Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mrs. Brown Saved My Run And Made My Day

For those with the inside scoop on where I live and run, you already know about Mrs. Brown. For those that don't, she was my Fourth Grade teacher and she lives just around the corner from where I grew up. Which means she lives just around the corner from where I live now. She and her husband were staples of my neighborhood for decades, always walking their large, white, fluffy dogs. Think Dire Wolves but nicer. After her husband passed, she continues to make an appearance walking her dog around the local streets.

But before I get into the headline, let's rewind a little bit. For the past few weeks, I've been neck deep in removing the insulation from the Fort Max attic. Then installing new insulation. And then I had to demolish our back porch to make room for a new one. Well, the insulation tore me up. Figuratively. It was beastly work with more crawling around than a worm does in a life time. But after a few weeks, we perfected the process of removing the blown in cellulose crap. And after a few stumbles, I perfected installing the new fiberglass batts.

But it still sucked. And with the weather nice and a looming deadline to start the deck, I just rolled right from one project into another. And with the help of my neighbor, the deck was a heap of rotten wood after just two days of quick work. And I wasn't even rushing. In fact, I was taking my time, making sure I didn't damage the propane line into the house, the heat pump, the back door, or any windows. It was a little nerve-wracking at times but I got it done.

And I'm glad I did. It was scary. So scary, I don't think it would have lasted a heavy snow, stiff breeze, or large picnic party. Hell, it almost caved on me twice. While I was on it. But it's done now and I feel better for it.

But all of this work means that I didn't really get any training in. Other than long hours on my hands and knees or swinging a sledge hammer or what-not, I didn't run or bike or anything else. Just some home improvement cross-training.

Sunday I did my best to get out and accomplish something. And I did. I ran a bit and didn't die. But today felt like the first good day in training I've had in a long time. Sure, I'm tired and feel drained but I feel good. And part of that is because of Mrs. Brown.

I made my first loop around the neighborhood hoping I wouldn't get rained on. In fact, I struggled to get dressed because I knew it had rained, would rain, and probably still was raining. But I lucked out and stayed dry for the run. So with the first loop done, I looked down at my watch. I was a full 2 minutes ahead of my normal slow pace and a full minute ahead of my faster pace. But I felt damn good after that first loop.

I started my second loop but started to feel like I was dragging. I had already passed Mrs. Brown and said hello during my first loop but I was now approaching her a second time. But I was walking up the hill this time so we chatted for a few minutes. Her walking pace was much slower than mine but I slowed down to keep the conversation going. She said she was about to turn 75 and credited her dog with keeping her going. We both agreed with that adage I've ignored for years that it's easier to put weight on than it is to take off.

But the best thing she said to me was that she thought I had lost some weight. She noticed it around my middle. As we parted ways, I swear I was floating on wings. I was in the clouds with happiness. Totally saved me from drudging through another mile and totally made my day. Before I left, I made sure to tell her I appreciated the comment and that it made me happy to see her around the neighborhood so much.

I finished the second loop a little slower but I'm totally okay with that.

Here are some pictures of the deck demo.


And some panorama shots.

Temps were about 50F. Sky was overcast. Wind was high.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the run I had two coffees. During the run I had plain water. Recovery was a four egg omelette with left-over ham and cheese and two slices of toast. And coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really hurt. I'm just tired.

Wore pants, thermal top, wind breaker, hat, and gloves.

Today's Motivation:
I'm trying to get back on track before the porch project starts.

Naughty Neil:
I made Jewish Apple Cake, thanks to THE Mrs. Beverly Goldberg for the idea, the other day and I've been enjoying it. Lots of sugar in it but it has apples so it must be healthy.

Loop 1 - 16:12
Loop 2 - 16:52
Finish - 33:04

Monday, November 21, 2016

40 Years Ago Today - Thanksgiving

While I don't have any photos that are expressly from Thanksgiving 1976, I thought I'd hit the pause button a little bit and take a step back in time beyond 40 years. Even though I'm moving forward and delving deep into 1977, I'm still digging into the past. In the case of this post, I'm having old negatives scanned because I don't have prints to scan. As I go though the records that I have, it's weird to find a roll of negatives without prints. Getting a print was really the only way you could look at what you took a picture of back then. The fact that I've found so many un-printed rolls of film is even more odd.

