Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Race Reports Catalog

This post will be updated as I write "official" race reports as a quick access point to locate current and past race reports for those interested. Newest first by date.


January 4: Frozen Sasquatch 50K

2013 - "I'm back!"

October 11-13: West Virginia Trilogy (50K finish and 50M DNF)
September 2: Cleveland Oktoberfest 5K Bier Run
August 24: Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K
July 13: Buckeye Trail 50K
June 15: Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run / Public Photo Album
April 28: Forget the PR 50K
April 20: On My Own Two Feet Marathon
March 23: Buzzard Day 50K Trail Run
January 13: Run for Regis 50K Fun Run

2012 -  A new life, a new runner

September 15: YUT-C 50K (no race report)
July 14: Buckeye Trail 50K
June 30: Run Between the Suns 12hr Endurance Run
April 1: Fools 50K

2011 - Afghanistan deployment

September 17: Air Force Marathon (from Afghanistan)

2010 - Injured and Surviving

July 19: Buckeye Trail 50K
March 28: Fools 50K

2009 -  Year of the 100s

November 8: Bobcat Trail Marathon
October 10-11: Oil Creek 100 Mile Trail Run
September 26: Akron Marathon
September 19: YUT-C 50K
August 1-2: Burning River 100 Mile Trail Run
June 6-7: Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Trail Run Part 1 / Part 2
April 5: Inaugural Fools 50K
January 18: Winter BT50K/Run for Regis


December 6: Tecumseh Trail Marathon
November 1: Mountain Masochist 50+ Mile Trail Run
September 27: Akron Marathon
September 20: YUT-C 50K
August 2-3: Burning River 100 (attempt / DNF)
July 19: Summer Buckeye Trail 50K
May 25: Buffalo Marathon
May 3: Green Jewel 100K / Photo Album
April 6: Athens Marathon
January 26: Winter Buckeye Trail 50K

1997 thru 2007: pre-blog and pre-race reports

Monday, December 30, 2013

M-Cubed for 12.30.2013

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for December Thirtieth, Two Thousand Thirteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Yea, yea, yea...I know. It's Monday afternoon. I've been busy so cut me some slack, will ya? I slept in until 7 today, too...that was like 3 1/2 hours of bonus sleep.

- So it was mid-40s and sunshine over the weekend. I wake up this morning...BAM! 19F and 10F with the wind. It was raining last night, turned to ice, and then to snow this morning. FAT FLAKE SNOW at that...beautiful. I headed out on my last road run of 2013 (trails tomorrow!) and on the way back, I was getting blinded by the fattest flakes of all. Wet, fat flakes. Chock that up as Reason #4,583 why I run outside and #justsaynototreadmills. Here are two photos from today's run.

- Got collision insurance? I sure do. So I'm doing some running around the day after Christmas then went out for lunch on Friday..the 27th. I look back at my car while locking it, I noticed something on the trunk lid. DANGIT! Someone hit me! Upon closer examination, paint was missing and they hit me pretty hard yet didn't hit the bumper which didn't make sense unless you're a big TRUCK! A few calls and today, I visited a local collision repair place to determine the cost of repair and collision vs. comprehensive claim. I have a zero deductible for comp but $500 for collision...crossing fingers for comp! In the end, I can't really sell this being a comp claim...someone most certainly hit me...wait, let me rephrase: some COWARD most certainly hit me and left. Not a note, not anything. No way they didn't feel MY car stop THEIR car/truck/tractor/whatever. So fixed it will be next week upon which time I will shell out 500 bucks. Great, isn't it?! Let me tell ya...this hurts more when you have the title in hand and own the car outright. That's my baby! (not the bank's!)

- 2013: Well, it's not like 2011 where I wanted to drop an atom bomb on it...2013 hasn't been too shabby. 2012 was a year where we travelled a LOT. In 2013, we did much less. I ran less races, too, but ironically, I'm going to have my highest mileage year EVER and this month will be my highest month EVER...even higher than my peak training for my 100-milers back in 2009. With one run to go this month, I'm at 224.9 miles and for the year, I sit at 2,062 miles. Tomorrow will hold a muddy, trail 8 or 10 with friends on Buckeye Trail...but no decimals!!! #runnersOCD Pretty happy and injury-free!

- Thrilled to be starting 2014 with both Brooks and Hammer Nutrition. I picked up a skull cap and a long sleeve tech tee from Hammer so I can begin promoting the brand at races like the one this Saturday. I took both for a test run today, especially since most hats don't fit over my big head. Test passed!

- I saw a headline today (click here to view) about how the violence may increase from the insurgents when the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan next year. MAY?! For those who have asked me my opinion since I'm in the military and did take a "vacation" to Afghanistan in 2011, I have said for years that when we leave there, the Taliban will take it back over...just like they did when the Soviets left a few decades back. You see...Afghanistan's chief crop is opium poppy...and on the globe, they are the #1 exporter of it. MONEY and lots of it. Money to control the poor and uneducated of Afghanistan, money to build bombs, money to buy weapons, money to inflict terror to the "infidels" of the world, all in the name of their (g)od and religion. So yea...they are going to rule that country when we leave and you know what? There is NOTHING we can do about it. That is why I support a full withdrawal of every troop, airman, sailor, and Marine from Afghanistan. Shedding U.S. blood in a war that has the same outcome, regardless of our involvement is tough to support. That does NOT mean I don't support my country and Commander in Chief. If they ordered me to go again....I'd go. No questions asked. But as a human being, citizen of the U.S., and service member whose heart aches every time one of our own dies...I say "BRING THEM HOME....NOW."

Enjoy your last few days and hours of 2013. The clock's not stoppin' so regret nothing, make a difference, and choose to bless someday today and often in 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winding Down 2013

Winding down 2013, it's going out well. Over the past week, I've passed up 2000 miles and 200 miles for the month and still going. As it stands today, 2013 will be a banner year...not for race accomplishments, per se, but from the vantage point of miles covered, being injury free, and running purely for the joy of running. I'm quite happy with that. It's such a backwards way of the mainstream running world, in my opinion. So many people are wrapped up in training schedules, pace of their runs, how well they place, etc. I'm NOT saying those are necessarily bad things at all...that was me for YEARS. But for me personally, it's just not that important to me anymore. I do love races, I do love competition, and I have a pretty well padded 2014 schedule, but it doesn't rule me. Make sense? Anyway, I posted on Facebook last night about this topic and a good friend and fellow Navy lieutenant posed the question: "How do I stay injury free and log all of the miles?" I actually had a tough time answering that question and scratched my head a bit...perplexed by what the answer really is. Here is my response and maybe it'll help explain where I'm coming from here:

So 2013...about to end quite well and 2014 will start awesome, too, as a 50K is a mere 6 days away, down in the mountains of West Virginia once again. Before that, though, the Highlands Sky 40 Miler registration opens up on January 1st. I'm absolutely returning to that race next year over Father's Day weekend. They just opened the new lodge for my family and after my experience in 2013, another trip is certainly warranted. Details Here.

Yesterday, I hosted my annual WaterFalls Group Run. 7 years ago, I started it with 7-10 fellow runners as a way to celebrate 2007 and kick off 2008 by seeing the 3 main waterfalls of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and just having fun. We also stopped for photos at each waterfall. Well, it's grown a bit and 300 +/- 100 runners showed up yesterday. I didn't run for the first time, though, because I was a one-man show and did a joint collection for charity. I collected used shoes to be donated to those in need and also filled my wife's SUV up with food and household goods for the Freedom House, a veterans homeless transitional home in Kent, OH. They house 14 men at a time who show up with nothing. I took the full load of goods and nearly $500 in cash straight there and the men helped me offload the goods. That absolutely made my day! ALL worth it! The rest of the day, I was sent photo after photo of the waterfalls run. It absolutely lived up to the reason it exists. Hundreds of smiles and breathtaking waterfalls. You can see them all here at the public Facebook page: http://facebook.com/waterfallsrun. Next year's date is set for December 27, 2014!

More good running news this past week came from Brooks. Looks like I'll continue my journey with them via sponsorship for a 5th straight year but now under the umbrella of "Brooks Fanatics" vs "Brooks ID." They have done some reorganizing within the sponsorship realm and the ID program has been GREATLY reduced in size and is reserved only for coaches and the elite. I'm honored to be a part of the Brooks Family yet again and excited to begin year #1 with Hammer Nutrition. Got my gear, got my fuel...ready to race!

Have a fantastic last few days of 2013, friends. Whatever you do today, make it count and bless someone around you.

Monday, December 23, 2013

M-Cubed for Christmas Eve Eve 2013

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for December Twenty-Third, Two Thousand Thirteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Snow pack for the last month...nothing but green out our door today. We've had torrential downpours, flooding warnings, and 60F weather in the past few days but it's over now. Big temperature drop overnight and heading down into the teens by tomorrow...but less than 50% chance for a White Christmas. Yesterday, I headed out for a recovery run from Saturday's 30 and this greeted me on my everyday route:
Pardon the poor pre-sunrise quality but that's a driveway to the left and the road I ran through on the right...the rest farmland.
- When I woke up yesterday, it would make sense to the everyday common-sense person to rest after 7+ hours on muddy trails on Saturday. Ironically, though, I had a smashing run. I headed out on legs that said "Stay in bed." and within a mile, I was cruising at a faster-than-normal pace on my regular hilly route. I felt amazing..and actually ached more walking around the house. Note to self?: "Just Run." Today, though...heeding my own advice and resting so I can truly repair and get stronger. Lots of water intake today, too.

