Sugar wagon

Short of a jovial Facebook post or two, I didn’t really boast or advertise that I’d gone on an added and refined sugar strike that’d started on January 1st. And that wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution thing. I decided to cut back (or try to cut out) on the sugar because over the Christmas holidays, I admittedly let myself go wild with the holiday candies and cookies that are abundantly available at the in-law’s house.

And prior to the holidays, I still ate a lot of sugar and carbs in general. And while I didn’t proactively seek and crave sugar and sweets, I kind of justified its consumption by the fact that I run a lot and can afford to consume a lot of calories. I can easily justify an additional 1,000 calories per day.

But a calorie is not a calorie.

During the holidays I decided to cut out the sugar because, to put it simply, added and refined sugar isn’t good for anyone. I think everyone can agree on that. And by and large, refined sugar is just empty calories. Aside from glycogen, I’m sure it can be argued that refined sugar doesn’t really do the human body much good.

I know at some point I’m not going to run as much, and if I’m not running as much, I can’t keep eating like someone who runs 50 and 60 miles per week. So I decided to refrain and retrain. So I cut back on the added and refined sugar, and it just so happened that that date January 1st when we were driving back to Austin from Des Moines after the Christmas holidays.

And I did really well for a good month or so. I didn’t get overly strict about it. But I didn’t buy or consume cookies, candy, ice cream, and all of the other sugar-laden stuff that I’d ordinarily treat myself with on a daily basis. I became conscious of the foods and drinks I’d consume. I’ve never been much of a sugary drink consumer, so the vast majority of my sugar calories came from sweet treats.

It was finally on Elise’s birthday that I decided to indulge. Just for once. I made a Boston Cream Poke Cake for her and I had a small piece with her and the family that evening. And that was it. I was good. I was surprised by how overly sweet it was. I mean, a sheet cake punched with a bunch of vanilla putting and then smothered in chocolate icing really is nothing but sugar. But I hadn’t had any refined sugar for over a month, so the sugar hit was a pretty significant.

And then the next day I justified having some more cake because the cake existed. I would indulge until the cake no longer existed. And, like returning to any kind of addiction, I fell off the wagon. I was back on the sugar as easy as that. I probably wasn’t as “bad” as I’d previously been, but it wasn’t difficult to get back to a bit of a daily indulgence again.

And what is interesting is that I can admit that I noticed a difference.

In the first couple weeks, I noticed I had some withdrawals. I don’t think they were sugar withdrawals so much as they were habit withdrawals. I’d grown accustom to having a mid-afternoon sugar treat. You know, right about when that post-lunch food coma sets in and all you want to do is hop on the couch and take a nap? Instead of napping, I’d plow through a fist full of candy or a stack of cookies. I didn’t get cranky or jittery when 3 p..m. rolled around. It was more my brain reminding me, “Hey! This is when I usually get a huge surge of calories!” So then it became an exercise in finding calories that weren’t sugar. And since sugar gives us a false full feeling, I sought filling calories. I’d mostly try to find something with a lot of fiber, like fruit. And that was also a good reminder to drink a lot of water to fill my belly and give me that full feeling.

And I think I scientifically proved to myself that the omittance of sugar reduced muscle inflammation. When I’d cut out the added and refined sugar at the new year, I was in the thick of training. I was mid-way through the Austin Distance Challenge and I was training hard for the upcoming 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Half Marathon. I’d go to the track or do a hard tempo run on Tuesdays, and I’d feel 100% later that day and the day after. I had very minimal (if any at all) muscle soreness or fatigue.

A couple of weeks ago we were at the grocery store and Elise wanted Oreos for something. Since I was “off the wagon,” I told her I wanted some chunky chocolate ice cream to accompany said Oreos. So we went home with chocolate ice cream and Oreos. And that night I packed a large cup with cookies and ice cream. And I’d have that nightcap every night until the ice cream was gone. And recently Elise made some cookies — I believe they’re called “trash can cookies,” or something like that. These are chocolate chip cookies that also have chopped potato chips, pretzels and toffee chunks. Of course I had to buy some good ol’ plain vanilla ice cream to go with the cookies. And I’ve been plowing through the ice cream and cookies on a nightly basis per my recent normal.

While I say I didn’t boast or advertise that I’d gone on a refined or added sugar strike, there were some who knew about it. Obviously, the folks who live under the same roof as I do knew, but so did some close friends, just by means of casual conversation, usually in the form of conversation about post-run donuts.

My friend Scott was on a week-long cruise with his family for Spring Break last week. Scott’s one of the friends who knew about my sugar strike. I’m assuming he indulged in the all-inclusive indulgences of a Caribbean cruise, so he emailed me yesterday to tell me that he was home and that he wanted to pick my brain about cutting sugar out of his diet. Since Scott’s a good friend, I replied and “confessed” that I’d fallen off the wagon and, in fact, that very day I’d consumed more cookies than any other food.

And that got me thinking that I should really get back on the wagon. I’ve done it before and, looking back, it wasn’t that hard to cut back or cut out the added and refined sugar.

Analysis of the 2023 Austin Half Marathon

As I was 3/4 of the way into training for the Austin Distance Challenge, I read a quote in a running industry email newsletter that I subscribe to. The quote was something like: “stop trying to make it happen, and just let it happen instead.”

I was training hard to win the series overall, to the point of exhaustion, injury, and burning myself out overall. I bought into the “let it happen” prior to the 3M Half Marathon, which was the fifth of the six races. I’d still set a big goal for a Person Record at 3M and I pushed for it. I went out hard and knew there was a probability that I might blow up somewhere later in the race. I checked in with myself at the 5k split and thought to myself, “let’s just see what happens.”

I PR’d my half marathon time at 3M and beat my A goal by 2 minutes.

I’ll admit that I didn’t consciously tell myself to stop trying to make it happen at the Austin Half this past Sunday. I knew that I wanted to have fun, and not do anything to completely blow up and jeopardize the lead I’d been maintaining in the Distance Challenge.

I did set goals for Austin because if you don’t set goals for a race, then why sign up and pay for race registration?

Goal A: 1:22:19
Goal B: 1:25:00
Goal C: 1:29:00

Goals B and C were arbitrary. Just numbers to chase in case Goal A became out of reach. Goal B was to best my time at the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, an equally challenging race in terms of hills.

I toed the line five rows back at Sunday’s Austin Half Marathon. The gun went off and I set out. I don’t recall the last time I’d constantly checked in with myself during a race, but that’s what I did yesterday. And while I wasn’t consciously doing it at the time, in hindsight, and after checking my splits a few hours after finishing the race, I think I just let it happen. I used perceived effort (not pace) and the hills to settle into a flow and make adjustments as I’d continue to check in with myself whenever my brain told me it was time to check in. I didn’t check in every mile or at certain kilometer splits. I just checked in whenever the notion popped into my head. I let it happen on its own.

And I found my splits interesting because, as I reflect, I can see where I was checking in with myself and how I adjusted at different points on the course.

Here is my recollection and analysis of the race by mile split:

MILE 1: The first mile was exercise getting past the start line, finding space, navigating through the crowd, and making sure I kept things reigned in by not going out too hot and having to pay for it later. In order to hit 1:22 I knew I’d want to stay around a 6:15 pace. I did look at my watch a couple of times just to try to settle into a cadence and not start too fast. I knew I’d be okay with a 6:20 split in the first mile, and probably the subsequent few since they were all uphill.

MILE 2: While still in a big crowd, I had ample room around me. Mile 2 is a good 100+ climb. It’s not steep, but it’s steady. I’m strong on hills, so I used that as an advantage and as an opportunity to give myself some more room and put people behind me. I moved way to the left of the crowd and slowly crawled over bodies. I found a good pace but knew that I was pushing what I wanted to be my average pace going up a hill. In checking in with myself, I figured that would be okay because, with perceived effort on the downhill in a couple of miles up ahead, I could bank some time. That was a bit of a gamble because as I checked in, I was wondering if I was healthy. Mara had been sick the past couple of days and I was really wondering if I’d caught her cold, flu, or whatever it was she had. Breathing was a little tough too. I told myself that I hadn’t warmed up and settled in quite yet, and the humidity was high yesterday morning. Again I had that thought, “let’s just see what happens.”

