Woodlands Half Marathon

This morning I toed the start line of The Woodlands (Methodist) Half Marathon. I was not sure what to expect, but the hope was I could equal or better my performance from two weeks ago at Surfside.

I have not run since Surfside in hopes my hip would get better and apparently the layoff was just what I needed.

The Woodlands puts on a great race. I was surprised we had two full lanes to ourselves for so long. And even when we finally did scale down to one lane, the lane next to us was still empty. Just plenty of space to run from beginning to almost the end.

Random Thought: I continue to be surprised by the integration of phones into running. And it is not just the pre-race, post-race, and during the race selfies. Phones are also running coaches now – “You are one minute behind; you can do it.” By the way, I don’t think that person did it. I certainly do not want our computer overlords talking to me via a phone while I am running. Hence, I may have been the only person not carrying a phone. Just rocking it old school and running happy.

And a good run it was. A little tightness here and there, but nothing that bothered me. I ran a negative split, running the second half two minutes faster than the first half. Finishing time (still unofficial) = 1:58:08.

Honestly, I was surprised I kept the pace I did throughout the race. The weather probably helped with temperatures in the mid-40’s at the start and only rising to the low-50’s toward the end. We also had a decent breeze on the long leg back that kept things cool.

The race ends on the The Woodlands Waterway, which is nice, however the waterway path is relatively narrow, even for the end of a race. All of us, who were nicely spread out, were suddenly jammed together.

Not fun to say the least (I like my space). I was elbowed several times, which I didn’t hold against anyone, but was not pleasant. So I decided I would sprint to the finish. Something I don’t normally do, but I decided I didn’t want any more unintentional abuse.

Stroopwafel – my reward for a race well run. If you have never had a Stroopwafel, your life is incomplete. Please remedy this immediately. In addition to an absolutely delicious Stroopwafel, I feel I have probably earned a few brews today. Fortress Brewing, here I come!

The Driveway

My Grandfather died in May of 1997. I was able to visit the farm one final time after his death before my Grandmother sold it. My Grandfather’s death was tough as I always looked up to him and I learned so much from him. Knowing the place I had called “home” for so long would no longer be “home” was a mental blow as well. So I wrote what you can read below as a bit of therapy, if you will.

It always begins at the foot of a small hill just off Meadows road. The sky is blue with a few wayward clouds hanging in the distance. Hills on all sides and the mountains further back, a presence at all times. Maybe that is why there are only a few clouds this day; they just can’t make it over the mountains.

At the top of the driveway there are two boxes. One for mail and one for the paper. This is how it has always been and this is how it will always be.

Your first steps yield the crunching of gravel as the driveway is nothing but dirt and gravel. How much of which depends upon the time of year.

As you walk slowly down a short decline you may see a rabbit or one of the random farm kitties scurrying through the bushes. If it is early or late enough, there may be deer. There could be a snake as well, but usually not.

There are always birds. Different kinds; different noises. The pheasants waddle away before taking flight and the crows – well, the crows just watch from their perch in the trees, which move easily in the breeze.

You used to see cows, but that was another time. Now just a field of amber. The field could be green or even brown. The season dictates year after year.

The driveway stretches well over 200 yards. As you walk, you may as well know that as a kid during the summer, my Uncle Mike and I filled the holes in with gravel. I don’t know if any of the gravel I put down is left, but the memory of it is.

The grass is tall this day on both sides of the driveway. It doesn’t get mowed as often as it should. The smaller animals probably like it that way though.

If you continue your walk, about halfway down you will notice an open space to your left. There used to be a trailer there. My great-grandmother lived in it. Sometimes she was scary and sometimes she was nice. Mostly she was just old and I was too young to understand. But I always stopped when beckoned because there was normally a piece of candy in it for me.

Just past the trailer used to be a pen for turkeys. The kind you eat for Thanksgiving. Most of the animals on the farm were eventually eaten. Not necessarily for Thanksgiving either.

Continue walking and you will pass a small well house and come upon a line of bushes and trees. When you pass between them you are officially at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

My Grandfather built the entire thing himself. He started with the garage, which the whole family lived in for a couple of years until the house was completed. Since I moved around frequently as a kid, it has always been home to me. Always the same; always familiar.

But the place I have called home for 35+ years will soon be home for someone else. My Grandfather has passed on and the house and the farm are too much for my Grandmother.

My Grandfather was a good man and he was a fair man. He worked hard and believed everyone should work hard as well. When I visited the farm on vacations, regardless of the season, regardless of my age, I worked. Everybody else worked too.

My Grandfather gave me my first beer. I wasn’t three yet, to my Mother’s horror. I have enjoyed many beers with him since then. Even as a kid, despite my Mother’s pleas, he would always leave me a few sips in the can for me to finish.

My Grandfather is gone, but my memories are indelible. Important people in your life always leave something with you. Something that becomes a part of you. Something you carry on. My Grandfather carries on in my memory and in my soul.

For one final time I go back up the driveway. One last time I can look back at my youth. The driveway that shaped my life more than anything else.

A small cloud of dust settles behind me, a small change, a small difference, but carrying on just the same.

Chilling at the Surfside Beach Half Marathon

It was a rise and shine super early kind of day Saturday for a 13 mile run on the beach in Surfside, Texas.

Sunrise at Surfside – Totally worth the early drive down

I have run Surfside numerous times, including marathons, half marathons and even a 10K. Surfside is one of those races where the weather can be anything.

My first Surfside race (a marathon in 2007) the temperature was near freezing and an ill wind of over 20 mph tortured runners. Years later in 2012, myself and my fellow marathoners ran in a literal monsoon. Not a figurative monsoon mind you, but a literal monsoon that delayed the start of the half marathon for several hours.

From 2007: First race at Surfside – Mother fonkin cold!

But this Saturday brought mild temperatures (low 40’s) and an easy ocean breeze to the start line. Certainly a good day for a run on the beach.

Truth be told, there were a few things weighing on my mind prior to the start. Thursday and Friday were “bad” nights so I was tired. My left hip has been acting up recently and my half training started later than I would have hoped due to a stress fracture. That said, this was a day to put the mental and the physical issues in the back pocket and enjoy the sand and the surf.

And that I did. The race went mostly as expected. The easy breeze turned into a stiff wind just in time for the six and a half mile northeast leg, however it is like this virtually every year, so not a surprise. My hip really tightened up during this part of the race as well; however neither the wind nor my hip was much of a bother. I was too busy enjoying the crashing waves and the views of seabirds skimming above the surf in search of fish and other delicacies.

This Year’s Medal!

Mile Nine is always a joy (and in some years, a relief) as that is the turnaround and you have the wind at your back for the final four miles. I learned early on running Surfside that it is best to relax and not fight the wind as it usually pays dividends later on. Unfortunately, some of my running brethren focus too much on pace as they fight the wind and suffer the consequences; if being passed by Jamoosh is a consequence!

At the Mile Nine turnaround my pace was sitting at 9:47. Slower than anticipated, but nothing to be concerned about as the wind would be at my back. Sure enough, I took 23 seconds off my overall pace. What that means is my average pace over the last four miles was well over a minute faster than my pace for the first nine miles. Not too shabby.

Additionally, my goal, my hope, my expectation for this race was 2:05:00 and as you can see above, I did myself well.

That finishing time is my second fastest Surfside Half Marathon and faster than any of my half marathons last year. Definitely not a bad day for a run on the beach!

I Yam What I Yam

Truth

In 2006, with the permission (of course) of my then wife Jaclyn, I purchased my first MINI Cooper. I cannot tell you how long I had wanted a MINI Cooper, but admittedly it is a car that inherently felt like and still feels like, well – me.

My original MINI Cooper – Code name: The Wombat (circa 2006)

I have owned a few Coopers over the years and although I am not a “car guy” I absolutely love the Cooper (2-Door).

Fast forward to 2018 and my Cooper turned into a Toyota Tacoma. The things we do for love… Without getting into details, I wanted to show I was ready to accept certain responsibilities and was all in on helping out.

Unfortunately, as several of you know, my attempt at showing someone I was committed did not work out too well and left me feeling pretty shitty.

Next thing you know, I am talking to a therapist.

Like most people, I never thought I would be the one seeing a therapist; much less needing one… But I have to say it has not sucked. The thing I like most about my therapist is that he never tells me what to do, but instead helps me find my way.

As humans, we are not perfect, and I certainly embody that. However, even though we are not perfect, self-awareness of our imperfections goes a long way and helps us understand who we are in the most naked sense.

For example, I am a dork. I accept this and know that from time to time I will say or do something random that is absolutely stupid.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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How ’bout cheesecake? Mmm, Cheesecake…

I also know I am not really a truck guy. Maybe one day, if I retire and have a small farm, I will be a truck guy. But today is not that day. However, I am the owner of a truck and as mentioned above, I purchased the truck in an attempt to show my commitment to someone else and that did not work out. Sure, I could have gotten an SUV, but I felt the truck would give me more utility. And it did. But, the person moved on and I no longer need the utility, so…

Say hello to VuduCat!

Yes, yes; take a few long seconds and bathe yourself in the beauty of this most awesome MINI. Please contain your excitement for me although feel free to offer to buy me a beer. A good beer that is.

OK, one more peek!

To be sure this is a small thing (get it – MINI/small thing… never mind), but it helps me reclaim something about who I am. My therapist is going to be proud!

VuduCat!

Forts

Remember this from your childhood?

Weren’t forts awesome?

In my family, the building of indoor forts was reserved for rainy days. This was before we got the “nice” couch – you know the “nice” couch; the one nobody is allowed to sit on unless company is over and even then it is an adults only affair…

But early on, we had a cheap couch along with our other cheap furniture, so when the rain fell hard and being sent outside was not an option, forts were on the agenda and everything was game. I am going to say my sisters and I made some pretty spectacular forts only because I do not have pictures to back it up.

A fort building machine and damn cute too!

Unfortunately, at some point a “new” couch came into our lives and that was the end of the fort building. Except, we were living in Southern California at the time and there was an entire patio at our disposal along with a plethora of great weather days (and nights). The picnic table and benches soon became beams and load-bearing walls. My sisters and I discovered that piles of discarded materials from the homes under construction behind us were the perfect places to go rummaging around for fort making supplies.

Enough supplies in fact, that we were not only were we making forts, we were making our own personal forts!

The best fort I ever (helped) build was in the company of my Uncle Mike. My Uncle Mike was the sixth and final child of my Grandpa and Grandma Dunston and is only a few years old than I am.

I used to spend summers on my Grandparents farm in Oregon and at some point a guy would show up with bales upon bales of hay which my Uncle Mike and I would be tasked with stacking in the barn.

Hay there…

One year, we didn’t just stack the hay, we did it in such a manner that we ended up with a hay fort. All credit has to go to my uncle. He told me where and how to stack each bale. When we finished the task at hand, there was a small entrance and tunnels you could climb through and up, ending at the top of the haystack, which was surrounded by walls of hay.

That become my (and our) secret spot the rest of the time I was there.

Forts are great for kids because whether they are in the house or in the backyard, it is a moment for a kid to have their own place and be on their own, even if they are just a few feet from mom and dad.

Parents, let your kids build forts. And buy a couch everyone can sit on at any time while you are at it!

Listening to: Victim of Love – Charles Bradley

Love Stinks – But My Running is Better

I’ve had the blues, the reds, and the pinks; one for sure, love stinks! – The J. Geils Band

Hey now. Let’s see if we can’t get this thing started (again). I want to promise – I really do – that I am going to keep it going and be consistent, but… Heavy sigh.

My girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) found a better option and I am 20 pounds lighter. Maybe love does not stink so much after all.

Go forward; move ahead; try to detect it; it’s not too late.

That’s a Devo reference for the younger peeps out there.

One noticeable effect of losing weight is my running has been much better since I started up again at the beginning of November. Better to the point that when I did the 4-Mile Pearland Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day I was pleasantly surprised.

I was hoping to meet or beat 36 minutes and I was secretly hoping I could manage to get closer to 35 minutes. Imagine my surprise when I clocked a 32:50. Wow! Go me. Apparently I was 3rd in my age group as well. Podium finish! Double go me. I certainly earned that turkey dinner later in the day.

Weight can influence how fast or slow you run in a couple of ways. First, your body weight. For those who are over-weight, each pound of weight loss can shave anywhere between 1.8 and 2.4 seconds off your pace depending upon which studies you read. Second, the weight of your shoes will also impact your pace.

While actual weight is important; where that weight resides is also important. “Even if you aren’t into the physics of all this, you might find it interesting that losing weight from your body is only about thirty percent as effective as losing weight from your shoes. Apparently extra shoe weight requires much more energy to heave forward each and every time you take a stride. In comparison, your muffin-top basically gets to go along for the ride. ” (Brock Armstrong – Can Losing Weight Make You Run Faster? 11/17)

The more you know!

Additionally on the running front, since I relocated to The Woodlands, I opted to join The Woodlands Running Club.

Many of these folks not only look fast – they are fast!

It is a great group of people and there is some great running up here. It’s a win-win since I have been told to get out more and be more social.

Listening to: Everywhere At Once – The Plimsouls

It Is The Shoes

Random note, my Wu-Tang Clan name is Mighty Demon. Word to my brothers and sisters…

mars_blackmon___spike_lee_by_cassodinero

One of the things that makes me cringe on the inside is when a runner states, “I can only run in <insert shoe name and model here>.”

I know running shoes are a personal thing and it is so much easier to find a shoe that works and keep buying it.

But the problem is running shoe designers keep changing/tweaking each and every model of shoe they produce each and every season. So the shoe you loved last year is not the same shoe you are buying this year.

If you do not think that matters; think again. Now really think again.

-new-balance-me402-

I will always maintain the best running lessons you can learn are those you learn about yourself. Understanding what works and what doesn’t; knowing what is good and what is bad; and determining what is best for you often requires experimentation and some failures along the way.

And believe it or not, the subtle changes of our shoes (and our bodies) can turn from a positive to a negative over time if we fail to notice.

For example, I have run in Newton shoes over the past seven plus years. I first fell in love with the Newtons (specifically the Distance and then the Gravity) because they did help my gait and I was faster to boot.

Most every other shoe I tried during my Newtonian period did not have the energy return of the Newtons, which is disappointing because who really wants to run slower when they are already slow? No need to raise your hand.

Enter my massage therapist. She has been working my body after long runs and races for over a decade. So it was surprising when she noted during one session that my feet wanted to supinate.

Of course, immediately after my massage I fired up the internet machine and became an expert (random note, I am not an expert)… Sadly, running shoe companies do not make shoes for those who supinate. I consulted my local running store expert and he gave me the story why and much like the internet machine recommended a neutral shoe.

NWT140_1000_1Both the Newton Gravity and Distance are neutral shoes. But the changes to both the Newton Distance and Gravity, along with the changes to my body, created a mismatch where there was originally a match.

So the question became which neutral shoe.

This is why it is a good idea to visit your local running store (for me, Wild Pear Running). They have expertise and they want to keep your business, so they are going to try and find what is best for you. After testing several shoes, I gave the Altra Torin a run for their money.

I was pleasantly amazed. I do not know if it is the zero drop or the generous toe box or both, but suddenly there was no hip or calf pain. That said, the Torin features a bit too much cushion for my liking and compared to the Newtons, the energy return lacks. Hence, using my running stores 30 day return policy I checked out a pair of  the Altra Escalante.

altra

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Shoes do matter. No more getting out of bed and waddling to the bathroom in the morning; no more persistent hip pain; I feel good during the run and after the run. I am a tad slower in these shoes, but at my age (56) it is a trade off I am happy with.

This is not meant to be a shoe review. It is meant as a reminder that what you put on your feet affects the rest of your body. So, if your favorite shoe does not seem to be as favorite as you remember, perhaps a trip to your local running store is in order.

 

Those Gosh Darned Eagles

This week, the RIAA announced The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has overtaken Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the number one selling album of all time. Both albums have bobbed and weaved between the number one and number two slots for several decades. There was enough of a bump after Michael Jackson’s death to push Thriller to the number one spot, where it remained until this week.

https://i0.wp.com/assets.rollingstone.com/assets/2016/media/225017/_original/1453312278/1035x1035-117182610.jpg  See the source image

But the big news isn’t really that Greatest Hits overtook Thriller. The trending news is apparently millennial writers hate the Eagles. Writers at online sites such Jezebel and The AV Club have lamented this development. According to Maria Sherman, “You have every right to be outraged, and I have every right to blame the shift on your Dockers-donning dad.”

Never mind that Sherman has no clue what tracks are on Greatest Hits, but does apparently know those tracks are “baby boomer easy-listening shit.” I also suspect she doesn’t know what tracks are on Thriller either (other than “Thriller”). That’s not the point. The point is that dads (loosely translated as white dudes over 40) should not be buying music.

Which is pretty much a what the fuck moment filled with irony. Apparently, because me and my ilk have had the audacity to pay for the music we consume for the last millennia we are bad people. My generation (and the ones before me) supports and supported artists and musicians we enjoy by actually buying their product versus the millennial approach of streaming half a Drake song and moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be (nearly 50% of Spotify users will skip a song before it ends).

See the source image

Many people hate the Eagles. Many people love the Eagles. Same with Michael Jackson. But millennials should not get their panties in a wad because old people buy music and they don’t; not to mention we are talking about two albums released long before they were born.

By the way, I own both The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 and Thriller.

 

 

Hack This!

What the funk?


hack

[hak]

VERB

  1. cut with rough or heavy blows:

    “hack off the dead branches” ·

    synonyms: cut · chop · hew · lop · saw · slash

     

  2. use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system:

    “they hacked into a bank’s computer”

     

  3. informal

    (hack it)

    manage; cope:

    “lots of people leave because they can’t hack it”

    synonyms: cope · manage · get on/by · carry on · come through


25 Bathroom Hacks You’ll Want to Share With Everyone

Use shampoo bottles to keep the shower curtain in place – seriously. People have been doing this since there were shower curtains and shampoo bottles

50 Time-Saving Kitchen Hacks The World Needs To Know

You can use a cheese grater to grate other things – who knew!

Can someone explain to me why everything nowadays is a hack? How has this previously oft-used word invaded internet headlines and given people the impression if they are not hacking their way through life, they are not doing it right?

The way they are presented, hacks are new information to make everything easier, yet it turns out most hacks are the following:

  • A previously forgotten old-school, but efficient, method of doing something
  • A simple do it yourself recipe (for example making your own glass cleaner) that has been around for eons
  • A recent discovery that is getting more play than it should

Apparently this new generation eats this stuff up although you would be hard-pressed to find a millennial cooking in the kitchen or cleaning a bathroom because cooking and cleaning are serious drags on their social media time.

Hacking is becoming so prevalent that companies, organizations and even cities are hosting hackathons or in layman’s terms, an opportunity for you to submit an idea.

Here’s an idea, let’s call it what it is:

  • A new innovation
  • A revived innovation

Perhaps the word innovation isn’t cool enough.

Surfside Race Report

surfsideI am a conservative runner by nature, but after a few beers and some peer pressure, some things can seem like a good idea. And so it was that I agreed to do the Surfside Half Marathon (02.04.2017) with a few running friends; although they would be well ahead of me.

Of note, my friend Jon finished third in his age group and Lynette (Jon’s wife) took home second in her age group. I finished in my age group, so that was an accomplishment as far as I am concerned.

In mid-January, when I agreed to this nonsense I had three weeks to get ready with a long run of six miles (back in November) under my belt. My plan: a five mile long run the first weekend, an eight mile long run the next weekend and hope that was enough.

Apparently, it was enough. But…

The Wind in My Face

The one thing about running at Surfside is the weather is different every year. Freezing temperatures; gusty winds; severe thunderstorms; crazy fog; you can even combine some of those elements and come up with a weather forecast for Surfside. This year, it was (I guess) thankfully just wind. But what a wind it was. Constant at 25 miles an hour, I could barely hear the surf during my 6.5 mile trek into breach.

The Surfside Half begins with a 2.5 mile jaunt to the southwest before turning around and facing the wind for a full 6.5 miles. I have run the Surfside Marathon multiple times and I certainly did not envy the marathoners on this day. The temperature was not bad, but the wind was relentless.

The strategy at Surfside is predicated by the condition of the beach. Although there is plenty of hard-packed sand to run on and very little camber, vehicular traffic and nature can impact the condition of the beach.

This year, I opted to run along the shoreline and it worked out very well. My feet were soaked several times, but is was more exhilarating than anything. While sea water was not necessarily a concern, the wind was.

506756E5-1264-4F9D-90FB-901973D3C364The best one can do is relax and not fight the wind. Many folks likely pushed too hard into the wind and it would come back to haunt them. For my part, I did not worry about my splits on the way out, especially during a race I was not exactly prepared for.

At mile 9 I registered an 11:06; my longest mile of the day and the last mile before I turned around. Turning around was glorious; I improved by nearly two minutes, registering a 9:15 for mile 10.

Each successive mile was exponentially faster than the previous as I tore through the sand so I have that to hang my hat on.

Finishing time was 2:13:24, which is not too bad as I expected to be somewhere between 2:10 and 2:15. 8/18 in my age group and 22 out of 81 Masters Runners.

Final Wrap

I am not sure what to think of this race. I was not exactly prepared, but I didn’t have a bad race. Could I have run it faster with proper training? Indeed. Also, I don’t run races for the medals and at the moment I have no goals to speak of. So…

To be honest, I am glad I did the race. I have always enjoyed running at Surfside, even when the inclement weather produces additional challenges. Plus running on the hard-packed sand is easy on these old bones.