Friday, September 30, 2011

The List

I'm overwhelmed with the desire and the compulsion to get out and do things. I have a tremendous amount of energy, and I find I must be out doing things most of the time now. I actually get antsy now if I stay put for too long.

A while back, I asked on Twitter and Facebook for blog ideas, and Erik's dad suggested writing about things I've always wanted to do but haven't yet for whatever reason. So, credit for this idea goes to Mr. H. I've adapted it a little bit. The job situation threw off a lot of things I wanted to do and ruined a lot of plans I had. But it's time to stop using that as an excuse. I'm perfectly capable of doing whatever the hell I want to do anyway.

The focus of this list isn't so much things I've always wanted to do but haven't yet, it's things I absolutely intend to do going forward over the next six-to-12 months or so. These may be things I've done before but not in a while or things I haven't had the chance to do yet.

In either case, here's a list of 10 things I will accomplish in the coming year. Not all of them may be spectacularly interesting to you, but they're things I want to do. Make your own damn list if you have a problem with mine!

In no particular order:

1. Half-Marathon

I will run another half-marathon. The Bermuda half-marathon I found is likely a pipe-dream. It would just be really expensive to get myself there, no matter how worth it the race might be.

But there are others! Mike and I are currently discussing a DC race in March -- the Rock 'n Roll Marathon/Half-Marathon on March 17. It starts and finishes at RFK Stadium, and the course is throughout downtown DC. Basically, it's awesome.

The race is a Saturday, so we could kill the race, and then wear our medals out when we go out Saturday night. Now to work on Nick so he'll run the half with me. Mike will run the full. No thank you, sir. I did my first half alone, so it would be fine either way. But we'd need Nick to go out Saturday night -- no question.

Training would start by the end of December. I love the idea of a March half-marathon. I don't love the idea of training throughout the winter, but c'est la vie. It will help keep my ass from refatting up, for sure.

Also, not only will I run another half-marathon, I will beat the time (2:19:51) from my first half-marathon.

2. Warrior Dash

I will complete a Warrior Dash. As I mentioned in a post earlier this month, I have my sights set on a race in south Florida at the beginning of December. One of my sister's best friends wants to run in it, and I'd love to do it as well.

It's essentially a 5k for the mentally unstable, and it includes rope climbs, mud-pit crawls, leaping over flaming logs, etc. You know, the usual. So, so great. I really can't wait to do one of these.

Plus, you get a viking helmet for completing the race!

3. Join a Band

I've also written about this on the blog before. Once the job situation is cleared up, I plan to scour Craigslist to find a band looking for a drummer. I want the band to be a bunch of relaxed, drama-free people who want to play some fun music that gets people dancing. Some original songs, some cover songs. Let's just have some fun.

I really, really want to play live music in front of an audience again. What a rush, man. I miss that, for sure.

4. Skiing

I went skiing for the first time in my life a little less than two years ago with the ex-girl and some friends from the ex-job. It was magnificent. It was exhilarating. There aren't enough good things to say about it.

I fell down, because of course I did. I went too fast. I had no idea what I was doing. It was awesome. Awesome!

I will go again this winter. Who knows, maybe I can get some friends together and pull off an actual ski weekend. How ridiculous would that be? Very ridiculous.

5. New York

New York is my favorite city in the United States. By far. My extended family lives close by, and I have some friends who live there as well.

I want a weekend in the city with everyone who can make it. I want to go to the top of the Empire State building again. I want to see Ground Zero again. I want to go to a Yankee game again. I want to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Yes, I want to be a moronic tourist. And then I want to go out until the bars close at 4 a.m. (ATTN: NICK, MIKE AND EVERYONE. WE MUST DO THIS.).

Or I want to go for a weekend with some of my DC friends. Why not? It's only a few-hour drive away.

I haven't been to New York in a while. Maybe two years? Too long. Let's do this.

6. Cousins Weekend

I wrote extensively about my weekend in Savannah with my uncle and cousins. It was one of the most ridiculous weekends I've ever had.

We will do it again. Jeb and I already began preliminary discussions about the next weekend. We think April-ish might be the best time for it since the weather is mostly good anywhere then.

We have a few ideas for other cities, but we also kind of feel like a Savannah sequel would be pretty awesome.

In any case, beware. A pack of Grossmans will invade someplace this spring and cause scenes of debauchery all over the place. LET'S GO!

7. Look Good

My weekend in Raleigh set me back a few pounds, but it wasn't crazy. I'm so, so close to my goal weight of 180 pounds. It's unbelievable. When I set the goal, 180 seemed so far away -- an impossible pie-in-the-sky number I'd never reach. Now I'm within five-to-seven pounds of the goal.

I've said it before, but I won't stop at 180. My updated goal will be more body-fat-percentage related than weight-related. When I was up near 230 pounds back in the Spring, my body fat was 30 percent. Yikes.

I've gotten it down to 22 percent since then, which is an awesome improvement. But there's still work to do. I'd love to get down to 17 percent. That's my ultimate goal. Really, it's about fitting comfortably into smaller clothes, which I've been doing a LOT lately. I'm down from extra-large shirts to medium shirts in some cases. And I've recently downgraded from 38-inch jeans to 34-inch jeans.

Still work to do. Can't get satisfied or complacent. Gotta push as hard as I ever have. Time to crank up the intensity in the gym.


8. Run More 5Ks

If you've ever completed a race of any kind, you know how insane it is. Doesn't matter what the distance is. Running a race gets the adrenaline and the blood pumping like nothing else. After I absolutely kicked the ass of my last 5K, I want to run more.

I just love the race atmosphere. And competing against myself and pushing myself to do better than I did last time. It's a hell of a drug.

So why not run more 5Ks? No real good reason not to! The half-marathon training program I use calls for a 5K race about halfway through, so I'll aim for one around then. It also calls for a 10K race three weeks before the half-marathon, so I'll also look for one of those!

I'm so excited right now haha.

9. Camping

I haven't been camping since I was 14 years old. I remember loving it then. I went with a couple friends and one of the friend's parents.

We ended up breaking the tent somehow. I'm not sure what we did, but I know we were not successful in constructing the tent. We also made it impossible to be successful constructing the tent somehow. We ended up putting the tent exterior on the ground to sleep on and hanging a tarp in the trees above our heads so we were covered in some way. Lulz.

I'd absolutely love to go camping again. A decent tent isn't even that expensive. You can get an OK tent for like $60 at Dick's.

Sounds like an awesome weekend to me. Bring some friends, some alcohol and hang out in the woods? Yes and please.

Also, it would give me a chance to take part in one of my absolute FAVORITE pastimes -- staring at the stars. I can (and have, by the way) lie down and stare at the stars for hours on end. I'm fascinated. Always have been.

Even now, if I walk outside at night, I instinctively look up just to see what there is. Unfortunately, living so close to the city, there isn't much. If we went camping far enough away, I bet we could see some kick ass stars.

10. Kayaking

I've been kayaking a couple of times with my family on big family vacations with aunts, uncles and the aforementioned cousins.

I remember humorous situations involving my sister refusing to paddle anymore, leaving me to propel the two-person kayak on my own. And large insects/spiders falling into the kayak with us. I care less for the insects.

But the kayaking itself! It's a tough workout, man, but I remember loving it. There are a shit-ton of rivers around here. I bet it's possible to kayak in them.

DC friends, seems like it would be a good way to burn some of the calories we take in on some weekend nights, no?

There are other things I'd like to do, like visit California, spend some time in Europe, go snorkeling again, SCUBA, etc. But it seems irresponsible to do some/all of those things with the job situation uncertain. Baby steps first. I'm excited about every item on this list though; I know that much.

Once the job situation becomes clear, perhaps I'll update the list with things that will be more possible then.

Until then, I can't wait to start checking things off.

Do you have any interest in doing any of these things with me? Seriously, please let me know! We'll make some plans, and knock out some of this list.

Thanks for reading, as always. See you Monday!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Rambles

It's going to be hard to top my single life post. According to Google Analytics, the blog received more visitors on Monday than any other day since I've had it. The post is already the fourth-most clicked individual post, which is crazy because it needed only one day to eclipse some posts that have had weeks to accumulate clicks.

Do you remember those old IMChaos links you could put in your AIM profiles, and it would tell you exactly which screennames clicked on it? Damn I wish Google Analytics worked that way haha. Alas, it does not. It cannot tell me who clicks my posts. So fear not, blog stalkers. Also, I love all of you for clicking anyway, so whatevs.

There'd be no point in writing if no one read it, so I'm just glad people find whatever reason they may have to read. And a HUGE thanks for that!

So I got to run my four miles in the rain again today. Kick. Ass. Also, I kicked the run's ass. Ran four miles in 38 minutes -- my second-best time ever on that distance.

Normally when I run, I go really hard for the first mile because I'm trying to finish a mile in under eight minutes. I'm getting there. I think my best mile time right now is 8:07? Either way. The problem with that is it takes enough out of me that by the time the uphill mile 3 rolls around, I have to walk for a few minutes, which really sabotages my total four-mile time.

Today, I decided to take it easy, run casually and try to get a decent time. I still finished mile 1 in 8:42 -- not bad at all for taking it easy. I was able to run the first three miles without stopping, which is impressive because half of mile 3 is straight uphill.

Turns out the strategy worked, as I finished in 38:34. Damn good day!

Although I do have a slight groin situation going on. I don't think it's pulled (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID), but something isn't right. I might postpone my third run this week until Saturday morning. I'll stretch hardcore for the next few days and see where we are this weekend.

I have to make sure I can play flag football! We're playing Maryland on Sunday morning, and we have a great chance to get a big division win.

We narrowly lost to No. 2 Michigan this past weekend, 20-13. We had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead with no time on the clock, but the fourth-down pass fell to the ground. We have a LEGIT flag football team, though. CAN'T WAIT to make some noise in the league this year.

Also, since when did Tuesday become the official rain day? This is, like, week FOUR of our softball season, and we've played exactly ONE game due to rain outs and cancellations. C'mon now.

So Rosh Hashanah starts at sundown tonight. If I were a better Jew I could tell you what that means, but, alas, I'm not, so I can't. Besides, I'm technically not at all Jewish, since my mom is Catholic. But you know, as that T-shirt I saw last year said, I'm Jew-ish.

It's the Jewish new year, and apparently it will be the year 5772. So Happy Jew Year to you and yours. I've got nothing else to say here. Lulz.

I went to Giant and bought one of the Jewish memorial candles you light for loved ones. It was 53 cents. I think I can swing that. You light it at sundown, and it burns for 24 hours. It's for my grandfather, who passed away when I was a freshman in college.

He deserves a post on this blog, so I'll probably write one for the anniversary of his passing next month.

Jon texted me today to let me know his parents recently purchased a condo on a lake in Charlotte. Their downstairs neighbor? Pia Sundhage, the U.S. women's soccer coach. Naturally, being the excellent friend he is, he's going to talk to her to try to get me set up with Hope Solo. Obviously.

This much is inarguable: I am, today, one step closer to marrying her than I was yesterday. Don't stop believin'.

So that movie "50/50" comes out this weekend. I'm pretty sure I've talked about it here a few times, so I wont rehash my thoughts on it. But all the trailers I've seen have made me really want to see it. And the song in the trailer, "Do the Panic" by Phantom Planet, is so, so good. Love it.

Anyway. Sorry this post was so terrible haha. My groin hurts. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Lulz. I'll try to be funny on Friday; I promise.

Again, thank you a million times to everyone who stops by to read this blog. I just love writing so much, and I hope you get even a fraction of the enjoyment out of reading it as I get out of writing it.

Life is good, friends. Life is really, really good.


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Single Life

Here's a fact about me that is both absolutely stunning and absolutely true: I've never really been single.

Over the past 14 years, I've been engaged (twice) more often than I've been single for longer than a couple weeks (once). I'll pause here for that to sink in. LULZ.

Yeah, so THAT happened.

I've had relationships, and those relationships have ended; but, more often than not, I slid into another relationship within a couple of weeks -- if that long, in some cases. I like to joke that I'm a serial monogamist.

Casual dating and sleeping around has never really been something I've been particularly interested in or adept at making work. I'm much more suited to serious relationships. And I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that, especially since I'm aware of it, and I take steps to try to manage it haha. But it's definitely how I am.

The ex-girl and I split some months back now, and a strange thing happened to me. I was consumed, not with finding another girlfriend, but with getting my shit straight. I'm sure that's a normal reaction for most people, but in high school and college, I always just wanted to find another girlfriend. It was always my gut instinct.

And as Rob Gordon says in High Fidelity, "I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and, frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains."

I mean, seriously, brief aside: how brilliant is that movie/book? Love it.

So yeah. There you go. Previously, after a break-up, all I really wanted was to find a girlfriend because I didn't particularly like being alone. But really, who does?

Like I said, this time felt different. For the first time, I absolutely didn't care about talking to girls or trying to go on dates or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I gave it a few half-hearted attempts over the past few months, but it became clear I wasn't into it. I had no interest in trying to date someone else. At all.

Perhaps it was my gut having its first good idea since I was 14 years old. I don't know.

I know what you're probably thinking. This is a post to convince others (and myself) that it's OK I don't have a girlfriend and I promise everything is OK and please believe me!

Couldn't be further from the truth, and I believe I have a convincing argument.

First of all, it's been the unanimous opinion of every friend I've seen recently that they cannot believe how happy and energetic and full of life I am now. Exact words are usually something like, "Wow, the difference between talking to you now and talking to you four or five months ago is incredible. You seem happier than I've ever seen you." Four or five months ago was pretty much the lowest point I'd ever been at, if you'll recall.

That tells me everything I've been working so hard on these past few months has been totally and completely worth it and successful.

Second, spending serious time working out and watching what I eat has been one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. Look, obviously I'm not saying I didn't do these things because I was in a relationship. That's nonsensical.

But would I have felt the same urge, desire and motivation to push myself as hard as I continue to push myself if I were NOT single? I'm not sure. I do know that being single gave me a LOT more time to spend lifting weights, walking Allie and running.

And let's be honest, you can say "hey sweetheart, how do you feel about chicken breast, steamed veggies and tuna for dinner?" only so often. When you're with someone, even when you cook together, it's SOOO easy to fall into unhealthy eating habits. I have had my share of that. Plus, there's going out to dinner and dates and etc. You know how it goes.

I needed to be extreme with my food choices for a while to instill good habits and discipline. I'm in a much better place with that now. I make much smarter decisions with food now than I ever have. I eat less food now than I ever have. God I'm so happy with this haha. I'm just so much healthier than I've ever been, it's ridiculous.

Next, going out with my friends as much as I have been. Again, I'm NOT saying I couldn't have gone out with my friends when I wasn't single. That's illogical. Of course I could have. But you know. Let's be reasonable. There are only so many times when you can say, "hey sweetheart, I'm going downtown to drink with my friends three times this week, cool?" I'm just saying. That would probably wear thin on ANY significant other after a while, and probably understandably so. But at the same time, I needed it. Big time.

As I (jokingly, of course) said to Nick in Raleigh, life can be a lot of fun when you don't have to worry about disappointing and/or embarrassing a girl haha. That's clearly NOT serious, but you know what I'm saying. It's probably not as easy to go home and have the following exchange, "So what did you do tonight?" "Oh you know. Danced like an ass for four hours."

Finally, did you read what I wrote up there? I've been engaged twice, and I haven't been single since I was approximately 15 years old. I think some time to myself to figure out my own shit was a little overdue, don't you?

As my friend Ashlee said to me, it's hard to find out who you are when you find yourself as half of a whole for so long. Well said! And true!

Before this summer, the longest I'd been single since I was 15 years old was less than six weeks. And even then, it wasn't really six weeks of being single because we never stopped speaking, hanging out or living together. So you know. There's that.

I have never taken the opportunity to look at myself, to improve on the things I felt needed improvement or to figure out what I truly want. I am 29 years old, friends. I'm a grown-ass man, dawg. It's been well past time for a while now for a little self-analysis and reflection.

I'm not saying I have it all figured out. It's only been, what, four months? But I have a much better perspective on myself. I'm in SUCH a better place mentally and physically right now. It's difficult even to comprehend where I was back in April.

The improvements I've made since then -- I mean, wow. There really aren't words for it. My energy level is through the ROOF. So much so, in fact, that J. Mike referred to dancing all night as "pulling a BG." I'm nearly at my goal weight of 180 pounds (from an all-time high of almost 230 pounds), which will only be a pit-stop on my way to 170 or 175 or even 165. Who knows.

I am comfortably running at least four miles three times a week. And I'm running five miles on the weekends. I made ridiculous improvements on my 5k time a few weeks ago. I'm now looking toward making similarly significant progress on my half-marathon time of 2:19:51.

I've been setting personal bests in one-mile, two-mile, three-mile and four-mile times almost daily for weeks now. I've almost got my one-mile time under eight minutes. My two-mile time is hovering right around 16 or 17 minutes. I recorded my best-ever four-mile time last week before I went to Raleigh.

I said GODDAMN it feels good to be a gangsta.

So. All of that is to say this: the past four months or so. Being single, being alone by my own designs and of my own volition for once and NOT trying to hop into another relationship is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

Like I said, I don't have it all figured out. But I have a much greater understanding of who I am and what I want -- things I'd never really bothered to consider before. All that running allows for a lot of reflection and thought.

Now, all of THAT is to say this: I think it's finally time. I feel like I'm ready to see other people and finally put all of my rediscovered awesomeness to good use, no? Although my new perspective on things is also most definitely telling me we'll take things slow this time as compared to, say, every other time in my life. Lulz.

It's been four months, and I've spent a hell of a lot of time working on myself. Feels like a good time to put myself back out there.

Let's go, friends. LET. US. GO.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Mailing it In

Look, I'm not saying I'm going to mail in this post, but I'm not NOT saying it either. So you know. There it is.

Here's the deal: I get sick like once a year. It's a cold that lasts for a little while and then it goes away. And I sort of feel it coming on right now. You know that cloudy-head feeling and sort of sore throat deal? Yeah. Fail.

Is this related to my insane weekend in Raleigh? It could be. I went harder in Raleigh than I have probably since my trip to Savannah back in June. Who knows.

So prepare for a little random, stream of consciousness today!

This weekend feels like a couch weekend. After last weekend and last night, I wouldn't mind a little relaxing and recovery. Tonight is a rest night, for sure. Gotta head this potential sickness off at the pass.

And it's raining again. We're supposed to play flag football on Sunday. This is the CAN league, so it's the N.C. State flag football team (like my N.C. State softball team from this summer).

The team was really good last year. Ended up ranked no. 8 out of like 60-65 teams, I think. We won our first game last weekend 34-0 over South Carolina. Obviously, I was in Raleigh, so I didn't participate. This weekend, we're supposed to play No. 2 Michigan though. I hope the rain stops long enough so we can play.

And then don't rain anymore! I don't want any more softball games to be rained out! We're supposed to play Tuesday night. *sigh. We'll see.

So last night, we hit up Front Page for happy hour before going downstairs to Buffalo Billiards to watch the State game. Let me tell you why happy hour specials are awesome: four beers, $11 bill, including tip. That's tough to beat, friends.

I don't want to talk about the State game. Except to say this: ATTENTION DEFENSE AND OFFENSIVE LINE -- THE SEASON STARTED FOUR WEEKS AGO. SHOW UP.

I sort of blame myself for the two losses so far this season. I've worn my two-time national champions shirt for two games this year. Yup. The Wake Forest and Cincinnati games. Might be time to retire this shirt for game purposes. I was going to wear the kick-ass long-sleeve shirt I bought in Raleigh (that I wore to the South Alabama win), but it was just too warm for long sleeves last night, no matter how thin and comfortable the shirt may be. Next week, I'm not risking it. I'm wearing that shirt regardless.

We had a great group to watch the game though. Probably had 50 State people show up. So that was good anyway. Really though, the only way to watch a State game is at a bar. Watching the team just makes you want to drink to forget most of the time, so it helps to cut out the traveling and just start at the bar.

Matty's playing rugby tomorrow against Georgetown, but if it's raining, I probably won't make the trek down to watch that. Not as much fun to stand and watch in the rain as it is to run or play in the rain.

Tomorrow night, however, we're going to go see Moneyball! I never read the book, but I know about it, obviously, and the sabermetrics teams use to evaluate players. I fully support sabermetrics. I think stats like RBIs and pitcher wins are ridiculous measures of a player's worth because they are completely dependent on OTHER players and not the individual you're trying to examine.

Plus, Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for the movie. I will see anything Sorkin has a hand in writing. If it came out that he was writing the screenplay for the next Sex and the City movie, I'd be there on opening night. He's responsible for two of my favorite shows of all time -- The West Wing and Sports Night. I'm pretty excited to see this.

I'll be surprised if we don't end up at a bar after the movie, but there's no chance I'm going like I did in Raleigh. A couple drinks, and then home. Because if we DO have a flag football game, it's 11 a.m. on Sunday, and it's a little bit of a drive from my apartment.

Otherwise, Matty and I will head to McFadden's for the Panthers game at 1 p.m. I gotta say, I'm incredibly surprised there are enough Panthers fans in the DC area to designate a bar as a "Panthers bar." But there it is. McFadden's is a Panthers bar. Who knew. I'm not a diehard Panthers fan like he is. I'm mostly indifferent on the NFL. I love watching football, but I don't have ONE team I live and die with by any means. I loosely follow the Jets and the Panthers.

Brief health update: After three days in Charlotte and three insane days in Raleigh, I gained a couple pounds back. Nothing crazy and nothing unforeseen, and undoubtedly worth it. But back to the grind this week and next, big time. Feel great, folks. Feeling really great.

Have you seen the previews for the movie 50/50 with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt? I may have talked about this before. I don't recall. Whatevs. Anyway, JGL's character gets cancer. Rogen plays his friend, and it appears to be about how they deal with it.

Every time I see a preview for this movie, it looks better and better. I really want to see it. It comes out next weekend. But I mean. There's no chance JGL's character lives, right? He has to die at the end of the movie, doesn't he? I just don't know. One of the reasons I want to see it is because some of the conversations the two guys had in the previews were strikingly similar to conversations and interactions I had with Erik. I got the chills when I first saw the previews.

I'm afraid of this movie hitting too close to home, essentially. But I don't know. It looks so good. I think we can all agree this would be a poor decision for a date movie, though, right? Haha of course.

I foresee myself seeing this movie and bringing plenty of tissues. You know, for the emotions.

You know, I really love the phrases "xxxx is the worst" and "the game is afoot." I think the first one comes from The Office. Michael was always very fond of saying how Toby is the worst. And the way he said it with such disdain and disgust really cracks me up. Plus, it's so definitive. That's the worst. Love it.

The game is afoot. Whenever I hear this it reminds me of those awesome SNL Celebrity Jeopardy sketches with "Sean Connery." It's just really great. It's definitely NOT the worst. I believe I said it a few times this past weekend. Very appropriately, too. And I think we should all try hard to work it into our daily speech as often as possible. There's just no downside to that.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited for a relaxing, low-key weekend after the past couple of weeks. It's been beyond awesome, but even I need a break every once in a while -- ridiculous energy levels notwithstanding. Seriously though, the past few months is the most fun I've had since college. Which is pretty much what I knew would happen. Lulz.

Once again, thanks to everybody who, for some reason, reads whatever it is I feel like writing. Thanks for the comments and messages. It means the world to me.

Back on Monday!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

That Just Happened Part 2

Did you somehow miss the exciting first part of the story of my weekend in Raleigh? Check it out here before reading on.

So! When we left off with the story, we were turning in around 5 a.m. We'd all had quite a bit to drink, although I quickly learned Nick and Mike are extreme lightweights. Mike had four beers and was nearly unconscious. Nick didn't have much more and was worried about feeling awful Saturday morning.

What in the world guys!

Anyway, 9 a.m. rolled around on Saturday and I was UP and ready to go. I walked Allie and got ready, and then I waited to get up with Nick so we could gameplan for the rest of the day. Predictably, it took a while. Weaksauce.

We finally rendezvoused at lunchtime. The game was at 6 p.m., so we had plenty of time to grab some food and tailgate for quite a while.

This seems like a good place for the story of acquiring tickets. Obviously, I'm no longer a student. But for a while, I still had my student ID, so I could just find a student to get me a ticket, and flash my student ID to get in. Well, first of all, I no longer am up to speed on the whereabouts of my student ID. Second, I know fewer and fewer students every year.

When I told Nick I was coming back, I asked him to please get me a ticket with everyone who'd be going (and we had a fairly substantial group). He said it wouldn't be a problem. That was last weekend.

Monday rolls around. Tuesday rolls around. Nothing. Hey Nick, ticket update? "We're totally fine." Nick, I need some reassurance about this. I'm driving an awfully long way to get to this game. "I have the best reassurance ever for you: SOUTH ALABAMA (meaning it shouldn't be hard to find tickets to this game because of the team we were playing)." Nicholas, that does not help me.

He kept telling me it would be fine and not to worry. So I stopped asking. Asking wasn't going to get me anywhere anyway. We didn't have the tickets in our hand until 2 p.m. on SATURDAY -- the day of the game. In retrospect, I'm glad I stopped asking about it haha. Truthfully, if I still lived in Raleigh, I wouldn't have cared about getting the tickets on that timetable. But all the driving made me nervous.

Anyway, we met up and headed to Wendy's for lunch, where I got a grilled chicken sandwich (because I'm watching what I eat...lulz), fries and SWEET TEA, which I can gleefully report was readily available everywhere. We recounted the stories from Friday night and filled in the newest member of the team, Chad, who replaced John in the car with Nick, Mike and me.

Chad was instantly a fan of everything that happened and couldn't wait to come out with us Saturday night.

As we got closer to the stadium, we realized we had neither tickets nor beer for tailgating. Nick and Mike went to meet the guy who was selling us the tickets. Chad and I hopped out of the car at the intersection of Hillsborough and Blue Ridge. There's a gas station across the street there, so we went and bought beer. It was kind of like a game of Frogger with us trying to cross the street.

Well, Mike and his four beers from the night before made it impossible for him to finish more than ONE beer at the tailgate. Nick did a little better, but he was also not feeling well from the night before.

We met up with Justin and a few of Chad's friends. And one of Mike's friends, Eileen, who was out with us the night before, came to tailgate even though she had no ticket for the game, nor did she plan on acquiring a ticket to the game. Also, she walked three miles just to tailgate with us for a few hours. Hardcore. Major props. Then again, tailgating at N.C. State is kind of a way of life. Nothing comes close.

Tailgated for a few hours. It was relatively chilly and light rain fell almost the entire time. My long-sleeved State shirt proved to be a brilliant decision. Justin was totally clutch, too. He brought a small HD TV with a box that connects to the cigarette lighter in the car, so we got to watch football while we tailgated without a ridiculous generator situation.

No point in talking about the game. Check out the ESPN game recap for that if you want. It was raining and sloppy, and we won by more than 20. A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL. Here's a photo I took from where we were standing. I really love our stadium. Man.

We didn't bother going to our seats. Another friend of ours, Dennis (D-Burt) has season tickets and NEVER sits in his seats. He and his buddy Doug just stand in the concourse near the big scoreboard. It's actually a pretty solid view, so why not? This way, it doesn't matter where your tickets are. You end up with the people you want to be with anyway. Oh! and I took a video of the team entrance with my blackberry, so pardon me if it sucks, but here it is anyway.

While at the game, I ran into J. Mike, another Tech sports alum who we hadn't seen in a long time. We agreed it was necessary for him to come out with us that night.

Got back after the game, showered and got ready. I didn't want to wait for Nick to go back to Durham to do the same and then come back, so I cabbed downtown to meet Laura, and I actually got to see Danielle and Adam for the first time in like two years. I think the last time I saw them was the very first Bark for Life event we did the day before my half-marathon. So Oct. 2009. Crazy. They lived in Spain for like nine months. Kick ass.

So we met at Mecca, which I'm told is the oldest restaurant in Raleigh. Awesome! Seriously, any place that has a framed portrait of FDR over the bar is A-OK by me. Had a drink there and then went to meet Laura and her friends again at Busy Bee. I've heard a lot about Busy Bee from friends in Raleigh, and it was pretty awesome. Tough to beat $2 cans of High Life. Also, I had a swedish fish shot for the first time ever. It really does taste like swedish fish. That could get dangerous.

Nick, Chad and their friends arrived, and we just kinda sat around at Busy Bee for a while. I feel like we probably wasted too much time there, but it was fine. Around 1 a.m., Nick and I looked at each other and pretty much said, "I just wanna dance," at exactly the same time. It was getting late. We needed to get moving. Literally.

Laura, who is pretty much a hipster haha, said we had two options. There's a place where the people would look like Nick and me (The Hive, where we were Friday night), but there's a huge line to get in; or a place where the people would look like Laura (Neptunes), but there probably wouldn't be a line to get in.

We chose the latter, and got in after not too long. Laura was right haha. J. Mike was waiting for us there, and I'm not sure it was possible for us to visually stick out more than we did. But the music, man. The music. It was kind of a 60s/Motown/funk kind of thing, and it was just unbelievable. It was exactly the kind of vibe I was looking for that night. Seriously amazing.

Laura described it best when she said it was like a scene out of Dirty Dancing. You couldn't really dance fast to it. You just had to groove (and yes, I know how white I sound right now. Suck it.). God I just loved every second of that. We didn't have much time to dance there, but I really made the most of it, I think.

J. Mike had the incredible foresight to take a picture of it. It's a little blurry because, well, I was dancing and it was dark. But it's too good not to share.

It was around this time when Justin, Nick and J. Mike began to wonder how many energy drinks I must have had given how hard we went the night before, how late it currently was and how much energy I was displaying on the dance floor haha. They couldn't accept that I just had that much energy pretty much all the time. But I did, and I do. Apparently, they all feel like I should spend time being in energy drink commercials. I'll take it!

Anyway. Excellent night. Lots of drinks, friends I hadn't seen in a long time -- great success. Must be done again soon. Saturday night was mild compared to Friday night. I was asleep by 3:30 or so.

Woke up the next day, feeling good as always. I took Allie to a dog park downtown, where she promptly sat down next to me or under a table. Allie is one of the smartest dogs I've ever encountered, but I really think she fundamentally does not understand the purpose of the dog park. Or maybe she just uses it for mental stimulation. Or maybe she just doesn't like dogs who are strangers. I don't know.

She had two beagle friends when she was younger, Ella and Lady, and she always loved running around and playing with them. She loved playing with our family dog, Spunky, too. Who knows. After the dog park, I went to Laura's house and hung out and had a few drinks with her and her roommate. Allie and Laura's dog Rainer got to run around their yard some more before we hopped in the car for the 4-5 hour drive back.

I made the brilliant decision to call ahead to Lilly's and pick up a pizza on my way out of town. Great success on that one. Thankfully, there was no traffic, and we made it back in a decent time. SO great. Thanks to everyone, seriously. Amazing weekend.

And that's all she wrote for my weekend in Raleigh. I'm sure I've left out some things I did not intend to leave out, so feel free to let me know via messages or comments or whatever. All in all, it was a perfect weekend.

I couldn't have asked for a better time seeing all my friends, and I absolutely must get back soon to do it again.

Also, standing invite to everyone to come to D.C. whenever you can, and we'll make sure we go just as hard here as we did in Raleigh. Man. Just awesome. LET US GO.


