Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Buck Fifty x 2 Doesn't Equal $3

A spring renewal took place this month and I'm not referring to the annual exit of winter. On April Fools' weekend (March 31st officially) L and I completed the move from Marion to Delaware, Ohio. Delaware is just 20 miles to the south, but for all intents and purposes - it might as well be a world away.

A new house, new town, new neighbors, new surroundings and putting to rest my nearly seven years in Marion. I still work there, but having a significant commute to decompress everyday has advantages. Like, for example, rediscovering NPR. I used to work in public radio and was an avid listener forever, but then a 5 minute drive to work put a halt to listening significantly each day. The first drive to work on April 2nd was very satisfying, getting to listen to Morning Edition again. The drive for L didn't go as well, she was stopped for a ticky-tack traffic violation by a state patrolman (I, too, was stopped for the same violation a few weeks before).

Central Ohio weather radar on Tuesday, April 3rd
Also this week, on April 3rd, I marked my five year work anniversary. The folks at Marion Public Library are still trying to recover from my being there - I'm like the plague. Oh and to add to the fun renewal, the first full day of being a Delaware resident was on April Fools' Day, that night and through early Monday morning we received three inches of snow. On that Tuesday we had tornado warnings and enough rain to issue flood warnings and road closures. Apparently spring moved in, but winter has been well versed on squatter's rights and has taken every legal step in it's power to hang around for as long as it can.

The last couple of days in Marion (while packing for the move) were infiltrated by the echo of Bob & Whack Job next door complaining about my picking up the random trash in our community parking lot and along the sidewalk. This was something I did on my cool down after training runs everyday. "Who does he think he is?! Who does he think he's trying to impress?! That b*tch? Let me tell you, she doesn't care. It isn't even our trash!", were the variety of phrases whack job would spout with her sidekick Bob agreeing - adding fuel to the deranged tire fire taking place in her mind. I was able to determine later that the "b*tch" reference was referring to Alyssa, our landlord - who is actually quite pleasant.

The last complaint I remember hearing from those two was how I was drying clothes without the use of a dryer (amazing!). Our building's dryer had been on the fritz, but the apartments are heated by radiators we don't control, so they stay pretty warm & constant. This allows one to lay or hang wet clothes around and let them - get this - AIR DRY....BOOM! Holy cow, I don't know how folks were ever able to do laundry before the invention of machines or electricity. 

"I've seen him do laundry down there, but how he's using the dryer - I don't know. Something is going on or he's doing something to it, but he's screwing everyone else!", whack job spouted while, I imagine, sitting in her recliner with a Mountain Dew in hand and chronicling my daily life in her Manson-like manifesto written on the backs of receipts garnered from their many grocery shopping trips to "TheRite Aid at the corner of Delaware Avenue and East Columbia.

Alas, they are still there, I have gone and all is right with the sane world again. As I breathe a sigh of relief, along comes the second installment of The Buck Fifty - the 150 mile, 24 hour, 10 person team relay race running through 4 state parks, a variety of back country roads, along the remnants of the Ohio & Erie Canal and through my historic hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio - Ohio's First Capital - involving 74 teams (there were 38 in 2017) from 21 states on Friday the 13th.

**We back EVERY pair with 
FREE Replacements if Lost or Broken**
**Each order also secures 11 meals 
to fight hunger through 

Get a discount on your next pair of @shadyrays, Next Generation Shades, by using my promo code: "Simpson"  https://shadyrays.com/  Check them out, I have the X Series - Infrared Ice Polarized

                                    Live Hard. We Got You.

Team Traffic Panthers (many of our members either work with the Ohio Department of Transportation ODOT  - Traffic - or we went to the same high school: Chillicothe Southeastern - the Panthers) was essentially the same team from the year with only a few changes tweaks & changes and we were hoping our experience and knowledge of the area could improve upon our 18th place finish in 2017. There was a discussion as to what relay placement (1 thru 10) each of us would take (with each placement running three separate routes), but to avoid making waves I decided to stay with the same placement as last year, number six - the first runner for van #2.

The week before, those of us in van #2 (Mike, Mark, Dave, Tom, Eric and I) discussed needs & details for Friday and Saturday via Facebook Messenger. Those discussions weren't always serious (names have been removed to protect the innocent):

*Maybe we should just run with a beer bottle in our hand like a baton.
*No...we need the beer holder hats with straws.
*Do they make a beer hat that holds a forty on both sides?
*Might as well. We can just mount the headlamp to that. 
*Hence..."Light" Beer
*Think they have a store that would overnight us five of them
*Bolt's on Watson Run maybe? 😉
*Or we could get camels backs and fill them up, would be easier to run with
*King Cobra Camel backs!
*Now we are talking
*So I'm in front of my classroom and my Apple Watch keeps dinging....I was thinking there must be a problem....I get back to all of you heathens.....there will be beer in the fridge in the basement....would suggest no more than one in between legs....good protein and carbs....although some of you probably have a tolerance that a sailor would be proud of.  I will have bagels, Gatorade (or other electrolyte drinks), water, eggs, sausage, cookies, etc. available at the house.  I will have water and electrolyte drinks in the vehicle.....along with some sort of bars (that would be protein bars.....not the type that some were referring to).
*Thanks Dad! 😉
*Don't make me stop this car........
*Geez, dad is such a pain in the ass sometimes.
*He never lets us have any fun
*Just know that disciplining you would hurt you more than it would me.....I think that is how it goes.

*So what’s does everyone want?
*A suicide of the Bud Light Clamato and Colt 45, Billy Dee Williams would approve.
*That sounds like a freaking nasty drink
*Rawr..!! 😉 Yeah it is!

...we discussed plenty of more serious things, but this is how our interactions took place.
Race week began with snow (AGAIN!) on Monday with the forecast having temperatures rise each day to the weekend. With Friday reaching 75 degrees, our Van #2 start at 11:15pm at Frankfort Adena High School would have acceptable conditions to work with. Van #1 (Dan, Gary, Sarah, Patricia, Chris and Josh) had the pleasure of starting us off at around 6:30pm.

Being 30 to 40 degrees warmer on our first leg
Hello old friend, we meet again.
when compared with last year, it was comforting not having to run with gloves, hats, thermals and what not. Getting the baton from teammate Patricia and breaking the seal for van #2 was exciting. The four mile route on country roads in the dead of night was all the more enjoyable with a clear sky and thousands of stars occupying the horizon. This kept your mind at an even keel as you casually searched in the dark distance for the faint blinking red taillights of competitors.

I did pass a fellow runner, ironically, at nearly the exact point of this same route as last year. I could see yet another, but they were too far in front to reach him or her before our first baton exchange. At the four mile mark I am at the chute, offer teammate Eric the baton and he's off at 11:48pm. I complete the 4.1 mile route in 26:46. It is now a van ride for the next couple of hours to finish our four other legs. Each baton exchange is it's own party. Music is playing, volunteers and competitors are cheering, a fire is going for additional warmth and refreshments are available as a variety of team vans arrive, congregate and leave as their runners come & go.

As Traffic Panthers van #2 awaits the arrival of teammate Tom at our first route's last leg, we mill about with hundreds of others as this is a van transition point for every team. Its around 3am and our van #1 arrives, half asleep and zombie like from the short nap they were able to take in. While hanging out, I run into Greg - a 2017 Traffic Panther who joined his sister's team this year - we wish each other good luck and go our separate ways.

2018's The Buck Fifty 150 Mile Team Relay Race Route
I smell a grill going, volunteers are cooking burgers and dogs. This would make up for the fact they have run out of coffee. I stand as close as I can to make sure I grab a burger, I'm starving and want something other than a Cliff Bar, banana or granola. I should have paid more attention as the grill master is cooking by the light of the headlamp in the dark - he, too, can only see so much. It tasted so good, but by the third bite it was noticeably more rare than I would have liked it to have been. Nevertheless, I scarfed it down - but did notice teammate Dave toss the bulk of his in the trash. Tom arrives, hands off to Sarah from van #1, we pile into van #2 and drive the 30 minutes to our home base (van driver Mike's house - he's known to us as "coach" for having been our high school track coach years ago and continues in that capacity today) for a short nap & food.

We have some real food provide by Mike's wife Amy and I down my traditional beer, then it is off to get some rest. Some slept - I just closed my eyes and relaxed. Then, 45 minutes later, the lights come on and everyone in their groggy state gathers their things and piles back into our van to head out to van exchange number two at Walnut Creek Campground. Once there, I climb out and begin loosening up for my second venture. The others try to continue napping.

It is still dark, but it is just light enough to know the sun will be popping out soon. I had to stand next to the fire here last year to ward off the chill, this year I'm minding my own business and visiting the port-a-john every five minutes due to the amount liquids I've consumed. I find that I'm a bit queasy, but figured it was just some nerves. Then I can feel my body wanting to rid itself of something, so I wander over to the opposite side of the nearby dumpster (away from everyone) and in the dark I upchuck some things - not much, but enough to notice (even in the dark) it is portions of a less than cooked hamburger. Dave had the right idea, I thought, a few hours ago. I grab some water and clear the taste out of my mouth and hear "Team 41!", bellowed by a race checkpoint volunteer. This is my cue indicating van #1 teammate Patricia is on the horizon. I steady myself and feel much better than I was just five minutes before, then she arrives, I retrieve the baton and I'm off for a second time. It is now around 6:20am.

Patricia, all-a-glow, handing off to me at Walnut Creek
campground. Leg 16 begins, moments after I 

blew some chunks.
Again, to keep my mind off running I take in the excellent view of the sun rising above the hills on the outskirts of Tar Hollow State Park as I navigate the six miles of small rolling hills along the hidden country roads. I can see competitors in the distance, their red taillights are faint as it is almost daylight. It is getting warmer and as I pass some runners, I simply stick out my hand and we high-five - we all need a little encouragement. The last quarter mile of the route is downhill in full sun and I've passed five competitors. I reach the checkpoint and pass the baton to Eric for a second time. I have covered the 6.01 miles in 41:08. I now get to ride through the dirt roads and hills of Tar Hollow for the next few hours.

What made it worthwhile was the next stop, Eric's finishing point and Mark's start. The shelter house checkpoint has a live Christian bluegrass band playing and they are fixing breakfast sandwiches on a griddle. I munch on a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich - but I am again annoyed that they have run out of coffee. The ongoing fire gave you the feeling of a late fall camping trip, minus the hundreds of runners and their transport vehicles.

At Southeastern High School, talking to Mike -
I will pass his house a few hours later atop Patton Hill. The

leg 20 to 21 exchange is behind us.
At Southeastern High School (my alma mater) we await the arrival of Tom with the folks from Traffic Panthers Van #1. While here many of us are chatting with a number of familiar faces and finally somebody has coffee still lingering around. I say "hi" to Mike & Marie, friends who have volunteered at this checkpoint. I alert them to the fact that my last leg would bypass their driveway and to be on the lookout for me. Tom arrives and exchanges the baton with Sarah. As van #1 leaves on their final journey through Scioto Trails State Park, we in van #2 get about 2 1/2 hours to chill out. It helped here to have Mike's house about fifteen minutes away from the high school as well as our next starting point. The time is around 10:30am and our projections indicate we are way ahead of our time from the year before.

At coach's house we eat some, I down my between races beer and some us shower. Following a teammate, I take a welcomed shower as well. Though, somehow, I as I get out there seems to be an inordinate amount of water on the floor. Trying to figure out where it came from, I noticed the toilet has overflowed and continues to slowly do so. Now this didn't turn out to be a huge deal and I did get ridiculed for this taking place, but with the amount of water that was spewed it had to have started prior to my occupation of the restroom. That's neither here, nor there...but I'm just stating a fact, sorry Mike and Amy. After this fiasco, I did get to rest and close my eyes for about 90 minutes before my inner alarm clock kicked in. My teammate gathered and we, again, pile into the van and head out to van transition number three, Open Door Church.

It is spitting rain and the radar indicates an oncoming downpour, though it would never arrive. Once
Passing Mike & Marie's driveway at the
summit of Patton Hill.
there, I again get out to loosen up and visit my port-a-john friend in the intermittent sprinkles. Shortly thereafter, van #1 rolls in and like clockwork - about 20 minutes later Patricia make her way in and hands off to me and the final stretch begins at around 3:15pm. This leg is a gauntlet of continuous climbing and plateauing for about six miles before a mile of relief at the end of Patton Hill. The key is to keep your head down and keep moving until the last mile, then you can let it all hangout.

And it was just like I remembered from the year before, keeping my general pace I start passing competitors, overtaking seven total along the way. One girl I pass says to me, after we high-five, "I think this is the second time you've passed me today!" This is just one of the many quirks you will find with this race, the farther along you go - the closer together you become.

At the summit, I see some folks hanging out at the end of their driveway, it is Mike & Marie and their family. I gather enough breath to yell their last name to signify my arrival. They jump into action and offer some encouragement (they just missed my passing this location the year before) and paving the way for the start of the downhill. On the descent, my shoe becomes untied but I'm in such relief of having completed the uphill portion I ignore it. A mile later, I see checkpoint 27 and Eric patiently waiting. My appearance officially represents our team's return to Chillicothe proper. Sweating profusely in the warm & humid atmosphere,I pass the baton and slow to a walk, relieved my 17 miles are finished. I have covered the 6.61 miles and 784 feet of elevation in 48:45.

Our van finishes by navigating the streets of Chillicothe, around the Adena Mansion (the historic home of the Father of Ohio, Thomas Worthington) and to the finish line at Ohio University-Chillicothe where we meet up with van #1 and cross the same line - as a team - where we began less than 24 hours and 150 miles ago. Our goal was not only to finish, but to beat our time from last year. And arriving at about 6:20pm on Saturday officially completed both of those tasks. We receive our finisher's medals and box of Crispie Creme finisher's donuts.

Team Traffic Panthers at the finish of 2018's Buck Fifty Race
I drive home in an exhausted trance, but was welcome by L and a spread of a homemade dinner of proteins galore - FULLY COOKED proteins to be exact. Ten hours later, I wake up on Sunday morning with every muscle from my neck to my feet tender and sore. Breakfast was another around of carbs and proteins provided by L. Sunday is when the rains finally came, it either poured or drizzled all day long. Thankfully, it delayed it's arrival on Friday and Saturday. We, of course, have begun discussing next year's event. If you thought year two was eventful, I can only imagine what year three of The Buck Fifty would bring. We had 38 teams in 2017, then 74 in 2018...we could see well over triple digits in 2019, but we have time to relax before that takes place on April 12th & 13th next year.

Teammate Gary has already put the rest of us to shame. Just like last year, the Sunday after The Buck Fifty, he again ran the Athens Half Marathon and did it in 1:31:00, finishing 19th - there is a reason nobody likes this guy. Oh, and - just like last year - says he would not do again...we know he is a liar.

19th out of 73 teams,
69 of whom finished
Our captain, Mark (the dude who skipped out last year for the cruise), sent all of us this message on Tuesday morning (3 days later) after we discussed possible changes for 2019: "Woke up 1:30 in the morning eyes wide awake. Why did I arise from my slumber? Was I stressed about work? Do I have things that need done with the family? No, not awake because of that. Awake because I am thinking about the logistics of if we switch Vans, where do we sleep? What time will I start and end? Etc. Holy! Still have a freaking year. What did you all talk me into?" 

I believe it was the poet Walt Whitman who wrote, "O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won...", and welcome to the pain the rest of us have experienced for the past year, Captain Mark!

When all was said and done, the Traffic Panthers finished 19th out of the 73 teams who took part (69 of those teams were able to finish). We were 45 minutes faster than in 2017 and were under the 24 hour designation by nearly 9 minutes. One heck of an improvement and an even better experience, if I don't say so myself.

So, The Buck Fifty Year #2 is complete and we can only expect an even bigger event next year. And to tell you a bit of a secret, keep an eye for an article in Runner's World in the very near future - (CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE) With that said, I will be continuing last summer's effort to break the half marathon seal (which was successfully accomplished), I hope to include a few more those 13.1 milers in this summer's 40 & Running tour. The first one takes place in two weeks at the 15th installment of the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio with Gary and few others. Number two will more than likely be in my new city of residence (Delaware, Ohio) at the New Moon Half Marathon with a few Traffic Panthers. I get to cheat a little here as I get to practice on the race route daily (it actually circles the block I live on now).

My first three attempts at the half (with a goal of 1:30:00) didn't go exactly as planned. My initial half marathon event last September was cancelled two days before and I had to scramble to find one at the last second ON THAT DAY - and melted in the sweltering sun and heat in Celina, Ohio: 1:39:40 (Grand Lake Half). Attempt number two was three weeks later and recovering from a calf strain, only to have it re-ignite at mile ten in Columbus: 1:37:06 (Nationwide Children's Columbus Half).

Then this past January, number three had us navigate a poorly marked biking/hiking trail in the snow, ice and negative degree temperatures in southwest Columbus which saw myself and others take a wrong turn and run 13.94 miles instead: 1:36:31 (Brokeman's Running Winter Warm Up). If you subtract the addition mile there, my 13.1 finish was 1:30:28. So if you follow the progression, and barring additional weirdness, I am on the cusp of reaching the 90 minute half marathon goal - but don't hold your breathe.

As you can see, it has been a roller coaster...but everyone loves an aggressive thrill ride...and it is getting weirder everyday.... and I think the rest of Team Traffic Panthers - Mike, Dan, Sarah, Patricia, Gary, Tom, Dave, Chris, Josh, Eric and Mark - would agree...

It was summer when I saw your face
But like a teenage runaway
Oh god I never thought we'd take it that far
Some killer queen you are

Now I'm running and I can't stop anywhere I go
I think about it everyday and night I can't let go
Man, I'm never the same
We were shot gun lovers I was shot gun running away

So come a little closer
There was something I could tell ya
You were such a rollercoaster
And a killer queen you are

Rollercoaster, I don't say no
Rollercoaster, when you don't say no
And it's such a rollercoaster
Some killer queen you are

We took the bones out from the road
Those endless nights that we traveled we stole
You let your clothes fall to the floor
And lit a fire while I waited for more

Now I'm running and I won't stop I don't wanna go
I think…

Photo spread courtesy of Team Traffic Panthers 2018. 
For photos from around The Buck Fifty, find the Buck Fifty Runners Group on Facebook

April Fool's night at the new place, the front yard.

April Fool's morning at the new place, the backyard.

Traffic Panthers Van #1: awake for 24 hours - obviously.
Traffic Panthers Van #2: Before we began

Taking the baton from Patricia on my
last leg (#26) - Patton Hill awaits.

Along the Tar Hallow skyline - waiting for Mark to
hand off to Dave.

The view from the leg 18 to 19 exchange.

Traffic Panthers Van #2

Refreshment between routes

Southeastern High School - van transition point #2

The view from the leg 19 to 20 exchange

Self explanatory...


Teammate Tom (left) and Eric (middle) & navigator Mike's
hand (right) awaiting the arrival of Mark.

L gave me a pre-race SWAG bag complete with a "Kick
Some Butt" card made out of a "Thank You" card - genius.

Buck Fifty T-shirt, Finisher's Medal
and race bib: Team 41, Runner 6

and Team Traffic Panthers t-shirt 

My Team Traffic Panthers T-shirt

Team Traffic Panther's joining Tom
and crossing the finish line as a team
Yours truly, patiently waiting to
get back at it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

All the Colors of a Sad Rainbow

March brings change: winter changes to spring, clocks change by adding an hour, college hoops and it's yearly swan song of madness engulfs the nation as we change national champions, for a least one day everyone suddenly becomes Irish and this year, for me, it also will include a change of address.

For the last six years (five in my current apartment), I have been a resident of Marion, Ohio. At the end of the month, L and I will be moving about 20 miles south to Delaware. Ultimately, we wanted to move in together but Marion didn't seem to have dwellings which fit what we wanted (and needed) and we found such a place in Delaware. Back in my radio broadcasting days, I think I moved about 15 times in a ten year period throughout four different states. My joke to others who were moving around that time was if you contacted U-Haul, just float my name and you could get a discount - they knew me well. Luckily, that time of my life has since wandered off.

So some things will be a bit different, not to mention hectic, here soon. To ease this transition, I threw in some running familiarity between now and "the move". For the second consecutive year, I signed up for the St. Patrick's Day 4 Miler At Kinsale in Powell. Last year I took fifth at this event and, funny as it may be, was also a time where I was transitioning - just in a different manner. Its weird how a year can change things

The move takes place a little while after the race, but for frame of reference, Delaware is closer to the majority of the races I've been involved with in the last year. So less driving will be cool. For example, Marion to Kinsale - 42 minutes, or 33.2 miles (according to MapQuest) and Delaware to Kinsale - 19 minutes, or 11.8 miles...I'm cool with that. And most of my recent races have been in the Columbus area, so the difference between Marion and Delaware to - let's say - downtown Columbus is about 20 miles & 20 minutes. Now this isn't all about distances to and from races, obviously, but it would be a welcome change to what we have become accustomed to - see, there's that word again: change.

The dead waste toner
cartridge & it's final
resting place
As our heads spin attempting to maintain a daily regime while juggling the details of moving and cohabitating, we can only take deep breath and let it all play out. Easier said than done at times, but it is just as exciting as it is nerve racking. New place, new town, new situation but running is still my vice to keep my head on straight. This is where the St. Patrick's Day weekend race comes in - I will be running (getting my first beer free, BOOM!) and keeping my mind occupied with something other than moving.

This, though, isn't what I had in mind. On Monday of this past week, I was replacing the waste toner cartridge in our copier at work, I knocked the removed cartridge to the floor and scattering an ominous cloud of black, blue, red & purple dry ink throughout our workroom. I spent about an hour vacuuming up what looked to be Picasso's lost work, Pummeled Pugilist Face, off of the floor.

The first cleaning device I used was one of those Shark DuoClean Slim lightweight vacuums and I was happy to see it remove the rainbow of fruit flavors from the carpet, but then it began blowing the fun cloud of colorful dust out the exhaust on the backside - and into my face - adding to my misery. Option number two, an actual vacuum used by real people who make real messes because we live in reality (found in our maintenance closet), did the job. There are some remnants which could be mistaken for a hastily covered up crime scene, but I admitted to being at fault - so being annoyed by my clumsiness has been the only repercussion. 

**We back EVERY pair with 
FREE Replacements if Lost or Broken**
**Each order also secures 11 meals 
to fight hunger through 

Get a discount on your next pair of @shadyrays, Next Generation Shades, by using my promo code: "Simpson"  https://shadyrays.com/  Check them out, I have the X Series - Infrared Ice Polarized

                                    Live Hard. We Got You.

With consecutive days of chilly weather, but tons of sun I was kind of expecting the Kinsale 4 Miler to be relatively the same - not on this St. Paddy's Day it wasn't. The temperature dropped even further followed by early morning flurries, then sleet and drizzle. I guess having weather similar to that of the Irish homeland was only fitting as the sky resembled the contents of the scattered waste toner cartridge from earlier in the week. It was a late afternoon race, so it was comforting to experience a slight warm up and everything drying out before we started, leaving us with a decent wind and overcast sky.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Newly
fallen flurries and just above
There were plenty of folks decked out in the holiday green, most dressed to simply have fun - focusing more on the atmosphere than the race. Last year at this time there were a handful of folks prepared to compete and this year looked to have fewer of those individuals. Maybe its because I'm at the top of my game now, I was still working my way up a year ago.

At the gun I stretch out my legs to get a good rhythm and along side of me is a dude in fluorescent green. At least I would be able to see him if he takes off and I'm trailing in a few minutes, I thought. I could hear a few others behind me, but that didn't last long. A little over a mile along the winding residential roads of the upscale neighborhood wrapped around a country club and the dude in the obnoxious green tails off. Within seconds, I don't even hear him (or anyone else) behind me. I pass L for the second time and hers is the only voice cutting through the chilly late winter breeze.

The course drifts off the road and onto the country club cart path. Now, in my mind, this is what Ireland would look and feel like: under a blanket of clouds with a good stiff, chilly breeze gliding along the undulating terrain of a lush green golf course still damp from early morning precipitation. Just me and the dude on the bike about 100 meters ahead of me acting as the lead pack indicator along the snake-like trail (I know, there aren't any snakes in Ireland - bear with me damn it!). 

Me and fluorescent boy at 1.5 miles
The golf course rests beyond the backyards of the cookie cutter country club homes and every few minutes a few of those residents, who decided to bite the bullet and venture out into the less-than-hospitable air, would offer some encouragement. This was also a sign to me that I wasn't going to be challenged. As those words of encouragement were bellowed to me, I listened for them to echo the same sentiments to others. Those sentiments never came, or rather they were out of earshot and quite a distance behind me.

I was going at pretty good clip, I thought, so my focus was to maintain form and a decent pace. The pace bike just ahead acted as my rabbit. I wasn't going to catch up him, but did work on maybe decreasing his lead. This is something I have been practicing in order to break that 1:30 half marathon barrier - the next attempt will be at the Capital City Half Marathon on April 28th. I was 28 seconds short on my last effort.

Finishing with the roaming emcee
to the left.
Recollecting to the same race path from 2017, I push a little more to finish the last half mile on a high note. Again, it is just me and the bike in front as we come off of the cart path and onto the main drag. Wrapping around the corner lined with orange cones to the finish I see L giving me a fist pump and the race emcee is roaming along the path barking pleasantries into a cordless microphone. Just as I pass, he nonchalantly sticks out his hand and without skipping a beat we high five. Seconds later I notice the clock while reaching to stop my watch and cross the finish, I'm under 24 minutes.

To be exact, I'm at 23:39 (according to my watch) or 23:40 (says the official timer). Still, though, I'm 1:12 faster than 2017 and without being pushed or challenged. I'm handed my finisher's medal, grab some water and a banana and the finish line volunteers are like statues. Everyone is dressed to ward off the chill, but they seem to be waiting. I look back toward the finish and realize second place is still out of eyesight. The volunteers aren't frozen in place, they are simply waiting for others. Second place made his way in moments later, but 41 seconds after me.

Beer & medal - with a bottle opener!
The flood of finishers eventually arrive and L finds me. We head into the heated tent where the after party is to take place (complete with a DJ and video projectors airing the NCAA Tournament Second Round games) to grab some food and my finisher's beer. The medal was pretty cool, complete with a beer opener on the back, though using it would have to wait since this day's beer was all draft.

We stay just long enough to get warm and hear a few tunes. Ohio State was about to play Gonzaga, but I didn't want to watch it for the simple fact I didn't think it was worth my time to be disappointed. And my thinking was correct, falling behind 15-nothing. They did put in a ton of effort to take the lead in the second half, but they ran out of gas. Which is what I expected, that had been their process for the last month of the regular season. Still, though, they were supposed to be a bottom feeder this year and nearly won the the Big Ten...hard to complain. Anyway, we made it home for some crock-pot corned beef and few more celebratory beers.

We move in two weeks, the winter is over, mileage ramps up and new running routes are to be made. Don't look now, but that's summer peaking over the horizon and a whole new ballgame has arrived.

So, what comes next? Well, the Traffic Panthers and I return to The Buck Fifty - Southern Ohio's 150 Mile, 24 Hour, 10 Person Team Relay in my hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio on April 13th & 14th. We finished 18th out of 38 teams in the inaugural race and year two will have 73 teams toeing the starting line. Here's how it is described: An overnight relay race that will take you over 150 scenic and rolling miles in Southern Ohio.  You will travel through several communities, run trails in 4 amazing National and State Parks and across several school campuses.

If you aren't a fan of hills, you are screwed. If you want a challenge and have the wherewithal to set fire to your lungs, disintegrate those legs, live out of a van for 24 hours while taking part in three unique routes around Ross County, then by all means - join us in 2019. All you gotta do is dig down...

When hope and love has been lost
And you fall to the ground
You must find a way
When the darkness descends
And you're told it's the end
You must find a way
When God decides to look the other way
And a clown takes the throne
We must find a way
Face the firing squad
Against all the odds
You will find a way

Dig down
Dig down
Dig down
And find faith
When you're close to the edge
With a gun to your head
You must find a way

When friends are thin on the ground
And they try to divide us
We must find a way
We have entered the fray
And we will not obey
We must find a way

Dig down
Dig down
Dig down
And find faith
When they've left you for dead (dig down)
And you can only see red (dig down)
You must find a way

Dig down
Dig down
Dig down
Find faith
We won't let them divide (dig down)
We will never abide (dig down)
We will find a way

Dig down
Dig down
Dig down
Dig down
Dig down

Photo spread courtesy of Lauren B.

L and I at the after party. Ignore the
leprechaun to the left.

Jameson & Whiskey
celebrating their

Leaving the road, entering the golf

The morning of...less than desirable

Waiting for the rest of the pack
Headin' home...silence behind me

The route

The start...out in front

Finishing...still in front. The dark
figure in the back to the left, that's

Goofing off