Tag Archives: running

Running for My Marriage

Photo by Christine Hochkeppel
Photo by Christine Hochkeppel

Getting through 13.1 miles is a challenge in and of itself. Getting through 13.1 miles in a February race on Cape Cod complete with soaking and torrential rains, wind gusts topping 25 MPH, and temps below 40 degrees? A whole different ballgame.

Some people use music to pass the time and keep them invigorated. That doesn’t work so well for me as I’ve found my times suffer and I get even more bored. Others use newfangled GPS technology to upload the course map and track every second of their run so they know exactly how far they’ve run and in what time. I used to do this, but found if I was getting behind I’d get discouraged and then say “screw it.” So that was out too.

Considering the horrendous weather conditions, I took a different path. I had no iPod. I had no cell phone playing music or virtual trainer telling me how far I’ve run every few minutes. I knew with all the rain making things miserable, I had to think of something truly meaningful to keep my legs pumping. So I did.

I put it in my head that if I didn’t finish this race, my marriage wouldn’t last.

MJ and I have been stressed to the max lately. This pregnancy has been far from smooth and it seems we’re constantly sweating test result after test result. That kind of unrelenting stress takes a toll on even the best marriages, and ours has been no exception. And after it culminated in a blow-up on Friday night, suddenly the race became more important than ever. With more pressure than ever.

You might be thinking this is silly. I don’t blame you. I guess in a way it is. After all, even if I won the damn race (I didn’t…I really didn’t) that wouldn’t suddenly fix everything. But somewhere between Mile 4 and 5 we began the stretch of the race along the ocean. The winds began whipping into a frenzy, the temperature fell, and the rain began beating down relentlessly. The coastal roads were partially flooded which means huge puddles were unavoidable, and slightly wet feet became absolutely doused with water. From that point on it was like running in a puddle, with my shoes making that suction-ey, squishy sound as water leaks out with every step.

But worse than that was my socks. When you get to the point you can wring water out of them, socks tend to bunch up as you move. The long and short of it is I felt like I was running on knots of rope, which caused half-dollar sized blisters on both feet. Every step was painful. Every. Single. One.

And I still had more than half the race left.

All I could think about was quitting. I didn’t want to be out there anymore. I was being tossed around like a rag doll by the wind, I was miserable, cold and tired. Hell, a shit ton of people didn’t even come out to run and a bunch more quit mid-race, so no one would blame me for giving up in tough conditions. It’s no big deal. It’s just a race. It’s…

A perfect metaphor for my marriage.

MJ has had to go through so much the last few years. And she’s still going through it. Don’t get me wrong, we both are. But in the end, she has to physically endure the miscarriages, the losses, and the multiple D&C procedures. Compared to that hell on Earth, if I couldn’t finish a race with some wind, rain and cold then what does that say about me? What does it say about my devotion?

After all, I signed up for the race. I knew it was being held in New England in February and that I’d have to weather certain challenges. If I wasn’t up for those difficulties, I shouldn’t have vowed to do it. But I did sign up for it because I do want it. Because I know that just past all the hardships is a payoff that’s wonderful beyond measure. And the suffering and pain is an endurance test — and a tough one at that — but the juice is worth the squeeze. If you can hack it.

I didn’t get there quickly. In fact, I placed 2,187th out of 2,368 runners. And it was a full 20 minutes slower than my first half marathon last June. But none of that mattered when I saw MJ and Will at the finish line. Because I did finish. I finished when I was hurt, when Nature and everything else was working against me, and when I didn’t think I had anything left. I finished because I said I would, and sometimes perseverance and promises are more important than anything else.

But most of all, I finished for her. Because she’s my life and despite all the fucked up bullshit, we’ll always go to the mat for each other. All the way to the finish line.

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Marital Exercises in Futility

They say the key to a happy, healthy marriage is finding common ground, finding mutually enjoyable activities and enjoying time spent with one another.

Apparently “they” haven’t spent much time around me and MJ.

We are both very proud, very stubborn people. We also have zero common interests outside of our family and friends. Seriously, we’re opposites in almost every way. She likes the beach, I like the mountains. She craves summer, I love the snow. I’m a people person who thrives in groups, she’s an introvert who gets anxious at parties.

In fact, I can count our attempts to do things together on one hand, and none of them ended well:

  • Bowling: When we were dating we decided to go bowling one night. Going into the last frame I was losing by a pin. And since I’m just a liiiiiiittle bit competitive, I did what any well-adjusted, red-blooded, competitive male would do in that situation — I threw a goddamn fit and kicked the ball return apparatus, causing such a scene that we had to leave without finishing the game. So technically, I didn’t lose.
  • Mini-Golf: Different sport, same result as bowling.
  • Super Mario Brothers for the Wii: A new version of a classic game we both love means there’s no way things can go wrong, right? Nope. The simultaneous play feature meant we affected each other’s character. Which is to say MJ kept jumping on my fucking head and knocking me off cliffs to my imminent death. It didn’t take more than 30 minutes before we were Googling divorce attorneys. You can read about that one in more detail here.
And that’s it. That’s the list. No joke.
Now as most of you know, after more than six months of running my ass off, my weight loss and exercise efforts have sufficiently guilted MJ into doing the same. The only problem is she hates running. I mean, HATES it! But to her credit, she’s been hitting the streets and the treadmill fairly religiously for the last few weeks.

