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2013 Season Ending Review…. Come and Get It 50!

2013medals

Looking back on 2013 I feel really pleased with the way it all went; there were highs and lows, but certainly more highs than lows. It was a great year of progress and learning too; some things gracefully and some things not so gracefully. It was a year with three pinnacle events and milestones; experiences that deserve a story all to their own. I wanted to finish out this year before my 50th birthday living life as fully as I possibly could and I have.

When I attended the Redman Triathlon in September of 2012, I left wishing I was on that line and doing that race. I knew that 2012 was a year of progress, but while I was satisfied I knew I had more in the tank to give and more progress to make. I remember coming home last fall and registering for the Ironman Lonestar 70.3 and knowing that this was a “stretch event” for me physically, emotionally, and mentally, but somewhere in my mind was that old saying of “if you can think it or dream it, you can do it”. As many of you knew, swimming was a bigtime issue and had been for my entire life. Getting to the point of being able to even visualize swimming 1.2 miles was probably the biggest hurdle of the year, the second biggest was actually doing it. I was fortunate to get the chance to do some work with Amanda Stevens, who was to become my coach for the year. She worked with me at workshops and a few private lessons then helped me to stretch out my distances and eventually get to my goal. While swimming had its own unique set of challenges for me, so did running. When I started out the year I had never done anything beyond a 5k, and that wasn’t what you could even begin to call a great base to begin with. Over the course of the season I was able to finish four Half-Marathons and eventually my first Full Marathon in Chicago. That was the perfect end to a full season!

When I first started cycling four years ago none of this could have ever even been on my “radar of possibility”. After finishing the first Hotter Than Hell Hundred in 2010, it left me really high with a feeling that the sky was the limit! True, but what I learned about that sky was it wasn’t going to be as easy a trip as that beginning enthusiasm made me think it would be. There was to be much hard work along the way. Sometimes the progress has seemed so slow too, but it always came if I kept to the work. Endurance sport is so honest; what I mean by that is that there are no short cuts to take. The work you put in determines the outcome you get; and when the work is short-changed, the outcome is too. That was a humbling lesson I learned this year. I am proud of finishing the two Ironman 70.3’s but, I also know that I had the ability to do more physically if I had done a more consistent job of training. The cool thing about that, I know that next year has the potential to be another year of progress for me. I know that I will gain more strength and physical ability this next year, but I also know that will be as much about changes in mental toughness maybe more than my physical changes.

So looking back on the 2013 Season there were three pinnacle events for me: Ironman Lonestar 70.3, Ironman Buffalo Springs 70.3, and the Chicago Marathon. Each event was special for different reasons. The Lonestar 70.3 was an awesome experience of accomplishment for me; it pushed me on all levels of my being. Right from the very first jump into Galveston Bay, it was an endurance fight for me. Being able to gut out the swim and make it onto the bike was huge for me. I know that when that was over that was the biggest physical challenge I had even met, it was an unbelievable experience. The Buffalo Springs 70.3 was a different event, my coach encouraged me to go when I wasn’t sure I could. Again, I didn’t get the follow through that I wish I could claim in preparing for the race but Amanda encouraged me to just do it! So I did, my swim was much improved over my Lonestar effort! That was a huge deal. Then there was the bike, wow. This course had some climbs that were tougher than any climbs I had ever done to that date. Driving the course I told my wife “I’m not sure I can make those climbs”, so when I made it through the bike portion I was really feeling satisfied in what I had done. The run was pretty damn tough too, but I knew I could gut through that with run/walks and get to the finish line. The final pinnacle event was the Chicago Marathon. It was probably the most enjoyable event of the year, just an awesome feeling doing something with over 44,000 other people. It was the perfect way to top off the year.

I can tell you this for sure too; none of this is possible all on my own. First and foremost without the Spiritual life that has been spoon fed to me throughout my life and my coming to find God in a way that is special to me, this never happens. Frankly the last 25 years of life wouldn’t even have happened and those that have known me throughout my life know that is truth being told. Right behind my relationship with God is my family; my wife and daughter are always an inspiration to me. How can you not be inspired by watching someone come out of a battle with cancer to do her very first marathon 14 years ago and in Chicago of this year qualify for the Boston Marathon. If that’s not enough inspiration, how about this: she is also a polio survivor too! My daughter Cynthia is always the most encouraging and sweetest young lady that I know; she and her mother will have accomplished doing 12 marathons in 12 months! I believe they call that true Marathon Maniacs. My Spiritual support community, my training friends and my coach were all a big part in this too. No great achievement is ever done truly alone. On the starting line of all these events was my grandfather Cunningham whose last words to me were encouraging me to stop smoking, as he said ” the damn things got me Mark”. So every race I started with him and took him with me.

So it was a great season. Farewell 2013 Season, you were a good friend to me. You have taught me some valuable lessons along the way this year. You will always have a special place in my heart, you helped me put a perfect crescendo on this year leading to my 50th birthday. When I look back on the year I see the places for improvement but, I am proud and satisfied beyond what I could have ever dreamed even a few years ago. I hope all of you get the chance to experience a year like I have. Thanks everyone, I love ya all !!!

Hmmmmm…. and a tune to end…. wouldn’t wanna short change ya!

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IT’S OPEN ON THE BIG END, BABY !!!!!

yogiI know that I have used this quote on more than one occasion, but I just love it ! It is so true too. I really like where my mind is going these days in terms of my fitness goals and triathlon goals. There have been plenty of occasions that I could have chased out some negative thread of thought and said “No way I can do this.” Even this morning at the pool I had one more occasion to get to ride someone else’s negative rift, but frankly I just feel to good about the progress made so far to allow that! I am still feeling pretty high from the weekend at the Austin Marathon, my confidence is growing. What was once my worst fear of an event, swimming, is now becoming one of my favorites. While I thought that my running times seemed so insanely slow, I made progress that was beyond what I would have thought possible. So today my mind is right on track!

I remember one thing that my mentors in another area of my life always told me “you can’t think yourself into right action, you have to act yourself into right thinking”. If I had not learned this lesson and listened to people that had learned how to make positive changes in their life and then taken actions that at times didn’t appear to even make sence, I wouldn’t have the life I have today. Truth be known, I would probably not be alive. So I keep that experience close to my heart when I hear those negative voices, either internal or external, giving me the skeptics chant. Those voices are only real if I act on them instead of acting in a positive way regardless of what else might be heard.

Learning to shelve the negative voices is only a part of the game though, watering the seeds of the positive life-giving voices is the other side of the coin. The more that I feed “the good wolf” the stronger it will get! So everytime I complete one more good workout , I feed “the good wolf”. Everytime I do my workout even when my mind might want me to slough off, I feed “the good wolf“. The smile I get after completing my swim workout, that is food for “the good wolf“. The time I spend getting to practise meditation, that is food for “the good wolf” too.  Every time I get the chance to give someone else a lift of encouragement and share my experiences with my difficulties and how I was able to walk through them, that too is feeding “the good wolf“. That’s what I want to be about, feeding “the good wolf“; not only mine but others too.

One of my favorite sayings that my mentor consistenly tells me is “life is open on the big end , baby” ! The guy helped me walk through some of the darkest times of my entire life and kept telling me that over and over.  He didn’t ever promise me it was easy though, but he always told me it would be rewarding beyond my wildest dreams. Ride a bike 100 miles? Run a half-marathon? Swim a mile? Do a 70.3 triathlon? Not even imaginable 5 years ago. Ride a bike 100 miles? Run a half-marathon? Swim a mile? Do a 70.3 triathlon? Hell ya !

And ya know what, that’s just what I can see and dream today! I believe in the un-imaginable today ! IT’S OPEN ON THE BIG END, BABY!!!!!

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Body, Mind, and Soul

Quote-439-300x300When I first started this blog several years ago the original title of the blog was “Body, Mind, and Soul”, so today I am going to go back to that pattern for this post. There are lessons that I am learning along this Road To Glaveston;  some new, some old with renewed strength. So with this being my first post in over a week, I feel somewhat refreshed and not nearly as over-whelmed in writing this morning. I like the tri-concept of body, mind, and soul; it seems to weave a really beautiful tapestry of life.

