Monday, December 29, 2014

I Felt Like Running

Geoff Roes in UNBREAKABLE says something that I couldn't agree more with. When it comes to "training" I'd much rather go out and run and enjoy it rather than have a structured schedule. I've always said that I'll take breaks or stop once running feels like a job or a chore that I have to do. Running is way to important to me in many ways. And to treat it like a job would just ruin everything I've worked towards. That's not to say there's no structure at all to my training schedule. I'll still go to the gym and get thrown through a strength and conditioning routine every Tuesday. I'll still have my long days and short days. There will still be my days where I get my body stretched. But my focus has and never will be on "ok i have to run this many miles at this tempo for this long." I would rather just go out and run and enjoy every minute of it. Putting limits and stuff on my "training" just kills the vibe for me. Does that make sense?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Running On Empty

Sunday's are nights where I don't get out of work until after midnight because this company comes and waxes the floors. When I get home,it's near impossible for me to go straight to bed. Add in the fact that I've been on my feet all day for some  10+ hours and I haven't been staying on top of my nutrition plan and you'll see a guy who's running on empty. But some how, I dig deep and continue on, knowing that if I don't go run that I'll regret it. 

The source escapes me, but I read somewhere something that has really helped me. It goes something like "you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable." Makes total sense. Think about it, how many times have you been out there in the trails or road trying to muster all you have to get through that given run? Many times, I've questioned why I even do this but I don't stop. I embrace those moments allowing them to mold me or evolve me. It's moments like wanting to quit that are uncomfortable and I'm trying to really embrace those times. It's almost like I force myself into those situations so that I can get used to them. 

I'm running on empty, but I don't give up and I won't give up on what I love, who I love, my passions my goals. 

Sorry for the choppy post, woke up with a headache and I'm having one of those moments where I don't want to run. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reflecting

Shot from my run the other day. Funny, I was just thinking about where I've come from and where I'm headed. Never would I have thought I'd be where I'm at now this time last year. I'm curious where I would be had I taken different paths, but perfectly content with the "trail" I'm on now. Life is very mysterious and we often find ourselves looking for answers when we should be focusing on the present, living. Letting go and having faith in your journey is a very vulnerable feeling which is extremely scary. But at the same time, letting go can be the most freeing experience ever. If you know me, you'll know I'm afraid of heights  Amy asked me recently "if you are so afraid of heights, how can you run trails?" "Because I feel so alive." Reminds me of the Deep Puddle Dynamics song " i taught myself to survive without my feet on the ground i never felt so alive as when i drowned..." Sitting at Cartel, reflecting  I'm so thankful for the gift and for everyone in my life that's believed in me. I love you. I've found my home.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Progress and Inspiration

There was a time I would watch martial arts movies as a kid followed by going outside with my brother, acting out the scenes. One movie, Cyborg, was best when it was raining outside. Remember that scene at the end when he was fighting Fender? It was pouring rain and so my brother and I would go outside and reenact that very clip. As I grew up, watching skate videos would motivate me to go outside and hurl myself down stairs, or skate ledges, or anything involving a skateboard. I can remember sharing Wallenberg in SF and attempting the big set.

Now that I've discovered running, watching anything that involves running, further inspires me to try harder, to push myself to and beyond my limits. For instance, I watched Desert Runners just recently and had that itch to go cover an insane amount of distance. But I also had the gears in my head, turning, coming up with fun runs and challenging obstacles for myself.

There comes times where training doesn't necessarily become stagnant, but it isn't changing either. Your run, bike, swim, what ever, tends to stay the same, but doesn't really progress or improve. This is different than staying in a valley (you've heard me talk about mountains and valleys when it comes to training) and feeling whatever journey you're on is more of a job than a passion. Recognizing the lull in progress an adding new challenges could possibly catapult you into a whole new category and the progress is astonishing.

I've been working on strength and conditioning with my coach, once a week. And running trails almost every other day, time permitting. In the past, hills were such a chore to get up, but I have always been persistent and kept going back to them, hoping I could get up and over them without much struggle. My breathing, legs and overall performance suffered, but I wasn't about to give up. I understand that hard work pays off and it takes time to reach elite status. So I have been really embracing hills, constantly going back to them over and over and finally, I'm and to make it up close to 2000' of elevation gain without stopping. I don't power up, I take it steady, understanding that I must conserve energy for the downhill and flats. The most important part of this is I'm coherent of what I need to be doing instead of trying to hard. I'm taking it easy, one small victory at a time and I'm really enjoying the progress that's apparent.

No challenge is easy, but I'm hoping others out there see things the way I do. Keep going, work hard and don't ever give up on what you love.

GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Experimentation

"Getting lost is finding yourself"---Me.

Today I went out for a run, training for a 52k(although my buddy Carl is talking me into changing that to a 52miler) and experimenting with nutrition. I measured water into my Ultimate Direction bottle and added 4 dates. I blended the mixture and went out on a run. It was a little to sweet, but the calorie content was spot on and I felt this would be a better choice than coca cola that they have at aids stations during races. My point is trying to find sustainable sources of nutrition that will give me adequate calorie content and sugar for long lasting energy during ultras. I'm training hard and finding natural ways to do this without the use of powders or other processed supplements. I will carry salt tabs for safety, but again, I truly believe it's possible to endure through proper food consumption. I carry in my pack, apple sauce, water and my date-r-ade. I'm going to try adding lemon juice to the mixture and have a recovery drink for post runs. Honestly, I've never felt stronger or more confident than I do now.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Found My Home

Running, getting lost on trails, looking for a rock that doubles as a slide can really get your brain thinking.

For the longest time, I've fought against making Arizona my home, consistently having one foot out of the door, just praying for an opening to get out. Originally, I thought my children were the only reasons I stay here because living 2 hours away from them is already brutal as it is. My heart traveling the country, looking for my home, roaming and never really feeling settled. But I was wrong...

There are many reasons why I stay here, why Arizona is a wonderful place. I have made connections with some of the most wonderful people that remind me of what growing up in the Bay Area hardcore scene was like. I feel apart of a family here, something I desire and need. Thinking about leaving the friends I've made here just bogs me down. You are all huge pieces in my life's puzzle and constant motivators. And if that weren't cause for calling Arizona my home, the trails have become my church. I feel spiritually sound, filtering through all my thoughts, journaling without picking up a pen. My mind is at ease and I know it doesn't seem like much to a lot of you reading this, but I feel at peace and like I can go forever when I'm out on the trails here. The distance isn't what keeps me going to the trails, it's the connection to myself, to god that keeps me going back.

All in all, life here in Arizona is wonderful. It wasn't where intended or ever thought about making my home, but I've found peace in where I'm at and during a run the other night, I've realized that this is my home, this is where I'm supposed to be. But you never know what the future will bring, I'm just living in the now.

I'm happy to call Arizona my home.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Balancing Act

We struggle to balance our work/professional lives and our time away from the desk. We strive for a more financially secure life, often sacrificing personal freedom. These monkey wrenches thrown into normal routines cause rifts and cause you to get discouraged from your never ending journey. At least that's true for me.

Constantly worrying about what to eat or can I even afford to do it and finally I'm in a position where that's not even a problem. Took me a while to crawl out of the rut, but in financially secure at the sacrifice of being able to relax or focus on running. Typing that out, maybe that's the problem. I'm focusing way to hard and I need to let go and do what I intended to do and that's live.

Worrying is the thief of joy and living. I was so used to worrying about the future that I wasn't living in the present, and now I don't financially have to worry, but I'm so used to worrying. I'm still acclimating to my stability. I need more time and that's ok. Learning to be patient and humble is an ongoing process which I believe would not only improve ourselves, but the world as a whole, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Point of this post is focusing on how we as endurance athletes balance our lives in order to maintain sanity through training. Basically, how do we make time for doing what keeps us sane?