- I took some drastic steps within my own social media sphere yesterday...cutting about 100 "friends" that I've been connected to for some time..mostly runners. Like I said on there, I really dislike the term "unfriend"..seems so cold and heartless. While running on Saturday, I ran with a friend who has never stepped into the social media world and guess what...he lives and enjoys life just fine! The thought of that is very attractive to me. HOWEVER, there are some parts of my life (e.g. church, running events, marriage events) where I use Facebook to communicate heavily...so in a sense, I do "need" it which is my own doing. But, I have found that much of the other chatter out there really creates a distraction for me that I don't need in my life and is sort of a "fun sucker" or "life sucker" for me. Hard to explain... Anyway, I know I ticked some folks off yesterday and for that, I'm sorry. This is a boundary in my life that I've needed to erect for awhile. The first step was recognizing and stating the problem and its negative effect on my life and then acting on it to remove it. Kinda like ripping off a scab..and I don't think I'm done, either. I do feel better, though, and have no regrets.

- I've been watching videos lately on a website called "I Am Second." In a nutshell, they are testimonies from folks you've never heard of to testimonies from the Duck Dynasty family, Steven Baldwin, the former lead guitarist of Korn, Governor Mike Huckabee, and even this former prostitute. I watched Annie's story yesterday....wow. It was the first one where I nearly cried for her. Incredibly bad background that she talks about in detail and where it led her. I highly recommend it but I caution you against watching with kids around...not appropriate. Most of their videos are fine but this one is a bit raw. Bottom Line: If you ever think you've screwed up so bad that there is no hope for you...you're wrong. Here's Annie's story: http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/annie-lobert/

- Last year, I became a big fan of Skillet...a pretty loud Christian band you may have heard of. On an annual basis, typically in the Top 3 in sales and popularity across ALL spectrums of music...on the planet. You don't think "Oh...a Christian band" when you see or hear them. They'll tour Christian music festivals but then tour with the Carnival of Madness as well with their secular brethren. In 2014, they are not attending the Alive Festival as I had hoped here in Ohio but I heard last week that they are going to be in Cleveland with Third Day, Mandisa and others in March so when tickets went on sale on Friday at 10am, I snatched up two tickets..very good tickets at that! My daughter and I will enjoy a date night of dinner and a concert...really looking forward to it! (and the flame throwers, too) :) Tickets Here!

- This past week I typed up a rant for Facebook then deleted it. I have been letting the fact that people replace "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays" yet don't ever say "Happy Holidays" for New Years, St. Patty's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Father's Day, and every single other holiday out there. Christmas has a huge impact on so much: work schedules, the retail industry, travel, parties, food, Christmas tree industry, presents, and the list goes on and on...yet so many "re-name" it...all in the name of political correctness or whatever. After I typed up my rant...I deleted it. What I knew would happen would be a lashing from others about the roots of the holiday and how nearly all of it is rooted in pagan traditions...and that's true! I wasn't up for the fight...but then my pastor wrote a blog about it the next day and said it so well...and non-offensively at that. So with that, here it is. Such a well-researched post and laying out of the facts...very pagan ones at that but gets to the crux of why Christmas is so important. Here it is.

- The following video is a sort-of flash mob. Regardless, it's one I encourage you to watch. It happened in Boston this past week and is best viewed with your speakers turned to the max...especially near the end. Incredible power in this! Enjoy...and a very Merry Christmas Eve Eve to you and yours!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Race" Report: URINEO 2013

We've been below freezing with a consistent snow pack for the past month but two days ago, the temperature shot straight up and the rain began...and continued...and continued. When I awoke at 3:30am this morning, it was 54F out! On December 21st! Plus, it was pouring rain. Still, there was nothing that would keep me from heading out to Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, OH. NEO Trail Club puts on this annual trail fest called URINEO which stands for "Ultra runners in northeast Ohio" and is pronounced "ur-een-o". Alrighty? Alright. It comes at no cost and it's basically a run what you want..just be done between 1pm and 2pm-ish for a social gathering of food (potluck-style) and spirits. I heard of a 6:30am start so I planned on that and hoped for something in the 30-mile range for the day. No real reason but I did want a feel-good run for my 50K race in the mountains two weeks from today.

The rain fell all the way there and honestly, never really stopped for long all day. Sometimes a steady rain and sometimes sprinkling. We started out in the dark so headlamps were on. I went ahead and wore my screwed trail shoes because I heard ice was still on the trail...perfect. I headed out with Gombu, Kimba, The Professor, and Victor...eventually became myself, Victor and Gombu for most of the day. Before long, we were realizing what a mud run the day would be. So much snow and ice melt made the trail super slick and in the really steep areas, the trees surrounding us served as anchors to latch onto and pull ourselves along....up or down. One thing that was very cool (or warm) was these warm and frigid areas we'd pass through, often touching each other. We couldn't figure out what was causing it but in one moment, we'd feel warmth, like from a dryer and then meat locker air. So weird but pretty cool, nonetheless. Each loop was in the mid 7's and my trunk served as my aid station. Throughout the day, I never felt tired or beat down. It was surreal, honestly. I never know when I'm going to be dealt a good hand but today was one of them.

Mud...so much mud...yet I never fell once today. I racked up 30 miles for the day. That made the last 3 days total 50 miles and 61 miles for the week with two days of rest. Even MORE awesome was that I cracked 2000 miles for the year! WOOT! I actually sit at 2,009.4 miles right now with 10 days left in the year. Not too shabby!

Afterwards, some great food, desserts and spirits waited for us in the Old Log Cabin. It was a great day to see folks I hadn't seen in quite some time and just soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the trails, waterfalls, and birds flying everywhere. I had a great time...couldn't ask for more.

I did snatch a few photos today...shocking, I know. Here are my favorites from the day:
Lake Glacier

A staple of NEO Trail events

One of my favorites

L-R (Me, Victor, Kimba, and Gombu)

Happy Trails!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Screwed Shoes V 2.0, Ice, and Sunrises

Tis the season for ice and snow...and screws. Back in 2009, I screwed my first pair of Keen trail shoes with a dozen plus of hexagonal sheet metal shoes. Those shoes bit the dust last season so a new set was due to be indoctrinated...in steps an old pair of Brooks Cascadia trail shoes. My initial video on YouTube garnered over 500 views but was over 5min long. I snapped some photos last night of this "screwing" and made it into a 55 second instructional video that tells you everything you need to know. Bonus: This will cost you under $2.50. Can't beat it! Looking forward to the first week in January, I have my next 50K in the mountains of West Virginia and I want to be prepared for whatever comes at me...be it packed snow or ice. These shoes will now be my chariot if either present themselves. The goal? Don't fall and pass out like my last venture into the West Virginia mountains. :)
My running is going well for December so far. Very much on track for my 2,000 mile goal for 2013...only about 20 miles to go and will probably hit it by week's end. Tomorrow is NEO Trail Club's annual social run in Mill Creek Park dubbed URINEO...stands for ultra runners in Northeast Ohio. Start whenever you want but target a finish around 1pm for a potluck and some good 'ol fashion social time. Given our rapid warming trend and now rain...it should be a mud pit. However, we've been in a deep freeze for awhile and the word from the trail is ICE and lots of it. No matter how much rain we get, that much ice most likely is not going to melt so good thing I screwed my shoes last night because they'll be on my feet tomorrow. Shorts, too...

I have captured a few fantastic photos over the past few weeks and I'd like to share a few. Click on them to view full screen and/or save.

Morning Run on 12/7/2013
Sunrise on 12/19/2013
Sunrise on 12/19/2013
Run Happy, friends!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sponsorship Changes in 2014

2013 is about to be sealed in history and nothing more than an image in the rear view mirror. I've been a bit silent lately in the writing arena but all is well. I've been running consistently, working, and just enjoying life with my 3 girls. I'm also in a pause as for running races...not a slump...a pause. I purposely did this simply to not have anything immediate on the calendar and enjoy the holiday season while preserving the weekends. I did throw in a Holly Jolly Half Marathon last Saturday. One of my wife's goals for November 2013 - October 2014 is to run a half marathon a month. It can be a real race or simply a run of 13.1 or more. Her and one of our fellow running friends, Amy, are doing it. Amy's son came up with the name of the most recent installation, the "Holly Jolly Half." (#hollyjollyhalf) I wanted 20 on the trails but a big snowstorm was inbound so I instead decided to run 7 miles to the nearby town, location of the "race," meet up with them and run it. 20.3 miles in a fresh snowfall! Gorgeous day to be out there.

So sponsorship: This year completes year #4 with Brooks Running. I have absolutely loved being a part of the Brooks ID (Inspire Daily) program. However, the whole program is undergoing a major overhaul and most are being shown the door with the option of applying to a similar program called "Brooks Fanatics."  Only coaches and elite athletes are being kept in the ID program going forward. Am I disappointed? Of course. But, I love Brooks as a company, the way they do business, give back, and are increasingly earth-conscious. Oh yea, I love their shoes, too. (just bought 3 more pair of Pure Flows!) I will miss the program and hope my relationship with them continues...just on a different "trail," so to speak.

In other sponsorship news, I applied last month for sponsorship with Hammer Nutrition for 2014.  Last night, I found out I was selected! I quickly reviewed and agreed to the contract and couldn't be happier. I have been exclusively fueling and recovering with Hammer's products for years so this is a perfect "marriage" for me. I do hope to do them proud and represent the brand well. If you happen to use Hammer or want to try it out, click HERE for 15% off your first order. "Hammer on!"

46 miles. That's about all that exists between me and my goal for 2013...that being 2000 miles. I stand today at just over 1,945 miles so unless I break a leg, I've got it in the bag. Hardly 96 hours into 2014, I'll be wearing Hammer's colors at my first 50K of 2014. I guess that's one way to get a jump start on 2014, eh?! As for Brooks...regardless of whether they keep me or not, I'll be running happy.

So finish up 2013 strong and regret nothing! Most of all, hug those nearest to you tight and enjoy this Christmas season. Make the very best of it all!

Run Happy, friends!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Not-So-Traditional Thanksgiving 2013

It was a year ago that we visited the Big Apple for my wife's 40th Birthday and a year ago we booked the same hotel across the Hudson River from Manhattan for Thanksgiving 2013 and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If you recall, the weather didn't look so good across Pennsylvania just before Turkey Day as two storm systems headed towards each other. We kept to our plans, though, and hit the road on Turkey Eve for the 6 1/2 hour trek across Interstate 80. Amazingly, we made great time and never hit any weather despite the dooms-day predictions. Arrived: Edgewater, NJ...and the illuminated Empire State Building in view across the river.

Thanksgiving morning arrived via alarm as we heard about the need for arriving along the parade route early. We caught the New Jersey transit just a few blocks down the road that took us to the Port Authority at Times Square. This right here is THE way to do NYC with kids. We stayed at the Homewood Suites in Edgewater, NJ that gave us a mini-kitchen, private bedroom, pull-out sofa bed for our kids, free parking, free hot breakfast, and a view of the NYC skyline. That bus stop is the icing on the cake.

Arriving in Times Square, we began our trek north towards Central Park to find a place to view the 87-year-old parade watched by America. The estimates predicted that 3.5 million people were expected to crowd NYC this morning. As we got close and navigated through rude crowds, we found a spot one block south of Central Park...a TIGHT spot. Thanks to the winds and tunneling effect between the buildings, we expected the huge balloons to be kept low...and they were. This was perfect as it gave us a front-n-center view of it all. Despite some very bitter and angry people around us, we had a great time...a frozen great time but a fantastic time, regardless. One Bucket List item checked off the list for my wife. :) Here are some great photos I took which will show you the parade in a whole new light. Enjoy them! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202650602054049&type=1&l=43d6a6f446

Afterwards and the crowd dissipated, we navigated back to the USO which is located inside the Port Authority. Any military family visiting NYC should keep them in their back pocket when visiting. Discounted tickets, advice, and free snacks to load up with. Priceless, really. One thing they told me a few weeks ago was of a free traditional Thanksgiving dinner from 12:30-3:30 for all veterans at the Soldier, Sailor, Marine, and Airman Club on Lexington Ave., a good walk from the USO. Once we got there, we were so glad we did. Imagine a very old, historic building in NYC with relics covering decades and generations...and a sit-down, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, rolls, and pumpkin pie. Oh yea...red and white wine, too. I sat next to a Korean War veteran who, like many older veterans I come across, want to talk, talk, talk about their time serving Uncle Sam.

I sat there looking at my wife and girls...so thankful. They are truly what I am thankful for. Thanksgiving is not defined by where I am nor what I do...but whom I share it with and what I am thankful for. On this Thanksgiving, it really couldn't have been more perfect. They are all I have!

Not too much later, we had walked through Grand Central Station en route to Radio City Music Hall where we had tickets for the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. Of course, we strolled slowly up Fifth Avenue to check out the many decorated windows for Christmas...the best being Saks Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center. The show was amazing and we had perfect, centrally-located seats on the 2nd mezzanine which gave us a view to see it all and miss nothing. Zero regrets and highly recommend! The live nativity and celebration of Christ's birth at the end was the cherry on top. Not too long after the show, we headed back across the Hudson...still full from that turkey feast.

Day 2, aka: Black Friday, also started early as we wanted to photo-bomb the Today Show at Rockefeller Center. Well...we did!!! Friends from home took photos of their TVs and I got on camera twice in the background. Honestly, I looked much more like a freaky creeper than a Today Show fan. (Pictures on Facebook) We even got a photo op with the real Santa...I think. His beard sure was real.

We made our way north towards Central Park with a stop at FAO Schwartz and me drueling as we passed on by the Apple Store...or glass cube. Coolest.store.ever. In Central Park, we all ran about 20 feet then I proclaimed "We all just ran in Central Park!!!"...you see, Central Park is a runners' mecca so we just "had" to run. "Check!" Fun times.

One of the highlights of our trip followed: ice skating in Central Park. While unplanned and unknown, we decided to let the girls skate under sunny skies on Trump's Ice Rink for an hour. There was an intangible joy to watching the girls laugh together, hold hands, and just love on each other out there. Had it just been my bride and me, I would've taken her hand for an hour myself and gone all "Sleepless in Seattle" on her!! (Or was it "Elf"???)

After skating, we took our one and only subway trip all the way south to the Financial District with plans to take the Staten Island Ferry around the Statue of Liberty for free. However, it was early afternoon and we still had to walk through Chinatown and 40-some blocks all the way back to Times Square so we decided to skip it and start walking. Walking we did!!! We found Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, and eventually Union Square where a Holiday Market was super busy with lots of vendors of every flavor. No doubt, the girls' legs were aching and cold, but we kept on hustling, risking our lives now and then across intersections, and never letting go of each others' hands. I threw in a few acapella solos and dance moves along the way to keep them thoroughly amused and embarrassed. "Seriously, Dad? SERIOUSLY?!?!?!" :)

Back at 42nd St and Times Square, we took our Times Square family photo and headed back to the Port Authority and our bus stop. Back at the hotel 30min later, we relaxed at a great new restaurant we found called BareBurger. SO good! With no alarms set and no plans for when we'd be departing the area on Saturday, we all were sound asleep by 10.

We had a lot of fun on this trip. While I have been raised around the traditional Thanksgiving dinner table at home, things change as do relationships and what brings joy to my family and happiness. We don't know what next Thanksgiving will bring but we will be sure to keep each other in mind and keep creating memories with each other. So what am I thankful for? I am thankful for the breath in me to live each day for my Lord, my wife, and my girls. I am thankful for the strength to keep doing it and for the guidance He gives to help me navigate the ever-changing path. That is just a snippet of what I'm thankful for....there is SOOOOOO much more!

So there you have it...my first full length blog post typed entirely with my thumbs while cruising west across a frozen Pennsylvania. Happy belated Thanksgiving, friends! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

16 Years

November 13, 2013 = 16 years as a sailor. That pretty much blows my mind. I don't want to say a whole lot today about the past 16 years but thought I'd share just a slice of it with you. It's been an interesting path, for sure, and one probably not repeated too often. Let me see if I can sum it up in one discombobulated poem....deep breath....

Wiping tables at Mickey D's
17 years old, not idea what to do
A recruiter stopped me, that spot remembered today
"Come take a test...come see me, ok?"

One test then a second test
Off to boot camp in 1991 I went
Naval Nuclear Power School, hardest school the Navy had
Got mono, passed out in the shower, but graduated still

Trained on a submarine in Charleston, SC
Then reported aboard a nuclear guided missile cruiser
Her name was "Virginia"...the USS Virginia CGN-38
Drug ops in the Caribbean, a crew of 500

I decommissioned her, her days were soon over
Off to a brand new ship, a brand new aircraft carrier
The namesake a senator, his name was John C. Stennis
From an old ship to a new ship, "plank owner" on both

Diagnosed with vasovagal syncope after passing out one night
Flew me off on a helo, my wife awaited ashore
Limited duty at the Red Cross, but soon returned to service
Another carrier, south of Iraq, her name the George Washington

It had been 8 years now, it was time to serve ashore
Working on fast attack submarines was my new job, for sure
It sucked, it was miserable, but I didn't go to sea
I finished, at last, my college degree...for free

10 years done, one child born to us
I said "goodbye, Navy"...our days are done
A few moves across the country, but ended up in our hometown
Two children in tow, the need to serve continued to grow again

It was 2007, I had achieved my graduate degree
The Navy, a commissioning program, I raised my hand again
A Supply Corps Officer I became, wearing a butter bar on my collar
The Reserve, a "part time job," I was a sailor once more

Some four years later, the butter bar turned silver
I said my goodbyes and this sailor went to the desert
Afghanistan is not pretty, it's ugly in fact
So very poor, so much hate, so much American blood shed

I saw those 30 Navy SEALs go home in flag-covered caskets
I was on the front line, holding a salute I'll never, ever forget
Loaded on C-17s, a Heroes Flight like none other
"America....you just have no idea what is going on over here."

Home at last after the longest 7 months of my life
Reintegration was interesting, a struggle to say the least
Back to my "job," never the same like before
My desire to serve grew once more

Deeply integrated into my Supply Corps community
I love the relationships I've built within it
Close, mentor-like, a bond like no other
I love my Navy, I love being a sailor, I regret none of it, ever

Today, I recruit my relief. Yes, I am a Navy recruiter
Yet integrity remains the bedrock of all I am
I recruit pilots and every other flavor of Naval Officers
There is no better job for me, in uniform..for my family...for my country

So 16 years are now behind me
I have no idea where it will ever end
20 years? 25 years? 30 years, perhaps?
Only God knows, only God leads the way...my way

It was two short days ago, Veterans Day 2013
I spoke to little kids, about 500 or so of them
Their faces, lit up, I asked them to raise their hands
If they want to serve, would they volunteer, does our country have a chance?

Hands up everywhere, excitement was in that small crowd
Yet 1%, only 1% of our country serves today
It is an honor...to be part of that 1%
To be a sailor, to serve my country, to wear my country's cloth

I'd be a great failure if I didn't close out today
Without saying "thank you" and "I love you" to my bride of nearly 21 years
"Babe, you've stood beside me through thick and thin,
You are but 50% of my service to my country.

Wind beneath my wings? Wind in my sails?
A reason to get up? A reason to keep moving forward?
I love you with all my heart, I love serving together.
'A Navy Wife,' you hate that phrase, but this sailor's wife you are. You are my wife, my bride."

Never short-winded, always too much to say.
I love my country, I love my U.S. Navy.
Never forget those serving today, the Navy is on watch 24 hours a day
Honor, Courage, Commitment, they ARE the Navy way.
May 2011, Camp Mike Spann in Northern Afghanistan with Afghan soldier

Beneath F-15 Strike Eagle at Bagram Air Field, northern Afghanistan

F-15 Strike Eagle on flight line at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan

USS George Washington, CVN-73, my 3rd ship

USS Virginia, CGN-38, my first ship but now decommissioned

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USS John C. Stennis, CVN-74 during sea trials which I was a part of. Nothing like standing in the hangar bay and seeing ocean out one side and the sky out the other during maneuvers like these. Great times!

Today: I've got the watch.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

Another November 11th has arrived. A day where no veteran should EVER go hungry! Started years ago by Applebee's, there are now countless restaurants throughout the country offering veterans, regardless of time served, a free meal. The list seems to grow every year. For me, I've been invited to be a keynote speaker to about 500 elementary kids in a school north of where I live. I've been struggling with "What do I say to kindergarteners?" ... until this morning while I was out on my run.

3 days ago while my bride and I were en route to a marriage retreat in Ohio's Amish country that we were leading, we stopped at one of our favorite eateries for lunch. Outside the window were the rolling hills and many trees sans leaves any longer. But across the aisle from us was a man, I'm guessing in his early 60s, having lunch with his wife. They weren't talking much and he had little expression. He wore a hat commonly seen in our society, that being of a "Vietnam Veteran." Those along with Korean War Veteran hats are the ones I see most. I'd imagine in several decades, those will be replaced with "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and "Operation Enduring Freedom" hats...and maybe even I'll wear the latter.

Near the end of his lunch and ours, his wife excused herself and he sat there alone, not looking around or anything...just sitting there. My wife also excused herself and I walked over and extended my hand to shake his and only intended on saying "Thank you for your service...and Welcome Home." Not only did he grab my hand, but he nearly knocked over his chair rising from his seat. He mentioned how he saw my haircut and thought maybe I was in the military. (I just got a high-n-tight haircut for Veterans Day) He immediately started to talk as if 40+ years evaporated. He had been drafted at the ripe young age of 18 and was assigned to a landing craft in Vietnam. He talked about how they had to scavenge for scrap wood to build shelter where they'd sleep and how they had "professional thieves" who were fellow soldiers. They'd come back in the middle of the night with needed supplies simply to survive or maybe some "creature comforts." He served two years and never served stateside or wore a "fancy Army uniform" as he called them. As he talked, my wife came back and he continued to talk while his eyes reddened and he fought back the tears and his story turned to talking about his return home to the USA. "Back then," he said, "you didn't dare tell anyone you were over there." Vietnam vets didn't get the Heroes Welcome Home like many of us get today. In an environment of violent protests, serving wasn't looked on favorably at all. After about 20 minutes, we said our goodbyes and I wished him Veterans Day once more.

Those hats...they're everywhere, friends. Can I encourage you to take the initiative to do what I did the next time the opportunity presents itself? It may VERY well happen today...Veterans Day 2013. Today is a day to honor those serving, those who have served, and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Before I close today and share the 2013 Veterans Day poster which I do every year, I'd like to express my gratitude to my church. It's a hit-n-miss environment these days when it comes to military and churches. Some draw the line and forbid it claiming the "separation of church and state" while others welcome it in. Yesterday, we began our service by saying the Pledge of Allegiance then my daughter sung the National Anthem all by herself...no instruments or anything. Just her and her beautiful voice for the first time ever. I was so proud of her. After that, fellow veterans gathered up front simply for a word of thanks and prayer. It was a great morning with my church family.

Here is the 2013 Veterans Day poster and below it is a screen shot of the posters back to 1978. To see them closer, follow the link below the image.

Happy Veterans Day, friends...and thank you if you have worn the cloth of our great country. It is because of you that I can serve today freely and worship Whom I wish freely, without the fear of persecution. THANK YOU!

Click here to visit image website

Monday, November 4, 2013

M-Cubed for 11.4.2013

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for November Fourth, Two Thousand Thirteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Brrrrr....28 degrees this morning when I woke up around 3:45am but not a cloud in the sky. Nothing but stars and a beckoning to join them on the roads this morning. A cold but perfect way to kick off the work-week.

- It was only one year ago that we brought Bristol home. She is our rescue dog from the Tuscarawas County Humane Society. She's a bunch of breeds: per the DNA test we did long ago, she's a Staffordshire Terrier crossed with a Great Dane...mixed with a bulldog mix. Go figure, right?! Anyway, we love her and she likes to run, too. On November 1st, we had our own 1 year celebratory run together for 7 miles on my country route. Near home, I stopped for a kiss and captured this priceless photo. Pretty much sums her up!

- Yesterday was my 2 year anniversary since stepping off the plane from Afghanistan. "Day 208" as I know it. I have decided that this will also be the last time I refer to those "days" in a public forum and just let it be. I'll keep my blog journal posted but that's all. Last night, I had the benefit of a mini-date with my youngest daughter. While we sat in the drive-in burger joint, Swenson's (her choice!), I read Day 208 to her. Since she played a starring role in it, I thought she'd enjoy it which she did. She remembered that night well. If you want to read Day 208, the final post of my journey, you can read it here.

- November has started quite well in the running arena. No races on my calendar but I'm loving this cool weather. Since I see a few days off around Thanksgiving this year, I'm trying to be very faithful in getting out there while I can. I got in 7 with Bristol on the 1st and 10 miles each for the past two days. I know snow and ice are around the corner so I'm gobbling up these cool, brisk mornings. It's really my cup-o-tea when it comes to running. Yesterday, I had a great 10 mile sunrise run. From First Light to the sun high in the sky. I captured several photos, too, given all the color out there. See them at the bottom of today's M-Cubed post.

- It was about a year ago when we led our first marriage "conference" which is really just a Friday night and half of Saturday. We had about 5 couples. We're leading another one in our new church home and have quadrupled the number of couples! As we lean towards that getaway (in Amish country, this time!), we are really excited to see what God has in store for us and all of them.

Click on it to see better/larger detail
- I'm a sucker for home-grown, local races that just simply give back. Enter the newest half marathon on the block, the Medina Half Marathon, to be held on May 31, 2014. It's now been added to my growing list of 2014 races. If you're considering running your first half marathon or 100th or whatever, I highly recommend it. Not only is it supporting an organization like the Patriot Runners but it has a kick-butt medal for finishing which my wife is a sucker for...and it's a cheap 40 bucks to enter.  You can learn more here but here's the medal to help entice you as well. :)

- Veterans Day is only a week from today. If you are one or know one, please pass this link to them. LOTS of restaurants offering free meals (which I'll partake of, of course!), retailers offering a plethora of things, and other misc. deals. For me, I'm a big fan of the local Applebee's who basically fathered the "free meal for veterans" movement. The local one really gets behind it, is excited about it, and lots of vets much more "aged" than me show up. I love it! Here's the long list to share.

- Ever want to get rid of "stuff" around the house you know you don't need? Well, here is a challenge for you and it's not too late to begin. Basically, you find one item in your home based on the day of the month...for one month to get rid of/donate. So on November 1st, you need to find one item. On November 30th...30 items. In all, you'll have 465 items. We're doing it and I know it's going to get challenging but we'll see it through. We have talked a LOT lately about minimalism, downsizing, selling the house, etc. Nearly 21 years of marriage has accumulated MUCH! Today, the overwhelming majority simply doesn't matter to us any longer. We instead focus on creating memories, building relationships in and out of the home, and fostering community building...and we also want to model that for our kids. If our "stuff" doesn't mobilize us/enable us to achieve these things, then it needs to go! Curious? Read about how it works here. Go ahead....click on it and consider!

- Time for pics! I captured these with my iPhone 5 yesterday. I really, really love the one over the pond...my personal favorite. Have a great week, everyone and Run Happy!