Monday, June 30, 2014

M-Cubed for 6.30.2014

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

- 2014 = 50% complete! As June 30th arrives, so does the end of June and the first 6 months of 2014. Great time for a status check of goals, things gone by, and things to come and make course corrections as necessary. Here are just some random thoughts for me:
  • I am finding it difficult to get in the monthly mileage I set out to maintain. I could do if I sacrifice more family time, though. That is not an option, though. I have to be happy and satisfied with what I have accomplished and move on.
  • There is one unspoken area in my life that I have been pursuing for years. However, it continues to not come to fruition. This Spring was the hardest pill to swallow as it didn't happen yet again. I believe it's time to read the writing on the wall and accept that I am exactly where I am supposed to be...right now. I need to not let this dark cloud darken what good is happening right in front of me.
  • I have set more personal records this Spring than ever before. I may be 41, but I also feel like I'm nearly in the best shape of my life. It pings in my mind as to what else I am capable of...and perhaps what stones I should turn back over and attempt again.
  • I have only a smattering of races on my calendar (see tabs at top of blog) for the rest of the year and some are on my mental chopping block. I'm swaying back and forth regarding what I really want to do and where I want to do it.
  • This year, my wife and I have led a marriage study for 11 weeks and Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University for 9 weeks. Both went well but we have no plans to do anything further unless led to do so. I have, however, helped others privately to get them on the path to financial freedom and enjoy that much more. I love to teach and lead...but I don't know what's next. I'm ready and willing...but will wait for the "nudge". I'm in no hurry.
- I said to my wife a few days ago: "My departure from this world would have a much larger impact on those around me who care and count on me as compared to how much I care about going away." Before you jump to conclusions like I'm suicidal, let me expand a bit. We all go through valleys of self-doubt, self-worth, etc. We do...and you know it. You may be there right this second. The truth is, so much of what we "hear" in our brains is a box full of lies. On the outside, unless you are just a hateful, evil person, people count on you, they love you, and YOU matter....I matter. If you're a mother or father, you have kids who need you. As I sat with my wife, simply fleshing these thoughts out a bit, I mentioned people like herself, my girls, my fellow sailors, my parents, and a very few close friends who'd actually notice my departure and grieve over it. It wasn't a self-promoting was more of a "I do matter...this life IS worth living and being the very best I can be in every aspect. It's NOT about me. At one point, I'm ashamed to say it probably was but I know it's not any longer. If it were, then none of my observations about my departure would ring true." So when I feel like "Ya know...I would be happier simply not waking up tomorrow," I need to think about those I love, serve, and who count on me to wake up in the morning. It's about them, you know...and my charge to serve, protect, love, and be there for. My happiness will come as a great side effect to it all. 

- I saw the new Transformers movie yesterday and in grand style: 3D and in the IMAX theater. WOW! I had never seen a feature film in an IMAX theater, much less a 3D movie. Not only was the floor-to-ceiling screen amazing but the sound was cranked up. Pricey at $13 but if you're going to see a movie in those conditions, I'd have to insist that Transformers is the perfect movie to watch in it. The movie has gotten beat up in reviews but I thoroughly enjoyed it. As a Transformers fan since being a kid, I was entertained from start to finish. The only thing I'd change is the length...2hrs, 45min. That's a bit long, even for my bladder. I'd give it, overall, 4 out of 5 stars. 

- So where am I for mileage for June and for 2014? Well, I knew that the Highlands Sky 40 miler would hurt my overall mileage, especially since it beat me up a lot worse than expected and kept my post-race mileage pretty meager. As expected, I didn't hit my 200 mile mark for June but it still ended up as a respectable number at 185.2 miles. For 2014, I sit at 1,169 miles which averages out to 194.83 miles per month, well above any other year in my life. I'd still like to recover my mileage and get my overall average/month to 200 miles per month and finish 2014 at 2400 miles. Honestly, I'm only 5.17 miles off of my monthly goal so that's not too shabby...and I'm injury-free. That's a significant jump (over 200 miles) over any prior year. As for my new everyday-running streak that I began on June 19th, it's still on! Some days, like yesterday, I only got 1.7 miles in to keep it alive (1 mile per day minimum) but it's still on. Here is the month of June below:

- I take photos...a lot during my morning runs. Here are just 3 from this past week. From the color along the route to a selfie from a 91% humidity run last week under threatening skies:

- I'd like to leave you with a whole different kind of quote today and a short article from The Minimalists. It's on gossip. Yea, yea, may (or may not) roll your eyes but these realities simply can't be denied. I'd like to challenge you to give it a quick read and think about what your words can do...for the negative. Here is the article and below is a quick excerpt from the article. My wife and I are really looking forward the seeing The Minimalists on tour in Cleveland in a few short weeks from now!

An old proverb tells the story of a person who repeated a rumor about a neighbor. Soon, the whole community had heard the rumor. Later, the person who spread the gossip learned that the rumor was untrue. He was very sorry and went to an elder in the community who had a reputation for great wisdom to seek advice. The elder told him, “Go to your home and take a feather pillow outside. Rip it open and scatter the feathers, then return to me tomorrow.” The man did as the elder had instructed.

The following day, he visited the elder. The elder said, “Go collect the feathers you scattered yesterday and bring them back to me.” The man went home and searched for the feathers, but the wind had carried them all away. Returning to the elder, he admitted, “I could find none of the feathers I scattered yesterday.” “You see,” said the elder, “it‘s easy to scatter the feathers but impossible to get them back.” So it is with gossip; it doesn’t take much to spread hurtful words, but once you do, you can never completely undo the damage.

Have a great week, everyone! Go do good for someone who won't expect it! (and expect nothing in return!)

P.S. One last thing. I typed most of this post prior to today's 9.9 mile run. (That's RunnersOCD for ya!) The photo below is how it ended...and if you know me, you know I hate snakes more than anything else on Planet Earth...especially venomous Copperheads. Yea...right in my running path within 1/2 mile of finishing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

M-Cubed for 6.23.2014

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

- It was a super busy weekend for many and not so much for us but a great one, regardless. From a mini-date night to the mall and some American Eagle shopping (a store I am coming to like more) and late night Chipotle on Friday to keeping my wife's half-marathon-a-month streak alive on Saturday morning with our "Summer Solstice Half Marathon" to the Hudson's Farmer's Market after that and then to spending hours detailing her car yesterday with ice cream to cap off the was a great weekend! (I love giving you grammar-freaks a cardiac arrest with my run-on sentences!) This photo is from the end of our half marathon on Saturday.

