I Graduated from C25K This Weekend!

I’ve been doing the Couch to 5K beginning (and returning) runners’ plan since January, and yesterday, I finished it and ran a 5K race for the first time in, uh… oh, wow: twenty years!

c25k_app.pngC25K is pretty straightforward, though there’s a lot of stuff to keep track of. You start by jogging one minute, then walking ninety seconds, then repeating — then, in the next week, you jog a little bit more and walk a little bit less. In the past, this meant lots of time spent scrutinizing your stopwatch. But I’ve been using Felt Tip’s C25K iPhone app, which tracks all the details and just gives you “run now!” “okay, walk” messages through your headphones. In fact, the “RUN NOW WOOP WOOP WOOP” message is kind of startling, like an “all hands” general alarm, which is great for getting you to leap off the blocks when it’s time to start jogging again. You can run it on top of the Nike+ application on the iPhone, which IN TURN runs on top of your iPod, so you can chug along, listening to your music, just obey the “walk now” and “run now” commands, and when you’re done you get all kinds of telemetry about your runs uploaded to the Nike+ website.

Here’s the graph of all the runs I did for C25K, on the Nike+ site. Since C25K gradually replaces brisk walking with jogging, the mileage doesn’t go up steeply, or anything. But it’s nice to have such a big collection of green bars!


Up until just a few days ago, all of those runs were on the second-floor gym track at the YMCA Youth Program Center on Chestnut street. Around, and around, and around the track! Indoor Track at the YMCA

Yesterday, I graduated with my first 5K run! I signed up for the St. Pat’s 5K race, held by the really excellent local Chester County Runners’ Store. Kevin Kelly, the co-owner of the store, was actually my cross-country coach in high school, and he puts together a whole bunch of clinics, group runs, workshops, and friendly, mellow runs like this one.

The run was held on the West Chester Downtown Loop, which is two mile-and-a-half-ish loops around town. It’s square, and flattish, and there are volunteers standing at each corner to stop traffic, even when the rain is slashing down sideways like it was yesterday. (“Seems like we’ll have a nice tailwind by the park”, wrote Coach Kevin in an email Saturday morning to let us know the race was still on.) I ran in a gore-tex jacket, and felt very hard-core running through a nor’-easter, but those folks stand in one place for the same duration, braving the weather just so we can have a nice, flat, untinterrupted jog.

Anyhow, I’m very happy to have completed ten weeks of C25K, and I’m looking forward to many runs in West Chester! Hurrah!

I Graduated from C25K This Weekend!

Ice Cream Sundae, Sundae, SUNDAE!!!

Every Lose It or Lose It user (here’s my profile; I’ve lost 26 pounds while on a LIOLI plan so far!) gets a daily reminder: “STEP AWAY FROM THE CHEESEBURGER!” we exhort our users. “DON’T CONCENTRATE ON THAT TWENTY POUNDS, just concentrate on the two pounds you need to lose for your next weigh-in!”

Users can get their reminders either through email or SMS. At least, they could until we discovered that Clickatell, had been accepting our SMS messages for delivery BUT NOT SENDING THEM since February 25th!

Without the SMS reminders, our users were in imminent danger of re-lard-i-fication! What might they do if Randy was not constantly nagging them to make good choices?

Randy heard about Twilio, a cloud-telephony service that lets your website actually call your users on the telephone and play MP3 files to them (that’s to start with; there’s a whole bunch of XML stuff you can do, too.)  What we needed was an option to replace SMS — and fast!

So during lunch we ran around the corner to the local AM radio station (WCHE 1520 in West Chester, PA), and asked them to let us record some voice reminders to send as outbound telephone calls through Twilio.  John (on the left) and Randy (on the right) are recording one of the message that YOU will hear on your phone when you sign up for a 10-, 20-, or 30-pound Lose It or Lose It plan!


Here’s the message we were recording in the picture above. A LIOLI user has the option to get THIS, or one of a bunch of other random messages, as a call on their phone each day:

MAN, did we have a good time doing this. Especially with JT, the morning-host DJ and studio technician, to clean up our goofy recording and make us sound like we actually know what we are doing. Thanks, JT! We’ll be back to record more reminders! And thanks, Twilio, for making it so easy to solve our SMS emergency!

