Friday, December 30, 2011

Flat as a Pancake... and Solvitur Ambulando!

Tomorrow is the last day of the year.  I have put this off for awhile – but it is time to check, time to check the balance in my retirement accounts.  As I expected, this year’s rate of return was basically pretty flat (as a pancake).  I do not check too frequently, it is just been depressing to do so in the past few years.  This is a piece of the puzzle for when I can actually retire and it only feels good when the numbers are going up.  Of course that last few years “going up” was not a phrase used too often when describing accounts such as these.   This has impacted all of us and I am beginning to believe this is the new reality. 

On the home (equity) front there’s more not so good news.  We had great neighbors next door, a young couple.  The guy was laid off from his job and it took months to find a new one – yes he was lucky to find a new job – except it was in another state and they had to move.  The problem: they bought their house when the market was still climbing and now it is depressed, the value of their house was way below the amount they paid (mortgaged) for it.  They wanted to rent it and had a three (3) year lease agreement in hand.  But the HOA would not allow them to rent their property (there is something really wrong with this) as the HOA covenants only allow a certain percentage of homes to be rented out at any given point and that percentage had already been exceeded.  The house has been for sale for months.  Yesterday, a man came to the house and posted a bank authorized note basically saying that the house is being declared empty and abandoned.  It went on to say that they would change the locks and…  You get the picture.

Both of these things will have direct impact on when I can retire.  Hoping for a better 2012...

I think I need to get outside and go for a walk…  It really does help me see things differently.

I did go for that walk and it was a good one.  Since it was still morning when I finished I headed over to my favorite, local ‘diner, drive-in, dive’ type place here in town – the Rexall Grill (with counter service : )

So I went in and had, you guessed it:

Solvitur ambulando!

(When I first saw this, had to look it up, solvitur ambulando is a Latin phrase that basically means “it is solved by walking”.  Well for me, it does not actually solve these problems, but it sure does help me deal with them.)

Happy New Year and hopes of a better 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Last 20 miler of the year

Last 20 miler of the year completed!  In preparation for my 2nd (lifetime) marathon next month, my training plan called for a 20 miler on Christmas Eve.  Done!  I walked the entire 20 miles in five hours.  The taper begins now.

From all the reading I’ve done and all the folks I’ve talked to about doing greater distances, the LSD (long slow distance, long steady distance,…) is the main ingredient needed to be able to do the greater distances.  The theory behind these is not so much for speed but for endurance, in other words, training your body to be out there for a long time.  For me as walker/jogger, I’m slow by design and desire.  So this means my 20 milers require a huge chunk of time, like 5 hour-ish. 

It wasn’t that long ago when I did my first 20 miler, and even though it felt good to accomplish it, I had a head battle going on during most of it.  Following are some of my thoughts during that first 20 miler:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

What did I get myself into?!!! 

I’ll do this one (marathon), only because I signed up & paid my money, but that’s it, just do half marathons from now on. 

What was I thinking? 

This 20 mile walk is so much harder than the 13.1 mile race I just did last Sunday in 2:44. 

Is this what they mean when they say “respect the distance”? 

I’m not so sure I like this. 

I like the half marathon distance – none of these thoughts come into my head for 13.1 miles, how weird is that – thinking a 13.1 is as easy as a walk in the park??? 

Is this all relative? 

Vaguely remember 5Ks being hard – ha!  That’s just a warm up period now. 

Did I think these thoughts when I did my first 10 miler in prep for 13.1? 

My legs hurt. 

I’m peeing too much. 

Am I eating too much?  

Is doing a 20 miler really enough for the 26.2, what am I going to do for fuel from 20 to 26.2. 

I hate blue Gatorade, I like orange Gatorade.

I hate when they mix the Gatorade in a race and it’s too sweet, don’t like fruit punch Gatorade, had that last week in the race and they mixed it way too sweet, I better bring my own orange Gatorade.

 I’ll have to get (Gatorade) powder, how will I carry powder? 

Sun is out & getting warmer, glad I got this UPF 50 brim hat, looks dorky, stupid skin cancer, 3 basal cell, one squamous cell, how many more of these stupid things am I going to get?  

Another reason to only do 13.1s – out in the sun for less time.

Oh I can justify almost anything. 

How many thoughts does a person have in a 20 miler, wonder if it is possible to count them all, how could we count thoughts? 

I’m bored. 

I don’t get bored on 13.1s, yep 13.1 is the right distance for me. 

Why do people do marathons? 

Why do people do 50Ks, 100Ks, 50 milers, 100 milers,… 

I don’t know. 

This sucks. 

Why did I sign up for this? 

Great song (on iPod) think I was in 7th grade when that song came out, wish I could go back. 

Time for a couple more bites of Powerbar.
Drink some water, this will be like a brick in stomach if I don’t have water with it. 

Great – a bathroom over there, gotta pee. 

Wonder where this path goes? 

Hope there are no bears out here. 

Okay cool! – so this is where the trail comes out, I know where I am now, this is good. 

Cross the street up here – watch for cars – they’re suppose to stop when a person is crossing, well that is what the signs says – get off your damn phone and pay attention, a-hole! 

A hill, crap, not now, I hate hills… 

dog, no owner around, hope it’s a friendly dog, looks friendly, sees me, wagging tail, good sign he won’t come after me, where’s your owner, good doggie, what does your tag say,… following me now, great, go home, go home,…  maybe you go up this path…  houses, subdivision, good, ran into that yard like it’s where you belong,

how do I get back from here… 

whoa!  snake on the path!  Go around it. 

Can’t wait til I’m done – chocolate milk and 2 sugar cookies…

time to sip some Gatorade.

Wish I had a peanut butter sandwich…

Man is this boring! 

Maybe I’m AD&D after 3 hours…

13.1s only after this!

This greenway is a gem – I’m pretty lucky to have this close by.

Louis Armstrong – what a great song!

Crap another hill…

This 20 miles is going to take 5 hours.

That guy on the forum said his goal was 5:14 to walk his marathon – holy crap – how does he do that?  

It’s going to take me that long to do 20 miles today…

Ha-ha!  Dude’s wearing camo tech shirt, hope there are no hunters around!!!

But I want to do NYC marathon and Bataan…  crap… – BUT THAT IS IT!!!  

I don’t like this.

Time for some sports beans and water…

Being out here for 5 hours is crazy,  3 is the limit, well for me anyway…

Chinese tonight, Hunan chicken…

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

This was only a few months ago and when I go back and read it, I’m surprised that I actually continued to do 20 milers and register for more marathons.  I’m not sure I can explain this.  It did feel really good to finish my first marathon – a sense of accomplishment I suppose.   Also I did notice a very positive effect on my HDLs after increasing to distances like this.   So I’ll continue to give it a go for awhile and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fortunate to Have a Job

I am fortunate to have a job and I am very fortunate to have a job that I actually like going to, well on most days.  Having this job does allow me to plan for my retirement.  And for this I am thankful. 

Although most of my working career was spent in the corporate IT world, I am now in academia. I have a staff position at a college as an LMS (Learning Management System) Administrator.  Basically I’m the administrator on their online course system.  However, when I first came to the college, I was hired into a tenure-track teaching position – Instructor of Business Information Systems.  I did this for four years.  I taught part time throughout my career and thought teaching full time would be my dream job.  Well, it didn’t really work out that way (what actually ever works out the way we think it will?).  The teaching part of the job was great – absolutely loved it!  Dealing with student’s excuses was a different story – every semester, every class, came with student excuses…  A friend of mine recently shared the following youtube ‘I’m worried about my grade’ video that really shows this, take a look:

I still teach as an adjunct from time to time and am planning to continue that after retiring from full time work.  I think adjunct teaching, especially online courses, will fit nicely into a retirement schedule.  I doubt the student excuses will stop but maybe only teaching a few courses per year will help me tolerate it better : )

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race #11 - Tashka 25K

Tashka 25K - Trail Race– December 10, 2011

Distance Event:  #11 
State: #3 - Alabama

The full name of this race is: The Nicholas Wilson Memorial Tashka Trail 50K & 25K.  It is a trail around Lake Lurleen (near Tuscaloosa, Alabama), one lap around the lake for the 25K and two for the 50K.   The event was limited to 300 people and my guess, about 125 participated.  I did attempt to find who Nicholas Wilson was and why this race is named in his honor but was not successful.  I signed up to do the 25K.

Pre race:

As this race was a 4-5 hour drive it was not realistic to wake really early and drive so I took a few hours off of work and headed towards Tuscaloosa on Friday.  Once in town and checked into the motel headed over to the Athletes Foot store for race packet pick up.  Talked with the folks there for a bit, got directions to Lake Lurleen State Park for in the morning and headed back to the motel.  On the way back spotted an Olive Garden restaurant - plate of pasta and a beer at the bar – back to the motel, get things ready for the morning and get some sleep.

Woke up at a ridiculous time 2:30 AM!!!  Actually to my body clock it was 3:30 as this was in the Central Time Zone.  Still…  Eventually began my standard race day stuff – coffee, bagel, checking the hour by hour weather report to figure out to wear, listening to my race morning music on the iPad, and getting dressed.

Wow – it was really a good thing I got directions to Lake Lurleen the day before, this place is way out in the woods!  I was very happy to see other cars – they had to be going to the same place at that hour, in the dark, in the woods.  I like to be early and I was.  It was about an hour before race time so I had plenty of time to use the porta-potty, walk around a bit, and try to stay warm.  It was about 31 degrees with a 5-10 mph wind.

The Race:

We started the race with a young boy jingling a strand of jingle bells.  Runners were high fiving him as they passed.  He was smiling and grinning from ear to ear as I passed him.  The 25K and 50K folks all started out together; the first quarter mile or so is on the road leading to the trailhead.  Much jockeying for position takes place during this part because once you get on the trailhead there are two incredibly steep single track inclines.  So there is a time advantage to not be towards the back as virtually everyone single file walks up both inclines.  I am a back of the pack type of guy because I walk/jog and I do not want to hold up anyone who is running so I did have to wait for a bunch of folks ahead of me to make their way up the inclines.   Once at the top of the two inclines most were already out of site and it was just me and a few other back of the pack folks.

With so few doing this race (~125) the back of the pack was pretty scarce; there were just a few of us so for most of this race I rarely saw anyone else.  They had four (I think) check in points/aid stations.  It was always nice to see the volunteers at each station.  They were great volunteers, smiling, greeting, encouraging, nice people! 

The trail was covered with leaves.  This is normal.  However, this makes it nearly impossible to see or know what is under the leaves (rocks, roots,…).  I only fell once – tripped over something, fell face first but luckily put my hands out quick enough to stop my body from crashing into the ground.  I lost count of how many times I almost tripped (20-30 probably).  Trail races are more difficult than road races because of things like this.  Trail running requires one to look down more than ahead.  Both are necessary but the placement of each foot must be calculated while running in the woods.  On the road, not so much, you need to be aware of pot holes and such but not every step.  It is more of a challenge doing a trail race.

I did not plan on this, but I started this race last.  There was no one behind me when the race began.  When doing these races, I am not racing against anyone else, I am not out there attempting to be faster than anyone else, I am simply out there for health, fitness, enjoyment, and finishing the race under the official time limit.  For me the competition is me – well at least the thoughts in my head saying things like ‘you cannot do this’, or ‘cannot take one more step it hurts too much’.  Therefore it does not bother me when someone else passes me and likewise I do not feel any sense of accomplishment when I pass someone.  With that said, starting dead last was a pretty neat thing.  No one passed me during this race.  I have never been able to make that statement before J On the other side of that, I did get the opportunity to pass a number of people during this race and I rarely get a chance to make that statement also.    

Being out in the woods and doing a race like this for three or more hours will take your mind in many places. The thoughts I have are typically all over the place and they can and do contradict each other at times.  For instance, during this race my thoughts went from never doing another trail race as long as I live to signing up to do the 50K instead of the 25K next year. 

The only negative part of the race, and this has nothing to do with the race or the people who organized the race, was the amount of trash left on the trail by the runners (way beyond, I mean way beyond the aid stations).  I do not understand the mentality of throwing trash on the ground in the woods (or anywhere).  

I only felt cold once (after be warmed up after the first mile) while out on the trail.  It was where we came out of the woods and followed the trail along side of the lake.  The wind that was coming off the lake made it feel colder that it actually was.  But you felt it immediately.  With only two miles to go it was very tolerable – the end was near and that is always a huge motivator. 

I crossed the finish line at the 3:29 mark.  I forget how many seconds it had.  So basically it took me 3.5 hours to do 15.5 miles.  My first 25K!  I loved what we got at the end of the race instead of a medal – a pint glass with the topographical image of Lake Lurleen with the race name over it and a pair of running socks!   I will use them both and I am sure the beer WILL taste much better in that pint glass!  The after race spread was the best I have ever had: pizza (warm and plenty of it), Panera Bread  bagels & bread, hamburgers (made on the grill right there), soda, water, coffee, cookies, pretzels, bananas, candy, and their world famous potato logs (they had these at the aid stations also).  I’m sure they had others things but that is all I can remember. 

This was a fun event, nice trail, nice people, nice day,… just everything was good.  Garmin stats: 3 hours, 29 minutes, average heart rate 139, 85% of max, and 1352 calories spent - it was a good workout.   

The Beginning

Around mid 2010 I decided to 'get off the couch' and do something.  Through the years, on and off, I had been a runner (never a fast runner, but a runner none the less) but I never stayed with it.  My guess, I just did not like running that much.  So instead of taking up running again, I took up walking, specifically distance walking.  I suppose categorically, the type of walking I do would be considered brisk.  My first goal was to complete the Atlanta Half Marathon by walking (mostly walking with a bit of jogging thrown in) in the 3:30 time limit.

I did check in with my doctor prior to putting together my training program.  I think anyone who decides to get off the couch and begin an exercise program should absolutely discuss this with their doc first.  My doc gave me a thumbs up and I was on my way.  The other part of this get off the couch bit also included altering my diet.  So, combined, this has all been good for all of those blood levels during the annual physical and my weight is what it was as a senior in high school!

The 2010 Atlanta Half Marathon came and went and I did meet my goal.  My goal was two pronged - one was to complete it under 3:30 and the other was to enjoy it.  My time was 2:55:58 and I enjoyed it so much, I quickly signed for my next race.

This is my hobby; I do have a passion for this.

Doing these races/events does take a lot of preparation and that means a lot of time each week putting in the miles.  I have come to the point where I very much enjoy the time I spend doing this.  The mind is very active during the time spent walking/jogging and that is where the idea of doing 100 distance events before retirement came from.  There are so many factors regarding when one retires from the full time force.  Some of these things I do have control and some I do not.  However, I have laid down the gauntlet, have set the personal challenge, and this blog will describe what I go through as I walk to retirement.

As for the 100 distance events, I have decided that any organized race/event will do.  Distances can be 5K, 10K, half marathon, 25K, marathon, 50K,...  It really does not matter.  At this point I suspect the majority of these will be half marathon or greater distance as my current mindset is disappointment when I do a 5K or 10K because they are over so soon.