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!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Playing a Hard-9

Born and raised in St. Louis, the Cardinals World Series win last night was a great moment. Made even more special because this was NOT supposed to be the year for the Cardinals. They were big underdogs, barely made it into the playoffs, their pitching staff was decimated by injures. Seemingly everything pointed to reasons why they couldn't win...instead they stared down adversity and beat three great teams to prove everyone wrong. It's a lot like those of us who aren't supposed to be running in distance events or competing in triathlons. While few of us enter races expecting to win, all of us enter races to find our own victory.

The manager for the Cardinals always preaches "play a hard 9" -- 9 innings of playing hard, every play, every pitch. Great lesson for life and for pushing to succeed in anything. As I was pushing through my 10 miler this morning I kept thinking about that "hard 9" philosophy, realizing with each step more of what it was all about. You see, we owe it to ourselves to stay true to our goals and our ability. Sure there are days our bodies need a break and our stamina is cashed, but most times, I am reminded that if I am to spend this much time away from my family, I better be working my tail off and getting a good health return on my energy/time investment.

I love the fact that David Eckstein was voted World Series MVP for the Cardinals. Here is a guy that literally is the smallest player in the major leagues. In an environment where the bigger the player, the better his chances is the norm, this guy shouldn't have a chance. But he does because his grit, because of his toughness, because of his humility and because of his humble approach. Sure, being 240 pounds society says I'm not supposed to try to do a marathon, sure being overweight I wasn't supposed to be lining up to do a triathlon, but it was part of my plan to make a change and it worked. Now dropping more weight and pushing myself more is just part of the process. It's not where you start that defines who you are, it's where you end up.

Needless to say, the fact that the Cards won it all brightened my early morning run through the moonlit trails. Great 10 mile run (4 or it with a friend) and, like, the too small, too short, too untalented player that won MVP, I've got a lot of work to do every day to keep up with the expectations I am putting on myself.

Workout stats:
Town Lake Trail
9.43 avg pace

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Keeps You Going?

I spoke too soon about the weather change and had to call for that extra motivation today. You know the motivation I'm talking about -- that place you go where you somehow fight through the discomfort and sometimes pain to keep moving. I met up with a friend of mine for a 5 miler and didn't think much about the weather, I figured it would be 50's and nice. When I opened the door I had that feeling like all the air was being sucked out of me. The pavement was wet, not from rain but from the humidity. It was thick and would suck every ounce of energy from our chests. We got going and immediately felt the heaviness of the air. If it was possible, the humidity may have read 110%. We both labored through 1 and 2 and finally hit our stride, until we were faced with a half mile incline... it was there we had to reach back and find the extra mojo.

As I was running, I was thinking of that one place we go for that extra kick (and not just for running.) Is it the memory of someone, the jolt of reality realizing you CAN keep going, do you go back to a time in your life when someone doubted your ability, told you it you couldn't do it. Maybe you think of your kids, your spouse, your advesaries. I won't even begin to hypothesize about where Ironman competitors go for that jolt, it is out of my realm of understanding, but how bout you on the normal jaunts through the trails or on the roads.

As we pressed up the hill and on to the end I looked down and found major satisfaction realizing we had just turned in 5 miles at 9.16pace. The motivation must have worked for us today. Where do you find that extra push?

Workout stats:
9.16 pace

Downtown streets/Town Lake Trail
4.5 miles

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Small Steps, Big Strides

The alarm came early this morning and for the second morning in a row my body did not want to get up. This morning, after getting a free pass yesterday, I was coaxed out of bed by the strong pull of obligation (which in this case was a good thing.) The Fall-like weather seems to have stuck around this time and it was a much needed boost. My normal route takes me down a small decline that seems to ease my legs into a nice pace quickly without so much work. But today that pace kept getting faster and faster and I wasn't about to let it go.

Onward, the miles ticked away and right before mile 3 I looked down to see something that was foreign, faster split times. Could it be my Forerunner was on the fritz and wasn't reading right? A quick computation in my head of miles and time only bolstered the numbers I saw....3 miles at 27:10. Before you all start thinking, "What? He thinks that's fast?" realize that for the past two years of running and training for half mary's and full marathons I was a perrenial 10 minute miler....nothing faster, nothing slower. I would always try to kick up the pace only to be tugged back to the 10 minute mile pace by other forces. To see this kind of change was very heartening.

It reminded me about some of the great things about running and cycling...there are lots of measurables pace, time, heartrate, distance, comfort level, weight loss, enjoyment. Not that you get to enjoy all of them ALL of the time, but when you just see one of them you are somehow validating your effort. After a quick stop for water, I was back running. Proud of realizing I had just run my fastest 3 mile time, the miles continued ticking away. At the 5 mile mark I was again energized by what I was seeing. I hit my 6 mile target and stopped my time and distance 55:05. Again, for some of your speedsters, this may seem somewhat trivial, but for me, today was the kind of day that makes you realize that progress is all about perseverance.

Workout stats:
Downtown streets/Town Lake
6 miles
9.10 pace

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Settling In to Fall

The colors of fall are usually accented by yellows and brilliant reds...that is if you live anywhere other than Texas. The only fall colors in Austin are orange. Not only the burnt orange of the University of Texas (I'm not a UT fan) but also of pumpkins. Growing up in St. Louis, we were always treated to the vibrant colors of fall. Here in Texas, we'll have to settle for pumpkins.

This time of year also means parents' visiting pumpkin patches for photos. I always love watching parents try to get that "magical" shot of their kid surrounded by pumpkins. It's great people watching! While we didn't get a photo that will be appearing on the cover of any magazine anytime soon, Chicklet and our little man were good sports.

After a brilliant day of unexpected riding Friday, I had zero expectations for Saturday's 8-mile training run. Three of my running buddies had to back out because of family obligations or injury so I was left to my own motivation. I am always a bit more eager for long weekend runs because, unlike my weekday runs, I usually meet up with a friend or two for the day's miles. It's that company that has become a great component of training and a great motivator. A few of the guys I've been running with also kick up the pace. I've been enjoying the challenge recently instead of approaching it with drudgery.

Out running on the trail by 8am, despite riding on what was supposed to be a day off from training, I was feeling good. Hit my stride early, steadily picked up speed and ended up running negative splits miles 4 through 7. I am, however, looking forward to getting rid of the yo-yo weather that we've seen the past two weeks. Sunday's weather is cool and a perfect way to start the week.

Workout stats for Saturday:
Town Lake Trail
8 miles
9.40 avg pace

Friday, October 20, 2006

Just For Fun...or was it?

A day off work, sunny skies and tempertures in the 60's...if that doesn't get you fired up, nothing will. An early morning trip to Magnolia for some epic gingercakes with pecans and breakfast tacos (if you're ever in Austin you must experience) set the stage for a day of family and a day of riding.

My wife was heading to the airport with the kids to take a friend to her flight... as they headed out, I rushed to get rolling. With my training focusing more on running this past month, I had forgotten how much satisfaction and enjoyment I get from saddling up and heading out. The first five miles were good -- strong cadence, good pace. While I had set my mind on a shorter loop, the weather was pushing me to go further, daring me to soak it in. When I got to the turnaround for my predetermined 24 mile loop, the pull was too much, I decided to go long. Up a harrowing section of road and finally on Bee Caves road...smooth sailing, rolling hills and just me and the bike, a stolen day away from the office. While I was less than 20 miles away from the house, I felt like I was so far away from the stress of every day. Ever notice how the miles are amplified when you're riding?

At each hill I had to remind myself that today was about enjoyment, but the bike kept lunging, my legs kept twitching to go harder. Once you've felt the success of proving to yourself, proving to others that you can succeed there's no going back...even a "fun" day becomes a day you want to push yourself. Knowing that tomorrow is an 8 mile pace run for marathon training, I was quick to try to hold back.

Easing into a brisk but manageable pace I noticed cars up ahead coming to halt on 360 (a four lane divided highway)... as I came to the front of the slowdown, I saw them, two deer stuck in the median trying to cross the highway. It seemed as though everyone was mesmorized by the beauty of the deer. Skiddish and hesitant, they waited, we waited and for once the fast pace of everything around was still. After a minute or so the deer felt safe and crossed the highway. As I labored on and looked back at them darting through the brush, I realized it was the perfect end to a ride that was all about enjoyment. With another 10 miles to home I didn't take another look at the speedometer...there will be other days for that, why mess with perfection.

Workout stats:
Bike - rolling hills
37 miles
17.5 mph

By the way...I can't finish up here without wishing a good friend good luck in Kona tomorrow. I'll have my eyes on #1390. He was the one who challenged me to sign up for my first 10k, my first half marathon and my first marathon. I guess he's to blame for some of this craziness! I'll be cheering for him.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What Makes You Tick?

I am always drawn to stories about why people get into pushing themselves to excel. Whether it's ultramarathoners, high-altitude adventurers or middle to back of the pack runners and triathletes....inside all of us comes a drive to succeed that exceeds ourselves.

I ran across a post by TriBoomer where he is collecting the names of cancer survivors and those touched by the disease so he can race for them at IMFL. Great motivation for him every step of the way. We all have that "thing" inside us that keeps us going... and it's not just in running or riding. It could be what keeps you waking up in the morning, what keeps you going to work, what keeps you motivated to make it through another day. It may change from time to time in our lives, from season to season, but it is ALWAYS there. It could be your kids, your family, your past failures, your friends, or maybe it's from something you're still searching for.

One of the things that drives me is the memory of my mother whose life was cut way too short in 1997. She survivied cancer for three strong years until it came back. Despite all of the pain it caused her, she never let it steal her spirit to live and to serve others. I draw strength from her every day. I was far from the type of person who enjoyed running back then, but I remember vividly how she used to talk about how beautiful it was to watch runners. Don't get me wrong, I am no runner in the fluid, graceful way she envisioned, but she is no doubt enjoying watching me get fit and watching my progress from above. Long before we were all encouraged to LiveStrong my mom embodied that message. She gives me that spark to push a little harder, that wake up call that this life of ours in not guaranteed. Our little girl was born on what would have been my mom's birthday and shares her name, I can only hope the similarities of strength, spirit and compassion also carry over.

Workout stats:
Town Lake
Interval Training
3.5 miles

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Making a Change, Making it Stick

As a kid growing up my mom and dad carted me from sports practice to sports practice. First it was soccer and baseball as a youngster, then basketball and football were added to the mix. We were always on the move. But when I hit college other than the occasional intramural game or pick up match, there was a dramatic decrease in activity. After a few years, lots of travel and long hours at work bad habits had crept in, my weight crept up.

After about a year of being married I knew I needed to make a change, otherwise my life and happiness would be severely impacted. I started with running. My ultimate goal then was to run a 5k without stopping. I remember seeing people doing 5K charity runs and thinking, wow, they must be in really good shape. So I started there...I set a goal to run a 5K -without stopping - before our first child was born. I figured that would be the end of it. What started as a 5K turned into a 10K and then a buddy of mine called up and said, "Congratulations on finishing the 10K race...you know you are half way to a half marathon." At the time, that sounded like crazy talk. I discounted it immediately, but it planted a seed. After figuring it would be a great goal (see the pattern here) I signed up for the half and completed it. At the finish line, that same friend said, "You know you are half way to the full...thus starting the cycle all over again. In February 2006 I finished my first marathon.

In the meantime, I got into cycling a bit to try to alleviate some of the pounding on my knees...so, of course, I had to try to do a triathlon. Did a short triathlon and, even though I am not a strong swimmer, I have enjoyed the challenge ever since. Now I'm not turning in killer times, but it's always a great challenge and the goal of doing an upcoming race keeps me pushing myself to do better, to eat better, to be better. Despite shedding more than 50 pounds in the last three years, I'm still not a small person... in fact I always love to see the look on others peoples faces when they find out I've done a marathon. It's good for the goal oriented part of my personality and always something to strive for. It's a lot easier to wake up at 5am when you realize you're doing it for more of a reason than just putting in the miles.

That's the down and dirty version.... not much different than 1000's of other stories every day of people making a change. Just a matter of doing it, not getting discouraged (for more than a day or two) and moving forward. Anytime I've hit a roadblock I just always tell myself "Forward Progress." It doesn't happen fast, but there is always a reward. I'm just blessed I was able to make the change, have supportive family and friends and hopefully I'll have a fuller life with my family because of making the change.

Today's Workout stats:
Town Lake/Downtown streets
6 miles

Monday, October 16, 2006

Success, Setbacks & Responsibility

It's funny how the simplest of conversations you can have with a 2-year-old can shed such profound light on life. Looking back on our weekend of all things bodily function (see prior posts for background), I would definitely rate it as a SUCCESS. And, like any good milestone, it came with some nuggets of wisdom thrown in for good measure.

While enjoying some swinging outside in the backyard Friday evening (Day 1 of Potty Bootcamp for those of you keeping score at home), Chicklet quickly announced she needed to go potty. Those words, said in the context of potty training, set off a speed at which you never thought possible. Out of the swing, into the house, to the bathroom we looked like OJ Simpson in those old car rental commercials leaping over chairs. With a five month old in tow, my response time was hampered just enough to spell disaster. As our little girl made it into the bathroom she couldn't hold it any longer...I felt horrible. I told her I was sorry that we didn't move fast enough and it caused her to have an accident and it was all my fault. What came next was a surprise. With a stern look Chicklet pointed her finger (in the way she always does when she's about to fire off some serious statement), and told me "No daddy, it's myyyyyy fault. Whenever I pee in my diapey it's onnnnnnly my fault, not
yours." My wife and I don't know where she got that... but in that moment it was a refreshing look into a 2-year-old having some assemblance of responsibility and taking responsibility for her actions, something we adults have a tough time doing sometimes.

Isn't it supposed to be the other way around....us parents teaching our kids? Four days into potty training we've had 2 accidents, one party, three sticker charts, and lots of laughs.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Potty Bootcamp - Day 3

Do you have any idea the average number of times a two year old needs to go to the restroom on a daily basis? Apparently, neither did I...I mean, I know we were changing a lot of diapers, but holy cow, I had no idea the amount of pee those little bodies produce. Day 3 and I am proud to report, not only has Chicklet excelled at the potty training but she's on the verge of being a collector of every kind of "panties" we can find.

On day 1 of this oddysey Chicklet announced she wanted to find some "monkey panties" after she filled up Potty Sticker chart number 2 -- this girl knows what she wants. Happy to oblige I told her if she filled up her second chart of 10 stickers for going pee pee and poo poo I'd get her some monkey panties...heck, when I promised monkey's she could have hit me up for just about anything to get her out of the diapers. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see we hit gold. The lure of Curious George was strong and after less than 48 hours our little girl had earned her second pair of underwear...which came at a good time because pair number 1 were quickly retired to the laundry after a little number 1 action. A small setback/accident that Chicklet has quickly rebounded from -- not only has she performed well at home, I can happily say she's hit her mark while at church and at a restaurant. So tonight, yes, I am cashing in all my manhood for a potty party in honor of our quick learner. And, I've got to say, it's a big day at our house.

No scheduled workout today... but I've probably logged a mile or so just going to the bathroom every time our little girl needs to sit down. (Wonder if I can claim that milage?)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Potty Bootcamp -- Day 2

Our two year old is proving she has some pretty special genes in the potty department. Who knew how many times she was really going in that diaper, but man she is a machine. It's day 2 of the potty bootcamp and Chicklet is rocking! For those of you who haven't read the previous posting on the subject, this is a good time to take a look below before moving on.

