The Second Mile: The Ultra-Marathoner Convo Continues! Oh, and Week in Review, January 28th

So, Tad is an awesome guy.

Being an ultra-marathoner, I thought it would be interesting to get his perspective on running, diet, and all things health related. And so I wrote about it, posting snarky remarks in between his gracious and thoughtful responses to my questions. If you missed that post, you can read it by clicking here.

In that post I insinuated that perhaps he would respond to some of my reactions, and therefore I would get to post again…and the conversation would continue.  But, let’s be honest, in a conversation with the Tadster, I don’t really compete.  Anyone who can run 80 miles a week and consider it “conditioning” wins.  Hands down.

I don’t care what Charlie Sheen says, that’s the definition of “winning.”

Today Rhonda and I headed to the gym.  She was complaining that I never run on the treadmill next to her, and accused me of “not wanting to run with her.”  I responded that I really didn’t want to run at all, so who it was next didn’t matter.

And yet, run I did.  That’s sacrifice, folks.

But before you think I’m up for sainthood (not happening, mom), consider Tad’s work.  Here are some of his responses to my remarks in that first post.  I’ve put my remarks in italics, and put his responses in normal font.  And then my NEW responses to his thoughtful remarks come after that.

And if that confuses you, just go back to your abacus and stick to math; reading obviously isn’t your thing.

At the end of the post is the week in review.  As my friend Patrick Shebeck would say, “Later Gators!”

Tim’s remark to Tad’s note that he runs ultra-marathons:

That is a long time. Which means, in real terms, that you’ve run farther on foot than I’ve been on plane, train, automobile, foot, and riding lawnmower combined.

Tad’s response: You know, your response made me actually think about how far I’ve run recently. I did some rough calculations in my head, and I figure I’ve probably run close to 20,000 miles in the past 5 years. That’s a lot of miles…and a lot of expensive running shoes. The cumulative cost of your plane and train tickets, gas, and automobile (and lawn mower) wear-and-tear is probably less than what I’ve spent on Asics and Five Fingers.

Tim: Five Fingers are those shoes where each toe gets its own cozy compartment, right? I have a pair of those, and sometimes I run in them.  But I find that my calves kill me when that happens, so it’s become less frequent.  Am I running wrong?  On another note, do you feel self-conscience because you look stupid running in those?  I do…

Tim’s remark to Tad’s note on pushing the body to extremes:

The dedication that requires is definitely admirable. I want to wonder out loud what it might look like to push a body the other direction, to see what a body is capable of in slovenly conditions. Although, looking around me on the Red Line, I can see that that experiment is well underway and probably on its second and third trial.

Tad’s response: I think my wife would say my dedication is bordering on obsession. But that’s another story for another day…

Tim: Hmmm.  Intriguing.  The counselor in me says, “Tell me more about that.”  Followed up quickly by a “That’s too much information.”  I’ve seen the show “Obsession” on A&E.  If I see you on there I’m calling an intervention.  Running can be the enemy.

Tim’s remark to Tad’s note on not over-running when preparing for a race:

Interesting! It’s kind of like when I’m preparing to go to Standard India, the Indian buffet, and I skip breakfast and lunch. Overeating doesn’t help my body prepare for that food. I imagine over running is much the same. Except, well, healthier…but not as tasty.

Tad’s response: Oh, I can eat me some Indian food. While we don’t have a good Indian buffet near the house, we do have a restaurant (Zagat rated, no less) that serves the best chicken tikka masala and chicken kashmiri this side of the Indian subcontinent.

Tim: Awesome!  Although, be honest, you don’t eat Indian before running long distances, do you?  I mean, I question how one would go to the bathroom on a normal marathon run, let alone an ultra-marathon.  Some thoughts that come to mind: where do you hide the tp?  Do you bother to stop running if you have to urinate, or do you just run backwards?  Is there an unspoken rule that fellow runners don’t mind if they see people “taking care of business” a little close to the road?  In another sense, I can see how eating Indian food might encourage one to finish a race as quickly as possible.

Tim’s remark to Tad’s body fat percentage:

Disregard the above answer to your first paragraph. I don’t eat at Indian buffets. At least not when I’m confronted with 1-2% body fat…

Tad’s response: My wife says that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that my body fat percentage is not that low. That would put me in Dean Karnazes territory…

Tim: She’s an honest woman.  And I hear she’s from New York City, which also makes her tough as nails and a possible homicide witness (if we’re going by stereotypes).  But, seriously, your body fat count can’t be more than 4, which makes it a good 22 percentage points lower than mine so, “winning.”

Tim’s remark to Tad’s not clarifying whether he works for a secret branch of government:

You never answered whether or not you’re a secret agent…

Tad’s response: Let’s just say that I always thought the words were “Secret Asian Man”, not “Secret Agent Man”. Trust me, you don’t want me in charge of your national security.

Tim: And, yet again, you evade the question.

Tim’s remark to Tad’s noting that his wife gets sick at his using running metaphors:

Couldn’t agree more! And my wife also sickens when she hears me…say anything.

Tad’s response: My wife now informs me that she’s used to hearing me use running metaphors for nearly all of life’s situations.

Tim: But is she OK with it?  My wife hears me burp a lot, but for some reason she still gives me a dirty look.  Being used to something is not the same as tolerating it.

Tim’s remark to Tad mentioning he once yelled at an oncoming runner, “Isn’t it a glorious day to run?”

And had that oncoming runner been me, I would have screamed back. Nothing in particular, just screamed.

Tad’s response: I will admit that, in the last mile of that 100-miler (which was actually 101.85 miles), I was cursing the trails, the hills, and the rocks I had to run on. I just wanted the run to be OVER.

Tim: Uhuh.  Look, you just ran 100 miles.  What is one more, really?!  That’s the way I look at Doritos.  You’ve eaten almost the whole bag, what’s one more, really?!

Tim’s remark to Tad’s mention of throwing up:

You and I share a similar penchant for puking. Ah, bonding over bodily fluids…

Tad’s response: Running has eliminated any sense of shame I have left. Puking (which I have thankfully yet to do on a long run or in a race) is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll leave it at that.

Tim: I would say you haven’t applied yourself.  Go by my mantra, “If there is no bile, you have to run another mile.”

I then mentioned Tad’s father’s running being noted in a local paper:

For a nice news story mentioning Tad and his father, Indiana pastor Philip Meyer (props to Terre Haute), check out the Tri-Star reporting on ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes by clicking here.

Tad’s response: BTW, my father completed his first marathon over the weekend, the Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon. Given that he retired from the ministry over the summer, he needed something to occupy his time. Running seemed to be the best fit, most likely because it got him out of my mom’s hair.

Tim: Very cool.  I want to run a marathon, too one day as well.  Perhaps when I retire!

Thanks, Tad, for the great thoughts and responses.  I have to say that it’s really remarkable that you can run those distances and not puke.   Today I basically looked at the treadmill and felt ill.  But, as you said, one day it will be enjoyable.

I long for that day…

Week in Review

Days of cardio: 3

Days of lifting: 2

Prayer/Meditation: 4 days

Weight at beginning of the week: 232

Weight at the end of the week: 231

Flossing: Still going strong!

Next week I’m going to try spinning classes at the gym.  Get ready for projectile vomiting!


Why I Don’t Wax My Stomach Wednesday, January 25th

I overheard it in the lockerroom on Monday.  Two guys deep in conversation.  Well, to be honest, the conversation wasn’t “deep,” but they must have been intensely focused on the words they were forming.  No one in their right mind would speak so loudly unless they were totally unaware that they were surrounded by a dozen other people.

But here’s what was said:

“Yeah, that’s why I wax my stomach…”

I didn’t hear anything else; didn’t really have to.

To be honest, I did look at the guy’s stomach.  After a comment like that, you had to.  And sure enough it was hairless, with little moguls of muscles running down it.  Had the guy’s stomach been a ski course it would have been a black diamond; those muscles were large and well defined.

Not that I’m jealous or anything.  Sure I may not have a six-pack, but I do have a bit of a keg.  And which would you rather have at a party?  I thought so.

But what got me tripped up the most was this idea that someone would voluntarily wax that part of the body.  Someone explain this to me, please.  If this is what happens when you get a six-pack, if there is some unspoken rule that a defined mid-section demands copious waxing, I’m out.

No thanks.

Plus, the amount of wax it would take to rip hair off my mid section would obviously clean out every Micheal’s in the greater Chicago-land area of their stocks.  Arts and crafts stores don’t prepare for that kind of bulk buying…

Monday and Tuesday I ran.  This morning Critter and I did the dreaded “cross-training” which I love so much.

At the end of the session (150 squats, 100 pushups, 50 pull-ups), he turns to me and says, “Ok, now 200 ball-crunches.”

Despite the gross mental images that come with that command, my already tired mid-section was less turned by the name than the action itself.  Let us be honest for a moment: when was the last time you had to do 200 repetitions of anything?!

I mean, unless you’re Laverne or Shirley working the bottling factory, that kind of repetition is just ungodly.

And yet, I’m the tricep of this relationship: faithful and unquestioning.  I did the requested crunches.  And my midsection, while mad at me, is better for it.

After finishing that torture, Critter than asked me to do 10 “burpies.”  That was no problem, I’d been burping all morning.

Unfortunately, that was not the exercise.

“Burpies” were invented by sadomasochists.  I’m convinced of this now.  You basically squat down with your hands on the floor, kick back into a pushup position, do a pushup, kick up into a squat, and then jump as high as you can.

Or, if you’re me, you squat down to the floor, kick back into a pushup position, and fall flat on your face because your arms have defected, opting to hang out on some other body that wasn’t working out at 6:30am.

Needless to say, “burpies” of the exercise variety didn’t happen this morning.

“Perhaps I’ll try them when my arms return,” I said.  After doing that many pull-ups and pushups, my arms just weren’t having it.

Despite the epic “burpie” fail, I can feel myself getting fitter.  The pushups were easier today, as were the pull-ups.  And while the crunches were ridiculous in number, I did them with little trouble.

But, make no mistake about it: I will not wax my stomach.

I’m not suggesting that I’ll ever get six-pack abs; I don’t really want them.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Plus, each one of those little moguls is a hoagie I passed up, a beer I refused to drink, or an ice cream flavor I rejected.  It’s not worth it, folks, it’s not worth it.

But unless I’m having lower-bowel surgery, I’m perfectly OK with the hair quotient on my stomach.

Tomorrow we lift again.  Oh the humanity!

Open Letter of Apology and Week in Review Sunday, January 22nd.

Today is a short post, but I think its important.

I want to apologize for the industry that manufactures shirts without sleeves, otherwise known as “muscle-shirts.”

I apologize for wearing your apparel, the few instances that I have.  I realize that my wearing a “muscle-shirt” is a statement of irony.  Not a ironic in the way that Alanis Morissette sang about in her cranky “I’m-a-woman-pretending-to-be-mad-when-I-have-a-great-life” song entitled “ironic” (her examples were merely unfortunate, not ironic).

No.  When I wear a muscle-shirt it is actually ironic in the right use of the term.

I find it funny, actually.  But I realize that those who manufacture those types of shirts might not.  Like an adult buying a pacifier for personal use, it’s obvious that those shirts are not produced for people like me, so I’m sorry for purchasing one.

Now, for those of you who cut off the sleeves of perfectly good shirts (looking at you, Brian) because you want every shirt to be a muscle-shirt, to you I issue no apology.  Instead you get a hands-on-the-hips sassy stare.


Go join the guy who wears the baseball cap to work out, or the girl who puts on mascara before hitting the treadmill.  You all are ridiculous, and I imagine there’s a nice table in hell (read: Arkansas) waiting for you.

Week in Review:

Weight at beginning of the week: 232lbs

Weight at the end of the week: 232lbs (hey, didn’t gain any!)

Cardio days: 2

Lifting days: 2

Flossing: Pretty regular!

Failures: Didn’t tamp down the diet issue…will tackle this week!

Successes: Didn’t curse at any kids on the ski slopes.

All in all, not a bad week…but not great…

“And Critter Said Something Awkward,” Friday January 20th

Work out log, star date: Today

Monday: Ski for 6 hours

Tuesday: Recover with copious amounts of Tylenol and a beer.

Wednesday: Cancel morning work out due to late night working, but get in short run (20 minutes) that felt like 40 minutes because thighs still were not cooperating from ambitious ski adventure.

Thursday: Lift with Critter…

…And that’s where our story begins.

So due to some scheduling conflicts and these lumps of coagulated fat the doctor has identified as my legs, we postponed our lifting this week until Thursday.  This was all fine by me, btw.

But as we gathered (and by “we” I mean Critter, me, and the 4 other crazy people at the gym at 6:30am), I quickly lost motivation.  Let’s call it the “month-into-it blues.”  Or let’s just call it laziness.  But it was a struggle to lift on Thursday.  This is why it’s key to work out with someone.  Had I had it my way I would have probably gone across the street to the eggs/bacon/chicken place and had breakfast.

And, yes, they serve fried chicken for breakfast there.  Some call it strange.  I call it genius.

Critter pushed the lifting, and promised we’d only work on the chest muscles.  I thought that was kind of him, to imply that I had a chest.  Basically I’m pretty sure my upper torso consists of a “front” and a “back.”  It all kind of blends together.

We started with flies, 3 sets of 12 at 75lbs.  Then we moved on to machine bench press, 85lbs.  I’ve found that sometimes the machine is more difficult than the free weights only because it tends to work just the major muscle groups, and not all the minor muscles that help prop up the other ones.  I will explore this idea further in a book about the skeletal-muscular system when I have time to read…and when my arms can hold a book again (we lifted pretty hard).

And then we did these things called “decline press.”  60lbs.

Here’s what I think about the decline bench press: whoever came up with the idea to lay head down a hill and lift heavy things above their head should be drug out of their comfy house by their ears and caddleprodded until they repent.  That was, by far, the worst and weirdest lifting experience I’ve had so far.  It was stranger than the face down “T”s and “Y”‘s  that Critter forced upon me.

It was even stranger than the oddly named “ball-crunch” that I thought was just the result of me sitting down too quickly (it’s actually a sit up you do on a yoga ball).

And what made it strange?  It used chest muscles I had never felt before.  I imagine it is the same sensation an ornithologist gets when they discover a new bird.  Except, imagine that that bird is small, and weak, and surprisingly sarcastic.

Apparently it’s supposed to provide definition underneath the pectoral muscles.  I’m pretty sure it just made those long-dormant muscles abandon ship altogether.  It was like waking the dead…or killing the weak; one of the two.

After that, we went upstairs for the incline bench press, which I found much easier and less odd.

And then we get to the title of this blog…when we went for the stretching.

After a couple other chest exercises, it was getting to that time of day when everyone else in the world was waking up, and we had to head to work.  So we grab a mat, do some loathsome ab work, and Critter turns to me and says,

Critter: “You know what I wish this gym had?  A wrestling room.”

Me: (blank stare)

Critter: (continuing as if I wasn’t looking at him like he had just declared he was a vampire) “You know, to wrestle in.  Practice grappling moves.”

Me: (blank stare)

Critter: (trying to save it…) “We used to do it in high school all the time.  It was a great work out.  You even blogged about how people should wrestle more!”

Me: “That’s not what I said.  And, you realize that I’m going to blog about this now, don’t you?”

Critter: (sigh of resignation) “Just remember what happened last time you blogged about me.”

…for those of you just tuning in, last time I mentioned Critter in a blog he made me do the dreaded “cross training” which indeed was training in preparation for crucifixion.

Me: (undaunted) “Yeah, it’ll be worth it.  You just said you wanted a room to wrestle with people in at the gym.  Awkward.”

And that’s where it ended.

I have to say, that odd, awkward conversation made the whole lifting experience worth it that morning.  Sure his muscles are twice the size of mine.  Sure he can bench two Rosanne Barr’s.

But man, does he call out the awkward turtle sometimes.

Oh, and he just got engaged last night.  After he locked his wallet in his car, made a reservation at a place that was closed for the night, and chose the coldest evening of the year to propose outside.

And yet, that’s very “Critter.”

Congratulations!  Critter’s awkwardness is overshadowed by his awesomeness.  In fact, I’d say Critter is “awkwardly awesome.”

And that makes working out with him worth it.

“Wisconsin is Lovely This Time of Year” or “How I Broke My Diet Without Even Starting” Tuesday, January 17th

My Monday workout happened on a mountain.

Ok, so it wasn’t a mountain…it was a hill.  Apparently there are no mountains in Wisconsin.  Now, before some smart-butt out there sends me a post or an email contending that there are, in fact, mountains in Wisconsin, I encourage you to save your terrain argumentation hate for something  that really matters.

Once one has flown over the Rockies, one can safely posit that there are no mountains in Wisconsin.

That being said, there are some very steep hills in Wisconsin.  Scary steep.  The kind of steep that makes you want to slap two slick pieces of plastic to your feet and say, “Hey, I bet I can go down this hill faster on these than if I were to just roll down it!”

And off you go.  But if you’re like me, you do end up rolling down it.  And you probably take out a couple of kids with you.

I helped chaperon our church youth on this outing.  21 youth, 4 chaperons, and a partridge in a pear tree.  We had a great time, to be sure.  Volunteering to work with kids is really fun for me; others do not share my enthusiasm for humans of a younger numerical stature.

Thankfully there were no grumpy adults on our particular trip, but I did see them in the bar at the ski lodge.  You can tell they agreed to come with their own groups thinking, “Hey, kids and skis?  This should be fun!”

And then after one hour into the adventure they just find themselves belly-up to the bar trying to drown the urge to push a kid off the ski lift with shot after shot of Jameson, usually followed by a New Glarus Moonwalker (it is Wisconsin, after all).

Everyone should volunteer with the youth of their church/house of worship/atheist rally once in their lives.  It’s a great way to expand your horizons and practice the spiritual art of not cursing at people.

This particular trip involved six hours of car time: 3 there and 3 back.  I appreciate the parents that teach their children to sleep in the car.  Those riding in the Brownmobile were all asleep before we hit Rockford.  And it was not because we were bored; we had a great time!  It was because the rhythmic hum of the Dodge Caliber mixed with the melodic bass of Lady Gaga provided an atmosphere absolutely in synch with the rhythms of the heart; it would lull anyone off to sleep.

And it is at that moment that it’s all worth it.  When you hear three snoring kids in the backseat you know that the radio dial is now yours.  And so, when Amy Grant’s “Every Heartbeat” comes on the radio as you cross the Illinois/Wisconsin border, you are unafraid of hearing the tiny voice pipe up from the back saying, “Uhm, can you change the channel to something that doesn’t suck?”

And once you get to the destination, you’re free to pretend that you ski much better than you actually do because you know that you’ll never get any more advanced than the green circles with a group of city kids.  Most have never set foot on a ski hill, let alone strapped skis to themselves to try it.

This is an advantage if you are me.  You get to focus all your energy on trying to help the kids ski better instead of trying to ski better yourself.  It’s all about appearances, folks.

That being said, skiing works muscles you don’t know you have.  Like those long muscles on the inside of your thighs that apparently connect your shoulders with your knees.  That muscle hurts on me today.  I had no idea it existed.   Skiing is tricky like that.

It’s also tricky in the fact that you think you’re working extra hard all the time, so you can eat anything you want.  “Fried cheese curds?  Sure.”  “Bratwurst?  Why not?  I’m skiing, after all…”

But you’re not technically skiing…you’re just standing on skis.

That, plus the fact that every stop we made between home and the destination involved the prefix “Mc” meant that my diet was a non-starter.

That being said, I was able to practice a couple of “eating on a youth trip in Wisconsin” tips that I’ll share with you now:

-order fries.  The kids will eat them all for you.

-sit next to someone skinny.  They will no doubt order fried cheese curds, and then you will be able to eat the leftovers for them, thus denying yourself the shame of eating a full plate yourself.

-if a youth offers you the rest of their beef jerky, the only acceptable response is “no.”  You must remember that kids touch everything without ever washing their hands, so, in essence that beef jerky is really a bacteria jerky…you must say “no”

-finally, if you despair over your lack of self-control in eating everything fried in sight, just remember that this will make it easier for you to fall without hurting yourself on the ski slope…padding is free in Wisconsin!

In short, volunteer to work with kids.  It’s a great way to work on your socio-interpersonal health.  And vary your workout every once in a while.  I did ski a lot, and my legs do feel it.  You have to try adventures to work on your cultural health.

And if your socio-interpersonal health improves along with your cultural health, then you don’t have to worry if your dietary health suffers a bit.  As Meatloaf once said, “Two outta three aint bad…”

Dietary Issues and Week in Review Sunday, January 15th

It’s a tough night in the Brown household.

No, it’s not because the fiber bars have been working overtime (although that’s true, too), it’s because we’ve just said goodbye to this year’s football season as we know it.

(Cue Taps here…)

Green Bay has ridden the last cheese train into the sky tonight.  Giants: you won fair and square.  Sure your jerseys look like you’re trying too hard to prove that you’re patriotic.  Yeah, your name is slightly offensive to everyone over 6’7.  True, everyone thinks that the Northeast has way too many football teams in comparison with, say, every other part of the nation (Jets, Giants, and Pats for the square mileage equivalent to a day of bad directions in the Brownmobile?  Really?).

But, you won.  And I hope you get stomped from now on.

Sports watching is an integral part of The Year of Health.  We all need hobbies, and while it may be true that I don’t actually play football (although I was defensive coordinator for a losing flag football team in seminary), I love it.  It is my pastime.  And we all need a pastime to keep us sane.  Aikman and Buck drown out the voices in my head that tell me not to have that second brat.  And for that, I thank them heartily…even if I deeply dislike Joe Buck.  I’ve heard better broadcasting commentary at a Middle School pep rally.

But we’re coming up on an ambitious week here in The Year of Health.  It’s “Tackle that Diet” week.

Its become abundantly clear to me that I’m going to have to change some of my dietary habits (read: all of them) if I’m going to lose some of this weight.  Running and lifting will shape my body, sure.  But there is still that layer of fat insulating me with enough padding that I probably don’t need shin guards or a chest protector to play hockey.

I have to lose the gear.  And so I’m going to tackle the diet.

This won’t be easy, though.

Tomorrow my workout is skiing with 21 youth in the hills of Wisconsin.  While that undoubtedly will test my athletic ability to the point of crying “uncle” at the mere sight of a ski pole, it will also mean my first test of different eating habits will be made within the confines of a ski lodge where I will hanker for a hot chocolate, comfort foods, and possibly ice chips (depending on if I knock out any teeth on the slopes).

Nothing is worse than trying to watch what you eat when everyone is wearing puffy coats.  It gives you the impression that everyone is as fat as you, until the snow pants come off and you realize that Kate Moss and Ryan Gosling lookalikes have been masquerading as Mama Cass and John Candy, respectively.

And I really don’t want to do “diets.”  I’ve controlled weight before by this simple equation (get a pen and/or pencil): burn more calories than you eat.

Or, for your math nerds, if x is the number of calories you eat, and y is the number of calories you burn, x<y.

And no, I don’t want to drink a shake that tastes like strawberry ass.  And no I don’t want to eat a cookie the size of quarter and call it a meal.

And sure, I could eat 6 small meals a day…but I don’t consider a hand full of cashews a meal, and I sure as hell don’t consider a bowl of cottage cheese a meal.

I think that we can be sensible here, folks.  You just eat fewer calories than you burn.

But I won’t go crazy.  A friend of mine talked about an acquaintance who was only consuming a net of 400 calories a day.  That reminds me of the scene from Drop Dead Gorgeous where the beauty queen runs 18 miles a day on 400 calories…and she brushes her hair and it falls out.

Nope; that’s not my style.

And it’s not my style to eat 19 eggs for breakfast like I’m Gaston from Beauty and Beast.  While my sidekick in life is short like la Fool (looking at you, Adam), I have no desire to be the muscular “size of a barge.”

Normal health for a normal dude.  Which means I can have a normal, sustainable diet.

But that starts tomorrow.  So while I eat this pizza, you can eat your judgments.  I suggest you eat them with hot sauce.  Passing judgment should always burn (and usually it burns more than once).

Weight at beginning of the week: 231

Weight at the end of the week: 232 (doh!)

Flossing: regular

Cultural activities: cursed at the TV during the Packers game

Spiritual health: 5 days prayer/meditation

Number of days running: 2

Number of days lifting: 2

Cross Training Hell or “My Legs Hate Snow” Friday, January 13th

If you’ve been following weather reports you know that we received some ridiculous snowfall yesterday and all through the night.  It wasn’t ridiculous so much in the amount of snow, although 8″ of snowfall is nothing to blink at.

It’s ridiculous in that it came a month too late.  My Christmas snow showed up in January.  So sad.

What’s even sadder is that the snow simply aggravated my already dismal condition.

You see, Critter and I ended up doing something called “cross training” on Wednesday.  For those of you who may not know what cross training is, I have to admit you’re in good company…I don’t either.  As far as I can best ascertain, it simply meant that Critter made me do very painful exercises again and again and again.

I hear you asking, “How is that different than a normal workout?”  To which I respond, “It’s not, really…except these were very painful.”

When I asked Critter why we were doing these hellacious exercises he said, “You remember your blogpost that included me earlier this week?!”

Touche, Critter.  Touche.

The workout started normally enough.  I did Supermans and leg-ups.  And then we did the dreaded bench press which, while slightly easier today, still made me want to punch the desk attendants at the gym…just because.

On a side note, Critter benched somewhere in the neighborhood of 200lbs…while I still did my nominal 90lbsish.  I say “ish” because, let’s be honest, that bar never touched my chest.  So while I “lifted” the weight at least a couple times, it was actually more like I held it up.

But then Critter confessed that he had forgotten his “secret little book” that holds the ominous numbers and abbreviations that stand for things only weightlifters know about.  It’s a code I have yet to break.  Weightlifters are truly the “wind-talkers” of the workout world.

But this gym bag omission meant that none of this lifting was on the record, which would be a problem if we ever wanted to look back in later years to see how much we lifted on the arbitrary date of January 11th, 2012.  You can see how torn up I am about this…

But then I found out what happens when Critter doesn’t bring his secret little book: cross training.

Let me rephrase that.  I found out what happens when Critter doesn’t bring his secret little book: you get to look over the abyss of death and glimpse a world without muscle-use.

We started with pullups (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing before I continue).

Can I do pullups?  Technically, yes.  I can do two.

Unfortunately I was told to do 50.  Yes, 50.  That meant 48 pullups that were unaccounted for.  How did I do them?

Well, they have these machines at the gym that can provide a counter-weight to your weight which assists you in pulling yourself up.  So after I had set the counter weight to, oh, 140lbs, I was able to (barely) finish the first 10 reps.  I would be back for 4 more sets…

We then went over to one of the cages, here I thought I would be strapped to a bar and tortured with electrical prods.  And I was, although I can’t prove it because I’m sure I blacked out sometime during the next exercise.

I was actually just asked to do some incline pushups.  20 of them.  That sounds easy…unless you’ve already bench pressed the equivalent of a mid-sized dog and pulled up your own body weight (twice) and the body weight of a 12 year old 8 times.  In short, my arms didn’t cooperate very well.

I did the inclined pushups, but not without difficulty.  And that was the first of 5 sets.

And then, then the descent into Hades began in full force.  Squats.  30 of them.

Let me go on record now in saying that squats are never, NEVER, worth it.  Never.

If the choice is to jump into a tank of sharks or do over 10 squats, you might as well baste me in hot sauce and call the coroner because it’s dinner time.

After the squats back to the pullups, and then the push ups, and then the squats.  For those of you keeping count, that’s 50 pullups, 100 incline pushups, and 150 squats.

And then he expected us to do an ab routine with that craptastic little phone of his.  I put down the mat to do the ab workouts, but as we quickly found out after minute 2, my appendages no longer worked at all.  As my good friend Erik put it, my abs staged a “sit in”…along with my arms and legs.

I barely got up off that floor.

And as we were leaving the smell area Critter goes, “You’re going to want to stretch later on.”  I found out that this statement was absolutely unnecessary, like telling a downhill skier, “You’re going to want to stop when the hill levels out” because the entire day it felt as if I was stretching every time I so much as extended my arm to reach for a coffee cup.

Cross training allows you to feel the individual muscles that go into doing simple, every day tasks.  It’s unpleasant.

What’s more unpleasant is the next day, or yesterday as it would turn out.  Because yesterday my legs decided they were going to take the day off.

As the snow started to fall, my already shaky legs (this is what happens when you do squats) became even more unstable.  With shifting ice crystals underfoot, my legs needed to do some negotiating with the ground.

The ground won those negotiations.  And as I shuffled through the snow like an old man in slippers, I found out the true meaning of “pain” and “suffering.”

Part of the reason I was unable to post yesterday was because it’s difficult to type in a bathtub full of ice cubes (over dramatization).

Actually, it’s just difficult to find the time to type when you’re running late for every meeting or appointment because your legs are protesting every move.

I didn’t work out yesterday.  Sometimes you just have to rest.

In sum, I learned two things.  First, cross training is excellent if you want to experience what it feels like to come as close to total body failure as possible without going over the edge.  Secondly, my legs hate snow.

I feel this knowledge will come in handy some day like, say, when Critter next proposes we do cross training.

My Interview with an Ultra-Marathoner! A Must Read!-Wednesday January 11th

I like knowing people.

Part of the reason I like knowing people is because I like people.  People are funny.  They make me laugh.

But a large part of the reason that I like knowing people is because it gets me one step closer to Kevin Bacon and, although I think he’s a pretty lousy actor (need I mention Hollow Man?), I crave fame.  Vanity, vanity, all of it is vanity.

So, when I found out that I was not only in the same fraternity as the number 17 ultra-marathon runner in the nation, but also that he was my grand-big (a fraternity term that means he’s about as close in relation to you as the guy sitting next to you on the bus), I knew that I had to interview him for this blog.

In all seriousness, Tad Meyer is a wonderful brother and a stand-up athlete.  He’s the kind of athlete that makes me want to be an athlete…of any kind.  Plus, with a body fat ration hovering in the 1-2%, it also means he can eat anything he wants…another point of inspiration because I, too, want to be able to eat anything I want!

This interview was conducted over Facebook, with me asking the questions and Tad writing back answers (legit answers, too).  Since there was no “back and forth,” I’ll be providing what I would have said after his responses in parenthesis.  Perhaps he’ll read and respond to the responses…at which time I’ll include them in “My Interview with an Ultra-Marathoner Part II: The Second Mile.”

I’m a genius with titles.

Alright, here we go…

1) Tad, How long have you been running in general?

Tad: I’ve been running for about 20 years now, but I didn’t get really serious (read: didn’t start running marathons and ultramarathons) until 7 years ago.

(That is a long time.  Which means, in real terms, that you’ve run farther on foot than I’ve been on plane, train, automobile, foot, and riding lawnmower combined.)

2) What led you to think that running insane distances, sometimes through extreme weather, would be fun/interesting/exciting/a good idea?
Tad: As a teenager, I always enjoyed the challenge that a run in potentially epic conditions could pose, whether those conditions involved subzero or 110 degree temps, rain, sleet, snow, ice, hail (somewhat painful), thunderstorms, tornado watches, hurricanes, or Nor’easters. It was after I ran my first marathon, however, that I fell in love with the idea of pushing myself over long distances. I remember finishing the marathon thinking, “well, that was hard, but I think I can run further.” A year later, as I crossed the finish line of my first 50-miler, I again thought to myself, “well, that was hard, but I think I can go further than that.” The running snowballed from there. I truly enjoy testing my own limits, seeing how I respond to adversity, and testing the limits of human endurance. In a word, I like to see what my body is capable of.

(The dedication that requires is definitely admirable.  I want to wonder out loud what it might look like to push a body the other direction, to see what a body is capable of in slovenly conditions.  Although, looking around me on the Red Line, I can see that that experiment is well underway and probably on its second and third trial.)

3) How many miles do you currently run a week?
Tad: I generally average about 80-100 miles a week, depending on how much cross-training I do and if I have an upcoming race.

(No comment. Just…no comment)

4) How do you prepare for a race? What is most important?
Tad: Training for ultramarathons (any distance longer than 26.2 miles) is truly a labor of love, as building up the endurance and ability to run such long distances takes months to years. I’ve found that the easiest way to train for long races is to run lots of shorter ones. For instance, it’s hard to do long preparatory runs for a 100-mile race that are longer than 40 miles, because it would take so long to recover from such training runs. The best thing to do is to run several 50-milers several months apart in the lead-up to the 100-miler. My current race preparation generally consists of scheduling a preparatory race about 2 months before a longer race and having my maximum weekly mileage peak about a month out. The last week before the race I try to focus on getting a few extra calories, sleeping a little more, and running less

(Interesting!  It’s kind of like when I’m preparing to go to Standard India, the Indian buffet, and I skip breakfast and lunch.  Overeating doesn’t help my body prepare for that food.  I imagine over running is much the same.  Except, well, healthier…but not as tasty.)

And then Tad continued…

Tad: On a related note, I should mention that proper nutrition is also essential in preparing for a race. Running long distances allows you to eat whatever you want, but you’ve got to eat good calories or else you won’t run or train well at all. And while you’ve obviously got to train your legs to run long distances, for me it was actually harder to train my endocrine system to deal with digesting fluids and foods during long training runs and races.

(Disregard the above answer to your first paragraph.  I don’t eat at Indian buffets.  At least not when I’m confronted with 1-2% body fat…)

5) As number 17 in the nation of extreme long-distance running, what is one tip that you would give to an amateur runner who may want to take their runs to the next level?
Tad: Stick with it. Stick with it. Stick with it. Every beginning runner goes through the this-really-sucks stage, and it lasts longer for some than it does for others, but the key is to just.keep.running. At some point, it WILL get easier, and at another point, it will actually become ENJOYABLE. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Many runners experience setbacks early on, whether it be from injury or something else, but you should always remind yourself that you’re strong enough to do it. Finally, take it EASY. Most runners think they need to run fast all the time, when in reality they should be doing the bulk of their mileage (upwards of 80%) at a pace that is comfortable enough to converse at. As you become a stronger, better runner, you’ll be able to do harder, longer, faster runs, but take it easy early on.

(I am hoping that running will become enjoyable one day.  Until then, I suffer.  And suffer.)

6)Are you secretly an agent who does ultra-marathons to train for withstanding torture?
Tad: I can honestly say that a 3000 foot descent at mile 90 of a 100-mile race is far more torturous than waterboarding ever would be.

(You never answered whether or not you’re a secret agent…)

7)As a Pastor’s Kid and Christian, what is the connection that you see (if any) between spirituality and physical health?
Tad: I think there’s a strong relationship between our spiritual and physical health. Just as you cannot expect to become a better runner without, well, running, you can’t expect to nourish your faith without the right kind of spiritual training, i.e. hearing and studying the Word of God and receiving His means of grace. Moreover, in the same way that one might experience physical ups and downs on a run or a period of training (or a lot of ups and downs on a REALLY long run), one can expect to experience spiritual ups and downs throughout life. Just as it’s important, however, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep moving forward, it’s important to remember that God will always be with us as we move forward in life; He will never forsake us through all life’s successes and challenges. (On a related note, I think running can be used as a metaphor for many situations in our lives, and my wife likely sickens when she hears me start off a sentence with, “You know, it’s kind of like running an ultramarathon…”)

(Couldn’t agree more!  And my wife also sickens when she hears me…say anything.)

8)What has been your most memorable long run experience?
I’ve had a lot of great long run experiences, but the most memorable one I’ve had was at the turnaround point of the last 100-miler I ran. As I crested the top of the mountain early in the morning (the race started at 6pm the evening before), the sun had just begun to break the horizon, with sunlight piercing the clouds. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I paused for just a minute to take in the beauty of God’s creation. It also prompted me to scream out to an oncoming runner, “Isn’t this just a great day for a run?!?”

(And had that oncoming runner been me, I would have screamed back.  Nothing in particular, just screamed.)

9)Ultra-runner Dean Karnazes occasionally orders a pizza during a race, and will give the driver GPS coordinates. Comment?
There are times in a race when I can barely stomach a few orange slices and a banana, so it never ceases to amaze me that some people can eat complete junk and keep running. Dean is truly a machine.

(You and I share a similar penchant for puking.  Ah, bonding over bodily fluids…)

10) What would the title of Tad Meyer’s ultra-marathon book be?
It would be “I Just Like Running”. I want the epitaph on my tombstone to read, “He ran the good race of faith…and a lot of other ultras.”

(As a pastor I can probably make that arrangement…)

Thanks to Tad Meyer for providing the responses!  You’re truly a stellar athlete and inspiration for runners (and fast walkers like me) everywhere.

For a nice news story mentioning Tad and his father, Indiana pastor Philip Meyer (props to Terre Haut), check out the Tri-Star reporting on ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes by clicking here.

Keep running, ladies and germs!

Ditched like a Pennsylvania Highway-Tuesday, January 10th

Critter ditched me this morning.

When my alarm went off at the insane hour of 5:30am, I got up and checked my phone.  There was a missed text.

“Not gonna work today Timmy, sorry.  I know this upsets you and I don’t even feel bad about it.  Oh, and Thursday won’t work either so you can shove it!”

Ok.  It didn’t exactly say that.  But that’s the way my heart translated it.

I texted back, “You at least owe me a reason!  My soul is crushed.  I’m going back to bed and I don’t know if I’ll get up again…”

That’s not true either.  But it is true that I wasn’t sure if I would get up again once I laid back down.  I barely know how to set my alarm when I’m coherent.  In a daze of sleep it’s virtually impossible.  I no doubt would have set it for 6:30pm and then slept through dinner.

But sometimes schedules don’t work out.  We’ll lift tomorrow.  But as I crawled back into bed Rhonda got up, chipper as a tweety bird.

“It’s warm out!  I’m going for a run.”

“Ok.  Wake me when you return.”  And I rolled over to dream about anything but working out.

But I did eventually make it to the gym today to run on the treadmill, and while this post may be short, I must address something that I saw again today: the ball cap wearing exerciser.

And if it’s not bad enough he wears the cap inside the gym, the guy CHANGES THE CAP before leaving.  You read that correctly: he has a workout cap.

In case it rains inside, apparently.

In my mind I’m thinking, “Ok, the dude is bald and doesn’t want sweat to drip into his eyes.  I get it.”  And I do get it because I, too, would wear some sort of headgear in the gym if it didn’t look totally idiotic.  Jay-Z can wear a sweatband and look cool.  When I wear it I look like an Olivia Newton-John groupie.  It’s just how life is.

But I saw him switch caps, and the dude has a full head of hair.  Full. Head. Hair.


A slap to bald(ing) men everywhere.  If I had hair like his I’d never wear anything on my head, ever: rain, shine, construction site, tsunami, in space.  Let it float, baby, let it float.

But he has the audacity to cover his curly locks (with a White Sox hat no less) and then change into a “dress” cap.

Btw, no such animal.

So, to the dude who wears, and then switches, ball caps at the gym: knock it off!

Ditch the hat like Critter ditched me this morning.  You can thank me later.

Days Where I Wish I Had My Mandarin-English Dictionary, Monday, January 9th

Let’s take a moment to chat about tattoos.

How do tattoos play into The Year of Health you might ask?

Well, other than the potential infection risk that tattoos pose (especially if you get one from around the corner from where I live…I don’t think the artist is supposed to lick the ink needle as one might do with a sticky ballpoint pen), tattoos can be a “hit or miss” in the classy department. And while they may make wonderful conversation pieces, most people really shouldn’t be seeing your upper thigh anyway…

But we’ll save that for a different editorial on dress code.

The major reason I want to talk about tattoos today is because, well, I saw one.  One all too familiar.  In fact, I’ve seen many a variation of this type of tattoo since moving to Chicago.

You guessed it: the “inside-of-the-upper-arm-Chinese-character” tattoo.

And, of course, you find them mostly on white men just out of college who don’t take their ball caps off when they work out (again, another post just waiting to be penned).

I want to wonder out loud what exactly that Mandarin phrase might be that they felt the need to precariously perch it on the blank canvass between their elbow and their armpit.  What might one need to be reminded of when looking there?

The pragmatic choices of “Apply deodorant here!” or “Smell to check freshness!” come first to my mind.

But I don’t think that’s it.

I imagine they’re probably the characters for “Hope,” “Love,” “Peace,” or the Mandarin equivalent to the phrase “Know Thyself”…which, I should note, is only appropriate to have on your body tattooed in Latin.

To be honest, I’ve looked to my armpit for a lot of things: to see where “that smell” was coming from, to find out how I somehow got a paper cut in the armpit crease, to apply ointment after a particularly hard and chaffing run. But I’ve never looked to my armpit for inspiration.  Not once.

And it should also be noted that I have a tattoo.  But it’s more of a decoration for me, kind of like you might hang wall art or switch out a hood ornament.  And it’s not writing, in any language.  Although it is a cross, which technically is a lower-case “t” in English.  If you take it as such, just imagine it’s a “t” for “tim” or “t” for “this is my arm, not yours.”  Pick whatever phrase you like.

Back to the Mandarin characters.

On Friday I ran on the treadmill so hard that the treadmill extension chord came undone.  Right at the peak of my run with the setting on 8.0, where my body heat was at it’s zenith and I was certain that the people to my left and my right had both abandoned their own runs because my elbows were flinging sweat onto them, the treadmill just simply shut off.


I took that as a sign.  After 22 minutes of running, I had tired the treadmill out with my heavily thumping body steps.  So I called it quits and headed toward the locker room.

There I was accosted by one of these armpit hugging tattoos brandished in the mirror by a guy, with a ball cap, making kissy faces at his reflection as he flexed.

Btw, “kissy faces” in the mirror make you look like you’re trying to seduce yourself, which is really creepy.

But here’s how I imagined a conversation might go with him if I had had the guts to confront this cultural phenomenon run amuck.

I wanted to say to him, as I walked by, “Oh yes, I agree.”

To which he would undoubtedly reply, “With what?”

“Oh,” I would say nonchalantly, “with the statement on your underarm.”

“You mean ‘Peace, Hope, Love’?” he would ask blankly.

To which I would respond, “Is that what they told you it said?!  Hahaha, your tattoo artist has a lovely sense of humor.”

“What does it say, then?!” he’d scream.

“Object is smaller than it appears,” I’d say over my shoulder, as I headed for my locker.

Kissy face that you body art bozo.