Wednesday, June 30, 2010

16 Miles on the Delaware River

Day 3 in the Poconos
We set "paddle" around 10am about 16 miles upstream of the Delaware Water Gap on the Delaware River
New Jersey to our left, Pennsylvania to our right
I couldn't help but wonder what strategy was played out around this river during our country's founding days and what history was written
One of the highlights was when a bald eagle flew right above us (one of the three pictures are below)
Temperatures hovered in the low 80s with scattered clouds and sun from start to finish
I don't know how the day could have been any better
I take that back, the icing on the cake was when I accidentally fell overboard near the end, much to my girls' enjoyment
These are a few of my favorite photos from the day.  The rest along with Day 1 photos can be viewed here.  You can click on any photo below for a large version of it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

M-Cubed for 6/28/2010

Monday Morning Musings for June Twenty-Eighth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- 8 miles near and along a lake, a kick in the lower lip in the pool by my youngest daughter (just a little bit of blood), some serious hiking over rocks, roots, and by 8 waterfalls in 95F heat...those are a handful of highlights so far for our family vacation in the Poconos.

- Monday finds us hunkering down a bit and sticking to the pool and maybe a trip to see Toy Story 3. The forecast is for H-Cubed...hazy, hot, and humid with temps again in the mid to upper 90s. Tonight, however, the floor is supposed to drop out on the humidity and tomorrow it's back to the 80s so I've booked us a day in the Delaware Water Gap canoeing. 16 miles and about 6 hours of fun awaits!

- I looked into a trip into NYC since we're so close but the thoughts of navigating in, around, and out and maintaining the safety of our 2 little girls is a little bit more than I'm willing to do. Perhaps another time when they're older and a little bit more easy to entertain with lots of walking, sightseeing, and crowded sidewalks/subways.

- The new Twilight movie. Huh? No comprendo.

- Many of you know the "Hopeinator"...the "Blister Expert, Dr. Hope Magnus"...and fearless leader of the Trinity Trotters in northern Stark County. If you don't, you still may recall the "Boston Bootey" shot I took of her crossing the Flying Pig Marathon finish line in May as she qualified for the Boston Marathon. Anyway, she is a fanatical Bondi Band wearer. The company loves her so much they send her freebies. Hope is running her first 50K in July at the sold-out Buckeye Trail 50K. I threw her a it adding some life to the event. "Find me a Blue Blaze Bondi Band that matches my Blue Blaze Dirty Girl Gaiters and I'll wear it all 31.2 miles." "Hope...I'm still waiting. You have 19 days."

- Ever go on vacation and swear you'll disconnect from the outside world while on vacation? I've tried but have found the effort futile and if there's a way to stay connected, I will. Not too long ago, it was about how many bars we could get on our cell phone to make calls. Internet wasn't even an option in many places. Today, those bars aren't just for the ability to talk on the phone, but to check our e-mail, the latest news headlines, and of course....FACEBOOK. Here on vacation, I know just the spot to stand in our condo to get internet on my phone and if I have to use laptop (to publish M-Cubed, for example or to upload pics), the recreation center (poolside) has super-fast hi-speed internet. Is this connectivity bad? If it takes me away from my family, I suppose you could say it is. It's not, though. All in moderation, I say.

- Want to get a snapshot of the demographic of an area you are visiting? Visit the local Wal-Mart. I'm just sayin'.... (we're very close to the New York/New Jersey border, by the way)

- My last M-Cubed for June 2010. That means July 4th is just around the corner which means August is closing in. With August comes a new school year. Way too fast, I say. Way too fast.

- I am planning on finally returning to Oil Creek State Park this Saturday. I haven't been there since my 3rd 100-mile finish last October and have been trying to find the time to return ever since. An organized group run is starting at 7am and my plan is to run one loop of the park...around 30 miles, starting from Jersey Bridge. It's about a 2hr drive from home. I think I'll boil some potatoes for the trek and load up my Nathan pack. I'm really looking to seeing a bunch of other Oil Creek'ers!

- I had the deepest (and most painful) massage ever a week ago to work on my left adductor region. I say "region" now because he worked the entire area from groin to knee. "Relentless" is a great way to describe him...he just didn't stop until he knew he worked all of the tightness out. It hurt more than getting the Graston Technique that I got in physical therapy. Today, it is still sore. I may not run at all the rest of the week and just rest. I'm confused as to what is irritating it now, too. Running on the road yesterday hurt. Hiking on the trails and on the steep inclines did not. Perhaps "therapy" is trails and elevation?!?!?! If so, I think I know what to do. :-) Who knows, though. It's a day-by-day thing for me. This Saturday could be very good...or very bad. We shall see.

Have a great last week of June, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lightning & Footsteps

Lightning flashes up above
Filling the sky pre-dawn
Heavy, moist air is all around
But soon it’ll all be gone

Nothing but breathing
And footsteps below
Can be heard on this morning
Except a voice that whispers…”Go!”

My Brooks provide a gentle ride
My Princeton light a soft glow
Reflective bands keep me safe
From sleepy drivers swerving to and fro

A janitor waxes the high school floor
Oblivious from me running by outside
She cannot hear the breathing or footsteps
Or the voice whispering to me inside

As my journey on this morning nears an end
The eastern sky enters into dawn
The orchestra of birds grows to new heights
And the bats flying above are gone

It is mornings like this I treasure so much
My breathing, my steps, life surrounding
I never take any of it for granted, not once
For it is all abounding grace full of blessings

~ by Nick Billock,
June 22, 2010 morning run

Monday, June 21, 2010

M-Cubed for 6/21/2010

Monday Morning Musings for June Twenty-First, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

 - Wowsers....what a week to not really remember!  It ended quite well but Monday-Thursday...not so good!  Monday brought Madeline's tonsil surgery last week and it actually went really well as I talked about in the previous post.  The next few days were just downright horrible at work.  I'd love to get into the details about my job but I just can't here on my blog.  Thursday, I took the day off along with Friday, too, to spend with Madeline post-surgery.  Thursday, I also took Marjie's '06 Pilot to get the oil changed and tires rotated.  Big lesson learned the scheduled maintenance!  While conducting a brake inspection, they found all 4 brake pad assemblies totally frozen up or actually rusted into position.  NOW I know why we had to push the brake pedal so far to stop the car!  Since we never did the routine cleaning/lube of those assemblies and we have pretty nasty winters, they were all junked up.  Several hundred dollars and 5 hours later, I headed on home.  About a mile from home, my cell phone rings and it's Marjie...she's been side-swiped while sitting at a stop sign in our neighborhood.  SITTING as a stop sign!  In MY car!  A State Trooper visit later, exchanging of insurance information, and on this M-Cubed morning, my car sits at the collision center getting repaired.  :-(  No one was hurt, though.  So, that was the cruddy part of the week!

 - Saturday, I called my parents and asked if our girls could come over.  I saw a beautiful evening on the way and wanted to whisk my lady away into the hills of Amish Country...just over an hour south.  We made a stop at Breitenbach Winery which is one of the most visited wineries in the country.  BBQ was cooking fresh out back and lots of people were enjoying it, each others' company, and the beautiful countryside along with glasses of wine.  We never knew about their upper viewing deck and the ability to get a bottle corked on the premises.  We got some cheese and crackers and enjoyed some of their seasonal Dandelion...super sweet!  Honestly, sitting there on the deck, breeze blowing, sun beating down from behind us, no kids (sorry...we love you but a break was nice!)...that was nice.  Just a break from everything.  We spent the rest of the evening driving through town after town and ended up having dinner in one of the Amish-style restaurants in the small, rural town of Mount Hope.  Evening well spent!

- Sunday, Katherine sung her first solo at church.  Staying in tune, giving a all comes so natural for her.  We all helped her pick a song that was simple and required no music on her part.  She did AWESOME!!!  Wonderful Fathers Day gift!!!  That, along with some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a Starbucks Card, and I was set for the day!

-While sitting on that patio at Breitenbach on Saturday night, my thoughts could not escape so many of my friends not too far to our west at Mohican State Park.  The Mohican 100 Mile Endurance event kicked off before dawn on Saturday morning with the traditional 30 hour time limit.  It also has a 50 mile event and many, many of my friends were in it.  The day had weather scary-similar to what we get for the Burning River 100 in August.  Temperatures that climbed into the upper 80s and full sun with no rain.  61% of the 100-milers did not finish in the end and I still am wondering about a handful of my friends and how they fared.  I haven't found results online and they haven't posted anything on Facebook.  For the ones who conquered, my hat is off to you!!!  I'm not going to name names in fear of missing some but hopefully, I've already congratulated you if I KNOW about you!!!  It was a grueling day for a race on those trails but you did it!  I will say, though, I was happy to be nibbling on cheese and crackers instead of on the balmy trails on Saturday evening.  :-)  My thoughts, however, were with you all the way.

- Huge congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Vince Rucci!!!  Vince and Holly were married on Sunday afternoon at 4pm at Firestone Metro Park.  It was simple, elegant, classy, small, and perfect in every way.  They chose a location that had an enclosed pavilion with kitchen.  The ceremony was held outside in the grass while their guests sat in white chairs and they stood under a mighty oak tree, reciting their vows.  Even bottles of water were provided for us in the hot sun!  Nice touch!  Yellow, white, and a light beige (sorry, I'm bad identifying exact colors!) were the main colors.  Afterwards, we all moved inside and had an amazing dinner, band playing outside, and time to hear a few great toasts to the new couple.  All of my very best wishes to Vince, Holly, and their baby girl and thank you for making us part of your day!  It really was perfect!

- I have hopefully found a new massage therapist to shred away my problems.  He's known to leave bruises and really get the work done so we'll see.  I see him tonight for the initial visit.  He just opened up his new location in Cuyahoga Falls.  I'm optimistic!!!  I'll report back later about the good, bad, and the ugly.

- If you haven't noticed, 2010 hasn't been very productive for me in the running category.  You may recall my adductor injury which really became amplified and known during my 3rd 100-miler last year at Oil Creek in October.  At one point, I swore I was completed healed and back 100%.  That adductor has flared up again and is really putting a damper on things.  Getting the massage tonight is yet another step in my attempt to get fixed.  The late summer/fall schedule is bearing down on me now and if I don't get back into the shape I need to be in, it is ALL in jeopardy, including my repeat trip to Titusville for the 2nd annual Oil Creek 100.  I have a whole blog post in my head about this injury and I may or may not write about the mental turmoil it has recently drowned me in.  More later...

- On tap!  Vacation in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania!!!  It's coming up soon and we're all looking forward to the getaway. 

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tonsils Out! Perfect.

I'm just a tad bit critical of, well....everything. I look at everything through eyes that are a bit perfectionist, I's just the way I'm wired. I'm super, super far from perfect, but I do strive to cross every "T", dot every "I", and try not to miss a beat. Our visit to the Children's Hospital of Akron on Monday was nothing short of...well, perfect! We were all very impressed with them. From the days leading up to Monday where they called with literally turn-by-turn walking instructions from the parking deck to check-in on the fourth floor, they never missed a beat.

We arrived at the prescribed time of 7:30am and I was close to pay attention to the directions to walk from my car and sure enough, they were dead on. Also unlike many medical visits, we never sat more than a few minutes without being called back. I know this because just as I grabbed onto their free, super-fast high speed internet access, I had to close my netbook again to go to the next phase of the process. They really did a great job not only putting us at ease about our daughter's surgery to have her adenoids and tonsils removed, but they spoke TO her own 7-year-old language that she understood. The blood draw, the talk by the anesthesiologist, the talk by the lady who let her pick out a flavored chapstick to flavor the mask that would put her to sleep, and finally Dr. Griffin...who took her by the hand and walked her back to surgery. It was, by all I could witness through my critical eye...perfect. It was 9:45am when they walked back and we were told it would be about 45min until they'd be finished. We were directed to the flip side of the 4th floor where recovery was. Marjie and I grabbed a snack in the Kids' Cafe (me, an extra-hot, non-fat, white mocha from the atrium espresso bar) and at 10:15am (yea, 30min later), Dr. Griffin walked on out with a wide grin, telling us how perfect it went. Seriously? 30 minutes? Wow. A few minutes later, they called us back and Madeline was crying, shivering, and afraid having just woken up from the anesthesia and just wanted her hands held. Sitting bedside, her recovery nurse charted every few minutes on her laptop, gave us some ice chips to feed our daughter, and monitored everything to make sure everything was perfect. About 30min later (at best), we were moved over to recovery #2 where we'd hang out until discharge later and when grandmas and grandpas and whomever else could visit. Before heading over, our nurse delivered a present...a handmade blanket. Super soft, double-layered, and covered with animated cats. (by evening, the frilly ends were being braided by our tonsil-less little girl) Over in recovery, we basically sat by her side, gave banana-flavored popsicles when she'd have them, orange-flavored sherbert, water, and Gatorade. Visits by my brother (her Uncle Jim who works at the hospital with Air Bear...their medical-transport helicopter) and both grandparents were very appreciated. By 3pm, we were on the way home with only a stop to pick up some pain medications and at the RedBox to pick up Planet 51 for the girls to watch.

Here a few days later, the hospital and Dr. Griffin's office have both called to check in on her. They saw it through to completion, for sure. I don't doubt that they'll be calling again soon to check in on her. Even balloons and a gift showed up at our doorstep from our church. Her older sister (by 2 years) has been the best big sister, too. They both asked for each other before we even got home on Monday afternoon. Watching that sister-bond in action was really cool. They may pick on each other like siblings always do but when it mattered, they came together like opposite poles of a magnet. Even a custom hand-written note from her older sister calling her a "hero" was made which nearly melted my heart to read. The innocence, the perfection of such a simple letter... Simply precious.

Thanks to the many, many of you for your messages, thoughts, and prayers. They were felt and answered! I know this was a simple, outpatient, surgery for us and nothing as compared to the many things that take place daily there at that hospital, but the whole experience was just as close to perfect as we could ask for. We are blessed and thankful to have such an amazing facility so close to us and others. We hope to not have to use them in the future but there is undoubtedly some peace of mind knowing they are there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

M-Cubed for 6/14/2010

Monday Morning Musings for June Fourteenth, Twenty Ten. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Wow, what a weekend!  And not just for me, either.  So many of my friends headed over to Pennsylvania for the Laurel Highlands 77 mile ultra-marathon.  It feels more like a 100-miler and just about 1 out of every 2 didn't finish it.  Hardcore, rocks, elevation, and it was hot/humid all day long.  I have to give a huge shout-out to a few folks who conquered it like Tara, Dan, Slim, and Kirk.  Slim, by the way, just finished MMT a month ago.  You rock!  Literally!  Also huge congrats to my other friends who did the relay and 50K distances and those who gave it all but got timed out or ran into other physical problems.  You ALL inspire me!  ROCK on!

- Friday was my "Dad-n-Daughters" Day.  Finally, a decent forecast presented itself and we started the day at Fellows Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park.  I grew up coming here with my parents and still remember rolling down the grassy hill as a kid.  Walking through the park with my girls 30 years later is pretty cool, I must admit.  Check out the post just before this one of the video I shot of our time there.  There weren't even 10 other people in the whole garden that day so it was just us.  Afterwards, I took them trail-side beside Lake Glacier where September's YUT-C 50K is held and found ourselves a picnic table and had lunch.  I packed their favorites and they couldn't have been happier.  After that, I took them over to Lanterman's Mill to see the waterfall, Covered Bridge, and walk along the boardwalk that is part of the trail that circumnavigates all of Mill Creek Park.  Again, see the video for a lot of that.  We had such an awesome time out there!  
Here are pics from the day.

- Saturday brought 21 miles of trails starting at 5:30am from Pine Lane.  I have to say...regardless of whether you like/dislike Facebook, it really has impacted the local running community in a very positive way.  I continue to meet others I would've never met without Facebook.  Who knew I'd have 7 of us in the parking lot at 5:30am???  Two new faces, too!  The Hopeinator was part of the crew and hadn't been to the Virginia Kendall part of CVNP so I played tour guide and designed a course that would cover every step of trail along with the little-known Valley Bridle connector to get over there.  We had a blast, got chewed up by biting flies, and even crested the Sound of Music Hills.  Of course, my camera was in tow as always.  Here is my
Summer 2010 Trail Running Album.  Saturday's pics start at picture #39.

- It's been 20 or 25 years I think, since I last picked up a bat and stood at the plate.  Maybe even more.  I did, however, finally get lured out to the softball game yesterday for the church league.  Boy, did I make a mistake by not being a part of that from the beginning.  That was so much fun!  I got on base all three times at bat and our church won their first game of the season!  I will definitely try and make the final few games but vacation, I believe, will interfere a bit.  Thanks, Pastor Bill, for "twisting my arm" one last time yesterday.  I had a ton of fun.  
Pictures from the game in my Picasa Album.

- During the day with my girls, I also got notice from my Navy world.  I've been targeting a new command and found out I got those orders to report there.  Great leadership opportunities await and a job that is integral to our nation's projection of power throughout the world and supporting the warfighter.  I will be there for at least 3 years and I believe a life-changing experience awaits.  More to come in the future on this.  It is truly an exciting time at my "part-time job."

- Change of plans for the Burning River 100.  I am still volunteering at Happy Days at Mile 64 but will no longer be pacing Brandon to his first 100-mile finish.  Some conflicting things have forced Brandon to shift his plans for his participation this year but I'm sure he'll be back in the future and hopefully, I can still be there for him.  So to keep myself in best use possible, I will pace Kathleen Dickson from the same location.  She had asked after Brandon so I'm honored to be her escort to ANOTHER BR100 finish for her!!!  

- Well, we're off to the Children's Hospital of Akron today.  My youngest is getting a tonsillectomy.  She had strep three times already this year and her doctor made the call that it's time to remove those pesky tonsils.  We are blessed to have a phenomenal place so close to us to care for her.  We'll be home by the evening!

- Regardless of who reads my blog, I found that I missed writing and sharing.  Even though my hiatus was very short, it felt long.  I feel like a have an invisible army of support behind me, encouragement, and accountability through my readers.  Thank you!

Happy Trails, everyone!  Choose to make it a GREAT week!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kodak PlaySport ZX3 Digital Video Camera Review

First off, check this out. It's video I shot yesterday at Fellows Riverside Gardens and on the trails of Mill Creek Park. It was my first exposure to a digital HD video camera. I'm impressed...period. How about that bee having dinner at the beginning??
I've been searching for a handheld, high-definition, digital video camera. I was almost sold on the Flip camera until my brother-in-law from Colorado recommended Kodak. I did my research and precisely at that time, CNET (a super good site to check out for head-to-head comparisons on everything electronic) posted their weekly head-to-head comparison of none other than the Flip vs. the Kodak and the Kodak just barely nudged out the Flip, mostly due to it being feature-rich for the money. Plus, it's waterproof...down to 3 meters!!! So I shopped around and found that nearly no one carries it out in town but of course, places online like has it and in 3 different colors...purple, black, and blue. If I had my way, blue it would be but for some bizarre reason, the purple was $20 cheaper so purple it was. I got it, charged it, read the extremely short owner's manual and took it out to the flower garden and to the trails of Mill Creek Park where one of my favorite ultras is held, the YUT-C 50K (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic). I have to is EASY to use. From button push to ready to film, about 3 seconds. One touch record, one touch's that easy...just as easy as the Flip. One really cool thing this one has is Electronic Image Stabilization and face recognition. As I filmed my girls, little brackets grabbed onto their faces and stayed with them and kept them in focus. As for size, check out my pictures below. It is basically like a big camera phone. About 1/2" thick or so. It easily slips into my pocket and isn't heavy. Another concern is file size when shooting digital video. This camera has several settings. You can go all out with full HD in 1080p, 720p at 60 frames per HD, 720 at 30FPS in HD (what was recommended for uploading and what I used), or bare bones in WVGA. You can also use it as a point-and-shoot up to 5MP. When you first connect it to your computer, it'll install the ArcSoft editing software. This is where the review at CNET rated the Flip extremely high. It beat the Kodak big time. The software is decent but nothing absolutely wonderful so I agree with the review. Then there's the ability to hook up a HDMI cable to the back of your HD television and view it directly on there..and the cable comes with the camera....a $25 option with the Flip. The only thing I had to buy was a memory card at 8GB which will give me about 2+ hours of HD video.

So at the end of the day, I haven't been this impressed with an electronics purchase in a long time. Those who know me, know that I take a ton of pictures on the trails and swear by Canon digital cameras. I was prepared to be disappointed with this purchase but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's amazing that this little guy can record such awesome HD video. Technology is a wonderful thing! Oh yea, the screen on it is bright and vibrant, too...and in widescreen. Icing on the cake.

Friday, June 11, 2010

SWOT That Leadership

If by chance you've had any business education, you most likely had a marketing class or two.  If so, I'd bet you learned about SWOT Analysis...or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats....S.W.O.T.  In marketing when you have a new product, a revised product or simply an existing product, it's a great way to analyze where it sits in the big picture against your competition.  What are it's strengths?  It's weaknesses?  Are there opportunities not yet explored...ya know, think outside the box.  How about threats to it's existence?  Once written down, it helps establish a path going forward.  

So what in the world is this doing here and what does it have to do with today's blog title?  My undergrad was in business and I got my MBA back in 2006 so I've been lectured to about SWOT and used it multiple times in case studies and real life alike.  I have found lately as I look at leadership opportunities in my military life and leadership that surrounds me in other parts of my life, that this SWOT concept really can apply to just about any topic you throw at it.  Today...Leadership.

I believe that to lead others is to inspire them, empower them, give them direction, enforce the rules/boundaries, and to walk the walk that you expect them to.  A leader should know what it's like to walk in the shoes in which he/she expects to lead and never forget that.  To best do this, I think a SWOT Analysis is in order from the perspective of leader to that person being led.  To best follow my train of thought here...imagine the workplace, although you could apply this anywhere and even as a parent.  My recommendation?  Write these things down and keep in a private/secure personnel folder to reference back to and take notes over time.

S: Strengths
; How well do you know your people?  Do you really listen to them and observe them?  Verbal and the ever-powerful non-verbal cues cannot be ignored.  What are they gifted in?  You must know these things to later identify ignored opportunities.  Strengths aren't just the physical things they can do.  Don't skip over leadership attributes even though they may not technically be one.  Think BIG.

W: Weaknesses
; No one is perfect and every person on the planet has weaknesses.  But why would a leader even care?  Knowing their weaknesses will allow you opportunities for teaching and leading them in areas where they need it.  There isn't a need to say: "These are your weaknesses and this is what I'm going to do about them."  No way!  However, identifying where there is a lot of growth potential can give you a road-map to develop them.  One of these, ironically, could be leadership and you walking the walk and being an inspiration can be a key way to do this.  Again, write this stuff down.

O: Opportunities
; Just like every time Apple releases a new version of the iPhone or when they released the new iPad, they saw opportunities and capitalized on them.  Look back at the strengths previously identified.  Unless you are the most superb leader ever, you see things now in their strengths where opportunity lies.  Right?  Think not only about their path but your organization's mission.  Where else could they be utilized to really "empower" them?  Don't fall into the dreadful trap of cookie-cutter mentality where they have one job and one job only.  "Just do it and keep your mouth shut" is a dangerous path to tread.  That will not have a happy ending.  Strip that away and think BIG picture...  Don't skip anything...write all your ideas down.  The next time you sit down one-on-one with this person, throw a few nuggets their way and see if they perk up at any ideas you have.  You never could really hit a grand slam here.

T: Threats
; Perhaps a tricky one, here.  With every up, there's gotta be some downs.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and in those weaknesses can come forth threats...threats to your organization and/to him/herself.  They could be sabotaging their own career and not even know it.  As a leader, do you stand by and just watch or do you LEAD???  What about to your organization?  Perhaps they are in a position where they are doing more bad than good and a shifting in responsibilities is in order.  If you've already identified the previous strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, then ideas should be poppin' up everywhere just about now.  Also, don't skip this step.  A full SWOT analysis needs to be seen through beginning to end.

Good stuff, eh?  I love this stuff which I guess is a good thing since a great leader is something I aspire to be in every walk of life I travel.  Unfortunately for me, personally, I'm still pursuing this in a few very major areas in life.  In others, it's reality and I love it.  Think big, my your career, as a parent, in outside organizations that you participate in and are passionate about, or even in your circles of influence.  You can be a great leader for a long time before ever realizing it.

Rely on your own strength of body and soul. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty and industry. Don't take too much advice — keep at the helm and steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Fire above the mark you intend to hit. Energy, invincible determination with the right motive, are the levers that move the world.

Noah Porter

Happy Trails, everyone!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Over-Achiever? Who? Me?

Not too long ago, Marjie (my wife) was attending a leadership seminar at work. Last year, she was promoted into management of the Emergency Room at the hospital and as part of that, has been sent to a wide variety of seminars and talks on leadership and the like. It's pretty amazing, actually, how much time/funding the hospital uses to develop their leaders. One thing that a speaker said at one seminar went something like this: "If you don't reward those who are high-producers, meet/exceed their goals, and do a great job, they will find somewhere else in life to do so." That's totally "my" version of it but it makes sense to me.

This doesn't necessarily mean that they'll seek employment elsewhere (but it might, actually), but perhaps in other areas of life. When she was sitting there that day and heard this, her thoughts immediately turned to me. I am thankful for my civilian job. I am thankful for my military job, too, which is really more of a part-time job until someday when it becomes my sole focus in life. In my day-to-day job as a civilian, I feel like I do a pretty darn good job. I am never late. My work is precise, detailed, and when in doubt about policy or a procedure, I look up the answer and/or seek help from a more experienced co-worker. I deliver superb customer service to my "customers" which is confirmed day in/day out as they give me very positive feedback. However, it's not really a job that gives a whole lot of pat-on-the-backs or "Good Job!" mentions. Luckily, the intangible part of the job is knowing that I am serving others and making a positive impact on their life. That really is the fuel for my daily fire. I need it. It's not a's a need. Without it, I'd deflate to nothing. As 2009 was my first full year in this job, it's interesting to see what I did to fill in the gaps of achievement. Remember what the guy said at the seminar? Well, look at my 2009: not one, but three 100-mile finishes. One wasn't enough. How about that Western Reserve Trail Running Newsletter? I started with about 100 subscribers and no blueprint to go off of and no idea what folks wanted. Today, almost 1100 subscribers get it and it's chock full of trail-running "bliss" every month. No complaints from me, though. It's like another part-time job but I love it to pieces and am constantly trying to improve on it and not let it get dry. The trails are rarely dry, right?!

Enter 2010: I started out injured...thanks to an adductor strain that was amplified at my last 100-miler in October at Oil Creek (no regrets). That pesky little guy still shows it's ugly head from time to time. That's kept my mileage down and also from running in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest for 100 miles last month. I also graduated from the Navy's Supply Corps School in March, fully anticipating a mobilization to the desert to support the GWOT (Global War on Terror). As I mentioned in my last post, the war effort is a constantly changing thing and to that end, I have not been mobilized. Knowing I wouldn't be leaving, I sought out a challenging new command in the Navy Reserve and arrived there last December. That very command was going through a massive reorganization that continues today. That "process" resulted in me losing the very job I showed up for under no fault of my own. So here I sit today...again seeking another challenging job and very, very close to landing that job, too. It is the same 'ol, same 'ol thing with anything government or military...hurry up and wait. For a Type A, Go-Getter like myself, patience doesn't come easy. I go 110% and expect the result now. It just doesn't work that way and I don't see any human electrician standing by to re-wire me anytime soon. The cards are all played, though, and hopefully, I'll get the job that I'm gunning for...a job serving a real mission in today's war effort. Even better, it's a joint command meaning that I'll work along the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force...maybe even other nations, too.

So reflecting back on that seminar and what Marjie picked up on that day, I've definitely felt beat down and a failure lately. The over-achiever in me hasn't been seeing the results I like to see and if I’m not careful, I'll just keep stacking things on top of everything else like a vulture looking for meat. It affects everything and most painfully, my relationship with Marjie and my little girls. That's where I have to tread lightly and get my head on straight. I've never considered myself a great husband or father but I do seek to do the best I can with what I know/have. I never feel like I'm anywhere close to being great in those areas and I wish I could just live in my 3 girls' shoes for a day or two to observe ME. I think that would be priceless information to view in order to make myself better...for them. Sure, I could ask them but I want the raw data...not the sugar-coated data.

So that's me. Raw me. It is without a doubt, frustrating to BE me! However, I am thankful for who I am, those who call me "friend," and for my three girls. I think knowing WHO I am is critical to plodding through each and every day successfully and with a smile on my face. It's certainly the first step. As one quote says that is laminated and stuck to my monitor at work: "Overflow with Thankfulness Every Day."

Happy Trails, everyone...and till next time...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mis-Matched Toys in the Box

If you have or have had kids, you can relate with the title. Pieces, parts from every gadget and toy from multiple birthdays, Christmas mornings and the like. That's exactly how I feel after shutting down my blog-brain for awhile. A whole bunch of pieces/parts just lying there and they need to be cleaned up and put away...much like any kids' playroom. So this post is more of a "what's been goin' on...what's comin' up...time to catch up" kinda post.

In the running world...well, there isn't much to tell you. That's a good thing, though. Since the Fools 50K at the end of March, I haven't pinned on a race number except for the Flying Pig 1/2 Marathon (where 2 pins were removed from that bib to keep Marjie's pants up...gonna have to read her blog for that story). I have enjoyed just run...just for the pure joy of it. No schedule, no plan. Occasionally, I'll wake up and run a marathon (see a few posts ago for that one) in my neighborhood consisting of multiple 2.4 mile loops or I'll go for a 20 mile trail run...on a whim. In all, I've been averaging between 30-40 miles a week...on the low side of a preferred 50-60 mile average week. Things will change soon enough, though. In July is my next race at the sold out Buckeye Trail 50K followed 2 weeks where I'll pace Bobcat Trail Marathon/Bigfoot 50K co-race director, Brandon Huff, to his first 100-mile finish at the Burning River 100 Miler. For those of you in front of Brandon at the BR100, be prepared for a butt-kicking as you come through Happy Days as I'll be volunteering there until Brandon shows up. I think that's about 36 miles to the finish. After that, not much until mid-September when I'll run the YUT-C 50K again followed by my repeat visit to the Oil Creek 100-Miler in October. Pushing into the fall, I plan to run the Bobcat Trail Marathon in November and cap off 2010 with the inaugural Bigfoot 50K in December at Salt Fork State Park. Relating to it all is my sort-of-an-injury...sort of not injury. The 'ol left adductor problem has reappeared now and again. There's really no method to it's madness. I know what irritates it (muddy/slick trails) and what doesn't (dry trails and roads). So, even though I love mud and muddy trail running...and I'll graciously dive head first into a pit of it on the trails (followed by a bath in a water crossing)...I'm avoiding it. No need to do exactly what I know I shouldn't just for the greed of it. I think what I really need right now is a deep tissue massage to get me reset. My massage therapist who came to my house for quite a long time no longer does house calls so I'm on the hunt for a replacement...recommendations welcomed! I was also just picked by Brooks Running to wear test another pair of their shoes...just in time, too. I was about to place another order! It's the second pair I've wear-tested for them and hopefully (although not guaranteed), I get to keep this pair.

On the military front, it's been a dose of frustration often and a whole lot of unknowns. Two and a half years ago, I re-joined the Navy but this time in the Reserve. (I was previously on active duty for 10 years from 1991-2001.) I was told at the time that once I graduated from the Navy's Supply Corps Officer school, expect to be mobilized to Iraq or Afghanistan immediately and for at least a year. Oh how much can change in 2 years. The thing that got a lot of us Supply Corps officers mobilized to the war effort was the Army's need for us within the Embedded Training Teams in Afghanistan to train up the Afghan army. Well, the Army has taken that back and can now meet the need so we no longer augment them. So today as we draw down in Iraq and beef up our presence in Afghanistan, the mission is constantly changing and the needs are as well. I am presently very close to landing a job in a new Navy unit where I'll get a great opportunity to lead junior sailors as well as serve in a very active part of today's War on Terror. If that happens, I'll probably get my chance in the future to head to the sandbox for awhile and do my part. Many ask me why on earth would I want to do such a thing. Those people nearly 100% of the time have never served. They also often take service members and their freedom for granted, as well. I will tell you this: I didn't re-join the Navy to sit around once a month and not give back to my country. No one who raised their hand after the attacks of 9/11 did. And let me tell you...recruiting numbers are NOT down. We are still an all-volunteer force and one to be reckoned with. I have found it quite difficult lately to not get fired up at the ignorance of others who I come in contact with all of the time. So, so, so many people's lack of patriotism and support for our service members disgusts me. Yes, it is light years ahead of what Vietnam vets came home to 40 years ago, but when we currently have our brothers and sisters half a world away dodging bullets for us, how can SO many live completely in a vacuum from it all? It really came to a head as I was running 10 miles last Saturday with Hope's Trinity Trotters in Hartville and I passed a yard-sale where a lady had her flag laying on the ground. I politely asked her to pick it up and she immediately let loose on me with her smart-mouth. A verbal back-and-forth ensued and my blood boiled over onto the burners. That along with seeing so few flags flying over the holiday weekend in my town and so few people at the Memorial Day ceremony at our cemetery just exhausted me. If nothing else, it fueled my fire to a whole new level to want to serve more. I could really rant endlessly on this so anyways....

I think I need to get the 'ol blogging up and going again. I've really enjoyed sharing with my loyal readers over the past few years and ironically, the moment I stopped blogging, more people subscribed so go figure... I was really starting to think I no longer had anything to say but as many of you know...I always have something to say. :-) The road forged ahead by someone who bases his life on holding others accountable, an uncompromising level of integrity, and reaching to heights always a bit out of reach...will always have bumps in the road and consistent and relentless obstacles. That's me to a tee. That's OK, though. I'll take the rough road any day before I compromise myself and take the easy road. Call it the 100-mile race option vs. the 50K race option, right?!

Happy Trails, friends....we'll talk more often from now on.