- A friend of mine who I never knew growing up but was raised in the same small town and my current hometown hit Day 400 of his running streak over the weekend. He recently finished the grueling Comrades Marathon in Africa and to keep his streak alive, he got in his mile in the airport on the way home to the USA. Believe it or not, there is a "United States Running Streak Association"...aka SRI/USRSA. According to their website, "The official definition of a running streak, as adopted by the Streak Runners International, Inc., and United States Running Streak Association, Inc., is to run at least one continuous mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices). Running under one's own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy." According to my friend, the current all-time leader has 45 YEARS in and counting! That man is also still averaging 80 miles a week. Amazing. So I'm going to give it a whirl and I'd love to see this become something. It seems very daunting at this point but every goal must have a beginning, right? With that being said, my streak began on June 19th. I am maintaining an ultra-simple spreadsheet to keep track of it. Care to join in? It's all honor system and it's not until the 1 year point that you register and pay the $20 fee. (Of course I vetted it! The SRI/USRSA is a non-profit and the fees go to maintaining the website and publishing the once-a-year massive newsletter.) Here is their website and here is their Facebook page that anyone can join.

- I mentioned last week about cascara...the skins removed from coffee cherries. Well, we cold brewed a french press's worth of it yesterday afternoon. It's sitting here waiting to be pressed and drank later today. I used about 15oz of the dried skins (shown here before I added the water). Looking forward to it! I also tried something else from Bent Tree Coffee Roasters on Saturday at the farmers' market. They took fresh hops, which are normally used to make beer, and cold brewed them with one of their coffees. Before you think I drank alcoholic coffee, hops don't contain alcohol..they're a plant! Anyway, it was refreshingly sweet and served over ice...very good! I have no idea if they'll make it again but I enjoyed it!

- Next month, we'll be going to the free Minimalists Tour in Cleveland. We've been following their page on Facebook and website for awhile now. Always great encouragement to live more with less. I highly recommend following them. Anyway, they linked to a New Yorker article over the weekend that I really enjoyed called "Why Are We So Busy?" It takes into account research done long ago with predictions and brings it to current day with what "actually" took place. It is a great article and one I recommend reading while enjoying your favorite cup of java or tea.

- Nothing like photo-bombing my own photo. Even better, a "bovine-selfie." Yep...I did both on yesterday morning's Sunday morning run. Goof? That would be a safe and accurate observation. Gotta have fun and keep not taking myself too seriously, right?! Right. Power to the selfie!

- If you're on Facebook, have you seen the new Timehop App? The Timehop App is an app you download from your app store for free. You match it up with your choices of social media sources like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Then, once per day, it pulls out 3-5 random posts from 1, 2, 3, and 4 years ago on the same date. They might just be tweets or status updates or photos. I post a lot of photos so I'm seeing a bulk of that. Anyway, I began it yesterday and I like it. It gets me thinking about things from the past and let's me choose to share them...or not. It might be worth checking out if you use any of those platforms just to see what you find. Below is the one I shared yesterday to give you an idea.

- I'm going to leave you with a super short quote today. I know some of you need to hear this. You're going through something where you can't even see the light of day and may have convinced yourself that there is nothing left living for and it's time to give up...throw in the for yourself from now on because no one else nor anything else is worth living for. Below the quote is a photo from a sunrise a few days back on a morning run. Let the quote and the beautiful sunrise be a source of hope for you...that you WILL get through will will make it. Look outside yourself for the strength to get there and look to serve others. It's counterintuitive but I'm asking you to give it a shot. As written in Matthew 20:16 > "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

“Faith is seeing the light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.”
- Unknown

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Poem: From the Rain

Falling asleep last night, the rain was falling
Too many days off, I had to run in the morning
Restless, turning, no good dreams happening
12:30am sleep, more dreams

Espresso brewed, clock not yet half past 3
Fellow sailors posting on Facebook from Afghanistan
Lunchtime there, family here
Rain steady, relentless, no sign of ending

My pair of Brooks, a pair of shorts
Soaked before I left the driveway
Cold pellets hit my chest
Refreshing so it was

Pupils dilating, very dark with no first light
Standing water, feet getting soaked
Thoughts escaping to the Dolly Sods
That section of "God's Country" I ran through a short 5 days ago

Untouched country, no electric, no technology, not even a chainsaw allowed
I remember how the air smelled, how it changed with the direction of the wind
I felt free, I appreciated how perfect it was and how all of the "stuff" means so little
I was reminded in the dark rain this morning of such thoughts...shorts weighted down by the rain

First light tried to light the road but the rain and dark clouds prevailed
Rain pouring over my eyelids and down my face
It felt natural, it felt right, it felt...perfect
Eyes shut and head tilted up, I caught a few drops in my mouth

Ever run and think "I must look awesome out here"?
You imagine an elite runner you just saw in a magazine was like that. I felt awesome but a glance down...
Well, it's just me. It's not him. Fat is still there along with my oddball gait

But we run. We run for different reasons, I'm sure...but we run.
On this morning, my quads still reminded me they were there
But the refreshing rain over my chest, the dripping from head to toe
It made me feel closer than ever to the One who gives me every breath

Out there....out there, I'm untouchable.
The junk, the past, the demons, the memories, the dreams
They can't touch me, they can't have me, it's my rules
To appreciate, to love, to be thankful for a pounding chest to propel me down the road

The cardinals, the red-winged blackbirds, and the bullfrogs
Life abounding, life rich in the falling rain
The run has to end but it'll have a new beginning
Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year

No telling when my light will be extinguished
Unknown when I'll feel the rain on my chest no more
I must make the most of today, love others, serve others more
To those entrusted to me, I must protect

I was asked yesterday, "If you could tell a group of people one thing, what would it be?"
I thought about it, I pondered and processed the question and opportunity
I said: "Love others and serve them without end instead of pursuing your own happiness...
...for the happiness you'll find will far surpass anything you'll ever achieve on your own."