But when I looked over her times and distances recently, I noticed her times have plateaued. In some cases she even got slower. I asked her how much she was running versus walking, and she got that pursed-lipped look on her face which translates to “I’m not gonna say because you’ll just give me shit for it.” Which I did. But instead of giving her advice and preaching at her, I suddenly had an idea.

Why not run together?

On the surface it certainly seems like a win-win. We spend time together, we exercise together, we get healthier together. MJ agreed to it, I was pumped and before we knew it we were hitting the road. And then the shit hit the fan.

It started out well enough. The weather was fairly cool and we started running at a reasonable pace for MJ. The two of us decked out in our running gear, living the yuppie suburban dream side by side one Asics-clad step at a time. The plan was to get MJ used to staggered workouts which will increase the amount of time she runs and keeps walking to a minimum. I mapped out a 3.5-mile course and planned the first run for 5 minutes, thinking that was a more than reasonable time.

And that’s when I realized MJ and I have very different ideas about “reasonable.”

She made it through the first 5 minutes, but did not appreciate my “30-second kick” rule, in which I sprint the final 30 seconds of each run phase. When we slowed to a walk I told her how proud I was of her. But instead of a high-five, I got the stink-eye and a fairly unappreciative and terse “thanks.” Thirty seconds before the 2.5-minute walking period was up, I gave her notice to start running again. And judging by the severely bitchy look on her face, that was not what she was used to.

“Are you fucking serious right now?” she said.

I was taken aback, but determined to stay positive. And, I can’t lie, I liked knowing I was under her skin a little.

“C’mon baby, this is great. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, I’m exercising with the woman I love — let’s do this shit hon! Let’s kick it up a –“

“I hate you right now. I hate everything about you.”

That was all in the first 10 minutes. The final 10 minutes were — well, considerably more agitated.

“Alright baby, last half mile. We’re gonna do a 4-minute stretch and keep a good pace so we can finish strong. You ready?”

“No I’m not ready. We’re walking.”

“We’re not walking. You’re doing great. You’re KILLING your old time right now. So if we push even a little bit harder we can really destroy your time.”

“I want to destroy you. I hate your face.”

“If you’d shut your mouth and stop your bitching you’d be able to save your breath. Now let’s GO!”

“You’ve taken your last breath. Because I’m gonna kill you. Because I fucking hate everything about you.”

“You’re so hot when you’re pissy. Now run wussbag, because now we’re doing a 45-second sprint!”

“I’m gonna rip your dick off while you sleep.”

Yup. You read that right. By the end of our run she was threatening to Bobbit-ize me. I, of course, thought it was all foreplay. I mean c’mon — endorphin rush from the exercise, gettin’ sweaty together. That should end in sex every. single. time. Without question.

However, my wife has the uncanny ability to only process one single emotion at a time. So while I pick fights just to make up, MJ has absolutely zero understanding of that notion. Seriously. If she’s mad, she’s mad. There’s no room for any other emotion. Which means while her threat of castration morphed into some kind of twisted sexual advance in my mind, all she was thinking about was truly robbing me of my manhood.

Needless to say the slap on her ass followed by me running like hell away from her down the street towards the finish line did nothing to further my chances of sex in 2012. And as you can see from the picture above, not even my pancake and bacon mea culpa could satisfy her.

But on the flip side, she knocked about 8 minutes off her time!

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The FatSlap Conclusion & A Half Marathon

I don’t usually toot my own horn, so this feels a little odd and foreign to me. Like Lebron James winning a championship. But we have some loose ends to tie up around these parts and while I don’t say it often — I’m proud of myself dammit.

I know I’m guilty of letting the FatSlap updates slide around here, but it’s not because I abandoned it. In fact, I won the last two rounds! I don’t have the final pictures of Alex and Dave because those lazy bastards haven’t gotten them to me yet, so I’ll give you my final stats. Or better yet, they say a picture’s worth a thousand words. So here you go:

Before: 281 lbs After: 224 lbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Weight Loss: 57 lbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the dust settled, I lost a total of 57 lbs. From 281 lbs on Jan. 1 to 224 lbs now. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not there yet because I still have 25 lbs to go — but I’m pretty proud of myself. I made a commitment to tracking everything I ate, eating less, eating smart, and exercising. I ran in the freezing cold, snow and through the predawn blackness. I ran on the treadmill, basically lived on the elliptical machine, and even lifted a few weights. I pushed through injuries, did a lot of research, surrounded myself with people in a similar position and fed off the enthusiasm and support from everyone — especially MJ and Will.

