Yes, this is a bit of a long and convoluted end of year reflection. Knowing all that, I am not going to say that I will be sad to see 2017, finally be over. 2017 was the year of leaving my comfort zone, grieving for the loss of a loved one and changing my perspective on what I want from life going forward.
My blog is primarily a running blog, but so much of what happened during 2017 impacted my running that I decided to just go with the words that came to me during the writing process for this post. So while this might be a 4,000 plus word essay and not always in the order you expect, it captures my year in running and beyond.
Get a glass of something good, take your shoes off, find a nice place to relax and take a bit to read on about my 2017.
So What Happened in 2017?
I did make it to my 60th birthday, which is a good thing, plus Mary hasn’t hurt me too badly over my running shoe obsession and our relationship has grown stronger than ever over the course of the year.
It had to.
2017 started off fairly routine. I was working almost full-time hours a week in a job that was supposed to be a part-time 25-29 hour a week part-time position as an Administrative Assistant. What I was really doing was proctoring exams and being part a team that worked great together. The work itself was fairly repetitive and routine (except for finals week), but I got to interact with students and faculty, which was for the most part was pretty decent.
I was working the 11-7 shift, which I hated, but sometimes it is who you are working with that matters more than what or when. That was the case with me working at UCLS, I liked the people I worked with a lot and I felt that what I was doing mattered, so I stuck around.
So my professional life was pretty good and I still had time to run in the mornings and/or at lunch.
Running was okay, but…
Unfortunately, I was focused on finding that magical pair of running shoes that would solve all my woes and still blaming my injury problems on running shoe fit or style. When in fact it was a combination of things beyond a what a pair of running shoes would do. More on that later.
I attempted to change things up a little in April/May by tracking my running only by time and not worry about mileage by moving away from the GPS world and using my trusty old Timex. I thought that only using the time would let me relax a little about my running. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it and while it had some advantages, I have logged my running by mileage for too many years. I went back to tracking by mileage and re-created the routes and got a close-enough mileage for that month and half.
Being able to use GPS to track my mileage, really has been a game-changer and allows me the freedom to explore, when in the past I would stick to known routes more because I knew the mileage than any other reason. I did move away from my FR35 with a heart rate monitor, I found that it bothered my sleep too much. For some reason, if I shifted my wrist just right it would flash that beam of light into my eyes and wake me up. Not a good thing. Mary’s Fitbit did the same thing to her, so we both got rid of the watches with Heart Rate monitors.
I moved on to a FR230, which does every thing that I want from a Smart Watch and she went back to the Timex and is very happy.
Actually, most of the spring and summer, I was finding that running longer than 3-4 miles (mostly with Bennie), was beginning to be more and more painful. Whenever I ran longer than that and often when I ran less, by the time I finished running, my feet, Achilles, hamstrings and hips bothered so much that I wondered all too often to myself, if it was actually worth running anymore.
Of course I minimized everything and made my running sound a lot better than it actually was. I was attempting to keep running and believed if I stopped and admitted how much the old body was actually hurting that I might — well…
I had a lot to think about with my running – mostly whether it was getting the point of needing to find another activity.
Yeah, it was that bad.
Other than working, running with Bennie, working around the house and doing a few things with Mary, life was going along pleasantly and a mostly mundane way.
Yeah, life had gotten into a pretty nice routine during the week: do Bennie’s 1.0 mile walk first thing, go for a 3-5 mile run with Bennie, eat lunch, go to work for 11:00 AM, run at work for my supper break, get home sometime between 7:30-8:30 PM, eat supper, go to bed – repeat. It was like that most weeks leading up to the summer, when I would be able to go on a day shift until the Fall semester started. I was looking forward to being on days for a while.
June 2, 2017
Life as we knew it changed on June 2nd.
I was at the first part of Facilitator Training in Augusta that Friday and I got a call from Mary just after noon, telling me that her brother Phil had died suddenly the day before. In shock, I rushed home, found out more and by 5:00 PM that afternoon we were in New Hampshire at the funeral home figuring out what happens next.
That next month was/is a blur, between figuring out the funeral arrangements, getting Mary’s sister here from Arkansas, to assessing what needed to be done with Phil’s house and the family camp, plus going through the Probate process was a very stressful time. Especially, since we all were still in shock over Phil’s sudden death.
One of the memories that will always stay with me during that week, was when I was driving back to Lancaster for Phil’s funeral and I stopped to get gas. I couldn’t get the card reader to read my debit card. What was actually happening – I couldn’t figure out that I needed to pull the card out for it to be read. My brain just couldn’t process what I had to do. I have only been using cards and card readers at the pump, since they came out, so it wasn’t something that was new to me. It was the grief, short circuiting the brain. I drove off in frustration without getting any gas.
I drove down the road a few miles and realized what happened. I did pull in get gas in the next town, but even then I had some issues with the card reader – my hand was shaking so bad that I had a hard time putting the card in. After having so many issues with something as routine as getting gas, I pulled over and at that point let out some of my emotions.
It was my breaking point. You can only remain strong for so long and then you have to release the emotions.
Only Bennie was riding with me and I am not one to reveal too many of my emotions in public or around others, but it was necessary and a part of my grieving process that day.
I did it privately, but I did it.
Cleaning and Repairs
I will not say that Phil was a hoarder, but…he sure was a heavy-duty pack rat. Everything had a place, but there was just so much of it and most of “those” places were pretty damn full. There was so much “stuff” that needed to be gone through, thrown out, sold, or given away to charity.
At the house the deck, furnace/heating systems, plumbing and roof needed to be and were professionally repaired (beyond my basic meatball skills). Plus there was lots of general cleaning that had to be done, before we could even think about selling the properties as part of the estate. Camp was more of the same, but there wasn’t a lot that was salvageable.
If I don’t make any other suggestion to anyone, I make this one – get a Will done or have it updated. Not so much for your peace of mind, but for the ones left behind when you die. A Will does make things easier for them and at that point that is what matters. They have enough on their minds without all the legal beagle crap having to be dealt with because you didn’t have a Will prepared/updated.
Getting down to the nitty gritty of how someone else lives their life and attempting to clean or remove “their” stuff is not always pleasant – they simply did not live their life the way you do yours. However, it did make us take a long look around our own house and we have begun the process of eliminating many things that are unnecessary parts of our lives now.
We will NEVER leave anyone with the kind of stuff that we had to deal with over there.
Needless to say it was a LOT of work.
Often we would work two to three days in New Hampshire in the house, while attempting to get the house ready to be sold – yeah, time and more than a little bit of money out of our pocket to get things done. It took us (with a lot of help from others), pretty much from June until October to finish the cleaning, sorting and repairs. There were several weeks during last summer where we were in New Hampshire more than we were home in Maine.
Having to go and physically check on the properties at least once a week, then spend the night in the house was especially tough on us both mentally and physically. We would just start to accept or move beyond certain points in the grieving process (it is a process), then it seemed that to me every time we were in New Hampshire, it just re-opened wounds that were just beginning to heal and we did that for almost six months.
It was tough.
However in October the camp sale went through and then in December the house sold. Selling both the properties did provide us with some closure on something that affected us to our cores.
We no longer had to go over to NH once a week, worry about the house there, when we were three hours away in Maine, especially with a pretty brutal winter predicted to look forward to. That idea was always in the back of our minds that we might have to pickup and leave suddenly for New Hampshire, without warning to “fix” something over there is gone.
Speaking for myself, I am tired in body and spirit, and need some down time to recover and finish the grieving process for Phil, without the continually re-opening something each time we had to return to his home. It was a tough time for me. I may attempt to pass myself off as a tough old coot, but it ain’t who I really am.
Katie and Family Visited
Luckily for me, my Katie and her family had been planning to visit Maine in June and they did. Which gave me a little respite from the grieving process in the middle of June. I got to see the grandchildren and Nathan (my son-in-law). Who I am extremely proud of the father and husband he has become. I got to see some of Acadia for the first time in a long time.
I also got to see Katie and got to know the grown-up woman and mother she has become. All good things. They live in Minnesota, so I don’t get to see a lot of them, but we do use technology to keep in touch. I will say that having the grandkids around for a week was fun, but they sure as hell could wear me out most days – but it was still fun! 🙂
With all the stuff that was going on with Phil’s estate and looking at the amount of work ahead of us to clean, fix, and maintain properties in New Hampshire, helping SD2 with the maintenance of her house which was up for sale, in addition to keeping things reasonable at home. We decided that I needed to resign from my job at UCLS to focus on our personal lives and taking care of one another. His death had left a big void in both of our lives and definitely made us look at things very differently and changed our perspective and priorities.
So on June 30th, I left UCLS and retired again.
