Sunday, March 24, 2013


Back in 1994, I was hanging out with Greg and Darin, a couple of close friends that I've known since grade school, talking about the old days.  Hanging out with them in and of itself wasn't anything noteworthy; we got together quite frequently.  On that particular day though, we started talking about our time as boy scouts, and at some point we mentioned that we kind of missed camping and canoeing.  Greg, in his infinitely pragmatic way, asked why we didn't just do it.  Next thing we knew, we had planned a long weekend canoeing the Upper Iowa River.  1994 was a long time ago, so I don't recall many details from that particular trip, but we had enough fun that we decided to do it again the next year... and the next... and the next... and so forth.

Yesterday, Greg and I were planning this year's trip when it hit me... this is our 20th trip.  You read it right, this year will mark the 20th annual Boys' Trip.  The excursion itself has grown and changed a lot over the years.  We rarely hit the same river twice (though we do have a fondness for the Upper Iowa) so the scenery always different.  We spent several years whitewater kayaking until Greg and Darin decided to hand up their spray skirts.  We've island hopped in the Boundary Waters and Turtle Flambeau.  We even went to Las Vegas one year.  We've had several people that have accompanied us over the years, and recently we even opened the trip up to our family, which was a big change to the long-standing boys only rule.  We started out going over Labor Day weekend, but once we figured out that the water was consistently better over Memorial Day, we changed our weekend.  We used to take pride in our ability to rough it for a week straight.  Now, in a nod to our advancing age, we allow ourselves a few creature comforts.  One thing that's remained constant is that we always have a great time.

When we started this, none of us expected it to turn into a tradition.  But now that it has, I'm proud to say that it's my longest-standing tradition.  It's no longer restricted to boys only, but it was, is and ever will be referred to as the Boys' Trip.  Here's a not to our 20th annual, hoping to keep the tradition alive until the last one of us expires.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Plateaus, Pain and Perseverence

A few of you may recall that I started exercising about five months ago.  Today's post is an update on my progress.

I'm happy to report that I'm still exercising.  This in itself is quite an accomplishment.  Historically, I've never made it more than three months before losing interest.  I think that I've learned enough from my previous false starts to stick with it this time.

At the outset, I set a series of goals for myself...
-10 pull-ups
-50 sit-ups in two minutes or less
-Run 3 miles in 30 minutes or less
-Swim a mile
-50 push-ups
-Successfully complete a First Class Marine Corps PFT

I hit all of the goals except the push-ups and PFT in very short order.  After that I hit a plateau.  For a couple of months, I've been stuck at 12 pull-ups, 60 sit-ups and my run time barely improved.  The one area where I made major strides was in swimming.  I can swim two miles without thinking about it.

Additionally, I've had problems with my running.  When I started this whole thing, I decided to radically depart from my past attempts in a couple of fundamental ways... one departure was minimalistic running, using shoes that effectively provide no support.  The idea is to run as close to barefoot as possible, taking shorter strides and landing on the ball of the foot instead of long, heel-striking strides.  I've tried diligently to make this work, but I keep straining my right foot, and haven't done a three mile run for about two months, because I keep straining my foot.  And yes, I rest after any strain.

Like I said though, I'm not going to quit.  I went out earlier this week and bought a pair of standard running shoes, from a genuine running shop.  I had to order the shoes, because they didn't have my size.  (I tried 1/2 size smaller and loved the way they felt.)  They arrived today.  I tried them out by running three miles, and knocked 45 seconds off of my previous best time, despite having gone a VERY long time without running three miles.  By the way, I'm still focusing on a mid-foot landing, so I don't kill my knees or get shin splints.  I'm going to rotate these new shoes and the minimalist shoes, with the goal of eventually being a minimalist runner.  I may or may not reach that goal.  Either way though, the new shoes are awesome.

I'm also going to focus on push-ups for a while, with the hope of breaking the plateau and hitting another goal.  I had hoped to complete all of my goals within 6 months.  I may or may not meet that deadline, but it's been a rewarding journey.  I think that I may do a 10k or triathlon sometime down the road, but I'm not committing to it yet.