Mark's Corner


Hello! What's up blogger-nation!? You have successfully made your way to "Mark's Corner" and yes of course, I am Mark! The infamous brother mentioned numerous times throughout the year in previous blogs. Yes, I know all of you have been wondering, "who is this 'brother' we keep hearing about and why haven't we heard anything from him?" Well, unfortunately for you, and me, the time has come! How you ended up here, reading my thoughts, is really a good question, but how I made my way to the blogging world, is a completely different question that needs to be researched. Hopefully by the end of this long short read that wont take but 5 minutes of your day, you'll have a better understanding of who I am and why I do what I do!

After sitting here for about an hour thinking about how I want to start this masterpiece, I realized that I just need to start doing what I used do in school papers, which is to just start writing and deleting, writing and deleting, writing and deleting. Somewhere in all the "writing and deleting" I came out with that intro paragraph up there and realized it was just a bunch of "filler words" and fluffy sentences with no real intro into who I am. So what better place to start then here, right?! Like I mentioned above, my name is Mark and I too dabble in this crazy world of endurance. That wasn't always the tagline for who I am. Anyone who knows me or my family, you know that running for absurd distances or cycling long enough that the need to replenish the body with lost nutrients and calories in order to keep moving forward is needed, knows that that exact statement is far from who we are. We are a family born into the sport of baseball. I'm not kidding when I say that the first thing that touched my slimy body when I was born, was a nasty old Cubs hat that my dad threw from his back pocket, behind his back onto the warming tray as I was lowered down....LITERALLY BORN INTO IT!
This hat has been around!
Fast forward a few years I find myself playing collegiate baseball for Parkland College in Champaign-Urbana, right next door to the University of Illinois! Let me tell ya, those first 2 years of college were a little bit more than I was expecting aside from waking up and going to class and then having practice everyday! That was a very fun campus with Green Street just a "taxi" ride away. For
Far too many nights here.
those of you unaware of what Green Street is, it's where the scholars of U of I and Parkland joined together as one to waste away any money that they had at the campus bars! I must add, having my sisters spectathlete, Rob and his friends, still in attendance at the University made it almost damn near impossible to not find a reason to go out! But that's all besides the point!...

I played for Parkland for 2 years because it was just a junior college. Never in my life had I been on a team of that caliber before. The year I signed the contracts, Junior year in high-school, they went on to win the NJCAA Division 2 National Championship. Being a Cobra at that time was really cool.
Signing the contracts with Parkland pitching coach, DJ Throneburg
We were pre-season ranked 2nd in the Nation, and I still had never played a collegiate level baseball game! How cool is that?! Never in a million years would I have said, "yeah some day I'm going to play for one of the top baseball programs in the nation!" and we arrived to day 1 our freshman year with a pre season rank of #2 in the nation!

Many times after practices or games where we still had our Parkland Baseball gear on, some of us would be around town running errands or whatever, we would get compliments here and there from people who saw us and knew about our program. They would say compliments such as "you guys are a great ball club!" or "that team of yours is a real inspiration to the youth baseball programs in this town!" That was so cool to hear from people! Granted, none of us on that team were on the National Title team, it was still so cool to hear someone say such good things about your program.
That was the fastest year of baseball in my life. Before I could realize it, the season was over with a record of 43-11, getting knocked out of the conference tournament by Heartland Community College. The same rang true for the following year going 40-20, and again being taken out by Heartland. We did not like them very much.
I learned so much about myself as a pitcher during my time at Parkland College and met so many great and wonderful people along the way as well. That brings me to 2013, the year I go down south! I transferred to a small little school all the way on the eastern side of Tennessee.
"I'm in Tennessee, now I'm in Virginia!"
You might recognize the name of the town from the newest Geico commercial where the little gecko hops back and forth in the middle of the road over a state line. That's Bristol Tennessee, and the home of King University! That is our downtown in that commercial! Don't worry, this is where my interest for the endurance world really took shape.

Once you drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Blue Ridge Mountain Ranges, you find nestled away in the middle of an Appalachian Mountain valley, King University! The absolute second I drove into that town on my visit, I knew I was going to live there and continue my baseball career.
The year I got there was the schools first year as a "University"
Once I moved in, it did not take too long to fall in love with that place. Anyone who lives in suburbia and has never experienced the great outdoors, should take a drive down through Tennessee! You
wont regret it! The backdrop of our baseball field at King is the Appalachian Mountain Range and it seriously was so hard having to go to practice every day to see that, because all it made me want to do was hop in the car and go get lost up on the Appalachian Trail!
Showing my sister part of the Appalachian Trail
Whenever I had free time, I would go up to the famous trail and hike it, a little bit at a time, going a little further each time until I got to the point where I would go out and hike for hours and not realize it until the sun had gone down.

Being in Tennessee turned me from a "city boy" into an outdoorsman! I even taught myself how to fly fish along the South Holston River just like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. I suggest you check out that movie because its a great visual representation of a similarity of how people live their lives in Bristol, even though the movie is set in Missoula Montana, a bucket list destination I want to visit some day!
Fly fishing is hard. Very hard.
One wintery morning, we were getting hammered with a snow storm, my teammate Al calls me up and says "Hodes, what are you doin man, school and baseball is cancelled, get your shit together and
meet me at my house, were gonna go catch us some trout at the river." I thought he was joking because I couldn't see the house across the street from me because of the snow barreling down. Sure enough, he wasn't kidding. He made me put on his old waders and said "Dress warm!" 30 minutes later I find myself waste deep in the middle of the rushing, freezing South Holston River trying to throw my line! Lets just say that wasn't my best day fishing because I spent more time trying to untangle my line than actually fly fishing. But Al did great! He caught a few great looking rainbow trout! After a couple hours in that blizzard IN the river, I felt like I did enough outdoorsman activities for the day and retired back to my warm apartment.
King University, shortly after that snow storm.
The summer leading up to attending King, I had just gotten into cycling. And the interest came from watching so many of the Ironman World Championship broadcasts on YouTube. Watching those videos I remember I was completely amazed at what these athletes were putting their bodies through. I certainly thought there would never be a chance in hell someone like me with no desire ever to run more than a mile would ever be able to do what they were doing. But I wanted to do it so bad!!!! It became an obsession of mine of watching and learning all about these athletes:

Craig Alexander (Crowie)
2009 Ironman World Champion
Chris McCormack (MACCA)
2010 Ironman World Champion
Chrissie Wellington
2011 Ironman World Champion
Mirinda Carfrae
2010 Ironman World Champion
And those were just few of the big name athletes! I was absolutely astonished to see how far and hard these people would be pushing themselves, that it kept drawing me in deeper, reading this article and then watching that documentary. It was so much of an obsession that I found a bike on Craigslist that I would end up buying. I'll warn you, this was no high-tech, top-end bike! It was a 1990's all aluminum Downtube Shifting Trek Road Bike. Black. I named it Juan. It rolled off my tongue perfectly when I first came up with the name.
Everybody, meet Juan.
Not knowing it, this was the first step into the triathlon world, but for me I just wanted a bike to ride. The most interesting part of the triathlon to me when I first started watching those videos was the cycling portion. I would watch Crowie and Chrissie Wellington completely dominate the field in any race they entered, on the bike. I thought to myself, "I wanna do that." So I just started to ride. Every day it seemed like. Before summer baseball games when I knew I'd be pitching even! I didn't care!

Fast forward back to being in Bristol. What I haven't told you yet is how much I cycled there. Any spare time I had, I would be out riding through the mountains and along the river. I truly learned how to be a really good cyclist out there. Sure enough I became friends with the whole cycling team at King.
This is Felipe
They would invite me out on their team training rides with them and I'd do my best to pick each of their brains to figure out how to get better on the bike. They would show me routes I never had been before even in a car! And they were beautiful routes taking me through small rolling roads to monstrous winding mountain climbs. And oh my god were they fast!!! Easily they would sit at 26-28mph just to get loose, while I was far behind trying to catch up closer to 22mph going all out! Those guys sure had fun kicking my ass out on those roads, but I got better by riding with them.

During the summer before my 2nd year at King, I bought a newer road bike. It was a Cannondale Synapse Road Bike. Its' name is Felipe. I needed to upgrade my "cycling situation" from my trusty compadre, Juan.

By my 3rd year at King, I had made the big purchase and bought myself a triathlon bike. And it wasn't off of Craigslist this time. It's a white framed Cervelo P2 with blue writing on it! Gorgeous bike and perfect for my skillset. I named it Ali'i. This time around, the name has a meaning.
Ali'i is the name of the road athletes turn onto for the final stretch of the Ironman World Championship in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. It can be described as the best place on the planet with so much magic. It's the finish line of Ironman Kona on Ali'i Drive.
Ali'i up on top of the South Holston Dam
A lot of people always ask my sister and I why we do this sport or how we could possibly put ourselves through so much pain. The answer is simple. That pain will go away, but no one can ever take away your title of an Ironman. And I think that's pretty damn cool.
"Anything Is Possible"

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