Thank you to everyone at UMA, who I was lucky enough to work with over the last two years. Heidi and Brenda you are both amazing people to work for and with – it was a pleasure. Helene, your photo is not here, but you kept me sane and/or at least gave me someone to whine to about things we had no control over. 🙂
Looking back with 20/20 hindsight retiring again was the correct choice and honestly the only choice that made sense.
During October, SD2 was finally able to sell her house. So in addition to our Lancaster stuff, we had to help prepare for that. It was just another thing that added to the general stress level around the house as we needed to get things done there as well. It was something we had all been waiting for, so it was a good thing. However, the garage looks a LOT fuller, with most of her stuff in there for storage. Going from a house to a 1 bedroom apartment means a lot of stuff doesn’t fit and needed a place to be kept – our garage.
I foresee completely taking everything out of the garage at some point next summer and not a lot of “stuff” will go back in.
We did take in Phil’s cat Jeremiah, after things settled down a bit in July. At first, we wondered if we had done the correct thing or not and had wounds to prove it. However, after a while things settled down and Jeremiah became a part of our family. Unfortunately, he had too many other medical issues and died in August. Which caused another flood of emotions, but we gave him a good home for the time he was with us.
Back to Running
This was the year that I turned 60 in August, a pretty big milestone in my opinion and at the start of 2017 I had some secret goals in mind for once I had that 60th birthday. Like running in several races to see how a newly minted age grouper could do, compared to that 50-year-old guy I had been.
Unfortunately, I only raced twice in 2017 and haven’t ran in a race yet as a 60-year- old.
My head and heart were just not into it after June and before that my body was betraying me.
I will run in a few more races next year – that I already know.
However, I continued to use running to keep me grounded and my head reasonably clear during the summer. Despite the aches and pains that were accumulating – I needed to run.
Unfortunately, the number of small niggles kept progressing to being more than little bothers. Yeah, I think working on the house and camp took its toll on my old body too, my days as a carpenter and general laborer are well behind me. When you added in so many 3 hour trips driving over or back from Lancaster, everything finally caught up with me.
After working at Phil’s house for over a week at the end of August, into September, my body finally started to really break down. During last part of September into October, I didn’t run much at all and figured that I needed to make some changes with my running if I wanted to keep running going forward.
That and eating more at McDonalds in the last six months than I probably have in the last 17 years. Not a diet change I recommend to anyone, but it was the most convenient way to get a quick meal and the timing was right for those necessary bathroom breaks, while doing a LOT of travelling
Cha Cha Changes
The biggest change is that I no longer run with Bennie.
It sucks, because we both love running together. Unfortunately for me, Bennie loves to run fast (a lot faster than I can run), which I found was one of the causes for me always having a niggle here or there.
Stop and think what doing speed work (Intervals) would do to your body, plus a spastic dog constantly pulling on a padded belt around your waist – wanting to go faster or suddenly stopping for whatever reason. What if you did them almost every day for months on end. My body couldn’t keep doing it. The final straw came in September when he zigged and I didn’t, which result in me hurting my right hip. That was the thing that finally shut me down from running for quite a while.
So no more running with Bean, now we just do lots of walking together. I think he is fine with it, because very seldom does he even try to run. Although, I know with that big heart of his, he would if I asked him to.
Also my running form has sucked for years and I needed to really look at things I could do to improve my running form/efficiency/technique. I remembered back in 2012 getting the Chi Running book for Christmas and reading it. Back then I attempted to use the program half-heartedly for a month or so and then moved on. However, I did remember some things from the book and after looking a few other running improvement programs over, decided to go with it.
I will not say that the Chi Running program “fixed” me or that running suddenly became effortless. It did not.
However, I have a feeling that my feeling better physically about my running has more to do with not running with Bennie than any improvement in my form or mechanics (which have improved, but not as drastically as the end results would lead you to believe), though I do believe it has helped me focus more on what I should be doing. Now to just do it more consistently.
While most of my Chi Running experiences have been positive, I have feeling that some things won’t make the final cut and will not be a part of Harold’s running going forward. It is more a one size fits all program and there are some things that don’t fit the direction I want to go. However, I would recommend that any runner who has a lot of injuries give it a go and see how it works for them.
No end of year summary would be complete without me talking about running shoes. What else is new, I ran in too damn many, at least 24 pair of running shoes.
My running shoe of the year was a total surprise.
…the Newton Kismet 2.
I got them as a lark from LeftLane Sports (at a price I couldn’t resist) and when I tried them on, they just felt “right”. After that I didn’t want to wear much of anything else and for almost 2 months they were just about the only shoes I wore (for running or anything else that didn’t involve yard work). They were that comfortable.
However, like all good things, they were starting to show wear after being worn like that and I had to include a few more shoes in the rotation to keep them going for a while longer.
As I end the year my running shoe rotation looks a lot like this:
• Newton Kismet 2 – Wear them for most everything and if I am unsure of what to wear on a run, these find their way to my feet.
• Newton Gravity 5 – It took a little to get used to the POP1 versus POP2 and they are getting to be pretty comfortable, I will be using them for most of my outside runs, when I get to run outside.
• Newton Gravity 3 – I have added them to the rotation as my primary treadmill shoes. I have a feeling they will also be my race day running shoes of choice, when I start racing again (if the roads are clear). Shhhhhh after 2 runs in the Gravity 3, I ordered another pair with the Amazon gift cards I got for Christmas – yeah, I liked them that much. I will put them up in the closet and bring them out after the 5’s give up the ghost.
• Under Armour Speed Tire Ascent – Great so far for crappy weather walking and wearing, that double as my hiking shoes. I have a feeling that they will be getting some run time too as the weather turns nastier and down-back gets even worse than it is now.
We got rid of the Maxima, it was starting to show its age and after a long excursion down towards Rockland, I kind of figured out that it was time for it to find a new home. Mary and I had been sort of talking about looking a conversion van or something that we could use as a daily driver and still quickly convert it for use as a camper.
On a lark one evening we stopped at the local Ford dealership and after going into sticker shock and talking about what we really wanted from our next vehicle. We looked at a bunch of SUV’s, that just didn’t seem right, when saw the Ford Transit, we were intrigued. In the end we bought a new to us 2013 Ford Transit Connect, which is a front-wheel drive, pretty versatile, but smaller van.
No, we are not whacked in the head and we both like the looks (it is different), but we talked a lot during those many 3 hours trips to or from Lancaster. Next year we want to travel a bit, see some of the Country that we have not seen before. The Transit has been named Clifford and is one of the easiest vehicles to find in a parking lot that I have ever had.
That was the big reason for getting the Transit, it has a little more room, it is comfortable to drive longer distances in, gets over 30 mpg on the highway and with a little work, we can make it suitable for sleeping in. So we will see how that goes. Traveling will take us out of our comfort zone by quite a bit – we are basically homebodies.
The Ford Ranger, just keeps on going with minor repairs being needed from time-to-time. I really do not know what we would have done without it this summer. It did a Yeoman’s duty in carrying us safely back and forth on so many trips to New Hampshire, especially in December when the weather was getting nastier on the other side of the mountain. It carried a lot “stuff” over the course of the summer/fall and made several trips to Camp on a road that is tough on any vehicle. Ford tough – yeah, I like my Ford Ranger.
Technology and how I use it has always been a big thing in my life. This year was no different.
I stuck with WordPress.com as my blog host of choice and changed the name to one that is pretty familiar, just not at this web address.
It fits who and what I am as a runner. So I have tried to keep things pretty simple here and it is my running log first and secondarily a life log/diary, so that I keep track of how I was feeling and what happen instead of having to rely on an often faulty memory. I can look back on that day and have my brain jogged about things that I thought were important enough to write about publicly, although a lot more probably did happen that I did not write about. My life is not that much of an open book for others to know everything that I do or think.
I have done good and stayed away from the third rail subjects by focusing more on what really happened in the life of an old fart versus, what he thinks of the topics that seem to be on everyone’s mind. My blog is my small contribution to the online pollution/proliferation of fact, fiction and fake news. 😉 Sometimes people need to read something other than my way or the highway shit.
Also in the spring after one more unwanted shut down, while I was in the middle of a small project by Windows 10, I decided to completely move away from the Windows Operating System. It isn’t that bad and I have used it since the original Windows 1.0. However, there were some privacy issues that concerned me about Win10 and the way the machine would take over and do its thing at times that were less than ideal had pissed me off more than a few times.
I had been playing around with dual-booting a few different Linux Distros and that afternoon – after Windows finally finished updating, I cleared my ASUS laptop of everything Windows. It was a rather drastic solution, but one that had been coming for a while. Over the course of the summer and fall, I played around with, learned a lot about Linux, tried multiple distros to see which one fit me the best.
I kept coming back to the Elementary Linux Distribution and it was eerily similar to how Apple’s MacOS from earlier days had functioned. I liked how it did things, but I got tired of having to play around in the Command Line to get things that I wanted to do – done.
One thing that I did learn was that if you are willing to put a little time and effort into many of the Linux distros, they work quite nicely and will do most everything you want right from the start. Also if you want to customize or change stuff around, there are guides and a very helpful community out there to give you all the assistance you need to get you to where you want to be.
However, in October my ASUS was starting to act up and I had a feeling that at some point (sooner than later), it was going to stop working. So I started thinking about a replacement and what I really needed from my primary computer now that I was retired and not wedded to any particular software or hardware requirements at work. When I was working, I preferred to have my primary computer be similar to what I use at work, just for the familiarity factor.
About the same time for various reasons, I switched back to the iPhone (my third go-round with IOS) from my Android smart phone. I liked many of the changes that had occurred in IOS and decided after a lot of thinking, reflecting and researching, I thought that moving to an iPad Pro 10.5 seemed like the best solution to my technology needs – as long as it had a keyboard that I could attach. I asked for one for Christmas and my wonderful wife obliged.
It just so happened that the ASUS finally went “pop” at the breakfast table one morning and I couldn’t coax it back to life – one more time. So I had to open my Christmas gift a bit early (the empty boxes were wrapped as a reminder that it was supposed to be a Christmas present) and have been using the iPad Pro 10.5 since as my primary and most of the time only computer.
I have been very pleased with the performance, ease of use, interoperability with my iPhone 7. I was very surprised at how quickly I acclimated to no mouse or trackpad, both things that I thought were indispensable parts of my computing experience. They are not.
At this point I don’t see me going back to a “real” laptop computer. The iPad Pro 10.5 does everything that I really want to do and does it well, plus it is a perfect complement to my iPhone 7 – they work well together. I have come to love the flexibility of the detachable keyboard and being able to just use the iPad for reading or watching something on it, without the keyboard getting in the way.
I can see me moving more and more into the Apple silo, if they keep improving IOS to where the devices that use it, are not seen as auxiliary devices, but as independent computers that are powerful in their own right.
Change is just the way it is in the world of technology and I am an inveterate tinkerer who loves to try new things, sometimes just to stay current, but this time it was to see if something works just a little better for me. I have a feeling that I have found something good in Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5.
The reality is that
The first part of 2017 was pretty routine, I was working at UMA, enjoying things for the most part and then when Phil died, life as we knew it changed.
Re-retiring at the end of June was the only real option, because I would not have been able to give UCLS/UMA the attention to detail, focus or personality that working there required. At some point during the summer I would probably have had a bad moment, had words with someone and walked away under less than cordial circumstances. So leaving when I did, was the right thing to do. I left on a high note.
I know that I wasn’t the same person by the end of the summer that I was at the start of June.
Looking at your own mortality changes what you think is important. I do believe that I now have a lot less tolerance or patience for stupid is as stupid does and really don’t much care what others think of me and how I chose to do things. Which at times probably ain’t the best thing in the workplace where patience and some deference is a necessity. As a retiree, it is almost expected, so I seem to fit that stereotype a bit better than I did the last time I retired.
From June to December we spent a lot of time in New Hampshire making at least a trip a week over there to work on the house and/or camp. The people in the area were for the most part pretty fantastic and helped us, do more than we would have been able to do on our own. We seriously considered moving there…it seemed in the short time that we were there that we had begun friendships with more people there, than we had here in Maine.
Phil’s house was a great little house and we both loved many of its features, but in the end, we decided that it would create too many other issues and that it would be better to stay in Maine and sell the properties in New Hampshire.
Running has gotten better than it has been in a long time and I am hopeful that next year is going to be the best year of running in a while. Especially, since it seems that I have solved some of my wandering eyes for new running shoes and am focusing more on running more efficiently than I have in the past.
There is a lot left out, because…well you all don’t need to hear or know everything there is to know about me and my personal life. Plus, I didn’t want to make this any longer than it already is – that small book thing. So 2017 was quite a year and a LOT happened.
Yeah, this was the year of moving outside of my comfort zone and re-looking at what I want from life, in whatever amount of time I have left. Hopefully, Mary and I both have long and fulfilling lives ahead of us, but as we learned this summer with Phil, you never know.
Yes, I plan to live the life l have well, with the love of my life.
Yeah, you too Bennie 😉
Here is to 2018 and may it be a great year in the life.