Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is why we fight.

I rode to work this morning with a friend, and we spent some time discussing a local conflict between area residents and dog owners accessing an off-leash park in the neighborhood. Apparently, tensions have been rising for a while, and the situation escalated when Animal Control and San Diego Police Department officers showed up and began strictly enforcing the posted rules.

I share this specific tale because it is a fantastic microcosmic example of so much that is wrong in this world right now. Let me explain, and keep in mind that I am speaking in generalities. Of course, there are always exceptions, but I am focused on the majority of folks in a given situation.

So, back to the Great Dog Park War of 2015.

In a nutshell, here is the background:

  • The dog park is zoned "off-leash," meaning dogs can be set free to run around.
  • Surprisingly, the dog park is not fully fenced, which means dogs can run beyond the off-leash area.
  • Depending on where people park, there is a significant distance to travel from the car to the area designated off-leash.
  • There are homes immediately adjacent to the dog park.

And the players. First, the home owners:

  • The "We Hate Them All' folks, who want the dog park closed, report every violation they observe, and actively seek to find conflict.
  • The "We Can Work Together" folks, who are generally okay with the dog park but are frustrated by dog owners who cause problems.

And the dog owners:
  1. The "Freedom For Dogs At All Costs!" folks, who refuse to follow the posted rules, allow their dogs to run free as soon as they leave the car, and don't care that (or clean up after) their dogs are damaging yards, plants, etc, in the neighborhood.
  2. The "We Can Work Together" folks, who obey the posted rules, watch over their dogs, and respect the neighbor and other dog owners at the park.
The majority of people are the "We Can Work Together" folks, and they are generally respectful of each other. The dog owners do their best to make sure their pets stay within the designated area, and the homeowners understand that even the best behaved dog might stray from time to time and make their way to a neighboring yard.

These people work things out when there is an issue.
"Sorry, my dog was chasing a bird and ran into your yard." 
"No problem, thanks for getting her back under control so quickly."

"Excuse me, would you please leash your dog until you get over to the off-leash area? My little girl plays in the yard here and she is not comfortable with unknown dogs running up to her."
"No problem. He gets excited when he sees little ones and thinks they all want to play. I'll make sure he is leashed when we get out of the car here."

It doesn't have to be a problem with these folks. They can talk to each other, explain their position, and work together to find a solution.

But there are exceptions. There are local residents who are determined to have their way and get rid of the dog park. They go out of their way to find something to criticize, even when owners are minding their animals and trying to keep them in the off-leash area.

And there are dog owners who are equally determined to behave any way they want. They let their dogs run free even outside of the designated areas and don't care that their animals are damaging yards or a threat to other animals and children around the park area.

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog post. In the Great Dog Park War of 1915, people are choosing sides. They are either with the home owners or they are with the dog owners. And that is the mistake they are making.

If we really want to resolve the problem, people need to choose different sides completely. They should align themselves as "those willing to work with the opposition" and "those unwilling to work with the opposition."

If the people trying to work with others all banded together, they would have so much power and influence that they could completely shut down the other people. They could focus their efforts on getting the extremists to comply, which eventually would lead to a better situation for all parties involved. Law enforcement could ticket dog owners who deliberately let their dogs run free outside the off-leash area but NOT ticket owners who are actively chasing down an unleashed dog who unexpectedly ran out of the designated area. And the city could tell the home owners demanding the park be shut down that it is there to stay, while listening to and addressing valid concerns of local residents.

In other words, both sides could respect those trying to work together, correct the problems caused by the extremists, and go about their business with everyone happy.

And that's the big point of this blog post, because this exact scenario is playing out all across the country in one hot-button issue after another.

In Baltimore, law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers aren't working together. Instead, they are listening to the extremists amongst them, acting as if every protestor is a criminal and every officer is corrupt. That approach leaves no common ground and creates an adversarial situation where people are either with you or against you and there is no shared solution.

Children are dying from preventable gun accidents in their homes. Gun owners and children's activists should be working together to develop training and safeguards to keep kids safe. Instead, they are listening to the extremists amongst them, demanding unrestricted gun ownership and the banning of guns respectively. Those two extremes leave no room for solutions that might actually help to prevent the death of another child.

Welfare. Abortion. Crime. Poverty. Choose the topic. It's all the same. Extremists on either side of an issue are driving the debate, disrupting any effort to find common ground and work towards a solution. This is why we fight.

And it's killing us. It's destroying our communities, our cities, and our nation.

My challenge to each of us is to ask yourself, "is what I am doing helping this situation or is it making it worse?"

Only you can answer for yourself. But only when enough of us work together against the true enemy will we begin to solve the challenges we face.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Revel Ready Challenge - Cardio

A few days ago I shared that I am starting my Revel Ready Challenge. Yesterday, I talked about the nutrition component. Today, it's Cardio.

First, I'll say this. I consider myself a runner. I have finished six full marathons, for pity sake. I've earned that title. But I'm also being honest with myself about my current fitness level. And that means I need to build myself back up to a healthy weight if I expect to run the distance and pace I was at a year ago.

I have a plan to log sixty miles over thirty days. That's combined, and it involves a few longer days and a few rest days. And I plan to run some of those miles and walk the rest. And I'm just fine with that.

For anyone reading along and feeling like, "I'm just a walker, so I can't lose weight," you are mistaken. Here's why:

See? Both of those numbers were calculated based on my age, height, and weight. I entered a four mile distance and one hour for walking and thirty minutes for running. (Since that is the time it would take to cover four miles at those two speeds.)

Yes, running burns more calories. But walking the same distance (over a longer time period) burns nearly as many. And walking definitely burns more calories than sitting on the couch, so there's that.

Anyway, I share all of that to explain that I am committing to the sixty miles but not sure yet how many of those I will run and how many I will walk. And I'm perfectly fine with that. When I'm out on the road and I feel like running, I will. And I may add some more miles, too. But the sixty WILL be done.

It's not a lot for a dedicated runner. But it's a good amount of miles to get me back on track. And that's the plan.

* Also, a late addition to the plan. Looks like I am now heading to Indianapolis this weekend to run the Indy Mini Marathon. It's a chance to reunite with last year's Sole Mates (along with additional family and friends). I'm not trained to run a half marathon right now, but I don't care. I'm going to get out there on the course, enjoy the time with my friends, and get those miles done if I have to crawl across the finish line.

Plan. Commit. Train. That's what I'm doing now.

The secret to looking thin.

Walk east to west in the early morning. The sun and the shadows will do all the work.

See? I look like a catwalk model. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Revel Ready Challenge - Nutrition Plan

Yesterday I shared the highlights of Captain Awesome's Revel Ready Challenge. Today, I'm going to share the details of my nutrition plan.

I start, though, with a disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. And I am not making recommendations for anyone. This plan is what I believe will work best for me over my thirty day challenge.

For breakfast during the week, I go with the easy meals. My calorie limit is 350, which is actually a lot if I make healthy choices. I can have oatmeal, fresh fruit, and coffee, and I'm still under my max calories.

On the weekends, when I have more time in the morning, I can be more creative and make a real meal. I whipped up a scramble with a couple of whole eggs, lots of eggs whites, bell pepper and red onions. It's a lot of food and totally filling.

After breakfast, I have 100 calories set aside for a morning snack. It's not a lot, but it's a chance for a little fresh fruit or veggies that can tide me over until lunch. I haven't been taking consistent advantage of these morning snacks, and I will need to do that to make sure I don't get too hungry and respond with a fast-food binge.

Speaking of lunch, I am opting for convenience over perfection here. I have allotted myself 400 calories, and I am choosing frozen meals over fresh food. Yes, I know that these tend to have elevated sodium levels, but that's a trade-off I am willing to accept in return for a quick and easy low-calories meal.

After lunch, I have another 100 calorie snack allowed in the afternoon. I haven't been eating anything then, either, usually opting for a Diet Coke, instead. And that means I am super hungry by dinner time, so that is something I need to remember. Eat your calories, John!

Dinner time means 550 calories, and that is plenty if I make healthy meal choices. It takes a bit of measuring and prepping, but I think it's worth it to make the time.

For the challenge, I am crediting myself with one point for each meal and then one more point for the day's total calories. I do that to make sure that I don't let one bad splurge take over a whole day. Just because I eat an extra 100 calories at lunch, I can offset it later and still be within my goal for the overall day.

Breakfast - 1 point
AM snack - 1 point
Lunch - 1 point
PM snack - 1 point
Dinner - 1 point
Daily total - 1 point

And lest I forget, I also earn a point by drinking sixty-four ounces of water each day. I hit that without even trying, since I drink water all day long. But hydrating makes a big difference in everything, so it's worth the point.

