Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals for 2010

Being a goal oriented person, I enjoy setting out a new year with specific goals in mind. The goals set out here are for my running and triathlon activities.

1. Run a sub-30 minute 5K. I've been after this one for a while and really feel I can do it this year.

2. Run a sub-2:30 half marathon. Just like #1, I really am going after this goal this year.

3. Participate in at least 4 triathlons this year. I did 4 last year, so I don't see why I can't do at least that many again.

4. Get my weight under 200 pounds and keep it there.

5. My goals for individual activities: Running 600 miles, Biking 1500 miles, Swimming 60 miles and Total Exercise Time 17,500 minutes. This would be an increase in all areas, but I think doable (providing I maintain my momentum and avoid injury). Most significantly this would be about a 40% increase in my miles biked from 2009.

Everyone have a Happy New Year, and for those I'll be seeing in Orlando soon...I'll keep an eye out for you!

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 in Review

As the year started I set several goals for myself and now it's time to see how I did in achieving those goals.

1. Lower my 5K PR to below 30 minutes.

I fell just short on this one with a 30:20 5K in April, and it was on a trail course. I'll be adding this to next year's goal list and hope I blow it away.

2. Lower my half marathon PR to below 2:30.
I didn't run as many half marathons as I had originally intended during the year, primarily due to getting more involved in triathlons than I had anticipated. However, I did manage to PR in early December with a 2:31:24 on a tough course during poor weather. Even though I did not actually make this goal, I still feel good about where I am on half marathons right now. Again, I'll add this to next year's goal list.

3. Compete in at least 2 triathlon events.
This year I participated in 4 triathlons (2 sprint tri's, 1 Olympic distance tri, and 1 half Ironman tri...and wished I'd had the time for more!). I exceeded my goals here and really like the tri events.

4. Enroll in, and train for, the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2010.
I am registered for both the Disney full and half marathon (aka The Goofy Challenge) for next month and am looking forward to them, as well as the longest Disney World vacation I have ever taken.

5. Get myself down under 210 pounds before the end of the year.
I weighed in at 208 pounds during the second week of December (I was at a high of about 263 pounds back in 2007). I have probably gained a few pounds back with all the Christmas celebrating (although I have not weighed myself to know for certain), so I consider this goal made.

Overall, I feel good about making 3 out of these 5 goals and just missing 2 of them. I am very happy that I not only stayed with my training, but I improved upon it. 2009 saw a decrease in miles run 506.2 vs. 641.8 miles, but that was because of an increased emphasis on miles biked (nearly 1100 miles) and swam (over 50 miles).

Monday, December 21, 2009

7 Lessons I Learned in 2009

1. I think this one really holds over from 2008, but I continued to learn more about myself through this lesson: I cannot run (or swim, bike, or perform any other exercise) so much that I can truly eat anything all the time. I actually gained around 10 pounds in my first year of training and doing running events because I assumed it didn't matter what I ate as long as I ran enough.

2. However, building on #1 is that I can eat enough of the right foods so that I don't have to be hungry--and not put on weight, and I can even get asked by my employees how I can eat so much and lose weight (because they seem to see me eating my healthy snacks frequently).

3. One side benefit of losing weight is that I am getting more miles out of a pair of running shoes, not to mention all that stuff about getting healthier, too. I have to believe that being lighter puts less wear on the shoes.

4. I learned that a good bike really makes a difference. OK, so I really knew this, but it's another thing to realize it for yourself. I easily picked up several mph on average with my new Fuji road bike over my old bike, not to mention that the top speeds hit a higher rate as well. I know I hit at least 35mph in Austin at Longhorn 70.3, and I am pretty sure I got even faster on some downhills when my bike computer was out.

5. I learned that it takes me longer to recover from a Half Ironman than it does to recover from a marathon. I suppose it would be easy to say because I spent about 30% more time completing the HIM than I did the marathon, although I suspect it had more to do with being more completely worn down due to the multiple activities (swimming, biking and running). However, even though it took me longer to fully recover (or at least recover sufficiently enough to race well), I still felt better at the finish line of the Longhorn HIM than I did at the end of the San Antonio Marathon.

6. As much as I enjoy running, I have learned that I also enjoy swimming and biking as much as running. My first year of triathlon training in 2008 ended early due to a rear end auto collision (from which I did recover after several months of rest and physical therapy). Perhaps most unfortunately, my triathlon season ended that year prior to completing my first organized triathlon event. 2009 ended up being the year I completed those triathlons. I am looking forward to next year's runs and triathlons to be even better than this year's.

7. Part of my personal success this year goes to my support system, with my family supporting my time spent in training and travelling to the occasional event. Also, I received lots of help from friends ranging from answering my questions about new subjects and areas to training alongside me on the roads. Until this year, I hadn't quite realized how important a part of my successes my friends and family are.

I'll have to keep some of these in mind as I go into next year as I have plans to advance my training to take me beyond what I have done this year while also keeping that delicate balance with my life and family at home.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

20.5 Miles to New Shoes

My old shoes had been holding up well this year. I had figured to need to replace them in the October/November time frame, but they kept holding up. I recently decided that they should hold up well enough to make it through the Disney World Goofy Challenge races--and that was my mistake!

This weekend's 20.5 mile run was going real well until around 16 mile mark, when I started to feel the telltale pain in my lower legs that indicates that my shoes need to be replaced. Just to be safe I took it wasy for the last few miles back on the run to avoid hurting myself. Looking back I shouldn't have quite been surprised since I had gotten longer wear out of these shoes than any other pair in recent memory. I had gotten around 500 miles on these shoes (I didn't know that until I went through my logs earlier today.) when some others had only gotten me through 300 - 350 miles.

To be fair to me, it isn't as if I was unprepared for this. I had purchased a new pair of the same shoes (Asics Gel Fortitude 3's) several months back and had started to wear them in recently to keep myself prepared, but still I was thinking I might have more time....



Anyway, here is a photo of old and new shoes, with the only differences between them being about 500 miles of road and trail wear, plus the Yanks laces on the old pair. I wonder how long these new shoes will stay looking so bright.....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Starting a New Year Right




This past weekend I headed over to Austin to run the Decker Challenge Half Marathon with friends Heather, Del and Ingrid. It was also a little extra special for me as this race coincided with my birthday.

Many months ago I had planned to make this race a total effort to PR and try to break the 2:30:00 mark on my half marathon time. However my plans had since changed and I was now coming off of the San Antonio Marathon 3 weeks back and looking forward to the Goofy Challenge in 5 more weeks, so I changed my plans here to putting forth a solid effort but running below race-level effort (I suppose this equates to considering this race a 13.1 mile tempo run.)





Sunday morning I presented with a birthday card, balloon and cupcake (which I saved until after the run) and I was thankful for my friends remembering my birthday. I was having a difficult time deciding what to wear (see Karen, that problem is not exclusive to women!!) as the weather was cold and wet--in fact it there was a slow rain or heavy mist for the entire event! I decided to go with short tights that stopped above the knee and long socks that went up to just below the knee instead of long tights. I also wore a newer pair of shorts over the tights because I wanted to try them out on a longer run before my marathon, since they have several pockets for gels I wanted to make sure they would be comfortable enough before the Disney marathon trip. I also went with a tight long-sleeve shirt under a sleeveless running shirt for my top. Because of all the wetness I decided to keep my Sun-Mart running jacket on for the run as an outer layer. In addition I wore a lightweight beanie cap on my head to keep warm and wore gloves to keep my hands warm. Being from south Texas, I am no stranger to warm (and downright hot) weather running, and I can put up with running in cooler weather without being so bundled up for a time, but heading out on a long run--even a race--in these conditions was new to me, and in fact it did stay cold and wet for the entire course, I did feel afterwards that I made the right choices in my running attire.

Since I started the race without expectations other than to run a solid pace without overtaxing myself, I figured I was set for a decent run. Starting out was nice and the first decent hill didn't seem nearly as bad as it did when it was on the Longhorn Tri course 6 weeks before, and then we headed into a general downhill for a bit. Of course this downhill set up to an general uphill for a bit and so it went until hitting real hill around miles 4 and 6, with 6 being a tough one (which I walked the last 1/3 of so I wouldn't max out my heart rate so early on. I believe the first 10 miles or so of this run were also the first part of the Longhorn Tri bike, so the area seemed generally familiar and I enjoyed being more out in the country and away from traffic. Coming up to an aid station around the 10K mark I realize I am on a personal PR pace for a 10K, and I am still feeling strong and am run/walking, but running more than normal and feeling good with it. As I continue on I find several general inclines and then 2 pretty big hills in succession around miles 9 and 10, where I also realize I am several minutes of my 10 mile PR as well. I also have known for a while now that a new half marathon PR was possible and that I could even break 2:30 if I pushed hard enough, but did I want to risk my training for January for accomplishing something else now? In the end I decided to try to keep a strong pace to break my old PR time but told myself not to risk injury by doing too much for today--after all I was well ahead of today's plan and I would hate to ruin a successful run that already exceeded expectations.

I crossed the finish at 2:31:24, beating my old PR time by over 2 1/2 minutes. I would have thought I might be bothered by missing a golden opportunity to break 2:30,but I was really happy with this run because I felt so good out there that I know I have it in me. This certainly felt like the toughest course I have ever run in a race and to PR here was a fantastic feeling already. After this run, I know I can get under 2:30, it'll just have to wait a while longer. In addition to me, all of my friends PR'd as well. Heather did break the 2:30 mark that she had been chasing after for a long time running well with a time of 2:27:54, Del ran 1:49:55, and Ingrid bested her time from last year on this course by 31 minutes(!!) and also set a personal PR time with 2:01:49.

Afterwards, we grabbed some pizza and then I had to leave to drive home for a nice birthday dinner with my family, enjoying ribs and wings knowing that I could definitely celebrate the day and go off diet without worry for a while.

The last couple of years have each been pretty good to me. I've gotten ahead in my career, I've gotten in better shape, I've made many good friends and I'm getting to watch my daughters mature into the fine women they can each become. My life may be far from perfect, but right now it is pretty good. So far life at 44 is just fine.

My next running event will be the Goofy Challenge in just under 5 weeks and I hope to meet up with some friends for the first time that I have known online for a bit. I also have no plans to run these events for the fastest time but will instead be running to enjoy the event for itself and soak it all in with the people I have around me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snowy Friday

Growing up in south Texas generally means warm winters and seeing snow on the television while hearing stories of the white stuff falling from the sky from transplanted northerners.

Today was the exception to the rule, a cold front coming in from the northwest met moisture and rain pushing up from the Gulf of Mexico and created a snowy band for about 120 miles inland for most of the day. Normally, the snow I've witnessed here would hardly qualify as snow for many, just being small light flakes but today I saw big fluffy flakes for the first time in 30 some years I have been in Texas.

This photo was taken out of my car window while going back to my office from lunch. I was stopped at the time, the white streaks are becasue the snow was falling fast.

However, true to form, very little acumulated on the ground and it never got cold enough to see snow sticking to anything other than isolated parked car. I was nice to get to see a real taste of winter up close, but it'll be even nice to not have to worry about snow covered roads as I drive out to Austin tomorrow for Sunday's half marathon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving Day well upon us, I wanted to take a short time to actually reflect on some of the things for which I am thankful this year.

I am thankful for a kind and understanding wife who hardly complains about the time my running and triathlon training and events take up in our lives.

To start with, I am thankful that I was able to spend the day with my wife and daughters. We had a nice not so traditional dinner (although it did include Turkey!) together with my father-in-law, and later we spent time talking and reading the shopping ads together.

I am thankful that I remember that whenever one of my loved ones leaves the house I remember to tell them to be safe and let them know that I love them. I am certainly not thankful for why I now remember to do this! (If you don't know why scroll back to my March 24th post and you can read all about it.) [I found out 2 days after I posted this that one of my best friends from high school passed away pretty close to the time and day that I posted this. We were not nearly as close in recent years but we still saw each other occasionally with other friends. Jeff, may you find the peace in death that eluded you these recent years.]

I am thankful for a nice job that pays the bills and is helping to pay to keep two children in college right now, not to mention paying for that Disney trip this year.

I am thankful for being generally healthy. I am weighing less now than at the start of the year and have gotten my jean's waist size down to where it hasn't been for at least 10 years. In this past year I have put my body through a lot, ranging from 5K's to a full marathon and a Half Ironman Triathlon, and it has held up pretty well.

I am thankful for the love and loyalty of my dogs. They always coming running to see me when I come home and are always excited to see me.

I am thankful for my many friends, some of which I have known for most of my life and some who I've only known a short time, some of whom have shared various adventures with me and some with whom I have only shared conversation.

I suppose I could go on for a while, but I think I have made the point that I should remember that I have many blessings to remember in my life, and I hope all of you can remember your blessings as well.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon

Many months ago I had signed up for the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon getting a good deal as a early registrant and a returning runner thinking that this would be my "A" race for the year. Of course life's events changed and now the race was merely a long training run coming out of recovery from the Longhorn 70.3 and looking forward to the Goofy Challenge 8 weeks later. I was feeling good a week before, but a solid long run the previous weekend let me know I wasn't quite recovered, and left me with a sore left ankle and right knee, which I nursed back to feeling mostly better by race day.

I was up early, about 3:45, to get ready, kissed my wife (Darcy) as I left the hotel and headed over the shuttle buses. I was on the first bus out of downtown to the starting area. Apparently, buses were dropping off in 2 areas, and I got dropped off about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile form the starting area. Being in place more than 2 hours before the start I checked out what was where and found a nice spot to rest and listen to my iPod for a good while. Around 7:00 I checked in my gear bag and visited the porta-potties (having learned last year to stay away from the ones near the main area and walk up around the actual starting line where most people did not go, plus then I could wait for the corrals to move forward and hop into mine).

It took about 30 minutes for me to actually start (corral 15) after the race began. My biggest complaint is that the corral structure was not really enforced and there were many with corral numbers well behind me that had started way up front that clogged the roads early. If I was going for a half-marathon PR, this would have been frustrating as I think it would have cost me 5 to 10 minutes plus extra energy to get around these guys. True to the advertising there was lots of music and cheering squads along the way for motivation, and the people of San Antonio turned out to help. My favorite was a sign board posted at a school early in the race proclaiming that there were only 23.8 miles left to go! When we ran through downtown the streets were absolutley mob with people cheering and I saw Darcy right at mile 8, which gave me a big mental boost.

Around mile 9 I decided I was going to stay with the marathon course at the split point. I don't know if it is true of other Rock n Roll races, but since I was registerd for the full I could have just run the half marathon course and the timing system would have recorded me as a half marathon runner. Although I was cruising along nicely, I dropped back my pacing because I knew I had a long run ahead and my heart rate was already running a little bit high for me. I did a 4/1 run/walk early (and could have run that into a half marathon PR if I had chosen), but I went back to 3/1, then 2.5/1, then 2/1, and finally 1/1 as the race went on and my heart rate recovered less during the walk breaks. In the end I wanted to make sure that I didn't hurt myself with this race and affect my coming events in December and January. As it turns out I still think I was doing pretty well for me, as my times at 25K and 30K would have been easy PR's at those distances. Even with all my slowing down, it seemed that I still passed far more than passed me along the last 10 miles or so.

I finished in 6:11:38, not exactly a stellar time, but I'll take it for what this event was for me: my first full marathon (although I have run the 50K distance previously) and training for the January Goofy Challenge (where I'll run the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday). As a whole, I really enjoyed the experience and would consider doing this one again.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Longhorn 70.3

Well, I did it, I finished the Longhorn 70.3 Half Ironman race this past weekend, and I even beat my goal time as well! As promised in my earlier blog entry, here is my review of my race experience at my first 70.3 event.

For me the race started on Friday as I packed up my stuff and drove to Austin to meet up with Heather and Del at the race expo. I checked in, looked around and heard part of the fist pre-race briefing, and afterwards Heather and I found each other. Del and I were both staying at Heather's house that weekend with her family, and Friday night we enjoyed a nice homemade dinner, had some good pre-race conversation and watched a movie.

Saturday started early, although I technically slept in a bit considering when I normally wake up on Saturday to train. Heather and I did a short brick workout (roughly 3.1 mile bike/.8 mile run) before eating a light "pre-breakfast" as we were heading out to the race's pancake breakfast afterwards. Following the pancake breakfast we placed our transition bags in T2 at the arena (all T2 items had to be placed into a bag and be set at your site, no pre-staging of items)and then we went to the lake to set up our bikes and bags at T1. I think Heather and Del went for practice swims while I spent my time visually planning out my transition. Afterwards we went back to the arena to listen to the full pre-race briefing and then back to Heather's house for dinner and off to an early bedtime (technically I stayed up until just after 10:00 working on email and going through my clothes for tomorrow).

Sunday came early at 3:15, but I got up about 5 minutes later and got dressed. I ate a bit of oatmeal and an energy/protein bar and packed up for the trip to check in. We actually got to the arena a bit before they opened up. We turned in our "special needs" bags at an area where we could access as we started each loop of the 3 loop run. We caught the buses to the swim site and waited for body marking, after which we were allowed to set up our T1 area.
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Then we waited for 2 hours until the race stared by talking, rechecking the transition area, visiting a memorial to an athlete who was killed recently with his wife while on a bike ride together, and warming up...in other words, we kept ourselves occupied. Around 7:30 the first wave went off, and I excitedly waited for my wave (10 of 16) to begin.

Swim: Being a slower swimmer, I started in the back of my wave and pretty much stayed there. The lake was a good temperature and I swam without a wetsuit. I found myself veering out to the right several times on the counterclockwise loop, which is unusual because I usually drift to the left more than the right. Del passed me on the swim at a turn buoy and called out a supporting word to me (he started in the wave after mine). In the end I finished the 1.2 mile swim in 56:27, which I felt pretty good about since my goal was 55:00 minutes but I also figure I must have swam an extra couple hundred yards with my misdirected swimming.

T1: I took my time to get going right out of transition and exited in 5:56. My goal was 5:00 minutes, but I took the time to make sure I was good before I left.

Bike: This was without a doubt my favorite part of the race, even though I had some unusual troubles. I had a plan drink a 24 ounce bottle of Gatorade and eat an energy bar every hour, and that pretty much served me well. I think I actually drank between 4 and 4.5 bottles during my ride, which is greater than my plan, but I think I needed that extra nutrition and I felt good with that. I had no problems with the bottle hand outs as I rode by the aid station and thought those areas were generally well run by the volunteers. I tried to make a point to say a word of thanks to a number of the volunteers as I rode by them. While riding I found the time to slow down a bit on occasion and enjoy the scenery, seeing cows, horses, people, scenic hills, pastures... I really enjoyed this. Since I was unfamiliar with riding real hills like the ones I was experiencing, I experimented with trying several riding strategies for climbing the hills. Around mile 20 I had my first problem,I noticed a sharp sting on my upper left chest area and I noticed that I had flown into a bee and gotten stung. I shooed away the bee and moved on, not a major problem. After mile 30 my bike computer seemed to be reading incorrectly, I figured the sensor moved out of position a short bit ago at a bump in the road or the train tracks I had recently gone over, In either case I chose to ride on and not stop just to fix it. I knew I was riding at a pace that would put me about 25 minutes ahead of my planned rate, but since I did not want to overdo it too early I slowed down after mile 40, although it's hard to say exactly how fast I went. I was averaging about 15.8 mph through the first 30 miles and I finished at a 15.3 mph pace, so I figure that I averaged about 14.2 mph over the last 16 miles. I may have been better off stopping so I could reset my sensor to keep track of my pacing, but in the end I was fine. Late in the ride around mile 51 or so I had a couple of moments where I started to question my ability to continue to move the pedals, but I gathered myself and pushed on past that point. I finished the bike in 3:39:11, well ahead of my goal time of 3:55:00.

T2: Given my satisfaction with my bike ride, I took my time to situate myself (including putting on my Garmin GPS and heart rate monitor strap) and somehow spent a leisurely 7:40 (goal was 5:00 minutes) in the second transition zone, although quite a few people actually took longer than that! Running out of transition 2 and heading into the run took us into the middle of the arena and out to the run course. As I ran through I could see some of the faster early starters already finishing.

Run: The weather had been cooler earlier, and then it was cloudy, but now it was staring to get warm, but that doesn't really bother me, although I am now glad that I did stop and apply some sunscreen before leaving T2. The run was a great set up on a 3 loop course with a fantastic support base of multiple volunteer booths over an extended area at both the near end and far end of the loop from the arena. I reminded myself that my main goals were to finish and to enjoy myself, so I decided on a pace to run 1 minute then walk 1 minute, plus walking all uphills and running all downhills to keep my heart rate down and my attitude positive. I enjoyed interacting with the various volunteers and other racers. I also got to see the familiar faces of Heather and Del several times as we approached each other while going opposite directions on the loop. I was a bit surprised that I kept my upbeat attitude all the way to the end of the run as the last half loop got really tough, although I was more surprised that I averaged a 14:27 pace on a modified 1 minute run/1 minute walk plan. I finished the run in 3:09:22, where my original goal was an even 3 hours. I knew that I could have gone faster on this part, but I certainly would not have enjoyed it as much as I did!

Final Time: 7:58:38, My real goal was just to complete the event, but I am so happy to have met my personal time goal of 8:00:00 as well.



Overall, it was a very difficult experience but a very rewarding one as well. I am already considering my next 70.3 Half Ironman event for next year. However that will have to wait, for now I look forward to returning to my training after an appropriate rest period over the next few days. I still have a couple half marathons to finish before year's end with another PR goal to go after...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pre-Longhorn 70.3 Half Ironman

I am packed and ready for Longhorn 70.3 Half-Ironman event tomorrow, with the exception of the last items I will grab on my way out the door in the morning.

The plan is to wake up somewhere between 3:15 to 3:30 a.m. and eat a little bit, then to scurry about and get dressed for a little bit, and finally to get going around 4:15 a.m. I plan to make a quick check on my bike and transition area items that were set up yesterday and then over to wait my turn to start in the swim—I’ll start in Wave 10 (of 16 swim waves).

I am as ready as I am going to be, so I’ll be off to bed in just a bit after posting this, but I will be back to post a review of my experiences (good and bad) when I have a chance in the next few days.

I also want to offer many thanks to my friends Heather and Jeff, who graciously let me stay with them over the race weekend while Heather also prepared for Longhorn this weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ten for Texas 2009

Last Saturday was the Ten for Texas race in The Woodlands (Texas, obviously!). It is my favorite 10 mile event---OK, it's the only 10 mile event I've ever done, but it's still a great race!

This year I am coming off a slight, but still nagging thigh/hamstring injury and am also cutting back to prepare for a Half-Ironman Triathlon in 2 weeks. Therefore, I am trying to put out a good effort, but I am also not pushing to 100% for the race. I open up with a 5 minute run-1 minute walk for the first 5 miles to make sure my heart rate doesn't go too high. At the 5 mile mark, I am a bit slower than I would like by about 2 minutes, but I am feeling good and my heart rate is where I want it. Since I was not feeling any issues with the thigh or hamstring, my plan was to increase to 7-1 for the walk-run ratio (and I also experiment with pushing my pace a bit faster, too). I cross the finish line with a 5 minute negative split break my 2 year old PR as well, but best of all I am feeling good and did not harm the earlier injuries.

I just love this event and it has a great post-race party as well. Below are photos of me from this year and 2 years ago (I did not run the Ten for Texas last year as it was rescheduled to the same week as the San Antonio Marathon due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.)

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Here I am at the 2007 Ten for Texas cresting the hill just after mile 9.


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Here I am at the 2009 Ten for Texas coming up to the Mile 9 aid station.


Now it's time to start resting and preparing for the Longhorn Triathlon on October 25th!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Weekend Away

This past weekend my wife (Darcy) and I finally scheduled a getaway weekend to celebrate our anniversary--which is in April!--but at least we did get away for a bit. I did squeeze in a weekend bike ride of just over 30 miles (when did that start to seem like a short ride to me???) while she finished off a few items of her own, and then we were off for the weekend.

We were staying at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston and this was a nice, though not overly fancy hotel. (It was definitely worth much more than the $60/night we paid on Priceline!) Here's a picture from our 21st floor room.
It even turned out that the University of Houston football team was at the Hyatt before their late game Saturday night. We did a little minor sight-seeing and shopping in the downtown area and then headed to Minute Maid Park to see the Astros game. Unfortunately, the Astros have not been doing very well this year and this game was no different as they lost 10-4. However, we still had a good time. We sat in the front row of the outfield upper deck and felt close to the game. Unfortunately, my camera battery died after just one photo of the Home Run Gas Pump in the outfield so I didn't get any photos of some of the interesting aspects of the game or stadium.

One of the good things was that the game started early and ended early enough to have time to do more.

We hop on the return shuttle to the Hyatt and catch the early part of the University of Houston-Texas Tech football game for a bit. We then decided we were hungry and did a bit of downtown exploration in the area, finding a few nice restaurants and clubs open. Not feeling quite in a club mood tonight, we get some Mexican food and sit near the bar and watch the middle part of the UH-Tech football game, which is a very good game; even though Tech was leading when we left the UH Cougars had just scored and were just 1 point behind. We walked back to our hotel while exploring a small outdoor mall in that local area and then back to the hotel again. We continue to watch the football game until just after midnight, when my UH Cougars pull off their second straight big victory by beating Texas Tech 29-28!

Then Sunday, we sleep in and spend a restful day in Houston doing a whole lot of nothing, I go out to grab a light breakfast to bring back to the room. We leave Houston and head to Old Town Spring on the way home. We grab lunch at the Wunsche Brothers Cafe, a rebuilt cafe from the old railroad days of the area.

For lunch I order the German sausage sandwich, which was covered in a mountain of sauerkraut, and Darcy orders the cheeseburger, and we share a basket of onion rings.


Following lunch we walk around a Lone Star Rod Run event in the Old Town Spring area and look at a number of interesting vehicles in various stages of restoration.




Afterwards, we head home after spending a nice weekend together, something we really don't do quite often enough.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 Tour de Cure - Houston

Tour de Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 43 states nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association. The Tour is a ride, not a race, with routes designed for everyone from the occasional rider to the experienced cyclist. Whether participants ride 10 miles or 100 miles*, they will travel a route supported from start to finish with rest stops, food to fuel the journey and fans to cheer them on!
Last year, more than 40,000 cyclists in 80 Tour events raised nearly $17 million to support the mission of the ADA: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

This weekend I participated in the Houston Tour de Cure Event in the Katy area, well west of Houston. We started out at 8AM and I finished just before noon. Unfortunately the 64 mile course was shortened by a few miles due to a late detour because of a bridge out of service for repair, so the course was shortened to somewhere between 59 and 60 miles, but I won't complain too much about that.
The weather was great--it was overcast with a slight breeze (and occasionally a decent headwind!) and then temps probably never got over the low 80 range during the ride period. Ride support was great and fortunately I never needed assistance, but I saw the trucks frequently all over the course. I stopped at 3 of the 5 aid stations so that added about 15 - 20 minutes to my total time, but I was more in training mode than racing mode. Along the way I struck up several conversations with fellow riders, including with one woman who lives in my immediate area (which is about an 80 minute drive from the event). The route started way west of Houston and we spent more time in farmland areas than in "civilization", there were areas with more cows than traffic and more feed stores than fast food restaurants. All in all it was successful event and I was also happy to exceed my fundraising goal and raised $300 for the event by race day. The only downside for me was that I forgot to bring my camera and my cellphone photos really didn't quite come out right in the lower light of the overcast day.

This was also likely going to be my longest tune-up ride for next month's Longhorn Half Ironman 70.3 event because of scheduling issues, although I will get several more rides in the 35 - 45 mile range in. All in all I found this ride to a successful training ride and while I would have ridden a bit faster and made less stops in a race or even a hard training ride, I still rode at a pace that met my minimum race goal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just Keep Moving...

Lately it seems everyone is doing something more productive than me. I've got friends going to Disneyland, I've got friends at Disneyworld, I've got friends in the Austin Triathlon...and I am just training. I suppose I should be glad I just have a goal.

I have continued to ramp up my training for the October 25th Longhorn Half-Ironman in Austin. I have swam the 1.2 mile distance twice now. So far my longest bike ride still falls a few miles short of equalling the 56 mile half-iron bike distance, but I plan to fix that this weekend by riding the 60 mile option in the Tour de Cure bike ride for the American Diabetes Association. The 13.1 mile run distance has never seemed an issue to me as I have many times done that distance or greater. My main issue is putting them together on the same day, which is obviously the big challenge of the triathlon. While I am not completely sure that I am ready right now for the half-iron distance, I am quite sure that come October 25 I will be!

Today has also been a bit of a somber day for me. Today would have been the 21st birthday of my daughter Amanda's friend (and a long-time family friend) Allison , about whom I wrote previously. I did manage to go spend a bit of time to talk with Allison's mother today and tried to remember Allison in other ways as well. In some ways I am still shaken by this event (and it seems tears are not too far away when I dwell upon it), and while there is nothing I can do about it I know my daughter still hurts terribly over this, and probably always will in some way. If you have children at home, hug them one more time today just because you can (and you may not always be able to!).

(Final Note: As I was proofing this post, a Taylor Swift song came on the radio. The ever present reminder that Allison and Amanda were on the way to a Taylor swift concert at the time the were hit by the other vehicle, and the same song that was playing when I first knew that Allison was not going to survive.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The New Bike

This weekend I took my new bike on its first ride. After 2.5 miles I was approaching Flintridge, which was the first area that I could really open up and see what I could do on this bike. Then right before I crossed I got a flat rear tire. After pulling over and messing with it for about 30 minutes I could only get the replacement tube partly pressured up. So, I turned around and slowly rode home with a sad 5.1 miles.

After some extra review time, and a trip back to the bike store, I realized that my new hand pump for my bike didn't quite work right (or at least not as expected), but at least I got home without incident. I did get some more extra tubes and CO2 cylinders for future use, and practiced using them on the old tube so I would not get stuck again.

Then I went on with my Saturday which was filled with many (many, many,...) trips up and down stairs as I moved my daughter from a 3rd story apartment to a 2nd story apartment closer to school. I would later decide that this counted as my weekend running and hill training.














Fast forward to Sunday and I go out on my ride again with a bit of trepidation. This time my ride is largely without incident. My new Fuji is much lighter than my old bike and I could feel it, especially as I flew down hills with much less effort than before. Perhaps my biggest surprise is that I did not once fall over using the new clipless pedal system for the first time--I'll give credit here to Chris at Performance Bike who let me have some practice time while safely on a trainer before I left the store. I finished 26 miles with ease this morning and was wanting more, but lacked the time today. I look forward to going for a nice long ride next weekend to really test out the new bike.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Mis"-Adventures at the Clear Lake Olympic Distance Triathlon

I had my adventure-
-or should I say misadventures--at the Clear Lake City International Triathlon yesterday.

I had to race down after work on Friday to try to grab a packet at the packet resell following packet pickup because I just missed out on regular registration when the race filled up early. In any case, I got down there and was able to get a packet. Then I endured the driving rain and a lightning storm of the way back home (about 50 miles). After I got home there was some nighttime rushing about as I prepared all my stuff for the race.

I had no problems getting up and travelling down to the race site on Saturday morning. After getting down there it did not take too long to get situated in transition and get my timing chip and marking done. Then began the misadventures of the day...

While getting into the water for the open water swim, I stepped on some rocks in the water along the "path" they had supposedly cleared for us. They put down some type of mats to walk on for a bit but these did not cover the sharp rocks which cut my right foot in two places, later that night I would realize that one gash was into the foot and was probably bleeding for a while but the second was just superficial. Other than that I was generally happy with the swim. I am not a fast swimmer, but after a bit I felt I got into a groove and swam along comfortably, although I did get off course a few times when I made the mistake of following other swimmers instead of trying to sight the course myself. In the end, I finished around my goal time or a bit better on the swim.

I took a little time in transition to make sure I had everything just right and headed out on the bike (and a very good transition location that was practically next to one entry/exit and was close to the other one). The bike ride started off well enough as it took us a bit through town, then we turned and head toward what looked like a huge bridge. After that it was fairly level ground for pretty much the rest of the race. Around mile 14 my troubles on the bike started...up until now I was riding well, and keep ahead of my goal pace. Miles 14 - 16 (based on their course map) were on a very rough road that, in my opinion, was not suitable for an event such as this. It was very rough and uneven, I think a cobblestone path might have been better. In this 2 mile stretch I passed quite a few bikes that had pulled over with flat tires (after seeing only 1 earlier in the race). As I got near the end of this stretch, my rear tire blew out. After spending some time fixing it and getting going, I lost the tire again. This time I saw the hole blown out from the tube through the tire--probably from the first flat. As I stood around wondering what to do next the bike support truck showed up. They replaced my tire and tube (and with a nicer tire than I had before!) and got me going again. I walked the rest of the way off this road (not very far at this point) and remounted at the next intersection and continued the ride. I had a bit of a tough time getting going again and never quite got back to the speed I maintained before. A couple of miles up the Olympic course merged back in with the sprint course, and then we headed back to the park. My plan was to take it a bit easier on the bike for the last 15 minutes or so, but the 40 minutes off the bike due to the tire issues had left me far behind and thrown me off plan. So I pushed myself to the end of the bike, fearing that I might miss a cutoff time to start the run. In retrospect this may have caused me some issues into the run.

Since my race was already pretty much shot, I moved a bit more slowly through transition to rest a bit at the same time, then I went out on the run. My run started well enough, sure it was hot and sunny by then and I was doing a 4/1 run/walk to keep from overtaxing myself but I was feeling fine doing the first 2 miles in just over 25 minutes. A short bit later however, I started feeling cramps and the walking was eventually more than the running. I tried to alter my nutrition to see if this would help. I passed a few people along the way who were coming back on the run who encouraged me, I can only imagine that I looked as bad as they did! At the turn-around they were discussing on the radio whether or not I was the last runner (I know there were some bikes that had still been behind me, but I guess they chose to drop out.) I would later cross paths with another runner heading out towards the turn-around point but was not sure if he was in the race or not. All the aid station workers were very friendly and helpful on the course and had words of encouragement for me. Nearer to the end of the run (the last 2 miles or so) I was able to start increasing my running compared to walking again, so I think taking in more Gatorade and some Endurolyte capsules on the run helped fight back those cramps. Also the cuts on my foot did not affect me as much as I might have expected, especially after seeing them later and cleaning out one of those cuts.

As I made it back I noticed that the transition area had been pretty much cleared out by then and they had started the awards ceremony. I did cross the finish line in 4:29, about 30 minutes after my goal of finishing in the 3.5 to 4 hour range, which I could have easily done had it not been for all my little side issues along the way. I know that few events go perfectly, but this one just seemed like a tragic joke along the way. I do feel good about a number of things that came out of this race:
1. I did finish, which was my main goal--it just took much longer than I ecpected.
2. I learned that I could handle all these problems coming up during the event and still finish.
3. I did not give up. Even if I only beat the guys that dropped out, I still beat them.
4. I learned a few things about race nutrition that I will use to help me on my next longer triathlon.
5. It might be hard to believe after reading this but I did enjoy the event, not during the trouble spots, but as a whole I am still glad to have done it.
6. I did not lose as much weight as I expected during the event, making me believe I need to increase my intake earlier to avoid a repeat of the run-cramping issues for better overall nutrition.
7. Finally, I learned that while I may not be ready for my half-ironman race in late October, I still think I can get there as I continue to advance my training to where I want to be.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bike, Run, Bike

Another hot weekend here, at least now it's supposed to be this hot as opposed to unseasonably warm--still 100 degree days do not make for fun running days. In preparation for the upcoming Half Ironman (and for a bit of variety) I did my running and biking for a big one day brick workout.

I biked over to my friend Missy's house, then we ran, then I biked back home. The first bike leg was only 7 miles, I had wanted to do more, but time was becoming an issue and I did not want to be late for our meeting time. Then we did about 8.4 miles (including a bit of warmup and cooldown walking--8.12 miles running). It started out feeling fine, but warmed up in a hurry. It was not too long before we felt we were in a muggy soup out there. Still we pushed the pace and got a good workout, even running a negative split for our overall run. Finally, I rode a much less direct route back home with another 12.1 miles. Since I was not going for a long distance, I made sure to try to push my pace a bit, especially through the hills of Flintridge Drive--I know these are not nearly as bad as what I will find in Austin in October, but it is what I have to train with here for now.

Overall, it was a good workout for a warm, humid morning. Next week I'll be back to my Saturday long bike in the 30 to 40 mile range and my Sunday long run around 8 miles again, but for this weekend I liked the change of pace. This freed up Sunday for some real rest, and a chance for a lunch meeting Sunday with the parents of my oldest daughter's college roommate.

I also learned that it's time for a new pair of running shoes with this run as I felt that faint, but familiar, soreness that comes with wearing out the shoes. So it's time to rotate the Saucony's out, and the Asics up to the #1 spot, and shop for another pair. We'll see whether Asics or Saucony has a shoe that fits me better this time out. I do not like that the manufacturers muddle with their shoe designs, but I am thankful that I am generally happy with more than one shoe type on the market.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Longhorn 70.3

Right now I seem to be better at registering for events than actually doing them....

Today I registered for the Longhorn Half Ironman event on October 25th. I am not going into the event with any special expectations. It will be my first attempt at the half iron distance and I am really looking forward to it even though it is only just under 3 months away at this point.

My expectations at Longhorn 70.3 are similar to my Disney Marathon expectations:
1. Have a good time, and
2. Finish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walt Disney World Marathon

Last Friday I registered for the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon. I have have just 2 goals for this marathon:

1. Have a good time - I do plan on stopping for pretty much any excuse for a photo op during the race! I have some friends doing the event, so maybe we can make it a travelling party on running shoes.
2. Finish - No time goal, just finish.

Strangely enough, although I have done the 50K distance, I have not yet run a marathon. Leave it to me to do things out of order!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Y Freedom Tri

Last weekend I participated in the Y Freedom Tri in Pearland, Texas. I thought it was a generally well-run event and I am glad to be able to say that I found the overall experience enjoyable.

Saturday afternoon, I went down to pick up my race packet and to find the event site. Packet pickup was at the local YMCA, and it was quick and easy. The race site was not far away, being located at a local park with auto parking at the nearby high school. Later on I met my daughter for dinner. We went to MooYah for burgers. MooYah is down the road from her apartment and specializes in burgers and shakes. We both enjoyed our burgers, although I had PowerAde to drink. I normally try to eat healthier than burgers, but I do try to enjoy something special as a personal reward when I am travelling to an event.
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Sunday morning, I got up early at the Pearland La Quinta hotel and headed towards the event site. As I was packing up my bike I saw a couple others doing the same thing, so I was not the only triathlete staying at the hotel for this event. On the drive I noticed a store sign showing the current temperature to be 81ยบ F at around 545AM, but I already knew that it was going to be a hot day. Although parking was a bit of a walking trip from the event site, it was not a bad walk. Transition setup and chip pickup were both quick and easy.

The swim was a 300 meter pool swim, with contestants seeded by expected finishing time and starting at 10 second intervals. I finished right at my expected time and was passed by one swimmer and passed three others. I probably could have been faster in an open water swim, but everyone except maybe the first couple swimmers is limited by everyone else in the pool as well.

The bike was 12 miles throughout the local area. I found the bike course largely unremarkable as it was pretty much a standard residential area. Due to the route, we made several U-turns as we rode throughout the community, which slowed down the pace a bit at times.

The run was 3 miles leaving the park in the opposite direction from the bike. The run went through the neighboring subdivision and several local residents were out cheering on the runners. I was very happy that a few were out with their hoses offering to spray down the hot runners. Shortly after I started running I noticed my heart rate was around 85% of maximum, so I started doing a 3 minute run/1 minute walk to keep from overtaxing myself. In the end I figure the heat probably cost me about 3-4 minutes, but then again all the runners had to deal with the same heat, so while it affected my time, it really shouldn’t have affected my finishing position.
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At the finish line I was given a cold, wet towel to use to help cool down and a nice finisher’s medal. The post race party had plenty of food and drink, and even ice cream. After a while the final finishers were coming in, including “Lady Liberty” who was the designated final finisher.
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After the race, I took full advantage of La Quinta’s 12 Noon checkout time to clean up. (This was a very nice La Quinta and if I come back, I would stay here again.) Then my daughter and I went to Red Robin, where I had the steak sliders and she had a teriyaki chicken sandwich.

Overall, even with the unusually hot weather, I still had a good time and would recommend this event other triathletes. It would be a good event for first-timers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend Olympic Tri Training

I decided to use this weekend to be my "official" start of preparing for a late summer Olympic distance triathlon, which will either be in Austin on Labor Day or in Clear Lake City (home of the Johnson Space Center, aka NASA) 2 weekends earlier. The final decision on which I will do will be based around my work and home schedule, at the moment each is somewhat convenient for several reasons. So I started by doing each event's distance (or greater) on one day this long weekend--even if I did go out of order for my convenience.

An Olympic distance triathlon is a 1500 meter swim, 40 K bike and a 10 K run (or in English measurements, approximately 1640 yard swim/24.8 mile bike/6.2 mile run).

Saturday, I did my weekly (more or less) longer bike ride and did 26.5 miles. Sunday, I met with my local running club and did 6.3 miles. Finally Monday, I went my gym and swam 1700 yards, which was my goal for the day. I did think of doing more for a while, but it was getting near to the start of a water aerobics class and they would have chased me out soon, so I chose to stop at 1700 yards, which is easily my longest swim of the year (I have done 1200 yards several times this year.).

I am planning on spending a big chunk of time on Memorial Day doing some work around the house. My family also enjoyed lunch (and maybe dinner to come) grilled out on the backyard deck today.

I will also find some time in there to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day. I would like to express my thanks to all my fellow U.S. military veterans for their sacrifices to keep this country safe.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hog's Hunt 25K

Today was the Hog's Hunt 25/50K Trail Races in Huntsville State Park. I ran the 25K race this morning, even though I really hadn't quite properly trained for this distance I have been looking forward to this event for the last two months. Last year I ran this race in 4:46:45, a lot slower than I might otherwise have run due to a foot injury which caused me to walk about half the course. My PR for 25K trail runs was set in the Rocky Raccoon 25K (same course for a November race date) at 3:46:26.

This morning I started out walking the first mile with a friend who was walking the complete event. We walked this mile in just under 16 minutes. Then I started running the event on my own. Starting out slow gave me the opportunity to pass quite a few runners steadily during the event. My general goals was to do a run 4 minutes then walk 1 minute schedule, while also walking on the steeper uphill portions. Overall this worked well for me as I ran a comfortable 12-13 minute per mile pace for the first 10 miles. In mile 11 I was running low on water as I got to a water cooler only aid station. Unfortunately, the cooler was nearly empty and no one was around it. I get a few ounces of water and knowing another aid station was about 1.5 miles ahead, I pressed on. (I would later learn they were in the process of bringing water back to the cooler at this time.) As I ran out of water I reverted to my backup plan which was to only walked until I reached the aid station to resupply, which I did after about another half mile. I was feeling pretty good again--for about a half mile--when I get a bad muscle spasm in my inside right calf. I looked down to see a big tight ball of muscle and an "empty" spot between the spasming muscle and the next muscle. I spend some time massaging the muscle and then start walking for a bit, when I feel up to it I start running some more. Another quarter mile and I get another spasm on my inside right thigh. Again stop, massage, walk, and resume running some. I took it a bit easier on my running, but another (maybe) half mile later the calf spasms return stronger. Again with the stop, massage, walk, and start to run. At this point I mix in walking and running based on feel so as to not overstress the right leg muscles any more than I need to and definitely only walk up all hills. That (slowly) gets me to about the 14.5 mile point. From there I try to push my pace a bit to keep up with some runners who had caught me--and I did stay with then for most of the rest of the race until they sprinted to the finish.

I finish in 3:37:48 on my watch, although the official time will be a bit longer as I took my time to pass over the start line (not a chip-timed race), so I figure I came in around 3:39:00. This is a 1 hour plus improvement over last year's injury-affected time and a 7 minute or so PR for me for 25K trail race course.

All in all, I am a bit disappointed in having the muscle spasms keep me from beating 3 1/2 hours, but I can't really complain too much when I set a new PR. Today's weather was fair to warm, but not too warm. The race staff and volunteers did a good job and things seemed to run pretty well. I suppose I am already starting to think about how I can improve for the next time. After the race, I got to sit with some friends (both old and new friends--new friends always add so much to the experience!!, and one special friend who I've known for a short while but only today got to meet in person) from The Woodlands Running Club for a while and root for the rest of the finishers.

To what do I blame my cramping issues? Preparation - meaning I had not run more than 10 miles since February, although it's not like I haven't been training at all, just not for that distance. Nutrition - My race nutrition consisted of taking 1 Cliff Block every 1.5 miles, excepting where I got to an aid station, and then taking in a variety of food at the aid stations. I drank mostly water on the run and Gatorade or Heed at the aid stations. Even with taking in all that I estimate I lost 4-5 lbs during the event. I also chose not to take my Endurolyte capsules with me since it was not quite as warm as I was originally expecting, and in hindsight I expect having them would have helped me out. I suppose I will learn form this and be a little better prepared for next time by keeping more stuff with me (i.e. extra gels, E-caps, etc... in my running bad). I have noticed it seems I bring more stuff with me to each trail event I attend, and if what my friends brought is any example that trend is likely to continue for me as well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

YMCA 5K Trail Run

I made a late decision this week to run the 5K Trail Run at one of the local YMCA's.

This morning was quite warm and humid, and I was sweating well before the race ever started. I decided to only put out an easier level of effort on this race and not push myself too hard. Even so I was still pressed to run a slower, but not too slow, pace today. I felt so worn down by the heat and humidity, I ran this 5K about 30 seconds slower than the 5K at the end of last week's triathlon.

I'll start looking forward to taking an easy pace on next week's Hog's Hunt 25K in Huntsville (TX).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

CB&I Triathlon

First off, this was the 6th year for this race and it appeared to be well run and well coordinated with the local community.

I racked my bike in the transition area Friday evening with no problems. (Doesn't my bike look a little lonely at this point?)

I also arrived early race morning to set up my stuff in transition, also no problems there. I found some friends from some races last fall and winter, and chatted with them for awhile before finishing my preparations

I was in the second wave and started out slow so I didn't get caught in the mass of swimmers in the lake before I really took off with the wave. I did have an occasional problem with contact with other swimmers, but nothing serious. The transition area was well-organized and caused no issues for me, I also had what I felt was a good transition area location and had no problems with the exit/entry points. The bike route was good and traffic control was excellent, I never once had to so much as slow down for or worry about road traffic. Another rider from my wave and I were pretty much moving at the same pace and leapfrogged each other every couple miles, finishing the bike at the same time. The run was a slightly new course this year (although I hadn't run this event before I had volunteered for it) but it was a nice out and back, looping through a new community. I saw several friends of mine volunteering during the run portion, so I was well-cheered for during the run.



Here's a photo of me snapped by a friend just after I entered the run course.




I'm not one to be confused with a speedster, and I finished well back in my age group, but I did beat my personal goals for each of the 500 meter swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run events. My stated goal for the race was to be under 2 hours, and I had really hoped to beat 1:50:00. In the end, my official finishing time was 1:43:54.5!
Afterwards, the post-race food and party was definitely better than average (at least the average of my experiences), and I got to sit around with my friends some more and discuss the course, future events and other stuff like that.

Looking back over the whole event, I am really excited about moving forward into other triathlons. I have generally not been very confident of my swimming skills, but I did just fine in my first event with a (somewhat) crowded open water swim. I really had not been quite properly prepared on my bike, but I still posted a time better than I expected, and I have certainly have lots of room for improvement on the bike. I felt strong on my run and was able to run and maintain a solid pace for the run, I hadn't expected to still feel strong by this point. I feel good about this as part of my overall endurance and expect my triathlon run time to improve as I also improve my run time in general.

I had a great time at the CB&I Tri and I can't wait for my next one!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

CB&I Triathlon Open Water Swim Practice

Yesterday was the open water swimming practice session for next weekend's CB&I Triathlon in The Woodlands, Texas. This will also be my first triathlon with an open water swim like this one, so I made a point to take the time to make the practice swim on the course (and it didn't hurt that I live about 2 miles from the lake!!)

Fortunately, it didn't take too long to get used to the water. The water temperature was said to be 75 degrees, which felt a bit cool at first, but was about perfect once I got moving. The main difference for me over my normal pool swimming was getting used to having to look out of the water to see where I was going, but that wasn't too bad. I think my biggest problem this Saturday will be overcoming the urge to swim too fast, but we'll see what happens.

A nice surprise was that I was spotted by a friend from two past events, last December's Lakes of Williams Ranch 30K and last February's Austin Half Marathon. Ingrid spotted me as I obliviously walked right by her--my wife would be the first to tell anyone that I often miss things that way--but I was glad she got my attention so we could talk for a moment. Unfortunately, I never got to see her again at the swim, which was not surprising given the number of people there.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hail??

OK, this is just a quick post but felt I had to add it. I got up to go on an early bike ride today as it has been a month since I've taken my bike out and I have that CB&I triathlon coming up and all... Anyway, knowing there is rainy weather coming I check the weather radar and figure that the storms are about 2 1/2 to 3 hours away, and then I head out.

About 1.5 miles down the road, I start to feel some rain drops and I start thinking that there must be a few small pockets of rain out there. Then the drops start to sting and make noises as they hit my helmet. That's about when I notice the pea-sized pellets of hail starting to come down. Fortunately, I am near a neighborhood park and I quickly turn around and take cover as the hail continues off and on for the 10 - 15 minutes.

After waiting for those 10 - 15 minutes, the rain also clears outwith the hail and I go about my ride for the morning before coming home, cleaning up my bike and myself, and then take my wife out for breakfast.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Render Unto Caesar...

I made a late trip to the post office this evening to drop an envelope into the mail to the Internal Revenue Service, the modern day equivalent of rendering unto Caesar. Maybe I am being just a little overly dramatic, but then again the federal government doesn't seem to take my opinion into account when they spend my money--and that seems to be regardless of whoever is in the White House at the time.



Also, I just found out recently that Sun Mart is no longer putting on the Sun Mart 50K/50 Mile event in December. I am very disappointed that I will not be able to run it again. I did not run it last year as I my training was not quite there at that point (and it was on my birthday), but I had already put it on my planning schedule at the beginning of this year and was expecting a great time out the whole experience. I am glad I did this event in 2007. It still ranks as my worst event performance (largely due to an injury), but my favorite event experience!



I feel like I was the last to find out, although I suspect that is hardly the case.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Meeting Laura Wilkinson

Meeting Laura Wilkinson was very cool!!
Wouldn't my daughters be embarrassed by me using that phrase?

Back on April 1st, which now seems so long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Olympic Gold Medalist Diving Champion, Laura Wilkinson. I was attending the local Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon meeting, where she was the guest speaker. She gave an inspirational story of her leaving college [OK, that's normally not so inspirational by itself] and giving up her scholarship to pursue her Olympic dream while training at the Woodlands Athletic Center (practically around the corner from me!). About 3 months before her first U.S. Olympic Trials, she broke her foot and lost most of her training time not to mention dealing with the bone setting wrong! Most of her training during this period was mental through visualization and preparatory training, plus watching films of her dives. In the end she scored first place at the US Olympic Trials, and the rest is history. She then talked about her fears today as she was transitioning to a life as a non-diver, through her foundation to build a facility (in the local area) to replace the now torn down Woodlands Athletic Center and to help train divers, as well as gymnastic and trampoline athletes--because they all use similar skill sets the thought is that one discipline's training will complement another.

After the lunch she took more questions than I had ever seen another speaker at the Chamber ever take before, and I've probably been to around 20 or more of these. After the event was over she stayed around and talked with people. After about 20 minutes of chatting with others, I walked over and introduced myself, and thanked her for coming out to speak. I thanked her for telling her inspirational story, and told her that I hoped that her future would prove to be even more successful and inspirational one day than her past has proved to be. I also told her that I could identify with her career change as I had 2 years ago changed my career path significantly and felt I was the better for it. Then she asked me several questions about what I did and how I handled those changes. Photobucket As I was finishing up and thanked her again, she offered my her 2000 gold medal and asked if I would like to hold it and look at it up close, and I could see in her eyes she genuinely meant it--she was not just going through the motions to have a good image. I had noticed before that a friend of mine with the Chamber was also near and had a camera, so I asked if I could get a photo taken. She smailed and took the medal and place it over my head and put her arm around me--and told me to hold up the medal as if I had won it! The most wonderful feeling came over me at that moment, probably partly due to all that I have been through recently, but also because I would never have asked for that, and would not have expected her to do it without prompting. Photobucket I had seen her show others the medal earlier and allowed them to wear it, and I know she probably has done this many, many, many times over the years, but I was just there to see her, and for her to show me that kindness and make me feel connected to her as if I was the most important person in her world for that instant really made me feel good for the first time in many days!! Photobucket
I am not easily impressed by people on a snap judgement, but she impressed me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Muddy Trails 5K with a 5K PR!!

It turned out that the race started at 4 in the afternoon, which is a bit unusual, but fitting with the after-race events. Not long after I arrive I hear my name called and see my friend John and his son, and a short time later the rest of his family comes up, with some others who drove into town for the weekend. This is John and I in the photo as we are looking into the sun and wind.
John and Richard

The afternoon is a bit warm, so I figure conditions are not great for a good running time but I do resolve to have a good time while running. The race starts out on a road but hits a wide running trail in about a 1/4 mile or so. While getting near 1 mile, my side was hurting a bit because of the effort, but I hit the first mile in 9:20, which is definitely fast for me, and faster than I should be running. After this I throw in a 30 - 45 second walk break about every 5 minutes or so. I figure I am doing OK, but not my best, so I hope for a time in the 32 - 34 minute range. As I come near the end and the finish line comes into sight, the clock is crossing 30 minutes and I coast across in 30:20, getting a new PR by 50 seconds and I was cheered across by my friends and their family. Here's a photo of me crossing the finish line.




After the race all runners get huge plates of crawfish, Muddy Trails 5K plus any other concession type food is available to all for a reasonable cost and a live band play zydeco music. After a time we learn John finished first master's male finisher, and we explain to his wife (Carol) how that is better than first place in the age division (which he otherwise won by 2 minutes). I had a great time with my friends and their family, it was nice being with them all in a happier setting from recent times. After 90 minutes or so, we leave and I am invited back to their house for drinks, s'mores and conversation around a small backyard bonfire before leaving around 11 that night to make the short drive home (we live in the same community).

It turned out to be my best day in a long time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

...onward...

With a blog name like Running Into Life, I expected to be writing more about my running activities and less about life. At least until that phone call that changed so much back on March 20th. This has been one time when life has smacked me around hard--and as bad as my family has been hurt, we didn't get the worst of it. I think this is going to haunt me for some time. However, life goes on for the rest of us--and that is something I would expect Allison would be first to tell us. It is certainly something that Allison's parents have let my daughter know.

I had planned to attend the Lone Star Triathlon in Galveston this coming weekend to cheer on some friends, but I have since decided that I will not be doing so. I will spend the time closer to home with friends and family locally. I have also signed up for a local race, the Muddy Trails 5K, which is on April 4th. This race will also by run by a number of friends locally. After that, I can turn my attention to preparing for the CB&I Triathlon in The Woodlands in early May and the Hog's Hunt 25K Trail Run in Huntsville, TX in mid-May.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Allison

This has been a tough week for us and I will put aside my various training comments to engage in a bit of self-therapy and recognition.

Last Friday, around 7PM, while travelling to the Houston Rodeo to see the Taylor Swift concert, my daughter and her friend Allison were involved in a terrible collision--while stopped in traffic my daughter's Chevrolet Impala was struck from behind by a Ford F-250 pickup truck at a high speed (I have been told that the on site officer said over 55 mph and the wrecker driver believed it was more like at least 80 mph, although I only really learned the extent of the damage late the following day). The damage was extensive, the rear end of the car no longer exists, the trunk was crushed and pushed into the back seat, and the back seat pushed up and against the front seat. My daughter walked away from the vehicle badly shaken up and with no real injuries. However, Allison was knocked unconscious and transported to the hospital.

My wife and I, plus Allison's parents shortly thereafter, met up with Amanda at the hospital about 8:30 PM. [We would later have to take Amanda to another hospital to be seen more quickly, since she was not considered to be seriously injured she was placed at the back of the busy ER line after being ignored for several hours by the ER staff.] For the next several hours we were given isolated bits of information while Allison was scanned, examined, etc..., and we waited anxiously for real news. Given my daughter's condition, we were not expecting, nor were we prepared for the news regarding the severity of Allison's injuries. Going into detail beyond this is too painful, but suffice it to say she was in a deep coma and never woke up. Less than 24 hours later she was gone.

I wish to honor Allison here by letting everyone who reads this know that she was a great girl, who became a wonderful young woman during the years she was one of my daughter's best friends, and was a friend of the whole family. I suppose one of the best things that I can say about her is that she is the person you want your children to be friends with. Many people say wonderful things about people after their passing, but in Allison's case none of the stories are exaggerated, she really was that good!



I am sure she would appreciate that at least five patients have received her organs and will hopefully go on to lead full lives due to her passing. I know that she would be happy to know that Amanda survived relatively uninjured (even though Amanda has had a tough time reconciling guilt over being the survivor, and I am having trouble reconciling how I get to take my daughter home while Allison will never go home again).

Allison's story was the subject of this front page article in the local newspaper: http://www.hcnonline.com/articles/2009/03/23/conroe_courier/news/fatal0323.txt
I really appreciated that her family took steps not to name my daughter to protect her from attention in this tough time. Her family has been so wonderful to mine, and they have gone to great length to make sure Amanda is going to be fine, I can see that Allison learned her strength of character from some very fine parents.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring Fever 5K

The Spring Fever 5K is a very nice local event in The Woodlands [very local, as in 3 miles from my house!]. It is a generally well-run event that goes through a very nice neighborhood locally.

This year it seemed that the event was a little smaller. In truth although the were about 100 fewer runners than in 2007, there were still about 60 runners more than in 2008 (when the race conflicted with another popular Houston area race). So, I can't really say whether it really was smaller, or just seemed that way.

The course is a mostly-flat circle, ending at the same park where it started. They had water stops at mile 1.0 and mile 2.0, which were well-manned and well-operated. My only real complaint is that the weather was 15-20 degrees higher than I would have liked on an unseasonably warm morning.

This being my third year to run this particular event, I was looking to set a new PR. My 5K PR time was set at this same race last year in 33:19. This year I cut over 2 minutes off of last year's time with my run of 31:09 (not to mention trimming more than 7 1/2 minutes from 2007's time of 38:45 in this race); meaning I not only set a new PR, but I am now in definite striking range of reaching my long-term goal of going under 30 minutes in the 5K!

To round out the event experience, I won a $25 gift certificate in a post-race drawing to my local running store, Luke's Locker! (A nice surprise since I pretty much never win anything!) Best of all my nephew, William, finished 3rd boy in the kids 1 mile race!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Assessments

Being in between several events--athletic or just life--this seemed like a good time to assess how some items have been going.

First off, last weekend's half marathon in Austin. I started well and kept a generally consistent pace through (approximately) the first 10 miles. Somewhere in that area I started experiencing some sort of muscle spasms or cramps on any uphill portions, which had to be walked, although level ground and downhills could still be run. This resulted in 2 extra minutes per mile over that stretch. I did not make any special preparations for this race, such as hill training, which might have helped me out on the back end. One unusual thing for me happened, usually I am limited by my heart rate, but my heart rate was not a problem this race--it was my legs that were the limiting factor for me. In the end, although I had hoped for a slightly better time, I felt like I got the best result I was going to get on this race and was happy with my effort.

