Recent Post on LETS Blog: The Wonderful Ways of Using a Word Cloud

One of my most recent and enjoyable discoveries is word clouds.  Those not entirely familiar with them, may want to find this very interesting.  Word clouds are program-generated images that display the words within a specified text in proportion to how often each word comes up.  Ultimately, it visualizes according to size, the most common words within a text.  (Also, just to clarify, most of these programs will automatically remove prepositions and other such small structured words; some will allow you to put them back in).  Using a word cloud opens up opportunity to consider meaning and interpret the text differently than we might otherwise do.

For the rest of the article, check it out here.

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Tales of 9 Runs: Insights From a Rough Run, or Lance Realizes He Is Not a Camel

It’s midway between the last run and the next run.  My goal on Saturday was to set out and run 9 miles or somehow run farther than the 8.4 miles that I have recently conquered.  Unfortunately, it did not happen, but I learned some lessons and I’m always up for lessons that don’t entail me losing a limb or my life.  

It had been a hot few days, dipping well into the high 80s and low 90s by some accounts along with some humidity.  Not fun weather by any measure.  I knew this and figured I would work with the weather—aim to run in the morning or later evening to avoid the harsh weather.  Well, I kinda failed at that.  Saturday morning started off in the 70s and raining.  The forecast said that the by 11am, it would be sunny.  I figured if I took off then that I would avoid too much heat and get in my 9 miles.  Not an entirely bad plan.  In the morning I went about my business, doing errands, stuff around the apartment, etc.  I laid down for a little nap around 10:00am (in my defense, I didn’t sleep well and had been up since 6:30am).  I got up at 10:40am and got ready to run.  I threw on my clothes and my kicks and got outside.  I started off ok.  I kept slow pace but I wasn’t looking for records and didn’t want to kill myself too early.  But by the 5 mile mark, I was feeling wiped and worst still, thirsty.

One of the biggest problems I have with most exercising/training is that I feel the more I get into it, the more accessories I need.  When I biked, the longer the bike ride, the more one has to pack:  liquids, spare tire, pump, snack, chain (to lock bike if using bathroom in a rough area).  Similarly with the bike, I’m trying to limit the amount of junk I carry on me because it weighs me down and also throws off my run.  I’ve got the iPod Nano and a GPS wrist watch.  That gives me all I need to know.  But of late, I’ve been carrying energy bites for the longer runs to keep my levels stable.  And I realize that today, I will now have to figure out how to add water as well, beyond the 8 mile mark.  It does make sense, particularly on hot days, but that doesn’t make it easier to figure out how.

Besides that, I also realize I need to pay more attention to my food and liquid intake with relation to runs.  This hasn’t been a problem most of the time because I’m usually running in the afternoon when I’ve been up much of the day and have 2 meals behind me.  For Saturday’s run, I realized I was significantly underfueled.  I had a big meal around 2pm the day before (Friday) and not much afterward.  On Saturday morning, I had a banana, an oatmeal raisin cookie, a cup of coffee and a protein shake.  Cumulatively, this isn’t too bad and had a good mixture to give me energy for the run, but that was at 6:30am, I didn’t start running until 10:50am.  Added to that, I was working off a fair deficit from the previous day.  I also didn’t sufficiently hydrate Saturday morning.  Lesson learned.

I also had a very nice moment with some nice people.  I had hit the 5 mile mark and was aching, so I walked a small strip (actually, I usually walk this—it’s about 1/10 of a mile at the 5 mile mark, just to give the body a momentary break).  As I got to the end, I saw a husband and wife on their front lawn (husband was washing the car, the wife was walking the dog).  I walked over and asked if they didn’t mind if I took a drink from their hose.  They were quite nice and insisted on giving me a bottle of water from their fridge.  It was greatly appreciated and just a very kind gesture on their behalf.

So no breakthroughs in running, despite my claim otherwise.  I had high hopes of reporting of closing in on the 10 mile mark (2/3 mark).  But there’s just over 2 months left and I’m doing well (when properly fueled) at the 8.4 mile mark which is more than half way there.

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1 Year Later: of Fitbits and Vibrams

Just about 1 year ago, I made two purchases that have made a substantive change in my life.  The extensive implementation of the these items have resulted in substantial health and lifestyle benefits in my life.  A year later, they've proven well worth their purchase and have gotten substantive use.
My first Fitbit
My Fitbit

The Fitbit

The Fitbit.  Largely, Fitbit is a glorified pedometer.  But it's an important tool that's helped me better monitor and regulate my health.  In additon to it counting steps, it also gives me a (rough) indication of how many calories I'm burning a day based upon steps, BMI, and whatever specific exercises I log on it (such as running and cycling).  Its online site (which sells a premium membership, that's not required if you purchase the Fitbit) offers a range of diagnostic measurements and input resources.  For instance, I can log my food to get a sense of my caloric intake, add my sleeping time, and other relevant tools.

