Saturday, December 31, 2011

No. 55

After my run this morning, I got back to the house and Adam greeted me at the door with one of those kinds of wicked giggles that makes it oh-so clear that he's up to something. He handed me a piece of paper that he'd been holding behind his back.

You might want to sit down for this one ...

Yeah ... so ... it's a good thing that he considers me a "super daddy." Past that, I'm pretty much at a loss for words!

Friday, December 30, 2011

You Ain't Gonna Believe This

It's official. Crystal Joyner, Wendy Hayden and Whitney Levens (who approved the whole thing) have lost their ever-lovin' minds.

Yesterday, I got a message on Facebook from Crystal asking if I could meet with her and Wendy at the Y this morning. They had something important they needed to discuss.

Sure, I replied, no problem. What's up?

Nope. Not until we can meet face to face.

OK. I'll be there.

As I finished up my workout this morning, Crystal and Wendy arrived. We headed into Whitney's office and they shut the door. A class is starting in January at the Y to train for a 10k ... and they wanted to know if I would help out as an instructor.

Come again? An instructor of what? This is a sure sign that the earth is about to spin off its axis.

Believe it or not, they were serious. An hour or so later, I still don't know quite what to think. I feel like Moses at the burning bush, unworthy of what I'm being asked to do. I'm certainly no faster than the vast majority of folks. I don't have the endurance of an elite marathon runner. I'm none of those things.

But what I hope to bring to the table is encouragement. Losing weight and trying to get in shape is not easy, but if I can do it, anybody can. If I can walk, walk/run and then run a 5k, anybody can. If I can go after a 10k, anybody can.

The class starts Tuesday, January 17. Be there. If I can do it, you can, too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

This Time Next Year

In twelve hours or so, I'll be finishing up the Mistletoe 5k in Winston-Salem. It'll be the sixth one I've done, and the second that I've run from start to finish. That's the plan, at least.

So what's next? That's a good question, and it's one that I've been thinking a lot about lately. Now, it's time to put it "out there." Once I do that, I can't take it back and I hope that whoever might be reading this won't let me.

Here's the plan ...

First up in the spring will be a 10k, or 6.4 miles. This week, I did five miles in an hour flat. I won't be setting a time goal the first time out ... I'll just want to make it to the finish line.

And then, a year from tomorrow, I plan to run the Mistletoe half marathon. I don't care how long it takes me and at this point, there might even be a little bit of walking involved. But this time next year and if nothing unforeseen takes place, I'm going to do the Mistletoe half ... all 13.1 miles of it.

I can imagine running 13 miles. If I couldn't, I wouldn't be setting it up for myself as a goal. It just seems like a really, really far-fetched dream. Right now, as I sit here tonight, I could not do it. But I'm going to try as hard as I possibly can to make it happen.

Yeah. I know. Do or do not. There is no try!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Century Mark Down, One To Go

Holding my breath, I stepped on the scales at the doctor's office this morning. Thanksgiving was less than a week ago, and while I didn't gorge myself, I've been surprised too many times to be over confident.

Survey says ... 269.

That means that since June 22, 2010, I have lost 86 pounds. And, from my heaviest weight ever, I am down ... drumroll, please ... 101 pounds!!! I finally hit the century mark, but I still have one more to go. Here's why.

A few years ago, I lost 50 pounds or so on one of my many previous weight loss jags. As always, however, I got discouraged, quit trying and gained all but 15 pounds back. That's where I stood -- or waddled, whichever the case may be -- when I went to Houston last year.

So, yeah, while I've passed the century mark from my heaviest point ever, my goal is to drop 100 pounds since that day in the shuttle simulator. It will happen, sooner rather than later, I hope. I'm giving it my best shot.

Please know that I'm not trying to brag on myself. I'm not. Yes, I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish, but it's something that I struggle with every single day. It's so hard sometimes, I feel like a fraud. When I got up early this morning, it crossed my mind not to go to the Y. I was too tired and too sore from running yesterday. I went any way.

My point, I guess, is this. If I can do it, anybody can.

Monday, November 28, 2011

No. 54

Let it be here and forevermore known that I might just very well be the greatest father in the world. You ask why? Fine. Here's Exhibit A, my friends.

The boys didn't want to go to bed Friday night, so I made them a deal. As long as they watched "The Andy Griffith Show," they could stay up as late as they wanted. At first, my bright idea went over like a lead balloon. Words can't fully describe their horrified reactions, and when I announced that the shows were in black and white, it really hit the fan.

Still, the deal was on the table. Andy Griffith or bed.

For a little perspective, most of you know that I truly do love TAGS. After Jeanie and I were married, I made it my mission in life to tape every episode. I had it down to a science. I'd check the TV listings a week in advance and set the VCR accordingly. It took more than two years to track down each show, and to this day I can remember the show that completed my set -- it was the one where Opie was conned into selling the miracle salve.

When the DVDs came out in season sets, I bought them -- and when the complete series came out in a mega-collection, I got it, too. I've made the pilgrimmage to the Andy Griffith Museum in nearby Mt. Airy, where I met Betty Lynn, the actress who played Barney's love, Thelma Lou. She's the cats.


I won't even go into the summer I taught Sunday School lessons centered around various episodes of the show, or how I've offered to trade almost anything up to and including my children for a radio once owned by Frances "Aunt Bea" Bavier. So far, no dice.

So, yeah, I kind of like "The Andy Griffith Show."

Still fussing, Adam loaded the DVD. Any show that centers around Barney is pure gold, so I started off with the one where he joins the choir. Within minutes, Adam and Jesse both were laughing and giggling like it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen on television. Come to think of it, it probably was.

The show ended, and I asked if they wanted to watch another one. They couldn't wait, and I knew, right then and there, that I had 'em hooked. Best of all, when they finally did go to bed Friday night, Adam had one last parting request.

"Can we watch more Andy Griffith tomorrow?"

Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dressing Anyone?

You more than likely know the feeling.

It's Thanksgiving, and you really like everything -- everything -- that's on the menu. You get a dab of this, a little bit of that and a whole lot of something else. And then you do it again. And sometimes, again and again and again after that.

With me, my worst weakness on Thanksgiving has always been really good, moist dressing. There have been times when I've downed nearly an entire pan by myself. I literally could not say enough was enough. Thanksgiving dressing was one of my many, many Kryptonites.

Here's the thing I've discovered about myself and trying to lose weight. You don't necessarily have to give up a lot of the foods you truly like, but you do have to train yourself to say "no" every once in a while.

Is it OK to have a large Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard? Probably not.

A Wendy's double cheeseburger with Biggie-sized fries and chocolate Frosty? Again, there are better choices.

But you've GOT to have dressing on Thanksgiving, right? Right?

Yesterday was Turkey Day, and we headed to Cracker Barrel with Jeanie's mom, dad, sister and her family as we do every year. As always, I ordered the traditional turkey and dressing ... with two sides of more dressing. And when the waitress accidentally poured a bit of Dr Pepper (did you know that there's not a period after the Dr in Dr Pepper? You do now!) in one of my servings of dressing, she brought me yet another.

For those keeping track at home, folks, that's four servings of dressing. Could I have downed all of it? Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Did I really, really want to? Believe it or not, no, I didn't. I ate one and a half of the portions, got a to-go box for the rest and ate it for dinner last night. Neither time did I even come close to feeling uncomfortably stuffed.

Really, the key to losing weight is not so much about self-denial as it is moderation. If I can do it, anybody can.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Did It*

I cut it close, but I made my goal for the 5k Saturday! I finished in less than 30 minutes in chip time, gun time and on my iPhone app. That was as hard as I had ever pushed myself ... and the hardest I had ever been pushed.

Time after time, I had been told to pace myself at the start of a run. Start out slower, then build momentum as it progresses. However, as soon as the gun sounded, I was all but at a full sprint. It felt good to be passing people left and right, but I paid for my enthusiasm, big time. Less than halfway into the run, I was shot. My legs felt like lead.

The whole way, I had a wingman ... a wingperson, if you will. Less than a mile in, instructor Crystal Joyner -- the original Attila herself -- started peppering me with encouragement. I talked to myself, and Crystal answered.

I told myself, "Rick, do not stop and walk."

Don't talk like that. Do not use the word "walk" again.

OK, try this on for size. "Rick, do not stop and quit."

Stop it. No matter what you do, keep going.

As we turned onto the last residential street, I felt like I was almost at a stagger. I did not say it out loud -- the Lord only knows how Crystal would've reacted if I had -- but I thought to myself for the first time that it would be OK if I did not finish in less than 30 minutes. There was almost a mile left and a hill that seemed easy enough running down, but going back up this late in the ballgame felt almost impossible.

It didn't matter to Crystal, not in the least.

I know you don't want to hear this, but you've got to pick up the pace if you're going to finish in less than 30 minutes.

There was no way I could have gone any faster than I already was. I was toast. Even with Crystal's encouragement, I was this close to stopping and walking. But then I saw the finish line. I had a choice to make. I could stop, walk and catch my breath or I could keep moving one leg in front of the other. I knew that if I could see the finish line, Adam and Jesse could see me.

And after coming this far, I did not want them to see me walking.

I crossed the finish line, utterly pooped. On my iPhone, I clocked in 29:26. Officially, my chip time was 29:48 and gun time 29:58. That's cutting it as close as it could possibly be cut. Still, it was under 30 minutes, right?

Friday, November 18, 2011

W.W.A.D.

 
The training is over. For two long -- and really, oh so short -- months now, we've been working toward tomorrow's race. And, yes, we've come a long way.

That first class, we ran and walked a lap of the track behind the Y, rested, and then ran and walked another lap. Then, we were done. Our instructor, Julie, was sooooo nice. We went our merry ways, thinking that this was going to be a breeze.

Then, Attila showed up.

Crystal took us through the woods -- The what? The woods?!? The heck, you say!!! -- up the hill from the soccer fields and then a couple of laps of the track. And, still, we weren't done. Wait a second, Crystal said. Before we head back, we're gonna do some sprints.

Sprints? Really?

Remember the signs on the track that told us where we could walk, and the ones that told us to run? Remember how they where there for a week or two, and then mysteriously, they were gone? Remember how we sat in the lobby of the Y the night that it was raining, thinking no way in the world we were going to run outside?

Then, Attila showed up.

We went outside, hit the service road, got soaking wet and in the process, became Team Attila.

It was Crystal who got bored with the track behind the Y and told us to meet her at the one in town. When she mentioned Progress Lane, I knew we were in trouble. To this day, I can hear her yelling at me all the way up the hill on Progress, and then again as we headed up the last hill toward the courthouse.

Go. You can do it. Go. Don't you dare quit. I know it's hard, but do not give up.

Crystal missed her calling. She should have been a drill instructor. The time changed and it was dark by class time, so surely, she would go easy on us. Nope. Brandy picked us up some blinking red lights -- my son, Jesse, called it my tail light -- and off we went in the dark.

Julie, somewhere along the line, got serious on us. Do five laps and pick up the pace each time around. C'mon, you've gotta be kidding me. When I told her that she "used to be the nice one" and she thanked me, again, I knew we were in trouble. Julie became an official Attila.

Jennifer became the Queen of the Service Road. Up one hill, down the next and then back up again. Mary ... CAR!!! The amazing thing was that Jennifer never stopped running from the front of the pack to the back, continuously circling like a vulture ... no, wait ... like a really good 5k instructor. Jennifer was Attila, too.

And Wendy, the quiet one, always smiling, almost apologetic as she was about to kick the ever-lovin' crap out of us. It was Wendy who first put us on the 5k course itself, and it was Wendy who took us to the other service road, the one from McDonald's to Billy Reynolds Road and back, the one with Mount Everest at one end and K2 at the other.Wendy, an Attila? Oh, yeah. You betcha.

For me, that was the toughest session. The strangest was the last one, in the dark, on the track behind the Y, using flashlights to hopefully make sure we didn't wind up in the ditches.

I don't know how tomorrow is going to turn out. I want very, very much to finish in under 30 minutes and this is the first time I've set a goal for myself that I'm not quite sure I can meet. All I can do is give it my best shot and see what happens. That said, I'm looking forward every bit as much to seeing how Mary, Debbie, Mandy, Brandy and Leslie do.

Here's the deal, ladies. Tomorrow, at some point during the 5k when you start getting tired, ask yourselves this question -- W.W.A.D.?

What Would Attila Do?

Monday, November 14, 2011

No. 53

Adam has won a nationwide writing contest sponsored by Scholastic!

He wrote a letter from the viewpoint of a child who had gone through Hurricane Katrina, and the details he used impressed the judges. Just imagine ... someone, somewhere within Scholastic, publishers of Harry Potter in the United States, has heard of my son! I wonder if he could possibly put in a good word for me?

Believe it or not, when Jeanie texted me to absolutely, positively head to school to have lunch with the boys -- Adam had something REALLY big to tell me -- I was working on putting together some writing contest entries of my own. Hopefully, some of Adam's winning mojo will rub off on his old man.

That's not all. Jesse has started a newspaper for his class. Other kids in Mrs. West's room submit stories, and he has placed himself in charge of laying it all out. When he has a "good" day, Jesse gets to work on the paper.

How about that?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smokin' Hot

For the first time in my life, I was told last night after my 5k class that I was smokin'.

And I was, really.

After the time change last weekend, this was the first time we'd had to face running in the dark. Where were we going to go? Everybody got lights? How about reflective stuff? A vest, maybe. If I get hit by a truck, will our beloved instructor Crystal figure out a way to make me keep running?

We made our way around town, and when we got back to where we started, it was "just" 2.8 miles. So, naturally, Crystal made us do a lap of the track at the park to round out our target three miles. The very best compliment I can give her and our other instructors is that they will not allow us to take the easy way out. We laugh about it and call ourselves Team Attila in their honor, but it's exactly the kind of push that we needed.

When we finished, somebody looked at me and started laughing -- not that THAT'S out of the ordinary. Evidently, there was steam coming off my head from where I was sweating in the cool night air. I started to pull a Pastor Tommy and ask everyone to pray for their "smokin' hot" running buddy, but decided against it.

This morning, after working out at the Y, I went to weigh. I lost two more pounds, so the total is now 84 since June 2010 and 99 from my heaviest ever.

From left to right, that's Leslie Gough, Brandy Whitaker, Debbie Taylor, Crystal Joyner, Mandy Marxen and Mary Hitchcock.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty Minutes

The goal has been in the back of my mind for a few days now, but I've not really mentioned it out loud to anyone until now.

In a little more than two weeks, Team Attila will be ready to rock and roll at the Nov. 19 Yadkin Go Far 5k. This event last year was the very first 5k I ever did, and I finished in a little over 47 minutes after walking the entire distance. This time around, I plan to fare a little better.

Here goes. I want to finish in 30 minutes or less. There. I said it. It's out there for everybody to see.

We did the 5k course on Saturday, and I made the distance in 32 minutes, 53 seconds. Then, last night, the ladies and I hit the track behind the Y and I did 2.7 miles in 24:40. Tack on another half mile, and at that pace, I maybe, maybe, maybe could reach my 30-minute goal.

Thirty minutes. Hills be danged. I'm going for it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Before Photo

This was taken six years ago at a birthday party for my father in law, Tom Reavis.

Pictures like this one, my "before photos," are why I head to the Y on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday to lift weights.

They're why I do my best to keep up with Crystal, Julie, Wendy, Jennifer, Mary, Debbie, Mandy, Brandy and Leslie on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

They're why I hope the ten of us -- and whoever else wants to join the fun -- can continue training, maybe for a 10k.

They're why I jog on my own on Thursdays.

They're why I eat salsa with a spoon instead of a basket and a half of chips.

They're why I order broiled shrimp instead of fried, grilled chicken instead of a double cheeseburger and grilled chicken taco salad instead of a steak California burrito topped with cheese sauce.

They're why I check the fat grams and calorie counts on virtually everything I pick up at the grocery store.

They're why I can't help but remember the girl I once dated who told me that I looked like I was pregnant. I can't imagine why I ever let her get away ...

They're why it's sometimes awkward for me to take a compliment, because I know all too well how easy it is to fall off the wagon.

They're why I'm forcing myself not to dive headlong into the Halloween candy bucket that's sitting not 10 feet away from me at this very moment.

They're why I try to park at the top of the hill at Adam's soccer games, instead of in lots waaaaaaaaaaaaay closer.

They're why I'm still trying, after more than a year now, to lose weight. This time, I have not given up.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Team Attila

If you've heard that I've been running around Yadkinville with a bunch of women, then yes, I confess. It's absolutely true. I've been chasing women, and women have been chasing me.

Literally.

Never in my life had I run a mile without stopping until I started the 5k training course, much less two and now three. It has been very hard, certainly the most difficult thing I've done since beginning to try to lose weight. Yet I look forward to every class.

For the first time Saturday, we did the course we'll be on for the 5k itself. I finished in less than 33 minutes, by far the best time of my "running career." With the exception of just a few yards at about the 2.5-mile mark, I ran the whole way. It would not have been possible without the encouragement and accountability of the ladies who make up the rest of the class -- the newbie runners like me and the instructors.

In one respect, I can't wait for Nov. 19 and the Yadkin Go Far 5k. I'm looking forward to putting a time on the board, hopefully one that's even better than what I did Saturday. Yet I hate to see the class coming to an end. There's been talk of putting another one together to get ready for ... I honestly can't believe I'm even able to consider such a thing ... a 10k.

Sign me up.

Team Attila (from left to right) -- Debbie Taylor, Leslie Gough, Brandy Whitaker, Mandy Marxen and instructor Wendy Hayden. The goober lurking in the back is yours truly.

Friday, October 28, 2011

And In This Corner ...

This morning, a friend from church was telling an acquaintance of his about my efforts to lose weight. The friend asked how much I was jogging a day, and when I told him, the other gentleman looked at me and said something that caught me off guard.

"Well ... boxers are supposed to run a lot, right?" he asked.

Huh? What? Wait just a dadgum second. Boxer? I still had my weight gloves on -- my new weight gloves, remember? -- so maybe he just thought that I'd been working a speed bag or something. It could not possibly have been that I looked like I'd just been beaten to a pulp by Apollo Creed ...

Yo, Jeanie ... I did it!!!

No. 52

After very nearly forgetting my Friday lunch with the boys at school last week, Adam left me this reminder over my computer monitor this morning:


Adam and Jesse are 10 and in the fifth grade. There's coming a time, sooner rather than later I'm afraid, when having dear ol' Dad show up at school for lunch won't be the cool thing to do any more. So while I'm still welcome, I'm still there!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Jock I'm Not, Part Two

I'm never going to be a jock, but doggone it, it looks for all the world like I'm starting to dress like one.

First of all, I needed to get some compression shorts and shirts for when I jog so I could keep everything saggy in check. It was getting to the point where I was kind of afraid my belly might whack me upside the head, or as Christian comedian Mike Warnke once put it, have my belly button make suction on my forehead and suffocate me to death.

If you want to call the things girdles, then so be it. Even Jesse said the other day that they make me look "a little" skinnier. Thanks, Hoss. Your dad can use all the encouragement he can get, if only just "a little."

When I started the 5k class, I was told by Julie, one of the instructors, that I needed to get some special running shoes, just like Forest Gump. C'mon ... you've gotta be kidding me. I've been perfectly satisfied with my $35 Wal-Mart specials. What difference could shoes possibly make?

But who am I to argue with Attila II? Off we went to Omega Sporting Goods, where I picked up some "neutrally balanced" Nikes. I've jogged once in them, and I'm still not ready to qualify for the Olympics. What gives?!?

Run, Forest, run.

Finally, I've had the same pair of weight-lifting gloves for more than a year now and the Velcro has worn almost completely off. Velco, by the way, is capitalized because it's a brand name. I know that after I once received a letter from the company's attorneys. Wonder how they'll react now that I've written that their product has, in NASA-speak, shown signs of degraded performance?

At any rate, I've ordered a brand-new pair of gloves off Amazon.com. They come with a wrist brace and everything! As soon as I put them on, I expect to be bench pressing no less than three bills, maybe three and a half or four.

If I have a shirt, shorts and shoes like a runner, then I must be a runner. If I'm wearing hard-core weight-lifting gloves, then I must be ready to take on that big dude from the Soviet Union they used to always show on Wide World of Sports.

Or not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Time For Everything

Let's see here. I've been breathing for a little more than 44 years now, so you'd think I might have gotten pretty good at it by now.

But noooooooooooooooooooo ... and for the first time since I've been trying to lose weight, I truly scared myself tonight at the end of my 5k class. The assignment seemed simple enough. Five laps of the walking track behind the Y, a trip I've made many times over by now. There were only a couple of catches. No walking, and try to improve your time each time around.

Yeah, OK. No problem. Go ahead and start filling out the toe tag while you're at it, just to save time on the paperwork.

One lap, no walking. Two laps. Three. I'd done a mile and a half just the week before, so I was fairly confident until starting the fourth lap. My legs were still working, but I. Just. Couldn't. Catch. My. Doggone. Breath. I know I must've sounded like a runaway freight train, huffing and puffing and fussing at myself to keep going.

Honestly, my legs are fine. I think I could probably handle three miles and more without much of a problem, but it's figuring out how to breathe that's got me bumfuzzled.

Four laps. Then five. All two and a half miles, at a jog. I did it. But when I reached Julie, tonight's instructor, I couldn't breathe. I hurt all over. Pains were shooting all over the place. She told me to keep moving, and I couldn't. I simply could not regulate my air intake, and it scared the daylights out of me, which certainly didn't help matters.

Get your arms up over your head.

I can't.

Do it.

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and laid down on the ground, flat on my back. Within seconds, I had my breath back. I had been woozy before -- like every single time I work out or jog -- but this was different. This was just this side of scary.

So ... if you have any tips on how a fat guy can breathe while trying to jog, feel oh-so free to pass 'em my way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Notepad

Wonder of wonders, I found a small reporter's notepad that I used to keep track of my weight loss beginning in January 2007. It was one of many, many times that I've been on the bandwagon, and one of the many, many times I fell off.

On Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, I weighed 370 pounds.

Today, I weigh 275.

Still, I don't count myself as having lost nearly 100 pounds. I can't allow myself to fudge (pun intended!) like that. In September of 2007, I hit the Y like I always had and found myself shunned by the jocks on the wallyball court. I walked out, the kid in gym class who didn't get picked last ... he didn't get picked at all.

I didn't go back for three years, and it cost me 30 pounds. So, yeah, since the first of 2007, I've lost 95 pounds, but on the path I'm on now, I'm down 80. Twenty more to go ... and then I'll allow myself to believe I've reached century mark.

That said, the remarks I made to myself ring true to this day.

For Jeanie. For Richard. For Adam. For Jesse. Keep going.

Never weigh before working out, peeing and with keys and wallet in your pocket! Hang in there, Fat Boy.

It's OK, Rick. Everything was going on with Jeanie and that's more important than working out. Keep after it this week (Jeanie was going through treatments for thyroid cancer at the time).

Playing racquetball with Artie is working miracles! I don't want to have surgery, and I'm not going to if I keep going like this. I don't want to go back to being fat and not caring. I'm still fat, but at least I care enough to do something about it.

YOU ARE THE MAN!!! You're a stud. A studly stud! I'm very proud of this. Maybe the next time you go to Junior (Johnson)'s house for breakfast, I won't break one of the stupid chairs (Yes, this really happened ... and they still haven't let me forget it!)

Who cares? I don't. It doesn't make any difference in things I care about, so why should I bust my ass every week? (Sorry for the language, but as you might've guessed, I was a bit disappointed.)

Then ... the final entry ... on August 29, 2007.

This was really surprising. I thought I'd lost, so this was really bad. Still, I had pizza this week and the watermelon I've been snacking on is evidently not as good for me as I thought it was.

Stick with it, Fat Boy. Just stick with it this time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Take It Back

The 5k class I'm taking through the Y in Yadkinville is probably one of the best things I've done while on this journey called weight loss.

It's hard to explain, really. For more than a year, I trained for whatever 5k I had coming up completely on my own. I ran to a point and walked, ran to a point and walked, ran to a point and walked. I pushed myself a lot ... or so I thought.

Thanks to the ladies who are a part of Team 5k -- we reallllllly need a cool name, don't we?!? -- I'm doing far more than I ever thought possible. Take tonight for instance. It was raining, so surely we wouldn't have to run outside, right?

Wrong, because Crystal was in charge.

Out the door and into the downpour we went. She said go, and we took off down the service road headed east. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuppppp the hill we jogged, and doooooooooooooooooooooown the other side we jogged. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup the next hill we jogged and doooooooooooooooown the other side we jogged. A quarter of a mile, then a half. We turned on a side road, then doubled back.

I had never run this far before, ever, without stopping. A mile. A mile and a quarter. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup one hill and dooooooooooooown the other side. Finally, at a little more than a mile and a half, I stopped to walk. Never had I gone that far. Crystal caught up to me and told me that I was doing great and to keep pushing. I walked maybe a quarter of a mile and took off again, determined not to stop.

I didn't, not until I reached the sidewalk back at the Y.

What's the difference in training on my own and training as part of a class? A couple of things, really. First, there's a certain amount of male ego involved. Running smack in the middle of a pack of good-looking women, I can't show weakness, can I? You know the Tim Allen "he-man" grunt? Yeah, that's me.

Accountability is also a huge factor. Four instructors have shared in leading our sessions, and each has had her own style. Each has pushed us to do things I for one didn't think were quite possible -- for me at least.

They pushed and every single person in the class has responded, so I'm taking it back. I'm not calling Crystal "Attila" any more (at least not out loud to where she can hear me!!!), because what I was able to accomplish tonight meant the absolute world to me. I honestly and truly didn't know that I had it in me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Works In Progress

Who would've ever thought that these two beefcakes ...


would ever have been able to do something like this ...


en route to this?!?


That's my best friend, Joe Estep. We've been through a lot together either while living in the same neighborhood or hundreds of miles apart. I'll always have his back, and I know that he has mine.

I'm proud of you, Bugfeet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shrek Lives

The YMCA here in Yadkinville has been the center of my weight-loss universe for more than a year now. It is where I have lifted, walked, jogged, twisted, stepped, turned, flopped, huffed and puffed my way into better shape.

Now, it's given me another challenge. A few weeks ago, I noticed that there was going to be a class for beginning runners who wanted to prepare for a 5k. It's a nine-week course that culminates in the Nov. 19 Yadkin Go Far 5k. I was all over it, and now that it has actually began, I'm very glad that I signed up. Just one class last week helped me tremendously in the Victory Junction fundraiser Saturday.

There are six or seven people in the class, plus the instuctor. It didn't take long to notice, however, that i was ... well ... the only guy. I'm taller than everybody else by several inches and heavier by ... let's not even go there. Among these ladies, I feel like Shrek.

Tonight's instructor was tough, though. First, we went for a jog through the woods and then up the hill from the soccer fields toward the walking track. We did two laps of the half-mile track before she said we were finished. Almost.

Attila (remarkably, not her real name, which is being withheld in order to protect the guilty!!!) made us do sprints. Yes, sprints. Don't worry. It wasn't an aftershock from the East Coast earthquake a few weeks ago. It was just me, running at full tilt.

Heaven help us all ...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Get Back On The Horse

Here's how easy it is to fall off the weight-loss wagon.

On a high from the 5k I'd just finished, we stopped at a Bojangles on the way back home. I was hungry, so I figured what the heck ... I'll order a cheese-and-egg biscuit. I knew it wasn't the best choice I could've made, but doggone it, I'd earned it. We got our food and took off. Within just a few bites, my biscuit was gone.

It tasted awesome, so much so that on the way to church yesterday morning, I ordered another. Last night, I checked the nutrition content online. I wish I hadn't.

One site listed the biscuit as having 30 grams of fat, another 42. Both had its calorie count at well over 500. Two biscuits and I had consumed two full days of my fat-gram limit. Two days for two biscuits that took me less than two minutes to eat. I'm trying hard not to beat myself up over it, but I work too hard to let a stupid decision like that to derail the whole process.

Before the Esteps left to return home to Nashville this morning, we headed over to Debbie's Snack Bar for breakfast. Joe is my weight-loss guru, and when I was still complaining about my egg-and-cheese biscuit disaster, he told me to not worry about it, let it go and get back on the horse.

So that's it. This is the last I'm going to fret over it. Done.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

We Made It!

I woke up at 3:30 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. I was a few hours away from another 5k, but the first with a goal in mind other than just finishing.

At the very least, I wanted to finish in 40 minutes or less, with a pie-in-the-sky goal of 35. I felt fairly confident about 40 minutes, but a couple of things concerned me. First, the hills around the Victory Junction Gang Camp may not seem like much driving through the area in a car, but on foot, they seem almost like Mount Everest.

The second issue was the start time, 7 a.m., and on top of that, a drive of more than an hour to get there. Leaving the house at a little after 5 a.m., would we already be exhausted before the race even started? I've never been a morning person, and then to greet it trying to do something like this ... I was bent out of shape, big time.

Our team -- the Space Shuttle Door Gunners, me, my best friend Joe Estep, his mom Sandi and sister Jennifer; as well as Cory and Shannon Yost, friends from church -- all made it to Randleman in good shape. Next year, we're going to have T-shirts ...


The race got going, and I started a light jog, trying to sort myself out of the logjam of others around me. I kept going out of the main VJGC courtyard and continued up to the guardhouse. It was by far the longest I had ever run ... I don't know that it felt good, but I was at least able to shake off my concern of earlier -- much earlier -- in the morning. I tried to settle into a rhythm ... run much more than I ever have before in an actual 5k, walk long enough to catch my breath and then get after it again.

The hills were hard, there's no doubt about that. Just keep going. Remember to breathe. Keep going. There's the halfway point. Already? Don't get cocky, fat boy. You've still got to figure out a way to scale Mount Randleman. Coming down it was no problem, but coming back up? That's an entirely different story. Take one step and it gets three steps longer.

It nearly beat me in December. Not this time. I actually jogged a little bit on this summit attempt. Once I got to the top, the rest of the way was relatively level. Walk a little bit, jog a little bit more. There's the courtyard again. OK ... it's go time, one last time. I crossed the finish line hurting, but at a jog. What's my time? I looked at the clock ... 37 minutes, 44 seconds.

Last time here, I walked the entire course and finished in 51 minutes. I'll take an improvement of 14 minutes and be happy with it. Very happy. See the results for yourself ...


I didn't get the double-down dough from Gray Garrison, but I'll be picking up the other half to his $100 bill the next time I see him!



Cory beat me to the finish line, and I was just a little bit ahead of Joe. Where are Shannon, Jennifer and Sandi? They're OK, right? Do you see them? They're walking, so it's going to be a few minutes. Hey Cory ... there's Shannon! Jennifer ... yeah, there she is. Good deal. One more to go ... Sandi. I can't believe she's trying this. She's had bad trouble with her feet for a long time. I hope she's alright.

Yep. There she is. She made it. We're all here. We're all sore in places that we didn't know existed -- except maybe for Cory "Super Deacon" Yost -- but we're all in one piece. Another one down. What's next?

Words cannot fully express what it meant to have Joe, Jennifer, Sandi, Cory and Shannon participate in the 5k. I'm incredibly proud of all them, and honored to call them friends. You're my heroes, more than you'll ever know. I love you guys. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Oreo Odyssey

It all started at the race track, with me kicked back in a comfortably air-conditioned press box and seven or eight photographers outside dying.

Once upon a time, Winston Cup Scene was the force in the world of motorsports journalism. We had great writers and great photographers who worked together as best they could to provide the best coverage possible. During races, one writer would call the race for the photographers from the press box.

If there were pit stops coming up ... if there looked to be a wreck in the making ... if there was anything, ahem, interesting taking place in the infield ... it was the writer's sworn duty to let the photographers know about it so the shooters could be ready to fire away.

And that's where I screwed up, royally.

I do not remember the track, Charlotte, maybe, because Charlotte always had them stocked in the press box, but I'd grabbed a complimentary sleeve of Oreo cookies and was happily having at 'em. Outside, it was hotter than hot, dangerously so, miserably so. Upstairs, I was fine and dandy, cool as could possibly be, with the best view in the house.

As it turns out, however, it's hard to talk with your face crammed full of Oreos. I missed the wreck, and darn near choked trying to key my radio. The photographers got the shot or they did not, I honestly don't remember, but I was about to catch all kinds of grief. I deserved it.

"Hey, Rick ... where were you on that one?" some exhausted and sweat-soaked photographer called.

I could have lied ... maybe, just maybe, I should have lied ... but I did not. I made the mistake of telling those poor folks exactly what had happened.

"I've got a box of Oreos up here and I had my mouth full."

It was on. No one, not anyone who was there and actually heard my admission nor anyone else who got in on it as the legend grew, ever let me forget my transgression. From then on, when I happened to miss a call on the radio, the shots from down below began, "Sittin' up there on your (another word for "behind," rhymes with sass), nice and cool (or warm, depending on the time of the year), eating a (darn) Oreo ... Oreo ... Oreo. Oreo this, Oreo that."

My last race with Scene, I walked into the media center to find a jumbo bag of Double-Stuffed Oreo on my computer. That was about 80 pounds ago.

Here's the thing. Today, I was walking through the grocery store and found this little ol' gem ...


Sugar free? Oh, heck yeah. That's gotta be OK, right?!? Come to daddy!

Read the fine print, though, "Not a reduced calorie food." That was the first sign of trouble, and on the back was the rest of the story. Two cookies ... two lousy, stinkin' little bundles of hellfire and damnation ... mean 90 calories and five grams of fat. Doggone it, if I could stop at two cookies, I would've been able to see my feet a long time ago.

If I could stop at two cookies, I wouldn't have missed that stupid wreck.

This post is dedicated to Phil, Chad, Bambi, Bill A., Bryan, DK, Tim and every other photographer who ever snapped a shot for Winston Cup Scene.

No. 51

To this day, I can close my eyes and see Adam and Jesse coming across the driveway at Nanny and Papaw's house. This happened a good two or three years ago, but the memory is still fresh. I hope it never fades.

For my sons, there's no place on Earth like their grandparent's house. There, they can do no wrong. Jeanie's parents love them and ... well ... pamper them, and Adam and Jesse love them right back. When Jeanie and I have to leave them at Jean and Tom's, the boys are pumped.

When they were just three or four, they both pitched fits when we got there. Getting them out the door and into the car was a battle, from start to finish. As I was strapping them into their car seats, I asked in frustration if they wanted to just move in Nanny and Papaw. Jesse very politely undid his harness and came up out of that seat like a bullet.

He hadn't known THAT was an option.

However long ago it was, I again pulled into the driveway to pick them up. When I did, I saw Adam come running across the yard, hollering for me to stop. I put my SUV in park, and he told me to close my eyes and to not open them until they were ready. I heard some sort of commotion, but I'd promised. I kept my eyes shut.

"OK, Daddy ... open 'em up!!!"

I choke up even typing the words, but I looked and here came Adam and Jesse dragging an eight-foot cross that Papaw had helped them nailed together. They were so young at the time, they struggled under the weight of it.

My God ...

What crosses will they have to bear in the future? Dear God, please, if anybody in my family has to get sick, please let it be me. When they do walk through the valley, will I be around and able to help pick them up? There was a time in my life when I was completely and utterly alone in this world, and that will not happen to Adam or Jesse or Richard as long as I'm alive and they'll allow me to be there for them.

That old rugged cross is just outside the window of my office, leaning against the house. I look at it often, just as a reminder ...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

No. 50

This is the very essence of what it means to be the dad of a child with Asperger's.

Last week, I got a call from Jesse's teacher. No matter what she tried, he would not -- could not? -- complete his work. He wasn't being ugly. He just could not get going on what he needed to be doing. I went to school and wound up spending the rest of that day and two more observing and trying to prod him along.

Jesse, unpack your bag.

Jesse, get out your science book.

Jesse, work on your math journal.

Jesse ...

Jesse ...

Jesse ...

Once he did finally finish, his assignments were almost always perfect. He's got the best handwriting in the world ... not for a kid his age. In the world. Math word problems I would've taken hours to figure out, he was doing in his head in a matter of seconds. My time at school left me and Jeanie scratching our heads, trying to figure out the best course of action.

There's not a medication available that will make Jesse like other kids, and that's not our goal. Jesse was meant to be the way Jesse is, but we very deeply want to make the things that are difficult for him just a little bit easier. When that happens, watch out.

Tuesday night, Jesse had his weekly piano lesson and when it was over, his teacher had given him a book of Tziak ... Tchiacho ... Shakov ... Tskav ... Tchaikovsky compositions to practice -- yes, I had to look it up. At this very moment, as I type these words, Jesse is on the piano, playing the intro to the "Nutcracker March" in each of the different sound settings his has on his keyboard.

Thumbing through the book on the way home, he talked about the other books his piano teacher has -- stuff from Beethoven and Mozart. He couldn't wait to get his hands on them.

That's my Jesse.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No. 49

When I was a kid, Sept. 11 was one of the two most important days of the year. Christmas was when Santa Claus showed up, but Sept. 11 was my birthday and my mom always made sure that it was special. To this day, I can remember the G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe car and G.I. headquarters that I got when I turned five.

As I grew older, I still looked forward to the day. I've always been a big kid, and to be honest, I would really kind of like to stay that way. Kids don't have any worries.

Then came 2001.

The date is still the anniversary of my birth, but it will never be the same as it once was. I would love to have my birthday back, that same sense of wonder, that same sense of expectation. But how can I say that? How can I be so incredibly selfish over a birthday, when thousands of others lost so much more than I did that day?

This being the tenth anniverary of the attacks, coverage of that day has been virtually wall to wall for a few days now. Today, I've been nothing short of depressed. I wanted to maybe clear my head a little bit, so I went for a walk at the park. When I got back, Jeanie handed me some note cards that Jesse had drawn for a 9/11 project he's doing at school.

One of them caught my attention like a sledge hammer between the eyes. As far as I can tell, it's his own concept, not copied from any other source.

Here it is ...

I do not mind in the least admitting that I broke down in tears. God was there that day. We might not have been able to see Him, or feel His arms wrapped around us. But make no mistake ... He was there. He was in control, and remains so today. Best of all, there will be a day when tragedies like that day will be no more.

Thank you, Jesse. Once again, you've given your dad a lift just when he needed it the most.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Little Voice

It's exactly two weeks out from the Victory Junction Gang Camp 5k fundraiser. I'm looking forward to it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is because my best friend, Joe Estep, his sister Jennifer and their mom Sandi are headed this way that weekend.

This morning, I did a trial run and made three miles in about 36 minutes. That's well below my 40-minute goal, but short of Gray Garrison's "double money." I'm tryin', man. I'm tryin'.

That said, I came across an awesome quote this week that perfectly sums up what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm not racing anybody else ... I'm racing myself. I have not the faintest clue who George Sheehan might be, but in the quote I found, he said, "It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually, you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."

I couldn't have said it better myself. I can walk basically until the cows come home, but every time I attempt to run, it's almost always the same back-and-forth conversation.

Stop.

Keep going.

This really hurts.

Keep going.

Two miles is enough this time.

No, it's not.

This is too hard.

Anything worth doing should be hard.

I can't breathe.

Take a deep breath and keep moving, Fat Boy.

I'm having a heart attack.

No, you're not. If you were, you'd be dead by now.

OK, so maybe it's a stroke.

And so it goes ...

Joe and Jennifer have both signed up to do the 5k, and so has a friend from church, Cory Yost. If you're interested in entering, here's a link where you can do so:

http://www.runtovictory.org/

Also, here's a link to donate to the effort:

http://www.active.com/donate/RTV2011/houstonrick

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Soggy Prayer

A wonderful thing happened this morning.

After getting the the boys off to school, it rained during my two-mile walk. And then it rained some more ... harder still. Because the unpaved track behind our local Y has a tendency to get very slick, muddy and rutted when it's wet, I only tried to run during the first half-mile or so while it was still sprinkling.

As the downfall got heavier, I stopped for a moment to put my iPod in the car. My glasses fogged up and drops of water were making their way back and forth on the bill of my old-school Braves cap before finally falling off. I was getting soaked, but for the last mile and a half, all I could hear was the sound of the rain in the trees and the steady crunch ... crunch ... crunch of my footsteps.

It was just me, God and the rain.

Lord, help me to be a better dad. Let me have more patience.

Crunch ... crunch ... crunch ...

You know the things Jesse faces. Help him cope. He's so smart, waaaay smarter than his old man.

God, Adam is such a character. All I ask is that he can always have that same sense of almost overwhelming joy.

And Richard ... dear God, Richard. You name the time and the place, and I will be there.

Crunch ... crunch ... crunch ...

Be with Jeanie. There's no way I could ever do her job. Grant her wisdom.

Speaking of jobs, You know that one I've been going after so hard for so long? Any chance of You helping me out on that one?

Please?

Losing weight is so hard. Please help me stick with it this time.

Crunch ... crunch ... crunch ...

Father, for whatever reason, You've seen fit for me to be elected as a deacon at my church again. I do not want to fuss. I do not want to argue.

Every church has challenges, so when they take place at Maplewood, help us to be Christians first and right or wrong second.

Crunch ... crunch ... crunch ... 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Master Motivator

Gray Garrison, the promoter at Bowman Gray Stadium and a realtor here in Yadkinville, is a master motivator.

The 5k fundraiser for the Victory Junction Gang Camp is less than three weeks away, and this morning at church, I spoke for a few minutes about the race I'm going to run and why it's important to me. I told folks how they could contribute and left it at that.

After the service, Gray came up to me and asked what kind of time goal I've set for myself. As I've written here before, I hope to run it in 40 minutes or less. I believe I might be able to make it -- the last two times I've done a three-mile training run/walk, I've finished in 36 and then 35 minutes. Add in an extra fifth of a mile and the very hilly terrain around Victory Junction, and I might be able to make it.

Maybe.

Gray grinned, took a $100 bill out of his billfold and tore it in half. He kept one portion and handed me the other. "You can have the other half when and if you make it in 40 minutes," he said. Then, he added something else that caught me completely off guard.

"You can have the other half for 40 minutes ... and I'll double it if you finish in 35."

No pressure there, huh? I'm not promising anything, but I'm going to give it my best shot. Here's a thought ... if I finish in 30 minutes, how 'bout naming me the official pace-car driver at Bowman Gray Stadium next season?!?

What say you, Gray Garrison?

Friday, September 2, 2011

No. 48

Don't know how it happened exactly, but I've developed kind of a weird habit when the boys are in the process of getting in trouble.

Instead of saying something I'll regret and have to apologize for later, I've taken to saying, "For the love of ..." -- and here's the strange part -- I'll include the name of a baseball player from the 1970s or 80s. Thing is, the better the player, the more they know it's just a warning shot across the bow.

For the love of Pete Rose ...

For the love of Mike Schmidt ...

For the love of Tony Perez ...

For the love of Johnny Bench ...

For the love of Nolan Ryan ...

They're OK, for the time being. But if I start evoking scrubs, Adam and Jesse know for a fact that the four horses of the apocalypse are about to head through our house.

For the love of Biff Pocoroba ... Jesse, we're dead men.

For the love of Ed Armbrister ... hide. NOW!!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thanks ... I Think

Leaving the Y this morning, I met an older gentleman I hadn't seen in a while. He's always been encouraging, and he asked how much weight I've lost so far. When I told him, he smiled and gave me the ultimate backhanded compliment. He said, "You're about where you need to be. Now, you just look like a really big man."

Well ... gee. Thanks, I think. What did I look like before, a fat, hideous ogre?!?

No, wait. Don't answer that ...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No. 47

The ground shook and the windows rattled. What could this possibly be? A truck going by, surely. Thunder? Can't be ... there's not a cloud in the sky. It couldn't be ... no. Not an earthquake, not here in Yadkinville.

Adam walked into my office, his eyes as big as saucers and very clearly scared. Most of the time, he is a ball of energy, joking and trying make folks laugh. This was not one of those times. "Dad ... what was that?!?" he asked with urgency in his voice. "Dad, are we OK?"

Yes, we were fine. There was little or no damage involved in the quake that had its epicenter in Virginia, but how do you convince a frightened child that it wasn't another Japan? He knew what happened there and he had just felt the ground move beneath his own feet. I will never forget the look on his face or the sound of his voice.

Jesse never missed a beat, kept right on playing with a buddy who was spending the afternoon at our house. Later, Jeanie asked if he'd been scared. His reply, a full day later, gets the best of me. "A little bit," he said. "But I wasn't nearly as scared as the kids in Haiti."

The perspective of a child ...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who Is That?

I had something kind of cool happen at Adam's soccer practice the other night.

There's a kid on the team who looks EXACTLY like Goldberg from the "Mighty Ducks" movies, chubby cheeks, jet black hair and everything. This is at least the third straight year they've played together, so I know the young man and he knows me. Or so I thought.

As they practiced, I walked some laps around the field. The kid had seen me coming in with Adam, and he asked him, "Who is that?" Adam said, "That's my dad."

"No, it's not."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

"Yes, it is. Why in the world do you think it's not my dad?!?"

"Well ... he doesn't look the same."

Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ... if I had the money, I'd buy the kid a car.

That said, I hit a new milestone this morning. After working out at the Y this morning, I went to the doctor's office and weighed. I have now lost exactly 70 pounds since late June 2010. From my heaviest ever, I'm down 85, but I'm not counting that. Before starting my current routine, I didn't care one way or the other. I was headed back to my heaviest weight ... and beyond.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No. 46

As most of you know, Jeanie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006 and then had it come back a couple of years later. She is now cancer-free, but has to have regular checkups to make sure things are still in check.

Yesterday was one of those appointments. The boys and I were going to go with her to the doctor's office, and before she got home from work, they were asking how long the visit was going to take. I told them I wasn't sure, but we'd stay there for as long as it took to make sure she was OK.

Because of the issues he faces, it's sometimes hard to gauge just how Jesse truly feels about things. This time, it was not.

In no uncertain terms, he declared, "If it helps keep Momma from getting cancer again, I'll stay at the doctor's office for a month."

Considering my family's history with cancer, his words rang in my ears. If it would have kept my mom and dad from going through the things that they did, then yeah ... me, too, Jesse. I would've gladly camped out at the doctor's office.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No. 45

It's been one of those days.

I have no doubt whatsoever that I would gladly lay down my life for my children. But yesterday and today ... Adam and Jesse have bickered. They have aggravated one another. They've been hungry. They've been bored. They've told on each other. Never mind the fact that I'm trying to write a lengthy feature story ... as well as, oh, I don't know ... a book.

Engine rules in NASCAR are usually ... Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! Jesse won't turn the TV down. Jesse, turn the TV down.

Journeyman driver Carl Long was once suspended and fined for having an illegal eng ... Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! Adam pinched me! Pinch him back.

Restrictor plates can reduce horsepower by as much as ... Jesse!!! Jesse, answer him. Now.

And today ...

Deployment of the tethered satellite from the Shuttle's cargo bay was going well until ... Adam!!! Adam, stop it.

When the tether snapped, the danger was that ... Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad! What's for lunch?!? Don't know, don't care.

Rookie astronaut David A. Wolf was very proud to have been named to the crew of ... Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!

School starts four weeks from today. When I drop Adam and Jesse off that morning, I'm thinking very seriously that I might slow down to about 50 mph before I boot 'em out of the car. Maybe.

My momma is up in Heaven right now, laughing her head off at me and remembering all those times she told me that she hoped my children would one day give me the kind of grief that my brother and I gave her.


Mission accomplished.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No. 44

We're getting ready for church this morning and Adam insists that he and I match -- same colored shirt, same colored dress shorts. It kinda brought a little tear to my eye, him being so insistent. I was proud that he wanted to imitate me to such an extent.

And then he had to go and open his big mouth.

"Dad, I look just like you now," he said. "I think this is gonna be my Halloween outfit."

If it's OK with you, I'm going to choose to continue believing that he wants to be me for Halloween because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and not because he considers me a scary, hideous ogre.

Then, as we're about to pull into the church parking lot, Jesse announced that he wants to get married at another church near where we lived and not the one we actually attend. Jeanie asked why.

"Because when we went to that wedding at the other church, the service was over in like five minutes," he said. "That's a lot shorter than here!"

Yeah, Jesse, ol' buddy ... that's the spirit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No. 43

I just got off the phone with Michael Griffin, the former NASA administrator who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008 by Time magazine. The guy has seven different degrees, in everything from electrical engineering to physics.

There I was, trying my best to ask questions that sounded a little more intelligent than, "Gee, that Space Shuttle is neat, huh?" While I'm talking to Dr. Griffin, Jesse walks through the kitchen, which is just off my "office," and declares at the top of his lungs, "I ... just ... FARTED!!!"

Lord, help me. I love that young'un.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Here We Go Again ...


On June 22, 2010, my size would not allow me to fit into all five harnesses of the Space Shuttle simulator at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Although I was able to continue and enjoy the incredible experience, it was without a doubt the most embarrassing day of my life.

Today, I could fit in those seat belts with room to spare. As of last count, I have lost 66 pounds and eight inches off my pant size. Although I'll never be a fitness guru, I started this journey and stuck with it.

I have entered what will be my fourth 5k, and second actually attempting to run a bit. This one is scheduled for Sept. 24, and will benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C. As important as it has been for me to get in better shape over the last 13 months, the camp established by Kyle and Pattie Petty in memory of their son, Adam, is every bit as special for several reasons.

*I was in New Hampshire on that terrible day that we lost Adam Petty. It was hands down the worst day of my professional life.

*Less than a week later, we found out that Jeanie and I were expecting twins. One of them is named Adam in honor of the kid with one of the biggest grins I've ever seen.

*Our other twin son, Jesse, has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a mild form of autism. There are programs for youngsters like Jesse at Victory Junction, and while he has not yet participated, it meant the world to Jeanie and I that he was invited to do so by none other than Kyle Petty himself.

*Finally, Jeanie is a thyroid cancer survivor and I lost both of my parents to cancer. It is a deeply emotional issue for me, and Victory Junction has gone a long way in helping kids with the disease to cope.

That said, I have set a couple of goals for this year's Victory Junction 5k. First, I participated in the event last December, when it was in the low 40s and raining hard the whole race. I walked the whole way, and finished in about 51 minutes. This time around, I'm going to jog as much as I can, and plan to finish in 40 minutes or less.

Olympic quality, that's not. But it would better my last VJ5K by more than 11 minutes, and my best-ever time by more than two minutes. It's doable, although the hilly terrain around the compex is very challenging. Don't worry ... I'll do it.

Finally, I have set a fundraising goal of $1,500. If you can possibly contribute, thank you. If not, please know that I fully understand. Here's the link:

http://www.active.com/donate/RTV2011/houstonrick

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Year

A year ago today, I sat down in the Space Shuttle motion-based simulator. I could not get all five safety belts fastened because of my size.

That day, I decided I had to change direction and change dramatically. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and even though the sim continued with the one belt undone, I was shaken to the very core of my being. I was embarrassed, badly.

I will never forget the feeling as we hit T-minus zero for the first time. For those interested, here's the video:



The grin I had when we "lifted off" here did not last that day. As I walked out of the simulator that afternoon, I knew I had to change the way I do things. I've lost 64 pounds since that moment and have a goal to hit an even 100. I don't know why, exactly, but 100 just seems like a nice, round number. A hundred pounds. Until then, though, I can look back on the last 12 months and know that I've come a long way.

A year ago today, I could not walk from here to there with any kind of endurance. There's a half-mile track behind our local Y, and I couldn't walk two laps without my back killing me and my legs all but going numb.

Today, I can alternately walk and run a 5k race.

A year ago today, I wore pants there were a size 52.

Today, I'm wearing a 46 and they're loose.

A year ago today, I hated to take my shirt off to swim.

Today, I still ain't crazy about it. David Hasselhoff at the beach, I'm not. There's a six pack under there somewhere, but it hasn't quite popped out yet. I've still got a beer barrel for a belly, but it's now a 20-gallon drum as opposed to a 55.

A year ago today, I gave no thought whatsoever to what I eat.

Today, I make choices for virtually meal. I'm not on any kind of diet, and I don't want to be. I just don't want to undone what I've been able to accomplish.

A year ago, I ate so fast I didn't realize just how good some things taste.

Today, I'll swipe one of Adam's Bojangles French fries and savor every second of it. That's enough. Just one French fry. Maybe two.

A year ago, I weighed well over 300 pounds.

Today, I do not.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In Memory and Honor of ...

I participated in my third 5k this morning. I was able to finish in 42:38, five minutes faster than my previous best time. 

Jog a little bit. C'mon ... give it a shot.

It's sooooo hot. Concentrate.

This is for you, Shawn Kingrea. Your church organized this race in your honor. Your son, Ty, was on a baseball team I helped coach a couple of years ago. Ty, I know what it's like to have a momma with breast cancer, so this is for you, too.

There's Shawn. She's helping hand out water to the runners, cheering them on. Don't choke up.

Those folks up ahead ... you can catch 'em.

Darn it, my knee hurts. Shake it off. Still hurts. Shake it off. Just. Keep. Going.

I miss my mom so much. She was just 47 when she died, and I'm 43 now. This is for you, Mom. Keep going. How much further is it?

That huge German Shepherd ... it's chained up, right?!? I'm jogging some, but I can't run THAT fast.

Man, the playlist that I put together for this event is awesome. I love this song. Third Day ... Jeremy Camp ... Chris Tomlin. Gotta go old school, too. How about something from Stryper's latest? Kick it, boy ... kick it.

Jog downhill as much as possible, walk uphill. That might be a cop out, but this time last year, I wouldn't have been able to do either.

Cancer. It cost me my mom. My dad, too. He was 65, had lung cancer and never smoked a day in his life. Lost my mom AND dad to cancer. Is there something like that in my own future? Please, dear God, no ...

Five years ago, Jeanie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Take me, do whatever ... not Jeanie. Not Richard. Not Adam. Not Jesse. She's now cancer free. Thank you, Lord, for your blessings.

The winner of this race is already home, kicked back and relaxing. That's fine. That was their race, this is mine.

Remember the last 5k? It was 41 degrees and raining. I was soaked to the skin. I am this time, too. There's only about a 45-degree difference.

No way. There's the finish line. I can see it. Finish strong. Run. They're waiting on you. They're cheering. I have fought the good fight ... I have finished the race.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

No. 42

We're at T-minus five days and counting until the end of school for summer, but Jesse has already had his last piano lesson until it starts back up again in August.

Bless her heart, Jesse's piano teacher told him to practice pieces that he knows best during the break. So what's he know best? Jingle Bells, of course. It may be in the mid-90s outside, but it's Christmas at our house ... over ... and over ... and over ... and over ... and over ... and over again.

You know Jeff Dunham's Achmed the Dead Terrorist character, and his line, "Shut up ... I keeeeeel you?!?" Yeah, that's pretty much the conversation I'm going to have with Jesse's piano teacher the next time I see her. 

No. 41

Adam's teacher replied on Facebook to the most recent Parenting Observation that she loooooves Adam, and he saw it. Today, he marched into class and announced to her that if she ever wanted to comment on another post about him, that she should keep it to herself.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No. 40

We had Chinese food for lunch today, and sometimes, it does not agree with Adam. So after a lengthy trip to the facilities, he plops back down at the table, pats his belly and says in the best Yoda voice yet, "A great disturbance in the bathroom, there was."

No. 39

Adam tried to kill me tonight. Throwing him some batting practice tonight from just a few feet away, he hit me in the wrist. Then ... he lasered another line drive that hit me square on the forehead. I went down HARD, and still don't feel super swift. Anybody know what dain bramage feels like?!?

No. 37

Jesse has lost his glasses ... I love my son ... I love my son ... I love my son ... can't find the darn things anywhere ... I love my son ... I love my son ... I love my son ... why am I looking in the freezer?!? ... I love my son ... I love my son ... Jeanie's fussin' ... I love my wife AND my son ... I love my wife AND my son ...

No. 38

Adam played baseball last night, and his second time at bat, he kept wiggling his front foot and tip-toeing it to the ground like some famous major leaguer. He would not stop. When I gave him a hard time about showing off after the game, he said, "But Dad ... I had to pee." Well ... OK, then.

No. 36

As we were passing a local gas station, Adam and Jesse suddenly and earnestly start yelling, "Stop at the BP! Stop! Pleeeease stop!" When we asked why, Adam blurted, "So we can get a Mother's Day present for Mom!" It's one of those huge cards, and what it lacks in ... well ... monetary value is more than made up for by Adam and Jesse's sincerity!

No. 35

We've got a new video game, Portal 2. I went around in circles for an hour and always wound up where I started. I simply cannot figure out how to move to the next level. Adam took over and within 30 seconds, made it without a second thought. It wouldn't be quite so bad if he would quit talking smack as he ushers me even further into old age.

No. 34

Adam and Jesse love the TV show Survivor, so we've decided that I'm going to be a contestant. We've also put together a plan for me to be the first one voted off the island, at which point I will start screaming like a crazy person, punch everybody who voted for me and use my torch to set Tribal Council on fire. I'm ALL about setting a good example for my kids.

No. 31

I went for my usual Friday lunch with the boys, and a girl who has had a very noticeable crush on Adam asked if she could sit with us. I said, "Of course you can!" But when I turned and saw Adam, he had a look of pure panic. "Daaaaaad," he began, and I knew I was in trouble. "I've already asked ANOTHER girl to sit with us! What am I gonna do know?!?" Uhhhhhhhhhhhh ... sorry, son.

No. 32

There's ALWAYS a fight between Jesse and Adam over who has to take a bath first. I ALWAYS settle it by telling them to pick a number between 1 and 100. Jesse was the first to figure out that it's ALWAYS 73 ... my high-school football number. For some strange reason, I don't think he cares as much about that as he does Adam hitting the tub ahead of him.

No. 33

April is Autism Awareness Month. Jesse has Asperger's, which is a mild form of the developmental disorder. He's not wired like most folks, adding a whole new element to being his dad. When he does something "wrong," is it because he's 10 or because he has Asperger's? Do we drop the hammer or give him a hug? It can be very frustrating, but I wouldn't have missed a minute of it.

No. 28

This morning, Adam was in the foulest of moods after staying up late to watch the Super Bowl last night. He decided that he wanted to quit school, so I asked what kind of job he would get as a fourth-grade dropout. With not a moment's hesitation, Adam replied, "I'll be a third-grade teacher." How's that for staying ahead of the curve?

No. 29

Jesse is making a totem pole for a class project. Animals represent family members. I'm a cow because I like milk. Adam is a hyena, for obvious reasons. Jeanie is a donkey, because, he says, in Bible times, the donkey was a very loyal pet. Far, far be it for me to suggest an alternate interpretation!!! BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

No. 30

So ... Jeanie looks over at me just now and asks, "Do you hear them farting in the tub?" Well, yes ... yes, I do. That one question probably best describes what it's like to live in our house.

No. 26

This is what it's like to be Jesse's dad. He finished third today in his school-wide spelling bee, behind a kid from the sixth grade and one from the fifth. That's especially impressive, considering the fact that I had to make a trip to school just before the spelling bee because he'd supposedly jammed an eraser in his ear.

No. 27

OK ... so Jesse's getting out of the tub and hollers that he needs a towel to dry himself off with. Jeanie and I look at each other and don't move. Jesse yells again. We don't move. Finally, Jeanie yells, "Just stand over the heat vent for a while!" Yep ... we're model parents.

No. 25

Oh, yeah ... with every passing second, The Talk is getting closer and closer. Jesse's "girlfriend" is now mad at him because everybody in their class knows about her note. On the way home from school today, Adam was trying to help Jesse with his predicament and said, "You need to listen to me, Jesse. I'm the Looooooooooooove Doctor!"

No. 23

OK ... so Jeanie and I are in Yadkinville this afternoon and the tornado sirens start blaring in town. It was raining all kinds of hard, but all I wanted to do was get to school to make sure Adam and particularly Jesse (who is horribly, terribly afraid of storms) were OK. I did not like that feeling, not one little bit.

No. 24

One of the three Houston men currently living in my household got a love note today. It wasn't me. It wasn't Adam. HELLO, Jesse! Adam may be Mr. Casanova, but it's the strong silent types like me and Jesse that you've gotta look out for!!! Now ... read between the lines. The time is coming very, very soon for The Talk.

No. 21

When the preacher asked me during our church service today if a son had ever fared better than his father in NASCAR, I answered Richard Petty. Adam immediately starts tugging at my sleeve, whispering, "Dad ... what about Dale Earnhardt? He did better than Ralph!" YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

No. 22

There's a big difference between being a father and being a daddy. Adam was as sick as Jeanie and I had ever seen him this week, and this is what he wanted me to do. Forget that I eventually got sick, too. This was well worth it.

No. 17

Adam happened to walk by the other day as I gave Jeanie the most innocent of kisses. Adam's response? "Go Dad ... go Dad ... go Dad!" Heaven help us when the hormones REALLY kick in on that kid.

No. 18

This afternoon while waiting to eat lunch with the boys, the baby sister of a girl in Jesse's class called me "PawPaw." Her mom explained that "PawPaw" is the little girl's GRANDFATHER. It's going to take me a while to recover from that one ...

No. 19

For all the bickering Adam and Jesse do, this is the memory that I want to take with me. Adam stops by Jesse's classroom every day after school to help him pack his books. Adam's teacher and class also left him behind by mistake the other day, because he was helping Jesse through a ..."crisis". THAT'S what it means to be brothers ...

No. 20

Adam and Jesse are BOTH in the AIG (Academically/Intelectually Gifted) progam at their school, and Richard graduated from high school second out of a class of 620 students. Therefore, it must be deduced that intelligence skips a generation on the father's side because I just ain't that smart.

No. 16

Last week, one of the kids walked off and left the water running in a sink that's stopped up. Yesterday, the toilet wouldn't flush properly, but Adam and Jesse both just kept right on ... well ... you know. You know those times when you're so angry you're speechless? It didn't hit the fan, because it was all in the ... never mind.

No. 15

Tonight was the last night of Vacation Bible School, and as always, the kids got on stage to sing the songs they learned this week. Honestly and truly, I thought two little girls were gonna come to blows trying to stand next to Adam. They were actually shoving and throwing elbows, the whole nine yards. Heaven help us ...

No. 12

Jesse asked yesterday if he could get on the computer and look up something on Google. When I asked why, he said he was going to find out how to get in touch with George Lucas so he could ask what species Yoda is. Sniff ... sniff ... you just don't know if you're doing a good job as a parent and then he comes up with something like this.

No. 13

Jeff Hoffman flew five times on the Space Shuttle. He was the first to log 1,000 hours on the Shuttle. He made a couple of spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. When I told Adam that I'm going to be interviewing Dr. Hoffman, his only concern was whether or not the former astronaut knows Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader in baseball.

No. 14

Jesse LOVES the television show Wipeout, where contestants are basically beaten to a pulp for an hour. I'm not sure whether I'm more disturbed over that fact alone, or that Jesse tells me on an almost daily basis that I should try out for the show.

No. 11

Adam and I both have sinus infections, so we've spent the afternoon in the doctor's office. Adam was NOT happy he was gonna have to get a shot until the doctor told him I was getting one, too. At that point, he broke into this wicked little grin and giggle ... the little jerk. The whole time, Jesse's standing there going, "I'm NOT the sick one ... I'm NOT the sick one!"

No. 9

There's quite a debate going on around here concerning whether or not I fly or drive to Houston next month. For those of you who know me, you'll know that I would without a doubt rather drive. However, 1,100 miles is a LONG way. Jesse and Adam are both adamant that I drive. Jesse said, "If you fly, what if you run out of gas and have to crash land?" Thanks, Jesse. Thanks a lot.

No. 10

Jesse is staying with Nanny and Papaw tonight. He's packing like he's moving out for good. Adam's jealous, and when I tried to cheer him up by telling him that at least he still gets to stay with me tonight, he said in no uncertain terms, "YOU'RE not Nanny." Ouch ...

No. 8

Adam is walking around the house singing "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. First question ... where in the world has he heard that? Second ... anybody have any advice on how to lock him down once he becomes a hormone-crazed teenaged boy?

No. 7

With a child like Jesse, sometimes I just have to sit back, let him do his thing and then say something profound like, "Uhhhhhh ... wow." After his teacher told the class to design their very own invention, this is what Jesse came up with ...

No. 6

There are some talents you just can't teach a child. Adam can all but arm-fart the Star-Spangled Banner.

No. 5

Jeanie and Jesse headed to a local diner the other day while Adam and I finished up at the baseball field. They were met at the door by a little girl who asked, "Where's Adam?" Then, when they sat down, yet another little girl asked, "Where's Adam?" I have decided that such animal magnetism evidently skips over a generation!

No. 3

I had two kids in elementary school a couple of months ago, but I now have nine in either the third or fourth grades. As a novice baseball coach, I have discovered that the role requires me to be equal parts coach, psychologist, medic, motivational speaker, entertainer, fundraiser, politician, crime scene investigator, judge and jury. And then at the second practice ...

No. 4

There's nothing quite like a kid being sick to get a parent moving at the speed of sound. This afternoon after church, the boys and I were waiting on Jeanie in the grocery store parking lot. A split second later, Jesse's nose is bleeding like he'd been hit with a baseball bat, I'm trying to get it stopped and Adam's trying to run into the store by himself to get some Wet Ones.

No. 2

I needed a calculator not too long ago to help Jesse with his math homework, so I'm not smarter than a kid in the third grade, much less one in the fifth ...

No. 1

It can be difficult explaining the concept of a Charlie Daniels Band song to a nine-year-old child. The song features line after line like, "Ain't a cowboy hat in Dallas if I ain't in love with you." Adam remarked, "There ARE cowboy hats in Dallas." I replied, "Then he loves his wife/girlfriend." "Huh? That doesn't make any sense." It was at THAT point I knew I was in trouble.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memories

Going through a couple of old junk tubs, I found a picture of myself from 1998. That was me then on the left, that's me now on the right. I'd like to think there's a little bit of improvement.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Decisions

Joe Estep, the one friend I've had since childhood who I trust with my life, had gastric bypass surgery in March 2007. It has transformed his life in more ways than even he could count, both physically and emotionally. He has lost in the neighborhood of about 200 pounds ... amazing.

I'm proud of him beyond what words could ever truly express.

That's one side of my own weight-loss story. If Joe can do so well with the surgery, maybe, just maybe, I could as well. But here's the flip side. Both of my parents had stomach-stapling surgery in the early 1980s, back when such procedures were still relatively new.

The surgery very nearly killed my mom, because what was left of her stomach opening closed up. She could get no nutrients, none. She went from well over 300 pounds to a virtual skeleton. She eventually had to have the procedure reversed, at which point she gained quite a bit of weight back.

The roller-coaster was not kind to her.

My dad's reactions were not as severe, but to the day he died in 2008, he had problems with eating too much and getting sick. The memories I have of my parents' surgeries are not good ones, not in the slightest, tiniest bit.

Yet on the day of the crushing embarrassment of my run in the Space Shuttle simulator in Houston last June, I called Jeanie very nearly in tears and told her that I was having surgery. I went through the whole process -- counseling, meetings, food diaries -- and had a date set in October for a banding procedure. It was only an insurance issue that kept me from having it.

Normally, that would have been a perfect excuse to quit trying. This time, it did not. I kept going, determined never to let anything like those first few minutes in the Shuttle sim ever happen again. Those belts would, by gosh, fit now ... ALL of them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Good News and Bad

First, the good news.

Today, I bought a pair of jeans that were a full six inches smaller in the waist than the last pair I purchased. I went by myself, picked them out and actually tried them on. I told the clerk that I didn't think they would fit, but wanted to see how much more work I needed to do.

I actually laughed when I buttoned them up without the first hint of a problem. The first thing I heard was the sales clerk asking from the other side of the door, "I guess they fit, huh?"

Why, yes. Yes, they do.

Here's the problem, though. I long ago lost track of how many pushes I've made in my life to lose weight. Many times, I have bought new clothes only to use it as an excuse to not try quite so hard thereafter. If I can fit in new jeans, then, by gosh, I can afford to have that hamburger. Or pizza. Or candy bar. Before I know it, the new jeans don't fit any more and I break out the old ones ... the fat ones.

No more.

The jeans I've been wearing are far too big, so I just cinch 'em up with a belt and go about my baggy business. Jeanie fusses. Friends fuss. I put on my pants and then walk right back out of them if I've not yet buckled my belt. Say a prayer for me and that my excuses to slack off cease forevermore.

See you at the Y!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Playlist

One of the most crucial parts of my workout routine is my iPod, one of the greatest inventions mankind has ever known. I pop my earphones on, turn on the tunes and for the next hour or so, I'm in my own little world.

I don't want to go all Rocky Balboa/"Gonna Fly Now" on anybody, but my music keeps me going. I put together a "Workout" playlist, and it's a rather eclectic mix of Christian contemporary, rock and praise music. Some songs hit home harder on certain days, but there are a few that are absolutely perfect no matter when they come up.

For instance:

"Praise You In This Storm" -- Casting Crowns

"Glorious Day" -- Casting Crowns

"There Will Be A Day" -- Jeremy Camp

"Grace Like Rain" -- Todd Agnew

"I Can Feel It" -- Third Day

"I Will Rise" -- Chris Tomlin

"Let It Rain" -- Michael W. Smith

"Lift Up Your Face" -- Third Day

"Live Again" -- Stryper

"Reborn" -- Stryper

"Strong Tower" -- Kutless

"Take My Life" -- Jeremy Camp

"Trust In Jesus" -- Third Day

"Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus)" -- Chris Rice

"The Voice Of Truth" -- Casting Crowns

"Word Of God Speak" -- MercyMe

"You Raise Me Up" -- Selah

"10,000 Years" -- Stryper

If you've not already done so, an iPod is one of the very best investments you can make when taking those first few tentative steps toward losing weight. Play around with your playlists. Be creative. Download an audiobook or podcast.

Have fun!