A married father of two riding his way through the crazy life of parenthood, trying to balance family, work and training for an upcoming marathon and Half Ironman triathlon. It's a process. It's a gift. It's life. LIVE IT!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lighten-ing the Load

What an incredible morning to hit the trail. Could not have been better weather or a prettier sunrise. I took a break from spin class to hit the trail with no real pace goal. But once I started, I welcomed what I was feeling and seeing on the Garmin. No doubt due to my increased training load on the bike and my shedding 11 lbs, it was a killer morning to push my fitness. Step-by-step I was feeling stronger, lighter and faster. Came in with a pace :30 seconds faster than normal, shorter distance run and still felt strong after 5 miles. Does wonders for the body and mind!

Quick shower at Mellow Johnny's downtown and off to work. Great way to start the day...and, more importantly, see some results! Looking forward to Friday's Spin Class, a long ride this weekend and time with the family.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Is this really Winter?

What a day in Austin! Woke up ready to put in some miles on the trial...dressed for seasonable weather, stepped outside and WOW....humid and 68 at 7 a.m. Are you kidding me? After a short drive and some shedding of many layers. I hit the trail for a 6 miler. I couldn't help but share a few trips down memory lane watching the many training groups doing their long runs in preparation for the upcoming Texas marathons. Was daydreaming back to those days of discipline and great training when it hit me.... those days are still here. Maybe not logging those miles, but the frequency is there...just not the intensity.

Wrapped up a great run and bookended the day with a our maiden voyage as a family with Chicklet (4 1/2-year-old daughter) on the trail-a-bike. Mom was game for pulling little man in the bike trailer and we scooted a few miles to get his hair cut and enjoy a coffee. Chicklet was a pro hitched up on the trail a bike. Even dug down and cranked up the effort on a few uphills. We made the loop, pedaled home and pulled into the driveway with about 5 1/2 miles under our belts for the first trip. It was AWESOME.

Part of the way through the ride, she even told me...."Daddy we have aour own cycling team now!" It was one of those priceless experiences of sharing one of my great loves with my daughter. I sense it will be the start of some great adventures linking us together.... I pray it's just the beginning.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Cheers to 2008!

What a year....many firsts -- most good. Based on my lack of checking in on LoneStarCrank, you may have guessed that it's been a bit busy and hectic. It's been a year filled with feeling like it was difficult to fit everything in....a year that really made me realize that taking time to do what really matters is priceless. I hope everyone had the kind of joy, excitement and adventure this past year as we have experienced.

In 2008, I was blessed to....
...See my daughter grow into a caring, sweet, empathetic girl. She is undoubtedly her mother's daughter, and I LOVE it.
...Watch my son grow into an even more adventurous young boy. He has developed such a love for his sister. I love watching him explore the world around him everyday.
...Enjoy another great year of being married to my best friend. It's a treat to still get excited every day on my way home from work.
...Have my father move to Austin. Spending time with him has been a real blessing to me and my family. I respect him so much for the sacrifice he made for us when we were growing up.
...Stay healthy....a little too healthy around the mid-section. My lack of races this year has put about 10 pounds on me this year (that will soon be rectified early in 2009!) Great year of sticking to a lifestyle change.
...Be a part of a great church with a mission of living outside itself to help others.
...Still enjoy my work and the people I spend so much time with at work. Good crew.
...Be surrounded by great friends who support our family, celebrate the big accomplishments and are there when things get a little tough.
...Make some great travel memories with the fam.

Though I'm not one for resolutions...in 2009 I will strive to....
...Spend more time worrying about what really matters.
...Get rid of what crept onto my midsection.
...Do at least one century bike ride in a respectable time. If that means I have to do two of three to get a respectable time, I'm in.
...Sign up for more races and rides.
...Be a more patient father.
...Carve out more time to be a husband...and not just the guy who shows up after work.
...Buy a top-of-the-line, killer bike; quit my job; move my family into an RV; travel around the country to experience every place I've ever wanted to see; sell said RV and fly overseas to do the same in several countries; and never wear a suit again.

Okay...so almost all above are doable. A guy can dream right? To you and yours this New Year's Eve....many blessings for 2009! Dream big!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blessed Indeed

Two days removed from Christmas and I can't seem to knock the indelible memories from my mind. Memories of children discovering the wonder of the season (not the commercialism of the month.) There was such magic at our house this past week with our 3 1/2 year old daughter engaging in the good 'ole past time of Santa.

Chicklet didn't know how comfortable she was about letting Santa into our house for presents....so I had to strike a deal. I told Santa that the doors and chimney were off limits. He would have to leave Chicklet and Happy's gifts on the patio. Appartently our peace accord worked, because when Chicklet and Happy woke up...sure enough there were presents from Santa on the back patio and it looked like Santa's cookies were gone and the carrots for the reindeer were sufficiently nibbled. Santa changed in his "method of operation" around our house and helped us from having to take Chicklet to therapy about a big, fat man coming into our house and mommy and daddy saying it was okay. That could have meant years of anxiety and big bills - Christmas eve crisis averted.

You may have noticed it's been a while since I've posted. I took a hiatius from blogging. Lots has happened in the last few months. New house, new job, new goals, new joy, new adventures. I'll fill you all in along the way. On the fitness front, I am working right now on a 30 runs in 30 days challenge. I'm doing a mininum of 3 miles per run...however, with mileage goals becuase of plans for an upcoming half marathon, I've been eclipsing the 3 mile mark regularly (the 3 is merely a baseline on what are usually my 'off' days.)

I'll talk about more about my upcoming events and training and also get things up to date with what means the most to me... my family and my fitness. It's been a while since I've made the move to blog it up. But let's go. Let's get real. Let's get to share in each others struggles and triumphs.

Let's make our own part of history mean something!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Need a Plan

First things first, I. NEED. A. PLAN! It is becoming increasingly clear that I am in need of some goals to bring focus to my fitness and training. I had trained up for the CapTexTri Olympic distance, but for family reasons, decided to pass on the race (good thing since Mother Nature intervened to cancel the race...more on that later.) With a crazy summer coming up with vacations, taking a week to work as a camp counselor, and work deadlines, I will be tested and challenged with sticking to a plan...but that's part of the fun, right? So here is the deal. Before vacation June 15th, I will have a plan.

The CapTexTri was canceled Monday, leaving thousands of disappointed triathletes. We felt horrible for those people who traveled to Austin for the race, only to leave without competing. I hope their stay was enjoyable and really, really hope they'll be back for another race soon. On a successful tri note, my buddy competed in the Brazil Ironman this last Sunday and did incredible. He left the water in 627th place and almost picked off half the people in front of him on the bike and run to end up 315th. Amazing effort and great result.

On the family front, things are going well. We have been busy with summer activities...swim lessons, Little Gym, trips to the park, bike rides and a few hikes. We're gearing up for a family vacation which will take Chicklet and Happy to the beach for the first time in their young lives. Chicklet is looking forward to enjoying a few weeks with her cousins, of whom she adores. She will also be turning three in a few weeks which is causing great anxiety for mom and dad as we try to figure out where the last three years have gone. Psssst....don't tell her, but she is going to be super stoked with the new bike she's about to get for her birthday. (Dad's pretty excited about that too!)

Happy is growing fast and more mischievous by the day. He turned one last month and has been walking for the last three months (which only adds to his level of mischief.) He is so much fun and also LOVES THE BIKE. More on that to come this summer, I'm sure.

On a side note, thanks for all of the comments and e-mails about Blotches and moving on. She is very much missed around our house these days and we have been remembering her fondly. There is a void that will not soon be replaced.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Letting Go

Every day, through good times and rough ones, she was there. Never questioning my decisions or paths, never second guessing my choices. Blotches Hamilton was a loyal friend...by my side for nearly half of my life. Yes my world has changed quite a bit in a decade and a half. There have been jobs, moves, my mom's battle with cancer, a marriage, two kids and countless other changes, but she was a constant. Tuesday I was forced to make a decision no one ever wants to make. At 14, the adventures we'd both engaged in had taken a toll on Blotches' body and it was time to say goodbye.

A hard goodbye to be sure, but one that brought up such incredible memories. Blotches was with me as I climbed the highest mountains I've climbed and never left my side at my lowest points. Come to think of it, she knows more about my history than anyone else on earth. And even knowing EVERYTHING she didn't care. She stood by my side. We should all be so lucky to learn a thing or two from that.

The morning I picked her up 14 years ago, I did so under the cover of darkness before rolling out on a 7 ½ hour drive to college. My parents didn't know I was cooking up a scheme to get my first dog, but once they met her, it wouldn't have mattered. I'll never forget the 3 hours of whimpers in the car until Blotches crawled beside me, laid her head on my leg and settled in for a life full of adventure.

Through the raucous college years, to the adventures of hiking and paddling in the eastern and southern U.S., Blotches was always a willing partner. Most times, I trekked out without anyone else... just Blotches. It's not that I disliked having the company of friends on the trails...it's just, with Blotches, I didn't need it.

Fast forward 14 years and the night before going to the vet we spent "camping" in the backyard. Just like we had for hundreds of times before it was just us, outside. Left to remember all of those times together and knowing her fate the next day — as hard as it was to stomach — I realized the price and value of our time and friendship far outweighed the greif and sadness I was about to experience. It doesn't make it any easier, just different.

Someone told me through this ordeal that alleviating the pain of your pet is a true act of love. I hope I find solace in that sentiment soon, but now I only feel a hollow sense of loss. As she slipped away, I did see a peace take away the pain. I will miss her greatly.

Monday, May 07, 2007

My First 'Real' Recovery Ride

Up until this weekend, the term "Recovery Ride" — in an organized setting — always translated to "Okay, I can hang with these guys without getting spit out the back of the pack after 10 miles." I'd been hearing about Jack and Adams Sunday "recovery ride" and this weekend I finally decided to take the plunge. There is always a bit of trepidation that comes with such decisions. Never knowing how "recovery" is going to be defined for the super-fit tri community here in Austin, there is always a bit of anxiety. I've been on other "recovery rides" that are pretty much a scaled down version of a group ride that starts slow and then ramps to paceline speed within an hour. That is the point at which I realize 'their' recovery is pretty much my training. But not this week.

I was stoked to feel like it was truly a recover ride for me — no problems keeping up and settled in for medium effort. I am quickly feeling the benefits of a higher level of fitness this season and less weight to motor up the hills (30lbs lost since last year.) Met some great folks, enjoyed the 32 miles and realized yet again why Jack and Adams is truly one of the greatest assets to our community.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ceiling Knocking

The monumental turn of events this morning was enough to make me think of giving up tris one minute, then suffer a complete whiplash-style turn into thinking I was finally "getting it". You know the days....days of pain and joy and fatigue and energy and success and doubt all mixed into one big ball.

Spin class at 5 a.m. was packed...man I love this town. I usually head to a different gym for spin class but since work would keep me closer to home I changed up a bit and was glad I did. The instructor was great and the class was killer. I was also stoked to see brand new spin bikes ... big bonus. After the hills class I rushed over to the pool to meet Spence... on the way I checked my email to find that it was D-Day for he and his wife. Kid number two was on its way and they were on their way to the hospital. Many prayers and wishes going their way today! Then at the pool...the barge was sinking into desperation. During intervals I had that acute sinking feeling and was stopped dead in the water. I came up for air and had one of those moments of severe doubt. I finished the 100, albeit very slowly and regrouped.

I then decided...forget distance, let's go for time. I was determined to swim for 10 minutes straight.... laughable for many of you, but I needed something. Fifty turned to 100, 100 to 200 and I was in a groove. When I needed to recover I slowed down, but to my surprise I kept going. Quickly the 10 mintues were over and I was still feeling good. Switching to going for distance, I was surprised to feel the laps ticking away. I did flip over for a few 25's of backstroke, but ended up with 1000yds non-stop...most ever. I wasn't burning up the pace...but it was all at once and I left energized that the Olympic tri was now within reach. It was a good day! For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was getting close to knocking on that glass ceiling.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Honest Effort

The rush of seeing so many cyclists sharing the road on what is a weekly ride through Austin is always a rush. My ride this morning intersected with theirs and it is always quite a sight to see 150 riders (triathletes and roadies all getting along) challenging one another on the Austin Tri Cyclist ride. It's the biggest weekly ride in Texas and one of the most intense with top-tier riders including the likes of Desiree Ficker, Cat 1,2, 3 and 4 riders and several teams. It is a goal of mine to feel confident enough this season to suit up and join in -- hoping to hang on to the back of the "B" group for at least most of the ride. After the last few rides I am building the speed and confidence to feel like that may be reality this season.

Our ride this morning included Spence and one of his friends who joined us for the first time. JC is getting ready for his first tri and it was great to be out on the road this morning with the two of them. We hit it early because we all had kid commitments later in the day and man I am glad we went when we did. The crisp morning air was perfect. Overcast enough to keep the sun from heating things up, and a perfect morning to challenge ourselves and our fitness. We decided on upping the challenge factor and taking a route that included some pretty good hills.

It is absolutely one of my favorite rides and gets me fired up every time. The first five miles we settled in and before long I realized it was getting quiet. I'd lost the voices and sounds of other bikes around me. I looked back to see something that was foreign -- I had put some distance on Spence. It was validation that the weight loss, honest effort exerted and hard work was paying off in many areas. I was also stoked to feel my jersey flailing in the wind. It may not be the most aerodynamic but it was great to see that there was less of me in it.

Climbing the hills, enjoying the speed of the downhills and, of course, soaking in the morning with friends...it was about as perfect as it could have been. When I pulled in the garage at the end I checked our average speed and was happy to see an 18.1 mph avg (17.3 was a previous best for the route.) It included a few times of pulling up and regrouping and probably could have been faster, but on this morning it couldn't have been any better. I'm looking forward to seeing JC catch the bug and watching Spence and I continue our improvement. These are the mornings that drive us when we wonder why we're doing what we're doing. These are the mornings when honest effort is rewarded -- GREATLY.

Workout stats:
Bike SW Pkway/BeeCaves Loop
33 miles
18.1 average

Friday, April 27, 2007

Limiting Limits

Limits are a part of life. We limit ourselves in our thoughts, in our actions, in our relationships, in our decisions. Those 'limits' can hang like concrete blocks on our shoulders as we battle adversity. But those limits are made to evolve with the hope they will be stripped away by confidence and performance. It's the unleashing of those limits that is truly the goal — in sport, in life.

A slave to numbers is something we can all agree on in our workouts. We obsess over the speed at which we can maintain proper mechanics, the pace at which our legs will or will not move us, the numbers on the scale, the grams of the components on our bike, the price tag of the gear we seek. Yesterday and today I saw numbers that brought confidence.

An incredible day in Austin yesterday meant I had no other choice but to get out and put in an honest effort. Cementing a ride/run brick with Spence and the evening was shaping up. Meeting up for a two loop, 20 mile effort through the rolling hills of southwest Austin, we dialed in and hit the accelerator. Knowing we were planning a 5K run off at the end, I tried to limit some of the impact on my legs, but the weather and 'the moment' pushed us on. Loop 2 was done faster than the first for a total average of 18.6.

To the run we were both stuggling with getting our legs underneath, but settled into a nice pace. When I looked down at the my Garmin I was pleasantly surprised to see an 8.50 minute first mile. For those of you who don't know my history, anyting sub 9 is celebrated. Knowing we had two more left I tried to let off the gas, but Spence was having none of that talk. He pushed me on and we kept moving. Through 2 we held our sub 9 pace. At that point, survival kicked in and we weren't about to slow down. Despite a 20 mile hammer ride and 3 mile run, my legs were doing something they had never done. I was hitting new territory and I couldn't have been happier. Final mile 8:20...average for the 5K 8:38. It was one of those moments of resolve when you realize all of the work is paying off.

Feeling confident, I wanted more of a test and decided to follow up the nighttime brick with an early morning run. To my surprise, the legs were good, the pace was fast — strike that — even FASTER than the night before. I finished a four mile run with a double take -- 8:20 average pace. Best ever. Realizing some of the limits had been shed away was a welcome burden to cast off. I'm not naive to think that thoughts of those limits won't reappear — they will — but at least now I've got the numbers to fight it and success to build upon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Grateful for the Fear of Failure

The training gods were not with me this morning. A late wake up meant rushing to meet up for an early morning run. Thoughts of bagging the run, altogether, came on strong. But alas, that fear of failure...fear of letting someone down, fear of not giving it a "true" effort meant I couldn't give in — I had to make it happen.

What was an iron clad training schedule for the marathon has turned into more of a free-form effort of making sure I get in at least 4 strong workouts or more per week. The combination of swimming, running, lifting, spinning and riding has given me some much needed variation on the workout, but it has also left me feeling a little "too relaxed." The success of a killer crank ride with Spence a few weeks ago was enough to light a fire, a breakthrough swim workout complete with time trial stoked the engine, this morning it was the battling of adversity which I'm hoping goes even further towards righting this ship.

An unusual weekday run with Spence was just what was needed. After battling the adversity and thought of throwing in the towel this morning we met early. Headed out for what turned out to be a burner of a workout. Ever since Spence ran the half marathon he has been pushing for more speed on his runs, while I have been content to simply put in the miles. A challenging burst a few times a week has been the extent of my speed work. This morning I was met with the improvement that can be attained in a few short months — Spence's improvement. He was pushing the pace the entire time and even though I was feeling the pain, I was also feeling the sense of accomplishment (made even sweeter because I hadn't given in to the adversity of making it happen.) Three of the miles were done sub- 9 minute miles and we wrapped up with an average of right at 9:00/mile.

On another note...has it really been a full month since I've posted last? Thanks to all who have emailed wondering if I had dropped off the face of the earth. In some sense, I have. Work environment has been challenging, time-consuming and has meant an extra busy travel schedule. But I am great, family is great, more to come!

Workout stats:
4 miles
9:03/mile pace

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Caution: The Barge is Motoring

Craziness at work and a lot going on with the family has kept me very simplistic in my workouts. Get in what you can, when you can. I'm finding success is even possible when it's not completely mapped out. In my effort to find out if I was going to sink or swim in my new pursuit to improve my water efficacy, last night — alas — a minor breakthrough.

To give you proper context, on more than one occasion during my swim class with Texas Iron I have had more than fleeting thoughts of throwing in the proverbial towel. My confidence was shaken, my resolve to continue was very low. I couldn't figure out why I didn't seem to be making any progress. I had just run a marathon, but couldn't get my breathing and stroke down well enough to keep consistent effort for more than a few lengths without throwing my stroke into chaos and sending me struggling to recover. Mind you, I never really had grandiose thoughts of becoming a strong, contender of a swimmer...I just wanted progress. I even battled 68-degree water (holy shrinkage!) at Deep Eddy pool to get some extra reps, drills and time in the pool one morning last week. And finally, there it was, staring me right in the face, small progress.

I was finding it easy to recover while continuing a solid pace. In fact, I was even keeping up with the others in my lane, which was a big confidence boost. As we wrapped up the session, the most telling part of making progress was I wanted to keep going. Talk about a pendulum shift. I'm not saying I've turned the corner on enjoying the swimming thing like I do the bike and even the run. But maybe I've turned one of many corners. At least I'm not dreading it...at least not now.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Pure Intentions

There are so many quick moments in life that we sometimes forget to stop, take a moment, and realize the totality of all of those experiences and moments....and more importantly what they collectively mean to our lives. Spence and I met up early for a 7 mile tempo run. We were both trying to get a workout in before tackling some family commitments. My wife was leaving for a few days for a girls' weekend and Spence's little fella was celebrating his 2nd birthday. It was the first weekend run we'd tackled since the marathon and enjoyed seeing so many other people out on the trail in pursuit of "their" goals and races. We passed training group after training group. I was excited for them knowing they were on their way to accomplishing something big. We did our run and averaged just over 9 minute mile pace. I was just along for the ride. Spence was doing the heavy lifting of setting the pace and pushing us faster.

Shortly after the run, we all said goodbye to Mommy and Mommy said hello to some much needed (and well deserved) time away from Chicklet and Happy. Sink or swim we're on our own. Thank goodness we had plans to go to a birthday party. Watching 1, 2, and 3 year olds play at a birthday party, I was quickly reminded of the immense responsibilities we have to each other -- not just our children or spouse -- but to each other.

Chicklet and Spence's little man are quickly becoming good friends and to watch them interact is always so revealing. There is no pretense. They don't like each other out of obligation or because one of them looks a certain way or has a certain job or "status". They like each other because, well, they like each other. There is no outside, superficial crud that gets in the way. I am mindful of that crud more and more as I watch Chicklet's pure interactions with other kids. We should all be so lucky to have great examples to follow.

That's all for now...."Mr. Mom" has some serious business to tend to in the kitchen...oh who am I kidding, "Who wants to go out for dinner?"

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Battling Doubt

Seeping in... from nowhere it comes, capturing my mind. Breaking free from this doubt is only moments away, but the pull is strong. The undercurrent of questioning ability, purpose and progress pulls me further from the surface. This transparency is revealing work left to be done.

Breath. Relax. Reload. Breath. Relax. Reload.

One week removed from going the distance these thoughts, these feelings shouldn't be happening. But they are happening.... in the pool. Am I kidding myself to think I'll be able to glide through the water for 1.2 miles? Is that even possible? Maybe I'm not cut out for this? I need to pull myself out of looking so far down the road to longer distance tri's and realize that progress is measured in the day to day improvement, not the grandiose strides between 600 meters and 1.2 miles.

Three steps forward, one back. Why do we always forget the challenges we've faced in the euphoria of success? These are the same feelings I had in the early part of my run training while ramping up for the marathon, however, this time the feeling of inadequacy in the water is one that will take much more focus and attention...and maybe even a little divine intervention.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We Are Family

Three days removed from the marathon and I am reminded of each of the 26.2 miles with every step. Funny how the nagging aches and pains are ususaly met with such disdain during training, but after an accomplishment like a marathon they're a badge of honor, a mere inconvenience worth enduring. So far I am feeling 5 times better than at this time after my first marathon. Once the calves loosen up, I'll be much better off.

In my rush to post a marathon race report I left out a moment that ranks pretty high with finishing a marathon. While enjoying a non-training Saturday morning with the family, we headed to Kerby Lane Cafe for some serious breakfast. There was a line so we had to wait outside, which wasn't a problem given the incredible weather. As Chicklet, Happy and my wife found a comfy bench I was standing enjoying the morning. Just then Chicklet said, "Daddy, come sit over her next to me. I'll schooch over and give you room." It was an incredibly sweet gesture. Mind you, our little girl in all of her innocence and sweetness is not a "huggy", cuddly kid. I sat down next to her and said thank you. But then she turned up the heat to melt daddy's heart. She got closer and said, "Daddy, put your arm around me so we can be a family." My wife and I melted.

At that moment I realized there was no race or competition that would compare with that small moment of time. It had such meaning and perspective. We sat there enjoying the moment and for the first time in a long time we weren't in a hurry, we weren't looking at our watches in a rush to be seated... we were just "there", enjoying every sweet moment of being together.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Race Report -- AT&T Austin Marathon

To say you never know what will happen on race day is ALWAYS an understatement. Last year, my first crack at a marathon was less than ideal. Ice storm hours before the start, 27 degrees, sick at mile 11, death march at mile 20. I did finish, but it wasn't pretty. This year I was out to atone for a less than stellar marathon...and it happened. I'll cut to the chase and give you the highlight -- 38 minute PR from the last year and a battle fought at the end.

You'll have to excuse my extra long race report...so here is ample warning to skip to the bottom if you just want the finish. The alarm came early on race morning at 4 a.m. but I was eager to get started and get to the line with plenty of time to relax and take it easy. One of my best friends, Ryan, made the trip and was doing the Half Marathon as a training run (he's training for Ironman Brazil.) We both milled around at the house and got ready and hit the road. Ryan is one of the reasons I am even involved in running and triathlon, so the fact that he made the trip to do the race was quite special. After swinging by to pick up Spence (also doing the half) it was smooth sailing into downtown.

If there is one thing you may have already picked up on...I like to have a plan, I like to have a backup plan and I like to be prepared. On this morning all was well with driving, parking and timing. The temperature was a brisk 36 degrees -- perfect for the start. After bag check-in, I got separated from Spence and told him I'd meet him in the starting gate with the 4.15 pace group. We had trained together and planned on going out for the first several miles together... on other mornings getting separated may have created anxiety...not today, I felt ready and I wasn't going to let anything throw me off.

As the lead runners jolted from the starting corral, fireworks exploded behind the runners. Seeing the flashes of light in the sky with the Texas Capitol serving as a picturesque background, it gave you the feeling that this would be one of those great days. Spence hadn't found me in the midst of the 12,000 runners by the time the gun went off -- no worries -- I was toeing the line with one goal, to run MY race. The first mile took us uphill. I talked with some of the runners who appeared to be settling in with the 4.15 pacers. We were getting our legs going and all quietly anticipating how our bodies would respond. A mile into the race, I felt a tap on my shoulder, Spence had started behind me but made up the time. The early miles were uneventful...but I am always aware of how great it is to be in the presence of such dedicated people. It is quite a feeling to fill the streets of a city and be among 12,000 runners. After a big uphill, I was happy to let gravity do its work. We didn't necessarily pick up the pace, the course just made it happen. We were running ahead of the 4.15 group, but running comfortably within range.

At the five mile mark we were greeted by the cheers of our families...it's always such a great feeling to hear those cheers coming from the people who are there to support you every day of the year...not just race day. Shortly after- on cue - Spence hit the accelerator and was off. As I watched him pull away, it was a great feeling knowing that today he would be completing his first half marathon. As he left, I felt a calm sense of confidence. Running roads I have run scores of times before, I was privy to some emergency pit stops if nature called. At 6 miles, she came a calling and I ducked into some trees. A few seconds later I looked back to see the 4.15 pacers cruise by...perfect timing. After tucking in behind them, we headed out on a flat section before making the first of many climbs.

It was on this flat section that the unique nature of these races took shape. Groups of people were telling jokes, some stories, others sharing encouragement. After a great joke at mile 8 I learned from a fellow runner -- albeit unsolicited -- that birds don't have sphincters -- that's why they're always leaving their mark. Don't ask me how this came up in a conversation during a marathon. It struck me as so bizarre, not only because of the information, but because in a pack of people this seemed like totally normal conversation. Try using that nugget of information at the dinner table and check the reaction.

Miles 8 thru 13 brought on the hills...some of them substantial. After a mile of up and down all of the runners were met by priest blessing the crowd. As I ran by, I couldn't help but think that a little divine intervention would come in handy while climbing the hills. Little did I know at the time how much "intervention" I would need. At 10 miles I saw my wife, daughter and son for the second time. They were cheering loudly and gave an added boost during this difficult stretch. Despite the constant elevation change for three miles, I was still feeling good, still feeling confident.

At 13.1 I was quick to take the idea of "halfway there" out of my mind. I fell into that trap last year and paid for it dearly come mile 20. I did reset my Garmin at 13.1 because somewhere along the way I had picked up a false reading and was .5 miles ahead. At mile 13 we started what would be a gradual 4 mile uphill stretch. Right about then a guy started chatting in our group about how this was a recovery run for him....WHAT?!@# A marathon as a recovery run? Turns out he had done a 100 mile race recently and was about to start ramping up again for his next adventure. The thought of a 100 mile run was beyond comprehension...and just about then, I was feeling the first signs of wearing down. I quickly made a strategy to hang with the 4.15 pacers until mile 17, reasses and let them make a gradual escape if I needed to. Turned out it was a good plan.

As we came to 17, I knew it was time to back off the gas just a bit. The uphill course was wearing on me physically, but I still felt good mentally. Just then a woman appeared in front of me wearing a shirt that had a verse from Hebrews 12:1 that read, "run with endurance the race that is set before us." I had heard and read the verse several times before, but at this moment it took on added significance. It was just what I needed. I felt such thankfulness for God giving me the will to move forward and the health to make it happen. For the next mile and a half I watched as the 4.15 pace group edged slowly ahead. The thought of seeing my family at mile 19 brought me an added jolt of energy.

Through mile 18's water stop, I took my Excedrin Migraine tablets (for pain and the caffeine) and hoped they would kick in soon. Approaching mile 19 I was feeling such a sense of gratitude for my wife. Not only did she have some much needed nutrition (Clif Shot Blocks and gels) waiting on me...I was also reminded of the sacrifice my training has been for her. With two small children at home, she picks up the slack when I'm putting in long hours at work and then goes "above and beyond" when, after a long week, I have to take another chunk of time to put in some miles. As I started to turn a little emotional, out of nowhere, there it was -- a killer cramp at the top of my right calf. It nearly stopped me dead in my tracks. I stopped to give it a quick stretch at the curb and started what would become my reality for the next 7 miles. A few minutes later I was happy to see my wife and Happy (my son) and every happier to get some great support from Chicklet.
My 2 1/2 year old daughter has been talking about going to see daddy run and couldn't really comprehend going to "cheer him on" so she's spent the last week saying she was going to come and "Cheer Daddy up while he runs!" Her words could not have been truer. A short stop for some high fives, a hand up of Shot Blocks and Sport Beans and I was back at it. Through 19 I also saw a buddy of mine who was working a water station. All along the course the volunteers were incredible...going the extra mile not just providing water and drink, but also giving such great encouragement.

Miles 19 through 24 then went something like this...
Self: Okay, run to next street sign.
Body: What, are you kidding me?
Self: No, keep going.
Body: So what's in it for me?
Self: Shut up and keep going. Okay, good job for making it, now make it to the next stop sign.
Body: You better have a good explanation for all of this pain.
Self: I can't think of one right now. I'm too busy trying to get to the next sign.
Body: Here's another cramp to make you think about it.

It wasn't pretty but it was moving forward. I tried to slow my pace, but everytime I would get below 9.45 it would feel worse and my legs would start to cramp. So I started running as far as I could and then would walk a bit. While running I even tried, with some success to flex my foot. I found it gave me about an extra minute of running before I'd have to walk or stop on the curb for a quick 5 second stretch. Through the final miles of the course we started descending on downtown. The crowds throughout were five fold what they were last year and their encouragement was a huge help. As I neared mile 24 I remembered the last hill that stood between me and the downhill to the finish line. I just kept telling myself, if you make it to the hill running, you can walk 3/4 of the hill. My mind games worked. Through the mile 24 water station and I started to smell the finish. As I moved forward through the UT campus I noticed I had been running with the same 6 or so guys for a while. Not together because we kept running and then walking at different times. But slowly we had formed a sense of comraderie, cheering each other on. None of us ever talked to each other except for an occasional, "looking strong" or "let's take it to the finish", but at this point we didn't need words.

As I made the turn at 25 and headed south towards the Texas State Capitol, it was finally sinking in. Each foot strike seemed to feel a little lighter, each moment a little sweeter. I knew I just had to make it around the Capitol and then enjoy a short run down Congress Avenue. At 25.5 I couldn't resist the beer stop from the Hash House Harriers...I figured if I felt this bad without a cold one, 6 oz. might bring me at least a fleeting moment of pleasure. It was cold and it was good. I knew I wouldn't be able to make the final .7 miles on the run so I took one last 10 second walk break and came upon a woman who looked like she was about to drop. I walked up beside her and told her if she would run, I'd run with her for a few moments. Surprised by my offer, she obliged and we both made it around the Capitol and saw our first glimpse at our path to the finish. I told her congratulations, she waved me on and I was eager to hit the final stretch.

I exited the same Capitol gates I have passed through scores of times, either to go grab lunch or get a cup of coffee, but this exiting was like none other. Upon leaving the gates, the crowds thickened. 11th street became 10th Street. My legs wanted to stop, speed up and quit all at the same time. I always had grand illusions of picking up the pace for a sprint to the finish down Congress Avenue, but after getting to this point I knew I was fine to take it easy and enjoy the cheering. At 9th Street I heard some friends cheering and in the midst of celebration my right leg gave me a jolt back to reality. A full on seizing of every muscle in my right leg from the hip down. It left my leg useless, drawn up and I couldn't even put it down. The pain and forward motion almost threw me to the ground. At the last minute I caught myself. Not to be overdramatic...spectators lined the street 3 deep, but at that moment of pain, everything fell quiet. That cramp was just a reminder of what I was about to accomplish. A few steps later, my shuffle turned into running again. As I was heading down the street I spotted Ryan. He was cheering me on and I couldn't help but smile and feel a sense of pride. Shortly after Ryan, I spotted my wife. You would have thought she was at the Super Bowl. Camera out, jumping wildly, I had to slow down a bit just to take it all in.

After passing my family I could see the chute, I could see the finish line and for the first time in several hours, I didn't feel a thing...only profound gratefulness. I had done it. 4.27.13.

On this day, at this marathon, some people ran to qualify for Boston, others ran for a shot at the Olympic trials, hundreds succeeded. Still, thousands of others ran for much different reasons. Some were running to escape the past, others to embrace a different future...but all who finished did just that. We finished. Some athletes scoff at the idea of the everyman doing a marathon or a long distance triathlon, saying "anyone can do a marathon in 4.30 or 4.45 or 5 hours."

But the fact remains, no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter how much you weigh, to do a marathon takes disciplined training, sacrifice, the courage to open yourself up to failure, and hard work. I ran with endurance the race set out before me, God only knows where this race will take me next.

Thanks for your encouragement, your kind words, and your advice. Now let's go see what's next.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

AT&T Austin Marathon in the Books

26.2 miles -- check

Celebration with friends -- check

Ice bath -- yikes

Massage -- check

Bed -- ahhhhhh

38 minute PR -- PRICELESS!

Race report and pictures to come shortly. Thanks for all the emails asking about the day and the result. It was an incredibly beautiful day on a hilly challenging course, big PR and a great learning experience.

Final time (no not the time on the pic above)...my finishing time was 4.27.13.

Congrats to the other finishers. More to come...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Swim, Very Understanding Wife

We all know what women want for at least one day out of the year — flowers (check), a nice sweet treat (check), and time on Valentine's Day with their significant other (oooops!) You guessed it, Valentine's Day 2007 and I got most of them right. In a statistical sense I was *almost* perfect.

That's when a very understanding spouse enters the mix. The tri swim class that I just started was meeting on Valentine's night. No big deal, I thought, I'll just skip this one session and spend the evening with my wife celebrating Valentine's Day. My wife, however, would have no part of that. She was quick to tell me that she would get the kids to bed and when I got home we'd be able to celebrate Valentine's. What a woman!

I was glad I didn't miss the class...it was a killer with pro-triathlete and coach Andrea Fisher taking great liberty at correcting the multitudes of "issues" I have with my stroke and breathing. I was grateful for her individual attention — and humor — and am already feeling more comfortable in the water and feeling the small improvements. Amazing what can happen when it all comes together. I am far from efficient and "at home" but I'm getting there....slowly.

I am also just days away from toeing the line for the AT&T Austin Marathon. Paring down the miles this week, I went out yesterday for a short run, only to be surprised with how fast I was going. For the first time in a long time — Whoa Nellie — I was having to hold back the ENTIRE morning. I knew there was nothing more I could do to build on and wanted to take one final victory lap around the lake before raceday. Even as I was holding back, the miles continued ticking away and all were in the 8.40 to 8:50 per mile range....quick for me, and a welcome sight. I don't plan on turning in those kinds of splits come Sunday, but I am proud of my progress since September. Sunday I am hoping to reward that effort.

Free and drills

Town Lake
5 miles
8.55/mile avg pace

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sink or Swim

It's never a good sign when your swim instructor tells you the warm up will be longer than you've gone for the 5 previous months combined. Swim class number 2 and so far, so good. I am wondering when I'll turn the corner into thinking swimming is "fun" or something that I "look forward to." So far, not there...but a step closer to stopping the carnage that is my tri reality.

This weekend also meant the last substantive run of my marathon training. Spence and I legged out an 8 miler through the hilly section of the upcoming AT&T Austin Marathon course. The hills will certainly be a force to be reckoned with...but we have put in the miles, invested the time and we both left Saturday's training run with confidence. As we clipped along, we passed a few of the painted course mile markings that have found their way to the pavement. Seeing the markings brought a certainly level of excitement and anxiety. The only thing left now is to stay healthy, slightly refine some strategy, do some family planning for race cheering and enjoy the last few days before race day.

Of course, these final days are filled with phantom pains brought on by a decrease in training intensity and the anxiety about every twinge of a cold you feel may be coming on. I will say, I am getting to the start line healthier and stronger than I've felt in previous races. This next week will likely drive my wife crazy with all of the things I'm checking, double checking. Most people call it being obsessive compulsive....we call it raceday.

What is it that drives your significant other crazy about your over the top preparation? What's the one thing you are so uptight about, others would think you were crazy?

Saturday's workout:
Austin hills
8 miles
9.27 pace

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

First Swim Lesson, No 911 Calls = Success

Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Okay, so here it is...

  • My name is LoneStarCrank, and I'm a flailing, inefficient, 'butt dragging in the water' swimmer.

Ahhhhhh, that feels better. So now what? Tonight I took the first step to getting past the fact that I am a perennial back of the pack swimmer in serious need of some guidance. My swim instruction of choice -- Texas Iron. Don't let the name fool you...I felt little Iron in me tonight unless you count my arse dragging in the water as resembling Iron.

Week one was filled with pool etiquette, a few drills and simple analysis of our stroke. The funny thing about opening yourself up to critique is, it often times, produces immediate results. A few tips here and a minor adjustment there and my swim confidence was already starting to improve. I quickly realized that I wasn't the only poor soul flailing around in the water. There was strength in numbers.

Unlike many of my tri friends, I am not blessed with natural swim skills. I am a bit timid in the water and tend to take a survival tact. It is not unusual for me to be in the bottom 10 percent of my age group when I get out of the water. I then hit the bike (a much stronger leg for me) and have A LOT of ground to make up. My goal with this class is to get in the water more relaxed and, in the end, mitigate some of the hole I dig for myself in the swim portion of the race. I am shooting for an Olympic distance trinin May with the possibility of a Half Ironman in October. Like many others, the bike and run leg of the Half is within reach...it's the swim that gives me more than a few reservations.

So there it is -- one swim class, no drowning, and even a few improvements. In YMCA swim class terms I think I've graduated to being a guppy. Watch out tadpoles here I come.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Inching Closer

I've felt the burn, experienced the pain, enjoyed the success and with last Sunday's 12 mile run, I am anxiously counting down to race day. Sunday mornings run started at 5.45 am, the temp at 34 degrees. Our 12 miles would take us through the beginning of the marathon course. It would also serve as my last long run and Spence's longest run ever. We started with some trepidation. The Austin Marathon has traditionally been a point to point downhill course. Big changes in the course this year meant some hills and many more elevation changes than in years past. I'd heard some commentary about the new course and portions to watch out for and was eager to see it and "feel" it for myself.

The first two uphill miles clicked by and we quickly hit our stride. Talking about the race, about training, about work and about family, we headed through the streets anxiously awaiting the challenges that were just up the road. The first section of hills came and passed and as I checked our pace, I was pleasantly surprised to see an average mile consistent with our "non-hilly" training runs. As we made our way through the middle miles or our run, it all started sinking in...this was it, the end of this training cycle was coming. One mistake I made last year was going through marathon training without having an exit strategy. I did the training, did the race and left with a hollow feeling of "what now?" There was no race to look forward to, no purpose to my training, and I felt the letdown. This year, I'm going to be gearing up by transitioning into Tri season. I'm facing my fear of the swim by taking a much needed swim course taught by Andrea Fisher of Texas Iron. Andrea is a professional triathlete and absolute speedster in every sense of the word. The class starts tomorrow...and I'm hoping to be able to share some good news Thursday (namely that I survived.)

Spence and I kept cranking out the miles Sunday and talked about our next plans. We're both seriously considering a May Olympic distance tri....hence my need for swimming instruction. Our situations run very parallel and we both don't take lightly the time commitment training takes in terms of balancing it with our family. Last year while doing the marathon my wife was pregnant with our second child...this year Spence and his wife are planning on number 2. Having that support and a compatriot — both from an edurance sport perspective and family perspective — has been a great experience.

Miles 5, 6, and 7 came with little fanfare or challenge, but we knew what was to come. Mile 8 hit and so did the hills. There were some pretty big hills, but I was excited that with each one climbed we were still feeling good. I am confident that our training has prepared us well for the challenges, but I'm also mindful that come race day I'll have to pull off the gas a bit knowing that I'll be running for a lot longer. As we decended out of the hills and back to lake we were both bolstered by our success and excited to take a step closer to race day.

Workout stats:
Austin streets
12 miles

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Tagged", I'm It

Tripp at Crosstrains "tagged" me...so here it goes.

1. Describe a memory from your first triathlon ever.
There was nothing like walking --in the dark-- to the transition area. The quiet anticipation and nervousness of that morning is something I'll never forget. As I made that walk...and it was a long walk over a bridge, up a hill and down a road....I remember feeling bit overwhelmed. I had just had emergency surgery to remove my appendix 2 weeks earlier, but didn't want that to deter me from finishing what I had started. I knew I wasn't going to get the time I'd hoped for, but I was going to cross the line. And I did.

2. Describe a memory from your most recent triathlon.
My most recent triathlon was re-doing the first tri I ever completed. I was excited to be doing it with a guy that I'd trained with. Seeing him a few times on the course was great. I loved the excitement of cheering for someone who, I knew, worked hard to make it happen.

On a personal note, it was also a time when I really was able to prove someone wrong. There was a guy in a triathlon group I'm a part of who stood up at one of our meetings and talked about how competition should come before inclusion. It's a point I disagreed with and he made overatures that I was only disagreeing because I couldn't hang with the people being competitive. Mind you, I'm not blazing a trail out there but my competition comes from within. Instead of discussing the virtues about including others in our sport, I left it alone...but it always nagged at me. I saw this same guy before the race but didn't say anything to him. I then found out he was in my age group and we were both Clydes. On the bike, I took great solace blowing past him. On the loop run course, I took even greater pride of saying hi to him — 10 minutes ahead of him on the loop. I didn't say anything to rub it in... I get the feeling I didn't need to.

3. What's the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a tri?
I was sucking wind in the run and concentrating on passing the woman in front of me. As I pulled even with her, she struck up a conversation. After telling her I didn't have much gas in the tank but I welcomed her pulling me along...she said no worries, you should have no problem sticking with me until the end, I'm 3 months pregnant. I thought, what???!!!@@@ And if you must know... I was chicked by a pregnant woman that day - by 10 seconds.

4. What's the most thrilling thing that's happened to you in a tri?
I am a horrible swimmer...so getting out of the water — every time — without drowning has to rank pretty high for me.

5. What is something you discovered about yourself by doing triathlons?
I've learned I can do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal I've set for myself. It has given me an outlet at being held accountable for a healthier lifestyle. It's taught me to embrace failure as a building block to do better. It's allowed me to gain confidence. It's given me a chance to explore closer friendships. I've also learned how incredibly supportive people can be in helping you achieve those goals. Whether it's been friends who have driven four hours to surprise me at the finish line of races or my wife who doesn't complain when I leave the house for a long run or ride...I am continually amazed at the support people give so freely.

6. What is The Big Goal that you're working towards?
Half-Ironman. I haven't taken the big plunge in commiting to an upcoming October half ironman, yet, but I'm more than halfway there. When I started running I made the comment to my wife that I only wanted to run so I could finish one of those 5k things. I remember thinking of how "in shape" those people must be to do a 5k. Now training for my second marathon, I laugh at those comments but it all is really about perception. I don't know that I am willing to spend the kind of time away from family that a full Ironman would require...so the Half may be my next Big Goal. (I'm also really wanting to do a Century ride.) But the biggest goal of all would be to find balance in anything I work towards...and that, my friends, will always be a challenge worth mastering.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Going Long

The thought of doing any strenuous activity for ANY length of time was a foreign, painful prospect to me just a few years ago. So why would anyone want to willingly put their body through the rigors of 3+ hours of trauma and not even be doing it for a race or reward? Good question. It's one we all try to answer every time we ramp up our training for a specific goal.

After getting iced out of my previous 20 miler (I opted for treadmill and couldn't bring myself to hang on for the full 20) I was anxious to get on the road and meet the challenge head on. Work took me out of town for most of last week so staying on track nutritionally and sleepwise was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to keep it all between the lines. Saturday morning I treated as a full on dress rehearsal for the Austin Marathon coming up February 18th. Did everything according to plan, except start time. I needed to crank out the run before heading to a family commitment at 10am. That meant a 5.40am start time.

It seemed like I was running in the dark forever before I saw the sun starting to peek out from below the horizon. The weather was great (almost balmy at 51 degrees.) I paid particular attention to pacing. This is something that led to a long, long 26.2 miles in my first attempt at a marathon. I went out a little brisk and paid dearly for it. While I've been staying close to 9.30 pace during my 15 mile runs, I knew the extra 5 Saturday morning would require better strategy. I started out at 9.40 for the first four miles and tried to slow a bit to alleviate any challenge that may have come my way. At mile 5 I tucked in behind a training group of about 30 people out doing their long run. It was a welcome respite to running solo through the darkness. After a few miles with them I was forced to veer off their route to meet up with Spence.

At 7.15am on the dot Spence met me in mid stride. He was gearing up for 9 miles and provided a great distraction from the minutes that turned to hours. As we neared a time crossroads --2 hours 15 minutes -- that has always been what can best be described as a "wall" for me, I was mindful to keep hydrating and keep taking in some calories. I once thought my 2 hour 15 minute wall was merely a mental taunt my body would give me...only recently have I come around to think, maybe there is more to it than just a mental hurdle. This time around 2:15 came and went and while I did feel a bit of a negative pull on my body, I was overcoming the adversity that had sought deep refuge in my running. I was feeling good.

Spence is training for his first half marathon and has been doing great. We spent the morning talking about family, about work, and about strategy come race day. I will be excited to share in his success. As the final miles ticked away I was struck at how non-eventful this long run had been. I was grateful that I wouldn't have any material to write about in terms of demons coming into my thoughts, my body betraying me, or mother nature scoffing at the idea of me cranking out 20 miles. In the end, it was pretty run-of-the-mill....which made me appreciate...there is a BIG reward for getting in these long runs. There are no aid stations along the way, medals or post-run parties, nor any cheering at the finishing line. And that makes these long 20 mile runs even sweeter. And even a little bit enjoyable.

Workout stats:
20 miles
10.04 avg pace
3,598 calories burned

Monday, January 22, 2007


Setting priorities in life is a funny thing. They can often times teach you a lot about yourself and what needs to change. Sometimes reevaluating them makes you a bit proud of what you already see. By the lack of blog updates you may have noticed that I've been a bit predisposed in other areas of my life. No, there are no major changes, just minor adjustments that come with any season of growth. In a way, this latest prioritization had nothing to do with me and more to do with surroundings. You see, in many ways the last three and a half years of my "life" in Austin has been the most blessed time of my life. New challenging job, the birth of two great kids, a supportive marriage to a woman who gets me, and a growing spiritual life. All of that and I am taking control of my health and feeding my competitive hunger through fitness, running and triathlons. Things are great right? Short answer is yes... but sometimes it isn't enough.

A change at work has forced me to reevaluate many things. I am now forced to deal with outside forces tugging at my need for efficiency, effectiveness and success at work. I am forced to realize that, sometimes, things are out of my control. It's not a great feeling knowing the process will suffer, but it is reality. I have spent the last month or so trying to make sure the work situation doesn't affect my marriage, my family and our happiness. All of that effort has forced other things to fall below the radar on importance. However, I am proud that we have juggled the increased stress as well as we have.

I am continuing my training for an upcoming marathon and things have been going well. This weekend brings me to my last 20 miler in preparation for the AT&T Austin Marathon February 18th. This will be my second marathon and a chance to atone for last years discouraging finish. Don't get me wrong, last year I was happy to cross the finish line, but I have always had a deep rooted desire to prove I can do better. I will! More on that in the days and weeks to come.

Thanks to all of you who have sent comments asking what was going on in my absence and for those of you who sought me out privately via email....thank you for your concern. Funny how this universe of friends becomes such a network of support. I am great, my family is great...that's what matters....and I already knew that.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Pursuit

It is human nature to always be in the pursuit of something. Maybe it's the pursuit of a job, of love, of comfort, or perhaps happiness. For those of us who pound the streets or ride for the challenge of endurance sports, there is an insatiable appetite for pursuit. We pursue personal records, we pursue a great rush from succeeding, we pursue gear, we pursue that next person up ahead hoping we have what it takes to pass them.

On the roads by 6:15 a.m., I was left to the darkness to begin my pursuit. My pursuit for the day was an 18 miler. It's a word that took on greater meaning after enjoying date night with my wife and going to see the Pursuit of Happyness last night. It's message stuck with me with every step this morning, it's lesson was loud and clear in the quiet solitude of the darkness. It go me thinking about the things we pursue everyday that are so inconsequential in life. If you haven't seen the movie, I won't ruin too much of it...but it will likely leave you reevaluating the importance of certain things in your life.

As I made my way through the trails of downtown Austin, I saw hundreds of people all pursuing something...this question is what were they pursuing? At mile 10 I was passed -- okay left in the dust -- by Gilbert Tuhabonye. Gilbert is an Austin running icon who escaped holocaust in his native Burundi, was burned badly in a mass killing and literally ran for his life. I passed him and realized his pursuit was heroic. Next, on the trail was Desiree Ficker...2nd place finisher this year at Kona. Desiree's pursuit of "The Next Level" was epic a few months ago and she certainly solidified her spot among the elite in the sport of professional triathlon. Whether pro or age grouper our pursuits aren't really all that much different. It just takes us longer to get where were going than people with such God-given talent and drive like Gilbert and Desiree.

At mile 11 I met up with Spence in mid stride. Spence has been rock-solid in his training for his first half-marathon. It's great to see him every Saturday and catch up, hear the latest stories about fatherhood from his home, and see the improvement we've both made because of our Saturday escape. Spence and I also share another pursuit -- the pursuit of being good fathers. We cranked out the remaining miles and finished strong.

I came home to find Chicklet working on her pursuit to master Candyland.... MiniMe was working on his pursuit of walking. And mom was pursuing providing the best possible nutrition for her family. Big goals or small we are always in a constant state of pursuit (or at least we should be.)

The funny thing about pursuit is it is never over. Once you succeed it is only human to want more, to want to succeed more, to set more goals. So, yes, today we succeeded with good runs. But it is clear, we will always be pursuing something -- in our personal lives, in our professional lives, and in our competitive lives. I pray all of our pursuits will be of things worthwhile.

What will you pursuits be for 2007?

Workout stats:
Town Lake trail / Downtown Austin
18 miles
9.38 avg pace

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Giving My All... Wasn't Enough

Perspective is a humbling thing. My week was crazy at work, but I was still able to fit in some great workouts including one that included three sub-9 minute miles strung together. Fresh off of what was a great run, I didn't put too much energy or mind to my long weekend run. After all, it was only an 11 miler...shorter than the 15 I'd pounded out last week. It was a recovery week...no problem, right? I quickly learned the lesson of not respecting the distance (albeit shorter than what I had done just a few days earlier.) Miles 1 thru 7 were fine. With the exception of warmer weather, Spence and I were moving through the morning with no problem. This was going to be his longest run ever. He is training to do the half marathon the same day as I do the full. He has been strong the last several weeks and is doing very, very well.

As we hit mile 8, I couldn't ignore the strain I was feeling and couldn't believe the difficulty I was having. Upset, mad, embarrassed.... all of those emotions simmering as I told myself to finish it up. I was giving it my all, and today that wasn't enough. I had been humbled and retaught the lesson of respecting the distance...no matter what distance your biting off for the day. As we hit the last stretch we picked up the pace. I had just enough left in the tank to leg it out for a minute or so...just enough time to realize, I had left it all out on the trail.

Workout stats:
11 miles
9:33 avg pace

Saturday, December 09, 2006

By Any Measure

Success by any measure is the measure of persistence and consistency. While I haven't been feeling great during my training runs lately, I have maintained a level of consistency that today was rewarded.

Up early, on the trail in the darkness of night. It was a much more solitary morning running without the usual crowds of runners. Seems many of those runners are, no doubt, putting their feet up and relaxing before toeing the line up north in Dallas for the White Rock Marathon. Crisp morning air welcoming me to what would be a breakthrough morning. I didn't feel particularly strong starting out. I was quick to hold back knowing I would be pushing myself to go 15 miles. Spence, my usual Saturday morning compatriot was going to be doing 10 so I was hoping to crank out 5 before meeting up with him. Problem was...I was a few minutes late to the trail so I didn't know if I'd be able to meet up with him, with 5 under my belt before our predetermined time... then something happend. Mile 3 and Mile 4 I felt great... didnt' keep close track of my time...I just knew everything was feeling good. When my mile beep went off, I looked down to find 2 sub-9 minute mile (8:52 and 8:54) Yes, Mr. 8 came a calling and I was glad to see him!

