Thursday, November 20, 2008

San Antonio R&R

Doin' The Expo

Wheh… We made it! You may think I’m talking about a full weekend that included a couple of days of expo’ing and a marathon, but really I am talking about getting all the kids ready for and over to grandma and grandpa’s last Friday morning. That’s a crazy process that I believe makes trading on the stock exchange floor look a little humdrum. But as I mentioned, we made it and got them all over there (except for Hope, who we took with us to San Antonio), AND most of them even had a change of clothing for the following couple of days – Excellent! I know if Joy reads this (which is likely), she will be shaking her head, thinking that I don’t know the half of it. But, I’m there… I witness the craziness... and as much as I try to avoid getting sucked in, it STILL happens. So, I DO think I am qualified to talk on the matter! (Though I recognize that Joy is like Supermom to the children and me!)

Anyhow, we got to the marathon expo on Friday morning and got our both all set up, finishing about 5 minutes before the doors opened to the masses seeking to get their number. As far as expos go, this was a pretty big one. Plus, I had never been in the Alamodome before, so that was cool. When Joy ran her first marathon (Detroit), the marathoners finished in Tiger Stadium. It was a great set-up that I think could be pulled off for this marathon as well - that would be pretty awesome, I think.

Anyway, I don’t mean to complain, but expo days can be long. I guess it just goes to prove that even talking about something you love to talk about can get old when you say the same things over and over… over over again and then once or twice more… repeating every 10 minutes or so. Plus, besides being on your feet all day, you’re lucky if you get nachos for lunch. By the end of an expo day, you really don’t feel all that different than say, passing mile 22 in a marathon. Seriously. (Except that you don't get any training benefit from it.) I know I know… I really need to quit my cryin’ about this, but I’m just trying to be real. I’m all done with my whining now (smile).

What is SUPER cool, though, is seeing MANY friends that we’ve had the privilege of making through the TIR. Just so we’re clear, it is extremely encouraging (and fun) when you come by. Thanks to those of you who did! When we have TIR participants stop by (esp team captains as they know ALL about how the TIR works and we usually already have a relationship), it is like getting just the right words out on the course near the end of a race. Thanks Again!

Here are just some short bits from the expo:

• We met with and spoke with a guy named Morgan from Michigan who knew many of our old running friends up there. It turns out this guy does some filming for Michigan runner TV, so right there on the spot, he started interviewing us with camera and everything. I have enough experience with this (I have a funny story about ESPN to share sometime) to know that I will be edited in such a way to make me look like a complete and utter tool (no no… more than usual!). I can’t wait to see it!
• Sometimes, when it looked like I was holding down the fort at our expo booth, Joy was really secretly eavesdropping in super-stealth-007-spy fashion from beneath the table (yes, beneath the table), hearing every word. She happened to feeding Hope at the same time, but the above is all 100% true!
• I learned how maybe it does make sense (Markting-wise) for the TIR to have its own Facebook page. The only way it works is if people connect to it by becoming a friend. So… will you be our friend?
• We’re starting to enjoy people-watching at these expos and speculating about who are first-borns, last-borns, etc etc. It’s also funny to observe some different tendencies of men and women as they peruse about the expo. It may be similar to they go to the restroom (at least this is our hypothesis). Men seem to often prefer to go solo, take special care to avoid eye-contact at all cost, and say few words. Women go in big party-like groups, talking up a storm, and possibly hold one another’s hands.
• The incredulous double-take of the day occurred as I was going to get my nachos. I walked by a booth called “strap ‘em down”. I didn’t know what it was and didn’t think twice about it… you know, I was in search of food. On my way back, however, I see this female exhibitor who was vigorously jumping up and down. I thought it was a little odd, and then all of sudden (I guess I am really slow), it occurred to me what was happening. Yes, a woman with the right skill-set for the role was demonstrating the effectiveness of a heart-rate-monitor-looking strap towards helping a certain set of women enjoy exercise more comfortably and safely. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic to the needs of our well-endowed running sisterhood out there, but I couldn’t believe this was for real. I mean, c’mon! Perhaps I am just antiquated in some of my views, but this seemed to me to be right up there with Viagra commercials… You will never catch me singing “Vivaaa Viagra!” no matter how catchy the jingle or how enthusiastically it is sung in the commercials.
• I got to meet and talk with lots of fast people. Brian Sell (22nd in the 2008 Olympics), Melissa White, and other Hansons. I spoke with the Hansons brothers, Kevin and Keith, for a good while. I am a very big fan of what they’ve done. When Joy and I lived up in MI, we didn’t see the Hanson brothers much, but we had many mutual friends/acquaintances. Anyway, they remembered us, so I was feeling pretty proud of that! I also got to speak a bit with Dick Beardsley who may be able to come down to the TIR. Dick has the 5th fastest marathon time for an American EVER, and he is known for that great “Duel in the Sun” against Alberto Salazar in which Dick ran 2:08:53. We’ll likely have more to say about Dick as well as product called NuBound in an upcoming update. Anyway, between getting to see friends, meeting tons of people, and rubbing elbows so-to-speak with running greats, we certainly are privileged when we attend these expos!

Race Organization

I’m sure I am not going to say anything that hasn’t already been said. They got all the basics right with a minimum of snafus. I am sure the effort took extensive coordination with the city as well as with hundreds of other people / groups. Of course, there will be hassles (lines, far-away parking, etc) associated with any race this big, and it’s impossible to accurately see and plan for all that actually happens on race day. So, they deserve big kudos for such a successful first-year event! I am a slightly surprised at some of the things that they can get away with, since they are a large event organization. In some aspects, I do wonder if they are really treating their primary customer as best they could, but I am sure there are many considerations that I’m unaware of. Plus, the market is best judge in determining if they’re doing a good job, and if you look at how this one is doing relative to its competitors, the only conclusion is that they are doing a GREAT job.

Of course, I think they stole the word “Inaugural” to describe their first year race from the TIR, and the Texas Showdown is an obvious a knock-off of the Texas Throwdown… but hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? (smile)

The Race

They suggested getting on the shuttles at ~5AM. Well, Joy and I left Round Rock at 5:15AM, and I was intent on stopping at the grocery store for gummy bears. I can’t say that I was in totally the best state of mind. I had just recently told a good friend about the MANY reasons why this would NOT be a good race for me. I am sure my diatribe sounded as though it may require the race of my life to finish ahead of the course cut-off time. On top of all that, it was near freezing as we pulled out of the sub to make our way down to San Antonio.

When we got down there, Hwy 281 was packed and you never know how road closures may surprise. Fortunately, though, I felt like I knew the area well enough to be able to guess where to hop out and go over a bridge to get to the start. Time was getting short, so that’s what I did. Joy said afterwards that immediately after I left, several others did likewise (since we were at a standstill and it was ~7:15), but who knows if they were happy about it. It was about ¾ of a mile to the back of the starting crowd, and then at least another ¼ to the front corrales. I don’t know what it is that makes you choose your warm-up pace when you’re running late to a race. On the one hand, you definitely want to get there, but on the other, it’s not like you want to really run before a marathon! In any event, it was so easy to integrate into the corrale, I even had 15+ minutes to spare before the gun went off. Although a touch cool before the start, the near windless weather was about as good as anyone could hope for. Between forgetting where he was at and sending the wheelers off with a defective air-horn, it looked liked the Governor (pictured to the right) was having a tough morning. For whatever reason, I was feeling pretty chipper - Not bad timing to be thinking positively!. My friend explained after the race that it must have been putting on the bib, and I think he is right. So, from now on, I am going to wear a number for all my runs! Watch out!!!

I really liked the first 10 miles of the course. There was one little hill around 4 or 5 miles. Running by the Alamo was pretty sweet. Spectator-wise, it wasn’t Boston, New York, or Chicago, but it was really good I think… more than I expected anyway. I may have been better off to run about 10sec/mile slower for the first 10miles, but this part is mostly down a slight descent, and I was enjoying myself. It wasn’t nearly the same situation as the Houston Half where I set off foolishly.

I saw Joy and Hope twice at about mile 8.5 and 9.25. BTW, I REALLY liked the section around 9m with all the old Victorian-looking homes and the huge trees putting a canopy over the street. I don’t typically take pictures when I run, but if I had a camera on me, I would have considered doing so here (and maybe at the Alamo, too). Anyhow, in my haste to get to the startline, I had somehow forgotten to bring the gummy bears that we spent 5 minutes getting earlier. I was a little ticked at myself when I realized this, but I thought maybe Joy would remember, and wouldn’t you know it… she did (Thanks, Honey!). We traded gummy bears for a sweaty cap and mittens, and I was on my way.

After 10miles, the half marathoners turned off to finish their run, and it suddenly got a bit lonely. And, honestly, it was a bit weird when I would pass by exuberant cheering groups and the bands. I felt like saying, “It’s ok, it’s just me… in fact, feel free to turn down the volume… please”, but I think the little wave of acknowledgement (because I did appreciate them being there, noise or no noise) only spurred them on some more.

Around 15, it started turning into a little bit of work, but I felt very good about how things were going. I was feeling injury free, which was the primary goal because I want to keep the training moving forward, so I was happy about that. I may have been able to “gut it out” to ran a little faster, but whether I went to wall with it or took it somewhat easier, I was fairly certain that I would finish within a 5-minute block that I would be happy with. So, I was able to enjoy the last 8 miles a good bit more than I have in other marathons.

Steve Sisson, the founder of Rogue Training in Austin (I coach a FUN Rogue group that’s training for Austin!) and the UT women’s XC coach found a great place to be at the top of a short little hill near the 19 mile mark. Back in the day, he was just finishing out his running at UT as I was heading into college. So, I’ve always seen him as a big running bro, so-to-speak. Needless to say, he had great coachy words of encouragement, and they worked (mostly because I don’t want to run all wuss-like in front of him). At first, I thought, “Is that Steve!? Crud! Let’s pick it up and give him a high 5 so that I look good.” And, then, a little bit later, I thought the pace wasn’t so bad, and he’s right, the race was in front of me, not behind! It’s funny how a few good words can change things, and good coaches are good at this because they know where you’re at (so they know what to say), and they inspire some sort of worthy effort.

Due to the wave starts, I saw a LOT of people over the last 4-5 miles! From 22-24 miles, there were a lot of people going out on Mission Rd. as I was coming back in. So many were generous with shout outs of encouragement. It was a good choice to wear my TIR shirt (as if I’m going to choose another (smile)) because many recognized it, and many who may not have recognized it still called out “Texas!” which was pretty awesome. Then, for the last couple of miles I was finishing up with a lot Half-Marathoners.

The finish was a bit wild with all the people filling the Alamodome parking lot, but the space blankets were distributed quickly. I think most were a little less anxious about the big-crowd-hassles, just being happy to have finished. I know I was! If my weekend was a marathon, though, I have to give credit to Joy as hers must've been an ultra. She's one tough momma!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Houston Half Marathon Weekend

This past weekend was pretty full… although it would’ve undoubtedly been better with Joy, I had a great time.

Joy’s Depravity

Where was Joy? Joy was up north in Michigan visiting family (with new baby Hope) and taking in the Fall colors. She’s come a long ways since her Michigan days… sometimes even seeming more Texan than me (It’s true!). Yet, every so often she regresses and wants to visit Michigan, which is where she was born and raised, bless her heart. No one’s perfect, and well… her family… I think her family will likely remain lost up there forever. So, who am I to keep her from trying to reach out to these poor souls every once in a while?

Mr. Mom... psht..whatever!

Anyway, this meant that I would be home for 5 days with the 4 older children… ALL ALONE! (Well, I did get a good amount of help from Grandma and Grandpa over the weekend, but still…). Giant-sized Slurpees (my new recovery drink of choice) and a lot of pizza kept the children well-behaved for the most part. Except for the incredibly trying moments when I wondered how Joy keeps her wits about her during the days, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be (smile)!

Open House Party

On Saturday afternoon and into the evening, Mike and Sarah Burton, good friends of ours who we run with the most these days had a big party at their new home. They live on some land that’s about 10 minutes out of Georgetown, TX… it’s rural country, but not so far out. Anyway, besides running the practice TIR with us, Mike and Sarah were on the team Kramerica Industries for the inaugural TIR. They’re also signed up for next March. It turned out that 3 other people from their team were at the party as well! It’s very cool for us to have our vocation be wrapped tightly with the social aspect of our lives. Anyway, Mike and Sarah certainly through a great house-warming party – so much so that their home must be rather hot now!

Pre-Houston Half

I don’t regret it for a second, but I did feel that Sunday may prove to be challenging as I was leaving the Burton’s at about midnight. The plan was to go to the Houston Half Marathon, put up a pop-up tent to advertise a little, and to run the race, but I had not yet gotten around to getting all my running stuff together. Plus, things weren’t going to let up much after returning back home from the event as I had a fair amount of cleaning to do before Joy arrived back home (as far as cleanliness goes, the kids are exposed to a slightly different style when Joy is away, but that’s how I roll). Anyway, I got to bed around 1am with the plan to wake up and leave for Houston at about 2:15-2:30… Decent training for the TIR, I felt!

Arriving to the starting area with all my race stuff before 6am was a small victory. A older gentleman (whose name I did not get) was extremely helpful in getting my pop-up tent set up. With 2 people, it is a one-minute exercise, while it takes 1 person about 5 minutes with a good amount of effort. This assistance was a very nice touch by the Striders. Jon Walk (Team Captain of the Battling Bloggers of the Texas Republic) was also a HUGE help in getting me squared away with getting into the race. Thanks Jon! It was also fun to see friends, like Bill Dwyer (Team Captain of the Texian Road Warriors), who I hadn’t seen in a while. I love the pre-race atmosphere that has all the eager anticipation of the race, and this scene was definitely a good one! People busily warming up all over, having fun talking about race plans and expectations… Very awake and enthusiastically anxious before the sun is up… what’s not to like?!

With all the set-up and stuff, I did not get around to my normal pre-race routine. Things went so smoothly, that I might’ve been able to. But, partly because I was prepared… perhaps too ready… to not be able to warm-up, etc. I found myself getting the new-fangled timing strip on my shoe and my shoes very shortly before the race. This was cool with me, though, because my plan was to have the first loop be very measured so that I would run the race intelligently and have a better time on the last 2 loops (The course was a 3-loop affair, primarily on Allen Pkwy, which Joy and I know because we may have driven on it at a speed that may have exceeded the posted limit last March.). I mean, after running for almost 20 years, I should know a thing or two about racing, no?

Setting off on a race is the best! You’re excited, you’re hopeful, you know you’re going to get to see very objectively the results of your training… and you’ve got all these people around both with and against you in the best of ways. In this case, I got to catch up just for a bit with Alex Moore, and old friend from Austin, and we were going to get to see the sun rise as we ran. It’s all awesome… In my opinion, there’s a very short list of things that make one feel more alive!

The Race

The gun was off and the group I was initially running with took out very conservatively, which was great for me, you would think. However, I knew that this would only last so long before they really would start rolling (at a pace that I should most definitely not attempt). And, that began to happen at about a half-mile into the race. Of course, since I coach and have a fair amount of experience, I knew to lay off that pace and to stick to the plan and run my own “warm-up” pace, right? Ha! Heck no, to think that would be to forget that I’m very much an idiot more times than I’d like to admit – like this time!

The very first mile split (after an easy first half mile) was a little faster than I was fairly sure that I couldn’t maintain for the race, and I ALREADY was getting the bio-feedback that was hinting that this was indeed the case. But, did I back off like any reasonable person would do - I mean seeing how there was only 12 more miles to go? NOPE! I continued to press on like an absolute dreamer who was unable to accept reality. The second mile passed, and now I definitely had the internal warnings going off in red alert mode. But, “hey, let’s just continue off this cliff,” I evidently must have thought. Somewhere amongst this time, I learned after the fact that I had been running alongside Gabe Rodriguez (except he was running intelligently). Gabe and I had run together once or twice about a decade ago, and I hear he and his wife are now having babies, too (Congrats, Gabe!). I would have liked to have chatted... and I am sure at this junction of the race he could have done so. My hyperventilory efforts would have been majorly uncomfortable for the both of us, though, so all things considering, it was probably for the best that neither one of us realized who our “competitor” was.

By 4 miles… only 9+ miles to go… and near the end of the first loop which I planned to run at a nice sensible pace, I was already being forced somewhat by the physical-me to slow down. If the physical-me had a brain, I am sure it would have said to the mental-me at this moment, “You Dilweed – we need to switch places!” ANYWAY, in case you’ve never had the experience, let me tell you that it is always BETTER and MORE FUN to run evenly or with negative splits! When you don’t, not only will you run more slowly overall, but it is more difficult and uncomfortable to hang on.

Near mile 5, Bill Dwyer was cheering people on and taking pictures. I had a rather severe moment of wussiness at this time. Immediately after he took my picture (to the right - wow, what a poser I am), I thought, “ There you go, you’ll have proof that you were in the race. You can stop now.” What?!? What is this?!? You see, if you go out too fast, you get worse, and go from being an idiot to being certifiably insane and irrational. Fortunately, that moment passed and cooler heads prevailed… or something like that.

Besides the self-imposed near-torture, miles 6-10 were somewhat uneventful. Obviously, I continued to slow, which sucks. At least when I was going up the underpass hills, I felt pretty confident because of all the training I’ve been doing pushing Trek and Hope (our two youngest) in the double-jogger. While a lot of miles pushing the jogger may not be ideal, it has been a very fun season because they are such good riders! They NEVER fuss/complain when going for a run – in fact, they like it a lot, so that’s been fun for everyone in the household I think. Anywhoo, pushing the jogger is a little like perpetually running up a slight incline. So, while the hills in the half obviously required more effort from everyone, I felt ok with them.

Another cool aspect about 6-10 is that we were starting to see a lot of runners across the way. Since I was wearing my TIR shirt, and since I’ve met quite a few people and quite a few team captains at the expos and whatnot, I was the recipient of several shout outs of encouragement. I know I saw Mark Staudt (Team Captain of Slick Your Hair Back and Run), Mark Berman (from Fort Bend Fit and last year’s Tight Butts and Sweaty Nuts and this year he is a Team Captain), and of course, Jon Walk who was all over. There were others who I unfortunately missed. Nonetheless, it was MUCH appreciated – Thanks! While the TIR is for runners from all over Texas, I must say that the Houston community is undoubtedly exceptional.

In every race, even if you’ve run tactically poor, you get to the “Only moment”, which in itself a victory. The “Only” moment is when you shift from saying to yourself something like “6 miles to go!” or “5 miles to go” as you pass the mile markers to “ONLY 5k to go!!” The “only” part makes a big difference, and it is here when you know you’re going to at least make it. I did finally reach this point at the 10mile mark. Mind you, it wasn’t like I was going to resume a good pace, but at least I was starting to smell the finish and anticipate about what my finishing time would be. Obviously, I wasn’t thrilled with the way I executed, or with how I was feeling, but the “Only Moment” is/was still a beautiful thing.

I was passed by a couple in the last few miles, which I do like very much. I was also asked by a concerned competitor if I was feeling ok. Grrrrr. Again, the fault was all mine for perfectly sacrificing myself as easy chum in the water. However, I look forward to improving and returning the passing favor! (smile)

Needless to say, the 13th mile marker was a welcomed sight! I did have enough left to pick up the pace a little, and as poorly as some aspects of the race went, I was satisfied that at least I gave it a good effort. Racing NEVER gets old (at least to me, it doesn’t). I have yet to run the perfect race and I always look forward to what the next one will bring. The good thing about a race like this one is that it should be pretty easy to learn from and to improve upon. And, it was MUCH better to go out to quickly (and pay for it) in a half marathon than it would be to do so in a marathon (and I’m planning on running San Antonio (couple of weeks) and Houston (mid-Jan)).

Twilight Zone Time

Now… for the Twilight Zone episode of the race! This part FREAKED me out for about an hour! For some quick background, I have been fortunate (I guess) in that I have never really needed water that much during most events. Obviously, I run better when I remain hydrated day-to-day. But, in 5 and 10Ks, I never consider drinking water or some other sports drink. If it is very hot, I may pour some on my head. This all changes, though, in the marathon… a good bit of water (and glycogen) becomes necessary to make it through one of those well. So, while not needing these in the shorter races has been nice, it has resulted in that I don’t get much good practice for doing so in the marathon. I don’t really need these in a half, but what better opportunity am I going to get to practice this skill? So, before the race, taking and drinking some water while running was a goal. However, as you might guess, since I was tired, I decided to forego this experience, but not before some heavy-duty internal battling. At one point, I recall specifically thinking to myself, “You know you’re going to have to learn to drink water sometime!” And, now for the twilight zone part… IMMEDIATELY after finishing, this woman volunteer (I would venture to guess that she was in her early-60s) says to me, “You need to learn how drink water!” What’s this?! How in the WORLD did she know what I was thinking? Was she spectator who was nearby when I actually said what I was thinking (PLEASE , I hope I have not taken to talking to myself outloud!)? And, even if she did hear me, how would she know that I didn’t drink any water later? Was this like some sort of angel and some sort of special message in which I am going to land in some hospital in San Antonio unless I heed this way-too-specific advice? Suffice to say, I was amused, baffled, and as I said, FREAKED. Five seconds after that, I saw Mike Lucas of Luke’s Locker (Thanks, Luke’s for your generous contributions to the running community!) and I really should’ve talked a bit with Mike, but I was still bewildered by the water-prophet.

A good while later, after I had changed clothes (having more than one TIR shirt), I was putting all of my stuff into my bag, and the plastic bag (compliments of Russell Meyer, Team Captain of The Road Killers, champions of the inaugural TIR… thanks for the bag, Russ!) that contained my sweaty clothing that I had already wrung out was pretty heavy. It was then that I realized that I was so sweaty (I can perspire a little (quite the understatement)) that the mystery water-woman thought that I was drenched from pouring water all over myself from drinking attempts, and THAT is why she said that I needed to learn to drink water. At least I think so…. Maybe if I do have serious issues at San Antonio (and I probably shouldn’t even be saying this), then it will be twilight zone revisited.

By the way, do people under 25 years know what the Twilight Zone is?

Race Organization Backing and Post Race Wrap-up

Well, this race report has kind of gotten out of hand, so I will unfortunately be cruising here to the finish of this blog post. I must give serious props to the new race directors of the Houston Half Marathon, Stacy Brock Stepler and Lisa Ruthven! They clearly did a great job. The same goes for of all the Striders, the President Whitney La Rocca, and all the volunteers they had down there. Being in the place I am at now, I think I have a pretty good eye from both a runner’s and an RD’s perspective. There were a lot of aspects in which they went above and beyond and a lot of potential issues that they gracefully negated. They made for a fantastic team!

I hate to gloss over this next part as it is one of my favorite parts of being involved with the TIR… and that is getting to know many of you! When you see us at an expo or event, please come by… we thoroughly enjoy it. The TIR makes for a easy ice breaker and I do enjoy talking about it (except for a little while after Mid-March (smile)), but we don’t have to talk about that… let’s talk about running, racing, or whatever you’re up to! I know I will be leaving off many who I either did not learn their names, or who just stopped for a very short visit, but this past weekend, I got to talk to Soren Hvidbjerg from the Energy Solutions International team who was wearing his TIR shirt (thanks Soren!), Adam Johnson (Team 1), Anna Helm (President of Harra), Veronica Hoge (Texas Tenderloins), Alicia (who’s going to be a new Team Captain on a new team from Baytown – Awesome!), Paige Krekeler (Texas Tenderloins), Joe Castenada (Houston Striders on a Mission), Andreia Spencer ( – a new team), Paul Cooley (Team Captain of Houston Masters), Super-TIR Volunteers and Striders Julie and Bill Rutledge, as well as several mentioned earlier in this post. I had a great time! Thanks for your friendliness.

Well, I was able to successfully tidy things up again (at least on the surface level) before picking up Joy (who was certainly a sight for sore eyes, and not just because she was going to save me from the little crazies we’ve been given) from the airport. It was like a TIR epilogue – lite … a great weekend all the way through.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Further Indoctrination Into The World Wide Web

One thing that has been interesting and has broadened our horizons a bit as we’ve worked on the relay is that we have definitely worked with, met, or otherwise been exposed to some REALLY interesting people. No No… I’m not talking about YOU specifically (maybe)… I’m talking about those other people! (smile)

One favorite pastime of mine is to see who is linking to our event (which, by the way, anytime you can put on your blog, a messageboard post, or anywhere else, please go for it! We like people who do that a lot!). When someone clicks on the link, we’re able in most cases to track back to see where the link was left, what context it is in, etc.

One time, someone linked to us on a messageboard that was for new moms. It was unbelievable how active this messageboard was, and although I must recommend that the fellas not subject themselves to that site, I have to admit I did feel somewhat devious as I lurked about that place myself (only for a few minutes until it was clear I needed to go). We’ve been linked on a site about college football. And, we’ve been linked on a peculiar forum devoted to bass fishing. As they say about this world… it takes all kinds… and you can definitely see that on the world wide web.

Today, I may have happened upon a Texas Independence Relay link in simultaneously the most interesting AND the most mundane place. There is this guy, Dave, from Ashland, Virginia, who “produces” a weekly podcast where he essentially takes you out on his 5 mile run. His site is So, for the entire “show”, you get to listen to Dave non-stop provide his thoughts on running, or whatever else he’s thinking about at the moment. I guess you could say it’s similar to this blog here (smile), or like the talkative runners you may run with on occasion. You’re on the run with him for about 25 minutes. He talks while breathing a bit heavily at times from his running, and he evidently runs on pavement and/or is a heavy footstriker as you can clearly hear the pit-pat of his footsteps. Then for the last 5-10 minutes he answers emails with somewhat hokie music playing in the background. I’m going to send an email and try to get on next week’s show!

I thought to myself more than once, “What the heck am I doing! If I continuously nod my head throughout the program, can I log the mileage, too? And, is there any way I can have the last 30min of my life back?” Sorry, Dave. I mean, it may be interesting to family and or Ashland locals, but at points, it sure seems to be a lot about nothing.

Then, again, I found it strangely fascinating because you actually start to feel like you’re getting to know Dave, who might as well be your neighbor, as you’re on the run with him. He’s got a marathon coming up on November 11. He’s run 4 or 5, but he maintains a healthy respect for it. Both his Dad and his wife runs. He’s nearing 40, and he’s even thinking of doing a 40mile ultra in celebration. He carries on for awhile about not being able to run faster. (As an aside, while speed may not be his natural gift, it is hard not want to scream through the computer, “It may be slightly easier to run more quickly, Dave, if you weren’t talking the whole time!” (smile)) A little bit later, he comments about how he sure doesn’t want to think about someday not being able to run, but that he supposes that day is coming. In the end, for some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I kinda liked Dave in a weird podcast-listener kind of way even though Dave isn’t from Texas. He’s genuine, and he even had a sign-off like an old small town radio show that I liked, which was, “This is AshlandDave,.. run to the finish and then keep on running.”

So, here is my email to Dave, which should hopefully be on his Episode #34 (It will be interesting to see if he gets that I am jesting, OR if I will be one of the "interesting" people he's met online!):

Dear AshlandDave,

Thanks for linking the Texas Independence Relay onto your site, and for mentioning the event during the answering-email portion of your #33 episode. However, I must say that I found the extent of your coverage of the TIR to be somewhat lacking. You mentioned it for a total of 3 seconds within a 37min podcast. This is HUGELY disappointing because anyone knows that a race commemorating Texas’ independence is de facto the greatest race in the world. This is an uncontestable fact. Your listeners are getting ripped off if you do not provide as much coverage of this as possible! Indeed you should have entire episodes devoted solely to the TIR! I suppose you may be excused THIS time.

Seriously, it really is a wonderful event because of the people who do it! I am not sure if you and your team are ready for the Texas Independence Relay (this is what we call a “Come and Take It” challenge), but it can certainly be a stretch goal to set your sights on!

Also, I take exception to the title of your blog, Running in the Center of the Universe. This would be an appropriate title if you’re running in Texas… but I don’t believe you are.

Finally, Dave, I wish you all the best in your upcoming November 9th marathon! Keep up the good work in your running as well as in your podcasting!


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blogging - Take 2! Gonzales' Come & Take It Festival

Well, since it’s only been… what?… 5 months?!… is that all?!?!... I think it is safe
to say that I am a bloggosphere-failure. That sucks. First, I hate failing. And, second, I hate failing publicly even more (sad, but true). And, third, I’ve thought about it and I do want to be a blogger! Some aspects of blogging, though, are not ideally suited to my strengths… well, duh! First of all, I tend to be a little extreme in that I am either all in or not in at all. I have witnessed some blogs that have 6-7 (or more) entries a day. Interestingly, that would probably be my style, but that's not going to happen as it would just take too much time. I’d like to consistently post something every 2-3 days like most “normal” bloggers, and that is going to require a certain type of discipline that is difficult for me.

You’re probably wondering (and rightly so), “ Ok…not sure what any of this has to do with running or the TIR”! The point that I am getting at is that even though my first attempt at blogging was an abject failure, that doesn’t mean I’m done trying. Not at all, my friends. If we took that approach with our running, how many of us would be runners at all?! I know for myself that there have been MANY times where I have “fallen off the wagon” in my running and not run a single time for months on end. I don’t consider this a good thing. But, sometimes you just have to let the past go and not let it get in the way of the “new” you! Then, when you do decide to get started with the running again, it’s just awful. The runs don’t feel good, and you wonder how you ever had time for them. It usually takes me a few different attempts to start – each time shaking off the past. But, then somehow it takes! While it is totally a personal thing (you don’t a PR to show for it), these re-commitments to running are amongst the sweetest of victories! And, that is how I am going to approach the blogging. Yes, the first attempt would appear humorous to a real blogger, but that’s ok…here we go… round two for me and the blogging habit!

Already I can tell that if I were to try to “catch up” from where I left off, I’d be writing a book. That would be like running a 20 miler for my first run back, which may not be a good idea. So, perhaps later I will address the topics of:

1) An old veteran’s attempt at a high schooler’s stomach
2) Baby Hope and the all-you-can-eat buffet
3) Lone Star Relay’s initial consideration of a couple of new events
4) Training for San Antonio, my first marathon in a few years
5) Coaching a group of marathon aspirants
6) TIR developments / improvements!

For now, though, I will just leave off with what we did this weekend, which was attend Gonzales’ Come and Take It Festival! It was a great time for the whole family that I highly recommend.

We started with the 5K, which ran through their Independence Park and alongside a golf course. Although it didn’t have the BIG race things like big start and finish lines, it had all the elements I value most… a good and accurate course, solid (but fun) competition, and 100% execution on all they advertised. The race had ~100 runners, and they did an excellent job! Joy and I were pleased to finish 2nd and 1st in the women’s and men’s races with times of 20:23 and 16:05. Both of us were satisfied with the efforts we put out, but Joy especially (IMO) has to be pleased considering she just gave birth! Regardless, the times & places were what they were, and sometimes I think it is just better to ask oneself, “Did I give a good effort?”, and if so, be happy with that - what more can you do? Then, you can ask yourself how the training has been (and if that has been consistently solid for a good long time)… and that may be the area, more than your time/place at a race, in which you may find more room to critique. In my experience, if I don’t get the race result I was hoping for, it’s much more often due to the preparation (and sometimes execution) rather than the effort.

After the race, cooling down, and the awards, we went into town and found a spot on St Louis (which the TIR Prologue runs on) to watch the parade. Maybe the Come and Take It parade didn’t have those huge blimp-ish parade floats that the Macy’s Thanksgiving and Rose Bowl Parade’s have, but beyond that, those parades had nothing on this one! In fact, I think I'd actually prefer this one. If you’ve never seen a real parade (lasting more than 10minutes), then you need to go sometime. It was over an hour long and it kept the kids (and us) riveted the entire time. Below are pictures.

After the parade, we perused about all the different vendor tents that had all things Texas for sale. Joy and the older kids did not have as much time for this as they went to see the Texas history show that Bob Burchard puts on in the Gonzales Courthouse. Bob was the fellow that gave the TIR pre-race address last year, and he does an excellent job with this show as it is both very informative and entertaining. I wished I could’ve seen it for myself, but I was on duty with the youngest 2 children.

Then, after the show, my two older boys and I did a couple of the carnival rides they have, and we all enjoyed cotton candy to boot!

Again, Barbara Hand (and all of Gonzales it seems) does a wonderful job putting on The Come and Take It Festival on the first full weekend of October every year. Completely putting aside how helpful and good they are to the TIR, they make it easy to recommend their event as they simply do a great job with it (and they have A LOT more going on, but with the kids, we couldn’t stay), and it is simply fun!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2009 TIR Marketing Postcard

I think we're close to being done with the design of this year's marketing postcard.... so what do you think? Does it look fun (enough to do the TIR justice)? Is it consistent with the rest of the TIR's marketing efforts? Could you give these to friends who are taking a look at the TIR? Let us know... we're holding off on sending this to the printer until we get some feedback. Thanks!



Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Day

Some days are really big. You know them, remember them, cherish them, and look forward to the next one. Here are some examples in rank order:

- Job promotion days
- Getting your driver’s license day
- Graduation from HS / College day
- Setting an important PR day
- Finishing the TIR day
- Your birthday – not the one’s every year, but
the actual day you entered this world
- Wedding day

You know, the kind of “These Happy Days are your’s and mine, Happy Days!”

But, then there are HUGE GINORMOUS days!!! I am pleased to announce that we have recently had one of those in our household… Trek, our youngest son (~2.5 years) HAS DECIDED TO USE THE POTTY!!!! WOOOHOOOOO!!!!!! To all of you with toddlers who are struggling right now with this difficult issue, I am sorry if it sounds as though I am insensitively gloating, but I am… you can not stifle pure exhilaration. Hang in there – your happy day is coming!

Often, happiness is partly framed by prior experience. Our first son, Austin, was not so kind to us in this particular area. We set out to train him one weekend… It was unforgettable. I won’t go into details now, but I am unable to articulate the pain and suffering endured that resulted in nothing positive. Perhaps I shouldn’t say there wasn’t any benefit. I suppose if there was a silver lining, it was that after we recovered (in just a few short years for the most part – weaker people wouldn’t have made it), we now are much more difficult to rattle. Torture simply matures in this way. And, you’ll be happy to know that Austin (almost 11) turned out to be just fine - 100% potty trained, though I did see him running to the bathroom rather awkwardly the other day. But, hey, that happens to everyone from time to time, right? Doesn’t it?

Anyway, maybe we can actually be sort of thankful for that past experience with Austin (nope… I’m not quite there yet) because it helps us appreciate with exceeding gladness the situation with Trek nearly 8 years later.

We shall celebrate this momentous occasion with ice cream or Slurpees!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Save The Date!

Yesterday marked the opening of the general registration. After the priority registration, we have 63 teams (and I am aware of more in the pipeline). I don't know about you, but I think that's a good turnout thus far... encouraging and something to be thankful for!

We decided to keep with our "Save the Date" plug (you can see a much larger picture on the Race Updates page by clicking on the one to the left). This "Save the Date" theme has a lot of possible variations in which for most of them it is a good thing that I no longer care too much about how cool I look! We openly admit that we can be rather goofy with these advertisements. In fact, I am not even sure if Joy would appreciate that I am using "we" here. I imagine several may roll their eyes with perhaps a smirk directed more at us rather than with us, but that's quite alright... as long as it's not like 70% of those who see it. The concerning thing, however, is the excessive number of ideas we've rejected for simply being TOO silly! (smile) So, with that, ANYONE reading this has a rightful place to let us know if and when we're getting just a little out of control (by all means, quote the previous sentence as your reference). Please, reign us back in quickly, if possible.

Yes, the real reason for the blog comes out on just the second posting... It is a cry for help.