A Conversation with Toby

I’ve been pumped all day. I had a great class this morning, hung out at the gym for a while and then headed back to the Cottage in South Knox. I was going to rest up a little bit, shower, get dressed and then head into town to see one of my favorite bands, Mutoid Man. I’ve been pumped about it all day.

All day.

I pulled on one of my new t-shirts and started scrolling through Instagram and saw Mutoid Man posted a concert photo talking about how tonight they were playing in Durham, NC.

I nearly posted “Don’t you mean Knoxville?” but decided to dig my ticket out first. There in black and white: Mutoid Man opening for BORIS at the Concourse in Knoxville on Sunday, November 5.

That’s tomorrow.

So Heavy Metal Concert Night quickly turned into Heavy Metal Laundry Night at the Cottage. I thought I’d make the most of things and I drove over to Milano Pizza and Mediterranean. The restaurant is on the edge of a shopping center that also includes a laundromat, a nail salon, a smoke shop and a Chinese takeout joint. Their corner of the building was dark and there was a small group of weirdos hanging out near the bus stop. This place was shady and potentially threatening.

I was way into it.

Inside, the place was hot. A fan on the counter. I’m pretty confident they had zero orders they were working on despite it being a Saturday night with a UT football game about to start. The gentleman working there took my order. I wanted a large double-mushroom pizza. He repeated “large” and “double-mushroom” before sneaking to the side door to the kitchen to call out my order.

“Double mushroom!” he called out. “Doub..Doub…DOUBLE MUSHROOM!”

He closed the door and came over to take my payment. $9 for a large pizza, so I was pretty happy so far. He froze before taking my card and went back to the door. He cracked it open, looked at me and said “Double mushrooms? You want…Mushrooms under the cheese? Or on top of the cheese?”

Honestly, nobody has ever asked me that. I assumed highly trained pizza chefs were qualified to make that call on their own and I’ve never been disappointed. I don’t know that I’ve ever even noticed. I said “On top…” partially because I wanted to see the mushrooms but mostly because “I don’t give a shit…” would’ve been inappropriate. And this guy was too nice to be mean to.

“15 minutes,” he said.


So I went to the smoke shop because I don’t know why. I successfully burned through about 90 seconds in there. I had 810 more seconds before my pizza would be ready so I just went back to my car.

With 30 seconds to spare, I started to climb out of my car but immediately regretted that decision when I saw a man walking down the sidewalk. He’d just been talking to another guy at the corner and you could just tell by the way he was looking around that he was dying to find someone else to speak to. He looked right at me when I opened my door. I’d been busted.

He mumbled something at me so I pretended to not hear him. But then he exclaimed “It’s a small world, man!”

You’re right. It totally is, I admitted. He stopped.

Let me just tell you, man. I just met — JUST met — a family member from Blount county. And the hell of it is…He’s black! Black! Blew my fucking mind! Now listen, man…You have a good night, alright?

I reached for the door. You, too, man.

He stopped again and reached his fist out hoping for a bump. Said fist was also holding a bag of chips. Hey, man. My name is Toby.

Toby, my name is Firefly. It was great meeting you and I completed the fist bump.

Yeah, man, great to meet you. Now hey, I used to run with Collective Soul if you can believe that!

Collective Soul, yeah? Wow! I was wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt.

Yeah, man! We’ll see ya! and he turned and left.

A little boy was seated behind the counter in the restaurant. No sign of the man who took my order. Two women were in the back, one was boxing up my pizza. When the boy saw me, he jumped up and sprinted to the back screaming Someone is here! Someone is here, you fools!

An older woman wearing a hijab walked around the corner with my pizza. She smiled as she handed it to me and I thanked her. She then looked worried. “Double mushrooms?” she whispered almost like she was afraid she’d gotten it wrong.

I smiled again and said “Yep, double mushrooms!”

She smiled and gave me a thumbs up as I backed out of the restaurant. Toby was in the parking lot near the laundromat and I saw him violently throw his bag of chips up against the wall and storm off.

I have a feeling his mind had been blown for the second time in one night.

I love you, South Knoxville.

