Saturday, May 31, 2014

Race Report: Medina Half Marathon

I can't tell you the last time I "raced" a half marathon. I have been running them but always alongside my wife as it is her favorite race distance. For this race, though, I was given the green light to run it on my own and do whatever I wanted. After a pretty strong and untrained performance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon a month ago and setting a new 50K personal record two weeks ago, I felt ready to give it an earnest shot and see what I could do.

A year ago, the folks in Medina put on this race but it was totally free. It was kind of a dry run, I suppose but still a real race...just free and not all the goodies. This year was the official "1st Annual" event and after learning from last year and listening to runners, they worked all year to make it a first class event. Led by a team of seasoned runners, they did it all right. From an excellent course design to a finishers medal that is one of the coolest I have ever held in my hand to volunteers who were clearly trained on how to "handle" runners and do the job they volunteered to do. I registered long ago as did my wife and best friend...before it sold out. I never did go to any of the group course runs, though, as it's a solid 45min drive from my home. Today at the race was my first time running on the roads of Medina and every turn was a first time for me. I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Back in Canton a month ago, I held an 8:10 pace through mile 21.7 then the wheels fell off. A 1:45 finish at this race would be faster than that but with only 13.1 miles to cover, I thought I could do even better....IF disciplined. My strategy going into the race was for one, to leave the Garmin watch at home. No timing device at all. With the Garmin, you see, I'm worrying about splits, doing calculations in my head, blah blah, blah...NO! Instead, I was going to stick with the 1:40 pace group. They offered a pace group in 10 minute intervals. 1:50 was too slow and 1:30 was...well, ridiculous for this guy. I didn't even know what a 1:40 finish translated into regarding pace per mile and even though it would take me 2min to figure it out, I kinda didn't want to know. I just wanted to head out, lock in to a pace, and hold on. I knew it was a good bit under 8min per mile but that's it.

Yesterday, I took advantage of packet pickup at the Medina Hospital near the ER (that was a first!) and it was excellent. From a nice sampling of exhibitors to volunteers who were doing an excellent job answering questions and helping runners to running into several familiar faces and catching up, I'm glad I went. I even picked up a cool red Ohio-shaped magnet for my car that says "run" in the middle of it from the running store sponsoring the race, "Active Runner" out of Strongsville...who also sponsored the pace teams. Today, on race morning, I showed up in Medina about 45min early and parking was plentiful and easy. Porta-potties had long lines but were plentiful. The air was about 55F and the sky clear. It was setting up to be a perfect race morning. Gathering at the starting line area, I ran into fellow ultra runner, trail runner, blogger, NEO Trail Club member, and WVMTR member (whew!) Kimba and snuck in a quick selfie shot and caught up real quick. About 5min before 7am (the race start), the National Anthem was sung and eventually, everyone fell silent and a loud applause followed the beautiful rendition of our Anthem. Right at 7am, the command was given to go and we were off. There was no rush to cross the start as we were being chip-timed but the 1:40 pacers were a good bit up there. I had to break out of the crowd sooner than later so they didn't get too far away as they'd lock into their target pace quick. Once I got up to them, the pack was large and I just hung out and focused on not tripping on someone's heels.

Click on map to enlarge
Overall, the course is a nice mixture of elevation changes. The first few miles had to be a net downhill but the rest of the race was filled with gentle ups and downs with lots of flat roads within neighborhoods. In mile 5, we popped out onto State Route 18 where we faced the steepest climb of the day along with some angry motorists who were going nowhere fast. Kinda funny (for me, not them!) to see the anger brimming across their faces as we happily ran by their car and truck windows. Just prior to that hill, though, we finished running along Lake Medina and the only non-asphalt section of the course. Below, I caught a great photo from within the 1:40 pace group of the lake. Absolutely gorgeous!

So back to that hill. That obliterated the 1:40 pace group as far as its size. Once we turned off of Route 18, the group still existed and the pace group leaders hadn't missed a beat but a bulk of the group fell back. At this point, I just tucked in behind them and focused on a nice, smooth stride and even breathing. It did help as we went along to hear them talk about what's coming up on the course. They're local so every turn and hill was known by them. This helped out mentally. At the halfway point, I clocked in at a 7:32 pace. That would be the only recording of my pace until the finish. I had signed up for text alerts so I did read that from my phone which was the first time I realized the pace I was holding. As we neared around mile 8, they told those remaining in the group that a slow gradual uphill was about to begin over the next 1 1/2 to 2 miles...and that it did. After that, the course would ease up from 10 miles to the finish. My goal then was to get to 10 feeling strong then lay out whatever I had left to go under 1:40. "If I lose 1:40 now," I thought, "it's my own fault. This is my race to finish strong or my race to blow up. My choice." As I navigated through a few more water stops that were very well staffed and loaded with water and Gatorade, I got to just past 9 1/2 miles and decided to leave the group in my rear view mirror. It wasn't flat all the way nor downhill all the way to the did have a few rises, but all in all, I pushed with all I had. Turning the last turn, it was a slow gradual downhill that ended and began an uphill finish. Literally, as you reached the bottom and looked up, there was the finish in the distance...I'm guessing about .20 to .25 miles away. I had been following this one guy for the past 3 or 4 miles but he kept answering my challenges as I'd get close. With the finish in sight, some girl yelled from the right "GET HIM!!!!!" Ok, then...let's go! I charged on and encouraged him to roger up and respond with me and fight to the line but he didn't so I cruised on by and got my finish. So yea...crowd support DOES matter!!! I would've just let him go had I not been rooted on. THANKS!

At the finish, familiar faces were everywhere and I got that sweet 'ol medal. (shown below) Ron, one of the race directors, immediately wanted feedback about the race and I poured all I had out for him...but none of it bad! I saw a plethora of awesome foods lined up including large, round, smiley-face cookies and Subway sandwiches but I still had a job to do. I grabbed a bottle of water and headed on back out and ran in both my wife and best friend. They weren't together so I ran into them one at a time and brought them home. Afterwards, we cleaned up at the car, took our Hammer Recoverite, then enjoyed the Medina Square, a cup of java from local the local coffee shop, "Cool Beans" and the bustling Farmer's Market (9am-1pm every Saturday). I'm used to the Kent Farmer's Market but this one was four times as big.

In the end, I couldn't be happier. I'm going to chalk this up to a new half marathon PR (personal record) because while I have raced half marathons before, it's been probably 15+ years and I don't think I ever ran one with this fast of a time...I don't "think." Plus, I have no records from back then. Here are my overall results along with a photo of the tech tee they gave us and the super-duper-cool medal. The detail is really quite amazing.

I loved this race and would highly recommend it to a novice or veteran runner. Not only were the logistics spot on and everything else I already mentioned, but it supports some awesome local programs, including the Patriot Runners who support local veterans who returned from war hurt or suffering from PTSD. I picked up a Patriot Runners tech tee at the expo and wore it for them today.

Finishing Time: 1hr, 38min, 49sec
Overall Pace: 7:33 per mile
Overall: 59th of 942 finishers
Male: 45th of 361 men
Age Group (40-44): 9th of 62
Male Masters (all men 40 and over): 21st of 175

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sharing Withhelds

I don't know where I heard this...I thought I did and after digging and researching online, I can't find it. Regardless, it stuck and I've been wanting to share it. To give you a bit of background, my wife and I have devoted a lot of our time over the past few years to reaching out to other couples, no matter where they are on their journey. From a marriage retreat to a marriage study in our home and now a financial class that just so happens to conclude tonight. Through it all...even the Dave Ramsey class we're wrapping up, COMMUNICATION is a key and critical piece to making any relationship work. It is often the cornerstone that is so out of whack, couples can't see straight. Communication is NOT talking side-by-side while watching TV or a movie, or small talk in the car...or yelling at each other. OK...yes, that IS communicating but not the quality kind that I believe is critical if you plan to make it "till death do you part." Eye to eye, being real, being authentic...sharing life, communicating, crying, laughing, working through disagreements towards's communication. Enter the subject of "Sharing Withhelds"...

Do you know how you often think something but don't say it? You withhold it. For example, you get home from work to find that he/she vacuumed the house...or folded the clothes...or emptied the dishwasher...or made your favorite meal...and you log that in your brain but don't say anything. Or, something is said or done that really rubs you the wrong way...but you bite your tongue and just roll along. Often, many things that are NOT withheld are the negative things and the positive things never get spoken and we're all left to "assuming" we know what each other is thinking which is so dangerous and 99% of the time WRONG! So here is an exercise and it's known as "Sharing Withhelds." Simply, one of you asks the other "Want to share withhelds?" Agreeing, you both grab a piece of paper and have a seat facing each other.

Step 1: Both of you write down three items on a blank piece of this order. The first item is something positive you've noticed the other person do or say recently but did not mention at the time. Perhaps something you really appreciated or meant a lot to you. Second, write down something negative that was said or done. Lastly, repeat the first step but with another instance. Keep these examples relatively current...within the last few days to a maximum one week ago. It can be anything and could've happened anywhere and at anytime.

Step 2: Once finished, one of you goes first and reads the first compliment. After hearing it, the receiving spouse/partner/friend simply says..."Thank you." Next up is the negative one but get this...the reply is the same...."Thank you." This is a controlled environment, not meant for argument or debate, but a place to "peel back the onion" and say what's on your heart...the good and bad. Lastly, state the 3rd item and the receiver replies the same.  OK? Deep breath.... :)

Step 3: It's the other person's turn and the replies should mimic the last step. your best not to react on that second one! Simply let it soak in and digest it. Obviously, whatever "it" is was a big enough deal to linger in their head and make it to even if it doesn't matter to YOU, it matters to THEM so it SHOULD matter to YOU! But for now...just a "thank you" will suffice.

Step 4: That's pretty much it...except for this one BIG rule: For the next 30 minutes, that negative comment conveyed to each other is not to be discussed or debated...don't even bring it up. The gut reaction is going to be to debate it and defend your ground...but don't. Simply let it soak in and think about it. If after 30 minutes you still want to discuss it in further detail, extend apologies, or whatever, then that's ok...but let it go for a solid 30 minutes. Guaranteed: your reaction after 30 minutes will absolutely NOT be your reaction immediately following "Sharing Withhelds"...and honestly, there may be NO reaction at all after 30 minutes.

That's it! Communication is key to everything. If you can't communicate effectively, it's never going to work the way it COULD work if you communicated well. Remember, you're not should be each others best friend and communicating well will help you move towards that goal.

Monday, May 26, 2014

M-Cubed for 5.26.2014

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

- It's Memorial Day 2014. For some, it's just a day off, to others just a day to drink and BBQ...but do you really know why today exists? It's not Veterans Day, although it feels like it. It's Memorial Day...the day we set aside to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The freedom to worship, the freedom to not worship, the freedom to do as we wish without persecution. It's not a day of celebration...let's save that for July 4th. Today is a day of remembrance and honor. Remember those who have bled for you and me...and those families left behind that live on today without them.

- For me, no day is a better reminder for me than Day 121 or August 8, 2011, as far as why we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of every May. Day 121 was a Monday in Afghanistan where I was witness to 22 Navy SEALs go home after being killed, along with 13 others. Here is my personal, raw account of that day:

- A week ago, I was only 2 days after a personal record performance at my 29th ultra marathon. Well, the running continued throughout the week and I didn't take a day off until Friday! The recovery thing continues to befuddle me! I'm well on my way to another 200mi month...and I hope a few more. My "runners' OCD" is definitely kicking in! Before the month's log gets closed out, though, I'll be running in the Medina Half Marathon this Saturday. There are so many great things about this inaugural "official" running and I look forward to sharing it with you afterwards. My bride and best friend will be joining me as well. I'll be wearing the colors of Team RWB, too.

- Yesterday, I think my wife was chuckling a little bit as I pulled down some of my favorite espresso mugs I drink from every morning. I had yet another photo idea and this was the outcome along with the text of the post on Instagram. I'm not a hoarder...I'm not! I'm very picky about my mugs and many of these mean quite a bit and hold awesome, irreplaceable memories! "The white Bermuda one reminds me of our cruise to Bermuda a few years ago when we ran back to the cruise ship in a heavy downpour, hand in hand, and laughing all the way. To the left, that's my mug from my alma mater where I got my MBA at Regent University...great years in my life that I miss. To the right (top center), that's the Fools 50K handmade finishers mug. I ran the first 25K with my bride and negative split the second 25K. To its right is last month's mug from Forget the PR 50K. To it's right is a mug with a beach scene. That is Hawaii and it's actually my wife's hand-painted mug. She loves Hawaii and I was fortunate enough to go a few years back with the Navy and take her with me. We will return! To the right...the squatty striped red one...that is from a ceramic shop in St Louis that I picked up on another Navy trip. We went in the arch for the first time that day. Front and center may be my favorite...a mug from a cafe where we had lunch while in Northern California near the redwoods for our 20th anniversary. It was along a river and a beautiful, quiet and memorable day. The last is in the center...a handmade mug from Pensacola, FL where I attended training for 3 weeks last year for the Navy. Home of the Blue Angels! Thanks for enduring a trip down memory lane!"

- There was a day where I ran every race near home and could register for. The longer the better. Things have changed, though. Races are overflowing and many of those I once ran no longer have the "old school" appeal and now exist for different reasons. When I "shop" for a race these days, I care about where the proceeds go. IT MATTERS. With that said, I run fewer official races and travel to many more away from home. Last Saturday at the Playin' Possum 50K, this is one of those races that epitomizes the "kind" of race I seek. Just a few days ago, a check was delivered to it's benefactor. Here is the photo posted on the race's Facebook page and the text that accompanied it. Why do I run? This is but one reason.
"Wanna feel good? Proceeds from YOUR race were presented to athletes from Special Olympics of Delaware County, prior to their exhibition race at the NCAA D3 Track and Field Championships this morning! This money will be used to send athletes to the State Summer games next month! The fees that you pay when you enter a race can go anywhere. One hundred percent of the proceeds from Possum races are ALWAYS used to benefit athletes with disabilities. This brings our total to $6500 in the past twelve months! Thanks from all of us for your support!"
- On Friday, I headed out with the intention of running some more on that un-maintained section of Buckeye Trail in southern Portage County that I found last month. It was a fantastic, sunny mid-morning run that gave me 14.5 miles but this photo was my most favorite of many. It's photos like these that just put the cherry on top of already-awesome runs. Simply beautiful and unseen by nearly everyone.

- Surely, we can't be the only family who roots near the end of a NASCAR race for #4, Kevin Harvick, right?! "Why?" you ask? Well, anytime Kevin Harvick finishes in the Top 10, the immediate Monday that follows yields FREE high-calorie, ultra-yummy Bloomin' Onions at Outback Steakhouse! Since we've become friends with the owner of the one closest to our home, we probably frequent it more than we should...and Kevin's 2nd place finish last night doesn't guarantee a visit...but it certainly is a carrot (or an onion petal!) hanging in front of us! I also got to educate my girls a bit last night on NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600...definitely father-daughter bonding time. :)

- Well, the final week of Financial Peace University is here. Thursday, we'll mark week 9 of 9 and call this course a wrap. We'll tally up debt paid down and say goodbye to eight families who have completed the course. I try to not take each person's/family's "absorption" of the material personally and rest in the fact that I've "delivered the goods" as I should and it's on them to put it into practice. Still, though...I do care about each one of their successes as they lean forward into getting out of debt and creating a legacy that's lined with giving and living without the "slavery" of debt. For us, we'll keep plugging along on the Baby Steps and help others as they cross our path. Another class? Perhaps...but not any time soon. I'm certainly glad we did it and it certainly rekindled our fires and brought us more "gazelle intense" that we needed...aka: a good, swift kick in the butt.

- Recently, at the University of Texas, the commencement ceremony took place as it did across the country on college campuses. At this one, though, an alum spoke who also happens to be a full Navy Admiral and the leader of Navy SEALs...being a Navy SEAL himself. Admiral William McRaven gave a phenomenal speech and one your ENTIRE family should watch. He gives some key principles to live by and guess what his #1 was..."Make your bed." Yep...we watched this as a family and will probably come back and watch again. Watch here or below:

- I think that's enough for today, friends. Enjoy your day, BBQ, laugh, have fun...but remember why many of us have the day off and have parades. Memorial Day 2014. Remember.

Have a GREAT week!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recovery Days...Not So Much

While this Spring has been super wet (as indicated by not-cut-yet grass behind my house), life is bursting out there and since Saturday's 50K, I haven't yet taken a recovery day off. Yea, yea, yea...drink my own advice and rest. I will...just not yet. :) This recovery thing continues to throw me for a loop. Back at the end of April when I ran the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, I woke up the next day without a lick of soreness. 26.2 miles of pounding asphalt in my 5th fastest time ever of 28 finishes, and I felt nothing. On Saturday, I PR'd the 50K distance and it has happened again. The ONLY constant is how I'm fueling and recovering. While I don't believe there is any golden nugget for every person, I have to believe that my Hammer Nutrition fueling and recovery is playing a part...sort of like putting quality high-octane gas in the tank of my car vs. garbage fuel, I suppose. I have also raced a lot and have a high monthly average of miles than ever before so far this year so there is something to be said for my body adapting and overcoming. Sweet! I'll take it. On the flip side, I'm very unhappy with how I see my self physically. You'd think with my miles, I'd actually be presentable physically but I really don't care for what I see in the mirror. I have some work to do with what I eat. Quadriceps and issues. Everything above that...ugh. Only I am to blame so if I want to change anything, it's on me to do so.

Tomorrow, I have a super early day so I'm probably going to force a rest day tomorrow...but not today. As soon as I "pen" this post, it's another sunrise run on tap for me. Before I go, I just want to share a few photos and links to a few albums.

The Playin' Possum 50K has literally posted hundreds of photos to their race from Saturday. I'm in a few and shared a few new ones below. The one posted last night (album 2) has a LOT more people in them smiling for the camera. Great shots! I've also shared a few photos from my morning runs down below. I just love documenting my runs via photos. Annoying to many online but appreciated by others, too...and I love them. There is just so much beauty out there and I like to share it. Feel free to follow my Instagram account, if you'd like. Link is at top right of this blog. That's where they almost all end up. Without further delay, here are a few links to the Possum albums and a few photos from my sunrise runs this week. Happy Hump Day y'all!

Part of Album the middle of the first 9.3 miles where the mud was. :)

After crossing the grassy dam and soon after the hail storm. Part of Album 2.

I LOVE this photo! I pass this pond nearly every day and it's always different. From loud bullfrogs to gorgeous reflections of the sunrise, it always has something to offer. Yesterday, a fresh algae layer has formed inside this little ecosystem along my country route.

On Monday morning after posting M-Cubed, I ran my Sibling Six route that took me through our local park. It has a man-made pond where I captured this photo of the sunrise over it. I love this photo and the perfect reflection on the calm, smooth water. This will be my route again today...if for no other reason than the tiny 1/4 mile stretch of trail it contains through some woods. That photo is below. :)
THIS is why I run through our park...if just for a few seconds of bright, green foliage to run under. Thank goodness for early morning sunrises to illuminate it for me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

M-Cubed for 5.19.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for May Nineteenth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Holy wet grass! looms out my windows and mocks me! Lots and lots of rain over the last week with a vibrant, tall, green yard. "Please, sun...shine brightly!" Sunny and 70F today so here's hoping!

- Seen or heard of Jersey Boys from Broadway? My wife saw them in 2011 on Broadway but we all went to see them at Playhouse Square at the State Theater yesterday in Cleveland. Great show...BUT...we had no idea that it would be filled with the garbage language. We had our girls with us. Ugh! "Bad parents!" She didn't recall that language in 2011 so we just cringed as it continued from the stage. Without that, a great show, for sure. It was packed and I'm pretty sure...we were amongst the very youngest in the house.

- I wrote and published my race report from Saturday's 50K last night. Here it is if you want to check it out. Quite the experience AND a new personal record at the 50K distance. WOOT!

- We had dinner Saturday night at a friends' home after the race. They eat gluten free and if anyone could ever turn us on to something like that, they did it. Absolutely incredible dinner. We had ribs off of the grill, amazing mashed potatoes, these sweet green beans that had bacon and all kinds of sweetness in them...and dessert. Holy moly! It was a chocolate creation with whipped cream on top and Heath bars crunched all over. We left just a tad bit full (totally!) and amazed at how good gluten free can be....and easy. Who knows...after seeing a few photos of me at the race on Saturday, I could certainly stand to eat a little better and shed some belly fat. Anyway...amazing dinner.

- And so the great recovery train charges on. If you recall, my recovery from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon was non-existent. Didn't need one...never had one...never felt a thing. The moment I wake up the morning after a race...sit up in bed...put the feet on the ground and stand up...that's where I take in my whole assessment before I walk to my espresso. Yesterday, I felt pretty good and then I saw a clear, blue sky at sunrise and convinced my bride that we should share a morning run together through our hills. She obliged and we did. Fantastic 5 miler with no issues at all, a gorgeous morning with singing birds, and the best company this man could ask for. This morning...the same. No issues and a sunrise morning run to happen just as soon as these fingers stop typing. :) Here's our running selfie for the morning >>>

- I have found myself going back to my daily blog journal from 2011. If you're new to RTRSBM, you may not know that I idled this blog for about 7 months and blogged daily on my deployment to Afghanistan. I wrote in "code" to protect my privacy and ensure OPSEC (operational security) by using references to the Wizard of Oz. Anyway...things in the news keep taking me there and coming into contact with others who have served over there and struggle today. I watched this video over the weekend and it really hit me. Very powerful and something that I think you should give a few minutes to watch. Not to vulgarity or something to shield your eyes from...but a raw account of a story of one man. I didn't do what he did, I didn't shoot anyone, I wasn't in a fire fight, and I don't struggle with PTSD like so many do...but I certainly have a spot in my heart that is forever connected to this war because of my experiences over there...and some things I did see first hand. Here is his story....and here is my blog journal if you ever want to check it out. Today was Day 40 of 208. I had been in the country for 7 days.

- If you haven't yet read my race report from Saturday's 50K, this photo may not make a lot of sense. There was this water crossing, you see...and a sinkhole was hiding/waiting for all of us. While this is NOT me, it's essentially exactly what happened to me...with one arm outstretched high to save the iPhone from certain doom. Many thanks to Catherine who caught this and shared on the Playin' Possum 50K Facebook page. LOL!!!

- Almost a week ago, I started a Facebook post with "Rant Warning" and posted the following. Since we may not be connected there, I'd like to share it with you today. I can't rant enough about this!:

Rant Warning: Parents...are you paying attention to your kids? We have about to be in middle school and one in it. Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. Today, we saw the F-bomb flying in all caps, heard about one girl sending nude photos, and we hear more every single, stinkin' day. What you do is your business, but it's clear that parents are not paying attention or simply don't care. We, as parents, need to not be our kids' best friend, we need to be their parent. That means we defend them, we love them unconditionally, we model what it means to be a respectful, loving, moral, God-fearing human beings. It means we stand in the gap for them and protect them from others' where parents let their kids run amuck. One of two things is going to happen and it's up to you and us to decide which it will be: 1) YOU will raise your children, or 2) Society and the halls of the elementary/middle/high school will for you. Take your pick, but one will happen. Private, public, opinion is that it doesn't matter. Filth knows no boundaries and nor does any of this. It's time to get up to speed with what's happening in "their" world before you wake up one day and realize you are far too late. One last thing: Even if your kid is innocent, once they see it or hear it, it's stuck. They can't erase it. It's there forever and you can't do a thing about it. 

- I want to give a huge shout-out to some local trail runners who finished the 20th running of the MMT (Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Trail Run). It is a grueling 100 mile race through the mountains of northern Virginia and considered one of, if not the toughest race east of the Mississippi. Dave Peterman (6th finish), Jim "Slim" Harris (7th), Paul Lefelhocz (4th),  and Roy Heger (his 15th!!!). Way to go, everyone! Full results here.

- I have been leaving you with a quote each week. Well, today is one that is This photo and "quote" is from last week on a morning run through my hills...I think it was Wednesday morning. I hope it speaks to you how it needs to and you find encouragement through it as you face another week. Remember...without a Monday we never get to Friday! Have a great week, everyone! (gotta love the iPhone self-timer for shots like this, eh?!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Race Report: Playin' Possum 50K

There are impulse buys in the store, at the restaurant and at the coffee counter as you jazz up your favorite latte or mocha. Then there are impulse buys like this race was. Tuesday, I decided to register last minute (they closed registration a few hours later) and run in a brand new race for me in Delaware State Park, just north of Columbus, OH. I had heard great reports from its inaugural running in 2013 and just felt like I needed another confidence builder heading into next month's Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run in the WV mountains. I wanted to test my nutrition strategy again, too, and make sure that my mid-April race in Mohican State Park wasn't just a fluke. I took Thursday and Friday off (I guess you can call that a "taper"!) and ramped up the water intake.

The alarm went off at 2:45am Saturday morning to allow me my race morning rituals that include stove-top espresso, a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, getting all of the supplies and gear together, and a hot shower. Yea...a hot shower that precedes the known mud bath at Delaware State Park.'s tradition. I ended up getting out the door on time for the 2hr trek south as the sun began to illuminate the horizon. At the race start, the mist was rising off of the lake at the Marina, music was playing, and folks were meeting up and sharing hugs prior to the race start. The swag bag I picked up along with my bib was of the best ever. Quality tech tee, a Possum 50K beverage huggie, a Hammer Nutrition water bottle, the ever-popular oval sticker, a Hammer Nutrition bar, and a HeadSweats Possum 50K visor. Wow!
A few minutes prior to the start, the co-race directors took turns talking about the course changes due to the major flooding in the park, explained the markings, and then introduced a young boy from Special Olympics...the primary beneficiary of the Playin' Possum 50K. (and a big reason why I chose this race to run) Seconds before the start, all of the runners raised their hand and he led everyone in the Special Olympics oath:

"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

And with that, we were off! In a nutshell, the re-designed course included a 9.3 mile loop that took us into the mud but first along a stretch of road. This section, once we entered the woods, varied from nice groomed trail under a bright green foliage to shoe-sucking mud. Once back at the start/finish, we headed into the woods behind the start/finish along a lot of flooded trail. This loop was a big 14 mile loop. Once back, we did the original loop again.

So back to the first loop and that mud. Proof of the mud was one female runner who lost her shoe in the mud and was trying to navigate her foot back into it as I passed by. I offered assistance but none was wanted so I headed on by. Some tip-toed through the mud or tried to avoid it. I find it best, fastest, and safest to go right through it running. My logic is this: By going left and right and trying to avoid, you begin running at varied angles and when you are slipping, you are greatly increasing your chances of falling and/or injury. Also, if you keep running, you get through it and the "sucking" effect of the mud is reduced. Lastly, by running straight through it, you keep your center of gravity over the top of your feet and can harness all of the power you have and maintain balance. You're going to get muddy so why fight it? Why not be smart about it? That's my 2 cents, for what it's worth!

In one out-and-back section, we were instructed to tear a page out of the Trail Runner magazine waiting for us. This was to prove that we went the distance and didn't cut the course. Then, it may or may not be asked for at the next aid station. If never was but we still all took our page. We passed an aid station at mile 6 but I didn't stop and just kept on cruising. 

Nutrition: In nearly all of my ultras, I stop at aid stations, get a snack, fill my bottle, and then get going. However, I was testing out a new strategy again like I did at Forget the PR 50K in April, that being fueling purely with Hammer Nutrition products that I was carrying. I don't have proof, but it's my opinion that if I fuel with quality nutrition DURING the race, it'll work in my favor post-race in recovery. Plus, it cuts way down on aid station stops or eliminates the stop altogether. Yesterday, I only stopped at aid stations to refill with Heed and if I didn't need it, I cruised on by. My nutrition consisted of taking one Endurolytes Extreme (salt tab...but the equivalent of taking 3 normal Endurolytes), one Hammer Gel, and one Perpetuem Solid...all per hour. For fluid, I drank Hammer's Heed all day. The salt tabs help keep my sodium levels up, the gels and Heed keep the electrolytes flowing and quickly absorbed into my bloodstream, and the Perpetuem brings protein and carbs to the game and blocks the cannibalization of muscle tissue. 

Thanks to Catherine for capturing this of ANOTHER runner!
So after that aid station, it was about 3.3 miles back to the start and about half of that was road. Once back and I re-filled, I headed into the woods just behind the start/finish. This short trek through the woods covered a lot of area along the lake and flooded trail. I came upon one water crossing that, at first, didn't appear too deep, especially to 6'3" me. Good thing I slowed down as I entered it, though. At one point, I was 1 feet deep and the next thing I know, I'm in it above my waist! HUGE hole right in the middle. I almost went under totally. Soaked! Coming up the muddy slope the other side, I kept on going and soon was navigating around a parking lot while the sky transitioned from sun to dark, thunderous clouds. I had checked the hour-by-hour forecast before the race. "Zero percent of precipitation through around Noon or 1pm then up to 30%." I didn't put on my waterproof case over my iPhone and just wore it on my arm. All of a sudden, and I mean QUICK, pea-sized hail began falling from the sky and then the heavens opened up. I quickly slid my arm band and iPhone off of my arm and held it in the small of my back. You know how some storms come down hard, at an angle, and the wind makes it look like a curtain over the road? was like that. It hurt, I became soaked head to toe, but I refused to stop running (or running slow) because I had to keep a "dry pocket" of air behind me or I was going to have a very expensive iPhone casualty on my hands. As I neared Route 23 and the park entrance, it stopped and the sun came out. iPhone dry!  Wow....thanks for that! (uh...not!) This next section was thanks to the flooding in the park and re-routing of the course. We were now running alongside, but on the safe side of the guardrail, Route 23 and 60 +/- mph cars whizzing by. The race directors weed-whipped a path for us to follow 6/10 of a mile until we got to the big grassy dam to run on top of until we got to the big dam keeping the lake full. That was a dirty, filthy section but it was expected. Litter from the winter was all over the place. Once past, we followed a long grassy section on top of the dam until we got to the dam itself. From there, we navigated through a short stretch of woods before coming to a family picnic area where the next aid station was. More familiar faces were found here, a filled water bottle, and I was off. For the next 6 miles, I first crossed the dam then followed a few miles of grass trail, then 2-3 miles of road, then back to the grassy trail and back to the dam again, trek through the woods, and the aid station.  The trip back to the start/finish started here, simply tracing my steps back. Here are a few photos from this section:
Heading back to the dam. Lake to the right and raging river downstream to the left.

If you don't walking over metal grates on a sidewalk, you won't like this. :)

Downstream of the dam 
During that 6 mile stretch in between dam visits.
Running along the flooded lake soon after leaving the start/finish and getting soaked.
Once I got all the way back to the start/finish, I was still doing pretty good. I was approaching the marathon point and still running strong. This course is a VERY runnable course...most definitely the most runnable I have ever done. In the world of ultra running, I'd bet that most would agree that there really isn't one true "hill" to speak of ever. Sure, a few rises but not the kind of hills we've come to know in many of the other local and regional races. Once back, refueled, and running again, I knew one thing for sure: the course was long. I was guessing in between 32 and 33 miles instead of the standard 50K/31.2 mile distance. Honestly, that didn't matter one bit. What the race directors could have done was cancel the race due to so much flooding and the inability to hold true to the original course. Instead, they made it work for the safety and success of all. I'll run a longer 50K any day vs. a short race. No thanks! So I headed on out for the final 9.3 miles.

The course was getting a lot more active now. I was seeing a lot more runners coming from the 14 mile loop and the leaders out in front of me on the last loop. It was good to see others that I knew (and didn't know) and root them on. Personally, I was feeling like a rock star. I really don't race against others these days...I run for and against myself. Do I sometimes measure myself against others I've run with? Sure...everyone does. It's impossible not to. I knew I was way ahead of typical 50K pace on this day. As I passed the 26.2 mile marathon point, I snapped this photo so I wouldn't forget it. With all that mud in the early miles, the hail, the chest-high water crossing...THIS is where I was at the marathon point. I was thrilled! That 4:11 was 10min faster than my first road marathon in 1997 in Scranton, PA!!!! In my mind, I knew I had more than the expected 5 miles left but with this new motivation, I refused to walk or give up anything. I had no clue what my 50K PR (personal record) was but I knew I had to be threatening it. Most 50Ks for me put me mid-pack in the overall results and sometimes north of mid-pack and depending on the course, between 5hrs, 45min and 7 hours. Basic math told me I was faster than that, for sure. As I kept on trucking through the mud, I held true to my philosophy of "mud running efficiency" and wasted no time. I did pause, though, for this one photo of a non-muddy section. Isn't the green simply fantastic?!

Finishing all but the last 1.7 miles on road, I passed the 50K mark in 5hrs, 4min. FIVE HOURS, FOUR MINUTES! "Thank you, Lord!!!!" I was downright giddy at this point. No way I was going to walk this final stretch and I didn't. I continued to pass folks coming towards me and shared greetings the whole way. Eventually, the finish line came into sight and before I crossed it, I passed all of these small signs leading to the finish...40 of them...for every first-time ultra runner on the course! How cool is that?!

Just past the signs,  I crossed the finish line in 5hrs, 20min, 59sec. NEW PR and my 29th ultra marathon finish! Even cooler was that the course was about 32.7 miles long...1.5 miles extra but still got my PR. That was good enough for 20th of 114 finishers! (full results here) One of the co-race directors, Chad Heald, was there to congratulate me and handed me one of the coolest finish line awards...a horseshoe! He did tell me the story of why the horseshoe and the equestrian history of the area but I honestly can't remember. So yea...there's a reason! Regardless...I loved it. Here we are at the finish (thanks to Rob for the finish line photo):

After hanging out at the finish for awhile and talking to fellow runners, I took a serving of Hammer's Recoverite then hit the road for the 2hr trek home. Plenty of time to process the day and what.just.happened. Overall, I couldn't be happier. It was a great day with a few practical jokes played by Mother Nature. In terms of 50K difficulty and appropriateness for first-timers, it's certainly a great first-time ultra and it's certainly one of the "easier" 50Ks. Still...that mud tore a lot of people up. For me, if you were to walk and sludge through it all, it would be really miserable and seem to last forever. It can also hurt you if you end up pulling something in the slop. As for race organization, where the funds go that are raised, the volunteer support, the swag, the location...ALL TOP NOTCH! "Mark and Chad, thank you. Thank you so much for putting on a first class event that held true to what ultra running is all about. Your words posted since the race ended have summed it all up so well. I'm honored to finally hold the title of 'Possum'!"

A race report in mud wouldn't be complete without a photo of my feet...hey, it's tradition! So, before calling this report a wrap, here are a few final muddy photos to bring it home. Enjoy!

Run Happy and Hammer On, friends!

Monday, May 12, 2014

M-Cubed for 5.12.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for May Twelfth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Forgive the lapse in posting...plenty to say but not the time to sit down behind the keyboard and type my thoughts. Other times...I'm just not in a sharing kinda mood. Today is not one of those days.

Image I grabbed from the internet.
View from one end of the dodgeball arena.
- 10 days ago on a Friday, I left the uniform on the hanger and spent the day with my sailors, about 15 strong, for a morning of training and recognition then shed the socks and shoes at a nearby place called Skymax. All I heard was "trampolines" and "dodgeball." Eh? A bunch of grown men jumping around on trampolines? I was pretty skeptical. However, it was a BLAST! I haven't got my heart rate going like that in quite awhile. I did appreciate, too, that the balls weren't hard and therefore didn't sting like they did in high school...but you could still throw them fast and hard. Awesome time and I'd definitely be up for doing it again...even if I did hyperextend my right arm at one point that freaked me out. Luckily, I woke up the next day with no issues.

- How was your Mother's Day? I won't recap the play-by-play for us but it involved a sit-down with my mom as she burned her new cupcake Yankee Candle, a family movie afternoon to see the new moms' movie "Mom's Night Out," followed by dinner in Mentor, OH at Melt Bar and Grilled, and wrapped up with an hour drive through beautiful country and under sunny skies with temps in the mid-70s. My girls did treat my wife to a homemade breakfast and homemade gifts and a poem. It was a perfect day! (A few days prior to the day, I planted this flowering rose bud tree for my wife in our backyard...her choice!)

- So we finished Season 4 of Parenthood. Wowsers...still love that show! I love all of the family dynamics and how different everyone is. It's definitely got us talking about different things and how we'd handle them if it were us. Season 5 isn't yet on NetFlix so we're going to start streaming it off of NBC's website. Also, the word on the street is that they just got renewed for Season 6. Woot!

- I'm a big fan of supporting local businesses. One of my favorites in Kent, Ohio is a place called Bent Tree Coffee Roasters. I like to stop in on the way to work for a $1.50 french press of their daily grind. ($1.75 if you don't bring your own mug) Last week, I tried a "pour over" and made it into a 6 second Vine video that is posted here. (If you can't view it here, it's on my for RTRSBM to find me) Ground fresh then brewed on the spot. Bent Tree is also found all over Kent State University's campus now and in other local restaurants on their menus. Even the local "Popped!" popcorn shop has incorporated their coffee into their awesome chocolate-meets-popcorn creations. If you've never stopped in at Bent Tree, please do! (Their winter hat they sell, too, is the best running winter hat I've ever had!)

- So my youngest turned 11 last week and as tradition has it, she made her own cake with my wife. Every creation is one-of-a-kind and customized to their liking every year. This time, it was a M&Ms-throwing-up kinda cake. After building the layers of cake then frosting it, a triangle was cut out of it and frosted within. Then came the application of the M&Ms that look like they're pouring out of the bag and along the side. It was a huge hit! Every bit gone after the 15 girls were over for her party. I think I got to lick some frosting off of the plate. (straws were used to keep the bag upright)

- Do you have a personal experience with grace? I mean...have you really experienced it or do you even know what grace is? Grace is something given to you but totally undeserved. In my opinion, to really appreciate being shown grace you must give it. Have you? Here is an article I tweeted this past week from Refine Us. It's worth the minute or two it'll take to read. A relationship (of any kind) without it will eventually self-destruct so the sooner you learn about grace, the better. Read the article here.

- Have you met Bristol? If you've been hanging around my blog much, you surely have. Great photo of her here...this girl will take any pillow she can find and make it work. She is a master of communicating via her eyes, too. Yea yea yea....a ferocious pit bull, isn't she?!? We love her!

- On Facebook and not found your way to RTRSBM's Facebook page? Come on over! Much more frequent "shares" there and a much wider audience. "Like" it today! CLICK HERE.

- 33 days until the Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run. CAN.NOT.WAIT!!! Goodbye cell coverage and hello Dolly Sods National Wilderness. :)

- I've been leaving you quotes lately. Today, I'm going to share some musings that just kinda poured onto the screen this morning after my soaking 7 miler through the country after sunrise. Enjoy...and have a great week everyone!

Sun risen, I headed on out
A steady rain began, left the phone behind

The song began and never really stopped
"Take it all, take it all, my life in Your hands..."

About 64F, total cloud cover
The birds were singing and soaring overhead
Cool drops of rain, pouring steadily on down
Hanging on eyelashes, soaking every fiber of my clothes

I stared at the birds, soaring all around
Red-winged black birds, bright red cardinals
Finches, Blue Jays, and even one turkey
Mile 3...yea...a flying turkey flew in front of me!

