Monday, January 28, 2013

12 Days Active Duty in Tennessee

Like all previous active duty stints, it's all TOP SECRET while I'm gone until I get back in order to protect my family. No need to tell the world I'm traveling. So for the past 12 days, I had the opportunity to go to the hub of all Navy HR...records upkeep, all Navy sailor promotions, officer selection boards, and the place where every sailor talks to when they pick their next ship and/or duty station...Millington, Tennessee. Millington is a small rural town about a half hour north of Memphis, TN in the SW corner of the state. Being that Memphis is #5 on the most dangerous cities in the country, I kept my distance. In relation to other cities in the state, Nashville is a diagonal line northeast by 3 hours. The base used to be called Memphis Naval Air Station. It's no longer an air station and now goes by Naval Station Mid-South.

Upon arriving, I quickly got to work on my reason for being there. I volunteered to serve as a "recorder" on an officer selection board. Back in January 2007 (6 years ago), I was selected to become a Naval Officer at this same exact board...a DCO (Direct Commision Officer). The boards consists of many senior officers, mostly Navy Commanders and Captains (O-5 and O-6) and chaired by an Admiral. For me, I'm a Lieutenant, an O-3, a junior officer. For selection boards, "recorders" prepare the records for review by the board prior to the board and then serve as admin support during the board itself. The real fruit from all of this comes from the networking with senior officers and with hearing the debate over candidates who are close to being selected or non-selected. Much is gleaned from all of it on how to best prepare my record for a promotion board in the future and for what's important or non-important. Being a recorder as a junior officer is a pretty priceless experience in the career progression of any Naval Officer. So, I spent the first week prepping the records for review the following week.

As soon as I arrived in Memphis from Chicago O'Hare, delayed of course, due to freezing rain in Memphis, I quickly scooted to the rental car counter to pick up my authorized compact rental. Arriving at space C44 as directed, looking for my compact, this is what I find. Yea, a candy-apple red Ford Mustang convertible covered in ice. (can't see the ice well in this photo but trust me, it's there.) I fired it up to melt the ice and quickly dug through my paperwork to find the problem. "NO WAY the Navy is going to fund me driving a convertible!" Eventually, an Avis employee came on out and confirmed that I was upgraded for free and no additional charges would happen. SCORE!!! The only problem is...it's sleeting outside and I couldn't exactly put the top down...nor would I ever during my 12 days except for a few minutes a few times.

After waiting a few days for the sleet to stop, I finally got the chance to start running on the base during my free time. It was shorts weather for the remainder of my trip after that freezing rain ended and honestly, the 5 1/2 mile trip around the base was pretty nice. Very little traffic at all and half of it is on the perimeter amongst the evergreens and barbed wire. :-) However, on my very, very first trip out...haha...first "trip" out...I tripped. HARD. This stinkin' rusted pipe was partially in the grass and partially on the very rough sidewalk. I wasn't even a 1/4 mile into my run. My right elbow, left palm, right tattoo :-), and my knee took the punishment with the majority from my knee. Bright red blood...pouring down my leg. I called my "nurse" and got some instructions, headed back to my room for some tissues then like the "hard core" runner that I am, I headed back out and did my 7 intended miles. :-) I never just did the loop but like my OCD self, I rounded up a bit. No blood is gonna stop me.

As the end of week 1 was coming to an end, I was thinking about how to spend the weekend alone in SW Tennessee and what all was around me. For sure, there was nothing in the Millington area and we already talked about Memphis. Nashville, on the other hand, was only 3 hours away. Being the country music capital and home to so many stars, I thought I'd research it a bit. I started by Googling the local running community to see if I could meet up with anyone or if any races/marathons/50Ks were going on that I could jump into. I did find the Nashville Striders homepage and through a series of e-mails, etc., I connected with a group who was meeting at 8:30am on Saturday morning for 13 or so. That sounded good to me and if I got on the road by 5am...and didn't get lost, I could make it and then tack on any extra miles at the end, if need be.

I've also become a pretty big fan of the craft brew/microbrew world. One thing I couldn't care less about is the intoxicating effect of too much alcohol. It's not my intent to consume much or pursue drunkenness but instead to seek out those entrepreneur-like establishments and breweries, hear their story, taste their "pride and joy" and simply learn from it all. There are certainly pockets of this industry in the country and I wanted to find out what Nashville had. NE Ohio is a great place for this and like I found out back in November, NW California is, too. But what about Nashville? I began by researching the area and there's no better place to do that than on beeradvocate.com. Whether it's a particular review/rating on a specific craft brew, a brewery/restaurant review, they have it. So by the weekend, I had my weekend run plans in, I researched the local craft brew scene (see right), and even made a hotel reservation in the wealthy southern area of Nashville, the town of Brentwood.

Saturday was pretty awesome. I was on the road at 5am, as planned, and met up with the locals for a morning, crisp run. Me in my shorts and T-shirt and others in pants, gloves, headbands, and winter hats. It was low 40s, sun, and projected to rise nicely. I was perfectly comfy. After about 10 miles and plenty of good conversation with my new friends about the local area, what to do, and the local running scene (which sounds robust), I went off on my own and ventured further out to get in a full 20 miles. It was good to share 10 miles but I'm a loner, by nature, so getting that private running time was a bonus. Mostly, I was on the Music City Greenway, a paved path that twists and turns throughout the eastern side of Nashville. Flat for a good part then some pretty good rolling hills, river crossings, and lots of birds I didn't recognize.
Me on the Music City Greenway around Mile 17
After the run, I put the top down in my Mustang and cruised through Nashville a bit to get my bearings and hit a few of the craft brew stops on my list. Hands down, my favorite was Jackalope Brewing. Two girls, in their late 30s, left their corporate jobs in New England and about a year and a half ago, and opened this place up. They don't bottle, they don't serve food, they just brew about 4 main craft brews and have a specialty one that is tied to a local charity. The current one is giving back to a local rescue dog shelter. They were the ones behind the tap room bar and the place was packed. It was very cool to read their story through newspaper articles on the wall and see the place so busy and supported. Great craft brew, too!

