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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Today it Begins...Again

Driving home last night in the snow, I was sure that my casual run this morning was going to be out of the question. An overnight freeze would just turn this mess into a layer of ice. While I could have planned to get on the treadmill, I'm still in recovery mode and opted for sleep.

To be brief, woke up at 4:00 and the temperature was only in the mid-30's. JOY! A peek outside showed wet streets, but no remaining snow. Dressed, out the door and off I went. There was a heavy mist and within a few feet I thought that I'd cut this run short.

About five minutes in, I was just overwhelmed. Sure it was chilly and I was getting wet, but it was just plain awesome.

Then, at that moment...I was reminded what I am. I am a runner. I love this stuff. This is what we do. Bring it on. What else you got?

As a few cars pulled by, I could see them slow. I knew what they were thinking..."what's that idiot doing?"

I get similar looks from our neighborhood police officer when I'm out pounding the pavement at 4:00 AM to beat the heat of a typical Texas summer. Once, he pulled up beside me and ask how far I was going. When I told him I'd be at it for a few hours, he just shook his head and wished me well. He gives me a knowing nod each time we cross paths.

Today wasn't my fastest run or my longest, but it was one of the best in a very long time. Forget the health benefits of running. This was about pure God given pleasure. I'm thankful to Him for allowing me to experience this on a day that otherwise looked to be so ordinary.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Randy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rock Recap



Yesterday's Dallas White Rock Marathon was my 6th marathon. Around mile 24 I remembered why I hadn't run one of these things in five years. Yet, only my fellow runners would understand why I missed my time away.

My 4:30 finishing time is far from a PR, but I had no expectations...no disappointments. I just wanted to make this as comfortable as a marathon could be. Happily, I felt amazingly well and only started the dead leg shuffle around mile 24 or so. It was that last marathon five years ago when leg cramps had me at that state around mile 17. I swore then I'd never do it again. Nine miles with a pair of stilts as legs will do that to a person.

This was my 3rd White Rock and I want to applaud the city for turning out to cheer on these lunatics in running shoes. My first marathon in Dallas, back in 1997, pales in comparison to yesterday. Tons of people. Not just cheering for their designated runner...cheering for strangers like me. It's no New York City Marathon, but it was simply impressive.

One observation. You'd think the American Airlines Center and numerous port-a-potties would be ample for 20,000 runners. Yet, lines were nuts before the start and throughout the race on the course. I feel sorry for those who had to wait in line during the race for a chance to "go".

The inventor of the timing chip needs to be thanked once again. This allows us slower runners to start in the back, yet still post an accurate time. Here is a view from the back of the last starting coral. I was way honking back there, yet it worked quite smoothly.

I guess my only complaint can only be directed at most (likely all) large marathons. It is nearly impossible to get in a rhythm. You know, zone out and before you know it you've knocked off a couple of miles. Just too many people. This is my own doing for signing up for large races. After I finished yesterday, I was thinking that I actually enjoy my long training runs as much as the race itself if not more. If I mentioned that to my non-running friends they'd have me locked up.

Now, I can focus on this wonderful time of year. No more distractions. For those of us that celebrate Christmas with the main focus being Christ, it is time to dig in. Fill your heart with the gift that was so generously given.

And...maybe get back out of the road for some solitude.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Randy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pre-Race Note: Relax

What gives with the anxiety.  I'm running the Dallas White Rock Marathon tomorrow and have had more trouble sleeping than usual the past few nights.  I know the race is the culprit as my mind immediately goes to the race.

Strange thing is that I registered for this race not seeking a PR or even a specific time.  I just wanted to put in the miles as a training run to kick off what I hope to be a busy 2010 running schedule.  Thus, no pressure.  I would even be ok with walking a substantial portion of the last 10K.

Yet, I got geeked at the EXPO yesterday afternoon.  I started to obsess about when I'd fuel and which aid stations I'd hit for fluid & walk breaks.  Darn it, I'm doing exactly what I didn't want to do.  Planning the race.  I guess having a plan is always good.  Unfortunately, my planning leads me to expectations...not what I had in mind.

This isn't my first rodeo either. This will be my 6th marathon.  Yet, it is my first in five years.  Does it ever get easier?  I'd hoped this would feel like another Turkey Trot or neighborhood 5K.  I just want and need to do one thing...Relax. This is fun...Right?

Blessings to all the runners, volunteers, organizers and spectators. You are all in my prayers.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Randy

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Taper Tubby

Stepped on the scale this morning and darn it if I hadn't done it again. I gained weight during my taper....AGAIN! Three pounds and I still have a few days to go. What gives? I know better. I'll be almost 5 pounds over my intended weight and 10 above what I consider my lean mean fighting machine weight (still short and doughy...but, less doughy...maybe I should get a spray tan and do some cross training).

Sure, I've been hampered by this Vertigo thing, but you'd think nausea would keep me from gaining weight. The opposite has been true. I've been starving for the past 10 days. I guess I'm feeling sorry for myself not being able to run so I just eat. I'm hungry all the time. I have even found myself eating junk I would normally pass on without thought. These are not even sorta good calories so I can't kid myself and use the carbo loading excuse.

Last night, I was sipping green tea to wash down some Almond Toffee. My boss' wife sends some over every year. It is wicked good, but one small bite is usually my limit...for the season. I was like a crack addict. I need to be locked up the balance of the week or else they'll flag me at the start for appearing to be too unfit to participate.

Ok, off to lunch. Need protein. Need carbs. Think healthy and focus on portion control. Oops, someone just delivered cookies...darn it!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Randy

Monday, December 7, 2009

When to Quit

After some wonderful trail running and food in Santa Fe last weekend, I was suddenly slammed with Vertigo. It hit me like a ton of bricks while driving to the office the morning after I returned. Technically Vertigo or not, I've got the inner ear symptoms similar to it. The good news is that it has improved gradually. I now struggle with whether or not I'll be able to (or should) run the Dallas White Rock Marathon this coming weekend. The pressure from family and co-workers to drop out is immense already.

I was fascinated how quickly those who don't run were quick to recommend I sit this one out. For some reason, I thought they'd have more respect for the effort put in to train for this thing. Aren't these the people who make The Biggest Loser such of popular TV show? As usual, I was wrong. Why was I surprised? I mean, these folks are the ones who ask if I plan to win. Of course they don't get it.

Fellow runners speak with more caution. They want to know what my doctor says. My favorite question: "How bad is it?"

That question says a lot. They get it! Clearly, runners deal with a lot of physical ailments while training. We utter "how bad is it?" to ourselves and other runners often. It means, simply, 'you think you'd die if you gave it a go?'

So, in order to receive your proper opinion, let me elaborate on how bad it is. At present, I still get dizzy when driving and doing various tasks with my hands while sitting or standing. My doctor wants to initiate the standard tests, but was clear to point out that if it were indeed Vertigo there is not test to confirm such. They basically just rule out big health threats: brain tumor, hear condition, diabetes, etc. and hope it clears up in a number of weeks or months.

Even though I'm tapering, I did run some the past two days to see what would happen. Day one was a mess. Less dizzy the second day and I began to think that maybe I could deal with this for four and a half hours. Why not? Rough morning today followed by no symptoms this afternoon.

I've promised my family and doctor that I'd make an honest race time decision. Assess how I feel after driving to the race. I suppose the only fear I have is how honest I'll be with myself about how I feel. I'm praying this week for this discernment on Sunday. To be able to separate my "want to" from deep desire to run. Our temptations are just that. Strong "want to" vs. what is right.

I cannot imagine the pressure I'd feel if this were my first marathon. Heck, I just decided to run this event about a month ago. I have nowhere near as much invested as a first timer or someone who started with a training group 18 weeks ago. Some of those folks are facing a similar question and opting not to run is a tougher decision.

So, I enter the next several days praying for improved health and for understanding if things simply do not lead to my running the event. There are other marathons, but...to be honest...I really, REALLY want to run this thing. This ain't gonna be easy.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Randy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sharing Our Sport - Turkey Style

This Thursday, I'll be running the Turkey Trot in Abilene, Texas. We'll be there visiting family for Thanksgiving. What better way to get out of the house and avoid cooking than to run in a race. Seriously, who could deny you? It is all in the name of "exercise" and "exercise" is good...even those who don't do it acknowledge this fact.

This natural progression of thoughts led me elsewhere though. The "Turkey Trot" brings out a lot of casual runners and a many non-runners. Whether it is to be with family, challenge a sibling or to burn a few calories to justify the gluttony ahead, thousands of people will participate in a race that they otherwise would never consider.

These casual runners deserve to be greeted with a warm smile. Be friendly. Wish them well. Point them to the porta-potty or registration table. Let's do our best to show them what a great community we have crafted. While some might say the sport is getting overcrowded (noted by the quick sell-outs of some of the premier running events), I, like most, believe that continued growth is simply wonderful.

Maybe the most important thing we can do is to pray for our fellow runners on Thursday and beyond. This is important. Something simple is just fine. Maybe start by remembering to pray for a safe race just before the gun goes off. Heck, I don't know...pick your spot; whatever is comfortable for you.

Ten years ago at a Turkey Trot, I ran up on a guy who was in cardiac arrest. Fellow runners surrounded him while the paramedics labored to save the man's life. He was less than a quarter of a mile from the finish. I don't know whether he was a serious runner or one of the casual participants. It doesn't matter because the reality is that any of us could end up there.

Thankfully, he recovered. However, the image haunted me for some time. I felt for his family. Talk about disrupting the annual family fest. On Thursday, when their family has the obligatory round robin dialogue of "what are you thankful for this year?", I'm guessing the answers are a bit different than most. The words might be similar...I'm just guessing they really mean it.

So, please pray. Prayer is a powerful thing for many reasons and in many ways. Your fellow runners deserve your well wishes and your prayers.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace.

Randy

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Natural Energy Boost


Like everyone else, I refuel during an endurance event with standard tools of our trade: Energy gels and sports drinks. I was honking down a box of raisins earlier this week (exciting I know, but I got burned out on my kids' Halloween candy) and took a gander at the nutritional information on the carton. I compared it to the Clif, GU and Hammer gels I had on hand and was suddenly curious if this little red box contained an extremely cheap alternative. Take a look at Raisins vs. Clif Shot:


You have to admit that it is close. So, is close close enough? I need a nutritionist to tell me what heck all the extra Potassium and Sugar might do to me at mile 20. The lower Sodium is not ideal so one may need to swing by a McDonald's for a small fry. The Fiber...well, who knows. It just seems to me to be worth discussing.

Maybe raisins are not as easily digested?

The content reminds me of a comparison I did of some so called "All-Natural Nutrition Bars" and a variety of candy bars. Differences sure, but enough to pay 2 or 3 times more? I suppose it depends on what you consider food Kryptonite.

Would love to hear from anyone who has information on why we don't use more readily available foods to refuel on long runs.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace,

Randy

Monday, November 16, 2009

Insomnia: Friend or Foe?

I'm sure this is quite common, but I have a touch of insomnia. It is either that or I generally only need about 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. I will admit to getting a bit cranky if I go more than a few days on less than four hours. Otherwise, it doesn't seem to impact my family or co-workers (or their afraid to tell me out of fear).

The troubling thing is that I suspected my hours of sleep would naturally increase as I added mileage. The body needs to recover and I can think of nothing better than slumber to assist the reconstruction. This has not been the case. Running more might have even shortened my nights. I wake up and my mind just races off to the day ahead.

I tried a better diet, no booze, no caffeine, no fun, etc. Nothing worked (which is awesome because I could go back to having fun again). About the only thing that help me fall asleep after waking up after only a couple hours of sleep was prayer. No, I wasn't prayer for sleep...I just fell asleep while praying. It is amazing how well it works.

I went in for a check-up a couple weeks back and had planned on finally telling the doctor about my struggle to sleep the past few years. I'm sure you can hear it now. "Is your job very stressful?" Yeah, who's isn't? Obvious question and after question leading to a prescription for Ambien or something else I didn't want. So, I kept my mouth shut.

It turns out that I have adjusted my life around the hours I sleep and I kind of like it in a strange way. When I wake up at 3:45 AM and can't go back to sleep, I go for a run. The trouble comes on cold winter mornings or the dreaded off day in the training plan. With a marathon taper coming up after this weekend's long run and the weather here in Texas finally turning a bit colder, I may soon change my tune about how beneficial insomnia can be to a runner (I admit this could just be seasonal euphoria). I must also admit that it is less than ideal when on vacation. Nevertheless, I remember in the past when the alarm would go off at 5:30 AM and it would take every ounce of energy I could muster to get my lazy butt out of bed to go for a run. The run often was terminated...'I think I hear rain.' I'll take cold darkness on the street over that any day.

So, now I'm just considered weird by my family, my neighbors and our neighborhood police officer who occasionally pulls up beside me asking how far I'm going that morning. I can handle the label....suits me just fine.

Run in Peace

Randy

Friday, November 13, 2009

Why Randy Runs

While it might seem appropriate to introduce myself and how long I've been running or what I'm training for, I simply don't see much interest in that. Those details will come with time. I basically want to do one thing here. Weave the passions of my life together and see if there is anyone out there that views life through the same lens. It'll be a fun ride for me and I hope for a few others as well.

On my run a few days back, I reached into my hydration contraption and touched a small silver pocket cross. This cross (and a few others like it that I no longer posses) has special meaning to me. This meaning will be shared down the line in these pages, but the cross made me wonder who else out there runs with a cross in their pocket, around their neck or tattooed across their back, shoulder or unmentionables.

A blog (along with Twitter & Facebook accounts) and website were born on that run a few days ago. Since then I've tried to sort it out. Why me? What'll I do? What shall I say? What is the purpose? The answers I have not obtained. I will press on to see where and why I have been led here.

The cross gave me hope that others (and many that are crossless) have had the same experience that I've had over years traveling the roads, paths and trails on foot. Through perspiration and prayer I've come to know God. I have found few other ways to get that close.

Make no mistake, this Blog will be about running. Running will be the canvas and the clay. So, relax. Come back once in awhile.

Time to go eat some pasta...semi-long run in the morning.

Be well,

Randy