Category Archives: Running

Harvey’s Mailbag

First, a big thank you to the many of you who sent me messages after my last post.  It is nice to be appreciated for your writing.  For me, it’s nice to be praised for something that was about my dad.

One of my sisters pointed out (rightly so) why Dad would have been laughing at me running.  He was an actuary.  Numbers never lied to him and the more data he could get his hands on the more complete a picture of your impending mortality he could paint for you.  Runners, it seems, tend to die.  Well, if I remember this one correctly, it had something to do with the fact that all human beings die.  In a nutshell, though, runners tended to enjoy a negligibly similar mortality with non-runners (there was always that control group).  In other words, overall, running doesn’t make you live longer or shorter.  But it did correlate with death from (do not quote me on this) an enlarged heart.  Again, there wasn’t a direct cause and effect, just a correlation.  Whatever, I’m going to keep running so I have a way to burn up the nervous energy of an ex-smoker – as in, “What do I do with my hands!?”

Now then, on to the rest of the mail.

Six and half years ago, right after moving to Texas, my wife, in-law’s, and I traveled to Oklahoma one night to see one of my favorite singers – the immortal Frankie Valli.  I then wrote a story about it.  I’m not even going to link it.  If you want, you can find it for yourself.  In that story, as in so many stories I’ve written over the years, I employed a sort of absurdist humor.  For the uneducated or uninitiated, this type of humor is represented by several key hallmarks including series of events that do not follow (often in an extreme fashion, also called “non sequitir humor”), descriptives that are patently false yet played for reality, and a sense that the narrator may in fact be suffering from dementia.  In my story about Mr. Valli, the reader ought to be able to tell a few things.  First, I truly do love this man, his voice, and his contribution to the world.  There is no denying that.  Second, I am using absurdist humor to prop him up.  In other words, at an age when every human on the planet has outlived his actuarily lifespan; Frankie Valli is still making a buck, doing what he loves.

So I received the following comment…

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 12.52.09 AM

Takeaway: People read Harvey!

At first I wondered if the person posting the comment was a personal friend of Mr. Valli.  Then I began to realize something…  There is at least one person who read a post of mine almost seven years ago and remembered it well enough to dredge it back up.  In an absurd way, this person just validated my writing.  But let me address the issue at hand because I do not like to stifle criticism.  I’m a big boy and I can take it.  The comment was civil in tone.  Let’s assume that we live in a world in which a guy from Newark, NJ can’t poke some fun at an idol of his who also happens to come from Newark, NJ (which is a pretty awesome place, by the way) and is a gazillionaire celebrity who’s probably seen worse on the pages of Billboard Magazine.  Let’s assume.  Well, then, Mr. Valli and your dear family, I apologize for hurting your feelings.  If you’d ever like to suggest that my writing is crap please feel free.  It’s on me this time.  I promise I won’t even cry.

In the meantime, if you’d like to keep reading I will keep writing.  And Frankie, if you’re reading this and you ever feel like sending me an autographed headshot for my kids (who also adore you), let me know.  I’ll send you my address.


Last Chance?

Sometimes a thing catches your eye and fills you with such a sense of absurdity that you laugh out loud.  Then your wife, sitting next to you on the couch, looks at you and seems about to ask what you’re cackling over but then lets out of muffled sigh instead as if to say “You know what?  Nah…”

But my wife would never do that to me.


Nestled safely between box sets of Unsolved Mysteries and Lost is your LAST CHANCE!

As we sit next to each other on the couch in our family room I just noticed a DVD case on its side under the TV with about 50 other DVD cases.  Remember them?  There was a world before streaming.  This DVD says (in blazing, italicized letters no less) LAST CHANCE WORKOUT.

I’ve been doing so well with my fitness plan these past few months.  First I did Insanity Max:30 where I stripped a whole lotta’ fat off my frame and found out I have no muscle.  Now I’m doing BodyBeast where my aim is to bulk up and make some serious gains in mass.  Yes, I know I did it backwards.  I did it that way as a joke on my trainer.  Duh.  No, if I had been thinking clearly I would have done it the other way around.  Apparently you bulk first and then shred.  My trainer does both at the same time and he has telekenesis.  Guy’s amazing.  Sometimes he bulks in the morning and then shreds after lunch.
Just. Because. He. Can.
I got a lot out of the shredding part.  I got pretty lean – down to a set of abs that were almost perceptible to the naked eye.  In fact, it’s only because I know Im capable of doing that again pretty quickly that I don’t mind having almost completely lost them due to this bulk.  This is the part where anyone who’s actually seen me in the past month says “No way, man, you’re looking amazing!  Are you shred-bulking or bulk-shredding?  Whatever it is, sign me up!”  I’m eating a LOT of food these days.  I’m also lifting heavier and heavier weights.  My trainer ties  70 lb. dumbbells to his ankles when he does his 12 mi. run.  That reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask him if I should do a little running while I’m trying to bulk.  He’d probably advise against it at least until I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s what like, say, 18 years.


This is the guy from BodyBeast.  He’s an Israeli named Sagi (pronounced Sah-GEE).  And that quote tells you he’s peddling some hard core bullshit even if he is unbelievably ripped.  My trainer friend looks kinda’ like him but not as douchey.

My point is that I’ve become very comfortable at this routine.  That’s comfortable, not complacent.  I enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy seeing the results (not as quickly as I’d like but I’m the guy who stands in front of a microwave and yells HURRY UP!”).  And I’ll also admit that over the years I’ve been frustrated with fitness.  There have been times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and would never figure it out.  Not all of us were blessed to have gym access growing up on the streets of Compton.  I don’t know who I’m talking about since I’m from Newark but you get the picture.  Would I rather have figured this all out 20 years ago and been a stud with a full head of hair?  Would I rather have had girls beating down my door?  Would I rather have had a shot at achieving this goal earlier and getting it out of my way so I could legitimately cash in on my success and become a whale in my 30’s knowing I had already been jacked?  What was my alternative?  Oh yes, being me.  OK, so it’s not that bad.  But I’m comfortable with where I am with my fitness goals and progress here and now.  The downer in me says I’ll probably never reach my true goals but I need to murder him.  Bad downer.  Bad.

So why write all this?

How much do you have to hate yourself to do a workout called Last Chance?  I’m trying to picture anyone looking for a program.  “Let’s see… There’s Insanity.  Nah, too much cardio.  There’s P90X.  Nope, too many jumps.  There’s Tae-Bo. Too urban.  I guess I have no other options.  Oh look!  There’s a crazed woman on this box and she says it’s my last chance!  I don’t know what it is but something in her eyes is forcing my to believe it.  I’ll buy this DVD now because, having exhausted no other options, I realize I have no options left.  Thank God I found this DVD before it was too late!  What would have become of me?”

Yeah, that just happened.

My wife and I also watched a movie last night about aliens.  It stars Amy Adams.  I think it’s called Arrival.  Not bad.  The two aliens were called Abbot and Costello, no joke.  Unfortunately they weren’t remotely funny.

Mother’s Day Musings

First, I’d like to wish a very happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

I’d also like to wish a very happy day to all the mutha’s out there.  And you know who you are.

Lots of thoughts going through my mind tonight.  I promise it has nothing to do with the Valium I just took.  I think I pulled a muscle in my back but more on that later.

On the training front I have stopped running.  I haven’t given up.  No, I’m too committed to have done that.  I talked to the man I’ve been calling “trainer” for a while now.  He insists he’s just a friend who offers advice when asked.  I must have lucked out because I don’t know too many people who have a friend who’s not only jacked to the hilt but also has the knowledge as to how I can get that way too.  Is he sometimes impatient with my barrage of questions?  Sure.  But that’s to be expected.  He never asked to be my trainer.  Have I dragged him into the middle of my obsession to not only look better but also get in great shape?  Yep.  But what did he expect?  You can’t walk around exuding perfection and not expect your opportunistic friends to seize the moment.

So he recommended a change-up of the training plan for me.  Beginning tomorrow I will be following (along with my wife) something called “21 Day Fix”.  It’s a radical diet shift for me designed to boost metabolism.  It follows along with a workout regimen.  I was intending to jump into the Insanity workout program but my wife pointed out to me that we’ll be leaving on a huge road trip in three weeks.  This other program should do the trick though.  I’ll admit after about 9 months, I’m actually going to miss running.  I had just hit my slow-ass stride, too.  But it was hard as anything.  It was hard to do it and it was harder to admit I wasn’t very good at it.  But I was finally just about able to enjoy it.  We shall see how this goes.  I can always go back to running.

In other news, the end of the school year is coming!  Just a few short weeks and I am ready to catch my breath and relax for a bit.  This year that means I’ll be sleeping soundly for about 20 extra minutes because on my first day off we embark on that road trip I mentioned above.  I can’t discuss much of it at the moment but check back and all will be revealed.

So I think that Valium is kicking in and I’m about reasddsy to crashh.  Have a grasst day and remembjer that Harvy lobedsd you aooo much bithfes and I lovvre lifes and evythgin and pupplied dogsd ans Jesuj.  ZzzzzźZZZ  Z Z Z ZZZ Z Z Z Z Z Zz z z zZ Z

Miss Me?

So I’ve been away for a while.

Sue me.

I’ve got to stop inviting that upon myself, the lawsuits.

So how’ve you been?  Everything good?  Oh me?  Where’ve I been?  Funny you should ask…

It all started back around Easter when I heard from someone that a mutual “friend” thought that my writing was not very good, that in fact I was the only one who believed it to be decent in quality.  I had also heard around the same time that another friend believed I had used my brother’s death as a way to garner sympathy.

So, 1) I don’t need sympathy from anyone for anything.  To clarify what this person was saying… I posted a picture of my brother – the last picture from the last time I would see him alive.  I mentioned how I hadn’t known him all that well.  What I was trying to say was that I hadn’t actually known him that well and this was a source of sadness.  But I was thankful that God had given us this time in the final moments of his life to spend any time with him.  To be of any service to my brother as he lay dying was a blessing to me.

And 2) who cares if you don’t like my writing?  I like it.  My kids will like it when they eventually get around to reading it.  That’s all that matters.  So there.


So here’s the deal…  I was captured by aliens and trapped on the pages of a coloring book.

Want to catch up?  Work’s good.  Still teaching.  Nothing new on that front.  Running?  It’s still hard as hell.  But I’m sticking with it.  I forget sometimes to celebrate the accomplishments.  I ran five miles the other night.  That’s a PR for me.  I also learned that this is runner-speak for “personal record”.  Hey, I’ve never run that far before in my life.  It was slow but I did it and I’m happy.  Trainer’s been busy so I haven’t had a chance to get a tune-up on my routine – you know, see what needs tweaking and the like.  Of course trainer’s still rockin’ the fitness world.  I’m still not sure how he finds time to teach and pose for covers of men’s fitness magazines while raising a family.  Perhaps we’ll get to catch up before my body catches up to my schemes and starts hiding fat in places I’ll never find.

I also noticed that my feet have grown.  Ain’t that a bitch?  But I looked it up and it’s apparently for real.  When people start running on a regular basis their feet can actually go up a size.  This would explain why my now-size 12 feet are stretching out my size 11 dress shoes.

Finally, my amazing son just had a birthday.  He turned 8.  I don’t know where the time went.  It’s like I blinked one day and a young man was standing before me sharing his ideas for what we should get Mommy for Mother’s Day.  I love him so much (and my little girl).  We had a party for him, a small affair.  In fact, it was even smaller after the Texas-tornado-season weather forced a few people to drop out.  He didn’t mind.  We went to play lunar mini-golf.  Yep, there’s a place in the mall that does glow in the dark miniature golf.  My mother-in-law found and booked the place.  We both determined that it was the kind of place that would be occupied by a different business the next time we were at this mall, like a Christmas-all-the-time shop or something.

While playing “golf” one of my son’s friends expressed a desire to use the bathroom.  Being the only man in the group of adults, I was given the task of taking him.  Being a fly-by-night operation, this place did not have it’s own facilities.  Out into the mall we headed, me and a kid I had just met, who’s name I wasn’t quite sure I had remembered.  To top it off, he wasn’t really listening to me and my pleas that he walk a bit faster and keep up with me as we headed down a mall corridor to a public bathroom.  Gee this is sounding like a Dateline special.

I walked into the men’s room and saw my little party guest head for a stall.  Being a dad I jumped in front to check the cleanliness of the stall.  Three stalls later I allowed him some privacy.  And then it happened.  I stood outside a bathroom stall while its occupant began making the most ghastly whining noises I’ve ever heard.  “You almost done in there, buddy?” I asked.  “NO!  My stomach hurts,” came the reply.  “And what time is it?” he bellowed.  “About 7:15, kid,” I replied.  He shouted back “It’s almost my bedtime.”  Fifteen minutes later I think he must have finished.  Either that or cholera is a quicker moving malady than I thought.

We walked back to the party where our little friend proceeded to lie on the floor.  What he was doing there I know not.  My wife did happen to reveal to me that his mom had mentioned that this was his first time going to a party by himself.  “Aha!'” I thought.  “Time for me to slip into best friend mode.”  And that’s something I’ve always done well.  I think it comes from my childhood.  Growing up without my twin I always felt a little out of place in the world.  I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have such wonderful people surround me through those times where I’ve felt more alone than others.  My sisters taught me great kindness.  Always.  My best friend Dan (I’ve mentioned him before) has been a kindred soul, a brother to me and ever since we met in college is always around with a bawdy joke or an encouraging word.  A thousand mile distance only means it’s usually by text.  And more recently trainer has been a good friend, albeit one who pushes me around (in a good way) when he has a spare minute between running mud marathons.  Why the tangent?  Because these people have given me example and reinforced what I always knew – that sometimes people just need a little bit of kindness.  So I sat down with our son’s guest and started with the questions.  “So, kiddo, got any brothers or sisters?…”  And like that, he opened up and after a few minutes, the dysentery was gone.  Our little friend was happy for a moment.  And all because some people in my life were kind to me and I could extend a little of that kindness to another.

Forgive me for my length.  I wanted to say thank you to my dear sister Maureen.  We spoke the other night and she asked why I’d stopped writing.  “[My daughter] and I both agreed it would be a shame for you to stop writing.  Trust me your words help all of us.  We laugh.  We cry.  We share.  It all helps.  I found myself needing to read your work today.”

Someone needed me.  And that’s reason enough to keep going.

Thanks, guys, for sticking with me.  Now tell your friends.

What I Didn’t Know I’d Been Looking For

Yesterday I had a conversation with my trainer. It began because I asked him if he could read my most recent post on running and give me his honest feedback. I wanted to know if he understood where I was coming from or if the whole thing sounded “whiney”. 

To my surprise and delight he obliged. I say that only because I’ve been a little distant with the guy at work the past few weeks. My apologies to him now. The reason is that I recognize he graciously agreed to take on the challenge that is me when I more or less forced myself into his training regimen. I’m always conscious of that fact and at times I feel the need to step back and give him his breathing room. I’m sure he doesn’t always want to have me pop into his classroom with endless questions about my abs. It kind of sucks because other then training we do have some things in common and I genuinely enjoy having a friend at work.

He read and then we sat down to discuss. 

“You’re not whining at all,” he said.  “I should have explained things more clearly to you and I totally understand you’re frustration and your sense of discouragement. It’s natural.”

This was a huge relief to me. Knowing that he got what I was saying was very important to me. There’s no sense in handing large portions of your day over to someone else’s direction and then not feeling like there’s trust. I’m glad we’re on the same page.


Even Charo meeded a little encouragement.

He went on to break down some stats for me about running including some personal anecdotes that I needed to hear. I still believe the man is gifted and I still think that’s a wonderful thing both for him and for me. He shouldn’t shy away from that label but wear it proudly. But I also believe that, even though it might take me longer and I might have to train twice as hard I can eventually get there. I learned them from our conversation. And I thank him for taking the time. 

Before I left he added one crucial thing. 

It was nothing about diet or the right shoes or push ups. 

“You’re doing phenomenal,” he said looking up from his desk. “I mean that.”

I’ll overlook his improper adverbial construct. My trainer, a man who looks like a statue, told me I was doing great. It’s almost as if he said “I’m proud of you.” That was huge. I think all I’ve been looking for all along was some kind of recognition. I wanted someone to notice the hard work and dedication. The fact that it’s him who noticed means the world to me. 

Look, as a teacher I’m used to not being recognized. Just a few nights ago I was really frustrated. Found myself praying “God, this might make sense if I even once knew that I had helped just one teenager come to a better understanding of You. I could take the fact that I missed out on the high paying jobs my friends all have or the feeling that I’m not respected for what I do; but to go so long without so much as a pat on the back? That’s tough. It’s more than I can deal with. Why did You ask this of me?”  The frustration about my fitness progress was just a sub-symptom of that I think. 

Do I still wish the trainer ever had a free evening to kill a bottle of wine because I love hanging with him? Perhaps if I told him how phenomenal he is at drinking…

By the way, last night, after that conversation I went and ran three of my best miles in a long time and tonight I jumped into a killer crossfit workout. A little encouragement goes a long way. 

A Novice Runner Explains Himself

We ordered Chinese food for dinner this evening.

The menu that came stapled to the bag said “Make sure order correct.  When driver leave, no refund.”

Thank you for that.  Glad I made sure my order was correct.

And like the following story, something must have been lost in translation.

Earlier today I ran.  Nothing spectacular about that.  I’ve been running for a few months.  We have a friend in town who happens to be a runner.  Here’s the thing.  He’s a runner like my trainer is a runner.  The both of them routinely post a pace of 7:30-ish min./mi.  What that means, to the unfamiliar, is that their average running covers one mile ever 7 and a half minutes.  They’ve both “complained” in the past within my hearing that they wish they could go faster and they really have to train harder for that to happen.

My pace, you ask?  I started running for the first time ever about seven months ago.  My pace was non-existent.  I couldn’t run more than a minute (if that) without stopping for a walk.  That kind of nullifies any pace off the bat.  But by the time I ran my one and only 5K in early December, my pace was around 8:50-9:00 (at least for the first mile to mile and a half).  I was happy.  Then I took a month and a half off.  Now it’s like I’ve started from square one even though I’ve been back at it for a month.

I’ve been so frustrated because I’m impatient.  But it’s not just that.  I’m the kind of guy who likes data.  I like to have personal experience (my own or that of others) to go by.  I find it helps tremendously to know what other people before me have gone through so I have some kind of guide.  Plus, I like to know what to expect.

At the same time I feel like I haven’t been explaining myself very well.

In the past my trainer has almost angrily told me not to compare myself with him, that I need to take stock of the fact that I couldn’t run before and now I can and not to worry about it.  OK, I can see that.

Today, my friend seemed modestly shocked that I apologized to him after our run for making him demean himself by running at my pace.  Look, I ran my best today and we covered three miles but I was a wreck afterward and he was still pretty fresh, not a drop of sweat.  I could not breathe.  It cannot be easy to go that slowly when you’re normally much faster and I truly appreciated it.  Did I mention that this was his fourth 3-mile run in four days?

So here’s what I’m trying to say them.

I know every person is different.  I know I’ll find my own stride, no pun intended.  I get that I am not you and you are not me.  What I’m looking for is someone who’s done this before, anyone, to tell me a few things.  First, was it ever hard for you too?  Did you feel in your first few months of running like you just couldn’t do it?  Get discouraged like I do?  And when did the breakthrough occur?  How did you go from running 10 minute miles to 7 and a half?  How long did that take?  If I keep doing what I’m doing (three runs a week) and keep pushing myself can I hope to see a better time in three months?  Six?

But I don’t want to hear “You’ll get better when you get better.”

And I feel like even my magnificent trainer who’s done a lot to help me get started and tries his best to motivate me from time to time maybe doesn’t get my frustration with myself.  I’ve said it before, but I really believe he’s some kind of super-human.  I asked him one time about how he got into running.  I hoped he would share a similar story to mine.  I thought he’d say something about how it was hard for him and he struggled for over a year to get to a good pace.  What he said, however, was that it was really tough for him… The first time he ran, he ran three miles and it was hard.  But he stuck with it and did a half-marathon within four months.  Great.  The first time I ran I barely made it a quarter-mile and completed a 5K within four months at an embarrassing time.

I promise I’m not complaining.  Honestly, I’m happy that I can run.  I couldn’t do this before.  I am happy.  And I am noticing some physical results too.  Seems that my waist is getting a bit smaller.  That’s good news because I can see that inside a month and it motivates me to keep at it.  But I’d love to know that I’m not completely alone in this, that I’m not a runner to be pitied.  Then again maybe I need to find some runner-friends who are just normal guys like me.  Still, I want to know I’m going to succeed at this eventually and maybe to have a clue as to when that eventually will be.  If someone said to me “Honestly, you’re not going to do much better,” I’d be cool with that because I’d at least know that I hit my personal best.

I just don’t think I have yet…

The Spartan Mudder

First, I am currently watching a movie called Sharknado 3.  I knew in my gut that this would be worse than anything I could imagine.  However I was not prepared for just how awful this movie is.  Mark Cuban just threw a hand grenade into the mouth of a flying, living shark.  In the White House.  Because he’s the president.

My trainer has taken to a unique new training method.  As mentioned in an earlier post he has recently directed me toward a series of online training manuals designed to help me further reach my goal of getting jacked and thus looking slightly less like an armadillo with a tire around his waist.  One of these training plans is geared toward me eventually running a Spartan Race.  The other is designed for those running the more exhilarating Tough Mudder race.  He (trainer) has run several of the latter.  Truthfully I don’t believe he actually thinks I can run a Mudder.  I say that because I know I’m not a runner, not much of one anyone.  In the past month I’ve resumer my running endeavor.  My pace has actually gotten worse.  Someone mentioned that I needed to train differently if I want to run faster.  If I knew how, I would.  That being said, I mentally remind myself every single time I lace up my shoes that I just have to push through, accept the heumiliation of not really being able to complete the 3 or 4 mile run without walking here and there, and forcing myself not to look at the clock.  I’ve been told I won’t see results until I’ve been doing this about 2 years so I’m trying not to look for any.  In that regard I’m really just running because I committed to do it and I’d probably still look like an armadillo in 2 years either way.  But enough about the running.

In related news, my wife went out of town for a business trip a few days ago.  When Daddy is home alone with the kids (and our Jack Russell Terrier), I insist they sleep in my bed.  If I’m the only adult in the house I just like having them with me.  I think it’s more for my sake than theirs.  Last night around 3AM a thunderstorm rolled through.  Normally this wouldn’t present any problems because the three of us sleep very soundly.  But when this storm moved in I knew it.  That’s because the dog is apparently afraid of storms.  My little pup came tearing into my room, leapt onto my bed, stood on my chest, and began lapping my face while yelping and whimpering in my ear.  I tried to calm him down, even let him in the yard thinking I had forgotten his walk before bed.  But 3 more episodes of this and I gave up trying to get any sleep.  At one point my daughter looked at her brother and said “Why are you licking my face?”  No sweetheart, it’s the dog.  What a night…

So you see I’m caught up now.  And now I’ll catch up on that sleep.