Take Care, Jim

Well, the past few weeks have been eventful in the RBT family. Some things have been happy and some very sad, and some big decisions have been made in both the personal and athletic arenas. I promise to share it all here, and boy, there’s plenty to share. But I’m going to begin with a personal subject.

Last week my father-in-law, Jim Hoxie, passed away at the age of 88.

Jim and Sally Hoxie with their family on their 50th anniversary cruise.

We knew it was coming but it happened sooner than we expected, so we were knocked for a bit of a loop for a few days. Now that we’re settling back into routine, it’s time for me to pay a well-deserved tribute to this wonderful man and what he taught me.

I met Jim back in the Dark Ages (1980) when I was a University of Michigan student and dating his daughter. He was a bit intimidating at first, standing six-foot-seven with large hands and a very strong handshake. This was not a guy you wanted to fool around with, and indeed he didn’t suffer fools gladly. But we got along right away, and during the next 37 years I don’t recall a single unpleasant incident.

Jim spent his entire career as an engineer with Chrysler Corporation, where my wife and her sister now work as well. He expressed what have been called Midwestern values: hard work, dedication to family, and treating people straight up and fairly. He passed those values to his children and grandchildren. My daughter wrote on Facebook about how he taught her to be “tough” by, for example, giving no mercy in card games, forcing her to improve until she was good enough to beat him (and everyone else by then, too. I still bear the scars).

But Jim and his wife Sally were (and are) also kind and generous. When we went out to eat, he would always offer to cover the bill, even if it was his own birthday dinner. I had to learn to “beat him to the draw” which once led me to actually throw my credit card at the waiter approaching with the check. He and Sally also loaned us a lot of money so we could buy our house when we were still establishing our financial independence. I like to believe I’ve become more generous as a result of their example.

He was generous with his time as well, particularly enjoying taking the grandchildren to Greenfield Village and playing bridge with us. And if someone needed help moving, as we did when we bought our house, you could count on him being there from start to finish. His dependability resonated with me, as I also try hard to be responsible and dependable, especially when I’m volunteering or providing a service to someone.

This is not to say we agreed on everything. Jim’s outlook was strongly conservative, and I have socially liberal leanings. This resulted in some animated discussions, in which, perhaps, our voices were raised a little. My wife and mother-in-law sometimes worried we’d actually start fighting, but our arguments were never personal. Without fail, at the end of a visit we’d shake hands and he’d say, “Take care.”

When we visited Jim and Sally over the holidays, it was clear he was getting weaker and had at most a few months. But he wasted no time with self-pity, instead staying interested in what his family was doing. He asked me if I was still running and what races I had coming up. And we had one final political discussion regarding the Trump tax cuts and public education.

“I’ve been maybe a little too conservative,” he said with a smile.

“We’ve had our differences of opinion,” I replied, “but it’s never affected our respect and affection for each other.” (Why can’t all political discussions be like this.)

He nodded. “You’ve been a good son-in-law,” he said. It was among the last words he said to me.

May I be as selfless and gracious when it’s my turn.

Goodbye, Jim. And wherever you are, take care.


Plan for 2018: Keep Moving, Keep Improving

It’s 2018, and as usual, I have no New Year’s resolutions. More accurately, I’m not changing anything I’m doing just because it’s a new year.

Yet while I’m not a fan of artificial “resolutions,” I am a strong believer in continually improving myself and the world around me. I try to live in that spirit every day, and I also set goals and then train and work to achieve them. Having a purpose, and something to look forward to, helps me focus on what’s important in my life and spend my time and energy there, as opposed to just ‘running in place,’ as it were.

And because I like to balance repeating favorite activities with trying out new things, 2018 will be similar to years past but with some twists and even leaps out of the ol’ comfort zone. And I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Here are some things I plan to keep right on doing:

Running. No surprise here, I hope. After ten years it’s become a part of how I define myself. In addition to keeping me healthy and fit, I use running to step away from the everyday noise and restore a sense of perspective. Whether it’s concentrating on a training assignment or easy coasting for a couple of hours, it’s a great way to clear the mind of mundane chatter. And I’ll continue to compete in races, too. In an upcoming post I’ll share what I have planned so far this year. (Hint: they’re not getting easier!)

Here’s a hint. (Photo courtesy of the Vote Charlie blog).

Supporting sustainability. I don’t talk much about my Zero Waste business on this blog, but Happy Planet Running had a terrific first year. In 2017 I worked 30 events and helped divert over seven tons of waste away from the landfill into more productive use as compost or recycled materials. And at every event I get thanks and compliments from the runners. It’s a passion of mine and a true labor of love.

2017 Firecracker 5K – holding the total trash with two fingers.

Lifestyle makeover. Last year we got a serious start on long-overdue updates to the house, getting rid of stuff we don’t need, and re-evaluating our diet. A sustainable lifestyle isn’t just about recycling; it’s all about reducing our imprint on the environment while improving quality of life. Some of this I’ve posted here, and I’ll continue to do so.

Little indulgences. Coffee and chocolate in particular are two of life’s little pleasures that I will happily continue to cultivate. Any changes to diet are not going to include reduction in either. Moderation? Save that for other things. Life is for living, after all!

Enjoying the good life in Richmond visiting my daughter.

And in the spirit of balance, here are a few things, popular as they may be at present, that I firmly intend never to do:

Cold showers. Yeah, I get that they are stimulating, help the body recover, blah blah. You know what I hate worse than being cold? Being wet AND cold. When I’m done with a workout, even a race in the summer, when I get under the shower, I want it hot. I’ll happily stick my feet into a cold lake after an ultra, but the rest of me is just fine being warm and dry, thank you.

From one of my few triathlons. The swim part was as much fun as it looks.

Faddish foods for runners. Raw eggs? Nope. Green smoothies? Looks like something from a primeval swamp. And even coffee isn’t exempt from questionable shit being added to it. The latest? So-called “bulletproof coffee,” which is perfectly good coffee with butter and coconut oil dumped into it. If I want saturated fat with my coffee, I’ll dust some bacon with espresso powder. Hey, that actually sounds good. I could start a whole new trend.

Give up on humanity. Given our current political environment, it’s hard not to get cynical about our leaders and our society in general. Sure, I don’t like a lot of what’s going on. But to me that’s an incentive to me to get more active and work for a world I want to live in, and not stand by and let other people make those decisions. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can change a little part of it and help it grow.

So I’m looking forward to a healthy and positive year, and while there are no guarantees, I’ll be doing my best to make it so. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go join my club for the Saturday long run. Happy New Year!


Postscript: I finished this post before my club run, but am publishing it afterward. It was ten miles at 10 degrees. But with coffee and chocolate afterward, life is good. (It was good during the run, too, but you know.)

Happy Holidays!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my readers and friends from me and my family. A morning of gifts, a great brunch, and a run – that’s a great day in my book!

Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy holiday.

Lifestyle Makeover: A Runner’s Dietary Analysis

My eating habits have improved since I started running, but exceptions remain. I have a fondness for pastries, and no desire to curb my enthusiasm for dark chocolate. But I can pass up fast food, white bread, and sweets of lesser quality without a qualm.

My “willpower” amazes people at times.

“What are you worried about?” they ask me. “You run so much, you’ll burn it all off anyway.”

Runners hear this a lot. There’s an element of truth in it, but it’s not the entire story. Sure, I burn a lot of calories. But the quality of those calories is just as important as the quantity.

Case in point: the photo below shows what we ate at a D&D session recently.


I can indulge on occasion but not regularly, even if I ran marathons three times a week. Food like this is dense in calories but low in nutrients. So most of what I eat is high quality, with lots of fiber and micronutrients.

Yet I wanted to know if I couldn’t do even better. Was I lacking some key vitamins or minerals I needed as a distance runner? And was I taking in enough to maintain weight without losing muscle? So when my wife signed up with a local nutritionist, I signed up too.

The results were surprising.

We began by discussing my goals and training. The nutritionist is familiar with runners and with my gym (Body Specs), so she understood the type and intensity of my physical activities. Then she gave me a food diary to fill out for three days. Everything I ate and drank, the precise amounts, and the date/time of consuming it. Oh, joy.

The three days included a D&D gaming session, but I figured it would balance out since another day was a Saturday long run. Except it was a home football game, and one of our club runners has a tailgating station. I indulged in what I liked but restrained my portions, helped in part because I’m not usually hungry after a long run.

The carrot balances out the nutrition, you see.

I turned in the food log, figuring that was that. Not quite; she asked me for more information. A sample:

On Thursday can you let me know how much cereal you had. 2.5 cups? How many pecans, and about how much milk and type? What brand of pumpkin ginger bar? On Friday what type of breakfast muffin was that?

This was going to be more detailed than I expected! I provided what I could, including a recipe for the muffin (Morning Glory) I found online I hoped was close enough.

Here are the highlights of her analysis. First, the quantity:

  1. I need an average of about 3,100 calories per day to maintain body weight. This was higher than I’d expected. According to the USDA, an active 55-year old male needs 2,800 calories per day. I must be “super active” then.
  2.  My average intake? About 3,100 calories per day. So without any scientific dietary plan or calorie counting, I’m covering my caloric needs exactly.

This explains why my weight remains consistent, varying only about five pounds from peak race season to recovery periods.

What about the quality of the calories? Going in, I was supplementing vitamin D, but also calcium/magnesium/zinc, figuring I might not be getting as much as I need. Here’s what she found, based on my food log:

Turns out I’m doing just fine with most nutrients. So what did she recommend I change? Not much, actually. Keep supplementing the vitamin D, and add fish oil to get more omega-3 fatty acids.

And as for the pastries and chocolate? Here she surprised me once more by telling me her “80/20” rule: We need to eat well, but also enjoy life. So make 80 percent of your diet high quality, and the remaining 20 percent can be treats.

No arguing with my nutritionist!

Coming up: I mentioned my wife also got a nutrition analysis. She’s okay with me sharing her results on this blog, so I’ll share it with you. Interesting similarities and contrasts. Stay tuned!