Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly wrap-up: CLU's graduation, Mother's Day, and track season winding down

Another week in the books.  Nothing earth-shattering to write about, but trying to make posting a weekly habit.  Here's a recap in chronological order:

I attended CLU's graduation ceremony last Saturday.  It was a really nice event.  Perfect weather (imagine that?!?), really good speakers, and it was great to see how much emotion students have during the event.  I found it very motivational to go to and realize that what I'm doing may not seem like much sometimes, but what I'm doing means a lot to some students and I need to always do my best.  (Side note: I'm not going to cover any aspects of a little faculty poker night the night before graduation, but suffice it to say that it was fantastic!)

While I was at CLU's graduation, Brady was running the 400m at the Junior Varsity Conference Finals meet.  He had a really good race.  He placed 3rd out of 32 kids in the event.  He ran out of gas with about 50 meters left, but he was stuck in no-man's-land: he wasn't going to catch the 2 kids in front of him and the kids behind him weren't going to catch him.  It's hard to stay mentally motivated when you feel isolated in a race.  Despite running out of gas, still turned in his fastest 400m time yet at 1:28.11.

On Sunday, Melanie wanted to do a 5K run with Brady for Mother's Day along the beach in
Ventura.  Brady had never ran a timed 5K before, so we weren't sure how fast he'd run.  We figured he'd tootle around for about 30 minutes or so.  Well, much to our surprise, he was quite a bit faster.  He was pacing Melanie to her fastest time ever (she finished with a 25:59) and toward the end he asked her "can I just run my own race now?"  She was going max speed, so she said go ahead and he finished in front of her, then turned around and ran back to her and ran in with her.  Like I said, Melanie ran her fastest time ever and we estimate that Brady's finishing time was around 25:30.  I say estimate because Alex and I missed his finish because we never would have thought he'd be done in just 25 minutes!!  It was a good day for Melanie with a new fastest time and for Brady who had a lot of fun running his first official 5K.

After the Mother's Day run, we went to breakfast together and the boys and I spent the day cleaning the house for mom.  That night we had a wonderful dinner to cap off the weekend.  I am SO THANKFUL for the great Thai restaraunts in Thousand Oaks!  Delicious!

Well, track season for Brady (and for me coaching) is winding down.  Tomorrow will likely be the last meet for most of the kids.  Some of them may qualify for a dual-conference meet in Santa Barbara, but if not, then the season's over.  I've had so much fun coaching the kids this year.  I've mostly worked with the distance kids, but still have been able to interact with the sprinters quite a bit, too.  Tomorrow at the Varsity Conference Finals, we've got quite a few kids running (you have to qualify by time to run at this event, so not all kids were able to make it).  We have a 4x100m relay team, 3 kids in the 100m, 2 kids in the 200m, 1 kid (Brady) in the 800m, and 5 kids running the 1600m (mile), and 3 kids in the long jump.  Considering there are only 9 kids for each of the sprints (100, 200), 12 kids in the 800, and 17 kids in the mile, I'd say Newbury Park is well-represented! Brady competes in the 800 and 1600.  He's pretty stoked!  If he finishes in the top 8 for either event, then he'll qualify for the dual-conference championship.  He's already FAR exceeded what I thought he could do for the year, so I'm not banking on him making it, but I do hope he goes out and has the best and most fun race of the year tomorrow.  I'm so excited for him.

Unfortunately, Alex is going to have to miss his soccer game due to the track meet.  Melanie and I are really bummed about that because he likes soccer so much, but if he goes then Melanie is going to miss Brady's events.  It's hard to do, but since this is a 'big' meet, we wanted to make sure and have the whole family there for the race.  It's tough to pull him away from soccer though because he loves it so much.

And lastly, last night Brady lost his third tooth.  He actually requests us to try and yank out his loose teeth, so I tied a string around it and pulled it out for him.  He was pretty excited about that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

So what have we been up to for the last year?

Well, it's been over a year since I lasted updated.  At the encouragement of my wife, I'm going to start updating again.  That seems more feasible now that the summer is coming around and my workload is lightening up a bit.  So here's a quick re-cap of what's happened since June of 2011!!!

Last summer, we sold our house in TX and moved out to California.  I accepted a job offer at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA.  We moved in late July 2011.  We have really enjoyed living here so far: great weather, great schools, beautiful scenery, always something fun to do, and an infinite amount of hiking trails to explore.  We're about a 25 minute drive from the beaches in Malibu and < 5 minutes away from mountain hikes.  Both Melanie and I have good commutes.  So far, so good.  The only downside to living out here: it is an extremely expensive place to live!

My first year as a faculty member has been pretty hectic.  I wouldn't say overwhelming--because I had anticipated it to be this suffocating--but it's been challenging.  The hardest part has been prepping new courses from scratch.  Now that I've got a handful of classes under my belt, future preps won't seem such a daunting task.  Mostly tweaking and improving.

Brady has really excelled in first grade.  His reading is great, his math is excellent (even complex numbers in his head), his writing has improved a lot, and his spelling is very good.  He had 2 months in a row of perfect spelling test scores and won a Sensational Science award that was presented to him at his school's assembly.

Alex has been coming along well, too.  He has an interest in reading, is starting to get some basic math, and his writing is becoming more legible.  Alex goes to the Early Childhood Center here at CLU, but starting next year, he'll join Brady at the same school when he starts kindergarten.

Sports-wise, it's been mostly Brady.  Brady ran Cross Country with the Newbury Park Track Club (NPTC) in the fall.  He absolutely fell in love with it!  Loved running up and down all the hills around here.  In the winter he played football (and did really well at it).  He tried to squeeze in some winter soccer, too, but it was hard to fit that in with football since they overlapped.  This spring he has started track with NPTC and he has had so much fun.  He's also really developed into a great little runner!  His mile time is now down to 6:50 and he does really well in the 800, 400, and 200 meters as well.  I'm really proud of how well he balances having fun and working hard.  Not an easy thing for a 7 year old to grasp!

Alex decided he wanted to give soccer a try again this year.  In his previous 2 seasons, he has been mostly uninterested and aloof.  We said he didn't have to play if he didn't want to, but he said he did.  This year has really been great for him: he's paying attention, seems more into it, is playing well, and is having more fun than he's had in the past.  Really proud of him.

That's about as brief of a recap as I can give of the last year or so.  I'm going to now try to be a bit more diligent now that my first year as a faculty member is over.  That still doesn't seem real to me that it's been a year already!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Track/running season for the boys

This year has been a lot of fun in watching the boys run. Let's rewind back to 2010.

Last year, Brady ran with a track team over the summer and he loved it. Alex wasn't that interested in running and couldn't make it through 100m without stopping and whining for mom to be next to him. We just figured track wasn't Alex's thing. But Brady sure loved it.

Now this year, we find out that his former track team dropped track from their organization to focus more on their football program. The only alternative teams were so crazy expensive. So we decided that I would just coach Brady this year and he'd run as an unattached/independent runner. We've been practicing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights and he's been able to run with one of his good buddies to make practice more fun. And what's been even better is that Alex is now loving track! He runs all the workouts by himself and is doing really great.

One thing that's popped up this year is a series of kids 1K races on Thursday nights (the 1K runs are right before the 5K runs for the racers). We thought these would be more fun that running around the track on Thursday nights, so we let the boys run in them if they wanted.

The first one the boys ran in was on May 26th. It was funny because the race director doesn't want the kids to overheat (been in the 90s in the evenings lately), so he was telling them it's okay to slow down if you get tired. So then he posed the question to the whole group of kids, "So what do you do if you start to feel tired?" And Brady yelled out--and no other kids made any noises, so it stood out very clear--"You run harder!" We all got a little chuckle out of that; he's already got the mindset of a runner. Alex did really well for his first ever run-with-no-walking 1K and ran a time of 6:41. Brady did really well and ran a 5:19, which was his fastest time so far.

The second run was on June 2nd. I should preface this one with a little story. Brady and I watch a lot of cycling together, and he always asks questions about why they make the faces they do and how they go so fast. Melanie and I tell him it's because that really fast athletes don't slow down or quit when they get tired or hurt, instead, they just go as hard as they can and never quit. Now, of course, this is easier said than done. Brady's known this for a long time, but in practice and in races, he has a tendency to give up once he reaches a certain point of discomfort. And I have never blamed him...he's only 6! But the week leading up to the second 1K, he had a major change in practice that week. I ran him really hard on Tuesday of that week and it was the first time I ever saw him not slow down when he got tired. He really pushed hard, so hard that he felt like crap by the time he'd finish each run in practice. I know that sounds awful, but that is a totally normal part of track. I don't push misery on him at this age, but it was neat to see him doing that because he wanted to go faster. So that's the set-up...after a really great practice on Tuesday where I ran him hard and he pushed himself, we were ready to race on Thursday.

Alex didn't get to run in this second 1K because he had a bad day at school, so it was just Brady. In the first 1K on May 26, I ran alongside Brady. For this one, he asked if he could run it all on his own. I mostly like to run with him to keep him from going out too fast, but we decided to let him learn how to pace on his own by running this one solo. He really paced well for the first half, staying toward the middle of the pack. At the turnaround, he picked up the pace and was passing a lot of kids who were tiring out. He ran very smart. At the end, he was trying to catch an older kid and really kicked in a hard sprint for the last 100 meters or so. All the grown-ups were cheering like crazy and seemed to think it was really neat that kids that age were dueling out to the finish. The older kid ended up beating Brady out, but he really gave it his best effort. I knew Brady had made a breakthrough because I've never seen him really have that desire to chase somebody down like that. When he crossed the line, he had a new best time of 5:01!!! I couldn't believe it. That's a really good time for a 6 year old.

Brady coming down the home stretch. He really was working hard to try and catch the boy in front of him.

The final sprint!

I ran up to the finish line and one of our friends told us that he was crying. Melanie and I were trying to find out what was wrong but he wasn't talking. I didn't know if he was seriously hurt or upset that he didn't outsprint the kid or what. Eventually, when he could catch his breath a little better, he started talking to me. He said that he was crying because everything just hurt so bad...his legs, his lungs, everything. I told him he did really well and that the reason he hurt so much was because he worked so hard and ran so well. I asked him if he wishes he wouldn't have run so hard and he kind of smiled and said "no, I'm glad I did." I asked him if he had fun running that hard and he stopped crying, smiled, and said, "yes." So although it hurt, I think he really liked going fast like that. I was so proud of him for running so hard and for working so hard in practice. I know it's hard for non-lifelong runners to understand, but running hard and hurting is actually a fun aspect of track in its own sick, little, twisted way. I understood exactly what he was feeling at the moment.

After the race when he was crying. He was a little embarrassed so we walked over away from everyone.

Got him to stop crying when I asked him if he had fun. A little smile started to creep in.

He settled back down and while he still hurt and was sore, the mental shock of it had worn off. He posed for some photos and we watched the start of the grown-ups' 5K. I'll be curious to see how his track interests change over time. He has the option to opt out and not run at any time, but he seems to have that sick runner's mentality of enjoying running hard! I'm looking forward to watching him the remainder of the season.

Posing after the race with his medal. He likes to wear his Usain Bolt shirt to help him go fast. He's so cute.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What goes around comes around

Many people who know me know one of my true loves in life is to eat food. For as long as I can remember, I've always eaten A LOT. (Funny side note: check out this blog for an amusing outlook on the incorrect spelling of "alot") Anyway, back to the story... Sometimes as a kid my requests were outlandish and denied. When we'd have donuts on a Sunday morning, I'd want a dozen glazed for myself. I'd want a dozen tacos when we went to Taco Bell. But more often than not, parents caved and I ate a lot of food growing up. I'd normally eat a large pizza by myself when we ordered, I would eat two Subway footlongs on my own. I even remember one time my mom and step dad grilled 6 filets and I got to eat 4 of them (plus 2 baked potatoes)!! My record for most number of slices of pizza eaten in one setting is 18. Ridiculous, I know.

You might be thinking, "Wow, Kris, you were quite the slobby fat ass growing up. No wonder there is a child obesity problem in this country. You're the posterchild for it." Normally, I'd say that's a logical thought, but the reality was that I was eating a good 4000-5000 calories per day, and in high school I was 5'9" and 135 lbs at my heaviest. I was an eating machine. I don't eat like that anymore (although I wish I could), but even as an adult I can still eat a helluva lot when I want to. One time, while eating lunch with some friends, I ordered a gigantic half sausage half hamburger smothered in chili with a side order of chili fries. Keep in mind the plate of chili fries was about the same size as a platter at a Mexican restaraunt. The waitress said, "If you can actually eat all that, you can have it for free." My friends replied, "Oh man, you have no idea how much he can eat." So I ate it all, and true to her word, I got it for free. I was so full that I didn't eat again for another 24 hours, but I ate it nonetheless. The point is that I eat a lot and I cost my parents a lot of money growing up.

Fast forward now to parenthood. I have two boys who on occasion (thankfully not every meal), will eat extremely large quantities of food. If they are doing this now at ages 6 and 3, I cringe at how much they are going to cost us in food growing up. As Alex, who is still only 3 years old, put down 4 slices of pizza last night, I started to reflect on some of the amazing feats they've accomplished so far in their young eating careers. Here are some highlights that I can remember--although there are so many more that I can't remember--for most food eaten per sitting:

  • 7 chicken nuggets (age 3)
  • 4 hot dogs (ages 4 and 5)
  • entire mini pizza (ages 3 and up)
  • 4 waffles; multiple times he's done this (age 6)
  • 3 hot dogs, helping of veggies, cup of yogurt, cup of pudding (ages 4 and up)
  • 3 slices of pizza, an entire large cucumber, and a popsicle (age 6)

  • half a Red Baron-sized pizza (age 3)
  • half a hamburger, 1 hot dog, cup of peaches, side of green beans (age 1)
  • 3 waffles and 1 pancake (age 3)
  • 4 pancakes (age 3)
  • 4 hot dogs (age 2)
  • 7 chicken nuggets (age 2)

There are other times where they've eaten a normal size main portion, but we gave them as much fruit and veggies as they were willing to eat. Oh, and that child obesity issue: both boys are skinny as a rail.

Well, it looks like I'm now being paid back two-fold for all the food I ate and the money it cost to feed me. Let's hope I can afford to send them to college after paying for all their food.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Soccer season has kicked off

Last weekend was the first game of the spring soccer season for Brady and Alex. It was a great weekend and you can find pics here:

Brady's game
Alex's game

Last year, Alex seemed very uninterested. He preferred to goof with friends, run around aimlessly, and play with the ground more so than actually trying to play soccer. Of course, he's only three, but at the same time we wanted to be sure that we weren't forcing him to play something he didn't want to play. We asked him if he wanted to play this year, and told him he didn't have to if he didn't want to, but he wanted to. In his first game this season, I can say the difference is night and day! He played really hard, tried to dribble and score goals, didn't goof around, and it was obvious he was having fun! Eureka! He almost scored a goal or two, but the shots weren't quite on net. He did put one in the goal for the other team, but that's part of the learning process. I'm just happy he's trying hard and having fun.

Brady was clearly a little rusty in his game. But it slowly started to come back to him in the second half. One thing is for sure, no kid will ever out-hustle him. He was the only kid on either team to play for the entire 40 minute game! He was always getting to the ball first and running back to help out on defense. I love it when he plays that hard. And the one skill I've been harping on him to start doing--using his left foot--finally came out on Saturday when he dribbled a couple of times with his left. It's still not natural for him, but he's getting used to the idea. He did score a goal in his team's 4-0 win. I suspect he'll be racking up a lot more goals this year once he shakes the rust off. And course, he had a blast doing it! That kid just love running and playing sports.

It was a great weekend and I was very proud of both of them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone. I can say that I'm very happy. I've been mulling this over for a couple of weeks and decided to post something on happiness. Let's go back to the origin of my blog title, "Having it All."

There are three things in life that truly make me happy: my family, my job, and triathlon. I'm one of the rare lucky people that really enjoys their job. I'm selfish in that if only one or two of those things are going well, then I don't feel as happy as I should be. All three need to be going well for me to really feel great. Because time is limited, I am often sacrificing one, two, or sometimes even all three of those things.

More often than not, it's triathlon that gets cut out of the equation when things get busy. In 2008, my work hours went up quite a bit, and around April 2009, they increased drastically. I was putting in 60-65 hours per week, sometimes even up to 75 hrs/week a couple of times. I quickly cut out triathlon, and unfortunately, family time also was sacrificed. I was really happy with my job productivity, but I was a very unhappy person overall.

In 2010, I made a promise to cut back on work because the sacrificing family time was unacceptable anymore. I did cut back to 50-55 hrs/week and family life was a lot more fun (because there was more of it!). That was great, but it's still only 2/3rds of what I really want out of life.

Now, in 2011, something hit me. Here are some data on my cycling miles by year, a surrogate for my 'triathlon' aspect of life happiness:

Yes, my cycling miles have plummted from over 3,000 per year to a mere 106 miles in 2010. I had carved out more time for family in 2010, but I felt too selfish to carve out more time for my personal happiness (i.e., triathlon). I realized this year that I need to be more selfish. So I've started taking some more time for myself and restricting my work to only 40-45 hrs/week. Holy cow! I can't believe how much free time someone has when they work 40 hrs/week!! I feel great. I'm sticking to a very modest training schedule: 3 runs per week, 1-2 bike rides per week. Nothing too fancy since I'm not preparing to race anytime soon, just enjoying the time being active. And I still have lots of time for family at home and with the kids' sports. Melanie has time to get in her workouts, too. And while my work hours have reduced, I try to be extremely efficient with the limited hours I have and still be productive. I'm pretty happy with how well I'm getting more done with less hours with work.

I'm as happy as I've been in years. So far so good, but I hope you find a similar level of happiness in your lives!


Alternate titles: Why do you run? or Why do you do triathlons?

I have 3 blog posts to update today. I was going to space them out, but as I let them sit, the ideas soon leave my head and I never get around to it. So let's just jump in with the first one.

Before I get into the real 'meat' of the post, I first wanted to share a great video on run mechanics. This is a really great illustration of some key attributes of running efficiently from Jesse Kropelnicki.

Now to the heart of the post: the title. The answer to these questions in this title are different for everyone. For me, I've just loved running since I was a little kid. I can't explain why, I just love it. For triathlon, it's for personal reasons. I'll keep those personal, although a few close people know why. For Melanie, she now loves running after hating it her whole life. Her motivation to start running was to lose weight. Through that process, she has really discovered what makes running so wonderful, and she did so independently of me (i.e., I didn't influence her to think that). She now tells me that she totally gets why I've always loved it so much. She loves her long runs on the weekends. For Brady, he's much like me. He just loves it. Alex has a few years to develop whether he likes it or not, so time will tell. The point is that everyone has different motivations.

If you are a runner or a triathlete, you also know it's sometimes very hard to keep at it and it's extremely easy to forget why you love it so. This post is for all my runner/triathlete friends to remind themselves why they truly love what they do. All your answers are different. But they are all correct.

If you're having a hard time getting motivated and out the door, have a look at these videos to remind you of your answers.

(I can never make it past the part where Derek Redmond's dad comes out of the stands to help him finish in the 1992 Olympics without getting choked up.)

And for triathlon: