Mara’s first day of school

First day of 2nd Grade today:

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First day of 1st Grade last year:

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First day of Kindergarten 2 years ago:

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First day of preschool 3 years ago:

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First day of preschool 4 years ago:

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Maly’s first day of school

First day of 8th Grade today:

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First day of 7th Grade last year:

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First day of 6th Grade 2 years ago:

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First day of 5th Grade 3 years ago:

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First day of 4th Grade 4 years ago:

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First day of 3rd Grade 5 years ago

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First day of 2nd Grade 6 years ago

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First day of 1st Grade 7 years ago:

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First day of Kindergarten 8 years ago:

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First day of school 9 years ago:

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First day of school 10 years ago:

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First day of school 11 years ago:

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Portland

Here’s a compilation of some videos that I shot with the GoPro during our trip to Portland.

A runner’s sprained ankle physical therapy

I was diagnosed with a sprained anterior talofibular tendon on May 19th after twisting my ankle a few miles into our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim run. About a week after the sprain, I honestly wished I would’ve just broken my damn ankle. I’ve broken both of my ankles before and between us, I think this sprain is more of a pain in the ass than a fracture. I think “sprain” is too weak of a word. The medical community should call it what it is: Incurable Shitty Ankle.

A week after the sprain, my ankle was still the size of a softball and there was no way in hell I was going to try to run on it. The physical therapist, also a runner, who saw me in Flagstaff, told me I’d be looking at at least a month. And then he gave me my printout of stretches and strength-training exercises.

Now I’d been through physical therapy in the past with a hip injury. Based on the extensive research I’ve done by interviewing other casual and amateur athletes, 99.3% of them don’t follow through with their prescribed physical therapy. I am part of that 99.3% and didn’t continue with my hip exercises.

This time I decided I would actually do my PT because there’s absolutely no way I can run through this injury. I’ve only been doing these exercises for 11 days, and I have no idea how I’m going to fare when I return to running, but figured I’d memorialize the rehabilitation here with the hope that I might help you, fellow injured runner, overcome your Incurable Shitty Ankle. Note that a lot of these stretches and exercises are are supportive in nature, and focused in the hips and glutes.

Standing Hip Abduction (each leg 10 x 3)

Sidelying hip abduction (each leg 10 x 3)

Clamshells (each leg 10 x 3)

Weighted hip arches (10 x 3)

Supine active straight leg raise (each leg 10 x 3)

Ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion (each ankle 10 x 3)

Ankle inversion and eversion (each ankle 10 x 3)

Last days at Mom’s

I guess it’s a part of the circle of life; a parent, or parents die. You have to change the way you talk about what you’re going to do for the weekend. It used to be, “I’m going to my parents’ place this weekend.” Suddenly it changes to, “We’re going to my mom’s place this weekend.”

And then, on day, you find yourself thinking, “Where am I going this weekend? We’re going to Mom’s place. But it’s not ‘home’ for me.” That cycle continues. You’re not really going home; not to the home you know. I guess you’re going to your mom’s home. Your home is what your children know as ‘home.’ You have to make a home for them now.

Click the photo below to look at the photos of our last days at Mom’s place in Cat Spring, TX.

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim

On May 18, 2019, Patrick, Michael and I made the trek to the Grand Canyon to run rim-to-rim-to-rim. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle four miles into the canyon and could only make the rim-to-rim. I’d like to think that I have the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for the rim-to-rim with an anterior talofibular ligament sprain. The Grand Canyon is an amazing and awe-inspiring natural wonder. It’s even more so, and beyond words when you get down into the canyon.

And here are some photos of the trip.

Are you a runner?

Five years ago I had surgery to repair an abdominal hernia. While I was in recovery, I kept setting off an alarm because my heart rate was so low. The nurse came in to check on my to make sure I was okay. I was okay. I set the alarm off again. She came in again to find that I was still okay. I kept setting off the low heart rate alarm. The nurse came in the third of fourth time and finally asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That explains it.”

