Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's Cold. It's Winter. And?

So here I sit...Tuesday afternoon around dinner time and local schools are already closing up shop for tomorrow. School today was closed yesterday afternoon due to the temperature and windchill. Truth be told, I was pretty amazed to see a "-11F" on my weather app when I woke up this morning at 5:30am. Without the wind, minus 11...now that's cold around here! As for precipitation, there hasn't been a flake. Actually, it's been sunny all day and got into the mid-single-digits. We hit the bottom as far as this arctic blast and tomorrow morning, it'll be single digits and rising into the teens and nothing but sunny skies...but schools are closing. Why, oh why?! We live in the north and not even the REAL north like Minnesota or Wisconsin. Even my girls' music lessons got canceled tonight. So we turn on the car, heat it up, put on our coats and go...right?! I just am growing quickly tired of this fear of the cold. Before I end my rant, let me say this: So the governor of Ohio is being asked to add calamity days to the current school year because schools are afraid they are going to run out and have to extend the school year by a few days. How about this?: Actually TEACH through the last day of school instead of treating the last week like a constant recess/party and you won't need any more days! Ok...anyways...

So on my last post Saturday morning, I was debating whether or not to head into the high winds, blowing snow, and total misery of a day for a few miles. I did head out and like just like every other run, I loved it...even got the best-ever selfie out of it! I shot this photo after covering a stretch where the snow was blowing horizontal at me and I pulled down my hat to cover my skin. Best ever, right?! I got in a cool 7 miles on Saturday afternoon and even got passed by a snowmobile...on the road. First time for that!

Have I mentioned that running outside in these temperatures are only crazy to those who are ill-prepared and/or ill-informed? There is running gear out there readily available to make it happen. A pair of SportHill pants that I have is designed solely for these kinds of temperatures. Are they pricey? Sure are...and these are at least 5 years old. They really are an investment that, if taken care of properly, will last you YEARS. I can't tell you the last time I bought winter running gear...well, except for the winter hat pictured above...and that wasn't even meant for running but it turns out to be the best winter running hat ever! Anyway, the gear exists and there is so much beauty to be seen in the winter months...and all months, for that matter. You just need to educate yourself on what to get, do some research, ask around, and get it.

So Sunday, it was a new running week and I saw a great sunrise about to happen so I headed out for a nice 10-miler on snow-packed roads before church and caught an awesome sunrise as a reward. Gorgeous run and calm air all the way.

Monday was a rest day and a forced one in a way. I had a one hour drive north into Cleveland very early on horrible roads. I was perfectly fine with skipping a run and shooting for a frozen run today.

Today, like I mentioned earlier, it was minus 11 when I woke up but a forecast of nothing but sun and temperatures rising into the mid-single-digits this afternoon. When it hit 6F with a windchill of minus 6, I took a break from work and hit the road. If I could change anything about today's run, I would've worn my balaclava...my face did get very cold. Other than that, it was beautiful. I love how the landscape over the farmland looks with lots of snow that has been shaped by high winds and very cold temperatures. Super smooth and shimmery in the sun. Of course, I did capture a few photos along the way.

Love this shot...love me my iPhone timer app!
So yea...it's cold. To be blunt...get over it! I'm not being insensitive to close without a home or a warm home, for that matter. I'm talking about the excessive closing of schools, businesses, etc. all due to temperature. It's cold. It's winter. And?

Run Happy, friends...seriously, GET OUT THERE! :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Seriously...I'm Human...

...with a dash of crazy thrown in for good measure. I get called "crazy"..."nuts"..."out of my mind"...all the time. That photo I posted earlier this week with the frozen hat and eyelashes really got some folks..."You did what?!" Fellow Navy officers in my office who kayak, bike, and are pretty darn fit even look at me in dismay. Introduce Mr. Weather this week...just craziness. Give me any day at 0 degrees and no wind and I'm in. Throw in wind and bottom line...it offends me! HA! I just can't enjoy that garbage...and I'm not running on a (d)readmill. Sorry, folks...yep, I'm a treadmill-hater. Yes, there can be value in that machine but it's just not for me. I haven't step foot on a treadmill since Summer 2011 in Afghanistan...I plan on maintaining my streak!

So it's Saturday and the last day of my run-week. 6 days in...2 days running and 19 miles. YIKES! You'd think I was tapering for a race but I'm not. I have either 1) woke up in a bad funk with zero desire to take another breath, much less run or 2) the weather has been just plain uncooperative. Most of you know it's gotta be bad to keep me in. The day isn't over yet, though...if I do run, it'll be donning my sheet-metal-screwed Brooks Cascadias. I'll report back if that happens.

Still, even with a super light week, I'm sitting at 163.2 miles for January. Even though arctic air is coming back AGAIN next week, I'm going to get my 200 miles for January. I don't have the goal of 200 a month for 2014, but I do like that monthly number. If I can be somewhere in that zip code of 200 each month and injury free, my Navy uniforms should continue to fit nicely...and they've been fitting better than ever lately. :) Next race isn't even until mid-March...so it's just running for the joy of running these days. I do need some long, long training runs in there, though. That next race is 100 kilometers...the longest of the year.

So for today as every school activity and college class is scrapped in NE Ohio, we're dug in at home. We may have made the mistake last night by starting to watch "Breaking Bad" on Netflix. I've heard all kinds of raving about that series but had never seen it as I don't have HBO. Well...5 seasons are on Netflix. We watched two episodes...hmmm, I can see how people got hooked. My primary hook right now, though, is "The Blacklist." Haven't missed one yet! So stay warm, friends...and find someone to snuggle up with and stay warm. Bristol is doing that for me today. ;)

Heads up, friends...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Zero with Karen

3:30am....alarm blazing....my wife: "Is it really time?" Yes. She dug back in and I donned my morning sweats and comfy Brooks hoodie. Time to make the espresso...

Spring ahead to 4:40am...see right >>> yea.. zero degrees. BUT, the silver lining here is the wind speed: "Calm." Zero degrees is one thing but zero degrees with wind is quite another. Out the back window was a crispy, illuminated backyard meaning to me that it's clear, Mr. Moon is waiting, and the stars fills the sky. Sold.

The key here is to dress correctly. Luckily, I have a pair of running pants designed for this. They are a pair of Sporthill pants that are 4 to 6 years old. Perfect. The top has to be next to skin with a top layer to break any breeze at all and to capture heat being wicked off by the base layer. For the hands...no different...my trusty gloves. Up top? My not-a-running hat that I picked up over Christmas time from my favorite local coffee shop in Kent...Bent Tree Coffee Roasters. It's a non-cotton hat that fits my big head just fine and does a most excellent job wicking away the heat from my cranium. After all, the two top spots our bodies get rid of heat are our palms and head. As a matter of fact, if you're ever on a winter run and getting a bit toasty, peel back your gloves to expose your palms. You'll lower your overall body temp and cool down a bit. Call it your body temperature throttle. Works like a charm. Along with the hat, a balaclava to cover as much skin as possible. The only skin left is around my eyes and my exhaust (aka: breath) will keep that warm as it escapes upward. The last key to success sub-sub-freezing it to keep moving. Any picture-taking had better be swift as your furnace (inner body) remaining hot and churning out the calories is the key to your technical gear/fabric keeping your comfy. Otherwise, you're going to suffer.

On the run, it was super peaceful. Stars, the moon, bone-dry road, and a smattering of cars that I would've paid to hear the comments/thoughts as they passed me in my light-up-the-morning jacket. Once again...so glad I didn't stay home. This was another morning I HAD to get out there...alone. Some have other vices: smoking, drinking, Zumba, weights, CrossFit, porn, drugs, reading, shopping, promiscuity, eating, sleeping, and the list goes on. When life comes knocking like a lion, we're going to respond somehow. For me...it's the open road. A fellow Brooks athlete recently made the reference to "junk miles" on a post I read not too long ago. Maybe some believe in that term...I do not. No mile is junk or a waste to me. Sure...running is allowing me to continue losing weight and fit in my Navy uniform like never before, but I rarely run for that. It's simply a pleasant side-effect. Often, it's to pray...to think...to worship sometimes...to listen to the birds sing...to just adore the world I get to run in. I guess if and when I get injured, I'm going to have to switch to Plan B. What's Plan B? I guess I'll figure that out when I get there...not a clue. I'm typically a planner but I'm not planning for "when" I get hurt.

So back to the title of today's post. I really wanted to get back to see my daughter off to school so my 10mi loop was out of the question. I thought I could squeeze in "Karen's 8.2," though. Karen is a friend that once came over one very early morning and ran this 8.2 mile loop with me so it's been called that ever since. So zero degrees with Karen it was. I couldn't believe some of the normal dogs were out today on that route. Zero degrees...I hope they were just let out and weren't out all night. Hilly, my shadow cast on the road before me, and freezing eyelashes. Imagine looking through bubble glass. That's what I saw when I came upon a light post or some other manmade light. Icicles were forming on my eyelashes and reaching downward. From time to time, I wiped them off and sorry for being gross, but that would best be described as scraping a chunky booger off of my eyes. Not boogers, of course....chunks of ice...but that's what it felt like! (or what I'd imagine a chunky booger, of course!)

As I reached the bottom of my road...1/3 of a mile from my home, my Runners-OCD set in again. I glanced at the time and realized I had time to even out Karen's 8.2. If I ran up the hill and back, I'd have an addition 0.8 miles and therefore an even 9 for the day. So instead of Zero with Karen, I got Nick's OCD 9. The only thing that really started getting cold was in front of my throat. My balaclava was capturing moisture running down and because the balaclava isn't next to skin, it froze and began accumulating ice. Had I been going 15 or more miles, I think I may have ended up pulling the whole thing off. So...how ya like my "snow?" Isn't that amazing? That's purely from the heat leaving my big 'ol head and coming in contact with the zero degree air. Chunky white frost. Pretty cool...literally.

Have a great Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, January 20, 2014

M-Cubed for 1.20.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for January Twentieth, Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning (or afternoon, in this week's case).

- Happy Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Yes, that would be his proper title and on this day, I'd like to share just this one quote: "The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'" Imagine if we lived life not worrying about ourselves and instead, flipped that and looked for ways to bless, help, encourage, and pray for others?

- Saturday marked the end of my running calendar week. Wowsers...kinda got away from me last week. I only took the first day of the week off (Sunday) and wrapped the week with 61 solid miles. The final 3 days were 10, 10, and 20. My girls were having an afternoon shopping day on Saturday and sitting around in the house my myself simply wasn't exciting to me so I went running. Plus, many across the nation were running for Meg. Meg was running a week ago and was killed on her morning run by a drunk driver. So if you see #megsmiles in your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook feed, that's why. Yesterday, however, was a day of rest...gotta rest to get stronger and stay injury-free.

- Ever get "gruffed" at by a donkey? Yea...me, neither until Saturday on my 20. I was running along one of many country roads and came upon this donkey. Of course, I figured a photo was in order and he or she didn't agree and made that sound...not happy with my presence. Anyway, I'm not up on my donkey-knowledge so if you know the proper term for this, let me know!

- Lots of changes on my blog layout recently. I've been trying out new things and trying to make it simpler and easy to find things. The biggest change is the removal of almost everything on the sidebar and putting many sought after items under the menu buttons at the top. With literally years of race reports on here, now, they are now under one easy header. My running log button links directly into my Running2Win log that I use to log my miles and track the mileage on my shoes. Free website and the app is a buck or two. It has a lot of other bells and whistles but I don't use them. Log for my body and shoes...nothing more. Other common requests like the 7 Baby Steps about getting out of debt (Dave Ramsey) and my deployment journal are also up there in the Helpful Links tab. The header is new again, too. I found the PicMonkey website and love it! You can do all kinds of cool photo things for free, like collages. For your Facebook account, they even have a format that's designed to fit your Timeline photo perfectly. All free. They do have paid features but there are plenty of freebies to use without spending a dime.

- "Every morning is another nail in the coffin of yesterday. Live today intentionally and without regret." (just a musing I came up with late last week...thought it might encourage you today)

- Last Thursday and Friday were PERFECT mornings. Both mornings, it was hovering around 30F, an ever-so-slight breeze, and mostly clear skies with a full Mr. Moon illuminating the sky. It is amazing how as I run into the country and leave all man-made light behind me, my pupils dilate and Mr. Moon makes everything fully illuminated. Rolling landscape, frost on the harvested corn and soybean fields, puffs of smoke rising from chimneys while people sleep, and the occasional horse or cow standing in a pasture. Perfectly awesome.

- Yesterday around mile 17, I came upon this stop sign. Being that I just began a year of sponsorship with Hammer Nutrition and was wearing my Hammer hat, I had to stop for a quick "Hammer Selfie." Hammer Time! :)

- A friend posted this article on "What do Ultra Marathons do to our bodies?" and I found it really interesting. I'll admit, though...I was a bit scared to open it up. Kinda like slowly peering around the corner of the article and looking in...hoping I'd NOT see something telling me to end it all. Quite the opposite, actually! Here's the brief article for your reading pleasure.

- Have a young kid? By young, I mean in K-12. We watched, as a family, a movie called "Cyberbully" a few nights ago on Netflix. Fair warning...a few foul words but priceless as far as the life-lesson goes. Afterwards, I asked my oldest what she learned. Her reply?: "I understand why I can't have an Instagram account, text, or have a Facebook account." Mission accomplished. We've gotta have these conversations with our kids, folks...if we don't, society will and that story doesn't have a happy ending.

- To wrap up, here are just a few miscellaneous photos from my 20 miler on Saturday. Got chickens?!

Running across Congress Lake. Lots of swans are in the distance and bald eagles have recently been seen in that small island in the center distance.
Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Less is So Much More

It won't be long and I'll reach yet another year on this earth...41 years just around the corner. I'm a much different person these days as compared to just a few years ago, 15 years ago, and from my youth as I'm sure you are as well. You may or may not have noticed in the past year or two, there has been a lot of talk of "minimalism" in social media and in the news. My family has been on such a journey as well and today, I'd like to tell our story...and I'll "try" to keep it brief. :)

Gluttony is defined as "the act or practice of eating to excess." While today isn't about eating (although it could be), the parallel is relevant. We in America are known for not only eating to excess but buying, owning, and hoarding to excess. We are a society of get more, get it now, and don't stop. It often doesn't matter if we need it, it's if we "want" it. Truthfully, many of us don't even connect with "need" like the majority of the world does. We're all about "immediate gratification" and if we can't afford it, we borrow to buy it. (e.g. swipe a credit card to hopefully pay for later)

We were like that at one point as a family. Through the 1990s, we were young, sans kids, and living the life alone and near the beach. We were "good" Christian folks, went to church regularly, but very much lived for ourselves, occasionally each other, and when we wanted something, we bought it. Period. I'd say we thought we turned the corner in the 2000s...the post-9/11 time period. Kids began appearing in our lives, we rebounded from a tough time, moved, built a house (or two) and became hunter/gatherers once more. This time, it was about filling a house, always driving a new car, and seeing how much more money we could make. Still good people, in church on Sunday, me deciding to serve my country again, and feeling pretty good about family, finances, and our overall "spot" on this journey of life together. Then came deployment to war and returning home...with a reality check. No doubt, that was a tough time and a time at the bottom (yea, I found the bottom) of life as I knew it. It was absolutely the "fork in the road" in my life on this earth. That decision would define the rest of my life quite literally in every way. It spilled into every facet of my life to include my running (when, where, how far, with whom, and why), work, service, and my role as husband and father. We also, practically overnight, fell out of love...with stuff. It just.didn't.matter any longer. Since then, we've been selling, donating, and examining every purchase with a magnifying glass. Why do we want it? Is the feeling temporal? Do we need it? DO WE NEED IT?

Remember, we're a gluttonous society filled with the DNA to gather and consume as fast as possible. The technological world has only encouraged it and the outright assault by companies who sell what we don't even realize we "need" expertly infuse our lives with "gotta have it now" thoughts. It's almost like they have the ability to take the needle of "gotta have" and inject it into our bloodstream. Social media doesn't help as we look at others' lives and our perception of "them" which is almost always skewed from reality and desire what they have...and often, drop what we're doing and go buy it...or charge it...whatever. If you're in this mode, I encourage you to just stop. STOP. "But it's 75% off...I just can't pass it up." YES.YOU.CAN!!!

