Physical preparation


Note – I am now operating via iPhone only. Bear with me folks.

A few people have asked me about physical conditioning. Some who have seen my daily itinerary have asked about my fitness to do an average of 25 miles a day over and over.

I feel good about my physical readiness for this trip. While I am a pretty active guy in general, I did some specific training to prepare for the PCT. I started in earnest in the spring of 2013. I began taking more and longer walks.

I live in a small town in Lancaster County, PA. This is farm country with nothing but rolling hills in every direction. We don’t have a ton of elevation change on any one hill. 300 feet is not a bad estimate of the average change. But there are generally at least 2 of these rolling hills in every mile. Several US cycling teams train in the area.

It did take me a while to get used to walking without having a canine companion, but I adjusted. I found a few circuits that I enjoy that do not require any driving. These are my favorite kind of hikes. Just walk out your door and go. I started doing a 13 mile loop with a 20 pound pack at least once a week and more often when I had the time. I would finish the circuit in about 4 hours including several short rest stops and usually a 15-30 minute stop to read and reflect in a beautiful gazebo.

I used these walks not just for conditioning but for gear tests. I tried out several pairs of pants, shirts, hats, and socks until I found the gear that really works for me.

I started running again after I quit smoking last November. Once December hit and the cold really set in, I joined a gym and kept running inside. From December 7th to early March, I only skipped three days. I ran (or hit the elliptical) for at least 1 mile every day. Most days it was 3-6 miles, and I kept an 8 minute mile pace on average.

In January, I started with a weight training program as well. Nothing too intense or extensive but the 30 minute machine circuit at my gym hits all/most major muscle groups and is a great place to start for anyone who has never done weights before. I did that every other day.

Despite the wicked cold and lots of snow, I still went hiking on some of my favorite woodsy trails at least twice a month through the winter. I hiked when it was 12 degrees, old snowpack in the woods, and fresh snow falling. I would take a 20 pound pack and hike 6-12 miles depending on the conditions.

The past few weeks I left the elliptical behind and went back to the treadmill to get my feet used to the pounding again and my body to walking instead of running or elliptical-ing. I set the incline for maximum, and the pace at 4 mph and rocked out for a solid hour. Sometimes I would do another 15 or 20 minutes but most days I would begin my cool down after the hour.

When I combine the past 12 months of physical conditioning and gear testing with my prior experience hiking big days in the Grand Canyon or Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff and completing the John Muir Trail through the Sierras – I feel confident.

None of this is to say that everything will be rosy. Some days will be hard. I just mean that I am really comfortable and confident with the capabilities of my body, my gear, and my mind.

I am ready. Let’s do this!



The magical manzanita forest at Casa de Luna. It will be interesting to see how much greenery is here when I am back in a few weeks…

Interlude – keeping time

Today is one month smoke free for me, and it feels pretty good. It is nice not to be this guy anymore…

Smokey Fatty - Doha 12/18/04
Smokey Fatty – Doha 12/18/04

And it is nice to be about 40 pounds lighter than this guy…

El Capitan and a large hairy guy - 03/18/09
El Capitan and a large hairy guy – 03/18/09

I made it through two hurdles in this first month. I thought about it a lot while planning and on the drive up to Harper’s Ferry, but i did not stop anywhere to buy smokes before my recent hiking trip, not even a bag of Bugler for roll-your-owns. In the prep phases, thinking about having a smoke at the end of the day in the woods sounded super in my head. But i made it through just fine and had a great time in the woods without smoking. It was so cold that i did not even want to have my hands out of my sleeping bag far enough to hold a book – why on earth would i want to have to deal with the cold just to smoke? My folks went out of town for about week around Thanksgiving and i stayed home alone. This was not as great a challenge for me as it was with the drinking, but still, i survived a week alone without going back to the smokes.

What does any of this have to do with keeping time? Early milestones in abstinence are tricky to track in a way. The first time i ever sought abstinence, i attended Narcotics Anonymous. I was a young dude (two years clean and sober before i turned 21) and the lessons i learned there stayed with me (well some of the lessons, some of the time). The recommended path for newcomers to NA or AA (and probably the rest of the As) is to do 90 in 90 – attend 90 meetings in 90 days – and i did. The early days can be so difficult there are more anniversaries celebrated early on the path to abstinence. Your first day, or first 24 hours clean, sober, whatever, is a milestone. Your next anniversary is 30 days, then 60, then 90. It varies from group to group, but after 90 days, there is usually only an acknowledgement of 6 months and then annual clean time.

I have that system hardwired into my brain when it comes to tracking clean time. I am also a tech guy and love the digital calendar. This presented a stumbling block when i went to set-up the frequency reminders for my sober date and my quit smoking date. At first, without other thought, i entered custom and 30 days on the recurrence. Only later, looking at the calendar and thinking about announcing some milestones did i recognize that the world at large might be confused by my timekeeping when i celebrate 1 month at 30 days instead of the calendar month. Probably folks would not notice or think about this stuff, but the thought still bugged me. I went back into the calendar event, canceled the custom setting and switched to monthly. After one year, i will switch it to annual.

No great insights for today. I just wanted to share the happy news that i am one month smoke free and share some thoughts about keeping time. While we are here i will also set the record straight. I have talked with a very small handful of my tiny readership about this, but on the topic of anniversaries, this is as good a place as any to do it.

I did drink some about two months ago. No crisis set things off. No terrible events occurred as a result. I have even found a way to view this in a positive light. After being sober for about 8 months, i thought i might enjoy the beverage again, and thought i might have better perspective and control. I re-learned several things. I did really hate it. From the first taste of the whiskey and beer, i hated it. I also re-learned that it is not about perspective or control for me. I repeat, i hated it, but i still drank for several days in a row on this mini binge before snapping out of it. I was not afraid to tell you guys, i just didn’t want to talk about it. I was disappointed with myself and it took a little while to even out again afterwards. The most positive thing about the experience is this – i don’t need to repeat that experiment anymore. I believe that the results are in – i am still an alcoholic and have a much better time not drinking than i do drinking.

I was thinking about time and anniversaries and the fact that without the stumble, January would have made it one year sober. I don’t expect or need any of you guys to be keeping track, but you never know. Anyway – one month smoke free, coming up on two months sober (again).

To end on a more positive note – i have started exercising again. I have not yet hit the groove and made it part of a regular schedule as in the past, but i am doing my stretches and floor exercises a few times a week. Two of my favorite real life and digital friends, Kelly and Karen, are both runners and their consistency and dedication is helping me to get back into the running as well. I went out for a one mile run last night about 10:45 and knocked out 2 miles instead. Not back to my desired pace of under 8 minute miles, but having not jogged in months, 9:20 is not a bad pace.

PA - 12/4/13
PA – 12/4/13

Anyway, i wish you luck and offer support in reaching your goals. Tyler Durden said that self improvement is masturbation. He said it like that’s a bad thing. He also got Bob killed and blew up buildings. A lesson i am learning far too late in life, you gotta pick your heroes carefully. I will end with one of my favorite quotes. Sadly, despite the warning, i have lived both sides of this one. If you can identify this one without using the googles you get digital props.

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

PS: back to the hiking and gear stuff next.

PPS: I did buy a groovy domain name for myself and am still planning on moving this blog. There will be warnings and notice and such. WordPress just started showing me placeholders where they may have ads on my blog. I don’t want that. I also hope you are using Ad Blockers so that you would not see that stuff anyway.

Rock On!

Interlude – or where the Frack is Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I am popping back up after an unexpected absence from blogging. For the most part, i just got busy – which is good. There were some more personal meltdown style events as well, but these were small and brief and navigated if not well, at least better than in the past.

Mother's Day near Holtwood Dam
Mother’s Day near Holtwood Dam

I am still developing my new project for India that i can’t talk much about yet, except to say that things are coming along nicely. I am nearing completion on the initial research and validation stage, working on briefing materials, and hope to begin shopping for seed funding in the next 4-6 weeks.

I have not reactivated the running program, though both that and quitting smoking are on the agenda. I have managed to remain sober, hitting the four month mark at the end of May. There have been few difficult times, but more than i expected. I have not been greatly tempted, and it has been fairly easy to avoid drinking, but i hoped that it would be further from my mind by now than it is. Meaning, i do still think about it, and with more frequency and intensity during stressful times. I am enjoying sobriety. I have not slept this well in years. The biggest and most obvious benefit so far is all about mental health. As alluded to above, i have had one or two trying times, but i have not been depressed since January. With a sober head, it is so much easier to assess what is happening when i start to feel bad, and if not turn things around immediately, at least stop the process of declining into repetitive negative thought and behavior patterns.

