Wednesday, June 26

Why We Loved the Farmers' Market

The health food community talks a lot about the importance of shopping locally, buying organic foods and purchasing pasture-raised meats. So, this past weekend, Brian, Pam and I ventured to the Dallas Farmers' Market to load up on local produce and finally see what all the hype was about. 

We LOVED it. The produce was cheaper than our average visit to Whole Foods, and we could get pasture-raised, sugar-free meats as well as locally made raw cheeses. We were also able to sample most of the produce we bought, including tomatoes, cantaloupe, mangos and grass-fed burgers.

Here are five reasons why shopping at the Farmers' Market is so great, and so much better:

1. Enhanced vitamins and nutrientsIn his post, Why Local Trumps Organic for Nutrient Content, Chris Kresser states, "Most of the produce sold at large supermarket chains is grown hundreds - if not thousands - of miles away, in places like California, Florida and Mexico. This is especially true when you're eating foods that are out of season in your local area (like a banana in mid-winter in New York). Consider this: The average carrot has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. The problem with this is that food starts to change as soon as it's harvested and its nutrient content begins to deteriorate. Total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant."  In summary, shopping from local farmers will often guarantee that your food has more nutrients, and is the best option for fresh food, aside from growing and harvesting it yourself. 

2. Better taste and richnessMark Sisson points out in his post, Is Organic a Scam?, that "a 2010 study examining the fruit quality of three varieties of organic and conventional strawberries found [that]... organic strawberries tended to win the blind taste tests. They were smaller, but denser. They were brighter, which correlated with increased levels of phenolic compounds and other antioxidants. Organic strawberries also had more vitamin C, lasted longer on the shelf, and were more resistant to fungus (despite having not anti-fungals applied)." Having just bought fresh strawberries from the market, we can testify that they are delicious! Fresher is just better.  


3. Food that's in seasonAs Michael Pollen says in his book, In Defense of Food, "When you eat form the farmers' market, you actually eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious. Eating in season also tends to diversify your diet... Because you can't buy strawberries, or broccoli, or potatoes 12 months of the year, you'll find yourself experimenting with other foods as they come into the market." We all tend to be creatures of habit, choosing food we're most familiar with. The Farmers' Market helps us expand our pallet and break out of our eating rituals. 

4. Benefits the local economy and food chainMichael Pollen also says in his article, Six rules for Eating Wisely, that shopping at your local farmers' market is critical to "supporting the farmers in your community, helping defend the countryside from sprawl, saving oil by eating food produced nearby and teaching your children that a carrot is a root, not a machine-lathed orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag." Ultimately, "a lot more is going on at the farmers' market than the exchange of money for food." By supporting local agricultures, we're in turn supporting a healthier food chain and lifestyle for not only our communities, but the next generation of health food consumers. 

5. "Shake the hand that feeds you:" 
Alfred Newman once said, "We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons." At the supermarket it has become increasingly difficult to determine the source and ingredients in the food we're buying. However, at the farmers' market, you're speaking directly to the farmer that has grown your food, allowing you to ask questions about how it was cultivated and when it was picked. As supermarkets and fast food continues to separate us further from our food source, the farmers' market ensures our food is delivered straight from the farm to our dinner table. As Meryl Streep has said, "It's bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children's health than the pediatrician." 

For those that aren't close to a farmers' market, there are many wonderful options with CSA programs (community supported agriculture programs where you can 'subscribe' to a local farm and receive a weekly box of produce, dairy or other local products). In Dallas, here you can find CSA's closest to you. And, I hear Urban Acres in Dallas is great as well if you interested in joining a co-op


Monday, June 24

Whole30 Part I: How and Why We Started

In October 2012 I ran my second Chicago Marathon, and for the second consecutive attempt missed qualifying for Boston.  (Oh gosh, here he goes again, talking about Boston – I know, I know!  Stay with me here.  There’s a bigger point to this, I promise!) After the race I dissected what had gone wrong – I thought I had done everything right: endurance runs, speed work, cross-training, weights, foam rolling, massage, adequate sleep, etc.  I was certainly in good enough shape to qualify, which made my result that much more frustrating.

It wasn't until I spoke to my friend Aaron on my way back from Chicago that I discovered what was missing.  Aaron, who is a triathlon coach and endurance athlete, had made it painfully clear I had neglected one of the most important facets of training: nutrition.  My engine I had developed during training was tuned for qualifying; I simply ran out of gas. 

The Chicago Bonk

The intensity of a workout or race dictates the fuel source your body uses to fund the effort.  Generally speaking, the harder you work, the more your body relies on carbohydrate.  Lesser efforts require a lower amount of carbohydrate since your body can utilize its own fat stores for energy.  That’s right, that saturated fat around our bellies can and should be used for energy.  Think of the last time you hopped on a cardio machine at a gym – remember that graphic of the heart rate (HR) zones?  Lower HR is associated with the ability to use fat for energy (hence "Fat Burning Zone").

Because the effort it takes to qualify for Boston (at least for me) is high, I was predominantly –if not 100% – burning carbohydrates.  Technically speaking, I was burning glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrate in the muscles and liver.  Often times the goal before a race or strenuous event is to make sure you’ve got enough glycogen.  One way many folks do this is by “carb-loading” the night before by eating a big bowl of pasta.  Using glycogen as a fuel source is great, but we have a finite supply.  Run out of it and you’ll experience what happened to me in Chicago: bonking. 

It’s the point at which you run out of carbohydrate, so your body begins shutting down.  Some people refer to it as “the wall.” Your body essentially forces you to slow down so that it can begin turning your fat cells into energy.  Or put another way, bonking is your body’s way of bringing you into that “Fat Burning Zone” at a lower HR.  

Slow down >> Lower HR >> Burn fat for fuel.  The problem with this, however, is that Boston-qualifying requires me to run a marathon in a certain time.  I don’t have this luxury to slow down.

What if, though, I could begin to train my body to burn fat for energy more often than carbohydrate? 

This would certainly reduce my risk of bonking since we all virtually have an endless supply of fat cells that yield energy.  It would also require less mid-race fueling (like Gatorade or Gu) which is infamous for causing gastrointestinal issues.  Interesting concept, I thought: train your body to prefer fat over carbohydrate for energy.

The Whole30

Within a few hours of hanging up with Aaron I had an e-mail from him in my inbox.  I forwarded it to Jessie and then started working through it on my own.  It contained a list of resources and hyperlinks, the first of which was a book called It Starts With Food.  I ordered a copy immediately.  Just after the book was a link pointing me here.  I had clicked the link, but barely read the content as I was overwhelmed with other information to pour through.  You see, I was determined to learn more about fat-utilization so that I could qualify for Boston once and for all.  I felt ADD – clicking through a ton of different information – reading a lot, absorbing a little.

Jessie then reeled me back in as she re-sent me the link above.  She said “Hey, maybe we should do this?”  I clicked on it again, printed it out, sat down, and read through it thoroughly.  As soon as I finished I sent her a note back: “Yep.  We’re doing this.”

This is how it all started. 

Over the next six weeks I’m going to lay the foundation for the Whole30.  I’m going to reiterate some concepts from the crew at Whole9 who created the program, as well as add my own color.  I’m approaching these next posts like this:  If I had never heard of this way of eating or knew very little about it, what would I want to know in order to get started?  And in hindsight, knowing what I know now, what would be beneficial for folks who want to eat, feel and live better forever?

It is my hope that by the end of this six-week series you will want to become your own scientific experiment and join Jessie and me as we do a Whole30 starting on August 1, 2013.  I’m convinced that if you stick with me on these posts, you’ll come to the conclusion that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot.  And at the bare minimum, after reading this series, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about your diet.

