Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dad Is Still With Me: Stroke Awareness and a Marathon

I won't lie, training for a marathon has been tougher than I had envisioned. There are a few good lessons and good things, in general, I've gained from the last eight months of training.

Stroke Awareness and Research

As you may know, I'm running to support the American Stroke Association's efforts to increase stroke
Dad and Mom, 2002,
13 years after the stroke
awareness and research. So many of us are affected by stroke each day. Whether we suffer a stroke, or someone we know and love suffers, our lives are changed forever. A real difference can be made with education and funding. 

Several years ago, my own family was impacted by my father's devastating stroke. He suffered the worst, of course, but we all were changed. 

If you would like to donate, you can visit my fundraiser page

I have been so encouraged by the support I've had for my running and my efforts at fundraising. We've increased the goal twice in the last few months, and met it each time. I will keep raising funds through January, and likely after.

Running Through Life

It takes commitment to train for a marathon. After making the commitment, as with most things in life, it will be tested. Mine certainly has. 

At the very outset, in early May, I believe, my knees were hurting badly. I started to take it as a sign that I was nuts for thinking I could run a marathon, but I came to my senses and visited my doctor and a physical therapist. Fortunately, I had a great therapist, Jennifer Tuska, at Kort Physical Therapy and I was better than ever in a few weeks. I had survived the first test.

Me and the monkeys at
the zoo.
As my runs became longer, the time requirement increased. I was determined not to let my family time suffer and it soon became apparent that this marathon thing would require their support. My wife, the kids, everyone has been great and on board. My daughters even run with me, sometimes. I hope this whole get-in-shape thing will help me be around for them all for a long, long time.

As with any other sport, your mind has to be focused to maximize your output and progress. When the stress of work, or the house, or the broken car, or any number of things pop up, its extremely tough to hit the road for a two hour run, or even a short one. I've learned to simply put one foot in front of the other and do it anyway. 

Dad Is Still There

Still, if I wasn't committed ridding the world of stroke, I wouldn't have the same drive to succeed. I think of my dad when I was a little boy; the strong, peaceful, outdoor-loving, dad. I think of the hard times he, and we, had after the stroke. I think of the man he became, overcoming his stroke to some extent, even better in many ways, but never returning to his former self.

Even though he's gone, he is still with me. I hear his words and see a lot of him in myself. I keep going because of him, for my own children, and for myself. 

It looks as if I will finish my marathon in January. I hope to post a good time for a first-timer, but it doesn't really matter. Finishing is what counts, this time.

Become a part of this whole thing here. And, follow this blog to keep up with all things fatherly and running-ly.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stroke Awareness

I was planning to introduce a week-long series of posts that sought to define this blog, and me, this week, but something more important presented itself. That "something" is also a big part of "me," so I am actually following through with my planned defining.

Today is World Stroke Day. Take this day, this week, to learn to recognize the symptoms of stroke and what to do when stroke happens.

Over the next couple of decades, stroke deaths are projected to increase by 30%, unless we do something to educate ourselves on how to prevent it and how to react when it happens. Each of us, over our lifetime, will be touched by stroke in some fashion. My own father suffered a devastating, life-altering stroke. I can tell you, it not only changed his life, but also our entire family.

Learn, spread the word, and lets start turning the tide!

Add caption

Monday, September 30, 2013

Top-5 Personal Lessons of Marathon Training

Training for a 5K race and training for a marathon are vastly different. Forget the obvious distance differential, that's the least of the differences.

Lessons Learned

For an elite athlete, or one that has realistic expecations of winning any race, the training for a short or long race is not so different. Either way, it requires a great deal of time.

For the recreational runner like me, a guy who wants to check a few things off his bucket list and then evaluate the future, half-marathon and marathon training have taught me a few things. Some of the things I considered at the beginning, but, in my typical fashion, I overestimated my ability to overcome. 

Here are the top-five things I've learned these past few months.

5. It's harder than 5K training. When I ran my first 11-mile training run, I finished and thought, "That isn't even half-way," when compared to a marathon. I ran my first 13-mile distance in 90-degree heat a few weeks ago and it took me several days to recover. Again, I thought "That was barely half-way there." My first honest-to-goodness half-marathon race is in less than two weeks. I know I can finish the distance, maybe even ahead of some people, but make no mistake, it has been a physical and mental struggle to get to this point.

4. It's harder than 5K training, mentally.  I remain motivated to finish both the half and full, and I'm certain I'll be able to do it.  I must say, however, that it gets harder with every maintenance run and every long run to summon the same verve I had a few weeks ago. The 13-miler took as much out of me mentally as physically. Since that time, I've missed some runs and had to dig deep not to lose ground. 

