On Hunger

I took a total looker to the Hippy Theatre last weekend. Thinking I might get some action, we sat in the balcony, but alas, a few other people, too close for comfort, kept me from making much of a move.

We saw All the President’s Men, thinking of it as a prequel to Mueller’s probable findings.

There’s a pivotal scene early on, when two lowly Washington Post reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, begin reporting on the Watergate break in. A senior editor says Woodward and Bernstein are not nearly experienced or skilled enough for what could end up being a national story (understatement). He advises Ben Bradlee to hand off their initial reporting to some established heavyweights. “They’re hungry!” their direct editor argued. Bradlee, conflicted, bet correctly on youthful ambition.

Cyclists routinely let off the gas after cresting hills. Their pedal cadence slows as soon as they begin descending, sometimes to the point of stopping altogether. “I’ve worked hard enough,” legs say to the brain, “I deserve a break.”

Many reporters and people coast, to varying degrees, once accomplished, however they define that. Of course there are outliers, oldsters who continue to grind well past the point of most of their peers.

As evidence of the fact that I’m not nearly as hungry as my younger self, rewind the tape eighteen months. Shortly before moving, I “organized” an underwhelming garage sale. Fewer than normal people showed because of my half-ass marketing. I hollered something sarcastic at my friend across the street like, “Dig the traffic jam!” To which he astutely replied, “You’re not hungry.” Touché. The truth of the matter was, a bit of bacon wasn’t nearly as motivating as saving a few trips to Value Village, which as it turned out, wasn’t much motivation either.

I’m not nearly as Ambitious as in the past, but I’m still ambitious. I care more about personal improvement than professional accomplishment. I want to learn to listen more patiently, to be increasingly selfless, caring, and loving.

That’s a type of hunger. Isn’t it?

 

 

My Life as a Triathlete

Last night right before bed I got a text from downstairs, “Weren’t you supposed to do a triathlon today?”

A couple of weeks ago I told the Good Wife I was thinking about doing an Olympic triathlon in Portland on July 30th. But I’ve become so flaky about racing the last few years that comment didn’t register with her, so a couple of days ago she suggested that after church we go to Alderbrook for brunch with the in-laws. Which is how I spent imaginary triathlon day.

Once I had eaten my vegetarian omelete and killer breakfast potatoes at Alderbrook, cruised Steamboat Island, and returned home, I turned my attention to how a friend was doing at Ironperson Canada in Whistler, B.C. She was 90% through the run and in first place in her age group, so I sporadically checked in to see if she won and thereby qualified for the World Championship in October in Kona, which happily she did.

I also checked on the 55-59 year old men to see how I would’ve probably done. Because I’m experienced, time my training sessions, and often train with others who do race, I can estimate pretty damn accurately how fast I would’ve gone over the 140.6 miles. I would’ve finished second out of 29 geezers.

This is what I do. I train, I think about racing, but I don’t actually register for any events. I even have a built-in excuse for not racing in our local triathlon each June. Too short.

My hangups are many. I need a good sports psychologist if you have a recommendation. I need to either turn off my computer and put on my wetsuit or come to grips with what I texted back. “It appears as if I’m retired from competition.”

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A picture from my last triathlon.

Who Are You Drafting Off Of?

Like a lot of introverts, my need for solitude sometimes seems insatiable. Yet, I’m keenly aware we are social beings and that we need others to accomplish much of anything and to have any meaningful shot at genuine happiness.

Even though you won’t find me in the Nisqually Delta with binocs, DSLR camera, and ginormous lens dangling from my neck, or listening to bird calls on my iPad, I enjoy watching the birds we share our new spot with. Yesterday’s airshow was especially good. Two bald eagles took turns nipping each other (foreplay?) while a cormorant glided by obliviously . I also can’t get enough of watching geese and other migratory birds fly by in small, medium, and large “V’s”.

Migratory birds draft off of one other for the same reason cyclists do, to save about 25% of their energy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also also benefit somehow from the social aspect of flying together.

Are you an investor, if so, are you “flying solo” or are you drafting off of someone more experienced, knowledgeable, and successful? Like this person. What about as a person, are you drafting off anyone to be a better human being? Or maybe, like me, as an educator, parent, and older person, you’re doing your best to, like Nairo Quintana in the picture below, “lead out” others in need of a positive example.

20175944-355979-800x531.jpgPhoto: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Postscript: I love this pic because even though Quintana is working at least 25% harder than Contador and company, he’s totally in control, meanwhile, everyone else is struggling mightily to hold his wheel. If only I had grown up Boyacense.

Adult Onset Seriousness

Playfulness is a wonderful attribute. One I’d like to revive.

Last Thursday afternoon. Lunch swim workout in the books. Walking across Foss Intramural Field back to the office. One of those perfect, sunny, 60-ish, post summer/pre-fall September days in the Pacific Northwest that you wish you could bottle. Frisbees filled the air.

Somewhere between young adulthood and adulthood I stopped playing frisbee. I used to be a SoCal legend in my own mind. At SoCal beaches my signature move was to huck it way above the waves like a boomerang into the onshore wind and then, hours, minutes, maybe 15 seconds later, catch it to the delight of hundreds, my girlfriend and a few other friends, myself. I don’t think our frisbee even survived the recent move.

Somewhere in adulthood I stopped playing, not just frisbee, everything it seems. Yes, swimming, running, and cycling can be child-like activities, but not the way I tend to do them. I train. I have distance and time goals. And tiny gps-enabled computers and apps that tell me how far, how fast, and many other things in between. Yesterday I ran home from church, 7.5 miles in 56 minutes and change, for a 7:30/m average (first half, downhill). At one point, I saw two good friends walking the opposite direction. We said “hello”, and even though we haven’t talked for a month, I kept going. You know, the average pace and all.

Hell, I don’t even PLAY golf anymore. And I’m not alone. Do any adults ever think “What a nice day, I should ask the rest of the office to chuck the frisbee for awhile.”? And yet, nothing is more natural for young adults on college campuses than to stop and play.

How to cultivate a playful spirit? What might my swimming, running, and cycling look like if I approached them as play? What about other non-work activities?

Before you suggest low hanging fruit like mountain biking, you should know I sometimes struggle staying upright even on intermediate trails. With that caveat, I’m open to any other suggestions.

What do you do, if anything to maintain a sense of playfulness?

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How To Avoid Weight Gain In Later Life

This post was inspired by reading a LetsRun.com forum thread on the subject. Here are two contributions that stood out to me:

The first.

I’m 6’1″ and ran competitively until my early 30’s. You can see what scaling back the running and getting older does.

Age 18: 117
Age 25: 140
Age 35: 160
Age 45 (now): 190

Know what happens between age 35 and 45 when you pretty much quit running? 30 pounds. That’s what happens. Fortunately I have plateaued at right around 190 for the past few years. Not surprisingly people tell me I look better than I did when I was 120lbs and looked “sickly.”

As you get older it is easier to put the weight on, and significantly harder to lose it. I now sport a ‘Dad Bod’ like many guys my age. I’m not an obese slob but I could certainly stand to drop 20 pounds.

The second.

The margin of error disappears after 40. In my 30s, I could pig out now and then without any consequences. Since turning 40, one big desert or dinner and I will gain a pound or two on an otherwise light 5’8″/135-40 lb frame. When i am injured or just lazy, I will very quickly gain weight and level off just below 150. It then takes about 1 month to lose 2 lbs by watching diet and running 50-70 mpw.

As mentioned previously, there is a self regulating aspect to getting old. If I eat a sugary desert and drink a lot of booze at dinner, I will wake up around 3 am feeling like I just drank 3 cups of coffee due to all the sugars suddenly metabolizing. The result is that I rarely have deserts and have cut back a lot on booze.

Three suggestions.

1. Most importantly, decide if it matters. Unless you have a compelling reason or two to not be overweight in later life, you will be, because as the LetsRunners make clear, overtime metabolism slows and self discipline erodes. A double whammy.

I suspect I’m unique in this respect. It’s nice that the Good Wife digs my slender self, but truth be told, my main motivation is running and cycling well. By which I mean maintaining some sort of rhythm running and cycling longish distances with others who still run and cycle pretty damn fast. Even more specifically, I enjoy running and cycling uphill which is hard enough without an extra 5 or 10 lb. pound spare tire.

For most the question is whether a general appreciation for better mobility and physical and mental health is sufficient motivation. Based upon my people watching, it doesn’t appear to be. If you can’t write down a specific and compelling reason or two to avoid weight gain in later life, you may as well skip the rest of this post and enjoy a Big Tom’s milkshake or giant snack of your choice.

2A. Don’t buy your favorite processed sugary snacks and alcohol unless your young adult children are visiting. Also, “they” are right to recommend eating before grocery shopping. “They” are also right to say always use a list.

But even in later life, everything in moderation. I enjoy a beer, or chocolate covered raisins, a piece (or two) of cheesecake, a bowl of ice-cream, but only on days when I’ve burned quite a few more cals than normal. Typically, weekend afternoons after a long or especially hard run or ride. I’ll deny it if you tell her I told you, but the always slender and sexy Gal Pal has a soft spot for Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches.

2B. Eat on the road and in restaurants in moderation. Take charge of your food purchasing and prep.

3. Switch your dishes out. I’ve learned the only way I can control my portions is to use smaller bowls. Now it’s to the point where I have winter bowls and summer bowls. Two winter bowls = one summer bowl. In the summer, I cycle further with much greater intensity. Last night, for example, I burned 3K calories on my 54+ mile team ride. I weighed 169 pre-ride, 164 post. This morning’s bowl looked like a replica of Mount Rainier, Raisin Bran, Honey Bunches of Oats, raw oats, washed down with a large smoothie. In a few minutes, pistachios, banana with pb, huge serving of pasta. On the way home from work, pretzels, Cliff Bar, and then I’ll graze before dinner.

It’s painful switching to the winter bowls, which I should probably do a month from now. You would chuckle if you could see me try to max that baby bowl out without having the contents overflow the sides. Like playing Operation, the key is the first, delicate spoonful. Winter also means next to no desserts, very little beer, no joy in Mudville. And I still gain a little weight.

 

What Endurance Athletics Has Taught Me

Most people want to get in shape in a fraction of the time it took them to get out of shape. A vast majority also want to win the lottery and fall in love over night.

The key to success in endurance athletics is building strength, stamina, and mental toughness over time. The key is taking the long view towards incremental improvement, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year. Am I stronger, fitter, more confident this week, month, year? I’ll never be strong, fit, and confident enough. When most successful, there’s positive momentum, movement along the continuum. Positive momentum requires waking up and getting out the door, even when I don’t feel like it. Especially when I don’t feel like it.

How to create positive personal finance momentum? The key is incremental improvement which results from saving more than I spend month-to-month, year-to-year, and then investing in passive index funds month-to-month, year-to-year. Building the strength, stamina, and mental toughness to hold on for five, ten, fifteen years. Rebalancing on occasion.

How to be a better human being? By being a more active, patient listener this week, this month, this year. By being a little more friendly to others, more empathetic, more curious, more understanding.

It’s much easier to write about the long view and incremental improvement than it is to apply it consistently. In some important ways—including as an endurance athlete, as a blogger, and as a close friend—I’m lacking positive momentum right now. This is the point in the post where I wish I had an inspiring insight to close with.

Postscript: Alexi has momentum in her life.

 

 

A Life Built on Service and Saving

If my ticket gets punched sometime soon, I’ll have lived a life filled to the brim. Almost disorientingly so. I’ve crouched in the final passageway of a West African slave fort, been drenched by Victoria Fall’s mist, walked on the Great Wall of China, ran around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hiked in Chiapas, and cross country skied in Norway. I’ve lived in the Midwest, the West, the Southeast, and as one six year old here says, “the Specific Northwest”. I’ve interacted with thousands of young people, the vast majority who appreciated my efforts on their behalf. I’ve cycled up and down mountains in the Western United States. I’ve taught guest lessons in my daughters’ elementary classrooms. I’ve been blessed to know lots of people more selfless than me, some who will read this today. I’ve been loved by caring, generous parents, and been privileged to know my wife and daughters and their friends.

My life has been so full that I tend to think about whatever my future holds as extra credit. Everything from here on out is a bonus.

Maybe I don’t look forward to too much anymore because my cup has been overflowing for some time. Apart from a story well told and nature, not a lot moves me these days.

So getting choked up in church yesterday, during the announcements of all things, was totally unexpected. A guest was invited to the front to make a surprise announcement. A tall, dapper man in his late 30’s began describing his relationship with ChuckB, a member who had passed away a few months ago. He had been Chuck’s financial planner for eight years.

I didn’t know Chuck until I attended a celebration of his life that was planned nine months ago after the church community learned of his terminal illness. He worked as a forester for the Department of Ecology for a few decades and kept a low profile at church, driving the van, tutoring after school, doing whatever was needed behind the scenes. At his celebration I was struck by how everyone described him as one of the most humble, caring, and giving people they had ever known. He lived a simple life in a modest neighborhood that revolved around participating in church activities.

The financial planner announced that Chuck and his wife, who had passed away previously, were leaving the church $925,000, divided four ways, the largest portion for international aide, another for local charities, another for Lutheran World Relief specifically, and about $220,000 in the church’s unrestricted fund to use as the Council sees fit. A Council that has been seeking about $35,000 to fund a half-time position dedicated to strengthening our ties to local people in need.

There was an audible gasp. Two people stood and began applauding and soon everyone followed. My favorite part, and probably what moved me so much, was that Chuck wasn’t there for his standing ovation. Shortly before he died, he confided to one member that he was leaving “the bulk of his estate to the church,” but that person said she had “no idea it was anywhere near that much money.” No one did.

The most beautiful and moving part to me is that Chuck intentionally passed on his standing ovation. He didn’t need it. A life filled with service and saving was more than enough. Blessed be his memory.