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Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Last Gift

We live in a world that believes there will always be a tomorrow. Always a next week. Always a next year. What would you do if we knew there would be no tomorrow or next week or next year?

Without tomorrow to worry about, what would you do with all your stuff? Can't take it with you. How much did you ever really need all that stuff anyway? I suppose you would just start giving it all away.

Even if you believe you have nothing, you do have SOMETHING to give.

In a Dallas Morning News piece that touched me back in November, Gordon Keith wrote about his nomination for Texan of the Year. His heartfelt conclusion can be read here.

As runners and cyclists, we are always mapping out our next workout or next race. We are cautious when out on the road...yet, we are putting ourselves in harms way more than most. And more than most, we know the unique type of joy life brings when spent outdoors. We try like mad to get others out there with us. If they could only experience this joy, if only.

Taylor Storch's family did something extremely difficult for many families. Organ donation seems like a no brainer, but 18 people die each day due to a lack of available organs. Just over 35% of adults are registered organ donors. Taylor's donation saved five lives.  Her family created Taylor's Gift Foundation to raise awareness.

I encourage you to go there to NOW and get on the list. At this moment there are 110,351 men, women and children waiting on the transplant list. Someday, you will be in a position to give a handful of these souls the chance at the joy we take for granted. Make the Joy of a second chance your last gift.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bringing Us Together

Let's just start by stating that life at my house is basically chaos.  The three teenagers are in constant motion. I am so blessed that my wife can keep up with their schedules.

About two weeks ago I walked into the house one evening to the most shocking sight I can ever recall.  Sitting together in the living room were my wife and three kids watching baseball. BASEBALL?  BASEBALL! Certainly I must have been dreaming.

My wife began complaining about strike calls and close plays at first.  What?  This didn't really happen.  Strategy about pitching changes, stolen bases and intentional walks were discussed. I have been speechless since mid-October when they caught baseball fever.  Questions about the designated hitter and who has home field advantage replaced our typical conversations about unimportant stuff like school work, boyfriends/girlfriends and pizza.  Who were these people?

The family went shopping and purchased team merchandise to show their support for the team. This really couldn't be happening.  Other area teams have never penetrated the steel curtain to garner even a minute of their time.  We were truly pioneering with this newfound family baseball passion.

I've been a Texas Ranger fan since my youth.  Decades of disappointment never had me love them any less. This was baseball and they were my home team.  They didn't owe me anything. Nevertheless, the Rangers gave me a gift more special than a World Series.  They gave me three weeks with my family.  Three weeks like none other.  The five of us bonding together watching our national pastime.

When they lost the Series to the Giants in Game 5, I was obviously disappointed.  Disappointed that this special time was now over.  I doubt we'll ever be able to recreate the magic.

I'm simply thankful for the moments together.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Halloween & NYC Marathon Memory

In 1998, the New York City Marathon was run on Sunday, November 1st.  It was just my second marathon and first BIG marathon. My Dad was running with me.  He had run the race a few years earlier and insisted that we stay in Staten Island at the Staten Island Inn the night before the race to avoid the early wake-up call, bus trip from Manhattan and long wait outdoors race morning.  If you've run know what I mean...if not, I hope someday you will.

Dad and I left our wives Saturday afternoon to hop on the Staten Island Ferry.  We arrived in Staten Island only to figure out that cabs were not as plentiful as in Manhattan.  We were reminded by a local that it was a big night.  Being so caught up in our own "marathon" world, we had simply forgotten that it was the dreaded double combo.  Saturday night...and Halloween.  A big night indeed.  We found a pay phone (yes, 13 years ago there were still pay phones) and called a cab.

It was dark by the time the taxi showed up about 30 minutes later.  I don't have to go into detail about cab drivers.  We don't get much experience in Texas, but I've traveled enough to big cities to know that we had a real doozy on our hands.  Talked a mile a minute.  Watched the road only when absolutely necessary.  Drove a fast as possible...and fast was possible.

Remember, it is Halloween.  We're on the uncongested streets of Staten Island.  This was not bumper to bumper traffic filled with honking and swearing that you find elsewhere in the City.  This was straight out of a car chase scene in the movies.

Halloween means Trick-or-Treaters!  Little kids walking the tight streets darting back and forth as we took temporary flight at each intersection. Pop and I traded white knuckle glances upon each landing and scrambled for seat belts.  I could only think 'Surely, we will die tonight...or a passenger in a vehicle that killed a pack of innocent trick-or-treaters out for their annual pilgrimage to gather the youthful gold standard.  Oh the horror!

Upon arriving safely at the Staten Island Inn, the cabby kindly asked if we needed him to come back in the morning to take us to the start line.  We quickly refused the offer and sent him on his way.  I was willing to run a few miles if I had to in the morning...if I was going to die, it was not going to be in a cab on the way.

To this day, I have very few memories of Halloween.  This one...will stick with me forever.

The next day Pop proved he was faster than me once again.  What an amazing thing to share with family.

Good luck to all running the NYC Marathon this weekend!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Home Chef?

My family has complimented my cooking for years. Tonight's feature included stacked chicken & spinach enchiladas with green chili sauce. Not terrible and WAY too healthy. I had one of the kids' cheese enchiladas to obtain the desired level of guilt.

I don't cook as often as I used to since my kids became teenagers. It is impossible to plan a meal. If I plan on feeding us on a typical Saturday night, we might have just our kids, our kids and multiple friends or just me and my wife. How do I possibly plan in advance when the kids don't make plans until the last minute?

Maybe it is a bad parenting thing. I know the ideal Christian family eats together every night. Sadly, ideal our family is not...far from it. We do love and care for each other. We open the door to our home for any and all of their friends. It is chaos, but I don't think I would change a thing.

So for now my job is to be a good influence to these kids and remind them to keep God first in their lives. I know many will lose their eye for the prize over the next many years. I just hope the the foundation is strong enough that they don't drift to far from Home.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2010 Chicago Marathon

I have waited two weeks to write this for many reasons. Some say I am eternally pessimistic. They are probably right, but I do have a point from time to time. This was a nightmare race in so many ways. Yet, I find myself having many fond memories of it as well. How on earth do begin?

Weather: way too hot! I think it was cooler back home in Texas. High humidity and temperatures reaching the mid-80’s had us all suffering.

Course: supposed to be flat and fast, but for those of us mid-packers the number of runners simply does not allow for maintaining a smooth pace. You constantly have to dodge people taking walk breaks and there is just no rhythm.

Crowds: simply amazing! Did say amazing yet? I've run New York twice and Chicago wins. My only complaint is they need more barriers to hold them back. Part of the pacing problem resulted in the crowds pinching in as far as possible squeezing the runners together. Still an outstanding experience for sure.

Volunteers: plenty of fully stocked aide stations with more than enough motivated volunteers. As you might expect, it became a real mess in the late miles with all the cups and trash. The banana peels were slippery and dangerous in these late miles. I don't want to focus on that though since the people were great and well prepared.

Body: my left IT band hated me for the last 5 miles. That hasn’t been a problem for me in 10 years. It was the first time I thought I had to drop because walking hurt worse than running and both were unbearable. I have been in pain at other marathons, but this so so much worse. Somehow I hobbled through. I prayed for the strength to finish and I believe God just answered. That didn't stop me from swearing after the finish that I had just run my last marathon.
My Race: with the heat I immediately lowered my expectations on time and simply drank as much as I could stomach. I ran at the back end of my expected time range and finished in 4:46. Not terrible after what was frankly a terrible summer of Texas training.

Expo: huge and had anything you could want. They clearly did not have enough shuttles from the host hotel, but that gave my wife and me a chance to snap this pick of the floorboard of our cab. I'm hoping it was from a previous passenger rather than our driver.

Long Overdue Race Summary: it has grown on me since the extremely painful last miles and finish. It always amazes me how pain fades and fond memories remain. No other way to explain childbirth. Maybe seeing all the other runners that night and next day in their shirts and/or medals allowed me to be proud of myself (which I had not prior to seeing how proud others were of this accomplishment). My knee feels almost normal. I still generally dislike huge races, but they have their place and everyone needs to experience at least one.

So, will I run another marathon? Stay tuned!

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Randy's Shoe Rotation

Years ago the recreational runners started to buy into the theory that it was good to have a couple of pairs of shoes; alternating these for your runs. The benefits range from injury prevention to less odor. Because I can, I've expanded that and believe this method is becoming more common based on the runners I speak to about the subject.

I generally have three pairs in my rotation. These are not just any three pairs, they are three different brands and/or models. I believe this further diversifies the wear on your lower body and prevents injury as different brands and different models simply are designed to be well...different. And unless your sponsored, you might just discover the best shoe you otherwise would never have tried. Note: these shoes still must be the right style (stability, cushion, motion control or whatever you where), but mix it up a bit and I think you'll remain injury free...from the shoes at least.

Also because I can, I don't wear them until they are completely worn out. 250 miles; maybe a bit more or sometimes a lot less if they just don't feel right. I like to reward myself with new gear and new shoes are always a treat. Plus, donating shoes that have life left is wonderful if you can afford it (I recommend Soles 4 Souls   - click on link for drop locations near you or to make a financial donation).

One of these pair graduates to my long run/marathon shoe and gets used almost exclusively for that purpose once they've been sufficiently broken in (50-75 miles). The other pairs may never achieve such status if they just don't feel right on those mid-length runs. The idea is to rotate a high mileage pair out and roll in something you are only breaking in one pair at a time. Not always possible if you short range a shoe or your mileage gets a little out of whack.

Anyway, that is my take on shoe rotation and gives a shoe horse like me an excuse to try the newest pair.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Shoes I'm running in now:

Asics Gel-Kayano 15 (need to be retired..any suggestions?)
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10
New Balance 760

Recently Retired:

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9
Asics 2140
Asics Nimbus 9

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is 'Ever After' Too Long?

With the recent split of former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper, the world seems to be focusing on how divorcing after 40 years of marriage is become more common and more acceptable. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an article entitled "'Til 40 Years Do Us Part".

In it you can read nonsensical gibberish such as:

'I've done my parenting and want to have a chance to have my own life'

'marriage was designed for a time when people died in their 40s and 50s, after raising children together'

'we have to ask ourselves: Is 'ever after' too long?'

I suppose I should give them some credit for devoting the final two paragraphs (2 out of 14) to the idea that it is possible to stay married.

My wife and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in August. So, what do I know about staying married? Nothing beyond 20 years...assuming we make it until August. I am not qualified to give marriage advice, but that never stopped me before.

I see what happened to the Gore's happen around me and always wonder...what happened? Forgetting infidelity (which is a deal breaker), how do you go from being best friends as newlyweds to despising you spouse's company?

It is really pretty simple in concept. Selfishness. Putting one's life above another. I deserve more. I deserve better. What I want or need is more important...he/she just doesn't understand. It doesn't start when the kids graduate high school or when you turn 50. It starts early in a marriage and requires only one spouse to get the ball rolling in the wrong direction. Resentment and anger ultimately lead both parties to start looking out for themselves.

Don't be that spouse. God didn't design marriage to be temporary. 'Ever After' is not too long.

I admit it is very complicated because people do change. Many of you are new runners...or fairly new. Think of how that has changed your life and your priorities. Those changes impact your marriage so be sure to acknowledge that and adjust accordingly.

Communication is key. I often express to my wife that I worry about our life after the hustle and bustle of the kids is no longer there to consume us. She thinks I'm crazy, but knowing those years are not too far away makes me work even harder to make sure the two of us have a life aside from our children.

I pray that I won't look back on this in 15 or 20 years and say "what a dreamer". I do know one thing for sure, I'm going to work harder in the next 20 years than I did in the first 20.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, May 17, 2010

My John Wesley

My grandfather was not THE John Wesley, but his parents thought enough of this man to name their son after one of the founders of the Methodist movement John Wesley . Talk about pressure. I'm proud to say that by all accounts, he lived up to that pressure.

I arrived home from a run several years ago and my wife was in tears.  She looked at me and almost inaudibly said "Grandpa died last night."

It was sudden and needless to say, tough on all of us.  The day before he died, my 3 year old received this card....

He made a point to make us all feel that way.

I could write for hours about how he cared for my grandmother before she passed away.  She was very ill for years and he cared for her night and day.  I remember when I was out visiting one summer (so my parents could have a break and if you knew me you'd understand that they deserved it) and came down with a stomach virus.  I was about 13 at the time.  He held me during the most violent moments and beyond. He wanted me to know that he was there for me and wasn't going away.

He had a great smile, a great sense of humor and a terrible golf game (sorry Pop...we had fun anyway).

This may have been the most thoughtful and caring man in my life and I regret that I didn't realize it at the time.  I have grown in my faith since his death and for that I think he'd be proud.  I keep this birthday card on my dresser and see it daily.  It reminds me to think of others before I think of myself.  I'm not very good at that, but with an example like John Wesley I'll get there.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, April 30, 2010

The 2010 Oklahoma City Marathon

As I have in the past, I'll divide this Race Report into The Event & My Race:

The Event:

Not having spent any time in Oklahoma City, I'm happy to report that this town has a lot of charm. I arrived on Saturday afternoon and headed straight downtown for the Expo. There was an Arts Festival going on just west of the convention center so the streets were filled with loads of people. Packet Pick-up was quick and the Expo was large with many vendors.

This was a special weekend for Oklahoma City with their NBA team (Thunder) playing in the playoffs against the Lakers. The City was bubbling with enthusiasm. In addition to the Thunder game Saturday night, on the other side of the convention center is Bricktown and the home of the Texas Rangers AAA affiliate the Oklahoma City Redhawks who were also playing. Action packed weekend for sure.

Since this is a running report, I won't dwell on the circumstances for holding this race. Just remember: April 19, 1995. 9:02am. A bomb was detonated in the street in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, destroying the Federal Building and killing 168 people. The Memorial that stands there is really amazing. The pre-race 168 seconds of silence was eerie and a great reminder that this day was not just about me and my fellow runners.

A 6:30 AM start time may sound unusual, but given the potential heat that could have been part of the day a good idea. Leaving my hotel, the forecast of high winds was clearly accurate since the flags were whipping fiercely. The NW winds ranged between 13-20 MPH with gusts up to 30 MPH. The temperature at the start was 52 degrees and climbed to 73 by midday.

It was dark when 22,000 tried to shuffle their way to the starting corral (2,634 Marathon Finishers). The only problem was that if you wanted to use a porta-potty, you had to leave the corral entirely. Barriers and spectators prevented one from re-entering at the appropriate pace group. The corral was long and skinny and moving forward or backward was not an option. A poor design all the way around. Basically, if you needed to pee, you were starting at the back.

The course is rather hilly. Nothing too steep, but not much flat either. We ran downtown, by the baseball stadium, past the Capital, out to Lake Hefner and through many neighborhoods on the way back downtown. It was a nice course. The wind may have been a huge factor, but only for those out front. Those of us back in the pack were largely shielded from most of the headwinds until things spread out after the half marathoners turned back toward town at Mile 8.

Overall, my complaint about mega-marathons was true here. Too many people running at different paces in too small a space. I suppose had I been up in my pace group rather than starting dead last it could have been different, but I was still dodging walkers five miles in.

One thing they got right that many others do not is that they had plenty of water and Powerade at EVERY aid station. The first few are always dicey because it just doesn't seem they have enough ready to go and can't replenish fast enough, but these folks had it nailed. Great people too! I discovered this when I ran in Ardmore last month, the folks of Oklahoma are downright friendly. There were also some fantastic themes from many of the volunteer teams. That always helps divert the mind. Some of the neighborhoods got into the action as well. I really enjoyed the huge inflated gorilla at Gorilla Hill.

The wind became an issue as we approached the Lake. Fortunately, most of it ended up being a cross wind, but I can honestly say that I've never run in winds blowing so hard consistently. Too much exposure would have taken a toll on all of us.

By mile 17 we were headed back toward downtown. The crowds built gradually and were fantastic the last 5 or so miles. When you make the turn and have the final .2 to go, the crowds are deep and loud. All my complaining about running big races always gets erased in these last miles. It is a trade off, but the reception at the finish reminds us of why we do this. Thank you Oklahoma City!

Cross the Finish, snag a wonderful two-sided medal and a nice technical finishers shirt then on to the fluids and food. Post race food area was pretty standard except they were making hamburgers. The smell was very pleasant to me...not sure everyone felt that way, but it was a nice surprise.

Aside from the wind, which from what I hear is fairly typical for this race based on the older race reports I read, I would highly recommend this race to anyone. Not one for a PR really, but overall well done for a race of this size.

My Race:

Starting at the very back instead of somewhere near the 10 min mile pace group was a bit of a mess. I think I expended a lot of energy just maneuvering around walkers and slower runners even though I had vowed not to do so. After snapping a quick photo during the first mile, I hopped off the curb and landed pretty hard on my right leg. Right knee pain would appear a few miles later and linger for most of the race. I'm not sure they are related, but that's my story & I'm sticking to it.

I had loosely hoped to run between 4:25 and 4:30. I ran White Rock in December (4:35:21) and felt I should improve on that this time around.

My splits were all over the place, but I got through the most crowded portion (Miles 1-7) on a 10:20 pace. As I've become good at running negative splits, I felt pretty good that I was in good position. Physically, I just never felt good. Slight knee pain and just overall lacking energy. Nevertheless, this wasn't my first rodeo so I knew that things would turn for me sooner or later.

The next 7 miles I covered at a 10:07 pace and finally felt fairly comfortable. Things temporarily fell apart when I noticed a small rock in my shoe so I stop to remove it rather than get a nasty blister. This also begins the run on the windy Lake Hefner.

The 7 miles (15-21) were at an average pace of 9:50 per mile. I was now enjoying myself and just wanted to ease it back a bit and reserve some energy for when I hit the wall...assuming it was coming at all. Stupid statement, stupid thought, stupid, stupid, stupid.

I ran mile 22 in 11:45. No, that is not a typo...11:45. About half way into mile 22, I noticed my breathing was a bit labored. I grabbed a water at an aid station and while walking I could tell that something was wrong. My legs, though tired, were not giving me any real trouble. I just couldn't breath and my heart rate seemed to stay extremely high even when I started walking. I took off running again, but within a minute I knew I needed to walk for awhile to make sure I wasn't in any real danger.

While I was still able to smile and chat with the spectators and volunteers, I was slightly concerned. I promised my wife, kids and parents that I was fine to run this thing and "no" they didn't need to drive up from our home in DFW to see me in yet another marathon. The last thing I could afford to do now was end up in a medical tent (or worse) and having to call home. They'd never let me go play by myself again.

Miles 23 & 24 were at about the same pace with a mix of running and walking. I was clearly dehydrated and took in a lot of fluids during these miles. All this time I had been focused on the wind and didn't realize the sun baking down on me. I know better. Common mistake. Train through the winter months at lower temperatures and then run your race on what can typically be the warmest day you've run in since early fall.

I also remembered a vow I made to myself when I decided to start running marathons again after a 5 year layoff. I promised that I would do this for fun and always run in a manner that left me feeling reasonably good afterwards. I needed to make sure I didn't burn out as I had previously. I despised the marathon distance so badly after my 5th marathon in December of 2004 that I swore I just wouldn't do it again. I wasn't about to repeat that so I needed to just slow down and finish....even if it meant walking the rest of the way.

Finished the last 2.2 miles at about an 11 minute pace and spent the time thanking volunteers and giving High 5's to small kids. Numerous cheers of GO RANDY were thrown my way and I had a blast. This is why I run these things. Not for the time, but for the feeling.

Total time was 4:34:15 (10:28 Pace). Not great, but good enough. While I'd like to get back to 4 hours, I think the slower pace suits me fine. I may have blown up in this race, but I didn't ruin the experience in doing so. I was able to regroup and get it done. I'm thankful for that.

This race was a great reminder to run for the joy of it and in manner that keeps you longing for more.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, April 2, 2010

A2A Half Marathon

I was blessed to have run the Inaugural Arbuckles to Ardmore Half Marathon (A2A Marathon)this past Sunday and set a new personal record (PR) by almost two minutes. This race popped up when searching for a Spring marathon to keep me motivated after running Dallas White Rock in December. Fearing that I might get lazy after my next marathon, I opted to do the half and save myself for one last full marathon later in the Spring. I'll separate this report into two sections: The Event & My Race

The Event

First, I want to say this was possibly the best organized event I've run in over a decade. It was simply a blast! I drove up the morning of the race. Packet pick-up was a breeze. The people were amazingly friendly at 6:30 AM...a trait that never waned the entire day.

A weather report is in order. Very strong winds out of the north made the 47 degree temps seem especially frigid.

The race is point-to-point and they had school buses lined up to take the marathoners and half marathoners up into the Arbuckles for the start. Our bus driver on the #25 bus was wonderful. Rather than run buses back and forth to pick-up more runners, they had enough buses to let us stay onboard until 7:45 (15 minutes prior to the start). Folks rotated off and on the bus to use the bathroom or hand off their drop bags. Runners are friendly people and even friendlier if happy.

The race was advertised as being largely downhill with 531' of elevation drop in the first 8.5 miles of the half marathon course. This fact and the stiff tailwind made this an extremely fast race. While the course did have some rolling hills, there were many times when I could feel the wind simply blowing me up the hill.

Water & sports drink were provided with aid stations at nearly every mile. Is it possible to have too many stations? Since the race is largely run down rural Highway 77 there was little crowd support. Nevertheless, the aid station volunteers were enthusiastic and always ready with a smile and encouragement.

Once in town, the race moves back east and north toward Noble Stadium. The quarter mile run into the blustery wind during the last mile was a great reminder of how fortunate we were that day. Once in the Stadium we lapped the track and finished at the 50-yard line to a surprisingly large crowd in the stands.

I could go on all day about the wonderful people. When I told people "thank you for being here and volunteering", they each said "no, thank you, we are so glad you're here." So, maybe they were trained to say that...who cares. It felt genuine.

Nice Medal, Finisher's Shirt (technical), T-shirt (long sleeve cotton) and Food, Food, Food! Besides the usual fluids and fruit, they went all out. Chicken wraps? Cinnamon Rolls? Come on....that is just too awesome. Later...the cranked out the BBQ, chili and who knows what else.

Again, this was a special event and to pull it off on the first try was something special. Thank you Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Now, I'll state it here and move on to my performance...if the wind had been out of the south, this report may have a slightly different tone. I can't promise that I would have been able to joyfully observe the volunteers and community if I'd spent 2 hours getting beaten into submission with strong winds. So when I say at the outset the I was blessed to have run the race, that blessing included the weather.

My Race

I have purposely ignored the term PR since turning 40 a couple of years ago. In these recent years, I have focused on running negative splits and trying to finish feeling comfortable. I took several years away from running seriously after abusing myself pursuing a marathon time that I had no business pursuing. The agony of the the event stuck with me and I swore I'd never run another one. When I did return, I vowed that I would run within myself and run to finish. To enjoy the moment and let the kids and newcomers stress themselves pursuing meaningless seconds and minutes.

Unfortunately, I suppose the hiked skirt of a new record is like any other temptation. As outlined above, the downhill course and tailwind made for ideal conditions to push for a PR...if only by a few seconds. The plan was to go out with 9:30 pace for the first half, run 8:45 in the back half through 11 or 12 and then pound 13 to get me below my previous best time of 2:02:38 from 3 years ago.

Well...the wheels shot off the plan within the first half mile. With the strong winds, 9:30 pace just felt too slow. I assumed I could drop to low 9:00's and hold it without expending much additional effort due to the conditions. So I ran between 8:50 and 9:10 for the first 9 miles. It felt fairly good, but I could tell the finishing kick I had at Cowtown (low 8:00's for final 3 miles) was not available on this day. The faster pace took much more out of me than I expected...or maybe it was just one of those days.

Finished with a strong mile 13 (8:40), but the last tenth measures mysteriously .28 on my watch. I knew I had the PR and was sure I was going to be under the two hour mark as well. I actually coasted mile 12 not wanting to go too low and put this day's PR out of reach for a lifetime. They called my name over the loud speaker in the stadium which is always fun to hear. As I rounded the last turn on the track, someone yelled for me to hurry to break two hours. Hurry? Then I saw the clock....oops. I needed to bust it because I knew this might be my only chance to break two hours. Dead sprint to the finish...well sort of.

Gun Time/Stadium Clock: 1:59:58 - Watch time of 1:59:44.

I did it. The old man did it. What a thrill. I haven't walked that tall in years.

I'm still sore and dreading the 20 mile training run I have in the morning in preparation for the Oklahoma City Marathon, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe I can occasionally chase meaningless seconds and minutes after all.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, March 8, 2010

Inspired by Youth

After the Cowtown Half Marathon, I immediately went over to participate in The Hour to Help Haiti put on by Ministry Milers.  The concept was easy, cover as many miles as possible for an hour to raise money to help in the Haiti rebuilding effort.
Before we began, folks were sort of teaming up by pace so that larger groups could run together and there would be some pace leaders for the many youth that turned out.  I thought I'd run alone as I was unsure how I would feel an hour and a half after running 13.1 miles.

After the start, a young man ran up beside me and asked if he could run with me.  "Sure."  He introduced himself as Kevin.  I told him my name and that I wasn't sure how far or fast I could go, but that I'd like the company.  After about a mile at a ten minute pace, Kevin surged ahead for the first time and promptly had us running under 9 minutes per mile.  I was thinking 'OK kid, I just ran a half marathon and you were probably playing video games.'  The pace didn't last long, but this kid was focused.

It turns out that Kevin is 14 years old, an 8th grader, and had run cross-country the previous year.  Huh, why did he have to pick me to run with?  He had an undeveloped stride, but tremendous desire.  Questions about my running and racing came as though I were talking to an adult.  Kevin, indeed, is a runner.

Having never covered more than a few miles, he stopped at mile three and told me to go ahead.  I welcomed the excuse to walk and told him I'd stick with him if he didn't mind.  We decided to walk and run as best we could for the remaining thirty minutes.  Kevin would say things like, "we'll start running again at that tree."   We'd reach the tree and off we'd go.

We ultimately covered 5 miles in our hour together.  The look of achievement on his face was amazing.  It is the farthest he'd ever run and his smile was better than any finisher's medal or t-shirt I've ever received. Kevin simply inspired me.  Not to run faster or run farther. He inspired me to be a runner with passion.

Yes, that is it.  Do you remember the passion?  Do you?  I do, thanks to Kevin.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cowtown Critcism

The 2010 Fort Worth Cowtown races received some criticism in today's Dallas Morning News.  It highlighted how the leaders of several of the races were led off course briefly. It only impacted the results (winner) of the Kids 5K according to the article, but clearly caused some panic and distress to many competitors.  DMN Article 

I ran the Half Marathon and have purposely withheld a review because I'm really torn about my experience.

First, let me be clear...I enjoyed my day thoroughly...this is not intended to be hyper critical, but to point out something that is becoming a problem in many races.

I ran Cowtown 18 years ago as my first event ever. This 10K was run with the Start/Finish at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Obviously, the event hooked me on running.

The event was moved downtown to accommodate more runners.  The problems of the weekend simply demonstrate what happens when a race gets too big.  Big races have their place. I've run the New York Marathon twice and would run it again in a heart beat. It is unfair to compare the two events.

I personally think Cowtown suffers from too many races, more than too many racers.  The Marathon, Half, Ultra, 10K & 5K all have slightly or largely different courses. This puts a strain on traffic control.  No wonder they went off course.

It also puts a strain on support.  I was told the number of volunteers was amazingly high.  Unfortunately, they were just spread too thin. Water stops to the very end of the Half were understaffed...some badly so.  Friends who ran the Full or Ultra reported similar or worse issues.

I'm saddened to even write this. This is my hometown race. I've run Marathon, Half and 10K countless times. I'm certainly worried that a first timer or an out of town visitor came away feeling let down.

Cowtown is not alone.  After the Dallas White Rock added the Half and Relays, similar issues popped up and remained when I ran there in December.

Fort Worth gets things right. It just does...look at Dowtown Fort Worth...a model for cities worldwide. I'll be back next year. The course is just too great and the city is just too fantastic to not participate.

Sadly, I really need to ask myself why I have run that race so often yet not been a frequent volunteer there.  It obviously takes more in the current format, maybe I'll just be one of them next year.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Life & Toilet Paper

While celebrating my birthday at the office last week, my 77-year-old boss dropped this piece of wisdom on me:

"Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end the faster in goes."

I searched for the originator of this gem, but came up short. Regardless, we all got a kick out of it and there wasn't a single person who didn't agree with the statement.  It appears that whether your 25, 80 or anywhere in between you feel like life is flying by so fast that you can barely hang on.  Yet, the 80 year old will tell the 25 year old that he or she doesn't know what fast is..."just wait" they'll say.

Clearly, FAST is completely relative.  Yet our careers, family, friends, fitness & Facebook have us peddling so fast we're missing life...real living.  We can't possible juggle all these things and maintain true fulfillment.  At some point we just crash or implode.

I promise this.  If you'll could just focus on one thing, the rest would work itself out.  You would know just what demands on your time are vital and what is fodder.  Focus on God.

Through Him your life will be centered.  Like the toilet paper holder, He will stay steady so that when you're whirling around at a feverish pace you will have a stable base to rely on.

Most important, when the paper runs out and you've taken your last spin, He'll be there...steady as ever...forever and ever.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When Passion Fades

Woke up for my typical Wednesday morning run and fought getting out of bed like crazy.  The temperature was once again below freezing.  Sadly, it had been ten days since my last run.  Oh, must go, must go, Must GO!

I suppose the ten days off is a bit misleading.  We just returned from skiing in Taos & Santa Fe.  As you might imagine, it was simply beautiful.

It should be noted that running long distances at a slow pace does not prepare you as well as one might hope for a hard few days on the slopes.  To be positive, this could be considered cross-training and I came home undamaged.

The time off and cross-training did not make these morning miles any easier.  In fact, for the first time in many months, I began to question why I'm doing this.  I don't have anything to prove and I'm sick of the cold weather.  If I hadn't already registered to run a half marathon next week, I think I would have just quit right then and there.

Nevertheless, I was reminded that this down or depressed feeling about my running is quite common.  While I've been a runner for almost 20 years, I have had lengthy periods of time when I didn't run at all or simply went through the motions.  Times when I simply lost my passion for running.

This seemingly seasonal shift can be said of many aspects of my life.  None more important than my faith.  Whether it is my prayer life, time studying the Word, volunteering to help others or worship, I regret there have been periods in my life that I was clearly going through the motions.

It is interesting to note that my faith is strongest when I'm passionate about my training.  I tend to spend much more time growing my relationship with God at a time when I have less time to give to it.  It must be the structure of training that allows me to be more disciplined in my pursuit of God.  Or, more likely, it is my desire to be close to God that inspires me to run.  Whatever it is, it works for me.

So today I once again vow to rekindle my passion for both.  For the both do me good.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, February 5, 2010

He is not a Hobby

"Many of us have merely added Christ to our lives as another interest in an already busy and otherwise overcrowded schedule."
- By Patrick Morley from Devotions for the Man in the Mirror

Ouch, that hurts. That hits home. As we grow in our faith, we remain vulnerable to slotting God conveniently into our schedule. I find myself doing that all the time. While I encourage everyone to set aside time daily for reading the Bible and personal reflection, we must eliminate the on/off switch.

Since God is with us all the time, we should strive to be with Him all the time.

I started doing something new this week. When I wake up I immediately go to God in prayer. At the end, I simply pray this: God, time for me to get up. I need to get going, but I'm not going without you. You ready to go?

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lake Benbrook Half Marathon

This was the 22nd Lake Benbrook Half Marathon & 5K. 22nd...who knew? I've run in the area for 18 years or more. How have I missed this race? Sadly, my wife must be correct. When she says..."the girls and I leave for Florida on Thursday..." I say.."Florida? What's in Florida? It would be nice if you gave me a little warning." Her oh so familiar reply..."I told you this a dozen times." So, maybe I've heard of this race before...just didn't register.

The weather was almost downright nasty. This photo is from Weatherbug shortly before the start.

25*F with the wind coming out of the north at 16 mph resulting in a wind chill of 12*F. I say "almost brutal" because there was not any precipitation to tip the scale to officially "brutal". However, one of the volunteers suggested everyone add a layer. He said the wind off the lake "could" make it seem much colder.

I'm a pansy so I stayed in the car until the last minute. Actually, I had the race panic of..."oh man, I missed the start." As I left my car I didn't see a single person. Fortunately, I got there in time to hear the gun and off we went. Next amateur mistake was when I looked around and saw only yellow bibs (5k). 'Maybe I missed the Half start?' I was finally relieved when I saw the course split ahead (5k left/Half right) and knew that this race must have started everyone together.

Ok, time to get in a groove and check back into reality in a few hours. Then...right as we were approaching the first mile marker I saw a few people running back toward me. 'Geeze, this is an out & back race, but how did those guys'....then I saw it. The dreaded low water crossing.

As I approached, I saw people taking the high side and low side with equal failure. It might not look like much, but it was ankle bone deep and too broad to jump. "Guess we're gonna get wet." I call this a two footer since you can't sacrifice one foot to save the other...both are going in and one of them twice. This was a new experience for me. Those that turned back must have been wearing new shoes or couldn't swim...pansies.
Wet, yes...strange sensation. Ok, now this might qualify as "downright brutal" after all. But, even in 25* temps it turned out to be nothing. Zero. Nada. Within a half a mile I didn't notice a thing.

The race runs along the loop road around Lake Benbrook. In this weather and at this time of year, it is desolate. At times it felt like home; on a solo long run just running because that is what we do. The race flyer said the course was rolling hills with one big hill. At about mile 6...the Big Hill loomed around the bend.

Unfortunately, after scaling Mount Benbrook you get to do it again from the other direction after the turn around.

Actually, it wasn't so bad for me. I walked most of it using the excuse that I needed to take some pictures.

We were treated to three deer running in the open fields shortly thereafter. I tried to take a photo, but they were running a little faster than I was.

Snow flurries! Ok, just a few...this confirms it was cold. We don't get that in Fort Worth. Fortunately, I dressed perfectly (I wore pants for the first time ever...well, I wear pants everyday, but not when running) and never got too warm or too cold. The wind gusts on the out portion were manageable and I wrongfully assumed the back portion would be warmer. Ok, it was cold. Saw several brave souls that I'm sure wished they had worn more gear.

There was a spot along the way that the road had frozen over from drainage. On the first crossing, a fellow runner had stopped and was guiding people to go around it in the grass. The young man had sacrificed his race to help us all be safe. Wish I had seen him later to thank him.

Uneventful the rest of the way. Just a few friendly folks working the aid stations (back of a pick-up). Ok, so, the water was a bit frozen on top, but was cold. What a great set of volunteers to brave the elements. It reminds me that I need to do more giving to our sport and quit being such a taker.

Back to mile 12 and the water crossing. No hesitation this time. Dang, that water was cold.

My time was actually pretty good for me (2:03.38) considering the water crossing and "photo/walk" sessions. I felt wonderful the whole time.

Finisher's medal was small, but at the cost of $35 (late registration) I'm surprised they had one at all. The long sleeve cotton t-shirt is great. Post race chili and nachos was an interesting surprise.

I'd recommend this race to a seasoned runner looking for a tune-up before the Cowtown races. It was perfect for me as I ran this in lieu of another long training run. It would probably be a disappointment for a first time half marathon participant because of the lack of crowd support and minimal bling.

Sorry to be so lengthy.  Just thought this race was off the radar for many and wanted to share.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hot Head

Ok, I really can't be alone on this.

I've got a hot head and hate wearing hats. Since I choose to run outside regardless of the conditions, I should wear a hat to shade the hot sun or hold in warmth during the winter cold. The problem is that I simply overheat. I've invested countless cash in hats, visors or skull caps with zero success. Unless it is below freezing, I simply can't pull it off.

Same thing goes for pants and jackets. I was running in shorts and I light jacket a few weeks back when the outside temperate hovering around 17*F. All the Couch to 5k folks out executing their New Year's Resolutions that morning looked at me like I had lost my mind...or my pants. I hope I didn't discourage anyone. One gal had on a ski parka, scarf, big fluffy hat and goggles....and people thought I looked weird. How do people run in all that stuff?

I suppose things are simply different for everyone. It is not like I grew up in a cold climate...Texas ain't cold. If the wind blows and it is chilly, I force myself to bundle up a bit. Unfortunately, I typically return home prior to my intended time soaked with sweat.

Not sure what point I'm trying to make here. I thought maybe I had some fellow runners out there who could comfort me in my shortcomings.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace


Friday, January 15, 2010

Longing for an Answer

In a recent Running Times article titled "Making the Pieces Fit", author Krissy Moehl states this: "I often say there isn't a problem a long run can't fix, just sometimes the run has to be longer than others."

Prayer works the same way.  There is not a problem prayer can't just might need to pray longer.  Of course, prayers aren't always answered in the manner we anticipate.  Sometimes God waits to answer simply because we aren't sincere in our prayers.  We are not willing to give up control.  We think we need help, but deep down we're not ready for God's will.  We want God to help us land the plane, not land the plane for us.

I often tell people that when I'm out on one of my long runs I get closest to God.  We converse just like one would with a running partner.  In time with a little practice, it is pure dialogue...the purest of dialogues. This is why I prefer to run alone.  I like people, I just need those hours with God to fix stuff.

Non-runners don't get it. Try and explain it and all they think about is breathing hard and pain.

I'm glad I have a running community that can say "Yeah, me too."

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taming the Try

"Do or do not...there is no try." The famous line from Yoda in Star Wars hit me over the head today. I use "try" all the time. Just last weekend I told someone I was going to try and be ready for another marathon in March. Try means likely failure. Try means that the chance of me reaching that goal is a matter of luck. I might get there....I might not.

Forgetting injury, trying to train means I'm going to run as often as I feel like it. This is exactly what happened to me this morning. Finally some warmer morning, but I convinced myself that yet another rest day was needed or that I could run tonight after work. The excuses outlasted my motivation because I'm simply trying to train.

When you're going to eat you try to eat? No, you eat. You don't try to tie your shoes, brush your teeth or blow your nose. My kids try to make their beds. Guess what? They don't get made until I take the try (allowance) away.

So today, I'm going to try and take try out of my training mindset. Wait, I I am going to take try out of my training. I'm going to be ready for a Spring marathon...end of story.

Run in Pease, Rest in Grace