125th Boston Marathon

My A Goal was 3:10. That was to give me a 10-minute qualifying buffer for the 2022 Boston Marathon. I wound up pulling off a 3:04:10. In the months, weeks, and days leading up the race, I was avoiding committing to a goal. I don’t know why. Even after we’d arrived in Boston on Friday night, I still wasn’t 100% sure or committed to a goal. I think my mind was giving my body an out, just in case I became sleep-deprived, sick, or injured. It wasn’t until I hit the 5k mark in the race that I decided I would shoot for a sub-3-hour marathon.

I slept well the two nights before the race. I was very cool and calm the morning of the race. I woke up at 5 a.m., ate a bagel, had coffee, and got the system into go mode. I humped it the 1.5 miles in the drizzle to Boston Common to catch the bus to Hopkinton. Made small talk with some of the guys I was sitting near in the back of the bus. Forty-five minutes later we’re getting dropped off a mile from the start line. I hopped into a portapotty and started the walk to the start. Amid the thousands of red bibs already there, I managed to run into Iram. We hugged and walked together to the start. He dropped an emotional bomb on me about his and Elaine’s imminent divorce situation. It was a lot to process and I wanted to be sympathetic, but I learned that it’s damn near impossible to render sympathetic encouragement when you’re 5 minutes away from endeavoring on the most iconic footrace in America. The best I could come up with was, “Don’t think about it for 26.2 miles. Be present here.” Iram’s ritual is to double knot his shoes before toeing the line. I kept walking, thinking he’d catch back up, but I think he veered off to hit the restroom, so that’s when we parted ways.

I got to the start line at 9:02:xx a.m. I decided to wait to take off at exactly 9:05. Because of COVID and efforts to maintain social distancing, the Boston Marathon held a rolling start this year. Buses were scheduled to arrive in Hopkinton at set times based on bib color. Bib colors are assigned based on your qualifying time. Faster qualifiers leave early and so on. This keeps the course moving efficiently. I did some high knees and bouncing around as I watched the clock.

9:05. Boom. I was off. There were probably 10 others that took off at the same time as me, but I was pretty much alone.

The first half of the Boston Marathon is fast with a lot of downhill. I’d decided on the bus that I’d just stick with my A Goal plan of 3:15. I’d run even splits (7:15 pace) and stay steady and ready for the hills later in the race. First split was fast. Second split was faster. Third split I’d dipped into the 6’s. So I thought, “Screw it. Let’s go sub-3!”

I kept checking in with myself and felt completely fine at the pace I was keeping. I took in 100 calories of GU every 5-miles, followed by a few ounces of water at an aid station. I had some worries that I might run into GI issues, but I wasn’t too concerned with that getting in the way of Goal A if I had to duck into a portapotty and make grody loud noises.

At mile 7.5, going into Natick, I witnessed the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a race. A young lady on the road receiving chest compressions. The EMT who was working on her was fighting for her life. I almost stopped because witnessing that zapped my spirit. I was so scared that I’d just ran past a dead body. I later found out that she’s an extremely talented runner and only 34-years of age. She’d suffered a cardiac arrest and thankfully she survived. I know that EMT who I witnessed working so hard for her was her guardian angel.

I shook it off as best I could, said a little prayer, and kept going. Soon I was at mile 12 and I could hear the scream tunnel. That is the most amazing sound I think anyone can hear in a marathon. Those girls cheer so incredibly loud for the runners and it sends my spirit through the roof.

And then a few miles later, I hit the Newton hills. I was admittedly cocky and powered through them. After all, all of my training was done in Austin where we have a lot of hills. Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 got me though. I had to walk for a bit and catch my breath. And once you stop once in a race, your mind goes to that place where it starts to convince you that it’s okay to stop again. And again, if you really want to. It’s hard as hell to shake that monkey. I walked for a bit at mile 23, and then again at mile 25.

Mile 25 was when my left big toe “exploded.” I didn’t feel it coming on, but apparently I’d been building a nice blister on that toe during the race and it ruptured right at the 25-mile marker. And it hurt. It felt like someone jabbed a searing hot ice pick through the bottom of my toe. I stopped to take inventory because I was certain that there was going to be blood gushing from my left shoe. The shooting pain persisted, but there was no blood, so I just jumped back into my stride and gutted it out.

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.

Craig told me that the family would be on Boylston, right in front of the Tesla and Under Armour store. So I swung wide turning onto Boylston and I kept my eyes peeled for everyone. I can’t remember who I saw first. I think it might’ve been Elise. I think I heard her first so I could follow her voice. I’ve gotten used to listening for my #1 cheerleader’s screams. I saw Terri. I saw Joanne. They were all smiling and cheering. And so was I. I threw out some fist pumps as I barreled past them. I could see the finish line at that point.

My watch said 3:02:xx. I probably had 400 meters to go. I kept a steady clip thinking I’d come in right at 3:05. I thought that made sense because I left Hopkinton at 9:05. I changed my plan and dropped the hammer. I wanted to beat 3:05. So I came in right at 3:04:10.

I beat my A Goal by over 5 minutes and BQ’d (Boston Qualified) by over 15 minutes. That was my second fastest marathon, and Boston’s not an easy course. I was over the moon. Still am, actually. It was a beautiful and magical day. I’m thankful and blessed that my family could be there for me, and really happy that my daughters could witness their dad smiling and gunning it for the finish line of arguably the most prestigious road race in the world.

Now I get to decide if I want to submit my time and register for the 126th Boston Marathon this upcoming April. I probably will. The Boston Marathon is too damn fun.

Boston Marathon training is done

I just wrapped up my last run for this Boston Marathon training block. 22 weeks and 871.4 miles in preparation to run 26.2. I’ll take it easy the next two days and then go on a shakeout run around the Charles River in Boston on Sunday. Until then, it’s rest, relax, stay hydrated, fed, and, God willing, toe the line healthy in Hopkinton on Monday morning.

This training cycle has been, in a word, interesting. I’d qualified for Boston in Houston back in January of 2020. And then the pandemic happened so any potential races or running goals that I might’ve had never materialized. The “normal” Boston Marathon in April of last year was canceled in lieu of a virtual event. The B.A.A. announced they were going to do the 125th running of the marathon in October of this year, so I decided to submit my qualifying time from Houston. A week or so later, I received the email that I was in. So then I had to start thinking about how I was going to get back into shape and train for a marathon.

Getting into Boston is an achievement in and of itself. I’ll go out on a limb and say for most first-timers, and even veterans of the race, you run the Boston Marathon to experience the Boston Marathon. It’s the oldest marathon run on U.S. soil, it’s rich with tradition, stories, amazing victories, heartbreaks, and, unfortunately, horror.

There’s been a part of me that just wanted to go back to Boston and run the race to experience and enjoy it. I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2018 when it was cold, pouring rain, and we all fought headwinds reaching 30 mph the entire 26 miles. I “experienced” the race, but not the way I’d hoped. I think this training block has got me into shape to where I can cover the distance, but I haven’t really settled on any kind of time that I want to hit. It wasn’t until today, on my final run, that I decided that I should put a goal out there. I learned the hard way that it’s not wise to train for a big race without a plan. And I reckon that it’s probably equally unwise to go into a big race without some kind of goal. You’re setting yourself up for uncertainty which, I’d also venture to guess could lead to poor performance. I could be totally wrong. But for me, I think if I don’t have a goal, then I’ll flounder. If I do have a goal, I can be present, mindful, and conscious of my splits and check-ins at certain course mile markers.