Monday, September 19, 2011

That Just Happened: A Raleigh Recap

I spent the later half of last week in North Carolina, visiting family and friends -- Wednesday through Friday morning in Charlotte and the remainder of the weekend in Raleigh.

Charlotte was excellent, of course. I got to see my parents and some of my oldest friends. I got to rock out on my drums a good bit. It was, generally, solid.

There really are not a whole lot of exciting details to say about that though haha. It was an excellent few days, and I'm excited to go back next month for Kirk's wedding.

Raleigh, on the other hand. Whew. As my texts, blogs, Facebook status updates and Tweets said, I was expecting a ridiculous weekend. I never could have imagined just how ridiculous it would be. I'll talk about many things here, but suffice it to say there is also quite a bit I will never mention in a public forum. Ever. That just happened.

This may require two parts. We'll see. Here we go!

So when I left my apartment on Wednesday, it was 85 degrees. Relatively hot. Humid. You know. The usual summer weather. When I woke up in Charlotte on Friday, I discovered Fall had arrived overnight.

That's fine and all. I like Fall. Well, I love Fall. But I was not wardrobily prepared. And also, I don't know if you're aware or anything, but I've lost a shit-ton of weight over the past few months -- 42 pounds to be exact. I haven't worn jeans since I was a fat-ass. They no longer fit! WAY too big for me. They'd fall down after taking barely a few steps, and the belt caused such ridiculous bunching-up it was just time for new jeans.

When I got to Raleigh on Friday, my first stop was the Go Pack store to buy a long-sleeved State shirt for the game on Saturday, which was supposed to be cold and rainy (it was, more on that later), and my second stop was the mall to buy jeans.

I bought jeans with a 34-inch waist. Let's. Go. I haven't been able to wear jeans that size in six or seven years.

Anyway, so I got situated and I was ready to go. I heard from Nick, and we made our plans. We planned to hit this bar called Foundation because our friend Laura works there. The group started as Nick, his roommate John, Mike and me. Mike, as I've mentioned, has become a close friend of mine through talking on Gchat every day, but this was the first time we ever got to hang out in person. Lulz.

We got our hugs and greetings out of the way and hopped into the car to go downtown. It was drizzling a little bit, and it was not really warm at all. We got downtown and found parking, and I called Laura to find out where Foundation is because none of us had ever been there.

I don't want to cause trouble, so I'll just say Laura was unavailable to hang out on Friday night haha :-). Mike helped us find Foundation anyway with his iPhone, and we decided we'd order a round or two of drinks before heading to the next stop.

I had a Manhattan (great success!), and we all took these shots called Carolina Sunsets. I couldn't tell you what's in them to save my life, so there you go. Some of Mike's friends from work showed up, and we had a pretty solid party going now.

It was then we agreed it was time to dance.

A brief aside about dancing: I had NO IDEA how much I loved dancing until very recently. I mean, from my stories from my cousin's wedding a couple years ago and various random nights out, obviously I knew I enjoyed it, but this was another level.

We made our way to The Hive around 11 or so. It was still pretty early, so it wasn't very full. We immediately went over to the dance floor and commanded the area until almost 2 a.m. It was beyond insane. Lots of drinks -- beers, whiskey, shots, let's go -- lots of fun.

Friday night really helped me realize how insane my energy level is now. Some of my friends have been commenting lately on how I seem to have a ridiculous amount of happy/fun/positive energy. I mean, is there any doubt it's completely tied to losing 42 pounds and working out six days a week?

I mean, we didn't stop dancing for three solid hours. I danced in the middle of a circle on the dance floor. What in the world? WHO AM I? So incredibly awesome. I really have to say, Nick, John, Mike and I know how to break it down. It was nuts.

A theme of the weekend seemed to be various people marveling at my energy level haha. And how they couldn't believe I was able to keep it up for as long as I did and at such high levels (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID). But seriously, I was completely fired up all night, and I couldn't get enough dancing.

So John and Mike disappeared around 1:30 to find some other friends who were out. Nick and I stayed to continue dancing and drinking with some girls Nick had started chatting up who were in the aforementioned circle with us on the dance floor. We were under the impression Mike and John were going to bring the friends back to The Hive to continue dancing until it closed.

When it became apparent that wasn't going to happen, Nick and I wandered outside into the rain to find wherever Mike and John were. I think they were at Raleigh Times. Anyway, obviously neither Nick nor I knew where that was. So we asked this random guy named Wayne where to go, and he totally pointed us in the exact opposite direction.

Thanks a lot, Wayne.

As we were walking, we encountered a bachelorette party full of girls from Wilson. They were looking for their stretch Hummer limo. We ran across the street to ask them if they knew were Raleigh Times was (obviously not, since they were from Wilson, though we didn't know that when we decided to ask them). Instead, a few of them ran up to me, grabbed me and asked me to tell this creepy guy to leave them alone because he was following them despite repeated requests for him to stop.

Oh lord.

I don't particularly remember saying anything to the guy, but he left them alone. It must be because Nick and I are such a strikingly intimidating pair. Ha. Anyway, the girls then insisted on Nick and I following them to the Hummer to go to Wilson with them. Like you do.

For reasons completely passing understanding, we did not get in the Hummer. Instead, we got chili dogs. Again, like you do.

We eventually found Mike and John after nearly 30 minutes of walking around in the rain downtown. We were able to take shelter inside, but it was well after 2 a.m., and the bar was closed. Fail.

We left and found the car and ended up having another beer and hanging out at a friend's house for an hour or so after that. The fog of "you better believe I'm not disclosing these details on a public forum on the Internet" prevents me discussing this night further.

But oh boy. That just happened.

We made it back around 4:45 or 5 a.m. and hit the sack so we could do it again on Saturday. We had to tailgate and check out some State football before going out again Saturday night. It was going to be a long day!

That'll do it for part 1. Part 2 later!

God. This weekend was just so, so unbelievably awesome haha. Let's GO.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

North Carolina

Sorry for the missed post yesterday. I spent pretty much all day driving to Charlotte. And then since I'm driving to Raleigh tomorrow, I probably won't post tomorrow. So this will be all this week. But! I am hoping to acquire enough material this weekend for some really great stories next week. I'm also hoping I'll be able to share that material publicly. We'll see how that goes haha.

I think it'll be worth it.

Anyway. If you're reading this, you probably know I was born in New Jersey. Northeast New Jersey to be exact -- approximately 20 minutes from New York City.

My family lived in New Jersey until I was 11 years old. In 1993, my dad took a job in Charlotte, and we moved away. It was devastating at the time, but that's a story for another day.

I consider myself a northerner. I always have. If you listen to me speak, you'll undoubtedly hear twinges of a northern accent. It's inescapable. Two years ago, my brother and I were driving to New Jersey to visit some family. We stopped at a toll booth, and the toll operator said hello, and I responded, "hey how you doin?" I didn't think anything of it. I didn't say it in an unusual way -- it was just the way I say things.

When we pulled away, my brother looked at me and goes, "Jesus, what's up Vito? What the hell was that?"Apparently, it came out in a very thick northern accent. I didn't mean to! It's just the way I speak.

And, of course, most of my favorite sports teams are New York-area teams. New York is my favorite city in the country. Etc., etc.

The point is, I self-identify as a northerner. I always have, despite having lived in North Carolina for 15 of the past 18 years -- more than half my life and more than the time I spent living in New Jersey.

The past two years, however, I've lived in the DC area -- definitely NOT the south. And now that I'm away from North Carolina, I find myself missing it more and more the longer I'm gone.

I guess I shouldn't find that to be so strange. I did almost all of my actual "growing up" in North Carolina. I went to middle school, high school and college in North Carolina. I worked in North Carolina. Almost every significant life event of mine up until now happened in North Carolina.

It's tough to explain. After spending so much time in downtown DC over the past couple of years, it just feels dramatically different being in North Carolina. I'm certainly not going to make any claims about one being better than the other or anything like that. That's ridiculous and pointless.

But I know I feel good when I'm in North Carolina. It feels like home to me. The air feels and smells different -- especially in the fall. The pace is certainly more in tune with my easy-going, laid-back nature (although I do really enjoy the faster-paced DC lifestyle). Also, they have sweet tea here. Everywhere.

I'll always think of myself as a northern guy transplanted to the south. But being away for the past couple of years feels like it has drawn me closer, and I miss it. Don't get me wrong: I love living where I live, and I don't intend to move away. Despite my intensely laid-back and relaxed nature, I feel like a city guy. So DC is extremely appealing to me.

But you know. North Carolina has its advantages, too. Especially this time of year. The humidity is fading, the air will be turning crisp and the leaves will start to turn soon. Fall in North Carolina is some kind of special experience. And the football. I have no problem admitting this: there is nothing like experiencing college football in the south. It's just different here. Definitely better, and that's factually correct.

So yeah. I'm pretty excited to be spending the next several days back home in North Carolina. I'm super pumped about spending time with friends I haven't seen in way too long. It just feels good here, man. I like it.

Brief Weight-Loss Update

I weighed in at 185 today before running, which is a loss of 42 pounds. I'm only 5 pounds away from my original goal weight. Incredible. I can't believe how far I've come. I can't believe how good I feel. I'm not going to say I look good, but I will say plenty of others say it for me and to me, and goddamn THAT feels good.

I can't imagine I'll stop at 180 when I get there. I haven't checked since last week, but my body fat percentage was still hovering around 22 percent -- down from more than 30 percent back in April. But I'm not satisfied with 22 percent. I want to get to 17 percent, ideally, but definitely less than 20 percent. Keep on truckin', my friends. No choice.

I ran another four miles today, and it was my best four-mile time ever. I did it in 36:38 this morning -- just more than a 9-minute mile pace. I don't have a stopwatch or anything, so to keep track of my pace, I have a playlist of running songs. I note the time of the song that's playing when I reach each mile marker, and then I figure it out when I get home based on how much time elapsed on the playlist.

So today, it went like this:

Mile 1: 8:31
Mile 2: 8:51
Mile 3: 10:46
Mile 4: 8:30

Mile 3's time is dramatically higher because I walked for around two minutes when I reached the two-mile turnaround point. The last quarter-mile or so of mile 2 was straight uphill, so when I got to the two-mile point, I gave myself a breather. After walking briefly, I picked it up again and ran the entire way home.

Some perspective: last year at this time, I needed more than 32 minutes to finish 3.1 miles. This year, I finished four miles in just more than 36 and a half minutes.

It's been a good day. Love seeing progress on the scale, in how my clothes fit, in the mirror, in my fitness level and running ability. I just can't imagine feeling better physically than I do right now. But I know I will as I keep this up.

And then combine that with going out with some of my oldest friends tonight -- some of whom have known me since I was 11 or 12 years old. And then this weekend of debauchery in Raleigh? Oh my god. You know what's coming now.

Man, let's GO.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Wisdom Teeth Surgery Made Me Feel Like The Godfather

This story is dedicated to my friend Jon, who will be having his wisdom teeth removed next week. Fear not, good buddy. I had a relatively easy time of it. Read on and relax!

It started during my sophomore year of college. Well the pain started then. For as long as I can remember, my jaw always clicked when I had to chew anything large or tough (i.e. a bagel or pizza crust, etc.). But my sophomore year of college, it really started to hurt.

I went to the dentist, and they did their X-rays. There was no discernible reason for the pain, except that it might be my wisdom teeth trying to come in. He wasn't 100 percent sure that's what it was because they were particularly impacted yet, but it wouldn't have been unheard of for that to be the cause.

I wouldn't say I'm scared of surgeries. I certainly don't care for them. I mean, who does? But I know a couple things. One, if you're undergoing some kind of surgery, anesthesia is usually involved. Two, anesthesia often makes people sick enough to vomit.

I do not vomit.

So I wasn't nervous about the surgery itself or the potential pain involved. The thought of possibly vomiting though -- couldn't handle it. Full of nerves about that.

We scheduled the surgery for May, right after I got back home from school for the summer to give me plenty of recovery time. My parents took me to the surgery since I wasn't going to be able to drive due to be under the influence of some heavy painkillers (more on that later).

I got into the back room, and they were getting the IV ready. Now, in addition to being, well, unenthused about the idea of vomiting, I am also less than fond of needles and shots (despite having a tattoo and wanting another).

The IV definitely made me more nervous than anything. The nurse gave me a stress ball to squeeze to get my veins pumped up for easy access. She stuck me with the needle, and I hated every second of it. I know it doesn't hurt that much -- it's just a mental thing I've had since I was very young.

She said to start counting backward from 100, and I don't believe I even started to say the first number before I was out.

I don't remember being woken up at all. The next thing I remember is the nurse helping me down the hall to my parents. Apparently, I was very concerned about a bad dream I had while I was out. I do not recall any of this, but I had a nice discussion about it with the nurse, according to the nurse.

Anyway. So the nurse helped me into the hallway to my parents. My parents got me into the car, and here's where things got interesting.

I mean, to say I was feeling good is a huge understatement. I don't remember what the specific painkillers were, but the David After the Dentist Youtube video is pretty accurate.

For me, it was less confusion over whether or not I was taking part in real life -- it was more I thought I was Don Vito Corleone.

The situation was compounded by the massive amounts of gauze I had to keep in my mouth for various reasons. So I was sitting in the car with my jaw jutting out because it was stuffed with gauze, and the painkiller haze filling me with absolute glee. Trying to talk like Don Corleone was a very natural next step.

It was then I proceeded to give my father several offers he couldn't refuse. And although Don Vito didn't say it, my best advice of the day was telling him to leave the gun and take the cannoli.

Well, at least I thought that's what I was saying. Turns out what I was actually doing was mumbling incoherently because the drugs had robbed me of my senses.

The only reason I know what I was saying is because, somehow, my mother understood me. There's just a biological link between mothers and children that obviously never goes away. I'd say something, my dad would look at me, dumbfounded, and my mother would answer me.

At that point, he'd look at her and say, in his understated way, "How the fuck did you understand what he just said?" To which she'd say, "You mean you didn't understand what he said?"

"No, of course I didn't. He's mumbling incoherently."
"Oh, I understood everything just fine."

Well then.

Some version of that continued for the rest of the drive home. I'd mumble something in my Don Corleone character. My mother would laugh. My father would be exasperated until she translated for him. I know beyond doubt they absolutely regret not having a video camera on that drive home.

To my everlasting delight, I never experienced any of the nausea of which I was so nervous before the surgery. I was still confined to soft foods for a few days. KFC mashed potatoes, ice cream and ginger ale ruled the house for quite some time after that.

I never experienced any significant pain or swelling or sickness at all. The worst thing I had to deal with was the annoyance of not being able to eat what I wanted. Also, the dissolving stitches they used. As parts of the stitches dissolved, other parts would detach and just hang free in my mouth.

Again, nothing painful. It was exactly what was supposed to happen, but man it annoyed me.

Oh, and there were holes in my mouth where the teeth used to be. I had to fill a syringe with a salt water solution to rinse them out after every meal. Let me tell you. That got old with the quickness. I say syringe, but I didn't have to inject anything anywhere. It was more to direct the water flow where I needed it to go. (Sorry that's a little gross, but it really wasn't as bad as it might sound.)

Within a few weeks, I was back to eating whatever I wanted to eat. The stitches dissolved and disappeared. I stopped needing to rinse my mouth after meals.

And, what do you know, the pain stopped. I guess dentists know something after all.

All that is to say this: Jonny, don't worry. It'll be fine. The worst thing I can say about my wisdom teeth surgery experience is it was a moderate annoyance. No pain, no swelling, no sickness, nothing really all that negative. It will be just fine!

So there you go.

