Category Archives: Running

Dear Traffic Commission

Dear esteemed members of the local traffic commission:

It has come to my attention that you have used a great deal of our hard-earned tax dollars to put up a great many of these remote, radar-gun warning signs in the area. You know, the ones which display your speed as you pass by and get progressively more excited and frantic in their displays as your speed allegedly goes more and more over the posted speed limit. For brevity, I’ll refer to them as “robo-radars.”

I have a few observations to make about some of the individual devices.

The one by the high school is pretty good. It sets the gold standard for the others. As far as I can tell it is pretty accurate, judging by the speedometers on my cars. It flashes if anyone is going over the speed limit. We get the message and we feel appropriately shamed, embarrassed, and humiliated. We promise to do better next time, every time we set it off. Really, we do.

The one down by the freeway is completely inaccurate. I’ve gotten to the point where I will very deliberately cruise by it at 35 (it’s a 40 mph zone) with no one else on the road so it can’t be giving me information based on another car. It consistently reads about 41 or 42, even when I’m doing 35. We ignore this one since it’s a lying bastard, not to be trusted. We call it “Larry the Liar.”

The one up by the reservoir is also annoying. It’s actually on the same pole as the “Speed Limit 40” sign, yet still goes bananas, flashing and warning us to slow down, while displaying a (reasonably accurate) speed of 36 or 38. If I want to get scolded and judged when I haven’t done anything wrong, I’ll start going back to church. We call this one “False Positive Fred.”

The one by the shopping center? It’s seems to be broken as well, completely unable to display a speed of over 45. (It’s also in a 40 mph zone.) I first started to suspect this one when I saw cars roaring past me like I was standing still, but no one ever got a reading of more than 48. I’ve now tested it myself and verified this. Please fix this machine — if I’m going to be out there on a residential street doing 75 to test your machine, it would be nice if you cared about it working correctly.

Finally, when I go running toward and past one of these signs, it never registers my presence. Never lights up, never flashes, never gives any reading at all. I’ll admit that I’m not running that fast (before you make any snarky comments, let’s see your butt out there doing five or six miles one of these days) but I’m not running that slow either. I thought at first that it might be because your robo-radars have a lower limit set in their design, beneath which it ignores movement. However, going out and driving by one exactly as fast as I run, the display lights up and gives me a speed. (To the guy in the BMW behind me while I conducted this test, thanks, I think you’re number one as well!)

I can only assume that this particular robo-radar is looking for a metal surface to get a return signal from, and my pasty, flabby carcass isn’t getting the job done. In order to test this theory, I intend to wrap my body in tin foil and run past it again. I’ll get back to you on the efficacy of the technique, if the cops haven’t gotten back to your first. Or the men in white coats.

In summary, you seem to have spent a lot of money on warning signs that give false positives, are highly inaccurate, and are totally useless in timing my marathon training. We can only be grateful that you didn’t hook your inaccurate robot minions to cameras and automatic ticketing systems like the freakin’ idiots in Arizona did. (No, I did not get a speeding ticket in Arizona, but only by driving in such a fashion as to make half the state indicate that they think I’m number one as well.)

If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced consultant to help you troubleshoot the problem and research potential solutions (i.e., I want to get paid to run past these thing swaddled in Alcoa’s finest), you have my number.



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Filed under Farce, Freakin' Idiots!, Los Angeles, Running

Yesterday I Was Sore, Today…

Big disclaimer to start: I’m not a doctor or a trainer, and you should ALWAYS consult and work with your medical professionals before starting any major exercise routine. That goes double for anyone just starting training for a long-distance race, even a 5K or 10K. Anyone with a heart condition who goes out and runs five or ten miles and dies because “Paul said it would be okay” is going to be looked at askance. Seriously askance. Let’s keep a firm grip on our common sense here, folks.

Also, when I talk about my legs “hurting,” I’m talking about the muscle-wide fatigue and “broad pain” from muscles that are being used and used hard to do things they hadn’t done in a while, if ever. I am not talking about the “sharp pain” that occurs in one spot, usually suddenly, that indicates that something really bad may have happened. If you have any reason to suspect that something might be broken or torn (“sharp, sudden pain”) as opposed to just exercised hard (“broad pain” the next day or so), STOP and get immediate medical attention. Again, I am not a doctor or a trainer, just someone who’s done this once or twice and wants to rant about it in the hopes of possibly giving others an insight into what’s going on.

