Monday, July 16, 2018

Can't Go Home, But Can't Stay Here

It has only been a little over three months since we moved to Delaware, though it seems like we have been there much longer. I guess that's what a home should feel a home. We seem to fit into place with our surroundings, our neighbors and the super friendly stray cat that has lingered around for the last six weeks or so.

The visitor who came be known
as "Scrabble Cat"
You may remember Scrabble Cat, he showed up one night out of the blue mingling with us and our friends like he had been there for years. In a short time, he became common place. Following us around the yard, sleeping in our lawn chairs in the carport, waiting outside our door in the morning and even sprawled out on our front step as we came home from work. We, in a sense, had an outside dog in the form of a cat - with no idea where he had come from. Our two indoor cats, Whiskey & Jameson, had even gotten used to greeting Scrabble and conversing through our window screens - like visiting an incarcerated friend, with the exception of not having to utilize a telephone receiver in order to chat through the two inch thick pane of glass separating you.

The cat who chased moths & flies, and left us presents of dead birds on our patio came and went daily. We could always tell when he had been by as there would be giant dent in the food we left for him.  On Thursday, July 6th, I came home from work to have that cat waiting for me as I pulled in and on Friday - I was off - it followed me around all day as I messed around the yard.

Later that afternoon, I headed out to grab a few beers and hangout with some friends at Barley Hopsters. As I was walking down the street, the cat followed me. Figuring it would stop soon, I kept going, but so did Scrabble Cat. Not wanting him to get crunched by a passing car, I picked him up and walked back to our yard. Thinking I was playing, I chase him a little then headed on my way again. The cat continued to follow, but only to the alley down from our place. 

I turned the corner and watched as it just sat at the alley entrance, watching me. It wasn't going anywhere, just observing me head off as I continued on and disappeared down the street. The next morning I noticed the food we leave out for him hadn't been disturbed and the rest of the day went by without a sign of scrabble cat. The weekend came and went, then by midweek - still no sign of him.

This is a pretty good flick, if you
haven't seen it.
Thinking it was just me, L asked one day if I had seen him and upon telling her I hadn't, she replied, "Oh, that makes me sad. I kind of miss him." Its weird how small, familiar nuances become common place and get mixed in the shuffle, but then become a glaring void when they just aren't there any more. I run the streets of our neighborhood daily and hadn't seen him or - thankfully - his remains along any street. We were guessing (hoping) since he was super friendly and playful, he had become someone's new pet or maybe he found his way home or...he's just a loner...coming and going as he sees fit to fill whatever void needs filled.

Surprisingly, the latter seemed to have been the answer. This past Thursday, walking back from an evening in downtown Delaware, L suddenly points out, "Is that him!?" A smallish, black cat was hanging out on the front steps of a house about two block from our place. When called, the cat came up to us and was Scrabble Cat. I don't believe it belonged to the folks at this house either as there was a food and water bowl sitting outside of the front door off to the side, a familiar scene which had been taking place at our house for over a month. The cat greeted us, then sauntered back onto the porch and dug into some free food.

It was nice to know the cat was just making it's way around and not in some sort of distress. Maybe it knew something we didn't, kinda of like the Rex O'Herlihan character from Rustlers' Rhapsody. He's the only character aware of the plot outline and explains that he "knows the future" inasmuch as "these Western towns are all the same" and that it's his "karma" to "ride into a town, help the good guys, who are usually poor for some reason, against the bad guys, who are usually rich for some reason, and ride out again. Though, I doubt Scrabble Cat's knowledge is also connected to an unspecified "root" vegetable he digs up and eats - but I could be wrong.

Nevertheless, we found a new city, a new home, new neighbors and a new four-legged visitor in the last few months that helped us through a rather large transition - thanks fur ball for helping to make the change easy and enjoyable. Funny, that night I thought it would be cool if it would stop by and leave us a small vermin carcass now and then just to let us know it's doing okay. And, no lie, Friday morning L sent me a picture of a dead brown bat in our drive way (the picture is below). Thanks SC, our lawn chairs will always have your name on them.

Speaking of new, when is the last time you ran a mile - not just for time - but for competition? For me, I think the last 1500 I ran was in college in 1996 (the 800 was my forte), but high school would have been my last competitive mile (1994). Yeah, it has been a few years. Running a mile race isn't new, though it is familiar. I would say our relationship has been rather stale - like running into someone you hung out with 20 years ago who doesn't remember your last name and can only recollect that your first name starts with a "C"... or was it an "F"? But, yeah, great seeing you!

Wanting to try my hand to go all out and attempt to break the 5:00 minute barrier would come in the form of the Columbus Running Company Mile Dash, CRC's annual anniversary celebration. I would take part in their 14th anniversary Elite Mile Race. Sounds like a big time thing for me, but "Elite" in this case refers to those who can run a mile in under 6:00. Not an easy thing to do for many people, but something I can do with relative ease.

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If memory serves, my best mile in high school was 4:41. I doubt I will be reaching that anytime soon, but it would be fun to see how close I could get. Here we would start on Liggett Road before turning on Perimeter Drive and finish back at CRC's Dublin location in Avery Square - a flat, fast course. I can get in a 5:30 mile by myself, but running with a group of folks who have a faster pace and are more used to running a sub five mile would be of great assistance.

CRC Mile Dash Route
This, of course, would require being prepared for the all out effort in order to complete this mission and not crash somewhere in the middle. I would be joining Traffic Panther Teammate Gary in this quest. Last year, Gary was just short of that elusive 5-minute mark. Maybe this year, a team effort could push the both of us over the top.

The race may have started at 5 p.m., but there was no relief as it was blue sky, no shade and full sun releasing it's full 90 degree strength upon us. It was nice to know we were running only one mile, but being tagged with bib #1 didn't help curb the few butterflies fluttering away in my mind. We had a large mix of adults and teens and at the gun I had to remind myself there would be no time to cruise, it had to be all out.

About 15 yards in, one of those teens - wanting to get by some folks - cuts directly in front of me, clipping my right foot. Luckily I caught myself and didn't crash to the ground. He did have enough wherewithal to glance back and offer an apology, but holy crap man...this is happening in every race now! At least he wasn't dressed in some stupid superhero costume like the July 4th race. In a group of guys around my age (with Gary), we are passing folks and are trailing a significant group who will soon be getting further ahead.

I'm in the center, gray singlet with yellow stripe,
the finish in sight.
We turn onto Perimeter Drive and the crowd begins to spread apart. Hanging behind a couple of teens and Gary surges ahead, I follow and with a quick glance ahead the finish is in full focus. My legs are now rubber, my stride is as far as it can reach and my arms are pumping - pushing as much as I can muster. I'm able to glide by a couple high school kids, but Gary has a bit more left than I. The clock is in full focus and it's at 4:50, but I'm a little too far out to able be to break five minutes.

We pick off a couple more high school kids and through the finish we go. Sucking air and melting in the humidity, I glance at my watch: 5:04.05. Armed with bottles of water, L finds me and offers a congratulatory hug. A little disappointed to have been so close to breaking five minutes, but I'm still pumped at hacking off more than 30 seconds off of my best return to running mile. I then begin to wonder how I was able to do such things years ago. Funny, though, this was the same day - two years ago - when I was prompted to start running again,  so not too shabby I guess.

Officially, my time was 5:05 - good enough for 37th overall (out of 131)and 6th in my age group. Unfortunately, Gary was also a little short of the sub five minute goal. At 5:02, he took 34th overall and 4th in the age group. The winner annihilated everyone with a 4:15, a full four seconds ahead of second place. It would be super cool to eventually break the five minute barrier, but there aren't exactly tons of one mile races out there. Somewhere down the road, we will try again.

A second from the finish, the look on my face has been
the subject of hilarity from L. Zoom in to understand why.
L & I and Gary & his family when out to eat and grab a few beers afterwards at Smokehouse Brewing. Afterwards, L & I went to nearby Sideswipe Brewing for an additional flight before heading home. I'm not trying to reverse the clock or go back to what once was, I just want to reach a plateau that had been long forgotten and say "hello" one more time. Oh, and this week is the one year anniversary of my trip to Las Catalinas, Guanacaste, Costa Rica - those damn Facebook memories are killing me. As you can imagine, Central Ohio is not the same.

I'm not sure what the rest of July or August will look like, other than sweating and coaxing our garden to produce some actual fruit from the rainforest of vegetation that has taken over our backyard. I can say, though, that I will be taking part in the Amish Country Half Marathon in September. It is a rather hilly course in Ohio's Amish Country (video), but the SWAG is quite impressive:

* Long-sleeved tech running shirt to all runners registered 
* Deliciously Prepared Amish Country Hot Buttered Noodles & Much More when You Finish the Race
* A Taste-of-Amish-Country box (jam, homemade bread, noodles, cheese, fry pie, etc)
* Prizes will be awarded to top 3 finishers in each age group.
* Top 3 Finishers in the both the Men’s & Women’s Divisions in the Half Marathon Win Prize Money

And L, who has started running herself, signed up for the 5K portion of the event - a team effort all around.

For those who prefer to be the loner and fly by the seat of your pants, I applaud you for your capacity to be your own person and the ability to "be" in the realm of solitude. I know you are well aware, but just in case, if ever you crave human interaction or just simply need a helping hand - there are many of us out there ready and willing to offer assistance without expectation....

Counted out
Out here with the lonely ones
Seeing how
We ain’t been the only ones
We ain’t been the only ones
Down and out

Fell in love
It felt just like a broken heart
So easy just to fall apart
Fell in love

Come on baby dance with me
They’re playing for the lonely ones

Close enough
Close enough to see the sparks
Close enough to leave a mark
Fell in Love

Come on baby dance with me
They’re playing for the lonely ones

Fell in Love

Fell in Love

Photos Courtesy of Lauren B.

Thanks for stopping by Scrabble Cat...and, uh,
for the "gift". Take care of yourself.
Lauren B. and I

Gary is the blur, that's me in the yellow in the rear
A flight at Sideswipe Brewing

At Smokehouse Brewing
After the one mile sauna

Friday, July 6, 2018

Not The Fireworks I Was Looking For...

I get an hour long lunch at work and on most days I use the second thirty minutes to walk around the couple of blocks that surround the library, sort of a way to decompress and recharge for the last half of the day.

A man with a pole chain saw, similar to my new friend -
minus the safety gloves, hard hat, eye & ear protection
and electrical activity caused by complex chemical
changes that occur in nerve cells
Otherwise, yeah, the same.
On Wednesday, June 20th as I was making my way back to work along the sidewalk on Greenwood Street I come upon a gentleman cutting branches off of a tree. A man of small-ish stature with wire-rimmed glasses, he reminded me of someone you'd call a "poindexter" -  or in this case, an older poindexter down on his luck. Utilizing a pole chain saw (a small chain saw with a pole attached in order to reach limbs out of normal reach), he seemed quite busy and unaware I was headed toward him. The sidewalk was littered with branches he had already cut, so I had planned to just walk into the street to go around.

Just as I veer off of the sidewalk a squeaky, high-pitched voice comes from behind the brush pile, "Hey there!" A little startled since I didn't know him and hadn't realized he noticed I was there, I look over and return his friendly connection - "Hello! How are you?" I figured following his lead with a standard greeting on this warm, sunny afternoon would be appropriate, I would then continue on to the library. A simple plan, Yes...but it was not carried out in a simple manner.

My return of his friendly greeting had, apparently, given him permission to dig into his fun-filled repertoire of too much information. I have yet to notice him actually look at me, but he immediately hijacked my lunch stroll as he looked back up into the tree to continue the manicuring and conversing, "You know these things (the pole chain saw) make it so much easier to get this done." I haven't stopped walking and have now passed by him, though I'm looking in his direction and smiling...common courtesy it is to feign interest...right?

Without so much as a pause, he goes on, "This way I won't be able to kill anybody else." Following his lead, I pretend to chuckle, but then...wait...what..."anybody else"? Having now stopped, and curious, I wonder if he just simply misspoke. I had no intention of actually asking about his choice of words, but even if I did, I wouldn't have had to. His Syrup of Ipecac-like induced verbal vomit provided me with all I didn't want to know.

"You know that accident in front of Smith Clinic (now called: OhioHealth Marion Area Physicians) a couple of years ago? Yup, that was me," he says in manner indicating he wasn't proud of this dubious stigma and shaking his head in a negative fashion. I reply with "Oh, yeah?," to signify my sort of occupied attention, but my mind is wandering as to what I accident he is referring to. The only one I can come up with was from 2014 where a rear end collision resulted in three people being unable to get out of their car as it burst into flames.

In this accident, the culprit - according to witnesses - began driving erratically about two to three hundred yards before the collision, swerving across lanes and glancing off of other cars while slumped up against the steering wheel. People say it seemed like the driver was somehow in distress. Ultimately, the car he was driving drifted into a turn lane and drove straight into an SUV waiting to make a left hand turn. A fiery mess ensued and for about a year afterward, before the pavement was repaired, the spot where the accident took place was marked by the melted asphalt where the SUV had been.

Telling myself it had to be another accident he was speaking of, he offers more nuggets of unwanted knowledge, "It wasn't my fault? It was the seizures, can you believe I got 57 days in jail for that?!"

"'s...that's just...crazy," as I stare in disbelief, forcing my best fake smile and just as dumbfounded as he seemed to be - but for opposite reasons. I'm now slowing walking backward, away from the chainsaw wielding man who suffers from seizures. "Well, I'm on my lunch break and have to head back to work," I say throwing my escape plan into high gear - and now in a dead sprint - I vaguely remember "Mr. Cutty-cutterson" say something like, "Well, have a good day."

Awww, what a nice thing to say. It is impossible to do so now, but thanks.

Completely weirded out, once back at work my cat-like curiosity drove me to dig a little. Typing in something like "Smith Clinic Fatal Accident" on my desktop, I scroll and down and click on this Marion man sentenced in crash that killed family of 3. Astonished, I see a photo of a familiar bespectacled man in a suit - IT'S HIM! It's the chainsaw seizure guy from just down the street! This WAS the accident I was thinking of and he WAS the culprit.

He apparently had a long resume of traffic violations and accidents previous to this one and, luckily, no longer has driving privileges. It was amazing to me at how flippant he was about his past transgression and even more taken back at his frustration with spending more time than he thought he should have behind bars for causing three people to - more or less - burn alive inside of their car. I don't know about you, but this isn't story you should share with your house pets, let alone random strangers...worst...fireworks...ever.

Independence Day, July 4th, America's Birthday or what most kids refer to as midsummer (because stupid school starts in August) and we celebrate with cookouts, food, fireworks and a race! This year's day of home pyrotechnics would include the Westerville Rotary July 4th 5K. Having covered some goals with the longer races recently, why not go back to those shorter ones to see if I can improve on those!?

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With Traffic Panther Teammate (and fellow 40 something) Gary having broken the 18:00 minute 5K barrier in recent weeks for the first time in years, I was a little jealous and have been super close to doing the same. I haven't run a 5K in under 18:00 since my college running days - going on 20 years. Why couldn't I do that here?

Our route would be a loop, starting and finishing at Alum Creek North Park just off Main Street. The course will go counter clockwise from Main St. to Collegeview to Cooper and Schrock Roads, concluding along the bike path to the park. As of late it has been silly hot & humid and this day was no different. The kind of day where you get instantly covered in a sticky, wet film of moisture the moment you step outside. As the 8:00 a.m. start time edges closer, it is already 80 degrees, at least we wouldn't be in direct sunlight...if that made any difference.
Westerville Rotary July 4th 5K race route

At the gun we seem to be going at a pretty good clip and I'm warm & loose, then weirdness jumps into the picture. Just before we turn left onto Main Street, a blue figure appears next to me. This dude is dressed as Captain America and I don't mean casually. He is completely decked out, head to toe, in an adult Halloween Captain America costume - with headgear, gloves, shield and all.

I believe this guy just jumped in at this point as a gag and for some photo op since it was Independence Day, the correlation wasn't lost. Getting closer to the turn he is just ahead of me, but not enough to have a clear path to move in - but that didn't stop him. Unable to see exactly where he's going due to his costume's stupid headgear, he moves in to make the turn and clips my right foot. Both us begin to stumble while among a crowd of runners as we are maybe 200 meters in.

Trying to utilize my momentum to regain stability (and not face-plant on the asphalt below) my arms are swinging wildly. Captain jerk doing the same, but has less of a handle on his momentum. I reach out and grab the waist of his costume in hopes of keeping myself upright, from running him over and make his landing less painful. He is nearly perpendicular - arms swinging wildly - so his crashing to the ground was inevitable. A moment later and to the ground he goes, his Captain America Shield clanging on the street as if a distress signal summoning the rest of Marvel's The Avengers for assistance. Despite his stop, drop and roll - which I'm sure didn't feel great - the costume and shield had to have protected him from any big time injury and he did so without impeding any other runner.

Despite one of his feet flying up and catching my inner thigh (just missing some super important physical attachments), I caught my balance and continued on without another hiccup. "Every does goofy crap like this happen EVERY TIME," is what I'm thinking to myself. Annoyed, but feeling good otherwise, I'm in a mix of 10 to 15 runners and we reach the first mile marker/water station. I grab a cup of water and dump most of it down the back of my neck as it is crazy humid, I'm in at 5:43. Wow...I'm going fast, but it doesn't feel like it and L is there throwing out some encouragement.

Winding around and making the return trip along the bike trail, we have spread out a bit and despite a couple of speedsters, everyone is reasonably within striking distance of each other. Just before mile marker number two, a dude about 15 yards in front of me slows down and drifts to the side of the paved trail. Turning his head, he starts to hack like a cat needing to evacuate a hairball.

Mile marker two just ahead, I'm in the blue
"Oh god," I thought, "he's dry heaving!" Growing up as the worst sympathetic vomiter ever, I have been able to get it under control, sort of. Pretending not to hear (or see) him try to force-stop a heat-induced upchuck, I focus on my breathing technique (and keep my mind occupied, repeating "puppies & kittens, puppies & kittens!" over and over.) He eventually, successfully, held off his body's attempt to turn itself inside out and continued to - somehow - be faster than I.

The second mile marker/water station arrives and another cup of water goes down my back and the second mile comes in at 6:24. Much slower than the first mile, but I'm not sure how. I don't feel like I've slowed down that much and seem to have maintained an excellent stride, but apparently not. And I'm not the only one, the humidity and thick, sticky air has slowed all of us down.

Before long, I start to hear the cheers for those finishing and there is still no sign of Captain America. I'm assuming he realized his mistake or just simply melted in the Independence Day inferno we were running in. Back to Main Street and turning the same corner where I killed the superhero, I glide into the finish and see I'm over the 19 minute mark. I'm 13th overall and first in my age group with a 19:29. Not a horrible time for me, but I can't wrap my head around at how slow the times were despite feeling like we were going much faster. My last mile was a 6:29, which would be great - for me - if this were a 10K or longer.

I grab some water and down it instantly. Shortly thereafter, it began. My body started secreting sweat profusely. The humidity had encased our bodies in such a thick atmospheric blanket that all we could do was watch the liquid push itself through our porous outer layer. You could see all of the finishers standing in pools of collected sweat on the ground as it dripped like a soaked dish towels. Now, I'm been hot before and have experienced heat, but this kind of humidity was beyond ridiculous.

My breakfast with bonus gift cards!
It was a smaller race, so there weren't any finisher'so medals of any kind, which made sense. Though, my reward for winning my age group was a Fleet Feet gift card. After replenishing the gallons of sweat I lost and putting on a less disgusting shirt, L and I ate breakfast at Northstar Cafe in nearby Uptown Westerville - the Prosciutto Toast & Eggs hit the spot. Though, my breakfast came out about two minutes after L's and I thought nothing of it because mine seemed to arrive almost immediately thereafter, but the manager came out to us and apologized in a near horrified fashion. She was sorry for "my wait" and said, "Your next visit will be on us. Again, I'm sorry," and handed each of us a gift card. We hadn't even thought about it, but if what took place wasn't up to their standards, then kudos to them and bully for us!

