Category Archives: Marathon

Remembering, Racing, and Ramblings: Remember the Ten Race Report

Today marked the first official race I’ve done since my marathon in December. Why the long lull? Attribute it to training, a busy schedule, or a minor case of ADD; In either event, I’ve lacked focus. Maybe that’s the wrong choice of words. It isn’t that I’ve lacked focus, it’s more like I’ve been dealing with too much of it. After my marathon, I took a month off, only to start back half-heartedly, running aimlessly with no real goal. Cue the inception of the triathlon/Ironman dream and a complete 180 in training, and suddenly it’s April. (Actually, let’s be honest: it probably isn’t due to any of the reasons listed above as much as it is the financial issue. A part-time office job on campus has been known to change people’s perspective on money and side-effects often include the common use of the sentence “You want how much for a gallon of milk?!” [Yes, I realize how depressing this statement is. Don’t judge me.]).

Anyhow, it was great to toe the start line again. Oddly enough, according to my pace group (7:00/mile), I was only about ten feet from the start line. Scary stuff for a guy who only ran a 4:47:22 marathon. In any event, I woke up about an hour before the race to get ready and eat a light breakfast of half a cinnamon bagel and a GU gel. Let me take another side note here and defend my GU use for a 10K. I’m the first proponent for not using nutrition supplements for any runs lasting shorter than an hour and a half or so, but I was reading an article yesterday about racing and the effects of lactic acid. Supposedly, caffeine slows down the buildup of lactic acid and mitigates some of the soreness felt after a hard run. I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.” So after consuming my bagel and GU chaser, I trotted out the door of my apartment to the starting line.

The race was taking place less than a half mile from my apartment. Perfect for a person like me. Morning person, I am not. I found my pace group, unsettlingly close to the start line and then commenced my favorite past time: watching people before a race. The way I see it, you’ve got three types of people before a race begins: the stretchers, the talkers, and the fidgety ones.

The stretchers are a common species and can usually be found along the perimeter of the starting line. Typically they are embracing a pole or a wall (sometimes a third party) for support and will, well, stretch right up to the gun.

The talkers need no explanation other than the fact that many of them seem to feel the need to share their PR’s with you either a) In an attempt to impress you, or b) In an attempt to reassure themselves that they can indeed do it. (Either that or they just want to make sure that they are standing in the middle of the right street, with the right group of people, doing the right activity. You don’t want to get a race mixed up with a protest, although I’ve found the amount of spandex to be a good gauge (depending on what protest).

The fidgety ones are the ones dashing to and fro. Examples include, but are not limited to: doing twenty yard sprints along the side of the street, jumping up and down, or perusing the beginning of the course (as if they won’t see it in a few minutes).

I witnessed the full gamut in the ten minutes I was waiting for the gun to go off. I’m not asserting that my way is the right way, but I take an attitude similar to how I view tests: this close to the event, there’s not much I can do to make it go any better. So there I stood patiently waiting. Then the sixty second announcement was made.

Me: “Hm, I wonder how long sixty seconds is.”

Then my brain after a little while: “Seems like it should be shorter than this.”

Announcer: “THIRTY SECONDS!”

Me: “See you worried for nothing.”

Brain: “That was a long thirty seconds, my guess is this guy can’t tell time-”

*GUN SHOT*

Me: “Confirmed: he definitely can’t tell time. That was more like fifty seconds, then a ten second warning.”

This conversation actually took place. Shaking off the shock of what was first the longest thirty seconds of my life, followed quickly by the shortest, we were off. The 6:00/mile group in front of me shot off like bats out of hell and I knew for certain I was going to get trampled. To my surprise and overall elation, I didn’t though. The course began with a gradual up hill for the first mile and a half which I completed in just under 7 minutes.

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My goal going into this race was to average 7:00/mile and finish in about 43:00. So far so good. I felt great going into the first two miles. I was using the Virtual Partner feature on my 910XT set to 7:00/mile. I was about 11 seconds ahead for the first two miles, but then faded just a bit. It was extremely flat from about mile 1.5 to 3.5 so I was disappointed that my splits were slower than my goal pace. No excuse today, it was 50 degrees with almost no wind. I stepped it up just in time for a couple more small inclines, so my pace wasn’t really affected too much.

I noted that after about mile 4 I began passing people that had passed me in the beginning. I may not be very fast, but endurance is one aspect I’m decent at. I began picking off people, one by one, all the way down to mile 6 when Blue Lightning passed me. I’m referring to him as Blue Lightning because that’s what it looked like. This guy had to have been pushing a 6:00/mile pace. Not wanting to give up my spot that easily, I got a great angle on the second to last turn and passed him. I felt like my race was against him at this point because you had the crazy fast people about 50-100 yards ahead of me, which I knew I couldn’t make happen, and the rest of the pack behind me. We dodged through the 5K walkers that were finishing up and I almost took out a little girl (not on purpose!) that decided she wanted to run in my space at the last minute. After a good fight lasting about a half mile, Blue Lightning truly lived up to his name and mopped the floor with me the last 0.2. I kept up as best I could squeezing out a 6:19/mile pace for the last portion. I crossed the finish line in 44:36 which was enough to earn me 7th out of 29 in my age group and 26th (out of about 500) overall. I was pleased! Coming off of an entire training season last year where I trained around 9:30/mile, I was elated that I was able to average 7:07/mile for the 10K distance.

The proof is in the puddin’, as they say…

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The overall winner finished in 32:33. I thought at that speed you were supposed to travel back in time. The Fiancee was able to snap a few pictures of me as I approached the finish. In the below pictures, I would just like to point out that the 5K and 10K courses merged. I wasn’t being beaten by a 70 year old. (Although, that has happened before. That’s a story for another time though.) I’m the one that’s not a woman.

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I think I inspired her to run with me…
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Okay, in the picture below you can see the culprit. Young girl, pink pants. In about a second and a half (as I’m passing) she darts out in front of me and nearly get’s taken out by a man on a mission to catch Blue Lightning.
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All in all it was a great race! Plenty of participants and a good number of spectators. It was a lot of fun to participate in a race again.

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Next week The Fiancee and I will be running the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon. Expect plenty of pictures and probably a few stories to highlight her first “official” foray into the world of long-distance running!

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Birthday Wishes

Well it’s that time of year again. The time of year when the majority of us are either rushing to file our taxes or (for the procrastinators) an extension. Tax season seems to predispose people to stress and anxiety. To me though, it’s always had a different connotation: excitement. Yes, the mid-April deadline happens to be my birthday. Ironically enough, I was born on April 15th to two accountants… Yet somehow I still suck at math. Oh well. Luckily for me, that’s why there’s calculators and TurboTax.

This week was busy, both with school and exercise. Here’s a breakdown of last week’s workouts:

Monday: 1 mile swim-43 minutes

Tuesday: 60 minute spin, 30 minute run

Wednesday: 1 mile swim-40 minutes

Thursday: 60 minute interval run

Saturday: 11 mile run

Sunday: 120 minute Z2 bike, 30 minute Z2 run

The weekend didn’t offer much of a break in the way of exercise, but it was great to be home with my family. Saturday evening we went out to celebrate at my favorite pizza place in Oklahoma City, Upper Crust. Since my focus has shifted a great deal since last year, so did my wish list. I’ve been drooling over the Garmin Forerunner 910XT for the last four months. (Seriously, The Fiancee can attest: it’s become a bit of a problem.) To my elation, with the help of my parents, The Fiancee, and my soon-to-be in-laws, I got one!

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It actually worked out perfectly because today I had another brick. 120 minute Z2 bike, followed by a 30 minute Z2 run. It was perfectly clear and just the right temperature. Unfortunately, after turning south I was greeted with an extremely stiff south wind. Again. It’s becoming such a common theme I’m considering creating a new category on my website for it. Today the winds were sustained at 20mph and gusting to 38mph. Not the best conditions for a bike ride, but I had a new toy to play with, so nothing was going to stop me.

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I started out heading north and felt like the fastest cyclist alive, only to turn south and feel like I was trying to tow a car. It was a great workout and it was wonderful to be on a relatively flat course. I completed 30.29 miles in 1:49:22 averaging 16.6 mph. I was slightly disappointed with my speed, but with a wind that strong, there wasn’t much I could do. You can definitely tell the areas I was heading north (with the wind) and south (into the wind). Also, note the elevation graph which is much more my speed (sorry, couldn’t avoid that one) and definitely closer to my mediocre level of ability. I’m looking at you Ride from Hell.

