If I could get only one thing right, it would be…

…staying in the moment.  This moment.  Right now.

There was a time not too long ago when I would be driving to work in the morning, talking on a conference call and eating a breakfast of yogurt and granola.  Literally taking granola out of a plastic baggie and putting it into a cup of yogurt.  I’d be steering with my knee.

I haven’t done that in a while.  But every day I still do things like:

  • Read while I brush my teeth.  I figure reading helps extend the time I spend brushing my teeth, thereby making my teeth healthier.
  • Listen to podcasts or watch TV while I stretch
  • After dinner but before we put the kids to bed, I wander around my iPad aimlessly, reading blog posts or web sites and eating handfuls of junk food
  • Watch TV while I “work.”  I usually have no idea what I just watched, and I don’t get any work done either.
  • Spend 3-4 hours longer on something work-related because I am busy surfing the internet or wandering around my house or reading something.

These are just the simple cases.

Not being present in the moment has a huge impact on every aspect of my life.

If I were to just focus on being present in the moment, every moment, I would probably gain back about 3 hours in my day.  I’d drop a few bad habits (and more than a few pounds).  I’d know what my legs feel like when I’m stretching on a good day as compared to a bad day.  I’d fall asleep faster.  I’d notice little things about my kids that make me smile.  I’d enjoy the air outside on a cool, breezy spring day.  I’d work out easier on my easy days and harder on my tough days.  I’d write more and better blog posts.

I would carry much less stress around.

A couple of months ago I bought a book called A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook.  I read the first 6 or so chapters, and everything I’ve read so far has resonated with me.  I did a few of the exercises.  About a week ago I tried the “full body scan” right before I went to bed.  It took me about 24 seconds to fall asleep.

While everything has resonated with me, I haven’t put most of the recommendations into practice.  It isn’t easy to perform some of the exercises.  It entails slowing things down to a pace that I’m not used to.  It requires me to acknowledge my emotions and just let them sit.  To not do anything with them.  It requires me to just eat a meal without reading or watching TV.  Just taste the food.

I think I’m also afraid of what I might unearth.  So I make excuses about not having time to do the exercises, or I just “forget.”

Starting now, I’m going to see how often I can just be mindful.  Put the recommendations in that book into practice.  Just focus on one thing and finish it.  Acknowledge my emotions but let them be.  Don’t judge them.  Just let them sit.

I think this is going to be really hard.  Which means it’s probably right.  I don’t expect to succeed very often to start.  But eventually I will get better at it.

I’m curious to see what happens.

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Why I plan to be more selfish

For a while now, especially the last 2+ years, I’ve felt something was “off” in my life.  I’ve felt like most days were a grind, that there was something missing from my life, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  Most days I’m somewhere between happy and sad; more like numb.  I can’t go back to one specific incident that changed things either.  It’s been more of a slow, gradual deterioration.  I’ve felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into a morass, the shape and form of which I cannot clearly identify.

Reading The Fountainhead may have helped give me some insight into what’s been happening.

One big part of my life was tied up into my job, the one I lost about a year ago.  Prior to losing it, I had become increasingly frustrated there.  Why?  It felt like I was pushing a string up hill.  The culture at the place I used to work was well known for two specific themes:  passive-aggressiveness combined with the need for consensus.  In a company where we all knew job cuts were coming, most everybody was running for cover.  I never fit in there.  These words of The Fountainhead took me back to my old job:

“…there is no substitute for competence.

That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers.  They have no concern for facts, ideas, work.  They’re concerned only with people.  They don’t ask:  ‘Is this true?’  They ask:  ‘Is this what others think is true?’  Not to judge, but to repeat.  Not to do, but give the impression of doing.  Not creation, but show.  Not ability, but friendship.  Not merit, but pull.  What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce?  Those are the egotists.  You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands…

…That’s what stopped me whenever I faced a committee.  Men without an ego.  Opinion without a rational process.  Motion without brakes or motor.  Power without responsibility.  The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person.  It’s everywhere and nowhere and you can’t reason with him.  He’s not open to reason.  You can’t speak to him–he can’t hear.  You’re tried by an empty bench…”

I can’t say how many times I felt frustrated at my old job…that I couldn’t get my ideas across, that nobody was listening.

I think part of my slow deterioration, specifically related to the job, was a resignation of my individual sense of self to the collective.    I stopped fighting the fight.  I’ve always thought that losing that job was the best thing that could have happened to me, but I could never quite figure out why.  Perhaps it’s more clear now.

Another thing that contributed to my funk, ironically, was this blog.  When I started this thing, I was so focused on writing things that other people would want to read.  I essentially got away from writing what I liked (or what was inside me) in favor of trying to impress others.  This part of The Fountainhead resonated:

“Look at everyone around us.  You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it…He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men.  He’s not really struggling even for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion–prestige.  A stamp of approval, not his own.  He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded.  He can’t say about a single thing:  ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me.’  Then he wonders why he’s unhappy.”

The point is, I compromised my own sense of self for prestige, for a stamp of approval from others.

At home, it was the same sort of thing.  I started to worry more and more about what I thought my wife and kids wanted or needed.  To seek opportunities to make their lives easier, at the expense of my own life.  This despite the fact that they never asked for that kind of help, nor did they need it.

Where am I going with all this?

As I read The Fountainhead, I started to understand that for the past few years I had started to live like a second-hander.  I had sacrificed my wants and desires for things that were outside of me.  I had placed too much of my sense of self outside of my control.  It wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t for any ill-conceived purpose, I wasn’t even really aware that it was happening.  But the net result was that I had lost the joy that comes from living a life that meets my needs, first and foremost.

And so I plan to be more selfish.

Selfish in the sense of The Fountainhead–that I am a creator, an achiever.  My first duty is to myself, to create things that fully express my talents and abilities.  I am bound to nothing else.  I cannot be affected, positively or negatively, by what anyone thinks of me.  The prime concern is living in a way that’s congruent with my best self.  That’s it.

If anything, this will improve my relationships at home and everywhere else.  Why?  Because I won’t be seeking approval from those relationships.  My self-esteem won’t be on the line.  I’m no longer concerned what anyone thinks of me.  The only thing that matters is what I think of myself.

“In all proper relationships there is no sacrifice of anyone to anyone…Men exchange their work by free, mutual consent to mutual advantage when their personal interests agree and they both desire the exchange.  If they do not desire it, they are not forced to deal with each other.  They seek further.”

I expect that I will slim down my relationships, focusing only on those that fulfill the quote above.

I’m not sure I fully grasp some of the concepts that I’m writing about here.

But I do have a strong feeling that the “morass” I described at the beginning of this post, that pit that I’ve been sinking deeper into, has a source in my evaporating self-esteem.  Or perhaps more precisely, my increasing willingness to sacrifice my own sense of self and self-respect for something that was outside of me.

“This country…was based on a man’s right to the pursuit of happiness.  His own happiness.  Not anyone else’s.  A private, personal, selfish motive.”

Count me in.


Week in review: March 12-18, 2012

Well this week didn’t go exactly as planned.  It started off beautifully but went south as the week went on.  Hopefully, though, the week ended with me feeling good enough to start next week well.  I remember thinking that since I’ve added strength training to my repertoire, there really was no reason for me to have a day with no workouts.  Umm…how about that flu thing?

Totals:

  • 2 runs:  21 miles, 3 hrs, 8 minutes
  • 1 ride:  45 miles, 2 hrs, 48 minutes
  • 1 strength workout:   lunge matrix, myrtl, core, squats

All of those came by Wednesday morning.

If there was a positive to the whole flu thing, it was probably that I didn’t feel like eating on Friday and Saturday.  Perhaps that’s a start to my turning around the eating habits.

And I got a lot of sleep this week.  55 hrs, average of almost 8 per day.  Of course 60% of those hours came on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I know I need to work on my sleep habits.

I’m up to page 500 in The Fountainhead.  Through three out of four parts.  I guess that’s one other good part of having the flu–I got a chance to put a lot of reading in.  At some point I might have to write up a post about the core philosophy of the book and how it conflicts with some things that have long been important in my life.  I admit that I’m struggling with some of those concepts.

Incidentally, I’m also about 60% through Blah, Blah, Blah:  What to Do When Words Don’t Work.  I’m not entirely sure what to think yet.  I need to keep going and trying some of the ideas before I render an opinion.

I can’t do anything about the days lost to the flu.  I hope I can get back on the beam hard on Monday and stay on it.  The ascent starts in 152 days.  There isn’t time to screw around any more.

Monday (March 12)

Started the week with a 45 mile ride.  This one felt weird from the start, which was in complete darkness due to the change to daylight savings time.  Even with my light, I hit way more potholes than I usually do, including one that jarred one of my water bottles out of its cage.  After searching for about 5 minutes, I gave up on the bottle.

Overall the ride was ok.  My hands were freezing at times when I went down into the valleys.  I could feel the air get colder.  I wonder whether my hill sprints yesterday had an effect on my strength.  I just felt off the whole time. I was just thankful to get my bike (and myself) home in one piece.

  • 9 am:  yogurt w/ protein powder, orange, roasted veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, peppers, zucchini)
  • 1 pm:  salad (arugala, carrots, strawberries, red onion) w/ leftover steak, apple
  • 6 pm:  turkey and veggie chili, carrot salad, asparagus and broccoli slaw
  • after 8 pm:  chocolate chips, ice cream, popcorn, M&Ms, Girl Scout cookies

I noticed something interesting today that I might need to dig more deeply into.  I got extremely tired, like can’t keep my eyes open tired, three times today:

  • 10 am:  driving in to work…I actually parked my car after driving for 20 minutes and napped
  • 2 pm:  kept waking up after having pressed some random key on my keyboard like 350 times
  • 7 pm:  putting my 2-year old to bed and reading, or was she putting me to bed?

Notice a pattern?  This kind of thing has been happening to me for a long time now.  Sometimes it isn’t as obvious as today, but it’s been there.

Tuesday (March 13)

am:  Wanted to get up earlier, but got to bed late last night (lots of admin stuff right now).  Did a short run, 7 miles, at MAF intensity.  Wanted to get home to see my 7-year-old off to school.  Travelling today.

pm:  This week finds me in Indianapolis.  Ran 14 miles around the greenway that goes in and out of the city.  It’s a super-flat run, but that was ideal for me.  I haven’t done double-run days very often; I can probably count them on one hand.  But today I really wanted to get out.  It was beautiful here and a good day to run.  14 miles, just over 2 hours.

Total for the day:  21 miles in a bit over 3 hours.

  • 7 am:  Turkey & veggie chili, kiwi, carrot salad
  • 10 am:  4-egg veggie omelette  (red onion, yellow onion, garlic, tomato), orange, strawberries
  • 9 pm:  Salad (spinach, peppers, carrots, strawberries, red onion, seeds), sardines

Eating was perfection today.  Would like to bottle this day and repeat it over and over again.

Wednesday (March 14)

Woke up in the hotel with some time before my day got started.  Figured some strength work would be good.  I’m exploring the idea of doing strength work on the last morning of my out-of-town trips.  The strength work will typically fit my schedule more effectively (I usually don’t have much time in the morning when I’m out-of-town) and allows me to get on the bike the next day for more recovery.  When I’m out of town, I typically run a lot.  So to end it with strength then a next-day bike seems like a reasonable approach.  Today it worked out well.  I am taking the strength work slowly since I know I’m still new at it.

  • 9 am:  Scrambled eggs, banana, orange
  • noon:  turkey &  cheese sandwich, chips, soda, milky way, 2 chocolate pretzels
  • 10 pm:  2 bowls of life cereal, pistachios, M&Ms, ice cream

Managed to get an earlier flight home, which is always good.  I’m worried, though…got a huge headache like my head was exploding as we descended to the airport.  I don’t get headaches.  Ever.  This one lasted until Thursday morning.

Thursday (March 15)

No workout.  Starting to feel awful.  Got to work, but didn’t feel much better.

  • 9 am:  Kiwi, orange
  • noon:  burger with bacon, soda, chocolate milkshake
  • 5 pm:  2 DQ blizzards
  • 8 pm:  M&Ms, nuts, chips & salsa, klondike bar

Registration for Pikes Peak went well.  Now just waiting for acceptance of my qualifying information.

Friday (March 16)

Feeling really awful now.  No workouts today.  Sleep and hopefully I will feel better.

  • 9 am:  yogurt with protein powder, banana
  • noon:  2 powerbar recovery bars
  • 6 pm:  eggs, orange, klondike bar, chocolate

Saturday (March 17)

Still feeling bad, maybe slightly better but it’s hard to say.  No workouts today.

  • 9 am:  Sugar cereal (a few handfuls)
  • noon:  Fruit smoothie (banana, raspberry, peach, protein powder, yogurt, orange juice), popcorn
  • 4 pm:  2 powerbar recovery bars

Sunday (March 18)

Feeling better but not as good as hoped.  Another day of rest.  No workouts.  I did manage to split some wood towards the end of the day.  At this point, I’m going to declare my sickness over and hope my body agrees.

  • 8 am:  Sugar cereal (a few handfuls)
  • noon:  turkey and veggie chili, banana, orange
  • 3 pm:  2 powerbar recovery bars, M&Ms
  • 6 pm:  Meatballs, salad, roasted veggies (onion, squash, zucchini, tomato)
  • 9 pm:  Sugar cereal, chocolate

 


Recap: week of March 5-12, 2012

Another episode of the weekly installment…how did my week go?

The week in full detail is below.  The summary is this:

Workouts:  Pretty solid week, with one excusable zero and one unexcusable zero.  Overall 4 runs, 59 miles, just over 8.5 hours running and 1 ride, 45 miles, over 2.5 hours riding.  Most of it was MAF intensity.  The big learning for the week was that I need to run MAF differently.  It’s not just an easy paced run.  Late last week I started treating my MAF runs as though I was trying to run as fast as possible with HR 145 as my governor.  That was very different from “an easy run.”  I found myself trying different ways to run faster (e.g., hips forward, shoulders back, relax) with as little effort as possible.  I think this will eventually pay off.  I was really pissed at myself for the zero on Saturday, but I was glad to avoid a string of zeros by getting out Sunday.

Eating:  What can I say?  I ate great for about 3 days, then the wheels came off big time.  On Sunday I tried to get the wheels back on but couldn’t make it through the day.  Although I’m disappointed, I think I have some tricks to help me use this as a launching point to get to a better place.

My sleep was badly compromised this week.  I averaged 4.5 hrs of sleep per night, but that might be low because I didn’t count the snoozing I did on planes (which was probably about 5-6 hours total.  The sleep was hard because of all the travel and still wanting to get my workouts in.  Clearly I’ve got work to do here though.

My alma mater made it into the NCAA basketball tournament.  Go Lehigh Mountain Hawks!  I don’t think we have a shot to move on though, as we play Duke in the first round.  Either way, it’s kinda cool.

I am 25% of the way through The Fountainhead.  Quite awesome, better than the first time I read it.  More stuff is resonating with me, which I expected.  The one that probably resonated me the most…this paragraph:

Sometimes, not often, he sat up and did not move for a long time; then he smiled, the slow smile of an executioner watching a victim.  He thought of his days going by, of the buildings he could have been doing, should have been doing and, perhaps, never would be doing again.  He watched the pain’s unsummoned appearance with a cold, detached curiosity; he said to himself:  Well, here it is again.  He waited to see how long it would last.  It gave him a strange, hard pleasure to watch his fight against it, and he could forget that it was his own suffering; he could smile in contempt, not realizing that he smiled at his own agony.  Such moments were rare.  But when they came, he felt as he did in the quarry:  that he had to drill through granite, that he had to drive a wedge and blast the thing within him which persisted in calling to his pity.”

Looking ahead to next week, Thursday (15th) is a big day.  Pikes Peak registration opens.  Will I be there Thursday morning?

Monday (March 5)

Got up late today … late night last night plus poor eating makes for a bad morning.  Was eager to ride.  Lately I’ve been trying not to focus too much on how fast I go, but today I was chasing a fast time.  A few reasons for that…I was looking for a sign that my training was paying off.  Sometimes it’s not easy to see it.  Improving times are good affirmations that training is helping.  Also, I was constrained for time with a flight in the afternoon.  Finally, I just wanted to start the week with a hard workout.  This week has the potential to be a bit crazy, so starting it out well was important.

