Sunday, July 26, 2015

When Life Turns, Lean In; July 24-26, 2015

It's always good to have backup plans.  That way you'll - more than likely - not be too disappointed.

This weekend was a good case of that.

A former co-worker of mine, while I worked at Tulare Regional Medical Center in Tulare, California, Jennifer Dilgard, had made plans to participate in the four-mile Shawshank Hustle in Ohio this past Saturday.

Another co-worker, Lisa Watson, was flying in from California to do it with her.

Both of these ladies were a large part of any success I had at that facility as an interim CIO.

I had originally planned to as well, but I wasn't paying attention how popular the event was and -- it sold out!

When did I find this out?  Immediately after I purchased the airplane ticket.

So I was still going to go, meet up with them before and after and do four races this weekend (Fri. night, Sat. morning, Sat. night in Lexington, KY and Sun. AM in Cincinnati) -- adding to my counts of races in north American cities or towns.

However, there was something that needed to be taken care of here on Sunday evening that only I could in reality do and I had no guarantees if I did it on Thursday evening or Monday evening if the same outcome was to be expected.

I didn't need a big, costly shock in my world.

Making it all easier to be palatable was that my ticket was on Southwest, which allows you to bank the money if you cancel before the flight departs.

I saw races in Granbury on Friday night, Longview on Saturday morning, Arkadelphia, Arkansas Saturday night and the local Run For Wellness 5K on Sunday morning.

Agressive.  Lots of driving.  And without a lot of rest.

I was able to get a hotel room in Marshall with my Marriott Rewards for two nights with discounted points.

After putting in three and a half hours Friday morning and getting to having worked 45 billable hours at my client, I headed north.

However, a slow leak that I had in my rear driver side tire was seemingly getting worse as I made my way up Highway 59 towards Marshall.

I arrived, checked in and took care of a number of things in my room before crashing at about 6 p.m.  It had been a mildly stressful week and in reality, I needed a bit of rest.

Yes, I woke up right around midnight.

Eventually, I got out of bed at about 4 a.m. and went down to the car to get my bag, which had my running gear.  I figured that I could take the car across the road to the Shell station and air up the tire and head to Longview for a 7:30 a.m. 5K.

When I went out, well, it was flat.  I wasn't going to be going anywhere.  Now I had to come up with some different plans.

Eventually, when I went to the front desk and asked the clerk who they would recommend locally to fix a flat, they had a pair of recommendations but also offered the use of a portable tire air compressor.

I had a good breakfast at IHOP, which was adjacent to the Fairfield Inn & Suites just off I-20 and Highway 59, and then came back and aired the tire up enough to drive it and shut off the warning on the car's computer system.

I went to Hometown Tire there in Marshall.  They were busy.  Seemed to be a rash of tire issues this Saturday as the receptionist remarked to multiple people of such.

Thirty minutes or so later, they had patched the flat tire, charged me $15 and I headed back to the hotel.  When I got there, I offered the two ladies lunch if there was any place that they wanted to order it from.  However, they declined.  I told them that it was the least that I could do after saving me from having to get a tow truck.  (Thank goodness I had enough cash with me, which is rare, in case.)

So the new plan?

One that I had short-circuited on the way up to Marshall and that was to start my path of trying to run at least a mile in all 254 Texas counties.

There's a brand new running club that just started recently - as reported in Texas Runner and Triathlete magazine - by those that are seeking to run a 5K in every county.

It is led by retired Air Force officer Mary Kaplan, who is well into the 170s, I believe.

I was introduced to her in Kosse two years ago at the Greyhound 5K by the Seven Hills Running Club's Ken Johnson and I put her quest on to Texas Runner and Triathlete last year.

I figured that since it took me parts of 12 years to meet my first goal of running a race in 100 Texas cities or towns that it would be sometime in my early 70s until I could run a race in all 254.

As it turns out, looking at my list of Texas cities and towns, I've actually run a 5K race or longer in 54 counties, including 40 where I've actually finished in the county seat.

Will I repeat those counties and run at least a mile in them again?  Probably.  Especially if they are on the way to the next county in a trip.  Obviously, west, south and central Texas are the biggest areas to cover.

So at about 11 a.m., I located the Harrison County Courthouse in Marshall, walked around and took some pictures and then headed out for a warm mile-plus.

My plan is to run about 12 to 13 minutes in each to make sure that I cover the mile.

For the first time ever, I actually tracked each my using the Map My Run app on my phone.

They were tough miles, especially in the 95 and greater heat, and as you can expect the average pace got slower with each one.

Harrison County (Marshall) -- 1.26 miles / 10:22 pace
Gregg County (Longview) -- 1.18 miles / 10:30 pace
Upshur County (Gilmer) -- 1.36 miles / 10:48 pace
Wood County (Quitman) -- 1.18 miles / 10:49 pace
Hopkins County (Sulphur Springs) -- 1.24 miles / 10:52 pace
Franklin County (Mount Vernon) -- 1.28 miles / 11:29 pace
Titus County (Mount Pleasant) -- 1.30 miles /11:47 pace

What I didn't do - in that heat - was to take some salt tablets (not that I had them with me) because even though I was getting fluids in me, my legs were cramping and that is largely the reason for the slower paces in the last two counties.

Titus County was actually by chance.  I was hoping that I would be able to get in Marion County in Jefferson, which I had to pass through to get back to my hotel in Marshall.

I didn't even realize it as I was making my plans to cross beneath I-30 and head through Daingerfield and on to Jefferson.

I think that this may end up being a fun quest.

Regardless, I was up this morning at 5 a.m. and on the road by 5:45 a.m. to ensure that I made it back to North Park Baptist Church as Waverly was co-leading worship in song this morning as our regular music leader had plans to be gone this weekend.

Two weeks from now, she'll be in Lynchburg ready to start her junior year at Liberty University.  My how the time flies.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Vacation Report; July 12, 2015

It's 3:30 a.m.  We're here at O'Hare.  Early.

Wanted to make sure that we had no issues to board our 5:17 a.m. flight back to Houston.

Waverly is due to sing a special this morning during church services at North Park Baptist Church.

All's good.

Another vacation in the books.

I have no idea what the mileage was on our rental car with Alamo (as their systems were down when we returned the car earlier), but the wheels saw Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Our annual summer trip has been a tradition since Waverly was about eight or nine.

Since she spent five weeks last summer working four Christian summer youth camps in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas last year, we didn't get to do it.

I still took a week's vacation by myself and saw eight new minor league ballparks in seven days and ran a couple of races in North Carolina.

This year was no different.  Sort of.

The original plan was to stay closer to the midwest, but Waverly thought that she would be able to see her friends with Lift Ministries that were working camps again this year in Ohio.

However, we learned that the Ohio camp was the following week (or next week).

But Dad heard one thing and thought forward on a second item to change up the trip a little bit.

Waverly is going to be a resident adviser this year - her junior year - at Liberty University.

While she will have available "off days" each semester, I could just forsee that it was going to be difficult for her to get away and make the five-hour drive to Pennsylvania to see my 90-year-old grandmother in central Pennsylvania.

And through some casual dialogue with her, I realized that the Lift team was going to be at Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

So the plan was to "Go East, Young Man" - to play off a popular saying from the past.

We had two races planned - one for me to definitely run and one for us to do together.

I also had six "new to me" ballparks on the schedule.

We would fly here into Chicago and then immediately head to Grand Rapids, Michigan where we could catch the West Michigan Whitecaps, who play in the Midwest League.

That decision was kind of predicated that the only Sunday race I could find was a 5K in Shelby, Michigan - about an hour north of Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

It turned out that it was this little lakeside community's first time to put on a race and they did it in style.  The Stony Lake Sparkler 5K.

Great, great atmosphere for a community race.  Completely well done.

And it turned out that Waverly wanted to run it - even though she had run the 26th annual Baytown Bud Heatwave the day before.  A 5-miler in broiling heat and humidity.

I like to race myself, even though I'm slow.  However, I know that the opportunities to run a race with my daughter, even though she's 20, in the years to come will likely diminish.

Therefore, it is something that I completely cherish.