Speaking for myself, I love my job, but I need to decompress from the unwanted stress that comes along with it. That's where trail running comes in. You've heard me talk about the comparison to meditation and running. And if I want to stay sane, if I want to continue through life with a smile on my face and a positive mental outlook, I need to run as often as humanly possible. Ask my Ragnar team about how antsy I get when I'm waiting. I'd rather just be running.

Working 10 hour days, 5 days a week, it's hard to fit a run in during those days. And my two days off a week, I'm either beat or spending time with my kids. Where do I fit my runs in?! I find time, make time. I need the run. It's necessary for my well being. When I tell people what I do for fun outside of my busy work week, they are amazed by the miles I put in and wonder how I fit it in. Funny how people assume that there's not enough time in the day. And yes, I still make time for precious sleep.

My plea to anyone and everyone reading this blog post, follow your heart and instead of going through the process and waiting to die, get up and live. We are given "one life, one chance" so make the most out of it. If you're ever struggling to find motivation or need any sort of inspiration, I'll be there hoping to lend my hand and help lift you back up.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Running For Those Who Aren't Able To

If I start sounding like a broken record, I'm sorry, but this topic is really important to me. Helping your fellow man.... Let's discuss.

The running and triathlon community has given the power to countless amounts of people to overcome extreme adversity. And it gives the opportunity to those in a more fortunate situation to help those who would otherwise be unable to get back up. I know that sounds choppy and I am sorry, but bare with me here.

Organizations like CARE2TRI and BEST BUDDIES are giving the experience of a race to people that aren't able to without the assistance of others. Then you have stories like the boy who does triathlon with his brother that's confined to a wheel chair and needs assistance, sticking up for him and loving him. But helping isn't just for those with special needs, it's also for those who battle substance abuse, struggle with financial stability, or deal with depression. Through running, you can raise awareness for those less fortunate than yourself, but it also gives the tools and the power for those battling whatever it is life throws at them to overcome adversity.

I'm telling you, running and triathlon is so much bigger than the sport. There's a greater meaning behind it and unless you've experienced the sense of belonging and compassion that I've felt and hopefully given, then you'll still only see it as some form of competition.

When I talk about what I've chosen to pursue in ultra running and triathlon, people automatically think I'm crazy and write it off as grueling and idiotic, something they "could never do!" But I feel deep down inside my heart, my soul that this is something I want to do and I was meant to do. It's seriously a way to raise awareness and help people out. And remember, it's not about the distance, the pace, the time or PR's, it's about the experience.

I hope this post doesn't sound redundant, but I hope this post does what I intended, that is to hopefully inspire.

I run.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Calling

This is taken from my Facebook post, but I thought I'd share it here.

"What an amazing experience Ragnar was. We all embraced the suck and endured the sun, ultimately came out of it with a different perspective on life. I'm a true believer of things happening for reasons and though I've spent practically my whole adult life wondering what I was put on this earth to do, I've found my place and I'm meant to run. This is my calling and through running I'm able to assist people in their journey, help those who need help and prove to the world that you can overcome anything in life as long as you don't ever give up on yourself. I'll take the weight off your shoulders and run far and long because that's my purpose. I'll be there with you on your journey and pick you up when you've fallen down, I will never judge you for the decisions you choose to make and I'll provide a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. I'm blessed and I hour you all know, every single one of you, how much you mean to me. Love you all. This journey hasn't been easy and yet I'm so lucky, fortunate to be where I'm at. I've met some amazingly wonderful people along the way. Thank you thank you thank you."

I promise to run for those less fortunate than myself. I promise to run to raise awareness, to spread positivity in this seemingly negative world. I promise to pay it forward, to smile, to live! I promise to never ever give up on those I love, to always be there when you need me. I promise to be me.

Funny how a simple trail run with friends and strangers can really bring things to light and help you focus on living.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

This Is All I Have

The title to this post has very little to do with what the text. But for some reason, those words found a way into my head and I needed to get them out in some form of writing.

The actual quote from Bill And Ted's is escaping me, but it goes a little something like this: "there's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now." Let that sink in a bit.

I find myself looking to the future or thinking about the past that I'll often forget to live in the present time which is hindering my growth as a person. And after my last few days, I'm awakening to the bigger picture. I'm seeing things in a much different light then before, appreciating things people and situations. That's not to say I didn't appreciate those things before, but I am starting to fully understand turn of events and so on. No one wants to endure suffering, but it's necessary to go through pain the way I did.

And without getting into personal details, I feel the need to share something with everyone. Now, I'm not one to air dirty laundry on the internet so my story may be a little vague. Stay with me, it'll all make sense in the end.

I was married close to 10 years. My ex and I tried and tried, but we eventually came to realize that we weren't meant to be together. Communication was broken so the way we separated wasn't the way either of us intended, but it happened the way it did. It was something I  have been asking for ,for years in my head but never did I expect it to go down the way I did. Part of me thought that being miserable was the way it was supposed to be so I accepted my marriage to be far from perfect. No one is to blame, we just weren't right for each other in that way.

I have always been faithful, honest, loving, caring so it hurt really bad when I learned the truth. But it was a blessing because now she's happy. See, a lot of people forget that everyone deserves to be happy and that you can't love someone who broke your trust. Here is my take. I will always love my ex, she's the mother of my two wonderful children and was a huge part of my life and my journey. It took me a long time to realize this and to understand it's ok to love someone and not be in love with them. Follow me? Anyways, I've wanted nothing more than for her to be happy and I'm glad she is.

The bigger picture though, through the hurt and confusion my ex and I have given everything we have to the best interests of our children or at least the best that we can give given the circumstances. They are now in a situation where two people love each other instead of two people who didn't talk. I have come to understand where they live around love is much more beneficial than non communication and miserable attitudes. This is not to say I don't miss my kids, I miss them every single second of every single day, but I have faith they are treated with the best love they can be given. My ex and her significant other are wonderful parents and though he may be the man in the house, he is not their dad, but he protects them and cares for them like any father should. I'm still dad, I still play a huge roll in their lives. It hasn't been and isn't easy all the time to accept and understand, but when I'm thinking clearly like this, I see the big picture.

My children are very blessed to have two parents like their mom and myself who tried to make things work, but aren't together anymore.... Sorry for the choppy sentence.....I feel like we get along better now and communicate better now that we aren't together.

During a drop off and pick up with the kids, we all witnessed another divorced couple doing their drop off. While holding their daughter, both parents were swearing at each other, cursing and calling names. The child was probably confused and sees that. That child loves both parents and will have years and years of confusion based on interactions like that. I get it, you're mad at each other and I'm no saint, but it's not the children's fault that you two don't feel good about each other. Leave the child out of your bickering. Be adults.

After that, I messaged my ex saying "I'm happy we aren't like that." Like I said before, there was anger and frustration, but we've always had our children's best interests at heart. We have learned how to talk to each other and I've learned to care and love someone through forgiveness. I forgave because I understood. It wasn't easy getting up and leaving my children behind and I still question of I made the best choice, but I truly believe I did. And I didn't leave my children or abandon them, I moved out of an unhealthy situation and I worked my ass off to provide a way better healthier life for the two of them. I'm learning to be the best dad I can ever be.

This journey I've been on has been rocky, treacherous and very difficult. But it was necessary. I've been blessed with meeting some wonderful people that are truly inspiring and motivating, kind and loving. I've discovered running and triathlon and that community alone has welcomed me as part of the family. Coach Frank has been like a father figure to me and one of the kindest people I've ever met and I wouldn't have been introduced to the S3 family without knowing my dear friend Mary. Meeting Charles and him inviting me to the men's group/bible study group and meeting some very helpful and kind friends there has been a godsend. Posting an add or what have you for wanting a real bed and learning more about my buddy Bill and how much in common we share. Tricia and Jeffrey and needing that friendship we all have, I'm so blessed. Tabitha and Carl are some of the most kind genuine people one could ever know. Just running with him has taught me so much about who i am. The list goes on forever and ever, but know that without the hell I feel I've endured, I wouldn't have these amazing people in my life. It's necessary that I was to go through what I did. I'm very blessed to have you all in my life, thank you.

You've heard me talk about family and the importance family plays in your journey. And though my children are my only bod l blood here in Arizona, the family I have here that aren't blood are the best family I could ever ask for. I have so much love for everyone that has help lift me up when I was at my lowest point. Thank you got listening to be when I need an ear, thank you for pushing me and teaching me to continue on when I wanted to give up. I am humble, thankful, blessed.

With tears in my eyes, flowing down my face, the immortal words from H2O come to mind. "My friends look out for me like family"

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Training Blog: 10/26/14

I need a good solid run. I have not been in a few days and I'm starting to feel the effects mentally of not running. Work has me feeling tired and worn out and I know if I maintain a healthy diet and exercise, I'll have more sustainable energy. Today for lunch, I had a bag of chips and salsa.... not what I would call healthy. Now I'm upset with myself for eating it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just Saying Hi

We live busy lives and amongst the hustle and bustle of our lives, we often forget the simplest form of communication and quite possibly the easiest way to improve this world we live in. That's just saying hi to someone.

There seems to be new high rise condos and apartment buildings going up on every corner, bringing people closer together, but there seems to be a gap between us that's as big as the pacific ocean. Who's your neighbor? I bet a lot of you don't even know. And through our busy lives, we may never see those neighbors ever...

Coming home from work today, I saw a new neighbor moving into the condo next to where I live. I thought to myself, "I wonder if they need help?" So I went and introduced myself to them and offered my help. They'd decline, but we had a lovely conversation. They were from the Midwest and really appreciated me coming to say hi.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be some holier than thou person, I'm simply trying to... I'm hoping I can inspire someone out there reading this to start changing the world on a daily basis. We must to start small and simply saying hi to someone can really make a huge impact. With so much negativity in the world, we need to start filling our lives with positivity. I know this is a choppy post and has nothing to do with running or triathlon, but I really really really believe we can make this world a better place one smile at a time.

Here's my challenge. Every day, please just say hi to someone in passing. Smile at a stranger. Let's all unite and the this world for the better.

I love you all.

Mark.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Curb The Attitude

It takes a lot of courage to get off the couch and get active. So snide remarks about how a person looks while staying active could possibly hurt them on their journey. We should be encouraging instead of ridiculing someone. Everyone starts somewhere and this hateful epidemic will only continue to grow unless we start within and curb these negative thoughts that constantly come to the surface. Every little bit counts. So please, instead of making fun of a biker, hiking with his or her bike up the side of a mountain because he or she wasn't able to complete the climb, offer words of encouragement and provide friendly words that help motivate that person. And if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Together we can inspire. :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Take To The Trails!!

Running on the black stuff people called asphalt or pavement, I become bored. Your run is so repetitive and normal. Runners often describe their morning runs out on a pathway or roadway as hell or "having to go for a run." Why would you do anything you don't want to do?

Now don't assume I believe running on the road is horrible, but compared to taking to the trails, I would rather experience the joy and connection to god, life and myself that I get from a meditative trail run over constant laps around Tempe Town Lake. Don't get me started on that.

Every run has a purpose and the repetitive nature of loops around a lake makes me bored and question my intentions and negative thoughts regarding running start to appear more. Basically, I allow my brain time to trick me into quitting more often.  A trail is constantly different, always changing. You have to have your wits about you, quick thinking to survive a descent down a hill. One misstep and you're toast. I don't know about other trails outside of Arizona, but the trails here are littered with jagged rocks and could spell trouble if you take a spill, especially if you're all alone.

I've talked about depression and the relation to running and what running means to me. Now, I'm just learning about how the brain works in terms of creating both happiness and sadness so bare with me here.

A long stretch of road is routine, and safe. This is where sadness breeds. A trail is constantly changing, new and can breed happy thoughts. That's why you can often hear me laughing or giggling during a run as scrambling down a mountain feels like jumping on a trampoline and I revert to my childhood memories. It's play, it's fun, it's exciting.

I'm able to connect on the trail to both god and myself. I challenge myself every time I'm on the trail. Running a road, it's just challenging to enjoy myself.

I don't ever want running to be a chore I HAVE to do. I want it to be something I enjoy, something I look forward to. Maybe that's why entering races isn't a top priority to me. Anyways, I love to run.

Sorry for the choppy post, my brain works on mysterious ways.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Soak It In

Every now and then, I find myself at the end of a trail, sitting. Before I head back to the trailhead, I like to soak it all in. Sometimes it's my way of absorbing everything I thought about during the run. Sometimes I just like to sit and listen to nature, becoming closer with life.

I think there's often a misconception of what you see or experience during a trail run. People often think that since you're running, you're not seeing things the same as if you were out there hiking, stopping to take pictures. You'd be surprised what is trail runners see and experience during our time running. Just like any other hiker or trail goer, we see things that become very personal to us, very intimate experiences with nature.

For instance, not to long ago, I came in contact with a rattlesnake. It wasn't bothered by me and I was not scared of it. There was almost a sense of respect by both of us. We bonded so to speak. Afterwards, we went our separate ways.

My point is, trail running is a place to meditate, be one with life. So much is going on in our personal/professional lives that we often forget to live. We get so caught up on social media and what's going on in the lives of others that we neglect our own. Trail running, for me at least, helps me reconnect with myself and provides a sanctuary from everything going on around me. So while I'm out there, exploring, I'm taking in everything and I'll sit and sort through everything I saw and experienced. To put it in some terms, I find answers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cheaper Than Therapy

Overwhelming depressed feelings can be curbed by simply going out and experiencing the outdoors, running, hiking, biking, walking. Problem is that leaving the safety of ones bed can be a daunting task. The times you don't want to leave your bed are the times you should be outside.

These past few weeks of battling whatever it is I've been dealing with, expressing the desire to stay in bed have been times I should have been forcing myself to go outside and play.

"Play" is a new word brought to my attention from Donna, describing what trail running really is to me. It's play time, time to go out and have fun. There are times I don't particularly enjoy the run, but after I feel cleansed, wanting more. Play is a great term and a perfect description of descending mountain, hopping from rock to rock, flying down with reckless abandon.

Next time I feel like wasting the day away, you'll find me out on the trail, running all day, enjoying what has been a godsend. It's cheaper than therapy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Training Diary: 9/25/14

Funny how things work and when answers just appear. Walking, a random thought came to mind. This "depressive" state I've been dealing with is no different than the wall I was talking about yesterday. Finding a way to break through a metaphoric wall at mile 20 is an analogy for overcoming depression.

It's a mindset, it's knowing you can break through. So now I know what I have to do, where I have to go, what I need to do.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Training Diary: 9/24/14

I want to talk about focus and commitment...

Committing to a long run, being out on the trails for hours on end, long stretches of road can be easy and yet it can be a daunting task. "I'm going out for a 30 miler." Come mile 20(ish) I find myself wishing I was at home, napping, showering or anything other than running. I'm finding the longer I'm out there, the harder and more lonely the run can be. Makes me wonder my level of commitment.

Now anyone who is into endurance sports, whether it is long distance running, triathlon or anything else where you're by yourself for hours and hours will understand how lonely it gets out there. You're only friend is that bird flying in front of you, the snake on the side of the mountain. Your mind is your enemy and wants you to focus on your bed, the nice shower or that comfy couch. The last thing your mind wants is to stay out there. Soon, you'll be talking to God.

What tricks are there to take your mind off being alone? Some people being music, and it's worked for me in the past, but I find it throws my rhythm off. How many people go out there to sort through their thoughts? That's what I try and do, but it doesn't always work out that way. I just want to be able to push through that mile 15 on like it was mile 5.

I'm learning more and more how personal running as a whole can be. Everyone has their own tricks or routines that fit their lifestyle. Developing your own routine takes practice, and requires lots of patience.

