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!

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.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Making Due With Whatcha Got

Absolutely beautiful weather today in Austin...the kind of day you want to do your long run. Out on the trail before the sun came up I was enjoying every moment of solitude and the feeling that I was out there moving forward while most of the world was still asleep. On tap for the day -- 12 miles. There's something about long runs on the weekend that add extra motivation, a little extra anxiety and even a tinge of excitement. I was cruising and feeling good until I realized my Garmin was acting up and dropped what turned out to be a 1/2 mile off my run. As I was trying to figure out what happened, I broke my rhythm and then started to pay for my mind wandering about where my GPS cheated me. As I was struggling to find my rhythm again I realized just how trivial it was to even worry about the technical glitch. As I ran I just kept telling myself to let it slide...work with whatcha got. Just then a recent story I had remembered put it all into perspective.

Thursday, our little girl came home from Mother's Day Out and had a note about a conversation she had with a girl named Samantha. Chicklet and Samantha were playing babies and trying to find a bottle so they could feed them. Apparently they had looked everywhere but to no avail.

It was then that Chicklet got resourceful. Without missing a beat, our little 2 1/2 year old told Samantha, "You don't need a bottle, you can just use your boobie." She then lifted up her shirt and fed her babies. Needless to say our little girl's teacher about fell over. So far we haven't heard any complaints from Samantha's parents or received any psychologists bills. But there was our little girl making due with what she had. Where others saw challenge, Chicklet found a way to make it work.

As I met up with a friend of mine for the final 7 miles, I was reminded that this was the day I had, I was going to have to make due with this body God gave me and there was nobody else who was going to do it for me. I had to make due with what I had...and I did. I was kicking myself for letting something so trivial like my mileage from my GPS to get me off. I'll check it off to another learning experience. Thank goodness Spence pulled me along for part of the run.

Another development in our household...MiniMe is pulling up. This is how I was greeted a few mornings ago. MiniMe had pulled himself up in his crib and met me with a smirk, announcing his arrival of being on the go. Full on crawling also happened this week. He is on the move faster than mommy and daddy would have liked. Let the fun begin.

Workout stats:
Town Lake Trail
12 Miles
9.40 avg pace

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Have You Seen My Horse?"

"...he's brown, runs pretty fast....." No kidding...really. Rounding the bend on the Town Lake running trail, amidst the scores of dogs and littany of jogger strollers.... A HORSE. In a town that prides itself on the motto of Keep Austin Weird, I may have seen the pinnacle of that weirdness. Mind you, not a normal horse (of course not, few things are normal in this town, thank goodness!)
This was a miniature horse out for a jog with it's owner, only to spring loose and out run said owner. Quite a site to see people chasing down a mini horse on a jogging trail that's located in the middle of the city. All kidding aside, the horse does come from a very worthwhile program called Hearts & Hooves which provides trained miniature horses and dogs to visit with ill and severely disabled kids and adults. Very worthwhile program...with, apparently, some pretty fast horses.

Speaking of fast (I use that term very loosely), I was running with the wind today... notice I didn't say "like the wind." A front brought us 25 mile per hour winds with 40mph gusts. Despite the headwind I am proud to say I was able to tick below 9 minutes a mile for two consecutive miles (8.52 and 8.58 avg pace), while still acting as a wind sail. While I can't confirm this, I think a few people were trying to draft off of me on the trail this morning while running.

Workout stats:
Downtown streets/Town Lake Trail
5.5 miles
avg pace 9.25

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Losing an Old Friend

I am about to admit something that to many of you -- especially the guys out there --may ring very true... I am a creature of habit. Almost to a fault. I like to run at the same time every morning. I like to get my gear ready to go the night before. I like to eat and drink the same thing before working out. It's a ritual of getting my mind ready. Mind you, I am not obsessed with such tasks, but I do take a certain amount of pride in being prepared for just about any situation. The one constant through this journey of losing weight, getting fit, finishing races and marathons -- my shoes. Not that I have worn the same pair for the hundreds of miles I've logged, but I have run in the same brand, same model, same size. I have four pair of them, yes you read that right 4 pair.... all marked on the sole 1, 2, 3 and 4. Problem is, the company made a change and the newer model doesn't cut it on my foot (well actually it does "cut" it on my foot, precisely the problem.)

Another tri blogger, TriSaraTops, calls her favorite kicks her "strong shoes". If you've ever had a pair that you were slow to get rid of, even though you knew you needed to, you have likely had your own pair of "strong shoes." You seem to run faster, longer and more comfortable in those special shoes. They're the ones you turn to on race day or any other particularly important run. That pair of shoes for me was my Brooks Radius 04's -- #3 -- in the long line of the same shoes. I bought my first pair in 2004 (hence the name) and found it increasingly more difficult to find subsequent pairs after they were discontinued. After pair number 2 needed to be replaced I called store after store, searched online until I was able to find pair #3 tucked deep in someone's warehouse. I don't know what it was about the #3 pair, but they fit like a glove. I knew I needed new ones after I had passed the 350 mile mark in my #3's, but I couldn't stand to cast them away. So I got pair number 4... of a newer model, and you guessed it they weren't the same. I tried everything to get the #4s to work (Radius 06's) to no avail. So I kept running in my trusty #3's and they kept me on track. So much so that I've estimated I've run some 650 miles in them. I knew the end was coming, but like a good friend, I didn't want to tell those old kicks that they were about to be retired.

I went to look at shoes several times, tried on more than 25 pair, but couldn't find a proper replacement. I was about to settle on a different model of Brooks when I came across some shoes made by The North Face. I know what you're thinking "The North Face" as a good running shoe. I thought the same thing. I tried them on out of curiosity and what I found was a match. These things, from the time I put them on, game me that feeling that my #3's gave me. Finally, ahhhhh, a proper replacement -- North Face Arnuva 50's. As a bonus, they have a very cool lacing system that eliminates the need for Yanks or laces. Check them out in person if you ever see them.

Remember the days of childhood when first day of school came around and your mom would make sure you had a new outfit on to catch the bus for that inaugural day to class (yes that is me at the bus stop on my first day of second grade... nice pants!) Or that first day back from Christmas break and everyone would be wearing their new duds. You always looked forward to wearing your new clothes. Such was my morning this morning. What I am about to say will probably be met with a gasp, but I was going to wear my new shoes on my 11 miler this morning. I know what you are thinking. Before you get too far, I had a plan (of course, see above.) I was doing my 11 miler on the trail so I was able to do the 4 mile loop and then the 7 mile loop and was going to be running right past the car. So I left my #3's in the car and took off. I hope my #3's didn't get too much of a complex, but from the first few foot strikes of my new kicks I was developing a new love affair. Ran right past the car and didn't even think about changing into my old shoes. I'm hoping these new shoes become my "stronger shoes"... we'll have to see about that.

I was able to enjoy 56 degree weather, sunny skies, and absolutely beautiful surroundings. Everyone on the trail was seemingly feeding off of the pristine conditions. Struck up a few conversations along the way, but mostly was content to put in the miles, put in the time, and most importantly, start building a new relationship with the shoes that, I hope, will take me through a few hundred miles on my journey to success.

Workout stats:
Town Lake Trail
11 miles
9.45 avg pace

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hello Stranger

Hello Mr. 8,

I noticed you stuck your head into my run this morning and I want to thank you for stopping by...I just wished you could have stayed longer. All of these years I"ve toiled and become very familiar with Mr. 10 and his friend upper 9'er...but 8? I've never met you until today. While I know our chance encounter was only for a mile, I hope you can visit again soon.

The Back of the Pack

Such is life with something your strive for... it seems unreachable, and then when you find it and achieve it, you want more of it. For those of you who think nothing of settling in for 6, 7 or even 8 minute mile runs and then hold that pace for umpteen miles, this may all ring a bit trivial. But for those of us content to push ourselves in the middle or back of the pack, it is quite a lithmus test to revelle. When these feet of mine pounded out their first few 1/10ths of a mile 5 years ago, I was good to run a half mile without being gassed. A few years later and several lbs removed, today's happenings are validation.

As I trained for my first half marathon two years ago and my first full marathon last year, I could't quite break the 10 minute mile ceiling. I tried speedwork and intervals but nothing seemed to push me faster than the 9.40 - 10 minute mile mark. I resigned myself to the fact that maybe this body of mine wanted to be at 10 and wasn't budging.

A few months ago — while running with a few guys who were faster and "lighter" — I realized if I wanted to keep up with them and not hold them back I would have to step it up. I concentrated on dropping some more weight and kicking up the pace. As one came down, the other followed. This is not rocket science, but it was improvement. Then came the gradual decrease in pace until I was flirting with 9.20 and 9.10 minutes per mile. A far departure from my two years of stuck somewhere close to 10. Then today came... mile 2 of my run this morning ... 8.58. While I did't shatter the barrier, for me it was one of many steps that I've come to enjoy. Now I just want to become friends with Mr. 8 so we can develop the kind of comraderie that can take us through long runs together without losing each other. And with that, it's back to becoming acquainted with 9 for the time being, with hopes of seeing 8 again real soon.

Workout stats:
Downtown Austin/Town Lake Trail
5 miles
9.13 avg pace

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Let's "Go"!

It's funny how the best laid plans go haywire at a moments notice. What was supposed to be my last 6 mile slow run of my training cycle (before ramping up the milage considerably) turned turbulent with those little words, "Daddy, I have to go potty!" On the heels of Potty Bootcamp, hearing those words is like springing into Defcon 4.

The trail was packed this morning with everyone taking advantage of the crisp cool air. I was pushing the jogging stroller today so my first few miles were slowed a bit, but I quickly hit pace and was loving the company of hearing Chicklet point out all of the "doggies" on the trail and telling me what color shorts everyone was wearing. She was quite the chatterbox. With her talking and me running the time was quickly peeling away. That's when we hit crisis mode. About the three mile mark I hear those dreaded words.

Just as Chicklet told me she had to "go" I realized we were 3/4 of a mile away from the nearest toilet. No big deal unless you have the bean-sized bladder of a 2-year-old. What was supposed to be an easy 6-mile run turned into a sprint. After .25 miles I was feeling the burn, but I knew I had to keep pushing -- after all, I was the one who didn't think to bring a change of clothes and we were getting dangerously close to needing one. I kept telling our little one to hold it and she said, "Daddy, I'm tryyyyyyying." Good news is I got in a great, unexpected speed workout, great news is we made it! While putting Chicklet up on the toilet she animatedly told me, "Daddy, you were runnnnning faaaaast." Thank goodness I'm the only one who has ever pushed her, because otherwise she may be telling me the opposite if she ever knew how slow I was really going compared to others.

After the quick pit stop it was back to the trail and back to 10 versions of Wheels on the Bus....until you guessed it, time for another crisis sprint to the loo. I was lucky this time, we were only about 1/3 of a mile from the restroom and like clockwork we pulled up just in time, albeit with a much higher heart rate than I had anticipated on this morning. The rest of the run was great. While pushing the jogger isn't always the greatest key to good form and a good run, today it was the perfect way to enjoy the morning. And Chicklet even got out an sprinted to the line at the end saying she was proud of herself for running fast. Now that's a scene I hope to see repeated dozens of times in the next several years.

Workout stats:
6 miles
9.10 avg pace

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What A Treat

Wow, what a busy week at work and at home. One thing had to give and I will say updating LoneStarCrank suffered. Like most of you, I'm sure you had your fill of tricking-and-treating... and for us, Halloween was definitely a treat. Our 2 ½ year old loved every moment of her first "real" trick or treating experience and had a great night. As has been customary for our family for the past 3 Halloweens, we attended our churches Fall Festival on Halloween night and it was a rousing success.

Lots of great "trunk-or-treating" (imagine tailgating and trick-or-treating mixed together), lots of bounce houses and a petting zoo. We were all loving hearing Chicklet yelling, "chugga, chugga, choo, choo, Thomas!". Our couples bible study group got in on the trunk-or-treating action and caught a little case of Saturday Night Fever.

I was a proud papa watching our little Thomas the Train enjoy the night. There were so many little girls dressed as princesses, fairies and angels — and while all very cute, there was a sense of pride I felt knowing that our girl took a different direction. When my wife took our little one to look for costumes she gave her free reign. Instead of picking out the princess costume or a frilly, girlie one, Chicklet picked out Thomas. It may not seem like a big deal, but I was proud of her independence. And let me tell you she loved every minute of the party and didn't want to leave.

Workouts have been going well. My strong 10 miler last weekend has been followed this week by good base runs and a speed workout. I'm hoping to sneak in a run and a ride this weekend to celebrate this incredible weather we're having in Austin. I'm also faced with some decisions that I'll have to sort out in the next few weeks. Registration is now open for the Longhorn Half Ironman in Austin next October and I need to make that decison before commiting to any other races next season. Stay tuned.

Workout stats:
Downtown streets/Town Lake Trail
6 miles
9:31 avg pace