For me, it was performance-driven.  How can I eat certain foods that will help me burn fat for fuel, recover faster and reduce inflammation?  I wanted to leverage nutrition as an asset in training.  But even mid-way through our first Whole30 I began to realize that I was reaping way more benefits outside of running.  I was sleeping better, had sustained energy, no allergies, clear skin, no digestion issues and zero cravings for junk food.  I became leaner while consuming more calories than before.  All in all, I just felt awesome. 

Many of my family and friends have also tried this, and they’ve reported benefits I would have never guessed.  This led me to believe that there’s truly something to this.  I believe it’s a great starting point to re-set the metabolism in a smart way.  There’s no crazy supplemental formula, pill regimen, calorie-counting program or DVD.  It’s simply eating nutrient-dense foods and eliminating some that may be causing harm.

People I know who have tried this have all done it for different reasons.  Some do it to lose weight, others do it to help with chronic digestion issues.  And more and more I'm seeing people who do it for emotional reasons, folks who want to break unhealthy relationships with "food-like products."  I've even seen some do it just to prove to themselves that they could.

What'll be your reason?

Lastly, I ask that you do me a favor, and read the link I called out above.  Don’t make the same mistake I did by skipping over it.  Take five minutes, eliminate the distractions, and read.  We’ll see you back here next week.

Click here for Whole30 Part II.

Friday, June 21

Better Food of the Week: La Croix


I used to be like you. Craving, wanting, needing a Diet Coke everyone afternoon around 2pm - 3pm. I knew it was bad for me – probably softening my bones, inadvertently increasing sugar cravings or causing other harmful issues. But, I couldn't break the habit. I needed my afternoon pick-me-up.

Then, I committed to doing a Whole30 (which Brian will tell you more about in his posts) and was finally empowered and committed to quitting my soda habit cold turkey. At least for 30 days! ... Geez... you'd think I was a life-long smoker or addict. (That's what sugar/false sugars like aspartame do to you!).

I found La Croix to drink instead and fell in love with it. Drinking it feels like you're having a specialty drink, but it's just sparkling water - no sugar, no aspartame. I know you know the facts and that soda is bad for you. And, I know it can be very hard to quit drinking it. But try substituting La Croix for one or two sodas you might have during the week. It just might help you stop the soda/sugar craving madness and reclaim a better, healthy, soda-free lifestyle.  I think you'll find a lot of that soda-grab was just mental, a habit as opposed to a legitimate necessity.

My favorite natural flavors are coconut, grapefruit and lime!

Monday, June 17

Our Eating Philosophy

Someone the other day asked me “What’s your eating philosophy?”  I had never quite heard it asked like that, but I thought it was a great question.  So much, in fact, that I figured it warranted a post.  As I’ve said already, going forward we’ll be diving into the details on nutrition and science.  But before we do, let’s establish the foundation for how Jess and I currently eat, or better put: “Our Eating Philosophy.”

As the over-used quote (that apparently is misattributed) by Aristotle goes: “We are what we repeatedly do.”  Or I’ve heard it put another way in that “we are what we do on average.”  No matter the exact phrasing, or who said it, there’s a ton of truth there.  Individual meals do not dictate our overall health with regards to nutrition.  How we typically eat over the course of time, on the other hand, does.  Some call it the 80/20 rule, but I’ve never done the math to validate.  The bottom line is that we eat healthy the majority of the time, but we also indulge now and then.  A beer, a bag of chips or a slice of cake on occasion isn’t a problem.  The problem is when the occasional indulgence happens daily, or where the 80/20 proportion is flipped to 50/50.  There’s a line, and with the way foods are manufactured (yes, manufactured) this day in age, it can be easy to cross.

Amazingly enough, the desire to indulge happens less and less the healthier we eat.  Part of this is because even the slightest deviation can wreak havoc on the body.  As a result, the economies of scale change – you begin weighing the tradeoffs differently:  Is this basket of fries/bag of M&Ms really worth it?  There’s no right or wrong answer here, but we’ve seemed to determine our sweet spot (no pun intended) in making the call.

More specifically…

We tend to skew toward a Paleo/Primal-like diet, although we venture off in certain areas.  The science is compelling, but even more so have been the results we’ve yielded by self-experimenting.  We incorporate Michael Pollan’s [obvious] advice to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  We’ve also made the concept of nutrient-density a staple in how we eat.  Pretty impossible to dispute: eat the most nutrient-dense foods available. 

We also pay a ton of attention to the source of the food: organic vs. non-organic, pasture-raised vs. factory-farmed, grass-fed vs. feed-lot, wild-caught vs. farm-raised, etc.  We’re not afraid of fat in our diet, nor do we count calories.  We eat when we’re hungry; we stop when we’re satisfied.  We don’t eat low-carb, but what we eat happens to be lower in carbs (there’s a huge difference!).  We scale foods based on activity/exercise level.  We supplement wisely, and 90% of our meals we cook ourselves (…let’s pause here and wait for the “You mean Jessie cooks?” comments).

Please keep in mind that the purpose of this post was to give our high-level thematic understanding on how we view eating, not a detailed prescription.  As we move forward we’ll unravel some of these concepts and show you how we execute this philosophy on a daily basis.  Scientific research will continue to roll out, our self-experimenting will push on and life will keep progressing forward.  With that, we undoubtedly expect our philosophy to evolve.  We certainly don’t have all of the answers, nor will we ever claim to.  We’re just here to share our experiences and learning along this road to living better.



Sunday, June 16

Jessie's Banana Muffins


We love paleo banana muffins. They're great for breakfast or a quick snack. Here's my recipe:

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20-25 min
Makes: 9 muffins
Appliances: muffin tins, Cuisinart handstand mixer (not required)

Ingredients: 
3 very ripe bananas
3 pasture-raised eggs
1/4 c of coconut oil (not melted)
1/4 c of grass-fed butter* (melted)
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 c of coconut flour
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1 tsp of cinnamon
a pinch of salt (optional)

*Kerrygold unsalted butter is one of our favorites!

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins on a baking sheet or in a muffin tray. Coat them with coconut oil or butter so the muffins won't stick.  Mash bananas in a mixing bowl and mix with wet ingredients: eggs, coconut oil, butter and vanilla. A Cuisinart handstand mixer works well for this!  Add the rest of the ingredients: coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Cook for 20-25 min. Use a toothpick or fork to make sure they are done (if dough sticks to the toothpick they need more time).

Enjoy!

Friday, June 14

Better Food of the Week: Coconut Oil

For those of you that still cook with corn, safflower or vegetable oil, I want to briefly tell you about some of the benefits of coconut oil.  Coconut oil has a high concentration of healthy fats called MCTs (more on this here!) that other oils don't have.  It also has the least amount of bad polyunsaturated fats.  Beyond cooking, coconut oil has tremendous benefits for your skin, hair and scars.  The list of benefits offered by this sweet, nutty oil is endless. If you haven't made the switch, I encourage you to do so. A better cooking oil has arrived!








Wednesday, June 12

Raw Milk Extravaganza

The first time I milked a cow was at Camp Gwynn Valley in Brevard North Carolina when I around 10 or so. I spent several summers there horse back riding, river rafting, and all the things that go a long with summer camp. But, the unique thing about Gwynn Valley is they have an extensive farm where you get to milk the cows and goats, feed the baby farm animals, pick the vegetables, etc. With all the fresh food and produce provided to us, I think it's amazing the strongest food memory I have from there is the incredible corn bread. I'm speculating, but I'm certain it was made with raw milk. 

There's something wonderful about milking a cow and tasting raw milk. It's wonderful until you're on a finca in Costa Rica and the cow decides it's time to go to the bathroom while you're milking it, which 

Wall Street Journal article on raw milk

Tuesday, June 11

No rules, just run.

Running a marathon was never on my bucket list.  I was always one of those people that said, "How can people run just to run? I would much rather run by playing tennis or soccer. Just running is so boring."

But, in the summer of 2009, Brian and I started running together. I can remember the first time we ran 4 miles, then 6 miles, then 8 miles! I realized, once you get past the initial protest of the body in those first few miles, a rhythm and stride starts to form,  and all of a sudden you're really enjoying yourself! (Most of the time).

That winter, Brian ran his first marathon in Dallas, and I convinced him to run a half with me in the spring. We did the first Dallas Rock 'n Roll half in March, and then while Brian did the Oklahoma City marathon in April, I ran another half. 

It was at that race, when the full marathoners broke away, that I wished I was going with them. I wanted to know if I could join them in the journey of completing a 26.2 mile race. 

Brian and I signed up to run the San Antonio marathon in the fall, and I trained with an online program, doing a gradual build in long runs over the weekend.  Three weeks before the race I completed a 20 mile run, and felt great, elated by the accomplishment. I was ready to take on San Antonio.

During the marathon, I really enjoyed the first half. And then, at mile 16, that infamous wall hit, and I had excruciating pain in my knees. This wasn't good... I still had 10 miles to go! At mile 22, I saw my Dad and tears streamed down my face. I wanted nothing more than to stop running. But, with Brian running by my side, and knowing family and friends had traveled far to see me finish, I pushed through the 26.2 miles.

For weeks it was hard to bend my knees and walk normally. It was over a month before I ran again and I definitely had no desire to run another marathon... ever again...

But, after watching Brian complete 7 marathons in less than 3 years, I was ready to make another attempt at my second. In looking back at San Antonio, I probably peaked at that 20 mile run and didn't have enough time to recover before I did the full course. So, for the Newport Marathon this year, I really wanted to see if I could train smarter and have a better race.

As often the case, training didn't go as planned. I started a new job, had a hectic travel schedule, and couldn't seem to find the time to train for more than 5 to 8 hours a week, and that was if I was lucky.

As the race approached, I had serious doubts if I should even run it. What if I injured myself or I just couldn't finish? The furthest I ran before the race was 11 miles. This was somewhat on purpose, as I focused on cross-training and 60 to 90 min runs, and not on completing a specific distance. But, ultimately, I hadn't been able to do as much activity as I had wanted to leading up to the race.

When we finally made it to Newport, which is a journey in itself, with my Dad, Brian and his parents, Pam and Steve, all together, a sort of calm came over me. Brian talked about his strategy to focus on being present and in the moment, not worrying too much about what the race would bring. And I realized, that whatever happened, I was going to have fun and this was going to be an experience I would never forget.

And, that's exactly what it was. While I was running, I was just running. The scenery was so spectacular, and knowing Brian was out on the same course with me, working to accomplish the goal of a lifetime - qualifying for the Boston Marathon - I experienced many moments of pure joy.

Some highlights, were giving Brian a high five as he made his way back on the out and back course. And, my Dad running with me at miles 17-19, and receiving a text during those miles that Brian had just qualified for Boston! It was such a surreal experience. Towards the end, I was hurting, but it was no where near what I had experienced in my first marathon.

I definitely surprised myself!  I realize now, that even though I wasn't able to train as much leading up to the race, I've been training and exercising regularly for 3 years! There's no reason I should've been worried.

As I reflect on the race, these wise words of spiritual leaders come to mind:

Jesus says in Luke 12:22-34: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life... Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ... Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom."

The moral of my journey: Trust in yourself. Don't worry. And be present.

As, Buddha says: "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly".

While running, just run!




Tuesday, June 4

Quest to Boston Part IV: We did it!

I've made a lot of trade-off's the past two years.  I've traded beer for water, dessert for kale and partying for sleep.  Relaxing bubble baths?  Yea right.  Try an ice bath after a grueling run.  Stretch out on the couch after work?  Negative. More like foam-rolling my IT bands instead.  Pool-side?  More like lake-side (of the White Rock variety).  I've also done a ton of analyzing.  "How will this workout contribute to my fitness?  How's my heart rate?  How's my pace, cadence, power, form?  How's my recovery time?  Will this food promote recovery or inflammation?  Should I get a massage today or tomorrow?"  The list goes on and on.  Some of this was a function of a lifestyle shift, but a lot of it was trying to cash-in on an ambitious goal.

This past Saturday I received the pay-out for all trade-off's I had made, and it came in the form of crossing a finish line of a 26.2 mile race in 3hrs, 3min and 37sec --- good enough to qualify me for the prestigious Boston Marathon.  My goodness... we did it!

I'm writing this post shortly after the race in an attempt to capture my mood and what's top of mind, so pardon the rambling.  And as cliché as it sounds, it truly is hard to find the right words to describe my feelings.  I'm elated, grateful, surprised, giddy and proud.  I'm also mentally and physically fatigued.  But even that is trumped ten times over by the happiness I'm experiencing from finally hitting my target.  It's magnified further since I can share this story with loved ones.  It's incredible.  It's truly incredible.

Although I must humbly admit one feeling certainly seems to stick out among the others: relief.  You see, for the past two years Boston has entered my mind virtually every day.  Literally, every single day, whether via workouts, eating habits, conversations or just daily thoughts.  And as my family and close friends can attest, marathoning has occupied a substantial share of my life.  To see and feel the pay-out has been quite the story.

My journey to qualify for Boston really isn't a story about overcoming any devastating setbacks or conquering any tremendous obstacles.  Sure, there were some bumps along the road to qualifying, but for the most part this is simply a story about persistence paying off.  It's a story of busting ass, being patient and letting consistency over time run its course.  It was fun, hard, sometimes painful and even emotionally taxing.  But I wouldn't change a single thing about it.

Saturday's race in Newport, Oregon was my fourth official attempt at qualifying.  (I've written about my previous experiences here.)  My coach Mike had suggested a few races to choose from, but Newport was selected for its timing, cool weather, and flat/fast course.  In hindsight, two other features of the race played a critical role in it being a good choice.  

The first was the course's beauty.  The marathon's website and Google Earth pictures don't do it justice.  The course went along a bay off the coast of Newport, throughout a forest that was beyond gorgeous.  It was an out-and-back; on one side you had water that looked like glass, surrounded by rolling mountains.  On the other side was a lush forest full of pine.  I felt like I was running for a Nike commercial.  It's amazing the positive impact the physical surroundings have on performance.  

The other feature of the race that helped was the size and scope of the event itself.  There were about 750 runners who did this race (compared to 38,000 in Chicago), and it didn't have the bells and whistles of other marathons I've done.  The expo was tiny, there was no 'runner tracking', timing corrals or pace groups.  The overall vibe was much more laid back which I believe reduced a ton of anxiety.

I was fortunate enough to have my parents there, and Jessie's dad also made the trip out since she ran the marathon as well.  Not sure I would have qualified had it not been for the on-site support team.

Training for this race was a beat-down.  Bumps and bruises like runner’s knee, slipped ribs, a cold, medication issues and a chopped-off tip of my thumb undoubtedly impacted my mental capacity to stay disciplined and push through hard workouts.  I also started a new job at Southwest that demanded much more of my energy cycles.  Needless to say my “willpower muscle” was tested throughout the build-up to Newport.

A week out from the race the negative thoughts began creeping into my head: “Have you done enough work?  Are you sure you’re ready?  Is the endurance up?  How about the speed?  Will the knee hold up?  What’s the weather forecast in Newport?  Will your nutrition cause problems again?”  These thoughts came and went throughout the week – the more distracted by life I was, the less I worried.

With some good counsel, I decided to drop all thoughts on the past and the future, which was much easier said than done.  Forget Chicago and Dallas.  Stop harping on the training.  Who cares about the wind potential on race-day.  Focus on the now.  Stay present.  Stay in the moment.  This tactic worked.  The anxiety lessened and the stress virtually evaporated – hell, I almost ordered a beer the night before the race!

It wasn't until I was in bed about 7 hours from my alarm going off that the doubts re-appeared.  I once again began questioning my readiness.  There was no way I was going to fall asleep or let those thoughts carry forward to race day.  So I rolled over, flipped the light on, and grabbed a book I've been reading.  I flipped to a page where I had highlighted a passage and read it out loud:

"Self-control is one of mankind's most fabulous upgrades, but it's not our only distinction.  We also possess self-awareness: the ability to realize what we are doing as we do it, and understand why we are doing it.  Without self-awareness, the self-control system would be useless.  You need to recognize when you're making a choice that requires willpower; otherwise, the brain always defaults to what is easiest."

For many reasons, these words extinguished any doubt I had in my mind about qualifying the next day.  Reading those words put me in control.  I switched the light off, rolled back over and slept like a baby until the alarm went off.

50 degrees, no wind and overcast on race morning.  Perfect.  The cow-bell (no starter gun at this race) rang and we took off.  I had set my Garmin watch to auto-lap every 1/2 mile.  Pretty simple formula here: each time the auto-lap alert goes off, make sure it says 3:30 +/- a couple of seconds.  7:00/mile pace qualifies you for Boston.  Easy enough.

Through mile 20 I was on point with my pacing, right at a 7:00/mile.  Mile 21 I saw my parents and gave them a thumbs up (sound familiar?).  At that point my legs were getting tired, but there wasn't any pain like I had felt in previous marathons.  I actually had the thought that if I could sustain my same pace and energy level for the next 5K, I may even be able to burn my reserves and let it rip at the end, maybe even post a sub-3hr marathon.

What a dumb thought that was.  A mere 1.5 miles later and it felt like someone took a sledge hammer to both my legs.  A feeling I know all too well.  "Oh no," I thought, "...not again."  I gritted my teeth and kept my legs moving forward.  The auto-lap alerts kept going off, but my pace was slowing: 3:33, 3:40, 3:37.  This is familiar territory for me, and my parents as well.  They've seen it at Chicago twice and to a lesser extent back in December at Dallas.  Knowing I was most vulnerable here, my parents would drive up ahead a ways, stop, and wait for me to pass.  I saw them again around mile 23.5, which would be the last time I'd see them before the finish.

Just after crossing the mile marker at 24, I gave myself permission to walk.  The pain was excruciating.  I grabbed my quads, walked for about 10 seconds until my prefrontal cortex kicked in.  My willpower muscle I had read about the night prior.  "What are you doing?" I thought.  "You're doing exactly what you said you wouldn't do.  You are in control here, Brian.  You own your decisions.  Don't let your mind let you default to what is easier.  You've worked so hard.  You're so close.  Go! Now!"

So I went.  I made a choice.  I kept my legs moving forward and I pushed through.  And before I knew it I crossed the 25th mile marker and had about 10min before the Boston cut-off.  Some quick-math in my head and I knew I had it.  I smiled, tears began to well up and the pain temporarily lifted.  I came down a hill with a few hundred meters to go, saw my mom and lip-mouthed "We did it."  I crossed the finish line at 3:03:37, just under the 3:04:59 cut-off.

It had been over two years worth of trade-off's and work that lead up to that moment.  For more than two years Jessie had to deal with a large amount of Friday nights staying in.  My Mom, Dad and Kylie had to tolerate my moodiness.  My coach had to curb (and re-curb, and re-curb) my anxiety and doubt.  My friends had to hear me say 'no' to many social outings.  And it's to all of them and more that I owe this to.  I'm so blessed to have such an incredible support group and network of people who care about me.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

We did it!

Just after the finish with my Mom.

Jess and me post-race.
The two who got me through the last 4 miles.

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