Saturday, June 30, 2012

Twit on a Road Trip [Part 3 : Day 5]

Yes, I'm behind. Far, far behind. Good intentions to update my blog with progress have been met repeatedly with the need for rest. It's often been physical exhaustion and the need for a nap, but Day 5 (Tuesday the 26th) ended up being just as mentally tiring.

The night before, I had posted a picture of me at the ballpark in Minneapolis, and one of the many GORUCK Toughs around the country shot me a message that he was right up the road. Did I want to meet up the next morning for lunch? I had a full day ahead of me, but I couldn't pass on meeting up with a GRT.. especially not when it's Justin Grimm.

I've bled and sweat for patches.
This means more.

I had never met Justin, but every GRT knows him and his daughter. Charlotte was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia two years ago and went through some extremely arduous chemo treatments. But, the GRT family is just that, and numerous 'mini-rucks' have been staged all around the country to raise funds for awareness of the disease. Meeting Justin was a tremendous honor, and he's a great guy. Hearing that Charlotte is doing much better and finished with her treatments was such a blessing and a great way to start the day. Justin and I met up for lunch at Mall of America (across from my hotel) and spent the morning talking GORUCK and the future. Hearing him in good spirits was excellent. Promising to give out a NASA to coin to any GRT I met along my trip, I was honored to receive a Brave Charlotte patch from Justin in return. It's going in a place of honor on my ruck but won't be put through the dirt of a mudrun or GRC.

Following that rather powerful meeting, I jumped into the car. I still had two stops to make in Minneapolis. My mother was born and raised in the city, so I tracked down the hospital she was born in and the house where she lived. The house was in great shape, I took some great pictures. I'm a fan of history, so understanding that this place had special meaning for her meant that it had special meaning for me, too. Pretty cool.

Then, I jumped on the road and drove Wisconsin Rt 35 through the small towns along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Along Lake Pepin, the road was gorgeous. I pulled into Gelly's Pub and grabbed some food. I was on a bit of a time-crunch, but I couldn't avoid stopping in the picturesque little town.

Stockholm, WI.
A perfect dot on the map.

Leaving there, I continued down the road to La Crosse, Wisconsin, a nice town on the border... and my birth place. I haven't been back in 33 yrs, 363 days, so it was quite interesting walking into the doors of Gundersen Lutheran Hospital. I asked around for some history on the hospital, but it was hard to come by. Still, it was an electric feeling to be walking the same halls as those my parents walked nearly 35 years earlier. I actually had trouble dragging myself free of the quaint little hospital, but I eventually made my way back to I-90 and east.

My home for 18 months
After another 30-minute drive, I pulled off into Tomah, Wisconsin, my hometown until I was a year and a half old. I have vague memories of returning to Tomah about 15 (20?) years ago for the Cranberry Festival (a BIG deal), but I was 'in-tow' with my parents. So, I wasn't driving or paying much attention to what was going on around me. I had no reference points as I drove into town. Thanks to my parents, I found our old house and knocked on the neighbor's door in the hopes that the old family friend would be home. She wasn't, but my mother gave me a couple places she might be... it's a small town. Though, I didn't remember the house, I recognized its place in my family's and my history. I snapped a few pictures and drove over to the Tee Pee Supper Club and asked the hostess if Jane was there.

Of course she was.

I had to introduce myself given that she hadn't seen me since I was about 15, but we had a nice chat about my parents and a general 'catch-up' discussion. It was a funny talk given that I caught her off-gaurd, but I had to pass on her offer of a drink. I still had to get to Madison. But, on the way out, I grabbed a brick off the crumbling back of the Tee Pee. That brick will make its way around Washington, DC, with me on my July 4th GORUCK Challenge. Um... don't tell anyone.

I left Tomah much as I left La Crosse... a bit sad and not knowing why. They are cute towns with everything you'd need, but they aren't very big places. They don't have huge malls or airports. Neither has much of a sports scene to talk about (though, I understand that they have a summer collegiate team, the La Crosse Loggers... I WILL get a t-shirt out of them), and they have brutal winters. But, I loved them.

I drove on toward Madison, excited about the destination but somehow upset about what I was leaving. As I pulled into Madison, I wondered what would have happened had I grown up in Tomah instead of leaving before my second birthday. The University of Wisconsin has always had a special place in my heart, and everything you hear about Madison drips in reverence. People love the place. I found out why. It reminded me much of Austin, TX, and that's a compliment. The Capitol building dominates the skyline as you drive in from the north, and the two lakes that the downtown area straddles are pristine. I checked in and headed out for food and drinks. By the time I did, the sun had set and the lights of the downtown area reflecting off Lake Monona were spectacular. Awesome city.

I stopped at State Street Brats (looks like a German brauhaus... awesome) and had some local brews and eats. Though it was a Tuesday night, the place filled up nicely, and they were bringing in the clientele with the genius-level idea of flipping a coin - drinker calls it. Correct call? Drinks are 75% (!) off. Incorrect call? regular price. When the regular price is $3 for a pint, you can't lose... even if you lose. I also ate cheese curds. I'm told they are supposed to squeak when you bite into them, but I didn't notice (that may have been a result of the Sconnie pints and New Glarus IPAs that I was drinking). Either way, it was fried cheese, and that's never bad.

I met some great people at the bar, and it reminded me how much (and why) I love Wisconsin. I picked up some souvenir shirts (Sconnie Nation, baby!) and thanked the Sconnies for the continued deterrence they provided to Canadian invasion.

Still, I had plenty to do the next day - both in Madision and out - so I retired to my hotel ecstatic to have experienced such an emotional day in my birth state and already planning a trip to re-visit (Badgers football along with a Brewers baseball game and Milwaukee beerfest? Yes, please!).
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Race Report: Amica Knoxville Half Marathon [Tennessee: State #6]

As I made plans for my (already tremendously successful) 2012 road trip, I came up with several baseball games and day stops along the way. Of course, this would let me sleep in on the mornings... or, I could find some races. I chose the more sleep-deprived option.

With races mostly found on the weekends and my plans keeping me in Tennessee for two nights, I checked into options in the Chattanooga area. The Amica race series, a group of competitions mostly geared toward triathletes, I found one in the woods outside Knoxville, TN. The website was pretty bare-bones, and support leading up to the race (where's packet pick-up? are there waves?) left much to be desired.

I awoke early in Chattanooga and drove the hour to the race site - a beautiful park in the middle of nowhere - and began questioning my decision. The field was small, and most people seemed just as lost as me. This was somewhat reassuring in that it proved I hadn't missed something. But, race organizers shouldn't ever want their competitors confused. That's a bad thing. This confusion matured into frustration as we found that we wouldn't be allowed to wear headphones given the course's hugging of a rather busy road. Being forced to run without music is one thing, but this is something that should have been conveyed to racers beforehand.

Either way, the race started fifteen minutes late, and I was introduced to the other surprise of the day - hills. I knew nothing about the course, so it's partially my fault. But, there was no elevation chart for it (more lack of information to runners), so it was a surprise to everyone that hadn't run the route before. Up and down. Up and down. But, I pressed on. The route was beautiful but tedious as there was no end to the trees. It reminded me much of my runs in Florida... and those are a bit boring.

My pace was faster than my previous halfs, but I didn't feel that I was pushing too hard. I did worry about the late miles given my lack of hill work when training. Then, to really bring it all together, the final 3 miles were along the crest of a sun-drenched levee, and the late start meant that we were running in the heat of the late morning when we crossed it. On gravel. Yea... we weren't happy. But, by that point, I realized that I was on a PR pace and fought through the frustration. I came back within sight of the finish arch as my watch ticked over to 1:54, and my final kick hit hard. With a previous PR of 1:59:19 officially (I'd run some faster in training since that SF race), I saw the chance to really blow my best time out of the water. The only other runner near me (with only a couple hundred racers, it was common to go a couple miles without passing someone or being passed) kicked, as well, and we sprinted into the chute. I was ecstatic to find that I had finished in 1:54:51, a more than 4 minute improvement. It made me wonder how I would have done without the hills, but it was a good day regardless.