Some miscellany, briefly:
  • I weighed in at 188 again today, which is a great relief after this weekend haha. I'm loving running more and more every time, and I'm going to transition to a Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday running schedule since the half-marathon training schedule I use calls for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and long runs on Sunday. I will be ready this time.
  • And the rib is FINALLY painless! Completely painless! First time in five weeks! So that means back to the gym for some weight-lifting. Let's go!
  • Our new softball league starts with a doubleheader under the lights tomorrow night! We have games at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. CAN'T WAIT. New rule this season: no diving for balls.
  • I'm planning on going to Charlotte on Wednesday morning for a couple of days before heading to Raleigh on Friday. Charlotte friends, holla!
  • RALEIGH ON FRIDAY! I haven't seen some of you in entirely too long.
Life is so, so good, friends. Let's go!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend Outlook!

Warning: rambling ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen, the sun! For the first time in FOUR days.

Let me tell you about this rain. This week, I was supposed to have my first game in our new softball league on Tuesday night. Canceled because of rain. Then, all the rain we've had over the past 36-48 hours has caused the National Park Service to cancel all park activities for the whole weekend, which means N.C. State's first two flag football games against Johns Hopkins and Iowa are washed out.

Oh well. I got a lot of rain running in this week. And I mean, that's nice and all, but I'm tired of the rain!

So! Running recap for the week: I ran 13 miles this week -- four on Monday, five on Wednesday and four more today. Today's run, whew. When the weather says 100 percent humidity, go back inside and sit down. Seriously. On the brightside, I lost enough water weight to hit 185 on the scale today. That's not official or anything, but it sure is fun to see. :-)

Well, it's Friday, so that means tonight will be spent downtown with many of the usual suspects. A bartender a couple of my friends know pretty well at our favorite bar -- the Bottom Line -- is working her last shift tonight because she's moving to Key West. Couple that with their usual Friday happy hour specials of $1- and $2-beers, and there's really no way we can avoid it.

Although I may make a pit stop at another place first with my buddy Evan because, as I told him, he makes compelling arguments and I wish to subscribe to his newsletter. Lulz.

Tomorrow! The first official alumni group game-watch of the season for N.C. State football! We're going to get together at a bar in Arlington to watch the Wake Forest game. CAN'T WAIT. I know I've said this before, but it is so great to be surrounded by N.C. State people.

Sunday! NFL Sundays start again! I'm going to see if a few of my friends are watching games anywhere. My brother and I had a pretty sweet bar near Foggy Bottom where we watched games last year, but it's kind of small. And you might get stuck on a tiny, non-HD television for your game (I know, #firstworldproblems). So if we can find another good place, that wouldn't be the worst.

Looking back over the weekend's plans, it's a good thing I ran the 5K on Saturday and 13 more miles over the past week. Because that's going to be a lot of drinking. Hey oh! I'll take it. We have a really ridiculously good time.

In other words, awesome weekend coming up. Really can't wait.

Job front: I ended up not getting that job I was talking about over the past few weeks. But I applied to, like, 25 more jobs this week, and a few of them are really, really solid leads. So I remain optimistic and hopeful as ever! Life is good, my friends. Life is good.

Some posts I'm thinking about writing over the next week or two: a story about my wisdom teeth surgery in honor of my friend Big Jon, who's having his out pretty soon; a reflection on being single, how I've never really ever been single before (lulz) and how it's actually been really awesome for my mental and physical health haha.

Also, I have definitely decided to go to Raleigh next weekend. So, friends, mark your calendars! My only real requirement: I must go to Lilly's Pizza at some point. Like, I need it, OK?

See you soon, kids!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More Running, Warrior Dash and a Raleigh Trip

When I said yesterday that I planned on running four miles today rain or shine, apparently I lied. I ran FIVE miles today in the rain.

It was glorious. I could tell immediately it was one of those days where the run was going to feel really good.

"The Distance" cranked up (Reluctantly crouched at the starting line...) and goddamn it gets me hyped just thinking about it now. But I felt a surge of energy immediately. It was barely drizzling, but it quickly picked up to a steady rain about three-quarters of a mile into the run.

I really can't emphasize how awesome it is to run in the rain. I was on a straight and level path for a bit, so I just closed by eyes, put my head up and let the rain hit my face. So, so good. On the path I run, the second mile is a LOT of uphill. It usually wears me down pretty good, and I'll often stop and walk for a couple minutes when I reach my two-mile turnaround point.

But today felt different. I mapped out what the turnaround point would be for a five-mile run last year for my failed half-marathon training, although I was never able to run it. I remembered where it was though.

I hit the two-mile point today, and I was coasting, man. I felt not fatigue. I felt no soreness. I just felt good. So I kept going. I stopped to walk for two or three minutes at the 2.5-mile turnaround point just because it was the first time I'd really tried to push it to five miles total since my half-marathon back in Nov. 2009.

After that brief rest, I ran the rest of the way back, only stopping for red lights at crosswalks. Made it back in 48 minutes. Not bad at all for my first five-mile run in almost two years.

I've been talking to one of my sister's best friends in Florida a lot more lately. I met her and her husband when I was in Florida for vacation with my family last summer. Awesome people.

So we were talking last night about my 5K on Saturday and how awesome it was, and she asked me if I'd ever heard of Warrior Dash. I only very vaguely knew of it. But some quick research informed me that it is, essentially, a 5K for the mentally unstable. Naturally, I'm extremely intrigued now.

Check out that website and tell me that doesn't sound beyond awesome, and I'll tell you you're lying.

They do a bunch of locations, and depending on the course, it's between three and 3.5 miles or so. But look at those obstacles! Rope climbs over walls, wading through waist-deep water, rubber jungles, army crawling through the mud, jumping over flaming logs. Dude.

Plus! Look at the awesome viking/warrior helmet you get!!

I don't even have words. I simply must do this. So my sister's friend was talking about how she wants to do one on Dec. 3. If I can get my ass down to visit my sister that weekend, I will be running in the Dec. 3 Warrior Dash in South Florida.

And, oh yeah, they give you beer at the end of the race. Like I said, a 5K for the mentally unstable, and I happily count myself among them. I am so excited about the potential of running this. You don't even know.

I'm absolutely going to dragoon my sister into coming along to take photos of what I'm sure will be the most ridiculous finishing photo EVER of her friend and me. Oh my God. I need to do this haha.

On a completely unrelated note, the dog and I are looking to come to Raleigh the weekend of Sept. 16-18. I'm currently in talks with a kind soul who has offered to host us, but if there are any other volunteers who don't mind me and a well-behaved 5 1/2-year-old (i.e. not a puppy anymore) 70-pound border collie/black lab crashing for two nights, let me know! I will buy beer/dinner/something to compensate you for your troubles.

See, I need my NCSU football fix, and I don't want to wait much longer. Also, Raleigh friends, I want to see all of you. Even if I have to schedule you in 15-minute increments. I need it. It's been far too long for some of you.

You are on notice! Not this weekend, but the next weekend!



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

5K Race Report and the Running Bug

Dude. Hell yes.

I killed my 5K this weekend. Like, blowed it up real good.

A little back story.

Last summer, I thought I wanted to run another half-marathon. Well, I did want to run another one, I just wasn't anywhere close to the shape I needed to be in. At all. I hadn't been running as much as I should have been, and I hadn't been keeping up with my diet, well, at all.

But I'm stubborn. So I took my fat ass (approximately 30 lbs overweight then) and tried to force it.

After two and a half weeks of running, I, predictably, hurt myself. I pulled my hamstring, and it was not good. It was still hurting me back in the spring when I first started playing softball. There was no way I could continue training without hurting myself worse.

The then-girlfriend and I found a 5K right in my neighborhood that was going to take place in early September, and I decided I needed to run it. I was so disappointed about hurting myself and quitting training that I needed something.

So we ran it. I ran the whole race, but not very well. My hamstring hurt throughout, but it's time to be honest with myself. The hamstring was not the reason for my problems. It was because I was in terrible shape. I was, quite frankly, fat -- at least 30-35 lbs overweight by then -- and there's no way I could have run a good race.

