fall race strategy, strength training, speedwork. I'm entered in this race and can't defer again.

So, this is like a new beginning for me (hence the redecorating). I want to re-capture the joy of running, but I also want to correct the mistakes of the past. I'm very motivated to make a good running year out of this mess. I'm also angry at myself, which will help me keep that motivation. If I can parallel 2009, in which I ran my first 10K in the spring and half in the fall, I'll be very happy.

Oh yeah, and I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you to enter the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to you by Road ID) for a chance to win a $35 Road ID gift card.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dream Another Dream, This Dream is Over

  • I officially deferred from the 2012 Shamrock Marathon this morning. I was looking forward to (hopefully) improving from last year, getting all the goodies, and enjoying the post-race party, but it's been pretty clear since late December that this wasn't going to happen. Get 'em next year, right?

  • I have a Twitter now: I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do with Twitter, but I thought it might be a good way to spread the word about the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to you By Road ID).

  • Speaking of the FAEYDBRPC...maybe this contest wasn't as good or funny of an idea as I thought. No one's entered yet, so if you enter, you've got an excellent chance of winning a $35 Road ID gift certificate.

  • Registration for the Broad Street Run 10-miler in Philadelphia opened today. Go to to register; it'll fill up fast. It's not till May 6, so I think I could do it, but I'll hold to the new plan of taking it a bit slowly and not racing anything over 10K till the fall.

  • I went for my second run of the comeback tour on Monday night. 3 miles in 29:39. I think I miscounted laps because it seemed like I was pushing myself more than I did on Saturday. More soreness while running; less afterward. Going again on Thursday and trying a four-mile "long run" on Saturday.

(No soup for you!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest

I think race photos capture us at some of our best moments; when we're out there giving the best effort we can at something we (hopefully!) enjoy, no matter the level of competition. Better still are the ones taken at the end of the race, when we've stopped moving and the medals are around our necks.

Pictures taken during the race, well, I think they tend to sometimes come out a bit weird. Hopefully anyone who's been in a race has some photos of them running that they really like, but chances are that they've also got some like this:

(I didn't puke, I just looked like it.)

Since it's an action shot, the photographer (in the case above, my wife) is invariably going to catch me in mid-stride with my eyes closed, some other goofy expression on my face, or sometimes just looking like I'm going to die.

(Apparently, I always cross the finish line with my eyes closed?)

(Nevermind the weird facial expression.
What am I doing with my hands? Juggling?
Holding an invisible fruit basket?)

At least this one is pretty good -- I am so fast that I appear blurry!

These were the funniest ones I could find. There were probably worse ones, taken at the Baltimore Running Festival in 2010, the 2010 Philly Half, and Broad Street, but I didn't buy the photos from those races because the majority of them were strange looking or because I was behind people taller than me (which is everyone).

Then I got the pictures from the 2011 Philly Marathon. It was not my best race by any means, but the pictures generally came out ok. When I saw a photographer, I tried to make sure I was making a normal expression and not a grimace of pain. But I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm doing here:

(I guess I decided to zombie walk across the finish? "Brains...brains...brains!!")

At any rate, I know I can't be the only one this happens to -- in fact, I know I'm not! Adam at the "The Boring Runner" chronicled his Rock & Roll Arizona Marathon by noting how the pictures chronologically got a little more...awkward as he progressed through the race. (If you're not subscribed to his blog, you should be!)

Speed doesn't matter...if you get your picture taken while running, some of them are going to come out funny! Readers, I suspect you have some great race photos, but you probably have some bad ones, too, and I'd like you to share them in the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest.

This isn't just a chance to make fun of yourself for your own and other people's amusement, this is a chance to win fabulous prizes!

First prize is a $35 online gift certificate for Road ID, more than enough to buy any of the Road ID product models. I'm not one to lecture people about their choice of gear, but I'm going to lecture you now...this is an important! Bad things can happen out there, and a Road ID or similar piece of gear can help first responders quickly identify you and get in touch with your emergency contacts. There's similar products out there, but I can personally vouch for the quality of the Road ID Wrist ID Sport! If you've already got one for yourself, they make great gifts! If you're a fan of them on Facebook, have seen their advertisements, or have ordered products from them, it seems like a company with a good sense of humor and they very generously agreed to sponsor this contest.

(Wrist ID Sport photo from

Second prize is a $10.00 gift card to Dunkin Donuts. This is primarily a donut blog, after all.

So, let the First Annual Earn Your Donuts Bad Race Photo Contest (Brought to you by Road ID) begin! I look forward to your participation!

