Drawing connection

You have to look at each others’ faces. You can’t look down at your paper. You can’t lift your pen off of the paper. The portrait has to be drawn with one continuous line while looking at your subject, not your paper.

Portraits of Mara:

Portraits of Maly:

Portraits of Elise:

Portraits of Josh:

The low, low cost and accessibility of running

I didn’t set out to get healthier by running. I wanted to ride my bike. My dad bought a bike for me when I moved to Austin in 1994 to go to college. That Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike cost $600. I thought that was some really expensive equipment for a hobby.

Running was appealing to me because, after i tried it, I realized that it would be an inexpensive and accessible hobby.

On July 11, 2013 I went out for my first run. I ran four laps around the middle school track up the hill from our house. I wore a t-shirt, some form of “athletic” shorts (I have no idea why my whiskey-guzzling self would have shorts of this variety at that time in my life), and a pair of Nike Lunar Fly shoes that were indirectly given to me by former pro and Heisman trophy-winning football star, Ricky Williams.

After 10+ years of being a runner, I decided to do a little personal research and prove just how cost-effective this fun and accessible hobby actually is.

I started going through old emails that I keep in a “running” folder. A lot of those emails are race and travel receipts. I stopped calculating in early 2020 and, according to my crude and very conservative calculations, I was at $18,545.37 at that point. I’m 100% certain that I’ve left off countless shoe purchase. Those range between $150-$275. I think I’ve purchased four running watches, and those run upwards of $700. There are three Boston Marathons that aren’t accounted for. Registration for the Boston Marathon is $230. Traveling from Austin to Boston plus accommodations for a family of four is easily $3,000. There’s another $10,000. I didn’t take into account any apparel or running gear that I’ve purchased over the years. That includes shorts, shirts, leggings, headlamps, vests, hats, gloves, hiking poles, and all kinds of gadgets. There were thousands of dollars spent there. I also didn’t take into account any professional services. I’ve had to go to the ER, physical therapists, orthopedics, and massage therapists. Between out of pocket expenses and insurance deductibles, there’s probably another $10,000 there, too. There’s also food and hydration. I mean, to feed a runner you practically need an additional household income.

It has proven hard to determine an exact amount of money that has been spent on being a runner. If I had to guess, I would say that the cost to enjoy this inexpensive and accessible hobby will realistically only run you between $578,682.72 – $6,433,267.91. And that’s for 10 years, based on my experience. If you follow your coaches instructions (coaching will cost money, too), running can be a low-cost hobby that you can enjoy for a lifetime!

2023 Janicek Christmas Newsletter

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Man. Christmas really snuck up on me this year. This is the least prepared I’ve been in writing this newsletter. It’s usually on the Friday after Thanksgiving that I hold my feet to the proverbial fire and start upon my existential introspection and recounting of the past year for fodder for this letter. And then invariably I’ll get distracted by things like bills, the future, and wondering what the scientific name is for eye boogers. So here it is on Christmas Eve and I find myself scrambling to recount the year. It’s hard to recount the year for myself, let alone the three other people that live in this house. Right now I’m trying to remember if I even ate breakfast, and the names of the three other people that live in this house.

I won’t lie. I seriously considered not writing the newsletter this year. But then I go back and look at the archives and I’ve written this newsletter for 20 years now. It looks like the only year I didn’t write one was in 2020, and we all know what happened that year. That’s right, a lot happened in 2020. Notably, I was struck with selective amnesia and forgot how to type after learning of the death of Eddie Van Halen.

This time last year I was in the throes of a series of races called the Austin Distance Challenge. My goal was to win the series outright with the two remaining races that were coming up in January and February. I did wind up winning that series, and after all the pomp and celebration from all the months of preparation and hundreds of miles training, I brought home my winning pint glass, put it on the work bench in the garage where it is now filled with rocks that Mara and I will one day put into the rock polisher.

February greeted us with another crazy ice storm here in Central Texas. Cities shut down as rain and ice accumulated and the temperatures plummeted. Countless trees were destroyed from limbs breaking and the days seemed to drag on as we all holed up in side and contemplated things like global warming and the scientific name for eye boogers.

It was during the Christmas break last year, while we were in far northern frozen plains Des Moines that I found myself again in that mode of existential introspection. After the holidays I passively searched for a new job to no avail. In February I had an honest conversation with my boss and asked him if he’d “fire” me so I could at least claim unemployment compensation while I looked for a more fulfilling livelihood.

And four months later I found myself working for the local nonprofit run club. Working for a nonprofit means nonprofit pay. Which means Elise and I had many conversations before I took the new job and she decided that she would go back to working full time. We just wouldn’t be able to make ends meet on my salary alone.

For me, finding a job is a production. It requires research, networking, updating my resume, reassessing my skills, experiences, and interests, more networking, eye boogers, and sending out countless unanswered resumes. For Elise, finding her first full-time job in 17 years was an exercise in rolling over in bed one morning, opening her email, and calling an old friend who’d placed a job ad. And then she had a job the following week. So now Elise is working on the administrative team at Wilson Roofing, which is one of Austin’s oldest roofing companies.

Elise is very excited about her new job. She’s ambitious and has all kinds of news about the goings on at the office every day. In fact, she came home just the other day and excitedly told me all about the first official meeting that she was invited to attend. It was like witnessing a child experiencing a Jolly Rancher for the first time in its life. And I was quietly reminded of one of my favorite Dave Barry quotes: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

So now we’re one of those couples that are referred to as DINKs: Dual income, nagging kids. I’m joshin’. The kids aren’t nags.

Mara is now 11 years-old and in the 6th grade. Sixth grade is kind of a big deal because it means a new school. She’s now a middle schooler. When I was growing up it was called junior high, but now we call it middle school. She’s adapting well to the new landscape. Middle school is always different as the children become much more independent. Instead of having one teacher for all subjects, they have a teacher for each subject. And they have to change classrooms for each period. Middle school is also when social bonds are tested and broken and new links are forged.

She’s doing well on all fronts. Elise and I enjoy watching her grow into her own. It’s a little sad to watch her grow up because she’s our baby. She’s at that age where she’s not as much into toys and playing. She’s more into YouTube shorts and fancy fingernails these days. But she’s still our little love bug. There’s a part of me that’s scared that she’s going to outgrow her parents, but so far there’s been no indication of that and we’re hanging on to all the hugs she’ll give us.

Maly is now 17 years-old and a senior in high school. Her life has been a bit of a whirlwind this year. Back in July she received an email from the head lacrosse coach at the University of Charleston West Virginia, expressing interest in recruiting her to play Division II lacrosse. After some email exchanges and phone calls, Elise and Maly made a trip out to the campus in October for a recruiting camp. The city, campus, coach, university president, lacrosse program, team, and nursing program checked all of the boxes, so on November 8th, she committed to attending UCWV next Fall.

As I type this, on Christmas Eve, she’s started to have second thoughts about hauling off 1,200 miles away. To the point of tears. I think it might have something to do with it being Christmastime and realizing that time is fleeting and big changes are just over the horizon.

It has been difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that our first born will be leaving the nest, but we know that this is all part of the circle of life. She’s growing up and her time is drawing near to have her own adventures in life independently. And today we reminded her that life is just that: an adventure. She has a fantastic opportunity in front of her, and she’ll always have this nest to come home to.

Lacrosse took us a couple adventures later in the year. This summer we road tripped it up to Indiana for a club lacrosse tournament. We stopped in Little Rock and Memphis on the way up, and some countless and uneventful miles in Missouri and Illinois as we made our way to Des Moines for a week-long visit with Steve and Joanne. Our trip home took us by way of western Missouri and into Arkansas again, and then back into Texas to drop Maly off at summer camp.

The Thanksgiving break found us in central Florida for another club lacrosse tournament, and we decided to make a week of it and spend a day at Universal Studios where we indulged in a lot of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and butter beer. And we spent a day bumming around at Cocoa Beach before flying back to Texas on the day before Thanksgiving. That was a hoot and a story in and of itself. I will tell you that seeing the faces of 15,000 weary and impatient travelers as the three of us follow Elise while she cuts in front of them in the TSA line at 5 a.m. is a sight to behold.