It was even better when I found that I had won my age group. Though, admittedly, the field wasn't very large. Still, I got a certificate and a nice backpack that has already come in handy as a dirty clothes bag on my road trip. All-in-all, I'm glad I ran the race if only to stay in shape as I drive across the country. But, if given another chance, I may have chosen to forgo the Amica race and do one in Nashville that I could have turned into a vacation in the city. Another small gripe... There was a 10K run at the same time as the half. We all received the same medal, and that seems like a cop-out by Amica. Simply putting the distance ON the medal would have seemed obvious (the 19.7 refers to the triathlon). But, since they only change the city name and color from race to race instead of tailoring the design to the location, what can you expect?
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Twit on a Road Trip [Part 2 : Day 3 and 4]

My personalized bat
I've officially hit my stride on the road trip. Yesterday morning, I awoke in Nashville feeling much better, though the walls of the hotel were seriously thin. My goal once I hit the road was Louisville. I had visited the city once before but was looking forward to stopping at the Louisville Slugger Museum. They've really put together a nice exhibit there, but the big draw for me was the factory tour. It's not reinventing the wheel, but watching how accurately and quickly a bat can be carved out of a billet was impressive, as was learning how they tailor bats to individual players. Good stuff. I even picked up a personalized bat for my wall and a defect bat chosen specifically for my illustrious protagonist, Shawn Kidd. As a fan of baseball, tradition, and good craftsmanship, it was really a nice couple hours in downtown Louisville. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a long drive ahead of me.

Jumping back on the road and pointing the car north, I quickly crossed into Indiana. Honestly, I did feel a bit different crossing into the 'North.' The land and people's attitudes changed. I made a note to look up the Civil War history of the area - and Louisville in particular - since it seemed as if it would make for an interesting education given its proximity to the dividing line.

Harry's Chocolate Shop near Purdue
I made it up to Indianapolis, a city that I had never visited but hadn't heard anything that would make me want to, and cut northwest toward Lafayette. I had a specific reason for the rather strange detour, as the city serves as the opening scene for my novel, Number 181. The goal when I pulled off the interstate was to find an internet connection to reserve a hotel room and get a couple pictures. As I drove past Purdue, though, the city came within a sip of beer of convincing me to stay there for the night. I had a long drive the following day; though, and I didn't want to tack on another 2 hours.

But, I was able to grab a couple pictures that my readers might find interesting. The first, a shot of the door to Harry's Chocolate Shop, was a really nice view and just how I pictured it. The second one is a shot of Founder's Park where Bolu is killed.

I wanted to spend more time in the Purdue University area but jumped back in the car for a couple hours and crashed at a hotel in Bloomington, IL.

This morning, I woke up early and made it four hours down the road before reaching the first, real destination that I had put down on paper months ago: The farm used in the movie, Field of Dreams. It was... Un. Be. Lievable. I took about a hundred pictures of the field and farmhouse, and I spent an hour sitting on the very bleachers used in the movie and staring out at the field, corn husks pressing their way skyward in the outfield. The movie may be my favorite of all time, and I may be a huge Kevin Costner fan, but only true baseball fans can understand what I felt sitting there. It had very little to do with the movie. It was all about the history of the game and how its tradition brings us all together. All baseball fans are embodied in the film by James Earl Jones character, Terrance Mann... we are rough and distant, but we believe in the spirit of the game and what it means. Everyone that visits that field feels that way, and it was nice to be around people that shared my passions.
"Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa."..... ..... Can't it be both?
The experience made the trip worthwhile, and I'm nowhere near the end of it. Still, I had a place to be for the night. I continued northward through small Iowa towns, and they made for a memorable drive. Corn stretched for miles, and little towns like Postville and Guttenberg marked islands in the green seas. Very cool experience. I made it to Minneapolis in time to get settled at my hotel and slip downtown to Target Field for some Twins-White Sox baseball. (Youkilis' first game in a White Sox uniform!)

Target Field is a great setup with plenty of parking, but its atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired. Food choices are slim, and there isn't much community around the stadium. It's all parking garages. And, worst of all, after Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the 7th inning stretch, they play that painful, "Red Solo Cup" song that makes me want to murder my ears. Inexcusable. But, I was able to watch former FSU QB recruit Joe Mauer play some baseball and cross one more stadium off my list. By my count, that leaves only 9 left, and that list will be halved by the end of the year.

Days 3 and 4 went well, and I expect the next three days to be interesting and slower paced as I make my way across the Great Lakes area to the northeast section of the country. MUCH more to come... Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Twit on a Road Trip [Part 1 : Day 1 and 2]

I am freaking exhausted. Before you start, I fully understand that I am only two days into this more-or-less 14 day vacation, but today was a long day. I've earned a little breather.

Yesterday (Friday the 22nd), I got an early start out of Orlando and beat the local rush. But, the intent was to beat the Atlanta rush. I had every intention of making yesterday a Distance Day, since the drive up I-75 to Atlanta wasn't anything new to me. I was headed to Chattanooga, and I needed to push it to beat the traffic.

So, for nine long hours, my snacks of soda water and baby spinach kept me going. Having made the drive through Georgia before, I found the miles passed more quickly than I remembered, probably because it was only day 1 of 14, and I knew I'd have many many more miles before the trip was over.

I did hit Chattanooga at rush hour, though, and was surprised to find out how bad traffic could be in the small(ish) city. I had made a reservation the night before at a place downtown, and it worked great for walking the area. Even at 6 PM, it was exceedingly hot, though. Knowing that Chattanooga had a Dodgers minor league affiliate (the Lookouts), I was able to watch some of the best entertainment for your dollar that exists today. For $10, I was able to watch a baseball game, drink reasonably priced beers, and eat good food. Minor League Baseball is totally under-rated.

MiLB is simply the best

A sell-out crowd of chubby old men and surprisingly-attractive southern belles filled the stadium, and it was one of the best atmospheres I can remember. The Lookouts took the loss, but I was impressed by the product on the field. Seriously, if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with a team, do yourself a favor and take a group out to a game with you. Not getting back to the hotel before 11PM meant that I'd get little sleep, though, since....

... I ran the Amica 19.7 Series Half Marathon in Lenoir City this morning. The only good things I can say about this race is that (1) I PR'd and (2) I crossed Tennessee from the list [race report to come]. It was a small race but still poorly organized. And, it ended with 3 miles of open running beneath the sun. The race and drive there and back ate up much of the day, but I was able to get to Ruby Falls upon my return to Chattanooga. Not knowing what to expect, I was a bit turned off by the orchestrations of the tour guide and long tour, but the waterfall itself was amazing.

Ruby Falls...
Following that, I emerged back into the heat and went over to the Chickamauga Battlefield site. Having a minor in military history, I take every opporunity I can to walk the paths of the war, and this was no different. Quite the experience... It made for a hot afternoon, though, and by the time I arrived in Nashville, I was ready to hit the sack. I forced myself to stay awake, but the time change means that the 9PM time here is 10PM for me. Since I've been up since 4AM... it's reasonable that I get my sorry ass to sleep... ASAP. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

$&%ing leadership development

I've been lucky enough to be selected for several programs at NASA. Just knowing that I was chosen has meant a lot given the caliber of people that are in the selection pool. In my eleven years at Kennedy Space Center, a full year has been spent in Austin, TX on a graduate fellowship doing microelectronics research. It was a great experience and one of the better times of my life. Austin is a great city, and I've been back several times... including a 2012 St Patrick's Day GORUCK. I enjoyed the city so much during my time there, that I set the beginning of my novel on 6th street. It was fun returning with a couple buddies and pointing out key locations from the book.

I was also selected to NASA's System Engineering and Leadership Development Program (SELDP) that sent me out to San Francisco for a year to work on a lunar mission (LADEE, scheduled to launch from Virginia in 2013). San Francisco had great weather and I loved the city, but the people were a bit too... much... for my tastes. I wasn't sad to begin the long drive home after the program ended. (Ironically, San Francisco is featured in Number 181, also, but I wrote that section of the book before I even knew I was SF-bound.)

I've been selected to Leadership Seminole to work with city and community leaders to build lines of communication between government and private entities to promote the area. I've worked international symposiums with representatives from dozens of national space agencies. There's a lot going on to better yourself with any company, and I have been lucky to have so many advocates among previous supervisors.

My current supervisor is no exception. He championed my selection for Leadership Seminole and is working hard again for the year-long Mid-Level Leadership Program.

The catch is that the application itself is a study on discipline and sanity. This thing is essay-upon-essay of similarly worded questions and double-speak, and I find myself rambling on subjects to no foreseeable ending. I am pretty sure that I could cut-and-paste one response into three different questions and have them be appropriate. On the flip-side, this is a highly competitive, agency-wide program in which few applicants are selected... and I'm on day four of filling this thing out. I wonder how many other people around the country are knee-deep in this paperwork at the expense of their sanity... and day job.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beautiful Sunday morning run...

This blog has quickly begun focusing on Writing and Running. Since those two topics seem to take up the majority of my time - and since I often do both at the same time - it makes sense. This morning, I woke up with optimistic plans of a morning run around the lake followed by a trip out to the beach. Sadly, as has happened in recent weeks, I opted out of the beach. I justified it with the partial cloud cover and fact that I finished my run sprawled out on the grass near the lake and got a sufficiently large dose of Vitamin D.

But, the truth of the matter is that I simply didn't want to drive 2 hours round-trip to the beach... that isn't that pretty when compared to my hometown, Destin beaches anyway.

So, I hit the path around Lake Baldwin and pushed through the early morning humidity.
  • The closed loop around the lake is great for me. It's 2.5 miles, so I can do maintenance runs of 3 laps or longer runs of 4-5 loops pretty easily
  • The breeze coming in off the lake breaks up the humidity and drops the temperature a couple degrees
  • The lake itself acts as a weather break, often forcing weather systems to split as they near and allowing for more runs without rain
  • The talent level of the Baldwin Park runners makes for some nice sight-seeing
  • The pleasant atmosphere and safe pathway allows my mind to wander and work up some new thoughts on the sequel to my first book, Number 181 (Get it here) and some new ideas that keep popping into my head. Sadly, some are so complex I'm not even sure how to put them on paper. And, I have so many random thoughts while running that to write them all would require 10 years of my life and result in 25 books books of drastically different genres.
Lake Baldwin - Where ducks go to duel

I've started using the MapMyRun app on my phone since it has more functionality than my iPod Nano. Also, since my Nike+ sensor crapped out, the Nano has been used more due to familiarity than anything else. Since my phone can pay music, the Nano has quickly become useless. The 7.5 miles went by a little slow today, or so I thought. It must have been the heat and/or humidity that made me feel sluggish, because I certainly wasn't. I ended up with 7 1/2 miles in 1hr5, a nice 8:40 pace when you consider I stopped for some water and to drop off my shirt after the first loop. I lost a minute or so at the car since I didn't stop the recording, but it was nice to get free of the shirt for the rest of the run.

The trick now is figuring out how to best plan for the next few weeks. I'll be doing my (Twit on a Road Twip 2012) thing next weekend and hitting some races around the country. But, with GORUCK DC thrown in there on July 4th, determining how and when to push myself is going to be difficult. If I run a half marathon race next Saturday (spoiler?), I don't want to push myself so hard that it makes training for the next couple weeks difficult.

Of course, I know that when the time comes, I'll end up pushing just as much as the runners next to me. Who am I kidding?
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

A new way to workout

It started after the return from my trip to Italy in February. We had walked a ton of miles and eaten very little. Neither my sister nor I are foodies, so we had no urge to sample all the local delicacies. (Note: This does not include Grom, the local awesome ice cream. THAT we sampled... liberally.) I was gone ten days and returned to find I had lost 10 pounds. This was partially due to the fact that I wasn't working out for ten days either. Any time life takes me away from the gym (It happens, but it's rare), I inevitably lose weight because I'm not packing on muscle and eating the associated foods that would allow those muscles to grow.

If I stop working out, I stop eating. It's that simple, and it's not a pro-active decision on my part. I'm just not that hungry, so I don't think about as much.

But, now that I'm into this GORUCK insanity, I talk more and more with people that treat exercising as importantly as I do. So, everyday, I hear motivation. I hear others talk about their workouts, what they're eating, and what challenges they have coming up. Because of things like this, I am encouraged to challenge myself. I started watching what I ate. Instead of heading out to a restaurant after the gym, I head home to small portions of foods that taste great and are still better for me. I walk up the stairs at work now (a noteworthy thing now that I've moved up to the 6th floor). I've started running seriously again and have an insane fall and winter planned.

I have - seriously - ten half marathons in the next 6 months or so... not counting the training going along with those. I pumped out 10 solid miles last night and feel great. With the possible addition of two full marathons in the spring, it makes for a lot of running. But, fortunately, my lifestyle and circle of friends now encourages that. I ran a 5K in 23 minutes last weekend, and that's something I thought I'd never do. The days of me crossing the finish line for those short races in 27 minutes, exhausted and drained as my girlfriend screamed at me to pick it up and not be such a wuss? Those are behind me. I wonder what she'd think of my running now...

I've dropped about 35 pounds in the last four or five months, and it shows in the strangest ways. My wrists are thinner. I know, right? Suddenly, I can twist my watch around like it's some kind of damn wrist hula hoop. I've lost considerable amount of mass up top, but I'm lifting more than ever, so the muscle is certainly still there. I've actually become lean. I'm thinking I should go down another ten pounds, but the key is that I'm healthier than I've ever been.

Now, when I throw on that brick-laden ruck for GORUCK, I'm simply putting the weight back on my knees and joints that used to be there in the form of body fat. I never did a body fat comp test, but I'd say I'm down 7-8%.

And, it's all because I just decided to eat less. Be hungry every now and then. Don't eat when soceity tells you to... lunch time... dinner time... right after working out. Eat when you're hungry... and even then, wait a while before digging in. Given where our country is going and current cultural trends, this won't catch on and I'll watch as society spins around the drain into the darkness of Obesityville. But, when we've become the civilization portrayed at the end of Wall-E, with people zooming around on hover chairs, shoveling food down their throats and fatter than Limbaugh on a bad day (topical political humor!), don't come crying to me.

My friends and I will be living off the land, high in the mountains with bricks on our backs and energy in our souls. And, there's no crying in the ruck.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

10+ miles at 10 o'clock at night...

Let's see if I can sleep...

I've been increasing my long runs and have run several 10-mile runs in recent weeks. With several races in the coming months, I wanted to make sure that I could train in the heat and hit longer distances. Surprising, at least to me, I haven't had near the problem I had in past years with heat and humidity. Admittedly, I've been running late and doing my best to make use of the lake breezes, but I've found it easier to keep my 9 min per mile pace than ever before.

But, my long runs always make it difficult to get to sleep. Later sunsets mean later and later runs. With a 5:45AM wake-up time, we'll see how it goes...

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Twit on a Road Twip 2012 (Who wants a prize???)

In the fall of 2010, I had one of the best experiences of my life driving from San Francisco to Orlando. I've flown back and forth across our great country numerous times, but you miss out on so much from the air. Not having a wife and kids, I don't know if the 'family roadtrip' is a thing of the past. Do people do those anymore? A little National Lampoon's Vacation? If you don't, then you really should. I drove through some of the most beautiful and bleakest landscapes, and it was amazing. I took several detours and made much of it up as I went along, but I think that's the way it should be.

Now, as the summer of 2012 approaches, I decided that I'd do it again. Instead of west-to-east, though, I'll be going north-south. I was born in Wisconsin, but I haven't really spent much time there since. I've never been to Canada. I've never seen Niagara Falls. There are a few baseball stadiums up there to cross off the list.

So much to see and do.

So, on or about June 23rd, I'll be jumping in the car and pointing it north. I have a rough outline of where I'm going, but I'm not known for planning. I'll figure it out. And, as added fun and enjoyment, I'm going to be blogging and tweeting about it as I go. My goal is to do stupid stuff and try to stay out of jail. Randomness will be encouraged, and hilarity will most assuredly ensue.

What do I have planned? Well... there's... hey, I don't want to give it all away.

Look for #TwitOnARoadTwip2012 hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. The other tags I'll be using are #ToaRT2012 and #TheFrenchAreCheeseEatingSurrenderMonkeys (you know... for the short tweets).

In an effort to promote my poor decisions and make it a little bit more fun, I've decided to make a bit of a contest.

What do you win? Your choice of the following:
  • A GORUCK hoodie
  • Signed copies of both my first book, Number 181 , as well as the untitled sequel that is nearing a first draft completion. You want spelling errors and grammar mistakes? Meet my first draft!
  • A NASA package including a t-shirt, patches, stickers, and random awesomeness
  • The adoration of your peers [NOTE: I can't actually guarantee this, but we'll just assume it'll happen]
How do you win? Clues will be hidden on any or all of the following sites. Add/Follow/Like to ensure that you'll have the best chance to win.
  1. Add me on Facebook and track my updates
  2. Follow me (@RussellStoewe) on Twitter
  3. 'Like' Number 181 : Centerfield Productions on Facebook
  4. Keep up with this blog
Somewhere there will be a question. Somewhere there will be an answer. It won't be obvious, though. If it's too easy, you won't have earned anything...

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sprintin' a 5K: Why not try it once...

I've never been a fan of 5Ks. When I first started running, I cursed them for their 3.1 miles of pain and frustration. When I had the distance nailed down, making it fairly routine, I passed them up for the more-challenging 10K and half marathon. Now that I'm into endurance races and longer distances, 5Ks just don't hold the allure that they once did. Also, many are small-scale events with narrow courses, and navigating through the crowds of slower runners and walkers can be maddeningly frustrating.

That's slowly changing, though, now that I've incorporated speedwork into my training. 200m sprints are growing to 400m. I've worried that the sessions ruin my training since I end up running only 3-4 miles instead of the 7-8 that I'd run if I was doing a normal run. But, during a recent session, I started fast and stayed that way for 2 miles. I ran it in 15 minutes flat, a significant improvement on any similar run I can remember doing. And, I felt pretty good when I stopped.

So, as another speedwork session was planned for this morning, I decided to register for the Orlando Runner's Club Race into Summer 5K. If I can hold that 7:30 min/mile pace for two miles, why not three point one?

So, I raced. I rarely 'race' at events. Instead, I tend to enjoy the run and nearly always have negative splits. This morning, I had negative splits again, but that was largely due to the final kick near the finish where I was around a 5:15 min/m for the last 1/4 mile.

I finished in 23:02, a full four minute improvement on my PR. But, since I rarely run 5Ks, that wasn't that surprisingly to me. I haven't raced a 5K (I've done some with a full ruck) since 2008, so some improvement was expected.

As I sneaked off to the side to down Powerade, bananas, and bagel halves, I considered how I'd done with respect to the other runners. Maybe I slipped in with a third place finish in my 30-34 age group? The field was sizable with around 300 runners. There was a chance. As I snarfed down food and listened, I realized that they didn't have 5-year groups. I would be in the 30-39 age range. D'oh. Well, mayyyybe third place...?

They called out those that placed. Nope. Not third. Oh well. Wait... did they just say my name? FIRST PLACE?! In the 30-39 age group?

Damn straight.

When they handed it to me, I ran off like I stole something.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

On the hunt for a spring marathon...

Living in Orlando, the spectre of Disney hangs over our lives like some sort of demonic rodent bent on owning the souls of retirees and transplanted northerners. As a runner, I always have my finger on the pulse of the running community out here, and the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney World approaches. Organizers went out of their way to improve the course this year by including four theme parks, a run on the driver's track at the Daytona Experience, and a lap around the infield at the Wide World of Sports Complex. Having done two and had mixed experiences at both, I am not a big fan of Disney races. The crowds are large and the prices are high. Running the parks is quite the surreal experience, and one can periodically slip into a state that subconsciously implies that the bright colors and childish music is the spooky facade of some distributing Twilight Zone episode... You know, that one where the kid is some kind of magical, super-being that creates worlds and forces people to live in them. Frontierland? You better pretend you're a cowboy or that little bastard will dissolve your face off with his mind. On the flip side, the sights are amazing and the party/swag is nice.

A running buddy is debating this year's Disney Marathon, and I told him I'd jump in if he did. I've finished two marathons, but both were destination-type races in Los Angeles and Dublin, Ireland. Running one in my own back yard would be a unique experience. Fortunately, my race schedule alone for the next 6 months requires me to be in excellent shape come the new year (the Disney race is in January). Add in a few long runs around Thanksgiving, and I expect to be fine.

But, given that I train in Florida, I'm debating running another race, as well. Getting in shape is hard enough for one race given local heat and humidity. If I'm to that level of fitness, I feel I should take advantage of it. I'm looking for something in the spring, and figure I might as well travel to this one. Anyone have any suggestions?

Paris would be nice, and I have seen a few ads that have an Oslo Rock 'n' Roll race. I'd love to do Chicago, but I don't think they have a spring race... only fall.

Something in the Orient would be nice, too, and I've given thought to the Great Wall Marathon in the past. But, though I enjoy traveling solo, I feel something like a China trip needs to be done with a group. Unfortunately (though, not surprisingly), I can't get anyone to commit to that particular race with me.

So, I'm looking for input. Any races you've run that are well-organized or especially nice? Great crowds? Beautiful course? Or, what about races to avoid because of boring routes or horrible organization?

Shoot me an email/drop me a comment and give me some insight.

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