MILE 3: Still a bit of a climb but I was good and warmed up at this point and my lungs were finally primed. I’d been slowly passing people and put my sites on a team of green singlets ahead of me, so I gradually crawled up to them. I checked in and my effort felt fine and sustainable. I did a bit of a literal gut check too. I wanted to make sure the GI tract was doing okay as I knew there were bathrooms at the corner of Ben White and First Street if I needed them. All systems were safe and I was clear to keep pressing on.

MILE 4: I settled in behind a group of six who, I think, were part of the UA Flow team. They were all wearing matching green singlets and, after checking Instagram late yesterday, looked like the same singlets the UA team was wearing. I didn’t look at their shoes so I don’t know if they were part of the Under Armour team, but, whatever. They were definitely part of some team and they were good to settle in with. They were serious and they were keeping an even clip, so I tucked in and we all ran the last of the long hill down Congress Ave. to Ben White. They were pushing the pace a bit, and I stayed in with them on the uphill access road to First Street. First Street is where the good downhills are and I knew I wanted to use gravity to my advantage and bank some time. I took the inside at the turn onto First and put myself ahead of the team. After the turn onto First and at mile 3.5, I started opening up my stride and put more distance between me and the UA team.

MILE 5: Big downhill on First Street. I checked in to make sure I wasn’t going to burn up my quads. The UA team was well behind me and crept up to a couple of new guys that looked strong. We hit the mile 5 split and my new British friend asked me what the split time was. I actually happened to look at my watch and saw 5:5X. I only looked at my watch because I wanted to see where I was pacing on the downhill. I knew if I’d dipped into the 5’s that I’d probably be okay when the course flatted out in another mile, and then I could dial it back a bit and regroup and recover for the Enfield hills. I told him “5:50.” He said, “Okay, thanks,” and then he started dialing it back a bit so I slowly crept past him.

MILE 6: Found myself pretty much alone at this point. There’s the good and steep downhill right at the apartment complex as you’re coming back into downtown. I sped up the cadence to try to brake a bit and to keep my feet from slapping. The course starts flattening out after the big downhill, so I started dialing it back a notch to start recovering and let up on the effort a bit.

MILE 7: The course flattens out as you cross Barton Springs and Riverside. I caught up with a fast lady and thought about settling in with her through downtown, but she looked like she might’ve gone out too hot and she was slowing down. I quickly passed her at Riverside and then I was on the First Street bridge. There was a big crowd on the bridge and I was by myself. If I’m being honest, there was a bit of performance anxiety in front of that big crowd. I sped up a little bit on the bridge and at the turn onto Cesar Chavez. The noise from the crowd was nice and motivating. Lots of “love the beard!” and “fear the beard” yells. I smiled. Smiling is always a good distraction and a way to keep your head in a positive place.

MILE 8: I think this is when I started to let it happen. The First Street downhill was well behind me and I knew the course would be flat for a bit, so slowed the pace. The previous four miles had been in the 5:50s and I knew there was no way I could hang on to that and have a fun remainder of the race. Cesar Chavez was lonely. I had two guys a ways ahead of me, so I dialed into them and just maintained effort at my slowed pace and eventually caught them and hung a few paces behind. The two guys were running for some kind of team. They were wearing matching race kits and seemed like they had some kind of plan. I checked my watch and we were hanging perfectly at around a 6:12 pace. I knew I’d banked some time on First Street and I could dial down even more. I think they had a similar plan and they both dropped down on pace a little more than I was comfortable with so I slowly passed them by the track at Austin High.

MILE 9: I slowed down and took some strides to resettle into a pace, regroup, and mentally prepare for the turn onto Enfield and the hills. I was all by myself on Lake Austin Blvd. and just focused on breathing and shaking things out. I could really feel the hot spot on the second toe on my right foot. I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t hurt any more than it already did, so I told myself to ignore it and that I could deal with it after the race. I also started doing the math and knew that I only had 4-something miles to go. I try not to do too much math during a race. But this was an opportune time to do a check-in and see how I was feeling with 4 miles to go and some hills to contend with.

