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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beyond Begat

I’m a little proud of myself today.  Something I have failed to accomplish several times in my life no longer falls into the category of “Someday I’m gonna…”

Yes, I have read the entire Bible.  Shocking, I know.  What took so long?

Actually, I can remember a few attempts in my childhood and teen years that always lost steam in Genesis 5 when the BEGATs begin.  While quite readable as an adult and in a newer translation (I tend to read New International Version), the King James Version (among others) gets beyond my comprehension in a hurry.  Certainly a problem as a kid.

This experience of reading the Bible was good, but different from my years of more formal bible study.  In bible study, you go in depth and read cross references, answer questions and have discussion.  In reading the Bible through in 12 or 18 months, you basically read and move on.  I found this frustrating at times while realizing how much I enjoy studying the Bible.  Go figure.

I suggest starting a bible study over straight Bible reading because it will help explain and expand on the things you’ll be reading.

If you are going to attempt to read the Bible rather than study the Bible, I highly recommend a reading plan that takes you through portions of the Old Testament and New Testament simultaneously.  This provides some much needed variety and structure.  Most important, you have to stick with it.  I was pretty good about doing it daily and never got too far behind.  Make yourself do it.  Some days you will feel enlightened and others will feel more like you’re just checking the box.  Forget about it.  Keep going.  

Go to www.bible.com and poke around to find a plan that suits you.  Download the YouVersion of the Bible to your tablet or phone.  The resources there and on many other sites are endless and largely free.  No need to pay for anything.

So, what’s next?  A lot of people just start over or start over using a different reading plan.  I’ll probably end up doing that, but tomorrow I’m going to start reading a book called Alone with God as a supplement to my daily bible study.  No doubt, you’ll get a few tidbits of it yourself in these pages in the coming weeks.

Whatever you do, do something.  Go ahead, get started.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hands on the Wheel

I’m certain that out running in the pre-dawn silence is where God speaks most clearly to me.  Today was no different.  I have been struggling with some things and I was searching for answers on what I needed to do in order to regain control of my life.  While it is a crazy time of year, I just wanted to calm the chaos.  I thought to myself ‘put both hands on the wheel and steer this stuff where you want it to go.’

Then it hit me.  Well, God hit me.

I have been doing exactly that.  I’ve been the one driving the proverbial car of my life with
both hands firmly placed on the wheel.  Every time God tries reach over and guide me, I swat His hand away.  Like saying to God: ‘I got this’; ‘I’ll let you know when to slide over’;  ‘Just sit tight until I need you.’

That is called the God of convenience.  Here’s a hint.  Try to avoid this.

Fortunately, God is quite forgiving and never leaves us.  He’ll just sit tight and let us keep going the wrong direction.  He intervenes many times before we drive off a cliff, but he allows us to be stubborn and stupid.

We live in one of three ways at various times in our lives.  There are always two hands on the wheel, but are they both yours, both God’s, or one of each?

One of each sounds really nice.  Sort of like a team.  The trouble comes when you realize your preferred route is largely different from God’s.  He won’t fight you on this.  He’s patient.  Next thing you know your hands are back at 10 & 2 going the way you came.

Life isn’t best lived under our own control.

No, life is a really long road trip.  We’re human.  Eventually, we’re going to need to let someone else drive.  The sooner we realize that the less distance we have to travel to get back home.  I’ve gotten WAY off track at times and the road back, even with God in firm control, can be a long one.

I’m sure by tomorrow or next week I will find myself driving once again, but for today…it’s God turn.  Think I’ll try to take a nap.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Unexpected Consequences

I recently began classes intended to train me to be a Stephen Minister.  To oversimplify what that means, think christian counselor at its most basic level intended to help people in our church or community who are struggling with grief, depression, unemployment and a host of other potential issues.  For your safety, I will not be allowed to perform weddings or funerals.

In our second week, I learned that this was going to be quite different than I had envisioned.  I wrongly assumed it would be a lot of instruction through video and church leaders.  It would be a consumer relationship.  They give the information while I take notes, process and retain for future use.  Do this weekly until around Easter and BAM, Stephen Minister.

About the only thing I got correct was that church leaders trained in this area would take us through the material.  Yet, this is far from two or so hours of consumption each Sunday afternoon.  We actually have to participate in a very hands on and sometimes uncomfortable way.  There is a high level of interaction.  With a class of only three students, you can’t hide or skip a turn.  It can be a little like coming up to bat in the 9th inning with two outs and you haven’t had a hit in months.  At this point you can only hope for a rain delay I suppose.


Moreso than the interaction, it can be uncomfortable because we dig into our own lives during various exercises.  In the class focused on Feelings, we didn’t get to simply read a clinical definition of anger, frustration, sadness, etc.  We had to offer answers to things like:  Tell us about a time when you felt ________.  How did that experience shape you?  Tell us about a situation when you should have taken action or said something and didn’t?  How did your inaction impact others?  How do you think things would be different had you done something different in this situation?

I don’t know about you, but I bury some things so deep in the closet that they are likely to never be found.  This may not always be intentional, but that is exactly where I like them.  I signed up to fix other people, not open wounds or relive emotions of times gone by in my own life.  

Yet, I learned very quickly that emotions simply can’t be learned or adequately recalled through a textbook.  We need to be reminded what many of them really feel like in order to understand their depth and weight.  


Further, it has been a clear demonstration of how people mask emotions.  If we don’t have any luck burying something out of plain sight, we cover over it with a smile and an unconvincing “I’m fine, doing well.”  We have (ok, I have anyway) decided that it is better not to share our feelings than to burden others with them.  The internal dialogue invariably walks us through the steps necessary to reach that conclusion.  The worst part is the more you do that, the more you do that (that is an awesome sentence…kind of like Yogi Berra).

I suppose we just don’t want to be seen as weak or whiny.  Again, when I say “we” I should probably be saying “I” if I’m being honest.  I, like many, have become really good at transferring things I do to a broader audience so as not to draw attention to myself or be asked questions.  I’m not suggesting we lay our soul on the cashier at the cleaners, but in intimate relationships transparency of feelings is a healthy policy.

So as I’m learning to recognize these traits in others, I continue to recognize them in me.  Sometimes self improvement comes at a cost.  Unearthing old junk or exposing my roots should help me lead others through the same process.  It’s either that or the nut farm…I guess we’ll see.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, November 15, 2013

Achieving Burnout

Well it finally happened.  I sort of flamed out this morning on the training front.  Something didn’t feel right two days ago when I forced myself out the door at 5:00 AM for a routine 3 miler as a “wintery blast” arrived.  Afterwards I had the usual shot of adrenaline that comes from pushing through to overcome the desire to simply stay in bed.

That feeling wore off as the day moved along and only the opportunity for me to test out a new bike computer on the indoor trainer kept me off the couch watching TV after work.  Again, after getting started I ended up putting in a solid hour ride and had made it through “one of those days” without surrendering.

Yesterday morning the wintery blast proved real as 28°F was in front of me for a recovery workout.  I could have skipped it and recovered in bed, but I once again forced myself out the door.  Last night I had a swim on the calendar.  The prospect of driving to the pool in the cold, swimming and returning home shivering was extremely unappealing.  But again, I forced myself to do it thinking that it would help me snap out of the funk.

As the opening sentence indicates, this morning I simply gave in to the temptation to quit.  My alarm got goofed up and I woke up on my own at just past 5:00 AM.  Still plenty of time to fit in some speed work, but I could not force myself to obey this time.  I simply had run out of whatever mojo existed inside me that has had me going the past three months.

At first I assumed that I lacked motivation, but with three half marathons during the month of December on the calendar I have plenty of reasons to keep up the the hard work.  No, this is just straight burnout.  My body just said “NO, I’ve had enough.”  Actually, I should have seen this coming after getting my workout summary from DailyMile.

Almost 7 hours of workouts with just under sixty miles in a week is a lot for me.  Especially since I did a 12 mile long run on Saturday to make 24 of the 60 miles running.  Prior weeks came close in miles, but had a much larger percentage of miles on a seat rather than my feet.  A huge difference from marathon training which I clearly didn’t adjust for very well.

I should have taken some time off after the triathlon.  The races I had entered for December are the same ones I’ve done for years so I was already committed.  Once I got past the TRI, I sort of panicked because I had let my long runs lapse in that training except for the 20K a month or so earlier.  Had I run that race more comfortably, I probably would have backed off a bit.

Where I go from here is the tough part.  Since I have surrendered to the fatigue, I need to make sure I get properly rested and rejuvenated before jumping right back in the fire.  I have a pretty hard weekend planned.  Doing this without the proper re-rack could simply lead to another burnout in no time at all.  Yet, I don’t want to get lazy.

With each passing day I know I will get antsy to get back on the road.  It has become part of me.  What I do to stay sane.  I can’t image my life without it.  I pray often asking God to keep me healthy in my workouts and races largely because I don’t know what I would do with myself if I were sidelined for an extended period of time.  I’d drive myself and my family crazy.  I know this is a fine line that I’m walking and crossing too far over that mysterious line will result in injury or burnout beyond return.

So I’ll regroup and see how things go on Saturday morning.  See you on the rebound.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, November 8, 2013

#479


You are reading the words of someone who has survived a triathlon!

On Sunday, October 27, 2013, I completed the Keller Monster Triathlon.  I’ve tried to write about it for more than a week now, but each time I do I get so bogged down in the details that even an audience of one (me) can’t read it in one sitting.  I kept backing up a few paragraphs and internally shouting “get to the point.”  While I’ve written many detailed race reports in the past, I’ll keep the extended version in my training log journal and just share what I think are the highlights.  I still wouldn’t anticipate brevity.

It was a “sprint” triathlon.  Like the name implies, it is a short event.  300 meter pool swim, 12 mile bike ride and 5k run.  A standard for sprint distances has not been established, but this is pretty typical and just enough for the first timer and beyond.

This was simply a great experience.  Without anything to compare it to, I can only say it seemed very well organized.  From the moment I unloaded my bike on the drizzly dark morning, things could not have gone any smoother.  Clear directions from the volunteers had me looking like an old pro.

I’m not exactly sure why, but one of the most anticipated moments for me was body marking.  A young lady took a Sharpie and wrote #479 on my shoulders and left calf.  My age (45) hit my right calf.  My only regret was her incredibly poor penmanship.  I was hoping for something photo worthy, but I would just have been disappointed had I taken one.

It is no surprise that my biggest fear was the swim.  I’ve written it in these pages before and everyone I talk to has the same phobia regardless of swimming ability.  Until you’ve done it, the unknown is Everest-like.

My swim went great.  I was nervous about it for weeks ahead of time, but by race day I had a peace about it.  It was in a pool for gosh sakes.  My plan was to get in the water and try to stay in open water, slow down, breath and slow down some more.  Now, it wasn’t without its out of control chaotic moments, but if I get started describing it we will be here all day.

With 600 athletes (the term used extremely loosely), getting in the pool takes forever.  I was slotted to start 479th, but the coolest part about that is you can go take a leak when #400 is getting ready to start.  They start you every 5-7 seconds, so a last minute bathroom break is awesome to get rid of the sensation you have to pee caused by nerves.  I had also assumed that by the time I started that I would be swimming through 400+ urine samples.  This meant I only swam through 200 or so.  Victory!

The other thing to note is that (a) people lie about their swim times and (b) there are a lot of out of shape people entering triathlons.  #1 is supposed to be the fastest swimmer.  Yet, I know I saw people scattered from front to back that simply could not swim a lick.  Breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, dog paddle, you name it.  The out of shape people needed to take a break at the end of every 50 meters so they clung like crabs to the end wall leaving little room for the rest of us to touch up and make the turn.  The look on their faces as they gaze at you is indescribable.  Like zombified statues with fear, distress or flesh in their eyes.  As you might guess, this creates a log jam effect which I calmly navigated to the exit ladder and out of the building.

Transition between the different segments requires some planning and skill.  Neither of which I possessed on race day.  I was just happy not to get penalized or disqualified for jumping on my bike before officially crossing the Bike Exit line.

It was still a little misty and overcast, but I wanted my sunglasses on so I could look cool.
Unfortunately, I left them sitting on the ground in my transition slot.  I guess I’m just lucky I didn’t still have the swim goggles on...talk about not cool.  It was at this time that I realized that my new fancy watch had dropped the signal to my bike’s speed/cadence sensor and was going wacko.  They say never try new gear for the first time in a race.  It was a watch for Pete’s sake, what could go wrong?  Duly noted.

I knew the two loop bike course was going to be tough.  The hills in the area are much steeper than normal for this part of Texas and my bike engine has only been a few hundred miles since childhood.  My arrogant assumption that the bike would be easy for a seasoned distance runner like me was just plain stupid.  This was a race, however, so I pushed hard while trying to save enough steam to get through the hills at the end of Loop #2.

If I had to summarize the one thing I learned that will influence me in the future it is this: the lighter you are the faster you are on the bike.  I roared by a group on the first major downhill only to discover that I was simply being carried along faster because I was the heaviest guy in the immediate area.  It wasn’t the bike or my hidden power finally showing up on race day.  This was glaringly clear after a few hills when the young women and scrawny dudes effortlessly rode by me on the inclines while I was setting fire to my legs trying to get over the top.

Actually, only during the bike was I ever passed by anyone.  I went by many on the swim and several on the run, but I definitely gave back some ground on the bike.  I still picked off the people on tricycles, a guy in a banana costume and some old ladies, but generally I was just hanging on hoping the run would come soon.

T2 (Transition #2) went smoother than T1 simply because I wore my running shoes during the bike since I don’t have those fancy pedals and special shoes.  I basically racked my bike and thankfully remembered to take off my helmet.  On with the sunglasses to look cool and I was off.  Another poor assumption was that I could leisurely go through T1 & T2 and allow my heart rate to drop considerably so the next segment would start out in a controlled manner.  Only after the race did I read somewhere that transition really ramps people up and one needed to be careful not to overcook yourself in the frantic move from one part to the other.  Needless to say, my rate was well above what I had planned and I was feeling it.

Another thing that must be experienced is the unique feeling you have switching from cycling to running.  The legs send you messages like “what is this thing we are doing right now?” and “I think we should not be moving in the violent manner.”  Yes, you feel like you’ve never run before as the
muscles move through a rather slow process of switching gears.  Like a car going from forward to reverse, bike to run requires a sudden change in muscle mechanics.  Within a mile or so, things feel normal again.  This really stinks when the run portion is only 3.1 miles since 1/3 of the darn thing is just trying to get things back under control.

I did a brick workout (cycling followed by a short run) early in my training and realized that I needed some practice at this before race day.  Actually, I enjoyed these workouts because it really felt like a hard effort.  I think my longest brick was an 18 mile ride followed immediately by a 5 mile run.  This really helped take some of the mystery out of the event and I highly recommend it.

The run was uneventful generally.  I mentioned a banana costume earlier.  Weird, but not so weird if the event is Halloween themed.  Batman, superman, ghosts, witches and oh so many more.  Obviously, I did not dress up.  It is just not my thing and as a first timer I had no business attempting anything but a straightforward effort.

I slowed during the second mile so that I could finish strong and in my right mind.  With the final
mile a minute fast at 8:35, I scooted through the finish with one of the biggest smiles of my life.  It was a feeling of complete joy and satisfaction.  Something that I had secretly wanted to try, but was too afraid to attempt had now been accomplished.

When I got home, my family seemed proud enough and didn’t bother to ask if I would do another triathlon.  I guess they know that I always have more.

Sure enough, the three month journey left me wanting more.  A friend of mine told me to only attempt triathlon if I was prepared to be hooked.  I’m not sure that I’m hooked, but I get it.  Something inside me is different.  It wasn’t so much the event itself, but the training.  I truly enjoyed the extra training.  That may sound crazy to most, but quitting triathlon would leave a vacancy in my newfound routine that I would miss immensely.  Plus, I have over $1,000 in new toys that are just begging to be played with.  So, you will find me on the road or in the pool for the foreseeable future.  I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More About the Bike


While she needs a better name than FUJI, my bike has been great so far.  Not enough miles to know that I nailed the selection, but I did not jump into this without a good amount of research.  By the way, researching anything extensively makes one want that thing extensively.  Well, I guess that wouldn't be true of all things.  Cancer comes immediately to mind.  Remind me never to research cancer.

It is a Fuji Sportif 1.3C.  Which basically means it is not the cheapest Sportif (1.7) or the most expensive (1.1).  Still in the starter category due to price and geometry (that has to do with angles and length as I recall from 5th grade).


I chose the Sportif because of the geometry (a little goofy according to the bike shop).  It has a longer Head Tube.  That is the post between the front Fork and handlebars.  By being longer, it means that I will be riding in a more upright position (comfort) rather than bent way over (less comfort).  Coming from a hybrid (sit nearly straight up) and/or no real biking at all, this made a lot of sense for me.  Sacrifice speed for comfort and safety.

Price was also a biggie.  After watching Craig's List for almost a month, finding a decent bike that was my size seemed impossible.  Plus, I didn't want to “settle” for something since I know that would just result in buying yet another bike.  Fuji came on sale so I went for it.  The dealer had to order it in my size so the payoff took a week.

At this point, well worth the it.  This bike should last me awhile...or at least until I need a lighter faster one!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Triathlon Entry...Check!


It’s official.  I have registered for my first sprint triathlon.  I really had no choice given the investment I’ve made over the past six weeks.  Not only have my finances taken a sizable hit, I have put a lot of hours in at the pool and on the bike during that time.  Not following through after all that would be silly.  Through I was tripped up by being forced to become a USA Triathlon member.  Seems like this should be reserved for people who actually consider themselves triathletes.

With just under four weeks to go until race day, I already have a reasonable level of anxiety.  The swim is going to be a mess.  I’m doing much better in the pool, but I just know I’ll freak out and struggle to get into any type of rhythm to keep my breathing in check.  This will mean my heart rate will be off the charts as I exit the pool.  From there, I will need to settle down before I even consider pushing hard on the bike.  It is going to be difficult to throttle back I know.

Part of this anxiety might be due to the fact that I’m already playing out the race in my head.  After running for so many races, I normally develop my race strategy for a half marathon the morning of the race based on my training and how I’m feeling.  Marathons get more attention, but I no longer have butterflies as I belIeve I have experienced most possible scenarios and know what to do in each case.  This, I’m afraid, is something different.

After pushing myself to 27 miles on the bike this past Saturday, I was totally spent.  It was an eye opener.  When I started my training, I assumed my running background gave me enough lower body strength to make cycling extremely easy.  I was wrong.  My body hurt all over for two days.

The longest bike ride of my life was a wake-up call.  I realized that I have been suffering from over confidence.  The individual distances of each discipline are really short and completely doable.  I guess deep down I thought I’d just muscle through it.

 So now I’m left with only about 2.5 weeks of training to gain confidence and improve technique before I taper for race day.  While I’m feeling a little burned out (hey, I’ve been burning white hot with enthusiasm since mid-August), I’m really excited to finish up the training and jumping in the water.  I need to simply remember that I’m preparing to do something that I never thought I would be able to do.  That will be extremely fulfilling.  Let’s just be sure to pray that I live through the darn thing.

          Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tour des Fleurs 2013 - Race Report


September 21, 2013 - Dallas, Texas - Just when you think you have run all the races worth running, you are reminded that you haven’t even scratched the surface.  I can only guess that late September
normally means marathon training or fat & lazy.  I am blessed to report that fat & lazy hasn’t been my status for a number of years so the Saturday long training runs likely kept me from trying this race in the past.

Looking Serious Early
This was a fantastic event.  I entered just a few weeks out when I realized that my triathlon training had all but eliminated runs over 6 or 8 miles.  I was doing these shorter runs so I could have enough juice

for much needed swim workouts.  With back-to-back half marathons over New Years (New Year’s Double) on the distant horizon, I got nervous that I’d finish my Tri in late October with a running deficit that made this challenge too difficult or likely to result in injury.  So heck, why not run this 20K?

The start and finish were at the Dallas Arboretum.  Walking through the Arboretum chatting with a friend from church, I was oblivious to my surroundings in the dim early light.  Reaching the starting line just outside the north gates at White Rock Lake for the 7:00 AM start, the run begins.
That's the real me

I don’t live in Dallas, but have run around the Lake many times during the White Rock (now Dallas) Marathon and several other events.  It is boring if you simply think  “I’ve run these roads/paths so many times”, but wake up, take a look around, it is such a treat.  I see why friends I know drive over from our side of DFW to do their long runs around the Lake.  Even without an event, the roads are filled with life.  Runners, walkers and cyclists in a constant stream.  On this Saturday morning, I can only image a good portion of them highly irritated at all these people hogging “their” roads.

There was no noticeable wind with temperatures in the low 70’s most of the morning.  Again, simply perfect.  It looked as though the SMU track and/or cross country teams were enlisted to occupy the aid stations.  They did a fantastic job.  Plenty of water and Gatorade along with clear verbal encouragement and instructions at each station (water in front, Gatorade in back) which is exactly how it should be done.

The only odd part of the course was an out & back section at mile 10 that was about a mile long on a wide paved path.  Odd because it was different scenery from the rest of the course with the Lake in full view.  Actually, because it was short it provided something new.  You could view the strength of those ahead of you as you approach the turn and see the “how much farther?” expressions afterwards.  I find this comforting and it interrupts the internal dialogue (self pity) at this stage of the race.

I finished with my fastest mile at an 8:35 pace.  Total time was 1:53 (a little over 9:00 per mile).  The course is basically pancake flat, so my goal was to run the first half at 9:15-20 pace and the back half in the 8:50 range.  At mile 7, I felt pretty good yet decided maybe staying at +9:00 pace for another mile or two was wise given my fitness level.  In the end, it worked out fine even though I had to hump it pretty good the last several miles to be satisfied with my time.

The one thing I’ll say is that exercising for almost 2 hours doesn’t come easy.  While I’ve recently had hard workouts and several days with two or more workouts, just starting and one thing that long seemed like forever to me.  Six months ago this would have felt like a primetime sitcom in length.  This was good lesson for me.  I clearly need to mix in some long runs even if preparing to triathlon since running will always remain my passion.

The post party was one of the best I have been to in some time.   The lawn at the Arboretum is constructed like a natural amphitheater slopping towards the Lake.  Dozens of sponsor tents and goodies galore.  They were even serving up 16 oz. Blue Moons among other adult beverages while the band created an extremely festive atmosphere.

As a bonus, retracing my steps from the pre-dawn hours unveiled what seemed to be millions pumpkins.  These were not the small variety, but large and they lined every inch of the paths throughout the gardens.  Even a Pumpkin Village with small structures constructed of…well…pumpkins.  Whether you run or not, hit the Dallas Arboretum this time of year for a real treat.

This was supposed to be extremely brief so I’ll conclude quickly.  Just know that this race will be on my calendar for 2014 and it should be on yours as well.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 20, 2013

Somebody Stop Me!


I wasn’t sure what to call this.  Working titles were “Green Thunder - An Obituary” and “Meet Fuji!”.  Once I actually sat down to write, I realized that there was something much larger at work here.  Something beyond a big announcement.

Here’s the deal.  It is no mystery that I’ve caught the triathlon bug.  In a previous post, Trying not to Tri is Tough, I introduced Green Thunder and hinted that I was quietly acquiring new gear.   Yet, I was serious about taking this triathlon thing slow and easy.

Unfortunately, I have zero patience.  As the “working titles” suggest, I have done exactly what the experts say not to do when starting out in multi-sport.  “Don’t buy a new bike.  You can ride a mountain bike, hybrid or tricycle.  You’ll see plenty of rusty old bikes at your first event.”  What a bunch of nonsense.

Wanting to get the basic gist of how things flow at a sprint triathlon that includes a pool swim, I found one in my area and checked it out.  Of the 600 competitors, I think I saw about 5 hybrids, 1 mountain and 0 rusty old bikes.  I think the “experts” tell us that so they can giggle at the rookie pedaling his brains out to reach a pathetic 9 MPH while they’re in the finishers tent sipping on a cold beer getting a rubdown.

Ok, ok…all this is just an excuse.  I would have bought a bike regardless.  I simply can’t help myself.

The suspense is killing you I know….Meet Fuji!



The strange thing about all this is how guilty I feel.  This is an entry-level road bike for gosh sakes.  Top end Tri-bikes go for $5,000+.  By the way, there were a lot more those at that sample race than “any bike will do” types.  Heck, my watch costs almost as much as this silly bike (before the pedals, bottle cages, tire pumps…).  I have more invested in my current stable of running shoes than this bike (before the cycling shorts, bike computer, cadence monitor…).

The really dumb part is that I haven’t even signed up for a race yet.  I bought a bike planning to enter a race.  Not real bright I must admit.  What if I get injured?

Man, I’m a mess.  Someone take my wallet.  Shut down my bank account.  This could get out of hand.

No more, I tell you, no more.  I will enter a race and I will not spend one more dollar on gear.  No, not one dime.

One thing this does demonstrate is my enjoyment of cycling.  Even on Green Thunder, it has really been enjoyable to get out a few times a week.  Even in the nastiest part of summer, getting out after church on a Sunday afternoon has been really medicinal for me.  I don’t think I ever gave it a fair shake before.  It must have been the tight pants and goofy jersey that scared me away.

So, how does my wife feel about all this?  She said that I don’t look as dorky on the new bike.  That’s considered a compliment in our house so….I claim Victory!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 13, 2013

Backsliding


I’m reading a book about Christian backsliding.  Since I haven’t finished it yet and find much of it overkill, I will refrain from naming the author and title.  During my morning run I was having a conversation with God and mentioned that I was offended by the tremendous exaggeration in this book.  The author had taken the concept of fading or slipping from passionate faith to downright banner waving, in your face, forget that nonsense rejection of Christ.

Then God, as often God will do, somehow hinted that maybe I should explore just how crazy this guy was by applying his thoughts to my life.  Warning:  when God does this, expect to be humbled.

As I find with many writers I struggle to follow, if you’ll keep digging you will likely find a nugget of gold or silver in there somewhere.  The chapter on sin caught my attention.  He basically walked you through the life of a blatant sinner to a believer to a backslider.  I would describe this transformation as follows:

As a blatant sinner, we pursue sin.  In my youth and early adulthood, this describes me perfectly.  I wasn’t simply accepting sin when it knocked at the door, I was out there seeking it.

Then, once you turn your life over to Christ, you attempt to shut out sin completely.  You peer through the peephole when it knocks and act like you’re not home until it goes away.  You obviously don’t live sinless, but each breach comes with some level of pain.

Once the youthful energy starts to fade, you lose a little bit of the strength to fight.  Sin still follows you, sin always follows you.  Maybe you even like sin hanging around.  Like it there in case you get sentimental and want to visit an old friend.  So, sin creeps back into your life with little protest until eventually you are, according to the author, as far away from God as ever before.

This last stage is where he goes off the reservation in my opinion.  I’ll agree that the last step is backsliding.  Yet, an individual doesn’t necessarily continue falling into the abyss and return to sin seeker.  A true Christian recognizes they are flawed and have gone astray.  This can happen early in the slide or later, but it does not cause one to simply give up on Jesus.  Can this happen?  Of course, but I’d call it extremely rare.  I mean, Jesus died so we could return from the ditch (time and time again if necessary…and since we all sin it is necessary on some level).  Thank God this is the case.

God is reminding me that I am supposed to be applying the theory to my life rather than protesting the author’s seemingly vast leap.  Clearly, this hit a soft spot in my armor.  I have been near the mountain top thinking I had conquered a nagging sin only to return and take some temporary pleasure in it.  Fortunately, I didn’t give up on God.  God doesn’t give up on us  no matter how sorry we behave.  The key is to stop the slide, get pointed in the right direction and start climbing that mountain again.

A closeness with God is too precious to ever surrender.  Never quit fighting for that view from the mountaintop.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You Let Mom Get a Dog?


About a week after we left my son at college, I got this text while at the office.


I have no words.

Actually, I knew this was probably coming.  Our last dog died a few years ago and with all the crazy activity and travel, getting a new dog simply wouldn't have been fair...to the dog.  Within a few months, the family actually agreed that one extremely lazy, low maintenance cat was enough.

Periodically, my youngest daughter would get the new puppy craze.  Not as fatal as the New Car craze, but still hard to thwart.  My wife had become a little more sympathetic to the cause in recent months.  Yet, I simply didn't see this coming.  Not until that morning when my wife called and asked if we could get a dog.  I assumed reminding her of our poor dog environment and all the related hassles would keep this at bay.

Later that day I received the text from my son.  I should have known.  When my wife gets her mind set on something, you can count on it getting done.  A good and bad quality I have come to find.

Ok, so the puppy is cute....her name is Emma (don't ask why or what...cuz I don't know).

After little more than a week the enthusiasm from my ladies has rusted over.  If that dog pees on the floor again I swear my wife is going to make it wear diaper (and the little thing is actually well ahead on the house training from past experience).  Emma has cause a total rework of everyone's schedule and movement around the house.  The freedom we enjoyed for the past many months is now gone.  Even the cat is no longer his carefree self.

I could carry on about how expensive this nearly free pet has become, but I'll just let your imagination run wild with that one.

A useful blog will leave you with a takeaway.  Wisdom to pass along or a lesson I've learned.  This one is a puzzler.  In all honesty I haven't learned a thing by this new puppy experience.  I predicted every episode prior to her adoption.  I guess this is simply a reminder that sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do things the hard way.

Emma will be loved and blend into our crazy family in due time.  She'll get use to our schedule and we'll adjust to hers.  I'm not sure if she was meant to fill another void left when my son went off to college, but she has certainly filled a lot of idle time.  Idle time that I loved so very much....

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ungodly Hour


In drafting this post, I searched for the origin of the term Ungodly Hour and the most commonly held perceived meaning.  It is not surprising that the answers varied greatly.  Everything from early morning when one should be sleeping to late at night when one should be home and in bed rather than out possibly doing "ungodly" things.

When I thought of the term, it was somewhere in between these two extremes.  I was out on a run.  (I know for some that all running is done at an ungodly hour.)  It was mid-morning.  A morning after a healthy rain.  Unusual for late summer in north Texas.  Yet, the heat was intense.  No wind and the moisture radiated from the concrete like hot coals on a mature fire.

One would think I should be accustomed to it by now having lived over 40 years in the same area.  Yet, I found myself shocked.  "Dang, it's really hot out here."  "Who's idea was this?"  "What time is it anyway?"  The time became clear.  It was the ungodly hour.

It is times like these that I wonder just what the heck I'm doing out there.  No official races on the horizon.  Sure I have a few in mind, but nothing that requires suffering.  I have no weight problem, well, no major weight problem I'm trying to resolve.  I guess I'm just doing what has become habitual.  Running.  Running because I enjoy getting out there.  I don't have anything to prove.  I don't have much else to do.  Much else to do that I want to do that is.

So I run.  Just to be safe, I'd better get a race or two officially on the calendar.  I'd hate to get out of this habit and pick up some of the old ones or even some new ones that ain't much good.  Plus, I can tell people that look at me funny "I've got to do it because I'm running the Whatever The Name Half Marathon in a few months."  I'll look less batshit crazy for sure.  Join me...won't you.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, August 30, 2013

I'm a Terrible Swimmer


I was planning to rag on my bike or talk about my new plan for training, but maybe it is time for a short rant on my swimming.

It isn’t even questionable.  I am a terrible swimmer.  How can someone grow up their entire life with a swimming pool in the backyard and not be able to swim worth a flip?  For the first few weeks I thought I was doing pretty good.  I mean, I didn’t hate it.  I didn’t drown or swallow gallons of water.  Yeah, success.  Then, last Sunday following a miserably hot 6 mile run, I hopped in the pool.

I barely made it 25 meters before I had to bail my spastic freestyle stroke for something I call “The Survivor”.  Half crawl, half dog paddle..head up…breathing air.  Breathing air like humans were created to do by the way.  This was only discouraging because several days earlier I plowed through 250 meters (taking short breaks after each length of the pool) without much trouble.

Maybe the run took it out of me, but I certainly didn’t feel overly fatigued.

This may have been the jumping off point in my previous efforts to become a triathlete.  Though the efforts were extremely brief, a bad day in the pool brings about a tremendous bout of hopelessness.  I know what’s wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it.

Swimming is largely about technique.  That means I need coaching.  Oh, and I’ll need a lot of time because it will take many many tweaks to become a passable swimmer.  This brings about a problem.  I don’t want a coach.  I want to get in the pool and just swim.  It is so frustrating.  Running is simple.  You want to run faster, you do workouts that are fast.  You want to run farther, you do runs that are progressively longer in length.  Swimming can’t be that different…can it?

Yet, I vow not to give up during the month of August (3 days left, I think I can make it).  I have purchased and downloaded some swimming books and DVDs.  I can’t read my way to being a better swimmer, but these have outlined and demonstrated drills that they use with beginning triathletes to get their body position correct and comfortable in the pool.

My original plan was to just go to the pool 2 or 3 times a week and work until I could put together 300 meters without stopping.  Like my running plan…just keep going and adding slowly.  NOPE, not now.  Tonight, I’m going to work on drills for the first 15-20 minutes and then maybe try some laps.  Keep working on the drills for the next few weeks and see if things start to get more natural.  It may not work, but the way I have been doing it will result in me giving up.

Maybe I’ll touch on bike in the next post.

UPDATE:  The drills do make a difference.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still awful.  I didn’t do 15-20 minutes doing only drills.  You look pretty stupid doing these drills so I mixed in some actual laps trying to apply the drills key purpose.  I’m not sure what looks dumber.  Me doing drills or slashing at the water trying to execute freestyle.  I’ve also found I’m better after 15 or 20 minutes.  Things slow down and I slow down.  I’m never too tired (I take a lot of breaks) to take another lap and at the slower pace breathing becomes a little easier.  I just don’t see how I’m going to be able to put together lap after lap without the break (even a quick one) at each end of the pool.  Oh well, I’ll just keep working at it.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The College Pilgrimage


Out on my run this morning I saw a car packed to the roof.  A Uhaul trailer being loaded.  With late August arrives the annual college pilgrimage.  Off to school to gain wisdom and weight.

This year it is my turn again.  Time to release another child from the nest and hope they fly.  I thought it would be easier the second time around, but I'm starting to understand otherwise.  Today, we move our son into his freshman dorm.  I can sense the excitement and subtle fear in his voice.  Fear of the unknown, but excited knowing the unknown is probably pretty awesome.

No, the studying and early classes is not awesome.  Independence is awesome.

If the delivery goes anything like with my older daughter, we'll get the room somewhat settled and then we will make every attempt to leave...in a hurry.  No need to dwell on it.  Everyone blubbering for no reason.

I think more tears are shed in August than any other month.  Mostly by caring mothers sensing a loss on some level.  First day of kindergarden gets 'em.  They won't have little Timmy or Sally at their side 24/7.  Only weeks later do they admit that school gives them a much needed break in the action.

Later we get hit the hardest by them leaving the house.  Not for a few hours, but a few weeks or months.  The silence is truly palpable  Even with two kids remaining at home, once our daughter left there was a hole that took a good while to accept as normal.  The hole doesn't get filled, you just get use to it being there.

So, tonight when I get home and a lone high schooler is the only soul filling the upstairs rooms, it will start to set in.  I will convince myself that the tears on the drive home were the end of it.  No, it is that lonely feeling of a near empty house that gets you.  Then comes the first phone call.  Choking back tears.  Trying to sound excited for all they are experiencing.

Honestly, the only thing that helps is time.

I don't want to end this on a downer so I can say this.  I'm extremely proud of my son.  He's a great kid.  I'm so excited for him.  He gets to start really being a man.  I know God has a special plan for him and is with him.  That's more protection than I could ever give.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Taste of Higher Volume Training


Jumping in a few weeks ago, my training increased by adding some bike and swim sessions just before leaving on two weeks vacation.  I’ll admit that I felt pretty awful after the first week and wasn’t sure how serious this training might actually get going forward.

Last week was the perfect training week.  I’m going to call this my first real week of triathlon training.  I hit every workout on the schedule.  Stupidly, I tended to extend the bike and swim sessions beyond scheduled time/distance because I feel such a sense of inadequacy about those disciplines.  Today, the weekly summary comes in from DailyMile and shows the problem.

Since I rarely use this blog to go over my training, I’ll have to tell you why this is alarming.  I have not had more than 5 workouts (all running) in months.  I also have rarely covered more than 20 miles in a week (again all running).  So basically, I added 5 more workouts and 30 miles (on the bike) to my workload instantly.  This my friend, is far to large of an increase in volume to stay healthy.

Here’s my dilemma.  I like to always be ready to run a half marathon.  This way I can enter a race on a whim or shuffle on to full marathon training without all the base building period.  Thus, my mileage needs to stay up around 20 miles or more each week in 4-5 workouts.  Others would recommend more mileage, but that’s how I roll.  So in order to train for a triathlon, I thought I’d simply add biking and swimming to my existing schedule even though every training plan I looked at for a Sprint Distance Triathlon would nearly cut my running mileage in half.  Somewhere in yesterdays 13 miles on the bike I told myself I needed to rethink this plan.  While 30 miles on the bike is nothing and 2 swim workouts far from exhausting, they are a lot considering I was at zero only a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, this week my schedule is goofed up by a short two day trip to take my son off to his freshman year of college.  I’ll still get some workouts in, but I’d like it to be a down week.  Then, I can regroup the following week to push hard again.

At this point the hardest part of this new triathlon thing is workout scheduling.  I need to start my morning workout around 5:00 AM.  It is still very dark, so the only option is running.  Which is great, except when you need to bike or swim.  I might spend a morning on the bike trainer next week to see how that goes.  I could also join one of the local fitness clubs to have a pool available to me, but I’m already bleeding money from the gear I’m stashing away.

Anyway, I just having a good time with it all right now.  Also, I wanted to mention an amazing development.  My heart rate during my run Saturday stayed much lower than normal.  It could just have been slightly cooler temperatures, but I think even a few weeks of cross training has had a positive result.  I’ll report back in another week or two on this development to see if it is genuine.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trying not to Tri is Tough


Since my last post, I've been running as normal.  Squeezed in a few vacations (worthy of independent posts for sure) and may have begun training for a triathlon.

Wait, what's that you say?  What exactly is "may have begun training for a triathlon"?

Fair enough, let me explain.  I purchased a bike about twelve years ago.  When we bought our home and moved, I hung it from the garage ceiling thinking I'd ride it because I would have to look at it so often.  I mean seriously.  Take out the trash; there's the bike.  Leave for work; Bang.  Home from work; Hello Mr. Bike.

That was ten years ago this month.  I've done nothing but looking at the poor thing.  Heck, I have maneuvered ladders around it probably over 100 times during that period.   I don't even recall doing anything but thinking to myself I'd better get that bike down and go for a ride.  Occasionally the kids would ask "you ever gonna ride your bike again Dad?"  "Yes" I'd retort, but since I was always running and training for marathons, it was easy to sluff it off.

It will be no surprise that each year during the Tour, I get a small itch to ride.  But again, this is usually dismissed because my fall marathon training is set to begin.  Then there is always the thought of if I get it down from the ceiling, I'll have to put it back up there.  Who the heck wants to do that?

On a random Sunday afternoon about a month ago, I took her down from the rafters.  GREEN THUNDER was in piss poor shape.  Empty tires, dust & dirt caked everywhere, and no telling how the chain, shifters, gears and brakes might have survived.

I pumped up the tires and hopped on for spin around the cul-de-sac.  Not bad. Everything pretty much worked.  While the gearing and derailers needed some tuning, I could hit most of the 24 gears and more importantly STOP when applying the brakes.

You've probably already made the connection, but getting on the bike led me quickly to a place I have avoided for years.  If you're looking for a change of pace, how about a triathlon?  Oh crap.  Not that voice again.  The one to which I respond.  No, we've already been through this 1,000 times.  I tried to swim laps on numerous occasions.  Remember?!  You like fluid in your ears?  Have you forgotten how awesome it is inhale pool water?  And besides, if I can't Ironman, which I cannot, then I ain't interested.

So, here I am.  New helmet.  New bike computer.  New, well, lots of stuff (details when I get the guts...or after my wife sees the bill and I live to tell about it).

I've been on a handful of short rides and spent a little time in the pool.  I didn't fall or drowned so I guess they were a success at this stage.

While running will remain my primary focus, I plan to share much of what I've gotten myself into during the coming weeks or months.  We will just have to see how long it lasts.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Running with Dad


The last time I ran with my father was at the New York City Marathon in 1998.  When I say “ran with” I merely mean in the same race rather than side by side.  That was our style.  We’d each run our own race and then trade war stories over a beer afterwards.  It seems like we did this for most of my early adult life.  Our level of fitness ebbed and flowed.  There were times when he would easily finish ahead of me and times age won out.  It never really mattered.

Suddenly, we stopped entering races.  I picked it back up in pretty short order, but Pop took most of these past 15 years away from racing and running with any regularity.  There is no need to preach here about life getting in the way of things we enjoy or once enjoyed.  I recently realized that I have been part of the problem.  Opting for longer races, I failed to adjust to an aging man’s comfort zone or maybe better said his enjoyment zone.

That fall of 1998 ended with Pop running his third marathon.  The distance will break you.  It breaks us all.  “I’ll never do that again” has been uttered by everyone I know who has done it.  Yet, for many the pain recedes and we are left with the accomplishment as we stare at the next mountain in the distance.  Nevertheless, there does come a day when finished means finished.  It just happens.

I have no idea if that race was his throw in the towel moment or not.  It is not as though he never took another step or hit the button on his watch.  He gets out the door as often as he feels up to it.  At age 68, I’d say that is pretty good.

This past Sunday was Father’s Day.  Pop and I had joked in recent years about entering a race for old times sake, but that was just talk.  I simply assumed any chance of that were over.  Then, several weeks ago, I received an e-mail from The Run Project about an upcoming 5k - The Must-Dash.  The race was Father’s Day weekend just a few miles from my parents home.  I shot him an invitation to join me.  Within a few days, he agreed to do it.  Soon thereafter, I began feeling selfish.  Running is MY thing.  While I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning, I’m not the only Father involved.  Maybe he’d rather go for a walk, read the paper, drink coffee and meet for breakfast.

He reassured me he was excited about it.  And so it goes.  We pinned on our race numbers and headed for the starting line.

We ran a race together again and in some ways MY thing became OUR thing again.  I don’t know whether or not it will carry over, but I know this.  It was fantastic.  Recollection of races gone by flooded our memories.  We talked about how we ran, when we struggled and how we could have or should have...

It was the best Father’s Day gift ever (sorry kids).  Once again, my Dad dishes out more than he ever receives.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't Wear While Broiling


Free stuff.  Who doesn’t like free stuff?  I received a “free gift” in the mail for renewing my Running Times Magazine subscription.  Said freebie was a Sports Watch (or looks a little like a sports watch anyway).

In addition to the most complicated instructions on how to merely set the time of day, it came with a *NOTICE* that contains amazing warnings about everyday use of the watch.  Yes, it was Made in China.

The comedy begins in Item #1.  Stop me when you feel the first speed bump.  “This watch is safe to wear while swimming and washing car,”  STOP.  Washing Car?  That’s strangely random.  Why not something more common like washing dishes or bathing a child?  If we are going to single out car washes we might as well get really creative and include volunteers in a dunking booth, water balloon fights, and shampooing a monkey.  Maybe this is a computer generated message that inserts something totally insane after swimming because the Chinese know darn well that any average red-blooded American doesn’t know how to read…read instructions that is.  They play joke.

The awesomeness continues with Item #2.  We’re still cruising through the Wal-Mart parking lot so expect another speed bump.  “Do not wear it in broiling or freezing environment.”  Hey, you’re supposed to say STOP at BROILING.  I suppose they needed something more extreme that HOT, but I think they overshot the thermostat with BROILING.  Maybe it is a typo and should read BOILING.  Oh, wait, that is too extreme as well.  This is a tough one.  Just when is it too hot for cheap electronic gadgets to operate safely?  Maybe they meant BOWLING.  Yeah, that’s better.  Don't wear while bowling.

I really don’t want to be accused of dog piling so I’ll stop my remarks with Item #3.  “Do not wear it in puissant electric field, static or high cycle environment.”  What the hell?  That’s funny.  They misspelled pissant.  Not sure what that has to do with an electrical field exactly or why they seem so concerned about wearing the watch in the circus while riding a unicycle during the high wire act.  Ah, those darn Chinese are playing with me again.  I never said I was very bright, but I’ll be damned if PUISSANT ain’t a real word.  Seriously, I looked it up.  It comes from Old French (figures) and basically means Powerful.  I have no idea how to pronounce it and would not recommend using the word in public.  You’re bound to get slapped.

Man oh man.  I’ve posted the full *NOTICE* below for your reading enjoyment.  If I get bored later, I’ll take on items 4-12 in Don’t Wear While Broiling, The Sequel.

Sadly, those folks over in China, who probably know about eight languages, have a bigger vocabulary than I do.  No wonder I’m the sap who shelled out my hard earned cash for a crummy “free” sports watch.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace



Friday, May 17, 2013

Graduation Letter to My Son


High School Graduation Day - 2013

It has certainly been a tremendous honor to have you as my son.  Watching you grow to be a young man has been a lot of fun for me.  Yes, I worried a lot, but you made it easier on your old man than many fathers must endure....easier so far anyway.

I have been blessed with a son who’s not too cool to hang out with his dad.  A son who has willingly
let his parents be involved in his life in every way.  A son who is loved and who loves back.  Simply observing your tenderness toward your sisters tells me all I need to know about your character.

Not having you around once you head off to college is going to be tough on me.  Yet, I am excited for your future.  Push yourself all the time. When someone says you can't. Trust me, you can.  Regardless of where things go from here, it is a gift to part of it.  Please know that I am your biggest fan.

Success in life is a bit like a golf scramble. In order to do your best, you need others to pick up the slack in your down times.  Reach out and grasp the hand offered to you.  That hand is usually the hand of God, but it might look a lot like a roommate, a friend or even a random stranger.

Return the favor.  Put both hands in and rescue others...even when they don't think they are in trouble.

I’ve said it a thousand times:  Garbage in, Garbage Out.  You know it is true.  Pay attention and put the garbage where it belongs.

“Sooner or later you figure out life is constructed specifically and brilliantly to squeeze a man into association with the Owner of heaven.” - Donald Miller

Yes, I will always urge you to grow your faith.  Continue the habit of worship and service.  Read God’s word and pray...a lot.  Don’t put God off for later.  Later might not ever get here and God
deserves your best everyday.

Be prouder of your next 18 years than your first 18.  Thank you for being such a great kid.

I Love You!

Dad

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Victory, So Sweet!


This was one of the most anticipated golf outings of the year.  Yes, the 2013 Grapevine United Methodist Golf Tournament.

A year ago, I captained a team of high school golfers (including my son, Parker) to second place.  In “captain” I really mean the guy who paid the entry fee.  Yet, it would be unfair to say that I was not a contributor to that success.  Beyond the funds, I made several lengthy putts.  The green was my only area of contribution, however.  Seventeen year old boys can hit the ball a long way.  Seventeen year old boys who play on the golf team can hit the ball a long way straight.

It was about two months ago that Parker asked me about this year’s tournament.  Shortly thereafter, he mustered up the guts to suggest that maybe they needed to take four “A” players in this year…since it was their senior year of high school and all.  This sounded like a great idea until I realized that I was NOT an “A” player and the phrase “they needed” and “A” player was not “we needed”.  Yes, it is true.  My own son kicked the Team Captain, his Father, his Key to Economic Survival and his Inspiration off the team.  How do you get kicked off a church golf team?

This was another teaching moment that needed to be explored.  I could have cried, complained, refused to quit or given him the silent treatment for a few decades, but no, I took it like a man.  I wanted to show him how to handle disappointment.  I’m sure the first time he gets fired from a job or deserted by his wife, he’ll think of me and how I handled being sacked.

So here’s the kicker.  In a redemptive effort, Parker asked me to remain the coach/captain….and sponsor.  I’ve never been more proud!

I’m happy to report that “Our” plan worked.  It turns out that four 18 year old “A” players can shoot 18
under par in a scramble and win by 5 strokes.

The room was full of old and medium geezers who could only clap and silently accuse the boys of cheating as the winning team was announced.  I got to act like Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones and take all the credit for my general managing skills and ownership abilities to field such a remarkable team.  Nobody likes and arrogant owner, but I had to play my role.

Afterwards, one of our daughters asked Parker what he had won.  He told her and then made sure to point out that it was not about winning a prize.  It was about Victory!

After 10 years of playing in this tournament, Parker finally had his victory….and so did his dad.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hogeye Marathon Report - 2013


Does it ever get any easier?  The Hogeye Marathon was this past Sunday in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Since my oldest daughter is attending The University of Arkansas, I have been able to spend a little time in this neat college town.  When I discovered there was a marathon, I put it on my calendar as a possibility.

As stated in earlier posts, I wasn’t thrilled with my training.  Without question, I have said that before and after every marathon.  I consider myself a pretty good hill runner for living in largely flat north Texas.  Yet, this race was something I have never had the chance to experience.  There are hills and then there are steep hills.  These are a different breed all together.  I wouldn’t tell anyone to avoid the event though.  If one is mentally prepared and physically puts in more hill workouts, it is a great challenge.  Just do not anticipate a PR and prepare to suffer a bit.

The course starts downtown, runs through campus, then north around Lake Fayetteville and back toward the entertainment district downtown.  Fayetteville is pretty and downtown has a quirky coolness to it.  Visually, it is a great track.

One thing I knew, but didn’t think much about was the size of this race.  With about 300 marathoners and 800 or so half marathoners, I’d consider this quite small.  I’ve run the biggies and after RNR San Antonio last fall, I decided I would avoid the mega-marathons.  Here there were no corrals or pace signs.  Folks just sort of hung around the starting area for the national anthem and then the race director yelled GO.  Everyone politely filed over the timing mat and began running.  Cool, just like the old days when I started all this nonsense.

The volunteers were great as you might expect.  When I read that there would be an aide station with water and sports drink approx. every mile, I assumed this was a rather large exaggeration and simply unnecessary.  On a hot and windy day, these were such a welcome sight.  I think fewer stations late in the race would have resulted in many DNF’s (mine in particular).

I tried to reserve energy by walking a lot of the steep hills early.  This effort helped me keep pace for the first 11 miles.  Soon I wanted to pick it up a bit and simply could not.  After a minor calf cramp warning twinge, I remained slow and focused on fuel intake.  I was able to fend off the cramps all day, but this left me fatigued and slow with a mild upset stomach.  The final six miles progressively saw more of me walking.  I think my blood pressure was up and I just felt crumby.

Happily, I finished.  This was one of my slowest times at 4:42, but given the hilly course, weather and fitness it was a solid effort.  It was also a milestone for me.  10 marathons completed.  Hard to believe I ran my first one over 15 years ago.  I suppose I go through periods in which I’m simply not mentally strong enough to take on the task.

Good treats in the finish area.  Nice metal and shirt are good quality...though I’m not real keen on the big HOG.  Not sure this Longhorn can be caught wearing that.

The best thing of all was having a late lunch with my daughter and her roommates.  Big cheesy burger and cold beer were excellent for my soul.

The question I always ask myself is “will I be back?”  The answer is yes.  I’d like another stab at the marathon, but may opt for the half until the memories of the hills fade away.  Plus, great excuse to visit my daughter.  Thanks Fayetteville.  Great event.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, April 12, 2013

For Not Being Ready...


For not being ready....I'm ready.  My last post was titled Success Out of Failure.  It recounted a rough draft that went from whining about an upcoming race I wasn’t prepared for to a joyous celebration about how surprisingly well my last long run went.

I was on a real high during that brief period.  That was two and a half weeks ago.  I soon started watching the weather and exaggerating the potential every twinge and tingle.  It finally dawned on me that I was looking for an excuse to back out.  No big deal.  Only a few people would know and my family would rather I cut back anyway.

What was it that really caused the doubts?  I honestly can’t say for sure.  So I made a decision....

I registered for the race and booked a hotel.  This is completely like something I would do.  It makes no sense really.  I suppose I just reached the point where I couldn’t say YES and I couldn’t live with NO.  Once the “what if’s” started bouncing around in my head.

-What if it is a great race and I miss out
-What if I completely fall apart and have to DNF
-What if my training is good enough to get by
-What if the weather is terrible
-What if the PR in the half marathon six weeks ago was no fluke
-What if the minor injuries become major injuries and I’m sidelined for awhile

There was only one decision to avoid the likely regret.  Run the darn thing.  Why am I always so negative?

The injury item is real, but without reason.  Sort of like wearing shoes to bed because there might be a house fire.  Who wants to live their life that way?

One thing that I know I need to prepare for is the weather.  My last several marathons have been unseasonably hot.  It is almost as if I travel with the sun.  Oh, but let’s not forget about the humidity.  I promised myself in those race reports that I would NEVER run another marathon in hot humid conditions.  So, moments before I hit the send button on my registration I checked the weather on last time.

Low of 58, High of 72.  Warmer than I’d like.  What about the humidity?  Oh heck, who cares, SEND.  That, my friends, is how you make a hasty decision!  Each day since then the predicted temperature has risen by a degree of more.  By Sunday it will be at least 107.  One other detail I forgot to share.  Southerly winds up to 20 mph.  Awesome!  The last 7 or 8 miles look to be straight into the wind...of course.

Ok, enough of my complaining.  The race is going to be very uncomfortable at times for many reasons.  When you wanna stop and gotta just keep going, everything hurts and it is everyone’s fault.  Why?  Why do I do this?  Who’s idea was this?  I’m too old for this?  Realizing the regret you are having was what you intended to avoid in the first place.  THIS IS MY LAST MARATHON.

Some months later, I will forgive myself and do it again.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Success Out of Failure


There are times when things simply do not go as expected.  A week ago I drafted a blog post called Pull the Plug.  It was to be uploaded on Friday.  When Friday rolled around, I couldn’t bring myself to post it.

The draft was a lengthy rambling about the 20 mile long run I had planned for the weekend and how things just haven’t gone well leading up to this pinnacle of marathon training.  I’ll save you the self pity, but I basically surrendered before running a single mile and scrapped the whole idea of running The Hogeye Marathon on April 14th.

I read once that the best way to be right is to predict your own failure.  Well, I spent ample time predicting failure that afternoon.

The circumstances had not changed by Friday, but I decided no to post it because I felt I had to try.  If I feel short, my prediction was correct.  Yet, I thought it was likely that I’d get to 15 miles without much trouble and have a decision to make.

When I woke Saturday morning to the threat of rain and radar clearly showing I’d be wet within the hour, I almost went back to bed.  Yet, for some reason I just kept telling myself to get out there and go.  Quitting was always an option as I was already mentally prepared for that result.

I ran without fear and chose a route that would take me no less than 4 miles away.  If it rained, I’d just have to deal with it.  The lighting and light rain started around mile 10.  Ultimately, I arrived home after running 16+ miles feeling pretty strong.  I decided to bang out the last 4 on the treadmill and did so comfortably.

Where did that come from?

Something just clicked.  I’m still woefully undertrained for the marathon, but I really have no excuse not to lace ‘em up, pick a realistic race strategy and put #10 in the record books.

A common problem happened during this training season.  I did not officially enter the intended race and thus had nothing at stake if I failed to get prepared.  It was a combination of lack of commitment and life scheduling that got in the way.  I also convinced myself that I’d wait to see what the weather looked like for race day.  I’ve run too many “unseasonably warm” marathons to do another if I had options.

Realistically, I am relatively sure I will run it under any circumstances.  The alternate race options are either expensive (travel) or in locales that are just as likely to have poor weather.  I guess I’d better get started on booking a hotel in Fayetteville.

This episode was a great reminder to never count yourself out.  There is always a chance you are better prepared than you think.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, March 22, 2013

Only One Size


My wife knows how to cook.  Lets get that straight.

There is a problem, however.  She only knows how to cook in one size.  That size is FULL.  I don’t mean full because it is so good one eats too much.  I mean full to the brim, edge of the bowl and top of the pot.

God bless her!  She clearly takes after me in that recipes are overrated.  One merely needs a recipe to suggest ingredients and quantities not dictate them.  We cook by feel, look and smell.  This is where the similarities end.  I refuse to model her trait of misguided quantities.

If my wife pulls an 8 quart sauce pan for a batch of soup, you can darn sure bet there will be 7.9 quarts of soup to eat when the dinner bell rings.  An 10” x 15” baking dish is no match for her Baked Ziti.  That pasta and sauce are so happy they jump right out of the pan during baking.  I keep trying to tell her that doubling the “recipe” while using the same recommended pan is simply not a good idea.

One might think that she did this once or twice as a beginner’s mistake.  Nope.  She told me that she just doesn’t like to see available space go unused.  This, I’m afraid, is silly.  We NEVER finish all the dish anyway.  Leave the space alone.  Get over your fears.

I’m asking for help.  I simply want to help her recover from quantity abuse.  We welcome your suggestions.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, March 8, 2013

Setting Spiritual Goals


Possibly my favorite scripture verses come from third chapter of Philippians.  Verse 12 will grab you:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (NIV)

So will versus 13-14 as it continues:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

This whole goal setting thing whacked me in the nose last week and I can’t seem to shake it.  I read about how Isaac sought spiritual goals in the book of Genesis during a bible study project.  Then I heard a sermon partially based on the passages above.  If I didn’t know better I’d think God was sending me a message.

Clearly, I am being led to create some spiritual goals or objectives for my life.  This is not good.  I don’t really set goals.  I don’t like goals.  Goals make you accountable.  Yuck.  One might think training to run a marathon is all part of some sophisticated health or wellness aspiration.  The reality is that I like to run and every so often my training gets stale so I throw in a marathon to sort of give life to my running.

Give life to my running.  Wow, I never really thought of it that way.  Whether intentional or not, putting a race on my calendar does require me to step back and plan.  As rarely happens in other parts of my life, I actually sit down and create a rough training plan for the three to four months leading up to that big race.  I simply could not reach the start line (forget the finish line) if I didn’t take the necessary steps of preparation.

 God’s call to set some spiritual goals should be taken seriously.  Not taking it as serious as my running is wrong.  I know how important it is to answer the call God gives you.  Therefore, I intend to set some spiritual goals and measure my progress.  The benefits are clear.  I will be less inclined to be idle or backslide in my faith.  Spiritual goals achieved equals spiritual growth.

 So if I were to set some spiritual goals, what would that look like?

 I think the best thing I can do is evaluate what is in process and how can I expand or refine those efforts so that a goal is clearly defined.  For example, I attend a weekly bible study.  My attendance has been a little sporadic lately.  I’m going to set an attendance benchmark to achieve between now and when we break for summer.  I can do the same for church attendance, bible reading plan, prayer life and service.

God is telling me to get focused.  I’m on the right path, just all over the road like my 15 year old daughter who just received her learner’s permit.  Let’s get it between the yellow lines.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace