Monday, July 29, 2013

M-Cubed for 7.29.2013

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

- How has your July been? It seems like just yesterday that I put away my winter running gear and now, August is knocking which signals the return of school buses, the county fair, and fall sports. The next thing you know, the mall will be decorated for Christmas! However your July has been, I encourage you to go above and beyond and finish well. You've got 3 days!

- Starting this past Saturday at 5am, this year's Burning River 100 Miler took place. It was the coolest and rainiest year on record which created havoc on the course in the form of mud. Most years, it is hot and humid. So many friends ran it or volunteered and all have priceless stories to tell now. To those who finished: well done and congratulations!!! Enjoy that buckle and never forget the journey that took you to today. For those who toed that line but had to stop, let me encourage you today to never give up on your dreams. This is just a hiccup and a learning experience. Stand up, find the good in it (that always exists), and keep your eyes focused up and forward. You are not defined by a finish or a DNF. Today is a new day! To the volunteers: THANK YOU!!! Impossible without your selfless service.

- Our life is truly a series of decisions, outcomes, and more decisions. The fork in the road takes many forms, happens with every decision, and often is irreversible. This is also true as parents for our kids. I am thinking back to my wife when as a little girl, she met another little girl out west on vacation because the parents were vacationing in the same location. They didn't know each other beforehand. 30+ years later, they are still friends, can look fondly back on great memories from that friendship that happened for years after the initial meeting, and now our kids can benefit from that relationship and the "splinter effect" from it. I am also thinking about living for today and choosing to bless those around us. One thing I have learned is that no matter how much you exude kindness and humility on some people, their heart remains dark and bitter. It takes a strong person to keep doing the right thing in that situation while the darkness continues to spew out but we have to...or that crud will darken us. We have to move forward...we have to bring the light...and often, we have to leave people (both friends and family) behind. For we choose our next step and us do they. Stay in the light, friends. 

- Did you hear about Chad Rogers from Liberty, Missouri? He went on a run at 8:30pm last Monday night and never returned. A stay-at-home dad, father of one, married, and avid marathon runner, he was searched for by hundreds of volunteers throughout the week. Late in the week, a construction worker found him in a port-a-pottie along his normal route and in an area that the bloodhounds had led searchers to. No explanation as of this morning but family and friends are already planning events to honor his life. My wife and I are tending to think he had some kind of cardiac event while using the bathroom but we're only guessing. It's not often, but I do hear of the occasional runner who is as fit as can be but dies out on a run. We simply NEVER KNOW when our time is up. It does sound like Chad was well-respected and looked up to by his friends, family, and community. RIP, Chad.

- What's your passion? Are you doing it? No? Write it down and write out a plan to accomplish it...starting today. 

- In our home, we have filled countless plastic bags with clothes for donation. We have done it and our girls have done it, too. If you are like many, you are holding onto so much "just in case." Start by picking maybe just one shelf or one closet and ask yourself when you last wore each item. Haven't touched it in the past year? GONE! Don't look at it again! In the bag it goes and on to someone else who doesn't have the problem of "too much." My wife started this trend when she hit 40 last fall and it has rippled through our family and home. Last week, I got rid of more in my "corner" in the basement than ever in my life. Big deals for me were recycling YEARS of Runner's World and Consumer Reports magazines, adding much to the "garage sale corner" and donating 2 laptops and one desktop computer to a veterans re-use program. I made a huge difference down there and can't wait to attack it again!!! Start small and watch yourself accomplish great things ... and tell your kids what you're doing. Before you know it, they'll be standing in the doorway holding plastic bags full of "stuff" and asking for more bags! "Less stuff, more quality!"

Have a great week, friends, and Run Happy!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Day Challenge Complete...and a Filling

Personal goal accomplished. No one to impress, no real reason to do it other than to learn from it and simply see if I could…injury free. 7 days, no breaks, and a minimum of 10 miles per day. I’m a big advocate of learning via running. Back in my last 100-miler in October of 2009, I was slammed with an injury around mile 20. For the next 80 miles, I pushed through the pain, ate ibuprofen as a snack, it seemed, and refused to quit. I couldn’t even lift my leg high enough to climb out of the creek beds it hurt so much. Eventually, the 800mg of ibuprofen did nothing. I learned back then that the human body is an incredible piece of machinery. Honestly, as I held a one-week old baby girl just a few days ago, I looked at her and thought: “You are a miracle. You were born…and you live, with only nourishment from your mom. All of your systems work seamlessly together with no connection to the outside world. Truly amazing.” We are wondrously made, crafted like no other species on the planet. Intelligence, free will, and bodily systems that work in concert with one another to survive. We all have much to be thankful for. So back in October 2009, I finished that race in nearly 31 hours even though everything said inside I should quit. It stands today as my most memorable race ever and one that shaped how I now look at nearly every challenge I face in life…not just running.

During the past 7 days, the miles actually got easier by the day. I felt stronger, recovered faster, and found myself wanting more after finishing. “Another time,” I thought. Maybe another week I’ll do a minimum of 15 a day. I also found that my running on hills changed this week, which was completely non-intentional. I found myself accelerating during the second half of the hills, time and time again without purposely doing it. After a few of the runs, I did mix up a batch of Hammer’s Recoverite to cushion my recovery a bit and give my body what it needed. Even though I had virtually no soreness or indication that I had even run on any given day, I did find myself getting the munchies more often and just dog tired later in the day. I continued to eat well, chug nearly a gallon of water a day, and hit the goal run each morning. In the end, I ended up with 75 miles for the week which is my highest mileage week since my 100 mile training in 2009…and I feel great but am resting today. 5 days of 10-milers, an 11.8 mile day and a 13.2 mile day.