We have hit every corner of our house. My wife really has led the way. She has filled bags and bags of clothes, loaded boxes of little-used "tupperware" kinds of things from the cupboards, and the garage sale pile in our basement is at an all-time high (quite literally) right now. We have poured over bookshelves and taken those books to the used book store in Kent to sell, I've sold a used camcorder to Amazon.com's trade-in program (yes, you can do that!), I've sold power tools never used on Craigslist, a heavy bag, a workout bench (a very nice one!), and I've donated no less than 20 pairs of running shoes to organizations that'll give them a second life. Then there are the toys...oh my. All of those pieces/parts to those items our kids have gathered over the years through Christmas and birthdays. So much CRAP! Often, we'll just send them on down to the basement and ask them to add more to the garage sale pile...and they're really getting it! They are now able to look at toys (and clothes) and do the mental self-check. "Do I need this? Do I really even want it?" They have even been known to empty half of their closet out and bag clothes up for donation...without being told or asked to do so!

So how do you start? That's actually the key to it all. You HAVE to be intentional. Set apart some time and focus on ONE spot. For almost all of us, we could start in our closet. Taking that a step further, we should start with just one corner of the closet...or one shelf, right?! You can't start (unless you have all day) with the entire closet. You don't want to set yourself up for failure. Start small and go get some of those plastic grocery bags and take them with you. You're about to fill them up. When you look at things, ask yourself when the last time was you wore it. For some, you may have lost weight and you're holding onto things "just in case" you put the weight back on. Really? REALLY?! Stop mentally defeating yourself and GET RID OF IT! Someone else could use it...really! Shoes, sweaters, socks, etc., etc., etc. We could also talk about desk areas, garage walls, basement corners, boxes in storage that haven't been opened in YEARS. The way I see it, I want it to be EASY when it comes time to move...because we WILL move...eventually. I can honestly tell you today that I struggle with finding more to get rid of...but I'm sure I can do more.

Ever seen a hearse driving down the road in the processional towards the cemetery but towing a U-Haul trailer behind it? No? So why do we all think we just "gotta have" it all? We're not taking it with us, ya know. When we leave this earth, we leave all of this stuff behind for our families to deal with. Talk about selfish! So we gather for years only to let someone else sift through it all. How about this...how about we minimize today, ease the burden for later, and focus instead on loving others, creating memories, and leaving a legacy by impacting the world around us?

People will not remember you for the car you drove or what you had, they'll remember you for the person you were.

Today, we're in a much different spot in our lives. We're not saying we "know it all" or "have nothing left to learn." Quite the opposite, actually. We have much more to learn. However, we live far more intentionally today than ever before. We live every day as though it just might be our last. We insist on finding ways to laugh and experience life together as a couple and as a family. We realize that stuff just clogs the arteries of our life. It's not bad to like nice things...but when they are an idol in your life and suffocate you (and those you leave behind later), they need to leave your life. In a world that says CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME, I encourage you NOT be of the world...instead, choose to LIVE more and consume less...and pass on your stuff to those who really need it.

Becoming Minimalist
becoming minimalist Facebook page
Declutter Your Closet with the Project 333 Experiment

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Find Financial Peace

Back on Christmas 2009, my wife pulled me aside and nearly put me in strangle hold over our finances...figuratively, of course. In 17 years of marriage, we never had a budget, accrued plenty of debt yet I worked for a big insurance company, gave people financial advice, sold insurance, and held a Series 7 stockbroker license! Oh yea, I had my MBA, too. All of that...yet no budget. Our money told us where it was going and not the other way around. A source of seemingly never-ending stress with no end in sight is what "MONEY" represented. Then it all changed. We both read "Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover" and wrote our first budget. In October 2011, I was in Afghanistan, she was in Ohio, and "Uncle" Dave Ramsey was on a book tour in Texas and we did a 3-way call LIVE on the air and screamed "WE'RE DEBT FREE!!!!!" (that's the prize that most people look forward to doing when they reach the end of Baby Step 2) Back a few years ago, I wrote about the 7 Baby Steps in my own lingo to explain how all of this works and that post is one of my most-ever viewed posts. Most recently, a couple read it and called me. After spending 6 hours in their home last month with them, they have done a 180 degree turn and are charging ahead full steam ahead on a path of Financial Freedom. You can, too! Here's that post.

Since then, we've had some setbacks for sure, but we're still plugging along. Part of moving forward is helping others and we're leading our first Financial Peace University class, starting on April 3rd for 9 weeks. I just opened registration today so if you're interested, you can REGISTER HERE. We will be holding the class right in my home town at the Town Hall.

Stop debating it, stop putting it off, and start taking control. The HARDEST part is deciding to do it. Either live shackled by your debt and indecisions about money or live financially free, kill the debt, and give more than ever before. Yea...GIVE. That's a huge part of it and the intangible feeling of that is incredible.

Suggested social media links to follow:

Dave Ramsey
Financial Peace University
The Dave Ramsey Show

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Recipe: Homemade Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Treats

About a year ago, we began making our own dog treats for our rescue dog we adopted in November 2012. After a year of making them and another batch tonight, I thought I'd share it with you. For a batch, we're estimating that one batch costs less than a dollar. Be careful, though, you may just eat them yourself after you smell them baking in the oven!