As evening came around, I headed into Brentwood and sought out Dave Ramsey's headquarters. If you've followed me for awhile, you know that I'm a big fan and have been credit-card free for about 3 years now. I knew his studio and home/mansion were in Brentwood and I was determined to find them. I did and I was amazed at how small it was. A simple 4 story, square building across the street from a mall. Looking in the front glass doors as the sun was setting on Saturday night, I could see his broadcast studio and the cookie shop he talks about on the air. I expected more of a "Dave Ramsey campus" but it was nothing like that at all. Afterwards, I found a Starbucks, did some writing, then found dinner. I wanted something local and a place that perhaps, served a good selection of local craft brews. One thing I was learning quick is that there really isn't a lot of local choices. Really, only about 5 craft breweries that I could find and a few weren't worth writing home about. I ended up at Burger Republic, a place known for serving great food and burgers from local grass-fed cattle. Actually, the used hops from the first brewery I went to, Yazoo Brewery, are fed to these cattle. Burger Republic was fantastic and once there, I opted out of any local brews and instead went for the "spiked shake" that was raved about heavily on Yelp! (pictured right).  Hershey Peanut Butter Cup on top. See the military magazine case behind it? That's the restaurant's condiment holder. Love it! Back at my hotel for the night, I crashed at a reasonable hour so that I could get a good run in on Sunday morning through some Brentwood mansions...which I did, to the tune of an additional 10 miles. It was a bright, sunny morning and perfect for a run. I did find that I was quickly becoming overwhelmed by the pursuit of "stuff". Every house was brick, a minimum of a 3-car garage and several thousand square feet. Pulling up my Realtor App a few times for homes for sale, everything was $1 million and up...and there were HUNDREDS of homes like this. For some, this could've been a turn-on of sorts of desire for it. Not for me. I was over it and I just couldn't understand it. Why do people need so much? So much excess? After my run, I showered up and tried to get close to Dave Ramsey's home which is located about 10min from his office. About 5 miles from it, you can see it on the top of a huge hill...at the highest point...like a castle. As I got close, what I found was a neighborhood like never before. Every turn, every street, every cul-de-sac, was protected by giant, pointed iron gates. Money, money, money...I thought I'd seen it all on my morning run. This was that...doubled...or tripled. I never did get close to "Uncle Dave's" home. Impossible to do so without parking then trespassing. So I didn't and headed into Nashville for the day before heading back to Millington.

Back in Nashville, I decided to find some free parking and tour downtown by foot. I heard about Broadway, all the honky tonks, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and local starving musicians playing everywhere. Here's a random photo on Broadway as I walked along. What I found quickly is that Nashville downtown looked like any other downtown but instead of the typical touristy shops selling Nashville hoodies and cups (there still were those), it was more shops selling a million cowboy hats and boots. There was also plenty of live music within the pubs and restaurants before the clock even struck 11am on Sunday morning. I did find a few more places to check out off of my list but wasn't impressed at all and by mid-afternoon, I hit the road for Millington, totally burnt out on Nashville. Sure, there is plenty of "country" history there but the self-pleasing feeling of downtown and honestly, in my opinion, not too much unique character, bored me and I wanted to be gone. I also found it sad to see beggars on the street corner just after leaving the super-rich area of Uncle Dave's neighborhood. The two demographics exist so close to each other. One is a complete life of excess while other of nothingness. What a contrast. What a sick feeling.

After about 1hr stop at a Starbucks to write some more just west of Nashville, I returned back to base in the early evening. Monday was a federal holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr Day, but I needed to be on base to start shuttling senior officers from the airport as they arrived for the selection board. After a good night sleep, another run around the base on Monday, I headed on out to the airport, but not before going to a sushi buffet I had spotted the week prior. Before 4:45pm each day, it was $11. After that...$22. So, I hit it up after my run and before the airport. OH MY WORD.....SOOOOO GOOD!!!! How good? See below for my first trip to the buffet. The sushi chefs were hard at work, making everything fresh and I loved it. I didn't overdo it but I sure did enjoy it...talk about a bargain!
The rest of the day was uneventful but good. I did my job in picking up at the airport and was ready for Tuesday morning to arrive and meet everyone. I was really looking forward to the networking and learning experience it would all bring.

There are lots of rules with selection boards regarding privacy and secrecy so I won't talk about the board. I'll just say that it was a priceless experience to have and I am appreciative for the opportunity. At the end, I was recognized by the admiral who chaired it and received one of her coins. That was pretty awesome!!! I'd love to share a photo of it but then I'd compromise her privacy so I won't. After the conclusion of the board, I found a runner among them and ended up doing a 7 miler on Wednesday evening on base. He is a very senior Navy captain and honestly, I hardly remember running those 7 miles. There was so much great conversation...about running, about the outdoors, about Navy career management...and more. I really, really enjoyed the run and what better way to network and be mentored than while on a run??? Seriously? Could there be?! I think not.

As the week and two weeks wound down, the board concluded, they headed on home, and I wrote the final selection letter to all of the recruiters. Every name, whether selected or not, was typed, checked, double-checked, and triple-checked for accuracy. It was my honor to do that. 6 years ago, I eagerly waited for that letter and to see if my name would be on the "select" part and it was. It was very cool to be a part of that same board 6 years later but in uniform. Very cool, indeed. So with that, it's back to the grind of a hourly government worker. I sure do enjoy being in uniform, no doubt. It's in my blood. I am thankful that I get to serve, even part-time, while still being home now with my family. Here are a few more random photos from the 2 weeks.
A jet from the Vietnam era...a nuclear strike bomber from the USS Ranger

Such a personal touch...a yellow sticky note on my headboard in the Hampton Inn Brentwood...just renovated. Totally caught me off guard but I loved the personal touch!


Downtown Nashville....see Mr. Moon left/center? :-)

Downtown Nashville at the Center for the Visual Arts...reminded me of home.
Going Home. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Have You Signed Up For Your 401K?

Ever seen the following Dilbert comic from 2001?
It was this simple strip that spurred a few fellow runners to open up a challenge...to run 401K...or 249.2 miles between February 1st and April 1, 2013. No registration, no fee, just a challenge to get out there, run the miles and meet a goal. Of course, I love free things and running goals so I immediately jumped onboard. I also created a tracking spreadsheet for everyone to log their miles daily and watch them grow. The participation so far is looking good and has folks from all over the country. I invited my fellow sponsored Brooks runners, too. So whether or not you think you can do it, why not jump on board and have some fun with it? Below are the links to the event and to the event tracker that I created. I hope it keeps you motivated (and accountable) as we push through the cold season and on into Spring.



Run Happy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

(untitled)

Over the past year, I've been many places
Places that were rich
And places so poor

Most recently I visited
An area of famous residences
Iron gates and fortresses were never-ending

I went seeking to see
Something grand, something impressive
I left wondering "why?" and amazed

Country music stars, highly accomplished celebrities
Big cars, fat checks, 10 million square foot homes
But why, and what about those down the block?

500, 2000, 10,000 square feet
I ran by them all this morning
More, so more, but will there ever be enough?

To run, to be free, to breathe in fresh air
I am more thankful for that than any world possession
Each step after another, enjoying the freedom

Then there's love, a selfless love
Shown to me, and me to those most important in my life
For nothing else truly matters

"Lord, you are my all in all.
I need no more than You decide to give me.
For when we meet, nothing will I bring."

Why accumulate? Why gather? Who or what are we trying to impress?
Love selflessly today, love like there will be no tomorrow.
For when we do leave this place, only a memory will remain.

And with these thoughts,
Only a few thoughts come to mind.
They are Your words, Lord...Your words which fill to overflowing.

"Now, I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Amen.

Ditch the Makeup

Waking up this morning and conducting my morning crawl through Facebook brought this photo in front of me. It conjured up something I've been wanting to say for awhile and just keep forgetting.
The logo at the bottom left is from the "I Love to Run" Facebook page...a page of daily inspiration for me and truth be told, this page asks "Did you run?" at end of each day in some way so in a strange way, it sort of gets me out the door or assists at times. :-)

My oldest daughter is of the age that she's paying attention to looks more and makeup is beginning to be applied. It doesn't help that my wife's mom sells Mary Kay cosmetics and they spend a good bit of time over there. As I began to see her apply it, my heart was breaking a little each time I saw it. In her mind, she is thinking...
"It makes me look beautiful."
After dinner one night, I brought up the subject and told her, "You ARE beautiful before you touch any of that stuff. You always have been and you always will be." I went on to ask her the last time she saw ME wear makeup and how the pictures she sees of movie and music stars are as fake as can be. "God made you to be exactly who you are. Sure, you can control how you look by what you eat and how you take care of yourself but there is no need to cover up your face to try and be something you are not and more 'beautiful.'" I had to bring up Oprah Winfrey, too. Have you ever seen her sans makeup? She looks NOTHING like what we know her to look like. Artificial, fake, a mask...that's all it is.

Over a year ago, my wife starting by ditching makeup for a month, a big deal for her. I LOVED IT. I was finally seeing her and I loved it. Nothing between her and me. I've probably worn it out, but I honestly can't stop saying...
"You are beautiful."
She is. My girls are. Just as they are. In a world, a nation that is so dang focused on what others think, status, and the outward appearance, I'm doing my very best to protect my family from that and to instill a confidence to know that they are beautiful exactly as they are...even seconds after waking up. :-) So to you reading this: if you wear it, that's your choice. But you don't have to. You are beautiful just as you are. If you want to change the outside appearance, change yourself from the inside out by how you feed it and treat it. The outside will reflect the inside.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lance's Admission: My Take

Chances are you've heard about Oprah Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong this week and his admission to using performance enhancing drugs. Stripped today of all his Tour de France titles and his Olympic medal, Lance is still but a man...a beat up man as the arrows fly toward him today like never before. I'd like to offer my take on this subject and perhaps offer a view not often portrayed by the majority of the American public and world, for that matter.

I am one of those people who watched more than one of his finishes at the Tour. It was awesome...seeing him riding in to the city, dressed in yellow, and American flags waving everywhere. Not only did he win multiple times, but he beat testicular cancer, too. His LiveStrong organization has raised millions and there was a time, I think more people wore his bright yellow rubber wristbands than didn't. Since then, those rubber bands are used by countless organizations in promoting their cause or product...all because of him. What now, though? Now, human nature says:

"STONE HIM!!!!!"

Do we? Do you? Surely, he'll be the topic of countless conversations at the water cooler, a main topic for stand up comedians, and the media will be ruthless. Strip away his medals and what is he? He's a man. Like me. He's also selfish...like me, and like you, too. As human beings, every single one of us is born that way and we have to make a deliberate decision to NOT be. In fact, I was just talking to my little girl this morning about a person at school who is just ripping her heart out and the root of it is "what about me?" selfishness. If you look at what Lance told Oprah, you'll see that he did what he did in order to stay competitive since the others were doing it, too. Instead of holding himself to a higher moral authority, he focused on SELF instead of doing the right thing. Normal? Yep. Is he REALLY different than anyone else? Doing whatever it takes to get ahead? I suggest he is not and he is simply one more person (on a world stage) who looks at life with the question: "What can I get out of it?" instead of "What can I do for others?"

Here's the thing: until Lance figures out that his strength does not come from himself nor anything he puts inside of him, he will never be happy and won't ever recover. So many people look to "nature" for strength or their "inner being" for strength. Friends...that is all finite. It has an end. It is not a...

...cup over-flowing.

So I challenge you with this. Don't jump on the Attack-Lance bandwagon. Did he mess up? Sure did. Was he a huge role-model for countless people of all ages, colors and creeds? Yep. Did he take a world stage, an American flag, and people's emotions hostage for his own gain? Absolutely. Is he human and therefore born selfish and bent towards making mistakes and failing?

YES.

If you do anything, pray for Lance. Pray that he will find the One and only true source of strength. I have no reason to believe he has nor seen any evidence. He can turn this into something even greater than what once was, but he has to turn from self in order to do it. Same goes for each of us, too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Race Report: Run for Regis 50K

There is no race that I am intimately more familiar with than the Run for Regis. For the past 3 years, I believe, I've helped the race director with the logistics of online registration, website, and now, all of the social media. There are still plenty of "old school" ultra trail running folks out there and she is one of them which is great! Huge heart, a passion for the cause of the race, and an unwavering desire to see the participants have a great time and to take great care of her volunteers. Truth be told, there has been talk of me becoming race director but I'm not so sure she is ready to step aside with the 10th anniversary next year nor me ready to take on full responsibility. Some consider us co-race directors (which is false) but I like to think of myself as her support structure in an age where information is delivered differently and the way we all communicate has evolved to one that is virtual and accessible 24 hours a day. I still remember the day when I had to visit a local running store and dig through the race flyers to find out what to do. Those days are a distance past (although I do miss those trips down to Running, Etc. in Ghent to peruse new races (Norfolk, Virginia)).

Running for me as of late has been on the up-tick. No real structure to it but fairly consistent. I still maintain my desire to remain in a condition where on any given day, I can wake up and run a marathon or 50K with little or no warning. The 9th Annual Run for Regis 50K was a perfect test to see where I was.

Weather a week ago was 22F. The trails were packed in snow and ice and the prospect of a great, wintry run were real. As the admin of the race's Facebook page, I spread the word for runners to prepare for that and get traction devices for their shoes, like screwing an old pair with sheet metal screws or many of the devices available in specialty running stores. It was looking to be a perfect setting for the race. As the day drew closer, the forecast changed by the day and within 48 hours, we were in the midst of a significant thaw and the snow was disappearing and rain falling from the sky. Waking up race morning, I couldn't believe the Weather Channel app on my phone: 61F. 61F!!!! It's mid-January in the snow belt of northeast Ohio!!! The hour-by-hour called for holding temperatures above 60F and a 100% chance of rain. MUD, mud, and more mud is what it should've said if it knew what 240+ runners were about to do. I was up by 3:30am, brewed my espresso, made my ritualistic PB&J for race morning, and headed on down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to volunteer at 6am and get runners checked in. 64F...that was the temperature down there when I arrived and still no rain. Well, after checking folks in and the race director's highly-anticipated (and raw, I might add!) pre-race chat, we were off. Most interesting was that no rain was falling and we actually got a beautiful sunrise breaking through the hovering clouds. "Mr. and Mrs. Meteorologists...you have made a big mistake today! This is not 100% chance of rain!"

The race was muddy...like shoe-sucking mud. I wore my 600+ mile Keen Wasatch Crest trail shoes that I screwed with sheet metal shoes over 4 years ago. Those shoes prepared me for my first 100-mile finish and were on my feet for my first ultra-marathon. I still expected some ice so I opted to wear them for safety and traction. Well, the age of these shoes were apparent and I was starting to "feel" too much of those screws. After completing 1/2 marathon into the race, I ran out to my car and swapped them out with a new pair of Brooks Cascadias with some seriously gnarly traction. Ahhhh....it was like slipping into perfect, comfy slippers...yet trail shoes that I'm about to cover in mud. (something told me grab them just before leaving home in the morning...soooo glad I did) Those Keen's ran their last mile and now, sit in the bottom of my trash can. I can proudly say they served me well.

Back on the course, hints of sunshine were peeking out from behind the clouds making me wonder if we'd go from 100% rain (forecast) to full sunshine. That never did happen but neither did the full sun. It did, however, stay in the 60s. I never thought sweat would need wiped away from my forehead at the Run for Regis...never thought I'd wear screwed shoes along with shorts and a short-sleeve tech-tee, either! As the trails wore on, I was hanging in there, pretty well. I had highs and lows as always. When the highs hit, I maximized them and tore up the course. In the lows, I persevered on "with a purpose." In those times, too, I repeated the mantra "I'm just thankful for the ability to run." Simple and true. Thankfulness is what I poured out all day long. Regis Shivers who the race is run in honor of died of cancer. We're all running in honor of him who can no longer run. If for no other reason, we should be thankful for that. I also walked with a few friends during day and caught up. Great conversation, great friends, and no care for what was on the race clock. I wasn't even wearing a watch as I did not want to focus on that. My plan was to run to the best of my ability and leave nothing on the course. But, I also believe in the value of friendship and at these races, it's often the only time I ever get to see nearly all of these people. It's worth a few minutes on the clock.

Returning back to the start/finish area with just over a marathon done, I refueled and headed back onto the course for the final 4.7 mile loop. That loop would bring me to the 50K distance a 19th time. 26 marathons and 19 ultra-marathons. The final loop was much shoe-sucking than the other loop but still many mud-baths out there. Lots of memories on that loop, too, from when I ran this event last year with  my wife...we ran the half-marathon last year. During the final 3 miles or so, I couldn't believe the resurgence. I was coming alive again, passing folks on steep hills, charging down the trail as if it were dry. I was loving it and as my shirt read, truly "Running Happy." At the finish, the clock read 6 hours, 23 minutes, 53 seconds. Given my shoe change and occasional walks with friends, I was quite happy. A little while later, I logged onto my blog here to read through my past 50Ks (see lower right on this page) and was surprised to see that this was my fastest in about 3 years! BONUS!!! VERY happy about that! (I wonder what would happen if I actually trained?!?) :-) Today, I feel pretty good. My back is a bit achy which is no surprise given the 360 degree of movement on those trails through so much mud. But all in all, I feel great. A recovery run is planned for this evening.

There is one thing I didn't do yesterday that I regret. After the race director's chat, I stood before the crowd and read off names of runners who hadn't checked in. I had a captive audience that was waiting for the start. Throughout the race yesterday, I wish I had done something at that moment...I wish I could've pushed rewind and replayed those few seconds. I would've said this:

"While you don't have a wine glass to raise, I invite you to raise your water bottles to two toasts. The first, a toast to Regis Shivers. To him, his legacy, and the family he left behind. It's in his memory we run today. To Regis! Secondly, a toast to Tanya, our race director. For nine years now, Tanya has poured her heart and soul into this event. Thanks to her, we stand here today, ready to run her 'fun run' for Regis. To Tanya!" Thank you, Tanya. Thank you, also, to the family of Regis Shivers who were at the race and his wife who said a few words before the race. Your presence meant so much to so many of us. Thank you!

Here are a few photos from the day. It's not my typical spread of in-race photos, etc. etc. I left the camera and iPhone in the car for this one. If you're not a "foot" person...you might wanna shy away from the last one. :-) Hey! You know how much a spa mud treatment would cost me?! Deal!

Photo courtesy of Mark Shelton

Post Race




YUM! Best mud bath.....EVER!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ink #2

Last summer, I first went under the care of a local tattoo artist and got my first tattoo, a bald eagle screaming down out of the sky while holding onto Old Glory. On the bottom, a scroll that reads "USN" for U.S. Navy. It's big...big enough to wrap around my right calf so when running, you can see the wings and a little bit of the red on the flag. I love it...I mean LOVE it! The simple idea or concept of a tattoo was always something that wasn't looked at favorably in my first 40 years of life. Raised in a Christian home, going to church every week, etc. engrained in me that it was bad, a sin, and something that was strictly forbidden. So as you can imagine, I had to face that, dig into it, and discover for myself the truth before I ever did anything. I already wrote on this and what I believe HERE. In a nutshell, it's very easy to take one sentence or a fraction of a sentence in the Bible and make it say what you want. Truth is, we must read everything in this world in context. We must know who the writer is, who he/she is writing to, and understand the culture and subject matter in that day. To do that or not to do that gives you two VERY different perspectives on getting a tattoo. Anyway, check out my post and it'll make more sense to you. Feel free to opine if you'd like to and let me know what you think.

So since that one, I've always wanted a second one on my left calf. It was clear since the beginning what I wanted the theme to be, too. Never been a doubt...I simply didn't know "how" to do it and/or how to communicate my feeling or message. Months gone by and I finally stopped in at Defiance Tattoos in Kent to meet with the owner, "Pops", again and convey my thoughts on it and what I was going for. Last time, he met and far exceeded my imagination and I was super happy with it. I was toying with a more modern/tribal look or more "old school" like I already got with the eagles' wings. I told him I wanted an empty cross. I told him I wanted eagles' wings outstretched...not in flight and not down....at peace but outstretched. I also wanted the empty cross to be the central figure and if possible, "pop" a bit and look three dimensional over the cross. I also wanted color, a darkish blood-like color on the cross. Not bright red and not burgundy, but passive. As an aside, I thought it would be cool, too, if those wings might be visible from the back when running...sort of a mirror image of the already-existing one. No way it would match as one eagle is flying downward and other at peace, but to see both wrapping would be cool, I thought. I left Pops with that and waited for the sketch. As before, I loved the sketch he texted me. Also like before, it was much larger once I arrived in the shop yesterday but again, I loved it. We discussed coloring, positioning, the beveled part of the cross, shading of the wings, etc. and he got to work. Below are a series of photos from my session and the "morning after" shots that show it from the rear. My leg was wrapped in plastic until moments ago when I washed it and put the healing cream on so I didn't get to see that until now. Below the photos, I'll explain what it all means.
The stenciled outline we agreed upon.

Black outlining and shading done, the most painful part. :-)

Pops at work.

Immediately after finishing...from the front.

From the rear.

Side view before I left the shop and the plastic/moisturizer went on.

Morning After. LOVE it!

From the front.

Oh yea, I like...very much. Perfect position top to bottom. I wasn't sure at first but I went with Pops' suggestion and I'm glad I did.

That's it!  So what does it mean??
I accepted Christ back when I was 5 years old, I lived in Canfield, OH, an episode on the TV was playing of WKRP in Cincinnati, and a bowl of buttered rice in front of me. For the past 35 years, the cross has meant many things but ultimately, I knew the stories and led a good life. Today, I thank Him for that empty cross every day. It represents death defeated, forgiveness granted, grace extended, and an eternal hope that I have. It's not just a hope, either, I know it to be true and eagerly look forward to it. The color...a crimson red, is no accident, either. It represents His blood shed for me/you/us on that cross. Of course, the cross is empty because He isn't there nor the grave. The grave couldn't hold Him and 3 days later, He rose again as He said He would. The wings are the 2nd "act" here. Sure, I love them just because I do but they represent freedom. Freedom granted to me to worship Him and live my life following Him. Wings outstretched, calm, and free. It's all a reminder to me and one I want everytime I look at it, wash it, and tell others about it. I don't just "like it because it's cool." Heck, I don't want to be an old, 85 year old man and regret this, right?!

For now, I don't have any further plans for more. These two were my original thoughts and I'm very happy with them. No regrets.

Hey, just in time for a 50K in two days! WOOT!!!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Planning

I once was a person of race schedules and master plans. I once logged every mile and the time/pace associated with it. I once cared...about the logistics of it all. Today, I care about the run and just getting out there. I love to pin on a bib number, no doubt. I almost enjoy more, though, a race that isn't a race, like an informal 50K that friends get together and simply run just to run. Heck, this past Columbus Day, I woke up and felt like running a marathon...so I did. I ran from my home, used the Sheetz gas station as my refueling point, took lots of photos along the way, and got back to my house just in time for my kids getting off of the school bus. That was fun...and it brought joy! Running is so much more than bib numbers and finish lines.

