2016 St. Jude Half Marathon

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For the fifth (would be sixth if Mother Nature cooperated) time, I have successfully completed the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis, TN. And that is where the good news stops, at least for my personal performance. To say that I finished the 2016 race calendar with a whimper would be an understatement. Actually, to call my 2016 in running anything but an unmitigated disaster would be an understatement, but that is not the point of this review.

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A wonderful shot of the race crowd. Pic is not my own.

My love for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is well documented on this blog and throughout social media. I return to the race year after year, regardless of my training level to complete the 13.1 miles. And no year tested this dedication like 2016. For starters, I did not train  like I should. This is no one’s fault but my own. I could have gotten up earlier, I could have made arrangements, but I let the excuses win. But to make matters even worse, I spent the Thursday night before the race in the ER with my son with croup. And obviously his health comes before all else. So after spending the night in the ER receiving treatment, we were able to come home around 6:00 am. At this point I was at the 24 hour mark of no sleep. I smarter man would have called in sick and rested all day, but I had a project due so I went into work. And I stayed there all day. Now I am at 35 hours of no sleep. My wife decides that take our son to her parent’s house for the evening so I can get some rest before the half marathon, and she is a saint for this. I finally go to bed around 8:00 pm, which eclipsed the 38 hour mark of consecutive hours awake. My alarm was set for 5:30 am, so let’s just say that my two-day average of sleep was not great.

The forecast for the race was cold, with some rain, and both occurred throughout the morning. I had a rain jacket early in the race, but ditched it because I was overheating and thought that we had missed the rain, which was not 100% accurate. Within 30 minutes of discarding of my jacket, the rain began. It was more of a heavy drizzle and dropped my core temperature more than making me uncomfortably wet. Luckily for me, my decision to ditch my jacket was not a total disaster.

The last four miles, however, were a total disaster thanks to my lack of training and haphazard race prep. My legs quit on me. At first it was cramps in my right calf, then my left calf. Then my left knee started feeling like something was running around inside of it. I no longer could run even a few feet. The Nuun or water on the course was not helping. The Gu I brought did not help. I was resigned to walking the last four miles or so of the course, or quitting. Susan offered to come pick me up, but I refused. I signed up for the race, I raised the money for the kids of St. Jude, I had people cheering me along the course, including my wife and son, I had made it this far, so I was finishing this race! And so I limped along, trying to jog every few minutes, until I crossed that finish line at my glacial pace.

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This beer was the most helpful refreshment on the course! Thank you, High Cotton Brewery!

Swag: B: I like the medal, I was disappointed in the shirt. The medals have gotten progressively better over the years, with last year’s race being the high watermark for the finisher’s medal as well as participant shirt.

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Course: A+: I love the changes to the course this year. Removing the long stretch of boring miles along North Parkway, the paved path through Overton Park, and the uphill climb on Poplar Ave was a gift from above. Adding in more time through Overton Square and the surrounding neighborhoods made the changes even better. Hopefully this was not a one year course deviation.

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Nothing beats an on course family photo!

 

On the Road Again…

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On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is [running miles] with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Determined

Determination late in the race

It is time to start my training for the St. Jude Half Marathon once again! It has never been a secret that this is my favorite race of the year, and training for it could not have come at a better time this big guy. I am in my second week of my sluggish training, and I am already seeing some gains, albeit, they are no where near my norms. But they will get there, it may not be until the 2017 St. Jude Half Marathon, but they will get there.
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Running & smiling in my first 13.1!

And our way
Is on the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is [running miles] with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
My apologies to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Also, my apologies to you, my readers, for this corny post, I will see myself out…

The 2016 Atlanta Braves

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I know that this is a running and fitness blog catered to a niche audience, but I have been reading article after article forever condemning the Atlanta Braves and vilifying anyone associated with their front office. This is infuriating to me not only as a Braves fan, but also as a person capable of rational thought. Today was the worst occurrence of such garbage pieces, and I decided to write a rather lengthy retort to this garbage article. Rather than constantly rewriting the ideas contained in the post over and over in comment sections, I thought I would just create a post in which I could use as a reference point. So if you hate baseball or the Atlanta Braves, and you do not want to read about such things, this is your disclaimer to scroll to the next entry or blog, no questions asked. You have been warned, and I will talk to you upon the return to the normal blog category.

If you are still reading, then you must be curious what I have to say about the 2016 Atlanta Braves, or you are just here to tell me how stupid I am. Both reasons are fair enough.

