Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Madness

Heading into March and spring, I knew it was going to be a tough month. I already knew in advance I was scheduled to work 3 of the 4 Saturday's of the month up at Mercedes Benz, and throw in my first half marathon (see: A Race to Self Discovery), SXSW, a 10k, soccer games, pops spring break, the NCAA tournament, and the addition of some roommates, and this month has been downright madness.

I started this month off by completing my first half-marathon in San Marcos on a grueling 13.1 mile hill-filled course. That following week, I got to hang out with my dad for the first time in awhile as he came in town during his spring break week, and for the rally for Texas teachers at the capital. We got to play our usual tennis match (in which he finally won back the infamous trophy, on which I of course blame my sore legs since it was 2 days following my half-marathon), and we got to have some beers, laughs, and celebrate fat Tuesday together. Anytime I get to spend time with him, I realize how blessed I am to have such a cool father, and best friend. I learn more and more how much of who I am is directly because of who he is, and that I wouldn't be half the man I am were it not for the values he instilled in me from a young age. I can only hope to be half the man he is, as his selflessness, caring, and overall love for life is an inspiration to me everyday.

The following week I put in my second 60 hour work week ever, and ultimately had my ankle sprained by a cheap-shot foul during one of my club team's soccer games. Not exactly perfect timing considering SXSW was just kicking off, and a 10k and more soccer games were looming in my future. But I suffered through it, and after an eventful St. Patrick's day downtown with friends, I took my first paid-day off from Mercedes, and spent it working for a booth at the Style X(by) event at the convention center held during SXSW. This fashion based event offered booths of different types of styles, clothing, shoes, etc. and had fashion shows, alcohol, and tons of different vendors. I worked for an up-and-coming online eye-wear company called Tortoise & Blonde, and after two 12 hour days on my feet selling shades, I sadly couldn't muster up enough energy to ever use my artist wristband I had acquired to catch any South-By shows. But with money in my pocket, some new connections made, and hopefully a potential future career change (fingers crossed) I considered the week a success. Thanks to a heavy ankle brace, I managed to push through the exhaustion just long enough to play in our next soccer game, where we remained undefeated and took down the top team in the table.

This week I finally got a raise from the company I have been working at for the past year. Thursday night I went to an awesome jazz club on Congress and thats when this sense of peace started. Being in a pretty good place financially and mentally, I now open my doors to my sister and Jude who will be staying with me for the next few weeks as Monica looks for a new job here in Austin. It might get a little stressful at times considering how O.C.D. I am about everything, but I'm extremely excited to have them and get to spend time with them. I am especially excited that I may get the coolest person in the world to live in the same city as me again, as I love anytime I get to spend with my fashionista, all knowing musically, and overall better-than-hipster sister and rock star nephew.

Last night, as I prepared to have some friends over to celebrate my raise, I sat back listening to some Stevie Ray, and finally took a breath. Despite all the chaos, I again find myself in a really good place. Unlike the craziness that the NCAA tournament has held this year, I find myself at peace. I have a job that puts money in my pocket and allows me to live in a city where I can live the type of life I want to. I have friends who I can count on anytime I need them, and a girl that I absolutely adore. I have an amazing family that keeps me grounded and is primarily responsible for all the good that is in my life. I find these moments of nirvana are important to note, because when the times of chaos undoubtedly come again its being able to remember these moments that remind you that in the end it all works out for the best, and no matter how unpredictable it can be, more times than not it's usually worth it.

Tonight I am spoiling myself and finally updating my wardrobe some, and taking the girl that has been part of that nirvana feeling for me out to dinner. Tomorrow I run the Capital 10k and hope that my ankle holds up for my soccer game later that afternoon. This up-coming week I'll see Ghostland Observatory in concert for the fourth time, Cold War Kids for the first, and go camping for the first time in over a decade at Enchanted Rock with friends. April will be another chaotic month with shows such as Warpaint, Gogol Bordello, and Sleigh Bells; as well as some festivals such as Reggae Fest and Psych fest. I will also turn 24, and when I stop and look around at just where my life will be at that point, I can confidently say I will be for the most part satisfied. And I think that is something to be proud of, because I know not everyone my age can say the same. I read a quote today that I'll end this with because I found it very appropriate for this time in my life:

"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something."- Thoreau

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Race... to Self-Discovery

As 2011 approached, I, like most people, contemplated what my "New Year's Resolutions" would be. The year of 2010 had been an incredible one, full of dozens of concerts and music festivals, late nights downtown followed by 4th meals, new restaurants and old habits. All extremely fun things, but not exactly the healthiest life-style I had ever had. Granted I did still run and work out here and there, I still knew that the new year brought an opportunity to reevaluate my choices and make a few changes that could improve my well-being. The typical things came to mind; get in shape, eat better, drink less, etc. These all seemed somewhat mundane and boring, however, and I wanted something a little more challenging. Something that would ultimately drive me to do all those things, but with an end goal. Something that I couldn't give up on after just a week and say "oh well, better luck next year." So with those things in mind, I decided to start training and sign-up for my first half-marathon. There was one in Austin towards the end of February, but 6 weeks seemed awfully soon to try and get enough running in to be prepared, plus it was pretty pricey, so when I stumbled across one in nearby San Marcos at the beginning of March for nearly half the price, I jumped on it and registered for "Moe's Better Half-Marathon."

After an extremely over-indulgent New Years Day full of alcohol and unhealthy food, I started training the second day of the year. I printed out some work-out routines, and started altering my diet. I ate fast food maybe one time a week if at all, cut-back on my drinking, and hit the pavement putting in miles. I had run cross-county in high school, and throughout college had run a few miles a week just because I liked the way it made me feel (aka helped me justify my vices from time to time). Just a month in, I was already running 4 to 5 miles a night 4 or 5 days a week, and seemingly making good progress. February hit, and the temptations for eating poorly began, so I tried to kick those out by doing even more athletically. I joined a soccer team in Austin's Men's Soccer Association league, and with trainings on Tuesday nights and games on Sunday's, I was given even more incentive to continue trying to stick to my resolution.

Shortly after Valentines day, I went on a run and managed to put in 8 miles. Now this might not seem like much considering the half I was training for would be 13.1 miles, but it was a milestone for me as I had never run more than 7 before at one time. Feeling confident, but also a little under the weather due to allergies, I took a few days off after that. Big mistake. For future reference, I will never do that again. I peaked in my training earlier than I had wanted to, and the last 3 weeks before the race I never ran more than 3 times a week, and never further than 5 miles. Soccer, work, concerts, and having a girlfriend all jammed up my schedule, and as race day approached, I felt a little uneasy about the prospect of trying to accomplish the goals I had set out for myself for the race, which were to run the entire thing without walking, and to finish it in under 2 hours (which would require a pace of around 9 minute miles). The weekend of the race I had come, and I ended up going downtown Friday night and staying out late drinking before I had to get up early for work, and didn't get in bed till after 11pm that night (due to nerves if nothing else) even though I had a 4am wake up call Sunday in order to make it down to San Marcos in time for the 7am start. To say I was nervous would be a massive understatement, but the day was here, I had paid my registration fee and picked up my race packet, so there was no turning back now.

Arriving to the Tanger Outlet Center in San Marcos where the start and finish line for the race were around 6am, I was trying to keep positive thoughts in mind. The weather was a little cooler than I would have preferred, a brisk 36 degrees, but there was a hallway by the bathrooms we hung out in to keep from the wind while we stretched and warmed up for the race. This was a great marathon to do as my first one, because it wasn't very crowded and pretty low-key. All the participants and organizers were friendly and up-beat, and I was losing my nervousness and finally sliding into that feeling of anticipation. I was ready, or at least as ready as I'd ever be, to see just how far I could push my body. We lined up near the front of the pack at the start, and at 7am set off on the 13.1 mile long course through the hilly San Marcos countryside.

Now although I rarely am awake for it, the times that I am and get to the sunrise I always have a sense of accomplishment no matter what I'm doing. So seeing the sun come up over the farms of the central Texas hill country as I ran by was a very rewarding feeling in itself. I was enjoying it so much that I ran my first mile entirely too fast, and thought there had been some kind of mistake as I passed by Mile Marker 1 and looked down at my watch to see 7:13, a little under my 9 minute pace I had intended to run at. I tried to slow myself down, but still came in too fast at Mile 2 around 14:45. This ended up being a good thing, because my nervous tick seems to be drinking water, and I had drank 2 to 3 bottles worth en route to San Marcos that morning. So at the first porta-potty stop at Mile 4, I had to make a pit-stop. Having to wait on someone in front of me, this took about 2 minutes time. So when I left I was just under 36 minutes, so right on pace for where I wanted to be. Miles 5 and 6 were both right on pace just under 9 minutes each, and as I approached the steep downhill between miles 6 and 7, I was feeling more and more confident.

As I finished zig-zagging the hill and realized I was just about halfway done with the course, I was having an out-of-body experience. Here I was at 8 in the morning and had already been up for 4 hours, was 7 miles into my first half marathon, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, the temperature was a perfect 45 degrees, and I felt like I could run forever. I was smiling to myself, feeling very much like Forrest Gump, and almost as if on cue, "Freebird" came on my iPod. That lengthy song alone killed almost 2 miles, and an array of eclectic tunes accompanied me as I continued on my way from Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, to Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine. As I approached and then ran by Mile 8, I knew that anything past this point was a new personal best for my distance wise, and I know that the photographers and on-lookers cheering us on during the race probably found my huge smile a bit odd.

Entering double digits at Mile 10, I began having the debate with myself about rather I should try and pick up my pace a little (I was still hovering right around the pace I had set for myself of 9 minute miles), of if I should relish the fact that I was still feeling great and push myself more. It was at that exact moment that I saw for the first time of the race someone off the side throwing up. This to me was an omen that I did not ignore, and I maintained my pace rather than speeding up. After nearly being spit on by a guy running with his friend, I ended up staying with them for awhile as they seemed to be right at the same pace as me, and having been running alone for most of the race it was nice to have a little company. A few laughs as we hit Mile 12 and I decided that there was no point in leaving anything left on the course, so I kicked it into gear and decided to try and start passing anyone and everyone I could. The fact that a lot of the people in front of me were girls and/or people in their 50's and 60's was both impressive on their end, and made me become a little prideful on mine, and gave me just the motivation I needed to try and beat as many people as I could coming down the home stretch.

As I came around the last turn and could see the outlet center in my sights, I began running even faster. I then caught sight of my friend Blaine, who had already finished, with my camera (as I had asked him to) taking pictures, and that also helped pushed me through. I passed 2 girls on the last 100 yards and finished with a time of 1 hour 58 minutes and 12 seconds. I had accomplished all my goals; I hadn't walked any and I had finished in under 2 hours. The course was pretty challenging, as there were a lot of hills (a few of them pretty killer), and the colder weather at first and a slight breeze (headwind) here and there also came into play but all in all I would say it went about as perfect as possible. I devoured a cookie, banana, orange, and Gatorade, and had a permanent smile on my face the rest of the day.

I had my first experience at The Mighty Cone trailer on South Congress, and then went out to Zilker Park to check out the Austin Kite Festival. I finished off the near perfect Sunday with dinner and drinks at Chuy's with my dad. It was one of the best days of my life, and most rewarding, because I had accomplish a goal that I had set out completely for myself. I was not trying to impress anyone, or make a soccer team, or win a race, I had simply set out to achieve something, done it, and the reward was the feeling it left within me. Now I can cross that off my bucket list, and have a memory to look back on forever. Next up, I have a 10k in Austin at the end of March, as well as 5 more soccer games this season as we try to move up the table in our division. Its been a very rewarding year so far in 2011, and I can't wait to see what else I will be able to accomplish. I've already read more books in the past 3 months than I did all last year, and am planning on running at least one more half-marathon before 2012. So who knows what 2012 may hold, possibly a full marathon? The possibilities are endless, because when you learn how far you can push yourself, you learn how much it takes to be able to push it even further. And I think thats what this half-marathon meant to me, a journey, a race to self-discovery.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nocturnal Festival

Labor day weekend of 2010, me and a few friends decided to make the drive out to Apache Pass Event Center outside of Rockdale, Texas which was more or less about an hour away from Austin. We had all purchased tickets for a music festival, one with a very interesting line-up and theme, and also one that in all reality we both didn't know much about, nor what to expect once we got there. The aptly named Nocturnal Festival lasted from 4pm to 4am every evening that weekend, and included such performers as Girl Talk, Bassnectar, and Rusko. We were heading out on Sunday evening to catch Lotus, Pretty Lights, and Kid Cudi. With much anticipation, excitement, and a little bit of uneasiness, we pre-gamed at my apartment in north Austin for a little bit and then left with the sunset around 8:30 to head up highway 79 to the pass. Almost immediately, we all realized we had made a very good decision.

En route, we passed Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express baseball team. They had just finished up their game that night, and apparently were treating visitors to a surprisingly good fireworks show. We managed to pull up just as it had started, so I pulled my car over the side of the road and we got a free showing to start the trip off with. It seemed like fate, as we laughed and listened to some road-trip music and drank our "to-go" drinks (sorry mom, sorry dad) and watched the display. So once it finished up we continued on our way, our spirits even higher than before at this point.

Once in Rockdale, we decided to stop at the lonely gas station in town and pick up a few more supplies (water, ice, gatorade, advil, etc). It was at this point that I noticed the first dilemma of the trip. Looking at the reflection of my car in the store's window, I noticed my front headlight was out. I instantly was a bit panicked due to the aforementioned to-go drinks and knew that an out light was just the kind of excuse the cops in these po-dunk towns of central Texas would be looking for to pull me over on a night such as this one. But, having taken defensive driving shortly after moving to Austin (due to a speeding ticket I received speeding back to Tyler to pack up and move my things to the Atx), I knew that in this situation the smart, and legal, thing to do was to simply turn on my brights and hope for the best. Turns out having somewhat low-powered lights, although a problem in certain situations, was a blessing in this one. Because we safely made it to the venue and back to my apartment again much later that night without any issues, despite passing quite a few of Texas' finest along the way. Again, this night was shaping up to be a good one.

^Kid Cudi

So finally around 10 we made it the event center, a.k.a. the farm, parked, chugged, and found our way inside. Lotus was set to take the stage around 10:30, so we grabbed a few beers and found a good place in the crowd. The festival was set up into 4 different stages, each one themed, with about 8 artists a night performing at each. Lotus put on an incredible set, complete with a great light show and killer beats, and we were buzzing like bumblebees. But as good as Lotus was, that was just the kicker, because the only reason I bought a ticket in the first place was coming on next: Kid Cudi. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd get a chance to see Kid Cudi at a festival, let alone at one this close to where I lived. So the second his name popped up on the Festival list, I instantly purchased a ticket (despite the increase in price that his name being added to the bill, added to the bill). Loving life, me and my friends all sang loudly together as we too were successfully on "the pursuit of happiness."

Kid Cudi's amazing set ended in fireworks, the only concert I've ever been to that did, and it was absolutely perfect. Pretty Lights came on after Cudi, and in retrospect I wish I would have stayed for more of that show than I did, but riding on high from Kid Cudi and general curiosity led us to venture away from the stage we were at and check out the other sights and sounds around the park. There were all kinds of lighting fixtures, some in trees, other's standing alone, and the unique array of concert attendees were a sight in themselves. It was one of the most eclectic displays of people in one place I have ever seen, with half-naked girls in body paint running past guys dressed in all black and gaudy gothic stones and belts, to your average wanna-be hipsters such as myself, and everything in between. After walking through a maze of Christmas lights complete with 3d glasses, we decided that it was getting pretty late and we should probably try to beat the rush out of the farm and head back to Austin at a somewhat decent hour (it was around 2am at this time).

^Pretty Lights

We successfully found our way back to my apartment, with me free-styling more or less the entire car ride home in order to ensure I stayed awake and coherent for the trip. Not wanting the seemingly perfect night to end, we all crammed into my hot tub once back at my apartment complex, where we had some cool stories to share with some intoxicated (even more than we were) neighbors, who's foreign accents to this day escape me as to where they were from. Finally crawling into bed around 5am, the smile I fell asleep with was one of pride, success, and contentment. We had conquered and survived Nocturnal, and come away with memories from a night that could only be described as simply perfect.

This April, Nocturnal Festival returns to the Apache Pass Event Center in Rockdale, Texas, and for 2 nights will transform peoples lives. I have not decided yet if I will be returning, as I am simply afraid to try and top such a perfect time, but I highly recommend that any and all who can attend this amazing event. My advice would be to try and find a designated driver (as you always should) since I have heard stories of people who were not as successful as we were at avoiding the 5-0. Also, bring lots of water for afterwards, which looking back on the night was the most important purchase of the evening at the gas station.

This years line up is amazing, and includes:
Above & Beyond
Big Gigantic
Crystal Castles
Ghostland Observatory
Zeds dead

Here is also a link to the trailer for this years festival, which is footage shot from last years which I just described above: