To the Depths of Hell and Back

Welcome to June everyone!  I thought I’d dedicate this month to some epic posts.  Epic in this context being personal accomplishments along with prize finds out in the field.  How about we start with a physical feat.  Almost 14 years ago to the day I hung up my martial arts hobby and replaced it with running.  Well, to be honest, it was replaced with a shuffle to end of my driveway.  The goal at that time was to finish a race in the Quad Cities called The Bix 7 (link here).  At that time 7 miles seemed like an unattainable dream.   Then came the 10K (technically a step back), the 15K (link here) and the mighty Half (link here).  All checks in my Life List!  6 Years ago, I embarked on a new running Life List item.  A Journey that brought its shares of ups and a multitude of downs.

That Life List Entry was to earn one of these!

Illinois Full I-Challenge Marathon April 30, 2016

That’s right, the badge of honor for any runner.  There are certainly longer running events, but the 26.2 is the gold standard for those of us that pound the pavement.  When you haven’t earned that right of passage, every 26.2 sticker/magnet you see on cars you pass on the road or spot in a parking lot is an absolute taunt.  For 6 years, those stickers haunted me and drove me to pick myself off the ground and start again after every setback.  My Life List items are embedded in my DNA – they are enshrined with dedication and motivate me every single day until they are accomplished.  365 days a year for 6 years it sat in the back of my conscious trying its best to defeat me… and that it did year after year:

Year 1: was spent trying to get beyond the dreaded Half distance

Year 2: resulted in a torn hamstring where it connects to the knee – another summer of rehab

Year 3: was a complete retooling of my running mechanics (link here) and strength training

Year 4: Heat Stroke about ended it all (link here) – starting from scratch again on the heat conditioning

Year 5 my targeted race was canceled by the sponsors after setting a record for miles in a year (link here) -note, I ended with well over 1350 for the year

Year 6 .. well that put me at the starting line of the Illinois Marathon.


Illinois Full I-Challenge Marathon April 30, 2016

Complete with a race day weather of non-stop rain, 10-23 mph winds and a pretty constant temp around 51.  Now the temperature couldn’t be more perfect, especially for someone who has to watch their heat exposure post the heat stroke incident.  The rain and wind .. not so perfect, in fact, downright SUCKAGE.  Linda took the shot above and is due a huge credit for braving the miserable weather to capture my big day.  At this point in the race, the main thing swirling in my head was “did I really train enough to make it through this”.  The more I thought about it, the more I began to doubt myself.

Hit the jump to see how this day turned out!

Continue reading To the Depths of Hell and Back

Thirteen.One on the 10 Year Anniversary of 9/11

Greetings everyone.  It seems out of place to make a post about a personal event on this day of remembrance.  Therefore, let’s take a moment to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of that fateful day 10 years ago.  I refuse to give the perpetrators the satisfaction of their actions and instead of focusing on the fear and uncertainty of that day (as every local newspaper and program I’ve come across today) I remember it as a day America came together.  There were no petty squabbles between neighbors, no politicians slandering one another in hopes of getting an extra vote and absolutely no uncertainty regarding the love for the best country in the world.  We were bound by a common cause and mad as hell.  To those that experienced a tragic loss I express my deepest sympathy.  To the heroes of that day and those who took up the fight I forever owe my gratitude with special appreciation to Seal Team 6 who demonstrated the inevitable outcome when mess with the Red, White and Blue.

As alluded to, this day also marked a big event on a personal front.  After 3 years of hard work and countless setbacks I had an opportunity to put another check on my Life List.  Some of you may know and some of you may not, but I have had a goal to run a half marathon for some time now.  With the accomplishment of the 15K under the belt (link) the next evolution of the challenge was the daunting half.  It doesn’t seem like much considering it is a just under 4 more miles but that itty bitty distance became my nemesis.  It seemed like every time I set out to prepare, something happened that cut that opportunity short.  The latest battle was with my torn hamstring which cost me all last year.  Thanks to a heavy regiment of therapy my leg problems were mostly brought under control requiring continual training consideration, but finally strong enough to take the pounding.  It was also evident some other things had to change to get in front of the numerous other injuries.  I dropped 16 pounds (as of weigh in before the race) and retooled my body for the requirements of running (translated .. core, core core).  This year’s racing circuit was geared to preparing for the this day – The 4 mile Chase warmup, the 15K Steamboat and the Bix7 all went well so optimism was in the air.  Through all this was a steady diet of short and long runs (practically every other day including training runs on vacation) to get me prepared for the extra 4.  As the days started clicking off I hit my distance marks culminating in the final 12.6 mile training run last Sunday.  I can honestly say the way I felt after that run left me a little skeptical I could pull it off.

Hit the jump to read more about the event .. with pictures!

Continue reading Thirteen.One on the 10 Year Anniversary of 9/11

Persevering through the Steamboat

Today we have another guest photographer (my wife)  bringing you images from my second race of the year.  More importantly, I have an action shot PROVING that I indeed ran this race (in case there are any doubters out there…hmmm who could that be?).  Last Saturday was the annual running of the Steamboat Classic in Peoria IL.  They actually have multiple options to participate in.  They offer the “World’s Fastest Four Mile” race and “Illinois’ Toughest 15K.”  This race has been somewhat of a nemesis for me having initially injured my hamstring in the 15K race a couple of years ago which eventually led to a major injury during the following Bix7 race.  Due to the rehab, I was forced to go with the 4 mile option last year, but this year I was back to defeat the 15K!  My training went well and I was already at 10 mile runs before the race date.  To cut to the chase, I man’d up and got me another medal for my slowly growing collection and another check on the Life List.

This was actually a pleasant surprise considering I almost pulled out of race 40 minutes before it started.  To set the stage, I have a fairly regular routine the week before an actual race consisting of a nice taper down and a steady diet of bland food.  For this race, I closed out my last 10 mile the Saturday before and reduced it to a 6 mile run that Monday.  That Wednesday was my 3.5 mile easy run to complete the training program.  For some reason the mechanics felt off on that last run even to the point I stopped and took my shoes off and put back on hoping something was amiss.  That didn’t help much, but it got me through the remaining miles.  While in the cool down my left hamstring developed a twinge that would not shake out.  Panic set in (well, actually anger first and then panic).  I went home and tried my best to rest it hoping it would disappear  – to no avail.  The rest of the week was spent trying to rub the strain out with a steady diet of a foam roller and anti-inflammatory cream used during my rehab.  By Friday night it was feeling pretty good, but I was not about to test it until the race.  On that same Friday I decided to go with a conservative hamburger lunch at a downtown street vendor followed up by the traditional home cooked carb loading spaghetti dinner that night.  All was good until some pains started showing up in my stomach around 10pm.  At midnight this turned into an all out evacuation on the hour until it was time to get up around 5.  So there I was carb-deloaded and questioning whether I could actually keep anything in the stomach.  Not wanting to throw the towel in yet (hell, I trained my ass off for this) so Linda and I headed down to the Peoria riverfront cautiously eating a couple of Eggos and gingerly trying to drink some Powerade.  If there is one bright side in this, I really wasn’t thinking much about the hamstring.  Eventually it came time to do the traditional pre-race picture.  That would be a look of serious worry by the way.

Now, some of that worry was due to the upcoming 15K with limited fuel.  The rest of that concern was the resulting composition for this shot.  “Not that there is anything wrong with that”, but that guy in the poster .. the one with the shirt off and staring directly at me .. was creeping me out.

Hit the jump to read more about Steamboat Classic 2011

Continue reading Persevering through the Steamboat

Rockin’ with Angus in St. Louis

Hey, it’s my birthday today and as a special treat I am giving everyone a three day weekend!  No, I am not revealing my age.  I wanted to actually make this post a few days ago so it would be fresh in my mind, but I ended up getting bogged down in some other things I had to get done before the big holiday weekend.  Luckily the event left a pretty lasting impression on me.  So, the topic today is… My wife and I had the opportunity to see AC/DC in St. Louis MO last Tuesday.  They were in the midst of their latest tour to promote their new Black Ice album.

AC/DC Black Ice Tour

follow the link to read just how good of a time we had!

Continue reading Rockin’ with Angus in St. Louis

A Fine Art Day for a List Check off

You already know I have a life list and I was able to check an entry off earlier in the year.  Well, I was able to check another one off today.  I always wanted to purchase a piece of fine art.  The closest I have ever come to this is some wolf paintings I bought a long time ago at the Eagle Days in the Quad Cities.  I really don’t count this because it was not really an art show as much as a craft display.  The artist was there and signed them, but again, not what I had intended when I put the entry on the list.  A number of stars aligned today that I decided I had to take advantage of.

Peoria Fine Arts Fair Ticket

The Peoria Riverfront was hosting their annual Fine Art Fair.  I was always intrigued by it since it actually carried a description indicating it was not a pretentious affair.  Yesterday, I was sent an email by a coworker indicating her husband’s band was performing at 10:00AM at the same event.  Ah, the extra nudge to get me to wake up early on a Saturday and trek the 30 minutes down to the Illinois River.  I decided I needed some guiding principles to keep in mind while trying to acquire my fine art piece.

  • I decided $200 was my limit for my first piece (need to ease into this whole artsy thing)
  • The artist must be present at the booth – part of the thrill should be actually engaging with the artist to learn a little bit about the concept and creativity involved
  • The piece cannot be something I could actually create myself with less than a year’s concentrated effort (at least get close visually without the scrutiny of an artist’s eye).  This automatically eliminates the yard utensil art and any tile mosaic pieces (the latter since I can already do that now).
  • I should not be able to purchase a similar piece at a local (non-art retail) store
  • I will not purchase from a vendor that fits the “snobby artist” profile – you know, “The I’m better that you and you are not qualified to look at my wonderful creations much less explain them to you”
  • I will not be pressured by the vendor into purchasing a particular item.  I can’t stand people pushing product on me including the product vendors at work and the food sample ladies prowling the local convenience stores
  • I will take the time to look at every booth (if even just in passing) before I make my decision
  • The piece has to impress me or be unique enough to really capture my attention
  • I cannot acquire something I would be embarrassed by other people seeing it in my house (think naked lady statues)
  • I have to be able to get it home

I thought this was a pretty good list, but gave myself the option to augment If I had to.  Remember, I have never been to an art fair before so I really did not know what to expect.  Thanks to a late night of Rock Band 2 (crested 1.2Million fans last night and probably ranked in the 2,000s now) I was a little groggy this morning, but the anticipation of checking the list item overcame that as I headed to the event.  Confusing at first, there were actually a lot of parking lot spaces available in a lot right by the fair.  Once I arrived at the ticket area, I realized the show did not start until 10:00AM (actually Art Guild Members were able to enter an hour earlier).  I took a walk and enjoyed the riverfront for a little bit and returned when the show opened.  I heard the band warming up and figures I would check out the various booths first and then decide which pieces stood out while taking in a few songs.  That would be a good indication of something that impressed me.  Some booths I was able to pass fairly quickly through – jewelry items, pottery and photographs really was not on the radar.  Besides, I already have a really nice piece of pottery of friend of ours hand made for us last Christmas.  Unfortunately, my first rule ended up filtering out a lot of opportunities.   It was not uncommon to see $8K and $10K pieces causing my heart to stop a couple of times merely due to fear I was going to knock them over if I got too close – assuming the you broke it, you own it principle applied here.  Pleasantly, there really was not any vendors that were in the “push” mode.  Almost all of them simply manned their booth, had cheerful words to say as you passed and let you browse at will.  Note, due to my unfamiliarity with the whole scene, I was being careful not to touch anything.

After looking at every booth, I decided to go see the band play.  As I neared the stage, I was caught a little off guard by the type of music being played since it sounded more like gospel which was not what I was expecting at all.  A quick scan of the stage confirmed my confusion and decided that someone had given me bogus information – Oh well, more time to devote to finding the perfect art piece.  After reviewing all of the booths in my head I decided there was 4 booths worth going back to for further scrutiny.  Two of these were specializing in very distinctive wooden vases/containers with unique woods.  After going back to each of these I discovered a very similar piece at both booths.  This concerned me a little bit since it didn’t seem that distinctive if two artists could create an eerily similar piece of art.  That left me two other booths to go check out – hit the continue link to see what I ended up buying.

Continue reading A Fine Art Day for a List Check off

No Pain, No Checkmark

So I may have mentioned previously, I have a “Life List”… I use that name because it sounds a little more positive than “Bucket List” or “Death List” or any number of other names that people refer to their set of things they want to accomplish during their lifetime.  My list usually refers to physical challenges or achievements I use to challenge myself.  I generally do not give a timeframe for them, but often the activity requires a certain age level, preparation or sequence of events to complete the task.  Without a doubt, there are few moments I cherish as much as when I get to take that spreadsheet out and place a little checkmark and date next to an entry.  two weekends ago I had the opportunity to make such a check – so alongside the black belts in martial arts, completion of the Bix 7 mile race and learning to Snowboard (to name a few) I now get to add the following:

Steamboat IL Toughest 15K

I started running sometime back in order to complete the Bix 7 entry.  I’ve been pretty much running ever since with the sole purpose of being ready compete in every Bix since then.  In the meantime I would catch the various 5Ks and would catch the Peoria SteamBoat 4 Mile (IL’s Fastest 4 Mile) in preparation for the treacherous 7 Miles of hills at the Davenport IA Bix.  At the halfway point of the Steamboat 4M, I would make the turn and head back to the start while all of the 15Kers started their trek up into the hills.  For some reason, I convinced myself on the way back that I needed to complete the 15K so I could prove Continue reading No Pain, No Checkmark