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.


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:


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


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?


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.


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!!!