Today I decided that my goals would be the following:

Goal A: 3:10 (Boston Qualifier that will more than likely get me into Boston 2022 (or 2023?)
Goal B: 3:19 (BQ)
Goal C: 3:30 (PR the Boston Course by 7 minutes)

Up until today, I’d settled on the notion of “I’m just going to see how I feel Sunday evening and Monday morning.” I think that’s always the case for any race. It’s not a goal. It’s not a strategy. It reminds me of what a sales manager of mine used to always say: “Hope is not a strategy.” I obviously hope I’m healthy and feeling spry on Monday morning. My goals are to run hard, feel good for the 3+ hours, and have fun. And now I have quantifiable numbers behind those goals. The psychology, feelings, and emotions are implied. They’re going to happen regardless of anything that I can do. I have to work for the splits. I’ve been working for the past 22 weeks in my training.

Monday is when the real work happens.

Deck repairs

I was a lot younger when I built this deck. It’s probably 17 years old now. Now it’s in need of repairs. I think this’ll be the last deck I build for myself. if my children ever have a house of their own and want a deck, I’ll show them, and I’ll help them. The same way my dad did.

How to make your own charcoal or fire starter

Step 1: Cut up some cardboard
Step 2: Coat the cardboard in paraffin wax.

That’s it.

I went out this afternoon to fire up the smoker to cook a pork loin. I had to use my last Kamado Joe firestarter and I had no lighter fluid left. I’ve become kind of a fan of those little firestarters, so I decided to google “DIY firestarters.”

I found some waffle’s site that droned on and on about a life story, multiple high-resolution photos of the husband’s wonderful smoked meats, and paragraphs on paragraphs about the adventures in various markets and grocery stores in search of paraffin wax.

So I saved you the headache. Look at steps 1 and 2 above. It’s not rocket surgery nor is it worth 5,000 words. And I’ll spare you my life story and my spiritual experiences in the quest for wax. I’m sure you can find that somewhere on this website.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos of the process.

On junk miles

I’m at the apex of what has turned into a 22-week marathon training block. This week is a down week. Next week is my final peak week before tapering. Regardless of it being a down, build-up, or peak week, Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays are usually, in my head, the hard days. Wednesday runs are usually just base miles. Some people call those types of runs “junk miles.” As if they don’t matter. They’re sometimes considered obligatory miles to stack onto an aggregate number of workouts and miles in a microcycle.

Usually, when I’m out on a run I think about random things in short blips. Sometimes I don’t think about anything at all. Often I think about running. Today I thought about work, family, and running. Today I thought about the non-consequential “junk miles” run that I was presently in.

It was hard to get going this morning. I’m still beat up from Sunday’s 20-miler. My left hip is feeling it. The outside of my right foot hurts. My calves and thighs hurt. Yesterday’s tempo run was tough. And then I realized that I’m in the thick of it right now. That apex. Things are going to hurt and runs are going to be hard. Even the 6 easy junk miles on a Wednesday.

I was once told that “no run matters.” That means that life happens and that if you have to miss a run or a workout for any reason, be it injury, illness, work, life events, or just not feeling it, then it doesn’t matter. There’s no sense in beating yourself up because you can’t follow your prescribed plan to a tee. You’ll only set yourself up for setbacks down the road.

Today’s run mattered. It’s those little runs. The base miles. The “junk miles.” It was difficult for me to settle in this morning because I’m in the throes of a training plan. My body is relearning to keep going despite the discomfort and fatigue.

This morning was not the run where I thought I’d come to this realization. Usually the notion of “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” sets in on a really long haul. It’s interesting how I can be very regimented and come to expect specific outcomes and realizations, but instead, my expectations are met with what is completely out of my control.

No run matters. But every run matters.

One of those days

  • Woke up at 5-something, before my alarm.
  • Met the run club for a 10k around the neighborhood.
  • Had a great turnout. I think there were 9 of us there after we hadn’t run together in months.
  • Came home and reassembled the lawnmower. I’d taken out the gas tank on Friday to patch a crack in it with a generous amount of JB Weld.
  • Mowed & edged our lawn.
  • Mowed & edged Sandy’s lawn.
  • Moved a bunch of stuff from Sandy’s backyard to the curb for bulk pickup on Monday.
  • Broke down a bunch of limbs for Sandy for compost pickup on Monday.
  • Pulled out the dead bushes in Sandy’s backyard that had died from the storm back in February.
  • Fixed Bill’s water hose reel.
  • Fixed my water hose that busted under pressure while I was across the street fixing Bill’s hose reel.
  • Fixed the steps on the deck.
  • Moved Maly’s old plastic picnic table to the curb for bulk pickup.
  • Took Maly over to Bowie to pick up her yearbook.
  • Found a 5-gallon gas tank that was on the curb and transferred the gas from my old 5-gallon tank that I loathed to my newly-found tank.
  • I think I shoved a few slices of pizza into my face.
  • Used up my last resort fix for the tub spout in the girls’ bathroom. That proved to be the final, permanent, unsuccessful attempt that rendered the diverter useless. So I had to take a bath. Our master bathroom is currently in full remodel mode so all 4 of us are using the guest bath. A tired, grown man trying to take a bath (not a shower) is also a futile endeavor.
  • Loaded up the children and went to Home Depot to get a replacement tub spout.
  • We also got a lamp, leaf bags, lawn spray for mosquitos, an extending ceiling fan cleaner thing, 3 bags of top soil, and whatever else we got that I can’t recall at the moment.
  • Went to grocery store for things for dinner.
  • Came home and feebly made dinner.
  • Went to work on the guest bathtub spout. Cut 4″ from the copper pipe sticking out of the wall only to find that the pipe had been previously coupled, so my new spout doesn’t fit correctly.
  • There’s probably some other stuff in there that I’m forgetting.
  • I didn’t sit down all day until we got in the car for yearbook pickup and the trip to Home Depot and the grocery store.
  • I’m tired.

Missing great grandma

Maly and her great grandmother had a tradition of going to Olive Garden for lunch ever since she was a little girl. Maly really wanted to eat at the OG tonight. She saved great grandma’s spot for her.

Maly’s first day of school

First day of 10th Grade today:

First day of 9th Grade last year:

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First day of 8th Grade two years ago:

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First day of 7th Grade three years ago:

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First day of 6th Grade four years ago:

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First day of 5th Grade five years ago:

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First day of 4th Grade six years ago:

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First day of 3rd Grade seven years ago

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First day of 2nd Grade eight years ago

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First day of 1st Grade nine years ago:

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First day of Kindergarten 10 years ago:

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First day of school 11 years ago:

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First day of school 12 years ago:

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First day of school 13 years ago:

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Mara’s first day of school

First day of 4th Grade today:

First day of 3rd Grade last year:

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First day of 2nd Grade two years ago:

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First day of 1st Grade three years ago:

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First day of Kindergarten four years ago:

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First day of preschool five years ago:

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First day of preschool six years ago:

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The last days of summer

I think this might be the biggest bluegill we’ve caught in this pond

I’m not sure if it’s the anticipation of school starting soon, but it seems like the last few weeks of summer have been really slow and low-key. I get anxious and start to worry: “did we do enough with the girls during their break?!”

When I look back, invariably we always have a bunch of fun adventures and trips. But I tend to want to cram a bunch of fun stuff in when the first day of school is just around the corner. I decided that I really wanted to take the girls fishing again. We hadn’t been fishing since October of last year and thankfully we have a pond a few miles away that always yields lots of sunfish.

So we went to Meridian pond at sunset yesterday. Unfortunately there was lots of pond weed so it was a bit difficult to get a hook far enough out, but Maly was able to bring in a couple good-sized bluegills and a red-eared slider. And we caught everything with blinky hot dogs from Costco. Unfortunately, Mara didn’t catch anything because she was afraid she was going to catch and hurt a turtle.

We stopped at Chipotle on the way to the pond for our dinner. Dinner proved to be difficult for me because I was busy baiting hooks and releasing fish so it was an exercise in balancing a huge burrito, a beer, a barbed hook, and needlenose pliers. The sun went down quickly and we soon found ourselves without any daylight remaining.

Mara was still pretty bummed. She was having a bad evening all together. Earlier in the evening she found out who her 4th grade teachers are going to be. And she also found that, after 4 years in elementary school, she and her best friend, Kyla, aren’t going to be in the same class together. So I promised her that we’d go fishing again before school starts so she can catch some bluegills.

Short weekend and closing of the Olympics

This past weekend was a bit tame. I wanted it to be less tame because it was the last official weekend of summer for the girls. This weekend is actually their last official weekend, but it’s the weekend leading up to the first day of school so, if the girls are anything like me when I was in grade school, this upcoming weekend will probably be met with more anticipation than any other previous summer weekend.

I honestly can’t remember when we did on Friday. Pretty sure the girls were camped out inside all day while I worked. Pretty sure the Olympics were on all day on the living room TV. Oooh. I just remembered! Friday evening was the women’s Olympic marathon. That was awesome to watch and see Molly Seidel with bronze for the US!

Elise had also started feeling weird – to the point where we thought she might have Covid. This was considered because she’d worked a photo shoot earlier in the week and was exposed to lots of unmasked people. Friends brought over a rapid at-home COVID test that came back negative.

Saturday was a slow day too. My training plan had me take the day off on Saturday, but I can’t stand staying still or being couped up inside. So I decided I’d take a Fender emblem over to our old neighbors’ house in the neighborhood. I talked Mara into go along with me for the ride on the RadRunner. She and I rode to the Fender’s house and then we tooled around the streets of the neighborhood, looking for the blooming Pride of Barbados plants. Then I decided I’d take Mara to see some of the cool parts of the Drop Drip trail over by our house. Then we had a flat on the back tire. We knew we’d gotten something stuck in the tire as we were making our way back homeward from the Fenders’ place somewhere on Escarpment. Turns out that it was a little staple the pierced the tube.

So we walked the 1-mile home while I pushed a 70lb. bike. Mara didn’t complain, but she immediately hopped in the shower when we got home. It had gotten hot by that time (noon). Then I spent the next hour or so in the garage pulling off the back tire and patching the tube. Thankfully I’d recently purchased a bike tube repair kit.

I got the tire patched, went on a couple test rides and found that I did a bang up job of patching the flat.

Not much after that. The men’s Olympic marathon aired at 5 pm, so I watched that and saw Kipchoge take the gold with a minute lead on second place.

I went to bed early on Saturday night and woke up at 5 am on Sunday to get ready for a 7 am run with Ryan. That was a fun but tough run. I’m not too great of shape endurance-wise, and it proved to be a bit of a challenge to run with someone nearly 20 years younger than me who is planning to run a 2:40 in Boston. But I held on and it would up being a good and just-challenging-enough run. And it was really nice to catch up with Ryan. I couldn’t tell you the last time I went on a social run.

I was really tired the rest of the day, so I tried to take a nap on the couch when I got back. I think I might’ve fallen asleep for 10 minutes. Elise was on the phone trying to secure our accommodations for Boston in October.

Maly asked if I’d take her to Walmart to get graphic tee shirts for school. So we went to Walmart. She got her graphic tee shirts. She got a Purple Rain Shirt, some kind of “No bad vibes” shirt, and a Corvette shirt. I don’t know. I asked her if her friends might take notice of her shirt choice. They’re obviously from Walmart. She said she didn’t care. I thought that was pretty cool – she’s not worried about being a brand snob or if any of her peers are brand snobs.

We also bought some Jolly Ranchers, some pretty gross but addicting Taki’s flavored “meat sticks,” and a female adapter for the water hose in the backyard.

We got home and I fixed the water hose. Wasn’t too long after we got back from Walmart and the day started getting away from us. The girls went to church and I put a new saddle on the RadRunner that I’d gotten earlier that day from Amazon delivery. Then I went to HEB and got stuff for grilled pork street tacos.

The girls got back from church and I grilled pork and made all the stuff for tacos. Then we watched the closing ceremonies of the Olympics and then some new show on NBC called Family Game Fight.

The weekend came to a close way too soon. Another weekend that went by in a flash. I’d really wanted to take the girls tubing as one of their last hurrahs for the summer, but since Elise wasn’t feeling well, we had to postpone. Hopefully we’ll be able to go this upcoming weekend.

A Facebook hiatus

I’ve always considered myself pretty versed in culling my Facebook feed so it only shows me what I really want or need to see. I’ve “unfollowed” a bunch of people because, while I still truly like and care for them, I don’t necessarily agree with or have enough information or an opinion on agenda(s) of which they’re passionate and post about on Facebook. And personally, I feel like if you’re insistent about posting and posting and reposting about your stance, feelings, etc. on Facebook, it’s like screaming into your pillow. You may feel better about getting it out, but what you’re really left with is a wet pillow.

So I’ve culled out the majority, if not all of the wet pillow posters.

I’m also part of many Facebook groups. Most of which are relevant to me. For example, I’m part of many groups about running. I’ve considered myself a serious runner for the past 8 years. After 8 years of being in virtual social media running groups, I see the same thing(s) posted day in and day out. Same questions. Same arguments. Same opinions. Emphasis on arguments and opinions. Much like the tangible world.

I guess I’m blessed in that it has always been easy for me to slink away from an argument or a heated discussion about something in which I really don’t care too much about, or of which I have little or no opinion, and/or if the outcome of such discussions impacts me in no way whatsoever.

I’m part of a few hyperlocal neighborhood groups. These groups have come in handy for hyperlocal things. Things like “Help! There’s a rattlesnake curled up by our front door. How do I get rid of it?” Or “Our air conditioner just blew up. Know of a good AC guy that works nights?”

I’ve seen the ebbs and flow of social media. Specifically Facebook. Probably takes me longer than other folks to recognize patterns. Or I recognize patterns and I accept and adapt. I think I have a tendency to make it through a handful of pattern cycles before I start questioning if this thing is of any benefit or use to me anymore.

In the past couple years I’ve made it through an election and a pandemic. The division and opinions were amusing at first. It was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. A train wreck that you couldn’t peel your eyes from. In between the debates there were still some things of use and interest but was still left to endure the negativity.

Most recently the negative noise has been around the Delta variant of COVID-19 and Austin going back to Stage 5. Opinions on vaccination status, social distancing, ICU beds and other things aside, the most important issue within my digital social ecosystems has been, “Great, but why do they have to close the pool?” And then there are arguments about the neighborhood pools.

So I put down Facebook. I can still easily go to facebook.com on my computer. The app is still in the “Social Media” folder on my phone. But I haven’t gone to either of them since Monday. And that’s been nice. I’ve now had four days without Facebook and there’s nothing that I feel that I’m missing. I did use Messenger the other day to communicate with a neighbor to whom I gave a bedroom door basketball goal for her sons. And I’ll probably use it today to coordinate a group run with the neighborhood run club (thankfully there’s no drama in my group there). But I don’t miss much of anything else. It was nice to see friends’ photos from cool vacations in the national parks and tropical islands, but I’m not going to die if I don’t see those. In fact, I’m sure there’s a level of jealousy that’ll just be non-existent. And most of my Facebook friends are real friends in the flesh, so I can see those photos in person with my friends if that opportunity presents itself at some point in the future.

It’s a hiatus. I’m not claiming to leave Facebook. I’m just noting how I feel lighter having not passively checked and scrolled through my Facebook feed all week. I haven’t lost anything and I feel no FOMO.

I have less mental inventory. Less chaos. Less stress.

I realized this post has absolutely zero funnies. I will use my newly-found mental inventory to get back to finding and recounting the funny things in life.