A Slow 2017

I had one big running goal this year, and that was to qualify for the Half Fanatics.  While I didn’t do it the way I’d planned, I did check that off the year in February, and I turned my head to getting some other races in this year.

And then I didn’t.

I injured my hip in Olathe, canned my trip to Indy, and now, with Route 66 looming next weekend, I already know I’m not going to make it to Tulsa.  The allure of a Half Fanatics-themed race medal is why I chased HF so hard, and yet here I sit in the Da Lou.

So what happened?

Well, the injury during the Garmin Half really took the steam out of me, and collapsed any confidence I had about the half distance, and that torpedoed any running at all.  I’d put a lot of pressure on myself in 2015 and 2016, completing a fair number of “in person” races, but also signing up for any and all virtual races that were even remotely attractive to me.  It was that, I believe, that kiboshed my running this year.

You see, the pressure of having those medals in hand, and racing needed to “claim” them, put me in a bad spot mentally for running.  Every run was a chore, because there was a requirement to go a certain distance so I could claim each little piece of bling sitting in my office, crying out to be hung up.  I had to make the distance, and had to get “this many” done, because more were on the way in the mail.

That self-induced pressure simply shut me down, and I turned my running shoes into everyday shoes.

So I took most of 2017 off, spending my time off-roading and enjoying my recovery.  I kept watching running groups on Facebook, though, and lived vicariously through others’ successes.  And the more I watched, the more I realized I missed running.  I missed the crowds of runners, cheering each other on,  I missed the back of the pack, despite the solitary nature of running back there.  I missed the camaraderie.

So this weekend, I started plotting my comeback for 2018.

I haven’t yet signed up for anything, but I’m trying to focus on some longer races — half marathons — along with some 5k races here and there.  And I intend to travel a bit for some of these races, trying to recapture some of the fun I had with the destination races I ran in 2015 and 2016.

Short story — watch this space.  I’m planning to be back on the road this year.

Domain Hijinks

It’s been a little quiet ’round here, so how about some spammer fun.

Yesterday, I got a note from “Grace Anderson,” using some mysterious, weird looking Gmail account, offering to sell me a mis-spelled version of one of my domains.  To heighten the urgency, Grace let me know that they’re taking offers from any interested parties.  Well, that’s pretty much all it took.  Enjoy.

Hi there!

I’ll offer you a chicken.  That’s twice the offer I gave the person last week that offered this domain to me for sale... or maybe a similar one... so much spam, so little time.  I only offered them a Cornish hen, which as we all know, is significantly smaller, and will realistically only feed one or two people.  A chicken, on the other hand, will feed a whole family one meal, plus leftovers for making soup the next day.  And if you’re really good, you can make bone broth from the carcass after making soup.

You would need to supply the vegetables, however.  To qualify for vegetables, you’d need to offer something bigger.

Skywriting would probably get you some vegetables, but it’d have to be really, really good skywriting.  Block letters, in a nice serif font that could be seen for days, including a little glow-in-the-dark material that would keep everything nice and purty across a few days.  I mean, why have skywriting if it’s gonna just disappear, right?

Your pal,
Colin

A Tale of Two Drobos

(Yeah, I know it’s been a while.  I’ve been taking a break from running to let my body heal from the goofy stuff I attempted this spring, and allow the crazy heat of summer finally break.  While we all wait, I return you to some of my escapades into technology-ville…)

I can’t remember when I first heard about Drobo, but it was undoubtedly on some photography blog or podcast loads of years ago.  At that time, I was really scarfing for some way to manage my the growth of my already-large photo/scan/video catalog.  Drobo popped up in that quest, and while it was an interesting concept — RAID with any size or kind of drive that was laying around — I was nervous about their proprietary system, and didn’t pursue it.

Years of cobbling together oddball solutions, largely based on consumer offerings like Western Digital’s My Book Duo two-disk arrays… lots of them.  My thinking was that, despite the complexity of managing those discrete units and synchronizations among them, I was ahead of the game, because I could drop those almost anywhere, and they’d just work.

Late last year, Drobo ran a great deal on their 5Dt array, including an mSATA cache pre-installed, and three years of support, for a smoking hot price.  I couldn’t resist that, so I brought it in house, and filled it with Western Digital 6TB drives.  It worked so well for my day-to-day work, I put a Drobo 5C next to it, and used full array-to-array synchonizations to keep my stuff safe.

Fast forward to June, and Uncle Tim’s announcement of the new 5K iMac with Thunderbolt 3.  TB3 to me reads as “faster, faster, faster data”, and I snapped up a BTO model, and promptly dropped 64GB of RAM in it from Other World Computing.

And then it was Drobo’s turn.

Drobo announced a Thunderbolt 3 model of their array — dubbed the 5D3 — which would take advantage of my shiny new Mac’s TB3 ports.  Color me a happy camper.  I got one ordered a couple of days after ordering opened up, and I feverishly watched it’s march across the country until it got here.

My master plan was to sell my Drobo 5Dt, and daisy chain my 5C off the back of the new 5D3.  I reached out to Drobo on Facebook, and they quickly let me know that that configuration should work just fine.  That would simplify my cabling back to the iMac, and give me some nice ways to land the Drobo’s on my desk.

The 5D3 got here, and after a SUPER-SIMPLE migration of the drives from the 5Dt to the 5D3, I was up and running.

And noisy.

I reached back out to Drobo on Facebook to ask about the noisy fan in the 5D3.  They quickly reached out, let me know it shouldn’t be doing that, and wanted to give me a call.  Like I told Valorie from Drobo, them calling me was like getting a call from the mothership!  🙂

Valorie and I worked through some scenarios, and the only way the 5D3’s fans weren’t running full speed after five minutes of being active was to connect it via USB3.  That was a great discovery, as it kept me working, while Valorie arranged to have a new 5D3 shipped to me — overnight, no less!

It arrived today, and I moved my drives from the first 5D3 to the second.  Everything went smoothly, and after thirty minutes of speedy TB3 connectivity, I decided to attempt daisy chaining my 5Dt to the second TB3 port on the 5D3.  I’d gotten an Apple TB3-to-TB2 adapter, so I was set.

(And yeah, I decided to keep the 5Dt in the mix as the backup drive, rather than using the 5C.  If it had to become the primary, it’d be faster than the 5C, and it has a long period of DroboCare on it… why not use it?)

With the 5Dt connected, I fired everything up, and things stayed quiet for about thirty minutes.  I kicked of a 250GB copy between the arrays, just to give the new 5D3 a shot at getting hot.  It didn’t, and it’s sitting here, next to my iMac, purring right along.

Drobo couldn’t have made me happier with their support services.  I merely mentioned the noisy fan, and they committed themselves to understanding what was going on with my device, and making sure I stayed up and functional while my replacement unit shipped.  This was customer service executed in an amazing fashion.

So here I sit, Drobo’s silently humming along, cranking through video files, photos and music, and am enjoying my newfound speedy TB3 Drobo!!!

Kayaks and Infographics

Another week, and more spam… one in the can (presented here), and another to come over the weekend.  Today’s tale begins with a simple request to use your humble author’s humble blog as a springboard for advancing someone else’s agenda, and implying that they would gain permission to post it on my site.  Really?

Here’s the opening salvo…

I move at the speed of a snail, so I got a second request, just a couple of days later…

Well, with that kinda pressure, I felt compelled to respond… and watch for a reappearance of the fighting nanobots!

Out of curiosity, why again do you think this would be appropriate for my site?  I don’t remember having mentioning camping, but I’m such a mess — in over fifteen years of writing my blog, I coulda said anything!  To paraphrase my buddy Robby, “Questions!  Questions!”

Looking at the website your email was sent from, it redirects to something called Kayak Critic run by a dude named Alex.  I’m guessing there’s not really a website called thegreatoutdoorsfix.com …  and that’s probably because Alex stole it!  I looked at the Whois info for the fixable great outdoors domain, and it appears to be hiding in Panama somewhere, while Alex’s domain is in quiet, steamy Arizona.  It’s a long, long way from Panama to Arizona, but I’d bet someone whose charter seems to be to fix the great outdoors could muster up the power of eagles to travel to Arizona to pop Alex right on the snoot!!

What do you know about camping with nanobots?  I’ve got a whole league of them — The League of Fighting Nanobots! — and sometimes, they seem a little off their game.  There’s a lot of pressure in the teeny weenie octagon, and I wonder if their constant training schedule — and all that battery charging! — causes them to get cross.  I’ve lost a ton of Q-Tips breaking up itty bitty nanofights lately, and the cost is those is getting to be a drag!  Any thoughts on how to survive a camping excursion with the itty bitties?  And, where would be best to go with them?  They produce an incredible amount of pollution given their size, and it’s not uncommon for me to have to post signage concerning their noxious output.  Ever seen the camp fire bean sequence from “Blazing Saddles”?  Well, if so, you get the idea.

(If not, you should watch it… Mel Brooks is a genius!)

I wish you well on your impending quest for Alex!

Your pal,
Colin

Some Days, The Bull Gets You

That was part of one of the many sayings I can remember my father repeating when I was young:  Some days, you get the bull.  Some days, the bull gets you.

This weekend the bull got me.

I left for Olathe on Friday, feeling good, and expecting nothing but a good result at the Garmin Half Marathon.  And while I knew I wasn’t gonna set any land-speed records, I just ran two half in February, and got through them.  The weather was shaping up to my in my sweet spot — cool, and possibly some rain.

What could go wrong?

As I often do, I put a little gastrotourism on the docket for my travels, and Friday’s event was Taco John’s in Odessa.  I remember Taco John’s from my time in Nebraska, and when someone at work reminded me that there was one along my path, I knew I needed to stop.

I ordered a simple meal — a couple of tacos and refried beans — and once I had my tray at the table, I dug in.  I’d forgotten that TJ’s meat was a little more like a chili, with a mushy consistency.  It was really tasty, but the first TJ’s I’d had in at least twenty years reminded me why I prefer Taco Bell in the “fast food gut bomb taco” category.

While I sat and ate, “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry came over the speakers, and as it always does, I was taken back to when I was first diagnosed with cancer.  That song was big at the time, and it was so very meaningful to me.  At the time, we didn’t know the details of what I had, and what the future would hold.  Y’all already know that story, and how it ended, but this was an unusually poignant moment in what was supposed to be a big, positive weekend.

I eventually got checked into the hotel, picked up my packet from the expo, and played the part of a hermit in my room, relaxing, and getting things ready for Saturday.

Early in the morning, the alarm went off, and I began to get ready for the race.  Looking at the weather, we were gonna miss the rain, and temps were up just a bit to the high 40s, making this a “shorts” day, instead of running pants.  This was shaping up to be a nice morning.

Walking from the hotel to the start/finish line, I chatted with a bunch of folks, and discovered that the race start was delayed by at least fifteen minutes.  Apparently, there were a lot of folks still trying to get to the site, and the race committee wanted to let them get in for the race start.

After some nervous waiting, we grouped up, sang the Star Spangled Banner, and with a cannon’s blast, we were off!

I felt really good.  The opening of the race was slightly downhill, and I was keeping a nice pace as I started out from near the back of the pack.  I was trying to keep on a Galloway-like interval, and for the first mile or so, that went reasonably well.  The rolling hills began to get the better of me, and I slowed down, but to consistent, comfortable pace, and expected to be there for the rest of the race.

When I run, I play with the math of my run in my head.  Since I’m usually near the back, there’s not too many people with which to chat, so math is my running buddy.  At the first water stop (a little over two miles in), I took a look at my watch, and saw that my kilometer splits were off by quite a bit.

I didn’t panic, but I knew that this was shaping up to be another long day — like those in February’s halfs.  I trudged on, finding another another water stop around five miles in, and by now, I began to realize I was in trouble.  My splits were slowing, and I was feeling some wear and tear.

The aid station at mile five was at the top of a small hill.  After a quick break, and a chat with my police escort, I started down the hill, and I could feel something painful in my right knee.  I’ve been nursemaiding my left knee for months, but this was new.  I tried to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but it was now painfully obvious that this day was not going my way.

My first 5km was pretty average for me; by the time I got to the six mile point, that second 5k was shaping up to be nearly half-again  longer than the first.  I’d gone just shy of 10km, and was already thirty minutes slower than my worst 10k.

I cried uncle.

I’d been trying to actively compensate for my right knee since that stop at mile five, which was causing pain in my left knee and hips.  Given the way my times dropped off so badly after 5km, I was likely already developing a problem then.  I don’t know if I could’ve finished, but had I tried that, I’m highly convinced I would’ve injured myself even more, and it just wasn’t worth the risk.

I took a ride in a volunteer vehicle back to the hotel.  As it ends up, that was just what I needed.  I was really beaten, and the couple inside and I had a lot in common:  hams, berners and hockey.  It was a nice “keep my mind off it” ride…

Until I handed my bib over to the folks in my rescue ride, sealing my DNF.  That was tough.

I went straight to my room, thought over what had just happened, and showered, trying to put it all behind me.  As part of this trip, and another leg of my gastrotourism, I’d planned to go to Runza.  I wasn’t gonna let this struggle on-course take that away from me!

Runza is based in Nebraska, and the nearest ones are just across the border in western Kansas.  Whenever I’m out that direction, I try to stop in, and get one.  I had a cheese Runza, and an order of onion rings.  I was in heaven.  I probably could’ve eaten two, but that would’ve been pushing it, and I didn’t want to add gastronomical distress to my list of maladies on the day.

Back at the hotel, I dozed off and on, watching some TV, and finally went to bed, knowing I’d have an early start today.  After an early rise, I zipped across the state — it’s about four hours from Olathe to Da Lou — and am home, and happy to be here.

So were there lessons from the weekend?

Firstly, a big tip of the hat to the folks at Fleet Feet.  If you remember my halfs in February, I blistered on the bottom of my left foot quite badly.  I talked with them, and they suggested RunGuard, which is basically a beeswax-feeling substance that you smear all over the bottom of your feet.  I was skeptical, but it really worked.  I had no blistering at all, which is a huge improvement!

I also learned that it’s ok to listen to your body, and stop when it makes sense.  A medal is simply not worth doing longer term damage.

I also thought long and hard about the longer distance work I’ve been trying lately.  While I had two extraordinary days in February, it’s become pretty obvious that I’m not really quite ready to tackle 20+km with any expectation of success.  Not yet, anyway.  On any given day, I might make it, or I might not, and I’m not a fan of that.  Typically, when I run, I’m racing against me, not against finishing.

And frankly, that’s taking the fun out of it for me.  I’ve been so focused on finishing these long races, I’ve forgotten what made this sport so much fun.  It’s time to return to my roots, and focus on 5k and 10k distances for a while.  I’m hopeful this will help me work out my mechanics, perhaps get a little faster, and begin to enjoy this great sport again.

It’s also been suggested that I should take my bike out.  I think this is great advice, and something different for cross-training.  The bridge crossing from the Chesterfield Valley to the Katy Trail has been open for over a year, and I haven’t yet taken my Kona across it.  With the warmer weather being here, it’s time to return to the Katy, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to ride there from the Valley.

Needless to say, this will put some big ol’ dents in my running plans for this year.  I have three half marathons (one in two weeks) and a triathlon scheduled for this year.  At this point, I’d put all that in the “maybe” category.

Normally, I’d guess someone could get pretty down about that change.  These were big race events, after all!  I prefer to look at it this way.  I did some monster things in 2016 and early 2017, and I will again, but it’s time to put the fun back in my running, focus on getting healthy, and work my way back to those kinds of races, with knowledge that I will finish those races when I’m ready to tackle them again, and not have the question of “finishing” in my head.

 

 

#169 – Undy Run/Walk 5K

168 races ago, I ran my first race, the 2012 Undy 5000 here in St. Louis.  I had finished two surgeries less than 90 days earlier, curing me of colon cancer.  I’ve been running ever since…

After a few weeks of furious fundraising, yesterday morning was when the rubber was to hit the road.  It was really cloudy, and felt like it was going to rain all morning.  The rain held off, which was a shame.  I love running in the rain!

I started off the morning with coffee and an old fashioned from the Donut Palace of Ellisville.  They were hosting a fundraiser for Backstoppers, and had uniformed officers serving doughnuts to the public.  It was a fun time, and I was happy to donate to the cause.

Doughnut in tummy, and coffee in hand, I headed down the road to Forest Park.  If you’ve read a few of these blog entries over the years, you know I have a love-hate relationship with running in the park.  It’s not awful, depending the course the race directors select, but even the easiest course has plenty of up-and-down rolling hills.

Fashionista!
Fashionista!

I picked up my race bib, survivor shirt and undies, and got myself all dolled up in my colon cancer clothing.  This is the first time I’ve worn all the freebies, but it felt right this morning, and frankly, it all fit, which is a plus.

As opening ceremonies began, Darla texted me to let me know she was on the grounds.  This was a surprise, as I wasn’t expecting her to come by.  We listened as Roche Madden — a CRC survivor himself — talked about the race and fundraising.  As a group, we raised about $150k, and continued to be one of the largest Undy events, at about 1500 registered racers. Way cool.

I'm a Survivor!
I’m a Survivor!

I meandered toward the start line, playing “rebel without a clue” by putting myself closer to the front of the pack than the back.  As it ends up, that was a great move, and let me pass some folks, and not get passed by quite so many.  Running is a mental game, right?

About a third of the way through, some stranger tapped me on the shoulder as he was passing me, and told me I was doing great.  I assume the “Survivor” emblazoned on the back of my shirt made him take the couple of seconds to say hello.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it… I love the running community.

Darla made some new friends, and as I got close to the finish line, I could hear them all cheering for me.  Man, that is such a rush!

I finished the race in what was a pretty good time for me.  This race is more an event than a race, and while there are some folks that are in it to win it, there’s a lot of folks that are just walking, talking and memorializing folks that have been stricken by colon cancer.  This usually makes my results look far more impressive than they actually are!

We stuck around for the awards ceremony, and listened to one survivor tell his tale.  Seventy-six of us were brought forward, and received survivor’s medals for running the race.  I’m always full of emotion at that part of the day, but it’s so cool to see so many folks who have fought the fight, and won.

Next year will be my seventh Undy, and I’m sure I’ll be there for it.  I hope to have some folks come along for the ride next year!!!!

This race benefitted the Colon Cancer Alliance.  Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Race Course

#168 – Yellowstone NP 145th Anniversary 5K

Last night, I took off on my first neighborhood adventure since returning from Gasparilla.  And that wasn’t by choice.  Over two weeks of being sidelined by the flu really took its toll.  I knew I needed to get out last night — it was a rare 86° degree night! — but, I also knew I needed to take it easy, given what my body had been through since the beginning of the month.

After work, I pulled my running shoes on, and set out on one of my 5k courses.  I was surprised at how easy it came — must be like riding a bike, eh? — and although it was definitely hotter than my comfort zone outside, I chugged along.

On this course, I have an option to take on a big hill on Clayton Road, or to turn around at the top of the hill, and fill in the missing distance by taking a detour on Wren Trail.  I was feeling kinda froggy, so I decided on the hill.

I’m glad I did.

It’s so very easy to take the less challenging path.  I mean, who’s gonna know?  At the end of course, it’s still 5k, right?  But yesterday, I had something to prove.  I got kicked by this illness — hard! — and I needed to show myself that while I was down for a while, I wasn’t out, and I could once again take on these kinds of challenges.

I got to my turnaround point at the bottom of the hill, looked up the hill once, staring it down, and began putting one foot in front of the other.  The next time I looked up from the sidewalk, I was almost finished climbing… and that was an awesome feeling!

And with the hill behind me, the rest of the course was relatively flat and easy.  I finished up, with a slow finishing time — but speed wasn’t the point of last night.  Last night was about finishing something I started, and continuing to fight for every mile I can!

This event benefitted the National Park Foundation

Race Course

Running with Spam!

I love to find fun spam in my inbox.  I’m also the same guy that likes playing with the robocallers.  Yeah… I’ve got an illness!  🙂

Today, I got an incredibly personal email from Jen Miller, that I felt compelled to respond to.  Here’s what I got:

And since I love stuff like this, I had to respond!

Hi Jen!

Thanks for the nice email!

I’m glad my blog showed up on your radar as you searched the world over for information on running.  Of course, the great post you noted is actually a site tag fronting well over a hundred posts!  I think your automaton that generates (Jen-erates?) emails like this may have gotten confused as it tried to speedily dive into the trials and tribulations of a real person, writing about their real running journey.  Of course one post in a hundred is actually created by flying monkeys typing randomly — can you spot that post?

And your automaton saw my single link to The Oatmeal website from eighteen months ago — neat!  I’m not entirely sure why mentioning that site would put me in the hunt for your detailed, 7,000 word guide on health benefits of running, but it’s cool that automation has forever married The Oatmeal and your article… it’s like a match made in silicon!

Looking at your site, I see very little about you and your family.  To borrow a phrase I’ve seen on Twitter a lot recently, “sad.”  I love to see the folks that are recommending things for me, understanding their motivations, and learning what their automatons eat!  It’s things like this that make this kind of exchange much more human, and less bits and nybbles (sorry automatons!).

I dug into your site, and noticed that your “Only the Best Reviews” page on the Blog tab shows a buncha pretty cool stuff.  I mean, when our automaton overloads take over, that article about “How to Drive a Car” will be crazy important to them!  They’ve likely never avoided deer in the highway, stopped to collect beer from an overturned beer tanker, or pushed a car off a cliff to collect the insurance money.  These are hugely important topics, and I’m sure you’ve got them covered!

I also noticed that every article I saw — and I didn’t look at ‘em all! — had just about 20,000 views.  That’s a clue, isn’t it?  That’s how many automatons are reading your site, instructing the other automatons on how precisely to take over!  Oh, it’ll be a sad, sad day in the world of human affairs once they take over.  But that likely will stop all the robocalls.  I mean, why would robocallers need to pester automatons, right?

Well, Jen, I hope you’re having a great day from what I can only assume is an underground bunker somewhere.  Hopefully it’s sunny there, and you’re keeping the little automated beasties at bay!!!

Best of luck!  (And “boop beep boop” to the automatons!)

Your pal,
Colin

P.S.  Do you know anything about indoor nano-octogons?  That might make for a neat article for your website!  Finding the best nano-octagon out there for little nanobots to duke it out is a real pain!  With the advent of 3D printing, that’s gotten easier, but it’s still a struggle.  The little nanobots get all excited, and sometimes leak oil on the floor as part of their excitement!  That makes it slippery for the other nanobots, and that’s a challenge.  Thanks in advance!

P.P.S.  Do automatons dream of electric sheep?

We’ll see what comes from this!  🙂

#167 – Gasparilla Half Marathon

Last February, something possessed me to drive to Tampa for a long weekend, and run the Gasparilla Distance Classic, taking on the Lime Challenge (15k on Saturday, and 8k on Sunday).  I have no idea why I did that, but I had a tough weekend, with big blisters coming up during the 15k, causing me to hobble my way through the 8k.

Despite the painful feet, I had so much fun that I signed up again for the 2017 Lime Challenge as soon as registration opened.  I’ve had this on my calendar for months.

And then I ran the Mississippi River Half Marathon, and a lightbulb went off… if I could change my registration for Gasparilla to the half, I could qualify for the Half Fanatics by completing two half marathons in sixteen days.

Most years I’ve run, I’ve set some kind of goal.  In 2014, it was to run a race a month.  2015 saw me run my first half marathon, and in 2016, I competed in my first triathlon.  This year, I wanted to become part of the Half Fanatics.  To do that, I needed to complete either three half marathons in ninety days, or two in sixteen days.  Converting my Gasparilla registration would hit that target.

After a week of frantic communication right before the registration cutoff, I finally got the nod for the modified registration, and I was set!

The Road to Tampa

I set out from Da Lou bright and early on Thursday, planning to get to Dothan AL before the day was done.  That’d leave a shortish drive on Friday, and give me plenty of time to get settled in once I got to Tampa.

I decided to take a different route this year, avoiding Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, and traveling kinda diagonal across west Tennessee and northern Mississippi, before hanging a big right, going south through Alabama.

I passed through farm lands, and crossed the very river I’d run across just two weeks ago.  The clouds and fog hung in all morning, keeping the temperatures cooler, which was fine by me.

Along the Rockabilly Highway, I stopped for some gas in Henderson TN.  I got out of the rental car, and noticed a note on the pump, indicating that the card reader wasn’t working.  I walked inside, and waited for the clerk to show up.  Once she did, I asked what she needed in order to turn on the pump.  That’s when it got weird.

She asked if I was filling up, and of course, I said “yes”.  Then she asked me how much I thought it would take to fill it up.  Eh?  I had no idea.  It’s a rental car!  She told me that it was only that pump that had a problem, so I figured I’d just move to another one.  And then the wisdom came.  She began to tell me how much safer it was to pay inside the store, because there were so many folks out there putting skimmers on the pumps.

I thanked her, told her I’d move to another pump, and then went about filling up.  If my card gets nabbed, I have a pretty good idea where it might’ve happened!  🙂

The rest of the drive to Dothan was pretty uneventful, making for a long, twelve-hour day, full of Sirius XM glory, and my torturing the animals I passed by with my singing.

I saw signs for lodging as I was pulling into Dothan, and picked the Best Western from the lot.  Basically, I just needed somewhere to lay my head for the night.  I got checked in, and frankly, it was an old, tired motel, with a bed that was a little uncomfortable, doors that didn’t shut well, but an air conditioner that rocked.

Upon getting checked into my hotel for the night, it was time to find some dinner.  I’d read about a place in Dothan called Rock N Roll Sushi, and wanted to give it a try.  They had some very unusual rolls on their menu, and I knew that’s what I needed for dinner.  I hit their website, and put my iPhone in control, guiding me to some grub.

Except that the address on their website was wrong.

I ended up in a really grungy part of town — I knew that because one house had “No Trespassing” spray painted across a front door and jamb — and couldn’t find the restaurant.  I called, and they told me I was all the way across town from them.  After some directions, I headed back across town, and finally found it.

And while the restaurant wasn’t amazing to look at, the food was stunning!  I had smoked salmon nigiri and tobbiko nigiri, along with a couple of rolls.  Knowing that I needed lobster to survive, I started with the ZZ Top roll, which had tempura lobster inside, crabmeat atop, along with crunchy crab, spicy mayo and eel sauce.  It was huge, and was, by far, the best thing I ordered.  I also had the Velcro Pygmies Roll.  This smaller roll had spicy tuna, avocado, crunch flakes and topped with Pop Rocks… yes, real candy Pop Rocks atop!  The sweet from the Pop Rocks countered the wasabi and soy really well, and the slight popping in my mouth was just plain fun.  The food was awesome, and was definitely different from any sushi place I’d ever visited.

By driving as far as Dothan on Thursday, I set myself up for a relatively short drive into Tampa on Friday.  I grabbed a little OJ and a pastry before heading out, and hit the road at sunrise.  Along the way, I found a Lowe’s that was open, and ran in for some duct tape (more on that later!) before heading south to Florida.

Highway 231 out of Dothan is apparently a big run down toward Panama City.  And with it being a pathway to Florida, there was a rest area just beyond the Florida state line.  The welcome centers in Florida are renown for serving up fresh OJ as a little treat for entering the state.  Unfortunately, since this one was a little off the beaten path, it would be closed for another hour, and I missed my chance for a little slurp of nectar from the Sunshine State.

By now, I was starting to think about my endgame for Tampa — where to stop for lunch, and when to stop for fuel so I wouldn’t have to worry about that first off on Monday as I began my return to the Midwest.  I finally landed in Gainesville, mostly driven by an advertisement for Krystal’s.  If you’ve read my race reports before, you know that I’ll go out of my way to go to Krystal or Runza.  I stopped in, and sat down for a quick lunch, before heading across the street for some gas.  After filling up, I picked up some Gatorade (I’d also forgotten that at home, still chilling in the fridge), and resumed my southerly charge.

Along the way, I’d noticed some differences in how the Apple Maps app and my Garmin were leading me.  Most of it was semantics.  The Garmin was intent on ensuring I didn’t accidentally take an exit I shouldn’t, while my iPhone showed me what I would eventually be doing as my next maneuver.  The thing that made the Garmin stand out, however, was that it showed me which lane I needed to be in for my entrance into Tampa.  I kept ’em both on as I hit the city, and felt like I had consensus on everything I was doing.  🙂

This year, I stayed in the Hilton Downtown, which is on the other side of the Convention Center from where I stayed last year.  I didn’t have to fight any of the crazy traffic at the Convention Center, and pulled right up to the Hilton.  I dropped off the car with the valet, and headed in to check in.  I knew I was early (about 2pm), and hoped for best.  If you remember, last year, there were many of us who waited several hours for our rooms to be available, with me finally getting mine at 4pm after a lot of squawking.  The Hilton, however, had a room immediately available, and after thanking me profusely for our repeated business, I was heading upstairs to my room.

And it was a nice room.  Big, comfy king bed, a couch, a real desk, and all the power outlets you could possible want.  That’ll do, pig.  That’ll do.

I walked down to pick up my packet at the Convention Center.  I got turned around a little (of course!), and it turned into a little longer walk than I’d expected, and by the time I’d trodden into the Center from the 90° heat, I was sweaty and stinky.  Like last year, the organizers had done a great job to ensure there weren’t long lines to pick up your bib and shirt.  I was a little fearful that there could be some drama around my bib and shirt, since I was a late conversion to the half.  But my bib was there (without my name printed on it — not a surprise, given the timing), and awaiting me was a “good ol’ boy” sized race shirt for the half.  Woot!

I wandered around the expo, looking for anything cool and interesting, and frankly, I didn’t really see anything much that I hadn’t seen before.  Of course, there were a lot of races being promoted from this region, along with local organizations and companies, none of which were things that would be helpful for me.

And then I ran across the folks from Krave Jerky.  I’ve really started enjoying having jerky in the car for these road trips, and on a lark, I tried some Jack Link’s Tender Bites for the Mississippi River half two weeks ago.  It was awesome on the course, sat well with me, and I really felt like I got a boost out of it.  I get pretty bored with the sweet treats like Sports Beans, and other chewy sweet things.  They’re nice, but I just can’t make a race of them.  The guys from Krave seem to have figured that out too, and had samples there to try.  I really liked the flavors and tenderness, and think I’ll need to get some in the house for future runs (never try anything new on race day!).

As I was leaving the Expo, there was a creepy little guy hauling a backpack half his size, asking folks if they had bibs that weren’t gonna be used.  I’ve never encountered that before.  For every race I’ve ever seen, having someone else run with your bib would get you blacklisted from running in that race again.  And I can’t imagine what this guy’s deal was.  Maybe he was too late to get registered.  Maybe there’s a market for those just before race day (like scalped tickets for a concert).  Regardless, it was slimy, and I just walked on by.

I walked back to the hotel, and called it night, staying in, watching TV, and just relaxing, knowing that in about 36 hours, I’d be taking on  my next real test, and hopefully sealing the deal for my joining Half Fanatics.

Saturday

With the change in my race plans, Saturday was a down day for me, and a chance to just relax before my big run.

Last year, after the 15k, I met some friends –Shauna and Clyde — for a late lunch.  They relocated from STL to Tampa a few years ago, and Gasparilla is a great chance to catch up with them.  I’d made the same plan with them for Saturday on this trip, and once again, we went to the Columbia Restaurant.  This place is legendary, and has been around for over a century, sporting amazing Cuban-inspired food.

These guys make great sangria table side, so Shauna and I decided to  split a pitcher… neither of us was driving, and I needed hydration for Sunday’s race.  🙂  Continuing my lobster theme from October’s cruise, I ordered Croquetas de Langosta, which was absolutely amazing, and light enough not to weigh me down to the point where I couldn’t have desert.  And since I was in Florida, that meant key lime pie, and Cafe con Leche to top things off.  With all that goodness, and a couple of hours of great conversation, I was able to take my mind off the upcoming race, and simply relax.

The Race

The half marathon started at 6am, and I knew I had to walk about four blocks, and build-in time for finding the tail end of line.  I woke up ahead of the alarm after a fitful night of sleep, and started getting ready.  Socks and braces and compression sleeves and bib… I felt like a gladiator getting ready for competition.

And, truthfully, it’s probably not that far off!

6500 of My Best Friends
6500 of My Best Friends

I walked down to the start line, and found that it was already very crowded.  I think there were to be about 6500+ folks running the half, and every single one of them appeared to be milling around in front of me.  I found a couple of guys that were also turtles like me, and we chit-chatted for a bit, which helped keeper my nerves down.  Really quickly, the time came for the National Anthem.

Now, many races this size have someone actually perform the anthem, but in this case, it was a recording.  However, the sound folks couldn’t quite get the sound system switched from the “pump you up” music to the Anthem, so after a few attempts to announce the Anthem, the DJ gave up… and then suddenly, the last three or four lines of the Anthem came through.  Yeah, that was kinda messed up.  🙂

And then we were off!

The race course first wound through the neighborhoods on Davis Island.  Even at that early pre-dawn hour, there were folks on the sidewalks cheering us on.  I really love races where the neighborhoods are engaged and rooting the runners along!

And since the route on the island was a loop, I got to pass by a fire juggler twice.  That was crazy awesome, and worth watching for a little bit.  If I had any kind of skills, I’d be out there doing something like that for these long races.  Maybe I should learn to play my ukulele while I’m running.  🙂

Finishing the island course meant that almost five miles were behind me as the sun was starting to rise.  With the nice breeze from the bay, this was feeling like it was gonna be a great day.

The rest of the race was along Bayshore Boulevard — the same course as the 8k and 15k I ran last year.  This is a beautiful route, with the bay on one side, and wonderful deco-inspired homes on the other.  I really like the look and feel of this neighborhood… and the sea breeze off the bay!

The first several miles along Bayshore went along pretty well, but I could tell I was starting to weaken, feeling some soreness in my hips and feeling my crazy left-foot blister starting to rear it’s head.  I’d duct taped it, trying to keep friction to a minimum, but as I’d find out later at the hotel, my tape tore, and started floating around in my sock.

Another Slow High-Speed Chase!
Another Slow High-Speed Chase!

The turnaround was about 15km in, and by then, I knew I was in trouble.  I was walking slowly — but methodically! — up Bayshore, and that’s when the last of the pack finally passed me.  I was officially the back of the pack, and had a police escort for the next couple of miles.

Behind the half marathon, an 8k was slated to go, and the course organizers helped ensure I was out of their way as they kicked off.  The elite runners began passing me about ten or eleven miles in, with the competitive runners not far behind.

But here’s the cool thing.  Even with all these speedy folks passing me by, many of them patted me on the shoulder as they went by, encouraging me to continue on.  I’m sure they realized that I was out there as the last of the half marathoners, and was trudging forward by sheer force of will.  I’ll never forget all those kind words as I worked slowly toward the finish line.

With about a half kilometer to go, there were three ladies at the end of an entrance ramp cheering folks on.  They’d finished the half, and when they saw me, and recognized that I had a half marathon bib on, asked me if I’d like them to make me a mimosa.  I’d been on the course for over four hours by this time, and that sounded like the best idea I’d ever heard.  They reached into a cooler, began mixing, and I started drinking the best drink I think I’ve ever had.  We toasted my impending finish line appearance, and they congratulated me on my determination.  They were angels in disguise, and after a few minutes, I got my feet under me, said my goodbyes, and was on my way again.

Finished!
Finished!

Only a few minutes later, I crossed the finish line, and wandered toward the folks handing out medals.  Just like in Mississippi two weeks earlier, someone tried to hand me the wrong medal (an 8k medal, in this case), and I explained as best I could that I was the last of the half marathoners to finish.  They walked to the medal racks, grabbed a medal, and hung it around me.  I was thrilled.

Pirate!
Pirate!

I continued through the finishers’ chute, grabbing only a water.  I knew I was done, and needed to be heading back to the hotel to relax my poor feet.  I had my photo taken with a pirate lass, and at the apex of the footbridge, I leaned my head against the top of the handrail, saying some small thanks, and becoming very overwhelmed at what I’d just accomplished.

Not only had I completed my second marathon in two weeks, but I’d qualified for Half Fanatics.

In pain, limping from my blistered left foot and painful hips, I walked the few blocks back to the Hilton, reveling in this personal victory.  Back in my room, I fell across my bed, and slept for a couple of hours, finally showering, and finding some food.  I was done for the night, and just sat back, letting my body complain and recharge.

Back to the Midwest!

Just like a race day, the night before a long drive isn’t usually my best sleep.  I woke up before my alarm, got into my driving duds, and headed downstairs to checkout.  The Hilton had been good to me, but it was time to head home.

I checked out around 5am, and started my drive northward, knowing that I wouldn’t be home for two days.  Frankly, the drive on Monday was pretty uneventful.  I put about two-thirds of the miles to Da Lou behind me, and settled in to a hotel in Tupelo for the night.

The King and I
The King and I

And once again, it was a fitful sleep.  This time, however, my sleeplessness was not of my own making.  About 3am, the heavens opened up, and a small thunderstorm cell rocked and rolled across Tupelo, awakening me.  It wasn’t too long until my alarm was gonna go off, so I decided to pack up everything, and get checked out of the hotel, putting myself on the road for the last push for home.

I kept Darla apprised of where I was, and just kept pushing north.  I was counting down the minutes and miles, playing all the crazy distance/times games that I do when I run, inching ever-closer to being home.

Just before lunch, I pulled into the driveway, and saw a banner on the front porch:

I'm a Half Fanatic!
I’m a Half Fanatic!

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.  I’d never expected any kind of recognition like that for these silly little adventures of mine over the last five years.  To have someone recognize completion of this crazy goal was incredibly humbling.

Aftermath

I’ve recovered pretty quickly from this race, as compared to the Mississippi River Half two weeks ago.  I still have my blister, and I definitely have enhanced the likelihood that I’m gonna lose a toenail that began blackening from that first race.  My body has recovered nicely though, with very little residual pain, and that’s something I’m very thankful for.

I reached out to the Half Fanatics after I got home, and am officially a member now, #15914.  I couldn’t be happier about adopting that number!

There’s been a lot of congrats from folks at work and Facebook.  Many of them knew I was striving for this in 2017, and I’m of the opinion that it takes a community to run a half marathon.  Whether they’re close by family or friends, friends from the internet, passers-by in a race who cheered me on, or angels with a cooler on a street corner who can tell when a man needs a drink… they all have their place, and make up part of the story of me achieving a pretty dang significant goal, and proving, despite having had a third of my colon removed five years ago, that I’ve got a lot of guts.  🙂

This race benefits a boatload of charities.  In 2016, this race gave $360,902 to dozens of charities.   You can read more about those donations here.  

Race Course

Wisdom From the Race Course

It seems like I learn something from every race, and sometimes, I’m surprised at just how many things I bump into that are either new, or forgotten revelations.  Here’s few from this past weekend’s race.

Instrumental Music

Instrumental pieces, no matter how peppy, just don’t cut it.  I have a curated running playlist I’ve been working on for months, and made a lot of assumptions about what I’d like to hear on the run.  There were times I was so, so, so wrong.  It didn’t seem to matter how wonderful the track, they were skipped when they cropped up randomly during the race.  The only one that stuck was “Drum Dreams” by ELO.  It has a crazy drum beat, and it’s hard not to be driven by that.

Sing-A-Long Music

So why don’t peppy instrumentals cut it?  Because I wanna sing when I’m running!  Now, “sing” is relative.  Caterwauling is likely a better description, but only for those parts of the race where my inner voice can get past the huffing and puffing of my breathing.  When I topped the bridge, “I Melt With You” hit the top of playlist, and I’m absolutely convinced that I sounded like some maimed animal as I tried to sing and dance along, while trying to maintain forward momentum, keep appropriate hand-to-beat coordination, and avoid breaking an ankle in the expansion joints!

My Running Plans

Don’t ask about ’em until at least three days after the race.  During the race, I know I can recite what my next races are.  But secretly, I’m cutting deals with myself like a sinner on judgement day about which future races I’m not gonna run, because the current race is so tough!

Beef Jerky Rules!

I’m a jerky junky, but this race was the first time I carried something savory with me.  I’m all about the Sport Beans, but I decided to carry a little something different, and had a sack of Jack Link’s Tender Bites in my pocket.  I liked those because they were easy to deal with — they’re already in a resealable bag, they’re easy to chew, and I loved the flavor.  I think there’s some experimenting to come on this!

Gatorade

Normally, I’m a water-only guy.  MRM had water stops every mile, and since I was carrying water with me, I had small cups of Gatorade at every stop.  That worked out extraordinarily well!  When I did the Route 66 Half in Nov ’15, I noticed that Gatorade went down pretty well, so I think I’m gonna have to incorporate that into my race day regimen.  Outside the race, I tried Gatorade’s Frost Glacier Cherry, and liked it pretty well.  I suspect that’ll make an appearance on my long race days.

Old Guys Rest!

When I did my triathlon in May last year, one of the things I did during the swimming leg (my weakest component) was to flip over on my back, and just float, resting for a few minutes.  Apparently, that was also the exact method to get the race support folks as excitable as they could be, thinking that I had some sort of problem.  Running MRM on Saturday, I encountered the same phenomenon.  And no, I wasn’t lying on my back on the race course!  🙂  I was, however, sitting on culverts and leaning against walls, while trying to summon my inner “me” to get through the last couple of miles of the race.  Much like my tri, this is apparently the “cry for help” in a half marathon.  I fended off a BUNCHA folks, telling ’em I was fine, and just resting, which is exactly what I was doing.  It was sure nice to have strangers watching out for me though!

The “C” Word

When folks talk with me about running, the conversation invariably comes around to “what started your running journey?”  And the answer to that question always starts with my journey with colon cancer.  I never mind talking about what happened to me five years ago, and I’ll answer any question about it, no matter how much TMI your might ordinarily think was involved.  It’s hard to know if what I tell folks helps them be more comfortable with talking about cancer — especially colon cancer! — or changes their attitude about early detection, but I hope it does.  If you ask me about running, you’re liable to hear about my cancer journey … You’ve been warned!!!!  🙂

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