I was debating between a 54 mile ride and a 45 mile ride.  I almost always choose the longer one, but today I opted for the shorter ride (a bit nervous about missing my flight) and put some intensity into the mix.  2 hrs, 39 minutes.  Solid ride.

Very happy with my eating today:

  • 11 am:  Pulled pork with home made BBQ sauce, Salad (romaine lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, OO & Lime juice dressing)
  • 5 pm:  sardines, banana, apple
  • 10 pm (pacific):  protein bar, 2 chocolate chip cookies

That last meal was pretty much all I could muster.  After about 10 hours of traveling I was wiped out and ready to just eat whatever I could find at the hotel.

Tuesday (March 6)

Awoke in Los Angeles and was eager to get moving.  The best way for me to reset my body clock is to run.  I was staying in El Segundo (“recommended” by my company’s travel website), so I decided to hit the beach.  I ended up running on the “strand” from El Segundo through Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach. It was a very different experience for me.  I’m used to seeing almost nobody on my runs.  Here there were tons of people.  It was also interesting to see the houses on the beach…right on top of each other.  Not sure I’d like that.

Mostly flat MAF run—14 miles, avg HR 145, 1:56.

Another good eating day, but not as good as yesterday:

  • 9 am:  Veggie omelette, fruit salad
  • noon:  Grilled Salmon, asparagus, mango, rice
  • afternoon:  salt water taffy
  • 7 pm:  Spinach salad, peppers, grilled chicken, 1 glass of red wine, lots of bread with olive oil

Bread with olive oil is a major temptation for me.  That dinner could have been worse.  It was with a customer at an italian restaurant.  I can live with the bread since I didn’t have dessert and I avoided the tempting (but bad for me) pasta dishes.

Wednesday (March 7)

This morning was a big weird as our travel plans were changing at the last minute.  I didn’t want to go out for a run then find out that I was supposed to be at the airport in 10 minutes.  Ended up doing some strength work in my hotel room.  This is something I need to develop.  In this new job I’m going to find myself in hotels more often.  I need to have a 45-60 minute hotel room (or fitness center) workout that I can be happy with.  I think it includes the Jay Johnson strength exercises (Myrtl, lunge matrix, maybe others), core work, and other strength work like squats, push-ups etc.  I’m starting to like this site for some of the strength workouts.  So while this specific workout wasn’t great, I’m starting to get the idea.  I would guess that I’m about a month away from a decent strength workout that I can do in a hotel.

Eating was good today.

  • 10 am:  Sardines, fruit salad (honeydew, pineapple, berries)
  • noon:  Yogurt (plain), Apple
  • Midnight (eastern time):  Salad with steak

This was another day where my eating was good despite a weird schedule.  Flew back across the country from LA to NY.  Didn’t get into the hotel in NY until about 11 pm, and opted for a salad instead of a protein bar.  It was great.  I’m finally at the point where I’m willing to spend money on an overpriced room service salad so that I can eat well.

Thursday (March 8)

Up shortly after 3 am so I could get my workout in.  I had to be back by 7 am, so this was one of those time boxed workouts—I was going to run for as long as I could before I hit 7 am.  I chose an unfortunate route—a busy road.  Since it was my first time running in the area, I wanted something where I couldn’t get lost.   We were staying in Tarrytown, NY so I ran through Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor and into Ossining, then I turned around and came back.  No, I did not meet the headless horseman or Ichabod Crane.

The run overall wasn’t very good.  I felt sluggish and off.  Could be for a lot of different reasons—the travel, low fuel (my eating has been good, but my body isn’t adjusted to a lower carbohydrate intake), very little sleep.  But the best part was that I got up and out.  I had plenty of built in excuses for not running today, but I got out.  That’s encouraging.  MAF run—14 miles, 2 hrs, Average Hr 145.

Today my eating habits started to slide:

  • 8 am:  Orange, banana, protein bar
  • 3 pm:  protein bar, pepsi (basically what was in my car as I drove home)
  • 7 pm:  Baked chicken, salad, veggies
  • 9 pm:  nuts, M&Ms, sugar cereal, girl scout cookies, klondike bar/sandwich, ice cream, chocolate chips

Friday (March 9)

Back home finally.  I was thinking of riding today but had the itch to run.  A flat front tire on my bike cinched it for me.  I was going running.    Ended up really happy with the decision and the workout.  Went down the mountain and onto a flat trail.  I was running much faster than I expected—finally dipping under 8 mins/mile with my HR still averaging 145.  Comparing that to the previous few weeks, it’s much faster.  Not entirely sure why I was going faster.  Could have been the extra carbs from my bad night last night, or maybe I’m just getting more fit.  Either way I’ll take it.  MAF run—21 miles, 3 hrs, 10 minutes.

My eating habits went off the cliff today:

  • noon:  half a grapefruit, 2 cupcakes, 2 Dairy Queen blizzards
  • 1 pm:  Sun Chips, coke
  • 4 pm:  pretzels, iced tea
  • 6 pm:  fish, salad, veggies
  • 9 pm:  a bunch of crap (M&Ms, ice cream, cookies, sugar cereal, klondike bar/sandwich, girl scout cookies, nuts)

Saturday (March 10)

This was disappointing.  Got up late this morning, using the excuse that I had a long week.  Mostly though it was stupidity and lack of discipline on my part (see eating habits from yesterday).  Anyway, with a long day planned with the kids (Crayola Factory!) I decided to take a zero today.

Eating is still bad…think I’m on a downslide.  Have to stop the bleeding:

  • 8 am:  Beef vegetable soup, orange
  • 1 pm:  Dairy Queen cheeseburger, fries, coke, blizzard
  • 6 pm:  Steak, veggies
  • 8 pm:  M&Ms, girl scout cookies, ice cream, chocolate chips

Sunday (March 11)

I was glad to get out the door early today.  I had to get my run in early before the day went POOF!  Today was 10 miles in Schooley’s Mountain Park.  For a little spice, I added 12 hill sprints towards the end, each sprint being about 10 seconds.  My foot was feeling good and I think it’s the right time to increase the intensity.  Overall I was pleased with the effort.  The first 2/3 of the run was at MAF intensity (HR 142-145), then the hill sprints and a bit of a cool down.  All tolled:  1 hr, 33 minutes.  The maximum HR I got on the hill sprints was 161, and that was actually while I was walking down.  Not surprising I suppose, as it takes time for the heart to catch up.

This is going to sound silly unless you know me.  After owning my heart rate monitor for over 10 years now, I finally decided to figure out how to use more than just one feature.  I figured out how to set HR zones for a workout.  I wanted these today because I didn’t want to be looking at my watch every 10 seconds…on a rocky trail in partial darkness that would have been a recipe for disaster.  So I set an upper bound HR of about 148, and when my watch started beeping at me I knew I had to cut the intensity (until the hill sprints, that is).

Long day after the run though.  Had the girls to the pool and multiple playgrounds with lunch in between.  We left the house at 9 am and got back at 4.  I was drifting (sleepy) a bit in the car, which was pretty scary.

Eating wise, once again I had a good thing going before I fell off the rails.

  • 8 am:  Yogurt with protein powder, grapes, banana
  • 1 pm:  baked chicken leftovers, carrot/red pepper sticks, orange
  • 4:30 pm:  M&Ms, sugar cereal, animal crackers, chocolate chips, a couple spoons of ice cream, 6 recovery bars
  • 6 pm:  turkey chili with lots of veggies, carrot salad

There is no question that I’m capable of eating well for periods of time.  I actually eat really well for half the day.  The trick is sustaining it for a day, then another day, then another.  It seems like when I crash, I crash hard.  I have some ideas on this though.


Re-reading one of my favorite all-time books

Today was one of those runs where my mind just wandered.  I love when this happens.  Over the years, I’ve learned that one of the best things I can do is fill my mind up with thoughts and ideas, then go for a run and just let them bounce around.  A lot of times, ideas will pop up out of nowhere.

A few years ago, an old boss used to call me every Friday and lay out a series of ideas, knowing that I had a long run planned for the weekend.  Then he’d eagerly anticipate the following Monday morning when I’d come in with a handful of thoughts based on the ideas he’d laid out.  It worked beautifully.

Today was a shorter run, only 10 miles in distance.  But my mind was drifting.  Most of the time was spent thinking about my new job and role.  How would I introduce myself to clients / customers?  What could I say about my background?  How could I articulate my philosophy on certain things?  I was coming up with answers that were really good; the kind of things I frantically scribble down when I return from running, just so I don’t forget them.

I had rounded the last corner and was heading for my house, when something popped into my mind.  I knew immediately it was the right thing to do.

The Fountainhead

Time to re-read that classic.

I can still vividly remember the conversation where I first became aware of Ayn Rand.  It was the mid-90s and I was in my cubicle complaining to a colleague about how I always had to bail project teams out of messes.  That I was sick of my company putting people to work on things they weren’t qualified to do.  Then he said “You should read Atlas Shrugged, you would really get something out of it.”

That night I went home and looked up Atlas Shrugged.  It definitely sounded interesting.  But most of my research also suggested that I should read The Fountainhead first.  That it provided a great context for Atlas Shrugged.  That night, I ordered both books.

The Fountainhead was a hard read, but it really resonated with me.  I was fascinated with Roark, but I saw a lot of Keating in myself as well.  I remember concluding that most of us have a little of all the characters in us.

The most memorable aspect of my first read of The Fountainhead, however, was actually Roark’s skill as an architect and designer.  Being an architect (in technology) as my job, I’m fascinated by all aspects of architecture, from Christopher Alexander to city planning to Howard Roark.  The thing I’ll remember most from my first read of The Fountainhead was how Roark’s designs were so good.  They achieved two fundamental goals of architecture:

  1. Achieve the user’s intended purpose
  2. Fit the context

Given that no two contexts are the same, no two designs are ever the same.  The Fountainhead was the first place I learned that.  And I try to apply it to my work to this day.  For a while, colleagues from work used to ask me what they should read if they wanted to be a good architect.  My first recommendation was always The Fountainhead.

I’m excited to re-read The Fountainhead because I think there is much more for me to gain this time around.  I’m especially interested in Roark the individual and Roark’s relationships with others.

For a long time I’ve felt like a square peg in a round hole.

I’ve held two jobs before this latest one, and in each job I felt like I had to adjust, to twist my natural instincts, to conform to the way the company did things.  Both companies I worked for in the past had strong cultures.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s the reason they were both really successful.  But when you don’t fit into the culture, even if your ideas are good, it’s really hard to get heard.  That gets frustrating, so I tried to tune some stuff to adjust to the culture.  But that was even worse—I was no longer myself.  For this latest job, I’ve tried to find something that will allow me to be myself, to be that square peg.

The square peg, round hold thing is true to a lesser extent outside of work.  It mostly comes in the form of odd looks when I describe what I do before 7 am most mornings, or what my next fitness goal is.  Sometimes it’s even more subtle than that.  But I’ve definitely made some adjustments that feel un-natural so that I didn’t seem like a complete weirdo to our friends and neighbors, and the parents of my daughters’ friends.

Howard Roark, he didn’t much care about fitting into a certain mental model that others might have.  His aversion to that affected him and it affected his relationships with those people.

I’m anxious to see that unfold again, to figure out how it applies to me now, nearly twenty years removed from the first time I read The Fountainhead.  I’m different now.  Maybe not different; maybe I just know myself better.

How will The Fountainhead inspire me?  I can’t wait to find out.


Recap of February 2012

Too many zero-days in February (zero on 12 of 29 days).  Particularly problematic was a stretch in the middle of February where I zeroed on 7 straight days.  Ouch.

The foot pain that I experienced at the beginning of February didn’t help.  The good news there is that I’m feeling better, and I was forced to figure out ways to stay fit (or even improve without running).  The injury may have opened my mind to new possibilities that will help in the future.

The workouts I did were pretty good.  I’m especially happy with the rides.

