Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Dad, she'll love it."

I don't buy things often for myself in the clothes arena. However, as I found myself wandering the aisles of Target two days ago after taking the day off with my oldest daughter, we stood there standing at the Mossimo display, looking at 20+ color variants of $9.99 athletic fit tee shirts. Thank goodness I had her and thank goodness for family changing rooms. She has her mom's eyes when it comes to style and what looks good and most importantly, what my wife likes. After all, if "she" doesn't like it, I'll never get out of the house, right?! Plus, what I think looks OK is often dumbed down and immature. No one has ever really trained me up in that category. In the end, it was a light pink shirt with some horizontal white stripes. "You sure Mommy will like this?" "Yea, Dad, she'll love it." "OK, it's on your shoulders!" We picked up her steroid meds for her poison ivy reaction and headed on home with it...and the pink shirt. Back at home while getting ready for our little 30 minute date night on Tuesday night, I put it on and she was right, my wife loved it. Thank goodness! No comments at work, either, as I gave it a spin. Wearing pink is just a little bit out of my comfort zone, I'd say. It may be a little intangible thing in my week, but I enjoyed the counsel I got from my daughter and the feeling of being taken care of...which was later confirmed by a simple smile from my wife. Nothing big...just nice. When the only mode I operate is in "Protect. Defend. Love on. Give. Advise. Pray for" all of the time, it's nice.

Happy Thursday, friends.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Rattling Run (that was much more)

This is one of those posts where I can't type it fast enough. I just returned from a pre-dawn 7 miler and the clock is ticking quickly towards another day of work. But first...

I have not been rattled like this often. Sometimes, things happen too many times in succession to be coincidence. This was one of those runs where more was going on than just burning calories and chopping off the miles. Above me was glorious splendor...countless stars were visible ... easy to see in the country where I was running. I just wanted to run with my head turned upwards at 90 degrees to stare at the show. I couldn't, though. MANY times as I ran along the berm of the road...well OFF the driving portion, a vehicle would catch a glimpse of me, which was evident by the sudden turn TOWARDS me, then cross the white line and seemingly try to take me out. Perhaps once or twice and it's just coincidence. Today over a short 7 miler, I can't tell you how many times it happened. Over and over again. You may ask if I was making myself seen or not. Yes, I was. A bright, white shirt from the Fools 50K I recently ran, reflective "piping" all over my Brooks shorts, and reflective piping on my Brooks wear-testing shoes. Did I mention I was OFF the road. I remember one specific new Dodge Ram truck. I know it was a new model based on the headlight design which I saw closely. I was a good 4 feet off the road and it still motioned and drove towards me. The worst of all was within a mile of home. I was starting to relax a bit from a startling run on a dark, quiet stretch and a late model truck with a lift kit on it was on its way down the hill...easily 10 over the speed limit. I am on the right side of the road...on the opposite side of the road that this truck was driving on. It sees me. It literally drives left of center and aims right square at me. Unless I was suddenly in Europe, this truck was not only on the wrong side of the road, but purposely coming at me. That one got me...bad. "What is going on this morning?!?! So much is trying to keep me from getting home! HOME! My girls need me...all three of them." After that last truck passed, I turned around and it returned to its side of the road, confirming its clear intention. Dang.

Returning home at the 7 mile mark at about an 8:04 average pace, my thoughts swirled. Just simply too many attempts at my life this morning to ignore and chalk up to coincidence. Since my return from Afghanistan, much has been thrown at my life...from so many angles, circumstances, people, etc. etc. etc. Still, though, I have kept my focus on the road set before me, stuck to my ideals, stuck to my faith, stuck to running the race set before me as I know it in my core it is to be run. Yet, time and time again there are forces out there...the seen and unseen that continue to derail me daily. This run was such a perfect picture of my journey since I stepped off the plane and what I seemingly face daily. "Something" unseen was clearly at work this morning and was trying a whole different avenue to try and get me to quit...to fail...to not make it home to the ones whom I love and care for. I will persevere, I will stay the course, I will not quit. Today, I choose to live beneath the magnificence of those stars and keep my focus where it should be. We all must choose our path each and every day. NO MATTER what our circumstances, it is a choice...a choice of free will. Choose wisely and give it all you have.

Run Happy...and run safely. Get home, friends. I did just as First Light began to illuminate the eastern sky. It was beautiful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nice Day Off

Call me a fair weather runner...that's OK. Yesterday it was high winds with a temperature around freezing and it's almost May. I simply refuse to pull out the cold weather gear again until Winter 2013. So went my goal to run every day this week. Today, though, I was off work to take my daughter to the doctor for a horrible rash, thanks to poison ivy. Beforehand, I got in a high wind, sunny, and quick 10 miler around home. By many standards, not fast at all but for me, pretty quick at 7:49 a mile and in my very minimal Brooks Pure Connects. I am definitely feeling leaner, faster, and more efficient. Still, no desire to race. My bride is still sidelined so I am solo running.

After a visit to the doc and a steroid shot, we enjoyed some sushi together and simply GREAT father/daughter time. Absolutely priceless day. Since I was home and the teriyaki chicken was already in the crock pot for dinner, I made my favorite garlic mashed potatoes then steamed some asparagus on the stovetop along with some olive oil, basil leaves, thyme, and a few pressed cloves of fresh garlic. The juices from the crock pot provided the perfect gravy. YUM! Just before dinner, my wife made some homemade guacamole which is chilling in the fridge. 2 avocados, lemon juice, 2 small chopped tomatoes, and fresh pressed garlic. Looking forward to that snack tonight!

For now, it's time for our 30-minute date nite while the girls have their music lessons. Always a great time together but too incredibly quick. Looking forward to what fancy desserts are offered tonight.

Have a great night!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

9 Day Recap

Wow, it's been 9 days since my last post. So much has happened in these past days like turning 39 years old, a whole week of work, another 1/2 marathon run, and chocolate pancakes made just for me. Life, though, sometimes gets to the point where crawling beneath a rock is the best thing. Enter a brief hiatus from posting here. A roller coaster is the best way to describe it but as I woke up at 3:30am this Sunday morning (my body is an incredible clock), my family still sleeps and I plan to run into the sunrise...alone. Before I head out, though, I thought I'd go once again back to a "M-Cubed" kind of post and throw some bullets at you to recap some recent life:

  • I fully intended to run 39 miles on my 39th birthday this past Monday. But alas, with 81F and sun, once I reached our Tuesday night coffee shop in Kent and my bride surprised me, I was done. Good choice. The rest of the day was perfect.
  • Last weekend was spent away with the Navy. This time it was different, though. She went with me and we sprung for a hotel away from the other drilling reservists in the Navy. We went to an old school, marquis-adorned theater and saw "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" on Friday night, she spent all day reading at a Barnes and Noble on Saturday, and we had a fantastic dinner at FlipSide Saturday night...a slightly upscale burger joint new here in Ohio and oh so good. We can't wait to return there. FRESH is the perfect word for it. All of it. I highly recommend the fresh onion rings to start and the "Green Eggs and Ham" burger.
  • It was Friday morning and we headed out at our normal 4:30am for a gorgeous starlit run on our normal country course. A rare passing of a car was behind us and as we hugged the side of the road tightly, her left foot slipped off the asphalt, rolling her ankle, followed by her crashing to the ground. Two cut up knees, a swollen ankle, a rib that is all out of sorts...all still present this morning. I want my running partner back...yea, I'm greedy. I am praying for a quick recovery.
  • Yesterday was the On My Own Two Feet Marathon and Half Marathon. We had planned to run it together. But, as she woke up yesterday and looked at her "cankle," that wasn't going to happen. Still, though, she helped out at the start/finish while I ran with one of our best friends for the whole race. It was a cold, rainy morning but a great one, nonetheless. This first year event is now going to contribute $5000 to domestic violence in Kent. That's a pretty awesome thing for a brand new event and proof of what can happen when so many pull together for a great cause. It was great to see so many of my running friends on the course supporting the cause.
  • Less than 2 weeks to go until I leave my current cubicle at work and start a one year assignment in a different office. I was promoted just a few weeks ago and am really looking forward to the new challenge. A new city, new co-workers, a new morning drive in to work, and a step in the right direction. I am looking forward to it!
  • Have you heard about the movie "Chimpanzee?" It's a DisneyNature movie that just opened on Friday. My wife read the "Making Of" this movie while at Barnes & Noble last weekend and can't wait to see it. It took nearly 3 years to film this true story. It is definitely a family movie we'll all see very soon. Here it is.
  • I wrapped up mileage in the mid-40s this past week and feel very good. In fact, I felt like I hadn't run after yesterday's half marathon. I definitely had a whole marathon in me but that was never the plan and I was perfectly OK with that. It's nice to know that I have it in me, though. This upcoming week will most likely be a dip in mileage due to some late-week plans but that's OK.
  • We found a new winery these last few days. Ironically, it's right here in our small rural town...only 5 miles from our doorstep. We loved it! It's an old home made into a winery and tasting room. I especially like it because of how everything they serve is locally sourced. Along with a sweet white wine, I enjoyed a fresh made black bean burger. It was soooo good. To end the evening, we shared a homemade apple pie. Not just a slice of a pie, either. It was in its own little pie plate, fresh and steaming hot out of the oven. Homemade crust and not too sweet. Two forks and a few final toasts and we capped off the night perfectly. Here it is if you want to check it out.
  • Last night as my oldest daughter and wife headed to church for Cooking Night, my youngest and I stayed home with each other. "You ready for me to make you pancakes, Dad?" Not just any pancakes, either. Chocolate chip pancakes...lots of chocolate chips. Out came the recipe, the measuring spoons, the mixing bowl, the skillet, and the oven top set to 4. Did I mention she's only 8?! Only a few times did I hear "Can you reach that for me? Can you get down the brown sugar?" Watching her make the pancakes and point out how the batter was browning and bubbling on the skillet really melted my heart. The pancakes, though? The richest ever. I could eat only 5 little ones! There are plenty left for breakfast this morning. :-) I am blessed!
  • Friends, life is short. Let me encourage you to lead it selflessly. Put those entrusted to your care before yourself and love on them. Kiss, hug, and embrace every moment you have with them. You never know when it will be the last. If you can live every day as if it may be, you will find fulfillment. No regrets, a clear conscience, and your focus where it should be...live life to its fullest!
  • How about a few photos from the past week....
She made homemade guacamole. OH...MY...WORD. So good!

A great photo from the new winery.

Chocolate Pancake goodness.

"Would you like some batter with your chocolate?"

Stuffed.

Homemade Apple Pie at Barrel Run Winery

A brief stop on my birthday run.


Friday, April 13, 2012

"I feel like puking."

The morning kinda went like this (no, it DID go like this): me up at 3:50am. Her up at 4am. Espresso brewed, coffee heated, and conversation about our marriage study wrapping up last night and our weekend to come. All of sudden, she was curled back up in bed "to stay warm" as she could hear the furnace running which equaled a chilly morning. Still, though, WE WERE RUNNING...no matter what. I knew the stars were out, Mr. Moon was up there, and we could be witness to a glorious sunrise. "I'm getting dressed. Please don't make me run without you," I 'lovingly' said. My Brooks 'secret' wear-testers on and gloves (ugh...those were supposed to be packed until Winter 2013) and off we went.

I felt really good and about 2 miles in, I said: "Even though we haven't run since Easter Sunday, I feel really good. I feel like I have 50 miles in my legs." Her reply? "I feel like puking." Love...isn't it great?! Eventually, we did return home after a crisp 6 miles with negative splits the whole way. In the end, we never regret the run and are always thankful we did it...together. She never did puke, by the way, and I feel like I still have miles in me....well, at least 39 of them on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

12 on the 12th

Stealing an idea from a longtime friend of mine, Kim, today I set out to grab 12 photos throughout the day since it is, in fact, the 12th of April. Here they are!
Tall toffee nut, soy, extra hot, white mocha

"SH'ROOMS from Harmon's in Canton, OH - co-workers took me to lunch for my pre-birthday

Afternoon break at work. Some java and the world's best snack...period.

April 12th devotional at work...in John right now before Jesus is betrayed

Little bit of "white out" on my Navy officer cover for the upcoming inspection

We finished our 6 week in-home study tonight with 3 other couples. GREAT!!!

My wife's homemade brownies for our company tonight...plate is now empty. :-)

Navy "Dress Blue" uniform all ready. I'm the one doing the inspecting so I'd better be squared away!

Last minutes of sunset outside our home after our guests left.

My Brooks Pure Connects that never got worn today. :-( Tomorrow will be different!

Praying with K at bedtime.

Praying with M at bedtime. Amazing to me she still wears the dog tag I sent her from Afghanistan...EVERYWHERE. I sent it to her early in my deployment...around Summer 2011 and she still wears it. Tugs at my heart every day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

364 Days Ago...

364 days ago (April 11, 2011), I checked into a Navy base in Gulfport, MS. Army uniforms issued, shots given, lots of briefs from benefits counselors, the Chaplain, and others and of course, shipping my Navy uniform home. I would not wear a U.S. Navy uniform again until my return home from war. I still remember that first week. I remember running in the green grass and seeing Mr. Moon high in the sky in the early evening just a few days before my 38th birthday when I’d fly to South Carolina for 3 weeks with the Army where I’d get combat training with Army drill sergeants. Oh joy. I am forever thankful that chapter of my life is in the rear view mirror and hopefully, will never be repeated.
 
Today, life is new and fresh. I am daily reminded at how fast time moves “over here” vs. “over there”. I literally watched the clock tick away while in Afghanistan and my 6 months in country seemed to take an eternity. It’s hard to believe I’ve almost been home for as long as I was in country because since November, time has moved at warp speed. Since my return, I totally unplugged from news media and television almost completely. I rarely check on news from “over there” and rarely watch a television program. I’m a big “Top Chef” fan but couldn’t stand to sit through an episode once I got back. I just deleted the whole last season from the DVR last week to make more room for family movies that are often on ABC Family, like the “Sound of Music” that my girls have been watching the past few days. So many things that mattered before have no place in my life anymore. I find far more value in taking a walk in the neighborhood, playing a game at the table with my family, having little coffee dates while our girls are at music lessons, or just simply laying down on the couch together while the girls play on the floor. The days of making the most of every second of the day by being productive are gone. Sure, things need to get done and they do, but my family is priority now and nothing is going to trump that. No TV show, no obligation, no community event, no group run…nothing…all of that will have to fit in the new mold and if it doesn’t…it doesn’t. That’s OK.
 
I often do a self-check of myself and ask: “After I leave for work this morning, am I good with how I’m leaving things if that big 18-wheeler were to take me out? Are things that need to be said..said, and hugs that need to be given out given…and telling those whom I love that I love them? Have I kissed my girls goodbye and told them I love them even if asleep? Did I smell my bride’s hair one last time while hugging her goodbye should it be the last time? Did I look her in her eyes and tell her how much I love her and can’t wait to see her again? Have I fulfilled my purpose as a father, husband, and leader?” There have been days, no doubt, that I haven’t made it out the door on time because things just weren’t right. Late to work or not to work at all…both have happened many times. No regrets, though. While I “run the race set before me,” I run differently than before. I run with strength, endurance, and wisdom like I never had before. What I run “for” is also different and is faced with my first waking breath every morning. I must make the decision every morning to be the father, husband, and leader that I am supposed to be…as my faith has taught me. Houses, cars, Apple products, job descriptions, clothes on my back…all nice things but like I often say, “Will I take those with me to the grave? What will I be remembered for?” I choose to live a life of significance…not by the world’s standards, but by His standards. After all, it is He I will answer to one day. For now, though, I choose to love and love unconditionally those entrusted to me. That’s where true happiness is found.
 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Run Between the Suns 12hr Trail Run REGISTERED!

I’ve never run a timed event, meaning an event that has a distinct beginning and end based on the clock and not the distance covered. The most common one, I believe is 24 hour events. The course is normally on some type of relatively flat loop, not too long, and the point is to see how far one can go in the allotted time. While I’ve done a few 100-mile events in excess of 24 hours, I’ve always wanted to do a timed event. Enter the “Run Between the Suns” 12 hour trail run. (RBTS)


The RBTS is very near Oil Creek State Park in northwest Pennsylvania, the home of the Oil Creek Trail Runs each October, and about a 2 hour drive for me. The course travels a 5 mile trail around a lake. A fully stocked aid station will be at the start/finish along with showers for afterwards. Even a beach is nearby for families who are out there to support the runners. Well, I finally caved in and registered and in fact, the first from Ohio! I’ve gained many really good friends from the area since my 2009 OC100 finish so I’m really looking forward to the day on the trails. It starts at 7am and finishes at 7pm. I think I’ll just leave home around 4am and enjoy the early morning drive. The drive home will most certainly be laced with caffeine!


Predictions? I have no idea! I just plan move swiftly across the flats, challenge the hills with a purpose, and enjoy the gift of each downhill and whatever I do in 12 hours is fine by me! I need to stay healthy, though, since the Buckeye Trail 50K is only a few weeks later.


Race Website: https://sites.google.com/site/runbetweenthesuns/
Google Map of Race Location: http://g.co/maps/4ak6y

Monday, April 9, 2012

NOT M-Cubed...

I once wrote a Monday morning post every Monday morning dubbed "M-Cubed"...many of you certainly remember those days. "Monday Morning Musings" is what M-Cubed stood for. However, like the majority of my past routines, it is just that...my past and won't be brought back. I do, however, feel the inclination for a M-Cubed kind of post. M-Cubed was a smattering of bullet point thoughts that I threw together with no particular direction or subject so here are some tonight...just a smattering:

- Great Easter...one of the best, I'd argue. Great Easter sunrise 6-miler with my bride, Easter service at church, a few miles in a local Ohio State Park with my family, and wrapped with dinner at home with my wife's parents with all the fixin's. It was a wonderful day.

- Read the Directions: I was so proud of myself. I installed our new garbage disposal a few weeks ago nice-n-easy. So..very..proud. Well, my dishwasher stopped working just after that...like immediately after that. I called Whirlpool who I almost spent $300 on an immediate 1-year extended warranty on or had them come out to diagnose for $129. I also called Lowe's who said: "Just come on out and buy a new one!" I must believe that many people do that at the first sign of trouble. But, I just felt that I needed to do nothing. A few days later, friends of ours at our weekly marriage study gave us the name of a local guy who we finally called over the weekend to come on out...$79 to diagnose it. "OK," I figured. "Let's get this over with and the few hundred dollars it's going to cost me." So he finally comes out and just as soon as the words come out of my wife's mouth: "It happened right after my husband installed the garbage disposal..."....he knew what it was. You see, there's this little plug that BLOCKS the line that the dishwasher drains into when it runs. That little plug was still in there and kept the dishwasher from getting rid of its nasty water or completing its cycles. My bet is that it can sense the pressure in the line and just shuts itself down. Good thing, too, or my kitchen would be flooded with nasty dishwater. So, after many good laughs, we spent $79 plus tax for 2 minutes of work. It took longer to type this than it took to "fix" my dishwasher. :-)

- We ran 6 together on Saturday but I rounded that up to a half-marathon (13.1 miles) to make it 61.3 miles for the week...the most since sometime in 2010. I really felt good afterwards which was confirmation of a full recovery less than a week after the Fools 50K trail race.

- I finalized my route for my 39 mile 39th birthday run coming up in about a week. When I turned 36 and 37, I ran those distances from my home and through 4 different communities, stopping briefly along the way for photos and to see friends and family. Last year, many of those people ran varying distances to get me to 38 miles as I was traveling to combat training, en route to Afghanistan. This year, I want my run back and made up a 39 miler to fit the bill. I'll kick it off with an 8.2 mile loop with my wife then off I go. I'll be taking my new Brooks "top secret" wear-testers along for the ride.

- Being sponsored by Brooks, I have found some amazing people out there in the world. One happens to be Erin Henderson who is featured on pages 19 and 20 of May 2012's Runner's World (HumanRace), also a Brooks ID member. She is a 35 year old, mother of TWELVE children who has an amazing story. I've added her to my blog roll at the right if you'd like some inspiration (See Mom Run Far). She's headed to Boston this weekend, by the way.

- I'm all so close to registering for Run Between the Suns 12 hour trail race in northwest PA. It's on June 30th and the calendar works out very much in my favor. I just need to pull the trigger.

- Part of Easter Sunday, we spent time walking on the trails of Quail Hollow State Park in northern Stark County. Here is my public photo album of my photos from our hike, shot wide open with my Nikon D5100. Below are a few of my favorites. Click on any photo to view high quality, full screen that you can save.


One of the many wetland areas


Many things crawling around in there!


Beginning of life

My family in black and white

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails!

Friday, April 6, 2012

You Must Believe


I read this yesterday on Facebook on “I Love to Run’s” daily inspirational posts. It’s called “I’m a Distance Runner”: ‘I’ve been trained to keep going even when it’s hard. When it hurts. When it sucks. When I don’t want to. I look past it. Relentless forward progress to the finish. Call it what you want: stubbornness, endurance, determination, guts. Deep down, I don’t know how to give up. (And it’s always worth it in the end.)’  I could give you a long story about how this passage directly parallels my life but I won’t. I think you can see how it would parallel many lives and perhaps even your own. In running, I hear all the time things like “You ran further on Sunday than I drive in a week” or “I can barely run 2 miles” or “I only run to the refrigerator” or the most common: “You’re crazy.” My reply?: “Yea, I get that a lot.” Here’s the deal if you are struggling with any physical issues with running now like injuries or energy. Or perhaps it’s simply the will to run and keep going. If you’re hurt, that’s one thing. If you’re simply tired, unmotivated, in a bad mood, etc., etc., etc….YOU NEED TO SNAP OUT OF YOUR FUNK!!!! Back in October 2009 on Columbus Day weekend, I toed the line of my third 100-mile trail race in Titusville, PA. It was my third 100-miler in 18 weeks and would eventually be my third finish. Around mile 20 that Saturday, my inner thigh hurt bad…so bad, that I couldn’t lift that leg to climb out of creek-beds that the trail went straight through.  I had to literally pick up my leg or step up with my right leg then drag up my left. Did I mention that was MILE TWENTY??? My elementary math tells me 100 miles – 20 miles = 80 miles to go. 80. I was in pain…real pain and it hurt more by the minute. I had read a LOT about ibuprofen and its limits during endurance events so I had a baseline of what I could take. Those little tablets were in my drop bags for such a scenario as this. I decided to keep going. My pace was dreadfully slow and I watched the hours tick by until I could take another 800mg of ibuprofen. The sun grew old, the sky was clear, and Mr. Moon would soon rise. I won’t repeat the entire race report (you can read it on the right sidebar of this blog) but eventually, the ibuprofen did nothing and at times, I had to walk backwards to mask the pain. Still, I would not quit. At Mile 92, my bride of now 19+ years surprised me as she stood in the middle of the path. The sun had risen on the second day of the event, I had been out there for 29 or so hours non-stop, and I lost it emotionally. I was doing everything I could do to mentally and physically keep it together. I WANTED TO FINISH SO BAD. I WOULD NOT QUIT. I fell into her arms and thanked her for making the drive into Pennsylvania to see me. We jogged a bit into the final aid station then I headed out on my last 7 miles, still in all kinds of pain. The math of pace vs. distance vs. reaching the 32 hour time limit haunted me. “Would I make it? Will I have gone all this way only to be disqualified because I ran out of time?” I continued on and finished in 30 hours, 49 minutes, 2 seconds. (Yes, I still remember the “seconds” of my finish time…one of those things you just don’t forget.)

I say all of this simply to say this: I’ve been there and done that...in running AND in life. Whether it is in running or life, when you feel you just can’t do “it” anymore, you must make the decision that you CAN. Like I read recently, whether you say “I can!” or “I can’t,” you’re right. (read that again) In distance running, the mind can and will get in the way of your finish line…I promise you. You have to turn the negative into positive and get it done. Believe me when I tell you that our physical bodies are capable of amazing things. They can go the distance and can do so much more than you know. Your mind simply has to order it to do so. Sure, training has immense value but even with all the training there is out there, your mind is what will save you in the middle of the night on the trail when the crickets are sounding, the trees are creaking in the wind, and the moon shines up above. You must decide to finish. Remember, you CAN. Now believe it. 


Run Happy!!!

Hummus Devoured and a Promotion

Pumpkin/chocolate chip muffins and my homemade hummus
(click on photo for high resolution version)
Since I wrote about my hummus yesterday, I thought I'd share the finished product. We had our FamilyLife Homebuilders study last night (5th of 6 sessions) that we host and it was our turn to provide the snacks. The red pepper hummus (red bowl) was SO good. Unfortunately, we ran out of those Wheat Thins! Scooping the remaining hummus out with our fingers and licking them just didn't seem honorable to the hummus so we saved some for later. :-) Those pumpkin/chocolate chip muffins? Oh my. 15 seconds in the microwave and the chips get hot and melted...perfect.

4 years ago this month, I began my new job with the government to marry up with my Navy Reserve career. A government job is perfect for the military reservist as no issues ever arise when the call comes from the Navy to go. No questions asked and job secured. Well, I have been itching to challenge myself further at that job and have been applying for developmental opportunities and promotions for awhile now. All along, my plan has been to hit that hard once I returned home from Afghanistan and be the very best I can be. That labor has been rewarded and I was selected yesterday for a promotion! I'll be moving to another office in the area where I'll be more in an "expert" role where I'll work on the complicated cases, review others' work, mentor new employees, and give training. I'll do this for at least a year. I'm very thankful for this and look forward to the new challenge!

It's a day off from running today but we'll be back out there tomorrow. I still plan to hit a 60 mile week this week and that means tomorrow needs to hit the 12 mile mark. Looking forward to it and a great Easter weekend with my family.

Have a great day and Run Happy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hummus Recipe, a Thrash, and Wear Testing

Dang, I feel good. I feel good enough to run another 50K today and I felt the same yesterday. Ever since I  ran on Sunday and got my deep tissue shred on Monday night, I have felt good...a bit worn down and tired, but good. Larry Karasek is my massage therapist in Cuyahoga Falls and I can't recommend him highly enough. I was his last and 9th client of the day but he saved plenty for me. The keys of "breathe through it" and "relax" were key in getting through my 1hr+ with him. My back, my quads, my right calf and hamstring...all needed work. It was definitely the toughest massage I've ever had but I am walking/running proof that HE IS GOOD and knows what he is doing. He commented while I was on his high-end, body-shaping table that I'd be sore in the morning from the thrashing. Quite the opposite, actually. I felt totally renewed and wanted to run badly, but I didn't. I knew that my 50K on Sunday followed by my relaxing 6 I had on Monday morning alone was plenty and a day of rest was mandatory. After all, this is when the body repairs itself and gets stronger. Today, I feel like a million bucks and am ready to run and run far. Thanks, Larry!!! Oh yea, that table...and you ladies will love this. It literally shapes itself to your body. When you turn to your stomach, it "drops" and contours around your "curves" then freezes in that form, allowing Larry to apply the needed pressure while not crushing you and all your "parts." Pretty amazing, huh? Anyway, my recommendation for Larry is my highest for all so if you're having issues with anything or simply need to get all the "junk" worked out, please give him a shot. 330-687-3555.

As you know, I'm sponsored by Brooks and can't say enough great things about them. In addition to wearing their gear head to toe, in all I do and run in, I'm also part of their wear-testing program. This is a very hush-hush program with strict rules so I can't show pictures, discuss model names/versions, or anything. I've wear-tested 3 or 4 different times. Sometimes, I send them back with surveys so they can be evaluated and other times, I just do the surveys and keep the shoes. This time around, it's a pre-production release which I LOVE to do! It's just cool to be a part of this company's R&D (research and development) to make an excellent product even better and tuned into the runner. My new pair of "secret" shoes arrived yesterday and dang, they are SHARP!!!  With my birthday looming in just over a week and my 39 mile birthday run shaping up in my head, I'm going to give them a true test over hours and hours of asphalt that day. I do hope I get to keep this pair, but if not, that's OK, too. Anyway, I'm looking forward to being a part of the test yet again and helping make Brooks even better.

Hummus...I sure do love it. We are hosting our marriage study again tonight in our home and it's our turn to provide the snack so it was requested I make my super-yummy hummus. I love hummus and I feel like I've got the recipe down pat. I made two batches last night which are chilling in the fridge for tonight. The only difference is that in the 2nd batch, I used fresh-sliced red bell peppers to add some sweetness to it. Wow, that was a GOOD choice! Anyway, if you're interested in trying it out on your own, it's easy. Here's the recipe: Get your food processor out first and add the following: 1 can of chick peas drained (but retain that liquid for later), 2 teaspoons of cumin powder, 2 tablespoons of Tahini Paste and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, roll a fresh lemon with your palm on the counter then slice in half and squeeze the juice in. I prefer to not add the outside zest unless I really want a strong lemon taste. I opted to not put zest in this batch. Last ingredient...fresh squeezed garlic. I used a Pampered Chef garlic press and fill it up. That's it. Start the processor and slowly add the chick peas juice to get the correct consistency. Be very careful not to liquify the hummus! Once you've added too much, you've ruined it. Also, be sure to add the peppers BEFORE this liquid if using them as they have a lot of moisture within them so less liquid will be necessary. Chill the hummus before enjoying with your favorite crackers or pita bread/chips!

OK, time to run, folks. Those wear-testers aren't getting tested by sitting in the garage. Have a great day!

Run Happy and Happy Trails!

<<< UPDATE >>>

GREAT run!!! Nothing quite like the inaugural run in a new pair of Brooks. 6 miles with Mr. Moon, 35F, at a comfy 8:01 per mile pace. PERFECT way to kick off the day...literally! I'm already at 48+ miles for the week. I see me topping 60 miles this week...first time that's happened since early to mid 2010. Run Happy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fools 50K Race Report

Before I started writing tonight, I scrolled down on the right on this blog to update my race-finish roster. Hard to believe that I hadn't finished an ultra-marathon in almost 2 years. July 2010 was my last finish...barely...at the Buckeye Trail 50K. I hope to do MUCH better this year at that event. I just registered on March 22nd and watched in sell out in well under 24 hours. Anyway, today was a PERFECT day:

It started early at 4am so I could brew my stovetop Italian espresso and heat up a homemade pumpkin/chocolate chip muffin. I need a good hour to let that espresso fire up the engines before a race. Once Marjie got up, she made our traditional fried eggs and toast for breakfast and we enjoyed some early morning conversation, eggs, and java. Perfect as we were both hitting the trails today. Today was the day where she was set to run her first 25K (15.6 miles) trail run. It's but one more step towards her first 50K this fall at Oil Creek State Park. Final preps made and we were out the door, en route to Pine Hollow within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the start/finish of the race. This was the Fools 50K/25K's fourth anniversary. I had a good streak going until last year when I missed it. It was 6 days prior to deploying to Afghanistan and time was precious so I passed. I was very thankful to return to Pine Hollow this year.

Lloyd Thomas, race director, runs a top notch event. As an accomplished ultra-runner, he knows exactly what the runners need and want: a well-marked course, excellent aid, and keep the frills to a minimum except for a great finishing award. "LT" does it all. He even dried out the trails for us this year...well, at least he thinks he did. About a month ago, we were out there and our feet disappeared under water/mud it was so bad. Luckily, we've had minimal rain and lots of unseasonable sun and warm temperatures. The result was a super-fast course with very little mud at all. Prior to the race start, I made my rounds through the crowd of runners, giving out lots of handshakes and hugs. For many, this was the first time I've seen them again since pre-Afghanistan. It was great to see so many familiar faces again. Lloyd is also a veteran, a past Army officer, so he planted a beautiful American flag at the start and we all sung the National Anthem just seconds prior to the start. It's planted perfectly atop the "Sound of Music Hills" so during the race, it can be seen from afar, blowing in the wind. "Lloyd, thank you for that. It means so very, very much to me." Here it is just prior to sunrise and the start.
(click for high resolution version)
At 7:30am, the race was off and my bride was at my side. We had taken the entire last week off from running due to some physical issues. After last Sunday's impromptu 20 miler, my right ankle really acted up. I had no idea why but every fiber told me "NO RUNNING" this week. None. I listened and am glad I did. For Marjie, her IT band has been acting up so with today's race looming, she joined me in our weeklong break. As we hit the trail, we both felt great. The early miles were uneventful and hardly muddy at all. We stuck to our plan of coasting the flats, cruising down the downhills, and moving up the hills with a purpose. As we began passing through aid stations, they were plentiful with typical ultra fare (pretzels, M&Ms, PB&J squares, Coke, water, and Hammer Nutrition's "Heed"...my personal favorite.) They even had pitchers of Heed to easily fill my handheld carrier I just bought last week that I reviewed on a previous post. Super convenient and fast.

Temperatures started in the upper 30s and slowly climbed into the 40s along with the sun clearing out the clouds. Marjie's IT band, however, really started being pesky. Downhills really became a problem and only got worse with under 5 miles to go. Flats..no problem. Hills...no problem. Downhills, which are supposed to be "gifts" as I call them, they caused a lot of pain. With absolutely no intention of leaving her side, we made our way through the hilly Salt Run Trail and we finished the 25K together in 3hrs, 48min, 8sec. HER FIRST 25K!!! I was very proud of her. True to the plan, I re-filled my bottle and ran on down to my car that I positioned so I could pop the trunk, apply some lubricant to the chafing areas on my body, change my shirt, and hit the trail. By that time, she had joined me at the car and we shared a hug, congratulations, and goodbye kiss and off I want, SCREAMING down the trail. The way I felt (I felt like I really hadn't run much at all), I wanted to tear the trail up and pass people for the next 15.6 miles, never get passed, and that's precisely what happened.

I couldn't believe how good I felt and I also wondered how long it would last. After all, I hadn't run over 20 miles lately and haven't run more than 4 hours on the trails for well over a year. "Oh well, let's give it a shot," I thought. I just went with it and started picking people off left and right while flying down the trail. Before I knew it, I was nearing the 3/4 done point, around mile 23, and felt GREAT. 8.2 miles to go. I shot off a few texts home to let her know I was cruising well and she had already been to Starbucks, showered and probably cuddled up reading a good book on the couch...or napping. Either was fine! She earned it. As I cruised along, passed the 26.2 mile marathon point, I really wasn't getting weak which amazed me. The fire was still churning out power in my legs so I went with it. All I was consuming was liquid electrolyte, the occasional salt tab, and occasional PB&J square and M&Ms here and there. That's really it. As I crested the last hill prior to entering the final trail, Salt Run Trail, I gave a point to Old Glory...blowing in the breeze. She looked so brilliant and I thought how much it stands for. That same flag is flying where our countrymen and women are at war and I thought for a few moments of them. "Come home soon, brothers and sisters. Your country wants you back." Back to the trail. I will admit, I was getting weary but like I was preaching to Marjie earlier, it's mind over body. Our bodies are capable of incredibly much but our minds get in the way. We simply need to tell our body to get moving and get it done, and so I did. I continued to pass folks throughout Salt Run and eventually, hit the 1/2 mile to go point. Game on and time to put this race into history! As I emerged from the final hill in Salt Run onto the grassy plain at Pine Hollow, I saw the finish line and made it mine. A handshake from Lloyd and the handmade finisher's mug were mine. I did it and I just didn't finish, I destroyed it. I finished in 6hrs, 41min, 22sec which is nothing too amazing to brag about, but I ran that second 25K 54 minutes, 54 seconds faster than the first 25K. AND, I felt great, like I had more to give but why do that? Chef Bill had homemade soup ready for me. I helped myself to veggie soup and potato soup...both amazing, especially the veggie one. Freshly cut veggies make a killer soup. I enjoyed them while laying in the grass, just a few steps from Old Glory.
Me holding my finisher's mug (Photo Credit: Celeste W.)
After some soup and more conversation, I made my way to my car, made up a recovery drink, and hit the road for home. Tonight, I enjoyed a baked potato with homemade red sauce and some leftover pork chops. Perfect. Oh yea, a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg for good measure. I also feel quite good but I will be crashing hard very soon. I feel the pull to the bed sucking me in. I do have something to look forward to tomorrow...we have a couples massage tomorrow night after work. This won't be for pleasure, though. This guy will shred us big time but we need it. Once he finds a problem area, stand by! Here's a pic of my Pure Grit trail shoes, the race sticker, the mug, and my race bib from today. It really was a great day and I'm already looking forward to the 5th installment next year.
(click for high resolution version)
Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails! Run Happy!