The last game

The Bowie Women’s Lacrosse team had their last game late on Wednesday night against Dripping Springs. The girls lost 13-3, but they showed up and played with a vengeance. They all looked and played really well. They played like a team. It just wasn’t in the cards for a win.

This was also the last game as high school athletes for Maly, Ava, Bianca, Charlotte, Liv, and Nadia.

It’s been a wild and unexpected ride. For Maly it’s been tough because she was part of the “rebuilding” of the high school girls lacrosse program. When she started playing in 7th grade, the high school teams were dominating the league. She started high school during COVID and just filling the roster was a daunting task. Bowie never had a winning season during her high school lacrosse career. She played varsity all four years, was captain her junior year, led the team in most stats, and definitely wins for most yellow cards.

It’s been exciting to watch and I’m beyond proud of her for her years as a Lady Bulldawg lacrosse midfielder. Next we’ll get to watch her soar as a Golden Eagle.

Her first practice as a 7th grader with Coach Larden. Maly and I both knew absolutely nothing about lacrosse.

Bipedal epiphany

I’ll often say or write things like “I mainly run for my mental health” or “I’ll think about everything and nothing when I’m running.”

I do run for my mental health. It’s my “me” time. I don’t think I can quantify the mental health benefits other than I haven’t killed anyone or myself (not that I’ve been to that point), I’m generally happy, and I can take life’s lumps.

I’ve decided that the whole “I think about everything and nothing” is a misnomer. Maybe even a bit of lie that I’ve been telling myself and others to convince us all that I’ll enter some kind of flow state of meditative introspection where I deeply ponder and find solutions to all of my problems and experience the ascension that comes from learning my singular purpose.

However, in coming to this conclusion, I realized that I do, in fact, think about everything and nothing, and experience that ascension. I’ve thought about that misnomer and how, more often than not, I’m thinking more about the “nothing.” Not once have I come back from a run and have had life all figured out. Running hasn’t directly taught or inspired me to be “successful,” or a better husband, father, friend, or human. I can’t remember a time while out on a run that I solved a specific problem, be it with a relationship or something at work. Sometimes I’ll set out on a run with a very specific problem in mind, with the hope and thought that the solution will come to me after I get some oxygen and a jolt of endorphins sent to my brain. If I’m being honest, it just doesn’t happen.

What running teaches me is to survive. To live in the moment. Right now. Every foot strike. Ten feet ahead. One minute ahead. One mile ahead. Three hours ahead. 20 miles ahead, and everything in between, in fleeting but extremely conscious and aware moments. What I’ve realized is that I do enter into a flow state. But I’m not focused on or solving family or financial or social or work problems. I’m focused on right here, right now. Every stride could be met with a misstep.

I thought about going on and on and writing about using all five senses. About how I’ll often hear rustling in the woods if I’m out on the trails, and I experience a heightened sense of awareness because that noise could be a rattlesnake, or a mentally unstable homeless person strung out on meth who’s wielding a machete, or how it’s usually just a squirrel.

I guess my whole point is that I do think about everything and nothing. Everything is right now, in this very moment. And it has nothing to do what happened a mile back or five ahead. Running imitates life.

2024 Cap10k

This past Sunday I raced the 47th annual Austin American-Statesman Capitol 10k. The Cap10k is the largest 10k in Texas, and one of the largest in the nation. The Cap10k holds a place in my heart for a couple reasons. 1) it’s the hometown race and 2) in 2014, the year after I’d started running, it was going to be my first race.

I’d only run Cap10k once before in 2016. Since then, I’d gotten into marathons and half marathons, and often times, the Boston Marathon was the same weekend as the Cap10k and we’d be up in Boston. In 2019 the Cap10k was canceled because of an amazing thunderstorm that rolled in that morning. I was ready to race that morning, so I ran my own Cap30k around the neighborhood in the thunderstorm. The 2020 and 2021 races were canceled because of COVID.

I qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon my a large margin, but we’re not going to Boston this week because prom is on Saturday, and Maly’s 18th birthday is on Marathon Monday. So I decided I’d sign up for our hometown 10k this year. I didn’t write out a training plan for myself for the race, but I trained for it. I did some hill workouts, and a lot of interval workouts; some on my own, and some with the Run Texas Track Club. I threw in a hard tempo late in the block to see if I could sustain a pace that might bring a sub-37-minute time.

I changed my race plan to sub-38 the week of the race, thinking that goal should be achievable, and if I could get somewhere around 37:30, that could probably get me a spot on the podium in my age division.

I was wrong. I was basing my 37:30 on the two years’ prior results. My age division showed up this year and dropped the hammer. I knew who two of my competitors were, and we were all lined up at the very front, and I tried to stay tucked in behind them when the gun went off, but they charged strong up the hills and I lost sight of them both before the 5k split. I held out hope though, thinking they might be first and second, and I could secure a 3rd place spot, but there were two other guys in the field that were up ahead and put me in 5th place.

It was fun race. Everyone charged out hot in the first mile. I knew I couldn’t keep that pace, so I dialed it back but stayed strong and settled into my race pace when the hills hit us after the first mile. I was damn near gassed at mile 4, but knew I had a flat remainder of the course, and there was no one near me, and I didn’t want anyone to pass me that late in the race, so I just gutted it out and told myself to hang on for 12 more minutes.

I PR’d the 10k in 37:17 (previous PR of 37:22).

Easter Bunny’s golden years

I had a bit of a moment on Sunday afternoon. But first, a confession. I think the girls are old enough now to know that I am the Easter Bunny.

For the past 15 years the girls have gotten up and gone to church on Easter morning. This year they went to Easter vigil on Saturday night. It was my understanding that I was to plant my butt on the couch, watch Netflix, and pack little plastic eggs with candy. And I did a damn good job of doing just that.

I woke up early on Easter morning. The girls were all sleeping. I don’t recall what all I did, but 10:30 crept up and the girls were all finally dragging out of bed. I thought maybe they were going to go to church at 11. That’s when I learned that they weren’t going to church on Easter. They’d already done the church stuff at the Saturday night vigil.

And no eggs had been hidden. It was a break in the 15 year tradition for Maly, and the 9 year tradition for Mara.

Maly had to go to work at 1 p.m. So I snuck out and hid eggs for Mara during broad daylight, while she’s camped out on her phone in the living room. When I was done hiding them, she was able to hunt for Easter eggs.

And then I went out and hid a bunch more eggs for Maly for her to hunt when she got home from work that evening.

And that’s when I had my bit of a moment. I was by myself in the backyard. It was quiet. It was peaceful. And then it just hit me. This was going to be our last Easter with Maly living at the house.

I wouldn’t say Easter’s a huge deal or cause for much celebration in our house. It’s a tradition though. And it’s a sign of spring here. Things are blooming and everything is new and green. And Maly was born the day before Easter in 2006.

She made me a dad. She made me the Easter Bunny.

So I had my moment. I stifled it a bit, but I didn’t hide it. I lost a little spring in my step as I hid the last of the eggs. It’s just sad coming to terms with there being a lot more “lasts” in life nowadays.

“Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”

– Holden Caulfield

Maly’s senior lacrosse game

Bowie vs. LASA varsity lacrosse. It was a tough and close game the whole night, but the girls maintained the advantage for most of the game, and came out ahead with an 11-10 victory.

Spring Break cramming

First, I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. And Amazon Prime. And YouTubeTV. These are all media streaming services that we subscribe to and I don’t know why I haven’t canceled them all yet.

On the off chance that I want to plop down on the couch and watch something on TV, network TV has turned into one never-ending episode of Someone’s Got Talent and I just can’t watch someone dangle and “dance” from a piece of cloth suspended from the stage ceiling over and over and over again.

So I’ll turn on Netflix and search for some minutes for something watch until I remember that we have Amazon Prime. And then I’ll search for some minutes. And then the same with YouTubeTV.

If I’m going to commit 1-3 hours of staring at a screen for entertainment, it’d better be entertaining, educational, and/or enlightening. It’s proven hard to cull through the 98.7% of other stuff that doesn’t fit the bill. Invariably I’ll get frustrated with trying to find something to watch and then I’ll just turn off the TV. Honestly, I miss the days when I only had five channels from which to choose.

Last week, by some stroke of luck I stumbled upon The Highwaymen. It’s a movie about the ex-Texas Rangers who tracked down and killed Bonnie & Clyde.

I felt 100% okay about having spent 2+ hours watching that movie. It was well-written, there is historical context, good character development, and there were no talking sharks.

And I admittedly didn’t know too much about the Bonnie & Clyde story. So after having watched The Highwaymen, Netflix recommended the 2014 movie Bonnie & Clyde. So I watched that and enjoyed it just as much as The Highwaymen.

So, since Mara and I have pretty much been by ourselves for Spring Break, we went out on a kayak adventure this morning, and then a visit to pay our respects at the graves of Captains Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, both buried at the Austin Memorial Park Cemetery.

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.