Monday, August 30, 2010

M-Cubed for 8/30/2010

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

- Our local tradition of the Portage County Randolph Fair came to a close last night which means it's time to fire up the yellow buses and start school.  Meet the Teachers tonight with the first-day tomorrow.  Let it begin!

- Ever think you could close a credit card via e-mail?  Well, we paid off our final credit card last Tuesday as part of our Debt Snowball and I immediately sent Navy Federal Credit Union a message on their website to please close the account and send us a letter.  On the same day, they closed it.  Typically, they have to send you through the wringer and try and convince you to keep the card.  I guess they got the word that we're a lost cause on that front.  :-)  On to the next Debt Snowball car!  We have made incredible progress this year and are approaching $30,000 in pay-down since January 1st!  BAM!  Just my car and house debt is left.  A rolling stone gathers no moss!  (and with increased speed, will smash everything in its path)

- I'm a teacher at heart when I really believe in something or passionate about something.  I'd really like to give some classes on budgeting, cash-flow management, debt elimination (you notice I didn't say "reduction?"), etc. I read the book, I built my own self-calculating spreadsheets to make it simplistic, and Marjie and I are doing it.  I just feel others who have the desire could really benefit from it.  We'll have to see about this one.

- The forecast was for upper 80s yesterday so after church and a quick bite to eat at home, I took everyone down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike to Buttermilk Falls.  As ordered by the doc, I am forbidden from hiking as it is a load-bearing activity.  However, it's only 1/2 to 3/4 mile to the Falls and it was a gorgeous day.  Plus, I "needed" to get on the trails.  If you're a understand.  If not, I'm guessing that you're rolling your eyes.  I couldn't help but smile simply by driving down Route 303 and passing the "Welcome to Cuyahoga Valley National Park" sign.  I told Marjie: "If I didn't have you guys and I was about to have my last breath, it is here I would want to come and die.  This is my second home."  It's the truth.  Anyway, the trail was great and I walked very slow and took my time.  I didn't want to ruin a 2nd straight day of no pain but this was also a test.  With no rain, the Falls were minimal and we were able to stand at the top of them without getting wet.  Lots of opportunities to try out my new Canon G11 and the different settings, especially in low light.  I also messed around with the ISO settings for the running water.  See my photo blog for the 4 photos I felt were worthy enough to post.  The one with water was set at ISO 3200, the highest setting.  I love it.

- A visit to the Valley in the summer with my family wouldn't be complete without a stop by Szalay's market.  Fresh, local produce and outside, lots of places to relax while a local artist played his tenor saxophone for the listening pleasure of everyone around.  I had but one goal, though.  Roasted corn-on-the-cob and their fresh-squeezed lemonade.  All summer long on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Szalay's serves it up.  I got my fix and sat in the stationary wagon with Marjie and the girls while we enjoyed the goodness.  Yum.

 - I'm really looking forward to September's release of the Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter.  I have changed my approach to the newsletter which should get it back on a reliable publishing schedule and have richer content.  It had gotten to a point with our constantly booming trail-running community where something had to change.  Too much for one person to do.  For this Thursday's newsletter, I have compiled a long list of trail links, complete with Google Maps to their locations.  I am covering western Pennsylvania, too.  (yes, Oil Creek included!)  My interview this week in the "Trail Runner Spotlight" is also especially good and inspirational.  I hope the now nearly-1600 who get it...enjoy it.  Amazing when we only started with 200 on the list.  Also my "Dave Letterman Inspired" Top 10 list to do the Bobcat Trail Marathon...which by the way, has registration up 300% over last year.  I'll be there!

 - I have to hand it to you weight-lifters out there.  I have stopped swimming and now am only lifting weights.  (I feel the swimming was tugging and hurting my, I KNOW it was)  I gotta say...THIS STINKS!!  For those who spend hours in the gym lifting weights, I don't know how you do it.  Talk about B O R I N G!!!  "Please, just give me a trail, would ya?"  Oh's only but a temporary season, right?  But seriously, lifting weights is downright "Ugh!!!"

 - Lastly on the last Monday of August 2010, let me just say that my heart remains on the trail, although my trail shoes are currently not.  I still have the burning desire and passion of an ultra-runner and cannot wait to get back at it.  To that end, I leave you today with the following quote to spear-head your Monday and hopefully, make it a GREAT week:

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..." ~ David Blaikie

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Monday, August 23, 2010

M-Cubed for 8/23/2010

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

- Finally, a great weekend with family and friends alike.  It all kicked off with a sushi party at our house on Friday night.  At first, the plan was to make sushi but after realizing that sushi-grade fish was going to set us back nearly 400-500 bucks (not kidding!), we opted for the 2nd best thing...and perhaps THE best thing...catered from Heinen's in Hudson.  Made fresh that morning, we had 160 pieces of sushi for about 20 guests on Friday night and we grilled chicken teriyaki kabobs (peppers, onions, pineapple), too.  We had a blast and great to see a mix of friends from several parts of our lives.  Thanks to all who came out!

Marjie passed her CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse) exam on Friday!  She has literally been studying all summer. Day after day, she has been in the dining room with her face buried in that mess of books and taking multiple multi-hour practice exams.  From all testimonies, both from her and her peers, it is harder than sitting for the test to become a nurse in the first place.  I escorted her up to Brook Park on Friday morning, camped out at a local Starbucks for 3 hours, and she did it!  She's a very happy nurse, now, but understandably, a little bummed that the summer is over!  Great job, Babe!

- At the tail end of my Starbucks camp-out above, I swung by the local Best Buy who had one last Canon G11 in stock.  My research was done and I was ready to get it.  They matched their online price and it was mine.  I was again like a kid in a candy store.  First impression was how heavy it was and bulky.  I've become very used to the light and thin Canon Powershots that slip in the pocket.  It's been great so far and I've had fun with it in its "raw" mode.  In "raw," it doesn't perform the digital compression, etc. that digital cameras do to make the pics JPEGs.  Instead, it captures it true to form and maintains the integrity of the shot.  Then, using the software provided, it can be made into a JPEG for sharing while maintaining the integrity.  There is certainly a lot to learn but I'm having fun so far.  I set up a site just for my best pics
here.  It'll also be in my blog roll going forward.  2 posts so far.

- I was listening to "All Things Considered" yesterday on NPR and heard an interesting story about muscle memory.  In a nutshell, it was about how nuclei are created in your muscles that remember.  So, when you stop working out (or running 30 mile long runs on the weekend for fun...ME!!!), the ability to return to that level shouldn't be too difficult because supposedly, the nuclei initially created when training to do that in the past are essentially permanent.  I've always heard of muscle memory but never heard the science behind it.  Interesting article and a link to listen to the interview (short) can be found
here on NPR's website.

- My favorite opera off all time is Phantom of the Opera.  Hands down, there is nothing better in my eyes.  I just love it all..the story, the romance, the passion that the Phantom has for Christine, and the powerful musical score.  On Friday night, tickets were offered up to us and yesterday, I took Katherine to see it at the Allen Theater at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.  Turns out, yesterday was the final performance of the season and the last show for the Allen before a major year-long transformation takes place to convert it into 3 smaller theaters.  We were in the nose-bleed section up high on the balcony but it was still great.  Truth be told, though, I'd pay double to be close and see the actors' faces and "feel" the music coming from the pit.  There is nothing like the "Phantom."

- After the Phantom, I found the closest
Melt Bar & Grilled and plotted a course to it.  Melt was featured on Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel not too long ago for their $22 Melt Challenge. (see a snippet of the episode here)  Let's just say it includes 3 1/2 pounds of their 13 different cheeses, a mountain of their fries, and 3 slices of their 1" thick bread.  Not for me on this trip but I did want to visit it to see what the hype was all about.  After about a half-hour wait, we got a table at the east-side location and Katherine got the Kindergarten...just the basic grilled cheese and I got the Mushroom Burger.  Impression?  That's a lot of bread!!!  I like a good burger...I won't lie, but I'm not a fan of that much white bread.  The internals and cheese were great, no doubt.  The fries, honestly, were the star of the plate.  Fresh cut, homemade seasoning, a little crunchy...perhaps the best fries I've ever had.  The also stack a pile of cole slaw on the plate but with a bit of heat inside.  Too much for Katherine for sure and something I'd replace as well on a repeat visit.  So would I visit again?  Sure I would.  It would be great to visit with Marjie and some friends.  I'd probably opt for one of their appetizers, instead, or their 1/2 sandwich/soup/salad combo next time, though.  Worth an hour drive from my home?  Nope.  It was good, though, and close enough to Legacy Village and Beachwood Mall that I'm sure we'll be back again sometime.

- It's RANDOLPH FAIR WEEK!!! WOO HOO!!!  There's one thing in my small town that doesn't change...that being the Randolph Fair.  Old school to the max, this fair never, ever changes.  It is exactly the same way it was 20 years ago when I was in high school.  I remember well the demolition derby, the rides, the elephant ears, the 4-H barns (I was in the 4-H club and had a rabbit), and the magical sausage sandwiches.  The vendors are even in the exact same spots each year.  One year, our school system tried to start school during the fair...that did NOT go over well at all.  I don't see that ever happening again!  The fair even keeps the price right.  Still at $4 per adult a buck for kids.  On Friday, veterans and kids are free as well so I think it's safe to bet where we'll all be on Friday...after a 1/2 day of work, that is.  If you're within an hour reach of the fair, you should go!  It will be worth it!  
All the details here.

- To death with the credit card.  That's right!  Less than 8 months after Marjie and I started our debt snowball and converted to a cash-only system and budget-strict system (courtesy of "Uncle Dave Ramsey," of course!), we are down to the final 500 bucks on our last credit card (which started out at over $13,000, by the way).  Tomorrow will be the final payment and only my car and the house remains.  Her car was paid off a year and a half early about 4 months ago along with a few other little debts.  We're still brainstorming how to best destroy that card on film.  What I really want to do is screw it to the bottom of my trail shoes and take it on a nasty, filthy trail run.  I may just do that.  Perhaps a few holes afterwards with a 357 Magnum would finish the job off as well.  Regardless, it is over.  We haven't charged a cent since Christmas 2009 and have no intent of doing so in the future.  Let the snowball roll on!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Multi-Tasking to the Extreme

As I arrived home this past Sunday evening, I literally shook as I stood in my kitchen at home.  I just stood if stoned out of my mind.  I didn't even know what to do.  I had just returned from a phenomenal weekend at the Defense Logistics Agency world headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  I was amongst senior military leaders from all four services and the weekend was ripe with real, meaty information that is very pertinent in today's climate of 2 wars going on.  The "DLA Machine" as I like to call it plays a huge part in supplying the war-fighter wherever they may be and I am honored to now be a part of it.  The "JRFLC"...and as we called it "J R Flick"...the Joint Reserve Force Leadership Conference...has a press release/article that was published this week covering what happened while I was there.  If you have any interest in the "what" of what I do in my "part time job" with the Navy, you'll find it interesting.  Find it here.

So back to that stoned feeling on Sunday night.  I had just finished a stretch since August 1st with only one day off.  The perception from many, especially at work, is that I take a lot of Fridays off, run races, and just live the high life.  In reality, it's multi-tasking to the extreme, juggling many "balls" without dropping any.  As the most senior officer in Virginia this past weekend, Rear Admiral English told me, it's all about the 3-legged stool for a military reservist:  Family, Civilian Career, and Military that order.  When mobilized and sent on active duty, the last comes forward to the first as it must and the civilian job goes into hibernation until our return.  I also love his follow-on quote: if all 3 are equally ticked off at you, you're doing a great job!  But seriously, it's not easy.  My recent job that I got with DLA is in leadership and my e-mail inbox got a serious injection of volume in the past month.  They seem to never stop and I am finding myself up very early in the morning, up late at night, and on breaks at work tending to Navy business.  I'm not complaining, though.  I wouldn't want it any other way but managing how it affects everything else, especially my family, is a work in progress.  So Monday morning came and I called off.  I was physically, mentally, and emotionally cracked on Sunday night and Marjie pretty much ordered me to call off...which I did.  I guess when an ER nurse tells you to do something, you do it.

Ha!  I just read what I wrote and there's nothing about running!!!  Go figure.  Can we add a leg to the stool?  I did this week and got the 2-week late Western Reserve Trail Running newsletter out just in time to promote a few races this week and publish the interview I had finished and the Buckeye Trail 50K report that Kirstie wrote for me. (read the newsletter here) I even have better news...remember about a month ago how I published the photo of Ron Ross at the BT50K and was trying to get it in UltraRunning Magazine?  Well, it won't be on the next cover but a black and white version of it will be the magazine alongside the race report.  Very cool.  Very cool indeed.  (I still have a goal of capturing a photo worthy of the cover someday.)  Speaking of that...time to go pick up my Canon G11.  After all, there is a trail race tomorrow and I'll be there.  XTERRA #5!!!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

M-Cubed for 8/16/2010

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

- I woke up yesterday morning in extreme northern Virginia, on one of our country's most beloved U.S. Army bases and wrote the following.  It resonated with a few friends, so I wanted to share it this morning:
"Make great things happen. Greatness is not achieved through check-marks, milestones, or perception by others of you. True Greatness is found by reaching for goals via a burning passion and fire, only to be fueled by you, regardless of the outcome. Today, find True Greatness and make it happen."

- Burnout = achieved.  On my 6 hour drive home yesterday, I realized that I'd only had one day off since August 1st, the Burning River 100 weekend.  I'm not complaining, but it made sense why I felt mentally, emotionally, and physically burnt out.  2 back-to-back weekends with the Navy away from home were exhausting but equally perfect as well.  I wouldn't change a thing!

- OK, so I'm standing in line at the Starbucks in Breezewood, PA yesterday, the most congested interchange on the planet, and this lady in front of me had a solid 10 minutes to determine what she wanted.  Not her, though.  She gets her turn and all I hear is a series of "ummmm...."  "let me think....." "hold on a minute...."  At least 5 minutes later, several custom-made drinks, some cookies and pastries, and over $18 spent, I got to order my soy, Cinnamon-Dulce, venti iced coffee.  Seriously, people.  Get it together.

- Friday was my travel day to northern Virginia and I opted to drive vs. fly.  I saw this as the perfect opportunity to return to our nation's capital where I hadn't been for a very looooooonnnng time.  My destination is only 30min outside of D.C. so this was perfect.  I was on the road at 5am, and arrived in Arlington between noon, parked my car at a Metro train station, got thoroughly confused by the "SmartCard" system.  I had to have the clerk walk me through it.  "SMART" card?  It was a "STUPID" card to me.  I got on and deboarded right at the National Mall at the Smithsonian.  For the next 6 hours, I visited the Museum of Natural History (in which I called my girls because one of their favorite movies...Night at the Museum...was made here), the Navy Memorial, White House, National Archives, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, Washington Monument, and walked across the George Washington Bridge to Arlington Cemetery.  There, I witnessed the amazing Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard.  I felt 99 pictures were good enough to keep and they are posted here on my blog from Saturday.

- On the topic of pictures: I've got a hobby as many of you know..picture-taking.  All weekend, outside of the conference I was at on Defense Logistics and supporting the warfighter worldwide, my thoughts were consumed with taking my picture-taking to the next level....let's call it "photography."  (HA!) That sounds a lot more serious, doesn't it?!  I love my Canon point-n-shoots but I want more.  I want higher quality and more "umph" out of my pictures.  I want them to convey how they make me feel without saying a word.  I reached out to
Tom Sperduto who is professional photographer and fellow ultra-runner.  I came to know him as he was a finisher at last year's Oil Creek 100 as well.  His work is incredible.  For me, I seek to take it up a notch so when he mentioned that the lens alone for his camera cost $2300, I had to readjust my priorities a bit!  Going to a high-end SLR camera is not going to happen.  In my former life of charging everything on plastic, I may have done it.  Not anymore.  He did recommend a "toy" camera called the Holga which is old-school to the core.  It is plastic, uses 120mm film, and takes amazing photos.  I was at first drawn in but developing the photos could be an issue and I can see frustrations looming already.  His alternative suggestion was a high qualify point-n-shoot.  In particular, I'm looking at the Canon G11.  It has a ton of customization options but remains digital.  He recommended a few others but I'm extremely happy with my past Canon's an am familiar with many of their features.  One thing I want to do more of since I'm not running trail events at the moment is to go out and capture these trail events via photos.  Hardly anyone is doing that locally and it's a shame.  I feel a calling to step it up and do it myself.  My thoughts are to create a website just for this, probably using blogger, just to share all of my work.  Gotta save for it first...

- Speaking of saving and charging on the credit card, we're less than 2 weeks away from being credit-card-free!!!  For the first time in nearly 18 years of marriage, we will no longer have a credit card.  It has kept us shackled for long enough!  We're still thinking about how we can creatively destroy that card.  I had initially thought of screwing it to the bottom of my trail shoes and going for a trail run.  We'll see.  We've been operating on cash-only since Christmas 2009 and haven't charged a thing and are approaching the $30,000 mark on our debt snowball.  A rolling stone gathers no moss!!!

- A friend of mine here in my small town lost her uncle last week.  In the process, the family learned more about his service in the Army.  She took a picture of his "shadow box" with his old patches, medals, and pins from his service and sent it to me in a effort to find out what they all meant.  All she asked for was info about the medals but I couldn't stop there and looked up everything.  He was an Airborne Ranger, an infantryman, a parachutist, and veteran of the Korean War.  It was humbling to look each item up and read about it's history.  From what I hear, he never talked much about his service but his shadow box tells a story about his selfless service to his country.  They buried him yesterday at the Western Reserve National Cemetery not too far from here, a beautiful cemetery that all should visit some time.  Thank you, Corporal Vanaman, for your service.  Your country is forever indebted to you.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Washington D.C. 2010 Walking Tour

99 Photos from my 6hr Walking Tour of our Nation's Capital! Click on the photo to open the album then at the top left, click on "Slideshow." Hint: to slow down the slideshow, you can toggle the seconds between pictures at the bottom of the screen right after you begin the show.  It defaults to 3 seconds but that may not be long enough for pictures later in the show, especially from the World War II Memorial and following.  Enjoy!

If you cannot open the link above, the slideshow will play in a miniature version below.  You can click on any photo to see the album as well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's amazing.  One week I am bubbling over with lots to say and can't type the words fast enough.  Another week (this week), I'm just out of words.  I guess you can say it was and it is not a "blogging kind of week."  But anyway, it's Friday yet again.  This day gets here so fast anymore and the calendar trips over to the next month faster, too.  I just can't believe it is August already.  For me in my hometown, it is marked by the Randolph Fair.  The Randolph Fair is old-school to the core.  Since I was a kid, nothing has changed.  The vendors are still in the same spot, the animal barns have the same 4-H clubs in them with the same kind of animals, and the same events happen in the grandstands, highlighted by the demolition derby and truck/tractor pulls.  I have never been to a better fair...ever.  The Ohio State Fair doesn't even come close.  There is just SO much to see and do.  Barns upon barns of kids' animals, crafts, lots of rides, and plenty of Amish-style funnel cakes.  It also unofficially marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the school-year.  Our school system starts immediately thereafter and one year, tried to start early.  That didn't go over too well and it was changed...immediately.  Around go to the fair...period.  Tradition for us as kids...tradition for us as adults and for our kids, too.  By the way, for you Fair fans...the parking stakes are in the ground and activity is bustling on the fairgrounds...I look everyday on my way home from work.  :-)

The pool.  Hmmm....  It has gone well, I suppose.  I am finding that I'm in it twice a week.  The opposite days, I stay home so Marjie can walk or run.  On Wednesday, I got up to 53 laps for 1.5 miles in 62 minutes.  I am doing better and better with few breaks at all and am getting faster and more efficient.  I've also got that floating buoy positioned perfectly to not move or float away without crossing my legs.  I simply imagine my legs as a raft behind me and use them zero!  Occasionally, I feel them tightened up and stressed which transmits into my adductor muscle group and I just relax.  But in all reality...I'm no swimmer and I don't like being in the pool vs. on the trails or the roads in my Brooks.  I miss running in a painful kind of way.  I've always said that running doesn't define me but I no longer think that's entirely true.  I think it does a bit.  That's what I's my thing.  I have such a burning desire to find and sign up for a 100-miler, I can barely stand it!  I know, I know...when I CAN will be a very slow, gradual buildup but rest assured, that is the goal.  Thinking about the cool fall breezes on the way, the colors changing, and the unbelievably gorgeous trails...hmmm...I just can't find the words to convey how badly I want to be out there.  It is a deep, burning passion.  

Work has peaked at a whole new level of stress for me.  It is over-the-top and learning to survive has become key.  Jokes told, goofiness infused, and every reach for fun during the day have become my coping mechanisms.  Ironically, my "part-time" job in the Navy, although it is causing long stretches of no-days-off, provides somewhat of a stress-relief.  I feel like I'm morphing from one person into a completely different an on/off switch.  My new role in leadership also has caused a tidal wave of e-mails and new conference calls in the evenings...even had one this past week that STARTED at 9pm.  Forget the "weekend warrior" assumption by the civilian population.  Not a day goes by where time is not devoted to the Navy...and I'm OK with that.  It IS for love of country that I do it and that makes it all "all right!"  I was also selected as a representative for the whole junior officer population in the midwest region on a committee with several senior officers.  To be on a committee, giving myself and my peers a voice to better join us together is a wonderful opportunity.  I was very gracious for the invite and even though it just "one more thing" on the plate, it is a great one and worth it.  It is certainly a spot where I can make a difference.  (plus, another trip to Chicago in September to meet with the other members including a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony capped off by a fly-by right over my head doesn't hurt either, right?!?)

Have a great weekend, everyone.  I know I will.  Another weekend to remember is on tap and I'll certainly have some things to talk about come Monday morning.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, August 9, 2010

M-Cubed for 8/9/2010

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

- Like the wood planks?  It's a new flavor and feel and something I think goes well with my "watercolor" photo above.  I just can't get enough of this picture.  Someday soon, I'm going to get it on canvas.  Marjie told me last night that Sam's Club is now putting pictures on canvas so it may be sooner than later!  This picture wasn't altered in any way at all.  That's what my Canon did with it on the trail!  The shoe is the most recent version of the Brooks Cascadia, if you're wondering and I was on the Buckeye Trail at West Branch State Park in southern Portage County.

 - Another weekend passed and another weekend in uniform.  I took over as Executive Officer (XO) of a new command that I joined effective August 1st.  For the non-military types in the audience, the XO of a command is 2nd in command, under the Commanding Officer (CO).  My new command is joint, meaning that it’s not just the Navy but also the Army, Air Force, and Marines, although no Marines are currently in our unit.  It’s a very active group with half of the unit currently mobilized to Iraq or Afghanistan, en route, or having just returned.  Everyone else is slated to go within the next year or so.  So far, so good at the new command.  I was welcomed well and really hit it off well with everyone.  I’m really looking forward to this leadership opportunity to lead sailors and soldiers and the nearly vertical learning curve that goes with it!

- I can't hardly stand it...4 days until my next 50,000 IU of Vitamin D.  Bring it on!!!  Can I just hook up an IV and strap the bag to my waist so I can heal overnight?  That seems way more efficient to me.

- Dad?  Who's Dad?  That's what it feels like this morning. Although last week I spent every evening (except for Friday) at Vacation Bible School with my girls, I don't feel like I've seen them in nearly 2 weeks.  More travel looms on the horizon, too.  And before August ends, they'll be back in school.  The juggling act continues, for sure.  To be a dad, a husband, a Monday-Friday government worker, a Navy officer (often in the evenings or whenever the e-mail inbox demands it), and a local running/trail-running/ultra-running, it's just not easy.  Oh yea, the monthly Western Reserve Trail Running Newsletter needs to go out, too.  Well, that'll have to wait right now.  Joyous evenings do kick off for me this week, though, as Katherine's soccer season has started and I love to sit at the field and watch her play..practices, games, whenever.  I want to be there.  Madeline enjoys it, too.

- I haven't talked much about our Debt Snowball and pursuit of being debt-free.  Rest assured, we have not given up and continue down that road.  An update for you: since January 1st of this year when we kicked it off, we have paid down over $27,000 in debt.  All but one credit card is paid off which will be paid off before August 2010 is closed out along with Marjie's 2006 Honda back in the Spring.  In November, Marjie and I will celebrate 18 years.  In those 18 years, never once have we been without a credit card or a car payment.  I'd say this is cause for celebration!  After this card is gone, only my car and our house debt remains.  Even better, this change we instituted at Christmas 2009 has removed a gigantic stress in our lives...that being the stress of money.  Living by a budget and being accountable to that budget and to each other has been huge.  Had we not done this, we'd still be pinching pennies, have no debt paid down (and actually be more IN debt because we've had one big car expense and a dishwasher go out on us), and still be living in the fog of U.S consumer debt.  We are so thankful for our friends who have "mentored" us and provided the example to follow!  It's not magic, folks.  It's simple.  Budget, cash only, teamwork.  That basically sums it up.

- I think there are two kinds of race reports: One is those that are basically in bullet-point format and hit the highlights.  Then those are those that draw you in, make you think you are actually on the trail, and are unable to turn or click away until you virtually cross the finish line with the writer.  Those are easy to write, I have found.  Basically, all you need is quiet, alone time, fingers infused with a certain level of caffeine, and then just type away your thoughts and hold nothing back.  Here is one of those reports.  Star Blackford, a veteran 100-mile finisher and good friend of mine, ran last week's Burning River 100 in a most unconventional way and her report is nothing short of perfection in my eyes.  She worried it was too long but I promise you, it is not.  Here it is.  Enjoy the ride!

- I had an absolutely wonderful meal in the very "high end" area of Bexley in Columbus on Saturday night.  Bexley is real close to the Columbus Int'l Airport and home to Capital University.  My last visit to Aladdin's last month just north of The Ohio State University was not good at all so I was a bit iffy about returning to another one.  This time, I simply asked for a suggestion and took it from the waitress and oh how glad I was.  It was a sampler meal of sorts for a whoppin' $7.95.  It was THE best meal, ever at Aladdin's.  
Grilled chicken mishwi and beef kafta (char-grilled lean ground beef mixed with onion, parsley, herbs and spices) on seasoned white rice with vermicelli; mixed greens salad topped with Lebanese Salata; sides of falaffel and hummus/pita bread. All natural and healthy and oh so good!

 - Are you a local runner and starting to plan 2011, yet?  There is a new 50-miler in Ohio and I am the volunteer coordinator for it.  It is called the Tar Hollow 50 and will be on May 21, 2011.  If you look at surrounding events (ie: Mohican 100), it is perfectly placed on the calendar.  If you're only a bit curious, check it out
here.  This year, don't miss next month's YUT-C 50K...or 25K at Mill Creek of our area's gems and a good old school on the wallet, high on the race swag and support, and a gorgeous course around lakes and waterfalls and over rocks, roots, and Monkey Hills.  November has the Bobcat Trail Marathon and December the inaugural Bigfoot 50K and 3-person relay at Salt Fork State Park.  I'll see you at all 3!  (volunteering OR running!)

 - Off to the pool!  The swim lanes await, along with turning off my military brain and engaging my civilian government-worker brain.  The Monday after a Navy weekend is NEVER easy!  Are Mondays ever easy, regardless?!

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Monday, August 2, 2010

M-Cubed for 8/2/2010

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

 - Truly a wonderful weekend and I didn't run a lick!  Volunteer Report was posted yesterday about my time at Mile 64 of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run.  An update to that, assuming you read it: Chris, who passed out twice at our aid station, although he did look fine when he left had an episode of intense vomiting on the way home and ended up in the ER with 3 bags of IV fluid.  Today, he is fine and recovered.  His spirits are high and plans to return to the race to finish the job in the future.  I still believe that it was his dehydration, combined with the exposure of his blister on his heal (thus giving a little shot of pain), that caused him to pass out.

- It's August.  Wow.  That means our county fair is soon which means the big, yellow school buses will be out again as well.  I think it's safe to say that Summer 2010 has been the fastest ever.  I do appreciate the recent dry spell, though.  I went 4 weeks without cutting the grass.  :-)

 - 11 hours at Happy Days on Saturday definitely made me want to travel 100 miles again.  I was cutting the grass last night which I actually enjoy quite a bit.  The hum of the John Deere is perfect for drowning out everything else but my thoughts.  Those thoughts were consumed with the thrill of the run, the highs/lows, and the finish line.  I must get myself healed and back at it.  One race that happens the same weekend as Burning River is the
Canadian Death Race.  It takes place in the Canadian Rockies, starts/finishes on a 4200' plateau, and covers 17,000' of elevation change and a major river crossing at the confluence of the Smoky and Sulfur Rivers.  It's 125K...or about 78 miles and has a brutal reputation.  I think Marjie's response when I mentioned it went something like: "Oh yea...that sounds like a GREAT race for you to do.  The Canadian DEATH Race." (as her eyes rolled like bowling balls)  I agree!  No eyes rolling for me, though.  This would be a fun road trip for a few ultra-running folks and myself, don't you think?!  It does but leaving town during Burning River?  That may be a tough sell for me.

- Again, to all the volunteers at the Burning River 100 this past weekend, a hearty THANK YOU!!!!  To the runners who crossed the finish line: CONGRATULATIONS on a Job Well Done!!!  To those who didn't: I didn't cross it in 2008, either, but came back in 2009 for payback.  You do the same!  Keep your head high and learn from this.  You toed the line at Squire's Castle and gave it a shot.  Now get back on the trails!

Have a wonderful week, everyone...and oh yes, Happy Trails!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Volunteer Report from the Burning River 100

Sidelined these days, I had to find a way to stay "plugged in" to my family outside of my immediate family...that being the trail running/ultra-running community here in NE Ohio.  The Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run kicked off yesterday morning at 5am and the deadline to cross the finish line passed at 11am this morning, 30 hours later.  I have never been on the "giving side" of the aid station table, instead always on the taking/receiving side as a runner.  My post today is just my point of view at one stop on a very long journey for everyone.

I woke up around 3:30am on Saturday and immediately thought of the Cuyahoga Falls school buses pulling away from the finish line, en route to the starting line 100 miles away at Squire's Castle.  I fell back asleep, knowing that I would need it later, and woke up at 6:30am, of course thinking that I missed the 5am start and everyone is 90min into their journey.  As a past finisher, I know the course and can imagine it all.  For me, though, I was going to be working with Maria and the NEO Trail crew at Mile 64, Happy Days, just off of Route 303 in Peninsula.  I headed on down for setup at 1:15pm and the lead runners came through just over an hour later.  The running order that those first few men and women came in at stayed the same and a guy from California broke a course record and won the race in under 16 hours...simply unbelievable.  Same for the ladies, too.  Annette Bednosky from North Carolina came through looking strong and never gave up the lead and broke a course record as well.

Once the front runners came through, the traffic slowly picked up and I knew more and more fellow runners as they came in.  I don't know many of the speedy folks out there since I'm a mid-packer myself, so as the day wore on, it got more busy and more fun.  My brother, Jim and his wife, Bekah, showed up as well.  They stood a few hundred yards away at the exit of the trail to direct runners through the high grass field to the aid station.  It wasn't long that Jim was texting me every bib number so that we could record the arrival, retrieve their drop bag if they had one, and cheer them in by name.  This really helped our station do our job and best serve each and every runner.

The experience flew by and midnight came quickly.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and found that my experience as a 100-mile finisher really helped in how I spoke to and served each runner.  Some came in as fresh as can be while others looked like death...literally.  Knowing what they need to eat, drink, etc. is huge when they aren't thinking clearly.  Telling them to eat those Ramen noodles or take 2 salt tabs is sometimes necessary.  A few of them really stand out, too.  One girl who I think is from New York...Deanna...came in with the highest spirits. "I can't believe I made it this far!" she proclaimed.  "Is this your first?" I asked.  "Yes!"  "Well," I said, "you look awesome and have the best attitude.  Keep doing what your doing and you'll finish strong!"  She then whispered a little request to change her shoes and socks for her.  She was having trouble bending over and refused to sit down for fear of cramping up and not getting back up.  I got her drop bag, got her dirty/muddy shoes and socks off, cleaned off the filth, then got fresh socks and shoes on her.  She'd never had a salt tab, either, so I insisted she have 2 and some soup.  I got her back on the trail and away she went.  From what I can gather, she finished 3rd in the women's group in 22hrs, 4min!!! AWESOME!!!!  She epitomizes some of what I love about this sport.

Then came Chris.  Chris and I have run together a few times and follows my blog a bit.  Yesterday was his first bite of the 100-mile event.  Waiting for him at Happy Days was his wife and family and more on the way.  Chris was soaked, dehydrated, and took a seat.  As he sat there, the lights went out and he fell limp.  Arms like jell-o and out cold...stone cold.  We put ice cold rags on him, tried to revive him, but he just wouldn't wake up.  I was squatted down in front of him at the time.  As many of us started to reach for our cell phones to call 911, he came back.  He had no idea that he just passed out.  I was concerned.  He was just sitting there and went out.  Being really dehydrated and then standing suddenly can cause you to pass out but he hadn't done that.  I asked him how he's been drinking AND going to the bathroom.  In ultra-running, we have a saying of "Eat, eat eat...drink, drink, drink...pee, pee, pee."  If you aren't doing all three, something is wrong.  He said he had and continued to talk to him, getting him some soup and a coke.  As I spoke, his eyes rolled back in his head and I caught him from falling and starting yelling at him and slapping his arm, trying to wake him up.  He wasn't out as long this time but when he awoke, he again was totally unaware and wanted to get up and go.  No way he was leaving, we told him.  His wife was visibly concerned now and couldn't disagree.  He was stuck in our aid station for awhile, until we felt he could continue or he pulled the plug.  Once he got a fresh shirt on and walked around a bit, eating and drinking all along, I told him: "Chris, you passed out twice...out cold.  Something is not right.  Your wife is concerned and I can't blame her.  However, I won't tell you what to do.  Only you can make this decision and you need to live with it.  There is nothing wrong with stopping.  You have given it all.  You've done nothing wrong."  I made that call two years ago at Mile 55 at Burning River.  My wife didn't dare tell me to stop...I had to make that decision and I stand by it today.  However, I swore redemption and I got it in 2009. :-)  For Chris, he pulled the plug.  He didn't quit, he didn't give up.  He considered all of the circumstances in front of him and made a decision and now that's it done, I say this:
"Chris, you made the right decision.  Never, ever say that you quit.  YOU DID NOT.  Stand behind your decision and come back next year and finish the job.  The 100-mile race can deal even the most elite of runners a raw hand.  You need to stand tall and not let this beat you down.  Come back stronger in 2011...with your newest child, of course.  I am thankful you walked out of our aid station under your own power so look at the positive in that.  There are many other ways July 31st could've ended for you."

I won't dare try to name all of my friends who crossed this year's finish line for fear of missing just one.  You all know who you are and hopefully, I had the opportunity to shake your hand, get you some food, or at least shout you some encouragement.  My hat is off to you for a significant achievement.  Rest and recover well and take good care of that BR100 belt buckle.  To the volunteers: for some reason, much of the country far from us doesn't pay us much attention here in Ohio when it comes to trail running.  I am confused as to why that is.  We have a booming, vibrant, selfless community of runners and volunteers.  We HAVE to...otherwise, a point to point, 100-mile event would be impossible.  The logistics are staggering.  Many 100-mile events are loops within a contained area.  This one passes through several state parks, a national park, several counties, cities, townships, etc.  Total and complete cooperation and teamwork are the only way WE can pull off the BR100 with such success.  We should all stand up and soak this all is not common.  The best part?  I think it's only going to get better which, considering how good it already is, is amazing.

For me, I am thankful to have been a volunteer.  It was incredibly satisfying to be just a fraction of someone's journey to the finish.  For those who are paying close, I did not pace Kathleen to the finish as I have written about for weeks on end.  Kathleen did run and did pass through Happy Days but due to a diagnosis I received just 3 days ago from Dr. Shah, I was ordered to total rest with zero load-bearing activity.  I'll talk about that later because this is not the time for it.  Let's just say that I'm in full "Volunteer Mode" right now and will be at as many events as possible this fall.

Here are 47 pictures
I took of runners as they passed through Happy Days.  Some are quite good!

Happy Trails, everyone, and Happy Burning River 100 Weekend!