Thursday, September 20, 2012

Felt Like Writing Today

2 plus months since I keyed an entry but feeling like writing this morning for some reason. I won't recap the past two months and who knows if I'll feel like writing another post after today. In those two months, though, there hasn't been much in the way of running. Sure, I'm still running but not much for racing. Instead, an entire month on active duty in the Navy including two of those weeks in Hawaii  and another two in Cleveland for the Navy week and War of 1812 200th anniversary festivities. Nothing like wearing my whites for two weeks in Cleveland. Seriously!

I did run my 18th ultra this past Saturday at the YUT-C 50K (Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic). It's an "old school" kind of ultra with great people. I paced my wife to her 2nd 25K for the first 15.6 miles then said my goodbyes for the 2nd half. By the time it was all said and done, I ran the back half, 15.6 more miles, 56 minutes, 1 second FASTER than the first 15.6 miles. Pretty darn cool. Yes, she runs slower than me but what that does for me is keep me super fresh in terms of shredding my body too early. I wouldn't want it any other way, though. I do enjoy running with her and seeing her to the finish line, even though I'm often not the best of company.

It's interesting to compare my finishing time to July's Buckeye Trail 50K...a 50K run solo and in the heat. My time here was only 20min slower. Lesson learned here: it really DOES pay off to go out slow and conservative in order to crush the latter sections of a race and feel great afterwards. Feel great? Yea. I finished feeling like I had another 10+ in me and didn't have a shred of soreness in me...after 31.2 miles. The days since have told the same story...absolutely no lingering effects/soreness from that race in any way, shape, or form. Leading into the race, I honestly forgot about it in a way. Friday night, we found ourselves at a local winery with friends which doesn't help hydration, by the way. On top of that, I hadn't drank much water anyhow so I knew I was dehydrated. (dumb, by the way...so don't try that at home!) To me, I simply had a long run with friends on Saturday. Some will "hate me" for saying that the 50K was easy but I have to say...it was. I have a lot of personal satisfaction that is two-faced. The first is from the first 25K with my wife then the 2nd half as I crushed it and passed countless runners feeling fresh as could be and never being passed or challenged once. It wasn't about winning or passing people, though. It was about running what I could run...giving 110% of what I had and leaving nothing on the course. I was running "against" myself and no one else...and I smiled all the way. Looking back now about 5 days post-run, I keep wondering...what now? I have already backed out completely of the Oil Creek Trail Runs next month so I have nothing on the calendar but the Akron 1/2 Marathon in just over a week. Besides that...nada. I know I don't possess the passion for 100 miles at this point in my life but perhaps 50 miles? Who knows...I just know that I enjoy running simply to run and feel good. Heck, I haven't even had a timing device on my wrist for awhile now. I don't wear them anymore on my morning runs and didn't wear one at YUT-C. I knew my time once...when I crossed that finish line. :-)

I will make an introduction this morning to you. I now have a 3rd girl in the house and she loves to run! Her name is Bristol. During Navy Week, we took a Saturday morning and headed into Amish country to our favorite winery where the local humane society was having a dog show. Little did we know we'd meet her there. She is a terrier mix of some kind (we'll know exactly any day now via DNA testing), about 10 months old, and we brought her home about 10 days ago. She has really fit in well in our home and loves both road and trail running. Here she is!
After her first trail run.

Running on the Buckeye Trail near the Boston Store

Totally wiped out after her first trail run.
Run Happy, friends.

Monday, July 16, 2012

M-Cubed for 7/16/2012


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

- 2 days post-marathon or longer = always the toughest physically...for me. I don't know about you, but if I'm going to ache, drag, and mope...today's the day! I started to feel the quads getting sore last night so I was curious how I'd feel at 3:15am this morning. Achy? Yes. Pain? Nope. I'm fine...just keep drinking water and keep moving to keep the blood circulation going. In this photo to the right, can you read the fortune cookie? That was my fortune cookie after yesterday's sushi lunch. :-))) If you can't read it, it says "Winners forget they're in a race, they just love to run." Oh how true. (If you missed the race report, I posted it yesterday. Click on the main banner above to load the main page and it'll be below today's post.)

- Are you a Christian music listener? If so and you have a smart phone that can download apps, you may or may not be familiar with K-Love. It's a nationwide, listener-supported Christian radio station that we listened to primarily when we lived in Virginia Beach. Well, the app streams the live feed 24/7 and we love it. Just visit http://www.klove.com to download the app.

- Hot. Cold. Toss. Turn. A Wreck. That defines last night's sleep. Shivering cold then sweating and flipping like a whale in the ocean all night long. Yea, 3:15am was early but I was perfectly fine with getting up and breaking that wretched cycle. Oh, how the body repairs itself...just par for the course.

- HUGE congrats to Jim "Slim" Harris, Roy Heger and Cam Baker...all NEO Trail members, who finished the 48-hour time limit Hardrock 100 this past weekend. Actually, it started on THURSDAY and ended on Saturday. Well done, brothers! Kimba, you did great as well and gave it all you had. Well done at the prep and effort you gave. Hold your head high and live to run another day! Roy...your 50th 100-miler!!! WOO HOO!!! You guys all rock...literally!

- I don't do politics here. I'll just say this: Is anyone else not happy with ANY choice on the ticket this fall for the next (or continued) Commander-in-Chief? I honestly dread election day and would just rather skip the next 4 years and get some new candidates. I will say, though, that Romney's pick for a running mate could be a game changer. We shall see.

my "chokers"
- Some great Navy times to share coming up. It was fun getting the uniforms ready last night...one of which I've never worn. Ever seen the dress all-white uniform we nicknamed "Chokers?" It's the one with gold buttons all the way up and tight around the neck. (see right) I LOVE that uniform and finally a chance to wear it is on the horizon. I'll certainly share some pics afterwards. Lots of fun inbound!

- For those with kids: summer is half over. Did you realize that? Wal-Mart and every other retailer sure did. Tick tock...

- I'll comment once more about the BT50K then leave it alone. No...it did not make me want to sign up for another 100-miler. Nope. Just sayin'...

stock photo
- I did get my official orders for the end of August/beginning of September from the Navy. Cleveland Navy Week is coming in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 celebration. They were looking for volunteers several months ago to go on active duty to support this and surprisingly, I was selected. At first, it was for Asst. Protocol Officer. The Protocol Officer is the one who will work with the VIPs visiting the events and ensure all traditions/protocols are followed, etc. throughout the 2-week celebration. Since I was picked and orders issued, the primary Protocol Officer backed out and now I'm the lead! So, I'll be in my whites for nearly two weeks on active duty and still close to home. Can't beat that! The Blue Angels will be coming and several other things including Navy ships and a few Canadian Navy vessels...all docked right there in Cleveland near the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and Cleveland Browns Stadium. I'm looking forward to it!

- Interested in a marriage conference of sorts where the cost is low, location is close, and value high? My wife and I have attended FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember a few times which we love and will do again. Well, FamilyLife created a powerful DVD-driven video series/conference that goes from Friday evening until early afternoon on Saturday. My wife and I will be hosting the "Art of Marriage" coming up in late October on October 19th and 20th. Want a preview? Go to YouTube and type it in and you'll see several examples. If you have any interest, please let me know and I'll get you registered. The cost is $40 per couple and covers the workbooks and food.

- I'm still kicking around writing a book but honestly, I struggle back and forth with it. Peaks and valleys best describe how I feel day to day about sharing. For many days (and nights) like last night, I just want to slip into the night and forever disappear. Other days, I want to reach out and touch every last person with encouragement, hope, and a message. I simply don't know. Day by day for me, I'd say. Today is a new day, right? My job is to choose how to live it and whether to stand in the light or the dark. I "know" the right  place to stand but the fallen, human nature certainly doesn't agree at all times. No one but me to choose.

- I can't seem to shake, lately, the thoughts of a year ago. As many of you know, I blogged daily while deployed to Afghanistan. Lately, it's like tip-toeing towards Day 121 of my deployment, the day I stood on the flight line as nearly 40 flag-draped caskets headed home. Remember the helicopter that was shot down with all of those Navy SEALs? I was there to salute them leaving the country. Today a year ago was Day 98...2 days before a huge landmark...Day 100. I honestly don't care for many of the memories and am fine without them, but they're there, regardless. The blog is still there, if you want to peruse. I hate how the media in this country forgets about the war going on. No news or mention unless something "glamorous" or super bad happens. Guess what...anytime blood is shed for this country is super bad. It's not secret about those giving their lives, either. It's published daily for us all to read here. Just yesterday, we lost another Army soldier from Illinois. Remember, especially, the families left behind...the wives..the kids...the friends and loved ones. We're still at war, friends.

- I went to bed thinking I'd run this morning. I think it best to rest. Honestly, when I began this post, I was going to run. I think I'll just take a long hot shower and get to work...and insert some good reading and devotional stuff in there first. It's Monday...need to start it right.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Buckeye Trail 50K Race Report

In past years, this race typically has weather typical of NE Ohio in the summer...hot and humid. I never fare well in those conditions but for some reason, I keep signing up. On this day, it was my 5 year anniversary of my first ultra marathon (any race over the 26.2 mile marathon distance, typically starting at the 50K (31.2 miles)). I remember vividly standing in the heat and nearly passing out within 3 miles of the finish. On this day, the forecast called for overcast skies, temperatures holding in the upper 70s through early afternoon, and high humidity. Believe it or not, the forecast held. I sweat like crazy but thanks to my proper prep leading up to the race and what I did during it, I never got light-headed or even close to passing out. But, there were a lot of people out there cramping bad due to so much water loss.

The trail was extremely dry and hard. Actually, it was dusty in places, almost like powder which is not reminiscent of the Buckeye Trail at all. The severe lack of rain around here shows well. Still in parts, you could see the "frozen" footprints in the dirt from muddy runs of the past. With that sunken ground due to being parched, the roots and rocks were very pronounced which presented a mental and physical challenge later in the race.

Boston Store at Mile 11.5 (courtesy of Mark Z.)
For the first many miles, I moved about with friends catching up. Talk about the tattoo, talk about my deployment, and simply catching up. For most, I hadn't seen them in person since before I went on vacation to Afghanistan. :-) The starting line really felt like the "who's who" of the local running community. Pretty cool. So as the miles wore on, I stuck to my mantra of "Just a shufflin' through the woods." That's my mental trickery to prevent myself from blazing down the trail in stupid fashion when I feel really good, only to pay for it later. I actually say it out loud to ensure I hear myself. Yea...weird, I know. But it works! Mile 6 arrived at the first aid station at Snowville Rd and already, a few familiar faces were there to say "Hi!" and root me on. I did my quick re-fill and passed a score of folks at the same time. Quick aid station stops are the easy ways to pass folks. "Quit your jabbin' and get runnin'!!!" Further along the trail as I approached Blue Hen Falls and the Boston Store Aid Station, I was still feeling quite good but sweating profusely. I did notice they replaced that nice wooden bridge above Blue Hen Falls. I'm not sure why, though. That bridge appeared to be in great shape and I always enjoy swiping the snow from the low rail during the winter. Now, it's a tall, steel bridge. As I came into the Boston Store after literally flying down the Roller Coaster Hill, my wife and girls were waiting. NOW...reason to keep moving forward. I get to see them each time!

Cruising on past towards Pine Lane and the turnaround, things were still going quite well and I continued to find friends to catch up with. Once I got to around Mile 13.5, the pine section, I don't think I've ever seen those roots so pronounced before. "Twinkle Toes Running" is the name of the game to survive through that stretch and do NOT take your eyes off of the trail. Arriving at Pine Lane, family was there again and I even stole a kiss before heading back out. A few more salt tabs, a swig of Coke, and another refill of Heed and I was off. My halfway split was a bit on the fast side, too. I estimated 3 hours or longer to be at the this point but it was 2hrs, 50min. I wasn't wearing a watch on this race so I had no idea but that's where I was. Could I "even split" it back and be well under 6 hours and hit a new personal record? Absolutely not. The return on this course is exponentially harder, especially the last 11.5 miles. Way more climbs than on the way back. For those who negative split this course or even come close, my hat's off to you. So, I headed on back out and kept on moving, still feeling quite well.

Most of the race from this point on was spent alone. I was still very drenched in my own sweat but the temps were staying under control and full cloud cover reigned. My only nutrition intake consisted of 2-3 Hammer Endurolyte salt tabs at each aid station, Clif Shot Bloks every 2-3 miles (that were originally sent to me in Afghanistan!), and perhaps a snack at the aid stations. Oh yea, a constant refill of electrolyte fluid...Hammer's Heed. The one and only disappointment of the race was the absence of an ultra running staple at aid stations....PB&J sandwiches. I don't think I've run an ultra minus PB&Js. Yet, they were absent completely. That's really the only food I wanted so I ended up not eating anything. Everything else was dry or candy. I wanted that cool, moist jelly. It just goes down perfectly during an ultra. As I arrived back at Boston Store around Mile 19.7, my family hadn't yet made it back from Pine Lane as they were waiting for my brother to arrive there. I was totally bummed out but just prayed they'd be there 5.5 miles later at the last aid station at Snowville Rd.

Courtesy of Pat Dooley
As I left Boston, it was time to climb Roller Coaster Hill...the hill I flew down a few hours earlier. Again, I ran into friends I hadn't yet seen and had some great conversation. The photo here is of Kate and I after making the second climb into that section. There is another photo where we were walking but the photographer (Pat Dooley) said he'd get another of us as we "ran" away...just to prove were still running! (Thanks, Pat!!) Kate is new co-Race Director of the Bobcat Trail Marathon and the editor of the Western Reserve Trail Running Newsletter. It was great to catch up with you, Kate!

Back down to Blue Hen Falls and then up, up, and up some more. The remaining parts of the BT50K are 1) 3 miles to the Columbia Rd crossing, then 2) about 2 1/2 miles to Snowville Rd and the last aid station and finally, 3) 6 miles to the finish. That's how I broke it up in my mind to make it tangible and achievable in my head. Things were certainly getting tough at this point and I was simply beat. No pain, no blisters, no cramping like many others...just exhausted. As I passed through these miles, I said out loud many times things like: "You're not hurt, you're just tired so get over it!" or "It's flat...WHY are you not running!?!?" or "Lift your knees...lift your feet" ... that one was very important because as tiredness sets in, it's easy to forget to pick up your feet enough to clear the roots. Many times, I caught a root and one of my calves nearly had a charlie horse but I stopped it each time and didn't fall. I have heard that many fell yesterday but not me. Saying things like this out loud help keep me safe and moving forward and they all worked.

Once at Snowville at the 25.2 mile point and last aid station, my family was there. :-))) I had missed them at Boston so thankful to see my wife and girls. I re-fueled then walked down the trail with them out of the aid station, had a few words that I've been wanting to say to them, gave out a round of kisses then was off. It was here I finally admitted my unstated goal for the day: run it faster than my first 50K five years ago...that being 6hrs, 37min. I was dead on 5 hours at the 25.2 mile point so I could do it...but I had to be intentional: hit the climbs with a purpose, take advantage of the downhills and gravity and "keep shufflin' on the flats". This was the first race I'd ever run without any timing device of any sort so I never knew where I was for time or pace. All I could was give all I had and that would have to be enough. In the end...it was. I crossed the finish line 10min ahead of my goal in 6hrs, 27min, 30sec. Not a personal record (missed that by about 12 or 14min) but 100% happy with the run.

Post-run, a local Bravo! restaurant provided the several pasta options and all finishers got the coveted oval window sticker and one-of-a-kind finisher's medal: a heavy metal medal that looks as if you carved a blue blaze right off of a tree. The blue blazes mark the Buckeye Trail all throughout the State of Ohio. Of course, I took my dose of Recoverite, too. Lesson learned at the Run Between the Suns and not to be repeated.

So today: I feel great! So much so that I woke my wife up 3 times to run. The third time, I was on my way out the door and gave her one last chance and she took me up on the offer. A nice-n-easy 5 miler and all systems go! I continue to be amazed at two things: the absolute success of post-run recovery when I take Hammer's Recoverite and also, how good I feel after an ultra marathon on trails vs. a road marathon. The road is so hard on the body as compared to the trails and today proves it. Post-run this morning, I made up one more batch of Recoverite to put the "cherry on top" of this weekend. Excellent race (my 43rd race in my life of a marathon or longer...26 marathons and 17 ultras), excellent recovery, and I got to spend it with friends I hadn't seen in quite some time and with my family. Absolutely thankful.

Here are a few miscellaneous photos from the race. Have a GREAT week!

Like my "Trail Runner's 'Tan'"??? After Run Between the Suns, those two middle two were turning black and blue. This morning, they are very dark. Soon, they'll turn white and be ready to be TORN off! I always know I'm getting in some great long runs when this starts happening. :-)

My Pure Grits, my awesome finisher's medal, and bib number.
Happy Trails, everyone, and RUN HAPPY!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Zucchini and Trails

Quite a week it's been so far. With military drill leading into a full work week, it can be a bit trying and wear heavy. With that being said, I did take a personal day this week, completely un-planned, but one of the best days ever. Ironically, it all started with the pre-dawn run and by the time the day ended, we'd been to one of our favorite wineries for lunch, gone on 1 run and two walks for a total of about 10 miles, shared a peanut butter cup "concrete"...a Blizzard-kind of custard treat from a shop in Stark County, and shared dinner together just us. Start to finish perfect! Like she said later in the day, "Some of our very best days are the ones we don't plan for, we just do." I couldn't agree more. Here's a smattering of pics from the day together.
Clockwise from Top Left: Towpath Trail in Zoar in Tuscarawas County; bridge built in 1883 over the same Towpath Trail; my bride from the bridge above; mile marker along the Towpath; a new wine for us...Blackberry on the patio at one of our favorite wineries in Amish Country.
That dinner...it was zucchini filled, for sure. My wife's father has a garden that is overflowing with this bountiful veggie and in our pursuit of cooking fresher, cleaner, and healthier, we're finding many ways of eating it. Marinated baked chicken was the main course but we also had a sautéed combination of sliced potatoes, onions, and zucchini. Those were leftovers from the casserole of sorts. This casserole had slices of potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini and then we baked some cheese on top. We found this casserole a bit bland until we added some balsamic vinegar to it. 30min at 350F without cheese then add a light layer of cheese on top for an additional 30min. It's that easy!

So tomorrow: it's the 19th installment of the most popular 50K in northeast Ohio, the Buckeye Trail 50K. Forecast? Go figure...hot and humid. You just have to love a forecast that reads "rising humidity into the weekend." Well, at least I'm heading in eyes wide open and know what to expect. Back in 2007, the BT50K was my first ultra...on July 14th, in fact. I ran it in 6hrs, 37min. I honestly don't know what I'll run it in tomorrow. It'll be humbling, for sure, but I'll be sure to have fun. I just want to enjoy it and get another 50K finish. I will miss the company of my bride, for sure, but knowing she'll be waiting at the end is enough. I plan to not carry any phone or timing device of any kind. Just me, my Brooks, a handheld water bottle, and the trail in front of me.

So what kind of day will you have today? Like I tell my little girls, that is a decision we have to make when we awake every day. Sure, circumstances come our way like a wrecking ball at times but still, we can find good in everything and often, we have to step into the light and choose to stay there. May this be an encouragement to YOU to do just that. It's Friday, after all! Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy it!
Sunrise on my way to work on Thursday

Monday, July 9, 2012

M-Cubed for 7/9/2012

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

- Brushstrokes. That's the best way to describe this morning's run. It began with a fragrance of corn pushed from the cornfields to our left as the morning dew rested upon them, Mr. Moon was waxing gibbous and 68.2% full and casting shadows in front of us, and First Light...breathtaking brushstrokes made by God and changed by the minute. Absolutely in awe of the majesty we witnessed this morning as we ran together.

- 5 days. 5 days until my next "official" race...the Buckeye Trail 50K, northeast Ohio's most popular 50K of the year. True to tradition the forecast is hot, hot, and hot...in the 90s. Those who know me know that hot/humid don't bring out the best in me but I will give it my all, that's for sure. After all, I need a new BT50K oval sticker for my rear window as the current one is looking a bit worn. :-)

- No one should be complaining about the heat in NE Ohio. Need I remind you of December, January, and February in our neck of the woods? Do the words "Snow Belt" help? Exactly.

- My phone drama came to an end last Thursday. I took my very dead iPhone to the Apple Store and quickly, an Apple-trained technician at the "Genius Bar" took it to the back and tried multiple ways to revive it. No such luck. It was and is dead beyond dead. Two options: pay $149 to replace it with another iPhone 4 with no contract renewal with AT&T or pay $199 for the new iPhone 4S. Well, the new iPhone 5 is set to come out in September or October which I've been eyeing for over a year. My wife couldn't care less so I ended up getting the new iPhone 4S in white and will pass it to her when the 5 comes out and I'll pick up the 5. The 4S is really nice and has the new Siri voice-activated feature that does so much. Plus, the 4S is faster and much higher resolution camera...two things I really appreciate! (the bottom of this post has some photos from last night I took and amp'd up with Instagram)

- Another weekend complete with the U.S. Navy and Day 3 of a straight 8 days of work. I returned last night from Columbus where I spend a weekend per month with the Navy. It was another great weekend where I fill the role of XO or "Executive Officer" ... or in true civilian terms, "second in command" of the unit. I had my mid-term counseling, as well, from my boss, the "commanding officer" who told me I was far exceeding his expectations and to keep charging on. Turns out, he will most likely deploy to the war zone next year and I will become the "acting" commanding officer for much of 2013. I knew this would probably happen during my tenure as XO and I gladly accept the challenge.

- I posted this on Facebook on Saturday: "Think outside the box. Know what you want and find a way to make it happen. Don't wait until tomorrow as tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Love up and out and never stop." This popped in my head just after I made an impromptu reservation for my wife and girls to come down to Columbus to share the evening with me. The hotel pool, an evening exploring a new part of Columbus, and simply being together. It was the right decision and priceless time together. Tomorrow is NOT guaranteed. Make the very best of every moment of your life and assume tomorrow will not come. No regrets. No hugs left un-given. No words left un-said. Love UP and OUT with every breath.

- There are many things that have changed since I returned from Afghanistan last November. Many traditions prior ceased to exist and new traditions/routines emerged. One thing that has become priceless is evening walks on the country road we run upon many mornings a week. We see this stretch often before dawn when it's quiet and the dew sits upon the cornfields, when it is waking up with singing birds and first light, and even just prior to sunset as the birds are quieting and new sounds are emerging from the wetlands and swampy areas. It is most definitely "our" place to go and share...often talking about "stuff" only we can hear but equally as much in silence as we walk hand-in-hand or run. Last night, I grabbed some photos with my new iPhone 4S I got late last week which has an improved camera. I snapped several pics and then played around with them with the Instagram app. I thought I'd share them with you this morning before heading off to Day 4 of 8 of work. I hope you enjoy them!
A gate in someone's backyard that we always look at.

"Knee high by the 4th of July"...uh, yes. I'm 6'2"!


Flowing fields of gold. I love this stretch of mature wheat ready for harvest.

More wheat. I love it.

Sunset over "our" stretch of the earth. No one sees it like we do (we don't think!)
Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Morning Inspiration and Encouragement

Couldn't help but post this today since the referenced verse was the inspiration for this blog years ago. Have an amazing weekend and keep those arms pointed upward and outward!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lesson Learned: Do What You Know Works

I often refer back to 2009 when I ran my three 100-milers and some would say: "You're not a 100-miler anymore. You haven't done anymore." To them, I say hogwash. But that's another conversation. I refer back often because I was a guinea pig back then...trying out new things, pushing myself in training like never before, and wrapping up that 3rd 100-miler with an injury...for the last 80 miles of the race. I took myself to the edge...and then some. I learned soooooo much that year...about ultra running and myself. It was probably the best year of my life...but I'm trying to top that in 2012. :-)

This post is about something I learned in recovery. At the peak of my training, I ran back-to-back 30-milers. I would hit the trails for 30 on Friday and again on Saturday. Nearly every time, the 2nd 30 was stronger, faster, and easier. Back then, I attributed it to what I did within the first half hour post-run. After such an exhaustive run, the body is all-but-audibly SCREAMING for fuel. Imagine fly-catchers wide open, reaching upward without closing. Those muscles are just dying for rebuilding fuel. The ticket, for me, was taking in Hammer Nutrition's "Recoverite." This all-natural, gluten-free stuff rebuilds muscle tissue, restores muscle glycogen, and supplies the body with the proper 3:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates and the highest quality whey protein. It also contains a whoppin' 3 grams per serving of glutamine which is the key "recovery amino acid that 1) helps boost the immune system, 2) helps to reduce the symptoms of overtraining, 3) plays a role in enhancing glycogen synthesis and 4) stimulates muscle protein synthesis for the rebuilding of lean muscle tissue. So, two scoops of this powder mixed with water or any favorite liquid (my personal favorite is the Chocolate flavor mixed with super cold chocolate milk) within 15min of finishing is the key to it all. Of course, hydration and nutrition also play a key role.

Rewind 6 days: Run Between the Suns 12hr Endurance Run. I only made it 7hrs, 14min and 30 miles and guess what, I had Recoverite with me. Yes...with me. My wife even asked me afterwards: "You going to take your Recoverite? I'll get it for you." Nope. Dumb me. STUPID me. I wasn't hurt last Saturday. I had no aches and pains. I was simply parched. I was still sore on TUESDAY. No excuse for that at all. Not sore like I can't walk down stairs, but sore in that I felt it still. On July 4th, I still felt some remnants of the soft, trail run but still hit the streets (concrete and asphalt) in Brooks' minimalist Pure Connects. Mind you...I'm a 205lb, 6'2" guy running atop 7.2oz shoes with only a 4mm drop between me and the earth. You'd think I would take a physical beating on that 20 miler I did in the heat and you'd be right! But this time, I wised up and had my wife bring cold milk to the parade and the Recoverite. I chugged that baby down within 10min of finishing. The result was a day later filled with the desire to do it all again. No soreness and no indication I ran a step on July 4th. No one can convince me that Recoverite is not responsible for so much. I have benefited from it countless times and count on it.

So please...do what you know works and do it often. Experiment, try new things, listen to others, train like you'll race when it comes to nutrition and when race day comes, stick to your plan. Do what works.

Happy Trails and Happy Recovery!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day 2012

The July 4th holiday was quite a day that ended quite well...little girls passed out on the couch with me as I watched fireworks over New York City on TV, preceded by the July 4th celebration at the Capitol in Washington, DC. But first...

No real reason to get up early but when we did get up, we headed out just after sunrise for an intended 6 miles before heading a few towns over to the biggest parade of the year. Hitting the road, the onslaught of monster flies began and my wife was a bit more pooped than usual. Humidity or whatever, she was zapped. Our 6 became 4 miles and on the way back after slapping my head no less than 50 times, trying to kill those buggers....gulp. One of those monsters was lodged at the back of my throat and immediately, the self-inflicted gagging began to try and prevent the inevitable. No such luck. Down went a fly into my stomach to enjoy my stomach acids instead of just leaving me alone! Dangit for us both. So disgusting.

Back home, only 4 miles were logged and my intent was to run to the parade which started at 10am. She made me my routine 2 eggs and toast and after letting it settle for a few, I made up a bottle of Heed, stashed my military ID and 5 bucks and hit the road, telling her "I'm going to go a different direction and add a few miles." I was off. The forecast for the day included a heat advisory and temps were expected to hit triple digits and it was already beginning. I'm tough, though, right?!? I can easily make it to the parade by 10.

I think it was probably about 6 or 7 miles later, my bottle of Heed was already gone, the heat and humidity were climbing by the minute, seemingly, so I dropped into the Walgreen's store to buy a Gatorade. While there, I went to check my iPhone to see where I was on mileage and dangit, it's dead. DEAD! It was fully charged when I left home but apparently, my Nathan handheld carrier I rave about is NOT water proof...or sweat proof in this case, I'm guessing. That's the only thing I can think of, here...that the sweat from my hand made it's way in and this morning, it's still dead. It's been in rice for hours, plugged into the charger, and every combination of reset buttons pushed and nothing, nada, zippo. Not happy!  Anyway, back to the run...I kept on going and the combination of hot asphalt underneath me and the beating sun behind me was certainly taking its toll. As I left town #2 and entered the third, I was running out of Gatorade again and knew I'd better get another and determine the time. I stopped at a Sheetz station in Kent and asked the time: "10:10am, Sir." WHAT?!?! The parade had already started and my wife was probably worried sick about me. I'm sure she was trying to track me (which would produce nothing with a dead iPhone) and I was late which simply doesn't happen. I asked if the clerk could send my wife a text who said she couldn't but the manager might. She did and I was super thankful for that. I'll be writing a thank-you today for that. "ur husband is ok. at sheetz on rt 59 and heading ur way. phone is dead." Eventually around 11am, I arrived at the parade having no idea how far I had gone or the temps. The answer? 94F and 16.5 miles which produced 20.5 for the day. Spent. Parched. Wooped. That's enough of the heat and distance until the BT50K a week from this Saturday, for sure.

The rest of the day was spent between my parents and a friends house. The photo below is of friends of mine who are all Army reservists and vets of the war in Iraq...and me. The Navy guy. In fact, the flag behind us flew in Iraq on July 4, 2011. HOME safe and sound. Cool, eh?! After that, it was just past 6pm and the heat was pounding so we all headed up and simply chillaxed for the rest of the day, ending with watching "A Capitol Fourth," fireworks over New York City and the beginning of the Boston Pops celebration. The best part was John Williams at the Capitol. John Williams, composer of some of the best soundtracks in history (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and countless more), has composed for 4 of the Olympics and did another for the London Games this year. He was there...at age 80...and the National Orchestra played it under his leadership. WOW. I checked online but the performance is nowhere to be found just yet. Simply amazing and powerful.
I hope you had a great Independence Day, everyone.

Have a great day and Happy Trails!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Day 3: Best Part of my Day

Day 3 of the July Photo Challenge is here. Before I post today's photo, let me tell you the day beforehand. (yea, I know...it's not even 7am and I'm talking about the "day so far") The normal: 3:30am alarm, fresh brewed espresso, checking account reconciliation, some Navy e-mail traffic read/returned, and blah...just blah. Honestly, the exact thought around 4:25am was: "Well, I am deep in the funk this morning there is no possible way a run can hurt me. It's about time I live my own words: 'You never regret a run.'" So I did...and I didn't.  Thus, the best part of my day and an added bonus that totally escaped me. A full Mr. Moon about to set waited for us...big, beautiful, and orange.
Day 3
Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2012

M-Cubed for 7/2/2012

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

- It's baaaaacccckkkkk!!!! Those random thoughts have risen to the top so for now, let's give M-Cubed a go at it again!

- Feeling great after Saturday's 30 miler. Just a little achy but no pain to speak of. Will certainly be on the road for an easy 5 or 6 before sunrise this morning. As for a future 100 miler...yes, that's still tabled. One thing we discussed was that if I were to pursue it again, a cool weather/mild weather 100 should be looked at vs. a summer version. I've already done Burning River once...no need to do that to myself again. I love the event but it's torture to me. 35 miles this year to pace a friend is plenty for me!

- Yesterday, my wife and I got a few hours to ourselves and started it with some patio dining at Aladdin's Eatery in Hudson. It was about 92F out and humid but with the shade and very light breeze, it was great. I scored big with a new selection off of the menu: Jasmine's Favorite with Lebanese Salata > a fresh mix of cooked beans, veggies, and rice seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices...topped with Lebanese Salata which is chopped tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, scallions, parsley, onion, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and herbs. Oh soooo good and perfect the day after a long run!

- Photo of the Day: OK, I'm giving this a run to see what I think. Every day, I get a "prompt" to encourage me what the theme is. No rules, really...just whatever I think represents that word and I post/share to an album. I could use Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook. I chose Facebook and started my album yesterday with a self-portrait. Here's the link which I'll be adding to all month long. Today's prompt? "Busy." Photo of the Day July 2012 album.

- The Navy...in Cleveland? Yep! I was selected last week to be on active duty for the 2012 Cleveland Navy Week which will be taking place in conjunction with the War of 1812 events that week in August leading into Labor Day. The Blue Angels, Navy Band, Leap Frogs, and more will be there throughout the week. Even a few Navy ships are making their way into the Great Lakes and will be docked in Cleveland! My job, a Protocol Officer, will be to ensure all of the VIPs are taken care of and traditions/courtesies followed when they visit...an event planner, of sorts, I suppose. (at least what my wife said when I told her about it!) Interested in Navy Week 2012 nationwide? Here's the link and a link to Cleveland within.

- July 4th holiday...on Wednesday? OK, the calendar is the calendar but come on! By the sounds of it, people were already celebrating last night as we fell asleep to firecrackers outside in the neighborhood. Our 4th will start with the Stow Parade...the BIGGEST parade I've ever been to and one we have made tradition. This year, though, I'll start a new tradition...run to it. Hey, it's less than 12 miles to our spot on the curb. Parade starts at 10am!

- The final results from Saturday came in and it turns out, the distance traveled by everyone was very evenly spread from 20 miles to 70 miles. I certainly wasn't alone in cutting the 12hrs short. If there is ANY silver lining here, for those who only did 30, I did them the fastest! (LOL!!!) Anyway, I'm really glad to see what many friends accomplished that day and plans are already underway for next year's event...count me in! I can just hear my NE Ohio trail friends: "If I would've known about that finisher's award...." Join us next year! Full Results here.

From yesterday's trail walk and alone time
- Make time. When life's reset button got pushed for me in November 2011 (my return home from Afghanistan), life was reset in just about every way imaginable. One of the big things was complete dedication to my priorities. A few biggies are my marriage and my children. I once heard a couple say "I'll worry about my marriage once my kids are grown and move out." Please don't! We've gotta nurture both relationships daily. Actually, your kids seeing a healthy, vibrant marriage is part of raising them. You model what will define marriage to them. It's either that or let the culture around us do it for you. The choice is clear. So I encourage you this Monday morning...fully dedicate yourself and don't let running, your career or even your Droid or iPhone take priority over those whom are most important to you.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Report: Run Between the Suns 12hr Trail Endurance Run

Even a well-planned, well-executed plan may not yield the intended results. It's the day after and as I reflect back on this event, I wouldn't change a thing. So here's how my experience went at the Inaugural RBTS 12hr:

I don't know how many fellow runners that I've helped from running their first mile to those tackling the 100 mile ultra distance. A lot, that's for sure. I once worked at the local specialty running store so I know shoes and how to fit someone for them. I'm now in my 3rd year of sponsorship with Brooks Running so in that brand, I know it extremely well. I've also run 26 marathons, 3 100-milers and bunch of other distances in excess of the 26.2 mile marathon distance. I feel like I have a good handle on what it takes for the average guy or gal to reach their goals and potential. An expert? Not even close. But, for the average person with a family, full-time job, other responsibilities yet still has a desire to "go the distance" in one way or another, I know I can help and boy, don't I love it! Selfless service, to me, is one of my life's greatest pleasures.

With that said, I prepared well, was fully hydrated, properly fueled, and hit the trail yesterday with "all systems go!" The Run Between the Suns is a 12 hour endurance run that circumnavigates a beautiful fresh-water lake in Franklin, PA...northwest PA. Each loop is 5 miles and little did I know, has every kind of running surface there is: roots, rocks, little streams, wide grassy areas (i.e.: great cross-country skiing), rocks, pine needles, and open grassy fields along the water. Not only that, it's not flat..at all. There are plenty of climbs, descents, and some flat areas, too. A total mix and 100% gorgeous. When I finished yesterday, the race director asked what I thought about changing the course. My response was "Don't change a thing!" Tough? Yes. Beautiful and representative of the area in which its held. Yes.

I broke into my normal shuffle with a new goal and that was to start at a pace I believed I could maintain for 12 hours...just a smooth, even shuffle. That's something the most accomplished ultra folks do and it's very tough. At the starting line, we all feel fresh and want to kill the course with it. Eventually, we slow and slow some more. But, if you could start out easy, breathe through your nose only, and maintain CONTROL, the outcome should be much better and more enjoyable. That's what I did and through 2 laps and 10 miles, I felt 100%, was eating and drinking as I should, and had high hopes for what the day would bring. Could I break 60 miles? Perhaps! I was on track to do so and was building a buffer around it. The weather: it was forecast for around 50% humidity and mid 80s. The result until early afternoon was complete cloud cover which kept the overnight high humidity up but the direct sun away. In the early afternoon, the sun was full and temps climbed to 90F. My main "Achilles Heel" in ultra-running is humidity and higher temperatures. I am a completely different runner in cold and sub-freezing temperatures. But, I have found over the years that no matter how well I execute a race strategy, these conditions often get the best of me. It's different for every person, too. That's just my disposition and how God made me so I deal with it. By the time I finished that 3rd loop, I was sweating profusely, clothes were soaked, and my pace slowing. I took an extra few minutes at the aid station at mile 15 but did head back out. As the miles wore on, the sweating decreased yet my heart rate kept cruising at a high BPM. I can almost always tell where I'm at physically by checking my pulse and sweat rate. If I'm walking a flat in order to get my heart rate down and it simply won't drop nor am I sweating, I have to be smart. My heart is doing all it can to cool and keep my core temperature down and without the sweat, it's not having much luck...so it keeps trying. At mile 25, my wife and girls showed up and I sat down for about 20-25 minutes to visit with them and talk about the race. Besides my own predicament, the race was awesome and COULD NOT BE BETTER. Eventually, I looked at her and said: "I need to get out there and get going, don't I?" She replied with "Yes, you do. You love this so go and do it." I stood...paused...gave a goodbye kiss and was off on the 6th lap. By the time I even got a 1/2 mile down the trail, the decision was made: this will be the last loop. Now, should this have been a "race" where the distance was set (i.e.: 50K, marathon, etc.), I would continue to walk with a purpose and not give up...ie: DNF (did not finish). However, this event was one where you could do what you wanted and stop when you wanted and not be considered a DNF. You would still get a finishers award and treated like everyone else. For me, I saw no reason to suffer and risk myself when there really was no shame in stopping. Would I be disappointed? Of course. Will it be the right decision? Absolutely and I will stand by it..regardless.

During my last mile, the 30th mile, a relay participant asked if she could stick with me to the end. She was struggling a bit, too, and needed the company. That made the last mile go fast and keep us moving briskly. I'm not sure how we ended up on the conversation, but the last thing we (or I) talked about was running in Afghanistan on the base and how the Taliban rocketing us put a serious damper on my running! Anyway, as I came up on my staged area (adorned with a small American flag, a chair draped in Brooks ID, and cooler), my girls were laying down on a blanket and I let them know I was done. At this point, it wasn't up for debate or discussion. I was done. It was over 7 1/2 hours gone and under 8. Not sure of the exact time...I wasn't really paying attention. Once I crossed over and finished, I handed over my timing chip and let the race director know I was done and shook his hand to thank him for a phenomenal race. A short while later, he gave me my finishers award for accomplishing what I did, I had some food, and I relaxed for a bit with my family as others continued to emerge out of the woods finishing their loops.

A premature trip home, a hot shower, and lots of thoughts about what was sought after and what was achieved...and not. I entered today with cravings for the 100-miler and wanted to know if they were for real. I'd say those thoughts/plans are on hold for now. If I decide to challenge that distance again, it won't be now but I still remain open to it. One other revelation I had today is how I felt when my family showed up at mile 25. I wouldn't say they made me stop simply by their presence but where my priorities lie became readily apparent. Would I want to take the precious time away from them in order to train for a 100-miler again? Is it worth it or selfish? Should I decide to tackle that goal again, that's where my training will be different. It will have to be done in such a way to minimize the impact to them and my priorities as a husband and father. I don't think I did that very well last time.  Otherwise, I won't do it. Running is important, I love it, and I love taking myself long distances where I see what I'm capable of. However, it is a very selfish sport and left unchecked, can leave others in the dust that you hold close. It's a delicate balance which is one big reason I'm so thankful to share most of my miles nowadays with my bride. I never had that before and now I do...not so selfish, anymore.

I live to run another day...and will Run Happy every mile.

Here are some photos from the day and ending with my finisher's award. Enjoy! (click on any photo for high resolution version)











Entering the start/finish area and aid station

Awesome tech tee and priceless finishers award



Inspiration pre-race

My staging area

Pre-Race Instructions

Ready to run!
Photo courtesy of Cheri Carbaugh (entering start/finish area)

Photo courtesy of Cheri Carbaugh (at start/finish area)