Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 4

The year 2010, my fourth year of returning to an athletic lifestyle, built upon the successes of recent years and ultimately took turns towards new and unforeseen directions by year's end.

My race year gets off to an early start on a cold January weekend in Orlando, Florida. I was taking on the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. The Goofy Challenge is composed of the Saturday Half Marathon and the Sunday Full Marathon. Doing these races provided me the unique opportunity to meet some of the people that I had previously only known through the world of blogging, such as Amanda pictured with me here.

It was a cold weekend that brought sleet to central Florida as I ran Saturday's half marathon and temperatures so cold that ice formed in the cups waiting on the aid station tables during Sunday's marathon. In the end, however, I found the experience of running this event quite thrilling--and I never would have thought the cold, wet experience of the Decker Challenge the month before would have been as good training as it was for the weather of this weekend. I nearly felt hypothermic after the half marathon and even after the full marathon I was still bundled up in my layered clothing (as seen in my photo to the left following the marathon). Even with the cold weather I had a great time meeting friends and running these races for fun and a great overall experience rather than trying to set new personal records (PR's).

In February, I set out on a local half marathon on a new challenge, not just to set a PR but to also break the 2:30 time that had eluded me for quite a while. My target race was the Run Wild Half Marathon in and around downtown Houston, a small but well run race. The day was a bit warmer than I would have hoped for, but it did not disappoint either, as I found the steady pace that I could push and follow throughout the race. In the end I beat last December's time by nearly 5 minutes with a 2:26:45 finishing time. This race began a steady string of improvements for the year which showed up in improved race times across the board.

April brought two races to my schedule. The first was the Muddy Trails event where I ran the new 10K race (which they added to last year's 5K on the schedule). This race brought me a new 10K PR of 1:08:25. However my big target race for the early part of the year was a few weeks later near the end of April. I was looking for a big improvement on my half Ironman time from last October. Race day came and brought with it improved swim and bike times, however my run was close to a disaster with much time spent just being able to walk forward. In the end I did get my PR, by several minutes over last fall's time....but it felt like a hollow victory when I felt that I should have been capable of better. It led to my decision to get some coaching advice and later to join with a training group--which I regard among my better decisions regarding my training.

Five weeks later, I entered the Combat Triathlon on Memorial Day weekend. This is a sprint distance triathlon where I attempted to right my perceptions coming off of the previous month's half Ironman race. In the end I put together a solid effort and felt very good with my race, certainly much better than after the previous race. I really felt like I put together a complete race effort across the board on this day.
A month later I returned to the Y Freedom Tri, anxious to see how my training would hold up compared to last year. By the end of the race I had rattled off a PR of 15:01, with nearly half of that coming off the 5K run time and having improved across the board.

My last sprint distance triathlon of the year came in early August at the new Bridgeland Triathlon. This was a good event, and was the first triathlon where I was with a number of friends and training teammates. My swim was a bit slow, and for a moment had a hint of slight panic, but then I got on with the race and was fine. I am pictured here exiting the bike and entering the second transition. A solid bike effort and run effort gave me faster speeds than in past triathlons for each portion. Completing these shorter summer races had given me confidence as I now aimed for longer distance races for the rest of the year.

Labor Day weekend brought with it a trip to Austin and my chance to redeem myself from last year's effort at the Olympic Distance Triathlon where I ended in 4:29:00 after two flat tires and a bad run. I was coming off shoulder and hamstring injuries over the last month but was just feeling healed up for this race.

The race opened with a good swim effort which exceeded my expectations coming off the shoulder injury. The bike was a triple loop through downtown Austin, and was slowed a bit by both hills and rain, though still went well. Since my hamstring felt good from the bike, I went out with a good run effort. In the end I held a solid pace for me on a hot morning and ran the 10K run portion of this race just 5 minutes off my 10K PR time. I completed the race in 3:18:31, without problems and well ahead of last year.

