Tagged: community

Any way you can get there…

A few random examples –
  • I heard on the radio this morning that today was the midpoint of the year: 182 days have gone by, 182 days yet to come, and then there is today… unique, standing between past and future – which made me realize that every day is like that; the moving terminator, the razor’s edge, dividing that which was from that which can be…so why shouldn’t we take advantage of such a powerful opportunity?
  • I was reading today’s post from my friend Melissa, about how hard training routines require a special kind of grit to endure, how you have to find something inside yourself that gets you to the other side – and it occurred to me that this is what separates runners from non-runners: we are the masters of delayed gratification; we sweat, strive, and struggle because we know the rewards will be worth it…even when no one else understands or believes it!
  • I’ve posted a couple of times on social media about how I am struggling with the demands of my job right now, and the havoc it has wreaked on my training plans and running schedules over the last few weeks – I have missed two weeks of sessions with my personal trainer and run practically nothing for a month – but I still managed to run a spontaneous 30K trail race last weekend (more about that in a minute); I was really shocked at the feedback about how inspiring I am to others – Really? Me? – and this made me think that each one of us can be the person that helps motivate another, and so we have a real obligation to share our ups and downs, if only so they can know that they are not alone in their personal battles.

All of this is by way of introduction for my recap of the Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series race I ran over the weekend at Perdenales Falls State Park. I signed up to run the 10K here a few weeks ago, when many of the folks in my trail running club started posting in our Facebook group about their plans. I have been trying to be a more active member of the group, both online and in real life, but work and life often interfere with my plans..I miss a lot of the group runs due to last-minute obligations, or simply the need to get some rest after the demands of the week. I came very close to skipping this one, paid registration or not, but on the Thursday before race weekend the decision made itself: I came home from work with a blinding stress headache, went to bed with head still throbbing, woke up with the same headache – and decided to hit the reset button. I called my lead guys on the job, gave them direction to start the day… and then sat down to drink another cup of coffee. I went to the office instead of out to the job site, and told them that if I did not get some time away I was going to have a meltdown. I give my supervisors credit for recognizing that I was serious, and giving me the greenlight to take off and have a good time!

The races in this series are all run at night, in deference to the Texas summer heat – how in the world anyone runs a long distance race in the daytime between May and October in the South is beyond me! I had to go by the job for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, but by 9:00 I was out of there, to head home and pack for the weekend. I met up with three other guys who were also running, to carpool the 4 hours west of Houston to the park where the race was being held – of course, we stopped to eat a hearty pre-race meal on the way 🙂 (I always wonder what the waitresses must think when a group of runners eat together; between us I bet we demolished 10,000 calories!)

We made our way into the beautiful Texas Hill Country (I may be the worst blogger ever, because I neglected to take one single picture to share with you…I was sleeping much of the way there, to tell the truth!) and set up camp near the start/finish area. About a dozen club members were there, and we chit-chatted while waiting for the pre-race meeting. It was around this time that peer pressure got the best of me – they kept saying, “You didn’t drive all this way and stay here all night just to run for only one hour, did you?” – and I went back to the registration table to upgrade from 10K to 30K…I just happened to have the exact amount of cash in my wallet to cover the difference, so I took that as a sign that it was meant to be! I did, however, completely refuse to entertain the idea of running 60K, I might be gullible but I’m not nuts!!!

I went into this with absolutely no expectations – I had not trained for this distance, I didn’t even have a pack or enough gels; but I had a 16 oz. bottle on a waist pack, and my friends had extra fuel so all was well, Plus, this race director puts on epic events…the aid stations are fully stocked with everything you could ever want, and at 5-mile intervals you are never too far away. The 60K runners lined up at 7pm, and as soon as they were gone, I lined up with the 30K group to be ready for our 7:15 gun…and then we were off!

I really tried to hold myself back, but after getting caught behind a large group of folks walking up the single-track first hill, I couldn’t take it any more and broke away, dodging around and through the rocks and cactus to get into the clear. The first several miles passed by easily, making conversation with others as we worked up and down the hills and ravines; I held to my regular strategy of running easy on the uphills, blasting the downhills, and catching my breath of the (short) flat sections. I have gotten into the habit of starting my tracking app and then ignoring it, choosing to run by feel, and this was no exception. The only time I looked at it was when I got the low-battery warning after only 90 minutes…so much for technology! (I really need to get a Garmin, instead of depending on my phone, anyone got a deal for me?) At that point I was about 7.5 miles in, and looking at a sub 4-hour finish, and I felt pretty good about that! Alas, ’twas not to be 😦

My first real trouble came around mile 10, when a rock slid out from under me in on of those downhill bombing runs; I did not crash, but I did hyper-extend my knee a bit, and from then on things only got tougher. My ankles began to sing their own chorus of agony after a couple more miles of favoring the sore knee, but by this point nothing was going to stop me! I walked when I had to, ran when I could, and through it all had a fantastic time! I traded laughs and encouragement with dozens of other runners, and the hours and the miles rolled on by.