As mentioned yesterday, I got off the dime and did my first run for the Disney World Marathon in January. Not a biggie, just three miles and change.

If you’ve never run, or more to the point, if you’ve never run and you’re thinking about starting, there are a few things “they” don’t tell you. I’m here to make a few observations and give you a heads up.

I just said, correctly, “Not a biggie, just three miles and change.” If you think that walking around the block is in the same category as the Bataan Death March, that sounds like a ludicrous statement. I’ve been there.

This is one of the reasons that running has lessons to teach about “life” if you’re willing to learn. The first lesson is that progress and accomplishment are made of thousands and millions of little steps. If you get out of your Lazy Boy today, out of shape and seriously obese, yes, you could very well DIE if you tried to run a marathon.

But unless you’re a complete idiot, or the zombie hordes have marched over the horizon after the EMP has fried every bit of technology in the world so you have no choice, you don’t do that. You simply start taking the first of those thousands and millions little steps, with some faith that you’ll get there.

You start walking. You walk to the end of the block and back. You walk around the block. You walk a mile or so. You walk three or four miles. You sign up for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and train over about six months, building up your endurance and strength, possibly (probably?) losing some weight.

Once you can walk a marathon distance in ten or eleven hours (that is not a killer pace – I set an aggressive pace and did it in just under eight hours, but they give you much more time to finish if you need it) and you’ve got a tremendous, hard-earned, well-deserved sense of accomplishment, then you can start jogging. You keep walking, but you start mixing in a bit of jogging. You can get with a training group and learn a “walk/run” pace. When I trained for the 2012 LA Marathon we had groups doing 5-1 (three minutes of running, one minute of walking), 4-1, 3-1, 3-2, and just walking (looking for an 8:00 finish).

The first weekend of training we did three miles (“Not a biggie!”) just to see how you feel and how accurate your judgement of your fitness level is. You run (typically) on Tuesday and Thursday (two miles each day early in training, building up to six or so) and then have a “long run” every Saturday. Week Two you do four miles, Week Three you do five, and so on. Every now and then you have a “cut back week” where you give your body some time to heal a bit. For example, in the middle of the training routine, you might be doing 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 8, 12, 14 miles on consecutive Saturdays over a two month period.

That first three mile run can catch you off guard if you’re not running regularly. You may have run in the past, but if it’s been a year (guilty!), you’ll do it because you know you can. Hell, you’ve run full marathons before, three miles is no biggie, right? Except that’s your head talking — your legs have gotten soft. So you’re sucking wind by the one-mile mark and while your head thought you would do the three miles in thirty to thirty-five minutes, a pace which would get you about a 4:45 finishing time, your legs barely drag you home in under forty-two minutes, a pace which would just barely give you a 6:00 finishing time.

And while you’re sore that evening, you keep moving and your body has lots of endorphin (and perhaps some ibuprofen) so you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself. Then you wake up the next morning and all of those muscles have had a chance to talk among themselves and take a strike vote. Surprise! Every time you try to walk or sit down or get up or move you hurt like hell.

That’s where I’m at today, and that’s where you may be if you choose to travel this path at some point. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’m here to tell you — KEEP MOVING. It’s important on that next day, because you have to get through this, you can’t dodge it. As Frost said, “The only way out is through.”

Just keep moving as normally as possible, wincing a lot, and generally pissing off everyone else in the house. (Hi, Long Suffering Wife!) Then keep moving the next day and by about the third day after (probably Tuesday, if you did your “big run” on Saturday), when you start to feel okay again, go running.

That second run is going to be a bitch. Your brain is not going to want to go. About ten feet into it you’re going to be really tempted to just declare victory and go back to the Lazy Boy.


You’re going to run enough to get you loose and remind your legs who’s the boss, a mile or two. And on Wednesday you’ll be sore — but not nearly as sore as you were after the first run. Then Thursday’s going to get there and you need to do it again.

The third run, mentally, is in my experience the hardest to get yourself going on. Do it anyway. Again, just a couple of miles. Easy peasy.

The next Saturday is your next “big run” and you’re doing four miles. You’ll still suck wind — but not nearly as much. You’ll still be sore on Sunday — but not nearly as much. And after you do your short runs on Tuesday and Thursday, you’re now in a groove, on the bandwagon, with the program, and it will get a lot easier mentally to get going, to stay motivated. You’ve got a goal.

The oddest thing will happen. Every week you’ll push the boundaries, you’ll push yourself further. You’ll be so caught up in the process, so focused on the next increment, that you’ll lose sight of the big picture. Then you’ll hit one of those cut back days.

The “ah-ha!” moment for me was about a month before the marathon. We had done 16, 18, and 20 miles (all hard, but all accomplished successfully) when we had a cut back week to 16 miles. We were all thrilled that we had a “short” day, an “easy” day, a “fun run.”

A short, easy, fun run of sixteen freakin’ miles.

That really caught me off guard. But it’s real. You’ve done the 18 and 20 miles and lived, and in a month you’re going to do 26.2 miles and kick that course’s ass. You know it.

But looking back, you’re still less than six months removed from the mindset where you thought you would die after three miles. You couldn’t even conceive of running 26.2 and figured that you must be totally insane. And now you’re scoffing at how easy and short sixteen miles are.

That was an amazing moment for me. Not quite as amazing as getting to the finish line, especially at the 2012 LA Marathon, but it’s a good, close second.

So today I’m staggering around like I’m eighty-five years old. My thighs and shins are on fire every time I stand, sit, or move.

But I am moving. I’ll keep on moving. I will run again on Tuesday, and again on Thursday. On Saturday I’ll run four miles, maybe four and a half if the weather’s not too hot.

The greatest benefit you get from finishing a marathon is knowing that you can. When you know that, you know that you can do anything. And then you can do it again as you look for the next boundary to push away.

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Filed under Health, Running

Juicy Chunks O’ Wisdom For Saturday, July 26th

‘Cause I started running today, that’s why.

  • I was hoping that the first run of the training season wouldn’t be quite so bad as in previous years when training started. My logic was that: a) even though I haven’t been running or exercising a lot I’m still overall in better shape and weighing less than I did in previous years, and; b) I’ve learned how to pace myself, my body knows what to expect, blah, blah, blah. All of that perfectly good logic appears to have been trumped by one simple fact – I’M OLDER.
  • Sitting here with the bright lights on at night, there are usually some kind of bugs tapping on the window, trying to get in and mate. (And we thought we had weird sex lives!) But tonight, it sounds likes hummingbirds trying to get in, repeated big smacks against the glass.
  • Three days in a row there have been attempts to launch a Delta 4 out of Florida – three days in a row they’ve had weather that looks like this:  2014-07-26 Cape Canaveral Weather Radar  This weather typically violates at least three or four (and sometimes as many as six or seven) launch rules regarding the weather. But the best comment so far (commentator unknown) has been, “The Russians would have launched!” It’s funny because it’s true. (On Monday they’ll try for a fourth time to launch the Delta 4, the weather’s predicted to have a 60% chance of being acceptable. By our standards, not the Russians’.)
  • Coldstone ice cream is proof of a God/Universe that wants us to be happy. With my current healthy eating habits I only get it once or twice a year. Tonight I had enough so that I’m starting to see time. THAT’s a sugar rush!
  • Is Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, just one of the neatest guys on the planet?  2014-07-26 Joe Maddon Tweet I think we knew it before, but this is confirmation.
  • Maybe the tiny bugs are teaming up and building tiny battering rams to try to get through the window and to the sexy light. Isn’t that how a Steven King novel starts?
  • Slatter’s Corollary to Murphy’s Tenth Law of Food says I’ll be regretting tonight’s ice cream tomorrow morning. Willett’s Rebuttal to Slatter’s Corollary to Murphy’s Tenth Law of Food says the ice cream tonight was worth it anyway.
  • Those bugs are really going to be disappointed, even if they break through the glass with their insectoid battering ram — it’s a double-pane window. (As a precaution against just this possibility, I might add!)
  • It really sucks when your computer locks up in the middle of writing a blog article and requires a reboot using the pull-the-plug-out-of-the-wall method. How do I know this, you might ask…

Remember, “Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield.”

