November 30, 2005

OK, OK. Due to popular demand, I've added a new feature to the blog: my daily training in a nutshell. Just so you can feel content in your couch-potato-ness.

Morning workout
3 x 800m
Aerobic heartrate (that means "slow")

Evening workout
Umm... I got home from New York last night at 1am. I think I slept 2 hours, at most. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I'm trying to catch up with my life.
So, yes, I skipped the run tonight. Whattaya gonna do, crucify me?! I mean, jeez, give a guy a break, wouldya?!

November 28, 2005

Free Falling

It was a wee bit of a depressing day yesterday as I left mom's house in Florida and flew up to New Jersey. I've been on the road for nearly two weeks now and want nothing more than to look into my own empty fridge hoping there will actually be food there but knowing it'll just be the sound of crickets, then to slink into my bedroom and sink my head into the comfort of my own pillow. The fact that I won't be home until Wednesday has my sadness holding my happiness in a headlock and giving it some pretty serious noogies.

The reason I came to the wonderful state of New Jersey is because I had a pretty big client presentation today, the first day after the Thanksgiving holiday. It's a special type of crazy, sado-masochistic client that schedules a big presentation the first day after a national holiday. Fortunately, after a bit of vacation-time stress and even more last-minute adjustments by the creative and new business teams, the presentation went very well. In fact, I'm really excited about it. Honestly. I've been working on this opportunity for 2 months now and it's down to three agencies. I really want to win this business in a bad way. In fact, I really need to win this business. You see, I haven't landed a really big one like this since I've been at the company, though I sure have lost a few of them. So there seems to be a lot riding on this. Like my job, for instance. I mean, I've been selling business for the company, bringing in millions of new dollars every year. But we all know that it's the high profile wins that mean the most. Those are the ones that keep jobs. The sad thing is, I'm not really a sales guy, I just play one on TV. I don't really know what I am. I don't think I figured out what color my parachute is. In fact, I think I jumped out of the plane and forgot to put the damn parachute on in the first place. Maybe that's my problem. I'm free falling.

So it's Monday night and I'm staying at my sister's place. I was standing in the middle of the kitchen earlier, talking to her, when my three year old niece, Emily, stepped in front of me and said "Uncle Jessy." That's what she calls me, Uncle Jessy. She can't say her F's, so I've become Jessy instead of Jeffy. I like it. I think it's pretty cute.

So anyway, she says "Uncle Jessy, you know what?" "What, Emily?" I ask. "I love you," she says.

I don't know what color my parachute is or if I have one on my back at all. But for some reason I know that as I fall down to the ground I'll be safe because my three year-old niece will be there to catch me.

I love you too, Emily.

November 26, 2005

The Grotesque Arms of Reality

It’s Saturday night and mom’s house is so quiet. This is always the toughest part of the Thanksgiving holiday. After a few days of an amazingly relaxing and fun-filled family fest, the house gets quiet. Almost everybody has left town, or at least the loud, unruly ones have. Suddenly reality peers its ugly head from around the corner, reaching its grotesquely long arms out to grab hold of me and yank me back into its mighty embrace. It's pretty scary, when it comes right down to it. Then again, perhaps I'm being a bit overly melodramatic, but I seem to be living in a Calvin & Hobbes world lately anyway, so it all makes sense. The fact is, it’s always tough for me to go back to work after Thanksgiving vacation and this one is no different.

But I’m tired now. It's been a long day and an even longer night. It was a whirlwind smorgasbord of cheese, sushi, chocolate cake, wine, beer and port. I’m going to go to sleep now. I’ll start becoming stressed again tomorrow.

Leave me alone.

November 24, 2005

The Giving Of Thanks

My loving family. My health. My happiness. My car. The beautiful area in which I live. The job. My supportive friends. My friendly co-workers. My amazing girlfriend. The ability to run. To walk. To laugh and cry. To speak. Hear. Taste and see. The sadness of sunsets. The rebirth of sunrise. To touch and feel. Feel and think. Think and grow. To learn. To love. And learn from love. The music that fills my life. The life in my music. So that I may run. Bike. Swim. Eat. Sleep. And dream such wonderful dreams. The nieces. The nephews. The mothers. Fathers. Sisters and brothers. My grandparents. And grandfather. And grandfather. My grandfather. The serenity in silence. The joy of noise. The mountains and trees and oceans of beauty. The gifts I’ve given. And those received. The touching of a child’s hand on mine. The godson. And god-daughter. And God’s ceaseless giving. My joy. My luck. My utter, complete happiness. The smiles. And tears. The screams and silence. The yin and yang of me. My bike, my shoes. My safety. Security. Solitude. The balance. The strength. I’m strong. I’m strong. My intellect. And writing. And style. And flow. And on and on it goes.

Thank you.
Thank you.

November 22, 2005


It’s 5:15am. I can’t sleep. I had a dream last night that I was stuck in a very small, tight underground passageway. About two feet wide and two feet tall, maybe ten feet long. I’m crouched down on the far end of it away from the entrance, when somebody throws in a live hand grenade. The grenade bounces down the passageway and lands on my lap.

And here’s the thing – I’m sitting there with a live hand grenade on my life, ready to blow, with time running out and the escape a mere 10 feet away from me, and my first reaction is to tell a joke. Before I died, I wanted to tell a joke.

I don’t remember what it was, but dang-gummit, it sure was funny.

And then I woke up right before I got blown to pieces.

I’m not quite sure what it all means, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with feeling trapped or forcing myself into corners or thinking that any escape has danger in its path.

Or maybe I just like a good joke.

November 21, 2005

The First Step

I can judge how well my day is going to be on the first step of my morning run. It’s one of my stupid human tricks that I’m pretty proud of. Give me just one small step and I can immediately tell whether it will be a positive productive day, or one to be flushed down the ol’ crapper. There really isn’t any scientific reason behind it all. Or at least none that I can detect. It has nothing to do with how tired or relaxed I am, or how much my bones and muscles may ache. It’s just some innate sense I have that enables me to judge the day based on one simple step, in the same way that perhaps a little bird suddenly can fly. It just knows that when it flaps its wings it’ll be a good day. When it doesn’t, it’ll smash its face into the ground. Bad day.

I smashed my face into the ground today.

Had I gone running this morning, perhaps I would’ve had some forewarning into what the day had in store. But, alas, I went for a swim at the Tampa YMCA. 3x400m, which was fun – for the first 400m. Then it kinda went downhill, but that’s another story entirely.

I went running later in the evening, to try to get the damn day out of my system and make it all better. It was too late though, as evidenced by the horrendously painful 2 mile waddle in an astonishingly slow 22 minutes. Needless to say, it didn’t get anything out of my system aside from a few extra heartbeats that I’d like back.

The day started with the big client project that went awry on Friday night. You remember this one, the big Times Square event that the client spent all of their marketing budget on. The Big Disaster is what we should call it now. TBD. I talked to the client this morning for the first time since TBD. He couldn’t talk this weekend because he went to a funeral the day after the event. How apropos.

The client wasn’t happy. At all. There wasn’t yelling, cause he’s not a yeller. He doesn’t need to be, you can just sense the disappointment and anger in his tone. So I got off the phone with him and started to spend my day figuring out how I was going to make it all better.

Well that set me up for the talk I had with my boss a few minutes later. The boss really laid my new job on the line for me. Now I’m given until early next week to decide if I want to stay at the company or not. How’s that for a decision to make over the holiday weekend? And I was hoping my biggest decision would be whether I could squeeze another helping of stuffing into my face without throwing up.

I looked at the clock. It was 10am
And the day didn’t get any better.

But the family gets into town tomorrow. And Catherine arrives as well. So tomorrow is officially the first day of Thanksgiving holiday for me. It can’t possibly be a bad day, there is too much good about to happen. So I’m maintaining my bright and shiny positive attitude. I’m eager to dive into tomorrow’s activities. Excited to seize the weekend. Carpe Thanksgiving.

It’s time I started flapping my wings.

November 20, 2005

Post Peak Athleticism

I reached my athletic peak in my early twenties, somewhere north of fifteen years ago, if my abacus is working correctly. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t realize that I was in the midst of my prime athleticism. But you never do, do you? When you’re young, everybody older than you tells you to make sure you treasure your youth. But why would you pause your childhood for even a second to listen to those seemingly old bitter people who clearly are outraged at their own private stupidity for not capitalizing on the youthfulness of youth. And then you grow up and realize that those old bitter people aren't really that old, nor that bitter.

As you grow older you eventually hit a point where you start contemplating your childhood. According to my study, that point is somewhere just nigh of 40 years old. You may be out for a run, driving in the car or sitting at your desk just sorting through your monthly bills when you suddenly find your mind wandering through the dusty alleys of the past. Perhaps you find yourself wishing that you had done more of the stupid things you had thought about doing at the time. Or maybe just far less of them. And so for the next few days you walk around town telling kids, in your own private ironic tone, to enjoy their childhood while it lasts. And though you don't recognize it, there is something within their sarcastic sneer that seems so familiar to you. But you shrug it off as misguided youth. Damn kids, you might say to yourself, completely oblivious to the true irony of it all.

You never expect things to fade away in your youth, including your youth. But it does fade away, ever so slowly, until one day you wake up with a little extra squish in your pouch and a little less milk in your proverbial cheerios.

The thing is, I’m not really that old, just nigh of 40. But as I think of the declining level of fitness I’ve experienced over the past few years, I can only wish that I was still that sprightly 23 year old again. I was fast back then. Really fast. Unfortunately, there were a few holes in my bag of training smarts. Perhaps if I had the training knowhow then that I have now, maybe I’d be able to sport a trophy or two on my shelf. Maybe I’d even have a shelf. I don’t have a shelf like that now though, I just have a closet filled with medals. And they are not the medals that say “Winner” or even “2nd Place”. Not a one of them has any of those words on it. No, Catherine has all of those. She’s the fast one. I just have the medals that say, simply, “Finisher.” You know the ones, they mass produce them before every race and hand them out to every soul who manages to crawl across the finish. They might as well just give away postcards that say “Congratulations, you showed up. Now grab a banana and go home, and try not to bore everybody with your stories.”

In my early 20s, I could run like the wind. I was tireless, able to race almost every weekend throughout the year. I’d zip along, running sub-6 minute miles and consistently finishing 10k races in 37 or 38 minutes. Ah, those were the days. I remember the first triathlon I did, it was the Rose Bowl sprint in 1992. Because it was a pool swim, they switched the order of activities from swim-bike-run to run-bike-swim. I was nervous, but knowing that I was a strong runner and a pretty good cyclist, I figured it'd all turn out fine. So when the starting gun was shot, I took off at my usual bat-out-of-hell pace. As I neared the end of the run I realized I was in the Top 10. Nervous that I was oblivious to the true secrets of triathlon, that there was no way I could remain in the Top 10 with so many experienced triathletes, I slowed down my running. I soon learned that there is is no hidden secret to it at all. Sure there are things you learn along the way, but the fact is that anybody can go out and finish a triathlon. I was just a fast runner at the time, yet too young to understand any opportunity behind it.

I still finished the race in the top 10%, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, I may have done a lot better. In fact, I finished every race back then within the top 10%, despite myself. I can only imagine what would’ve happened had I learned to train properly – or even to race with a modicum of smarts. As I got older my finishing times dropped to the top 15th percentile. And then the 25th. 35th. ...And on and on down the spiral. It was about the time that I bottomed out at the 50th percentile when I realized how to train effectively. Too little too late? Yeah, whatever.

I am in Florida now at my mother’s place for Thanksgiving. We went on a run today. It was a nice five mile jaunt. Five miles in fifty-eight minutes. That’s somewhere on the darker side of 11 minute miles. The funny thing is, we were ecstatic because we did it nearly two minutes faster than yesterday. Sure I could’ve run faster, but my heart rate was already far too high. Fifteen years ago I'd be kicking myself for running a slow 6 minute mile, today I’m patting myself on the back by running 11 minute miles.

I realize that I’m not getting any younger. I’m only going to get slower as life goes on. In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy what youth I have left and collect all of the medals I can, even if it means nothing more than that I just showed up.

November 19, 2005

Stately Travel

Thanksgiving is about thanks and giving. Hence, the name. So, as I sit here at the entryway to another precious holiday period, I reflect on the thanks I have in my life and the givingness of it all. And I realize, I am thankful to have my job, my health and my happiness, but it's all starting to give me agita.

Yesterday was another busy day of movement in which I found myself traveling through three different states: denial, shock and disbelief.

Denial began somewhere in Michigan, as I thought about how all of the people at work that used to report to me don't anymore. They report to somebody else. And how all of the accounts I had been running from the Los Angeles office, I won’t be anymore. They are being run out of the east coast offices now. I refused to believe that everything could change so quickly. I denied that my job had suddenly morphed into something completely different on such short notice - and how I had no fucking idea what the job now was. So I continued on with my day of meetings and onto my flights to the next state in complete and utter denial that anything had changed.

Then, of course, the arrival in Atlanta, Georgia escorted me into the state of shock. As I got off the plane with the initial tidbits of anger about my new job transformation just creeping into my psyche, I learned that the very big, high profile Times Square event we were putting on that evening was falling apart. I was in complete shock to hear that the vendor we've been relying on for months was able to screw something up so tremendously. And this wasn’t your normal everyday screw up. I mean, this vendor had to go out of their way to really try and screw this up so badly. Was I angry? Hell, I had passed angry so damn quickly I barely recognized it. I was so angry, I couldn’t speak. All I could do was stand there and shake. I was in complete shock as I learned about the multitude of ways that this vendor suddenly made my work life a living hell. With what little stronghold on reality that I had remaining, I boarded my connecting flight and took my seat, staring out the window in a virtual catatonic state.

By the time I walked off the plane in Tampa, Florida, the state of shock had morphed into a state of disbelief. It was one in the morning and I felt like I’d been on a whirlwind trip for the past 36 hours. Los Angeles to Chicago to Kalamazoo to Detroit to Atlanta to Tampa. Five cities, five states, two days. Within that time, my job had changed dramatically, one of my main clients became severely pertrubed and amidst it all I had four meetings and a presentation to a roomful of twenty rabid advertising folks. I reflected on the serenity that encompassed my life a mere year ago. The ease and comfort of it all that I consciously traded for this traveling mayhem. It appears that I may have struck a deal with the devil.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
And, yes, I am thankful. But it’s giving me heart palpitations.

November 17, 2005

The Journey Is The Punchline

After finishing work at 9:30, paying bills, eating dinner and packing, I didn’t get to sleep until after 11pm which, for the record, is many miles past my bedtime. That, of course, made it all the more difficult to drag my comatose body out of bed at the annoyingly happy sound of the 4:30 alarm clock. Yet somehow I managed to get up, crawl into the shower and slither myself into whatever random bits of clothing I could grab, just in time for the taxi to take me to the airport.

I’m flying to Kalamazoo right now. I’ve always made fun of Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo isn’t a city, it’s a punch-line. Apparently, my life has become the joke. As of last week, my Thanksgiving travel plans consisted of six luxuriously relaxing days with Cat and my family in Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately, that dream of a carefree holiday has had the crap beaten out of it. Over the past ten days, I’ve had to change my travel plans seven times as new meetings are confirmed, then cancelled, then re-confirmed to the point where the travel agent just laughs at me when she hears my voice.

I am now on my way out for two full weeks of travel that has me hitting such hot-spots as Kalamazoo, Detroit, Tampa, New Jersey and Rye Brook, New York; locations that sound like tour stops for such musical has-beens as Journey, White Snake, Asia or any number of other 90s hair bands desperate enough to still be cool that they’ll play any seedy bar that will have them.

I haven’t even been gone for two hours and I already miss my bed. More importantly, I miss my bike. I can run and swim while on the road, but obviously to bike brings up far greater challenges. But that’s another story.

We finally land in Kalamazoo. As we pull up to the gate, the pilot gets on the intercom and apologies for the rough landing. Apparently we lost control of our steering “when we hit the ground”. This is a great example of information I didn’t need to know. Ever. I stand up and head off the plane as quickly as possible, smashing head-on into the 23 degree weather. I didn’t bring a winter jacket. I don’t own a winter jacket. If I had one, I’d bring it. But I didn’t, because I don’t.