The last two miles were the most fun, and the most challenging…it was full dark, a new moon and cloudy skies held the darkness complete and the humidity close. Everywhere my headlamp shined, I saw the reflection of hundreds of little green insect eyes looking back at me 🙂 The spiders and scorpions scrambled to get out of the way, and I did not personally see any snakes, although I heard reports of them from others. My running partner Jeremy caught back up to me about a mile from the end; he was on track to beat his PR at this course by over an hour, and totally stoked by that fact, so I committed to run with him all the way to the end, pushing each other all the way with shouts of “What would Killian do?” I don’t know that answer, but I do know that we sprinted the last 100 yards or so, and crossed the finish line at the same moment, with identical finish times of 4:05:35, and a hearty hug and laugh as we received our medals!

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I was tired, I was sore, I was starving…but most of all, I was FINISHED! If you have ever run a race you weren’t sure about, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t…I want you to know that you CAN outrun your doubts; your body is capable of far more than your mind will tell you it is, just keep going.

That’s a great metaphor for life, too, isn’t it?

Have you ever run a spontaneous race?

How did it go?

I’d love to hear from you!!

(I will be running the whole series over the course of the sunner, with the next race at Muleshoe Bend State Park in July…and this time I am signing up for the 30K from the get-go! Stay tuned for that recap when it happens! Between now and then I will still be working on the details of my fall training plan, which gets started in earnest the first week of August…I hope to have something concrete to share with you by next week.)

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Weekly Update 2-15-14 : Better weather = better running

February is winding its way past the halfway mark – I hope you all had a Happy Valentine’s Day –  and with March peeking around the corner, warmer weather is sure to follow; with the rise in temperatures comes a corresponding rise in my spirits, and my motivation to get out and run more, run better, run happier…and that is by far the most important part of why we do what we do, isn’t it? Here is a look at this week’s journey to my happy place:

Sunday 2-9:  Easy run– 5  miles, 49:09   The day broke clear and sunny, and having had a successful, pain-free outing on Saturday, I decided to stretch it a little farther this time; so I laced up the trail shoes and went out to run my favorite grassy strip along the toll road. My intent was to do the full 10K distance, since I have the Bayou City Classic coming up in 3 weeks and I wanted to “check in” on my pace…you can’t help but think about PR’s, even if only to decide that it’s not doable this time around and set it aside…but I cut it short because I didn’t carry any water – D’oh! – and I was getting pretty thirsty. I have been Über-cautious about going too fast, because I’m just freaking tired of hurting when I run, but I also want to see some evidence that I am improving, so I reached a compromise with myself: I held a conservative 10:00/mi average for the first half, and then on the return I added in 4×20 second strides, at half-mile intervals; and then backed off for the last mile home. It went well, so I will start putting this in on my easy run days on a regular basis, with longer intervals and shorter recovery as I get back to consistent training. The overall time has me thinking that, while my PR is probably still safe for the moment, a sub-60 10K should be within reach – very heady stuff 🙂

Thursday 2-13:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 29:20   For once this week I made it home at a decent time, without a ton of paperwork to do, so I jumped at the chance to get out. I am still learning the in’s and out’s of RunKeeper, specifically how to set the alerts; I set a goal pace of 9:30/mi, and tried to match the feedback to the feeling; it went very well, as I ran my fastest 5K since October last year, and without so much as a twinge in my knees or ankles – if you have ever had to suffer the long road back from an injury, and especially the loss of confidence in your body, you KNOW how great that felt!

Saturday 2-15:  Easy run– 3.2  miles, 32:42   Karen and I started off our day with a meeting of the Kairos Prison Ministry team we will be serving with this spring (there will be a special post about Kairos later this week, including a list of ways that you – yes, you – can take part, so be looking for that very soon!) We were home early in the afternoon, so I thought why not go for a record-breaking third run this week? I am more interest in getting back into the groove of regular runs than in setting speed records, so the pokey pace does not disappoint me…for now!

Total for this week: 3 runs, 11.3 miles

Total for February: 2 runs, 17.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 5.8% (118/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $84.00

My weekend also had two exciting highlights, two new purchases that will (I believe) bring continuing growth and improvements in my running. I bought my first running book, The Hansons Marathon Method, which I will begin training with starting Monday in preparation for my 50K in April – yes, it’s a little short on the schedule, but I am going into this race with low expectations and will be happy with a strong performance and a finish I can walk (not limp) away from. I also spent the $50 gift card I won from RoadRunner Sports in their weekly Facebook giveaway, and bought a new pair of running shoes – because new running shoes – I wanted the Brooks Ghost 6, but went with the Ghost 5 that were on clearance; after my gift card, they only cost twenty bucks…SCORE!

What training plan – if any – are you currently following?

Have you ever bought the “previous” model of a shoe instead of the current one, just to get the discount? Do you think that is a worthwhile tradeoff?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Weekly Update 2-8-14 : Not much to report

Yet another less-than-satisfying week has gone by, and while I am happy to note that I seem to be past the blues (thanks to God for that; He does respond to prayer, once you start praying for the right things…but that is a whole ‘nother subject) I still have several other things going on that are getting in the way of my workouts – the job is cranking up to a higher pitch, so my actual work week is closer to 50 hours than the 40 they pay me for; and the weather is still getting me down…after working outside all day in the cold, I am exhausted and have a really hard time finding the motivation to get back out in the dark to run. I did manage a couple of workouts, and I finally have a plan to get some cross-training done, so there has been some improvement; now I need to build on that momentum! Let’s take a quick look at how the week went:

Monday 2-3:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 33:49   We had a rare pleasant weather day, and for a change I had gotten caught up on work early, so I leaped at the chance to get out and run my basic 5K out-and-back workout. Since it had been over a week, I purposely ran this easy and slow…and just like last week, I ran without knee or ankle braces with no pain. I still can’t draw any conclusions, but I am cautiously optimistic about things so far!

Saturday 2-8:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 31:05   I spent the day watching other people run (see below) so there was no way I could let the sun go down without logging some miles of my own. I pushed the pace a little as I went, taking 30 seconds off each successive mile, and it totally felt like I had more to give…I am beginning to look forward to the races I have coming up in a few weeks!

Total for this week: 2 run, 6.2 miles

Total for February: 2 runs, 6.2 miles; #runthisyear goal 4.9% (100/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $73.00

The highlight of my week was getting the chance to be on the other side of the table today: I volunteered with other members of the HATR Nation (Houston Area Trail Runners, remember? We like our “secret” name 🙂 ) to work the aid stations at the Piney Woods TrailFest  today at the Lake Houston Wilderness Park, New Caney, TX. Here’s some video I shot to share with you; I was too busy while runners were coming through to even think about getting any action shots.  Sorry about the break, but I got a phone call in the middle of filming, and this is my first attempt at vlogging (there has got to be a better word for that!)

I had a real blast doing this…even the waiting for one last runner to finish her final loop, more than an hour behind everyone else – I am glad the race director let her slide on the cutoff time; she was sooo close when she finished 20 miles, and we promised to escort her in, so she wouldn’t be all alone out there. We did, too – pacing her in relays all the way from the start to first aid station; into my station; through the turnaround loop (she was walking by then); back to me, and then running back to the finish…we had everything broken down and back to base by the time she got there, and we cheered her across the mat at just over 8 hours – and she was smiling and grateful to have us there, I think we made a huge difference for her. I was proud to be apart of that! (We might be the HATR Nation, but we got nothing but love for all runners!)

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

What is your favorite memory?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Weekly Training update (if you want to call it that)

So the post-marathon funk is in full effect now…I have allowed life to overwhelm me, and made every excuse imaginable for not getting out and running: everything from bringing work home (which is silly, because I have bringing stuff home for years, and I never look at it until I have had a few hours to unwind) to a second round of ice and sleet that blew back into the area on Tuesday and Wednesday (OK, maybe that was reasonable) to forgetting that it was my turn at cooking dinner and “sacrificing” my workout to keep us from eating too late (like a 30-minute delay would have really mattered); the results have been predictably disappointing. I got out ONCE this week, I have done exactly zero cross-training, and my body feels cramped and neglected…read on and you’ll see why!

Sunday 1-26:  Easy run– 3.1  miles, 30:53   The one pretty day we had all week, so I am glad I went. I tried an experiment: no knee braces, no ankle wraps, no taping; just a thorough stretching and warm-up and then run. To my surprise, I had no pain in my ankles, no pain in my knee, no pain in my quads – all the injuries that have been plaguing me for the last two months suddenly vanished! I am really wondering if I have simply been pushing too hard, over-training and overworking my body…maybe I need to do  better job of tracking and allowing for the mileage I put in during the day at work (on this job site I often will not sit down or stop moving for up to 10 hours at a stretch); I know I need to integrate more non-running workouts, especially some upper body strength training, to balance things out. I would love to get started with CrossFit, but I have not yet been able to make it to the required Intro class; they are only offered once or twice a month, and my weekend schedule has gotten very full with other commitments that are equally important to me, like the team prep meetings for the spring Kairos Prison Ministry weekend coming up in early April (I took a year off from this work, and it is time to get back – and I have finally convinced my wife to serve with the team this year, hurray!) I will not say there isn’t enough time for everything, because we all have the same 168 hours a week; it is up to us to decide how we will spend them – and the things we choose to do, those are the ones that matter the most, regardless of what we say.

Total for this week: 1 run, 3.1 miles

Total for January: 11 runs, 56.5 miles; #runthisyear goal 4.4% (90/2014 km)

Living Water fundraising to date: $67.00

I know I’m setting myself up for disaster – I have two short races, a 50K and two Spartan races (in the same weekend – eeek!) scheduled over the next 4 months – but I cannot seem to get myself out of the starting blocks. I have seen it said that the last week of January is one of the most depressing times of the year – winter blah has worn us down; the holidays are over, and the bills have arrived; add to that my personal runner’s curse of having completed my biggest goal race, is it any wonder I’m in the hole right now? I will rise above all this, I have no fear about that; it’s a matter of getting started, that’s all…and if I need a push in the right direction, I need go no further than my own blog archives – I can revisit where I was a year ago, when I was just starting out on the road to becoming a runner..if I could do it then, I can do it now. I have this consolation: it’s a whole new month, so I have a clean slate; let’s see what kind of mark I can make!

Are you having trouble staying motivated?

How can we help each other?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Looking back, Striding forward…and helping others

Happy New Year everyone, and happy anniversary to this blog! We’ve come a long way together…me, my writing, and most of all YOU, my faithful friends and followers. I wasn’t sure about doing a recap – everyone does that, and I hate to be boring – but at last I decided to jump on the bandwagon and post my “year-in-review”, along with a look ahead at what I hope 2014 has in store; perhaps it will inspire another person to take a leap of faith, and that would make this entirely worth the effort! So grab yourself a fresh cup of coffee, tea, or even a bit of that hair-o’ the-dog, if it suits you, and let’s get all reminiscent, shall we?

2013 was my first year as a runner; I officially began on New Year’s Eve 2012, just to kick-start my resolve. I had little more than a vague series of goals in mind: quit smoking cigarettes; train for a year;  run a marathon…not exactly the most detailed agenda! I didn’t really ask for any advice, choosing to do my own research online. I had been blogging for a few months, on another site, but had not made the connections with others that I cherish now, so I read everything I could find about how to get started. I had not run – or even walked for exercise – since I was a teenager, and that was many, many years and packs of cigarettes ago; so I started off slow, with the Couch-to-5K app on my phone; a handful of favorite songs on a playlist, and a brand new pair of running shoes – bought on closeout at a big box store, but at least I did some reading and knew what I was buying and why 🙂 Using the app as my coach made it easy – no pressure to meet a certain pace, just go run until time ran out, and then go do it again a few days later…and then go do it again. Persistence was the greatest lesson there!

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It was the first race that changed me forever – one innocent little 5K, the end-goal of the training app: “Find a race, sign up for it, and complete it – that’s all you have to do!” So I found a local 5K/10K (the 5K is an untimed “fun run”, the 10K is the serious race) and I ran my heart out – and got a sub-30 minute finish! That is when I began to dream of competitive running, and setting records, and all that jazz…surely I am not the only one! That first race led to another, a 10K; that led to a half-marathon (and my first serious injury…one that I still have trouble with); it was about then that I signed up for my first marathon, and made the lottery on my first try! The six-month lead time gave me ample opportunity to make all the mistakes I possibly could…and believe me, I have made excellent use of it! I ran 600 miles on the same pair of shoes –

worn outOK, not quite this bad, but still…

I ran at noon in Houston in August with no water –

hot

  I got attacked by giant dogs, medium dogs, even a herd of Chihuahua once –

attackI may be small, Señor…but I can still kill you!

– you name it, it happened. And still I ran…

I ran…and I learned. I learned to listen to my body more than to a training plan; I learned to take the headphones off sometimes and just enjoy the run; I learned that the world will not end if my pace is a little – or even a lot – slower than it “should” be; I learned that there is value to being with other, experienced runners in a club or two; most of all, I learned that I have a lot more to learn!

2014 promises to be quite instructive…I am doing more new things in my life than I ever have before! I will be running that first marathon in 18 days; one week before that, I am running my first trail race, a 25K in the Texas hill country. I will run my first ultra – a 50K – in April; my first obstacle races in May – Spartan races, at that! I am participating in several running challenges: running 14 races in 2014; earning Half-Maniac status; earning a Spartan Race Trifecta; and I am taking one challenge I am currently participating in (the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak) and making it personal: The “nickycanrun streak challenge”- you can follow my progress as I attempt to run at least one mile every day for a year, by following the hashtag #ncrstreak on Twitter.

The one thing I am most excited about is a way to make my running count for something lasting, something more important than “me”. 2013 was a very selfish year for me, in too many ways – I became very enamored of my own successes, and obsessed with my own agenda. And then my wife and I found a new church to be a part of, and something changed…I remembered that I am called to be in this world, but not of this world; and I think I have figured out a way to do just that. This church has partnered with many existing groups to make a lasting difference, both locally and globally, and one of them called out to me in particular…for a long time now, I have been reading and hearing about the fantastic work being done by Living Water International; this organization has a simple, yet profound mission – I will let this quote from their website explain it:

For Living Water it’s all about Jesus. It’s about demonstrating God’s love, announcing his kingdom, seeing Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters, offering a cup of water in Jesus’ name and proclaiming his gospel, the living water.

