The Violet Crown Trail and Fortlandia

Maly and I hopped on our bikes and explored a new part of the Violet Crown trail this morning. Unfortunately the new part of the trail is still very new, so there’s not much to it. However, it leads into the single track trail system along Slaughter Creek east of Mopac. Unfortunately, I’m not well traveled on that side, so we got a little bit lost in our attempt to get ourselves over to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. I was hellbent on finding our way, but when I pulled out my phone to look at the map, we were headed back north instead of south. And we needed to be heading south. So we doubled back and hopped onto the Veloway where I knew that’d get us to where we needed to go.

We met Elise and Mara at the Wildflower center’s Fortlandia exhibit. We all had a lot of fun walking around, looking at and playing in the forts. The girls made some forts out of bamboo, and we all played on swings.

Marathon training begins again

Last summer the girls excitedly said they wanted to go back to Boston. My first knee-jerk brain reaction was recounting the miles and hours of training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But in that same instant, I was excited to take on the challenge again. After all, the 2018 Boston Marathon was ran in pretty nasty conditions.

Boston was the last marathon I’ve run, and that was 10 months ago. A few months ago I decided to endeavor in the BQ challenge again. I’d really like to run Boston in better conditions. Hopefully on a beautiful New England spring day. Not in 35-degree weather while getting dumped on by rain and with a 30-mile per hour headwind.

I thought about running the Tunnel marathon again, but I’ve already run that course. And, while we’d love to visit again, Elise and I have already had a vacation in Seattle. And, it turns out, our schedule conflicted with all 3 race weekends for the Tunnel marathons.

We have friends who moved to Portland last year, so I searched for fast marathons in the Portland area so I could run the race and then we can spend some time visiting our friends and seeing the city. I found the Revel Mt. Hood Marathon. It’s a 5,000-foot downhill race spanning the full 26.2 miles. That’s going to be a challenge in and of itself. While I’m sure it’s going to be fast, my quads are going to be completely shredded afterward.

I’ve maintaining somewhat of a running base with close to 30 miles per week. I’ve been trying to get back to keeping a to-do list. On that list are things like:

– Order topsoil
– Get taxes done
– Clean the backyard
– Build training plan

So today I decided to build my training plan. I thought I had close to 16 weeks to train. Much to my surprise, I have the 18 weeks that is optimal for a periodized marathon training plan. And this time I’m incorporating speed work, which I’ve never done in marathon training before.

Goal #1: Qualify for Boston
Goal #2: Run a 2:59:59 or better

Training officially starts on Monday, February 25th.

Hiking Enchanted Rock

The girls and I headed out early this morning to drive out to Enchanted Rock. We got there around 10 a.m. and hiked up to the summit of Enchanted Rock. Then we hiked back down for lunch.

After lunch (vegan alert: Elise and I had chicken salad sandwiches, except with chickpeas instead of chicken. And vegan mayonnaise And it was awesome!) we decided to hike half of the loop trail, and cut back through Echo Canyon trail and back down Summit Trail.

Mara’s little 6-year-old body was a trooper. She hiked the hell out of those rocks and didn’t complain a bit. She even took a couple spills and kept on truckin’. She actually ran quite a bit – to the point where I had to tell her to slow down, otherwise she’d wear herself out.

Relive ‘Afternoon Feb 18th’

After finishing the ~3 mile loop, we got in the car and headed into Fredericksburg to get some ice cream at Clear River for the girls. That little bribe helped them slog through the rocky climbs.

After ice cream we went to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for some pretzels, fried pickles and beer.

Austin 5k and the greenbelt

This morning Maly and I ran the Austin 5k. All four of us left the house at 6:45 for a 7:30 a.m. start. Elise and Mara dropped Maly and me off at 5th and Lavaca and Maly and I walked to the start line while Elise parked the Jeep. The weather was an amazing 57-degrees, the sun was out, there was a gentle breeze, the air was crisp and the energy was high. It was such a pretty morning. The race started at exactly 7:30 and Maly and I made our way down Congress to the turnaround at Mary Street and ran our way back to the finish line. Maly needed to stop a few times, and that was okay. A huge part of me wants to push her and get frustrated and make her run, but that’s not going to do any good for either of us. I shifted my thoughts and found the joy in just the both of us out there running together. If she ever wants to get serious, push herself and be competitive in running, she’ll figure that out on her own in her own time.

We got to the finish line and Maly got her medal, a bottled water and a snack bag. Elise and Mara were waiting for us at the finish. We chatted for a few minutes and decided we didn’t really have a reason to hang out at the finish. It would’ve been nice to see friends come in from finish the half and full marathon, but that would’ve meant waiting around for a couple hours.

The four of us walked the mile back to my office where the Jeep was parked and started making our way home. We were hungry so we stopped at Taco Deli for breakfast. After snarfing our breakfast tacos, we started to head home, but since we were at the trailhead, but decided to go hang out in the greenbelt for while and play around the water. We were all navigating the drier rocks across the creek between the flats and Campbell’s Hole, and came upon a big divide. Maly was hell-bent on making it across. After deliberating for the better part of 10 minutes, she decided on a strategy of removing her shoes. She took her right shoe off first, and threw it across the creek to the rock she wanted to make it to. And, of course, her shoe went into the creek and quickly started downstream. So I hauled butt along the rocky creek bank and finally hopped into the 3-foot-deep creek. Remember that 57-degrees I was talking about earlier? And the spring-fed creed is 55-degrees. It was a quick little pick-me-up jumping into the creek. Luckily I was able to get Maly’s shoe.

We hung out just south of Campbell’s Hole and watched the squirrels and skipped rocks for a while before deciding to finally head home.

That was a great morning with the family.

The 2nd Annual Great Valentine’s Day Run Commute Home From Work

Last year I was training for the Boston Marathon, and I ran a 14-mile commute home from work via the greenbelt. That was a pretty tough run, and I banged up my foot pretty badly. I would’ve loved to have run the same route home via the trails today, but we’ve been getting quite a bit of rain this year, and crossing Barton Creek four times would’ve proved extremely difficult, if not impossible. So I commuted via pavement.

It was a lovely run, and I pretty much just zoned out the whole time. I didn’t really think about much. I just moved forward against a southerly headwind and took in the sites. One gets to see so much more when traveling on foot. The creek was a beautiful clear blue and lots of Red Buds and Mountain Laurels are already blooming.

Make friends with it or kick it to the moon

Last night I installed a new wifi router for our home network. I bought one of those really ugly and evil looking Netgear Nighthawks. It has a LOT of lights on the front of it. Unfortunately, when we had Google Fiber installed, they wired the house on the east side, which meant the modem is in Mara’s room. That also means that the evil-looking router goes in Mara’s room since it’s connected to the modem. When we put Mara to bed last night and turned off the lights, the Nighthawk’s evil lights cast upon the walls and ceiling in a very spooky, haunted house kind of way.

I asked Mara if she was okay with the lights.

“I think it’s kind of okay. I can see my shadow monster.”

For a few years now she’s had this “thing” that resides in the corner of her ceiling, across from her bed. She’s aware of it, but she’s never really let it bother her. I’d imagine it’s just one of those things that you see as a kid. It could just be some kind of shape that’s created in the mind and you just can’t unsee it, like a one-time shadow or just a figure in the texture of the wall. We’ve always left her door open and the hallway light on when she sleeps. And she has a nightlight. The shadow monster really hasn’t been an issue, but she’ll say something about it every once in a while. We ask her if hit scares her and, invariably, she says it doesn’t.

I found a switch on the back of the Evil Nighthawk Router that lets me turn off all of the lights, so I flipped it and the spooky blinking stopped.

She was okay without the spooky haunted house lights.

Tonight, as I was driving Mara to Religious Education class, I talked to her about the “shadow monster.” At the time of the conversation, I couldn’t recall the term “shadow monster,” so I asked, “Tell me more about the thing that’s on your ceiling. What was it again that you call it?” She was very forthright and talkative about it, and reminded me that it was a shadow monster.

We talked more about it. I remember a couple years ago when she told us she was scared because it felt like something was watching her. Like a camera or an eye. Back then it made us a little scared and anxious for her. But on our car ride today, she told me that it’s a big eyeball, and his name is Stuart.

And then I asked her if she’s friends with it. “Oh, yeah.” she said. With a name like Stuart, how can you not be friends with a big eyeball that lives on your ceiling?

So I told her about a recurring dream that I used to have when I was around her age. I don’t remember having these dreams, probably because they were thirty-some-odd years ago. But I do remember my mom recounting these dreams during my formative years at inopportune times when my primary function in life was to portray myself as a badass who knew everything and had zero flaws.

I used to have nightmares about an octopus that would visit, wrap its tentacles around me and drag me into the unknown. I honestly don’t remember these dreams, but I guess I had them enough to where my mom discussed them amongst her social circles.

It was Gail Folloder, who was a long-time family friend and a mother figure in my adolescence who, with the voice of a guiding angel, simply told me to kick that octopus to the moon.

And I don’t know if it was that same night, or on a night shortly after, that I’d apparently heeded Gail’s advice, and I kicked that octopus to the moon during my final dream where he’d come to visit me once again. From the lore of my mother’s mouth, I’d permanently taken care of my octopus problem.

And Mara made the best of a shadow monster by befriending it.

So I guess the moral of the story is: Make friends with it if you can, or just kick it to the moon.

Celeriac walnut tacos

I associate the word “Celeriac” with either macular degeneration or a venereal disease. Why do healthy foods have to sound so disgusting?

Elise made these tacos on Sunday evening and they were really good. The whole time I was thinking, “would these be better with meat?” and the resounding answer in my inner dialog was, “nope.”

Here’s the recipe for Celeriac walnut tacos from Eating Well. I ate 3 of them after a hard(ish) 10-mile run.

10-mile commute from soccer

I ran home from Elise’s soccer game this afternoon. Ordinarily, I would’ve run in the morning, but I decided to sleep in until 9 this morning, and just wasn’t in the mood to run. Yesterday was Elise’s birthday, and while we didn’t do anything crazy, we did stay up until midnight watching Saturday Night Live. I guess when you’re 40-something, a raucous birthday on a Saturday night means playing Apples to Apples with your kids and watching SNL.

A straight line from Soccer Zone to our house is probably 5 miles. I did some meandering through the neighborhoods and trails to make it a 10-mile run. For some reason I had Billy Idol’s version of L.A. Woman running through my head while I was running.

The weather’s been cold, rainy and balmy lately. Today was just sort of chilly and balmy with the air a little spitty. It was a good run. I made sure that I took in the sights and just kept a steady pace with some effort. Somewhere on West Gate near William Cannon I saw a large tree trunk in the yard of a corner house that had been converted into a little troll house. The owners had put in quite a bit of work on the roof, door and a little window. They even adorned the little entryway with some mini flower pots and other knick-knack decorations. When I got home I really thought that I should either get a really lightweight camera, or just run with my phone and make an effort to find something photo-worthy on my runs. That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy running, especially when I get out of my own neighborhood. Invariably you’ll see or experience something really cool. They say that you see a multitude of more things a mile on foot than you would one hundred miles in a car. I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I found a tent camp on William Cannon between West Gate and Brodie that I’ll bet no car commuter is aware of.

Maybe that could be another motivator to write – photos from my runs. My most recent posts have been about boring vegan meals that I’ve eaten. The vegan thing is still going strong. Well, not 100% vegan. I’ve avoided meats. Today I knowingly “cheated” by having a generous portion of a kringle. We went to Madam Mam’s for Elise’s birthday last night and we shared an order of Thai Queso, which probably had cream in it. I ordered the vegetarian flat noodle dish, but vegetarian doesn’t always mean vegan. Oh, and we had breakfast with Maly’s lacrosse coach yesterday morning and I ordered a breakfast power bowl that comes with eggs and bacon. I asked to swap the eggs and bacon with avocado and mushrooms. When my order came, it had the mushrooms and avocado, but also the bacon crumbles (no eggs though). As hard as it was (actually it wasn’t hard at all), I removed all of the bacon crumbles. However, I didn’t get them all. There was one bite where I could feel, and then taste, the bacon. No biggie. I’m conscious of it and have been successful so far in maintaining the plant-based diet. I haven’t really had any noticeable cravings for meat. At last night’s dinner, I ordered the chicken wings for Mara. Those chicken wings look REALLY good. Just straight-up fried chicken wings. No sauce, no spice. Just hot and crunchy chicken wings. And Mara devoured them. Dammit – now I’m hungry for chicken wings!

Speaking of veganism. Maly’s friend Kaitlin had her birthday today, so Kaitlin invited Maly to go with her and her mom to lunch and then to shop at Kendra Scott.

They went to lunch at Rudy’s BBQ. Kaitlin’s mom, Sandy, sent us a photo with our oldest’s sentiment.

Day 7 of the plant-based diet

Breakfast: banana
Ran 12 miles with the run club
Breakfast #2: Wheat Thins and garlic hummus. Potato street tacos with avocado & cilantro sauce.
Lunch: Spicy popcorn tofu poboy with vegan blue cheese dressing from Wheatsville Coop. I seriously had to do a couple doubletakes because the tofu had the consistency of chicken. I was really pleasantly surprised. The bread was amazing, and the thing only cost $6.99. While there we also bought goji berries and Gopal’s vegan power wraps.
Dinner: an Amy’s roasted vegetable pizza with no cheese and a vegan margarita pizza.

Elise and I went grocery shopping tonight and bought a bunch of vegan stuff tonight.

Day 6 of the plant-based diet

I went to Camp Gladiator at 5:45 this morning. Since I’d been out for so long, I didn’t realize that today was the last day of “peak week.” Camp Gladiator is broken out into 4 weeks. The first week is endurance. The second week is something like strength and agility. The third weeks is non-stop planks and burpees (or something like that) and the fourth week is peak week. That’s the week where you kind of tie in the previous three weeks and it’s a big kick in the ass.

When I got home from camp, it was the usual morning chaos in getting the girls ready and off to school. I wasn’t really hungry, but I could feel myself getting queasy because I’d burned a lot of calories.

Sparing the details of the day and am glad to say that I was 100% vegan today.

Breakfast: 12 oz. Vega pea protein shake
Lunch*: Trader Joe’s Super Burrito and tabbouli, tomato and mint salad
Dinner: Kung Pao cauliflower with green onion, red peppers, cashews and bok choy over brown rice

* Lunch was tough today and I experienced the difficulties of veganism to the point of frustration. I work in one of those really cool, young, technology company offices in downtown Austin where the company buys and brings in a nice catered lunch on Fridays for its ~150 employees. Today was pizza day. I surveyed the lines and saw no pizzas labeled “vegan.” I usually start thinking about lunch at 5 a.m., and today was pizza day, so I was really getting excited about having pizza of the vegan variety.

I decided to ask our office manager about options for the vegan.

“Sam, are there any vegan pizzas?”

“Ooooh, no. Sorry. They don’t make a vegan pizza.”

“Okay.”

“Oh, I forgot you were doing your vegan diet thing.”

“It’s okay. Really.”

“The salad is vegan!”

I went back to the lunch line and checked out the eight large salad bowls that were catered in. All were heavily sprinkled with cheeses of multiple varieties. So I missed out on pizza day. But I made sure to make no fuss about it. I decided that I wasn’t going to be that guy. This is, after all, to me, a challenge.

But damn could I go for some pizza.

Day 5 of the plant-based diet

I think I can confidently say that I was 99.5% vegan today (by diet, not ethics).

This morning I woke up at 4:30 and had my coffee with maybe a tablespoon of half & half before I went on a run. That tablespoon was what took that 0.5% away from my attaining vegan status today. I’m scientifically basing that on the volume of things that went into my mouth today.

For breakfast, I murdered, chopped up and ate an apple and a pear. They screamed, but they tasted so good.

For lunch, I had leftover 3-bean chili.

For a snack, I had a fist full of pistachios. Then a bag of Terra Chips and a bag of animal crackers. I had to check the internet to see if animal crackers are vegan-friendly. Here’s what I learned:

While Nabisco’s recipe is free of animal ingredients, Cole & Stewart’s sociological analysis would suggest that consuming animal crackers is ritualistically anti-vegan, as it socializes speciesist sentiments and human supremacy in children.

Whatever. I bit all of their heads off first so they’d feel no pain.

For dinner, I had leftover lentil loaf, rice, and a kale and spinach salad with a balsamic, avocado and cilantro dressing. “Lentil loaf” and many other healthy, vegetarian and vegan foodstuffs just sound gross. “Nutritional yeast” and “liquid aminos?” I mean, come on. Those both sound like annoying but treatable diagnoses you’d hear from a gynecologist. They should call them “Cheesy Poof Powder” and “Really Just Like Soy Sauce,” respectively.

And I can’t, for the life of me, remember where I read it, or maybe it just came into my own head, but I’m going (try to) start abiding by the “Fast Starts at 8.” No food after 8 p.m. to promote healthy digestion.

I need to remember to drink more water, too. I drink a lot of water in the morning, but once I get to work, I forget and I drink a bunch of green tea instead.

I’m usually in zombie robot mode at 4:30 a.m., but I’m going to try my damnedest to forgo the half & half tomorrow and just take my coffee black, or maybe try it with almond milk.

I’m not wholeheartedly attempting to go vegan (but never say never), however, I am really getting onboard with this plant-based experiment in which Elise and I have endeavored. I sincerely don’t miss or crave meat or dairy. I did, however, make quesadillas for the girls for dinner tonight, and the cheese grease that pooled in the cast iron skillet sure did smell heavenly!

It could just be dumb luck but I have noticed, and have been anxiously anticipating, that my muscles and joints aren’t inflamed as they have been for as long as I can remember. Between us, as much as I’ve loved running for the past 5 years, this past year has literally been a pain. In recent months I’ve had to convince myself to go on runs because I feel like it has become my identity and I’m obligated to go out.

I’m shooting for 100% vegan tomorrow and I’ll just take it day-by-day and see how this experiment continues to play out.

Run rehab Thursday

I (re)started Camp Gladiator bootcamp on Wednesday at 5:45 a.m. I hadn’t been to a bootcamp since before the holidays when Elise and Maly had pneumonia and Mara and I also had our little bouts with illness. And then the holidays happened. And then the Jeep had some issues. So it’s been the better part of two months since I’d been to CG.

My plan was to return and take it easy. That didn’t really happen because invariably there’s a competitive/partner component. For example, we partnered up with another person and, while one person is running sprints, the other is holding a plank or performing mountain climbers. So you don’t want to leave your partner there suffering.

While I wasn’t very sore, I could still tell that I’d worked out yesterday when the alarm went off at 4:44 this morning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take Mara to school, so those are usually my shorter run days. I was out the door by 5:45 and headed out on a 4-something-mile route.

I kind of wanted to listen to some music, which I rarely do these days, but my Mighty wasn’t charged. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ran with a phone, but I looked at my phone and decided I wanted to listen to my friend Christian’s podcast this morning. So I took my phone, turned on the podcast and hit the road.

I went out and threw any notion of pace up into the air. I just took in the cool, misty air and just headed out. I ran exactly how I felt… I little sore, but happy and blessed to be out and have the streets pretty much to myself. I zoned out, listened to my podcast, took in the sights and just dug in.

It was a good run. I like to think that there are many more around the corner.

Day 4 of the plant-based diet

Breakfast: Apple and some mixed nuts
Lunch: Trader Joe’s Vegan Tikka Masala and tofu spring rolls
Dinner: Potato street tacos with roasted poblanos, onions, garlic, avocado, jalapeno salsa & cilantro & avocado dressing on corn tortillas