The Kalamazoo airport is about as big as my bathroom. It smells like urinal soap. The airport, not my bathroom. The luggage claim carousel is so small I could jump across the whole thing in one small leap. In fact, it’s not so much a carousel as it is a few pieces of rotating rubber slabs glued together. I finally get the bag, though, - which takes surprisingly long since there we only five pieces of luggage on the entire plane – and I jump in my rental car and drive to the hotel.

I’m staying in the nicest room of the nicest hotel in town – and it’s only $95, if that gives you an idea of the stylishness of the joint. As I’m checking in I look at the sign to my left. It’s a special offer for guests this coming weekend. In addition to a room and continental breakfast, the hotel is offering guests two tickets to Journey.

Journey is playing a show in town this Saturday.

My life, the joke.
Welcome to Kalamazoo.

November 15, 2005

More Of A Guideline

There's one difference between Cat and me when it comes to Ironman training. She is very serious about training and follows the training schedule by the book, as if they were rules one must abide by in order to finish the godforsaken race. As for me, I too am very serious about training. However, my view of the training schedule is more like Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters": "It's more of a guideline than a rule."

Now I'm not saying that either one of us is right or wrong. To the contrary, there are probably bits of right and slivers of wrong in both of our viewpoints. As a matter of fact, I think I might be choking on a piece of right-wrong as I write this crapola. I'm just sayin' that different points of view lead to different challenges. Let's take today as a fer instance. Cat and I had both a morning swim and an evening run on the schedule for today. Of course when we woke up in the morning, I couldn't stop my yappin', which led us to miss the morning activity. And just as suddenly we were left having to do a swim AND a run in the evening. Oops.

Well, I had a somewhat stressful day at work and left a bit later than expected. Cat had an even more stressful day at work and left even later than expected. Now we're both in a similar situation - let's look at what the participants do.

I drive home already convinced that I will do no exercise whatsoever for the day. I'm tired, I'm hungry and its going to take a nation of millions to squeeze my sorry ass into a bathing suit. I go home, lay on the couch and eat to the point just short of nausea.

Cat, on the otherhand, is tired and hungry like me, yet she drives directly to the pool and is ready to do a swim and a run, activities which would get her home somewhere on the darker side of 10pm. And she's stressed about it. Oh so stressed.

The thing is, I really believe she would've swam and run tonight had I not talked to her and tried to convince her that missing a workout is ok. She's dedicated - and inspiring - like that. And though she decided not to swim or run tonight (which I still feel guilty about, even though I didn't make her decide this way), she had every intention of following that training schedule to a T. So I mark down in my training diary of life that Cat followed through with the exercise whilst I continued down the one way street to portliness.

I have a feeling that there is something we can learn from each other in here. If I weren't so damn tired, I'd probably come up with a good moral to this inane rambling.

But I am tired. So you're on your own, punk.

I've got a 1 1/2 hour ride in the morning and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss my workout tomorrow.

November 13, 2005

A Dog In A Cage

Many people go to church and pray on Sunday. So do I. But there are no pews in my church. And though there is sometimes a cross to bear, nobody was ever nailed to it. The aisles in my church do not demand silence and when the sun shines through it is not filtered by stained glass but by tinted glasses. The only God I've been known to pray to answers by the name of Nike, but a simple swoosh will do.

Running is my religion - and I'm a very very religious person.

Running keeps me sane. It is my therapy and my release. The solitude on the road, the continuous movement on the pavement, the adrenaline coursing through my veins - it all seems to cleanse me, physically and emotionally. I've been running for nearly 30 years and it just keeps getting better. I can't imagine a world where I do not run. My greatest fear is that something happens and I'm never able to run again. Take away my hearing, my voice, my hands. But, please, don't take my feet from me.

I'm a different man when I run consistently. A much better man. For some reason, I tend to navigate through life's obstacles a lot more clearly and remain more level-headed about things that would otherwise cause my anxiety to rise up and ring the proverbial bell. So it's a good sign that I have been easing myself back into the running game lately as I recover from the achilles strain that has been haunting my sanity. In fact, as I read through the past few posts, I realize how desperately I've been missing running. Honestly, I'm a bit scared of myself at this point.

Normally, on any given Sunday, I run. I wake up with the sun at 6am to read the New York Times and by 8:30, I'm off. Yet here I am on Sunday night and I haven't run. This morning was a little different though and it made me realize that this Ironman training malarkey may cause me to change my habits a bit. Cat really wanted to swim in the A.M. and since I hadn't seen her in awhile I decided to go along for a nice dip in the pool. The truth of the matter is that I also need a lot of motivation to get my sorry ass in the pool, and seeing Cat in her bikini is plenty of motivation to get me going wherever I need to be, trust me on that one. As it turns out, the swim was amazing. Tough - so many sets of 25m, 50m and 100m swims that I felt like I needed an abacus to keep it all straight - but great nontheless.

A normal person would chalk that up to a stunningly successful day of exercise. But nobody ever said I was normal.

It is 4:00 now and want to run so badly it hurts. My feet can't stay still as I write this and I can feel the adrenaline building in my body. I feel like a dog trapped in a cage, barking madly at the running squirrel taunting him from inches away. I'm begging to get outside and move. I'm antsy, can't keep my mind focused. I'm pacing back and forth, moving this item there and that item here like some ADD-inflicted cleaning woman on coke.

And just as suddenly, I realize that the only thing keeping me from running is that I'm writing this silly diatribe to you - whomever the hell "you" are. So enough already. It's time for me to go find my sanity, which is waiting out there for me to run right towards it.