MILE 10: I was feeling fine. No signs of fatigue. I checked in a gave myself a bit of a confidence boost that, unless I came unraveled and bonked, I would still maintain my lead in the distance challenge. I did another literal gut check. Even if I had to duck into a portapotty and lose some minutes, I’d still be fine. I checked on my legs and they were still totally fine and ready for the hills. I kept a steady pace at the effort I wanted to maintain. I slowly caught up to a lonely runner and just as we were getting to the end of the golf course, a friend of his jumped onto the course and asked, “how are you feeling?!” His response was, “like shit. Hahahahaha.” So I took that as my queue and stayed with him until we crested the big hill at the corner of Lake Austin and Enfield. I think that zapped him, so I maintained effort after the hill and let him fall back. That was the last I saw of him. I still felt really good after a couple of rollers on Enfield. I’d gone a few long runs on Enfield in the past couple of months, so I knew what I was up against and how to approach each hill. They’re not killer hills, but they’re hills at mile 10 in a half marathon. You have to be ready and have something left in the tank for hills in the later stages of a run or a race. I was prepared.

MILE 11: I was by myself and saw one lonely guy way ahead of me as we both went up and down the rollers. There were some sparse spectators on the course. I heard a quiet “go Josh.” I looked to my left and saw Gary Perez. I excitedly said, “Hey Gary!” I checked in and was still feeling fine. I did math again and knew I didn’t have much further to go. Downtown was just a couple miles ahead and it was time to start digging, pressing on, powering through, and maintaining a steady clip.

MILE 12: A big hill crawling up Enfield under Mopac. I was still by myself and kept strong. I focused on form, keeping my feet underneath me, shortening the stride, and really pumping my arms to distribute the load and take some weight off of my legs. Then there was the big downhill where Enfield splits off onto 15th Street. I still had my sights on the guy in front of me and I was slowly gaining ground on him. He also used the big hill to his advantage and boogied down. I knew the crowds were coming up and the course was going to split for the half and the full. I checked in and knew I still had something left in the tank. So far I’d run a smart race and I could pick it up after the big hill up West Street.

MILE 13: The last mile starts with a climb up the last big hill. The big hill on 15th Street up to West Street. I’ve run that hill many times, and I knew it was time to just drop into a lower gear, think of the legs as pistons in an engine, pump the arms, and power through it. I’d finally caught up to the guy ahead of me and we went stride for stride at the start of the hill, but he let it slow him down. I’m strong on hills so I used that to my advantage and kept an even clip up the incline and left him behind me. Once I crested the hill I just maintained the same effort and picked up the pace. I had one more guy ahead of me, but I knew he was too far ahead to catch up to, so I just kept him in my sights so I wouldn’t back down on the pace. I just gutted it out and focused on my form so I didn’t get sloppy this late in the race and hurt myself. I’d forgotten about the little climb on 13th Street up to Lavaca and to the Capital. That little climb sucked. And that’s when my stomach made a couple of grumbles. There was a fleeting moment when I thought, “well this is a great time to have to duck off to find a toilet.” I just chalked it up to nerves and excitement and lengthened my stride on Colorado Street.

LEFT ON 11TH, RIGHT ON CONGRESS: I emptied the tank. The short section of 11th in front of the Capital was kind of quiet. There were a lot of people standing behind the barricades, but there wasn’t much noise. It was that or maybe I’d just tuned out the noise. When I turned right onto Congress is when I did one last quick check-in and opened it up. I looked at my watch, but I have no idea what I was looking at. I think I looked to see if I was going to hit 1:22. I honestly don’t remember. I just knew that I had to put my left arm back out into rhythm on the side of my body if I was going to keep up the final sprint. I stayed next to the crowds on the right and hammered the last block and a half until I could hear Elise. I heard her somewhere around 10th street and craned my neck to find her. I saw her just as I was passing her and Maly. I pointed and kept going. There was no one behind me. No one to race. I didn’t even look at the clock. I just gunned it across the finish line and smiled before I stopped my watch and put my hands on my knees for a few moments.

I think this was one of my smartest and best races. Again, while I didn’t remind myself before the race to do it, I wound up just letting it happen. I didn’t check my watch as much as I have in other races. I ran more by perceived effort and I used the slope and terrain to dictate that effort and whatever pace I was currently in.

I came in at 1:20:20. One minute and 59 seconds ahead of Goal A. I’m really happy with how I approached the race and will work to repeat that approach in future races.

Winning is the only thing

The training block for the Austin Distance Challenge wrapped up this morning with a 30-minute tempo run. Last night I tried to convince myself to catch up on some rest and allow myself to sleep in. But my eyes popped open at 3:50 a.m. and I tried to doze until I gave up and got out of bed at 4:15. Excitement invariably trumps the need for sleep. And I wanted to get out and see what I could do in this last fast run if I just let things happen instead of forcing some kind of split pace. I let it happen this morning, and I felt really good and strong and confident during and after the run.

The Austin Distance Challenge is an annual race series that’s organized by the Austin Runners Club. There are six races in the series. Each race progresses in distance and includes the biggest and most-attended events in the city. The Challenge offers a full track, for those who want to run the Austin Marathon as the last event, and a half track, for those who chose to close out the series with the Austin Half Marathon. The prior five races are all the same distance, regardless of track. There’s a 5k, a 10k, a 10-mile, and two half marathons.

I decided to sign up for the Austin Distance Challenge this year for a myriad of reasons. Recently I’ve felt really drawn to be more active in the broader Austin running community. And, so far, I’m really glad that I made that decision because I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing, kind, and generous people. I’ve made new friends. I also wanted to support and be more of a part of the Austin Runners Club. It’s a special run club that’s been in Austin since 1974 and it’s important that it stays vibrant and active in our community. I’ve been blessed to get to hang out with and forge bonds with the club’s staff, members, and volunteers, and my hope is that I can somehow continue to help them support its membership and mission. And, lastly, I wanted to keep learning and training. I was hesitant about signing up for the Austin Distance Challenge because I knew I wanted to focus on my training for this year’s Boston Marathon. Before signing up for the challenge, I built a 32-week periodized training plan leading up to Boston to see if I could strategically fit six races into my training cycle. I realized I’d start getting into longer marathon training mileage leading up to the final race in the challenge, so I decided I’d just somehow make it work. And so far, that has worked out. We’ll see how things play out at the Austin Half Marathon this Sunday.

When I signed up for the Austin Distance Challenge, my first thought was to have fun with it and perhaps compete in my age group. I thought I’d run the first race, the CASA Superhero 5k, see where I ended up on the leaderboard, and then formulate some kind of racing strategy after that. A few days after that first race I checked the leaderboard. I was first in my age division. For grins I check to see where I was stacked in the Masters division. I was first in Masters. I checked one more thing. I wanted to see where I ranked overall. I was in first place overall.

That formulated my strategy and training block. I want to maintain the lead and win the whole thing.

The next race was tough. A group of six of us ran a 120-mile Ragnar trail relay the Friday and Saturday before the second race in the distance challenge. I don’t recall if we actually had a plan to place in the relay, but we all ran hard through the day and night. I ran 23 miles harder than I should have. But we placed 2nd in our division and had a lot of fun doing it. After only a few hours of sleep in the previous two days, I showed up to the Daisy Dash 10k and gutted out a podium spot in Masters and put myself one minute ahead of 2nd place in the distance challenge.

I’ve been putting in the work ever since training started in early September. I’ve miraculously managed to stave off injury and illness. I’ve fought and trained my ass off every single day. I’ve pushed myself hard. I’ve prioritized winning. There is no other option.

I currently sit with a nine-minute and three-second lead on second place. There was a fleeting moment where I thought about finding second place at the Austin Half Marathon and settling in behind him to pace and maintain my margin. And then I grinned.

I love this sport so damn much.

Today I stopped

I never set out with the thought that I might have to stop, but sometimes I just have to stop.

I never wind up doing it, but I’ve always thought it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts and ideas as they come to me so I could write an essay, or maybe even a book, titled something like “Life Imitates Running” or “Running Imitates Life” or “Never Trust a Fart While Running.”

Of course, I usually can’t write down these thoughts or ideas when they come to me because I’m usually out somewhere on a run. I don’t carry a pen and paper with me, nor do I carry a phone. So these thoughts rattle around in my head and I’m hard-pressed to remember them whenever I get home after I’m done running. Whenever I do get home from a run other things take priority over writing down my thoughts and ideas that I’ve had while I’m out there. Things like showering and shoving calories into my mouth.

This morning there was an occurrence while out on my run. Not thoughts or ideas. Today I stopped. According to my training plan, I’ve been training hard since September 5, 2022. I’ve been training for a race series that I’m hell-bent on winning. And my training for this race series overlaps with my training for the Boston Marathon on April 17th. I’m self-coached and I’ll often find myself riding this fine line of injuring myself or over-training. I’ll also very often find myself teetering on the edge of stripping away the happiness and mental health benefits that running gives to me. It’s a love and a dance that I try to hold in some modicum of infancy which, I’ve learned, has to be nurtured as such.

The girls and I were out of town this past weekend for a lacrosse tournament. After the games were over on Saturday, I walked to the hospital that was next to our hotel and I ran 1.25-mile loops around the campus. I ran those loops hard to practice running fast for my upcoming half marathon and then dialed back the pace for a few loops to practice maintaining a pace and cadence for Boston. We came back to Austin on Sunday and headed downtown to go on a long run to practice running on tired legs.

Training catches up to me. Yesterday I was tired and while I can find any excuse under the sun to go for a run, I just wasn’t feeling it yesterday. So I didn’t run. I didn’t go on my easy recovery run because I just didn’t want to. A coach once told me that “no run matters.” Those three words are very philosophical in their simplicity. Replace the word “run” with many other things and that’s why I think running imitates life.

It’s been raining and the temperatures crept to below-freezing last night. Central Texas shuts down whenever there’s ice. The schools shut down whenever there’s ice. The city of Austin is pretty much shut down right now. It was cold, dark, and quiet when I set out this morning on my tempo run. I could feel it when I was only a quarter mile from the house that this morning’s run was going to be a struggle. It’s just one of those things where when you know it, you just know it. But I kept lifting my knees and decided that I’d just see what happens.

I think it just took some time for my brain and body to warm up. And it was eerily quiet outside in the otherwise noisy suburbs in which we live. I knew what I was supposed to do on this morning’s run, so I went after it. I finally settled into a groove after a mile and I pushed myself because I’m training for something. You train so you can adapt your mind and body, become acclimated, and teach yourself to do hard things.

A little after mile three I just stopped. I stopped running. My head wasn’t where I wanted it to be. My toes hurt. My hamstrings hurt. I was cold and hot at the same time. It was hard for me to breathe. So I stopped. The first thought that invariably pops into my head whenever I stop is that I lost. I’ve always maintained this tough guy runner mantra of “you can let it slow you down, but don’t let it stop you.” That’s usually what I tell myself whenever I come upon a hill. So if I ever stop, I feel like I’ve failed. The obstacle, whatever it might be, beat me.

A running coach that I admire recently wrote that it’s okay to stop. Mid-workout. Mid-hill. Mid-tempo. Mid-long run. If you need to stop, then just stop. You don’t have to quit. It’s okay to stop. To stop during a run is to catch your breath. Let your heartbeat come to its resting state. Let your brain take a rest. Recenter yourself. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t take long at all to reset. Often times no more than 30 or 60 seconds. And then you go again. You just keep going.

And a third coach that I admire recently wrote “stop trying to make it happen and just let it happen instead.”

I stopped on a run today to reset and recenter. I’ve done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I never set out with the thought that I might have to stop, but sometimes it just has to happen that way.

No run matters. It’s okay to stop. Stop trying to make it happen and just let it happen instead. Life imitates running.

The 2023 3M Half Marathon

The 3M Half Marathon has a special place in my heart. The 2015 running of it was my very first road race. I’d started running just two years prior, and I had no intentions of racing. I ran to get physically healthy, and then I really started reaping the mental health benefits.

And I blame my friend Harry for getting me into racing.

He kept tabs on my running when I started out and he put it in my head one day when he told me, “you know, you should really sign up for a race. You’re getting fast, and you’d have a lot of fun in a race.”

I shrugged him off. He nudged me about it a few more times. And then he had me tag along for a 10-mile training run as he was preparing for the Austin Half Marathon.