We ate and watched as folks set up their chairs, then sat and waited, along the sidewalk on State Street for the Independence Day Parade which didn't start for another three a hours. Geez folks, go have a beer or something.

Anyway, I now will put some effort into working on my best one mile sprint as the next stop on the tour is the Columbus Running Company Mile Dash on July 14th. I would love to break the five minute barrier, which I haven't done for about 20 years and Traffic Panther Teammate Gary will be joining with the same goal. Just a couple of guys hoping to experience one of few remaining glances at that ever evaporating fountain of youth...or something like that.

So here we are at the height of summer, in all it's sweltering glory. This is the time where "wants" and "needs" are typically won or lost - sweating the details, the humidity, sticky summer nights, backyard barbecues and patio lounging while looking through rose-colored with a cold drink in your hand. This, my friends, is gold...

You gotta know, I'm feeling love
Made of gold, I never loved her
Another one, another you
It's gotta be love I said it

You gotta know, I'm feeling love
You gotta know, I'm feeling love

You gotta know, I'm feeling love
Made of gold, I never loved her
Another one, another you
It's gotta be love I said it

I might as well be in a garden
I said, ah a smell in the air is a dripping rose (you could be the one for me)
Another soul to meet my void then
Of anything bare that's made of gold

A physical kiss is nothing without it
And you close your eyes to see what it's done
The body that lies is built up on looking
'Cause all that remains before it's begun

You gotta know, I'm feeling love
Made of gold, I never loved her
Another one, another you
It's gotta…

Photos Courtesy of Lauren B.

Still sweating..

Approaching mile marker #1

The return portion of the loop

Getting my age group award

Orange? What Orange?

Independence Day feast

L and I

Race Stats


That night's fireworks

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Delaware is Soiled!

We had a large garden in the house I grew up in and portions of the summer for my siblings and I  were taken up by picking five gallon buckets of green beans as part of our chores. Man, did that suck. In the sun and humidity of Southern Ohio farm country, you could feel the sauna-like heat emanating from the massive cornfield that abutted our backyard. Do you know how long it takes to fill up a five gallon bucket with green beans....eons...EEE-OONSS!

A variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, climbing beans and
scrabble cat chillin' in the shade.
As an adult, I don't mind playing in the garden. Though, most of the past few years my summer garden would grow wild - but nothing would produce fruit. A cruel joke on me as I put in the effort with no return other than piece of mind. I did, however, get my hop bines to produce enough to for one batch of homebrew. I'm assuming the poor soil at my apartment was the culprit behind my lack of garden production. Either that, or the f-ing green bean gods were just giving the finger for despising them as a child.

This summer, at the new place in Delaware, L and I have full reign of the large yard attached to our duplex. I don't know what the major difference may be, but holy crap....I could bury the tire iron in the trunk of my car and a seedling would somehow sprout. Nearly everything we've planted - flowers, beans, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant - has jumped out of the ground, celebrating freedom like someone who just broke out of prison. Even those same hop bines (dug up and taken with us during the move) are two times larger than the same period just one year ago.

Everything grows by bounds on a daily basis and having neighbors who aren't numbskulls (like my former place in Marion) meant we would have a number of folks to share the bounty with. Having planted some things around an old tree stump and our place having been a single family dwelling at one time are likely the reason the soil is much more fertile here. It isn't an old apartment building with a yard the size of a postage stamp surrounded by asphalt.

THIS, now, FEELS like summer to me: hot, humid, a large backyard with a firepit and within walking distance of civilization.

And with the arrival of the Summer Solstice this week, what better way to break the heat and humidity seal by running a half marathon? On Father's Day, L and I traveled about 45 minutes south to the west side of Columbus for the Hilliard Classic Half Marathon 10K 5K. I ran a race related to this event last year, but it was called "THE" It's NOT the Hilliard Classic Half Marathon, 10K & 5K and it was held at Alum Creek State Park. Apparently, portions of the route used for the previous year's event was under construction which forced moving the event to another location - hence, the name.

So, here in 2018, the event returned to it's original location

**We back EVERY pair with 
FREE Replacements if Lost or Broken**
**Each order also secures 11 meals 
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Get a discount on your next pair of @shadyrays, Next Generation Shades, by using my promo code: "Simpson"  Check them out, I have the X Series - Infrared Ice Polarized


                                    Live Hard. We Got You.

With the temperature expected to hit 90-plus, it was nice to know the 7 am start would be much cooler...but for how long? And the Central Ohio humidity lately has forced your body to secrete perspiration and drip like a soaked sponge - that's what I get for signing up at the last minute. We would begin at the stadium at Hilliard Bradley High School and trek out & about along a 6.6 mile spiral before making a u-turn, returning from whence we came.

Race route - from Hilliard Bradley High School 
 and spiraling out, then back.
It was already 75 and humid at the gun. We would be free from direct sun (which was big red ball of in the distance at the time) for only so long. There was a small group of us who ventured out front as we circled the Hilliard Bradley Campus, among them was a Hilliard Bradley student in full track uniform along with a Hilliard Davidson athlete donning his school's track get up. The Bradley student was of the chatty sort, mentioning we had a good group and this was his second half marathon and asking us what our best half times were. I answered a few times, but then just ignored him. You could hear everyone's watch beep as the first mile marker was reached. Talky-talkerson then points out that at this 6:20 pace, we all would easily break the 1:30:00 barrier. Right then I thought if he were to keep yammering, I would have to kidney punch him.

Before reaching the first public roadway, a gentlemen sped up from behind to take the lead. It didn't take him long to leave us way behind.Through the second mile, the two Hilliard athletes tagged along with me and we pass L throwing out some encouragement. Shortly thereafter the Bradley student fell back (ha! No more talking!). The Davidson athlete was right with me to the first water stop and when the mile three marker came upon us he drifted back. "Good luck man," he forced out as I began pulling away. I didn't answer, but instead I stuck my hand out behind me and he high-fived me. Now on a long straight stretch I focus on the lead and can only hear the sound of my own breathing.

Me in the yellow with the the two Hilliard prep runners,
the chatterbox is in the black
We soon turn into an area in the midst of major housing development construction, following roads and roundabouts that have yet to see houses. Just before mile five I come upon a water station along the bike path we are about to turn down. With tables on each side of the path I push out at breathy, "Gatorade!?" The two ladies on the left side (holding cups of water to pass out) point to the table on the right side with a gentleman standing next to it. By this time I'm nearly passed it and reach to maybe grab a cup, but he is just standing off to side watching. The table is now completely behind me and rather than stop and go back to get cup, I wave at the table in disgust and keep on. I hear the ladies then say something to him like, "You are supposed to hand them the cup!?"

Suddenly I hear some heavy footsteps behind me, the kind where one would figure the person running is still learning how to run. The figure pulls even with me, but at the turnaround I drift in front. I can tell it is a younger dude and I'm using his following to keep my pace on track. Passing the same water stop moments later, the guy is now holding out the cup for me - but he's holding it like Superman would hold a rock of Kryptonite, with the ends of his fingers. Just as I reach it grab it, he lets go. It bounces off the ends of my fingers and the Gatorade hits the ground. You have got to be kidding me. I say nothing audibly, but in my mind I'm cursing him and quite perturbed. We continue along the bike path, running past a vast waste land of development to come. By this time the lead is so far out front that the kid and I now have our own bike escort.

From the stadium at 6:30 a.m., 75 degrees and humid.
Following the bike escort we delve deeper into the development construction area and watch as the lead (making his return trip) runs past us like we're walking. We cross a street lined with cones and pass a few onlookers, then suddenly the bike lead slows and turn, heading back towards us. I don't see any turnaround sign and he doesn't say anything, so I ask, "Is this the turnaround?" "Yes, it is", he says. I turn and take a good four to five steps before the onlookers we had just passed say, in a surprised fashion, "No..No..the turnaround is further down!" A little ticked, "Well, F***" was the phrase that came from my mouth out of frustration. I turn back around to notice the kid didn't turn, he continued on and now has a good 10 to 15 yard lead. The escort rides back passed me, saying "I'm sorry man."