I'm still trying to find my place.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Training Diary: 9/23/14 "Unplugged"

Lying awake in bed, fiddling with my phone, browsing the internet or whatever else I was doing. Basically procrastinating the simple tasks in life such as laundry. Yeah, with no clean running clothes or gym clothes I was able to talk myself out of a much needed session whether it be running or sweating it out at the gym. Either way, a decision had to be made.

I thought to myself "what am I looking for?" Answers, right? Well I'm not going to get them looking on social media, filtering through the nonsense, looking at randomness and time killers. Advice is so readily available on the web, but it takes away from the one thing I feel I need, human contact. Now I know myself and I know that I have an addictive personality so I easily get consumed by what's going on in everyone's life and forget to focus on those close to me and most importantly, I lose focus of my own life.

It's time to live, it's time to get up and quit feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in self pity. It's time to put on my shoes and keep moving forward, focus on improving and learning all over again. I'm strong and sure I've contemplated giving up many times over, but what picture would that paint to my children? So no, I won't give up.

Deleting Facebook, however temporary it turns out to be, is so gratifying. I feel it'll give me the time to really hunker down and get through this hole filled with depression. I want to be able to stand in a room full of people and NOT feel alone. I WILL achieve great things, but first, I need to practice patience and go back to my roots and that's family, friendship, loyalty, love. 

Here's the funny thing about depression and loneliness. For myself, I hide within myself, pulling in and putting up a gated self defence system up, thus pushing everyone and everything I crave away. So the cycle repeats itself and grows stronger and stronger and eventually the feeling of despair consumes me. That rain cloud over my head, I want to dance in that rain, not shy away from it. Keep in mind I live in Arizona so rain is very welcoming.

You'll hear coaches, sports personalities and motivational speakers say the phrase "giving up is not an option." It's a lie. Giving up has and always will be an option. I choose to keep going, no matter what.

On that note, I want to send out a sincere apology to anyone I've pushed away in the recent days gone by. I'm sorry, I don't have any excuses. I love you all and I owe you all so much for being there for me.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Training Diary: 9/21/14

My mind is in a constant battle with itself to quit or to keep on trucking. One moment I'm out running, feeling strong both mentally and physically. Then the next minute, I'm contemplating just calling it quits, borderlined in tears, questioning my existence and what my motives and goals are.

The trick is to get to a point in my run where it's the same distance turning back and finishing whatever run I'm doing. It's my way of tricking myself to complete the session. See, I feel the need to subconsciously win the mental battle with myself before I even start.

The other day, I lost that battle. Didn't leave my bed. My body just lied motionless, looking at the ceiling for hours on end. And when I give my brain time to think, I focus on all the negative things going on in my life and I get discouraged. I sat there for over 12+ hours thinking and discouraging myself and talking myself out of everything. I slowly started losing ground to my battle with depression all over again. The last few days prior, I was seriously gaining momentum and I fell back. But that's part of the game, isn't it?

Mountains and valleys are just as much literal terms in trail and ultra running or any other endurance sport as they are metaphors in the sense that during training you experience highs and lows. Now I've talked about this many times over, and I know first hand that the longer you spend in the valleys, the harder it is to reach the top or your goal. Yes,  I believe that these lows are just as important as the highs. By going through the lows you're able to come out stronger mentally.

I'm not fond of being low, I don't think anyone is. And though I'm still out there hashing it out on the trails with myself or sweating it out at the gym, but mentally I'm feeling weak. I wouldn't have to force myself to go out and do what I love to do. Getting out of bed is getting harder and harder every day to the point of leaving permanent impressions of my body in the same spot that I spend hours lying motionless contemplating life.

I've said it and I've heard it, it'll get better. It's so important to stay positive, but pretending you're happy when you're not gets old. See, there's something I have a hard time with. That's being fake. I'm generally a positive, happy person so having to pretend that I'm happy when I'm not is brutal. Maybe I'm pretending so I don't worry people, I don't know. Or maybe I'm pretending so hopefully I actually start to believe that I'm happy.

You could say, being out on the trail by  yourself is no different than sitting in your room for hours because you're still alone with your thoughts. True, but at least you're moving forward instead of going backwards. Think about that for a second. Dwelling on the past and current "problems" is like going backwards when you could be moving forward, dealing with whatever it is that troubles you head on. And after your run, you've accomplished something and that's something in its own right. I think that's key to successfully defeating depression is accomplishing something great.

Yeah, I run. I love running far. It's not about the speed, but it's about effort. It's about the experience. Running is a tool that acts like therapy, keeping and maintaining my life. It propels me forward helping me to reach my goals. It helps me grow as man, a friend and most importantly a dad. I run to feel alive and be the best dad I can for my children.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Training Diary: 9/16/14

It was brought to my attention that I should start clearing my thoughts through journaling, writing in a diary or through prayer, meditation or somewhere along those lines. Hopefully this will help my mental fog and struggle with depression.

Running has and always will be a form of mediation for me, but with a 100k on the horizon, the weight of training and staying focused throughout and NOT letting the little things that are out of my control affect me starts to become more of a daunting task than I originally thought. I start to get discouraged, wondering if I'm on the right path (figuratively speaking). Eventually I fight with myself, trying to keep going forward.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about quitting and giving up, but that's part of the journey, right?

Am I good enough? Am I a good person, father, dad, friend? Sure, I've come a long way and I'm constantly improving refocusing my energy and evolving into the person I want to be.  But I still harbour guilt, sadness, frustration and so many other negative emotions that only hinder my success. I've used this analogy many times over, "holding onto stress, anger and frustration is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." I really need to live the advice I give, it's so true.

My mileage should be increasing, instead I'm trying find ways to get out of bed and go run. It's not easy, not at all. Today, I napped quite a bit when I could have gone for a run or to the gym. I do love going to the gym and working on some conditioning/endurance stuff.

Thursday, I plan on doing 36 miles, weather permitting. And usually I run without music, but I'm bringing headphones just to break up the loneliness that you experience from being out there for so long. Thankfully, my buddy Erick will be out there for a good portion of it.

I think I need this long run to accomplish something and sweat out all of this negative energy. I'm not giving up, even if I want to. I need this cleansing run.

Monday, September 1, 2014

This

When I have a rough day, I look at my two wonderful kids and remember how lucky I am to have them in my life. I remember how blessed I am to be their dad and to share with them the knowledge I learned growing up. They are already becoming strong individuals, smart, intelligent, educated, loving. I really am a lucky dad. Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bonding

Imagine being in a van with 5 people, driving and running for 30 hours without showers and any really food to speak of other than bars, water, bananas and other random bits of sustainable energy. Fueled by the anticipation of crossing a finish line together as a family, as a bonding unit, unified by the same passion. Imagine not sleeping for those 30 hours because you're afraid to miss any single second of anything going on in such a tight space.

Hood To Coast has come and gone and I'm saddened that it had to end. But at the same time, I'm blessed to have experienced Hood To Coast with some people that I've become increasingly close to. I couldn't have asked for a better time. These friends, loved ones, people I now consider family and would do anything for endured the same things I did and we all came together, overcoming the lack of sleep and hunger that came from sitting in a van for as long as we did.
I don't know what else to really say, but I am so thankful for everything that came from Hood To Coast. I miss my friends. I love them so much, and I never wanted that feeling, that experience to end. If any of you read this, thank you so much for being apart of that with me. I love every single one of you.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living

I want to share this interaction I had with a customer the other day.

Started out talking about the differences between homogenization and pasteurization in milk. Now keep in mind, I may be vegan, but I've educated myself on the dairy industry for well over 17 years. I am not going to get into the details here about those differences, but I answered the customer and flooded her with non biased information. I'm not one to preach or express my views to those who aren't interested. She asked me which was better and I sort of laughed saying "well, I'm vegan and I'll tell you it isn't, but anyone who's focused on clean eating will agree that the less processed, the better."

I wanted to delve further into her training behind her question and started asking questions. "Excuse me if I'm overstepping my boundaries, but I have to ask what your reasoning is behind your choice with milk and such?" Her answer was quite interesting, "I'm always tired." The conversation opened up from her and together we started exploring different avenues on how she could gain energy in her every day life.

