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I spend a lot of time on Twitter.  Possibly, I spend too much time there.  I’ve always viewed Twitter as a good social media platform for writers because it forces you to be precise and succinct about your words.  When you only have (had) 140 characters in which to say something, it drives you to think.  Lamentably, doubling the number of characters and adding features to help you write longer threads isn’t helping that Twitter virtue.

Lately, Twitter has become a virtual ideological and political battleground.  The right and the left spend lots of time behind their virtual defenses lobbing word and meme bombs across the DMZ inhabited by those in the center and the ones just there for dog posts.  And, so do I.

My primary issue that I support on Twitter is defense of the 2nd amendment.  I got into doing this just by listening to what others were saying and then responding when I thought there was a myth to dispel or another person that could use some support.

However, beyond gun rights, I’m pretty liberal in many respects, kind of a conservative liberal.  I don’t like the GOP because it seems to care little for the middle class.  Continuing to practice Reagan’s trickle-down economics is foolish (yet, Reagan was a favorite President).  I would prefer systems that care for everyone at every level of the economic strata (i.e. Universal Basic Income, National Healthcare, immigration work visas, etc.).  Add on to that the GOP’s penchance for legislating morality is ridiculous.

Yet, when I talk to a lot of people on Twitter, I find two different types of people that aren’t like me, but I still follow them.  Some are the MAGA Trump followers that say something really good about gun rights. Some are very liberal gun control folks that debate well and do so respectfully.

Do I agree with the MAGA folks?  Certainly not in many areas.  I dislike Trump.  I dislike his character and yes, his character and his behavior as a President go hand in hand.  Can’t have one without the other.  I will agree he has done very well on the foreign policy front, but I think his domestic policies just suck.

However, when I look at the profiles of many of the MAGA folks that I do follow, I find just very good down to earth people.  Many of them are new to social media, like me.  Many of them do not have millions (or even thousands) of followers.  So, by following them, I generally hear a good voice and I can support another person’s use of social media.

Do I agree with the very liberal liberals?  Certainly not in many areas.  While I want an immigration system that allows poor people from other countries to come to the US to work and build a better life, I don’t want them to do so illegally.  While I support a woman’s right to choose, I find the use of abortion as a birth control measure to be abhorrent.  It is OK for you to choose to be gay or transgender (many of whom are dealing with biology, not choices); yet, pushing measures to force me to abandon my beliefs in favor of yours doesn’t win me over.  Yet, when I find a liberal person, more liberal than myself, that can debate responsibly and respectfully, I consider it respectful to listen.

And, just a caveat to those that say many of things I would advocate for can’t be done, or are socialist, or communist; I just say bullshit.  We may have many obstacles in the way of accomplishing these things to establish the country we should be, but we can overcome obstacles.  Obstacles are easy.  Ordering your mind is hard.

We do ourselves a great (and grave) disservice if we listen only to those that are mimics of what we believe already.  By not listening to opposing voices we overlook the possiblity of discovering the idea that will make something work.  No. I don’t give an inch on my beliefs with others and I’m very outspoken about what those are.  I just know I have to think about what I believe and check to see if it is still holding up to scrutiny (mine, not yours). There are lots of good voices out there on social media.  It is work to weed through the noisy voices to get to the ones of quality, but it is worth the effort.

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2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher's medal

2012 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon Finisher’s medal

Yep, here it is folks.  Another runner that I follow on Twitter posted this pic of the finisher’s medal for this year’s MetroPCS Dallas Marathon.  I finished my last long run yesterday for my training plan and only have a few short easy runs and some rest days before race day on December 9th.

In addition to getting ready for this race and thinking back over all the training I’ve done, I thought some this week about my cross-training.  After having several injuries mostly relating to over-used or inflamed muscles and tendons, I learned about cross-training.  Of course, as a cyclist, I was cross-training already, but since then, I’ve added in swimming as well.

My cross-training with running really helps with my muscles.  I can always tell after riding, spinning, or swimming how much looser my muscles feel.  This has to be good for my running and I think it has helped.  Along with remembering to stretch after long or hard runs, I haven’t (knock on wood) had any issues this year after my swimming injury healed.

I’m getting just a little bit excited to run come Sunday.  Now the really obsessive part of racing takes hold.  Checking on the weather every five minutes.  Pouring over the race map to visualize the race neighborhoods and where I’ll be at about what time.  Figuring out six days in advance what I’ll wear and need, then changing it several times. Fretting over meals and calorie counts.  If I forget anything to be obsessive about, please send me a comment and remind me.  I don’t want to miss even the smallest obsessive detail you know.

I pulled the marathon card on my algebra teacher this week.  I signed up to take college algebra this semester as I need more discipline hours in order to be able to teach on the college level someday.  Wouldn’t you know I’d pick math, right.  I have this saying, “Dave always has to do it the hard way.”  And, I’ve proven it with math.  I’ve really struggled this semester with this course, which shouldn’t be all that hard.  I took algebra in high school, right; thirty something years ago.  Mostly, I seem to have some kind of numerical dyslexia.  My difficulties are often in getting all the numbers written down without transposing something.  In any case, I spent all day yesterday doing two tests, and I do mean all day.  I’ve been close to giving up and withdrawing.  Instead, I sent my teacher an e-mail and told her I was a marathoner.  We don’t give up.  And, I wont’.  Might go down in flames, but I wont’ give up.

If you already have a follow for me on Twitter, I’ve set up tweets while I’m running next Sunday.  If you haven’t and if you’re really that bored for tweets on Sunday, I’m @abigmanrunning over there.  Strangely enough I do have followers on Twitter as well as here on WordPress.  I thank you for that.  I started writing this for practice, but I realize it’s writing and we do like for folks to actually read what we’ve written.  I found out how important that was this week when I helped out another writer.

Discovered a new app to use this week.  Another friend messaged me about using Strava for cycling and running.  My garmin has been broken for all of this Fall.  I just haven’t wanted to spend the money on a new one nor mess with it while training.  Mostly, I just need an easy way to record my miles, times, and paces.  I’ve been using another app on my android phone, but it’s really a power hog.  Strava so far doesn’t seem to be.  I’ve only gotten to use it once, but it’s really simple.  It works while my phone is in airport mode.  The GPS signal still receives during that mode, but it really lowers power usage.  I’ll keep everyone posted on it.

Well, I told you it was going to be a bit random.  It happens every now and then.  I just heard today there are chances of rain showers for next Sunday.  I don’t need to hear that after last year’s race.  I sure hope that goes away.  I’ll be updating on the post race recap next week, after I rest up a bit.  Remember, the first 20 miles is a training run.  The last 6.2 miles is the race.  I think I said that somewhere before.  Merry Christmas, and Happy Running!

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I am a pretty loyal Asics fan.  And, I am a pretty loyal fan of Luke’s Locker.  I got to find out why I am a fan of both of these companies this past week when my brand new pair of Asics gel-Nimbus 14’s developed a problem.

Almost on the last day of September, we stopped at Luke’s Locker in Dallas to get my next pair of gel-Nimbus running shoes.  Based on the recommendation of a friend, I went to Luke’s Locker to get my first pair of real, well-fitted, running shoes a few years ago.  Carlton was the salesperson there that measured me up and put me in a pair of gel-Nimbus 10’s at the time.  Though I’ve tried a couple others, nothing works like the Nimbus.  But like all running shoes, they must be replaced, thus my trip again to Luke’s Locker.

I phoned ahead to make sure they had my size and in a pouring rain and traffic from an SMUTCU football game, we made it in and out to get my new pair.  Though this isn’t a story about shoe tech, I wear the gel-Nimbus because they fit my neutral foot and have just about the most cushion one can want in a running shoe.  For a clydesdale runner, they work well, in my own opinion.  My other distinct feature is a very wide foot, hence why I call ahead before going.  They don’t carry many 4E shoes.

I took my new pair of Asics home, broke them in, and wore them for only a week’s worth of runs.  Last Tuesday evening, while taking them off, I noticed part of the ‘A’ on the side was coming loose.  I had room to stick a finger between the strapping and the mesh.  Bummer.  Defective shoe.

The real problem with dealing with replacing a pair of my running shoes is the travel time.  I only stopped at the Dallas Luke’s Locker because we were going right by it, but none of the others are close either.  On a side note, it’s a real problem with my town.  No bike shops and no running stores.  I even have to travel all the way to the north end of town (and that’s quite a way too) even to find a regular sporting goods store, which is no help really.  How would I handle this situation?

I know!  I would leverage the world of social media!  I took a pic of me sticking my finger in the hole in my shoe and posted it for Asics and Luke’s on Twitter.  And, it worked.  Luke’s Locker’s Twitter person got back with me quickly and set me up to receive a call from the Dallas store manager the next day.

Not only did the store manager call, he called early the next morning.  We talked briefly with me wondering just when I would get round to going all the way to Dallas to trade the shoes.  However, the manager just asked me which was the closest store and when I said the Colleyville Luke’s Locker, he set up for me to trade my shoes there instead of having to go to Dallas.  A day or so later, I got a call from the Colleyville manager to find out what my plans were.  I told him I was going to come to his store the next afternoon.  He had the right size gel-Nimbus set up for me and the store associates took care of the trade off just fine.

Now, it’s not really bad that my shoes were defective.  The law of averages says I will eventually run across a pair, and these were my 5th pair.  The really good part of this story is that the folks at Luke’s really take their business seriously and made a great and successful attempt to minimize my frustration with having to trade out the shoes.  Both store managers (and the Twitter guy) were prompt and professional.  I didn’t have to get flustered not even a little bit.  We even managed to make the trip to Colleyville (which is still a good distance away) useful by getting lunch at McAlester’s along with the shoes.  There just aren’t many McAlester’s around.

Therefore, I will always return to Luke’s Locker for my running shoes and I will continue to be loyal to my Asics gel-Nimbus.  Additionally, I have found that Twitter is more useful than I originally thought.  Social media has a purpose.  All my followers on Twitter hopefully got to see that Luke’s is a good business as well.  This post may be a little sappy, but I find that good customer service in any business is so difficult to locate these days that I am kind of beside myself when I find people that really know what it means.  Happy running, ya’ll!

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Every other Sunday, I participate on #runchat on Twitter.  Now, if that doesn’t sound bizarre coming from me, it should.  Even more bizarre is that through #runchat I managed to find a very good company making a great product for runners and other athletes to use.

Before I start blathering about the review, allow me to explain #runchat for those that may not know.  Every other Sunday (actually tomorrow is the next), at 8PM EDT, two runners organize and moderate #runchat.  By using the hashtag #runchat on your Twitter feed, (there’s the bizarreness again) you can answer the questions posed and talk with a lot of other runners about something important to most of us, running of course.  In addition, there is always a sponsor along for the ride as well.

One of those evenings, it was Premier Nutrition.  They make a line of protein shakes and bars for active athletes.  They were quite responsive to most of the runners present and offered many folks a sample of their wares.  So, I signed on.  Free is always good and you never know what you might find.

Most companies offer samples of a little bit, like one bite, or a really tiny try out size.  I was surprised when my box (yep, a box) arrived from Premier Protein soon after the #runchat.  They sent a good selection of shakes and bars to try out.  There were chocolate and vanilla shakes and several flavors of protein bars.

I don’t know much about the benefits of using a protein supplement.  I wouldn’t ever try those big can types with the muscle guys on the front.  Somehow I think there is more than just protein in those cans.  However, I do know that one of the best things a runner can do after a run is to drink a glass of chocolate milk.  It helps put back a good quantity of protein in your system and it tastes good after a run.

As I understand it, running tears down muscle a little.  When you rest, the body goes to work trying to repair that muscle.  It needs protein in your system to do so.  Therefore, the reason for a glass of chocolate milk after a run.  But, a good glass of chocolate milk can be 300 calories!  Only on my long run days could I afford to take in that many extra calories.  I still have weight to lose so I have to be careful how I use them.

That’s one reason why I like Premier Protein shakes.  It puts protein back in your body, but does it with only 160 calories.  They also taste good and the price and availability are not bad either.  I found mine later at Sam’s Club, but they are also at Wal-Mart.  Yes, when my samples ran out, I actually bought some.  I’m partial to the vanilla myself.

So, did they make me run faster, jump higher, bike longer?  I don’t know.  It would take a really well controlled experiment to find that out.  I just liked them because they had a good flavor, lower calories than chocolate milk, and a decent price.

I don’t do a lot of reviews, but these guys were worth it.  Not only were they willing to stick their necks out with a bunch of runners, but they do social media pretty well.  I’ve talked to them since the first time and I’ve noticed many of my friends doing the same.  They involve themselves with their consumers and that leads to trust between us, which is a good sign of a quality company to me.  And, nope, except for the samples, I don’t get paid for doing this.

OK, yeah so there were protein bars in the box too.  I did try them out.  But, it’s fair warning that there is another energy bar I’ve used for a long time and you would have to be really, really exceptional to beat them.  The protein bars were alright, but they didn’t beat out my other bar.  That’s still a win-win to me as I now have an added tool in the nutrition tool box that helps to fuel my runs, and bikes, and swims.

I’m giving Premier Protein shakes an ‘A’.  They are a lower calorie alternative to chocolate milk for getting some protein back in your body after a workout.  Their price is acceptable and availability is good.  Anything I don’t have to special order on line is a plus. They keep well too.  I only refrigerate them so they are cold when I want one.  Well worth trying out.

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Originally, I didn’t want to get involved with Twitter.  It seemed kind of pointless.  As I told others, “My life doesn’t happen 140 characters at a time!”  So, I kept myself out of the loop for quite a while.  However, when my kids and my wife were finally on Twitter and it appeared it might become an important feature of my job, I decided it had to be conquered.

So, I signed up and “tweeted”.  It seemed innocuous for a while.  Until, I started getting followers.  That was cool.  Someone actually wanted to hear what little tidbits I had to say?  Seemed surprising to me until I got a follow from Bart Yasso.  Now, unless you’re a regular reader of Runnerhttp://www.runnersworld.comsworld.com, you might not know this guy.  But he is one of the Runnersworld writers and he often writes about things to improve your running.  He even has his own workout named after him that many runners hate to do during marathon season, but they do them anyway; the Yasso 800’s.  I won’t go into details.

That was pretty cool and then I learned about hashtags.  They are a Twitter shortcut that you use to help identify what you are writing about so others can easily find your streams of thought on the same subject.  You create a hashtag by putting a number sign (#) in front of a key word in your tweet.  As an example, if you want others to know your tweet is about running, you would use #running.  If it is about cycling you would use #cycling.  Twitter also collects data on hashtags to determine what subjects are ‘trending’ or getting a lot of press.

And therein, comes the point of this post; the hashtag #runchat.  I had been on Twitter for a while and though I would find something good that a person would say or they might like something I said, I had yet to see Twitter as a conversation place.  Until I found out about #runchat.  There are currently two moderators for runchat, @iRunnerblog and @runningbecause (The ‘@’ symbol identifies a Twitter user).  They establish a time and date for a runchat and post it so that everyone can be ready.  At the appointed time, the moderator (or guest moderator sometimes) posts the first question, such as :Q1: What are your 2012 running goals? #runchat”.  If you are on Twitter, and you search the hashtag #runchat, your feed will include the question and the answers from the community because everyone adds the tag in their tweet, just like the question.  At predetermined periods, the moderator posts a new question and this goes on for five to six questions or so while everyone responds and commiserates.

It is a lively (and sometimes chaotic) discussion as we try to follow the questions, figure out our responses, and read everyone else’s along the way.  You have to be on your toes to know what is being said and who is responding to whom.  The questions are well thought out and allow the Twitter running community to discuss topics, comment on how they are doing, and gain other running friends.  Through runchats, I have picked up several new Twitter friends and it’s a good source of runner information, new tips, and most importantly, encouragement from other runners.

Yes, old dogs can learn new tricks.  Twitter is a good way to connect with other runners, cyclists, triathletes, or other interests.  You get to hear how they are doing the same things you are and then you can realize that we are all in the same boat together.  There is information, community, and encouragement available on Twitter and runchat is part of that.  It took me a while to get used to the technology, but I am glad I put in the effort.  I have now marked the next runchat on my calendar.  It’s at 8PM on January 22nd.  See ya there and happy running!

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janice writes fiction

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