I finished in 32:06 (a 10:20 per mile pace). I was OK with it. I guess. I blamed the hamstring for the slow time. But we all know what the reason was now.

You may have heard, but I've lost, like, 40 pounds since April. I weighed in at 188 today (Boom.). What's up 180s? Haven't seen you in a while -- like five or six years, actually. Don't worry, I'm only passing through on my way to the 170s though.

So given my new-found fitness, I'd been looking forward to this year's Kentlands 5K for several weeks. I started looking up the schedule and registration in July, and I was just generally pumped.

Saturday finally arrived. I put on my Underarmour compression shirt, my newly purchased Nike running shorts and I could feel the adrenaline start pumping already. (Side note: it is stunning to me that I feel comfortable enough and, honestly, look almost good enough to pull off running in only an Underarmour shirt. I did NOT see that coming a few months ago. I'll take it!)

I wanted to push myself, so I got in line with the 8-9 min/mile pace group (I ran with the 9-10 min/mile pace group last year, and still couldn't keep up). I'd been running four miles a few times a week for a while now, and I could finish my first mile in just more than 8 minutes, but my pace slowed after that. I knew the adrenaline and race atmosphere was going to help though. I wanted to shave at least a minute off of each mile, so I figured finishing in around 29 minutes would be a good enough improvement for me to feel satisfied.

I started two minutes after the gun time (due to other pace groups starting before mine), and I was off. Maaan let me tell you. Races are something else. VERY easy to get addicted to it. When I hit play on my iPod and "The Distance" by Cake started. Whew. I got the chills. I was fucking pumped. I must have looked like a complete idiot air-drumming while I ran. Suck it.

The Kentlands neighborhood is pretty hilly. I walk Allie through it twice a day, so I'm very familiar with the roads. If I had to guess, I'd say at least a third of the race is uphill, including a lot of mile 3.

When I got to mile 1, the clock said 10:11, so some quick math told me I was doing pretty well on pace. I got some water, almost entirely missed my mouth because I didn't stop running and continued on.

The last third of mile 2, leading up to the clock was uphill. It was tough. I don't remember exactly what the clock said, but I knew I was still on a pretty solid pace. I stopped for five seconds to drink some water. I counted to five and took off again. There was a brief downhill period, but I knew we were coming up to the main street where I walk Allie. It was straight uphill for approximately half a mile.

Andrew W.K.'s "Party Hard" came on right as I hit the bottom of the hill, and I just said, you know what? Fuck it. Let's go. I pushed it. I pushed it like I haven't pushed myself in a long time on a run.

When I got to the top of the hill I thought I was going to throw up. And, strangely, it felt pretty good. Something about getting yourself to a point where your body is like, "please no more," and you say, "fuck you, let's go." I felt it during my half-marathon, and I felt it again for the first time since the half-marathon on Saturday. I want more, man.

The steep uphill climb led into a nice downhill break before the final stretch. I caught my breath as much as I could, and I prepared myself. When I hit the bottom of the hill, I was going to go all out through the finish line. I needed to make 29 minutes.

As I entered the homestretch, "Monkey Wrench" by the Foo Fighters came on, and I punched it up another gear -- well, whatever I had left anyway. I wasn't going to miss my goal because I didn't try hard enough or run hard enough.

I started seeing stars, and I was having trouble breathing by the time I sprinted across the finish line. But I saw 29 right there on the clock. Made my goal. Felt good, man.

Then the fog started to clear from my head, the stars started to dissipate and it hit me. Wait a second, I didn't start until two minutes after the clock started. My official time might be much better than that.

So I waited, and they posted the results. 26:57 (!!!). I broke 27 minutes. Man. LET. US. GO. I love everybody.

I found the official results online over the weekend. I somehow gained a second, but I'll take 26:58. My pace was 8:41. I love it. I'm hooked. I couldn't run ONE solitary mile in 8:41 a few months ago, never mind average 8:41 over more than three miles. I improved on my total time by more than FIVE minutes. I improved on my pace by almost 1:40 per mile. So while the total time may not be impressive to, you know, competitive runners, I think we can all agree that's some ridiculous improvement.

I was talking to my friend Lindsey about my 5K and the half-marathon she was about to run, and I mentioned something about another half-marathon for myself, and she said, "uh oh, you've got the bug." And it's totally true. The more you run, the more you want to run. Running in a real race makes you want to run in more races.

I found a half-marathon in Bermuda in the middle of January. I absolutely need to do it. I feel called to it and compelled to do it. Training would start in about six or seven weeks. It obviously won't be cheap, but if I can find a way to do it, I need it. If it's not that one, it'll just be another one. Maybe in the spring. I need to run another half-marathon now. I feel a competitive fire back in me that I haven't felt in way too long. I am fired up man.

I am in decent shape now. I can handle the training in a way I never could have before. I felt absolutely NO soreness after the 5K. I ran another four miles yesterday, and I'll run four more tomorrow, rain or shine. I can't wait to start training for another half-marathon again.

But mostly, I really can't wait to just get out and run some more.

"Reluctantly crouched at the starting line,
engines pumping and thumping in time."

Man, let's GO.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Dear Erik

Two years is a long-ass time my friend. It's strange because on one hand, I can't believe how fast two years has gone, but on the other hand, it feels like an eternity since I last saw you and spoke to you.

There are no words. I miss you like crazy every day. I think about you every day. It hurts so much, man. Even more so around this time of year. Seven years ago we moved into our suite in Bragaw. Seven years. What in the world.

You should be here so we can talk about all the insane shit that happened in those few months we lived there. I mean, did we pack some times into those four months, or what? Jesus. I can still hear your bass shaking the dorm walls. And I can still see you sitting there reading somehow in the face of jet-engine-level noise.

We should be able to go to East Village and take blue crush shots until we can't remember our names. We should be able to go walk around Bragaw and remember all of our nonsense. Like that night when we all walked over to the baseball field and hung out on the field. Fuck, dude.

I could have used some of your tough-love advice lately. You always had a way of just cutting right to the heart of the matter. You'd call me out if that's what I needed, and I probably needed it this time haha. It's been a hell of a few months, buddy. Hell of a few months.

You know, I look at the picture of us from my grad school graduation celebration, and I see your bright smile so full of life. It makes me so angry that you were taken away so young. It's not fair. When Danielle called me two years ago, whew. One of the worst phone calls I've ever gotten. I collapsed in my room. I went to work and sat in my office with the door closed and cried all day.

Fucking cancer, man. It's the worst. We've had a team in your name for the past two years in the Bark for Life event the American Cancer Society runs, and we're doing it again this year. No one will ever forget you or your fight, and if we can raise any money to fight this bullshit disease, then let's do it. I am making it my mission to get back to the area and actually walk this year.

You know what? That's enough of the sadness. Pretty sure you would have punched me in the stomach already if you were here and I was acting like this. So I'll close with some fun memories.

I'll be thinking about my 26th birthday at East Village, where you kind of assumed the responsibility of making sure I had no recollection of the evening. For the most part, great success, my friend. I only very vaguely remember the drive to your apartment (don't worry, I wasn't driving). And then, passing out on your couch and waking up the next morning in my bed somehow. Hey oh.

And your surprise birthday party in May 2009 at Danielle's house and the "HAPPY BIRTDAY" cake. Well done, cake decorator.

Or how about that time we went to the NCSU/Miami football game back in 2004 when College GameDay was on campus, and we printed up thumbs up/down signs to bring to the game.

We were sitting on opposite sides of the stadium, so we used the signs to see where we were. Pretty sure we used a lot of thumbs downs that night.

I have to say, I would have loved to see how ridiculous things would have been if you could have visited me in DC. I can't even imagine haha. Anyway, you better believe I'm throwing down some Jack-and-Cokes tonight.

Love you and miss you forever, my friend.


P.S. If anyone wants to check out Erik's Bark for Life page, head over here. If you feel moved to donate, thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you're in the Triangle area on Sunday, Nov. 6, bring your dog and come walk with the team. I hope to see you there.