LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!

The American way!

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.– Excerpt from the United States Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

Today is Sunday July 5th, 2020. It is Independence Day Weekend in America.  Because the actual date fell on a Saturday, some businesses and institutions were closed Friday as well. Fireworks have been occurring each night across our great nation. On Friday Night President Donald J. Trump delivered a brilliant and stirring speech to a crowd of 75,000 Americans assembled in front of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. The event concluded with a patriotic music program entitled ‘The Spirit of America’, the largest fireworks spectacle I have ever witnessed, and a live rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic preformed by the US Air Force Band.

My personal celebration took place on Saturday morning. I ran The Medal Dash ‘ALL AMERICAN’ virtual half-marathon,  my 5th race of this distance in the past two months.  A half-marathon is 13.1 miles (21 kilometres if you live outside the USA).  A year ago, this level of personal athletic ability would not have been possible.  I am stronger, faster, and fitter now because I have been training hard this entire year in anticipation of my first full marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon slated for Sunday November 22nd, 2020. I am determined to earn that Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal, awarded ONLY to those who complete the race in its entirety.  I’m proud to be an American, because AMERICAN ends in ‘I CAN’!

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GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Philadelphia PA is the birthplace of America. 244 years ago, 56 patriots risked their lives and gathered there to sign the Declaration of Independence, creating the most free nation in the history of the world. America is a land of opportunity. Sadly, there are those among us who would wish to destroy our great nation. They claim racism, injustice, and a host of contrived social ills. These are lies delivered by self-deluded individuals with no moral compass, and no direction in life. They feel the world owes them a living.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Your life IS YOUR LIFE. You are responsible for you own wealth, health, success, and happiness. The world owes you NOTHING. It is your job to pursue your own personal path to success. It is out there. Opportunity abounds and the possibilities are endless.  You yourself have to do the work! No one is going to do it for you, and even if they did, could you truly appreciate it? There is pride in personal achievement. Every medal on my trophy wall is hanging there because I did the work, put in the time, and earned those medals.  You can be successful, if you choose to be. That decision remains entirely in your hands.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Your life IS YOUR LIFE! So go forth and start living it! Seize the day! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

The importance of training!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” — Hal Higdon

According to legend, Pheidippides was a Greek messenger who ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory in the battle against Persia in 490 B.C. He said to the king of Athens, “Joy to you, we’ve won” and then he immediately died on the spot. This is depicted in the famous painting Pheidippides by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869.  

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Twenty weeks from today, on November 22, 2020 I will be running my first marathon.  The modern marathon was named after the famous run by Pheidippides, but it is by no means a death-sentence.  According to a medical review conducted in 2016 the risk of death during or shortly after running a marathon is between  .6 and  1.9 deaths per  100,000 participants.  According to cardiologist Dr Lim Bee Chian  marathon runners often collapse near the finishing line because the build-up of lactic acid in the blood during the run triggers abnormal heart rhythms. In addition, they also suffer from exhaustion, emotional stress, dehydration and heat stroke.

On average, approximately 40% of participants in a marathon are first timers like myself. In many cases the marathon is their first official road race, which is a terrible idea. There is a very old saying that goes ‘You need to learn to walk before you try to run’. On New Year’s Eve 2018, after being inspired by long distance runner Nathan Maxwell, I began training to become a runner. I was not training to run a marathon first, I was training to run a 5K race that was months away. On Sunday April 28th, 2019 I ran my first ever 5K. A few months later I ran my first ever 15K, and a few months after that on September 7th 2019 I ran my first half-marathon. The following month I did it again and ran my second half-marathon.  The important takeaway point I am trying to make is that the training was essential. It was consistent and methodical.  In 2019 I ran a total of 11 officially timed races, this year I had planned to run double that number.  

Long races which are officially timed have support stations along the race course for runners to grab water, Gatorade, or little packets of glucose gel to enable you to keep going. Shorter races such as 5Ks often provide water and snacks at the end. The average time for a 5K race is 30-40 minutes.  10K runs average 50-70 minutes. Good times for half-marathons and marathons are 2hrs and 4hrs respectively, and involve maintaining a 9min per mile pace. I cannot run that fast yet, but I am getting better. Longer faces have cutoff times. Typically 4 hours for a half-marathon and 7 hours for a full marathon. So basically if you can run at a consistent pace of 15min per mile, you can still finish the race before the cutoff time, but you have very little wiggle-room.  I average about a 13min mile, and I am still considered a new runner. I only ran my first official race 14 months ago, so I am just two months into my second year of running, but I am definitely faster than I was a year ago.

Then mid March, the coronavirus shut down all the gyms and cancelled almost every race I had lined up for this year as part of my training regiment.  This in and of itself could have thrown off my entire marathon training plan. Fortunately  Gina,  a member  of a run-club I belong to shared a virtual run series that spanned 12 weeks. Last  Sunday was the final race. During the series I ran 37 races, all timed with my professional runner’s watch, a Garmin Forerunner 945. If you add the 4 races I got in before the virus that shut down the world struck,  I have run 41 races so far this year and am at nearly 4 times as many races as I ran in 2019, so I know what I am doing. A runner runs, and I am a trained professional now. I created an info-graphic depicting the 37 races I ran for The Un-Cancelled Project over the 12 week series.

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If there is one thing I have learned in my 14 months as a runner, it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s both the pace, and dehydration.  Since most races currently are virtual, there are no water stations so I need to self-support. As a Clydesdale (a heavy-weight runner) I require more water than the average racer, especially during these hot summer months. Dehydration is a killer. (So is carrying all those sport bottles of frozen endurance fuel!)  As I start gradually increasing my distances according to my running plan,  the water needed may become a problem.  So far I have run 4 virtual half-marathons in the past two months alone.  I underestimated my water needs for the 1st one May 2nd. So I ran out after 11 miles with 2.1 miles remaining and the hot sun beating down on me.   Fortunately Steve, another member of my run-club was able to bike out to me with a water bottle. This is why I carry my phone while running.  This is also why it is important to run with a group, but as our schedules don’t always mesh, lately I have been doing a lot of solo runs.  Over the next  5 months I will be running 4-5 times a week and following a custom training plan which I derived from several popular marathon training plans including the Hal Higdon plan. Always remember you plan to fail, if you fail to plan! As always I wish you success and happiness!  

WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION?

Carrot or stick?

WHATS YOUR MOTIVATION

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.– Jeremiah 29:11

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Wishes and dreams are very nice things to have, but they remain just that unless you set plans in motion to accomplish them. This is why we must have goals in life. The human spirit cannot thrive without hope. It is hope that allows us to make plans and set goals for a better future. It is hope which provides us the impetus to strive to achieve those set goals. However, If we TRULY wish to achieve those goals, we must believe that they are absolutely possible. The moment we say to ourselves “I can’t”, or “it’s impossible”, we have defeated ourselves and we are done! Despair is a dream killer. A positive attitude is fuel for the soul when you are running  on empty.

The Cake is a lie!

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The phrase “carrot and stick” is a metaphor for the use of a combination of reward and punishment to induce a desired behavior. There are some people that for whatever reason cannot ‘self-start’. They sit idle in a vegetative state, unable to take that initial step on the path towards their goals. When someone else is dangling a carrot in front of you while threatening a stick for punishment, they are motivating you to do their work. You are accomplishing ‘their’ goals not ‘yours’. For just a moment, think of this concept at your place of work. The ‘boss’ tells you to get to work, you do your job because you don’t want to get reprimanded or fired (the stick). So you work either willingly or under duress, and you earn wages or bonus pay (the carrot). Now ask yourself, who is getting rich off  ‘your labor’? This is why you have to find your own carrot! It’s out there waiting for you. Probably gagged and tied to a stick in the forest of despair.     

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Motivation is self-motivational!

Once you learn to become a ‘self-starter’, starting is easy. Like the Nike mantra, you “Just Do It”! Habits both good and bad are easy to form, and hard to break.   When I started running at the beginning of 2019, I had a lot of bad habits. It’s very easy to be lazy. I had set a personal goal on New Year’s Eve 2018 that I would start distance running in 2019 with the goal of eventually running a marathon. I was still fat although I had been dieting for over a year at that time. My goal for the first official 5K race I ran was not to be last. I wanted to finish, I knew 1st place was IMPOSSIBLE even with roller-skates and a rocket-powered backpack. It just was not going to happen. So I contented myself with the goal of finishing the race, any place except last. A runner runs, and I wanted to be a runner! On April 28th, 2019 I ran and finished the Beat Beethoven 5K race at Alvernia University in Reading PA, and I was NOT last! Moreover, I received a plethora of compliments from complete strangers that for a first attempt  I ‘did great’. I now knew it was possible to run that distance, that people were rooting for me, and that next time I would do better. I was a Clydesdale ( a heavy-weight runner) and I had found my ‘carrot’!

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Life throws  curve-balls!

After the first year of running, I had set goals in place to run twice as many races, more than two dozen with the big race being The Philly Marathon on November 22,2020. This would be my first marathon ever and the coveted Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal would  be mine! Running a distance of 26.2 miles was no longer an impossible dream, it was a developing reality that was growing from hard work and determination.  Also I had made new friends in the running community, and we had formed a make-shift running club which I dubbed ‘The Pack’.  And then mid-March, COVID-19 AKA the virus that shut down the world cancelled all my slated races in Spring, Summer, and possibly even some in Autumn as well. Now, here’s where being a ‘self-starter’ and having good encouraging friends comes in handy when you’re running down a dream.       

Gina, one of the more competitive runners in the group stumbled upon a virtual running series from Run The Edge which was called The Un-Cancelled Project. When the information about the FREE series was disseminated  to the group, I was a little skeptical. Joining a FREE series wasn’t going to cost me anything, and besides, with all the official races cancelled, it was the only game in town. It also convinced me to finally purchase a professional runner’s smart-watch,( a Garmin Forerunner 945) so that I could record my time and distance during these virtual races.  

Each week had a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

Initially, the series was set for 6 weeks, with 5 races a week. Two ‘beginner’-5K and 10K, one ‘intermediate’- a half-marathon, and two ‘advanced’- a full-marathon, and an ultra-marathon. Due to both the popularity of the free series, and the continuing coronavirus lock-down, the series was expanded to 12 weeks, and two additional races were added to accommodate the beginners (a 8K) and intermediates (a 15K). Also added was the ability to purchase an optional series t-shirt and finishers medal.

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Considering that most races cost $30 and up anyway and did come with t-shirts, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to purchase a series t-shirt and medal so that I had something to show for my hard work. I mean we did get free ‘virtual bibs’ for each race that we could customize with pictures and print out, but t-shirts are nice conversation starters and medals look great hanging on a trophy wall.

Speaking of the virtual bibs- a runners ‘bib’ is the paper number they wear pinned on the front of their shirt while running to identify them during a race.  With official timed races, a record is kept by the race officials of each runner and their time. After the race is done, many runners like to keep their bibs for posterity. So the virtual bibs that you could customize lack a runner number and show the distance instead, but you could add a picture in its place. I did that with a few of the 33 bibs I earned thus far.

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GRATITUDE WEEK was a before and after body shot showing how much weight I’d lost my first year as a runner.

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COURAGE WEEK was my first virtual half-marathon and friends who ran it with me.

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JOY WEEK was a collage showing my personal bests, courses, and the friends I ran with that week.

PERSERVERANCE

PERSEVERANCE WEEK highlights my fastest 15K ever!

I must say that these last 11 weeks have been awesome, and Monday June 15th, 2020 marks beginning of the final week of the series LIFE WEEK. Once again I plan to run FIVE races 5K through half-marathon like I did during JOY WEEK, and possibly break at least ONE personal record doing so. And that is the importance of having a goal! Quitters never win, but winners never quit and EVERYONE loves a winner!

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As always I wish you success and happiness!

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM!

Never quit, never surrender!

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I rolled on, the sky grew dark

I put the pedal down to make some time

There’s something good waitin’ down this road

I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine

I’m runnin’ down a dream that never would’ve come to me

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

Runnin’ down a dream

Song Lyrics–Runnin’ Down A Dream by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers 1993

As we enter the THIRD MONTH of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus that shut down the world continues to put  a major damper on summer fun. Restrictions are being slowly lifted. VERY SLOWLY. Things are far from back to normal. Even IF you were fortunate enough to escape the Triple Whammy of the loss of income, loss of life-savings, and a mounting pile of debt from past due bills, there is still very little to do. Many things have already been cancelled from June through September. Depending on what state you live in, you may face challenging restrictions.

In Pennsylvania a ‘blue’ Democrat governed state, a mask is mandatory to enter the few business that are open. In Florida and other ‘red’ states with Republican governors, masks are optional, and most business have been re-opened for weeks. When you restrict the sick to remain under virtual house arrest, it is called quarantine. When you force the same upon the healthy, you take away their freedom and liberty!, It is a tyrannical power grab. I am not the only person in my state who is fed up with this draconian treatment and many people are protesting at the state capital calling for the impeachment of Governor Wolf. In Philadelphia and other Democrat run cities, Antifa backed mobs stirred up by the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minnesota police has lead to wide-spread looting and vandalism. These are the type of sheep that ‘the Wolf’ adores. Easily manipulated and gullible enough to swallow anything they are fed. Peaceful citizens are made to cower in fear as Democrat leaders refuse to put an end to this madness. All of these seemingly unrelated events are part of a vast left wing conspiracy to stir up civil unrest, destroy a duly elected president, and prevent his re-election. If you believe that this entire situation is not politically motivated, you are an idiot. The virus is a hoax. People need to wake up, and face the facts that COVID-19 is no nightmare ‘boogeyman’ waiting at the door to pounce upon those who dare to venture outside.

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UN-CANCELLED!

Stress impacts the way our body functions in a negative way. It lowers our immune system, causes us lack of sleep, and can increase our blood pressure. It leads to depression and obesity. If left unchecked stress can destroy one’s will to live. If you want to be happy and successful, you need to eliminate stress from your life in any form that is impacting you. While the coronavirus may have taken away many of our outlets for stress relief such as shopping, dining out, or going to the movies, there are still many things that are NOT cancelled.  You may have seen many of these memes across the internet, lists of things that are NOT cancelled like HOPE, JOY, FRIENDSHIP, ect. It is a way of reminding us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a bright, beautiful world is waiting outside for us if we can just step out of our own personal dark place.

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My life-changing journey began three years ago when I said to myself that enough was enough and I was going to fight to get the life that I always wanted. This meant a personal commitment to do whatever needed to be done, for as long as it needed to be done.  Winners NEVER quit, and quitters NEVER win. I had to force myself to constantly strive for what I have achieved thus far. I still have a ways to go, but slow and steady wins the race. A runner runs!

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Last year I took up distance running, and ran in eleven races starting with a 5K and working up to half-marathons.  This year COVID-19 cancelled many of my scheduled races, as well as a few in the next two months. I have been training all year for the Philly Marathon on November 22, 2020, less than six months away.

Fortunately my team of fellow runners whom I have dubbed ‘The Pack’ turned me on to a 12-week virtual running series called The Un-cancelled Project sponsored by Run The Edge. Each week has a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

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Last week was week 9, JOY WEEK. I made at least three personal bests. Fastest half-marathon, fastest 8K, and most races in a single week. I ran on four different trails, and members of the team were along for four of the five races as I logged just under 37 miles total.

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Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed!

The point I’m trying to make is your life is up to YOU!

If you allow circumstance and criticism to beat you into submission, than you are not truly alive. Existing is not the same as living, and you need to live your life to the fullest for as long as you are able to. Nothing in life is guaranteed. The United States is a great country. It is a land of freedom and opportunity. If you are fortunate enough to live here, you can have anything you desire as long as you are willing to put in the time, do the work, and have the personal fortitude to see it through to the end. The race is long, now go out and run down your dreams!

 As always I wish you success and happiness!

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WATCH IT!

Another record broken!

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‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ —Henry Ford

Stopwatches in one form or another have been around since before the USA was even a country.  The very first stopwatch was called a “physician’s pulse watch” invented by Samuel Watson 1695 as a custom project for surgeon John Floyer. It was able to measure an accuracy of 1/5 of a second.

In 1816 Louis Moinet  created the “compteur de tierces” (1/60 second counter), which looked remarkably like a modern stopwatch, and could be reset at the touch of a button.  This personal scientific instrument was way ahead of its time (no pun intended). It would take another century before a more precise stopwatch would be produced. In 1916 the Heuer watch company produced a  stopwatch accurate to 1/100 of a second.

Since the nineteenth century stopwatches have been an essential tool in  the racing circuit. By 1881 they were joined by the ‘photo finish’ invented by photographer Ernest Marks at a track in Plainfield, N.J to determine winners of  horse races that were ‘too close to call’. These instances where the outcome was to ambiguous to be determined by the naked eye used to be referred to as ‘dead-heats’. In the result of a dead-heat, officials had no choice but to declare the result a tie. Now in the current day improvements in technology, including digital super-slow motion replay, computer tracking,  pressure-sensitive digital timers,  and chip timers have rendered dead-heats all but extinct.

In 1962 science fiction author John D. MacDonald wrote the novel The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything. In the novel Kirby Winter inherits a remarkable stopwatch that can literally stop time for everyone and everything, except for the person holding the watch. Kirby uses this incredible watch to change his life for the better.   

Last month I brought an incredible watch to change my life for the better too, although it’s not as awesome as the watch Kirby Winter had in the aforementioned novel. It was an anniversary gift to myself was I was coming up to the one-year as a runner date.

Just over a year ago I started training for my first  ever race. The event was called Beat Beethoven and held at Alvernia University in Reading PA on Sunday April 28th, 2019.

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The event was timed by Pretzel City Sports, a local race-timing company owned by Ron Horn. I was both excited and terrified. I finished the race and made by goal. I vividly remember being told I did great by a woman who I later found out was Helene, Ron’s wife. My second race was a 15K the Chobert Challenge, also timed by Pretzel City Sports (PCS). My first half Marathon was the Bird-in-Hand Half on September 7, 2019. Although PCS was not timing the event, Ron and Helene were in attendance and again gave great encouragement.  All in all I ran nearly a dozen races last year, picking up tips and making many friends along the way.

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Two things I noticed about my fellow runners, besides the encouragement.

  1. Many of them wore these long socks.
  2.  Many of them had special runner’s watches.

In 2020 I planned to run two dozen races and compete in my first ever full marathon. Then  COVID-19 struck and the virus that shut down the world closed all the gyms and then began cancelling one race after another.  To date all my official timed races that had been slated for April and May have been cancelled or postponed, and June is now looking iffy too. As I had been relying upon timing results and marked distances from these races to chart my progress, this became problematic.  You don’t know how far you’ve come unless you keep accurate records to chart your progress. I don’t even have the treadmill at the gym right now due to this stupid virus!  A runner runs and I refuse to let some  virus  derail my marathon goal!         

Fortunately I have good friends to run with, marked trails to run on, and I was using my smart-phone to keep time, more or less. If you’re going to do any job well, you need the proper tools. Most of my running friends have runner’s watches. So I bit the bullet and made the purchase. (This watch cost more than any of my first 3 used cars!)

I decided to purchase the top-of-the-line tri-athlete Garmin Forerunner 945. Garmin makes one other even more expensive ‘total’ sports watch, the Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, but as far as runners are concerned it’s the Forerunner line, and the 945 is the top!

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There are many players in the sport-watch field, but Garmin is widely believed to be the industry leader.

Most runners have the discontinued Forerunner 235 that came out years ago. This is Gina’s 235:

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My 945 has many features that earlier models do not have, as well as all the common features that  runners have come to rely upon. After using my watch for just one month, I have seen a definite improvement in my performance.  For a more detailed list of feature specs on the watch, this is from the Amazon listing:

  • Premium GPS running/triathlon smartwatch with music
  • Download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer (may require premium subscription with a third party music provider)
  • Performance monitoring features include Vo2 Max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude Acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Garmin Pay contactless payment solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) lets you make convenient payments with your watch so you can leave your cash and cards at home
  • Full color, onboard maps guide you on your run so you never get lost during your workout
  • Safety and tracking Features include incident detection (during select activities) which sends your real time location to emergency contacts through your paired compatible smartphone
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours in GPS mode with music or up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode. Display resolution – 240 x 240 pixels

I haven’t  yet mastered all the features as I am still in the learning phase, but this is definitely the king of sport watches, and I have never been more happier with a purchase of a wearable tech product.

The watch tracks and records  all my runs via GPS. It lets me know when I make a new personal record!

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It monitors my heart rate and oxygen levels.

It has a coaching function.

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It makes predictions based on my performance.

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I can download maps!

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It  has a compass!

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Oh, and it can tell time.

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Because of the expense of this item, I highly recommend purchasing an extended warranty, and investing in a screen protector like I did to keep the watch face from getting scratched.  If you are a serious runner, you want to protect this invaluable tool for as long as you own it. As always, I wish you success and happiness!

A RUNNER RUNS!

What to do when the whole world is CLOSED!

A RUNNER RUNS

Today is Easter, April 12th 2020 in the USA. Church is CLOSED. Restaurants are CLOSED. The mall and almost all stores are CLOSED. Gyms are CLOSED. Anything non-essential is shut-down. If you happen to be Greek Orthodox, next Sunday is Easter for you, but things aren’t looking any better.  The COVID-19 virus has brought the entire world to a stand-still. There are events in JUNE that are now being cancelled,  and school in many parts of the US is over for the year. So this morning I got up and ran 5K with my friends. Last night we ran 10K. Events may have been cancelled, but life has not. To a runner, running is essential, running IS life! A runner runs!

This year the coronavirus has brought the world to its knees. As of today, COVID-19 has affected 210 countries, there have been over 1,800,738 cases, 112,204 deaths, and 415,000 who made a full recovery. In the USA those numbers are 535,591 cases, 21,409 deaths and 31,018 who made a full recovery.  The total US population is about 330,000,000. The virus is NOT a death sentence, yes it is HIGHLY contagious, but the best  defense against COVID-19 is a healthy immune system. The power that made the body has the power to heal the body. Physical activity and a healthy diet are the key elements needed to ensure that your immune system is able to defeat any disease.

I am not a virologist. In all likelihood neither are you. There is a plethora  of articles, opinions, and studies on COVID-19. Some contain facts, some are so error-filled as to be ludicrous. Depending on where you live, it may be a hotbed of disease like New York City, or maybe you live in an area like I do, where we have less than 800 cases in the entire county. I am more concerned about the economic ramifications of a long-term shutdown of places of employment than I am about the health aspects of this disease. There have been documented cases of people who donated blood, and were informed that their blood contained COVID-19 antibodies. In other words, they caught the disease, didn’t even know they had it in the first place, and their healthy immune system fought the virus and WON!  I’m also certain there are people walking around today oblivious to the fact that they caught the virus months ago and beat it.

 

I am grateful that COVID-19 struck in 2020 and not last year. A year ago today I was not a runner, I was a ‘wannabe’! I wanted to be a runner, I had never run a race before and I was inspired by a friend on twitter who was an Ultra-marathoner.  I was training to run in my first ever 5K on April 28th, 2019. I was  fat and I wanted to be thin and healthy. I knew nothing, the whole race culture was alien to me. I put my bib on backwards! Thankfully someone told me my number went on the front not the back. I was all on my own in a sea of professionals and I knew NOTHING! My plan was two-fold. ONE: Put one foot in front of the other and repeat rapidly for as long as it takes. TWO: Not be last. I succeed in both counts thanks to the support and encouragement of other runners. 

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As the year went on, I made friends with many runners and we soon began to form a little running pack, and we would run together on and off the track. These fellow runners soon became closer than many of my lifelong friends, not one of which has to this day come to any of my races, let alone waited for me at the FINISH LINE.

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If the virus had struck a year ago, I would not be where I am today!

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Now I may be unconcerned about the disease, but I am sympathetic to those who have died. Death happens to each and every one of us at some point. A weak, sickly person may crawl their way through life and live to be 100. A healthy twenty-something in the prime of their life might get hit by a bus. If you live your life in fear, you will be afraid of everything until the day you die.  There are no guarantees in life, and if someone told you life was fair, they lied! But isn’t it worth spending each and every day as healthy as possible? Isn’t it better to be filled with hope than full of dread?

Christians have the hope of a better life after this one, guaranteed us by the blood of Christ shed on the cross when he died for our sins. This world is temporary, and we are but a vapor. That doesn’t mean we waste our lives, waiting to die. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed!  Even if you have a compromised immune system and are susceptible to catch every germ and virus you encounter, you can use your time in self-isolation studying the Bible and exercising at home. Running a mile on a home treadmill is still running a mile. And it only takes about 77 hours to read through the entire Bible.  What else where you planning to do while the whole world was closed? So stop making excuses and take control of your life once and for all! If I have one hope concerning this virus, it’s that everyone that makes it through this does so as a better person than they were before. Happy Easter and God bless us, everyone!  As always I wish you success and happiness!   

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS…

Make lemonade!