But most of all I ran.

Perhaps the best thing about this experience was falling in love with running again. I did cross-country in high school and loved it, even getting down to a 5:55 mile at one point. Not nearly the fastest time, but I was always built for comfort and not speed. What I lacked in quickness I made up for in endurance. Which is why I nearly quit in January when I couldn’t even run a half-mile without keeling over and nearly passing out.

But I stubbornly kept at it. Each time I ran a little farther and a little faster. One mile, two miles and finally up to a 5k distance. It was slow and ugly, but that’s kinda my thing. And by March a funny thing happened — I stopped dreading morning runs. Instead, I began looking forward to them. Needing them even. You could almost say I craved them. And as my distances began creeping up even higher, a very strange and mystifying thought occurred to me.

“Could I possibly run a half marathon?”

Running 13.1 miles all at once seemed crazy. It might as well have been the moon. It was MJ who told me I could do it. Insisted I could do it. And then demanded I do it. If not for her unwavering confidence in me, I’m not sure I would’ve signed up for the Old Sandwich Road Race in Plymouth. But I did. Less than 5 months removed from weighing a whopping 281 lbs and not being able to drag my fat ass up the stairs, I ran the race and hoped for a best-case scenario time of 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I ran it in 2:14:13 instead.

I finished in 176th place. Usually I’d scoff at receiving a medal for finishing 176 out of 220 and want to punch anyone who was bragging about it. But not this time. This time I’m just immensely proud of myself for setting a goal and following through.

It is not easy to run a half marathon — especially for a fat guy with shin splints and bad knees. But I did it.

I did it for MJ because she picked up so much extra slack during the last five months while I went to the gym and for long runs. Even though she would NEVER admit that I was so fat she became less physically attracted to me, I know that’s the truth of the matter. She could barely get her arms around me before, and now — well, let’s just say this weight loss has been good in more ways than one!

I did this for my son. I didn’t want Will to have a fat dad who can’t do anything physical. It’s not fair to him that I got out of breath playing simple games and couldn’t chase him around the yard for more than a few minutes at a time without having a heart attack. As an added bonus, Will is paying attention to what he eats and asking if certain foods are healthy. He also recently asked me if he could run with me when he gets older. I nearly broke down in tears I was so happy to hear that from him.

But most of all, I did this for me.

I joked a lot about being the funny fat guy, but I always hated it. I hated being fat. I hated being unhealthy and grotesque. They say fat is beautiful and we should all just be ourselves — screw that. I didn’t want to be fat anymore because it’s not a healthy situation, so I did something about it.

And now I just feel…better. In every respect. I feel full of energy because I’m exercising and eating right. But more importantly, I feel confident for the first time in years. I know I’m still a big guy and I have more work to do, but I don’t mind looking in the mirror these days. And I can fit into all my own clothes — clothes that don’t involve XXL on the tag anymore. Shirts that button around my neck. Pants that actually close around my waist. It’s nice to wear garments that don’t double as Xerox copy machine covers.

I’m not giving out advice because who the fuck am I? All I’ll say is it’s never too late to get started and have success. You just have to really, truly want it and be willing to sacrifice to get it. But let me tell you, when you work for months and get to literally cross the finish line and complete a goal you thought was impossible — it’s all worth it.

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MJ on a Roll

Everyone has bad days. And yesterday, MJ had her herself a doozy of a bad one.

First of all, Route 6 was closed for hours yesterday due to a fatal accident. For those who don’t know, Route 6 is the Cape’s only major highway and it runs from one end to the other. When it closes down, everyone is fucked. Luckily I don’t usually have to deal with it, but MJ commutes on it for 40 or so miles every single day. And yesterday it took her more than two hours to get home.

When she did get home, Will was not in a good mood. He was fussy and he’s started this new thing where he HATES to have his diaper changed. Finally MJ managed to pin him down and change it, and then they started walking toward the tub because it was bath time. He was throwing a fit and MJ was holding his hand and pulling him toward the bathroom. But he had other ideas.

In a fit of rage, he hurled himself backwards and to the ground. The only problem was he was still holding onto MJ’s hand. She was walking one way, he lurched violently in the opposite direction. MJ thought he was fine at first and she put him in the tub. But then she noticed he wasn’t using his left arm at all. Usually he reaches out and plays with his toys, and also tries to pull himself up to a standing position in the tub. He tried to do that, but couldn’t because something was obviously wrong with his arm. The poor thing was keeping it close to his body, obviously in pain.