Voice reminders will appear as an option in LIOLI users’ preferences starting this weekend — as soon as Randy stops raging long enough to be able to see his monitor again!

Ice Cream Sundae, Sundae, SUNDAE!!!

Here’s where I blog about my GI tract, and reference eighties movies

At almost exactly 9:30 PM on Sunday night, the stomach bug hit. Like an angelic choir in reverse, where instead of the clouds parting and a sweet, white shaft of light stabbing down to find you, an ominous kettledrum rolled and all the lights dimmed to half their brightness. The worst part of a stomach bug, as far as I’m concerned, is the waiting. I mean, we’ve all done enough puking in our adult lives to know that once you’re done puking, you’ll feel much better, right? But it’s not like that translates into happy expectation of the event to come. Okay, that’s enough on that subject, I’ll just point out that for 24 hours, I did not have enough energy to remove my SOCKS, even though I kind of wanted to. Man, I hate the stomach bug.

I was the last to get sick, but I went down only twelve hours after Kate. Since I was sick, Kate did not get her full recuperation, and was pressed back into parent service as soon as she was ambulatory. By this time, however, Lydia was just fine. Can’t we get an inflatable emergency autoparent? You know, they don’t have to do the FULL job, just queue up new episodes of “The Berenstain Bears” on the Tivo, keep Lydia from using the glue stick to lather the upholstery, and feed her some lunch? Just so mommy isn’t forced into the same work ethic as a Civil War doctor. I mean, Kate, you did a wonderful job, and I thank you, but it woulda been nice if we could have just lolled around and recuperated together, listening to the occasional businesslike monotone coming from downstairs: “no… request for second lollypop… denied.”

Everyone is present and accounted for now, though, though my usually cast-iron stomach still has odd likes and dislikes that I’m not expecting (Vegetarian Indian buffet yesterday? Great, yummy, no problem. Glass of milk? Forty-five minute stomachache. Cup of coffee? Can’t even think about that right now.)

Here’s where I blog about my GI tract, and reference eighties movies

Gardening! Motorcycles! Knitting! Baphomet!

I’ve been really busy at work, Lydia is getting adjusted to her new play school, and I’ve totally fallen off the wagon with my “getting ready for the Portland Marathon” program, because now my Amtrak train leaves Exton at 6:11 AM, and that doesn’t really leave any time for working out before I have to get on the train. At least I’ll try to get back on the “don’t eat large amounts of food” part of the program; luckily for me, my sister broke her ankle while training, and so I have a little bit of leeway to catch up to her now. Phew! Thank goodness for that aggravating and painful injury. I owe you one, sis!

Honey, why do the beans spell Baphomet?
Kate and I marked out and staked down some planters’ paper mulch in the back yard. Which, now that there’s four five-foot by five-foot squares of black paper staked down on the grass, I will switch to calling “the garden.” Next, we put two inches of compost on all four squares. By spring, this will have killed the turf, and all we’ll have to do is dig (goes the theory). We have exactly 100 square feet of garden, which makes the math fairly easy in determining that we need approximately EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS of compost. Actually, it’s two-thirds of a cubic yard, or 666 pounds of manure. I have to be careful; if you carefully spread 666 pounds of shit in the right pattern, Very Bad Things probably happen. Fortunately, our garden is not laid out in a pentacle.

2006 Turkey Pro National
Bob hosted the 21st annual running of the Turkey Pro National motorcycle rally yesterday. My sidecar rig has developed electrical problems, so I drove up with Kate, Barb, and Lydia in a silver Honda accord. Kate knitted me a pair of incredibly awesome red cabled socks to wear under my big ol’ Red Wing motorcycle boots, too, so it was especially disappointing to not ride the sidecar — on an old, black, and greasy bike, with new, handmade, blazing red scratchy socks, I would have been approaching a new level of “I’m coming over to eat your caviar and kick your ass” Cossack cool. Oh well.

We arrived after the slow race had been run, and even after the trophy presentation (nuts!), but I still took a bunch of pictures, which you can see here. Or to read the full skinny on the Turkey Pro, you can read my 2001 writeup here. This has got to be the most mellow, diverse, and welcoming rally ever — when you mention that your bike isn’t running, murmurs of sympathy ripple through the crowd, and various people go and fetch North America’s pre-eminent experts on exactly your problem. They stand there with their hands in their pockets, listening attentively to exactly how the headlight relay makes that funny “BRRnnnn click” sound, and then they give you their motorcycle-garage card WITH ALL THE CORPORATE INFO CROSSED OUT to make it clear that this one is a personal favor, and they suggest some next steps to help. I swear to God, with this kind of support network, we could all be rocket scientists or neurosurgeons. Of course, most of the people there are rocket scientists or neurosurgeons, come to think of it.

I’m knitting a damn sweater!
My friend Michelle Stern is due in just a few weeks, and I have sworn a dark and bloody oath that I will knit a baby sweater for the new arrival. I have never knit before. But, as the husband of a badass knitter, I should know something about knitting besides just parroting the lingo. Plus (and more importantly), it’s going to be an awesome sweater for an awesome baby of a really good friend. So I’ve been checking the Alice Starmore patterns for a nice tiny aran in a twelve-color intarsia HA HA HA THAT WAS A KNITTING JOKE. SEE? NOW I’M A KNIT BLOGGER! I will be sure to post my progress.

Gardening! Motorcycles! Knitting! Baphomet!

Back from New England. Weddings! Hedge mazes! FOOD!

Last Wednesday, Kate and Lydia drove to the Newark Airport. Instead of taking my train home to West Chester, I got off at the Newark Airport, took the monorail in to Terminal A, then we drove north to Maine. My all-around awesome cousin Liz Baldwin got married to carpenter, archaeologist, chef, and all-around awesome guy Matt Rowe. They have a really wonderful nine-year-old daughter, so this was definitely one of the “celebrate people you love” weddings, rather than a “good luck, you crazy kids!” weddings.


I mean, they’re still crazy kids, and all, but they continue to have great luck, and it was a wonderful ceremony on the beach at Reid State Park. My mom officiated. I saw cousins I haven’t seen in fifteen years or more (and these are first cousins!) Like my cousin Hillary Baldwin, who is a sculptor now living in Greenpoint, and Arlo Baldwin, who is now a Stone Cold Playa. (Hi guys! Arlo, I’m sorry I spilled cocktail sauce on your velvet suit.) And we got to reconnect briefly with other Baldwins — like Holly Baldwin, who is a professional Quaker (she directs Beacon Hill Friends House in Boston), and Max and Sarah, who are stylish back-to-the-land-ers. And Lydia had a great time seeing my mom (and vice versa!)


On the way back, we spent a night at Mohonk, which is a giant victorian castle on top of a craggy hill in upstate New York. I last visited Mohonk in 2003, when the big blackout happened while we were midway through a motorcycle trip, and we had only 100 miles of range in our tanks and every gas station was kaput. So we diverted to Mohonk because they make their own power in a big Jules Verne physical plant. So when colleagues at work reminisce about spending the night sleeping on the sidewalk in midtown, I get to complain about how the bar at Mohonk was out of limes. Gad, the horror!

Staying at Mohonk is a cross between going to the Plaza, being in a James Bond movie (there’s a gatehouse at the bottom of the hill that you must clear before you can drive slowly up the mountain on a private road), and being in the original Myst video game. From the balcony outside our room, you can look almost straight down to the lake, and to the crazy second-story flying walkway joining the family parlor to the second story of the lakehouse porch:


By the time the building has finished rambling, it’s a fifth of a mile long altogether. A fifth of a mile of carpeted, wood-paneled hallways with oak doors, transoms, bookcases, and fireplaces on both sides. Stephen King is supposed to have started writing The Shining after a stay at Mohonk, even though his Overlook hotel is set out west (and the exteriors in the Kubrick movie were filmed at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon.)

So naturally Kate, Lydia and I had to go play in the hedge maze!

(Kate is in the next lane over, which is why LBY is saying “we’re going the same way!”)

Oh, and as for exercise: Except for that steadicam run through the hedge maze, none this week. No treadmill, no jogging, nada. Plus, multiple calzones in Belfast, Maine, an asian wedding feast on Saturday, and several trips to the Mohonk omlette bar. I was lucky and only gained one freaking pound — apparently, my metabolism is still in a cautious wait-and-see mode. So I’m back on the regimen, and we’ll see if my body is willing to shrug this off as a delicious ham, mushroom, and swiss anomaly.

Back from New England. Weddings! Hedge mazes! FOOD!

Making some progress

Starting weight: 225 pounds
Current weight: 221 pounds
At this rate, I will disappear entirely in: January, 2011
(So I better remember to start eating more before then)

After reading friend and fellow fitness-blogger Cindy’s blog, and seeing her approach of just treating calories like a budget, I decided to ditch Weight Watchers in favor of FitDay. For a couple of reasons. First (and let’s make it clear — this is the most important reason) the goddamn puffy icon. The GODDAMN PUFFY ICON that you see when you’ve gained weight. Fuck you, puffy icon. In my professional life, I’ve crossed paths with a member of the Weight Watchers Points Plan development team (puffy icon aside, the Points plan online is one of the biggest, most robust, and highly complex rich internet applications out there), and I had the incredibly cathartic experience of asking what the hell the deal is with the G. puffy icon.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “That. That came up at every meeting, but it was never the top of the list.”

Yeah, well, you know what? Maybe it will be now, when this very blog post becomes the number one Google result for “Weight watchers goddamn puffy icon.” Stupid godammn fucking puffy icon.

(Boy, when my kid(s) start searching my blog for profanity in about eight years or whatever, this is the post they’re gonna find. Hi there, Lydia! Remember when daddy was fat? Yeah, and he swore a lot, too! Mention this blog post with redemption code “goddamn puffy icon” and get a one-time coupon for a real fruit smoothie! Let’s take our hoverboards there, okay?)

Anyhow. The gym is going well, I took two slow 30′ runs over the weekend — one on a treadmill, one with the Cruel Princess of “Faster, Daddy! Faster!” in her jog stroller — and I’m now up to fifteen minutes at a 10:00 pace on the treadmill. I’m waking up earlier, going to bed without feeling exhausted, and cartoon bluebirds alight on my finger as I wait for the train. So I’m hoping that I can keep this up, because it’s working out pretty well. My goal is to s-l-o-w-l-y get up to 30:00 at a ten-minute pace four times a week, then hold that for at least a couple of months before I start investing in singlets.

Oh yeah, and I’m actually really enjoying FitDay. Since it runs locally, I don’t have to look at a spinny for two seconds every time I type in “coffee, cream, sugar [submit].” WW’s “points” are very valuable in simplifying the whole nutritional voodoo that goes on behind the scenes, but after a bunch of years of kinda-sorta paying attention to what I eat, the behind-the-scenes chemistry is not what’s keeping me from eating those delicious brownies. In fact, NOTHING was keeping me from eating those delicious brownies last night, which means that I’m now looking at my calorie balance for yesterday, and I’m not seeing the deficit I need. Oh, well, I’m in it for the long haul, and at least FitDay’s bar charts don’t have PUFFY BEMUSED SMILES.

Making some progress


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!!!


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!

I’ve blogged about this before.

looks kind of like a meat hand-puppet
I can understand why Weight Watchers decided to put a bemused-looking avatar next to the message that you’ve gained weight since the last time you plugged your digits into the site. (Last time I plugged my digits into the site was about a month ago, and I’ve been going up and down since then.) I mean, sure, you can’t show a picture of a ham, or a cartoon plate of turkey bones, right? A bemused avatar seems like a good choice.

Why, in god’s name, they had to give that avatar a puffy 3D effect — to make it look like five pounds of smiley-face avatar in a two-pound bag — I can’t understand. “Oh dear lord, fatty! Your inability to stay away from delicious strawberry rhubarb pie is bending the very fabric of the universe, and as a result, EVEN THE VERY ELECTRONS USED TO MAKE THIS AVATAR are becoming overweight! Stop, before your love of butter changes the coefficient of the electroweak force and destroys us all!”

Anyhow, the news isn’t all bad — I’ve been exercising a fair amount, and when I do that, I don’t watch what I eat as carefully. Lydia’s starting to see the jog stroller as a regular feature. She spreads a towel on her lap like she’s the czarina out for a sleigh ride, and waves to the squirrels.

And asks questions:
“What are you doing, daddy?”
“I’m… “[pant, gasp] “pushing you, “[pant, gasp] “baby!”
“oh.” [pause] “Is it hard?

I’ve blogged about this before.