I Spent Zero Time Editing This.

At various points, I’ve fancied myself a bit of a writer. Really, just a whim, a passing interest that occasionally loops around again – more the way a curiosity catches one’s attention every so often, more than any real interest. Perhaps a means to an end when the spirit moves me to communicate an idea or information more than any particular interest. I don’t even know what the point of this post is.

I deal in quantity, volume. I’m a purveyor of words. Words are tools. My main goal is getting the idea out, push it to words, organize it in some manner, shape or form, get it done, move along. I’ll sometimes have a draft sit for a bit, but its a rarity that it ever sees the light of day.  Just to show my commitment to the process, I’ll sometimes even go back and re-read a post once – perhaps even twice – after I’ve posted it. Sometimes. Generally speaking once it’s fully out of my head, I hit “Publish…” and away we go, usually not to revisit it again.

Then there are people like my friend David.  He’s considered, often poetic. He says what he means, deliberates over every comma, every phrase. Endlessly revises. Words are beautiful and exquisite materials with which to build stories.  By the time he pushes that friendly blue “Publish…” button, his work is as exacting as one would expect of a trained writer – one who doesn’t just fancy himself a writer, but one who is actually a writer, an expert wordsmith. Because, well, because he is a trained writer. He gives the impression of a person who not only speaks in well-thought out paragraphs, but thinks in paragraphs. The difference between my work and his is the difference between a framing carpenter and a finish carpenter.

In light of my previous post, I’d like to be clear that I’m not complimenting him at my own expense. His blog is something different from this one, his style is different from mine, his purpose is vastly different. I use words to communicate some ideas; he uses words to tell stories and paint pictures. He paints a picture of his father; I talk about the lessons my dad taught me. Just really different vibes. I read or listen to (audio books are ahh-maaaay-zing things) no less than 30 books a year, but since I left high school, I can count on one hand the number of novels I’ve read; I’m willing to bet his ratio is more a reciprocal of that than not.

It’s a good thing there are more than 300,000 books published every year in the United States – something for everyone.  By the time I press that friendly blue “Publish…” button on this post, the number of blog posts published today will be more than 2.7-Million and counting. A good number are rubbish, but I have to believe a plurality are posted by well-meaning folks with solid things to say. I also have to believe most are purveyors in words – more like me than like David. “Just get it out.” There are the hucksters, building blogs to convey topics and information designed to get you to subscribe so they can make money, unlike either this one or “willwriteforfood,” but I’m also quite sure most of the people who press that friendly blue button are legitimately seeking to express themselves.

Here’s what I’ve come to find: the people who stick with it, the folks who keep coming back – no matter the interval in which they come back – to bang on their keyboard and hit that friendly blue button are the people that actually have things to say, like another friend of mine. Some ten years and 2000 posts later, he still cranks it out.

There is just so many options out there, that if you’re pushing these things out for a reason other than the sheer enjoyment of writing, the need to read your thoughts written out, the desire to convey thoughts, you’re just setting yourself up and wasting your time. The odds of making money on a blog are remote. You’re not going to get famous. Not even for a minute. Just do what you do without expectation. You’ll be happier for it. If its not a labor of love, then you’re just wasting your and (perhaps more importantly) your readers’ time.

This fulfills my need for a place to dump my thoughts and words; for David his blog fulfills a need to paint pictures with his words.   Thanks for being here and indulging my words. There are millions of other posts dated just today to which you could give your attention and a fraction of those 300,000 books published yearly you could tackle. I don’t know why you’re reading this, only that you are, and I appreciate that. If you’re an aspiring writer, perhaps you’ve got some inspiration. If you’re someone who just surfs blogs, fantastic. I hope you come back. There are so many options and choices and directions to go that I hope I’ve provided something of what you came here to find.

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2018 Race Recap #22: Boston Spartan Sprint (Open)

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Team Mo, rocking the bling at the finish.

Early this week, my daughter texted me and told me that her plans for today had changed and was wondering if there was a race we could do. As it turns out, there was.  Of course, I was already registered for the Sprint and was kind of hoping to rip it up, but I would run with her.  And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to make a choice.  Since my debacle with the second Beast a couple of weeks back, I really can’t see my way through to getting another one on the calendar (who knows), so my hope of earning a double trifecta this year has been pretty much shot. So since I had a code for a Sprint I decided to just run a second lap: two laps in the same day only count toward the Trifecta once. Groupon had an afternoon entry AND a discount code, so we were able to pick up a couple of late entries for about $60 each – so I got to run with both.

Also of note, since Spartan considers a second lap of the course a separate race – different bib numbers, second full registration fee, second insurance fee, second shirt, medal – I consider it a second race too. A race like FIT Challenge considers multi-laps an add-on so I consider that the same race. That’s the difference between an entity overly focused on profit margin (and not wholly well run either as illustrated below) and a labor of love that’s actually profitable and well regarded (and well run).

As soon as the first race of the day was finished – it began to rain.  And hard too.  So I took up shelter at the facility’s shooting range and waited for the kids to get there.  Which is another story, and since this is my blog, I’ll happily digress and tell you that story.

On Thursday of this week, Spartan announced it was changing up the usual practice of $10 parking and instead would make parking free and charge $5 per person to ride the shuttle.  After the backlash on social media about this – that it was contradictory to the idea of carpooling, and/or that folks would simply drop off at the facility and then park – it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out quite the way the race anticipated and on Friday they announced a clarification that what they really meant was that it would be $5 per person to ride the shuttle, with a max of $10 per car. Now all well and good for me – because the kids were showing up later and were riding in together, it was $15 instead of $20.

These guys CRUSHED it, and I’m happy they let me tag along.

However, by the time they arrived for our 12:15 heat, the lot was full and they were now redirected to a secondary lot at a college in the next town over – 15 or 20 minutes away.  Now, there was no mention of this lot on the web site and I’m quite sure I received no email about it.  So the kids find the new place, and wait.  And wait. And wait. Because apparently no one told the shuttle drivers to go there…or how to get there.  5 arrived at once, then another that they got on.  Where they would have been 45 minutes early, they now arrived late.  Inexcusable logistics problems by a company that runs races all year across the country AND, let’s not forget this was not the first time they’d run this specific race in this venue.

Remember, it’s now been about 2.5 hours since my first race ended. I’ve been steadily rained on for two hours, muscles cooling off, and pretty sure my body had gone into full recovery mode – even if I’d only run 5-odd miles, it was longer than it had taken me to run the first race.

The rain made the already muddy course ridiculously sloppy – more than a few of the obstacles were almost impassable, Olympus was exponentially more difficult than it was in the morning; the slip wall was true to its name.  The Sandbag Carry and the Herc Hoist were made more difficult with the water having penetrated the bags.  I used the very same station at the Herc Hoist that I had used in the morning and while it’s safe to say fatigue played a part, I’m quite sure it was also much heavier after sitting in the rain.  The bucket carry was more difficult due to the course itself – thicker, sloppier mud made slipping quite the hazard.

All of which said, it was awesome to run with these guys. “Team Mo” was an experience I wouldn’t give back at all. Watching them help each other and support each other. Not a thing better than that.  On this time around the course, I came up with 5.63 miles and 1375′ of elevation gain.

Results (Open)

1:59:51

OVERALL: 1363/ 4655
MALE: 1028/ 2692
M 45-49: 107/ 272

Today Was A Good Day

There was a moment today, there were a few of us tracking one of the guys in our running group as he was attempting a Boston Marathon qualifying time (BQ) for next year, when it really fully occurred to me.  There we were, every few minutes, checking on Bill’s progress in the Providence Marathon, commenting on the ridiculous pacing. No other reason to be cheering for this guy other than the fact that we know him.

And that’s when it occurred to me. I was volunteering with a group of people who make time in their lives to compete, and who join others for accountability and for companionship. It occurred to me that I care about this guy and his sometimes weird foibles because, like the other people I run with, he’s got a good heart, he’s a good guy, and we all share a common interest in running.

I ran a small 5k that my running group was timing. I didn’t run a particularly good race, but it was good enough for 5th place and an age group win. I’ve never actually won a race before and an AG win is about as good as it gets for me.  My squad celebrated with some goofy pictures.

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Caption: “No! Pants stay on!”

We had a fun time, told goofy stories, and celebrated.

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Another post on the club page celebrated a second members’ BQ time today.  Still another celebrated a third club member’s win in another race- Pack Monadnock 10 Miler – with a roster of other club members to run.  Just a ridiculously supportive group of people, thrown together for the sole reason we like to pursue a common hobby, but who are actually supportive of each other.  It’s not often, indeed I think it’s a special thing, when disparate groups of people come together around a common pursuit and support each other in doing what they set out to do.  I think about my half marathon in March when one of the club members taking pictures saw me coming at mile 13, got visibly intense and excited for me and yelled me on – she was excited for me because I was that close to the goal I had articulated of finishing in under 1:50:00.  I finished in 1:49, something I credit in part to seeing her there yelling for me – it was just enough to kick me in the pants enough to find just a little more in the tank.

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Now, here’s the important thing: not one of those posts were from the person who actually DID the thing of some note – it was only after someone else cheered and crowed about the performance did the individual say something.  There were no “I BQ’d today!” posts, there was a post about the journey from surviving advanced cancer and setting this day as a goal after it had been previously mentioned and even then it was about the journey: if couldn’t be farther away from a “lookit me” post.

There are so many inspirational people and things all around if you just take a few moments to look.  For me, it’s the Bills and Karens of the world, who worked hard, struggled, and pushed to get their goals. It’s also the folks that come out to volunteer and time races and share in others’ celebrations. Why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with people with odd quirks, foibles, and personalities who work hard and are there to celebrate for you when you succeed?

I’ve said before that I actually don’t find running fun, or enjoyable. That’s true. I’ve said I run so I can run, that I like being able to do it. That’s also true. Today was the day I realized that I like it for the community. The accountability, the friendship, and the community.

So, we move on. I’m planning my first marathon, I know someone else who is going to run his first. I’ve cheered for a runner who literally finished last in his first marathon. Why wouldn’t you surround yourself with such people?

2018 Race Recap #20: Corduroy King 5K

Image may contain: 3 people, including Mark Welburn and Jeff Kristoff, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and natureHonestly, this wasn’t my first choice of races when it came up on the calendar. There are a bunch of races I really wanted to be doing today, but familial obligations required I do this one.  Nothing against this race specifically, it’s just I’d rather be doing races with a little more substance to them – a little longer or more difficult. As it happens though, I’ve been dealing with some injury and not running well, so it turns out this was the race I should do. I’m slowly realizing that “what ifs” and “shouldas” do nothing more than suck the life out of your present moment.

It’s also a race to raise money for a good cause – scholarships to an experiential learning program for kids with Autism, so at the end of the day, its not as if anything bad came out of it. Lastly, it was my very first 5k ever a few years ago, so if for no other reason, it should hold a little extra special place in my heart.

The course is about as flat as one gets and it was a smaller group – perhaps 70 or so runners and walkers.  Despite my myriad dents and dings, I got out to a decent start…and about 0.1 mile in I realized my shoe was untied so I had to stop…and let everyone I had just passed, run by me. I picked it back up and ran by them again, this time more or less for good.  My piriformis is still giving me fits, so I wasn’t running as hard as I’d prefer, but for the most part it felt good during the race.

The last 0.1 mile is pretty much down hill, so I started a full on sprint from the 3-mile mark through the finish.  For that tenth-mile, my pace was 6-min/mile.  For the rest of the race it was right around 8-min/mile.  So, a rather disappointing time – made moreso because my running club was timing the race, so I got to be disappointed in the company of friends. That said, I finished 5th overall and won my age division, so I can’t be too grumpy about the situation…and having friends at the finish was a big rush, and may have fueled the sprint I was just talking about – we may never know.

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As it turned out, my kids each won their respective age groups too, so we all got some spiffy medals.

Results:

2018: 24:54
2016: 25:55
2015: 35:40

2018 Race Recap #19: Tri-State NJ Beast

Yup. Day #2.  Second one in two days.  For a middle aged, marginally fit guy pushing to find his limits, this was an expression of that journey.  Guess what? I found the limits. I have to say that of some 130 races over the last 2 and a half years or so, this is the most humbling…no humiliating I have felt.

First the course specifics and details.  Sunday clocked in at 14.1 miles – just about a mile shorter than Saturday’s course. I haven’t looked at the maps of both to know if there was actually a mile less or if my watch was inaccurate or what – actually it would be more than a mile less because on Sunday, I missed the spear throw that I made Saturday and had to take a penalty loop.  More on penalties later, because they play a substantial role in my story of Sunday. Elevation gain Sunday was up over 5200′ compared with 5000′ Saturday which would definitely be reflected in that spear penalty as it was just straight up…forever…or so it seemed.

I missed obstacles I got on Saturday, I got one Sunday that I had missed Saturday which felt good. The lesson of the day, though, is that Spartan races are more than physical challenges – they’re mental challenges.  I pushed through this race, and was physically compromised to be sure, but I did it. My mental acuity though, my mental acuity failed.  I failed 3 obstacles with a burpee penalty – 30 burpees and a time penalty.  When I crossed the finish line – I actually took some time to pull myself together before jumping over the fire at the finish – I felt like I had crushed the race.

I later found that I had been disqualified.  It seems I had failed to complete the requisite 30 burpees on ALL 3 failures.  ALL of completing progressively fewer – including the penultimate obstacle on the course – which is the one I apparently didn’t put in the minimum.  I KNOW I counted 30, but knowing you counted 30 clearly doesn’t mean you completed 30.  So, I failed.  And while I finished, and not technically a DNF, I was disqualified.  Rules violation and rules are rules. I’m beside myself upset, all that time and effort to blow it on the last one.

At first I was frustrated because I thought it was glitch or misunderstanding at one station. I was firmly convinced of it.  Then I was angry.  But while I could argue one station, I can’t argue with three.  I blew it. Perhaps at some point I’ll be able to look at a bright side, but I don’t see a bright side right now.  I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m humiliated.  You’ve got to play by the rules and if you don’t you have to pay the consequences.

Mental exhaustion. Physical exhaustion.  Whatever. Fact of the matter is that I pushed my limits and found that I’m not where I thought I am.  Perhaps that’s the bright side – knowing how exertion affects my mental acuity will help me down the road.  Perhaps. Right now, I just feel defeated.  “Disqualified.” Basically says “cheat.”

When I decided to start recapping each race this year, it was an accountability instrument. I wanted to see my progress through the year, and I wanted to see my opportunities to improve.  I honestly never thought I would fail or at least fail for these reasons.  I thought I was better than that, but now that I know I’m not, I never ever want to be here again.  Failing is one thing – its human – but “disqualification,” damn. I never want to feel this way again.  In failing I know I’m pushing, growing, becoming better. I’m trying hard to see this in that way. I desperately want to see it that way. That’s all just framing – what matters is what I do with it.  The story you tell yourself is irrelevant if you don’t do something to improve from it.

 

 

2018 Race Recap #18: Tri-State NJ Beast

Last summer, I had planned to do the Savage Race in Massachusetts, but has to bail due to injury.  I traded my deferral code for Savage to a guy for a Spartan code which became this race.

The Beast is the longest and most difficult of Spartan’s three standard race distances: Sprint, Super, and Beast. Once past Beast, you get into the Ultra or Ultra Beast which is generally speaking some variation of the Beast course, and several Hurricane Heats which are a variation of the race.  Touted at 13+ miles, 30+ obstacles.  My watch totaled 15 some odd miles and, honestly I didn’t count the obstacles.  This was my third Beast – my second time here at Vernon – and (I think) my tenth Spartan race and I’ve found over time that it’s a fool’s errand to focus too much on distance traveled or on obstacles completed.

What started out as a raw, overcast day turned into a bright, sunny 70-degree slice of perfection. Not too hot, not too cold.  The site is the Mountain Creek Resort,  a New York City metro area ski resort. Unrelated to the race itself, while out on the course, there are definitely signs the resort has its troubles. In all honesty, I wasn’t entire sure the complex was actually still operational and the Wikipedia entry kind of explains its current state.  Another proximate ski area, Tuxedo Ridge in Tuxedo, NY has also had its financial difficulties and has hosted its share of Spartan Races as well.  Its hard to know if the financial difficulties are related to the willingness to host an obstacle course race or if its mere coincidence.

This years Beast seemed less difficult overall.  The thing with Spartan is they’re not terribly innovative and they trot out generally the same obstacles year over year.  This race seemed much more of a trail race through the hiking trails of the resort and less the mountain slog that I’ve seen at Killington (oh dear God, the quads!!) and to a lesser degree here last year. There was some mountain climbing but it wasn’t the gratuitous “we’re making you climb this because we can” sort of climb.

I was running with a first time Beast participant and it was a challenging race for her, so I don’t want to discount the level of difficulty involved, its just that it seemed like an easier course over last year.  I’ll be taking another stab at it in a few hours so we’ll see how my experience Saturday affects my performance Sunday.

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My usual Beast race buddy and my first time runner.

I had been really nervous about how my butt injury would hold up, but it held up pretty well – no major discomfort at all, perhaps a few twings here and there but overall nothing that would hold me up.  I was able to hit several obstacles I didn’t think I would which was a bit of a minor victory – any time you can avoid burpees is a good time – and for the most part even the ones I failed limited the burpees with an additional course trail instead.  (Innovation!!!)

Spartan did a little something new with the Ultra Beast course this year, by adding a 3 mile addition to the first loop of the course. This really seemed to mess up a lot of the folks we encountered along the way and it would appear a good number of them missed the course cut off to continue.  More than a couple were complaining about the hellish trail in that 3-miles. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps that was some of the more difficult trail the Beast course was lacking.

The obstacles seemed to be more standard than they have been in the past: the buckets at the bucket carry were prefilled, the farmer’s log “logs” were concrete atlas stones with handles built into them instead of actual, you know, logs. The sandbag carry was far more difficult than I remember it being in the past – large wreck bags instead of the sand filled pancakes that had been the obstacle – and the Herc Hoist seemed far more heavy than I remember it being, although several days of rain previous to race day may have helped both of those items become more heavy than anticipated.

I clocked 15.1 miles and just over 5000′ of elevation gain.

Overall, not my best time ever – I ran the Men’s elite heat (well, kinda – since my friend isn’t a male, she couldn’t run in the men’s elite heat so I delayed my start) and finished last in my age group and something like 3 slots off last for the heat.  Overall though, according to Athlinks, I finished solidly in the middle as I usually do.  I finished about 7 minutes slower than last year – we’ll see how I do Day 2 after having experienced the course.

Spartan Beast

Tri-State NJ 2018 6:09:12
Tri-State NJ 2017 6:02:24
Vermont Beast 2016 8:37:50

2018 Race Recap #16: F.I.T. Challenge

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That means I finished 3 laps, not that I came in third…BUT pretty slick swag nonetheless.

What can I say about this race? What I’ve come to find about small and/or local obstacle course races is that they’re generally low-rent, or just poorly executed. There are some  that are well considered and crafted with love, but just aren’t challenging.

The Wason Pond Pounder (Chester, NH) for instance, is lovingly crafted, and well done. The non-profit that runs the race, gives as much back to the community as they can without compromising the quality of the race. It’s a family oriented race, and a lot of people spend a lot of time planning it. But, it’s just not all that challenging – it’s not designed to be.

Similarly, The Samurai Sprint (Westport, MA) is a fun course and is well executed, but it’s “fun.” There were some elements to it last year that I found challenging, but overall it wasn’t designed to be anything more than fun.

The FIT Challenge, though. This is a challenge. It’s tough. The course is approximately 5k distance (plus or minus…well, plus), its 30-odd obstacles will test your meddle, oh and there’s the small matter of about 1400′ in elevation gain. That doesn’t do it for you? Ok, well, you can do multiple laps for $10 more.  Its probably the only smaller, local race that should be considered in the same conversation with Bone Frog or Spartan – to this point: who was at the starting line today? Norm Koch. The designer behind the early Spartan Races.

F.I.T. is a acronym. Fortitude. Integrity. Toughness. The race doesn’t demand you complete an obstacle under penalty of burpee, only that you give it a good faith effort. No mud for mud’s sake. Fortitude to take on a very difficult challenge. And of course, the Toughness to keep going when you’d rather not.

It plays out thusly. 30 obstacles. In 3.5 or-so miles.  Let that sink in. Essentially, if you’re not climbing s trail (remember – 1400′ of elevation gain), you’re climbing a wall…or a rope…or a peg board… you get the picture.  Suffice to say, I’m a fan on FIT Challenge.

This year I was determined to get- in 5 laps. It wasn’t long into my first lap that I realized that 5 wasn’t going to happen today. Robb, the race director, was very clear in his communications out that multi-lappers could assert a limited right of way, but I felt like such a dink asking to go ahead that I didn’t ask.  That’s on me. Now, the one criticism I have is that there are some difficult obstacles that require a reasonable time commitment…and on a short course, with multiple waves (no matter how hard you try to space them out) you’re going to get a log jam.  So, if you’re really going for time, you can get frustrated.

It was about 3/4 of the way through my second lap that I knew 4 would be a stretch. I was really fatiguing from climbing and was really starting to fail obstacles as a result. By the time I finished lap 2 I held out some hope I could get 4 in, but about a mile into lap 3 I knew that it would be my last one. I was failing obstacles I had done easily on my first go around, and struggled through on my second.

These things are placed rather deliberately to be challenging. Upper body, followed by a log carry, over to a rope climb, to a peg board…

There was a 5-hour cut off for multi-laps. Meaning that you had to start your last lap before 5 hours expired. In this case, I finished my 3rd lap with about 30-minutes left – I COULD have gone for 4…could have except I’d have wound up pissing everyone off because I’d fail everything and would probably be a menace to myself on those pretty technical trails.

No automatic alt text available.One of the frills of the FIT Challenge is the swag. A shirt, a head buff, finishers’ medal with pins for each lap complete, and if you do three or more laps you earn a block that Robb makes by hand.  The rarer ones are, of course, nicer. Those “5” Lap blocks are pretty spectacular. My “3” block…less so. But – going back to the beginning here, where I talk about being crafted with love – they’re each unique, put together by hand by a guy that really cares about the product.

There were some obstacles that broke mid course (sand bag hoist) and I’m pretty sure that can happen at any event. Frankly with the abundance of other obstacles, it was nice to take a pass on that one. Last year one of the floating walls was out of commission for a bit, which caused a significant back up on the lone remaining one.  The thing is with a short course, and a relatively small race (there were about 900 participants today, as compared with the several thousand that go through a Spartan Sprint), there are only a couple of stations for each obstacle (I think there may have been 3 sand bag hoists) and when one or two get 86’d the entire obstacle goes down and given the ethos of the race, obstacles are tough. So it takes a while to complete them…which causes lines…

I hate to suggest taking obstacles out – FIT has some ridiculously innovative ones and I love that he reinvests into the product – but some could be reconsidered. Lines at the inverted cargo net get pretty long. This is so clearly a labor of love, that I think I’d rather suggest making the course even longer and perhaps placing those time consuming obstacles at the top of a hefty climb to keep the group thin, but consistent.  Or spread the waves out even more.  Hard to say; I’m pretty sure it’s a work in progress and there are worse things to be vexed by.

So, results? Pretty much par for the course. 50 percentile.

Results

Multi-Lap:
2018: 63/126, 4:30:07
2017: 128/161, 5:06:38

Single Lap:
2016: 619/983 1:58:20

An improvement over last year on a more challenging incarnation of the course, and I feel better than I did last year afterward.