Monday, September 29, 2014

M-Cubed for 9.29.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for September Twenty-Ninth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Hi again, friends. I haven't written much since my last M-Cubed on August 18th. So much has gone by that would easily fill several chapters of my upcoming autobiography. By "upcoming," I mean just a thought and not for real. Today, I thought I'd just skim the surface a bit and catch up.

RIP LTjg Steve Byus
- I don't mean to hit you with a somber note or notes up front but best to start here instead of end here. However, if nothing else, I've been reminded as of late of how precious every breath is and how our ticket can get punched at any time and without any warning. I lost a friend in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber a few weeks ago. He was almost a carbon copy of me...about the same age, married, two young children, a Navy supply corps officer. He had just celebrated his wedding anniversary the day before his death by the Taliban. RIP, will never be forgotten. Also, the pastor's wife from our last church passed away suddenly in her sleep. She was an amazing woman and will be deeply missed by many. Here is her tribute and obituary. The photo contained is actually a photo I took of their family during a cold amateur photo shoot at their home. There are also countless reminders in the news of tragic deaths that were not planned for. I wrote the following post on Facebook in reflection of this: "In the past several months, I have known people who were simply walking to their car at work and been struck down and killed...another 40+ years married couple where they went to bed as normally but she never woke...another man who had fought drug addiction and collapsed on the job and never rose again...then a friend..a fellow dad, husband, and Navy Supply Corps officer who made his third trip to Afghanistan just last month with plans to be home by Thanksgiving...the Taliban killed him via suicide bomber that shook two blocks in every direction..and today his community is pouring out the love in red, white and blue in amazing ways...and how about Robin Williams? A spotlight on a sickness that is all too common all around us. I think about the clothes hanging in the closets never to be worn again...the kids never to feel the embrace of their father again...the empty side of the bed...the empty chair at the dinner table...and I imagine if that heartbeat ended was mine. Had I hugged my kids enough or the last time I said goodbye? Did I kiss my bride goodbye...or goodnight? How will I be remembered? What will be my legacy? Did I love selflessly or did I lead a life for myself alone? Who will walk my girls down the aisle? Some say "Life is short, play hard." I say "Life can end in a hard and live intentionally." No hearse will ever be pulling a U-Haul to the entered this world with nothing and as such you will leave it. Live intentionally NOW and for those around you. Believe it or not, the pursuit of serving others vs. yourself reaps far more happYness than any amount of possessions and self-service ever will. So kiss him/her/them goodnight tonight and every time you walk out the door...and enter it. You nor anyone else knows what the next moment holds."

- A few days back, I rolled right on past Day 100 in my running streak. The last time I wrote I hit day 60. In those 40 days I got my 31st ultra marathon finish and one of my fastest at the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K (race report here) and just two days ago ran another Akron Half Marathon with my wife. It was a day more about spending time with her, encouraging her, and crossing the finish line hand-in-hand vs. racing. Literally...we crossed the line in Canal Park holding hands in the air. It was her 2nd fastest half marathon out of her 15 finishes and another awesome race day put on by the organizers. Such a top notch event! Other than that, not much else to report. Not many photos, either, as so many of my runs are pre-dawn with us losing more and more daylight with each passing day. I did, however, run at sunrise yesterday and grabbed this sunrise photo over the pond at my local park. Gorgeous!

- Happy National Coffee Day!!! Didn't know, did you? Now you do! I already enjoyed my morning Lavazza espresso with maple syrup but surely, a stop by Bent Tree Coffee Roasters in Kent is on tap for my morning drive.

- I may have to write up a post all its own on this but two weeks ago, my bride and I escaped to southwest NY for a two-day mini-vacation. To sum it up in a few words, we began the trip at Peek-n-Peak Ski Resort where we spent 3+ hours in the woods on an aerial adventure course. Harnessed in, we tested our high-up balance and zip-lined/climbed/crawled between tree platforms. We ended up in Lakewood, NY in a 10,000 square foot castle-like bed-n-breakfast where we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast and the Southern Tier Brewing Company a short 4 miles away. A totally off-the-hook fantastic weekend and one we'll have to replicate again in the future (minus the aerial course...per my wife!).

- Are you an Apple junkie? I guess I kinda am. I got my iPhone 6 on release day and am loving it so far. I took the advice I heard from a morning-show personality on 95.5 FM The Fish and used to trade in my old iPhone 5. It was a super easy transaction and already got paid $165 for it. We're also fans of turning our old devices into iPods for our kids but they're still using an old iPhone 4 and 4S so no need this time around. If you're also upgrading, definitely check out Gazelle. They'll even ship you the box at no charge to return your device. It's truly a seamless process.

A lot of the KM100 in Wisconsin
- Running Forecast: I keep tossing around ideas for 2015. For 2014, though, besides continuing my streak and blowing my annual mileage out of the water by a LOT, I won't be racing much. I just registered for the Berlin Amish Country Half Marathon on the last Saturday of November which is probably the hardest half marathon I've ever seen. Insane repetitive miles through the heart of beautiful Amish country...even a block of cheese as a finishers' award! A month prior...actually less than 4 weeks from now will be my second longest race of the year, the Run with Scissors Double Marathon on October 26th. All on trails, it'll be my replacement for a previously planned 50 miler in northern Maryland I had planned on doing in November. Other than those races, not much else! For 2015, I'm still thinking heavily on a return to the 100 miler in a few different ways. Kettle Moraine in June is at the top of my list but first a trip to the Bull Run Run 50 miler in April. I'm also considering my first 24 hour race at the Northcoast 24 Hour race in Cleveland in September. Basically, I'd turn into a hamster on a wheel on a flat 0.9 mile loop for 24 hours adjacent to Lake Erie, with the goal of hitting 100 miles. So for 2015, that's just a few thoughts...of course, it'll all begin in under 96 hours past New Year's at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K in WV.

- Yesterday, I read this blog post. It was penned by a blogger who asked her husband to post it after her death. She was 36 and diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer. Wow. It's an amazing post and so powerful and spot on. I strongly encourage you to read it and then follow the link at the bottom for her husband's response and tribute back to her. "Rest in peace, Charley!"

- I almost forgot. I am running a 5K trail race to help raise money for children in El Salvador. You can run or walk inside this beautiful park on October 11th for a great cause, too. Here's the page to check out and maybe even consider joining me on the trails that day.

- Any chance you may know someone or a company that would consider sponsoring a local marathon that provides free entry to veterans? $5000 is needed to help offset the cost of providing this benefit at this marathon. I can provide the full details and contact information of the race director. Simply shoot me an e-mail and I'll connect you. It's not some small, tiny race, either. It's a major event with huge name recognition across the country. Please consider or pass on this info to someone who may be able/interested. Thanks!

- To close, a dose of encouragement for you in the quote below. Let it soak in! Have a great week, everyone!

"Everything we do is a choice—every action, every thought, every feeling. We choose every day whether to feel apathetic or passionate, lazy or inspired, and the easy choice is often not the one that is best for us. Denial is easy. Inaction is easy. Selfishness, excuses, and indifference are easy. Honesty, positivity, and action, on the other hand, take bravery."

-Ben Davis, Do Life: The Creator of "My 120-Pound Journey" Shows How to Run Better, Go Farther, and Find Happiness

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: 2014 YUT-C 50K

There are a few "old school" ultra marathons left in the area and this is assuredly one of them. Dubbed the YUT-C 50K, it stands for the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K (and 25K, too). YUT-C is the main event for NEO Trail Club and often serves as a gathering of the club members and lots of newbies this time every September. This year was no different but was also the 10th anniversary of the event. Three runners finished YUT-C yesterday for 10th time and all wore the #10. "Well done, Dave Peterman, Ron Ross, and TJ Hawk! LEGACY runners!"

In my own personal opinion, the course at YUT-C is one of the most technical, rocky, rooty AND beautiful in all of northeast Ohio. Pick your season and it never disappoints. From the fall colors coming up to the twice-the-size-of-humans icicles near the Mill in the winter, it's always beautiful. The YUT-C course circumnavigates 3 different lakes in their entirety multiple times and within those or dividing them are manmade waterfalls from the dams. In between, the stream twists and turns, is full of light rapids and wildlife, and is simply always beautiful to look at. The best way to understand the course and trails at Mill Creek Park is to imagine a figure 8. Starting from the bottom of the 8, runners begin at the Old Log Cabin. Following the 8 clockwise as if writing the 8, runners pass the Covered Bridge at the center of the 8 and the first aid station. They continue on the 8 around the top right which takes them around Lake Newport. They do this loop (top of the 8) twice before finishing up the 8 by heading back to the Old Log Cabin. At this point, the 25K runners are finished. The 50K runners continue on and do the lower/fat part of the 8 twice more before finishing at the Cabin. Smooth trail under pines, running atop pointy rocks, climbing the infamous Monkey Hills (since our knuckles nearly drag in the dirt due to the angle of the climbs), running along a boardwalk path en route to the Covered Bridge and even a little bit of asphalt on the east side of Lake Newport, this course has it all.
Lake Newport during the road section
I hadn't raced since the Highlands Sky 40 Miler back on Father's Day weekend and on purpose. I had one or two others to do but never registered. Instead, I just laid low and enjoyed daily running. Totally needed that refresher! I've been streaking since June 19th and this was Day 87 of no days off. My monthly average, as well, for 2014 is also way ahead of any other year...but I feel as strong as ever. Entering the race yesterday, I had no real plan but nutrition. I mimicked everything I've done the past few races by drinking nothing but Hammer Nutrition's Heed (when available), an Endurolyte Extreme once per hour and a Hammer Gel once per hour. I did have a few Pringles during the race and a few potatoes but that's about it. This not only fuels me with only what I truly need but makes my aid station stops 30sec to 1min...always affording me the chance to pass several runners and be efficient about my stop. As for the pace, I decided simply to go with it. I know I should start slow and maintain to the end. I sorta kinda DEFINITELY DID NOT do that yesterday! BUT, I had a blast for every step and regret none of it.

Unlike many races, I didn't chat much and spent most of the race by myself and in silence. That was totally ok but I did take any opportunity presented to meet new runners or catch up with ones I hadn't seen in far too long. Back to that pace: I knew I was in over my head when I passed a few people I shouldn't. I knew that I'd eventually see them again but that was ok. I was running strong, breathing very easily (often with mouth closed...that's a good gut check for me), and nothing was difficult. I finished up the 25K back at the Old Log Cabin and there it was...confirmation: "2hrs, 32min" read the race clock. NO WAY I'm a 5hr 50K runner...especially on this course and with two more lower laps to run. Still, I was doing well and hadn't slowed...yet. I refilled my bottle, grabbed some baby mandarin oranges (chock full of potassium to ward off future cramping) and got started on the next 25K. About halfway to the Covered Bridge, I got passed by those mentioned expected. I shouted some one-way encouragement and was pleased to see them doing well. So if I was able to maintain the pace, another loop would yield me 3:48 or so back at the Old Log Cabin. As expected, I rolled into a nice comfy pace and got back there at I slowed by 16min on that lap. Should I be able to maintain that pace, I'd have myself a 5:36 finish and a course PR.

The last loop was pretty uneventful and I just cruised along and chatted with a few friends and even made a few friends, too. Spurts came and went and I took them as they presented themselves. Within the last mile, a fellow 50K'er, Roger Walker, passed me. I was right with him in the early miles but hadn't seen him in quite awhile.  I stayed with him and learned today was going to be a new 50K PR for him and he was feeling great. (inset photo here is us in the early courtesy of Jeff Musick.) We ran to the finish together and finished 15th and 16th overall in 5:40:52. So yea...if you look at the paragraph above, I "almost" ran an even split that last loop but lost 4 minutes. Too much chatting at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, I'd say! :)

Overall, I am very happy with my result. The 5:40 finish was a 15min PR on the YUT-C course and easily one of my faster 22 50K finishes. Most YUT-C finishes have me about an hour slower. For the whole field of finishers, the results show that 76 of 89 starters finished the 50K. That's an 85.4% finishing rate. I am listed as the 16th finisher. Not too shabby! :)

Post race, some veggie lasagna, pizza, a birthday cake for the race director "Slim" and plenty of friends to catch up with. At YUT-C, some folks just pack up and get on with their day yet others will just linger to watch other ultra runners finish and/or chat it up with fellow runners and NEO Trail Club members. I really appreciated the time I got to just chill out and hang out. As swag for the race, we got one of the best tech tees I've ever had and designed by none other than Slim's wife, Beth. Excellent design! (the print is the first image at the top of this post) At the finish, all finishers received the YUT-C oval sticker as well as a one-of-a-kind unique finisher's award...a green, aluminum bottle open with YUT-C printed on it. Sweet! There's no NEO Trail folk love great craft brew!

Jim "Slim" Harris (race director), me, and Kim "Kimba" Love-Ottobre at the finish.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Musick
Overall takeaway: I continue to love YUT-C and hold it high in my arsenal of must-do races and one that holds true to what ultra running and trail running is all about: camaraderie, giving back to the parks we run in, and taking care of the runners. The volunteers were top notch (and provided the necessary kick down the trail as needed), aid station food was perfect, the course was marked better than any other year I've run it, and the trail...well, it's everything plus some. Is it easy? Not at all. No one ever said it was! It is rewarding, though. There is not a section that really challenges you where you don't get rewarded soon thereafter. It's just how the trail takes a little from you then gives you more back in spades. Just you/me, the trail, and the journey towards the finish line.

A few random photos from the trail below:

Lanterman's Mill

Monkey Hills!

Yinzer Covered Bridge

Closing in on the Covered Bridge after finishing the Monkey Hills

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Taking a Break

Hey friends. I'm going to take a writing break for awhile publicly. However, I'll still be posting to my Instagram, Twitter feed, and public Facebook page if you want to stay in touch. Of course, my running log and streak are alive and well and will continue driving forward. All the best and have a great Fall! Below...a photo from the 22nd mile of the Akron Marathon from yesterday's training run on the "Blue Line"...we knocked out a 22 miler. :) Get out there and Run Happy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

M-Cubed for 8.18.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for August Eighteenth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Fair Week! In my neck of the woods, it's all about 4-H clubs, demolition derbies, truck pulls, livestock sales, "carnies," sausage sandwiches, and for me, my annual Amish-style funnel cake. One year several years ago, they tried to start the school year prior to the fair. That didn't go over too well! Two days after the fair ends, school starts. The fair, for us, is one of those timeless things. You can basically time warp back to high school, sans the 80s big hair, acid washed jeans, and pegged up pants. Always a great time!

- Here in just under 4 weeks is the 10th annual YUT-C 50K and 25K. (read: Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic) It's held in Youngstown, OH on the trails of Mill Creek Park that is sandwiched between Youngstown and Boardman. I was actually born in Youngstown and went to school in Boardman through the 5th grade. This past Saturday was the annual familiarization run. We had a handful of runners (pictured here at the Old Log Cabin) show up for the late 9am start and all enjoyed a dry, fun, sunny 11.5 miles on the course. For a few, it was their first time at Mill Creek. If you're looking for a 50K, I encourage you to come on out! The 25K is already sold out.

- Before YUT-C, though, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are coming to town! In only two weeks, they will be thundering across the Cleveland sky and if someone is dozing off at their downtown desk, they'll be woke up quite often. One cool part of my current gig is being involved with the big weekend over Labor Day. A week from today, in fact, one of the Blue Angels will be flying into town for one more big meeting with the powers-that-be and I'll be there. I drive my white 4-door sedan to work, he flies his Blue Angel. Tough gig!

- In downtown Akron is the Child Guidance and Family Solutions building at the corner of Forge St. and Market. They provide behavioral health treatment to over 4000 adults and 1000 children every year. As a part of their fundraising efforts, they began a "Food Truck Friday" in their parking lot this year that begins at 11am and ends at 1:30pm. This year's "season" ends on September 12th so you still have a few weeks to make it out. Here was the scene on Friday during my first visit. There is a very wide selection so anyone will find something they like. Head on out and enjoy!

- It is the halfway point of August (or just over, actually) so it's good to check in on the running log. As of last night's humid, thick 80F just-prior-to-sunset-hilly-country-8.2-miler, I stand at just under 123 miles for August. While it "feels" like I haven't been running much, I'm right on track for another 200 or more mile month. Bazinga! Along with last night's run, I got home and while logging my run, I had the pleasant surprise of realizing I racked up running streak day #60! Little landmarks certainly put a grin on my face. Here was a little collage I whipped together post-run. I really like the corn photo at the bottom. That was from the run, too...not a stock photo or a photo from another day. The corn is so prevalent right now that it's aroma fills the air. I love it, actually.
- Happiness. Or Happyness, if you've seen the Will Smith movie. Ever think "If I only lived in "xyz," then I'd be happier or happy, period? I know I have and we have. Heck, it's been a conversation that repeats itself annually in the middle of the harsh winter we seem to always get here in NE Ohio. Lately, though, I have come to accept and believe that while living in other parts of the country sounds very appealing (and may very well be), that in itself will not make me happy or assure me of such joy that I should pack it all up, including my family, and head on down, over, or up there. Strip everything away and what truly matters is __________. (fill in the blank) What is it for you? Empty your house, lose your job, send the majority of your friends away...and what matters? For me, it's my bride and the fun, joyful times we spend together. It may be laughing, snuggling, going on a walk, or just watching a movie together on the couch. I say all of this because it's important to ground ourselves often when we get so wrapped up in the day to day grind of life. As our schedules fill or remain full, how are we/you allocating time to what matters most? That answer should reset your life and schedule if you're truly honest with yourself. Anyway, those are some deep thoughts for you as you begin this week.

- Speaking of quality time, this past Saturday was an event dubbed "Rootsfest" at the local winery in my hometown. If you would've told me there would be a winery in my little country hometown even 10 years ago, I would've never believed it. Turns out, it's one of our favorites and a few times a year, I'll run by their vineyard and run through the rows of vines. At the event, it was filled with local craft artisans, live music, and vino! After a morning for me on the trails, we sectioned off some early evening time alone and headed on over to Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard. It was so perfect. After checking out the vendors, we ordered up a great meat, cheese and cracker plate and enjoyed our favorite bottle of Mahoning River Red. We are fans of sweet to semi-sweet reds so this hit the spot. The music was great, too, as was my "company." We have a tradition, you see. Instead of just "drinking," we savor each sip via toast. No toast, no sip. Some days, we'll have a theme like "something we're thankful for." If you want to really encourage quality communication and hear each other's heart on a variety of things, get away with him or her and do this. Take your time. It simply ranks so high up there for "quality time" with my bride, I can't quite give it the praise it's due. Below are two of our spread and the other, of vines right next to our car where we parked (in the vineyard.) I had never actually seen bunches of grapes ON the vine IN a vineyard before! So awesome!

- As I wrap up this week's M-Cubed, I'd like to share this quote. While it does appear "running centric" at first, it applies to so many things we all do in life, regardless of the subject matter. A life of comparison can be a wrecking ball to your motivation and purpose for anything. Be YOU. Don't compare. Set goals. Achieve. For you...not them.

"Don't compare yourself with anyone else. The world is full of runners, so you'll probably see one every time you circle the block or your favorite park. Some will be thinner than you, some smoother-striding, some faster. But don't let this get you down. There's only one runner who really counts: you. Running is your activity. Make it work for you, and don't worry about anyone else."

-Amby Burfoot, Runner's World Complete Book of Beginning Running

Have a great week, everyone! Time to run! :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

M-Cubed for 8.11.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for August Eleventh, Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Summer's over!!! Ok, ok...not so fast, but 'tis the time for Back-to-School shopping, late county fairs, welcome back events at local colleges, and school sport and band practices each morning. For us, we still have a few more weeks but it's been a great summer. Our girls just finished their annual overnight camp at Camp Carl in southern Portage County and loved it again. Make the best of it!

- While our girls were at the aforementioned camp, we decided to capitalize on the opportunity for a getaway...just us. At nearly 22 years in of marriage, we still love to get away with each other. The stress and anxiety slips away, we laugh, we sleep in, we walk a lot and talk...and enjoy the silence, and simply love loving each other alone. For the past week, we took about a 7 1/2 hour jaunt east to the beach but for many people, not a beach known by the masses. We went to Rehoboth Beach in southern Delaware. Essentially, if you draw a diagonal line pointing southeast between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, that's the way...on I-70. "How did you come up with that idea?" you might ask. Well, as many know, I'm a bit of a craft beer snob and we were watching TLC's "Brewmasters" on Netflix many months ago where they followed the owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery around. Well, their original brewpub is in Rehoboth Beach and their full production brewery is a short 25min drive into the country in Milton, DE. Bingo! Beach, craft beer, a new state, exploration...perfect for us. I could write a book on the week but let me just give you some bullet points and share a few photos. Otherwise, I'll type all day and not get anything done! Photos at the end but be sure to scroll on past those for more M-Cubed!

  • We stayed at the Royal Rose stinkin' block from the boardwalk and Atlantic Ocean. We found it highly rated on TripAdvisor and would absolutely go back. We especially enjoyed the homemade breakfast each morning by Andy and sitting on the front porch at night, enjoying the evening breeze and meeting/talking with other guests at the Inn.
  • Rehoboth Beach is definitely tourist heavy but it doesn't spread for blocks and blocks in every direction like Virginia Beach, for example. Essentially, tourists and their families (insert CRAZY here) stick heavily to Rehoboth Avenue where the bulk of shops are and the super wide boardwalk that is exactly 1 mile long. The beach was packed in that area but if you went left or right of it, it was uncrowded and awesome. (photo under bullets of a typical evening on the boardwalk)
  • We stayed a 10min walk from the Dogfish Head Brewpub. In a word...pure awesomeness. OK, that's two words...but seriously, we went twice.
  • Thrasher's homemade They are a staple in the area...since 1929. Again, I ate twice from there...a medium $7 bucket of french fries. Crispy, full of Idaho potato flavor...just amazing. Cooked in peanut oil, too. I rationalized that I was eating a healthy snack...peanut oil is good + vegetables...right!? (I would eat another bucket this moment if you placed them in front of me.) Find them a few places along the boardwalk.
  • Brewery Tour...go. They all fill up on every day and are offered several times a day. Free, too. Get there early and sign up and enjoy four free tastings in their tasting room. Hungry? They have "Paul Bunyan's Lunchbox" that is essentially a miniature food truck set up adjacent to the tasting room. Think brats meet Dogfish Head beer...with lots of creativity thrown in. All the details at
  • The surrounding areas of the tourist trap area are beautiful. Just start walking and enjoy. Established, beautiful neighborhoods from small, seaside cottages to sprawling mansions. Well kept, safe, tons of color and foliage, and the ocean breeze blowing through the town. If you go to Rehoboth and only stay in the tourist trap, you're robbing yourself.
  • If you're afraid of heights, hold your breath crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on your way into Delaware or out. Wowsers....two hands on the wheel and look straight ahead!
  • Plenty of running options...AND they have a marathon and half marathon in early December...about 2400 people run it according to the local running store we visited. I especially enjoyed running in Henlopen State Park along the water at below.

The ridiculously hopped and rare 120min IPA. Wow. First time ever!

Me in front of the metal treehouse at Dogfish Head. If you've watched Brewmasters, you've seen the episode when this was assembled. Pretty cool!

The BEST tap line on the planet! Love the tap handles, the brews...all of it. They were offering one through their Randall this day, too...that's the Randall at the bottom left. My favorites on the board? The ancient ale "Kvasir," Burton Baton (Imperial IPA), 90min IPA, Saison Du Buff (brought some home! 3-way collaboration brew), Chicory Stout (like chocolate and coffee? LOVED it) and last but not least, the 120min IPA. See that ABV? the chart crazy and good.

Sunrise Run on Day exploration day

Looks silky and creamy, right? It is...this is their rare 75min IPA but from the cask. No carbonation or nitrogen. Simply gravity poured (or pumped) from the cask. Enjoyed at the original brewpub in Rehoboth.

Visit #2 for the tour. The "lunchbox" is at the far right.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that continues to inspire everything they do.  In summary, they came up with the quote "Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People". And they are...totally thinking outside the box in all they do.

As part of the tour, we visited their brand new "warehouse" where the new bottling line is and saw this. Thousands of bottles of "Punkin" waiting for the Fall season to arrive. Wow! September 2014 release!

This was our sunrise run. My wife ran her 13th consecutive month of a half marathon per month. This was around mile 5 or 6 of it within Henlopen State Park. The photo doesn't do it justice.

A typical evening in the tourist-trap section of the boardwalk.

- OK, so this is more of a beach vacation post, rather than a M-Cubed post...but in keeping with history, just a few more smatterings, ok? OK.

- A friend of mine who has been running for a few years now and has shed a whopping 80 pounds in the process joined me for 19.1 miles on Saturday. He had no familiarization with Kent at all and since he's in the peak of training for his 2nd marathon, I offered to run with him and lead the way. Totally unplanned route but awesome all the same. We ran along the Cuyahoga River for miles, hit up Towner's Woods park for some trails, just barely touched the Kent State campus, and wrapped up with some downtown Kent and a stroll through the Haymaker Farmer's Market as they were setting up. Great, cool morning sunny run! We cooled down with a walk up to Tree City Coffee before getting on with our day. "Great job, Jarod!!" (He also became a believer in Hammer's beans!)

- Do you follow Humans of New York on Facebook? If not, it's basically a photographer on the streets of NYC who photographs just about anyone and asks them or two questions that he posts with the photo. Candid and unfiltered, his page has garnered over 8.9 million followers. Well, he is currently on a 50 day trip around the world and is currently posting photos and brief conversations with the people of Iraq. As you know, Iraq is back in the news and we just began air strikes once again. I highly, highly recommend you "like" their page and read/view some. It will change your perspective on the people of Iraq and give yourself some perspective...unlike what you'll get in the mainstream news. Check it out here!

- That's more than enough to get you through your Monday morning java. Before I leave you, though, I'd like to share a "poem" that just kinda fell out of my skull Friday morning. The back-story is this, though: I wanted to run in the ocean before we left the beach but we had to be on the road quite early. To keep my running streak alive, I planned to get just a mile or two before dawn. I was out the door before 5am, running in nothing but a pair of shorts down the asphalt Baltimore, heading to the crashing waves on the oceanfront. I "penned" the following immediately following my short 2.4 mile barefoot run. Have a great week!

The last day awoke me
Dark sky, faint stars
The sleeping seaside resort town
Slept, streets quiet and dimly lit

Before I leave, though
I had but one wish
To run in the ocean
To smell the ocean mist

A pair of shorts, a key to the room
Barefoot on asphalt, eyes ahead to the water
Toes dug deep into the sand
The boardwalk behind me

The tide is high
Waves are crashing strong
Difficult to see, just an outline of wet sand
Splashing began

Eyes open, eyes shut
Run towards the water, escape a crashing wave
Shorts getting wet, legs covered in sand
THIS is peace, this is shelter from the storm

I find my mind wandering
In thankfulness, humility, and quiet
A special run, the ability to run
Each step sinking into the wet sand

The stars are dim above
Barely visible with the tourist lights of the boardwalk
This is soon going to end, to the ocean I will say Goodbye
Thankful to run, thankful for the ocean breeze, no chains holding me down

Eyes open, eyes shut
Ahh, the aroma and sound of the ocean
Beneath my feet, the crashing waves and suds of the surf
I'll miss you, mighty Atlantic, don't let me forget this

Return to ashalt, sand falling off my toes
A sleeping town, reality sleeps
Thankful, I am...full I have become
Good morning. No...perfect morning. Rise and Shine.

Monday, August 4, 2014

M-Cubed for 8.4.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for August Fourth, Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Yesterday was the conclusion of the this year's installment of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. Thanks to the new Timehop app on my iPhone, I've been reminded about it consistently for the past 4 or 5 days. While I may not be a part of the event anymore, it is still a fantastic race that represents our entire area well. The logistics and level of volunteers it takes to put on a 100-mile event that begins east of Cleveland and ends far south in Cuyahoga Falls is mind-boggling. From everything I've seen online, it went off very well and while I know few of the participants anymore, many got their 100 mile buckle or killed the course as part of a relay team. Well done to you if you were one of them!

- If you missed it, I wrapped up July back on Thursday here. Hit the goal, passed the goal, and set a new lifetime one month mileage record. Kept the streak alive, too. Also mentioned my new plans for 2015 and my return to the 100 mile race distance. It's finally time to "buckle" up again...or in this case, "kettle." Here my month-in-review.

- Sunday night (last night)...8-10pm...NPR was exactly what I needed. The strings, the ivory...magical.

- Been pretty quiet so far for August in the mileage category. I'm still logging daily miles and haven't gone over 10 miles in over a week. Just running what I feel like running and cruising along. On Saturday, I took my nearly 3 year old dog to Kent, OH for a run along the Cuyahoga River, through the Farmer's Market, and enjoyed an awesome pork burrito from my favorite burrito shop...Taco Tonto's. Bristol did really well over our 6 miles but wow, she was pooped at the end. I treated her to a bowl of water and some of her homemade peanut butter and oatmeal dog treats. Here is our own personal selfie with our paws in the Cuyahoga River.

- I'm a poor poor reader. My oldest daughter can read a 2" thick novel in a few days. I can't get through a chapter of hardly any book and tell you what I read. (there are a few exceptions, of course..just a few) One thing I know I need to be reading more of is my Bible. I know it. Otherwise, I'm just like every other person out there who calls them self a Christian yet doesn't get in the Word. Luckily, in the world of smart phones, we have apps and I have the YouBible app that'll read it to you, with character and not boring. Any version, too. So about a week ago, I just felt like the book of Acts was a book I should read (oops, I mean listen to). I must say...I "hear" much more of it and retain it much better when I listen to it as I run. I do know that many who read here don't believe as I do but I ask even you to give me some latitude here just to share a passage that stuck with me. First, let me just say that I pray...a LOT. I pray for direction, I pray that MY will be HIS will and that my decisions are not my own. I pray for protection over myself, my family, my home...and protection from the unseen and evil that lurks....and is so very real. Those are (without details) things I pray for daily...often multiple times and often while I run...and then I listen. With that being said, I was listening in Acts 5 near the end. The Apostles are preaching and teaching and have come before the leaders who want them killed because of it. A man, a teacher, well respected and liked came before them and told the story of those who have opposed the Apostles prior and their fate.

Acts 5:38-39 (NIV) reads: "Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." 

I find reassurance from these two verses. If I make them my own, they would read: "...for if MY purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, I will be not be able to be stopped and those who try to stop me (human or the spiritual realm) will only find themselves fighting against God." Bottom Line: If I keep my eyes focused on Him, follow Him, then I will not fail in His eyes. He will be glorified. It may be a rocky, painful road...but ultimately in the end, I will not fail to the One who matters most.

- This past week, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels announced their 2015 team. From demonstration pilots to the crew to the doc to the supply officer, it's quite a career milestone to be selected to be on the Team. The highlight of the announcement was the first-ever woman to serve as a Blue Angel pilot. Marine Capt. Katie Higgins, a 2008 U.S. Naval Academy graduate was picked for the 2015 Team. Other women have served with the Angels but none as one of the aviators. Here is the story if you'd like to learn a little more about Capt. Higgins and her background. For those of you local to NE Ohio, the Angels are coming to Cleveland over Labor Day weekend! I'm actually meeting one at the last organizational planning meeting the Monday prior when he flies into town.

- I take photos on almost every run I do. While running along the Cuyahoga River on Saturday, these little nickel-sized "weeds" along the trail stopped me in my tracks. I really love how it came out, especially since I took it with nothing but my iPhone...quickly as the sweat was dripping. I just love the color, angles, and perfection of this "weed" and "flower."

- Thanks to NPR, I ran across this video from 2013 a few days ago. It was filmed at a TED event in Canada last year and in a short 6 minutes, Drew Dudley brings it home. It's titled "Everyday Leadership" and the article by NPR posted has the headline "Have You Changed Someone's Life Without Realizing It?" It is really good and I highly recommend the watch/listen. If you don't have time now, come on back later and give it a listen. (We never know the kind of impact we might/can have!)

- Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. "Uh's comes the marriage/relationship advice!" Actually, that is the title of this article I read this past week. If you are the kind that never clicks on my links, let me just include the bullet points...the top 5 secrets for him and her.

Guys first. When it comes to your wife, here are the five things that make her happy.
  1. Take her by the hand.
  2. Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  3. Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee when you're sitting next to her (especially when you're in public).
  4. Sincerely tell her she's beautiful.
  5. Pull yourself out of a funk.
That’s it. Believe it or not, when Shaunti asked wives, between 72-82 percent said these five actions deeply pleased them. That's not just the happy wives, but all wives. Even two-thirds of the wives in struggling marriages strongly agreed these are the things that make her happy.

And now, here are the five things Shaunti found that please husbands the most:
  1. Notice his effort and sincerely thanks him for it.
  2. Say, "You did a great job at __________."
  3. Mention in front of others something he did well.
  4. Show him that you desire him sexually, and he pleases you sexually.
  5. Make it clear to him that he makes you happy.
As you know, wives, men are often pretty simple and aren’t too hard to please. Just do a couple of things. Oh, if you’re thinking that #4 is the most important thing on a guy’s list, think again. It’s #5. Almost 90 percent of men said knowing that they make their wife highly happy is what makes them highly happy.

So go ahead...try a few...or heck, try just ONE for starters! :)

- As I close out today's M-Cubed and get this week moving, I ran across this great Top 10 List: "10 Great Pinterest Quotes for Ultra Runners." Among them, the one below is one of my favorites but honestly, they are all really good (and true).

Have a great week, everyone, and keep "Running Happy" and "Hammer On!"

August 1st Sunrise over the cornfield #fromtherun

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Month in Review: July 2014

On one hand, it was a quiet month with no racing, no bib numbers pinned on, and no finish lines...official ones, that is. On another hand, it was an epic month for me. Over the past few months, I have been trying to get my monthly average to equate to 200 miles per month for 2014. To even the log, this month would've required 231.0 miles. With no races on the calendar and a streak started back on June 19th, I was determined to finally do it. If I did, 231 would be a personal monthly record. So here's how the month ended up, as of the conclusion of this morning's run:

That was total chance that weeks 3 and 4 had exactly the same number of miles. Overall, though, it was pretty even. Given 31 days in the month, I averaged 7.774 miles per day. In reality, 6 of those 31 days were days only to keep the streak 3 miler and the others 2 miles or even a mile. Throughout, I continued to integrate Navy-regulation push-ups into the run, pausing only long enough to knock them out, often in the middle of the road. The one day that stands out in this month was last Friday when I ran 22 miles around town. It was a Forrest Gump kind of day where I ran until I simply didn't want to run any longer. Within those 22, I conquered 250 push-ups, easily more than any other day of my life. That 22 was easy, too, as were those push-ups. It simply didn't faze me.

Yesterday, I only needed 3 to hit my goal of 231 miles. However, a friend who grew up in my hometown who now lives in California was in town and we were able to get together for a fast 6 miler out on my daily route. He's the one who inspired me to start my streak and I had never officially met him but his parents live a mile from my doorstep. With that run, I went 3 miles over my goal with still a day to go. Where I got my brain into trouble is when he told me his lifetime record for one month was 240 miles. Well, I was sitting at 234 yesterday and his lifetime goal was a perfect reason to go out today and do 6 myself...or 7. :) On the road before 5am, I did something I never do. I turned on my MapMyRun app along with the voice prompts. At each 1/2 mile, it would tell me my splits. My thinking was that I'd head out on a whole new route and turn around when it told me I was at 3.5 miles. Well, that did not turn out like I had planned. That little female voice talking to me only prompted me to go faster...and faster...and faster. It turned into a challenge against myself. With every passing 1/2 mile, I picked it up a notch because at the next 1/2 mile, it would tell me that split PLUS my overall pace. That overall pace kept going down by chunks because I kept ratcheting up the speed. SO, my planned easy last-day-of-the-month run turned out to be a very successful ladder run! Who says I need another human being to challenge me when I have MYSELF!?!? As you can see here to the right, I ran a classic ladder. Well, 3 and 4 were even but for no plans to run a ladder, I'm pretty darn happy! BOOM!

So 241 miles. Write it in stone. That brings my monthly 2014 average to just over 201 miles per month. Given that I've never run much more than 2100 miles in a year, I am nearly 300 miles (annualized) over my all-time record, should I continue. I do continue to remind myself, though, that every mile, every blog post, every entry on my log is for just one It's not for anyone else (though it may inspire them), I don't do the miles for anyone (though it may help get them out the door), and ultimately, I need to be confident in my decisions to run every mile and look back without regret (because no one owns my miles but me). Wrapping up July and entering into August tomorrow, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. Looking back at 2009 when I ran three 100-mile races, I was certainly in good condition and looked slimmer. However, I feel stronger I can conquer anything thrown at me. I do believe running everyday is contributing to this. Whether I run 2 or 22 miles, I get up the next day feeling the same and do it again. My body has adapted, I'm feeding it well and recovering properly, and working on my upper body strength to compliment my growing endurance and strength. So what next?

My sights are clearly focused on June 2015. I will forego the 2015 running of the Highland Sky 40 Mile Trail Run so that I can focus on my return to the 100 miler. While some run multiple 100-milers a year and make it look easy, I have not had the bug bite me to train for the distance again nor the craving to go the distance. That has changed over the last few months as the hunger returned and I feel ready to do it again...back at my original 100-mile finish. This time, though, I won't make the trip alone. My wife will join me and crew me for those 100 miles and celebrate my 4th finish of the distance. Here is one photo of a dad crossing the finish line of the Kettle 100 last month with his son.

That banner is one image I am going to blaze into my brain and use as a source of inspiration for the rest of this year, into the winter and next year's Spring. Back in 2009, I finished in 25hrs, 39min., which is actually my fastest of my three 100s. Most 100-milers have a goal to one day finish sub-24 hours. I don't know if I can actually write that down as a hard-n-fast goal but it will certainly be something I'll be striving for as icing on the cake. Ultimately, though, the goal will "simply" be to cover the 100 miles under the 30 hour time limit. I did find this blog entry about the Kettle 100 inspiring tonight. Interesting that it focuses on happiness...while talking about covering 100 miles. Yea, that may sound crazy to the non-100 miler but it sounds totally sane to me. I really enjoyed the article. Here is my favorite quote from the post:

Happiness is a long run.

Ultimately, the “Why” of a 100-mile run, whether one is a race director, volunteer, runner, crew, or pacer is distilled down to one thing: happiness.

I’m not talking about the things we do for short-term, momentary happiness, like indulging in an ice cream cone on a perfect summer afternoon, or purchasing a new outfit when feeling blue.

Rather, I’m talking about the state of happiness which stems from doing the things which contribute to a life of meaning and purpose.  It is a happiness built on Aristotelian ideals of belonging and benefiting others, flourishing, thriving, and exercising excellence.  This state of happiness emerges from being connected to something bigger:

  • A grander vision of one’s self;
  • A wider community of friends and family;
  • A monumental effort which supports a cause.

Excerpt from Happiness is a 100-Mile Run

In other news...

Professionally in the my day job this month, it was the best ever as well. My job is to recruit the Navy's future officers who will lead sailors well into the future. From aviators to intel officers to Navy SEAL candidates, I spoke to them all this month. Enlisting in the Navy can be done within a few weeks. For an officer candidate, though, it can extend to an entire year. It's a long drawn out process and is very, very competitive. Finding the right fit of a person is an "art" and navigating the process to take care of the candidate while also representing the Navy can be tricky but it's something I absolutely love and thrive in. Here in a few days, I'll celebrate 1 year onboard as Navy Officer Recruiter and will soon pass 17 years of service. There is no doubt, I have loved my years in the Navy and I can't imagine doing anything else right now.

So Day 43, it's a wrap. Tomorrow will be August 1st and day 44...just another day in my Brooks looking down the open road. Birds singing, the sun rising over the horizon, my heart beating, sweat pouring... The run doesn't define me nor is it a (g)od in my life. It is, though, something that challenges me, keeps me honest with my mortality and who I am, and gets me away from the confines of my home, the e-mail inbox, and a sedentary life. I feel blessed to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other, without injury, and continuing to find joy with each step.

Monday, July 28, 2014

M-Cubed for 7.28.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for July Twenty-Eighth, Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Good morning to you! It's 5'oclock somewhere, right?! Because I'm the curious type, I started wondering "Where?" Well, I check out this World Clock and it does turn out, our Aussie's down in Australia are enjoying dinner on an early Monday evening as it clicks towards 6pm and in Seoul, South Korea, it's nearly 5pm on Monday. Here? Not even 4am yet. So cheers! :)

- Since I had to bring up Australia, here is your public service announcement: Bloomin' Onions are FREE today at Outback Steakhouse. So, if you're struggling with what to do for dinner tonight, "You're welcome!" Kevin Harvick (NASCAR driver) finished in the Top 10 yesterday at The Brickyard and since he's sponsored by Outback, all you have to do is mention that today and BOOM, it's free. Salivating, yet?!

- This past week, I probably drafted 2-3 long blog posts while I was running yet when I finished, I decided to not take the time to write them. If I only had a scribe to run alongside me and type as I thought out loud, I'd have my first book ready to publish.

- Keeping in the running vein, it was an epic kind of week. Tuesday brought a very hot and humid day. Late afternoon, it was 93F, high humidity, and full sun. If you know me, you know that I'd be a glutton for punishment to head out in that. Well, because I AM a glutton for punishment, I did, armed with only one bottle of Heed. I tackled my favorite 10 mile loop. I suffered, I sweat a ton, I got it done. I needed to feel the desire to quit again and mentally conquer that. It was good for me. I also broke out my brand new pair of Brooks Pure Flow 3's...the re-design. It was my first jaunt in the new 3 and I really enjoyed them! No complaints! (photo right). The rest of the week continued my streak and moved me closer to my monthly goal of 231 miles and the highest mileage month of my life. On Friday, I was on the road at First Light and was in one of those Forrest Gump moods and just needed to run until I no longer wanted to. Plus, it was cool and crisp out...a stark contrast to Tuesday's baking in the sun. I ended up with 22 miles, fueled only by one peanut butter Hammer Gel and one Espresso Hammer Gel, washed down with some Heed. In the end, I ended up on Saturday with a weekly total of 54.4 miles. This morning, I looked at my log and that matches exactly the week chance! The week prior was 52.4 and prior to that...61.4. Why all the point-4's? No clue. Total luck of the draw.

- Registered! The Frozen Sasquatch 50K, held just outside Charleston, WV, is held on the first Saturday in January. Last year, it was a great race for me and a fun family trip. (great pool time for the kids!) I didn't hesitate when registration opened this past week. It WILL sell out so if you're interested, check out my race report (see race report tab at top of blog) and register here. (Great to see your name on the list, Mindy!) :)

- I have 4 running days to go and I stand at 216 miles. My goal was 231. Now, as I stand ready to kill that goal, I wonder about pushing past it or simply sitting right down on top of it. That 231 will average me to 200 miles per month for 2014 for a January thru July total of 1400 miles exactly. I stand undecided but am thrilled and thankful for having such an epic month in my running life and still without an ache or pain or twitch head to toe. Oh yea, TODAY is Day 40 of my streak! WOO HOO! No stopping me now!

- Reflecting back on that 22 miler, I did something a little odd with that run, too. I've been doing push-ups on all of my runs since I began my streak over a month ago and on this run, I decided to do a series of 25 push-ups throughout the run. So, at miles 2/4/6/8/11/13/15/17/19/21, I knocked out 25. I thought I'd get quite weary but I never did! I kept doing them "military regulation"...getting that 90 degree angle to the ground and re-did any that didn't measure up. Usually in the middle of the road but occasionally in someone's front yard, I knocked them out. 250 total for the run! I have definitely made progress in that area in the past 40 days.

- Seen the movie "Rudy"? It's the story of an underdog who once dreamed of being a football player for Notre Dame. The true story dates back to the early 70s and the movie back to 1993. We all watched it as a family last night since my girls had never seen it and it is on Netflix. Love, love, LOVE that movie! A great movie for my kids to see, never give up on their dreams, regardless of others telling you you'll never achieve them. Not seen it? Highly recommend!

- You've met her before but check out her new bed! My wife picked up this dog bed for five bucks at a local garage sale over the weekend. Yea, it's kind of overkill but for five bucks, Bristol loves it. The funny backstory here is that the previous owner didn't even use it and they bought it for their Shih Tzu. Shih Tzu!!! Bristol is twice as big as that kind of dog, easily, and look how much room SHE has! Sheesh! Bristol sends her thanks...

- We wrapped up Season 5 of Parenthood a few days back...finally. We've been watching via stream on Season 6, their final season, begins next month. We have loved watching that show and are bummed it will end next year.

- Sunrise from two days ago. The sun was to my right and it wasn't immediately at the horizon but after it had gotten into the sky a good bit. I couldn't pass up all the blue I was seeing here. This is a pond I run by in my local park about 3-4 times a week. Gorgeous, isn't it?

- I had one of those brain-dumping moments on Saturday. It's a bit personal but in the effort of "keeping it real," I posted it on my Instagram account and linked it over to Facebook. It certainly hit a chord with many so I thought I'd share it today, word for word as I posted it then. And just to doesn't matter how many miles I run...these dang love handles will never leave! :)

Before the narcissistic bandwagon slaughters me, I posted this because I have a hard time with self-image. Up until recently, I only ran in the dark sans shirt. If you are like me and have tried and done so much but never see what you want in the mirror, you will understand. I am convinced that no matter how far and fast I run, my "love handles" will remain. No matter what, I will hover around that 200lb mark, barely getting under what the Navy deems "within standards." I told my bride this morning that "God just didn't give me a 'runner's body.'" What a lie! Perhaps He didn't give me what Runner's World says a runner's body should be or society in general but He did give me a body that can run with endurance and not give up. As I close in on a lifetime record breaking month in mileage and reaching my goal for July, I cannot lose sight of the truth. I AM. I am made exactly as I am supposed to be. I am thankful for that. It matters not what ANYONE thinks or says and I have to keep reminding myself of that. Stay true to myself, don't get injured, run because I love to run, and give God the glory and praise He is due for giving me what He has. So if you pass me on the road and think "Dude, you need to put a shirt on," know that I hear you and I am ignoring you. You are, of course, welcome to join me. :) #fromtherun #deepthoughts #selfimage#shirtless #runhappy #runningselfie

- So here we are, friends...tip-toeing or perhaps sprinting towards August. August...the month of marching bands cranking up their sound at band camps, the sound of crunching helmets as football teams begin their practice, county fair continuing (ours is BIG and happens in late August), and Back-to-School ads...oh yes, the weekly Target ad hit my e-mail inbox yesterday and it was front-to-back full of school clothes and supplies. 'Tis the season... Make the best of today, the last 4 days this month, and August! Before I leave you on this last Monday of August, enjoy and be inspired by this week's quote:

"It's been almost a decade since I last wiped Budweiser foam from my lips. I don't wake up hung‑over anymore, but I do sometimes wake up haunted — by who I used to be, by the people I've done wrong. On the days I don't run, it's worse. I'm filled with a different kind of thirst, a need to move between places — across bridges, over water, over city lines. The nastier the conditions, the better: lightning storms, ice‑covered sidewalks, predawn country roads during hunting season. The hard work of the run fortifies my will. I move through this so I can move through that. One foot in front of the other. One run at a time."

-Caleb Daniloff, Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time