The vacation time is something that I value and cherish as well.

We usually have things that are set or fixed - a hotel that we need to make, a ballpark to go to or somebody that we have planned to see - and then if we see something else that looks interesting to explore we do so.

Sunday's plan was to stop by Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on the way to our second of eight consecutive nights in a Marriott hotel, Findlay, Ohio.
But something happened along the way as we approached East Lansing:  Waverly noticed that a friend from Liberty had just checked in at a local place of business.  She checked the hours, learned that it was close to the Michigan State campus and off we headed in that direction.

Waverly totally surprised her friend, Grace.

It was great.  It was an example of when you have the chance to do something, you do it.

Try your best to live your life with absolutely no regrets.  Every day.

We spent some time there and I had a chance to meet Grace and we both met her mother.  They were sharing time together at a Painting With A Twist location.

All good.

From Findlay on Monday, we would head to Columbus to see the ballpark that is used by the New York Yankees' AAA affiliate, the Clippers.

On the way, we stopped in Marion to see the Warren Harding Memorial - a structure that was constructed in the late 1920s and is beautifully maintained.

Beautiful newer ballpark, but what was special for me is that the Columbus area for many years was actually the Pittsburgh Pirates' top minor league ballclub in the late 60's and early 70's and some of my favorite Pirates as a child had spent time there:  Stargell, Sanguillen and Al Oliver.

We drove by Ohio Stadium - on the way to the game - where the National Champion Buckeyes play, but I'll get a chance to see that in about two weeks.

And then we saw John Glenn's boyhood home in New Concord, Ohio as well as the Muskingum College campus before passing through West Virginia into the greatest Commonwealth of them all:  Pennsylvania.

We broke up the drive to Langhorne by staying in Bedford, Pennsylvania on Monday night, which left us a three-and-a-half hour drive Tuesday morning.

One of the many things that we try to accomplish on our vacations is to eat local.

Over the last 40 years, we've seen Wal-Mart wipe out hundreds of Mom and Pop businesses across America, if not North America.

So in Bedford, we had dinner at O I P (which is also in my hometown of Tyrone, Pennsylvania).

And then we set out for an almost 3-mile run in downtown Bedford.

The following morning would take us to Cairn University in north suburban Philadelphia and Waverly was able to spend about three hours with some of the friends and staff that she had worked with the previous summer.

We could have stayed longer, but the staff members had responsibilities with campers after lunch that ended at 1 p.m.  And the Lift team will be in our home church this coming Sunday as they head to the last camp of their summer at LeTourneau University in Longview.

We were able to be a part of the morning Camp worship service where we heard an excellent message brought by EJ Swanson that God is less concerned about where we've been in our past but more concerned about where we're headed - in our walk with HIm and where we'll spend eternity.

Something that, as Christians, we don't do a good job of communicating with in our ever-changing world.

We're afraid to say:  We're concerned that - without a relationship with Jesus Christ - you're going to spend eternity in Hell.

It was on to Reading - about an hour and a half east of Philadelphia - where we took in one of the oldest ballparks in the minor leagues, the rechristened FirstEnergy Stadium.

Originally built in 1950, it still embraced the club's great history, including an affiliation of almost 50 consecutive years (since 1967) with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Before the game, we had a great cheesesteak hoagie at Mike's Sandwich Shop, less than a mile from the ballpark.  Great stuff.

The next morning, we drove to see my grandmother in Tipton, Pennsylvania - between Altoona and State College, just off of Highway 99.

My Dad and Mom were already there with my two nieces.

We stopped in late Wednesday morning to the Berkey Creamery at Penn State for some ice cream because the way that we were going to depart would have taken us out of the way to go there.

We spent a good six hours with my grandmother.  I had been in to see her about five or six weeks ago.

She's done incredibly well on her own since my grandfather passed away last April.  I'm very, very proud of her.  Being without my grandfather has been very hard on her, but she's persevered with whatever time God continues to grant her here on this earth.

One of the things that I like to do when we get home is to take in Texas Hot Dogs in Altoona and Waverly and I took my two nieces, Haylee and Hunter, with us before we headed west to Youngstown, Ohio, where we would spend the night.