A quick example. I had some exciting travel plans around memorial day. The plan fell apart for the first leg of the trip, and for reasons i am still not entirely aware of, that threw me off my game. I started to feel anxious and nervous and a bit agoraphobic. I did not manage to snap out of it and continue with the rest of my plans. I did stay at home, mostly inside. I did struggle with not wanting to see or talk with people when i did go outside, but – that is as bad as it got. I did manage to go grocery shopping and run some other errands. I did clean the house, tend the garden, and do other home based chores. I didn’t wallow too much – and i didn’t drink about it. In a few days, i felt better and jumped back into the swing of things.

Preparations are well underway for the presentation my friend and i are leading for LYP next week, and i am excited about the event. I have made good progress on securing a local paying consulting gig that is also exciting. That i will be able to tell you about, but i will wait until we finish negotiating the details and sign the contract.

I will finish the last few entries for the Apple tech series and get those posted – hopefully this weekend.

Next Up – i think i will probably write about addiction and mental health for a while. The whole picture has not taken shape yet, but i can see how i would like some of the pieces to go. Initially, i will do a bit of a recap of why i decided to get sober this time. I would also like to write about the three other times i have quit drinking. There will most likely be several historical look at various phases of substance abuse covering how and why i got there among other things.

Nick and Jake - JMT start
Nick and Jake – JMT start

Today is the One Year Anniversary of Jake and I starting our John Muir Trail Adventure! I should probably get on the stick and finish the JMT movie project, perhaps to coincide with the one year anniversary of completing that hike…

Not Drinking and Malcolm X

Howdy. I just have a few quick things to say so i am going commando again this time! For those of you playing the home game, today is day 26 of no booze for Renfroe, and i feel pretty good.

Today presented the closest thing to a true “test” for me so far on this leg of the journey. Not a very hard test, and i passed, but still the first potential stumbling block.

I have not been really alone since i quit, until today. I do currently live with my folks and my grandpa and it is pretty easy on the day to day to leave it behind. Most days i don’t even think about it.

I went to an LYP mixer event at a bar last night and stayed after the event to listen to a band until midnight. It was not remotely difficult to avoid drinking there. In fact it was great not to drink there. I got $20.00 in cash before going out and i came home with $16.00. How many times have you been in a bar from 7 ’til midnight and spent $4.00??

But today mom, dad, and grandpa went out of town for the weekend. I love being alone. I have enjoyed it for as long as i can remember. I also love drinking alone, or being alone and drinking. I would drink around other people, but that was always different than drinking alone (with a few exceptions). We will get into all that later, for now i just wanted to broach the topic.

Drinking alone has been one of my favorite things to do for about 25 years. Having the opportunity come up today did give me pause and make me think about it. I did not seriously consider going out to buy my preferred beverages, but it was the first time i had to stop and consciously re-affirm my decision to stay sober. Things don’t usually get too tough for me until around 6 -8 months. I get my life more on track. I start to feel pretty good. I usually have a seriously increased exercise routine. Often i have quit smoking during that time. I am not even thinking about booze anymore. And then i start to say, “hey man, you got this licked. Things are back on easy street. Have a beer and enjoy yourself.” When i do that, i generally maintain an even keel for 2-8 months before the wheels start to come off and i am back to consuming way too much and for all the wrong reasons.

Hopefully i can stay vigilant and A) get that far again and B) avoid the 6-8 month victory voice idiot in my head. That guy has a lot of bad advice.

On to Malcolm X.

Malcolm X died February 21, 1965. I love Malcolm. I think i have read every one of his speeches that have been published. I have read a ton of other Malcolm material including his FBI file. But i do still feel that there is no better way to experience Malcolm than to listen to Malcolm. It was the 60s so the sound quality varies greatly, but there are loads of legal sources online to listen to Malcolm for free. If you are not very familiar with Malcolm, or have a bad impression of him, i can’t recommend enough that you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. If you can’t afford it, i will buy you a copy (limited to first 25 serious inquiries).

