Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I am a big fan of the New Year's resolutions. I pretty much view every day as the opportunity to start anew and make significant changes even if I actually never do accomplish it. That's why I prefer mornings to evenings. At night I tend to focus on what I didn't do that day rather than what I did. Maybe I need to check the items on my to do list rather than erase them when I am done with them. When I wake up in the morning it is a completely clean slate; I have done nothing to disappoint myself.

That's what the morning of January 1 is like; a completely clean slate. Which is why I don't get the whole binge drinking on December 31. Starting a clean slate with a hangover is a recipe for failure. Plus I am a lightweight.

Some of the resolutions I am willing to go public with are:

1) Get sponsored for endurance sports, no matter how small. A free pack of gu, a free t-shirt, whatever. I don't need a $100k contract or free sneakers. Whoever sponsors me gets a free logo on this high traffic site

2) Run two marathons, annihilate the New York Marathon to get revenge for 2005 and 2007 and run under 3.30 to qualify for Boston 2010.

3) Get to level 3 in all Petraneks. This might run counter to goal two but if I complete this then I am very close to reaching level four and becoming a 16 year old female gymnast.

4) Read much more. I religiously follow the four horsemen (Krugman, Friedman, Dowd and Kristoff) but I need to expand my knowledge. I tend to get bored of reading about politics and government in non-election years but Obama year 1 should be fascinating as well as the continued rise, fall and rise of Gavin Newsom.

5) Be totally organized. I need to let my complete anal retentive man out to play this year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Random Updates

I have been going back and forth on whether to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon, which is one of the big swinging dick accomplishments of geeky runners. I was pretty much resigned to postponing trying it until 2010 since the qualifying standard for 40-44 year old men is 3.20 and that ain't happening as long as I refuse to train with some semblance of intelligence. But I just checked the Boston Marathon site and the qualifying time you need to hit is for the age group that you will be on race day. I'll be 45 in April 2010 so I just need to run 3.30 or better next fall. In other words, screw NY Marathon and its hills next year - I am going back to do the flat California International Marathon to nail the time.

I was in New York a week ago and I have officially become a wussy. I had several opportunities to go skiing (even for free on my birthday) but didn't because I didn't feel like getting cold. And it was 25 degrees, not bone numbingly cold. I need a major gut check in 2009 or I am going to go speeding into old age in a hurry. Youth isn't just about feeling good or being in shape, it's about attacking challenges. And sitting in the Belleayre Lodge sipping $3 crap coffee while Sam snowboarded is not attacking.

I am waiting to baited breath whether Kona Endurance will sponsor me. I have given them several ground breaking proposals involving the SF Triathlon Club and CrossFit and am awaiting a response. This will be a good test as to whether Twitter makes for a good agent.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Almost 44 years old

Six days post marathon and for the first time I am not suffering from a lack of focus or post marathon blues. I don't know what my next race will be but it will be a long one and it will be soon. CIM buzz is still there and I want more of it.

One day before my 44th birthday and the issue is whether I need to start becoming comfortable with the onset of a steady decline in performance. I feel awesome during most of my workouts, as good or not better than I did 10 years ago. But peak performance for endurance athletes is not on this side of 40. My saving grace is that I have trained mostly like an idiot for the last ten years. No speed work, no hard day easy, and certainly no attention to nutrition or training. So if I were to actually pay attention to any of those "secrets," I might combat the slight percentage declines in performance each year I get more mature.

But I'm not sure if I really want to do that. There is a certain pride I take from doing things the stubborn way. I know not resting after the marathon hasn't been wise. My left quad hurts since I went right back to running 5-6 miles. But I like being the guy who doesn't rest. I like being the person who leaves the party early so he can run at 3:00 am on a Saturday before an early flight. I like having Rebecca try and talk me out of doing pullups every day. That is my equivalent of winning a race because I live for the spontaneous admiration as opposed to the planned, expected one. It's why I don't like my birthday. Once a year, everyone has to pay attention to you, give you props. And that feels cheap and forced. I'd rather get their attention for just being me on a normal day. The surprising attention is more exciting, even if I make it happen by doing things that I know will get it. Like working out every day. Or doing pushups at OAK gate 5.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Breakthrough Race

I didn’t set any personal records but yesterday’s California International Marathon was the race I have been waiting for my entire life. I always hear stories about people discovering untapped strength when they do endurance events and learning about themselves. This has never happened to me. Until yesterday, my best race ever was the 2006 CIM marathon because I ran a whole marathon for the first time ever and beat my dream goal of sub 3 hours 30 minutes. But this race went like a dream. I trained really well, ran on a perfect course, got great weather and never was in trouble physically.

This year I trained well but I just didn’t have it on race day and the weather was cold and damp. For the first six miles, I didn’t want to be running. 26 miles seemed very intimidating and I had no passion for what I was doing. Then I saw Rebecca cheering at mile 7 and for the first time all day, actually conceived of finishing. I saw her again at the half marathon point and got another charge.

However, once I hit mile 20, things started going downhill in a hurry. I started getting cold and the inevitable quad soreness and calf cramps began. I held it together mentally for awhile but at mile 22, I walked for 20 seconds and assumed I would do yet another 5 mile death walk, and
the attendant tales of woe. I started to play the “run a minute walk 10 second” game which never works. Except that I ran for a few minutes and started to get pissed, thinking why the hell should cramps defeat me? I was staring a mental test in the face and finally realized that this is what a marathon is about. It’s not about training so well that you avoid the wall. It’s about what happens to you when you hit the wall. All of a sudden I felt the best I had all day. The cramps and fatigue didn’t disappear. I still felt like crap, but it didn’t matter. I was in the moment and it was not going to defeat me yet again. I didn’t finish strong but I did finish proud and pumped. It was the breakthrough I have always wanted. The 3 hours 33 minutes and 24 seconds I raced were transformative.

So there is no post race retirement. I am in. Bring on the last four miles of NYC in Central Park, or the Ironman. Because my mind is finally catching up with my body.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Can lightning strike twice?

About a week to go before my next marathon and I am not exactly sure what is going happening next Sunday. When I did the California International Marathon two years ago, I was totally ready for it on pretty much every level. I was in great shape, had done all the long runs, escaped injury and sickness, and was super motivated to finally break 3.30 minutes. And I did it. It was probably the best race of my life.

This year things have gone good and bad.

+/- I haven't had any really injuries in the past year and I have avoided bad colds. In fact,, I haven't missed a work out in over 300 days, which could be actually really stupid. Since my mental well being depends on a daily workout, I don't ever get the critical rest I need to build up and improve, and also don't do super hard workouts since I am never fresh enough to do them. But I am willing to sacrifice this to maintain my sanity.

- I didn't quite do as many long runs as I wanted; my three longest ones were 18.2, 16.3 and 15.8. Two weeks ago I wanted to do 18 but cramped at around 16 miles.I am rationalizing this by blaming it on a very warm that day. Of course at the end of the 18.2 miler I did do I was cramping big time and it was a perfect running weather. The last two days I did a 12 and 10 mile run and I managed to hold it together. So I have some hope.

- I am about 10 pounds heavier for this race than I was two years ago. This is primarily due to my creatine addiction, which I have taken every day for the last 19 months. This extra 6-7% body weight is not going to do me any good in the race and might be the source of my recent cramping due to the extra pounding. I am going to try and keep off the creatine for the next week in the hope that I can drop a few pounds.

+ Mentally I am excited to do the race. It is a completely flat if even a little bit downhill race but I have no illusions that it will be easy. However, I am going to enjoy the race no matter what and will not be crushed if I don't run another 3.27.40. It's not even a goal.

The goals:

1) Run the whole race
2) Break 3.37
3) Break 3.30.

After this it's on to training for more marathons, the Death Ride, 508 and CrossFit.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Political Science 2008

I don't consider myself to be a political junkie even though I am Union College, Class of 86, political science major. I like to stay engaged in the process and issues, principally by reading the four horseman (Kristoff, Krugman, Friedman and Dowd) but the minutia of policy debate doesn't charge me up. However, five days into the early days of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid mandate, and I am finding myself glued to every new posting on Caucus and any word that comes out of my new messiah, Rahm Emanuel's mouth.

I was extremely happy when Bill Clinton became president in 1992. It followed a period in which Republicans had been President for 20 out of 24 years; basically my entire consious life. But the victory was not as clean or pure as this one seems. Clinton was a flawed candidate and he did not come into office with the kind of mandate to govern that Obama has. Also, while we were in a recession then as we are now, it did not seem like we needed a seismic change in the way we govern both domestically and internationally. Don't get me wrong; I think the Clinton presidency was a success. No matter how much credit you assign to him, the fact was his presidency occured during a eight year run of economic growth and peace.

Obama is and has the potential to be the transendent president that we need and it is not about race. That's why I was slightly offended when McCain's first words in his concession speech was recognition of the pride the African American community was feeling. This election means a lot to people many for lots of different reasons. People see in Obama what they hope government can be, what a moral, intelligent and interested president can be, not an African American politician. Certainly his race amplifies the enormity and meaning of this election, but as a white male in San Francisco, Obama's election gives me as much hope for this country as an African American in Mississippi (even if it is a red state).

Now I better be able to get CBS on my cable-less TV so I can catch 60 minutes tonight.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Iron Gym

Success! After years of thinking about getting a pullup bar, I got the Iron Gym, put it together in 20 minutes and it works. This is a monumental moment, less because I can now add pullups to my exercise rut but because I have been rightly accused of commiting to things and not following through. Of course buying a pullup bar does not not constitute a paradigm shift in my habits but it is a small step.

I was listening to an interview with Lance in which he said that one of the things he loves about biking is that he gets to sit and think for hours without having to speak to anyone. I am more used to running and thinking, then biking and thinking and I think they are two different beasts. Although I am in pretty good shape, it is really rare that I actually feel good when I am running. There is always a certain level of discomfort going on, and it is hard for my mind to drift or to have seriously constructive thoughts such as short and long term planning. Of course, calculating how far I've gone in tenths of a mile, and running the same exact course whenever I run doesn't exactly get the creative juices flowing. On the bike, there is more time for reflection, given that there are times when you aren't pushing it as hard on flats or downhills. Plus the miles go by faster and it is hard to keep looking at your watch, so your mind is more susceptible to wandering. Since I plan to bike a lot more in 2009 (60-100 mile rides will hopefully be commonplace), I'll have more time to test this theory.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Signs of A Successful Run

As I contemplate this weekend's 18-19 mile run, it is sits there as an ugly challenge that I know will make me suffer but will hopefully be rewarding when I finish. 10 signs that I look for to judge that it is rewarding are:

1) I don't spend the entire run praying for it to be over and actually enjoy some moments of being outdoors and able to run

2) My body survives without cramping and breaking

3) I don't yell or give the death stare to a motorist who blows through a green light and forces me to wait 12 seconds due to stupid pedestrian laws

4) I finish slightly faster than some arbitrary time goal I set prior to the run - too slow and I have finally entered my physical decline, too fast and I am worried I peaked too soon

5) I am actually able to enjoy food after the run, the whole point of doing it

6) Some company drives by me when I am running and throws sponsorship money at me

7) I finish motivated enough to commit to some new crazy challenge like Ironman Canada, The Furnace 508 or The Death Ride.

8) I don't kill the rest of the day post run by mathematically analyzing the run for seven hours.

9) Dave and Emily don't kill me for once again blowing off another CrossFit workout

10) It brings me thatmuchcloser to qualifying for Boston

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Live from Kingston

On the plane to New York last night, there were several people obviously traveling to do the New York City Marathon (either talking really loudly about it or wearing subtle shirts from previous marathons). When I didn't get in through the lottery this year I convinced myself that I didn't care, that I have already done the race twice and had painful if memorable experiences. But listening to them talk and seeing all the traffic signs warning of delays and road closures on Sunday for the race has me bitter and envious. I am going to have to pound the treadmill on Saturday and Sunday to try and deal with my angst.

I hit the scales at 178 pounds this morning which is around what I have been for the last year, a result of taking creatine for the last 20 months. Without creatine, I am around 170 pounds when I run 30-35 miles a week and lift three times a week . And a little bit faster. And a little weaker.

Given that I am trying to do well in marathons and triathlons, this extra weight is not doing me any good other than helping my sensitive ego. The creatine addiction all stems from seeing a photo from a half marathon in February 2006 in which I looked emaciated and old. I started on creatine in the hopes of gaining 5-10 pounds and filling some of the gaunt lines on my face. Presto it worked. I have considered going off the powder but visions of getting weaker dance in my mind so I stay on it.

Sam is 12 and has just about hit the stage where he doesn't want to hang out with his dad on weekends. I am OK with that; it's awesome that he has lots of friends who love spending time with him. But that leaves me sitting in the Kingston Holiday Inn (the Velodome section to be sure) waiting to pick him up from his night on the town. I should use this time to write a novel or pick a cause to support. Or watch a boring Celtics-Bulls game.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

6 Weeks Out

Six weeks out from the marathon and I am feeling pretty good about where I am.

Other than feeling like I look like a methadone addict thanks to Dave, I survived today's 18 mile run relatively injury free and did it at around 7.52/mile pace . The last four miles I was fighting cramps in my calves (which is akin to the feeling amputee victims feel when they have an itch on the limb that was removed, given that I have no calves) and hamstrings, particularly on the downhills. The bright side is I was looking forward to uphills at the end as it stretched out my legs. Now if I could just use that approach to make me like eating vegetables instead of french fries. Maybe a Clockwork Orange brainwashing would work.

In the last month, I have done 12, 14, 16.3 and 18.2 mile runs and have thus far avoided (knock on wood, spit on index finger) the usual quad injury and bad cold. A couple more 16-19 mile runs and I should be ready for sub 3.30 although I am still curious as to what the affect of my creatine-enduced weight increase from 170 in December 2006 to 177-180 will have on my time and experience. A 5% increase, even if it is from an emaciated base, has to do something.

While training for my last marathon, New York 2007, I was not particularly inspired or motivated. I had caught my Moby Dick the year before, breaking 3.30, and I had already done New York in 2006. I was excited to do the race with my Dad but getting accepted to the race and avoiding a crippling injury while training had been all I needed to do that. I trained almost enough to do well but didn't have that spark to go beyond 16 miles. And it showed when I crawled home the last 4 miles. This year, despite or maybe because I am going through some emotional, relationship-type issues, I have been super inspired to train for this race because it does matter to me. It is probably not super healthy to bury my emotional issues, many of which I create, in a long run or heavy bench press, but I do it. Endurance sports are part of me that can't be taken away. It's my religion.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Crossfit endurance

According to Dave, my organizational guru and a budding disciple of the Crossfit religion, endurance sports produce oxidative stress, which can have an incredibly bad impact on the body. This is causing me some concern as I plan my 18 mile run tomorrow in preparation for the December 7 marathon.

Scientifically stated, oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and a biological system's ability to readily detoxify the reactive intermediates or easily repair the resulting damage. The main thrust; 50-year old marathoners and Ironpeople look very old and wasted (or meth addicts according to this video) because they have spent 20+ years poisoning themselves with reactive oxygen and can't repair the resulting damage.

The solution according to some is a Crossfit approach to exercise. Rather than going long and slow for 1+ hours or more, Crossfit is quick, explosive and hard workouts such as doing 100 pullups, 100 pushups and 100 situps as fast as you can. There are even workouts tailored just for endurance athletes. I haven't read everything yet to be informed but I think the claim is on no more than 60 minute training runs, a Crossfit God completed a 50 mile run by focusing on the explosive workouts.

I consider myself somewhere in the middle between Crossfit and 100 mile/week running fanatics since I alternate lifting one day and running the next. However, Dave and other Crossfitters claim a focused Crossfit program is way beyond normal workouts. After I finish the marathon, it might be time for me to end the 25 year exercise rut.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stop Coasting

I don't want to be a coaster. On paper, I don't look like one. I have a good job, I work out every day, I am a responsible father but I don't push myself. For example, my goal with exercise was to get to a point where I could do a respectable workout without killing myself. I lift generally the same amount of weight that I did 10 years ago and run the same eight mile route at the same pace. This isn't disgraceful but it certainly isn't something I want on my tombstone.

I need to get out of my comfort zone, in endurance sports, work and relationships. I am generally a happy person but there could be more if I pushed myself. If I ask myself what have I done recently that am I really proud, answers don't come flying off the page.

So I need to set goals, big ones. I'll start with endurance sports which seems like the easiest list to craft. By the end of 2009 I want to:

  1. Sign up and do the Death Ride, a 100+ mile bike ride in Tahoe
  2. Be more flexible - stretch twice a day - come within the same area code as my toes
  3. Get sponsored by someone
  4. Run three marathons AND qualify for Boston in 2010 - this means sub 3.20
  5. Sign up for a 2010 Ironman where I will break 12 hours
  6. Join Masters swim program and stop drowning
It starts today.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I signed up

After a 12 mile run on Saturday and 7.5 miles on Sunday, I felt either confident or stupid enough to sign up for the California International Marathon on December 7. I did this race in 2006 and its was the only marathon I really consider to be a success. I have about 9 weeks to get ready for this race. I define ready as as

1) At least three long runs over 16 miles with a long of 19-20 miles. In 2006, my three long runs were 16, 17.2 and 18.7.

2) Avoid injury and colds. In 2006 I never got injured and never got sick, which is why my training was so consistent. I have been feeling great the last few months; my right quad is a little sore after this weekend but nothing too scary.

3) Get in the zen state of mind. In 2006, I was driving to the race and listening to an interview with Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman winner. I love his philosophy of staying in the moment, that no matter how bad you feel in one moment, that can quickly change and if you just ride it out you will make it to the finish. His new book come comes out December 1 which will give me 6 days to get into the Zen.

4) Nailing my race goals which are: a) finish; b) run the entire race; c) break 3:30; d) break 3.27.40.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama Shows Game

I think we just had the first seminal event in the presidential election. Today McCain recommended postponing the first debate so he, of infinite wisdom, could rush to DC and save the economy. I guess his eight years of pushing government deregulation of the financial sector wasn’t working well. My first reaction was Obama had no choice but to agree or else he would come across as a crass politician. He blew of my advice and said no way John Boy, we are debating; if you can’t multitask it’s not my problem. He showed conviction and leadership, not backing down to an idle threat. This is the man to solve our economic crisis and global image problem. Because he showed spine.

This morning I was interviewing a 20 something person for a mid level position in PR (who actually had no experience in PR). He wasn’t the worst candidate I have ever interviewed but he shared a common trait with 90% of them. Zero questions. Nothing. I even prompted him several times. What are you looking for in an agency? Where do you want to be in two years? Even the
lob of all lobs; do you have any questions? Nothing besides the usual “I read your web site and it all makes sense.” Nothing sells like curiosity, whether you want a job or want to be my friend. Even if he, after looking at my frightening number of Lance pictures had said “so you like Lance” I would have been impressed.

I really have never had any competitors in running or triathlons. I am mostly competing against laziness or against the clock. But these inanimate goals, while they do provide motivation, don’t provide the primal emotional spur that a living, breathing human does. Problem is I don’t really know anyone who is close to my level since for some reason I am not friends with any serious endurance athletes. Not that I am serious but most of the people I know who run or tri have an actual life so don’t take train as much as me. Which is why I am friends with them. If I met someone like me they would bore me to death. So I need to identify people who I can compete against who have no idea I exist or that we are in competition. Like the boyfriend of a coworker. We are both running the California International Marathon and according to have similar half marathon times. Dude is going down. Even if he doesn’t know or care.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


For some reason I have issues with meetings involving groups of people organized around a common theme. It can be religion, work, hobbies (e.g., triathlon clubs), politics but they make me feel squirmy like someone is touching my nipples. I don’t know if it’s the case of not wanting to join a club that would have me as a member but I get uncomfortable. Small groups don’t cause this feeling. This probably isn’t rational and is topic 421 to explore when my head is shrunk and my body is sprawled vertical.

The buzz of semi-committing to the California International Marathon is still there; I haven’t officially signed up for it but the intention to has already given my training a little psychological boost. Of course, I am still on the same basic workout schedule – 8 miles/day, four days a week, lifting three days a week but I feel like there is more of a purpose then veins on the bicep. Still, running and lifting do get monotonous, unlike when I was training for a triathlon and I was balancing two other activities. But the conundrum is I really didn’t enjoy the triathlon race experience, other than the finishing part. The benefit of being in super shape and glowing is more a by product of the training experience. The race itself to me is a bunch of jangly nerve endings and logistical complexities. So. After the December marathon, I am going to start training for a triathlon without actually intending to do one. Maybe the joy of training with a variety of gear will make me forget the pain of racing. So I can once again be on the starting line of a half or full Ironman or and have two thoughts in my head – “what the hell am I doing here” and “will I be a pussy if I go home now.”

So the launch of the Gphone/G1 did nothing to solve my cell phone indecision. From the first reports it looks like it has the same it factor as the iPhone, but isn’t both a work and leisure tool. As of now, it has no connectivity into corporate email systems so it’s useless to me. More and more it’s looking like Blackberry is the way to go. I’ll think about it for another 10 months.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today a client told a co-worker that I seemed “Lance Armstrongesque.” While I am overjoyed at his understanding of my Christ-like state, I can’t decide if this observation is because I too seem driven to cure the world of a major affliction while banging celebrities and participating or winning major endurance events or because he snuck into my office and saw my ridiculous homage to Lance (plus throw in my “I don’t know anyone with cancer but I worship Lance” Live Strong band).

You are not supposed to worry or focus on the small stuff because it is a waste of time. But then where are you supposed to get your satisfaction from accomplishing things because most of life is the small stuff. Every day my to do list contains about 15 things, of which about 14 are small, piddly things. But I get just as much satisfaction out of of checking the box next to “take creatine” or “read Friedman” as I do out of “figure out your reason for living.” And I still have yet to check that last one off.

After 45 minutes, most business meetings degenerate into who can repeat the same thought over and over again while maintaining at least an ounce of originality. There are some meetings that need to go over 45, but most become a contest in posturing and pontification. In a grad school class on American Politics, we all had to give oral presentations. Most of the people went on for about 35-40 minutes. I was one of the last ones to go and I made it through about 12 minutes and I was done. I felt like I had blown the assignment because I had not gone into enough detail, but the other students seemed relieved and thought I did a great job by keeping it brief. But they could or would not do the same.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Conversations with Dog

The weekend’s plan was to run 10 miles on Saturday and Sunday to prove to myself that I had it physically and mentally to train for the California International Marathon in early December. I made it through the first 10 but today cut it down to 7. Does this mean I am a failure, that I don’t have the right stuff? Call it a ridiculous rationalization but I think I am still good to go. First, I have a golden rule that I choose to ignore when I feel super motivated after reading an article about Lance, or I feel bloated or when I read an entry by some random blogger I follow on their latest amazing workout or race. I get all steamed and say lets do some big volume of training, like 10 and 10. My golden rule is don’t run more than eight miles more than once any week. The golden rule is both to prevent injury, which I am susceptible to when I train for marathons, and burn out (I was fried after the Saturday 10). So I obeyed by brain but not my ego. But ego will be back in force this weekend when I try to do 12.

An expression I am getting completely tired of is “in the spirit of bipartisanship.” It is back in full force, Obama being the offender, as in “I will examine Paulson’s plan in the spirit of bipartisanship.” Does this mean he is doing it to appear bipartisan, that he is considering each side which he normally doesn’t do or that he is doing it because it is the smart thing to do? Obeying the spirit of the law doesn’t necessarily mean you are obeying it. Spirit of anything is up there with expressions like “no offense (you are about to be offensive), “I am too busy to do it,” (you have no interest in doing it) or “let’s get together again soon” (let’s stick to seeing each other every 15 months).

I spent yesterday with Murphy, a coworker’s cocker spaniel. He is an awesome dog but he doesn’t talk. I have never really spent time alone with a dog. I had a cat growing up and they are not particularly social animals. They check in every now and then but don’t really invite conversations. Dogs are social; they are constantly in your face, demanding your attention. It was just Murph and I alone for about three hours and I found myself uncomfortable with the silence between us. At first I tried to make conversation but I got sick of the stone cold silence that followed my questions. I know dogs don’t talk but if you are going to be so social and love attention, you gotta give me something.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cableless/clueless and Twitter Friends

In order to sign up for the California International Marathon, I gave myself a test. This weekend i have to run 10 miles both on Saturday and Sunday. I run 8 miles a day, four days a week so it's not really a physical challenge to run 10 miles, although today's 10 miler was tough. I get stuck on the mental issues of 10 miles - the fact that it's greater than an hour, more than a step beyond my usual run and in the double digits. But endurance sports are all about callousing the mind into slowly expanding its criteria for what constitutes long. I used to consider four miles a normal run, where now six is short. Hopefully I won't be whining to myself the entire run tomorrow like today.

I shut off cable about six months ago and they shut me off four months after that. So I am without sports, reality TV and Friends reruns. It's not that big a deal since I prefer reading about sports events and looking at the stats compared to watching them. If I care about one of the teams playing in the contest, I get to nervous to watch and if I don't have a rooting interest I am too bored. And it is not that big a sacrifice to give up the Hills. So I have been surviving by watching The Wire on Netflix and The Office on Hulu (thanks to Colin Northway). I am not sure if this lack of cable is making me smarter but it is certainly making me cheaper.

Update on the Twitter phenomena - I was at @eggontop's party (name is Elena but I am using her Twitter handle for effect) and there were three other people who I track on Twitter (and visa versa) at the party. I know things about these people through their updates that I would normally only know about close friends yet this knowledge didn't produce any meaningful conversations other than about MC Hammer. And it is weird to even bring up the Twitters to them. It's like saying I saw you naked in the bathroom and didn't know you have a hairy back. But I'll keep following them, just not necessarily talking to them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Google Phone and Honesty in Business

I have been paralyzed by indecision on whether or not to buy another cell phone. The issues, beyond my own need to validate myself through a cool phone? The iPhone is cool, has loads of interesting if meaningless applications (other than Avego) and brands you techno-hip, but I hate the touchscreen keyboard and it doesn’t work well for corporate email/calendaring. The Blackberry has none of the Apple buzz but is much more practical AND has brickbreaker. Sprint Instinct is a Sprint phone. Nuf said. My Treo 650 still works well but the whole industry and public is basically shunning it and Palm. Do I want to be in the coalition of the shunned? And finally the upcoming HTC Dream AKA Google phone, which will be announced on Tuesday. I said I would wait until the Gphone came out before buying a new phone so the waiting may be about to end.

I am not sure if honesty is always the best policy in business. I went to lunch today with a former client who is with a new company. I thought it would be a good new business opportunity. I water and dine him over Pad See Yew with chicken, tell a few intelligent and funny stories and presto, I have a new client. Except he started the conversation with how much he hates his job and his company. From there, I could not smoothly ask him if a blog strategy would change anything. And when he asked me how I was doing at work, I went with the generic, unthinking "things are good" response almost by rote. That kind of killed the conversation since I didn't meet his honesty with an equal peak behind the curtains. So we bitched about California public schools and called it a day.

Tonight’s podcast is going to be on the financial meltdown, instant replay is killing sports, and celebrity blogging. I have to somehow figure out how to drive our listener base beyond 30 people. I admit, this is 30 more people than I would expect to listen to my uninformed opinions but I have done the Facebook group thing, the mass email, the blog banner (see above). Maybe having more friends would help.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alcohol and sponsorship

The reasons for my passion for Lance are many. Other than his ridiculous fitness level, drive and passion for endurance sports, the primary reason for my adulation is his simplification of decisions into right or wrong, black or white, on or off, one or zero. He doesn’t spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions, or reflecting backwards on ones that go wrong. Sure, introspection can be important but there is more time wasted doing that than intelligence gained. I want that, I need that, the clarity of the pure decision. In my work experience the VP, marketing and CEOs I admire aren’t the ones who make smart decisions, it's the one who make and fast ones. Fire, aim, ready.

I will get sponsored. Whether it is Zappos, Sports Basement Schwartz Communications, or Baker Breakfast Cookies in the next six months someone is going to pay me, in cash, goods or services for the chance to associate their brand with my fanatic addiction to endurance sports. My value has to be in my commitment rather than my performance since I don’t really have the results or the game. I am kind of like the Sarah Palin of marathons and triathlons. Like Palin, I am not the best at what I do but I appeal to the average Joe who wants to see themselves in me. I might not be able to win the New York Marathon but with a little luck and hard work I could finish 5,256th. Don’t admire the A game, go with the C+.

I have almost reached my end point with alcohol. I was never a committed drinker. In high school, college and into my mid 20s, I could hang for one weekend party of many beers or mixed drinks but would limp my way through the next night with no second wind. Then I started becoming a lightweight once I had kids. Sleep was hard to come by with screaming babies so the sleep better be sober and pure. Divorce followed and the drinker in me was reborn for a couple of years. But once my endurance addiction took hold, even the slightest hangover was a huge bummer. Last night two glasses of wine turned me into a whiny bitch (read in the voice of Omar of The Wire) this morning. I don’t like the pain of the next morning at all. It’s worse then my friends yelling at me for being no fun.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Personal growth and PR Parties

Rebecca was commenting yesterday that my blog entries from 2005 are almost exactly the same as from this week. Does that make me a consistent person true to my beliefs and passions or a boring person who is not evolving on any level? Also, should the events, if there are any, that are contributing to my evolution, be documented and easy to detect on my psyche through a few random paragraphs every few months? OK, so a big event yesterday was deciding to do the California International Marathon with December 7 with Duanne. When Jesus saved another soul, did everyone get bored and say not again, go work on your carpenter skills for Pharaoh's sake?

I have one of my two weekly conversations with Ben today who is in school in Bend, OR. It is amazing speaking with him because nine months ago he would not even talk to me, and now we have these open and honest (although short) conversations about anything. It is also slightly nerve wracking in that I am trying to cram substantive bits into the discussion but also want to keep it light, all within a seven and 15 minute time limit. He definitely gets it and he ends up sounding like the adult most of the time.

I am going to a party tonight at Emily and Kathleen's new office. They opened their own PR agency about a year ago and are showing off their new crib. The invite list is hilarious; former coworkers who all work at semi competitive agencies. Kind of like Obama winning and inviting all the key members of the McCain campaign. Although I don't think anyone takes high tech PR as seriously as Karl Rove. I am trying to get approval from Emily to Twitter live from the party on the fascinating discussions on open source and cloud computing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random Bits

Colin Northway is pissing me off. He is the faceless stranger who lives within 60 feet of me who has generously, without knowledge,been providing me with free WiFi for the last year or so. I think he found out and I have now been bounced off his network. Maybe he objected to the amount of times I was accessing for the latest Lance update or searching in vain for more friends on Facebook in order to catch Tbex. I think I need to actually contact him to try and share the cost of his service. But that would require talking to a neighbor. Unprecedented.

Don’t ever try and wear a Dri Fit shirt that you use for running on a plane. You will be shunned. For the first time ever, I underpacked this weekend and ended up with no clean shirts for my plane ride home, other than a running shirt that I had “washed” in the shower. Thinking that it would be OK to wear, I wore it for the 3 hour drive to JFK and didn’t think there were any problems (It’s not necessarily a good thing to be used to your own odor) until the pregnant woman sitting next to me in aisle 11 on the Virgin America flight practically started gagging. And my friend Dave barely acknowledged me when we surprisingly discovered we were on the same plane. So I did a subtle change into a sweater and pregnant lady stopped gagging and merely glared at me for the rest of the trip. She didn't like the hot bodies on Entourage.

The comeback of Lance has motivated me to reengage in endurance sport events rather than just aimlessly run 8 miles a day, four days \ a week. It probably won’t be anything new; I’ll go back to running a marathon or Ironman with more ambitious goals. But I also need a mission that has nothing to do with running or lifting, like Lance’s cancer mission. And I don’t have a
clue. It has to motivate me and inspire me, rather than be a checklist item like volunteering for some cause, done.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Losing the Fitness Edge

I spent the weekend with Sam playing a lot of football, which constitutes the two of us throwing the ball back and forth to each other, occasionally running pass routes to make it more realistic. We also went to the track and timed each other running 40 yard dashes, the typical distance for football players. This reinforced that I my lack of speed has only gotten worse as I have gotten older, and sprinting is hard. I ran 6-8 miles all three days at my usual 7:15 to 7:45 per mile pace this weekend with little problem, but sprinting 40 yards is a wrenching painful process. Should I fight this example of aging?

I can still run distances over three miles as fast as ever and I am lifting more (albeit with the help of Creatine) than ever so I am not I total physical decline. However, my 12 and 14 year-old sons are definitely starting to surpass me in activities requiring constant explosive action such
as jumping (basketball) and stopping and starting (football, tag, basketball). I have no fear of losing to them, especially if I am trying my hardest, but given that my physical prowess is so important to me, I have a big fear of watching the inevitable decline spread across other activities as measured by my regular eight-mile run and bench press number

To prolong this from happening, I should shake things up and stop doing the same thing every workout, which I have been doing for over 10 years. It doesn’t need to be radical change. One speed and agility workout a day, stretch every day, should do it. But am I prepared to get out of my workout rut? My goal was always to get to a place where I was doing a hard workout everyday but it had gotten to the point of repetition, that I was physically able to do it relatively easily and mentally it was rote like brushing my teeth. I am at that point but rote is not going to cut it if I want to hang with Sam and Ben in one-on-one basketball much longer.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Social networking

To continue a rant from the latest podcast; I don’t know what to think of social networks and their affect on my social life. I like being around people and having friends, but I lose momentum once the interactions become less frequent. In high school and college, it was easy to maintain friendships. You saw your friends everyday and you could engage in my favorite topics of discussion; the everyday minutia of life. After college when we moved to different cities, the everyday discussion ended and it became weekly or monthly conversations where the discussions was either a summary of the minutia (less compelling), big events (less interesting) or dead air. And I don’t like talking on the phone.

So the result has been friendships that have stalled or died all together. And this includes some of my closest friends. It’s sad but seemed inevitable. Enter social networks. The beauty of Facebook is two fold. First, with everyone joining and the network effect kicking in, you can find people from high school who you haven’t talked to in years. One click and they are in your group. Second, you can quickly, after the initial, “summarize my life in the last 25 years” email, start sending quick snippets every couple of days that provide random updates on the minutia of your life. This can also be done with Facebook status updates or using Twitter. For example, Elena just lost her job and got engaged on the same day and let everyone know using Facebook. Some might call this impersonal but boom, in 15 seconds she let everyone know what was going on in her life.

With my fear of the phone, Facebook et al seem like the solution for being a social guy. But there are drawbacks. I have been accused of keeping things on the surface. It is relatively easy to get to know me on a basic level but becoming close to me is hard. I put up walls around me which prevent real friendships from forming. Does Facebook, which as a medium keeps things surface, perpetuate this even further. Does connecting with 345 people at once equal having in depth conversations with six. Quality over quantity?

Monday, May 19, 2008

End of an Era

I just bought tickets for a Yankees-A's game on July 20 at the Stadium in what could be the last time I go to Mecca. I think it is a joke that they are building a new Yankee Stadium. While I am one of those people who think sports have changed for the worst (e.g., tennis was a much better sport to watch when they used wooden rackets, college and pro basketball are both suffering from one and done athletes, massive celebrating from an eight yard screen pass is a joke), I think building a new Yankee Stadium is wrong for economic reasons.

Yankee Stadium, like Fenway and Wrigley, is an American temple, comparable to the Coliseum, Wimbledon Center Court or Alpe D'Huez. People who aren't even baseball fans go to the Stadium so they can say they were part of history . Aura and mystique aren't strippers; they do exist at 161st Street in the Bronx. Once the Yankees move to their new crib, even though it is next door, the attraction that is the House that Ruth Built is gone. The House that Hank and Hal built is worthless as a memory.

I have probably been to about 15-20 games at Yankee Stadium
and they were all incredible. Highlights include:

July or August 1973 - My first Yankee game with my mom and sister. Felipe Alou and Bobby Murcer are the Yankee stars. They lose to the Red Sox but I don't have an ulcer as the meaning is lost on me. I get a free bat as we stumbled unknowingly onto bat day.

September 1976 - Chris Chambliss hits a three-run homer with the Yanks down 5-3 in the 9th and two out. My first insight into the rivalry and a premonition of Chambliss' pennant winning homer one month later.

September 1978 - In the middle of the greatest comeback of all time, my dad and I watch the Yankees and Catfish Hunter beat the Sox again on Thurman Munson's RBI to drive in Mickey Rivers. I now fully understand why it matters.

August 1980 - I catch my one and only foul ball, hit by Reggie Jackson, and my play is on tv to boot. 25 years later, Sam will loathe me when he learns that I lost the foul ball several years later.

May 2003 - One of the top moments of my life, my first Yankee game with Ben and Sam. Yankees lose but Jeter hits a home run, making the game one for the ages. Enrique Wilson, a Yankee back up infielder, blows the game with a late inning error. We will all hate him for the rest of his career. When we have a catch and either Sam, Ben or I drop a ball, we will forever refer to it as an Enrique.

2004 - I'm not at the game but Ben, Sam and Jessie are because Sam won a promotion at Dick's when he knew Ron Guidry (49) and Don Mattingly's (23) numbers. He is learning the important math skills.

June 2005 - Yankees finally win a game attended by me, Ben and Sam against the Mets. But we aren't there to see it, since we left in frustration in he 6th inning when the Yankees were losing.

June 2007 - The Yankees crush the Pirates, and Sam's hero, Arod, hits two home runs. We stay for the whole game, a first for me, Ben and Sam.

August 2007 - Sam and I sit in the right field bleachers (the high priest's seat at Mecca) and see eight Yankee homers, none of which is Arod's 500th.

I will definitely get misty (of course I do this for compelling long distance ads) when I walk out of the Stadium for the last time. I never thought I'd outlive it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Purpose of Exercise

I am currently wrestling with whether exercise should be more of a pursuit of overall fitness or of goals. These two are not mutually exclusive but they can sometimes run in opposition. For example, in my opinion, running 16 miles is not as good for you as running 6 miles. 16 overtaxes your muscles, harms your joints and there is diminishing return beyond 30 minutes of exercise to the cardiovascular system. I offer no scientific proof to this statement, just my own physical experience. On the other hand, if you are goal oriented and want to run a marathon at continuously faster times, you must run 16+ miles several times a month.

There are the other issues as well such as mental wellness. It is motivating and uplifting to successfully train for an endurance event. The training gives you a purpose in your life, gives your workouts more focus and tacking difficult assignments is good for the ego. On the other hand, it can be draining on a Friday night to know you have to run 18 miles or bike 60 miles or do both the next morning. Exercise can become a chore, not a religious ceremony.

And then there is vanity. To succeed in endurance events, you must be rail thin. Carrying excessive weight, whether it is muscle or fat, isn't good for half ironman times. But it is good for confidence (the muscle) and attracting the opposite sex. Again, no scientific studies to support this assertion.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ringo the Zen Master

Ringo, seems like he has it all together. He knows exactly what he wants in life - food, attention, sleep, faces and hands to lick, occasional walks so he can pee and dump (and occassionally combine the dump with snack of the same) and a consistent flow of dog butts to smell. And he goes after it without any apology or hesitation. There is none of the human genuflection and whining about what should be doing with my life, I am too busy, I owe to much money, I am not good looking enough.

It's not that Ringo gets everything that he wants. He hears "no Ringo" all day but it doesn't send him into a downward, whoa is me spiral of depression. He moves on to the next moment when he might hear yes. He doesn't base his current actions on past events, or worry about the future for which he has no control. All that matters to him is solving the present.

Screw Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins. Ringo is my zen master.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Online Persona

There are lots of options for creating your persona in the Internet age. The one I am going for is the fitness obsessed, witty geek. I am not sure if this is exactly who I am but that's what I want others to perceive.

The methods of delivering this message are:

The blog - Given the narrow focus of my posts, and the sporadic nature of them, there isn't a huge audience. This aint no white people blog yet. Considerations: do I open up with personal, private details about my life to build the persona?

Facebook/Linked In - I still don't get this phenomena yet. I played the game - add as many people to my friend list as possible - but it's kind of ended there. Other then Scrabulous.

Twitter (merrillfr) - I am loving this so far. It is the perfect solution for someone who gets bored at long conversations and would prefer exchanging one sentence quips. Of course a lot of people are not the best quippers - unless discussing how busy they are is considered riveting.

Podcast - My podcast is now approaching 100 downloads a week. Nothing Nielsen worthy yet but I think this means the audience is more then just friends. The personality hasn't really been injected in it yet; I haven't opened up myself Howard Stern style yet. And I don't know if that would even be interesting.

The challenge is now how to link all the techniques above to become famous. Because, in reality, that is the goal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ode to New Resource Bank

The beauty about exercise is that there is not really any downside to it. You look hot, you can eat as much as you want, it gives you confidence, it's a legitimate hobby, etc. The New Resource Bank is a similiar no brainer. I joined the bank about two months ago driven by two things.

First, the bank is dedicated to environmental issues, both in its operations (e.g., small global footprint, LEED certified headquarters) and in its decisions on the businesses with which it does business. This makes me feel good, that I am in small way making a difference.

Second, this focus on green issues is not at the expense of a customer-focused approach. While they are growing quickly, they treat each customer like they are important, as opposed to Wells Fargo's "I don't care about you, customer 1,222,444" approach. And get this. Even though they have much fewer assets than Wells, they charge no monthly fees AND reinburse any ATM fees incurred from competitor's machines.
They had me at hello.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm finally mobile

I have figured out how to use mobile blogger. Live scene from my power office.

Merrill and Sam

Merrill and Sam - January 2008 in Hunter, NY

Monday, February 18, 2008

What now?

Whenever I am in the middle of the all consuming training for an endurance event like a marathon or a triathlon, I can't wait for it to be over so I can return to more normal, singular daily workouts in which I can seek pure fitness and fun. And then the minute I finish the race and am working out without a specific goal, I start to feel aimless. This Catch 22 situation is compounded by three other factors.

1) It is really hard for me to peak for a specific race because I have an addictive and insecure personality. If I workout for less than 45 minutes, I feel anxious, bloated and lethargic. Miss one workout and I feel like my whole "endurance guy" persona is a fraud, my abs soft and my will to get up at 5:00 am damaged. With this baggage to deal with, I am not particularly good at tapering before a race or resting when sick or injured. I know this hurts my race performance but my psyche is willing to concede a few minutes for the emotional fix of the daily workout.

2) In the last year, I have learned that doing a race a second or third time, particularly if I did well the first time, is not fun. Vineman 2007 and the 2007 New York Marathon were nowhere near as fun as the first time I did them. I am not sure if I am bored of doing the same distances (half ironman, half marathon, marathon) as well or if I need to do completely new races. Whatever it is, there is currently no race out there that has me excited.

3) I am getting old and am probably about to start slowing down. I am not sure if it is the residual affects of the January flu, running in the winter morning or the December hamstring problem but my habitual 8 mile run has gotten slower by a minute or two. I will give it a month to see if I recover before panicking.

So I am searching for the next endurance fix.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Ben has now reached 14 and his gift to me is he doesn’t like me. I encroach on his freedom, his independence, his cool factor. The group message is that this is the normal rite of passage for a teenager but it is hard not to take it personally. To accept that the boy who I have watched grow from a tiny little baby is now permanently angry at me and there is nothing I can do to change this other than bribery and gifts. It is payback or the way I acted to my parents as a 14-21 year old but that doesn’t make it easier to take.

The counterweight to this is that Sam still likes being with me. We just spent an awesome weekend together snow boarding, discussing sports, going to his basketball game where he was awesome, watching movies and bonding. He even told me he loves me in response to my many similar proclamations. Of course part of me thinks that this can’t last, that his teenage years are coming and I’ll get shunned for a second time. But I am relishing the time while I got it.

I know that I can’t take it personally – that being a good father is not about being liked, it’s about respect and being a good role model. But it is hard not to let my emotions run rampant when one of the two most important people in the world doesn’t want to be with me and there is nothing I have done other than exist.

Of course I am compounding this by reading the uplifting book The Road.

Friday, February 08, 2008


In Kingston, NY Holiday Inn skimming free WiFi, waiting to go on client calls. Random thoughts.

  • The Shield is the best TV cop show ever, beating my previous passion, Hill Street Blues, by a mile. Mackey, the main character and dirty cop is even more lovable and hateable than Tony Soprano. I am going to shave my head and fatten up my neck in his honor.

  • I don't get Facebook. I thought I did, that it was a passive aggressive way to keep up with a few of your real friends, pretend to have some type of relationship with hundreds of others and engage in exciting activities like online scrabble. But after a few months of this ground breaking activity, it has ceased to be a buzz creator. Microsoft must be freaking over their investment. At least the value of Yahoo! makes sense.

  • The audience for the Hack and the Flack has almost doubled in the last two months. OK - that means it has gone from 22 to 44 faithful downloaders but the stats don't lie. I think its time to do some news breaking on it to really drive traffic. My attempt to tie Lance to the murder of Heath Ledger (Mary Kate Olsen was supposed to be the smoking gun in a vicious love triangle) didn't have the desired effect.

  • I am the ultimate front runner sports fan. No sooner did the Patriots lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl then I was writing them off as joyless cheaters. Brady still might be a great quarterback but his limping with flowers, yapping at Giselle's heels and his quiet, solo pondering on the bench took him out of the Jeter room of greatness. Jeter doesn't genuflect on the bench, he leaps to the top of the dugout to congratulate his teammates.

  • I can't make a decision on Hillary vs Barack. OK - I did make a decision and voted for Barack in the Calif primary after listening to Slate podcast comparing him to Bobby and John but he is not inspiring me with his constant not red, not blue but united cliche. Barack is supposedly the inspirer, Hillary the doer. Inspirers can win nominations but can they govern. West Virginia voters will decide on May 18 - can't wait for another three months of over analysis.

  • I am almost back to my normal level of endurance. From Thanksgiving to late January I suffered a hamstring pull and flu/bronchitis that had me miss two, count them two days of exercise. Somehow I survived this crisis without alientating Rebecca or my friends.