Monday, April 14, 2014

M-Cubed for 4.14.2014

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

- There is only ONE way I begin my day...well, two. Before I even put my two feet on the ground, I gotta pray. No way I can do this alone! But second...always, is brewing my espresso. For years now, I've been brewing Lavazza espresso in a stainless steel stovetop espresso pot. It's not much, but in terms of caffeine, it's about 4 cups worth! I call it putting the jumper cables on. About a year ago, my wife's parents got me 5 quarts of real, pure maple syrup from my wife's cousin who gets it out of the trees on his property one town over. I shook my head at first..."what the HECK am I going to do with all of this maple syrup?!? I don't even use it!" Around that time, I read somewhere that honey and maple syrup are the most healthy sweeteners out there. I figured "what the heck!" and put enough to cover the bottom of my espresso mug and stopped using Splenda. Oh.my.word!! I loved it! It is very sweet and quite delicious. There's been no looking back and it has sweetened every mug since, except when I'm traveling. Once opened, it must be refrigerated, so it doesn't travel well. So for Christmas, I got 5 or 6 more and yesterday, they gave me my early birthday gift of ANOTHER 5 quarts. So cheers to you...my cup of pure maple syrup-sweetened Italian espresso to yours!

- I took a rest day yesterday after Saturday's 50K, mostly because I bent my right ankle 90 degrees just past mile 9. On Saturday night (after running 22 more miles on it after the twist), it THEN started to hurt, just to walk on it and was tender to the touch on the outside of my foot..not ankle. My wife checked it out, said it was a bit swollen, but wasn't discolored. I popped some ibuprofen, went to bed, and hoped for the best. After a night where I woke up all night long in a puddle of sweat, it felt MUCH better. Still, though, I thought a rest day was the smart move and took it. I'm going to go out for a gingerly 6 this morning and test it out. Should be good.

- Concrete legs? Yes. Felt like someone poured them into molds called my legs overnight. Mind over body, though. I know that's just a scare tactic to keep me in bed. Just gotta get the blood flowing.

- I volunteered at Share 2014 last Friday morning. My shift started at 5:45am in Brecksville, OH. Share is the annual 4-day fundraising effort by WCRF, 103.3FM, Moody Radio Cleveland. They don't advertise and raise all of their funds on these 4 days. This was my 2nd year in the "Phone Zone" and I loved it! I answer the phone for callers who are calling in to give. The morning was a huge blessing and I even got to meet Michard Card, a singer/songwriter who is well known the world over. As he was passing by in between solo performances in the studio, I grabbed him for a selfie. You would've, too! Anyway, Share 2014 ended at 8pm Friday night and they stand at 96% of their $1.68 million goal. Only $61K shy of it...I hope some more giving trickles in today to get them there.

- The oath. It's what a newly-selected officer candidate takes in all of our military services. On Friday afternoon, I commissioned a newly selected medical student who, in a few years, will be a Navy physician. He is now an Ensign in the United States Navy and upon graduation from medical school, will serve his country...debt free. His whole family was there for the oath and it was my privilege to be part of his special day. Those kind of events are the "cherry on top" of my job that I've been blessed with.

- Week #2 of 9 went very well on Thursday night for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University that we're hosting. ALL of the couples showed back up! SCORE! They even did the budget homework which is a tough thing to face at the beginning. This week, we'll get into the nitty-gritty budgeting process. Still thrilled that I was able to book my little township Town Hall for 9 weeks straight at the cost of ZERO. Great location!

- It's Holy Week which leads to Easter this Sunday. Nothing much for many but huge to me. I actually rank Easter (if that's even necessary) above Christmas. Without Easter, what's the point of what I believe? That sacrifice...His resurrection...for ME...forever grateful and humbled for it and by it. If not for that empty cross, I would have given up long ago, friends! TRUTH! Have a great Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter...if those days mean a lot to you. If not, have a great week, regardless!

- Sending back the Brooks Cascadia 9's was definitely the right choice last week and wearing my battered and worn Pure Grits was also the correct choice. Little to no cushioning or traction, I didn't even feel them on Saturday. Not a sore spot, warm area, blister...nada. They did fill, though, with all kinds of garbage, grit, pebbles, sand, leaves, and mud. You should've seen the deep sink yesterday morning when I cleaned them out. I've run a lot of muddy races but my shoes have never been so full of crud like that! Still...not a single issue! Now...I just need those Pure Grit 3's to be released...JUNE!

- OK, can I share just one more selfie with you today? I don't know about you, but we have an office dog. Oh yes...we may recruit Naval Officers but our 30-year plus civilian processor has an "elderly" dog that keeps us all company...and our candidates and visitors. Heck, she even gets into a lot of family photos when candidates take their oaths! Her name is Abigail, or "Abby" for short. She gets my second "Good Morning!" when I get to the office each day. She is normally found snoring with her tongue hanging half-out of her mouth. Last Wednesday, I took this opportunity to grab a sleeping selfie with her. Cute, eh?! She is a Cavalier King Charles.

- As I leave you today to the week, I give you this quote. Enjoy it and own it!


"One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long distance runner.

My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance - all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what's really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It's got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I'll reach a place I'm content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it."

-Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Have a GREAT week, everyone, and Run Happy and Hammer On!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Race Report: Forget the PR 50K

There is a story behind most names. "PR" stands for "personal record," a term common in the running community for running our fastest time ever at a particular distance or specific to a race we've done in the past. Forget the PR is a great name for this 50K as it's grueling, has countless climbs, lots of mud, and simply put, is relentless right into the last mile. While I was 17min slower than last year's finish at this race, it was a great experience.

Race morning, for me, began in the 3am hour as I brewed my traditional espresso, made my pre-race ritual PB&J, took my meaningless shower (as I knew the mud awaited), and loaded the car for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Mohican State Park in Loudonville, OH. It was a crisp 37F at the start with clear skies. By the end, it would double to 74F at the finish. I checked in then head back to my warm car until it was time for Rob, the race director, to give his pre-race instructions. At 7:30am, we were off and onto the trails. After a short 2-ish miles, the biggest climb of the day arrives, dubbed Big A$$ Hill and rightfully so...because it is! I'm thankful we get this monster first and not 20+ miles later. It's a "knuckle-dragging" kind of hill because of its incline and when you get to the top, you find out that it dips for a moment then keeps on going up which you can't see from the base. I powered past many on this hill as hill climbing is my forte (unless I'm in the WV mountains, from what I've found!) and cruised after getting to the top. (Photo below courtesy of Mark Carroll)


The race was a combination of just about everything. We've had a good bit of rain so the Mohican River was high and flowing fast. For the water crossings, most were up to my knees or just below. For the short runners out there, quite a bit higher for them. Here's a photo, courtesy of fellow runner, Tim Simenc who took a lot of photos during his race...gives a good idea of the typical water crossing during the 50K...we had 4 of them. You may think that is horrible or how our shoes would be soaked, etc. Honestly, it was cold and so refreshing. With all the mud, too, it was great to wash it all off...for a few minutes, at least. For the feet, as long as you lube them up and wear the right kind of socks, it's all good. Many other parts of the course were shoe-sucking mud and often times, it was a foot deep. For anyone who didn't tie their shoes tight, they were sure to lose a shoe or two. Other sections were fast downhills, covered in wet leaves, with moving rocks beneath. Very tricky and at mile 9.25, the trickiness got me. I've been fortunate in my ultra running to have a great many close calls when I turn my ankle, falls without injury, etc. I was going down one of those slippery, leaf-covered hills with softball-sized rocks moving and sliding beneath. My right ankle caught one, turned in 90 degrees and I heard a "pop!" The first thought was "oh no...now what...this could be bad on so many levels" but I kept on moving, but limping. It didn't stop me but I did slow so this distraction wouldn't cause me to take a hard fall or something. After gingerly finishing the descent, I put my weight back on to that foot and it felt sore...but fine for running. Over the next few miles, it basically disappeared and I didn't think about it again.

Aid stations are pretty evenly spaced. The longest stretch is the first at 7 miles and then they get closer. Typical ultra fare but I was trying a new strategy at this race. Typically, I partake of Pringles, PB&J, and graze the other salty snacks. On this day, it was all Hammer Nutrition and on a schedule. Just before the top of each hour, I had one Hammer Gel. At the top of the hour, I took one of their new Endurolyte Extreme tablets (3 in 1), and then a Perpetuem Solid about 10min later. For liquid electrolytes, I drank Heed all day. It went very well! The tablets and solids are super light so they traveled well in my short pockets and the gels fit in my handheld's zippered pocket. The only other food I ate were some watermelon slices, a few pieces of bananas, and some oranges. When I saw the oranges, I grabbed a handful simply to get the potassium in me to help ward off the charlie horses after the race. That worked, too! Not a single one. I will continue to use this strategy of fueling, most notably at June's Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run in Davis, WV.

The last 10 miles of the Forget the PR 50K are pretty incredible. As the course approaches the Covered Bridge Aid Station around mile 20 or 21, the course crosses/zig-zags the creek over walking bridges then pops out on the road at the bridge. From here, runners head out on a 4mi loop that follows rocky but dry trail first then navigates through a creek, moss-covered rocks, and lots of mud. At the end of that awaits the root wall. The root wall goes straight up and you climb it. I grabbed a photo off of thomasbussiere.blogspot.com since I left my phone in the trunk. At the top, you continue on along trail and eventually pop out on a mile or so long road section. By this time, it was 70F and full sun. The course goes along the spillway and was beautiful. Most of this road section is straight uphill so most are walking here. Eventually, we enter the trail again for some fast downhills as we head back to the Covered Bridge. When I first arrived at the Covered Bridge and saw my fellow NEO Trail friend, Kimba, I gave her a hug while congratulating her on her recent Zion 100 mile finish, I was pretty beat and struggling. Somewhere in that 4 mile loop I came alive and felt new as ever. It was also nice to see so many runners I knew at this time, due to the loop nature of this section.

Photo courtesy of Tim Simenc
I did have my highlight of the race during this loop, though. Over halfway through the loop we came upon Lyons Falls...a waterfall that, to my best estimation is about 3 stories high. We went down into the cavernous-like base via stairs then picked up the trail at the base. The water was raging and beautiful. Last year, I washed my hands off. This time, though, it was warm out and the thought of a quick "shower" beneath the falls was tempting. I threw down my handheld and walked on in. The water was hitting hard so I didn't look up, it was very cold, but oh so refreshing. I got drenched to the core but had a smile unmatched during the race. It was beyond awesome and so recharging...just what I needed. After spending about 30 seconds in the "shower," I wiped the water from my eyes, picked up my handheld, and got running.

I definitely chit-chat a lot more than normal at Forget the PR during the race. I hadn't seen so many of these folks in quite awhile. Looking back, I have no regrets at all. Did it cost me a few minutes here and there? Sure it did but it's not only about my personal finishing time (which no one else cares about but ME!) but about the journey and enjoying it. It was great to catch up while doing something we all love.

I knew it wasn't going to be a course PR for me. I won't dare complain about the beautiful, sunny warmth but when it comes to ultra marathons, a slower time will always pair with warmer temperatures...as that's my Achille's Heal. Last year, I finished in 6:03 with temperatures 20-30 degrees colder and rain and this year, the mercury reached 74F at the finish under sunny skies. I even got some sun on my very white winter skin. At the finish, the clock read 6hrs, 20min, 14sec., good enough for 65th of 180 finishers. My 28th ultra marathon and for the first time, I have more ultra finishes than marathons (27). I was handed my finishers belt buckle and felt good about the journey. Last year's buckle was shiny but this year's is like pewter...AWESOME! This race actually has showers so after taking in a bottle of Hammer's Recoverite and snapping this selfie, I showered, hung out at the finish awhile longer, then head on home. Satisfied. Thankful. Ready for the next.

Ahhh...Forget the PR. You have stretches of sky-high evergreens while running on pine needles, sections of mud and water that totally encompass the trail, slippery rocks, leaf-covered trails, relentless climbs that never seem to end, but I love you. Rob and crew, my thanks to you for an incredible race experience yet again and thank you for giving back to the communities and organizations around you. Thanks so much.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Brooks Cascadia 9 Disappointment

Remember that run a few days ago with Bristol? On Tuesday, I took her out for an easy 5 miler (that nearly killed her) so I could start to break in a new pair of Brooks Cascadia 9s. Back at my 100K last month, I killed my Cascadia 7s and rewarded myself with a new pair of 9s. Well, while they did fit snug, I made the decision on Wednesday to call Brooks then ship them back for a full refund. This redesign of the shoe is extremely disappointing to me. I have been wearing Cascadias for a long time and have worn several iterations of them. The 7's were top notch as were the 6's. This time, they widened the toe box...a LOT...and made the shoe a tad bit longer. I'm a size 12 in any pair of Brooks I wear...but not these. When I tightened the shoe up as it should be, the toe box area on my right foot got "wavy" which is wrong. This typically only happens in a pair of New Balance shoes that are known for their wide toe box. My suspicion is that the left didn't fold at all because I have my trusty bunion there which makes that foot wider. The shoe didn't slip...but that folding proves a poor fit. No matter how much I tried to justify keeping them, my fear was that during a muddy, soaking wet trail race, this shoe would really loosen up and create a potentially race ending situation. Poor fit leads to friction leads to chafing leads to blisters > leads to dropping out and/or lots of pain. So, by Wednesday afternoon, the shoes were boxed up and headed back to Brooks' headquarters in Washington state. The nice thing about Brooks when you purchase directly is their return policy...30 days, no questions asked return policy...and free shipping. You simply click on one button in your online order history which generates a USPS pre-paid shipping label. Print it, tape it on, and drop off at the post office. It's that easy. I debated getting a size 11 1/2 but I really don't think it'll stop the buckling. I'd have less room north of my toes but the width is the width and I don't think a 1/2 size is going to stop it. Like I said, I'm extremely disappointed in this redesign. This is my go-to shoe for the long haul ultra marathon. I do have a few pair of first generation Pure Grit trail shoes so I'll be wearing those tomorrow. Had I not had those, I'm not sure what I'd be doing for tomorrow.

Leaning forward, I guess it's time to venture away from Brooks for the first time in years for a new trail shoe. Ugh. If you're a runner, you know how much this stinks. Once you find a shoe that's perfect, the worst thing that can happen is often a total overhaul of the shoe...and they screw it up. I do have a small glimmer of hope for the new Pure Grit, version 3 that is being released in June. The original version that I have is a great shoe but has next to no traction. In extreme mud or ice, it would be a bad, bad choice. The new version is a total overhaul of the shoe which keeps the shoe minimal but adds distinctive lugs to the bottom...so I'm encouraged! I will table my re-purchase until then and simply lean on my first generation Pure Grits until then...but keep my eye open for a traditional trail shoe replacement. Got a suggestion? I'd love to hear it! I'm a neutral, size 12, average width runner.