I thought running 10 miles was crazy. I couldn’t wrap my head around why anyone would want to run double-digit mileage in one outing. But when that first 10-miler didn’t kill me, and I actually kind of enjoyed it, I started pushing myself to run further distances.

I don’t know how or why, but I signed up for the 3M Half Marathon as my very first race. And I told Harry that I’d done so. He didn’t say, “that’s awesome!” or “congratulations!” He said, “you know, I’ll bet you could run that race in 1:30.”

Damn Harry. I had no specific plan or goal time for my first race. But he put a number in my head.

So, despite not knowing what the hell I was doing, I trained hard for my first half marathon. I was chasing 1 hour and 30 minutes. I beat that goal time.

I ran my first 3M in 1:27:31 in 2015.
I ran my second 3M in 1:28:11 in 2017.
I ran my third 3M in 1:29:47 in 2019.

Today I ran that same race in 1:19:33. PR’d the course by 7 minutes and 58 seconds. And PR’d my recently-set half marathon time by 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

I’m reeling in it now and, in a way, I think I’m lucky that I was in my late-30’s when I discovered running. I missed out on a lot of beating myself up in my teens, twenties, and early thirties.

I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I’ll start slowing down soon. I’m getting older. And I’m absolutely okay with that. As long as I can get out there and run around and have fun at whatever pace my heart and legs will take me, I’ll take that every day that I can.

A love letter to my shoes

A good friend of mine once wrote about how he had finally run a sub-3-hour marathon. And I thought, “I wonder if I could do that.” In order to do it I would need the right training, preparation, and a good pair of new marathon shoes.

And I found you, in all of your bright and loud green gorgeousness. But not without the proper preparation first. You see, you were very high class and expensive. And I needed to make sure we were a fit. I went to the local run specialty store located just below my office and I informed the merchant that I was looking for something special. A pair of shoes that would go with me far and fast on the adventure of a lifetime. But it had to be a perfect fit for both of us.

The merchant measured my feet with the latest 3D modeling technology. I learned that my previous shoes weren’t quite the right fit. My previous were always close, but not perfect. We were always a half-size off.

I knew I wanted you, but I also wanted to test the waters with others. He brought me three, of which one was you. The other two fit, but they weren’t perfect. You were.

I put you on my feet and I promise you that all the universe became silent except for the quiet and distant hum of assent as the divine smiled and nodded unto us both as if to say, “this is right.”

And it was. We experienced the rapture as the two become one. An augmentation and synthetically natural extension of my own feet. You felt like nothing while still feeling like everything to me. You were weightless and so powerful.

I took you home and we practice our dance. It was perfect and joyful from the first step. We moved and danced for a little while the first time. A little longer the next. And then we were ready.

We went to the big dance together and it was, in a word, beautiful. Just like you.

You gave it your all. And you were tired and beaten down a bit. I gave you a well-deserved rest.

We practiced our dance again before another big one. On the day of the big dance, we did our thing again. And there were cheers. And we were happy. We’d done it again. You’d done it again. You were wonderful and perfect.

But I knew you’d become very tired. It weighed heavily on my heart knowing that our dancing days were coming to an end. It was inevitable. I knew our relationship would be short-lived when I’d set out to find you. But you knew you wanted to make me happy. And you did just that. You made me smile. Big, big smiles.

We had one last big dance in New England. It was toward the end of our dance and I knew you were tiring and this would be our last big one together. You quietly whimpered, and I heard it, just like that distant hum when we knew it was right in the beginning, but you gave me what you had left. And I took it.

Recent are the realizations that our big dances are done. But I won’t put you out. Despite any rest, you’re tired and worn. We both know it.

Our run this morning was fast and powerful and beautiful. But that can’t be forever. I’ve hurt you and you will only grow to learn to hurt me.

We can still dance in the dark and in the quiet. Just you and me. We sure did make a go of it.

I love you, shoes.

Child client

Lacrosse season is starting up and the oldest child asked me to build a run training plan for her so she can get whipped into shape as lacrosse is very much a running sport.

My client has informed me that she wants to run three days a week. But it can’t be too structured. She just needs to know that she has to run three days a week, and she will do her runs as schedule and desire permits. And she hates speed training. And I can’t yell at her. And she’s not paying me.

I think this might be the first client that I fire. And we haven’t even started yet.


It’s now been 10 days since I gave up refined and added sugar. Now, I don’t know if I’ve actually been doing it right. I’ve had peanut butter and some generic Ritz crackers, and possibly some other things that have a little sugar in them, but I can tell you that I’ve reduced my sugar intake by a huge margin. And I’m feeling pretty okay. The first week was rough. I ain’t gonna lie.

And when things got rough, I powered through it. By the end of the week, I decided to treat myself. Because I got to go to the grocery store by myself. And I found myself in the candy aisle. But I was still good! I decided to purchase a variety of sugar-free candy. You know, the kind that Grammy gives you and the kind you can find next to the “durable medical equipment” at the pharmacy.

Did you know that sugar-free candy contains “sugar alcohols?” Sugar alcohols are also known as polyols. Now, the “alcohol” isn’t the ethanol that’s found in fuels and liquor, so you can’t become intoxicated. And the “sugar” is created by, what I’d have to guess, is some scientific voodoo chemical plant extraction process that creates a sweetener that has little to no calories per gram.

And did you know that if you eat upwards and, maybe a little beyond 20 grams of polyols, a human might experience things like borborygmus, flatus formation, and osmotic diarrhea?

So I’m definitely not eating sugar-free candy because, you know, I read about it on the internet and realized that it can do some really weird things and wouldn’t want that to ever happen to me. Again.

How I party on New Year’s Eve

More frequently I’ve been thinking about my sleeping patterns. As much as I’d like to get more of it, I average around 6.5 hours of sleep per night.

Over the holidays I didn’t check to see how much sleep I’d been getting. Probably because I knew I was getting more of it because I took the week off from work and I got to indulge in some naps.

I was just scrolling through my sleep data from last week and noticed what time I fell asleep on New Year’s Eve.

Proof that I like to live on the edge.

When you don’t have poop bags

I worked from home today and as 5 p.m. rolled around, I still had a lot to do but I really needed to get outside and stretch my legs. The dog, who dutifully stays in the office with me, got up and excitedly invited herself to go out for a leg stretch with me.

We walked around the block and took in the cool air and recounted our Christmas break walks we took last week in Des Moines. And then the dog took a big steaming dump in a lawn half a mile away. And I didn’t have any dog poop bags with me.

Now, I condone living by the Golden Rule, so the dog and I walked all the way home. The dog went back to her spot in the office while I got a bag and walked the half mile by myself back to the pile she’d left on a neighbor’s lawn.

After I’d bagged her poop, I started making my way back home and realized that I was now walking alone with an obvious green bag of fecal matter. I paused for a moment and realized the walk of shame that I was embarking upon. And then I just embraced it and sauntered on home. I even lifted the hand that held the bag of poop as I waved to a nice young couple who were out walking their dog. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take a bit of pride in letting folks think that not only did I take a poop out in the open, in public, in broad daylight, but I also managed to get it all to land in a little green plastic bag, tied it off and was carrying it home with

I’m pretty sure that’s how the term “got it in the bag” originated.

Hard sparkling water

We’ve been at Steve and Joanne’s house for a little over a week now for the Christmas holidays. Their house is like home to us. As such, we’ve all kind of settled into our respective ways. I slept in this morning and took my time before setting out for my daily run.

Boppa and Gran aren’t big drinkers, but they keep a little supply of beer, wine, and hard seltzers in the fridge in the finished basement. When I came back from my run, Mara, age 10, was camped out in the basement, watching the Disney Channel, and had an open can of peach-flavored hard seltzer on the table next to her. I picked it up and felt that there was a sip or two missing from the cold can.

“Whatcha drinking there?”

“Sparkling water.”

“Does it taste funny?”

“Yeah, a little bit.”

“That has alcohol in it.”


“It’s like a beer.”

“Oh. Ughh. I thought it was sparkling water!”

“How ya feeling?”

“Man, you ever look up at the clouds and think about how cool it would be if Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page had a child together?”

The Christmas cookie

I walked into the kitchen and found that the child had gotten to the father of all of Gran’s Christmas cookies. Even I couldn’t bring myself to eat THAT one. The dark side is strong with this one.