Change, and life, is good

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It wasn't exactly Nadal vs. Federer, but my brother and I went to war on that tennis court.

Things change so quickly. I know, I know. Of course, they do. That’s life. But that hit me today as I sat alone for a few quiet, peaceful minutes surveying the small town I spent much of my life in.

As I looked at an aging park across the street to the west, I thought, “Damn, it’s been 20 years since Dan (my brother) and I played tennis in that park.” The tennis court is a skating park now. It has been for years. Man did we have some wars on that court.

I remember my first trip to that park, which was and is essentially a few swings, merry-go-round and some picnic tables. Back then, the park was loaded with trees. I remember sitting under one talking to a friend, also a freshman, who was dating a senior who really wasn’t a nice guy.

I expect the A&E production trucks to pull up any day to shoot an episode of "Hoarders."

I looked across the street to the north, at an old house that has transformed from nice to something straight out of “Hoarders.” Seriously, who keeps a washing machine in the front yard?

I looked across the street to the west again, to the senior apartments that have been there forever. Not much has changed there, which makes sense.

Not bad for one guy who had a heart attack two weeks ago and another who weighed 310 pounds two years ago.

I thought about cutting wood with my dad earlier in the day. How just a few weeks ago, he was in the hospital after a heart attack. Today, he’s picking up 75-pound stumps, cutting wood, hauling brush, keeping pace with a healthy son 31 years younger than him.

I also thought about where I was a few years ago. Cutting wood wouldn’t have been possible. Neither would picking up 100-pound trunks. Getting to that point after being so pathetically out of shape didn’t happen overnight, but over the course of a lifetime, it didn’t take long.

Then I looked to the south and saw my mentor, my high school English and journalism teacher, walking home. I thought about how she was the first person to call me when I decided to leave Kansas State and come home. Good lord … that was 16 years ago.

Change is great.

She was walking with her family, her daughter, granddaughter and two grandsons. Then I smiled. That’s my family. I literally laughed out loud as I thought about high school, how the girlfriend and I barely knew each other.

It hit me again: Hell, we barely knew each other 18 months ago. She was the hot girl from high school who happened to be related to my favorite teacher and a really good friend (her sister). I was the “star pupil” (her words, not mine) who her mom talked about.

A year after we started dating, I can’t believe all the wonderful changes time has brought. It’s happened so fast. That’s life. And I’m grateful to have a good one.

Big 12 rankings, Week 7: Clones bring Kansas back to the pack

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Bill Self's piece was disheveled late in KU's loss to Iowa State.

Iowa State did the Big 12 a huge favor with Saturday’s win against Kansas. That loss brings the Jayhawks back to the pack and allows Missouri to retain the No. 1 spot in this week’s rankings despite a stunning loss at Oklahoma State.

1. MISSOURI (19-2, 6-2) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma State, defeated Texas Tech | THIS WEEK: Monday at Texas, Saturday vs. Kansas

THE RUB: Yes, Missouri lost at Oklahoma State. The Tigers still own the best two road wins in the conference (Iowa State and Baylor). This week could make or break Missouri’s Big 12 title hopes.

2. KANSAS (17-4, 7-1) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M, lost to Iowa State | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Oklahoma, Saturday at Missouri

THE RUB: A win Saturday would have gone a long ways toward an eighth straight conference title. This Saturday’s game at Mizzou is a monster.

3. BAYLOR (19-2, 6-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Oklahoma, Texas | THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Texas A&M, Saturday at Oklahoma State

THE RUB: I’m not convinced this team has recovered from the Kansas and Missouri losses. The Bears have lost their swagger.

4. IOWA STATE (15-6, 5-3) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Texas, defeated Kansas | THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Kansas State, Saturday at Oklahoma

THE RUB: The Cyclones got the signature win they needed for their NCAA Tournament resume. The way K-State is fading, they’ve got a great shot at a top-four finish.

5. OKLAHOMA (13-7, 3-5) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor, defeated Kansas State | THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Kansas, Saturday vs. Iowa State

THE RUB: I don’t expect the Sooners to finish in the top five, but sweeping K-State is worthy of a bump this week. Lon Kruger has done an outstanding job.

6. KANSAS STATE (15-5, 4-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech, lost to Oklahoma | THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Iowa State, Saturday vs. Texas A&M

THE RUB: The Wildcats can’t drop many more home games and expect to get an NCAA bid.

7. TEXAS (13-8, 3-5) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Iowa State, lost to Baylor | THIS WEEK: Monday vs. Missouri, Saturday vs. Texas Tech

THE RUB: The young Longhorns continue to improve and will be a handful for Missouri on Monday in a game they need to win to get into the NCAA Tournament.

8. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-11, 3-5) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Missouri, lost to Texas A&M | THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Texas Tech, Saturday vs. Baylor

THE RUB: The Cowboys aren’t good, but their win against the Tigers might end up determining the league champion.

9. TEXAS A&M (12-8, 3-5) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas, defeated Oklahoma State | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Baylor, Saturday at Kansas State

THE RUB: The Aggies are playing better and could get back in the NCAA picture this week against the Bears and Wildcats.

10. TEXAS TECH (7-13, 0-8) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas State, Missouri | THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday at Texas

THE RUB: Tech played about as well as it could Saturday and still lost by double digits. Tuesday’s game migh be the Red Raiders only legitimate shot at winning a conference game.

I’m into fitness, Take 16: I’m finally a runner

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I ran my first 5K on September 24, 2011. Four months later, I've more than doubled that distance.

My left heel, thanks to plantar fasciitis, is throbbing. My left knee aches. My calves are sore. I’m exhausted. I’m as satisfied as I’ve ever been after a workout.

Today marked another breakthrough. Less than two years after I couldn’t run a quarter mile, I clocked my first 10k this evening. That’s right, six miles. Not bad for a guy who weighed more than 300 pounds at this time two years ago.

I wondered once I finished a 5K how motivated I’d be to keep running. It’s not exactly fun. How often do you see someone smiling while they’re running? I’m convinced that’s physically impossible.

But I also knew that not running meant likely gaining back some of the 90-plus pounds I’ve lost. In other words, quitting wasn’t an option.

Since the 5K, my routine has consisted of lifting weights, situps, a little Tae-Bo and a lot of time on the treadmill, which is a completely different experience than running outside.

I run faster on the treadmill, which means more calories burnt and more sweat. But rarely do I run more than 3.5 miles, partly because it’s an exhausting workout (about 40 minutes of running), on the machine. So I really had no idea how far I could run outside.

Thank God for the weather. I’ve hit the pavement several times during the past few weeks, running about four miles. Not until today, driven by an unhealthy lunch of a Reuben sandwich and two macadamia cookies, did I really test myself.

The original plan was to run five miles, which meant running from our apartment to Quivira Road and back. Once I got to Quivira I figured what the hell, I feel great, why not keep running? I ended up at Pflumm Road, more than three miles away.

The trek to Pflumm is pleasant enough. There isn’t a ton of traffic, the sidewalks are clear and high-dollar fencing equals less wind resistance. The path to Pflumm also has a shitload of hills, and all of them are long, steady climbs.

I hate those hills. I also love those hills. With each step toward the top, I thought about the last several months of exercise. How I couldn’t run to my dad’s pond a few hundred yards from his house in May 2010. How it took several months to reach a mile without walking.

I thought about running in 100-degree temperatures virtually every day of August 2011. I thought about finishing a 5K about a year after the lifestyle change started. I thought about all the support I’m so grateful for from family, friends, Facebook, Twitter and this blog. I thought about writing this blog.

After the 5K with my biggest fan.

Once I hit five miles, my body seemed to finally give up … on telling me to give up. Maybe it was a third wind. That changed about a mile later, once I hit the steepest of hills on this run, the last half mile. The body was clearly pissed.

But I kept going. And I didn’t stop until I got home. More than hour of running. A total of 6.5 miles. More than 1,000 calories burnt. All of that 20 months after I couldn’t jog the length of a football field.

I’ve said it several times: If I can do this, anybody can. Today’s proof. From couch potato to runner. Anything is possible.

Big 12 rankings, Week 6: Winning at Baylor is better than beating Baylor at home … duh

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Flip Pressey (1) and Ricardo Ratliff (10) led Missouri to a win at No. 3 Baylor. Ratliff dominated the taller Bears with 27 points and eight rebounds.

Facebook and Twitter were great entertainment Saturday. Really enjoyed Kansas fans comparing their win over Baylor to Missouri’s win over the Bears. Let’s get this straight … you are supposed to win at home. Winning on the road is what determines conference titles. A win at Baylor IS huge. It trumps a win at home. There is no argument.

1. MISSOURI (18-1, 5-1) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M, Baylor | THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Oklahoma State, Saturday vs. Texas Tech

THE RUB: Why is Missouri ranked No. 1? Because it has the top two road wins in the conference: at Iowa State and at Baylor.

2. KANSAS (16-3, 6-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Baylor, Texas | THIS WEEK: Monday vs. Texas A&M, Saturday at Iowa State

THE RUB: Win a legit road game and reclaim the top spot. Plenty of Kansas fans will blast me for this. My response? Write your own rankings.

3. BAYLOR (17-2, 4-2) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas, Missouri | THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Texas

THE RUB: Talent is great, but toughness is better. So is coaching.

4. IOWA STATE (14-5, 4-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Oklahoma State, Texas Tech | THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Texas, Saturday vs. Kansas

THE RUB: The Cyclones are looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team.

5. KANSAS STATE (14-4, 3-3) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas, Oklahoma State | THIS WEEK:  Wednesday at Texas Tech, Saturday vs. Oklahoma

THE RUB: Now that Frank Martin’s gotten his annual suspension out of the way, will the Wildcats take off?

6. TEXAS (12-7, 2-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas State, Kansas | THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Iowa State, Saturday at Baylor

THE RUB: Rough week for Texas, a bubble team that wasted two golden opportunities.

7. OKLAHOMA (12-6, 2-4) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech, lost to Texas A&M | THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Baylor, Saturday at Kansas State

THE RUB: A win at A&M would have been big with Baylor at Kansas State next.

8. TEXAS A&M (11-7, 2-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri, defeated Oklahoma | THIS WEEK: Monday at Kansas, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

THE RUB: The Aggies haven’t looked good all season. Don’t see that changing.

9. OKLAHOMA STATE (9-10, 2-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Iowa State, Kansas State | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Missouri, Saturday at Texas A&M

THE RUB: Has Travis Ford suited up yet?

10. TEXAS TECH (7-11, 0-6) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma, Iowa State | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Kansas State, Saturday at Missouri

THE RUB: Maybe Mike Leach can coach the offense.

I’m into fitness, Take 15: I’ll be damned if I’m letting food win

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I knew those 30 pounds came off way too easily. I mean, seriously, who loses 30 pounds in two months? OK, maybe if you weigh 500 pounds. Or, if you stop drinking soda, stop eating dairy, ignore those golden arches, run three miles a day in 100-degree temperatures and lift weights like there’s no tomorrow.

That was the recipe for going from 247 in mid-July to 217 in mid-September. And what do I weigh four months later? About 215 pounds. What am I doing differently? Oh, there’s the rub.

Still a workout warrior, I burn 6,000 calories or more a week.

I’m still a workout junkie. That has not changed. I average burning 800 to 1,000 calories a day with a combination of running, lifting, Tae Bo and situps. I’m going to change the routine in a few weeks, but the calorie count won’t change.

So why am I not losing more weight? There could be a lot of explanations. Maybe I’m putting on muscle. I like that one. The girlfriend’s very sweet to say that. Maybe I’m just supposed to weigh 215 pounds. Even at 5-foot-8, I have broad shoulders and a wide frame (and haven’t looked this good since Hootie and the Blowfish was popular). That’s why I’m supposed to weigh between 188 and 199 pounds. Those explanations don’t cut it.

It’s the intake. The food. The sodas here and there. Those fuckers add up. Of course, there was the dairyfest I indulged in on Christmas. The body simply does not respond well to any of that shit.

One thing I've cut way down on is beer. Not easily, of course.

I went into Christmas break (Dec. 22 to Jan 2 at work) weighing about 215 pounds. During that stretch, which included turkey dinners, pie, cheese, pop (all the garbage that fueled the 310-pound Ernie of a few years ago), I gained eight flippin’ pounds in less than two weeks.

At the same time, I was not as obsessive about working out. Probably less than half the calories burnt compared to usual. And I clearly paid for it.

The good news is I dove right back into the routine when I got back to work. In two weeks, I was down to 213 pounds. I’d just finished the longest run of my life. Then the girlfriend and I went on a road trip for the weekend.

It was good, but I paid for it.

The last day of that trip include a stop at Shakespeare’s in Columbia, Mo. Great pizza. Too good. Great beer. Also too good. The scale before bed? 218. “I fucking knew it.” Those where my words.

So, I punished myself today at the gym. Back down to 215 pounds. But how do I get over the next hurdle, the one that I’ve been tripping on for four months? It’s not complicated … eat better.

Even with a great workout routine, you’re not losing weight unless you eat what you should. That means really committing to not drinking pop, which is delicious but evil. Not splurging on the occasional dairy. Avoiding those “empty” calories.

What I can tell you is that there is no way in hell I’m giving up on this project. Not after 95 pounds, 10 inches off the waist, the infusion of confidence it comes with. And certainly not now that I’m 20 pounds away from reaching the summit.

So, suck it cheese, soda and junk food. I am going to beat you.

Big 12 rankings, Week 5: Tigers up, Wildcats down, way down

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How about winning a game? Hear of that one, Frank?

1. BAYLOR (17-0, 4-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Kansas State, Oklahoma State | THIS WEEK: Monday at Kansas, Saturday vs. Missouri

THE RUB: The Bears continue to roll along but have their toughest week of the season coming up with games against Kansas and Missouri.

2. KANSAS (14-3, 4-0) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas Tech, Iowa State | THIS WEEK: Monday vs. Baylor, Saturday at Texas

THE RUB: The Jayhawks nearly got caught looking ahead Saturday. A loss at home to Baylor might cost them a Big 12 title.

3. MISSOURI (16-1, 3-1) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Iowa State, Texas | THIS WEEK: Monday vs. Texas A&M, Saturday at Baylor

THE RUB: The win at Iowa State looks even bigger after the Cyclones’ performance in Lawrence. Can the Tigers build on that momentum next Saturday on the road in Waco?

4. IOWA STATE (12-5, 2-2) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Missouri, Kansas | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday at Texas Tech

THE RUB: The Clones got point-planked in the second half, dropping their second straight tough game against a conference contender.

5. TEXAS (12-5, 2-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Texas A&M, lost to Missouri | THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Kansas State, Saturday vs. Texas

THE RUB: The Longhorns are too young to contend this year, but J’Covan Brown is having a hell of a season.

6. KANSAS STATE (12-4, 1-3) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor, Oklahoma | THIS WEEK: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday at Oklahoma State

THE RUB: A horrible week for the Wildcats, who coughed up a nine-point lead at home against Baylor, then laid an egg Saturday in Norman.

7. OKLAHOMA (11-5, 1-3) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Oklahoma State, defeated Kansas State | THIS WEEK: Tuesday vs. Texas Tech, Saturday at Texas A

THE RUB: The Sooners finally put two halves together Saturday, rolling to Lon Kruger’s first Big 12 win.

8. TEXAS A&M (10-6, 1-3) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Texas, Defeated Texas Tech | THIS WEEK: Monday at Missouri, Saturday vs. Oklahoma

THE RUB: The Aggies finally found the elixir they’ve been looking for – Texas Tech.

9. OKLAHOMA STATE (9-8, 2-2) | LAST WEEK: Defeated Oklahoma, lost to Baylor | THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Iowa State, Saturday vs. Kansas State

THE RUB: The Cowboys have two conference wins. They’ll be lucky to double that total by the end of the season the way they played at Baylor.

