“Life is a journey, not a destination” -Emerson

January 27th, 2014 No comments

As race day arrived, I still had an unanswered question in my gut, in my heart, in my mind.  I’d gone through several months of demanding training, and for the most part stuck to a very regimented diet and food strategy.  I’d put in the hours of warm-ups, training runs, extensive post run stretching, and even runner’s Yoga.  But, even with all of that behind me, as I woke up on race morning, I wondered “Can I do this?  Am I asking too much of my body?”.  My best real answer was “we’ll see”, but in truth, the only way to know if something is really possible sometimes is to try.  You have to commit, to give all that you have, to put the risk of failing on the line to have any hope of tasting success.  I’d wondered for months if my half-marathon race pace goal of seven minute and thirty second miles was just too fast.  But the thing I didn’t talk about as much, and is just as important is, I knew in my heart that even if I tried with all that I am and didn’t quite hit my goal, I’d still have really won.  I wouldn’t be the same person I started out as.

I barely slept the night before.  This is common, but it still amazes me that the body can still finish a half marathon with almost no sleep the night before.  The excitement is like Christmas eve.  The mind races….”What will the weather do?  Will there be wind?  What music will be playing when the gun goes off?  Will I forget anything?  Will I share a moment with a fellow runner, …a look and a nod and a smile through the pain?”

I crawled out of bed at 3:40 and threw on my Gear.

Gearing up for the 2014 Arizona half marathon in Phoenix, AZ

Gearing up for the 2014 Arizona half marathon in Phoenix, AZ

I felt good, that nervous excitement you get when you know there’s a chance that something amazing might happen today.  Really, that moment is everyday, but I don’t feel this way everyday.  I was aware of the feeling today because I know what I was going to have to do something really tough, but that in my heart, I knew I was ready.  My mind still tugged at my leg, “Dude, something bad will happen….Why are you doing this?  You’re just going to get hurt, there’s no way you can run that fast… you’re just screwing up your knees and you’ll need knee replacements sooner, JUST STOP NOW!”.  I’m still amazed at just how powerful doubt in the mind can be.  If you let it, it can destroy any hope of greatness, it can kill your dream before it begins.  So Cassidy?  Don’t let it.  Dont’ listen to the doubt, it will only enslave you.

We arrived at the VIP warm zone at around 6:45, and relaxed inside.


They had food, water, and bathrooms, which made me relax a bit.  However, I still had no idea how far away the start was, and this kept nagging at me.  At around 7:25, I told Kandy that I was going to start heading toward my race corral (races start according to your expected finish time, the fastest being corral 1, and so on…).  This was the first time I would be starting in corral 1, the fastest corral.  Even on this day I questioned if I belonged in that corral, if I could really finish around one hour and forty minutes.  My brain said “probably not”, but my heart said “you’re going to OWN this race”, and I forced myself to listen to my heart, and to block my nervous, doubtful thoughts….kind of.

As I started walking to the corral, I tried to loosen up a bit, some high steps, side skips, and the likes, and I’m so glad I did.  As I got closer to the back of the corrals, I noticed that the sidelines were packed, and so were most of the corrals.  Although I started to get more aggressive with my path and speed, I only arrived at the back of my packed corral number 1 at 7:45, five minutes before the race start.  Worse, there was no space to stretch.  I was really worried.

“Would my muscles cramp because of no extensive pre-run stretching?  Quads/Hams?  Calves?….<sigh>”  Would all of that training be a waste on not giving myself enough time to loosen up on the morning of the race? <Great….>”

Even with all of my worry, I was still extremely excited.  The moments before any kind of competition like this are electric.  You can feel the energy and excitement of everyone near you in the air.  You can see in the muscles of other runners around you that they too have put in hours and hours of training, just like you.  You share brief glances of runners around you, happy, nervous, excited, but above all? …focus.  You can feel the focus, the determination, …the sheer will, the want… they want it, maybe as much as me…maybe more?…palpable… and inspiring… something everyone should experience, not just for the hell of it, but because it’s a good feeling, it teaches you without saying anything…

I prepped my music playlist for race start.  I had prepared 28 songs, individually edited to kill deadspace.  I ordered them to keep me at a metered pace out of the gate, to get me really moving fast in the middle, and to carry me emotionally through the final miles.  It’s truly amazing to me just how much of a different this makes.  It’s almost like cheating it worked so well.

Turned my garmin on.  I had to decide what kind of data, if any, I wanted to use during the race.  The realtime GPS pace data tends to vary so much that if you use it to adjust pace, you tend to go too fast or too slow before you realize it.  I decided I’d use two pieces of data: Real-time Heart rate for pacing, and average pace to know how close i was to my goal.

I remove my Salvation Army sweatshirt, and snap-away running pants.  The air is chilly, but this is good.  It’ll help.

I have this habit of doing one leg hops before the start of the race, left, right, left, right… It gets a bit of the nervous energy out, and it also serves to help me understand if I’ve missed some tight muscle, not that at this point there’d be any time to stretch it out, …don’t worry, don’t worry, just smile and enjoy the race.

Even in corral number 1, there are still two groups that start before you, the folks in wheel chairs (talk about inspiring), and the elite runners.  These are the professional athletes.  The folks that train most of the time to run.  The gun goes off, and my corral is released.  You can’t move yet , so, you start jogging in place, start the music playlist, and put your hand on your garmin.  You only start it as you pass over the timer at the starting line.

Unlike running a hundred-yard dash, you don’t just go all out on a half marathon.  You have to pace yourself.  If you start out too fast, you’ll deplete too much of the energy in your muscles, and you’ll spend a good part of the race trying to catch up.  This feels like burning in your muscles, and will feel like you’re more winded then you should be.  At the start of these races, there’s so much excitement that it can be VERY easy to rush out of the gate and kill some of that muscle fuel.  I promised myself that I would carefully meter my pace over the first several miles.  This is normally quite easy as many of the runners in my past races tend to bunch up at the beginning, or run in lines of several runners making it near impossible to run at too fast a pace.  This time was a bit different.

As I took off, I purposefully aligned myself along the lefet edge of the course as the first turn was a left-hander.  I think that also since I was in the proper corral, most of the folks were running near my speed, and so it was up to me to pace myself.

My watch beeped and vibrated.  Mile 1 complete, …..7:19?? …Hmmm…That was faster than I had planned on.  Did I just fuck it up?…Shit.

I made special teffort o loosen up a bit, lower my stance, use more of my momentum vs forcing my leg muscles to propel me.  Focus, relax, enjoy, smile… you got this.

Mile 2 beeps and vibrates…. 7:31?  …better!  but still a tad quick… Everyone tells me aim for negative splits.  Unless i’m going to finish this faster than my I had planned, this isn’t looking good….

I star to notice that things are thinning out.  There are now around 4 runners that I’m seeing regularly.  I admire their form and focus.  They look so graceful.  I always imagine myself flailing about, like I’m running away from a horrible monster screaming like a little girl.  Why do I do this?  …focus.

Mile 3.  7:22? ….Dude… EASY…easssssy… relax…

I’m surprised at just how good I feel.  Remember though, more than ten miles left…..easy….


Mile 4.  7:35.  Here it comes.  I’m done.  Pace will continue to fall, and that will be the end of my hopes and dreams (says the Blerch).  This is where you really start to feel it.  you realize you’ve gone a good distance, but your legs start to feel the steps, and you realize you’re really going to have to dig deep if there’s any hope.  What are you made of?  Is this a game?  Is that all you got?  …are you sure?  Can I give more?………..yes…….hang on….

Mile 5.  7:27.  I imagine that if someone had taken a picture of my face then, they would have seen a tiny hint of hope, and a small glimpse of a smile.  Again, I notice the three to four other folks around me pounding away.  One guy flies by me at nearly double my pace.  Where did that guy come from?  Am I slowing down that much? C’mon…. Pull it together, focus… Breathe, smile, relax, shoulders down, use your core, lower your stance… like you’re running on a tight rope… smooth….

Mile 6. 7:30.  Almost half way, but not half way.  Time starts to move in slow motion here.  I feel good, but man…7 more miles of this?  WHY, oh god WHY DO I DO THIS?  Do I enjoy this?.. .how can THIS be fun???

Mile 7.  7:39.  Oh shit.  I thought I was closer to 7:30 again.  This is where I started to sputter in San Jose.  Dude, it’s going to happen again, your pace will fall off, and you’ll start to feel like you’re being water-boarded.  You’ll start to walk through water stations. and there will be no comfort.  I notice the feel of the sun on my skin, so much for the mild cloud cover.  It was nice while it lasted.  Shit.

Mile 8.  7:46.  I’m slowing down (sigh).  That last mile seemed like two or three.  Remember, this is just a mental deception.  You’re find, calm down.  This always happens on your long runs, your brain is just depleted of some of its electrolytes.  You’re going to be fine.  Relax, breathe, smile.  You feel good, you’re okay, you’re still near those three to four people.  See, that guy in the white shirt?  I start to notice something about this guy.  He’s faster on the uphill.  Am I slowing down?  I’m slowing down… (sigh).

Mile 9.  7:45.  I can’t get back to my 7:30 pace.  I burned it up too soon.

mid_run_002Mile 10.  7:40.  I notice m average pace here is almost exactly 7:30.  Damn, I may actually pull this off.  I also notice that the white shirt guy is not necessarily faster on the uphill, he’s doing something i Used to do before i knew better.  He’s going too fast on the uphills, and I’m killing him in speed on the downhills (smile).  I start to wonder if I’ll pass this guy.



Mile 11.  7:26.  I passed white shirt guy.  Man, what a feeling!  And what a guy.  I found my second wind.  Did I have it all along?  How much do I have in reserve?  Only 2 more miles to go.  This is right around where i start to understand that I got this.  It’s all downhill form here (slight, but still, every bit counts).








Mile 12.  7:40.  Hang on…. Just hang on, left, right, left right.. breathe, relax, smile…GO!  Dont’ save it.  USE IT.  It won’t do you any good when you’re done.  1.1 miles?  That’s only seven to eight minutes.  BURN, baby, BURN…USE IT!  YES, i timed my music playlist just right.







The theme from Man of Steel comes on:

Mile 13.  I didn’t look down, but later realized I’d run a 7:37.

mid_run_004The last leg of the race, the last quarter mile, I knew.  I could see the finish line up ahead to the left a bit.

Cassidy, this is where the feeling that I want you to feel someday comes on.  The sidelines are full of people cheering EVERYONE who goes by on, they are yelling positive things, yelling!  Cheering, they are smiling at you, AT ME!  They believe…they want me to succeed even though they don’t know me, they can see the struggle on my face, and this wave of sadness, happiness, joy, relief, thankfulness, and appreciation takes hold of me… appreciation of everything and everyone that has lead me to this point, including myself,….you start to absorb all of the positive energy, you actualize the realization that you are going to finish, that you will do what you set out to do….it’s one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.

I make the last right hander with only a tenth of a mile left.  The finish line is in clear view, and there’s only maybe 3-4 people near me running.  I turn on every last bit of muscle strength and energy I have.



When you finally step over the finish line, ….the mind is empty, and the heart is full.  You want to cry, to thank all of the forces that got you to this moment.  You’re thankful for life, for your body, for your family, for every breath.  Its one of those moments where you can close your eyes, and have complete confidence that the world is as it should be.  Nothing need change.

I’m amazed that I can feel this way even though I’m alone.  My wife is back in California, my mother-in-law is still on the course, my father is back home in Arizona, still recovering from major knee surgery, and you Cassidy, you’re back home in California.  There was a time when being alone and doing something like this would terrify me, at least when I was younger.  Cassidy, don’t ever fear being alone.  Some of the best moments in your life may come when you are alone.   At least, physically alone.  I was never truly alone.  When I ran, I carried you, Anna, Dad, Kandy, Melyssa, and Jim in my heart, …at each step, at each thought, in each breath… you may be thinking this sounds corny and cliche,….but it is true.  At various times as I struggled through my training, I had doubts, some more obvious than others, some much less so.  But each one of you gave me strength, through your words of encouragement, and that encouragement is invaluable.  Those words echoed in my head and my heart as I ran this day.

Cassidy, if you never challenge yourself to do something you think you may not be able to do, you will never experience the feeling I’m talking about.  And to be clear, I don’t mean simply deciding to participate, this is relatively easy to do.  I mean deciding to employ the best version of yourself to achieve a goal.  I saw a glimpse of this in you when you would go to the dog park with us in earlier years and run around the outside of the track, not because it was running, but because you were pushing yourself to be better…you knew there was more, and you knew if you dug deep, you’d find it.

Keep digging, Cassidy.  There is greatness in you, and all you have to do is believe.

Pizza and the Dodo bird

April 4th, 2012 No comments

The last few days, I’ve been really bored.  Wandering thoughts about junk food and overeating trigger me to take notice.  It’s very telling when I don’t have something to do or feel unsatisfied in some way how my mind starts to wander to food.  Even still, I am strong.  I’ll have to write another post about this issue.  over-eating doesn’t fix anything.  You just want to sleep.  Bleh.

Monday.  I really didn’t feel like going in (yet another post), but I dragged my butt out of bed, although not before giving Kumo and Danica some up-on-the-bed loving.  I think I enjoy it more than they do.  I love those guys.  Although I hate getting up on Mondays to go to work, the thought of what awaits me in the kitchen motivates me.  My chocolate Shakeology oatmeal. NOM NOM NOM

My oatmeal ShakeologyI microwave 1 serving of old fashioned quaker oats.  While it’s cooking , I take a fuji apple (honeycrips aren’t in season), save half for another time, core the remaining half, and chop into small pieces.  Once the oatmeal is done cooking, I then add chocolate Shakeology, Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein, Bell Plantation PB2 (peanut butter without the oil, non-gmo), and some cinnamon and add these to the now ready Oatmeal.  Because there’s so much dense food now in the oatmeal, I usually end up having to add some additional hot water.  By far my favorite meal of the day.

No fresh snacks at work means planning, …means stopping off at the grocery store on the way to work. Dear Whole Foods, please open a store near work or home.  KTHXBYE. Safeway.  Knew I wanted some in-pod edamane, but.. DOH, the only podded edamame is ‘best if used by 3/27′, HELLO that’s a week ago! Pass (sigh).  Needs to be portable, … let’s see.  Carrots, bananas, Fuji Apples (these look a bit long in age, but for some reason, the safeway near my work always has medicre apples), unsalted roasted almonds, a sweet potato (will end up covered in cinnamon I already have at work), a small pack of sugar snap peas.  Everything is organic except the snow peas.  Mission accomplished.

I’m 37 today, and Sil and Joe (work) want to take me out to lunch, very nice of them.  These days, I generally don’t like eating out.  Most places end up adding things ot your food that I don’t want (butter, cheap oils, and who knows what else).  I chose the Counter in San Jose, a custom burger joint.  I ordered a 1/3 pound grilled chicken breast over organic mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, fresh avocado, and some tzaziki sauce on the side (342 calories, though not enough carbs).  When I was eating more dairy, I used to also get their herbed goat cheese spread, btw, which is awesome.  But, for today, skipped it, and didn’t miss it. It was spectacular.  Forgot to snap a picture of this, ah well.  When I got back to work, I realized I still felt hungry, and broke into an organic protein food bar to get a few more carbs.  It should help hold me until a bit later.  These bars are awesome.  330 calories, 22 proteins, 33 carbs, 8 fibers, no GMO’s, no Trans Fats, alkalizing, and full of energy.  By far the best tasting, best ingredients.  Credit to Silvino for linking me to the Matt Danzig fighter blog post about his diet, which is where I learned about this awesome bars).

When I felt the need to eat for no good reason, I’d either pop an almond (1), or grab a carrot.  I estimate I ate 9 almonds and one or two carrots (always feel like bugs buny when I’m eating a carrot, sup doc?).  Around 3pm, I made another round of oatmeal Shakeology, but this time used a banana (tasty, great pre P90x food!).  This will easily hold me over until dinner.

Ben's Kickin Mango SalsaTonight is a special treat.  For my birthday, anna prepared my recipe for mango salsa, some sauteed zucchini, and some baked chicken.  The salsa  was healthy, fresh, and perfect.  We have been eating a lot of roasted veggies, carrots, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and parsnips.  My whole reason for coming up with the salsa recipe was I needed a way to zest up baked fish.  I can spice some sockeye salmon up well enough, but variety keeps it interesting.  This salsa was just what I needed to do that.  Thanks Honey.

Optimum Nutrition Casein Protein PowderAfter doing some additional reading and investigation, I’ve found that consuming casein protein before bedtime will keep hungry muscles fed overnight.  The dairy based casein protein digests more slowly than whey based protein, and as such, tends to sustain growing muscles overnight.  This idea reminds me of that old addage “a glass of milk before bed time”.  I don’t know when I first heard it, but from a muscle building standpoint, it makes total sense.  I also throw in some PB2 for good measure (chocolate needs peanut butter), and several dashes of cinnamon (helps keep you feeling full).  I then add several ice cubes, and blend for 30 seconds.  Talk about a killer dessert.

I did contact Optimum Nutrition, asking:

1) What is the diet of the cows that product your products?
2) Are your cows subjected to Growth Hormones? (rBST, others?)

Below is the response I received:

We deal with a large number of whey suppliers who buy from an enormous amount of farms, and as such, we cannot state that our products are rBGH, IGF-1, antibiotic, and BST free.  However, whenever possible, we try to select from companies that we know have a strong interest in humane treatment as well as natural methods.  One such company is _____ Cheese Company.  Please note their response:

 “_____Cheese Company is committed to producing the highest quality cheese and ingredients. This commitment begins at the source – the milk we receive from more than 260 family-owned dairies. Because dairy herd performance reflects the quality of care received at every stage of the production cycle, our dairy farmers rely on proven best management practices to maintain the health and welfare of their dairy cows. Dairies keep detailed records, continually work on hygiene and sanitation, and utilize new technologies – from misters to milking equipment, freestalls and barn innovations, and modern management practices to provide first-rate cow comfort on the dairy. Our dairy farmers extend their care beyond the cow to the environment, as well, with _____ Cheese Company having the greatest number of dairies certified in the environmental stewardship program administered by the California Dairy Quality Assurance program.”

I’m not thrilled by this answer, but what can I do?

Some might ask ‘Why the shakeology? Why not eat complete whole foods all day? Why use protein powder vs naturally occuring proteins?  Excellent questions!  First, I love the taste of shakeolgoy.  It always feels like something I shoudln’t be able to eat, that should be a no-fly-zone for those trying to have a healthy diet.  So, it fulfills that ‘aha’ part of my brain’s needs.  It also has a ton of rare nutrients in it from even rarer foods.  For the Casein protein powder, I could use Greek yogurt, as the protein in greek yogurt should conceivably do the same thing.  However, I’m trying to move away from eating whole dairy products.  Milk, unless organic, suffers from the failures of GMO foods (bad chemicals, cancer causing agents and precursors, food allergies, ..all bad).  Soy milk, well.. Soy has a tendency to cause fluctuations in testosterone due to the oestradiol it contains.  Those fluctuations can lead to increased inflamation (in the lining of your blood vessels), which can increase your risk of heart disease.  The main reason I’d typically add milk to a dish or eat it would be for the protein.  Most almond milk I’ve found doesn’t have enough protein to warrant it’s use.  And I don’t know of any rice milk based greek yogurt.  So, there ya go.  It seems, most dairy products dont’ have a place in my life.

This raises the question, what about the protein powder?  Whey is from dairy, and casein is from dairy, right?  This is true.  And honestly, I don’t’ have enough information on this subject.  It’s possible I’m doing exactly what I’m trying to avoid by eating those powders.  but, I figure, the less of the dairy product I eat, the less chance I have of suffering its negative consequences (so if only the protein powder, perhaps the process to extract the powder will also extract some of its other bad mojo.  :shrug:, more research is needed).

There’s also the vegetarian movement.  Although I find myself eating a LOT more veggies now that I’m not eating wheat or bread, I don’t think that I could sustain myself just eating vegetables and feel satisfied.  Maybe someday, but I’m not there yet.

Categories: Diet, General Tags:

A Different Drummer

September 14th, 2011 No comments

Heard today from Beatrice, my Trainer/Therapist/Masseuse:

“Are you such a racer! Always going, moving, so many things at once, always in motion!”
(in response to my attemps to ‘fix’ what ails me)

I’ve had heal pain in my ankle/Achilles since July 10th of this year.  It’s been just over 8 weeks.  I recently went to see Joyce Thom (more on Joyce here), and even she spoke about how in Eastern Medicine, the right side of your body is usually linked to the doing, being in motion.  And she thought it was intriguing that most of my pain was there (my right lower back, My right Quad, my right Calf, my right knee, my right ankle).

Beatrice, Joyce, and my father’s wife kandy, are all saying the same things.

-Just Be: Take the time to learn how to ‘just be’ (not to be happy only when in motion, doing, accomplishing).
-Relax: Everything really will be okay.
-Breathe: Breathe with a purpose, to calm yourself, constantly, deep breaths, mindful, from the belly.
-Trust Yourself: This one is a challenge for me.  Since my lower back injury, I’ve seen my body as a hidden weapon that only needs to be activated to cause incredible, instant pain.  I’m working on accepting my body as part of me, not the enemy.
-Appreciate Yourself: Give yourself credit for each and every accomplishment, focus on the positive, literally pat yourself on your back when you do something good for yourself.  Feel the good on the other side of the tough choices you make, focus on it, wait for the feeling before you move into the resistance, wait for the resistance to fade and the good feeling to saturate you.

My intellectual self is still trying to think and do what it can to ‘fix’ this.  I’m in the process of convincing myself to take time, make space, flow…

…It’s a very interesting and challenging time to be me :)

Categories: General Tags:

An Ounce of Practice…

September 8th, 2011 1 comment

It would seem I am meant to further practice my relaxation techniques.  Yesterday, On the way to work, during work, and at the begining of my commute home, I was listening to the Calm Meditation radio station on Pandora dot com.  So, on the way home, when the driver of a 2008 Chevy Malibu decided my lane was in fact his lane, …I wasn’t as tweaked out as I would have been in previous years.  At first, I was frustrated, and a little jumpy from the adrenaline.  However, that soon passed.  I was kind with the other driver, and he was kind with me.

He said “Wow, you’re so calm… I’m sooo sorry”.

Little did he know it took that many hours of calming music to take me there :)

There’s damage to the car.  The two passenger doors will likely need to be replaced.

Mazda Post Accident

However, it’s jsut a car, car’s can be fixed.  I wasn’t hurt, nor was the other driver.  Life goes on :)

Categories: Ben Tags: , ,

Letting Go

September 7th, 2011 1 comment

I know who I want to be, I know I’m not there (yet), …and when I look inward, feeling the deepest roots of my soul, I have no clue how to become that person – relaxed under heavy load, flexible in mind and body, fluid in action and motion, a soft-spoken mind with a strong heart, leading an active life free from injury.

Those I trust tell me, that to get there, I just have to let go, to do nothing, don’t try to fix anything, but instead, listen to my body, my non-intellectual self, relax…. This is so foreign to me, it is so differenet from what I’ve done until now.

Categories: Ben, Health Tags:


September 6th, 2011 1 comment
I am overwhelmed.  The pain I am in is overwhelming me.
Neck Pain
Lower Back Pain (pretty tight/bad)
Right Ankle Iffy/Pain
Right Knee Iffy/pain
I’m afraid
That the pain is enough to stop me from being in motion, exercising… but that if I don’t stay in motion, exercising, it will just get worse.
I want to believe
…to know that I will be okay, alrighty, be confident, …trusting in my body,
but how can I ignore all of the signals from my body?
I am confused, afraid, and in Pain.
Categories: Health Tags:

I’m the Step Dad

July 20th, 2010 No comments

I am Cassidy’s step-Dad.  I’m the other Dad.  I’m the second Dad.

I’m the guy that:

-is the stand-in Dad.

-shows up to the sporting events
(because BioDad didn’t care enough to find out when they were or make the drive up to see them).

-shows up to the music concerts
(because BioDad didn’t care enough to check the schedule, and make the drive up to see his daughter perform).

-helps her understand percents-fractions-decimals-and-Algebra
(because BioDad doesn’t choose to when she’s there).

-teaches her that plagiarism is a crime
(because BioDad plagiarizes her report for her).

-picks her up from the dance
(because BioDad didn’t know she HAD a dance).

-helps her pick her torn heart up off the ground, brush it off, and shove it back into her heart after her boyfriend tries to destroy it
(because BioDad didn’t care to ask if she had a boyfriend).

-in the end of the day, while he still does, doesn’t need to say that he Loves you (Cassidy), because when you look at my actions, it’s clear who took the time with you.

Cassidy to me, is not a commodity, she is NOT someone that I take for granted,…..she is a person, a kid, a daughter that has feelings and wants and dreams…and needs guidance as any tween does.  She needs parents, ..fulltime parents, not when it is convenient…When I took up this position (step dad), it wasn’t marked as ‘temp’ or ‘part-time’ or ‘contract’, …it’s pretty simple really, it’s something that you become…, and once you are, that’s it…you’re it!  You’re the one.  and everyday, if you take part in her life, or if you do NOT take part in your life, it affects her.

Soon, she won’t need much parenting, and that’ll be the end of the job.  Until that time though, I’ll do whatever I can to help her success as she defines it, and experience life with guidance.  I will give her everything, and ask for nothing in return, other than that she do her best no matter what.

I’m the Step Dad.

Categories: Cassidy Tags:

Make time to exercise everyday

January 13th, 2010 1 comment

When I was growing up, a lot of the time I was kind of chubby.  I was born into this world tipping the scales at 13 pounds!.  THIRTEEN POUNDS!  Talk about challenged from birth!  I’d love to take responsibility for weighing this much when I was born, but it’s not like I sucked all of the fat out of my mother or forced her to eat whatever she did.  Maybe I’m just a mutant?  SuperFatBoy!

When I was in 5th grade, I can remember during one of my subjects, we were reading alloud, and one of the sentences was “Ben has fat fingers”.  The whole class laughed (I was the only Ben in my class).  It’s funny the things kids remember and how it affects them.

When I was 9, I can remember my Step-mom cooking fast meals for us, yes, she would include carrots as a side dish, but the main course would be something like Macaroni and Cheese.  It was delicious the way she made it!  But, it was also extremely unhealthy.  I can’t remember my parents focusing on nutrition and fitness as I was growing up, either that or I was just a typical kid who knew better than his parents.  Probably both are true.