Prying, I learned that she's not the best consumer of quality whole foods. There's step one right there. I've said it before and I'll say this over and over, you fill your body with crappy, processed food, you're not going to fuel properly in every day life. You'll trend to feel sluggish and lack energy, even motivation to do much. I was quick to point out that I'm not a dietician and that my information is based from what works for me and from research I've done so that I can perform at my peak levels.

Continuing the conversation, I sensed fear, I could see it in her eyes. There appeared to be tears swelling in her eyes and I said, "it's scary to make a life alerting change, I've been there. Start small, one step at a time. Educate yourself on WHY whole foods are necessary."

Anyone who has made the decision to will  change will understand how scary it is. Not only do you change the way you eat, but you're also changing the way you think, the way you see, act and feel. Then you have to deal with all the ridicule and people giving their opinions to you, cracking jokes. Hell, I've lost friends and loved ones over deciding my health both mentally and physically was important. Trust me, I know how scary it is to make that change.

She was seriously almost in tears from both fear and relief. Being able to relate to someone or even talk to someone about her desire to change was a huge milestone in her self discovery and I believe helped propel her onward, motivating and inspiring her to change. It's a journey that will have many ups and downs, but knowing you're not alone makes it so much easier and doable.

I gave her some names and books that I thought would help her and told her she can always come talk to me if she needed to.

I share this story because I'm still amazed by how many lives are able to be changed by a simple conversation. A simple question answered, but a gut feeling that there was something deeper in that conversation. All of this over a gallon of milk. Still in awe.

I love what I do and I love that I'm and to talk to people on a daily basis about just everything. I get to learn, inspire, motivate, educate, encourage not only these people, but myself as well. I thank god every day for this gift of life.

Let's get out and inspire.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Just Run For A Change

I hear excuses like "it's to hot" or "to early" or "I could never do that." And what happens with me and the way I think, I wake up slow and say "fuck it, I'm going for a run. Where am I going today?" And it's been a while since I've just gone on a run without focusing on my time, my distance and so on. The joy of the run kind of started to fade away. So today, when I woke up, I found that love again. It was fitting that I wanted coffee and well I could either go to the corporate shop down the road or to any favorite local shop Cartel. My car keys are right there, but so are my shoes. Here's the battle. Either take the easy road and come up with excuses or just do it. Suck it up and just do it. My buddy Erick says during our runs together "embrace the suck." Today was no different. Yes, it's Arizona, it's hot humid amongst other things. But there was no way I would neglect or derby myself the chance to run this morning. So I grabbed my bottles, filled them with cold water, took a couple salt tabs, hat, sub glasses, long sleeve and ran. I just went. I knew the route I was going to take, but time, distance didn't matter. Legs wanted to cramp, knee felt like crap, but there was no excuses and Goonies never say die. I trucked on, made it 5.7 miles to cartel at an easy pace, just enjoying everything there is about the run. This is the first time in a long time that I am feeling bliss, pure nirvana. I was thinking about everything and anything. The people that I care about were constantly in my thoughts as I ran, making me smile and feel seriously blessed to have all of them in my life. And I'm only half way done with my run, but I'm going to enjoy this mug of coffee before I go. This is why I run because I love my life.

Sorry for the lack of paragraphs and possible random sentences. That's just the way my brain works.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mountains and Valleys

Wake up in the morning and run, bike or swim. Go home, shower, eat, recover. Most of us will head to work and then back home, sleep and repeat. How do you avoid a repetitive training schedule?

I'm not quite sure how to answer that really. Coach Frank explained to me that it's not uncommon for athletes to experience mountains and valleys. Basically, you feel a high when you're out there training, don't have to force anything. Training becomes second nature or something you actually look forward to, but occasionally it becomes stagnant.

Waking up and getting out of bed has been a chore this past week. Often I'm talking myself into sleeping in the night before by not setting my alarm. And when I'm doing these runs alone, I have nothing to account for but my self. When people agree to meet up, I force myself into going which feels great and I'm glad.

I'm wondering if I have hit a point in my regiment that I'm looking for the next step in evolution in my performance. Now I'm aware that it comes with time and hard work, but I'm right there, I can see it. I'm looking for the next challenge and with the JJ100K looming overhead, I have little time to spend in this valley, this low. And by no means am I depressed, just bored I guess.

How do you get out of the valley and continue on with your training?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Do I Run?

I'm just going to start writing (tapping the keyboard on my phone) and see what I come up with. I'm sorry ahead of time if this post appears to be a bit more nonsense and rambling.

Why do I run? The real question is why hadn't I started sooner? The way my brain works is like placing a truck load of firecrackers into a closed bucket and lighting them. They are contained within the bucket, fighting to get out. My brain is similar in that my thoughts are like firecrackers firing off with no where to go.
Running allows me to sift through my thoughts and focus on ones that are important and could possibly benefit my life and those around me. Sitting still and thinking doesn't do it for me because for some reason I focus solely on negative thoughts when I'm quiet, sitting still. I don't know, it's just the way I work. So moving forward, running really helps put me into a meditative state and my thoughts are organized. I become more collected the further I go and my mind is at ease.

Living with adult ADHD can be rough at times. People often don't understand me or the way my brain works. Running helps level me out, calms me down and gives me more sustainable energy. Nothing wakes me up more than an early morning run, whether it be 3 miles or 15+, I need my morning run like a caffeine addict needs their morning cup of Joe.

I'm a different, more confident person since I've been introduced to running. I'm evolving, improving, and becoming stronger as a person, a father, and a friend. If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that I look at running as a tool, a metaphor for self improvement. You can use the strength it took you to get up and over that hill in any part of your life.  The struggle in the run is no different than struggling at work, at least that's my take. It makes sense to me.

There's a reason I run, I run to be the best me I could possibly be.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My First Ultra

My goal was to do something I've never done before, do something great. Greatness doesn't necessarily mean run however far, but to me it many pushing myself further than I've ever been before. I was aiming for 36 miles to celebrate 36 years on this earth and to essentially rid myself of anything negative from the previous year. I knew I could do 36 miles, I just knew it.

I made it 30.2 miles and called it quits. And I'm proud of myself. I didn't quite reach the 36 miles and I realize how close I was, but I wasn't as prepared as I'd like to be. However, I still achieved something great, did something I've never done before. My previous longest distance was 16 miles, so on this run I almost doubled my longest run.

I gave it my all and that's all anyone could ever ask. The Arizona heat was brutal. Between 11am and noon, it jumped in temperature so fast and so quick that it was starting to get hard to breath. I was going through water faster and faster and popping salt tabs left and right, trying to maintain my electrolytes and hydration. At mile 28, my left foot started getting very uncomfortable. Felt like I had stepped on a rock and there was a bruise on the bottom. So I turned around and walked back to the car, trying to jog through the pain, but it started getting hard to even walk.

I used this as a learning experience. Things I can learn from this: remember a few pairs of socks. Seriously, something as simple as socks would have made that run even more enjoyable than it already was. I would also like to learn how to improve my caloric intake because food and sustenance was getting harder to stomach as time went on. Also pacing. I went hard at points during my run when I should have focused on maintaining a steady pace.

Looking back now, I still can't believe that I did 30+ miles. I've been running for just over a year and I've done this. I'm so happy with my accomplishments. And the funny thing about turning 36 is that I'll be 36 for a whole year, so I can have another go whenever I want. It makes me excited for the JJ100K in November.

Thank you to everyone who came out and ran with me. You all made my birthday the best ever, seriously. It meant a lot to me. Erick, thanks for pushing me and pacing me during that last stretch. You are a beast and can't wait to run with you again buddy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback: A Year Later

Looking at my "before" photo, I start to get emotional. My unhappiness is apparent in my face, my skin color and my overall appearance. This was taken about a few weeks after I started making changes, so this wasn't even at my "unhappiest."