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Filed under Computers, Critters, Juicy Chunks, Running, Science Fiction, Space, Sports


On Monday, the 2014 Boston Marathon was run. We all remember how the 2013 race was disrupted by the terrorist bombings that killed three while maiming and wounding hundreds. For the last year, the lock screen on my iPad has been this one, from the London Marathon which was run a week after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Finish For BostonLeon Neal / AFP / Getty Images / Boston Globe

On Tuesday, in only marginally related news, registration opened for the 2015 Disney World Marathon in Florida.

I signed up and paid my fees to run the Disney Marathon next January.

I’ve run the Los Angeles Marathon twice, as well as a couple half marathons while training, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m signing up for. I just wish that I were more enthusiastic about the training and running.

If I had a FaceBook status for my relationship with running, it would be “It’s complicated.”

Get ready for some whiplash here. The classic angel on one shoulder and devil on the other are going to spell it out for you.

On the “pro” side, I know from experience that I feel better after I run. Maybe it’s just the endorphin, maybe it’s dodging the guilt of not running for another day, but I really do feel better.

On the “con” side, I hate having a run coming up, particularly the longer ones later in training. The day or two of dread feels worse than the actual run itself.

Pro: It’s psychologically and physically good for me to get my butt moving in the morning. It keeps me feeling young, shows the world that I’m not as old as the calendar says, proves that I’ve still “got it.”

Con: I hate getting out of a nice, warm bed to go out into the cold (and sometimes wet and sometimes windy) morning. Maybe I really am getting older and it’s time to admit it and allow myself to be lazier.

Pro: Assuming that I’m not ready to find a comfy chair and sit in it waiting for the Grim Reaper, I benefit a lot from the exercise. Big time! Cardiovascular health, better respiration and endurance, better strength (I also throw in some weight training with the running). All go a long way toward not only letting me live to 90 instead of 75 or 110 instead of 90 (I have a lot of faith in medical advances over the next forty to fifty years). In addition, it’s more likely that I’ll be active at 90 instead of bedridden and in a wheelchair at 80.

Con: While it might be better for the cardio and weight loss and overall fitness and making my 80’s and 90’s possible and better, running hurts right now. There are muscle aches up one side and down the other, no matter how careful you are. Blisters. The actual races can be an absolute hell — there’s a reason that Pheidippides died at the end of the first marathon.

Pro: While the physical part is not to be discounted or ignored, in the end getting through a marathon is about 90% mental. You have got to learn how to hit your limits and force yourself to keep going. You have got to learn how to persevere. You have got to find depths of “intestinal fortitude” and self-discipline that you never knew were possible. All of these things are very good things to know and have in your skill set when life throws other crap at you.

Con: Did I mention that it’s hard?

Pro: Running a marathon will drastically improve your mental self-image. Less than 0.5% of Americans ever attempt a marathon, and many of them don’t finish. If you’ve gotten to the finish line, you will have a sense of accomplishment that no one can ever take away from you. (More below on this.)

Con: Did I mention the warm bed?

Pro: Running a marathon will drastically improve my physical image. No amount of surgery and/or Hollywood special effects are going to make me a stud muffin, but I can at least try to get back to the point where I can wear a checkered shirt without it looking like the latitude and longitude lines on a Mercator projection globe.

Con: I don’t waaaaannnaaaaaaa!

Pro: I’ve always preferred to have the mental attitude of, “Plenty of time to rest when I’m dead!”

Con: Yeah, yeah, whatever. That sounds like an awful lot of hard work. Couldn’t I just sit here on the couch, watch TV, and eat ice cream? Please?

Side Note: For the record, when I say “running a marathon” anywhere here, the same thing goes for running a half-marathon, a 10K, a 5K, a mile, or whatever it is that pushes your limits out to where you didn’t think they could go. Don’t justify doing nothing because you can’t run a marathon. If you can barely make it around the block, you can set the goal for a mile. If you can do a mile, you can work toward a 5K. And so on.

So why am I running again, and why something on the other side of the country? Because I promised my niece that I would. She wants to run a marathon and she wants it to be that one, the Disney World Marathon. A year ago or so, when I happened to be in town and we ran a 5K together. We talked about marathons, and she asked if I would run Disney with her at some point. “Sure!” I said, probably confident that we were talking about a hypothetical scenario that would never come to pass. But then…

With all of what I’ve said, in the end my primary motivation these days is guilt. (Great, my Catholic grade school education is finally proving its worth!) Left to my own devices, that bed stays warm and comfy and the training miles stay unrun. That’s why my first marathon time was 7:21:18. Of course, the torrential downpour and near-freezing conditions didn’t help.