A poem.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Recovery and Strawberries

You may remember in races and ultras past that I've been recovering practically overnight. True. It's been four days since Highlands Sky and I'm still walking like I ran Highlands Sky! My quads really did take a thrashing. I took Sunday off and ran an easy five on Monday morning like I mentioned in my M-Cubed post. I took yesterday off and again today. Heck...I slept 9 hours last night which is WAY more than normal. I'm still a little achy today but am still going to keep it as rest again. These are the reasons why my monthly mileage numbers go down during big race months...because of the days surrounding the races. I'm sure I'll be able to run fine tomorrow, even if there is some discomfort. One thing is for sure...I mentally NEED to run and get out there. I'm going a bit stir crazy without my 'drug' of choice. Overall, though, I'm good and thrilled with the weekend as it slips into the rear-view mirror. As I wished at the finish, I plan to keep this on the calendar each year. It's just THAT good...from the trip to the people to the course to the finish line to the post-race food/restaurants/travel. (heck of a run-on sentence, eh?!) Above is a photo of Amy and me. I mentioned her in my race report but no photo had emerged as of then. I mentioned in my race report that we met up on the Road Across the Sky then split and caught each other over and over again. For the final 4.1 miles, we kept each other moving strong to the finish and race director, Dan Lehmann, grabbed this photo of us seconds after the finish. Thanks, Dan! For Amy, "Great job at getting your first Highlands Sky finish and catching the bug to return next year!" :) I met great people last year and met even more this year. I guess that's ANOTHER reason to go back. :)

Secondly today, I have to share a recipe. I don't regularly photograph my food but this is an exception. My wife found this recipe at and it's off the hook! For me, what brings it home is a awesome combination of the poppy seed dressing, the strawberries, and walnuts. She took my girls to a strawberry patch on Monday in Hiram, OH and picked the strawberries and then we had this salad for dinner. I had it again today for lunch before the strawberries start going bad. Oh so good. The only change to the recipe is that she omitted the onions and added blueberries. Looks amazing, doesn't it?! It is! Here's the recipe.

Have a great rest of your week and the final two weeks of June! Run Happy and Hammer On!

Monday, June 16, 2014

M-Cubed for 6.16.2014

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

- The Monday after race weekend, we meet again. I really think calling off or taking a sick day "just because" doesn't do anyone favors! Many say "take it off" but unless it's due to travel, I need some normalcy and actual production in my day to shake off the cobwebs in my muscle fibers. Putting my Navy uniform back on and getting into that "distraction" called life will do just that. So here's to the "Monday morning after race weekend"...time to go get some!

- M-Cubed today is going to be heavily slanted in one direction...just warning you. Heck...I got my 30th ultra finish...a gnarly one at that...over the weekend. My mind is still in the mountains...

- After I wrote my race report on Saturday night while my family fell asleep, it was not a good night of "sleep." Tossing and turning all night while my quads, mostly, yelled at me. Nothing was comfy. Still...just after 5am my internal alarm awoke me and I was up. I waddled to the resort bathroom, brewed my Lavazza espresso, made myself somewhat presentable and wandered out to the center of the resort and the eastern-facing balcony where the finish line once was, the fog was resting in the valleys and the sun was rising. I must have stood there for 10 minutes just feeling the cool air mist and staring at the horizon. So many thoughts swirling while looking off in awe.

The finish line was in the center in between those two roofs. We emerged from the woods on the right.
- Tiffany, a friend from Pennsylvania, read my race report from last year and took up the challenge herself. She took the advice and brought her family with her, too. She got her finish and wrote up a great race report. If you'd like a different "story" of the race from someone else's perspective, I highly recommend giving her report a read. She captured the gnarly, rough and beautiful nature of Highlands Sky well. "Again, congratulations Tiffany!!!!" Here is her race report.

- Many people have been asking my opinion about the Sgt. Bergdahl release/prisoner swap and the massacre and violence overtaking Iraq. I'm not going there in this venue. As someone currently serving, it's my job to uphold the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, whoever that may be. My personal opinions matter, of course, but they'll only be shared in personal conversation. I did see, however, that the USS George H.W. Bush carrier battle group was ordered into the Persian Gulf. If there is writing on the wall, that would be it. I do like how one friend and Army soldier put it on a post I made on Facebook...stating how we should've stayed in Iraq just like we did in Korea and Germany. I agree. I'm sad for the veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and those families of the Fallen who gave the ultimate sacrifice there. To watch this happening in a country where so much American blood was spilled... ugh.

- Back to the weekend. :) Once 7am hit on Sunday, my 3 girls' attempt at sleeping in just had to end. I whipped open the shades letting the sun in and opened up my Father's Day card. Bonus! $25 gift card to Outback! Hmmm...this combined with a free appetizer today through Thursday just might suck us in. We were soon on the road (I was already packed) and we had our same breakfast again at the Bed and Breakfast in Davis, WV. It was an easy 4 1/2 hour drive home with one stop at the Rivertowne craft brewery just east of Pittsburgh first. I've been wanting to get there and finally did. At 12:30pm on a Sunday, it was just us. They were awesome and gave my wife and I two ounce samples and profiles of everything they had while our girls enjoyed their free popcorn. Great stop and once again, I love craft breweries! Unique and one-of-a-kind every time...and a great story to boot. Arriving home to high grass, that was the task at hand last night but a visit to see my dad first took priority. The grass did get mowed but I was dead to the world by 9pm. 800mg of motrin and a pillow...

- Here are some final stats posted by Dan Lehmann last night, the race director. There were 177 starters on Saturday. 160 made it. I was 79th of the 160 finishers, bettering last year's standing by about 40-45 spots. In my age group of 40-49, I was 19 of 38. You can't get much more mid-pack than that, now can you?! Am I still pleased? Yes. But...

- I did learn something last night and it frustrated and angered the heck out of me as I mowed the yard. I had to tell my wife my frustration before I could move past it and I spent more time thinking on it this morning. It doesn't matter what we/you accomplish in life much to one will ever care about it like you do/I do. I'm not big on patting myself on the back but I am big on sharing my're reading it!! :)  However, I do love words of affirmation and things like that from the people close to me that I "think" will give 2 cents. Well...that can be a slippery slope or to use a term from Saturday's race...that could be a "buttslide" if not careful. I run for myself. I finish for myself. I put my body through this "stuff" by my own choice and "enjoyment." I don't do it "for" anyone else. I just have to remember that, share my story, encourage others, and move on. I also have to remember that people DO care...but I have no idea what they're going through that at this moment. I can't take it personally. I say all this to encourage not only myself to charge on but for you as well. I'm sure you can matter what "race" you're running right now, just finished, or will soon. It's good to keep it all in perspective.

