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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dallas White Rock Half Marathon 2011

On December 4th, I ran The Rock half marathon.  The forecast was for rain.  A lot of rain.  It rained most of the night before and waking in the morning about 5:00 AM to light rain was not very promising.  The radar looked like we had broad coverage, but it appeared that around race time it might just turn into scattered showers.  I had decided that I would not run if it was raining at the start.  No way to know unless I head to Fair Park to assess the situation further.

Other than terrible traffic, getting to Dallas was more of the same.  Shortly after parking, I got confirmation from my buddy Kevin that he was staying home due to the weather.  I didn’t blame him and assumed I would be turning around shortly to return home.

To my surprise it quit raining about thirty minutes prior to GO TIME.  I started to get geared up just in case it stayed fairly dry.  Minutes before the start, I headed to the start area.  With the temperature around 40 degrees, there was no reason to leave the car sooner.  I donned a cheap plastic rain poncho, but when the gun went off it seemed unnecessary with the skies clearing so I tossed it aside.

The race start was smooth and we ran a familiar route through the streets of Dallas.  My only complaint with the course is the numerous turns.  It can hinder pace and certainly adds distance.  Nevertheless, things were extremely smooth throughout.

Around the Mile 3 marker, the rain resumed.  Fairly light and looked like it could be brief.  Unfortunately, the rain continued all the way to the end.  Sometimes light with other stints of fairly heavy rain.  All the early effort to hop over puddles was futile.  Everyone was soaked through by the half way point.  I guess some had the proper gear with a Gortex or similar jacket.  I’ve never invested in one because I would easily overheat and rarely run in wet weather.  I’ll remedy this before my next event.

The crowd remained surprisingly good.  Not only did they think we were stupid for running, running in the rain was ludicrous.  I feel terrible for the numerous volunteers.  They hung in there all day in the cold rain.  Simply amazing.  I owe it to my running community to volunteer in the very near future.

It’s almost comical how I went from calling people wimps for dropping out to feeling extremely sorry for myself.  By Mile 8, it was downright terrible.  My legs were very tight and I was starting to get cold.  No matter how many times I tried to convince myself that it was less than an hour to go, I simply hated this race at this point.  Around mile 10 I started to get much colder so I decided I would speed up and finish fast.  Problem.  I could not get going much faster.  No matter how hard I tried, I could muster only about 15 seconds per mile increase.  Another problem; I wasn’t warming up either.

Ultimately, I reached the finish in 2:00.30.  Considering the conditions, and the extra .6 miles I had to run, I was happy with the result.  

Headed to the finisher’s area, which was inside, and took off my upper body layers to put on my finishers shirt  under my space blanket.  It wasn’t warm in there, but it was dry.  After a little food, a couple of beers and swapping stories with random runners, I decided I’d head to the car to really change into dry clothes.  Unfortunately, the finishers’s area is almost a mile from where I parked.  While I started walking that direction, I ended up running again to try and stay as warm as possible.  Other runners looked at me like I was nuts, but I couldn’t understand why they were walking.  It was cold.  It was still raining.  

Once I reached the car, I completely stripped down and put on fresh clothes.  Whew.  That felt so much better and the car’s heat kicked on to double the comfort.

A wonderful and terrible experience all wrapped up in one.  I think I’ll be stronger for having gone through such torture, but it was a tough way to end the weekend.  I just hope the New Year’s Double is DRY!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chosen Marathon for Adoption

Summary:  Possibly the Best Event I’ve Ever Run

In one of my internet searches for races near my home in north Texas, I stumbled across the Chosen Marathon website.  Discovering they had a half marathon option, I thought it would be an interesting race to kick-off my Fall season of races.  I wasn’t going to be quite as well trained as I would normally like, but I wanted to go and just enjoy the event.

I went to college in Austin and was really looking forward to getting back to the area.  After arriving at the hotel on Friday afternoon, I went to packet pick-up at a cool running store called U Run then headed over to the race start/finish area at Rockin’ R to get the lay of the land before attempting to get there in darkness Saturday morning.  The race is actually in the small neighboring town of Gruene, Texas.  Home of the famous Gruene Hall (Texas’ oldest honky tonk).  I had hoped to return that evening to sample the Jason Allen Band, but the Texas Rangers were playing Game 7 of the World Series so the Red Dirt Music scene would need to go on without me as I sat in a hotel (no need to discuss the game...I should have gone to see the band).

Since the area is known as the Hill Country, I studied the race course along with elevation map and realized it was an out and back course with a good portion of the 13.1 miles along River Road on the banks of the Guadalupe River.  I concluded it was fairly flat.

The Race started at 7:00 AM and I was a little nervous about arriving at the Rockin’ R without a good idea of where to go.  Wonderful support/volunteers begins here and didn’t end until leaving the race site hours later.  Portable lights lit the parking lots and parking attendants directed traffic.  The race attracts a few thousand runners and I think they were more than prepared.  I observed the typical lines at the port-a-potties minutes before the race start...so if anyone were to knock the race it may be for that...yet I have never attended a race of any size that had enough.  Fortunately, I had a perfect morning of preparation and liquid intake so was able to avoid this potential frustration.

Another wonderful surprise to me was the weather.  Downright chilly at 38 degrees, but no wind.  Fortunately, I dressed perfectly and the parking was close enough to stay in the car until it was near GO time.  

I could have lived without the first few miles in the dark on unfamiliar roads, but that won’t stop me from coming back.  The first three miles are rolling yet uphill.  Then you hit the top and head down to the river on a fairly steep hill.  Great on the way out, but this hill was going to be a problem when we came back to it at mile 9.  With the hills, I had a little trouble dialing into my intended early pace.  Not to worry.  I was there to have fun and if I had to shuffle the last several miles I’d survive.  The River, so calm and beautiful, was great scenery.  It would be fun to run this in July when the water is full of tubers getting too much sun and way too intoxicated.  I can hear the heckling by half naked youth just thinking about it.

Water stations were well stocked and enthusiastic.  This made up for the lack of spectators.  Due to access, friends and family are limited to just a handful of spots to cheer on their runner.  As my family became bored of attending these things decades ago, this is no big deal to me.  First timers might want to know this though.

I pushed a little harder after the turn, but wanted to hold some in the tank for the big hill coming up from the River.  The hill approached and I slowed yet maintained the same level of effort.  It was my slowest mile, but after taking inventory realized that I was not completely spent.  I can’t say that for many of those around me who charged up faster than me and ended up walking near the summit.  

Clearly on a sub-2 hour pace and feeling good, I was thrilled.  My main goal was to finish without falling apart.  I assumed this would be at around 2:02, a few minutes slower than my PR.  By mile 11, I realized that I was feeling no pain and very little fatigue.  Pushing harder still, I hunted down fellow runners and sailed to the finish.  1:57.42!  A new PR by two minutes and I felt fantastic....physically and mentally.

The finish area was great and the goodies hit the spot.  Turkey tacos, cold beverages, fruit, and on and on.  Great people serving you and fun stuff for the kids.  Lots of happy runners for sure.  Again, this race was extremely well done and I will be back.

One final thing I feel must be mentioned.  They announced that the weekend event raised over $150,000 for adoptive families.  I highlight this because it seems to be quite rare.  I’m running a mega race in about a month that hopes to raise $200,000...yet there will be 25,000 runners.  Chosen Marathon supports a great cause and I want to encourage folks to run those smaller charitable races as well as the monster ones.



So that’s it.  Great Event.  Great Run for Me.  Thanks Chosen Marathon for a wonderful time!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace,

Randy 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What On Earth Is He Talking About?

While filling up with gas in Atoka, Oklahoma, a guy walks by me and says, “Alabama next week, should be a tough one.”

If he wasn’t looking straight at me, I would have thought he must have been talking to someone else. It was clearly intended for me. Thus, I nodded and said, “yep.”

I had no idea what this meant. Did he think I was someone else? Was he nuts? What do I make of this?

Soon, I looked down and noticed I was wearing an Arkansas Razorback t-shirt. Something I have never done in my life.

I quickly recalled that Arkansas plays Alabama next Saturday in college football. Oh my, the idiot was me! I laughed at myself and realized what goofy look I must have had on my face. Poor guy was just trying to be nice and make casual conversation. Hey, what can I say...I’m a bonehead.

I’ll write a full report on our trip over the next few days and post it with some photos.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

We're up visiting our daughter at college for Parent's Weekend. Due to the massive infusion of visitors, we had to book a hotel a notch or two below our normal spot. Still, clean and you get what you pay for in cases like this.

They do offer a complimentary breakfast. Nothing special, but hey...it's free! After my run, I roll into the dinning area to hear a lady complaining that there wasn't any bacon. "But I want bacon," loudly stated to no one in particular. I quickly looked the other way in an effort to insure that I did not get engaged in Bacongate.

She follows my lead to have a glass of OJ. Soon, she is rejoined by her husband and starts complaining loudly about no bacon. Apparently, the orange juice didn't meet her approval either. "It looks orange, but tastes like water." The poor gal refilling the "FREE" breakfast (yes, we paid for the hotel so I guess it wasn't really free) was talking to her trying to find a way to satisfy her complaints.

The lady asked to see the manager. He arrives and she begins to ask why they don't have bacon. Of course she compounds things by talking of watery juice and cold coffee. I was embarrassed for her and her husband. My only option was to get the heck out of there...leaving quickly to go back up to my room.

What did she think...she was staying at the Ritz? Geeze, Seriously? Is this how you treat people? That is not very Christlike. The breakfast wasn't terrible...it wasn't good. That is not the point. The employees don't control what they are given to serve and one has every right to make a complaint...just don't do it in a manner that takes it out of helpless people in front of dozens of other customers. Classless...sorry, just classless.

I encourage you to treat others like you would want to be treated. Oldest rule in the book, but too often forgotten.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hello Bushes!

I have been running for about 20 years. While I’m sure I’ve tripped before, I simply don’t recall a serious tumble. Well, it happened on Saturday morning’s run. Near the end of my seven miles semi-long run, I was approaching a group running the opposite direction. I politely got over to the far right side of the sidewalk and proceed to trip on some unknown object. While I tried to save it, there became little doubt that I was going down. With this knowledge, I lunged to my right off the sidewalk and sort of side rolled onto and over my right shoulder into some bushes and a wood fence.

Wow, that hurt. By this time, the runners coming my direction were there fetching me out of the landscaping. They were very nice and showed ample concern. All I could do was say and act like I was fine. I really just wanted to get the heck out of there. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to fade away from their memory quickly.

After thanking them for their concern, I took off toward home. I was doing an inventory and realized I wasn’t seriously injured. Looking down, I could see I was covered in dirt and blood trickled from my knee and ankle. I was clearly running with a limp, but I wanted to get far away fast. Soon I noticed that one of my water bottles had fallen out of its’ holder when I went down. Great...so now what? Well, I turned around and ran back through another group of runners to the scene and retrieved the bottle from the bushes.

I cleaned up after I got home. Things didn’t look bad and I’d just be a bit sore for a few days. The most lingering pain is in my bruised shoulder.

Make no mistake, the whole thing was actually quite funny. I wish I had a video of it to post. I mean, I must have looked totally helpless flailing though the air. It seemed like slow motion. It felt like slow motion.

When I told my wife, she simply laughed. I then pointed out my injuries and she gave me some fake sympathy while holding back giggles. “What a sight you must have been.” Surely my daughter, a notorious wimp, would show some concern. Nope, she laughed and asked me if I was embarrassed for falling in front of a crowd near a busy street.

Well, the reality is that is was funny since I was not injured. It was embarrassing as I know I’ll run across these folks next weekend. Yet, I’m reminded that it is important to laugh at ourselves as often as possible. Why take yourself so seriously? Have fun. Laugh a little. Just watch out for the bushes.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, August 19, 2011

And Then They Grow Up


Last weekend we did something that I had been dreading for many months.  We took our oldest daughter, Madison, off to college for the first time.

As we packed the car on Saturday, you could sense this was not a normal morning.  All business.  No laughter.  “Did you remember to pack this?” or “we can get that when we get there.” were the limits of our interaction.  As we loaded everyone to pull away, Madison began to get emotional...which about set off a chain reaction, but we quickly got everyone on the road.  We all know what’s coming, let’s not start it yet.

The five-hour drive up was uneventful and the evening out for a campus tour and dinner were great.  We went back to the hotel to rest up for the big day...or the day of darkness as I had internally referred to it.  My wife and youngest daughter were staying a couple days longer, but my son and I would assist in the move in the morning and head home.

When Madison was not in the room, my son (16) asked why we were all so emotional.  “I mean, she’s just five hours away and it’s not like we won’t see her again.”  I told him something I believe very strongly.  “Your relationship with your sister will never, ever be the same.”

The kids have always been very close and get along great.  I’m sure some siblings are thrilled to see the others go...not our gang.  I know from personal experience that there will be distance and time that only increases as the weeks, months and year pass.  Then, at some point, something happens that gives you the opportunity to start moving back together.  The reunited may be quick or slow, but will never the same as when you were teenagers...never.

The move went well as everyone was all business.  Not somber, just on a mission to get the place close to comfortable.  By early afternoon, we boys had done all we could do and it was time to head home.  Madison was distracted unpacking something when I simply said “Madi, Parker and I are getting ready to go.”  She looks up and says...”you mean GO, go?”  Unable to audibly respond, I simply nod.  She looks around not knowing what to do next and the tears beginning leaking out of both of us.

I doubt much was said other than “I Love You.”  Hugs and kisses before I decided to go ahead and make a quick exit.  Dragging this out was just making it worse.

The ride back home was quiet.  I think it finally hit Parker that his big sis wasn’t just down the hall anymore.

Each day seems to get a little better.  Well, until I talk to her on the phone which kicks the progress back a day or so.  I’m proud of her and I pray with all my heart that she’s happy there and that she embraces the next chapter of her life.

Just think, I get to do this two more times in the next five years.  I can’t wait!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, June 10, 2011

Old Man Syndrome

Out of the blue yesterday morning, I felt really old.  I understand that I am not young, but occasionally something makes you feel twice your mental age...or worse.  I think yesterday was bound to happen given the events of the past week.

One Down, Two to Go
First, my oldest daughter graduated from high school.  While this was a very exciting moment, I considered it more like a kick in the privates.  “You couldn’t possibly be old enough to have a kid graduating already” is what I have heard for weeks.  Well, as she walked across the stage it became a reality.

The second shot to the groin was her turning 18 years old yesterday.  Ok, not much of a stretch to combine graduation and 18 years old...but hey, I’m in denial.

So, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  Fortunately, I was able to shake it pretty quickly.  It became quite clear that I was being way too self centered.  This has nothing to do with me.  Feeling old is silly in general and if one must, save it for birthdays, illness or injury.  We are celebrating the greatness of my daughter...and she is pretty darn awesome.  While graduating high school is expected, I am thrilled that she was able to navigate the halls of high school in a manner that she can be proud of.

That being said, I can’t wait to see how old I feel when she leaves for college in the fall.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, June 2, 2011

National Running Day

Yesterday was National Running Day and because I have been ultra lazy for what seems like months now, I completely forgot or simply failed to notice.  Well, failed until I started checking Twitter and that hundreds claimed they had already honored the day with a run.  Oh the guilt!  

After a long day at work I headed home determined to honor the day with a run.  I owed it to the sport that had given me so much joy over the years.  Once out for the run, I had to quickly acknowledge that the weeks of low or no miles had taken a toll.  It was near 100 degrees and way too hot for even a casual wade back into running.  Simply put, I struggled and had to scrap the whole thing after less than three miles.  The heat was too much and the disappointment started to weigh on me.

Why didn’t I keep up my mileage in the good weather months?  Why have I been so uncommitted?  Why don’t I do things I want and need to do?

Life gets in the way sometimes.  Your priorities get set aside for just a moment and soon you are completely in the wilderness fighting your way back.  Whether it be running, family time, reading God’s word, staying in touch with family or a million other things I think we get off track often.  Yet, I don’t think we need to simply chalk that up to human nature.  I think we need to continually fight for doing the good things or the right things.

Reminds me a bit of Romans 7:15 when Paul says:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (NIV)
Paul is battling sin here in this passage and while skipping runs is by no means a sin, maybe, just maybe, some of the things I did to fill the time I should have been running certainly might have been.  So while the verse seems like a stretch, it is in no way a stretch for me.
The good news about my run to honor National Running Day was that it motivated me enough to get out of bed early this morning and give it another whirl.  It still wasn’t pretty, but it felt a little more like it should and maybe, just maybe, I do belong out there.  It certainly keeps me closer to doing the things I should do instead of those things I hate to do.
Rest in Peace, Run in Grace