Tag Archives: race

#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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Race #51 – Quest for the Golden Pearl 5K

With exceptionally cool morning weather this week, I resolved last night to get up early today, and run.  It didn’t hurt that the Perseid meteor shower was also coming up on its peak (which is tonight).  So,  at 4:30am, I drug my tired self out of bed, threw on my running gear, and walked out on the deck, both to confirm the temperature was as predicted, as well as to see if there were any streakers in the sky.  The temp was great, but I saw nothing of the Perseids.  🙁

I scarfed a little breakfast (water and an English muffin with peanut butter and some wonderful honey from the pantry — this stuff was kinda green colored, and crazy sweet!), and trucked out to the site of my last awful run… the Wildwood Greenway.

This time, Mr. Sun wasn’t gonna harsh my buzz.

Last night, I set up my Garmin a little differently, albeit still for intervals.  In the ill-fated run on Monday, I set up intervals in the Training set of menus.  This was the way I was accustomed to doing intervals with my old Garmin, so I thought that was right.  When doing it like that, however, you can only specify a specific number of cycles of running and walking, and in the online app, splits are shown as a function of those cycles, rather than kilometers or miles.  Not great, but the price of entry.

Playing around with the menus, I saw that I could set up an alert for my running/walking intervals, and after a little testing from the couch last night, I knew I’d found the right settings — prompting for run-to-walk transitions (and vice-versa!), as well as preserving my kilometer splits.  Perfect!  With my intervals set to 30secs of running and 90secs of walking, I was ready.

So this morning at the Greenway, I exited the Jeep, stretched, and hit the magic button on the Garmin to start timing whatever was to come.  I knew that I’d use the first three cycles (six minutes) to warm up and wake up.  Those passed quickly, and I made a commitment…

I was gonna let my Garmin have its way with me, and make me its whiny bitch.  When it said “run”, I’d run.  When it said “walk”, I’d think about it.  🙂

And that’s what I did.  I powered up some hills that usually cause me big grief.  I ran down the backside of some hills, extending my running cycle into my walking cycle because it felt good.  In fact, I ran up some of the hills faster than I ran down them.

It didn’t hurt that the temperature was twenty-five degrees cooler than Monday night, or that I only had the sun on me during the second half of the course.  It also didn’t hurt that I found a commitment this morning that’s been lacking lately.  Yes, I’ve been finishing my races, but on the terms my weak gray matter has been dictating, not at the level of capability I know I have.  This morning, I gave up control of that to a little plastic widget on my wrist, and it forced me to run more consistently than I have in a long time.  In fact, today was sub-50min moving time (those stupid traffic signals pushed me to 50min overall), and that was tremendous, especially after Monday’s debacle.

I’ve never tried running before my workday began, but this just might be a good thing for me!  Now, to go off and reward myself with coffee and Cap’n Crunch…

This race benefitted Water.org, which pioneers innovative, sustainable solutions to the global water crisis, giving women hope, children health and communities a future.

Race Course

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.)

Race Course

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.)

Race Course

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.)

Race Course

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.  🙂

Race Course

Race #34 – Runner’s Day 5K

OK, so I really believe that an awful lot of virtual runs are designed to celebrate holidays and celebration days that don’t really exist.  Frankly, though, if you dangle a medal in front of me, I’m ok with both us pretending that there’s an Opossum Freedom Day, and I’ll run that 5K.  If you’d asked me about National Running Day prior to this year, I woulda put it in that category.

However, there’s a website.  And, an easy search through Uncle Google shows scads of events on/around the first Wednesday in June that celebrate this crazy obsessive sport I’ve fallen into.

And of course, the Moon Joggers folks (through their sister-site, Virtual Run Events) had a virtual race to celebrate the runner.  They had me at medal.  🙂

The mantra for this race became “I chose wisely.”

I planned to run this on Sunday (yesterday), not knowing that for the last weekend in May, Da Lou would be enjoying morning temperatures in the 50s, highs in the 60s and loads of cloud cover.  I stepped out, and couldn’t believe my luck with the weather.

Unfortunately, I had some bad luck with my Garmin.  For whatever reason, it had a tough time finding the birds to track my position, speed, etc.  I waited ten minutes, and finally gave up on it, and started my run.

My intent was to take this run pretty easy, and do a fair amount of walking.  I knew the Hospital Hill twins loomed ahead in just six days, and I didn’t want to burn through my fuel ahead of that monumental pair of races.  I wanted a good, successful day, and to further stack the deck, I took the course I found last weekend that was so wonderful.

I got on my horse, and moved along at a pretty good clip.  In fact, it seemed like I reached the halfway point really, really quickly.  With the Garmin only figuring out my position about 20 minutes in, I had no idea what kind of pace I was keeping, but it seemed fast.  Once the Garmin woke up, I saw that I was doing 10min/km, even through the slight hills.  This was way faster than I’d expected.

It seemed like no time, and I turned into the subdivision, running most of the last bit (including where Darla shot my photo, above).  I looked at my watch, and I saw that I was just a touch above fifty minutes.  I had knocked over SIX MINUTES off my time on that course from last weekend.  I was stunned.

So, I set myself up with a great mental “win” in preparation for next weekend.  All my gear — including my goofy body — worked as expected, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Next weekend is Hospital Hill in Kansas City, and I’m really hoping for results every bit as good as yesterday’s Runner’s Day 5K.  Last year, I did the 5K in 52:22, and my intention is to bust that time this year!

Race Course:


Race #30 – Live Long Memorial 5K (virtual)

Yep, I’m a Star Trek fan.  Have been as long as I can remember.

I used to audio record episodes when we’d visit my grandparents house in Florida so I could replay them over and over.  (There were a few episodes that I could almost recite from memory.)  And then, when WTVC began showing episodes late on Saturday nights, mom, dad, me and dad’s friend Larry, would sit around the den and watch.

Like many kids that fell into Star Trek fandom, I identified with and idolized Spock.  There was something about that conflicted and, at times, tortured character that hit my sweet spot.  And I know I wasn’t the only one.

And yeah, like a lot of Spock fans, I shed a tear at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when Spock’s body was torpedoed with a giant ptui! into space near the Genesys planet.  (I also had a girlfriend around that time that bawled in the theatre when the Enterprise was destroyed in the atmosphere of the Genesys planet during Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.)

Fast forward far too many years to late February… I was  traveling to a race in Chattanooga, sitting in a Krystal in Clarksville TN having lunch, when my phone goes off.  My daughter sends me a message, asking if I was ok.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  And then she told me.

Leonard Nimoy died.

Frankly, that didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would.  I mean, yeah, it sucked, but there was no question it was coming.  Advanced age and COPD aren’t exactly a great combination for long life and prosperity.  (See what I did there?)

A bit later, I heard about a virtual race with a Nimoy-themed medal, in honor of his life and his work on Star Trek, and benefitting the COPD Foundation.  I had to sign up.  And yesterday, I put in my miles for this virtual race.

It was a rainy, soggy day, drizzling when I started, and pouring by the time I finished.  I’m sure folks were staring at this lumbering goofball, trudging through the rain.  I waved at the cyclists as they sped by — we have a ton of them out here — and some actually waved back.  I mean, we were obviously both nuts from the same tree, being out in this crazy spring rain.

About four kilometers in, this very nice gentleman with a score of years on me, stopped on the very busy road on which I was traveling, and asked if I needed a ride.  I told him I was just out exercising, and thanked him profusely for stopping.

And that’s really it.  (Aside from the inherent irony of Creedence’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” beginning to play on my iPod as the rain began to furiously come down about halfway through my journey.)  There’s still kindness and respect out there — cyclists waving, motorists stopping — and that, to me, is the wonderful discovery on this journey of running that I’ve undertaken.  I’ve had so much support and encountered so much decent humanity out there as I’ve logged my (generally) solitary miles… For the next race (also virtual), I’ll write more about that.

And I expect to continue racing and writing for some time to come.  I’m kinda addicted to the medals, the people, and this way of thinking.  I’m doing things that five years ago, I would never have believed I could do.  And I’m taking chances… I mean, I have my first 10K and a half marathon coming up this year.

What kind of nut am I?!?!?!  🙂

(BTW, the photo of me is from a “helmet dive” off the cost of Aruba a few weeks ago.  Seemed like a unique opportunity!)

Race Course
Live Long Memorial 5K

Race #29 – Go! St. Louis 5K (virtual)

I’d originally signed up for this year’s Go last year, shortly after the completion of the 2014 race.  That was my best race last year, and (I think) the only race that I completed under fifty minutes.

Although I haven’t gotten my trip report up here yet, Darla and I took off on a cruise shortly after the Boots and Badges race at the end of March.  Unfortunately, this cratered my being able to do the Go, as we were in New Orleans getting ready to board Serenade of the Seas for two weeks at sea.  The folks at Go were amazing, and mailed me the shirt and medal while we were gone.  This was the fifteenth anniversary of the race, and I really wanted that medal!  (Imagine that!)

My intent had been to run this race virtually aboard ship, and earn my medal.  However, the track on Serenade is so short that it’d take NINETEEN circuits to travel five kilometers.  I’m not a fan of looping, so that didn’t hit me very well.  Add to that apparent wind speeds on the top decks that approach 100km/h, and suddenly that run didn’t look so appealing.

I also injured my foot somehow on the first day of the cruise.  While my right foot has given me trouble over the last year, this time, it was my left.  Ugh.  I hobbled about for a day or so until it got under control, but I didn’t want to tempt fate too much.

So, three weeks after the Go was run, I did mine.  My time was pretty slow, but I only walked, as I didn’t want to stress anything out in either foot.  Frankly, it went pretty well.  The temperature was very nice and comfy, until the clouds broke up.  The temp didn’t go up much, but the sun beating down on me really heated me up.

One thing that this pointed out was that I need to come up with a 5K course from the house that is easy to navigate.  I turned left and right, cut through parking lots, and had to watch the traffic far too much to enjoy this as much as I’d like.  But, any miles are good miles, so I’m happy to have gotten this one in.

I wish I had a bib for this race.  I’m scouring the interwebs for an image of the bibs from this year so that I can print one up for my bib book, but ’til then, I’ll take my medal, and be happy knowing that #29 is in the books.

BTW, there’ll be more virtual races coming this year.  The difference between a virtual race, and just training?  Everyone say it together…

A medal!

Race course:

Go! St. Louis 5K (virtual)

Race #20 : Santa’s North Pole Dash 5K

Race #20 is in the books!

In fairness, I haven’t exactly been keeping close track, but recently decided to chronicle my races since I started down this crazy path nearly three years ago.

You see, almost three years ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.  And while I put on a brave face to everyone around me, to my ears, it was like a death sentence when my gastroenterologist told me there was a two-inch tumor inside me.  I was petrified until a few days later when Becky described what the doc had actually said, and it began to hit me just how lucky I was … I had a completely curable Stage I intruder, with great prospects for my future survivability.

Shortly thereafter, I heard about the Undy 5000, which was a fundraiser for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  The folks in CCA are awesome, and I knew I had to help support them.  So, three months after being diagnosed and subsequently cured through surgery, I ran my first 5K.  Having never really run before, this was new territory for me, and I kinda got hooked.  This would be part of trying to get me to a healthier place in my life.

And I kept running… and yesterday was #20 since that first race in March of 2012.

This was the first time I’d actually run the course for this race.  Last year, there were nine inches of snow on the ground, and I didn’t make it to the site.  Instead, I opted to run my North Pole Dash aboard ship while docked in Dominica on my 50th birthday.  Not a bad way to run a race, or spend a birthday.

Thar be turtles here!
Thar be turtles here!

As the race participants lined up, I took my place at the slowest pace sign they had (14 minutes — my pace ended up being about 17:57, which is pretty dang slow, even for me).  Conveniently, that was near the only speaker system they had.  In fact, the announcer said that he hoped the folks at the front of the race would know when to start, because he was sure they couldn’t hear him all the way up there.

I’d run in St. Charles a couple of times previous (both in the Mo’ Cowbell), but never on the uneven brick/cobblestone roads of Main Street.  That was not the most pleasant thing in the world, and by the time I got to the end of Main Street, my shins were barking bad.  In fact, if you look my pace through the race, it is substantially different on the bricks than it was on the paved roads.

Aside from that, the course was nice enough, winding past the businesses on Main Street, and then past the homes in Frenchtown.  The folks in the neighborhoods were gracious, cheering us on (even the slow turtles like me!) as we clogged the tight roads of their neighborhoods.  I know that had to be a pain for the folks that live there!

The one complaint I’d have about the course was that there was no water!  I always carry water — I’m usually drinking before the first kilometer is down — so it wasn’t a thing for me.  It was surprising though.

Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?
Jenny, Jenny, who can I turn to?

And despite having something like 4000 people there, there was very little in the way of fanfare or post race festivities.  At most of the races I run, there’s either chocolate milk or beer, and while they had hot chocolate and a pub crawl later, those two niceties were missing.  And, aside from a few booths on the Katy Trail, and several more in a parking lot, there just wasn’t much to do after the race.  I hoofed my way back to the Jeep, and headed home.  But not before pulling the Jenny Craig flyer from under my windshield.  Someone must be trying to tell me something.

Santa's Donkey
Santa’s Donkey

This was a race I really wanted to do, and I’m glad I did, but I sure was expecting more of that “big race” experience.  I’ve seen that with the Mo’ Cowbell, and given the holiday-theme, I expected more.  I did get my photo taken with a miniature donkey, though, so that should count for something!