Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Life Less Ordinary



All I ever wanted was to lead a life less ordinary and running took me there.

Realizing that a comeback is highly unlikely due to medical concerns, it is time to admit that my competitive running career is over. Having not raced a marathon since December 2016, I was able to qualify for Boston in my last competitive effort. But that was a long time ago.

Some people say that going out on top is the goal of every athlete. It’s just that I wasn’t ready to hang it up when that time came, and I struggled for a long time once it was gone. I felt like less of a person because I could no longer do, what I was could do. When you are vastly known for being successful at something, the second it is gone you just don’t feel like yourself and the depression quickly ensues.

But after much introspection, I have come to be grateful that I was able to do it in the first place. Which is maybe why it has taken me so long to actually write these words and admit to myself that it’s over.

And if I can't be great at it, then I don't want to ruin it. It’s too important to me.”

Racing at a highly competitive level totally changed my life; it gave me confidence as a man that I lacked in my younger days. I learned that with hard work, you can accomplish great things well beyond your abilities. Good enough was never good enough for me and I had an insatiable hunger for competition.

It’s not who is the best. It’s who can take the most pain.” - Steve Prefontaine.

I was going to push myself to breaking point and then back off ever so slightly and remain there for as long as I could. And the longest time, this meant track Tuesday, hill beat downs on Wednesday, tempo Thursday, race Saturday and long run Sunday. Then repeat to the tune of 4,000 miles a year for a decade. I was obsessed with the pursuit of my own glory.

A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” - Steve Prefontaine.

My mantra was that I will do today what you won’t so that I can do tomorrow what you can’t.
In reality, I wasn’t doing anything super human. I was just an ordinary person in pursuit of the extraordinary. I didn’t have any special talents. But I thrived on being dismissed or overlooked and used that to fuel my passion. And so I took a small amount of talent and turned it into 82 career wins and 189 podium (top 3) finishes in 400 races.

I believe my personal crowning achievement was running sub 3 (hours) at all three US marathon majors as that is the most coveted distance for most runners. This was important to me because I was able to do it (well) on the biggest stage(s) in the country.
  • 2009 Boston: 2:56:17
  • 2011 New York 2:54:44
  • 2013 Chicago 2:49:12 (at age 38)

When I first qualified for Boston in 2007, my parents were there in Green Bay to see me cross the finish line. Then a few months later when I ran Boston for the first time, they were there again. That was something special to this only child to make his parents proud of him.

But being competitive at all distances was what I thought made me unique. Accomplishing my own success standard of going sub 3-4-5 was always my goal. This is a sub 3 hour marathon, a sub 4 hour 50km and a sub 5 minute mile which I accomplished with a slash line of 2:43/3:53/4:57.

It was in 2011 that I realized that this was not about my own glory, but about His. Which is why if you saw me winning a race, it was just like the picture above where I was pointing to the Heavens to give praise to the reason I was able to do it all. I became humble.

In the years that followed, I devoted my life to running and giving back to the running community through volunteer work. My life was running, but it brought me so much joy to pass that on to others. Even simple things that shouting encouragement to others who were finishing their race was so important to me. Giving back was the reason I served on the HTC board, as a race director and started the Rocket City Marathon Pace Team. I will never forget pacing 3:40 in the 2010 marathon helping others realize their dreams, all while I was running on dead legs having realized my own dream of 2:43:40 just six days earlier at CIM marathon in Sacramento.

Amidst the success, there was much failure along the way. There were times when I pushed too hard and my body pushed back. Maybe this was because I was always seeking greatness and I tried things that were well beyond my ability. This included the 335 mile 7 day Pinhoti Trail Adventure Run with Rob Youngren. After reaching the AL/GA state line and completing 172 miles, my body said no more as I was running on bloody stumps for feet. Some might say this was a great accomplishment. I saw it as failure. But I had tremendous respect for Rob went on to finish all 335 miles and set the standard for all who will follow.

I like to think that it was my ability to get knocked down, and immediately get back up again that made my running special. But once I was diagnosed with recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, it became more and more difficult to get back up. I managed to race New York Marathon while having 3 surgeries during my training. Eventually the doctors suggested more aggressive means to keep the virus at bay, which included weekly interferon injections which in essence killed my ability to run at that level.

I didn’t want to retire. I thought that I could continue racing at that level forever. After all, I was able to finish Mountain Mist in 4:24 after tearing the meniscus in my knee. I was able to race just 8 weeks after knee surgery and win McKay Hollow Madness. I felt invincible. But I really was just human. And I don’t think it was until I was able to walk away from it, that I realized all that I have accomplished. I know that I did not appreciate it in the moment. I took it for granted.

