Monday, July 31, 2017

Unplugged in Utah...

As I wait here at the Las Vegas airport to return to "reality", I'm reminiscing about this amazing past week that we spent in Utah and the surrounding area. Joshua (who is next to me asleep - as we wait for our flight back to McAllen) and I had a really enjoyable time.

We spent the past week exploring/enjoying/hiking Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon and Utah.

We stayed at a hostel for a week (an amazing and inexperience option/experience, and yes, I saw the movie) and a cabin in the Grand Canyon for a few days.

I'm slowly trying to ween Joshua from being glued to his cell phone. The 2 days in the Grand Canyon were the best. There was ZERO reception. No tv. No phone. No radio. No nothing. Needless to say, he wasn't a happy camper, but you know what? He survived. We ended up going for a hike along the Grand Canyon, taking a nice leisurely stroll in the Kainab National Forest, enjoying the sound of the loudest thunderstorm with ear-shattering thunder, we talked (remember that novel concept? People actually talking to each other), played board games and (the best part) filling out and personalizing post cards we'd bought all week. Personally, I think that was my highlight.

This was a great week.

I'm out...gotta wake up the kid, the flight will board soon.
Vibrant red at Antelope Canyon. 

Hiking at Zion. 

Buffalo just outside the Grand Canyon at the Kainab National Forest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I Just Simply Had Coffee...

I can barely move from the soreness, right now, maybe that's why I'm feeling a little introspective.

I could tell you how great our mountain trail run was this weekend, go on and on about how the views were amazing, how fun it was hanging out in a primitive cabin, etc. Trivial (in the grand scheme of things) stuff, but I won't.

My best experience happened this morning - breakfast.

Our entire group of about 20 had breakfast in a "restaurant" earlier today. I didn't eat because it was a bit early, and I usually just get by with coffee for breakfast. While everybody ordered breakfast, I simply had coffee.

This "restaurant" was in an amazing tiny tiny town named San Antonio de la Alazanas. In reality, it was a family's home. Their living room had about 7 tables where we sat. The front door was open. I mean wide open. The family's mom and dad took everybody's order. Once the orders were placed, I could see the lady making gorditas. I hadn't heard of the slapping of the dough/flour since my grandmother would make them for me. She was walking furiously back and forth multi tasking in the kitchen. The whole while, her husband was refilling our mugs with coffee making sure we were ok. At one point, we suspect he even left to go get more eggs for our group (we saw him walking back in with a bag a while later).

When I went to the restroom to wash my hands, I walked through the rest of their home to get to it. On my way there, I basically had a tour of their home. My only thought was on how everything, nowadays, seems to be about more more more, while they're content with less than what we have.

It's the little things that I take for granted. This family was, I'm guessing, very poor, but very happy. Probably barely making a living. Getting by until a group of people like us are doing the weekend warrior thing running and passing by and decide to stop for breakfast.

I drank my cafe de oya (coffee with cinnamon)...I just simply had coffee, and you know what? It was the best coffee I've EVER had.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I just have to brag on my new running toy. It was time for a new running belt, so I bought the Agile 250 Belt Set yesterday at Valley Running Co. It included an 8 ounce soft or collapsible flask.

I have an old spi belt that I received several years ago at a marathon expo. It's still in good condition, but it's a struggle to pack in there a couple of gels, S caps, tp and other essentials.

I was able to use it on a run this morning. I was just a tad worried because it is quite a bit bigger than my old one. It has to be bigger to be able to include a full 8 oz flask in there. My current spi belt bounces when I fill it, and it's smaller. I didn't want this "bigger" belt to bounce. Fortunately, there was no bounce.

I am not sure if it's designed to fit loosely, but I decided to fit it a bit loose, because I was afraid of the dreaded chafe. Not only was there no bounce but also zero chafing. It stayed securely in place for the entire run. It was able to hold 4 gels and the full flask securely, and there was still plenty of room for more. Plenty.

Full disclosure: On longer runs, you'll probably need a handheld as well since 8 oz is probably not enough hydration. I was able to use the belt with the flask while running with a handheld. Towards the end of my run, I was able to ditch the handheld and only run with the belt and flask.

Super comfortable, affordable (since you're getting the belt AND flask) and, as always, Salomon quality is the best. I would strongly recommend it to anybody and everybody.

Friday, May 12, 2017

It Was A Great Day!!!

Earlier today, I watched my son, Joshua, graduate with an Associate's Degree from South Texas College. Pretty proud day for a dad.

4 or 5 years ago, I wasn't even looking this far ahead. We had bigger problems to deal with. Graduating high school wasn't even something we were focused on.

Joshua began using or experimenting, whatever you choose to call it, with illegal substances. I'll spare you the details, but he'd be under the influence at school and when I'd pick him up. I couldn't believe this was happening IN school, but that's another blog entry that I'll never write.

The substance abuse progressed to the point that he had to go to the Alternative Campus. I think they called it the Dream Academy at that point. No matter what you call it, I knew how it was in there, and I didn't want him in there, but there was nothing I could do.

It became such a problem that he was placed in-patient for several months in the Corpus Christi area. It was a very tough place for him to be and for myself and his mom to see him. We'd only get a couple hours on Saturdays and Sundays to see him. While there, he started talking to a counselor. He's always been a pretty introverted shy kid, but his Counselor was able to get him to open up.

Through this Counselor, I found out many things about myself. He told me that Joshua was pretty angry with me. The way I raised him. The pressure. The way I'd get upset easily at him. The yelling. The list went on and on. What bothered me the most was that he'd even considered hurting himself. That was heartbreaking to hear.

How could I have patience and not yell at the kids I see all day, yet, my own son, it didn't seem to be a problem?

Upon his discharge from the in-patient hospital, we both made a comittment to go to counseling. Joshua an aftercare type counseling and me...well, a parenting of the recovering child type class. A small part of me was in denial that I needed it, but if me going, made Joshua go also, it would be a win win for both of us.

We went for 2 years until Joshua turned 18 and decided he was done with it. He said he didn't want to go and that he'd learned his lesson. I was skeptical but he'd just turned 18, and things seemed well at school.

I encouraged him to do well in school, but when I'd see him stressing about grades or state tests, I'd tell him, "I hope you do well, but if you don't, It's not the end of the world. Relax. So what?" That seemed to ease his mind quite a bit. If you can't get into a school you want because your schores are low, so what? It's your call: try again, travel, take some time off, work. Nevermind that I was telling my own son, the opposite of what we are supposed to tell kids, but that worked for me and him.

5 years later, he's earned his Associates Degree in Criminology and starts in the Fall at UTRGV. I'm very proud of the young man he's become. And, most importantly, he's made me work on being more understanding and patient in my private life just like in my professional life.

I just wanted to share that with you guys. It was a great day!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bandera 100k 2017

I usually put pressure on myself to finish any run I'm doing. This year was slightly different. A friend of mine, Shane, from New Mexico had agreed to drive in all the way from there to pace me. I kept telling myself "I'm not making him drive all the way here to not have him run." He'd told me he was doing a 100k in the mountains in a couple of weeks, and was looking forward to a nice little 50k training run. The pressure. The pressure.

We met in Bandera the night before when the temps were in the 20s. I don't think I've ever run in temps that cold.

In the morning, the temps were in the high teens I think, but "let's do this" I told myself.

It was time to start...

Loop 1:  
I met a couple of frunners right before the race, but once they told me what their goal pace was, I decided to back off. I didn’t want to run with them and get “caught up” in the excitement and end up starting too fast.
The last several Bandera races that I’ve run, I’ve tended to start off feeling flat and sluggish. This was on my mind the days leading up to it. I tried to get extra rest, eat extra well, extra everything to avoid it. Luckily, whatever it was, it worked.
I was a little surprised how well I felt during this loop. The climbs were tough. Really tough, but I expected that. I don’t feel the cold weather affected me. I was pretty well bundled up but not too bulky.
My only concerned happened at the 1st aid station when I couldn’t locate my drop bag. My gells! My Rocktane!!! My tp!!! The awesome aid station volunteers had no answers for me, but I tried not to be a diva about it. Luckily, I had packed extra gells (and tp) in my vest. “Don’t panic!” I kept telling myself.
When I got to the next aid station that was supposed to have my 2nd drop bag, it was not there again. Now, it was time to panic. I had the same things there, plus, my headlamp for the 2nd loop. Several other runners that heard me, offered to loan me an extra headlamp they had later later. I appreciated their concern, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be running with them for the next 10 or so hours to be able to borrow it.
I usually have to pack my own nutrition because I have a pretty weird/weak stomach which can’t stomach much of the aid station goodies. Luckily, I was able to use my vest gels and felt ok. At this point, I’d had about 7 gels. That’s about twice my limit before I start getting nauseous.
I finished the 1st loop at around 7:30. I’d given myself between 6:30 and 7:30 to finish. Right on track.
As soon as I came in, I saw my buddies, David and Joel and told them my drop bags were missing. Fortunately, we found them at the start, and they promised to drop them off.

Loop 2: 
After about 15 minutes, I picked up my pacer, Shane, and began the next loop.
I was looking forward to dark because the warm aid station food hits the spot when it’s cold. It didn’t disappoint: cheese toast, quesadillas, ramen soup, mash potatoes…
I told my pacer to just keep moving, and I’d try to follow. We came across Nancy at this point whose good no-nonsense attitude can be contagious. She told me she didn’t like pacers because “she doesn’t like anybody to tell her what to do” but she’d try to stay with us. I’m glad she stayed with us for the next 30 miles.
Shane kept us moving and reminding us to take in calories. We’d take no more than a couple minutes at each aid station, so we wouldn’t get too cold. The take off from each aid station was pretty brutal. It’d take a couple miles to get warmed up.
The climbs seemed easier on the quads this time around. Maybe I needed a 31 mile warm up. Who knows.

We finished the 2nd loop right at 10 hours. My A goal was to finish close to 14 hours, B goal was to get it done under 17. In the end, it just wasn’t in the cards, but I’m ok with that.