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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've Been Dreaming Up a Storm Lately


This time of year is always hard on the psyche. It starts coming on early in April without even realizing it, and then progresses each day until the 19th. Even when the date slips my mind, once I realize that the depression is setting in again, I am reminded to look at the calendar and there it is; April 19th.

A quick Google search on that date and the US Navy will lead you to what this date is, and this year is especially meaningful because it is the 25th anniversary. Not one to celebrate of course, but one to remember, and to use in honor of the 47 who gave their lives that day in 1989, and the remaining 800 or so of us who had to live through the bullshit that followed during the investigation. Regardless, if you are reading this before the 19th, or after the 19th, please take a moment to remember those 47 sailors who were taken from us 25 years ago.

I’ve been dreaming up a storm lately. They have been running the gamut from my “Navy Dreams” to “Race Dreams”. Navy Dreams are always interesting. I have been out of the Navy 23 years, which is double the time I was IN the service, but I still have dreams like it was yesterday. They all seem to revolve around the same basic premise; I am shipping out on deployment and I don’t have a complete seabag. How anal retentive is that? For those who are not aware, a seabag is what we are issues in boot camp which a full complement of uniforms and gear. When you are being deployed, senior petty officers (usually a first class) does a seabag inspection where you have to lay everything you have out on your rack to ensure you have everything needed for the deployment (since getting clothes, toiletries, etc. can be hard in the middle of the Atlantic/Pacific/Mediterranean/ Indian Ocean). There is a list of requirements that are checked off for each crew member; 5 undershirts, 7 pairs of socks, boots, dress shoes, dress whites, dress blues, 5 hats, etc. etc. And isn't it a bit scary that I remember those requirements 23 years later?? So most Navy Dreams are of me not having enough t-shirts and the ship is pulling away from the dock for 7 months.

I had a race dream the other night that was … well actually a good dream if it comes true. I was running with Jennifer in the Ironman and looked at my watch and saw I had been racing 14:00:32 (how detailed is that, eh?). I looked at Jennifer (who was in front of me as usual) and asked “what mile are we at??”
She said “just crossed mile 20”.

“We only have 6.2 miles left?”

“Yep”
“How can that be? My feet don’t hurt. I still feel good. And I should finish in 15 hours?”

“Yep”

Obviously, this is a dream. While finishing under 16 hours I think is doable, doing so with no pain and feeling “fresh”? Don’t think so at all.

Still … I can dream right??

So, to keep up the dream theme (that rhymes … get it?), I had a little disturbing one last night. My son was applying for a job and gave me a resume he had written up to look at. When I read over the resume it was like a first grader had written it (full disclosure, my son actually is a very good writer, but this is a dream right?), but I didn't know how to tell him it was that bad. I think this is just my concern for my son being a bit “lost” right now as he is trying to find his place, and not sure how to help him. I think it is easy for some to judge him as lazy, and to be honest he is a bit lazy, but I know his heart, and I know his intelligence. This is why seeing him floundering right now is more disturbing and upsetting; because I know he has greatness in him. I just don’t know how to get it out of him.

I have always been a very lucid dreamer, even from an early age. Very clear dreams, not usually ones that are indecipherable. I can pick up on the meanings usually. I know why I am dreaming about things once I think them through. One of my earliest memories is of a dream where I was standing on the couch where I lived with my Mom and brother and sister looking out the front window. My father pulled up in front of the house in his Sheriff car (he was actually a motorcycle cop, so that was different), got out and was standing there waving at me. I remember saying “Daddy I want to go for a ride” and he said “No, Johnny, you have to stay here and take care of your brother and sister”. Then he got in the car and drove away. I am guessing I was about 4 when I had that dream, and my father was killed by a drunk driver while on duty when I was three (September 1966 to be exact). It wasn't the only time I had a dream with him in it. I remember another one after a particularly bad physical fight with my step-father when I was about 13 or so. I was lying in bed and heard someone call my name. I turned over and Dad was in my doorway. I couldn't see his face though, but he had his uniform on. “Try to understand your Dad, Johnny. He’s doing the best he knows how.” Then he just walked away. This was so real that for years I wondered if it was a dream at all, but it had to be right?

Right?

I don’t get “visited” be everyone one in my dreams, so it has always interested me in the people that do show up vs. the ones that don’t. I find that those closest to me don’t show up that much. I was very close to my grandfather and grandmother, but I never dream about them. I barely knew my father but he shows up all the time. I never dream about wives, girlfriends, or even friends, but random work people and acquaintances show up routinely. The one above with Zak in it was one of the few I have had with him, too. I wonder what that means.

So, do you dream vividly like this, and if you do are they helpful or harmful in your opinion?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bright Future in Sales

One of my favorite bands, other than KISS, is Fountains of Wayne. Good, strong music with well written, and often humorous lyrics always get to me, so the first time I heard them (outside of the well known "Stacey's Mom") I was hooked. On the same album, "Welcome Interstate Managers", was another song that for some reason connected with me. It wasn't because I worked at a finance company, or rode the train, or was even a salesman, but the song "Bright Future in Sales" had the chorus ... and the chorus meant something when I heard it.

If I make it out alive I've gotta get my shit together
Cuz I can't live like this forever
But I've come so far and I don't wanna fail
I've got a new computer and a 
Bright Future in Sales

It had two meanings. I spoke of a guy that was in a dead end job which he hated, but one he also could not leave because he had come so far and couldn't fail.

I have been feeling like this lately, in not only my training, but in my personal and professional life. But lets talk about my professional life for a second.

If you did not know, or are a new reader, after ten years in the Navy I left to pursue my education. My initial intent was to get a degree in psychology and apply to the FBI. The first part of this was accomplished, I got my BA in Psychology (along with a minor in Philosophy), but my dream of entering the FBI as a profiler was dashed after the third step of the application process. It tuned out that I would be over the age limit by the time I would graduate from Quantico. So I was left with a degree that, to be honest, everyone has with no real plan on what to do with it. During my last semester I took an Ad Hoc position with a small Community Services agency in Orlando and while there met a woman who was working on a Masters in Public Administration. I had never heard of this, but after talking to her, and coupled with the fact that I really liked working in that area, I decided to apply. And got in. Two years later I left UCF with my BA and an MPA. I worked in a few non-profits, moving from DeLand to Tampa in the process when I was afford the opportunity to attend graduate school on scholarship at USF to get an MBA.

To be brutally honest, I had little interest in an MBA, but the idea of education always intrigues me, and the thought of having a business degree along with a non-profit degree gave me the idea that I could make more money. Any decision ... ANY DECISION ... made solely on money is a bad idea. I know that now ... I did not know that then. I got my MBA, which did not bring the wealth and fame I envisioned, and actually led to me having to leave a position that I enjoyed because I was not, in my expert opinion, receiving the proper respect for what I brought to the table. This may have been true, but it was a bad move. I left to go to a larger company for the money ... quite a bit more money ... and knew within two weeks I had made a big mistake. The respect I thought I was not getting at the non-profit was magnified 100 fold at the hospital ... because I was not ... a "doctor". 

I ended up losing that job as well, due to a bone headed decision on my part (see a pattern emerging?) and went through almost year of unemployment resulting in bankruptcy and Wells Fargo still trying to take my house. After a year of job hunting, and only one interview, I was finally offered a job. It was at half of what I made at the hospital ... but it had been the only job offer in a year, and I was in no position to barter. So I took it. It's a brain dead job. To top it off I found out this week they hired a new manager for my group, a position that they would not allow me to even interview for. She is 28 years old and has no management experience. When I asked what on paper this candidate had that I did not, the answer was "she's an accountant". Now, this position is not an accounting position ... it's a project management position ... so of course this does not hold water, but I am not in a  position, once more, to argue. Suck it up .. keep plodding forward.

At 50 years old, I am not in a position to start over ... I have obligations ... I have responsibilities. When I do test the market I get the same responses I did when I was looking before; over qualified.

A co-worker asked me the other day when we were discussing this leadership shift what I would do if I could do anything. Interesting question. The truth is I do not know. The happiest time I have had in the past ten years is the period I was out of work. I know how that sounds but hear me out. If you take the money out of the equation, I would get up at 5:00, get my son up and take him to school, go to Starbucks and job hunt until 11 or 12, then head back home, grab my gear, and go training until 3 or 4, then go home, cook dinner, do some writing, go to bed. I was rested, well trained, and ... happy. The only true happiness I have these days is when I am writing this blog, researching for an IM: Year One podcast, or training. Now I know "at least I have a job" (a saying which I detest, by the way) and should be thankful, and in some ways I am, but I know how I feel and I cannot make myself like what I am doing. Yes, I have occasional days that are not so bad, like Friday, when everyone left me alone and I could just pull and manipulate data. I like that kind of stuff. I hope, with the new position, those days are more often than not.

I know most people don't like their jobs. I mean, there's a reason it's called "work" right. I was talking to my son a few weeks ago, who is floundering right ow trying to find his way, and he said something to me that hit home a bit. "Dad", he said, "my biggest fear is to end up working in a job I hate for the rest of my life like you and Mom."

I envy people that enjoy their jobs. I know it's a job and no job is perfect, but I also believe there are people working that have more good days than bad. I also know there are people at my office that enjoy the job there too. It's just not me ... but to go looking now ... and to make the money I need to survive ... is not promising. So the best idea is to find something I can do on my own ... go to work for myself. A good idea save for one thing ... 

... I heard the boss is an asshole .... ;-) 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lost Boys and Golden Girls

This post may be a bit "all over" because there are a few things I wanted to write about, but each may not be enough for a full post. I am enabling my right as author and owner to change the rules a bit. :-)

The initial idea for this post came to me after a reader and podcast listener broached the subject with Andrew and me about the differences between how we talk to and about triathletes when it comes to the sexes. It was pointed out (indirectly) that the people we have had on the show when we have discussed the "back of the pack" have all been men. Interesting. And looking back it has been true hasn't it? Besides Anna Vocino coming on to discuss body image issues (great episode by the way ... check it out) at the very beginning, the women we have had on are either upper tier athletes (KC) or those that are dealing with medical issues (Kate, Mary, Melissa). We have not had a true back of the pack female athlete, that is basically a female version of Andrew and me.

And why is that?

Because, frankly, how do you ask this? I can contact a guy that is heavy and say, bluntly, we are looking for a heavy guy ... but I cannot contact a woman and say that can I? That's taboo. It's even in the name isn't it. I have written about this before, but to review, men over 220 pounds are called Clydesdale, and women over 150 are called Athena's. A horse vs. a goddess. I think this just goes back to how we look at the sexes. For right or wrong, men seem to have it a bit "easier" when it comes to this. I was listening to the recent episode of Fat Burning Man with Abel James and they were discussing this issue. Women tend to "overlook" a man that is heavy, while men aren't as .... let's say forgiving ... when it comes to this. We can argue about the role that evolution plays in this mindset (women are viewed for their ability to produce offspring and men are viewed in their ability to provide and protect). Of course this is a generalization. There are plenty of shallow women who only see a man's worth in how they look, and plenty of men who have no problem with a women being heavier, but as a whole some of the ingrained beliefs are still present today, no matter how much we want to deny it because it's not politically correct.

So I am putting this out there ... if you are a "back of the pack" lady and would like to discuss it on the show shoot me a line via email (FatSlowTriathlete@gmail.com) or twitter (@FatSlowTri), or even through the show's email (IMYearOne@gmail.com). We'd love to have you.

Health Report
I had my second dose of Remicade this morning and it went as easy as the first one, saved for a splitting headache developed by the end. The effect that the drug has had on me is quite amazing, but I didn't want to write about it until I was sure it wasn't in my head. The day after the first infusion I could close my hands into a fist, something I had been unable to do for almost 20 years. Something as simple as that was amazing, but it continued. I could stand up from my office chair without my knees hurting. Went a full two weeks without swelling n my fingers. On Friday the stiffness returned, but remembering today was my next infusion made it make sense.

I am not one to like medication, but my health and body issues have caused me to seek out help, so regardless of my dislike I am on a number of them now. I have accepted that to feel better, and accomplish what I would like to accomplish, I need to take this to get me through. The thing with something like Psoriatic Arthritis is that it is degenerative, so it's never going to "heal", but it can be halted. And that's just as good.

Training
My training is a very frustrating right now. I know since the medical issue arose I'd have to rethink my strategy and basically start over, and I am trying to keep that in mind as I struggle through sessions, but it gets to me at times. I went for a ride yesterday with the normal gang of riders and once again looked foolish. When training at home I seem to be making progress but when I get out with a group I get left like I am standing still. This is not that hard to take when I get smoked by those that train all the time, but when I am getting dropped by people that rarely get on a bike or in the pool, that gets a bit hard to swallow. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. I was climbing a hill yesterday behind Mary and Stacey and they were both spinning up it like it was nothing, cadences well into the 80-90 range, while me in my easiest gear could barely get to a 40. I tried to go the full 50 but ended up cutting it to 35 because I just got left and didn't want them to feel like they had to wait for me. Even on the race last weekend I really thought I would do better, even with the run issue (actually my run was one of my better ones in the end). I just don't understand how I can train like I do and not see improvement.

Doesn't mean I am quitting though ... but I am foreseeing a lot of pain come September ... A LOT ...   

Monday, March 31, 2014

Race Report: HITS Ocala Sprint Triathlon

It took awhile longer than expected, but the 2014 triathlon racing season has finally started for the Fat Slow Triathlete. A season that should have started two weeks ago finally got off to a lesser degree, though a needed lesser degree, in Ocala, Florida at the HITS Triathlon Series Race Weekend. Those of you that have been following me for awhile know that I ran this race last year, but as a 70.3. I decided to err on the side of caution this year with my medical issues and use the sprint as a "get your feet wet" type of event. I am glad that I did.

I headed up Saturday and ran smack dab into a rainstorm of biblical proportions. Heavy rain, wind, lightning, and tornado warnings on the whole drive up. I was shocked to see that the full and half distances, scheduled for that day, were allowed to go on as planned, so with all of my worries I am glad I did not have to race that day (though two locals who did, Beth Shaw and Sherrie Mauzy, both competed and did very well. Beth even got third place in her age group!).

Once I got up there (4 hour drive for a normal 90 minute drive) it was pretty relaxing. I met up with Jennifer and we headed over to packet pickup and then to the bike store for last minute supplies. We also were able to throw on the wetsuits later that night and get in her freezing pool to acclimate a bit. What we saw the next morning made me glad we did this.

3:30 AM wake up call, a quick dress and grab of the gear and we were off to the race site. We wanted to get there early so that we could relax and get things done then go get in the water early to test it out. As we got our bikes off the car I noticed my front tire was soft, but seemed to be ok once I pumped it up, so let it go. Once I got to my spot, however, it was soft again so I wheeled it over to the Santo's Bike Shop center and had them check it. A broken stem. They switched out my tube for me and I was back in the game within minutes.  

We set up fast, got our wetsuits on and headed to the water.

Oh. My. God.

Luckily the air temp was 57 so the 65 degree water felt warmer, but once you got your whole body in the cold seeps in. I acclimated quickly I thought so was ok once the race started.

The Swim (22:38)
I got fatigued quickly and realized it was due to no time in the wetsuit since last September. I forgot how much of a difference that makes, and I am too much of a wimp when it comes to cold water to go without a suit or a sleeveless suit. I was surprised how fast I did get tired, having to stop a few times to get my breath. At the second turn, heading back to the beach, the current kept trying to push you right, so it took some work to keep true. All in all I was happy with the swim, though I was hoping for a sub-20:00 stage. The mile average was in the 36:00 range, which is a bit slower than my pool swims, but still respectable.

T1 (6:34!!!!)
I have no excuse. All I can think of was that my fingers wouldn't work from the cold. I had no idea I was that slow. That can't happen again, especially in a Sprint.

The Bike (54:13)
I'll be honest ... I thought I'd be better than this in the bike. There was a head wind for sure, but this is way too slow (in the 14-15 range). I was cold, and my heart rate would not come done until mile 5 or so, so that might be part of the issue here, but I am disappointed in this result. Barely any hills with a couple of exceptions. I did manage to join in with another rider for the last three miles which helped a great deal, so I think it is the same old story. Riding by myself I have a hard time gauging effort, but with another ride to help pace me I have no troubles. I was over 20mph those last three miles, so it shows I can do that level. I just need to learn to do it on my own.

T2 (3:09)
Much better in this transition. This is where I should be, and expect to be.

The Run (48:11)
Oh the run. I had no idea what to expect. I have not run since January, and was hurting even then, so this was going to be an adventure. Add to that the fact that HITS is basically a trail run, and a trail run the day after a deluge, and my expectations were not very high for this. The one thing I did notice immediately was that I could run out of T2. I had my watch set for a 30s/45s run-walk split to be safe, but my legs felt ok running. Just to be safe I made myself stick with the plan, and my HR stayed smack in the middle of Z2, so I was just taking what it gave me.

The trail wasn't as bad as I expected, and at the 1 mile mark (15:11) I was feeling pretty good. When I reach the turnaround I told myself to give it until mile 2 and if it still felt ok to open it up a bit and see what happened. I changed to a 1:30/45 split which resulted in a 14:21 3rd mile. I'll take that right now.

My final time was a bit over 2:14:00 and all I can say is I was not last. For a first race it was not as good as I wanted but was better than expected. Jennifer for her effort got 2nd place in her class, which is outstanding and I am very proud of her. This was actually the first time I beat her in a triathlon.

I think it'll be the last too. :-)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fat Slow Triathlete: Chapter One

Chapter 1

303

The number showed on the scale, blinking up at Jack, accusing him, shaming him.

303 .... BF 38.6%

"Great," he thought, sarcastically. "Much better."

He kicked the scale back to it's cubby and went back into the bedroom. He was quiet as he chose the pants from the rack in his closet. He had 8 pairs of pants, but only wore two, alternating between them through the week until Friday's casual attire allowed him one day of reprieve. These were the only two that fit him, at least to the point where he wasn't pulling at them the whole day.

Scale days made him sullen, and it was hard to hide. As he shuffled out to the living room his wife noticed it immediately.

"I wish you'd stop weighting yourself if it's only going to depress you," she said as she made breakfast; oatmeal, banana, coffee, two eggs, orange juice. "It's not like you're not trying Jack," she continued. "You need to give yourself a break," she said as she looked at him, setting down the brown sugar and milk for his oatmeal in front of him. 

"I am not trying hard enough I think," he mumbled. "I ate potato chips and drank soda last night while watching the movie with you."

"Oh God Jack, please, not this again. It was one soda. Jesus."

He put his fork down and looked at her, for the first time this morning, and tried to stay calm. 

"That is not helping me, Liz. Telling me that I'm not 'that bad' is not the truth and is not helping me deal with this."

"You have health issues," Liz retorted as she moved back to the kitchen, her head down and walking briskly. "It's the cancer you had, it has screwed you up. You need to stop being so hard on yourself."

His frustration rising, Jack stood up, not touching anything on his plate, and grabbing for his bag. As he slung it over his shoulder he looked at her over the counter and waited until she looked at him. "This," he started, moving his hands over his body to emphasize his meaning, "is not going to stop. It's going to to continue until my body completely breaks down and stops working all together. I can't sleep, I wake up unable to breathe, I only have two pair of pants I am slightly able to wear and I cannot afford to keep buying more. My waist is 52 inches. My knees ache, my feet hurt, my back is always tight. I cannot keep living like this. I am not happy. I need to change, I need everything to change."

Liz looked back at him. "I'm sorry I don't make you happy."

"This is not about YOU, Liz," his anger now overcoming his frustration. "It's about my life and what I have allowed myself to become. If I don't change something I am not going to be around much longer. This has to change."

"You were fine until you started working at that hospital, now all of a sudden you're not happy with your life. You just want to be one of them, one of those doctors."

Jack sighed. "I can't talk about this stuff with you, Liz. You make it all personal. I'm going to work."

"I'll make something good for dinner," Liz said, calmly. "How about fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a veggie?"

Jack looked at her, sighed, and turned to the door.

"Fine," he said, as he walked out.