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, 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.