running

Running is an essential part of my life. It is so much more to me than exercise; it is a drug that allows me to remain balanced in a number of ways. When I fall into a running rut, I will run every day for a week; much like I am doing this week with the blog. The regularity gets me back on track, helps me get back to where I want to be.

For the remainder of March, after the ½ I ran in Little Rock back, my running had struggled. I was still running three or four times a week but without much purpose; meaning without much promise as well. Going into April, I knew I needed to get back to running more regularly. My brother and running partners have helped with this in several different ways.

My brother, Joe David, is a Physical Therapist at the Texas Physical Therapy Specialist Bee Caves location. He invited me to try out their AlterG machine. As you can read more about if you click on the link, this machine fights gravity – taking away your weight – allowing you to run while your body recovers. I started with running on the treadmill with 100% of my weight then took it down to 85 – then to 70 which is really where I could begin to feel any stress on my joints begin to disappear. I continued to increase the speed and eventually the incline. At 50% of my body weight I compared the way I felt while running to that of my youth soccer players. By the end of my run, I was running with only 30% of my body weight.

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The AlterG also has cameras surrounding the legs to allow its user, and the doctors standing nearby, to analyze stride, foot-strike and balance, among other things. The side view showed my stride or gait to be pretty well in sync with what I though it should be. The view from the front just looked like someone was going to trample my face. I found the rear view to be the most helpful. With this angle, I noticed that my left foot falls out a little as a step. My anatomical and functional training as a massage therapist interprets this to mean that I need to strengthen core, gluts, and hips to remedy this. Honestly really returning to full body strength training altogether will help.

In addition to that strength training, I am also getting back to running regularly in general. Currently I am focused on building up mileage.  Primarily I have been running with Sarah a 3:16 marathoner that prefers, and excels accordingly so, to run the half. My other regular running companion is Lesley a 3:19 marathoner. Off the road, I am part of a regular-texting-group of guys that are very serious about running. They keep me excited, motivated and accountable.

The thing that has proven to keep me more responsible to running regularly is a race on my calendar. I am leaning toward the Chosen: Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels. Though an out-and-back course, it is beautiful, peaceful and for a great cause. This year our Ninja Running Team will compete in order to support our friends, Chad and Cris Yarbrough, in their adoption.

 

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little rock marathon, a visit home

At the end of January, as I have blogged about, I attended the Arkansas Heart Association Heart Ball. During the event, there were a number of things in the auction. I chose to bid on an entry to the Little Rock Marathon. The package included registration fee and a $50 gift card to a local running store, Go! Running. My starting bid of $60 won; meaning I would return to Arkansas only five weeks later. This made me glad to have a race on the schedule and happy for the opportunity to return home. Since my training had not been in full swim and I had such a short time to prepare, I opted for the half versus the sold-out full.

Last Wednesday, I began my journey up from Austin for this half-marathon. I stopped in Magnolia to visit family there, including my 92 year old grandmother (sharing stories), and stayed until Friday. On Friday, I finished my trip to Little Rock. Just outside of the city, my aunt Amy and uncle Pat have a home set on 20 acres that looks up to West Pinnacle.  It is one of my favorite places in the area and since my parents no longer live in Little Rock, I decided to stay here. When pick up my packet on Friday I ran into a friend from high school, Thomas Chapin. He is now an ultra-marathoner, runner-up in the 2012 Arkansas Traveler 100. Thomas said it best with, “a half-marathon is a great excuse to visit home.”

This is really what this trip has been about, a trip home. During this trip, I have been able to see most of my family. The race may have been the instigator for the trip but it was never really the focus for me. Turned out to be a good thing too. The weather for the race was not ideal. It was mid-50’s at the race start and 38* when I finished – raining, to some extent, the entire time – with winds ranging from 15 – 25 mph. This was my first time for me to race that distance in the rain, first time to run that untrained, first time to run with the temperature dropping and first time I was super thankful to have simply run the half versus the full. I typically prefer to keep running.  All in all I was happy with my 1:43 time. Though some around me found ways to complain about the conditions, I did my best to just enjoy being out there. The marathon was eventually (around 11:30) rerouted due the weather; the race officials and organizers handled everything wonderfully.

Today, I am iced in. It is the coldest day in March, in Arkansas, EVER. The weather that came through yesterday, Winter Storm Titan, left a blanket of ice on the roads from Central Arkansas north to Missouri. As the day goes on, the roads are fine about 45 miles south of here but getting to the interstate is one thing while driving on that ice for 45 miles is another. That said, I will spend another day here enjoying family.

miscellaneous monday: the long run

I started my day today with a long run; having that availability on a Monday is a perk of working for yourself. In Houston, I prefer to run along the Bayou. From the Heights I ran to Houston Ave. then head south to the Bayou. I head east then south to UH Downtown and hit the main bike/running path to head west to Memorial Park. Once I get to Memorial Park, I choose the number of loops or even which portion of the loop I need to run to match the mileage I want for the day. Today my goal was 20. To make things easier, I ran one direction around the loop until I reached ten total miles and then turned around, retracing my way back to the Heights. Two weeks ago, I ran 18 without any problem, but I did this in Austin, on good rest, and with balanced diet going in. Things like that matter when you plan to run so a long way. Today’s 20 was “just because”, as I have no races on the schedule. Today, I was put in my place.

The long run is an essential part of marathon training. To be a runner, you simply need to get out there and run; to be a marathoner, you must run 26.2 miles. Training for marathons you log many miles, but regardless of your weekly total, every week needs to feature a long run. These long runs challenge the body to endure, to maintain a pace over an extended period of time. Elite marathoners finish in just over two hours, while a good average-everyday-runner might shoot for closer to five hours and finally marathon course usually close eight hours after the last wave. Of course, there are many different breeds of runners all through that spectrum, with just as many factors enabling or disabling their run. My best is 3:17:09, while I have run most of my 13 marathons between 3:20 and 3:40.

Long runs for me are more than just a part of a training, they are often an adventure. Whether it be the route, restroom needs, fuel intake, or the people and places I see along the way. In addition to a physical challenge, it is a way for me to sort my thoughts, evaluate life’s equations and restore a since of balance to my mind. So this morning, when a tired, ill-prepared (sleep, hydration, nutrition) runner (me!!) found himself 18 miles into a run and still two miles from home, he walked. I had pushed his body far enough for one day and left it able to run another. Though my goal had been 20, without a specific race on the schedule and having already met my needs for an adventure, 18 was adventurous enough for today.

miscellaneous monday: bike lanes & back to school

I prefer to run on the road as opposed to the sidewalk. Though the difference in concrete and asphalt is minimal, my body seems to notice. The sidewalk makes the runner go up and down as it connects to streets, is rarely maintained as well as the road, and has overhanging foliage that can often hide you from drivers. Since I live in the wonderfully fit-friendly city of Austin, bike lanes run throughout the city. As a road-runner, I often run in the bike lanes. Bike lanes separate me from oncoming traffic with a solid white line. If there is heavy traffic and since I am facing traffic, I will move up to the sidewalk for oncoming cyclists; especially if it is a big group. Do I feel entitled to bike lane usage rather or not I have a bike? Yes! I think the bike lane is lane for non-motorized travelers. A week ago, I might not have made the ‘non-motorized’ distinction. On my run last Saturday, I noticed a motorized bike in the bike lane. Not only did he startle other cyclist but disrupted turning traffic at the intersection. Feel free to shame me in the comments if I a wrong on this one, or even if you feel I shouldn’t run in the lanes. My brother Joe, a triathlete, cycles and approves with my running in ‘his’ lane but I am curious how the rest of the cyclists feel about it.

When I say back-to-school I mean it as a way of life; schedules change, traffic patterns are different, and the economy takes notice. My facebook friends’ children are going back-to-school and some of my friends are teachers that are going back themselves. Even for us non-children citizens out there, back-to-school has arrived. Be careful in traffic: mindful of school zones, bus-stops, crosswalks and cyclists. Cherish and nourish your children’s growth and enjoy the time you now have to do everything you neglected to do this summer.

miscellaneous monday: my dream job

If you asked me last week what my dream job was, I am sure that I would tell you that I am currently working it. As a writer, I get to create, process and entertain; as a massage therapist, I am allowed to help others heal or relax, while encouraging healthy lifestyle practices and choices; as a soccer coach, I am able to educate and promote my love for fitness and the game. All of these come with a flexibility to travel, to run and to explore – to live. To do what one loves is to have a dream job.

It is about now that you are remembering that I started this post with “If you asked me last week…” Last Friday, Runner’s World posted a link that made me question my contentment. As someone who has run for miles in every place I’ve traveled: in Thaliand, throughout Europe, Canada, Mexico and the 43 of the 50 states, in which I have visited; as someone whose friends come to regularly for advice on running, injuries and as a comrade to celebrate their latest running success; as someone whose running is just as essential to life as breathing is to everyone else – a career highlighted through Runner’s World most certainly gets my attention.

Westin Hotels has signed on with the Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series and is looking for someone who loves running and is willing to travel and share that love with other runners. Seriously! The RunWESTIN Concierge would be an ambassador to runners making their travel experiences more comfortable, their marathon weekends less stressful, and motivate, educate and encourage participants. Needless to say, I’ve applied.

As I await the next portion of the application process, I mention all of these things here to motivate you to find and pursue your dream job. I also hope this post promotes some running awareness of the running community that is continually growing. New programs like the RunWESTIN Program will help more and more people meet their running, fitness and overall health goals; while seeing more and more of this great country and wonderful world.

running behind, literally

National Running Day was last Wednesday, June 5; it annually falls on the first Wednesday of June. I read many posts throughout the day of people getting out to celebrate running and found some to be doing a little more than that. Out of admiration I want recognize two of these efforts.

Austin – National Running Day of Service Which I think is an excellent idea and can see it becoming a regular practice. A running group that met weekly – ran, showered, served. This could be a great thing for our communities, our nation.

Zoe Romano – Running the Tour de France route; raising money for Boys & Girls Club while doing something phenomenal. Not necessarily for National Running Day but for the love of running, adventure and helping kids. Very inspirational young woman, follow her and support her if you can.

You don’t have to raise thousands, build homes or feed folks to make a difference. Maybe, you pick up trash in a park on your cool-down or maybe you help a neighbor in their yard. You don’t have to run 2,000 miles to be a runner. You don’t have to be a marathoner or even run a 5k; all you have to do is run.

I want you to be encouraged by these two stories. If you have to run then walk then run then walk again, that’s fine – just get out there. Signing up for a running group or a race can help with the motivation, but it isn’t necessary. Find a way to make a difference in your community, for your community, for our world. If you are able to run and serve – even better. If you or those you know are already doing so, please share your story here.

ran van

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Vancouver, B.C. is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited; even more so, run a marathon. Lindsey and one of my best friends’ brothers, Ryan Hise joined me on the trip. We all flew separately, landed at different times and I was the only one to have the pleasure of flying through Salt Lake City. I cannot think of another time that I enjoyed such spectacular vies from a plane. Instead of bore you with a play-by-play analysis of the trip, I thought I could share some of the more memorable moments. I will try to keep it under a thousand words.

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Ryan and I watched the Stanley Cup Playoff match-up between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks. The bar, Cactus Club Cafe, had a similar atmosphere to an NFL game in the States or an EPL game in England. We really got into the game; found our emotions rising and falling with the home team Canucks. Though they made it an exciting match, the Sharks scored in the last minute of the game to force overtime, where they eventually won. I asked the waitress for some recommendations for places with great poutine.

I started, “So we’re obviously not from around here, given the fact that we aren’t decked out in our Canuck jerseys – ”

“and the you are tan.” she concurred in a well duh!! sort of way.

We laughed and then discussed poutine. Lindsey would join us later that night, a pale Canadian herself, doubly appreciated the retelling of this story. Basically, poutine can be found there in many shapes and sizes and with as many different toppings as we may throw on the conventional hot dog or bowl of ice cream.

Saturday, we began our day with another Canadian staple, Tim Horton’s or Timmy Ho’s as the locals say. We then walked around (in and out of shops) the Gastown district of town, had a pretty damn good Porchetta sandwich at Meat & Bread, and stopped by one the many beaches (but this one, hidden on the east side, was filled with more locals). Back at our well-located hotel the Pan Pacific, while my travel companions rested, I took in some breathtaking views from the hotel pool deck. That night, we enjoyed dinner at one of the Guu restaurants: Salmon sashimi, grilled Cod and the Guu Udon bowl topped the list. I would have been able to enjoy it more had I not had the marathon the following morning.

O, Canada! replaced my typical (far too often taken for granted) Star Spangled Banner and 42.2 KM is the distance of a marathon in Canada. While the 26.2 mile markers were also present, the km markers seemed move the race along. It was warm, which seemed weird to complain about since I am from Texas, but when I say warm I mean too warm to run for more than three hours. The first 10k of the race featured some heavy up and downs which I would later learn hurt me and destroyed many others. I ran up to Lindsey around mile 7 with my shirt saying “It’s too warm… it’s too warm” she thought I was dropping out but the rest of plea was “too warm to PR, so give me a kiss.” Within the next mile or two we entered the Pacific Spirit Park with its towering trees; providing ample shade and cooler temps, only fitting now that I have no shirt. Winding our way through this park we were blessed with an occasional peak of the water backdropped by snowcapped mountains. Then the final 16 miles took us close enough to the water to make for sensory, or at least visually so, overload. We wrapped around the University of British Columbia, past numerous beaches and onto the highly-acclaimed Stanley Park Seawall. We finished downtown. My take on the race in a single phrase: Too warm to PR but so beautiful that it did not matter. I ran a 3:23:29, my second best time.

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I spent the afternoon celebrating here and there, Lindsey and I enjoyed some oysters and cocktails at Joe Forte’s, including their signature Joe’s Gold (from Reed Island). We found our poutine and pate at Boneta and a very good Pinot Noir: Joseph Cromy, Tasmania. Ryan left Monday morning but not before our obligatory hockey photo. Lindsey and I took a run around the bay out to the seawall; it was our first actual run together – couldn’t think of a better venue. Our late breakfast at Medina was Lindsey’s favorite of the trip. We both ordered waffles, hers topped with chocolate and mine salted caramel (and some of her chocolate). She ordered the special Salmon dish, while I had the Fricasse (Short Rib and Egg skillet). Finally, I ordered a side of bacon which was so good it was almost pork belly; it almost makes me rethink bacon altogether. We then took a ferry to North Vancouver to explore Lynn Canyon Park. A friend of mine from college gave us a ride to the park and took some pictures of us while we were on the suspension bridge.

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Lindsey and I hiked around some old stumps, walked in the glacial water, took in some views of some falls and way too many steps for someone who ran a marathon the day before.

Rodney’s Oyster House, where we tried an assortment of oysters (Royal Miagi was our favorite), enjoyed the Red Rooster Pinot Blanc from B.C. and shared a very well prepared potato encrusted Halibut. We finished off the night and our trip with a cocktail at the Granville Room. For Lindsey a fitting Final Word and I had an Alberta whisky Dark Horse. We took a cab back to the hotel, which gracefully completed our public transportation dance card.

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Vancouver was a place I had visited many years ago before embarking on a cruise with family. Then I knew it was a place I would like to revisit; after experiencing it again, I still long for more.

#strongerthan

As a runner, as a writer – okay okay, as a human I try to find inspiration wherever I can. Last week I noticed one of the personal trainers at Lifetime Fitness has a tattoo reads “stronger than cancer”. This brought to mind several questions: Is it literal? Did SHE beat cancer? Someone she knows or knew? I talked to her about it and learned that it was her mother’s cancer (mother’s choices that lead to that cancer) that this trainer was “stronger than”.
Additionally, a massage client came in – she is participating in the 90 day weight loss challenge and rewarding herself with a massage for every 10 lbs. lost. This was her third massage. Stronger than cravings.
These encounters combined with the Boston Bombings , where Boston proved to be Boston Strong – stronger than fear, stronger than hate, have inspired me to be #stronger than.
We all persist, survive and overcome throughout our lives – what are you stronger than today?

(not so random) acts of kindness

The more I think about this bombing, I am more disturbed as a runner, an American, and a human. The Boston Marathon plays host to many countries and creeds and those there to spectate are selflessly standing by, sometimes for hours, to witness their loved one or even a complete stranger accomplish a feat. My heart certainly goes out to the loved ones of the three and those recovering from amputations. I look forward to reading more and more of their accounts and stories of survival; inspirations to myself and many others.

The past couple of days, the news has been filled with stories of people helping people in response to the blasts in Boston. I think it is great to report on these. Let’s not call them random though. As brothers and sisters pick on each other from time to time, antagonize one another and even harm (rarely maliciously) one another, so it is with our American family. We stick together and stand up for each other in the time of need. Whereas regular circumstance might require one to label these acts of kindness as random, once the situation has been altered so are its descriptors. It is not random of us to help one another in a time of need. This tragedy has proven once again, the strength of this country and its people. Though we are still running – we have not forgotten, will not forget and the memory will power us on.

miscellaneous monday: marathon monday

I had every intention of writing about my run today, not in Boston but a twenty mile training run here in Houston.  Then I heard the unbelievable news from the Boston Marathon – two bombs exploded near the finish line. The explosions have left 2 dead and an ever rising count of injured is currently 23. At one point, The Boston Globe tweeted that 100 people were being treated in area hospitals but no authority has confirmed this.

Here are a couple links to live blogs on the story: Al Jezeera and NY Times Follow the Boston Marathon or The Boston Globe on Twitter. Additionally, #bostonmarathon seems to connect latest scrolling updates and is just being re-presented within the above blogs.

Though it typically goes without saying, those involved and their families are in my thoughts and prayers this evening. This madness in Massachusetts is troubling to me for a number of reasons. I will NOT try to understand it but simply state that it is horrifying what evil exists in the minds of some people today. An act such as this, for any reason, is unacceptable if we are to all exist for an extended number of days, months or years to come. Though most likely domestic, it is unreal and let’s agree insane, that someone would feel they could do this for whatever their reason might be.

As a runner myself, I know that even the minimalist-most efforts that every single participant could endure to train and then complete a marathon. Furthermore, you must qualify to run Boston. A marathoner trains for months leading up to an event; they rearrange their lives in order to add to compete. Some do it to run faster than others, some try to run faster than they have before, some do as a memorial to a loved one, some to raise money for a charity, some to challenge themselves and push themselves farther, some want to lose weight, others to maintain; each have their reasons, though some more inspiring than others, all are valid and all require commitment, perseverance, and heart.

To avoid letting the terrorists or what- whom- which-ever it is that is responsible get the upper hand here: I will tell you about the run I endured today, but in respect to those who were more immediately troubled and/or injured in today’s event, I will tell of my run – tomorrow.