The Weekly Thing is now the Road to Bluegrass 6/19

Right out of the gate I’ll cover what’s obvious: for the next 14 weeks the Monday post will be referred to as the Road to Bluegrass. As you all know by now, I’m registered to run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Johnson City coming up at the end of September and training officially started two weeks ago. I, of course, didn’t bring it up until now thanks to my unplanned hiatus last week but just know it’s happening and it’s happening now.

I finished up the second week on Saturday. I’ll talk about my weekly running in these Monday posts but if you want to see how I’ve been training, I’ve added a handy dandy link to the top that says, appropriately, Road to Bluegrass. This will include an up-to-date table that includes both daily and weekly distances as well as my average pace.

If you read that shit, then you’re a running geek and I love you.

Week two was encouraging. Since I haven’t been running as hard as I used to, my conditioning has gone to shit. I was a bit worried about this during the first week as I was suddenly having to remember how to keep a safe pace that won’t leave me winded. I spent part of week one pushing a bit too hard but week 2 helped me figure it out a bit more. My weekend long run has increased from 2 miles to 3, which marks the first 3-mile run I’ve done on my own in months (save for a the 5-miler I did on Mother’s Day).

On the week, I logged 9 miles (14.5km) with an average of 11:41/mile (6:50/km — I think). Also, worth sharing is how I’m tracking nowadays. Erin got me a TomTom Spark 3 GPS watch and I love love love it. I told her that if I ever trained for another half marathon that I’d be getting a GPS watch to do it with so she hooked me up. Is it as fancy pants as an iWatch or one of the higher-end watches with heart rate monitors, etc? No, but all I wanted was something that tracked my time, my distance, my route, my pace, my step count, my calories burned and allowed me to share all of this information on social media. It does all those things and it does them very well.

Week 3’s boxing and running looks like this:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 2 Mile Run, 7:00pm Boxing at TITLE
  • Wednesday: 2 Mile Run
  • Thursday: 2 Mile Run
  • Friday: 6:00am Boxing at TITLE
  • Saturday: 3 Mile Run, 11:00 T-75 Boxing at TITLE
  • Sunday: Cross-training (details below); 1:00pm Boxing at TITLE

Cross Training – Phase 5, Week 2: Back, Triceps, Calves, Hamstrings

  • Top of the Mountain Warmup: Spin bike, 8 minutes: 1 minute each from levels 1-8 then stretch
  • Pull-Ups Set 1: 4 Reps
  • Circuit 1 – Weight: 30%, Reps: 10
    Dumbbell rows, tricep curls, jump rope, good mornings
  • Pull-Ups Set 2:4 Reps
  • Circuit 2 Repeat Circuit 1
  • Pull-Ups Set 3: 4 Reps
  • Circuit 3: Weight: 85%, Reps: 5
    Barbell rows, tricep pushdowns, jump rope, dead lifts
  • Pull-Ups Set 4:3 Reps
  • Circuit 4: Repeat circuit 3
  • Pull-Ups Set 5: Max Reps
  • Kettlebell Challenge Day 18 – 70 Snatches (12 each side; 10 each side x2; 3 each side)
  • Bottom of the Mountain Cooldown: Spin bike, 8 minutes: 1 minute each from levels 8-1 then stretch

This is my first full-week back in action after dealing with the grief of losing someone I love. I find comfort in staying busy and I hope that putting in this much effort into things I love reflects even a fraction of the effort Paps put into shit he loved. I miss that dude and I miss him badly. Yesterday I gave him credit for giving me a giant cloud to cover up the blazing sun while I was mowing my yard. That seems like something he’d do for me.

I also blamed him for the stick that shot out of my mower LITERALLY seconds later that cut my shin.

I sometimes wish a 13 year old me would pull up my driveway with their Paps asking if they could mow my yard over the summer…

…Nah; I’d tell him to take a hike. Mowing is mine and Paps’ time now :-)

The Weekly Thing 6/5


The music was pumping. People in white shirts were milling around, some carrying bags, others smoking cigarettes and complaining that they’d forgotten their music. Erin’s mom and dad were behind us as we walked through the tunnel at Chilhowee Park. Erin was looking for the check-in, I was looking for the bathroom.

When we got to the top of the hill, we looked down over the next hill and saw the starting line flags, the check-in table and the stage where the music was originating. The DJ was counting down, spinning, scratching and politely requesting his audience of 15 people to scream or put their hands up. The scene was almost like a poorly attended rave only we were outdoors and it was 8:00 in the morning.

We were at the Knoxville Color Vibe 5K — our first ever color run.

Erin had planned to wear the event’s shirt, a move that almost guarantees a race injury (or so I’ve heard). I bought a $2 white TITLE Boxing Club t-shirt especially for the event. We were told the runners would leave in waves yet after we checked in and started taking notes on the other attendees, I was a little lost as to why waves were needed. There were only a couple hundred people in attendance.

Despite the relatively light attendance, the DJ played hit after top 40 hit to get the runners hyped. There was a Zumba warm-up that was probably more intense than the race and then it was go time. The DJ instructed everyone to participate in their best outside voices in the countdown from 10…9…8…7…6…

…5 – SO excited, time to run!
…4 – I’m so incredibly proud of Erin for wanting to do this!
…3 – I’m hopping in place from excitement!
…2 – I’m so freakin’ pumped about starting my run training next week!
…1 – It’s time! Let’s get it onnnnnnn!!!!!


…except not us. We were in the second wave. That was weird. Now I’m just hungry.

Anyway. Last week wrapped up my phase 4 lifting program and this week starts training for the Bluegrass Half Marathon on September 24. My program for the next 16 weeks will consist of 4 runs of varying distances, 1 cross-training day and then whatever I’m scheduled to work at TITLE for the week. Here’s what this week looks like:

  • Monday: 6:00am Boxing at TITLE
  • Tuesday: 2 Mile Run
  • Wednesday: 2 Mile Run; 7:00pm Boxing at TITLE
  • Thursday: 2 Mile Run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 2 Mile Run
  • Sunday: Cross-training (details below); 1pm T-75 Boxing at TITLE


The term “cross-training” can mean anything. For a lot of runners that would indicate going to a spin class or taking yoga. I have a hard time thinking about not lifting so I’m going to continue lifting through my phase 5 program, just vertically loaded. I’m still doing my pull-ups program and will be continuing the 21-Day Kettlebell Program this week.

I’ll be doing days 1 and 2 of this week’s pull-ups at home. Kettlebell Challenge day 14 will likely be done either before or after class on Wednesday night.

Here’s what this week’s cross-training looks like:

Phase 5, Week 1: Chest, Biceps, Shoulders, Quads

  • Top of the Mountain Warmup: Spin bike, 8 minutes: 1 minute each from levels 1-8 then stretch
  • Pull-ups set 1: 6 Reps
  • Circuit 1 – Weight: 30%, Reps: 10
    Dumbbell Bench Press, Dumbbell Biceps Curls, Dumbbell Shoulder Press, Dumbbell Squats
  • Pull-ups set 2: 5 Reps
  • Circuit 2 – Repeat Circuit 1
  • Pull-ups set 3: 4 Reps
  • Circuit 3 – Weight: 85%, Reps 5
    Barbell Bench Press, EZ-Bar Biceps Curls, Barbel Shoulder Press, Barbell Squats
  • Pull-ups set 4: 3 Reps
  • Circuit 4 – Repeat Circuit 3
  • Pull-ups set 5: Max reps
  • Kettlebell Challenge Day 15 – 50 Snatches (10 left, 10 right x 2, 5 left, 5 right)
  • Bottom of the Mountain Cooldown: Spin bike, 8 minutes: 1 minute each from levels 8-1 then stretch

Once we finally got running I quickly learned that this part of Knoxville is a pretty fun route despite running alongside traffic on a relatively busy highway. We were hit with blues and yellows and greens and reds. Some people had it all in their hair, on their faces; some were even rolling around in it on the ground near the color stations. We walked uphill, ran downhill. Color runs aren’t timed and we didn’t time it independently. We didn’t care. We wanted to have fun and we did. In a way, it was a very unique PR.

Our packets came with two color packs with instructions to hold them until the after-race party. We hung out at the party for about 5 or 6 minutes listening to DMX and DJ Kool. We watched a few people dance and nodded our heads a bit while chugging finish-line water. I think Erin did the Apache. We decided to take our colors home so I could snap a few proper photos. Dig ’em:

Worth noting: Erin started her tracker too early and stopped it too late…like minutes early/late…and her pace averaged out to be record-setting for her. I can’t wait until her next timed race!

…also, she didn’t get hurt despite her shirt choice.