Monday, May 25, 2009

Andy and Monk

Today our son Andy's dog Monk lost his battle with cancer. Monk was an amazing dog. He and Andy were a great team. It is a sad and heartbreaking day in our family. Andy and Monk shared so many happy things in life as well as the trials and difficulties of the human and animal worlds. Monk was always there for Andy. Day and night. They ran together, played together, wrestled together, talked together about all subjects, walked together, listened to NPR together, listened to the latest tunes that Andy had found, watched endless episodes of West Wing and The Office on television, and was able to join in when the guys would come over on Monday nights. Monk was a part of every celebration and event that Andy was ever a part of. Be it birthday parties or just a gathering of friends, Monk was always there to add some happiness and fun.

Monk had the eyes of a knowing, caring, full of love and life dog. He fought the cancers that he had with courage and strength that I have never seen an animal do. Monk had you by the heart the minute you met him. He was a part of so many people's lives, too many to name. They will all miss him so much. From the peanut butter kongs to the rawhide chews, Monk was always ready for anything that you wanted to do. He made you happy the minute you walked into the room. From his drool to his large wagging tail, he was your friend and loved being with you.

When he was a puppy, his legs were so long and feet so big, he looked like a deer that was just waiting to grow into his body. Monk was a big dog. He was a beautiful Yellow Lab. He had the look of a champion show dog and was extremely smart. He knew Andy so well. He knew what Andy needed every minute he was with Andy. But Monk also had a very playful side that was fun. He would do so many things that you knew he was just testing you to see if you would play along or see that he had invented a new game that he thought was cool. Dragging things around Andy's house like clothes, his doggie bed, getting up on pieces of furniture when no one was there were things that I know he did just to see what everyone would do. Monk also enjoyed his meals. Andy always watched his diet so well.

When Monk stayed with us (me, Andy's mom, and sister Kelsey), we always treasured those times. He was always great and we called him our "Granddog". Somehow, when he would stay with us and then go back to Andy's, he seemed a bit spoiled. Andy would always laugh about that. Not that Andy didn't spoil Monk or anything.

Our family will miss Monk. There is no way to ease the hurt and pain right now. Monk gave you unconditional love. He was there for you no matter what. He seemed to know what everyone needed. I will miss Monk's head on my lap. His paws on me as if to say, "hey everything is going to be ok". I will miss the talks we had. The advice that his eyes gave me. The licks.

But I can't imagine the loss Andy feels right now. The hurt and heartbreaking pain that is ripping at him. Monk was his everyday buddy. To Andy, I say that I hope you know that you gave Monk a great and loving life. You were so much a part of him and all that he needed. He loved you and always will. You have many memories that will never go away. Keep them tucked in your heart and know that Monk is doing the same. To Monk, I say thank you. Thank you for loving us with all of your heart. Thank you for making your years in our family amazing and fun. Thank you for being Monk. We love you and will miss you.

With Monk in our hearts, Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Thoughts

As the Memorial Day weekend here in the United States gets into full swing, my thoughts today turned to my Dad who passed away 10 years ago. He was a Veteran of the United States Army and was very proud of that. And this weekend as we honor the many Veterans of the past that have died, as well as loved ones, friends, and people that we identified with, it is good to pause and reflect on what each of them gave to us. Many Veterans made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and served to give us the freedom that we so enjoy today. Our loved ones, friends, and others also had huge impacts on our lives in some way or another. Sometimes these days are painful I know. The memories come flooding back so quickly. But it is good to not wait for a special day. It should be any day that we think about those that meant so much to us.

My Dad was a great father, grandfather, teacher, and coach. He so loved his grandkids, our son and daughter Andy and Kelsey. He retired as one of the most successful high school football coaches in the United States. He coached many All-Americans and also was the football coach of Yankee Great Mickey Mantle in Commerce, Oklahoma. But with all the records and honors, he really never talked that much about that part of his life. He loved people. He loved teaching his high school students in American Government. He loved coaching. He loved to fish. Anytime, anywhere.

I remember many things about him but some of the most prominent things about him were that he was tuned into people. He was not a "Me" person. He was a good listener and he cared about those he came in contact with. He respected you. He valued whatever walk of life that you came from. A lesson that I value a great deal.

I felt safe with him. Safe in terms that I knew that he had high expectations and values. I knew he was there if I needed him. He wanted me to do my best and if at the end of an activity I could say that, he was happy and proud. (That is unless I was caught looking at a called third strike in baseball. Then we would have "the talk".) He made me want to try harder at everything. And that's not a bad thing. I have talked many times in my blogs about reaching for the stars and setting and working and reaching your goals. He always had goals. He always had a plan. Today we call them training plans. His teams won games because they were prepared. His teams were prepared both physically and mentally. Therefore, I grew up knowing that to be successful I needed to have a plan or a vision of what I wanted to accomplish. Preparation. Training.

I know as I train and run in my marathons and ultras, he has the best seat in the house. I know that he has cheered me on and given me an extra push when I needed it most. During the worst weather as I train, I remember his teams were still out there practicing. I train in all types of conditions because I want to be prepared the best that I can. I remember asking him why he practiced in the rain and he said, "because you play like you practice and someday there will be rain at a game and we want to have had that experience".

I also remember him staying up with me all night. Holding my head up so that I could breathe and sleep because I had asthma. I remember the countless pitches that he threw to me to teach me to hit and catch. I remember the many times he taught me the "special" things about fishing. His fishing secrets. Where to cast for the big ones. I remember his arm around my shoulders when I needed a hug both in good times and bad. I remember his tears when a relative or friend passed away. But I also remember the twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his face when he was happy about something.

So watch me run Dad. But most of all Dad, watch me be the kind of person you wanted me to be. A great Dad to my own kids, A loving person. Respectful of others. Not boastful. Humble, but proud of my efforts. A friend to all. An encourager to many. Thank you for all that you gave to me and others!

A quote that he always used, and I don't know if it was his or borrowed from somewhere else, but I have always remembered it: "What you have is God's gift to you. What you do is your gift to God".

May we honor all on this Memorial Day!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Running Message for the Week

Sometimes we just have to stop and listen to what is going on around us. We have to reverse our thoughts to a more positive theme. We have to turn things around from within our own minds so that we can influence others to do the same. It is not a given that happiness is automatic. What is automatic is that we have a chance to make each day happy. Each day. Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. And the next and the next....

This clip from YouTube says many things. It may say something to you that motivates you to go out and make a difference today and the next and the next.

What does this have to do with running? Everything!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why Do You Run?

It seems that question is asked of me almost daily. I was at the grocery store today and a person that I didn't even know came up to me and said that she had seen me running all over town. Wondered how far I ran each day. Today another person said that she passed me in her car each day0n her way home and it inspired her to get out and start walking with hopes of running someday. I was stopped at a stop light the other day and a group of high school runners ended up at the same light with me (I would like to say caught up with me but that's not the case.) and asked when and where my next race was. A man stopped me as I was running through downtown the other evening and wanted to know how I got started running and that he would really like to start running.

Knowing what to say can sometimes be difficult. I don't want to respond that I am on my second day of 20 mile plus long runs. Or that I am running 30 miles training for my next ultra. I also don't want to say that I have just been running a hill route workout that is really kicking me. So many times I just say I am out for a run because I really like to just get out and run, do some thinking, and enjoy the world around us.

I tell most people that I started out with a walking program. Then did some cycling, and then decided that I really liked to just run. That I really liked the training plans and nutrition plans I developed and how I felt each day.Then I lost all sense of reality and started running endurance races. Whoa, wait a minute! To some people an endurance race just might be a mile so I have to be careful with that statement. Some people get it and some people just don't. That's ok. There are some days when I feel like an 18 wheeler and I don't get it either.

Do we run because:
*We like doing something that we can really see benefits in our efforts.
*At a race we like all of the pre and post race things (Food?) that are associated with running.
*We can eat right and make good nutrition choices. Or not. And eat everything in sight.
*Love to hear the roar of the crowds at the start and finish lines of big races.
*We like the preparation and training that go into running.
*We like the lonely think time that we have when we run alone.
*We like the times we have with our running group that gets us out there even when we don't want too run.
*We have found new emotions down deep inside us that we never knew we had.
* We like the great playlists for the music that we listen to as we run and know that we never would have done that if we hadn't started running.
*We have developed endurance that carries us through our everyday challenges.
*The joy that we feel when we accomplish a distance or time for a training run or race that we never thought we could do.
*We run because we can.
*We run for somebody, a special cause, a personal reason.

We are all different in may ways. But we are the same in knowing that we still put one foot in front of the other each time we step out the door. Some days are easy and some days are hard. Some days we laugh and some days we cry. Some days we feel like we could run forever and maybe wish that we could and others we feel like the first mile was just as hard as our last marathon or 5K. We inspire each other and also those that have never run before.

So on your next run, ask yourself "Why do I run?". And on the day after a difficult run when you get out of bed sore and wonder why you run, or when you get that race medal and race shirt, remember this: You like to run because.......

The next time someone asks me why I run I'll say, "Do you have a couple of minutes...?"

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eugene Marathon Race Report

Beautiful! That's one word that can describe the Eugene Marathon experience. What a great city and what a great marathon. I would highly recommend it to everyone. It is basically a "flat as a pancake" course with minor hills and exceptional surroundings. At least that's what they tell me. I really didn't look around very much during the race.

We flew into Portland and then rented a car and drove to Eugene. We stayed at the Valley River Inn. It was just a short distance from the race start and was very nice with a fine restaurant. The restaurant provided a pasta dinner the night before the race which was fantastic. I don't know, but the only real problem we had was all of the one way streets in Eugene and Portland. Are there really that many or were we just going in circles? The room we had was huge. Great for all of my running stuff and Hammer Nutrition Products. Yes, I did have an extra suitcase for all of my supplements. My Hammer supplements are an extremely important part of my race preparation. More on that later.

Took a light and easy run Saturday morning before the race on Sunday. It was raining but I ran along the bike path that ran in front of the hotel which the next day was to be part of the marathon course. Little did I know that the next day it would be raining too. Had a great run but felt a little tight both mentally and physically. After hearing about the course I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to PR. It was the course made to do it at I thought. After a snack, I took a nap and then got the race gear ready for the next day. Dinner was pasta, chicken breast, steamed vegetables, and bread. Of course, lots of bread. Had a good night's sleep and woke up at 4:00AM to get ready and have my pre-race meal. This time I had oatmeal with soy milk and soy protein. Didn't eat it all, but felt great at the start of the race and really had no trouble with hydration or nutrition during the race at all.

The race started at 7:00AM and we were greeted with a steady light rain and cool temperatures. I don't know but the rain seemed to be a dry rain if that makes sense. It was already so humid the rain didn't make that much difference. Some of the streets were a little slick but the route was ok. It rained or misted most of the race which was fine because it really kept us cool. Temperatures seemed to stay in the upper 40's to mid 50"s. It was wonderful. The air was so clean to breathe. WOW! I carried Perpetuem and Heed in powdered form on my waist belt in small plastic containers and took a hand-held bottle to mix them with water at the aid stations. I was faster in my transitions this time and it really paid off. I am getting better at doing everything on the run and just stopping to have the volunteers add water to my
hand-held. Also had plain water three times. Did 4 gels and felt very good energy all of the way! I also took Endurolytes and Endurance Amino capsules every hour. I also carried a Hammer Bar, ginger chews, and peppermints(This time I didn't need them.) Also, I have a before and after race supplement plan that I follow too. My Brooks Infiniti 2's were outstanding! It is a great shoe that really kept my foot strike light and the entire foot supported very well. It is a great shoe as was it's last year's version the Infiniti. Both shoes are amazing and really give you excellent support that allows your foot to do what it needs to do to get you to the finish line. After the finish, they had lots of food and booths for runners as well as a results tent right there where you could get your results and splits right after you finished. That was a big plus!

I had a very good pace the entire way and was pleased that I did because I did not wear my glasses because of the rain and the humidity. So I never really could see my watch or my pace band. Talk about listen to your body and foot strike. It was an amazing experience. I had been training at certain pace levels and really knew my pace but it ended up faster than I thought.

So here are the stats: 5K-24:29, 10K-49:13, Half-1:43:45, 30K-2:28:10, 40K-3:15:35. My finishing time was 3:26:29 which was a PR for me and another Boston qualifying time. I am really excited and blessed. I know now that all of the evenings that I spend on my training runs, 3 nights a week with my personal trainer, and once a week with my massage/stretching trainer are a good training plan for me. But remember, what works for me might not work for you. We are all different in terms of how much time we have to spend on our training and the resources that we have to work with. And even with all of that, without my strong faith and support of family and friends, it just would not be complete.

Next up is the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon in Deadwood, SD. on June 7th. I am really looking forward to that race!

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!