I will increase my daily calorie count after my 30 Day Challenge, because my increase training levels will require more fuel. But for this kick-start, I can get by on fewer calories.

Like I said, this eating plan isn't for everyone. It isn't even for me for long-term. But it's what I think is right for me for now.

And here we go!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Captain Awesome's Revel Ready Challenge

As I shared yesterday, I am facing my recent weight gain head-on and challenging myself to get back on track. I tend to do well when I create a plan, and this one is a monster!

No surprise here, but I am using a S.M.A.R.T. goal to increase my chances of success. That means the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

  • Specific: I will reach my goal weight of 170 pounds by following my nutrition and fitness plan.
  • Measurable: I will lose two pounds per week.
  • Achievable: I have what I need to reach this goal - the time, the resources, and the support.
  • Relevant: The weight I have gained is adversely affecting everything for me right now, so focusing on my health is the most important thing I can do right now.
  • Timebound: My next full marathon is Nov. 7th and I need to be in peak condition for that.

Over the next few days, I'll share all of the details. But in general, I have set up myself up with a daily challenge that covers nutrition, running, strength training, and accountability.

The first stage is my 30 Day Reset. Every single day, I'll earn points by staying within my calorie range, running a combined total of sixty miles, completing my weight training circuit, and blogging and posting updates.

It's a big challenge, and it would be very difficult to maintain this level of intensity for the long run. But as a kickstart to get me fired back up again, it's perfect.

Tomorrow, I'll outline my nutrition plan. It's the foundation of successful weight loss. But first, a little peek at the marathon I'll be running in November.

It's the Revel Canyon Los Angeles Marathon, and it may be one of the most beautiful courses of any marathon out there.  It's run through the Angeles National Forest, featuring a downhill slope and the unbelievable beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Beautiful, right? And the downhill slope over the majority of the course absolutely plays to my strength. Some people don't have the knees for downhill, but I love it. Dare I say it, I am going to chase a PR on this course.

I'm back, friends. Captain Awesome is back.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Move. Move. Move.

 It's 6:21 AM on Friday, and it is time for a little walk.

I need to remind myself that every workout doesn't even have to be a workout. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and walking a few miles is the best thing for me.

Time to move!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Worst Blog I've Ever Written.

Yep. No doubt, this is the worst blog I've ever written. Don't say I didn't warn you.

First, let's talk about what it is not:
  • It's not a "poor me" blog
  • It's not an "everything is someone else's fault" blog
  • It's not a "life is hopeless" blog
  • It's not a "feel bad about myself" blog
  • And it's not a "secretly wanting everyone to tell me how great I am" blog

And what it is:
  • It's where I come clean with myself, my friends, and anyone else who stumbles across this post
  • It's where I admit to myself the damage I've done
  • It's where I explain my struggles
  • And it's how I turn things around
Sounds like a lot, right? It is. It's good and bad and personal and it all needs to be said so I can get myself back on the right track. So let's get started.

I started my weight loss journey in June 2010. Soon after, it became about more than just dropping pounds, and my health and fitness pursuit truly began. Over nearly five years, I have lost and gained weight, taken on new challenges, and run multiple events of every distance from 5ks to marathons. More importantly, I've taken control of my life and improved everything about myself. 

I'm proud of my accomplishments. 

But I've also fallen into the trap of focusing more on what I have done and less on what I need to be doing right now. Sure, it's great that I've completed six full marathons. But the last time I ran 26.2 miles was October 2013. And I've run multiple relay races, but over the last year, my pace has slowed down considerably.

And my eating? It's terrible. I went from tracking my nutrition and enjoying occasional treats to defaulting to fast food every day for lunch. All those empty calories, and all because I've been too lazy and too unmotivated to take the time to prepare a healthy meal to bring to work.

Running and working out? No. Just, no. I can count on one hand the times I have been out running in the last two months. And strength training? Nope. None at all.

Obviously, all of this has taken its toll on my body. I have gained weight steadily over the last year or so, and now, I barely recognize me. I know it's obvious to anyone who has seen me in person, and it's to the point where it's impossible to hide in pictures.

Here I am a week ago in Nashville with my teammates.

Even without the neon orange shirt, you can't miss me. And you can't miss that I've put on a lot of weight.

