Evolution of a super medal

Having already launched the Interstate Challenge, Grand Slam Challenge and Hat Trick Challenge, DigitalRunning.com already had challenges that encouraged people to race different distances in different places. The next logical step was to challenge people to race more often.

I’ll freely admit that I struggled with this idea and considered scrapping the challenge. Excluding Ragnar Relays, I raced only 3 times in 2013 and I often encourage people to race less. Racing once per month for a whole year is difficult to do. In addition to crazy schedules, there’s injury potential and uncooperative climates to deal with. Here in Florida, it’s tough to find races in the summer. In Canada, they’re hard to come by in the winter. Racing the whole year calls for a special award.

Given the difficulty, I decided to split the challenge into seasonal increments. I thought it would be really unique to have four medals that connected together and such a “super medal” would be an appropriate reward for those who raced all year round. Unfortunately, I had no idea if it could even be done. I did a lot of research and couldn’t find anything like it. It was frightening and uplifting at the same time. I had the opportunity to be an innovator, but I had no idea where to begin. I had worked with two different medal companies for the first Interstate Challenge and the Hat Trick and Grand Slam Challenges. Neither of them seemed very interested in working with me on this project.

Through the Ragnar Relay Series, some employees of SymbolArts ended up on my email list. One of them reached out to me after receiving an email about the Grand Slam Challenge. One thing led to another and I was introduced to Dennis Molyneaux, their Florida sales executive. I shared my idea with Dennis and I was a little surprised to hear that he had thought about the idea before. Even better, he seemed really excited about it too.

Dennis presented 2 concepts. One was 4 long medals side by side with a tongue and groove design. The medals slid into one another, but there was nothing to hold them in place. It had been designed for a race series but never actually produced. From a design perspective, the medals fit together but they would have required tape or some other kind of adhesive to actually hold them together.

dennis-sketch

“The tiniest spark of an idea is no small thing. Even if born upon the tattered edge of a paper napkin, it may very well grow up to be the size of something special” – Walt Disney

The other concept was a very loose idea with the London 2012 Olympic logo as an example. Dennis cut the paper logo out and split it into 4 pieces with a centerpiece to connect the 4 pieces together. He didn’t know that I spent an entire week at a conference in 2007 listening to graphic designers rip apart that very logo shortly after it was revealed. I laughed when I saw it, but the connecting centerpiece was just what I was looking for.

I was certainly intrigued and my mind was racing, but it was September 2013 and I had other priorities on my mind. I had recently sold my house and I was packing like a madman. We had just chosen our first crew of ambassadors and I was about to expend a nice chunk of cash outfitting them with gear. I also needed enough cash on hand to fund the Tennessee Ragnar Relay team in late October. So, I switched gears and gave Dennis a test run with the 2014 Interstate Challenge medal.

I was at Walt Disney World for the marathon weekend in January with a suitcase full of Grand Slam and Hat Trick medals when I received a text from Raffi telling me the Interstate Challenge medals had arrived. She sent a picture, but it just looked a lot like the proof. She joined me the next day and delivered 3 Interstate Challenge medals. They were easily the nicest medals we had ever put our names to and they were very well received by the surprised ladies who actually earned them that weekend.

crops shot-contemporary

The first Interstate medals are awarded to some happy (and tired) ladies at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Confident in SymbolArts, I began wracking my brain for some kind of theme. I couldn’t get off the “4 seasons challenge” idea, but creative ideas for the individual challenges were not coming. I came up with names like “The Autumn Quest” and “Old Man Winter’s Ultimatum”. Nothing was really coming together. So, I presented the concept to the DigitalRunning.com ambassadors and asked them for ideas.

My original concept art. I was at the graphic design conference in 2007, but I'm no graphic designer.

My original concept art. I was at the graphic design conference in 2007, but I’m no graphic designer.

Gigi came up with the “Time of the Season” concept and suggested a clock or an hourglass. I thought it had potential and I mulled it over for a while. I liked the idea of the clock and comparing the different seasons to different times of the day. It reminded me of my favorite book trilogies when I was younger: The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss & Tracey Hickman. The three books were called Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning. I came up with a very rough concept and named the challenges the Spring Dawn, Summer Day, Autumn Twilight and Winter’s Night in homage to the trilogy.

One of our early proof revisions from Symbol Arts - the Summer Day medal originally featured a sand castle.

One of our early proof revisions from Symbol Arts – the Summer Day medal originally featured a sand castle.

The ambassadors really liked the idea so Raffi (who is a graphic designer) mocked up a much better concept that included a cut out rim with the names of the months on the top of each medal and the DigitalRunning.com logo as the centerpiece. We sent that off to SymbolArts. Their artist worked on it for a few days. What came back can only be described as overwhelming. There were five proofs with weird colors representing different depths. There was so much to see. I was excited and confused all at the same time.

I presented the proofs to the ambassadors. We all agreed that the centerpiece looked great from the first proof, but we ultimately went through about 5 or 6 revisions of the medals themselves. The Summer Day medal took the longest. When the other three medals were settled, I still wasn’t willing to sign off on the Summer Day. I just wasn’t in love with the sand castles.

I spent a week trying to think of something else to represent the summer. I don’t know what finally brought the palm trees to the front of my brain. Maybe it was a Corona ad. Maybe it was the fact that I live in Florida and there are hundreds of them growing in my neighborhood. Everyone was anxious to wrap the design phase up.

“Change the sand castles to palm trees and I think we’re finished,” I told Dennis. I was mostly right. When I saw the final proof of the Summer Day medal, I was ecstatic. It went from my least favorite of the 4 to my favorite.

I signed off on the proofs and crossed my fingers. Because of the nature of the medal, all of the molds had to be made in the beginning to make sure they would interlock even though I only needed the Spring Dawn medals right away. Dennis seemed confident that everything would fit together well, but I kept thinking about how it had never been done before. I was selling the fact that people would get this awesome “super medal”, and there was big potential for disaster if the centerpiece concept didn’t work out well. As with any start-up such a large failure in the early stages can easily be the end.

inside-separatedSo, you can imagine my relief 6 weeks later when Dennis received the medals from the factory and emailed photos to me. The medals looked fantastic and they fit together beautifully. When they arrived on my doorstep a week later, they looked even better. I’m very proud of these medals. From initial concept to production, it’s been a team effort. SymbolArts did a great job bringing the vision to life. I’m looking forward to being able to award them to runners in a few short weeks. There’s still time to sign up!

full-outside

 

Posted in Digital Running | 2 Comments

Who cares? Just Run!

In recent months, much ado has been made about a September Wall Street Journal article called “The Slowest Generation: Younger Athletes are Racing with Less Concern about Time“. It claims that there are fewer “super competitive” runners in their 20′s and 30′s than there were when the baby boomers were in their 20′s and 30′s. The article even suggests this is the reason that the United States hasn’t won a medal in the marathon since 2004.

median-times

Median marathon times for U.S. men and women from 1980 – 2012. Source: Running USA annual marathon report (http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=332)

 

Last I checked the official baby boomers ranged in age from 40 to 58 years old in 2004. Those silver medals were won by 29 year old Meb Keflezighi and 31 year old Deena Kastor. Meb’s silver medal was the first medal in the marathon by an American male since Frank Shorter took silver in the 1976 Montreal games. Deena’s bronze medal was only the second medal ever for an America woman. The only other was Joan Benoit’s gold medal for the first ever women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The baby boomers have hardly been more successful at the marathon than the younger generation.

I think the article’s focus on median times overlooks an important point as well. There are a whole lot more people participating in endurance sports now than there have ever been in the past. Marathons were places where only elite runners dared toe the line. Back in the day, if you couldn’t run under 3 hours you didn’t bother showing up for the Boston marathon.

marathon-participation

United States marathon participation 1980-2012. The New York City marathon was excluded from the 2012 data since it was cancelled due to Super Storm Sandy. Source: Running USA Annual Marathon Report (http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=332)

 

So, yes there are slower people running races now and that has made the median times slower, but having more participants is nothing but good for the sport. More runners means more races and more equipment sold. That translates into more sponsorship dollars and bigger prizes for the elites. It also translates into a healthier general population.

I don’t buy the argument that there are less “super competitive” people in the younger generation either. The American records for all running distances keep getting lower. New American records in the marathon, half-marathon, 10,000 m and 5000 m have all been set in the last 6 years. Galen Rupp won silver in the 10,000 m in London. Shalane Flanigan got Bronze in the 10,000 m in Beijing.

At the end of the day, everyone has their own goals. There are those who run just to finish and those who run to PR. There are elite runners who run for money and to break world records. We’re all runners and we all coexist. If a race is well organized, slower runners will never get in the way of elites so why does it matter if they run slow? The race organizers have figured out how long it is profitable to close the streets for the course and they set their required paces accordingly. If there’s any difference in the younger generation it’s that they’re willing to participate in a race even if they have no chance of competing for some sort of victory. I’ll take that over people who are afraid to enter a race because they think they’re too slow. It’s better than not running at all, and that’s what was happening in the 80′s.

Different strokes for different folks, I say. None of this is really a comment on any generation. There are just more options available today and different people are enjoying different forms of recreation. Sometimes that happens to be in the same event. I can agree that if you sign up for a race that has a finisher’s medal than you need to finish the race to get the medal. That’s a rule of the game, but if you sign up for the color run you should probably run slow because the whole point there is to be covered in as much colors as possible. Who care’s if it’s not timed? It’s not a race!

Were recreational bowling leagues of the 60′s an indication of that generation’s laziness? How about beer league softball? Every culture has its favored form of recreation – its way to unwind from the rigors of everyday life. For more and more people, that is running. It is fueling a running boom and it is a good thing at any pace.

What do you think?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Year of the Challenge

In 2013, DigitalRunning.com hosted 1 challenge. 150 people signed up for the 2013 Interstate Challenge and 126 people have completed it to date. I’m not one of them.

hattrick-medal-actual

I might have 500 of these stored away, but I’m actually going to earn 1 of them!

I did run a full marathon and a half marathon in 2013, but they were both in Florida so I didn’t qualify for the challenge. In 2014, I’m going to change that. In fact, I plan on completing all of the 2014 DigitalRunning.com Challenges.

I’ll need to run a 5K or longer race every month March 2014-February 2015 (for reasons that have not yet been announced), I’ll need to run a marathon or half-marathon in two different U.S. States or Canadian Provinces to earn the Interstate Challenge medal. I’ll need to run a 5K, 10K and a half marathon to earn the Hat Trick Challenge medal and I’ll need to add a full marathon to those three to get the Grand Slam Challenge medal.

Now, a little known fact is that races can count for multiple challenges. So, the half marathon I run in Florida in January counts toward the Interstate Challenge, the Grand Slam Challenge and the Hat Trick Challenge. Here’s my current plan to complete all of the challenges as efficiently as possible:

January 11th: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

2010-half

The last time I ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, it was 30 degrees and sleeting.

March 1st: Suncoast Classic 10K – St. Petersburg, FL

April 19th: Hare Racing Experience 5K – Tampa, FL

May 10th: Miles for Moffitt 5K- Tampa, FL

June 1st: Bay 5K for Kids - St. Petersburg, FL

July 3rd: Kiwanis Midnight Run 10K – Dunedin, FL

August 18th: Sea Dog Brewery 5K – Clearwater, FL

September 6th: Miles for Men 10K – Clearwater, FL

October 12th: Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

November: Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

December: Ties & Tennis Shoes 5K – St. Petersburg, FL

January: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

February: Best Damn Race 10K – Safety Harbor, FL

Of course the schedule is subject to change but assuming I complete all of the above races, I will complete the Hat Trick Challenge and Mystery Challenge #1 in May, Mystery Challenge #2 in August, The Grand Slam and Interstate Challenges in October, Mystery Challenge #3 in November, and Mystery Challenge #4 in February 2015. I’ll also receive something special for completing all of the Mystery Challenges. That’s all I’ll say for now about the mystery challenges, except that we will reveal them in January 2014!

If I don’t get into the Chicago marathon, I’ll likely replace it with the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis marathon on October 19th.

What do you think of my race schedule? Who wants to join me?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Races | 7 Comments

New Gear

This has been a long time coming.

Since I first dreamed up DigitalRunning.com in 2007, I’ve been waiting for the moment when I would be able to pull on a DigitalRunning.com jersey for a race. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really kind of silly compared to everything that goes into developing a community of runners online. So, the available cash went to more important things like a more robust infrastructure for the website, fronting money for the challenge medals and travel expenses for our many events since launching the site in 2011.

Finally, our advertising budget and strategic plan came together, allowing us to recruit ambassadors to spread our message to a wider audience. Of course, those ambassadors need gear. Here’s what we came up with:

shortsleeve

longsleeve

singlet

jacket

All of the gear is fully dye sublimated, meaning that the fabric itself is dyed. That keeps everything light while maintaining the wicking and ventilating properties of the garments.

We also came up with a fun vintage style casual cotton t-shirt:

tshirt

Who gets to wear this stuff? I do! Of course, they were actually made for our ambassadors. In addition to Raffi, they are:

Megan from Running Toward the Prize.

Jennifer from My Frugal Wife

Gigi from Running on Candy

Kim from Barking Mad About Running

Tammy from Ginger Mantra

Laura from Running for Kicks & Giggles

We have extra T-shirts available for purchase for those who’d like one, but (for now at least) the tech gear is exclusive to the ambassadors. If you see one of them at your next race, stop and say “Hi”!

What do you think of the gear?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Digital Running | 2 Comments

Getting Things Done

Hi.

I haven’t posted to this blog in almost a year and let’s be honest – I didn’t even write that last post.

Sure, I could blame my lack of blogging on my two teenage daughters, my full time job, my adventure founding an internet start up, my time spent coaching high school cross country and track & field, or the fact that I’ve spent the last 8 months fixing up my home, selling it, moving out of it and my commercial office space to move into the nicest homeless shelter in the city of St. Petersburg (a friend’s house) while completing the purchase of my new home. All of those things played a role in my lack of blogging time, but it was mostly how I was handling them that got in the way of blogging (and living).

I pride myself on being dependable and with all of my responsibilities, I lived in constant fear of “dropping the ball”. My mind was so full of things that needed to be done that I was having a lot of trouble focusing on what I was supposed to be doing at any given time. If you’ve ever tried to run too many programs on your computer at the same time and your computer slowed to a grinding halt or eventually stopped because it ran out of memory, you’ve got an idea of what was happening to my brain. I ran out of time to actually do things because my brain was too busy processing what I needed to do!

I had a calendar and I had an inbox and I had a desk full of piles of things that needed to be attended to. But, the things in those piles didn’t necessarily need to be attended to immediately and some tasks in my inbox couldn’t be completed for several days so they stayed in my inbox until I started ignoring what was in my inbox because it wasn’t immediately useful. Then, I started worrying that I was going to miss doing something that needed to be done because it was buried at the bottom of my inbox.

While searching for design ideas for my new home office, I came across a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. I listened to the audiobook while painting the house and then read the whole thing while on a long flight to a recent Ragnar Relay. Just beginning to follow the system outlined in the book has immediately increased my daily productivity, reduced my stress and created more time in the day to relax (and blog). Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1) Created a filing system for anything that was in a random pile.

I went through all of the random stuff on my desk, on shelves, in drawers, etc. Some of it was no longer relevant. I trashed that. Some of it was useful reference information that I didn’t really need at arm’s length. I categorized and filed that stuff in an alphabetical reference file. Some of it was stuff I wanted to do someday, but couldn’t act on any time in the foreseeable future and did not want to forget about. For that, I created a “someday/maybe” folder which I can review on a monthly basis.

tickler

My tickler file in its temporary “mid-moving” location.

2) Created a “tickler” file.

A tickler file is a series of 43 file folders. 31 of them are labeled with the numbers 1-31. The other 12 are labeled with the months of the year. The tickler file contains tasks that should be completed on a certain day, but don’t necessarily require a specific time. This helps keep my calendar clutter free and for specific appointments only.

The numbered folders in the file are ordered from lowest to highest with that particular date in front until the last day of the month, which is followed by the next month’s folder and all of the previous day’s folders, which are in turn followed by all the rest of the “month” folders in order. As I write this, it is November 20th. Today, I received an email that informed me that the early bird deadline for the Great River Ragnar Relay is March 1st, 2014. I’d certainly like to register for the relay before that deadline, but I’d also like to start recruiting the team in January. So, I write a post-it about the deadline and stick it in the February folder (to give myself some lead time). I also write a post it note telling me to start recruiting the team and stick it in the January folder. I can then remove the email from my email inbox and file it in a folder for the 2014 Great River Ragnar Relay.

Next, I remember that I need to return the cable boxes from the house I just moved out of to the cable company before the end of the month. I look through the 21-30 folders, find one that looks fairly empty and stick a post-it telling me to return the cable boxes inside.

Every morning, I open the folder for that day (today it was the “20″ folder), dump the contents into my inbox and place the folder behind its previous day’s folder (in this case the “19″ folder). When I reach the “30″ folder, I’ll also check the “31″ folder (to make sure I didn’t accidentally put something in there since there are only 30 days in November) and move both of them behind the “29″ folder. The next folder I find will be the “December” folder. I’ll open that folder and see what’s inside. Some of the things will go into my inbox immediately, but most will be distributed into the numbered folders that follow. The December folder will then be placed all the way in the back of the file, and I’ll process the numbered folders on a daily basis.

3) Empty my inbox daily.

I have 2 inboxes – my physical inbox and my email inbox. I make sure to empty them both daily. When processing items in either inbox, I first ask myself if the task it represents will take 2 minutes or less to complete. If so, I do it. If not, it either needs to be delegated or deferred. If it needs to be delegated, I send it off to whoever needs to do it. If it needs to be deferred to later in the day, it stays in the inbox. If it needs to be deferred longer, it goes in the tickler file.

If it’s not a task, it gets filed in the appropriate spot. The brochure for the Viking River Cruises goes in the “someday/maybe” file and the closing documents go in the “house” reference file.

Anything remaining in the inbox should be completed that day.It gets ordered by priority and those tasks get completed. If something is left in the inbox at the end of the day, it’s placed in the tickler file for the next day (or later).

wunderlist-screenshot

Wunderlist is cloud based. Whether you use the phone app, the web app or both, your lists always go with you.

4) Created a series of electronic lists

Using a free cloud based service called Wunderlist, I’ve created a series of lists that are accessible from pretty much anywhere. These lists might include groceries, errands I need to run, things I might want to blog about in the future, etc.

Let’s say I’m sitting at my desk and my wife calls. We discuss dinner and decide to have lasagna. I know that we don’t have any tomato sauce. I open up my grocery list on Wunderlist and add tomato sauce. Later, when I’m at the grocery store, I just pull out my phone and look at the grocery list. As an added bonus, Wunderlist makes it easy to share lists with other users, so my wife could add items to the grocery list and they would appear on my phone when I’m at the grocery store (or vice versa).

Or, let’s say I’m at the running store and I have a great idea for a blog post. I can just pull out my phone and add the idea to my “blogging” list. Next time I’m ready to blog, I can just look at the list on my laptop, grab a topic and start writing.

I’m getting pretty good at tackling most of the tasks that come at me on a daily basis. I’ve still got to get more organized in the project management arena. I’m currently re-reading the projects section of the book to get my large projects broken down into smaller tasks that fit neatly into the system.

Although this is a long post, I don’t do the whole system justice. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and not as productive as you think you should be, I highly recommend checking out the book yourself. You can most likely find it at your public library and you can expect more frequent blog posts from me in the future.

Posted in Inspiration | 2 Comments

Things Runners Can Add to This Year’s Wish List

As usual, the holidays are sneaking up fast. Before you know it, you’ll be attending one holiday party after the next, eating and drinking a lot more than usual. Running is a great way to stay in shape both mentally and physically during the chaotic season. Typically, running is a very affordable sport since you really don’t need anything but a good pair of sneakers to get started. However, if you have people asking you what’s on your wish list these days, here are a few ideas for some fun things that will make your running even better.

A GPS Watch. For more serious runners and those that are starting to look into racing, a GPS watch can be an awesome addition to your runs. It lets you know how your pace is looking and allows you to store your run info on your computer so you can see how you’re progressing against your goals.

Sneakers. You should be changing your sneakers every few months depending on how often you run, so if you’re due for a new pair in the near future, add these to your wish list. You can go to the store and figure out the exact pair you want and then pass along the model number to whoever is gifting you them.

New Workout Clothes. When you start getting into more advanced workout clothes that do a good job of keeping you warm or cool and help with wicking sweat away, the tab can really add up. These brand name items are typically expensive so the holidays may be a good time for you to splurge on some nice stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise have room for in your budget.

You can enjoy a nice Christmas morning run with some of these gifts before indulging in a big holiday meal!

Posted in Gear | Leave a comment

2012 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay

It’s difficult to write about a Ragnar Relay without writing a whole novel so I won’t try to describe everything that happened in minute detail. The 2012 Cape Cod Ragnar Relay was my 6th Ragnar Relay, my 5th as a team captain and my 4th as a runner. Going in, I was a little worried about how I would perform as a runner. After a two month hiatus, I’ve only been back to regular training for about a month now and I’ve just been building my mileage gradually with easy runs. Overall, however, the experience was awesome and I ended up running better than I thought I would, thanks in large part to the cooler weather in New England relative to Florida.

Running Betty and I flew up to Providence, RI Thursday morning and met up with runner #5, Devin. We drove about 45 minutes to Raynham, MA and checked into our hotel before making our way to Boston for the team dinner. After an adventure driving the 12 passenger van through crowded Boston streets and tunnels, we arrived at a wonderful Italian restaurant where runner #9, David and his partner Steve treated most of the team to dinner.

I briefly thought Devin’s dinner might attack me.

After dinner, we all headed to Mike’s Pastry where we were wowed by the large Thursday night crowd and I thankfully did not notice that rum cake was available. With plans to meet up at our hotel in the morning, we all parted ways before 10 PM.

Running Betty and I woke up at about 8 the next morning for a Wal-Mart run and the whole team began to assemble at about 9:30.  The gradual assembly of the team on race morning is probably one of my favorite parts of the relay. It’s fun to see who is bouncing off the walls excited, who is quietly nervous and who just hasn’t has enough coffee to be completely functional. We loaded the vans and headed for the starting line at 10 AM. Once we arrived, we completed the van 1 safety briefing and the decorated the vans.

Runner #2, Robin draws the halibut on van #1

At noon, it was time to start and first time Ragnarian, Brian L. led us out of the gate. After a quick bathroom break, we all jumped into the van in hot pursuit of the runners. As we drove along the course, it was creepy that we didn’t pass any runners. The further we went, the more worried I became. Finally, we arrived at exchange #1 without passing any runners. They had all vanished!

Slightly chagrined at the odd start to the relay, we eventually learned that the entire noon starting group (25 runners) had made a wrong turn just a few hundred meters from the starting line and run 2 miles out of their way. The 6 mile leg turned into a 10 mile leg!

We jumped back into the van and headed back toward the starting line, hoping to give Brian some much needed support. As we began to encounter the runners along the route, they didn’t look happy so we rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio. Once we found Brian, we stopped the van and danced for all the runners because we’re “Ragnarians” and that’s what we do for our fellow runners.

Brian arrived at exchange 1 about 25 minutes late with a smile on his face. His first Ragnar leg in the books, he already had one heck of a story to tell. Robin was off in a flash, so we headed to exchange #2 where she handed of to Kelci and I got dressed for my first leg.

While at exchange 2, we learned that the course had changed. The original exchange #3 was to be at a high school, but it got moved apparently due some shenanigans that the high school administrators did not approve of. That extended Kelci’s leg 0.8 miles and knocked my first leg down to 5 miles. Feeling good about the shorter distance, I took the bracelet from Kelci and sprinted 25 meters to a traffic signal.

...because getting hit by a car during your first leg = major buzzkill

Once through the first traffic light, I started off pretty fast. I thought there were some people trying to “roadkill” me so I took off downhill and nabbed my first road kill about a half mile into the leg. The road curved back uphill to another stoplight where I just missed the signal and had to wait for quite a while. I looked back and saw a guy in a red shirt about a quarter mile behind and impatiently waited for the signal to turn. It did before he reached me and I did my best to put as much distance between us. My last stoplight behind me, I settled into a pretty solid pace heading into historic Plymouth, killing 5 more runners before finally getting caught and passed by red shirt guy within view of the Mayflower and just before the finish of the leg. I charged into exchange #4 ready to hand off the bracelet to Devin, but the chute was empty. Bewildered, I spotted the van heading quickly toward me. Seconds later, Devin popped out and I handed him the  bracelet.

An interesting leg with an average moving pace under 7 minutes per mile.

After Devin and runner #6, Anna finished their legs, we handed the reigns off to van #2 and promptly got caught in horrible traffic heading across the bridge to Cape Cod. Local, Robin, steered us to an Italian restaurant where we filled our bellies before heading to exchange #12. In true Clark Griswold style, I parked in the back of the parking lot and pulled out the Christmas lights.

Tip: LED lights will save your van battery.

As the sun set, we watched runner #12, Luis take off on his 6.5 mile loop back to the same park he started in. An hour later, he handed off to runner #1, Brian and the madness started all over again. The main difference was that this time, Brian ran his prescribed number of miles and handed off to Robin right at the expected time. Robin traversed the Sagamore bridge and brought the team onto the Cape where she finished her leg with a quarter mile of sand running and handed off to Kelci who waited for her wrapped in a sleeping bag in the cold night air.

I received the slap bracelet for my second leg in a Walgreens parking lot. The nighttime legs are always my favorite and this one didn’t disappoint. I tore through the parking lot and spotted another runner behind me with a glance over my shoulder as I maneuvered onto a sidewalk. Not wanting to get killed again, I maintained a healthy pace, but could spot no runners ahead. Without carrots to chase, the leg started out a little on the boring side, but I held onto the pace and my persistence was shortly rewarded with three blinking red lights in the distance. I slowly pulled them in and van #1 pulled alongside on the road, slowing for a few cheers and some cowbell. The extra motivation gave me a little boost and I passed the three runners ahead. The night was peaceful and the natural smells emanating from the woods and creek beds I passed through relaxed me even as I pushed to turn my legs over at a faster rate. By the end of the leg, I had racked up 8 road kills without being passed myself.

Not as fast as leg 1, but still satisfying.

 

Devin also had a short leg, but Anna’s leg was a little longer. Her leg headed through some neighborhoods and as we made our way to exchange #18 we noticed some people sitting on lawn chairs at the end of their driving drinking beer and cheering for all the runners as they passed – an awesome way to spend a Friday night, I think.

We were tired when Anna arrived at 24 to end our second stint on the course, so we navigated immediately to exchange #24 where Raffi and I found a quiet spot to pitch our tent and get a few hours of sleep. The rest of the team opted to remain in the van. Following the Del Sol Ragnar Relay in February, Raffi and I invested in some warmer sleeping bags and we were rewarded with actual sleep. It was only two hours, but it was enough to perk me up and I was ready to go when Luis arrived at the exchange to hand off to Brian.

Brian ends his first Ragnar with a somewhat fumbled handoff to Robin

Brian knocked his last leg out with gusto and handed off the Robin. That’s where the trouble began. We hopped back into the van and followed the directions to the next exchange. As I was driving and Running Betty had her head buried in the directions. Devin pointed out that we had passed a bunch of vans parked along the roadside. Briefly worried that we had passed the exchange point, we encountered a parking lot down the road that was full of vans. We pulled in and waited for Robin to arrive.

She was late…very late. Eventually, Kelci figured out that we were at the wrong exchange point. The spot 200 yards up the road was in fact the relay exchange 26 and we were waiting at exchange #27. Kelci and Raffi jogged up the road to exchange 26 to meet Robin. Meanwhile, Robin came running into exchange #27. The course had been changed and I did not receive notification. There was no clear sign pointing out the new location of exchange #26 and Robin ran right past it, continuing on to complete Kelci’s leg of the relay.

Leg 28 begins with a hand slap.

Fortunately, Kelci had her cell phone so I called her, told her to run her leg and we’d wait for her at 27. 25 minutes later, she arrived, slapped my hand (I was already wearing the bracelet) and I took off on my last leg of the relay. I jetted across the road and onto the “rail trail” with the thought that I might be able to break 20 minutes in this 5K leg. I spotted my first potential kill in the distance and glanced down at my Garmin which indicated I was running at sub 6 minute mile pace. I eased back on the pace and passed the woman ahead.

Each time I passed someone, I was able to spot another runner in the distance and that kept me “racing” the whole time. The 6:20 pace was a little too much for my legs, however, so I began to back off before it became a real problem. Each time I encountered a runner, I’d accelerate past them, then back off the pace a little to recover. I passed 8 runners by the time I hit the three mile mark and knowing I was almost done with my final leg, I let it all hang out fore the last tenth of a mile. When I arrived at 3.1 miles, all I was greeted with was a big 7% incline up a bridge. Fortunately, the exchange point was at the top, but Devin was not!

A nice finish

Five minutes later, Kelci arrived with her husband and Devin jogged up the hill behind her. I handed the bracelet to him and headed back to the van where I learned they had all gotten lost. Fortunately, the next two legs went by smoothly and we handed the reigns to van #2 at exchange 30.

Mimosas are a refreshing treat to celebrate the completion of a Ragnar Relay

We were hungry so we headed to breakfast at Laura & Tony’s kitchen – a small spot with a great breakfast buffet. Some of us enjoyed mimosas and others opted for coffee. We relaxed and lingered, happy for a nice place to sit an fill our bellies. Afterward, we headed to Provincetown and killed some time by tagging other vans. We had a couple of beers in the beer garden and van #2 arrived after a couple of hours. As David approached the finish line, a couple of people helped him into his fish costume and he led us across the line.

Though we were a few hours short of actually winning the race, we did take home the “Nom de Plume” award for Best team name. We’re all very proud.

The team at the finish line.

Up next for me? The Chicago Ragnar Relay. I’ve just found out that one of our runners is injured so it looks like I’ll be filling in again!

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Running the Cape

Most people who regularly read this blog know that (among other things) I’ve been spending the last year putting together teams of complete strangers to run Ragnar Relays. Usually, I don’t plan on running the relays. I only serve as the captain and a support staffer for the team. Sometimes, however, there’s a last minute cancellation and one of the runners is unable to run due to an injury or some other reason. In those cases, it can be pretty difficult to find a replacement last minute so I step in as the emergency replacement runner.

Just this week, one of the runners on my Cape Cod Ragnar Relay team, “Running for the Halibut” dropped out due to some IT band syndrome in both knees, so I was thrust into the position of runner #4!  Now as most of you already know, I’ve only recently started up with regular training since a roughly two month hiatus following the St. Petersburg Rock n Roll half marathon. So, I’m probably in the worst shape I’ve ever been in prior to a Ragnar Relay. Here’s a look at my legs:

Skinny? Yes, but I'm fond of them.

Seriously, though, leg #4 is described as “the heart of history and downtown Plymouth”. So, that sounds kind of cool. Here it is in map form:

Very historical and mostly down hill!

That’s the longest leg and probably the one I’m most looking forward to in terms of scenary. Leg #16 will be around midnight. It doesn’t look all that special on the map, but I always love chasing those little blinking red lights (other runners) in the middle of the night. I’m expecting some cool temperatures and an enjoyable run:

Bonus! Another mostly down hill leg.

Leg #28 is my shortest leg and it’s almost entirely on a “rail trail”.  After the two longer legs, I hope I have the legs left to really kill this one. It’s always fun to finish strong.

Short, sweet and another net elevation loss!

This will be my 6th Ragnar Relay. It’s my 5th as a captain, but only the 4th I’ll actually be running. While I’m not in the greatest shape, it is the shortest total distance I’ve ever run in a relay. So, I’m pretty psyched about this surprise race next weekend and I’m looking forward to many road kills!

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Going Granola

My breakfasts usually consist of standing in the kitchen with a bowl of cheerios and a glass of OJ. Running Betty has been trying to get me to switch to oatmeal, but it’s May in Florida and oatmeal just doesn’t sound very good (especially after a hot run). She convinced me this week that I could make granola, pour some milk over it and call it cereal. I accepted her challenge.

Of course, every good granola starts with rum. So, I poured some Cruzan 9 spiced rum over a few ice cubes and got started with gathering my dry ingredients:

The rum goes into you mouth, not into the granola.

3 cups of rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped Blue Diamond Almonds

1/2 cup shredded coconut

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

a few shakes of the salt shaker

I wanted clusters of granola that wouldn’t break part in a cereal and I read that an egg white would help hold the clusters together. With that in mind, I mixed together my wet ingredients in a separate bowl:

Dry and wet ingredients warming up to each other

1 egg white

1 cup agave syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

After thoroughly mixing the dry ingredients, I dumped them into a 13 x 9 pan, then poured the wet mixture over the top. Using a fork, I stirred the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until things got a little clumpy. Then, I used my hands to kind of knead things together before flattening everything out in the pan.

I baked the granola at 300 degrees for 1 hour, stirring it every 15 minutes. When it finally came out of the oven, I was a little disappointed with the “clumpiness”, but I let it sit out and cool for about an hour and everything stuck together pretty well. I spooned it into some Tupperware and refrigerated it overnight.

In the morning, I defrosted a handful of frozen blueberries in a bowl, then poured some of my granola over them and added milk. It took me more than 45 seconds to eat, but it was quite delicious! The whole batch was enough for about a week’s worth of breakfasts.

The happy ending

What’s your favorite granola recipe?

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Week in Review 4/23/2012 – 4/29/2012

It’s hard to believe another week is in the books, but time is flying. Friday was the state track & field championships so the season is officially over. That means I’ll have to adjust more to morning runs since I won’t be running with the team in the afternoons (at least for the next two weeks – some of the runners expressed interest in continuing to run after school). I’m holding up pretty well with the 25 mile weeks. I sometimes wake up with a little soreness here and there (especially in my feet), but it goes away after a day off or an easy run. If the last 7 years of running have taught me anything, it’s how to tell the difference between a little soreness and an actual injury in my own body.

Here’s how the week went:

Monday: 4.8 miles easy in the afternoon followed by 3 miles at threshold pace in the evening.

Tuesday: 3.6 miles easy

Wednesday: Body weight strength circuit

Thursday: 4 miles easy in the morning + 3.6 miles easy in the afternoon

Friday: Off

Saturday: 8 miles easy

Sunday: Off

Total: 27 miles

I think I managed to fix my Garmin. I let is sit off for about 5 days, then charged it fully. Once it was fully charged, I got it to turn on and download the new firmware. The firmware supposedly fixes the lockup problem I was having. It made it through the whole week without a problem.

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