The plan was on Thursday morning to see a game in Eastlake, Ohio - the home of the Lake County Captains.  However, weather got in the way.

Before we made it there, we saw William McKinley's Boyhood Home and Memorial in Niles as well as the First Flight Exhibit of Neil Armstrong in neighboring Warren.

With the ballgame in Eastlake cancelled, we moved on to our next stop:  Maumee, Ohio.

We would stay there, but would venture north to Sylvania for the running of the Ohio Michigan 8K.

A rectangular course that would venture into Michigan for about two-thirds of the race and finish back in Ohio close to the original start.

We started the first two miles off at about an 11:11 pace, which Waverly really masters well (i.e. not going out too fast).  But with favorable weather, temperature-wise (it was still humid), I started to pick up the pace and we negative splitted each mile with the last .97 miles in 9:56 as I got her under 54 -- a few days after she went 55:25 in the heat in Baytown.

In the meantime of all of this, we were looking for a race for Saturday morning and Waverly reminded me that she had never been to Wisconsin.

So we kept the original vacation plans of staying in Beloit, Wisconsin Friday night and going to see the Beloit Snappers, also of the Midwest League.

There were a number of options in south Wisconsin, but we settled on a two-loop, trail 10K in Middleton, just north of Madison.

When I ran the Sunburst Half Marathon in 2009, finishing down the sideline of Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, I was struck by the beauty of Notre Dame's campus.

I think most colleges in America are maintained in such a way to be visually appealing places.
Notre Dame doesn't disappoint, especially combined with its incredible legacy.

Waverly attends Liberty University a place that its founder, Jerry Falwell, Sr., wanted to be for evangelicals that Notre Dame is for Catholics and Brigham Young University is for those of Mormon faith.

We spent an hour or so there and then was back on the road to Beloit, Wisconsin -- and Waverly's 47th state to visit (Michigan earlier in the trip was no. 46).

She has Minnesota, North Dakota and Rhode Island remaining.

(I'm already scheming on how to make Minnesota and North Dakota work.  I did both of my half marathons in those two states on the same weekend a few years back.)

Prior to going to the Snappers game Friday evening, we found a great Italian restaurant in South Beloit, Illinois -- Anna Maria's -- and then ventured around Beloit College.

The Snappers' ballpark, Pohlman Field, was one that was without a lot of the current bells and whistles that many minor league ballparks have:  the big video scoreboard.

However, Beloit is the kind of community where it really doesn't matter that much.

It was the first game of the four that we made it past the seventh inning stretch as the Beloit pitcher carried a no-no into the sixth inning before giving up a pair of hits and a run.  (They would go on to lose 9-1.)

Saturday morning we were up early for the trip to Middleton.  An 8 o'clock start, we were on the road at 6 a.m.

The race was on the mixed-terrain trails of the Pheasant Branch Trail Conservatory.  Fortunately that I had mapped things out the night before, as the race website didn't have detailed instructions on how to get there.

I let the race director know when I got there that it is something that they should add to their site for people like myself that look at for races wherever they go.

And a reminder to me to ensure that the races that I work with that they do the same.

The first loop, we used Waverly's same plan:  start out slow and then see how the race unfolded.

It was in the upper 60s with mid-to-high humidity.  As it warmed up, the start of the second loop was a little bit more of a challenge, but the shade in the back two-thirds of the loop quickened the pace.

A great effort all in all.

Back to Beloit, we made our way west across the Rock River to Jerry's Cafe for a great breakfast that easily rivaled The Egg & I at home.

Tired of paying the tolls and all of the aggressive drivers on the Interstate, I chose to take the "off the beaten path" to get to our next stop:  Elgin, Illinois.

Our plan Saturday evening was to see a game at Kane County, just south in Geneva.

However, being totally exhausted from the week - a "working vacation" as my friend Rick Cook called it - and with rain in the immediate forecast, I could see the one of two MLB-affiliated minor league teams in Illinois another time.

We ate a hot dog place called Maxwell's in Elgin or Dundee, IL (not sure which it was) before getting a little sleep to make it to ORD, Alamo and United with as little stress as possible.

One of the things that I've been able to train Waverly well on is planning in travel.  She's learned, especially with her travels earlier this year to Kenya and Tanzania, that it pays off.

We were up at 1 a.m., out of the hotel by 2:10 a.m., dropped the car off at 2:45 a.m., at O'Hare at 3:05 a.m and checked in no later than 3:20 a.m. for a 5:17 scheduled departure.

Great trip.  Great time.  Great memories.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Announcing For A Reason; June 18, 2015

About three years ago, people started to ask me, "What do you charge to announce?"

Honestly, I hadn't thought about it because it wasn't my focus to make money doing that - even though I gave a significant amount of time to do so.

I came up with a schedule that was dependent upon race distance and the size of the race and I gave it to The Woodlands Marathon and Texas 10 Series race director Willie Fowlkes to review.

He advised me to make a few adjustments and it is what I use when I get a new inquiry.

I made a public announcement on Facebook that I intended to use a majority of the monies for Waverly's ministry aspirations.

And I've followed through on that.

Two years ago, I put monies towards her first trip to Kenya and Tanzania.

Last year, I paid her way to work at four summer Christian youth camps over five weeks in four states last summer.

With some other charitable efforts, I think - prior to this year - we've given (and I say "we" because I've given Waverly an opportunity to have a voice in where these monies go) about 40% of what I've taken in from announcing.

After Waverly graduated from high school - and turning 18, which occured about at the same time, she took a certain portion of her monies that she received as gifts and used it to sponsor the high school education of a young person in need from the slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya.

It is my understanding that youngsters take a test either before or after they reach what we know to be as our 8th grade.  If they pass, they can go on to receive a high school education, but there's a fee or expense to it.

Kind of like private school, I suppose.

With Waverly being in college the last two years (where she's done incredibly well), she hasn't been able to work to continue that donation on her own.

Therefore, I've been able to do so last year and will again this year.

I learned from Waverly that the young girl's name that we've been sponsoring is Dorcas.

Waverly was hoping to meet Dorcas, but since she was attending school about three hours away (if I heard her right via FaceTime the other evening) it didn't work out I just found out.

However, Waverly got to meet her sister, Beatrice, who is in the 7th grade.

Our church's ministry partner, New Hope Initiative, pays for the children from the Kibera slums to go to primary school.

I'll interject that I've always been a little skeptical of these types of initiatives on the surface, especially from organizations and people that I'm not familiar with.

And that's the point.  When you're able to put your trust in the people involved and you know those who have seen these needs in person, it easily washes away the skepticism.

New Hope was starting to look for individuals who could sponsor a primary school student, like Beatrice, so they could spend those funds on some other projects in need.

"Since it is your money, what are your thoughts?" Waverly asked about sponsoring Beatrice.

Well, if you're a person of faith, you believe that God has provided us all that we have and that, essentially, it is His money that He is entrusting us with.

I gave the green light, of course.

"I didn't get to meet Dorcas today, but I got to tell her sister, Beatrice, that we would be sponsoring her," Waverly wrote.  "Priceless face."

So, yes, when you see me enjoying myself announcing, know that - in addition to helping produce a quality event and celebrating people's accomplishments - I'm also honoring a young woman's faith and helping a couple of young women in a foreign land who need some support to help achieve what God has planned for their lives.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quick Trip Away; April 24-26, 2015

Life has been busy.  I need to blog a bit more just to attempt to make heads and tails of it all.

Just finished up a great visit to see my daughter at college and sneak in and see my soon-to-be 90-year-old grandmother for a few hours on Sunday.

I flew into Pittsburgh last Friday and drove all the way to Grottoes, Virginia where my daughter met up with me and we ran the Grand Caverns Signature 5K together.

Great, certified course.  The majority of the course was on a couple of the town's streets, but the last eight-tenths of a mile were on the crushed rock trail in the park where the race started and finished.

We took it real easy in the first mile, but I picked up the pace for Waverly as we hit mile 2.

It was a solid time of 31 minutes, 55 seconds -- about a minute or so off of her best set in late October (after training for the Virginia 10-Miler).

So this was a really good effort on a minimum amount of work the last month or so.

The only mistake that we made is not staying for the awards ceremony as Waverly took first in her age group.  Who knew?

We drove over to Charlottesville where we stayed the evening before doing the Montalto Challenge 5K the next morning at the grounds of Jefferson's Monticello.

We split a pizza at a place called Brix Wood Fired Pizza and then chased it down with some Ben and Jerry's afterward.

The next morning, we were at Monticello by about 6:20 a.m., where we registered, went back to the car and relaxed until we had to get a bus to go down to the start.

There was an 838-foot difference in elevation between the start and the finish.

The first 1.8 miles were winding trails that had mixed surfaces, but primarily asphalt and wooden planks on the many bridges that had been built.

The remaining distances was a series of eight switchbacks that certainly brought me to a halt.  We had covered both of the first two miles in just under 13 minutes each.  She was better prepared as she walks hills every day going to and from class at Liberty.

I performed a good bit of brisk "keep it moving" walking the rest of the way.  We finished in 42:55.68.  Certainly not impressive, but it was more about the shared experience.

We had a pretty good breakfast at a place called The Villa, which was on the University of Virginia campus, before heading back to Lynchburg.

Our original plans included seeing a Gardner-Webb at Liberty baseball game, which had been scheduled for 3 p.m.  However, due to rains moving into the Lynchburg area Saturday afternoon and evening, the game was moved up to 10 a.m.

Waverly switched some things at her dorm room and then we headed to Roanoke.  Primarily just to get away and hang out a little bit.  She worked on a couple of things for school while I took care of things that were needed to do in preparation for completing her Financial Check-In for the 2015-2016 Fall Semester.

Oh, and this was after a trip to Bubblecake Cupcake Shop just off the outskirts of downtown -- and real close to where I had run my half marathon for the state of Virginia.

I had this Caramel chocolate cupcake that was totally sickening sweet.  Waverly had one and then got one to take back for one of best friends who is a resident advisor (R/A).

She had also had some recommendations for dinner as we headed downtown.  The one place was Queso Southwestern Grill, but it was closed for remodeling.  We looked around at a couple of other places, but settled for a place that she and her friend, Taylor, had been to previously called Thelma's.

Waverly went to the restroom while our drinks came and shortly after she sat down she saw a group of four girls from Liberty, one of who was her R/A partner for the upcoming year.

A very pleasant, polite young lady who had recently been injured playing soccer and was still overcoming some of its effects.  I'm real excited for that opportunity that Waverly will get not only for the role itself, but to work with the young woman that we met Saturday evening.

We had plans to run Sunday morning at 5 a.m., but I waved it off in lieu of a little bit more sleep.

Soon we were on the road by 6:30 a.m. to get Waverly back to Blue Ridge Community Church where she is a group leader for one of the second grade girls classes there.

We attended the second service, worshipped God in song and heard an excellent sermon on how our faith is what unlocks God's grace in our lives.

We had one of our traditional Sunday, after church meals at Moe's before taking her back to her dorm and then heading north to Pennsylvania to surprise my grandmother.

It was such a beautiful day to drive, which meant for pretty safe travels.

I ended up taking a little bit of a diversion off of I-81 and I-70 because 1.) it really veers you to the east and then back west and 2.) it is an area where traffic can really slow down.  And there were places on I-81, north of I-64, that did indeed slow down.

I learned of a stretch of road - Highway 522 - that went northwest of Winchester, Virginia, into West Virginia - through Berkley Springs and across the river into Maryland.  I could have gone west on I-68 and then north on 220 out of Cumberland, Maryland, but my gamble that I-70 North to Breezewood would be a pretty easy drive proved to be true.

I ended up my grandparents house at around 6 p.m. and I was able to get a few hot dogs at the temporary Austin's Texas Hot Dogs stand just outside of Delgrosso's Park.

The time there would be short-lived though as I put my head on the pillow around 9:30 p.m., slept until about 1:15 a.m. and then drove to Pittsburgh for a 5:45 a.m. flight.

Nonetheless, I'm looking at getting back home again soon.