So what's useful about it?  The pedometer is a powerful tool as it allows you to benchmark how much you are walking around.  With it, I know how much I've walked/moved about in a given day.  Yes, I can recall, but sometimes, I'm likely to overstate or understate things.  With the Fitbit, I know whether I'm lying or not.  Moreso, it allows me to make more informed decisions.  Do I have more potato chips, a carrot, or should I at the very least, go for a walk?
Fitbit isn't longer than my finger.
Yeah, it's pretty small

I occasionally use the food-monitor element as it helps to bring me back to being conscious of how much food I do eat in a day rather than rely on the guessing game of hindsight.  It's very easy for me to mindlessly eat and every few weeks, I'll do a week of food monitoring to help restore the mindfulness of how much I'm actually taking in.  The site has other features (badges, social networking sharing, calorie/fitness plans, etc.  All of them are good, but the key for me with this tool has been it's step input and exercise input.

As a pedometer, the other great part is that it's small and I rarely have issue carrying it on my underwear ban.  It "fits" nice and easy.

Putting on the Five-Finger Vibrams

The other major purchase that I integrated into my life has been the Vibram 5 Finger shoes.  These have definitely been a game changer in several ways.  The Vibram shoes are ultra-slim and provide toe slots unlike the regular shoe.  They're used in what is regarded as barefoot or nearly barefoot running.
5 finger Vibram shoes
Lasted just under a year

After hearing a lot about these shoes and how they help your posture and movement all around from my chiropractor and seeing several people wearing them, I took the plunge and bought a pair.  When I first go them, they took me 5-6 minutes to get on (this is something that fades with time as your toes and you adjust to putting them on--it takes me less than 1 minute now).  I started to go for walks with them and I kept increasing the walks.  First, it was just trying them on and moving about, but soon I was doign 2-3 mile hikes 1-2 times a day.  I called them hikes because I was going walking from where I lived to coffee shops in Salem to do various work.  In self-transporting, I would also need to bring my laptop and several books--usually adding up to 20-30 points of additional weight (not an exageration either).  After doing this for about a month, I went on a lark and ran around Lake Quannapowit in Wakefield.  I ran most of the the first time and by the following week, I was running it entirely.  I was really impressed with how much I could slip into the running.

By the end of summer and early fall, I was running 5-6 miles regularly.  With some urging from my brother and sister-in-law, I ran my first race.  By seasons' end, I had hit the high watermark of 7.2 miles.  All from having hated running my whole life and now, enjoying it enough to do this.
5 finger Vibram shoes and foot wear
Worn out, but awesome!

Gotta be the Shoes?  Yes.  Someone out there may try to argue differently for me, but the shoes made the difference.  I'm a large guy.  235 pounds, 5'11, and a wide frame.  Not a runner's frame by far.  Every time I've tried to run before, it wore and hurt on my body, and I was never really capable of keeping a solid rhythm of movement with my body that worked with my breathing.  None of it came together.  But when I run with the Vibrams, that disappears.  Because I cannot slap my feet away on the pavement, I have to regulate my pace and step to work with the impact, not against it.  While this means I certainly don't move fast (and I never will), I do feel the fluidity of movement with the Vibrams that I can never seem to have when I am running with normal shoes.

Merrell and Vibrams

I liked the thin-sole of the Vibrams enough that I also bought a pair of Merrell's that uses the Vibram soul, but makes a more-normal-looking shell.  These I wear almost every day to further enjoy the dynamics that the Vibrams provide.
Merrell shoes with a vibram sole.
Look normal, but still got

So with the increase of running has come a significant amount of health benefits and just overall feeling better about myself.  There are two major differences that I found most interesting.  The first is that the structure of my foot changed (for the better).  Besides becoming more muscular, they developed more of an arch and my toes have more movement (and a good grip).  The other effect is that overall, my feet feel more planted in the ground when I step and I have a much stronger sense of balance.  All of which makes sense given that my feet are being used more directly than being muted out by regular shoes.

1 year later and my choices seemed to have been solid ones indeed.  I'm 15 pounds lighter.  I'm running (and even training for a half marathon) and overall, I just feel good.  Last Wednesday (June 20), I had an amusing insight that I shared on Twitter: "last year around this time, I began walking to, I ran...#awesome #running."  So if you're looking for a change of some sort, I would recommend either or both of these--though not without some consideration of if they would fit your current life/work/personal demands.

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100th Celebratory Post!

So this is my 100th post.  It's taken my about 2 1/3 years to get here.  Not a record-breaking pace by any means but I survived the 6 month death march that happens to many blogs.  I've also successfully transistion the purpose and name of the blog from the Hitchhiking Adjunct to By Any Other Nerd.  That obviously makes my first blog post, way back when, a bit irrelevant (I'm sure there's plenty that makes it irrelevant, but just speaking to this particular aspect).

Not all posts have been "true" posts to this particular blog.  A good deal have been blog posts I've written elsewhere (such as the NSCC LETS Blog and the Freeway Flyer) and added a snippet of the post here, then redirected the reader to the actual blog post on that site.  Overall, I've managed to keep going with this blog with a range of topics, ideas and thoughts, that people have regularly commented upon.  So I've managed to keep it looking fresh, or at least I believe so.  I feel I've got a better hand on it than maybe I did after the first year.

Memorable (and Not So) Posts

So by far, I think the post on the death of a student was the most poignant and intense of my posts in the 100.  It's always curious to see what readers have responded to.  For instance, this post on sequels, had over 2500 hits.  It makes me wonder whose radar it showed up on.  This post about how we process intolerance with regards to religion, I didn't think was fantastic on my end, but the details responses by my students I found to be very interesting. My Letter to the Editor in the Boston Globe was probably one of my personal highlights in my writing experiences.  


Having reached 100, I plan to keep going forward and writing more.  I'm hitting a good stride with it and have found it's good for different outlets such as my posts on running or my thoughts on audiobooks.  I'll continue to cross post what I'm writing elsewhere as I feel it's good to have a centralized place for my writings, but really do want to expand more.  I'm also going to consolidate some of my categories as there's a decent amount of overlap and there's some categories that aren't as relevant as they were before.  Also, I can feel that I'm shifting into a more creative phase of my life and I plan to document that on here. Whether that's gardening, computer scripting, or woodwork (all of which are vying for my attention), you can be sure find it here.

I'm hoping to grow my audience more.  No so much for the fandom (though who am I kidding, I'm a total attention whore), but more for the interaction.  I like writing, but I like dialogue more and want this blog to be a conduit to that.  So please, be sure to spread the word, Like, +1, Tweet, Link, etc.  I've certainly enjoyed the traffic and the people who have left comments and look forward to more.

So for my regular readers--what have you enjoyed, learned, taken from this blog? I'm hoping there is some answers to this one :)

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Standing Tall: After a Week of Active Standing at Desks

So the last few weeks I kept hearing about the idea of a standing desk.  Instead of sitting at a desk (especially all day if you have one of those jobs), standing desks allow you to stand at your desk.  There's lots of reasons to do this.  For myself, as a big guy, chairs are largely uncomfortable  They never give the right amount of lumbar support that I need (essentially a brick for my lower back) and the arm rests are always too low, causing my to slouch and put more pressure on my lower back.  So a standing desk sounded more ideal.  Ultimately, I can never get comfortable and that lack of comfort is a regularly distraction (ironically, I'm sitting right now because I'm not at my desk, and it is definitely annoying).

So after hearing about it and thinking about it, it seems to make sense for me.  It was either makeshift a standing desk and enjoy the various health benefits (e.g. burn more calories) or spend more money needlessly to get a hopefully more comfortable (ableit rather expensive) chair without much guarantee that it would give me the support I need.  Mostly, DIY examples I saw utilized boxes and books to make it happen.  And it just so happens that I do have a decent amount of books to make this happy (go figure, me, books?  NEVER!).  I stacked the books and started it out at my home desk.

Results of Standing at Standing Desks

The results have been overwhelmingly well but there are some adjustments that need to happen.  What I noticed first was I was (as some have mentioned) feeling more engaged or energized in my thinking.  This is akin to the studies that say talking on the phone while standing up instead of sitting down, produces a more controlled flow.  However, I also recognize that this could be psychosomatic influence as well as just more aware of my new environment after years of desk sitting.  A slight drawback (but really a benefit of productivity) is that my darling cats (Pumpkin and Bear) are less able to distract me by cuddling up on my lap and fiercely demanding attentioning (through purring, nuzzling, and being cuter than Puss'n'boots).  This just means that I'm more productive overall and can then give them more direct attentiopn--I'll take it.

Home-made standing desk
From the side:  I raised the desk
and added the books and footstool.
There are two elements that concern me.  One is a structural feature that needs tweaking.  The other, I will just have to monitor.  The first is that I haven't managed to get my monitor high enough and am so looking downward more than I should for the neck alignment.  Clearly, I'll need to find more books (who knows where, right?).  The second is that while I'm chockful of energy, I'm not feeling...well...seated.  That is, I'm on the edge of doing things, but have trouble feeling like I can settle in on something.   This is a fascinateing side effect thus far and always reminds me of how body and mind work together.  Settling into something and sitting down.  The implication is that I'm in it for "the long haul" and yet, my mind at least initially is having trouble making this jump.

But overall, I'm really liking it.  So after the first few days, I followed suit with situating it at my desk on work.  Again, I found the experience well.  Interestingly, there are occasional days when I am lagging at work.  If I'm sitting, I'm not only yawning but fighting to keep my eyelids open.  This is usually not because of the nature of the job, but because my body isn't getting the rest it may need or just not moving around enough.  However, by standing the whole day this became much less likely.  I don't recall it happening once and though I assume it is still likely to happen in the future, I believe that it will happen less.  The reason is that key parts of my body aren't at rest because I'm standing.  The sleepiness will often take its cure from a resting body.

So I went in strong, a full week of standing most of the day after much sitting over the last 6 months.  Clearly, my body felt it.  I experienced soreness by day three at work.  I went in strong, my body was not so happy about it, but soreness isn't a bad thing.  It's your muscles being re-awoken.  To be clear, I did not stand for 8 hours straight.  During my lunch break, I sat.  If I was at a meeting, I usually sat.  And other situations where custom was sitting I sat.  But I was still standing an average of 6-7 hours a day at work (nevermind how much I stood at home or in teaching class).

Props for standing desk
The mouse is strategically placed--but might
need adjusting.
I will continue to use this, short of any serious concern or obstacle.  However, one recommendation for others who would move forward with this direction.  More than anything else, I find myself stretching more.  Standing is nice, but it can be just as obnoxious in some ways as sitting.  I try to make sure that at least once an hour, I stretch.  My back, my feet, my calves, quads, and hamstrings.  They need some relief and loosening.

I'm glad with the results.  My body feels more energize and so does my work.  Anyone else out there that has tried this or considered it?  Experiences (good and bad)?

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My latest Best Reads of 2011-2012

So this isn't the first time, I've catalogued my most favorite reads.  I'm not going to list the exhaustive thing from last time and if that's not enough, you're always encouraged to visit my GoodReads library. However for this post, I'm going to cover significant books since that last posting.

Some interesting trends on these books.

1.  A lot less fiction.  

Clearly, the career change has resulted in redirecting more nonfiction books overall, but a lot more of those are proving more thought-provoking than much of the fiction I've enjoyed.  There's also the fact that I continue to read several fiction graphic novels such as Fables, DMZ, and Walking Dead.  Added to that has been a few new (or previously unmentioned series).  Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire (who is quickly rivalling my other two favorite comic writers:  Bill Willingham of Fables, and Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead and Invincible) has proved enjoyable. Brian Michael Bendis's Powers series has sucked me in with great delight.  I devour Mark Waid's Irredeemable and Incorruptible books and Mike Carey's Unwritten series is a great extension of Fables in some ways.

2.  Many books focus on our relation with technology and that makes sense given my job.

  However, I'm looking to create and have more sustain discussions about the nuance of digital media and social networks.  Many fall into several of the pre-established silos (a post for another time) and I think we do a disservice to ourselves and our possibilities (or concerns) by doing so.  Hence, I'm continuing to devour books engaged in this debate.

3.  Less books on consumerism and the environment.  

I'm not sure if this is a result of losing interest in these matters or if I'm not finding some of the arguments as compelling or new.

Unequivocally, the best book I've read in the last year is Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  There is no other book that has been more compelling (despite being a massive 800+ pages).  For a brief introduction to the book, I highly recommend his Ted Talk.  No other book has made me feel so optimistic enough about the future of humankind.

Contrastly, the worst book of the year was Fred Saberhagen's The Frankenstein Papers.  As a follow up to his The Dracula Tapes (in which Dracula tells his story of what happened), this story was meant to tell the true story from the creature's perspective.  It didn't deliver and its deus ex machina ending made me drop the book in a WTF moment that I'm still flabergasted about.  It reminded me of the JR treatment in the show Dallas.

Without further rambling (though some rambling with some titles), I give you the list.

Technology and Culture

  • I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy by Lori Andrews
  • The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian
  • The Smart Swarm: How Understanding Flocks, Schools, and Colonies Can Make Us Better at Communicating, Decision Making, and Getting Things Done by Peter Miller
  • You are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
  • Revolution 2:0: A Memoir and Call to Action by Wael Ghonim
  • The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories by Frank Rose
  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger
  • Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich
  • Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age is Revolutionizing Life, Business, and Society by Jeff Jarvis
  • Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back by Robert Levine
  • What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman
  • The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking by Mark Bauerlein
  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser
  • Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
  • Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
  • Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business by David Edery
  • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan
  • Fun Inc.: Why Play is the 21st Century's Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield
  • Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff

Consumerism and Environmentalism

  • The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World by Paul Gilding
  • New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by Winifred Gallagher
  • Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution by Auden Schendler
  • The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter
  • Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Updated and Revised Edition by Paco Underhill


  • Popular Culture : A User's Guide by Susie O'Brien
  • The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course by Linda Nilson (Check out my more detailed discussion of this book here).
  • Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham
  • The Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don't Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship--and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner

News Media 

  • Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams
  • The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine David Brock
  • The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media by Brooke Gladstone


  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • How to Write a Dirty Story: Reading, Writing, and Publishing Erotica by Susie Bright

Books I Should Have Read By Now (and finally did)

  • Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation by Roland Barthes
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan


  • Horror Stories by Jack Kilborn
  • Ayako by Osamu Tezuka
  • Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain

Misc Nonfiction

  • The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker,
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
  • Twenty-five Books That Shaped America: How White Whales, Green Lights, and Restless Spirits Forged Our National Identity by Thomas C Foster
  • Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
  • 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  • The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
  • Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What it Means to Be Black Now by TourĂ©
  • Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror by Jason Zinoman
  • The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid
  • Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison
  • Monsters of the Gevaudan: The Making of a Beast by Jay Smith
  • The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo

What are some of your favorite reads in the last year?  What did you think of these?

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Tales from 9 Runs: Run 4

Race number: 239
Today's run was the Xtreme Urban 5k in Salem.  It was a fun run with various obstacles placed throughout the run such as crawling under barbed wire, climbing over couches and grocery carts, cargo nets, entering the backdoor of a bus, scaling a soapy incline with a knotted rope to help you up, and a potato-sack portion (yes, potato sack racing--yeehaaaa!).  The finale was a slip and slide, which I totally kicked ass on.  If someone were in front of me, they would have been injured by my careening mass.  Luckily, no one was hurt in this race (by me).  For a sense of what it looked like, you can check out the map here.  How did I do for a time?  I'm not entirely sure.  If you look at the time listing here, I'm missing from it.  However, given when a fellow friend finished, I'm guessing that I'm #195 or "Unknown Partic. 424".  I was a known participant, but I think my race tag didn't register a finish or start.  Not sure, but 37:29 seems about the right range of time it took for me.  Not my fastest record by far, but I wasn't expecting that.

Race shirt all muddied up.I wasn't looking for any records or breakthroughs with this one, just to have fun. I was running in sneakers as opposed to the Vibram 5 Finger kicks that I run regularly in, so I knew from the get-go, my running was going to be off.  I definitely don't like running in regular kicks, but I also knew given the obstacles, I wasn't sure how my shoes might endure, so I played it safe.

Overall, I'm heading into the serious portion of my training--doing my best to get in 3-4 runs a week of 7 miles or more.  I'd like to see 10 miles by early July and another 2 miles by the end of July so that August, I will only have about 3-4 miles left to build up to.  Yes, it's still strange that I'm talking about this like I was doing push-ups or something.  But so it goes.

However, my brother and his team did pretty spectacular.  They came in first for the team runs.  He captured made a short but fun video that captures the run.  Needless to say, if I were on that team, I would have significantly brought down the average, so I was probably better off as a solo runner in this case.

I'm also talking with and teaming up with a few others to do a half-marathon in October, but there may indeed be more runs for me to be talking about.  Anyone interested in joining us--either just to get training or to actually run this half-marathon, please let me know--we're happy to take on more folk!

Lance Eaton after the Xtreme Urban 5K
After the race.
Lance Eaton before the Xtreme Urban 5K
Before the run.