At mile 5, without breaking stride Spence comes darting in from the parking lot. Pace was good and spirits were high as he was about to embark on his first double digit mileage run. I was a bit surprised when he told me he had never done anything over 7 until we starting upping the distance this year. Last week he flew through 8 and was ready to push it to 10. Good conversation, good pace and good karma took us through the morning... until, in my infinite wisdom, I decided we needed to break up the morning with a few hills at the 13 mile mark. Mind you I had already bagged another Half Marathon PR by this point (I've knocked nearly 10 minutes off in the last two weeks...true testament to persistence.) The challenge of a hill or two, in theory sounded good, in pulling it off after 13 miles -- not so much. Spence seemed to have no trouble, but it was at that point my legs started to suffer. As we pushed on I remembered a recent interview I heard with Austin's Desiree Ficker about the amount of suffering she endured when she took 2nd in Kona. I realized that my paltry pain was just the beginning of what so many bring upon themselves for success. Knowing that...I could take it.

We continued through the morning realizing we had done well. We both hit a few PR's along the way and, in the end, realized the measure of moving towards our goals is so much more than numbers...there is no measure for the satisfaction of realizing and proving to yourself that "you have done well."

Workout stats:
15 miles
9.34/mile pace

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Breakfast with Lance, Levi, Basso, & Bruyneel

There aren't too many mornings when your interests converge in such a way that you knock out three things at once... such was the morning today. An early morning jaunt through the trails to knock down 5 miles as the sun hit the horizon was just the beginning. An unexpectedly warm morning of 55-degrees welcomed my first steps. Knowing there were other matters at hand — I cranked out my 5 miles and clocked them at 46.10 ...right on track. So far I have been impressed with how my body has responded and recovered after some of the first few long runs in my training cycle (much better than last year at this time.)

After finishing the 5 miles I was off to my "breakfast date" with greatness. Why fight the crowds? I was close enough to head to Bicycle Sport Shop on foot. An extra mile round trip was a good choice. Once I arrived at said location I was met by a throng of people. Okay, so my "breakfast date" really just consisted of being in the same place with cycling legends Lance, Levi Leipheimer, Ivan Basso and Johan Bruyneel who were helping raise money for a local Bikes For Kids project to provide 750 new Trek bikes to deserving children this Christmas.

The Discovery Channel Team is in Austin for their annual training camp and the riders took time from their schedule to help raise money to help brighten Christmas for hundreds of Texas kids.

For those of you who think Lance is nothing more than domineering and 'in your face,' you haven't seen his interest every year (10 straight) in giving back to his
community by trying to raise money to buy more than 10-thousand bikes as part of JB & Sandy's Bikes for Kids. JB & Sandy are local morning radio guys who are extremely involved in the community and come up big for a variety of causes every year. (JB is quite a local rider also.) I didn't go for an autograph from the cyclists or really even to talk to any of the guys... I just knew it was a chance to stop by after a quick workout and support a good cause. What better way to do that while catching a glimpse of champions...both on the bike and in the community.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Revisiting Success

I remember the first time I ever flirted with a half marathon it was a few weeks before I was scheduled to give the 13.1 distance a go of it. I wanted to make sure I wasn't kidding myself by trying to complete my first half marathon race. That was three years ago and many miles removed from my newer pursuits. I didn't have an exact workout schedule back then... only a slow ramping up of distance. When I finished that first half marathon I was content with a 2.14.50. Since then I've had plenty of runs of 13.1 or longer and each one seems to carry significance.

today's workout schedule called for 14 miles. After my very challenging run this week, I was eager to put that behind me and rebound. Because of trying to wrap it up prior to Pancakes with Santa with the family, I was on the trail by 6.15am. Slicing through the frigid air, I found myself enjoying the chill and darkness that surrounded me. The constant footstikes on the trail accented by the occasional "G'Morning" to other runners stealing away the early morning moments. It was one of the most beautiful morning runs ever watching the steam rise from the water. I was geared to crank out 6 miles before meeting up with my running buddy. Just as I was finishing those first half dozen, I realized I would be passing the half marathon mark at some point in the morning. It was then I realized I would be passing the mark and had a chance at a PR. Unlike many other runnner/tri geeks, I am not one to sign up and run race-after-race. I pick a few throughout the year and make them my litmus test. Because of my lack of "real" races, I make no apologies for counting PR's for training runs. I was on pace and eager to push myself.

After meeting up with Spence, the miles ticked away. We caught up on family, work, and his recent 5-mile PR (while pushing a stroller.) Impressive 8.15 minute mile pace while pushing a stroller on a hilly 5-mile course. Part of his PR came compliments of a woman who passed him while pushing a stroller. The possibility of getting "chicked" didn't bother him...it was the possibility of getting "chicked" by a chick pushing a stroller that stoked his competitive fire. For me today it wasn't about getting chicked, it wasn't about bragging rights, it was personal -- I was ready to atone for one of the most demoralizing runs I've ever endured earlier this week.

To the 11 mile mark my nutrition and pace were right on. My back started cramping shortly thereafter but we pushed on. As I hit 12, I realized I had my PR in the bag. It was a nice victory mile to 13.1. I hit the mark at 2.08.20. Not tearing it up for many of you, but certainly pride and success for me. I floated a few more minutes to hit 14 miles. Great way to start the day and help reinstill some confidence in my training.

Workout stats:
Town Lake Trail
14 miles
9.47 avg pace

The great morning run was accented by a trip to Santa for Chicklet and Mini-Me. Our annual Pancakes with Santa shindig at the kids' school is always a great laid back chance to make memories and catch a few of those moments on camera. Last years epic Santa meltdown with Chicklet gave us pause that she would be game for climbing up to get a photo with the fat man. While better equipped to handle Santa this year, Chicklet kept her distance. She didn't get too close, but she did wave and obliged mom and dad with a quick click close to Santa. I don't think there was a whole lot of communicating with Santa about whether Chicklet's been naughty or nice. I can vouch for her...

As for Mini-Me, he was wonderfully curious and very serious about his face time with St. Nick. While there was little communication between Santa and MiniMe, I can vouch that our 7 month old has been naughty since being mobile. He is quite a handful -- diving head first into a full bathtub, climbing out of his swing (three feet off the ground) despite being strapped in. He is quickly showing us his adventurous spirit.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Make It Stop

Today it happened. The wheels were coming off, self doubt was seeping in, my mind was beginning to tell me that I was weak. I have been making progress, even feeling positive about my training — until this morning. I hit the trail early to facilitate an earlier than usual work day. Nothing seemed to work right. My legs were heavy, my pace erratic, and I couldn't seem to pull it together.

Then the demons came with vengeance. "How am I going to do a marathon or half ironman for that matter if I can't even slide through a 6 mile training run?" "Why don't I feel better?" "What kind of reward is this for not having missed any workouts during Thanksgiving?" "Maybe this big body wasn't meant to be out here in pursuit of such goals?" They were all questions swirling in my head and making it difficult to concentrate. Answers to those questions will be hard to come by and will be sought often during this process. I'm just ready to push past this challenge and get rid of the demons of self-doubt. I know this is part of the process. I know I can do it and I will do it. Just as I'm learning doubt from others is a powerful motivator, when it manifests itself from within, it's also a powerful deterrent to success.

On a better note, as mentioned prior, Thanksgiving was filled with family, good food, good times, and good workouts. Ran on two different trails in two different cities, I'll spare you the details of my 4 runs the week of Thanksgiving. I returned to my old haunts in Oklahoma and while there visited with a longtime friend from high school and college. It's always good to catch up. After 1,200 miles driving with two kids in the car, though, it was also great to return home and enjoy the Austin Children Helping Children Austin Christmas parade. Chicklet had a blast and loved seeing the balloons, the bands and the festivities. I was quickly reminded of how much more fun Christmas is when you get to see it all through a childs eyes. We are blessed...challenges and all.