So we called the pediatrician’s office and by some miracle of God, he was still in the office. So I shut off the stove (we still hadn’t eaten dinner), left the half-cooked fish in the oven and drove off to the pediatrician’s. He was really cool and he confirmed that Will had popped his elbow out of place. He said it’s actually pretty common with kids Will’s age. Before we could get ourselves too worked up, he told us to look away if we were queasy and went to work.

He took Will’s bad arm, straightened it out palm up, and then swiftly brought Will’s hand all the way up to his shoulder, bending at the elbow. There was a slight pop and Will cried in pain for a couple of seconds, and then he was fine. Just like that, popped back in place. I was amazed and told him I’d pass that trick on to my fellow mom and dad bloggers so they wouldn’t bother their own pediatricians with something they could fix themselves.

Once we were back home and put Will to bed, MJ and I were just watching TV and playing with the dog. We decided to give Haley some treats. We make her do little tricks before we give her any treats and this time was no different. She gave us high-fives, we put the treats on her nose and made her wait until we gave her permission to eat it. That kind of stuff.

Well I had a treat in my hand and I was making her sit still and wait until I gave it to her. But all of a sudden, MJ yelled out the command “FREE!” which means Haley is allowed to take the treat. Except I wasn’t ready and the dog ended up nipping my finger pretty hard. I got PISSED at MJ because you never give a dog a command when you’re not the one dealing with her at that particular time. I couldn’t blame the dog because “Free” is her release command.

I was so mad at threw the treat at MJ and asked her what the hell she thought she was doing. She was clearly in the wrong here, yet I received no apology. Just some bizarre “logic” of hers that there was no way she could have any idea that I would end up being bitten.

For her finale, we had this gem of a conversation:

MJ: “Hey, after I come back from western Mass in a couple of weeks we need to set aside some “us” time because there are things we really need to talk about.”

(I was taken aback because that’s my 30th birthday weekend and she’s apparently going away, and also because this sounds like bad news)

ME: “Well what do you want to talk about? If it’s important let’s talk now.”

MJ: “It is important, but I don’t want to talk now. That’s why I asked you to set time aside in two weeks.”

ME: (getting flustered) “Well if it’s important I don’t want to wait two weeks. Let’s make time now.”

MJ: (downright pissed) “I don’t want to talk now! It’s already 9:30 and I don’t want to be up until midnight getting into this.”

ME: (equally as pissed) “Well you can’t just put that ominous thing out there and then expect me to wait for two weeks. I will always make time for you first, so let’s just talk now if it’s important. This stuff shouldn’t wait.”

But wait it will, because she refused to open up about it. Which leaves me kind of freaked out because I have no idea what’s going through her head. Is she mad at me? Is she miserable? Is something wrong? All day long my job is get information out of people yet I can’t persuade my wife to have a simple conversation with me about whatever is bothering her.

She gets me so pissed off when she pulls this stuff. How many guys out there are not only willing, but begging to make time to talk about things with their wives? Not to mention the fact that she’s taking off on my birthday weekend to go celebrate her friend’s birthday in the Berkshires. That’s real nice.

The only silver lining is I used all of this as fuel to run another 5 miles along the Canal yesterday. I’m psyched for upcoming road races.

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When 861st Place Is a Good Thing

Well, I kept my promise.

Despite my better judgment and without a lick of training, I ran in my first road race in 13 years on Saturday. After meeting up with Cape Cod Gal, who has been training for a triathlon this weekend, we took our places at the starting line. Normally I don’t put myself in the position of losing to a girl, but I knew just by looking at CCG that I was in for it. I haven’t seen her in a few months and by God is she JACKED! Any slim hope I had been maintaining of somehow beating her and pulling off the biggest upset since the 1980 Miracle on Ice went right out the window at that moment.

First of all, it was hot. Damn hot. And the race was 5.2 miles, with roughly 5.1 miles in the direct sunlight. I’m not kidding, there was no shade along the course whatsoever. I stayed with CCG for the first mile and then lost sight of her before we hit the 2-mile mark. I was struggling the whole way but I made up it up all the hills without stopping. But towards the end of the race I had to stop and walk a few times to avoid passing out and/or throwing up.

My goal was to finish in under an hour. I finished in 1 hour and 1 minute. That’s good for a blistering 11:40 pace. I won’t disclose CCG’s time but she beat me handily.

I was bummed at first for not meeting my goal. But the more I thought about it, the happier I became. I had done almost no training leading up to this race in the last few months. I’m overweight. And the weather was hot and humid as balls. But I made it. I came in 861 out of 952 runners. Usually that wouldn’t be something to be proud of, but for a fat guy who just randomly decided to run a road race in the middle of summer, I’ll take it.

But more importantly, I have the itch to run again. I used to run in road races all the time when I was younger, and now I want to get back out there and mix it up again. I like challenging myself and seeing if I can get my times down. But mostly I want to beat CCG because I hate losing, especially to girls! ;-)

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