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After the ride, I slipped into my running shoes. I purchased some Lock Laces last week and they have been a godsend. I highly recommend them. They are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve your transition time. I was concerned that my heel would slide out of the shoe given the elasticity of the “laces”, but they are the perfect tension.

I had to smile as I switched sports on my new Garmin. It was effortless and made everything so much easier. My goal was to stay under 8:00/mile for the duration of the run. It was difficult with wind and after the ride, but I managed to squeeze out 3.82 miles in exactly 30:00 averaging 7:51/mile. A successful day of training and a great way to end the 5th week of my program.

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This weekend was extremely busy for The Fiancee and myself. Saturday morning I elected to run The Fiancee’s long run with her (since I’ve done absolutely no training for the half marathon in two weeks since my triathlon program began). It was an 11 mile run and the weather was perfect. I took the opportunity to take some photographs and just enjoy my favorite discipline. The trail around Lake Hefner is really pretty in some places.

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If you’re in Oklahoma City for any length of time, you’ll likely see the lighthouse below either in a picture or on the news. It’s kind of a cool spot and makes for great pictures.

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The Fiancee and I went to New York City in December (that’s actually where I asked her to marry me). It was absolutely one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. The number of buildings was incredible. Behold New York City’s antithesis: Oklahoma City.

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I love it, but it’s flat largely uninteresting. Although, that makes it great for training. After completing her run we completed some wedding obligations and then went to my birthday dinner with my family. It was a great weekend that went by way too quickly. I hope everyone had a safe and productive week!

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Goals, Safety, and Road ID: Day 16

Today I want to talk about goals. Personal goals, specifically. It’s easy to throw out race dates and distances as goals, but deep down most of us have expectations of our performance that we are unwilling to admit to others. Maybe it’s the fear of embarrassment of not reaching these goals. If we keep them to ourselves, no one can ask, “did you finish in such-and-such time?”

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fast runner. I blame genetics. The Fiancee is 3 inches shorter than me, yet my knees fall below hers. Seriously, when I see pictures of myself in jeans, I’m often reminded of Yoda. All kidding aside, I’m guilty of the subject of today’s post. My goal last December was to finish my first marathon in under 4:30:00. All of my training up until that point indicated that it was possible, yet I never stated my goals to anyone other than The Fiancee. When people would ask, I’d say, “I’m just hoping to finish”. While this was true, in the back of my mind, I was hoping to break the 4:30:00 barrier. This didn’t happen though. I crossed the finish line in 4:47:22, elated, but ever so slightly disappointed in my performance.

There are two things I propose we all start doing. Number one: write down your goals. Hold yourself accountable. It’s easy to go into a race with a goal in the back of your mind, only to miss it, and then think, “well, I wasn’t really going for that anyway”. Embrace the challenge. That’s what I’ll be doing through this blog. In the near future, I’m going to post goals for each race listed in the Race Schedule.

Secondly: be specific with your goals. Instead of saying, “I want to finish in under 4 hours”, give yourself a finite goal and post it where you’ll see it daily. For runners, a goal might look like this: Finish the Oklahoma City Half-Marathon in under 1:30:00 and place in the top ten in my age group. For triathletes, set goals for each leg. An example at the Iron Distance might be: Finish the swim in 1:15:00, the bike in 6:00:00, and the run in 4:30:00 and finish in the top ten in my age group. Holding yourself accountable begins with holding yourself to certain standards. Don’t let the fear of embarrassment cause you to miss out on potential group of supporters just because you don’t want to be specific.

Lastly, I want to share a very important aspect of training with you all. Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist, or combine all three in triathlon, safety should always be first an all of our minds. This week I purchased a Road ID that includes all of my personal information just in case an accident occurs while out training. I used to carry my Driver’s License with me on long workouts, but I kept forgetting to take it out of my Camelbak or running jacket. Of course, I’d always remember the next day while out driving around (not good). This should alleviate that issue. All this is to say, they sent me a code for $1 off any Road ID, good until the end of the month. I realize it’s only a dollar, but hey, there’s most of the shipping ($1.49)! The coupon is good for 20 uses and I receive no incentives for any subsequent purchases. I just wanted to share the opportunity.

Just enter: ThanksZach24548268

I hope everyone had a productive and safe week! On the long training days I’m sure everyone will be doing this weekend (wink wink) take some time to consider what the goals are that you have for your performance. Whether they’re short or long term, don’t be afraid to write them down and don’t be afraid to share.

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This Week on IronTry: Day 11

Well, the Oklahoma weather is at it again. Today I was dressed in short sleeves, tomorrow, a blizzard. At least it keeps things interesting. I’ve decided on Sunday’s to recap the week and preview the week ahead.

Monday and Tuesday look like they will be indoor running days again. We’re supposed to get another round of winter weather on Monday. Besides the running inside, I don’t mind the weather. It forces (most) people, to slow down, relax and stay inside. It’s a nice reprieve from the non-stop lifestyle most of try to live.

Later on this week, I’ll be receiving a few items I ordered online including some new running clothes and a road bike pump. Plan on a couple of reviews being posted around Wednesday and Thursday of this coming week.

Besides those two items, expect the usual: two interval runs interspersed among The Fiancee’s weekly training. Next Saturday will be a 7 mile run for us as the Oklahoma City Memorial Half-Marathon comes closer. I hope everyone had a safe and productive weekend!

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Expectations: Day 4

I’m not feeling very verbose today. Today’s run left a lot to be desired. I said yesterday that today would be another interval day. I forgot that I was going to try and find my race pace for the 5k distance. One of the books I’m currently reading requires a base line in order to track improvement. So instead of intervals, today was a “race”. Meaning, flat-out, 100% effort. I titled this post “Expectations” because I had a few going into today’s run. First off, I was expecting to PR the 5k distance. Secondly, I was hoping average about 7:00/mile for the duration of the run. Unfortunately, neither of these things occurred.

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I could make excuses all day as to why today’s run was worse than previous workouts. It was warm today. Unusually warm for February. It was windy. It was my sixth run this week. However you slice it, I just didn’t make it happen today. For any other runners out there, I’m sure you’ve experienced runs similar to this. Despite all your efforts and good intentions, things just don’t come together.

In the graph below you can see that I started out at about 6:45/mile. I made the mistake a lot of novice runners do and went out too fast at a pace I couldn’t maintain. The stats speak for themselves. I was only able to maintain that pace for a little over a mile before falling behind. From that point forward, I was disappointed to find how dependent my pace was on the elevation. Typically, I try not to let hills change my pace too much.

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On a brighter note, I did run my fastest mile ever today at 6:43/mile. My second mile split was a full 30 seconds per mile slower, and the third was another 10 seconds slower. Success was short lived.

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Lastly, here’s the breakdown of how long I spent in each speed “zone”.

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My final time was 3.1 miles in exactly 22:00. Only three seconds slower than my interval run on Day 2, but when feel like you’ve exerted 100% effort, it’s a bit discouraging. The outcome did get me thinking about various running styles, though. I spoke with a professor here in Stillwater who said by using the Galloway Method he ran his best marathon, finishing in 2:51. For those who haven’t heard, the Galloway method involves running a certain amount of time, followed by a short walking stint. I never seriously considered this method because once I start running, I like to keep it that way.

I like to run away from traffic and other distractions. I feel most connected with myself and my surroundings when I’m out in the country. There’s not a much better town than Stillwater for that, but if you’re looking for running trails, you’re in the wrong town partner. Last year on a 17 mile run I found myself about 4 miles outside of town when I saw lightning fairly close by. Not one to flirt with danger or 1 billion volts of electricity, I turned around and headed for shelter. I made it to good ol’ Boomer Lake just as the severe thunderstorm moved in. I have no qualms about running in the rain, but hail and lightning pose a threat that I’m not willing to chance. Drenched and about 8 miles into my 17 mile run the brunt of the storm was arriving. Either the winds picked up or I was running my fastest mile ever, in either case , it was difficult to see due to the rain. I was in an all out sprint towards the bathroom and made it just in time. Luckily, storms in Oklahoma are typically only a few minutes to a half hour in duration. I stood in the doorway of the bathroom, drenched, waiting for the storm to pass. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, it did. I wrestled my Camelbak back onto my shoulders and threaded the various cords that either provide nourishment (Cambelbak tube) or entertainment (earbuds) into their various locations. I emerged from the bathroom a new man. Or so I thought. I walked back to the trail ready to tackle the next 9 miles. I extended my leg and took the first stride. Welcomed by a dull pain in my knees that soon engulfed both of my legs, I finished all 17 miles. I have no problems admitting that I finished that run nearly in tears, averaging about 14:00/mile for the last mile. It was absolutely the worst run I’ve ever had.

Since then I’ve shied away from any workouts that involve a rest period. Once this train starts a rollin’, it isn’t stopping. That’s a very long-winded way of saying: I don’t like to stop. I first heard about the Galloway Method not long after this occurrence, which probably accounts for my hesitancy. After starting these interval workouts though, I’ve noted that as long as the legs keep moving, things will typically be okay. I’m not going to run out (sorry, unavoidable pun) and try this method for any of my marathons this year, but I think it would be interesting to compare results between a marathon run at a slightly slower consistent pace vs. a slightly faster pace with periods of walking. After all, my fastest 5k time occurred using a method in which periods of “rest” were interspersed. Either way, happy or unhappy, I’ve established my base-line for the 5k distance. 21:57 it is.

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The Long and Short of It: Day 3

Today began very, very early this morning down at the airport. I’m finishing up my single-engine commercial add-on rating for my Commercial Pilot Certificate so I can fly smaller planes for hire. For the unversed, the cockpit of a Cessna 152 is not the ideal place to unwind on the weekends. It’s more like cramming yourself and a complete stranger into a tin can with wings. It was a cold morning (about 22 °F), so we began with defrosting the airplane. There’s nothing quite like standing outside for twenty minutes waiting on the airplane to pre-heat while you freeze your extremities off. Not all of that time was spent standing around, though. I got the pleasure of spraying anti-ice on the wings to clear the frost. Although “spraying” is a misnomer considering the fluid was the consistency of syrup. Ah, well. It was a beautiful morning to fly.

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Similar to runners, airplanes perform better when it’s cold out too, so it was a great flight. Below is a shot of the tarmac this morning along with my previous plane, a Piper Seminole. Winds calm, sky clear. You couldn’t ask for a better day to fly or run.

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Returning home didn’t offer much of a reprieve before heading out the door again on The Fiancee’s weekly long run. She’s up to six miles and doing great week to week. This success shouldn’t be glossed over. When she started running last September she could barely run for two minutes continuously. I don’t mean “two minutes” in the exaggerated sense. I mean, literally, two minutes. I’m sure she’ll hate me for posting that on here, but I emphasize her starting point to show how much progress she’s made since that time.

Today was a 6 mile run around Boomer Lake, the route I posted yesterday. The Fiancee and I traversed the 6 mile loop in a little over an hour. This was her longest run to date and she rocked it. I’m using these slower training runs as an opportunity to focus on my form and trying to make my energy use more efficient. I see so many people flailing their arms to and fro, bouncing up and down, and kicking their legs up so high you’d think they were running a five minute mile.

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A really good book I would suggest for novice runners is The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, and Tanjala Kole. I used this book exclusively when training for my first marathon and came out injury free. The authors cover the basics of running form to mitigate chance of injury and to use energy more efficiently. The suggestions are easy to understand, but could be hard to implement if you’ve been running in an inefficient manner for a length of time. Bad habits are hard to shake. Of all the tips there are three basic things they suggest that will improve your running posture.

  1. Mid-Foot Strike-Long distance running is a high-impact and traumatic activity for the bones and muscles in the legs. Ensuring that you are striking the ground mid-foot reduces the impact that your feet, and ultimately, your legs feel. By distributing your weight over a larger area you are less likely to put undue strain on any leg or foot muscles. 
  2. Arms at 90°-135° Angle-Ideally, your arms should make about the same angle as your thigh does with your body when your leg is extended. This allows your upper-body muscles to remain relaxed and keeps your shoulders loose.
  3. Eyes Forward-This may sound unrelated, but it serves a larger purpose. Keeping your eyes focused on the road a good distance in front of you allows you to analyze your gait. If you notice the objects in your gaze moving up and down with your strides, chances are you’re using too much energy moving vertically, rather than horizontally. Try smoothing out your runs to more effectively use your energy stores. A small amount of energy conserved over three hours can really add up.

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All of this isn’t to say that to book is perfect. It is dated, and while discussing proper foot strike, it suggests either a mid-foot or heel strike. From my research, heel striking hasn’t been suggested for many years. That said, it covers everything you need to get yourself across this finish line. For anyone looking for an all-in-one training book that requires almost no prior experience, you’d hard pressed to find a better option.

I was thankful for such a beautiful day to fly and run. It isn’t often in Oklahoma that you’re blessed with a day without wind. The pictures tell the story of the day. I think I annoyed The Fiancee enough today by saying “just one more picture”. Although, I’m finding it rather therapeutic to look back on these last few days and remember specifics.

Tomorrow is another interval run for me. I normally try to take the the day before and the day after a long run off, but I missed one of my interval days this week due to inclement weather (read: freak Oklahoma winter storm). Tomorrow is shaping up to be another beautiful day. Check back for the results.

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Inauguration: Day 1

Valentine’s Day. I never understood why this innocuous day in February got such a bad wrap. Even when I was single, I never hated the day. I suppose it’s because I’m a fan of love. Not the public display, no-one-wants-to-see-that type of love, but the happy naiveté of youthful relationships. It wasn’t all that long ago for me, but I still look back on those times with a twinge of nostalgia.

Now, here I sit, a senior in college. Engaged. Moving in a matter of months to a new city. A new state, for that matter. Trying to make some semblance of making that new “place” a new “home”. I’m sure you’re very cognizant of the difference. The thought of moving doesn’t terrify me. Nor does the fact that I’ll be attempting to find a job for which I have no qualifications. (ADD Aside: Most people don’t realize how little you can do with a Commercial Pilot Certificate. There is literally, almost nothing. It’s the aviation equivalent of getting a Bachelor’s in Pre-Cold War Russian Literature. Rant over.) No,  the weight on my mind has been the impending challenges. The Certified Flight Instructor practical test before the end of May. One marathon in October and another in December. Throw in a marriage and a move and you’ve got your plate full.

I’ve also had this nagging feeling that I need to start writing. I don’t know what yet, or why. My senior english teacher told me that if I majored in anything other than english I’d be wasting my time. She expected me to become a writer. I suppose that’s the beauty of modern-day technology. Anyone with an agenda and an ISP can espouse their thoughts to the masses. Maybe that’s my goal with this blog. Trying to fulfill someone’s expectations, albeit without all the grandeur and apparent pretentiousness of the literary elite.

All jokes aside, I wanted this inaugural post to explain my attitudes and my goals. As far as the first point goes, I hope you’ve realized that overall, I’m a fairly jovial person, but a critically deep thinker. Two qualities that I feel society lacks today. The second point, my goals, is a much more broad subject. My goal for this blog is to chronicle my training and accomplishments. Any of you who have trained for an endurance event can relate to the number of hours you spend by yourself. Before my last marathon I peaked at about 40 miles per week. That’s a considerable amount of time to spend by yourself. You never truly know yourself until you’ve spent three hours alone on the country roads of Oklahoma. Self-reflection inevitably follows, followed either by self-loathing or  self-actualization. The latter was the case for me and I found that I was pretty comfortable with myself. Some of the most personal and awe-inspiring  moments I’ve experienced have occurred in the middle of a 20 mile Saturday run. It’s these moments, these flashes of perfection in an imperfect world that I want to capture and examine.

That’s really the heart and soul of this blog. “IronTry” is my attempt at giving a play on words deeper meaning. In May of next year I will be competing in my first Ironman. Hence the “iron” and “tri”, but it’s not really just a “tri” that I’m attempting. It’s the attempt itself. The “try”. The months of endless training. Pulling myself out of bed every morning, doing the work, and against all odds, finishing the race. I hope the metaphor is apparent in that last sentence because really, the hardest thing we do every day is wake up and get out of bed. Anyone can run 26.2 miles. It’s a test of endurance not commitment. That’s the point I want to make very clear in this post and on this day: that I am going to try my hardest in my training, and in my life, to finish the race. After all, it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

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