Monday, May 28, 2012

Perfect Saturday and my 1st Run 4 Rabies

Memorial Day 2012. Old Glory is just outside my door at half-staff to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and will be raised to full staff at Noon today. For me, I'll be in my very, very white Summer Whites uniform this morning for my small town's Memorial Day parade where I'll judge again. I did it last time two years ago before I deployed. The rest of the day will be spent with fellow service-members, friends, and family.

The last few days have been pretty fantastic. Saturday was wholly with family and was just about perfect. We started the day at Kent's Haymaker Market where lots of locally made goods are sold along an old brick road and up above the Cuyahoga River. We picked up some things, snapped some photos and were off to head north towards Cleveland. 
Fresh produce from Birdsong Farm
Just west of Cleveland is a community called Tremont where their annual GreekFest was going on. I wasn't sure what to expect...a full-fledged festival outdoors or something extremely low-key. The latter was the case and all of it was within an Annunciation church. Some art stuff but the best part was homemade gyros which we all enjoyed immensely. We picked up some fresh pastries including three variations of baklava and headed on further north to the shore of Lake Erie in Edgewater Park. It wasn't what I expected as far as being a safe environment for my kids to play but we did enjoy our treats while sitting on the pier, looking over towards downtown Cleveland. Here's a pic I snapped before we headed out.
Downtown Cleveland from the west on Edgewater Park pier
Given that our day was moving along pretty quick and we had no schedule or time to be home, I've been wanting to take everyone to see The Avengers which I had already seen. We made the 2:25pm showing and amazingly, we all loved it. Now tell me how many movies are out there where everyone loves? Not too many. No wonder they've killed every Box Office record in existence. After the nearly 2 1/2 hours in the theater, we headed back up to Cleveland and across the bridge into Ohio City. Ohio City is the home of Great Lakes Brewing Company since 1988. Fantastic food, outdoor dining, and an evening perfect in every way from the temps to my company. What.a.day!

Yesterday was great, too, which was kicked off at church and lunch afterwards with my brother and his family. Relaxing defined the majority of the rest of the day until 6pm, at least. Last night, a few friends and fellow trail runners put together an official, un-official trail marathon on the Buckeye Trail, dubbed the Run 4 Rabies FA Trail Marathon...the 3rd Annual version. At 6pm, between 14 and 16 folks gathered at the Pine Lane trailhead, received a few announcements about the death rate of those bit by rabid animals and we were off! Race swag was simple...a black rubber wrist band. Here it is atop my 2nd pair of Brooks PureGrits that I christened last night.
It was warm, humid, and perfect training for July's Buckeye Trail 50K. I was equipped with three Hammer Gels and four portions of Hammer's Heed electrolyte. That's it, except for my Garmin to track the distance and my iPhone for any emergencies like rabid raccoon or coyote attacks. All in all, the run went very well. BUT, my goofiness got the best of me. We were about 8 miles in and on a steep decline and therefore cruising pretty well. I saw a "launch pad" up ahead where if I hit it just right, I could leap into the air, tap my feet together over to my left then land beautifully. Normally, I reserve this for Marjie but last night, I thought it was time. Here's the thing: it's quite one thing to be on flat land and moving slowly while doing this. It's quite another to be flying downhill with a LOT of kinetic energy at my back. I had not fully thought out the landing sequence of my flight. Normally, I just plant both feet down and I'm good. No such luck here...but I did give it a valiant effort. Graceful as a swan, I launched, did my tap off to my left (thinking how awesome it must look as I must have been 4 or so feet off the ground given the downward slope of the hill and launching pad) and attempted to stick the landing. Stick it, I did....right onto the ground. I don't really think I realized how hard I fell until I woke up this morning. Visibly, I right elbow was cut up but today, my back is bruised, upper left arm, right hip, and the visibly laceration. To be 100% honest, the only thought I had after getting up was "Is my tattoo OK???" Yes, it is. :-) Anyway, I got up like a champ, picked up my water bottle, and carried on down the trail. At the halfway point/turn-around at exactly 13.1 miles, we donned our headlamps as night was falling on us and headed on back. Little did I know, but Mr. Moon (crescent-style) was high above with the stars. It was a gorgeous, humid night in the mid-70s. At 12:37am, we arrived back at the parking lot and said our goodbyes after mixing up some recovery drink. Such a GREAT time on the trails and time like I've not had for at least a year. It was good.

Well, it's that time where a parade awaits. Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Remember, this is the day that we set aside to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Freedom is not free and it's paid by our brothers' and sisters' blood nearly everyday so we can continue to have it.

Have a great week and Happy Trails!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Collage of Memories and a Snake

I'm getting used to these occasional Thursdays off, especially when I get to spend them wholly with my wife. Yesterday was one of those and after getting the girls off to school and a much-needed haircut, we headed on down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for our first trail run in well over a month. Before that, though, I worked on a photo collage for my Facebook page which I've been dreaming up for awhile. With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I wanted to share a bunch of photos at once that mean a lot to me. 
I'll give you the quick run-down here: from top left, that's me in my Summer Whites. I love that uniform and don't get to wear it often but I will be on Monday when I sit as a judge at my small town's Memorial Day parade. The next one is a framed print from my former boss at work. If you were to see it close, each tiny square is from 9/11. The next one is obvious...the new ink on my right calf. :-) The next is me with Mark Z. at WCRF, 103.3FM in Cleveland just after my return home in November 2011. I was in the studio on the air all morning talking about the deployment and returning home. He had his "Don't Tread on Me" flag ready in the studio! The next is my folded flag in its display case in my living room. That flag was flown in honor of my family over the skies of Afghanistan in June 2011 aboard a F-15E Strike Eagle on a combat mission. The next one working clockwise is my brother and I after a recent trail run. Him and his family have been HUGE supporters of my entire family both throughout my deployment and since my return. I'm eternally grateful and so is my family! The next is me standing atop one of those F-15E Strike Eagles at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Next is self-explanatory and is an excellent representation of the joint service that my wife and I perform as we serve. Lastly, that photo was taken at the 101st Airborne headquarters at Bagram Air Field. The Sergeant First Class with me was heading home and she stopped by for a photo while saying goodbye. I worked closely with her in bringing supplies in country to the troops. She had a really tough deployment and had just lost a soldier only a few days earlier.

Once we showed up at the trails, the hour was closing in on lunch already and the heat was up to 80F and climbing. We were on shaded trails, though, and it was super dry. Marjie's ankle has been doing much better lately since her fall a month ago so it was finally time to give some technical trail a shot. She did great! There was a short pause, though, about 1.5 miles in. See below for the reason.
OK, there is one thing on Planet Earth that I don't play well with. You're looking at it! I just yelled "Stop!" and she didn't know what we had to stop for as she didn't see it. My speech was mute...I simply pointed. Just to be clear and give perspective here...that thing is at least 3-4 feet long! NO THANK YOU!!! I don't even like cheap, plastic, fake 2 inch snakes. A live, slithering snake going across the trail I'm running down doesn't sit well. To say my heart raced is an understatement! Once I snapped a photo (a must!) and it left the trail off to the right, we kept going. On our return trip wrapping up our 8.3 mile run, a garter snake zipped across in front of us. I didn't see it but she did and this time, SHE was startled and jumped when she saw it...she almost stepped right on it. In the end, we had a great trail run and a breezy patio lunch at the nearby Chick-Fil-A. Love that homemade lemonade and Chick-Fil-A Sauce for dipping!

I'm really looking forward to the upcoming weekend. Lots of miles, lots of family time, and a day to honor those who have worn the uniform before me. To boot, the mercury is heading into the 90s!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone and keep flying Old Glory high!

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Buying Memories for 25 Cents

Yet another piece of furniture left our home last night. It was a couch that we bought many, many years ago. It had started in Virginia Beach, went to Colorado, and back to Ohio. A friend of mine purchased it which put a nice bookend on our garage sale from last weekend when we cleared out tons of ‘stuff’ no longer needed or wanted. It ended at 3pm on Saturday and by 4:15pm, our garage was cleaned up and empty. Little did we know, but Easter Seals takes all the leftovers from garage sales minus clothes. Goodwill takes the clothes. For Easter Seals, locally they hold massive garage sales every other week for the public where volunteers man the tables and 100% of the sales goes towards assistance low-income folks when it comes to medical needs. Thankfully, we have a person affiliated with them in our neighborhood who left a flyer in our paper box. Pretty awesome, I’d say. In some way down the road, someone will be helped so at least some good will come from our ‘stuff’.
 
I don’t know about you, but we’ve had it with ‘stuff’. Nearly 20 years of marriage now and we’ve accumulated a sickening amount of it. Basically, we walked around the house and thought “If we need to move, do we really want to take that?” or “When was the last time I read that, listened to that, wore that, or used that?” By the time we knew it, the house was beginning to empty. By Saturday afternoon, we felt like we had undergone a great cleansing ritual and even our girls missed nothing. To boot, they turned a profit! Along with a few of their cousins, they set up a lemonade stand and sold homemade cups of lemonade and homemade cookies for 25 cents apiece. Very few folks passed them by! One thing we’ve decided as a family is to minimize the stuff from now on. That decision has no boundaries, either. Christmas, included! Instead, we choose to go and create memories together that can’t be sold at a garage sale and have no expiration date in our minds. Enough STUFF!!! What’s really cool is that the funds raised from this 25 cents apiece cleansing thing we just went through will fund our first family trip to our nation’s capital. Finally, they’ll get to walk in the Museum of Natural History, visit the Vietnam War Memorial, the WWII War Memorial, visit the Tomb of the Unknowns, stand at the base of the Washington Monument..and even ride on their first subway. Best of all? Time together making memories instead buying the latest and greatest ‘thing’ which will lose its sizzle faster than it took to find the dang ‘thing’ in the first place.
 
So here’s to cleansing and creating memories. After all, it’s the memories we make and legacy we leave that will last past our time on this earth. The other ‘stuff’? It’s not even a memory…only filler in a landfill somewhere. So go create and live life to its fullest and serve others. We only get but one chance!
 
Have a great rest of your week!
 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Espresso and Pizza at 3:30am

Well, 2 weeks complete at the new job and things are going well. Same government agency but a promotion into a different office/city. Regardless, I am thrilled the weekend is finally here and spectacular weather awaits. Since my last post about my tattoo, it's healing quite well. I had strict instructions to follow and I've been doing just that. Every 3-5 hours, I clean it with water then apply a very thin coat of Aquaphor. For last night and tonight, I put a thick layer on and wrap the entire area with saran wrap, taping the top and bottom to catch any leakage overnight and keep it moisturized. Thanks to many race packets, I have a gazillion of these Aquaphor samples which I'm using. Cheaper than buying! It's what Pops recommended to use.

One thing forbidden until it heals (roughly 2 weeks) is direct sunlight. Given that it's May and I really don't want to run in pants, early morning runs are a must. Last night, I couldn't sleep at all and was wide awake at 2:30am. At 3am, I called it quits and got up. Laundry, dishes, morning devotions, and even my morning espresso with a slice of my wife's yummy homemade pizza. Perfect at 3:30am, right?! I headed on out under 48F and clear skies. It was a super peaceful morning with the dew and fog resting over the fields. Here's a photo around mile 5 of my run.
Around mile 8.5, I heard a loud blowing sound, like air filling a balloon. Sure enough! I turned around on my most common route and in the distance was a colorful balloon lifting off just as the sun crested the horizon. Beautiful sight for me and them! What a grand way to start the day.

10 miles done and 28 total since Thursday. Happy with that and ready for the rest of the weekend. Day 2 of our neighborhood garage sale all day then date night!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

3 Week Break Done - "You did WHAT???"

A bit of a hiatus, yes...sometimes we all just need to step away and recharge a bit. Don't worry, I won't recap the past 3 weeks but they have been good. A few highlights were the Returning Warrior Weekend that my wife and I went to in Louisville, KY. It was for Navy folks returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a fantastic weekend and one we are very thankful for. I was also promoted at work and just began my new position in a new city almost two weeks ago. That's going well. Unique and challenging...but well. Running has backed off a bit, I'd say. My wife twisted/sprained her ankle pretty bad over two weeks ago and it's still giving her issues. The immediate ripple effect was less miles for me because I got so dang hooked on running with her in the morning. Today, though, I had a day off and after seeing my girls off on the bus, I knocked out a great 18 miles in the warm sunshine. I even picked up my brother's German Shorthair Pointer for 3.5 miles. Here are a few photos that I snapped along the way. There is so much color out there right now that sometimes, I just have to stop and snap a pic.
This is one of my most traveled routes near my home...usually pre-dawn.

Just some wildflowers along the route.
After my 18, time was bearing down on me as I had a 12:30pm appointment in Kent...for a tattoo. Yep, this sailor of 14 1/2 years did not have one. Shocking, isn't it? Well, before I share with you the tattoo, I have to address an issue. All throughout my life, I have been taught/told/etc. that tattoos are wrong and against the Bible. While this is not a blog about my Christian walk, many of you know that I profess to be a Christian and have been one since the age of 5. You also can't deny the public stigma attached to tattoos or many folks' immediate non-spoken reaction when they see one. Often, the person wearing the tattoo gets judged without speaking a word. I will admit...I have done that but I thought it was just wrong because I was told so. Today...in 2012...my faith is at an all-time high and my "vertical" relationship is stronger than ever. Without it, I wouldn't be sitting here tonight typing this, I promise you. So what does the Bible say about it? The Scripture quoted most often comes out of Leviticus in the Old Testament. Most just quote the verse and leave it at that. The verse clearly forbids tattoos. BUT, like ALL Scripture, you have to understand who the writer is, who the audience is, and the context it all is written in. In that passage, they were specifically addressing pagan worship, witchcraft, and the like. As you see in the following photos, nothing like that exists today on my body. But what about the New Testament? It doesn't specifically address or even name tattoos. Instead, it talks about in 1 Corinthians and Romans about treating your body like a "holy temple" and not "defiling" it. It also talks about doing everything you do to honor God.

So where do I stand? Clearly, my position has changed. Fact: God knows my heart. He knows my intentions. Fact: are ear piercings defiling? Is makeup on one's face? (yes, I know that's temporary) Plastic surgery? Tummy tuck? Stomach stapling? Heck, is running 100 miles TORTURE on one's body?!?! So yes, I think the matter truly is subjective. I do not hold the Old Testament as a direct forbidding of tattoos. It was speaking to a specific matter which does not apply to me. As for the New Testament, I did not do it for any sort of rebellion or with ANY evil intention. The bottom line is that I love my country and it's a huge part of who I am. In about 5 years, I'll retire from the U.S. Navy. I have been to sea many times aboard aircraft carriers, worked on and under nuclear submarines, and served my country in Afghanistan. To wear "that" permanently is part of who I am. It does not define me, though....let me be clear on that. It does not. My "vertical" relationship will always trump that and God knows that...He knows my heart. For the future, I do intend on another and it will mean a LOT to me. It will involve a cross, it will involve my wife and kids. It will "say" somehow what that empty cross means to me. An act of worship, perhaps? Oh yes.

So there you have it. It's a very controversial topic and one that some folks won't budge on. I know this...it raises my awareness to a whole new level on how I look at people...tattoos or not. Who am I to judge? It is not my place to do so. My barber, actually, is covered in tattoos, and I have never thought an ill thought against her. She is a GREAT person and a GREAT friend. 

So on to mine. I was referred to Defiance Tattoos in Kent by a longtime fellow runner. She had the owner's kids in school and highly recommended him. I insisted on getting a referral for my first since issues with cleanliness and quality are certainly a concern. I first visited "Pops" last Sunday and explained what I envisioned and thumbed through some books. Once I had it nailed down, he sketched it and texted it to me later that night. I loved what I saw! Today was the day and I got it done. Below are a series of photos that take you from beginning to end. I am very, VERY happy. It is certainly larger than expected but now that it's done, I couldn't be more happy and I love how it wraps a bit around the back of my calf. "Pops" is certainly very talented and I'll only go back to him for the next one. Here they are!
Black outline that he sketched and pressed on to guide him on the outline.

"Pops" tattooing the black outline. YES, it hurt...A LOT!

While laying on the table, my view of much of his prior work.

Black outline done... THANK GOODNESS! I nearly passed out. No joke.

Most of the shading added. A little more to go.

Adding color.

All shading complete and some red added. See the eagle's red tongue?

"Pops" prep table complete with tools and his ink.

The finished product. LOVE IT! Eagle is facing forward.

Due to its size, the flag and wings wrap around to the back. Perfect for those trying to catch me on the trails!

Did I mention I love it? Oh yea.
So tonight, I have strict instructions about keeping it covered up and moisturized. I was also told that it'll leak and ruin whatever I'm laying on so we've taken preventative measures to prevent ruining any sheets. Old sheets on, towel underneath, and I'm wearing some old Navy sweats that are non-constricting. The bandage comes off in the morning and I'll clean it for the first time. The first 3-4 days are key to letting the leg heal properly.

Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!!!