I'm off.
It's time to go to church.
Let us all pray.

November 10, 2005

The Happiness of The Gobbles

Was I overly cranky last night? I apologize. I was real angry and I think I took it out on you. Honestly, I didn’t mean it. You see, tough week at work. More importantly, it seems my job description is changing a bit rapidly into something I didn’t expect. Well, I take that back, I don’t think I actually have a job description aside from the one I wrote myself when I started over a year ago. And I’m pretty sure that one’s outdated by now. But that's neither here nor there. Well, I take that back, it's more there... not so much here.

And while I'm at it, I got some comments wondering if I was telling the truth yesterday about all the conference calls I had and the projects I had to do. The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Actually, I didn't count the conference calls and projects until a few minutes ago... here's the real breakdown. I said I had 10 calls on tuesday, 7 on wednesday and 4 proposals due on Friday. After careful calculations, I realize I had 9 calls on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday and 5 proposals due on Friday. I am sitting here thinking about that and the stress level keeps building. And building. And I'm getting angrier.

So I'm going to change the subject.

I know there is more for me to think about. Sometimes I just sit in front of the computer staring at the word document and not knowing what to write. Usually at these times, I have something that I desperately want to write, but I don't know what it is. It's not really at the tip of my tongue, maybe a bit deeper. I think it's still somewhere in the small intestine. Perhaps by the kidney. And so I dig and dig and go over all of the things that happened to me over the past few days, hoping to get even a faint glimmer of a decent story. That's what I'm doing right now as I sit on the plane back from Boston to LA. I'm looking for a faint glimmer of a decent story.

I’m sitting in the aisle seat of the exit row just staring at the keyboard, hoping the letters will suddenly form sentences. But nothing happens. I notice this middle-aged, conservative looking lady get up from her seat about five rows in front of me. She turns towards the back of the plane and starts heading up the aisle, towards me, on the way to the bathroom. You know how people put their hands on the back of each seat as they walk down the aisle of a plane? The mere prospect of turbulence has you hanging on tight, as if a hand on the seat will stop you from falling face first into the lap of the sweaty man snoring in front of you. Well, she's doing that, hand to seat, hand to seat, as she slowly moves up the aisle. She’s two rows in front of me, hands still on back of the chair. Yet, mysteriously, when she gets to my row, her hand does not go onto the back of the chair in front of me. Instead - and get this - she places her hand directly onto my computer. Her fingers wrap right around the top of my laptop monitor. I'm stunned. Shocked even. I mean, my computer is well over a foot away from the row in front of me, and probably another foot lower than the back of the chair in front of me. You don't just mistakenly throw your hand on a persons laptop as you're walking down the aisle. That's crazy, I tell you.

At first I thought this was a mistake – perhaps she slipped. She can't possibly have grabbed my computer on purpose. But as I looked at her cracked red nail polish contrasted on my blank white Word document, and noticed neither was moving, I realized this wasn't a mistake. Then I thought it was a joke, for how can she invade my personal computer space so evasively without either humor or malicious intent. I raise my eyes from her fingernails, past her wrist, up her sweatered arm and into her face. It's blank, the face. As if she were just standing on the street corner waiting for a bus. Nope, definitely not a joke. She doesn't look like the joking type. Which only leaves malicious intent. Which got me confused. Which suddenly had her continue walking back to the bathroom with nary a "sorry" or "excuse me". Which got me thinking all of the sudden about stupid people. Which then left my mind in a terrible whirlwind, as a montage of characters I met, heard or witnessed over the past few days flew through my brain like a carousel of pictures.

Which leads me right back to my job and all the work I need to do. And the fact that I won't be sleeping much over the next four days because there is so much to do. And the fact that I have a client function tomorrow night and all day Saturday doesn't help matters. And that I have to work on Sunday - we all know how I feel about that. And so I'm just getting angry again. You know what, I'm really fucking angry right now. And a bit depressed.

And then I finally remember the one thing that, without a doubt, always relieves my stress and puts a smile on my face: my 3 year old neice. Emily is the cutest thing on the face of the earth. I'm pretty positive of that. I mean, a smile fills my face just thinking about her. What really gets me laughing, though, are the words she says. Sometimes I think about her and just break out in spontaneous laughter. Like the fact that she can't pronounce the word "goggles." She calls them "gobbles."


Doesn't it make you smile? It has to... If you could only see her face when she says it. THAT, my friend, is true happiness.

Now, um... what was my problem again...?

Emily wearing my swimming gobbles

November 09, 2005

Splattered Paint

I feel like weeping. But I can't because I'm sitting in a conference room for all to see and that just isn't professional. Picture that: lonely executive sitting in empty conference room of advertising agency, weeping. Sounds like the name of a Jackson Pollock painting. Now that I mention it, I feel like a Jackson Pollock painting right about now. Paint splattered about in a pile of chaotic confusion.

Does anybody have a tissue?
I desperately need a tissue.

It was a rough day in the office today. I have four major proposals on my plate. They are all worth a fair buttload of moolah that would, on their own, each make for a good win for the company. Here's the catch: they are all due in 48 hours.

It is physically impossible to get them done. If I worked around the clock - no sleep, no food - and I were able to reduce my blinking by 50% to shave off some valuable seconds, I still would not be able to finish on time. Not even close.

But wait, there's more. We have four projects currently in motion, all of which are running into serious challenges. And if that's not enough to drive me batty, I had 10 conference calls yesterday and 7 more today. My throat hurts because I'm getting sick, but I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that I haven't slept more than 5 hours the past three nights.