So for 2013, I do have some races on the calendar but I've been very picky thus far. This Sunday is the 9th Annual Run for Regis 50K and Half Marathon. It's a race that I've been very intimately involved with over the past few years and even ran the registration for the 2012 event from my humble abode in Afghanistan. This year, I did the same plus ran all of the communication and social media stuff. A few days ago, I decided I'd actually run it. We've had lots of snow and freezing temps for some time now but we're in the middle of a massive warming trend with rain so it's all turning to muck. Sunday will be a major swamp run, for sure, and shorts will be a plenty, no doubt. Regis has had it all over the years with weather and this year is no different. So, that'll be my first ultra/race of the year.

Another race I'm heavily considering and would like to decide by Monday when the price goes up is the inaugural Buzzard 50K in the Hinckley Reservation in the Cleveland MetroParks. It's four 8-mile loops. Here's the link. It's being run by some very accomplished ultra folk and being backed by Vertical Runner so I have no doubt in it's ability to pull off a stellar first year. I'd say there's a 75% chance I'll pull the trigger on this one.

In April, I'm already registered for the 2nd Annual On My Own Two Feet Marathon in Kent. The race director is a good friend of mine who started this to raise money for local survivors of domestic violence. It did a LOT for the cause in 2012 so I wanted to be sure to jump on this in 2013. I ran the half marathon in 2012 but will go the whole 26.2 this April. Registration is OPEN here!

One week after OMO2F, I'm heading down onto the trails of Mohican State Park for the Forget the PR 50K which is sold out. Many find it shocking that I've never set foot on a trail within that park but I haven't. The famed Mohican 100 is held there and other races but I've just never made it down. I do drive by the exit each month as I head to my military drill..does that count? Anyway, that'll be another 50K for 2013. Forget the PR 50K.

After that, I'm still on the fence for the 2nd running of the Run Between the Suns 12 Hour race in Pennsylvania. I ran it last year and stopped quite early. There are multiple factors playing into whether I want to run again or not. It's on the radar but no decision made. I almost registered a month ago but stopped short of completing that. Now I'm not sure. Run Between the Suns. If nothing else, I want another painted rock!!!! That may be enough to draw me in...we shall see.

Moving into the summer and early Fall, it's very much up in the air. I am finding that many of my desired races are falling smack dab on top of my military duties. I'm still keeping an eye out, but I don't see a whole lot of official finish lines over the summer. A 100-miler is still on my to-do list again, but again...I'm on the fence and lookout for that. As for late summer/early Fall, I'll once again be running the Akron Half Marathon with my wife. We registered the day after the 2012 event. :-)

So that's about it for now. There will be more, I'm sure, and more totally unplanned, wake-up-and-do-em kind of marathons and 50Ks, I'm sure. I'm currently on a pretty good trajectory for trimming down a bit, getting back into good endurance shape and eating much better. It helps that my bride of 20+ years is currently on a 40-day fruits and vegetable-only "diet." She is making some amazing new foods, all from scratch and I get to be the sideline beneficiary of it all. Check out this homemade wheat crust pizza from last night. Homemade wheat crust, homemade sauce, roma tomatoes, chopped green and yellow peppers, fresh spinach, and onions. A M A Z I N G !!!!!!! So good.
You could eat the screen, eh? I know. It was THAT good, too.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anything - Love =

Oh boy, it was "one of those kind of runs" today when my head swirls and thoughts are overflowing...then I had to sprint to work with no time to get those thoughts onto the screen. Today was a solo run without my bride or my 4-legged canine. It was also a balmy 33F and dry roads so a little speed was set to be inserted into the run in the form of some ups and downs (aka: fartlek). I also listened to one my favorite podcasts by Chip Ingram who is currently in a series on minimalism.
 
Bigger, Better, Faster, More... Chip calls it the Silicon Valley Syndrome since that is where he lives. It's about always pursuing bigger "things," getting the latest and greatest (better), getting faster cars/computers/"i" devices/etc. and more....MORE!!! We all know we live in a consumer-heavy country which lives and breathes on what we have or don't have. In the end...wait for it...we get to take none of it with us. It's just us, a casket, and 6 feet of earth. So why devote so much time and energy to it?
 
Switching gears, let me talk about love for a moment. Love. You've heard that "money is the root of all evil." What about love? Love is the root of _______ (you fill in the blank). What spills out of love? TRUE love? To understand what love is, let me give you my own personal definition: "The act of sacrificially giving of oneself to another at no personal gain. A selfless act independent of self." No Webster's Dictionary there but rather the "RTRSBM Dictionary." :-) For me, the ultimate example of love is Christ's death on the cross. He had all the power at His fingertips yet He chose to selflessly give Himself as a sacrifice for me...for you...for us. Whether you believe in Christ or simply believe He was a good man, I hope you agree that it serves as a pretty awesome example of what love is. Interestingly, it's also why the cross is the focal object of my second tattoo. That empty cross...that sacrifice...that love shown for ME means everything to me.
 
So true love spills out what? It's kind of hard, given the definition I've given you, to imagine something evil coming from love. Now to my title of today's post:
 
ANYTHING - LOVE =
 
NOTHING.
 
NOTHING.
 
Why nothing? Well, my opinion and my offering to you today is that if it isn't rooted in love and rather rooted in self (the anti-love), it's empty. It's finite. It will come to an end. The pursuit of stuff, of wealth, of "Bigger, Better, Faster, More...", is all about self. Got it? We have to be the anti- of all of that and flip it on its head.
 