“…”

“Runners usually have a really low resting heart rate”

Early in the year I had a non-cancerous mole-like thing removed from my tongue. It was a quick procedure performed by an oral surgeon, but was still considered surgery, so I had the heart rate monitor (and some laughing gas).

I set the heart rate monitor off again. While I was on my little conscious “trip,” I decided to try to trick the machine. I focused on my breathing and controlling my pulse. I would hold my breath for a few seconds and focus on the doctor holding onto my tongue, and then I’d listen to the rhythm of the heart rate monitor. Then I’d slowly inhale through my nose, and take a really long, controlled exhale and concentrate on my heart. I could slow my heart rate. I’d set off the alarm. I’d get a little excited by “winning,” and my heart rate would increase a bit and the alarm would stop. And then I’d do it again. And again. And again. And then the nurse asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”

“Uh huhnnn.”

“Today I took a spill after running a strong 10-mile hill repeat training running. I was jogging home and tripped on a split in the sidewalk. My feet came out from underneath me and, before I knew what I was doing, I hit the ground. Hard. I rolled. I scraped up my palms, knee and shoulder. I first noticed that the wind had gotten knocked out of my lungs. I’d landed on my right side and landed on my right arm. My body landed on my right elbow and said elbow hit my ribs. After a few minutes I was able to recover and jog the last mile home.

After six or so hours, Elise and I decided I needed to go to the doctor. It hurt for me to breath, reach, bend, stretch, and pretty much exist.

We went to an urgent care. The nurse and then the doctor asked me all of the the questions about my symptoms. An x-ray was ordered.

The X-ray tech took me to the X-ray room. She lined me up against the plate against the wall for a chest X-ray. She then went back to her “room” to take the X-ray. She took a few photos. And then she restarted the process. She sighed a couple times as she took the next set of photos. And then she asked, “Josh, are you a runner?”

“Yes ma’am.”

And then she chuckled as she came back into the room. I asked, “What’s up?” She said she couldn’t get a full view of my chest with the default X-ray plate. I asked why. She told me that runners have “really long” lungs. So she had to get the large X-ray plate to get a full scan of my chest.

Thoughts on running the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim (r2r2r)

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was early on March 1st. I was in the shower. I do a lot of thinking in the shower. Sometimes really good ideas come to me. Other times, I have really bad ideas.

I knew my friends Patrick and Michael were going to be running the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim soon, and I’ll be doing a lot of running leading up to Mt. Hood in June and the Houston Marathon in January. I also have this running concept where I do something “epic” in an ultra or marathon training block; that way when I’m actually running the marathon, I can think back to that “epic” thing whenever I start experiencing a low during the race.

I’ve had the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim on my running bucket list, but honestly, I don’t know when I’d actually be able to do that on my own. I’d have to either get runner friends to go with me, or I’d need to make a family trip out it, and I think it would prove to be difficult (and somewhat self-centered) to take a family trip to the Grand Canyon, one of the most beautiful wonders of this world, and just go off on my own to run it and not be able to experience it with the family.

So I felt that this would be kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To do the r2r2r with friends, who are also very experienced ultrarunners. I asked them if I could join, and without much hesitation, they agreed to let me join the team.

Patrick and Michael are going to use the r2r2r as a training run for the Never Summer 100k in July. I’m going at it as probably the most amazing run I’ll probably ever go on. And, I’ll be honest, there are some nerves. Quite a lot of nerves for yours truly.

Since asking and graciously being accepted to run the Canyon on March 1st, Patrick booked our accommodations at Yavapai Lodge. We’ve maintained a group text thread where we’ve keep noodling over flights, and finally we booked our flights yesterday afternoon. There was part of me that was kind of secretly thinking this thing might fold in on itself because among the three of us, something would just come up and it would get delayed or canceled. We booked the flights and, as Patrick said, “Shit’s getting real now.”

In the meantime, I’ve stayed true to my marathon training plan, except I’m folding in some more difficult stuff, like doing hill repeats on the Hill of Life this past Sunday. I’ve run a 50k, and the r2r2r is ~45 miles. They say running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental.

We’re going to run with poles. I bought a pair of poles. I also splurged on a GoPro Hero 7 and a gimbal because we’re going to have to document this adventure. I also bought a better running vest. My old Ultimate Direction vest chafes my neck, so I splurged on a Salomon S-Lab vest. My next step is to go to Fleet Feet and get some advice on some good ultra distance trail running shoes. I’m leaning toward Hoka, but won’t know until I put some on the wheels and see how they feel and fit. Forty five miles and 11,000 feet of climbing is going to be hard on the old dogs. And then I’m going to have to go on some training runs with my vest loaded with gear, nutrition, the camera and the poles.

Spring Break in Garner State Park

On Wednesday morning the family loaded up and headed west for a quick Spring Break camping trip. Unfortunately, yours truly caught some kind of mild bug or cold either the night before or that morning, so I was feeling pretty crappy. My head and nose were all stopped up. I just wasn’t feeling it, but we pressed on anyway.

We made it to Garner at around 3:30 and immediately started unpacking and setting up tents. We borrowed a tent and a couple of other camping essentials from some friends. Elise didn’t really want to set up both tents, but we have a 4-person tent and would fit us like sardines. And since I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t want to sleep in a single cramped tent, so I insisted that we set up the other tent.

After about an hour, our camp was set up and we started a fire to get ready for dinner. We grilled a chicken breast for the girls for an Italian salad. Elise and I had the same salad with foil packet potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and cannellini beans. And then, of course, we had to do the obligatory s’mores before calling it a night and going to bed.

In our packing, our car was at max capacity. We were so crammed that Elise and I had to forgo packing our own pillows. We decided we’d rough it fabricate pillows out of blankets and clothes. I surprisingly slept like a rock, however, my neck was pretty sore in the morning from sleeping on a rolled up towels as my pillow. Elise was equally sore and didn’t sleep well that first night.

We woke up with the sounds of the birds on Thursday morning. We quickly found that the camp stove that we’d borrowed from friends didn’t work. Note to self: test your camping gear before you go camping. So we had to start another fire in order to make our breakfast and boil water for coffee. For whatever reason(s), starting a fire in the morning is a lot more difficult and time-consuming in the morning that it is in the evening. Maybe it’s because you’re in a rush to get your day started and waiting on a fire delays plans. Maybe it’s the humidity and still air. I swear it took damn near an hour to get the fire big and hot enough to get around to heating our pot of water and cast iron skillet for eggs and bacon. The girls and bacon and egg breakfast tacos. Elise and I had tofu scramble tacos with our leftover foil packet mushrooms and potatoes with salsa.

After eating breakfast and cleaning up, we set out on our first adventure of the day to hike the Old Baldy Trail. This is a relatively short hike of only a bit more than a half mile, but it’s very steep and technical. And we had kids in tow. And Maly decided to dust off her camera and bring it with her on our camping trip, so she was stopping to take a lot of photos. And, true to form, Mara proved herself as an awesome little hiker. She did have a little spill on the way back down Old Baldy. She’d decided to wear rain boots on this hike, so I’m sure that decision didn’t help in her footing. She had to cry a bit because she banged up her leg pretty badly, but she was back up and at it after the tears dried up.

While I wasn’t complaining, I just wasn’t feeling well, and I think Elise could sense it. So we decided to call the summit of Old Baldy the highlight of our day. We then drove over to the park’s pavilion and the girls got some gelato. We sat under the huge oak tree at the pavilion and relaxed for a bit, then did some browsing in the gift shop. Then we drove over to the park store to get some more ice and firewood. Then we drove back to our campsite and walked the couple hundred yards to let the girls play in the Frio River. After about an hour, it was time to head back to camp and start the fire and get ready for dinner.

Thursday’s dinner was hotdogs for the girls and some pretty gross meatless veggie dogs for Elise and me. We also snarfed a bunch of tortilla chips and salad. And then, again, the obligatory campfire s’mores. It was as the sun was starting to creep down toward the horizon, Elise and Maly decided to run over to the camp store for more firewood, and then into Leakey so Elise could buy some dollar store pillows for us. While they were gone, Mara and I hung out and were able to witness an amazing moonrise.

Elise and Maly returned from their errands, and we made a few more s’mores before calling it a night and hitting the hay. Man, having a pillow makes a world of difference when you’re tent camping.

Friday morning came early with the chirping of birds again. And it was another slow morning as we had to build another fire for coffee and campfire pancakes. We also decided to take showers since it’d been a couple days since we’d all last bathed. Friday was a really slow morning and I think we finally made it out from our camp around noon.

We drove back over to the pavilion and hiked up the Crystal Cave Trail and explored Crystal Cave for a few minutes. Then we made our descent down the Bridges Trail. We made it back down to the pavilion, made a quick bathroom break, and then hiked the Old Entrance Road before calling it a day for the hiking.

We headed back to camp and the weather started looking iffy. We knew we had some significant rain chances all week, but the forecast was changing by the hour as we kept checking our phones. Finally we just decided to rely on the clouds and atmospheric pressure. It was too cloudy and cold to go back to the river on Friday evening, so we stayed at the campsite, fired up the campfire and made Frito pies and salad for dinner.

It was as we were getting dinner all cleaned up and the sun was going down that someone (probably yours truly) suggested that we consider going home Friday night instead of risking getting rained on. We noodled over it. We took a vote. Elise and Mara really wanted to stay. Maly and I were indifferent. We talked about it for a while and ultimately decided that it would probably be best to pack dry camping gear now versus wet camping gear in the morning. We’d already packed one of the tents and put all the non-essentials in the car and decided to just pack up the rest of the gear and get on the road. I think it was the right decision, too. About the time we’d decided to pack everything, a group of six people showed up at the site next to us and set up their tent really close to ours.

We got everything packed and miraculously loaded up by flashlight and found ourselves saying goodbye and heading out of Garner at 9:30 on Friday night. The girls immediately conked out in the backseat. I nodded off a couple times, and I think I finally actually fell asleep 30 minutes from the house.

We got home at 12:30 a.m., parked the car, didn’t grab a thing, and we all just piled out and went to our respective comfy beds where the sandman put us all into a nice, soft slumber.

I like the think we all had a blast and the girls will be left with memories that will stay with them forever.

The things they’ll grow out of

One day you might find yourself annoyed, frustrated, maybe even mad when you find that your shaving cream is gone. Your contact lens solution is also gone. And there’s corn starch and food coloring all over the kitchen counter. You were worried about the way things should be. Clean. Tidy. In its place. Not being a nuisance. And then one day you will find yourself sad and longing for the days when your little girl was experimenting with different recipes for slime. The slime by which you were mildly amused because you stopped being an adult for a fleeting moment. But they were slime recipes that she worked on and had fun with for weeks and weeks. The mess doesn’t matter.

The same is true for when you quietly wished she’d hurry up and grow out of the phase where she’d put socks on her hands, tuck a striped tail into the back of her shorts and walk around on the hardwood floors on all fours, pretending that she was a cat. You might stare and think about how she’s ruining those socks, or the knees of her pants. The socks don’t matter.

Don’t miss out on those weeks of experimenting, learning, and playing. One day she won’t do those things any longer. One day she’s going to be older. One day she’s going to be like you.

Mara and the tooth fairy

Mara lost her second front top tooth in her sleep last night. She woke up this morning, immediately realized she’d lost her tooth, and she couldn’t find it. Our first fear and inclination was that she’d swallowed it in her sleep. She got out of bed and thankfully we found it. The tooth had somehow worked its way down and was underneath her thigh.

After dinner and before bed, Mara wrote a letter to the Tooth Fairy, letting her know that she wanted to keep her tooth, and then she put her letter and the tooth under her pillow.

We put the girls to bed last night and, like most nights, Elise and I settled in for some downtime in the living room. We watched a documentary called Abducted in Plain Sight and by the time it was over, it was light and we went straight to bed.

We woke up yesterday morning and went about our respective morning rituals of getting ourselves and the girls ready for the day. I was at the sink in the bathroom and Elise walked in and said, “Crap! The Tooth Fairy!” We’d completely forgot about Mara’s tooth last night.

I scurried and went through my stuff, looking for a gold dollar coin. I couldn’t find one anywhere in my usual spots. We were quickly running out of time because it was getting late in the morning, and was well past the time that Mara should be up and getting herself ready for school.

While I was still uncovering things in an attempt to find a gold dollar coin, Elise, being the great mother that she is, did what I’d only imagine any other parent of a second child would do, and went to Mara’s piggy bank and repurposed one of Mara’s own gold dollar coins and slid it under Mara’s pillow just as gentled nudged the child to wake up and start getting ready for school. And Mara immediately woke up and excitedly found a new gold dollar coin that the Tooth Fairy had left for her, at some point many hours ago in the middle of the night.

A letter to Maly

When you get older and you’re out of the nest that’s your current home with Mom, Mara and me, make sure you travel and see the earth. Don’t settle for a desk job. Get out there and take risks. Find your own way. And make sure you’re able to laugh at everything. Laughing is extremely important. Probably the most important thing in life. You’ll suffer. You’ll thrive. Your heart will get broken and people you’re close to will die. You’ll do dumb things and you’ll experience amazing things. In all of these experiences, make sure you take it all in. Write about it in your own words, and find the humor in it all. You’ll hopefully thank me one day.

Save this email. Open it when you’re 30. And when you’re 40. And then come tell me about your experiences. Wherever I am.

I love you, Sug.

Daddy

Mother Teresa pizza and a weekend update

Elise had to work early on Saturday morning, so the girls and I were able to hang out. Maly had lacrosse practice in the spitting cold rain. She and the other girls got their jerseys, hoodies and socks. After practice we hit the grocery story for birthday party stuff for Lauren, and to get lunch, which consisted of cheese pizza for the girls and vegan pizza for yours truly.

We can home and annihilated the two pizzas and then watched Napolean Dynomite. Maly went to her birthday party sleepover. I had a 5-mile run at pace.

Elise, Mara and I decided to go to Pinthouse Pizza for dinner. After settling on a couple brews, we ordered a small cheese pizza for Mara and a built-to-order vegan pizza with vegan cheese, mushrooms, kalamata olives and arugula. After waiting 20 minutes, our pizza came and we all dug in. Elise’s and my pizza was SO good. So much so that we quickly realized it wasn’t baked with vegan cheese. So we decided to take the Mother Teresa route and be thankful that we had food. I’ll be curious to see if their pizza with vegan cheese is as good as the one we had last night. PHP’s pizza is pretty damn awesome. So much so that I announced, “this is probably the best pizza I’ve ever had!” To which Mara quickly rebutted with, “Daddy! Craig O’s has the best pizza! It’s my favorite restaurant ever!!” I concurred.

This morning we kind of slept in until 8. I went on an 11-miler on the new path along 45. It was a great run going south, and I wanted to keep going to explore the path, but I didn’t really feel like running 15 miles, so I figured I’d leave exploring the rest of the path for another long run day. Holy hell when I turned around, I was greeted with a headwind that could just kiss my ass. So I had to fight that for the second half of my run. I’m happy with week #1 of my periodized training plan.

Here it is, March, and we’re going to be dealing with freezing temperatures for the next three days.