Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning from Lucy

The generous athletes of Lucy's TD5K
All to bring a smile to a child
Lucy Gore's seventh annual Lucy's TD5K was an unqualified success.

On Saturday early 100 runners came to the western shore of White Rock Lake in Dallas to bring cheer to children and worked up a running sweat. Over 200 toys were donated by the athletes and delivered to three local hospitals.

Lucy Gore
Congratulations to Lucy and every athlete who gave of their time and treasure to brighten the day of a special group in our community.

We all benefit and can learn a lot from the Lucy Gores of the world.

My Christmas wish is for all of us to be more like her, all year long.
Finishing the 5k run

Stay tuned...




Sunday, November 11, 2012

Let's Run Lucy's TD5k Together

Join me December 15, 2012 at White Rock Lake in Dallas in running or walking the free Lucy's TD5k social run and toy collection drive benefiting children at local hospitals.

Check out the video of 2010 Lucy's TD5K and just try to count all the smiles HERE.

It is a no-cost to participate, non-competitive, social event to celebrate Christmas, health, friendship, and spread the joy of the season.
  • Who: Everyone. Walkers, runners, kids, strollers, pets.
  • What: Donate an unwrapped toy and run or walk a non-competitive 5k along the beautiful west bank of White Rock Lake.
  • Where: The Filter House located White Rock Road and White Rock Creek Trail, Dallas. Map it HERE.
  • When: 9:00 AM, Saturday, December 15, 2012.
Run with me if you're in Dallas and if you're not I hope you'll be my virtual running partner by running wherever you are on the third weekend in December. It would be an honor to know we are running "together" to celebrate the Christmas season.

This year's Lucy's TD5K has a bit of extra special meaning to me personally. It will be my longest run, and first event, since being sidelined by a stroke earlier this year. After it happened, and while not knowing the extent of the injuries, I set a goal of running again by the end of this year and if possible to run, as in, an un-assisted full-out run of 5k before the new year begins. My choice is to do it at this event.

I can't think of a better time, a better place, or a better cause to celebrate a victory over stroke and begin anew with a reborn hope of the future. Tennyson lends perspective when he wrote about the one divine event, to which the whole of creation moves. To me, this is the true meaning of Christmas and I'd like to share it with you.

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 03, 2012

Faster Times and a Better Life

Steve Prefontaine ran to see who had the most guts. Jesse Owens ran to experience independence. Johnny Gray ran to win. And George Sheehan told us to run so that we can find and be or true selves, our whole selves, a good animal. Millions of others run for many other reasons, including physical and psychological health, to face and overcome a challenge and for the sheer enjoyment running can provide. What many Olympians and average runners have in common is that for them, running is a crucial part of the good life. Running helps make them happy.

All of our endeavors aim at some point that serves as their purpose. The study of medicine is health; sex is procreation; and business is wealth. But in human life properly lived, there is a chief good, a final goal at which all of our endeavors ultimately aim. A clergyman will tell you the chief good that we all should strive for is to serve a god; a hedonist, pleasure; and Aristotle, happiness. That is a true happiness as something deeper than merely getting what we want or feeling good about our circumstances. Happiness refers to well-being, proper and fully human functioning, fulfillment, and inner peace.

Aristotle puts it, happiness is "activity of soul in accordance with virtue." Happiness is not merely feeling good. It isn't mere emotion, but something deeper. If I am happy, for Aristotle this means that I am flourishing as a human being. A happy person is doing well, and is deeply fulfilled because of who she is and how she lives. We must be virtuous in order to be truly happy. We need to be courageous, honest, friendly, just, and good critical thinkers, among other things, in order to be happy. We know that running can lead to health for the body. Possessing and practicing the virtues leads to and constitutes health of the soul.

I believe in order to be virtuous, we need friendships in our lives. But not just any type of friendship will do. We need to belong to a particular type of friendship, friendship that is based on virtue. And the friendships of endurance athletes often illustrate this highest form of friendship - one of virtue.

Training with friends is an excellent way to help you improve your race performance, enhance the quality of your training, and simply enjoy athletics more. Triathlon books and magazines often advise runners to incorporate group training and training with friends into their schedules for their utility - that is, it makes you faster - or their pleasure, inasmuch as you enjoy their company. But another reason to exercise with friends is that training provides a context well suited for developing perfect friendships.

Developing a friendship based on virtue requires "time, familiarity, trust, mutual good will, and mutual sacrifice." Triathlon provides an excellent setting to meet these requirements. Training with the same person or a few people gives you the chance to spend time with them - and in the case of Ironman training - a lot of time together. Of course, merely spending time with someone doesn't necessarily lead a virtuous friendship. But training together, bedcause it involves meeting challenges together, and being with your training partner away from computers, cell phones,and television frees you up to develop a deeper friendship. Biking six hours with someone on Saturday and running two hours with them on Sunday regularly gives ample time for familiarity, trust, mutual good will, and mutual sacrifice to develop.

In the May 2005 issue of Runner's World, John Bingham, a.k.a. "the Penguin," reflects on the nature of the friendships of runners. Bingham quotes the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, who said that "Exhaustion is the shortest way to equality and fraternity." Bingham observes that the type of friendships you develop with your running buddies enable you to "go past age, gender, ethnicity, social status, and all of the initial criteria we normally use to judge people." He makes a good point. On the road, your socio-economic status won't help you be a faster runner. Older runners are able to challenge younger ones and women often outrun the men. But it's not all about speed, especially for me. One reason some runners run slower is they want the social interaction of running in a group with other runners. They would rather not run eight miles gasping for breath the whole way, when they could run slower and use that time to connect with another person.