- Last Thursday, I was offered a whole new kind of iced tea at my favorite coffee shop, Bent Tree Coffee Roasters in Kent. The coffee bean begins its life hanging from a tree in a cherry. The outer skin is removed, discarded as compost, and the bean inside is what we call the coffee bean. Well, that outer skin is called "cascara." It's rarely exported out of the coffee growing region but within the region, is often dried and used to make tea. I had some on Thursday and it was incredible! No sweeteners of any kind yet it was full of flavor and sweetness. They put it on sale over the weekend so I hope to pick some up. This particular batch came from Costa Rica. They are selling it for $12.75 for a 12oz bag and you can read about it, buy it, and get the brewing instructions here.

- This morning, I woke at my traditional 3:15am even though logic seemed to preach otherwise. Rest, right?! The thing is...I need my routine! Espresso brewed (proof to the right >>>) and at sunrise, I laced up and head on out...on my toes. My quads are still pretty beat up as I'm still using handrails on all stairs so the downhill 1/3 mile out of my driveway saw me running on my toes, trying to reduce the impact.  You know what beat up quads love? Hills. That realization turned me in a different direction and wow, that felt good! I was finally able to engage the quads instead of beat them up. Once I climbed the hill for 7/10 of a mile, I was feeling awesome again and got the "clean bill of health" from my body. You see? Never regret a run! The rest of the run was fantastic as I watched the sunrise and I fell into a nice, steady rhythm plus a normal running more toe-running. Ironically, what hurt was the moment I stopped at the front of my driveway. Brakes on quads = hurt. 5 miles...done. I made up another batch of Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite to wrap up my recovery and get the day moving.

- To wrap up today, I have a different kind of quote this week and it's perfectly fitting for what this past weekend was about. Enjoy and have a great week!

The 10 Commandments of Endurance

1. Expect a journey and a battle
2. Focus on the present and set intermediate goals
3. Don’t dwell on the negative
4. Transcend the physical
5. Accept your fate
6. Have confidence that you will succeed
7. Know that there will be an end
8. Suffering is okay
9. Be kind to yourself
10. Quitting is not an option

-Marshall Ulrich, Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Race Report: Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run

Last year, I traveled to and took my family to eastern West Virginia to the town of Davis. Just west of downtown is the Canaan Valley State Park and lodge. This is race headquarters for the Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run, run in the Monongahela National Forest and Dolly Sods Wilderness. It was the most picturesque race I had ever run, hands down. From showing up at the lodge, the race, the course, the was all awesome. Excellent family mini-mini vacation and a race I wanted to do again. Last year's race report is here so for a ton of photos and that report, please visit this link. I took well over 200 photos last year but this year, I only took a couple.

Last year, the lodge was in the middle of a major construction project and renovation. When I say major, I mean we were walking on plywood and struggling to navigate around all of the projects. This year, it is all done and 160 brand new rooms are finished. The lodge is absolutely fantastic. The rooms, the's all top notch. Plus, we all got the rooms for only $99 a night thanks to the race organizers setting up a block rate. Check-in went perfect as did the drive down from NE Ohio and true to last year, the pasta dinner and pre-race meeting all went really well. It was great to see so many familiar faces from last year and races like the West Virginia Trilogy and Frozen Sasquatch 50K.

Race morning, the race began at 6am. At 5am, shuttles were provided to get runners to the start and many (like us) followed in the convoy out to the remote start, about 25min away. We got there about 30min prior to the start and after getting a head-to-toe coating of bug spray, taking a few family pics, and giving out goodbye/good luck kisses to my 3 girls, it was time to go.

At Highlands Sky, the race is divided into a few major sections. For the first 19.7 miles, we climb a LOT and have a good dose of downhills that do a number on the quads. LOTS of rocks and boulders, a plethora of shoe sucking mud and standing water, 3 water crossings where climbing ropes are stretched across to assist runners, and a constant canopy of green foliage over the trail. There was one section that is filled with rhododendrons left and right. It felt like a rain forest! This whole section, while rough, rugged, and very challenging, is also beautiful. As for the aid stations, the first major aid is provided at mile 10.5 and then most aid stations are 4 to 6 miles apart from that point out to the finish. Standard ultra fare provided at each aid station, along with Hammer Nutrition products. Below  is the course map that lays out how the aid stations are spaced.

Click on photo for higher resolution/larger image.
After 19.7, the ability to have a drop bag staged is offered which I highly recommend. After the messy first half, most runners' shoes are filled with all kinds of grime. I learned a lesson from last year and packed bottled water and a towel so I could wash my feet off before lubing them back up and putting a fresh pair of socks and shoes on. It worked perfectly. The next section is the Road Across the Sky which is 7.3 miles of gravel road. Lots of flat areas and climbs mixed in. After that, the next 5.9 miles are spent in the Dolly Sods area..the most amazing place I've ever run. Absolutely breathtaking. (here is my photo album that includes photos of this section) After this section, runners find themselves at mile 32.9. For me, this is the beginning of the end. Only one aid station remains. 4 miles later after more rugged, quad-beating trails, runners come out on the road where it's 4.1 miles to the finish behind the lodge, and mostly road.

As for nutrition, I employed the strategy from my last two ultras, that being using only Hammer Nutrition products and not eating at the aid stations except for the occasional piece of fruit. No more PB&Js, Pringles, M&Ms, etc. I've been trying to fuel with only what I need and cut down on aid station time. For this race, I took a Hammer Gel at the top of each hour, an Endurolytes Extreme at the :20 and a Perpetuem Solid at the :40...while drinking Heed the whole time. I stuck to the plan except for the last hour or two. I couldn't stomach another Perpetuem Solid.

Overall, I am happy with how the race went. I ran strong, even while taking a beating, for all the climbs, descents, and messy trails of the first 19.7 miles. Arriving at my drop bag and aid station #4, I definitely was tired and pretty worn down. I was ahead of last year's pace, though. I shot off a text to my wife (I finally got a signal) to let her know how I was doing and where I was. The next section beat me down big time. The Road Across the Sky is almost entirely wide open in the sun and is nothing more than a gravel road. Here is where I took one of my few photos. Last year, I never got a photo that really summed up this section well but this one does. Imagine this...over and over again. That's the Road Across the Sky...for 7.3 miles to Mile 27.

Pictured there in the red shirt is a girl I met today (Amy) and we ran together, off and on, for the rest of the race. We definitely were having our mental/physical ups and downs at the different times but eventually one of us kept catching the other. It was good to give the encouragement when needed and pass the time through conversation in the rough patches.

Once I got to mile 27 and aid station #6, I was thrilled to finally enter Dolly Sods. Just the most beautiful section and so much to look at. The wind was really blowing hard here but it felt great in the full sun. It was bit cool, too, so perfect. As I neared aid station #7, I passed over the "Moon Rocks" which are essentially massive boulders, some as big as a house. Cleverly placed orange streamers to mark the "trail" led us through them and on towards mile 32.9. (again...lots of great photos in my photo album) Throughout this section, I was doing better than I was doing on the "Road" but still walked a fair share. It wasn't hot out but the sun was taking its toll. Once at 32.9, I shot off another text update and let my wife know only 8.1 miles remained.

Heading on down the trail, I was now behind the Timberline Ski Resort and I'd soon pop out of the woods right on the ski slope. Last year, due to heavy rains pre-race, I went down the slopes (and therefore truly destroyed my quads) to the bottom. That was a one-time deal and not the original course. This year, we turned UP the slope and was steep. It's a ski slope! After climbing for awhile, I again turned left into the woods, en route to something known as the "Butt Slide." I had no idea what I was in store for. Well, thank goodness I didn't have to literally slide down on my butt but I can see how it got it's name. Imagine a very steep downhill with next to nothing to grab on to, loose dirt, and lots of loose rocks everywhere. Tough to stay vertical! This whole section to the last aid station is lots of down hill running, making the quads all the more grumpy. Eventually, a long gravel road led me to the final aid station with a sign reading 4.1 miles to go at the exit. They had fresh strawberries and blueberries here (a first!) so I grabbed whatever I could hold and head on out.

Maybe a quarter mile down the road after texting another update to my wife, Amy caught me yet again. I had lost her back in the Butt Slide area as she was fighting through a rough patch. She was smiling now and ready to finish this! For the final 4.1, we stayed together, mixing up a run-walk routine while also motivating each other to keep on moving. At this point, I was thrilled with the time. I was definitely going to better my time from last year's 10hrs, 25min...even if I walked all the way in. Still, we kept on going and finished strong back at the lodge. The finish is pretty sweet as runners emerge from the woods and then take a steep asphalt path down the hill and across the finish line. I finished in 9hrs, 40min and was 79th out of around 200 runners who started the race. Last year I was 120-ish out of about 200. This was ultra marathon #30!!! (how in the world did THAT happen?!) Thanks to my wife for catching this great finish line photo.

Proud to wear the eagle for Team Red White and Blue!
Afterwards, I caught up with a few friends who finished before me then crashed on the lawn for a bit along with hosing off both pairs of Brooks Pure Grits that I wore. Not much longer after that, I headed on back to the room and made up a batch of Hammer's Recoverite, mixed with chocolate milk. A hot shower, a failing attempt to really clean my jacked up toes, and we were off to Davis for a great meal at Hellbenders Burritos. After dinner, we went and checked out Blackwater Falls. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the sign that read "214 steps to the bottom"...yikes! Did I mention my quads were trashed?! Well, we only went halfway and still got a great view. Beautiful falls!

Many thanks to Dan Lehmann (Race Director) and his army of volunteers. He and the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners did another spectacular job and I wouldn't change a thing nor do I have a single complaint. So 2015? Ummm...yea! Where do I sign?! (oh yea, for the record...this race is 41 miles...but Highlands Sky 41 just doesn't sound right, now does it?!)

Sweet finisher's Patagonia long sleeve tech tee!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Freaky Taper Week

Not even including the fact that it's Friday the 13th today and a full moon will be in the sky this afternoon/tonight, but everything leading up to it has been freaky. By freaky I mean TWO encounters with the serpent I most hate in the world and aching muscles during a period of reduced mileage. I've been behaving quite well and taken a few extra days off and have kept my runs around 6 to 7 miles. One priority for the week has been to get to a trail somewhere to try out my new Brooks Pure Grit 3's. A big no-no is to wear a new "anything" on race day so I needed to run in them. I found a twisty, rooty, gnarly trail nearby my home that is actually a mountain bike trail and hit it up.

Storms were looming, humidity was high, but the trails were dry and fast...maybe too fast. Since I hadn't run a lot, my body and mind just took over and I was flying. Every angle, twist and turn was out there so perfect to break in the shoes and find out if the laces needed adjusted, hot spots were forming, or anything bad needed to be addressed. There was none of that. Right out of the box, they were fantastic. Over the 10 kilometer run, I didn't even have to stop and re-tighten them. I wore the socks I'll wear tomorrow for a true prediction and they did well. My one and only complaint: the tongue. In the other previous Pure Project shoes, they have integrated the tongue into the upper which prevents any kind of sliding left and right. They returned to the traditional tongue here and while doing that, didn't put a loophole on top to secure it. By the end of the short run, both had slid down to the outside. I can't think of any way to secure it in place so I'll just have to keep an eye on it and straighten it up now and then. Come on, Brooks...why would you return to the traditional tongue but not put a loop on top? As for the distance of the run that day, it was a 10K because I was turned around by Serpent #1. If you know me, you know I HATE snakes with a no other creature. As I entered the rocky section of the trail, I jumped over a root...well, I thought it was a root. Actually, it was a 4-5' long black rat snake, about 1" in diameter. I froze in my tracks! I turned around and there it was...stretched across the trail. Hairs on end and goosebumps formed, I decided it was time to prove my encounter and Facetimed my wife to show her it slithering across the trail. She was kind enough to capture a screen shot of our exchange. Yea...kind, eh?! After we hung up, I, being the foolish one, had to get a photo (I'm a blogger, ya know) and this nasty creature, having already moved off the trail decided to coil up, turn, and lift its head at me. That was enough of that! I was off and running in the opposite direction and NOT looking back. Every hair on end and goosebumps formed...blazing a trail of fear behind me. The joking texts followed me all the way back to my car like "it'll be waiting at your car for you...".  hahaha

As for #2, I got home from work yesterday and while walking out of my man door on the side of my garage, a yellow and black snake, assuming a garter snake, was slithering alongside the outside of the house...about 2 feet in length and mocking me as it slid towards the back over the mulch. Seriously?! No picture this phone was inside and inside is the only place I was going...not to return this time. No need to invoke a coiling reflex yet again.

I've also spent some time reading up on articles revolving around race day hydration and nutrition from Hammer Nutrition, my sponsor. A big point of it all is the misconception revolving around replenishing one-for-one fluids. In other words...we need to take in ounce for ounce what we sweat out. That's simply not true. As we sweat, we lose salts and electrolytes. We need to keep electrolytes coming in. Take in too many fluids, we could overwhelm our system and cause trouble. We just need to keep our bodies operating in the best way possible. The best way to describe this, as written in the most recent Endurance News, is to look at electrolytes like the oil in your car. While oil/electrolytes aren't the fuel for your "engine," the lack of them or dangerously low levels will certainly give you a "check engine" light and if not addressed, you will stop. From all I read, I'm doing it right. Tomorrow, I will once again employ my process of the following: One Endurolytes Extreme per hour, one Hammer Gel per hour, one Perpetuem Solid per hour, and sipping Hammer's Heed throughout. This will provide some calories and a variety of electrolytes in different forms. Everything will be staggered as to trickle in the nutrition and not overwhelming my systems at all. At the aid stations, I plan on eating very little. The plan will be to refill my Purist bottle with Heed and if offered, snag an orange or banana piece on the way out. I don't plan on feasting like most ultras. At my last two ultras, I have put this strategy into place and it's proven successful. Tomorrow will be the ultimate test.

So...ultra marathon #30 is on deck! Start time at 6am tomorrow morning at the entrance to the Dolly Sods National Wildnerness and 41 miles to run. Forecast is pristine: 0% chance of rain and a high of 71. Perfect. Below has been my Facebook timeline for the past from last year's Highlands Sky 40. More running and less photography tomorrow. Last year's photos are timeless so I'll keep the iPhone stashed for the majority of the day. See you on the other side!

Monday, June 9, 2014

M-Cubed for 6.9.2014

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

- Ah, yes...taper week. Soon, we'll begin our trek to eastern West Virginia outside the town of Davis, WV. 40 miles in national wilderness and the mountains is on deck! I even read last year's race report yesterday to prepare my mind throughout this week for what's to come. It's going to be a great one! (to better prepare, I even updated my Facebook timeline photo using PicMonkey with a smattering of photos from last year's race...including me crossing the finish line, of course.) :)

- If you read yesterday's post, you know we had a massive garage sale over the weekend. That consumed the majority of our weekend and we're so glad it's done. Even through all of that, I already heard the dreaded words yesterday from my wife as I found something laying in the laundry room: "That goes in the garage sale pile." WHAT?! Already?! We're already beginning the 2015 "Garage Sale Pile" in the basement. I never ends!

- I love how my daughters' minds work. Last year, they made homemade lemonade from scratch and chocolate chip cookies and sold them at the garage sale. This year, it was cookies, no lemonade, and added in charms and handmade bracelets using their loom and rubber bands. The entrepreneurial spirit makes this business-minded guy and father smile. In the end, it was a lesson on supply and demand. The cookies sold out long before the end of the sale and the charms and bracelets didn't move much. We discussed that and I'm sure they'll adjust their strategy for 2015.

- My wife and I have been following the "minimalists" for awhile now, mostly via their Facebook page. Living with less, giving, name it, they've helped us. They posted a great "Top 10" list yesterday on "10 Unconventional Habits to Live Distraction-Less" and wow, is it good!! I highly recommend giving it a quick read. They are also on a 100-city book tour. They'll be in Cleveland on July 7th and we've already reserved our free tickets to see them speak. Here is the whole list of cities and links to RSVP. Meet us there!

- It may be the top or at least Top 5 material for running selfies. On a sunrise run just a few days ago, I grabbed this shot in my hometown park. It's a manmade pond that captures the sunrise perfectly every time I happen to choose that route in the morning. Tall reeds pushing up from the water, beautiful reflections (which I have become very drawn to, I've found), and lots of color. I even got myself (and a reflection) in this shot. Thank you iPhone timer app and a quick sprint around the pond!

- Today will be a great day. As a Naval Officer, I have commissioned several people over the past 6 months during my tour as a recruiter but I finally get to give the oath to one of my own today that I have worked with since the beginning. Since first contact last Fall, I have walked him through the process of becoming a Naval Aviator and he was finally selected a few months ago. His journey towards that goal starts late summer but today, he'll finally raise his right hand and swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States...." His mom and dad will be in attendance, too, to celebrate it with him. It'll be the enlistment oath, though. As an officer candidate, he won't actually take the commissioning oath until after 12 weeks at Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island. On that day, he'll be commissioned as a Naval Officer and begin his two year training towards earning his "wings" as a Naval Aviator in Pensacola, Florida. I must admit...I love my job and my chance to be at the front end of the Navy where people's Naval careers begin!

- The garage sale was draining but we did find a way to enjoy Saturday night after delivering 3 car loads of books, clothing and household goods to Goodwill and the library. In nearby Kent, they were having their "Masterpieces on Main Art and Wine Festival." They sectioned off two roads where local and regional art exhibitors had their tents set up and down the center put wineries where tasting were being given. For $15, we purchased the souvenir glass and six tickets for six tastings. When I say tastings, I mean just that...a taste...only 1 ounce! Of course, if you found a favorite, you could certainly spend multiple tickets or buy more for $1 per ticket. About 6 or 7 wineries were out there. We enjoyed some vino and even sat on the grass at the Hometown Bank Plaza and listened to local artists string up some jazz and the evening wore on. The oddball tasting of the night certainly goes to a jalapeno-infused wine. I'm not a big fan of spicy but I actually enjoyed it, even though it lit me up! A big 'ol jalapeƱo pepper sat in the bottom of each bottle. Overall, "Masterpieces on Main" was a perfect ending to a crazy couple of days. Pretty cool glasses, too!

- This week, I leave you with a quote that's perfect for a new week's beginning. Make this week a great one! "Cheers!"

"Prioritize: Take an honest look at your average week, identify your inefficient uses of time and eliminate the things that don't serve your goals. No matter how busy you are, if you are truly honest about this inquiry, I guarantee you can make some cuts and carve out some time. Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes."

-Rich Roll, ultra-distance endurance athlete

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Garage Sale Shame

We organized (or more like my wife did) our neighborhood garage sale this year and it concluded yesterday. We call home a small rural town of 7000+ but live within a "development" that normally has an organized sale like this annually. No one was stepping up to organize and our "garage sale pile" in the basement was reaching new unforeseen proportions so my wife took the reigns and volunteered. She created a flier a few months back and we stuffed paper boxes, we created a Facebook event page, we put it on CraigsList, we put it in the local paper for 3 days this week, we put it on the new digital sign in the center of town for the past two weeks, we rented a $50 large marquee-like sign for the main entrance that caught the traffic's attention for the past week, and I made a small sign for the lesser-used entrance. Whatever "could" be done, was done.

Come Friday morning, we were busier than ever before...and we've done LOTS of garage sales. Unfortunately, I had to "abandon ship" for an hour mid-morning to attend the 5th grade graduation but I came home to even more stuff (e.g. crap) gone. You've heard the saying...something like "what your garbage is, is someone else's treasure." I don't know how many times I said this weekend to my girls: "You just watch...someone will buy it"...and they did. We also had fantastic weather. Mid-70s and sunny. We really couldn't ask for better weather.

As the first day wrapped up, we were blown away. My wife did not expect much of a return from our sale. Not a single item was priced over 10 dollars yet we brought in double what she expected. Most items were a buck or less, with the occasional $5 that huge, obnoxious green trash can. So glad it's gone! As day 2 dawned, I got my morning sunrise run in, and as the 9am start loomed again, we made a run through the house again for anything to get rid of. I brought up a few shirts and sport coats as well as a pair of jean shorts. They fit...they were in good shape...but after reading this article, I took the advice and got rid of them. (they sold around 10am!...see?????) Day 2 was certainly slower and less traffic but we continued to move stuff on out. I even brought up every last Christmas light string I owned. I stopped stringing the lights a few years back and have no intention of ever doing it why continue to hold on to them?

As the day concluded yesterday, I grew more sick and ashamed of it all. Let me explain: I know we did a good thing here. I know stuff has got to go. But I'll be honest, I hate "stuff". Last night after the sale, we got into hard-working mode. We have a rule about stuff coming to the garage from inside the doesn't go back IN the house. It all goes to donation. TWO full car loads later, we took 6 cases of books to the local library that accepts all donations and tons of clothing and household goods to Goodwill. We did hold back a few winter coats, actually. Our church does a winter coat drive in the Fall and we're going to donate them then. So as we boxed up all of the stuff that didn't sell, I kept wondering to myself "How in the world did we accumulate so much crap? We hardly buy anything but consumables anymore? We have a sale every year, have a full garage every year, so how do we keep producing SO MUCH????" In there holds the reason for the today's blog post's title..I'm ashamed of that, no doubt. Nearly 22 years of marriage now and this is what we've done. I was stumbling over my words in the car last night en route to Goodwill. With boxes nearly about to hit me in the head behind me from the "stuff," I couldn't adequately explain my frustration (and a little bit of anger) over my lack of leadership and facing what I and we have done. I rattled off the things that I do buy now: running shoes, Hammer Nutrition products, ground espresso, the rare and unique t-shirt...but not a whole lot else of anything. I have two pair of shorts that I wear all season long and I can wear them for 3-4 years (unless the fashion police arrest me!). So, I know we're no longer accumulating but our house continues to vomit all of this "stuff" (and I'm putting it nicely). It's frustrating and it angers me.

My hope is that we can communicate what true "value" is to our kids and they "get it" before they venture out into life. I think we're on the right track, though. Many days, my wife sent them to their rooms or the basement with directions on finding more for the garage sale pile and they did. Honestly, there aren't many toys left in the basement any longer. We've hit that mountain enough times now to really break it down. Their closets are not stuffed, their rooms aren't piles and piles (well, one daughter is still a bit of a pack rat...but we're working with her!), and they continue to show a little more initiative on their own to de-clutter and choose on their own what to pass on to others. Even Christmas is hugely different. No longer is there a mountain of presents. There are a few meaningful items and one big item from "Santa." Guess what? Our girls and everyone else continues to live. They don't die from a lack of "stuff" under the tree!!

My wish? Simple living. I don't crave stuff any longer and haven't for quite awhile now. A small home or condo, some clothes on my back, a pair of running shoes (with road/trail nearby), and my bride on my arm...that's all I really want. I am tired of being suffocated by stuff and do NOT care about what I paid for it and how much I'm losing by selling it for 50 cents or giving it away. What am I gaining by keeping it? Ask myself/yourself THAT?! Seriously. We, as a nation, have become such a huge consumer-heavy nation that it's sickening and drowning. If we only could flip that on its head and put that energy and funding into greater intangible things and helping each other, our communities, our nation, and the literal world around, what power that would hold.

I have a very difficult time with the past. I know, I know...the past is the past and we cannot change it. I still struggle with it and regret so much. To me, the "stuff" of the garage sale represents it. This morning, our vehicles sit in the garage and a lot of open space surrounds them. In the basement, the pile is no more. With that stuff gone, I feel like I've expunged some of the past with it and what it all represents. Like the stuff, the past is gone and I'll never see it again. Like the past, the stuff will only come back if I welcome it back in. It's on me to bring it back or seek out new ways to live, serve, and breathe in every second, hour, and day of life. I get but one chance to live each day and this life and I/we never know when that is going to end. May the shame of the garage sale be turned into something good and maybe even some motivation to get out and do something good today and pave new paths and blaze new trails. The choice is to make it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

National Running Day

Go ahead...get the chuckle out of your system. Yes...we (runners) have a "holiday" and it's today! National Running Day is here and is intended to be a coast-to-coast celebration of running from the veterans to those just beginning. If you check out their website or Facebook page, you'll see lots of badges that all begin with "I RUN..." and then a reason...and you know we all have reason we run. Here's the history and purpose of today...straight from their website:

National Running Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in June, is a day when runners everywhere declare their passion for running.

Since 2009, the country's foremost running organizations have worked together to celebrate our sport with thousands of participants on the first Wednesday of June. We encourage runners to join in by planning a run, spreading the running bug to a friend, signing up for a race, or setting a new goal. 

So here we are...with a question posed and begging an answer: I Run...  why? Why do I run? What do I run for? Who do I run for? That has changed over the years. Ultimately, it may sound selfish but we all run for ourselves. The literal act of running does not have a benefit to anyone else directly except for us. Now, we can certainly run in honor of someone, in memory of someone, or wear the colors/jersey of an organization to raise funds for them or raise awareness. I wear the Team RWB jersey quite a bit at races (see the logo at the top right sidebar of this blog) which is meant to raise awareness of veterans among us, especially while we're in the midst of the longest war of our country's history. It also unites those "wearing the eagle" at races as we typically go up to each other and root each other on throughout the day. We also may be running to reach goals like to lose weight, to get faster, to be able to complete our first 5K, marathon, or 100 mile race. The "I Run..." answer can and will have multiple levels to it...but ultimately, we...the runner...well, it's for us.

So why do you run? Please feel free to comment on this post and share your thoughts...I'd love to hear them. I thought a lot about this on my morning 10 miler today. I hit the road before 5am to make sure I had enough time to fit in my favorite 10 mile loop before work...and wow, what a gorgeous morning it was. Clear and First Light before the clock struck 5am...and fog resting in the lowest areas in the new fields of corn and soybeans. The occasional deer appeared with his or her friends nearby, there were cattle resting in one field under the fog and the birds were singing as if providing a choir concert to anyone who would listen. I was.

Sunrise this morning
I RUN, because...

  • I am free out there
  • I feel like the darkness of the world can't touch me
  • I like to hear the sound of my breathing
  • I like to feel the thump of my heart beating within my chest
  • I know I have a "hardline" to the God I speak to
  • I get to enjoy God's creation in all 4 seasons
  • I can eat a lot more and not look like I eat a lot more :)
  • I like the way a size 34 fits me when it used to be a tight 38
  • I love to take photos of my travels and share them
  • I enjoy setting goals and meeting them
  • it's fun
  • it's quiet
  • I love finish line...especially when it takes hours to cross it
  • it's fun to take short family "vacations" that include a race in the mountains
  • it inspires others to consider trying it themselves
  • it gives me something to write about
  • I know at some point I will want to quit and I get to be witness to me NOT quitting
  • I like to set goals and run races that most consider downright crazy
  • a Starbucks Frappuccino is the very best and like none other after finishing an ultra
  • what is to church for many on Sunday, most runs are for me when it comes to worship
  • I can.
Run Happy and Hammer On out there, friends. No better way to end today's post than to share yet another "running selfie" from this morning's 10 miler around home. Happy National Running Day!

Monday, June 2, 2014

M-Cubed for 6.2.2014

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

- BAM! It's June! I was at a Chili Cookoff yesterday with my church to raise money for a youth multi-day concert event and while talking to a friend there, mentioned how quickly it's difficult to imagine blowing snow and ice while sweating in the afternoon sun at a picnic. While we won't soon forget one of the worst winters in recent history, it does seem further in the past than it really is. I swear...if I hear one person complain about it being hot...REMEMBER, folks! Better hot than what we just came out of! :)

- Well, my OCD did NOT get a hold of me for my monthly mileage in May. My unwritten goal was to get in 221 miles for May so that I'd average the whole year out to 200 miles per month..exactly. I didn't get 221 but I did get 204.8 that inches me closer to that average...still way ahead of any other year in my life. June is probably not going to be huge due to my big goal race right in the middle at the Highlands Sky 40 Miler in West Virginia. Lesser miles leading into and taking it easy followed by the recovery won't lend my running log a huge month. No worries,'s just a log..right?! Here's my log so far this year...ugh! I got a decimal in a month! ARGH! :)

- Speaking of Highlands Sky, I have my new pair of Brooks Pure Grit 3's on order. They were released on Saturday so the order has been placed! I'm praying they fit the same as others in the Pure Project family so I can wear them at the race. I just need to get them and wear them on some trail for a few miles to get the fit right before I take them to West Virginia for my trek up the mountains.

- Did you see the news about the Army soldier who was released over the weekend? He was the only POW in Afghanistan...for the past 5 years. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released in exchange for the release of FIVE high-level Taliban insurgents from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they've been held for years. Here is the story from Stars and Stripes, outlining details of the debate over this exchange. I'll leave my opinion aside here...but I will say this: the release of 5 insurgents who want nothing more than to kill the infidel (that would be US!), doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy.

- Miss my race report from Saturday's Medina Half Marathon? It was a GREAT one! Read it here.

- We graduated 7 families from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University on Thursday night! While we began with 9 families, seven stuck it out for all 9 weeks, did all of the homework, watched the lessons from Dave Ramsey himself, and participated in the discussions. Even though it was only 9 weeks, everyone made progress towards their goal of financial peace. Details aside on the financial dollar side, we did cut up a cumulative 20 credit cards in the process. As for debt, some was paid off by some and none by others...but for those who didn't, they can at least see the light of day now, they are operating on a budget for the first time ever, and they have a plan moving forward. The #1 "side-effect" from it all was a closeness built as a couple and reduced stress over money. It's not just about the money! Working together, hand-in-hand, has a lot more tangible benefits than just a reduced/eliminated debt load. It was a great class and only history will show if we'll take another class though the 9 weeks again in the future. CONGRATULATIONS to all of the graduates of FPU!
FPU Graduates outside of the township's Town Hall (that we used for FREE!)
- I read a few blog entries yesterday that really bring it home when it comes to "speaking" and "serving" one another in a relationship. One speaks to the men and one speaks to the women. Both are excellent, simple, and short HUGE items to understand when moving forward along this journey called "life" and "marriage." If you don't get these things right, you really are cutting yourself (and your family) short and not experiencing what "could" be in your life. Remember: we are wired so incredibly different so the sooner you get that, the sooner pure joy can be pursued and achieved.
- This past week, I enjoyed a few miles (14.2 to be exact) along a new bike trail outside of Columbus, Ohio. 14.2 wasn't the plan but I got a little lost...sort of. Regardless, it was a fantastic run and I saw lots of wildlife out there. From a big snapping turtle (shown below) to countless rabbits to lots of deer to birds singing that I didn't recognize, it was a great run. I also caught this photo below of a deer at sunrise within the resting fog...beautiful (just not high quality) shot!

- As I say goodbye this morning and get this week going, I leave you with another quote I ran across this past week. Have a great week, everyone!

"Prioritize: Take an honest look at your average week, identify your inefficient uses of time and eliminate the things that don't serve your goals. No matter how busy you are, if you are truly honest about this inquiry, I guarantee you can make some cuts and carve out some time. Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes."

-Rich Roll, ultra-distance endurance athlete