Burned and out

I have a confession: I’m a political junkie. Admitting you have a problem, they say, is the first stage of the cure.

My job means I soak in politics, particularly during an election year. A coworker recently asked me about Newt Gingrich and I found myself launching on a tirade about his personal life over the last 20 years. The amount of detail frightened me.

It’s not a GOP-hater thing. It’s not a liberal/conservative thing. I just have more political minutia in my head than most people would consider healthy. And that’s got to stop.

I need to get more strict about tuning out of the news over the weekend and before and after work hours. I haven’t watched the GOP debates, so that’s a start. I didn’t watch the State of the Union. I usually do. And I need to rededicate myself to other, more productive, pursuits than reading Talking Points Memo.

Maybe I’ll take up running.

Paint Creek long run

Saturday, I had my first run on Paint Creek trail, which runs between downtown Rochester and Lake Orion. I’ll be back.

My support team (above) for the 18-miler met me at the parking lot. It was cold, about 30 degrees with gusty winds, but they were die-hard. 20120130-082033.jpg You can see the yellow sign pointing toward the bridge to the trail entrance in the background.

Paint Creek is a rail trail, a recreation path along a former railroad line. It rolls out in front of you until it disappears into trees. Beautiful. Although there’s no one in the picture to the right, joggers, cyclists and people walking dogs were out in force despite the weather.

I planned initially to go all the way to Lake Orion, which is shy of 9 miles, then double back, but around 7 miles I realized I’d dropped a glove.20120130-082151.jpg I had taken off the wool fingerless gloves I put over my running gloves, and apparently dropped on, so I turned around shortly after this archery range. I figured I’d dropped it between miles 4 and 6. This also kept me on the trail, rather than veer off for hill work as suggested by one of my Twitter peeps. Thanks, anyway.

Two miles after turning back, I came to a pair of women with a pair of dogs. They had my glove, thankfully. I hate losing kit.

I pressed on, heading all the way back to Tienken Road, about a mile short of where I started. There’s a stop light and pedestrian crosswalk for the trail, so I figured it was a good time to turn around again — midway through mile 12 and feeling strong.

The winds picked up. I think the gusts hit 20-25 mph, and they cut right through my clothes. But I pressed on. I savored the sunny spots and moments of low wind, an took comfort in a half-marathon time in the 1:44 range. Not my fastest effort, but respectable given the rough conditions.

I made it to about mile 16 before the suffering began: A “what the hell am I doing out here breaking myself in this freezing cold” attitude set in and I couldn’t shake it. I turned around knowing I was several miles from the car back in Rochester. Then, I got a strange tightness in my left calf. It wasn’t a cramp, but wasn’t helping either.

I stopped to rest about mile 17. 20120130-082138.jpg The train bridge gave shelter from the wind and let me warm up a bit. I stretched, tried to recover and read graffiti to get my mind out of the wallows.

After about 10 minutes, my attitude improved and I felt pretty good so I took off. Only 4-something miles to the car. Well, about a mile later, my calf issue returned. I took a walk break, tried again, and took another walk break. It just wasn’t working itself out. Major suckage.

I stopped my Forerunner at 18.2 miles, 2:32 minutes. The slow last few miles brought my average pace down to about 8:45. The problem: I was more than 3 miles from the car. I sucked it up and kept walking. 20120130-082121.jpg The only way to keep warm was to keep moving, even if I couldn’t run. At least the scenery inspired my feet to keep going.

Like 45 minutes later, I crossed the bridge back to the parking lot. The ducks greeted me as I shivered myself into the car. I started the ignition and turned the seat warmer on bake. Fifteen minutes later, I was waiting in line at Chipotle after burning about 2,000 calories and salivating at the thought of a giant burrito to replace some of them.

In the back of my mind, I had wanted to do full 26.2 Saturday. Getting a first marathon of the year out of the way, even an informal one, had a lot of appeal. Plus, I had a great window with the wife and child out of town. But whatever. I made it 18 miles, had a great time and explored a cool new-to-me trail. I’ll tackle that one again soon.

Just like dad

With most kids, you can take one look and say, “Oh, she’s just like her mother.” In the genetic lottery children often come out at least looking 60/40, 70/30 or even 100 percent like one parent or the other.
Not so with girlie. I think she’s a dead-on 50/50 of her mother and myself. This look, that mannerism. She gets a little from mom, a little from dad in what appear to be equal helpings. (Except with the talking with the hands; I don’t know where she gets that from.) But when it comes to sleeping: That seems to be all-dad.

After night shifts I and make a habit of checking on her when I get home. I creep upstairs and pull the comforter up on her if needed, or just watch her for a minute. Yeah, I’m a sappy dad. But anyway, the other night I found her with her blanket, Mack, wrapped tightly around her face. I laughed, hard, and took this picture.

I sleep with a pillow on my head. I don’t know why, and can’t remember ever not doing it. But I do. And, beside the blanket incident, I’ve also caught girlie sleeping with a pillow on her head, and with Bo, her bear (pictured, in back) covering her head as well. So it’s clear she has some natural compunction to bury her head in pillows, bedding, whatever in order to comfortably sleep.

I also, on occasion, sleep with my eyes open. I’m told it’s creepy. Girlie also does this, so it’s not just the pillow thing.

You would think a child would learn sleep peccadilloes. But she seems to have picked these things up naturally. It’s not like I spent nights teaching her these things. So I’m calling it genetics. At least until I’m proven otherwise.

Good fundamentals

The last few months find me shifting my approach to running. I’m getting more personal.

Yes, I still track everything. I even do it on the Web. But I’m not as focused on the Web bit, and a lot more interested in reflecting on how I do what I do, and how to keep doing it and even improve. To that end, much of my thoughts on running now go in a Moleskin.

Yes, it takes more time, at least compared to just hitting “Done” in Runkeeper. But after each run, I sit and look at my times, my pace and how I felt, and I jot a few notes. I’ve never aced journaling (you can tell by how often I actually update this site), so we’ll see how long this lasts. I’ve been at it since early November. Sometimes, I forget, and catch up a few days later. And that’s OK. But I think it’s a worthwhile habit. Plus, years from now, after I’ve forgotten what Daily Mile is, this Moleskin will be sitting on a shelf somewhere for my daughter to open and chuckle over.

At right is an example page. No mystique. No bull. Just rambling thoughts about how the run went. In this case, it was a look back on the first run I did with my new Garmin FR210.

And while I’m on the subject of the FR210, another thought. Call it a minor rant. The Runkeeper site, which I had used to log miles from my iPhone, doesn’t work with the FR210. It apparently works with every other Garmin, but not this model. Boo. I do like Runkeeper, and was hesitant to change. I find the Garmin site more useful when I want to get granular. But I’m now mainly using the data to get analog and analyze in my Moleskin. And I’m liking it.


So, I got hijacked over the weekend, causing some heroic scurrying on the part of my brother/Web guru.

The hacker likely exploited a WordPress vulnerability to supplant my site with the following splash screen.

Baader Meinhof was apparently a terrorist group from 1970s Germany, though how the name ended up as a modern day hacker’s moniker is anyone’s guess. It probably just sounds anti-, so why not use the name for malicious mischief?

Anyhow, big thanks to bro. Passwords changed. Moving on.

Big girl bed

Girlie has a big girl bed now.

It happened before I knew it. Of course, I couldn’t stop it. She just keeps growing. So last weekend I converted our IKEA crib to a toddler bed. It looks so small, yet it meant such a big change to her. She spent hours in her bedroom in the days after.

Get in bed. Get book from bookshelf. Get back in bed. Out. Grab toy. Back in bed. She was infatuated. I was delighted.

She never tried to climb out of her crib. I feared she would, and suspected she could if she tried. But we were never awakened in the night by a thump, punctuated with a cry for mommy or daddy.

The first night, she went right to bed. I tucked her in and we didn’t hear a peep. The second night, I think I had to put her back in bed three times. Each time, I grew more frustrated. But we did this for a reason: so she could get up, and potty in the night. I tried to keep perspective. We’re sick of washing sheets three, four, five times a week.

On the third night, she slept through, but woke us up at about six. She bypassed the bathroom near her room, came all the way downstairs and wanted to use her potty chair in mommy and daddy’s room. Progress.

Yesterday, I busied myself in the basement as I waited for her to wake up. I came back to the first floor to find she had, soundlessly, made her way from the second floor. She had taken her wet diaper off, and I caught her trying to put on a pair of toddler underwear we keep in her diapering basket. Not quit the progress I expected.

But, I gave her a kiss on the forehead for her efforts, and led her to the potty. Girlie has a big girl bed now. You go, girl.

Happy runner gift

Finally. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy a GPS watch until I could confidently say “I’m a runner.” Three marathons, a half marathon and almost 2,000 miles* later, I can’t deny it any longer.

I’m a runner. And now I have a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 210 to celebrate.

I hemmed and hawed for a a week over which to buy, but in the end went for the cheapest GPS watch I could find that would:

  • Display current or average pace.
  • Show distance.
  • Do automatic mile laps (so I could see where my feet get heavy over long runs).
  • Allow for intervals with warm up and cool down periods.
  • Have a relatively small profile.

The FR210 does all of these, and a bit more (like work with a heart monitor if I want to go there). It doesn’t do as much as the Timex Run Trainer. But, my G+ running peeps all poo-pooed the Timex and I couldn’t find it at local stores to at least see how big it was in comparison to the 210. 20111228-162508.jpg

I also thought seriously about the Soleus 1.0, which is about as basic and cheap as they come. At $99, it has all the features on that list except intervals. The Soleus doesn’t work with a computer (to offload your data), but I’m finding I care less and less about that. I guess it’s nice to have maps to refer to, but I hardly ever refer to them. That said, the Garmin does upload workouts to my computer, so better to have and not need than need and not have. Really, though, it was the intervals that pushed me toward the Garmin.

The FR210 so far is stupid-easy to use. I took it out of the box, tossed the instructions aside, charged it for 10 minutes and hit the road for 5 miles. I find the interface intuitive and easy to read. I worried a bit about the controls being goofy for a left-hander who wears his watch on his right hand. Not so. The buttons are big enough to find and press without much effort, and once I memorize where their locations/functions, it’ll become brainless.

I look forward to having it as a digital companion.

*An estimate. I could find a record of 1,758 miles dating back to June 2008, but started running the previous fall.

Today’s rants

I’ve decided I hate the iOS Newsstand. I don’t buy magazines on my phone, and don’t plan on it. Pulse provides the news feeds I need, and I don’t even check that every day. It’s more of a waiting in line thing.

What I do get, as part of a paid subscription, is the New York Times. But now the app is hidden in Newsstand. I never see it, and thus never check it. Yes, it’s just one more click to launch. That shouldn’t be much of a problem. But it is.

Let me repeat: When I don’t see the app on my home screen, I don’t think to launch it. It’s just that simple. Are you listening, New York Times? My usership has plummeted due to Newsstand. I’ve opened the app once since updating to iOS 5.

Newsstand is just another wack app foisted on iOS users, like Stocks, and Game Center (though I’m sure this is a minority opinion for the latter).

In other peeves, I love my iPhone more than the next guy. But even I wouldn’t check Facebook and Twitter half a dozen times during a movie. That’s exactly what the wife and I witnessed last week at a viewing of Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Um, WTF?

There is no reason to check Facebook during a film. Period. Full. Stop. You paid $8 for the right to sit in that seat, and you’re bored by whatever’s on screen. I get that. Get up and leave. But don’t subject everyone else in the theater, many of whom actually want to watch it, to the light from your smartphone. It’s beyond discourteous. It’s dickish.

The movie, by the way, was fantastic. Elizabeth Olsen may have best actress in the bag. See it. But keep your damn smartphone in your pocket with the ringer off.


Big things

This month, I ran a marathon and saw my little girl turn 2. How’s your October been?

I told Mrs. Blocletters recently that I still can’t believe I can run 26.2 miles. I find it surreal. Four years ago this fall, I hadn’t run longer than a half mile. Now, I’m a marathoner three times over and counting. Not trying to brag, but I have trouble believing it myself.

Also in the disbelief department, our girl is 2. How does time travel so fast?


Girlie, on the warming table minutes after she joined the family.


Girlie, a few days ago, dressed up as an ice cream cone for a Halloween event. She won a little trophy for funniest costume.

At 2, she:

  • Responds to most directions with “No!”
  • Still isn’t fully potty trained, but whatever.
  • Loves to sing and generally make noise.
  • Likes swings. A lot. And slides.
  • Could probably watch YouTube videos for hours.
  • Has only broken 1 iPad.
  • Has a bigger vocabulary and more sass than I would have thought.

My wife and I are truly blessed to have such a bright young lady in our lives.

Back to running, I have no idea yet about a next goal. I know I want to keep running marathons, and expect to do at least two in 2012.

The biggest goal for next year: run without injury. I got over that pesky stress fracture in time to race Detroit, but a week later have an unexplained pain running through the top back of my left leg. No idea. I don’t think it’s running related. I just woke up a week after the race with an odd pain. It didn’t bother me to run with it Sunday (5 miles, 8-minute pace), but it does hurt like hell to bend at the waist.

Meh, walk it off.

Aside from marathons, I’m intrigued by ultramarathons and triathlons. Running marathons has left me wondering what else is possible with this body of mine, and amazed at potential I didn’t know was there until I looked.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying what life holds, from family to fatherhood to running to whatever. Thanks for reading.