Second, I had made it through last year with some ups and downs on my weight. I gained 10 lbs by mid-May, then lost 40 lbs by Thanksgiving. At that point I went off diet not trying to be too stringent during my favorite time of the year. Unfortunately, I let this period extend well into January and gained over 10 lbs back. Presently, I am within 7 lbs of last November's low point and back on track (getting back under 230 lbs today). We'll see if I can keep up with the progress here, fortunately progress in this area is self-motivating for me (at least in that seeing some weight loss motivates me to continue trying to lose more).

It is perhaps fitting that I ate 3 Girl Scout cookies after typing that last paragraph.

Third, how is my training going? I had toned down my mileage a bit after Houston in favor of cross-training for other events. I had wondered if this would hurt me in Austin, but I do not feel that it did, if anything it may have helped me beyond just run training. I made my longest bike ride of the year this morning (25 miles) and my swim time has improved by more than 2 1/2 minutes per 1000 yard swim since the beginning of the year. My actual time for these other sports would be nothing special to many I know, but they do represent a good step forward for me. In the coming weeks I'll continue to increase the bike and swim distances to advance myself. In running I am thinking of concentrating my efforts at increasing my speed at shorter distances into the summer, at least before I start building back towards the fall/winter marathon season.

Finally, I need to keep in mind that I want to try to enjoy these activities. I had a blast in Austin last weekend and really enjoyed my run at Houston in January. Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for a morning run with the local running club (meeting at the local bagel shop)--sometimes my biggest fault at running might be having too much fun at the social part of the activity, but is it a problem if I enjoy running too much? (I think not!) Plus, I'll be able to get bagels when I am done! A couple of weeks ago I ran through an area of trails for the first time just to explore them. While biking, I have been exploring some of the farther reaches of my local area. For my racing events, I have been considering how much I would enjoy the event before I sign up...look at some of my coming events for this: San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon with a long weekend in San Antonio, Disneyworld Marathon [or maybe even the Goofy Challenge) is pretty self-explanatory, CB&I Triathlon came well-recommended to me, and the Spring Fever 5K always is a great neighborhood party. I think I have been keeping a positive mindset for my athletic endeavors.

All in all, I am pretty happy with where I am going right now and am enjoying the journey to get there. Now, if I can just put some distance between me and those cookies!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Austin Half Marathon

This past weekend I went to Austin for the Austin Half Marathon. Unfortunately, my early plans went awry due to having to work Saturday morning, meaning my daughter and I did not get to leave the Houston area until after eating lunch. Right after arriving in Austin, I called my friend Heather who drove by with a few other friends of hers who were also running the half marathon, then we drove to pick up one more and we all went to the expo for packet pickup. After the expo we stopped at a local pub for a drink (waters all around--don't say us runners can't aren't high-living big-spenders!) and a snack before dinner (OK, we might be big eaters!). Then off to the Spaghetti Warehouse for a large group dinner, and, finally, back to hotels/home to get some rest for the race in the morning.

I might have denied it a few times, but I was excited to be running the Austin course. I come to the city on business periodically, but have never deviated out of the basic areas I have had to go to. So, I was really looking forward to seeing some of the local sights, and just generally trying to have a great time. I had a little breakfast early (bread, half a Lara Bar, and a few gummy bears). Then I left the hotel and walked several blocks through downtown until I met up with Heather, her husband Jeff, and several other friends I had started to get to know this weekend (Ingrid, Cassie, Kim, Stephanie, Jane, Matt, sorry if I forgot other names). After a good while of intermittent talking, stretching, porta-potty breaks, etc... it was off to the start line, which had been delayed for about 10 minutes for unknown reasons.


This photo is of myself, Heather and Cassie as we were walking to the starting line with the Texas Capitol Building as the backdrop. I swiped this photo from Heather's Blog and it was taken by her husband Jeff.


Getting ready for the start I walked up with Heather and Cassie, learning that Cassie also wants to do the Disney marathon. It was nice to talk about 2 of my favorite topics--running and Disney--with a new friend. In the end Cassie moved closer to the front, being a much faster runner. Heather and I were left to run together, which worked out well since we were aiming for the same goal and have PRs about a minute apart. As we ran down the first 3 mile straightaway Heather pointed out several local sights; it doesn't surprise me that the ones I remember from that area are food related, especially finding the site of Hey Cupcake [where I took my daughter after the race for my second cupcake of the day!]. After about 3 miles of slight, but steady uphills we were only a few seconds off of goal pace and ready to enter a good downhill portion. Heather is really good at downhills and pulled me along in some areas. Just past the mile 4 marker I had to pull over to try to fix a shoe/sock issue from a developing hot spot I could fell on my left foot instep. This ended up developing into a thumbnail sized blister, but I did not feel it until after the race. I started back up after losing about 90 to 120 seconds I tried to catch up with Heather [running a 10:30 mile] but I just could not [I had told her not to wait for me, as she was running well and I would have hated to be responsible for her missing her goal by a slight amount] and so I went to my backup plan which was a 4:1 run:walk ratio. I then proceeded to try to run well and enjoy the run, and succeeded on both counts. Somewhere in mile 8 I managed to finally catch back up with Heather, having many time "found" her previously, but only to find out it was someone similarly dressed. From that point we ran a couple miles together again. By mile 10 I could tell that I was just on the edge of some cramping in my right calf, which is never a problem for me [Except for that other time I also ran with Heather in November. Hmmmm.....] and Heather was having some breathing issues while running, likely related to being sick recently. Around mile 11 I went ahead [OK people before anyone complains about abandoning a friend in need, I did know that she was fine before I left her.] I tried to run as much as I could, although I walked up this huge hill that seemed half a mile long to reenter downtown. After that point, neither calf would let me run uphill again, and when I tried they cramped and I only stumbled forward. So the last mile to mile and a half was walking the uphills and running the rest. My sprint to the end was not really a sprint, but I was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last 500 meters or so.

I ended up finishing in 2:40:16, which was 3:57 slower than the easier course in Houston last month. Overall, I had hoped for a faster time but I was satisfied with my effort. This was my 4th fastest half marathon of 9 attempts. It proved to be a great educational experience with all the hills, had I known the course ahead of time I never would have thought I would have expected a slower time.

Following the race was a post-race cupcake party put together by Heather while a number of us rested and chatted.

From the perspective of a couple days later, my calves aren't quite as sore as expected, however, my quadriceps are more sore than expected. Maybe that is just because I live and run in a flat area and don't have much first-hand experience with hills like on that course. What I did not expect were the 2 blisters I ended up with, one on each foot's instep. I did apply body glide to my feet and am sure I got that area. I am not sure if I can blame that one on the hills, socks, shoes, or whatever. I do know that I have never gotten blisters in those shoes and only once in those (or that type of) socks before now. Were the hills the difference maker on the blisters? I can't say right now. Finally, the area of soreness I didn't expect-- but maybe should have expected--was how sore my ankles are now. My ankle soreness is pretty close to what I feel after a long trail run (25K or more) when I have not been training on the trails. Of course the soreness is only temporary and not as bad as the positives I feel for the great time I had with friends and family.

I am already looking forward to next year...

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Race Registrations

In a feat of optimism--or maybe masochism--this week, I have registered in three upcoming races:
1. Spring Fever 5K on March 7.
2. CB&I Triathlon on May 2.
3. Rock'n Roll Marathon on November 15.

I'm still going to try to do several other race events as well, including SunMart 50K on December 5, Ten for Texas in October (date not yet announced, but likely 10th or 17th), plus a couple of triathlons in the middle of all that [there are just so many to choose from!]

After the turn of the new year, I'll be off to Disneyworld in early January for either the Disney Marathon or the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.

As for now, it'll be off to Austin in the morning for the Austin Half Marathon on Sunday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spring Creek Greenway Project

What is the Spring Creek Greenway Project?

The Spring Creek Greenway will connect and protect up to 12,000 acres of forest, on both sides of the creek, in order to preserve, protect, restore, and educate the public about an ecological gem - a biologically diverse ecosystem that provides important habitat for many wildlife species, and aims to create an ecotourism mecca and a peaceful respite from busy urban lives for those from Houston or even nationwide. [OK, OK...I lifted all that from their website.]

Lastg weekend I ran several miles aong a local portion of trails at a local section of the Spring Creek Greenway Project known as the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. It included about 2 miles of running (walking) trails [yellow and green on the map] and 3 miles of biking trails [orange/brown on the map].

I happened upon the entrance while riding my bike past the entrance a few weeks ago. I had never noticed it while driving down the same road over the last year. Overall it seemed a nice, if a bit short, section of trail. It included a drop near a local lake bed and there may be opportunities to witness animals wandering around at times. I may try to get some photos in the future for posting. This location is about 3 miles from my home, so it may be a good location for an out, trail and back run, or for a bike out there, trail run, and return bike exercise sessions [I don't have a mountain/trail bike].

One thing is for certain, I will return to run here again!