Latest reviews by Craig Simpson

"I Got Three Twist Ties and a Paper Clip - Where it's at!"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

So I had to officially say Goodbye to my Garmin watch just as my summer running tour was getting started. It was an older version, one that used the umbilical cord to upload stats to my laptop. It was a used device passed onto me by my brother and I had utilized it religiously. Even when it began to wear out, I found ways to keep it intact and track my miles. Unfortunately, my MacGyver-like fixes and patchwork could only go so far.

After a few weeks of repairs, it became too much to endure. The super glue, three twist ties, paper clip and random piece of the former watch band that made up the missing portion of the watch, had to go. I contacted Garmin with the following email, partly as a joke and mostly because I was proud of my watch repair ingenuity and wanted to share it:

"Hello Gurus of the Garmin...

Below you will see some recent pics of my Garmin Watch band (older, but not ancient. Though, it does utilize the umbilical cord in order to upload and thinks Bluetooth is a Harry Potter character), it is slowly disappearing like Marty McFly before his future dad clocks the crap out of Biff and makes out with his future mom - ooohh yeeaahh. It doesn't help that I use it - essentially - every day. These pics are from May 17th.

Since then...I've had to also utilize the assistance of paper clips and binder clips, along with the sandwich bag twist ties you see here, in order to ensure it stays upon my wrist and doesn't go the way of Betamax.

As much as I would hate to run without the watch (not that I'm working on a sub 2 hour marathon, but I am a stats geek and I'm approaching 42 which means running at the level I'm at now will not last much longer - Damn You Father Time!), I would like to eventually run without the band further eroding or having the watch face surgically embedded into my forearm - alas, my state employ health insurance is good...just not that innovative - and I wouldn't trust Trump Care as much as I would having a rabid wolverine as a house pet.

So my inquiry is - how can I get said watch band fixed, replaced, fused, transformed or magically evolve into a slightly more technologically savvy running device? I'm all ears...and glasses...and thinning hair...and, I mean...Thank you for your most gracious time and Run On Friends.


Craig S."

I wasn't expecting jack squat, but was curious to see if I would get some sort of humorous response.

Surprisingly, the folks at Garmin relayed to me it would be possible to replace the somewhat ancient and crumbling Forerunner 110 with an intact device of the same caliber. All I had to do was box up the sad allotment of pieces  of my former watch, minus the knickknacks used to keep it together, and send it to them. Though, this would take anywhere from 10 to 14 days.

In the meantime, I was annoyed I wouldn't be able keep track of my miles (500 + since December 2016), splits and speed - which aren't super important, but I'm a stats geek so the withdrawal potential started to creep in. Instead of returning it right away, I decided to wait till after Saturday's New Moon Quarter Marathon in Delaware (Memorial Day weekend) and possibly the 2017 HOKA ONE ONE Columbus 10K (Columbus' oldest road race) the following weekend - that's if my piece part repair job(s) hold up.

The thought of having to go some time without it was a little depressing, I think we both shed a tear when it really hit home - or was it simply sweat I wiped off the watch face? The world may never know.

Saturday late afternoon arrives and the quarter marathon is whispering my name. I'm joined by some of my The Buck Fifty 150 Mile Relay teammates - Susan, Patricia (both running the 1/4), Gary, Tom & Kevin (all running the half). It was pushing 80 degrees with 60% humidity, but it had rained a ton the night before and was cloudy for most of the day, then the sun came out blazing at 6pm: our start time.

At the gun, I'm cruisin' with a group of four or five who are going faster than I prefer but I wanted to feed off of them for as long as I could. The first mile felt good, despite being a 5:45 clip. I was definitely going to slow down, but this was good. At mile two the speedsters are drifting off in the distance and I'm decent, being constantly cheered on by groups of onlookers at every corner and driveway. Mile three was similar, off by just a second or two from the previous time check.

And then the humidity and thick post rain atmosphere hit me hard. Suddenly, I felt worn out and my legs couldn't find a grove. Usually, one can eventually find a gear to stick with - not so much on this day. Mile four was a minute slower than the previous and all I could do was keep moving and suppress my inner demons from making it worse. The next 2 1/2 miles were labored. Staring at the ground ahead of me with the course in my peripheral was my way to focus on finding the finish line. I couldn't even make the casual attempt to try to stay with any of those who made their way past me.

I didn't want to cruise control to the finish, but I had to and avoided looking at my watch since disappointment had already sunk in. Rounding the corner to the finish with a huge crowd pulling me in, I dragged my worn out legs to the end and stopped my watch. Then, without hesitation or thought, grabbed three glasses of water off of the table next to me with my right hand and in one fell swoop, dumped them over my head. A quick gasp at first, then just like that it was refreshing. Still slowing moving forward, I'm handed my finisher's medal and grab another glass of water - this one actually made it to my mouth.

I get my souvenir New Moon Half & Quarter Marathon cup and head straight to the beer cart. Its filled with a Shock Top Shandy and I down half of it quickly. Not the greatest beer in the world, but it hit the spot right then. I then see a table offering chocolate milk - well, why not?

So I'm shuffling around like a zombie with a shandy in one hand and a glass of chocolate milk in the other. The band in the block party area starts playing I'm Yours by Jason Mraz, I don't pay much attention, but this elderly woman - who cutting a rug in her own little world - reaches for my elbow as I pass by and gives me the "hey, you look bored, wanna dance?" look. On the road to recovery, with my beer & milk and drenched shirt keeping me cool, I join her. Just she and I, in front of the band and hundreds of runners and party goers. I wasn't so much dancing, but rather slowly gyrating in a way that onlookers could make sense of what I was doing. As our song came to an end, I jokingly say to her, "You know, I'm single." She follows with, "So am I." We chuckle and I move on to the food tent to grab a cheeseburger and various other snacks.

That's about the time I finally glanced at my watch: 6.66 miles in 47:18, a 7:13 pace. Not awful, but a good four to five minutes off of where I was hoping to be. Officially, I was 9th out of 392 quarter marathoners. The course was slightly more hilly than where I train typically, but not so much that it would have played a key role. The humidity knocked me down.

My teammates make their way in, some doing about what they expected (or hoped) and others (like me) not so much. A learning experience it was, but I will be back next year - I'm simply not happy the New Moon got the best of me. And, that too, its hard to not like a race where the start/finish line are directly in front of Restoration Brew Worx, BOOM!

Our group slowly departs, but before leaving - Gary, Kevin and I make a quick stop at Barley Hopsters to grab just one more beer. I have a Wolf's Ridge Driftwood Session IPA and we step just outside on the patio to relax and watch the sun disappear and crescent moon slowly rise.

That's when I reminded Kevin about the hat he wore when he arrived. He decided he didn't want to wear it during the race and didn't want to carry it, but had no where to put it. As we waited to enter the race corral, upon our urging, Kevin shoved it into some flowers in a planter in front of Barely Hopsters and stuck a rock in front of where he put it with the hopes that maybe it would still be there when he returned (if he remember to get it).

Kevin's eyes lit up, "That's right!" He wandered over to the planter, working his way through bystanders, stuck his hand into the arrangement and pulled out his fluorescent hat - it lives! He then headed out, leaving Gary and I to finish our beers and talk of future races, possibly next weekend's HOKA ONE ONE Columbus 10K. Once finished, I make the slow stroll north on Sandusky Street on the humid May evening toward my car watching passing head lights, street lamp glare and glowing store fronts dance off of race course reflectors.

Summer Runnin' is now two weeks old with race number one in the books and the unknown awaits. Here's to the miles, sweat, fun, heat, people to meet, beers to drink and sweltering streets we hope to endure in the coming months...

Moon is high, shining down on the flowers
You and I while away the hours
Walk me down the sweltering street
I want to feel the city's summer heat

They're gonna play those old records till dawn
Let the music go on and on and on
It's too hot to sleep anyway
So we might as well stay

It's getting late, they're closing their doors
Let's go upstairs and dance some more
The words left unsaid can be told in time
You've gone to my head like sweet moonshine

Let's play those old records till dawn
Let the music go on and on and on
It's too hot to sleep anyway
So you might as well stay

Eilen Jewell - Too Hot To sleep

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"Do You Still Run? - Part 8: 150 Reasons Not To, One To Be a Legend"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

"The Buck Fifty: 150 Miles, 24 Hours, 10 Person Teams, 02 Drivers, 1 Great Cause" - this is the promo line you get when you visit The Buck Fifty 150 Mile Team Relay's website. What you aren't told are the amount of nerves, psychological struggles, physical push-throughs, communications issues and having to deal with a dramatic change in Ohio's lovely weather - seemingly - for just these specific 24 hours. Thus, the inaugural event would include 38 teams with runners from around the U.S. of A.

Here in the Buckeye State we had 50 to 60 degree weather until Thursday afternoon, then the hammer came down and it included 20 mph winds, a wonderful mix of snow-rain-sleet, and temperatures ranging from 18 to 30 as a result of the wind chill. So, on Friday (race day) our van #1 with runners 1 thru 5 began with light rain/snow mix and crazy wind. What you don't know at this moment is the weather for Sunday through Tuesday for the SAME AREA: 70 to 80 degrees and sun.

Mother know what you are...I will not say it...but YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE.

Adding to the insult, our team captain and collaborator behind this whole thing we're doing - Mark (yes, the same Mark who started all of this with that Facebook message last July that simply said: "Do you still run?) - he discovered in February that since he is really good at his day job, he was getting a pat on the back.

That pat on the back...a cruise to a tropical location on the same damn week as the race. As the rest of us have been putting together details, dotting I's and crossing T's, he has contributed with things like the picture here on the right with a message of "Good Luck Team!"....ass. He did, however, find a replacement as Josh joined in on the fun.

Mark didn't have an excuse, but we had another change before it all began on the day of. Susan came down with the Flu and could not take part, she found a replacement in the form of her friend Chris. Luckily, Chris was eager to take part and the first group began their journey at 6:30 Friday afternoon.

Funny, we in van #2 didn't know this until after van #1 started. We stayed in contact letting each van know how far along they were via texts. So when we get a text saying "Chris is in, the next leg is off!" we in van #2 are perplexed and look each other thinking, "Who the hell is Chris?" Through eight months of planning, that name had never come up. We even created a team Facebook page to assist in the communication, still, no Chris. A short explanation later, and it made more sense, but still an odd surprise.

We in van #2, carting around runners 6 thru 10 (I was #6), would begin the journey Friday at 11pm under the cover of darkness. Armed with a reflective vest, headlamp and flashing tail light, my first leg would be a relatively flat four mile jaunt from Frankfort Adena High School to about Edwin H. Davis and Sons, Inc. Soon, van #1 teammate Patricia arrives, I take the baton and I'm off.

Thankfully, it had "warmed" up to 36 degrees, with a clear sky and a bright, near full moon to help guide me along. A rather large hill at the beginning, but the final three plus miles were flat and easy. Running like that in the middle of the night, I was not used to, especially since I couldn't wear my glasses and attempting to see race directional signs was a chore. I even passed a competing runner and gave her the "keep it up" greeting as I went by. We all needed a little encouragement.

Nerves quickly pass and race mode kicked in, about 25 minutes in and the light at the end of the tunnel (the end of leg #6) appeared. I pass the slap-band baton onto my teammate Eric, he takes off and I celebrate making it through the first of three designated runs. Once in the van, I down some water and realize - I AM STARVING. A Cliff Bar, a banana, a granola thing, peanut M&M's and a grab bag of whole grain Cheetos from the race SWAG bag disappear in seconds. I now get to ride along for the next couple of hours as the rest of Van #2 completes their first mission and Van #1 starts mission #2 at a grain mill in Kingston. There, I get some coffee to warm my chilly bones.

We get about 2 1/2 to three hours to chill before we are back at, holding up at our homebase for the weekend (the house of my former high school track coach and Buck Fifty van driver, Mike). I didn't sleep - others did. Rather I closed my eyes and more/less meditated. More bananas, water, and cliff bars are downed and we head out to the start of our second mission around 4:30am Saturday.

I will begin leg 16 at Walnut Creek Campground and Resort and follow a slow incline for six miles to the intersection of Walnut Creek Road and Marietta Road, just in the shadow of Tar Hollow State Park. Waiting on the Van #1, our teammates took longer than expected. They had to venture through the trails of Great Seal State Park and the trails were mucked up and trampled, making it that much more difficult to navigate. When Patricia eventually arrived, accompanied by teammate Gary for support, it was now sunrise and much colder than the night before. At about 28 degrees and hidden in the hills, I stayed warm hanging out next to the fire created by the race transition team & crew while stretching and warming up.

I take the baton from Patricia at around 6:45am and head out. Hoping to be somewhat loose, it took a few moments of breathing frigid air to find my race/running mode and felt good. Able to pick up speed and pacing along the slightly inclined route, the sun slowly began to rise high enough above the hills to make it comfortable. Nearing the end, I see another competitor in the distance. Focusing on the silhouette far ahead, I try reel her in. Cresting a small hill, I see the end of my leg, I have moved within 50 yards of my competitor, pull out the baton and yell to Eric (my teammate) to catch her.

We exchange the baton and I come to slow walk, sucking air, and over joyed that I have covered the six miles in 44 minutes. Again, I down lots of water, bananas, Cliff Bars, snacks, Peanut M&M's and get to ride through hilly Tar Hollow with my teammates as we complete our second mission. I'm so, so tired, but I can't sleep. I can only sit there like a zombie, cold and worn out and watch from our vehicle. A few hours later, as we reach van transition #2, I get out and great the arrival of our first team at my former high school Chillicothe Southeastern (though when I attended years ago, it was in a different location and went by the name Richmond Dale Southeastern).

Van #1 then begins their third and final mission as Tom finishes leg #20, we in van #2 now have a few more hours to chill. We head back to homebase and have about three hours to relax. Once there, some showered then slept. I showered (the hot shower was a godsend) and again closed my eyes, only sleeping mentally. I thought falling asleep completely would put me at a disadvantage as my toughest leg was just ahead. I get up a little earlier than the others, put things together and down some water, bananas, muffins and what not as I stretch to keep loose.

We drive separately to the finish line at Ohio University - Chillicothe so we could head out as we pleased afterwards, then load up in van #2 towards the end of the first groups venture and the start of our third mission, the final legs of the race, at Open Door Fellowship church.

By this time, it is a bright sunny afternoon, around 4pm, and warm - 60 degrees. Though I still have running tights covering my legs, only for the fact after ten miles with little rest, my muscles were tight and wanting to cramp. The tights kept the legs warm as I lubricated with a diet of water and bananas. Ahead of me is a 6 1/2 mile route taking me through Patton Hill, by far my toughest leg with 700 feet of elevation. The good thing...I get to comeback down the other side, the bad part...actually getting there.

I stay moving and stretching for 30 to 40 minutes, then Patricia comes around the corner. Our third exchange takes place and I'm off. I notice my body is tired as I have been awake for 24 hours as my teammates & I have circled Ross County by van (Honda Pilot). My route starts flat and I'm able to pick up some speed and pass a competitor who is creeping along - yeah, he knows what's ahead. This may have been his way of regretting what he was about to do.

I had studied the map and know what to expect. Small hills at first, tight turns, bigger hills, a 90 degree turn to the right, more rolling hills, a 90 degree turn (again) to the right, then a long, constant step ladder climb.

My legs are on fire and my pace is snail-like. I try not to look at the crest of the hill in front of me. Instead, I glance forward to judge the distance then stare back at the ground near my feet and focus on a breathing rhythm: in the nose, out of the mouth. Not staring at the top allowed me to avoid thinking too much about how far I had to go (and how much I was hurting), it was tough enough fighting my inner urge to stop running. At this point, the incline had my pace slow enough that it could be mistaken for walking. I had driven this route thousands of times, but running it - I thought - would be moronic. Damn it...I'm a moron.

Before too long the top came into view and it was comforting to pass the driveway belonging to some friends, The Wilbanks family. They had put a sign out front to encourage runners, this made me smile and was a true signal that it was all down hill from here. Using my arms to steady my upper body, I let my legs go with the flow of the twisting and turning 700 foot descent. And suddenly I can see Chillicothe and it's iconic, giant candy can colored paper mill smoke stack in the distance, a wonderful sight to see.

Reaching flat terrain, I pick up the pace and notice a competitor in the distance. Just like before, I focus on the dark silhouette and try to catch up. By now my body is cursing at me like sailor, persevering, I reach that once dark silhouette and I pass her. As I do, I stick out my hand and we high five just as we enter Chillicothe proper. She, too, conquered the giant hill and deserved some props.

Moments later I find the chute indicating the end of leg 26 and see Eric patiently waiting. I pass the baton to my teammate and slow to a trot, then to a walk. Breathing hard enough to be mistaken for hyperventilating, my body is fatigued but my mind is celebrating that my 16.6 miles in a 17 hour period have ended. Alas, I have conquered massive Patton Hill - and its climb - in 47 minutes.

My van #1 teammates now each have three and four mile routes through the streets of Ohio's first capital till we reach the end at OU-C. There, we meet up with van #2 and wait for Tom to finish the 30th and final leg.

Patiently waiting, he comes into view and we join him to cross the finish line together. We celebrate by getting our Buck Fifty medals from the finish line crew and complimentary box of a dozen Crispie Creme donuts. It took about three seconds to inhale the best tasting donut that has ever touched my lips, and yes, my body was screaming for more. It was so hungry and needed any kind of nourishment I could find...except bananas. If I don't eat another freakin' banana for the next five years - my life will be complete.

We finished a little later than our goal, but no cared. We finished, no one quit, that was all we really wanted to achieve. We then congratulated one another and many left right away as they were tired and had family to see, events to attend & other engagements calling for them.

Of the 38 total teams, we may have beaten five maybe six of them (if that). It was nice to know, but it didn't matter. We were fatigued, worn out, mentally drained, hungry, thirsty, sore and - most of all - relieved. Well, maybe, also a little ticked at Mark for getting all us into this then skipping town for the entire thing, but he knows the time to pay the piper will be coming soon...VERY soon (at least Susan, who had to back out due to illness, was there to watch, support and offer food to us).

Today, the following day - Sunday, April 9th -, I am sore from the waist down. I slept in till 9am and have not moved outside of my apartment here in the metropolis of Marion, Ohio. I have done nothing construction other than what you are reading now. I'm still in clothes I threw on when I got up and my empty coffee cup is on the table next to me. It has moved though, it is off to the side and the coaster it was on is occupied by a Columbus Brewing Company IPA and it is now 5:15pm.

The same can't be said for Traffic Panthers Van #1 Teammate Gary. He decided to continue with his plans to run the Athens Half Marathon this morning, finishing 12th. Gary - no one likes show off.

Oh, before leaving yesterday, I was kind of pushed into the awards ceremony by some teammates. Little did I know, The Buck Fifty Race Director Dave Huggins, and race committee, had a surprise for me.

On a whim, when I started running again to train for The Buck Fifty back in August, the only thing that kept me going was the thought that if I wrote about it that would be an incentive to continue running (and not give up and tell Mark to suck it). Keeping track of my progress over the last nine months, and/or lack thereof, and sharing it with everyone has been amusing to me.

Apparently, Mr. Huggins and company have been appreciative of my efforts to keep everyone laughing at themselves (and me) for attempting to be the athletes we once were. I was totally blown away when I was presented with a plaque thanking me for doing what comes natural to me, being an idiot and letting everyone know about it.

I had kept in touch with Mr. Huggins and Jason Rhoades for several months, but had never met them - this weekend changed that and I'm - we - are better for it. Thank you Dave, Jason and all who assisted in this past weekend's event. This inaugural event is one to remember, but I can't tell you if I will be doing it again. Some of my teammates talked about next year, some just gave us dirty looks. For me, it is just too early to tell and my body hates me. We need to time to recuperate.

This was definitely more than just an experience. It was a lesson and a test of self-reflection, of determination and a reminder that living in the past will get you nowhere - no matter how much of that past you would like to redo or change: its over, create something new and (hopefully) better.

Preparing for this event helped ease my mind and inner being of something, and someone, I lost along the way (well, actually, she - the girlfriend - just simply packed up her things and left suddenly in January. Running has been my escape). Or did I really lose something or them? Maybe a return to running was the subtle message that you have reached the end. Painful and sad, but people and their needs and wants change...that is something you, or the two of you, cannot reverse - no matter how much you try, say or do the right things. Though, I would have liked to have been able to say "Goodbye" to her or at least have her say it to me, but the time for it is something that - too - has passed. She has a whole new life now. No reason to dwell, that's what the 2 1/2 years of memories are for I guess.

Thanks for everything E - good luck and take care. From everything I am or hope to be, I wish you the best...and I know its falling on deaf ears, but for what its worth: Goodbye E and...zhoom.

So, will running stay now that this ridiculous and provocative adventure/lesson/life event has passed? I'm not sure, though if it does it will not be at the level of the last nine months - then again - if our Absent Captain Mark is still eager that could be a different story.

"Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to walk boldly through them" ~ Orison Swett

Here's to venturing forward into life's unknown. I'm 41 and haven't a clue as to what happens next - just me, my cat roommates Jameson and Whiskey and...whomever and whatever may be.

So, friends, now you know the answer to that long, drawn out, ridiculous question....Yes, I do still run.

Run on my friends.

(Team Traffic Panthers: Greg, Gary, Mike, Mark, Susan, Chris, Patricia, Josh, Eric, Tom, Kevin, Dave, Dan and yours truly)

Final Team Times for the Inaugural Buck Fifty Relay Race. Thanks to all of the teams who participated with us this past weekend and we hope to see you next year on Friday April 13th and Saturday April 14th, 2018.

1 17:14:34 Appalachian Alpha Team
2 19:04:55 GoLBC
3 21:04:19 Mostly Above Average Ironmen
4 21:57:53 TYLER'S LIGHT
5 22:17:34 Chafing The Dream
6 22:49:19 Quixote Goes
7 22:51:03 Your Pace or Mine
8 23:07:45 Scioto River Ramblers
9 23:09:54 Got The Runs
10 23:40:46 Uhrig Financial
11 23:52:49 Superbad
12 23:58:30 Scioto Rangers
13 23:59:59 Better Last Than Never
14 24:06:14 Double Black Diamond Demons
15 24:08:11 Transplant Trail Blazers
16 24:08:30 X Factor
17 24:17:29 Born To Run #CBus
18 24:36:24 Traffic Panthers*****
19 24:36:42 Road Warriors
20 25:03:56 2 Slow to win, 2 dumb to quit
21 25:11:12 Misfits & Mommas
22 25:17:25 CRC Runners
23 25:25:15 Sole Mates
24 25:53:13 D.A.D.S.
25 26:12:19 Atomic Credit Union
26 26:15:15 get in the van, I have a plan
27 26:22:17 WTB
28 26:23:34 Anytime Fitness
29 26:46:26 Worst Pace Scenario
30 27:18:50 Huntington Huntsmen
31 27:57:41 Hardly Fast, Hardly Furious
32 27:57:41 Rucking Funners
33 27:57:41 Relay First Timers!
34 27:59:35 McKell's Marathoners
35 19:58:32 Chill Runners
36 D.N.F. Team Manimal
37 D.N.F. The Photo Bombers
38 D.N.F. Cops For Kids

Find this review and several super cool pictures from this event, on my blog here:

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