That song..."My heart is heart is Yours...
...Take it all...take it life in Your hands..."
Those birds sore so freely. They fly where they wish.
They do what they must, they never go without.

Living simply. Living as I must. Go where I must. Serve.
O, to be like those birds. Singing joyfully and flying.
Anywhere, everyone, wherever they please.
"I will ever love and trust You, in Your presence I will live."

My eyes gone shut around mile 5...a downhill...smooth road
Rain pouring down, soaked to the core.."Take it all...take it all..."
Why am I so hard on myself? I do what I can, all I can, and I love.
It's enough. I'm enough. He'll take care of me and those entrusted to me.

That song..."I lay down my life...and take up my cross...
You are my God....You are enough...." I am enough.
Ah, there....a black bird with that brilliant red "paint", outlined by yellow
So easy to see, so bright as it glides over the swamp to my left

Birds of the air never go without, they go as they may
"My heart is heart is Yours....take it all...take it all..."
May I keep my focus true...may I love others how I've been loved
May I take up my cross, may I carry it strong and with His help.

I never know what a run may hold. I never know what I'll hear.
But if I never ran...if I gave up before I began...I'd never know. I'd never hear.
So you, Lord..."Take it ALL. My life is in YOUR hands."
As the birds of the air are in

~ Musings from the run / 5.12.2014 / #kristianstanfill #myheartisyours

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Just Because

So ends my week of running and it's not exactly a textbook "Runner's World" edition of "how to recover after a marathon." Instead, it's been a week of run when I want and for as long as it feels right. I'm done trying to understand myself and why I recover how I do. I'm nothing special, wasn't born with some superhuman genes, and give new meaning to the movie's name "White Men Can't Jump." I'm a goof. I can hardly shoot a basket, run the bases with grace, or catch a football on the run when it's thrown right to me. For some reason, though, God has decided to gift me with this endurance "thing" and I thank Him every day for it. I do think many look at me and say I'm "addicted to running" or that I must have a trainer or some very strict regimen...or that it dominates my life at the cost of my family. All of that would would be false. I honestly have no schedule, no trainer, I read no training plans, I'm not "addicted" to it, and it once did impact my family in not a great way but no longer does it. Most of my daily runs happen before they even wake up...that's how I know it to be true and I often head to bed immediately after tucking them in. For those occasional races, especially the ones away from home, I strategically pick them to make them mini-vacations for the family. But anyway, I'm off on a tangent and that's not my point of today's post. The week went like this and then I just want to share a few thoughts from today's 7th day run: From Sunday to Saturday: 26.2mi, rest, 6mi, 21.5mi, rest, 11mi, 17mi.

Today just kinda happened. I first thought I'd do 7, then that turned to 10. When I reached a point where I turn around in my 10 mile route, I decided to turn on my GPS tracking and keep on running with no plan...literally. I decided to run until I just felt like turning around. I went on along that route but made a different turn to go south instead of north in a section I had never driven in nor run in. Wow, did I make a great choice. I came upon a road that passed a road that had a sharp right angle (about 60 degrees) turn. No street sign and it looked like it could be private. However, it had street signs so I figured it was public. Along this section, there was nothing but trees and through them was a beautiful reservoir and flying wildlife everywhere. In fact, there were yellow signs giving notice that it is public hunting land for waterfowl only with permit. I saw so many birds and never a vehicle. I even saw my first Bluebird of the season, too. I could just look and gaze and never bother looking at the road in front of me. Talk about peaceful. Throughout today's run, I was listening to the new Passion 2014 album that just came out on Tuesday. Passion is an event that happens primarily in Atlanta, GA just after New Year's Day each year and is attended by mostly high school and college age kids. The concert is recorded and released as a LIVE album about this time each year. Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Crowder...awesome music to run to and let permeate every thought as I look around, smell Spring, and listen to the wind and birds singing. Eventually, I decided to make the turn which happened to be at 3 miles past the point where I turned on the GPS...which would be an additional 6 to the 10 mile loop. On my way back, a car was parked alongside the road in the middle of nowhere so I looked around, wondering where the driver was and why it was parked there. Behold! A trail entrance! Looks like out in my neck of the woods is some actual Buckeye Trail. I had to dive on in for just a taste and immediately my whole pace ratcheted up and I was flying through the twists and turns over pine needles and roots. I went out about a 1/2 mile and turned around, swearing to return to see where this trail leads.

Why the miles? Why run at all? Just because, I suppose. I can't explain much of it but I do know I love it, I often need it, and I'm untouchable while I'm out there. Some can't fathom the thought of running without music. I rarely turn it on and usually am left with only my thoughts and prayers. For me, most of the time isn't about the run at all. It's time to process much of life, my job, my kids, my relationship with my wife, and days like today...if I'm being totally's about worship. What better place to worship Him but when out in His creation under the power of what He has given me? My ability is not my own...but His. My joy flows not from myself, but from what He has given me. My life is still in existence not because of my own strength, but because He rescued me. I owe it all to Him. Out there...on the's just us. I talk a little, I listen a lot. I could even argue it's my church but that would be a bit misplaced. I will say, though, that worship is a lot more spot on and personal when it's just me, the open road, and Him. So why run? Just because.

Here are some photos I snapped from today's run. Feel free to click on any photo for the full size image and save if you'd like. The last image is a photo I took and a sentence I wrote while out there today. The road is in that section near the reservoir. Enjoy!
This white horse is a common staple on my country route. I always watch for her/him.

This white horse is a common staple on my country route. I always watch for her/him.

See the baby calves? Right after I snapped this, they turned left and ran to mom.

The reservoir.

Just an old barn with a lot of color and character to it.

The reservoir.