The second time, I joined a running group, which helped a lot. I made a lot of good friends, we motivated each other, and it made it a little easier to get up at 5AM every Saturday for seven months for a 7AM training session. Again, guilt (in the form of not wanting to let your friends down) helped a lot.

IMG_3316_smallYes, it was that cold. It doesn’t matter if it’s SoCal, in January and February it’s less than 40F out there, which is cold no matter where you are. It helped my finish time quite a bit. Which brings me to that final point that I promised above, the ultimate “pro” argument.

For that second LA Marathon, I trained hard. I had been training for a sub-6:00 finish, and had fantasies about maybe a 5:45 or even a 5:30-ish finish. Despite all of my pre-race training to set my pace and keep to it, I went out much faster than I expected. (Adrenaline! Ask for it by name!) But by Mile Six I settled down into my pace at about 13:10 per mile. That would make a 5:45 finish possible, if I could hold it.

Then about Mile Nine in Hollywood, I started getting really bad cramps in the soles of my feet. (It was very odd, I’ve never had cramps there before or after. I usually get them in my calves.) By about Mile Seventeen I could barely walk. I steadily watched as my estimated finish time (there are some really good apps out there) went up and up. My tracking message at the 20K mark (you can get these sent to your phone in most big races at 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K, and finish) estimated a 6:00:04 finishing time. At 30K, it was up to an estimated 6:18:25 finishing time. There went my sub-6:00 target!

2012 LA Marathon PaceAs you can see, at the 40K mark (which is about 100 yards before the Mile Twenty-Four banner), I was at a 15:01 minutes per mile pace, and the system estimated my finishing time at 6:33:43. Right then and there, I decided that I was NOT going to finish with a time over 6:30. It was going to hurt, I was going to be in agony, I had seen several target goals come and go, but I was not going to go past the 6:30 mark. Being carried off the course unconscious was the only acceptable option other than hitting that 6:30 target.

So I started running. And running. At the end of twenty-four painful miles where I had started at a sub-13:00 pace, then slipped to 13:30, to 14:00, to 15:00, I ran that last segment of San Vicente and hit the left turn onto Ocean Boulevard faster than I had been at the start of the race.

I could see the finish line ahead. The final marker at Mile Twenty-Six had a race clock on it, which was just getting to 6:34 elapsed time as I went past it. But I had crossed the start line six and a half minutes after the elite runners, so I knew that I was at somewhere around 6:27:30 with 385 yards to go, a little over a fifth of a mile.

Sitting here, “a fifth of a mile” sounds trivial. Just down to the end of the block or so. But then and there, I was in agony. I couldn’t breath, both feet were cramping, I was sweating like a stuck pig, and I could barely see. But I ran that final 385 yards in about 2:20.

You’ve seen pictures of people hitting the pavement face first within twenty or thirty yards of the finish line? I was almost that guy. I hit the finish line, didn’t slow down for at least another twenty feet just to make sure, then just concentrated on staying on my feet. I immediately felt the phone vibrate and ding, indicating that my final times were in, but I had to get wrapped in a mylar blanket, get my medal, go get something to eat and drink, and keep moving because if you go down at that point you’ll stay down. Even with the race over, I still had over a mile to walk to get to my car through huge crowds of runners, families, and volunteers.

I finally checked the time, praying that it wasn’t 6:30:01 or something that would really piss me off.

6:29:53. I had made it by seven seconds.

That’s a 12:17 pace for that final 1.36 miles, and about an 11:40 pace for that last fifth of a mile. I hadn’t “won”, I wasn’t even close to being first in my age group. (If I had been a woman between 80 and 85, I would have been kicking ass and taking names!) None of that mattered. I had pushed through and refused to quit.

Now, if I can just remember that feeling of accomplishment — three or four days a week — at six in the morning — when the bed is warm and dry and the road isn’t either — and I’m sore.

Or at least remember that I promised my niece and bragged here to all of you, so I’ll really look like rancid worm slime if I bail out and bag it.

Pride is much better than guilt, but often not as powerful.


Filed under Health, Paul, Running

DST Sucks

I feel short enough on sleep most nights without the government stealing an hour. I get what it’s supposed to accomplish, I just believe that it fails to do that and causes many more problems than it solve.

A big group of folks that are really getting hit in the shorts by this are the runners in tomorrow’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ve run it twice, in 2011 and 2012, and the worst part of it (well, one of the worst parts) is getting up at 3:00 to be in Santa Monica by 5:00 to catch a bus to Dodger Stadium by 6:00 for a 7:30 start. Add in your nerves about the event itself and you can be exhausted before you start. Now take away an hour of sleep and throw in the “jet lag” effect even though you haven’t travelled.

The marathon staff has been trying to remind everyone about three thousand times that the time shift is tonight, so we don’t have a few thousand folks showing up at Dodger Stadium after the race already has started. If you do that, you simply won’t run. They start opening up the streets behind the pack and if you fall off of a minimum pace by too far, they just put you on a bus, your day is done. If you start a half-hour or forty-five minutes late, you’ll never keep up.

I hope it’s not a problem, but all things considered, I’m just as happy that I’m not running this year.

But I really need to start running again. (I tell myself that only on days that end in “y”.)

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New Year’s Resolutions 2014

New Year’s Resolutions are bullshit. I won’t make them.

This is not news. There are dozens, if not hundreds of other people who have said the same thing and said it better. I’ll say it again anyway. I’ll try not to be preachy or pedantic. (Maybe that should be a resolution…)

The idea behind New Year’s resolutions is a good one. None of us is perfect. All of us have things we would like to change or improve in our life. Many of these things are health related — lose weight, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, eat more sensibly, exercise more, and so on. Many are related to finances — save more, spend less, gamble less. Many are related to relationships — be kinder, be more patient, be more tolerant. Many are goal-based — get a better job, get a girlfriend or boyfriend, learn to play guitar, learn a new language.

These are all excellent goals and there are thousands more just like them. Each and every one of us should get up every day and try to be better that day than we were the day before. Having specific goals is a great way to do that.

But New Year’s resolutions are a lousy way of moving toward those goals. They’re externally imposed by society. They put a huge amount of pressure on you to perform and they usually don’t allow any slack for any kind of failure. While many people make their New Year’s resolutions with lots of enthusiasm and excitement, that fades within days. You slip back, you fall off the wagon, and by mid-January (early February at the latest) you’ve given up. “There’s always next year!”

Successful change of this sort is difficult and almost always takes time. For example, losing weight. If you’re thirty or fifty pounds overweight, you didn’t just wake up that way this morning after looking like a professional athlete. Assuming there isn’t a medical condition causing the problem, you almost certainly got there by eating poorly, eating too much, and exercising far too little for years and years and years. You have spent years or even decades establishing habits and a lifestyle that are deeply ingrained.

Isn’t it obvious that it’s going to take years and years to reverse all of those issues? There really isn’t any rocket science here.

This is not intended in any way to be a downer, or to discourage anyone who’s trying to improve their life, today or any other day. Quite the opposite. I’m arguing for a reality-based, common sense approach because I think this approach works where New Year’s resolutions so rarely do.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” has been a cliche for a couple thousand years. It’s also been true.

There’s nothing magical or special about January 1st. It’s an arbitrary day on an arbitrary calendar based on arbitrary events thousands of years ago which are dated inaccurately to begin with.

If you have an improvement that you want in your life, if you have a change that you need in your life, you have to start a little bit at a time. You can make that start on January 1st, March 15th, July 23rd, or December 31st. There are 365 days in the year and you can start to make these changes on any of them.

Change is painful. Rooting out deeply ingrained “bad” habits and replacing them with “better” habits is hard and painful. You have to finally get to a point where you realize that the bad habits are also painful. It might be like being nibbled to death by ducks, but you have to face the fact that you’re actually being nibbled to death. You have to finally know and accept at a cellular level that the pain of staying on the “comfortable” road you’re on is more painful than the “hard” road of making changes. You have to get it into your head that you are going to make the change because you want to or need to and nothing’s going to stop you, not because it happens to be January 1st and society and your friends say you should.

Sure, sometimes events can force people into making drastic, radical changes overnight. If you have a heart attack, you might need to start losing weight and changing your diet today or you’re going to have another one and be really, really dead for a long, long time. If you have a drinking or drug problem and you come this close to killing yourself or someone else while driving impaired, then you need to get sober now.

But those circumstances are pretty rare and have nothing to do with January 1st. For most of us, it’s a long, slow slide down that slippery slope and it’s going to be a long, slow climb back up. What most people never realize is that you get to decide where the stopping point is on that slope.

When you’re ready, really ready, then you can make those changes in your life. There aren’t any shortcuts, there aren’t any miracles, there aren’t any silver bullets. It’s just you and your support systems. Your friends and family can (and should) help. You can get organized help such as a gym membership, a personal trainer, a music teacher, AA, or you can sign up for a community college course. But you have to do those things because you are ready. No one can do it for you.

First of all, it’s critical that you realize that you’re not (for example) “dieting” or “getting into shape”. YOU ARE CHANGING YOUR LIFE FOR EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. That’s how you succeed. You can’t diet until you hit your goal weight, then go right back to the habits and lifestyle that made you overweight to begin with. (Guess what happens if you do.) You can’t get into shape until you can run that 10K, then go back to sitting on the couch. (Guess what happens if you do.)

Realize that there will be setbacks. Accept them. Don’t beat yourself up over them. Move on.

If you’re trying to lose weight, there will be days when you’ve eaten salads and fish for ten days in a row and you’re really proud of yourself but you would kill for something from In-N-Out. Okay, have that burger and fries. Maybe have that milk shake. (Maybe make it a small rather than a large.) Then, the next day, get back on the wagon.

If you’re training for that marathon, there will be days when you’re just not interested in going out to run that five miles in the rain. So, don’t! But get back out there the next day.

Should the worse case happen and you abandon your program and slip back into your old habits, you’ve got a whole year to wait and wallow in your misery if you’ve bought into the whole “New Year’s resolution” philosophy. If you don’t give a damn about January 1st, you can get back up and climb back on that horse whenever you’re ready.

Another cliche — “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up.”

Realize that you don’t have to do it on a certain schedule, especially if that schedule was made for someone else or is completely arbitrary. Be flexible, adjust course as necessary while keeping the goal in sight. BE SMART!

You want to run that marathon, but a month into training for a 4:00 pace you’re dying and want to give up? So train for a 5:00 or 6:00 pace. When you accomplish that goal, then you can train next time for a higher goal.

You’re beating yourself up because you just can’t stop yourself from eating unhealthy five or six times a week? Okay, accept that, go with it and see where it takes you. If you were eating unhealthy twenty-one times a week before, five or six times a week is a huge improvement! Get some feedback from your body, develop your new lifestyle of only eating unhealthy five or six times a week, then later on work on getting that down to three or four times a week. Then later down to once or twice.

You can do these things. I say this as someone who ten years ago was over fifty pounds heavier. I took my kids on a 2.9 mile mountain hike that we did as a family (including my nine-year-old sister and mother who had had surgery less than a month before) when I was a teenager. I was so badly out of shape that I thought that I was going to need helicopter paramedics to rescue me from the side of the mountain. Now I’m proud that I’ve run two marathons and I want to run more to improve my times.

So, yeah, I look at my life and I need to lose a few more pounds. I need to get back into running and training for the next marathon. I want to learn that second language and playing guitar. I want to call my mother and vacuum the carpets more regularly. Blah, blah, blah.

But I won’t do any of those things by starting crash programs on this special day, based on unreasonable goals and untenable plans. I will get those things done by working on changing myself incrementally every day. I may start doing that tomorrow, or next month, or whenever I get sick and tired enough of not being the way I want to be. I hope to start sooner rather than later, but I will start when I start.

But New Year’s resolutions are bullshit.

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Because It’s Not A Good Day To Write

…but I have to learn to write on these days anyway. So what kind of embarrassing pictures can I entertain you with while I go beat nouns and verbs into submission? Since I keep making marathon analogies in the daily NaNoWriMo posts, how ’bout a couple of pictures of chubby little ol’ me sweating as I walk, run, and participate in various marathons and marathon-like events?

2010-09-11 Avon Walk Mile 26pt2 smallIn 2009 I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara, California. Here I am after finishing the marathon potion (walking, not running) on Saturday.

2010-09-12 Avon Walk Mile 39pt3 smallThen on Sunday there’s a half-marathon, so this is me at the 39.3 mile mark over two days. (My feet hurt. A lot.)

2010-09-13 My Avon Walk Hat smallThis is the hat I had made for the Santa Barbara Avon Walk. It’s supposed to be Klingon for “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. It literally translates to something like “When pain appears in the body, it plants strength.” This is necessary (or course!) because there is no word for “weakness” in the Klingon language.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is me at the start of the 2011 LA Marathon, freezing and already soaked at 07:00 in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. It was an “interesting” experience. But I finished!


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The Plan For November

It’s good to have a plan. As Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith said, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

November’s coming, and that means that things are going to get really, REALLY busy.

First of all, above and beyond and top priority over everything (which could completely derail and invalidate everything below) is the job hunt. Gotta find something. Priorities and all of that.

Between sending out resumes and checking out Linkedin and so on and so forth, for the last six months there’s been this blog to write and post every day. This is not a bad thing! Developing some writing discipline was (and is) one of the primary purposes for this blog’s existence. Participating in things like Chuck Wendig’s weekly “Flash Fiction Challenge” exercise is also a great part of the blog.

As I’m now joining the “Wednesday Writer’s Group”, I want and need to start actively writing again on two different old first drafts. I probably won’t be able to write on both every day, but it would be nice to set a goal of 1,000 words a day or more on one or the other. At least enough to keep ahead of the group and have something to hand out for critiquing every week.

Next, some of you may know that November is “National Novel Writing Month“, or “NaNoWriMo”. For the third year, I’m planning on trying to participate. That’s an average of 1,700 words a day every day in November in order to hit the goal.

It’s true of many of us human critters that we dislike pressure and working on tight deadlines. It’s also true that many of us perform much better when working in a high pressure situation while working on tight deadlines. (That’s why bosses, teachers, and editors use them – duh!) I recognize that I’m someone who both dislikes and needs the pressure. I’ve learned over the years that I can subvert any procrastination inclinations by proactively setting myself up in advance to perform in a public spotlight. I’ll hate it later and wonder why in hell I did that – but I know why, both now and then. (Kind of like the halfway point in a marathon. Every time I wonder what in the hell I’m doing and I swear up and down that I’m never going to run again and I’m going to throw in the towel at any second – but I don’t quit and I always do run again.)

So for my NaNoWriMo project this year, I’m going to post the daily “zeroth draft” manuscript here. Every day. Or else I’ll have to post (i.e. “confess”) here that I didn’t write that day. Every day.

Understand that this will not be polished, smooth, edited, publishable-ready prose of the highest standards. This is the “puke words onto the paper and keep writing” stuff, the draft before the first draft, the mother of all “Flash Fiction Challenges” where instead of “1,000 words or so” it’s “50,000 words or so”. Hell, I may even ask for plot suggestions and directions from the followers of this blog and go with those ideas. It will be an “adventure”.

It also means that many days in November will have two posts per day here. Over the last 177 days I have posted 182 articles here, one per day with five days that had two articles. I expect to be posting one entry a day for the “usual” We Love The Stars Too Fondly stuff (simple astrophotography, Odds & Sods, critter pictures, Random Blatherationings, book reviews, semi-sane rants, and so on) and then a second post with that day’s NaNoWriMo output. The writing on the project(s) for the Wednesday group will not be posted here – that will be a surprise in a year or so when it gets published.

If you start seeing a little daily “scoreboard” as part of every day’s post, you’ll know what it’s about.

Oh, and then on Thanksgiving weekend the annual Christmas lights madness starts. We haven’t talked about that yet… Heh, heh… Heh, heh… *rubs hand together and drools a little*

That’s the plan! (You’ve been warned.)

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Filed under Job Hunt, Running, Writing

I Should Know Better

…than to be reading Mira Grant when there’s a full share of BS about to impact my fan. Why couldn’t I have picked something light & fun to read next?

It’s bad enough being this short on sleep (up at 0330 to get Ronnie to the airport) but even worse is that it makes one not think clearly and prone to doing stupid stuff. So before I fry my brain and/or embarrass myself, have a picture:


I was at Dodger Stadium, colder than I had ever been in my life, waiting to start my first full marathon, the 2011 LA Marathon. Run in a raging downpour, I was lucky to finish at all, even with a time of 7:21:18. (Full story some other time.)

Let’s hope tomorrow is better.

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