Head Strong
Sunday, September 27, 2015

It’s crunch time.  Twenty-eight days until the 40th edition of the Marine Corps Marathon.  My sports-filled weekend continued today with a planned 12 mile tempo run and watching my Oakland Raiders attempt to move to 2-1 on the young NFL season.  This on the heels of a pair of baseball games I umpired on Friday night, the 4-mile run yesterday and the three ice hockey games I officiated last evening.  Needless to say it was a very physically and mentally draining weekend for me.  Not surprisingly I awoke tired and uncertain about today’s run.  I got out much later than I had hoped, and like I have dealt with most of my training period I faced some warmer than average temperatures with humidity that I underestimated.  I also made the mistake of not taking water or any gels with me figuring it was “only 12 miles.”  I almost immediately realized the error of my ways as the first mile wiped me out more than it really should have and it made for a long day.  A bad day.

By the time it was all said and done I was able to run the tempo portion of this run at a decent pace.  Certainly not what I did on this run two weeks ago.  See for yourself:

                Tempo 12 (9/13/2015)      Tempo 10 (today)
                3 mile warm-up                    3 mile warm-up
Mile 4     7:52                                        8:19
Mile 5     7:51                                        7:54
Mile 6     7:42                                        7:41
Mile 7     7:45                                        7:57
Mile 8     7:54                                        8:17
Mile 9     7:53                                        8:22
3 mile cool down                 1 mile cool down

Not exactly a good day for me.  But like I’ve said on this blog and website previously, you can’t have a good day every time you lace up your running shoes.  I’m not big on excuses or reasons, but I have to realize that perhaps I just ran my tank way too low with far too much activity this weekend.  There is something to be said for being on the diamond for 4 hours Friday, and then on the ice for the better part of 5 hours last night.  There is also another item that hit me during the run that might have contributed to my poor performance today.   For the first time in weeks and quite possibly months, I had something to drink that had aspartame in it.  Now I’m not huge on what’s good for you and what’s bad for you.  And I certainly don’t want to start a war on aspartame.  Remember, one of my favorite foods is Twinkies.  But after reading a few articles on aspartame and feeling sluggish I decided to try cutting it out of my diet.  To be candid about it, I can honestly say I have felt better, especially in the mornings which is when the bulk of my training takes place.  Last evening when we stopped for dinner after my hockey games I accidentally drank a product that I realized this morning had aspartame in it.  It didn’t really dawn upon me until I had completed my first mile and the all too familiar feeling of sluggishness I used to feel regularly when I was regularly drinking aspartame.  Coincidence?  Perhaps, but I’m definitely going to be more careful.

When all was said and done, I got dehydrated and had to have Becky bring me a drink, and inevitably I cut the planned 12-miler short to a 10-miler today.  I’m not really happy about it, but as I’ve said, sometimes you just have to listen to your body and live to run another day.  With the ten miles I did today I am now just 1-mile short of hitting my all-time highest running monthly total of 150 which I did just last month.  More consolation as I realize that today was just a bad day.  This is something that used to affect me badly from a mental standpoint, but after today, I remain headstrong with just four weeks remaining.  My intention is to attack this last hard week before tapering and ensure that I finish strong on the toughest part of training.

Run on…

A Milestone
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sometimes a running blog/website isn’t really about running at all.  But just in case the web blog police come knocking, I ran 4 miles today.  I also officiated 3 ice hockey games to officially begin my 2015-16 season, the 20th of my career.  And although I don’t really care to make a big deal out of simply hanging around long enough, and working enough games to experience the privilege of working that many games, I did do some reflecting today on my run (there it is again) and on the ice tonight.  I asked myself the following question.  What does 2,000 mean?  What I came up with was longevity.  That I’ve been able to stick around long enough to work that many games.

What didn’t require a question, but much thought and recall, was the memories I’ve accumulated over the years.  Make no mistake, there are a number of individual plays that I can recall like they happened today.  I’ve made a ton of mistakes.  I’ve made a lot of wrong calls.  I’ve even called penalties I didn’t see but knew they happened because of instinct.  That goes against the rule of officiating, which goes something like this — I can’t call what I don’t see.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  That’s not completely true.  You know something else?  I’ve made a lot of correct calls.  Tough calls.  I’ve broken up my share of fights, been punched in the face (accidentally, I think), taken pucks off of just about every part of my body.  I’ve been bruised, battered, checked, knocked down and cursed out and called more names than I care to remember.  Those things all come with the territory.  They are part of the job.  I’ll let you in on one more thing.  I wouldn’t trade any of it.  Sure, I would change a thing or two, like those missed calls or calls I chose to not make.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that sometimes it’s about the calls you don’t make.  One in particular stands in my mind and will forever stick with me as long as I live.  I was working the 2007 Penguins Cup Championship game at Mellon Arena (it’s the equivalent of the PA State Western Final).  Bethel Park  was playing North Allegheny.  The game went into overtime and Bethel Park was on the attack.  Their center and captain made a move into the slot around a defender and was hooked, ever so slightly.  To the untrained eye, it probably went unnoticed.  But both myself and my officiating partner chose not to call it.  Here’s where I can give some insight into that part of the game that a lot of people will never understand.  Although it was a penalty, the Bethel Park center maintained possession of the puck and was still able to get around the defender.  And although he was moving into the slot, he was moving into the high slot.  There were still several defenders between him and the net.  He was able to get a shot off that was blocked and never got in on goal.  I still believe the correct thing was “no call” there, but I think about that play often.  Because several minutes later, North Allegheny scored the game winner on a long shot from center ice that should have been stopped.  I will always wonder if the game would have flipped had we called that penalty.  I’ll never know.

What I do know is that I’m a numbers and statistics guy.  I hated the class in college, but using the information practically in real life has taught me to love it.  Here are some statistics to go along with what 2,000 means:

  • First game: October 1, 1996

  • Skated 4 Pennsylvania State High School Championship games

  • Skated 1 National Championship Game

  • Skated 36 games that were for a Championship of some type

  • 1,000th game worked on November 27, 2004

  • Skated in 34 different ice rinks in 5 states plus Washington, D.C.

  • Skated with 157 different partners (yes, I have all of their names in my database)

  • Skated 1 pro game (NOT the NHL)

  • Skated 2 games on an outdoor rink in open air

  • Skated 1 sled hockey game

  • I estimate that I have made about $100,000 officiating (I wish I had saved all that money)

Beyond that I have so many memories that I couldn’t do any of them justice by leaving them out.  I don’t know how much longer I will officiated, but I know for certain that I will not be doing 3,000 anytime soon or probably ever.  Today gave me the opportunity to think about the last 19+ years and appreciate that I have been involved with the fastest game on earth and through all the highs and lows I’ve persevered and hung around.  So what’s next? Perhaps I should write a book.  Oh, wait…..a second book.

Run on, but today; skate on…

Heading out for #2,000

Heading out for #2,000

9.26_14 9.26_7 9.26_13 9.26_8 9.26_10 9.26_9 9.26_2

19+ years in the making.

19+ years in the making.

9.26_1 9.26_6

A lot more grey than I had in 2004

A lot more grey than I had in 2004

Dreadmill, Double-Dip, and a Dream
Friday, September 25, 2015

It’s here.  One month to go!  I “celebrated” (sarcasm noted) by running a 4-miler on the dreaded treadmill.  Or what I like to call the dreadmill.  Only I ran it on the treadmill at Turf Valley Conference Center and Hotel because I was at a conference for work.  I wanted to go outside, but since I was on unfamiliar turf (pun intended) and it’s now pitch dark in the mornings I opted for the beast.  I also received notification via email today that we are just one month away.  Once again I am full of excitement and anticipation but also nervousness.

After driving back home today I had a little time before I then had to umpire a doubleheader in the local Pony League this evening.  Fall is definitely in the air as temperatures were cool and as the evening wore on a light mist fell on us.  Off in the distance I could once again hear the sounds of a high school football game being played at Wicomico Stadium.  I’m sort of over the fact that life has changed and football Fridays have been replaced by fall baseball.  But it’s still a little weird.

The weekend I have planned is largely sports-oriented as I have a short run to do in the morning tomorrow which I will have to do with a sore quad.  I was hit with a foul ball on my right thigh as well as a direct pitch that hit me on my left elbow.  The elbow doesn’t bother me as much because I don’t need it to run, but I’m sure the quad will cause me some discomfort tomorrow.  I’ll follow that up with a triple header of hockey games and around 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon I’ll embark on my 2,000th officiated game.  Although I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, the reality of what that many games means is sinking in a bit.

The final added surprise for today was waiting for me when I got home a little while ago.  My final proof arrived.  Before sitting down to post, I opened the box and was mesmerized with the fact that it’s reached this point.  One final read-through to catch any errors or omissions and a final submission before it hits the market.

I’ll be releasing some additional information and the cover in the next few days.  I’ll also save my reaction to seeing the book for the first time for a future post.  All I can say for now is that so few times in our lifetime do we get to experience reaching a dream.  No matter what, I’ve reached one and put my hands on it tonight.

Run on….

MCM 40

1 month to go...

1 month to go…

Thursday, September 24, 2015

This weekend will mark 1 month until the marathon and although I am eagerly anticipating the marathon itself, this weekend will also bring with it two events that I am equally anticipating.  As I have mentioned previously, I have been an amateur ice hockey official for 19 years.  This year I will begin my 20th season and this Saturday I will officially (no pun intended) begin that 20th season with a trifecta of games Saturday afternoon.  The middle game will bring with it the added significance of being my 2,000th officiated contest.  It has been a long ride from that first game in early October, 1996.  I have anticipated this game for about the past two years when I got within striking distance of the number.  It will be a nice distraction to marathon training for me at just the right time.

Another very exciting situation should arrive on my doorstep Saturday or possibly Monday at the latest.  Today a proofing copy of my book was mailed to me.  As I am ten years removed from the beginnings of that particular journey, or half the time I’ve been officiating it really puts things into perspective for me.  Obviously I am excited but also a little bit scared.  I am hoping the product will be all that I have hoped it would be and more.  I wonder if people will appreciate it, if they will even buy it.  I am nervous, excited, and scared all in one.  And I absolutely cannot wait to open the packaging and see the final DRAFT product of something that has taken me nearly a decade to complete.  There will definitely be something about seeing it in print and in the form of a book.  Until now I have been working on Word and PDF documents.  It’s an eager anticipation that I think only comes along every once in awhile.

Rest assured, I will be sharing more details about the actual book within a week, including the cover and some exciting endorsements I have received.  Until then, it’s all about getting a new season started out right and continuing to train for that elusive 10th marathon.  Lots going on as we flip the calendar from September to October.  But lots of exciting things going on, creating a lot of anticipation.

Run on…

Coming Into View
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It dawned upon me today that things are really getting crystal clear in front of me.  With 31 days of training left, I scanned my training program to see that I’ve got just three (maybe 4) double-digit runs remaining before the marathon and three harder interval days (like this morning).  In just 11 days I will begin my taper and reduce my mileage and intensity for final preparation for the race.  It made me think about my past experiences and how quickly the time goes by when you are following a schedule and how it seems that there is never enough time to fully prepare to run the distance of 26.2 miles.  I also reviewed  in my mind how my training has gone and like it always has been, I have mixed feelings.  I’m very satisfied with the progress I’ve made.  But I wonder if I’ve worked hard enough or pushed myself enough to get ready for the race.  I’ve evaluated, and re-evaluated my goals and although I go into the Marine Corps Marathon wanting to finish under 4:00 hours, I wonder if I should be shooting for something more.  If you were to ask me what I thought right now; today, where I think I can finish this race, I would say that I think I can reasonably run a 3:45 marathon.  Given that its been four years since I’ve run one and being 4 years older, I think that’s pretty good.  But it’s that statement alone that makes me want and wish for more.  Is “pretty good” enough?  Am I satisfied with “pretty good?”  It never has been the case for me.

One thing I do know for sure is that I have and continue to enjoy the journey that I am on.  There is something about looking back on the past 11+ weeks and seeing the photos I’ve taken and the runs I’ve done, recalling the memories that I have created for myself.  Some of them I’ve shared with you here, others I’ve kept to myself.  There are always things that stick just with me that I do not share.  That is true of all 9 of my previous marathons.  I believe we all need to keep some things just for ourselves.

When I started this journey long before the official training started on July 5, I knew that it would be a long road to get there.  I had a lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty.  But as we enter this, the final week of September, with the weather beginning to bring me hints of what I have hoped for seemingly for months now, I am beginning to sense the slightest hint of light at the end of the tunnel.  Marathon #10 and the story I’ve told and continue to tell is beginning to come into full view right in front of me.  I almost want it to last forever, even though I know that all good things must come to an end.

Run on…

It was so dark when I began today I couldn't see my hand in front of me.

It was so dark when I began today I couldn’t see my hand in front of me.

By the time I hit the track, 2 miles in.

By the time I hit the track, 2 miles in.

800, mile, 800, mile, 400, 1200...

800, mile, 800, mile, 400, 1200…

We’ve Got NEADS
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tonight I have a major announcement that makes me very happy.  When I was getting close to finishing this book, I felt strongly, especially after the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, that I wanted to give a little something back to Boston in some way.  I looked long and hard at a variety of different charities and ways that I could possibly help, but none of them seemed to fit with what I was looking for.  Until I stumbled onto a group from Princeton, Massachusetts called NEADS.  The organization, actually known as NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans satisfies two criteria that are near and dear to my heart.  Helping Americans through the utilization of Assistance Dogs.  Becky and I are very much dog people and after reading a bit more about this wonderful organization, I learned that after the bombings in 2013 they also created the Pawsatively Strong Fund to assist survivors of the bombing.  I was instantly sold.  I knew I wanted to help.

After months of collaboration, I am happy to report that I have been approved as a fundraiser for this organization.  I am also elated to say that a portion of the proceeds from each book sold will benefit NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans.  Just a little more about this organization:

NEADS has trained over 1,600 Assistance Dog teams since 1976.  Oddly, that is the same year that the Marine Corps Marathon began its running.  NEADS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices.  NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Service and Assistance Dog services, including:

  • Deaf and Hearing Loss – Hearing dogs trained to alert human partners to the source of a sound.

  • Veterans – Assistance Dogs for Veterans program to help the growing population of veterans who could benefit from canine assistance.

  • Physical Disability – Service Dogs assist people by performing everyday tasks like picking up dropped items, opening doors and more.

  • Classroom, Therapy & Ministry – Uniquely trained dogs engage and inspire a practitioner’s community.

  • Children with a Disability – Service Dogs for children perform many of the same tasks they can for adults, and offer younger clients greater independence.

  • Children on the Autism Spectrum – Social Dogs help a child on the autism spectrum feel calmer and more confident.

In the coming weeks I will be establishing additional ways that you can help beyond buying the new book.  I am also very close to announcing some very exciting endorsements of my book, as well as releasing the cover.  But for me, today was a good day.   Becky and I are also very excited about visiting the NEADS campus in Princeton, MA sometime in the next 6-8 months.

Finally, on this great night I am also excited to report that the ‘upload’ of the book has taken place and it is going through the final stages.  As for today’s run, it was a fairly uneventful, still sore quads 3.25 miler.  With an extended speed session scheduled for tomorrow I “NEAD”-ed to hear some good news to help drive me that extra mile in the morning.  If you want to read more about NEADS, you can visit their website here.  And as always,

Run on…

A Close One
Monday, September 21, 2015

33 days.  That’s the countdown.  A bottle of Rolling Rock Beer.  I have to admit that when I checked out the countdown clock tonight it gave me pause.  That doesn’t seem like a lot of time.  It causes me a bit of nervousness, even though I know that I’ve done everything I should have done to this point in training.  I’ve followed the schedule almost to a “T”, and I have been persistent in making sure that I will be ready come race day.  I suppose when I look back to my marathon training days, this is basically normal nervousness.

Tonight, I experienced a different kind of nervous.  As I have done the past few times I’ve run really long distances on Sunday I gave myself (not necessarily a reward) some extra recovery time by not running in the morning the day after.  Today was no exception.  Even though my 20-miler was a little over three hours, my legs were begging me for a break today.  So I decided to wait to get today’s run in after work.  The problem was that just as I was getting ready to leave work, Becky called me and wanted to know if I would go watch some of her student’s football games at our Salvation Army.  I told her I would and squeeze in a quickie when we got home.  We stayed a little later than expected and then ran to the grocery store.  By the time we got home it was getting late and given that my legs weren’t feeling all that much better I wavered on whether or not I really just needed to take today off.  After wrestling with that thought for about 20 seconds I realized that I’m also in the midst of my running streak.  A streak that had reached 121 consecutive days.  All I needed to do was get in 1 mile to keep the streak going.  So I headed out a little before 8:00 p.m. and did my “quickie” route, which is 1.25 miles.  Even  though I will have to be back up in less than 12 hours, the streak continues at 122 days and the crisis was averted.  But it was a close one.

Run on…