Motivation Monday: Boston Edition

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As almost of you certainly know, today is the Boston Marathon. It is the world’s most famous race, and entry into the event is highly coveted. Qualifying for the event is not an easy endeavor, and earning a finisher’s medal will invoke envy from the masses. With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to share some motivation from 2014 Boston Champion Meb Keflezighi and the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series for today’s motivation. Enjoy.

Very true

Very true

2015 Kick It 5K Recap

Team Sue's Crew
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A few weeks back, I ran the Kick It 5K here in Memphis. This was my first time running in this event, which raises money and awareness for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The event does an excellent job of incorporating survivors, families affected by the disease, and advocates for treatment. I participated with a team honoring the mother of one of Susan’s coworkers which passed away from pancreatic cancer after a lengthy battle. It was an awe-inspiring experience to see the amount of support and dedication for the cause presented at this event.

Team Sue's Crew

Team Sue’s Crew

It was a gloomy day, with rain and wind throughout the day. Luckily, the rain subsided long enough for the race to transpire, and the course was not overwhelmed by the weather. It was my second race of the weekend, and what is becoming a recurring theme, I was not at my best. I did feel good, however, and I did enjoy it.

Course: B: It is the standard 5K course that almost every 5K at Shelby Farms follows. The course is always overcrowded at the beginning taking about a mile to gain separation for those not lucky or fast enough to get to the front of the pack. It was announced several times for walkers to go to the back of the starting group, but most people ignore this. The course has a few hills, with the biggest sequence of hills right before the finish line. Honestly, I need to run this course more in training so I can get the mix of hills and enjoy different scenery during my runs.

Kick It 5K swag

Kick It 5K swag

The downside with the course is the early congestion. I was not paying attention at the start, and ended up having to start closer to the back than I would have liked. Having to weave around walkers and talkers cost me some time, but I was not going to PR or place in my AG, so it really does not matter.

Swag: A: This was a 5K, so swag basically means t-shirt. If it looks good, the review goes up. If it is ugly, it goes down. Anything extra is a great bonus. The shirt for this event was a long-sleeved white shirt. The post race food was quite extensive, with BBQ and all of the trimmings. There was also a silent auction during and after the event, and a live band. I would have stayed longer if the rain was not beginning to fall once again.

Overall: A: A great event that is run well, and for an excellent cause. The event does a fantastic job of raising awareness and support for pancreatic cancer. I will run in this event again.

And on a side note, in all of my races over the years, I have never had a repeated bib number. This event marked my second race of the weekend with the exact same bib number. Weird and random.

2015 Atlanta Braves Opening Day

The Chop
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In what is becoming an annual tradition here, today is the day in which we celebrate the (should be considered) national holiday of Opening Day in MLB! This is the point where I usually write several paragraphs about how his is the year in which everything comes together and the Braves finally realize their potential. This is the year that the Braves make a deep run in October. This is the year their young talent fully matures and makes that next step. This could be the year that the Braves return to the World Series. Well, a funny thing happened between the last pitch of 2014 and this first pitch of 2015. The Braves went into full-fledged rebuild mold.

Julio Teheran is the Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

Julio Teheran is the Opening Day starter for your Atlanta Braves

Gone are prodigal son Jason Heyward, the savior at second base Tommy La Stella, both Upton brothers, the best closer in the game Craig Kimbrel, feel good story Evan “El Oso Blanco” Gattis,  the 2014 Tommy John casualties Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Jonny Venters, the hired gun Ervin Santana (who is now gone from his new team for 80 games for using PED’s) and nearly every setup man in the bullpen from last year. Gone is the hopes of the Braves celebrating their 20 year anniversary of being World Champions with a repeat performance of this feat. Gone is the general manager to either praise or blame for the current state of the Braves. Gone will be several fans (not this one) upset and hurt by the moves. Rather, enter the pains of rebuilding.

Taken from the Braves Facebook page

Taken from the Braves Facebook page in 2013…  :(

The Braves did not just give away these players (well, Melvin Upton, Jr., they certainly tried and his transaction became the toughest, but more on this later). The fact was that the Braves team of the past few years was talented, but flawed. They did win 96 games and the NL East only TWO years ago! With a young, and mostly returning team. The originally projected Braves team for 2015 would have been decent. The problem is that is was unlikely that the Braves were going to be great, and then next year, there were going to be a massive exodus of talent due to the team’s corporate ownership, Liberty Media, and the bottom line. In reality, the looming exodus after 2015 did not have to happen, but was going to, regardless of what we fans think. And with the new park opening in 2017 (a subject for another day), the new front office decided to punt on the last two years at Turner Field and have hope for Sun Trust Park. So here we are, a team of misfits, scabs, and a couple of remaining stars from the past half decade, and a wounded fan base.

The Braves have certainly found a way to dominate the offseason chatter. They have actually done this for three consecutive years now. 2013 they signed the then BJ Upton to the largest free agent contract in team history, traded for his brother Justin, and had what many people, myself included, felt was the most talented outfield in the game. Ultimately we were wrong, but it was exciting and fun. 2014 saw several extensions for the rising young stars of the team. Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons, Teheran, and Johnson signed huge extensions days after news of the new park was announced. The GM Frank Wren and Manager Fredi Gonzalez received contract extensions. Heyward had his arbitration years bought out, creating hop a longer extension was still an option. And after Medlen and Beachy had their right elbows fail them again, the Braves made a huge splash by signing Ervin Santana to save the rotation. The 2014 season did not cooperate. The hitters regressed, the pitching was solid, but not exceptional, and the team only won 79 games. A drop of 17 games with a very similar roster is troubling, but what if 2014, and not 2013, was the aberration?  A couple of moves could be made to bolster the roster, and look out MLB in 2015! Sadly, that is not the direction the team went.

Pic from MLB's Facebook page (2013)

Technically true! Pic from MLB’s Facebook page (2013)

The alarming strikeout rates, lack of power, and complete failure with runners in scoring position prompted a complete overhaul. Young second baseman Tommy La Stella was sent to the Cubs for a former Braves pitching prospect derailed by injuries. Heyward was sent along with primary setup man Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals, just so all my friends and family can enjoy their talents at my expense, for young pitching prospects. Justin Upton was moved out west to the Padres for more prospects, including one recovering from Tommy John surgery, which is the Braves way, of course. Bullpen arms David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve were sent to the Yankees for a former highly touted prospect returning from Tommy John surgery. Then El Oso Blanco was sent to the Astros for more prospects. Then yesterday, as everyone was preparing for a 2015 season that may or may not be good, the Braves pulled the trigger on another deal. The best closer in baseball was packaged with the worst contract in baseball and sent to the Padres for a couple of warm bodies for the outfield (one of which was immediately DFA’d) and a couple more intriguing prospects.

Heyward and Justin Upton were pending free agents, so moving them was rationalized simply by stating the obvious, they were gone after 2015 anyway. Sell now, and get max value. Gattis was a cheap power hitter, but really had limited options on the Braves roster due to rising catcher Christian Bethancourt, Freeman at first, and the scary prospect of him lumbering in the outfield. If MLB had the DH in both leagues, then maybe Gattis will still be in the middle of the Braves lineup, but they do not, so he is now in Houston. All the setup men are gone because bullpen arms are mostly expendable when you are not going to contend. La Stella played the wrong position and the Braves could get a high ceiling arm (who is now suspended for 80 games for PED’s…). Kimbrel is gone because a closer like him is a luxury and dumping him and his salary allowed for the Braves to also jettison the other Upton’s albatross of a contract while still getting impact prospects in return.

The Chop

The chop!

 

Whereas 2015, and probably 2016 are going to painful to watch, there is a plan in place. The Braves farm system went from the bottom five in baseball to the top five in the matter of months. Draft picks were acquired and a focus on scouting has returned. Even a greater nod to analytics has begun with the inclusion of Coppolella in the front office. Several veteran players were signed and even if half of the new pitching prospects realize their potential, the rotation will be scary good in the near future. Rebuilding sucks, but you know what else sucks, mediocrity. Year after year of being just good enough to contend, but ultimately not being good enough to excel is hard to endure. The string of recent first round exits and Braves postseason heartaches has not been fun. My Cardinals friends give me grief about the Braves only winning one World Series in the 90’s. All of that talent, and only one ring to show for it. I always respond with something about the Buffalo Bills or decades of losing in markets like Pittsburgh or the hell that was the 80’s for Braves fans. But the truth is that the 90’s do sting a bit. The 1991 and 1996 World Series were very winnable. The 1997 NLCS still haunts me. Even one more World Series win changes everything. If this rebuild is what it takes to get there, then so be it. I will still watch more than my fair share of Braves games this year, including this afternoon’s opener. I am honestly excited to see how this team does. The offense of the past few years has been painful to watch, so this new look team should at least be a little bit more exciting to watch. I could be wrong and this could be a callback to the 1980’s Braves with Freddie Freeman playing the modern day Dale Murphy.

I'm going to miss seeing this (photo from NBC)

I’m going to miss seeing this (photo from NBC)

So here is to another year of baseball! My team may not be favored to win it all, but wait ’til next year (in my best Cubs’ fan voice)!

Race for Recovery 2015

Race for Recovery swag
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This post is a little delayed, but back on March 21, the second annual Race for Recovery was held here in Memphis, TN. The proceeds from the event go towards supporting the Shelby County Drug Court. Just like last year, I am employed by the drug court, and therefore, I will not be offering my traditional rankings of the event.

The venue for 2015 was moved from Overton Park to the Mississippi Greenbelt Park. I loved the venue change, even if the weather and park confines did not exactly cooperate.

Race for Recovery swag

Race for Recovery swag

The park has a running trail, but it is a dirt path along side the Mississippi River. When it rains too much, the path becomes muddy, and the river overtakes the path. This happened prior to the race this year. Gone was the scenic path along the river, replaced with a swampy mess that was not the easiest course to transverse. There was also a big hill at the halfway point, and some of the runners, me included, added some distance to our course towards the end due to some confusion on the course.

I love the shirt design for this year’s event. There was also a water bottle from a sponsor and plenty of snacks at the race conclusion.

It was a small race, and despite my struggles with the course, I did finish second in my age group and received a medal for my efforts.

2015 Germantown Half Marathon Review

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher's medal
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This is not my first time running in this event, and it will not be my last. I have reviewed the race a couple of times now, and I find it redundant to do a full review each year as long as the organizers and course remain constant, which they did for this year. Instead, I am going to talk about this day in particular and the 2015 version of the race medal and swag.

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

Susan captured this pic of me running along the course

What a difference a day makes for the weather! After the rain that never seemed to end, this race day ended up beautiful. The day started chilly, but warmed up as the day progressed. Sunday ended up being the best day of the year thus far, even if it did not feel that way in the second half of the race. After months of freezing temps, the mid-60’s felt like a heat wave and hammered me on the run. It did feel great to be in the sun and to not be bundled up after the race.

Determination late in the race

Determination late in the race

By using a run walk ratio for the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon on Saturday, and then again for this race on Sunday, I was able to actually finish this race, and the more difficult course four minutes faster than the day before! I was very pleased with my efforts during the race and even though this was much slower than last year’s event, I think that I am returning to a good place with my running.

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher's medal

2015 Germantown Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Swag: B+: For the second 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 preferred the designs from 2014, but this year was still very good. I love that this year they made a long-sleeved shirt for the race, even if they keep you guessing on the proper size to order with the constant changing of shirt brands and types. For anyone that is a repeat participant in an event, it is nice to have a variety of shorts for an event, and in this capacity, this race is succeeding.

2015 Germantown Half swag

2015 Germantown Half swag

The race organizers also did something great for the race participants. There was a large number of late registrations, and rather than having a medal shortage fiasco like a couple of years ago, they were proactive in their approach. They emailed everyone, letting them know that if you registered after a certain date, you would not get a medal on race day, but rather you would have one sent to you when the second batch were finished. To determine how to distribute the medals for the races, they color coordinated race bibs. If you had a green bib, you got a medal. A white bib meant that you did not. It worked great from what I could see after I finished.

2015 Andrew Jackson Half Marathon Review

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher's medal
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Saturday I took the hour drive up Interstate 40 to Jackson, TN to tackle my first of two half marathons for the weekend at the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon. This race is a smaller race, and offers a marathon, half marathon, and 5K with staggered start times for each event. There really was not an expo, just a registration and packet pickup at one of the gyms on the Union University campus.

The day did not start off great with the week-long rain still lingering for most of the morning. It was not as heavy of a rain as the rest of the week, but it just exasperated the amount of liquid along the course. It also marked my third half marathon of 2015 in which the weather was not great. This is a risk you run with spring events. We all know the possibilities, and signing up early to save some cash will limit our ability to cherry-pick races according to weather.

Being that this race was going to be my first of two half marathons for the weekend, I decided to take it easy along the course. I even violated a cardinal rule for running by trying something new on race day. Of course, my something new was not new shoes, apparel, or fueling, but rather new pacing. I decided to try incorporating a run walk ratio for the race. I assumed that using a pre-planned run walk regiment would help preserve my legs for the following day’s race, and it would help curb my instinct to push it hard, especially early in the event. The run walk ratio was a successful strategy for this event for me. I was sore after the event, but not as much so as I would have been if I would have used my same race strategy. Of course, my finish time was not spectacular, but this weekend was much more about completing the events, not a PR.

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher's medal

Andrew Jackson Half Marathon finisher’s medal

Course: B-: The word that best describes this course is boring. It was a mix of rural and residential streets with sparse crowds throughout. The volunteers were fantastic, and there were an adequate amount of water stations along the course. There were some moderate, rolling hills and the course was open to traffic. Race organizers did a great job of stopping traffic for runners to cross, but with the standing water along the course, some areas got a little tight with motorists and runners. The crowd at the finish was great and encouraging, so that certainly is a positive from the race.

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Andrew Jackson Half race shirt, bib, and medal

Swag: B-: Tech shirt and medal constitutes the swag for this race. The post race spread consisted of bananas, orange slices, and bagels. The medal has been polarizing for the people who have seen it on my social media outlets. Personally, I like the idea they were going for, and for a presidential nerd, it is fantastic. The medal, however, looks a bit off. Susan finds the medal creepy. It looks like one of the following three things: 1) a Michael Myers mask, 2) Andrew Jackson wearing an Andrew Jackson mask, or 3) or Christopher Walken dressed as Andrew Jackson. Judge for yourself.

Overall: B-: It is a small race that is well-organized and for a great cause (raises money for the prevention of child abuse and neglect). For future events, organizers should work for a bigger post race spread. They had a dinner the night before the race, which would be great for people staying in the Jackson, TN area, but something post race would be great as well. I hope that they keep pushing the envelope with the use of Andrew Jackson. Think the Lincoln Presidential Marathon which has had medals look like pennies, $5 bills, and race shirts have shown Abe in various running situations. Have some fun with it!

I would probably run this race again being that it is so close to Memphis.

Back to Back Half Marathons

Double Weekend
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Next weekend will mark my first attempt at running a half marathon on back to back days. I have run a 5K, half marathon, and 5K in consecutive days, a 10K and half marathon back to back, a marathon, and even two 5K’s in one day, but never double-digit race miles on back to back days. This is going to be a challenge, but one I want to attempt. My training is not 100% where I want it to be at this point, but I am confident that I will be able to complete my goal. After all, I am not too proud to walk if the need arises. Double Weekend   While prepping for this endeavor, I reached out to fellow runners through social media for advice. I am not personal trainer, but I thought that the information was good, I feel obliged to share it here. The information is as follows:

  • Hydrate!
  • Eat more than you think you should. Do not gorge yourself, but I will consume more calories than normal, so fuel properly.
  • Clean and quality fuel will help in the recovery process.
  • Rest. Get extra sleep to recover…
  • But do not rest too much. Keep moving after race number one to keep my legs loose.
  • Foam roll and stretch after each race.
  • Compression gear after each race.
  • Do not try to PR, run for the joy of it.
  • Chose one race to run harder in than the other.
  • Actually train with back to back long runs.

There were some other responses, but this is the gist of the information that I received. The two races I have chosen to run back to back are the Andrew Jackson Half Marathon in Jackson, TN, and the Germantown Half Marathon Germantown, TN. This is about as convenient as back to back races can be with the ability to sleep in my own bed and travel about an hour at the most to a race.