Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ready, set, "Wanna Race" . . . GO!

The consequences to my actions lay only a few days away. This seemed like such a great idea when I signed up 6 months ago. I knew it would motivate me to get in shape and lose weight and it did, but now it is here . . . an experience of pure torture called the Nashville Half Marathon and I’ll be running (uh, maybe jogging . . . uh, maybe) the entire 13.1 miles this Saturday. Just this week I received my confirmation email (I guess it took them this long to coordinate the proper medical personnel in order to let this fat guy run the race) with my corral assignment. I'll probably need to explain what a corral is, although, you can probably figure it out from the title. Because this particular event has so many registered runners (around 35,000 are expected this year . . . yes, I said 35,000 runners), logistically, you simply cannot have a mass start (although it would be funny to see 35,000 runners try and line up on "Ready, Set, Go!"). So the organizers have essentially created waves of 1,000 people at a time (these waves are separated by about 1-2 minutes, giving time for the runners to spread out a bit and allowing the course to not be too crowded. If you do the math, that means there will be approximately 35 waves. It sounds like a mess . . . and it is, except it is strangely an organized mess.
Some of you may be concerned, "But Matt, what about your course record-setting time? If you start later than others, don't they have an advantage?"
Thanks for your concern, but ultimately my record-setting time is safe no matter where I start. You see, a timer chip is placed in your shoe that triggers a clock when you cross the start line and again when you cross the finish line, so the timing is an accurate result of your run (there goes one excuse). Nonetheless, there is some strategy in corral position. The theory is, put the faster runners at the front and the slower runners at the back in order to prevent the speed demons from running over the tortoises. I, qualify as a tortoise, so theoretically, I should be at the back (corral #34 would probably be appropriate).
However, because I was looking forward to this event with so much anticipation, I signed up early . . . very early. So early in fact, I was one of the first 2000 people to sign up for the event. I can almost hear your minds figuring this out. Yes, this is where the theoretical system fails. If there are 1,000 people PER CORRAL and if you are one of the first 2,000 people to sign up, even if you are the slowest person of those 2,000 . . . your race position will be in corral #2. So here we go, this Saturday, in an event with about 35,000 runners, including Olympic hopefuls and World Record setters, I will be toeing the line in corral #2.
I will probably be shoulder to shoulder with some wiry, professional Kenyan marathoner. So I’ve decided on my strategy. I'll put my toe on the line (slightly in front of his) and slowly turn my face to lock eyes with this key competitor. We'll size each other up (this should take him significantly longer as there is much more of me to size up) and I'll give him that intimidating Clint Eastwood squint.
Then, for all the fat guys in the world who have never won a race, in a low, gravelly voice, I'll say, "Wanna race?” Before he laughs and before the gun goes off and I am exposed for the snail that I am, I will have that one shining moment of glory, I was winning a half marathon against a true professional . . . unfortunately, this is when they will say, “Ready, Set, GO!”

Monday, April 25, 2011

5 days and counting . . .

"So Matt, how is the training going?"  Common question now that most of my friends and family know that I am running the Half Marathon.

My typical response is, "Good, lost 25 pounds, running 25+ miles per week, feeling okay"

Then the next question comes, "You ready for Saturday?"  Saturday being this Saturday, Saturday, April 30th, only 5 days away.  This Saturday being the Nashville Half Marathon.  13.1 miles of pure torture and pain.

My typical response to this question is, "WHAT?!?!? It's this Saturday?!?!  How did that happen?!?!  I am totally not ready!"  Or something to that affect.

13.1 miles is a long ways.  To give me perspective, I did some quick math.  I drive (drive, not run) 6.7 miles to work, about half of what I'll run on Saturday.  When hearing this, a friend said to me, "Well, you should run to work in the morning and run home that night, that would be perfect training, why don't you do that?" 

And my calm response went something like this, "BECAUSE THAT IS OVER 13 MILES, WHO DOES THAT?!?!"  Well, this Saturday I am. 

In truth, the training has been good.  Other than a few small back problems, I have felt good and am looking forward to the event.  I have lost 25 pounds and can see the difference in the mirror.  Going to Nashville is always fun.  Nashville supports this race in an amazing way.  Over 35,000 participants and many more than 100,000 cheering you on, it is hard not to be motivated. 

Now I am in my taper down week.  All the Half Marathon traning sites say to dwindle your training time and mileage the week before the big run (how about dwindling down to NOTHING!).   Where I have been watching calories and saturated fats for the last 8 weeks, I can start to "carb. up", highlighted with a big pasta dinner the night before the race.  For one week I can say I need to exercise less and eat more . . . wouldn't that be an AWESOME New Year's Resolution?  Now the experts don't necessarily agree with this, but you can't do EVERYTHING the experts say, right?  Nonetheless, I am very excited about this event and plan on doing a couple more posts this week to give you final updates and preparations for the big race.

You know me, I'd be remiss if I didn't hit you up one last time, so, here we go, if you can find some pocket change to support me, please go to and give whatever you can afford.  It all goes to a great cause, the People for Care and Learning - the Run for Hope (which I'll need A LOT of to make it the full 13.1 miles).  They serve children and families all over the world with a focus in SE Asia.  Visit for more information.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Learning (and teaching) how to ride a bike!

One of my most favorite childhood pastimes is riding a bike. I have a difficult time pinpointing exactly why that is the case, but it seems to be a universal feeling as I hear the same type of reaction from most people I know. Maybe it’s the freedom and independence that it represents; maybe it’s the speed, maybe it’ the cool factor. Whatever the case, some of my fondest childhood memories were created on the bike.

I still remember my first bike, the Red Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat. I would put my baseball cards (doubles only, especially those of the hate Yankees) in the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. I remember practicing slamming on the brakes in an effort to leave skid marks on the driveway concrete (a pastime my mother was not quite as fond of). These are all memories that have become reasons I looked forward to teaching my son how to ride his bike.

My son has been pedaling around with training wheels for a while now, but just hasn’t worked up the balance to tackle riding without them. But when we moved to our new house over the winter, one of the lost treasures we found left behind in the barn by the former owners was a child’s bike (made to look like a motorized dirt bike). Now this bike was old, covered in dust, had two flat tires, the stylish flame stickers were peeling off, and it had a rusty old chain that looked like it hadn’t tasted oil in a decade, but my son immediately fell in love with it. We pulled it out into the light of day for what was probably the first time in years and dusted it off. My son immediately wanted to get on this rusty steed and give it a spin around the yard. I hesitated, but knew this was a golden opportunity.

Fortunately, our yard has a slight downhill pitch to it, perfect for someone trying to gain a little (but not too much) momentum on a bike, especially someone who is five years old and just learning how to ride. Unfortunately, this type of arrangement makes learning to ride a bike similar to sledding . . . ride down the hill, walk back up the hill, and repeat (over and over again). We went to the top of the hill and before my son got on the bike, he reminded me he needed a helmet. After getting his helmet properly positioned on his head, he got on the bike. At this moment, we were positioned in the traditional “dad teaching son how to ride bike” position. My son was tentatively holding on to the handlebars, both feet on the pedals, and I had my hand on the back of the seat. Mommy was properly positioned with the camera and little sister was cheering him on. After taking a second to breathe in this potential milestone, my son yelled what every boy his age would say, “Let’s do daddy!” So, off we went, me running behind him with one hand safely secured under his seat, huffing and puffing while yelling, “PEDAL, PEDAL!”

That is when I pulled the necessary trick every mom or dad who has taught their children to ride a bike had to pull . . . I let go. And just as expected, he slowly rode away with a smile on his face, enjoying the freedom, independence, speed, and cool factor this rickety, rundown bike gave him. Whatever the case, I had just passed along a great tradition and I was there to experience every stroke of the pedal running right by his side.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Fat Guy (me) is singing!

If you are reading this because you were excited by my Facebook post of "big announcement", please be prepared to be woefully disappointed.  But for those of you who are interested, which probably includes my wife and maybe the dog (and his interest is questionable), my athletic career is slowly winding down (probably better described as a screeching halt, like a big, fat locomotive that just slammed on the brakes).  I can hear all the cries of disappointment and I appreciate your love, but I just can't go on any longer (I'll spare you the professional athlete excuses of "wanting to spend more time with my family," or "I've accomplished all I want to accomplish in the game," because I have always spent time with my family, that's why I run at 5:30 a.m. and I haven't accomplished ANYTHING in running!)  However, I have committed to running the Nashville Half-Marathon for the purpose of raising money for the People for Care and Learning, a great organization that is doing amazing work for the people of SE Asia (, and I plan to see that through, so consider supporting my efforts by giving whatever you might afford to

I mean, seriously, if I can get up at 5:17 a.m. (by an old habit, I must set my alarm clock on odd number NOT ending in 5 . . . yes, it sounds crazy and my wife would agree with you, but that's a different story), run on a treadmill for an hour and 15 minutes in total pain, couldn't you find it in your heart to support these courageous efforts with a small donation (how about that for an awesome guilt trip, how could you say "no" to that)?

