Monday, March 20, 2017

Casper Mattress Review

I have the utmost respect for many of my running friends who go on adventures where they do multiple-day runs, often sleeping in a tent or in their car. They rough it, sometimes wearing clothes for days or washing them in a stream. I truly admire how hearty they are and how they can push themselves while also getting less than optimum sleep and recovery. The same respect is reserved for stage-races where they have to carry most of their own gear, like the Marathon De Sables. I have always said that I can run pretty far, pretty fast but I am pampered.  I don't like to carry my gear and I don't like sleeping in a tent in between runs. My point is that I am all about comfort.

I told readers on my Facebook page that I would be reviewing more than a few products in the upcoming weeks that focus on comfort. More accurately they focus on recovery. If I am known for anything it is my ability to quickly recover from a strenuous activity. I do that by, for the most part, paying special attention to the things many of my running friends don't seem to care about. They focus on shoes and socks and occasionally their diets. But they don't think about resting, taking a break, and moderation.

One of the ways I have been able to overcome Gilbert's Syndrome and how it impedes me from recovering from hard exercise is by taking my recovery seriously. Recently, I have upped that game.  As I am now in my 40s and have hundreds of races in my legs, I know I need to take more precautions. So I am starting with how I sleep.

Always a proponent of rest, I decided to up my game by getting a mattress that made that rest the best it possibly could be. I have been in communication with the people at Casper Mattress for a few years now. I have had the opportunity to take a quick rest on one of their mattresses on a few occasions and those few seconds of MMMM finally made me make the leap to procure one for my own.

I have spent the past few weeks sleeping on a King size Casper mattress and the difference has been amazing.  I have always been a solid sleeper.  I don't sleep the recommend right hours but I feel the sleep I get is deeper and more beneficial.  I put my head down and if I am not sleeping within five minutes, that is considered a restless night. However, with this Casper mattress, I have assured raised my sleeping expert level.

For those who aren't aware of what makes Casper Mattress different, check out their own website here. Casper describes their mattress as "pressure-relieving memory foam and a breathable, springy layer" coming together and I could not agree more. Often when I would be on a mattress I would feel "hot-spots" on my heels or other areas where discomfort would emanate from the extra pressure of having a pointy object on a mattress. Instead, with Casper, I just melted into the mattress with none of that pressure. But I didn't sink into it so much that it felt like I was completely enveloped and could not get out. It is far from the firmest mattress out there but it is not soft and mushy either. The mattress provided me with the exact combination of support but plushness that I had been looking for.

In addition, if you are sleeping for two, the mattress is so much of a sleeping-partner-silencer that you can often move on your side with the other side not even knowing you are there. Getting up to pee at night or even different wake-up times for partners do not mean the other person will be disturbed.

Some of the best things about the Casper mattress are that it gets delivered to your door for free, it super easy to set-up, and you get a free 100-day sleep trial test. Honestly, how can you not want to try that out?  Three months to see if the mattress you bought is the one for you and if it isn't you can ship it back at no cost?  I thought that this might be too good to true but as I do when I write reviews of products, I look for the most negative things that people have to say and then try to see if those affect me. Not a single person I saw had a problem with returning the mattress.  Probably because no one wants to return it!

It is a fact: Americans do not get enough sleep and we assuredly do not get enough quality sleep.  If you are an endurance athlete the need for rest is even more important that for the average Joe or Jill. You owe it to yourself, to your finish times, and to those around you who are tired of you being cranky, to get yourself a Casper Mattress. While I am not being compensated for this review, I am still happy to share with you a code to save you $50 off your purchase. Simply click on this link to go to Casper's website and the discount is automatically attached when you shop.

You owe it to your wallet to use this code and you owe it to your body to sleep on Casper.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

nicetrails - 3D mapping of your most epicest runs

I have been sitting on a review of a nicetrails product for a while now as I was waiting to give their awesome running relief map as a gift to my best friend. Now that I have done so (she loved it) I can finally give my review. (Note: I receive no compensation for this review and have no ties to the company. Although, after seeing how cool this is, maybe I should try.)

What is nicetrails? Well, you know the navel-gazing we runners love to do of all our data and Strava segments and shiny bauables? Imagine a company which takes your GPS route and turns it into a three-dimensional sculpture. Bam. That is nicetrails. Here is a video to explain a bit more.

What I loved about the company's website was how you could load any data and play with it to find just the right way in which the route would work for you. You can skew the Y-Axis of the map to increase the height of your elevation to give greater depth to mountains you climbed.

As a caveat, some of your most favorite runs, or most memorable races, won't necessarily "pop" the way they do in your memory. For example, my 100 mile personal best was run on an incredibly flat (not easy, mind you) course along the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Well, running along the beach is not going to give you a staggering relief map of any nature.The best case scenarios are for runs that travel over a large area (point to point rather than looped) and go up and down a great deal of elevation.  Or, in the alternative, if the run is closely located next to mountains, the mountains will be included in the map even if your own run doesn't traverse them.  Mainly, as you can upload any GPX data and play around with it without creating an account or going through much trouble at all, you can see which of your maps will look best before buying.

For example, my Rim2Rim running of the Grand Canyon was absolutely fantastic. While the total distance as the crows flies is only like 14 miles, the fact we went up and down thousands of feet gives so much detail.

The red line you see traces the route you ran. You have the option of removing that red line, although I don't know why you would. Seeing exactly the route you took is so personal and rewarding.  You look at it and think "Yep.  Ran that." There is also an option to emboss on the front the name of the run or race or whatever else you want.

The product comes in three different sizes, 3.9 inches, 5.9 inches and 7.8 inches. I went el grande because I wanted something that really stood out but I can see a case being made for all sizes. I can also see wanting every single run I have ever done to be made into a map like this but I don't have endless funds. I think the hardest part of the whole process is choosing the route you want to use.

If you are looking for a gift for that runner that is unique for that runner in your life this is it. The personalization of the map being their specific run is what will really hook them.Visualizing how they were feeling through all the twists and turns is a great way to take someone back to that day. Staring lovingly at a piece of resin polymer thingmajig that will make them smile each time they look at it. Makes an amazing conversation piece for your desk as well.

With free shipping included in the price of all the products, you really can't go wrong. You can order yours by heading over to their website here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Galveston Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 3rd Edition 
42.2 miles runs in 2017 races
Race: Galveston Half Marathon
Place: Galveston, TX
Miles from home: 200
Weather: 70s; mostly cloudy; very humid

My best friend is from Galveston. So, when the opportunity came to run a race there during a time of the year when it might not be a soupy swamp, I jumped at the chance to head down, race, and visit her ole stomping grounds.

The race itself was one held on a new course and it was one I rather enjoyed.  Mostly consisting of three out and backs in a t-shape, it provided runners with the opportunity to see so many more of the other racers around them. I have always enjoyed that. Sure, the course could have run through some of the more historic and grand parts of town which showcase some amazing churches, beautiful architecture, trolleys and many things associated with the once-named Wall Street of the South but the race is not big enough yet to command that sort of citywide shutdown. As I have often said, it is nice to run through cool parts of a city, or through scenic areas; but it is nicer to run in a well-run race.  That is what this race was.


