Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lance vs USADA

I have been debating long and hard over the last several days about what to write about concerning the news that Lance Armstrong would not fight the charges brought against him of doping while professionally cycling by the USADA. I am by no means a legal expert or a professional athlete that has been under the scrutiny of adhering to conduct becoming the aforementioned title. I am an age group athlete who loves to compete and push himself to new limits to be better physically, mentally, and spiritually through the vehicle of endurance sports. I don't have the voice or means that others like him have in the sports world, but I do have some thoughts and views that hopefully will change your way of looking at this or if not, at least get you to think beyond what you read in the media. So, here goes my two penny's worth.

My viewpoint on this whole fiasco is going to be similar to what a lot of people have already expressed, but I am also thinking about this from a viewpoint as a follower of Christ and someone who thinks beyond the media and looks at this from a human stand point. Everyone to seems to forget that we are talking about someone's personal life and how this affects them. We tend to lose sight of the fact that Lance is a normal individual with a family and responsibilities just like us. Now, his achievements in sport have obviously enabled him to be better off financially than a lot, but that does not mean that he is above anyone else when it comes to needing the grace of God that us fellow believers have received when we were not worthy of things ourselves. The Bible is very clear in 1 Cor 13:7 in the Amplified when it states that love, "is ever ready to believe the best of of every person." When this passage talks about every person, that is exactly what it means, "every" person. I find it amazing on what is being said on the social media sites from people who have formed their opinion about this matter without knowing the facts. No one has any clue as to the detailed facts about this except Lance. So according to my biblical responsibility, I am going to believe the best about him.

One thing that really concerns me is how others are going on the attack against Lance and are not addressing the legal infringements that are taking place. The current facts are that we have charges filed against Lance with the USADA based upon testimony from individuals who have already admitted guilt to doping or who were promised immunity or the ability to keep racing if they complied with the investigation. So, if this is correct, individuals who have personal vendettas against me or who have something to gain can bring forth charges against me without any shred evidence in a court of law and I can be found guilty? I don't know where we have gotten off based in this country, but this is crazy, let alone unconstitutional. If I have been subject to thousands of drug tests and have not tested positive on any of them and yet I can be pronounced guilty based off of someone else's testimony in a court of law, then we have went off the deep end constitutionally. In the land where you are innocent until proven guilty, this should be an outrage and yet no one is addressing this. Having been falsely accused of something in my younger years and having been in the position to where no one believed my innocence, not even my own mother, I can empathize with Lance. My situation was not even close to being under the magnifying glass as his case is, but none the less, it still did not feel any better.

One can always argue that there are ways around the tests, but once again that violates my responsibility to think the best of him. I would much rather be in the position of being able to reconcile someone to God as stated in 1 Cor 14, then not being able to speak into someone's life because of my failure to exhibit the love of God to them. The people that do speak these horrible things do not think about what this does to the individual let alone his family. The media is quick to promote someone out to the forefront as the next hero and they are just as quick to tear them down for the next big story. Our command as believers is the ministry of reconciliation and that is where I want to be.

If the news ever did come out that he had actually done what the media has declared, would it change my opinion of him? Is it like finding out that Batman is really Bruce Wayne or Spiderman is really Peter Parker? There is always a little sense of disappointment when we find out that our heroes are also human , but we as believers should be there to help restore those who have fallen and give back what was so freely given to us. Every one of us at some point of time and have needed help and have had others give us that help. That is what in this debate we cannot lose sight of, Lance is a human being and needs our support as one.

So, right, wrong, or indifferent, this is my two cents worth on this. I would revel the day to be able to sit across from Lance and discuss family, life, endurance sports, and just him as a person because I care for him and not what the media has created. His achievements still inspire me to be a better athlete to this day and no one can take that away. But all his athletic achievements aside, I am more interested in the person of Lance.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trials & Marathon Pictures

 I know yesterday I said I was not going to post any pictures of the trials and the Marathon, but they are too cool not to. Enjoy!

 A couple of our VIP passes.

 The Olympic rings at our table.
 Michael Wardian. Thanks for the glove.
 Meb coming out to the start.
 Ryan Hall leading the first group out.

Shalane & Kara.
That was legendary coach of Galen Rupp & Mo Farah across from us on the phone.
Desi leading the women through the race.
After the first loop the pack had split off to these main contenders.
Abdi at the finish.
Meb at the finish.
Shalane sprinting towards the finish.
The 3 top women finishers, Shalane, Desi, and Kara.

Desi and Shalane.
The finish line.
Downtown Houston on race morning.
The view from our upstairs VIP seating.
Our diggs for the weekend in The Woodlands.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Up From the Ashes

Well, it has certainly been awhile since I have blogged, hence the appropriate title. My new job that I had with the Bank was so demanding and stressful that after work and training I barely had time for anything else. So, the good news is that I no longer have the job. Yeah! The bad news is, I no longer have that job. More on that later, but let's do some catching up.

I was very blessed in January to attend the Olympic trials in January. Yes, I am going back all the way to January. That is how long it has been since I blogged. The bank that I used to work for is one of the sponsors of the Houston Marathon and not only was I able to run the Marathon on Sunday, but I was able to get VIP treatment for the trials on Saturday. I would post some photos, but somehow I think it is a little late to post them of the trial after the Olympics is already over.

We were able to spend the weekend in The Woodlands at my wife's Aunt's place and be able to relax and enjoy the entire experience. On Saturday morning we headed out to the trials and we were able to park right next to the convention center due to our VIP passes. We ended up on the west side of the start line and found a VIP tent and helped ourselves to some breakfast before the race started. Little did we know that we were supposed to be on the east side. So after breakfast, we ventured out to the seating area to watch the men and women warm up. The start of the race for the men was 8 AM and temps were at 29 degrees. The women started at 8:10 and it had risen to 39 degrees in 10 minutes, Got to love Houston.

One of the highlights was seeing Ryan Hall warm up. It was amazing how big his legs were. He is pretty skinny up top, but he looked like he had cyclists legs. There were a lot of people I did not know, but I did see a lot of the heavy hitters, Ryan, Meb, Dathan, Shalane, Kara, and Desi. At 8 am the men were off and out came the women who hit the start at 8:10. They all did a little 2.2 mile loop before hitting the three 8 mile loops. When the men came back through on the first little loop, Michael Wardian tossed me one of his gloves. I am not for sure if it was snot lined, but I still have it.

In between loops we ducked in and out of the tent before we realized that we were supposed to be on the east side. So, we ventured over to that side to enjoy the VIP breakfast and the VIP port-potties. That is right, we had our own VIP toilets complete with running water to wash our hands. We are spoiled for ever.

Because of getting there late, a lot of people had already taken the front row spectating, but we were able to squeeze in and get some phone camera shots of the runners that came in. It was pretty spectacular to see them finish with all the emotion of making the team and of not making the team. Months of hard work and effort went into this race to only have three slots available. The emotion of making the team was quickly overshadowed by the heartache we saw of the those who came so close, but didn't make it. I am glad that those who came close were still able to make it in for the other track events at the Olympics. You could literally feel the emotion as they came across the line.

After we grabbed up all the souvenir items that came with the VIP pass, we headed back to The Woodlands to rest up as my day was coming up tomorrow. My training had been going well as I had a lot of vacation that I used in December after what I felt was not a good performance at the Route 66 Marathon in November. I managed a 3:10 in horrible conditions, but I knew I could do better. I think that is key factor of competitive athletes, they are always trying to improve and get better better. The moment of truth was at hand.

We got up bright and early to head downtown to Houston for our 7 am start and our VIP breakfast. That is right, we still had VIP privileges on race day. We were able to park in the VIP lot right next to the Convention Center and our passes got us access to the VIP breakfast before the race. I did not eat anything, but the family indulged as we all sat in the warmth and watched the Kenyans warm up inside. Being at the breakfast also gave us access to the upstairs restroom with no waiting lines. No lines and take your time. Sweet!

While I watched the family eat breakfast, I heard a familiar voice, I looked over at the other table behind us and it was the voice of Boston Billy Rodgers. Multiple winner of the Boston and New York Marathons. Over to the left of him was Olympic Marathon medalist, Frank Shorter. We were literally in the presence of running royalty. At 6:40 I decided it was time to leave the warmth and head to starting line. I will never be the same after having those kind of privileges before a race.

I headed out into the 39 degree cold to make it to the starting corral. I was in corral A and I will have to say that the organizers of the race did a excellent job of signage to let runners and spectators know where to go. I made it to my corral and much to my surprise, there were port-a-potties in the corrals. What a novel concept. That was the first time I have experienced that and I think it should be part of all major races.

I made it to the front of the corral and waited for the start of the race. After the obligatory pep talk by the Mayor and the sponsors, Boston Billy gave a little talk and Joan Benoit started us off. The first mile of the race was so congested that I could not get into the pace I wanted and started to panic a little as I watched the 3 hr pace group go by. I managed to hit 7:03 for the first mile and little did I realize that it would be my slowest mile of the race.

After a couple of miles the race starts to spread out a little in the neighborhoods and I was able to get into a rhythm. I caught back up with the 3 hr pace group and considered running with them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to go out real fast and hang on for dear life at the end. I considered the conservative strategy, but I was feeling good and went for it. I settled into a nice 6:44 pace and dropped the pace group. Most of the race at this point was pretty congested, but not too bad to where you couldn't develop a good pace of your own. Eventually we hit the spot to where the half turns around and we were on our own. At about 10 miles in, I latched on to a group that was running the same pace and headed off. Around the half way mark, I dropped most of the guys except for one. I am still not sure to this day what his name is, but his bib said Candy Man.

Now, I was running in front of him most of the time and I could not see his bib, so every time we ran by spectators, they would holler out, "looking good Candy Man." I thought they were maybe talking to me since I was wearing my Red, White, and Blue K-Swiss K-Ruuz's. I did not realize til the end of the race they were referring to him.

I went through the half in 1:28:44 and was still feeling good. I was like a metronome with my pace, mile after mile at 6:44 or 6:43. On the second half I started dropping some 6:39's and it was just me and Candy Man drafting off of me. He hollered at me and wanted to know if I wanted him to lead for awhile and I said I was good. He did not want to slow me down, but he wanted to do his fair share of drafting. I at least appreciate that as draft sponges can sometimes be annoying.

As we got close to the mile 22 aid station, I started to feel it a lot more in my legs, I ducked over to get some water and Gatorade and Candy Man kept going. I hurried through the aid station and caught back up to him. Little did he know that him leading me out, kept me going for a little bit longer. At about mile 23 Candy Man started to fade and I re-took the lead. I kept the pace going and he eventually faded back. At this point I had ran out of GU and expected some to be on the course. Nothing! That is the only thing I can say bad about the race, but I only took two GU's with me and that was my decision. I was slowly running out of steam and could have used one for a little boost. I kept hitting the aid stations to get some calories from Gatorade, but it was only short lived.

The last few miles do have some smaller hills and that slowed my pace a little. I was still hitting sub 7's, but they were not 6:43's. I hit the last little straightaway and suddenly realized that I was on the same streets as the trial competitors and that I was nearing the last turn to the chute. I turned the corner and realized that if I pushed it a little, I could make sub 2:57. I pushed with what little I had left and hit 2:56:56. At last I had hit sub 3 and I had negative splitted the second half in 1:28:12.

After getting the medal and my picture taken, it was time to head inside and find the family. One weird thing about this is that they serve breakfast to the competitors after the race. I don't know about you, but sausage and biscuits and gravy do not sound good after a Marathon. I got my finisher shirt and looked for the area according to my last name for the family to meet me at. Another great organization tool. I found my wife and kids and celebrated my victory. I finished 8th in my age group, but I could of have cared less as I had achieved my goal.

The Houston Marathon was a well put on race with a great course and organization. We were really fortunate with the weather as 2 days later the overnight low was 70 degrees with high humidity. That is one of the risks of doing this race, but if the weather holds out, I can guarantee you a great course and experience. Just get some GU on the course late in the race. LOL!

I was going to blog about our other happenings since the race, but I think this is enough for now and I will fill you in the rest with a new blog. After all, I have some time now.