Maintaining Radio Silence

Maintaining Radio Silence

in honor of
West Volunteer Fire Department
Last Alarm, 04/17/13
Remember the fallen…
Godspeed, brothers.
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Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

My new bike came in this weekend, and I am so stoked! So, Sunday, I made my way out at Richardson Bike Mart to see Woody and Cliff. I have to admit I was downright giddy walking into the store. It’s not like I’ve never had a nice bike before, but I was still really excited. It’s about the same thing that I rode in Galveston – Trek Speed Concept 9.9 – but with a few upgrades. So, I shuffled into the store like a goofy teenager, with my twelve-year-old in tow, rolling her eyes. If only she knew the number of times the roles were reversed…

Cliff spent a lot of time checking measurements, angles, heights, distances, pitch, and more. After several hours and lots of tweaking, I’m feeling really comfortable.

With Ironman Texas just a few weeks away, this happened at a perfect time. I’ve got just enough time to be sure all is set up exactly as I need it. I set it up on my Computrainer last night, so here in a few, it’ll get it’s first real workout.
I can’t wait to hit the road in the Woodlands and see what kind of times I can ride.

If only there were 25 hours in a day…

If only there were 25 hours in a day…

This time of year, time just seems to fly by. The kids are down to six weeks left of school, and the spring/end of year activities are already starting to ramp up. On top of that, Ironman Texas is only four weeks away, so my days are packed from start to finish. Amy laughed at me – literally out loud – on Monday when I asked about plans for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I needed to know whether she was picking up the kids from school or needed me to. I needed to know what time soccer games are scheduled, what time we are having dinner each night, what time we are going to mass, and what time she/we/they need to leave and will return from each activity.

From 4:30am until I collapse into bed at the end of the night, I’ve got every minute of every day planned a week at a time. Lauren has really racheted my training up heading towards Ironman Texas, and I’ve got to find a way to fit it all in. My work schedule (one day on, two days off) gives me a good amount of flexibility and free time, but the caveat is that I never know what, if anything, I can get in on shift days. The day after shift can be a wildcard too, depending on how many calls we run. Nevertheless, I press on.
Amy and the girls are flexible and understanding about my training (minor disagreements not withstanding), so in theory, it should be easy to get it all in. That said; I still want to spend time with them. I want to attend all of the sports events, go to mass, and just see and talk to them. I don’t want the girls to remember that their childhood consisted of me always being at the gym, on my bike, or out for a run.
Making the time for “life” is forcing the issue with my recovery too. After getting yelled at last summer for “looking like I was about to die” at more than one of Boo’s practices or games, I have finally admitted that I can’t ride hard for 5 hours, hop off the bike, run through the shower, having not eaten all day, and then race out the door to the next activity. I’m focusing on quality over quantity and listening to my body. When it starts firing warning shots and saying, “Time to rest,” I listen (albeit begrudgingly). I often wish for 25 hours in a day, but I’d probably just end up planning something other than sleep for that extra hour anyway.

Raindrops

aindrops

It’s raining today, appropriate given the somber mood this week. It’s been a rough one for Americans. The country is still wrapping our collective heads around a cowardly act of terrorism, and then Wednesday, a fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX decimated a four-block area killing an unknown number of people and injuring well over a hundred. There are a number of people unaccounted for, including three firefighters. It’s another kick to the gut, especially for that small town of 2600 people. In a small, tight-knit community like West, everyone knows everyone, so it hurts them all to their core.

What is it about this week in history? Friday, in addition to being my birthday, will mark the 20th anniversary of the burning of the Branch Davidian compound and the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s events like those and the ones this week that really get into your head. How can these things happen? They also make you realize just how precious life is.
So, I encourage you to get away from the computers, TV’s and other life distractions. Spend some quality facetime with your family and friends. Take your kids out and let them dance in the rain, and join them when they jump in the puddles.

Boston Marathon 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

Yesterday morning, 26,839 runners waited anxiously in Hopkinton to start their 26.2 mile journey to Boston. They set off to conquer personal goals, participating in the longest running organized marathon in the world. It was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, held annually on Patriot’s Day.

The winners came in to the finish with the standard hoopla. Lelisa Desisa from Ethiopia won the men’s event in 2:10:22, and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya took home the top prize for the women with a time of 2:26:25. A great day for them, but at 3:00pm ET, the unspeakable happened.

Amy called me to say a friend had just posted on Facebook, “Something just happened in Boston!! 2 loud explosions and sirens everywhere!!” Amy had pulled up the live feed from the finish line camera, but it was cutting out. The news outlets hadn’t even started covering it yet. Then, the video and pictures began to surface, and details started being released. I was outraged and saddened. Thousands of runners, hundreds of volunteers, countless spectators…caught in the fray of the actions of a lunatic.

I’m thankful to report that all of our friends that were running have been accounted for and are safe. Unfortunately, the news indicates that as of this morning, three lives were lost and 144 injured.

As the stories have continued to unfold, I learned that one of the three fatalities was an eight-year-old boy. He was there to watch his father finish. The dad had come across the line just a few minutes earlier. They boy ran out, hugged his dad, returned to the sidewalk, and moments later…his life was cut short. My kids, ages twelve and seven, along with my wife have stood at countless finish lines awaiting my finish. It’s gut-wrenching to thing about. It’s just not fair – to that boy, his family, or any of those killed, wounded, or affected by this cowardly act of violence.

As with many tragedies, from them, we see great acts of triumph and courage. The full picture of that is still being painted, but it began taking shape in the moments immediately after the explosion. As I’ve seen photos and video, what strikes me is the number of people who ran into the chaos while most were (understandably and wisely) running away. I’m not just talking about the first responders either. Their actions will be considered by many as heroic, but as someone in the industry, I can tell you we all know it’s our job. That’s what we signed on to do, and when the call comes, we do it. We all hope that we will never have to deal with a mass casualty incident and certainly not an act of terror, but if it happens, we’ll be there.

If you watch clips, you’ll see runners stopping and immediately pulling off their shirts to cover or wrap around wounds. You’ll see volunteers at the finish line, picking up runners knocked from their feet, helping them to move away from the area. You’ll see bystanders comforting those writing in pain. You’ll read stories of runners pulling off race belts and using them as tourniquets. The resolve and heroism of our fellow man will be what gets us through yet another senseless tragedy.

Boston and all who were there or were affected, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

A long way from flowers and butterflies

A long way from flowers and butterflies

It was a fun and crazy weekend at the Schuster household. Monkey had a track meet Friday night, where she and her classmates represented their school well. She raced in the mile, finishing in 7:22. Due to the low numbers in that event, she finished 2nd out of 2 from her grade. Nevermind the very respectable mile time for a 6th grader who doesn’t run all that much; she’s a chip off her old competitive daddy’s block and really wanted to win.

Saturday evening was Monkey’s belated birthday party – a slumber party with 12 girls ages 13 and under in the house. The next time Amy advises me to sleep elsewhere because, and I quote, “there’s a reason these things are usually purposely scheduled on A-shift,” I will heed her warning. Yikes… the squealing finally died down around 1am, and reports are that the last ones fell asleep around 4am. I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep before getting up and out the door to head to the lake for the Fast & Furious Du Sunday.

As hoped, I bounced back well from the 70.3 and took home the Texas State Duathlon Championship title. After the awards, I hurried home to shower, grab a bite to eat, and head out to Boo’s soccer game.
I’ve mentioned before that her team has come a long way in the last year. It’s also notable that Boo has become a very different player in the last year. Youth sports is an interesting environment, to say the least, and it can be overwhelming at times – for the child and for the parents. I think the shift from recreational soccer to academy soccer last Spring was a challenge for Boo. The differences (new coach, new teammates, tougher competition) coupled with her already busy schedule were rough on her. She was inconsistent, at best. She would tell us she liked playing and would be excited about going to practice, then she would pick flowers and chase butterflies. On the occasions when she decided to engage and play, she would do well, which made the hot and cold bit all the more frustrating to watch. Over Spring and Fall, she improved and picked up her game. She still had days where she was more interested in playing in the dirt than with the soccer ball though. Then, in January, something clicked.
Boo now wakes up on gamedays asking what time we leave for her game. She started playing goalie this season, which is exciting and terrifying all at once, at least for us as parents. She takes it so seriously, and she seems to really enjoy it. She is aggressive and willing to dive at people’s feet, which is a good quality for a goalie. Yesterday, she went out to cut off an angle on a shot and strayed a little too far from the goal. It resulted in a score for the other team. It was a good shot and may have gone in anyway, but she was pretty sure she made the wrong decision. When we got home last night, she wanted to “talk angles.” She drew a soccer field on the chalk board and wanted Amy to draw what she did wrong and show her where it would be better to be. What a long way we’ve come from picking flowers and chasing butterflies.

Vector 450

Vector 450

Scheduling races is generally pretty easy when they’re months away, at least the write-them-on-the-calendar aspect of scheduling anyway. Once the time is near, things always seem so hectic, especially when races are on back-to-back weekends. Add into the week 48 hours on-shift for me, an eventful workweek for Amy, two soccer practices, a track meet, and a couple of soccer games for the girls, and life spins in a whirlwind.

Thankfully, recovery this week has gone well. I feel great, and I’m ready to race tomorrow. I haven’t typically bounced back this quickly from a 70.3 before. I’ve raced back to back after an Ironman or a 70.3, but I haven’t felt this recovered. I started on a new supplement a few weeks ago – Vector 450. It’s just IgY, or purified egg yolk, but it’s done wonders for aiding in my recovery. I noticed before Galveston that I seemed to be bouncing back from hard workouts faster. I really noticed early this week that I was feeling ready to train sooner than normal after a race, which is always a welcome occurrence.
Now, off to survive the night with twelve twelve-year-olds in the house. Happy Birthday, Monkey!

Support System

Support

I’m often asked for the secret behind my training and racing. What has allowed me to have some success at racing and keep it going as I enter my 40’s. I can simplify the answer down to one word – support. None of what I have been able to do would be possible without an amazing support structure. I am blessed with some incredible sponsors that help make training, racing, and recovery possible, but there were some key supporters in the mix long before I had any hope of acquiring sponsors.

Amy, my wife, has always been supportive of my athletic endeavors. Whether hockey (when we were dating and first married), running (that I got into just after we were married), or Ironman training, she’s been my biggest cheerleader. That’s not to say she hasn’t occasionally hurled a, “Can you stop training for 5 minutes to help me with <fill in the task>,” or, “I’m not washing another load of workoug towels!” at me, but far more often than not, she helps clear the way for my training and racing. When I have the moments when I question myself, she picke me up and reminds me why I got into this sport in the first place – to have fun.
My girls are – without a doubt – my favorite things to see out along a race course. We could probably wallpaper our house three times over with the number of “Go Daddy Go” signs they have made over the years (quite a few hang in our garage).
They cheer me on, no matter how good or bad my race may be going. They wake up at 4am, deal with frigid and sweltering temperatures, and spend long hours in cars, at expos, and at race sites. They’re old enough now to be able (and young enough to still think it’s cool) to rub my legs after a long day of training or the night before a big race. They also remind me, though not directly and deliberately, that there is so much more in life to worry about than the time on the race clock. They love me unconditionally, and that’s better than any medal I could ever receive.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes one to keep an athlete grounded and sane too. Be kind to your sherpas – you’ll be glad they’re there!

Darn Rookies

Darn Rookies

There are a few perks to racing pro that I didn’t know that I would get to enjoy. Some of them are simply convenience, and some are just downright cool. Being that on race mornings, my nerves are on over-drive, taking anything unnecessary out of the mix is great. One of those things is body-marking, or the lack there of. Ironman has gone to using temporary tattoos for pro numbers (a couple of races I’ve done used them for age groupers too, so maybe it’ll catch on).

Check out my cool tattoo.

What’s wrong with this picture? The obvious question is why is he smiling at the end of the race when he got a flat and was nowhere near where he wanted to be in the race? Well, that’s not the point I’m making (that’s another blog for another day). Check out my arm and my number. Well, Amy and I both read the sticker page instructions in my race packet. Number goes on the left arm. Helping me so that I wouldn’t stick it on crooked, Amy took tattoo duty on race morning. I didn’t give it a second thought.
After the swim, I made my way through transition, ran to the mount line, hopped on my bike, and headed out on the bike course. The first person I happened upon was riding slower than I, so I swung out, entered the draft zone to make my pass, glanced up and thought, “What’s that on his calf?” Yep, it was a tattoo “P,” the same as I had on my arm… not my leg.
All I could think was, “What a dork am I…” When I pointed it out to Amy after the race, she just laughed and said, “Darn rookies!”

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune come June and July when it’s 110*F outside, but for now, could we have some warm, spring-like days? Yesterday was nice; now it’s 45* and rainy. It doesn’t do much to motivate me to get back into training. However, I’m still a little hungry over what could have been a great race. So, after a couple of easy days, I’m back to the grind today.

In years past, I would have made myself go out in the yuck, suck it up, and train. I have made myself train in terrible weather (snow, sleet, tropical storm) because I have raced in terrible weather (sleet, torrential rains with 50mph winds and curb deep water). My thought process was train no matter the condition because you never know what the conditions on race day will be. Whether I’m older and wiser, wimpier, or it’s just a case of “been there, done that,” I just don’t race out into the elements for the sake of getting my workout in.

I’m thankful for my Computrainer, a vast stock of recorded bike races, and a pile of DVD’s. I’m also thankful that my wife so kindly allows me to commandeer the better part of the office as a workout room. Instead of trying to convince myself to saddle up and go ride in this cold, rainy mess, I’m loading up Paris-Roubaix and riding in climate-controlled comfort.