About 200 yards later comes the ACTUAL race turn around. The kid, who made it there before I did, runs by me and the bike lead drifts by as well. "I'm sorry as hell as man", he says as I'm now running the opposite direction. Not that the escort is to blame, but this is where I started to crash a little bit. I was frustrated and the mind games came in to play. Slowly the kid drifted further away as the heat began to set in. We return to that goofy water station and this time there is also a girl on the Gatorade side, here I point to her and successfully grab the cup she's holding's water. Sure, the water was great to sip and douse myself, but I was looking for a sports drink - a sugar and sodium concoction of some kind.

2 1/2 miles to go utilizing L's water bottle
Down the shaded bike path segment, I feel a bit stronger and gain slightly on the kid. We turn and come back up the incline and it is that water station again. I purposefully stay to the left to reach the Gatorade and head straight for that guy. Here he is holding a cup of colorful liquid and I smile, grab it successfully and take a swig - finally some damn sports drink: fourth time is the charm! That kid, though, kept cranking along and just beyond the mile nine marker he has a good quarter mile ahead. I'm starting to succumb to the humidity and it reminds me of my first half marathon attempt last September in Celina when it was 90 and full sun for the last five to six miles.

I keep chugging along and focus on landmarks as I go to stay on course, but I can tell I have slowed significantly. Running alone with no one around kind of takes the effort down a notch and it hit me hard. I grab water offered by an onlooker and dumped it down my back. Soon, I see L again and she, too, hands me the water she has and I do the same as the previous water offering.

I reach the school again and make my way along the course winding around the campus. Into the stadium and around the track, I hear the announcer confirm that I'm the third place finisher. Finally reaching the end, I stop my watch and see I'm in at 1:32:54. Not an awful time at all, but nearly five minutes slower than the New Moon race a couple of weeks before. The winner finished ahead of me by ten minutes and the kid had me by three full minutes. That last 5K, for me, was a struggle.

L and I "celebrating" the fact that I didn't
Hanging out for a little while to recover, downing gallons of water and watching the rest of the field make their way in, I dig a little bit and discover the kid who ran away from me was all of 17. Geez, I couldn't imagine being 17 and running a sub 1:30:00 half marathon. Until this past April, I couldn't imagine myself doing that at all. Now if I can just learn to pace myself a little better or focus more on my race, blocking those insignificant distractions from my mind.

I'm not sure what is next, probably a four-miler or 5K somewhere around the Fourth of July, we shall see. Breaking the 18:00 minute 5K barrier for the first time since my college days would be fun to do, Traffic Panther Teammate Gary did just that a week ago and I'm jealous. This running thing has  finally become fun again.

This past Friday night, L and I lit up our firepit loaded with all the discarded woody remnants tossed from various trees surrounding our yard the last few weeks. It was giant pile and the fire was a small inferno for a few minutes before coming down to Earth enough for us to roast some hot dogs and marshmallows. We had a great time and for a summer that's just beginning, it was refreshing and exciting.

It is cool to know that more and better things are on the horizon - this....I believe...

The faces all around me they don't smile they just crack
Waiting for our ship to come but our ships not coming back
We do our time like pennies in a jar
What are we saving for, what are we saving for

There's a smell of stale fear that's reeking from our skins
The drinking never stops because the drinks absolve our sins
We sit and grow our roots into the floor
But what are we waiting for? What are we waiting for?

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

Something's always coming you can hear it in the ground
It swells into the air
With the rising, rising sound
And never comes but shakes the boards and rattles all the doors
What are we waiting for, what are we waiting for

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

I am hiding from some beast
But the beast was always here
Watching without eyes
Because the beast is just my fear
That I am just nothing
Now its just what I've become
What am I waiting for
It's already done

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

Photos courtesy of Lauren B.

More tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers and hops!

The front yard.

Climbing beans taking off
Friday night's fire pit and refreshment.
At home later that morning, Whiskey (the cat) uses us
as furniture

Somewhat recovered

3rd, 2nd & 1st - Yours truly, the kid and
the guy who beat all of us down.

Before it all began

Hilliard Bradley's athletic complex

In the corral waiting to take off
My finisher's medal with a
Royal Docks Brewing
Backyard Crusher.
I did finish 3rd, their stats
were a bit off.
At the finish!