When Life Gives You Lemons

We’ve all heard the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” It is a cleaver way of making the best of your situation. Lemonade is such a simple thing to make, the most basic recipe uses just three ingredients. lemons, water, and sweetener of choice.  You can even make it healthy by avoiding processed white sugar. Sweeten it to your taste with stevia, or honey, just avoid the artificial sweeteners, that  stuff is worse for your health.

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Covid-19, AKA ‘the Coronavirus’ has shut down nearly the entire USA, as well as most of the world. As I happen to live in the USA, my focus is on what is happening in my country.  As of April 1st, 2020 there are over 300,000 cases of the disease in the USA, and over 8,000 deaths.  Everything is cancelled or closed. Today is Palm Sunday, next Sunday is Easter, and for the first time in the history of the USA, people will not be allowed to gather in churches to celebrate Holy Week. Any worshiping of Almighty God has been relegated to whatever private citizens are doing in the privacy of their homes, with their family members who live under the same roof. Guests need not bother visiting, least they bring the plague with them. People are scared, people are unemployed, and people need hope.

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This past week during a Covid-19 press update from the White House rose garden, President Donald J. Trump invited Michael J. Lindell to speak. Lindell was one of several CEOs present to speak at the conference, and he owns the My Pillow brand. Like many companies eager to do what they can to stop the spread of this highly infectious Coronavirus , Michael Lindell explained how his company has temporarily  stopped making pillows and re-tooled to start making surgical face masks.  He concluded his portion of the conference by encouraging people to enjoy the time spent isolated with their families, and to spend time reading their Bibles. 

As it stands at this time, the shut down continues, and will last the reminder of the month of April.

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.– Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943  

This is the first time in the history of my country that the entire nation has been shut down for weeks. The last time we had widespread shortages and rationing was during World War II.  At Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts,  Reinhold Niebuhr first spoke his famous Serenity Prayer at a sermon delivered while the country was embattled in war. Today, like then, we are fighting a war, only it is now against an invisible enemy.  We cannot control the virus. It is a force of nature, and it must run its course.  We cannot control how long the shutdown remains in effect,  and we cannot control who dies from the disease because their immune system was just not strong enough to fight the virus. There is no cure. There is no vaccine. They can treat the symptoms, isolate you if you get it, and in extreme cases put you on a ventilator if you stop breathing, assuming there is one available.  The only thing you have control  over now is yourself.  If you are unsure of how to avoid the virus, or what to do if you are sick, consult the official US government website at  https://www.coronavirus.gov

God tells us not to waste our lives worrying about what may come to pass, or obsessing over things which we have no control over.  God is real, and God is good, ALWAYS. You can choose to curse the darkness, or you can choose to be a source of light in the world. No matter what the situation, you can choose to make the best of the hand you are dealt and rise above your circumstance.  The economic ripples from the impact of the coronavirus will be far reaching, but for now we just have to hunker down and get through it.

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For me personally, the last Sunday in April is a special anniversary. One year ago, on April 28th, 2019 I became a runner.  That was the day I ran my first ever official 5K race. Over the  course of the year I would run nearly a dozen races, including 2 half-marathons. This year I had planned to run more than two dozen races as I trained towards running my first marathon in November. Now all of my official races in April have been cancelled, as well as some in May, and possibly even some in June. I cannot go to the gym and train on a treadmill, gyms are closed. Fortunately my small pack of running friends and I have been hitting various trails and making our own fun. 

The Wolf Pack 2

Yeah, there are no race t-shirts, no medals. It’s just fun-runs. I had been looking forward to running a half-marathon on the last Sunday of this month with my friends to celebrate, but that race was cancelled. The best thing about half-marathons and up is that you get a finishers medal when you complete the race.

It is my firm intention NOT to allow this virus to destroy all the progress I have made this past year, and moving forward. My official races have been cancelled but I am doing more running now than I ever have with the support and encouragement of my friends.  Today The Pack will be running at least 8 miles. A runner runs! Just because you cannot do the things you normally would, you don’t quit! A runner runs! You find an alternative. A runner MUST run!

Going Virtual

MEDAL DASH is hosting a ‘virtual race’ The #CRUSHCORONA 5K/10K/13.1/26.2

https://runsignup.com/Race/TX/VirtualRun/CRUSHCORONA5K10K131262VIRTUALRUN

A ‘virtual race’ is one in which a person signs up online, pays the registration fee, and you run the race ANYWHERE during the appointed time period. You submit your time to the website, and they mail you your t-shirt and medal for completing the race. So today I’m going to encourage The Pack to help me celebrate on April 26th and run this virtual race when we meet this morning for our run. There’s about 8 in the group, and the line-up changes depending  if people are available to run when we meet up. Usually it’s always been about 4 or 5 at a time.  At least two of them will definitely run 13.1 miles with me, and another two may opt to go 10K. If it rains that date, we’ll do it the following week. You can’t control the weather, and The #CRUSHCORONA 5K/10K/13.1/26.2 virtual race can be run any time prior to May 31st. 

Now some people are un-employed at the moment due to this shut down, and maybe paying money for a virtual seems frivolous. My situation is good, for now.

There is also a totally FREE series of virtual races The UnCancelled Project offered by RUN THE EDGE just for fun during the month of April, and I will be doing these as well.

https://runtheedge.com/pages/un-canceled-project-registration

Being healthy is your best defense against COVID-19. Getting outside for fresh air and exercise is recommended by public health officials in most areas at this time, but precautions are necessary. It’s important to follow careful guidelines:

  •  DON’T go out if you’re sick! Stay home and help protect others.
  •  DON’T organize workouts in large groups. Keep it small.
  • DO announce your presence to others to help maintain the recommended six feet of social distance.
  • DO stay informed on your local rules and regulations in response to COVID-19.

The Wolf Pack

If you are in an area that’s under a total lock-down, use your time at home wisely and do things to improve yourself.  There are all sorts of home exercise programs you can start, if you have the internet, you have the sum total of human knowledge at your fingertips! Read, especially read The Bible. Catch up on all those chores you’ve been putting off. Don’t just sit there feeling sorry for yourself, enjoy your life! As always I wish you success and happiness!

THE RIGHT STUFF!

Health begins with proper nutrition!

