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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2170

This one is for the worker bees.  Those in the background who never see the spotlight.  Never get the trophies, awards or medals.  The ones who just show up when called and give their best.

Yes, in my case it is a pair of Asics 2170's.  I know this seems silly, but these have been awesome shoes.  So great that they get their own Blog entry.  These were just a mileage eater.  A pair to absorb miles between serious runs in more expensive equipment.  The first run was on December 1, 2012.  Seventy-seven runs later, they took me on 6.33 miles this past Saturday.

They took me 402 miles over these past two years.  This is only significant because I retire shoes after about 300 miles.  Not because they are worn out, but because I'm in the mood to get a new pair in the rotation.

It was difficult to pull them off the shelf for the last time.  Even with a new pair New Balance 1260’s, $40 more expensive, have been patiently waiting for six months to get in the game.   I'm sure these new shoes will be wonderful, but I hate to see a trusted friend go.

Experts recommend using two pairs of shoes.  Alternating them between runs.  I use 3 or 4 pairs at a time.  No reason other than I think it is good to have a newer pair, another in their prime and one nearing retirement.  The youngest ones are used on short runs for the first 50 miles or so.  The pair nearing retirement usually shift away from races to recover runs while the ones in their prime get the glory on race day.

Sadly, these Asics never got that chance.  I guess because they were cheap and when packing up for race day, I always opted for a "higher quality" shoes hoping it would make me faster.  I’m fooling myself, I know.

Anyway, I was just out on my run and wanted to say a few words about the ordinary.  If shoes had feelings, which these might if ever a pair did, they would be asking "what have I done to deserve this?"

Not a darn thing.  I am truly sorry.  Thanks for the miles.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sooner or Later

I have attempted to post this entry for over a month.  It has haunted me for some reason and been a logjam in my writing.  I can’t seem to put it aside and move on to something else.  Yet, each time I go back to fine-tune what I’ve put down I feel like I really missed the point.  I then delete 90% of it and start over.  Time after time the process repeats itself.  The whole thing goes haywire when I give a fresh read and open mind to the quote that is the subject of this post…

“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

I’m not real sure exactly how to add to this great statement Miller crafted in his book Through Painted Deserts.  It has so many layers to it and yet it is so wonderfully simple.  So incredibly honest.

Rather than rework what I wrote next in this space, I’m going to leave it up to you.  Maybe you’re going through a particularly rough time.  Maybe you feel incredibly blessed and have more than you possibly deserve.  Or…maybe you’re between squeezes.  I just know one thing, sooner or later…


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 12, 2014

Toxicodendron Radicans

I get the same look every time.  First from the nurse and then from the doctor.  Sort of smirk as if to say “Yeah, so you are allergic to poison ivy.  Most people are you know?”  Then they go through the standard questions.  When were you exposed?  Does it itch? (I don’t have $200,000 is student loan debt from medical school, but I know better than to ask stupid questions like ‘Does it itch?’).

Rather than wait for them to outline my treatment option, I rattle that off right away to save us all some time.  “I need the steroid shot.”  No reason to discuss other treatments.  When my body gets poison ivy it just laughs at Calamine lotion.  Steroid creams might work if I catch it quickly.  Oral steroid pills were probably fine in this case, but I didn’t want to mess around with this stuff anymore.  Too many severe reactions.  I mean, there is allergic to poison ivy and the is ALLERGIC TO POISON IVY.

Around 20% of people are not allergic, yet it infects over 350,000 people each year.  One those is generally me.  I actually take the oral steroid every year as we begin our fly fishing week.  That place has lit me up more than I care to recall.  At least on those trips I can claim being in some exotic locale really roughing it (which is total nonsense, but makes for a good story).  This time I got it in my own backyard.  And don’t be mistaken, this is no wild jungle on the edge of the woods backyard.  It is a fully fenced, manicured yard.

The vine I yanked out on my “holiday” (Labor Day) was the same one I battled a year ago.  Or at least I assumed it was the same one, yet it didn’t bother me a year ago.  When I felt some itching the next morning I simply thought I had stepped in a fire ant bed and got a few bites.  The following day I jumped in the pool after a bike ride.  My ankles were on fire.  A quick look at it from my wife and the diagnosis was rendered.

Dang it.  I was shocked.  I never even looked at the ankles close enough to question my fire ant explanation.  She quickly advised me to get to a Doc-In-A-Box for the shot because waiting 12 hours could render me useless and swollen.  It would also save her from having to hear me whine about it…this was her real motivation.

So, that’s what happened.  Just another day in Chaos.  Things have not really cleared up, but seem to be moving in that direction.  Let’s hope so anyway.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#100

On November 13, 2009, I posted my first entry Why Randy Runs here on Runswithacross.  It took awhile, but almost 5 years later (4 years, 9 months & 22 days to be precise) to post this….#100.  

Certainly a lot of garbage posted in those 1,756 days, some might say 99 out of 99, but I’m not doing this for them.  Yes, there have been too many typos, misspellings and horrific grammar errors to count.  One might be embarrassed to admit they even proof and re-write most of the entries many times before “publishing”.  Not ME!  Actually, some get TLC and others just foam out of my mind into my hands and onto the internet with only minor scrubbing.  

These semi-stream of consciousness posts are often my favorite.  Generally informal and less serious (like this one).  You see, I used to write these e-mails titled “Just Because” and circulate them to my friends.  They loved them.  So much so that when my computer crashed many years ago and I lost all the files, several of them came to my rescue and e-mailed them back to me.  I was flattered that they had saved them.

I guess you could say Just Because was Runswithacross before blogging became so simple.  Back then, there were fewer writers and a receptive audience.  Today, there are several million too many writers and no audience.  We’re all too busy trying to tell people what we think to actually read other people’s work.  Progress…right?

I never had any aspirations of creating one of those very rare Must Read blogs.  A successful blog, according to people who blog about how to successfully blog, stays on a single topic, has frequent posts with fresh material and promotes themselves heavily.  In other words, you have to work at it.  I’m lazy, have a double rainbow of interests and don’t believe in self-promotion.  Therefore, I’ve spent a trivial amount of time in the past 250 weeks writing anything I feel like.  While I occasionally get a message that say “thank you for the race report, I’m thinking about entering next year”, my audience is generally zero.  I’m fine with that.

In the end, this blog was intended to force myself to write more.  Given that it took 5 years to make 100 posts I’d say it has been a complete failure.

My new goal, hold your breath I’m revealing something special, is to write a little more.  Maybe 120 entries in the next 5 years.  Maybe not much an improvement, but an improvement.  We should all strive to get better.  120 is more than 100.  Better.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, August 29, 2014

Paris Coffee Shop

Fort Worth, Texas - Today I went to visit an old friend for breakfast.  Paris Coffee Shop.  Oh how I’ve missed you.

I met my friend Johnny, who 18 years ago invited me to join him for breakfast at this great place.  Not being from Fort Worth, it was my first visit and I got to meet John’s parents.  It was a weekly stop for his folks and he popped in from time to time to join them.  They each passed away some time ago, but I never drive by the place without thinking of them.

The place smells like a diner.  It looks pretty much like a diner.  The coffee is good.  The food is good.  The pies look fantastic.  My parents would love the place if for no other reason than they put a metal tin of Watkins Ground Pepper on every table.

How’s that for a restaurant review?

Ok, not very good, but it ain’t the food or coffee or pies that I like.  It is the atmosphere of times gone by.  A flash of the past, which in Fort Worth is amazingly spicy.  Searching the Paris you see old timers and young timers swapping stories over black coffee and scrambled eggs.  You are likely to see someone you know or think you know with each visit.

I regret that I hadn’t been back in over 10 years.  I’d give you a reason, but don’t have one.  Maybe I thought my body couldn’t handle running, biking and swimming with a periodic dose of sausage and fried potatoes.

Too bad.  I can’t begin to think of all the meaningful conversations with Johnny and others that I’ve missed in that time.
This is a place of memories.  Memories made and memories found.

I don’t know what it is about food, but I know I’m not alone in my fondness of special restaurants.  In Santa Fe alone, my family has 5 or 6 places we go to on every visit.  Sadly, I don’t have enough locally.  Maybe because home is supposed to be more boring than vacation.  That’s silly.  We all need a Paris Coffee Shop in our own neighborhood.  We need to make frequent visits with family and friends.  Forget all the diet nonsense once in awhile and find a dive where you can be you.  There is a genuineness at a place like that.  No cloth napkins or fancy silverware.  A tin of pepper and an ugly brown mug with piping hot joe brings out the best in people.

Give me call.  I’ll take you to Paris.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Made a Box

I cannot remember the source, but wood shop class was mentioned.  I took that in school.  It must have been 7th grade.  Yes, the memories.  I can smell the wood and hear the saws, lathes and drills vividly.  Of course, it wasn’t called Wood Shop.  Probably Woodworking or Wood Crafts or other fancy name.  Who do they think their fooling?

Wood shop was one of the few electives we had to choose from.  The other was homemaking, which in hindsight would have been a better choice for me for two simple reasons.  First, I like to cook.  Second, it was 99% female.  I clearly hadn’t discovered girls when registering for classes.

The name of the teacher escapes me, but I seem to recall he was missing part of a finger.  No joke.  Ok, I could be making that up…honestly not sure.  In Wood Shop there was an awesome closet full of tools.  Mr. Nubfinger protected that closet like a bank vault.  I guess he thought one of us might swipe a chisel or rubber mallet.  If he caught you playing grab ass in the tool closet, it was an automatic ticket to the principals office.  Safety around tools was rule number one.  Of course, he would know.

As the final class project, you had to choose between making a baseball bat, a toy truck or a box.  The baseball bat looked like a lot of time poking a sharp stick at a rotating piece of wood and really BORING.  I didn’t play baseball and decided if I brought that home my brother would just beat me with it.  The truck looked pretty cool, but in case you hadn’t noticed trucks have wheels and wheels are round.  Not having mastered wood geometry, the toy truck was out.  I was left with the box.  How hard could that be?  Plus, I could put stuff in it.  I had a lot of stuff.

So, I made a box.  This was no ordinary wood box, this was a really bad wood box.  About the size of the shoebox.  I carefully measured the wood.  Made the cuts.  Routed the edges so it would sort of tongue and groove together.  The individual pieces looked perfect once marginally sanded.  Assembly?  Well, that wasn’t so perfect.  I somehow managed to glue the thing together, but needed about 15 of those huge wood clamps you see on Bob Vila.

The next day we unclamped our boxes and Mr. Nubfinger made the rounds critiquing our work.  There were lots of “nice” and “that’ll be something your mom will be glad to get for Christmas” comments to the other kids.  He just passed by me like I was invisible.    Yeah, I knew it looked bad, but he couldn’t even bring himself to lie about it.  

Actually, he did something even better.  He pulled me aside later and said “why don’t we do a little work on that box.”  The nine-fingered man commenced to running my box through the wood planer about 45 times several sides and when he was done it actually looked like a box.  The lid still didn’t fit quite right, but it no longer wobbled like an uneven card table.

In the end, and several more hours using a wood file, belt sander and slapping on some wood stain in the shade of weak coffee, I finished my box.  I’m not sure what grade I received, but it would be unfair to judge a kid based on his ability to work with the remnants of a tree anyway.

So, whatever happened to my box.  There was no way I was giving this beauty to my mom or dad for Christmas.  Part embarrassment and mostly selfish, I kept the thing and still have it today.  You see, I still have a lot of stuff and it is perfect for stuff.

Yes, I Made a Box!


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, July 25, 2014

Back from Retirement - The 2014 Mayor's Triathlon

July 13, 2014 - Downtown Fort Worth

For weeks I had been trying to decide what to do next about this whole triathlon thing.  After some open water swims (OWS) in late spring, it became very clear that I was in no way ready to jump to an Olympic distance race because I was not confident of surviving an OWS.  Ok, I’d survive, but certain to have anxiety and come out of the water exhausted from mental strain alone.  The distances were not daunting.  Yet, meshing it all together after the swim was going to be a problem.

So I stewed on it.  Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this thing.  I enjoyed the three disciplines and the amount of work, but maybe there was a reason I had only been a runner the past 20 years.  So, I unofficially retired and took most of the possible events off my race calendar for the year.

My job puts me in front of our local elected officials every once in awhile and when the Mayor saw my Road I.D. (being a cyclist herself), she wanted to talk bikes.  When I told her I was really just a runner who dabbled in triathlon, She asked me to run the Mayor’s Triathlon.  I said I would to move off the subject, but I had already crossed that off the list.  I mean, I was retiring from triathlon after all.  I certainly wasn’t going to spend money on a Sprint distance triathlon.  Too easy.  Plus, I get sick of people asking “is it a full triathlon?” (obviously referring to an Ironman distance race).  Once I divulge the minuscule length they attempt to remain impressed.

A few weeks ago, I realized when I said I took “most” of the events off my calendar, I left open the possibility of something this fall.  I enjoy the training and without a possible race I had too many excuses to skip workouts.  Just days later I convinced myself there is no better time to get back into it than now.  I’m flaky that way.

So, what changed.  Well, I thought that even if I’m not ready to step up to the next level I would one day get the itch to do so.  I might as well get some easy races in so I could work on things like transitions and gear.

That brings me to July 13th.  Sprint distance Mayor’s Triathlon.  7:00 AM start in the downtown Fort Worth YMCA pool.  The bike was 15 miles rather than the 12 I traveled last fall in my first event, but the swim (300m) and the run (5k) were standard sprint distance stuff.

As I unloaded my bike and headed for transition, I was surprisingly calm.  It was like going to a half marathon or something.  All business.  Even as we lined up for the swim start, I was comfortable.  Accordingly, the swim went extremely well.  I shaved 30 seconds off my swim time and even had moments of pure relaxation.  When I got behind a slow swimmer, I didn’t try to swim by them I simply waited until the end of the lane and passed freely.

Transition was uneventful, but this was the first time I wore cycling shoes so walking the bike to the “bike out” line was awkward.  Having an audience led to some sudden flaws in my abilities.  I had trouble getting cleanly on the bike and clipped into the pedals.  This is when my peaceful measured approach fell apart.  At the first intersection (6th Street) I turned right thinking the officer was pointing me that direction.  The officer’s hand was up to the right holding oncoming cars…not giving me directions.  I recovered quickly and remembered the pre-race meeting from an hour earlier when they said the first turn is at 10th street.  Oh yeah.

These little incidents take something out of you.  I don’t understand it, but they do.  If your strength in an event is compared to a book of matches, mistakes burn a few matches.  I continued to burn match after match on the first loop of the bike.  I kept telling myself to slow down, but I’d come to the base of a hill and have to power up it or approach a slower biker and need to kick it hard to pass legally.  My heart rate was firing at 80-90% for almost the entire bike leg.  I was shot.  My back was stiff and I developed a pain in my left leg.  Things were not going real well at this point.

I need to enter an event with a flat bike course.  This one was not flat at all and while I was faster in MPH than my previous race, I was more gassed than my first race (also very hilly).  Of course, I was a new cyclist then and knew that hilly course would be a struggle.  I guess I wrongly assumed I’d be much better now and rather than casually ride I raced it.  It was costly.  

Another smooth transition and I was off on the run.  This is supposed to be my specialty.  Hard to take advantage of your strengths when there is no more fuel to burn.  My heart rate was 90%+ so I was forced to throttle back even though I felt ok.  The last thing I wanted was to have my heart explode on a measly sprint triathlon.  The course is a familiar one to me and when I ran down the steep hill on the first mile approaching the Trinity River, I realized I’d have to run back up that hill near the end.  This, my friends, is cruel.

Nobody passed me on the run, just like last fall.  I was holding back, but this part of the race looked to be about survival for almost everyone.  Just keep moving and finish.  With a mile to go, I walked up the monster hill and crest the top with newfound energy stores.  I took that last half mile in sub-eight minute pace and finished strong (27:43).

Overall time was 1:31:14.  I’d like to tell you that was much better than before, but the results are all messed up on the website so it is impossible to figure out how I did in relation to age group or sex (which since the distance isn’t standardized would be more informative).  My swim was faster, my bike was faster (MPH) and my run was a tad slower.

The event itself was organized very well and the post race goodies (breakfast tacos HELLO, fruit, water and BEER) were fantastic.  Triathlons draw smaller crowds because of field size limits, but it was a great group of racers and spectators.

As for me, I learned a lot.  This is why doing more races, even “Easy” ones, is important.  This should not have been so tough on me.  I was completely cooked.  My training had double the distance in mind.  My training also left me unprepared for a quick twitch effort.  I’ve been training at super low heart rate so I could put in big volume (hour & miles) each week.  I need to mix in some speed work so my body knows how to respond to a hard effort.

I still want to do the longer distance triathlons, but maybe I should stick to these short course races until I can pull one off feeling like I balanced my book of matches across all three disciplines.  Then, and only then I can take the next step up in difficulty.

Lots to work on.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, June 6, 2014

Puzzle Pieces

One of the most common questions from believers and even non-believers:  Why does God allow us to go through trials or suffering?

In a sermon by Scottish theologian, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, I was exposed to an interesting perspective on suffering.  This illustration was extremely helpful to me so I’ve taken the concept (and some direct statements) and used them to formulate this entry.  I apologize to Dr. Ferguson in advance for making a complete mess of what he seems to have perfected.

The typical answers on suffering are all good ones.  To glorify God.  To humble us and make us realize our dependence on Him.  But in the end, what does it all mean?  It can be hard for even the most devout Christian to make sense of at times.

Have you ever put together a jigsaw puzzle?  You know, the puzzles with different shaped pieces you assemble to replicate a picture of something.

Ok, have you ever tried to put one together without the box top photo?  Better yet, you know nothing about it at all.  Not the number of pieces, theme, the size or shape, nothing.  One must take each piece and painstakingly find where it fits in this picture.

We tend to look at problems as our whole world.  Why God, why me, why now?  They are magnified and consume us.

But, what if we were able to step back and realize that this "problem" is simply just a single piece of that puzzle?  Once inserted amongst the other difficulties mixed with the joys, treasures and victories in your life it gets so small.  Maybe inconsequential actually.  In time, you may not even be able to locate the piece that seemed so overwhelmingly difficult to place.

Problems are real.  Pain and suffering are real.  Minimizing them does not make the moment go away or likely make it a whole lot easier to handle.  Yet try to remember that God’s creation in you is undeniably beautiful.  Part of that beauty contains wonders (and yes struggles) beyond our understanding.  He molds us into what we are to become through these times.  One is left only to ponder what glorious picture has God chosen to define our lives.  

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dork Disk

Starting new things can be dangerous.  Dangerous to your ego at least.

When I got my first road bike last fall, there was this plastic chain guard on the back wheel that just looked out of place (see photo).  I know nothing about bikes so assumed it served a purpose.  Mine
bothered me because is was slightly warped and made a perfectly symmetrical wheel look out of whack.

I road in Tour Dallas last month and it never crossed my mind.  Last weekend, as I unloaded my bike to ride in the Head For The Hills Bike Rally in Cedar Hill, I noticed the chain guard again.  Dang it, why is this thing warped?

Being a complete gear junkie, I decided that I would look for the coolest chain guard in the race and order one the moment I got home.  I went to the start area with that single purpose.  As I began to my quest, I was puzzled by the lack of noticeable chain guards.  Where are their guards?  Huh, either I’m the only one that has one or these were so good that they were virtually invisible.

So what did I do next?  I became self conscious of the warped plastic saucer attached to my rear wheel.  It was too large to hide and I still had 10 minutes of small talk before I could at least get the wheel spinning to obscure this ugly thing.  Oh the anguish!

Rather than order a cool one the moment I got home, I did a simple Google search to find out about these “chain guards”.  A couple of clicks later I found my answer.  Someone on a message board asked about their purpose.  The reply came from a veteran cyclist claiming “The chain guard serves a very important purpose.  Actually called a “Dork Disk”, it tells us who the newbies are so we can stay the hell away from them once the race begins.”

For once, my gear fetish paid off.  I didn’t have to order a darn thing.  Envy actually saved me money.  Go figure.

That afternoon as I was cleaning up my bike, I cut that thing off my FUJI.  So long warped plastic frisbee.  Why on earth a reputable bike shop would install the thing to begin with is beyond me.  They must be in on the joke.  Now all I have to do is resist making fun of people sporting the Dork Disk at future events.

God, help me to always remember, I was there once myself.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sock Singles

My wife and I have a deal.  She does all the laundry except my workout clothes.  It’s not that she’ll unwilling to do it all, I just decided that doing a separate load of the REAL smelly stuff made sense.  Am I charitable or what?!  Anyway, by doing this special load I could use a more intense wash cycle and the pull things out after the wash that I didn’t want to go in the dryer.  This has been a good system….for me anyway.

So last night I was folding my clothes.  Completely uneventful until I reach the end and started pairing up socks.  Yes, you guessed it wise one, I was missing a sock.  This happens.  In this case, however, I got really irritated.  This pair I had worn only one time.  Just once.  Dang it!  I’m cheap, but I splurged and picked up this pair for $16.  Ouch.

I soon realized that I now own ONE $8 sock.  One lousy sock.  No, it was not worth $8.  It was worth nothing because you can’t wear just ONE sock.  How can this happen?  I’ve lost dozens of cheap cotton socks…but this was basically a brand new sock that went to the sock fairy.  Why me?  Like sunglasses, I should know better than to buy expensive socks.

I woke the middle of the night with a brilliant solution.  Just buy another pair.  Yes, drop $16 on another 2 socks.  I would have 3 total.  This is like insurance.  Yes, a $16 insurance policy in the event I somehow lost yet another one of these miracle socks.  I’d still be in business.

Then….I really woke up.  Did the math.  $16 + $16 = $32.  So, for $32, I’d have basically one pair of socks (and an extra single in the drawer for insurance, but honestly, I’d never be able to find it when or IF the need arose).  Nevermind.  I’d better just cut my losses.

The real kicker is that…Yes, I found the lost sock.  It was just laying there on the floor near the laundry room door.  Huh, go figure.  I should have looked there last night.

Now…the good news is…this found sock was free.  Seriously.  

$16 - $8 = $8.  

$8 + Free = $8.  

I now am the proud owner of a $16 pair of socks that only cost me 8 bucks!  Genius.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, April 11, 2014

Tour Dallas 2014 Ride Report

Dallas, Texas - Saturday, April 5, 2014

The past 10 months or so have been full of exciting new things in my life.  Exciting to me, but crazy or dumb to others because they involve exercise.  The most recent was riding in my first ever organized bike ride.

I had little reason for selecting this event other than it fell on a day that I was available and the weather looked like it might cooperate.  It also offered a casual bike rally format (no winners or losers) and covered a lot of the same course (only backwards) that I’ve run several times in the Dallas (White Rock) Marathon.

Since I have minimal experience on a bike and was limited to an indoor trainer all winter, my goal for the spring was to get more seat time.  I also lacked any group ride experience.  While I don’t recommend learning this at an organized event, I knew most of the “rules” and planned to find as much open space as possible, stay to the right and pay attention.

After a wonderful week, the weather Saturday morning had turned overcast and a bit chilly (mid-50’s).  Perfect running weather...of course.  Once I arrived downtown and unloaded my bike, it was clear I needed to add another layer.  I ended up being very cold for the first half of the race.

Tour Dallas 2014 offered slightly abbreviated distances this year compared to previous years due to road construction.  I opted for the longest (27 miles), but with 6 & 17 mile routes, they had something for everyone.  This was clear by observing the widely varying participants and bikes in the start area.

I lined up near the back.  There was no major production to start the race.  The director said something inaudible over the loud speaker and before long you could see the folks in front of you slowly easing onto their rides making sure there was plenty of cushion around them.  This is so unlike a running event.  At large road races, people just take off at the first sign of movement only to pull up a few feet later when the people in front of them return to walking or stop completely.

The early pace was barely measurable.  It slowly built over the first mile allowing for what appeared to be very healthy spacing (as if I know what healthy spacing is...).  The 4,000+ riders were grouped together, but I had just enough room to move slightly right or left to avoid a pothole, cone or lane bumper.  The communication was great.  For example, we approached a DART rail crossing before heading up Swiss Avenue.  Pre-race rules explained that trains had the right-of-way.  Once the crossing signals went on, voices from the front that were going to get stuck behind the train started yelling “slow” or  “slowing”.  This is then relayed back through the group.  Everyone eased off slowly and came to a stop cleanly.  Very cool.

It is no surprise that several folks had flats.  At first I attributed this to potholes and expected this to be common all day.  Interestingly, I don’t believe I saw a single flat after the first 5 miles.  My guess is that being grouped together prevented riders from being able to maneuver enough to avoid a hazard.  I’m simply grateful that I came through clean and kept the rubber on the road during my first ride.

This was an open course, meaning no street closures.  The organizers had hired off-duty police officers to get us through intersections, but there was an occasion or two in which we had to stop or slow.  While not ideal, it did break up the pack.  Deciding whether or not to chase down the group ahead or sit back and coast with the group was a lot of fun.  Since I was a naturally hyped up on my first organized ride, as well as
feeling the pace a bit too pedestrian, I chose to work my way to the front and reach out for the group ahead at each opportunity.

The nine miles around the lake were easily the most enjoyable.  While I consider myself a Fort Worth guy, I cannot deny the treasure that east Dallas has in White Rock Lake.  I never really noticed the endless number of runners, walkers and cyclists when participating in a road race over there.  It reminded me of Austin around Lady Bird Lake.  The only stopping during this portion of the ride was at the first Break Point.  More on that momentarily.

The final 8 or so miles found us headed west across Uptown and then down Turtle Creek Boulevard into downtown.  Another Break Point along the way and some fairly significant pothole dodging to the finish at City Hall.  Familiar sights and a great First Ride.

A few thoughts...

Break Points are common on these longer rides.  While I’m sure not everyone stops, it seemed the back half of the field certainly did.  This is interesting in that youpark your bike.  Walk around.  Grab food and a beverage.  Refill water bottles.  Use the restroom.  Chat for as long as you wish and then, at some point, get back on the bike and start riding again.  This is no NASCAR pitstop.  It’s more like a church potluck dinner.  Between the two stops, I have no doubt I consumed twice as many calories as I burned during the 27 mile ride.  Defeats the purpose?  Maybe, but I think that must be what training rides are for...

Finally, the race seemed very well organized and supported.  Since I didn’t register until a few days before, I had to do packet pick-up the morning of the ride.  No issues there.  Tons of volunteers there and at all places between that point and the finish line.  Food (hot pizza) and plenty of beverages in the finish area yielded a festive atmosphere.  I will return next year for sure.

I see myself doing many more casual rides in the months ahead.  They are typically held on Saturdays (making it easy on my church schedule) and I’m normally spending most of the first half of the day exercising anyway.  I will set a limit to save some money and prevent weight gain.

Oh, my finish time?  Well, it doesn’t matter.  Just a little over 2 hours as I recall.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace







Monday, March 31, 2014

If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

I remember my cycling friends telling me for years that I needed to start riding with them.  That I could still run, but riding would be a great way to cross train.  Occasionally, this advise was coming from someone in a sling or nursing scabs.  These injuries a result of a fall while riding.  Even the most skilled riders would tell me that it is not a matter of if you are going to take a spill, but when.

No Thank You!

Unfortunately, when I finally surrendered to this triathlon thing, the bike was unavoidable.  Worse yet, it would be the mode engaged in the longest in any event distance.

I was humbled by the bike quickly.  My deficiencies in certain muscle groups became quite clear.  So I started to work at it a bit.  Still not fanatical, but like I found with swimming it was quite peaceful to be out there just riding.  I soon realized that I had to get the proper gear.  Specifically, I needed to switch to clip-in pedals/shoes which I feared greatly.  I had visions of total panic on my part and being attached to a bike that was headed over a cliff.

My fears were partially realized on Saturday.  Yes, I had my first of likely many tumbles on my bike.

This one, fortunately, I escaped without much damage.  It did, however, come with a fairly high level of embarrassment and shame.

Here’s the scene:

I was approaching a stop light on a 4 lane road.  I slowed to a crawl and moved from curb side to the center lane so that cars desiring to go right may do so.  One hopes to slowly roll until the light changes and then resume riding.  In this case, the light was clearly not going to change in time so as I moved in behind the car stopped in front of me I unclipped my right foot from the pedal.

Remember, I’m still pretty new at this cycling thing, but I’ve done this enough to be able to just unclip one foot (right) and use it to stand on the ground while my other foot remains clipped in the pedal.  Staying clipped in with one foot allows for a solid pedal stroke on the restart which is critical when trying to move through an intersection with cars approaching.

For some reason, maybe I was making eye contact with drives on either side of me, I started to lean left as if to put my left foot to the ground rather than my right.  Obviously, having the right foot unclipped ready to land on the ground only works if you lean the bike to the right.  Once the bike was going left, there was no saving it.

Timber!  

As if in slow motion, I started going down.  Panic.  No time to free my left foot.  No time, even in slow motion, to do anything at all.  I’m not sure if I even attempted to put my hand down to brace the fall.  All I know is I’m laying there on my side at a stop light straddling a bike.  I have a couple of photos…one just before I went over followed by the one snapped from my rear facing helmet cam while feverishly attempting to get back on the bike. (Sadly, these do not capture the event adequately).

Like any red blooded American man, I got up and acted like the whole thing was planned.  I realized that I’d better get my butt back on the bike and moving because the light had just changed.  There I was pressing forward slowly trying get clipped in while the passing cars kindly rolled down their windows asking if I was ok.  I assumed each of them I was find, smiled and again acted like I had just successfully executed some trick one might see in the X-Games.

As I moved along, I laughed at just how humiliating it was.  How stupid that was.  Wait.  Was I injured?  I didn’t think so, but was unsure if the adrenaline was masking something.  I was sure that pretty soon I’d start to realize what part of my body had absorbed the most impact.  Beyond embarrassed, I was cursing myself because I had just gotten over a sore right shoulder that I banged up (doing something stupid) while skiing a month earlier.  It had kept me out of the pool and now I was certain my left shoulder would certainly be no better.

Fortunately, no signs of real injury appeared.  My left hip/buttocks is pretty sore, but mostly from the 20 mile ride.  I’d have to say the only injury came to my ego.


I can really only say how blessed I am that my first accident came while not in motion.  I won’t likely be so lucky next time.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Highlight Reel

There seems to be a trend with the younger crowd these days.  They act like they always need something to do.  Something planned.  Something worth posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  

A guy I work with is always asking what I have planned for the weekend.  When I tell him “the usual”, meaning a few workouts, cook some, time with family and church, he always seems so incredibly unimpressed.  When I dutifully return the volley with a similar question, he rattles off a slew of activities he has planned.  Dinner with so and so, playing golf with this group, heading over to Dallas for such and such…and on it goes.

Returning to the office on Monday, he will inevitably ask about my weekend.  “Nothing, just the normal stuff really.”  He in turn will go through the highlights of his activities; not to demonstrate how much more exciting his life is than mine, but because that appears to be how he measures his own life.  Ranking days or weekends by the amount of stuff worth (in his mind anyway) talking about.

Have you been watching a basketball or football game and immediately after a big play, the players turn and watch themselves in the replay on the stadium video board?  We have become trained to live for the highlights.  To seek awesome moments because without them life is apparently meaningless.

Maybe I’m alone on this, but life just doesn’t work that way.  Life is not a highlight reel.  To stick with the sports theme, there are about 9 hits on average in a major league baseball game.  Nine!  Three hours or more and that is all you get.  Worse yet, the majority of those are singles.  What a snooze fest!  Right?

No, not at all.  Not to me anyway.  Why?

Because there are so many little things that are happening or not happening yet might happen the entire game.  Things that you’ll never see on Sports Center, but make the game what it is to so many people.  It applies to the other sports and certainly to life.  I don’t think we were created to only appreciate the monumental moments in our lives.

Yes, life is boring if you only measure it by home runs and touchdowns.  Yes, another trip to the grocery store or long commute to work is fairly dull.  That’s the point.  Find a way to focus on life in-between the fantastic.  That is where we spend the majority of our time anyway.  Great things are happening in tiny increments in every day of every life.  Learn to love the small things.  Just think how BIG the big things will be if you are already completely satisfied with the ordinary.

That’s it.  Slow down and look around.  Enjoy the moment and then do it all over again and again.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Fort Worth Cowtown Half Marathon Race Report

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - Fort Worth, Texas

I have started and stopped this review a half dozen times in the past week.  There really is very little to touch on that I have not already covered in previous Cowtown Race Reports.  Actually, I’ve come to realize that most race reports are rather boring.  It is unfair of me to say that.  Ok, my race reports are boring.  Maybe I’ll just hit the highlights (it will still be way too long).

This is an awesome race.  It had a few flaws this year, but overall it was another great experience.  I ran my first ever road race at this event over 20 years ago.  While there have been some not so good years, I think they have an excellent formula at the moment.

Each time they moved the race (From the Stockyards to Downtown to the current local Will Rogers/Stock Show area) I thought it was a bad idea.  Well, I was wrong.  The race is so big now that they need this larger area to pull it off.

The Expo was top notch.  Packet pick-up was slick and there were many vendors.

Race morning for me was routine.  Warmer than I would have liked at 56°F and high humidity, but with the wild winter we’ve had (starting with the cancellation of the Dallas Marathon) I will not complain.  While I do not wish to dwell on it, traffic getting to the venue was downright terrible this year.  This has not always been the case so I am hoping it was due to construction in the area or a one-time issue.  All races should take a few lessons from Texas Motor Speedway.  Admit traffic will be heavy and provide maps showing multiple routes to the venue (including multiple parking options).  Runner’s need not be so quick to criticize though.  If the race has 10,000 participants and 90% of those are trying to arrive 20 minutes before the gun, there is going to be a problem.

I was in Corral 2 out of 8 or so.  I’m not fast, but it shows you that the growth of the sport is in the back of the pack.  I think it is great regardless of their speed.  The corral police were not real aggressive, but fortunately only a handful of people were trying to cheat the system.

The race started on time and their release of each corral allowed things to flow very well.  It was clear after only a few miles that any attempt to surpass my PR from last year’s race would be futile.  Even at a slower pace, I was sweating way too much.  It was going to be critical to get enough fluids.

Aid Stations.  Like any large race, the first several stations were chaotic.  Beyond that they still had issues at several stations.  No reason to dog Cowtown on this issue since they got so much right.

While I’m on the subject, I think there are two things the sport needs to adopt to make aid
stations more efficient.  First, standardize what comes first.  Water or Sports Drink?  They are often randomly different.  Knowing whether you needed to hit the early tables or the late tables would clean up the congestion a bit.  Second, have one dude (preferably with a load voice) telling people there is more at the next 15 tables.  People should know this by now, but the log jam at the first table is always the same.

Crowd support is greatest in the Stockyards, Downtown and near the Finish, but there are no real lonely patches in this event.  The course is diverse and I believe one of the hardest in north Texas.  The hill into Downtown is downright nasty, but a signature of the event.  Only races held during warmer months on hilly terrain can match it.  Yet, I run my best races at Cowtown.  I’ve always been a good hill runner, but the course seems to be perfect for my abilities.

I had hoped to hammer it after recovering from the entry into Downtown, but I was still only able to hit 8:40’s per mile rather than low 8’s last year.  I ended up just riding along in reasonable comfort.  Once I caught the 2 Hour pacer with over 2 miles to go, I was certain I had another sub-2 in the bag.  Official finish time was 1:58:35.  Not bad on the eve of my 46th birthday.

Post race was great.  Very nice looking (and unique) medal.  Another t-shirt and lots of food & drink.

Again, this race is well run and a good value.  If you run it next year, I’ll see you there.

        Run in Peace, Rest in Grace


Friday, February 21, 2014

Man Was I Wrong

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was young I had an unofficial policy to never date and certainly never marry a girl from a divorced home.  People challenged it this of course, but being young and stupid was my specialty (only to be outdone by old and stupid now).

The policy was based on the notion that a kid with divorced parents had likely developed the “give-up” gene.  Marriage is tough and the last thing I wanted was someone who thought dissolving a marriage was always an option if things didn’t work out as expected.  I suppose I was influenced largely by being surrounded by what appeared to be good marriages.  My parents, grandparents and even most of my friends had “normal” families with “successful” marriages.

What a sap!  It’s not that these weren’t great marriages.  By all accounts they were.  I simply was never exposed to divided family dynamics.  I had no idea of the struggles that all of these folks went through in their marriage.  Good and bad marriages have to face great trials.  

The most disappointing thing about my attitude was that I was judging people I didn’t even know.  There could have been abuse of many kinds.  Maybe it was cheating spouse that brought about the end.  The kids in those marriages didn’t have any more control over that back then than they do today.  I was being a fool…and not only because I was cutting my candidates in half.

Fortunately, God has ways of curing such lunacy even in the most stubborn.  I truly fell in love just one time.  She is now my wife.  And YES, she is from a divorced family. The truth is, I forgot about my policy completely once I met her.  It never entered my mind.

In no way do I sanction divorce for any reason except the most obvious.  But, regardless of the circumstances, we should never judge someone who has been through a divorce.  It is clear to me that I largely did so for decades.

The Bible is clear how much God dislikes divorce.  Unless their was abuse or infidelity involved, it is hard to comfort those who have been through a divorce without ultimately falling back on God’s grace and willingness to forgive.  Yet, how is that any different from a smattering of other behaviors we all possess in which we rely totally on Christ’s journey to the cross to save us?

So, just how subtle is sin?  It sneaks up on us and becomes part of us without much notice.  We see others and find a million flaws…yet fail to see most of our own.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” - Matthew 7:3 (NIV).

I was sure that I had buried this policy long ago.  Sadly, recent discussions on the topic revealed that a touch of it remains.  I don’t always give divorced couples a fair shake.  It is only a speck of sawdust, not discernible to others, but it’s there nonetheless.  It’s embarrassing and worthy of exposing…worthy of changing.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, January 24, 2014

Assertively Passive

Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive…terms I’m getting to know a lot about in my ministry training.  We’re reading a book about Assertiveness and how to be an assertive Christian.  It seemed a strange combination at first.  To me, aside from the wackos, Christians appear to be pretty passive folks.  Not rocking the boat.  Minding their own business and living fairly undramatic lives.

Yet, I am reminded that the Bible calls us to be bold.  A bold witness to Jesus Christ.  The books of Acts and Romans are full of examples of Peter and Paul bolding taking the message to the Jews and Gentiles.  I suppose it is difficult to be effectively bold without being assertive.

This reminded me of a conversation our family had over the holidays.  We were all discussing how my dad, brother and I all married fairly dominant women.  My son humbly acknowledged that he too was likely to marry a dominant gal as well.  The ladies call a lot of the shots, there is no denying that.  But is dominant the right work.  Maybe they are just assertive.  Or maybe those words generally mean the same thing.

What does that make us men?  Passive?  My trusty thesaurus gives such synonyms as submissive, unassertive, docile, tractable or pliable.  I can’t say those words don’t describe me…because generally they do.  The class material considers these poor qualities.  This offended me at first, but I think they are simply trying to get people to stand up for what they believe and what is right.  Forget the biblical applications, they are talking about something as simple as speaking up when someone is being cheated or mistreated.  That we shouldn’t crawl in a hole and mind our own business all the time.



Therefore, I think we are really talking about very different things.  I’d like to believe that my pliable nature, and that of the men in our family, stems from a desire to please others.  Yet, it may also be because we don’t give a crap about a lot of stuff.  I mean, I don’t really care where we go for dinner.  Seriously, I just don’t.  Sometimes yes, but if I’m not rendering an opinion, maybe it is because I don’t have one.

Of course, some of this is learned behavior.  I’ve become more passive with age.  After years of having ideas dismissed like they were not even uttered changes a person.  So much so that I may have become incapable of even having preferences.

I’m not looking for sympathy….because the book had one final chapter that made everything right.  It said that you might get in a situation where being assertive is inappropriate, unproductive or harmful.  Basically, choosing not be assertive.  They labeled this behavior as Assertively Passive.  Brilliant.  Actively choosing to be passive.  Yeah, that’s what I do.  If I really care or need to express myself, I’ll let you know about it.  Otherwise, I am choosing to be docile.  This might be lazy or come across as uncaring, but It just seems easier that way.

So I raise a glass to the Assertively Passive in the audience.  Maybe we’re the ones who have things figured out after all.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, January 20, 2014

16 and NOT Pregnant

Today, yes, today is a special day.  Our youngest daughter turns 16 years old.  Ok, not so special for me, but HUGE for her.  Are you kidding?  Chant with her…Freedom, Freedom, Freedom…

I tried to reflect all weekend about my 16th birthday and how I felt.  Unfortunately, I’m too old to remember much, but I’m pretty sure is was REALLY great.  I, like my daughter, didn’t need this so called “Freedom” to get away from it all.  It was more about being able to explore the world without the normal limits.  Sure, at 16 a world without limits is still only size of the town you live in, but you can now claim part of it as you very own.

Yes, being able to drive yourself to school makes school suddenly bearable again.  Put on the right music and there you have it.  Your own slice of heaven.  Everything looks different from behind the steering wheel of your own car.  It all looked so boring from mom or dad’s passenger seat, but now it is vibrant and alive.

I’m proud of my baby girl.  She’s a good kid.  Hangs with a reasonably good group of kids and isn’t afraid to tell me she loves me.  Oh, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend at the moment which always makes a dad happy.  Boys are bad.  They just are.  Let’s ignore the fact that we have a son for the moment….just know that boys are bad.

Back to the point.  She’s a good kid and a good driver.  I’m excited for her, truly I am.

But…where’s the “But”?

No Buts.  Yes, it is a little tough to see the youngest leave the nest on her first solo flight.  Yet, like I’ve said in these pages before, that is what we raise them to do.  To grow up.  If they are going to grow up, they might as well do it in glorious fashion.  I just thank God that he blessed us with such great kids.

I’m not naive.  Our storms are on the horizon.  For all the compliments I get about our kids, I always remind folks that we’re not finished yet.  We’re never finished…are we?

Happy Birthday baby girl!


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bigger or Smaller?

There is an AT&T commercial running on a TV near you where the host asks a bunch of kids, “Bigger or Smaller?”

The kids scream out “Bigger”.  They then talk about why a big treehouse is better than a small treehouse.  The commercial ends with the announcer stating, “It’s not complicated.  Bigger is Better and AT&T…..”.

Obviously, Bigger can certainly be awesome.  But what happens when something is too big?  Is it possible to dream too big?  Can a project seem too big or difficult to finish?  

The answer is Yes,  We face things every day that are huge and seem impossible.  At the beginning of each year, many people make resolutions and set goals for themselves.  Statisticbrain.com claims that only 8% of these are achieved.  Whether it is to lose weight, exercise, spend more time with family or get organized we fail 92% of the time.

I believe most of these are unsuccessful simply because they are too big.  We visualize what we’ll look or feel like once we achieve our goal.  Some people get paralyzed before even starting, but most dive in without any real plan of action.  The luster tarnishes quickly and we quietly quit pursuing that which we proudly proclaimed just weeks or even days earlier.

The remedy for this is to focus on today.  We get so caught up in what we hope to be that we lose focus on who we are and what we can control at this very moment.  The reality is that we’ll be better tomorrow if we do a better job with today.  

I’m reading yet another account of someone’s experience thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The 2,180 miles from end to end is attempted by thousands of people each year.  About 25% of those who start actually make it.  For months, they hike.  Years of preparation all boil down to just that.  Wake up each day and start walking.  Doing that day what they can to achieve success, not in the long run, but on that particular day.  In their case, stack up six months of these back to back and BOOM.  You are now a Thru Hiker.  An extreme title for any outdoorsman.

Maybe you haven’t accomplished something so daunting.  Yet, I guarantee you have had successes in your life built in that very same manner.  Taking the necessary steps at each critical point to claim victory.

Over the past few weeks, I have reflected on things that I have accomplished that I never thought possible.  Things I’ve attempted in the past only to fail…sometimes on day one and sometimes months down the line.  Yet, I finally crossed the finish line in a handful of those things.  I guess that tells me not to give up.  Nothing is too big with planning and perseverance.

So, Bigger or Smaller?

I’ll still take Bigger, but I know that Bigger is only better if we get there through small and often uninspiring achievements each day.


Run in Peace, Rest in Grace