Sunday, October 21, 2007

Enchanted Rock (part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

Here we are coming down the dome. Ella was a real trooper. She hiked all over this big hunk of rock.

I just couldn't resist climbing on top of boulders even though they weren't very big. This was a family trip so there wasn't any time for climbing. We are talking about going back with the Young Men sometime though.

To get back to the car we had to cross Sandy Creek. What a perfect name for this stream! The stream bed is covered with small pebbles and sand. It actually hurts a bit to walk with bare feet, unless you have leather feet-soles like Ella. She doesn't like to wear shoes much. After the hike we had a fun time soaking our feet in the stream before heading back home. Good times.

Enchanted Rock (part 1)

A few Saturdays ago we decided to go on a little adventure. We headed out to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for a little hike. It is situated 17 miles Northeast of Fredericksburg, Texas (a favorite place to go, especially for lunch mmmmm.... sandwiches, cookies, brownies)

Anyway, Enchanted Rock has two big exfoliation domes of granite punched up in the Texas Hill Country. So we went for a hike up the larger of the two domes which rises 425 feet above the surrounding landscape.

Above you see the larger of the domes behind us with the smaller dome out of the picture on the left. There is a nice area between the two domes called Echo Canyon. There are a lot of established rock climbing routes in the area. I have a copy of the climbing guide book to the area but I've never been able to go climbing there.

Do you see the little specks of people climbing the dome?

Here were are on top of the larger dome with Echo Canyon and the smaller dome behind us. The climbs are down to the right on large boulders that have detached and fallen off the dome. Also the rear of the main dome is steeper in the back and there are a lot of climbs there too.

This is actually a normal picture of Ella. Normally, she sees the camera and makes a goofy face. But this one is really good.

More in part 2

First Day of School & Dance Class

Here we are again. Ella's first day of her second year of pre-school. Please notice the face. This is one of her "picture faces". She doesn't seem to be able to make a normal smile face when someone is pointing a camera at her. Oh well.

Grandma Joan offered to pay for some classes for Ella as a birthday present. I imagine she has done the same for the others as well. Ella chose dance classes. So here she is in all her pink leotard glory. The class is once a week and does half ballet, half tap. She is the tallest in her class and she is doing very well so the teacher offered to have us move her to a different class; still a beginner class, but with older girls so the teacher can move a little faster. We're going to try it out this week.

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Marathon 2 Marathon

Wow! That was hard! But it was amazing!

On October 13th 2007 I ran the Marathon 2 Marathon which starts 4 miles east of Alpine, Texas and runs east on Highway 90 to Marathon, Texas (Elevation 4040 feet). This is really pretty country. It is very desert, very old-west, and very ruggedly-beautiful. We drove out there on Friday afternoon. From San Antonio, you drive west on I-10 until you hit Fort Stockton. On the way you pass through the Texas Hill Country, after which, the hills begin to drop away and become more defined and mesa-like. You pass by a large wind farm installation (more on the wind later) and then you arrive at the big nothingness that is Fort Stockton. Then you head South toward Big Bend National Park. The land begins to change as you travel this road. There are huge cattle ranches on both sides of the road. We even saw some Bison. 60 miles South of Fort Stockton you come to Marathon Texas and suddenly the hills are more defined and beautiful.

I waited too long to make our hotel reservations so we ended up staying in Alpine at the Holland Hotel. Logistically this worked out great because I was already so close to the starting line and Katie and Ella would drive past me on their way back to the finish in Marathon.

On Friday night we had a nice little walk down the street in Alpine to have dinner at a great little Italian restaurant. The pizza and pasta were excellent, if a little over-priced. In the morning, Katie and Ella dropped me off at the start before heading back to the hotel for their breakfast.
Waiting at the starting line near Alpine, TX
The race kicked off at 8-ish to the sound of a shotgun blast and we headed out. I tried to run very conservatively during the first part of the race because I have always read that people tend to go out too fast in a marathon. Apparently I did it too. The hard part is that you have been putting in so many miles and running so far during your training. Then, during the last couple of weeks before the race you "taper" and cut down the miles dramatically. In theory, this helps you to be well rested and ready to run. However, in my case I tapered too much and ended up getting a cold the week before the race. This is pretty common. Apparently, your body decides that it can start to slack off and your immune system lets up a little and you get sick.

Due to travel for work and long, late hours on the trip I was unable to rest enough for my body to recover from the cold that I had been battling all week. But I wasn't going to miss my first marathon so I went ahead even though I was sick.

Back to the first miles of the race. The wind was unbelievably strong! Following the race, I checked the weather reports throughout the day and we had 20-30 MPH headwinds during the first half of the race. These winds were absolutely brutal! There were times when a semi-trailer truck drove past me on the road and I didn't even feel the blast of wind that usually follows in the wake of a truck. The chit-chat among runners was almost exclusively about the wind. "This wind is kicking my butt." "This wind is brutal."

Oh, yeah. Big Time.

At about the half-way point I came up over the highest point in the race and the wind backed off a bit, though it was still a factor. The half-way point is almost directly behind me in the following picture. We came around the shoulder of that big hill/mountain on the right.

This picture was taken by Katie as she and Ella drove up and found me around mile 21. They cheered loudly as I passed. "You Rock!!", "Go Daddy!" I was just approaching the mile 22 aid station so they pulled up and cheered while I refilled my water bottles. Having them there to cheer me on was absolutely amazing! After the long miles, they were there yelling for me. It gave me an amazing feeling and a big boost to keep going.

I can't describe to you the amazing feelings that I had as I crossed the finish line with Katie and Ella cheering for me. In fact, I was completely unprepared for how emotional an experience it would be. I was choked up and nearly had tears in my eyes. My body was really beat up. My legs were sore, my right hip-flexors were totally hammered (due to running on the left side of a cambered road for 26.2 miles). I was covered in salt deposits on my face and clothes. I could barely hobble around. Stairs were pretty rough, but I felt really great that I had done it. I sat around for a while and ate some snacks while I re-hydrated. I took a shower in the historic Gage Hotel and we bid farewell to Marathon, Texas.

This sign is on the road between Fort Stockton and Marathon. It is not on the course we ran but it is a great sign. You can see the finishers medal around my neck. I wore it to church the next day, although I took it off for the main block of meetings.

Katie was so kind to drive all the way home with me whining and stretching in the passengers seat. It was a long drive home. All 5 hours of it.

Each passing day my legs felt better and better. By Wednesday, my muscles were pretty much 100% but my joints still hurt a bit. I've been taking this whole week off from running as prescribed by all the marathon training plans that I read. I'm excited to get back to running tomorrow during my lunch break.

This was awesome. I can hardly wait to train for another one. Although I'll have to give Katie a while to recover from all those long runs I did on Saturday mornings. Those 20 mile training runs really cut into our usual time together on Saturdays. Maybe a half-marathon in December...? That's not nearly so bad right?