I didn’t run yesterday and I’m going to take today and Monday off too. My left calf is still hurting just a bit (mainly just when I get out of bed, before I get moving) but it seems to be getting better so I’m not going to push it quite yet.
Gun Control is the notion that a woman found dead in an ally, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.
Folks, I try to keep politics off of this blog because, facing facts, “politics” is mostly bullshit, perpetrated on decent people by bullshiters with the intent of dividing people – until you see a story like this:
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Prosecutors are disclosing the first details of what they believe happened to a Montana School teacher who was allegedly choked to death and buried, reporting she was the victim of a crack-fueled and seemingly random abduction. (…)
The alleged kidnapping took place on Jan. 7, just blocks from Arnold’s house in Sidney, at a spot where investigators later recovered one of her running shoes. Her body has not been found. (…)
After smoking crack cocaine during the entire trip, Waters allegedly told Spell that the drug “brought the devil out in him” and began talking about kidnapping and killing a female, the affidavit states.
After they spotted Arnold, Spell alleges that Waters told him to “grab the lady” and pull her into their Ford Explorer as she jogged by.
“Spell said Waters got into the back seat with the female and `choked her out,'” the affidavit states. That night, after dropping Arnold’s body in a rural area of North Dakota, the affidavit says Waters bought a shovel at a Walmart in Williston. The pair later buried Arnold in a 2- to 3-feet-deep hole on an old farmstead. (…)
When he was arrested a week later in Williston, Waters was carrying a receipt that showed he had purchased bread, bologna and a shovel the same night Arnold went missing, according to the affidavit. [Ed. Bread, bologna and A SHOVEL – are you kidding me?]
Arnold, who would have turned 44 years old Monday, grew up on a ranch outside town and taught math for the past 18 years at Sidney High School, where she was known for being a caring and competent teacher. Her husband, Gary, still works for the school system. Together they raised five children from prior marriages.
Now here’s where the story really takes a turn for the bizarre:
“Is this what it takes?” [Sidney Mayor, Bret] Smelser asked. “I’m not saying if I had the resources this wouldn’t have happened. But we could have more options and with money we would have had a couple more police. We just don’t have the resources to take care of ourselves.”
Dear Mayor [As in, Dear Leader] Smelser “is not saying” that the abduction wouldn’t have happened if he’d had exactly two more cops on shift, but that’s EXACTLY what he’s implying and the notion is utter horseshit. The only way to stop an attack like that with police is to have a cop on every corner of every block and one every mile of every country road in the U.S. There aren’t enough people (let alone police) in the whole of the U.S. for that.
For people, especially women, who run alone, a handgun is more important than a charge card -never leave home without it. Now I’m not saying that Mrs. Arnold wouldn’t have wound up buried in a shallow grave had she been carrying a pistol, but the likelihood of that outcome would have been greatly reduced had she been – with the proper training. I am both saying and implying that. This is not without its moral hazards, unfortunately. Thou shalt not kill. Well, in some circumstances it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission and this is one.
So, if you must ask, what would the perfect handgun for carry while running be? The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38 Special + P in a fanny pack holster. If you prefer to be a little more inconspicuous, a small of the back holster with a longer running shirt would do (though sweat would become a problem). Options for cycling are even better.
I’m now in that magical realm in my melon that can’t figure out whether to run or not today.
After applying Vicks, and later an “all natural” muscle balm, my calf feels a lot better.
There’s only one problem, really, it’s stiff when I try to stretch and I can still feel the knot when I do – even though it doesn’t hurt any longer.
The affected area is in that perfect place of healing where the aggressive side of my melon (the part that gets me across the finish line) is currently raising hell all over the more subdued side that’s saying “just hold up there buck-o, take one more day, it won’t kill you to take it easy for one more day”.
I hate this.
Looking at the bright side though, there are a few points I shant lose sight of:
1. I increased my mileage too fast – four times more than is recommended… I thought I had the legs for it – I may have but I needed to stretch better to insure that I didn’t end up with a muscle problem.
2. This could have been a lot worse, considering.
3. I absolutely dig the fact that I’m so driven to make my goals that I’m having a hard time sitting still right now – it’s an awesome feeling.
4. This is rare air for me, I used to be the guy to do just enough to get by… Enough to get the occasional pat on the back, but little enough that I never really worked all that hard (race days excluded – if you can’t get up for race day, you’ve got some work to do). It wasn’t that I was slacking so much as I just had a nice, easy, comfortable norm that was far better than being couch bound but was less than pushing the boundary.
In the end, it’s all good. Live and learn.
Today we shall write of my wife’s insane love of a t-shirt. I’ve been wearing said shirt for going on 15 years now because my wife loves it when I do. Now I’m not talking about a little wry glance and a smirk kind of love… No, I’m talking about the wild eyed, grinning from ear to ear, crazy woman kind of love.
I’d be a liar if I told you I understand this infatuation, I most assuredly don’t. I did make the attempt at understanding once – just once and I ended up even more confused.
Not long after that attempted understanding I realized that my thinking was all wrong – the attempt itself was the problem!
The mental trick, ladies and gentlemen, is who cares why Mrs. Big Daddy Jim likes me in that t-shirt? I don’t have to understand to enjoy the benefits. This may seem a little nonchalant, and I’m certainly alright with that assessment – but we men have a built in excuse for this… We’re men! We’re supposed to be dense about that stuff – so what if we take advantage of the stereotype from time to time, eh?
So we’re heading up north for the weekend and which shirt did I pull out for the trip?
That’s right baby! Dammit if it didn’t work too.
Every once in a while you get to a point in life where you think it just can’t get any better – then you put on a Cult t-shirt and it does.
2 Months and 1 Day, 100 Posts! Sweet.
Now that the celebration is over, I attended a wild game dinner at a local church last week. The food was great and the company was better – I attended the event with five of my good friends from the running club. The night was so much fun that the one problem I did have, a looped hunting video playing on a projection screen on the south wall that made me Jones for hunting so badly that I could hardly contain myself, can barely be complained about. The highlight of the evening was obviously the food – Buffalo Chili, Squirrel Noodle Soup (tastes like chicken), Venison Roast, Northern Pike, Turkey Gravy & Stuffing, Au Gratin Potatoes and Green Beans – it was incredible.
As a cap, we were treated to a talk by an ex-State Police officer turned criminal. As is normal with events held at a church, the occasions are regularly used to recruit new members. While I didn’t need to be saved (again), a good message never hurts. To add a little context, it is very difficult to shock a recovering alcoholic with a come to Jesus moment – most of us have had them, several times over. And while this story was interesting, it was no more incredible than my own journey to become a decent, contributing member of society. Therein lies the problem – the horror story gets boring because they’re all the same. It’s hard to shock someone who has already been to hell and come back.
After having a conversation last evening with a friend of mine in which he suggested I’m a touch too verbose, I’ll save the details of the story for another post and get to the life changing moral of the story. You’ve got the typical “man excels in life after a horrendous childhood only to fall to an alcohol and drug use fueled life of crime” story. After being locked up, he finds God (through Jesus in his case). The part that stuck with me and has absolutely changed how I look at life in only a matter of a week, was his assertion that finding God changed his heart. I’ve never heard it put quite this way – that finding a relationship with God transformed his heart to a point that he no longer had the desire to act in the manner that landed him in prison. The change was so complete that he took it a few steps further and began to seek out decency over the cheap thrill of destruction.
His message was excellent and I began incorporating that simple concept into my life. Though it’s been decades since I’ve done anything illegal or illicit, I am still quite capable of doing that which will end in my own disappointment. I’ve begun to question these simple options to destruct prior to acting on them and found that by simply adding the thought, “God will change my heart”, I’ve been avoiding much of the self destruction – and it’s been awesome. I showed up for a dinner and God changed my heart – you can’t beat that with a stick.
In a comment on my Newbie assessment of the Shimano line of road bike components, Michael mentioned purchasing some components online to save money and that lead me to respond about an interesting problem that I created trying to “fix” my mountain bike rear derailleur.
Dammit folks, when I say I’m a noob, I pretty well mean it – I knew nothing. My first real mountain bike was an ’83 Murray ten speed and I bought a cheap Sears 10 speed mountain bike (for something like $150 – new) so I could ride with my wife in ’97 or ’98. The brake handles were plastic, that’s how cheap that bike was – maybe you could call it carbon plastic to make it sound sexy or something. Those were the only bikes I’d owned as an adult – and I gave the Sears one to a newly recovering kid that I met one night about five or six years ago who didn’t have a driver’s license or a way to get to work.
So when I bought my ’08 Trek from a guy in our running club (after owning a $20 garage sale Huffy for two weeks or so), and found out how nice it was to ride a real bike, I started cruising the net. I must have read close to every one of Sheldon Brown’s articles on bikes – heck I read everything I could in my spare time… So after buying the bike and getting it home, and reading all of those articles, I went to work on the front and rear derailleurs because they weren’t shifting quite right. I spent about an out getting them dialed in perfectly – this is supposed to take ten minutes folks. In any event, after a lot of tinkering, I got them just right. A couple of weeks later, I fixed my wife’s rear derailleur the same way because it was sluggish going to the lower gears (bigger sprockets) – and that only took me about 15 minutes, with test rides… I was well on my way.
Fast forward two months and my cassette starts giving me fits (or so I thought – I won’t even get into that, I’ve gotta get ready to go running in five minutes). I take the wheel off and take that to the shop to get a new cassette thrown on (because they sold me the wrong cassette puller for my bike). Get the new one on, boogie home and throw it on my bike… Unfortunately, for some reason the rear derailleur got knocked out of whack and it wouldn’t progress properly through the gears. Now because I’ve already tuned that one up perfectly and got my wife’s to work perfectly, I just went and got my tools and went to work…
An hour and a half later, in the midst of getting absolutely pummeled by mosquitoes and I can’t get into first or seventh gear (biggest and smallest) and I can’t figure out why. I’m about 30 seconds from throwing something through a window – which I actually do know how to fix, when I just threw my hands in the air, locked the bike in the garage and walked away. The next day I printed off Sheldon’s “How to set a derailleur for dumb S#!T’s” article and take it out to my bike, reading through each step…and finally God has mercy on me and I’m done.
Now I’ve since learned that you can mess with the set screws a little on the front derailleur once the tension is right, but that the rear set screws are not to be trifled with lightly (uh, oops).
God bless America, I wish I had more time to put into this, alas I’ve gotta go run. I hope this gives someone a chuckle – I sure as hell am worked up all over again… Man, you just have to laugh.
I woke up this morning to find myself in an exceptionally good mood considering my current circumstances. It started on waking up a full hour early, at 3:30. Looking at the overall picture of my life right now some things are good, others not so much. If I wake early it usually means I’m stressing about something but that’s not really the case for once. This morning I woke up because I’d had enough sleep, about seven hours which is a lot for me. I work off of five and a half to six and a half at most during the week.
With a simple mindset and a complex life I find myself at peace at times that, just a year or two ago, would have had me flipping out – I can intuitively handle problems that at one time, would have given me fits. There are several main reasons for this working right now. My faith in God (which lead me to an unexpected life changing event last week at a wild game dinner – I may write about that this weekend), my wife and I have hit our old groove and I can’t even begin to describe the peace of mind and happiness tied to that, and I’m fit as an ox – or more to the point, I am exceedingly happy with my level of fitness for the first time in my life.
So, with four out of the six major categories in my life hitting, one might wonder why I’m so content right now, after all, 33% of my life is not in line with where I would like it to be. This is a perfect time for another in the Top Ten of Big Daddy Jim’s Self Evident Truths:
#3: There is no end zone.
After having spent the better part of the last fifteen years trying to get to a point where I can just relax and enjoy the fruits of my hard work – a place where my faith clicks, my relationship with my wife and kids rocks, work is a breeze, my recovery is rockin’, I’m fit and my house is in order – or in other words, the end zone. I’ve come to realize that the ideal is impossible to attain. There’s always something that needs work because all six of those items require maintenance. Some people look at this in terms of acceptance, or “I accept the way things are today because [insert reason here – it’s God’s plan for me, things are what they are, etc.]”. If acceptance is followed by action then I agree, but too often people make the mistake of accepting flaws that should be attended to, thinking they’ll work out in the wash. I believe that this attitude leads to undeniable stress. Stress tends to pile up and depression is rarely far behind (yes I’ve been there, if mildly).
In the end, my end zone, where all six major parts of my life line up and work flawlessly, would require such a razor’s edge balancing act that just staying in the end zone would necessitate adding another piece to the pie. It would mean juggling one more ball, if you will, rather than being a point of enlightenment where I can just retire to some tropical island and enjoy riding my bike for the rest of my life, never having to maintain anything again. Now some will suggest that there are those who do make it to the end zone, so there must be one. Take Lance Armstrong, or any wealthy person for that matter. To that, I must admit that the notion seems possible, though I suggest that I must not judge my inside against another person’s outside. By that I mean that I can look at another person’s life from the outside – what they have, how they spend their time and so on, but I really have no clue as to what they are going through on the inside, or what they have to do to maintain what they have on the outside. In other words, ask Lance if he literally has no care in the world – I’d be willing to bet that he has plenty, they’re just different from mine. If she were still alive, I’d also suggest someone like Whitney Houston also.
If I throw aside the consistent nagging need for everything to work in harmony, all at once, I realize that I’m already in the a space that allows me to enjoy my life – that just happens to be on the fifty yard line, or the middle of the field for the soccer fans. This simple rule encompasses all of life’s simple clichés. Loving life is all about attitude, not altitude – Happiness is an inside job, Life is a journey not a destination, etcetera, etcetera, so on, and so forth.
With that in mind, ever since I started exercising all those years ago, I’ve always wondered if I would get to a point where I could look in the mirror, butt naked and say, that’s it – you’re there. Finally. I imagine if I did the P90X workout for the full 90 days I’d be at a resounding yes – but for now when I looked in the mirror this morning it was “Damn, that’s good enough for government work” – and that’s a first. I’m actually really fired up – I look pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.
Now it’s time to figure out how I can add in a couple of bicycle commutes to the office this summer – I’m guessing that because I can’t ride down the expressway (which leads straight to my office “as the crow flies”) I’m looking at a 45-50 mile commute, one way. I stated the other day that this would be impossible to do both ways, every day because it would just take too much time – but I thought of a way around that this morning. If I put my bike in the back and drive down to the office, I can leave an hour early and still make it home by 5:30. In the summer time, with daybreak at 6:00, I’ll be able to make it to the office by 8:30 the next day and I could leave my truck in the warehouse overnight – I’d have to put in a few early morning hours to compensate, but I think I might be able to make it work. Now that would be huge for my 70.3 preparation.
UPDATE: Google Maps is sweet… I’ve got the perfect back road ride – and it’s only 40 miles… I can do that in maybe 2 hours and 15 minutes giving 15 minutes for stop lights and stop signs. Now all I have to do is drive it to make sure it’s safe.
Once everything is boiled down to the lowest common denominator, there are only two ways to react to what life throws at you: Curl up into a ball on the floor, or stand up – chin high – and plow through it.
When I’m faced with some decision or problem, once I’ve kicked it around in my head and tried to work all of the angles, I come to one final question: What’s it going to be? It’s one or the other, there is no black and white or shades of gray – it’s just a choice. Sure, there’s plenty of room for choices before you get to the final decision – I can procrastinate all I want. I can hem and haw, I can wiggle and squirm, I can try to dodge around life’s little stumbling blocks, but in the end it all comes down to that one little choice. Fetal Position, or motor baby.
Let’s apply this simple principle to something that’s not so easy: Staying motivated to work out, day after day, week after week, year after year. When it comes time to hit the road, when I really “don’t feel like it”, I break it down to that choice. Every now and again, especially if I don’t have a big goal in front of me, I’ll choose the fetal position – it’s a viable option though I usually feel like a panty waist when I do. But try choosing the fetal position two or three times in a row. In ten years of running I’ve never been able to do it. I have taken weeks off at a time through the winter, for no better reason than not wanting to be cold, but I can’t get more than two or three weeks into that without Jones-ing for the relief a good hard run gives me. The choice changed a lot this year too – I’ve never had the ability to work out on a trainer in my office – the thought didn’t even cross my mind over all of those years. Now I can have my stress relief almost every day, I just have to suit up.
To sum that up in a nut shell, my mental well-being, my very stability is tied to working out – I know this to be a fact, an indisputable, irrefutable fact. Because it is so important to who I am, “I just don’t feel like it” doesn’t stand a more than once in a blue moon chance.
My mentor in training, Grateful Jim, will look at me from time to time with tears in his eyes – this happened just last Saturday – and say, “you know, you more than anyone else in our group has really stuck with this” or “you know, nothing made me happier than that day you and [English] Pete passed me on the road pushing your kids in those buggies” or “it makes me proud how far you guys have come”… Besides the fact that we should all have someone like that in our lives, if only for the reminder, the sense of pride – that “need” to stay as fit as I can be, is now a part of who I am and it’s only tripled since I started cycling last summer. I believe that once the “want” to stay fit changed into a need, getting out really wasn’t so much an option that could be shoved to the side on a whim. The trick, of course, is sticking with it long enough for the transformation to occur.
Now, there is a post script to this that really eliminates the fetal position choice and involves another of Big Daddy Jim’s Self Evident Truths. The fetal position is a temporary choice. One way or another, I’m going to have to motor through my problems – they tend to be big enough today that they won’t just go away on their own… So the only other option is death, which leads into Self Evident Truth #5:
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
So there’s really only one option, which is good – it keeps things simple.
As a P.S.S. My buddies Marc and English Pete have stuck with their fitness just as much as I have. We three members of our running club are tied at the hip in dedication.
Yesterday was a pretty rough day for me though you wouldn’t have been able to tell from my posts. I had plenty to complain about if I had chosen to go that way. Just to give you an idea, a glimpse if you will, into how bad yesterday started out, about an hour and a half into my day at the office the zipper on my jeans broke, irreparably. It broke so completely and in such a bad place that I couldn’t get even half of it re-zipped. I walked around all day yesterday with my fly open – including all of my Valentine’s Day shopping and at the office supply warehouse. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, I’d just go to a store and pick up a new pair and I’d be fine… However, due to severe extenuating circumstances which I will not detail here, that simply wasn’t advisable.
Now that’s just the first bad thing. I had a truck load after that.
Problems notwithstanding, in times like these I rely heavily on my faith in God – this isn’t for everyone and I’m not about to preach. That’s just the way I roll. I also rely on my #1 Self-Evident Truth, which will be posted shortly after this, and the two have gotten me through thinner times than these. Lastly, I rely on a good hard workout – I’ve written about this before, there’s nothing like a charge of endorphins to brighten a day.
By the end of the day (and after one killer workout on the bike – I love that) my attitude and outlook changed for the better. My major problems of the moment worked out and my wife and I had an excellent Valentine’s Day with our kids, though we fell asleep a little early, curled in a tight ball on the couch.
Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings – 21 Consecutive Home Wins – a new record.
I had originally planned on part two of my maladies series to go in a different direction but I’ve been struck by an interesting set of circumstances that has made a different path pertinent. In part one, I looked at the use of exercise as a tool in aiding recovery from alcoholism and as a matter of guilt by association, drug addiction. It can be found here and is a particularly nasty malady that affects a large minority of the population – if you adjust for collateral damage which is normally horrendous.
In this installment, I’ll look at something a little less damaging. We’ve all experienced the common cold or flu – if you have kids in school, as I do, then you experience a smorgasbord of untimely and ugly bugs being imported into the home. In fact, my family is currently dealing with a particular nasty little sinus infection – God only knows where it came from. It is affecting our family in a very interesting, different and telling way though. My wife has been clobbered by it (though she has not been sidelined) but should be turning the corner in the next day or two. My kids had it weeks ago (or possibly a different bug?). I have shown signs as well over the last few days as well, but there’s one difference – I only have two symptoms, a runny nose (at times) and one red eye that has faded to a lovely shade of pink just in time for Valentine’s day. Before you head straight to the comments section or jump to conclusions, it’s not pink-eye. Pink-eye usually doesn’t clear up on its own, it travels from one eye to the other (and family member to family member), and there are a list of other symptoms that I don’t have that come with it.*
With that said, I am currently the workout nut in the family. My wife and daughters are active, yes, but they’re nowhere near the level that I’m at. So, the question is, does my fitness play a role in the fact that I don’t get sick like most people. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific data that suggests this is the case.
Take this ABC News story on upper respiratory tract infections (ahem):
“During a 12-week period, people who said they exercised at least five days a week had 43 percent fewer days with an upper respiratory tract infection than those who exercised no more than one day a week, according to David Nieman, a researcher at Appalachian State University in Kannapolis, N.C., and colleagues.
Similarly, those who rated themselves as highly fit had 46 percent fewer days with a respiratory infection than those who reported low fitness, the researchers reported online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine“.
Or this story from MSNBC on the same study (I can’t believe I’m actually linking an MSNBC story, somebody write this day down in your calendar):
“Nieman and his colleagues found exercising stimulates the movement of immune cells throughout the body about three hours after a workout. The more often a person exercises, the more often their immune cells will be on high-alert for invading pathogens”.
Further, still with the Nieman study:
“The severity of symptoms fell by 41% among those who felt the fittest and by 31% among those who were the most active”.
So to summarize, studies back up exactly what I am experiencing at home – in fact, other than having one red eye (that’s a day away from being back to normal), I can’t even tell that I’m sick.
There is an interesting caveat to this though, and I’d never really given it much thought. Matt Assenmacher, whom I consider an authority in all things cycling related, in one of our extended conversations about the pros, stated that when you get to the elite cyclist, their body fat is so low that they actually go the other way in warding off things as simple as the common cold – at some point it seems the body can be too lean and that presents its own set of problems. Take my weight, which by all normal subjective accounts, is on the low side of perfect. My BMI is currently 21.3 – low is 18.4 and high is 24.9 (my pre-triathlon BMI was 23.2 – or the high side of normal). We do know, however, that the average weight to height ratio for a pro climber is 2 lbs. for every inch in height – which would put me at 144 lbs… That would take my BMI all the way down to 19.5, flirting with the low-end, or that fine line between being too thin.
Finally, this discussion comes to the usual question: Do I exercise when I’m sick? I’ve written before that I always do, with the exception of the one day during the illness where I’m not fit to get out of bed. In other words, if my hair hurts, I’m staying in bed. I’ve always wondered if body temperature might have something to do with getting better – if I run (especially with the flu), that will elevate my body temperature… What is the body’s natural reaction to fighting the flu? Elevating the body temperature. I don’t recommend bucking the doctors when they say not to exercise through – but that’s exactly what I do. Either way, whether it’s luck or whatever, this is the least I can remember ever being sick – and I’m absolutely the fittest by an order of magnitude… Oh wait, I don’t believe in luck or coincidence, so that’s shot. It is what it is.
*UPDATE: Pink-eye or Conjunctivitis is no laughing matter, Dr. James Johnson adds in the comments: (more…)