Later yesterday, I had a trip to the dentist to get a filling for a cavity (shame on me!) and had sushi planned for lunch afterwards. Learn from me: don’t do that! After the multiple injections to numb me around Noon, eating sushi was NOT fun. He said it would wear off in a few hours and it would be safe to eat and not bite my tongue. By 2pm, I gave it a try and it was not fun. Nothing like shoving sushi rolls in the right side of my mouth and chewing them. Sushi is my #1 food and a great reward to myself for a goal accomplished and this was not enjoying at all. Once 4pm rolled around, I could feel everything again. Grrrr…  That was not a well-executed plan!

So the Burning River 100 sets off tomorrow morning at 5am. I’m not able to participate in any way this year but it’s gotta be record-low temperatures. Forecast is for mid-70s for the high with a chance of thunderstorms Saturday night. Not bad at all. The Kanawha Trail 50K is also tomorrow down in West Virginia. This is a race I’d like to do for 2014. It’s another race put on by the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners that put on the Highlands Sky 40 and the WV Trilogy that I’m doing in October. So for 2014, I’ve got a few already penciled in: Inaugural Hall of Fame Marathon in late April, Highlands Sky 40 on Father’s Day weekend, and the Kanawha Trail 50K at the end of July. About 6 weeks between each of those. There will be more in the winter and fall but these 3 are on the schedule first. I’ve most definitely tabled any 100-miler. I know, for sure, that I don’t crave that and therefore won’t entertain it. I love the 50K to 50 Mile race distance…so that’s what I’ll do. It works well for family, too. Believe it or not, my life’s not about running.

Run Happy, friends!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

65 Miles and Going Strong

On Monday, I mentioned a challenge I came up with for no particular run 7 days straight, no days off, with a minimum 10 miles a day. Today, I had the day off so I finished Day 6 with a cool, crisp, clear 13.2 miles through my hometown. Disclaimer: I don't ever recommend this as normal training. I'm a firm believer in rest where the body recovers and grows stronger. However, I was curious how my body would react to normal mileage but on consecutive days. After reading Jamie Summerlin's book about running across America in 100 days where he averaged over 34 miles a DAY, I was curious. I'm also thinking about my goal race/event in mid-October where I'll run 31.2 miles, 50 miles, and 13.1 miles on consecutive days in the mountains. What I'm finding is...not much! I'll admit I felt a little "something" beneath my left kneecap yesterday but it went away overnight and I felt nothing this morning.

Yesterday was magical. I don't know any other way to describe it. I had to be done running by 5:30am in order to make it to work but I wanted my 10 in beforehand. It should be illegal to sound the alarm at 2:45am but I did...and I got up. I was glad I did within moments of walking into the dark kitchen because a full Mr. Moon was shining in the back window and illuminating the backyard. Oh yes...the clouds have finally disappeared and just in time. I got the espresso brewing, had a banana and by 3:45am, I was on the road. It was clear and in the mid-60s but humidity was still high. I left the shirt at home and headed on out under moonlight and through layers of fog resting on the earth. I took the route towards the center of town first where porta-potties were (just in case) and headed on back to be home around the 5 mile point to pick up my bride who wanted her own 5 miles. As I got home, there she was running towards me and we were off into the country where all were asleep and the clouds rested in the lowest of areas over cornfields and soybean fields. It was P E A C E F U L beyond words. The moon casting our shadows all around us, sweat dripping everywhere, and not a car around. It is runs like this I am forever thankful for. How amazing to just take it all in from the clear sky with the stars, the moon, the silhouette of treetops, farm silos, fence lines, and that 6 foot plus tall the "clouds" resting in the valleys. As we entered our last mile yesterday, I said to her "You know we are running right into the cloud" as we went down a gentle hill. It was then I was so glad I didn't have a shirt on because the cool, moist air over me felt amazing. We could still see (our pupils had to be crazy-dilated) but we were in it and running through it. And people wonder why I run so much... :)

So I'm feeling great, being smart, and refueling as I should to stay healthy and strong. I sit at 65 miles in the past 6 days with one day to go. It's already my highest mileage week in probably 3 or more years. Here are a few amazing photos from my run today. Enjoy!
Sometimes...we just need to look UP!

The extremely short section of trail at the community park...I'll take it!

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard .. I ran around their front vineyard.

Adjacent to the winery are these tracks which happened to have this in my way.

Sunrise at Rootstown Community Park over the man-made lake

Sunrise at Rootstown Community Park over the man-made lake

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard

Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard ... photo bomb! :)
Enjoy the rest of your week, friends...and keep Running Happy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

M-Cubed for 7.22.2013

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

I LOVE the halo rims around the headlights.
- I think I could've blogged daily over the past week. It was a busy much so that I never sat down long enough to write. I guess that's why M-Cubed exists, right? Why not start off with a test drive? My wife and I have been drooling over the current Chevy Camaro. Ever since "Bumblebee" arrived in the new Transformers movies, we've loved it. So, with a friend who sells them a few towns over, we stopped by last Friday for a test a ragtop! Did we love it? Oh yes. Broke a little traction, too, as I don't think I've ever driven a rear-wheel drive car before. Love it enough to save for it and drop the cash for it? I need to think on that one. I'd love a boat to ski behind, too. :-)

- Last year, Canton OH had their first marathon...dubbed the "Canton Marathon." I didn't run it but I heard about the fall-out months after. Bills not being paid, a cat-fight between the co-owners/directors of the race. A black-eye on the local running community and an embarrassment. That debate continues today as the 2nd installment never happened last month. So, just yesterday a new marathon was announced: The Hall of Fame Marathon and Half Marathon. The executive race director is a friend of mine and fellow Brooks ID athlete. He has assembled a great team, the money has been fronted to ensure all parties are paid, and he's got the support of the city, police/fire, and is endorsed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, the finish line is at Fawcett Stadium! Reading more and more about it, I discovered, too, that they are offering FREE entry to all active and reserve military so this race is now the first race on my 2014 calendar. I'm really excited to see where this goes and really thrilled to see who is at the helm. Way to go, Jim! (Note: registration costs are ridiculously low right now through August I highly recommend you consider it now instead of later.) Race Website:

- It was a great recovery week post-Buckeye Trail 50K. 3 days of rest and 4 days of running. 8.2mi, 6mi, 10mi, and 11.8mi for a total of 36 miles for the week. That's called "Runners OCD"...the inability to have a non-whole number in your weekly mileage total unless there is a race in there. With that, I started a bit of a streak. A few weeks ago, I threw out the idea of doing a week where I'd run every day and at a minimum distance each day. For the past 3 days, I've run at least 10 miles a day. I'd like to keep that up and get in 10 or more through this Thursday. Today is Day 4 and it's a beautiful sunrise out there in the mid-60s...kinda calling me out! I'm considering an evening 5K race on Wednesday night, too. 10 dollar entry fee to support a local school...hard to pass that up. I haven't raced a 5K in many, MANY years.

- Have you seen Kevin James' "Here Comes the Boom" movie? I didn't have high hopes at all and certainly didn't expect a good family flick and great message. I got both and highly recommend the movie for all. Who would've thought MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) would be part of a family movie?! We "rented" it for free at the library. Here's the trailer:

- Did you know it's blueberry month? My wife and I shared some blueberry vino at our favorite winery down in Amish Country on Friday. Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day so I celebrated as well with my little girls at the local DQ. Gotta celebrate! :-) Hey, I'll run it off this morning...never pass up a Pecan Cluster Blizzard!

- CAVITY?! Yea, I got one. Semi-annual dentist appointment was a few days ago and visiting him again in a few days to get it filled. Good grief.

- I took a lot of photos this week on the run and would like to share them with you. I run the same route through the country with minimal variations but I always seem to find more things to capture along the way. Enjoy!
I'd like to call this "Bovine Photobomb"! 

This guy had just finished his journey across the road without getting smooshed. Great job! :)

We delayed our run until AFTER the storms...but some clouds lingered!

- I also spent some time cleaning up my "stuff" in the basement over the weekend and digging more through things from my deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. In there, I uncovered a few photos I hadn't seen before. A guy handed me a CD-ROM of photos but I had never opened it. Here is my favorite one. I was waiting for my helicopter flight at Camp Mike Spann in northern Afghanistan on a very hot day. I remember how hot it was because my iPhone shut itself down due to the heat. Anyway, I was getting what shade I could while waiting my turn for the flight...and as you can shade at all.

- To close out today, I'd like to leave you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway: 

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." 

I've got a battery of stories both good and really bad. Perhaps I'll write my memoir someday and share them...or not! Either way, I think we all want to trust...we want to have that kind of open relationship with others. Unfortunately, it just isn't always a reciprocal relationship and that's where the pain waits. On the flip side, it can be beyond amazing to find that person who shares the same trust with you. Just some thoughts to ponder for you this Monday morning.

Have a great week, everyone, and Run Happy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

M-Cubed for 7.15.2013

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

- If you didn't read my race report from two days ago, I got another 50K finish. My 23rd ultra finish and 50th finish of a marathon or longer. It was nasty. It beat the heck out of me. I still feel it's wrath today via hot/cold spells, overall tiredness, and just the whole body-catching-up routine that I've been through before.

- A week ago, I committed to one of my best friends to run with her yesterday morning. She is training for another half-marathon and needed 9 miles. Confident as I could be PRE-race, I said "Sure!" as I knew a recovery run is always a good idea and this would force me out the door yesterday. Today, I'm glad I committed to that. However, that was a humid mess! I have no pain, no blisters, or anything like that...I was simply pooped! Plus, the humidity just made it hard for me to breathe so apologizing endlessly, I took little walking breaks and she'd circle back to get me. "You're seeing me like no one else ever does!" I told her, "but I won't quit." It worked out well on my 8.2 mile loop, too. She didn't have to tack on that 0.8 mile at the end. All of her circling back to round me up worked out in the end and she got her run in and I was brought to the edge of death least it felt that way. The rest of the day continued with church then a 2hr nap followed by "honey-do's" around the house, mowing the yard in 87F, humid air but ended with a little date night with my girls at Outback Steakhouse.

- Anyone else watching "Whodunnit?" on Sunday nights? It's like the modern day version of the "Clue" board game. My girls are absolutely glued to it and talk about it all week until it's on again. It's a reality game where one contestant is killed off each week and they all try to figure out the "killer." All clean and nothing bad about it...a cool concept and a departure from the normal reality shows, etc.

- Call off today or go to work? I wanna call off and go back to bed...for like 12 hours. But, the "good person" in me says go to work. To work I shall go. :-( Speaking of work, that's about to change big time in a short bit. I'll talk more about it later but it's safe to say that I'll be wearing a whole lot more of my Navy uniform very every day. No, I'm not making another 7,000 mile trip across the world to the Land of Taliban and no, I'm not leaving my girls. It's all good!

- Yesterday, I woke up to a couple of stories that have people up in arms. The big one is the George Zimmerman verdict. Since I wasn't in the courtroom, I wasn't on the jury, and I don't trust the media for a second, I'll plead the 5th on that topic. I encourage you to do the same unless you have some amazing intel into all of it. Just keep on living and treating others how you want to be treated. Period. Pretty surprised, too, to hear about that "Glee" star "Finn" being found dead at the age of 31 in Vancouver, Canada. He's had a substance abuse problem but most recently, was doing quite well. I'm guessing overdose but we won't know until later today. Today is the autopsy.

- I will admit: races like Saturday's 50K make me question all of my running. "Am I really that pathetic?" "Maybe my time has come and gone." "That was embarrassing." Very, very easy to fall into the rabbit hole of pity and doubt and forget the long line of finish lines that preceded that day...finish lines that are barely a month old, even. "This too shall pass" is something I just need to remember. It will and I will race again and get even more of those finish lines. One thing that helped was a friend on Facebook commenting on a link I posted yesterday. He mentioned that my posts inspired him to start running and now he's hooked. That one little sentence meant the world to me and I'm thankful for it. I really did need that! I also found this snazzy photo of me just before the Boston Store Aid station nearing the bottom of Rollercoaster Hill. AIRBORNE!

- I might have slept well last night if I had closed the door to my bedroom. My chubby Seal Point Siamese seemed to purr all night, wanted his ears rubbed, and perched himself atop my chest or back, whichever was pointing up. "Good grief, Berkeley!"

- The 36th running of the Badwater Ultramarathon is this morning! The 135 mile trek from below sea level in well-over-100-degree-heat starts in multiple waves this morning. A friend and Columbus Marathon race director, Darris Blackford, is there and running his first. His wife, Star, is by his side and will crew him to the finish. You can get all of the updates and list of starters here. (Remind me NEVER to do such a thing!!! ... and people call ME crazy!!!)

The clock is ticking, there is no stopping it, so to work I must go. I wish you all a wonderful week and challenge you to live it selflessly and without regret. Choose to look up and bless those around you...and regret nothing!

Run Happy, friends!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Buckeye Trail 50K

August 2008, mile 55 of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. I twisted my ankle around Mile 35 and by mile 55, I couldn't even walk up or down without excruciating pain. I decided to drop...or DNF (Did Not Finish). I called my wife who was at the aid station at mile 56 to drive up the road and pick me up. When she stopped, I sat down in the front passenger seat and in the back were my daughters. The youngest, 5 at the time, said one thing and to this day, I will never forget it:

"Daddy, did you quit?"

We'll get back to that later. Today was a big race for me. 6 years ago, this race was ultra #1 in my life. Today, a finish would mean ultra #23 but even cooler was finish #50 in races of a marathon or longer. That list is on the lower right of my blog and it goes from the standard 26.2 mile race to 100 miles. Well, I got my finish but it wasn't pretty. Here's how it all went down.

I did well this week in preps to run today. I have been averaging just shy of a gallon of water daily for the past week, I rested a LOT (only 2 run days since Sunday), and I've been trying to run more in the hot, humid afternoon sun to better get ready for the heat/humidity that the BT50K always seems to deliver. Heat/humidity is my chief weakness. Always has been and seemingly, it always will be. Rising on time this morning, I had my traditional espresso and peanut butter and jelly and everything felt good. Hydrated, rested...bring it! The forecast was for sunny skies and temps in the low to mid 80s. "That could be an issue," I thought. 7am arrived and we took off from the Oak Grove picnic area in the Brecksville Reservation....not too far south of Cleveland. The BT50K follows the Buckeye Trail (which travels the entire state of Ohio) from Oak Grove all the way into Summit County near the town of Peninsula. At the Pine Lane trailhead, we turn around and head on back. It's a great race to see people because no matter what, you'll see everyone because you return via the same route you ran to Pine Lane on. If you're feeling strong, you can also identify fellow runners to hunt down after you make the turn.

The early miles were going well. We received 16 days straight of rain in the area so the word on the street was to be ready for shoe sucking mud. The word was correct...LOTS of mud. At first, I was running with running-legend, Ron Ross. Ron is a fellow veteran and VERY accomplished ultra-runner. I'm not even sure if HE knows how many 100-mile finishes he has. Anyway, I have a bad habit of going out too fast and then Ron always passes me later. Happens 100% of the time. Today, I thought I'd hang with Ron and be his shadow but soon I realized that Ron wasn't just going on a jog...he was cruising and cruising beyond my comfort zone. I fell back about 5 miles in and just set in to my own rhythm. I still felt great and had no issues but the mud...which really is no issue for me. I just consider it a free mud bath exfoliation! Reaching the first aid station at mile 7, I grabbed a bite and was quickly gone. Unfortunately, I didn't check my bottle of electrolyte before I left. The volunteer only filled it 3/4 of the way....maybe only 2/3, actually. I know I need a full bottle for each leg. The miles ticked away but before mile TEN, I was already dwindling. Approaching Mile 13 and the Boston Store aid station, we climbed the "Piano Keys"...named as such due to there being 88 steps like keys on a piano. I moved slow...really slow. Once I got to the top, I broke into a light run but my heart was pounding out of my chest and pulse was screaming. Mind you...I'm not even a half marathon in to this race.

It was nice to see familiar faces yet again when arriving at the Boston Store aid station. "Great job, Nick!" "Hi, Nick!" Shouts coming from multiple directions....I loved seeing them...many whom I had not seen in quite some time. I refueled and headed on out. Due to the heavy rains and wear-n-tear on a bridge ahead, the course was changed this year at this point. Instead of heading into the woods uphill, we continued on a gravel path which technically became the Valley Bridle Trail. A short time later, we turned left and went UP, UP, UP a monster gravel hill along the Ohio Turnpike/Interstate 80. No way was I running that beast and it was also in the full sun. No doubt, we'd hit the 80F mark. We then rejoined the original course and through the infamous, root pine trees.

