Cocoa Beware and The Fastest Geek Alive

Those aren’t the names of two professional wrestlers. Those are the “titles” for what I did on Saturday and Sunday to close out April and welcome in May.

The weekend started off with a trip to New Hope, PA with my wife (Nicole) and one of our close friends (Kyle) in order to attend the 4th Annual Bucks County Chocolate Show. The show itself offered sort of a good news/bad news situation.  The good was that a portion of proceeds from ticket sales went to the National Wildlife Federation. The bad news that while there was in fact chocolate and there was indeed a show, the quality of the event was rather lacking.

There were a handful of chocolate vendors (seven, to be precise) offering samples of their wares.  The highlights were Valrhona, Didi’s Chocolates  and Laurie’s Chocolates. There was also a guy selling honey from France, a booth from Cabot cheese, two booths of people selling various hand creams and lotions, a culinary knife vendor and a table with a bunch of orchids. But, hey, some of those people had bowls of candy so I guess that qualifies them for a chocolate show, right?  Right?  Meh!

Chocolate from Didi's Chocolates. One of the few bright spots of the show.

Look, I’m not a food snob, and when the cost of a ticket is only $13.00 for an event such as this, you’re not really sure what to expect. But the reality of it was that the show was far less into chocolate and more into other stuff. I realize that it was held at the New Hope Eagle Fire Hall so my expectations should not have been high, but they should have billed this as more of a “Stuff You May Buy for Your Mom, Unless She’s a Diabetic Because There’s Some Chocolate Show” and less of a “Chocolate Show.”

When we were walking in I didn’t think that the guy who was walking out saying “That was the worst chocolate show ever!” was speaking the truth.  Unless I see some promising new improvements in next year’s show I think the Fourth Annual will be my First and Only.

But the whole trip wasn’t a waste because it still offered a chance to go into New Hope proper and browse the shops along the main strip.  Switching gears from sweet to savory we had lunch at Fran’s Pub (Good burger!) then went back to sweet with ice cream from Gerenser’s (delicious as usual).  We also lucked out and serendipitously walked over the bridge to Lambertville, NJ right into Shadfest 2011. After a visit to Tomasello Winery, one of my favorite spots to hit when in New Hope/Lambertville, the day was complete.

The Chocolate Fest was a dud, a bland Mr. Goodbar when compared to the Snickers that was the rest of the day in New Hope and Lambertville.  But good company and great weather made up for the poor start to the day.

* * *

When Pop Culture References Collide: The Fastest Geek Alive meets Agent 007

Switching gears from decadence, Sunday presented an opportunity to take part in something I’ve never done in my life.  A few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that there was a 5K Walk/Run in the area and asked if I would be interested in taking part.  Running, you see, is something I never really participated in competitively.

My weight has always been a struggle.  I used to be thin, in shape and have ample energy.  And then I turned eight.  From third grade until my junior year of high school I was stocky at best and fat at worst. Then I had success with Weight Watchers and in my Senior year got down under 200 lbs. and was back in shape for the first time since watching cartoons after school. When college rolled around I put on the Freshman 15. And then the Sophomore five. And the Junior ten. And the Senior ten. And the Post-Graduation 50. The next thing you know it was 2002 and I was over 300 lbs.

Over the years I was still athletic.  I was always “fast for my size” so football was a natural for me.  I also loved playing baseball and softball.  Bowling was also a favorite of mine but it’s not exactly a sport known for the svelte. But exercising on a regular basis was something I never really did except for that Senior year of high school.

Being a Geek is as plain as the nose on my face.

When my father passed away from a sudden and surprising stroke in 2003 it caused me to look at myself and realize that it was time to take my health seriously.  With the combined effort of Weight Watchers and Nicole’s help, and our wedding in 2005 as a goal-date I succeeded in losing 108 pounds and getting down under 200 lbs. for the first time since 1991. But slowly since then the weight has crept back on and I’ve been hovering around the 250-pound mark recently.  This meant that getting back in shape must become a priority once again.

In February I rejoined Bally’s and started hitting the gym again. And then with Nicole’s persistence and a personal goal in mind I started training to run in the Freedom Steps 5K Run. The proceeds from the event go towards sending care packages to soldiers fighting overseas, so it was something that sounded like it was going to be beneficial to the body and the mind.

The only problem is that work has been particularly busy lately and that meant less time that I’d have preferred to train properly. So my training basically meant that twice in the past month I ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes. And once, last week, I ran 3.4 miles at Alverthorpe Park with Nicole (where she has done a bit of her own training for the event). Running outdoors was considerably different than running inside on a treadmill. For one thing, the ground isn’t rubber, and it doesn’t move underneath you. There’s also the concept of hills, which had me feeling stitches in my side after only a mile of huffing and puffing amidst nature. But with Nicole pushing me along and visible markers informing us of our progress I pushed through my final day of training to run (and partially walk) just over five kilometers in around 45 minutes.

Most importantly it gave me an idea of what I could expect on May 1st when I took part in the race.

Decked out in my Flash t-shirt, matching red running shorts, comfy running shoes and a Breathe-Right strip across my nose sporting the word “Geek,” I was ready to race.  We arrived at Mason’s Mill Park in Huntington Valley.  I was given number 007 which I took as a sign that I had been given a license to kill – but hopefully not myself.

We started jogging strong, probably even a tad faster that Nicole was used to running, but we settled in to our pace very early. The terrain changed often, but there were not many hills or tough spots. In what felt like a personal victory I only had to stop and walk once during the whole race and even then for only about fifteen seconds. With Nicole by my side to encourage me and the outdoors to offer ample distractions, I made my way around the course.

You can see the exhaustion in my eyes. Or that's just pollen.

Nicole and I crossed the finish line holding hands at the 34:33 mark, finishing 10 minutes ahead of when I thought I would finish. I was astounded. Most importantly I felt great. The only thing that felt better were the soft pretzels and PowerAde at the finish line and the three hour nap I took later on in the afternoon.

Running a ten minute mile?  Not bad for a fat guy.  And not bad for a geek.  It makes me realize that being fat and out of shape isn’t who I am.  That’s something I can change. Especially if I run more of these races — and attend fewer chocolate shows.

But being a geek? I’d never want that to change. Even if I could.

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