Today we let go of the jog stroller. It’s been tough getting rid of the kids’ things as it’s like we’re having to let go of their childhoods. Many miles were put on this stroller. Elise made many trips to the grocery store. This stroller had lots of storage for groceries. Years ago I’d put in quite a few miles pushing this stroller with Mara in it. Pushing a stroller and kid weighing a combined 100 lbs. at a 7-something pace is a surefire way to get strong and fast. I kind of feel like we let go of a competitive advantage as well as a piece of our children’s past.
Today we let go of the TV armoire from our bedroom. After Elise and I bought our house, we bought new bedroom furniture because our old stuff was hodgepodge and rattled around in our new, big master bedroom. We found this armoire on Craigslist, it matched our new furniture, and the people who sold it to us wound up being Corey, the guy that hosted me at St. Edward’s for a weekend before I attended college there.
Today we let go of Mara’s little bike. It was too small for her. It was really sad to get rid of it because I distinctly remember Santa Claus assembling and bringing this bike to Mara a few years ago for Christmas is Des Moines.
I haven’t had any “A” races or big running goals in the past couple of years. My friend Scott and I jumped into a local 10k in November of 2018 and I got first in my age group, in the Masters division, and came in 3rd overall. I ran the Run for the Water 10-miler this past November and PR’d. I ran my best times in each leg of the 10th annual Capital to Coast Relay. I also ran my poorest 3M half marathon in January of last year. I just hadn’t been really training hard or with much ambition toward any race or any kind of goal. I’d run the Boston Marathon in 2018 and kind of rested on that achievement for a year.
Since my Boston experience was less than what I’d hoped for (35 degrees, pouring rain and a 30 mph headwind), I decided that I wanted to run another Boston-qualifying marathon, so I signed up for the Mt. Hood Marathon. My goal was to run another 3:05 or better marathon, qualify for Boston, and the family and I would make another trip to Boston in April of 2020. As part of my training block, I invited myself to run the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim with my friends Patrick and Michael. While that was probably the most epic running adventure I’ve ever been on, I also severely sprained my left ankle when we were but a few miles into descending the South Kaibab trail. I’d sprained it so badly that it warranted a trip to the emergency room in Flagstaff the next day, and a diagnosis that I was going to have to lay off the running for at least 8 weeks. That diagnosis was on May 19th. The Mt. Hood Marathon was on June 27th. I had to drop out of the marathon.
Shortly after I’d signed up for the Mt. Hood Marathon, I also signed up for the Houston Marathon. The goal for Mt. Hood was to get into Boston. The goal for Houston was to run a sub-3-hour marathon. Mt. Hood is a downhill and extremely fast marathon, which would pretty much guarantee a qualifying time for Boston. Houston is a very flat marathon which is, as they’d say, a level playing field. Running a sub-3 in Houston would be a true test of training & endurance. I owe it to my friend Iram for putting it into my head to try to break 3.
My current marathon personal record is 3:05:42. I trained hard for that marathon, and that’s the race that qualified me for Boston in 2018. I ran a lot of miles in my training, and many of those miles were fast. I coached myself for that race and I’m still happy with the results of the race and training leading up to it.
I’ve coached myself for Houston as well. Before this training block started, I seriously considered seeking out a coach. I guess I stubbornly told myself that I could coach myself just fine, and I think I’ve done a good job. I’ve incorporated a lot of mileage, back-to-back weekend long runs and, this time, I incorporated two workouts per week. My workouts have consisted of hills, intervals and tempo runs. Workouts were usually on Tuesdays. I ran many hill repeats on Allerton, which is a good 1/3-mile 100 ft. climb behind our house. I ran more of my hill repeats up and down Wilke Dr. in Barton Hills, which is 1/5 of a mile that gets to a grade of 22%. Friends would ask if they could tag along for my Tuesday runs.
“I’m going to go run Wilke.”
I quickly established a love/hate relationship with the track. After a Sunday long run, I’d look at the following week’s workouts and the interval on Tuesday would always jump out at me. Part dread, part excitement. I’d run a couple miles to warm up before my intervals, and I would just think of the run I was in at that moment. Then I’d start in on 800-meter repeats. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t count and do math and anxiously await until those repeats were over, but I knew I was running hard around a track for a reason, and I’d put myself to work. And while it wasn’t really a goal I’d set for myself, I’d usually run each interval faster than the previous. Loud music usually helped a bit. I’ve listened to Tool’s “Fear Inoculum” quite a bit on the track.
I also made myself work really hard on tempo runs. I think I naturally gravitate toward tempo runs. Or maybe I’ve convinced myself that tempo runs are synonymous with progression runs, where I’d run negative splits. During this training block, I made my tempo runs into hard workouts. I’d go out fast, and then ~2/3 into the run, I’d run at threshold and hang on for dear life, and then ease back right before my legs gave out on me. This has hopefully improved my VO2 max.
I ran all of the longer Saturday pace runs faster than my prescribed pace, but I don’t feel that it’s to my detriment. My prescribed pace for the marathon is 6 minutes and 50 seconds per mile. I’d usually hang between 6:20 – 6:30 for my Saturday pace runs. On peak weeks, my Sunday 20-milers felt great. I’d never look at my watch. I’d run how I felt that day, and I’d average a pace in the low 8’s and feel great after being on my feet for a little less than 3 hours, which is exactly how those long runs are designed.
I feel really, really good about this training block and the excitement far outweighs any anxiety for Houston on Sunday. I’ve done everything that I can leading up to this point as I start my last week of training, which is a tapering week. I have a couple 3-mile runs this week and a little 4 x 400 track workout on Tuesday. Other than that, my goals for this last week are to stay happy, healthy, fed and well-rested. I’ll really dial in my nutrition this week and get lots of rest and sleep. I’m looking forward to a lot of reading with my feet up!
I usually build out an 18-week training plan for a marathon. I’d already been putting in some mileage leading up to Mt. Hood and the Grand Canyon, so my build-up for this training block was a smooth transition. So this training block was actually 21-weeks, beginning on August 26, 2019.
Since August 26th, I will have run 876 miles and have spent 116 hours and 18 minutes on my feet. All of those miles, time and pushing hard so I can run 26.2 miles on January 19th at 7 a.m. in less than 3 hours.
My Houston Marathon goals are:
Goal A: 2:56 – Because why the hell not?
Goal B: 2:59:59 – Sub-3-hour marathon
Goal C: 3:04 – This would be a personal record
Goal D: 3:15 – This would get me into the 2021 Boston Marathon
I’m not a resolutions kind of guy, but I kind of decided to turn a new leaf at the turn of the new year. Our house has really become cluttered since we’ve lived in it for the past 15 years. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot I can do about that, because 99.9% of that stuff is “managed” by someone else. So, all I can do is take care of my stuff. And amid the general clutter, I’ve realized that I’ve become cluttered myself. It’s just stuff that has stuck around because it has a place. But it’s stuff that I don’t use, need or want any longer. Whatever it is, it has served its purpose. So, until I’m done, I’m going to try to let go of something every day.
It’s been a little over two years now that I’ve noticed I see many a raptor when I’m out running solo. In late 2017 I started hitting the trails a lot in preparation for the Bandera 50k. I put in a lot of miles in the Circle C trails and recall a few times when I’d scare up a hawk who was eating or hunting mice or snakes. I remember, very vividly, when I circumnavigated Lake Georgetown on a cold and wet November morning. I was probably two-thirds the way around the 26-mile trail and I found myself in a flat clearing. I was going through a rough patch so I reached into my bag to get something to eat. As I kept slogging along, eating whatever sugar-laden sport food I’d pulled out, I heard that distinct hawk scream that one would ordinarily expect to hear reverberating off of a canyon wall somewhere in the desolate southwest. I was next to a lake in Central Texas where there aren’t any buttes or canyons, but that hawk scream had that same echoing and startling effect. It jolted me back to life.
I think I had some kind of epiphany that morning. The raptor is my running spirit animal. And I’ve seen them many times ever since. Enough that I can’t recount exact encounters anymore. The majority of which have been hawks. I think what makes this interesting, to me at least, is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many hawks in all my life. It’s a reminder that you have to get out there in nature to experience these things. It’s also a reminder that the hawks are out there for a reason. When you’re on the trails alone, you’re not running or hiking among other people on foot or on bikes or in cars. You’re in nature amongst other creatures. I’d venture to assume that many of them are unassuming and relatively harmless to a human, but then there are also venomous snakes out there with you as well. I’ve run up on a huge rattlesnake crossing a single track in the neighborhood trails once last Spring. Thankfully I saw it (granted it was hard to miss because it took up the entire trail as it crossed) and was able to stop in time to admire it, and then long enough to let the endorphins kick in and have instincts remind me that that thing could make for a very harrowing life experience in nature.
I love knowing that there’s a possibility that I could experience a raptor while I’m out on a run. It’s a reminder to look up frequently. Running trails is a lot different from running on the roads in that you have to be very aware of your immediate future in space. Every footfall matters and you’re constantly having to plan your next ten footfalls by constantly surveying the ground. In those fleeting moments when terra firma is smooth, I remind myself to look up. There might be a raptor.
My current training plan called for a 10-mile run this morning. The alarm jolted me out of bed a bit before 4:30 a.m. and I was on the road by 5. I ran an out-and-back on Escarpment. Almost at mile 7 I stopped to turn around. I saw a little animal lying in the road. As I got closer I noticed it was a little screech owl. Its eyes were still open, but it didn’t react to me. It was so beautiful, but it was also so dead. I remember its yellow eyes looking like those of the glass variety that they use for children’s stuff animals. It looked just like a little cute stuffed animal that Mara would carry around with her.
I started my watch again and jumped back into my pace for the rest of the run home. A mile and a half later I stopped again when I came upon another little dead screech owl in the road.
I don’t know what it means to happen upon two dead owls within minutes of each other. I’m erring on the side of rare coincidence.
“After nearly four years of battling multiple myeloma, Bob has been admitted into home hospice care to live out his final journey in life.”
That was the first thing I read on my Facebook feed this morning as I was getting ready to head out on a run.
I met Bob on May 5, 2017. He was one of the 4 people that showed up for an event I called the Escarpment 5.5. Escarpment Blvd. spans a few beautiful neighborhoods in southwest Austin and measures in at exactly 5.5 miles. I thought it would be a cool idea to host a 5.5-mile run on 5/5 at 5:55 p.m. I thought it would be such a cool idea that I put the idea out there to my neighborhood run club Facebook group of 300+ people.
Forty people signed up for the Escarpment 5.5. Five showed up, myself included. Bob was one of them. After the 5 of us exchanged introductions and took somewhat-awkward photos, like the one above, we all set out on the 5.5-mile southbound run to the terminus of Escarpment.
As I type this, I’m rubbing my temple while trying to remember when exactly Bob told me that he had multiple myeloma. I don’t remember if it was when we were running together during the first mile, or when it was when we all met back up at the end as we’d all separated somewhere during the trip due to varying paces.
There are two things that immediately stuck out to me about Bob:
He’s a genuinely good and nice person. I’m pretty far over on the introverted scale, so I don’t like to talk about myself, especially to a person that I’ve just met. But Bob asked me questions and he genuinely listened as he learned about me. We talked about family, work, interests, hobbies. Running was a hobby of Bob’s, and he wanted to get back to running more often. And I’m pretty sure that’s when and why he told me that he had cancer.
Bob has cancer. And he showed up to run 5+ miles during the hottest part of day in May in Austin. To hell with the 35 other people who said they’d come out. I was running with a bona fide badass.
I think it took about an hour for the whole crew to regroup at the southernmost point of Escarpment. Elise and Mara were waiting for us at the end of the run with brisket, tortillas, watermelon, water, Gatorade and beer. My family and the runners hung out for another hour or so and talked. Eventually everyone had to peel off to go wherever they were off to next in their lives.
Bob stayed back. He needed a way to get back to his car at the corner of Wm Cannon and Escarpment 5.5 miles away. Elise and I were more than happy to give him a lift.
Now, if you know my wife, you probably know that she can talk the bark off of a tree. So I literally took a backseat to Bob’s and Elise’s conversation as we drove Bob back to his car. And I’ll be the first to admit my ignorance about multiple myeloma, so I didn’t inquire much about it when he and I were running together. Elise asked as many questions of Bob as she could in the 10 minute car ride.
I listened as he talked about the countless doctor visits, weeks at MD Anderson, low blood counts, fatigue, being sick more often than not, weight loss, the loss of his independence. But through that all, I heard the faith, courage, strength and hope in every word that came out his mouth.
Bob expressed, in many instances, that he wanted to run more. He’d ran and was a fan of the Statesman’s Capital 10k. I’d taken a bit of interest in trail running that year, so we agreed that we should get together for some runs. On the roads or on the trails. Wherever our feet would take us.
We never went for those runs. Part of me is sad because we didn’t go on those runs. But part of me also finds a bit of comfort and knows that maybe those weren’t supposed to happen. Given the occasional updates that Bob has posted on Facebook, he’s been busy fighting like hell and living his life to its fullest with his wife, daughters, family and friends.
I neglected to post yesterday about training & eating. Actually, I didn’t neglect. I don’t think I really committed to writing every day. I think as time permits, and if there’s something noteworthy worth, um, noting.
Yesterday started early with a 5-miler. I went out too hard. I think it’s because I could sense the cooler, almost on the verge of Fall-like weather in the pre-dawn hours, and there’s a noticeable decrease in the humidity. Yesterday for breakfast I had a couple scrambled eggs with spinach and, if I recall, some of Shalane’s Can’t Beet Me smoothie. Lunch was a couscous and arugula salad from Trader Joe’s. Dinner was a Wild West Rice Salad, also from Shalane’s cookbook. I took a late morning break from work and went for my mile walk. I broke a 17-minute mile and for me, walking, that’s a pretty awesome milestone. I like to run fast and walk slow. Those who know me just can’t wrap their heads around how I can manage to walk so damn slow.
This morning was an early 3-miler. On Monday and Tuesday I kind of beat my legs up running faster than I should’ve, so today I decided to run, as much as I hate to call them such, “junk miles.”
I didn’t even like writing that, so that’ll probably be the first and last time I refer to miles as junk. I basically ran slow, controlled, easy miles. I like those kinds of miles. The sky was so bright and clear this morning, and the stars were like bright holes in black velvet. I just took in my surroundings in the neighborhood and thought about the local stuff and nothing at all. Every once in awhile I’d breath through my nose just to make sure I wasn’t exerting too much effort. I think that if I make sure to enjoy those kinds of miles as my volume builds over the weeks, it’ll make the longer Sunday runs less like work and more like fun.
Breakfast was Greek yogurt, frozen berries, and I killed the rest of the Can’t Beet Me smoothie. Lunch was a Mexicali salad from TJ’s. Had some unsalted cashews, Granny Smith apple and some wasabi seaweed for snacks today. Went for my 17-minute mile walk after lunch. Had a late dinner of some smoked pork loin and more Wild West Rice Salad.
I’ve intentionally entered a caloric deficit this week as I’ve some non-muscle weight I want to get out of the way. The vast majority of that non-muscle weight (let’s call a spade a spade: fat) has been from sugar. Aside from a really sweet dressing on the couscous & arugula salad I had yesterday, I’ve had no refined sugar. And I’ve had no processed or refined carbs. And what I really noticed is that even though I’m only at day 3, I can already tell a difference in my energy level, especially in the late afternoon and evening. Over the past year, my shitty trucker diet had me tired and worn out by the time I got home from work. I’d (usually) feel fine in the mornings, but that wouldn’t sustain me throughout the day. I don’t know. It could just be a short-term system shock, but I’m noticing a difference in my all-day energy.
I just realized I didn’t drink as much water today. I had a couple of cups in the morning but didn’t during the afternoon. That’s probably why I was getting antsy and wanting to raid the office break room at 3 p.m. I need to remember to work on 8 oz. of water throughout the day.
I slept in yesterday morning and decided to do my first day of training early in the evening. The first part of this training block is also taking into account the Capital to Coast Relay. There’ll be some running in the heat during that race, and at least one of my legs will be in the afternoon or evening (depending on how we’re collectively pacing).
I also started my new fueling regiment. I don’t want to call it a “diet.” Lots of lean proteins, vegetables and lots of water. I thought I was already drinking enough water. That was apparently not the case. I found myself going to the bathroom every hour. Oh well, that’ll give me another excuse to walk away from my desk for a bit.
I also went for a 1-mile walk. That wasn’t really part of the plan, but I had to go to the library yesterday morning, and after I was done getting a new library card, I decided to go for a walk since I was already out. That walk was calm and refreshing and, it was at that point, that I immediately decided that I’m going to bake in walks into this training plan. If anything, just for the mental health benefits.
I’m going into a marathon training block tomorrow and I’ve guiltily waited until today to try to get “fit” again. Ever since having run the Boston Marathon, I just kind of let myself go. I eat whatever I feel like eating. I like to think I maintain a pretty healthy diet, but I’ll be the first to admit that I can shove crappy and unhealthy foods and drinks down my gullet.
In the Summer of 2010 I weighed the most that I’ve ever weighed. I’d stopped drinking alcohol the year before and replace alcohol with sugar. Up until that point, I’d never tried Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Once I discovered Ben & Jerry’s, I’d plow through a pint every single night. To put that into perspective, a pint of Peanut Butter Fudge Core has 1,260 calories, 99 grams of sugar (166% of your RDA!), 78 grams of fat (100% of RDA). And that pint a night was on top of whatever the hell it was that I’d already eaten all day. For a while there I remember that I’d go to Jimmy John’s and eat a J.J. Gargantuan, which is 2,240 calories.
So I got out of the shower one day and looked at my butt-naked body in the mirror and was just really disappointed in what I’d let myself become. So I scoured the internet for a diet plan that I could get behind. I found one, and I started that diet the very next day. I had to cut out the Ben & Jerry’s (and all refined sugars) and start eating lean proteins, cleansing vegetables, healthy carbs, lean fats and lots of water. And I had to control my portions. I was really committed, so it wasn’t hard for me to adjust to my new lifestyle. And it was probably a month later that I decided to introduce exercise into my new lifestyle. Probably because I had more energy due to the change in eating habits.
I found that diet plan this afternoon and I’m going to start it again. I’ll modify it a bit because I need more calories, but it’ll be a fantastic foundation for rebuilding my fueling. And I think that’s the keyword. I haven’t been “fueling” my body recently like I had in years past. I’ve been taking in quite a bit of junk. It’s time to cull the junk.
I also bought Shalane’s “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” cookbook a couple of years ago. I cracked it open when I got it, but have never made a single recipe in it. Tomorrow I’m going to make the “Can’t Beet Me Smoothie.”