Before I could dig deeper into the mystery, I took a trip to see my mother. During the trip, she let me bring home some of her photo albums. Pretty much the only photo albums she has after the divorce. That made me a little sad to think about how things as simple and small like photos become the dividing line of a marriage. And even sadder that sharing the photos, all of the photos, wasn't easier.

But within the sadness, I found the answer to my mystery. My dad had the negatives and my mother had the prints. Not everything matched up as some prints were missing, but after so many decades, I was just happy to have what I had. And as I started sorting and labeling the digital images from the scanned negatives, the power of history struck me again.

All of those prints I was worried about scanning and carefully removing from the album were no longer a problem. Photo albums, for those that don't remember them, were the easiest way to store and organize photos back in the day. And nearly every album had thick plastic sheets that covered the photos and a cardboard page that had a glue-like substance on them to keep everything attached. Over time the "glue-like substance" became glue and the photos could not be removed without damaging them.

Modern technology saved the day as the scanned negatives became the better source for digital images. I knew time could pose a threat to printed photos but it never struck me as all that big of an issue. Until now.

An original print (not stored in a photo album) of my parents in December of 1972.

The same photo but from a digital scan of the original negatives.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fort Max Attic Insulation Installation Workout

After a two hour meeting at work, I went to work in the attic. Today's workout went something like this.

Go into the attic where you have low head-room and need to walk on sketchy plywood. Wear two layers of long-sleeve shirts, a hat, pants, gloves, and a mask. A BUFF is recommended as it is somewhat more comfortable to wear.

Now that you're in your gym, set the right vibe by dropping the temperature to anything under 50F, throwing some microscopic dust into the air, and adding a dash of itching powder (aka fiberglass insulation) to your clothes. Don't worry, you'll continue add more throughout the workout. Dim the lights by using work lights.

Begin the workout by crawling or crouch-walking to the other end of the attic. Once at the other end, move a 20 pound piece of plywood towards the eave. Repeat with another piece. Now place a smaller piece further in the eave. Open a bag of insulation. Be sure to add a dash of itching powder in the process. Move a single batt of insulation towards the eave. Now crawl towards the eave until you run out of room. Then do a push-up or downward dog to squeeze further into the eave. With the patented Gaffi Stick, push the batt all the way to the end of the eave. Then, while still in the prone position, use the Gaffi Stick to ensure the batt is installed correctly. Repeat the batt installation in the eave bay next to the first one.

Remove yourself from the prone position by doing a push-up back to the kneeling position. To improve results, on every fifth eave bay, instead of a push-up to the kneeling position, overextend yourself into the eave making a push-up impossible. This will force you to use your abdominal muscles to pull your body out of the eave, even though you are still in the prone position. For extra credit, you can occasionally come to a kneeling position too quickly and hit your head on the roofing nails above you.

Repeat the above steps approximately 50 times. Don't forget to add the dash of itching powder after opening every bundle of batts (every 11 pieces).

When not working in the eaves, installing the insulation is done on your hands and knees. When pushing it into the joist cavity, be sure to throw a giant handful of dryer lint dust and itching powder in your face. This will insure that everyone knows you've worked out today. After installing approximately 5 batts in the center of the attic, move four pieces of plywood forward to the next joist while in the kneeling position.

Now that the insulation is installed, you need to do some cleanup. This means manually removing the loose insulation. This is a fine particulate that is only going to allow you to move extremely slow or it activates like a temperamental bomb and explodes like Vesuvius leaving you coated in a layer of dust. While a shop vac should be used for the mortar near the chimney, it will fill too fast to make it worthwhile.

Congratulations! You've completed today's Attic Insulation Installation workout. As a cool down, go across the street to your neighbor's house and help them build a children's swing set for 30 minutes.

Temps were about 50F. No breeze. No sun. Just work lights.

Fluids and Fuel:
Too much cold-pressed strawberry lemonade made me want to puke, especially after all that ab work. Breakfast was two eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns with coffee. Only a little juice during the workout. Recovery was two crappy sliders (mini-burgers), tater tots, Twix, and iced tea.

Aches and Pains:
Pretty much everything hurt.

Wore work pants, thermal top, long sleeve top, BUFF, hat, and gloves.

Today's Motivation:
My living room was cold this morning after sucking out the old insulation. And I need to get rid of my old deck soon. So I needed to insulate today. So I did.

Naughty Neil:
That burger was horrible. But I needed something quick. Maybe I should have aimed for a salad or wrap instead.

No splits but I did install about 80 batts (4 feet long each).

Oh, and I know I wrote the above workout as a joke and wanted it to sound funny, but that's everything I dealt with today. No brag, just fact.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

40 Years Ago Today - November 12, 1976

I was given a clean bill of health for my six week check-up. But December would bring a new, and much scarier, diagnosis.

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 DECA Veteran's Day 5k Race Report

It was a last minute decision but I wanted to give the race a try. I did it a couple of years ago and enjoyed the small-town feel. Most local races are small but this one is what I would call "hyper-local" in that there's rarely more than 20 people there. This year there were only eight runners. That's right, 8 runners.

But I didn't know that when I got up this morning. I didn't sleep well last night. Lots of tossing and turning. Weird dreams. Cold sweats. It's been a long, rough week. So I had low expectations when I dragged myself out of bed and into my running clothes. I ate some toast, had some coffee and did my pooping.

Since the race was all of 5 miles from the house, I didn't need to get up super early. But I still left with more than enough time to get there since I still needed to register. Once registered, I asked how many people they were expecting. The girl said only six people so far. Which made me nervous. I didn't expect a medal or prize or anything like that, but I was nervous about placing. If I were an elite runner or a regular at placing in my age group I'm sure I'd become used to the sensation of getting on the podium. But now that I knew I was even remotely close to placing anywhere in the top ten, I was a bundle of nerves.

Once I hit the bathroom a few more times, we listened to the NJROTC do the Pledge of Allegiance and then were were off to the Start line. Eight people. All I needed to do was finish the race and I'd automatically be in the Top Ten. There were only five men so I was automatically in the Top Five for my gender. And only one guy looked old like me so I was at worst second in the Masters Division. All of these thoughts left my mind, briefly, as we started the race.

And maybe I should clarify a bit, it was a race, but it was also billed as a fun run/walk. So there wasn't a lot of "racing" going on. Sure, we all went out and ran, but I don't think very many of us really, REALLY, pushed the envelope and raced. Except maybe me. But I ended up racing myself, not the others, so I'm not sure how much that counts as actually "racing."

Anyway, the Cross Country Coach decided to take things easy on us and instead of making us run the actual course, we ran a heavy mile loop ("heavy" as in it was a mile loop but it was a little longer than a mile to make it come out to 5k or 3.1 miles at the end). And it was almost perfectly flat, just a small rise of maybe 50 feet of gain per loop from the lowest point to the highest.

The first loop I settled into 6th place and cranked out what felt like a good, but fast pace. I knew I was going too fast but I wanted to push things a little and see how close I could get to last week's time of 33:40. I kept the weird hat lady (I know her name, that's just what I call her in my head so I can remember who she is - she makes funny hats, including a Yoda hat for my son) in close reach. I didn't plan to pass her and she looked like she could easily drop me if pressured. But I wasn't racing her, I was racing myself.

I came around the turn for the first mile and looked at my watch and nearly shit a brick. I was way, WAY faster than expected. Like two minutes ahead of pace. I knew I went out fast and now I was worried I would blow up. I didn't but I did slow down a little bit. But I also kept my foot on the gas because now I was looking beyond the 33 minute goal, beyond my 31 minute PR, and staring down the barrel of a sub 30 minute time. My ultimate goal. Sub-30:00.

I went into the second mile with a whole new chain of thoughts. Should I push hard and aim for sub-30? Or should I ease back and aim for a new PR? Or should I just go with the flow and see what happens? I opted for a little of everything. I'd continue to push but not hard enough to hurt myself. So I came through the second loop and there was Coach again telling me to aim for the sky and keep digging. My split was slower and as I went into my third mile I didn't feel like I could make up the lost time. But I still pushed hard. And when I felt like I needed to puke, I let off the gas. A little. By this time I had just passed the young man in front of me and could see the next two runners in front of me. I had moved into 5th and could see 4th and 3rd ahead of me and I had less than a mile to go. The game was on.

My position never changed but I did my best to push hard at the pace. As I came out of the woods one last time, with maybe a quarter mile to go, I glanced at my watch and saw I wouldn't make the sub-30 goal. But a new PR was still in the air and so I ground it out to the Finish.

After a quick recovery I cheered on the last runners to come in. We walked over to the water table and the first three runners got medals. I never expected any award but ended up walking away with a 5th place finish (I know, I know, 5th out of 8 runners). And to make things even better, I got a new PR. Not only a new PR for the trail, but one that's faster than my previous road PR. I'll take it.

Temps were about 40F but quickly warmed to 50F during the race. Sky was clear, sun was out, and there wasn't much wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Two slices of toast and coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was nothing.

Aches and Pains:
Felt pretty good before, during, and after. Had that "gonna puke" feeling but it passed as I slowed down a bit.

Wore pants, shorts, thermal top, t-shirt, BUFF, and gloves. Ditched the pants before the race started. Ditched the BUFF after the second mile.

Today's Motivation:
Aside from my mental need for a run, my body needed it too. My training has been horrid this week but I'm making wonderful progress on the attic insulation. And there was a little bit inside of me that wanted to surprise my coach.

Naughty Neil:
This week has been horrible for my diet. I've eaten all of my emotions many times over. I'm afraid to get on the scale. But this race, this new PR, has given me that joy, that smile that I needed. I'm hoping it's enough to get my eating back on track.

(remember the miles are a little longer so they total 3.1 miles at the end)
Mile 1 - 10:00
Mile 2 - 10:42
Mile 3 - 10:11
Finish - 30:53 (new trail 5k PR, new 5k PR)

Saturday, November 05, 2016

2016 FCA 5k Race Report

My morning started out like any other morning. Shower, breakfast, coffee. Just not exactly in the order I'm used to. As I finished my shower, I thought I had better add a layer just in case it's a little colder than I expected. Much easier to take clothes off than put them on, right? So with my extra layer, I headed out the door.

And was promptly very glad I added the thermal top. I was chilled through before I got to my car and was starting to wonder if I really should just crawl back into bed. But I had paid for the race and knew I needed to get some time on my feet because I really did need a break from the back-breaking labor of insulating an attic. And un-insulating an attic. How does that quote go? "I'm getting too old for this shit."

Once at the venue, I didn't bother reading the course map since I had a general idea of where I'd be running. I knew there were no major hills involved and that it was almost all on pavement. There was one little section on grass and trail but it was barely noticeable.

I played with the idea of running in my visor but a short walk outside made me change my mind and go back to wearing the winter hat. Just too cold. I checked in, got my bib, and stayed warm in the car. Then I spent some time in the building, used the bathroom, and stayed warm inside waiting for the kids to finish their race.

Soon enough the gun went off and we were moving just to stay warm. At least I was. A few turns later and we ran through the first mile marker just as the lead runners were headed our way through the second mile marker. I was through the second mile marker soon enough and my mind began to wander. I mean, if I had worn my tri-shorts, would my "things" have been noticeably warmer? Probably not as I saw frost on several cars before I got within sight of the finish line.

And speaking of the finish line, I'm the butthole that kicks it in at the end. I only passed a person or two and just before my chest was going to explode, it was all over. At least I didn't puke. Felt like I might around the halfway point but didn't.

After the race I ran into some neighbors and an old classmate. Then checked my time and saw that I placed 5th in my age group (out of 5). Then headed to Target to meet the wife and kids. And to celebrate with a large coffee.

Temps were about 35F at the start. Maybe 40F in the sun. Sun was eventually out in full but it was so low there were a lot of shadows. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Breakfast was coffee and two slices of toast. Hammer Fizz during the run. Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew and a bacon/egg/Gouda sandwich for recovery.

Aches and Pains:
Since it was colder than expected, my chest was burning a bit during the run. Which made me want to choke on my phlegm. And my fingers were cold. And my nose. But otherwise, nothing really hurt.

Wore thermal top, short sleeve shirt, shorts, winter hat, and gloves.

Today's Motivation:
Feels like I haven't run in forever. And that feeling grew after the race. But I knew for my own sanity, I needed to get out there and run. Part of why I signed up for the race.

Naughty Neil:
Probably ate too much heavy food yesterday. And probably ate too much food today. But generally doing okay at the snacking and portion control.

Race Swag:

The usual coupons and junk mail and a hat. Seems like it just might be big enough to fit my giant head.

Mile 1 - 10:43
Mile 2 - 11:15
Mile 3 - 11:12
Finish - 33:40

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

40 Years Ago Today - November 2, 1976

A month after my birth, I would sit for my first photo shoot.

My parents did not pose my finger, it just happened naturally.