1. To enter, please send me the photo of yourself that you'd like to enter by Monday, Feb 27. That's two weeks to scour your hard drives. You can e-mail the photo or a link to it to me at, or you can post a link to it in the comments. Your photo will be posted on the blog, but no one's full name will be used (I'll use your first name only, your blogger nickname if you have one, or something else that you specify.)

2. It has to be a photo of yourself!

3. It doesn't matter if it's a professional photo or not, as long as it's during a race.

4. This is all in good fun. I think that everyone that's had race photos taken has probably been caught in a goofy pose. We're making fun of that and in doing so poking fun at ourselves, NOT commenting negatively on peoples' appearances. Any comments that I think are mean-spirited are going to get deleted faster than Usain Bolt runs 200m.

5. After 2/27, I will post all entrants and voting will take place either through blog comments or an online survey. (I reserve the right to choose or one or the other voting based on number of entries and how much free time I have!)

6. Make sure I have a way to contact you through your blog or e-mail. You wouldn't want to miss out on prizes! I won't spam you, I promise!

7. Update -- If you want to send in a good race photo with your bad one for comparison, as suggested in the comments, you're welcome to do so and I will post them together. You don't have to, though. For example, I think "zombie walk" and "invisible fruit basket" stand pretty well by themselves.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Comeback Begins...

With a wintry mix falling over Central PA, coating the grounds but not the roads, and me waking up (covered in cats) feeling like I'd been hit by a train despite a very good longer than usual night of sleep, I was leaning toward putting my run off till tomorrow.

Instead, Chris (who had a 4-miler today on her training calendar) and I headed up to the indoor track at the West Shore YMCA. And, I'm glad we did.

My plan was to try for two miles. I started out feeling great, it was nice to run again after over a month off. After two miles, I felt good enough to go for three. I was definitely a little bit winded afterwards, and my quads are bit sore but don't feel injured, but I'm otherwise ok.

Shinsplints? Gone.

Mystery bump? No problem.

One mile at this track is 16 laps, and I might have miscounted as I was singing along with Van Halen in my head (I hope it was in my head), but I believe that I ran an even 3 miles or one lap extra in 28:57. Other than being indoors, this run could not possibly have gone any better. This year's Shamrock Marathon is out of the question, but I feel very confident about the spring 5Ks, 8Ks, and 10Ks and trying to destroy the Harrisburg Mile in the Summer.

It is a long way back to being in marathon shape, but it is great to be started on that road.

Friday, February 10, 2012


So, I've got a couple things to write about, but no ideas for a coherent blog post. So, you get bullet points:

Losin' It
  • "The Battle of the Bulge", as described in last Friday's post seems to have gotten off to a decent start. I've lost just over 4 pounds since last Thursday night. Now, I know there's often a big loss the first week of a diet, but I think I did pretty well in eating less during the day (salads for lunch, no salty snacks or desserts during the day) and working out every day this week. I can tell I'm eating less because I'm actually finding myself feeling hungry, rather than just eating because it's time to eat or because I loooooooove eating. Good start, but gotta stick with it...


  • I'm going to go running tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect or what goals to set, I just know I'm going running for the first time in over a month. I'm excited, but also nervous. The shinsplits on the right leg seem better, but I'm hoping I can tell pretty quickly whether the Left Leg Mystery Bump is going to be problem, rather than something that isn't noticeable until I get the mileage back up. If it needs further treatment, I'd like to know sooner rather than later. Check back tomorrow to see how it goes. (I bet the suspense is KILLING you!) Update: Forecast is snow tonight and into tomorrow. So we'll see about this. Perfect timing. I loathe snow.

  • I've run a total of 2.5 miles in 2012. I'm signed up for 8 miles worth of races by the end of April.

  • I've been re-thinking my running goals. That probably can hold for a future post though since the next couple of weeks are probably going to show whether it's ok to start working my way back, and since that's supposed to be what this blog is about, anyway.

  • NEXT WEEK! I'll announce the first "Earn Your Donuts" contest and giveaway. I have an actual prize, it's not just pictures of my cats or autographed running bibs, or autographed cats, I promise. It's an actual company that you've probably heard of. (I wasn't sure what heading to put this under).


  • After a couple (ok a lot!) more listens, I like the new Van Halen album even more. My musical tastes have changed over the last 12 years or so. I would never claim to have any punk rock credibility at all, but that's mostly what I've been listening too. This week, though, has been a complete Van Halen binge. It's 1984 again, and I love it. (All hail the defending World Champion Baltimore Orioles!) Don't feel bad, Sammy Hagar, I've got your stuff mixed in there, too. I still like you even if the Van Halens don't.

  • Friday night is my favorite part of the week. The end of the work week, the first sip of beer, a relaxing dinner at home or a local restaurant, and Fringe. Fringe, on FOX, is one of my current favorite TV shows, fitting nicely into the weird sci-fi/mystery niche that's still been vacant in my life since the end of LOST (still mad about that ending, though!). Unlike LOST, though, which was -- or at least seemed -- smart, I think Fringe is really just campy fun. "Previously on Fringe...a bunch of things that don't really make sense." During my high school years, I spent many a Friday night with Agents Scully and Mulder, making Fringe seem comfortably familiar.
  • You may think it would be cute and funny to teach a cat to sit on your shoulders like a parrot. It's not.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Different Kind of Truth

"We now return to our regularly-scheduled program. If Van Halen ever puts out a new album, I'll review it. Please don't hold your breath..."

-- Brian, July 18 2011

I never thought I'd be writing this post. After going off-topic for a review of the long-awaited Blink-182 album, I promised another music review only if the oft-feuding monsters of rock that had been my favorite band since 1988 put out some new material. With nary a peep since their 2007 tour with David Lee Roth on vocals and Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang, filling in for the venerable Michael Anthony on bass, I postulated that the DLR had been de facto kicked out of the band again and that we'd seen the last of them.

I don't need to recount the whole sordid history of Van Halen and its rotating lead singers, but let's back up just a little.

Of course, everyone knew "Jump", "Panama", "Hot for Teacher", and other Van Halen hits, but I would say that I really became a Van Halen fan back in 1988, when my friend Brian played OU812 while we were playing Nintendo in my (parents') basement. From ominous opening strains of "Mine All Mine", a rather obscure song that remains my favorite Van Halen tune, I was hooked.

In 1991, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was released. "Right Now" is the super hit off that record, but "Judgement Day" and "The Dream is Over" are excellent too. Balance, released in 1994, when I was high-school senior, was playing almost every day as I drove to school. I loved the older stuff, with David Lee Roth on lead vocals, but Eddie (Van Halen), Alex (Van Halen), Sammy (Hagar), and Mike (Anthony) was the lineup I first really got to know. I give you all that background just to explain that while somr Van Halen purists will insist that Van Halen with Roth is the only Van Halen, I don't have the strong antipathy toward one of them that I think most participants in a "Sammy or Dave" debate probably have. Instead, I just lament what might have been had the Van Halen brothers been able to get along with one of the two lead singers.

The Van Halen brothers kicked Sammy out of the band in 1996 to briefly re-unite with Dave, after recording some new songs with him for their "best of" album, only to almost immediately kick Dave right back out of the band. I saw them on tour in 1998 with Gary Cherone, but let's pretend I didn't, and was lucky enough to catch them in '04 when they re-united with Sammy, who they subsequently kicked out of the band for a second time. In '07, they improbably reunited with Dave, and put on a great show (during which they played not a single "Hagar" song), but after years of silence I didn't think we'd ever see another Van Halen album.

Then a few weeks ago...out of nowhere, Van Halen is touring with Dave again. (I know it's not really out of nowhere, just that I missed it.) I skeptically suggested that they must be trying to make a quick buck one last time (which may still be true), and then wham! learn there's an album on the way, entitled A Different Kind of Truth, which I downloaded today.

Ok, Brian. You like Van Halen. You never thought they'd put album out. Great. Terrific. What's it sound like?


I like it. There's no "Jump" on here. No "Running with the Devil", "Panama", or "Unchained". I'm not sure there's any "greatest hits" on this, but it sounds like a David Lee Roth-era Van Halen album...which it should, since many of the songs are based on demos written in the '70s.
It's really loud, mostly fast, features excellent guitar solos, and is definitely fun. If you're looking for lyrical genius, look elsewhere. With no disrespect meant to Wolfgang Van Halen, Michael Anthony's backing vocals are missed. I think most of the songs have a similar sound, which in my opinion makes "Blood and Fire", my favorite song on the album, stand out. I think "The Trouble With Never" has the best chance of being a hit, which probably dooms it to an existence without radio airplay. "Stay Frosty" is my least favorite song on the album, but it's not as bad as I feared when I heard the preview on the band's facebook page. It does get loud, the preview just didn't last long enough.