From this point I concentrated primarily on being ready for a return to the half Ironman distance, and to make a solid improvement on my PR time from this past spring. However, I also had a fun race planned--the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which was a nighttime race at Disneyworld, where I met a bunch of friends and had an awesome-tastically good time.

After that all my attention turned towards the Iron Star half iron race. After two previous efforts at this distance that were less than I had hoped for, I was coming into this race better prepared than I had been previously. I had an outstanding swim, going just under 40 minutes for the 1.2 mile swim (where my best previous swim for this distance had been around 53 minutes). Then came the bike ride, which was more difficult than I expected but not more difficult than I was prepared for, and I finished with my best time for a half iron bike ride. I would have liked a faster time on the bike, but I was following a heart rate based plan that was designed to keep me from working too hard before I completed the bike.
It had been the half marathon run that had been my previous half iron race undoing. However, today I was able to keep my run under control and my training got me through the day with my best half iron race run time. For my race, I finished in 7:07:43, a 44:24 improvement over my previous best time at this race distance last April, easily ahead of my expectations as I capped off an exciting and fulfilling race day.

I had one last goal for my year that remained unfulfilled, I ran in a post-Thanksgiving 5K to attempt to fulfill that goal--to run a sub-30 minute 5K. The previous 5K race where I set my 30:20 PR was in April 2009, and I had not run a 5K since then. This local race was a no-frills local race put on twice monthly by the local running store for a $1 entry fee (yes, $1!). I ran in in 27:05 (and wearing my race shirt from the Disney Marathon).

With the completion of this race I wrapped up a successful year. I was successful in my many of my race goals during the year. Beyond just race goals I also learned a lot about improving my training in both method and volume of training over the year. Finally, I kept up with a slow, gradual weight loss throughout the year. I lost weight in 11 out of the 12 months, only gaining 0.2 lbs for my December 1 weigh-in. I did not lose a lot of weight, I did manage to lose 8.5 pounds as I dropped from 211.4 lbs to 202.9 lbs; and after four years of trying, my long-held goal of getting back under 200 lbs was within reach.

All in all, I finished this year much better than I started it, and I was looking forward to continued improvements in 2011 (aka Year 5) as I was registered for a new challenge.....the inaugural race of Ironman Texas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 3

Part 3 of a series...

2009 was another in a consecutive series of big years of change for me. In fact, until I went back and really gave the year a good look in review it is only in retrospect do I really give this year of my life the respect it deserves. I opened the year around 233 lbs and coming off a good year for me with regard to weight loss and PR's. 2009 seemed positioned for a lot of hope in my eyes--I am glad to say that it did not disappoint me in that regard, although the events of that year proceeded in ways I would not have envisioned at the year's beginning.

The year's races begin in mid-January with the Houston Half Marathon. I ran 2:37:16 and, while this is not a PR, it represent an improvement of over 10 minutes from the previous year and I was happy with that outcome. My thanks to Heather for the photo!
Two weeks later was my first 5K of the year. I ran a 35:22 at the Bill Crews Remission Run. I had a good run in pretty cool weather, though I could not do my best for not feeling fully recovered at this point--recovery is still something of a mystery to me at this point, although a mystery I am trying to figure out. Perhaps the truth is that I enjoy running these events so much that I want to do them all!

Two weeks later I am in Austin for the Austin Half Marathon, an event I decided to do for the opportunity to enjoy this race with friends. 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. One interesting thing about this race is that it is the only road event I have done where I have gotten blisters. Anyway, I had a great time at this event regardless of anything else. This photo shows myself, previously mentioned Heather and Cassie prior to the start of the Austin race.

