Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I Run

Last year I lost 33 lbs in 5 months. For those of you who would say that I did not have 33 lbs to lose, take a look at my pictures from March of last year. Yikes. By the way, this post is long. You have been warned. No complaining or making "humorous" comments about how long it is because I warned you. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. There's a monster at the end of this book. Please continue...

I love to run,
it makes me smile.
I think I'll run
another mile.

Just so there be no pretenses, Matilda is not going to be mentioned today. This entry is entirely about yours truly and his tendency to run. If you are not interested, you are welcome to go entertain yourself on someone else's blog who most surely has thrown a fresh batch of jpegs of their little bambino on their blog. It won't be long until the next post about the babe. Come back then.

Here, however, you will find my thoughts on running and how it has changed my life. At the bottom you will find ten tips for those of you who want to start running, but do not know how. I promise it will be somewhat entertaining, too.

I would not call myself a fat child, but I had a nice round face. I always played in the city league basketball, soccer, little league baseball, and was decent, but not great. Not even really good. I stayed short for a long time (my freshman year of high school I was 5'2", 115 lbs), and throughout my grade-school years I was just slightly rotund. To give you an example of how good I was at sports, allow me to recount one incident from a city league basketball game. It was a fairly easy game for the skilled players on my team. We were ahead by about 30 points in the beginning of the fourth quarter. I had been in the game once already, but after my 15 seconds were up, I missed the cue that I was supposed to come out and stayed on the floor. As I faithfully ran down the court on offense, I was suddenly tripped and immediately dragged off the court by my t-shirt. Only when I saw the scarlet hue of my coach's face and heard the giggles from the parents section did I realize I must have done something stupid. Sure enough, there were five other players on the court. Whoops.

Back to the story, though. I somehow made it back in the game and actually got the ball! I went to pass it immediately--whenever I held it for more than two seconds, bad things happened--and the ball sailed clear across the court and into the stands. The referee blew his whistle, and I anticipated the call, "Excessive suckiness by the rotund one and safety-goggle-sized spectacles. You're outta here!!" Imagine my surprise when I heard that he called a foul. On whom? I may have been a chunker, but I was not stupid. Au contraire, I was one of the nerdiest kids in the class. I loved all things Mario, I did math for fun, and I could out spell anyone within ten years of me. AND I knew that to get called for a foul, someone had to touch someone else in an aggressive manner. My guess is that the ball went so high, the ref thought it was a shot, but it was such a bad shot that someone must have sucker-punched me in the kidney. At any rate, I got my two shots--more than I had taken in my four previous years.

First shot went straight to the referee. I think he thought I was checking it or something because he threw it back and motioned like I was supposed to shoot the ball. Luckily, my second first free throw hit the backboard, which is all I was hoping for. The second one, however, went in!! The parents' section erupted! Standing ovations, my mother was sobbing tears of joy, teammates gathered around to give high fives and butt-smacks. I think they just called the game right then and there. I think they carried me out on their shoulders. A good day. I celebrated with a few hours of goomba stompin'. I may have even made it to World 8 without warping or continuing. Very good day.

So that was my experience with city league sports. I have similar tales to tell about soccer and baseball, but already this is getting lengthy, and there are miles to go before we sleep.

School was another experience entirely. From 5-8 grade I attended Albert D. Lawton Intermediate School. No, it was not private, that is just what it was called. In sixth grade you could start trying out for sports, so I did. Soccer: rejected. Basketball: rejected. Baseball: rejected. Volleyball: rejected. I did not even make the second day of try-outs. Sometimes at the first break in the try-out, the coach would say, "Five minute break everybody! You, don't bother coming back." Of course he was talking to me. Oh yeah, school play: rejected. I was, however, the lead trombonist and got straight A's, so life was okay.

So after that eventful sixth grade year, I came back for another round. Soccer: rejected. Luckily, my friend JR told me that there existed a team that did not cut anyone--Cross Country. Well, duh! They run for fun. But the notion of not getting cut was very appealing, however, so I joined.

If he could have cut me, he would have. I came in last every practice, and pretty close thereunto at every race. A boy from my church group ran for the high school cross country team, and one day decided to make small talk with me. "So how did you do in the race this week?" he asked. I replied that I came in 125th. He laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed (runners have good endurance). There were only 130 people in the race.

But I never walked. However slow I ran, I never walked.

I kept it up through my senior year of high school. I got better, but being a late bloomer, that chunk just really wanted to hold me down. My sophomore year of high school, we moved from Vermont to Utah, and the coach made me run with the girls' team. He said I could not hold the guys team back like I was. But I kept running. Luckily there were guys like Brian Lindsay who were nice to me and made me feel like I was a worthwhile part of the team. Luckily there were a lot of cute girls on the team, and we became good friends. A couple of the girls and I started going on morning runs. And I started to get good.

By my senior year, I was the number three or four runner on a team that came in sixth at the state meet. And I was hooked for life. This was in the year 1999.

2000-2007 I graduated from high school in 2000. I would go running sometimes, but it was far more fun to go on Wendy's runs and get a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. It was more fun to take the set of bowling pins I bought from the local bowling alley and go bowling down our dorm hallway. Then I went to Italy.

In Italy, as part of the rules of the mission, you could never leave your companion except to use the bathroom. We also got up every day at 6:30 AM and worked until 10:30-11 PM. Not many of my companions wanted to go running (understandably), so I did not.

I returned from Italy in July of 2003, and from that point never began a regular running schedule. When I got back from Italy, I weighed about 175, and stayed right around there for the next four years. I also took nearly every sports and dance class offered at BYU. I am now exponentially better at sports, and am one of the better players on any soccer, basketball, or volleyball team that I play on. Boo yeah.

I graduated from BYU in December of 2007. At this point, I was no longer on BYU's Folk Dance team, which kept me somewhat in shape, and working full-time. With little to no physical activity, my weight quickly ballooned up to 188, and that is when the alarm went off. I was NOT going to allow myself to hit 190 lbs. It also killed me that the National Institute of Health Body Mass Index said that I was technically "Overweight". So I began to run.

I think early March was when I began running. I went every day, Monday through Saturday, and did not miss a day for close to six months. At the beginning it was horrible. I had run a few 1/2 marathons back in my golden days of running, and on the first day of running, I could not make it around the block. And I was horribly sore the next day. Four advils and a good playlist later, I made it out the door for day two, which I think was the hardest day. Even worse than day one. Day three got fractionally better, and so on.

In April, I ran the Salt Lake City 1/2 marathon and did decently, coming in just under two hours (about a nine minute mile). I then won a contest and was flown out to San Francisco to run the SF Marathon. I came in just under 3 hours 40 minutes - about an 8:30 mile. I then ran the St. George Marathon and finished in 3:29:17, just under an 8 minute mile.

My shirt size went from almost-a-large to a small. My waist went from 34 to 30. Many articles of clothing that were too small in March were ridiculously large in August. My weight went from 188 at its highest to 155 at its lowest. I have so much more energy now, and feel so much better about myself too. I focus better at work, I naturally want to eat better, and people that I have not seen since last year are amazed at the transformation.

It was tough training for a marathon! Damn tough. One of the hardest things I have ever done. But luckily, although I do not have a penchant for natural sports ability, I am gifted with a Biggie-sized helping of determination. When I set my mind to something, come hell or high water, I do not back down.

So that is where I am now. I had stopped running regularly since the St. George Marathon, and just last week began my daily runs again. I am signed up to do the Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon in early March, then either the Salt Lake Marathon in April or the Ogden Marathon in May. I'll try to get in the St. George Marathon again in October, go to the New York City ING Marathon in November, and hopefully hit up the Boston Marathon in 2010. For that, I need to knock another 20 minutes off my time (about 7:10 minute mile) and finish one of the marathons under 3:10:00 to qualify.

One of the main reasons for me writing this post was to give myself the motivation to keep going, and remind myself of my roots.

The other is to hopefully provide a few of you with the determination and motivation to get out there and run. It is one of the easiest and most efficient ways of losing weight fast and keeping it off. The good news: when you are running 60 miles a week, you can eat whatever the heck you want, and a lot of it, too.

A few final tips for those of you who want to start running:
1. Start tomorrow. Don't say that you'll start next week, or when you get more time, or when you're not sick anymore, or whatever. Believe me, you will ALWAYS be able to find an excuse not to go running.
2. Go in the morning. It is easier to trick yourself into doing something you don't really want to do if you do it before you realize what you're doing. You'll feel better throughout the day and sleep better at night. Plus there is something magical about the smells, sights, and sounds of the world before it wakes up.
3. Go every day. If you try to start out every other day, you lose a lot of momentum. Going every day makes the decision for you whether or not you will go running tomorrow. The answer is always yes! But...
4. Take one day off a week. Sunday is my day off, but you may choose whatever day off you want.
5. Start easy and slow. Even if you were once a runner, or you know you can run 3 miles does not mean you should. Find a distance that you can do every day without killing yourself.
6. Keep it easy and slow for a while. I have known too many people who start feeling good about where they are, so even though they are running 2 miles a day, they go out and run 8 miles one day. They then hurt themselves and have to take a few days/weeks off, and by the time they are better, the momentum and motivation has waned, and they never start again.
7. Stretch. I do not warm up and stretch before I run, even though I would recommend it, but I do stretch thoroughly after every run. Focus on your quads and hamstrings. Most start-up injuries are caused by improper or negligence towards stretching. Use RunnersWorld.com as a resource.
8. Strengthen your core and auxiliary muscles. Do push-ups, core exercises, and go lift weights if you can. Running uses so many more muscles than just your legs, so the more your can improve your overall strength, the easier running will become. 9. Run properly. Running properly makes it so much easier to run. So many times I watch runners and think, "They are wasting so much energy by running that way." Again, RunnersWorld.com is a great place to learn about how to run properly thus avoiding injury and increasing your chances of keeping going.
10. Eat right. You are burning a lot of calories when you run, so make sure and replace them, but not with sugars and empty calories. As you are just starting out running, you probably do not even need to increase your protein or carbohydrates. If you do and run 1-2 miles a day, you will be undoing all you did by running. Eliminate sugars and most greasy/processed foods from your diet and you will be on the right track.

And a bonus tip: Find a running buddy. There are lots of people out there who want to go running, but as I have said, it is hard to just start alone. If you are married, make it someone other than your spouse. It is too easy to convince each other to get out of bed when you are in there with the person you are supposed to meet. Pick a place and time to meet, and go every day.

A great tool to keep track of how far you run each day is www.mapmyrun.com. I use it all the time to map out new routes and keep track of my weekly mileage. I love it!

And while I do not profess to be an expert at running, I do have over 15 years of experience. Feel free to disagree, or leave a comment with any questions, comments, or remarks. I hope this helps those of you looking for a little motivation, because running really is a beautiful thing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Obligatory Video Montage

As you were reading yesterday's blog, I bet you were wondering, "Where's the montage of Matilda pictures and videos with cheesy music?" Your answer lies herein. The music is "Have a Little Faith in Me" by John Hiatt. I admit that I had not heard the song before watching this episode of The Office. The video is called "Happy Six Moths, Matilda!" Listen carefully to the words and how they ofttimes sync with the pictures. A couple times I think I made myself cry. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Hundred Sixty-Four Thousand, Nine-Sixty Minutes

Hey. It has been a while. You want to know why? That is none of your business. You really want to know? My, you are pushy today. Just realize that I have no o-BLOG-ation (ba-dum-CHING) to you, or to tell the truth. But thus said, here we go.

One day, I went out to pick up the paper. Nothing unusual so far. I was wearing my Freudian slippers (a 2007 Christmas present from the wife) and red-checked robe. The paper sat in the mud between the sidewalk and the curb. I still have not figured out why the paper boy does that. He walks down the sidewalk, and instead of placing the paper on the paved walkway to our door, or even tossing it up on our porch, he turns in the opposite direction and places it in the yet-unseeded and subsequently muddy patch on the other side. Little twerp.

Thoughts of a similar nature ran through my head as I braved the cold, when I bent over to grab the paper and heard a voice say, "Fart."

"That is odd," I thought to myself. "Usually I hear farts when I bend over, but I don't usually hear the word fart. Has my posterior suddenly become articulate? How polite of it." And I began walking back up the walkway.

"Fart," it said again. "Fart fart."

"I know that I ate expired sour cream last night, but this is ridiculous! Such an abundance of flatulence is extremely unusual. Could it be that someone was yelling profanities at me?" My heart saddened slightly. The thought of having a communicative butt was intriguing. So many questions could finally be answered. Looking around, however, it seemed as though the source of the sound was not part of my self. It did not even look like it was a part of this world.

"Who are you?" I inquired.

"I am Cuthbert, a troll of the third order, Sporco patrol. Fart FART!" And with that, he saluted.

"Well Cuthbert, let's clear the air, so to speak. What is with your constant dictation of the word, 'fart'?"

"After much observation, I found that it is the word most likely get your attention. Time is presently not a commodity we have present, so..."

Cuthbert proceeded to unfold to me a story of troll oppression so dastardly and heartbreaking that I could not help but help him. I would tell you what he looks like, or what I helped him and the Sporco patrol overthrow, but I was sworn to secrecy. One does NOT break an oath with a troll. Especially not those of the third order, Sporco patrol. I am sure I would wake up tomorrow missing who knows what body part. All I can tell you for now is this, Rosebud.

Hey, Pushy MacPusherson, you were the one who wanted, nay, needed to know why I had not been posting. I have told you all that I can due the ongoing sensitive nature of the mission. More may come later. Or it may not.

Matilda turned six months old today! We have already established that I believe that my child is the most beautiful, intelligent, fun, loving, fun-loving, smiley, laughy, strong, engaging, curious, addicting, radiating, scintillating, cool kid in the world. And I do not just say that because I am her father. I say that because if you put your child next to mine, ten out of ten people will agree that Matilda surpasses yours in each of the above-stated areas. Be offended, but if you are, then in the words of my good friend, and only other male blogger of which I know, "Suck it, dorks." Thanks, Alex, for putting it so well.

Here are some of her recent accomplishments:
  • Laughs a nice, deep, infectious laugh for her mommy and daddy. She's a very appreciative audience. Her favorite joke? Sneezing. She also likes daddy's crazy spastickeries.
  • Rolls from tummy to back every time she is on her tummy. Has been doing this since she was less than two months. She has also twice rolled from back to front.
  • Sits up unsupported. Her longest stint is 7 minutes alone, then I think she got bored.
  • She loves food. I'm not talking about bottle food, either. She eats level 1 solid foods like a champ - barely any mess. My mother, grandmother, aunts, and anyone who sees her eat says, "Oh dear me, I have never in all my years seen a child who eats with such immaculate cleanliness and precision." Verbatim. Her favorite is sweet potato mush, which incidentally is also the only one I would eat if threatened with removal of a limb.
  • She loves it when I read to her. Usually she'll just cuddle up to me and pat me with her arm until she falls asleep. So far, we've read the first Harry Potter, The Little Prince, and Pinocchio, all in Italian. We have also read Matilda in English. I don't know what our next book will be,
  • She makes all sorts of cute sounds, including "Guh", "Fffffff", "Duh", "Ppppppp", "Goiii", and her favorite, "Aaaaaaaa".
  • She loves patting and punching, especially with her right arm. Sometimes when she gets really sleepy, she'll just sit there and punch herself in the face with her fist. It is funny and cute. The best is when I come home and she comes to me and just pats my arm, as if to say, "Gee, I'm glad you're home!"
  • She always looks for Mommy and Daddy when she knows they should be around. Even when my mom is babysitting, Matilda will always be looking around for me until she has seen me leave. She has also started to lean back towards Megan and I when we try and pass her to someone else. It's cute and heartwarming, but I hope she doesn't get stranger anxiety.
  • She sleeps through the night without getting up to eat. Has since she was 2 weeks old. Her longest uninterrupted stint was 14 hours. Usually it's 8-10. Such a good sleeper! Takes good naps too.
  • I love throwing her in the air, and she loves it too. Usually she spits up after, though.
So anyway, back to her birthday. Her birthday present (a Recaro $250 car seat bought for $99) came on the eleventh, so we had her try it out. Here are the results:

Kind of reminds me of this:

In other news, we celebrated her six month birthday by taking her to a location devoid of caring or emotion where people inflict physical pain. I jest. I have had my moment of verbal aggression against the physicians. They do good work. I do not think they should get paid what they do to do it, but that is a topic for another day. I do apologize for any prior immaturity I may have expressed when talking about punching a doctor or nurse for taking blood samples or administering shots. It was mostly for comedic effect.

Since I finally took the time to clean some space off our memory card (we had not deleted any pictures since Matilda was born), I decided to photograph the events of the day as they unfolded. Here is what I have thus far.

Matilda enjoying a nice breakfast of Lightning McQueen. It came out of a box of Rice Krispies, so it must have some nutritional value, right? Trivia of interest: I bought these pajamas for Matilda about eighteen months ago, thinking they would be perfect for Christmas. These 3-6 month threads are just about right on her six month birthday. But hey, at 25 inches she moved into the 25th percentile for height, which is progress. She still rests just below the 5th percentile in weight at 13.00 lbs, and her head circumference is at the 35th percentile.

She knows when she looks cool, and she knows it in this picture. Ever since I can remember I been poppin' my colla, poppin' poppin' my colla, poopin' poopin' my diapa!

Tilly loves the water, and especially sticking her hands and feet in flowing water. This kid has been reaching for everything, and starting to grab. No more eating cereal with her on my lap, I guess.

If she has to get out of the bath (which she hates), at least she can get all snuggly in her turtle towel (which she loves)!

She has been sitting up for 5-6 minute stretches for about two weeks now. She only falls over when she tries to look too far over her shoulder, or reach to far forward for a toy. Other than that, she is very stable and good at balancing/correcting herself. The doctor was very impressed and said that her muscle tone is right now what they usually expect to see in 8-9 month-old babies.

A cute profile shot of her on her changing table in front of the window in her room. What a cute little nose. Such good posture, too!

Just enjoying watching the world go by.

Mommy helping her get undressed so that the doctor and nurses can do their thing. The poor thing is woefully ignorant of what is coming. I did give her some baby Tylenol about 30 min before, just to help out as much as I could.

Ignorant no more.

A little angry face and some comfort food. Luckily, she had not yet had her nap today, so after just a few minutes of angry growls and scowls, she was out like dead fish. But not as stinky.