Thoughts from the Lake Loop

I did it.

Just like that, I accomplished one of my summer goals from an earlier post; I ran (mostly walked) around the entire Lake Monona loop, roughly 11 or 12 miles.

I couldn’t believe myself, but I actually did it in 2 hours and 59 minutes. I was going to get started in the morning, but you know me and summer mornings, so I ended up hitting the trailhead at Northshore Drive at exactly 1:38 PM. It was a sunny and breezy 79 degrees. I expected nothing, but I was hoping to make it further than last time, when I had to turn back due to threat of darkness/bad weather.

Here’s how I did.

First hour:

  • Run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes.
  • A few water breaks later, including a long-ish one at a Walgreens bathroom, I check my progress at the 1 hour mark, and at 2:38 PM, I’d made it past the Madison city limits, to the corner of Monona and Lake Edge Boulevard, about 4 and a half miles. Inspired, I ran/walked on.

Second hour:

  • Did three five-minute intervals as with the first hour, but get increasingly thirsty.
  • Realize that there haven’t been any water fountains – or signs – or runners, for that matter since around my Walgreens stop.
  • Realize that I am very thirsty.
  • Plan to walk until I find the next water fountain, which is not likely to be soon because I’m in the middle of residential Monona.
  • Realize that this whole idea was probably a complete waste of time.
  • Realize how out of shape I am.
  • Consider stopping, walking to somewhere in Monona and finding water.
  • Approach 2 hour mark. At 3:38 PM, I am walking through Paunack Park, approximately 4 miles from my last hour. Considerably less progress, but also, no water along this leg.
  • I’m beginning to think that this was a bad idea.

Third hour:

  • Okay, this is getting really annoying.
  • I don’t see any more signs, or any people.
  • I think one of my professors lives around here somewhere.
  • Okay, I definitely just walked past my professor’s house, and I really hope that he wasn’t home.
  • According to Map My Run, there should be some source of water here…
  • But there isn’t! Moving on…
  • Corner of Hoboken Street, supposed to be water…and there isn’t.
  • Who decided that this was a good idea?
  • What if I randomly walked up to a house and knocked on the door asking for water? It’s really hot, but…no.
  • Resist urge to run through sprinkler on someone’s beautiful lawn.
  • Okay, coming up to another supposed water source, Esther Beach Park.
  • And…water fountain! Thank you, Esther Beach Park!
  • Uh-oh. Dead end ahead.
  • But all these bikers are going down this way, and they’re not coming back, so maybe it’s just a dead end for cars and not bikers or pedestrians?
  • I am going to be so pissed if I have to walk all the way back to Esther Beach Park and take the other fork in the road.
  • Uh oh. Another Dead End sign.
  • But wait…”except bicycles.” YES!
  • Great, now I have a wedgie.
  • And my left nipple is chafing.
  • Un-wedgie while walking, several times, after checking that no one is in my vicinity.
  • I think I’m done with the “running” portion of the day.
  • Okay, coming up to the dead end, and…
  • I was right! Railroad tracks, and then a trail again! No more walk/run in the middle of the street for me!
  • Wow, here come some runners! I didn’t fall into a time slip where this trail doesn’t exist!
  • Okay, here’s an actual street! I fall in line with two older men and two older women on bikes. The men make it across before the light changes to red, but the women and I are stuck waiting. I tell them what I’ve done today, and they say, “what a lovely day for such a long walk.” When I tell them that it was probably an awful idea, because I’ve walking for most of the past hour, one of the ladies shrugs and says “it’ll be easier next time.” Pfft.
  • Light changes, and we’re off.
  • Hey, a sign welcoming me to Madison! I live in Madison! My steps get a bit more lively.
  • How far to home? Oh…three miles…
  • But wait, here’s Olin Park! I’m getting closer to the start of my trek!
  • Remember my “not running” thing? Well, I’ve crossed so many runners now, and I’m getting ever closer to the end, so after this girl in a pink bra top rounds the corner ahead of me, I’m going to run after her for 5 minutes.
  • Run, run, run down John Nolen, with a beautiful view of the Capital in front of me.
  • Five minutes pass, I slow to a walk, and Pink is still running. How is that? Screw you, pink.
  • Time check: 5 minutes to 4:38. Okay, Jacob, let’s run it out.
  • Run, run, run…and I make it to Northshore Drive, where I joined the trail, at 4:37 PM.
  • I’m done.
  • Wait, now I have to go home? What is this? Where do I live?
  • Light is red, so I have to wait to cross the street. Tell of my exploits to the girl on the bike waiting next to me, who congratulates me.
  • Now, time to trek home. It seems a lot longer than coming here.
  • My phone was at 70% when I started, and now it’s down to 1%.
  • Almost get run over by my leasing manager when I turn into my alley.
  • At approximately 5:00 PM, home. Chug cranberry juice, shower, eat tuna sandwich, fruit, and protein shake.
  • Post about it on Facebook. As of now, 36 people liked my status.

And that’s how I accomplished my first goal of the summer.

And I did it without taking any breaks other than water; no standing still for extended periods of time, and no sitting at all.

Now, Starbucks.


First Day Jitters…or something like that

First things first – thanks for all the visits and to my followers who now number in the triple digits for the first time.

Also, five new countries have come out to play over the past few days, so kalimera to Cyprusbienvenidos to Spainvalkommen to Swedenkyo tzo pa ti to Myanmar, and…to Nigeria, you are home to so many languages so I’ll just stick with welcome.

Today was one of those days I always dread.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes for the semester and I already have jitters even though it’s over twelve hours until my first class. Having only been back for four days, I feel totally unprepared. I haven’t even color-coordinated my notebooks, and after reading the syllabi for these classes, am puzzled at why I chose these classes, but I’m sure I’ll like them (or learn to).

But even worse?

The first day back at the gym after a hiatus.

It’s always the worst. You can lift a pin or swim eighty laps, but either way immediately afterwards you feel sick to your stomach. I know this, because it’s happened to me more than once. When I was an undergrad at UMass, I loved everything about campus aside from the gym situation. There were 2 gyms on campus and each were about the size of my apartment. You had to sign up for a treadmill hours in advance, sometimes a whole day during a peak week. So, I gave up on the gym since it was inevitably a 2-hour workout, with approximately 90 minutes of time spent waiting for machines and weights. In my senior year, a Planet Fitness opened up in Hadley, which was offering discounted memberships and oddly enough, pizza and tootsie rolls. The facility was massive and even during busy hours, you could easily find a treadmill. After my first workout there, I didn’t even make it home before I threw up on myself. And to make matters worse, I was driving at the same time, and then I stopped at a major town intersection and did it again. The only saving grace was that it was nighttime, but there was still a stain on the pavement in the Hillel parking lot for the next week or so (sorry about that – my shirt was in desperate need of being wrung out). At home in Baltimore, I don’t have access to a gym, only the weight room at the country club, which is pretty inadequate, but still, during a break from school and gym, after my first workout there, it happened again, only this time on the highway and in my mom’s car (sorry, again). Even when I attempted to start again after Lights Out and before the semester’s end, walking down the stairs at the SERF was an ordeal, and resulted in much dry-heaving in the bushes outside.

Today I ran and lifted weights, left the gym, went home and had dinner, and realized…


I beat the curse today! Yes, it was a freezing walk home, but at no point was there any nausea, or anything. I wonder what that means. Also, thinking about it, it’s only been about 6 days since I last exercised, so maybe my body isn’t totally in sedentary mode yet. Of course, that does nothing about my body image/how I perceive myself.

But at least I’m feeling fine.

Except for the foot I will put in my mouth after I puke during my first class of the semester tomorrow.


Is This Covered By My HMO?

In the past few super-packed days, I’ve actually managed to finish not one but two books. The first I finished on Thursday while riding in the passenger seat of the car, somewhere in Ohio, and the second, earlier tonight. It’s been two days since I finished it, but it won’t be hard to recall my thoughts on Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by A. J. Jacobs. I read his first book, where he read the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, hoping to become the world’s smartest man. I thought it was interesting and hysterical. His second book, detailing a year of living according to the Bible, was one that I decided I could pass on. This third book was on my maybe list, but I found a copy at Book Thing so I thought I’d take a chance.

I normally shy away from self-help/health-and-fitness books, because they seem to always contradict themselves. This one was no different, but Jacobs made the meta-contradictions  even funnier in his quest. A recurring character throughout the story was Jacobs’ “eccentric Aunt Marti“, sweeping in with phone calls and emails bearing advice about natural foods and the latest cocktail of deadly germs and toxins in our daily environment. She even makes an appearance in one chapter to help cleanse Jacobs’ New York City apartment, which she does to the nth degree. I’m not going to say what happens to her, but suffice it to say she had it coming.

Jacobs breaks the book down into chapters, each based on a body part; twenty-six of them, corresponding to the months he spent doing research, providing regular updates with his weight, workout regimen, and other details such as number of bowls of steel-cut oats consumed, or number of miles walked on at his homemade treadmill desk – actually, a nifty way to get some exercise and be productive at the same time (provided your speed is low enough to allow you to type, think, and take strides at the same time). Details on this and some of his other fitness/health/nutrition tips appear in several appendices.

I flagged so many pages of the book for new vocab words and funny ideas, as well as a few that I could implement in my own life. Some of Jacobs’ findings, however, are painfully basic, like in his chapter on the stomach, where a doctor whose expertise is in “orthorexia,” or a condition involving an unhealthy obsession with health food. As someone who is constantly between a multitude of eating plans, from “you only live once, so enjoy as much Nutella and Twizzlers as possible” to “if I can’t force myself to eat healthy food, then I’m not going to eat at all” to “yeah, I’m eating healthy…because I can’t put forth the effort to actually make food” to “I had fruit for breakfast so I can have pizza for lunch” and everywhere in between, the nutrition sections were of interest to me. On page 89, Jacobs is incredulous at the nonchalant response he gets of “don’t get fat and get your vitamins” which is like the kindergarten equivalent of basic nutrition advice. But this doctor also suggested to not smoke, drink sparingly, avoid pollution and get some exercise once in a while. I do all those things! Next time I’m feeling down on my body image, I can at least tell myself that I didn’t have a cigarette (26 years clean!) and I walked to State Street (to get a croissant and a cappuccino).

Speaking of food, I will never look at graham crackers the same way again: apparently, their inventor, Sylvester Graham, believed that masturbation led to “insanity, weakness, and death” (101) so he invented a treat to lower the libido. He could’ve just gone with baklava; just as good and just as unattractive. I don’t think I’ve ever had a baklava that turned me on.

In chapter nine, Jacobs explores the world of the lower intestine by visiting Dr. Lester Gottesman, who does a type of plastic surgery to make peoples’ farts smell better (I am not making this up), admitting that it has no health benefits and is purely cosmetic, in a sense. On page 133, Jacobs toots out this vignette:

I’m not a big scatology fan, unlike my sons, who can amuse themselves for an entire afternoon by repeating the phrase “crocodile fart.” So I’ll spare you from an overabundance of detail in this chapter. This chapter will be somewhat soft focus, like the TV camera in a Barbra Streisand interview…I found Dr. Gottesman because he’s been included on New York magazine’s Best Doctors list for the last eight years and has written, in his words, a “shitload” of academic articles.

And this one, on page 151, where he aspires to lower stress by petting strangers’ pets:

The evidence is solid that pets are good for humans’ health. A study by the Mayo Medical Center found that dog owners had significantly lower cholesterol. A study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute said that people who owned cats were 30 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack (though 40 percent more likely engage in scrapbooking).

My favorite parts were the appendices. They greeted me like friendly pats on the shoulder, telling me that I’m doing okay in my own life and providing some tips on the easy side, like drinking more water, increasing chewing during meals, and to stop eating in front of the TV. Avoiding all the toxins and constructing a treadmill desk is a bit much for me, but keeping myself in check about eating healthy things and excising stress through meditation, relaxation, and speaking/writing my worries is something I could handle.

Now for the negative criticism. In his first book, A. J. Jacobs came off as an ingenue, someone who just had a crazy idea and executed it in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants manner, making discoveries along the way and injecting personal anecdotes. There was a certain amount of innocence in his writing and a humility to his personality. The A. J. Jacobs I saw in this book put himself on a bit of a pedestal. Granted, getting healthy is more expensive than reading, but the lengths he goes to for learning are extreme, both in approach and in price. His adventures take him to quirky doctors, insanely expensive fitness classes, and technological gadgets that, if/when they didn’t work, would probably be hard to get rid of on Craigslist. I get that he’s doing the work so we don’t have to, but seriously…some of this stuff? They’re not about getting healthy and attaining physical perfection, they’re more like “look at how much my publisher gave me for this advance, so I blew it on a bunch of infomercial-type products that I’m going to test out for your amusement.”

But seriously, the amount of doctors he goes to for procedures, tests, or chatting? I’d love to read some sort of follow-up chapter cataloging and analyzing all the unusual and/or decrepit waiting-room magazines he encountered. Seeing as the author is pretty obsessive about, well, everything, I’m sure he already has some detailed raw material hiding in a treadmill-typed document or spreadsheet.