Marathon Training: Week 3

I guess I owe you an update on the first two weeks before I can go on with the third week.

Week 1
I am running 3 days a week for this program. I would have liked a 4 day a week program, but this actually is a bit better for my traveling schedule. If I miss a run it is much easier to try to fit it in during the week since I have extra days off.

Monday was a 3 mile easy run. Those should be no problem throughout the course of the training. Wednesday was a tempo run of 5 miles. I got that one in just fine as well. The 8 mile long run on Saturday had to be pushed to Sunday. Fortunately our church in Mexico does not start until 11:00. That always gave me extra time to get a nice run in if necessary. (In contrast, our church we go to in Florida starts at 9:00, which is never enough time for lazy me to get a run in before church.) I only ran 7.7 miles since that was the best route I could come up with that got me home close to the distance.

Week 2
Not so good. Monday’s run did not happen at all. Oh, look! Neither did Wednesday’s run. Saturday’s long run of 9 miles ended up as a 4.5 mile run. That was the week we were traveling from Merida, Mexico to Florida. We were up and out the door early each day. Early being a relative term. Anyway, not much time to run.

Week 3
Monday’s easy 3 mile run ended up as a 3.32 easy run. Just an out and back course that I may make a regular route. There is a nice hill about 1/4 mile from the house. I go down to leave the house and then back up to get home.

Wednesday’s 5 mile tempo was pushed to Thursday afternoon. I was taking a seminary class and had to be up early each day trying to get my reading and studying in for the day. I was up by 6:00 each day, with some days up well before 6:00. My best time to run was Thursday afternoon before I had to be at an appointment. I was physically beat by the time Thursday rolled around. I only got 3 miles done and it was not even close to tempo pace. I do not feel badly about this since I at least attempted the run. It was certainly better than just scrubbing it and not running at all.

The long run on Saturday was supposed to be 10 miles. I made several mistakes during this run that doomed me. I am somewhat glad it happened this early in training. I have not been doing runs this long in a while and I had forgotten a few basics. I did not fuel or hydrate well. When I knew the run was falling apart I adjusted my route to make it a 7 mile run. But by doing so I also eliminated the last couple of gas stations that I could have stopped at for more food and drink to get me back home. At 6.5 miles I had to make the phone call to have someone come and pick me up.

Lessons learned and I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks being able to be home enough to get back on track with the training. Rough start, but I am not discouraged nor feel like I have put myself too far behind.

Trip out of Mexico: Day 6 (and following)

We did get home last week if you were wondering. We had another wonderfully boring day. Things just tend to go much more smoothly on US roads. It is amazing the contrast between the roads here and the roads in Mexico. There are some rough spots across Lousiana, but not near like Mexico.

As soon as we got home we started preparing for the coming week. I had a seminary class I was taking and really was not well prepared for it. By Tuesday afternoon I started feeling like my head was back in the game. Fortunately my teacher is one of these wise, practical scholars. He did not expect us to memorize everything he taught. He is more interested in us getting the information on paper so that we can access the material in the future. For my tests this week we had to write a couple of long papers (took me close to 6 hours Thursday night). These papers were “open Bible” essays. As long as we knew how to dig in the Bible and intelligently explain what we had learned, he was satisfied. I don’t know my grade yet, but I feel like I did well and learned much.

Trip out of Mexico: Day 5

A perfectly boring day. Not much to report other than we got on the road late after a nice long night of sleep. We traded off the driving duties all day and napped when we could.

The most exciting thing that happened today was that I faked the need for a nap and made my wife drive through Houston.

We made it from the bottom tip of Texas up to Orange, Texas which is just a few miles from the Lousiana border. Should be less than 8 hours from home. Even though we are on better roads we are still traveling pretty slowly. Keeping the speeds between 50 and 60 MPH to make sure we don’t over tax the trailer and its tires.

Day 6 (Preview)
We will skip church tomorrow for the second time in my ability to remember. With a class starting Monday morning I want to try and allow as much time as I can to get home. There is still the possibility of a blow out or some other big event tomorrow. Using the extra time as wisely as we can. We are arriving 48 hours later than what we were planning last Monday morning.

Trip out of Mexico: Day 4

New Tire Search
As soon as I got moving this morning I headed to a tire shop down the road from the hotel. I just picked one at random as this town had plenty to choose from. It seems like there are common problems in certain towns. Apparently there is enough business in this town to keep several shops running just fine.

What I needed from the tire shop was a lug wrench to pull the tire off the trailer so that I could run around with the rim in hand to get a new tire installed. I asked at the tire shop that I first visited if they had any 12″ tires. They did! They had 2 tires that were a bit smaller than I needed, but would fit my rim. These were used tires, but one of them looked like it was in pretty good shape. I got a lug wrench off of them and went back to the trailer to get the tire. The process of pulling the tire off went smoothly and I took the rim to the tire shop.

While they put the tire on, I buzzed over to the hotel and picked up the family. We hit an OXXO (Mexican convenience store) for some morning coffee and a totally un-healthy breakfast.

When we got back to the tire shop the tire was ready to go. We went to the trailer to find that it had fallen! Apparently the jack sank into the ground enough to topple the whole mess. Fortunately the jack was not pinned under the trailer in such a way that I could not get it out. It took well over an hour and some help from a passer-by to get the new tire on. Then I had to run the lug wrench back to the tire shop.

Back on the Road
We took it easy heading on to the border. With the fact that the tire shop had a tire that we could use, I estimated that we would be back on the road by 10:30. I missed it by an hour because of the trouble we had getting the trailer up off the ground after it fell. The trip to the border also took longer since we were now running on 2 different sized tires. We were concerned about overheating one tire by running it crooked down the road. Our original estimated time of arrival to cross the border was 2:00 in the afternoon.

We had one more military checkpoint before getting to the border. They were pulling everyone over and digging through all the cars and suitcases. We got shoved into one line and waited our turn. When they got to us the soldiers suddenly started letting all the cars go through. Supposedly they were checking in waves and we were at the front of the next wave to be let past.

We have nothing to hide, but if we were forced to open our trailer to let them inspect it, it would probably be 4+ hours to pull it all apart and then put it together again. We were thankful for the gift of passing through.

Just one more inspection to go to get across the border. The last one is on the US side and can be a pain.

Border Crossing
We needed to go into the immigration office and cancel our paperwork. This didn’t slow us down much, but we were already way behind our ETA. The only thing that that mattered was we were going to try and eat lunch with some friends. We did not get to the border to cross until 4:00. Lunch plans turned into supper plans.

When we finally got over to the US side we were praying that we would not have to be inspected. Again, nothing to hide, but I did not want to go through the mess of pulling everything apart.

Something about me must sceam “INSPECT ME!” on the US side. We were asked to pull over and let the agents check our vehicle. This happened last time and it took almost an hour. They asked several questions about what we had in the trailer. They looked through the back of the van and asked again what was in the trailer. We have a bookcase strapped to the top of the trailer box that they looked in. They then asked to see what was in the trailer itself. I pulled out the hammer and told them I would have to disassemble the whole thing. They looked at each other and said that I could just go on.

Praise the Lord!

Dinner and a Hotel
We finally crossed the border closer to 5:30 after having to wait in line. We made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a new tire in the right size so that we can travel with a bit more confidence.

One of our friends that we were supposed to meet for lunch/supper was sick. We did get to meet with another friend and had a nice evening of talking about future plans.

In the process of all our running around my wife checked out some hotels in the area. She found one with a pool and Internet. When we checked in I saw a sign that said “Free Wireless Internet! (In lobby only).” Fortunately they also have wired Internet access in the rooms.

After the kids swam a bit we shoved them into bed. I went to the lobby to sit and do some reading and have a cup of coffee. Super 8 has become one of our favorite hotels because of the price and they really have improved their service. They (usually) have coffee available at any time and their breakfast area is usually open for a nice quiet place to work and read after the kids go to sleep so that I don’t have to have a light on in the room.

Usually. Did I say that already?

At 9:25 I went to the lobby to have my coffee and start my evening reading. I have a class I am starting on Monday that I have to have a pile of reading done for. I was really looking forward to getting a bit done tonight. I got to the lobby to find that it was locked. The man behind the desk waved me over to a hole in the window to talk. Apparently the free wireless Internet that is available only in the lobby gets cut off some time before 9:30 since you are not allowed into the lobby. That meant no coffee and no comfortable reading with actual lights. I got to head back to the room where I would be relegated to the bathroom once again for reading. Some people like the bathroom as a reading room, but when you live in hotels as much as we do, sitting on the side of the tub gets un-comfy after a while.

Super 8, I am not pleased with this location. Nice room. Seems to be a kind staff. But not letting me use the lobby to read after 9:00, not having coffee available and not having wireless Internet outside of the closed lobby (when clearly the technology exists), is not a good customer experience for me.

Day 5 (Preview)
We will get up at whatever time seems good. Breakfast at the hotel. Then start heading our way to Florida. We still have almost 1,000 miles to go to get home. Plenty of things can go wrong. But nothing seems to be quite as awful when we are in our country with cell phone access around people who speak our language.

Trip out of Mexico: Day 3

Fresh Start
We got on the road bright and early today. That was a nice change. After 9:00 starting times the last couple of days, getting out at 7:00 this morning seemed like we were given a gift of a nice long travel day.

We had no idea what town we were in last night. We asked the hotel clerk this morning. We were in the town of Emilio Carranza. It is a very small town. The hotel we stopped at for the night was about 200 yards into town, and there was about that much town left to go when we left the hotel. It is just a speed bump between the larger towns of Cardel and Poza Rica.

About an hour down the road we were able to find a gas station with a convenience store (surprisingly rare in some parts of Mexico). This place happened to also have a pharmacy and a coffee shop. Two things we were looking for. Nice one-stop-shop to get us going.

Nice and Boring
Most of the day was simply drive straight ahead. We only encountered one exciting spot in the road as we passed through Cerro Azul. There was a wire hanging low over the road. The larger trucks were taking turns supporting a boy who would hold up the wire so the trucks on one side of the road could pass for a while. Then, presumably, he would jump onto another truck going the other way and hold the wire up for the opposite traffic.

Because all my trailer wiring got burned yesterday while the welder was working, we took some time to stop at the only Auto Zone we would see on this route and buy a new wiring harness. They did not have exactly what I needed, but I bought something that would work. It was a bit of a pain, but I got the trailer lights working again just north of Tampico.

Welder: Round 2
Going through the town of Soto La Marina my wife was driving. She heard the chains of the trailer start to drag and immediately pulled over. Fortunately, though the trailer broke again in the same place, we were able to pull off the road where there was a group of guys working on a road construction truck. I told them our problem and they pointed me to the welder who was working on another truck.

I think God allowed us to get the trailer patched yesterday just to get us to this guy today. Today’s welder did a much better job in fixing the trailer. The quality of work difference is noticeable. While I never had great confidence in the work done yesterday, I do feel like this welder took care of the job completely.

Before he got started on the job though I was able to remove my new wiring and keep it from getting burned up.

The job took a bit over an hour to complete. By that time it was already dark, but we had also already picked out our planned hotel for the night. With the exception of the road construction that was being done in the immediate area, we know the roads were pretty good all the way to the little town that we were planning to stay in for the night.

New Tire: Round 2
Within 5 minutes of driving away from the welder we punctured a tire on the road. This road is a temporary road that is just rock and dirt while the crew builds a nice new road. Because the road was so rough I did not know that I had a flat until we got back up on the paved road a few minutes later. By that time the tire was shredded. This is one of those new, expensive, hard to find tires that I bought on Monday.

We were able to pull off the road into a wide driveway of some business. We dropped the trailer with plans to take the wheel into one of the larger towns tomorrow and see if we can locate a tire. This will be at least a 2 hour round trip. It might be as long as 7 hours if we have to drive on to the border to find a new tire.

At least, that was the plans. After we got the trailer off the van we realized that we did not have a lug wrench that will work on the trialer. I will have to find a local shop that will let me borrow a lug wrench before I can start the running around tomorrow. Of course, I will also see if I can locate a tire in Soto La Marina before I go too far looking for one. I don’t have much hope of that since it was hard to find one in a town of 1,000,000 people. Finding one in a town of 3,000 is less hopeful.

Day 4 (Preview)
If things go well then we might be back on the road by 2:00 in the afternoon. That means that we should be able to cross the border tomorrow night. That is 24 hours behind our goal to have us home on Saturday. I will definitely miss the meeting I was trying to attend that afternoon. I am currently in jeopardy of having to miss the class that I am supposed to start on Monday morning.

Worst case scenario for tomorrow will be that we hit the 2 big towns on our way to the border and still not find a tire. Then we will have to cross the border to get a new tire and return. The border is only 3 hours from where we are currently, but one of the big towns (our better option) will put us about 3 hours from the border after we drive an hour over to that town. It may be as late as Saturday morning before we even get back to put the tire on the trailer.

At least the $25 hotel we are in for the night has very comfy beds.