Category Archives: III- General Musings

Final Post / The End of Running My Ass Off

For the short version of this post, stop reading after the following sentence.

Family first: it’s time to dial things back and focus on what’s most important right now.

For the much expanded version, please continue reading. This is a long one, so bear with me. I’ve got a lot on my mind and have to get it all out.

It’s time to switch things up again. Not the end of the road, but just the next step for me. The continuation of my evolution. Whatever you want to call it, it’s time to change up the program, make some big changes and move forward again.

My wife and family were the driving force for me to get so aggressive and active in effort to lose the weight and change my life so I am a better man for them. And now coming full circle, they are now also the reason why I am dialing things back. I am becoming less aggressive on the racing front, and re-evaluating how I look at my fitness in general.

Early on in an interview when asked to sum myself up an a few words I described myself as: a husband, father, runner, weight loss success story, etc. While that is true and all of those play a part in making up who I am, It’s important to note that: that’s not ALL I am, and most importantly: those two classifications of husband and father will ALWAYS come first.

The time has come for me to make some pretty substantial changes in my life… Yet again.

I’ll be honest, with the progress that I have had over the past few years with the weight loss and running, and with my doing it as publicly as I have, my story has garnered it’s fair share of publicity. This was never really meant in a self-serving type of way, but it did make it very easy and tempting to get sucked in, continue pushing and see how far I could take things. I always put everything out there with the hopes of keeping myself motivated and potentially (hopefully) helping others to the same.

I finally feel secure in saying that my efforts to accomplish my intended goals have been a resounding success on all levels. I lost the weight, got myself more active, been able to maintain it all, and completely changed my life in the process. That has trickled into not only fitness aspects for me but into “real life” as well. Work, relationships, pretty much the way that I view everything has been altered. Nothing is off the table anymore. If you are willing to put in the work, you can achieve it. No matter what the “it” in question is. That does not make it free or easy, but it does make it do-able.

But then again, what I have completed is my *original* goals. And as noble as those original goals were, they are not 100% fitting of my situation anymore. The thing is, in the time that it has taken me to accomplish this set of goals, my life has changed. No longer the father to just one six month old baby girl, I’m now dad to two, have more responsibility at work, moved to a newer, bigger home requiring more time and energy, etc. and my life as it stands does not allow the free time to devote to running according to the training plans that my advanced racing schedule would demand. It’s just not in the cards for me right now. It’s life:  responsibilities change, priority shift, it’s just what happens to everyone. I’m not alone in this, it’s truly a universal thing.

Speaking of races, it’s important to mention why this is such a big deal to me and why I am viewing this as such a major shift in perspective. Now a big component in how I’ve kept myself motivated is by participating in races. Included in this has been the practice of planning out and rigorously following the corresponding training plans for said races. These training plans would span months in advance, essentially giving me a mapped out calendar to ensure that I had my workouts built into a static schedule. It was a reliable, structured, and effective way for me to plot things out way in advance and keep myself on track.

That being said, as my fitness has improved, my goals have grown accordingly.  I have progressed into bigger, longer, and more challenging races- not to mention many more of them. With the heightened challenges comes increased training to make sure I prepare myself the right way, and this takes time: time in the gym, time on the road, and time away from the family that I started all this for the first place.

I talked a little bit about this back in January when I had to back off from being an American Cancer Society/DNation running coach. Same concept, but on a much grander scale this time around. I’m not looking at just one facet of my training regimen; I’m looking at the entire thing as a whole now.

Now I’m not saying that I have been an absentee family member or anything, but I am saying that (if you have not figured it out by now), being a husband and father is a huge deal to me, and it’s a role I take very seriously.

Once I realized that the races and corresponding training plans that I had laid out for the rest of the year amounted to more than I was willing to sacrifice in terms of time spent with Jenn and the kids, I realized it was time to dial it back and reevaluate things. And I know myself, I fully have the potential to take something that I love (like fitness planning/ racing/ pushing my goals further and further, etc) and totally let it take over and become 100% sucked in. I have learned the hard way a long time ago to recognize the signs that I’m headed down that road and apply the brakes immediately, for the sake of all the other aspects of my life maintaining balance. I’m keeping my eyes open, seeing the signs and pulling back. Like I said, no crazy obsessive behavior or damage done yet, and I intend to keep it that way.

I said this back in January, and the same thinking still rings true: While I technically have not done anything really wrong or neglectful, the fact remains that I don’t like how much time and attention I’ve allowed all the extra fitness related activities and associated planning to take up in my life. Simply put, I’m not living up to the standards that I like to hold myself to: In terms of being a husband, father, friend or otherwise. I let myself get caught up in all the races, training, planning, and everything else that goes along with adopting competitive endurance racing as a full-time lifestyle. I’m not too proud to admit that I got too far sucked in to an extent. It’s addicting, especially when you’re getting the attention that I did there is literally always an opportunity to talk to someone new, plan out a variation of a training plan, organize another event, map out your next race (or next several races), etc.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to just cold turkey stop running or abandon my fitness minded approach to things. But my focus now is going to be on learning how to balance. I need to realize that training for a race is not the only way to maintain a decent level of fitness. I need to learn how to be able to just go for a run for the sake of running. To be able to go for a run for the sheer value of getting a workout in, not having that run be one building block towards a gigantic master-plan that culminates several months later in a big race. To be the guy who wakes up early and goes for a run as a way to start the day off on the right foot. To be that dad who is out running around the neighborhood or along the local trail while pushing one or both of his kids in the jogging stroller- and be totally content with that. To allow running to still be a big part of what makes me up, but not be the ONLY thing that defines me. I don’t need that to be the only thing that is front and center at all times. I let it get that way for a while, but I recognized it and I’m putting a stop to it. There is much more to me than just being a runner, and it’s time to let those other aspects come through again. It can be done. It will be done. And I know I can do this while keeping up on all the other responsibilities in my “real life” as well.

And this is not forever, it’s until I find the balance and some extra room opens up in the schedule. I’m not quite done yet with the lofty personal challenges: I still do have some goals that are yet to be completed. Before it’s all said and done, this guy WILL run the Philadelphia Marathon. I really want to run in a team based relay-style distance race like Hood to Coast or a Ragnar Relay. There is also the matter of the triathlons that I had initially on the schedule for this year. I’d like to do at least one, just to be able to say that I did it. But what I learned this year the hard way, is that full marathons, relays, triathlons, and the like require very significant amounts of planning and training (at least the way that I approach races like them).  It’s not undoable, it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I have much more important matters to attend to.

By that measure, this emergency surgery that I had to go through earlier this month was shockingly well-timed. I literally was at the crossroads and had decided it was time to scale things way back, when along came a circumstance totally outside of my control that would have sidelined me for months anyway. I’m taking it as confirmation that the decision to hit the reset button was the right one, and this is the opportunity to really take a step back and focus on what matters, knowing that it will completely destroy what conditioning I had built up and being ok with that, and then literally rebuilding my habits and routines from scratch.
(…as if I have a choice with it: Whether or not I made the decision to change my approach to fitness or not, I’d still be sitting on the couch right now thanks to my stone-producing gall bladder)

I am going to achieve this by working at it the same way that I have worked at everything else up until this point. The only way I know how to do this and do it right is to commit 100%. So that means no more races for now. I backed away from pretty much all things running related over the past month, just to give myself a chance to take a breath and get everything worked out in my head. It’s been hard, and there are a lot of people I miss, but I will be back. It’s not forever, but it is the way I know how to make sure things get done for now.

As for races, I’m hoping that I can still do 1 or 2 a year in the short-term, but I will see how things go and if I can get them in: awesome; if time does not allow that right now: that’s ok too, they will still be there when I’m ready to come back to them.

That also means I am going to close up shop and stop the regular posting on this blog as well.

Like I said, major changes for me, but it’s the right call and the end more than justifies the means. I’m not going to take the blog down, because I feel like the chronicle of my story can still do some good for others out there, but as for new postings this will be my final one. I’ll be continuing on in my efforts, but the public aspect ends here. The next steps are for my family, and for me. And meant to be shared with them and them alone.

Back in January when I had to step back from the running coach responsibility it was kind of bittersweet for me. I knew it was the right call, but I was still pretty bummed about it. I’ll be honest though, this time around: I will definitely miss the training and racing, and I know it’s going to be a huge adjustment for me but I’m actually really excited about it. I’m really looking forward to turning all of my focus and energy on just being “daddy” and even more importantly, instilling the same values and love of running/active lifestyle that I have developed over the past few years in my kids. I don’t want them to ever have to go through the same struggle that I went through. The best way to make that happen in my mind is to prevent them from getting that big in the first place. The logic is simple, if they don’t have an unnecessary 130 extra pounds packed on in the first place, then they will never have to fight that hard to lose it. And even with all the personal successes I’ve experienced over the past few years, THAT will be my crowning achievement.

So it looks like this is it.

I would be remiss if I did not give out a resounding thank you to everybody reading this. I can say without exaggeration that this blog has truly changed my life. It has shown me that there are people out there, complete strangers, who are willing to support you in no matter how great of an endeavor you are looking to take on, so long as you are honest and willing to give it your best effort to rise to the challenge.

This blog has created new friends, reconnected me with old ones after we’ve drifted apart, and put me in a position to help other people who are in the same position I was in make some changes for themselves and accomplish some pretty amazing things. The blog has grown to a level and reached a volume of people that I never could have anticipated in a million years. I will always be grateful for the accountability, support, love, and camaraderie that has come as a direct result of Running My Ass Off.

So thanks again. It has been an honor and privilege to bring you along with me, every step of the way.

And lastly: I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wife Jenn who has supported me every step of the way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: none of this happens without your love and support. It’s that kind of relationship that made me want to be a better man for you in the first place and what drives me every day. And to my Tessa and AJ: you were also the catalyst for this change to begin with, and now I get to be the dad and role model I want to be for you. I can’t wait for every single day with you; I’m not taking one of them for granted.

So, for the final time: thanks again, and take it easy.

Andy

Pro Compression Ambassador

Ok, I’ve gotten just about as much mileage out of the “big announcement coming” teaser that I’m going to, so it’s about time is just come out with it already.

I am a big subscriber in a belief that I picked up in my days working in sales: “You never know unless you ask the question”. An idea or opportunity that might seem really far-fetched to you might be perfectly reasonable to someone else. You never know, and at least if you ask, you run a 50/50 shot at getting the “yes” that you want. If you don’t even ask, it’s a 100% guarantee that the answer is “no”.  That’s why if I see an opportunity in this fitness world that I am slowly expanding into that I think makes sense and is a good fit, I have made it a point to do the research and then ask the question. Whether it’s about a product or service that I can try and then review for all of you, or in very selective cases, if I can represent a company that I can legitimately see the value/ benefit in and like it enough to spread the word/ advocate on their behalf.

This has only happened twice before, and both times the organizations I have affiliated myself with have not been products, but in more in the Charity Running arena. It’s not too hard of a decision to support a means to take the running you are doing anyway and leverage it to create benefits for others as well, so for me they were really a no-brainier. That’s why I threw my name in the ring and I am a “Charity Miles All Star” and heavily associated with the American Cancer Society’s “DetermiNation” program.

What I am very pleased to announce today, however is my first venture into the “product” end of that scope.

I am very pleased to say that I have been chosen as 2014 Ambassador for Pro Compression.

PROC-ambassador-2014-300x300

I love these socks, and quite frankly I wear them on every run. When I saw that they were instituting an ambassador program, I reached out immediately to at least ask the question and start a conversation. Next thing you know, I am officially a brand ambassador.

So what does that mean, exactly? Pro Compression Ambassador?  In short, it means that I will be spreading the word about Pro Compression loud and proud throughout the year. That also means that you will be able to expect to see me rocking the Pro Compression socks at every race I run (which, quite frankly was going to happen anyway) and I will be the go-to source for discount codes, it will put me in a position to run giveaways on the blog periodically, and roll out any news or new products as they become available.

I have long been a supporter of Pro Compression. They were the first compression gear I ever tried and have since been the measure that I hold any others against. Through all the other products I’ve tried/ reviewed, I just keep going back to old faithful and decided a while ago to just stop looking elsewhere. (Speaking of which, if you wanted to check out my review of Pro Compression socks from way back when, please check it out HERE)

As my good friend Mikey D says “If it ain’t broke…don’t break it” So I decided to abide by that philosophy and stopped trying to improve on the product that did exactly what I wanted it to. They are great. Like I mentioned before, they are a standard of my running gear and have been for quite some time, and I am happy to represent them for you all. You will find the Pro Compression Ambassador over in the sidebar for the rest of the year, and it will link you directly to their webpage/ products. Up until now I have run exclusively in the Marathon socks but with my triathlons coming up shortly I’m very excited to get my hands on some low cut trainer socks and calf sleeves. (Both are on their way to me now, by the way. So I’ll be sure to post a review as soon as I give them a decent test)

So stay tuned. As new info (and discount codes, and giveaways, and potentially new awesome products) becomes available I will be dispensing it to you as quickly as I can.

Pro Compression Ambassador. How freaking cool is that?

PC Banner

Good News / Bad News

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Ok, not really that dramatic, but I do have really great and some pretty crappy news to share at the same time. Rather than doing it in two seperate, polar opposite posts (one super upbeat one and then one super down one) I am just going to roll them together here.

Good News first:

So the Sweet Cheeks Virtual 5K is completed for another year, and it has yet again been a rousing success.

Again this year I have exceeded expectations and while I don’t have the final numbers yet in terms of the final profit/ donation to The American Cancer Society, I do know it wil be well over $1000 and I do know for certain I exceeded my initial projections. (again. for the second year in a row. I apparently need to get more aggressive in my goal setting for these)

We finishedin the triple digits in terms of runners and the times have been pouring in all weekend. Thank you all for participating. Once this is all wrapped up,I am taking some time off from planning the virtuals. After organizing 2 basically back to back it’s time to turn the focus 100% onto my training and the blog- which by the way will have a major announcement coming inthe next day or so.

and now , it doesn’t happen often, but I’m afraid I have to share a bit of bad news here.

I am all for setting aggressive goals. I’m also all for getting creative and stretching your time to accommodate these goals as well. But there is a line, and sometimes, even when you have the best intentions and are doing genuinely worthwhile things, that line gets crossed. Bite off more than you can chew, have your mouth write checks that your ass can’t cash, whatever you want to call it the idea is the same. I have officially reached that point now.

So while I genuinely love the role of run coach and being on the volunteer committee for the American Cancer Society, I have realized that there are just literally not enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do in my running world while still being the father, husband, and friend that meets the standards that I hold myself to in my “real life responsibilities”  

I realized this as I was filling out the calendar for the month and until I had a visual it didn’t really sink in the sheer volume of time that’s going to be accounted for by my various exploits. It’s also one of those gradual things where I did not realize how deep into something I was getting until I took a step back and looked at everything as a whole. Continuing along this path, while certainly noble would mean stepping back from other things that I am just not willing to do. It became painfully evident that something had to get cut from the schedule, and unfortunately my run coaching and committee volunteer duties are what made the most sense to me to go.

I’m still going to run for the charity, and most likely always will. I’m still going to have a team of runners to do with me. But I’m simply running out of resources and will not be able to uphold the responsibilities of being a committee member and coach in addition to all this. I am massively honored and proud to be a included as a part of this committee, but I’m also not too proud to admit when I’ve made a mistake and overcommitted myself.

I know I keep going on about it, but the truth is that I feel embarrassed and feel like I am letting some people down. While this is certainly not the first time that I’ve overextended myself in general, it is the first time I’ve done it in this new fitness world of mine (where I  responsible both for myself and for assisting others). I feel like I should’ve known better but I can’t go back and change things now. I got very excited and caught up in the prospect of being on the committee and serving as a coach, thought I could pull it off and it turns out that I was wrong. And while I feel embarrassed, that really only goes so far. When push comes to shove my family and those closest to me come first. They have to. I can’t compromise time with them for anything else. End of discussion.

So while i’m still proud to continue my involvement with ACS/determination, I will just have to settle for running for the charity, bringing in new people by organizing a team to run every year, and being a very vocal and outspoken supporter.  Let’s go DNation Philly!

So there it is. Good News and Bad News for this update. Stay tuned for a Sweet Cheeks Recap post, My first Triathlon Training post, and a pretty aewsome announcement regarding me and the blog, all coming this week. Booyaa.  It’s going to be a bsy week for me.