One of his best speeches, in my opinion, is The Battle or the Bullet. Malcolm is one of those guys that was often misquoted and quoted out of context. It happens so much these days that many people take it for granted and do a little research before basing their opinions on the millisecond sound-byte from Big News Show. (Really Renfroe? Many people do that? – We can hope right?) With Malcolm, there was a concerted effort to use every means possible to discredit him in the public eye. I don’t believe that any other single individual did more to throw support and in particular white support behind Dr King than Malcolm. If you can present Malcolm as the scary angry violent black man ready to come to your house and kill you, sit-ins with Dr King start to look a lot more appealing.

Malcolm is one of the very few public figures in human history who cared enough about truth and a scientific approach to the union of belief and principle that he actually changed his mind about deeply held beliefs multiple times over the course of his life. When he encountered evidence that challenged his beliefs, he did not seek ways to justify his belief anyway, he changed his belief to fit the facts. That is not easy.

The Ballet or the Bullet provides a great glimpse into Malcolm’s thinking after his first Hajj. He had left the Nation of Islam and started the Moslem Mosque Inc. This was a few months before he would found the Organization for Afro American Unity. But it was during this period when he was beginning to build support and advocate for a new approach to the civil rights struggle. Call it simply a human rights struggle and plead a case before the UN as many other oppressed peoples around the globe had done.

There is a ton of great information in here as well as a few laugh out loud jokes. Malcolm’s oratory style is captivating. Check it out folks.

Download Ballet or the Bullet – The speech start about 3:31 into this recording.

In Between Posts

I swear, i was having such a good day.

This is not the start of the tech series, just more filler. I have not abandoned that project, but even for me, sometimes life has other plans for how we get to spend our time.

The first 9-10 pages are solid, the next 2-3 are close, and i need to do some more on the conclusion. I could have begun releasing it on schedule, but i don’t like to do that – release some before the whole is finished. What if something in the conclusion needs some more supporting evidence? Or if i decide that the beginning is too tedious (even for my writing style) which it probably is, and decide to trim some fat?

Lucas and i are back in PA to handle some life admin. It was a good day knocking down the chores, for a while.

There we are on our quick walk around the block. I have the headphones in because i am not in the mood to chat with random folks today. I had another really upsetting encounter with one of my neighbors just being kind of a general “bitca” and it made me mad. I had even put the leash on Lucas to avoid this kind of thing. But these people don’t feel that they need much of an excuse i guess. I was not at all polite, but remained semi-calm and completely non-violent, so that’s a plus.

I need a little something both angrier and more triumphant (i am starting with Nazi Mind Reader and then just lettin’ it play through – you gotta make your own call – warning – RPG’s MC is unafraid of the big-boy words).

I would love to renew my driver’s license online, but there is no security on the PA DMV website. (Hackers have fun!) So there may be a money order in my future and the security of the US mail. Given that i can’t do it online, i may go in to get a new pic as well since i have about 40 pounds less hair these days. Actually kinda surprised that was not a requirement.

I still can’t find some of the physical records i left up here as everything has been moved around. I need to find those receipts, or pay $535 bucks i don’t have (that i have already paid once) to the IRS by the 22nd.

I am not so sure that yesterday was the right time to re-quit smoking after all. No, it is going to be OK – deep breaths, count to 5 million…

Almost Warm! Exercise!

As you can probably tell from the lack of talk about running, i have not done any since it got really cold about mid November.  I could have used a trial pass at my folks’ gym, but i am still a little wigged about going to the gym, and i am mot sure that if i do go to a gym, that i want to go to my folks’ gym.

But, i have done most of my stretching routine the past two mornings.  I have also started doing my floor exercises again (also two days now) – the two kinds of crunches, leg lifts, and push-ups. I would like to have this exercise re-start morph into a more rigorous version than last year.  So far, i am hitting 25 on each of the crunches and leg lifts and 10 push-ups.  In addition to doing these everyday, i would like to start doing morning and evening sessions.  It is really not a vast amount of exercise, so i should be able to do that.

