Friday, January 26, 2018

Letter to my future self

To my future self,

I hope this note finds you well. I want to share with you the lessons learned this past year and offer a few things for you to think about as you prepare to embark on whatever journey lies ahead.

On January 15, 2017, you ran the best marathon you have ever run as you wrapped up what felt like a breakthrough training season. For the first time, you ran with ease and comfortably finished without issue.

In March, you proved to yourself that your strong marathon was not a fluke, despite the snafu that left you short of the full distance. Sometimes, things happen and you can't fault anyone for an honest mistake.

In April, you showed Thuy that you could handle an entire weekend alone with June as a single parent. You learned that sometimes, mama needs a break too.

In May, you learned the fun in camping under the stars before a trail race. You can choose your campsite, but you can't choose your rowdy neighbors.

In July, you enjoyed a memorable family trip to Colorado Springs where you reconnected with your parents. You learned that they deserve way more credit than you have given them. They were once in your shoes and they are a lot more understanding than you previously thought. Mom and Dad saw you cross the a finish line for the first time in over a decade of running and reminded you of how special it is to have loved ones at the end.

In late August, Hurricane Harvey brought flood waters into our home. You were reminded that there are things in life that you just can't protect. You learned that June has got strength and resilience beyond her years. Don't ever sell her short. You learned that you can carry Sadie on your shoulders when you have to. You learned the kindness and generosity of complete strangers who rescued you out of your flooded home in a boat.

In September, your family and friends gave you a place to stay and helped you pick up the pieces. You learned that rebuilding was going to take time.

In October, your heart grew full when you were introduced to baby Ellis, who was growing in Thuy's womb. In late November, your heart broke into pieces when we had to say goodbye. You learned that even in loss there are gifts for which to be thankful.

Remember that among the many gifts that running provides, healing and community are chief among them. Remember the friends who shared their stories, their time, their pain, and offered a shoulder for your tears. Remember that all of your accomplishments weren't earned in a vacuum. You did this with the help, support, and love of so many others. Appreciate them always. Remember to never pass on an opportunity to look them in the eye and tell them that you love them and that you are grateful for them.

-your past self

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Chevron Houston Marathon

What can I say? I'm still on cloud nine. I spent 10 years trying to finish a marathon in under four hours. In the last two since I achieved that goal, my time has quickly improved from 3:54 > 3:44 > 3:26. To put it into perspective, my marathon pace today is about the same as my 5K pace was from ten years ago. With my eyes set on my first 100 miler in a couple of weeks, I'm thankful that I am also recovering better than ever before. This was supposed to be a training run, but I decided I wanted to give it a full race effort. Fortunately, there aren't any lingering aches or nagging pains. I remember when finishing a marathon had me laid out for nearly a week. I've gotten so much stronger and faster that it feels like I've discovered a superpower.

Though it feels like all this has happened virtually over night, I recognize that this was years in the making. I've learned that you've got to love the process. Each day, getting out there patiently laying one brick at a time. Finding the beauty of each moment, whether that's in the company of great friends or in the solace and quiet of a cold and rainy night.

As I was pondering my list of goals last night, I dared to dream a new dream. Something I thought unthinkable until now. To my list I added "Earn a BQ." Perhaps, this is something to look forward to in my 40's when the BQ standard looks slightly more achievable at 3:15. Perhaps, it will come sooner. Who knows. Maybe the lesson for me now is to never say never - to remember that the unthinkable is still possible.

Finally, there's so much for which I am grateful, but most of all I am thankful for the support of my wife. It is with her support and patience that I am able to get out there six days a week. And though I run most of these miles solo, I am never alone. I carry with me thoughts of her and my daughter in my mind and on my heart. They inspire me. They keep me going.

Official chip time: 3:26:10

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Chevron Houston Marathon

Going back and reading these old entries really reminds me of how far I've come as a runner. I've now been a runner for a decade and a half and I can say with all my heart that I LOVE running. This was my tenth Chevron Houston Marathon, but it was a first in many respects. This was my first Chevron as a father. The first being away from my wife and daughter overnight. The first with zero walking, zero pain, zero issues. This was as perfect a marathon I have ever run. The day was made more perfect as I got to see my family at the 26 mile marker - my wife and daughter together cheering me on from the sideline. It was the sort of moment I had dreamed of for so many years. This one was special.