3. Encouragement matters. As word gets around, people congratulate you on the undertaking. It feels good and provides some much needed motivation. A certain percentage of the people most assuredly think I'm stupid for doing it, but they're easy to spot. The sincere remarks have an impact.

2. My body doesn't respond as quickly as it used to. In past years, when I demanded something of myself physically, my body returned with a hearty "Let's roll!" Now, past 40, it says, "I'll get back to you on that one, maybe." I estimated that I'd be much further along in my per-mile pace at this point, but at least I'm able to get out there and do it. 

1. It requires a commitment from the whole family. Real runners, great runners can put in a 13-mile training run in well under 1.5 hours. My only training run at that distance took me 3 hours. Yes, conditions were unbearable, but under the best of conditions it would have taken 2.5.  With three maintenance runs and one long run, running can take a big bite out of the free time you have in a week. My family time has suffered, which has been the worst part of this little journey.  I'm fortunate that everyone is on-board with this. I've found that running requires as much mental well-being as any other sport. Being worried about something, or having loads on the mind, has an impact on performance and motivation.

I'm fortunate for the family I have, the relative good health I've been given, and the ability to continue. It's been harder than I expected, but I'm glad to be able to put one foot in front of the other as many times as it requires.

I'd like to hear from those of you who have been down this road. Let us all hear in the comments!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Slow Motion: Another Dad Moment

Not my child. Not her dress.
My 10-year old daughter is beginning to enter a realm where the times my impact on her is
plainly seen are fewer. I hate to see her grow, but love seeing her grow. Ya know?

My six-year old daughter, however, still frequently reminds me how important I am in her life. There are moments with the older one, still, but the little one is all about daddy.

This morning, while getting ready for school, her first choice of the day's attire was dirty, having been worn twice already this week (Said "yes" to day two, but three was pushing it). The next choice, even by my standards, was not a good one, because it's PE day at school. Her third choice left her uncertain, but she put it on.

As she brushed her hair, she kept looking at her dress (I made her put bike shorts on underneath. After all, it's gym day) and moving altogether too slow for my taste. Finally, I said, "Sweetie, you look beautiful. I love the dress." BOOM. Smile and a whole 'nother gear. Now we're moving toward getting out the door. 

As she bounced around and as I tied my tie, I realized I had made an impact. I replayed her smile in my mind and thought of how she needs to hear things from me. The same thing from mom is good, too, but when daddy also approves, it must be good. I need to be reminded of that from time to time. Reminded that I am important. Reminded they need me.

I'm forever telling them how smart they are when they've done something well, pointing out when they've been a good friend, or when they've shown generosity, and so on. Little girls don't just need to hear they're pretty, but when they do, it is meaningful.

I live in a home full of girls, including the two kittens we recently acquired, so rarely do I get to say, "Dude, that superhero shirt is killing it!" I don't even know if that's something that would be said.  But, I'm sure something appropriate would carry as much weight with boys as with girls.

I like moments like this. When everything is moving at the speed of light, when I can't even think clearly because of all the activities and time flying away, a moment where I clearly see my child's smile and happiness in slow motion is priceless.

 Image courtesy petuniad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is This Happening?

My dad, a few years before his stroke.
May 1989

When I visited my parents' house around 5:00 p.m., I usually found my dad sitting at the table, watching the news and smoking a cigarette after having worked in the garden, tended to the cattle, or any number of other things that could happen under direct sunlight.

This day appeared to be no different. I walked in the front door and said, "Hey." He was at the table, watching television and trying to hold and light his cigarette. He dropped it a couple of times before giving up on the task for a moment. 

As I went to get a drink and some food out of the frig, he began telling me about working in the garden and how it was coming along, and how unusually hot it had been for a day in May. 

In between my munching and gulping, I noticed that his speech didn't sound quite right, a little slurred. I was about 21, so his 51 years seemed ancient to me. I instantly thought he had gotten too hot and was tired, or he had drank one too many beers due to the heat. But, I watched him continue to unsuccessfully light his cigarette. He'd drop it, pick it up, and drop it again. 

I asked him if he was ok. He said he was. I looked at his face. Something looked a little different, but if the slurred speech and cigarette trouble weren't happening, I wouldn't have noticed. 

After another minute or two, he went to lie down and was unsteady on his feet.

I thought, "Is this happening?" It seemed like a stroke, but it took me another couple of minutes to act on my feeling. I called my mother and brother. We went to the hospital. He seemed to feel better. The doctor sent him home.

Later that night, he had another, more significant episode. We went back to the hospital.

At the hospital, after the second episode, we learned that he had suffered a significant stroke and that the initial episode had been a smaller one. He survived, but in the days and weeks to come, we learned the extent of the stroke. His right side had been severely affected. He had no use of his right arm, no use of his right leg and the right side of his face had no movement.

He eventually regained some use of his leg and was able to walk short distances with a cane. His face returned to normal, but he never regained any use of his arm. His mind was not affected and his speech returned to normal, thankfully.

It seems strange to say, but he became more emotional after the stroke. He was much more prone to happiness and sadness, tears of joy or tears of pain. 

The stroke happened in 1989. Dad passed away in 2011. He lived and enjoyed his life for over 20 years after the stroke, but he would never mend another fence, never help another old mother cow deliver her calf, never toss his granddaughters into the air or run and play with them, though he wanted to, so badly.

All of this could possibly have been avoided. 

Please. Learn to see the signs. Learn to act and not think, "Is this happening?"

 

Visit the American Stroke Association and learn, and consider helping to further research here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Easiest Lesson Lost

Curmudgeon speak
After this post, I'll seem like a curmudgeon. So be it.

Any trip to Lowe's (or Home Depot), Wal-Mart (or Kmart), or, as it happens, Qdoba (and, quite possibly, Chipotle), or any place of business, for that matter, has the distinct possibility of ending badly. When I'm forced to visit, well, anywhere, I've become adept at picking out the "high speed, low drag" representatives.  

The Lesson to be Learned

I know it's difficult to go into work as a front line, minimum wage employee of John's Box Store with the attitude of "How can I help you? And, I mean that!"  I've been there and failed as often as I succeeded in keeping a good attitude. What I recognized, even as a lazy college student, was that I was working more for myself than "for the man."

Which helped me do a decent job.

Which, with minimal effort, I might add, separated me from others in my position. 

It taught me that if I work harder/better, I can improve my lot.

I've often thought this will quite possibly be the easiest lesson I will teach my children, because it generally works. It's provable. If they try it, they'll see it and feel it in everything they do.

But, Maybe I'm Wrong?

Because, that line of thinking seems to be disappearing. The high-speed individuals are harder to find, they're nearing extinction.

If you guessed that what moved me to think about this particular topic was something I've experienced lately, you're right. 

It was the three young gents at a local chain restaurant in the business of selling burritos that, apparently, were not excited about selling me a burrito.

It was the lady at a locally-owned dance studio that was upset someone forgot to turn the "open" sign to "closed" before I came in to buy dance lessons for my in-laws. A problem she rectified before saying to me, "What do you need?" I did not make a purchase. She did not care.

The good thing about both instances was that my children witnessed them. I used them as "teaching moments."  After the latter incident, my 10-year old said, "She was like the boys at [burrito place]?" 

This sort of thing is repeated everywhere, everyday. It is still counterbalanced with instances of great service and assistance, but the balance is tipping in the wrong direction. 

The Good News

The good news is, for my children and yours, the workplace could be easy pickings in a few more years. That is, if the motor of the world hasn't stopped. 

If they're willing to do a good job for their employers, or themselves, they'll succeed quite readily. If they take the prevailing attitude about life and their lot in it, they'll be miserably happy wallowers. I hope they'll chose the road less traveled and become a person that people will seek out.

Just as I feared. I'm a curmudgeon.

Who is John Galt?

Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/oh_darling/

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Best Encouragement Ever

I was completely wiped out after running 13.1 miles on Sunday afternoon. The heat and the distance, my longest ever, did me no favors.

I immediately felt better when I saw this message from my daughters on our windows. 


The fact that it is backwards made it even better! The right encouragement from the right people can work miracles.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Top 10 Takeaways from My First 13.1 Mile Run

So, this past weekend was my "long run" weekend. Every other weekend my distance increases by two miles. The run for this particular weekend was 13 miles, my longest run ever. I decided to make it 13.1 to get the full half-marathon experience.

The Plan
The sun was not my friend.

The plan was to get up early, like 5:30, to get the run in and recover before heading to church. As is typical
with me and early mornings, I didn't see 5:30. I reasoned that I would simply be too rushed to get my meal right and at the right time, warm up, run and get back home in time. I decided to wait until the afternoon to run. It was going to be hot, but I could handle it.

Error in Judgment

It was near 90 degrees during my run. It was miserable. A poor choice to run my longest distance in such conditions. The sun was a brutal enemy.

Near the end, my mind nearly talked me into calling my wife to come get me, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other until the finish. Along the way, I couldn't think of why I decided to do such a thing. After completing the distance, I feel great for having done it.

What are my top takeaways from the experience? Here are the Top 10:

10. Water from a dog fountain is just as good as water from a people fountain.
9. Toward the end of the run, as fatigue and short temper set in, cars seemed to drive faster, motorcycles became too loud, and they all drove closer to me than they should've even though I was generally on the sidewalk.
8. The fuel gels I used for the first time didn't provide the superhuman second wind I had expected.
7. The 22 ounce water bottle I was carrying weighed at least 40 pounds at mile 11.
6. I felt like I had been running for days.

The remaining five are more positive.

5. I truly do feel a sense of accomplishment. Only a few months ago, I couldn't envision running that far (though I did a fair amount of walking).
4. Water is a treasured resource.
3. Don't focus on the miles remaining. Just think positively and keep going.
2. Good shoes make a big difference.
1. Encouragement is the best energy boost. After I finished at my doorstep, my daughters had written congratulatory messages on their windows. That was the best part of the day!

The 13.1 milestone was huge, but it isn't the end goal. That comes in January. Next up, 15 miles on September 22.

Image courtesy bredgur.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Cyber Running Team

In a matter of minutes, I went from marathon training alone to training with a couple of thousand others. Don’t let anyone tell you the Internet isn’t useful. 

The Lonely Road

You may already know, but just in case you’re new to Fatherlyhood, I’ve been training for my first marathon, the Walt Disney World Marathon, in January 2014. It’s difficult to fit training into work schedules, children’s activities, church, family and everything else.  Given those important things, it’s even tougher to find running partners for encouragement and accountability.  Plus, everyone else has their own schedules that are just as demanding and increasingly longer runs require larger blocks of time.

And, most people simply think I’m crazy for training for a marathon. I’m in my 40s, so most of my contemporaries just don’t run, which is fine. I wasn’t a “runner” either until recently. Most runners would say I’m still not a “runner.”  Based on my average pace, I’d have to agree with them!

As the long runs get longer, I’ve learned that I need encouragement. I’ve found it. 

THE Online Running Group

No, there’s nothing quite like having a group of friends to sit down with, or run with, and give and receive
encouragement for any endeavor. Once in a while, however, we come across good substitutes, especially now that we have technology that can bring people from across the globe together for myriad reasons.

As a writer, of sorts, I’ve found it necessary for a few years to establish and maintain a social media presence. I’ve grown my online community gradually during that time, but I haven’t quite, how would you say, been significantly “engaged.”

What better place for a marathon?

With my most recent off-line undertaking, my marathon training, I’ve started following/friending runners online through Twitter, RunKeeper, Daily Mile, and Facebook.  Initially, I did so due to my need for expertise, but I recently came across a rather large group of runner-folk that not only provide technical knowledge, but encouragement and engagement, as well; Team #runDisney. They aren't affiliated with Walt Disney World, or runDisney, they're just a great group of runners who love Disney races.

I followed @TeamrunDisney on Twitter and joined the Facebook group.  More often than not, online groups fall short of their goals, not for lack of trying, but the numbers aren’t there to keep it going, the members aren’t motivated or the reason for the group makes the members sort of transient.

In the case of Team runDisney, members are generally in for the long haul, they’ve committed a large portion of their life to a common goal. They know how difficult it is to reach running goals and they want help in any way.  It’s a fantastic group. 

Immediate Response

After joining the Facebook group, I posted a couple of questions/comments and within a few hours I had dozens and dozens of responses. In my experience, that’s unheard of!  So far, there’s been no post-bombing by people who have nothing better to do, only people offering to help.

For a relatively new marathoner-in-training, it’s just what I needed at just the right time. Now, I hope I can contribute as much as I receive.

If you’re a runner, even if you aren’t running a Disney race, or any race, I’d recommend hooking up with @TeamrunDisney on Twitter and join the FB group.  You’ll see the benefits.

I’ve mentioned a couple of others on this blog, but have you encountered any great online groups/communities, not just running-related?

Image courtesy bkgunner.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Will They Remember The Great Toilet Paper Fire?

Photo Courtesy 64MM
Lately, I've vowed to teach my daughters a bit about the great outdoors. We have too many i-devices and televisions, so it's imperative that they move around, see some stuff and learn a few things.

We've been camping, played outside at grandma's farm, seen how many lightning bugs we could catch, and various other fun activities. I've shown them where the milk in the jug comes from and how it's obtained, which brought groans from one and "Cool!" from the udder other.

The Great Fire!

Tonight was a departure from our normal Friday night, and my typical teaching moment. I made fire, from scratch!

Having been inspired by a great podcast a few days ago, I decided my two young daughters needed some survival skills. Truth is, so do I. The natural place to start was with fire.

It was 8:20 p.m. I told the girls that we were going to play a game. We needed to get a fire started before dark, which would be here in about 40 minutes. We had to run to the sporting goods store, find a fire starter, get home and get it going before dark fell. The race was on!

We made it to the store, found the starter and were back home 30 minutes after we left. "Great, we've got time, girls! We may survive after all!"

At that point, they were with me. We found some sticks to build a base, and plenty of dry, dead grass for tinder. Then, the race was truly on. We went into the back yard, metal was applied to flint, and sparks began to fly.

The starter stick said it was good for 4,000 strikes. The girls held on for about 150. Then, they played in the yard and came back about every 50 strikes. They were truly interested at about the 250 mark, when I showed them the blister I had just worn on my finger.

A great moment came at the circa 400-strike mark, when I had the little one get some toilet paper, because the dead grass wasn't getting the job done.

Turns out that was a good decision. Thirty minutes after we started making sparks, well after the sun had said good night, well past the point when my hands started aching, at about strike 600, right after the girls came back around to say, "Dad, can we go in?" a miracle happened. The toilet paper ignited and we had fire!

We would we would be warm this night. In July. In Kentucky.

I hope they remember.

Special thanks to Brett McKay of ArtofManliness.com, as well as Creek Stewart of Willow Haven Outdoor, for the blister I now have on my finger.

A Real-Life New Dad Scenario

Warning! Do not be scared by this post. Though the content is tough to read, if you learn from it, the runway to a smoother fatherhood will be cleared, just a little bit.

If you read earlier posts in this blog, you'll see lots of wonderful things about having children. I just thought it necessary to share how life can "get real" in a hurry.

Ahh, the days of old

Free time is not the most important time that you will lose upon becoming a father. Once baby arrives, the time spent with your wife becomes short. Time for other important things like your extended family, bill paying, planning for the future, thinking, volunteering, organization participation, household upkeep, and time with friends, becomes a precious commodity. If you think it will be easy enough to prioritize and make time for the important things, think again.

Consider this real-life scenario

When my first child was born, I was driving 75 miles to work each day. When I arrived at home at around 7:00 p.m. daily, I was exhausted from work and the drive. Naturally.

Before the baby arrived, the little time remaining of my evenings were spent going to dinner with the wife, reading, exercise, or any number of relaxing, rejuvenating, spirit-lifting activities.

A few days after my beautiful child came home from the hospital, she developed colic, a stomach ailment common in babies, but also one that causes the poor child a lot of pain. In our case, it resulted in a baby that cried unconsolably from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. every day. I could almost set my watch by her.

So, each day for 12 weeks, I arrived at home tired, to a wife at her wits end, and a screaming infant. After getting up at 5:30 a.m. to drive to my job and working all day, it was now my turn take care of the baby.

After her daily bellyache stopped, it was always heartwarming. She would smile, laugh and play for a little while before nodding off to sleep around 11:00 p.m.

Following non-stop 17.5-hour days, there wasn't much left in the gas tank. Yes, that was my existence for three months. The pediatrician said colic typically would stop abruptly at 12 weeks. If not, it would continue for a year or more. To say that we were praying, holding our breath and crossing our fingers at the 12-week mark is, in my estimation, the largest understatement in the history of the world. We were blessed.

Now, if you think there will be lots of time for other important things in your life, think again. Take a moment to think of the shockwaves that could reverberate throughout your life.

What do you think? Will you be able to make time for the other necessities of life? If you have children, were you able to do it without much trouble?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Message for New Fathers: Be Prepared to Feel


I've been a father for a solid decade now. It has been quite a ride, to say the least; ups, downs, highs, lows, hundreds of trips to the doctor, a few trips to the ER, soccer practices, dance recitals, crying, laughing, screaming, and smiles, real ones.
My expectations about what fatherhood would be have been exceeded in every possible way.
This morning I was reminded of how my ability to feel was affected by the birth of my children.
Feeling Then: The Way it Was
There have been times I wanted to go back to the way things were, this morning was one of those times. Let me explain.

Before my children came along, I was always glad to see a friend overjoyed by an accomplishment of their child. I mean, the "Hey, that's great. You must be so proud" kind of gladness. My thoughts were genuine.
Likewise, I was saddened to hear of anything bad happening to a child; terrible injury, death, mistreatment, cancer, and so on. My sadness was genuine.

In good and bad cases, my feelings were real. They weren't tear-jerking, gut-wrenching joy and sadness. They were simply genuine.


Feeling Now: I Can Never, Ever Go Back

With the birth of my children, I experienced a new kind of love. I expected that to happen, but what I felt far exceeded my expectations. If your child hasn't yet arrived, you'll know of what I speak soon enough.
I was totally and completely unprepared, however, for how that love extended outward. Again, let me explain.
One night, when my oldest was an infant and she had decided that sleep was not in the cards, I was watching a late-night re-run of CSI. I can't recall the specifics, but a child was missing and had apparently been abused in some fashion. At the time, CSI was my favorite show, but I was horrified by the scenario that I couldn't continue watching.

I recall looking at my daughter in tears and thinking of the devastation I would feel if such a thing happened to her. I even had a deep empathy for the fictional family on the show. I knew my life had changed.
This morning, I read the following article from our local newspaper - Heroin's Hold is Hard to Escape, Richmond Parents Warn,"and I was reminded, once again, how my life has changed.
One of the most striking statements in the article was this, "Because even Dylan told us we did everything right." Those words were from the mother who recently lost her 22-year old son to a heroin overdose.
The article was a chilling reminder that, despite our best efforts, the worst can happen. I teared-up for the parents of the boy. I teared-up for my own children as I thought "What if?" Maybe I was getting choked-up for myself and how I would handle losing one of my precious children. 
It was a moment wrapped in horror, love, sadness, and fear.
Preemptive Action is Not Possible 
To you, expectant fathers and mothers, I wish I could say "Prepare yourselves now," but there's no way to do it. 
The only consolation I can offer is that as hard as stories of tragedy can unexpectedly hit you, instances of joy strike with equal force. When you see the tears of joy in a father's face after his daughter wins a gold medal, or see a mother hug her son as he exits the plane that brought him home safely from the war, you'll feel what they feel. 
This is the way it will always be.


Do you have a similar experience?

Image courtesy Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Red more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/07/12/2712430/heroins-hold-is-hard-to-escape.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Marathon Training Has Officially Commenced

If you've followed Fatherlyhood, you've gathered, by now, that I've been preparing to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. I've been putting some miles on my shoes since late April.

Last week, my 29-week training program officially began. I'm following Jeff Galloway and his marathon training for first-time marathoners.  I love his run-walk philosophy for first-timers in training. Given that I've been training for several weeks, I'm a bit ahead of schedule and, if I stay healthy, I'll finish with a respectable time.

You may have also seen that I am planning to raise money for a charitable organization in connection with the marathon and other races I'll run this summer and fall. Right now, I'm researching the best solution for accomplishing that in the most effective manner.

If you have any ideas or experience with online fundraising, please let me know in the comments section below. I want to use my little fitness journey to benefit not only me, but those truly in need and actually putting themselves "in the line of fire," so to speak.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Early Morning Garden

Vacation Morning No. 1

Shortly before 8:00 a.m.  Surprisingly, the only things stirring are the pelicans, the sun, and a guy writing a blog post. This is my favorite part of the day, though I hate getting up. What a metaphor for my life.

It's peaceful here, there's a slight breeze blowing, and the place is as pretty as its been in years past. I've decided to skip the Sunday morning run, it's Father's Day, after all. I'll get it this evening.

This is a great start to the week. I write a lot about inspiration. I can feel it. Here, I can see it, too. The surroundings, the pace, just me and the family, allows for focus.

Time to wake up the family, fry some bacon and go dig in the sand.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Vacation, had to get away.

If you caught the Go-Gos reference, then you're a true child of the 80s, like me. Personally, I think much of the music from the 70s, except for Disco, is better, more poetic and more meaningful. But, I digress.

In a few days, we pile into the ol' Family Truckster and head for the beach for some much-needed, if not deserved, R & R. I love our famliy vacations. My children are small and still love getting away as a family. Aside from making me nostalgic about our past vacations, and even a little teary-eyed over the children growing older, I always, without fail, come away inspired to do great things. Inspiration is a beautiful thing. Whether it's the beach, or some primeval Kentucky forest (mostly the beach), I always get charged up to write more and better, found a multi-million dollar company based on one of my TOTALLY AWESOME ideas, or save a portion of the world. Not the entire world, that'd be just too much to take on.
 
Have I Done It?

Have I done great things or have I fallen short? Depends on the perspective.

My writing has improved, but I've not yet made a serious attempt at a book. I've started a couple of businesses, but not yet made the millions. I've helped change the world in a few ways; by teaching my children what's important, helping those that need help, and trying with some success to be a better husband and father.

I've also failed miserably on too many occasions to number at a great many things. For some reason, I keep getting back up, though its incredibly hard to do so, sometimes. I try not to focus for too long on the things that knock me down. I'm immeasurably grateful for the hope I have and the reasons why I keep standing up to give it another shot.

Anticipation

I look forward to Friday morning when I look through the windshield upon the open road. I can hardly wait to discover what the next week holds. I have some ideas that will be stoked by the ever-present ocean breeze, my children's laughter, sand and tall, moss covered trees. In my opinion, vacations are an essential part of life.

Does any of this apply to you? Do vacations do for you what they do for me? Do any of you ever feel, as I do, that you fall short more often than not? Let's hear it in the comments.

P.S. Isn't technology great? I banged out this blog post while waiting for the oil to get changed in the Truckster.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

People Worthy of Post-Apocalyptic Alliance

A couple of months ago, I came across a group of Twitter dads and moms, many of which operate and contribute to DadsRoundTable.com, DadsRT, for short.

As some of you may also know, I've been in "training" for a marathon I'm running in early 2014. It's been great and I'm more psyched (I know, the use of "psyched" shows my age) now than I've ever been, despite a knee injury that has kept me off the road for two weeks now. 

When the injury happened, I immediately began thinking I was going to need surgery, out for months, the race is off, and so on. Turns out, none of those appear to be the case and I'll be running again very soon. 

I didn't know I needed any encouragement until I began receiving it. The DadsRT folks immediately began coming through. Let me share just a few of the tweets I've received, pre- and post-injury:




Those were just a handful. There's even more on the DadsRT Challenge on DailyMile.com.  

I've never met any of them, but we share common ground: we're all parents, plan to be parents, or are close to people who are; we face many of the same challenges; we share the same successes and failures. We come from different backgrounds and have different experiences and beliefs, but provide what we feel and think to others for their betterment, or at least show we're all fighting the same fight, running the same race. Whatever cliche you want to use, we're all doing it together. That's good to know.

Whoever you may be, I strongly recommend you join the DadsRT conversation. Use the following hashtags on twitter and you're there:  #DadsRT, #DadsRT14x14, #DadsRTGeek.

They're good to people to know, at present and in the event of a cataclysm that necessitates the establishment of post-apocalyptic society.

PS - I just finished reading Dan Brown's new book, which can explain my fixation with cataclysm and apocalypse. I'll be over it soon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Long-Distance Dedication

As some of you may have seen here, about a month ago I decided to train for my first marathon, which will occur in early 2014. Those of you who know me are saying to yourselves, "What is he thinking!?" In short, I've found it's best for me not to think, in most situations.

I'm not a runner. I've ran three 5K races in my life. That's a total of 9.3 competitive miles. The term "competitive" being loosely applicable.  In short, I've ran three races that total significantly less distance than one marathon. In my present training, I'm not even running 26.2 miles per week. 

By some standards I'm young, but not young-young. Forty-five only counts as young-young by my own standard and that of my children, who I have convinced that I am, indeed, a young man. 

At present, I'm not certain I could walk 26.2 miles. By no known standard do I have the physical or mental stamina to finish a marathon. I am, however, going to do it. 

They say after you practice doing something for 30 days it becomes a habit. So, in my estimation, after several months of training a lifestyle change will have occurred; a change that will stand me in good stead for years to come. It will be a change to benefit me and my family. 

Dedication

Dedication not in the sense of commitment to my goal, that's a given, but rather another sense of the word.

As I'm running, I sometimes listen to audiobooks courtesy of my trusty iPhone. More often than not, I enjoy the lack of noise, which allows me to think. I think about running. I think about how to NOT attack the refrigerator like the Tasmanian Devil when I finish. I think about my dreams. I think about why Ken Griffey, Jr. never got a World Series ring. I think about my faith. 

On one occasion, I began thinking about my dad. Some of you know that this September he will have been gone two years. I reflected on the good qualities that I remember, which made him such a good man to many. I though about how, in his later years, he became a Christian.

Then, my thoughts were shifted to my shuffling feet and the goal I've established. My little quest will be something good for me and the family. But, why not more?  I could dedicate this goal to the memory of my father. Boom!  Done. Dedication complete.

That was too easy. Why not more? So, then I though of what dad had been and had endured. He had been poor as a child and hated seeing other people, particularly children, doing without the necessities of life. My father was the victim of a devastating stroke when he was not much older than I am now, which altered his life and began a slow descent of his health. He kept his faith throughout. 

Faith, Children and Action

Here's the true, complete dedication. I've dedicated my training and the ultimate race to my father, but I'm going a little further. In keeping with those things that my father was, I am also using this whole ordeal to help further the cause of an organization that seeks to aid stroke victims. 

Further, I will also use what I'm doing to assist a local organization that truly exemplifies James 2:26 - "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." This organization has taken that verse to heart and their faith to some of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world, along with medical aide and the necessities of life to families and children. They are truly one of the most clear examples of faith in action I have ever seen.

I'm working out the details of how to accomplish this and bring the most reward to those who need it, but work them out I will. I feel compelled to do it.

An endeavor that shines a light on faith, helps children and victims of stroke is something that my father would enjoy seeing and being a part of. In a way, he will be. 

I'll drop more details as they come to light, and I hope you'll join me along the way.

ALH

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Marathon Training Update: Increased Motivation

Really, it isn't so bad. I'm more determined now than at the beginning.

I'm one month into marathon conditioning. Lest you think I'm a "marathoner," or even a "runner," let me be clear that I'm just a 40-something dad trying to get into shape. A dad who has committed himself to running a marathon that is still seven months away.

Here's one of my recent "runs," as an illustration:




And, that was my long run for the week. A far cry from 26.2.

It's Good to Have Knees, I Guess

Without them, we'd have a strange gait.

At 25, and even 35, it was so much easier at the beginning of training: Endure a few days of pain, then start measuring progress. Now, the game has changed. On the outside, I don't look my age, according to my mom, wife and children, but I certainly felt it during mile one and after the run posted above. During the run, my knees ached like I had shin splints in them; a brand new kind of pain. Awesome!  Afterwards, I walked like I was 70.  Two days later, on my next run, I felt great. Now, three days later, I still feel good and ready to run again.

I'm making progress, my kids want to run with me, I haven't hurt myself, and I'm changing my lifestyle. I'm finding that those things are combining, as I had hoped, to strengthen my resolve and motivation to complete the marathon goal.

The Round Table

I've posted a couple of articles at DadsRoundTable.com, one of which talks about this goal of mine. I've found the parents involved with DadsRT, on the site, on Twitter and Facebook, to be a great source of support. There's even a challenge at DailyMile.com that a group of DadsRT'ers have started.

I usually run alone and the motivations I've mentioned have been enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other, but the comments and support from the DadsRT community adds something extra. Something that will be a benefit as the months roll by and the miles get longer. We all need that.

Another Source of Motivation

This will all be well and good for me and my family. Hoo-rah, meet the challenge and all that. That's wonderful, for us.  So, I've been envisioning a way to spread the benefit to others. For now, let me say, I have a plan in the works that will enable this little adventure of mine to benefit others.

I have to consider the feasibility of it, the time required to make it a success, and the impact on the important areas of my life (church, family, work, etc.). If all goes well, in a couple of weeks I will roll out this idea. For now, let me say its well past time for me to make an impact.

As always, wish me luck, say a prayer (please) and follow me to see how I'm continuing to make a fool of myself.

ALH (@AlanLHammond)

If you have any training tips, words of encouragement, or even want to poke fun, I'd love to hear it in the comments!




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Exalted One: A Product Review Five Years Later

It's been to Disney World twice, camping, left in the rain, carried a gas can and a car battery, accompanied me nearly every day and remains as good as the day Ogio sent it to me.

Before kids, when something broke, I just bought another. Since kids, times have changed. When they break things it doesn't matter, they seem to get new stuff, for the most part. Dad, however, makes due with what he has. For instance, my golf clubs are now a decade old. That, good friends, is a tragedy.

In short, from a dad's perspective, when something works even a day longer than expected in today's world of buy-then-toss products, it is a true gem.

Hello, old friend. You look great!
The Exalted One

About five years ago, Ogio, the maker of golf bags, backpacks, travel bags, and other sport bags, sent me some bags for review. Among them was a nice sized gym bag. Until this morning, I hadn't noticed how well it has held up. I guess that's what happens with those hardy souls that quietly go about their work, remaining dedicated to their chosen duties. They go unnoticed.

Until, one day, when the boss says, "You're doing amazing work!" That's what happened this morning. I stuck my hand in the bag to retrieve my Clif Mojo bar and the epiphany (yes, same sort of "epiphany" that I sarcastically tweeted about this morning) happened. "Dang, brother, you're still working! And, you look great!"

If I could fill my life with zippers that don't break...

The review I wrote for the bag has long passed into the mists of time, so I'm getting no form of benefit for saying any of this. It's just so refreshing to own something that still looks and functions perfectly after years of nearly constant use. I've used it for some unusual things, as described earlier, and my children have stuffed it full of Barbies and toys, a collection of rocks from their grandparents' farm, a dog, and other things I'm sure I don't want to know about. Throughout, it has remained true to it's calling.

Best of all, all of the zippers still work! Until this bag, I had only heard tales of old about mythical zippers that didn't break. I had considered it mere superstition, but secretly hoped I could be transported to a time when such things were said to occur. Until this morning, when I realized I was blessed to be in the presence of a mythical creature.

Thank you Ogio bag. You have made the life of this father a little easier, a little more stable. You are a trusted friend and shall now assume your position as the Exalted One. First among not-so-equals. May your story be told throughout the earth.