  • 7 runs, 82 miles (average 11+ miles per)
  • 9 rides, 513 miles (average 57 miles per)
  • 1 day of “swim and gym” which included swimming, deep water running, weights

I’ve started a running log on a spreadsheet, which will be really helpful going forward.  The zero days stand out like a sore thumb.  I’m searching for a way to graphically represent the data.  For a while now, I’ve been an immense fan of Edward Tufte.  The guy is brilliant.  He invented the sparkline.  By next month I hope to have a visual way to represent my training, potentially with sparklines.

Quick sidebar – I just finished Resonate:  Presenting visual stories that transform audiences by Nancy Duarte.  I’ll have a more detailed review later, but the short version is that you should get this book if you need to do presentations.  This book will not be too far from me in my new job.  It’s really amazing.  Next up:  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

In March, I’m sticking with building a foundation and trying to avoid injury.  I’m pretty certain that once I hit 65 miles running in a week, my injury risk goes up.  For the time being, I’m going to stick with about 65 miles running per week, which I think is 4-5 runs.  The rest of the days I plan to use the bike, the pool or the gym.

Another step I’m taking to avoid injury is to reserve my more intense efforts for safer situations (bike, pool, gym).  I’m far enough away from a race that I don’t want to risk it.  So the non-running workouts may be even more intense than the runs.  Most of the runs will be MAF type.

I expect that I’ll start to incorporate double-workout days into the schedule.  I plan to take this easy at first, but hopefully I will be able to increase the frequency and intensity of double-workout days.

Two keys for me in March:

1.)  Eliminate (or limit) the zero days.  Get out for something every day if possible.  I lose too much fitness by skipping days, and skipping a week is unacceptable.

2.)  Fix my mental state.  This is probably the most important thing I can do for myself, for fitness and every other aspect of my life.

I’ve ranted a bunch of times on this blog about my eating habits and how bad they are.  I’m not going there again.  I’m still working on them, but more and more I’m convinced that my brain has a bigger role than I ever anticipated in my eating habits.  My goal this month is to learn as much as I can about the connection between the brain and eating.  I’m sure I won’t have it all figured out, but what I learn should be really valuable.  More on that as I discover stuff.

All in all, a decent month.  Improvement is definitely within reach.  I just need to make it happen.


Long time gone

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Going to make an effort to get back after it.  May not post every day, but hopefully every post will be interesting for one reason or another.

I have been busy over the first couple months in 2012.  Here are some highlights.  I’ll probably expand on some of these over the coming weeks.

  • In 2012, I’ve run 22 times for 259 miles.  My best weeks running were the last couple of weeks in January, with 76 and 61 miles respectively.
  • I have been walking in an air cast / removable boot for the past few weeks.  So I logged zero miles running from February 5th through February 25th.  The good news is I was out for 8 easy miles today and felt pretty much no pain.
  • In 2012, I’ve ridden 13 times for 779 miles.  This has been really, really fun.  I cranked up my riding in response to this little foot pain problem.  This riding includes a century which was hard but fun.  Lots of climbing too.  Maintenance-wise, I managed to replace my chain on my own.  This may not sound like much, but it’s pretty good for a guy who’s not allowed to use any power equipment inside the house.
  • I joined a YMCA, mostly because I love taking the kids swimming.  But now I have the opportunity to swim, deep water run and use some weights.  I did this “swim and gym” session once and am looking forward to more of that.
  • I got a job.  It’s a large software vendor based in California.  The founder is a pretty eclectic dude who’s into boat racing and some other stuff.  Real work starts again on Monday February 27th.  I haven’t been this excited about work in at least 10 years.  I actually had to remind myself how my alarm clock works; I haven’t used it in about 6 months.
  • I am listening regularly now to the Endurance Planet Ask the Ultrarunner and Sports Nutrition podcasts.  These things and the research I’ve done as a result have increased my knowledge a lot and given me a ton of ideas on workouts.
  • My nutrition / eating habits still suck.  I’m working on these though and have new ideas on how to deal with them.

Not to jinx anything, but the weather in New Jersey has been awesome this winter.  Very manageable and great for outside workouts.  We’re almost into March, so things are looking good.

So a bunch of stuff, mostly good.

I feel like I’m ready to have a good streak here.

Real excited.