The temp has hovered near 40 for a few hours around noon the past few days. There is enough snow melt that i believe i can start running again.  I may try this out today.

My weight has stayed at about 197 through the roughly 3 months of limited exercise (and the 3 weeks of beer drinking in Mexico!).  Again, i am not concerned about the number on the scale, nor i am i too concerned about the image in the mirror.  I want to get healthier and stay that way.  Aside from toning some muscles, i am trying to work up to getting 15 minutes of good cardio several times a week.   I have a few smoke free months under my belt and i know that getting good cardio workouts will help my heart and lungs repair themselves.  Also, as it warms up, the mountains begin to call.  I want to do more hiking this season than i managed last year.  Sleeping in my sleeping bag on my hiking air mattress helps keep those thoughts fresh in the mind.

Of course, job searching is still primary.  Over the past 6 weeks of searching, i have applied for about 12 jobs.  So, i really need to up my numbers. But of those, i was really interested in 4 of them, and two of them i would love to get.  One of those is right here in Lancaster PA and i believe i have a good shot at that one.

Time will tell, and i need to keep focused on applying for more jobs, at least one a day would be nice.

Anyway – to all my fellow runners in hibernation, Let Us Take to the Streets!



On Thumb Butte - looking at Granite Mountain, Prescott AZ





Tonight, and most of this week actually, i would very much like to have a shot of Bushmills and a Budweiser and a Newport, and then a shot of Jager and a Yuengling and a Newport.  (I switched to menthols after i came back from India.  Extended international travel will play hell with your cigarette brand loyalty.)

Last night was the 6 week mark on this cleansing/abstinence thing i have going on – 6 weeks without smokes, or booze, or coffee.  In general, i feel pretty good, and my teeth continue to look better and brighter.  My clothes, car, and person smell better.  And even though i have been slacking on the vigorous exercise the past 2 weeks, i am still hitting 190 on the scale and continuing to transform that weight from beer flab into muscles through not drinking beer and doing much walking and golfing.  I fit into all my fancy suits again.  The pants are a little tight at the waist on my favorite suit, but that is really a Spring/Summer affair and i should be groovy for it by then.

I am getting much more sleep than i have since probably 1990.  I am getting an average of 8 hours, and no less than 7 of solid, uninterrupted sleep (as opposed to the 4-6 i have been rocking on average for the past twenty years).  That is awesome.  But, i am having more dreams and more vivid dreams.  That is also awesome – mostly.  I am now up to 7 times in my tally of frustrating dreams.  That is right people, my subconscious is cheating and i am drinking and smoking up a storm in my sleep.  I feel that this is deeply unfair.  It is like when you dream about work.  You wake up unfulfilled, frustrated, and trying to figure out how to clock-in or otherwise bill for those hours.  I have no one to bill, i just wake up with a craving.

It passes quickly.  Oddly, i have not missed or craved coffee at all – i don’t even dream about it.  Sometimes when i smell my mom’s morning cup of coffee brewing i get a little pre-nicotine rush – but that passes quickly and does not bring up a coffee craving, just the desire for smoke.

It is the evenings that are hardest, like right now.

A little bit of random for you (or welcome to my head)

I am still here, still doing ok, and still committed to writing in this blog.  I have not run for several days, but i have stayed on the abstinence plan.  I celebrated 4 weeks of cleansing on the 4th with a nice bottle of tap water!  Without thinking about the larger context, i ate a chocolate covered coffee bean in Giant.  It was awesome, but after 4 weeks with no caffeine or coffee – it took about 3 seconds before i REALLY wanted a smoke.

I am currently working on a few different, hopefully brief, personal writing projects offline that i will bring here when they are a little more advanced. {Current difficulties with the running/exercise, why i hate the holidays, the general anxiety/dread/discomfort i feel related to impending life changes, the golf basics project, and a political mash-up (voting, the state of public discourse, the “discussion” about health care reform, taxes, government spending, and more!) that will take a while to untangle into manageable chunks.}

I also still have a lot of my least favorite kind of  writing to do for work (corporate re-branding) involving my least favorite professional subject matter and format (me, my career, the resume, and the short form narrative bio).

Redesigning schematics at midnight

I have made some good progress, but i need a few more hours of dedicated but undirected writing to get more of the broad strokes down.  I will also need another brainstorming session and review of my notes and emails to jog my memory and capture some critical past events and projects.  (For example, i forgot all about developing a TV show in India, and writing and doing the voice-overs for commercials/promotional videos in Doha and India until a short work session this morning.)  Then i have to craft that mess into sections and sift and evaluate.  What should go on the website to describe capability?  What should go into the projects archive? And the challenge for long-winded bastards like me, The One Pagers!!  What gets cut from the narrative bio?  How to mash all this crap into something attractive for a resume?

Sorting out the Tents

I will get there – but i hate this.  The last time i was even asked to submit a resume to get a job was at Borders in 1998 (maybe 99 – i am no good at historical time-lines), so this is not a simple update.  It is really hard to figure out how truthful to be also.  I don’t mean “should i embellish”? I mean “should i leave most of this out”?  Will people hire a dude who has been largely self-employed for 11 years, who founded/or co-founded six companies on three continents, who is still the CEO of three of those, and a Senior Partner in another? But who only has a BA (technically three, but no one really cares about that) and is not in a higher ed program currently?

Enough.  I gotta do some head clearing with the books or the tube for a bit and sleep.

I did golf today.  The first time i played 18 holes in a long while.  I did many things that i have been working on quite well, but i could not put it/keep it all together to avoid a few of the big numbers.  After 7 holes, i was feeling good and thought, “i will break 90 again today”.  But i carded a 101/98 (there was no one out there and i played 2 balls on two holes). My best score ever is still an 82, and i did not think i would beat that, but i feel like i should be breaking 90 much more often.

More practice required…

day of rest(ish)

Running (Smoking and Politics Below)

I decided not to run today.  Not a ‘talk myself out of it’ give-up kinda vibe like i fought yesterday.  This was a conscious decision to let my body rest.  I have gone for a run every day since Oct 6th with the exception of Oct 9th.  That is 12 out of 13 days and 9 days in a row.  I figured i was due for a leg rest.

I did revise my run plan a little further.  I am still planning to stay at about 2 miles for a week or maybe two, but i have refined the reasons.  As i have stated previously, i don’t care about the numbers involved for their own sake, but for what they can represent.  One of my key goals with this running is to get a good and effective cardio workout of 20 minutes or more in each session.  The runs i have done so far are good and necessary steps on my path.  However, i can tell you without any fancy monitoring equipment that running 9:45-10:35 minute miles is not getting my heart rate up.  I am not close to winded or tired nor is my heart beating at an elevated rate when i complete these runs.  My legs are tired, and again, that is why these baby steps are important – to build my body into something capable of extended cardio workouts.  I need to stay at or near a 2 mile length until i can increase my pace to a more effective level.  I think probably 8 minute miles, or thereabouts will get it done.  There is not much point for me to continue to increase the distance i run if i run at my current pace.  I could run 7, 10 minute miles and still not elevate my heart rate.

So there is the new(ish) goal: keep rocking my current route and increase the pace.

Semi-Side Note: Some of you may be familiar with a little television show called The Simpsons.  There is a beautiful moment (one of thousands) in which Homer says “…let us celebrate this occasion with the joining of chocolate and milk.”  I sorta felt like that yesterday.  It was my first moment of ‘i would enjoy to have a smoke’, since i quit about 11 days ago.  It was not one of those ‘this is all too hard to deal with…”, or “i am gonna lose it if i don’t get a smoke’, or ‘i am gonna lose it all over YOU if i don’t get a smoke’ kinda moments.   It was more like a victory feeling.  “I am doing so well with the fitness and the abstinence and getting back into daily writing.  How should i celebrate and commemorate this occasion?  I know!  Let us celebrate this occasion with joining of cigarettes and beer!”

It passed. All is well.  But it goes to show that this stuff is difficult and sneaky and it hits us all in different ways…

I may not get to it tonight, but i have some random thoughts brewing about the pending mid-term election cycle, and in particular, the state races in Pennsylvania!  If you are not registered, it is probably too late (though not definitely too late so look into it!).  And if you are registered, November 2nd folks.  Hmm, perhaps i will have to put together a little voting post.  No judgment or real advocacy one way or another, just good info, like “how do i find out what district i live in?”