Tag Archives: pennsylvania

How one month has changed my life

One Month, 4 States, 8 Races, 89 Miles, Life Changed Forever

I was going to write about all of my recent races in detail and I still may, but after this past race I had some time to reflect on what I just accomplished as I prepare to take some much needed time off from racing. So I started thinking and wow…I just did a lot of running, probably the most ever and I loved every minute of it!

So this journey of me all started on July 25th. Why is this important? Well it really isn’t except for the fact that I had not really been running. You see in May I rolled my ankle so bad, then attempted to still run on it, I had to do the smart thing and take the entire month of June off.  Sure I raced once in June and it was horrible. I started my rehab running on July 1st. To see where I was at, and knowing I felt like my conditioning was still off, I raced my first race on July 11th in PA.  I felt tired, but I did well all things considering. But afterwards, I feared I fractured my foot, took some time off and eventually went and had x-rays. They were negative so more rest for me.

As I am in rest mode I get an invitation to join a few friends at this Fossil Valley 6 hr trail night run. I originally went to cheer on my friends and spectate. But unfortunately that is not in my DNA.  I brought my gear “just in case” and the foot was feeling good so I went for it. This started a domino effect of what the next month was going to be like. Okay, here is a recap of the month that changed my life.

Race 1 – Fossil Valley 6-hour (26.9 Miles) 7/25/15

I already wrote in detail on this Race, but this one has to be the defining moment when I learned the most about myself. I discovered  can do anything, my mental toughness will get me through the physical pain my body endures. I ran for 6 hours, did 10 laps of a 2.69 mile course.  My first attempt at anything over 16 miles and no obstacles. This was such a challenge to run trails with a headlamp on in the summer Texas heat, in the middle of the night! I loved every minute of it.

Finish – 5th AG, 9th OA

Race 2 – Trinity 5000 5k (3.1 Miles) 8/6/15

I stumbled upon this 5k summer series purely by accident because it was across the river from the float the river night in Fort Worth. So I thought what the heck! It was 100* at 7:30pm when the race started and it was glorious! I was excited to see how my pace was on concrete. I have not run on the road race since January, and seldom train on the road. This was really my first run since the 6-hour too.

Finish – 1st AG, 20th OA

Race 3 – BattleFrog Pittsburgh (9.66 Miles) 8/8/15

Battlefrog has become one of my most loved/hated race series to date. I love it because it is so challenging and the mandatory obstacle completion actually give me a chance against the faster guys. I actually don’t hate it all, it just makes me the most nervous of any of the races I do. The DNF possibility is always there lingering in the background.

Pittsburgh was no joke! I mean I heard how great it was from the cave swim to the terrain. It did not disappoint at all! I crushed the first lap, took me 1:30 and only one repeat on the monkey bars. Feeling confident, running in the top ten, I had a mental and physical break down on the RIG. I spent an hour trying to get through it on lap two, then the rest of the race was cake.  I tried to make up some time on the runs, but the creek runs were brutal and I couldn’t make up the hour. Still I finished with my band. Mission Accomplished.

Finish – Masters Elite – 13th place Male, 13th OA

Race 4 – Spartan UltraBeast Hawaii (26.2 Miles) 8/15/15

I went to Hawaii to earn my Hawaiian Trifecta. Three races in two days…no problemo! Then an unexpected turn, peer pressure. Who would have thought at my age I would get peer pressure to run an UltraBeast? I mean I am not a distance guy, I don’t like distance, I like the shorter Sprint type courses, that is my thing! Nervous about the if you don’t complete it, you get nothing and worried about making the check points I was very concerned. But I threw caution to the wind and I went for it.

Running this race I definitely took my time, worked on a slow and steady pace, I knew I wanted to stay in the 15 minute mile running pace if possible. Well I was doing great, I finished the first lap of that tropical hell in 3:30. Half way done! I took a 15 min break, tried to eat PB&J but that was not going down too well. So I went back out on the trail, I didn’t want to lose anymore time than necessary. The second lap I did slow down just a tad, it was hard to get going again after the break. But I already knew I had this, I figured I could have walked the rest of the 2nd lap and still made all of the cutoffs. I was pretty stoked at this point. I continued going, into the tropical jungle hell of 85* and 80% humidity, where many people were suffering, I did not. I guess the Texas heat had me prepared.

What a feeling, tired and exhausted once I finished the second rope climb which was the highest I have ever seen, I knew I had done it, just the spear throw and rig left. I ran into the festival area to the spear and I see my good friend Laura Messner standing there and cheering. I nailed the spear and as I ran to the rig I remember giving her the “double check discount” motion. I am sure she has no clue what I was talking about, but I was referencing to the fact that I am about to get a damn belt buckle! I smoked the rig, over the non-slip, slip wall, nailed my epic fire jump pose and crossed the finish. My time was 7:49 for the 26ish mile race. ZERO burpees, yes I ran a burpee free race!

Finish – 15th OA

Race 5 – Spartan Super (8 Miles) 8/16/15

The start of a two race day. I wasn’t out to crush this, just complete it so that I could get in the sprint also. Feeling the full effects of the day before, blisters, sore feet, tired calves, slow and steady was the objective. Basically as a group effort, we jogged and walked and did all of the obstacles.

Finish – Yes I did!

Race 6 – Spartan Sprint (4 Miles) 8/16/15

Yes I am exhausted, but sadly I am refreshed also. Unfortunately I don’t leave a man behind, no matter how much they beg me to “just go on.” So there is no running even though I swear I could have done it. At this point a lot of people are just trying to finish. This meant strictly walking the final 4 miles to my Ultrafecta glory.

Finish – Yes I did!

Race 7 – Dirty Rock Triathlon (Swim, 6 Mile Bike, 2 Mile Run) 8/23/15

I know its not even a real sprint TRI, but I was itchy watching everyone else race all weekend so I found something to do. It was literally Saturday afternoon and seeing all my friends post about their Spartan races, made me want to do something. So I looked at the local race calendar and boom here I go! Since I only have a mountain bike, this was perfect. I did pretty well considering I have only ridden my bicycle once this year and no trail riding at all. The trails slowed me down, but I was able to make up for it on the run.

Finish – 3rd AG, 18th OA

Race 8 – Battlefrog Cincinnati (10 Miles) 8/29/15

I have to admit I was somewhat intimidated just by the location and after seeing first hand some of the obstacles, I knew I was in for a true test. The running was never a worry for me, it was basically two obstacles I had in my mind. The Rig and the monkey bars from hell. I shouldn’t worry about the rig, but second laps tend to have a mental block on me. The Monkey bars on the other hand, were just plain brutal for me, no strength left in my grip or forearms on the 2nd lap had me hanging on for dear life to not fall. I knew if I did, then I would be done.  Once I got past both of them on lap two…I knew is was over, I did it once again. Now I was just running for time. Trying to catch the ones I let get by me from the rig. Lap one was 1:50 with no failures, lap two with a 45 min break at the rig came in at 3:06. Granted I took my time on the hills and my watch died so I had no idea about time and pace…ugh. I was shooting for the 3:40 mark (total time)…which in the end was the difference between 5th and 8th.

Finish – Masters Elite – 8th Place Male, 12th OA

 What I have learned

When I had my summer schedule out, there were no intentions of running the equivalent of a marathon, much less two. What changed you ask? Well, for starters I stopped thinking there was something I couldn’t do just because it was out of my comfort zone or I thought I would be in discomfort. All year I said I was never doing an Ultrabeast…too much running. Then people began inspiring me, actually watching others go out and do things they had never tried before was exhilarating to me.  It was like I drank some hypnotic love potion, this lust with wanting to challenge myself in a new way.  I mean seriously watching someone nail 50 miles…its just awe inspiring. Secretly observing friends race everything from 10k’s to triathlons to OCR, at all ages, but especially people my age, motivates me to do epic things. This whole thing started with the 6-hour run and just showing up on a whim, no training for distance, no clue of what I was doing, just some good friends doing it so I thought why not. Once I did it, as difficult as it seemed towards the end, I knew from that point on I could do anything. Sure I will admit I was up in the air about the UB in Hawaii, but not because I didn’t think I could do it, I knew I could do it, it was whether or not I could do it in the allowed time frames.  I knew once I completed the first lap of the UB that it was mine. The whole second lap I just smiled and laughed and knew I had a buckle.