So it is ironic that something as small as a rare virus on my vocal cords would put an end to my competitive racing career and not a devastating over use injury. And in the 2 years that followed I still felt that a comeback was possible. Look at Tiger Woods; as a fellow 43 year old, he just accomplished what no one else thought possible. I don’t have Tiger’s talent, but we both know how much hard work it takes to return to the summit once you’ve been knocked off. My body will just not allow me to push it to the limits that it once did. It is likely (though impossible to prove) that I pushed too hard, which took its toll on me and may have weakened my immune system to the point where it can’t beat this virus.

Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” – Leo Buscaglia

I am tremendously thankful for all that running brought me and hope that others are thankful for all that I brought to it. I tried to pass along every bit of knowledge I was bestowed with from my coaches, onto others. Pay it forward.

If I impacted just one person’s life through running, then it was all worth it. One day I hope to have the words “difference maker” etched on my tombstone.

So now my focus will be more on adventure running, thru hiking long distances. I have to say that running across the Grand Canyon and back and setting the fastest known time on the 40 mile Greenstone Ridge Trail with my Dad waiting for me at the end are some of my fondest memories. I always loved being in the woods, and slow long distance is one thing my body will allow me to do. I have always enjoyed seeing things that can only be experienced afoot and am thankful that these two feet can still carry me there.

As the tattoo on my right side reads, the less I have, the more I gain. off the beaten path I reign.

And that is where you will find me, should you happen to be looking. 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Championship of the Best Power Ballad of All Time Tournament



When I first came up with the concept to determine the best power ballad of all time two years ago, I had no idea how much work this would be.  It seemed so simple!  Come up with a list, seed the entries and play it through to the end.  But to make this meaningful, it required countless hours of research listening to hundreds of songs to even come up with a list based on a criteria that I had to develop. Arriving that the 64 songs that were deemed worthy was a tremendous step forward.  

Beyond that, it was not difficult to group songs as to whether they should be 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 or 13-16 seeds.  But to comb through lyrics to figure out what the bracket names should be and which entries should be in which brackets took a weekend.  Then to make sure that artists did not have too many seeds in a single bracket was more effort.  Even once I settled on bracket, I decided to walk away from it for a few days to clear my head.  Then I came back to it and made adjustments before publishing.  

This series of blog entries has been very satisfying to write.  Just like my cereal blog, it allowed me to remember something that was meaningful from my younger years.  In the case of music, I would argue that people are most impressionable from preteen to high school graduation.  For me, the music from this era is still my jam and will be for life just like Booker T & the M G 's - Green Onions is for my dad.  This was always about the journey, no pun intended!  

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH UP

The final match up features the #1 seed, Survivor - The Search Is Over out of the Full of Regret region against the #4 seed, 4 Chicago - Look Away, out of the Love Hurts region. 



Here is one final sound clip from each song.




If you need a reminder of how we got here, the entire tournament bracket with results are below. 



CHAMPIONSHIP HIGHLIGHTS

I am sorry Chicago.  I found someone else.  So for you, I guess it's over, baby.  It's really over baby, whoa.  But don't worry.  If we see you walking by, and the tears are in your eyes, we will just look away.

For Survivor, this was not easy outcome to determine.  Look Away put up a tough fight till I came to my senses, through some miracle of fate.  You should have known from the start.  
The Search Is Over.  How can I convince you what you see is real?  You were with me all the while as the best power ballad of all time. 

WINNER

Survivor - The Search Is Over

NEXT UP?

My next project will be to rank the 10 best John Hughes movies of all time!  Stay tuned.  

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Final 4 Results Best Power Ballad of All Time Tournament







FINAL 4 HIGHLIGHTS

And then there were 4.  The final 4.  The survivors, if you will, of a tournament to determine the best power ballad of all time.  If you have come this far, then you have no choice but to stick around until Monday when the winner will be declared.

For the first few rounds of the tournament, winners have been crowned based on many factors, including the passion of the lead singer and the memories that they may stir from a time long ago.  The lyrics have also come into play, as they literally have been part of the story telling.  But that was then.

When this tournament was envisioned, it really was about the "punch" of the love ballad.  Those few seconds of a song which after a slow, fervent build up leads into a guitar riff or drum smash climax of the chorus.  Some may call this the climax of a song, but regardless of your definition, you know it when you hear it.  So why not go by what you hear to determine the final match up?  Your wish is granted.

The committee spent hundred of hours listening to the songs in each of these match ups from beginning to end.  But when it was decision time, they focused on the following clips.  They could neither confirm nor deny if the videos played any role or were considered whatsoever in the outcomes, but when Steve Perry looks directly into the camera at the end of the Faithfully clip, they almost had a come apart.  

The results will be at the bottom of the blog, but for now, watch these short video clips to see for yourself that the outcomes are how they were meant to be.















CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH UP

1 Survivor - The Search Is Over vs. 4 Chicago - Look Away 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Elite 8 Results Best Power Ballad of All Time Tournament





Do Anything For You region
ELITE 8 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Chicago - You're the Inspiration vs. 2 Mike Reno w/Ann Wilson - Almost Paradise
  • For Chicago, you want to have you hear me saying that you could advance to the final 4.  Trust me, no one needs you more than I to move on since I made you the top seed in the bracket.  But when the results of each category were totaled up, it just wasn't enough.  With Mike Reno and Ann Wilson, all these dreams I save for a rainy day, they're finally coming true, so I'll share them all with you that Almost Paradise has defeated You're the Inspiration and will represent the Do Anything For you Region in the final 4.  

Full of Regret region 
ELITE 8 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Survivor - The Search Is Over vs. 7 Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes
  • I want to hold you so hear me out Eric Carmen.  You weren't the traditional power ballad, so now did I take you by surprise that you made it this far into the tournament?  One look at you and I can't disguise that you just couldn't topple the top seed in the bracket. The Search Is Over must feel like it is taking on the world, but that is just your style as it truly embodies what it means to be a power ballad.  Survivor will represent the Full of Regret region in the final 4 with a resounding defeat of Hungry Eyes.

Lost Without You region 
ELITE 8 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Journey - Faithfully vs. 3 Loverboy - Heaven In Your Eyes 

  • In the Lost Without You region, It took some time to find the light and now I realize, that this was one of the most difficult match ups to determine an outcome.  With Heaven In Your Eyes  I know what my heart's been lookin for and what I am feeling inside, but with Faithfully, I get the joy of rediscovering you.  On final analysis, it's something that we just can't hide that Journey will move on to the final 4. 

Love Hurts region 
ELITE 8 HIGHLIGHTS

4 Chicago - Look Away vs. 3 REO Speedwagon - Can't Fight This Feeling 
  • This entire tournament, I've been keeping you in sight REO Speedwagon.  I really wanted to advance Can't Fight This Feeling into the finals as I've been running around in circles in my mind with this decision.  And just when I thought that I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might, I actually could fight this feeling.  Trust me, it's gotta be this wayDon't look at me, I don't want you to see me this way as I advance Look Away into the final 4 as the champion of the Love Hurts region.  

Final 4

PREVIEW

2 Mike Reno w/Ann Wilson - Almost Paradise vs. 1 Survivor - The Search Is Over
1 Journey - Faithfully vs. 4 Chicago - Look Away 

This tournament has been anything but predictable.  We had tremendous double digit upsets in the early rounds and even some top seeds getting knocked out before anyone estimated.  But what we are left with is nothing short of two blockbuster match ups of true heavyweights in the realm of power ballads.  

Chicago came in with 7 entries to the tournament and managed to make it into the final 4 with their 4 seed, Look Away, representing the Love Hurts region.  Some thought that Loverboy would rise from the Lost Without You Region, but Steve Perry mixing in lyrics about a circus and clowns prevailed.  So the right side of the bracket is set where Journey will take on Chicago.  

Mike Reno did manage to make it into the final 4 with his solo effort, paired with Ann Wilson from Heart.  He proved that Almost Paradise embodied the spirit of the Do Anything For You Region.  They will take on Survivor, who really has breezed through the Full of Regret region.  

No matter the outcome of the final 4, we are bound to have a championship battle what will be one for the ages.  Follow along next weekend as the final 2 will be announced. 



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Sweet 16 Results Best Power Ballad of All Time Tournament



Do Anything For You region
SWEET 16 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Chicago - You're the Inspiration vs. 13 Cinderella - Don't Know What You've Got
  • Cinderella has had a tremendous run in the tournament, upsetting both a 4 seed and then a 5 seed to earn their way into the sweet 16.  You should know that it ain't easy to get back to the tournament, but every Cinderella story eventually comes to any end.  And I know (And I know) that You're the Inspiration from Chicago moves on to the elite 8 with their defeat of Cinderella. 
  • For all of the rest of time Aerosmith will know that they put up a good fight, but the repetitiveness of I Don't Want to Miss a Thing contributed to their ultimate demise.  Mike Reno and Ann Wilson are not just knocking on heaven's door, they are also knocking on the door of the elite 8 with this win.  How could I have known that Almost Paradise would move on?  Because it's my tournament.
ELITE 8 MATCHUP
1 Chicago - You're the Inspiration vs. 2 Mike Reno w/Ann Wilson - Almost Paradise


Full of Regret region 
SWEET 16 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Survivor - The Search Is Over vs.  4 Bryan Adams - Heaven 
  • Oh thinkin' about all our younger yearsHeaven definitely takes me back to 7th grade school dances at Kingsford Junior High.  But as terrifying and fond those memories are, that's over now and so is the tournament for Bryan Adams.  Survivor is asking themselves can we last forever, will we fall apart but the answers will not be known until the elite 8. 
14 REO Speedwagon - Keep On Loving You vs. 7 Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes
  • And I meant, every word I said, when I said that REO Speedwagon put up a valiant effort as a 14 seed in this match up.  It should be clear that it's the only thing I want to do is to create intriguing match ups in this tournament, but Keep On Loving You is not part of the end game.  One look at you and I can't disguise that Hungry Eyes moves on to face Survivor for the right to move on to the final 4. 

Lost Without You region 
SWEET 16 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Journey - Faithfully vs. 4 Warrant - Heaven
  • Results in this tournament ain't always what it's s'posed to be but that is why the games are played.  In this case, wheels go 'round and 'round and Faithfully will move on to the next 'round.  For Heaven, now the lights are going out and Warrant goes home.   
  • We've been livin' on the edge where only the strong survive in this tournament.  Can't you see I'm finding it hard to decide the winner in this battle? But all it takes to make me realize who should win is that Loverboy... I need you to stayHeaven In Your Eyes defeats We Can Last Forever and moves on to face the top seeded Faithfully.


Love Hurts region 
SWEET 16 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Air Supply - All Out of Love vs. 4 Chicago - Look Away
  • I know you were right believing for so long that All Out of Love deserved to be a top seed in the region but it can't be too late to say that I was so wrong.  Look Away takes down Air Supply.  That's how it had to be. Yeah, that's how it had to be
  • For Sister Christian oh the time as come, and you know that you're not going to advance into the elite 8.  And even as I wander, I'm keeping Can't Fight This Feeling in sight as a strong possibility to make the final 4 out of the Love hurts region.  REO Speedwagon defeats Night Ranger as they remember what they started fighting for
ELITE 8 MATCHUP





Other Tournament Notes

The elite 8 features a strong balance of songs on both sides of the bracket.  Is it really anyone's guess as to who will survive or is it only Survivor who can survive? Is Eric Carmen Hungry enough as the lowest remaining seed?  Will Chicago be able to match up against Chicago in the finals, or does Loverboy have something to say about that?  All of these questions will be answered over the next few days as the elite 8 will become the final 4.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

2nd Round of the Best Power Ballad of All Time Tournament



Do Anything For You region
ROUND OF 32 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Chicago - You're the Inspiration vs. 9 Peter Cetera - Glory of Love

  • In a much anticipated battle between Petera Certa's solo career and Peter Cetera as a member of Chicago, it was meant to be that as the top seed in the bracket, You're the Inspiration, would prevail.  Though it breaks my heart to see you crying Peter, this was a no lose situation as one your songs advances on. 
5 Sheriff - When I'm With You vs. 13 Cinderella - Don't Know What You've Got
  • If we take some time to think it over, you'd realize that there is no way that Sheriff's When I'm With You could defeat the only Cinderella of the tournament.  So I can't tell ya baby what went wrong for Sheriff, but Don't Know What You've Got advances on to the sweet 16 with the upset.  
  • Steven Tyler told us that he wanted to stay in this moment forever while Jon Bon Jovi wasn't able to buy back yesterday despite promising you tomorrowWords can't say what Aerosmith can do, but I Don't Want to Miss a Thing is able to bounce I'll Be There for You out of the tournament.
  • Deep inside I always knew that when Chicago sang I can't go onthey was referring to this tournament and the inevitable loss of Will You Still Love Me? to a powerhouse like the 2 seed Almost Paradise.  With their win, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson are getting closer, closer everyday to the final 4. 
SWEET 16 MATCHUPS
1 Chicago - You're the Inspiration vs. 13 Cinderella - Don't Know What You've Got
2 Mike Reno w/Ann Wilson - Almost Paradise vs. 3 Aerosmith - I Don't Want to Miss a Thing



Full of Regret region 
ROUND OF 32 HIGHLIGHTS

1 Survivor - The Search Is Over vs.  9 Winger - Miles Away
  • How can I convince you what you see is real in this match up between the top seeded The Search Is Over and Miles AwayWhen times were tough, and you were down and out, Kip Winger and crew were not able to stage another upset as Survivor advances by knocking out Winger. 
4 Bryan Adams - Heaven vs. 5 Chicago - Love Me Tomorrow
  • In this 4 vs. 5 matchup, it isn't too hard to see that the winner might make a good run toward the final 4.  Coming down to the wire, it was Heaven from Bryan Adams that would continue on, while Love Me Tomorrow from Chicago will be going home, and that's all I need to know
11 Whitesnake - Is This Love? vs. 14 REO Speedwagon - Keep On Loving You
  • You should have known by the tone of my voice that regardless of the outcome of this battle, that a double digit seed would be advancing on to the sweet 16.  Despite Is This Love? growing stronger everyday, it was Keep On Loving You from REO Speedwagon who defeats Whitesnake.
2 Chicago - I Don't Wanna Live wo/ Your Love vs. 7 Eric Carmen - Hungry Eyes
    • And if it was over, maybe it was for the better for Chicago, as their dreams of being crowned best power ballad of all time with I Don't Wanna Live wo/ Your Love are over in the round of 32.  Eric Carmen can't disguise that Hungry Eyes is a force to be reckoned with as he advances into the sweet 16 as a 7 seed.   
    SWEET 16 MATCHUPS
    1 Survivor - The Search Is Over vs. 4 Bryan Adams - Heaven 

    Lost Without You region 
    ROUND OF 32 HIGHLIGHTS

    1 Journey - Faithfully vs. 9 Bryan Adams - (Everything I Do) I Do It for You 

    • You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for, but through space and time Faithfully makes quick work of (Everything I Do) I Do It for You.  This leaves Bryan Adams with just one chance to go all the way, all they way, yeah.
    • With possible divine intervention, Warrant advances past Amanda, proving that Heaven isn't too far away.  Boston, I don't want to see it end either, but your hopes of winning the tournament are over.  
    • I hope that it won't end is a common feeling among the contenders, but alas there can only be one champion.  Heart could hear the ticking of the clock as Heaven In Your Eyes from Loverboy pushes on into the sweet 16 defeating Alone.
    • Chicago I need you to stay in the tournament, as it is easy come and easy go for Every Rose Has Its Thorn from Poison.  We Can Last Forever moves on to the sweet 16 to face Loverboy in one of the most potentially epic battles of all time.
    SWEET 16 MATCHUPS
    1 Journey - Faithfully vs. 4 Warrant - Heaven


    Love Hurts region 
    ROUND OF 32 HIGHLIGHTS

    1 Air Supply - All Out of Love vs. 9 Styx - Babe
    • We will be lonely, without you (Styx) in the tournament as you were no match for the top seeded All Out of Love. For Air Supply, there's no easy way, it gets harder each day as they still have to face solid competition if they want to make it out of this region.
    • Axl Rose wasn't prepared to hear those words that November Rain will not be advancing on, despite the success of the Not in this Lifetime Tour.  Look Away will lay it on the line in the sweet 16 against top seed All Out of Love from Air Supply.  
    • Can't Fight This Feeling came crashing through the door and knocks Love Bites out of the tournament.  Sorry Def Leppard, but we did say that it's forever, but we tell lies and you are eliminated. 
    7 Foreigner - I Want To Know What Love Is vs. 15 Night Ranger - Sister Christian

    • Sister Christian don't you give it up, before your time is due because you just upset the #7 seed I Want To Know What Love Is.  Foreigner will have to take a little time, a little time to think things over to figure out how they let a 15 seed beat them.
    SWEET 16 MATCHUPS





    Other Tournament Notes

    Three double digit seeds remain alive in the tournament (15 Night Ranger - Sister Christian13 Cinderella - Don't Know What You've Got14 REO Speedwagon - Keep On Loving You).  But the top seeds were top seeds for a reason, and the creme does tend to rise to the top.  All 4 number 1 seeds remain and on paper, Survivor - The Search Is Over appears to have the easiest path to the final 4.  If they can dispose of 4 Bryan Adams - Heaven they will only have to face the winner of a 7 vs. 14 matchup.  But this isn't paper, well maybe it is, but there is a reason they play the games because you never know what will happen.     

    Be sure to check back next week when the sweet 16 will become the elite 8!