At this point in time, my life feels like a toilet. And all I really want to do is flush.

Maybe I should get a different job.
Perhaps it's time for a new line of work.

I never liked Jackson Pollock's art in the first place.

November 07, 2005

Between The Lines

This weekend went by so quickly I feel like I have wind burn. Even worse, I feel like I have Alzheimers; for the life of me I can’t figure out what happened and why it happened so quickly. Aside from the bike ride on Saturday morning and the run on Sunday, the entire weekend feels like a sedentary blur that pretty much consisted of me and my computer inescapably trapped on my couch. I swear my couch has tentacles. When I sit on it, they reach around me, maybe even right up into my closest orifice, if you know what I mean. The tentacles hold me down, a prisoner to the furniture, as they slowly suck the memory out of my brain. Which makes me suddenly realize where my brain is located and pretty much solidifies the fact that my head is, in fact, up my ass after all.

After a few hours on the couch, life becomes a blur. The longer I sit there, the more the tentacles suck the very life right out of me. I sat there on the couch a very long time this weekend. And now here I am nearing the end
of Monday, feeling a bit confused, not knowing where the past three days went, but desperately wanting them back. You know that point in Bugs Bunny cartoons right after Elmer Fudd is shot or blown up? That’s me right now: stars and butterflies circling my head, as I stumble about in utter shock and confusion wondering where the hell I am and how the hell I got here. The wascawy wabbit, in this instance, is being performed by my dreaded, tentacled couch.

It’s Monday now, which of course means I’m on a plane to somewhere. This time I’m off to Boston for my monthly trip to company headquarters. I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt which will most likely turn into a really bad idea when I get off the plane and face the 40 degree weather. But that’s the least of my concerns. I have others. Like, for instance, the fact that I left my keys in my house. Which doesn’t bother me now, but could definitely present a challenge when I try to get back inside on Thursday. Or there’s the fact that I really wanted to go swimming this week but forgot to pack any swim gear. Then, of course, there is the conversation Catherine and I had last night about maintaining our relationship while immersed in Ironman training. Let’s talk about that one for a spell.

During the Drinking Season (please see previous blog comments for full explanation of the Drinking Season), maintaining a balanced life is not overly difficult for me. Mainly because I don’t have an agenda and do whatever my little heart pleases. I run if I want to run, ride if I want to ride and go out at night if I want to. If I don’t, I don’t. Pretty simple, huh? In fact, this may sound like a good way of life for you. And, it might actually be a good way of life for you. But for me, not so much. I’m a very goal-oriented person. (Did you ever notice how the Brits say goal-orientated? What’s up with that?) Being very goal-orientated (ha!), this whole concept of “do what you want to do without any sense of direction” just ends up with me flailing about aimlessly. It’s good to flail for a bit and get all my ya-yas out, but it’s definitely not a way of life for me. So when the Racing Season starts and I have defined goals, life becomes a lot more focused. That, however, is often where the struggle begins.

I have three focuses…. Three focusi?… I’m focused on three things this Racing Season:

  1. Ironman training
  2. My relationship with Cat, and,
  3. Work

So in order to maintain a balanced life, I need to juggle these three like some sort of Vegas side-act. Let’s see, if I work 60 hours/week and train 20 hours/week, that makes 80 hours… and… hmmm… 24 times 7… uh… minus 80 is…. .um…. hold the eight, carry the two…. Eighty-eight! I have 88 hours of quality time to spend with Catherine. But, wait, we have to sleep too. Maybe I can cut work down a little bit here, slice training off a little bit there…

You get the picture. It’s all about the balance.

I looked at the training schedule for the first time yesterday and there sure is a lot to do. Seemed a bit daunting. So I put it down. I picked it up again a few minutes later and… Yep. Still daunting. So I went to sleep and looked at it again a few minutes ago. Um… daunting. Doesn’t seem to be changing no matter how much time I give it. So I stare at it a little more and suddenly I begin to see beyond the training plan. Beyond the daily exercise schedules. I see a heckuva lot of white spaces between the workout lines. And I realize that those white spaces are the quality time I get to spend with Catherine. So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to do my damndest with training and work. I’ll give it my all. But I’m going to really live between the lines. Catherine is too good of a thing to screw up.

November 06, 2005

The Dichotomy of Me

The 8.8 mile run this morning felt very good. Surprisingly good considering the fact that I haven't even put on my running shoes in over a week. It's amazing how much no alcohol the night before a workout can really make the exercise more enjoyable. I keep forgetting about that. I remember back in the day when I could drink myself silly on a Saturday night, staying up until the wee hours of the evening and consuming enough alcohol to inevitably have me dancing down the streets with a couple of friends, singing rounds of "Sweet Caroline" or any number of cheesy sing-a-long classics. I'd wake up bright and shiny at 7am the next morning, head out to some local race and pump out a 40 minute 10k as if it were nothing at all.

But life ain't like that anymore.

I've gotten older and my body just doesn't work the way it used to. I'm overly passionate about triathlon and exercise, but I also really love going out and having a good time. And therein lies the problem: as I've grown older, these two activities have become mutually exclusive. It's just not possible for me to consistently train seriously and, at the same time, eat/drink myself silly. So what I've done is come up with the perfect solution - a solution that pretty much defines the dichotomy of me. You see, I've divided up the year into two distinct sections: the Racing Season and the Drinking Season.

Let me 'splain.

The Racing Season usually starts around January 3rd and continues on through October-ish (though the end date is fairly flexible.) Throughout the Racing Season I become seriously dedicated to my workouts. Inevitably I have a goal race in mind for each year. Most years, it is the Vineman Half-Ironman in Sonoma County. This year's goal race, as we all know, is July's Ironman USA in Lake Placid. Thanks to Coach Gareth, throughout every Racing Season I have my daily training schedules, which I adhere to religiously (says the guy who hasn't been to temple in 17 years). I study each week's training schedule with the meticulousness of a brain surgeon. I alter my travel schedule, my work activities and my social calendar to adhere to each week's particular training needs. I rigorously pay close attention to my nutrition, ensuring that I cater my eating habits to maximize my ultimate training potential. I rarely touch the alcohol. In fact, I have no desire to drink alcohol during the Racing Season, and would much prefer a nice glass of water over anything else. Throughout the Racing Season, my mind is completely focused on preparing for racing, recovering from racing and actually racing. I become a triathlete possessed.

It usually takes about one month for me to recover emotionally from the goal race each year. So about four weeks after the race, the Racing Season officially comes to a close in my mind. Over a period of a few weeks, I slowly transition from the Racing Season into the Drinking Season. I go out to dinners a bit more often and catch up with the friends I haven't seen in months. I have a glass of wine this day, maybe a vodka tonic that day... a couple of margaritas even sounds quite refreshing, now that you mention it. My nutritional habits slowly disentegrate. Pizza may find its way into my stomach once or twice a week. A good burger isn't too far behind either. Ever so slowly, I spiral down into the off-season crevasse. Falling and falling into the chasm of out-of-shape off-season athletes. By somewhere around October, all bets are off. I'm eating and drinking myself silly, going out nearly every night of the week to catch up with friends and inevitably getting sucked back into singing "Sweet Caroline" at least once throughout the season. Previously, I've been considered a part-time alcoholic. The drinking has cut down significantly but oh there are still the moments.

And then, just like that, January is upon us again and the Racing Season must begin.

The transition from Drinking Season to Racing Season is not an easy one. One quickly gets lulled into the simplicity of sluggishness, and climbing out of this abyss is a laborious process. It takes me a good month of focus to make the full transition. The beginning phases have me telling everybody I'm back in Racing Season again. Yet I still find it difficult to be physically active every day. The next phase has me out there lethargically, trying to awake my body from its numb hibernation and kick-start it into reliving the joy of training. Ever so slowly, I lessen the alcohol intake, improve the nutrition, become focused on my training and one day find myself smack dab in the middle of Racing Season - and feeling great about it.

With Ironman USA in July, I've committed myself this year to beginning the official Racing Season on December 1 in order to give me ample time to train properly. So, with December looming down on me like a vulture over fresh roadkill, I've begun the transition process from the Drinking to the Racing Season. And though you will read anectdotes of me galavanting across town, you will read just as many about my passionate and oftentimes tumultuous relationship with training. Slowly though, the galavanting subsides as the training intensifies. With this change comes the struggle to keep my life in balance.

And so begins my yearly rebirth. I am beginning to let go of the Drinking Season. I am trying to embrace the Racing Season. It is oftentimes difficult, but I know the joy that lies in front of me as I once again transform myself into the passionately obsessed triathlete I pride myself in being.

It's amazing what a simple 8.8 mile run can do, huh?

(now, just for old times' sake...hows about a quick sing-a-long..)

November 05, 2005

Carpe Diem, Motherf***er

You know that song "I Don't Like Mondays"? Yeah, well, I don't like Saturdays and I'm going to shoot shoot shoot the whole day down. And if you don't like that, well....too bad, Tootsie.

As a general rule, Saturdays mostly suck for me. I'm usually out late on Friday nights, either french kissing the demon alcohol or ingesting some sort of food that I'll probably regret in the morning. Like, for instance, last night's late night french fries and beer that occured shortly after devouring the beef/sushi/sake trifecta (which, on its own, probably would've put me over the edge.) So, anyway, I get home later than I wish on Friday nights, I have a restless sleep for a few frustrating hours, and then I wake up at 6am to face my Saturday morning. Before even opening my eyes, I already regret the previous nights activities, without fail. Inevitably my body is tired, my stomach is queasy and it feels like somebody somehow managed to thwack that point right behind my eyes a few times with a ballpeen hammer. Regardless, I stumble out of bed, shove some oatmeal down my throat and get ready to go biking.

And that's the good part of the day!

After my stomach settles and I stop sweating alcohol, my Saturday morning bike rides usually turn into a wonderful experience. It is one of the true highlights of my weekend. Every Saturday I cruise up the coast, the mountains jutting up into the sky on my right side and the sprawling serenity of the Pacific Ocean flooding the horizon on my left. On lucky days like today, the dolphin are gliding up the coast, playfully jumping out of the water as if they were as excited to be out on a Saturday morning as I. Inevitably, though, the ride must end and the sucky part of the day begins.

I start getting angry every Saturday morning at 11am and the anger compounds over the hours until it fully encompasses my being and completely ruins my Saturday night. Aside from cramming the entire weeks errands into 2 hours of a bumper-to-bumper, stupid driver-filled nightmare, my entire day is spent inside the confines of my lonely, lonely abode. Saturday, you see, is finance day for me. And I HATE finance day with a passion. I'm not a numbers guy; I never wanted to be an accountant. My idea of a "fun time" is pretty much doing anything except spending the Saturday reviewing excel spread sheets. Yet I excel every Saturday, all day. And I don't mean "excel" in the good sense. I spend my Saturday reviewing finances for the record company, preparing billing, analyzing accounts receivable and feeling my blood pressure rise at the sight of the accounts payable. If I'm lucky, I may even spend two hours paying my personal bills. All the time, I look at the blue sky and beautiful sunshine out my window, and hear the people laughing and playing as if it were actually a wonderful day. Screw them. I have no patience for happy people on Saturday afternoons.

By about 3:00 I'm usually angry enough to kill anybody who even looks my way. I start swearing at the couples happily walking by my window. I spontaneously yell profanities at nobody, and intermittently curse my computer for destroying my life. "Fuck you, you goddam piece of shit computer," I have been known to scream, as I glare maniacally at the helpless laptop. "GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE! I FUCKING HATE THIS!" I wail like a prisoner of war, trapped in my own personal hell.

By 6:00 I'm ready to break. The proverbial silicon chip inside my head has switched to overload. Enough is enough. I pile the papers into the corner of the room, violently throw unpaid bills across the desk and slam down the cover of my laptop, doing everything in my power to not throw it out the window.

Inevitably I find some social function to do on Saturday nights, but I'm usually too emotionally drained to actually have fun. Tonight, Catherine and I are going to a party at my friend Paul's house. Paul is a comedy writer and all his comedy writing friends will be there, all being funny. I've spent the past five hours perparing excel documents for my finance team. I have no patience for funny.

But tomorrow is Sunday, the day of rest. Sunday is the true beginning of my weekend; it is a wonderful day for me. I seize the day on Sundays. Carpe Sunday. And so by the time Monday morning roles around, I'm finally rested and relaxed and eased into the week. I like Mondays too. It means I'm still far far away from another frustrating Saturday ruining my weekend.

November 03, 2005

The Crossroads of Sickness and Training

Catherine is sick today. I just got off the phone with her and it sounds like her nose has sprung a leak. I feel bad on a number of levels. On the one hand, I feel bad in the basic general sense of feeling bad, in which the protagonist experiences wrenching heartache over the very suffering of his loved one. Mostly, though, I feel bad because I'm the one who gave her the cold in the first place. She definitely got it from kissing me. Without question. Um.... oops?

But Catherine is clearly stubborn when it comes to the crossroads of sickness and training. Not only is she planning to go for a run tomorrow, but she's got a swim slotted into the schedule as well. A swim, I say! The crazy little such-and-such. Outside pool, crisp, breezy air - and a head cold that would be a lot happier dipping into a bowl of chicken soup than a pool of chlorine. Has this woman no mercy - no sense of self-preservation? Damn you, woman! Damn you!

I did everything I could to try and convince her to take the day off from exercise. I pulled all the punches, took no prisoners in my attempt to cast but a mere glimpse of sanity in her clearly delusional state of stuffed-up mind. For thirty minutes I tried to convince her to sleep in tomorrow morning and save the workouts for a healthy weekend. But, alas, her stubborness wouldn't succomb to my manly persuasion. Finally, after annoying her incessantly (and I can be incessantly annoying when I put my mind to it), she finally agreed to "consider resting in the morning."

I let it go there, realizing that was as close as I would come to acceptance. It was a small victory - and sometimes victories come one small step at a time. She'd come to her sense in the morning, I convinced myself after I hung up the phone. She'd take my advice. The fact of the matter is, though, I'm just like Catherine. I don't take my advice either. In fact, I'm about as big of a hypocrite as you can find. If I were sick, nose leaking like a fire hydrant, you can pretty much bet that I'd be out there riding and running the next day, screaming down the center lane of Denial Street, right into the cross-traffic of Bedridden Boulevard. I'm as stubborn as they come when missing a training day enters the picture. Perhaps that's why Catherine and I get along so well - we're stubborn about the same things. And neither one of us bothers to listen to me, no matter how long I babble on with my gibberish blather.

I still feel bad that she's sick though. Is that so wrong?

November 02, 2005

Coach Gareth Joins The Show

My leg hurts. My quads are in pain. My shins are tight. My calves are sore. My right hip doesn't seem to want to work properly and I involuntarily let out a sad, painful groan everytime I take a step forward. The way in which I'm walking would make sense if, say, I were 102 years old and had recently been run over by a school bus. Unfortunately, I am neither 102 nor have I been so much as jostled by any large yellow object of late. Worse, I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in months. I wasn't even there that long; but apparently it was long enough to do some real damage. I know what it was - it was the squats that did me in. Only three short sets with light weights. Apparently not light enough. I'm weak. I'm feeble. I can't even call this strength training; there's no strength involved. This is more like weakness training. If there were a weakness competition, I feel like I've got pretty good odds of taking the trophy. Pound for pound, I'm confident that I can lift less weight than you. That's how lame I am.

This pain, though, is a sign; a sign that my serious training has just started. There are other signs too. Like, for instance, the fact that I just hired a trainer to get me in shape for the Ironman USA event. That's a pretty good sign, I guess. Yes, Cat and I hired Coach Gareth to coach us and help us go the distance in July. We both used Coach Gareth this past year for our respective training. He's British, but I try not to hold that against him. His teeth aren't horrible and, honestly, his funny accent is almost endearing. Gareth has trained quite a few professional triathletes and an even greater amount of schlubs, like me. This past year Gareth had me racing faster than I've ever raced before. And Cat? Well, she ended up winning the bronze in her age group at the Duathlon Long Course World Championships in Italy. That's why I like him, he knows how to turn a talented athlete like Catherine into a world class machine, and a lame-o like me a lame-o who's completed an Ironman.

We just got the first month's training program. I'm too scared to look at it. I haven't even started yet and it hurts. It's going to be a long 10 months...