Unfortunately, the back problems I suffered two years ago in my training for Nashville have struck again.  I have throbbing pain running down my lower back, into my hip and all the way down to my knee.  Now if you are one of my doctor friends (of which I have none), I know you'll probably say, "Go get that checked out!"  And I will relieve your concern by saying, I have.  I know what the problem is at it isn't fixable except by surgery and I am not willing to submit to back surgery at this point. 

You ever hear the joke of the guy that goes to the doctor and says my elbow hurts when I move my arm like this (imagine this guy twisting his arm into an awkward position behind his back) and the doctor simply says, "Then don't move your arm like that."  Well, that is the solution to my problem.  My back hurts when I run, the solution is to stop the pounding on my back and hang up the running shoes.  So, once Nashville is over, I'll solve this pain problem and stop doing the thing that causes the pain . . . running.  It is true.  You won't see my blazing speed on the treadmill at the Y or at the Greenway (which shouldn't be missed, since I didn't have blazing speed to start).  Yes, I am retiring.  The fat guy (me) is singing.  Thanks for your support along the way (and for not laughing at me as I plod along) and if you feel really sorry for me, show me by giving to the above cause (another sorry guilt trip, don't you love it?)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

7 . . . 8 . . . 9 . . . 10 - Ready or not, here I come!

When I was a child, hide-and-seek was one of my favorite games. Specifically, I liked the hiding element of the game. In fact, I was quite good at it. I found that I was able to find excellent hiding spots and stay there motionless and quiet for long periods of time. So, when my son challenged me to the very game I had mastered years ago, I was excited to show him how a skilled tactician can dominate the game (never mind that he is only 5 years old, he is the one that laid down the challenge).

We started the game with my son taking his turn as the hider. He immediately went to his room to find a spot, an amateur mistake because of its obviousness. Nonetheless, when I finally completed my slow count, “7 . . . 8 . . . 9 . . . 10, ready or not, here I come!”, I wandered around the house, calling out his name, listening to his cute giggles from his room as I would swing open the curtains in the living room and yell, “Are you here?!?! No, not here, come out, come out, wherever you are!”

Finally, after searching nearly every room in the house, I entered his room and found him dug in behind his bed. Not a bad first effort despite the obvious location and the on-going giggling which too easily gave away his position. But the search was fun and the joy of hearing him giggle for 10 minutes was immeasurable.

However, don’t think my joy in playing with my son made me “soft”, because it did not. It was my son’s turn to count and my turn to hide. We immediately ran into the age old, hide-and-seek problem in that my son, the seeker, had a real challenge in keeping his eyes closed while counting. So I pulled a classic fake out. As he was peeking out between his fingers, I moved as if going to the living room, but when I saw his eyes completely covered, I switched directions, instead hiding in the bathroom behind the door. The text book hide-and-seek move worked perfectly as my son first searched the living room. He was somewhat confused when he realized I was not there. This is when the teacher (me) started his hide-and-seek lesson.

As my son walked by the bathroom, not looking in because the light was out, I moved into the living room, a previously searched area and therefore an unlikely spot for the 5 year old seeker to return. This was a perfect move and strategy, except for one small problem, the 2 year old sister. The move drew the attention of my daughter, who at that moment was not playing the game (or so I thought). Seeing daddy running down the hall was funny, so she squealed and chased me yelling, “Daddy, find me!” My daughter, who has yet to completely understand the physics of hiding, being caught several times behind a chair with her eyes covered, thinking if she could not see me, I could not see her, is the one who exposed my strategically sound movements.

Obviously, this drew the attention of my son and daddy was caught. As we continued the game, it got worse as the dog started following me around, standing just outside of every hiding position. It was only then, after several efforts at hiding, only to be quickly caught, that I realized; the teacher, had become the student. My son, was the new master of hide-and-seek in our home with his carefully positioned lookouts. Now, if he can get the giggling under control, he’ll be difficult to find. Although, in truth, I hope the giggling never stops.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pushing forward

If you've been following my blog or my life in general (which, if that is true, please allow me to apologize), you probably know that I have been in training for the Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday, April 30th.  This is a day I look forward to with much anticipation, although, probably not for the reasons you might guess.  I am looking forward to it because that is the day that this "training" will be over. 

Now, don't worry, I will continue to work out, but I like to swim, bike, and do other forms of exercise.  In preparation for this run I have fully committed myself to running . . . which hurts.  Not like the injury type of pain many people complain of, no, this is just the "I don't like to run, so I like to complain" type of hurt.  I NEVER feel good after running.  I feel good that I've done it, like somebody will feel good once you've completed your taxes and paid the IRS your tax bill, but my body doesn't feel good.  I just feel good that it's over and not hanging over my head any more.

Nonetheless, you (my blog readers) are my accountability partner (or partners, IF, more than one person actually reads this), so with that, I give you my latest training results.  I ran the 65 Rose 5K on Saturday at Lee University in an inhuman time of 32:38.  When I say "inhuman", I am obviously being sarcastic, as the only "inhuman" part is that how can anyone go that slow.  Simply put, that time is pretty slow.  Nevermind that the guy with the prosthetic leg (an actual and TRUE athlete), the pregnant woman, and Dr. Paul Conn (in my defense, despite being slightly older than me, he is an amazing runner with an incredible record of distance running) all beat me.  So here is my excuse, when I push beyond the 6 mph rate, my back starts hurting, so I am trying to keep it down.  There, does that work for you?  The truth is, overall I felt good.  This morning, I ran 6.1 miles in about 1 hour and 5 minutes.  This is about the same pace as the 65 Roses, so I am on track.  My legs have been a little tight this morning, but I am hanging in there.  What does this all mean?  What is my prediction for Nashville?  In the words of the legendary Mr. T from Rocky III, "PAIN!"

But my most important goal is where I am failing.  My goal to rais $3000 for the People for Care and Learning through this event is moving slow and I am asking for you help (this will prevent me from writing a bad $3000 check to a nonprofit that would bounce and ultimately cause me much embarrassment, so please, PLEASE visit  and give anything you can afford.  Remember, this goes to an amazing organization that does amazing work worldwide (visit for more information).

Thanks for the great support, I have a terrific cheering section.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The "love" we give the family dog.

Our children love our dog, Tucker. In fact, everyone in our home loves Tucker. He is truly a member of the family. Unfortunately for Tucker, how our family displays this “love” can sometimes be . . . well . . . painful. The children love hugging, squeezing, and petting the dog. If Tucker were to translate that, it would mean that they are chasing him around the house, jerking his tails and ears, and tackling him at every opportunity. At times, it looks so rough that I worry about his safety, but he hardly whimpers.

The kids have figured out they can get Tucker to chase them when they steal his toy and he’ll even play tug-o-war with them. Although, he must be smarter than we give him credit for as he often, seemingly intentionally and strategically, will let go of the tug toy at just the right moment, sending the children flying backwards as they give a big pull with no resistance from the dog. The other game of chase, where the children chase the dog, seems more like a race for survival for the dog as he runs, jumps, and dives under furniture to keep away from the “love” the children are attempting to give him. Once caught, he is hugged, squeezed, and wrestled to the ground. He has figured out that the best defense mechanism in this situation is his tongue. A good slobbery lick across the face typically sends the kids diving away, wiping their faces yelling, “Argh,” temporarily releasing their prisoner.

Another example of the “love” our dog gets for being a part of our family occurred recently when we had our son take the dog outside on one of those retractable leads and when he returned, he kept the dog on this lead in the house. He closed the dog on the opposite side of a glass door and slowly backed away, stretching the lead to its maximum. My wife noticed this strange development and asked him what he was doing. Our son, in a tone that suggested he was stating the obvious said, “I wanted to see how far the lead would go.” Tucker, just sat at the end of the extended lead with those sad eyes seemingly saying, “Are you really just going to sit there and watch this?”

Unfortunately for Tucker, he is not immune from this sort of “love” from the adults either. You see, Tucker is a cute dog. So cute, in fact, that nearly everyone assumes he, is a she. So in an effort to make him more manly looking, we gave him a haircut . . . a Mohawk to be precise. That poor dog could hardly show his face around the house he was so embarrassed. The good news is that it had the desired effect, as we have fewer cases of mistaken gender identity now.

But before you start feeling sorry for Tucker, know that at the end of the day, he climbs up on our bed, makes at least a dozen circles trying to find that most comfortable spot, does a little digging in a totally inappropriate location (our brand new comforter) showing his ancestral instincts that no longer have any value in his life, before he plops down for another long nap. This is seemingly makes up his existence, a series of long, lazy naps, interrupted only to eat and suffer some small indignity by our family.

Although our son made it clear recently, that despite his affection for Tucker, he is disappointed with one shortcoming. When asked what he wants for his upcoming birthday, he said, “A talking dog that is not a robot.”

When you get up from your nap, Tucker, speak!