My mindset has changed over the past month too, now I want to run the 9-10 mile distances, I love the two lap Battlefrogs.  I am thinking what the future holds and honestly, I have to say I want to try new things, push myself more. If that means less OCR races and more trail running or adventure racing, then so be it.  I’m still skeptical of a real marathon, I think it will be too boring, but you never know.

I posted this phrase the other day which pretty much sums up my last month.

Sometimes

it’s the very people

who no one imagines anything of

who do the things

no one

can imagine

I think I absolutely fit in this category, I have never been a great athlete, I was an average wrestler, I didn’t start running until late in my 30’s.  But I am competitive and everyday I want to get better to be better. So I never imagined in a million years I would be where I am right now, doing the things I never thought I could do.

So the real realization…I am a distance runner.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers.

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Things I Think – Thursday – PA Road-trip Edition

11 States, 3368 Miles, 2-Races, 1-Speeding Ticket

Every once and awhile you need to take a road trip and experience what this great country has to offer you. If you are lucky enough then you can take your time and explore some of the great things that are out there. So, while we had to do a cannonball run up to PA and back, it was without a doubt a fun trip filled with adventure and laughs.

Initially I was going to travel alone as I could not find anyone to travel with me, then my good friend Natasha from Making Natasha a Spartan said she has nothing else going on and since we choose to LIVE OUR LIFE, off we went.  Life is too short these days and without knowing if another opportunity like this would ever happen for her, it was awesome she wanted to go.

Louisiana

OIMG_5039ur first state was Louisiana. We stopped in Shreveport first and we had a few items we needed to see, so off we went! Here is our list:

  • 14-Story Mural – this is the largest mural in the United States. It was created in 2000 and contains 19 people and 40 objects, capturing the people of Shreveport, their treasures, triumphs, and tragedies.IMG_5043
  • Giant Dalmatian -“Art” is 19-foot-tall statue peeking in the window of the Central ARTSTATION. He is said to be the guardian of the arts in Northwest Louisiana.  At night the spots light up in the dark!

The other highlight of this city was see what is claimed to be the only “World’s only Tattoo School”. I am not sure about this one and I can’t make this up I swear, but this little jewel deserves its own photo, well just cause it makes you think about who would actually go in and get tattooed by one of these “students”? I had an apprentice give me a tattoo once and I had to have it redone because it was so bad and looked nothing like the picture I had picked out. Needless to say we did not get any new ink!

IMG_5088

 

IMG_5156We then made our way on to Monroe, LA and no road trip would be complete without seeing the Duck Dynasty place. It was shocking how it was the same building you see on TV. The loading docks and everything. I was not surprised that they sell everything under the sun in products. They have their label on just about everything there.

Mississippi

So the only cool thing we stopped to see here was the great Mississippi River. Oh and there was a cool ass cannon at the top of the hill too! Otherwise there wasn’t really any cool roadside attractions we found on our route.

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Alabama

Sorry Alabama, but we kinda flew through your state and we didn’t stop to see anything. Not that we didn’t have a couple of items on the list, but by the time we got to Birmingham, everything was closed and it was dark out. But we did have these two places…maybe next time.

  • Statue of Liberty Replica
  • World’s largest Motorcycle Museum
 Tennessee

Traveling at night through a state makes it very difficult to actually experience anything. Especially when you are driving in the wee hours of the night.  On the return trip it was more of the same, we entered the state in the early morning hours and left at 0600.

Virginia

Sorry Virginia, while I am sure you have a lot to offer since you are made for lovers, we were on a mission to get to Phily to see some cool stuff.

Maryland

Your morning traffic sucks! We didn’t see much because of it.. I know you have some cool stuff and things, maybe on a different trip.

District of Columbia

The only non state we visited, we drove right though and waved. I will admit that I did hold my breath through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, just to see if I could. I did and I didn’t pass out thank goodness!

Delaware

I think I sneezed and we were already out of the state.

Pennsylvania

PA how I am growing to love you. I don’t think I had been to PA since I was 16 and now I have been there twice within a months span. Opposite ends of the state but I never thought I would say I was in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (even if Pitt was just the airport).

So off to Phily and yes I had to refrain from yelling “How ’bout them cowboys!” for the fear of being stoned by batteries! But none the less we were able to take in a few sights.

  • IMG_5483Rocky Statue – no trip would be complete without visiting the statue and going up the steps. While I had this whole video parody planned, it just was not as feasible as it was in  my head. Next time I will take a film crew! But we did get to see the statue and walk up the steps.  There was also this really cool statue at the foot of the museum and I took some rather interesting pics there too!  So some of the funnier things to happen was watching Natasha look both ways before crossing the street and then walking out in front of a bicycle. While I yelled ” Waiiiitt” in slow motion voice, somehow they just missed each other and she stopped before crushing into the bike.
  • IMG_5579Love Park – this was cool, we saw this love statue and what could be better then a rally for legalizing pot! I kid you not, they had flags, big ass bongs and legalize it everywhere. Of course it was right were all of us “tourists” were trying to take our pictures and they were annoying. It was definitely a hodge podge collection of people, because you also had kids playing in the fountains like it was a water park and the homeless hanging out like they were on the couch watching TV.

quote  “Have you seen a big bell around here? It has a crack in it, maybe bronze in color?”

  • IMG_5549Liberty Bell – now this was probably the most interesting part of the trip as we found the plaza where the phone said it was; however, it was not visible as I thought it would be. My co-pilot who has since been nick named Magellan for her awesome navigational skills (NOT), was lost getting there, so I basically rolled down my window and asked the question “have you seen a bell around here? It has a crack in it, maybe bronze in color?” Needless to say that after circling the block no less than three times, getting honked at at every green light because we didn’t take off like a bat out of hell, we finally parked and found our precious bell.

I am having a hard time finding this to the city of brotherly love when people drive in walking lanes, almost run over a man in a wheelchair and don’t give a crap.  One of the other funnier moments in the trip had to be when I was trying to find the bell and I casually say, where is this damn bell and Magellan responds with “what smell?” Oh that’s great, the wax in your ears is working perfectly! (she had an ear infection and put wax in her ears) It reminded me of my grandma who was hard of hearing and never heard anything correctly…so this became the new joke of the trip, yes I can’t ever let anything go.

At this point there is only one last thing we need to get before we can take off and make the final destination…you guessed it, the Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich. So I asked a local where we should go, the suggestion was “the best” in the city a small place called Jim’s. So we ventured a few blocks and found said Jim’s. Now the first thing you need to know about Jim’s is that they are cash only, well it is a good thing they keep an ATM in the lobby for losers like us who NEVER CARRY ANY DAMN CASH! So we get the sandwich and head upstairs to eat. Now I am not going to say it was a bad sandwich, okay it was a horrible sandwich, I think I have made better ones myself! It was dry and needed salt as it was tasteless. Anyway I am sure it was the best cheesesteak in Philly at one time, actually I know it was, they had a plaque on the wall, “Best Cheesesteak Sandwich, 1979” so there you go, in 1979 they ruled this place!

Spartan Race

What can I say, this is probably a totally different blog post because this was a different kind of race I have not experienced in a long time. So lets just say, I participated in two races and I completed two races and they were on a ski resort. Made me kinda wish it was the winter time again so that I could ski!

Return Trip

So during our trip my shotgun rider took sick and we had to take her to the ER on Saturday and combine that with some family issues going on in Texas, we bolted right after the race on Sunday to get home as soon as possible. For the most part we took our state sign selfies to add to the collection, had another late night waffle house experience and got a speeding ticket!

Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas

Here are the states which were traveled through…nothing exciting except for rest stops and fuel. The bandit was on a mission, had to get back to Texas, family was waiting.

But…that is not to say we didn’t have a few highlights along the way, yes we truly are a comedy of errors and you can’t say that I won’t show you a good time.

  • So we were at this restaurant called Westy Bar & Grill, you know grabbing lunch before the trek home. Anyway they are having a wing special and the menu says flat out “the biggest wings in PA!” Well shit! I gotta have some of them, oh yeah and they are known for their hamburgers. If you know me and my quest for the best burger, hell why not, I’ll take the wings and the burger.  Well without giving a whole burger review (because it doesn’t deserve it) it was not that good. Oh yeah and the wings looked like normal wings you get anywhere, I have had bigger at hooters. Well everything is bigger at hooters! bada-bing!
  • IMG_5840Tasha gets a speeding ticket. Okay so let me set the stage…I’m sleeping. I am suddenly awoken by the rumble strips and I open my eyed to blue lights flashing. Still in a foggy state, Magellan is freaking out because she got pulled over. I have to say I have never laughed so hard in my life while receiving a speeding ticket. Maybe it was the combination of the very thick southern accent the Virginia State trooper had, combined with Natasha’s instantly blonde demeanor acting like she was the most clueless driver on the planet. Well here are a few of the highlights:

circle-dartSpeeding 85 in a 70, we were advised that anything 85 and over is considered reckless driving in the great state of Virginia. Which carries a $2500 fine and or Jail. He also advised he could take her to jail right now if he wanted to. After he leaves I get this “I can’t go to jail Travis, I just can’t go to jail”…ha ha…

circle-dartHe asks for her license and registration. She gives him her license and a copy of her personal insurance. He tells her that is great but he wants the registration. I advise him it is in the window, at this point Natasha grabs the flier from the Spartan race and tries to give it to him. If I had been drinking anything it would have been all over my dashboard. I calmly say, no it is the sticker in the window. To which the response was “they don’t give you a paper copy in Texas along with the Sticker?”

circle-dartSo he cuts her a favor and writes her up for 80 in a 70.

 

circle-dartWhen asked why she was speeding she calmly says she was just keeping up with traffic. I mentioned about how fast she was going to which her response was, “I don’t look at the speed-odometer, I just keep up with traffic”

IMG_5837circle-dartThe best part of the stop was when he goes back to his car and we both bust out out cameras to take selfies with the blue lights in the background. “did you get a good shot?” “No, did you?” “No, I wish he would turn off that stupid spot light!” I think we both took several shots and I can only image what it looked like from the rear, two cameras and arms up taking pictures!

circle-dartUpon completion, I calmly asked the trooper if he would take a selfie with me, I mentioned it would be the perfect end to our epic roadtrip. He politely refused and told us to drive safe!…Dang it!

So there you have it, after that, it was a pretty calm trip home. We will take with us the memories of this and all of the great state signs that were captured to add to our collection!

 

Footnote

So there was as usual a ton of pushback about taking Natasha with me, as people just don’t understand why she does crazy things like this. I am sure I am a hated person as it seems to always be on my watch that the adventures kick in and something arises to cause concern to everyone. So while yes, I can tell you I am greatly concerned about the health of my friend, but sometimes you can’t predict what the future holds for any of us. Any of us could kick the bucket tomorrow and who wants to have regrets? Certainly not me.

While many see this trip as something crazy and hazardous to her health, she viewed it simply as a way to escape from all of the pain she encountered in her life lately. The prior week was filled with heartbreak on a family level. So sometimes people need a good get away to keep their mind off of things. We could never have predicted the complications which lead to taking her to the ER and then checking herself out to get home.

After all of the complications we encountered on this adventure, Natasha has the can do attitude and one comment that will always resonate with me long after she has left us.  When she yelled at me “I am not going to just lay in bed and wait to die!” a cord was struck down to my bones, which although I was very concerned, it made me realize just how much of a fighter this woman was and she is going to live her life. No my friend you are not, your illness does not define who you are and you are going to do whatever you want, even if it does literally kill you one day. Until then, I cherish all of the times we have had and I look forward to many more.

My name is Travis and I talk to strangers!