Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Little Jaunt Around Lake Georgetown

I ran around Lake Georgetown yesterday. It was just slightly over 27 miles. It was a tough, scenic and incredible run.
The weather was pefect: 31 degrees at the start. It took a while for my ears and fingers to warm up...and, yes, I was wearing gloves and a beanie.

There was a total of 10 of us. Immediately, we kinda feel into groups which suited me fine since I was afraid I'd get lost without a guide. I think I was just nervous going into a semi new course because (looking back) it was almost impossible to get lost.

The course has mile markers, and we started the opposite direction. It was a nice change to pass up mile markers backwards...27, 26, 25, etc.

The initial part of the course seemed fairly easy. There were a lot of sharp jagged rocks that I found myself playing hop scotch around. This seemed to tire me out by mile 13ish - all that jumping around. The last 1/3 of the course was pretty difficult. Plus, due to some of the climbs, my quads were on fire.

A big chunk of the course is just rocks and rocks and rocks. Although, there were some jeep road sections that seemed to go for several miles. It's a nice section to "pick up the pace" before/after the rocky sections.

I tripped several times pretty badly. It was the type of trip where you stumble for what like seems like an eternity with arms flailing. It's funny but when that's happening: I have time to think "this isn't good," but I don't have time to regain my balance and stop.  It seems like a quick trip that plays out slowly in my mind.

My friend, Nancy Marks, showed me a little waterfall at around mile 24 that made me secretly wish it was 50 degrees hotter.

At mile 26, I was boasting to myself that I was gonna finish without a fall, but just then - boom!!! I fell face first. My foot had gotten wedged between 2 rocks. Perhaps, I should've waited 'til I finished before bragging. Nevertheless, I was pretty happy that I was able to focus on the course and not get hurt. A lot of those rocks were jagged and pointy - fall on 1 of them and OUCH!!!

It was a good workout leading to my next race, Bandera 100k, in 2 weeks. I told myself this would be my last long run before the race, but who knows. I'd love to do 1 more before then. Just for my confidence, I guess.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fiesta Marathon '12 (according to me)...

Fiesta Marathon 2012 (according to me):

Right from the start, I felt tired, and my legs felt heavy. Really heavy. I made the decision right then and there that this'd be a training long run. So much for wanting to PR. Besides, I'd been scheduled to do a 30 miler this weekend. Before the race was over, I'd realize how close this marathon came to being said 30 mile run.

At mile 1ish, I (was directed ) took a wrong turn. Quite a few of us did. Like lemmings, many of us followed the runner(s) in front of us. It turns out I added an extra 1.5 miles to my 'thon.

I started having "stomach issues" (and that's putting it mildly) around mile 2. I started going over the course map in my mind for potential restrooms. I'm a germaphobe and didn't want to resort to using a porta potty, so I was trying to remember if we would run by any fast food places, stores, etc. I think I've taken it for granted that during a trail run, anywhere and everywhere is a potential restroom. In a road race...not so much.

At mile 6, I decided that I was probably gonna call it a day at mile 13. It was crazy humid, and I didn't feel like struggling for 13 more miles. Just then, 1 of my fiends, Ysenia, caught up to me. We began chatting about running and inadvertently picked up our pace a little. She was doing the 1/2, and I told her I'd probably veer w/ the 1/2ers when the time came.

When it was time for the 1/2ers to veer left and the full 'thoners to continue forward, I was feeling a little better, so I told her I was gonna keep going (and secretly hoped I wouldn't regret it later).

Miles 10-15 were bearable, but the humidity began to get to me. Also, I was beginning to tire of the only hydration options at the aid stations: water or powerade. If there's 1 drink that upsets my stomach almost immediately, it's powerade, but I didn't want anymore water. Besides, how worse could my upset stomach get? Much worse.

Miles 15-18 had me wishing I'd turned with Ysenia and the rest of the 1/2ers. I was ready to call it a day at mile 18 which happened to be the VRC (Valley Running Company) aid station. 1 of the volunteers poured water on  my head, another gave me ice and another, Carlos, walked a little with me while giving me a little pep talk. I'm sure he doesn't think it was such a big deal, but that seems to have gotten my head back in the game. I told myself "8 more miles!!!"

Seeing my loud friends from our running club at mile 23 gave me that little "extra" push I needed. There they were on the side of the course with grapes and a cowbell (a extra awesome thanks to David for getting me a coca cola also - I'd been craving it for miles).

I ended up making 6 pit stops: 2 hotels, Jack In The Box twice, a park and a stranger's house - with their permission, of course. Around mile 25, I was in the 'hood, and the stomach cramping began again. Bad. I was nowhere near a business, hotel or park (or EVEN porta potty). It was about to get real real. Real fast. Fortunately, I saw an elderly lady watering her lawn, so I asked if I could use her restroom. I told her it was an emergency. She turned out to be a life saver.

It was a tough run. I guess I've gotten used to running trails, because my feet ached during the mid to latter part of the race...even in my Hokas, and they were a little achy today.

In the end, my friends, Laura, John and May were waiting for me. It didn't matter that I'd told them to expect me right under 4 hours from the time I started. 5.5 hours and 27.5 miles later, I made it.

Better late than never.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

The plan'd been to run the Fiesta Marathon this coming Sunday fast enough (according to me) to PR, but my plans kinda changed around November.

First, I hurt my knee during Cactus Rose, and it affected my running for over a month. So much so, that I only managed to run about 6 days in November. I'm better, but the knee is still a little tender.

Secondly, just when I seemed to be recovering, physically, I caught a cold.  I've had it for over a week, and you guessed it: it affected my running.  I've just been feeling pretty crappy. Plus, I get a little "weird" when I don't run - like I need a fix. A running fix. Nevermind that my "normal" friends think all this running IS weird - but that's another post for another time.

In the past 6 weeks I think I've run a 10 miler twice and an 18 and a 15 miler. I suppose that's enough mileage to finish the marathon, but I was really aiming for a bit more - for a 3:15ish-3:20ish finish.

I guess it's not in the cards. I cannot really complain, though. My new goal: to take it all in and enjoy. Not that I wouldn't've had fun if I was attempting to PR, but it would have just been a bit different. I think y'all know what I mean.

I'm gonna attempt to make it a "meaningful" long run by running an extra 4 miles (haven't decided if right after or right before) for an even 30 miler. I need this 30.

After this weekend, it's on to Banndera 100k and then Rocky Raccoon 100. It's starting to get real real  - real fast.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Running Is THE Best Medicine

Being sick sucks.

I'd been battling a flu/throat bug thing for a couple of days now. The worst part is that I hadn't run since Wednesday night. I can handle the body aches, the feeling of razors slicing the inside of my throat and's the no running that hurts the most.

I was so antsy for a run this weekend. Especially, since I'd planned to do a 20 miler this weekend.

I finally gave in today. Against the advice of many of my running friends, I ran. I told them I'd only run a couple of miles or that I'd stop if I felt woozy. Secretly, I probably wouldn't've. I wanted to get in a 10 miler. Correction: I needed to get in a 10 miler.

Well, I did, and it was tough. I'm sure the humidity added to the struggle. I did 10 and, now, that I've eaten and rested, I feel much much better. I think I may even be over it. Really.

I think running was the medicine I needed.

This is me keeping my distance from my friends. The fear of getting them sick kept me from posing too close, running with them or even shaking hands with most of them. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trying (unsuccessfully) To Keep Up With 13 Year Old Running Machines...

Yesterday, I ran with the Boys/Girls Cross Country teams at the Middle School where I work. It was convenient: I get out at 4pm, and I'm already there. No waiting. No driving. No nothing. It's a great workout, and a shame I don't do it more often.

I think I get a better workout out of it than the boys/girls do, though. At least, I think so because they don't seem to struggle as much as I do. I try to keep up with them more than they with me. I usually ask my co worker (who is their coach) which one is the fastest one. After this, it's all about trying to keep up.

I know they're good for about 3 miles or so, and then they start to tire. As usual, the level of their talent never ceases to amaze me. I always tell them that if they were to keep up their running (and grades), they'll be kicking butt in no time (and I mean it).

Yesterday, I caught them eyeballing my hokas. They thought they were the oddest looking shoes. It was no use describing their comfort. Besides, how pointless is it that I am talking about cushioning to somebody that runs in converse chuck taylors??? It ain't gonna happen.

I'd planned on a nice little slow recovery run after having run almost 18 miles the night before. I was fatigued, my quads felt tight and I just wanted to loosen up, but it didn't quite work out (pun intended) that way. Their Coach had other things in mind.

During my struggle (to keep up), I kept wishing they'd cut corners or stop for a little walking break because I would've been all for it...the walking break - not the cutting of corners, of course, but they weren't having any of that.

So what did I do??? As I ran by my car, I got in and left.

Mistake #1: leaving my car along the course.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Running: The Great Stress Reliever

Today was a terrible, terrible day work. Several times I had to take a deep breath, smile and just go about my business. Thankfully, I ran tonight, so I got to "run-off" my stress.

It seemed like I was going 100 mph, doing 100 things at once, had another 100 to do, and was going nowhere fast. Several times, I've considered changing jobs. Why can't I make a living out of running. Surely, there can be no stress in that. Even if there was, I'd prefer that kind of stress over some of the stress I am used to.

If it wasn't for my sunny disposition (some might disagree with this description, but blah) and the fact that I'm pretty good about letting things bounce off me, I'd've gone insane a long time ago. Oh, yeah, my running also helps. It's my great stress reliever.

As I was saying, it was a pretty nasty day. At around 2:30pm, it started getting better: my running partner texted me to ask if I could start running earlier than our agreed upon (5:30pm) time. Could I??? Of course, I could. We agreed to start 30 minutes after I'd get out of work. I know, I know, it's only an hour earlier, but I needed to start running since this morning (if it wasn't for the fact that I have no more personal time to take, I'd've been out the door running at 9am).

I ended up running with 4 of my friends (a big shout out to them - Laura, Gabby, MAP & John). Great company while running is a double dose of stress relief. We ended up doing 12 miles.

It's never too late in the day for the day to get better. I think I was reading a quote (i'm a quote junky, by the way) that said "you always feel better after a run than you did before." It's true. I'm living proof of that. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir, though - y'all knew that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A BIG Happy B'day To The Best Son Ever!!!

A BIG happy b'day to my son, Joshua, who turns 17 today. You cut me deep when you told me "Dad, running's just not for me," but I still love ya lots and lots and lots.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

...Not Feeling "it"

I agreed to meet my running sole sister, MAP, at 7am to run this morning.

I awoke at 6am (even beat my alarm), and wasn't feeling "it". I secretly was hoping she'd cancel. But she never cancels - who was I kidding? As a last ditch attempt, I texted her asking "Are we still on?" Unfortunately, she said yes. Dang, reliable as always.

We'd agreed to run 15 miles, but I was secretly hoping for 20. I'd been itching to run since my knee had finally felt "run ready" since CR over 3 weeks ago. I'd nerded on my running log(s) and saw that I'd only run 8 days in November due to being very conservative due to my knee pain/strain. AND my longest run was 10 miles.

Right from the get go, I felt slow & sluggish, but I kept it to myself. After a couple miles, Map asked me "Why are you running so slow?" She noticed - there's no winging it with her. I told her (and probably convinced myself also) that I'd overlayered/overdressed, and felt uncomfortable.

I secretly wanted to quit, but didn't want to tell her. I suggested we run by my duplex (so I could just stay there since I'd already be home...pretty smart, huh?), so I could drop off my pullover. After all, it was my hard-earned CR100 sweater. I couldn't just take a chance and leave it on the side of the trail to pick up later. It didn't work. Once there, I couldn't quit, now, and make her run the rest of the way solo.

Besides, surely, I'd run more comfortable after this. I'd be running in a t shirt. Nope. I was still dragging. She noticed, too, because she said "You're still going slow, but the pace is ok with me." Ouch.

Well, we did the 15 we'd agreed to. It was a struggle. Looking back, I'm glad I stuck with it and finished. We even did "hills" via parking garage along the way (she smoked me but waited at the top and bottom of the garage for me each time, 'cause she's cool like that).

I apologized for slowing her down and thanked her for waiting for me. She assured me it was no big deal, and you know what: she meant it. It wasn't lip service. THAT is why she's the best, and I love running with her!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Am Thankful For...

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for how well my son's been doing. It's tough to relate to a 16 year old, but i'm trying. Really trying. Our relationship's gotten better...much better, and I continue to work on making it better. We've had some "issues" which both of us have worked on (in our own ways). He has made a incredible turnaround, and I'd like to think that I have as well. I cannot say enough how proud I am of the young man he is becoming. I hope some of it rubs off on me.

There are other things to be thankful for, I agree, but this is my main one. I'm making it all about us this time.

This is my running blog, so you know i'd find a way to make it about that also.

Not far down my list of things to be thankful is my job as a middle school teacher. Yes, I'm thankful I have a job, get to teach and work with kids...but I'm also thankful for all the time off throughout the year that I get to focus on my running. I know. I know. I know. It should be all about helping young minds, and it is, but it's also about me sometimes. Besides, who says you can't juggle it all?

I'm off for the next 3 days and the weekend. Technically, it's a 5 day weekend and it couldn't've come at a better time: This is our 1st time off since school began in late August and, more importantly, I haven't been running much since CR due to some knee pain.

Full disclosure: We get 5 personal days to utilize during the fall semester (and 5 more during the spring semester), and I've already used them all. Nothing wrong with that, but it occurred to me that I used them all for my running - driving to/from races, taking day off for soreness, etc. It's all about priorities.

This got me thinking how much "me" time I get off...time to spend with my son and time to run.

I'm off 3 days this week (plus the weekend = a 5 day weekend), 2 weeks for x-mas, 1 week for spring break and (drumroll)............the entire summer off.

I think I already run quite a bit, but all this time off makes running easier since I practically have all the time in the world to do it, and being slow, I need all the time in the world to do it.

Plus, I get to run with my track runners in the spring for about 5 weeks when I'm coaching them. That's when I get to work on my (lack of) speed with some speedy kids by chasing them.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that all this time off coincides with my son's time off??? Yesssssssssssssssss!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Hills"...of the aluminum, concrete & dirt kind.

We've always had to do "alternative" hills down here in vertically challenged RGV to train for some of the more hilly courses in the Cen-Tex area. The other alternative is to run in some of the awesome state parks in the SA / Austin area, but it can get expensive to travel up there.

So we've had to come up w/ some "unconventional" workouts:

Bleachers - Who doesn't love bleachers? Besides, who hasn't done 'em before? The only issue we have with bleachers is that there are only a few high school stadiums that have high bleachers, and all of them are not open to the public (something about the school/coaches being afraid of the public destroying their new & expensive state of the art turf.

Highway Overpasses/Ramps - The good ol' paved hills. As you can imagine, back & forth/over & down repeatedly does get boring. We recently started using an exit ramp that has been closed ~ to change it up a bit.

Construction Mounds of Dirt - Yes, you read that correct. Here, locally, there's a huge mountain of dirt that I think is for sale or construction crews get dirt from.

I guess if I really think about it, we do have "hills" in the valley...of the aluminum, concrete & dirt kind.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cactus Rose 100 ~ Through My Eyes

...about 12 of us drove up for the Bandera party this past weekend.

Driving up on Friday, I was really nervous: it was cold and pouring in San Antonio. I could already envision running cold, wet and miserable. I'm a pretty wimpy runner when it comes to running conditions, I'll admit. Surprisingly, it was not like that once we got to Bandera. It was cold, but no rain.

We drove around to the aid stations and dropped off our drop bags with goodies. I had tried to remember every single thing I've ever craved during one of our trail adventures. Plus, my bins had been ready for several days in my living room, and I'd fought the urge to get into them the days leading to the race (Note to self:  having bins full of junk food in my living room is not a good idea).

The course would consist of four 25 mile loops - finish a loop and start the next one in the same direction you just finished. My biggest concern (from looking at the course map/elevation): the 1st /3rd loops would end with a really hilly and rough 8 miles section, and the next loop would start with this same stretch. So basically, it'd be a tough 16 mile stretch. Doubt had been creeping in all week: did I train enough? Did I train hard enough? Did I taper too much? Did I eat right?

Loop 1:     I started a little faster than I would have liked, but I blame it on the excitement, adrenaline & seeing so many awesome runners that I hadn't run into in a while. I spent the latter part of this loop taking pictures and taking in the sights. I teamed up with Frank Sizemore most of this loop, and i was able to run the flats and walk the uphills with him as we discussed who was the biggest running nerd. Surprisingly, I finished this loop in 6:15. I was really happy w/ that because I was expecting to finish it between 8-9 hours. "It's just extra time I have to play with" I kept telling myself.

I got into the lodge and had a pretty nice breakfast. I may have overdone it, actually, but I was so hungry.

...and off I went for another round.

Loop 2:     Frank and me had agreed to meet to start the 2nd loop together, but it was kinda hectic and we lost each other. It makes it easier to run with somebody else sometimes, but oh well...gotta keep keeping on. I was also pretty excited that at the end of this loop my pacer, Judy, would be waiting to run with me. I purposely became more conservative this loop. I kept reminding myself that there was still alot of mileage to cover. But I felt really well. I ran/jogged/walked the last 5 miles with David Jacobson. He was also pretty excited that his pacer would be waiting for him. He said he was saving a bit for that ~ good idea.

I got into the lodge and decided to take about a 15 minute break and just relax for a bit.

Loop 3:  The 1st part of the loop seemed to be very runnable, so I wasn't surprised that my pacer took off pretty quickly, but we were all feeling pretty strong, so we kept up. Initially, I did not know what to expect from the CR course, so I wanted Judy to pace me (since I know she is a fast runner) in case I was in danger of missing the 7am loop 4 cut off. (FYI - We were 3 hours ahead of schedule). We ran the next 15 miles pretty well - thanks to her. When we got to the dreaded 8 mile stretch, we took it easy, though. I have to admit that I was worried about ending with those and then starting with those again. We made it back to the lodge at around 3:30am. I had told my pacer that I was going to take my time and wanted to be outta there by 4am.

At this point, my calves were really tight. It made it uncomfortable to climb. Not the time to be feeling that considering what was coming up.

Loop 4:     I told my pacer, Laura, that I thought I'd have to do quite a bit of walking this loop. She said you call it (and THAT's why she's the best). As a result, we spent most of those tough 8 miles at the start joking around and snapping pictures. We ran what we could but fatigue and the need for a nap were creeping in. Around 5am, I started dozing off for split seconds at a time while running. How could I fall asleep for a second while running? I can vouch for it being a possibility.

We made it to Nachos (aid station) where I ate a little and made my 1st mistake: I took off my socks to get some dirt out. What did I see? The gnarliest blister I've ever seen on my toe. It was like my toe had a baby or like my foot had a double toe on the same digit. That was good for some laughs. My pacer thought this was hilarious and began taking pictures of it (which I will spare you from). A couple women at the aid station (whom I assume were waiting for their runner friends saw us off by saying "10 more miles!!!" 10 more and i'll be done!!! Little did I know that these would be the toughest 10 miles I've ever run.

On our way to Equestrian, we crossed a road and ran into Judy (who had paced me from 50-75) along with a couple other friends of ours who said they'd be waiting at the finish line. This was a morale booster. I'm almost there.

We ran/jogged to Equestrian, and I had told Laura that I just wanted to fill up my handheld with water and take off immediately. By this point, I just wanted to finish. I knew that I'd just have 1 more climb, lucky peak, to do before it was over. I had a really difficult time doing this. My calves were killing me at this point, but I was sooooo close.

With a few miles to go, Nancy Marks, passed me and gave me a hug and a pair of shoelaces with some metal buttons that said "ULTRA" and "100M." She said she'd meet me at the finish line (and she did). Her positive and cheery personality is contagious. As she passed me she said "Make sure you take the wannabe out of your blog title!!!"

With less than a mile to go, I told my pacer to go on up ahead. I'd get there in a second. It was almost as if I needed a little bit of time to comprehend what was happening. I was on the verge of running 100 miles!!! Getting to the finish line and seeing all my friends there, the race director handing me my finisher's belt buckle, was surreal. So many emotions: I wanted to laugh, cry, I'm not sure, really (I remember 1 of my friends asking what I wanted to drink, and I said "a glass of milk." Milk? Really? I musta been delirious.

I wouldn't have been able to complete this race without each of my friends that was there. They all played an important role in this adventure.

What's next for me??? For now, rest. Just rest.

Oh yeah, the only complaint I have is that the sotol tore the awesome running sweater that came in our goodie bag...damn, you sotol!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sometimes Giving Is Better Than Receiving

I officially went into "taper-mode" last week. For me, that means taking it easy and no racing these 2 weeks prior to my race, CR100.

So when my buddy, Carlos, had his Hvergelmir Trail 1/2 Marathon coming up this past weekend, I was torn:  to run or not to run. Of course, when this choice comes up, I always choose, run, but not this time. So, I decided to do the next best thing: man an aid station.

I'd be set up at an aid station at around mile 9 with another buddy of mine, David, and we were there early to set up the water, gatorade, cokes, pretzels, oreos and most cowbell.

My plan was to ring the heck out of that cowbell, and I did. Several runners would later tell me that they could hear the cowbell for miles. I just love the sound of the cowbell and, as it turns out, others do too.

There I was: on the other side of the aid station. Giving instead of receiving aid. It was a different but enjoyable experience. It was a blast to encourage runners and see to their needs (as opposed to the other way around).

It was a brand new perspective - especially if you've required as much assistance as I have at aid stations. I just did what I've seen countless others do during races I've run.

Volunteering at races rocks!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Government Canyon/Nothing's Easy 50K (pseudo) Race Report

Yesterday, I ran the Nothing's Easy 50k at Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio, TX. I'd never been out there before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Well, it's a beautiful park. I need to make it out there more often to do some of my runs.

I was a little concerned about the weather, especially, when I got in my car at 5:30am and the temperature read 77 degrees. Luckily, the sun didn't come out until after I was done, but it was very humid. A sporadic cool breeze and light drizzle at 1 point helped make it a bit more bearable.

My primary goal was to finish and not get hurt since I've got a 100 mile trail race, Cactus Rose, coming up in less than 2 weeks. This was to be my last significant long run before the dreaded taper is set to begin.

Did I finish unhurt? Yes. I fell once. I'm kinda embarrassed that it was during the first 1/2 mile. One of my friends told me "You're good, nobody saw you." Hahaha!!! Another friend of mine said "At least you got it out of the way early." No harm done - just got a little muddy and a little scrape up on my elbow. Goal accomplished...sort of.

Usually, during most of my ultra races, I end up taking a little too long at the aid stations. Prior to the race, I had told myself that I would not spend more than 2 minutes at each aid station. I did better than that: I spent :45 seconds at each station. Goal accomplished.

I also wanted to run a consistent pace throughout the race. Really, my goal was to run a negative split, but I ran the 2nd loop 13 minutes slower. It's cool. I'll take it. Goal (semi) accomplished.

One of the things I need to continue to work on is picking up my feet when I am tired. Towards the latter part of the race, I kept kicking rocks. I'm telling you, this is PAINFUL. At one point, I was actually having a conversation with myself: "Pick up your friggin' feet, dude!!!" Immediately, after 1 of these conversations, POOM, I kicked another rock. As the pain shot through my foot and my toes were throbbing, it occurred to me...I won't even listen to myself. Luckily, there was nobody around to overhear this convo.

Overall, it was a very runnable course. There was a little stretch (of what seemed like a couple of miles) where I had to walk the uphills. My 1st instinct was to run up it, but I was able to make myself walk. I'll conserve energy, I kept telling myself.

I was able to finish safely and, in the process, improve my 50k PR by 35 minutes.

As I crossed the finish line, 1 of the volunteers told me I'd finished 8th overall and 1st master's division. "Masters? I thought 50+ was masters, and I'm 44." As she handed me my prize, a $100 gift certificate, said "Nevermind."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Who Let The Dogs Out???

Really, there are only 2 things that scare me when I'm out running: dogs and careless drivers. There are other hazards out there, but those are the main ones that I stress over.

One of my good running friends runs with a can of mace. She's only had to use it once because most of the dogs we've come across are all bark and no bite (no pun intended), but she has used the mace once that I recall: on a pretty brave and charging chihuahua. Don't let the size fool ya. Another friend refers to these small dogs as armpit terrorists. The mace was effective. Poor dog didn't know what hit him.

Yesterday, we were running in the middle of nowhere along a canal/levee when, my friend said "Are those figures over there coming this way?" It was about 1/2 mile away, so I really couldn't see that far. The closer we got to the "figures" we could make out 2 people and what we thought might be a dog. It took us several minutes to get there, but our fear was about to come true.

The debate during this time was on whether it was on a leash or not. Yes. No. Maybe. Finally, who knows. When we finally were about 20 feet away, we realized 2 things: it wasn't leashed AND it was a pitbull. Nothing against pitbulls, but, I must admit, it was a menacing looking dog.

As we carefully walked towards (and past) the couple, the dog walked towards us also. We immediately came to a halt, and the owner said, "He doesn't bite." Thanks for that info, but it doesn't make me feel any better. I don't go up to dogs period, and I really don't like it when dogs come up to me - leashed or unleashed.

To me, when I am running, a dog is a dog is a dog. I like to joke that dogs chasing me during my runs help me work on my speed, but it's no joke - I don't like it. Keep your dogs leashed...

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Tale Of 2 Runs...

It's funny how almost the exact same run/distance on consecutive days can feel so differently. This happened to me this weekend when I did my back to back long runs, but I blame the weather...mostly.

I ran 22 miles this past Saturday. The short of it: I struggled...big time. We started at 5am, but it was really humid. I kept looking for the breeze that never came. Plus, my friends started a little faster than I am used to. Judging from their pace I could tell it was going to be a long (pun intended) morning and we were.

Despite of the crappy run, I felt really good and rested the rest of the day. Definitely, a good sign since I was planning on running 20 the next morning.

Sunday was a different story. It was mild ~ almost cold. I even considered a long sleeve shirt for a second...just for a second before I decided to enjoy the morning coolness in a short sleeve shirt. We ran 20 miles, and it was cool the entire morning. There was almost no humidity, and, at times, when the breeze hit me, I even got cold. It was such a different morning run that we finished almost the same distance in almost an hour less time.

Yep, the weather'll make or break my runs.

I'd classify my performances during the majority of the running/racing I did this summer as pretty lousy, and I blame the heat. I've decided that, perhaps, I'm just not cut out for summer heat running, but I live in South Texas, so what can I do about it?

I've done 2 long runs in mild or cooler weather very recently. Today's run of 20 miles and last week's run of 34 miles. I felt great during these 2 runs. No issues at all. None. I changed nothing ~ did everything the same I did during the summer. According to my unscientific experiment, it must be the heat.

Of course, the bad thing about this is that I will be expecting more from myself, now that the weather will be better. More pressure...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bandera Trails: How I missed you...

I was looking forward to this weekend because it'd be our Bandera (CR100) weekend. We had made plans to run the Cactus Rose course at least once. Not only would it be a tough great workout, but we'd also get to preview the course before next month's race.

The plan was to run the course at night. Our guide, David Jacobson, wanted to run the course to simulate next month's night running. We couldn't be happier to have him show us around since we had our doubts that we could navigate our way around in the darkness.

There were going to be runners starting when we started, later in the night, in the morning and in the early afternoon the next day. Our group included myself, David Zuniga, Stevan Pierce, Carlos Cerda, David Jacobson, Brett Parker, Kevin Pallardino and Susan Bell. 

We arrived at around 7pm and began at 8:30pm. The temperatures were mild...maybe even cool. After having run the Capt. Karl race series this summer, the cooler temperature was a welcomed relief.  

In short, the course was rocks, climbing, rocks and more climbing. Obviously, what goes up must come down, so throw in there some steep rocky downhills for good measure. Oh, how can I forget the sotol plants? All I can say is "ouch!!!"

We finished the 25 mile loop at around 4:20am. I felt really well at this point but was also starving. I can only eat so many stinger waffles, GUs or chex mix. Luckily, Brett, offered us some fajita tacos, and they hit the spot.

We took about a 20 minute break before starting again. We may have taken a little too long before starting because I was cold, and my body felt kinda stiff. My car's temperature indicated it was 56 degrees. I couldn't wait to start running to warm up. 

The 2nd loop was pretty...interesting. After about 5 miles, David J. fell on the course. He said he fell asleep while running. Yes, we were that tired, but it was good practice for CR. David called it a night/morning shortly after this. With some last minute instructions, David J. pointed us in the right direction which we hoped to be able to do. 

Unfortunately, our adventure without him lasted only a few miles. We got a bit lost and seemed to be running in circles. After watching the incredible sunrise atop Sky Island, we decided to backtrack and end our adventure. 

We ended the run at 33.5 miles. The best part is that I felt great the entire distance. This hadn't happened ever...I think.

I think I also learned some valuable things for my upcoming race, CR: 
  1. it's all about pacing.
  2. there's such a thing as too much GUs, stinger waffles & junk(ish) type food...I'll need solid food. 
  3. RFP (relentless forward progress) - gotta keep keeping on.
The course? Well, I'm not going to go over each section. All I will say is that the course is pretty tough but fun. All you need to know is: be prepared to climb.

In summary, I met lots of awesome runners on this trip.  Whether meeting them for the 1st time or 10th time, these are great friends that made the trip worthwhile. 

I hope to make 1 more trip out to Bandera before CR. Either way, I cannot wait for Oct. 27.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Best (running) Week Ever

I had the best running week I've had in quite a long time...maybe ever: My total mileage for the week was 68.5 miles, 23.5 miles more than I usually average.

The even better part?  Those miles were pain/injury-free.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Running: The New Commute

Yesterday, I decided to change up my 13.5 mile commute to work.  Usually, I drive but this year I have biked and now it was time for me to run.

I was really prepared for this: I took a change of clothes and everything I'd need to "freshen up" the previous day. All I had to do was get there.

I was a little nervous for several reasons: What if I didn't wake up on time? (I did) What if I didn't adequately plan how long it'd take me to get there? (I had) What if there were dogs chasing me at that hour? (There were) What if there were inattentive drivers in the wee hours of the morning? (There were). Obsessive, I know.

The commute began at 4:40am. No, this isn't a typo.

I ran the 13.5 miles in 2:03. As much as I kept telling myself, this run wasnt about time, it didn't quite work out that way. But, in my defense, several dogs had something to do with this. Thank you, dogs, for helping me work on not so fast pace.

I ran with lighting in the front and a blinking light attached to my camelbak. I was even in the bike lane (approximately 4 out of the 13.5 miles had a bike lane). Despite all this, a car came within inches (it seemed) of grazing me. I know it's dangerous out there, but, geeze, this was close.

Upon getting to work, I was expecting to be tired for the better part of the morning. Lunch would definitely wake me up, but I was expecting a "crash" in the early afternoon. I was wrong. I felt GREAT the entire day.

I'm definitely doing this again and I recommend others do it also. Next time, I'm running to work AND riding my bike back...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Runner's Bible: The Running Log

I had several goals at the beginning of the year. One of them was to log 2,000 miles for the year of 2012.

Ill admit, I'm a nerd...I had it all figured out. The way I calculated it, I'd have to average:

166.6 miles per month.
41.7 miles per week.
5.9 miles per day.

The good news: I'm ahead of quite a considerable amount.

The bad news: I've been obsessed with averaging these averages.

Due to my compulsion with these numbers, I've kept 2 running logs, you case I lost one. I've got notes in there about how I felt, what I ate, could I have kept going, etc. Plus, I constantly track my progress or lack of it.

Logging my runs is not something new that I've just recently started, I've kept one for a loooong time. I've always run for the sake of running. Let me clarify: I dont just  run  in preparation for a race, not that that's a bad thing - It's just that I've always loved to run just because, so I'm not sure why I even kept a log. I wouldn't look at it - just fill it out and start a new one.

Now, that I am training for something, that log is like my bible. I pretty much take it with me wherever I go. It's become a must 'gadget' for me - more so than my ipod or garmin. I think if I lost it, my life would be over...well, not really, but you get the idea - it's important.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running To Extremes

I've come to the conclusion that running (for me) is a thing of extremes. Either dip your toe in the water or dive in the deep end. There's no in-between.

This occurred to me yesterday:

I ran 6 miles in the morning on a track (I love running in circles, btw) wearing my vibrams. I ran differently. I stepped differently, and I felt graceful. Yes, I used the word graceful to describe my running. I was actually paying attention where I was stepping and how I was stepping.

Later in the afternoon, I ran 6 more, but this time wearing my Hokas. The exact opposite. I can't really say I felt graceful. I felt...'in charge.' It was as if I was playing destruction derby. Everybody, you better get outta my way. It didn't matter how I was stepping or where I was stepping. As a matter of fact, I was looking for something to step on.
Extremes? Yep, from footwear to distances.

I still enjoy an occassional 5k. They make me work hard. They're quick and painful. The beautiful pain.

...But, I also enjoy 60ks, 50milers and (attempting) 100 milers. They're definately not quick - a prolonged process.

As I get mentally and physically prepared for my next challenge, CR100, it occurred to me that I'm an extremist, and that may not be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why Football Season Means More Running...

Today is Wednesday, and it's significant. 

Because it's humpday? No. Because I have morning duty at work? Pfft, no. Because, tonight, is my running group, iRUN's, evening run? Ok, yeah, but there's another reason. I'll tell you why: because the NFL season begins tonight. How is this significant, you may be asking right about now.

Let me begin, at the risk of alienating many of you out there, by saying that I strongly dislike the Cowboys. Strongly. When they play, it's always A.B.C. (Anybody But the Cowboys). Them's fighting words down here in the RGV, but it had to be said.

But I digress. Several seasons ago I realized that the best day and time to do my long runs (and not worry about traffic) was when the Cowboys were playing. Everybody is watching them play at home or at a bar. Everybody.

For those 3 hours or so, I can afford to cross the street at any point other than an intersection, and I don't have to worry about those annoying honks (unless they're friends honking to say hi). Added bonus: no traffic means I can run without inhaling exhaust fumes.
As a matter of fact, it's probably the best time to go to HEB or Wal-Mart. The places are D-E-A-D. For a person like me who doesn't like crowds, that's perfect!

Football season couldn't begin a moment too soon - my Sunday runs are about to get long - just in time for my next ultra: Cactus Rose.

For the next 5 months or so, I will be rooting for "America's Team" to play...not win, just play. If they lose, it'll be icing on my ultra running cake.

While you're watching the game for 3 hours, I'll be running for those same 3 hours.

Let's just hope Cowpoke fans don't drown their sorrows of defeat in alcohol and then have to drive home on the same streets I'm running.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reveille Ranch 60k : 8 Undeniable Truths

I'm back from the Capt. Karl's Reveille Ranch 60k, and I'm still on cloud 9. It was an excellent racing experience. Everything about it was superb!!! I've made a list of what I experienced this past Saturday night and want to share it with you guys (in no particular order):

     1.  Rocks Are Beautiful...Painful, But Beautiful: The scenery this weekend was incredible. It was as if I'd stepped into another world. Keep in mind, where I live - the RGV. I couldn't stop taking pictures during the 1st of 3 loops. It's funny that something so awesome looking can hurt you if you're not careful or make you so sore that you cry out in pain sometimes. I love it. 
     2.  Donnie Darko Musta Been Out There:  Why else would I be thinking of that rabbit? I saw 4 rabbits during the race. I don't know if they were blinded by my headlamp & flashlight, but it took them several seconds to react and and scramble. When I'm running for hours, many thoughts go through my head - during the race, every time I'd see a rabbit, Donnie Darko would come to mind, and it kinda creeped me out a bit. The crazy things I think about when I have too much time on my mind. 
     3.  The Volunteers Are Incredible:  I realized during the race that I was looking forward to the aid    stations...well, I'll admit - 1 in particular: I'd heard that Liza Howard was going to be at 1 of them, and I was looking forward to saying hi to her (in case you can't tell, she's my idol). Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, the volunteers made me look forward to each aid station. It was like a little physical AND mental boost. Whether it was a wisecrack, encouraging words, filling my handheld water bottle or opening it (my hands were so sweaty during most of the race, that I couldn't open mine - but they did!). They're there for each and every runner. Thank you all. 

     4.  The "Woo Hoo" Heard Through The Darkness:  I kept hearing Nancy Marks' patented "woo hoo" AND the jingling of the bells on her shoes. During the 3rd loop, at 1 point, I was wondering if I was going in the right direction until I heard a "woo hoo" up ahead in the darkness. Yes, I was. That lady is always in a good mood - regardless of the race she's having. I envy that. I hope I continue hearing her for many races to come. 
     5.  McDonald's Salt Packets Saved The Night:  2 friends of mine recommended I carry salt packets from Whataburger/McDonalds and place them in my mouth and let it dissolve since I've gotten ill the last several 60ks (nothing had seemed to work), and I was willing to try anything to keep from getting sick. Several miles before the park, we went up to the McDonald's drive thru window and just asked for salt packets (hoping I wouldn't have to explain why). Luckily, we received a handful of salt & pepper packets - as long as I don't get them confused, I told myself. I started taking them at 2 points when I could feel the twinge of nausea coming on. It worked. Thanks, Mari & Gabby.
     6.  I've Got To Pace Myself By Any Means Necessary:  I always start any race way too fast. Always. Never fails. I decided that I wasn't going to let this happen this time around, and I had the perfect solution: I decided to take pictures during the 1st loop. Plenty of them. Turns out I am disciplined, afterall. I did it. This may have contributed to having the best run this summer.

     7.  Without My Garmin, I Am Lost:  My Garmin's battery died out at mile 30. The warning beep kept reminding me for a couple of hours of the inevitable. I did the math in my head, and I assured myself I was in good shape and would survive without it. According to my calculations, I had plenty of time to finish even if I'd be running without my trusty gadget. When it finally went blank, I panicked a little. I asked the last 3 aid stations: What time is it? How many more miles? Am I in danger of missing the cut off? They all assured me I was good, and they were right. I've got to start cutting the garmin umbilical cord - pronto!!!

     8.  Slow Is The New Fast:  This is my new mantra. Sometimes, at the expense of a good/fun run, I try to run fast(er than I should). I had my slowest, yet, best race Saturday night. Yes, for me, slow is the new fast. I can live with that.  
Although, my trail running road of self discovery continues, I've learned some valuable lessons already. My mind is open and ready to learn some more...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Insomnia...I've Been Expecting You.

I haven't slept very well this week, but that's not really anything new. I suffer bouts of insomnia. What's new is that I haven't taken any ambien this week.

I try to abstain from sleeping aids the week before a race - even if it means I get very little sleep the entire week. It's odd, but I think I do my best running on very little sleep. It never fails: I feel rested and ready to run on race morning despite sleeping poorly leading up to the run.

Earlier this year, I ran a 50k in Bandera. I drove to the race at midnight, got there at 5am, ran the race (ran a PR, by the way) and drove back home immediately after I finished...and STILL had a difficult time sleeping that night. 5k, 10k, 30k, 60k, 50 miler...same result: no sleep that night.

I like coffee. I really, really like coffee, but on race day (and starting a few days before) I don't drink any. It's even more surprising (to me) that I don't feel tired race day considering I slept very little AND had no coffee.

Nerves leading up to the race? Possibly, but I don't think so. Psychological? Maybe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Boot Camp Fitness

Several weeks ago our running club, iRUN, was invited to participate in Tactical Fitness & Bootcamp training session offered by Fred Alvarado III. He's a former Marine and law enforcement officer, in other words, the dude's a bad ass.

We began by doing some group stretching (if you’re a regular reader, you know I really dislike stretching) led by Fred and his awesome assistants. Once we were nice and stretched, we were divided into 2 teams.

The 1st challenge involved about 50 orange mini-traffic cones. We were told that 1 team was supposed to knock the cones over while the other team had to place them upright. Oh yeah, if you were the team knocking them over, you couldn’t use your feet. At the end of the 2 minutes, which ever team had the most cones knocked over/still standing was the winner. Let me tell you - this was harder than it sounds.

Little did I know that this was only the beginning, I should have known I was in for a butt kicking...

The rest of the workout consisted of timed stations - similar to a circuit training.

We worked out using: a speed/agility ladder, crunches, tractor tire, barbell, push-ups and some combination of a bear crawl using dumbells (don't ask me to explain further because I cannot).

I have never worked out so hard and had so much fun.

I'm a runner, and I consider myself in pretty good shape, but Fred took it to another level. It was an extremely tough but FUN workout. Beginner or advanced - it's for anybody and everybody.

Do you have what it takes?

I just happen to have a free week (3 x 1 hour sessions) of Tactical Combat Fitness to give away. Yes, absolutely free. Comment & subscribe to my blog and I'll randomly pick a winner from those that do so.

What the heck - I prefer comments on my blog, but you can comment on the fb link & be eligible to win.

**Sorry folks, this giveaway is limited to people that live in the RGV.**

Sunday, August 26, 2012

20 (miles) : The Magic Number

"If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them."

                                                                             ~ Christopher McDougall

After having gone back to work this past week (after the entire summer off), I was really looking forward to this weekend...I had a long run scheduled - a 20 miler.

There's something magical about 20 miles. Maybe it's the number 20...nice & even. I've always loved a run of this distance, and I don't think I'm the only one.

I was a little worried, though, heading into Saturday. I was still fatigued from my 14 mile bike commute to work (what was I thinking, doing that a few days before my long run?). I also did not eat very well the last few days leading up to the weekend. The last couple of days I felt like I was (as Jackson Browne sings) running on empty. Finally, I hadn't slept very well lately, but what else is new?

But, I got it done.

I ran the 1st 7 miles with some of our running group, iRUN RGV. The next 3 miles I ran with my blood brother, David Z. The next 10 miles were my "me" time. The dreaded (by some) solo run.

I love running with my running friends. The fun, the zaniness, the jokes and the comaraderie. Just as much as I enjoy running with every single 1 of them, I also sometimes enjoy running by myself.

I'm sure I'm not the only 1 that feels running is therapeutic, especially, during a long run. The feeling afterwards is like no other - physically AND mentally. The endorphins. The fatigue. The clear mind.

It's incredible the things that went through my head during my run: what I was going to do this weekend, this coming week, how will my son do in school this year, how will my school year be, etc.

Running alone gives me time clear my head. I use this time to think about what is bothering me (yes, some things bother me). And you know what? After my run, it all felt better.

Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tour De McAllen / Edinburg

I’d decided to ride my bike to work at least once a week…ok, maybe every couple of weeks. I moved a couple of months ago closer to work, only 14 miles each way – totally doable. I should mention I am a rookie. I have a 7 year old mountain bike that cost me approximately $150 at Sports Authority – it’s not the best bike, but it it's not the worst 1 either. 

Today was THE day. My bike was ready, and, more importantly, I was ready.

Last night, I looked over my checklist: headlamp (plan was to wear it around my chest with the light facing behind me), gloves, helmet, clothes in my backpack, water, phone, wipies, deodorant  – check. I was pretty confident I was prepared for every and any emergency.

I decided to leave 2 hours earlier (6am) than I had to be there. This would give me enough time to deal with traffic (there was none) and hygienically “compose” myself at work.

The ride itself was very serene: very little traffic, no dogs and no mishaps. The perfect dark & cloudy morning. Perfect opportunity to...just think as I rode. 

I wanted the commute to be a workout since I wasn’t planning on running today. I didn’t want an easy slow ride, but at the same time, I didn’t want a sprint to work either. Besides, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect physically - would I be sore all day? Would I stink all day? Would I be sweaty all day? Yes, no and no.  

I averaged 5 minute miles the entire way while working up a pretty good sweat. Early on, I could see the sweat glistening on my arms - I knew it was quickly becoming a good workout. 

I made it to work in 1 piece. And just in time: it started raining as soon as I walked inside the building. Just a quick unexpected shower (note to self: check the weather forecast next time).

Finding out that the coach’s restroom shower head is actually functional - priceless. A quick shower and presto!!!

There are several things I learned for the next time because there WILL be a next time:

     1.  Work clothes should be in a plastic bag inside my backpack. The sweat went through my  pack and got them damp (fortunately, I threw them in the dryer at work).
     2.  While my headlamp as a back light worked, I really need to get some of those flashing lights for the back and a light for the front of my bike.
     3.  It’s a good idea to have wipies, soap, towel and deodorant at work. This, being my 1st time, I carried all these items in my backpack.

There are also several things I need to learn for the next time:

     1.  When stopped at a traffic light and there are no cars (since it was early in the a.m.), do I stop? Do I go? I assume the same laws that apply to motor vehicles apply to bicyclists.
     2.  Is it possible to add a cup holder to my bike? I missed my cappuccino this morning for fear   of being late to work late.
     3.  I wonder if I can fill my camelback with coffee???

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Headsweats - Velocity Visor

When I was asked to do a review of the Velocity Visor, I was a little hesitant. I’m a cap guy - always have been.  I’ve never  worn a visor before, but there's a first time for everything, right?

When I got the visor in the mail, I opened it and immediately put it on and checked myself out in the mirror.  Yes, I'm a little vain, but aren't we all? I was still a little unsure, but ready to give it a try.

I’ve used it on 2 runs, and it's nice: lightweight, coolmax fabric, adjustable velcro closure and terry cloth inseam.

Both days that I used the velocity visor the temperatures were between 98 & 100, and the humidity was South Texas brutal (the heat index chart should have a 'South Texas Brutal' section). This is where its best feature came in handy:  the terry cloth really absorbed all the sweat from my head and kept it from going into my eyes.

It'll take a while to get used to the sun hitting the exposed top of my head, but, in fairness, I have a buzzcut, and I always run with a cap - so its never really been exposed to direct sunlight.

It's not uncommon for me to pour water over my head/cap mid-run, so getting it wet was another concern of mine. Not to worry - I ran it under the water to "clean it out," and it looks as good as new.

The only thing stopping me from wearing the velocity visor on a regular basis is the size.  It was a tad too small for my big head, even with the adjustable velcro. I should mention that I wear my caps loose, because the slightest snug fitting cap gives me a headache, so maybe that was part of the problem - I wanted it too loose.

Nevertheless, I'm going to put it in my regular headwear rotation, and, you never know: it might just become one of my faves.