Friday, March 09, 2018


April 15th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block.
I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try to sell other services to them.
I tried to find work in areas where I had previous experience.
I had a couple of interviews but no success.

Just to prove to God that I was willing to do almost any kind of work, I applied for work as a janitor.
I had no experience as a janitor, but I completed an application anyway.
In response to my on-line application, I received an invitation to come to a company at a specific time.
I thought it was to be an interview.
It was not.
It was a group meeting of about 30 people to fill out paperwork for going to work.
I was the best dressed man in the room.
Pamela Raney, a black lady in her mid-thirties, sitting near me was the best dressed lady in the room (other than the HR ladies).
She thought it was to be an interview, also.
We were both “hired” on the spot with no interview. (she had experience, I did not.)
We became friends and got along well.
We ended up working in different areas at the same school, until she took another job.

I worked at the same school the whole time I was employed as a janitor – Huntsville High School.
It was conveniently located only three miles from my home.
I was employed in this position for 44 months – three years and eight months.
September 2013 to April 2016.
I worked the night shift – 3 PM to 11:30 PM Monday through Friday until February 2016.

I hated the night shift.
It disrupted my life.
It prevented me from attending the mid-week meetings of my church.
It caused me to have to eat my “dinner” at my usual “lunch” time and my “lunch” at “dinner” time.
It disrupted my sleep, because, even though I was physically tired when I got home each evening, my mind was active at 11:30 PM and it would take me an hour or two to relax enough to go to sleep.
It forced me to take my “afternoon” nap – which I was accustomed to – in the late morning, when I was usually not sleepy.

After a few months on the job, I began bending some of the rules.
While we were supposed to eat dinner at 7:00 PM – and all the other janitors did, I always ate mine at 5:00 PM – the specified break time.
But I seldom took a break, not at 7, nor at 9.

The exception to this was when we got a new team member named Mark.
I remembered him from that first big meeting when we were hired.
He had been a janitor for 15 years or so and knew a lot about it.
Though we had little in common, he became friends and he believed in taking breaks.
So every night, he would call me when he was ready to take his breaks and I would sit in his car with him and visit.
We worked the summers together as a team and accomplished more than any of the other janitors.
One reason we did so well is because we could anticipate what the other needed and not waste time.
Our communications ended when he was transferred to another school.
And when he left I stopped taking breaks again.
We are still friends on Facebook, but we have not seen each other since I quit and do not communicate much.

The evening crew had as many as eight members, as few as three (when other members were sick or laid out).
When crew members were absent, the remaining crew members had to fill in for them – do your assigned area and the area(s) of the missing crew members.
By the time I quit, I had been a janitor on the night shift longer than anyone else there.

When I first started I was assigned to clean the Auditorium building, which included the band practice room, Theater classroom, Choir practice room, six restrooms, the Auditorium lobby, main Auditorium seating area including balcony, stage, hallways and dressing rooms behind the stage.

When there was activity in the auditorium, I had to time my work so as to not interfere with the event/activity, and be able to clean up the area after the event.
These activities included band concerts, play rehearsals, play productions, choir concerts, and public meetings.

I got used to walking through and around the main auditorium in the dark, even though it was supposed to be haunted. (the aisle LEDs were always on)
I never saw or heard the ghost (supposedly a female student who was killed in a car wreck during a play rehearsal)
There were several small sounds that I had to learn to identify.
As a child, I was afraid of the dark. (partly because of a nightmare I had when I was about 2 – which I still remember in great detail)
So this was a bit of a challenge for me.

On nights when there were no activities in the auditorium (usually 3 -5 nights each week), I could rest or goof-off for an hour or so if I had finished my work.
I would occasionally take a short nap in the top row of the balcony in the dark Auditorium.
Sometimes there was something interesting to read in the theater classroom, which I would take advantage of.
When there was a play performance, which would run three to five days, I was very busy, but always finished at the normal end of my shift.
I just spent less time on my classrooms.

In the Fall of 2014 (?) my work area was re-arranged so that I had to clean several classrooms in addition to the Auditorium.
I was assigned to clean 12 Science classrooms and labs, two sets of boys and girls restrooms, a stairwell and the hallway in front of these areas, in addition to all I had been doing in the auditorium.
This new area amounted to about 20 percent of all the classrooms in the main school building.
This put an end to any leisure time in the Auditorium building.

I had two janitor closets and one cart in the Auditorium building.
This helped make cleaning easier, in that, I did not have to walk so far to get supplies or equipment – which saved time.
After I was assigned the classrooms, I had another janitors closet and cart for that area.

I learned many things about industrial cleaning from this job.
We were trained on how to clean, sweep, mop and dust.
We were provided with most of the tools and equipment needed to clean the school.
Much of it was applicable to home cleaning.
I soon found that some of those methods and tools were not always the most efficient.

We were instructed to turn in our dust mop heads once a week or so to be cleaned, and replace them with clean heads.
But I found that all “clean” mop heads are not equal.
Some were worn out and did not clean as well as newer ones.
There were three different sizes and the more-experienced janitors picked through bags of clean dust mop heads and got the best first.
This led me to eventually finding three nearly-new dust mop heads and keeping them to myself.
When my mop heads became dirty, I took them home and washed them myself, at my expense.
This allowed me to have cleaner-looking rooms and halls.
I did this for over three years.
Only a few people knew about this.

I found that for certain areas and situations, my 24 inch dust mop was too bulky and imprecise.
So, I bought a nice 12 inch nylon-bristled long-handled broom, with my own money.
It proved to be perfect for sweeping the stairs and the gymnasium bleachers, quickly and throughly.
(my head custodian borrowed it one evening for a couple of minutes and liked it so well, he wanted one also. I don’t think he ever got one, however)

I also stopped using the school-provided chemicals in certain applications.
And I found that using the prescribed amounts caused a buildup of soap residue in certain areas, so I used half-strength or less mop solutions in my areas and had better results.
In contravention of instructions, I started using bleach in all of my restrooms, diluted to the extent that it did not give off a strong oder.
I wanted just enough to evoke a subconscious recognition of a “clean” smell.

Wet mopping was a learned skill.
Something I had very little experience doing.
I learned that, for my areas, there were three kinds of mop saturation needed.
“Dry” mop, throughly rung out for dusting (after sweeping) for fast drying.
“Damp” mop, for normal mopping or for spills – wet enough to dilute dried liquid spills.
“Wet” mop, for bathrooms, where the mop is only slightly rung out, and the tile floor is throughly soaked and left to air-dry overnight.

Most of the grey-brown buildup around bathroom hardware was from old soap accumulation.
I brought in an old toothbrush and cleaned the chrome fixtures in all of my bathrooms.
All of my restrooms looked the best in the school.

Most of the other janitors just did what they were told and did not seem to care what the results were.
As a result, my areas always looked better than theirs.
I found out accidentally that the teachers loved my work.
After I took an evening off, they told me that they cold tell that I was gone because their rooms were not cleaned up to the standard they were used to.

And, honestly, I spent less time in my classrooms than most of the other janitors.
But I looked after the details in my rooms.
If a teacher sees just a single tiny scrap of paper on the floor when she first walks into her room in the morning, can cause her to wonder if her room was completely cleaned.
So, the last thing I did when I left each room was to pause at the door and look at the room one last time to see if I had missed anything.

I found that most spills in the school are sugar-water (sodas, juice, etc.) and can be cleaned up with just water.
I found that the diluted ammonia-based window cleaner worked on mirrors and windows as well as desks and walls

Often, while working, a song would go through my head and it gave me an urge to listen to some music.
Finally, in February 2015 I bought a pocket music player.
Most of the other janitors listened to music on their phones.
My phone was an old flip-phone and did not have enough memory or a headphone jack to play any music.
Most of my music collection is not MP3.
I bought one of the best music players there is, which had a premium DAC to handle the lossless encoding of my music.
I had just transferred all of my home music collection onto my computer (5000 songs!) so it was not difficult to build some playlists to take to work.
Usually, I would listen to my music after my dinner break.

In February 2016 I was offered a day shift position, which I accepted.
Then I worked from 6:30 AM to 3 PM.
I worked alone and usually unsupervised.
My assigned work areas changed completely.

I was to pick up trash from the entire school parking lots before school.
Then, during the day, clean the baseball team locker room, offices and restroom, the tennis court restrooms, the softball team dressing room and restrooms, the boys and girls soccer teams locker/dressing rooms and restrooms, and the football team locker rooms, offices, gym and restrooms.
In addition, I was to pick up trash from the entire campus.
I traveled around the campus outside, driving a little ATV, with all of my cleaning supplies loaded on the back bed.
Bad weather was not an excuse for not doing my assigned tasks, so I had to dress for rain, and cold.

When I started working day shift, I stopped listening to my music player.

During my time as a janitor we went through four Head Custodians –
Wanda (Sep 2013 – Jan 2014), an older black lady, she taught me a lot about how to do the job.
Kelly (Jan 2014 - Aug 2015), a white lady with physical and mental problems, not a very good supervisor.
James (Aug 2015 – Aug 2016), a dear older black man, I loved him and we got along well.
Vincent (Aug 2015 – Jun 2016 ?), a good Christian black man, whom I liked a lot.

I tried to warn/advise Vincent about the difficulties of working at that school when he first started.
He listened and handled things as he thought best.
Just before I left this job, he told me that everything I had warned him about had turned out just like I had told him.
I felt validated but felt sorry for Vincent.
He was a nice guy and I hated to see him suffer from some bad decisions.

And then there was Ellie.
Ellie started working at our school in the Fall of 2015.
She was a quiet older black lady with eyes that did not point the same direction.
As I sometimes do, I immediately felt sorry for her.
I imagined all the teasing and cruel comments from other children she must have had to endure as she was growing up.
I felt the urge to be extra kind to her.
She was assigned to work in another part of the school so I only saw her during our daily team meetings for a few minutes.
I was soon able to win her trust and we sat together during our team meetings.
It was apparent that she appreciated my kindness to her.
She was a very sweet lady.
When I quit the job I made a special effort to give her a goodbye hug.

Most of the other janitors were black.
And most of them were less educated and used some crude language when talking with each other.
This was my biggest problem with being around this type of people.
This type of language is very offensive to me.
While three of the four Head Custodians were black, I did not have any problems working with them.

The biggest laugh I ever got out of my co-workers was near the end of my time working night shift.
Two of them asked me, in a kidding way, about the special attention I was showing to Ellie.
All I said was, “Well, me and Mrs. Jones…...”
This response resulted in loud, table pounding laughter from my co-workers – the exact response I was hoping for.
It was a calculated statement, based on what little I know about black American culture.
And I was correct in my assumption that they would understand the implication from my statement.
Of course, the implication was not true.
I was not having an affair with Ellie, just being kind and friendly to her.

It has been almost two years since I quit my janitor job.
Strangely, once in a while I catch myself missing it.
Occasionally, I will look at my clock in the evening and remember what part of my assigned areas I would have been cleaning.
In spite of the unpleasant work hours, I found some satisfaction in making things clean, rolling my little cart around the big, quiet, empty school by myself.

Friday, January 12, 2018



(Some backstory...)
In June 2015 I acquired a new (to me) software application for audio recording on my computer, called Reaper.
(Think of someone who goes into a field that is ripe for harvest and gathers the grain, not the creepy guy who comes to remove you from the living.)
The User Manual is over 400 pages.
This is deep, complex software, but it can do amazing things.
Actually, it does what most other audio recording software does, but is very simple to use.

Back in 2015 I read through the user manual, but missed a few key details ( I know now….), so I had a less than pleasing experience making my first recording with it.
I muddled through that recording project but lost my enthusiasm for recording with it, because it seemingly would not do what I wanted it to do.
I was not pleased with the semi-finished product, but most of that displeasure was because of some errors on my part, not because of the software.
So, for that reason and being busy on other things, I did not record anything for two years.
I wrote some songs, and pondered some arrangements during that time but produced no audio.
(End backstory)

Then, a few weeks ago, I was inspired to have another go at recording.
I looked at two other recording software packages – Garageband, by Apple, and Audio Desk, by MOTU.
And, I had in my mind that I might give Reaper another chance if these other choices did not produce acceptable results.
I tried recording a simple song with each package.

Garageband has been simplified since the last time I played with it.
It seemed pretty limited.
There were several editing functions that I wanted/needed that were missing.
It is almost like a toy.

Audio Desk is a pretty full-featured package that came included with the digital interface I bought a few years ago for the purpose of recording.
It is basically a stripped-down version of MOTU’s premier recording software product, Digital Performer, which costs $500.00.
I had the manual for Audio Desk and began to read it.
I recorded a simple track or two to see how it worked and was not overly impressed.
It sounded fine, but I was having to learn new commands and new ways to perform them.
Having to climb a new learning curve through a 300+ page User Manual was not encouraging.
(especially since I had already slogged through the Reaper encyclopedia a couple of years before and still remembered many of the methods/commands/key strokes)

So I went back to the Reaper User Manual and began to read it again.
And I watched a few videos on how to use it.
It was in one of those videos that I found the most vital and useful feature.
It turned out to be the key feature/command that unlocked many of the other features of the package.
I double-checked the manual, and, sure enough, the book confirmed the feature.
I had read over it twice before and had seemingly missed it both times.
To do most editing functions, you move the cursor to the place in the track that you want to work on and press “S”, then, just move the cursor to the place in the track where you want the effects of your editing to end, and press “S” again.
That is it.
From there, numerous manipulations of the recorded items can done.
I did a test recording in Reaper, utilizing my new-found knowledge and it was like the world opened up for me.

So I started to redo the project I had done in Reaper two years ago.
I had a difficult time trying to get the first track down all the way through.
It was not the fault of the software.
I was nervous. (I always get nervous when I record myself.)
I think it took 7 takes, but I finally got it.

Then I recorded the drums – high hat, snare, bass drum – one track for each.
And I time aligned each track with the others.
Then I got the bass down after a couple of tries.
This time I learned how to get all of these elements in tight time alignment.
Recording software these days allows you to move the individual tracks – or parts of each track - around in time so that they all are in perfect lock step.
It is amazing.

Then I did two electric pianos, each on its own track.
I added two organs, each on its own track, because I could not decide which organ sound I liked better. (I still have not decided and am keeping them both for now.)
Then I added a stereo track of strings.
And finally, after an hour of practice relearning the parts from the original recording, I recorded a lead guitar sound.
10 tracks in all.
All of this took three days.

I was very pleased with the results, so far, and was doing a practice vocal to see how all the recorded instruments sounded with each other and with my voice, when I realized I had made a major mistake. (MAJOR)
I had recorded an extra half of a verse that is not in the original song and not intended to be in this version.
I was faced the daunting task of re-recording half of the song, or chopping eight measures out of the middle of the10 tracks.
But instead of feeling discouraged, I just felt challenged.
I had learned so much about using this amazing software that I believed that I could perform this major surgery on the existing tracks instead of re-recording half or all of it again.

So, after some thinking about how to execute this somewhat complex operation, I began by making a copy of my song thus far.
This was done to preserve what I had accomplished, should I totally fail in my attempt to correct my original mistake.
Then I began cutting and pasting, deleting and attaching, copying and pasting sections of each of my 10 tracks.

The whole final guitar solo had to be moved up eight measures and precisely aligned with the chord changes of the other instruments.

Click and hold, slide and stop.
Nope, not quite.
Off about a whole note.
Click and drag a bit.
One more click and drag just a hair.

One neat thing about this software is that you can make changes to the elements while it is playing and hear the result as it plays.
The whole surgery only took about 15 minutes.
I played it back a few times to be sure that all the drum parts where still in the pocket, and all of the keyboards and bass had all of their chord changes at the same times and to the same notes.
I did it.

I cannot wait to finish this project and begin the next one.
I still have about three or four tracks of vocals to do.
And maybe some final detail clean-up on the instruments.
I pretty much have the instrument mix like I want it, but it may get a final tweak before I call it done.

Monday, April 24, 2017


After last weeks poor performance, I decided to abandon the six-mile course that I love.
After two successful runs on the 10k path, my third try failed to meet the criteria for a good run.
I had to stop and walk four times in the last three miles.

Even though I backed off on the amount of leg work in my weight workouts, it was not enough to allow my body to rebuild between long runs.

So I am giving up on the 10k distance.

So, this past Saturday, I was present and accounted for for the old, tried and true 3.6 mile hill course.
The weather was cool and pleasant.

As was the case the week before, I did not get a nap on Friday, which put more pressure on me to get a bit more good sleep Friday night.
Which did not happen.

So I woke up at 4 AM.
I forced myself to go back to sleep, and dozed for the next hour or so, until my alarm ever so gently mumbled its quiet announcement.
I was ready to get to the task at hand.
This, in spite of the feeling a bit tired.

I started out gently, hoping all joints and connective tissue were ready for the ball.
Right ankle requested special treatment as it resisted change in angle of Tibia and Fibia with each step.
And left knee attachments were not ready to play with the team for the first hundred yards or so.
It even tried to play dead, with an important nerve trying to shut down the whole party by going numb.

Fortunately, this mis-fire only happened once and was gone.
Had it persisted to its maximum potential, this posting would a good bit more morose.

Everything got sorted out in the first couple of minutes of the trot, and there were no more physical problems the rest of the ho-down.
Except for respiration.
As I climbed the first incline, Level 3 breathing wanted to supplant my more comfortable Level 2 breathing rate.
And midway into mile one, Level 3 breathing took over.

Experience has taught me that if this happens, I am not as strong as I need to be.
It was an unwelcome guest, and he overstayed his welcome.

Even when I got up on the relatively flat plain of Toll Gate Road, the accelerated breathing stayed with me.
The good news is I was not struggling, but I was not comfortable.
Midway through the final mile, I was working hard enough that I entertained the thought of stopping to walk for a minute or two.
All Runner got from Running Central was a silent glare for even allowing the thought to coalesce.
So we ran on.

By the end of the course, Runner was looking forward to stopping.
And as he rounded the last corner, a Ledecky finish seemed unlikely.
But, as has happened so many times before, even when there seemed to be no more Wheaties left in the bucket, a sprint was attempted.
It was feeble and, no doubt, pathetic to watch, but it was attempted.
And so another run is in the log.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


The answer to my question has been answered.

Depending on one's mood, you could summarize this mornings six-mile run as a disaster or just informative.
I call it a Murphy run.
Almost anything that could go wrong - did.

The only thing that did not go wrong was that there were no physical breakdowns.
All tendons, ligaments, muscles, lungs, feet, etc. performed well.
Everything else?

Although I got about five hours of sleep prior to the endeavor, apparently, it was not enough.
My Wheaties ran out at the beginning of Mile Three.
Not good.
Not sure I can blame the outcome on lack of rest.
Murphy's Law camped for an extended visit.

I could have turned around at that point and gone back to the car and saved myself a few minutes.
But time was not really a factor.
I just wanted to run (as in, RUN) the whole course without having to walk because of some  physical weakness on my part.
I had to walk in Mile Three (as mentioned), Mile Four, Mile Five, and Mile Six.

These walks were each about two minutes in duration.
They were because of a lack of strength, which manifested itself in Level Three breathing early in the party and inability to recover to Level Two breathing even on downhill sections.

This was disappointing because as a result of last weeks difficult - though more successful -  performance, I purposely cut back on my weight workouts this week.
My leg work was reduced by half, and I cut my workouts from four to three.
Apparently, that still took too much of me to share with my running.

It seems that the amount of strength/effort to run six miles is so close to my maximum overall capability that the slightest deviation from my ideal effort margin prior to a run is fatal to my running capacity.
This makes me seem a bit fragile. (but I AM rather old....)

In addition to my general weakness today, a biological imperative interjected itself midway into Mile three.  (more Murphy...)
Fortunately, there was a construction site on the course, from which I borrowed a handy portable plastic booth for a minute or two, to correct the situation.
This problem was successfully eliminated, in spite of adding another unplanned stop.

So, today's jaunt has provided answers to two questions:  
1  Can I run the six-mile Cotton Row Race course?
       Yes, sort of, sometimes, under ideal circumstances.
2  Can I run the Cotton Row 10k race, in four weeks or so.
Thus, next week I will return to my previous 3.6 mile uphill course.

In one sense, my gambit to run the long course was a success three times.
I did it as planned.
But today proved that I just need to dial back my running a bit.
I would rather run a little than not at all.
And it still is a delightful privilege to be able to run at all at my age.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The Saturday morning six-mile jaunt was a qualified success.
The temperature was not ideal - 35 or so degrees, clear, with virtually no wind.
Not my favorite temperature for a run (or anything else, really).
This atmospheric environment required judicious layers to keep the body temperature in an optimal range.
All that remained was a nice, steady rain to throw me into a total snert.

But that did not happen.

The other qualifier on the project was lack of sleep.
I stayed up too late Friday night -until about 11 or so, and I did not get a nap that afternoon - to which I am accustomed (read: spoiled).
So I hit the bed with a deficit of a hour or two (depending on how one wants to score it)
And I woke up at 2:30 AM for no discernible reason.
I tried to go back to sleep, but succeeded only in imitating a rotisserie for an hour or two.
Somewhere around 4 AM I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew, my alarm was ever so gently mumbling that it was time to rise.

Which I did. 

I felt only slightly tired as I walked to the starting line, but I was wary.
This six-mile course has a way of finding your weaknesses and rubbing your face in them.

The first serious little hill shows up at the 2 mile mark.
It was there that I felt my lack of strength.
There were no specific parts complaining, just a general overall feeling of "I really kinda sorta don't want to do this."
This is NOT the sort of thing I want to hear before the half-way point in this race course.
So I fastened my seatbelt for a difficult slog for the rest of the hike.
And it was so.

I walked The Hill, as planned, and forced myself to resume running the last 200 feet or so of it, as I usually do.
But at this point I was wondering if I was going to be able to run the rest of the course (even though it is virtually all down hill from that point).
I had to stop for traffic at California Street for a few seconds, much to my dislike.
The last mile felt like two miles, and that I was dragging a 45 pound barbell plate along the pavement behind me by a rope.  

But I made it.
No unplanned stopping because of my physical failure.

As I walked back to my car, I was pondering how to alter my weight workouts to reduce my leg work.
Perhaps changing the work balance between weights and running would make the Saturday morning picnic a bit easier.

As I have found in my 20+ years of weight lifting and 17 years of running, is that it is easier to fine-tune the weight workouts than it is the running.
Weight workouts can be micro-tuned by changing exercise order, exercises, number of sets, number of reps, and number of workouts per week.
The only thing one can do with running is modify your pace, change the distance, or change the course for more or less elevation.
Over the years I have found and used a three-mile flat course (nearly so), a six-mile flat course, a three point six-mile hilly course, and a six-mile hilly course.

Once you are on a course, you are pretty much stuck with what you have chosen to run.

I love to run.
And I have learned to live with the rules of the game.
At my age, it is a distinct privilege to be able to run ANY distance at any speed.
I am blessed.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Round 2 - The Six-Mile Course

The saying goes, "if you play, you pay".
And it is true.
I feel "weak", sort of tired, stiff, and .... happy.
The happiness is drug-induced from the big shot of endorphins this morning.
All the other stuff is run-induced physical issues.

I did the six mile course again today.
It was cold - 48 degrees or so - so I had to fiddle with layers and whatnot.
I hate cold weather.
But I chose my layers carefully and they proved to be exactly appropriate to the task at hand.
The cold air was calm, so the wind chill was minimal.

As usual for this distance, I was scared and cautious.
I know I am pushing my limits.
I started out slowly, carefully, intent on getting all participants warmed up and happy for the extended journey.
And ten minutes into the party, I was daydreaming and enjoying the familiar scenery.
I felt a bit tired, for reasons I do not know.
And for this reason, my breathing - which is the element I use to pace myself - wanted to go from my comfortable rate of Level 2 to more intense Level 3, on each of the steeper portions of the course in the first three miles.
But it always settled back down.
I did not have to strain to keep my pace.

I walked The Hill at mile three, as planned.
The sky was clear and a million shades of blue as I topped The Hill at 5:50 AM or so, and bopped to the high point of the course a quarter mile away.
Then it was all down hill (well, mostly).

I crossed California Street and did not have to dodge a firetruck as I did last week.
In fact, there was very little traffic today.
This, on top of there being very little traffic at this time of day in downtown Huntsville.
Although I did not feel strong, all participants in the effort seemed reasonably happy to be part of the team.
The connective elements around my left knee, that began whining halfway through mile six last week, seemed to be content with the platter presented to them today.

As I approached the finish line (actually it is a three-inch dash of paint next to the curb with "5k" next to it), I wondered if I would have any Wheaties left to give for a final effort.
Consciously, I thought, "maybe not today".
But then I felt my tired self digging in and going marginally faster.
And for the last 100 yards or so, another Ledecky finish was in progress.
I still do not know where that comes from, but it is in me somewhere.

I was disappointed in myself that I let up my pace one full step before I passed the finish mark.
That was lazy.
And I am sure I could have given one more max step to the cause.
Next week.....

But, it was another wonderful experience.
Another privilege to do at my age.
The proof of the rarity of this event?
I was alone the entire way.
No one else, of any age, was out running on this course, at this time of day.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


I did it.

The idea has been tickling my mind for the last three or four years.
Just every once in a while.
Could I do it?
Just once more?
But, I do not need any further ego boosts.
Not at my age.
But still, every few months the thought would come around.

"It" is the 10K Cotton Row race course.
I love that course.
I do not know why.
But, several years ago, after three or four failures to finish the full journey without having to walk for a minute or two, I decided that I could no longer do that course. (June 2011)
I was getting older, after all....

So, I came up with a four-mile practice course to continue running. 
I purposely included a substantial hill to make up for the shortened distance.
It included part of the Cotton Row course that I love.
Then I found that I had to walk for a minute or so on THAT course, so I dropped back to a 3.6 mile version of that course.
I will have to do some research to see when all of that happened.

But for the last year or so (?), I have been running this 3.6 mile loop to scratch my runners itch.
And it has kept me happy.
Sort of.

But in spite of this gradual contraction of my running capacity, the thought would still visit me from time to time; could I do the whole six-mile loop again?
So, this past Thursday, as I watched what the weather would be for my Saturday morning run, as I usually do, the thought came again - do you wanna try?

The weather this morning was partly cloudy, temp in the low 60s, slight breeze - perfect running weather.
Perfect 10k running weather.
And as I packed by duffle bag and ran through my mental checklist of the things I need to bring for my run, my mind was also running through a list of contingencies, should I choose to do the long course and I suffer a physical failure.
I have run the 10k course dozens of times.
I know every hill, every mile marker, every street, every turn, in this course.
If something breaks, I know what points are turn-around points.
If I turn around at mile marker two, that would equal a four-mile run - approximately what I have been doing lately.
Mile marker three is the half-way point (give or take - mostly give - a hundred yards or so), so it does not matter which way you go from that point.

You might as well keep going.
Plus, the 10k course is virtually all down-hill from the three mile point to the finish.

I was nervous - and a bit scared.
I pointed my car a different direction from the way I go to my short course.
In past years, I used to run the 10k course twice each week.

The route I took today to the 10k starting line was a very familiar one.
But I have not driven it in several years.
It was a deja vu moment.

After parking my car, I walked to the start line and began to run.
Slowly, carefully.
My usual non-warm-up warm-up.

Testing all the connections and support structures to make sure everybody was happy.
I was biting off a big chunk today.

No gradual build-up of distance to break-in the body in smaller steps.
I know better.
But Plan A was to go for the whole enchilada.
If something broke, I would walk, limp, run, or crawl, back to my car.
I had no time constraints other than my own little Saturday schedule.

Plan A strategy was to take it slow, keep my breathing at level two and finish without walking.
How fast I went was not a priority.

And it was so.
To my delight and amazement.

Early in mile six, Left Knee began to complain about the unfairness of life.
I blame this on my turning around to the right to see if there is a car coming from behind me.
I consciously told myself to not do this because of this very result.
It only happened a couple of times, but that was enough to cause a problem.
Sometimes adjusting my stride and concentrating on keeping my form very linear can mitigate some joint problems.
This was done and it did help some.

By that time, my breathing was up to an easy Level 3, but I did not care.
After the last left turn you can see where the finish line is, a half a mile away.
I have found that, at that point, you tend to forget about a lot of details in life and focus on getting to that little mark on the planet.
I knew at that point that, barring a major surprise catastrophe, I was going to finish Plan A.
It was a wow run.
Thank you, Jesus, for the privilege to be able to do this one more time.

Monday, October 31, 2016


A couple of you may find this of interest.


I started lifting weights when I was 50 - 1995.
I started running when I was 54 - 1999.
I have done both off and on, or one or the other since then.
There have been periods when I did neither.
The lapses have mostly been dictated by my job situation.
I have never stopped doing either of them because I did not enjoy them.

I stopped doing weight workouts and running when I took a job as a janitor in 2012.
I found that, while the work was relatively easy, there was a lot of walking and plenty of pushing mops and large brooms for eight hours a night.
The initial effect the new job had on me was to make me tired.
I did not believe I could do both, so I stopped working out and running.


When my job hours changed in January 2016, I immediately began doing my weight workouts and running again.
I assumed that I would not be as strong as I was when I stopped doing weight workouts, but I was surprised how weak I was.

Understand that I was doing weight lifting to maintain my strength rather than to build muscle, as I was trying to do when I was younger.
At my age (71) there is little hope of gaining any muscle mass.
The battle is to hang on to what little I have remaining.

These exercises were selected because they require little set-up, use my bodyweight for resistance, and are compound/full range movements.
Because pull-ups are so difficult for me, I can do only a few.
This causes my biceps to receive a smaller amount of reps compared to my triceps and other areas.
So I added standing barbell curls to give some added work volume for my arms.

My point of reference was what I was doing in my last weight workout in February 2016.
My last workout was as follows:

Crunch 30 repetitions
Pull-up 6.5
Push-up 12
Standing Heel raise 60
Standing barbell curl 16 x 40 pounds

I count a half a repetition or incomplete movement as a half a rep for more accurate statistical analysis of my work load.

My first workout in April 2016 after I quit my job was as follows:

Crunch 30
Pull-up 4
Push-up 6
Standing Heel raise 50
Standing barbell curl 16 x 40 pounds
Squat (no extra weight) 20


I was surprised by my poor push-up performance, which had fallen to almost half in just two months.
The next workout, the following day, I did 10.
The following week I was up to 12 and stayed there for about a month.
Then in May I did 14.
Two weeks later I did 16.

In July, I felt like I could do more, so I began doing two sets of each exercise.
The first two-set session I did 14 and 10 reps of push-ups.
I bounced around between 14 and 16 reps on the first set and 12 and 15 on the second set for the next three weeks.
Then on August 18 I did 18 push-ups on the first set and 16 on the second set.
I fluctuated between 18 and 12 for the two sets for the next eight weeks or so.
Then on September 23 I did 20 push-ups on the first set and 16 on the second set.
Since then my push-ups have varied between 18 and 14 repetitions for the two sets.
On October 26 it did 20 reps on my first set, then 17 and 14.
An average reduction as the muscles fatigue.


Standing barbell curls demonstrate another interesting progression.
I started doing them to provide a better balance of work volume for my arms.
They are one of my weakest areas.
In February I did one set of 16 with 40 pounds in my last workout before stopping for six weeks.
When I restarted my weight workouts in April I did 15 reps with 40 pounds – almost no loss of strength.
The next day I did 17 reps with 40 pounds.
The following week I completed 18 reps.
The following week I did 20.
Two days later I did 21.
A month later – June - I did 22 reps.
The following month I completed 23 reps with the 40 pound weight.

At the end of July I started doing two sets of each exercise.
My reps dropped to 21 for the first set and to 17 for the second – same weight both sets.
By the beginning of August my reps were holding at 20 – 21 for both sets.

The first week in September I increased my weight to 50 pounds.
I did 15 reps the first set and 11.5 for the second, an expected decrease.
The following week I was doing 14 and 14 reps.
In October first set reps increased to 16 and second set reps stayed at 14.


In September I decided to add some variety to my exercises.
I replaced push-ups with bench dips and pull-ups with bent barbell rows using 135 pounds in the Wednesday workout.
My first workout with these new exercises produced the following:
BB Bent Row 20 x 135, 20 x 135
Bench dip 24 reps, 22 reps (partial bodyweight = 110 pounds)

This change in exercises has had the effect of improving my push-ups a little.
Push -ups are holding at around 18 and 16 reps.
Bench dips are up to 26 and 24 reps.
At this rate I will be doing 30 reps soon.

Since I prefer to hold my high rep exercises to a maximum of about 20, I may have to consider replacing bench dips with parallel bar dips.
Which has the effect of increasing the weight, which will decrease the reps.
I do not like parallel bar dips as much because they seem to not work the chest as much and work the triceps more, because of the angles of the range of motion involved.
But the variation will be useful in rounding out my “development” - such as it is.

As of mid-October 2016 I have increased my sets to three per exercise.
The downside of increasing the number of sets is it takes more time – about 15 more minutes per session with these exercises.
After just a couple of three-set workouts, I am surprised at how easily my system has accommodated the increased work volume.
I do not feel tired, and only slightly sore a day or two after the workouts.
The downside is this added volume may make it easier to overtrain.
I will have to watch my reps.
If my reps begin to drop, it is an indicator that I am overtrained and need to take some days off.

To be continued…..


April 15 th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block. I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try ...