Christmas Gifts and the Year Ahead

Merry Christmas!  It has been rather warm in the Midwest this winter, however we received the gift of a white Christmas with a dusting of snow.  I got to enjoy the beauty of it without having to shovel it…yet another gift.  I actually took Christmas Day off from training, since I have not had a true rest day for several weeks.  But, the time is getting short for training, so every day counts.  More on that in a bit.

I Received another gift that was unexpected; I was sponsored by Honey Stinger!  You will now see the Honey Stinger banner on my blog pages, as I feel that it’s the least I could do for then since they accepted me into their group.  I am also the in-store ambassador for Altra shoes at Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines, so their logo will also appear on my blog pages.  Please check out both of these fine companies.  Altra makes awesome Zero-Drop running shoes with a very comfortable and wide toe box.  Honey Stingers make some of the best fuel replacement chews, gels, waffles, and protein bars on the market. I have relied on Honey Stingers for both of my marathons and my triathlons, and I love the fact that they are also organic.

So when you see #HShive and #HoneyStinger, you’ll know that I’m including them in on my updates.  

I have to find the right hashtag for Altra Running Shoes, but here is their logo: 

So now on to the need to keep training and not miss a workout…I have 22 weeks until my first 70.3 Ironman.  I can’t believe I actually signed up!  I was scared half to death, hitting the ‘commit’ button.  But I talked to my coach, Jenni (who is awesome, by the way) and she said I would be ready and actually gave me four options to look at.  So my wife and I chose Raleigh, North Carolina on June 5.  While that sounds a long way away, it is only 22 weeks.  We have to get bike carriers, airline tickets, hotel rooms, and prep for the trip.  Plus keep up and ramp up the training!  I am really nervous, but really excited about competing and completing my first half-Ironman.  It is amazing what the last five years have brought on, and how wonderful a healthy lifestyle has enriched my life.

To top it off, I was offered the chance to lead a group that will be training for a half-marathon.  It will be at Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines, and we will be getting people ready to run the Hy Vee Road Races half marathon at the Drake Relays. This should be a great opportunity to pass along my love for the sport, and will hopefully help me ramp up my running training for Raleigh.

If you ever think about training for an event such as a 70.3, please consider getting a coach to help you along the way.  I am so glad I did!  Coach Jenni structures my workouts, so I am sure I am working on everything I need to (even core, which I will not do on my own).  She is always a text or phone call away, and is watching even when I don’t think she is.  One night after a rough workout on the bike, I posted on Facebook that I had a long and frustrating workout.  I didn’t even leave the gym yet when Coach Jenni texted me, wanting to know what happened.  She reassured me that I will be ok, and that we all have good and not so good workouts.  It was nice to know that she was right there to support me when I needed it.  You cannot get that on your own, so please consider hiring a coach.

It’s time to relax for just a bit and enjoy the Christmas holiday.  Tomorrow will be here before I know it, and with it comes a lot of training.  I hope your Christmas, and your upcoming year, is filled with joy and happiness, and good health.
Live healthy, be happy!


A (Very True) Christmas Story

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all!  I thought I would take a break from all the exercising, and tell you a story about a Christmas event that I experienced many years ago.

Walking to school one day, it was easy to see the excitement on my face.  Now, most skinny second grade boys don’t get excited about going to school, but this particular day was different.  It was the last day before Christmas break, and that meant a Christmas play, singing carols, eating food and sweets, and last but not least, the gift exchange.  The protests over segregation had quieted down, and our new friends who rode the bus in to school were no longer escorted by the police or the National Guard.  I was carefully carrying the gift I selected for the name I drew (a girl whose name I no longer remember).  It was the game Candyland, and my mom made sure to use the prettiest paper and bow on it.  I was wondering as I walked to school who got my name, and what toy would I get.  Would it be a game? An action figure? A race car?  My mind wondered with all the potential possibilities.  I met my friends, both those that walked, and those who rode the bus, at the main doors of the school.  Everyone was carrying a gift, and we all were talking loudly and quickly as most second-graders do.

The day was a blur.  The play went as most children’s plays do, with lots of mistakes, many forgotten lines, and a couple kids running off in tears from their nerves.  The carols went by quickly, as the piano teacher belted out song after song on a somewhat off-key upright piano in the auditorium.  Then the lunch ladies fed us a traditional elementary school Christmas lunch, with turkey and stuffing.  We were then sent to our classrooms where we ate sweets and had the gift exchange.

The gifts were all placed under a Christmas tree in our classroom.  Our teacher started pulling out the gifts, calling to the child whose name was on each tag.  Once the gifts were passed out, we went in order opening them and showing everyone what we received.  The girl who got my gift was thrilled with Candyland, and that made me happy.  There were toys everywhere!  It was amazing to say the least.

Then it was my turn to open my gift.  As I started to unwrap it, I looked across the room and saw Jerome, one of the boys who rode the bus to school, and he eyes were wide with anticipation.  I knew Jerome’s family didn’t have much money, as he was on the lunch card program and got free lunches (breakfast too, if the bus made it on time).  Something told me that this was his gift.  I opened it to reveal …

A pair of brown socks.  The whole class erupted in laughter, except for me and Jerome.  Jerome was tearing up badly and looked like he wanted to run away.  Now, don’t ask me how a second-grader does what follows, whether it be divine intervention or the Christmas spirit, but I hollered out “Hey! I like these!  They’re soft and they will keep my feet warm.”  The classroom fell silent.  Jerome smiled at me through a tear soaked face.  Suddenly, the teacher agreed, saying what a thoughtful and caring gift it was and that I would be able to enjoy them for a long time.  The classroom, still silent, looked at the teacher as she asked the next child to open their present.  Before long, the classroom returned to normal.

As we were dismissed from school and walking down the hall, Jerome ran up to me. “Do you really like them?” he asked. “We couldn’t afford any toys, I’m sorry” he said.  I looked at him and said, “Of course I like them, they are nice and they feel warm”. I didn’t want Jerome to feel bad, even though it wasn’t the gift I was expecting.  Jerome said “My mom let me pick them out, I hope you like brown”. Now he was smiling, and that smile warmed my heart in ways you couldn’t imagine.  “I do like brown” I said, and then realized that we walked way past the bus stop.  “Jerome! You’re going to miss the bus!” I exclaimed.  Jerome looked startled, and then started running back to the bus stop.  But then he turned, waved, and yelled “Merry Christmas!” before joining the crowd getting on the bus.

I wore those socks on the first day back to school after Christmas break.  I wore those socks long after they were worn thin and bare.  I kept those socks in my drawer when I could no longer wear them, a reminder to me about that time and the gift I was given.  I kept them with me as an adult, until one move too many caused them to disappear, yet they remain ingrained on my mind and in my heart.

You see, what I wanted as a gift was a toy, as any child does.  A toy to be used and discarded with time.  What I received that day with the gift of brown socks was something that would last a lifetime … I was given the gift of compassion for my fellow man.  Even as a young boy, I knew the feeling of helping someone else feel better, of easing their burdens even if for a moment.  It was truly a gift that has lasted a lifetime.

I wish you all the gift like the one I received with those pair of brown socks.

Merry Christmas!