“21 miles: out of glycogen. From now on, it’s all willpower.”

So read the glass that I drank my morning milk out of every day for ten years. My dad ran the Boston Marathon a bunch of times, and we had a set of drinking glasses with the Boston course wrapped around them in a spiral from top to bottom. There were lots of mile-marker tips on those glasses; things that I assume every skinny, slit-shorted runner in the seventies knew about the course:

  • Mile negative two: still shuffling to the starting line! Bill Rogers is probably done already.
  • Mile zero: I say, that fellow came all the way from Kenya to run this race, huh? Well, wonders never… hey, where’d he go?
  • Mile ten: That guy in the gorilla suit and tutu can’t keep this pace up the whole way. Can he?
  • Mile fifteen: That can of Dr. Pepper that you stashed in the bushes is probably around here somewhere. That caffeine and sugar will pep up your pace!*
  • Hearbreak Hill: Ha! Ha! Ha! Your Christian “god” cannot help you now.
  • Mile eighteen: time to change the band-aids on your nipples, brother. Those mesh tanks chafe!
  • Mile twenty-four: Ignore the beckoning figure in the black robe. He has no E.R.G. for you.
Bill Rodgers at the top of Heartbreak Hill in 1980.  Reproduced from Leo Kulinski with permission.

Writing about running and weight loss brings a lot of encouragement and advice from folks, which I love and welcome — thanks for your email, Bob and Genevieve and mom! It’s all good advice, too — so far, nobody’s told me to try magnets in my insoles, or to try drinking three liters of pom juice a day, or anything. Cyborg triathelete Will Ronco, in particular, gives me encouraging news about weight loss:

[Will writes about how it’s too soon for increased muscle mass to be offsetting the weight of fat loss, and continues…]
“What’s happening, as you begin running again, and stressing your
muscles and your cardiovascular system, is that your body is retaining
water. Once your body gets used to all the running, you’ll stop
retaining water. In the meantime you’ll be losing fat, but fat loss
occurs so gradually that the only part you’ll really notice is when
the water weight drops off, around week 4 of consistent training. It
kind of feels like you make this huge weight/size loss all at once but
it’s actually been going on for a while.”

Okay, I’m happy to believe that. Of course, what is a workout for me is a “whoops, let me go back and get my car keys” for Will, so I’ll adjust that four-week figure in my head. Here’s what I’m doing right now:

Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings:
Jog 10+n minutes on the treadmill at a 10-minute pace, where n increases by one every workout. Then walk five minutes at a fifteen-minute pace, then walk five-minutes at an eighteen-minute pace. Stretch some.
Saturday mornings:
Jog thirty minutes at whatever pace I damn well feel like (slow; probably a fourteen-minute pace, but I don’t keep track.) Stretch some.

Yep, that’s my routine that I’ve been maintaining for all of nine workouts now. Woo! Once I’m running 30 minutes at a 10-minute pace consistently three times a week (around the middle of October), I’ll start mixing it up. Also, I’ll return to the Oakbourne Park cross-country course as much as possible. Maybe I’ll be ready for Dolphin shorts by April!

* This is a true story. My dad stashed a can of Dr. Pepper in the bushes the night before, and then pounded it during the Boston marathon. I think he barfed. And then kept running.

“21 miles: out of glycogen. From now on, it’s all willpower.”

One pound lost, but JULES VERNE’S SECRET LAIR FOUND

Okay, here’s my weekly weigh-in on my road to the Portland Marathon in October, 2007:

  • Current weight:224 pounds
    (one pound lost, whoop-de-do)
  • Target weight: 185 pounds
  • Workouts last week: four
    (mostly, jogging s-l-o-w-ly)

So I went to the gym at the crack of dawn on Tuesday and Thursday, and I’ve been watching my Weight Watchers points, and usually I get some big numbers because of that, but as it happens I’ve only lost a pound. Oh well, we marathon runners don’t obsess about that sort of thing — we know that muscle weighs more than fat (thanks, commenters!) and that it’s about the fitness, not about the number. (Still and all, one lousy pound? Sheesh! I feel like I endured at least, you know, three or four pounds’ worth of “no, marathon runners don’t eat ice cream.”

But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. I went for a 30-minute run on Saturday — a slow, lumbering 30-minute run at a 14-minute pace. I had meant to go to the Westtown cross-country course, but I decided to go to a closer, local park to save time. I figured I could just run around the soccer fields for a while.

Boy, was I wrong. I discovered a township park of such ornate, funky victorian awesomeness that I want you to click this image right now to see the Flickr photo set! Go! Go now!!!

One pound lost, but JULES VERNE’S SECRET LAIR FOUND

Un “hurluberlu parmi les « guérilleros »”

French journalist Serge Courrier just emailed me to let me know that his article Drive-in clandestins pour cinéphiles subversifs just came out in news.fr a few days ago. It’s about the Guerilla Drive-In, and since I still use 16MM film instead of DVD players, I’m described as “un hurluberlu”, which as far as I can tell means “screwball“. Hopefully in an awesome Doc Emmett Brown way. After getting described as “un branchouillard” by a French journalist in May, I’m in danger of becoming insufferably full of myself. Yeah, any day now I’ll start being an annoying braggart.

So… did I mention today that my article in Make came out?

page 111!

Page 111: “HOWTO: Make a head-mounted water cannon.” Go buy the magazine, then write in and tell them that they need more stuff in there from hurluberlois branchoillards!

Un “hurluberlu parmi les « guérilleros »”

Week One Report: Ass badder, no narrower

Okay, let’s break it down by the numbers:

  • Starting weight: 225 pounds
  • Current weight: 225 pounds
  • Number of brunches consumed yesterday: two
  • Time spent looking at fecking hipster in introductory video for nike+, reading FAQs and reviews: 45 minutes
  • Workouts last week: Four (including inaugural “why bother?” session on treadmill: “Fitness test, level five, twenty minutes: ‘Can you handle a short stroll to the cafeteria and back?‘”)

Yesterday was Kate’s birthday (hurrah!), so a night spent at the Hotel DuPont, plus a noble Kate-and-John Extended Date tradition of having one early brunch and one late brunch (I mean, really breakfast and lunch, but on Sundays it’s all one long Vale of Brunch from six AM to two PM), plus a birthday dinner where I cooked for the family means that I ended yesterday happy, contented, and stuffed like Templeton the rat, offsetting any ass-narrowing progress I may have made last week with all the yuppie lunches sourced from Ashby’s.

Not that I’m complaining. I managed two early-morning workouts last week. Well, let’s say I managed two early-morning trips to the gym last week; calling what I was doing “working out” is a little enthusiastic. I made up for it with two thirty-minute runs on the weekend with the maharani in her jog stroller (“run faster, daddy! Faster!” — I am not kidding.)

So being a card-carrying member of The Order of Men Who Expect to Lose Seven Pounds a Week if the Just Reduce the Amount of Gravy on Their Chicken-Fried Steak By Half, it’s a little discouraging to not at least see one pound drop. But that’s silly, of course, and I’m telling you about it so I can stick to my guns this week and post some improvement. I’ve got work to do if I’m gonna hit 185 by April, which leaves me six months for actual, by-god marathon training at that point!

PS. to Will Ronco: Thanks very much for the advice that if I ran from home, instead of the gym, I could run for a whole hour. I appreciate the advice, Will, but it occurs to me that you may have forgotten what it was like to be a Human Man, back before you had to make sure to change directions halfway through your workout so you do not alter the rotation of the earth. I’ll get there 🙂

Week One Report: Ass badder, no narrower

Ass-baddening commences! Day one report!

Now that I’m, you know… a marathon runner [see previous post, re: the Portland Marathon], my schedule looks like this:
Monday and Wednesday Nights:

  • Feed cat at night, so he won’t scream bloody murder all morning.
  • Pick out work clothes, fold them and put them in a bag.
  • Hey, look! I found my watch! It must have been in the bag since the last time I worked out at a gym. Like, two years ago.
  • Leave bag and clean shirt on a hanger by the door to my closet.
  • Put a pair of sneakers, socks, and shorts by the door to my closet.
  • Try to remember to put deodorant and a razor in the bag.
  • Forget that my padlock is in the garage; go get it. Don’t bother to put on shoes, step in cold cat poop on the lawn. Cat poop goes between toes. Hop inside, wash foot. Put padlock in bag.
  • Remember that I’ll need a towel, if I don’t want to do a Comedy Fig Leaf impression in the gym shower. Go get one; put it on the bag.
  • Set the alarm clock for 5AM.

Tuesday and Thursday Mornings:

  • Alarm goes off at 5AM; roll out of bed, go put on socks, shoes, and shirt. Brush teeth. Admire punk-rock bed head.
  • Grab bag, shirt. Walk out front door into dark, still morning. Feel surge of marathon-runner-itude. Try to remember why I’m not just going for a run; remember it has something to do with not taking a noisy shower after six, when LBY is liable to take any excuse to wake up.
  • Get in car, drive to Mitch’s Market Street Gym. Park car, walk inside. Swipe entry card three times in scanner, proclaiming myself to be a newbie. Guy behind desk looks like Creed, looks at me tolerantly. Locker room is sixty-five degrees
  • Open locker, put in bag and shirt, close padlock.
  • Twenty minutes of treadmill (“Fitness test, level five”.) Longest phase of treadmill setup: “Set Weight”. Leave finger on plus button for what seems like an hour, as the numbers rack up. I’m first one on treadmill, so my brontosaurus-like stomping echoes loudly through the space.
  • Back downstairs at 5:45AM; open padlock, take out towel, put in gym clothes, lock padlock.
  • Take shower (ugh, forgot flip-flops!), back to locker. Open locker, take padlock, put in bag.
  • Listen to two guys in locker room bantering about when they get to go to the gym, and how one guy’s wife just started going (probably to Curves, since he mentions that it’s ten bucks a month:) “She really needs to work out.” “Hey, as long as you’re the fat slob!” Both guy #2 and guy #1 were pretty ripped, so I’m not sure where to place this conversation on the Big Internet Numberline of Offensiveness, as of course all conversations must be so graded.
  • Put on work clothes, shave, pat pockets one thousand times
  • Get in car, drive to Dunkin Donuts, buy iced coffee (marathon runners don’t drink lattes!) and a plain bagel.
  • Get on train, blog about a marathon runner’s typical morning. You know, because at this point I have a sample of… one.

So as you can see, with all the ancillary tasks to the twenty minutes of treadmill, it seems that I’m in training to be a marathon valet, rather than a marathon runner. However, I’m hoping that as I gain more practice (TODO: buy a bigger gym bag, flip-flops, get a second set of toiletries, look for padlocks that are easier to open, develop complicated relationship with spaghetti dinners) the actual, you know, workout part will become more prominent and the fumbling with padlocks, less.

And I’m hoping to avoid cat poop. I could do without the cat poop part.

Ass-baddening commences! Day one report!

Late-summer shotgun update

P1010620.JPG
We had a great time at the beach, hanging out in the little beach cottage, eating cereal on the screen porch, etc.

I didn’t touch a computer all week, for the first time since 1996. To maintain my Ridiculous Geek status, I helped Lydia to swim in the ocean using an orange Pelican case as a flotation device. An orange Pelican case with a video iPod in it, just to make things interesting. After an hour of splashing around in the waves, submerging the case and sitting on it, clubbing sharks on the nose, etc., the inside of the case was clean, tight, and dry. Whew! My near-religious faith in Pelican cases was justified.

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We’re going to plant a vegetable garden in the back yard. It’s gonna be awesome. We’re turning our attention to the yard, now, which needs plenty of help. Like we have to cut the privet hedge down from twenty feet, for example.

To prepare, I’ve started reading William Cobbett‘s 1818 book in which he tries to introduce gardening to the American gentleman farmer (“at a dollar a day, the work needed to turn the earth [in your 150×300-foot garden(!)] should last forty days, costing forty dollars…” — Cobbett, like many from the Old Country, was excited about the potential of All That Space, I guess.) Kate continues to read Beverly Nichols, as well as modern books that are actually of some use.

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Also, we need to build a fence to keep the rabbits out. Fortunately, we live near Longwood Gardens, which is of course a really amazingly incredible resource for garden projects of any kind. Kate, Lydia, and I made a bunch of trips to Longwood’s Idea Garden. We have frequent-visitor passes, which makes me feel like a big shot: “stand back, tourists, we’re here to evaluate the squash! Pint-size pumpkin inspector coming through, move aside all you day-trippers!” I really like Longwood’s varmint fence, so we made lots of measure drawings.

P1010699.JPG
An exterminator came out to look at our porch columns, which we thought might have carpenter ants living in them. They did. Did they ever. This was one of those times when natural remedies wouldn’t have sufficed to correct the problem, unless “natural remedies” means “building a giant, purifying fire and burning the porch down.” When he sprayed, thousands of ants came boiling out of the bases. Ick. No tea parties on the porch for a while until the Talstar is gone.

I’m a marathon runner now, too. My sister and I have been talking intermittently about running a marathon together with my dad, who has run Boston many times. And my great-grandfather C.D. Young was a track athlete, apparently, and took a fake name to decrease the spread on him (track and field was a gambler’s sport back in the day, I guess.) So from now until April 2007 I’m going to work on excercise and getting down to my fighting weight, and then I’ll be Officially Training for the Portland Marathon in October 2007. Being a dedicated athlete is awesome; I feel focused and relaxed after only, let’s see… 22 hours of being a marathon runner, now. Great!

Oh, and my Ultimate Water Gun article came out in MAKE 07, on page 111, with a teaser slug on the cover. It hits newsstands on 8/21. Hurrah!

Late-summer shotgun update

Robin Staebler: a man’s man, and a nerd’s nerd.


We came back from vacation (which was wonderful, but more on that later) to the sad news that my stepfather Robin Staebler has died of cancer. It’s not unexpected, but it’s much sooner than expected, and I’m very sorry to lose him.

Robin (who Lydia called “Grumpy”) was a bastion of macho in the Baldwin family. He was a medic in Korea, and was a special-forces doctor in the Canadian services — once presiding over an experiment where soldiers were stationed for six weeks in the arctic circle, then immediately dropped by parachute into the steamy jungles of Vieques, Puerto Rico (the soldiers needed a lot of salt to stay hydrated, but were otherwise fine, except that the curling was terrible.) My cousin Max Alexander, ex-magazine editor and card-carrying back-to-the-land-er, used to ask Robin for advice on all kinds of subjects from geting ice off the roof to tractor care and the million other subjects that Maine-ers need to know about.

Robin was also a nerd’s nerd. He had a cave full of ham radio equipment and a pickup truck carrying forty feet of army-issue self-tuning powered radio aerial. However awesome my gadgets were at the time, Robin’s were awesomer, and he used them constantly. When I was thinking about my time-travelers almanac and how to calculate standard measurement when you’re stuck in the past and don’t have access to the platinum SI standard measures (because they don’t exist yet, naturally), Robin came up with the idea of using naturally-occurring minims, like the smallest mercury-drop possible (assuming that surface tension is a constant.) If he had been born in the 1600s, I’m quite sure that he would have been a Royal Fellow, except the kind that’s out their in the far corners of the earth doing science and knocking heads.

He was a remarkable, very intelligent man, and he is missed. Here’s a link to his obituary.

Robin Staebler: a man’s man, and a nerd’s nerd.