Helping communities create sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene, and Christian witness programs in partnership with local churches is just the best way we’ve found to do that. Why? Because the water crisis affects poverty, women, health and education—and for us it’s a spiritual issue.

783 million people lack access to an improved source of drinking water—that’s 1 in 9 of us. In the places we work, it’s more like 1 in 2 . Great progress is being made globally, but whole people groups are being overlooked—it’s the poorest people with the least political power that continue to suffer, and these are the people we are called to serve.

Serving others is one of my core values…it is the distinguishing mark of those who claim to follow Jesus – a claim I make openly. Even the Endorphin Warrior wristband I wear proclaims my faith: it reads, “Believe,” which reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 14:12 –

“I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father.”

I believe in Him, and so I can do the things He did; one thing is to give a drink of water to the thirsty. It would be possible for me to simply go around and hand out bottles of water to people – and indeed, I have done that. But to provide water wells in places where they can change the course of people’s lives – that is a far greater undertaking. So, I have begun, in my own small way, and here is where I need you to help me. I have set up a fundraising page on LWI’s website, and I am asking for people – I’m asking you – to make a pledge to donate, based on the number of miles I run – whether it is by the week, the month or the year, that is up to you. I am committing to run at least 100 miles per month, and asking for pledges of any amount – $10, $1, ten cents, even a penny per mile, if that suits your situation – that is also up to you. I am in the process of setting up links for my sidebar and my Facebook page, but until then, you can click the link above to make a donation. I will receive nothing from this – it’s not a sponsorship deal, nobody is paying for my races or anything – 100% of the money donated goes directly to whichever focus area I select (currently it’s India, but I will rotate among the various projects around the world.) You can inform me of your pledge, if you wish – by commenting below, or sending me a Twitter DM, or Facebook message, or email – and I will keep you notified of my accumulated miles on a weekly and/or monthly basis; but beyond that, your own conscience will have to be your guide…I will not directly solicit donations from anyone, or sell or give out any contact info I may receive; this is between you, me and Jesus, and I will keep it that way, I promise. You can also track my mileage by simply reading my weekly recaps, or following me on Nike+ or dailymile (search for me by my full name, you’ll find me), and donate as you see fit, leaving me out of it entirely – I am completely OK with that…it’s not about me, it’s about what I can do for those who can’t do for themselves.

The New Year holds opportunities for everyone, and I intend to seize this one and RUN with it as far as I can…why not join me?

Now I’ve gone and done it!

Just  a quick line here to make it official – I have signed up for the 14 in 2014 Challenge – see the new badge on my sidebar? That’s part of it, too!

I saw the post on Facebook, and realized that the races I have already either paid for, been sponsored for, or made personal commitments to run have me over halfway to the goal, so why not?

Anyone else out there feeling delusional foolhardy up to the challenge?

Let me hear from you in the comments!

I’ve been “Featured” !

I was pleased and honored to be selected by Kristy as the subject for this week’s “Runners Spotlight” on her blog Runaway Bridal Planner.

Here’s the link, if you would like to visit…be sure to check out some of the other great blogs and runners she has highlighted in the past – and then keep going back, there will be more!

Thanks, Kristy – keep up the great work!

The Sunshine (Award) in my life

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While I have been nominated for a blogging award before (on a different blog) I am grateful to find that the joy of being recognized for my humble little pecking away at the keyboard does not diminish with repetition! Let me first send a warm thank you to my friend Benny at Running Large, who nominated me for this honor; please go visit his blog because he is truly an inspiring writer and runner, and I always look forward to reading his race recaps – this guy gets around!

The rules of this award are very simple:

  • Display the badge on a post (it will reside in my sidebar as well!)
  • Link back to the person who nominated me, and answer 10 questions sent to me by that person.
  • Select another 10 bloggers to nominate – people I really enjoy reading, who I believe are worth sharing with others; post links to their sites;  and send them my own list of 10 questions.

Let’s start with my answers to the questions sent to me –

1. What is the most important piece of advice for new runners?  Before you do anything else, FIND THE RIGHT SHOES FOR YOU! Get thee to a running store – NOT a sporting goods big box, or a regular shoe store – tell them that you are just getting started and need their advice, and then listen to what they say. You might even leave the store without buying anything the first time – that is OK! You may need to shop around some for the best deal – I am on a tight budget myself – but at least know WHAT you are shopping for; there is nothing that will steal the joy of running faster than doing it in a shoe that causes you to injure yourself!

2. What is your favorite song to run to? My playlist rotates constantly, so I never get bored with it, but when I need to kick that sub-8:00 mile, “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park is my “power song”.

