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Friday, September 27, 2013

Tour des Fleurs 2013 - Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 20, 2013

Somebody Stop Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 13, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You Let Mom Get a Dog?

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

I have no words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Friday, September 6, 2013

Ungodly Hour

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

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

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

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

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

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace