Remission: 2015

Running at twilight

(CC) BY-SA Tomas Fano

We’re down to crunch time for the Flying Pig. My goal is to run it in 2016. However, I’ve had to alter my plans somewhat. Part of the plan had been to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon this year. Only on my way to ramping up to a 90-day half-marathon training plan, the Winter household got hit with a wave of respiratory viruses. Get over one cold and another takes its place. This has killed running for both me and Nita in December.

It’s mostly over now.

In the past, winter has impacted our running efforts. It gets dark early. The cold temperatures are not so much a problem, but there is the danger of snow and ice. It’s not a matter of toughing it out. It’s a matter of staying upright and uninjured. Fortunately, this year, we have a treadmill. It’s enough to get back to the three miles a run I’d reached before Thanksgiving. One can do five miles on a treadmill easily enough. It has an aux jack like most modern car stereos, so I can listen to audio books while I run.

But I will not be ready for the half marathon this year. I have to get back to where I was before I got sick. Plus I have to finish my degree, which won’t happen until April. So instead, I’ve switched things up. I’ll be doing my annual weekend trek on various sections on the Little Miami Bike Trail starting this year in Springfield in March. Yeah, March. That’s going to be interesting if it snows a lot. Then the summer will be spent training for the half marathon. Which half marathon?

Well, I’ve decided to run the Loveland Half Marathon this coming October. That gives me an extra five and a half months (counting the full month of May as the Pig is run the very first Sunday of the month) to train. Also, I go into late fall with a head start on training for the full Pig in 2016.

Why am I doing this when my fellow cross-country runners from high school have stopped running due to knee and hip issues (and, let’s be honest, pressing golf games)? Simple. Training has the side-benefit of improving my health. I know I need to eat better. I already drink less. The exercise is the key to eliminating a lot of blood chemistry numbers that have resulted in lots of brown bottles in my medicine cabinet.

Plus it’s on my bucket list. I said when I graduated high school that I wanted to run a marathon. Should have done it years ago. I want to do it while I’m still relatively healthy enough for it.

Remission: It’s All Coming Together

Running_Man_Kyle_CassidyIt’s not a stretch to say I did not have a good summer numbers-wise. My weight went back to 280. Blood sugar and cholesterol followed. In fact, cholesterol, not A1C, is what freaked my doctor out on my most recent (and overdue) checkup.

My wife and I have both been running this summer, but I fell back to a mile a run, three days a week and sometimes down to two.

But now we’re getting into to, using a football metaphor, the red zone. My goal is to run a half marathon in 2015, specifically the Flying Pig. I want to run the full Pig in 2016. So I need to be running more than 3 miles a week.

I’m working slowly on it. By Christmas, if all goes well, I’ll be up to 5 miles a run three times a week. Come January…

I’ll admit, I worried about being ready to run 13.1 miles in five months. As it turns out, I found a training plan for the run. You don’t have to work up to running 13 miles a day. In fact, you could hurt yourself doing that. You run five times a week, starting by running 3 miles a day. Sunday (or whatever your final day is), you run your long run. It starts out at three miles and increases one mile weekly to 13 miles. The week before the half marathon, you actually only run 6 miles on your long day. During the week, you insert longer runs from 4 to 6 miles, which is doable.

This is perfect for me as I have my final semester of college coming up. So for the first half of the semester, I’ll have two built-in rest days while I knock out an accelerated class.

So the first running goal is more than doable. Now I just have to figure out how to train for the marathon after that.

Remission: A Little At A Time

Bike laneIt’s been rough trying to get the weight back under control. Our household is three adults now, two going to school and one working strange hours along with drum corps. It often means eating fast food or at odd hours. Compounding that is a job change. I’ve had trouble looking for ways to manage my lunch hours in a new area.

But the one thing I can control is exercise. As long as the weather cooperates, I can run. Getting back up to running three miles a stretch has been a challenge. But I keep doing it.

What has helped is the annual trek up the Little Miami Trail. This year, I plan to go all the way to Springfield, nearly 80 miles from Downtown Cincinnati when all is said and done. By the time I finish, I will be starting my final year of college (Helluva thing to say in your forties). That opens up a day each weekend to running.

The real challenge will come during cold weather, as it always does. This past winter, which seemed to last into May, I ran in place, or rather ran around the basement. Rough, but it did its job. Running outside has been the real challenge. I have to deal with the fact that I’m aging as I do this. So recovery times and building up endurance are getting harder to improve. On the other hand, doing nothing will likely be fatal. While most of the men in my family make it to their mid-70’s, every generation seems to have one or two people who die in their fifties. I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t even want to go in my sixties, which my father did (ironically a couple of days before a scheduled procedure to implant a pacemaker.) I have to get into shape. That last half of my adult life is turning out so much better than the first half. I want to be able to enjoy it.

Remission: Making It A Couple Thing

Jogging couple

CC 2009 Ed Yourdon

This summer, I had to restart my running program. I started walking up to two miles, but running? I needed a kick in the butt.

Fortunately, my wife is always willing to kick me in the butt. She saw me mapping out a mile run on the web site and asked if I was planning to do that eventually.


The next night. “Hey, honey. Let’s take a run together.”


We ran. I did a full mile. Nita ran about almost half a mile, walked a couple of blocks, and finished the run. We were both winded. Yes, I, the guy who said he wants to run the Flying Pig Marathon in a couple of years, was winded after running a mile.

But it’s easier to build up this time. We start at the same time, stretching together and taking off together. Nita’s endurance is building up. So is mine. Eventually, I’ll have to run a separate route as I get up to 2, 3, 4 miles and more. But working together, we’ve been able to push each other to get farther. Nita now runs in the park on days where I’m not running or I’m away in the evening. I’ve added my annual trek up the various segments of the Little Miami Trail to my routine.

The changes are slow and incremental, but we don’t want rapid weight loss. Rapid loss bring rapid gain, a sort of whiplash effect. I suspect that my fast drop from 310 pounds to 280 a few years ago also may have triggered Type II diabetes. So slower weight loss gives the body and the metabolism to adjust. Plus, when you lose slowly, your skin has time to reshape itself so you don’t have massive amounts of skin hanging off you when you hit your target weight.

Even when we don’t run at the same time, this gets more doable with a partner.


Remission: Get Back Out There

lone-runnerI’ve talked a lot about how unremittingly miserable this winter has been. Some would ask why, since I grew up in Cleveland. I wasn’t thrilled with winter in Cleveland, either. There’s a reason so many ex-Clevelanders live in Winter Haven, Florida, while Cincinnatians seem to retire in droves to Hilton Head, SC.

But it’s had health consequences. I originally intended to build up my running endurance so that I was up to three miles a day by St. Patrick’s Day.

That was last week. The mile-and-a-half to the local park and back, never mind the half-mile track inside it, is a challenge. But this week, spring sprung. Monday, I was able to get in part of a mile and a half, making it back to within five blocks of my house. Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment midday, which required me to take the morning off. So I ran right after Nita left for work.

It was a gorgeous day, the sky clear. And so peaceful. I’d missed the bulk of rush hour traffic and was able to cross the main drag with little trouble. I even made it back to within three blocks of the house this time. It felt great.

Except it was so freakin’ cold. Yes, winter has been like the drunken relative who insists on crashing on your couch despite the fact that you’re having a dinner party right about when he’s sleeping off a fifth of Ol’ Granddad. As I walked the rest of the way back, I remember thinking to myself, “I could probably run the whole route if it wasn’t so freaking cold!” Twenty degrees.

Last year, though, I ran in single-digit temps. Last year, we didn’t spend most of the winter with ice from partial snowmelt coating the sidewalks.

Of course, next year, I’m just going to have to dig into my pockets and pay LA Fitness $36 a month to use their treadmills from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, or later. By that point, I intend to train for the annual half marathon that runs along with The Flying Pig Marathon.

Or I can just suck it up and learn to run in the snow.

But it’s Cincinnati. Why would I do something silly like that?

Remission: Back On The Horse

mostintrunningLate last year, it became apparent that the pounds I’d lost by May were coming back to stay. Rather than let them bring friends, I decided to get ahead of the curve and start running again. Only I remembered two things about running in winter.

It’s dark as hell by 5:30, earlier on the first day of winter.

It’s also cold.

The latter I deal with by reminding myself that having to jog in the cold is a First World problem, you pussy. Suck it up, put on some layers, and go outside. So I did.

And ran smack (literally) into the first problem. Pretty much any short route I take follows a short residential street in neighboring Amberly Village has decided isn’t worth the streetlights. So, one day in early December, I, being a responsible pedestrian, take my jog up into the grass to avoid on-coming traffic. Getting back onto the pavement, I discovered something else Amberly Village, which incidentally, is one of the wealthiest suburbs in Greater Cincinnati, needs to fund better: Pot holes. (Say what you will about Deer Park and Silverton, on whose fuzzy borders we sit, they fill their pot holes rather quickly.) My foot caught the edge of this seismic fissure in the Earth’s crust and…


Yes, a 47-year-old man fell down, skinned his knee, bruised a rib, and cried for his mommy. Don’t judge me. After realizing that 1.) I was no longer 10, and 2.) I hadn’t broken anything, I got up and walked painfully back to the house for a shower and dinner. I sat on the couch sulking with a beer when AJ came home from work.

“What happened to you?”

“I fell down.”

“Were you drinking?”

“Of course. I fell down. Why would I not drink after that?”

He rolled his eyes and went off to his room to play Smite. An hour later, Nita came home from school. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“I went out for a run and fell down.”

Did I get “Poor baby”?

“Oh. Class was horrible tonight…”

Running outside when you can’t see where the hell you’re going was turning out to be a bad idea. But what to do? Join a gym? Nah! That’s too obvious. And really, I didn’t feel like having to fight with them when I wanted to leave after the days got longer again. Then it came to me. Run in the basement.

Yeah…  We live in a small, four-room postwar cottage. So, we’re talking about forty feet of running room. Then consider that you can only run on one side of the basement as the other is the laundry room. On that clear side of the basement sits an old love seat in what’s now our family room. At the other end is my office. So that takes a few feet out. So what did I do?

Booted up the Mac, built a thirty-minute playlist, and started running back and forth. Silly? Yes. Is it working? Who knows. I’m not running outside until February, when the snows starts melting, the daylight hangs out until after 6, and, most importantly, I can see where I’m going.

Remission: Gearing Up For Running Again


Photo: Kyle Cassidy, used under Creative Commons

My original plan was to be running 5K and 10K races by now. Every year, rock station WEBN hosts the 5K Run Like Hell that ends in German Cemetery. That’s next Wednesday, I can barely make it half way around the block.

My fault. I stopped running in May when I pushed to get the Holland Bay rewrite finished. I also did not have a plan for after spring semester ended. I had an entire running plan built around my class schedule and failed to do the same with my summer classes.

OK, and I got lazy. Hey, I had my birthday. I had AJ’s birthday. I had my anniversary. And running outside in July is just so hot! Besides, those Nita Ritas won’t drink themselves.

Yes, I really got lazy. I did not plan. So now I need to plan. Last year, I thought I would limit myself to walking until February, when the days start getting long again. But after my recent reminder to take better care of myself, that’s not going to work. I will have to put on my big boy sweats and big boy running shoes, and go out in the dark and the cold after work. I was up to 3 miles a day last spring. There’s no reason I can’t get back to that by Valentine’s Day.

That’s not happening this week. I’m writing this on Sunday morning and already have my week planned out, but next week…? And I do make next week.

Photo: Kyle Cassidy. Sourced from WikiCommons

Remission: Back On The Horse

I did pretty good losing weight. I went from 274 pounds down to 252. I was proud of myself, especially when I leveled off at 255 pounds. But then it happened, as it inevitably does. I slacked off on running. Then my birthday hit. Ten of those pounds came back. Sometimes, I get up to 267.

That’s a holiday thing. Always happens around Christmas. Part of it is I quit watching calories and slacked off on running. That’s gotta change. Yes, weight loss is the goal. I need to be under 240 pounds after Christmas, which means I need to stave off that holiday bloat as much as I can.

Which means I need to get back on a program. Right now, I’m not as worried as I might have been in the past. I’m still on only two medications. My sugar is fairly low, and my blood pressure is somewhat normal. But increased weight and lack of exercise can reverse the progress I’ve made so far. I don’t want that. I like being able to eat a candy bar without worrying about a diabetic coma. (I am not exaggerating.)

So this week, I need to restart running. It’s warm out now, and daylight goes past nine o’clock. So there are no excuses. I need to finish up my weekly trail ride this year. And I need to jump start the weight loss again.

I’ve decided, once I finish the bike trail this year, to do Insanity, one of the Beach Body workouts. I got the 30-day version. I’ve decided to spend June being insane, do some running in July, and, when classes end at the end of July, do Insanity one more time. So what’s that do for fall?

Well, with all that running, biking, and Insanity (which includes a diet plan), by fall, I should be ready to start training for a couple of 5K races. That will involve returning to my beloved Little Miami Trail for some distance running on weekends, visiting a park near Medishack for its par course, and possibly joining a running club. We’re also going to need a treadmill. There are three of us in this house, and we all have reasons to keep exercising. Nita and I wish they were AJ’s reasons, but AJ won’t even see 20 until next year. (I miss 20.)

The trick is not to have a program and stick with it. The trick is to always plan ahead.

That’s why I’m not swallowing half a dozen pills every morning and a few more every night. I want to keep it that way.

Remission: And Now I Start Running For Real

Running cartoonIn January, I started a program to ramp up running. I started by power walking a 6-minute interval followed by one minute of running, repeating two more times. Gradually, the power walk was reduced to a minute while the running is up to nine minutes. I did have to stop halfway through the most recent one because my hips got too tight. It happens.

This week, I start running for real: Twenty minutes straight. Next week, 30 minutes. Then up to a nearby park and back, adding a lap around the park each week until the end of April. There will be a 90-day (or one-week, depending on how badly I hurt myself) break while I do P90X, but the goal here is to do a 3-5 mile run three times a week.

I haven’t run since 1984. Ronald Reagan was president. Gas was $1 a gallon. MTV still showed videos. The Internet was this super-secret computer thingie that Matthew Broderick hacked in War Games. I also turned 18 that year.

I turn 47 this year, and the body is not as resilient as it once was. For some reason, my threshold of pain is higher, probably life kicking someone around for an extra three decades, but there are more aches. I have the knees of my mother’s family, which tend to be stiff and get stiffer with age. I have a toe that may or may not have arthritis in it. I have a small toe on the other foot that I broke two years ago. It went completely numb after that.

But since starting this, I’ve plateaued at 14 pounds lighter than I was on New Year’s Day. Granted, diet has a lot to do with it, but the running has helped considerably. In the middle of this final phase of the ramp up, I’m also going to start biking the Little Miami Trail (more on that next week). What’s really helped, though, is that I now have decent running shoes. In high school, we was broke. My mom bought me the cheap shoes at K-Mart, and they had to be my walking around shoes and my running shoes and my gym shoes. No cleats or special New Balances for this boy. Oh, and they had to last until spring. Now? I can afford to go to Bob Ronker’s Running Spot and spend some decent money on a pair of shoes that can handle the punishment I dole out on my heels, support my weak arches, and generally let me forget about my feet while I’m out there sucking wind and wondering why I keep torturing my knees.

I do feel better since I started this. Hopefully by the end of the year, I can get a couple of 5K or 10K races in. My goal?

The Pig at 50!

Believe in it!

Running Update

My attempts to start running again after a 28-year recovery period has not gone as I expected. By now, I expected to be running 1-2 miles a day, maybe with a longer run on weekends.

Not happening.


I’ve been working on intervals, starting with a six minute walk followed by a 1 minute run. Each week, I add a minute to the run and subtract a minute from the walk. I started this in April. Somewhere around Memorial Day, I got sidetracked after working up to my first four-minute run. I’d lost so much time I had to start over with one-minute intervals.

I’m back up to four minutes again. During the two- and three-minute intervals, I actually would get seriously winded and pray for the end of the run to come. My run is about 30 minutes, which means three intervals. After the end of the second run, I would dread the third.

Not the four-minute intervals. By the end of the first interval, I was falling into a rhythm. It would still be exhausting, but the recovery came faster, and my breathing would normalize during the run.

Of course, I’ve been cheating. During our recent heatwave, I didn’t run on days when the temperature topped 100 degrees. I suppose that’s not dedicated, but I am starting out again. I kind of wish I’d done something like this when I was fifteen and joining the cross country team. Completely clueless about running, but willing to learn, my first run ever was while wearing jeans and a pair of sneakers not designed for anything more than saving mom money when she bought me school clothes. I ran two miles in street clothes. My next run shocked my mother. After 15 years of refusing to wear shorts, I wore shorts.

Since I only run three times a week for now, I’m not to worried about dodging bad weather. Last week’s challenge was the late-day storms that pelted Cincinnati. In a few weeks, the challenge will be school. I start my bachelor’s degree at Wilmington College’s Cincinnati campuses. Unlike Cincinnati State, a technical college, Wilmington has no online classes. Once I adjust for that, I have to deal with the shortening days. I could run before work, but it’s dark then, too. And of course, cold weather. By then, I should be running about 2 miles a day, and the weather – unless it’s extremely cold or it’s a deep snow – is not going to be an excuse.

But I’m running again. And despite tightness in my hip the day after a run, it feels good.