5K Challenge #4: 2.5 minutes faster despite (or because of?) racing with on-call phone

I thought about skipping Race No. 4 in the Adams County 5K Challenge, given that I was on call.

DSCN6792I took a new job recently with an agency that works with adults with intellectual disabilities, and it was my turn to be the person who handles off-hours crisis calls from the various supported-living homes we serve over a two-county area. I’d been up late the night before dealing with a situation at a home just a few blocks from Saturday’s race site, in fact.

But I knew I’d want to get in a run Saturday even if I didn’t do the race, and I’d need to carry the phone with me in either case, so I decided to head over to Decatur and take my chances. Worst case, if I got a call during the race, I’d just stop and walk while I handled it. And if the call came when I was plausibly within 15 minutes of the finish line, I could wait til then to return it, as we had a call-back window.

In the previous race I’d gone out too fast and been gassed at the end. This time, knowing I couldn’t take this race very seriously while being on-call, I tried to stay relaxed.

This was an out-and-back road course, which is inherently more boring than a Greenway race but also much easier to visualize. I picked out a couple of runners to keep in my sights, but didn’t obsess about staying with them.

“Just enjoy the run,” I kept telling myself. “Stay in the moment.” Needless to say, this was much easier than usual, knowing that a call could come at any time!

Starting the season woefully out of shape, I’d run the first the three races in this series around 36 minutes. So when I reached the turnaround, I felt fairly confident I was no more than 18 minutes from the finish line.

I was feeling really good, and I knew the way back would seem shorter  – it always does. I was still nice and relaxed, and as I made the turn onto the road that made up the bulk of the race, I was psyched to see that it appeared to have a slight downhill grade I hadn’t noticed earlier.

I picked up the pace, and that road disappeared in what felt like a hurry – compared with my first three races, at least. The voices of those who’d been running near me – a married couple and a mom and her son – got fainter and fainter.

The course ended at a church, and we had to take a lap around it to get to the finish line. When I came around the final turn I was pleasantly surprised to see the clock had just ticked past 33 minutes. I finished just under 33:30 – 2 ½ minutes faster than my previous race!

I’m still about 5 minutes over my 5K PR, but that’s OK. Progress is progress. And in this case, just getting the race in without getting derailed by a crisis call was a victory in itself!


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History intersects with new approach to health care at Walk with a Doc event


One of several restored structures from the 1830s-1870s located at the Forks of the Wabash on the edge of Huntington, Ind.

I’d driven by the Historic Forks of the Wabash many times over the years, on my way through Huntington to Wabash or Peru or West Lafayette, without ever once stopping to see what was there.

On Saturday, with a weekend off from the 5K Challenge, I decided to check out a “Walk With A Doc” program for an upcoming column. I wound up not only meeting some interesting people – potentially including my new doctor – but also discovered that our meeting spot was the site of several treaty signings in the 1830s and where, in 1846, 346 Native Americans were loaded onto canal boats for a forced uprooting to Kansas.

Several historic structures, including Miami Chief Jean Baptiste Richardville’s 1834 Council House, have been restored on the grounds, which include 1.5 miles of paved trails. As a group of about 15 of us walked along the Wabash, down and back both ways, we watched a crew building a bridge that will connect this trail to another one that leads to an island across the way. (I didn’t catch its name; that will have to wait until a return visit).

Our host for this walk was Dr. Janelle Maxwell, who runs Cardinal Family Medicine with her husband, Dr. Matt Pflieger, who was out of town on a “running vacation” with friends. They got involved with the Walk With a Doc program while practicing medicine in Denver for 10 years before returning to Dr. Matt’s hometown to set up a direct primary care practice.


Dr. Janelle and her son Eli, 7, who found a painted rock left along the trail as part of the “Huntington Rocks” project on Facebook.

She was funny and friendly and led a brief discussion on the health benefits of gardening before starting the walk. Anyone who answered a question or made a comment got to choose a packet of seeds.

I imagined a Walk with a Doc would draw mostly hypochondriacs brimming with medical concerns real and imagined. But several people I talked to said they were here in support of their doctors, who have a much more personal approach than most. When was the last time your doctor responded to your text, for instance? Or better yet, texted you, just to check in to see how you were doing with a current health issue?

“They do a lot of things to help us lose weight and be healthy,” said Pam Pranger, who attends a weight loss class run by Dr. Janelle. “I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I’m going to lose another 10.”

I’d never heard of director primary care, but apparently it involves paying a fixed monthly fee that covers most services the doctors provide. You can learn more about how that works here. I haven’t really looked into it yet, but the people I spoke to at the walk were big fans of the program.


Eli escorted Pam Pranger on the final leg of the walk. It was her first walk, but she said her goal was to “be able to keep up by the end of the summer.” After that, she wants to work up to joining her cousins on walking marathons. 

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5K challenge: Exploring new terrain in familiar territory

DSCN6707Though I grew up in and currently live in Wells County, Indiana, I’ve always felt like I knew neighboring Adams County pretty well. My parents worked there, my grandparents lived there, and I’ve interviewed a fair number of Adams County residents over the years.

Yet three races into the Adams County 5K Challenge, I’ve found myself exploring new terrain each week. Saturday was the first time I’ve ever been on, much less noticed, Decatur’s Rivergreenway despite having been to that town literally hundreds of times in the past.

The Greenway in Bluffton where I’ve done a lot of my running is fairly straight and flat, with the Wabash River on one side and River Road on the other. It’s right out in the open. But the section of the Decatur Greenway that we ran Saturday was more secluded. It was also more challenging, more of a rolling course with a couple of short but steep switchbacks that I wasn’t expecting at all, given that Decatur itself seems fairly flat.

I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t improve my time this week – in fact, weirdly, I ran the same exact time as last week, down to the second: 35:57. But this race was more of a struggle, probably because I started out too fast but also because I couldn’t visualize the course. There’d been no map posted. Even in a short race like a 5K, it’s nice to know if you’re going out and back or following a twisty loop or whatever.

There are two weeks til the next race, so I’m hoping to start boosting my mileage and throw in a couple of interval workouts to see if I can’t start getting my time down.

I’ll also be curious what I’ll get to explore next time. Race #4 will be the third one in Decatur (though ultimately four towns are participating), but thus far each course has been different and I think that will be the case next time as well. (Whereas it sometimes seems like Wells County races almost always take place on the exact same course.)

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A minute faster in 5K Challenge race #2

DSCN6705A friend talked me into attending a 6 a.m. Boot Camp class Friday. After all those burpees, jump squats and walkout pushups, I could barely move the next day – and I had an extremely drippy cold to boot. Nonetheless, I managed to cut a full minute off my time in the second race of the Adams County 5K Challenge, the St. Joe HASA fun run in Decatur.

I wasn’t doing any celebratory cartwheels afterward, in part because of that nasty cold but mostly because I’m still ridiculously slow: 35:57 is more than 7 minutes off my best 5K time.

Still, progress is progress. I’ll take it, for now, along with the vastly improved weather at this week’s race.



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Running reboot: Starting over with a 5K Challenge series


I didn’t take any pics in the rain, so this bear on the logo will have to suffice.

There was a time when I didn’t much bother with 5Ks. But coming off a year of injuries, followed by a winter during which I essentially started working two jobs, I’ve been barely running at all. Given all my frustration, the Adams County 5K Challenge seemed like a low-pressure way to ease back into racing again. You fill out one form, write one check and suddenly you’re automatically registered for 13 races.

It remains to be seen how many I make it to, or whether I can actually get back to being competitive in my age group again. But if nothing else, I thought it would be fun to “run with the herd” again.  

As it turned out, the rainy conditions made for a pretty small group at Saturday’s Swiss Village 5K in Berne. We were so spread out, there wasn’t much opportunity to lock onto another runner’s back with my eyeballs and try to reel them in.

I was running without a watch as usual, so I had no idea what my pace was. I told myself my time didn’t matter, that I was just getting a baseline to beat next time out. As I came around the bend toward the finish, I saw that the clock read 36-something. And suddenly it seemed really important that I cross that finish line before it got to 37, because I remembered that back in 2010, when I was about ¾ of the way through my weight loss, I’d run a 5K in 36-something.

I made it, but just barely: 36:57, an 11:55 pace. Nowhere to go but up from there. Luckily I’ve got 12 more races in which to improve.

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Poop donation: The ultimate fitness status symbol?


presidents physical fitness award

I remember being really proud of earning one of these patches back in junior high gym class. 

When I was a kid, you could earn an impressive-looking patch called the President’s Physical Fitness Award for performing well in a series of running and calisthenic challenges.


Decades later, those life insurance ads that offer special rates if you can run a mile in so many minutes or bike a certain number of miles per week offer a similar type of status symbol for fitness fanatics.

But these days the ultimate badge of good health may well be this: Do you have what it takes to be a poop donor?

Apparently this has been a thing for a few years now, but I’d never heard of it until the topic came up while Colleen was job shadowing a microbiologist at Manchester University a couple of weeks ago.  The students in the professor’s class had been discussing the use of fecal transplants to cure a potentially fatal bacterial infection called Clostridium difficile. This is currently the only FDA approved use of fecal transplants, but there are clinical studies all over the world investigating the procedure to treat everything from arthritis to obesity.

The fecal matter for all those procedures must be thoroughly prescreened. Your BMI matters, as does your diet. They don’t want to be injecting any bad microbes into someone’s colon. At OpenBiome, the nation’s largest supplier of frozen stool specimens for FMT, the joke is that it’s harder to pass the poop donor screening process than it is to get into MIT.

OpenBiome pays pretty well – up to $250 a week for frequent donors, though you must live near the Boston area to participate.

If FMT wins approval for treating other conditions, maybe poop donation centers will become as common as plasma donation sites. If so, they ought to give out bumper stickers. Because being that healthy – and being in a position to pass your good health on to someone else – seems like something to be truly proud of.


Colleen in the microbiology lab at Manchester University with Professor Rachel Polando. 




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How TV weather man lost 110 pounds

“When you’re heavy, you just don’t realize how awful you feel.”

– Greg Shoup, WANE-TV meteorologist, on his 110-pound weight loss.

greg shoup thin

Bob and I went to the local Soil and Water Conservation District dinner in February to hear longtime Fort Wayne TV weatherman Greg Shoup give what was purported to be a behind-the-scenes look at how the weather forecast is put together. Having spoken to him earlier for an article he was writing, Bob knew Shoup had an ulterior motive: He wanted to discuss climate change with local farmers. 

Watching Shoup in person, after having seen him on TV for nearly 30 years, I developed an ulterior motive of my own: Finding out how the heck had he lost so much weight. The guy in the body-hugging suit and the designer glasses at that dinner looked nothing like the beefy meteorologist I remembered from the tube.


At 6’2″ and 331 pounds, the old Greg Shoup resembled a retired NFL lineman. 

Because Shoup was having some serious difficulty moving around the stage that night, I wasn’t entirely sure his weight loss wasn’t related to some kind of illness. Turns out he has congenital arthritis. But, as I discovered when I later met up with Shoup at Catalyst Fitness on Getz Road, he doesn’t let that stop him from working out every afternoon after the midday broadcast.

Shoup cut sugar and calories to lose the weight over about 14 months; the workouts came afterward, when his doctor worried he was losing muscle along with the fat.

As he tells viewers — who these days ask him about his weight loss even more than they ask him about the upcoming forecast — “There is no secret” to his success other than dedication and hard work.

Though his tastes have changed now, he still has to be pretty careful about what he eats. These days, he tries to view food purely as fuel and not get caught up in eating for pleasure or entertainment.

He’s come to love his workouts, though.

“I like to call this my ‘hour of power,'” he said. 


Shoup follows up a cardio session on the elliptical with a series of exercises on the weight machines at Catalyst Fitness on Getz Road in Fort Wayne. 


To read more about Shoup’s weight loss, including a short video, check out today’s column at news-sentinel.com. To read about what Shoup told Wells County farmers about climate change, check out Bob’s story for inputfortwayne.com. And to see more about Shoup delivering the weather, go to wane.com.


Greg Shoup answering questions after the February dinner in Bluffton where he spoke to local farmers about climate change. Amusingly, the people in this photo that ran with Bob’s article just happen to be my great uncle and aunt, Ken and Carolyne Isch.

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A run along the Charleston waterfront

Image-1 (1)Finally, after wanting to do it for two years, I got to run along the waterfront in Charleston.

Every time we’ve visited my daughter down here I think I’m going to make time to do it, but it never seems to work out. It’s a bit of a production to get downtown from her suburban apartment in Summerville, and so usually we have other plans that don’t fit well with getting sweaty and needing to change clothes. (As far as I’m concerned, touring a city by running it makes perfect sense, but I can never get anybody else on board for that.)

This weekend was perfect because it was fairly cool, around 50 degrees. We’d gone to brunch (where I had chicken and waffles for the first time), and then a funky farmer’s market featuring live music, and then just walked around the waterfront for a while, gawking at the people and the dolphins and this enormous cruise ship that was pulled up to the dock. (You can’t tell in the picture, but the people on the upper deck were up so high they were just tiny specks from our vantage point.)

I’d conveniently worn a Nike sweatsuit for the day’s activities, and when it came time to retrieve the car from Battery Park, I volunteered to run on ahead and get it to save everyone time. So it really wasn’t much of a run, only around a mile. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Our new Sunday workout: The ‘wall ball shuffle’


My sister Traci saw this killer core workout at a tennis coaches’ seminar in Indianapolis a few weeks ago. Naturally she felt compelled to buy an oversized medicine ball of her own, and now our Sunday dinners at my parents’ house are invariably preceded by a couple sets of the “wall ball shuffle.”

It’s pretty simple: Basically, the person doing the workout shuffles back and forth, catching the heavy ball and tossing it back. It’s way more grueling than it appears; we set the timer for 30 seconds and we’re always glad when it goes off. The ball tosser gets fairly gassed as well, so we usually rotate through and take a turn at both spots. (To see the video version of Traci and Madison doing this workout, click here.)


Madison rotates into the ball tosser spot and Colleen takes a turn as the “shuffler.” . 

Traci got her ball at Dick’s Sporting Goods for around $70; you can get them on Amazon in a variety of sizes and a pretty huge price range – up to 150 pounds for just under $500!





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A visit with my favorite fitness guru


Interviewing Bonny Damocles at his home in Midland, Mich., earlier this month. On the fireplace mantel are photos of his youngest son and “guardian angel,” Arnold, who died in 1999 of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Of all the diet and fitness folks I’ve consulted in seven years of doing this blog, the one who inspires me most is an 82-year-old diabetic chess addict who’s never run a race or joined a gym.

Bonaparte C. Damocles doesn’t  own any fitness equipment, not even hand weights. He doesn’t walk or jog around his neighborhood. In fact, he rarely leaves his home.

But the man who may hold the world’s record for reversing type 2 diabetes (nearly 27 years, using only diet and exercise, no meds) believes he’s found the optimal exercise formula for human health — and it’s much simpler than most people realize.

Like Tim Ferriss, the best-selling hero of the human potential movement, Bonny experiments on himself. Though Ferriss’ ideas are more exciting, Bonny’s philosophy ultimately resonates more with me because of his focus on frugality and simplicity; you don’t need money or connections to follow his lead. After a recent visit in Midland, Mich., I came away feeling inspired on all kinds of levels – not just new ways to tweak my own diet/fitness plan, but a renewed determination to see the positive side of the most challenging situations. Because nothing I’ve had to deal with comes close to the trials this Filipino immigrant has endured throughout his life.

Bonny controls both his weight and his blood sugar by keeping one simple principle in mind: Exercise is medicine. And the right dosage for him is 15 minutes four times a day.

He used to run the stairs in his home; I’ve written before about how my attempts to replicate his workout left me gassed. He’s since discovered that simpler, easier sessions work nearly as well, so he now mixes in power walking around his house and jogging in place on a mat in his kitchen to his workout routine.

For a look at Bonny’s unique style of power walking, check out this video on the new Type 2 Diabetes Pioneer Youtube channel . And for more on Bonny’s inspirational story of overcoming challenges – from enduring starvation as a child during the Japanese occupation of Manila during World War II to coping with losing his youngest son to Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy – check out my book   Type 2 Diabetes Pioneer  ($8.78) on Amazon.


Always re-evaluating his best practices for good health, Bonny recently took up drinking coffee for the first time in his life at age 82 because he’d read enough to finally be convinced that one cup a day provided some positive effects. At breakfast at Bob Evans, he ordered a veggie omelet and told us how his wedding to Nemia, left, was delayed by flooding in Manila on June 2, 1958, that had him taking a roundabout route to her house — only to discover that she had done the same thing trying to get to his house. They will celebrate their 60th anniversary this year.

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