THE RIGHT STUFF

The Right Stuff is the title of an award winning 1979 book written by Tom Wolfe about the early test pilots who were selected for the Mercury program to be the first American Astronauts. It was later adapted as a movie in 1983 starring Ed Harris and Scott Glenn. America’s first astronauts were the finest specimens of humanity of their era. Physically and mentally fit with bodies of iron and nerves of steel, these men literally went  where no man had gone before. I’m not being sexist, at the dawn of the USA’s space program, it was exclusively a ‘boys club’. Russia sent the first woman to space , cosmonaut  Valentina Tereshkova  in the Vostok 6 mission on June 16, 1963. The US finally followed suit more than two decades later when the first female American astronaut Sally Ride flew up on the Challenger space shuttle, on June 18th, 1983.

The point is, these early space pioneers achieved the pinnacle of human health WITHOUT the  hundreds of nutritional supplements being marketed today. The vast majority of these so-called ‘Elixirs of Life‘ really are little more than ‘snake oil’ which is an old term for any worthless concoction sold as a cure-all or medicine.  So how did these men get so healthy you might ask? Simple, they ate right and exercised.

There is no ‘magic pill’. Diet pills are short-term fixes that work briefly and you usually gain back all the weight lost quite rapidly once you stop taking them. If you do keep taking them long term, they cause side effects and your body begins to build up a tolerance so that any benefits that may have been there in the beginning are lost at the end.  Worse yet,  every time you introduce a new drug into your body, whether it’s herbal,  natural, pharmaceutical, or chemical, you are altering the biochemistry of your body and wrecking your metabolism.  In essence, you’re making it harder for your body to function the way God intended it to work. ( The power that made the body has the power to heal the body, within reason, and  over time.)    

Save your money, and stick to the these seven essential nutrients :

Water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.  

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The key is, based upon your age, gender, height, weight and activity level, you will need to have the RIGHT AMOUNTS of THE RIGHT STUFF.  It’s like trying to keep seven plates spinning on the tips of sticks. You have to do the work, put in the time, and monitor the situation carefully or it all comes crashing down.

It took me YEARS of trying and failing and trying AGAIN to find the RIGHT combination of diet and exercise that works for ME. Three years ago, I weighed 75-80 lbs. more than I do today. I could not run a mile. Now I can run more than thirteen miles, and I’m slowly working my way up towards running a full marathon in November. A full marathon is 26.2 miles. I am healthier then I have been probably since before I was in college. I certainly was thinner and younger then, but I wasn’t this strong, and running a marathon was the furthest thing from my young,  college mind.  I still have ways to go, but I am improving,  I am on the path, and I am sticking to the plan. It’s a journey, NOT a destination.

So HOW MUCH is enough?

Let’s start simple.

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Water, pure clean water.

Your body is mostly water. Overall, it comprises about two-thirds of our body.

The average adult needs to drink about 8 glasses of water per day. That’s 64 oz. total or almost two liters if you live outside the US and use the metric system. If you are a professional athlete, or exerting under high heat you might need to double that amount. The key is to maintain your body’s normal level of hydration and replaces any water lost due to sweat, urination, or breath.

Next, We look at protein, fats, and carbs. These BIG three comprise the bulk of our food.

According to the Standard American Diet or SAD, the daily amount of calories needed is between 2000 and 2500. It varies from individual to individual, again based on size, gender, and age. Most nutritional labels do go with the 2000 calories. (Some experts recommend up to 2500.)    
Food is FUEL to an athlete. You need to eat food to live, you should never, ever live just to eat food. Yes, we all have that Pavlovian  response when thinking of our favorite foods, but food is simply just fuel for the body.

According to the 40-30-30 diet rule, aka The Zone Diet, 40% of our daily calorie intake should be from carbs, with the rest split equally between fats and protein. Again if you are an athlete trying to build muscle, you may want to switch that 40% to protein, and cut the carbs down to 30%.

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Carbohydrates (carbs)

Carbohydrates come in two types, simple and complex. You DO need both. Complex carbs need to be broken down by the body before being burned as fuel or stored as fat.

Fats

Fats naturally come in two varieties, saturated, and unsaturated.  A ‘THIRD’ type of fats are so-called transfats.  Transfats  are NOT naturally occurring and are man-made in a lab. Avoid transfats at all costs! Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and tend to come from animal sources. An example is butter made from milk. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are plant based.  You want the majority of your fats to be unsaturated, but you do need some saturated fats in your diet as well. The jury is still out on exactly how much you  need, but best to keep the saturated fats to a bare minimum.

Protein

The recommended daily intake for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to: 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.  Again athletes require greater amounts of protein to build lean muscle, which in turn stokes their metabolism allowing them to burn fats and carbohydrates faster and more efficiently.    

Protein can come from either plant or animal sources. Plant proteins tend to be incomplete proteins, with a few exceptions like buckwheat, quinoa, hempseed, and soybeans. Protein is comprised of 20 amino acids; 11 of these amino acids are produced by the human body. For good health, we must get the other nine amino acids (called “essential amino acids”) from the foods we eat.  Since animal bodies work the same way human bodies do, meat is a complete protein.  

Dietary Fiber

Dietary Fiber comes in two varieties, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and it improves digestion and lowers blood sugar. Insoluble fiber aids with excretion.

Everything Else

This just leaves us with vitamins and minerals. There are 19 essentials on that list:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine or Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium.
  • Chromium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin K
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Again, as for how much of each of these you actually need, going with the US FDA recommended daily allowances is a safe bet. Look them up online, or read the back of most multivitamins for the amounts of each.  Some of these will pass harmlessly through your body if you decide to mega-dose, and you’ll just end up producing expensive urine. Others can store up in your body and reach toxic levels. For example, too much potassium in your blood will KILL you!

Almost every nutrient you just read about should be present in your diet IF you eat a healthy diet of whole foods and have a decent variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains mixed in with your choice of proteins and fats. Always remember that the absolute best thing you can ever drink is pure, clean  water.

By sticking with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program, you will give your body all the tools it needs to maintain proper function. Your immune system will operate at peak efficiency and you will avoid many illnesses and medical expenses. There are no guarantees in life, sometimes you will get sick despite doing all the right things. But, your chances are far better when you do the right things and stick with the right stuff!

As always, I wish you success and happiness!   

CUTTING THE FAT!

‘The Skinny’ on diet pills!

CUTTING THE FAT

(This is part two of a two part series on nutritional supplements. For part one read ELIXIRS OF LIFE?)

