Tagged: thankfulness

Fall training update, New Hope Week 1

I love this quote, because it stands behind a truth that I have often struggled with – sometimes you just have to accept that the only way to move forward is to go back to the beginning…a truth which applies in running just as it does in life. Sometimes it comes because you made bad assumptions going in (like trying to start a training plan with a project at work approaching a critical milestone, knowing that the demands of the job were likely to be overwhelming, but thinking I would find a way somehow); sometimes it comes because you realize that the price of the choices you would have to make is higher than you are willing to pay (like sacrificing my already scant family time or compromising my health just to keep a “schedule”); and sometimes it’s just the harsh light of reality that dispels an unrealistic image we are trying desperately to hang on to (like wanting to believe that I can string together 20-hour days indefinitely, and “catch up later”, but when exactly is “later” supposed to come?) Whatever the reason, for each of us there may come a time when we have to take a step back, heave a deep breath, and admit that we can’t get there from here, so we had better find a better way.

This week, I went back to the beginning; I ran slow and easy, with the sole goal of spending time on my feet consistently. I talked with my trainer at the gym, and restructured my workouts to accommodate my current fitness level, instead of where I wish I was at this point 🙂 . I spent some of the overtime money I made on some new shoes and other gear, so I am not adding unnecessary stress on my body (much as I did last year, when too many miles on my shoes nearly undid me completely). And, it appears like all of this is working, because I hit every workout, and while I may have missed my targets on mileage and duration, I did so for valid reasons which were smart choices based on facts, not feelings. Let’s see how it went –

Monday: Rest – I took this seriously, for a change, and instead of using the day to run a ton of errands or chores, I spent a quiet evening at home with The Wife, with my legs up and my mind at ease. Of course, having all the crazyness at work behind me was a big part of that, too!

Tuesday:  1 hr weight training + 3 mi easy run (37:14, 12:12/mi) – I made the all-out plunge to return to serious training by hitting up my trainer for a thorough thrashing (while he fussed at me for my eating and sleeping habits – or, more accurately, the lack of eating and sleeping); and then heading out for a leisurely 3-mle run…this being the first time I have laced up in over a week, I was not out to set any records 🙂

Wednesday: Rest – For now, I will keep this mid-week rest day on the schedule, but soon I will change it to another easy run day…this is the perfect place to add weekly mileage.

Thursday: 45 min weight training + 3 mi easy run (35:44, 11:47/mi) – My trainer had personal issues to attend to, so I went with my default circuit training on the machines; it’s not as intense, but there are benefits to low weight/high reps just as much as crashing the heavy stuff. My run wasn’t really as slow as it seems; I went out after dark, and on the way home I got ambushed by a fairly large pack of stray dogs…I had to spend several minutes standing still and walking slowly backwards to get away from them. Good thing I run at night with a Petzl Tikka-RXP headlamp, one of the brightest on the market – shining a strong light into a dog’s eyes will just about always cause it to stop dead, and confuse it enough to keep it from chasing you! (A flashlight works just as well, if you don’t have a headlamp.)

Friday: 3 mi easy run (30:46, 10:10/mi) – This is much more like what I expect my “easy” runs to be; the days of 12:00/mi on the roads as a rule are long behind me! It was also my first chance to run in the brand new Brooks Ghost 6’s I just bought on sale; I don’t mind running in “last year’s” shoe, if I can get it for less than half price!

Saturday: 1 hr Trail running (3.2 mi, 45 min moving time, 13:52/mi) + 45 min weight training – I had hoped to meet up with the HATR Nation early in the morning, but my body clock had other ideas; I slept right through three alarms and woke up about the time they were getting done 😦 But the trails won’t run themselves, and the results won’t come unless the work is put in, so I headed out on my own around mid-morning. I also took this opportunity to break in the other new shoes I just bought (because what good is piling up overtime cash if you aren’t going to enjoy it?) so I hit the ground running in my spanking new Altra Olympus. Now, zero-drop footwear is new for me, and so after the first 3-mile loop, when I felt my Achilles tendons beginning to complain a bit, I decided to call it good for the morning – there will be many more chances to work these bad boys out!

Sunday: 3 mi easy (31:43, 10:34/mi) – My plan for this fall includes one hallmark feature of ultra running: back-to-back runs (B2B’s for the fans of running lingo). I ran trails yesterday, so today was a matching turn on the roads. In weeks to come, I will be swapping this around, as I just joined up with Runner’s High Club, a running and training group here in Houston, because while I may have a pretty plan on paper, I know myself well enough that accountability is what will make or break me this season. So I will submit myself to some coaching, at least for track workouts and long runs, much as I have for weight training…and the results will tell whether it was a good choice or not, won’t they?

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 5 runs,  miles, 3 strength training days

I know it’s only one week, but it was a great week, and I am encouraged by how it went. I know that it is within my power to make another week like this one, or even better – up, up, and away!!

Train with a coach or a team, or train alone…

Which do you prefer, and why?

I’d love to hear from you!!


Fall training update, Episode 4: A New Hope (is what I need…)

I hesitated to call this post a “training update”, as no actual training took place; instead it was another series of long and longer days, getting home between 7 and 10pm almost every night, and then working all day Saturday as well. Three consecutive weeks of this has left me a general ragged mess, but I believe the dividends will pay off: The Hero approached me twice this week, once to inquire whether or not I was joining the mass exodus which has been taking place at my company (one of the project managers gave notice on Monday, and another superintendent jumped ship the same day…taking 15 mechanics with him!); and then later in the week to ask if I would be interested in a promotion to superintendent myself, running the same type of projects I have been doing for the last year – only with the pay raise and perks that go along with the title. I had been debating if I should put myself on the market, and I told him as much. I have been feeling very over-worked, under-paid, and under-appreciated lately…and the fact that my running has completely been pushed to the side is no small part of that. So while I wait and see if these promises bear fruit, let’s take a peek at the “fruit” of my own week –

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 30-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 0 runs, 0 miles, 0 strength training days

With only 12 weeks remaining before the first of my goal races this fall, I will have to follow the advice of our wise Chinese friend quoted above; my training plan will have to be collapsed somewhat, although I need to be careful: the last time I tried to “crash” a training plan I ended up limping for two months! But I am older and wiser now 🙂 and so I will do my best not to repeat past mistakes…I’m certain there are whole realms of new mistakes for me to make!!

So let’s take a look at the first half of my revised plan –


 The varying durations of trail running having the same distances are due to variations in pace..I will run a little faster on days I run less, and slower on days I run longer. And I will begin to split my weekends between trail runs and longer  goal pace road runs – taking advantage of the new pair of Brooks Ghost 6 running shoes I just bought earlier today (at 60% off – I love finding a sale!) There are a couple of races thrown in there just for variety’s sake, and as check-ups… because you and I both know that racing brings out a whole ‘nother level of running 🙂

I am pretty confident that the storm of job deadlines is now behind me – all the long days and late nights were due to after-hours inspections, which we passed across the board – and therefore I will once again have a regular schedule so I can get my workouts done…at least, that is my new hope!


Fall training update, Week 3: (Not) Running on empty


Much as I predicted last week, there were lots of long days and late nights. I worked 54 hours in 4 days, and spent the time I wasn’t working in a desperate attempt to recover enough energy to make it through the next day; obviously my training has suffered terribly. I had thought I could squeeze a run or two in somewhere, but it turns out that I only book-ended the week – one at the beginning, one at the end. I will simplify the report by only listing what got done, how’s that?

Monday: 5 miles easy runMonday is supposed to be rest day, but since I ran nothing all weekend, I decided to get out and do something. It felt really nice to escape for a while, and not think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other – this was the most restful hour of the week!

Sunday: 3.1 miles, 29:27 – I have been doing the Licorice and Olives Virtual 5K Race Series this year, and today was the last day to record this month’s entry. I have been resting all weekend, and so I planned the day to have all the chores finished in time to get out at sunset and do this run. While that time is nothing much to brag about (a full six minutes off my PR) the fact that I can go out “cold” and still run sub-30 helps me believe that base fitness will get me back on track once the insanity at works dies down to its usual dull roar.

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 25-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 2 runs, 8 miles, 0 strength training days

I am headed into another week much like this one, so I am suspending all expectations – whatever I can do, I will do, and I will make myself be satisfied with whatever happens…after all:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Lao Tzu

Fall training update, Week 2: From slow to stop…and holding

stopThis has become the call-sign of my life outside of work.

After a difficult start last week, things have not gotten any better…in fact, it has gotten dramatically worse. The pressures at the job are red-line critical (I may actually end up unemployed, between the poor performance of this project – whether my fault or not –  and the influence that The Hero brings to bear while putting his own people into key positions) and so all other considerations have become secondary – including my training. Here is the week in review, it speaks for itself. (Same color coding as before – Green text means workout completed as planned; red text means workout not completed; blue text means alternate workout completed.)

Monday: Rest…I guess it’s hard to fail when “nothing” is the goal 🙂

Tuesday: 4 miles easy run + strength training…I made the run, but just did not have it in me to get to the gym; there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork that goes along with a construction project (far more than should be necessary, I believe) and the time has to come from somewhere.

Wednesday: Rest…Well, collapse from stress and exhaustion might be more accurate, but let’s not split hairs, shall we?

Thursday: 4 miles easy + strength training…didn’t happen, thanks to staying at the job until after 7 pm.

Friday: 3 miles easy…At work until close to 8pm this time…and coming back tomorrow, so…

Saturday: Capt’n Karl’s Muleshoe Bend 30K race… This went by the wayside as well. At least I had some forewarning  and did not register early, so I didn’t lose the money as well as the opportunity.

Sunday: Rest…Even though I needed to visit the jobsite around noon (there was an electrical shutdown over the weekend, which requires a manual restart of all the A/C equipment) I had intended to hit the trails for 2-3 hours with the group this morning, as a way to atone for not getting out all week. I even got up early and ate my usual pre-run breakfast (oatmeal with applesauce and honey, black coffee)…and then I sat down on the couch for a bit, to digest and scan Facebook until it was time to leave. Three hours later I snapped awake; I guess my body made the decision that getting more rest was higher priority than getting some miles.

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 30-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 1 runs, 4 miles, 0 strength training days

I really feel trapped: I am missing the fresh air and freedom of the runs, and the stress relief that comes from letting it all go and being in the moment of the workout would do me so much good right now…and I am utterly unable to take advantage of it! My neighborhood is simply not safe to run in late at night; my day starts far too early to run before work; and the treadmill  has caused me more pain than pleasure in the past…but something has to give! The week ahead promises to be equally challenging, if not more so – I have two back-to-back after-hours inspections scheduled, which will run from 6-10pm both nights, and both after a full day’s work. There’s also a day or two of pre-testing to be sure we will be ready for those inspections; obviously, I’m not getting much done fitness-wise…unless I make some radical schedule changes…which just may happen!

Innovative thinking is one of the skills I pride myself on, and so I am going to take a hard look at what I have to do, and what I can do, and see where some… innovative time management can be helpful. I’ll get back to you next week with the results!

no box


Fall training update, Week 1: A slow start, indeed…


Isn’t it funny how we place expectations on ourselves, knowing that so much is beyond our direct control; and yet, when things don’t work out the way we wanted them to, we get ashamed and embarrassed?

(Wait, there’s something wrong with that sentence…let’s try it this way:)

Isn’t it funny how I place expectations on myself, knowing that so much is beyond my direct control; and yet, when things don’t work out the way I wanted them to, I get ashamed and embarrassed?

(Yes, that’s more like it.)

This first week of my fall training has not gone the way I wanted it to, and much of that has been out of my direct control; but, having made such bold statements (“Ace of Base”…really?) it was hard for me to accept that.  I even wrote that one of the best things about making my own plan was that I had some flexibility to allow for life to occur without getting all down in the pity pool about it…and darned if it didn’t happen anyway, and it’s not changing anytime soon. Let’s look back at the week, and see if I can’t learn a little something here, ok? (Green text means workout completed as planned; red text means workout not completed; blue text means alternate workout completed.)

Monday: Rest…Check! You gotta love a plan that starts off with “nothing”, you can’t go wrong there!

Tuesday: 3 miles easy run + strength training…Done and done! Even though I was tired after work, I met with my trainer; he gave me a good solid hour of core, core, and core; then I came home and ground out the pokiest 3 miles ever, at an average 11+ minute pace. I was good and ready to be done by the time that was finished!

Wednesday: Rest…Got it! Needed it, too…I have a new manager now, and today was his first appearance on my jobsite. He ran me all over the place trying to second-guess everything I have done the last several weeks, feeling me out for how well I have the project in hand, I believe; that will wear anyone out. But he seemed pleased, maybe because I have confidence in my crew and the work they are doing, and I have confidence in myself…20 years’ worth of experience running jobs will do that for you 🙂

Thursday: 3 miles easy + strength training…nope and nope 😦 The new boss (hence force to be known as The Hero) re-appeared on the job this morning, determined to make his mark. The only problem is, every Hero needs a goat to sacrifice, and I do not intend to be that goat. So I stayed at work 3 hours late, dealing with “issues” he found, and that was it for the day.

Friday: 3 miles easy…Despite the Hero’s objections, I left my crew leaders in charge and left work “early” (actually, at the regular time) so I could take Karen shopping for some new outfits, she was going to be spending the weekend visiting friends in San Diego and I wasn’t sending her off without new stuff! We had a nice dinner, spent a little money and a lot of time together, and I call that a worthwhile trade!

Saturday: 2+ hours trail running + strength training… I had intended to go run at 6 am, then stop by the job for a few hours and handle some odds and ends work, but the Hero struck again and ordered my entire crew to work a full day, despite my project manager giving me firm instructions about not spending a ton of my remaining budget on overtime. So, I compromised and got something done…I did the day’s work; saw Karen off on her flight; hit the gym on the way home from the airport and did my regular weekend upper body circuit; then finished off with 4 miles progressive, and a nice negative split.

Sunday: 2+ hours trail running…Right as I was finishing up Saturday night, I got a surprise call from my brother; he was driving two hours into Houston to see a band I remember from my old club-hopping days in Austin in the late 80’s, and he wanted me to meet him…so of course I did! (We don’t get to see each other often, and it’s worth a lot to take advantage of a chance.)  As a general rule, when you close down the bar hanging with the band, you are not getting up at 5 am to go running – and I proved the rule once again 🙂 I tried to go out in the evening to get a few miles in, but got chased back to the house by a sudden thunderstorm…running in the rain is fine, but running under skies full of lightning is something else entirely! (And yes, I saw the story about the guy who finished in 3rd place at the Hardrock 100 despite getting struck…but I’m not that crazy dedicated, I guess!)

Summary: Planned – 5 runs, 20-ish miles, 3 strength training days; actual – 3 runs, 11 miles, 2 strength training days

For the first week, I should be satisfied that I accomplished most of what I wanted, especially since I knew that I had a challenging time coming at work…yet I feel like a slacker! I believe the first and most important lesson I can take away from this week is to breathe, then breathe again, and look at the highlights instead of the dim spots: I spent quality time with loved ones this week; I did well at the work I am paid well to do (and made some OT $$ in the process, that I would not have earned otherwise) and I still got some quality fitness work done along the way. I have many more weeks to go this season, so let me remember:

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”  – Groucho Marx


Off the running track, but on the right track…

This post was inspired by my friend Shaun Johnson, who is creator and admin of the Facebook group A Running Cause. He created this group as a way for runners to connect with others who share passionate reasons for why we run. Each week, Shaun invites group members to send in photos, comments, or links to blog posts on specific topics; previous themes include the view out the door when we start a run; our favorite “urban jungle” to run in; and even the classic “How many pairs of shoes do you own?” This week’s challenge posed the question, “When you aren’t running, what ARE you doing?”; my answer: sometimes I go to prison!

I have written before about my faith; simply put, I follow the calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to do His work on earth as I await His return. There are many ways which this work manifests itself; the fundraising I do for Living Water International is one of them; bringing the hope represented by the Gospel into dark and dangerous places is another. For several years now, I have been involved with a wonderful group of men and women who serve with the Kairos Prison Ministry, specifically at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas…a maximum security facility in Central Texas which was once featured on the cover of Newsweek Magazine:

time cover

The link above gives much greater detail regarding the history of this prison and the work of Kairos in general, including ways to volunteer or provide financial support, and I encourage you to spend a few minutes browsing there; but in a nutshell, the mission of Kairos is to present an ecumenical “short course” in Christianity to a hand-picked group of inmates over a 3-1/2 day weekend. We do a series of informative talks, on topics such as the need for personal accountability with decision-making; the essential character of Jesus; the nature of God’s love; and the true function  of the invisible church. Our goal is to help plant the seeds which will lead these men to accept the grace and forgiveness that God provides, and to join with others within the institution in forming a community of faith to support them as they finish serving out their sentences and hopefully return to society as better people – the goal of “rehabilitation”, after all (which the prison system itself is sadly incapable of .)

One of the key elements of the ministry is the effort we make to inform these men that they are loved…both by God and by people on the outside. Many of the inmates have been written off by their families, and turn to gangs, drugs, or other distractions to fill the void in their lives…we offer them a better option: the knowledge that there are people who view them not as failures or enemies, but as fellow humans who have made some terrible choices about the direction of their lives. They can be forgiven, they can be restored, they can find peace…this is what we tell them; and we bring proof to demonstrate what we are saying: there are people on the outside who sincerely care about them, and who pray for them to realize that this forgiveness and unconditional love – agape love, as the Bible puts it – are both real and available. This proof takes many forms, but by far the most impactful is the one I want to invite you, dear readers, to participate in: the Prayer Chain.

For several weeks leading up to the Weekend (as it is known), team volunteers solicit people who will commit to be in prayer for at least some part of the time we are with our Participants. This commitment is represented by a small slip of paper, bearing the first name, last initial, and city of residence of the person who is praying for an anonymous “man in white”, that he will be receptive to the moving of the Holy Spirit, in the way he most needs to receive it. These slips of paper are joined into interlocking links of a chain, which is brought into the room during a talk titled “You Are Not Alone”; there are typically a couple of thousand links, and the men are shocked to know that there are that many people, folks who they will never meet, who care enough to devote a few minutes’ thought and prayer to them…tears flow freely during this time, and hearts are softened, if not broken outright.

We circulate sign-up sheets in our churches and small groups, among co-workers, friends and acquaintances…anywhere and everywhere that we connect to other people…and these days, that also includes on a blog or other social media! So I am asking: Will you step up and be a partner in this effort? Would you be willing to commit a few minutes, sometime between Thursday April 3 and Sunday April 6, to say a quiet prayer that the participants of Eastham Kairos #27 would be open to the grace of God…that He will touch their hearts,and they will know that they are loved? If you will, please respond to me – in any format you wish, whether by commenting  here or on my Facebook page, or by tweet or DM, or directly to my email (stridingtowardslife@gmail.com) – with your first name, last initial, and city and country of residence, and I will fill out a slip and place you into the chain…I will be posting a simple reminder the day I leave home to travel to the prison, that the weekend has come; and you will have a opportunity to share in the work of Jesus:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’

CHM Training update: T-7 weeks – Can you say, “Thankful”?

Wow, the days are passing SO quickly now – under 50 days until the Chevron Houston Marathon, one day less until the ABB 5K (the other half of my Houston Double challenge). After several days laying off…nearly two weeks in fact…allowing my body to heal up and recover from all the dumb things I have done to it, this week I cautiously began running again. Even though my training plan has been adjusted to reflect the time off, I’m still taking it slow and easy, keeping my new goals in mind, focusing on how I feel more than what I “should” be doing; here’s how it went:

Sunday 11-24: Long run – 120-130 min @ 9:18/mi, 13-14 mi // 1:22:41, 6.2 miles One thing I wanted to explore was running on a more forgiving surface than the roads, so I did some research and hooked up with a new running club, the Houston Area Trail Runners. They are a fairly new local group of trail/ultra runners, and every weekend that they are not traveling to an event, they run the bike trails in Memorial Park. I met them at the trailhead at 6am on a blustery 40 degree morning, made a few introductions and we were off! I’m not anywhere near the pace this group keeps; but they adjusted, stopped a few times to let me and my “pacer” catch up, and generally made me feel like a welcome part of the group – all “wins” in my book! I trotted along, as you can tell, and by the end I knew I had done a good workout – and it didn’t hurt…hallelujah!

Monday 11-25: Rest day //  Rest  This was my “acid test” for the state of my recovery – what did I feel like at work the next day? Well, I felt fine! We had a hectic day, owing to the short week, but other than nearly freezing to death inside the building – there aren’t any exterior walls up yet, so it’s essentially a big wind tunnel – I did not experience any ill effects.

Tuesday 11-26: Maintenance – 55-60 min @ 9:18/mi, 6 mi  //  Rest I had intended to run the jogging path along Buffalo Bayou, that passes only two blocks from my current jobsite, but the winter weather had some different ideas; the wind was whistling along the bayou, carrying a chill factor in the low 20’s, and since discretion is the better part of valor, I decided to defer.

Wednesday 11-27: Cross training  //  Rest I had my hands full, between picking up my paycheck, getting to the bank to get it cashed, and making a plunge into the madness that is a grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving; not just one store, but two, since the first was stripped clean of many of my key ingredients for the weekend (I was only doing this errand once in the week, darn it!)

Thursday 11-28: Maintenance – 55-60 min @ 9:18/mi, 6 mi //  30:05, 3.04 miles Happy Thanksgiving! We don’t do the turkey thing, preferring to save that for Christmas; my menu was honey-glazed grilled ham with pineapple slices, buttered corn and bread stuffing – OK, I don’t eat the healthiest stuff in the world, but I make up for it by making everything from scratch, using only fresh ingredients. I am not afraid of salt, butter, fat, meat, etc – in moderation, and not processed foods…it was good enough for my grandma, and she lived into her 90’s, so it’s good enough for me! We ate this for dinner, so in the afternoon I took advantage of a break in the weather and got some easy miles around the neighborhood…turned off the pace and time alerts on Nike+, ran my route by feel, and I loved every step! I also signed up for the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak,  and today was Day One! You can follow along on twitter, look for the hashtag #RWRunStreak.

Friday 11-29: Maintenance – 55-60 min @ 9:18/mi, 6 mi //  29:51, 3.09 miles  Since Thursday went so well, and I had the day off (my job gives us both days for the holiday with pay – how sweet is that?) I headed out on the same route, and today I felt a little stronger, a little faster…and took almost 30 seconds off my pace with no real perceived increase in effort!

Saturday 11-30: Cross training  //  Trail running, 1:14:42, 5.8 miles Back with the HATR’s (what a goofy name for a running club 🙂 ) to log a little longer run than the previous couple of days. Again, they adjusted to me, made sure I wasn’t left behind, and encouraged me to talk with them while we ran – build that lung capacity, why don’t we!

Total for this week: 4 runs, 18.2 miles, 0 XT (This will be changing soon, I swear!)

Total for November: 10 runs, 58.2 miles

All in all, for my first week back I am satisfied with my progress. Tomorrow I will making an attempt at an actual “long run”, as my road running club (now I have to distinguish between them, #runnerprobs) is hosting a supported event:  the “Tour de Hershey”, named for the county park on the west side of Houston where many of our members live and train regularly. We will have water stations and people on bikes for support, with marked courses for 3, 12, or 18 miles – a little something for everyone! I plan on trying 12 miles, my longest run in nearly a month, and then joining them afterwards for food, drink, and good times. It’s an open event, too, so I invited the trail guys to come – SOMEONE needs to make an effort to bridge the gap between the “roadies” and the “mudbugs” – names I have heard people in each group use referring to the other. I just don’t see the point in creating divisions; our sport is great BECAUSE of the wide variety it contains, not in spite of it – don’t you agree?

Roads, trails, or some of each – which way do you roll?

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

CHM Training update: T-9 weeks – No, Make That 8

This is the shortest weekly summary I have ever written as a runner:

Total for this week: 0 runs, 0 miles, 0 XT

Total for November: 6 runs, 40 miles

Today marks 56 days until the Chevron Houston Marathon (boy is that getting close!) so I am revising my numbering system to reflect the day I post rather than the week that has just passed – sorry if this confuses anyone, but it will make more sense as we draw closer to THE DAY.

This week continues my layoff from running, and in fact from nearly ALL training; I had been hoping that the break would give me some relief from the nagging ankle pain I have been experiencing – which is the whole reason I decided to stop training – but so far this has not been the case. It’s not debilitating pain, but it’s always there…which is not doing any good for my confidence level, as you might imagine. I believe that much of it stems from my work boots, so I will be experimenting with different insoles to see if I can find the proper cushioning and support. I have also not yet made an appointment with a sports-med doctor, but plan to once the financial wolves quit baying at the door; one good paycheck is hardly sufficient for that, but more are on the way, and we have worked out a payment schedule that gets us there soon enough.

I have tried to remain optimistic during this layoff, but after becoming accustomed to running, I find that not running absolutely sucks. I fill up the time doing stretches and strengthening exercises, and reading an endless amount of articles online, and trying to reconcile the goals I had set previously with the body I apparently have now…the process has been good for me, because I am forced to examine my motivations and expectations in the harsh light of reality. Here is some of what I have decided:

  • I will continue running, at whatever level I can maintain, until and unless I physically can no longer do it – even if I manage no more than a brisk walk, I will be doing it!
  • There is nothing wrong with having time-based goals, or the pursuit of new PR’s, but that is not the entire reason I run, it is only one aspect of it.
  • I am not dropping down from the full marathon to the half, because that choice comes with more regret than I am willing to accept. This may be the only marathon I ever run, but I have not worked and planned this long to lose hope now.
  • That being said, I am no longer committed to a sub-4:00:00 race…finishing 26.2 miles under my own power, doing the best I can, will be enough.
  • Ditto the sub-25 5K…some day that may happen, but if achieving it on the day before CHM compromises the marathon, it’s not worth it. I will run both races, and get my triple medals, and be satisfied with that.

My other 2014 goals – Half-Fanatic and Spartan Trifecta – remain unchanged; in fact I have received some great news about one of these! I have been talking with the people over at Inov-8, and they have agreed to sponsor me for at least one, possibly all three, of the Texas Spartan races this year – I will be the Masked Mudder this May 17-18, at the Spartan Super; the Sprint is tentatively scheduled for the following weekend (!); and then the Beast is in December. Inov-8 had offered to sponsor me for this year’s Beast, which is coming up in a few weeks, but when I explained that a 12-mile obstacle race was not a part of my marathon training plan, they agreed to defer until next year 🙂 As a bonus, I will be receiving a pair of Inov-8 Mudclaw 300 trail shoes in the very near future – I will be reviewing those once I get some miles on them; I know these are not a “new” shoe, and there are plenty of other reviews online, but they will be new to me, and maybe some of you, Constant Readers, would be curious to hear my opinions.

To make sure I get some muddy miles, I took a leap and signed up for my first ever trail race, two weeks from now: a local event sponsored by the Houston Area Trail Runners (which I just joined), the Ho Chi Minh 6-Hour Race – beginning at 6am, run as many laps as you can on a marked 5-mile course through the hike-and-bike trails of Houston’s Memorial Park (known locally as the Ho Chi Minh trails, hence the name) within a six hour time limit, with prizes for most laps and fastest lap. (I won’t be winning any prizes, I’m going for the experience.)  I ran these trails a few times back in the spring, and they vary in difficulty from fairly easy to fairly challenging; add in the cold weather and frequent rains we’ve been having, and this should be…interesting! Plus I get to make friends with another group of local runners, and that is always a bonus.

I will be starting back to serious running right after Thanksgiving…I plan to eat enough to NEED some running afterwards 🙂 Between now and then, I will be hitting the gym to log some hours on the elliptical and weight machines – finally putting the cross-training plan into motion! I have been researching CrossFit boxes, and once we get some of the financial issues around here under control, I will be signing up for the Intro and Basic courses, to get my foot in the door; we will see how it goes after that. I think that I may be seeing the light at the end of this (brief) tunnel, and I am pleased that it does not come with the sound of an oncoming train!

See you next week, good running to all, and have a Happy Thanksgiving, whatever your plans may involve!



The Sunshine (Award) in my life


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…


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.

CHM Training update: T-10 weeks – Giving up a little to gain a lot

I started this week with high hopes; the thinking was that some positive changes outside of running would inevitably lead to some positive changes in running…but something different happened, instead – let’s take a look at how it went.

Sunday 11-10: Long run – 130-140 min @ 9:18/mi, 14-15 mi // Rest  I woke up feeling awful – stuffy head, full body aches, maybe even a low fever, I didn’t check…so I took some aspirin, ate something, and crawled back into bed; must have been the right answer, because I slept until noon, but felt tons better. Spent the remainder of the day in fellowship: went to the Houston Half Marathon’s Volunteer Appreciation luncheon (totally gorged on fajitas!) and then visited at a church my wife and I are considering joining – overall, a great day, even without a run!

Monday 11-11: Rest day //  Rest  First day back at my “real” job, after nearly two months…climbing ladders, walking up and down five flights of stairs, nearly a half-mile from the parking lot to the jobsite…great to be back to normal! Nice change in work hours, too – 6:30-3:00, instead of 7:30-7:00; now I can actually count on getting my workouts done!

Tuesday 11-12: TM “big workout” – 1.5 easy run warm up (9:45/mi); 2x [0.75 mi @ 7:54/mi, 1:30 recovery]; 30 min @ 9:18/mi; 2x [0.75 mi @ 7:54/mi, 1:30 recovery]; 1.5 mi easy run cool down  //  1:04:26, 6.6 mi My normal pace workout, with a big steady run chunk added into the middle – nice, if you can do it…and today, I couldn’t. The first pace set went well, I wasn’t too terribly stressed by either the speed or duration. About halfway into the steady run, I began to feel my knee stiffening up, and my ankles were getting sore, so I stopped to do some quick stretches, which helped. But by the time I made it another 15 minutes, I was hurting a lot more; so another, longer pause to stretch and walk a bit…not much improvement. Less than 30 seconds into the second pace set, I knew it was time to quit. I spent 20 minutes or so on the foam roller, and doing some serious stretching with a yoga strap, but I was still limping a little as I left the gym.

Wednesday 11-13: Cross training  //  Rest

Thursday 11-14: Maintenance – 25-30 min @ 9:18/mi, 3 mi //  Rest

Friday 11-15: Maintenance – 25-30 min @ 9:18/mi, 3 mi //  Rest 

Saturday 11-16: Cross training  //  Rest  

Total for this week: 1 runs, 6.6 miles, 0 XT

Total for November: 6 runs, 40 miles

As I wrote earlier this week, I am taking a brief hiatus from running – in fact, from nearly all training activity that causes pain – to allow my body some time to heal, and to keep from further aggravating my injuries. I will be searching out a sports medicine doctor this week, to schedule an appointment; I will also begin the quest for the best price on some top tier running shoes – I have some good leads already, through my relationship with OptimalRun.com and kindrunner.com, plus several local running stores that are affiliated with my running club – networking pays off ;).
Mostly I am reviewing what I have done, right and wrong, and trying to draw the correct lessons from my experiences; keep the good, change the bad, and accept that this is a normal part of the learning curve for a new runner. I am not thinking too far ahead, until I have more information…that would be a waste of time and energy that could better be spent living in this moment…

See? I can be taught! Stay with me, folks, I will update you as new developments occur.