You Are An Ironman -- Book Giveaway

I have been sent some things to review, and instead of spreading these things out, I'm just going to do a couple of posts and give the stuff away. I'm not the best reviewer, because I like pretty much everything (except crows), but there are a few things that I don't mind reviewing and passing along (books being one of them).

Most people that race triathlons are everyday people. A small fraction of the people who race in Ironman are able to make a living doing it, but most are what I consider normal, everyday people. Okay, maybe not so normal. The amount of time, money, effort and sacrifice it requires to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run on race day could rival some full-time jobs, and it is amazing to me that so many people take on this challenge. Most of the people who complete an Ironman balance work (those bikes and race entry fees are pretty expensive), family, and anywhere from ten to thirty hours a week of swimming, biking, running, and strength workouts. It is a big commitment, and for most people, it is simply out of reach.

In the book, You Are An Ironman, Jacques Steinberg follows six people as they train to complete an Ironman and he focuses on  the challenges and triumphs that occur during the training and the Ironman race itself. This book is more about the background stories of the participants than the training specifics. Among the athletes that the book follows are a businessman on the verge of a heart attack; a schoolteacher eager to set a good example for his daughters; the director of a fitness center at an Air Force base who survived a bout of cancer; and two California mothers, one who had dreamed of becoming a runner since she was an overweight young girl and the other who signs up for the Ironman on a dare. Of special interest to me was the story of Scott and Leanne Johnson. Scott has cystic fibrosis and was the recipient of a double lung transplant. Their story is very inspiring and gives me so much hope.

I love watching the Ironman Hawaii coverage on NBC every year. They stick to a formula, a formula that works, mixing coverage of the pro race with compelling stories of age-groupers, athletes that the average viewer can relate to. These personal interest stories are always the ones that get me. I remember watching the coverage of the 2008 race and being so inspired and motivated by some of the stories, that I signed up for my first Ironman. The training and the race itself was an amazing experience, and while I would rather push my running limits at this point than compete in another Ironman, I'm not ruling out another go at the distance someday.

The personal stories in this book are similar to the stories of the people highlighted in NBC's Kona coverage. They will inspire you, and may even have you pressing that "Register" button.

I was sent this book from the publisher, and I would like to pass it on to one of my readers. If you are interested in this book, please let me know by leaving a comment below. You can also enter this contest by joining the "Members" list to the right (because membership has its privileges), so make sure you are a subscriber by pushing the "Join this site" button. I'll announce a winner next week.

You can order the book from Jacques Steinberg's website.

Thanks for reading.

For My Daughter

This doesn't have a lot to do with running, except for the fact that most runners that I know are a little different. I wrote it for my daughter. She came home after school today crying because she has been teased a lot lately for not really fitting in. I wanted to post it here because it may help other parents or kids deal with the same situation. Thanks for reading.

Be different.

That is the only advice I can give you. That's the best I can do when you come home crying because your classmates tease you mercilessly for not knowing some TV show, or not knowing a certain singer; a show and a singer that nobody will know a few months from now. They will have moved on to the next pop princess stuck together by executives in tall buildings with spotless windows, reflecting everything that is bright, allowing no creativity through the concrete and steel filter, allowing just enough edge to appeal to the teen girls, just enough sugar-coated filth to sneak past the already checked out and glazed over parents.

Be different from them. Focus on those differences, the ones that make you smart, loving, and beautiful. Keep the part of you that is not afraid to hold my hand on the way to school, and not embarrassed to put your arm around your younger brother and walk him to class.

You shine. We don't have the 100s of channels, and we don't listen to every Katy Gaga Bieber Bruno mash of hair and makeup and soulless singles, mainly because I just can't stomach them. Part of me wants to hand you the remote control, or give you full access to the computer and let you go at it, catch up to the cruel kids who belittle everything that doesn't match the paper cut-out. The other part of me, the part that wins, loves coming home and seeing you curled up with a book, devouring the words, writing stories, and begging me to let you stay up a little later to finish the Origami documentary, amazed at the math, engineering, and poetry that goes into the simple and immensely complex art of folding paper. I could listen to you sing all day, and I'm not really sorry that you are singing the words of some unknown hip-hop artist, one that your classmates will tease others about in a few years. I'm not really sorry, but it kills me.

I went through it, too. I was the kid who took violin lessons through elementary school and junior high and I know what it's like to feel the shame of sticking out. I had to walk to the high school after school, so I had to carry that violin case with me all day, ignoring the comments. I was so happy when my mom told me that we couldn't afford lessons anymore, and she was so sad because I was just getting good, playing in an orchestra, moving my way up through the second violin section to the first violins. My teacher said that I showed a lot of promise, but I didn't really care that much. I just wanted to fit in. I wish, more than anything, that I had stuck it out, held on to that skill because now every time I hear a beautiful piece of music, it is tinged with the dull regret of lost opportunity.

When they call you gullible, hold on to that as it is one of the greatest compliments you can receive at your age. You are trusting, innocent, and open. You believe what people tell you, without the cynicism of those that have grown up too fast and try to trick you. Keep that as long as you can.

Focus on what makes you different, because that is what makes you amazing. The people who make fun of you now and try to fit in at all costs are working on what makes them boring and their boring will increase as they get older, go to a boring college, go to boring parties with other boring people, eat a bunch of boring food, get a boring job where they fit in with boring co-workers and a boring boss, marry a boring spouse, have a couple of boring kids. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. The boring circle of life with the dad dressed in a starched white shirt and a neutral tie, holding the baby above his head as the instrumental song plays nearly imperceptibly in the background and someone whispers he has his mom's grayish bluish eyes.

I know it's hard, and that the hands that grasp at your feet are strong, but rise above it and be different. Be the amazing, talented, funny, emotional, beautiful, and smart you, and know that what makes you different now, and what others tease you about is going to make you great.

Weekend Update

Noble Canyon 50K didn't fit my schedule (again) this year. I love the race and it was one of my first ultras, but coming off the Canadian Death Race, and with a wedding party scheduled that evening, I decided that I wouldn't be able to fit the race in. I was able to go cheer on some friends and training partners who were running the race, take some pictures, and sneak in an early morning solo run in one of my favorite places to run in San Diego, Mt. Laguna.

It was awesome seeing Chris, Ricardo, Von, Cory, Chad, Isaac, and Kim do so well at the race, and it was fun hanging out afterward and hearing the war stories, especially from first-timers Chad and Isaac. A 50K doesn't sound much further than a marathon, but it can be so much further, and it was great seeing this challenge taken on by so many friends.

Chris having a great day on the trail and coming in 4th overall.

That's my disembodied arm giving encouragement to Von at mile 22 (thanks to Trisha for the photo).
I like this ultra spectating stuff. It's way easier than actually doing the race, and you get to hang out with friends afterward and share stories and beer.

Saturday night Sanam and I went to the coolest wedding party ever for our friends Jess and Nata. They rented out a museum in Balboa Park, served some great food and drink, and had a very touching and romantic first dance to "The Thong Song." We left a little early (who am I kidding, the Grandparents were still partying when we left), but we had to get our babysitter home and I had to run 18-20 hilly miles Sunday morning.

It was a tough, hot and dusty 18 miler with 2500 feet of climbing fueled by Stone and cake pops from the night before (once again, I blame Jess Downer), but I got it done, and I saw parts of Daley Ranch that I had never seen before (Yeezy taught me) including the crawl up to Stanley Peak.

Coolest photo booth ever (I'd like to thank Jesus for my red-hot smokin' wife -- that's two Talladega Nights references in a row if you're counting. Stay tuned next week for more shake and baked goodness). I don't like gnomes.
A couple miscellaneous things:

I want to give a shout out to Paige for her awesome race at the North Face 50. Looking forward to reading about that one.

My wife and I just started coaching a Girls on the Run team at the local elementary school. It's a great program and I am so stoked to be part of it. I'm sure I'll write something about it sometime soon.

I have a couple of cool things to give away in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading.

My Week in Los Altos -- Some great trails and my first mountain lion sighting

Tuesday’s run was at Palo Alto Foothills Park. The sign said it was for residents of Palo Alto only, and that you would have to prove residency to use the park. We’re not really residents here. My sister is temporarily living in Los Altos, a ten minute drive from Stanford, waiting on a healthy set of lungs and a heart. I came up for the week to help her get moved in. To be honest, I would have helped her move wherever she had to go, but when I pulled up the Google map to check out Los Altos, my eyes lit up, and it became a very easy decision to head up the coast and help.

Lots of open space
I wanted to see where my sister was going to live, and they are in a prime spot, right near the small downtown area of Los Altos in a quiet, peaceful cottage. There are trees everywhere, and it's a short drive to some of the most beautiful trails I have ever run.

So, we decided not to heed the warning of “residents only” -- those poor welfare kings and queens of Palo Alto have spent too long living off the government subsidized open space, and like the libertarian warrior that I am, I blazed through the park gates and hit the trails.

These were some lung-busting hills, ups and downs and perfect for the day’s prescribed hill fartlek workout. Lucho told me to push the hills to the top and recover on the flats and the downhills. I started on the Toyon trail and connected to the Los Trancos trail. It was a rolling, single-track trail with some of the hills lasting a mile or more, and the downhills were long and steep, leaf-covered trails shaded by tree canopies, beautiful twisting trails that my eyes took in ten feet at a time. I was pretty emotional on this run, thinking about Sharlie resting back at her temporary home, strapped to an oxygen machine and waiting for the call that would take her to the hospital and change her life forever. They told her it could come at anytime, but she may have to wait for months. I pictured her on the trails, walking slowly with her son to the lake, feeding the ducks and speaking in whispers as the fawn ate grass just below the trail. I also pictured her recovering here, with new lungs and a new heart, I pictured her running, and sharing the trail with me. I don't do much praying, but if I could will that to happen through prayer, meditation, or focused thought, Tuesday’s run may have helped push that dream a little closer to reality.

If you can judge a place by its trails, Sharlie is in the right place. There is an energy out here, once out of the shiny, busy noise of the Silicone Valley bubble, a healing and quiet energy of open space.

Foothills Park

There is a wildness there, too. Wednesday we drove up further into the foothills to a new trail-head with a sign warning us of rattlers, ticks, and mountain lions. My brother in law and I ran together on the narrow trail, going from sunny and dry brush just over the fog layer to covered green and mossy forest. I saw the first deer a couple of minutes into the run, then Ryan saw 3 or 4 that crossed the trail in front of us and headed up the hill. We jogged easy and stopped often to point out deer, twisted trees, and deep gorges. Not too long after we saw the deer, I pointed down the trail to a large cat, jogging away, not much faster than us, but looking kind of pissed that it had waited all this time stalking the deer and we came on with heavy footfalls, ruining the hunt. It was about four feet long with a black-tipped tail, not a huge mountain lion, but not a small one, either. I was way more stoked than I should have been as we followed it, now out of site, down the trail. I'm sure I would have been much more cautious if I were solo, but I channeled the confidence of my inner drunken frat boy, and ran down the trail in search of the large cat. We didn't see it again, but I'm pretty sure it was watching us. I hope I never see one alone or face to face, but if I do, I'll remember the lessons of Ricky Bobby and face my fears head on.

Be large?

This hawk took off just as I was approaching and it let out this awesome squeal, just like in the movies.

Driving back down to Los Altos

I wrote this next part on the plane ride home. It's a little personal, but you've read this far, and we're all friends here.

It was hard to leave. Los Altos is nice, the trails are beautiful, and it was reassuring being close to Shar, walking over oxygen tubes, setting up computers, making salads for dinner, doing dishes, moving the treadmill with the Run Dirty sticker on it. I didn't feel like I helped all that much, but it was good just being there, being around her and her strength. I don't know of anyone who has accomplished more with less (well, maybe William Hung), and she is a constant reminder of how to live a full life.

It's hard to put my feelings into words. The last couple of days have involved a lot of sitting around, some beautiful runs, and breathless laughter over dinner. When I was there, there was an illusion of control, but now, heading home, there is worry, excitement, anticipation and dread. Our family knows the risks, having lost a sister to a double lung transplant over 15 years ago, but I am hopeful that this procedure will buy Sharlie some desperately needed time.

We gathered together as a family before the trip to Stanford and we were all able to tell Sharlie how much we loved her, and there were some amazing words said by Ryan, Shar, Zak, Kelli, Ric, Mom, and Sanam. All I could manage was an “I love you, and you are going to do great.” Not very articulate, I know, but it is hard for me to put all these emotions into words.

Sharlie wanted us to know that she is aware of the risks, and while she believes and has tremendous faith that everything will go well, she wanted us to know that she has lived such a full life. She has. She has touched thousands with her kindness and she is the type of person that inspires everyone around her. She makes me want to be a better brother, a better husband, a better father, and a better person. She has lived a full life, but I think her best years are yet to come.

Thanks for reading.


Not this kind
My wife and I watched this documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (it's streaming on Netflix) about a month ago. It's a very well-made and inspiring movie about a couple of morbidly obese men who use a juice cleanse to change, and save their lives. Since watching it, I have been obsessed with juicing.

Our family eats healthy. We rarely eat anything that comes out of a box, we are nearly gluten-free, and we usually have a salad and some lean meat for lunch and dinner. This is more my wife's doing than mine. I'm sure if I did the grocery shopping we would have many more boxes of Peppermint Jo-Jos and many more cartons of Ben and Jerry's than we do, and of course she is satisfied with one bite or one spoonful, while I'm not satiated until the box is sparkly clean. I don't feel like I need to do a juice cleanse (although I told my dad I would do one with him if he would commit...still waiting to hear back on that one). However, I love drinking vegetable juice and I really wanted to start making my own (uncanned and preservative-free) V8.

I was pretty sure that my wife was getting tired of the flowers, clothing, or jewelry that I usually buy for our anniversary, so this year, for our twelfth anniversary, I bought a bright and shiny silver Breville Ikon Multi-Speed Juicer. I'm not really the king of romance, but I am now the king of juiced vegetables, so I have that going for me.

I'm not ready to try the juice cleanse that they advocate in the movie, and it is pretty obvious that extreme diets don't work for long. However, I have found juicing a way to get a ton more nutrients every day, and in a country where my dog eats more fruits and vegetables than the average person, I figure it can't hurt if more people saw the movie and gave juicing a try.

Looks like swamp water, tastes like delicious swamp water
I have been experimenting with different recipes, and while I still want to try a couple of variations, this is my favorite so far:

4-5 tomatoes
Two handfulls of spinach or kale
1/2 bunch of parsley
3 carrots
3 sticks of celery
1 bell pepper
1/2 onion
a chunk of fresh ginger
Trader Joe's Smoked Sea Salt (this stuff is the best)

This yields about 30 ounces and I usually drink it after a long run, or have a glass for breakfast. The taste isn't for everyone, but for me and, just me, it is delicious.

A good article on juicing from Sanoviv
Juicing FAQ

Ratings and Recommendations