Latest reviews by Craig Simpson

"Unstuffing the Helmet Slinging Turkey"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

There haven't been many years where we have had significant snowfall in November, but this year we seem to have skipped Autumn all together.

Sure we get flurries every year, but most accumulation comes closer to December. Only a few times can I remember getting a decent snowfall prior to Thanksgiving. Though, that's exactly what we were honored with this year. It went from 50 degrees to four inches of the white stuff and school closings in under 24 hours. The arctic wave that strolled through the U.S. November 9th through the 13th found itself in Ohio the evening of the 11th. I drove home from work during it's infancy and by the time L & I ate dinner, we had a full on snowfall.

Being folks who enjoy the change of seasons, what did we do to celebrate? We went out in it, of course. We strolled around our neighborhood and goofed off like a couple of kids before heading in for the night. The following morning was just as pretty, though driving north to work was less than desirable. Most roads were relatively clear, but the nut jobs who can't drive when the wind blows to hard or the when sun is too bright found it upon themselves to navigate with their eyes closed.

Even at work I had to keep reminding myself it was only mid-November, despite the feeling it was late December or the first month of the third decade of the 2000's. Nonetheless, we were forced to rejoin the fun that is training in the snow under the cover of nightfall.

It was a bit ironic that we had signed up for the Columbus Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k/5k the week before when we simply expected it to be less than warm. Though it has "warmed up" to temperatures of 40 degrees instead of the teens - around the time of the snow - were still dodging some banks of snow and ice.

Even more weird was the fact we had moved most of our summer outdoor furniture and belongings into the basement from the carport just the day before as well as preparing our garden beds for hibernation. That carport was covered with snow the next night thanks to the blowing snow.

Did we know something others didn't? Did we have some sort of seasonal premonition? No, we just happen to live in Ohio. This is nothing new to us. Although, running a 15k would be something new for L. I was only hoping to improve at a distance I haven't had much experience with. L, on the other hand, would be stepping up from what had been her longest distance - the 10k.

The Thursday night before, L & I had dinner at a nearby establishment then wandered across the street to Staas Brewing to watch the Browns & Steelers beat the crap out of each other. We left at halftime since it had been a long day, but the night and morning ended up being longer then we had hoped for. Both us tossed and turned as what we had eaten seemed to whirl around our stomachs like Myles Garrett swinging Mason Rudolph's helmet like a cat o' nine tails.

Upon getting up Friday morning, everything I had eaten decided to evacuate itself from it's gastric prison - utilizing both unguarded exits. It was, as you can imagine, an unpleasant experience, but I felt better immediately thereafter. We more than likely will not be going back to this eatery anytime soon, but the experience didn't ruin the weekend like the rest of Garrett's season. Because, hey, we still had a race to run... and some edible non-tainted food to eat...

In recent years, most of the races (if not all) in November for us have been 5k's. This year I wanted to add something to that traditional Thanksgiving Day 3.1 miler and challenge myself a bit more. Having added more and more distance to her repertoire, L joined in following an awesome 10k trail race finish just two three weeks before. Exuding confidence, we were ready to tackle Columbus in November.

The route for this race would be a conglomeration of portions of the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon, AEP Ohio Columbus 10K and the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon & Half Marathon. And not to mention it circles a neighborhood I used to live and and work, so this would be more than familiar territory for me.

We had a clear sky, but it was cold. Bouncing around to keep warm in the corral well before full sun & 28 degrees, a participant next to me wearing chicken-head shaped winter head gear with full face-shield leans over to me, "What time does the race start?"

Noticing he is also glancing over to the line-up of port-a-johns, "Starts at 7:30 dude, you have plenty of time."
Not sure if he's running the 5k or 15k as we were all mixed together, I also wanted to suggest he ditch the chicken head but I keep it to myself.

Just before we get to the countdown and I look back to see a sliver of L in the corral behind me. She looked ready, so was I. At the gun I tag along behind a few faces I recognize but don't go with them for fear of going out to fast (like always). I keep my self in check, but push a little to warm some chilly muscles. Within a couple of minutes, the lead groups have weeded out the pretenders and on the declining straight stretch along South High Street I can see everyone in front of me (mile one: 6:01). There looks to be about 20 or so and everyone seems to be maintaining for now.

At mile two I'm going about what I was looking for (6:09) and my goal is stick around this time for as long as I can. We turn to go around Schiller Park and two guys in front of me utilize the fuel stop. I pick out the last person at the stop to get a gulp of sports drink and just as I reach for the cup she's hold out she - looking behind me - drifts back to get a better look at those oncoming and unbeknownst to her pulls the cup away from my reaching hand.

She turns back just as I whiff at it, "Oh no! I'm so sorry!"
A little perturbed, but this happens to me at least once a race. It was early and I was hurting.

I pass dude in blue as we complete the Schiller Park loop and head back north along High Street (6:14). The long straight stretch incline shows the leaders well ahead and those within sight are scattered about. Passing the majority of the participants still heading south I see Traffic Panther Sarah and she throws out some encouragement.

Moments later, I see L and we congratulate one another on our efforts. I hear heavy footsteps coming from my rear and as he passes I see it is the dude in blue. He suddenly found another gear, but he's pounding the ground hard. Finally getting a swig of sports drink from a volunteer who is paying attention at mile four (6:18) and I slow a bit as the incline gets a bit longer and with the benefit of a nice decline on the other side.

Finally turning left off of High Street toward Goodale Park, an officer on foot has directed an SUV to follow him onto the course. It doesn't stay off to the side, but rather is directly in the middle of the one lane that's open. As it creeps along, I drift left to go around it and purposely bang my hand on the driver's side door, "Get off the course!"

As I pass, I hear the officer from behind me, "He' just trying to get around the event, sir."
"I don't care, get'em off the course," I say as there are hundreds of ways to get around the area without driving through the race (mile 5: 6:40).

Along the downhill the 5k & 15k races, which have been running side-by-side, split. At this point, those ahead are a good 20 to 30 seconds off and I'm running by myself up Neal Avenue passing the neighborhood I once lived in (mile 6: 6:04). Just before we reach the left turn onto West Fifth Avenue, I'm passed and keep pace with him to the water stop on Fifth. He heads to the fueling station volunteers on the left, I drift to those on my right. As I grab a cup on the go, I see he has come to a dead stop to refuel.

I find this odd and continue on, though within moments I heard oncoming footsteps. As the runner passes I notice it isn't the gentleman who had stopped, but someone else. At mile seven (6:23) the dude who stopped before returns and passes me again. We turn south on Olentangy River Road and pick it up to keep the two ahead within reach. We have gained on two a little further ahead as we now have full sun and are running direction into it (mile 8: 6:24).

We turn left onto a small hill on Goodale Street which then declines and evolves into Vine Street. Here a longer incline begins and those in front drift further ahead. I'm not catching anyone, just hoping to finish strong. We meet back up along side the 5k finishers (mile 9: 6:33), circle around Nationwide Arena and finish on a nice decline in shade of the surrounding downtown sports venue and buildings. My watch indicates the 15k was a bit long (9.4 instead of 9.3) and I'm in at 59:11. I'm sure I could have finished a bit better, but hard to complain with 17th place overall and finishing first in my age group.

The post race celebration was also mostly in the shade of the buildings as it was still just 8:30. I slowly head toward the gear check tent to grab our things while recovering from the gauntlet and I notice a burning sensation the right side of my jaw. I take of my glove to inspect and find the sweat on that side of my face is in the beginning stages of freezing. No, it wasn't cold at all on this day.

I get our things and put on my warm jacket and throw the hood over my head while walking back over to the finish area to wait for L under the beautiful ornate arch remnant from Columbus' once grand - but now gone - Union Station. She arrives before too long and is tired, yet ecstatic, with a 1:25:23 finish in her longest race ever (by three miles) and just two weeks after an awesome finish in a 10k trail race. This is a great step toward her goal of running her first 13.1 miler at the Athens Ohio Half Marathon next April. We went straight home and ordered a pizza. The rest of our Sunday was spent crashed on the sofa and watching football with one eye open.

The season of night running is upon us with lights, reflectors and headlamps all aglow. I think running when you can see less makes the experience go faster and more personally fulfilling, like navigating a tunnel. You can focus more and block out all of the lingering remnants that don't make much sense or are simply there to distract you. That's what it's all about: putting in the work, enjoying yourself and not worrying about what happens when the clock strikes midnight.....

The Airborne Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight

And it starts

Sometime around midnight
Or at least that's when
You lose yourself
For a minute or two
As you stand

Under the bar lights
And the band plays some song
About forgetting yourself for a while
And the piano's this melancholy sound check
To her smile
And that white dress she's wearing
You haven't seen her
For a while
But you know

That she's watching
She's laughing, she's turning
She's holding her tonic like a crux
The room suddenly spinning
She walks up and asks how you are
So you can smell her perfume
You can see her lying naked in your arms
And so there's a change

In your emotions
And all of these memories come rushing
Like feral waves to your mind
Of the curl of your bodies
Like two perfect circles entwined
And you feel hopeless, and homeless
And lost in the haze
Of the wine
And she leaves

With someone you don't know
But she makes sure you saw her
She looks right at you and bolts
As she walks out the door
Your blood boiling
Your stomach in ropes
And when your friends say what is it
You look like you've seen a ghost
And you walk

Under the streetlights
And you're too drunk to notice
That everyone is staring at you
And you so care what you look like
The world is falling
Around you
You just have to see her

You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her
You just have to see her

And you know that she'll break you in two

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"The Best Record Store Urgent Care in Pittsburgh"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Last Christmas, L's gift to her brother, Chris, was a day he could select to go to any vintage/used record store he wanted. Now living in Steubenville (Ohio), Chris decided upon a trip to Pittsburgh.

With the steel city just 40 miles from Chris, L and I made a weekend of it by heading down to stay with him. On Friday, we drove through Rayland (Ohio) to visit Hightower Brewing Company before getting to Steubenville. The following morning, we drove to the Pittsburgh area to visit the Attic Record Store in nearby Millvale, PA and visit a couple of breweries.

The last time I was in Pittsburgh, it was 2005, I was turning 30, working in radio in Canton, Ohio and took a tour of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute's Le Cordon Bleu Program deep in the heart of the golden triangle. I was seriously examining a career change and cooking school was something I really wanted to do. The cost, unfortunately, kept me from moving forward ($40,000 for an 18 month program) - not to mention the few thousand I still owed from getting my broadcasting degrees.

I think I received a follow up phone call from them at least once a month for the next two years, asking when I thought I could start taking classes. The program has since closed, but I still wonder if I made the right call or what might have evolved had I threw caution a bit harder into the wind. Sure, my time in broadcasting came and went and - perhaps - the same would have been true with the cooking school route. Though, it is fun to wonder what it would have been like to further my cooking prowess in the shadow of the three rivers and where it might have taken me.

Anyway, we find the record store and it's massive inventory. For a music geek like Chris, he could browse for hours. He and L went digging for treasure while I casually glanced around for a short time. I then stepped outside and browsed the neighborhood in search of a restroom. Luckily the nearby restaurant/pharmacy combination had one for public use (Pamela's P & G Diner). I continued on and before I realized it I had walked right into a brewery partly facilitated by a dude I used to play Sunday morning flag football with in Columbus.

Originally from PA, Dan was among the original six to eight guys we played with regularly years ago. He moved back to Pittsburgh and helped start a brewery (Grist House), among other things. It was funny to walk right to it by happen chance and figured we would stop by later as I headed back to find to L and Chris. Once at the record store, L isn't feel well and soon needed to seek medical attention as a precaution. We left Chris to his own devices as he continued to salivate over mountains of music.

She drove while I navigated us to the nearest urgent care. I felt sorry for her, as she tried to keep herself calm listening to my directions while attempting to maneuver Pittsburgh's crowded & unfamiliar streets and rolling hills. More than once she over analyzed my directions and attempted to do nearly the exact opposite (something she tends to do when stressed or frustrated). Having to talk her off the ledge and get her to relax a little, we finally made it. Luckily, it was not a busy day at the medical facility - we were in and out in about 30 minutes. She received a prescription for the stomach bug that hit her and the pharmacy was just a block a way, but it wouldn't be ready for nearly an hour.

She stayed at the pharmacy while I then drove through the maze back to the record store to get Chris and return. He was waiting outside when I arrived with a cache of new sounds. Upon retrieving L from the pharmacy and we returned to the Millvale area to eat and browse some breweries. On the return trip, L (feeling a bit better) is in the backseat questioning the route I was taking. I give her the stink eye via the rear view mirror and after a second inquisition as to the direction I was taking, Chris chimed in, "I think he knows where he's going considering this is the fourth time he's taken this route in the last hour."

Letting what Chris said sink in, L realized she could relax as I was now familiar with the surroundings. She sheepishly smiles and adds, "Um...Love You!"

We stopped by Strange Roots Experimental Ales for some food and drink first. While there I messaged Dan and while he wouldn't be at Grist House till much later, he thought it was way cool I had found his place by total accident and offered some suggestion as to what we should try while there. We stopped by and sampled somethings before heading out to a place L had wanted to visit, Hop Farm Brewing, a cool pub a bit hidden way.

Shortly thereafter, we drove back to Steubenville listening to a portion of Chris' new collection of music with some Pittsburgh area beers for future enjoyment. Along the way Dan apologized for missing us at his place, but did say we needed to meet up the next time he made it back to the Columbus area. I, too, let him know we would coordinate a return with him in the near future as well.

As always, the trip turned out to be much more than we bargained for. Seriously, who wouldn't enjoy vintage music, beer, urgent care visits and restaurant/pharmacy bathrooms?

Well look at that, it is finally fall and the 40th Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon has returned. I will be taking part in my third half marathon portion of this event. It had gotten a bit cool as of late, but it isn't that it has been out of the ordinary. It's just that it was summer-like warm for much longer than we expected and the sudden change to what it should fee like was quick and surprising. This meant we would have real fall weather for the event, bringing back fond memories of those high school and collegiate cross country seasons of the past.

If you haven't taken part in this event, the start is an awesome blood pumping experience as AC/DC's Thunderstruck blares - shaking you to your core - as the final minutes count down to the gun time.

In just my second attempt at a half marathon in 2017, I finished 303 out of 9,633 in 1:37:06. Last year, I re-aggravated a calf strain at mile ten and finished 136 out of 9,112 in 1:27:16. Having eclipsed the 1:24 barrier last April, could I come close to that here in 2019? At the very least, the weather would cooperate as we had a cool breeze and a 50 degree temperature to kick us off. In the corral, a handful of familiar faces are ready to take off with me.

From the outset I worked my way out of the glut of competitors and made it to the outside to get the legs moving. I didn't feel like I was going to fast, but the legs were loose and I was comfortable. Making our way to Broad Street I find a small group to tag along with and at mile one I was surprised with a 6:02. Typically, way to fast for mile one but I didn't feel as if it was - I would be slowing down a bit in the coming miles but everything was feeling good.

Approaching mile, two and suddenly from my left side I hear, "Hey, congrats on the wedding!"
Its CRC Westerville Teammate Jared who we haven't seen much of lately as he and his wife have been busy with a pair of small children. We exchange a handful of wedding related comments and continue on. He is usually much faster than I, so I attempt to keep him within eyesight for as long as I can. The next three miles on the long straight stretch are fluid (6:17, 6:16, 6:19) and those I have chosen to follow are still nearby. Though Jared is much further ahead, but I can at least see him.

Making sure to alternate water & Gatorade at the fuel stations seems to be paying off. It isn't too hot, or too cold and it isn't breezy - the conditions are perfect. It now comes down to physical make-up and mindset. Just before mile five I see an onlooker cross the course through a decent sized gap between runners from left to right. The onlooker then turns back to the course, start his watch and joins in along side me - it's CRC Westerville Teammate John who is there as a spectator.

"I thought I'd join you for few minutes. How are ya feelin'!", he asks.

"I'm feeling good, can't complain at the moment", I reply as it was a nice boost to the ego to have a familiar face join to help pace along with.
After a couple of minutes of chit chat, "Man, you are going too fast for me."

Jokingly, "I'm sorry, I can slow down for you,"
He laughs, "Oh, no. Don't do that, you are doing good. I'm going to drop back and run along with some others (teammates). Good luck."

I nod and he trails off course. At mile five I'm at 6:22 and the handful of folks I've attempted to tag along with are a bit further ahead. Working through my mechanics and reviewing the familiar course in my head, I attempt to determine how to navigate the second half (mile six: 6:20). A bit of an incline covers mile seven and I'm trailing off a bit (6:35), but this is typical for me - just as long as the ensuing miles don't also trail off.

I'm able to make it up the next two miles (6:27, 6:24) I'm now working on tagging along with a couple of stronger runners as we tackle the final 5K (6:30). I catch a glimpse of L and hear, "Keep it up, your at PR pace!" Around Schiller Park we go and what has been my demise the last two years comes into view - the long, rolling hill straight stretch back north along High Street. They aren't huge inclines by any means, but from a distant the horizon looks intimidating. In the past, this is where everyone and their brother passes me.

Tired, I put my head down and work my elbows through my knees, looking up occasionally to gauge how far those I'm trailing are ahead of me. I've slowed significantly, but fewer folks are drifting by than in previous years along miles 11 & 12 (6:37, 6:45). The mile thirteen downhill is a welcome sight as I let the legs and arms flow free and the half marathon & marathon split becomes visible.

Not to make fun, but I can't imagine running past the split and watching folks turn to finish the half marathon while I still have another 13.1 miles to navigate. This would be psychological torture for me, kudos to those who tackle the full marathon. It just isn't my thing.

Turning left through the split and I attempt to keep my final mile momentum (6:27), cruising through the finish at 1:24:57 - good enough for 94th overall and 6th in my age group. There would be no overall PR this time, but it was for this course by 2 1/2 minutes. A much better result at an event that has not been my friend the last two years. My favorite number is regarding the Passed & Passed By statistics this race tabulates. These numbers are taken at the 7k mark, the 15k mark and the finish. Most important in my opinion are the number of those who Passed By me in the last segment. In 2017, that number was 73, in 2018 it was 13 and this year it was 9.

Upon finishing L and I made our way home and had planned to go out later on in the day, but instead we crashed. Both of us fell asleep for a while, then simply watched football the rest of the afternoon. We don't know if it was because we had been up since 6am, or because we had spent the entire day before visiting Rock Bridge State Nature Preserve and Double Edge Brewing Company. Either way, it made for a long - yet fun - weekend.

With the Daylight Saving Time for 2019 coming to an end, we are now digging out those headlamps, flashlights and reflective vests - not to mention the hats, gloves and tights. And the CRC Tuesday Night Track group has only a few more meet-ups left before calling it quits for the season. I missed the most recent one due to the struggle to get there on time and with enough daylight. The October 15th Democratic Presidential Debate took place at Otterbein University, just two miles from our track workout location and getting there would have been impossible, so I did my own work out at the middle school near our house instead.

No need to be sad, seasons change and lucky enough they return as well. We all need a deep freeze to renew and rejuvenate ourselves. It's the only way we can come back stronger, stronger than ever before...

The Beta Band - Dry The Rain

This is the definition of my life
Lying in bed in the sunlight
Choking on the vitamin tablet
The doctor gave in the hope of saving me
In the hope of saving me
Walked in the corner of the room
A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom
I asked him time again

Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain the rain
The rain the rain the rain now

Dusty brown boots in the corner
By the ironing board
Spray on dust is the greatest thing
Sure is the greatest thing
Since the last since the last
Walked in the corner of the room
A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom
I asked him time again

Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain the rain
The rain the rain the rain now
I asked him time again
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain
Take me in and dry the rain

The rain the rain the rain now
If there's something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

If there's something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I Need Love, yeah
I Need Love

If there's something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light

If there's something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I will be your light
I need love
I need love

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"Alcoholic Pervert Bakers Need Not Apply"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

It is hard to believe the summer is over, though even more hard to believe what we dubbed The Wedding Summer went so fast. Our garden is on it's last leg and despite the wedding taking place a month ago, it sounds weird to refer to L as my wife. What seemed so far away, came and went in a flash.

So back to reality and moving back into a new old routine and, of course, a dose of normal life returns with flying colors. A bakery near my place of employment posted a job opening for a night baker. This ad has everything you would expect from someone working as a baker or, at the very least, an apprentice baker. Though, the owner/operators of this establishment apparently have had a rough time finding folks who are way more interested in life outside of baking.

The requirements for prospective candidates included that "no alcoholics or perverts need apply". Now, this is funny - probably not all that funny to those running this establishment - but it does make you wonder as to what has taken place in the past or the mind frame of the folks they may have hired in recent years. If I were about 10 years younger, I would more than likely apply for this position as my interest in food and cooking is on the high end. Luckily, I would fit every requested requirement for the position (a congratulatory fist pump ensues).

I humor myself by imagining group of offended professional and amateur bakers joining forces in a prejudicial lawsuit claiming no one has ever been harmed by a baker with a dirty mind who drinks hourly - but yet - can produce a flawless croquembouche?! Seriously, what tastes better then a French Wedding Cake made with love, liquor cabinet lubrication and a little BDSM?!

But I for L and I, we are now working on evolving as a married couple. I laughed at myself the other day when L's parents came down for a visit and thought, "Wow, these are my in-laws?!" Not that I wouldn't want them to be, but referring to anyone as an in-law will take some getting used to. So what was the first real thing we did as husband and wife? We went to a Reds game!

Having found a weekend where we were both free of prior engagements, L found some great seats at Great American Ball Park. It was also quite special as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds for my entire lifetime, Marty Brennaman, was finishing his final season behind the mic. Sure, we wouldn't hear him call the game from inside the stadium, but it was the premise of being there - at least once - in his final season.

Though the Reds lost 2-0 to the Diamondbacks, it was a blast to be back at GABP for the first time in over a decade. We ate, had a few Cincinnati beers and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The game was actually a game as the Reds had a chance to win it down to the final out. We had great pitching, but on this day we couldn't hit a beach ball with a tennis racket - it was very frustrating.

As we walked into the stadium, there as a glut of people that seemed to be stagnant, not moving in any one direction. Forcing our way through the mass toward our gate, it became clear as to what was causing the pedestrian traffic was Marty! He was taking photos with people during pre-game as we were walking by and the line to do so was a mile long. This photo will do for me, I was in no mood to stand line at the moment because - well - I would be standing in line for everything else (food, drink, a urinal) as the game evolved.

Over the last few years Marty has had some folks fill-in from time to time and even taking a few innings off during games, but it will be different not hearing him at all during broadcasts next year. There are some folks who aren't fans of his, usually because he tells it like it is. He's not an all out rah-rah guy. If the Reds are playing awful...that's exactly what you will hear. If they could be playing better, he will tell you. If they are playing well, you will know it. It was a pleasure to have someone put what is actually taking place on the field into the correct descriptive terms and not sugarcoat it.

Marty will be missed and will be taking with him my childhood of Pete Rose's 4,192nd hit, the frustrations of the always second place late 80's, the magical wire-to-wire-first place everyday 1990 world title, the Marty & Joe radio show where a baseball game also happened to be taking place, Jay Bruce's division winning solo shot in 2010, the "we made the playoffs, but what's next" of the 2000's, thousands of road trip accompaniments and those late night bedtime broadcasts struggling to stay awake hoping to be semi-alert for school the following day.

Marty, somewhere, the ol' lefthander is raising a beer in your honor. You may be slowly rounding third, but there is still plenty of time before that final 90 feet comes to an end. Thanks Marty.

Yeah, so summer is over and along with it comes those fall races. The first on the list is the D1 Columbus Dam Half Marathon and 10K. I will be running the half marathon with L running the 10K. The race will start at Alum Creek Beach and run along the Alum Creek Lake Dam, for which the race is named. The 10K is expected to be a 3.1 mile out and back, while the half marathon will encompass Alum Creek Lake. Here are some additional details:

Join us for the inaugural The Dam Half Marathon & 10K on Sunday, September 29 at Alum Creek State Park Beach, sponsored by D1 Training Columbus.

Runners will receive:
*finisher medal
*official race t-shirt
*Alum Creek Beach Ale, courtesy of Olentangy River Brewing Company
*BBQ buffet at the post-race party, just steps from the finish line

Sounds like a blast, even packet pick-up takes place at Olentangy River Brewing Company With temperatures to go from the 90s to the mid to high 70s, this should be an ideal fall run.

Or so we thought....

A couple of weeks before race day, L forwards me an email she received from the race organizers. The proposed half marathon race route was going to change. Instead of running around Alum Creek State Park, we would follow an out an back course (similar to the 10k route) and run it twice - meaning we would run the length of the Alum Creek Dam (and then some) four times.

The correspondence from the race officials:
"Due to safety concerns presented by local safety providers after the recent tragedy that occurred earlier this summer, the D1 Columbus Dam Half Marathon & 10k has been required to reevaluate the half marathon course. Half marathon runners will follow a new course which weaves through the southern part of Alum Creek State Park and still features the highlight of the race, the Alum Creek Dam. The course remains predominately on a paved trail with a small portion on a dirt/grass trail just feet from the lake, providing participants with a beautiful setting."

I would rather not repeat large portions of the course because this can mess with you, making you think you are going faster or slower than you really are because the scenery and course doesn't change. I want to see a course evolve and not feel as if I'm on a hamster wheel, but nonetheless. The tragedy mentioned above took place at the Ironman 70.3 in July when a participant left the swim portion and at the beginning stages of the bike portion when outside of a barrier and was struck by a vehicle on U.S. Route 23.

I'm not a fan of our route change, but if this is what's needed to keep such tragedies from taking place again, then I'm all for it (but I still despise repeating routes). Over a stretch of a couple of days, I noticed folks asking on the race's social media pages about the route change. Some had only heard about it, or thought maybe they had seen something about it but were not contact directly. From what I could see, these inquiries were never followed up on - including mine asking for a bit more detail. And some claimed to have never received the email L had received. This made the both of us assume the event was going to be less than stellar.

It wasn't a hot day, it was overcast with a slight breeze and a little humid. Readying ourselves at the starting line with others I notice what looked like a race official pull out a map as a dude dressed as a bike lead rolls up. Out of curiosity I saunter over and glance over their should. The official was explaining the half marathon route to this guy who did turn out to be our bike lead. We were to start in five minutes and the guy we would be following didn't know the route.

Disappointed with the fact that I was correct in thinking the race details were fuzzy to even those who were running race, I stroll back over to corral hoping this day wouldn't be a complete cluster. The 8:00 a.m. start time comes and goes, a few minutes later some pseudo looking official gets on loud speaker and says something like, "Hello everyone, were going to have an old school-style start.!"

As we take off, I here a perturbed competitor next to me mumble loudly, "Well, that's old school I guess."

We file through the parking lot and I'm in the front group of what looks to be eight to ten. We reach the road to turn left with our lane blocked off by orange cones and the traffic be directed from by park officials and police officers. The road portion is just a snippet, but the middle of non-blocked off portion has the entrance/exit to a housing development. About a half mile in I look up to see our bike lead stopped in front a giant SUV in our lane (the portion blocked from traffic) facing us and he's arguing with the driver. The driver swerves around the bike, nearing clipping it, and in our lane in our direction. The bike lead yells something and the truck stops again.

This time the driver - an older, stocky dude - gets out and stomps toward the bike lead angrily. The bike guy yells, "You are in the middle of a race, you went through the middle of the cones and nearly hit me!" All of this is happening as hundreds of us are running by them just feet way.

A bit pissed, I join in, "Get the hell out of the road! Get the HELL out of the ROAD!"

We continue running and I'm trying to forget the stupidity of some people. At mile one - despite events that have taken place - I'm at 6:27. Directly behind an older gentleman we approach the turn off onto the trail toward the dam. The bike lead makes his way past us to get back in front and all seems to be okay. It is a bit of an incline, but mile two is at 6:26 and I'm comfortable with the pace. Though, I've notice each mile marker sign on the route is about 30 to 40 feet away from where my watch indicates each mile traveled. Likely indicating we will be covering a bit more than 13.1 miles.

I drift passed the older guy as we cross the dam and onto the grass portion of the trail. The uneven, not-quite a real trail portion is playing havoc with my pace as I'm focusing less on form and more on keeping myself from tripping over divots & rocks. Trudging up the slight grassy incline, I can hear the older guy and whomever else behind me. We pass the bike lead, who looks to be unharmed by the schmuck in the SUV earlier, and the leaders making the turn trip and I find myself in fifth place. At mile three I'm at 6:38 as the grassy incline has brought me back to Earth.

We reach the turnaround and I'm glad to have the decline ahead. We begin passing the followers and I hear a few of them yell out some encouragement, including, "The three of you are doing great, keep it up!" Ahhh, there it is - I know now for sure there are just two folks directly behind me. I then see L coming the opposite direction and we gesture good luck to one another as we pass. We reach the fuel station just before we get back to the road and the girl there is holding a cup in each hand and says, "Water & Gatorade!"

"Gatorade!", I say reaching toward her, but like a cruel joke she pulls both hands back and glances at the table of colored liquid-filled cups behind her sheepishly. My swipe to grab one of the cups she's holding comes up empty as I drift by and she bellows, "I'm sorry!" A bit stunned, I notice she is holding two cups of water and the Gatorade she falsely advertised as having on her person is resting peacefully and untouched, stacked neatly five feet away.

"Son of a b***h", I blurt out in frustration. We drift back onto the road and our small group now has it's own bike lead since the race leaders are well ahead. At mile four I'm at 6:32 and moments later one of those who had been following me pulls along side. I increase my stride and stay right next to him up the long slight incline to the park entrance. Once there we turn right and he drifts in front, but I stay directly behind. Here I notice I can no longer hear the third member of our group and at mile five I'm at 6:29. In the distance we can see the finish and after a scan of the parking lot I noticed the lead pack in the distance to the left, I'm curious to know what goofy route we take in order to cover everything a second time.

As we get to what would be the final straight stretch for the 10k group, a race volunteer asks, "The half or 10K?" The dude in front of me indicates the half and the volunteer directs us and our bike lead to take a hard left. As we wind through the parking lot it is blatantly clear the half marathon turn around portion isn't marked in anyway, shape or form. Once we get to within projectile vomiting distance of the start/finish line I yell to our bike lead, "This is the half marathon route, correct?". He then gives me a thumbs up and shakes his head.

We turn to head back toward from where he came and I feel at bit better about what's taking place. Back onto the original route to make the second go around I see a runner not too far ahead of us, we are gaining on one of those we are chasing. The dude I'm following has picked up the pace a bit and in order to not lose him, I follow along. I pass L a second time and, again, we gesture to one another. At mile six I'm at 6:28 and at the park entrance/exit again, I pull along side the dude.

He says, "Nice race."
"Likewise," I say and then point to the guy we are gaining on, "let's go get him."

It is a bit of decline here and we are dodging the 10k group that is finishing up coming the opposite direction, but this time we get to avoid a schmuck in an SUV attempting drive on the race route. One of those passing the opposite direct alerts us, "You guys are five, six and seven." I try to utilize the downhill to my advantage and get a few steps ahead of the dude I'm with. In just a few moments I'm catch up to the guy we were gaining on, but he looks familiar. Right before going around him it hits me, this is the older guy I passed back on mile two and followed us for another mile to two.

Passing him, again, he glances over and asks, "Which way did you go in the parking lot? Did you go straight or turn?"
"We turned with the bike lead and circled the parking lot."
"Damn, I'm sorry. No one knew where I was supposed to go back there, I had to guess", he says.
Sympathizing, I follow with,"Don't apologize, no worries, not your fault."

I drift by him and at mile seven I'm at 6:31 and we approach the dam trail a second time. There is the fuel stop liar again, this time she was equal portions of water and Gatorade. Her cohort is standing behind the table, so one of us will have to get our own refreshment. Up the incline I hear the older guy and the dude both on my tail. We cross the dam and at mile eight I'm at 6:44 as the grass trail portion begins. It is hard to get decent footing and I'm expecting one or both of those behind me to pass.

The leaders pass by a second time and there is a huge gap between them and an even larger gap between us and them. At the turn around I glance over my left shoulder and the dude is about ten feet behind. At miles nine & ten I'm at 6:38 and 6:48 and I'm fatigued - though I haven't yet been passed. Similarly, miles eleven & twelve are 6:51 & 7:05 - I'm tired, but I feel faster than what my watch is indicating.

Back onto the road, and with decent footing, I force myself into an exaggerated knees & elbows routine - increasing my stride locomotive style. Up the incline to the park entrance and around to the parking lot area, the final straight stretch appears and down the decline through the finish I go. I stop my watch and grab some water and see I've finished at 1:28:26 and in 5th place, having covered 13.29 miles. L finds me and she, too, felt a bit slow having covered the 10k portion in 52:46 for 16th place. Not her best race, but still quite good for her.

Sharing some race details, L says when she finished there wasn't any water at the finish. She asked folks, but no one had a clue as to what to do or where to find it. Then upon roaming to catch her breath, she found some bottled water near the finisher's party. She picked it up, dragged it over to the finish and angrily slammed it to the ground in front of the volunteers. "Here's your freaking water!", she exclaimed and stormed off. She, too, was a bit annoyed at the lack of attention to detail on a number of things.

The two fellas (the dude and the older guy) who had been following me finished twelve and thirty seconds behind. And come to find out the one finishing directly behind me lives in our neighborhood, just two blocks over. Somehow, we had never crossed paths.

We wandered over to the finisher's party for a BBQ lunch and our free Olentangy River Brewing beer before making our way to the car for the 20 minute ride home. Worn out, we crashed and watched football the rest of our Sunday. Our neighbor, Doug, did asked if we wanted him to mulch the leaves in our back yard since the plethora of leaves come from the tree in his yard. We told him to do as he pleases and later we discovered he just ended up mowing our entire backyard, though it didn't really need it. He apparently enjoys the mowing and such and we aren't going to complain. It is fall and everything will be dead and brown before you know it in order to regenerate itself in the coming months, so...yeah.

Seasons can get old and boring after awhile, which is why we should celebrate the changes. It boosts the wanting of those favorite times of the year and makes them more enjoyable. I miss summer when it passes, but even more so with this most recent one for a variety of reasons. Though with football season underway, college basketball on the near horizon and the leaves changing - there is something in the air that's calling me and I can't quit put my finger on it. Whatever this strange attractor may be, I'm looking forward to it....

Leeroy Stagger - Strange Attractor

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"Homebrew Dreams & Buttercream Faces"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Summer's late season heat finally rolled around and lucky for us it would be just in time for an outdoor wedding. Luckily, we planned it to be a casual family picnic-type affair - so we weren't too worried about. It was what we were hoping it would be, a perfect end to The Wedding Summer.

Because they thought it would be cool, my place of employment decided to throw a "groom shower" for me. I reluctantly agreed to this, but they meant well it wasn't a horrible thing. Among the fun stuff was a cake with photos of L and I hijacked from my Facebook page. I got a kick out of telling folks, after all of the things I've done to them, they could finally have a piece of me. Their effort was appreciated and doing something of this nature for a jerk like me is impressive. This proves I can, sometimes, grow on people.

Before the summer long planning was put into effect, I followed up the August half marathon with Columbus Running Company's Blazin' 5 Miler the weekend before L and I took the plunge. I would be running this one by myself as L decided to relax and watch me suffer in the humidity. Having had fall-like temps at the Goodyear Half Marathon, we would have a race start temperature warmer than nearly that entire half marathon day. There is a reason why the five miler is called "Blazin'".

Last year, I took 8th in this race at 30:18 - finishing behind now CRC Westerville Teammates Seth & John. A bit disappointing as I was wanting break the 30:00 five miler barrier for the first time since my Morehead State University Cross Country days and came up just short. With the same goal, and much better training behind me, this was again my focus - though how much the half marathon the weekend before would effect me would be key. I spent the days before doing some light workouts as those leg muscles were showing signs of fatigue. As for L, she was fighting allergies that were being spread through the summer air.

The Blazin' 5 Miler is be an out and back jaunt starting at the Jerry L. Garver YMCA in Canal Winchester and then a left onto Long Street which runs directly into the Blacklick Creek Trail, which winds along the Blacklick Creek from Reynoldsburg to Groveport. We would follow the trail past Portman Park and to the right, crossing both Gender Road & Brice Road, before making the turnaround at a roundabout portion of the path at the 2 1/2 mile mark - flat and (depending how well you are feeling) fast.

Come race day it was humid, but not blazing hot. At the start I follow one of the CRC Elite women hoping to stick with her for as long as I can. There was a dude directly behind us who had a horrible case of heavy footedness, making it hard to concentrate. Luckily, shortly thereafter, he went around us. Moments later there is another tagging along and at mile one I'm at 5:41. I am one who only looks at my watch once the mile marker signal buzzes to see my pace, but I didn't have to do this here. The dude behind us had his watch set so that an automated voice would tell him how far he'd gone, his pace and time at each marker. Yes, this - too - was annoying.

Still sticking with the CRC Elite woman as we meander about the rolling paved trail terrain, we dodge oncoming Sunday morning bikers. The three of us are pretty close-knit and hoping to have enough on the return trip to improve last year's finish. At mile two we're at 6:03 and we pass, coming the opposite direction, the bike lead and lead runners. The bike lead throw's out some encouragement, "The turn around is just ahead, looking good folks!"

Reaching the turnaround loop, the three of us are still sticking together and we pass those who were a bit behind us. I don't see Traffic Panther Gary, this only meant he wasn't far behind and is within striking distance. Moments later I pass L and we give one another a thumbs up.

A bit more than halfway back, I'm feeling the fatigue. The dude with the annoying watch has over taken the CRC Elite woman and I, but she is on his tail and I'm drifting back (mile 3: 6:14). Focusing on form and keeping my stride long, I'm hoping to maintain the rest of the way in. There isn't much incline on the course, but the return trip felt it was ALL up hill and I'm wearing down in the humidity and those in front are long gone (mile 4: 6:24).

I'm working on reaching the final straight stretch in order to pour what I left into it, but before I can - a sharp pain shoots through my right calf. I'm taken back a bit, hoping after a few steps the pain would subside - but it doesn't and it is enough to force me into an awkward "run-limp" type movement. I'm disappointed and ticked, but I'm not going to come to a stop with less than a half mile to go. The pain isn't going away and I can't push off with any sincere effort - son of a b***. I was hoping to "pegleg it" to the finish without anyone passing me - but that didn't happen. Traffic Panther Gary flies with about 100 meters to go. I finally finish and stop my watch to see 30:58, :40 seconds slower than last year and full minute slower that what I was expecting.

A medical staff member gives me an ice pack to apply to my now swollen calf, my last mile end up being 6:35. Checking to see if I was still among the living, Gary finds me, "Sorry man, but you were a wounded duck - I had to make sure I caught you." I ended up 7th overall, one spot behind Gary. The two I had been running with for most of the race - the loud watch dude - finished in 29:48 and the CRC Elite woman in 30:11.

Not long after, L is making her way in and she doesn't look good - the allergies are eating her alive. She did finish 25th in 42:36, but she struggled with breathing as the remnants in the air played havoc with her sinuses. She did, though, win her age group - but being as competitive as she is, she didn't think she deserved it having not being able to run her best race. On the way home we grabbed breakfast at Tim Horton's, L laughed saying we had to stop there instead of one of tastier local places because our performances were sub par.

Come to find out, I have a calf strain and the only way to get over it is to ice frequently and to take a break from running...this will be hard for me as I'm not one to sit still for long. It is nice to know that the next event isn't until September 29th with The Dam Half Marathon & 10k, circling a large portion of Alum Creek Lake. And, well, I - or WE -will be preoccupied having taken the next two weeks off of work for the wedding and ensuing honeymoon. How did these turn out you ask? We will see in the coming weeks...

(Two weeks or so later)

...Holy cow, we're married! And did it without killing any relatives, having the authorities called on us or having some weird confession being blurted out by a random whatnot who hates happy people and likes to see people suffer. Oh, and my beer didn't contaminate anyone, BOOM! You laugh, but trust me - we have a history of backwardness that'll make your head spin, this was an accomplishment for us.

We did have a rather hilarious error a few days before the event. We created a wedding Facebook page and sent our friends & family a message to like and follow it. This way we could share details and what not with everyone, then have them post pictures and such from the wedding on it as a way for us to commemorate the day. One of the pre-event posts I wrote included the phrase "downtown delaware". Not realizing it, Facebook had auto-tagged the Downtown Delaware organization.

Imagine my surprise when I get his message sent to us via our Facebook page from a concerned resident: "... downtown Delaware posted your last message in to the public. You might want to give them to take that down."


Upon investigation I did see the post was shared. To make sure we didn't need to produce enough food to feed ALL of Delaware City's 40,000 residents, I kindly sent the Downtown Delaware folks a message asking if they could "un-share" our post. They apologized saying their social media manager shares all the posts they get tagged in and didn't really notice what it was they were sharing.

They apologized, and obliged, within minutes but not before our post had reached over 730 people and produced 430 engagements from Facebook users. Downtown Delaware wished us luck and was happy we weren't upset, just surprised and amused. Though, I was impressed with our popularity since that post had 700% more traffic than all of the others. Maybe I need to start a business promoting events via Facebook, hmmm?!

I wrote back to the concerned citizen who alerted us to the error and thanked her. She found it amusing as well, telling us, ".... well I guess I'll take the China back! Haha. Congrats to Lauren and Craig!"

It was definitely an experience, doing all the food, decorations, music and preparing the venues ourselves- with family and friends assisting. The morning started with heading out to garner nine bags of ice, then making sure our house and yard (the reception location) were prepared for after the picnic and ceremony at the park. As for L, she and others decorated the venue at the park. Shortly thereafter we traded locations, she headed back to our place to continue preparing while I headed to the park to fire up the grill and start cooking the main course.

Fixing food for about 60 people wasn't something I've done before, so it was a bit nerve wracking hoping to cook/smoke the chicken thoroughly and not have it be overdone or taste like tree bark. People began arriving dressed in their Sunday semi-casual best and mingling while I, still dressed in what I essentially woke up in, smelling like briquettes and smoldering wood chips. It was weird for me, so it had to be different for others hanging around the grill with the guy cooking the food for the wedding feast who would be leaving shortly to shower & dress to return moments later to play the part of the groom.

You couldn't have asked for a more perfect late August Sunday, mid 70's and full sun. When the chicken was finished, I promised our family and friends that I would return, high-tailed it the mile home, showered & dressed and returned just in time for L to announce our buffet was reading for everyone to dig in to. Somehow we had the venue prepared, the food cooked and were dressed for an outdoor picnic/wedding just minutes after the noon hour - after four months of gathering, tweaking and collaborating - our target event start was right on time!

As our guests ran through our makeshift buffet line and sat down to eat, L & I walked around welcoming and thanking folks for helping us celebrate. Before we knew it, the food had evaporated and it was time for the ceremony. Our officiant arrived and we moved off to an area of the park we had selected for the wedding and moments later....L and I were officially a married couple. It went so fast and I still find myself pausing for moment or two thinking, "Holy crap! I'm married!?"

Everyone who wanted to then traveled to our house for a reception of adult beverages, games, camaraderie, celebration and more food. Our neighbors from across the street provided portions of the games and our next door neighbors offered their giant livestock feeding trough they had purchased to use as the beer cooler for their son's wedding weeks before. And, of course, we used it in the same manner.

Somehow, L & I and our crew of family and friends had pulled off this entire day without a single misstep or woulda-should-coulda to be had. And the food brought down the house:

Out of 24 lbs of smoked chicken thighs, there were three left.
The sweet & sour pickles L made were gone.
The pickled peppers we made were gone
The pepper jelly L made was gone
Lauren's mom's Slovak potato salad was emptied
Out of the 100 wedding cupcakes made by my nieces (ages 14 & 11), there were three for us to enjoy - Calli & Abby out did themselves.
The sliced peaches and homegrown tomatoes & cucumbers were gone
The mac & cheese was destroyed
My mom's baked beans were eliminated
L's Aunt Marci's Quinoa salad was left on life support with recipe requests coming from all directions.
Only a quarter of the ham (purchased to suffice those who may not have wanted chicken) was left
Four of the wedding beers I produced survived
Five purchased beers (for those who wanted beer made by actual brewers) remained
And the tray of 40 sampler subs we ordered for late date noshing at the reception had dwindled to just three lonely sandwiches. (Though, since I hadn't eaten anything all day, I inhaled these in about 2 1/2 minutes when our guests had finally moved on and I had time to relax)

We spent the following day recuperating and relaxing, basking in amazement at how everything went better than we had planned - Tim Horton's was our breakfast as we were in no mood to do anything else. Two days later we headed for our honeymoon: South Haven, Michigan and the spectacular shoreline. It was a fun-filled five days and discovered what we already knew - it is just as fun in South Haven in human weather as it is during arctic weather. (Yeah, we were there last February when everything was frozen over - including Lake Michigan) We even stayed at the same B&B to get the full alternative experience and explored a handful of area breweries (Saugatuck Brewing, Waypost Brewing, Harbor Light Brewing, Three Blondes Brewing and The Livery).

Again, it is amazing to look back at all of the work put into the planning & preparations then have that day come and go in what seemed to be a blink of the eye. With that said, one can only imagine what we have to look forward. We aren't sure how it will evolve, where it will go or even how fast - so, as a courtesy to you - this is the final warning folks: We have joined forces, buckle up and hold on...the L & C amusement ride begins in 3...2...1...

Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - Family

Family, singing in the kitchen
Family, running thru the yard
Family, going on vacation
Family, on the credit card

Family, all in this together
Family, we’re taking a chance
Family, like birds of feather
Family, kick off your shoes and dance

Family, on the way to the city
Family, laughing in the rain
Family, it ain’t always pretty
Family, can drive you insane

Family, got the keys to the kingdom
Family, take it a la carte
Family, all four seasons
Family, well bless your heart

You don't choose ‘em, you can’t lose ‘em
We all have a song to sing
Some are crazy, some are amazing
All got a little bit of everything

Family, sons and daughters
Family, like a photograph
Family, baptized in the water
Family, put me on the map

Family, all in this together
Family, taking a chance
Family, like birds of feather

Family, kick off your shoes and dance

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"Don't Mind the Maximum Security Safe in the Basement"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Assumptions can get you into trouble, but then sometimes your assumptions are right on target - which can be just as disheartening.

Our neighbors, the folks on the other side of the duplex, let us know about a month ago that they had planned on moving soon to a place with more room. They were a friendly, quiet group - keeping to themselves mostly, but would make conversation when we were both outside. One day this past spring, after we had purchased some seedlings, they voluntarily moved those seedlings into our carport when a blustery storm rolled through suddenly while L & I were at work keeping our precious plants from their one-way ticket to the merry old land of Oz.

They were mostly indoor people and rarely used their backyard, which allowed us to us their portion for extended activities when we wanted. They were more than decent neighbors, so it would be hard to complain. Though, they had an odd schedule of random visitors. At any time, a vehicle would arrive and folks would make their way inside for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, then leave. If they were accompanied by someone, that person (or persons) would simply stay in the vehicle. Now & then those who arrived were alerted they need to come back at a later time for whatever reason. And these folks were never the same, it always folks who were new to us and the neighborhood

For awhile it we paid little attention, then it became more frequent with an even more mixed bag of random folks. We joked to ourselves as to what was going on, then L was approached by an employee of our landlord at her place of work.

He asks, "So, what do you think of your neighbors?"

"They are quiet and seem to be nice people", she says.

"Do they have a lot of visitors?", he says in a prompting tone.

"Yeah, they do. A random string of cars almost daily."

Shaking his head in agreement, "That's what I thought. We've had your neighbors mention it to us."

Since we had only witnessed the random arrivals and departures - as well as the handful of security lights they placed around the house - we just kept our thoughts to ourselves. On an off Friday for me during the last week of July, I was stretched out on our front room floor after a twelve mile morning run. I heard folks next door, but thought nothing of it. Then the sound of objects being moved about sparked by curiosity.

I get up to take a gander out the window where the sounds were coming from and I see a truck holding a giant safe with a digital lock that had been removed from their basement. I understand folks have safes and this one in particular could be one in which someone locks away their firearms, but I've witnessed too much goofiness happening next door to truly believe this is for anything of that nature.

I head outside moments later to play in our carport and I see our next door neighbor, Lisa, working in her yard. I stroll over and casually ask if she sees what is in the back of the truck. Her eyes light up, "I guess it could be a gun safe, but I've never seen them with anything. If that isn't it," as her eyebrows raise and lips begin to pucker, "I don't WANT to know what's in it."

This was also my thinking.

No one seems to be living there anymore, but someone does swing by every few days to pick up some of the things they left - a random assortment of appliances and non-essentials. Of course, we could be just feeding our wild imagination as to what was taking place over there and they were just popular folks who held home security in high regard. Though they aren't too worried about the security of the HelloFresh meal kit box delivered two days go that continues rest near their front door.

From the moment we moved in our other neighbors introduced themselves and we have become a small community family with no reason be vigilant about security as we tend to look out for one another. The only thing L and I would want to be more secure about is warding off those damn rabbits who have eaten just a many of our garden tomatoes as we have, leaving the half eaten portions still attached to the vines - like children sneaking cookies out of the jar but forgetting to replace the lid.

Sooner or later, one of those cute little produce bandits is going to slip up and L & I will enjoy some smoked hare while using the soft cuddly pelt to wipe the BBQ sauce off of our faces as it's horrified mammal family watches from the edge of the creepy woods in our backyard as punishment.

Anyway, having signed up for it several months ago because I thought it would be cool to return to where used to live - we made a weekend trip to Akron for the Goodyear Half Marathon & 10K. A part of the Akron Marathon Race Series, this event starts on Goodyear's Akron Proving Grounds before making it's way to the company's historic World Headquarters and campus.

I lived in Akron for about three years (2006-2009) while working in radio and have only driven through since then. We would revisit some of my old hangouts, see where I used to work & live, and hit up some of the many breweries that dot the area as well as run a race that navigates many of the areas I once covered as a radio news reporter.

What made the half marathon event challenging was it's course. Wanting to test myself on some less than level terrain, the race would have a slight decline and return to level ground for the first five miles. Then beginning with mile six we would have a yo-yo like up and down until the final two miles. For L, she had the benefit of running the 10k portion and miss the backend roller coaster ride.

With it being mid-August, we lucked out in having mild summer weather. It was bright and sunny, but a high of 60 at race time. The pink partly cloudy sunrise at the 6:30 start was quite refreshing. Having the half marathoners and 10k participants go at the same time meant forcing myself to not go with the faster crowd and be patient.

I think I did a pretty good job of this, using some of the 10k-ers to keep it up-tempo but not out of my realm. Cruising along with a small group, things are comfortable and with mile one at 6:08 I'm happy with my pacing. This mixed group of male & female 10k and half marathoners keeps bouncing in and around one another as we trail a much faster group that seems to be slowly separating.

This stress free pace feels really good and despite mile two being a bit slower (6:15), I'm still just as swift as I want to be. Our group, too, begins to thin out. The 10k folks drift ahead, but I keep them within striking distance and use them as my pacers. As we hit mile marker three (6:22) there is a reggae band jamming away, I point to them as I go by thanking them for their effort. The lead singer yells back - in mid song - "No, you the man!".

We are headed back toward where we started along the slight incline. I'm just behind about four or five, but I hear no one behind me and stick to my current pace with mile four at 6:26. At this time, I'm well aware each mile thus far has been a bit slower. Wanting to end that trend, a push just enough on the uphill to satisfied my mind. Sure enough, as mile five arrives I'm at 6:22 and the 10k & half marathoners reach their split. The small group I've been following becomes even smaller and larger uphill portion begins. I'm about 30 meters behind the nearest group, but I'm keeping pace - otherwise, I'm on an island.

Focusing on mechanics and methodically working the hill I see one of those just ahead is falling behind and I'm quickly gaining. Just beyond mile six (6:33), I pass him and his body language indicates he isn't doing to well. "We're halfway may, lets go!", I yell as I drift by hoping some encouragement would benefit him. "I know.", he replies and within seconds I can't hear him anymore. Now working a downhill, the group ahead is still about the same distance away and I'm using them to keep focus and pull me along the mile seven decline (6:18).

As promised the rolling residential hills are in full swing and as I work the elbows & knees mechanics, and in between the official water fueling stations, a few residents have set up their own race watching parties. They offer support as well as a cold shower of the garden hose variety for you to run through, which are greatly appreciated. Miles 8 & 9 (6:33, 6:36) sees the group ahead thinning out, some move further ahead but I'm slowly reeling in the trailer.

At this point, with each passing mile, I repeat to myself how much is left. A little personal motivation (Okay, just four miles to go; less than a 5k now, you got this) works through my mind as the mile 10 (6:24) decline is precursor to the winding uphill of mile 11 (6:44). The locomotive-like running motion is in full swing, but I still feel slow. From the onlooking residents I hear some encouragement, "At top of the hill you have less than 2 1/2 to go!"

Reaching the aforementioned summit, the course turns left and we have the full view of the Goodyear Headquarters Campus below. It is nearly all downhill to the finish and I let the momentum force the leg turnover while using my arms to keep upright. Quickly gaining, then finally passing, that figure I had been creeping up to for the last 15 minutes along mile 12 (6:18), I wondered if he is just playing possum in order to return the favor moments later.

My wrist vibrates from the buzzing of my watch indicating one mile to go and I'm working the arms & legs as the course flattens out a bit. Passing the remaining 10k-ers as the courses merge back together, I hear footsteps from behind. To my surprise, it isn't the gentleman I passed moments ago. It is another and he is on his horse, drifting by and increasing his lead with every step. Not sure where he had been the whole time I stick to my effort and reach the final stretch into Goodyear Headquarters and the race clock is in the 1:24 range - here I notice L hanging over the barrier on my right and yelling at me to push all the way through.

Cruising through and stopping my watch, I look around and see only race volunteers with finisher's medals. An official comes up to me and I ask, "Where is the water?"

"It's just ahead," she says and hands me a lanyard,"and congratulations! You finished third in the masters division!"

"No shit!", I say without thinking and with a wry smile, "Um..I mean, No way! That's awesome!"

She laughs at me, "Make your sure you stick around for the awards ceremony!" Turning to her race volunteers, "Get this man some water!"

Without sounding perturbed, just tired, I offer her my unsolicited opinion, "You need to have the water closer to the finish line." (It was a short walk beyond the finish)

"We will keep that in mind for next year, thank you," she says, sounding sincere and not like I was telling her how to run the race. It was an out of the ordinary cool race for mid-August, but if it were any other were we would have all melted by this time.

My watch says 1:24:39, my second best half marathon and 45 seconds from a PR - placing 17th out of 848. This is significant in the fact that it the elevation here was much higher than the PR, indicating - at least on this day - an improvement on pacing on a less than level course. Shortly thereafter, L finds me and we load up on post race food, including free Galley Boys from Swenson's. This is the best double cheeseburger you will ever have, just saying. Search it out if you ever find yourself in Northeast Ohio.

She tells me she finished with a two minute 10k PR, 51:05 - placing 143rd out of 1,335. Not bad for someone who started running less than a year ago. My age group award was an insulated drink holder/mug, which was pretty cool. Though, it didn't compete with the Goodyear Blimp ride and set of new tires the overall winners received.

Something else pretty cool took place at this event, 71-year old Grandmother Jeannie Rice of nearby Mentor, Ohio broke the 70-plus Women's World Half Marathon Record with a 1:37:07 - it took my first three half marathon tries to run that fast! She broke her age group world marathon record in Chicago last October and is hoping to continue breaking records starting with the Berlin Marathon next month. I'm just glad I beat her, she's a beast!

A couple of days afterward I found a selfie photo taken by Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan with the race crowd behind him and, yes, I'm there and it makes me laugh. Why? I was a radio news reporter in Akron about a decade ago and covered Akron City Council weekly. Mayor Horrigan, at that time, was a council member and I spoke with him countless times. And now, there we were in the same picture - but in different capacities - ten years later. I don't miss radio, but I do miss portions of Akron and the surrounding area - it exudes history.

So, L and I are less than two weeks away from officially completing The Wedding Summer (August 25th). With most of the prep work in place, it is now all about putting it into practice and producing an actual ceremony & reception without too many hiccups and speed bumps. I will be squeezing in the Blazin' 5 Miler: A Southeast Scorcher, a local race with some Columbus Running Company cohorts, the weekend before in hopes of breaking the 30 minute five mile barrier - but it is probably more of a way keep myself sane for a few days.

The Summer is winding down, but we are just getting started and are ready to take the plunge. Are there some butterflies about the deep waters ahead? Of course there are, but I think we have enough Chlorine to help oxidize those undesired contaminants....

Penelope Isles - Chlorine

You left your head out
I hope it clears
Your swollen ears
You laugh your head off
For all these years
And all those tears
You made it worse

Jump in with all your clothes
And break your nose
The depth, who knows?
Chlorine you itch my feet
You make me clean
Or so it seems

You make me smell a certain way

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