Friday, May 8, 2015

Nearing the End?

Closer and Closer to the Journey's End

The more one continues on the road they are comfortable, the more complacent one becomes, and then the question of improvement becomes the greatest unknown.

Back to my home course.  Galveston is just a little over an hour drive south of our home, and while the  weather is what you'd expect (hot, humid, muggy), Galveston general has a bit more wind, and the race is known for it's generally strong crosswinds.  The bike portion of the race is straight west then straight East (and out and back), and the winds generally blow south off the ocean - usually at about 10-15 mph (but have been up near 25 and 30 for some events).

We also try to make a family vacation out of this race too, so we rented our usual beach front condo, and went down early on Friday, and spent Friday and Saturday letting the kids have fun at the beach and pools.  Jamie's parents and sisters joined us, which was greatly appreciated as they took the brunt of the kids energy! ;)

Friday night was gorgeous, and we all went down the the beach as the sun was setting to walk on the beach and get our feet a bit wet - at least that is what we planned, and how it started.

But as anyone who has kids knows, there is no such thing as "kinda" going to the beach to check it out.  Before long, all three of the girls (fully clothed) were chest deep in the ocean trying to "jump" waves.  But really, the waves were crashing down on them, and knocking them they might as well have been full on been swimming out there - they were drenched! :)

Since that turned out so well, we decided to bust out the brownies and ice cream for PaPa's was a very good night for the kids - they ate a lot.

 Race Morning

I love the pre-race atmosphere.  Especially the feeling of getting ready, setting up transition, and just taking in the surroundings.

Jamie came with me in the wee hours of the morning, and this time we let the kids sleep in with Jamie's parents......they were exhausted from dipping their "toes" in the water.


The morning was buzzing with talk of wetsuits.  I had not even thought about this race as not being wetsuit legal, but being a couple weeks later this year than years in the past, the water ended up on the edge of being wetsuit legal or not.  In the end, the water was just warm enough to make it wetsuit "optional".

If you wanted to wear your wetsuit, you had to start in the last wave (the race started at 7:00, then every 4 minutes waves would start.......if you wanted the wetsuit, you had to start at about 8:30).

Here is an issue I do not like about some triathletes, especially age groupers.  There are many that say racing with a wetsuit in a wetsuit "optional" race is not in the spirit of triathlon, and if you wear it they kinda look down on it, and remark negatively about it.  Really?  Everyone is out here trying to enjoy the sport, pushing themselves to their limits, and trying to accomplish things other people think is crazy......and we're going to try and put "stars on our bellies" because we are not wearing a wetsuit, and they are........come on.  Fortunately those types are far and few between, and every sport has them, I just wish they'd be more quiet (like silent).

I ended up not wearing my wetsuit.  I would have if my wave was starting closer to the end, but I did not want to wait an extra 40 minutes, to gain what I thought might be a couple minutes during the swim.  To me, being 40 minutes further along on the bike and the run was much more valuable than a couple of extra minutes in the ocean.

SWIM 1.2 Miles
(46 minutes)

Well.....that didn't go too well.  Felt great, felt fine, but the extra couple minutes I figured I'd give up not wearing a wetsuit turned into 6 minutes.......huh?  How'd that happen?

Water was cold and a bit crowded, so I got to the outside by myself.  I must have been too far outside, as my angles back to the turn buoys must have been worse than I thought.  There were only two turns, but I did have to swim back in to get to them.......I was hanging out too far on the edges with the paddle boards and kayaks.

 The swim stuck in my head.  Only because I wanted to break 5hr 30min, and giving a whole 6 minutes up on the swim is not what I had in mind.

BIKE 56 Miles
(2 hours 36 minutes - 21.5 mph) 

 I've been putting some time in on the bike, and I was happy to see it pay off.  Weather was overcast, and it started raining a bit on the bike too, but the ride is amazing right along the coast, and my legs felt great.  I decided to consume more liquid nutrition than solid, and also brought my beloved salt tablets along this time. Figured if a little salt on the run was good.....imagine a little salt throughout the whole day. :)

If you do that though, you'd better take a lot of water too.  The ride out was great, was able to avg 21.8 out, and held that back for awhile until the wind kicked up the last 12-15 miles.  I knew giving 40 minutes for a wetsuit was not going to be worth it, was glad I wasn't 40 minutes behind where I was with the wind that was picking up (not as strong as in past years, not even close, but no head wind is also better than any head wind). 

I could have rode another 20-30 miles at that pace, it felt great and smooth (and I love being out on the roads) - but I knew I still had a half marry to run.  And as anyone who has followed my blogs knows, I usually crater on the run.  Usually cramps and poor nutrition and mashing the bike too I had my doubts as I laced up my running shoes.

Run 13.1 Miles
(1 hour 51 minutes - 8:30 min pace)

Started to lose it at the end, but that was my plan run until my legs came off.  I wanted nothing in the tank, but I didn't want to cramp, or for my legs to give out too soon.  The first half I ran closer to 8:00 min pace, then slowly started giving up seconds over the second half.  Although I felt tired, and my body was exhausted, I was not cramping.......and I knew if my body didn't shut down, then it was just all mind and determination, and I knew then it was going to be a good end.  The run started to get hot, but my body was holding together.  That might have had something to do with the salt I had been taking all day.  Some say salt is not that helpful, well to is.  All I have for proof is the way I feel, and the way my body responds - which is to say that my body doesn't shut down and cramp up.  Now.......I may have taken too much.  I might have taken a whole bottle of salt pills throughout the whole day.....that is not recommended at all.  But I took some before the swim, after the swim, a few more on the bike, and a little more on the bike, and then some in transition agian, and then some on the first, second, and third loop of the run......and then eventually, they were all gone - but by then I was pretty sure I wasn't going to cramp. ;)

I was taking a lot of water and liquids throughout the day, and I sweat A LOT.  It is something that I've trained an experimented with, and felt comfortable with it as part of my nutrition. 

(5 hours 22 minutes) 

And what were the kids and the family doing during the day?  Oh leisurely flying kites.


I enjoyed the day, enjoyed the race, and performed as well as I could have hoped for.....well, at least as well as I had trained for. :)

I accomplished my goal, even giving up those early swim minutes.  More than made it up those minutes on the bike and run.  I do know this, I didn't have anything left in the tank at the end.  Another mile would have been rough.

I do have one more tri planned though......which I'm really excited for - Escape From Alcatraz in June this year.  But that is just a bucket list to take in the town and moment.

I have a riding buddy who is thinking about trying to do a half (70.3), and when he gets to the start line, I'll be there too.......but I think for me, my 70.3 days are at an end.


The journey is coming to an end, but the best thing about this journey is that it never really ends.  While I may not race as much, the training is ingrained in me.  I love getting up early.  I love seeing the world awake.  I love being out on empty back roads whether running or biking, and seeing things and experiencing surroundings that most people don't know exist anymore - as they are too busy being in a rush and taking the highways that have turned the back roads into after thoughts.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Houston Marathon 2015

At it again........ 

Back to the race which started me into marathon running last year (January 2014).  I had visions of running sub 3:30 that day, and ended running 3:43, as my legs fell apart at mile 22.  Then I ran a marathon at the end of an Ironman in a time of 5:30 (May 2014), which never felt good at any point (but man what a great, fun, rewarding day).  Then I ran another open marathon in St. George Utah and ran 3:58 (October 2014), as my legs fell apart at mile 18.

(pre race photo with COP/P66 guys..missing some too)
Then I decided instead of just wishing and having aspirations to run a sub 3:30 marathon, that I would actually train properly to do it (longer runs, earlier mornings), in order to not have my legs get shredded in the last 2-3 miles.  When the 4:00 AM alarm goes off on Friday mornings for my 15 mile long run days, sometimes I think - why?  Two things:  1)  Not wanting to ever feel that pain again of having your legs completely falling off, and being powerless to stop it, as everything seizes up and goes into complete lock down.  2) I actually love getting up in the early morning and running on the streets before the world wakes up, and being able to see the city come to life.

FINISH TIME 3 hours 29 minutes.
(ran very consistent 8 min/mi and did not fall off at the end, although had it been another mile, I would have been in some serous trouble)

Thanks for all the love and get out there and set some goals (happy hunting)!  Top of Utah and Honolulu marathons are coming up soon! :)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

St George Marathon


Well, it's taken me awhile to get my thoughts down, but what an experience!

So, back in January when I ran my first marathon (Houston Marathon), I was able to talk with my Dad about his ONE marathon experience.  I capitalize ONE because his tale is a cautionary tale, one that began, and then ended his marathon desire.

It goes like this.  It was cold, and then started to rain on top of that.  By the time they started, everyone was drenched.  On top of that, it was dark.  Which is usually a good thing.....start early, finish early, avoid some heat of the day.  Well, in my dad's case he started out at what he thought felt like a good solid pace, even though his soaking socks and shoes made it unpleasant.  Well.....once the sun came up a few miles in, and he was able to see his watch.....complete horror.  Marathons are all about pace.  Train, train, train, then go out a bit on it, and finish as you trained.  My dad had gone out too fast, WAY too fast.  As soon as he saw his pace, he knew he was toast, and he still had about another 20 miles to go.

Then as he is miserably suffering through the long middle miles, his nutrition tanks, and he is looking for anything to help.......some spectators actually had a chocolate bar, which he took, and it helped immensly.  Needless to say, he finished, but suffered from the beginning to the end, and that was his last marathon.

He now tongue and cheek makes fun of us, for all the extra "help" we get along the way.  Aid stations with Gatorade, GUs, fruit, vaseline, and hot and icey rubs.....he implies it is essentially cheating....which compared to his time, A LONG time ago, I could see that (just kidding Dad, it wasn't THAT long ago). ;)

So, where was this marathon?  St. George Utah, in 1983 (I was 5).

Thus.....the return.....

The story of how "The Return to St. George" came to be, is also a story worth telling.

I run, and bike, and swim because I love to.  It's in me now, it's part of who I am.  I don't do it for special events, medals or accomplishments......I do it because I enjoy it, and because I can.  I know someday it will not come as easy, and eventually there will be a day when I won't be able to.  A day when the body will say "no".  And I want to make sure I don't let days in which "I can" slip away.

After finishing the Houston marathon, I got a lot of calls and texts from my family, but one in particular struck a nerve.  He talked about me inspiring him, motivating him, and how he wanted to run a marathon was my older brother Brian.  He used to run track in high school, and was the fastest 400 meter runner in the family (depending on the brother you ask, and it is arguable, since is it always argued when we get together).

Since then, life has happened, as it does to us all.  I don't think he's ran since high school, and has put on a bit of weight, and health wise has not been too great.  I told him that if he started training, and started running, no matter where and when, I'd be there.  I kinda had a hard time believing him.

Then......he started texting how he was training, and what he was doing to get ready...every single day.  Then Jill, my older sister, was added to the texts right away, and now there were 3 of us lending support and encouragement, then I, this might really happen.  Jill had never ran a marathon either, and was hesitant, but said, "if Brian runs one, I'll run one."  Well, she was now in too.  Mind you, she is a Division I All-American and in the BYU Hall of Fame, but she hadn't quite taken on the Marathon distance.  And her issues are a little different, she has blood sugar and insulin problems, which makes it hard for her to do long endurance sports, as it is unpredictable how her body will or might respond....and we're not talking about physical or mental exhaustion, we're talking serious possible medical issues.

After 10 months of texting, encouragement and training.....we really met up in St. George, which we decided to do to bring the marathon story full circle.  We even had the next generation represented, as Derek (Jill's son) joined us to run.  He had never ran a marathon either, and his school schedule really didn't allow him the best training.....and he felt it later. :)

 Of course Dad came down to relive his agony of that day 31 years ago, and he had the shirt (that still fit) to prove it!

The crew, the morning of.  So what could go wrong?  Everybody had made it to the destination, trained, had their gear, and were ready to run....oh, how about Jill forgetting her INSULIN (she found some and bought some, but paid a pretty penny for it), or what about Brian forgetting his racing bib the morning of, and having to go back and get it from the hotel!

I tell you what.  For people who were focused and ready to run, and had trained....their focus was a bit extreme, when you forget some of the essentials! LOL! ;)

Well we all made the bus, with everything we needed, and rode up to the start line together.  I love the time right before big events.  All the energy pinned up and waiting to be released.  The excitement, nervousness, uncertainty, and anticipation.........and then we were delayed 30 minutes due to bus breakdowns (which is unusual since St. George is ranked one of the most well run, and organized marathons).  By this time, we had all separated, and lined up with our respective pace times, but as soon as they announced the delay, I thought "oh man, Brian is in trouble."  He had trained, but the heat had caused him difficulties.  The delay would only make it hotter now.

The gun went off and we were off. I felt great for about 15 miles.  My hill training was lacking, I'm from Houston....the only hills we have are overpasses.  People call this a "fast" marathon course.  Maybe, if you are from that area.  People who aren't familiar with hill running, always talk about the uphills, well the DOWNHILLS are just as bad, and for me, they were even worse.

By the time I hit mile 20, my quads were gone, and beyond that the toenail on my right foot had completely come loose and was pretty painful.

But beyond the pain, the course was absolutely beautiful.  A lot of the "fun" of doing endurance events is enjoying the different locations, crowds, scenery, and surroundings......and St. George did not disappoint, it was amazing - even though it crushed me.

I finished in just under 4 hours (16 minutes slower than Houston in January).  Not what I had planned, but this marathon was more than times, paces, personal was about family, and 3 others that were trying to finish their first marathons.

After crossing the finish line, I was exhausted, but the first thing that popped in mind was, "Grab some ice cream, and get going back up the course and find Derek, Jill, and Brian."  And so I did.  And that is how I found them, in that order.

Derek was looking strong, and had a great race, especially for his first, with very little training.  If you run into him though, ask him how his knees and legs felt the days after! :)

This picture depicts exactly what I saw when I found Jill.  Completely having a good time, smiling, really enjoying that she was in the process of completing something that she thought she might or could never do.  She was all smiles, and was running behind Natalie Downs (who was also running her first) by only a few yards. It was only after the race, that I heard the story of her blood sugars dropping dangerously low, and being worried about almost missing a very important insulin injection, which her husband Eric was driving around with on the course to meet her at designated spots (team work and family)........what an accomplishment.

 And then I found Brian at about the mile 21 marker, and got to run the rest of it with him.  He was not in the best conditions.  But he was moving.....forward.  At mile 23 there was a time cut-off.  After that, you could take as long as you wanted to finish.  There was a van driving the course picking up runners that didn't think they could make it, or didn't want to continue any way Brian was getting in that thing.

He made cut off by 10 seconds.  BOOM!  And what got him there? I encouraged, but it was his amazing family and kids, who had surprised him by driving in from Wyoming the night before, and cheered for him at different points throughout the race.  As I talked to him about time, and pace, and making the cutoff, and about the people who had quit behind him........he had one motivating factor propelling him forward, his family.  His wife and kids who had watched him train and prepare, and were there to watch him FINISH, not quit.  You would have had to take his legs to stop him, and I don't know if that would have done it either.


The final stretch.  His kids got to join in, and finish with their dad, how cool is that?  What a memorable experience for Brian.......but also for his kids.  To finish with their dad who had started something, and finished it.....and they got to be a part of it.  Family, it's all that matters.

 The four of us, post race, with our medals.  I have been able to finish a lot of different endurance races, but his one was different than them all........finishing with family, cheering family, watching family achieve what they thought was impossible.....what an incredible experience!


Brian, right after the picture.  He may have laid there all night had we not been so hungry.  we are pouring bags of ice on his feet.  His heal had split open, had huge blisters, and blood all over the place.....with a smile on his face.
And until you finish something you never thought you'd be able to do, you'd think "how can he be smiling?!"  But that sense of doing, accomplishing, and overcoming is so powerful it dwarfs any temporary pain....a memory that will never be taken away! :)


 I am sure I speak for us all with the below picture and words:


And while in St. George, so close to Vegas.......doing things involving family, how can you not stop and see the grandmother that has been so supportive and instrumental in our parents upbringing, and thus ours?  What a great family I have, and am able to be part of.

And I could not end any of blogs without thanking my family.  To Jamie for watching and holding down the fort while I was gone for the weekend.  It is no small task chasing 4 kids around.  Thank you. :)

PS - There are rumors and initial email chains about Honolulu in 2015 - WHO'S IN?!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Journey Complete.

Short Version:

2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

Long Version:

486 miles swimming, 13,770 miles biking, and 4,860 miles running

Super long, extended, detailed version:

Sometimes the path to your goals does not turn out exactly the way you had planned it, but adapting to the path you find yourself on, is part of the journey to finishing.....not just an Ironman or race, but anything.

The weekend started off well.  I was able to get up to the Woodlands early to register before the crowds, look around, and get a feel of the venue and transition areas.  I usually like doing that before the crowds show up.  That way, I get to talk more with the volunteers, and get their stories and tips, as they have more time to talk to individuals (and some of the volunteers are actually really experienced triathletes who have a lot of good pointers....just an fyi).

 (credit to Kevin)

On Thursday night there was an athlete dinner.  Usually I avoid events like this, but I am glad I went.  I was by myself, so I just sat at a table near the back.  Met two nice ladies from Chicago and a guy from Minnesota.  I told them they lucked out on the weather (low humidity and first time ever the Texas Ironman had been completely wetsuit legal).  You would have thought we had all been friends forever talking, joking around, and telling stories......but that is another reason I like triathlon as a sport, really down to earth people with unbelievable stories (ok, there are some triathletes that are complete a*% clowns, but I think every sport has those....right??).


The crew.  One last time.

Jamie is a rockstar being able to entertain this crew all day while waiting on me.  And just getting them up at 5AM to come hang with me before the swim start.  Playgrounds are always good too. :)

Just a soothing, reassuring feeling before getting in the may-lay they call a swim start.  This was the real deal though - no wave starts (where age groups usually start 5 minutes after each other, until everybody has gone).  Everybody, all at was pretty awesome.

As always, some good pre-race advice from this one.  Since I've never had a coach or an official tri group that I belong too, she fits that role for me.  At least from a motivational aspect.

Swim:  1 hour 26 min

Yep, a bit slow.  Didn't get a clean start, and was a little bogged down in the masses at the beginning.  Swim went smooth though, didn't get kicked or smacked too bad, and only had to kick a couple arms off my feet.  First half mile was a little crowded, but I found my way to some relatively "open" water, and settled in.

The end of the swim is pretty unique.  For a little less than the last mile, we swam down a canal which was lined on both sides with spectators.  It was pretty cool to see and hear them so close during a lengthy portion of the swim.

I felt great at the end of the swim.  Not tired or sore.  No cramping.  Felt like I could have kept swimming for another long while.  As I climbed out of the water, I felt really comfortable with my day and the plan I had laid out.

Bike:  6 hours 40 min

And this is when everything fell apart.  No planning or training could have prepared me for what was in store the rest of the day.

I was just settling in and getting mentally comfortable with the long ride that was ahead of me.  Started to get excited about the course I had reviewed online and all the sites I was going to get to see, especially the ride through the National Forest.

Then, as I passed a slower cyclist.......things fell apart - very quickly.

First, when passing you are only supposed to be two riders wide, especially near the beginning, when the lane we are constricted to is narrower.  As I was passing, another cyclist started passing me on the left (making us 3 wide), which I was fine with - until the biker on the inside, who was going pretty slow, had no one in front of him, and had no one to pass.  He started drifting left - I had nowhere to go.  He bumped me, and that was enough.

This is what it would have looked like, with me in the middle (and the two behind not so close):

From just getting settled in and getting comfortable, to skidding across the asphalt/concrete at 22 mph.  Probably skidded about 10-15 ft.  I distinctly remember while skidding, tucking my head, and thinking to myself, "Please.  Let it be a bike and not a car that hits me."  When I stopped skidding, I was amazed that I was not hit by either a car or a bike.  As I stood up, I started to take inventory of myself.  Amazingly, nothing was broken.  Nothing felt cracked or fractured.  My whole right side was scraped up pretty good though.  Arm was pretty bloody, helmet saved my head (J got this close up the day after).

Once up, I started to look around for my bike (unbelievably no one else fell or was effected by the wreck).  An officer who was helping with the race had my bike off to the side of the road, a good ways away.  As I walked back to retrieve my bike, my thoughts turned to how my day was going to end.  All the training that I had put in for this day, to have it end so early into the bike. I was so sad, discouraged, and frustrated with how my journey was going to end.

As the officer handed me my bike, he asked if I needed medical attention, I half heard him, as I was trying to figure out what was damaged on my bike (as I was sure something was): wheels, spokes, cables, chain, pedals, gears.  As he asked me a second time, I hadn't noticed any significant damage other than the chain had come off.  I respectfully declined the medical attention, and told him I thought my bike might be "ok".  I fiddled with the chain a bit, got it back on, spun the peddles, and everything seemed good.  I told him I was going to ride it for a bit and see what happened.

He had seen the whole thing, and was as shocked as I was that I wasn't seriously hurt and my bike wasn't damaged.  It was an uncomfortably long ride.  My right side was pretty beat up, but it was the pain behind my right knee that bothered me the most.  Must have landed on it awkwardly at some point during the wreck........but I was on my bike and riding - I had gotten a second chance.  At that point, I was thankful to still be a participant, and all my meticulously laid out and calculated plans had changed from specific times and goals for certain miles on the bike and run to..........just finish.

 I love biking.  I was excited for the 112 mile bike ride.  The bike course was absolutely stunning and beautiful.  But on this day, I was really thankful to be off the bike (as in dismounting and racking, not as I had earlier found my way off the bike).

Run:  5 hours 42 min


I had run a marathon back in January to get a feel for the distance, and had done alright for a first timer (3 hr 43 min).  But there was nothing kind or comfortable about this marathon.  I take that back.  The course and fan support (mainly along the river walk, which was a good portion of the race) were amazing.  The best I have ever seen.

You know it's never a good sign when you hit mile 3 and know your body isn't fully functioning properly.  At that point I was determined to do whatever it took to finish AND fully enjoy every moment of the final hours of my journey.  So on the first two laps, I made sure to stop and talk and hug and chat with my support crew for a minute or so.  I think the kids really enjoyed that.  And it gave me a little relief from my right knee. ;)

Big shout out to J and the kids, and Jamie's Dad and Mom and Deesh coming to cheer me on!  Much appreciated and needed.  After I passed the crew on lap two, they headed to the finish line, and I had about 10 lonely miles to figure out how I was going to get there.  Pace and cadence came in key.

(the expression explains a lot)

The back of my right knee that had bothered me biking, became noticeably more uncomfortable each mile of the marathon, until about mile 17 when it was just a tad on the painful side.  Miles 17-26, took me places I didn't know existed. Part of the allure of Ironman, to me, is to test your limits.  What can you really do?  What is your body actually capable of? The marathon I ran in January gave me a glimpse of what it was like to have your body tinkering on completely shutting down physically, these last 9 miles gave me a glimpse of what was mentally possible.

Mile 17 to 18 consisted of me arguing with myself to "just finish.  You could walk the rest of the way and easily make the time limit." and my other voice saying, "This is it. Leave everything you have out here.  You already missed your goals, your body is beat up from the bike wreck, but don't just do enough to finish.  Give it a good honest final effort.  Find your limit."

Miles 18-26 were about 12:30 min pace, which is all I had.  It was almost like after making the decision to sell my body out, my mind completely shut off.  I couldn't feel anything, not the pain in my knee, not the sore legs, nothing.  It was almost like me, watching me.


The crowd, the excitement, the noise, the atmosphere, and the finish were all more than I had even imagined.

And all of this for one last medal.  A medal that will forever hold a story, a journey, and experiences I would have never imagined.  While the medal may be tangible, it is the intangible stories and experiences of triumph, trial, discouragement, improvement, support, and accomplishment that will always be the true value of the medal.  What a journey.

Thanks for all the love and support.

Special thanks to Jamie for bringing the kids each time to my races and corralling them during the races, just to see me for a brief moment and a high-five here and there.  To Jamie's family for coming and helping her with the kids and cheering me on in the warm weather.  To Ryan and Chad for riding with me super early on Saturday mornings - you two would have loved the bike course. And to my family who followed my every moment online and by texts with Jamie.......must have been close to 100 texts I read through eating dinner after the race.

Deesh and the kids eating pizza, where's mine?  That would have tasted good around mile 20! ;)

p.s.  While my journey is complete, I'll still be keeping in shape for marathons or half Ironmans, so if anyone gets the urge - give me a call and I'll be there with you. :)