Know Why You’re Out There

I’m often asked how I can make myself get up at 4am, even if we ran calls all night at the fire station, to get on the treadmill, on the bike, or in the pool. I’m asked how I can run in the pouring rain or freezing cold. I’m asked how I can mentally deal with racing alone (which seems to happen an awful lot). My answer every time is that I know why I’m out there. Rest assured, I don’t like 4am any more than anyone else, and if you don’t already know, I hate the cold. Bring on 100* temps any day. That said; I know what my goals are, and they are what motivates me.

Sometimes, you don’t have to search for your goals; they’re obvious. This past weekend, our rescue diver crew at the fire station was dispatched on a call for a drowning victim at the lake. The water was 50-ish degrees, murkey, with dangerous bottom conditions (including a car’s fuel system). Plain and simple, it sucked, but we knew why we were out there. We were this guy’s only hope, and even when it became evident we weren’t going to find him alive, we became his family’s only hope for closure. So, turn after turn, after barely warming up to the point that we could finally feel our hands again, we each got back into the lake to search. We each took our turn, even our Chief, because if one of us skipped a turn, someone else had to go back in sooner. We had each other’s backs. We knew why we were out there.

Just like in my career as a firefighter, I didn’t start this sport to be patted on the back or for accolades. I started racing during a time when Ironman was pretty much an unknown, and when I saw it for the first time, it gave me goosebumps. I said to myself, “I’ve got to do that. It’s the challenge I’ve been looking for all my life.” Don’t get me wrong; I love to race and am competitive. The awards are nice, but they are simply a product of hard work and pouring your heart and soul into something that truly touches the deep part inside you where most people are afraid to open and look. But, doing so is the only way the magic you see at the finish happens and why people who have not raced won’t ever fully understand. You have to get through the training process, the pushing yourself to limits you didn’t know you could, and the racing itself – with whatever challenges race-day brings – for yourself to truly understand.

So, how do I do it? Because after almost 17 years of racing, it still gives me goosebumps and makes the hair on my neck stand up when I hear the National Anthem play, or when I watch Julie Moss crawl to the finish line, or when I think about Amy and Monkey waiting for me in the finish chute (back when they let families run in with you at Ironman). I can’t give you your motivation; no one can. It’s up to you to find it. When you do, you’ll get up at 4am…because you’ll know why you’re out there.

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It’s OK to Lose

In case I haven’t bragged on my children enough, I really am proud of them. All three have all found a passion to pursue, and even if they don’t stay with the current one(s), they’ve enjoyed the efforts of their endeavors enough that I feel confident that they’ll always find a dream to chase. I worry some though, because they are growing up in a society where everyone has to be a winner because society doesn’t want anyone to feel the hurt of a loss. The appropriately named trophy generation doesn’t understand that the real world really does involve a fair amount of winning and losing. Whether it’s on a sport’s field or in the workplace, it’s a reality. And, I worry because I’ve been successful in sports. No, I don’t win every race, not even close, but we do have a lot of medals, plaques, and trophies around the house. I have always tried to convey that I work hard, train hard, and race hard, and sometimes, it pays off with a win. I try to let them see that when a race doesn’t go my way, I’m disappointed, but I’m OK. I also try to tell them about the times when the race did go my way, and it just wasn’t good enough for the win. What I hope is that they realize that a loss doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can even be positive and motivating.

This weekend, Monkey and her volleyball team had their first tournament of the club season. She has a great team, and 8 out of the 11 returned from last year. They really have a great chemistry, they have two great coaches who they admire and respect, and they have high expectations for themselves this season. Saturday was a great day for them. They had a few cobwebs to dust off early in the day, but they listened to their coaches, made quick, smart adjustments, and rolled through the day with success – 6-0 in pool play and into the gold bracket with a first-round bye on Sunday.

I try not to be “that parent” that critiques and coaches every move she makes. For starters, we pay good money to her coaches to do that. I know that she doesn’t need to hear all of the “get lower,” “move your feet faster,” or “hit your target” comments from us all the time. She needs to hear that we have confidence in her; she needs to know that we are proud of her no matter what happens.

Saturday evening brought the news that they would play one of two teams from one of the more “feared” clubs in the region, and one of those teams was a boys’ team. (I’ll save my comments about boys playing in a girls’ league for another day.) She was nervous, but she believes in herself and in her team, so she was confident that they would hold their own. But, I know the look that she had in her eyes well… the look of “I know what I need to do. Please, God, let me do it. Please don’t let me screw up.” So, I try to coach her psyche… and let me tell you how challenging that can be with a teenage girl.

We talked about visualizing plays:

  • “What does this play look like?”
  • “If this happens, I do that.”
  • “If it doesn’t work, I try again and make this change.”

She was in good spirits, ready to play, and really anxious to take down the boys.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the day played out on Sunday. That said; by all accounts, Monkey had a fabulous match. (I was at work, so I had to get my updates from Amy and others.) Monkey’s a setter, so she doesn’t hit much, and she had a corner-shot kill in the first set. (That was a BIG deal to her.) She served well, she set well, and she made smart plays. She showed that she has been listening to her coaches and is learning to read the defense, turning that into two deep setter dumps that won points.

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Nevertheless, those big brown eyes were teary with disappointment at the outcome. When I asked her if there was anything she would change about the way she played if she had it to do over again, she mentioned two plays. (Amy could only even remember one of them.) I asked the same question about the team as a whole, and while there were a few mistakes here and there (and some bad calls from what I understand), even she agreed, the team played really well. When I said, “Well, then that’s success,” she looked at me like I had two heads. Sometimes, you can have the performance of your life, and it’s still not going to put you on top…and that’s OK. It’s OK to lose. Let it motivate you. Let it push you. Let it make you better. And trust me, the victory will be even sweeter.

We talked more, and when she headed off to school today, she was in much better spirits about the outcome of the tournament. They had a great showing; things just didn’t go their way. So, when she heads back to the gym tonight, she can do so with her head held high. She worked hard. They worked hard. They can take the momentum from the many things they did well, work on some of the mistakes, and because the hurt is still fresh, push themselves to even higher levels. It’s going to be a fun season to watch!

#YOLO

So, when my thirteen-year-old daughter started citing, “YOLO,” as a reason for doing something (generally something that had landed her in trouble), the phrase and it’s application with teens/young adults today drove me nuts. YOLO is not an excuse for not doing homework, ignoring requests from her mother to fold the laundry or clean the bathroom, and the list goes on. In the last few weeks though, I’ve started to realize that she may have gotten some of the YOLO mentality from me. I wasn’t the best student, and Amy can definitely vouch for the fact that I don’t always do the laundry she hints that I should do, but that’s not what I mean.

In the late 90’s and early 00’s, I was actively pursuing a career as a professional triathlete. From the moment I first saw a Kona broadcast, I was hooked. That’s where I wanted to be, and as I got into the sport and loved it, I wanted to make money doing it. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun. In 2001, when Monkey came along, I was working part-time waiting tables and training full-time. Against their better judgement, Amy and her parents supported my endeavors, and instead of sending the baby to daycare (which frankly would have cost way more than the peanuts I was making), I quit my job and stayed home with her. Money was tight, and if it hadn’t been for my in-laws, we would have never made it. But, I pursued tri’s and made a run at going Pro. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I sure learned a lot along the way… about racing and about myself. After a few years of trying to burst onto the pro scene, I realized that it was time to hang up the gear and get a real job. I wasn’t thrilled about walking away from racing, but I had tried, my family had supported me, and it was time to move on.

The next few years, I was in school… to become a Paramedic, to become a Firefighter. Finally, I had my ideal career. I could have the action that I liked, and the schedule allowed me to get back into training and racing. I’m lucky; I really am. I like my job. I’ll admit that I don’t like 3am calls, especially when they end up being nothing, but it really is a career I enjoy. That said; I’ve caught a lot of flack over the years about not trying to climb the career ladder more aggressively. I’ve taken promotional tests a couple of times, and the last time, I actually studied consistently. Going into the test, I told Amy and my co-workers that I’d given it about an 80% effort… and I scored about 80%. One person said (and many others probably thought), “Well, you should have given it 100% effort.” Maybe so, but…

I’ve taken the path I have, choosing to balance a career that allows me to support my family with time to experience things I’m passionate about. Racing pro again has been fun. I’ve been able to race alongside the best of the best. Some days have gone well, and others not so much. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade any of it…even the bad days…for not being able to do it.

Another person asked me why I don’t get another job for my days off. Well, I guess you could say training/racing is the other job, since that’s what I spend my time doing. I’m also a Dad, so while I get my workouts in, it’s before the kids get up or after they’re off to school, and before I pick them up. I go to as many of their activities and sporting events as I can. Family time is also important. I can make that work with training; I couldn’t if I were gone working another job. That’s not to criticize those who do. It’s simply a choice I’ve made. I could have a bigger house or nicer cars, but those aren’t the things that matter most to me.

In the last few weeks, so many people I know have had their lives changed dramatically. Amy Marsh, a top-level Pro Ironman triathlete, was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) two days before Christmas, started chemo on Christmas Eve, and finished that round on New Year’s Eve. She’s one of the nicest people you’d ever meet. She was happy and healthy, gearing up for more great racing in 2015, and in an instant, her world changed. Phil Zetnik, owner of The Runner in Arlington, died suddenly Saturday at the age of 49. He was happy and healthy, and again, a really great guy. Apparently, it was just his time.

Sometimes, life isn’t fair, and you just never know what tomorrow will hold. So, when my day comes, while I’m sure I’ll have some regrets (who wouldn’t?), I’ll know that I lived life. I have an amazing family, a great job, and rewarding hobbies. I’ve been able to pursue my passions. I didn’t start it because of some catchy hashtag, but it sums it up. #youonlyliveonce

SVSS

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Once again, I’m happy to announce that I have partnered for another year with Dr. Maloy and the team at Spring Valley Spine and Sportscare! It really is great to have a doctor, flanked by an amazing team of professionals, monitoring my overall well-being. Dr. Maloy really “gets” athletes because she is one. A few of her athletic accomplishments include an Ironman 70.3, a couple of “Goofy” (half-marathon Saturday, full marathon Sunday), and even a “Dopey” (10K Friday, half-marathon Saturday, full marathon Sunday). As such, she understands the stresses athletes are under. She juggles her time at her practice, time at home with her family, and time to train. She knows how an injury – or even just being overly sore – can hamper training or even daily life. With that in mind, she designed her practice to take care of athletes..with a variety of ways to provide that care.

Chiropractic care and ART are definitely the headliners for me. Keeping me loose and helping work out the muscle soreness after intense training or racing allows me to keep training, racing, and feeling good. I’ll be honest; I was very skeptical of ART at first. Years back, I had a bad sports massage experience at a race expo, and I swore I’d never do that again. ART sounded a little too much like that sports massage. Dr. Maloy asked me to trust her, and really, how could I not? She had never led me astray and had always provided great care. Well, one treatment, and she made a believer out of me. I had been struggling with a tight neck for weeks, and she resolved it almost immediately. Now, when I feel that nagging something coming on, I don’t stress; I know she will take care of it. When my wife pulled her quad trying to relive her teens, ummm… I mean playing soccer, I sent her straight to SVSS for some ART.

Dr. Maloy knows my goals, keeps tabs on me, and helps me rest and recover quicky. Because of Dr. Maloy’s excellent care and guidance, I have managed to stay injury free. Not all of my fellow athletes are as lucky, but even those nursing injuries or recovering from surgery have options. SVSS has an Alter-G treadmill, which utilizes a concept called unweighting to reduce the weight-bearing impact of running. I won’t be able to do it justice, but definitely check out the Alter-G page on the SVSS site for more details. She also has a Computrainer lab for use for rehab or just for a good intense ride without the challenges of riding outside around the metroplex.

Dr. Maloy has partnered with some top-notch professionals to round our her practice’s offerings:

  • Coaching – Jason Soria is the owner and head coach of Team Imagine Sports (and my coach) is a USAT Certified Triathlon Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and an accomplished Ironman triathlete and marathoner. Working with Jason has been a great experience. He has pushed me to limits I didn’t know were there, and he has helped me achieve some great results, including my 6th place finish at Ironman Louisville.
  • Sports Nutrition Consulting – Eve Pearson, MBA, RD, and Kelsey Hampton, RD are on-hand for specialized dietary and nutrition consultations. I have personally worked with Eve, and she worked hard to understand the craziness of my schedule and provide dietary suggestions to improve my nutrition and performance.
  • Accupuncture
  • Sports Massage

As you can see, I have a host of reasons to be glad to work with Dr. Maloy and her team. I look forward to a great 2015 together.

New Year, New Sponsor – Marathon Appliance

Happy 2015, all. I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new sponsor, Marathon Appliance. Some might ask, “Appliance repair? How’s that going to help you with your Ironman training?” Well, there are so many things in my day-to-day life that can (and often do) interfere with my ability to train. Amy says I’ve made an art of juggling my training with my work schedule, her work/travel schedule, taking/picking up the girls to/from school, helping with homework, making dinner, shuttling to/from the kids’ sports, and so on. I usually have a Plan B too, as “life happens” quite a bit around here. When “life happens” involves a major appliance going out, that does more than throw a wrench in my training…it brings the day to a grinding halt. And let’s be honest, the Pat vs. Home Repairs record is fairly lopsided, and not in my favor. So, when Rob Jones approached me about appliance repair as a sponsor, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve known Rob for years, and he’s a great, stand-up guy. He’s an accomplished runner and Ironman triathlete…and he’s engaged to a firefighter, so he keeps good company! Knowing I’ve got him at the ready in case of any appliance issue gives me (and my wife) peace of mind.

What is Marathon Appliance, you ask? I’ll let Rob tell you…

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Marathon Appliance is owned and operated by Rob Jones, and serves most of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Having 21 years in the appliance service industry, we strive to give fast, efficient repairs at an affordable price. We use today’s technology to our advantage from scheduling, diagnostics and invoicing.  We want to set the standard high for the service industry.
 
Marathon Appliance got its name from a passion of mine. It just fit! Being a runner & Ironman triathlete, I’m very passionate about all I do. My company is something I want to reflect not only who I am as a person, but  to give back to the community that has helped me through some of the toughest times.
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I look forward to a great partnership, Rob. Thanks!

New Year’s Resolutions

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t confuse that with setting goals. I’m definitely a proponent of goal-setting, but it seems to me that New Year’s Resolutions are mostly thrown by the wayside by the end of January. Case in point… right now, the local gyms are bursting at the seams, and it’s almost impossible to find an open treadmill or swim lane. So, I’ll avoid my gym for a few weeks, and around February 1, the crowds will thin out, and I can get back to my normal routine.

All that being said; I definitley have goals for the year, and they include:

  • Shedding my “winter coat” (also known as the extra 10 lbs I gained eating all the yummy holiday treats)
  • PR Half Marathon
  • Place top 5 at Ironman Texas
  • Place top 5 Ironman 70.3 Galveston
  • Blog more regularly (should be easier with this new site)

As of right now, my 2015 race schedule looks like:

  • 1/25 – Lake Benbrook Half Marathon
  • 4/4 – Irving Half Marathon
  • 4/26 – Ironman 70.3 Galveston
  • 5/17 – Ironman Texas
  • 6/28 – Ironman 70.3 BSLT
  • 9/5 – PrairieMan 1/2 Iron Distance
  • 9/27 – Ironman Chattanooga
  • 11/14 – Long Course National Du Championship (Tx Motor Speedway)

I hope everyone has a great 2015, wherever your passions may take you.

See you at the races!