March and April bring a few more 5K races. This time I am ready for each and work hard at giving my best effort. In March I ran my third Spring Fever 5K in a time of 31:09, cutting 2:10 off of last year's PR time (not to mention comparing it to 2007's time of 38:45). In April I ran a new local race, the Muddy Trails 5K. As implied in the name much of this race is run on trails (although not really muddy) and I ran in a time of 30:20 for another new 5K PR time! However, I can't properly write about the events of the Muddy Trails 5K without the proper context. About 2 weeks before the Muddy Trails 5K my daughter was involved in a terrible auto collision that just rocked the stability of my family's world. While my daughter was largely unhurt, her good friend and passenger Allison was knocked out and never regained consciousness before being removed from life support. It is something that still rattles me to my core and I expect that it always will. You can read about that story at this blog post. Perhaps it was fitting, and helped with the mental recovery, that Allison's father and brother also ran in the Muddy Trails event and I was able to enjoy this day with some of her family that attended the event.

In the meantime, my training had been shifting over the last few months. I had registered for the CB&I triathlon, local to my neighborhood of The Woodlands, Texas, and I was on target for my completing my first triathlon.
While I looked forward to this triathlon, I also feared the event in the sense that I was about to do something that was unknown to me. In the end I took a deep breath, entered the water with my swim wave and then did what I set out to do. I even 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; perhaps more importantly, I walked away from that first triathlon looking forward to my next one!

The rest of May 2009 was busy with events as well. The week following the CB&I triathlon I made a late decision to enter a local YMCA 5K trail run. It was your typical south Texas hot and humid weather, and I was sweating long before the race ever started. I was a bit disappointed with my results at the time (34:21) as it was about 30 seconds slower than the 5K at the end of the previous week's triathlon. However, it also was not a fair comparison of races, not to mention that I really did not plan to do this race until a day or two before. Two weeks later I did the Hog's Hunt 25K trail run at Huntsville State Park. This is basically the spring version of the Rocky Raccoon 25K I did in the past 2 fall seasons. This ended up being a race where I got off to a good start, maintaining a sub-13 minute per mile pace through the first 10 miles. However, after that I had several problems. These included a water-only aid station without water when I was just running out of water in the bottle I carried with me. Fortunately, there was a full aid station less than 2 miles ahead and I took it easy in that distance to try to avoid dehydration. About half a mile after I was refueled, I began to have cramping issues which stayed with me for most of the rest of the race, which I think were caused by dehydration. I finally got past these cramps with about a mile remaining in the race, which I finished in 3:38:09. In spite of my issues of that day, I still had a new 25K trail race PR.

June 2009 brings with it my second triathlon, the Y Freedom Tri. This turned out to be a great race experience for me. My race went pretty much as I would have expected, allowing for the warm weather; although the race experience also also had some surprises such as a better than expected swim and receiving a frozen towel at the end of the race. In the end, this race cemented my desire to continue doing triathlons as I began to look forward to a late August Olympic distance triathlon.
Photobucket However, I had a lot of summer training to do as preparation for my fall schedule, which was going to become more full of races than I would have even expected at this point.

My next race was the late August Clear Lake Olympic distance triathlon. This race was easily my worst triathlon experience. I cut open the sole of my right foot in two places because of sharp underwater rocks that were not cleared out by the race crews. I experienced two flat tires that cost me a lot of time. Perhaps worst was that after all that, my finishing time (4:29:00) was not officially captured by the timing system. On the other hand, I learned a few hard lessons about determination, including that no race course will beat me if I just keep moving forward. It was shortly after this race that I bought my new road bike and started increasing my training towards a new goal of completing a half Ironman triathlon in October.

As October rolled around I was nursing a nagging thigh/hamstring injury that was just about healed up--although it was not so bad that I had to stop my training. On October 13 I ran the Ten for Texas 10 mile race, repeating the event from two years earlier.
Photobucket This race is a fantastic local event that I enjoy tremendously. Even taking an easier approach this year to ensure I don't re-injure my hamstring and allowing that I had a half Ironman race in 7 days, I still ran to a 3+ minute PR time of 1:57:54. The next week was one of basic preparation as I looked forward to the Austin Longhorn 70.3 Triathlon. This was a great race experience for me even though it was a difficult race overall.
Photobucket I stayed with friends for this weekend and learned a lot just by being around more experienced triathletes. Race day came and went with varying degrees of success. My swim and run times were each a little longer than my goal times, but my bike was faster by a larger margin. In the end I finished in 7:58:38 on a tough, warm day, just ahead of my modest 8:00:00 goal time.

At this point I could have rested following a busy and successful year, however I had other plans. Three weeks after the half Ironman race I was in San Antonio for the Rock n Roll Marathon. I had intended to cut the race down to a half marathon (at a Rock n Roll event you can do this just by running the half course and they will adjust your registration for you after the fact), however I was feeling good at the split point around the 9 mile mark and I decided to go the full distance. I had a progressively tough time on the second half of the course, and ultimately finished in 6:11:36 for my first marathon finish. I learned a few more lessons about needing to give myself more recovery time between races, but I was also glad to have completed my first marathon.

I was back in Austin three weeks after the SA RnR marathon for the Decker Challenge half marathon. It was a cold race, and the slightly below freezing temperatures with a light misting rain were a stark change from the races I experienced in recent months. However, it was still a good day (in fact it was my birthday!) and I felt up to trying to keep a solid pace for the day. This was likely the toughest course I had run for a half marathon--and certainly the hilliest--but the day went well and by the 10K mark I knew I was on a PR pace, at least as long as I did not start to tire too much. By mile 10 I realize that a new PR is likely, and with a solid finish I complete the race in 2:31:24, trimming over 2 1/2 minutes off my previous best time for a half marathon.

So sums up a rather busy and successful year. By year's end I had gained confidence as a runner and budding triathlete, though more importantly my hard-fought athletic successes brought with them the weight loss I had been looking for as I ended the year at 211 lbs (losing 22 lbs this year) and having me feeling that I had indeed reclaimed some of my lost health of year's past. I felt short of some of my quantifiable goals for the year (sub 30 minute 5K, sub 2:30 half marathon, getting under 210 lbs) but I only barely missed those 3, and what I gained during the year was of much greater value to me.

If anything I hoped and expected the stage was set for a bigger year in 2010.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 2

Part 2 of a series...

2008 followed a life-changing year that had a lot of successes and got me to a lot of places that I never would have imagined at the start of the year, but it also didn't get me going in the right direction with regard to losing weight, and ultimately regaining my health and setting the example that I wanted to set for my family. However, 2008 held more promise and more hope for a shining future than I had seen in a long time. One of the hardest things writing about the years 2008 and 2009 is that I did not keep as good records of those periods and am relying on my memory for some of the key points. I am sure that even if my memory is off, it is close enough.

I set 5 goals for myself in 2008:
1. Run a sub-30 minute 5K
2. Run a sub-2:30 half marathon
3. Complete a full marathon
4. Run the SunMart 50K again
5. Lose 25 lbs

I felt that since I had been running for a year I knew what I was doing and had set reasonable goals. The truth is that these goals may not have been unreasonable, but I still had a lot to learn that year. In fact, as each year has gone on since then I learn more and more and I feel like I know less and less about running.

The year began with a New Year's trip to Disneyworld (and might I add the New Year's Eve fireworks there are a wonder to behold!). Here is a photo from the dinner on New Year's Eve showing how I looked hours before the start of 2008.

In January I enjoyed the Houston Marathon as I ran the half marathon, and dreamed of doing a marathon. When I went down to the race expo, I learned of--and registered for--the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon that would run its inaugural race in November....and I kept training.....anyway let's get back to the Houston Half Marathon that was the reason I was down in Houston to begin with. I ran the half marathon in 2:47:19. This was a great race and I was thrilled with the experience, but I was disappointed in finishing about 12 minutes slower than a half marathon from last October. The truth is this was a large race with a congested course, and it was not a day for me to set a PR, but this was not yet something I really understood.

In March I entered the Spring Fever 5K for the second straight year. In this race I took advantage of my improved fitness and finished in 33:19, cutting off 5:24 from the 2007 time! I can telly you this had me feeling good as I saw some positive results.

The rest of my spring races would not be so kind to me. In March I ran the the Seabrook Lucky Trail Half Marathon in 3:06:46. It was a warm day and I spent most of the night before dealing with family problems, but I still had fun and enjoyed the day. In April I ran the Hog's Hunt 25K (essentially the same as the Rocky Raccoon 25K last November) in 4:46:45, or 1:00:19 more than November's time. I seem to recall I may have had ankle issues or maybe was just over-confident that I could do everything I wanted, but it was certainly not a banner day for me. In May I ran two more 5K's a week apart in 38:02 and 38:25. This was pretty consistent pacing, but by now the Texas weather was heating up and PR's were no longer realistic. As the spring racing season ended I took stock of my races (and what I perceived as partial failures where my times had slowed down) and worked to improve myself. I also learned of a local triathlon and was intrigued and would have entered if not for it selling out, but I went to watch the local CB&I Triathlon and hoped to do it one day.

In late May/early June my plans took an abrupt change when I was rear-ended in an auto accident. Fortunately, I was not seriously injured. However, I was injured enough that I had to take several weeks away from all exercise. After that I was able to return to walking and began physical therapy. I'm not quite sure my doctor knew how much walking I was doing, as I was trying to get back onto a plan that would allow me to enter the Houston Half race in October again. I worked hard on the physical therapy exercises and I branched out into less rigorous exercise that I was approved to do (such as swimming, cycling and light weight-lifting). Also during this period, I worked hard to maintain my diet so I would not begin to put on some of the pounds that I had lost during the first part of the year. At the time I was rear-ended I was around 240 pounds and I was actually able to maintain that and get down into the upper 230's as I resumed some exercise.

I think it was around mid to late September that I was cleared to begin running again. I set my sights on completing a series of races designed to prepare runners for the Houston Marathon in the following January. These races run through the fall and are made up of a half marathon, a 25K and a 30K race. In addition, I was still registered for the San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon in November.

When late October rolled around I was ready for the Houston Half and I clocked a new PR with a time of 2:33:57, clipping almost 2 minutes off of last year's best time for this distance. Two weeks later was the HMSA Classical 25K in Houston. I ran a good race for my expectations and finished in 3:28:26, which is still my PR for the distance (and my only non-trail 25K). A week later was the San Antonio Rock n Roll race where I downgraded to the half marathon and ran in 2:59:09. Admittedly I was running for fun and dancing to the music at times at the band locations. Finally, I rounded out the year's racing a month later at the Lakes of Williams Ranch 30K. This was remarkable for me in several ways that were unexpected to me. First, I had a bad day. This was most likely due to not quite being prepared for the distance and being worn down by an active fall season. Second, I made a great friend who helped me enter the next phase of my racing in 2009. I met Heather (as pictured with me finishing to the left) on the course, as it seemed we were frequently near each other, so we decided to run the rest of the race together and had a good long conversation during our run. That conversation--and the friendship that followed--set the stage for many greater things for me to come.

So, I put the cap on a big year with a less than stellar finish, but it was a finish that taught me lessons and gained me numerous friends, such as Adrienne who is sneaking into this next photo. Most importantly, I learned more about testing my limits, and how to judge the reasonable expectations from the unreasonable expectations.
I made many strides (no pun intended) in 2008. I don't know how easy it is to see in these photos but I dropped almost 30 pounds in the the year. I finished the year around 233 lbs after having been as low as 223 lbs in October, but it still finished off a great year for me in so many ways. Even though I failed to achieve four out of my five early years goals, I learned how to deal with setbacks and successfully come back from adversity. Perhaps more importantly, I set the stage for the next few years in ways that I did not yet understand.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Coming and Going (with photos) - Year 1

Anyone who has read a decent number of my blog posts has an idea of where I started from and where my journey has brought me, but after talking with a friend of mine recently the idea of putting together a different kind of post came to mind. This is my first attempt to put together that post that currently exists in my mind. I originally intended for this to be a single post but as I have progressed through my first year I have realized that this is going to take some time--and several separate posts.

It was in December 2005 that I turned 40 years old and realized that I should spend more time worrying about the things that I could control than the things I could not control in my life. One of those was to work to regain my health. I was grossly overweight and my doctor was concerned enough about my health that he believed there was a good chance that a future diagnoses of diabetes and other chronic conditions was a distinct possibility. These are some photos from a vacation (Disneyworld) from New Year's week 2006, showing how I looked around that time.

While the desire was there, for some reason the motivation to actually begin a workout program eluded me for some time. I did some reading and thinking on the subject and I even went to the gym on occasion, but I never really did anything significant. Finally, by the time my 41st birthday rolled around a year later I found that motivation. Maybe it was losing a year of good intentions, maybe I was finally fed up with the status quo or maybe it was my desire to set a better example for my family, but in November 2006 I took the literal first steps on that journey by walking for exercise. One of the books that I opened during that past year, a book that I have since passed on to a fellow runner trying to transform their own life, was John Bingham's Marathoning for Mortals. It was in this book that I learned about local races such as 5K's, 10K's and half marathons. I knew about the existence of marathons, though not much more than that they existed, and I also knew that I had once desired to run a marathon and I adopted that as my goal—although I was realistic enough to understand that the marathon would have to wait a while and I set out towards the half marathon as a stopping point on the way to that goal.

I put together a plan to move forward towards the Big D Half Marathon in Dallas on April 1, 2007. The log I kept for this period had the following as my stated initial goal:

“INITIAL GOAL: Participate in the Big D Half Marathon on April 1, 2007. Primary goal is to finish and collect finisher’s medal. Secondary goal is to finish in less than 3:30:00 hours (The Big D Half Marathon Allows a finishing time of up to 7:00:00 hours, which is twice the standard for most half-marathons, due to the fact that it shares the course with the full marathon finish.).“

My program began on December 28, 2006, and I wrote the following log entry:

“Thursday, December 28, 2006 – After having been walking for exercise for a couple months, I started to include a running element. Today I started by walking for 5 minutes slowly to warm-up, then alternated 3 minutes walking at treadmill speed of 3.5 and running 2 minutes at a treadmill speed of 4.5 for a total of 25 minutes, then followed up with a 5 minute slow walk as a cool-down period. I traveled a total of 2.0 miles.
The following morning my legs were slight bit sore and my knees were a little stiff in the morning. I think I will try a rate of 3 minutes walking and 1 minute running (3W+1R) for a couple weeks before going back to 3W+2R pattern.“

As the next months went on I slowly expanded on training and I set about learning about running at a serious level—or at least at a level that felt serious to me. On March 3, 2007, I took my training to a new level when I did my first 10 mile run and my 5K on the same day.

“Saturday, March 3, 2007 - Plan: Endurance run using 3W+2R pattern for 10 miles , with 5 minutes each for warm up and cool down. Run Spring Fever 5K in The Woodlands, TX as part of today’s running in a time of 38:26.5, an average rate of just under 12:30 per mile. I worked to keep my pace down, but let my speed carry me in the last mile. I finished 297th overall and 19th in my age/gender group. I ran 0.8 miles before the race and the balance of 10 miles after the 5K race (after staying for awards and snacking on food and drink. Overall, 1 ran the 10 miles in 2:20:21, an average rate of 14:02 per mile. Some of the later miles had to be pushed a bit; it was probably not a good idea to have eaten between the run periods.”