So here's a curve-ball of sorts. If we are focused on self and gathering more, it is impossible to not compare/contrast ourselves with others. Heck, that very comparison drives the pursuit! If we were instead focused on loving others and being thankful for what we have, the focus would switch and so would the constant comparing. It's such a viral slippery slope...this thing of comparison. Jealously, greed, unhappiness, debt...it's ugly. I'm NOT saying having nice things are bad. Not at all. However, if your heart is focused on self instead of others, will you ever truly have enough? No you won't. You won't ever have enough and you'll always be searching for more, thinking falsely that the "next great thing" should do it. News Flash! It won't. Never will.
 
I'll leave you with this: Pursue love. Don't know love? Well, I gave you the ultimate example of it and for me, that drives everything. It truly does. If you're searching for it, you need not look any further than that. It's a bottomless wellspring of love and I promise you, it won't ever disappoint. So next time you're considering someTHING, fact-check it. Where's the drive coming from? Is it pure or selfish? Will it truly bring contentment? These aren't easy changes to make but you've gotta start somewhere.
 
I've got to share my Les Miserables review with you...simply need to find time to write it! You want to see selfless? You want to see a life turned from hate to giving? You want to see JOY? Les Miserables is amazing and that's precisely what it's all about. I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it but I warn you against taking your young kids...not too appropriate at times. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ink and Miles

8 days straight. I can't tell you the last time I ran 8 days straight. 4 days here and there...maybe. I started back on Saturday, the 29th, at my 6th Annual WaterFalls Run in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with 7 miles. Over 60 miles later, I ran an easy 6 at sunrise yesterday morning. What's super cool is that I felt stronger with each passing day. I will admit, though...some days, I didn't want to lace up those shoes and in fact, I felt weak. By the end of the run, though, I was thankful I ran and felt all the more strong because of it. I do know, though, based on my years of running, injuries, successes and failures, that rest is MANDATORY. It is today...a rest day, that I can rebuild those muscles that have been torn down and then start building on that tomorrow.

There was a major highlight of yesterday's run...the ending. Well, just prior to the ending when the sun cracked the horizon. I was away from my normal running route and had my iPhone with me. I saw this gorgeous sunrise in front of me behind a lifeless, leafless tree and stopped to capture the few moments where everything was just PERFECT. It's not photo-shopped or anything but I did use Instagram. I love it...and it deserves to be framed and on a wall somewhere!
So 2013...been thinking a lot about what to do. Very little is on the calendar so far. A 50K...a marathon...a half marathon. I won't lie, though...the 100-mile bug is biting again. I'm not sure about that, though, and will tread lightly through those thoughts. Thinking... perusing... we shall see.

Ink. I got my first tattoo last summer and dang, I couldn't be happier with it. As someone raised in the church and someone who is closer to Christ today than ever, I certainly got some heat for getting one. Scroll back on my blog and I do believe I posted my stance on that whole issue along with pics of the whole process. That tattoo is on the outside of my right calf and represents freedom and service to my country in the Navy. Pretty cool that the eagle's wings wrap a bit around my calf so if you're running behind me, you'll see the tips of the wings. Well, I've always wanted to get another one on the outside of my left calf...but what? The "what" theme has always been the same: I wanted a cross...an empty cross...and I wanted it to represent Christ's sacrifice for me and His eternal promise to me. That empty cross is why I live today. There was a day not too far in my past where I found myself at the end of the road with a decision to make. Had He not been there, I'm not so sure I'd be typing this today. So I finally stopped by Defiance Tattoo in Kent on Thursday. "Pops," the owner, did my first one and I wanted to share my ideas for the second. I envisioned eagle's wings again behind the cross and not much more. I wanted the empty cross to be the main object and the wings to be secondary. He did his sketch and I love it. They aren't stretched up in flight, but more at peace across the center and behind the cross. The cross will be a passive red and old-school-lookin'...like an old iron cross. The wings will be black and gray shaded. To protect his art, I won't post his sketch but if you'd like to offer your opinion about it before it's done, contact me and I'll share it with you. I'd really appreciate any feedback you'd care to share with me. So, the plan is for this Friday night after work. By the way, my belief is that anything permanent like this should mean "something" powerful and be very personal. I don't just want to "like it" because you know what? I may hate it tomorrow. So, I believe I've said why the empty cross and the red color should be obvious. As for the wings, they represent freedom...the freedom granted by the blood shed for me..freedom from the chains of sin, from defeat of the enemy, and honestly, the feeling that flows from knowing that no matter what I face in this world, I ultimately have a eternal promise that awaits. So if you want to see the sketch, let me know. Otherwise, I'll share once his work is complete.

Have a great new week, everyone. Choose to live it out selflessly!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What's Your Running Route?

We are creatures of habit, often doing the things we feel most comfortable and safe doing. Repetition, routine, repeated successes...they provide a sort of bedrock in our crazy lives. I was thinking during my afternoon run yesterday about my route so I thought I'd share it and maybe you'll think a little deeper about your own...perhaps see the things not always seen at first glance.

My route gives me multiple options in distance. I can run a 5, 6 or 7 miler on any given day and I know those spots where to turn and head back. I even have a loop course that provides a 6 or 7 miler on a similar course. I also have a 8.2 mile loop option and modified just a bit, that becomes a 10 mile loop. The 8.2 mile loop is dubbed "Karen's Loop" because a friend (yea...Karen!) came out one very early morning and ran it with me.

Cereal Bowl in the distance
Hills. Lots of them. They have names, too...at least a few of them. One is called the "Cereal Bowl" simply because it feels and looks like one. Another one is even named after a family member...but I'll leave that one alone. :-) Some are steep and quick while others drag out the pain. Not boring in any way, and always twisting/turning.

"Wildlife." Oh my my. My route seems to never have a lack of it. I think a car recently killed it, but there was a resident skunk that everyday, was at one particular house and under one particular bird feeder. I watched its white-striped tail held high as it ran to the bushes. There are a lot of deer out there, too. Often in herds and often heard clicking across the street in the dark of morning. Birds are everywhere and lately, I keep seeing hawks that are totally white on the bottom and brown on top. Looks brilliant over the white fields. Then we have dogs. A few days ago, my own dog (on a leash) and I were chased no less than 5 times. I'm quite sick and tired of it. It's the one pronounced black eye on my route. This one here is the main nuisance. I grabbed this photo yesterday. I can always stop it in its tracks by yelling directly at it but it charges full bore towards us EVERY SINGLE TIME. There is also lots of cows grazing and also a few pastures of horses. The one that stands out is "the white horse." It's always there, no matter the season or time of day. Peaceful, beautiful, but seemingly a bit lonely. Never running and no one ever with it. I look forward to seeing her (or him) each time I crest the hill. (it's also the same property as the aforementioned canine)

Landscapes. My route runs among farm houses, soy bean fields, corn fields, creeks, and even a century old Catholic church. With so much wide open space, every season and time of day is unique and beautiful in its own right. The lack of traffic certainly helps, too. A full moon to light up the route no matter the time of year is the icing on top when it happens. It's a great route to have some "vertical" conversation and completely lose myself for awhile. That is, until a dog comes chasing or a herd of deer emerge from my left or right. :-) If it should come time to move someday, the landscapes is what I'll miss most. Here are some of my favorite pics that I've taken from time to time. 
Our #1 spot. Gorgeous no matter the season. A sepia version is on canvas over our bed, if fact. :-)

Entrance to my route off of the main state highway.

Usually, there are Black Angus grazing in the water or on the hill. Little waterfall on the left but not in the photo. Century old Catholic church after I pass this spot.

Coming up out of the Cereal Bowl on one side. Sunrise often happens right there.

This was during yesterday's sunset run over the harvested corn field.
So what about your route? Could you tell the story if someone asked?

Have a great day! It's One Three One Three!!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013...and we're back

"Life, Running, Serving My Country..." a great mantra/tag line when I began this blog years ago. Today, it's still relevant even though much has happened since I first entered the blogosphere. Today, the first day of 2013, I'd like to fire this baby back up again. I have enough in my head for a week's worth of posts but being that it's the first of the year, I'd like to share a few thoughts on the categorical parts of my life and where I see them ending, continuing, or perhaps beginning.

1. Writing: I do love to write and even when I am trying to best convey my deepest of feelings, writing them seems to work best for me. Unfortunately, I can only control how these messages are delivered and not how they are received? Know what I mean? Sometimes, I have the best of intentions and bare my soul only to have it totally misinterpreted. The flood of "i-Devices" (as we call them in our home) only makes this worse. With that said, I really miss writing here. My goal going forward is to share my raw thoughts with you from running to my spiritual walk to family this and that...unfiltered yet always protecting the "innocent" around me. :-) Not necessarily politically correct but my thoughts. If but only one person can relate and be impacted in a positive way, then it makes it all worth it. I hope you come back for the continued journey.

2. Running: Oh how running has changed for me. Jump back 4 years: 2009 was the year of the 100-miler(s). Yea...3 of them. Training runs, training calendars, and a life wrapped around it all. Garmin-tracked runs, logs, shelves of shoes with National Park mud caked on, and 3 finishes for history to record. Today, it's totally different. I never wear a Garmin unless I'm heading out on a multi-hour road or trail run with no real direction and I simply want to know how far I've gone. Other than that, I know the distances all over the area in which I live and on the trails where I hardly make it to. I couldn't care less about my pace, etc. etc. etc. What I DO care about is running and enjoying every last step. Period. For goals this year, I will start logging my mileage again, more for accountability if nothing else. For races, I'm signed up for...wait for it....ONE race. Forget the PR 50K this Spring down in Mohican State Park in north/central Ohio. Oh wait...I'm also running the On My Own Two Feet Marathon in Kent, OH. Can't forget that one! Other than that, I'm happy to say that Brooks Running picked me up for a 4th consecutive year in sponsorship. I definitely want to do more to promote the brand, no doubt. I would also like to lead group runs again...just need to live a bit closer to the park...working on that!
From this morning's 10 mile New Year's Run. "So THIS is how I die?!?!? At least I was Running Happy!!!" (looks pretty close, eh?!)

3. Minimalist vs. Materialist: I'm not talking about minimalist running here, although my #1 shoe right now is the minimal Brooks Pure Flow 2. I'm talking about stuff...ie: crap. You know...all the stuff that surrounds you/me that we just don't need. I'm so sick of it all. With nearly 40 years on this earth and over 20 years of marriage now, our home has lots of it but we are determined to rid ourselves of much of it. eBay, CraigsList, donations, etc. .... it must go. 

What I OWN does not define who I AM.

4. Joy: Someone close told me that I don't have much joy...that I appear to be weighted down. I invited the question but didn't see it coming. It instantly forced me to look inside...to look at myself in the mirror and examine that. "It's true. I don't have joy," I replied about an hour later. Joy...where do I find it? I know the answer...only He provides the kind of joy that can spill out from me onto others. This is an area that I need help in and it'll be at the forefront of my prayers. That's not selfish, either...as it impacts those closest to me and in nearly interaction I have. Ironically, as I thought about this on my 10 miler this morning, I passed a house over this one hill and here's what I saw. Ironic? Coincidence? I think not. :-)

We saw Les Miserables last night. You can expect an upcoming review on that movie. It conjured up so much discussion afterwards. What a POWERFUL movie and story. I never saw it/read it prior to walking in the theater and I'm glad I hadn't. I absolutely loved it and even me...big tough guy...shed some tears near the end. That whole thing about selfless love poured out on others gets me every time. I've lived it...so when I see it, it goes to the core. Please go see it (but leave your kids at home....not for the little ones).

Happy New Year, everyone. Run Happy (and leave the Garmin at home)!