How much? Here's the awful truth. I weighed in yesterday morning at nearly 230. Let that sink in for a moment. I am one of those people who loses a lot of weight and fails to keep it off. It sucks, but it's true.

At my lowest weight on this journey, I weighed 182 the morning of the Pasadena Marathon. And I ran that event feeling lean and strong.

I want that again. I will have that again. And it starts right here with all of this honesty.

I have a plan for the next 30 days. And that plan gets me ready for the six month marathon training plan I have queued up right behind it. (I'll share more about the 30 Day Challenge tomorrow.)

Tonight, when I click Publish, I will be sharing with everyone what I consider to be my failure. Some of you will understand and think, "that could be my story, too." Others of you might think, "yeah, it happens." And still others might say, "so much for Captain Awesome, this guy is just another failure."

I can't control what anyone else thinks. I CAN control what I think. And me, I think I am going to get back to the basics that helped me be successful the first time. I am going to be eat better, be active, and repeat consistently. I am also going to share these next several months candidly, since keeping secrets has never been a good thing for me to do.

I know what I need to do. And I know that sharing my setbacks will help hold me accountable for fighting back through them. 

Here we go, friends. Start the clock, because I have so many things I will accomplish in 2015 and not a whole lot of time in which to do it.

Ready? Go!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

52 Weeks of Art - Week 15 - "Crowd"

Inspired, sadly, by the steady drumbeat of negative news stories, I focused this week's writing challenge on the divide that continues to separate so many of us from our neighbors, friends, and families.

The Crowd

There is a crowd surrounding me
A group of folks that seem to be
Similar from what I see
But something isn’t right

Surrounded, I am standing here
Thinking of what we could share
But each moment makes it clear
These people live with fright

Surely they are flesh and bone
With the same limbs, features, and tone
But a closer look has shown
They’ve lost the gift of sight

I don’t mean they cannot see
I mean they see things fearfully
They act as if they all believe
Our purpose is to fight

First they choose to separate
Then lash out at those they hate
As if such things will make them great
And somehow give them might

And just like that, it’s all quite clear
They’ve given in to senseless fear
The darkness has descended here
And they’ve all lost their light

To save myself, I take my leave,
Their death of souls something I grieve
But in my heart I do believe
That love will still shine bright

For kindness is the better way
And love will surely save the day
And it’s this mantra that I pray

“Faith, carry me alight.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

52 Weeks of Art - Week 14 - "Cliff"

(This week, the writing challenge was "Cliff." The visual for this story came to me as I was somewhere between sleep and waking, and I knew immediately that it was what I wanted to write.)

Shouting Down The Cliff

Every morning, I saw him from my window. He walked past my house, to the end of the block, and he stared out at the canyon in front of him. He was only there a minute or two, but he never missed a day.

One day, after he passed, I stepped out on my own porch and watched him. And then I heard him. It was muffled, but he was yelling something. Had he done that every single day, I wondered?

Curiosity got the best of me, and that day, I stepped off of my porch and walked over to where he was standing.


He spun around quickly, a surprised look on his face. “Oh, hey. I didn’t know you were there.”

I apologized for disturbing him, but I had to know. What was he doing?

“This will probably sound crazy, I’m sure, but I come here each day to save my life.”

I didn’t understand at all, and he knew it from the confused look on my face.

“I’m not a very confident person,” he said. “I struggle every day with insecurity. And sometimes, it’s so bad that I feel like I can’t survive another day. So I come here, to this spot, and I think about throwing myself into the canyon below.”

“Oh, my god,” I said. I had no idea.

“No, it’s okay. I’m just being honest. And I’m fine. Obviously, I’ve never actually tried to kill myself, right?”

“I really don’t understand,” I said, unsure what to make of this man.

“It’s true, I often feel bad when I come here. But I don’t give in. Instead, I take all the negative words racing around in my head and I shout them down the canyon. I guess that’s what you might have heard.”

“It’s how I save my life, “ he continued. “I shout the most negative words, the worst things I can think about myself. And I imagine the words falling down into the canyon and crashing down onto the rocks below. The words die a tragic death, and I live to see another day.”

I didn’t bother him again during his morning walk, but in the weeks that followed, he began to stop on his way back. We never mentioned his canyon moments again, but we did strike up a friendship over morning coffee and light conversation.

And I think of him even today, long after I have moved away. I wonder if he is okay. I wonder if he is still shouting down a canyon. And I wonder, mostly, if he ever really felt at peace.