Race #47 – Guts to Glory 5K

Yet another virtual race… shocker, eh?  :-)

(And yeah, the header image isn’t from this race, but it’s the only image I could think of that had a “gut” in it!)

Yesterday was hot.  There’s no other way to describe it.  Ninety degrees in the shade, and there wasn’t a lot of shade.  However, Da Lou had a “cold” front come through overnight, so the humidity was much less, which  was nice.

I was surprised at the number of folks out on the trail.  I guess the brutal heat of the last week had kept the casual runners and walkers (like me!) indoors.  With the ten degree drop in temperatures since Wednesday and much lower humidity, folks just had to break out, I suppose.  Kinda like cabin fever, but in the summertime.

For me, the heat was exhausting, but it always is.  Despite being a native Floridian, I’m just not a hot-weather kid.  I found myself drinking more water on the course — which is the right answer! — and was pretty dang spent by the time I got home.  There’s a good reason so many races are started in the morning, especially this time of year!

This race benefitted the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

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Race #46 – Remember the Fallen 5K

Anyone who’s read my ramblings about running knows that I love to be out in the rain.

I’d missed this virtual race around Memorial Day when it first came around.  The Virtual Strides folks brought it back recently, with another production run of medals.  After the events back home in Chattanooga, I knew I had to sign up, running this race for the city that helped shape me into the person I am today.

I’d targeted doing this race Saturday morning, but struggled getting myself together to do it, so I deferred to yesterday morning — one of the nice things about a virtual race.  I awoke around 5am to storms, so I didn’t exactly get an early start.  However, I did get started, and that’s a good thing!

Once again, I ran my neighborhood “three lap” course down Wren Trail.  It was raining when I started, which was nice.  And as I ran, I reflected on the last week plus in Chattanooga.  My home town has been bruised by the awful, awful tragedy perpetrated upon our military on their own soil.  My heart’s just so heavy over this.

And that’s why I ran this race… to remember the fallen in my home town.  #NoogaStrong, indeed.

This race benefitted the Special Operations Warrior Fund.

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Race #45 – Hollywood Dash Mile

Normally, I don’t jump into short races like this one.  After all, I’m trying to build up my miles toward a 15K and half marathon later this year.  However, I couldn’t resist a short little race on a hot summer night.

This was this group’s first racing event, and frankly, it went off pretty well.  They looped inside the St. Charles Community College campus, which made traffic control and the course pretty easy.  I will say that the heat was miserable, but that’s not the fault of the event folks!

There were two waves of races — one non-competitive and another for competitive runners.  The non-competitive was fun to watch starting, with loads of kids and families taking off at “kid speed”.  Thirty minutes later, the competitive wave began, and I took off.

They had tons of volunteers along the way, and a course well-marked in quarter miles.  The race came and went quickly, and despite some slight hills, was very manageable.  Once again, I proved that I don’t do well in the heat, and did just as much fast walking as I did running.

This is the first “short race” I’ve done in well over a year, and frankly, I enjoyed it.  I’m definitely no sprinter, but I did collect a PR for me for both the mile and kilometer, which was pretty exciting.

The only hitch seemed to be with the finisher medallions advertised on the website for the race.  Apparently, there were only age group medals.  The event organizers have indicate on Facebook that they’re working on how to resolve this, especially since there were so many kids running the races.  Probably more on this another time!

Short race — short race report!

This race benefitted Recreation Council of Greater St. Lois, St. Louis Life, Treehouse of Greater St. Louis, Willows Way, Pathways to Independence, Family Advocacy and Community Training, Community Living, Caring Solutions, The Center for Autism Education and ShowMe Aquatics and Fitness.

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Home Is Where the Hardware Is

As many of you have noticed (or tolerated!), I’ve been doing a lot of races lately.  Really.  A lot.  Many.

And because of my current need to have a carrot at the end of a rope when I run, I’ve brought home a lot of hardware from my efforts.  (I’ll leave my discussion about finisher medals with a previous blog post.)  Earlier this year, I grabbed a medal tree to display my medals, but my pace of races has picked up so much, that tree quickly became full o’ stuff, and was pretty unwieldy to deal with.

I’d seen some terrific medal displays from Lifespeed Sports last year at the Hospital Hill race in Kansas City.  I really liked ’em, but at the time, I couldn’t conceive of a time when I would need so much display space.  Funny what a year does to those kind of assumptions…

I saw Wayne and Cindy from Lifespeed again at Hospital Hill this year, and talked with them about creating a massive piece of shelvery to house my growing collection of race medals.  Becky and I talked with them for quite a while, and described what I was looking for.  Wayne was able to translate my sketchy description to his product, and we landed on a six foot long medal shelf with three tiers of hangers for my medals, stained ebony to complement the walls of my office.

Packed to Travel!
Packed to Travel!

A month later, the finished shelf was on the way, and on Tuesday, it landed on my porch.  I started unpacking it at lunch, and discovered it was packed by experts.  The box weighed almost seventy pounds, and was secured inside a custom built wooden cocoon.  Needless to say, it arrived very safely!

And frankly, it was pretty dang easy to put on the wall, using a sturdy piece of lumber atop which to mount it.  It took longer to unpack than it did to hang, and once hung, it was solid on the wall.  I quickly hung about fifty medals from it, placed a few things on the shelf, and made it a foundational part of the “love me wall” in my office.

My Precious!
My Precious!

I’m thrilled with the build quality, and think this will last me quite a while.  When I asked Wayne at HH how many medals he thought that would hold, he thought about 200-250.  I’m not sure it’ll house that many (although Becky has some ideas that may help it store that number), but I get a funny feeling I’m gonna find out really soon!  :-)

Race #44 – Wheels and Heels 5K

My dad used to say, “Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.”  This race was definitely in the latter category.

I’d never heard of this race, and probably for good reason.  It was only the second time they’d run this event, and it included a 5K and 10K, along with a 10mi, 20mi and 30mi ride.  However, it was to benefit a broad set of good causes.  With that kind of coverage, and a medal at the end, how could I say no?

The race site was in Washington MO, which is about 45 minutes west of my house.  That’s about the same time it takes for me to get to downtown St. Louis for a race, so that wasn’t a bad thing.  However, that meant waking up at 4:30am in order to get ready, and be in Washington around 6am for packet pick-up.

I got there, and went to pick up my packet — shirt, bib, and sack o’ goodies.  The registration person asked my name, and then flipped to the second sheet of paper to find me.  Yep, there weren’t many folks signed up for the race — maybe 40 folks across both the 5k and 10k.  By far, this ended up being the smallest race I’d ever been part of.

After some opening comments by the organizers — reminding us to stay hydrated due to the heat advisory, and not to drink the water because of a boil order in the area —  we were off just after 7am.  And much of the first half kilometer was downhill — sweet!  And then it was up-down-up-down through Washington.  And the hills just kept on coming.  I kept watching for a hydration station, which was supposed to be around halfway… and never found it.

Now, I learned a long time ago to always carry water when I’m running, walking or cycling.  You just never know when you’re gonna need a slurp, and whether you can find any close-by can be a crap shoot.  Today, carrying water was the smart money.  Apparently, someone had been stealing the course signs, so many of us at the back of the pack were actually off the race course by a few blocks where it mattered the most — around the halfway point where the hydration station was.  Add this to the hills and unrelenting heat, and it became a pretty miserable race pretty quick.

I never come to a full stop during a race, but I stopped on the course a couple of times to talk with the traffic marshals.  I needed rest, and that was a good way to do it.  And for the first time in a long time, I really questioned if I would finish the race.  In fact, I questioned everything — why I was doing this, whether I could possibly do races in the future, my own existence… :-)  Sometimes, there’s just a little too much alone time on the route!

Finished!
Finished!

But, I finished, having gone a little more than 5K due to the hijinks with the race route.  I felt kinda bad for the poor kid that had to stand there and wait for me to show up to put a medal in my hands.

I never expected this race to be so tough.  I think the frequent hills were part of that, but I also think the lack of water (for my course), and the fact that I rarely saw another member of the race or staff during the race certainly added some mental challenge to the event for me.

Done is done, though, and I’m happy to drop another race in the books.

(This race benefited the National MS Society, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation – Gateway Chapter, and the Brad Cohen National Tourettes Foundation.)

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New Gear: The New MacBook

The New MacBook
The New MacBook

Apple is incredibly good at building sexy hardware… hardware I have a tough time avoiding!

A while back, I bought the then-brand new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (MBPr).  I fell in love with the luscious new screen, with it’s high resolution and vivid color.  Add to that a solid-state drive, and even with the big 15″ screen, the machine was a pound lighter overall than a regular MBP.  And it was fast.  Screaming fast.

At the time, I was really trying to build a very portable footprint, and the MBPr was a big part of that.  As it ends up, I began working from home last summer, and I began growing a less mobile desktop platform based on the new cylinder MacPro.

And then Apple announced the new MacBook.

Frankly, this new machine hit me a little funny.  This little laptop was gonna be light — just about two pounds — but have a pretty slow processor (by modern standards), and a 12-inch screen.  Add to that some shenanigans around a lack of built-in ports for USB3 and Thunderbolt, and this new machine was a little ho hum for me.

As I took in through some spring destination races this year, I kinda found that I needed something a little more laptop-like and less iPad-like for races on the road.  I didn’t like carrying the MBPr to away races, because that usually meant carrying a laptop bag, and while that wasn’t a ton of extra weight when packing for an “away” race, it did make things a little more clunky for travelling.

Those away races made me reconsider the little MacBook, and little by little, I started to fall for this wee beast.

Looking at how I use a laptop, I really wasn’t doing powerful photo processing, massive spreadsheets, or using other high-powered solutions when I was away from my desk.  Even with my MBPr, I was only using it to surf, write, and do a little light Photoshop work.

Suddenly, the little MacBook started to look a little more attractive.

I even came to terms with the weird situation with external ports.  The new MacBook only has a lonely USB-C connector, which is used for power and just about anything else, and a headphone connector.  That’s it.  Anything that’s externally wired has to go through the USB-C connector, which means a handful of dongles for USB3, Ethernet, video, Thunderbolt… and the list goes on.

Again, thinking about my use case, all that connectivity wasn’t that big a deal most of the time, and I didn’t mind too much having a dongle or two for those rare instances when I needed them.  Heck, I was doing that with my MBPr occasionally anyway, so that wasn’t exactly new territory.

I’d finally rationalized all the perceived shortcomings, and was ready to buy not long after they began to ship in April.  That’s when I discovered a wrinkle in my newfound excitement for this new laptop.

There was no availability.  Anywhere.  Apple couldn’t ship them out fast enough, with five week ship times for standard configurations.  Third party providers didn’t have them.  The supply pipeline just wasn’t full, which is pretty rare for Apple with a new product.  It’s usually demand that dries up the pipeline, but in this case, Apple simply didn’t have very many to ship out.

I watched for quite a while to see if the ship times from Apple would get better.  They didn’t.  And then one night I was looking at Best Buy’s web site, and on a lark, did a search for the new MacBook.

And shockingly, in mid-June, Best Buy had them in stock for shipping, and in the configuration I wanted:  1.2Ghz Intel M processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD — one of the standard configurations.  I wasted no time in making an order, and in a few days, the shipping box arrived with my new laptop inside.

The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box when the UPS delivery guy put it in my hand.  It weighed nothing.  I kinda wondered if the box was just empty.

Opening it up, I found the Apple box inside, and once again I was struck with the diminutive size.  The white-box was really tiny.  I had just packed up my 15″ MBPr for its new owner, so I was used to seeing a bigger box.  This thing was itsy-bitsy by comparison.

I opened the box, unpacked the machine and lifted the lid, firing up my new 12″ MacBook.  Once again, the Apple setup experience for the new machine was simply amazing.  It’s easy, quick, and everything just works, right out of the box.

And now, about a month downstream from my unboxing, the experience has been great.

So, to be fair, there are times when I notice the difference in processor speed… for a second.  That’s barely noticeable, and certainly not impactful.  I regularly use the Adobe Cloud apps, Microsoft office apps and iLife apps, and never find myself questioning the speed of the laptop.  It’s fast enough for what I need, and I think that’s the niche this machine fills… fast enough.

You’re not gonna do processor intensive work on this machine.  But, to be fair, it’s really not designed for that.  It’s designed to be the lightest OS X footprint device you can buy, trading weight for power.  It’s kinda like the lovechild of a full-sized MacBook and an iPad Air.  For me, that’s perfect.

The screen is really nice, with (apparently) even tighter pixels than my 15″ MBPr.  In fact, they’re tight enough that even with a 12″ footprint, you can watch full HD resolution content, and have some screen real estate left over.  The colors are vivid, and text is ultra-crisp.  And with the less powerful processor, there are no fans in the machine.  It is dead silent when running… almost unnervingly so.

Apple also introduced a new butterfly switch under the keys on the keyboard.  This has a really different feel than anything I’ve felt from them.  The keys have great tactile feedback, but don’t travel very far.  I know there are a lot of folks that don’t like the new feel, but for me, it seems pretty natural.  The other keyboards Apple’s been shipping always felt kinda “mushy” to me.  This one definitely doesn’t feel like that.  The key illumination is much better too, with each key having it’s own LED to brighten it up in dim conditions.

There’s also new trackpad.  And if I have any issues with the new MacBook, it’s with the new Force Touch trackpad.  This new trackpad allows for sensing how hard you click.  So, for example, a light click might do one thing, and a harder click might do something different.  For me, that’s taken some getting used to, as I’ve discovered I’m a heavy clicker.  It’s taken a lot of practice to get the real click-action I intended, and at times, that’s still a work in progress.

But, wait, there’s more!  The new trackpad is big, and with the smaller dimensions of the laptop, there’s not much room around it to rest your wrist while typing.  It’s very common for me to be typing, and suddenly have some kind of force-click action pop up.  If you’re a classically trained typist, and are used to keeping your wrists up, this won’t be a problem.  If you’re a lazy typist — like me! — that close proximity to the keyboard might be an issue.

Realistically, though, I’ve had nothing but fun with this new laptop.  I use it a ton, and am getting used to the subtle differences the new design introduced.  It’s crazy light, fully functional, and does everything I could possibly want.

Now, I’ve just gotta find an “away” race to give it a full road test!

Race #43 – Jedi Challenge 5K

Summer has arrived in Da Lou.  This week, it’s mid-90s for highs, with mornings starting in the mid-70s.  With that kinda heat, I’m left with morning runs, which puts me into “weekends only” mode until this weather breaks, and cooler temperatures return.

Last night, I decided that I would get the Jedi Challenge virtual race checked off the list today — it seemed like my only chance this week to pull it off.  Do you know how hard it is to get up at 5:15am to get ready to run at 6am?  :-)

That’s one of the cool things about this quest of mine, though.  While I’m not a fan of getting up early like that, it’s an awesome feeling to get home and cleaned up, realizing that the day is just starting, and I’ve already got miles under my feet.  That’s a great feeling, and worth every lost wink of sleep.

It was definitely hot this morning, and I started working up a pretty good sweat pretty quickly.  However, I had one new thing on my side.

Two weeks ago, I put a new Garmin running watch on my wrist (a 920XT — more on that another time) that will sync through my iPhone.  However, carrying my iPhone isn’t always convenient.  I have a SpiBelt to help with that, but it’s a little constricting, and I’d rather have my phone in my pocket  Of course, that means securing the phone so it won’t fall out, and that means zippered pockets.

Enter Zippy Sports.

I found these guys on Amazon, and started looking at them pretty closely.  Looking at their blog, I see that their shorts are American-made, and that they’re runners.  It seems like there are a bunch of running products out there, with some zoomie-zoom runner behind it.  These guys are faster than me, but are just normal folks out running, and I dig that.

I wound up with a pair of gray shorts from them, and took them out for a test run this morning.  They were light, didn’t soak up a bunch of heat, and have two wonderful zippered pockets.  The pockets extend toward the front, so my phone stayed on the front of thigh, and didn’t move around.  Perfect!

The other thing I liked about these new shorts was how they fit across my belly.  I carry a little extra weight — something I’m working on! — but beyond that, I have a little bulging belly scar tissue from my surgeries when I was fighting colon cancer.  These shorts don’t stretch too tight across my lower belly, and frankly, sorta give my belly some support as I’m chugging down the trail.  These are winners, and I will have more!

I was telling Darla this weekend that I’ve done fifteen races in the last nine weeks or so.  That’s just amazing to me.  A little over three years ago, I was still on the mend from colon cancer, and just barely decided to do a little running.  I’ve already run more races this year than I ran all of 2012, 2013 and 2014.  I think I’m hooked.

And I get why I do it.  This crazy race to run races plays right into my obsessive nature.  It’s measurable, has a collecting aspect to it, and the only person I’m competing with is me.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m seeing other benefits.  For example, I’m down about twenty pounds over the last two months.  Part of that is paying attention to my diet, but I know that putting 6-10 miles a week under my feet certainly doesn’t hurt!

My next scheduled race is the Wheels and Heels 5K in Washington MO on Saturday.  See ya then!

(This race was managed by Virtual Nerd Runs, and benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.)

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Race #42 – Independence Day 5K

Man, there were a lot of virtual races available this year around the 4th of July!  I saw this one from Moon Joggers first, and frankly, of all of them, this one had the coolest medal.

I really wanted to get out Wednesday and run.  We had amazing conditions in Da Lou.  At lunch, it was about 63°, but the rain was pretty intense.  I enjoy running in the rain, but this was a real storm, and I figured that it’d be best if I didn’t tempt fate by running amongst the trees with a storm overhead.

So, yesterday ended up being my running lunch day.

It was still pretty dang nice, with clouds and about 67° outside.  I took a new route that kept me off the big roads, which meant laps on Wren Trail.  I’m not usually a fan of laps, but the laps actually went by quickly, and made for a pretty safe feeling run with no cars to deal with.

And really, the time on the trail was great.  It was a pretty easy go, and I think I’ve now found a new neighborhood course for some variety.

With that, race #42 is in the books, and another medal is on the tree!

(This race benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project.)

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Race #41 – Freedom Four Miler

Yesterday, I ran my third Freedom Four Miler.  And once again, I found myself in Forest Park, chugging through a hot course replete with hills.

Fog in Forest Park
Fog in Forest Park

The morning started cool — about 65°, way cool for July — with a foggy sunrise.  I got to the park early, knowing that parking was gonna be at a premium, and that it was a long walk from the parking to the start/finish line.

It's full of stars!!
It’s full of stars!!

Pre-race is always weird for me.  There’s usually some activities going on — usually beginning about thirty minutes before racetime — but there’s normally not much to do other than hang out.  I talked with other racers, stretched, and watched for good photo ops.

Schnuck's Shopping Cart
Schnuck’s Shopping Cart

This race always features a little bit of military hardware — this year, a Humvee — but the coolest hardware was a crazy, giant, motorized shopping cart.  I’ve seen this at the Bristol Speedway for some NASCAR races, but this is the first time I’ve been this close to one.  It’s a pretty cool rig, with plenty of noise, and a cool “gee whiz” factor.

Shortly after it pulled up, we all lined up for the start — about a thousand of us.  With the performance of the Star Spangled Banner, and a quick toot of an air horn, we were off.

The first third of a mile was a pretty quick flat, and slight downward hill, only to be followed by upward and downward portions of the course.  I’m just not a hill guy!  I broke into a quick walk, and watched as many folks passed me by.  That’s something I’m kinda used to, being a back-of-the-pack guy!

Somewhere late in the first mile, I was joined by a another runner, Kate.  This was her second race, and we stayed together, chatting through the remaining miles.  Frankly, the miles just seemed to melt away, and in no time, we were crossing the finish line.

Close to the finish!
Close to the finish!

This is the first race in a well over a year that I’ve run with a partner — even one “discovered” on the course.  I’d forgotten just how much a difference that can make.  Chatting about life, the universe and everything really takes your mind off the footfalls and the miles, and makes the race so much easier to complete.  Thanks Kate!

I was thrilled to cross the line, put another race in the books, and make a new friend along the way.  All in all, a really great Fourth of July!

(This race benefitted the USO of Missouri.  As a former military member, this is an outfit that I can’t help but support, and appreciate.)

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Race #40 – The Great Cornholio Race 5K

Yeah, I know the medal has 2014 on it, instead of 2015.  There’s a story behind that.  (Isn’t there always?!)

I’d been signing up for a few races through the Virtual Nerd folks.  They sponsor races that fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and with my connection to that disease, I couldn’t resist hooking up with them.  Of course, the races were cool … Star Wars themed, Back to the Future themed.  (Both yet to come for me!)

A week or so ago, I got a note from them that some of the race medals from last year were still hanging around, they were selling them cheap.  I was a Beavis and Butthead fan a long, long time ago, and the Cornholio medal tripped my trigger.  It helped that the guys’ shirts have “Cancer Sucks” across them.  My sentiment exactly.

Once I ordered, I made mention to the Virtual Nerd folks on Facebook that I’d ordered this up.  I told them that I’d survived colon cancer, and that mom was fighting CML — and that both of us agreed that cancer sucked.  :-)  They were impressed by mom’s fight, and said she must be a very tough lady.  Who am I to argue with a stranger on the internet!

2015-07-01-0001Fast forward a few days, and the envelope came with the medal.  Scribbled on the outside was “Best of luck to your mom! (one 4 her too)”.  I opened the padded mailer, and there were two medals in there, one for me and one for mom.

And once again, I was reminded just how wonderful the running community is.  I’m so touched by the kindness of someone to just do a simple, kind thing for another runner.  All I can say to Joe and Amanda (who operate Virtual Nerd Runs) is thank you from the bottom of my heart.  The medal will be in the mail to mom this week.

Oh, and the miles today were hot, but pretty easy on a flat course.  There — race report done.  :-)

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can·a·peel (noun) ˈkan-ə-pēl – A meal with a lot of variety, where each participant finds and cooks their own food.