Long Ass Way
Sunday, September 6, 2015

With Labor Day Weekend comes the end of week #9 of training which means there are just 7 weeks left to prepare for the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.  As I entered the weekend I have to admit that I was not looking forward to today’s scheduled 20-miler.  It reminded me once again how difficult running a marathon can be, but how the training can be downright brutal.  Wanting to keep things fresh and piggybacking on last week’s 10-miler in Ocean City I got the idea to see how far north from the Ocean City Inlet 20 miles would be.  So I researched on Google Maps and determined that it would be roughly around the Delaware Seashore State Park, just south of Dewey Beach, DE.  With good weather yesterday I decided to head out on my Harley-Davidson Sportster, went to the inlet and headed north to confirm where I would need to start.  Amazingly, Google Maps turned out to be accurate, but I also got in a really nice ride, and decided to have Becky drop me off at the Park this morning for a run south to the Inlet.

Just before I started out I was preparing my Runmeter app and since it was a new route I needed to name it.  With the temperatures beginning to increase and realizing I would be on the run for the better part of three hours I quickly named it “Long Ass Way” without even really thinking about it.  At that very moment I envisioned just how far I would need to go.  I knew that I would head south and run through Bethany Beach, DE which was roughly 5 miles south of where I started.  From there it would take an additional 2 miles to get through South Bethany and I would begin the roughly 3 mile stretch through the Fenwick Isle State Park and Assawoman Bay Wildlife Area, although I didn’t see any wildlife, just lots of other runner’s and cyclists.

Mile 10  brought the halfway point and entry into Fenwick Island, DE.  It was here that traffic began to get a little more dense as it coincided with more hotels and shops along with a huge Labor Day beach crowd.  As I approached mile 11, I crossed over into Maryland and wondered if I had ever started a run in one state and crossed over into another before.  Lo and behold, I did back in 2007 when I ran in the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon which briefly crossed over the river from Cincinnati, Ohio into Covington and Newport, Kentucky.

Just after hitting the state line the next landmark comes about 5 miles later when I ran past Route 90 at 62nd Street (roughly 82 blocks later).  Becky, who had dropped me off made a few stops herself along the way including meeting me at mile 12 to switch out my empty water bottle for a full one.  By the time I had hit 40th street, the heat of the day began getting to me and I had run out of my second bottle which took only half the time to drink as it took me to drink the first one.  Fortunately for me as I turned onto the boardwalk (27th street) there was a water fountain where I stopped to fill up again with under three miles to go.  This time, as I drank and poured this bottle over my head and down my back to cool off it lasted until 9th street where I filled a half-bottle once again that took me through the final 1.25 miles to the inlet.

I can’t help but think that I have to do two more of these runs in the next four weeks before my tapering begins.  Although I am filled with satisfaction that I completed a difficult run with very little “damage” I realize the time and effort required to prepare for a marathon is immense.  I know I am up for the challenge one more time, but I question whether this may be my last marathon.  All I know for now is between my two final long-runs and the marathon itself on October 25, I’ve got three more runs of a long ass way.

Run on…

The Start

The Start

Final Preparation

Final Preparation

Early on. The clouds would not stick around

Early on. The clouds would not stick around

Welcome to Bethany Beach, DE

Welcome to Bethany Beach, DE

Downtown Bethany

Downtown Bethany

Fenwick. I missed the sign because it was behind overgrown bushes

Fenwick. I missed the sign because it was behind overgrown bushes

I could've gone for some crabs.

I could’ve gone for some crabs.

Welcome to Maryland!

Welcome to Maryland!

Who new pasty gel could taste so good.

Who new pasty gel could taste so good.

It wouldn't stay this clear

It wouldn’t stay this clear

About the moment I realized it was a bad idea running on the Boardwalk

About the moment I realized it was a bad idea running on the Boardwalk

The inlet. FINISHED! 20 miles!

The inlet. FINISHED! 20 miles!

Life: An Unpredictable Journey
Saturday, September 5, 2015

It dawned upon me last evening how unpredictable and surprising life’s journey can be.  It’s something I think we all know but take for granted as we get caught up in living life day to day with no real time to stop and consider where we’ve been, how we got here and where we might be going.  Every now and then, though, something happens (at least for me it does) that shows me that we know very little about all the things we think we know.

As I stood on the baseball diamond last night umpiring the second of two pony league baseball games I could hear the bands and the crowd just off in the distance at Wicomico County Stadium.  It was at that very moment I realized that life takes some very strange and unexpected twists.  As football season kicked off in Maryland and Pennsylvania last evening, I found myself umpiring a baseball game.  Just nine years earlier I was beginning the last of my 9 seasons coaching high school football for my alma mater, Conemaugh Valley.  At that time, living back in Pennsylvania, baseball season would have been over for me for several weeks.  And I was so immersed into football, if you had told me then that someday I would be umpiring a baseball game on opening night of football season I would have laughed at you and called you crazy.  It’s not that I am no longer into football.  Quite the contrary.  I enjoy watching it live and I very much miss the days I spent coaching and being a part of the game.  However, my life has changed.  I am not in the same place I was nine years ago, let alone four years ago.  Four years ago, after having moved on from coaching due to job responsibilities, I remained involved in the game as a color commentator for Greater Johnstown High School, calling games with my good friend Rick Speicher on WCRO AM.

So much change going on in life.  So much change going on all around us everyday.  Which once again reiterates the importance of realizing every day and trying to live in the moment.  Because you never know what twist and turn might come along and make you realize that the things that are important to you right now, might be an afterthought or take on less importance in the future.  Not that we shouldn’t enjoy the things we love right now.  But to take it for what it is, enjoy the moment knowing that it will not always be the same, no matter what you do.

As I ran my short 3-miler today in anticipation of tomorrow’s all-important long run, I simply slowed down, took in the cool breeze and enjoyed my surroundings.  I realized that the distance should be an enjoyable one.  For tomorrow, when I tackle the first of my 20-milers, today will quickly be an afterthought.  What will tomorrow bring?  Who knows? It’s always such an unpredictable journey.

Run on…

Tough as Nails
Thursday, September 3, 2015

As promised last night I would like to report on yesterday’s daunting speed work session.  In a sort of potpourri of feelings I can report that although the workout was difficult, it was also kind of easy in a weird way.  With five intervals planned (a 400, 800, mile, 800, mile), I was able to get through the workout with somewhat decent splits, but times that slowed which would be expected given the conditions.  I felt very satisfied when I was done.  Tired, but not completely exhausted.  Once again mother nature did not fully cooperate and she provided a soupy, sticky mess for conditions more suited to the inside of a sauna.  It seems that summer is hanging on and will not relent.  Fortunately there are still seven weeks to race day so I can remain hopeful.

Which brings me to the second part of the day yesterday.  In the evening we had planned a birthday dinner for Becky with another trip into Ocean City.  After having dinner and ice cream along the boardwalk, we went into a few shops and while browsing around inside Quiet Storm Surf Shop I picked up a very interesting item called a Lokai bracelet.  The unique story behind this bracelet is that it contains water from Mount Everest in one of the beads and mud from the Dead Sea in yet another.  These two beads are symbolic of the times in one’s life when you are on top of the world and you should stay humble.  Other times when you have hit a low, you should stay hopeful.  This concept spoke very easily to me on so many different fronts and I just had to have one.  What I didn’t know was how quickly this theory would be challenged in my own life.

When we arrived back home, we are still not certain what happened, but our greyhound Jasmine injured her paw and began to bleed quite profusely from what appeared to be right behind her nail bed.  After about an hour of coaxing it to stop bleeding, Becky wrapped her foot and we retired for the night.  With all the excitement going on I was unable to do my nightly post so I threw together a quick explanation and tried to sleep knowing our girl was uncomfortable.  This morning when she refused to put weight on her foot, my planned annual leave day from work became a morning complete with a trip to the veterinarian to figure out what was going on with her and hopefully to resolve it.  It turned out to be a somewhat serious injury where she broke the nail off of her nail bed under the skin along her toe.  What is shocking about the whole incident is that we still do not know how it happened.  She never cried or yelped before she started to bleed.  My only guess is that she kicked the foot of the couch or a wall as she was running with her toy with excitement after we got back home. Nevertheless, Jasmine had to have her nail cut off as close to her toe as possible and I was alerted that she would not like it and that it would be very painful.  Greyhounds are ultra sensitive to hard medication and the Doc did not want to give her a narcotic to numb it.  The best option was to have her experience a temporary blast of pain to relieve constant pain and pressure on her foot.  I could not watch and was sick for her, so I retired to the outside walkway until the procedure was complete.  After stopping the bleeding at the vet’s office Jasmine and I returned home.

Jasmine and I have been through a lot together.  When I first moved to the Eastern Shore ahead of my wife, she became my traveling partner and went back and forth with me on the 5 hour, one-way trip every week for about 7 months.  She lived my life with me and we bonded during those months before our entire family was reunited and living under one roof again (me, Becky, Jasmine and our male greyhound Sam).  Today was another chapter in the books where I experienced the ability to help her through a challenging time just like she did for me.  On a much smaller level, but still an ordeal.  What continues to amaze us is just how cooperative, easy-going and lovable this animal is.  As Becky was tending to her foot last evening she kept remarking what a good patient she was.  I’ve known for years that she is an easy traveler, always willing and eager to hop in the care and join you no matter how far you are going.  Through this incident we also learned, as we have so many other ways (too numerous to name here) just how tough she is.  I wondered if I even needed a lokai, when we already have this amazing greyhound.  As we rode back home and stopped at a red light, I looked over my shoulder in the back of the car to see her making eye contact with me.  All I could think of and blurt out to her was, “Jasmine, you are tough as nails girl.”  That’s not a pun.  That’s the truth.  She is an amazing dog and one I’m blessed to have had in my life.  I only hope we have her ten more years.

Run on…

Birthday on the Boards

Birthday on the Boards

Birthday treat

Birthday treat

Worried about her injury

Worried about her injury

Home remedy

Home remedy

A Vet Selfie

A Vet Selfie

A closer look at the damage

A closer look at the damage

Trying to keep her calm; or is it the other way around?

Trying to keep her calm; or is it the other way around?

@livelokai

@livelokai

All patched up, meds in paw

All patched up, meds in paw

Motivation
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

One of the topics I have covered often in my writing is that of motivation.  It’s really an intriguing and thought-provoking topic because of the many positions you can take on it.  For instance, is motivation from within?  Can you be motivated by others even if you have no interest in being motivated?  Is it easier to be motivated by others or is self-motivation the way to go?  These are not questions I intend to answer.  Just questions to get the juices flowing in your brain and let you decide.

For me, though, I have always been motivated by inspirational stories, videos, movies or simply quotes.  I have to admit, I’ve got some favorites over the years.  Going back to the days of Nike’s Just Do It campaign that still motivates athletes today, and coming full circle with the newest player in the game, Under Armour.  I have to admit, I believe Under Armour is taking over the world, but that’s another topic for another day.  It was an Under Armour commercial that I saw for the first time yesterday that was my latest motivation that I couldn’t get enough of, so I watched this video about 20 times last night:

Nothing extremely special, but a fantastic and simple message.  Something to hang onto while out on the roads running day in and day out.  It is clear that your training and the repetition of training are what build you into the athlete that you are or can become.  In running, like all other sports, it is the repetition and the practice that makes perfect.  As I prepare myself for another speed session in less than 12 hours I am reminded of this message once again.  It is about the repeats and the desire to constantly improve.  Under Armour, in particular, is where I’ve seen many of my recent favorite “motivational quotes.”  For instance,

  • I Will

  • Stop Saying I Wish, Start Saying I Will

  • Train Harder, Get Better Every Day

  • Work, Train, Win

  • Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard

  • Don’t Let Your Mind Hold Your Body Back (<– this might be my favorite)

Which leads me to a phrase that I often will read when I hit struggling times.  It is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt.  Every time I read it, it gives me chills:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who
is actually in the arena,  whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;  who strives
valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error
and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;  who at the best knows in the end the triumph
of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,  so that this
place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Run on, and be motivated…

9.1 fog 3

Second Half Kickoff (and Book Update)
Monday, August 31, 2015

Today marked the first day of the second half of training, in addition to being the final day of August.  With another tough weekend behind me, I found it difficult to wake up this morning and decided that I would begin the second half with an after work, evening run.  With the temperature at 82 degrees I arrived home, got ready and hit the trail for a 4-miler just after 6:00 p.m., literally.  I’ve been using the city parks and trails as much as possible when my main goal is to avoid the blazing sunshine and today was no different.  Even though I like to run through the zoo when I do the trail loop, it closes at 4:00 p.m. so I was unable to traverse through it.  I did, however, run along the outer fence but its not the same.

Seemingly nothing much has changed from the first half to the second half as I had to keep reminding myself that I was running far too fast, especially given the hot conditions.  As a runner, despite my years of experience, I find myself still unable to hit the brakes and slow down when it is needed and necessary.  With a tough Wednesday morning speed session coming quickly it is absolutely imperative that I run tomorrow’s 3-miler at a slow pace.  Even slower than what I think is slow.  I’ve got to keep my eyes out in the distance and on the prize, and remember that a 3 or 4 mile run at the end of August really means very little in the grander scheme of things.  Given that I ran every bit as hard today as I did yesterday, I’m not off to a great second half start.

Book Update:  On a completely different front, I thought I would give my readers an update on the status of the book.  I have gotten through over 95% of the final editing and am having a final read through by my fourth and final editor.  I have gotten two proofs of the final cover that I am deciding on and am working on doing a final read-through of the finished product myself to pick up any odds and ends that need fixing.  From a readers standpoint, I can only tell you that after incorporating the edits from my three editors I have become very excited at the product because of the major improvement I have seen from my original rough draft.  It’s truly been like watching a sculpture take shape right before my very eyes.  It’s very exciting.

In addition, I am excited to report that I have received some very nice endorsements from some major national runners.  I will be releasing the endorsements a little closer to the publishing date.  I am truly honored and blown away by their kind words.  Finally, I have engaged in a partnership with a charity to donate some of the proceeds of this book to assist with runners affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  I need to send them a copy of my manuscript this week to receive final approval before I am allowed to release that partnership, but it is near and dear to my heart.

Second half is off and running.  You know the deal.

Run on…