The race began right off the beach which had ample free parking making it easy both in before the race and out after. Plentiful bathrooms were available at the start which almost never seems to be the case. Unfortunately, weather-wise, there was record breaking warmth. On the good side, in spite of the starting temperature being over 70 degrees and the humidity being at pure soup levels, there was a thick impenetrable haze of clouds which kept the sun at bay for the entirety of the race. My goal was to run around 1:25 and hope that the training in the heat and humidity of Austin would get me headed in the right direction time-wise again.  But I knew it would be tough in these conditions.

First Four Miles:

Right off the bat I knew that there was no way I would win this race as one runner shot off the blocks. I know this sounds funny to some but when you are just fast enough to be possibly in contention for a win in a smaller race, it can be a load of your shoulders when someone shows up who beat you in genetic poker. Nevertheless, it is still a bummer. Winning is fun.

As we headed off the beach, out onto the Seawall Boulevard and then off the road again to begin the first out and back mini loop, I was already out of the top ten of runners. I thought I wasn't feeling necessarily all that great but was surprised how many were in front of me. When I hit the first mile in 6:30, right on pace for how I wanted to run for the day, I was surprised. First, it had been relatively easily and second because so many people were already so far in front of me.  At this pace the top ten would all be under 1:20. That would be a huge shock. This race did not seem to draw that level of competition.

The next mile brought me back to earth as I hit right around 7 minutes. Not too surprising as I often have a mile or two of feeling out a race before things settle in. We passed through what appeared to be an entirely new subdivision on the east tip of the island here on Galveston and the soupy fog and clouds gave it an ethereal haze.  There was next to no one out cheering here, as expected given it was mostly blocked to traffic, so it made us feel like we were running in a dream.

A few runners passed me as we hit the third mile and I was beyond disappointed to run it right around 7:00 again. It had felt so much faster. As we snaked through small curves on this road out of the development, we passed a few runners pushing people in wheelchairs. I say "people" as they were not always children but instead appeared to be many afflicted with cerebral palsy or other diseases. It is always such an energy boost and a swelling of the heart to see those selflessly giving of their time and effort to help others who desperately need it. However, even this energy boost kept me right at seven minutes for the next mile again. It seemed like today was not my day to run fast.

To Mile Nine:

I had driven the course the day before just to get an idea how things would go. The island is quite windy and I figured once we got onto the seawall at mile four we would feel its effects. One of the good things about the course was that no matter which way the wind was blowing, you would soon turn out of it for a few miles. Oddly, however, there was next to no wind.  When I needed it most to help cool me off, I had nothing. Curses!

Right around the 5th mile a runner helping to pace the 3 hour marathon group caught up to me. He had no marathoners with him, (not a surprise in such a small race) but a few halfers.  I thought perhaps I would stay with him but I just didn't have the gumption. A few days prior to the race I had done an exceedingly hard work out and tweaked my groin. It seemed fine here four days later but the last thing I was going to do was run extra hard just to still run subpar. I treat every race with respect but one must know when there is a time to back off. I was still hardly running "slow" as the next few miles were right around 7:10 but that was all I had.

We turned off of the seawall and down onto a small twisting road between tall grasses. Again, it felt like we were in a dream land with just the road to buttress us against the netherworld. This is one of the nicest things about racing: having the world stop just so you can go for a jog. Wind finally billowed these grasses a touch and some sand blew across the pavement. A gulls cry could be heard here and there as they searched for ice cream to snatch.

I was beginning to catch up to a few runners during this section in spite of not speeding up.  I had, by my count, dropped to about 23rd place overall at once juncture. A bitter pill to swallow but I knew I would reel in some before the end of the race. Top 20 would be a decent finish, I figured. As we turned around to head off the beach and back to the seawall, I felt I might actually be ready for a surge. I had expected to feel sluggish as the 93% humidity had me dripping with sweat but instead felt fine. Up onto the seawall we went and I passed through the 8th mile in the slowest of the day.  However, I knew it was time soon to pick it up.

Right before the 9th mile a chap sidled up next to me. I would later learn Kyle was his name and he was down from Ohio.  I can only imagine what this heat and humidity were doing to him. Here I saw my bestie Shannon, far sooner than I expected, heading toward the small out and back on the beach. With very little training in the past few months do to an ugly ankle break and tendon tear, she was running amazingly well.  I slid over to give her a high five. Doing so was almost like a mushroom power-up in Super Mario Bros. It was time to run fast.  Or, at least "faster."

Last 4 Miles:

Now back on the seawall with just a straight shot down and then back, I could see all the runners in front of me. I love long straightaways like this as they give me a chance to focus in on my competition. The race may have been over with regards to the time I wanted to run but it was now on to track down and catch as many runners in front of me as I could. Here, with the coast still flooded with fog and clouds, the crowds were thicker and more boisterous. We had a full lane of traffic all to ourselves as the rest of the island was just waking up to enjoy some beach time.  I knocked off one sub-7 mile and passed a few runners. Then I knocked off another and the same number of runners fell behind me.  I wasn't necessarily running all that much quicker but they were also slowing down. Somehow, the heat and humidity were, for once, not draining me the way they normally did.  Or at least they were draining others more rapidly.

I knew the turn around was right in front of the historic Pleasure Pier and I could see the Ferris Wheel up ahead.  I was counting runners in front of me returning home and I wasn't exactly sure if I had miscounted or if I was really passing that many who had been in front of me. In either regard, I simply had to keep it going.

I slowed slightly as I went around the cone at the turn around but had two last runners in my sight.  Any others were far out of reach so these were the only two I need concern myself with.  I passed one right before the mile to go marker and had the last one in front of me by just a few yards I was steadying myself for a fight with this guy as I assumed he would not let me go without a struggle. However, right before I caught up to him, he slowed and began walking. I love racing. I love besting my competition.  But I love doing it most when they are giving it their all without any problems. Running past a competitor who has come to a walk almost feels wrong.  Yet, as soon as I passed him I heard his footsteps begin afresh. He was ready to fight!

I picked up the pace and was running the fastest I had since the first mile. I could see the arch of the finish ahead and laid on the throttle. The announcer was a fellow Penn State grad and as I neared the finished he shouted "We ARE!"  I of course replied with "PENN STATE!" and gave a smile.

 I crossed over the mat in a time of 1:32:21 good enough for 12th place overall and first in my age group.  In what was only the 69th fastest of my lifetime 97 half marathons, I had performed to the bets of my ability on that day. It also continued a surprising showing in the placement category ever since I became a Masters runner. I haven't had the best races in that time but somehow I am beating most of the fellow old guys.

Kyle, the runner from Ohio I mentioned above, finished about a minute behind me in a new PR of almost 8 minutes. We chatted afterward and I told him how impressive that was.  Granted the course was relatively forgiving but the heat and humidity were stifling.  Kudos to him indeed.  I was also beyond excited to see Shannon finish in a healthy time with no major problems to her ankle. She still has a long way to go until she is happy with her times again but this is a fantastic showing.

All told, this was an excellently run race by the organizers. The post-race spread was absolutely fantastic. For the most part, the fare after a race doesn't appeal to me and I don't stick around for it.  But free pizza, soda pop, frozen yogurt (and for those who want it) beer was available. On the course, the race had well-marked mile markers, and very cold drinks. I cannot tell you the last time I ran a race where the drinks were cold.  To put a drink to your lips when you are hot and sweaty and feel a nice tingle go down your throat is something that should not go without mentioning.

If you are looking for a race to run in a very historic, very enjoyable area where you are almost guaranteed to run fast if the weather cooperates, you would be hard pressed to find a better locale then this.  I can see me running events put on by this organizer again very soon.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pono Board Review

I am fortunate enough to get messages from companies every once in a while asking me to review their stuff.  I am a pragmatist and realize that:
1. they are contacting oodles of people;
2. they are contacting me because of some SEO that shows I get enough hits that sending me a product is well within their market budget to do so given the eyeballs reading my review make up for the cost of the product.

That said, I politely decline most requests, occasionally say yes, and even less frequently get blown away. Once instance where I became enamored with a product is Shurky Jurky.  A beef (and other meat) jerky product, I saw this at a local market in Portland, tried it, loved it and became a part-owner in the company (long story short.) It is some ridiculously good jerky. Read more and get a free bag here. But I digress.

The people at Pono Ola reached out to me and I was initially intrigued. As I utilize a stand up desk and have for years, I am always looking for a way to take pressure off my feet and remove fatigue. I am a writer but I am also a runner. I need fresh tootsies. So anything that is going to help my feet I am big fan of trying.

I had been utilizing an awesome product called FluidStance and wasn't really looking for anything else, to be honest. But as I said, I was intrigued. Getting the board in the mail, I knew immediately this was something different altogether.

The company really stresses a yoga/exercise/fitness vibe. I wanted to see how it worked for the person who doesn't want to do a downward facing dog backbend while working on their already perfect abs. So I put it to the test of replacing my FluidStance.  Now note, I love my Fluidstance. I love rocking back and forth on it while I write and type. It is fun. But immediately, the Pono Board showed me something else.

First of all, the board is a rectangular piece of flat wood in a lightwood color. Made out of pure bamboo, the board is meant to be sturdy, but it is also very lightweight (5.9 lbs). I was curious how it would hold up to daily wear and tear and my body weight (180 lbs).  Granted I have not had it long enough to know how that will play out but it seems incredibly well-made. On the four corners of the board are four grey balls which allows you to balance while using the board. (There is presently another option for the balls to be colored teal.) The balance feature is supposedly what makes the board the effective and useful device that it is.

I found myself, like the Fluidstance, bouncing back and forth a bit while I wrote.  I would be doing minor balance corrections which is supposed to help you work on your core. Obviously this alone isn't going to allow me to do laundry on my abs but it isn't going to hurt.  Most importantly, it was really comfortable. Surprisingly so. With regard to using it for this form, I was sold. So I wanted to try other things.

Every day when I come in from a run, I throw down 100 pushups in sets of three. I figured I could see what it would be like to do them on the board. Doing so added just a little bit of wobbliness to my pushups that made me need to try and stabilize without make them impossible. Believe me, from a guy who has always had upper body problem (two broken collarbones on both sides, dislocated shoulders, separated shoulders and so much more) if I am able to balance doing a pushup on this board, so can you.

Admittingly I do not do a whole range of other floor exercises that the board touts people using the board for but I could see immediately how one could do just that.  To say I am impressed would be an understatement.

The board retails for $140 which is a very solid price point. It has a weight limit of 250 lbs so if you exceed that, I guess maybe drop a few pounds before buying one. Or buy one and use that to help motivate you. The balls themselves can be adjusted using an included pump from between 5 and 15 lbs. With dimensions of 14.5 x 29.5 x 3.5 in, it is relatively totable while still being significant enough that you won't feel like you will step off the edges while moving around.

All in all, it is rare I am taken aback by how good a product it. The Pono Board is one of those times. Get yourself one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Goodwater 16 Mile Trail Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 12; 2nd Edition 
29.1 miles runs in 2017 races
Race: Goodwater 16 Mile Trail
Place: Georgetown, TX
Miles from home: 40
Weather: 60s; mostly cloudy;very humid

It is good to run a trail race every once in a while to remind yourself why you don't really enjoy racing on trails.

Now calm down, dirt-lovin' trail runners. We don't want the supposed kumbaya, we-love-all facade to be displaced because I dare besmirch the single track. As I have said for years, it is no great feat to appreciate running next to a babbling brook or a mountain visage as opposed to a parking lot strewn with broken glass and Twinkies wrappers. But racing on it is not necessarily my cup of tea. Well, since I have never had tea (or coffee) in my life that's a bad analogy. It isn't my cut of steak. (I like that one better. Let's start using it.)

So, why don't I enjoy racing on trail much? Mostly because I like to run as fast as I possibly can. On trails, that is more or less impossible. And yes, while you can trip and fall anywhere (broke my hand running on clear sidewalk a year ago) the odds you end up busting a face on trail are greater. I long ago lost, or have actually never had, any desire to seem to be macho by shrugging off wounds as if they are no big thing. I like my body to be in the non-broken state. I'm crazy like that.

All of that aside, I wished to take advantage of a weekend I was home, to run in a nearby park near my new town, and do so at a relatively low-cost event. The people putting on the race appeared to know what they were doing and had some good reviews, so I figured I would give it a go. The race was fairly organized, fairly well-marked, and there was a general good vibe to the weekend's activities. There were a variety of races going on (including a double marathon and a double marathon "relay" where two people ran the marathon in opposite directions, combining their times: something I had never heard of but thought was pretty neat) but by and large it appeared we would be running virtually alone.  Again, not my cut of steak on race days but there you have it.

Race Morning:

I asked a few people what I could expect on the trail and got differing answers. I also realized that what one person considers "technical" is another person's driveway.  Remember, the aforementioned downplaying by seasoned trail people.  As if warning about slick rocks, cacti, and whatnot might be against some code of "Learnin' on the Run!"

[side note: I have been writing this website for ten years now and one of the first articles I wrote was about the Old Dominion 100 mile race and how finding information online about its course was next to impossible.  A decade later and many race websites still provide a plethora of information but often hide the basics. Where is the race, when is the race, and what is the course like. This continues to baffle me to this day. ]

While some of the other distances were already underway, it appeared the only people we would have to contend with where those running the 16 mile and 8 mile races. As we would start together, there was no way of knowing who was doing what until the 4 mile turn around for the 8ers. I thought I may be able to win the race but based that on nothing more than intuition. The only way to find out would be to run.

First Four Miles:

From the start of the race, which began in the grass median of the parking lot and immediately dove into the woods on a crushed gravel trail before crossing two roads, I could see it would be very hard to pass anyone at all.  It was a single track course and it was clear from the start there would be next to no uniformity in the footing we ran upon.

Two chaps jolted out to the front and I just had a feeling they were running the 8 mile version.  Four other gentlemen were in front of me as we quickly separated ourselves from the rest of the  pack.  For the next 2.5 miles I stayed in the back pocket of the last runner, trying to figure out who was running what, who was going to separate, and when might be a good time to pick things up. The footing was definitely on the difficult side and ever-changing. Roots and grass here, rocks and slickness there. I spent very little time looking ahead of me and most of it looking at the ground so I didn't become part of it. So much for enjoying the scenery. When I could take a second to look, it was a nice view.

The first runner in the four had separated himself and the next runner followed a bit behind.  However, I was tuck behind the next two and couldn't make a move.  Finally, I "onyourleft"ed and in a small opening bounded forward. I soon was on the next runners' heels with the first runner vanished into the twists and turns ahead.

In the next mile, I kept attempting to figure out if this runner was in my race and if so, how I could get around him. We passed a section where the forest opened and we ran across some slate surface.  To our right was the lake below and it was a rather precipitous drop with nothing really stopping someone if they fell. It wasn't exactly "dangerous" but it wasn't exactly "safe" either. I can't imagine what someone running in darker conditions would do here.

At one mild fork in the trail, he went right. I saw a pink pin flag to our left signifying the correct way and yelled he was going the wrong way. He only lost about ten feet but it was enough for me to get around him. Finally, an open trail.

Not long after that the first runner overall running the 8 mile race came flying back at me.  A minute or so later the second runner did as well. As expected, the two I surmised were running the shorter version of the race were doing just that. That meant I was, at worst, in 2nd place overall in my own race. When I saw no one else coming back to me I figured the last runner was running the 16 miler.  I approached the aid station at the 4th mile and saw him darting through the trees in the distance. Good.  I will go catch him.  I then promptly then went the wrong direction.

To The Half Way Point

Running up the trail I popped out into a parking lot.  I immediately knew I was running the wrong way. Damn it. I ran back and got myself back on trail. Or at least thought I did. I picked up the pace trying to ascertain if I was on the right trail but couldn't see the first place runner.  I exploded out of the trail into a long opening and I saw no one up ahead. I assumed I would be able to see the lead runner here if I was on the right track. Bollocks. Nothing to do but keep pressing forward.

I ran up this small hill and into the forest again, pressing the pace even more. Half of a mile later, I finally saw the leader up ahead. I let out a huge sigh of relief knowing I was on the right trail. He would disappear out of view every once in a while over the next few miles but each time he came back into my sight I saw I was closer. He had put a sizeable lead on me at one point and I don't know if it was because of my wrong turn or he was just running hard. Either way I was closing the gap now.

With about half of a mile to go, I saw three people sitting in a field. I thought this might be the turn around but instead they were the only spectators. Well, they weren't spectating but rather walking a dog. But one made eye contact with me and that sorta counts, like my high school dating life.

We hit a paved section and I recall the RD telling us this was the last bit before the turn around.  I turned up the pace again and when the lead runner stopped at the aid station, I passed him. I ran another ten feet around the turnaround pole and decided to grab a cup of Coke at the aid station.  I was wearing my Camelbak Circuit and felt it would be enough to get me back but given the humidity and how much I was sweating figured grabbing fluid where it was offered was wise.  I saw a can of Coke but the three cans they had out where all unopened. There didn't seem to be any cups at the ready with Coke already in them. Waiting for someone to pour is fine and dandy when you aren't trying to race a guy who is six inches from you but wasn't working for me. So I grabbed a can of Coke, opened it up, poured a bit down my throat (never letting the can touch my lips), thanked the volunteers, placed it on the table, and took off.

To Mile 12:

Downhill.  On Pavement.  Now that is how I like to trail run! With the runner (Allen) behind me by a few steps, I knew it was now time for me to be the mouse and him to be the cat.  But I felt good in my ability to turn it on in this second half.  I knew the route now, I knew what was in store and it was time to run to victory.

*slip* *Splat* *LOUD EXPLETIVE*

Down I went. Right when I was feeling good, I took my eyes off the trail.  I had just had a few people pas me heading out to the turn around so as I went down and then back up a small hill on a curve, I looked ahead to make sure I wasn't going to run into anyone.  That lapse had my feet go out from underneath me and sent me, ribs and forearm first, onto a rock. Sumbitch that hurt.  I checked to make sure that I didn't break anything and still wasn't sure when I started running again.  But it appeared I would just be leaving behind flesh, skin and blood.  Not the worst thing in the world, thankfully. The runner behind me (Allen) had caught me and graciously stopped to see if I was OK.  I thanked him and waved him on.  Since I was OK and sure as hell was going to try to beat him, I wanted him to keep going.

Now, more cautious, I began to try and make up the distance.  Surprisingly, I was still within striking distance of Allen, albeit further away than I would like. However, after picking my way back, I was his shadow once again. As long as I didn't fall, I would be...

*slip* *Splat* *LOUD EXPLETIVE*

This one hurt more than the first but didn't come with a bone crushing hit.  Instead it was just a hand slice and some contusions on the other side of the body. Allen turned around to see if I was OK and once again, I point out this was a very classy move.  Yeah, I am pretty sure anyone who has a soul would do the same thing but anyway.  I thanked him again and said I think I was going to be fine.

A few hundred yards later we passed a stream crossing and I splashed water on my wounds to make sure nothing looked specifically horrible.  Fortunately it appeared this wouldn't require a doctor's visit.  So once again I dusted myself off and began to make the trek back to catching Allen. For those of you scoring at home, his is the third time I have been in this position.  (And it is the third time even if you are alone. - Thank you, Keith Olbermann, SportsCenter Days.)

This time the gap to close was not as large as last time. As we entered the clearing from before when I had thought I might be on the wrong trail, I passed Allen. I told him it was awfully cool of him to wait and said "There's no room for ego if someone is hurt." We chatted a little bit here and there as we entered a relatively rocky and slick section.  Now it was Allen's turn to be right on my heels.

I felt bad as we approached the aid station with 4 miles to go as I felt I might be holding him back a touch. I was cautiously traversing the rocks as I think one more fall would have done me in.  But he didn't seem in any hurry to try and pass me so we stayed this way until the water tubs on the table at mile 12.

Heading Home:

Again, even though I had the Camelbak on (and had been drinking from it) I decided to grab a drink here nonetheless. In fact, using the conical cups next to the jug, I took three drinks. Allen drank as well and then as I took off he was right behind me. We stayed this way for about two miles as the sun was beginning to penetrate the overcast skies.

My cautiousness continued but I didn't hear Allen as much.  I previously realized my watch had stopped on my second fall so I had no idea really how much time I had left until I was finished.  With no real way to gauge distance until the finish, I was hoping to use my watch to help me through a rough patch or two.  Unfortunately, that was not to be. Just focus on the trail, Dane.

As I trudged on I came to a rather steep hill that forced me to walk. I stepped to the side a bit to let Allen pass if he needed to. He wasn't there. Hmm. I started hiking up the hill and then behind me heard footsteps. It appeared I had started to put a gap between us. This race was mine to lose.

I continued to push the envelope with one last splurge of energy. I passed over the first road near the start and completely forgot there was a second.  My energy was waning as I figured I had to be close. Every bit of the trail looked like every other bit of the trail.  Finally with 100 yards to go I could see some movement through the forest that looked like finish line flags. Noise from a speaker filtered through the trees. Colored banners appeared and the clearing opened. Twenty yards later I was finished.

Crossing in 2:19:32, I had won.

Since it was a first year race, I also got the course record.  Off the top of my head, that would be 5 course records I still possess. One can never be taken from me (Iron Horse 50 miler had parts of its course paved, making it much easier), one race seems to be dead (Dam 15 miler), one is nearly impossible to find info about (Flat Ass 50k), this one, and then probably my greatest running feat ever the 84 miles on the Presque 12 Hour Endurance Classic.  There may be more but those I know of (I can think of at least three others I have lost over time too.  Darn it.)

Allen finished a little over a minute behind me and I made sure to thank him for being such a
stand-up guy. I was greeted at the finish by my best friend Shannon who was coming back from a nasty ankle break this past Fall. This was her first trail race back and she picked a doozy. She wisely stuck to the 8 mile race just to be safe but it was no walk in the park, even if it was a run in the park.

The race atmosphere was very relaxed but nice. There was some food and drink for runners to nosh on and occasionally a runner would come from either direction finishing one of the many races. I wanted to stay longer but after receiving my award I knew I need to head home to tend to my wounds.  Not a bad way to start a weekend as I continue to get very luck as a Master's runner. I have won or placed in a good percentage of the races I have run since turning 40, which, as I have always said, is just a matter of having people who are faster than you not showing up.

But life is about showing up. So while I know that on any given day I am not the fastest runner out there, I can only get to the finish by getting to the start.

Monday, January 23, 2017

FlexiSpot 27" Standing Desk Review

I started writing this review and as I do with many products and races, I hop online to see what others say.  I happened across this review and I will say two things:

1. I am not writing a review that thorough.  This chap earned his desk.  Egads.
2. I was shocked how I had almost started my review in the exact same fashion.  How I am a writer, that out of the blue, I was contacted by the US division of Loctek, and asked if I would review their new FlexiSpot sit/stand desktop workstation.

So now, even though I am basically thinking I am going to write the exact same thing as ole Adam, I will forge ahead nonetheless.

As I was already in possession of two VariDesk's products, which I great enjoy, I wasn't necessarily needing another desk.  But I thought, what the heck.  So I said yes to their offer of a product review of their 27'' model.

When I open the box, I saw that it came in a few pieces, mainly the keyboard shelf underneath would need to be attached. The thing I enjoyed about Varidesk is, that after many moves over the years, many visits to IKEA and many hours spent putting together furniture, that I didn't have to put a single thing together. This is hardly a biggie but hey, it is there.

I mention Varidesk as it is clear that my review of Varidesk is why they got in touch with me and they wanted a side by side comparisons of the two.  The thing is,  their closest comparable is actually the Ergotron Workfit-T given that its key differentiating feature is a straight up-and-down lift mechanism versus the forward arcing mechanism of the Varidesks.

I found that the lift mechanism used gas cylinders, not springs, which made it is similar to the older Varidesk with its limited number of stops. It also made me think that it was going to come alive ala Maximum Overdrive or Transformers. Which would make everything cooler.

Given the desk are a little heavy it does take a bit of a heft to move them from one position to the next, more so if you have more than a laptop on them like I did. Nothing wrong with getting a little exercise but it takes a few attempts to get them moving. Once you have the hang of it, it isn't too bad.  In addition, you probably aren't doing this 40 times a day so who cares, really?

Once assembled, I noticed was a slot in the front of the desk. I initially thought this was the back of the desk and the hole could be used for cords. Then I realized this slot was made to hold a tablet or iPad. Not a bad design at all. Not one I would take use of but innovative nonetheless.

Overall, I found the desk to be very serviceable with a solid pricepoint. I always hesitate to say how much because I know these get read many months later and there are sales and whatnot but I think the 27" model costs $289. This puts them about 90 bucks less than one of the VariDesk I reviewed. I think that both prices are about right.  By that I mean, I think the VariDesk is just that much better of a desk at the price but if you got the FlexiSpot you would be happy as well.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Making Today Easier for Future Historians

This doesn’t have much to do with running but I am posting it here as I need to put it down somewhere.

I was a History major in college.  One of the main reasons I chose that route of study came from the fact that I have always been obsessed with simply knowing “stuff.”  I want to know why things happened, how they work, and what may occur next. Growing up, if I wanted to know something, my father would tell me to look it up.  While I grew up relatively poor we still had three sets of encyclopedias in our home. Funk & Wagnalls, Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book – the latter I received from my elementary school in some sort of giveaway as my principal (who was actually sort of an ass) knew that of all the kids in the school, I would apparently use it the most. He was right.  I read volumes like novels.  Ci-Cz tonight, for the win!

When the internet became a “thing”, I was astounded.  No longer would I need to go to the library or dredge through volumes to find information. I still, at 40, spend hours just looking at things.  Meet a person from a town I have never heard of?  I look it up. Two hours later I am 14 degrees of separation away reading about the Smoot Hawley-Tariff Act. When people say “You know, I’ve always wondered…”  I want to scream “In your hand you hold a device which can access ever bit of knowable knowledge.  LOOK IT UP!”

When I was younger, looking back through time I would often laugh at the things which weren’t known by people.  Ha ha, how could you not know the world was round?  Tee hee – they really thought that a sub-4 mile would kill you or women’s running would make their uterus fall out.  But then I realized while some of those “facts” might have been what some people thought, it was clear that it was not prevailing amongst most. For example, I learned doing research for a book that virtually no one of any actual intelligence thought running a sub-4 mile would kill anyone.  Or that women were in danger of losing anything if they ran. Instead, it was easier to just pretend and look back at people in the past and think “Silly cretins. We are sooooo much smarter now!”

With the advances that the country has made in the past few decades with regards to equality of genders and acceptance/understanding of race, sexuality and so much more, we still saw pushback.  We saw those relying on religion as a reason why stem cell research could not progress. People with zero knowledge of how things work could start an army of misinformation as long as they called themselves the “Food Babe” or something else catchy. The willfully ignorant, or the purposefully corrupt, or the duped followers held back progress in science, society, and everything in between.  But we had a record showing that while the fringe still denied climate change, or linked vaccines to autism, or thought one race was superior to others, the majority was in control and would tamp down the insanity.

Then Trump got 62 million people to vote for him. 

Suddenly, I felt like we were before the discovery of electricity. We were in the Salem witchcraft trials. We were in Spain before Columbus sailed the ocean. Undoubtedly, in all of those times, there were people who knew electricity exists but couldn’t harness it.  Or that there were no witches.  Or that the Earth wasn’t flat. But they were drowned out by shouting hordes.

What’s my point?  I am not sure.  I guess I am just hoping that in 50 years, when the history books look back, they will see this entire Trump thing as a blip of minor craziness.  When you don’t have to live through it day to day, it is almost unnoticeable.  Even a few years of something bad, in the grand scheme of history, is easy to overlook or not see as something which shook those who lived in it to their core.  Those in that time don’t know when the crazy will end.  As such, each day seems like an eternity. For example, the Civil Rights movement, so recent that many of the people who participated in it are still active in government, sometimes can feel like ancient history. We like to think we made it through the darkest of times and are moving forward, albeit not as fast as we would like. Gay rights have moved at a rapid pace in the past two decades. Transgendered issues can actually be spoken about in mixed company. Gender roles, race relations, and so much more is on the table. So much good had happened so fast that it felt like those who fought against it would be pushed aside into the dustbin of history, to be laughed at as fools who couldn’t see how wrong they were.

But we didn’t elect our first female president. We elected an absolute and utter charlatan of a buffoon who has duped millions into thinking he is for them. For the first time in my life, it no longer felt like the country was moving forward.  It doesn’t even feel like a stutter step to the side.  It feels like massive, Nestea-plunge backward into a muck-filled cesspool of ignorance and hate.  I am embarrassed to be alive during this time. It sickens me that after so much progress, I live in a country where, inevitably, a few decades from now, people will be sniggering at our stupidity in putting a sociopathic, womanizing, petty, small, insipid, crapweasel into the most powerful position in the world.
This utter piece of crap is going to be our President. 

What. In. The. F*ck?!

He won’t stay there. He can’t. I will be shocked if it makes it through a year. He will either resign or be impeached. He is too maniacally narcissistic to think he has to change any single thing about himself. As such, he will mess up “bigly” and it will cost him. Yes, Mike Pence is nearly as deplorable and Paul Ryan isn’t far behind.  Don’t get me started on Ted Cruz.  But all of these vile humans at least try to stick to decorum and rules.  They can be shamed.  They are fearful of losing their jobs and will not just piss all over Russian hookers the Constitution without fear of reprisal.

Instead of being an embarrassment, I hope this is seen as the time that those on the right side of history rose up, became ever vigilant, and used this unbelievable circus as the cannon fodder which propelled us forward in huge leaps and bounds. Campaign finance reform, wage inequality, equal rights in marriage, oversight into our government, healthcare, and so much more will hopefully be eons ahead of where they would have been if we had not lost our freaking minds and given a reality show festering boil the nuclear codes.

Benjamin Franklin said "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." While right wing morons call those of us abhorred by Trump and his tactics "snowflakes" I continually come back to this phrase. Compassion and caring for those who are not you shows you can look outside the shell of just your own existence. When I became outraged by what was happening in the election, I pointed out that *I* was fine. I am a straight, white male.  The only thing I am missing from being perfectly safe from everything is to be rich. I am not appalled by what may happen in the future because I fear for me. I fear for all those who are not me. Those with more melanin in their skin. Those with a uterus. Those who are not in power.
So if this is what makes me a snowflake, so be it. But just like those of us who thought the weak minded, or racist, or homophobic or sexist could not be united into one front to put an orange huckster into office and were wrong, snowflakes can assemble as well. In fact, many snowflakes eventually can create an avalanche. 

I guess it is time to race down that mountain.

As an addendum: I wrote this a few days before the Inauguration and then the subsequent Women's marches across the globe.  I think it is safe to say that people in the future will understand where the rationale, caring, and  non-hate mongering people stood.  And by future, I mean within the next year when Trump resigns or gets impeached.

Addendum Part Deux: When Trump created his Muslim Ban, the reaction of people across the nation refusing to accept it only emboldened my feelings. I have a feeling I will be addenduming this weekly.

Addendum Three (02.17.17): Barely a day passes before a new horrible aspect of Trump immerges and shows he is not fit to run a mile, let alone a country. Flynn's resignation, obvious connections to Russia which will all come out in time, and rambling, incohesive statements showing he has barely a fourth-grade understanding of civics, our three-tiered government, or virtually anything else means this man will resign or be impeached before the end of the summer.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Accept Your Talent

Saw a very fast runner recently state something akin to "I have worked very hard. I was not blessed with talent or good genes." Who the runner was is not important. I have seen this same statement time and time again by very talented runners (and other athletes) over the years. Steve Prefontaine famously said "Hell, there are a dozen other guys on the team with more talent in their little finger than I've got."  

Steve Prefontaine.  The guy with one of the highest recorded Vo2 maxes in history.

Look, I get why they say it. (In fact, I go into this in some detail in my book 138, 336 Feet to Pure Bliss.) Mainly, they don't want to let predetermined DNA say they don't work hard. To a great extent, they are correct. You can have all the talent in the world but if you never utilize it, it is useless. As such, they want nothing taken away from how hard they work.  And if you are at the top level of your sport, or game, or business, you got there because you worked hard. Why? Because all the other people at the top are talented, too. To differentiate yourself, you must give something else. You rose through the ranks, even quite possibly doing so with not a great deal of effort, because you were genetically superior to many of your foes. There isn't a single thing wrong with that. But then when things get tougher, it is those with a better work ethic who rise to the top.

When I speak about Ignoring The Impossible, one of my prime topics, I go against the grain of many who like to try to motivate and inspire. I tell you that you can NOT do everything you put your mind to. There are just some things you will never achieve. I know this go against wonderful memes about those who work hardest are the winners. And taken the wrong way some may use it as an excuse to never try at all.  If they can't do it because their genes forbid it, then why even attempt? Because you never know what you can do unless you try. Then try again. And keep trying. I failed miserably in my first marathon. I then went and made a career based on what I achieved in the running world.

It is completely illogical to not accept that some people are better at some things simply because they are. That is exactly how the world works. To deny you had some help from the DNA fairy (or God, or whatever you want to believe) is the epitome of arrogance. It is also a slight to those who do not achieve greatness. "Well, maybe you need to work harder." It is what is so wrong about the ridiculousness of The Secret, that self-help book from a decade ago. If things go right, it is because you worked hard or thought the right way.  If they don't, it is because you need to work harder or put it out into the universe in a different way. 


Sometimes you just aren't going to be able to dunk a basketball. So, learn how to shoot better.  If you can't shoot better, play another sport. Being bad at something is not a problem. Pretending that everyone can be good at something is the problem.

So, simply accept it.  Yes, you rise early in the morning. Sure, you have four kids or came from the ghetto. Absolutely, your drive and determination are to be envied. But when the cards were dealt, you got a nice hand to start.  

But tt is how you play it that matters most.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Marathon in 49 States - Boycotting North Carolina

Before I ran my 52 Marathons in 52 Weekends, I had thought of running a marathon in every state.  Not in one year. Just over my life. I had always wanted to see as much of the world as possible and I thought this would be the best way to do so. I also felt it might be novel and new. But when I researched it further, I saw dozens, if not hundreds, of people had already completed the task. As such, "just" finishing a marathon in each state lost its luster.  In fact, "just" finishing any marathon has lost some of its luster. I long ago became completely unenamored with simply completing a marathon. (Of course, ask me at mile 24 of any marathon and "just" finishing is usually all I want to do!)  My point is, I want to do more than cover the distance and collect my shiny bauble.  I want to race as fast as possible and give it my all.

With the resident of L'Arche Mobile.
As time has gone on, I have cultivated a following and my words reach more than the average running Joe. I realized this when I garnered a few detractors. Ones who created web-pages about me, tried to derail my speaking career, and were all-around crapweasals.  However, as they say, you don't get haters if you aren't important enough to be hated. With that knowledge, I knew I could do good with my feet. Not just raising money and "awareness" (a word which has begun to lost all meaning) or by being an "ambassador" for a product (see my thoughts on that here) but rather by doing more.  By speaking to children about obesity. By reaching out to homeless and the downtrodden.  By trying to bring people together by standing up for rights and common decency and morals and ethics.

Doing so has cost me money, sponsorship, and other lucrative partnerships. My staunch disgust for Donnie Trump and all those who support him has cost me "fans" as well. I'm fine with that. But much of what those of us who rant about this orange sack of rancid pus and those like him do is just rhetoric. Our actions matter most.

Currently, while Trump's puerile yet dangerous ridiculousness is eating up our bandwidth, there are other transgressions going on in states around the nation. Texas is trying to require abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains. Ohio is trying to band abortion after 6 weeks. But right now, it is North Carolina which is doing everything it can to be the most repugnant state out there. From it's governor first failing to concede a vote he lost by over 10,000 votes, to illegal racial gerrymandering, to the transgender bathroom bill, to...Christ, I can't even list them all.  Basically, the Tar Hell State has given up on democracy.

The last race I ran in NC. A 100 miler.
Well, fine. North Carolina - I give up on you.  I have run a marathon in 49 states. While it has never been the most pressing of my goals, I would very much like to complete one in all 50. The only state I am missing? You guessed it! All together now: North Carolina. But until North Carolina gets its act together, my self (and my money) will not race in the state. No race fees, no hotels, no food, no gas, no rental cars, nothing. I know many good people in the state and this will affect them. I am sorry for that. But those people need to get rid of their elected officials. And convince those who care about them to get rid of those elected official. And convince those who don't care about them, but do care about money, to get rid of those elected officials.

Runners are some of the most affluent subsets of the population out there. Our dollars speak. Make them speak loudly. Join me in boycotting the state until they return it to the hands of the people. All the people. Not just the white people. Not just the rich people. Not just the straight people.




Until that happens, I will sit at 49 states with a marathon run and never venture further. It might be something small but avalanches are started by the accumulation of small snowflakes.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Crystal Serenity Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 11; 16th Edition 
198.2 miles runs in 2016 races
Race: Crystal Serenity Marathon
Place: Willemstad, CuraƧao
Miles from home: 2255
Weather: 80s-90s; sunny; humid

The best-laid plans…

When asked by Crystal Cruise to run the first official-measured and sanctioned marathon on a cruise ship, I had a number of concerns. Knowing Crystal is a premiere top-shelf cruise line I wanted to make sure what “official” and “marathon” meant to them. With marathons springing up around the nation (and the world) at an alarming rate, I did not want this to be just roughly 26.2 miles around the luxurious deck.  If so, well, we had already done that in 2014 when I sailed with them from Chile to Tahiti.  When I learned they were getting their boat’s running deck measured and sanctioned by USATF, I knew they meant business. So I said, let's do it!

As part of my trip on Crystal would also include being a guest lecturer, we had to find the day which would work best for all involved. Personally, as I wanted to control as much of the run as possible, I was hoping to get the marathon accomplished as soon as we left port. In addition, I thought it would be best to get it done before I visited the islands of Grand Cayman and Jamaica. That way no weird issues with food would happen that might potentially fell the effort. Plus, I would be as close to running the marathon as possible to when I left home, eliminating all of the other concerns the usual traveling marathoner has to do deal with. Unfortunately for me, it worked better with the schedule to have me running the marathon the day after the visit to the islands.

As the day I thought would be ideal passed with the calmest of seas possible, I thought perhaps this would continue throughout. However, after leaving Ocho Rios, Jamaica and beginning our trip at sea, the weather turned almost immediately. The evening before my marathon the wind picked up.  The waves got choppy. To quote George Constanza “the sea was angry that day, my friends.” I got barely a wink of sleep as the rocking of the boat, which I am sure was turning many green and would have normally lulled me to sleep, kept me up hoping it would finally subside.

When I woke to start prep for the race, I turned on the ship’s TV to get the info on the outside weather. I already knew it was going to be warm. We were in the Caribbean. So the 80+ degrees was not surprising. The 49 knot winds, however, were. Egads.

I dressed and went down to the deck where the two members who were certifying the course for USATF, Phil and Paula, were waiting.  In addition, Scott, another marathoner who works for Crystal who I met in Miami many years ago and actually was the one who set this up, was looking a little forlorn. Phil and I met has a race he puts on in Santa Clarita some 8 years ago and it was nice to have them all here. The serene nature of all three however, belied what was ahead for me. Well, they are all British after all, so good luck getting much emotion out of them either way.

The said it was a “mite bit windy” and perhaps I should give it a test run. As I turned and ran into the wind, I could tell this would make for a tough day.  Then I hit the bow of the boat.


At 6’1’’ and 180 lbs, I was stood straight up and nearly stopped in my tracks.  My sunglasses blew off my face and the air was knocked out of me. I powered through and the wind carried me to the stern of the ship where the previous biggest obstacle lay. (I will get to that in a minute.)  I finished the lap and to test it out again did another. It got even worse. I told the three that if I had to, I could do it.  It might be dangerous and it would definitely be slow, but I would.  However, if I had my druthers, I would like to try again the next day.  This seemed to be the answer they were expecting and it was 100% accepted.  Within seconds I was back to my stateroom and trying to figure out what to do with myself. I had planned my meals and my resting and my tapering to run on this day. Now what to do?  It is one thing to change a lecture or a speech or even a smaller distance race.  But to change the day of a marathon? That is something else entirely.

As the morning and afternoon rocked by with the winds barely abating, I knew I made the right choice.  I just had to weather this wind and hope that the next day would be better.  You see, the next day was the last chance we had to use Phil and Paula’s services as they had to disembark in Curacao to head home. So it was do or die.  Hopefully the former.

More than just postponing the marathon it was postponing my routine.  I had taken two days off before the marathon, as is my norm. This extra day off, however, immediately made me feel lethargic. In addition, there were zero signs of the winds slowing all day long.  As I went to bed, the boat was still be tossed side to side as the hull cut through 50 knot winds. I went to bed hoping against hope.

When 5 a.m. rolled around I turned on the ship’s TV to confirm what I already knew: nothing had changed. I met the mates on the deck of the ship and could see they agreed. The said to go back to bed and hopefully, when we got into harbor in 90 minutes, things would be better. It felt like I had no sooner laid my head on the pillow than my phone rang. Scott told me it was go time.  I could see if that it was a little before 7 am and the sun was fully shining. Exactly what I had tried to battle against using my knowledge from running on the previous ship.  With a lit deck, I could run at any time of the day or night.  But now it was warm and sunny. This might be a long day.

I quickly got ready and headed down to the 7th deck promenade.  By 7:20, less than half an hour after I had woken up, I was underway.  What a way to try and run 26.2 miles.

The course was simple if not easy. I would run about half the length of the ship to start. Then from that halfway point, each loop would begin. Piece of cake, right? Just do this 89 times and garner a Guinness world record.

For the first six miles, things went relatively smoothly. I knew that I was not going to go nearly as fast as I had hoped with the starting temperature being 84 degrees – more or less the temperature they stop, or "black flag" most marathons. The only bad thing in the beginning, and it was bad, was the smoke.

No, the ship was not on fire.  Rather, you see, the crew members and deck hands of Crystal Cruise enjoy their breaks in the foremost front of the ship, away from virtually everyone else. They are also often from countries of the old Eastern Bloc of other far flung places. Unfailingly polite, very nice to be around and a pleasure to talk to, they have also not apparently gotten the memo about the whole cigarettes cause cancer thing. So, every time I made it to the front of the ship, I got to inhale smoke.  Yes this was outdoors. Yes, this was in a vastly open space.  But, and I have known this my entire life – I have the wimpiest lungs possible. Out of the factory mine we hardly made of hearty stock. I know even the slightest provocation means they are not happy. So, while I was clicking away loops, I was also dreading going to the front of the ship every single time. This does not help the mental state at all.

Nevertheless, I had run, almost like a metronome, 2:12 laps every single lap for the first 6 miles (it look 3.39 laps to make a mile, FYI.) As we approached 9 am, the time I had originally planned on finishing, there were more guests out and about exercising. Many had gotten up at the crack of dawn both days to cheer me on from their staterooms and had seemed as disappointed as I about the wind.  Thy had also been very kind to allow me to have the deck virtually to myself during times when many of them would go for a stroll.  However, many assumed I started at six in the morning so here, three hours later, they thought I would be done.  As such, I spent a great deal of the next six miles being very mindful of other guests and making sure not to inadvertently take out a septuagenarian. Many took pictures of me as I passed by or did a selfie when I looped behind them.  At this juncture I still had energy to make silly faces.  I hope they enjoyed it!

Suddenly, a storm came in and began to drench the passengers, myself and the deck.  I began to curse inwardly as a slick wooden deck was the last thing I needed. Moreover, I knew what would come after the Caribbean rainstorm would pass. A stifling humidity.  In addition, the rain wasn't even remotely cooling. Rather, all it did was increase potential for chafing, make me shoes soaked, add puddles to the deck and make me a whiny little runner.  One positive of this torrential downpour was that it drove everyone else inside. The deck was mine to run freely.  Hoping the storm would last maybe 40 minutes and keep the sun at bay, I was disappointed when it barely last 10. Then the humidity came.

As the ship was positioned, I spent half of the loop running in the sun and the other half in the shade.  The problem with the shade was that is an absolute dead zone. No air moved. It felt stagnant. I recalled this oddity from my previous run on the cruise ship when I was befuddled how one could be out in the air yet still feel closed in. There were also little further oddities to deal with. For example, I am unsure if there are certain air conditioning vents or ducts that are part of a normal operation of a boat, but I often felt like I could taste or smell pockets of air which differed from the rest.  Normally, this means nothing on a run as you pass by.  But the whole 89 laps things.

More importantly, I could tell that the rain, the multiple turns, and perhaps just bad luck, had caused med to have a cut on my right Achilles tendon. Knowing that there was no way I could finish with this worsening, I told Shannon, my best friend and guest on this cruise, to go to the stateroom, grab some new socks and my pair of Karhu triathlon shoes which have a very low cut. A few laps later I was sitting on a bench changing socks and shoes. You know, as you usually do in the middle of a race.

Regardless of the heat, and my laps creeping closer and closer to three minutes per,  as I approached 20 miles it still looked like I would keep my marathon time under 3:30. Far from ideal but not the most horrible of times, all things considered. I had ran most of the miles without a shirt as I had been drenched in sweat since about five steps in. Given how self-conscious I am about running with a shirt off, Shannon told me she knew how hot I must have been. Here I take two seconds to say that without my best friend handing me towels, forcing me to pull ice cold water over my head to cool my core, and knowing exactly what beverage I needed exactly when I needed it, I might not have even made it to 20 miles intact. A runner is only as good as his crew and I have the best out there.

Previously, the only time I really slowed was at the back of the boat.  I mentioned this previously as an obstacle and let me elaborate further. The other cruise ship I had run on with Crystal had a different stern portion. It was open and wide and I could make the turn easily.  The Serenity, however, had two open stairwells which cut into a runner's ability to cut each turn tight. I had done a few runs on the ship prior to the race and suffice it to say I found my overall pace slowed greatly here. For math's sake, I lost about three seconds on the back of the boat each loop.  Over the course of the marathon that is close to five minutes! Talk about adding up. Unfortunately, as I went over twenty miles, the back of the boat wasn't the only place I was slowing .

With 20 laps to go, or just a shade under 6 miles, I thought I had a fullproof plan. Unfortunately, fools often outwits those plans. Nevertheless, I thought if I could just do four sets of 5 loops, taking a one minute break after each set to sit on a bench, douse myself in ice water and move on, it would keep me still in a decent time. One set of loops went fine. However, halfway through the next set, I had to stop and sit. Then virtually every loop had me stopping on the homestretch as I came out of the shadow of the ship and into the intense magnifying heat of the sun on the starboard side.  It baked me. It cooked me. It simply sapped my will to move forward. My loops were now taking four minutes to complete as I even had to walk on the shaded side as well.

Finally, with five loops to go, I had had enough.  At the bow of the boat, I tried to use the shadow of the boat to propel me into what I hoped would just be 12-15 minutes of running to close out the day.  Cramps in my leg from dehydration had other plans. Shooting from my ankle to my calf to my quad, the pain was so sharp and intense that it made me woozy. I couldn’t keep a level head unless I made my body level. So down on the deck I went. Almost immediately, crew members were on me asking me if I was alright. I tried to assure them all it was not a head wound or overall woosiness causing me to lay down but just a leg cramp. But soon more members were called. Then a EMT. Then the ship doctor and all of my people involved with this race. I kept assuring them I was fine but soon they were taking my blood pressure and pulse and everything else. I told them I just had 3.5 miles to go and…is that a wheelchair?!  No, no, no, no.  I am not getting in that. Nor am I taking any IV fluids.  I didn’t push through this hell to be stopped short in the last mile. With some help from others, I was pulled to my feet. I swallowed my pride after lying on the ground for over ten minutes and realized finishing was all that mattered.  Any “good” time had long since passed.

I sauntered the last three loops with the ship doctor, himself a marathoner (and also seemingly wanting to let me know constantly that he too had runs lots of marathons) and Shannon who keep an ice cold towel on my neck. One loop turned into two and then finally I was on the last loop. I knew there were people waiting so when I turned onto the home stretch, I tried a feeble attempt at running to break the finish line tape. So, 4:27:14 after I started, I had another new milestone in my pocket. (Official time being verified.)

Was it the time I wanted?  Obviously not. But in my first marathon as a Master’s runner, and my 153rd slowest out of 158 total marathons, I had set out to do what I was asked to do. A huge round of thanks goes out to Crystal Cruise and Scott Douglass for putting this all together. To both Phil and Paula for measuring the course and making it official as well as timing it as well.  To Shannon I definitely extend my most heartlfelt thanks because even as the weather got stifling (over 90 degrees when I finished) I knew I was in good hands with her nearby.

As I spoke on the cruise ship as well (this was a working vacation for me, not even counting the 89 and change laps round the ship) this event was a great example of showing how often things can go awry even when you plan as hard as you can.  I jokingly told the audience that my intention was to run very slow so that Crystal will have me on again when they go through colder, more northern waters, and I can easily break the record. As it stands, on a ship full of people who have done many things right in their life and often don’t need much motivation, I was told I became a new source of it.  I laid to waste many of these “But I can’t run because…” excuses and opened their eyes to maybe trying something new. But following through will be up to them. We can be motivated all we wanted but unless we alone take the first step to doing whatever it is we want to do, nothing else matters.

As this year comes to an end, here’s hoping in 2017 you take that first step toward what you have wanted for a very long time.

Then take another.