Of the more than $30 billion annually in the USA on dietary supplements, the majority on the purchases are spent on  weight-loss products.  An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend actually $33 billion each year on weight loss products when you start to include things like diet-foods and diet beverages. Most of this money is completely wasted.

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As with other nutritional supplements, Weight loss supplements come in three forms: pills, powders, and liquids.

Although vitamins weren’t discoverer until 1912 and only started being marketed in 1915, weight loss supplements actually precede vitamins by decades, having been first sold in the late 1880’s. Being overweight is not an illness, BUT is a health problem which can lead to many other health complications including various illness such as diabetes and heart disease.  Additionally, carrying excessive amounts of weight on your body will also lead to depression and an early grave.

When people think of weight loss supplements, diet pills are the first thing that comes to mind. As most of these products come in pill form, we will use the terms ‘diet pills’ and ‘weight loss supplements’ interchangeably throughout this article.  

Diet pills are sold two ways, by doctor prescription, or over-the-counter. They all have side-effects, and most are not intended for long term use because they can lead to other serious health issues such as heart-attacks, stroke, seizures and death. Years ago, a weight-loss bar I was eating regularly, the ABB EXTREME RIPPED FORCE bar which contained a combination of caffeine and (the now-banned) ephedra had that very disclaimer. I decided I’d rather be dead than fat so the warning was of little concern to me.

Some of these pills can be addictive, and all of them loose their effectiveness over time as your body builds up a tolerance to the active ingredients. Many of the products contain caffeine as an ingredient.     

Four prescription weight-loss drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term use: bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave), liraglutide (Saxenda), orlistat (Xenical) and phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia).

The non-prescription diet pills sold over-the-counter are too numerous to list, but they come in four categories:

  • Appetite suppressants
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Thermogenics (fat burners)
  • Metabolism Boosters  (stimulants)

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Over-the-counter weight-loss-pills are mostly herbal supplements usually containing any or all of the following :

  • Garcinia cambogia (recently pulled from shelves)
  • Glucomannan
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Raspberry ketones
  • Forskolin
  • Chromium
  • Green tea
  • Bee pollen
  • Maroon bush
  • Damiana
  • Alfalfa
  • Butcher’s broom
  • Olive leaf
  • Parsley
  • Green tea
  • Dandelion
  • Mate

They may or may not contain caffeine, and / or similar stimulants, and may or may not be fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, usually in the form of a proprietary blend that is purported to help you lose weight fast!

“Running is real and relatively simple…but it ain’t easy.” ­– Mark Will-Weber

By the numbers

  • A pound of fat is 3500 calories.
  • The Standard American Diet (SAD) is 2000-2500 calories a day.
  • A slice of cheese pizza is about 250 calories.
  • A McDonald’s Big Mac is 563 calories.
  • On average a 5K run will burn between 300 and 400 calories.
  • The fattest man who ever lived was Jon Brower Minnoch who at one point weighed 1,400 lbs. He died in 1983 just short of his 42nd birthday.

Men were meant to climb mountains NOT become mountains. I am NOT endorsing fat-shaming.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to fully enjoy life in such a disgusting condition. There is a reason the term is morbidly obese. IF you are carrying a few extra pounds, know that I too have struggled with my weight for years before I hit upon the proper combination of diet and exercise that worked for me. Notice I said diet, not diet-pills.  I am still overweight, but in the past three years I have lost 75lbs and I can run faster and further than I ever have before.  A few weeks ago, I ran up a small mountain with friends, and today if it doesn’t rain I will be going for a 10K (6.2 mile) run with some of those same friends, just  for fun.

The diet pills are placebos. If you are losing weight fast you’re losing water weight, not burning fat.  

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The ONLY proven way to reduce weight is through diet. Eat REAL food, not DIET food. Don’t drink DIET soda, drink WATER. Water is one of the seven essential nutrients your body needs. Jesus had water, he didn’t need Diet Mountain Dew.

It is also impossible to lose weight by exercising. Exercising is VERY important and works in conjunction with a healthy diet. Exercising tones and builds muscles. Increasing muscle mass will increase your metabolism, BUT you can gain calories faster by eating then you can burn them off by exercising, so dieting is the key. There is no magic pill. As always I wish you success and happiness!  

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A SMALL MOUNTAIN…

Is STILL a mountain!

a small mountain

Climb every mountain

Ford every stream

Follow every rainbow

‘Till you find your dream– Lyrics from the song Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music.

Last Sunday February 23rd 2020, due to an unexpected event there was no weekly article posted on my blog. It was maybe the 3rd or 4th time that this has happened since I began writing InstantCoffeeWisdom three years ago. To my frequent and long-time readers, I offer an apology, and an explanation.

Every now and then, life throws you a curve ball. Something you never expect. Sometimes it can be a bad thing, but sometimes it can be an unexpected and pleasant surprise.  This was the latter.  I was originally working on an article concerning nutritional supplements (which will now be posted next week, bumped by this article) when one of my running friends gave me a surprise gift.  Accepting this gift meant dropping everything I was doing, and being a little selfish to spend time with my friends. I feel bad for disappointing my dedicated readers like Ken, and  especially those who check-in from foreign countries like Romania, England and Canada.  I am always amazed that I have readers in other countries. The internet can be a wonderful thing, but I digress!

One of the items in my bucket list is training for a marathon. I have been putting in a lot of time running both at the gym on a treadmill, and in official timed races of various distances. Registration for official race events costs money, and as I planned 24 of them this year I had to pick and choose as well as budget accordingly to be able to afford to pay for my fitness hobby.  The point I have been stressing this year is that your Health is your Wealth, and vice-versa. What is the point of becoming rich, only to be too sickly and infirm to enjoy the fruit of your labors? The point of life is to enjoy it!

Gary Brendel, a friend who is part my pack of runners  wanted to run in The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run and he asked if I was going. This was a race that I had skipped. I told him that I had limited funds and had to pass because I couldn’t afford the extra race with all the others I had lined up.  Gary told me he would pick up the tab for my registration. I was stunned! It was such a wonderful gift and a generous surprise that to refuse would have been rude. It is very nice to know that when times are lean, you have friends who have your back. Gary is also planning on running in the Philly Marathon with me in November, and my other friend Steve will run the half that same day. Additionally, Gary also convinced another mutual friend, Alison Riley to run with us in The Ugly Mudder. Alison is a novice runner who believed that she was only able to run 5K (3.1 miles). This was her first ever 13K (8.078 miles) and she did amazing!  Like the Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, ” As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

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 One Ugly Mudder!

The name ‘Ugly Mudder’ is a play on words. It is a near homonym for ‘Ugly Mother’. A Mudder is a race horse that runs faster on a muddy track. This was the logo for this year’s commemorative  t-shirt.

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The character depicted is reminiscent of Baba Yaga , the pestle wielding witch from Slavic folklore who would kill and eat unfortunate travelers who got lost in the woods. Baba Yaga was most likely an influence  for the fictional Blair Witch in the 1999 horror film, The Blair Witch Project.  

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The 17th annual event was timed by Pretzel City Sports. PCS was founded in 1987 by the awesome Ron Horn and they help many regional organizations such as The Pagoda Pacers hold races.

As for the race itself,  The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run is a foot-race up Mount Penn on some of the ugliest, treacherous, and muddy trails imaginable. Mount Penn is a 1,120-foot-high mountain that rises to the north and overlooks the city of Reading PA.  It’s a little mountain, but a mountain is still a mountain. For comparison the tallest mountain in Romania is Moldoveanu Peak at 8,346-feet , which is slightly taller than Omu at 8,219-feet, also located in Romania.  The tallest mountain in England is Scafell Pike at 3,209-feet.  In case you may be wondering, the tallest mountain in North America is Denali in the USA in the state of Alaska. At 20,237-foot, it is also the third tallest on Earth.

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There are two large structures visible on Mount Penn.  One is the William Penn Fire Tower. This imposing stone and reinforced concrete tower is 120 feet tall and is situated on Skyline Drive. The 120-ft.-tall former fire observation tower was built in 1939 for $30,000. A lighted Cross on the tower was forcibly removed in 2009 by God-hating atheists who threatened a lawsuit because the Cross reminded them that they had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.    

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One mile from the Fire Tower is Reading’s landmark Pagoda, the symbol of the city for over a century.

Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. , the Pagoda was completed in 1908.  It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop Mt. Penn, but due a bank foreclosure after the denial of his liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda.  By 1910 the Pagoda and its surrounding 10 acres of land were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia (Bell).  On April 21, 1911 they “sold” the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1.  Since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.

The Pagoda is 28 feet (8.5 m) wide, 50 feet (15 m) long, and 72 feet (22 m) tall and located at  98 Duryea Dr. Reading, PA.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 anti-Japanese sentiment nearly caused the building to be torn down. Cooler-heads claimed that the building was actually not Japanese, but a Korean Pagoda, so the Pagoda was spared.  (FYI– a Korean Pagoda is usually built entirely out of stone, and is slightly different looking than the Reading Pagoda which is clearly based on a Japanese design. Thank God there was also no internet in 1941. LOL. )

As for the course itself, it was rocky and treacherous, not to mention uphill and muddy at places. There was a little patch of ice easily negotiable just before the finish line.  You just knew it was going to be a rough trail when a priest was running in case someone needed Last Rites.

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The humorous description and cautionary words from the promotional e-mail flier are as follows:

The same thing happened to most of the trails used in the Ugly Mudder. Once, they were bucolic hiking trails used by courting couples, families with kids, dog walkers, etc. And then heavy storms took away their topsoil, lack of use resulted in wild indigenous plants growing across the path, erosion left huge gullies in them that twist ankles and make then unsuitable for biking, etc. And what we have left are trails that are so misshapen and un-navigable that they can ONLY be used for the Ugly Mudder. The Ugly Mudder is a mishmash of ups & downs, fallen logs, debris, rocks & roots, discarded household items, deer poop and urban relics.  To offset this misery, Pretzel City Sports provides a bunch of “perks” at the event including a great post race party with a free breakfast, funny signs on trail to ease your pain, unusual aide stations with equally unusual beverages, cold volunteers that will treat YOU even “colder”, great course markings & other niceties that has made this, on several occasions, one of the 5 largest rustic trail runs in the entire country & the largest East of the Mississippi. In fact, annually, 99.9% of its participants live to run another day so how hard can it be?  Come join the 250-400 people each year that REFUSE to let ankle deep snow, sub-zero temps and a few rocks & roots turn them into mega-weenies, candybutts or, worst of all, “Bachelor/Bachelorette Fans”. LEGAL B.S: You RUN AT YOUR OWN RISK & you alone are responsible for your welfare at all times while racing!! You SHOULD finish this race unscathed other than from frostbite & snot frozen to your face. But if you DO get a boo-boo, crawl to an aide station so we can pick you up in a warm car. You WON’T get lost; it’s marked that well!  But if you STILL manage to do so, ask someone how to Uber to Stokesay Castle; the finish is right next door. Since this is a mid-level challenge, people discouraged from coming are

  1. those under 18 (15-17 yr olds OK with parent present-14 or below MUST have someone run with them)

  2. anyone, other than a current employee, who will miss K-mart and

  3. people who religiously “eat clean” because we ALL need Oreos and  they’re about as far from “clean” as a food group can be. And also DAMN yummy!

In case you’re wondering about the funny signs, I took pictures of them all as I ran. They ran in FOUR series each spaced about 2 miles apart ,and  started with a warning:

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  • WARNING! BE PREPARED FOR…
  • THE SHITTIEST 8.078 MILES
  • YOU’LL EVER RUN (IF YOU CALL THIS RUNNING)

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  • LOTS OF “DOWNHILL” COMING UP
  • AFTER YOU FINISH THIS “RIDGE FROM HELL”

  • THERE HAVE BEEN MORE DEMOCRATS
  • RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
  • THAN WE HAVE ENTRIES IN OUR CLYDESDALE DIVISION
  • MAY MEAN THAT WE THAT WE HAVE LESS “FULL” PEOPLE IN THESE PARTS
  • THAN WE HAVE PEOPLE “FULL OF THEMSELVES”

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  • WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP
  • AND WE REALLY MEAN “UP”!

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At the last water station, they also had shots of whisky to anyone who needed calm their nerves after surviving this harrowing experience.

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Yeah it was quite the challenge, and this was only the second trail run I have done. Of the three of us, Gary finished first . Alison twisted her ankle on the rocks half-way, but was able to walk-off the injury and finished ahead of me. I’m a Clydesdale, so I tend to run slower, plus I took pictures. I did NOT finish last, and my pace from my first trail run had improved so I am getting faster which makes me happy. Progress is progress, and slow and steady wins the race!  

The best part was my friends waiting for me at the finish line.

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!