10. TEXAS TECH (7-9, 0-4) | LAST WEEK: Lost to Kansas, Texas A&M | THIS WEEK: Tuesday at Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Iowa State

THE RUB: Who do the Red Raiders beat?

So long Big 12 football

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Missouri's finest moment in Big 12 play, ending kansas' dream and cupcake-fueled 2007 run at Arrowhead to move up to No. 1.

During Wednesday night’s Missouri-Iowa State game, the girlfriend and I were talking about her sister (a kansas basketball, but not football, of course, fan) talking trash via text message about the Tigers’ humbling loss to kansas State over the weekend.

I stopped mid-sentence, realizing at that moment that the days of talking smack with kansas fans might be numbered with Missouri heading to the SEC next year and the kansas schools possibly heading to the Mountain West in a few years.

Have to admit, I felt a little sadness. As we bid farewell to the football season, here are my favorite and least favorite memories of the remaining Big 12 schools:

Storming the field with the old man after Missouri's win over No. 1 Oklahoma will always rank among my favorite sports memories.

OKLAHOMA | Oklahoma leads 67-24-5 | Oklahoma won 8-2 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: The 2010 game in Columbia, Mo. Storming the field with my old man after the game is one of those great memories in life.

WHY I WON’T: Because you’re smug and arrogant, and you cheat (see Rhett Bomar, among others). But mostly because you always win. The 2007 win in the Big 12 championship game might have cost Missouri a national title.

OKLAHOMA STATE | Missouri leads 28-23 | Missouri won 5-4 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: The 1997 triple-overtime game that defined Missouri’s rise from the ashes to a bowl team and Gary Pinkel’s first Big 12 win … also a triple-overtime donnybrook.

WHY I WON’T: The 2008 upset of the third-ranked Tigers wrecked Missouri’s entire season. Mike Gundy’s ridiculous, misguided “I’m a man” rant. The whining and bitching about being in the championship game this year. YOU LOST TO IOWA STATE.

TEXAS | Texas leads 17-6 | Texas won 7-2 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: The year-in and year-out underachievement is great comedy. Ernest Blackwell torching the Horns in a 1997 game that served as the springboard for Missouri’s first bowl team in 15 years.

WHY I WON’T: Because you ruined the Big 12. Adios. And, as the redneck Toby Keith tune says above, you’re everybody’s daddy in the Big 12, regardless of your record.

Much as Eddie does with Clark, the Red Raiders mooch off the Longhorns. My apologies for the crude photoshop.

TEXAS TECH | Missouri leads 6-3 | Missouri won 6-2 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: Mike Leach’s era was awesome. Great guy to cover during my newspaper days. Plus, Missouri owns you.

WHY I WON’T: You’re the Cousin Eddie to Texas’ Clark Griswold. The 2010 loss that cost Mizzou a BCS bowl.

A Heisman winner at Baylor .... who would have thunk it?

BAYLOR | Missouri leads 10-4 | Missouri won 7-2 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: The 49-42 triple overtime game in 1996 (Missouri led 28-0 in the fourth quarter). And, of course, Robert Griffin III.

WHY I WON’T: See 1996-2009.

IOWA STATE | Missouri leads 61-34-9 | Missouri won 10-6 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: Classy fans. Troy Davis. Paul Rhoads. Missouri has owned you lately.

WHY I WON’T: The pathetic holding call at the end of the 2006 game, plus the failed two-point conversion against Nebraska last year.

kansas STATE | Missouri leads 60-32-5 | K-State won 11-5 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: Because Missouri dominated you (60-32-5 all-time) and you’re fun to talk trash with. Also, anything Ron Prince.

WHY I WON’T: Because you hid for 80 years, then became incredibly arrogant when you started winning. Ecokat.

kansas | Missouri leads 57-54-9 | Missouri won 9-7 during Big 12 era

WHY I’LL MISS YOU: I got nothin’.

WHY I WON’T: Where do I start?