All throughout this section en route to the turnaround, the thoughts of quitting were surfacing. I remember saying aloud: "This is not fun. I am not running happy!" Those who know me know that I say "Run Happy" all the time, especially since that's Brooks Running's slogan and I'm sponsored by them. In my head, I figured that if I'm going to be miserable, why be out here? Taking an inventory of myself, I acknowledged that I'm not injured, I don't have any blisters, I haven't twisted an ankle, blah blah blah. I'm simply spent...and WAY too early. One short month ago, I ran 40 miles on a tough course in the West Virginia mountains and NEVER did I feel this crappy. The thing is this...I'm no quitter. That's when I thought of my beautiful little 5 year old five years ago. "Daddy, did you quit?" I broke down at that instant. In my opinion, stopping because you are injured is not "quitting"...quitting is well....quitting. Giving up...without a very valid reason or being unwilling to do the work to get the job done. My head is swirling with examples from work to marriage. It's true. So this memory of her question propelled me forward...perhaps not running strong or smiling too incredibly much, but there was no way I was going home and telling my girls "I quit." No.

Arriving at the turn-around, a good runner friend Carole was captaining the aid station and provided the smile and encouragement I needed...and a full bottle of Heed and I was off. That was mile 16. For the next 15.2 miles, I did whatever it took. Sure, I walked. I ran when I could. I still could not slow my heart rate down. For the big climbs, I had to stop halfway up just to slow it down. My hairs were standing on end (signaling dehydration) and my sweat-rate wasn't too profuse anymore since I was getting very dehydrated. The heart rate goes hand in hand with hydration. As less water is in me, the heart beats faster to cool off the body. Unfortunately, it's not too efficient. Sweating less sweat, less cooling and the heart tries to step in. I knew that but was still angry. I had prepared well for today. I was drinking plenty on the course and taking Hammer's Endurolyte salt tabs...two at every aid station. Still, I couldn't keep up. Like I said, this heat thing is my weakness. By the way, this has happened before at the BT50K. Tell me why I don't remember this?!?!

I was passed time and time again. I felt like the whole field of runners passed me by. I still kept my "Hi! Good job! Keep it up!" going and didn't turn into a trail snob. I was trying to at least pretend "Run Happy" to others and encourage them. Returning back to the Boston Store Aid Station just shy of 20 miles, I asked another friend there to text my wife so she wouldn't worry about me. I gave her a range of time I thought I'd finish and there was no way I'd make it. "Thanks, Susan, for doing that! You certainly put her mind at ease." Leaving Boston and crossing the bridge over the mighty Cuyahoga (which was raging), I so badly wanted to jump the bridge and be swept away. Deciding not to jump, I continued on up the Rollercoaster Hill and off I went.

After the finish
More of the same continued for many miles. More friends passed, light conversation for a few, and alone again. With 6 miles to go, I arrived at the last aid station. Quick refuel and I was off. This next stretch has a little bit of everything to include some monster climbs, the worst mud of the day (again) and a bench. Yes, a bench. There is this bench about 2 to 2 1/2 miles from the finish that is a landmark for me. I know I'm close when I get there. In years past, I always stop just for a moment and sit on it. It's a wooden memorial honor of a family. So this year when I saw it, I sat down...of course! There was no one around so I said a few prayers out loud...basically throwing up some thanks for the strength to keep going and for the protection shown over my family. I got going and a few miles later, the finish came into sight and it was over. 7hrs, 51min, 37sec. By comparison, it's my 2nd slowest ever. The slowest was three years ago at the same race. I finished in 7:57. Last year, I ran it in 6:27. Who knows where I rank...and honestly, who cares. All that matters is that I finished but I'm sure I was near the very back of the pack.

Since the race finish, I've been getting charlie horses in my calves....hurts SO bad! I'm also a bit hoarse. Go figure. No yelling but running a race takes my voice away. Throbbing headache, sweating off and on as I type this report...lovely, eh?! My body is NOT happy with me! The temperature ended up at 85 today with humidity around 60%. I am going to run in the morning, though...gotta work out the lactic acid and keep moving.

I'd like to thank Vince, owner of Vertical Runner in Hudson, Brecksville, Wooster and now in Breckenridge, Colorado. He is the BT50K Race Director and a friend. It was another well-executed race and good swag. The shirt isn't the typical tech-tee...we all have countless ones of those. It's a super soft shirt to just wear around. The back looks like a baseball jersey with a big "13" back there...for 2013. Very nice. Of course, the coveted BT50K oval sticker and the heavy metal Buckeye Trail Blue Blaze finishers medal. Also BIG thanks to the many, many volunteers. Those aid stations were spot on today. The Heed was mixed well and the assistance when approaching was always there. Thanks so much!

If you've read my race reports in the past, you also know what else to expect here: FEET!!! Oh yes, with 31.2 miles of mud, the feet are certainly a sight to behold. You're welcome. :-)

Congratulations to all finishers of this year's Buckeye Trail 50K...regardless of your time. Kate, a runner friend of mine tonight summed it up quite nicely: "Every finish is a victory - especially the tough ones." Thanks, Kate.

Run Happy, friends! :-)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review: Freedom Run (by Jamie Summerlin)

Several months ago, I was seeking a "big" race for 2013 and a fellow ultra-runner referred me to the mountain 40 miler I did over Father's Day weekend last month. Just prior to that race, I was contacted by the author of this book who remembered my name from the start of the 2011 Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run. I was in Afghanistan at the time and recorded a surprise race-start greeting for the runners which was played over the speakers just prior to the 5am start. Jamie Summerlin was there as he prepared for his race across the country in early 2012. Being that the 100-day run was for wounded veterans and being a former Marine (is any Marine really a "former" Marine??!....I think not!), he remembered me. We ended up meeting at the pre-race pasta dinner, I learned about his 3,452 mile run across America and I picked up his new book. This is him signing my own personal copy.

Jamie served in the Marine Corps for 6 years and while in, he met and later married his wife, Tiffany. "Freedom Run" is about his 3,452 mile journey from Coos Bay, Oregon, the starting point...also the home of the famed Steve Prefontaine (although that had no bearing on the reason for starting there) to the east coast. I mention Tiffany because she is as much a central character in the story as Jamie is. From the months of planning prior to the run to driving the RV, being a roaming aid station, and caring for their two children while Jamie ran, it was truly a team effort and he couldn't have done it without her. Like his run, the families of today's military can't do it and serve without them. It was a great way to unintentionally highlight what crucial role our families play.

While many will first look at this book and think "this book is for runners," I will tell you it is not. My wife is reading it next and then my 12 year old will read it. If you are a human being, this book and story is one I believe you'll love. Resisting the tendency to start telling you bits and pieces of Jaime's journey, I'll just say that I really, really appreciate reading how the love and support of veterans still exists from "sea to shining sea." It is easy to start to wonder if patriotism exists anymore here in rural Ohio...and I still wear the Navy uniform. Reading the selfless acts by people along his journey, the interactions he had, and how whole towns appeared roadside to support him was so amazing to read about. Those who know me know that I very rarely finish a book. I have started many, own many more, and have finished very, VERY few. My wife, in fact, couldn't believe she kept catching me reading because it's a sight never seen in our home. So yea, it was that good and that gripping. The photo above is one she captured of me and posted on Facebook (unknown to me!) while I finished the book today.

Again, I keep wanting to tell you stories from Jamie's run, but I just can't spoil it. I encourage you to pick up the book for yourself and read it...and when you do, you'll be supporting not only Jamie but organizations that are supporting today's veterans. (here are multiple ways to get his book, both in paperback and digitally) I will briefly talk about his arrival at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, which was Day 100: One might expect tons of fanfare and a few pages chock full of the celebration. I can tell you without spoiling it that it is far from that. In fact, I don't think he spent more than a few paragraphs on that arrival which was par for the course during the previous 100 days. Jamie says many times throughout his journey that it's not about him, it's about the's why he was doing it. He was brought to tears many times over those 100 days and that's where the book shines. The stories of plain 'ol human nature, love of country and the fellow man helping another...and a few chuckles here and there about Forrest Gump and naked runners. :-) Jamie is a normal guy, too, that hurts and has struggles. 100 days of running will certainly take its toll physically and certainly emotionally/mentally. Jamie's retelling of his journey is a raw account of it all which is probably another reason I enjoyed it so much.

So please consider picking up and reading it. At the end, I'm guessing that you'll sit back and take an inventory of your life and wonder how intentionally you are living and how you are blessing others. You will ask yourself if you're doing what truly makes you happy, too. I also hope that Jamie's story will confirm in your heart that freedom in our country is not free. It was paid for and is currently being paid for by those who have served or are serving. "Freedom Run"...perfectly named and highly recommended for all.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Solid Week of Running

It's been a pretty good week of running in my book. I have to stay away from the evil trap of comparisons with other runners, too. Some have hit the century mark (100 miles) for the WEEK while others are hitting 100 for the MONTH for the first time ever...which is awesome. Every runner out there runs for themselves and only answers to themselves. We've all heard the mantra "Either you ran today or you didn't." True dat! There is no escaping it. Could I be fitter, lighter, stronger, faster, etc. etc. etc. if I did this, that and the other? Sure could. Am I 100% happy about where I am right HERE and right NOW? Sure am.

This week was the week of 10s. Four 10-milers and one sprinkling of a 6 miler. 2 days of rest. My running week goes from Sunday to Saturday so today was my fourth 10. Six of which was with my bride and 4 were alone. They were all soaking minus any rain in the air. We've been getting this swath of humid air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico and it's been amazingly thick. It's appreciated, though, because my 'milestone' race in only 7 days away at the Buckeye Trail 50K. It'll mark 6 years to the day since my first ultra-marathon finish and also my 50th finish of a marathon or longer. To date, I stand at 27 marathons and 22 ultra-marathons. By the end of 2013, those numbers will be equal or within 1 or 2 of being equal. The calendar isn't quite set through the end of 2013. Many unknowns in my work schedule.

I'm also on page 100 of a book I'm reading by Jamie Summerlin...Freedom Run. Last year, he ran from Coos Bay, Oregon to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD in 100 days for wounded veterans. We met at my last race a few weeks ago and I picked up his book. In his journey in the book, he just crossed into Nevada from Oregon and made the comment that his body had adjusted to running an ultra-a-day. I hesitate to call it "easy" but he was basically recovering overnight from a 30-mile+ effort every day. That made me think of this week's four 10-milers. Since my newest commitment (the West Virginia Trilogy) has a 50K, then a 50 miler, and ends with a half marathon in the mountains, I bet I could really have some fun with a few weeks where I run the same mileage for consecutive days and then ramp that up through the summer. For example, I'm thinking of doing 7 days of 7 miles a day. Then another week, make it 10 miles a day for 7 days. Something like that. Perhaps three to five 15-milers and even seven of them. All just thoughts today but I think my body would respond very favorably to this, especially if I fuel correctly, recover the right way, and keep a diet rich in what my body needs. Eventually as I train towards the Trilogy, I want to mimic the back-to-back high mileage without actually doing the full distance...just to be prepared. All just thoughts in my head right now on my cranial chalkboard.

So for now, I'm happy with an easy 46 mile week. Very happy with that. I'm also feeling fit, strong, and ready for next week's 50K over the Buckeye Trail. It's typically hot and humid (which is my Achilles Heel) but this humid running and my recent 40 miler are in my back pocket. I want to crush it and will leave it all out there.

Time to enjoy the weekend. Make it great, everyone!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Shoe Review: Brooks Pure Flow 2

Runner Profile (me!)

  • 40 year old male
  • 6'2" tall
  • 205lb on average
  • Neutral foot type
  • 35-50 miles weekly average
  • Surface: mostly asphalt
  • Running distance since 1997 (27 marathons complete and 22 ultra-marathons)
  • Disclaimer: in my fourth year of being a part of the Brooks ID (Inspire Daily) family :-)

Just a few days ago, I retired my 2nd pair of Brooks Pure Flow 2 running shoes. The Pure Flow is part of Brooks Running's "Pure Project" family which also has the Cadence (sibling to the Flow but for runners who need stability), the Connect (much less cushion, lighter, and no stability), the Grit (trail shoe), and the Pure Drift (the most minimal of all with an optional zero drop). Pure Project has five concepts which define it but for me, the most impactful one in my life is the "Ideal Heel." The "Ideal Heel" is a design that is a slimmed down design which encourages a more forward foot strike. The heavily cushioned shoes that the shoe industry has been producing for decades have big, beefy heels. The Pure Project line has removed that "clunkiness" and for me, has changed everything about my running. Starting back in late 2011, I began wearing this line and some major things happened:

  • Gait changed from outside/back heel striker to mid-foot striker
  • Lingering injury recovery completely disappeared
  • Quads got stronger/larger due to landing mid foot
  • Calves slightly reduced in size due to not receiving the brunt of the downward force
  • Speed increased due to efficiency increase in my stride

Today, I'm injury free and run exclusively (except for trails) in the Brooks Pure Flow 2. I have read on Brooks' website about complaints in wear life. I know that wear will differ by the runner and I have to question if these runners are in the right shoe type and/or they are going back and forth between a Pure Project shoe and a heavily cushioned shoe. It is my opinion that doing that might discourage your gait from fully changing to being a more mid-foot striker vs. heel striker. No doubt, if you heel strike in a Pure Project shoe consistently, you'll wear them out as they don't have the beefiness of a thick heel. Below are two pairs of my shoes. On the left is the bright orange pair I just retired at 399 miles. On the right is the pair I'm currently running in. Remember, I'm a "big guy" and know I'm bringing much more down in pounds-feet of force with each strike than just my body weight. I'm stunned by the wear my retired pair shows...or doesn't show. I retired them because I "just knew" they were done by the feeling in my knees. They treated me well but inside, they are finished. Amazing "lack of wear," isn't it?!

I don't show a picture of the upper here but I will tell you that it's in perfect shape. It's not deformed, ripped, worn out or anything. I have a bunion that is on the inside of my left foot, just behind my big toe and that has not had any impact on the construction of the shoe. In fact, the upper's design has fit around it favorably so as to not be irritating or anything.

The Pure Flow 2 weighs in at only 8.8 oz but I wouldn't let that scare you. I love the cushion and I love the ride. If you understand the human body and how we were designed to run, you will understand that our arch is our spring. We are designed to strike midfoot. It is most natural but our heavily cushioned heels have taken us away from our design. For what this shoe (and Brooks) has done for me, I am very thankful and I will continue to sing their praises and continue running happy for many, many more miles. Plus, since a new color was just released (think Clemson school colors), I think it may be time to place another order so they're ready when pair #3 is done. If you consider any Pure Project shoe, just be sure to get fitted first so you get the right one. After that, just Run Happy!

Brooks Running website
Pure Project home page

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day 2013

Waking up today sans alarm, I first appreciated the fact that back in 1941, Congress made this an official federal holiday. Prior to that, federal workers had to take a day off without pay to celebrate America's independence. So where does this day come from and what does it mean to me? Not being a history buff but being someone who loves his country and has sworn to die for it, I thought I'd educate myself a bit.

It all goes back to the Revolutionary War with Great Britain in 1775. Not many of our colonists desired independence at the time from Great Britain but by June the next year, the Continental Congress met and appointed a 5-man committee to draft what would become our Declaration of Independence. Those men were Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert Livingston of New York. In early July 1776, it was voted on and on July 4th, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. It was read aloud in Philadelphia for the first time four days later on July 8th. John Adams wrote the following to his wife, Abigail, just after Congress voted regarding the declaration:

"...will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival" and that the celebration should include "Pomp and Parade...Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other."

It wasn't until 1870 that the U.S. Congress made today an official holiday, even though states were starting back in 1778 with Massachusetts. Eventually in 1941, it became a federal holiday like I mentioned earlier. Ironically, two authors of the Declaration both died on its 50th anniversary, on July 4, 1826. They were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Here is a video (less than 3min in length) from the History Channel about today's history.

Today, flags fly. Concerts are held. Fireworks and mischief across our land prevail in several evenings surrounding our holiday. Many less fireworks than normal this year, though, due to the epic failure of the current Congress to have an approved budget and have therefore enacted the "furlough." Many, many of our military bases this year have scrapped fireworks due to no funding. It's ironic, isn't it? The same military that sustains our independence is celebrating less than ever this year because of the failure of the Congress...a congress that once approved the Declaration itself. In other areas (like in communities near Cleveland, OH), the fireworks are scrapped due to funding or more so because of unruly youth thereby presenting a real security and safety concern.

For me...for my family, our flag flies. It flies every day of the year. I don't need a holiday to remind me of my independence and my oath. Every day I leave my home I pause and look at that flag and remember what it stands for. I also immediately think of the places it is currently flying. Places like remote FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) in Afghanistan, midship on U.S. Navy ships out to sea, on the arms of U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan, and along the fuselage of U.S. Coast Guard choppers that protect our coastline and rescue those in need. We will spend today as a family together, watching the same parade we watch each year and later enjoy a relaxing afternoon with friends who have "adopted" us as family which include a few brothers (and a sister) who also serve as I do. Fireworks tonight? Perhaps...but I do enjoy my couch on July 4th evening. I surely love to crank the sound system to the Boston Pops' annual July 4th celebration. The powerful orchestra sends chills down my spine every year. Besides, there will be plenty of revelers outside I'll be able to hear (and see) for sure. Here are two photos from 2 years ago today. I was at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan and they ran a "deployed version" of the infamous Peachtree Road Race that's held in Atlanta every July 4th...a MONSTROUS race with thousands and thousands of runners.
They had a huge banner for us all to sign. 
Ready to run 10 kilometers in the hot Afghan sun
Yesterday, the USS Dwight Eisenhower (CVN-69) Battle Group returned home to Norfolk, VA. In years past, deployments were a standard six months. Not so for the "Ike" who ended up being deployed for 10 out of the past 12 months. Births missed, holidays and countless other sacrifices. I loved scrolling through the homecoming photos from the pier and thought I'd share a few below. I've been on that pier, I've been on that ship, and I know what it's like to get that first kiss...again. Welcome home, Sailors...welcome home. And to you all, have a Happy 4th of July and remember where our independence comes from and who sustains it today as we enjoy it.
The crew "Manning the Rails" as they approach the pier where their families wait.

The crew "Manning the Rails" as they approach the pier where their families wait.

The "First Kiss" ... a Naval tradition

"Hello Son...great to meet you for the first time!"


Manning the Rails

My biggest heart tug...Daddy's first chance to hold his baby girl.  "Welcome home, Shipmate. Welcome home."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Poem: From the Ashes

Born and raised as the child first born
I don't remember much, not much at all
Bowling league here, some baseball there
Not very athletic, not one bit at all

From the ashes I'd rise...

Growing up through grade school
I got good grades, I excelled in math
I think it was 5th grade, I finally kissed a girl
Not popular, not many friends, strived for perfection

From the ashes I'd rise...

A move here, another move there
We never stopped moving from house to house
From town to town, wherever the work was
I was the first born, living on the outside

From the ashes I'd rise...

Moving again, a new town altogether
One of many houses and another new school, too
I found I liked blonde girls quite a bit
But no more kisses, not even a girlfriend

From the ashes I'd rise...

Moving into high school, grades always on the rise
My best friends were girls, I had no interest in sports
College? Military? Stay in town? I had no idea.
I worked at Mickey D's, Taco Bell, and Mickey D's again.

From the ashes I'd rise...

It was one day a recruiter, he got me at work
"Come take a test," he said. We'll see what we have for you."
One test soaring, another test as well.
"Sign here, Sailor. You're going to be in the Navy."

From the ashes I'd rise...

In I went, I became a Navy sailor
One year in and my girl from home became my bride
Years in Navy towns, schools attended
Most of those memories gone, I cannot remember

From the ashes I'd rise...

10 years of marriage, we thought it might end
Navy done, a new life in our family was about to begin
One precious baby girl, another one a few years later
We were back home again, where it all began

From the ashes I'd rise...

I missed my Navy. I missed serving my country
Multiple jobs, I lacked all kinds of direction
Back I went, the Navy took me back
Part time, a reservist, a taste of what I once had

From the ashes I'd rise...

I knew the day would come, I'd have to go away
Iraq war winding down, Afghanistan in full tilt
What I do is in demand so the call finally came
I blogged every day, 208 days to be exact

From the ashes I'd rise...

I always tried to be a good man
A good father, a good son, a good husband
I found I loved running and could run quite far
It was 2009 and 3 100-milers I would finish

From the ashes I'd rise...

But after that trip to the war zone, everything would change
I still ran, but it didn't own me
I still worked, but it was only a means to an end
I still attended church, but it meant a whole new thing

From the ashes I'd rise...

I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 5
A buttered bowl of rice, I was all alone
I still remember WKRP in Cincinnati playing on the TV
Kitchen table, one prayer to God, and I was His

From the ashes I'd rise...

Religion = rules. Christ = redeemed.
Me before = a Sunday Christian. Me today = walking His narrow path.
At the bottom I found myself, ready to punch out of this world
He had me, He had never left me, His hand rested below me and caught me as I fell


I may not remember much of my past, I am ashamed
So much is confusing, so much makes no sense at all
A good person, doing good things, living for yourself
It's not enough, it'll never be enough, I thought it was

From the ashes I'd rise...

Sacrificially loving and protecting,
That's my calling, that's my duty, to the death
He redeemed me, He saved me and us
He was never gone, He was never absent

From the ashes I'd rise...

Burnt, beaten, I had not a shred of strength left
A day at a time, a promise to provide enough strength
He has my full devotion, He has my complete worship
Like ashes that once made something whole...

From the ashes I'd rise...

Fire, pain, terror, hurt, deception and lies
Sin, hate, and filth they all destroy
But He, the Almighty One...
He has said "I make all things new."

From the ashes I rose.

From the ashes I remain.

He is my Rock. He is my own. He is my Father. I am His.
Until He calls me home.