There was a point in my life where I just had enough and wanted to change the way I thought and the way I felt. I stopped my vegan diet for a while there when I was married. Though the cheese sand everything I consumed tasted great, I felt like a hypocrite and I felt horrible eating all of that. It just wasn't for me, but again convenience is a bitch.

I remember thinking to myself, "I want to run a marathon." So I picked one of the hardest ones in the country which was in the town I lived in. Eventually I'd decide to train instead for a sprint tri forgoing the marathon. That was my chance to start eating clean and educating myself on sports nutrition and my overall health.

My mood started changing, almost overnight. I felt like I was about to do something great, and I was. The pounds started dropping off and I started noticing my overall endurance increasing. That person I looked at in the mirror started to smile more. It was apparent I found my church so to speak.

My journey isn't over. I'm constantly learning, constantly improving as a person, as a Dad, and as an athlete. I don't do this to win races, I do this both to stay sane and to inspire others. Depression is a bitch, and it's even harder to ask for help, especially if you're proud or whatever. But please know that there are people you've never met out there that can help pick you up. There are people out there that are willing to listen, to be there for you. There are people who actually care.

My mind is all over the place, so excuse the randomness. I'm still broken up over how I used to look. I'm in a happier place now and I think you can see it in my newer photo.... if you ever ever ever need help, please reach out.....

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Birthday Ultra

A year will have passed since my life was turned upside down. Instead of curling up in a ball and letting my life be consumed by whatever was going on at that given moment, I chose to rise above and use my experiences as motivation to improve myself, both as a person and as a father.

I've taken the idea of my birthday and changed the traditional celebration into something I feel is much greater. I'm using my birthday as cleansing tool to start fresh for the coming year. I will run my age in miles, ridding myself of the previous year and everything negative. The positive energy and learning experiences will be embraced and used to propel me through my 36 mile run.

Every year, I plan on adding another mile to go along with another year on this earth and more challenges. I don't want to shy away from life's challenges and I want to inspire others to do the same and face life's challenges with pride and determination, embracing a never say die attitude. If there's anything I've learned, it's that life can knock you down, kick you back, and you'll want to give up, but you must get back up and keep going. You'll come out stronger, improved, evolved.

My birthday ultra is a metaphor, a vehicle, a tool to help others on their journey. Please, come join me. The run will be done at Tempe Town Lake, starting at 5am from the Tempe Center For The Arts. The reason I chose the lake is because of the loops. I realize not everyone is going to want to run 36 miles with me, but anyone and everyone is encouraged to come run, jog, walk for however far you want. Plenty of spots to turn around and go to the start. I am using this experience to thank everyone for being there for me. I love you all. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Breaking Through

It's weird the mental clarity that comes with pushing yourself to and past your limits. Right when you think you can't go any further, you push past that wall and that's when you find yourself. It's an amazing feeling. Completely different from the runner's high, more of a clear state of mind. It's like talking with a counselor about your issues and such. You find answers, you find peace, you find god. Life becomes clear. This is why I run.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Have I Become?

Growing up, I was involved in a lot of sports. Mainly soccer, baseball and pick up games of football which we played on asphalt. Yes tackling each other. The joys of growing up in a lower income area, we had to make do with what we had. When I wasn't pretending I was Cal Ripken Jr or any random soccer star, we were the typical kids, playing in the creek throwing rocks, playing guns we fashioned out of sticks. Times were different back then and we had a blast using our imaginations.

Eventually, I would discover skateboarding and punk culture. This would change my whole outlook on sports. My interests in organized team sports would fade and my focus would be geared towards skating and listening to loud angry music. I was a teenager, so of course I was misunderstood and frustrated with not being noticed by anyone or everyone.

For years, the only "sport" I was interested in was skateboarding, but for those who skate, it's more of a lifestyle than it is a sport. In fact, competition was, for the most part, frowned upon. Music and skating went hand in hand. If we were skating street, doing lines(not drugs), I would flow listening to Digable Planets, but when we were killing a mini or skating a pool something like Slayer or Cro Mags were the go to sounds to drive us to go big or go home. Mind you, most of my time was spent skating street. And let me tell you, there's nothign that's going to replace the memories of skating the spots in SF that are now something of an urban legend to those up and coming skaters. The Gonz, Hubba Hideout, China Banks, EMB....I could go on, but you get the idea. I think China Banks is still there.

Milwaukee was a monumental place in my personal history. This is where I found my love for coffee, would eventually get married(and have my daughter), and started to enjoy watching sports all over again. I would also be active in local bands, toured with one group a couple of times and got arrested for skateboarding(4 cop cars, 6 cops, guns drawn). I learned a lot living there and Wisconsin still holds a huge part of my heart. I made some of the best friends there(Stevsie, miss you buddy, Jamie..though you're on the east coast now, John Grant...)

Somehow, through sheer luck or however you want to explain it, I end up in Arizona. My life would take some sharp turns and in my head I would be totally alone with no family around me aside from my children. Something had to be done. I looked deep within and made a promise to myself that I wouldn't let depression consume me, though it felt like it would. So I picked up running, and the rest is history.

Surviving my battle with depression, I was able to find out who I was and who I wanted to be. And through the run, I was introduced to some of my closest friends I have ever met. People I care deeply about, family. They have been a huge inspiration and motivation for my self discovery, constantly pushing me to continue on and to never ever ever give up. I love you all.

So ten years ago, had you met me then, you would have never thought or pictured me to be the person I am today, confident in my self worth, content with who I am, open to spirituality and determined to succeed and reach my goals. My dreams are right there for the taking, I just have to put in the hard work to grab them. And I will, I can do it.

Triathlon, running, and now my desire to do ultras are ways I cope with whatever mental struggles I am dealing with at that given moment. They are tools that I use to challenge myself both physically and mentally, using my new found "never say die" mentality. When I'm out there on a trail, I lose myself in thought and forget, basically, what is bothering me. I am able to just live. Hard to explain unless you've experienced the same feeling. It's something I need, I want, I do. Before, and I still feel this way, music saved me in my younger years. Had it not been for the punk and hardcore scene(s), I would be dead. I need running like life needs air to breath. It drives me to succeed at life, gives me tools that I can use in every day life. I feel at peace, healthy, happy with who I am.

What have I become? Well, it's simple really. I have become me. This is who I am, this is who I will be. I will only improve who I am, but I will never ever change me. I am a loving dad of two wonderful children. I run, I swim, I bike. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ramblings of a Vegan Triathlete

Word of caution:

Sometimes I just rant about random things. My thoughts come out and I try to formulate coherent sentences, but that's not always the case with the way I think. So bare with me as I try to relay my ramblings.

Lately, I've been listening to conversations about healthy eating. Funny how easily influenced people can be. They read it on the internet and automatically assume that it's fact. I'm a firm believer that everyone has different results when it comes to their diet. For me, I find eating a strict plant based diet really works. Mind you, I started out primarily worrying about animal welfare, but it would later blossom into something much bigger.

Let me talk about that for a second. My experience with people is that they assume that because I'm vegan that automatically I'm eating healthy or better yet that all vegans are healthy. Come on now, so not true. I can remember being on tour with a band living off of wheat thins and top ramen and occasionally eating at chinese buffets. That is a horrible way to live, but at the time there was little information out there on a healthy way of being vegan. Come to think of it, I'm sure that's why so many people who tried being vegan got sick and stopped living that way.

There are plenty of vegan options out there these days and more than half of them are cruelty free, but are loaded with processed garbage. I've said it before and I will keep saying it, if you can't pronounce the word or even read it for that matter, why are you putting it in your body? No really, I challenge everyone to go read the label and tell me when each ingredient is and where it comes from WITHOUT using Google. I promise you that most of you will fail. So again, why put it in your body if you don't know what it is?

It's easy for me to live a plant based lifestyle because of my devotion to the animals. I wasn't always this way. In fact, I stopped being vegan for some time while I was married. I can look back now and say that I was using food to cope with my onslaught of mood swings, good and bad. People often use drugs, alcohol or other self destructive addictions to deal with things going on in their lives. Me, it was food.

When I got into the sport of triathlon and began eating extremely clean, there was a ton more information out there on a clean plant based life. There were more vegan athletes out there, performing at the top of their class. So started researching more and more, educating myself and in a sense, relearning a ton of material I learned years before when I was more active in animal rights/welfare.

I started eating clean, losing weight, improving my mood, gaining sustainable energy and ultimately gaining self respect and love for me as a person. Yes, my mental stability really improved because I wasn't eating to cope, I was eating to live. Let me say that again, "I was eating to live." I'm not saying I was killing myself, but the food I was putting into my body wasn't helping live a healthy life.

I can see my potential as a person and as an athlete.

Here's the point of my post:

Educate yourself before you make any abrupt, on the spot decisions regarding a change in your life. Know that everyone's body is different and you may not have the same results as the person next to you. Any time someone says "You should be eating this," I urge you to question that statement and really really really educate yourself!!!

There's more I wanted to say, but my thoughts still aren't coming out the way I want them too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Improve

Changing the way you talk can directly impact the way you think and in turn improve not only your quality of life, but those around you.

For instance:

You and your significant other are going out to eat. You're asked, "where do you want to go?" The common response is "I don't care." Truth is, you do care. Maybe not about the situation, but as a whole you do care. Change the words you use to describe how you feel towards where you eat and you'll be surprised the results.

We are all on a journey of self discovery, improving with every interaction. Let's make life beautiful.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Mom

First off, this isn't my normal triathlon running story. It's mom day, so here's my story.

Growing up, we didn't have much as far as finances. My mom worked graveyard to make ends meet. She provided what little we had through hard work and determination. We waited in line for government cheese and help with food more times than I would like to remember. My jeans had holes and patches on them and were probably hand me downs from my older brother.

What we lacked in the financial department, we flourished in love. I learned early on the importance of the family circle. Though she worked her ass off to provide for us and I can't recall her really sleeping except for the times she said she wanted to watch a movie with me, she some how ALWAYS had dinner ready, got us to school on time (we mostly walked by ourselves), took us to our sports, and she was always there when we needed mom.

Growing up poor and seeing other kids with the newest stuff on Christmas, I constantly wished I had their "stuff." So that year that our house was broken into and our presents were stolen was a huge hit to my self confidence. My mom worked her magic.

She made me a blanket, bought me a 6 pack of root beer and had my uncle Jeff compile a vhs tape of the incredible hulk show. Her and I cuddled on the couch and she probably fell asleep while o watched the hulk. That is still the most amazing Christmas I've ever had. It didn't matter about the presents, but that my mom made it special with what she had.

Point is, my mom is the strongest person I've ever known. She did something wonderful and she's the reason I'm the man I am today. I'm so thankful for the life I was given and for the mom I have. She means so much to me. So mom, if you're reading this, I love you more than you'll ever know. Thank you for reading me stories at night, thank you for teaching me the importance of family, thank you for making me give back that toy I accidentally stole when I was around 7 and trelling the clerk what I did. Thank you for everything mom.

As I finish this post with tears in my eyes, I urge you all to hug your mom, treat her like a queen because she's the only mom you have.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Just Run

It's common and actually a good tool to track your progress. In fact, I hope to score myself a Garmin in the near future. Those cost money. Next best thing is my phone but it's too bulky to fit in my hip pouch. So I've often left it behind as I don't like running with anything in my hands. This is probably the best thing ever because I've been able to focus on my run without worrying about tracking my run, posting the results to some form of social media or getting down on myself for having a slower time than before. I do strive for improvement, but I'm not out there to win any titles, I'm not the next big thing. The reason why I took up running was to find myself, a form of spiritual discovery. Entering races give you a goal or a final destination that forces you to take training seriously, but you don't need those big races to still "race." Why not create your own grassroots race you've come up with? So I've been able to enjoy the run, enjoy the training and yes I have entered my share of races, but the end results I'm looking for isn't the podium, it's mediation, spirituality, joy, the wind, nature, being outside and cheering the stranger struggling on during that hard stretch. I'm there to encourage my fellow athlete to achieve their goals. I'm out there running to show people a possible way to improve their overall life through the joy of running. You've read my posts and know I often talk about the sense of community within the running.... Community (sorry for the over use of the word). You'll get the uber competitive runner within those communities, but I have been fortunate and extremely lucky to have positive roll models and friends that I've met who have overcome adversity to get where they are and they're just out there running, helping people out, being kind to their fellow human. These are the people I surround myself with, the kind, huge hearts amazing friends that I've grown to love. They've taught me that triathlon and running is so much more than the race. I hope you'll find that community and sense of pure nirvana. It's what I love to do. Take that first step to a spiritual awakening, go for a run.

Love

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Changing Your Way Of Thinking

Posting from my mobile a lot lately so excuse the occasional punctuation mistake or grammatical error. Let's all be honest here, auto correct isn't always friendly and when my thoughts are flowing, I tend to forget to look over and proof read my post. I'm human, I make mistakes.

Sadness is a part of life. For the most part, all of us have experienced sadness at one point in time. And it's extremely easy to focus on what's making you sad, eventually setting you up for a battle with depression. We need to learn how to truck our minds to think differently.

I love human interaction. It allows you to absorb oodles of information that could possibly benefit you in your life.

Talking with my friend Lauren recently, the topic of self improvement came up. And my first reply was "I feel I've come do far, but I can't get past the fact that I love my kids and I miss them terribly. I'm having a hard time living apart from them." Her advice and tips were so monumental and have had almost immediate effects on my overall quality of life.

First off, just because I don't live with my kids anymore doesn't mean I don't love them or I can't love them just the same every day. What it means is, I have to figure out ways to love them every day. So one thing Lauren proposed was to wake up and think to myself "how am I going to love my kids today?" Now this isn't implying that I could wake up and NOT love them, it's just giving me the opportunity to make that love flourish and strengthen. Living apart is hard for any parent, but it's just a challenge to find a new way to express your love.

Asking myself "how" is great. Then what I do with that is answer my question. This can be anything from writing them a letter, to drawing them a picture, buying them new toothbrushes, building a cardboard fort, coloring then a picture. It doesn't have to be buying them a new game system or really spending money, but it's important that it come from the heart.

The few days that I've been practicing this new way of thinking, my mood has not only improved, but people have started to notice that I'm different. I'm smiling, not dwelling on being away from them. I feel as if they are right here with me.

There are so many ways for us to train ourselves to think differently that will improve our quality of lives. You don't have money, and you're constantly saying "I don't have any money." Well, you're not going to get money by complaining about it. "I'm always alone, I wish I had someone to be with." Well that's negative thinking and it's not going to improve. These are just a few examples, but I think you get the point.

Instead of filling your conversations with "I can't," "I never," or something along those lines, try saying "good things happen to me." Say this right when you start feeling down.

For me, I was thinking about my kids and then I got depressed and started thinking about struggling with money or being lonely and then I would spiral downward into a rut that would affect my training, my personal life and my work. Truth is, I have a lot of good around me. I have amazing friends, I just bought my first car, I have an amazing job, and I get to run, bike and swim as often as I want. Let's not forget about my coach who has been a godsend. Being apart of S3 is like being apart of a family.

I'm working on changing the way I think, and I can already see the benefits. I've thought of some simple ways that can help you on your way to improving your life that could also help in your training.

1. Wake up and say to yourself "today is going to be awesome."
2. Think to yourself throughout the day "good things happen to me"
3. Smile often
4. Turn off the negative thoughts
5. Close your eyes and breath

Remember, happiness is a choice. Life can be as good as you want it to be or as bad as you let it.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Knowledge

First off, events wouldn't be able to happen without the help of you volunteers out there. Whether it is body marking, helping number my bike, or working at an aid station, every single one of you volunteering is what makes the races safe and enjoyable. Also, thanks for the cheers, they really help us athletes smile when it's needed and to continue on.

My coach, Frank, has always said "stay with me and trust me," when it comes to training. Drills drills drills, and I've always believed him and always have so much trust and respect for his his way of coaching me. A few months ago, I'd struggle to swim even 5 minutes straight. With his directions and constant positive reinforcement, I'm becoming more and more confident with what I do. And I'm not just talking about swimming, biking or running, I'm talking about life in general. Now I'm getting off topic, but really, Frank has been a godsend to me and my life.

I attended an Iron Care Splash & Dash event, helping with body marking. My favorite part of the race is watching people swim from start to finish. I was paying close attention to the head of the 1500m swim. There were 2 athletes in particular that were serious learning tools to watch. Both had a completely different technique. One was fluent and graceful, relaxed with his approach, gliding through the water with ease. The athlete behind him was feverishly swimming trying to keep up and possibly drafting, but was aggressively swimming, almost looking as if he was struggling. I posted about it on the good ol FB and Frank replies "EXACTLY! Stay with me and I won't mislead you."

Watching this guy swim was a great experience and seeing first hand what my coach has been preaching this whole time....wow. I was a firm believer before technique over strength, but my faith in technique just grew astronomically.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Speechless

I'm really at a loss for words and if you knew me, you'd understand that me being quiet is quite abnormal for me.

Neglect isn't the word I'm looking for, but I think through my transition from being a stay at home dad to a father living away from his kids, I've overlooked the good that has come my way. For a while there, I was focusing so much on what could have been, if this could have happened or things I needed to change. And in some way, I was neglecting the good things.

As humans, we are so quick to focus on the negative which in turn has the possibility to send is into a fit of depression that's near impossible to climb out of. We know that we'd feel so much better if we'd just get up and brush ourselves off and move forward, but all we want to do is sleep or feel sorry for ourselves.

Through my transition, I've been introduced to some of the most kind, inspirational, motivational people this earth has ever known. I've been welcomed into their lives as if I've been there all along. They've been a gift from God, lifesavers. I feel apart of their family and let me tell you, the sense of belonging has been something I haven't truly felt since my days in the hardcore/punk scene in the bay area. I feel like I matter.

Living away from my kids has been the hardest thing I've ever done and will ever do. There isn't a moment I don't think of them. They are my life's blood, my energy, my heart. So the sense of loneliness from being away from them can be hard to deal with, but with the people in my life that have been there for me when I needed help up, I've been able to turn that into a positive.

I've become a stronger better dad, not that I was a bad one to begin with. My time with my children has been very vet very special. I've learned to be more honest and open with not just people in my life, but with myself which I feel is extremely important. I've learned who I am and I'm bettering myself every day.

Triathlon and the people I've met through the community, for me, isn't just about swimming, biking and running, it's about finding out who you are, who you want to be. It's about giving your all and when you think you can't go any further, you go a bit further. You dig deep, you battle your own mind and come out a more complete stronger you. I'm not perfect nor will I ever pretend to be, but I strive to be the best me I can be. And thanks to everyone along the way that has helped show me how great I am and can be. There's to many of you to thank, but you all know who you are. I love you all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Endure

I often ask myself "why are you doing this?" I think of my kids and how much I love them. The answer is that clear, that easy.

Find what you love to help you push through the tough times, to help you endure through the pain, and avoid that mental struggle of quitting. Face it, pain never hurt as much as quitting.

Vegan Mark

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Smile

Doing something as simple as smiling at a complete stranger can do wonders to that person's day or life. It could be life changing, you may never know, but it'll make you feel good as well. I encourage everyone reading this blog to leave behind anything negative and spread one of the most contagious acts and smile.

Smiling is a very gratifying gesture.

Vegan Mark

Friday, March 28, 2014

Letting Go

It's very easy to revert to old ways because it's familiar territory. It's a constant challenge to maintain focus on your goal especially when your journey becomes stale.

Constantly remind yourself what you're doing and why your doing it. Not to sound cliche, but one of the best things you can do when you feel that cloud of doubt come on is breath. Just breath. It won't rain forever.

Eventually you'll reach your destination and everything will make sense. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just Keep Fighting

My journey towards becoming an ironman has been a challenging one to say the least. Clouded at times with self doubt, situations that cause me to rethink my motives, outside influences and many other things. Life, it may seem, is trying to hold me back from my goals. Self empowerment through positive reinforcement and the "I can do this" attitude keeps me fighting.

As soon as I find myself taking the path towards a depressive state, I'm fighting to maintain focus on the big picture. Ask anyone that has gone through the transformation of becoming an ironman and they will tell you that 99% of it is mental. Point is, your mind will quit before your body.

Again, it's that constant struggle of maintaining focus and NOT giving up that is in my opinion the real training, the real task. Being able to overcome and conquer your own mind is really an empowering ability. Doing this and I believe we can accomplish anything. You know the saying, "you can do anything of you put your mind to it."

Vegan Mark

Friday, February 21, 2014

Energy Bits: Powered By Bits

As an endurance athletes, it's important not only to focus on your training, but the fuel you put into your body. Often, we find ourselves going for a run, swim, bike or weight training when we have time, neglecting to consume anything substantial to fuel our bodies through our exercise and recovery. It's almost like we forget to eat or just think we don't have time. Either we need wake up earlier, give ourselves more time to cook and eat or find something to snack on during our workouts.

In comes ENERGYBits!

ENERGYbits are made from 100% non GMO spirulina algae. They boost your energy and endurance naturally. I have also noticed mental clarity which for me is huge as I have ADHD and it's hard to focus at times. I experience less muscle fatigue, muscle soreness both during my training and after (recovery). There are so many health benefits from ENERGYbits that I suggest you visit energybits.com and read all the health benefits. Any questions, I'd be happy to answer the best I can. From my own experience, I have to say they are the best thing since sliced bread.

When you order your bits, use discount code "VEGANTRI" at the checkout.

See you all later!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shoe Review: Skora "Base"

GearUp is a glorious place. Sales on wonderful outdoor sports and leisurely activities. So when I saw Skora's "base" shoes on sale along with their whole line, I had to jump on the opportunity.

I've been reading about the "base" and it's zero drop sole for quite some time. Everyone that wore this shoe seemed to adore the pair.

Mail day!

At first glance, I thought that the construction would be a little weak. Felt like a light foam that would break apart once I slipped my foot in, but I was wrong. My foot, took some effort, slipped in just fine and felt nice and snug in the shoe. My first thought was, "man this doesn't even need the velcro strap." The shoes felt wonderful and light. I was used to wearing Asics Tri Noosa, which weren't helping my form, but we're extremely comfortable. I'll get into my form in another post. Anyways, the shoes weren't as heavy as the asics I was used to wearing, so that was a nice change.

After opening the box and wearing them around the house, I immediately wanted to forgo a scheduled nap and go running. Keep in mind I just had a session with my run coach, Cristin and wanted to practice some of the drills we went over.

Upon arrival to the Tempe Town Lake, I did my stretches before my run and felt the ground with my feet in the shoes. Now, in my head this is crucial. I love being able to feel the road, the trail or whatever terrain in running. I wouldn't go as far as saying I felt like I was barefoot or in vibram shoes, but I clearly felt gripped to the ground.

I just felt like running!

I started off running, focusing on my form. I was worried that going from my noosa to the zero drop that I was going to feel the impact like crazy, but I felt little to no impact. The soles felt durable and surprisingly cushioned. Where I run, there's a good combination of dirt trail and concrete paths, and if you go further, there's even asphalt. I was able to get the feeling of different terrains on my short 4 mile run. Wow, I love love love love these shoes.

The construction is what drew my attention to the "base." The Velcro strap made the shoe look like a bike shoe and my love for triathlon, I felt it would help in the transition area going from the bike to the run. Just slip them on and go.

Overall, I really enjoy these shoes. They fit like a glove, true to size. Myself, I have wide feet and they weren't a problem. I strongly urge everyone give Skora a go.

Vegan Mark