Fitness update: Long over-due!

I've slowed down my training dramatically and think it's time to step things up. It's been about 18 months since the end of my marriage, and by what I learned from the movie Sideways, I've still got about six months to go before I can be considered to be fully over it. And, as I seem to share tendencies with that film's main character, I suppose I have to at least see that through.

And the way I did this, as I've explained, has been through exercise. For the first year, I didn't feel bad at all about taking time off from work when I needed. Gold's Gym was the center of that. I ran entirely on the treadmill for three months, building up my strength before that fateful day I ran my first 5K race. I also lifted weights, and saw a change in my body fairly quickly.

Sadly, the weight training has totally dropped out of the routine, and I need to get it back in there.

I've been much busier of late, with much less time. Charlottesville Tomorrow is very demanding, and I've been working up to four nights a week at Court Square Tavern. Because of that, I've only been able to manage around 17 miles a week the last month or so. I'm pretty much a slug on the weekends.

I've taken some of that time to work on other pursuits, like gardening.

In a way, this has been a great thing for me, learning to wait patiently for something to grow, but only with careful nurturing and constant attention. These plants grew from seedlings germinated on my kitchen table. I've begun to cook all kinds of squash, and I look forward to some sort of a squash-tomato pesto feast.

Oh, such power in the simple act of putting a seed of DNA into the right place and creating the right environment so it can grow! Of course, there have also been mistakes which have led to some disasters, such as a total failure of my cilantro, chives, lettuce and cucumber.

Even there a lesson: Don't overextend yourself, but there's another season to learn how.

So, tomorrow or Wednesday I hope to go to the gym for the first time in about two months. I'm not really ashamed, but think it's time now to devote to other fitness efforts.

I've decided I'm not going to train to run a marathon this year. I'm simply not going to have the time. I also need to not have running fully dominate my life, as I have other things I need to attend to as well. I'd like to reclaim some of my exercise time for other pursuits.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a garden to take care of. 


Thoughts on U.S. v Slovenia

I hugged a stranger, awkwardly. Maurice Edu had just been on the other end of a free kick, and connected with a beautiful shot, but it was called offsides. What do you think?

While the above was transpiring, the packed house at the Shebeen went crazy. We had come back from a 2-0 deficit, and had done so with style and pure offensive force. We fought and fought and fought and did not give up. How refreshing to see this, in any sport. Everything for U.S. soccer was on the line.

They rose to the challenge. They looked good and fought hard today, and if we don't make it through, this is a good result for the program long-term. That's the thing about the World Cup. It has such a long history yet to come, and every match is important. The Guardian called it "the most thrilling match of the World Cup so far" - that means we've arrived on the international stage.

We drew, which means that we're still alive. We have 2 points in the group, and need England to not win today. Then they would get 4 points, and with Slovenia having 4 points, it means they are in a much better position than us. There's a whole series of math questions that are only valid at this moment as I type this, waiting for England and Algeria to kick off.

I am going to root for Algeria today. This is so off from what I've ever expected to do in my life, but I want us to go through so badly because I think we can do so if we stay sharp like we did today. On paper, we lost, but Edu's goal was beautiful, and I'm confident we can go forward if we can defeat Algeria soundly next Wednesday at 10:00. I'll be at the Shebeen, most definitely.


Reflections on the World Cup and all its brilliance

With less than two hours to go before Mexico and South Africa begin kicking around the Jabulani, I'm more than a bit worried that I'm not going to get nearly enough into this thing. I'll be watching this first match on a computer screen at work, relatively silently as my boss is not a fan of soccer. He's a lacrosse man, and that's just not a sport I can get into at this time.

The World Cup comes along every four years and takes over. There's a lot of gravity that attracts me to the spectacle of it all.

My first exposure came in 1982 when I was a wee lad. I remember my dad being jealous that some friends of ours in North Carolina were able to watch the final. In Lynchburg, soccer may as well not have existed if you had to rely on the pre-cable media. I knew this was something that was very important to my father, but I didn't really know why.

I may have only been paying attention because I'd played soccer the previous fall. That was the only time I played a team sport and the experience was not exactly stellar. I was very good - at kicking own goals.

I sort of skimmed the coverage of the 1990 World Cup. I believe it was on a channel we did not get in Lynchburg, but I was able to watch parts because I went on a business trip with my dad, and the hotel had better cable than we did back home. I'm kind of hazy about how all this went.

1994 changed everything. I worked at Backstreets Restaurant, and all of us got caught up in the fever that came with the finals being held in the United States. In 1998, I worked for a publishing company in Georgetown, and taped a lot of the matches to watch them later, and went to Ireland Four Courts in Arlington  to watch the U.S. matches.

In 2002, I lived in Roanoke and was self-employed. That city was much more affordable to live in, and my friend Jon and I watched most of the matches, even getting up at 2:30 in the morning to watch them. The entire event took over my life. I remember drinking at a bar in Blacksburg when the U.S. played Germany in the quarter-finals, and losing an entire day's worth of productivity. Oh, but what if we had won? What a glorious day that would have been!

In 2006, I was also self-employed, and watched most of the matches and supplemented my coverage by listening to Baddiel and Skinner's World Cup podcast. The United States was highly disappointing, and I don't have very many great stories as I watched most of it by myself. I did go and see a lot of the matches at my parent's house at Smith Mountain Lake.

That was also the summer when I was in exile away from Court Square Tavern. I had all the time in the world, and worked while I watched the matches. My little daughter was asleep at my feet in her bassinet as the kick-off times for the afternoon matches coincided with her nap time.

And now, it's 2010, and my life is at a very different stage. I appreciate these games because they do tend to mark where I am at fixed points in time. I'm not sure how much I will be able to watch these games, but I do hope to follow them through all kinds of media. I'm looking at new blogs such as this amazing one based out of Richmond

I will also be de-twittering and de-Facebooking for a while, as I will likely tape some of the games and watch them later when I can enjoy them as if they are live.

But, I'll also be showing some of them at Court Square Tavern. As I write this, I'm about to go and research the times for all the U.S. matches. I know we play England on Saturday, and I will be opening up the tavern early though I won't be serving food during the play of game. We'll be showing the games in HD, and I invite all of you to come by. I am excited that the United States may actually win, in the sense that we're good enough to compete, given that we beat Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup.

I thought for so long I was going to have a hard time selecting a team to support in that first game. I remember watching the draw with my intern Tarpley Ashworth, and being kind of nervous that the first match played by both teams I support was against each other.

But, in the past week or so, I've come round to the idea that I am an American, and I must support my team. I want to believe that we can win this. In part, I am excited because my English son is also supporting the Americans. He's American, too, and I'm going to use this as an opportunity to bond with him, even though we're so far away.

And, you know? I support both teams and want both to make it the Round of 16. There's a good chance that can happen, but I like our chances of getting past that stage if we can place first in the group stage. That will mean beating or drawing with England. If we come in second in the group, we'll likely face Germany, who I believe will win Group D handily.

This is it. I've followed the U.S. team now for 16 years, and I'm optimistic about our chances. I want to believe, and see how this goes. I also want to enjoy this, and see teams from all around the world compete. I'm hopeful that a team that's never won before can make a fantastic run at total victory. I'd like to see one of the major powers get knocked out in the group stage totally unexpectedly. I want a team from Africa to seriously compete. I'd like to see how Chile's team does, given that country's earthquake and the quirky nature of its coach. I want to know what North Korea's team is going to do.

I want to see South Africa, both in written accounts and in what we end up seeing on display. I'm hopeful it will all go well, and the world will see a place shining in the glow of what it can achieve.

World Cup 2010. A lot of people have been saying I've been particularly happy this week, and I think it's mostly related to the fact that it all begins in less than 2 hours.


Rules for the summer

I'm getting flabby, dear reader. Flabby and my mind is slowing down a bit. I've been allowing myself a little too much recreation and it's time to smooth things out a bit in the hopes of calming my bank account. So, in the interest of creating a healthier me, I'm going to institute some loose rules to guide me. In no particular order:

No more soda: I rely on this delicious beverage way too much to get me through the day. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs, especially when I get so many for free through work. But, I also spend about $10 a week on 16 ounce Cokes, and I can feel the difference around my waist-line. I hereby propose a full three month moratorium on soda consumption to see what happens. In 1995, I quit soda and lost nearly 15 pounds. In 2010, I just want to lose the padding around my waist that I'm fairly certain comes form consuming these absolutely empty calories.

Toning at the gym: I'm paying for gym membership I'm not using, and this is mostly because I run. But, I want to get in there twice a week to tone, and to just generally be in the habit of being there. I've lost a bit of my muscle tone, but want it back.

100 miles in June, 115 in July, 130 in August: This is a rough goal to run each of these amounts in the following months. I'm in a lull in terms of running at the moment, and these goals should more or less track with the marathon training I'd like to do. I'm signing up this week and will run my 2 mile time trial next Wednesday. Time to get serious about running for real. I feel like a pretender sometimes, especially when I take more than two days off in a row.

Better financial management: Money flies out of my wallet way too easily. I work very hard, but yet I don't seem to remember this when it comes time to going out. I may be too hard on myself on this score, but I have to make sure I can meet my obligations (which are hefty) while also putting money for retirement and special trips. The reward will hopefully be a trip to England in November if I can put enough money away.

Waking up early, going to bed early: Someone much wiser than me said that early risers get things done. I would like to be among that number, but yet I have such a hard time removing myself from slumber because my bed is so comfortable. I want to wake up with the sunrise and try to go to bed before midnight every night, and maybe I'll be successful. I'm going to aim for three sunrises a week to see where this goes.

Cooking at home: Oh, how I miss cooking. I cooked a delicious stir-fry for the first time in a while last night. I'd not actually cooked a meal for over a month. Maybe even two months. This isn't right. I enjoy cooking very much, but I haven't bothered much lately because I'm all by myself, and because my schedule is erratic. But, I want to impose order by requiring that I prepare at least three meals a week all summer long. This will most likely take the form of Sunday meals and sandwiches. Soon I'll have stuff from the garden to include.

No beer at home: Of all the commandments, this is the hard one. I like to have a few beers at the end of the night, but they're expensive. I need to drink water instead and maybe this will help with going to bed earlier.

I do not know if I will meet all of this rules, but I do know that by posting them publicly, I am more likely to do so. I want this summer to be one of improvement. The benefits could be extraordinary.