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Tales from 9 Runs: Mid-Run Update, Or How Others Help Inspire Me to Kick My Ass

It's still a week away from my next run, but I had a breakthrough I wanted to share.  Yesterday, I ran 8.2 miles, which is the farthest I've ever run.  I ran it in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 30 sections, which means I was (albeit slightly) under 10 minute miles.  It's not a record by any account, but that I was able to maintain (just under) 10 minute miles and that I finished the run feeling great has been a great upturn in what had previously been feeling like a slump.

So what got me over the hump?  Well, after last week's run, I felt I needed to up the ante.  So this week, I made sure to commit myself to 3 days of running.  I also made sure that it was substantial running, so I did 4.5 on Monday, 7.2 on Wednesday, and 8.2 on Friday.  I wasn't setting out to do 8.2 earlier in the week, but throughout Friday, I kept coming back to the idea.  By lunch, I had determined that, I would accomplish the goal.

Google map of the area that I ran.
The Route I Ran
But there's lots of goals I tell myself I'll accomplish and have yet to (many of you know, there's still several books I should have written by now).  It's not lying per se, but there's an element of "I've still got time" or as in the case I convince myself why I can't/shouldn't/won't do it this time.  "I've got to do X" or something along thsoe lines.  So, early in the day I committed to it, but I had committed myself to doing lots of things that I never do.  What made this different?  What helped me run farther than I’ve ever run before; what motivated me to continue on running for nearly 1.5 hours when I used to bitch and moan about running 5 minutes warm-ups in high school (no—it’s true, 2 laps around the ¼ mile track and I thought it was a punishment worthy of Dante’s Inferno)?

There’s lots of people I have to thank for all the things in my life, including the impetus to run.  That goes without saying.  But I feel with this particular run, there are 5 people who pushed me into the new zone.  It’s funny the way influence works, because indirect influence has a bigger influence on us than we might expect (as the authors of Connected).  The influence of others can be subtle, it can be fleeting, it can be something important to you and almost irrelevant to the influencer.  But sometimes, it’s just the thing that I need to hear and experience at that moment.

What Got Me to This?

So I want to give thanks to these specific influencers in helping me to achieve a breakthrough in my running.  I’m going to avoid naming them by name and refer to them mainly as how I’m related/connected to them.

The first is the running partner and an old friend (as in, we hung together at age 5 and 6 watching Casper the Friendly ghost).  We started running together a few weeks ago and his enthusiasm and good-spirited nature is highly valued as we make our way through a rigorous workout.  Additionally, he is faster than me, which pushes me harder but he tempers this with also not leaving me behind and adjusting to my speed.  To adjust your speed (in whatever context) to the slower person without asking or making a deal of it, is a very kind deed for sure.

The second is the husband of a friend of mine whom I’ve known since high school.  Over the course of Thursday and Friday, he started his own blog.  Needless to say, I have much in common with his challenges and appreciate seeing other adult larger-sized males putting themselves out there to talk about overcoming and conquering the elements of our size that are threats to our health.  It takes strength to display vulnerability as Brene Brown says in her excellent TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability."  So in seeing and empathizing with his struggles, it helped me push on with my run and my own health development.

My sister-in-law and my co-worker both did something that we largely say is frivolous and meaningless.  They posted and commented on me on Facebook.  My sister-in-law posted a comment that she saw me and my friend running the other day (our course takes us past her house) and offered words of encouragement.  On Friday at lunch, when I committed to the act of running 8.2 miles, I posted about it in a quick “oh boy, here we go.”  My coworker, a very kind person on any given day, just posted some words of encouragement too.  Nothing elaborate—just a “I know ya can do it.”  A simple comment but it still did the trick to keep me trekking.

Finally, a friend from high school who I’d been largely out of touch with for the last 12 or so years sent me a Facebook messsage.  Like so many others, we reconnected on Facebook and have occasionally chatted sense.  Over the course of Friday, she started a dialogue with me and several others asking if we’d want to join in as a team for a half-marathon in October.  In part she was asking for help and encouragement and I thought to myself—wow—how far I’ve come.  Next month (July), will mark the 1 year anniversary of when I started running against all forecasts and here I am being asked to join a running team and help others to build up their running.  Just the asking to join was enough to feel humbled and motivated.

So what carried me through the 8.2 mile trek?  My body.  But what was fuel for the mental endurance of the run, people.  People who were kind with their words, sincere in their endeavors, and generous in their thoughts.  And with that, I cross the half-way mark in my running.  I need but to add 7.3 over the next 12 weeks.  I look forward to it.

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