I started the day before the potty training diva was awake. Met a friend and his dad down on the trail for a 6-miler before diving in (bad choice of words, I know) to another day of potty bootcamp. While running, I couldn't help but share my pride for our little girl being such a trooper with the toilet. I told them about the monkey panties, I told them about her excitement, told them about my walk of discomfort that was upcoming for daddy in the "panty" department. Funny thing is my friends dad asked if we could have ever imagined 3 years ago having this conversation while running? Heck no... the telling thing about the conversation -- I was so excited for our little girl. After kicking out 6+ miles (1.00.10)it was time to strap on the drill sergeant mentality and get down to the potty business.

By the time I had returned home from the morning run, our bionic bladdered kid had already gone two more times. She keeps up this pace and daddy will be wearing out a trail to the "panty" aisle. After getting ready and showing me the new stickers on her chart, it was time to make good on my promise, it was time to swallow my pride and head to the store. Our girl was beaming as she was able to pick out which underwear to buy...something that was somewhat nostalgic and sad for daddy. You can tell that mommy is pretty excited about getting rid of those diapers too! I've got to say the follow through of the potty training is due to mommy.

Needless to say we now have Dora panties and Chicklet is well on her way to getting some Curious George panties (stroke of luck that they actually had some at the store we visited, phew crisis averted) and we couldn't be prouder. Of course that pride will be tested.... I didn't know this until I asked "what now?" of my wife... oh yeah, now comes the real test. Those panties we just bought...that's it, no turning back. Now daddy REALLY, REALLY hopes she is potty trained enought to hold it until we get to the toilet, because if not....oooooops.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Potty Bootcamp

So you say you just did a two-a-day brick workout, your in your own personal hell of a bootcamp and you don't think you could run another interval.....HAH.... you've got it easy. Being the parent of a 2-year-old little girl this is the challenge weekend to end all weekends --- it's potty bootcamp. If you've never taught a kid to use the toilet, you've missed out on some big fun.

Our little girl was moving right along on the potty train before our little man was born 5 months ago. But immediately after his birth she wanted nothing to do with it. Months passed, cases of diapers were disposed of and then finally eureka. Chicklet was in the bathtub and suddenly got the look that could only mean one thing -- get me out or I'm about to fill up the tub even further. Fast on my feet, out came the sopping wet nakey bootie straight to the toilet. And then - YES - the beginning of the end of diapers. Not once, but twice in one night. Thus ushering in potty bootcamp weekend.

Incentive is a great thing... and by the way whoever thought to take a piece of paper and decided to put some tacky, sticky stuff on one side was a genius. It's priceless the draw of a sticker has on a kid. So the stage is set, we told chicklet every pee pee or poo poo gets a sticker and after she fills up the chart with 10 stickers she gets to pick out her own special "panties". So I envisioned me standing, understandably uncomfortable in the toddler underwear section by the end of the weekend... but little did I know that our child has some sort of special powers and a bionic bladder. Less than 24 hours into bootcamp and she's already hit the 10 sticker mark and ready to fill up another chart tomorrow.

At this rate I'm in for several uncomfortable moments spent looking for "panties"... by the way, if anyone knows where to get Curious George panties....Chicklet says we're in the market for a pair of "monkey panties" when she earns pair number 2.

Lighten up

What great weather this morning for a run around the lake. A crisp 61-degrees, mostly cloudy and low humidity....a treat for Austin. Gearing up for the first 6 mile run in our marathon training regimen tomorrow, I didn't want to go out too fast or go too far, which proved to be a challenge with the great weather. I've been putting in some decent milage recently, so I feel like I am much further along on this training cycle for the marathon than I was at this time last year, but I am quick to be humbled by a bad run or a tough workout. It's interesting to see so many other runners in different parts of the country winding down for the season. Ready to decrease milage and enjoy the cold weather. In Texas, though, October is when you start gearing up for the winter marathons.

Workout stats:
Town Lake Trail/Downtown streets
5.5 Miles
52.48 minutes

To say I have fought the rollercoaster ride of the scale is an understatement. I have always been active, but I used to work out so I could eat more and not gain weight. Very unproductive, very unhealthy because, at the time, I was in the upper 200's. I was always the football type (lineman that is). If you would have told me I would someday find satisfaction in running long distances and find some enjoyment from it, I would have said there was more chance of me winning the lottery, which is non-existent seeing as though I don't play. A few years ago I lost 50 pounds, got serious about getting fit and changed my lifestyle. Too bad I didn't know 10 years ago what a difference it would make in my adult life. Since then I've run a marathon, several half marathons, done some sprint tri's and generally have made it a priority to stay fit and push myself. I am a perineal middle of the packer so it's not like I'm trying to shed a few pounds to start reaching for the Clyde podium. I would, however, like to increase my pace.

The past few weeks, my goal has been to start the process of lightening up. So far, it's worked with relative success. About 10 pounds in 2 months. Already, I've seen small differences in my average pace during runs. Now, I plan to put it in high gear to try and lighten up. My wife is ultra supportive so once I say I'm going for it, she is always there to help. Now, with the added goals of training for my second marathon and first half Ironman, I am ready to kick it up a notch.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Such promise...

A day of such promise. Crisp, cooler air and a heavy morning dew. A far change from the high Texas heat and humidity that has stifled us so far this fall. So what if I turned off the alarm clock and didn't wake up at the pre-determined time that would have given me more than enough time for a long run. So what if, by the time I got out of bed, I was already running late — at least I was running. For me to be able to say this two years ago would have been laughable.

The first few steps felt good. No fatigue, no aches or pains. Just me, the city streets and finally the lake. With no definitive decision made on which race (and I use that term loosely being a perennial middle of the packer) to shoot for next, I am left to enjoy the underlying reason we all hit the streets, trails, tracks and treadmills. For all, there is surely a health component to the constant drive of running, for others there is an intrinsic draw. For me, on this morning, it was about enjoying what felt to be the first coming of cooler weather. Just as I hit my stride after mile 4, the beauty of the morning became heavy, my legs became weighted. What was such a great morning turned challenging...without warning.

It was the kind of morning that could cause doubt to seep in about goals, times, pacing, distance. But on this morning there were none of those thoughts. With no definitive plans for race season the challenges were simply affirmation that, even though I could have turned over and ignored the alarm clock, I did not — I was out running. I pressed on and found myself slowly moving through trails that I had taken for granted in my rush to keep pace on other mornings. I was able to enjoy the morning, to enjoy thoughts about my daughter, to replay moments spent with my son, to think of how lucky I am that my wife puts up with me and to really realize what a gift it is to be healthy enough to be active.

Final tally 5.2 miles running, 1.3 miles walking, 1 great chance to be free from the anxiety of a bad workout.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Our Smiley Guy

Inspiration for Living

Livestrong Challenge

What better way to start things out than with a post about the Livestrong Challenge held October 7th in Austin, Texas. More than 2,500 people participated...all with their own reasons for doing so. I was honored to celebrate the memory of my mom while volunteering at the event. It's been nearly 10 years since my mom died, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her, think of her impact and feel her spirit.

Of course, Lance was at the Livestrong Challenge (he won the 5K run with a time just over 19 minutes, then changed into his cycling kit and hit the road with he 40-Mile group), but I was struck at how this event wasn't about Lance...it was about all of other stories that simmer just below the surface of everyone. Stories of loss, of suffering and of pain somehow transformed into action, strength and resolve. That's fuel for striving to make a change... in yourself, in your community, in your workplace, in your family. While you may not be touched by the devastation of a disease like cancer, there is something within all of our past experiences that pushes us forward.

What fuels each of us is different, what drives us individually isn't unique, but we all, sometimes, need to take a moment to realize the value in the little things that matter in getting us to where we want to be.

It's a process. It's a gift. It's life. LIVE IT!