I remember that day fairly well. I felt out of place and awkward, especially since I felt like the only slow, fat guy there; but I was also determined to successfully run this race. It was not an easy race for me, as evidenced by the nearly 39 minute race time; but it was also a good day. I felt like a real runner having done this race. On March 16, 2007, I ran the Bayou City Classic race in Houston, TX. I completed the race in 1:16:45. I remember it being a good experience, but I also learned a lot about doing a longer event and pacing myself as I ran a negative split that day. Finally, April 1 rolled around. The reason I chose this event as my half marathon was that it was the last half marathon of the season that I could find. Fortunately this late season event worked (barely) with my training plan. As an added benefit, my brother who lived outside of Dallas joined me in the event.
My log post reads as follows for that date:

"Sunday, April 1, 2007 – Plan: 13.1 miles at 3W+2R rate in Big D Half Marathon. Pick up rate near end of race if I can. Do not start out too fast. Remember the original primary goal is to finish in any time and the secondary goal is to finish in less than 3:30:00 hours. The goal set just before race day is a finishing time of less than 3:00:00 hours.
Actual: Ran the 13.1 mile half-marathon in 2:58:23.95, meeting all goals for completion and time. Ironically, there were many troubles at the start…befitting the date of this event."

On the morning of the event there were several issues that came up. As we neared the race site, all traffic on the freeway came to a halt when a tanker truck turned over. We eventually made it through, parked and got to the start line about 25 minutes late. They had already shut off the timing mats and most of the runners were long gone, and we were far from the only runners still arriving. In the end I asked which way the course went and I headed that direction. In a couple miles we hit the first aid station, where they were surprised to still be seeing trailing runners coming along, and I followed the trail of discarded cups along the road that were being picked up. Every now and then we would pass another runner and my confidence would pick up a bit more. In the end we successfully completed the event, although my official time was based on the true race gun time and was almost 3.5 hours, however I recorded the time of 2:58:24 on my own. The other thing that happened that day was that I was hooked on a lifestyle that would lead to many more races in the coming years. The photo to the side was taken just before I approached the finish line.

As summer approached I stayed with my running program and kept the fitness I had gained. During this period I learned more about running and discovered the USA Fit program and its local chapter, The Woodlands Fit. I joined this program which had coached groups based on ability and goal races. I entered with a goal of completing the Houston Half Marathon in January 2008, but left far exceeding that goal. During that late summer through winter that led up to the Houston Half Marathon I entered and completed a series of events throughout the rest of 2007. In September I completed the Chevron Houston Marathon Kickoff 5K in 38:38, a slight improvement over my earlier 5K on a hot and humid evening. In October I completed the Ten for Texas 10 mile race in 2:01:11 (pictured left). Later that year I was introduced to trail racing in the Huntsville state park with the fall Rocky Raccoon 25K, which I completed in 3:46:26 (pictured right). Completing these races, plus the urging of a friend encouraged me to enter a December race for which I was not prepared, the Sunmart 50K on December 8, 2007. Up until this date I had not gone farther than 25K at all, and only once a few weeks before at Rocky, but I was excited to be trying a really long event about which I had heard a lot of positive things. The day was long, and it was warm for December (in the 80's). I had a great time that day, but was also ill-prepared for the distance. However, I had all the determination in the world and I continued, mostly walking with blistered feet through the last 8 miles or so so of the 50K (roughly 31 miles). I finished the event as the next to last finisher at 10:19:52, certainly much slower than I had expected and having had a much harder time than expected. However, in completing this event I learned a lot about completing distance events that still serves me well through today, starting with believing that there isn't any event that I can't complete if I try hard enough.

While the year was filled with numerous successes and a lot of personal growth, it also held a big lesson learned through failure. I had gained about 8 - 10 pounds from the start of the year as my weight had gone from 255 to the mid 260 pound range. When I took stock of the reasons for this failure I had to come to terms with the fact that my belief that running many miles gave me a license to eat anything I wanted. I had proved this to be a false premise and resolved to make improvements in my diet for 2008.