Body- Physically last week I was to have a recovery week in my workout routine. If recovery was the goal, I acheived that. I had two scheduled days of rest and ended up with 3 rest days. There were three workouts that were my highlights, each for different reasons. My swim workout was awesome this week, I really enjoy getting into the pool. I wouldn’t have ever thought that swimming would become so enjoyable. For me to come full-circle in swimming is a big deal! My favorite run this week was Saturday’s Fridgid Five in Edmond. We did this event with my brother in law. He wanted to do a run to celebrate his 70th birthday, so we had a nice dinner out with them on Friday and met them for the run on Saturday.  Jim has been a lifelong runner and has done the Boston Marathon a couple of times too. I know my wife felt good about doing that with him too. She feels like her mom would have been proud to see them running together. The bike ride on Sunday at the lake was really relaxing, it was to be 90 minutes of riding just for enjoyment. I put in my headphones and did lake laps. It was refreshing too, helped me to get my head clear.  Hopefully with the recovery week I will be able to hit this week  in full gear. We will cap the coming week off with a good trip to Austin for the Livestrong Marathon.

Mind-  My mind is in pretty good shape this week. Mentally I feel pretty positive about where I am with the Road To Galveston. There are times that I wonder “are you friggin nuts?” but those are usually fleeting and I don’t feed them with second thoughts. But more importantly there are times that I think “what else can we do?”, the opening up of a wide range of possibilities is so refreshing to me.  I don’t just mean what other exercise goals, not just the thought of another physical challenge like maybe a 140.6 or maybe something like a Leadville 100 bike challenge; I have some other challenges that are teasing me too. The ability to put my mind in better focus towards goals is opening up some other new possibilities that I have thought were maybe lost to my age.  So stay tuned this year, there just might be some other journeys on the horizon.

Soul- Spiritually this last week was really good. I had the opportunity to spend some time with another man listening to his life story; the good, the bad, the ugly. I love getting to do that, it is a real honor and priveledge. If you have never had the chance to sit down and tell someone your entire life story, warts and all, not withholding anything, give it some thought. Maybe it might be something you would consider for Lent this season. Richard Foster talks a little about this in his book Celebration of Discipline, and I believe that it captures the spirit of two verses in particular in the Christian faith James 5:16 ” Confess your sins one to another that ye may be healed.” and Matthew 18:20 “Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am with them.” When I get the opportunity to listen to someone like this, it reminds me of how we are all just human, trying our best and at times our ‘not so best’, and really I have never felt anything but a real sense of love and care that I know comes from our best “Spirit”. It also helps me to loosen some of that hyper-criticalness I have toward myself too. Looking forward this week towards Lent, I know that I have one commitment that I want to be diligent with, that is daily meditation. As far as something that I might sacrifice, I still am not sure what that will be. I am looking forward to this season though, it is one of my favorite times of the Christian faith.

So there you go! That’s the recap from last week. Hope you find something useful in my ramblings today.

Don’t you just LOVE THE GRAMMYs? Today’s tune is from Ed Sheeran and Elton John singing A Team. Elton John was a true ‘elderstatesman’ last night, what a great man he has become.

Have a blessed week.

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Nice Saturday Overcast With My Pup Dog!

MarkandHavanaIt is really overcast today, so my workouts fit the weather pretty well. I had a nice 1800yd swim and a little 20 minute walk afterwards. The swim is still going pretty good too. I know that will keep progressing. The walk was just enough to get some good air.

The thing that struck me the most on the swim was something that I learned from meditation;  if you concentrate on one discipline intently the others parts will come around. In meditation if I am intent on just being in the moment with my breathing, my mind starts to clear up and I have a better outlook and it effects every part of my life. Today when swimming, I was really focusing on getting a good powerful stroke, and I noticed that my breathing issues were not there at all. So thats a lesson that I am going to keep repeating. My didstances will continue to stretch out, I am not worried about that. I think focusing on my form is really a big deal. Those little 25’s, doing them as well as possible. Then letting that just become the way I swim when I stretch out to the other distances.

My walk was relaxing. I just did it when I got back home from the Y. I took a little walk over to the college. The air was really nice, a little crisp and on the verge of having moisture in it. It felt good to just walk and think back over the week. I am going to do a brick test tomorrow and then go do my strength training that I missed on Monday. The only other excercise I didn’t get in was an optional run one day. I kind of hated to miss anything, I don’t want that to become a “norm”. I want to do the extra’s. While the load wasn’t as heavy this week, the recovery was kind of refreshing. I feel pretty pleased with how the first 4 weeks have gone since starting to work with my new coach.

Well I am going to just hang out and chill tonight. The girls have gone on a road trip to Waco, Texas for a marathon without me, so tonight it’s just me and my pup dog Havana! I took that pic of me and Havana one day when I had all the studio lights up, it was a hurry up shot with remote trigger. She didn’t really want to pose and I am pretty sure I only got about 2-3 quick shots before she bolted ! haha

Here is an oldie I like, Level 42’s Something About You. 

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Awesome Swim Workout

Ignacio GonzalezToday was another day where I could feel confidence growing in the water. Actually it was there even before I got to the pool, I was genuinely looking forward to the workout. Now for those that have been following my swim workouts and issues, you know that is light years ahead of this time last year! A big part of today was mental, I was in a really good frame of mind this morning when I went to the pool. I keep coming back to good ole’ Yogi Berra’s quote “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.” So true in the water for me. But to actually be going to the pool and looking forward to having fun with it is an amazing jump forward, even a big just over two months ago.

Todays workout was 2000 yrds total.

8x25x10R (All Catch-Up)
8x25x10R Swim
8x50x20R Fins (Odd: 25 Kick, 25 Swim; Even: 25 Swim, 25 Kick)
8x50x20R Swim
6x75x25R Fins (25 Left Arm; 25 Right Arm; 25 Swim)
1×200 Swim
6x25x15R CD

It felt so good to be able to do the drills and the lengths and not be stressed about it. I was smiling and happy the whole workout today. The most difficult was doing the 6x75x25r (25 Left; 25 Right; 25 swim). My left is so much weaker than my right. It also reminded me of how much weaker my left side is doing single leg drills on the bike and how my left knee is the one that starts to show weakness on runs too. But back to swimming, this was a fun day! It feels good to have days like this, days where you think “if I just keep doing the work, race day will be so much fun.”

I’ve been on a Lennon kick here lately. Let’s go with Mind Games today!

Hope you all dream big and move towards it too!

memorialherman

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Inspired And Inspire

inspired
I don’t know if any of you ever follow and read what some of the professional triathletes are doing in there training, but I enjoy seeing their posts on Twitter. I have enjoyed watching them begin thier season in camps and getting ready for the new year. It is kinda cool to pick a few and follow them. I used to follow the cyclers more, but this last year it has shifted over to triathletes. On Twitter someone had posted and article about Sir Lindley, who was a World Champion triathlete and is now one of the top coaches. It was a cool read getting the feel for how positive a peron she is. She was one of the triathletes that I have followed on Twitter and she is pretty active too. One thing that I notice about the people that she works with, they all seem so excited to be working with her. Another thing that I found really cool to was that she is the coach of my coach, Dr. Amanda Stevens. I her excitement and positive way of working with people is passed along well too. Amanda has that same positive spirit when she talks to me or when we did our swim lessons. So until someone tells me I shouldn’t do this, I think I will claim Siri Lindley as my “grand-coach”! Hey they say if you want to do great things, extraordinary things; you need an extraordinary team supporting you. For the last 10-15 years I have had such a great group of mentors and teachers!

Today I had two workouts: a “hills” run and a “build” bike ride.

This afternoon after work I was able to squeeze in a nice 45 minute run at Mitch Park. The Landrunner’s, an Oklahoma City running club, uses this park to do their hills training when they are thier marathon training runs. So I loaded up and went out there for my run. It was a really good run too. The weather was really nice, just a little cool but not quiet jacket cool. There was a good gentle breeze too, but not “Oklahoma windy”. One thing that I noticed on this run was the smell of all the cedar trees, it kind of reminded me of the time I was doing the motorcycle tour through Colorado and noticing the scent of all the pines. It just had that strong a presence today. Now about the running, it went pretty good too. I was to stay in Zone 1-3, and I did a pretty good job of doing that. Occasionally I would get a little out Zone 3 on some of the hills, but I stayed pretty true to the plan. I still hope to get faster, but it wasn’t getting in my head in a negative way like the other day. I just keep reminding myself “trust the plan, trust the process, and trust your coach”.

I did my bike workout on the trainer this evening. I waited until about 8:30 or so to do it. This workout was and hour long, I did two sets of “build” drills. It went well too. I just got into the tunes and worked at keeping tunes would have been straight off the Ellen showbetween 150-155 bpm on my heart rate for the “build” portion of the workout. I love listening to tunes while I do my bike trainer work. Tonight I ended up with Rick James Radio on Pandora, I got to laughing at myself thinking about how I swear the tunes sounded like something the DJ Tony from Ellen Show would have played. So Ellen, if you are out there, you could have Tony do my tunes mix for my workouts on my “Road To Galveston”! The ride itself went pretty well, towards the end of the ride, I wanted to get that one more mile finished. It’s that slow thing again. I know, I know; stop that stuff right? Maybe it isn’t a bad thing though, maybe it is that burr in my ass that will keep me going to get better.

Attitude, attitude attitude; actually it was pretty good today. Now the dissatisfaction deal, I was reading one of my favorite authors the other day, Thich Nhat Hahn, and he talked about just smiling and saying “hello negative feelings, I hear you.” Just acknowledge them instead of trying to make them go away. It is like so many things in my life; the harder I go against them, the stronger they get. One thing that makes all the difference in the world is getting good quality meditation time too. I promise, it makes a major difference in my attitude. Hey, if I’m this crazy with meditation, do you really want to see me without it? 🙂

Tomorrow is going to be another good day too. I am switching my Sunday bike ride and my Friday swim to take advantage of the weather.I took the day off work to go on a 3 hour ride with Brian and Jason. We will head out for a good ride to the Jones/Choctaw area. I did hear that the wind might be a little stout but that will be better than a mid 30’s ride on Sunday.

Think I will throw a little Freak Power out today. They make me smile, sometimes a little music to make ya smi

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New Year…. Time to Kick It Into Gear

Glass-Clarity-LifeAs I mentioned the other day, December 27th is a day for new beginings and positive change. I had a “cup of that bad coffee” with some friends at lunchtime to honor the past 6 year and even had a chance to talk to a guy just trying to get it together. It’s a great journey, I am grateful for where it has taken me! So with that said, what will the changes be this year? The change that I am going to go for will be a diet change starting with dropping sweets (to exclude Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at my mom’s house). Becky dropped sweets at lent a year or so ago and she loved deserts as much as I do. I don’t want to limit the change to just sweets, but I do think that alone will help me get some more weight off. Whats the replacement? Fruits and smoothies will help fill in some of the gap. I figure I need to get some good breakfast’s first thing in the morning too. That way I won’t be grabbing the junk food at the first quick stop I come to right off the bat. I suspect I will get some input from my new triathlon coach too. She seemed to have a pretty sensible approach, sounds like she would want to stear me to smaller changes that I can maintain for the long haul. I’m cool with that too.

Speaking of “new coach”, today was the first day of training directed by my new coach. I’m pretty excited about it too! Today was a 1 hour bike ride on the trainer. After warmup I did some sets of ‘one-leg’ drills, followed by some riding in Zones 2 and 3. I also had a couple of times where I was to really push it hard for a solid minute then back down again. I am curious to see where my power was for those minutes. I was trying to make sure I held at least 300watts. One thing I really enjoy when on the trainer is listening to music! Today I went with Pandora’s Third Eye Blind RadioWhen I ride outside I don’t use the Ipod, I like the “all natural” sound thing, plus it is just more safe when out on the roads.  I was using heart-rate zones to do the workout. I suspect will will probably shift over to using the power meter at some point. That’s still a pretty new tool for me. I’ll kind of take the cue from my coach on how we will do that as we go along.

Mentally and Spiritually, it was a pretty good day too. I was able to get an early enough start to get a good prayer and meditation time to get the day going. I always like the picture of the cloudy water swirling in the cup and how continued practice of meditation lets that whirling crap settle down and rest on the bottom so we can get a better picture of what is goin on. Even in times where my mind is more “out there”, I know it is just a matter of making that time to practice that will help it to settle down. That alone helps me keep in a ‘hopeful” state of mind. One strain of thought that keeps seeping inside is that “the more you are able to stay in the moment and present, be it in meditation or even in day to day/minute to minute life, the more the past begins to heal and fears of future subside”. I believe it, more important than believing it is that I have started to experience it too!

Tonight we are going to enjoy my favorite pork tenderloin with that ‘gunpowder’ rub (actually it is chilli powder) on the outside to give it a little bite, brocolli, corn, and a nice salad. Good stuff!

No doubt, I have ‘the good life’. And the best thing about that is I know it too.

Tonights music clip will be a Led Zeppelin tune! Did you see the Kennedy Center honors last night? I only got to see the Led Zeppelin part and it was so cool getting to watch them listen to everyone doing thier songs! I was trying to decide which song I would post, then I found a clip of the whole segment so why not just post it all! Enjoy the greatest rock n roll band ever!!!

memorialherman

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