Tubing in Bandera

Yesterday Elise had an all day photoshoot. I went for a trail run with a friend at 6:30 a.m. When I got back from my run, Elise was headed out for her photoshoot. Shortly after Elise left, Mara came up to me and asked if we could watch something on TV. I said, “get your swimsuits on. We’re going.”

So we loaded up in the car and headed west to Bandera. The girls have never floated a river. And I didn’t want to go to the overcrowded Comal or Guadalupe rivers and expose my girls to college kids and their debauchery.

We love Bandera.

Falling out of love (with running)

I think I’ve fallen out of love with running. I started running five years ago for straight-up health reasons. I didn’t like the way I looked without a shirt on. I had love handles and man boobs. So I went to the local middle school track and I ran one mile. That one mile gave me that kind of hurt that I knew was good for me. So I returned the next day. And the day after that. And then it started to hurt less. It started to feel good. And it only took about two weeks.

If we fast forward through the consistency and I actually became a really good runner. I achieved my vain fitness goal of slimming down. I compared myself to myself and friends on sites like MapMyRun and Strava. I signed up for races and did well in them. I qualified for the Boston Marathon in my very first marathon. I beat my qualifying time by a mere 2 seconds, so that didn’t actually get me into Boston, so now I had this carrot dangling in front of me to actually qualify and run the Boston Marathon.

I trained hard for the better part of a year and I signed up for a fast marathon that would allow me to obliterate my Boston Qualifying time. And I did that. I beat my BQ time by almost 10 minutes. I damn near cried at mile 24 in my qualifying race. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. I remember all of those miles of that race vividly. I felt like I’d arrived as a runner when I qualified for Boston, and I received the “Congratulations” email from the Boston Athletic Association, informing me that I’d be running in the 122nd Boston Marathon.

I won first place in my age group in the 2017 Austin Distance Challenge, which is a series of 5 races ranging from 8 kilometers to a full marathon. I ran an ultra marathon in Bandera where the race is touted as “where everything bits, cuts and stings.” In my training I circumnavigated 27-miles of trails around Lake Georgetown. I ran 25 miles from a race where I’d watched friends compete all the way back to my house at the opposite side of town. I did this through neighborhoods and trails on our greenbelt. I ran long distances in 8-degree temperatures in Des Moines during the Christmas break as part of my ultra training. My beard and mustache froze. I captained a team of 12 to a division 4th place finish in a 223-mile relay from Austin to Corpus Christi.

It was after Boston that I think I fell out of love with running. I’d done the thing that I think most runners dream and aspire to do.

And it was just that I’d run THE Boston Marathon. I think I ran one of the most difficult Boston Marathons. It was 37-degrees. There was a brutal headwind the entire 26.2 miles. And it was pouring rain the whole time. It was an extremely tough race. I like to do “epic” things in my training, whatever my training may be. Like running 25 miles home from a race. Or running 20 miles in 8-degree weather. Or circumnavigating a lake.

So in my training leading up to Boston, and the conditions in which I ran Boston, I guess I thought I’d achieved awesomeness.

Everyone asked me what I was going to do next after Boston. I’d smile and say, “I’m not signed up for anything. I’m going to take it easy and fall back in love with running.” My thought was to do just that. Relive that first year after I’d started running for simple health reasons. After that initial pain went away and running was something I REALLY looked forward to. I loved waking up before my alarm and before the sun, bolting out of bed, putting on my shoes and taking that first step out the front door. The night before I’d probably curated some really cool playlist. I’d head out and haul ass. And I’d smile and laugh and think.

I’m trying to rekindle that excitement and vigor. I’m having a hard time finding it. Maybe it’s the heat of the Texas summer. Maybe I need to curate playlists and listen to music again. Maybe zone out to a podcast. Maybe be more of a social runner.

I think I get that running is a lot like everything else in life. It ebbs and flows. Peaks and valleys. They say in ultra running that there are lots of highs and lows. The lows will get really low where your mind takes you to deep and dark places and you don’t know how you’ll ever get out of it. You’ll want to quit. You’ll tell yourself how badly you suck. And before you know it, the low will be gone and you’ll crest at a peak and it’ll be an unbelievable high.

I think I’m in a low right now. It’s a long low. I’m hoping there’s a long high at the end of this, if I can find the end to this damn thing.

Until then, I’ll just keep trudging the path. One foot in front of the other.

Boston Marathon: t-minus 7 days

As I type this it’s exactly one week from the Boston Marathon. I’ve had a lot of thoughts in the past few weeks. A lot of those thoughts have been about my overall health. I’m still suffering from a bit of pain in my right foot from when I banged it against a rock on a run back on Valentine’s Day. It’s been a bit of a niggling pain, and I’m sure it’ll go away in due time, but because the pain is there, I’m not at 100%. Couple that with getting bit in the back of the right calf yesterday by a dog on the trail, and now I have some tenderness there.

Boston is not only the Holy Grail of marathons, but for us, it’s also going to be a family trip. Elise, Maly and Mara are coming with me, as are my sisters, Terri & Lisa, and my bros-in-law, Craig & Ron. There’s the logistic of getting our family there, the accommodations, the travel, the tours and site seeing, the eating, and, unfortunately, the weather. It’s still winter-like in Boston while the beautiful spring is in full-force here in Austin.

I know Elise is stressed with the logistic part, which then makes me stressed. And next Monday, I’m going to have to get up early, I’ll probably wake at 4ish a.m. to start getting ready. I know I’ll have to eat something, have some coffee, do some pre-race biological stuff (you don’t want to have to do that stuff mid-race), and then figure out how to get to the bus that’s toting me to the start line in Hopkington. Our AirBnB is 2.7 miles from where the bus leaves at MIT, so I’m debating on if I Uber it or walk. Will I even be able to get an Uber when 30,000 other people are probably hailing Ubers at the same time. Or, if I decide to go on a 6 a.m. stroll along the Charles River, will I be exerting too much energy before running 26 miles? I’m sure the nerves of having the opportunity to run Boston are going to burn a lot of much-needed calories, as will shivering from the cold.

My bus leaves at 7:15 sharp. My wave doesn’t start until 10 a.m. There’s just so much hubbub, and it’s stressful to me. I guess this is just an exercise and finding balance among the stresses and the end game of actually getting to run in the Boston Marathon. People keep asking me, “what all are you guys going to do while in Boston?!” Invariably I just tell them that I’m showing up to run the marathon. I guess I just need to keep mindful of that. That and just throw my hands up, look up to the sky and embrace whatever comes. I think that’s it. I think that’s what I’ll do. Take it all in stride, enjoy the ride, revel in the run, the trip, the new town, the experience, and the time with family.

Busted foot

When I ran the 14-something miles home via the trail on Valentine’s Day, I banged my right foot against a rock pretty good. I didn’t think anything much of it at the time as something always hurts or ends up hurting on 80% of my runs, especially on trails. I kept to my training plan for the remainder of that week and into the weekend. I ran 10 miles on Saturday and almost 20 miles on Sunday. My foot was hurting pretty good Sunday evening and into the next week. It hurt enough that I knew I shouldn’t run on it. So I listened to my body and took the week off.

Saturday rolled around, it was a nice day, so I decided to hit the trails and go on a little 10k run. A mile in I decided I’d go a little further out on the trail to parts that I hadn’t explored yet. I wound up getting lost and hitting some portions that were pretty technical. By the time I’d gotten back to the house, I wound up running nearly 12 miles. I felt some discomfort in my foot throughout the run, but I didn’t think I was actually injured.

On Sunday I woke up at 5:30 to go run with some friends on the trail downtown. When my foot hit the ground while getting out of bed, I knew I wasn’t going to do any running that day. I hobbled to the bathroom and the pain shot through my foot on every step.

The pain was enough that I knew I probably needed to see the doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment with my general practitioner, so I scheduled an appointment with the local sports medicine clinic. They X-rayed my foot, the doctor asked me all the questions and did some motion and pressure tests on my foot. The X-rays indicated no fractures (although I do have gnarly foot bones), which was good. That’s what I wanting to find out. If something was broken, I wasn’t going to try to push through a run and make things a lot worse. I opted to not get an MRI, and the doctor was fine with that. He thinks it’s either a bone bruise and/or tendon inflammation that just needs some good old rest and some Ibuprofen.

So, I rest for some days, take some Ibuprofen, and ease back into running. I think I’m going to not look at my training plan until I’m feeling 95% healthy again, but still try to maintain my endurance and stamina. Boston’s in 6 weeks!

Valentine’s Day run commute and kickball defeat

I finally did the run commute thing. After I got home, I had to jump in the car and drive back downtown with Elise to play on her kickball team as they were down a lot of players since it was Valentine’s Day. We lost 10-0. That’s okay though. I got to spend the evening with my bride.

The Bandera 50K Endurance Run

Elise: “How long do you think it’ll take you to finish Bandera?”

Josh: “No clue.”

“I know. But what time do you think you’ll be done?”

“I seriously don’t know.”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“I just want to finish the thing. If I did it in under 6 hours I’d be over the moon.”

I finished the Bandera 50K in 5:44:17. I could’ve come in closer to 5 hours had I known what I was doing at the beginning. I started the race in the back half of the field. The trail at the Hill Country State Natural Area is a very technical single track trail, which makes it pretty hard to pass people. But I’m not concerned. I had a lot of fun and I’m happy with my performance.

And that was the damn hardest thing I’ve ever done. Six hours of running is a lot of running.

I hadn’t gotten all of my long runs in during this training period, but I did put in a lot of effort runs that really helped top off the mental fortitude. I ran 27 miles circumnavigating Lake Georgetown on the Goodwater Trail Loop. I ran 25 miles from the Decker Challenge half marathon back to my house, going through the greenbelt. I ran 21 miles in 20 degree weather without food or water over the Christmas break in West Des Moines. I ran a few other shorter distances during the break in single-digit temperatures. All of those helped in affirming that running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental.

The ultra marathon scene is so much different than the road running scene. Folks are so friendly, funny and outgoing. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sharing the trail with ultrarunning legends. Jim Walmsley was crewing for Cody Reed, who took 2nd place in the 100K and earned a Golden Ticket to the Western States Endurance Run. Camille Herron took the women’s 1st place and earned a Golden Ticket as well. Camille Herron also owns the record for the fastest 100 mile race at a breakneck average 7:38 pace. And she drinks beer during her ultras.

At some point during the race I came upon an older gentleman in shorty shorts, no shirt, knees wrapped in blue and purple wraps, and lugging a water bottle that looked older than me and a plastic bread bag with some potatoes(?) in it. I really thought about running alongside him for a while and chatting because I was pretty sure that he’d have some stories to tell. He looked like he’d put more miles on his feet than I have in my 27 years of driving. But I was pretty set on gaining ground, so I didn’t chat with him. I think I might’ve said “howdy” as I ambled past him. I don’t recall if he said anything to me.

Come to find out, that gentleman was Gordy Ainsleigh, the godfather of ultra running. Gordy was the first human to run the 100 miles of what is now the Western States Endurance Run through the mountains and valleys of the Sierra Nevada, and the most coveted ultra marathon. Gordy accomplished this feat of awesomeness in 1974 because he didn’t have a horse in the 3rd running of the race. The race used to be the Western States Trail Race and was originally a horse race with the goal to finish within 24 hours. On a horse. Ainsleigh ran the same course on foot, and came in within 24 hours. I ran next to that man this past Saturday. I have postpartum starstruckedness.

It was a great weekend. Elise, Maly and Mara where there to see me cross the finish line. We’d arrived in Bandera the night before, grabbed Subway for dinner and picked up some food and sundries at the local grocery store, and hit the hay in our little cabin rental. I woke up early on Saturday, did my morning pre-race ritual stuff, and drove out to the Hill Country State Natural Area and shivered for a half hour before the race started.

After the race we drove back into Bandera and had lunch at the OST Restaurant with John. That was really awesome that he drove all the way out there to see us.

It was a fun weekend. The race was hard as hell, but it was still fun, and that’s the important part.

Goodwater Loop

This past Sunday I ran the Goodwater Loop Trail which circumnavigates Lake Georgetown. My training plan called for a 26 mile run, and the Goodwater Loop is 26 miles, so I figured that’d make for a good training run. The latter part of my training plan switches from distance-based runs to time-based runs, meaning instead of dictating that I run for 20 miles, I instead run for 3 hours, regardless of distance. This strategy is to just get me acclimated to being on my feet for long periods of time. My longest (time-based) run is 5 hours. It took me 5 hours and 25 minutes to make the loop.

The trail was a lot more technical and difficult than I’d anticipated. There wasn’t a lot in terms of elevation gain, but the trail itself is fairly technical and had its share of roots and rocks. The trail itself is quite pretty, and about the time I’d get bored with the scenery and landscape, it would change like a channel on the TV. I’d be running in open grassland on a dirt trail for some miles, and then before I knew it, I’d be running under oaks and cedars navigating through sharp granite and cedar roots. And then I’d find myself running with the blueish green lake to my right atop solid granite rock.

There are lots of historic markers along the trail that I admittedly neglected to take in and observe, only for the fact that I was there to run and not hike & site see. A few miles into the trail from Cedar Breaks is the Crocket Garden and Falls. I heard the falls, and I stopped to try to take a peek, but it was really wet out, I didn’t know where I was, so I just decided that I’d observe by ear and maybe come back one day to actually see the falls.

I got to the Cedar Breaks trailhead right at 7:30 a.m. and it was drizzling. The drizzle and dew on the ground made for really wet shoes and socks by around mile 5. I was really nervous that I’d have hot spots or, worse, blisters with 21 more miles to go. Thankfully my socks dried out in time while running through landscapes that weren’t grassland until the next section of wet grassland.

The trail was lonely and isolated at most points. I only saw 4 people until I got closer to Cedar Breaks and the day had kind of cleared up. Many parts of the trail are too technical to be runnable. I ran out of food and water around mile 23, and got pretty nauseous around mile 24. I had to hump it at mile 25-something and decided to run past my starting point at Cedar Breaks to cover 27-miles.

It was a tough run, and I annihilated a Whataburger combo meal as soon as I got back to the Jeep. A couple days later and my calves are still pretty shredded, and my chest, mid-back and gastro-intestinal track seem to be having the hardest time recovering.

Capital to Coast 8

On October 20th we departed on the 8th annual Capital to Coast relay, a 223-mile foot race relay from Austin to Corpus Christi, TX. This was my third year participating in the relay, and my 2nd year as team captain for the Coast Busters. This was probably the toughest year because we had 3 runners who had to withdraw from the race the 11th hour because of either injury or illness. We lost 2 runners within a week of the race, and thankfully we were able to replace them both within 24 hours. There was a day when I was nervous that we were going to be a 10-runner team, but we quickly rebuilt to a full 12-runner team again. The day before the race we lost another runner due to illness. It’s really hard to recruit a runner for 2-day event within 24 hours of the race, so I decided we’d compete in the relay as an 11-runner team. Being down a runner meant that 3 runners would have to pick up an additional leg each, and thankfully 3 of our strong runners immediately raised their hands to run the extra legs.

Six runners in van #1: Luke, Patrick, Rich, John, Alexa and yours truly. Five runners in van #2: Mark, Michael, Jenny, Jason and Whitney. Van #1 started us off at 6 a.m. from Brush Square Park in downtown Austin and we were, as they say, off to the races. We held very strong for our respective first legs, gaining ground and passing lots of people. By the fourth leg it started raining in the south Austin and Buda area, which was nice as mid-October can still be pretty hot in Central Texas. Van #1 finished its legs and handed off to Van #2 in Lockhart, and we all went to Taco Cabana for some calories and rest at one of the finest motels in Seguin, TX.

With not much rest to be had, we hit the road again to meet up with Van #2 at the 11th exchange and start our respective legs again. Thankfully we’d had cloud cover for most of the day, so the sun didn’t beat us down much. Van #2 ran their respective legs starting around 3 p.m. through the late afternoon and into the night. I finished my leg at around 8 p.m. and then we were off again to get food and rest. We decided on Subway in Beeville and had our food by 9 p.m. We made it to the motel in Beeville for everyone to have their heads hit the pillow by 10 p.m. And then we had to be up at 11 p.m. to start it all over again. We met up with van #2 shortly after midnight and ran all through the morning. This was a tough leg for all of us as the lack of sleep was starting to catch up. I ran a 7.3-miler and I felt like was drunk. It was so dark and foggy, and my headlamp cast this halo before me that was very disorienting. I finished van #1’s leg, we handed off to van #2, and we were off again to Beeville so our three ironmen could try to get some sleep as they each had a 4th leg to run to account for team being a runner down. I think we got back to the motel by around 7:30, and we had to be up and on the road again by 9:20 a.m. Thankfully we’d consistently banked a 25 minute lead on our expected finish time.

John and I got up a little early and drove to Whataburger in Beeville to buy everyone breakfast. We needed to get calories in our tired runners.

We met up with van #2 at approximately 10:15 a.m. on Saturday and we were off again for the final 12.5 miles. Unfortunately the sun decided to show up in full force that morning, and I swear that even though we were near sea level, it felt like we were closer to the sun. And the Texas gulf humidity is painfully brutal.

Rich took off on the 36th and final leg, still at about 20 minutes ahead of our anticipated time. Unfortunately the sun and the heat were just too much. After almost 3 miles in his legs couldn’t keep up with the demand. Impressively he never stopped, but was slowed to a walk.

It was a rough last leg, but I’m damn proud that we came in at 29 hours, 53 minutes and 49 seconds. Running 223 miles in under 30 hours is a tough task, especially when the team was down a runner. Rich, Alexa, Luke and I walked in and met the team a hundred yards before the finish line, and we all walked it in together.

Rich was immediately escorted to a beach chair under a tent, and Luke continued to try to get him to take in fluids. It took about 10 minutes before nausea and vomiting set in, and then a few minutes later leg cramps to the point where Rich couldn’t bend his knees. John ran to get the van and we loaded Rich up and took him to the ER for IV fluids.

After a couple hours, Rich was back to being able to walk on his own two legs, and we left the hospital to meet the team back at the finish line. Well, the team had already exhausted themselves of the finish line festivities and had eaten lunch at Pier 99. Luke, Rich, John, Alexa and I had a later lunch, and the rest of the team hung out and waited on us before most of the crew headed back to Austin in a stinky rental van.

The girls and I met with Mark and Natalie for dinner at Chuy’s, and then headed back to our hotel near the USS Lexington at about 10 p.m. I conked out from exhaustion, and then we woke up around 7 a.m. to drive back home to Austin.

Capital to Coast we stressful, but so worth it this year. We came in 7th overall out of 46 teams, and 4th in our division (men’s open). I’m super proud of the team and am blessed to have worked with such a strong bunch of runners.

And I’ve already registered the Coast Busters for 9th annual Capital to Coast Relay. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Photos can be seen here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/lpQx1YxnfH5D1J0t1

Maly’s first day of middle school

First day of 6th Grade today:
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First day of 5th Grade last year:
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First day of 4th Grade 2 years ago:
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First day of 3rd Grade 3 years ago
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First day of 2nd Grade 4 years ago
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First day of 1st Grade 5 years ago:
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First day of Kindergarten 6 years ago:
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First day of school 7 years ago:
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First day of school 8 years ago:
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First day of school 9 years ago:
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Maly getting her ears pierced

Elise and I made the decision long ago after having a daughter that we’d give her the right to decide when she’d get her ears pierced. She decided today, at 11-years-old, that she wanted her ears pierced. Our only request was that she had them pierced at a professional piercing studio.

Today is my Runniversary

Today is my runniversary. On July 11, 2013, I walked down to the Gorzycki middle school track and I ran a mile. This journey didn’t start with that run. It’d actually started on, I think, July 8th after I looked at some photos of myself in a bathing suit from a recent vacation in Cabo, and after looking at myself in the mirror after getting out of the shower. I didn’t like who I’d become. I was overweight and I didn’t have the stamina I wanted and needed to keep up with our daughter.

So I decided to download an app for my phone and track my speed and distance on some bike rides I was going to start taking. 12 years prior I used to ride my bike eight miles to work, and then eight miles home. I started watching my diet, and not long after, pounds started shedding.

On the morning of July 9, 2013, I hopped on a bike and went on a half mile ride. I only made it a half mile because my hip immediately started hurting. You’d think a low impact activity like riding a bike wouldn’t cause hip pain, but it did. I came home and decided I’d try again the next day. The next day, I rode eight miles, but my hip was still hurting to the point where I knew I couldn’t try another day.

So on July 11th, I decided to go to the track and see how fast I could run 1 mile. Just a mile.

It wasn’t until I was 4 miles in to a 6 mile run this morning that I remembered today was my runniversary. My plan was to return to that same track and see how close I could come to pulling off a 5-minute mile. But, alas, I wasn’t prepared. Better yet, I just didn’t remember.

Maybe I’ll go hit the track this evening. Maybe not.

Here’s that very first run:

And here’s to 985 runs covering 6,247.01 miles so far. Lots more ground to cover!

Seattle and The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Marathon

Elise & Josh in SeattleOn June 7th Elise and I flew to Seattle for a short vacation together, and for me to run the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon. The trip started with a early evening direct flight from Austin to Seattle. We arrived at 11 p.m. PST, and had a bitch of a time getting transportation from the airport to our rental apartment in Wallingford (northern suburb of Seattle). It took us an hour of shopping all of the rental agencies to learn that there were no available cars for rent. So we finally hailed an Uber. I don’t think we went to bed until 2 a.m. I couldn’t tell you the last time I stayed up until 2 a.m.

For some reason we woke up early on Thursday and walked to the nearby grocery store for food and other sundries to sustain us for our 5-day trip. We stopped at Julia’s, a local cafe, for a hearty breakfast. Elise had eggs benedict. I had the corned beef hash. Then we did all the tourist things. We walked to Fremont to see the Fremont Troll. Then found a bus stop and took a ride to explore Pike Place Market. We had an early dinner at the Athenian Seafood Restaurant. I got the fish stew. Elise had fish & chips. Elise soon decided she didn’t want just fish & chips, so we traded meals. After dinner we tooled around the market & downtown a bit, and got to experience the great gum wall.

On Friday we did even more tourist stuff. We took the bus into the city again to rent a car, and then started our day’s adventure on a underground walking tour of Pioneer Square, and learned the history of Seattle’s sea level settlement and the plumbing & backwash adventures thereof. We also learned of local development, architecture and Chief Seattle. Next we walked over to the market for some [more] fish & chips at Ivar’s, which is a must-do in Seattle. We rode on the Seattle Great Wheel and enjoyed the views of downtown and Elliot Bay. Then we went on a self-guided tour of the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Two days before my marathon and I think we’ve covered 20,000 steps so far. I’m supposed to be taking it easy. Lastly we drove up to Kerry Park for a really pretty hilltop view of Seattle.

Elise & Josh at Pike Place MarketOn Saturday we hopped in the car and drove out to Renton to have lunch with our friend Jen and her daughter Addison, with whom Mara went to preschool this past year. We visited for a bit and then headed back to our apartment so yours truly could get off my feet and do some resting. Elise drove back into the city to do some gift shopping and to pick up dinner for us. Note to self: penne, garlic & tomato spaghetti sauce, ground turkey and mushrooms make for a great pre-marathon meal.

The race started at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. Since the race is in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, we had to get there extra early as they don’t allow vehicle parking at the start. So that meant we had to get me to an elementary school near the finish line to catch a bus that hauled runners to the start of the race. Buses started running at 4:50 a.m. I tried going to bed around 9:30 on Saturday night. I read for a while, thinking that would lull me to sleep. I think I might’ve fallen asleep somewhere shortly after 11 p.m. I’d set my alarm for 2 a.m., and 2 a.m. came quickly. I don’t think I woke up during the night, but my sleep was pretty restless, which is to be expected the night before a big race. Thankfully I’d slept pretty well on Friday night.

We left our apartment at 4:15 a.m. and made the hour drive east into the mountains. Thankfully the sun starts coming out around 4:45, so we were able to see the beautiful landscapes as we drove through the forest. I hopped out of the car and loaded onto a bus with a bunch of other runners and after a short wait, we started the trek 30 more miles east into the mountains.

We arrived at the starting area with plenty of time to spare, so I had time to check in, get my bib, go to the bathroom a couple times, meditate, and shiver my ass off. It was 40-degrees outside and this Texas boy coming from 95-degree summer temperatures was having a hard time keeping warm. Thankfully they had tents, so I waited until 6:55 before heading to the start line after ingesting a chocolate coconut Gu Roctane and chasing it with 12 ounces of water and Emergen-C. I lined up with ~700 people, tried to listen to the pre-race announcements, and when the clock struck 7 a.m., the gun sounded and we were all off.

As mentioned above, I tried to listen to the pre-race announcements. Since I wasn’t able to hear any of it as the races PA system was terrible, I missed the part where we were told that we’d run a few hundred yards to the east and then turn around at an orange cone. 700 people running in a straight line, and then turning right back around to run in the opposite direction. I was confused and a bit worried there for a good 30 seconds. I was mostly worried that someone was going to trip me and I’d get injured a tenth of a mile into the race. Thankfully I just took it slow & easy and kept my distance from other runners.

Another quarter mile in and it was time to go into the tunnel. The cool thing about this race is that it starts out by going through 2.5 mile train tunnel through the mountains. It’s pitch black, cold, quiet and wet. After you get a couple hundred yards into the tunnel, you can see the exit, over two miles away. And that’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Since my GPS watch couldn’t get a signal, I had to pace myself by feel alone. And that proved to be hard because we were still very early into the race, and while it’s a relatively small race, I was running amongst a lot of people, which made for a lot of dodging and weaving.

When the end of the tunnel was a quarter mile away, I switched off my headlamp and took off my hat and pullover. There was a volunteer at the tunnel exit who collected headlamps and other drop-offs. After lightening my load, it was time to settle in. It wasn’t long before mile 3 beeped on my watch. I looked down to find that I was two minutes behind pace. I worried briefly, shook it off, and then kicked into a bit of a quicker pace. I’d guess it was 42-degrees out and I felt great. I settled in behind a group of 4 guys and kept at a 7-minute pace. In order to hit my goal time and hopefully qualify for Boston, I wanted to keep my pace between 7:15 and 7:17.

Mile 5 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in just under a 7 minute mile.

Mile 10 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in just under a 7 minute mile.

Mile 13 came. The halfway point. I took inventory and decided that I felt great. I kept my pace and decided I might just crush this race.

Mile 14 came and I decided that I’d most likely made up for the slower-than-I’d-wanted first 3 miles, and that I need to pee. So I found a spot in the woods that would make for a good quick pee break and took care of business. I took a pee break at mile 1 in Houston last year and I think that’s what cost me my entry to Boston. This time it only took me 17 seconds to pee. Believe me, I counted.

Back on the trail and settled into a 6:45 pace at mile 15.

Mile 16 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in to a 6:45 pace.

RUNNINGNote that this is a beautiful course along the John Wayne Pioneer trail, through the mountains, lush pine forests, over trestle bridges, along waterfalls and the flowing Snoqualmie River. The race is all downhill at a steady grade decrease of 2000-feet across the full 26.2 miles, so it actually feels like it’s flat. I’d never been to Washington, so everything was new and green and beautiful to me. The course is absolutely stunning.

Mile 17 comes quickly and I’m still holding strong. However, my brain kicked in. Mile 17 is where I started coming unraveled in the Austin Marathon back in February. The last thing I wanted was for brain to start telling me things. Running is 90% mental. The other 10% is mental. I told my brain to shut it, and I kept going.

Miles 18-20 are dangerous too, as those are notorious “walls.” The wall is that proverbial point where your glycogen stores are depleted, your brain lets the monkey get onto your back, your legs stop working, your stomach hurts, and a myriad of other things. Mile 18 was actually my fastest mile at a 6:27 pace. And I started passing a bunch of folks at this point.

I stayed steady at mile 21.

Mile 22 came and I took another Gu, and slowed at an aid station for water. Settled back in to a 6:45 pace.

I think I got a cup of Gatorade at mile 23. I can’t remember. It was somewhere in the back half of the race that I drank some Gatorade. I just wanted some extra sugar.

I think it was at mile 24 where I almost started crying. I started thinking about my dad. I told him that I was going to do it. I was going to get a personal best in this beautiful marathon and that I was going to qualify by a large margin and run the Boston Marathon next year. My dad never knew me as the runner that I’ve become. I think he’d be proud of me.

I shook off the emotions (because that’s what Dad would’ve wanted me to do), and dropped the hammer. I kept an even pace through miles 25 and 26, and then saw the finish line. I sprinted as hard as I could on beaten legs and saw Elise at the finish and heard her scream, “Go Josh!”

I saw the finish line (gun clock) at 3:05:55. I’d beaten my goal time by six minutes. My race results are here.

I gave Elise a big sweaty hug. I don’t remember what she or I said. I was on cloud nine. I think she followed me around as I kept walking to keep my legs from seizing. I grabbed some food and something to drink and tried to just keep walking. Elise wound up volunteering for the race to help with food and water, so she had to get back to “work.” I hung around the food and tried to keep replenishing and getting lots of water.

After hanging out at the finish for about an hour, we finally hopped in the car and headed back to our apartment in Seattle. Elise had to do some work for vacation bible school, and I just sort of hung out with her on the patio in basked.

Later that afternoon we drove back out to Renton to have dinner with John, Jen and Addison. We had a nice seafood dinner at Wildfin, and it was good to hang out with friends and have a restful evening. We went back to John & Jen’s house to hang out for a bit, and then it was time to head out and get Elise to the airport. Elise took the red eye back to Austin so she could start her week as director of vacation bible school bright and early on Monday morning.

Yours truly headed back to the apartment and took it easy for the night. As exhausted as I was, I was quite restless. I didn’t sleep very well that night, and had to get up in the morning to clean up the apartment, turn in our keys and head to the airport in time to return our rental car and catch my plane back home.

I sat next to a runner and mom of three on the flight home. We talked about running quite a bit.

Photos can be seen here.