Modoc

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As I mentioned in some of my more recent posts, I have recently become addicted to reading. While Modoc was not the book that kick started this new passion, it is the one that I finished last so I want to write about it while it is fresh.

I picked up Modoc by Ralph Helfer in the bargain section of Barnes & Noble (seriously, check it out) knowing nothing absolutely nothing about the book or the author. I had no recommendations to pick it up and quite honestly the only reason why it caught my eye is because there is a picture of a massive elephant on the cover. It was a safe assumption that the book would therefore deal with Elephantidae in some sort of fashion. Due to my love for animals and the fact it was a very cheap pick-up, I decided to add Modoc to my growing library.

Modoc is an easy read. Helfer does not incorporate unnecessarily immense locutions nor is the book particularly long. I slacked a bit while reading and it took me about two weeks but I could have easily finished it in a weekend dedicated to its incredible story.

Modoc gets its name from the elephant whose story it tells, which Helfer claims to be the closest thing to the truth he could muster based on first hand accounts and research. It begins on the day that two babies are born. The first, Bram, to a German circus trainer and his wife, and Modoc, to an elephant named Emma. Bram and Modoc would go on to be best friends for the entirety of their lives. Their adventures would take them across the world from Germany to India to the United States and through many trials and triumphs. I won’t include any spoilers because I know there are people who get quite upset about these things, but the events that these two go through really are amazing.

What I loved about Modoc so much was how Helfer expressed Bram’s view on God, nature, and happiness. I identified very closely with this ‘natural view’ of God, as many of my most spiritual moments have come during times I spent considerable amount of time out in nature. The idea that animals are beings with emotions, from love to rage, that should be treated as equals was also a concept I keep. Between these two themes, I caught myself multiple times thinking, “Yes! Someone else gets it, too!”

Whether it was Helfer’s writing or my general soft spot for animal stories, I found myself very attached to Bram and Modoc as they fought against the things in life that would separate them. By the time I got to the last quarter of the book, I was unable to put it down. The ending, while sad, was a much happier ending than I had expected given how these animal stories tend to go (I’m looking at you, Old Yeller and Marley & Me and Where the Red Ferm Grows… GOD THERE ARE SO MANY). Even if the book were to have ended in the awful ways of the aforementioned animal stories, there is something uplifting about these stories that portray the intense emotional bond that can exist between animal and human.

I don’t feel like I have read enough books to put them on a scale, but I would recommend Modoc as a relatively easy, fast paced read that won’t demand a huge time commitment from the reader but still gives them an emotionally charged, captivating story.

If you get a chance to read Modoc, please let me know what your thoughts are!

All my love.

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The Week of Rest

The past 8 days have been absolutely thrilling. I took off the week (and a few days) after the half marathon to do all of the things that training and big kid jobs make a little more difficult than I would like.

On Tuesday, November 12, I ventured down to Nashville, TN to see a dear friend. I initially was going down there for a concert (Hoodie Allen, for those of you who were wondering) but it had been so long since we had seen each other and I was so caught up in hearing all about the last 4 1/2 years that we didn’t even go. And I am remarkably okay with that. It might actually be a good thing we didn’t go, as I was feeling a wee bit sore from the race two days previous and I don’t know how standing and dancing for a concert would have gone. We had a great dinner and some even better drinks at the Whiskey Kitchen, a bar off of 12th Avenue South. The area was a foodie’s heaven and I will definitely be making it back there to try out some of the incredible looking restaurants. And while I was exhausted afterwards, the trip was completely worth it.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I took the opportunity to literally do nothing at all. I did gorge myself on some Bdubs during Thursday night football, which was pretty amazing.

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On Friday, I did anything but rest. In fact for the next 72 hours I would be in a constant state of ‘doing.’ A close friend of mine, Jillian, who I traveled through Israel with earlier this year on my Taglit Birthright trip, was in Louisville for the weekend from Boston. Since the rest of my weekend would be taking me out of the city, I promised her that I would take her out and show her a good time out on the town Friday night. We had dinner at Mark’s Feedstore while we caught up on what we had each been doing since we got back from Israel and then we went down to 4th street Live. It was a completely different bar experience for Jillian and we took complete advantage of that fact; bouncing between a few happy hours and having a wildly good time. There was a big group of people who I knew down there so it was really incredible to see them all bring Jillian in and help me show her the better side of 4th. Thank you all for that!! Once the happy hours were over (and since all Louisville-ians are spoiled by the cheap drinks during them) we left 4th and headed for Bardstown road. And where else is there to go on a Friday night on Bardstown Road than Baxter’s. The hours fell away as we danced, talked, and played pool. We had lost a significant amount of the group in the transition from 4th to Baxter’s (read; everyone except Mike) but it was still a great time.

Saturday was an early morning but what morning isn’t early when you close down the bars (fun fact, Louisville bars close at 4am) the night before. By 11, I was on my way to Nashville for the second time that week for the Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators game with Jim, Colleen, and Jim’s friends from Chicago; Dan, Lauren, and Neil. We had checked into our hotel three hours later and it was time for the festivities to begin. After a run to the gas station for beer became extremely weird due to a very creepy man blatantly hitting on Colleen, we made it back and hung out for an hour or so before taking a cab into the city.

Getting out of the cab was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. Not only is Broadway just an awesome street in and of itself but there were Blackhawks fans EVERYWHERE. There were so many Hawks fans that they outnumbered everyone else at least 8 to 1. The bars and streets were packed to the brim but we managed to snag a table and spent the next couple of hours living it up in downtown Nashville. It was crazy to see all of the Blackhawks fans walking around in headdresses and wigs but I think my favorite was a guy who literally had cut a hole in a blanket and put it over his shoulders.

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We went into the arena with about an hour to spare, managed to get our hands on a few all you can drink/eat wristbands, and sat down for what was expected to be a blowout Blackhawks win. Even though we couldn’t have been more wrong about the result of the game it was still a great time.

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After the first period I braved lower-bowl security (or lack thereof) to sit eight or so rows off the ice in a row that was completely empty. The other six joined shortly after (we lost one in the transition from our seats to the lower bowl, but we eventually found him) and we spent all of the second period in these glorious seats. A few cliche pictures on the boards were taken before some kids who hadnt even been into the game yet came and kicked us out of the seats. We weren’t even back in our seats for half of the third period before the Preds went up 6-1 and we decided our time would be better spent getting a good spot at a bar than watching our team get humiliated.

We ended up at a karaoke bar and spent most of the night singing and drinking our team’s loss away. It was nothing short of a blast. It was probably one of the most carefree nights out I have had in a very long time. I lent my exquisite vocal talent to Wagon Wheel at one point, but for the most part just enjoyed everyone else making fools of themselves. I even met a nice lady named Catherine, who I immediately started calling Cat, and by the end of the night was simply called Meow. So there’s that. We bar hopped for awhile after that before most of the group headed back. I stayed on with Tiffany and Jaime, who driven separately and met us at the hotel, to enjoy the scene a little while longer. Turned out to be a great idea, as I ran into two friends from back home in Cincinnati, Darek and Zach, and was able to catch up with them which was nice.

After the typical taxi life-talk with our Libyan cabby, a wonderful helping of McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and a second life-talk with Kia the night hostess, I woke Jim up to let me into the room (damn deactivated key) so I could pass out. After one of us didn’t make it to the hotel breakfast with socks, a confusion over whose jeans were whose, and lots of water we hit the road back to Louisville. Halfway through everyone was feeling much more lively but we were then in a bit of a time crunch to get back due to the weather that this part of the country experienced on Sunday. We stayed out of the worst of it (Louisville was actually spared from what area further North experienced) but the Chicago-ans stayed for dinner to wait it out. Sleep that night came easy.

Monday I was a bit sluggish than I am used to. Where I had been putting workouts in I had placed drinking and late nights. I was almost upset at myself for being more tired at the end of my ‘rest’ week than I had been at the start, but then I remembered how much fun I had and that feeling quickly dispersed. The last thing I did with my rest week was grab lunch with Jillian before she headed out to Cali for her job training and get a wonderful massage Monday evening. While I am very glad that I did it and it felt amazing, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that massages that are borderline painful are actually the ones that do your body the most good. But that’s neither here nor there.

More updates coming soon! Holidays, MishpuChanukah, training, and a brand new Book Review section shall be coming your way shortly!

All my love.

2014 Derby Festival Marathon

Today was the first of my 22 week training schedule for the 2014 Derby Festival Marathon. I took an entire week off after the Louisville Sport Commission Half Marathon and it was really, really hard to get back on the horse. The 8 days I took to relax, drink beer, and focus on everything but working out felt like it was months long as soon as I stepped into the gym after work today. But it felt great to get a good sweat and I am beyond excited to tackle this next obstacle so I am not worried.

My schedule for the next five months is very intimidating to look at on paper. Over the course of the 22 weeks I will be incorporating multiple techniques to help me build the required strength, endurance, and mindset that is required to finish a marathon.

The first of these components is obviously running. I did some research on the length, distances, and variations of running that work best for beginner marathoners. I decided to use the training schedule for the 2013 Chicago marathon due to its thoroughness, format, and that it did a great job of combining distance running, short distance/pace work, weight lifting, and rest. I was able to format the schedule to fit my longest runs of the weeks on Mondays and Saturdays. Saturday was an easy choice, I typically have the most time on these days plus the marathon race is on a Saturday. Monday was a lesser of five evils. I figured Mondays already suck and tend to be the weekdays that I have the least going on and am least likely to be traveling. This program will have me running up to 20 miles to train for the marathon and in the heaviest of weeks I will be running 38 miles. Big numbers for a kid who just suffered through a measly 13.1, but I trust myself and this schedule to get me where I need to be by the time I need to be there.

The second component that the training has is weight lifting. This is probably the part that I am most excited about, as I definitely have noticed a difference in my body and strength after I let lifting go to the way-side during the half marathon training. I knew from training for the half that it would be too much for me to do a full-blown lifting routine like I used to but I also knew I had to do some kind of weight training to improve my strength and, through that, my running. So I decided on a TRX, a suspension trainer designed by and for the military, and think it will serve as the perfect middle ground that I need. Some of my favorite things about the TRX is that I can make the workouts as intense as I want to make them, it is very compact/portable which will make it easy for me to fit workouts in, and it implements a lot of natural movement and body weight training. The kit came with a 12 week training program which will get me through the lower mileage weeks of running. Once those 12 weeks are over, I will see if I want to continue relying on the TRX (given that my mileage will blow way up in the last 10 weeks) or if I think I can move towards a more intense routine. I actually did my first workout today and it was eye-opening to see how much strength I had lost in my upper body and how little strength I have in my core. We all have to start somewhere though.

The third component I will use is cross-training/swimming/cycling/yoga. This will help to mix things up and keep training more interesting than pounding the pavement for mile after mile. These activities are also important to prevent over-training and round out the cardio/strength I will gain throughout. So if anyone knows of a cheap indoor pool or a fun rec league (anything but basketball) please shoot some info my way! Out of all of these though I am most excited for the yoga. I was first exposed to yoga in p90x a few years ago and to this day still enjoy a good warrior series. Not only is it an amazing workout but it will also help keep me stretched out and prevent injuries! There are some great deals for free classes in the studios around Louisville so I will take advantage of those and hopefully gain enough knowledge I can do my own workouts once the weather warms up. Yoga on top of Dog Hill in Cherokee, anyone? 🙂

Finally there is the rest component. Each Sunday and at random points throughout the schedule I will make sure I do everything I can to do as little as possible. I understand how important it is to listen to my body during this process (something that I used to have a very hard time doing) and plan to take all the necessary steps to stay fresh and not over-train. I see multiple ice baths and massages in my future over the next 22 weeks.

I will track this entire program from start (today) to finish (April 19, 2013) and will do my best to keep you up to date with how everything is going. I know that I benefited from people writing about their training experience so I want to make available whatever knowledge I gain from this experience as well. This will probably be in weekly posts recollecting the past week and previewing the next. No promises though, as I tend to forget about this things sometimes.

There are 150 days until April 19, 2014 and the Derby Festival marathon. See you then!

Louisville Sport Commission Half Marathon

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I have defeated November 10.

I started my training for the LSC Half Marathon on August 12, 2013. I was following the schedule that the LSC had published and was determined to stick to it.

As many of you know, this wasn’t going to be my first half marathon. I had successfully completed the 2013 Derby Festival half marathon in the spring and had just missed my goal of finishing in under 2 hours, 30 minutes. I can make all the excuses I want for doing a half-assed training in the spring but at the end of the day I didn’t make my performance a priority and disappointed myself. And I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

It was this disappointment and a need to have something that I had complete control over that made me become so dedicated to the training this fall. I had seen a lot of changes in the months prior… graduating, the end of a relationship, starting at Strategic… and needed something that was completely determined by my own actions. Not to mention I realized that my burn-out from Australia had resulted in me being in one of the worst shapes of my life, tipping the scale at 218 pounds and much weaker than I had been in a long time on the first week of my training.

So I ran.

The schedule started out easy enough but damn it made me realize just how bad of shape I was in. I took full advantage of the gym at work to kick start myself and actually found that doing treadmill work helped me not stop and get my cadence under control. Once my distances became too long to do at work or on the treadmill I suffered through that transition which was hell on my knees and shins. But slowly but surely, I gained back a solid base and a lot more confidence to move forward with the training.

For the first time in my life, I kept a detailed log of my workouts over the 14 weeks that tracked everything from distance and time to how much sleep I had. I will never not keep a workout log again. It is incredible to flip back through the pages and see where I started and ended. Going from 7.5 miles in a week to 13.1 in one day and the ups and downs that got me there is really motivating. The log also helped me to keep track of what was and wasn’t working as far as time of day, fuel, and difficulty of certain routes.

November 10 was a great day. I was confident in myself and my ability to stay at the 9 minute mile pace that would allow me to finish at or under 2 hours. It was a gorgeous day here in Louisville, too. A tad windy at times but the sun was out and life was good. I started much faster than I intended, letting the adrenaline and satisfaction of passing people get to my head, but that came to a quick end when I hit the rolling hills of Cherokee Park and Cave Hill Cemetery. My IT bands were on fire when I ran out onto Baxter and started the run back downtown. It was around this time that I also began to feel some fatigue in my hamstrings. This gave me a pretty scare because in the last mile of the Derby half my quads had pretty much given out on me and my race would’ve been shot had my hamstrings done so that day. Here’s to you, hammies, for sticking in there. I also found myself racing against the other runners which was really messing with my pace and rhythm. Once I was able to focus on running against my goal and the clock I started to run more smoothly and actually increased my pace by a bit. The last 1.1 miles were a straight shot up main and it was the longest mile of my life. I stuck to my tradition of sprinting the last half mile (the operative term being sprinting, here) and wasn’t even paying attention to the numbers on the clock when I crossed the finish line.

1 hour, 52 minutes, 56 seconds. My watch had suspiciously added 7 seconds to my time, but both had me in absolute shock. I knew that running the half at a 9 minute pace and cutting 30 minutes off of my time from the spring was ambitious and I didn’t think that I had been running that well that day so when I saw my time I was on Cloud 9. An 8:37 pace and 40 minutes cut off from the spring was beyond my wildest expectations and it felt so good to have the past 14 weeks pay off. I placed 435th out of 1,947 participants and 26th out of 43 runners in my division, Men’s 20-24, too!

Even with how excited I am about my finishing time, it isn’t anywhere close to the most important part of the past 14 weeks. When I started training I was not in the best place; I was unhappy with the shape I was in, restless, and much too focused on things that were in the past and I had no control over. But when I crossed that finish line none of that was there. Running had helped me to direct my frustrations to a positive goal, think and come to terms with “what ifs” that I was wrestling with, melt almost 20 pounds off, and gain back the sense of control and confidence that I was fumbling with in August. And that is worth more than any combination of numbers on a stop watch.

So, for all of you who think that its too late or too cold or you’re ‘too far gone’ to start running, I am here to tell you that all of that is bologna. Whether it is a half marathon or a 5k isn’t what is important, starting something that I will guarantee you will love and thank yourself for later is what matters. Give it time and stick with it and let me know how everything goes!