2 cups whole wheat flour or white flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cup hot water
Optional: 1 egg to brush treats at end

Mix up dry ingredients (oats and flour) then mix in peanut butter and hot water. If too sticky, add flour. Mix until thoroughly blended through. After choosing your "shape method" below, bake at 350F for 40min.

Options for Shaping
(1) You can roll out into a 1/4" thick sheet and use forms to make different shapes.
(2) You can pinch off a little bit and made balls of dough then smoosh them twice with a fork (with some flour on it so it doesn't stick). See photo down below.
(3) Most recently, though, we skipped the nice little cookie shape and instead rolled the ball of flour out on two stones and baked...just like that. After they come out of the oven, we slice them up in the small squares. We have found this to be the fastest method and the one that yields the greatest number of treats.

Once cool, store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Our baby girl, Bristol, loves these. When she goes in her house (her crate) when we leave, we've began putting one with some peanut butter in her Kong chew toy. She loves it!

Most likely, you'll have to add some more flour in so it's not so sticky. We do every time.

The cookie method of shaping. Much more labor intensive and yields less than rolling out a sheet.
Not too thick...about 1/8" thick. Your goal is to get as many treats as you can. NOTE: the thinner it is, the faster it bakes. You may not need the whole 40 minutes.

Tonight's result. A pile of irregular snacks for Bristol in under an hour and a buck.

Source: we found this recipe originally here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Keep Running the Race

Recovery week a wrap! So Thursday, we had a windchill in the minus thirties and I knocked out a slow and comfy 18 miles today in 51F and under cloudy skies. Do the math...that's a plus 80 degree swing in 4 days. Anyway, I don't have much to share tonight except to say it was a day where I needed more time out there vs. the miles. Time alone simply to process some things in my life where a 6 miler simply wouldn't have been enough. So, I ran until I was good...and that just happened to be 18 miles. Mid run, I walked for about a 1/2 mile to jot this down...just kinda dropped into my head and it helps keep me on the straight and narrow without mentally going down a rabbit hole and swinging a wrecking ball on myself and those I hold nearest to me. Who knows...maybe it'll help you, too.

Hang in there, friends...one foot in front of the other. Keep your head up!

Friday, January 10, 2014


It's been a great recovery week from last week's 50K. No issues of any kind post-race, a proper recovery, and in the social media world, my Twitter and Instagram accounts have blown up with new subscribers. I'm not entirely sure why but they are. (handles are RTRSBM for both)

I've actually been going a bit stir crazy over the last 48 hours with regards to not getting out there. Yesterday's schedule provided no time to run...just impossible. It still was a great day that began in Cleveland at a meeting for the Cleveland National Air Show where the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will perform one of their 34 shows this year. I was there representing Navy Recruiting in Ohio...partially a goal of why flight demonstration teams even exist...to recruit the finest enlisted sailors and officers into the Navy! Well little did I know until I walked in the room, Blue Angel #7 and two Blue Angel pilots were there to brief all the powers-that-be regarding the air show this Labor Day weekend. Yea...the actual Blue Angel Hornet was just outside the window! Afterwards, I chatted a bit with them, shook hands, and went on with my day...and they flew to Virginia Beach. :) Rough job, eh?!

So 10/10/10: Today's the 10th of January, I was on a slow, leisurely 10 miler on my favorite route on a balmy 34F morning, and while out there, I thought "Hey...why not try and capture 10 photos of the run?" It was still a bit before dawn so some are quite grainy but you'll get the 'picture.'

These German Shepherds greet me on every 10 miler. They bark and run mad along their invisible fence. I say "Hello" and run along.

Just past the German Shepherds this morning at the front of someone's driveway. Flash used...still dark.

"One gigantic snowball sandwich, please!"

 Easily the most photographed spot on my route. Love it all times of the year.
Sign of a successful corn harvest. The farmer who farms this land sometime uses his beautiful horses pulling a plow. Great man. If you've seen my Instagram profile photo, this is the same cornfield I'm standing in front of. (Instagram handle: RTRSBM)
Just an address sign, I know. But, I take the owner's paper to her every day I run by. Some 30+ years ago, she taught me Bible verses at my church and did her best to lead me. Today, she's widowed and I like to wave hello as I pass, take her the newspaper, and simply, just keep an eye on her. She's a great lady and someone I really respect.
 We call her "Big Oak." It's the 1-mile marker from our doorstep. Honestly, not even sure if it's an oak tree but that's her name!
 Beyond this grass is a field farmed by my wife's uncle. It's a soybean field. We were actually running together the day he and my wife's cousins were out there harvesting it last fall.
 This is looking under some evergreens over a pond. Silent today but through the summer, I'll hear cats scratching up these trees and bullfrogs making a ruckus as I run by. Cool little ecosystem in there.
Wide shot which represents much of my normal running landscape...rolling farmland. Very clear these days but soon, the crops will rise again.

Have a great weekend, friends!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Review: Hammer Nutrition's Hammer Gel: Peanut Butter

When I hit the trail for last Saturday's Frozen Sasquatch 50K, I did so armed with a few Hammer Gels for fueling. While I just became sponsored four days prior to the race, I've been using Hammer Nutrition's fueling and recovery products for years. A few weeks ago, they sent me a few sample Hammer Gels in a flavor I hadn't had before: Peanut Butter.

Hammer Nutrition is big on science and often, they talk in a language that makes my head spin. You can read a great writeup on Hammer Gels, if you're interested, right here. They really go into the natural ingredients, sodium levels (and why), and the whole "ose" issue with fuels on the market. I highly recommend the article. For me, I love that all the "crud" (saying it nicely) isn't present in Hammer's products. The high fructose corn syrup, high levels of sugars, unnatural ingredients...they just aren't there. Take Heed for example, their electrolyte-replacement drink (that competes with Gatorade). It's extremely bland if you drink it while used to nothing but sugar-packed drinks like PowerAde and Gatorade. Once used to it, it's fine. In fact, nearly all ultra marathons in my neck of the woods supply Heed during the events and maybe Gatorade. I'll never forget sampling my first Heed...I thought it was similar to the mouthwash they give you at the dentist! That was years ago and taste has certainly evolved and gotten better. I'm personally fond of the strawberry. Anyway, the point is that in Heed and in Hammer Gel, you/we get natural ingredients. We also, thanks to not getting overloaded with sugar, don't get the big sugar rush and following crash. We get more of a sustained release which in endurance events, is key both physically and mentally.

I do love myself a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Crunchy is my preference. I won't lie, though. I was skeptical about a peanut butter-flavored Hammer Gel and especially trying it for the first time during a race (a common no-no is to try new things on race day). My normal routine during an ultra is to take the Hammer Gel and fold it up in my palm about a mile before I want to take it. The palm is a huge emitter of body heat and on days like Saturday (9 degrees at the start), it's still possible to warm the gel. I much prefer any flavor Hammer Gel heated just slightly. They go down so much easier and with flavors like Apple Cinnamon, it really enhances the flavor. So about 8 miles into Saturday's race, I folded up my peanut butter Hammer Gel and warmed it up and then took it about a mile later. LOVED it! I will say that if you love peanut butter, you'll have no issues with this. It truly tastes like peanut butter. Given that a common staple during ultra marathon events are peanut butter and jelly squares at aid stations, I think Hammer Nutrition inclusion of this flavor is wise and speaks to the athlete and something that has already been accepted over the years. The small amount of heat I provided made it all the smoother, too, and while I still washed it down with some Heed, it really wasn't needed. It was that smooth and easy to swallow.

I also enjoyed Apple Cinnamon and Espresso flavors on Saturday...both great, as well. But, I had never even heard of the peanut butter flavor until a week ago and was pleasantly surprised. For someone who loves the American staple of PB&J, this hit the mark big time.

For your reference, here is the Hammer Gel nutrition label. All Hammer Gels can be viewed here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

M-Cubed for 1.6.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for January Sixth, Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning (or afternoon, in this week's case).

- Holy smokes, it's cold! It's snowing! It's...northeast Ohio in the snow belt! Deep breaths, folks...all we be oooooooo-k. Still, my kids aren't complaining. They scrapped the first two days of school this week before the week even began.

- Recovery Run #2 post-50K went well today. Back home on my country hills, I ventured out, being called crazy as I went, and enjoyed it immensely. It was 11F with a minus 8 windchill and winds gusting to 20mph. I was looking at the forecast of the high tomorrow around zero and windchill down in the minus 20 to minus 30 range and let common sense in...tomorrow I won't run. So, I opted to enjoy the "balmy" minus 8 today and get out there. Glad I did! I got in a hilly 7 and even soaked a bit in the whirlpool afterwards. I'm feeling goooood.

- I was asked on Saturday and I gladly accepted the offer to be interviewed by Trail Runner magazine. They are doing a story this year on the Highlands Sky Trail Run. I hope it really happens and I represent myself and the race well. Pretty honored to be asked.

- Those who know us pretty well know that we've been getting rid of stuff as fast as we can. From the clothes in the closet to a heavy bag in the basement to a weight bench to toys to Christmas decorations to books and the list goes on. I even found out about Amazon.com's trade-in program where they'll take books and electronics and credit your account. Lately, I'm having trouble finding more to get rid of and we're very much ready for the Spring garage sale....BIG 'ol garage sale pile in the basement. Our push towards minimalism has in part been egged on by "The Minimalists." For the most part, I read their Facebook feed and my wife reads some of their blog posts. This year, they are heading out on a FREE tour and stopping in Cleveland on July 7th so we're going. They'll be at the Barking Spider, if you've heard of it. You can read all about the event and reserve your free ticket HERE.

- Throughout my 50K on Saturday, I felt little cuts on the inside of my calves. My socks were 1/4 socks and I was wearing shorts and my Brooks Cascadias were scraping them. The trail was frozen, the Cascadia's tread is pretty distinct and pretty sharp on the edges...well, as sharp as rubber can be when it's below zero, and given the very varied terrain, I kept on scraping them. I didn't think much of it until my little soak today when I looked down. You'd think I was some freaky cutter by the looks of these! No wonder it's been burning!

- Last night, it was just my girls and me and we were looking through Netflix for a good family flick to watch. We found "Johnny." It's from 2010 and about a young boy with leukemia with no family, full of joy, and on a mission. The doctor caring from him is on the other side. His family is recovering from the tragic loss of their son a few years ago. That's enough to tease the movie...now, I just recommend watching it if you're looking for a good, wholesome movie with a great message.

- Gluttony: The Socially Acceptable Sin. (Reference Article here): I highly recommend this article, regardless of your belief structure. Gluttony...in it's simplest form, is the "soul's addiction to excess." Doesn't this sum up America? Look around... Look at the season we just exited. Thanksgiving to Christmas shines the light perfectly on this. So tell me...when is the last time you saw a hearse cruising on down to the cemetery towing a U-Haul? No? No. So why such an addiction with accumulating? NO purchase will ever bring you the amount of joy you think it will. You may have a temporary high but not joy. When you get down to the paragraph talking about the strange "side effect"...that's us. Bingo. So give it a read...maybe make some changes...at least consider it.

- And to end today...a photo bomb of a snow man. Oh yea...oh Mr. Frosty was roadside on my blustery 7 this morning and I just had to stop and snap a pic. You see? You can have joy and smile while running in subzero temperatures....REALLY! :)

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Post-Sasquatch Musings

Dust has settled, I've refueled (more than once), and I've had some time to process yesterday. (Race Report HERE if you haven't yet read it.) In the meantime, official results have been posted...I'll get to that in a minute. In easy to follow bullet format, if I may:

  • I don't follow any training plan, pretty much never stretch, and never set foot in a gym. Running does not define me. I love to run...true...but it's not even in the top 3 of most-important things in my life. I don't really have hobbies, I don't like to read, I don't play video games, and I like to eat. So, it all works out...right?!
  • Without a training plan, I simply run for the pure joy of it. This makes many scratch their heads: "So you run with no music? For hours? How boring! I "hate" running! What do you think about?" So in that joy, I tend to never shutter at the weather outside, I wear the right gear to protect myself, and I'm very tuned into my body...AND I LISTEN TO IT! That's my secret to injury-free running and days like yesterday. Looking for a silver bullet? That's it for me.
  • One thing I didn't include in my race report was this...omitted really to keep things positive. BUT, I was quite disappointed in those who littered the trail. On my 2nd 25K loop, I really was sickened at the amount of candy wrappers, gel pack tops, paper cups, and other miscellaneous items. I have to assume it was mostly newbies running their first trail race and perhaps are accustomed to the road marathon mentality of "throw your crap on the ground and let the volunteers pick it up." Well, folks...this is a state forest...we're guests...we should leave nothing but footprints and a big 'ol "Thank you!" Not much more. Most running attire has pockets and other compartments with zippers. Also, many carry water bottles that have pockets, etc. on them. There is NO excuse for even a gel packet top to hit that trail. We must be responsible and if you must...STOP, consume, store your gear, then proceed down the trail. OK...rant over.
  • Last night, we really enjoyed this locally started franchise called Pies and Pints. Their slogan is "Craft Pizza and Beer." The wait was long but so worth it. We enjoyed a Smoked Gouda and Chicken gourmet pizza. Thin crust, all homemade, and phenomenal ingredients. It just may be the best pizza I have ever had. The great news is that they are opening a new one in Short North in Columbus, Ohio...which I happen to frequent. If you ever get near one, I highly recommend. They have a great, but small, craft beer selection, too.
  • After getting up a few times overnight to chug water and use the bathroom, I slept well and just a tad bit achy until I got moving this morning. I felt plenty good enough to hit the road for a recovery run. I headed out after looking at Google Maps to find a residential area near me and headed that direction. No elevation map on that image but soon I found hills that don't exist around home. I ran them all and did everything I could to squeeze that lactic acid right out of my quads. Knees were a bit sore from yesterday but all-in-all, I felt fantastic. Great 5 miles at sunrise...even saw a deer with a couple of antlers.

So the results...yea...I was a bit floored as the update came as I ran this morning. There were 65 finishers yesterday for the 50K...don't know how many started. Out of those 65, I was 15th overall! If you know me, I almost always a middle-of-the-pack to back-half finisher. Then, the age groups were overly simplified. 40 and over and 39 and below. I'm 40 so in the Male 40 and Over group, there were  24 of us...and I was THIRD! Even better, only 9 minutes separated me and 1st place in the group. Collectively, we were 13th, 14th, and 15th overall. So am I happy? Humbled and thankful is how I'd describe my feelings. I really am. As I ran the last two miles yesterday, I recalled how blessed I am for the ability to run, remain injury free, and just for everything surrounding me...then began quietly singing "Amazing Grace". It's a timeless hymn and just brings me peace, especially while pounding the trail en route to the finish. It focused my thoughts, took my mind upward, and served a reminder that it's not about me...it never has been. I run because He has blessed me with that ability. I don't ever want to forget that. Just "running the race set before me" with endurance, perseverance, and a love/yearning for what's next...whatever that may be.

Run Happy, friends...and stay warm out there.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Race Report: Frozen Sasquatch 50K

This 50K marks my 3rd entry into the world of the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners (WVMTR). I first ran the Highlands Sky 40 Miler last Father's Day weekend then the Trilogy last October. True to form and reputation, the Frozen Sasquatch 50K did not disappoint. (and I did register for my 2nd Highlands Sky just 3 days ago, too.) :)

We have, as a family, become big fans of short trips within 5 or so hours from home for a race. We still vacation, etc., but I simply don't like leaving home for the weekend alone. In some way, we try to make it a family event. Our kids love the pool at hotels, my wife loves to relax poolside and read, and well...I love to run...for hours. This trip was about 3 hours so we came down Friday night with enough time to drive to the start and familiarize ourselves with the logistics of race morning. We even had the pleasure of having dinner with Jamie Summerlin, the Marine who ran across America in 2012 in 100 days. He founded the Operation Welcome Home non-profit in Morgantown, WV and continues to run and raise money for returning warriors. Joining us, too, were good friends of his (mentioned in his book, too..."Freedom Run") Aaron and Sandy Yocum. It was a great night, great fellowship, and great carbs at Olive Garden.

So race morning...check out this weather. 9F and forecasted to rise to 48F. Now how exactly do you dress for that?! However you slice and dice it, you're going to be underdressed early or overdressed late. I decided, after much deliberation, to suffer with shorts, wear a Hammer Nutrition tech tee as a base layer, then my old trusty 5+ year old Mizuno Breathe-Thermo top along with gloves and a headband. My plan was to shed all but the shorts and tech tee after the 25K loop. While uncomfortable at the beginning and first many miles, I was always OK and wouldn't have done anything different.  It was perfect and the temperatures rose as expected with nothing but sun. 41F at my finish time.

The Frozen Sasquatch 50K is held just south of Charleston, WV....the state capital. Many of you have seen the gold dome on the capital if you've every driven I-77 through West Virginia. We stayed in a Hampton Inn south of downtown and only 20min from the start in Kanawha State Forest. Comparing this 50K to the other WVMTR events I've done, it's nothing like them as far as difficulty and technicality. Actually, I wouldn't call any of this trail technical. Single track...yes. Climbs...many...yes. But not technical like the others. In my humble opinion, I think it's a fantastic first 50K for someone. It actually was Jamie's first...which started the whole thing about running across America. (good grief!) The course is two 25K loops and the race does offer that option. This year, they split the field after a few hundred yards to ease the congestion of going up the first climb with 200 runners on single track. Both groups climbed and met up with each other at the top...or near the top. The idea worked so hats off to Mike Dolin, race director, for making that change. As you will see in the graphic below, aid stations are modestly spaced, another reason it's great for a first time 50K. The longest stretch is the first one and all others are under 4 miles....which is quite close in ultra-standards.
Click on image to view larger
The area received a few inches of snow a few days ago. Before that, the trail was dry and leaf-covered. With no snow pack, I expected slippery, powdery conditions on the first loop and muddy areas and leaves on the second...precisely what happened. I opted for a pair of Brooks Cascadias for the added traction of my Pure Grits and they served me well. Overall, there are climbs as the image shows above but runners are rewarded time and time again with sometimes gradual and sometimes steep descents. Sometimes, those are on the single track and other times, on a wide jeep access road. The key to success, in my opinion, is to run that first loop very smartly when it comes to the downhills. You could EASILY trash your quads which would make the second loop miserable...making those beloved downhills nothing but pain...and a disappointing day/finish/recovery. I did my best to do what I preach and think I did a pretty good job. I actually ran many of the uphills which I normally don't do. When I say run, it wasn't a normal-looking run. If you were to see me, you'd swear I had cross-country skis on. I ran but without impact and kept my feet very, very close to the ground. It allowed me to scale the climbs, pass lots of people, yet keep my heart rate under control. I had never tried that exact method until today...and it really worked. I was able to charge on once I reached the top without missing a beat.

Arriving back at the start/finish at 25 kilometers, my time was somewhere around 2:50. I thought I'd finish around 6:30 or slower so I was WAY ahead of schedule...but still feeling good. I shed the outer layer, gloves, and headband in my duffle bag and got the heck out of there...and back up that first climb...alone. I have NEVER run a 50K with a loop course (and there are many) and not passed or been passed or even not seen another runner. Chalk that up as a first for today. I was starting to wonder if I was the only one out there! In the end, I never did see another runner. Given my time, I do think I finished near the front of the pack but I haven't seen the results...that could be part of the reason. The second loop went well and much of the snow was gone on the trail. I had a few near misses with falling hard but never did. I was tired...yes...but not hurt in any way. I should be tired! I mentally kicked that garbage out the door and kept on kickin' it. I do love the layout of the course, especially for me...someone who has never set foot on it. That first loop really let me strategize and mentally destroy the second loop. I couldn't wait to get to that last aid station because I knew a lot of fast switchbacks waited in the last 3.8 miles. Some climbing but a lot of flat and descending trail. I knew a 2:50 doubled would be 5:40. I knew I wasn't doing an even split...or a negative split. Very tough course to do that on...but I did want to get under 6 hours. I knew that on this course, with those climbs, I'd be thrilled with that kind of time. Those last 3.8 miles were fast and I held nothing back. I didn't wear my Garmin so all I could do was leave it all out there and see what the clock read. (that's one way of not managing the clock and instead, giving it your all) In the end, I crossed the finish line in 5hrs, 47min, 49sec. BAM! Mike Dolin was waiting with my finisher's award (branded, by the way!) and a hand shake and a few others of the WVMTR leadership. I mingled for a bit, got a few photos, refueled with some homemade BBQ, took my Hammer Recoverite, and headed on back to the hotel..and the pool. Happy? You better believe it! I'm thrilled. I ran a 50K last August in Aurora, OH (see right sidebar) and it was 10min faster...but that course was nearly flat. To only be 10min slower is awesome. Arrogance aside, I really do feel I am at a peak right now and running very strong. Winter running is absolutely my forte.

So there you have it...#26 is in the books and 53 total marathons and ultra marathons. My next race is another ultra so for a brief time, I'll have 27 marathons and 27 ultras. Sweet! I absolutely recommend this race for your consideration. WVMTR is a class act organization...one reason I joined them a few months back. I can't wait to get down here again for my 2nd Highlands Sky. Here are a few photos I took. Feel free to grab, share, whatever. Click on any one to view full screen.

Pre-race with my love

Pre-race instructions from race director, Mike Dolin

Seconds before the start

These marked the way. SASQUATCH!!!