We must have and use the necessary equipment to achieve true, purposeful, virtuous happiness. Physical health is one aspect of this - but only one part - insofar as physical fitness contributes to our overall well-being. Aristotle would remind us, however, that the soul must also be healthy if we are to be happy. We must possess and consistently exercise the virtues if we want to successfully reach the goal of happiness over the course of our lives. To be a good athlete, you must practice. And to be a good person, you must practice virtues. We need friendships based on virtue, in which we pursue together.

Go for a swim, or ride your bike, or go for a run, if it is something you love to do. And while you're at it, take a good friend with you.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Embracing Perpetual Newness

A starting line is the best, most exciting place I can imagine. When I stand on one, I feel fully alive -- scared, yes, but also energized, focused, and prepared for the big challenge ahead. I can't wait to get going.

And I'm not talking only about the staring lines at running races. I'm talking about all beginnings. I'm talking about your first leap off the high dive, your first day in college, your first day in a new relationship, your first day as a parent, your first day at a job, your first day after quitting your job to start your own company. And, yes, your first triathlon. There's nothing like the thrill of the first time.

Today I ran two miles and it was a first, a new beginning, and a new starting line. Usually, for an experienced marathoner and triathlete a 2-mile run wouldn't count as a first of any kind. But these aren't usual times. This was my first run after my doctor cleared me to exercise again. And do so without restrictions.

A stroke leaves me with some permanent changes but doesn't change my spirit and it most certainly will not tattoo my once fully-able body with false fears, especially of starting anew. Beginnings are like that -- both frightening and rewarding. Because of the fear factor, too many people shy away. They never take the steps forward that they should. They hesitate; they fumble about; they procrastinate; they count all the things that could go wrong. They see mainly darkness; not light. They get frozen in place; never getting to the starting line.

Starting lines are one of the most important stations in life. We need to do more than just avoid them. We need to actively seek them out. Otherwise, we grow stagnant. When you see the first hazy edges of a starting line begin to form in your life, don't avoid it. Don't look the other way. Try to bring the starting line into sharper focus. Consider its potential. Remember that if you don't go to the starting line, you will never view the whole course with all its possibilities.

And you will certainly never see the glories of the finish line.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 06, 2012

In the Blink of an Eye

It was Saturday, June 23, 2012 when it happened.

Doctors have their terms for it: amaurosis fugax, Central Retinal Arterial Occlusion, and cerebral embolism is what they say happened.

Putting it plainly: I had a stroke.

It was painless, lasting only about ten minutes whilst sitting at my kitchen table, eating breakfast and reading emails when, without warning, a curtain of darkness fell over my right eye. In an instant I was completely blind in the eye plus my left leg and hand felt numb.

Clearly something was wrong, terribly wrong, but I wasn't sure what.

Light returned to my eye but not all the vision. The lower half was reduced to a dark gray blur. Everything above was normal and clear.

The eye felt tired, my head felt tired, my whole body felt tired. Although I slept over eight hours and had been awake less than 30 minutes, I layed down and slept for three hours.

Two days later an eye surgeon made his initial diagnosis. A stroke, a cerebral ischemic attack.

Since then I have been examined by two radiologists, a retina surgeon, a cardiologist, and two opthamologists in search of the cause and a plan to manage my recovery.

As of yet, no one has determined exactly from what - nor from where - did the embolism originate.

I don't know when I will return to training but I am determined to run again and finish a road race by the end of this year.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Take Chrissie Home

Here's a blogger every endurance fan should follow: Iron Texas Mommy.

This chica is all about the swimbikerun and promoting health and fitness. Just one read of her well written and entertaining blog will have you coming back for more.

But just to make following her irresistible, go to her blog and enter to win a copy of Ironman World Champion, Chrissie Wellington's, autobiography, A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year of Personal Records

Like all years, I had my ups and downs in 2011 and in the area of competing I was a year decidedly up. I competed in two Ironman distance triathlons making for a total of six starts and six finishes. I set a personal record in number six by over hour from my previous best.
I also completed my third Boston Marathon, setting a personal course best and in November ran my first New York City Marathon and set an overall personal record in the marathon by nearly five minutes.

Thanks be to everyone who helped, coached, encouraged, and trained with me to get across the finish lines.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

To my friends near and far, old and new, have a very Merry Christmas.


"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary." 


Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made

New York, New York. My 11th marathon counting Ironman races is done. Although the Boston Marathon remains the greatest of all marathons, the New York City Marathon is the most fun.

I hope to return next year.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Heart of (Golden) Iron

Seven years ago Brett Blankner was deep in training for his first Ironman triathlon while his wife, Emily, was well along her pregnancy with their first child. When their son, Kai, arrived far earlier than expected Brett's race plans were indefinitely delayed.

After a long stay in the hospital Kai came home and to see him now - a rambunctious, bike riding, trampoline jumping, question asking, sparking blue eyed first grader - you wouldn't suspect his good health was ever in doubt.

With help from a skilled hospital staff, and  benefiting from services of the March of Dimes, Kai received the care he needed. As any parents would be, Brett and Emily were grateful for all the assistance but unlike some parents they were determined to remember Kai's first days in an extraordinary, and uniquely, Blankner way. Brett would compete solo in a self-supported Ironman while fund raising for the March of Dimes.

In a self-supported event there is not an entry fee, no spectators, supporting volunteers, finisher medal or tee shirt. There would be only him and Emily serving as crew chief and cheerleader. Brett's College Station, Texas home would serve as water stop, refuel station, starting line, and finish line all in one. Following all of the established rules of Ironman he swam 2.4 miles in a local pool, biked numerous loops around the city for 112 miles, and ran even more loops through his neighborhood for a 26.2 mile marathon. All of it was recorded, timed, and completed in the dark with only Emily to greet him at the finish.

Even in the tight knit community of triathlon, Blankner's feat would probably gone unnoticed if it weren't for the thousands of listeners who regularly download his "Zen and the Art of Triathlon," podcast.

A couple of times a month Brett's podcast records his training for triathlons, ultra-marathons, and this summer, a 22-mile swim across Lake Tahoe with famed endurance swimmer, Jamie Patrick. He interviews professional triathletes, coaches, and accomplished amateur athletes in a easy going, conversational style that could easily be mistaken as a conversation over a lunch of burritos and beer. Friends and family make appearances too, especially Emily and Kai, while driving in their Honda nicknamed the Rolling ZenTri Studio. Sprinkled in the shows are bits of Zen philosophy, nutrition, and injury prevention.Yearly he holds a triathlon camp attended by athletes from across the nation to learn how to train both body and mind for sport and life.

This past Friday, Brett "produced" the sixth annual IronBaby, this time to benefit a local child, Mikey McHugh. Mikey suffers from Hirschsprung's Disease, a congenital malady affecting the intestinal and bowel muscles. So far in his short life he's endured multiple operations requiring lengthy trips to a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio specializing in the condition. As a result Mikey's mother has had to miss months of work at a time to care for him adding strained finances on top of his parents' worry.

You can learn more about Mikey and make a donation HERE.

Yearly Blankner invites everyone to participate in the IronBaby triathlon in whatever way or distance you want as either a spectator or athlete. This year his friends Jeff Young and Matthew Bates raced alongside him for part of the race. I joined in for the full 140.6-mile event.

Race conditions were near perfect with the winds picking up near the end of the bike leg and temperatures rising to - a mild by southeast Texas standards - 85 degrees. Brett completed the race in a time of 11 hours and 40 minutes. I finished in a personal best time of 13 hours and 23 minutes.

Brett's story serves as an inspiration for thousands of amateur triathletes who put themselves through such extreme endeavors. It's not for the money because none of them are paid to race as a professional and it's not to draw attention to their own accomplishments. He trains and races for the love of the sport, the love of the healthy lifestyle, and the desire to make another's world a better place.

Stay tuned...



Monday, October 17, 2011

Where Did THAT Come From?

What's this? A (modern era) personal record for ten miles, that's what. 1:21:27 is four minutes quicker than a time set on the same course three years ago.


Three weeks until the New York City Marathon. Just sayin'


Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three times

I ran twice around White Rock Lake this morning for a total of 19.4 miles.

Now I'm so fit it takes me three tries to get out of my car.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Glory days

I hear other triathletes (usually of a certain age) talk about their glory days. I hear them complain that age has robbed them of speed and stamina. I listen patiently as they tell the stories of races won and nearly won. I try to seem interested as they describe in morbid detail the slow deterioration of their bodies.

It's hard for me to understand their concerns. It's had for me not to think of the time I'm living in right now as my glory years. It's hard for me to imagine a time when I will ever look back and wish I could be like I used to be.

For me, I'd rather build my future a minute at a time. I'd rather face whatever is ahead of me when I get there than worry about it now. Not that I don't plan for tomorrow. That could be the farthest from the truth. I spend most of my personal and professional life putting into action efforts and assets for tomorrow. It's just that I don't dwell on my past, or on what might have been, or fear for the future. Instead I try to learn from my past and embrace the future because that's where my real life will be lived. For all I know the life I'm living today is the best life I will ever have and I want to live it for myself and others as if that is so.

My goal is to make the best days of tomorrow those that I am creating today.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Priceless

Her road bike: $700

Her helmet: $50

Riding along side my daughter: Priceless

Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Empire State Lesson

It's said the difference between a jogger and an athlete is a name on a race entry.

Today I'm a marathon athlete. A New York City Marathon athlete, to be exact.

Entering a marathon is like signing up for a seminar on personal growth and integrity. In this seminar there are no powerpoint presentations in auditoriums, no workbooks, no breakout sessions or keynote speakers. This seminar will be held on the streets of New York. The meeting rooms will be replaced by the five boroughs, Manhattan's skyline dismisses powerpoint graphics, breakout sessions will be breakthrough running performances and the individual stories told collectively, in unison by 40,000 runners will outmatch the words of the most gifted speakers.

The starting line will be where a lesson on the truth and a test of integrity begins.

I have stood at the starting lines of lots of races all kinds, of distances as short as one-mile to as long as a 50-mile run, from triathlons short enough to finish in 90 minutes to Ironman races that last 17 hours. The number of athletes who I have raced with totals into the tens of thousands.

I have learned much about myself and the other athletes. Usually it's the other athletes who teach me the most valued lessons of sport. There's no doubt the race course is the world's strongest truth serum. Every question about your training, preparation, and execution will be revealed. And for all to see. How you interact with others while under stress, how you accept winning, how you accept loosing, and most importantly, how truthful you are to yourself is revealed. Only you know if you gave your very best during the race. Consider yourself lucky if others see only your victory and not your inner failings too. These truths are the essence of race courses.

Here's another truth about my racing career: I have never won a race.

Not even my age division.

The closest I came to winning was second place of the 45 - 49 age division in a Dallas running club 5k on a frigid 16 degree January morning. Clearly the fast guys stayed at home, deferring to warmer spring days when they would again race, placing me in the middle of the pack.

I've raced with athletes who have raced years longer than I have who also have never won. And I have learned from that, for many, their victory was won by just getting to the starting line.

In most of our lives there are very few times when are required to be completely honest with ourselves and with those around us. We spend thousands of dollars to make ourselves look better or seem smarter or richer than we really are. Someone in one of those traditional seminars once said that for most of his life he had worked a job that he didn't like so that he could buy things he didn't need to impress people he would never meet.

Standing at the starting line, the illusions we use to create ourselves are useless. No amount of money or status, real or perceived, means a thing once the race starts. Maybe somebody could buy some speed because they can afford the lightest shoes, the best coaches, or attend intense training camps but none of those things help in the area where is really matters in a race. That area is personal integrity. For better or worse, the starting line is the true source of equality. In the middle of a race, when you are giving all you have to catch another athletes or digging down deep to not be overtaken, there are no age or gender or race differences. There are only two athletes that matter; the other guy and the athlete within you.

Those who train but never race are missing out on a great celebration, too. The heart pounding exhilaration of standing on an ocean beach with thousands of other swimmers in a triathlon or 20,000 runners crowding the narrow roads of Hopkinton to start the Boston Marathon, for example, is a feeling that must be experienced to be understood. Standing there, with so many other athletes who share a common goal and a common dream, is a powerful affirmation of our own goals and dreams.

You won the victory of getting to the line. Now, do you have the personal integrity to carry though to the finish line? The race course knows.

More than that, standing at the starting line is the time when we can see ourselves most clearly. The starting line is where we can experience the enigma of life -- that we are each alone and yet part of a larger group. Standing at the starting line we see those around us as both competitors and companions. We see them, as we can see ourselves, as people with an inescapable need to be a part of something outside of themselves, while still maintaining the integrity of who they are.

We all, veteran and beginner athletes alike, can experience the same feelings. It isn't a matter of long you've been an athlete, but of how you allowed athletics to inform your life, of how much you've learned. If you are open to the lessons of racing, every starting line can be a seminar in honesty, personal integrity, and ultimately yourself.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Green UP!

Enough is enough.

Benchwarming stinks.

I didn't like it when I was 8-years-old, the youngest on a baseball team, marking my time while the older (veteran) boys played in games that counted. Meanwhile, I was merely batting fodder for the star fastballers during team practices, only getting to play one inning of one pre-season game.

Like I said, I didn't like the bench. Not then and not now either.

When over three weeks ago, what started as a deep bruise from a heavy suitcase falling on my back, escalated to muscle spasms followed by fist fulls of drowsy drugs and heating pads all wrapped in a strict "recommendation" to stop all training.

Frig! Benched again.

But that's about to end. Tomorrow morning I stop collecting endurance sport splinters because I've been medically greenlight-ed to return to training. Light to moderate at first but real training just the same.

Benched, my butt!

By the way, after spending two years in the second string of my Little League team I earned a spot as the starting left fielder, batting over .400 two years in a row.

There's probably a lesson to the story I can apply to today. But I don't see it. All I know is, sitting on the bench sucks and tomorrow I'm rising off it.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Bitter pill

It's been two and a half weeks since a large, 50 lbs. suitcase fell on my back and nearly just as long since I last swam, biked, and ran. My doctor recommends continued rest and that's what I've been doing.

Despite the rest and the pain relieving, anti-inflammation, and muscle relaxing medications the pain not only remains but it has spread to my left hip and buttock.

It also spread to my head. Not my physical head, but my psyche.

I'm frustrated.

I'm bored.

I'm doubtful. Am I only a shadow of who I used to be? Of who I could be? Or God forbid, who I should be?

I'm embarrassed. What endurance athlete worth the salt in his sweat gets benched by a falling suitcase?! It would be more fitting, and I'll even say it would be more noble to have injured my back from falling off a mountain bike trying to make a pass on a steep descent, or during speed drills in a pool, or by slipping on a rock while crossing a stream in an off road triathlon. But to get hurt while in a closet?? Oh the indignation of it all.

I'm restless.

I'm envious of those I see on the roads and park riding their bikes and running the hills. The temperatures are over 100 degrees and nobody is looking good, yet I envy them just the same.

I'm sad and feeling a loss.

"There's more to life than increasing its speed," admonishes Gandhi and he's right. Also correct are those who figured out that growth occurs during rest not during stress. As true as they may be I confess I'm having many thoughts during this extended rest and that is what bothers me the most because I also believe what I wrote two years ago, "trust no thought that comes while sitting still."

Extended rest is a bitter pill to the injured athlete.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

183 plans gone askew

Once again I'm reminded, it's not the things you expect deserving worry; it's the things you don't.


If you've been following me on Facebook this month you've read my posts about Project183 and some have asked what it means. "Is Project183 a new triathlon team?," one reader wrote and others asked if it was a goal to run 183 miles, and one person guessed I was advertising a new product. Neither of these are correct. Project183, and some of you guessed correctly, was my personal goal of running at least 5 kilometers every day from July 1 to December 31, for a total of 183 days.


The idea came to me - fittingly - during a run. While running my head floods with great ideas, solutions to problems, and flowing prose. But when I stop they are gone, leaving only faint memories of some great experiences and disappointment of their loss. However, after the cerebral waters receded from that run, what remained on the sandy shores of my mind was Project183. Without a purpose but steeped in personal meaning, running every day for the second half of the year would test my will, stamina, and resilience. The only thing between me and my goal would be an injury, like tendinitis, or an illness, like the flu. There was also a chance of mental fatigue but of all the things that could get in my way, burn-out would have been the easiest to overcome. As long as I careful to rest well between runs, keep the intensity low on most days, and eat well, everything that could stop me running was already known. Or so I thought.


Robert Burns wrote in 1785 ...


"But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!"



... and he may as well have written it today.


Injury from running is what I expected and I had a plan to avoid it but what I wasn't expecting - something that's never happened to me before - is something I didn't think about. Little did I know luggage falling from a top shelf in my closet onto my back would be the hazard that puts an end to Project183. My doctor's diagnosis is bruising to the longissimus thoracis, (a deep muscle of the back, attaching to the rib cage) between ribs number eleven and twelve, 


... or ...


... or ...


... wait for it...


... a fractured rib. Ugh!


So, there you have it. I'm benched, off the roster, not even in the injured reserves for the remainder of the week, at a minimum.


I'd be lying to say I'm not disappointed but I it's not a total bust. After all, I did run 28 days in a row totaling 123 miles. And that in itself is an accomplishment.


My back will heal, my legs will again become strong, and there's no doubt a grand thought will bubble to the surface during a run, inspiring a new goal.


Never do I not have a plan.


Stay tuned...



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Case of the crashing case

As freak accidents go they are unintentional and unusual and what happened to me this past Wednesday qualifies as a Class A example.

While moving a box of triathlon gear from a 7-foot high shelf in my bedroom closet I unknowingly bumped a large piece of luggage on the same high shelf. The 50 lbs. roller case, storing several smaller suitcases like nesting dolls, teetered above me while I rummaged through the storage box on the floor. In an instant the case toppled off the shelf, falling toward the floor. A corner struck me in the left-side lower back with all of the force of a prize fighter's kidney punch knocking me flat to the floor. Pain shot through me from the back of my head down through my heels. The case pinned me to the closet wall and I struggled to throw off its weight with one arm.

Bent over like an old man with a short cane, I shuffled out of the closet to a mirror. Struggling to twist my shoulders and neck to get a look at my back in the reflection, I didn't see any signs of injury. There was nary a scratch nor a red mark but the pain kept me from standing straight for another couple of minutes. After a while I could walk and sit normally but there was no ignoring the nagging pain of a deep muscle injury.

Since then I've gone about my daily activities including swimming, biking, and running like usual but the pain remained the same, never lessening or getting worse. Until today that is.

While driving after an easy eight mile run my lower right back muscles began to spasm causing a breath stealing pain so strong I had to pull the car to a side street until it subsided. After a minute I could drive again, but cautiously. It happened twice more before I arrived home.

Since then it's been giving me fits when I turn my body in almost every seemingly effortless way. Oddly, bending down or reaching up doesn't hurt but something as easy as scratching the back of my head or pulling open a refrigerator door sends a knifing pain down my back and legs.

So, now what do I do? Self-medicate with aspirin and a heating pad or limp to a doctor? Could the progression of the pain be a sign of things getting seriously worse or could I be on the mend and today will be the worst of it?

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow but I do know this much; I plan on running in the morning. Maybe exercise is just what the doctor would order.

Stay tuned...

Friday, July 15, 2011

5!


Wading into the cool, brackish water of The Woodlands I thought, "I'm not supposed to be here, but there's no other place I'd rather be.

As I mounted my bike I thought, "I'm not supposed to be here, but there's no other place I'd rather be."

As I put on my running shoes I thought, "I'm not supposed to be here, but there's no other place I'd rather be."

As I ran into the finisher's chute I thought, "This is where I am supposed to be. Right here, right now, and no other place will do."

Thus is the sum of my fifth and final iron-distance race; Ironman Texas. This time it's for good. My career is indefinitely suspended. The display case is filled and there are no more slots so stop being dismissive or rolling your eyes because this time I mean it. I'm done.

After my forth Ironman I suspended my long distance triathlon racing and wrote there would be only two Ironmans I would consider; Ironman Hawaii and Ironman Texas. Because I didn't plan on entering the Ironman Hawaii lottery, and at that time, the long asked for but never announced Ironman Texas wasn't as much as a rumor, I felt certain I wouldn't be doing the 140.6 dance any time soon.

That goes to show you how much I know about the World Triathlon Corporation.

Only eight months later, the date of the inaugural Ironman Texas was announced. June 25, 2010 was the day of the announcement and that day - the morning of that VERY day - I received no less than five phone calls and at least a dozen emails calling me out of my short lived suspension. Any thoughts of backing down from my not-so-prescient provisos was quickly abandoned when all of the messages either threw down the gauntlet or questioned my manhood if I didn't commit to race.

In the Ironman races prior I attached each one to fundraising for charity. Using the long race metaphor to define the mantle of cause and call attention to the need of those suffering from cancers Ironman took on a greater meaning for both myself and those who came to know my triathlon story.

I'm reminded of a Dana Farber Cancer Institute advertisement for running the Boston Marathon as a fund raiser, it read: “We are engaged in our own difficult kind of marathon, a long road to discover solutions to complex problems about the cause and cure of cancer… We need people with qualities you possess, dedication, discipline, energy, and the belief you can change things for the better.”

That's how I see my ideal self. I hope you see yourself that way too.

Training for an triathlon as a way to fitness alone has limited, shallow value. As a fitness program it has purpose, but no meaning. On the other hand, completing an Ironman has tremendous meaning, but no purpose. Still, that goal dancing in our heads can convert the most boring days of long run and early morning swims into something meaningful, to the point where we can almost taste the sweet triumph that we know will occur at the Ironman finish line. But when you combine your Ironman training; the dedication to attaining a goal, keeping the discipline, an example of how a life should be lived, a life that should be lived by those suffering or who's need is unrecognized or under appreciated, then you give true meaning and a lasting purpose to Ironman.

In the last year I've written a couple of times there's an entire different world on the other side of exhaustion seen only by the athletically drunk and never the sober man. I know this to be true because I've been to that place myself. Still, with only a few days away from Ironman Texas I was struggling to find a purpose to my race. For this Ironman my focus was unclear and my sights focused on myself. I was resolved I was in this only for the finisher's medal, only to run the gauntlet laid down by other athletes and not my purpose. I feared there wouldn't be much to see beyond the personal.

And then I remembered these words: "The human heart sees things the eyes cannot," writes professor of psychology Robert Valett, "and knows what the mind cannot understand."

That was it. I then understood this race wasn't about finding a purpose or a greater meaning for someone else. This race was for the love of the sport and the people I know in it. That alone was more than enough to race as well as I could for the experience of a life few dare to live.

The athletic experience consists of three parts: the training, which the Greeks called askesis; the event, or agon; and the aftermath, which the Greeks termed arĂȘte, which can be variously translated as “excellence” or “vigor.” This day, wading in those Texas waters was the beginning of my arĂȘte.

You don't have to complete an Ironman to be a triathlete because Ironman is not a title or an event. Ironman is a place; a moment in time. And if experienced for its truth that moment will last the rest of your life. If you want to live the life of a triathlete you'll do just fine with racing sprints, Olympics, and halfs. But if you want to live another kind of life, race an Ironman. The person who descends from a mountain is not the same person who began the ascent. Nor is the person who finishes an Ironman the same person who started the race.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Basic Training

For many, Memorial Day means a day of remembrance, a three-day holiday away from their jobs, garden parties, and the unofficial start of summer. For me, it's all of these things and an anniversary of a milestone on my way to becoming a man. It was on this weekend, 30 years ago, I reported to Army Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky as part of my initial training to become an commissioned officer two years later.

Call it life changing, path altering, and personal defining, because throughout my thirty years since I lean on the lessons learned in the army. It's not an oversimplification or trite to say everything I needed to learn in life, and triathlon, was taught in the army.


  • Mission first, people always.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Maintain your equipment.
  • Personal integrity.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Praise in public and admonish in private.
  • Have a plan.
  • Have a back-up plan.
  • Press the fight; always move forward.
  • Be flexible in your tactics but firm in your resolve.
  • Respect your adversaries but never fear them.
  • Harder in training leads to success in battle (race day).
  • Help those around you meet their goals; protect your buddies.
  • Lead or follow, but never be in the way of the team completing its mission.
  • Take care of your body.


Keeping these ideals is hard and meeting them always is next to impossible (just ask anyone that knows me and they'll tell you I've fallen flat on each measure at least once), but never forget that it's in the pursuit of perfection when you'll achieve excellence.

Where did you learn your valued life lessons?

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Iron in the Heart of Texas

Waiting for the start of an Ironman to start is like a marathon in itself. The hours pass slowly and the mind races. With less than a day until the start of the inaugural Texas race an oft asked question won't escape me.


Why Ironman? My reply:

What they see as an avocation of self-denial and sacrifice are to me keys to a place of high joy. But what they don't know of, or dare to enter, is a world that begins on the other side of exhaustion. An athlete that pushes himself to this place is intoxicated with the athlete's truth and the dedicated lives to go there. They 

know the blindly intoxicated sees things the sober man never will.


What are your reasons for your passion?


Stay tuned...

Monday, February 21, 2011

20-miles and a recovery

I completed my longest run of the season, yesterday. A 20-miler without a stopwatch, or my asthma inhaler. No matter and no problem.

Today the Ironman Texas beat goes on. Strength training in the morning and cycling in the afternoon. In between I'll have my Zoot compression socks on and my feet up.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spin to win

My coach said to me, "You can't let 28 degrees and snow on the ground keep you from training." So, I moved my cycling trainer from the garage and into the living room for a two hour session watching some of my heroes race Ironman Hawaii. Here's a shot of Julie Dibens leading the on the bike in last year's race.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye Uncle Harry

Today I learned of the death of my beloved paternal uncle, Harry Brode. He was the surviving sibling of my father's generation.

I send this message to mourn his passing and share in the grief of his family's loss and perhaps in that sharing, find the strength to bear that sorrow and courage to sew the seeds of hope of a day when no more lives are lost to cancer.

What I write here today is only an inadequate expression of what his family and friends carry in our hearts. Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to measure the bravery Harry shown in his last days he was with us. His true testimony will not be in the words we speak, but in the way his family is living their lives in the fight against this scourge of a disease and in the way he fought to the end with dignity and purpose and yielding to the struggle surrounded by his family; bathed in serenity and love's light.

Stay tuned...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Becoming an Ironman

Any descriptions of racing an Ironman fall short of the full, true experience of completing it yourself. No matter how clear the photos, or compelling the story told, they can't match the internal pain in your waiting for the starting cannon to fire, or the taste of the salty sweat at mile 100 of the bike, or the smell of yourself half way through the marathon. And mere words fail miserably in describing the joy, pain, thrill, and relief of crossing the finish line.

But there are a few written works that put you so close to the experience you feel as if you understand the Ironman mind. One of those books is "Becoming and Ironman," by Kara Douglas Thom.

A few years back this month I met Kara in Dallas and we spoke privately about the book. She retold the athlete interviews with a certain lilt in her voice confessing the profound experience that only comes from the deeply moved. Clearly the athletes pursuing the title of Ironman in her book are special lot worth getting to know.

After we spoke, she personalized and autographed a copy.

Whether you're training for an Ironman or searching or an inspiring read, you should add "Becoming an Ironman," to your training equipment.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bad company

Are you keeping company with thieves?

"No," you say? Read on and perhaps you'll think again.

Many a man allow themselves to sit between two thieves at the Table of Great Possibilities. On the left is the thief named "Regret for the Past" and on the right is his more evil, younger brother, "Fear of the Future." Their goal is to keep you from enjoying life's banquet laid out on the great table.

Regret keeps score of your would of, should of, and could of's and delights in reminding you of those things you didn't do or your failings. If you allow him, he will weigh you down with a ton of guilt and brand you a lesser, dwelling on losing the one thing you'll never retrieve, your past.

As strong as Regret may seem his power is only an illusion. Despite what you have done or not have done, neither has a hold over your tomorrow. The past is for learning, not for yearning and now is the time to live in the only time that counts, the present. When you live in the moment, Regret will leave you.

And then there is Fear. Where Regret is cruel with memories Fear is a liar with your dreams. He steals your will and nerve to take on the future. He leans on the hollow words of Regret by reminding you of past shortcomings and convinces you the future holds the same. But just like Regret, Fear's power is an illusion. By feeling the fear but doing what you want anyway is the quickest way to dismiss him.

Now I ask you again, are you keeping bad company? Look to your left and to your right. Are these two thieves keeping you from achieving happiness? Does Regret of the Past have you by the coattail keeping you stuck in the past or is Fear of the Future holding you back because you're worried of what the future holds? If the answer is, "yes," you're keeping the worst of company. But the good news each thief can be defeated, today.

Throw off the shackles holding you back and punch through the veil keeping you down. Replace those two with two new friends; "Wisdom" and "Courage" today and make your bold plans and take the first steps to enjoy the banquet of possibilities laid before you.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The better run

I've never had a bad run when I was running with friends.

Thank you ...

Kristian S (@SeeKrisRun)
Marci S (@Diva_Marci)
Melissa G (@SeeMelTri)
Corina C (@TXSkateMom)
Michelle B (@elletri)

... for running the Gobble Hobble 5k with us. Let's do it again next year.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Second, but still first




This day was sure to come as it was an event in the making from our first run together; a quarter-mile jog through a park. Harrison was four-years-old then and I was 44. That was six years ago and with each race he entered - starting with half-milers, then a mile, then 5k’s and one 10k - he was getting faster with each race and at the pace he was improving, and at the pace I was aging, there would come a day when he would beat me in a foot race.

Today is that day.


A new tradition

  

Racing the Gobble Hobble 5k is now an official father-son tradition. That is, if two years in-a-row qualifies as a tradition. Let’s call it our official start of the holidays. Last year he ran a personal best time of 25 minutes, 36 seconds, placing him in the top 10 in his age division. I, on the other hand, didn’t run for a personal best time but instead ran to pace a friend wanting to set her own record. Which to me, by the way, was a more rewarding endeavor.


For the record


When we crossed the starting line this morning we were both in it for personal efforts. Although there weren’t any race predictions between us there was an unspoken expectation I would cross the finish line first.

Harrison finished in 24 minutes, and 28 seconds, a personal record for him and 14 seconds ahead of me.

So much for expectations.


He beat me. I gave it my all and he flat out won.


The good sport


When I crossed the line gasping for air and holding a side stitch the first person to welcome me was Harrison. He said, “Dad, good race. You were like flying at the end. Good job.” [knuckle bump]

For a brief moment I felt so good I forgot my aching side and didn't care  that spit was still hanging onto my chin. That was proof getting whipped by a 4th grader isn't so bad. Watching him give his best effort is highly satisfying, but not as satisfying as being a witness to his sportsmanship and camaraderie.


Call me second fastest in the household but I’m still first in fatherly pride.


Stay tuned…

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pardon the inturrption

In the previous episode...

...the return to Ironman training had barely begun, just two days to be exact, when a nasty case of sinusitis and bronchitis put me down for a few days. And just when things were going so well too. Monday's swim went, well, swimmingly and Tuesday morning's track session felt great until what I thought was merely a case of hay-fever became a pounding sinus ache. By the afternoon I was feverish and coughing and, faster than Brett Favre can send a text photo, I was flat on my back.

After getting an injection in my backside and a bag full of pills, my doctor sent me home for some rest. That sounded damn good but as often happens, rest did't come easy. For three nights in a row I woke up around 2:00 AM and couldn't get back to sleep for hours. Ugh!

I'm the first to admit, when I get sick I'm a big, whiny baby. There's no complaint I won't make or bitch I won't share and if I'm uncomfortable, well I'll pout until things are just right. Now, don't get the wrong I idea and mistake my whining for an excuse to laze around on my saddle. Although I wasn't doing the whole swim-bike-run thing I did drag my sorry butt to work (I was no longer contagious) for at least a few hours a day. On Friday night the cold was at its worst but I was able to get over 10 hours of sleep and that made things a bit better.

When Sunday morning came around I felt remarkable better. Although I felt darn near normal this morning I decided not to swim and get in just one more morning of rest.

And now that that is over it's time to get back on the road to Ironman Texas.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

World renewed

Often the toughest part of a long distance, early morning run is the short distance from my bed to the street. I'll stumble and bumble and come close to a crumble but once out the door all misgivings are gone.

The reward for the early struggle is about to come but only after I climb the wall of exaustion. My eyes will sting with sweat, legs ache, lungs burn, and heart beat so hard I can't hear but I know these are the keys to the place I want to go.

Because, there's a renewed world beyond exhaustion the torpid man never sees...

... but I do.

Stay tuned...


Sunday, October 10, 2010

As so it begins

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. And so I am today with my words. And so I am tomorrow with my actions. It's time.

Time to stop spectating and rejoin participation because the moment I became a spectator, everything moved downhill. Mine had become a life ending before the cheering and the shouting died. It's time to take an uphill road before it's too late.

Tomorrow starts the journey towards the inaugural Ironman Texas, May 21, 2011 in The Woodlands, Texas and this blog is where I will record my swimming, biking, and running. I'll write about my weekly miles logged and the inevitable injuries that will spite me not to merely collect data or a place to deposit my grouses, but to tell the story of the person I'm becoming. To possess my experience rather than be possessed by it, to live my own life than be lived by it is my quest, and endurance sport is my tool. For some, crossing the finish line of an Ironman is a test, but for me, the finish line will be my reward.

Come along with me and live out your own first commandment of health and longevity: pursue your own perfection. Because although we may never be perfect, it's in the pursuit of perfection where excellence, ourselves, and our Creator will be found.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hit-and-run, and an update

Perhaps you caught the  news stories about the hit-and-run of friend, and triathlete, Debbie McGregor a few days ago.

In case you hadn't read the news, here is the television newscast with my interview:



Update: Debbie moved out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation center for physical therapy. It won't be long and I'll be writing about her return to triathlon.

Stay tuned...




Thursday, July 22, 2010

Under the influence

Saying my name in the same breath with Team Hoyt and Terry Fox is darn near sacrilege. OK, it is sacrilege, so at the risk of tainting the reputation of these true greats I'll continue here for just a wee bit more but only long enough to make a greater point -- reading about all of the runners at RunReviews.com is a must. Prepared to be inspired. There; I warned ya.

I'm humbled and more than a little nervous to be included on their list of "Most Influential Runners." How nervous? Does the expression, "feeling like a ho in church," express it well? Now that I find myself in such esteemed company, I have no choice but to step up my blogging - and running - game.

Humility and nerves aside, what I'm feeling is thankful.

I will do my level best to live up to the title and respectfully sit in the last pew, next to the door, with my running shoes on.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

First for Liberty

Flash back to January...

Me: "Your first 5k of the year and you placed second in your age group. What race do you want to run next, another 5k?"

Harrison: "No."

Me: "No?"

Harrison: "I want to run a 10k."

Me: "When?"

Harrison: "Before my 10th birthday."

Me: "Sounds like fun. Let's plan it."

Back to the present day and the Liberty by the Lake 5k and 10k in The Colony, Texas. Not only would Harrison's running a 10k be a first but Kathryn, my 14-year-old, would also run her first 5k. It would be a perfect holiday activity for us. We three agreed we would run together until the 5k and 10k courses split, after than I would pace Harrison.

The report is: they finished! Kathryn's reaction to her run, "I had fun, 'cuz I'm awesome like that."

No argument here.

"That was so HARD!" said Harrison after we crossed the line together, "I need to run more before the next one."

Again, no argument from me.

A natural question is, how long will it be until he takes to the road and begins training? And my answer is, I'm not sure and, to be honest, I'm not worried about it. At his age he's probably too young for a traditional training program and it's likely to not be all that beneficial either. For him, running should still be play and not structured training. He should run just for its joy. Run to simply feel the leaves crunch beneath his feet, hear the wind in the trees, and hop over rain puddles. He should run to find a place away from school work, and sisters, and chores, and people telling him what to do. Run so he can be with his own thoughts and dream his own dreams. Run to that place where all desires can be trusted and doubts released. Run to be with his friends and yes, run to be with his Dad.

My wish for him, Kathryn, and Margeaux is they find the joy of staying physically active on their own and make sport a lifelong activity.

And may their first choice in a running partner be me.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 28, 2010

IM-toxication

OK, I admit it, I didn't think it would happen so soon -- the inaugural Ironman Texas is coming, and true to my word, I'll be racing it on May 21. Why the confession? Well, that requires a bit of brief (very brief) history.

Last September, after crossing the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin, I announced the indefinate suspension of my Ironman racing. Four Ironmans in four years, with the last two raced only a month apart, it felt the time was right to step away from the MDot punchbowl. And I did so, happily, without regrets. But, I also did so with one leeeetle proviso in my suspension agreement.

I negotiated with myself - and told many - the only two Ironman races that would bring me back would be an invitation to the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii (as if THAT would happen) and the inaugural Ironman Texas, which as far as I knew was a long way off if ever. Thinking there was a strong possibility of neither event happening, I temped fate. And fate came calling last week when it was announced - and I wrote about - Ironman Texas would be held in The Woodlands next spring.

It was decision time. Would I keep my word by signing up for inaugural race or back pedal if somebody called out me and the proviso?

My decision is to meet fate and enter the race.

Having a few days to think about what I chose to do a wee bit of concern came over me and concern grew into doubts. My doubts continued throughout today until I read these words I wrote after completing Ironman Wisconsin, "There's an entire other world that begins on the other side of exhaustion and sweat. It's a place with its own rewards for the present day. An athlete that pushes himself to this place is intoxicated with the athlete's truth and the dedicated lives to go there. They know the blindly intoxicated sees things the sober man never will."

So with that, the Ironman Bar is open and the drinks are on me.

Stay tuned...