Monday, September 9, 2013

M-Cubed for 9.9.2013

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

- First off, a very good morning to you on this September 9, 2013. Hard to believe that in two days, we check off 12 years since we were attacked on 9/11/2001. As you, I’m sure, I remember where I was back then. I was fresh out of the Navy (the first time!) and living in Colorado Springs. I had a great job with a view of Pikes Peak and had just arrived at work when a colleague asked if I heard what had happened. Of course, the rest of the day was barely productive as we huddled around a tiny TV in the break room. Much has happened in this country since and in my life since that day. I hope Americans never forget that day and teach the next generation about it, why it happened, and how this country responded.

- Lately, I’ve been taking a new way to work a few days during the week which takes me by a local coffee roaster in Kent, Ohio, called Bent Tree Coffee Roasters. It’s your classic startup: college grads love coffee. College grads have a dream and rent a retail location and put it all on the line. College grads get a huge grassroots following and never say quit and never give up. That’s Bent Tree. Being in Kent State University’s backyard, they actually got on campus and are served as part of the university’s food program and are appearing in some higher end local grocery stores, on the menu at some local eateries, and in the recipes of other locally-owned startups like the hugely successful “Popped!” popcorn shop down the street. They roast their own beans, too, which you know as soon as you open your car door in the morning as that aroma fills the air. Inside, they have no “drip machines” or “coffee makers.” Every cup of joe in the morning is made via French Press. Highly labor intensive but as one of the owners told me a week ago, that’s the only way you truly taste every part of the coffee and can experience it.  Bring your own cup and chop 25 cents off making a tall cup of joe only a buck fifty. Seriously…can it get any better than this?! Supporting a local company, enjoying the BEST cup of coffee in Kent, and heck, just breathing in the aroma of roasting coffee beans in the morning is awesome. Here’s the roaster just inside their front door and a few 1lb bags of their beans. I highly recommend you check them out.

- Playing on the whole clean coffee concept, a friend forwarded this article to me from the Minimalist. I follow his page on Facebook and highly recommend the quick read. In a nutshell, the author is writing from a little coffee shop in Cincinnati where the shop owners have stripped away all of the clutter and “stuff” and focused simply on great coffee. The author once littered his joe with lots of cream and sweetener until the shop owner convinced him to forego the foreign additives so he could truly taste the coffee like the owner intended and so meticulously chose. Like wine, coffee takes on the characteristics of where it was grown, the climate, the soil it was nourished by, and other surroundings. What the author found was, after getting over the initial bitter taste, was a truly astounding cup of yumminess. He really could taste all of the characteristics as intended. Such is life, isn’t it? If we’d just strip away the junk…the stuff…the drama of the world and focus on what truly matters, we’d be so much happier. To truly live is to give, in my opinion. Giving…it’s that thing that while uncomfortable at first, returns its fruits in many ways and often intangible, priceless ones. So the next time you spend extra on your cup of joe or visit that special coffee shop, consider tasting it as it was intended and perhaps do the same in your life…free of all the junk additives the world throws at you.

- I had the pleasure of being at the promotion and reading of the Oath of a fellow Naval Officer this past Friday aboard the World War II submarine, USS Cod, which is berthed between the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and Burke Lakefront Airport. It was a simple ceremony with only a few of his close friends in attendance, his wife and two kids, and a few of his fellow shipmates (e.g.: me). He was a Lieutenant like me but on this day put on Lieutenant Commander, or for those of you who know Army, Air Force, and Marine ranks, it’s the same as a Major. It was a beautiful day and here, his little 6 year old girl took off his Lieutenant shoulder boards and replaced them with his Lieutenant Commander shoulder boards. (see below) Pretty awesome way to celebrate the day, wouldn’t you agree?! I look forward to doing something similar in a few years.

- I have never played 18 holes of golf. Heck, I’ve never played 9 but this past Saturday, the mens’ group at church had a golf outing and 8 men signed up. I teamed up with a now good friend and golfer for the past 10 years who shared his clubs with me, ironically made for someone 6’2”. I had a great time! The consensus was that I had a really natural swing but I still sank about 3 balls in the pond over those 18 holes. My favorite club, no doubt, was the 9 iron. I kept cranking line drives further than should’ve been possible with that selection. Great day, great fellowship and great sausage sandwiches at lunch! I even shot par on one hole. Mostly double-bogies, though. Here’s my favorite photo of the day and one that the guys got a great kick out of watching me take it…nearly on my stomach on the putting green being the picture-taking-geek I am.

- Just before the aforementioned golf outing, I went out for a run. 20 miles later, I still felt that all-out 5K race effort from Labor Day. Weary but strong, I maintained a smooth, steady pace sans walking and finished faster than when I began at a 9:03 pace. I was wearing my Garmin which I don’t normally wear because I was going every which way during the run with no plan. Seriously…I didn’t decide on the 20 miles until mile 17.5!  Each turn was decided on while I was out there and I just ran in silence. No podcasts or music. No plan. No interruptions. No running partner. The most shocking highlight of the run? Not one single picture snapped. True. :) With Sunday off, only 3.1 miles on Monday, and low miles the rest of the week, I still accumulated a decent 48.1 miles for the week. Quite happy with that.

- Speaking of running, it's less than 5 weeks until the Trilogy. Our 2nd sleeping bag arrived and a few other accessories are en route. We just need to set up camp in the backyard to make sure we have everything we need and we're good to go. I got the big, descriptive e-mail from the race director this week with all of the nitty-gritty details. They all seem extremely organized and excited all the same. They decided to go cup-less at this race and are instead giving folks a collapsable cup. Honestly, I have zero issues with that. I'll be carrying two 20oz bottles on my back and only ever need a cup if I'm going to down some Pepsi or Coke for a jolt. I may or may not take that cup along just for that. I'll decide when I see it. So, I'm pumped. Absolutely ready to tackle an event like none other I have done before. My biggest concern is not my ability to cover the distance. It's how I'll feel on Day #2 after running a mountain 50K the day prior...and staring down a 50 miler on those tired legs. Absolutely no doubt: the key to this is to BE SMART and TAKE IT EASY on Day #1. The goal is not to crush that 50K. The goal is to finish steady, strong, injury-free, and not physically destroyed. Gotta be smart. (I didn't mention one truly sane would do this...right?!)

- To close out today, I'd like to share the sunset outside my front door a few nights ago. Every time I see one of these, I think of 2011 when I was in Afghanistan. Why? Because we never had ANY color at all in the sky and most certainly not during sunrises or sunsets. Nothing glorious and beautiful like this. Just that makes me stare at our beautiful skies much longer than before. I like to say these kind of sunsets are God's "exclamation point" on the day. He is quite the artist, ya know. Enjoy!!!

Have a great week, everyone, and Run Happy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Race Report: Cleveland Oktoberfest 5K Bier Run

So it's been since I was a 20-something since I raced...seriously raced a 5K. Back in the late 90s, I'd head to downtown Norfolk, Virginia and do speedwork with the crowd from the only specialty running store in the area, Running Etc., and was introduced to speedwork sessions like "Yasso 800s," ladder runs, tempo runs, fartleks, etc. I ran all kinds of 5Ks, 10Ks, 1 mile races, etc. Those were the days when I knew no better...e.g. not a clue what ultra-running nor trail running was. :-) Jump ahead to my "year of the 40" and I run because I love it, enjoy it, and truly embody the commonly heard phrase "Run Happy." If I don't enjoy it, then I probably won't do it. However, curiosity and an invite from a good friend, Nicole, had me consider a Labor Day 5K. Back in the late 90s, I ran a 19:41 5K. That's somewhere around a 6min, 21sec average pace. That's my PR, I believe. (personal record) In this current day, I don't do those speed workouts anymore but instead just "run hard" time and again when I feel like it, charge a hill here and there and just have fun with it. But, I thought "heck, why not give a 5K a try and race it...just to get a good feel of where I am and then we'll call it quits." So the planning began: a 20min flat finish equates to 6:26 per mile. I can run the Navy's physical fitness test of 1.5 miles in under 9min so I know I can hold my own in the very short term but double that distance up on an unknown course...hmmm. Probably not. Those Navy efforts are ALL OUT. So I set my sights on that 20min finish. My plan: hit mile 1 within 5 seconds of 6:26 and if I do, hold that (while suffering) for the 2nd mile. If I could, I could just lay it all out there during mile 3 and get my sub-20 minute finish.

Race morning, it was super humid and cloudy. We made the 1 hour drive to the east of Cleveland to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds and met up with Nicole and her family. Great conversation and laughter filled the time until it was race time. I warmed up (so as not to hurt myself later) and was sweating profusely immediately. Yep...thick as mud. I don't breathe mud well. Luckily, it was chip-timed so the crowded "cattle start" wouldn't matter as long as I could break free after crossing the start. I made my way to near the front and was ready. The buzzer sounded and we were off. We immediately made a right turn out of the fairgrounds, I high-fived my 10-year-old and into the local community near Baldwin Wallace College we went. Lots and LOTS of turns on this course and one hill. That basically sums it up...and a bunch of runners who lack courtesy and have no problem running into you when the road is wide open. Luckily, I'm a big guy so it's like a Yugo running into a Mack truck for them. I stay the course, they bounce off. I ran the tangents on the turns like a good racer does and at Mile 1, I nailed it: 6min, 25sec. I was surprised! That hill was in Mile 1 so I was sure I was done right there but hills tend to be my strong suit so I was encouraged and empowered on. I was definitely not loving life at this point but I sucked it up and pushed to mile 2. (these are the longest miles known to man, by the way) As I crossed mile 2, I looked at my old Garmin and hit the split button: 6:45. UGH!!!! I seriously thought I had sped up and expected to see something like 6:20. Well, I knew now that only if I ran the 3rd mile in crazy fast time would I crack 20 minutes. Let me tell ya...that wasn't happening! I promised myself to leave it all out there and I was...lungburner, for sure. To try and distract myself from the longest mile in history, I actually broke out in song. Imagine an old-school version of Amazing Grace being sung by me...who cannot sing...outloud. Yea, that was my distraction. I figured "hey, why not add in a little worship while I'm out here?!", right?! That sorta-kinda helped and soon, we were approaching the fairgrounds again. I sure wasn't speeding up but was hanging in there the best I could. I was even telling runners around me "Great job!" but not a one returned the call. Hey, I'm a trail runner. We talk to each other. Well, I talk to them, in this case. They weren't trail runners.

Approaching the end, I knew I had to put on a good show. Heck, my little girls and wife were there with the camera ready. Gotta represent! I saw that digital clock moving and approaching the 21 minute mark and really tried to get under it. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough even for that. 21 minutes and 4 seconds! I ended up averaging 6:48 per mile. That last mile wasn't slow by any means but it sure wasn't as zippy as mile 1. I had nothing left and left it all out there. I turned the corner at the finish and hit the ground. That soft grass was all too inviting for me and I became one with it.

Regardless of the finish time, I felt good because I gave it all I had.

So there you have it, folks. My first 5K in over a decade and NO desire for another one anytime soon! I'd say my second success of the day was not injuring myself. Pushing one's self hard like that without the proper training can easily invite an injury. Post-race and the morning after, I was good to go. No issues...just felt the effort a bit in muscles not commonly used. :) It's all good. The final stats put me at:

  • 7th of 41 in the 40-44 age group
  • 53 of 815 total finishers
  • Top 6.5% percentile
Like the farmer tells Babe in the movie "Babe": "That'll do, Pig."

Here's a very short picture montage of photos at the finish. Go Team Red, White and Blue!

Yesterday, I took my girl, Bristol, out for a gentle, rolling 6 miles through the country. I was a bit beat down from the 5K effort but all in all, all systems were good! Bristol, on the other hand, suffered that last mile. My intent was 7 miles but I knew by the looks of her tongue hanging at Mile 3, it was best to cut the run a tad bit short.

So that's it, friends. Fun, yes. Last 5K for a very long while? Yes. Pretty happy and thankful for my finish...not too shabby for a long distance, slow, goofy-looking ultra-runner.

Run Happy, friends!

Monday, September 2, 2013

M-Cubed for 9.2.2013

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

- Happy Labor Day 2013! With the arrival of September, so marks the official end of Summer 2013. This year's summer was starkly different than 2012 but still great and as usual, seemed to go quicker than the last. Typically, I run a 5 mile race in Akron today (the Labor of Love Run) but am taking a break from it this year and instead, am going to try my luck at a 5K. I haven't run a 5K in many, many years but it's time to find out what I can do over the super-short 3.1 mile distance at the Cleveland Oktoberfest at Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. Race time: 11am with a chance of rain and temps in the mid-70s.

- Wide smattering of news bits this Labor Day. Thankfully, the Miley Cyrus headlines are nearly gone and instead are being replaced by news from the White House as our president seeks a congressional blessing to bomb Syria due to the use of chemical weapons against its own people. I posted a long post on Facebook back on August 30th to try and help folks think objectively about the whole situation over there from geography to politics to the religious history of the area. Then, I uncovered a most excellent summary of Syria and its history. I highly encourage you to read this so you can best understand Syria, its past, present, and future. Here's the link. So if you voted for and/or support our current president, do you agree with his recommendation to attack Syria? Before you answer that, read that article. You'll be much better informed afterwards.

- So far, ZERO miles for September! That's OK, though. I had to give my legs some rest yesterday so I can give today's 5K my all. Before that, though, I had a great trail run last Friday down on the Buckeye Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I hit the trail around Noon when it was humid and in the mid-80s. Yea, I was asking for punishment but it was worth it. SO much yellow on the trails right now and super dry conditions.

- Are you a Brooks Running fan? If so, don't snooze past their semi-annual blowout sale. With the introduction of September, they have marked down a ton of gear between 30-40% off. From shoes to apparel, the time is now to stock up. My wife's wish-list order just arrived on Saturday so we already had our "Christmas in August with Brooks". She has been doing so great lately so I was thrilled to place that order for her. Click here!

- Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share my life with my church family via what's known as a testimony. Not all know what that is but basically, it's when someone tells their story up until present day. My pastor told me to take about 10-15min but it ended up being 27 minutes long! I made an outline to keep myself on track and from what I've heard, it went well and I stayed on point. I'll say this: if you ever say to yourself after hearing someone's dramatic testimony "I wish I had a testimony to give" ... stand by! I once said that but after living through the past 2 years, I have one. I do hope at least someone who heard can be helped through what I said or encouraged to keep persevering and not give up. For your entertainment, here is one of six photos I put up on the screen. I'm guessing late 70's for this photo. "That boy" just looks happy, doesn't he?!

- There once was this tree...once. This tree, about 15 feet from our house was struck by lightning about a decade ago but lived on and still got its leaves every year so we let it be. However, over the past year, one side of it really began to rot and as it did, it made me scared that during a wind storm one day, it could come down. Being about 3 feet wide at its base and towering high above our home, we decided it needed to come down on our terms...instead of during a storm in whatever direction it wanted. It was threatening two homes. I posted the plea on Facebook for references for businesses to take it down and within the hour, men from my church rogered up and within a week, 5 men showed up last Wednesday to bring this big boy down. Today, all the wood is gone, the hundreds of hickory nuts are cleaned up (I paid my girls a buck a bucket to do it!) and nothing but a stump remains. I was blown away by the selfless giving up of these mens' evening to help us out and honestly, risk being part of a tree coming down in the wrong direction and destroying a house. It went perfectly and I couldn't ask for more!
Pieced-together anchor to coax it in the right direction

Dave who was our expert lumberjack
Success! One man's brother heats his home with a wood burner. Perfect!

Nightfall and success. Thanks, Men of Passion!
 - To wrap up today and if you have the time for a smile and a chuckle, here is something that'll give you both. I grew up playing piano, my youngest plays now, and I love just hearing the sound of this amazing instrument. Add in some comedy and its the perfect Monday wakeup call. Enjoy!

Have a great week, everyone, and Run Happy!