Monday, October 23, 2017

A Year of Racing (5)KO'd

One year ago, this past weekend, I ran a race for the first time in five years. It was a small local 5K called Miles for Marion. This was my initial crack at competing again following two months of (attempted) general running after a decade off. To commemorate this #runniversaryand to laugh at my struggle twelve months ago, I decided to take part in this race again.

In October 2016, my whole reason for running was to prepare for The Buck Fifty Race 150  Mile Team Relay.  Back then, I was working on being able to keep pace with my overactive enthusiasm and less than active running prowess. I ended up finishing 6th with a time of 20:48 and it was one of my initial back-to-running diary entries. Quite an entertaining read now that I have a pair of half-marathons and well over a 1,000 miles under my belt.

Despite having been a competitive runner in my younger days, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into as a new member of the 40-something "Look Ma', I Can Run!" crowd. We have the best of intentions, but they don't always go the way you planned. A female patron at the library where I work knows this well, I believe.

On Thursday, working our front desk, this woman walks up to my desk companion to apparently pay a $0.20 fine. Being about seven feet away, I over hear her tell my co-worker that she decided to go to her instead of "over there", motioning in my direction. My co-worker thinks she is joking and laughs it off. Moments later I hear the woman, who now obviously looks unhappy, say she is never coming back to this library because "He", meaning me, "is so rude." Perplexed, I turn and look at my co-worker - who is just as lost as I am - then I glance at the woman who gives me the "you kicked my puppy across the street" look and storms out.

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FREE Replacements if Lost or Broken**
**Each order also secures 11 meals 
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    Live Hard.         We Got You.

I ask my co-worker, "What just happened?" She doesn't know either and I know for sure I hadn't waited on her that day. We I look up the account and I don't recognize the woman's name or her photo and neither does my counterpart. I can't even recall answering a phone call from this patron in the recent past. Unable to recollect what may have taken place, I chalk it up to one of those moments not in need of further attention.

Joking about it on Friday, the mystery was sort of solved. Another co-worker had misunderstood her inquiry regarding her account and - technically - gave wrong information (though didn't actually DO anything wrong). Even after follow up questions to make sure she was hearing him correctly (she apparently knew what she was hearing didn't sound right), the same information was given. Now, I don't know how the transaction evolved, but I do know this was a face-to-face communication.

The incorrect information ultimately resulted in the stated $0.20 fine, but this co-worker and I aren't similar in any way, shape or form. I'm half a foot taller, I wear glass (he doesn't), I have more hair (how!? I know what you mean, but its true), I'm slender and't, our first names share only one letter and they don't even sound remotely alike when pronounced.

I was somehow mistaken for another co-worker. Though she was apparently hell-bent on giving a piece of her mind, even if it didn't belong to - or wasn't meant - for me. I guess it probably would have ticked her off even more by pointing out her mistake, so I'm glad I kept those thoughts to myself (and regarding that piece of her mind, it now resides in the library's lost & found with the random mix of cell phones, thumb drives, clothing remnants and stupid questions).

Miles for Marion - an out and back on roads
I've put hundreds of miles on.
See what I of intentions.

The Miles for Marion 5K route is one that has become all too familiar to me. It consists of a portion of every other route I take in and around my fair city. Though it may not sound like much of a challenge, it does create a bit of a quandary. Last year I was simply attempting to finish and with the ensuing months of training, I have been able to create decent pace structure for distance. The wrench in the process is that the 5K is the distance version of a sprint. So general pacing goes out the window and you have to crank it up a notch. This race would be part nostalgia and part experimenting with what I could do when faster miles are a necessity.

The giant pumpkin face start & finish line
Another benefit to this race - the start is a quarter mile (maybe) from my apartment. Also, I was one of the race raffle winners last year and garnered tickets to Cedar Point's HalloWeekends. Hanging out at an amusement park along Lake Erie on a creepy night was super cool. On this day, though, I just wanted to compare what I was a year ago with what I am now.

When it comes down to a start time, I prefer a quick announcement or two then the gun. On this day, I think the folks spent a good ten minutes giving announcements and reading off all the sponsors. I'm antsy to begin with and now I'm twice as keyed up - just stop talking already! A fellow racer, Dan, looks about ready to jump out of his skin and says to me, "They could have done this 30 minutes ago." I continue adjusting my watch as the longer we wait, the more it keeps resetting itself.

Dan (in the green) and I
out front.
Once the yammering comes to an end, they set us off. Its Dan and I, then everybody else and what seems like just seconds later - he and I are by ourselves. Cruising along and following the golf cart escort, I'm in my own little world and sort of listening to Dan's music. He carried his phone with him and had it playing tunes as we strolled through Marion. Shortly after the mile marker (in 5:56), I get a step or two on him and slowly his music fades from earshot.

Now cruising alone, I get to the water stop/turn around and see Dan moments later. My lead is decent and feel like I'm now chasing my escort as I head up a steady incline on the return trip (this is where I hit the wall the year before - mile 2: 6:17). Passing fellow runners, there is an intersection where the road changes from two way to a one-way. Its a traffic island that creates the slightest of curve on the straight away. Here, those coming toward me are covering most of the lane - so the golf cart has to slow down to give them time to move over.

Chasing the escort on the
But I'm not slowing down, so I go around the golf cart and run over the traffic island. This put me in front of the escort once it made manipulated the lane. It was a little odd to hear the golf cart on my heels, so I stuck out my right hand and waved the cart around when I saw the traffic lanes were clear. I imagine some unknowing folks passing by thinking they were witnessing some weird police chase.

Now on an incline to the finish, I wanted to see how close I could get to the cart before he sped up. Noticing how comfortable I felt made me laugh at how difficult this part of the race was in 2016, running regularly for a full year does have some advantages. I finish keeping a decent stride through downtown and into the giant pumpkin face finish. A little winded, but not overly tired - I think my body was just happy I didn't run a third half-marathon within the four weeks time. I could feel it wanting to high-five me a "thank you" for having to survive a only 5K.

The chip time had me at 18:19, the gun time had me at 18:22 - a full 1:20 ahead of Dan and the rest of the pack. That's about 2:30 minutes fast than last year's efforth. The victory garnered a three month membership to the Marion Family YMCA a $10 gift card to Sansotta's Fresh Italian and a variety of grab bag-like, Marion-related items.

Perfect weather on a perfect race day
A noticeable missing element from this year's race was Jose. He won last year's event by an extremely large amount, but was there on this day as a spectator - watching his son. He was saving his energy for the Ohio State Four Miler which was to take place the following day. He apparently did well, finishing 14th out of the 14,000 who took part.

I really don't know Jose, but you get to "know" fellow runners by simply passing them on a regular basis while traversing the same roadways and seeing each other's names on race results. Same goes with Dan from Saturday's 5K, its funny at how many people you get to know through running without ever actually meeting them. It's an unspoken code that's universally accepted in our close-knit community. You don't see that around much these days.

An official year of racing completed, with a variety of distances covered, and a desk drawer of finisher medals to boot. As long as my knees continue to hold up...I'm sure we will cross paths sooner or later.

I see you there. Go ahead and wave, I know who you are.

***Race day photos courtesy of Lauren McComas (THANKS L!)***

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

My life
You electrify my life
Let's conspire to ignite
All the souls that would die just to feel alive

I'll never let you go
If you promise not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

Far away
This ship has taken me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die

I'll never let you go
If you promise not to fade away
Never fade away

Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations
Our hopes and expectations
Black holes and revelations

Hold you in my arms
I just wanted to hold
You in my arms

I just wanted to hold

Another race shirt
Early race results - notice the 11 & 7 year-olds
clobbering the adults
Race winner SWAG
Saturday morning sunrise from the start line.

Post race java at 505 Coffee

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

22 Days Later with 18,000 Maniacs

"Can open, worms everywhere!", the immortal words of the Chandler Bing character from "Friends" rings tried and true in so many ways. A little over three weeks after breaking the half marathon seal and my appetite for (self) destruction is on maximum overdrive.

After portraying one of the slow methodical zombies from The Walking Dead the last four miles of the Grand Lake Marathon on September 23rd, I was hoping I could scratch the itch of getting more consistent by getting right back into it. No one is looking to be one of those Olympic-caliber speedster living dead folks from 28 Days Later but I don't want to end up like that damn tortoise whose only recourse to beating the hare is to have a large close-knit family or somehow find the clone generating machine from The Prestige.

My impatience led to my signing up for the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2Marathon in an effort to quell my need to replace my lackluster virgin half marathon with a Hugh Hefner-likebeen-there-done-that type 13.1 miles. I think what annoyed me most about the first one was that I had training runs where I had ran faster...oh, did I mention I'm a bit competitive? (41 going on 14...that's me)

For example, the Friday following the initial half, I ran my own 13.1 route and did it in 1:36:47 (7:22 pace). Not my fastest, but three minutes faster than the race in Celina - ridiculous. Obviously, I have to work on pacing, but I can't help but be overeager...its in my nature. I have been playing with a race split calculator I found online to get a better idea of how NOT to take off like a banshee and finish like an original Keurig machine struggling to push water through pod number 1,000. And actually putting such things into action is whole other story.

My attempt to answer to this quandary? ...repeats...of the half-mile and mile variety, as well as progression runs. I've never been one to follow a suggested workout word for word, but I did take pieces of some speed workouts from and mix them in with what I remember from my college running days (holy crap...its been 20 years?!). These are easier said than done, but as long as you aren't passive aggressive about them - and actually do it - you are holding up your end of the bargain.

That reminds me - speaking of passive aggressive - my next door neighbors in my building, Bob and his lovely (whack job) wife, apparently have issues with my ability to know...human. He has an oxygen tank he has to lug around along with a cane to assist in getting from here to there, I couldn't imagine the struggle he gets to deal with on a daily basis. He does get out quite a bit, just slow and methodically. His wife rarely gets out, but can be heard echoing throughout our building - usually complaining about any and everything described elegantly with clusters of F-word variations. They used to ask for my assistance on a few things and I was happy to oblige. Then, unfortunately, it became an everyday (several times a day) thing. I had somehow become their personal home health aid and (sometimes) bank.

To combat this, I started telling them "No" or "I can't". Suddenly, they began to ignore me and I was satisfied with the fact they had picked up on my hints to stop using me as their crutch. Instead of just simply finding other means of assistance, they began to retaliate. Not viciously, but in the way an eight-year old would do so. This included my mail being taken out of my mailbox and thrown on the floor, their Mountain Dew cans tossed into the bushes and garden I maintain (and manicure) for our landlord and cranking up their video games as loud as they can get them.

...Video games?

Yes, this 60-ish couple has grown accustomed to playing Ms. Pac-Man & Pac-Man at all hours of the day with W.J. (whack job) yelling out and referring to the games ghost villains Inky, Blinky, Pinky & Clyde has "bitches" and to Sue as "you stupid whore" when they apparently catch up to her. Now, I can sort of understand this - I, too, was just as into this game at one time. The only difference being I was about seven and it was 1982 (that does not mean finding one of these arcade games around today would require an hour so break in order to pump quarters into it, nostalgia can be a guilty pleasure).

I lent Bob a book awhile back, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and it was pseudo returned this last week. And by "returned" I mean tossed within a three foot radius of my door. Not up against my door or in a bag hanging on my doorknob, but in a position like it may have been dropped by a passerby. I guess I should be thankful he had the wherewithal to at least fling it toward my apartment.

At the moment W.J. and Bob keep taking the floor mat in front of my door. I've found it tossed out our building's front door, laying in the trash, tossed down the basement stairs or it just disappears into oblivion. Since not all of the apartments are occupied, I just replace those that go missing with one of the others. And they, too, will disappear a short time later. I imagine the apartment next door is somehow being insulated by a variety of random floor mats, Art Deco style. Just think of all the cigarettes (yes, she still smokes in their apartment despite Bob's need for oxygen because he simply can't breathe on his own), Totino's Party Pizza and Mountain Dew they could buy if their floor decorating skills became hit?!

Moral of the story...say what you mean, do what you say, get things done and speak your mind - don't be a W.J. or oxygen thief.

So...attempting to go slower at the beginning of a run takes some getting used to and is awkward to me, but it does feel better speeding up in the middle of each run when you are loose and warmed up. This is easy to do when running alone, but doing it while running with others is hard. A few weeks of playing with progression running (along with reaching the 1,000 mile mark for the year, hitting run number 200 of 2017 and reaching 19,000 feet in total elevation in that time period) had me excited for half marathon part deux.

2017 Nationwide Children's Hospital 
Columbus 1/2 Marathon Route
As with the initial 13.1, there would be some exquisite scenery to occupy the eyes. Starting in North Bank Park we maneuver through downtown Columbus to the Ohio State House and head east along historic Route 40 (Broad Street) and into the suburb of Bexley. Then its a slow, methodical u-turn to the right for a return trip west to take us past Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens followed by a jaunt through the Olde Town East neighborhood before heading south to Nationwide Children's Hospital. The group then wraps around the hospital to venture further west into German Village before heading south to circle the cities' second oldest park, Schiller Park. From there it is onto High Street to the west - Columbus' main artery - for a long straight stretch north passing through the Brewery District and downtown (along with passing the Ohio State House a second time) to finish back at North Bank Park in the shadow of Nationwide Arena and Huntington Park. I thought, if I could reach 1:35:00 at minimum (barring any catastrophes), I would be satisfied.

Though, as with all races, assumptions and expectations change...and change quickly. Sometimes its the race, sometimes its the week leading up to it and other times - it's both.

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Live Hard. We Got You.

The weekend before, while on a long run, I felt some tenderness in my right calf. Not too worried about it, I continued on. The very next day, on a short Sunday run, it arrived with full force: a calf strain. I attempted some light running/jogging in the days afterward, but it wouldn't allow for it. All I could do was apply ice to reduce swelling, then heat to keep it loose - and apparently compression is a big key. So I bought calf compression sleeves to at least be more comfortable while on my feet at work, and it was. Still a bit tender (but not quite as painful), I was hoping I could improve before the coming of Sunday's half marathon. With it being Wednesday, I had nearly four full days before the race and wearing the compression sleeve 24/7 with light stretching and ice application ever so often.

"Repairs of most kinds" 
That night, I had to call the Marion County Court of Common Pleas Jury Duty line to see if my requested civic duty would be needed (I received the notice in the mail the previous week). The automated message indicated the case I was to be associate with would, in fact, be going on.

So Thursday morning, I arrive at 8:30 and listen to the bailiff's instructions before being tabbed as juror number 9. We then wait...for two hours. During this time I tried to keep to myself and relax, but Marty would have none of it. Marty, juror number 3, wanted to chat. Ignoring him didn't work, so I entertained his
rambling for a few minutes. Come to find out Marty is self-employed and runs a home maintenance business and let us (the jurors) know several times he would be losing $200 a day by having to be there. Oh, and I almost forgot, he has a side business - selling handmade soaps at trade shows and such.

My view from jury box seat
number nine.
I was only casually annoyed, but felt honored that ol' Marty did offer (force upon) his business card before finding another juror to pester. Now nearly 10:30, we finally rise as Judge William R. Finnegan takes a seat. He proceeds to explain his appreciation for our willingness to do our civic duty, but despite the fact we are ready to go...the two sides involved have settled out of court (or just outside of the courtroom that morning, as it would be). So two hours of hanging out at the historic Marion County Courthouse resulted in a $12 jury duty check for having to suffer through Maintenance Marty and a hook-up for my next soap purchase.

On Friday - October 13th no less - (two days before half marathon part deux), I had to bite the bullet and attempt to run - even the slightest jog. Not an easy thing to do since, psychologically, I will want to avoid putting pressure on the calf muscle - but I had to rip the band-aid off. So, after work I put it to the test hoping I could get some frame of reference for Sunday. Running on eggs shells I took my sweet time and covered 3.78 miles in 27:58 (7:24). The calf was still a little tender, but I could run with actual form - BOOM! I should be able to do my own thing on Sunday and not attempt to set the world on fire. I did notice, though, I paid 1,000% attention to any, all and every crack, pebble and less-than-smooth surface in my path. I'll be damned if I re-injure myself. With that, I would be idle till Sunday's race and use Saturday to visit the race expo for packet pickup.

Race SWAG shirt  & Bib
Arriving prior to sunrise I hangout stretching, warming up and peeing (several times) with the 18,000 half & full marathoners. Being in group "A" meant I had the privilege of starting up front. This meant I got to see the eventual winners for a half-second before they disappeared. We had the fireworks, then the gun and we are off. Not having run a race of this magnitude before, I spent the first quarter mile navigating through the masses of people. Once we reach the larger streets (beginning with High Street), the lanes open up. I take to the outside to give myself room on the turns, as the lemmings tend to cram into one another and stay in the middle.

We then turn to the left onto Broad Street and I hug the curve along the pedestrian fencing, but just as I do several spectators are hanging over the fence to gawk and I (unintentionally) bump up against a female spectators arm. She isn't looking anywhere near the course and I'm sure it scared the crap out of her. We hit hard enough that I though I heard my watch turn off. Luckily that was not the case. No one was hurt, but this did end up being a reoccurring theme throughout the race. Several times I would come super close to, or brush up against, spectators stepping onto or leaning into (or standing on) the course. For the love - GET OFF THE COURSE - or just pay attention.

Downtown Columbus
After re-gathering my bearings, I find some rhythm. I skip the first water stop because I'm feeling good and at the 7k mark I'm at 29:08. Still a little too fast for my taste, but not crazy fast. I hit all the remaining water stops, essentially swishing Gatorade and spitting it out, then sipping some water and pouring the rest of it down my back. Not familiar with in-race fueling, this was the best way for me to keep from choking or hacking through liquids while running. I haven't passed many people, but have maintained position. Eyeing a few familiar folks near me and just ahead would keep me abreast of where I was in regards to placement.

Me in the gray with the visor. Moments before my calf
decided it was unhappy racing
Some fatigue began to set in around mile seven, as some of those familiar folks started to distance themselves. The 3:05:00 marathon pacer (and his followers) slide by me and I smile, thinking you poor bastards, I'M nearly finished. At the 15k time post, I'm at 1:06:50. I'm definitely feeling the fatigue now, but my form is good and my pace is better than I imagined (and better than three weeks ago). Then just after mile 10 (and passing the cheering girlfriend for a second time), my calf reminds me it isn't 100 percent. With Schiller Park just ahead, I feel the pull and then the pain shoot through my leg. "Son of a bitch", is the thought that runs through my head.

I slowdown, but keep going with a somewhat exaggerated limp and hoping the pain would subside. A few steps later, I can still feel it but it isn't excruciating and I can still run with some sort of form. Though, I have obviously slowed - and ecstatic I didn't have to come to a complete stop. With a 5k still to go, all I could do was focus on form and attempt to stride. It did, however, suck to watch what seemed like hundreds of folks passing me (that number ended up being 78, but it felt like hundreds).
On the Scioto Mile with my finisher's medal

Grinding my way through the remaining two miles and the half/full marathon split, I just wanted to reach the finish. Luckily, it arrives (finally) and I see out of the corner of my eye a time of 1:37: - something or other. And, unlike the last time, I remember to stop my watch. I step across the finish and I'm in a sea of red clad medical personnel. Exhausted, I glance around and they are sort of just standing there. I take a few more steps, glancing around looking for some refreshment and ask, "water...?"

I continue dragging my worn out body forward and notice about 10 to 15 yards ahead of me a couple of tables loaded with bottles of water, along with folks handing out finishers medals. I get my medal, guzzle a bottle of water and take another for later, and pose for a couple of exhausted post-race pictures. I'm then handed a plastic bag and walk through the gauntlet of snack stations, it was like a runner's trick-or-treat. I walk out of the participant only area with my medal and plastic bag overflowing with snacks, fruit, protein bars and samples of what not.

My official time: 1:37:06 (303rd out of 9,625 finishers, 27th in my age group). Though, the last three mile splits were :30 seconds (or more) slower than the previous ten (7:51, 8:12, 7:49). The calf strain put a dent into the last quarter of my race, but I still finished more than 2:30 faster than my initial half marathon just three weeks before.

CLICK HERE for race stats
Two half marathons in three weeks, each under 1:40:00. Hard to complain, but I need to be more consistent. And my half-marathon PR - technically - is still one I ran by myself as practice around Marion (1:36:28). I will be hitting some shorter races in the next few weeks, hoping to keep my enthusiasm above sea level and my right calf from disintegrating.

As the holiday season revs it's engine (October through January), Ohio's unpredictable weather will surely follow suit. And like the postal worker, the runner mission hits high gear - Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor grade of incline stays these harriers from the swift completion of their miles on time...

...or some crap like that - Run On friends!

***Super fun race day photo collection from Lauren McComas below (THANKS L!)****

Let it never be said
The Romance is dead
'Cause there's so little else
Occupying my head

There is nothing I need
except the function to breathe
But I'm not really fussed
Doesn't matter to me

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
Do you, do you, do you, do you
Know what you're doing, doing, to me
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

Due to lack of interest
Tomorrow is canceled
Let the clocks be reset
And the pendulums held

'Cause there's nothing at all
Except the space in-between
Finding out what you're called
And repeating your name

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
Do you, do you, do you, do you
Know what you're doing, doing, to me
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

Could it be, could it be
That you're joking with me?
And you don't really see you and me [x2]

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
Do you, do you, do you, do you
Know what you're doing, doing, to me
Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby
Do you, do you, do you, do you

Know what you're doing, doing, to me

Post race beer and finisher's

Look hard, I'm in the middle - one mile in

Prior to the masses arriving

The Ohio State House, downtown Columbus. We
passed this twice during the half

My search of the finish line

Finish line and festivities

The Ohio State House & The Columbus Dispatch sign
prior to sunrise.

Some Columbus skyline at the race staging area

Monday, September 25, 2017

When Life Gives You Lemons, Chuck Those Bastards Back

I don't see myself running anything beyond a five mile collegiate cross country race - I said years ago as a Morehead State Eagle (1994-1997). In the last year, as a still wet behind the ears "40 something", I have run a variety of 10K's, an eight miler, 16 miles (three separate routes) as part of a 24 hour team relay and ... a half marathon?

Out of all of those races, the half is the most surprising to me. It just came out of nowhere...well, actually, it was due to ridicule by some of my The Buck Fifty teammates who have run their fare share. And running the 13.1 mile race is just as odd as being rear-ended while at a dead stop at a red light in front of the President Warren G. Harding Memorial by a guy (who has a name similar to another former president) in an SUV who isn't wearing a shirt or shoes, has a pastel mohawk, no insurance, is wearing SpongeBob SquarePants pajama bottoms and has changed his middle name to "Highlander"within the last month (Yes, this really did happen and to a co-worker. Melinda is okay, but the car she purchased band new just two months ago...isn't. Afterward, I believe she told this guy what he could do with that pineapple under the sea).

President Warren G. Harding Memorial
If you have trained for it, the half is more about making sure you don't psych yourself out. With a goal of 1:30:00, I began putting in the work. Having spent the last year averaging somewhere around 20 to 25 miles a week with long runs of 7 to 8 miles, I needed to increase my mileage per week as well as my long runs to better prepare (and simply get used to) running the 13.1 mile gauntlet. I began this process the day after the August 12th 10K race.

On that race day, I ran along side one of the half marathoners for the first 5K (before our races went separate directions). There I was getting an idea of how one would pace themselves for a half marathon in order to be competitive and not tire themselves out by the halfway point. I tried to apply this to the six weeks I had to play with before race day and it went something like this...

Half Marathon Training:

6 Weeks To Go: 31.93 total miles; 10.22 Saturday long run (7:18 pace); Monday/Thursday off
5 Weeks To Go: 32.93 total miles: 11.18 Friday long run (7:01 pace); Monday/Thursday off
4 Weeks To Go: 33.64 total miles: 12.06 Saturday long run (6:57 pace); Monday/Thursday off
3 Weeks To Go: 34.11 total miles: 12.51 Saturday long run (7:12 pace); Monday/Thursday off
2 Weeks To Go: 34.51 total miles: 13.10 Friday long run (7:22 pace); Monday/Thursday off
*RACE WEEK: 15.63 total miles: 3.05 Thursday leg warmer (6:54 pace); Monday/Friday off

Running a half marathon is a huge step and it reminded me of the last time I had put this amount of effort into a race. It was my last cross country race, my junior year at Morehead State and we were running at Eastern Kentucky University. My personal best five mile time of 27:13 was established, despite the fact I ran the last 3 1/2 miles (or so) with one shoe on. This was after it was partially pulled off after getting stepped on (and spiked), then kicking the shoe off the rest of the way because I didn't want to spend the time to stop and put it back on. I finished 29th, but my cross country season ended after the gash in my heel - from the spike puncturing my shoe and into the back of my heel - became infected (as a team, we won the meet. CLICK for full details).

I was hoping the half marathon effort would have just as much success, but not end the way things did back in October of 1996. It’s called a race for a reason and – for me, personally – simply finishing was not good enough.

**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"                                         
Live Hard. We Got You

My 13.1 mile seal breaker was supposed to be the Scioto River Run in Powell on Saturday, September 23rd, with acquaintances of mine who run nearby Ill Mannered Brewing Company having their beer available for finishers. Unfortunately, that Wednesday (just three days out), the 1,500 or so of us who signed up receive an email from the organizers that starts like this..."We regret to inform you that as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, September 20, 2017, Liberty Township Trustees decided to reverse their favorable vote on a resolution to support the 2017 Scioto River Run. This is a reverse of a previously written approval obtained on February 22, 2017.  We, the organizers of the Scioto River Run are devastated by this decision..." 

A little ticked, since I had this planned for months, I try to let it sink in. Folks were able to get a refund and the back story on the reasoning for the cancellation is long and drawn out - I will save you the details. It boils down to permit issues and some "he said/she said things", apparently and sounds like a bit of a cluster.

On that same day, after mowing the grass at my apartment building (I do this for cheaper rent) after a short run, I notice my keys were missing. Since I was still wearing my running gear and had nowhere to put my keys, I hid them in a plant near a tree in our yard. I did notice a little earlier some dude, whom I didn't recognize, roaming around the building and walking by my hiding place - then hopping into an SUV and leaving. After trying to figure out what I did with them, I determined they had been taken. I contacted my landlord and explained it to her, then contacted the authorities to file a report. As you can imagine, I was highly pissed since my apartment and car keys were now missing in action. Once my landlord and the officer arrive, I see the same SUV returning. The officer continues taking my frustrating detailed report and my landlord saunters over to visit the fellas in the parking lot.

From a distance, you can see the short, fiery brunette get extremely animated and loud (and scary). Before I know it, she has my keys in her hand to go along with a sly "don't-mess-with-me" grin on her face. Alyssa tells me the group claimed to not know anything about the keys, but the dude whom I recognize as the one I saw earlier suddenly "finds" my keys outside the side door of my building - nowhere near where I had been the entire day and mysteriously next to the door he had just exited. Relieved my keys came back unscathed, I requested my apartment door lock be changed and wondered if I should begin polishing the wooden, splintered baseball bat resting in the trunk of my car. I don't believe my keys were duplicated and the officer has their names and car identification, but I'm not taking any chances.

With that out of my way (but still lingering), my biggest issue was the fact I was now race-less for the weekend. After sending off several emails and web posts on various race/running sites, I learned there was a half marathon - on the same day - still taking was just much further away (90 minutes instead 30) then I had wanted. The Grand Lake Full/Half Marathon in Celina & St. Marys, Ohio would fit in nicely (complete with free beer from Moeller Brew Barn for finishers).

This race would cover the entire northern shoreline of the 13,500 acre Grand Lake, Ohio's largest inland lake. It would, though, force a complete change in my race weekend game plan. The Scioto River Run was in an area familiar to me, this race was in completely new territory...well, mostly new territory. I did apply for a job years ago in Celina while working in the Dallas, Texas area (Addison) and looking to return to Ohio. I was a radio news reporter/anchor back in 2002 and applied for jobs in Newark and Celina. I was given an interview in Newark and eventually hired there. Though, not more than a month later, Celina made statewide and regional news for some flash flooding and one story I read had the radio station I had applied to underwater. Yeah, just a small bullet dodged there.

Grand Lake Half Marathon route
On a whim, for the first time, I started wearing sunglasses while running about three weeks ago. It was just something I didn't do, though I bought a pair of @shadyrays out of simple curiosity - they were relatively cheap, fit well and helped with my lack of ability to see distance in detail: thus, less squinting when the sun is attempting to blind you. Recent training runs with them proved to be less of a distraction than I had imagined. As it would be, they, along with my usual visor, were needed on this day with the full late summer sun throwing everything it had left at us: mid 80's and humid.

Beginning in Memorial Park in St. Marys, we first hear a few words from 2016 U.S. Olympian Jared Ward, followed by the countdown, then the gun. Starting next to the 1:30:00 pacer, my thinking was if I stayed somewhat ahead of him, I could judge my pacing without having to spy my watch every so often. As it would be, the first handful couple miles had Mr. Ward lead away followed by a few super overzealous participants. Not wanting to pretend to be superman, I hung back with a pace comfortable for me. Slowly some runners would slide by, but not immediately disappear. I casually wondered if they knew what they were doing or were testing the half marathon waters like myself.

From a distance, the good first half
The latter seemed to come true as within the next three miles, three of them came to a stop and began walking. Then I see Lauren - my girlfriend who has tagged along for the day - she's throwing out some encouragement and all seems on track. Feeling good and reaching the halfway point in 43:36, I still have yet to see the 1:30:00 pacer - I must be doing something right...or at least I thought. With the sun beating down and no shade to speak of, I start to feel like I'm lumbering. I can barely see any runners ahead of me and I don't hear any runner within striking distance behind me. At mile eight the struggle begins and when I pass water stations I can hear the cheers for those coming up behind me.

One by one, ever so slowly, I start getting passed and then there he goes. The 1:30:00 pacer strides by and my personal annoyance hits a high note. I do my damnedest to stretch my stride to pick up the pace, but it doesn't last long. The most I can do now is simply hold on and fight the urge to start walking. The last few miles creep along and in the last portion those who had earlier passed me, but then began walking, have enough decent speed left in the tank to blow by. At this point, I'm only moving just enough to not be mistaken for walking backwards and despite being exhausted - I'm disgusted this is how my first half marathon is coming to an end.

Funny, with about a quarter mile to go, I hear a familiar voice. Its Lauren again, she - trying to boost my spirits - points to an electronic "Your Speed" sign that indicates the speed for this Celina City Park road is 20 mph (the kind of sign which flashes your speed if you are going to fast). Its turned off, but she says something like, "You aren't up to speed, the sign hasn't kicked on." I smile slightly and I'm glad I can still at least pick my feet off of the ground and they aren't scuffing across the pavement with each step.

That's me in the gray, a quarter mile to go
The finish chute welcomes me and finally getting to stop running (IF what I was doing at that time could actually be called "running"), I ignore the first guy handing out finisher's medals. I couldn't have grasped it anyway. I get a bottle of water, guzzle half of it, then dump the rest down the back of my neck. In all my extreme wooziness, I then get a finisher's medal and another water. Then I remember I haven't stopped my watch, now even more annoyed, I find I have finally stopped it at 1:40:45. Then comes Lauren and she guides me along to keep me moving as one would an intoxicated zombie. As long as she is a step ahead of me I will follow like a lost puppy, and not collapse to the ground.

We find shade and get more water, a banana and a bagel. Once my wits have returned, I make it over to the Moeller Brew Barn beer cart to get my free finisher's beer. Sitting back down in the shade I realize there was no way I could have sped up at the end, I hit the wall and it hit me head on. Still recovering, some random dude hands me his "free beer" ticket saying he wasn't going to use it. Well, apparently sucking the last five miles wasn't absolutely horrible. Out of curiosity, we wander over to the electronic results and to discover I have finished 17th overall (out of 451) in a time of 1:39:40. Way off of my goal, but it was within the 1 hour, 30 minute time frame - for whatever that means (the overall winner was the Olympian, Jared Ward, finishing with a time of 1:10:51 - ten full minutes ahead of second place).

Posing with my finisher's medal & free beer
Surprisingly, I have finished second in my age group (out of 48). This means I am the recipient of a souvenir beer growler and a gift certificate for one free growler fill from nearby Moeller Brew Barn. Now fed up with melting in the sun, as it is now over 90 degrees with full sun and not a cloud in sight, we decide to drive the 20 minutes to the south to fill up my new growler. Upon arrival I get it filled with the Oktoberfest Marzen, sample a beer or two more, then head home.

On Sunday, my legs are still sore and my pride a bit dented but take in the fact I ran a freakin' half marathon. If I remember right, I think my first words to Lauren after finishing were, "Well...that was just stupid". It may have been, but I'm glad I did it. I complete my day after by moving my homebrew Double IPA from the keg to the bottle and decide to take the next two days off from running.

Will the half marathon become part of my return to running repertoire now that we are no longer strangers? My brain says "no", but my competitive nature says "yes" - and he's a jerk by the way. The next step up, of course, would be the marathon. Regarding that, I will give you a hearty "Hell, No". I've punished myself enough and have no urge to run for three straight hours.

So, there you have it, Summer 2017: 467.47 miles, 19 weeks, five races, two countries and a variety of beers.

Summer runnin'... happened so fast ... has come to an end, at long last ...

I see myself in strangers
On the subway on the street
I find a little comfort when our eyes meet
I know it’s rude to stare to long sir, but were we friends three lives ago?
I see myself in strangers
In the people I don’t know

But who am I, without you? I don’t know, but I want to
Who could I be next to you? I don’t know, but I want to

Could you be my perfect stranger
I need a little danger
Lose who you are, we can stay in the dark
And you’ll be my perfect stranger

I met you on the corner then you went there in my mind
Creeping to the surface, now I see you all the time
You don’t need to know my name no, let’s just stay inside the game oh
I see myself in strangers in the people I don’t know

But who am I, without you? I don’t know, but I want to
Who could I be next to you? I don’t know, but I want to

Could you be my perfect stranger
I need a little danger
Lose who you are, we can stay in the dark
And you’ll be my perfect stranger

You’re a throwback, a bad plan, but this something that I’ve never had
Tying up some loose threads, cleaning out my head
Mama said don’t ever talk to people you don’t know about
But I can’t help it gonna try it out out out

Could you be my perfect stranger
I need a little danger
Lose who you are, we can stay in the dark
And you’ll be my perfect stranger

The Grand Lake Half Marathon Finish 
Attempting to eat...something...anything...

Post race recovery with Lauren
Filling my 2nd place age group
award at Moeller Brew Barn
Grand Lake Half Marathon SWAG


Runnin' Summer 2017 Tour (completed):