This race was a culmination of a great training season where I more than doubled my training volume and focused heavily on preparing for a strong 50 miler (BB50). I can honestly say that I have never felt stronger as a runner. This has been a dream training season for me. I've had PRs in every distance from 1 mile to 50. It feels like I have finally figured it out and I'm so excited for what's to come.

Here are the technical details.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2015 Rodeo Run 10K Recap

It was a cold morning and I felt a little underdressed in a singlet and arm warmers, but I was planning to give the best race effort I could give on this day. I arrived at the start line just a few minutes before the start gun. I studied my splits from last year to see how I could improve them. I decided my race strategy would be to stay under a 7:30 minute/mile to save enough for a strong second half. The strategy worked out perfectly:

Split Pace
1 - 6:44
2 - 7:28
3 - 7:10
4 - 7:20
5 - 7:12
6 - 7:11
7 - 6:29

Finish: 00:45:20

Despite having breathing problems due to congestion and forgetting to take the single energy gel that I carried, I beat my former PR by over two minutes!

2015 R&B Half Marathon Recap

It felt like I had to work harder than I did in the race just two weeks ago, but I ended up within a minute of that finish time. I stayed with a fellow RHC runner for more than half the race and it was thanks to him that I stayed on my target pace. It's amazing to feel like this is the "new normal" for my half marathon times. I took a look back at all of my race journal entries and it reminded me of how far I've come. It's hard to believe that I've been running for a decade now, but I feel as strong as ever.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

2015 Fort Bend Kia Half Marathon Recap

It had been less than 24 hours since getting back from our trip to San Francisco. I hadn't run much in the last two weeks and the lingering soreness in my right calf reminded me that I was still recovering from the Houston marathon. I was determined to take what the day gave me and despite the slightly warmer weather and I walked away with a new half marathon PR.

It's a small enough race where I didn't have to deal with much congestion at the start. I was at race pace immediately, posting sub-8 splits for the first 4 miles. I had a few miles in the middle in the low 8s before picking back up for a strong negative split. I felt strong throughout and wanted to leave enough in the tank to push hard to the finish. With 2 miles left to go, I decided it was time to drop the hammer and go for it. I finished 7th in my age group with a time of 1:43:59, almost 3 minutes faster than my previous best a couple of years ago.

It's not all about the time, but it sure is nice to celebrate a little milestone. It's like having icing on an already delicious cake.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Chevron Houston Marathon Recap

This could have been the year. At least that's how I felt all season. I felt good about my training. I had done the miles. I had done the speed work. All that was left was to stay healthy and rested. Even taper week went well. I made sure I got plenty of sleep. I did everything I could do to set myself up for a good race. I know this is starting to sound like I had a miserable race, but it was far from that.

Here's what didn't go so well for me:

- Race Strategy. This was more of a mixed bag than a total negative, but until it totally works I'll have to continue tweaking this. The plan was to hit the first mile split with a 9:30, then speed up until I was within my target range of 8:45-8:55. I was nailing my target splits for the first 15 miles or so, but then I started noticing my splits slipping after that. I would work my way back into range, but the legs started feeling progressively heavier as I went on.

- Leg Cramps. I'm not sure if the salt capsules really helped me this year. I was right on schedule every hour, but I still ended up with cramps at the end. I'm not sure if the salt delayed the cramps or not, but I did feel confident enough to continue running as the threat of the cramps loomed heavy in my muscles. I began to feel the start of the cramps after mile 20. I didn't go into full on muscle lock until after I gassed the last mile and sprinted through the finish line. The research on muscle cramps have been so conflicting of late. I can't attribute all of it to nutrition. Maybe I just need more mileage in my training.

And here's everything that went well for me:

+ Nutrition Reference. This was the first time I made notes on where to expect the fluid stations and when to take my energy gels and salt capsules. I found it extremely useful to take the guess work out of the nutrition mid-race.

+ NO chafing! I managed to discover the perfect amount of Aquaphor to apply on my feet and other "sensitive" areas.

+ NO blisters! I guess this goes with the one above, but my feet really felt great all day. The combination of shoes (Saucony Hurricane) + socks (Balega) + lube (Aquaphor) was perfect.

+ NO injuries! No major issues with my joints. I was very concerned with my hips (mostly my right) which have been bothering me this season.

+ NO quitting! I was very happy with the effort I gave. I kept pushing when my legs were at the verge of cramping. I was determined to push and finish with everything I had and I regret nothing.

Another successful race in the books and with so much more to look forward to.

2014 Quick Race Recap

2014 Brazos Bend 50 Miler (12:04:22) - This race was full of rough patches. The last ten felt like a brutal death march in the dark, but at least I wasn't alone.

2014 Texas Trails Endurance Run 50K (06:55:59) - In full pursuit of the mythical hoodie, I had a great time running the Huntsville trails with a running friend.

2014 HMSA 25K (02:20:58) - I approached this race with the same strategy. I wanted to really dial in the marathon pace. It was also a back to back run after the club's 16 miler.

2014 Alaina Dixon 5 Miler (00:42:27) - This was a fun club sponsored race for a very good cause. I tried to run this close to my marathon pace instead of giving a race effort.

2014 Cap'n Karl's Colorado Bend 30K (04:51:58) - This was a super fun night trail race north of Austin in the middle of the summer. It was a beautiful and challenging trail and I would totally do it again.

2014 Freedom 5K (00:21:09) - This may have been the surprise running highlight of the year. Not only did I achieve a new 5K PR, but I won my age group prize (presented by Bart Yasso himself!). All this while on vacation in the Portland area. I ran in all the wrong gear and ate all the wrong things, but I was flying out there.

2014 Brazos Bend 50K (05:49:47) - Course PR and distance PR thanks to a flat course. That heat though...

2014 Texas Independence Relay (26:44:26) - Another stellar year with the best relay team around.

2014 ROC Race - This was a fun obstacle race with a lot of soap and not much running.

2014 Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Half Marathon (01:49:33) - I don't remember much.

2014 Rodeo Run 10K (00:47:35) - This was my second time running this fun 10K. I bested last year's PR by a whopping 24 seconds!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rocky Raccoon 50 Recap

Two days ago I completed my second 50 mile ultra trail run. An ultra is defined as any distance beyond the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Most of these types of races are run on unpaved trails through the woods. I have been a distance runner since 2006, but running ultras is something that's relatively new to me. 
They say everyone experiences these races​ in four phases.
  1. The Physical - Your body is cranking like a well-oiled machine and you feel unstoppable.
  2. The Mental - You're fighting physical discomfort and perhaps even pain, but your mind is keeping you moving.
  3. The Emotional - You're physically and mentally exhausted, but the fire in your belly gives you strength to push onward.
  4. The Spiritual - You're praying for the strength and fortitude to get to the finish line in one piece.
I experienced all of the above this past weekend. My run was going well and I was feeling on top of the world. That is, until a gnarly root caught my foot on a downhill causing me to sprain my left ankle at mile 20. I knew it wasn't just a slight tweak because putting any weight on it caused instant pain. I had to stop to brace myself against a tree. I hobbled gingerly on it just to move forward, taking extra care as a navigated over the roots and rocks. I slowly managed to make it to the next aid station where I asked for ibuprofen from a friend. I thought I could manage the pain so I pushed on. The pain subsided enough for me to run as long as I didn't bend my ankle too much. That worked until another misstep turned that same ankle again, flooding my leg with pain signals. I was back to hobbling. At mile 33, my friends grabbed the medic and rushed to my aid. The race doctor taped up my ankle and berated me for taking ibuprofen, explaining that my kidneys were already under too much duress from the race as it is. I thanked her for all her care and promised to take her advice.

I had paced well for the first two loops, but since I was about five hours from sunset and running on a gimpy ankle, I expected the last loop to be completed well after dark. A friend volunteered to run with me for the final 17 miles in case things got bad. I greatly appreciated the company.

With his encouragement, I finished the race in 10:55:26. I had bested my time from last year by an hour and a half. I couldn't believe it. I know it would not have been possible without all the support and care I received from so many that day. I was overwhelmed with such gratitude and joy.

When I tell people about this hobby of mine, they always ask "why?" Why go out and torture myself for so many miles? Why don't I just relax at home and watch TV?

I tell them this. I do it because I want to challenge myself. I do it because I get to see the good in people. I do it because I want to move with purpose.