If you like DLR-era Van Halen, I think you'll like it. And I might have to re-appropriate "Blood and Fire" (which sounds like it's really Dave talking about his return to the band and their comeback) as the anthem of my return to the roads. I'm still skeptical that the Van Halen reunion is a long-term one, and maybe that's for the best, but this is fun. I just hope that they don't kick Dave out of the band again until after March 6, when I've got a ticket to see them in Philadelphia.

You can preview the songs on the album on iTunes or the band's facebook, or, for reasons I can't determine, has six full songs, including all of the ones I've mentioned.

Hopefully, as my break from running draws to a close, you enjoyed this little departure from boring race recaps and complaining. We'll now return to our regular subject matter. If the original lineup of Guns 'n' Roses ever gets back together, then I'll write another music review.

Your move, Axl.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day of Reckoning

I stepped on the bathroom scale last night. The scale groaned in agony and I recoiled in surprise at the reading on the display.

I believe that I'm now heavier than I've been at any point in my life and certainly at any point since the summer of 2001. In terms of fitness, I've a long way to fall to get to that point, since by that summer I'd also taken a long hiatus from lifting (or at least lifting more than once a week), was not doing any cardio at all, and spent my free time away from my sedentary job playing lots of video games and drinking beer almost every weeknight with the friend from college that I shared an apartment with. I haven't run in almost a month, but I can still handle some good cardio right now. In the summer of 2001, I was gasping for breath if I walked up a flight of stairs.

I think I gained most of this weight on vacation. That's ok. You don't go to an all-inclusive resort to practice restraint. But three days after getting home, when I went to the doctor for my follow-up visit for my leg problems, a pair of shorts (I know it was January, but I figured it would be easier for him to look at my legs) that had fit when I tried them on prior to vacation proved way too small and the scale at the doctor's office displayed a shockingly high number, I should have been a little more concerned.

  • "It's just vacation weight. I gained it quickly and it'll come off quickly."

  • "Of course I'm weighing in as heavier than usual. I'm wearing jeans, shoes, and a sweatshirt."
That number was no lower when I went last week for bronchitis.

  • "Of course. I haven't been working out enough since I have bronchitis."

  • "I've been lifting again. Muscle weighs more than fat."

As you can see, the excuses came easy.

I've felt better this week, and have gone back to the gym, had good workouts on the stationary bike and elliptical (both made much more bearable by the Kindle Fire) and I've done an excellent job through December and January getting back in the habit of lifting.

But the Nike pro combat shirt I was wearing seemed a little tighter than it should, and so I wearing a sleeveless shirt, shorts, and no shoes, stepped on the bathroom scale last night. While the number wasn't as high as the scale at the doctor's read last week, it was considerably higher than I expected.

My diet isn't great -- it never has really even been good. I still eat like I have the thermonuclear metabolism I had from the time I was born until I got to college, when it was very hard for me to put on any weight at all while I was growing up. Sounds great, right? It certainly had its good points. Eating pretty much whatever I wanted to was awesome. Being a male high-school junior who weighed 90lbs...not as awesome.

That metabolism is long gone. Instead, I've paid for my many indulgences on the roads of Manchester and York Haven, and on the Rail Trail. But..I'm probably not going to be running any
13-milers any time soon. I made changes after the summer of 2001, and I'm going to make some changes now.
To be honest, I don't want my diet to be great. I don't like to talk about my job on this blog, but the last year has been the most stressful year of work of my life. One of my favorite moments of the week is that first sip of beer on Friday night, especially if it's accompanied by delicious, delicious pizza. Right now, I'm not willing to give up that cheesesteak or burger on Saturday night. I love bar food too much.

And while not ideal, I don't think that's the real problem, either. The problem is my worse-than-usual eating during the day on weekdays. A breakfast of cereal, a banana and coffee...that's followed by two Pop-Tarts (they're packaged in twos, they're supposed to eaten like that); "I'm running errands at lunch...I'll just stop at Sheetz" (It's impossible for me to go to Sheetz and resist Combos -- huge bags that I eat in two days -- and practically illegal to go there and not get chocolate chip cookies.).

(Read this in voice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise.)

"The line must be drawn here."

(Ok, back to your normal voice now. Or whatever you imagine my voice sounding like...which is probably an improvement over what it really sounds like.)

Goodbye Pop-Tarts. Goodbye Combos. Goodbye Sheetz chocolate-chip cookies. I'll miss you most of all.

Hello carrots & celery as my Sheetz side-order and salads for lunch with no salty snacks or desserts. Hello, West Shore YMCA. And in about a week, hello running.

I've got a number in my head. When that number shows up on the scale, we'll see if can I learn moderation.

But I won't put off Judgement Day any longer.