What was the alternative with the roster? This team is terrible this year, but they always were going to be terrible, just with a different cast of characters. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were always leaving in free agency. Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor’s pitching arms failed them. Andrleton Simmons while being the premier defensive shortstop in the game, cannot hit. The team has a limited payroll and until last year, they had arguably the worst farm system in all of baseball. No funds and no prospects does not equate into building a winning baseball team. Yes, the Braves could have gone all in for the 2015 season, but what would that have realistically netted? A division title? Maybe. A playoff win? Unlikely. The bullpen would still have been mediocre with Craig Kimbrel, the offense would have been feast or famine, and the starting rotation would not have been good enough to win. Remember, the 2014 and 2015 Braves scored the same amount of runs despite drastically different lineups. The pitching was the difference, and this was even with all star Shelby Miller. The Braves have not won a playoff series since 2001! 2001! Fredi Gonzalez only won 1 playoff game in his entire tenure as the manager and had two awful collapses with “loaded” teams in 2011 and 2014, and the another collapse with the depleted team last season, which is a little more understandable. And let us not forget Kimbrel standing in the bullpen, ready to enter the game as David Carpenter coughed up to lead on a Juan Uribe homerun. Let’s go back to 2014 when John Hart and John Coppolella started wheeling and dealing, and negate all of their trades, whether they have been deemed a success or failure. What does the current roster and farm system look like in this scenario? World Series favorite? A 100+ win team? Not in the slightest. Your 2016 Atlanta Braves would be the following: C – Gattis/Bethancourt, 1B – Freeman, 2B – Peraza/LaStella, SS – Simmons, 3B – C. Johnson, LF – Terdoslavich/K. Johnson, CF – Melvin Upton, Jr., RF – Francouer/Cunningham. SP – Teheran, Wood, Norris, Perez, Weber. RP – Kimbrel, Avillan, 5 warm bodies. Top Nine Prospects according to MLB Pipeline (current, actual team rank in parentheses) 1. Albies (3), 2. Sims (12), 3. Davidson (15), 4. Acuna (23), 5. Hursh (24), 6. Carmargo (25), 7. Povse (26), 8. Cabrera (28), 9. Parsons (29). I would have gone to ten or fifteen, but MLB Pipeline does not rate out far enough for me to include that many prospects due to all of the trades for prospects over the past two seasons creating an influx of minor league talent. Anyone drafted last year cannot be counted due to the draft picks acquired via trade and the different approach to building this team would likely skew the draft philosophy. Maybe the team still drafts Kolby Allard or maybe the team drafts the best available college guy with a hope to plug him in this season or next for the departing free agents. We do not know, and therefore must continue this exercise as such. This team would have be awful for years to come, not just the two to three years of awfulness the Braves are currently projected for. Do not forget, you cannot count the failures of 2014 because that was a different general manager and this super team that everyone is so pissed about breaking up was still intact. And all for, at best, what, twenty more wins in 2015? Five more wins in 2016? This team was destined to be terrible this year, but at least now there is some hope for the future, and next a decade of deplorable baseball like the 1980’s Atlanta Braves.

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This gif was found on TheBigLead.com.

Now onto Turner Field. It is not like the Braves are moving to Chattanooga, TN. They are moving to a suburb of Atlanta. Yes, they are moving because they could not fleece the city of Atlanta taxpayers so they decided to stick it to the taxpayers in Cobb County, but all this nostalgia about Turner Field is baffling. The stadium is wildly generic, the Braves have a losing post season record there, it was built for the Olympics, not the team, is the epitome of mediocre Braves baseball, the Braves have very little say or profits from the operation of he stadium, and it is literally a death trap with three fan deaths since 2008. Traffic to SunTrust Park will be awful, granted, but so is the traffic to Turner Field, it is Atlanta after all. There have been years of comedic material written about the traffic in Atlanta. On opening day, it took my family over one hour to travel less than three miles from our hotel to the ballpark. Three miles! I ran a 5K with a broken foot faster than that! The new ballpark might not solve any of these issues, and if that pisses you off great, because it should, especially since the need for a new park was not eminent. But being mad because the park is in a suburb and there will be traffic issues is woefully idiotic and a bit disingenuous. If you are going to be mad, be mad for the right reasons!

The biggest contributing factor to losing and infuriating fans are all of the hot take pieces being written like this one on The Hard Ball Times and what routinely runs in the AJC. The current Braves are an easy target for ridicule because they are not good at baseball and fanning the flames of hatred from the lowest common denominator is easier than being objective and honest about the rebuild. The Simmons and Alex Wood trades are abysmal thus far, and deserve some vitriol spewed their way, especially the Wood trade. But remember, if Sean Newcomb lives up to his potential, he is the ace that Braves have needed since the early 2000’s. If he does not, then the Braves traded the next Ozzie Smith for the worst shortstop in the game, even if this gross decline (and it has been certifiably disgusting) in Erick Aybar’s production could not have been fully predicted. The mid-2000’s in Atlanta deserve their fair amount of the blame for the team’s current plight. The pursuit of fourteen consecutive division titles and then one last hurrah for the old guard in 2007 was short-sighted, and robbed the team of some very good prospects for rental players on teams that were not good enough to win the World Series, with or without the additions. Was one excellent season of J.D. Drew worth the entire career of Adam Wainwright? One year of Mark Teixeira, with 6+ WAR accumulated for the Braves, worth five prospects that ultimately put Texas where Atlanta wanted to be twice, the World Series? These Braves teams were not merely a piece away, but the trades were done as if they were. A little more prudence then would be beneficial now. I, for one, am happy that the Braves are no longer putting bandaids on bullet wounds, and hopefully the team can maintain a prolonged success once again. due to this reinvigorated focus on the draft, scouting, analytics, and building a team from within.

In the end, none of these prospects may work out (highly unlikely), and the entire endeavor was a waste of time, but the chances of enough of these prospects to blossom in MLB are high, and the wins will certainly follow as well. So continue to fight through this abysmal season and think about the brighter days that are to come. And remember, as a Braves fan you have been spoiled since 1991 with winning baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates had twenty consecutive losing seasons during this time period and the Kansas City Royals suffered greatly while building their World Series roster.

I am sure that my stance will not be well received here, but these denunciations have already grown beyond tiresome, and it is still only May, so it is at least cathartic for me to say my part. And honestly, I could have written another 5,000 words about this subject.

New St. Jude Marathon Weekend Race

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2016 marks the 15th year of the St. Jude Marathon Weekend, and with it, St. Jude is introducing a new race distance! In years past, have you felt that the 5K was not challenging enough, yet the idea of the half marathon or marathon was still too daunting? Well, this year, you are in luck! St. Jude has decided to provide potential race participants with the option of running a 10K for the kids! I will still be either running the half or the full marathon, but I am excited that even more people can participate in this wonderful race weekend. More info can be found here.

2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic Fairway 5K Recap

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Originally I was going to run in the inaugural Race 13.1 being held here in Memphis, but with my lack of training and busy schedule, I thought it was wiser to run in this 5K and continue to build my running base back up.

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I ran in the first Fairway 5K back in 2013, but could not participate in it last year due to my schedule. I remembered that race had a great afterparty and was for a great cause. This year was no different. I was slower this year, which really sucks when you consider that the Fairway 5K in 2013 was my first race after my foot injury, but I am presently a work in progress, and I am slowly returning to form.

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Swag: A+: Any 5K that gives out a medal will get a high grade from me, especially the awesomeness that was this year’s medal. This seriously might be my favorite medal of any race thus far! Throw in a nice looking long sleeve Zorrel Dri-Balance shirt, a one day pass to the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament, colorful socks, a cooling towel and you have some very solid swag. The post race mimosas, beers, and Bloody Marys were a huge hit. If you lingered too long out there, you certainly would have needed a DD to get home! The pre and post race band was also very good.

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Course: A-: You run through residential streets as well as the cart paths around the 17th and 18th holes. Everyone thought that the course was fast, and really flat. I can only think of two hills. One was a short, steep one on the golf course and the other came at the very beginning of the course. You finish at the 18th green with a fantastic post race party, which was a great time.

Overall: A: This may be the best 5K experience I have had. This is in part due to the great weather, lots of swag, scenic course, and great event management. Wrangling 800+ people through cart paths on a golf course is not an easy task.  Also, the post race Bloody Mary stand may have helped as well!

2016 Germantown Half Marathon Recap

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I have written a recap for this race multiple times, and it most details rarely change from year to year. This year is no exception, so I am going to spare everyone the explicit details, and just share the swag, and give some props.

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A personal positive note, I was faster during this race than the Rebel Well Mighty Half, so that is always welcomed news! Susan also brought our son out to cheer me along the course, which is certainly a welcomed sight!

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But I said I was going to give props for this race, and so I would love to give a big shout out and congratulations to my friend, and friend of this blog to Andrew D. for crushing his first ever half marathon! He left me in the dust from the start and finished well ahead of his goal and certainly earned his successful finish!

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Swag: A-: For the third year in a row, there was a redesign of the race medal, shirt, and logo. It was another great design, and certainly trumped what was done for the race for the years prior to 2014. I still preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good, even if the use of a Pegasus is a bit perplexing. They kept the long-sleeved shirt for this year’s race, and even had an option to purchase a hoodie.