Here is a really good review of the upcoming Pure Grit 3 and what we can expect. Pretty sharp looking, too! I love the new lugs and their multi-directions. Read the report...you'll notice other new great features, too, like a rock plate and bringing those lugs up the front and off to the sides. PLEASE, Brooks....make it fit true to size!!!! Don't ruin it!


Here's to drinking lots of water today and smart eating...and a good night's rest tonight. Tomorrow...my 28th ultra marathon on the trails of Mohican State Park. Should be sunny and in the upper 60s to low 70s. Looking forward to it!

Run Happy and Hammer On, friends!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Taper to FTPR 50K

This is the week of good behavior. I'm very much a non-traditionalist. While most runners, especially newbies, follow a regimented schedule and strictly follow a "taper" to a race, I mostly taper before a race if I remember to...seriously. I run for the joy of it, to run strong, and give everything I have...and I recover extremely fast. So this Saturday is my 28th ultra marathon, the Forget the PR 50K. I figured that over the weekend, I'd better cut back the miles and take it easy this week. Last year's FTPR 50K went very well for me. It was chilly, muddy, and for me...fast. This Saturday's forecast is looking quite nice, considering the weather we've been given over the winter. 60s or low 70s and no rain in the forecast. Not the "best" for me but no way am I complaining after the cold and record power bills all winter long. I would like to do well and hold my own this Saturday.

"Squirrel?!"
Yesterday, I had to go to Columbus for a meeting so I simply routed my trip through Wooster so I could pick up my race packet at Vertical Runner-Wooster. Basic bib, a standard ceramic mug with the race logo on it, and some freebies. Before I hit the road, though, I squeezed in 7 beneath the stars. This morning, it was pouring, high winds, and in the 40s. Since I didn't "have" to run, I opted not to. However, this afternoon dealt mid-50s and sun so I harnessed up my dog and hit the road for an afternoon 5. To put it nicely, she is WAAAAYYYYYY out of shape! I nearly had to drag her the last 2 miles. She used to knock out 7 miles with no trouble. The silver lining is that she kept me slow which was the smart thing to do. I also wore my brand new pair of Brooks Cascadia 9 trail shoes...on the road. I nearly forgot to take them out for their virgin miles. How stupid would I have been to lace up a brand new update/model of a trail shoe on race morning having never run in it. I nearly did! I had heard that this shoe ran a little bigger and has a larger toe box and some runners had to knock it down a 1/2 size. I definitely agree that the toe box is bigger as my right toe box is a bit folded when tied tight but the length is where I want it. So, while it's not "perfect," it will do just fine. The Cascadias felt great...even on pavement. I kept running on the berm and when I could find a little bit of mud or soaking wet grass, I dove in, purposely trying to get my feet wet. I wanted the shoes to loosen up so I could tighten them to how I'll wear them on Saturday where I'll be in mud and going through stream crossings. Goal accomplished, laces adjusted, and shoes are dirty and ready. No more plans to run this week except for an easy 5 miler tomorrow morning and then two days of nothing but rest and eating smart while hydrating. Everything else is a go.

After FTPR, I plan to keep the mileage up. I'd sure like to get in 225 miles this month but that's tricky with two races. While the races are high mileage in themselves, usually the days surrounding those races are little to no miles. We shall see. Why 225? Well, the "OCD Runner" in me would like to end April with 800 total miles for 2014...or an average of 200 a month. No real reason....just because! Oh yea...my 41st birthday is next week so some craziness may be on tap for that, too. We shall see.

It wouldn't be a normal post or afternoon run with Bristol without at least one running selfie, right? Right. :) Have a great rest of your week!


Monday, April 7, 2014

M-Cubed for 4.7.2014

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

- First off, huge kudos and a "Job Well Done!" to "Kimba" who completed the Zion 100 Mile Run over the weekend through the southern Utah desert. She finished in 30hrs, 43min! I'm sure she'll write her race report soon at http://www.ultratrailgoddess.com but she has already posted several photos of the area from when she explored prior to the race. Her blog is also in my feed down on the lower right of my blog if you want to check back for her report. "Way to go, Kimba!"

- I have been debating for awhile about creating a Facebook extension of this blog and finally did over the weekend. Often, I have things to share but I don't blog them. This is the avenue for that. Feel free to "like" and "share" by going here: https://www.facebook.com/rtrsbm I continue to have Instagram and Twitter feeds. Handles for both are also "rtrsbm".

- I knocked out a gorgeous half marathon prior to church yesterday. I woke up at 4am and at 4:30am, I realized I wasn't going back to sleep. Up and at 'em! By 6:15am, I was on the road for 7 or so, then it was 10, and eventually turned into 13.1. I took Saturday off so I felt really great this morning and since the family was sleeping, I simply saw no reason to stop running. (That's my logic and I'm sticking to it!) I caught this sunrise along the run...beautiful, isn't it?

- Pet Peeve: If you fly Old Glory (and I sure do hope you do), take care of her. ONLY because I don't want to get in trouble for trespassing, I haven't taken 3 different flags down along my daily running route. This one house has EVERY white and red stripe totally gone and several stars now. At least 75% of the original flag is GONE...yet it flies. It's offensive and it shouldn't be flying. Please...PLEASE...don't be that person. Bring her down, dispose of her properly, and replace her. A lot of American blood has been spilled to keep her flying we are still a nation at war. Thank you.

- Parenthood fan? OK, we are. We don't subscribe to cable and only employ an HDTV antenna. But, we do pay $7.99 for Netflix and are working through Season 3...two episodes left. Season 5 is currently being shown on network TV. We LOVE this show. We find ourselves here and there asking ourselves in situations "What would the Bravermans do?" Come on...I know we're not the only ones! :) One thing I keep picking up on is "boundaries." They don't have any...or very little. Raising children, relations within he workplace, inter-family relationships...their priorities are all out of whack. My wife and I both agree, though...we're Adam and Kristina...if any.

- 5 days! 5 days until my 28th ultra marathon. This one will be the Forget the PR 50K within Mohican State Park...between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Unlike any other race, they are offering packet pickup all week long at the Vertical Runner specialty running store in Wooster, OH and my job just so happens to be taking me close to there today so I'll be stopping in to pick up my bib number and race packet. This race was kick butt last year and I did very well...one of my best 50Ks...but it's not easy. It's a tough race and the rainfall this week will certainly have an impact on how things go on Saturday on the trails. My goal? Run strong, have fun, and finish. Here is last year's race report if you want to check it out.

- If you've been reading for awhile, you know my family follows the financial principles of Dave Ramsey. Back on Christmas 2009, we changed everything we did financially, built a budget, cut up our credit cards, and got out of debt. (I blogged about the 7 Baby Steps here) Well, we are now bringing the material we used to our local community via Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. It's a 9-week class that we are facilitating. Keeping in line with good money management, we're using our small Town Hall for free...a benefit that any citizen has but few know about or take advantage of. Back on January 1st, I booked 9 straight weeks just for this class. It's a volunteer effort my wife and I are thrilled to embark on. We hoped for 3-5 families to register. We have 9. :-) Week 1 down and 8 to go!

- Need motivated? Check out these 84 running-themed motivational posters by Runner's World. Save and/or share!

- I sure do love the FedEx man. He not only delivers my Brooks shoes and gear, but now he delivers my Hammer Nutrition orders. Friday, I finally got my refill of Hammer's Recoverite which is worth it's weight in gold...absolutely swear by it. I also got the new Endurolytes Extreme that just came out. It contains 3x the potassium and sodium as the current Endurolytes that I've been using for years...so it's like taking 3 of them. I also got one each of the three flavors of Perpetuem Solids. Since I had such great success with the solid at the Buzzard Day 100K three weeks ago, I decided I'd use them in my upcoming ultras this Spring and Summer and try all three flavors to see what I prefer. Since I've never seen a photo of the actual solid anywhere before online, I thought I'd snap a photo of the one remaining Caffe Latte solid from a few weeks ago. It crumbles easily once you put it in your mouth and then gets kinda mushy. You definitely need a bottle of Heed to wash it down after you chew it a bit. (Remember...you can save 15% off your first order simply by clicking on the banner on the right)

- When I run, I don't wear my Garmin unless I'm embarking on a whole new area/route. I don't focus on pace, etc. I know the distances...by every 1/2 mile. It's so freeing not to wear that thing. In the dark all year long, I don't wear a headlamp, either. I just let my pupils adjust to the dark and go. Nothing like it! (I do wear reflective gear so yes...I'm smart and safe.) Anyway, I'd like to leave you today with this quote that matches up with my daily run and how I start the majority of my days here on Planet Earth:

"Leave your watch on the kitchen table and go - freely, like a child." 
- Claire Kowalchik

Have a great week, friends, and Run Happy & Hammer On!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Matching Toes

Toes. Some have a fetish for them but for most of us, they are a necessary component of our body. Some have ugly ones, some "beautiful" ones, some of varying lengths (often out of order!), and some are missing some. Some toes have nails that cut their loves ones under the sheets or while sitting on the couch and some have had them removed. Toes, though, if they could talk would tell quite the story, wouldn't they? Places they've gone, mud they've been covered in, punishment they've endured, stubs they have been pained with when they met the corner of furniture around home, and how they've been painted by a seemingly endless supply of nail polish. For me, I'll never forget sitting aboard a Navy ship sometime in the 90s with another ingrown toenail in my big toe. I've had two removed. The first was removed after the doctor numbing the area which meant this monstrous needle had to be inserted just north of my big toe to kill the nerves. If that makes you cringe, it should. It hurt like a mutha. First the needle, then my nerves crying out in pain...then nothing but tugging and pulling to pull my nail out from underneath my skin. The second time this happened (to the same toe), it was a much more direct approach. I'm sure you've squeezed your fingers to watch your fingertips turn white due to cutting off the blood flow. Well, just apply that concept to the big toe. The doctor applied a lot of pressure to cut blood flow and feeling to the affected area. He squeezed and jammed in his monstrous scissors to remove the nail again. Fast and done. Ugh! It almost makes me pass out just thinking about the pain! (I do have vasovagal syncope so I "may" be telling the truth!) Anyway...toes...love 'em, hate 'em, but we do need them.
So are you grossed out yet? Like my toes? Yes, I have matching 3rd toes. Both of those nails will say "bye bye" soon enough. They are both victims of the 100K trail race three weeks ago. They were sore at first but now I feel nothing. Soon, they'll turn white and I shall rip them from my body. Gross, yes...but necessary. The toe of mention, by the way, from the story above is my big toe on the left foot...right side of that toe. So in terms of ugly feet...I'd say mine qualify. They are not symmetrically trimmed, they are a bit fuzzy, but they are mine. They have traveled some miles with me and done me well...and I have all of them so I'm thankful.

My feet and these matching toes have gone some places. They entered the world nearly 41 years ago and were softer than ever back then. Today, they are as tough as leather beneath. They have walked on many shores of Caribbean islands; walked beside Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan; stood on the tarmac as 30 U.S. Navy SEALs were loaded on two C-17s to be returned home from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to Dover, DE; ran through the rain with my bride to catch the cruise ship departure; traversed sections of the Appalachian Trail; covered thousands of miles in road and trail shoes; walked down the aisle and kept me upright as I said my vow to my wife over 21 years ago; stood atop an aircraft carrier in the middle of the night letting me watch the fire and glow of fighter jets taking off; been there through thick and thin, good and bad, glory and humility. They are my matching toes.

Where next? Well, I often (like always) think about "what next?" It's good to have goals and where you want to go or quite honestly, you may end of nowhere but precisely where you are today. I think a lot of us have a Bucket List and it may even be written down or just "penciled in" in our brains. In no particular order, here are some of mine:
  • Skydive at least once unassisted
  • Through-hike from start to finish on the Appalachian Trail
  • Road trip over weeks through the United States with minimal contact to the outside world
  • Live in an area where I can wear shorts 12 months out of the year
  • Love my wife no less than I do today when I'm old and gray
  • Small home at the beach and a small home in the mountains but not too far apart
  • Walk my girls down the aisle and love them/accept them no matter where their lives take them
  • Own a ragtop Camaro...and pay cash for it
  • Still be running when I'm 80
  • Hear "Well done, my good and faithful servant" when I stand before my God one day.
My matching toes are mine. They have a history and a future...but they're mine. What do yours say about you and where will they take you? One thing is certain: they are yours...and no one can change that...only you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quarter Down

One quarter down, three quarters to go. It was great to see March disappear last night and welcome in April this morning. It has been a tough winter here in the midwest and we're more than ready for Spring to arrive. I just hope it hangs out for a little longer than normal since it arrived so late. With temperatures heading into the 60s today, it's encouraging, to say the least.

Airborne!!!
Yesterday, I was up at 3:30am and an hour later I hit the road for a hard 10-miler. Occasionally, I just like to see what I have inside. I ran my trusty 10-mile loop which is all country and a bunch of hills thrown in. For me, I crushed it...just under sub-8 minute miles for the whole thing and I felt great at the end. Later yesterday, I made the "mistake" at looking at my running log for March. I have what I like to call "Runners OCD" so when I saw 187.5 miles, I simply couldn't let that stand. While I don't have the hard fast goal of running 200 miles a month (that would blow my annual record out of the water by about 300 miles!), it's kind of a nice number that when I get close to it, I like to cross it. With that being said, I resolved to soak in the forecasted sunny skies and mid-50s and go out for a late afternoon run before dinnertime...on my around-home half marathon route. I felt like a million bucks BEFORE I laced up but quickly after stepping out into the sun, my body reminded me of that hard morning run. Still, though...it was sunny...it was warm...and heck, it's only 13.1 miles, right? I ran 62.4 miles a few weeks ago so 13.1 should be a piece of cake. Well, it wasn't. It wasn't long before I had to turn on the tunes and distract myself and to pass the time. I didn't walk it but I certainly didn't haul tail, either. It was a tough go but I did enjoy sweating again and wearing some spring/summer gear again. I just recently got involved with Team RWB Akron/Cleveland chapter so I wore the "Eagle" for the run that will most likely be my 'uniform' for most of the 2014 races remaining. In the end, I knocked out my afternoon half marathon and racked up an unplanned 23.1 miles yesterday and 200.6 for the month. WOOT! So with one quarter down, I'm at 575 miles for the year...really, only shy of a 200 mile/month average by 25 miles. Now if I run 225 miles in April...   :-)

Moving forward, lots of fun things coming up on the calendar. My wife and I will be hosting, for the first time, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University in our hometown, starting in two days from now. We have a full class and are really looking forward to facilitating this. It changed our lives and marriage back in late 2009 so we're really excited to share it with others and watch the change happen. Racing heats up, too, as my next 50K is a week from this Saturday on April 12th at the Forget the PR 50K in Mohican State Park followed by the Inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, OH two weeks later. That'll be my one and only marathon of the year and it should be a grand time. If you happen to be in the military and either active duty or a reservist, you can gain FREE entry, no strings attached. The bonus will be mile 21...1000 full size American Flags lining the course. It's also a Team RWB event so lots of Eagles will be on the course that day. So by month's end, my marathon total should hit 28 as well as my ultra marathon total hit 28. Unofficially, I will probably mix in my own little ultra when I cross the "41 years on this earth" day and run a whole bunch that day. I tend to run through multiple towns on my birthday each year so we'll see what this year holds.

I have now hit "writer's block" or in this case, "Blogger's Block" so I'll leave you with that...seemingly lots to say but it's all being held captive in my brain. Enjoy your Spring and make it a great 2nd quarter of 2014!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Talking Calendars

Life is moving at such a high rate of speed, isn't it? Remember years and years ago when the first cell phones or "mobile phones" hit the market? I personally remember the big gray, heavy Motorola flip phone with the one line number display and flimsy plastic antenna that came out the top. It was huge. Many of us thought how a mobile phone would tie us down, extend our "leash" to others and be too much. Today, most of us can't go anywhere without our smart phone (and its charger...right?). At a pace that would seem insane a short 10 years ago, if we don't grab a hold of what's true, what's right, what's proper and what's most important to us, we're going to arrive one day at a realization that we've missed so much, given up so much, and forgot to "stop and smell the roses." Just this past week, I ran across this quote from Bob Goff:

"The battle for our love is fought on the pages of our calendars; we'll become in our lives what we plan for our days."

It's true, isn't it? Like our checkbook, our calendar "tells the tale" of our lives and where we place our priorities. I constantly put myself in check, re-evaluate myself, look silently at the calendar, talk with my wife about what we're doing today, this week, this month, for vacation in a few months and even a year+ from now. What does my calendar say about ME? What does YOURS say about YOU? Do you like what it says?

For me, my life is a balancing act between the roles of 1) Husband, 2) Father, 3) Sailor (career), 4) Local church and 5) running...in that order. Actually, to be real, #4 and #5 should probably be flipped. They go back and forth, actually. So, as I plan every day and months in to the future, I have to weigh it all and ask myself if it's ok to trump another priority for the sake of another. "Do I race on Sunday and miss church? Am I really leading my family when I do that? What am I telling my wife? My girls? My church family? Those who are watching silently?" Within each realm is all the details spun up so tightly. What/where/when/how questions, ya know.

In running, I have grown much more picky about what I run, specifically the races I support. I ask, in advance, what it supports. Where does the money go after entries are tallied? What have others said of this race in the past? I also consider it an honor to run under the header of a company who has chosen me, most notably Brooks Running and most recently, Hammer Nutrition. Brooks has shifted how it does sponsorship so while they are still involved but they have taken a 2nd place to Hammer Nutrition which embodies so many qualities I look for, not only in nutrition products but in ethics, ways of doing business, business rules, commitment to quality, keeping ALL of their products "Made in the USA" and their very direct, intimate communication to us, the sponsored athletes. I LOVE to run for them.

Over the past few years, I've begun wearing the Eagle, too. You most likely have seen the red shirts at races with the eagle on them saying Team RWB (Red, White, Blue). I became an ambassador for them over a year ago but didn't do anything more than wearing the jersey because they really weren't alive yet in my area. Much to my joy, that's changed recently and a brand new chapter has emerged right in my backyard, the Team RWB Akron/Cleveland chapter. I am really looking forward to getting involved with community events, meeting fellow veterans, and wearing the Eagle more than ever before. Less than a month from now is my "token marathon" for 2014 at the inaugural Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon in Canton, OH. It's a Team RWB event so I'm really looking forward to seeing many of them out there. I really can't wait for mile 21...1000 full size American Flags lining the course. Chills for sure!



Speaking of planning my calendar, I've made some big decisions for the fall, booked some hotels, and have a plan..finally.  The big one is going to be a trip to Maryland in November for an old-school 50 miler under fall foliage. Of course...wearing the Eagle and adorning my skin with temporary Hammer tattoos everywhere. :) (see tab at top of page for future events)

So what does your calendar say to you? Your checkbook? Like it, love it, hate it? Only one person can change that.

Have a great one, friends, and Hammer On!

Monday, March 24, 2014

M-Cubed for 3.24.2014

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

- Late to bed, late to wake up this morning. Last night, I took my oldest daughter to downtown Cleveland to closeout her birthday week. We had dinner at the Chocolate Bar where we ended dinner sharing a chocolate and peanut butter ice cream shake. Her comment as we walked through downtown Cleveland on a late Sunday afternoon: "It's kinda like New York City...with less people and quieter." :) After dinner, we walked back to Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center for the FishFest...a concert with 6 artists and sponsored by the local radio station, 95.5 The Fish. The night kicked off with the little known WeAsHuman (glad they were first and done!) then Mandisa and Brandon Heath shared the stage for many songs (absolutely LOVED them and Mandisa is incredible...would love to see just her in concert some day in a small setting), then Third Day hit the stage. Third Day has been around for 21 years now and is an icon in the Christian rock/worship industry. It was a mixture of the new and old and great all around. Seeing that 6 artists had to share the stage, the sets were shorter but still good. As Third Day wrapped up and their equipment dismantled, Peter Furler (formerly of the Newsboys) stood at the end of the stage walkout with only him, a drummer, and guitarist, and played about 4 songs. In the dark behind him, the stage was rebuilt for Skillet...an aggressive Christian/mainstream band who is crazy popular the globe over. Heck, their Facebook page recently passed the 5 million fan mark. I didn't know them until I saw them last summer at the Alive Festival. Since then...I'm a huge fan and even run to their tunes often. Lots of their lyrics have met me right where I am today and as a former Metallica junkie, I love the style. Here is but one photo I grabbed of them from our AWESOME seats! Great night and my baby girl/new teenager slept all the way home from CLE.

- Yes, I know this wasn't published on Monday morning. Hey, I was rockin' Sunday night and slept in! (at least that's my excuse)

- I be shopping! Well, not like you think...or at the local Target, etc. My race calendar is a bit empty past September this year. I'm not seeking a marathon...or a 100 miler. Instead, I've been casting a wide net into the midwest United States and looking for a 50 miler to run in October or November...like a nice bookend on the shelf of 2014. I ran across the JFK 50 Miler which is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, is about a 4hr drive from home, and is an icon in the eastern United States, having been run for over 50 years now and quite a history...and being very "military" like in its origins and current form. Being a military guy, that's a draw. The downside is that within those 50 miles are 26 miles of towpath, 15 miles of road, and only about 8 miles of actual trail. That's not my kind of recipe. The 2nd downside is the entry fee that is unknown today. Registration opens on April 1st and is expected to be near $200...VERY steep. A polar-opposite run is held the week prior on November 15th...the Stone Mill 50 that is held in Gaithersburg, MD...just northwest of our nation's capital. It's only 30min further to drive and is almost entirely on the trails under fall foliage. It's a very low cost, no frills race where the money goes to paying the park fees and stocking the aid stations. Very little, if any, swag. However, the field can be as large as 300 runners. Low cost is under 50 bucks, by the way. Registration doesn't open until August 1st...but unless I see something magical about the JFK 50 on April 1st, I'm leaning heavily towards this race. There is even a brand new Hampton Inn under 3 miles from the start/finish with an indoor saltwater swimming pool...perfect for the kids while I run all day.

- We recently wrapped up an eleven week marriage study in our home dubbed "Real Marriage." We had four active couples who attended and it ended up being a very good study. Next up, we will be leading Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for the very first time, starting on April 3rd right here in our hometown at the local Town Hall. Registrations have ticked up in the past 48 hours so I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be our first time facilitating it since putting "Uncle Dave's" principles into practice back on Christmas 2009. On the marriage front, I picked up these (look right) study guides yesterday. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the well-known "Five Love Languages" book. Well, we're going to work through this book/study one-on-one with another couple. We're really looking forward to it! It incorporates individual study, couples one-on-one study, then a time where two or more couples share with each other and work through the material. We're going to piggy-back this with getting our kids together to play, probably grill out in the summer, and make it a fun time while also sharpening our marriages along the way. (Thanks to Logos Bookstore in Kent for hooking us up with the books!)

That's it for now, folks. I know I haven't written much lately. Sometimes, I just "vomit" words on the screen and other times, it all stays inside. Lately, it's been the latter but I'm still "awake and alive" (to quote Skillet!) and fine. Looking forward to warmer days and Spring arriving...eventually. Where are those daffodils and blossoming cherry trees?! I know it's soon because my "birthday run" is less than a month away and I always look forward to running by those trees in Kent on my birthday when I run all day.

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alone

It's a scary place,
Alone all inside here
Doesn't appear to be a way out
Not an exit to take or escape

It's suffocating at times
All Alone within my own self
Like a ton of bricks
Crushing, weighing down, hopeless

Where is the exit? Where is the door?
Is my being Alone punishment for something I've done?
Or is it even real? Is it a trick?
Is it a creation of my own psyche?

Or perhaps it's a lie. A lie the enemy wields upon me.
Maybe I'm not really Alone, maybe I have all I need.
He was right, ya know
"Even if you had someone, you'd reject them."

It's not fun. It's dark. It's a rabbit hole. It's dangerous.
Alone is not something to grab on to or see...but it's there.
In a crowd or literally all alone, it's the same
But where? Where is the escape?

I combat it on my own. With my own, I mean what I can see.
I am winning. I am fighting. I "know" I'm not really Alone.
"How?" you say. "How do you know?"
Because of Him. Because I know Him. Because He knows me.

It may be dark. I may feel abandoned. I may struggle.
But I am not Alone...not truly. I call...and He answers.
Abba. Father. Jehovah. Christ. My All in All.
Oh how the enemy does not like to lose.

(h)e had me in his grips once, I had one foot in the grave
While I stood Alone, though...I was not.
His almighty hand caught me...so close to the grave I was.
Captured, held tight, saved, redeemed.

So darkness...you can continue to reign down your attacks
You can preach in my ear how Alone (y)ou think I am
But you will fail, you have been defeated long ago
Cast down, punished, weaker than my strongest power

I am not...
ALONE
I never will be...
ALONE