3. Have you ever been injured while running?  If so, how did you overcome it? Yes, this story makes me ashamed and proud at the same time: I ran my 1st half-mary on a beach and barefoot, despite having done neither of those before. At around 10 miles, my ankles were threatening to revolt, and I actually stopped running and stood in the surf until my feet went numb, listening to the wind and the waves; then I gathered my resolve and gutted out the last 5K, and finished just under 2 hours – which is still my PR! (DO NOT use this as your running plan – it cost me 2 months of rehab time before I could run more than a quarter-mile again 😦 )

4. What do you do besides run to stay in shape? I have been depending on my base fitness, built up over a twenty-year career in commercial construction, but that only goes so far; I have signed up to receive the Spartan WOD, and I am building my own CrossFit gym in my backyard, to carry my training to the next level.

5. What do you watch on TV? Other than the news, I only watch 4 shows regularly – Marvel Agents of Shield; Once Upon a Time, and the spin-off Wonderland; and The Walking Dead. Fairy tales and comic books…but some of the most clever writing I have seen in a long time!

6. Have you ever done a destination race?  If so, where? I won the entry to that half-marathon, at the Schlitterbahn Resort in South Padre Island, TX – we made a vacation weekend of it, and I will probably go back next year, and every year if we can.

7. What is your one piece of must have gear for a run? I nearly always use the Nike+ app on my phone, because I like GPS tracking and can’t afford a stand-alone device right now; it also lets me have music without carrying an MP3 player, and supports Bluetooth headphones, because earbud wires are annoying!

8. What would cause you to quit running? Nothing short of a catastrophic injury could make me stop now, I’m a junkie!

9. What has been your favorite race? The Houston Half Marathon is my current favorite, because it was by far the best organized and largest (4000 runners) of my brief racing experience.

10. What has been your least favorite race? Not the fault of the race itself, but I recently ran a 5K put on by the PTO of a local elementary school; it was terribly hot and humid that morning, there were no water stations except at the finish, and honestly I was not physically or mentally present that day; I disappointed myself and left wishing I had not come. I hope to return to this one also, and give more attention to the event than to myself…I am certain I will enjoy it more!

My nominations:

I follow a lot of blogs, and I enjoy reading all of them (why “follow” something that isn’t worth your time?) , but there a few standouts that I make a serious effort to stay current with – note, not all of the are running or fitness related, I have other interests too:

Coffee and Macaroons

The Idiot Economist

I thought they said RUM

I Am A Runner

Idiot Runner Girl

Stephen Z Metal’s Blog

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry…

wordsandotherthings

Consistently Contradictory

So What? I run.

Now the hardest part – 10 questions for each of these bloggers to answer…I had to really think about this part, since I purposely expanded the field beyond running blogs:

  1. How long have you been blogging, and what inspired you to begin?
  2. Read the book, or see the movie – if you get a choice, which comes first?
  3. What have you already crossed off your “bucket list”?
  4. Coffee, tea, or caffeine-free?
  5. What song on your playlist are you most likely to put on “repeat”?
  6. What was your first paycheck job, and how long did you work there?
  7. Ever drive a motorcycle? Would you?
  8. Early bird or night owl?
  9. What movie have you seen the most times, and how many?
  10. Name a food you could eat every day, if cost or calories were no object.

Yeah, I said it…now let’s do it!

A few days ago, I was looking at my Twitter bio, and I realized that I had not given any serious thought to what I was going to do after I complete the Chevron Houston Marathon. For nearly an entire year, I have been planning, training, and choosing with that one single goal in mind. Of course, I have done other things along the way, but each of those were steps along the path to the ultimate – to run, and run well, in my first marathon, here in my home town. But what comes after that?

I have learned much about myself over the last 10 months of training, but I would say that one of the standouts is that I must have something to strive for…and it’s even better if that thing is more complex than one single step; if it requires a series of commitments that will stretch me way outside of my comfort zones. I have juggled a few ideas around…thrown a few well-aimed tweets and emails…spent hours trolling the Internets…and finally selected a hard core of goals for 2014 – and, to keep it real, and NOT allow myself to weasel out, I made them very public:

goal tweet

Now, a list of goals without some concrete planning behind them is less than worthless – soap bubbles are pretty to look at, but they can’t sustain themselves, let alone anything else. So, I would like to outline some of the steps I intend to take to bring these goals to fruition – and to ask YOU, my community…my friends…to offer support, encouragement, advice – and stern discipline, if I need it – to help me achieve all that I have set before me; because truly, none of us can do it alone. That may be the most important thing I have gained in this year, is the family of runners, bloggers, and friends that I am so blessed with, who I have come to depend upon, who get me, because they have been there.

Here is a break down of each individual goal, why I selected it, and what I am planning to do to reach it:

1. Finish the ABB 5K in under 25 minutes.

2. Finish the Chevron Houston Marathon in under 4 hours.

I decided to include these two as 2014 goals, simply because they occur in 2014…more than one year after I began training as a runner. The first, a sub-25 5K, I feel very confident about… I got within one minute of this goal a few weeks ago; pretty much the only thing that held me back was my own naivete about how people line themselves up at the starting line 🙂 So, with a few more weeks of pace workouts and threshold runs (which have been very challenging, but also very rewarding), I believe this is within my reach.

Ditto the sub-4 hour marathon – up until now, I have been doing my long runs at well below GMP, choosing to focus on building stamina over speed; well, phooey on that! I spend 8-12 hours a day on my feet, five days a weeks, and have for almost 20 years – I know can go the distance…but at what pace? That is the question! The only way to run faster in the race is to run faster in training, so I will begin running faster in my training runs – I’ve been pacing at 9:30 -10:00 minute miles, and that is just too slow; the 4:00:00 goal requires an average pace of 9:10/mile, not all that far off from what I have been doing! So, my plan is to start long runs at 9:15 – 9:30 and aim for negative splits, ending around 8:30 – 9:00; this is also how I intend to run the race, so it makes sense to train as close to reality as possible. My shorter runs – those under 10 miles – I will target more toward 8:00 – 8:30…again, not that far off from what I already have proven to myself that I can do. It is a stretch, but I have noticed that I have gotten complacent, and created an artificial plateau; it’s not that I can’t go faster, I just haven’t wanted to…and that is going to change!

3. Earn a Spartan Race Trifecta in 2014.

This one is definitely a stretch goal. since as of this writing I have yet to do a single obstacle race, or mud race, or even a great deal of trail running. However, there is some obstacle course experience in my (somewhat shady, we won’t speak of it here) background…let’s just say that I know I perform better in multi-sport events, where I can use my whole body; and the big kid in my heart LOVES to get wet and dirty! For those not familiar, this race has three levels of difficulty – the Sprint (3 miles, 15 obstacles); the Super (8 miles, 20 obstacles), and the Beast (12 miles, 25 obstacles) – you can go here to get all the details; a Trifecta is earned by completing at least one race at each level within one year. I also have the unique advantage of living in Texas, where Reebok already has a Super and a Beast, and the demand for a Sprint has been loud enough that I truly believe it will be will be added (I have already pre-registered), so that means all three will be within a few hours’ drive, radically cutting my travel expenses; I also have been working on getting sponsored for at least one of the three – because why not? But that’s all I can say right now – if it comes together, there will be more about that later 🙂 I have already added the Spartan WOD – or at least parts of it – to my routine; once I have completed the Houston Marathon, I will ramp that up considerably, and I am currently designing my own mini-gym for the backyard, because why pay fees at a box when I can build my own?

4. Earn Half-Fanatic status by the end of the year.

I had to really think about this one, because travel is not a good option for me; my work schedule will not allow me a great deal of time off, so I need most of these races to be local, or no more than one night in a hotel. Fortunately Houston hosts a ridiculous number of running events, and the half-marathon is rapidly becoming (if it isn’t already, depends on who you ask) the most popular distance for races. I know this – by the time I finish training for the full, a half is gonna feel relatively easy! (I get the strangest looks from people when I say that, but it’s true…at least for me.) I have looked over the Half Fanatic website, and their criteria, and the local race calendar – and I think I can pull this off, if I give myself the whole year to do it – I have the first 4-6 races identified, and I am sure I can track down the rest by the time I need to…there are over a dozen within a 30-minute drive! Training is simply a matter of maintaining what I am already doing, or actually a little less 🙂

So there it is, the bare bones of it, at least, in writing and in public – no backing out now! All I need is the commitment, the integrity, the drive to carry forward – and if running has given me no other gift, it has shown me the depths of drive that the human spirit possesses…the reserves that lie within each of us, if we will only reach down where it hurts, and grab hold of it, and bring it up into the light. I WANT THESE THINGS TO HAPPEN, all of them – I acknowledge that the future is ultimately out of my control, and any number of circumstances may prevent one or more of these goals from being accomplished; to believe otherwise would be delusional and foolish – but one thing will not stand in the way – I will not quit trying…and as long as that is true, there is no real limit to what I can do.

Has anyone set their goals for next year yet?

Any crazy, outside-of-the-box plans?

Share them in the comments; what are you, scared? 🙂

CHM Training update: T-15 weeks – another one down, and a race recap

Lots of changes, lots of adjustments, and half of my double-dip race weekend completed!

Sunday 10-6: Long run – 75-85 min @ 9:18/mi, 8.5 mi // 1:21:38 @ 9:03/mi, 9.0 mi  Mother Nature thought she had a surprise for me today: the very moment I set foot on the running path, the rain began falling…not just a sprinkle, either, but that particular kind of rain that lets you know it has work to do and ALL DAY to do it! For half a minute I considered postponing my run until later, or heading to the gym and running on the ‘mill, but then I realized what a great training opportunity I had been presented with: the race must go on, rain or shine, and how often do you get to practice in THOSE conditions? It turned out fabulous – the rain was cold enough to leave my hands numb by the end; pouring rain means hydration is not so much of an issue 🙂 ; and most of all, I felt hardcore for sticking it out! My pace stayed nice and steady, too, something I have had trouble with, so there’s that too.

Monday 10-7: Rest day // Rest  What a glorious word that is! Another hard day on the job – 10 hours in the warehouse, unloading trucks, with only a 15 minute lunch break…so glad I pack a ton of sandwiches that I can grab and gulp whenever a free minute presented itself.

Tuesday 10-8: TM intervals – Warm up: walk 0.25 mi, run 0.75 mi @ 10:00/mi, 0.75 @ 9:30/mi; 2x [0.75 mi @ 7:54/mi, 1:00 rest @ 12:00/mi; cool down 1.5 mi @ 9:00/mi //  42:00, 4.5 mi total  Having fun with paces, and practicing controlling my breathing – important stuff!

Wednesday 10-9: Cross training  //  Rest  Long day in a closed building with no A/C; my body needed rest, and I listened.

Thursday 10-10: Maintenance – 65-70 min @ 9:18/mi, 7 mi //  53:24 @ 9:17/mi, 5.78 mi  Getting home from work late, because of two blown tires on the delivery truck 😦 and then scrambling to make packet pickup for Saturday’s 5K (I wrote about that here) had me late to the gym, so I had to cut this short when they closed; I felt that I could have done the distance, so I have consolation in that.

Friday 10-11: Pre-race rest day // Rest Not much of a rest day, since we had to return to the job that the blown tires interrupted, and then got sent on a night job – I made it home after 9 pm, and didn’t unwind enough to fall asleep until nearly midnight – needless to say, I was anxious about my performance the next day.

Saturday 10-12: Race – West U Halloween 5K //  26:25, 8:31 avg pace; 57th overall, 24th in age group   See race recap below. 

Total for this week: 4 runs, 22.4 miles

Total for October: 7 runs, 40.4 miles

Race Recap – West U Halloween 5K

Despite the long day and late night, I woke up at 4:30 am, raring to go! I’m not much for setting my gear out the night before, I use the ritual in the morning to quell the nerves – you have to go with what works for you. So, quick light breakfast and cup of coffee; re-lace my shoes to accommodate thicker socks (because I have over 500 miles on these shoes, and I can feel it) pin my bib, then unpin it so my seat belt doesn’t bend the timing chip; get out the door at 6am, because the RD warned us parking would be a problem – this run benefited a local elementary school, so we had to park in the neighborhood streets in one of the little enclave communities that litter Houston, and their police LOVE to write tickets and tow cars. The PTO has been doing this race for years, and so everything went off seamlessly, even the kids’ 1K fun run and costume contest – here are some of the best adult costumes, since almost all the kids who were in costume were wearing off-the-shelf superhero stuff:

Kitties

Here, kitty kitty!

Things

You see some strange Things on a race course!

Hansel&Gretel

Hansel and Gretel meet Oktoberfest – with coffee??

Gumby

Gumby didn’t run, but he cheered us on.

As for the race itself, I had hopes that a smaller field would give me good chance to get that sub-25 I missed out on three weeks ago; alas it was not to be…there was rain forecast, but it didn’t present itself until later in the afternoon. What WE got was partly cloudy, warm and muggy – maybe 10 degrees warmer than usual for mid-October. I started out WAY too fast for these conditions – 7:45 on the first mile (!) and fading from there; even walking a minute or so in the last mile to clear a sudden, deep side stitch. (What is with those anyway? I never got them before, but in the last 3 or 4 weeks, they have been popping up way too frequently. Is it my breathing, or am I hitting a fitness plateau? The Internet is filled with conflicting information, so maybe my blogging friends can help me out here??) Given these conditions, and working on 4 hours sleep and a 50-hour work week, I can be satisfied with myself, all in all; it’s like I told someone on Facebook today: there are no bad races, even the worst will teach you something if you let it…and today was far from the worst!

These small local races tend to go super light on swag – medals only go to placers, everyone else gets a cotton shirt – but what do you want for a $25 entry, and a fundraiser besides, right? It’s a cute shirt, anyway, another in my small but steadily growing collection:

West U shirt&bib

So now it’s time to plan out my schedule for the second half of my “double-dip”: the Space City 10-Miler. I missed early packet pick-up, so I need to be in Clear Lake City between 5:30-6:30, race starts promptly at 7:00 – finally, an early start to beat the sunrise, these 8am start times have been killing me! Wish me good running, because I don’t believe in luck; I believe in hard work, consistent training, and putting out your best effort – if you do all that, you are guaranteed a great result, whatever the clock says! I’ll post the recap sometime tomorrow, see you then – and tell your friends to come see it too 🙂

What was the best thing you ever learned from a “bad” race? What did you change moving forward from that experience?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!