This Is Big (Sur)

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Bixby Creek Bridge

“If we were told we could only run one marathon in our lifetime, Big Sur would have to be it.” —Bart Yasso, chief running officer, Runner’s World

I don’t recall exactly when the Big Sur Marathon first entered my head. But I know that when I read Bart Yasso’s quote about it last year, Big Sur burrowed there.

The marathon, with its breathtaking California coastal views and epic climbs (perhaps as payment for those views), is on a lot of people’s bucket lists. It’s on mine. And I’m fortunate enough to not wait long to cross it off.

Search for “Big Sur Marathon” online, and you’ll find no shortage of amazing photos of the ragged edge of the Western world, most notably of Bixby Creek Bridge, complete with ant-size people running across for a humbling juxtaposition.

Oh, what an experience it will be! But if it were only about photo ops, my family and I could have purchased plane tickets and booked a hotel room for a few nights on the Monterey Peninsula. (Although we’re doing that, too.)

No, this is about the Big Sur Marathon, 26.2 miles of exhilaration and pain along northbound Highway 1. This is about 16 weeks of training—starting in January, in Chicago, in subzero wind chill—logging up to 35 miles each week (yes, only 35 miles, but that’s another blog post), subjecting my glutes and quads and calves and lungs to grueling hill work. This is about eating well (OK, eating like a horse), nursing nagging injuries, and avoiding illness or shaking them quickly. About keeping an eye on the prize. This is about being on the cusp of shattering my marathon PR in the grandest way I can think of.

There are a lot of superlatives in this post. The risk in building up something so much in your mind is having the experience not go as you envisioned or things not play out as planned. When you’ve worked so hard for something, and when every account you hear about it only boosts your already high expectations, it’s hard not to make more out of than you should.

I need to try to keep those feelings in check, but also allow myself to be moved in the moment.

As I write this, with less than 24 hours to go before the race, my nerves are good. Butterflies are minimal. Taper madness, even that’s not so bad! All that’s about to change, I know, when I head to the expo this morning to check in, and when I board the bus (at OMG-early) to the start line.

This is Big.

Make a Donation to PAWS Chicago

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Happy tax day! If you’re like me, you waited late to file (oh, but not too late!). Did you get all the deductions you wanted? Maybe you wished you could have given a little more to charity.

Well, you can do something about that charity thing right now. By giving to PAWS Chicago at this link, you can …

 

  • Deduct 100% of your gift on your 2016 taxes
  • Support a worthwhile cause, giving hope to homeless pets
  • Help me get to the Chicago Marathon

 

Won’t you donate to my cause today?
Our area’s homeless pets and I are grateful for any amount.

—> CLICK HERE TO DONATE <—

It’s Daylight Savings Time and I’m Feeling Shifty

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For the last 20-plus years, I watched the world move an hour back and forth around me. I was in Arizona, which doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time. If you were the changing tide, I was a soggy old tree stump stubbornly anchored in the sand.

Today, though, from my new Chicago base camp, I shifted along with the rest of my new BFFs in the Central Time Zone. Whee!

Forget the physical changing of the clock (which is a minor but legitimate pain, BTW). For real, I was having conversations with people about what the time change actually means.

So, wait, we start later and get an hour less of daylight—but that’s OK because the days are longer anyway? (Update: Turns out we shift to get an hour MORE of daylight.)

Hmm, I wonder whether my phone alarm will automatically adjust the time overnight. Oh wait, it’s Sunday, so never mind about the alarm. (Update: My phone DID adjust overnight!)

Why does anybody change times?

You got me there. I googled it and found articles like “The Strange and Surprising History of Daylight Saving Time” and “Love it or hate it, here comes Daylight Saving Time.” Benjamin Franklin was involved somehow. It’s all quite fascinating. You can look up the history of DST if you like.

Perhaps more interesting, why doesn’t Arizona change times?

As a longtime resident of the Copper State, I feel I should know this answer. But I do not. I found much discussion online about energy savings and human productivity and desert weather. Whatevs. All I know is I never had to worry about resetting the clock on my microwave.

Until now.

Does your life change with the changing time?

I mean, should your life change? Does anybody use Daylight Savings Time as a transformative kick in the pants, like people use New Year’s or a milestone birthday? Meet some new people. Call a loved one. Spend more time with the kids. Volunteer. Donate.

I’m going to try to make a meaningful shift.

Most days I run, I commute, I work, I commute, I love on my family. Repeat. With an hour more of daylight for the next eight months, I want to be more mindful of how I’m spending the time that I’m given. (Note: I originally said we got an hour less of daylight. Oops.)

What kinds of things can I do differently to supply more substance to myself and others?

Don’t float through life like the changing tide. For that matter, don’t dig into the sand like a soggy old tree stump. Go do some serious shifting.

 

Running for a Good ‘PAWS’

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Please support me as I race to save the lives of homeless pets.

As part of Team PAWS Chicago, I’m raising funds for the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter, and in exchange I gain entry into one of the world’s most renowned races: the Chicago Marathon. It might sound self-serving, and in some ways it is.

But I’m also serving thousands of homeless pets in Chicago. And you can help by making a tax-deductible donation of any amount to my cause. Do good, feel good.

—> Please click here to make a donation.

 

Why Am I Doing This?

Unless you’re super-fast, you must rely on a lottery to get into the Chicago Marathon. I could throw my hat in the ring and leave it up to chance. Maybe I’d get in. Maybe I wouldn’t. (Better luck next year!) The thing about chance is there’s nothing to say I’d ever have my name picked.

I’ve been eyeing the Chicago Marathon for a while now, and when I moved from the Valley of the Sun to the Land of Lincoln, I figured this is an ideal opportunity to run the city’s marquee marathon.

By committing to raising funds for a charity, I can make the Chicago Marathon happen. And through Team PAWS, with the help of people like you, I can also be a powerful force for homeless pets.

 

Why This Charity?

Rescue groups are near and dear to my wife and me. We adopted our two dogs, Shanna and Luke, from a shelter in Arizona, and we would not hesitate to adopt again (when the time comes).

PAWS Chicago is doing some amazing work …

  • Saving thousands of homeless pets each year. (My charity team, Team PAWS, aims to save 3,000.)
  • Treating and rehabilitating sick and injured animals and uniting them with loving families.
  • Providing low-cost/free spay or neuter surgeries in low-income communities where most stray and unwanted animals originate.

PAWS Chicago does all this without federal funding. The group is dependent on donors to do its lifesaving work.

—> Will you help with a donation? Please click here.

 

Why Now?

Why not?! A tax-deductible donation of any amount to my donation page directly supports PAWS Chicago’s efforts to save homeless pets—and gets me one step closer to running the Chicago Marathon.

Thank you.

 

Change of Pace: My 2015 Running Recap

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When this year began, one question I never thought I’d ask myself is, how do I keep wind-driven snow from stinging my eyeballs?* Yet here we are.

Holed up in my new Chicago suburb home, I’m writing this running retrospective 1,750 miles from where I wrote the last one (Scottsdale, Ariz.). I felt every bit of that distance, literally and figuratively, on the morning of the eyeball-stinging snow, considering about this time last year I was enjoying some fairly fantastic runs in the sun (though the temps in the two places were similar!).

I could make more out of the distance between my two homes, but I won’t. Truth is, I’m doing OK in my short time in Chicagoland. And I have running to thank for it. Not long after I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about running streaks, I started a streak for real. Logging at least a mile a day—for 97 days, as of this morning—has been one constant to get me through the turbulence of a cross-country relocation.

Whereas 2014 was perfectly “fine,” 2015 was the best year of my running life. Here are a few reasons why.

Change 1. After years of dedicated work toward half-marathons and full marathons, I trained exclusively for a 5K, in May. Following a speedwork-heavy regimen, I blew away my goal (hello, 21:10 PR!). The delightful byproduct was a base of strength and speed that transformed my running ever since.

Change 2. I joined a running club, RunEatTweetAZ. The people I met on the group runs and online added a social dimension to running that I was missing. My only regret was not being involved longer. (Unless they’re interested in chartering a club in Chicago’s northern suburbs.)

Change 3. I switched training plans. A cross-promotional email from Runkeeper prompted me to try out MyAsics. Initially the program struck me as soft—it wasn’t nearly as intense as my previous plan. But therein lies the beauty! After following three programs (one 5K and two halfs), I had three shattered PRs to show for it. Best of all, the absence of all-out intensity inherent in MyAsics got me to fall in love with running.

So yeah, 2015 offered upticks in almost every facet of my running. Here’s a look at the numbers.


1,239

Total miles run (more than double last year)


167

Miles run in October (most)


97

Consecutive days with at least a mile run (current streak)


91

Degrees F of hottest run (several in June–August in Arizona)


50

Miles run in March (least)


23

Degrees F of coldest run (Dec. 19 in Illinois)


8:14

Average pace per mile (38 seconds faster than last year)


8

5K races run


6

States with at least a mile run (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon)


4

Race PRs (13.1m, 15K, 4.2m, 5K)


3

Half-marathon PRs (January, July, November)
Virtual races run


2

Ragnars run (Del Sol Relay in February, McDowell Mountain Trail in November)


0

Injuries (again!)


*Seriously, if you know how to keep wind-driven snow from stinging your eyeballs, do tell.

Love Phoenix AND Leave Phoenix

Twenty-two years ago I was making my way to Arizona. A pimple-faced kid fresh out of high school, nervous but mostly excited about the life that lay ahead.

On this trip I caravanned with my parents, they in their family van and I in my sporty new Honda Civic. I remember gunning it to 100 and zipping past them in stretches near Palm Springs, just to see what it would feel like (and maybe also to see what they might say).

Today I’m on the road again, making my way out of town, away from the place I’ve called home for more than half my life. Leaving Arizona. This time, I’m the one driving the family van, and not nearly as fast as that Civic. I’ll tell you it’s because I’m pulling a 4×8 U-Haul trailer. But on a deeper level, it’s because I’m so very reluctant to leave.

“Aren’t you excited to go to Chicago?” people ask. That’s a loaded question.

Right now, I’m more stressed than excited. Moving is one of the most stressful things a person can endure in his lifetime. Ask any psychiatrist. Having your entire life wrapped in cellophane, packed into boxes and stuffed onto a tractor-trailer? Stressful.

Right now, I’m more anxious than excited. I do not like change. Never have, probably never will. I get anxious when someone beats me to my favorite parking spot at work. I don’t have to tell you what kind of next-level anxiety this relocation is evoking.

Right now, I’m more heartbroken than excited. I’ve always kind of tolerated Arizona through the years. (Maybe taken it for granted?) It was a place to be. The possibility of moving had me start to realize my true feelings, and then the reality of moving to galvanize them. Best I can describe, I’m in mourning. My insides ache, the way you feel gut-punched after a nasty breakup.

Say what you will about the heat. Or the “wild west.” Or the politics. I love it here. Arizona is home. And it’s with a heavy heart that I leave it.

But …

That’s not the end of the story.

Just like people in mourning, after this move I’ll deal and I’ll heal. I have every reason to expect that someday, maybe soon, I WILL be excited to be in Chicago. Exciting things await me there.

Soon, I’ll be excited to push my personal and professional boundaries. Chicago offers a career opportunity I was likely not to get in Phoenix. It’s a rare chance for me to lead and innovate and shape the direction of a growing team.

Soon, I’ll be excited to experience seasons. Chicago has a winter, a spring, a summer and a fall. Imagine! I’ve lived in Southern California and Arizona just about all my life. I don’t know what weather is. All that ends very soon for me and my family. The kids will know what it’s like to dive into a big ol’ pile of leaves and build a snowman and use an umbrella.

Soon, I’ll be excited to run. Chicago, from what I gather, has an incredible running community. In two days after posting a plea for winter running advice on Facebook, I received 102 (mostly) well-meaning and constructive comments, plus an invitation to a holiday party. I’ve been asked to join a charity running team, which I’m seriously considering. I can’t wait to sign up for the many races around Chicagoland.

Soon, I’ll be excited to explore. Chicago has an incredible community, period. Winter weather aside, I’ve heard very little negative commentary on the place. The people, the culture and the history top the list of attributes.

Twenty-two years is a long time to live in a place. Today, it’s time to go, ready or not. Here’s to getting past the stress, the anxiety and the heartbreak—sooner rather than later—and into the excitement.

To My Son on His Last Arizona Diamondbacks Home Game

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Today a chapter in our lives comes to a close. We’re going to our last Arizona Diamondbacks home game.

My boy, I hardly have the heart to tell you this in person, and I’m not sure you’d quite understand, or even care. We knew when we agreed to move that this day would come. And now that it’s here, it’s weighing heavy on your sappy old father.

The Dbacks have been part of my life since ever there were Dbacks. And you—you’ve been going to games to since you were 4 months old. You were practically born into the Dbacks family!

As we take our seats today, I’ll be taking all this in. Remembering.

I’ll remember that your first game was Oct. 5, 2011, Game 4 of the NLDS versus the Brewers. Your mom carried you in the front pack, where you sat—or dangled?—for most of your early games.

I’ll remember that after your sister was born, your mom stayed home and we went to many games by ourselves. Just father and son.

I’ll remember that weekday start times were 6:40 p.m., dangerously close to bedtime to begin with, and so often you’d nod off in the car on the way there and I’d carry your increasingly heavy, sleeping self from the car to the stadium to the seats, sometimes trying to manipulate stroller and diaper bag and all other things in my free hand. Oh, how I struggled!

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Father-son sleepy selfie. #godbacks

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I’ll remember the times you woke up, finding your self inexplicably in a baseball stadium, and demanded we go home.

I’ll remember when you never wanted to leave.

I’ll remember that I’d keep you occupied with videos on my cellphone, coloring books and snacks from the trusty diaper bag. Paying attention to the action on the field was not even in the realm of possibility (for either of us!), but that was OK. It was quality time.

I’ll remember that you learned the art of opening a peanut and the joy of the occasional ball of cotton candy.

I’ll remember that I’d try to get pictures. It was risky because anytime I produced the phone from my pocket, you’d want it immediately and you’d get lost in videos or whatever else for the rest of the night.

I’ll remember that some nights you were totally game for the #fathersonselfie.

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I think I might have blinked. #fathersonselfie

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I’ll remember that you had such fun watching the Dbacks Legends—the “big heads”—race around the warning track and dance in the Sandlot kids play area for the seventh-inning stretch, right before we needed to leave to get you home to bed.

I’ll remember how tentative you were in the small-kids area, and how you flat-out refused to go in the rowdy big-kids area, even when you were big enough.

I’ll remember that every once in a while, we made it to the end of the game and were treated to fireworks. You were entranced.

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First fireworks.

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Perhaps most of all, I’ll remember that regardless of what time we left, it was mandatory to stop and check out the kinetic ball sculpture just outside the stadium. You watched it go on and on and on, when I was most eager to get going. Some days I rushed you more than others.

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Our new ritual after every @dbacks game.

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As long as I have anything to say about it, this will not be your last major league baseball game. I fully expect we can continue to share these experiences in whatever stadium we’re closest to. We might even catch the Dbacks when they’re in town. You might root for them then. You might not. Who knows. That’s not really my call.

Today, I’ll just enjoy spending this time with you, reflecting on all the memories we made in this stadium, watching this team, and looking forward to the next chapter.