Around 13 years old, I found something I loved to do that required energy.  I started to go to the local park a few blocks away.  They had two tennis courts there.  On the court closest to the border of the park, on one side of that court, they had a green wood section up against the border fence, probalby 3 times as high as a standard net, but it had a white line where the net should be.  And so, I started to teach myself how to play tennis by playing tennis at twice the speed against that wall.  I’d bring a few set of new balls, and I’d practice aiming at different spots just above the net line.  I”m not sure I tied together that it was helping me loose weight at the time, but I knew that I would come home drenched in sweat.  Around that time, I also started eating  slimfast shakes for dinner. I had just become tired of being the chubby kid

I’ve gone back and forth with weight my entire life, up and down…But not anymore.  It’s healthy back for life.  That’s what I have written on reminders around the house, along with a very short list of the things that I need to keep doing, it says:

My Health Back for Life
Weight: 205 (lean)
-Healthy Diet: low fat, low carbs, low sugar
-Regular exercise (gym, walking)

Core Muscle Strength (build it / keep it)

I know it may seem simple, but it’s amazing how when you have a positive reason and reminder around the house, how useful it is.

My wife Anna and I go to the gym on a fairly regular basis, but there are nights where if I”m the one cooking dinner, making time, while possible, is not something I want to do.  So, here are some of the things I now have at home and do at home to keep things moving along for my health:

To Buy:
1. Swiss Exercise Ball: You can get these at $10 at target.  Don’t buy the more expensive ones, they won’t give you anything useful.  I use this ball for a bunch of exercises I do, and truly there are even more I don’t currently do mainly because of my back.

2. 10lb Medicine ball: I use this to increase the difficulty of some of the core exercises that I do.  This 10lb ball goes for around $30 at Target.

So,that’s it!  $40 plus tax.

The exercises I’m going to list are in no particular order, although I like to stretch first (and sometimes after as well, depending on how my back is feeling:

1. Hamstring Stretch (lying down):  This is one of the exercises my rehab specialist recommended I do at least once a day.  I do 15 seconds per iteration, 3 times per each leg with a 5 second break between the stretches.  Its important to try to get your foot parallel to the ground as much as you can as that serves to stretch out the hamstring even more.  Additionally, I use a small rolled up hand towl under my lower back at the top of the sacrum to make sure I hold proper form (the back tends to want to do the wrong thing with this stretch, it protects your back).

2. Piriformis Stretch: Yet another rehab recommendation.  I included a picture of where the piriformis is located (think lower glutes).  I use the rolled up towel again just above my sacrum for good form.  The goal here is to keep your back on the ground, put one foot on the opposite legs outide knee area, and lightly push the knee that is crossed over toward the opposite leg until you feel tension in your glutes (that’s the piriformis stretching).  According to my rehab dude, the piriformis is an often overlooked muscle to stretch, and this exercise does it safely.

3. Piriformis stretch #2: warning: This can be a difficult stretch for some.  Again using the towel just above my sacrum, you’re on you’re back.  Start by having both knee’s bent (Feet by your glutes), and bring one foot so it’s just in front of the other knee.  You can move it so that your calf is touching the other knee, but so that that leg is below the height of the other leg (the one still with foot touching your glutes or so).  You then hold the leg in front of the other leg comfortable, and while doing this, push the stretched leg (you’ll feel it) with the other leg toward your chest.  Make sure to keep your back neutral while doing this, and take it slow.  The first you do this, you may not being able to stretch it very far, but keep working at it over time.

4. Leg Lifts: Now we get into the beginning of the exercises!   No more towel under the lower back.  The picture to the left shows the starting position.  The idea here, is to keep your back neutral while dipping the extended leg (along with your back) down a few degrees, then back up.  You’ll be using your abs and back to do the work.  I do 10 per side twice (10 left, 10 right, 10 left, 10 right).  There’s a slightly more advanced version of this that I do now.  You see how her hands are on the ground to stabilize herself?  I now take my hands, and hold the medicine ball with both hands (arms extended) out past my head (above my head, if i was standing, my arms would be making a say 15 degree angle with the ground, this helps to also work your upper abs.

5. Bridge plus heal dig: We’re now no longer using the towel under the lower back / sacrum.  You lie on your back with your legs resting on top of the ball. To add difficulty, just put the heels of your feet on the ball.  Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor into a bridge .(A)  Tighten your abdominal muscles.Keep your hips and glutes off the floor while you pull the ball closer to your buttocks with your feet (B). Dig your heels into the ball for traction and to engage the muscles along the back of your thighs (hamstrings). Hold for three deep breaths.  Hold for two seconds and then return to the starting position.  I do two sets of fifteen.

6. Bridged Leg Lifts: In between my Bridge plus heal dig sets,  I do 10 of the bridged leg lifts pictured to the left (10 per leg, alternating).  This helps to really work the muscles even more.  Your muscles should be tired by the time you finish your second set of Bridge plus heal digs.  If not, try adding a few more leg lifts.

7. Superman Variant: This exercise felt great on my lower back.  You start in a crawling position with your knees and hands on the ground.  While keeping your back neutral, you lift one arm out in front of you, slightly above horizontal while simultaneously raising your alternate leg straight out behind you (slightly above horizontal).  If this is your first time doing this, be patient with yourself.  It will seem awkard (since your muscles dont’ usually do this naturally).  There’s a more advanced version where you take the swiss exercise ball underneaht your belly (positioned so you’re balanced on it.  Your arms will be in that same crawling starting position, but your legts will start out extended, with only your toes touching the ground.  The exercise is mostly the same, but although this might sound easier, it’s more challenging to balance on the ball and with your legs extended.

