Full Speed Ahead

Me at the 2006 San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon. I finished the full marathon in 5:02 that year.

They say that sometimes the stars just align. That some days, you go out there, and it all comes together. If you have any doubt of that, just look at what happened to the San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis this weekend – a decade of toiling it out with an awful team, only to see all your dreams and hopes come together in 40 seconds in front of a national television audience.

It’s a reminder of why we can never give up on our goals. Our goals are not a linear path from point A to point B. They are fraught with setbacks and sidetracks and just-about-ready-to-give-ups. But for whatever reason, some of us stick with our goals. It’s nice to know that for some of us, many of us, we get there.

I got there. Today. After 9 years of trying. In a big way.

And let me tell you, it feels pretty damn good.

* * *

I first started running – in earnest – in January 2003. At the time, I was smoking a hearty pack-and-a-half a day. And prolly drinking the same.

A year prior, we had gone to watch Heidi’s former roommate, Pam, compete in the Tucson marathon. I was captivated by the atmosphere. She finished in just over 4 hours – an amazing time which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. As we walked back to the car with her, I said: “I’m gonna’ do a marathon, too.” It seemed a fairly ridiculous claim. But I was serious. I knew nobody there really believed me.

I was cool with that. I barely believed me, too.

But a year and a few months later, I came across an opportunity to train for the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon set for June 2003. It was some sort of informational meeting, in January 2003, coupled with a 3-mile training run. I went, and huffed and puffed through it. There was a big group of us and I’m pretty sure that nobody else that joined us that first day left thinking, “I can do this.”

But I did.

That day initiated a long-time commitment to running. I completed that first marathon. In 5 and a half hours. There were times when I cut back my drinking, and my smoking, during that training. And there were times that I didn’t.

San Diego was the first. I did the inaugural Rock n’ Roll Arizona in 2004, the New York Marathon in 2005, San Diego again in 2006, Arizona again in 2007. I switched gears and stepped it up, opting to go for a full Ironman triathlon in 2008 (that’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run), packed in a few more marathons that year, did Arizona again in 2009, another Ironman in 2010 and Arizona’s full marathon again in 2011.

Every year had it’s pros and cons. And every year brought me a little closer to my goal of conquering my demons – demons of addiction and an unsettled mind.

But I never fully beat them. I spent an 8-month stint in 2005 in a 12-step program; only to realize I really didn’t belong. And I spent much longer, many years, in fact, searching for the source of my restlessness – the very thing that could lead me to bike 100 miles, get off my bike, and run 10 miles more or lead me to think that downing 10 beers and a pack of smokes were both perfectly fun, and acceptable, activities.

This had gone on forever, it seemed. But with each passing year, the commitment to health led me slowly, surely, towards making the healthy choices more, and the unhealthy choices less. A pack-and-a-half a week, led to a pack a week, to a pack every two weeks, to a few cigarettes a day, to a few a week, to almost none. It has been slow, and gradual, and not without conflict. But it has been decidedly in the right direction.

It’s proof that not everybody’s road to healthy living starts with cold turkey, but with an idea of what you want to be, and a determined effort, one day at a time, to get there.

We have good days and bad. Winning the battle, often, is by slowly having more good days than bad. Eventually, the good days become the habit. The bad days become the exception.

After a decade long fight, I’m very happy to say: The bad days are definitely the exception.

* * *

It’s safe to say, though, that the last year has definitely been the turning point; and more specifically, the 9 months that have followed Beckett’s clearance from the hospital.

I fell into, by dumb luck, the services of Oscar Garcia, a personal trainer who lives in my neighborhood. I came to him, at quite possibly, my most broken time in the last five years.

In the months that followed Ironman 2010 and Beckett’s stint in the hospital, I gained an impressive 20 pounds in four months, going from 195 pounds, to a stout 215. My flowy, button-up shirts were pushed to their extremes when I sat down.

We were at a fundraiser in April 2011 for Beckett’s elementary school. There was a silent auction item for one month with a trainer. I bid. And I won.

I had no idea what I was getting in to.

Oscar made me do push-ups, and pull-ups, and burpees, and dips, and flip tires, and jump rope, and lift barbells and do, well, all kinds of crazy shit you couldn’t have paid me to do a year prior.

In those first months, before I really actually talked to Oscar, I couldn’t tell you why I stuck with it. It was something to do, I guess. And it was better than nothing.

Eventually, I figured out what we were doing was something called CrossFit – a method of training in which you work all of your body’s systems – your aerobic, your anaerobic, your arms, core, chest, arms, legs and everything in between.

The weight and the inches started to melt away.

But more importantly, I began to learn about Oscar, a man who had been on his own lifelong journey of discovery – from growing up in Mexico, to emigrating to the US, to starting his own plumbing company (which ultimately ending up serving the celebs of L.A.), to running his own million-dollar real-estate business, to losing it all, to rediscovering himself while working at Starbucks and doing Bikram yoga, to realizing his goal was to help others rediscover themselves.

Somehow this guy accumulated this group of like-minded people around him – many of them amazing, but broken in some little way. And together, we merged into a group of really laid back, fun people who supported each other and grew.

The people I started with were fat, out-of-shape and could’ve easily just given up. There were 60-year-olds who’d never lifted a weight, former ATV-riding champions who’d gotten massively out of shape, moms who’d never worked out a day in their life.

If you could see those people today: 3, 6, 9 months later, you wouldn’t believe it was possible. For them, like me, it was all about identifying a goal and saying: no more excuses, instead of choosing to be unhealthy, I’m choosing to be healthy. And that was pretty much all it took. Once you make that choice, it’s just about showing up to do the workout, and – not to simplify too much – choosing the carrots over the french fries.

* * *

But I’ve gone way off target here. And that’s only because my brain has been given a lot to think about today.

If this is less than normally concise, I apologize. I’ve had a friend whose had a stroke recently; and somebody else whom I like very much, I’ve learned her husband and daughter both have cancer.

I’m constantly reminded life is complex. And I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by those thoughts as I spill what’s on my mind tonight.

* * *

So to get back to the point, I did it. I broke the 2-hour mark on a half-marathon – the first of three hardcore fitness goals I set many years ago – a sub 2-hour half-marathon, a sub 4-hour full marathon, and a sub 12-hour Ironman.

1 down, 2 to go.

For those of you who don’t know, let me tell you why sub-2 is such a big deal. To do a sub-2, you have to run under a 9:13/mile pace for 13.1 miles.

For some people, and god bless ’em, this comes easy. But for me, with my 6’+ bulky frame, it does not. It’s the equivalent of running at close to your top speed, and holding that pace for 2 hours straight.

It means not just that you can run, but that you have the stamina and the health to maintain it for a couple hours.

I’d never come close. The best I’d ever done prior to today was holding a 10:13/mile pace for a full race.

I did 3.1 mile race in October with obstacles where, for some unexpected reason, I ran a 7:47 pace. It blew me away.

So I thought I had a chance.

Today, at mile 3, I was running a 8:45/mile pace. At mile 6, an 8:53 pace. At the halfway point, an 8:57 pace.

It was here, I knew it was possible.

At mile 9, I was hanging in with a 8:59/mile pace. With 4.1 miles to go, I knew this was my chance.

I kept saying to myself, you’ve been trying for 10 years, almost, to be at this place where you had a real chance to do it, And so at that point, despite total exhaustion, I decided I would do it.

For the last four miles, I pushed my body.

I said: “You can deal with the consequences later, but if you go sub-2, you’ll have that forever.”

It worked.

I did it.

* * *

As I look back over all I’ve typed tonight, the whole thing seems sort of blow-hardish.

It seems like I’ve conquered some great thing, but the truth is, my life is still a work in progress.

I’m riddled with flaws; and sometimes, as I talk about my accomplishments, the whole thing feels like a lie.

I still struggle with the same things I struggled with 10 years ago.

My addictive side still gets the best of me more than I care to fully admit.

I’m not the dad, or the husband, I wish to be.

I’m still prone to bad moods, or bad days.

I know I could do better. And I know that my own selfishness gets in the way.

But, god damn it, I’m trying.

I want to be better.

And I know I’m making progress, even if sometimes it’s not perfectly clear.

But at least I have that stat –  proven by chip technology – to show I’m on my way.


That’s my number. That’s my proof.

And I’m sticking with it.

– Ed


Mirror Image

Yesterday I drank with one purpose in mind: to get drunk.

Not the celebratory, yay, something went great kind of drunk.

But the damn it, that sucked, and there’s something vile in my soul kind of drunk.

With each cocktail, with each new glass, the demon rose until I was a walking pile of vile energy, whipping up a batch of marinara, stone-roasting green beans in a garlic reduction and pan frying cod and salmon in homemade corn chip breading.

It’s good to know should I ever own that bar or restaurant I talk about sometimes, a bad day won’t keep me from work.

* * *

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a state like that.

And I was reminded this morning, in the aftermath, how the negative, dark, angry emotions that are born from the perception of betrayal, or from being slighted, or that come from our own anger towards ourselves – or our fear that we’re slipping or failing – are very, very powerful indeed.

They linger like a shadow on the soul. They weigh us down. They feel dirty. But we can’t just wash them away.

I was reminded how anger can lead us to say and do things that we can never take back. What a strange emotion; its purpose to release tension; its consequences sometime irreversible.

* * *

I can tell you that somehow, someway, I was aware of these things. So the things I was angry about, I didn’t share them publicly. I shared them on my wife. In nasty free-flow commentary spat out when she entered the room.

I probably became increasingly incoherent, irrational, until I finally got the courage to say what I wanted, which was this: I want to be left alone. Me, the extrovert, alone to wallow in my pity party.

Table for one please, sir. And I’ll take a bottle of your finest waaaaaampagne.

* * *

Why and who and what I was mad about, in this case, is mostly irrelevant. And incredibly unimportant in the grand-scale of loss and sadness and misery that co-exists with the many wonderful things in this world.

I’m losing a trusted employee and close friend to another business.

The news was unexpected. And it was this, as it turns out, that I was most blind-sided by. I’m a long-term planner. I execute multiple potential scenarios in my mind in life and business, and develop multiple ways to handle them – contingencies for contingencies, if you will.

I run projected budgets for our household a full calendar year in advance using cost averages over the last five years for heat, electric and any other expenses we might incur. I’m often off by as little as 1 or 2 percent in a month.

So when something hits that I don’t expect, I learned last night, I’m not that good at processing it, or coping with it.

It’s funny, because it makes most of what I’ve been saying for the past six months: that in the wake of Beck’s illness, I can’t have a bad day; that I’ve learned to roll with things, blah, blah, blah, not true.

* * *

That’s not to say the act of release via fermented drink wasn’t therapeutic.

I woke up, yes, with all that emotional residue, but I also awoke cleansed, with the knowledge in place that I would put together a plan and move on. The world would turn. The walls would not come crashing down.

I saw, clearly, that my original perception that I was somehow wronged was born out of jealousy and fear.

I’m happy for my friend and co-worker – a person who is very deserving of the opportunity; one that this individual will thrive at.

And I’ll roll on and find somebody new.

That’s the way it works, in business, and in life, really.

Losing someone is never easy, I guess. Even if the loss is just Monday to Friday,8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.


On December 27,  Heidi made a $212 payment to Banner Health.  It was the final payment in what between what insurance paid, and our out-of-pocket costs, was a $150,000 ordeal. It’s a situation that has forever changed my life, Heidi’s life, our family’s lives. That the final bill was paid the day before Beckett’s 7th birthday, and just four days before the New Year made it even more symbolic.

There’s no way to belittle how this event has transformed me. It’s fundamentally shifted who I am at the core, the way I perceive what is important, the things that I care about. I understand that  it’s easy to say these things from the office of a beautiful home, with the security of an excellent job, with the love of many friends and family members by my side; but I’d like to believe that I would be as grateful for life and the people by my side, even if I lacked material comforts.

Basically, as I start the new year, I just want to do what’s right – for myself, my family, my friends. That’s my goal. I want to give love and friendship to those who need it; have more friends over for dinner; take this happiness and use it to serve my community.

I’m brimming with optimism this year; though I can’t really put my finger on why. I know my potential – and I know I’ve not yet reached it. I’ve attacked many great goals with a sort of a half-assed, but joyful vigor. I exercise regularly; but I also drink more than I should and don’t always eat as a good as I can. I write in some form almost daily, but have let my my goal to write a book fall through the cracks (although Heidi is pushing me and has me started on one) out of a fear of failure. I volunteer here and there, but I certainly could do more. And, damn it, I need to start crossing more of those places I’ve always wanted to hike off my list.

Plus, I really want to build Beckett and Brody an awesome tree house. And get my garden back in full swing. And teach the kids how to ski. And fix the roof.

There’s a lot to do, I guess.

Happy New Year everybody.

– Ed