With the business and goings on of the day, it has drawn near my bedtime. That’s my fault for having waited until Christmas Eve to write the annual newsletter. As I type this, I tell myself I’ll do better next year. But I’ll bet I forget. Actually, I won’t forget. I’ll start thinking about it around Thanksgiving again. And I’ll contemplate not writing it again because the thought of recounting the year gets more and more difficult as each year passes. I’ll probably still write it. I’ve a year to think about it.

I’m not a religious person. I was born into a Catholic family and I married into a Catholic family. Every year I attend Christmas Eve mass with my family. I’ll attend mass every once in a while throughout the year too. Seems I have an inclination to do that more so these days. Perhaps my subconscious is telling me to make right with God as maybe I have less years before me than I do behind. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become wiser in my years and I’ve learned to appreciate listening and learning, especially if the lesson is of the moral variety. During tonight’s mass I found myself remembering a gift that was given to me 12 years ago. The gift was a book from a friend from that time in my life. We were work friends and we’ve both since moved on and our paths haven’t crossed since. But for some reason I remembered that book tonight and how thoughtful it was for him to give it to me. He remembered a conversation that we’d had and he knew that I had an interest in a topic for which this book was based. He thought of me and he took the time to procure this book because he knew that I would enjoy it. And I very much did enjoy it, and I guess it made a lasting impression on me, otherwise I wouldn’t have recounted that experience this Christmas Eve. The book was a small gesture, but knowing that he thought about me and cared made the gift extra special.

I think it’s important to think of those gifts we’ve been given, and the people who have given them to us. Sometimes we feel very alone or insignificant, but we’re not. Maybe we’re lucky and have and endless roster of those who care for and love us. Maybe we can count those people on one hand. But always remember that someone loves you very, very much, and you’ve made an enormous impact in their life. We all have the opportunity to give our gift. It doesn’t have to be of the tangible variety. A smile or a gesture. Your time is a thoughtful way to express that you care. We each have a finite amount of our time to give and to share it with others is the most precious gift of all.

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and hope you get to spend it with the ones you love.

With our love,

P.S. The archive of Christmas newsletters can be found here.

Second year of salt water taffy

Mara and I have started this little tradition where we make salt water taffy around Christmastime. I have no idea how the idea was born last season. Actually, I do. It was Christmas break last year, the child was busy guarding the couch and TV so I decided that we needed a project. And I had a hankering for salt water taffy at that moment.

Last year we made peppermint, green apple, and root beer. They were good. More like okay. I’d say the success was in learning something new, the process, and having fun spending time together.

Last night we tried a different recipe and made buttered rum salt water taffy and they turned out awesome. We ran out of corn syrup. I’ll run out and get some today so we can make our batch of cinnamon spice taffy.

Year in Sport 2023

Every year Strava publishes their “Year in Sport” for it’s users. It’s a cool wrap up of all of my running (and a handful of bike rides and walks/hikes) stats for the entire year. I’m not sure if this report is finalized. I’ll have to check and see if it’ll pull in new data as there’s still 11 days left in December.

The one statistic that stands out to me is my total distance running. The 2,285 miles include some rides and walks. My actual total distance running as I type this is 2,172.6 miles. That’s the most I’ve ever run in the 10 years that I’ve been running. That averages a 10k every day that ends in a “y.”

Here are my aggregate annual stats, according to Strava:

2013: 557.1 mi
2014: 1,215.0 mi
2015: 1,777.3 mi
2016: 1,773.5 mi
2017: 1,900.0 mi
2018: 1,546.5 mi
2019: 1,697.9 mi
2020: 2,027.3 mi
2021: 1,839.7 mi

And the best part is that it didn’t feel like any additional “work” to get my highest mileage year. A lot of those miles were fun, easy, and/or social runs. It’s a good indication and reminder that I made time for myself to do the thing that brings me happiness. A lot of those miles were hard training runs and racing too, and I’d be lying if I said those weren’t fun as hell as well.

I’ve absolutely no statistical goals for 2024, but it’ll be fun to see how next year wraps up. But that’s next year. Running imitates life. It’s one step at a time, one day at a time.

You just have to keep moving forward.

Stifled

I was stifled and censored at work today. I wrote the newsletter, and the feedback was, “Let’s cut down on the cheekiness in the intro ;)”

I write a newsletter for a run club.

As much as I would’ve been inclined to be angry, I couldn’t help but laugh.

I stared at my draft and contemplated how I would rewrite it. And I couldn’t do it. It’s painful for me to write without my personality and voice.

So I decided to do what I was told. Instead of rewriting it, I deleted the mirth, fun, and human element. And now the run club newsletter is as exciting as a homeowners insurance policy update letter.

The feedback upon second submission: “Beautiful, let it rip!”

First place in the 10k

Results from the 2023 Run by the Creek 10k can be seen here.

It’s become an unintentional tradition to race the Run By The Creek 5K & 10K every other year. Since starting a paying job at Austin Runners Club this summer, my racing has taken a backseat to supporting the running community. Today I raced what has become one of my favorite local races. Untrained.

Today’s goals were:
A: Run how I felt
B: Podium my age group or win Masters
C: Break 37 minutes
D: Win the whole thing

I felt good, excited, and nervous at the same time this morning after getting out of bed. Usually I’m not nervous on race day. I always tell my athletes, “You can only control so much. Control what you can.” So I embraced the anxiety and accepted it as simply the way that I was feeling. The anxiety was good. It meant I had expectations of myself.

There were some other “seasoned” runners in the starting corral, so I knew there might be a race for Goal B. There were a lot of high school kids, probably coming off cross country season, so Goal D stayed at the bottom of the list.

The gun went off and we piled out. After the first half mile I looked at my watch and had already settled nicely into the Goal C pace. I revisited Goal A and decided I could hang there for 5 more miles. I knew I’d pay for it at the 5k mark, but I also knew that over the course of 10 years I’ve been learning to deal with the discomfort.

I hit the 5k split at 18:29. I could do it.

And that’s when I noticed how quiet it had become. I was out front. All alone. I’d outrun the footfalls behind me.

That’s when Goal D moved up. I knew the last 3/4 of a mile were uphill. I’d still try to break 37 minutes, but I’d try harder to break the tape.

It’s odd, the sounds you think you hear when you know there’s someone behind you, but you don’t know how far. I thought I could hear footfalls. But I couldn’t tell if they were echos of my own. Or something completely different. Like hammering in a barn in a pasture near the course. Or my heartbeat in my ears.

Brandon, Mark, Iram, and Josh

With two miles to go I couldn’t start backing down. I didn’t want to look back. If I couldn’t see second place, that would mean I would let myself back down, and I’d pay for that in the last mile.

I asked a volunteer at the 1.5 mile aid station, “how far back is he?”

“He’s way back there.”

I could dial it back, or I could add some distance between us.

The hill added 15 seconds to my last half mile pace and it hurt.

I didn’t break 37 minutes, but I broke the tape. My first 10k to win overall.

And the best part? Being with these three friends at the end who all podiumed in their respective divisions and age groups. Look at those grins.

I love this damn sport.

Signing Day

Today is National Letter of Intent Signing Day for NCAA Division I and II prospective college student athletes. It’s the day on which high school students sign their respective letters of intent to play NCAA sports for the university or college from which they’ve received athletic scholarship offers.

Today Maly signed her Letter of Intent to play lacrosse for the University of Charleston West Virginia.

It’s not that I’d ever doubt that a day like this would be possible. It’s a day that I’d never considered to expect.

It’s a day that has made me so damn proud of her.

Rattlesnake Relays

Just before the first runners set off at 7:03 a.m.

The Zilker Relays is a tradition for the Austin running community and is always held every year on the first Friday after Labor Day. The event is a 4-person, 10 mile relay held at Zilker Park. The event was started 20 years ago by my new friend, Paul Perrone.

Last year the Circle C Run Club had four teams participate in the Zilker Relays. This year we had eight teams participate. And we showed up in style. We had fully stocked tents and the teams had a blast hanging out with and competing against each other.

I had to work all day at the Zilker Relays since the event is now owned and operated by Austin Runners Club. I was able to peel away for enough time to race with my own team (we took second in Masters). That was an 18 hour day for yours truly and, unfortunately, I didn’t get to do much hanging out with my own run club.

It wasn’t until two days later that I was finally able to sit down and look at the results from the Circle C Run Club teams.

Two of our teams had a friendly rivalry and I was really curious about one of the team’s namesake. I came to find out that team “Beat Scott” did, in fact, beat Scott’s team “Deflated Lungs.”

Two days after the Zilker Relays and with the intent to stir the pot a little, I posted the rival teams’ results in our run club’s Facebook group. I went on writing without doing much thinking and wrote, “I sense and propose a rematch. A rivalry. A new tradition that spans the contempt among just two teams. We should hold the Circle C Relays. But it’ll be bigger. And badder. And probably have a better name.”

I went on to jokingly propose that our relays be 20 miles in distance (twice the distance of the Zilker Relays) and, instead of a baton, the teams would pass a rubber rattlesnake. Our neighborhood has a lot of rattlesnakes, hence that brilliant idea.

That Facebook post garnered a lot more excitement than I’d intended. So I thought about it for a hot minute, and two days later I created the Rattlesnake Relays.

It took three weeks to create a multi-team event from absolutely nothing. We made a few adjustments from my original idea. We decided to make the relay a 12 mile course instead of 20. Our run club is very inviting and inclusive, so we didn’t want this to be a traditional race based on fastest times. We decided that the winning team would be determined by how close they came to their predicted finish time. We implemented a staggered start so all of the teams would finish at approximately the same time. And to thwart any sandbagging, cheating, and/or strategies, I reserved the right to implement an over/under. I would add or subtract somewhere between 3 and 7 minutes to each teams estimated finish time.

Captains had to register their teams. Each runner paid $10 to participate in the relays. I bought a bunch of rubber rattlesnakes and we provided coffee, donuts, muffins, sandwiches, water, Gatorade, bananas, mandarin oranges, bars, and beer for everyone. I bought $25 Fleet Feet gift cards, Balega running socks, and Goodr sunglasses for each member of the winning team. We had tents, tables, a complex scoring and timing system, a team of volunteers to help make the relays happen, and a bunch of people that came out to our neighborhood community center on a Saturday morning and had a great time with their friends.

We had 14 teams register, 50 runners, a bunch of spectators, and the local physical therapy clinic came out and had a vendor booth for our runners.

The Rattlesnake Relays started out as a joke, and turned into an awesome event that only took three weeks to throw together. A huge thanks go to Elise and our friends Frank, Jen, and Lindsey for stepping up and helping to make this thing happen.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful as all get-out, and I told everyone that I wasn’t going to do this again. But I know we will. The smiles on people’s faces makes it all worth it.

Some great photos are below. All of the photos can be see here.

The First Day of School

Maly, Elise and I maintain a group text. Maly named the group text “People I Know” many years ago. At first I thought it was cute, and maybe one day she, or one of us, would change the group text to something more appropriate, like “family.” But it hasn’t changed. And as I’ve thought about it more, and thought that I might wish the name of the group text would change, the more I think it’s right. We are the people that we know, probably taken for granted. But the three of us know.

Maly sent this poem to us on the first day of school. It was something she’d found on TikTok.

The First Day of School

I’m 5 years old
I wake up early for my first day of kindergarten
“I don’t want to go to school mommy, I’ll miss you”
And I don’t know anyone
And I don’t leave the house often
And I’m scared
But I go anyway
And I cry walking into the classroom away from my mommy
My only friend
But I make friends quickly
And I like learning.

I’m 12 year old
I wake up early for my first day of 7th grade
“I don’t want to go to school, it’s boring”
And the girls are mean
And I have too many classes for one day
And I don’t like my teachers
But I go anyway
And I linger in the car next to my mom
But I get out and walk away And run to my friends And they protect me.

I’m 15 years old
I wake up early for my first day of sophomore year
“I don’t want to go to school, I’m tired.”
Everything’s heavy
And I can barely stand anymore
And it’s all too loud
But I go anyway
And I look up at my huge school And I sit with my friends
And they carry me through my year.

I’m 17 years old
Tomorrow I will wake up early for my first day of senior year
“I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to grow up.
Time is moving too fast
And I’m not ready for it to be over
And I’m scared
But I’ll go anyway.
And I’ll linger in the passenger seat
Because I don’t want it to be the last time my mommy drives me to school
And I’ll cry the night before thinking about it And I’ll find my friends and they’ll comfort me
But they’re all ready to grow up
And I’m still getting ready for my first day of kindergarten.

Maly’s first day of 12th Grade

First day of 12th Grade today:

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Mara’s first day of 6th grade

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