8. Exercise Ball Roll out: You start on your knees with the excise ball in front of you, you bend slightly foward at the butt, but will maintain a neutral back otherwise.  You put your hands on the ball, and allow your feet to come off the ground while your hands/forearms roll onto the ball, the ball rolls foward (To a comfortable point), hold it for 2 seconds, then back slowly to starting position.  Keep your abs flexed, this one works both your abs and back.  I do just one set of 15.

9. Squats with Exercise Ball:  This is the last of my rehab exercises.  This is just a form of a controlled Squat against a wall using the exercise ball.  You back up to a wall and place the exercise ball somewhere between the top of your sacrum and mid back (Depending on your ball size).  Spread your feet apart a couple inches more than shoulder width and slightly out in front of you.  As you come down (similar to the picture), make sure to allow your but to stick out (toward the wall) but maintain a neutral spine.  Come down until your knee to hip is horizontal to the ground, hold for two seconds, and then return to starting position.  This works the lazy hamstring (never gets enough attention).  I can see the definition that this exercise alone has brought!  If this is too easy (make sure it is first), you can do the same exercise, but put weights in your hands, but even if you don’t have weights, just do the regular exercise regularly.

10. Side Plank: If you’ve ever done yoga, you may recognize this exercise.  The goal here is to hold the position illustrated to the left.  I usually try to hold for 10-15 count per side, then repeat.  This is a great stabilizer exercise.  If you find it difficult to hold yourself up with an arm, you can do a variant where instead of your arm extended downard completely, you rest on the elbow to hand like this.

11. Oblique Curls:  The exercise Ball is great for doing regular curls and Oblique Curls.  Here’s an illustration of how to do them to the right.  I do about 10 per side, then repeat, and i try to hold the up position for a second or two.

12.  Desk Chair Replacement (exercise ball):  I tend to unfortunately sit a lot at work and at home in front of a computer desk (what can I say, I’m a geek).  So, rather than let my core be lazy, at home at least, I use the exercise ball (on carpet) as a chair replacement.  It will tire you out quickly, so start with small stints at first and increase as you build endurance.  It’s very important when doig this to make sure that you are sitting with proper posture (neutral spine).  At first I wasn’t sure I could trust the ball (not to suddenly deflate, and have me fall), but I’ve built trust with it (heh), keeps the abs and back firing to hold you in position.

Well, that’s it for now.  These exercises have served me very well, and they’re something you can do everyday not even having to leave your house.  There are a ton more of the swiss ball exercises out there (google!).  Hopefully you find them as useful as I do!

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags:

Breakfast #1 – Ben’s Veggie Chicken Scramble

January 12th, 2010 1 comment

I’ve become a lot closer to older sister Melyssa in the last 6 months.  She’s a great inspiriation to me.  She went from being out of shape to running marathons (no small feit).  And, although she may not know it, one of the offhand comments she made to me got me to thinking.  She said “Do you ever make yourself a hot breakfast?”

I had gotten in the habit of just eating Honey-Nut cheerios with light soy milk, which… is good, whole grains in the cheerios, Protein and Omega-3’s in the Soy Milk, only 70 calories for the soy milk, and the honey-nut part sweetens it up a bit.  But, it’s somewhat carb heavy and as a result of not having a lot of protein, it doesn’t usually keep me full for very long (That’s not horrible, but I sometimes like to feel full.  I’ve had to redfine full in the last 3 months.  Most of my meals are one cup of food.

So when she spoke of hot breakfast it got me to thinking what I was craving.  I’ve streamlined the proces quite a bit so it’s not very timely, but has a load of veggies, some good seasoning, a bit of kick, and a load of protein.

So, first.. the veggies.  I’m VERY lazy when it comes to food (generally).  And, I tend to over-organize, so…One thing I found I Could do is make a veggie mix, for the week…cut it all up, mix it up, and seal it in a tupperware container.  This way, when I went to make my eggs (during the week), its not as time consuming.  My veggie Mix routinely consists of

1. Garlic: I take fresh garlic from the grocery store, peal the cloves myself (to taste, I use around 8 large cloves, I love garlic), and then mince it up into tiny pieces.
2. Red Bell Pepper:  They tend to carmelize in the pan, sweet, good for you, I used two large peppers, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
3. Green Bell Pepper: More Crunch, flavor, greens, I used 1-2 large peppers depending on the size, core them, de-seed them, and slice them into small pieces.
4. Sliced White Mushroom: I love mushrooms, I added a whole small supermarket tub of these to the mix, guessing its around 2 cups, they’re pre-sliced and cleaned.
5. Zuchini: More crunch, greens, pick up the flavor of whatever you cook, yum, I used 1-2 small zuchini. slice and quarter them.

So, that’s the veggie mix, I combine all of those ingredients in a tupperware container, mix it by spoon, then top it and shake it up a bit (think salad shaker).  The longer it sits in there, the more it picks up the garlic, …MMMMmm.

Chicken: I also use precooked and sliced up chicken pieces from Costco.  They come in a two-pack for around $8.  I measure out three ounches of chicken, and then cut it into smaller pieces.


I spray a nine inch frying pan lightly with pam, and add around one cup of the veggie-mix and the three ounches of chicken:

I also added some of this wonderful local garlic based seasoning, Garlic Dude Dust:

I can’t say enough good things about this seasoning mix.  It’s good on just about everything, is low sodium (yay!).  My sister originally bought it while she was down visiting, and we’ve since become addicted to it (heh).  We use it in soups, eggs, our stuffed peppers.  It’s a great product, and well worth it.

I let the chicken brown a bit (even though it’s already cooked) and absorb some of the flavor of the seasoning and veggies.  Also, the mushrooms have to loose some of the water, and I want that to cook off so the eggs don’t end up too runny.  Additionally, the red peppers will carmelize.  Cook as long as you want, I think I end up cooking and turing/mixing these for 5 minutes or so.

After the chicken and veggie mix is done, I leave it in the pan, and add one cup of Real Eggs (Costco sells six 2-cup cartons in one box for around $7 , cheaper than eggs, is mostly just the egg whites plus some flavoring and color.  They can tend to taste a bit salty, so no need to add any salt).  This is what your pan should look like at this point:

Once I’m done frying it up (eggs aren’t very wet anymore),  I scoop it into a medium sized bown, and immediately top it off with an eight to a quarter cup of this fat-free shredded cheddar that mylocal grocery store sells:

And after the cheese had melted a bit (say one to two minutes), I mix the cheese into the eggs (almost like a binding agent), and then top it off with 1-2 tablespoons of Pace Picante Salsa (mix it in), and after this, it’s done, healthy, tasty! EAT!

Categories: General Tags:

Worst Day of My LIfe

January 12th, 2010 No comments

I thought it was about time to add a post, and due to the relatively recent changes in my lifestyle, I’ve Lost around 50 pounds!  Some folks have asked me “Dude, …were you eating?”.  I laugh, because I have been eating, very well in fact.  I just educated myself about the right foods to eat, when to eat them, regular exercise, and decided….. it was time.

The big catalyst for me was back in September of this past year (2009).  I had been working out in the yard a lot, including moving 3-4 truck loads of dirt into the back yard to fill a troublesome pond for preparation for sod back there.

1. Shovel dirt from truck to wheelbarrow
2. ‘Barrow the dirt from the driveway to the back yard and dump.
3. Spread the dirt around, and Slam it into the ground with a heavy iron tool to build a good base for the sod.

So, my lower back was starting to hurt.  It all came to climax when while at the local dogpark, I bent down just a bit to clean and fill the water dish, and BAM!  I felt that horrible sharp pain in my back, ..I had (again) pinched a nerve.  The amount of pain is difficult to describe.  The only thing I think might compare is being stabbed in the back with Crocodile Dundee’s knife.

The load of just standing causes horrible pain and you’re not sure what to do to relieve it.  Do you lie down in hopes that the decrease in pressure will make it subside? Risking maybe not being able to get up?  Do you stay straight in the hopes that no bending will help it to calm down?  It’s a horrible feeling.  Fortunately, somehow, I was able to get Kumo back onto the leash and waddle home.

The Next Morning is a day I will never forget.

As I woke up, I could feel that my back was very sore.  Not a good sign I thought to myself, ..typically those first moments as you wake up are the best your back will be that day.  So, I could feel sharp discomfort as I tried to get myself sitting up.  Once I managed that ,I realized that as soon as I tried to put any weight on my right foot (right side back pain), I had to immediately lie  down again.  Anna was at work, and my phone was downstairs….Shit.

It was then that I also realized I had a migraine headache…pulsing, aching, …hot.  So, knowing that I wasn’t going to do anything upstairs, and I had a dog downstairs in a crate that needed to go out…

…I crawled.  I crawled from our uptsairs bedroom, down the hallway, down the stairs backwards, over to his crate, let him out, over to the back sliding glass door, and let him go outside to TCB (Take care of Business, we tell him to ‘Get Busy’, he knows what to do), all the while my head is POUNDING, …I finally break down and am actually tearing up from the pain.

I manage over to the sofa, and roll myself up onto it and lie down.  My phone was on the table in front of it.  I call Anna to tell her what’s going on.    At that moment, I had no idea I’d be stuck on the couch for a month.

I had ruptured my L5-S1 disc in my lower back, and there was a moderate sized protusion putting (a lot of) pressure on the nerve root (…..ouch).

Finally, relief came when I started taking Celebrex (a very strong non-steroidal anti-inflamatory pill), and it came fast.  In several days, I was up walking around again.  Made a doctor’s visit up north, and he said one of the things I could do was to get a shot in my lower back of Steroids (Cortisone), which was much stronger than anything i could take orally.  Anxiously, I agreed to the procedure (done on 10/17/09).  Although I was very nervous while I was on that operating room table, on my stomache, with an undoubtedly massive needle looming over my L5-S1, ..it made all the difference.

I was mobile again and not on Celebrex (good for short time, bad long term, can cause vascular problems, heart attack, stroke…ya know, bad stuff).  During that week, I decided, I was going to make a lifestyle change.  Get my body fat under control, build up my core muscles (abs, back, surrounds), and get fit and stay fit, for life, including what I eat.  I may not be able to fix my back completely, but there are things I can control.

When I first went in to the doctor after the disc rupture, their doctors scale read 253 (WHAT!  Two Hundred and fifty three pounds!  I’m 6’2″, but that is ….well…fat..).  Today?  I weigh:

200lbs (~3 months later).

The blog entries that follow this one will be about how I did it, and the tools that have brought me success.

My back still hurts a little now, think I may need another shot, but I’m healthier than I’ve ever been during my adult life.

ben at 207 pounds

ben at 207 pounds

Categories: Ben, General, Health Tags: