Friday, February 26, 2010

For all the Chick-Fil-A lovers (like me)

As far as I'm concerned, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and waffle fries should be served after every sporting event... so I loved this video! :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Texas weather rollercoaster

What a weird week for weather in Central Texas! Last Sunday it got up to the upper 70's and was sunny and gorgeous. Then it cooled off a bit on Monday, and by Tuesday we had snow!!! For those of you used to snow, you have to realize that in Central TX snow is treated with the type of excitement normally reserved for a lunar eclipse... Facebook had about 100 postings with pictures of snow covered yards, snowmen, etc. The really unusual part was that the snow stayed on the ground all the way through most of Wednesday. That was nice, as we very very rarely get to see things covered in white for any length of time. Today, it is back to sunny and a high of 60.

Here's a pic as the snow started:

 And what it looked like by the end of the day:

And what it looks like today, back to normal:

 Gonna have to get out and run today in this nice sunny weather : )

Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti


Monday, February 15, 2010

Boston bound! ... thanks to 3 special ladies

Whew... that was close! I ran the Austin Marathon this past weekend and was hoping to qualify for Boston (2011 edition). The time I needed was 3:30:59 or better, and I made it in 3:29:58. The last few miles my legs were really dying, and it took everything I had left and the inspiration of three very special ladies to hold the pace. I'm going to talk about the inspiration that I received from them first, and then the boring old race report details will come after that.

The first of the special ladies is Ishani, a young girl battling pediatric cancer. Her story is what inspired me to join Team Lemon this year, and her mother had told me that the family might come out and watch the finish. I know it might sound cliche, but I really did feel like I was at least in part running for her, and that somehow I'd be letting her and the other kids with cancer down if I didn't meet my goal. I kept thinking about all the pain and discomfort they go through for months at a time with chemo and radiation; how could I let a little short-lived pain and discomfort stop me? Especially knowing that she might be there at the end of the race with her family... what was I going to say: "things got tough so I gave up"? And yes, the family did show up! Here's a picture right after the race with Ishani. I'm pretty sure the look on her face is saying "who is this old guy that looks (and smells) awful, and why is my mom taking a picture of us?" :)

Another special lady that was on my mind was Valodia; who lives in Les Abricot, Haiti. Our family sponsors Valodia's education through the Hope for Kids program, and I get to spend time visiting with her when we go on our sister church visits to Haiti each year. This year's trip is indefinitely postponed due to the earthquake and its aftermath, so the people of Les Abricot have been on my mind a lot as we wonder how they are doing and wait to go see them. Les Abricot is far enough away from the quake epicenter that the village itself is probably OK, but everyone there (including Valodia) has family and friends in Port Au Prince - so I am anxious to get back and help however I can. Here's a picture of me and Valodia from my last trip to Haiti:


And the third special lady is the most important one in my life, my wife Susie. She puts up with so much as I train and participate in these events, and asks for very little in return. We had discussed that if I qualified for the Boston Marathon, that we'd probably go ahead and make the trip next year. She was all for that, as she really loved our trip earlier this year. She didn't talk about it a lot, because I know she didn't want me to feel pressure, but I could tell she really wanted to go. And yes, we could of course go anyway (and likely would have at some point); but you know how that goes - without a specific priority of WHEN to go, it's so easy for it to drift off into the "one of these years" category. So, when it got to those last few miles, I thought a lot about how I owed it to her to push through and make that trip happen. Writing this, I think that logic may seem a bit twisted (welcome to my world); but I really did want to achieve that goal for both of us.

Race Report
OK, so now on to the race report. Great weather for a marathon, about 40 degrees when it started at 7am and probably low 50's by the end (high was upper 60's, but not until much later). Being a cold wimp, this was my outfit for the day. I had on a sleeveless shirt underneath the Team Lemon shirt that you can see; plus I wore running gloves (and wore the handy Hefty garbage bag "jacket" over everything for the first couple of miles). And yes, those are arm and ear warmers I'm wearing :)  The arm and ear warmers came off before the race was over, of course, but served their purpose early in the morning. 

Speaking of early, here's a picture of me before the race started, right near the start line. Came out weird (cell phone photo), but I kind of like the way it looks - sort of like it was painted.


I broke the race down into 5 major sections when I was planning my race strategy, so I'll do the same for the details of the race report. One interesting note about pacing and marathons: you have to take into account that you run MORE than 26.2 miles. The 26.2 mile measurement only applies if you follow the *perfect* line with no weaving or wasted movement. I learned that when I first got my Garmin 305 GPS watch and noticed the discrepancy in my first couple of long races, and I tried to keep that in mind and minimize it during the race. It seemed to work, as my measured distance for the race was 26.52 miles, as compared to 26.76 miles for the Austin Marathon and 26.72 miles for the Boston Marathon this past year. 2 tenths of a mile is over 1 1/2 minutes at my pace - which obviously can be important!

Miles 0 - 3.5
Right after the start, the course is mostly uphill for the next 5K, so my goal was to keep it around 8:00/mile; balancing the fresh legs and initial adrenaline with the need to conserve energy for the many miles that follow. And that is pretty much what I did, just held the pace and kept on target.

Miles 3.5 - 8
What goes up, must come down. After the first 3+ miles, you turn once for a short piece, then head back the other way; so there is an equivalent downhill for the uphill section just completed. Then it flattens out for the last couple miles. This gave me the opportunity to speed up a little bit, while still keeping the HR down and holding some in reserve.

Miles 8 - 14
This is where the Tarrytown hills begin. They don't necessarily look that tough in the course profile, nor feel too terrible when you are running them; but they take their toll. Many people don't take this section seriously enough, and pay for it dearly later in the run. My plan for this section was to just try to keep steady at around 8:00 min/mile, and I kept to that other than one port-a-potty break. As you can tell by my finishing time, good thing I didn't need more than one!

Miles 14 -18.5
Still trending uphill, but not as many rollers and not quite as tough. Just holding the pace again, but able to open run a little freer without the hills to worry about. There's one nice long straight stretch that goes from just before mile 16 to just after 17, and then you start the turns that eventually lead to the final (and predominantly downhill) section. I was actually feeling very good by the end of this part, although a little troubled that I was so close to the goal time and didn't have much time to spare.

Miles 18.5 - Finish
Since the end of the course is mostly downhill (mostly... I'll get back to that in a second...); there was no longer much point in conserving or holding back too much; as I can usually gauge fairly well where I stand and how much I have left in the tank to finish. As mentioned above, I was confident that I'd meet my goal time, but didn't have a lot of room for error. The "mostly" downhill had a few inclines in it that caused a couple of rough patches between miles 20 and 24. Inclines that you normally wouldn't think of as being a big deal can become big deals when your legs are really fatigued, and every slowdown means that you now have some time to make up. I think having been ill the last few days might have been taking some toll at that point as well, and the first doubts started creeping in. This is where the "three special ladies" became very important in keeping me moving and motivated!

The final couple of miles is where things got really interesting. I knew that I had a little time to spare, but you can lose that in a hurry with one bad mile; and I kept thinking of how horrible it would be to miss by just a few seconds! Just after I passed mile 25, I could see a long rise in the road, and that was NOT a welcome sight. If you look at the course profile, you'll notice a little "bump" at the end. Future marathoner's beware and take note... little bumps at the end of a marathon are not at all a good thing! It's not that it was a tremendously difficult incline, it's just that my legs were burning at that point and having to climb for a mile and hold my pace was fairly painful. I finally reached the Texas State Capitol building, made my way around it (when did it become that long to get around...), and made my way down the final  stretch (downhill... yeah!!!) - and crossed the line in 3:29:58. Here's a picture Ishani's mom took just after I crossed the line; and you can kind of see the pain on my face and in the way I'm holding my body.

After meeting briefly with Ishani and her family, I made my way down the street and collected my finisher's shirt; then had to sit on the ground for a few minutes and drink some water. I had about 7 blocks to walk to get to my car, and that was a long and painful process, with at least 3 rest stops on the way :) I'm not usually that sore right afterwards, so I guess I really did push hard those last few miles. Finally made it to my car, and it was time to head home, mission accomplished.

Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti


Friday, February 12, 2010

At least I got a run in...

So, that little bit of a cold turned into something nastier. Hadn't done anything since Monday until today; when I finally felt OK enough to go and do a 3 mile run. Can't say that I have overwhelming confidence at this point. On the bright side, the only actual *run* that I missed was one 5 mile run planned for Wednesday. The negatives are that I'm a little run down and I have some tightness in my lungs. Still have almost a couple days, though, so we'll see how it goes. The really good news is that anytime your biggest problem in life is how fast you are going to run a marathon, life is good...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What is with tapers and illness?!?

Seems like I always get little cold/sore throat issues when I'm tapering down for a race. Isn't that backwards? Seems like the reduced volume should give my immune system a boost... Ah well, just a slight cold, I'll be better by Sunday in time for the marathon.

Addendum: I've done some online research, and this is much more common than I realized. No real good explanations that I've seen - one that seems to make some sense is that the immune system has been hyperactive trying to keep up with the strain on the body; and goes into a "relaxed" mode as you taper. Maybe the truth is that you're just more aware and paranoid about being sick because you have an event coming up :)

Help the kids!

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Donate HERE


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Collection of ALSF Links (pediatric cancer org)

This posting is a little different, basically just a collection of links related to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, and a young girl named Ishani that inspired me to try and raise awareness. Putting them all here in one place where I can keep it updated and refer to these links as needed. If you have some time to look through them, they might be a little sad, but they will undoubtedly be very inspirational.

First, here is Ishani's page on the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation site, in which her mom describes her battle with cancer and how they got involved with ALSF.

Here's a short People Magazine article on ALSF (Ishani mentioned)

This is a video of Ishani's journey on Facebook (not sure if it is publicly viewable?)

Article that talks about kids dealing with cancer and their parents. This quote really hit me: "when it's your child, it's not rare. It's your child."

Youtube Christmas video from Ishani and family (2010)

Video from local news of Ishani and her family and friends running a lemonade stand event

Videos from Nickelodeon special on kids with cancer (Face of Courage). Some amazing kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Describes the organization's background, mission, goals, etc.

U.S. Childhood Cancer Facts

*** Finally, if you would like to help, just click HERE Every little bit helps. If nothing else, it encourages the kids to know that others are out there fighting alongside them!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

State of the Union

A few updates on how things are going, and a quick "10 things" list that I was challenged to do by fellow blogger Big Daddy Diesel (it was harder than I thought it would be, but a fun exercise).

Training-wise, the main event coming up is the Austin Marathon in less than two weeks. I'm currently tapering down, so cutting back a little bit on the running distances. This is my first event as part of Team Lemon, helping to raise awareness for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. I'm also hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so my wife and I can go back there in 2011 (well, I guess we could go anyway as just a regular vacation but where's the fun in that?...).

No word yet on rescheduling my trip to Haiti. I was supposed to go there Jan 21st as part of a team going to visit our sister church in Les Abricot, Haiti; but the fallout from the earthquake has the RMI folks busy with earthquake relief, and that is clearly the correct priority. We'll get back there when the time is right.

I do get to go back to Piedras Negras, Mexico in March, though; so I'm excited about that. I mentioned Piedras Negras and my friend Irma in my introductory blog post. In addition to helping Irma with her Soup Kitchen; there's also an orphanage for the severely handicapped, a small home church, and a baseball field for the kids that we get to work with. It's always an amazing trip.

In other endurance sports news... I'm getting the coaching thing off the ground with a couple of new triathletes. I think I enjoy that more than I do my own training : ) I'm using a new online application called that I like a lot. Not a tons of bells and whistles, but I'm a KISS type of person - and this does what I need it to do. Most importantly, it keeps all the plans and logs and comments in one place.

Finally, to close - here is my list of 10 Things That Make Me Happy (better late than never).

Ten Things That Make Me Happy

1. Faith in God: Has to start here if I'm going to be honest... Kind of like having the ultimate life-coach to provide direction and guidance.

2. Family and Friends: Aren't I boring and predictable? But seriously, my wife and kids, siblings, parents; and the trusted relationships I have with a few friends - those are really at the core of what makes me happy (well, most of the time....).

3. Checking things off the list: Doesn't matter what the list is, really; but it makes me happy when I get to check something as being done. Kind of OCD about it, guess that's why I'm a Project Manager for a living.

4. Sunshine and warmth: I'm a sun and beach and heat type of person; cold, overcast, windy, rain - all make me miserable. Guess that's why I've lived in FL, CA, and TX.

5. Music: Love listening to it, love playing it (guitar mainly). I like all kinds of music, as long as it comes from the heart. You can tell when somebody writes/performs music that comes from within, vs. following a formula.

6. Fitness: hard to explain to people sometimes, but there is a definite feeling that you have physically and mentally that makes all the training worth it. Fits into my general philosophy that doing things that you may not want to do in the short term ends up paying dividends in the long run.

7. Turtle Pie: If you don't know what it is or have never had it... do yourself a favor and get one/make one TODAY!

8. Gadgets (esp. electronic): I could walk into any kind of electronics store and spend my annual budget before I knew it. Managing to keep it under control, but every time I see an iPhone or fancy HDTV or new TIVO or new GPS watch or... you get the idea : )  Speaking of Tivo...  If you've never used a DVR, it will seriously change your life! :) We've had ours for years, and we now consider watching "live" TV a form of torture.

9. The Internet: As I'm typing this, I realize how much I just really love the internet. Besides the obvious things (news, weather, blogs, facebook, shopping), it's truly amazing what you can find. Need a manual for your 8 year old guitar effects pedal - no problem... just google and download! For the youngsters, ask your parents about life before internet...

10. Reality TV: Sad, I know - but I really do enjoy watching shows like Biggest Loser, Amazing Race, etc.

Help the kids!

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Donate HERE