Friday, June 3, 2016

You Need More Spartan


It's been a while since I posted it's been a while since I posted.

Quick one.

I still like to run and stuff. It's good to have consistency.
My running primarily consists of running TO things.
Tomorrow, I'm expecting to knock an item off of my bucket list - Running to Sonic!
A mere 11 miles. I thought it was further away.

Between now and then though, I have to do my standard dad stuff.
Wash the dishes.

Wake up early. Set things up at the kids' baseball & soccer fields. Early.
Run a 5K with my son.
Cheer at my daughter's softball game.
Garden stuff.
Then run!
(Then group trip to Reading Phillies game.)

Washing dishes by hand is my preference unless things fall really far behind.
It gives me a chance to listen to podcasts.

One of my favorites is Spartan Up!
I have listened to every episode and always look forward to the latest release.

I keep my eye out for Joe Desena's exploits.
I read his book.
I follow Spartan Race on Facebook.

And I've watched a video describing their Agoge.
It fits in very well with my desire to take a vacation in the next few years and attend a wilderness survival camp.

What's up next for Joe?
A new book!
Spartan Fit!
30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit. No Gym Required.

I'll be publishing a pre-release book review in the next few weeks.
Once I'm done reading my math book.

How can you benefit?
Try to win a free code for a Spartan race which I will award tomorrow!

How can you enter the giveaway?
Leave a comment, email, call, text or tap me on the shoulder.
I will choose a winner at random :-)

Good luck!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Passing Exam 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

It's been a while since I took an MS cert test. A while.

However, it looked like Azure was going to be a fun addition to our next MS renewal so I figured I would dig in well in advance to see how it worked and what to do with it.

I wasn't sure where to start and then 2 things fell in my lap.
1. The 4 day Azure IaaS for IT Pros Online Event.

Well, it was 4 half-days. It looked like a great introductory lesson on Azure IaaS.
Since I enjoy server support, this was a logical overview for me (versus straight Dev stuff).
And the sessions focused on a few things outside of my comfort zone like Puppet, Chef, and Docker.
Cool intro! The event is free online. About 16 hours of content, held December 1 - 4, 2014.
I found it to be a great, general overview. They did in-depth demos but so much info in such a short amount of time, coupled with my lack of background and my insane attempts to WRITE NOTES during the sessions - wow. Overload.

OK, the other thing.
2. A free voucher for MS Exam 70-533 Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions.
($150 value)

I jumped right on that voucher and then discovered serious constraints.
Voucher had to be REDEEMED by DEC 19, 2014 - a few weeks after I got the voucher. No biggie.

Exam had to be SCHEDULED/TAKEN by DEC 31, 2014. Biggie!

And if that weren't enough, it was only available through Prometric and when I redeemed the voucher (on DEC 19) and went to schedule the exam - all of the nearby local testing centers lacked the exam on their schedule. The available exam centers (and I wanted to take the test by DEC 29, not the 30th/31st because of potential holiday conflicts) were all really far away. Like 90+ miles away.

So. I scheduled the test for Baltimore. About 90 miles away.
I have twice run 93 miles in a single day. I shouldn't bitch about the distance via car :-)

That basically gave me just over a week to study/prepare for the exam.
And it was real! I was taking an MS CERT!

Step 1 - Take off work for exam - test was at 9AM on Monday, Dec 29th.
With that out of the way, I set about to study. We'll call that Step 2 of 2.
Study. I'm not calling it cramming because:
a) I had 9 or 10 days depending on how you look at it.
b) It was near XMAS so I had a few days off work.
c) As it turned out, I really didn't have much time to study on the actual day before the test.
d) I didn't hit up any cramming materials. This was hard core studying.

Of the test, I will say that it was difficult, but I cruised through it.
Enough to go back & check all of my answers.
Enough to go back & provide comments to MS on all of the confusing/gotcha questions that I felt could be improved.

I won't be providing any info as far as what was on the test - just the materials I used to prepare.
Plenty of questions kicked my butt.
And quite a few questions made me go blank - stuff I had never seen before in my life.

It does pay to be a good test taker, with all of the tricks and strategies you may have picked up in school.

While listing the prep materials I used, I must emphasize the following lacking prep materials.
1. No formal class. I had no interest in paying for (or having my employer pay for, or using MS training vouchers for) the MS 5-day prep course. They usually cost something outrageous like $3,500. That said, the stuff they cover is pretty awesome. The course outline also highlights another crazy part of an Azure cert - the capabilities of Azure are increasing daily! How can you know what will be on the test? Use the damn thing!
And keep reading materials right up to the exam date.

For example, some materials I read said, "You cannot do internal load balancing in Azure."
Well guess what - you can! But as you can imagine with the interweb, not all materials get updated as features change. I will say that MS appears to frequently update their sites with the latest.

2. No formal class. And. No book.
Just kidding. There is an MS exam prep book.
Wait, what does pre-order mean? March 19, 2015?
Guess that means NO BOOK. And I really really like the MS press books.

3. No cramming assistance. Honestly, the whole damn world is full of fakes. And it is incredulous to me that in 2014 (close enough to 2015) - brain dumps (not a link to a brain dump...) and exam crams still proliferate.
I am the type of person that doesn't read the back cover of a book. Or the stuff inside the jacket. Author's notes, etc. I hate having the reading experience spoiled.
Same with certs. You work your butt off prepping only to find an exam cram is dishing up questions/answers straight from the test? People suck.

With all of that said, I passed Exam 70-533 using the following materials. In about the following order.
I could probably copy/paste my browser history to give you the full path of my studying but I clicked and read so many links you'd think I was a complete nut.

1. Azure IaaS 4 -day. Set aside 16 hours and do it.
2. Azure Free Trial. It's free. Do it.
You get 30 days or $200. And if you exhaust either one. Sign up for another free trial with a different email address. That simple.
You can make the free trial stick by creating a cloud service that matters in your life.
I built a Minecraft server for my kids that will be around long after the free trial expires.
(I didn't actually follow that link, or watch the whole thing, but I really wanted to.)

The free trial lets you build all kinds of Azure cloud resources, stuff you normally wouldn't care about or have never heard of. And better than that, you can drill down on all of those resources within the management portal and see the available settings and options, and play with those, too.

3. A guy's blog with links to MS articles for the 70-533 measured skills.
I admit, I kinda screwed this one up. I followed Sandbu's blog like it was the bible, even though it was missing a bunch of links.
What did this mean for my studying work-flow? Well - every time I clicked a link to a topic, for example configuring auto-scale for websites, I would click all of the associated links within the material. That was an exhaustive way to cover the topic from top to bottom.

4. An awesome YouTube series.
I NEEDED video. I was falling asleep, quite literally, reading all of this stuff.
(I would later fall asleep just the same while watching the material...)

And here it is, this 8 part series. (Part 1 of 8 linked here)

I have NO IDEA where this "boot camp" session came from. But it is fucking awesome.
Yes, I fell asleep watching it on a tablet.
So, I streamed it through YouTube on the XBOX on the wide screen. And fell asleep.

But, it was great. Great demos. Great info. Fast paced!
Set aside about 6 hours on a Sunday while your family goes to Hershey World.
And watch the 8 part series.

You've got a guy on there who invented Azure PowerShell. And the other presenter is a kick-ass developer. Sweet video presentation.

And that was pretty much it as far as video-based prep.
I watched a few forgettable, "Intro to Azure" YouTube videos while I washed the dishes over the week leading up to the exam, although I'm sure they gave me a better, general Azure background.

5. Use the damn thing. The Azure portal (and the newer, prettier, confusingier Preview Portal) is fine and good but I also got Microsoft Azure PowerShell working on my Win7 laptop and ran through a few things like creating websites and tearing them down via PowerShell cmdlets.
(I failed to get xplat-cli working on my linux laptop. But I didn't try very hard.)

Then, the day before the exam, with the limited time I had remaining, I hit the books one final time for about 3-4 hours.
Half of it on my Droid while my wife drove us to Baltimore to stay the night before the test.

6. Remember #3 above? Well here are two more awesomely complete blogs I discovered late in the game with full links to the exam's measured skills. I blasted through these because I was up to par with most of the material.

a. Anders Eide Blog - Much like Sandbu's blog but he filled in all of the blanks and gives info on newer Azure capabilities.
b.'s Blog - Again like Sandbu's blog but with blanks filled in. However I'm pretty sure this site had a frustrating amount of dead or malformed links.

As I said, finding these resources was pretty late in the game for me. That's mostly because I was blinded with satisfaction upon finding the first blog with links to the materials as explained by MS.

AzureMan recommends the Microsoft Virtual Academy. I only used it for the Azure IaaS 4 day.
Day to day, I really don't like the MVA. Not sure why.

7. After reviewing all of that other stuff - you're pretty much a pro.
So why not go back through Azure 101?

This granddaddy of links, after your brain is already swimming in Azure, helps you understand how everything fits together. The link is simple, yet powerful. Maybe you missed something basic yet critical within all of the technical mumbo jumbo. This link might give you clarity.

8. Two last bits.
I wanted to double-check VM & Cloud Service sizing differences though my brain struggles to remember the differences.
And while I love command-line, scripting AND automation - I am not at the level with PowerShell that I am capable of. More so for statistical analysis reasons than actually memorizing PowerShell commands, I ran through this Azure PowerShell cmdlets list one last time before walking into the exam.
I was only concerned about the list. Not the nitty gritty.
And when I say statistical analysis I mean like: There are relatively few Add-, Start- and Stop- cmdlets.
Versus the boatload of cmdlets for Get-, Set-, New-, and Remove-.

That's it, I feel that MS gives you plenty of time for the actual exam questions.
I did sit longer than I wished.
Against my better judgement I ran through the "How to use an exam computer tutorial" at the outset. And while I did score a 100% on the fake Earth-Science quiz, it burned 5 minutes of my life.

As mentioned, I double-checked all of my answers.
I can be impulsive on the first-pass-through on tests. I never leave a question unanswered.
It was nice to have the patience on this day to go back and review.

And that three-second feeling of accomplishment when the exam flashed up "You passed! You needed 700 and you scored 760!"
Super awesome.

So if I can do that successful prep in such little time - I know you can do it,too, if you plan your resources properly.

Want the full "Failure to Detect Sarcasm" experience though?
Do you?

Last minute - book a hotel the night before the exam. Drive ~2 hours to Baltimore.
Decide to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. Have daughter fall ill with a stomach virus as soon as you exit the hotel room.
Return quickly after dinner and end up carrying a handful of daughter's vomit into the room. Then take half of the bath towels out of the room to clean the hallway by the elevators.
THEN share a bed with her, awake almost all night, as she dry heaved. Poor kid.
Bump alarm clock back way too late to TRY to catch some Zzzz's.
Scramble to shower and get out the door, leaving no time for complimentary breakfast and much-needed Coffee. Grab a banana.
Oh that's right. I planned to jog the 2.5 miles to the exam center in an unfamiliar city. In the winter, in shorts/t-shirt. Couldn't find my jacket.
GPS on phone flakes out, critical traffic circle leads to a dead-end. But end up arriving 30 minutes early after ~20min jog to exam center. Eat banana, drink water, get trapped on elevator trying to get to the doomed 13th floor. But walk in the Prometric doors with 20 minutes to spare and knock out the test.

Then jog 2.5 miles to the National Aquarium to meet the family and, well - pretty much like the night before ;-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Tried to run in a thunderstorm last night but it quickly blew over.
Then the sky delivered a rainbow that looked fake, like a kid and Crayola production.

Different with this run was my lack of a route.
I always know exactly where I am going.

My normal Friday night run ends at the pizza shop for dinner with the family.

But I got out the door very late, favoring laundry and household chores over a run during rush hour.
I love running against traffic in rush hour.

So without a route, I kept adding on.
I normally do that when I run in snow storms because I just don't want the run to end.
I only got to see the rainbow because I decided I wanted to run up the biggest hill in the area and had to backtrack through a local park.

Night began to fall quickly as I was pushing the 8:30PM guaranteed darkness.

During the last quarter mile, I didn't notice right away but I was floating.
Not saying that running was easy.

But I felt my mind hovering a few feet over my body watching my run from a higher vantage point.
My body was still going but I was removed from the pain.
(My knee has been hurting all week - I think because some tough guy at softball slid into me at 2nd base.)

This feeling was new and familiar.
"Hmmm, I feel like I recognize this," I thought.

Then I realized it was a projection from the The Return of the Indian.
My daughter and I have been reading that series at bedtime for the past few months.
(I thought it was a trilogy 'til I just Googled it - guess we've got a couple more books in store.)

In one scene, the main character Omri travels back in time and finds himself part of the setting/scenery.
That's how I felt.

I got a few seconds of recognition.
Kind of like a lucid dream where you try to hang on.

Well just like a dream I got dumped back to the reality of the run.

But it was cool.
Gave a whole new perspective on the runner's high :-)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why You So Spartan?

So I like to run and stuff.

And do the occasional race.

But then there's this whole weekend warrior, running isn't good enough, I want my picture taken with fire thing going on.

What's the cute name for it? OCR
Obstacle Course Race

There's challenges like the implied obstacles, mud, throwing spears, barbed wire, burpees.

I talked with my friend Brent, veteran of 5 or so Spartans and have a few notes:

  • The race will probably suck because it is hard, but you'll be happy at the Finish
  • There will be more hills than you want
  • The best strategy for barbed wire, is rolling under it
  • You'll be addicted to them

When people tell me, and they're happy when they tell me, that they're doing one of these Obstacle Course Races, I really only have one thought.
I hope you get hurt.

If you don't, it's not worth it. Get the full experience.

Want the full experience?
Dan of Spartan Race, Inc. contacted me and said I can give away 1 free entry to ANY Spartan Race.
They have 3.5 different distances.

That .5 is the Death Race.

Definitely the only one I'd consider.

To enter this Giveaway, do one of the following:

  • Leave a comment
  • Facebook message
  • Email
  • Tap me on the shoulder

Of those entries, I'll randomly pick a winner on Saturday, June 15th.

And if you win.
Have a great race.
Break a leg.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

2013 Black Bear Tri Race Report - Return of the Half

Man, I really shouldn't have done this race.
I really didn't WANT to do this race.

But, I'm glad I did, and here's why.

Despite days (possibly weeks) of angst and wise reluctance, and then hours of grueling physical exertion, that moment when I crossed the finish line. It was bliss.
In recent memory, I have not been prouder of a Finisher Medal.

Even though I almost finished last.


Having done that Austin in24 the weekend prior, I was not recovered.
That should not suggest I wasn't as physically ready as possible. But, I was not recovered.
I do not ride my bike. My longest "training" bike ride was to my daughter's field trip, and I crashed my bike on that trip in the "twin tunnels of death" as I understand they are called.
Well, at a minimum, I know they are called the "twin tunnels" because during the race I ended up running about 8 miles with Gail, formerly of Downingtown, and among the million things we talked about, she recognized the exact location of my crash and provided some historical/urban legends background.
Gail is the most interesting girl in the world, you should meet her sometime.
She was mildly interesting as we chatted, mentioning her job as a bartender when moments later she was describing the carbon bond structure of artificial sweeteners when I rudely interrupted her demanding her college background, revealed to be biochemistry of course.
Oh, and she's traveled to more countries than I know exist.
Yes, chatting while running a 2:10 half marathon makes it much less painful.
I took pictures, too.

I canceled our family hotel room for the race while at the airport flying out to Austin for the in24 when the hotel called me simply to ask if I wanted to upgrade to a Queen bed, but this was shortly after my wife suggested that a day spent at the half iron triathlon with the kids would be a long (horribly boring) day. So I canceled the room.
I spell canceled with only one L.
I entered this race in 2013 because I wanted redemption from my 2009 experience, post-pneumonia.
I had sent this email at the time with the included response.


Thanks for your note. It was not an easy decision to switch the distance but we had to do what we felt was the smart choice. There are many athletes like you that were looking forward to taking on the challenge of the half once again. Unfortunately you and those like you are a rare breed...not everyone is as eager to take on such a tough challenge and the Olympic and Half could not coexist. In the end it just came down to the feeling that the Olympic seems to be a better fit for the race.  We think the Olympic has the potential to rival Columbia as the premier early season race for the region.

Sorry to disappoint you but we hope t still see you out there,

------ Forwarded Message
From: Mike
To: <>
Subject: Black Bear - No Half


I raced my first (and only, thus far) Half Ironman (if I can use that term) last year at Black Bear.
It was great.

From the moment I saw the preview video online, I fell in love with the setting.  And I was not disappointed.

But now I am.

I'm sure you've gotten plenty of positive feedback upon shrinking the Half to an Olympic.
I'm sure you'll get plenty more people to register.

But, I just wanted to share the fact that I thought you had a course that was perfect for the distance, both physically and mentally.  I have talked with a small community of racers who had this awesome common bond, "we dared the bear."  No other race could be as challenging for your dollar.

So, when my friend and I were discussing logistics for next year's race, and we hit the website (day before the notification email) and learned that there wouldn't be a Half, that really threw a wrench into my upcoming season.

At that point, it appears that the only other "local" early season Half (Eagleman) was already sold out.  That created an unfortunate hole in my schedule as I intended to compete in a Full Ironman distance race in the fall.

I'm not worried, I'll figure it out.

But the other disappointment was my expectation that I would be able to improve on my performance in May’s race this past year. At the time, I was a few weeks into my recovery from pneumonia and busted my butt to have enough confidence to compete.  I wasn’t ecstatic about my finishing time, but I was pretty proud.
No matter really because I would just try to crush that time next year.
Except there won’t be a “next year!”
My other option I suppose would be to do the Olympic, then get a calculator and see if I improved…
In the end, I wish you success with the race next year.
And I wish I will be there, but I’m not so sure.
It really would have helped to have more notice, if possible.
I didn’t intend to write a book here, so hopefully my few thoughts were effective.
Thank you again for a first-class race last year.  My friends and family really enjoyed it.

I used to be such a baby. Probably still am.
Well, when I saw the half distance returned this year, I pretty much signed up right away.
And then didn't train for it.

The weather for the race was cold and drizzly, in the 50's and the water temperature was 63 in the lake at Beltzville State Park.
I may have been the only half distance athlete without a wet suit. And it didn't make a damn difference.
Trying to stay warm before the race, I found the only public dry spot near transition, a small stage maybe for the post-race rewards. A guy in broken english ran up to me, "You have no water!?" and I said "dude, I have two bottles of water for me. I saw a guy in transition with a gallon, ask him." And I was mildly confused until another person asked me and I realized I appeared to be a poorly dressed race representative because I was sitting on their stage. Couple of asses anyway. Triathloning, but bring no water? Please don't give me another reason to not like stereotypical triathlons/etes.
Um, so I canceled the hotel room but they had free race-day packet pickup, which was clutch.
But I still didn't want to do the race because I was tired as is, and would have to wake at like 3AM to get there in 2 hours, to get my packet and setup in transition. Blah.
And so on the way there, I then had a Eureka moment wherein I conceived a plan to drop from the half distance to the Olympic and save myself suffering throughout the event (I observed people doing just that upon arrival).
But damnit, I guess I had paid for the half and didn't want to throw away $$$.
I was so tired upon waking, I really didn't want to do the race.
Then when I got to the race, I was still sleepy and tired.
You know, I'm not sure how one decides to become a toll booth operator but one saved my life on the way to the race as there was some construction on the Northeast Extension, a helpful highway artery on my way to the race and as I exited for the detour and paid my 3 bucks she said that the roadway was opening in about 5 minutes, a full 1 hour and 15 minutes ahead of schedule. And it did. That was so helpful.

While on the Olympic bike course, nearing the end of the 1st (of 2) 28 mile super hilly loops, I THEN considered dropping to the Olympic again but was unsure what the likelihood of successfully doing that would be.
The swim was easy. Long but easy. The water was cold but just on my face and the crybaby wetsuit-dependent others had the same problem putting their face in that cold water.
I spent oodles of time ahead of the swim start warming up my feet, hands, face and my feet again in the nearby restroom using the hand dryers. It was so cold out and the ground was cold making my feet numb.
Possibly because I looked like a white flash of flesh during the swim, people were knocking me around. It was not a problem.
When I was a kid, I used to care about transition times and now I'm old and don't care and my transition times were effectively the same.
The bike sucked. Super sucked. I was so NOT in bike shape, and we couldn't safely fly down the hills because the road was wet, I was leaning hard on my totally worn out brakes.
The bike sucked. It was not a race on the bike, it was a ride. I got passed by the entire 7 billion world population minus maybe 7.
I played leap frog with another Mike, he was funny and complained that all of his training rides were on flat near-beach roads and I said shut the fuck up, my training rides didn't exist. I said that with an understood smile.
I had to pee on the bike but waited until the run when I found a spot behind an along-the-run-course dumpster to provide privacy.
I ran a couple early miles with one of the top 50-59 age group women because she was going slightly faster than me. I caught up to her and may have slowed her down but again it was mindless (forced initially) chatting to take the mind off the task.
I was so hungry on the run, I ate just enough food after the race at their well organized buffet spread. On the way home I stopped at a rest stop to pee and hit Starbucks for a frozen coffee slushy (I'm sure they have a pretty name for it) but ya know the line was too long so I bailed.
A guy in the rest stop parking lot, his feet propped up on the passenger seat dash applauded me as I walked through the parking lot because I had on my nice new Black Bear tee shirt (wearing it again now actually) and he was a fellow competitor.
Dude, we had the best moment on the run when Gail cheered for a fellow competitor as we neared the final turnaround on the dam with just a few miles remaining, "Almost there!" all full of cheer expect the reply from the competitor when she said "Not for me :-( :-(" super sad face was the biggest buzz kill Debby Downer in the history of sportsmanship. So we went into Stealth Mode when we passed her with a mile or 2 to go.
I had every intention of showering immediately after the race but just wanted to go home and never do a triathlon again.
I'm doing Black Bear half again next year if it exists because my time was 7 hours and change, and I know I can do it in 6 hours. If I ride my bike here and there. Right now I'm riding my bike all the time.

What Worked

Almost nothing.
Chatting like a socialite during the run.
Not wearing a wetsuit for a decent swim and an easy transition.
Getting there early even though I hated life with a rage of drowsiness. I had a great parking spot.
I was a shorts genius. Conned into purchasing "tri shorts" in the past, I finally called bullshit. I wore just compression shorts for the swim. Perfect. Pulled genuine honest to goodness bike shorts over them for the bike. Super padded butt cushion. Heaven. Then lost the bike shorts and pulled on running shorts for the run. Duh. I know. Genius. Most comfortable and effective triathlon wardrobe ever.

What Didn't

Where to begin.
NOT bringing throwaway Gatorade bottles for my bike to expel at the bottle exchange. Stupid.
Needing to tuck my "fuel" aka Scooby Doo fruit snacks alongside my water bottles on the bike. Such a pain to remove.
Not being able to bike hard up hills because my legs just didn't know how anymore.
My lower back hating me for riding the bike so far of a distance.
Oh damnit, wearing my wedding ring to the race. Knowing when I realized I had it on that it was gonna slip off my frozen shrinking ring finger during the swim.
I had to do the whole damn race with my wedding ring tied inside my shorts on the drawstring.

 It was not helpful to have run 75 miles the weekend prior and now needing to knock out a half marathon after 5 hours of swimming/biking. But the run was OK despite appearing slow.
I have never NEVER had the experience, until this race, where a course marshal needs to confirm we are on the 2nd (final) loop of the run because we are bumping against the 8 hour must-be-done time limit. Damn really?
I should not have relied on solely water for the bike, because I needed sugar and happiness, granted I did STOP at the bottle exchange and load up on Gatorade on the 2nd bike loop.


I still don't like the triathlon scene as much as I did in year's past. But I did feel like a minimalist and still didn't forget a damn thing. So even though I was CERTAIN that this would be my final triathlon, all during the race I repeated my so-finished-with-this attitude toward the triathlon sport.
Despite that, I want to a) do this race again next year as previously mentioned and b) maybe do the Full Iron Man (not the "branded" one mind you) this fall.
Decisions, decisions but simple matters of responsibility, prioritization and logistics, all of which I'm getting better at in my old age.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Inaugural Austin in24 Race Report

I'm not sure I spelled inaugural correctly, but assume it would have little red squigglies under it if I didn't.
Kinda like squigglies has squigglies under it.

I am giving myself 30 minutes to write a race report that normally would take me two neurotic hours of re-reading and revisions.
But if I wait any longer, as the race was 3 weeks ago, I'll forget even more.
I want to add pictures, too, but that usually takes alot of time, too. We shall see.

Well back a few months ago, OK it was Jan 25th, we received an email about Big News:

Introducing The Back on My Feet in24 Austin Race Challenge! 

Back on My Feet is excited to announce that 20in24 will be evolving into the Back on My Feet in24 Race Series!  This has been a vision for the past 18 months.  Don't worry, the 20in24 you've come to know and love will stay the same, and we're thrilled to announce the The Back on My Feet in24 Austin Race Challenge (in24 Austin) which will take place May 11 - 12!  Early registration for in24 Austin is now open and we hope some of you will join us down in Texas for our inaugural event. Please enjoy 20 percent off any of the races with this code: 20in24Vet2013 *
Image removed by sender.
Here are some details about in24 Austin and please
visit the website to learn more:
  1. in24 Austin is a 5-mile loop instead of the 8.4-mile loop in Philadelphia
  2. Races are very similar: The Lone Ranger Ultra-Marathon, the Five-Person Relay Challenge,Sunset Run, and the Pajama LoopEarly registration is open.
  3. Back on My Feet launches its tenth chapter in Austin on January 28th
  4. "Like" in24 Austin on Facebook 
  5. "Like" Back on My Feet Austin on Facebook and "Follow" us on Twitter
A huge thanks to RunTex and ACE Cash Express for helping to make this happen. If you have any questions about in24 Austin, please contact us!

Your friends at Back on My Feet

And I agree, this is big news.
And I was kinda interested.

But interest would only carry me so far because if I wanted to participate in a new race in Austin, TX, there were several unknowns to clear up.
So we cleared them up.

Got flights.
Arranged grandparent tag-team childcare.
Setup rental car.
Would stay with my sister-in-law in San Antonio.

Did you know the Alamo was in San Antonio?
It is.

So the Alamo became part of the loose itinerary.
San Antonio also have a Riverwalk which is cool.
You pay money to park at the shopping mall? and then you can walk for a few pretty miles along a dirty river.

Oh, and stand on the bridges.

OK I'm a little off-track.

I also signed up for the race and ending up communicating with Back on My Feet representatives and Leah from Austin Fit Magazine. I think I was the only nut who felt a connection to the 20in24 so great that I wanted to travel down for this first race.
It was to show support for the first year, remembering that the first year in Philly was relatively quaint, and now it is nuts.
Hopefully, I would also attract others to the race, but I don't think that happened.
I don't have much running community influence. I don't actually race much these days anyway.

Well, OK, so we took the trip down and it was great.
I love flying too much. I love clouds. They look so alien and beautiful up close.

Hmmm, I think I keep saying "our" and "we" but haven't given enough information.
My wife also went down with me and along with spending time with her sister's family was excited to volunteer for, um, 15 hours? or so at the in24 race. How cool, I know.
I'd regaled her with tales of 20in24 volunteers who are just awesome. Now she is one of them.

I think the 20in24 is actually called the Philly in24 now. It is less tongue-twister.

I only have about 15 more minutes to type so on to the race stuff.

Oh, we also toured 6th street in Austin. I can't wait to go back.
I used Google Search with music recognition to discover a new band/album down there too.
Portraits by Wheeler Brothers
Check it out. I listen to it on MOG.

We are going back to Austin next year, not for the race, but need to swing by later at night when these cool little food trailers are open. And when live music is playing in the many, many bars.

So first two full days in Texas, we did way too much walking.
Walked alot in San Antonio, Riverwalk.
Walked alot in Austin day before the race up-and-down 6th street, mostly killing time until pre-race packet pickup.
Which I thought was mandatory day-before pickup.
But wasn't.

Oh well, it was cool saying hi to Back on My Feet at Rogue Running and feeling like the race was definitely on.

Arrived at Camp Mabry about 100 miles from San Antonio for the race on Saturday, May 11th.
OK it wasn't quite 3 weeks ago yet,  but almost.

Camp Mabry is an active military base.

I'm gonna change the format now and just list stuff.


Met Leah from Austin Fit Magazine (AFM) right after the introduction speech.
Army people were running on the same track we were running on.
During the Star Spangled Banner, there was no flag.
We had a moment of silence for victims of Boston. A race theme was Baustin Strong.
After the race, BoMF dumped a ton of size small in24 Baustin Strong shirts on us.
I used one for a birthday gift the next weekend. The kid was wearing it the very next day.
As the race was about to start, on the track, at the starting line, all of the Army people, I want to call them troops, cadets? ran through the starting line. You know runners can be sticklers for their sacred running territory, this was funny.
There were not many participants. 40 Lone Rangers, tops. 10 relay teams.
The first mile was a loop on the track, then a 5K on paved course, then the final mile was another loop on the track.
Our first loop, the course marshal didn't know the course and had us take a shortcut, we laughed.
I ran most of the 1st loop with the eventually women's winner, Shay.
I would have stuck with her for the 2nd and maybe more loops, but my hat blew off and I did not have the strength to pick it up and speed up for 20 yards to rejoin her.
I spent alot of time on the course with a guy named Axle. He was from Germany originally, then Tulsa?, then Austin. A pleasure to talk with both about running and particulars about Austin.
Axle can walk very fast for a significant distance.
I spent alot of time with Leah of AFM, mostly at the end. We talked about runner things like pee.
I spent a loop or so with eventual 3rd place male, Simon. He was very nice and always exchanged pleasantries as we passed by each other.
Here's a picture from the first loop with some of them in it.

There were many deer on the course after sundown. It was exciting.
The sun was blazing during the day, blazing. Only one really big cloud. I remember it. I exulted.
There was a very strong breeze on the track. I resolved to walk whenever the breeze blew into my face. That became a tough habit to break even while running in the days/weeks after the race.
I was so tired at one point in the middle of the night, I wanted to sleep on ANY elevated surface, for example a sidewalk. I walked for miles before finding an elevated surface, the porch of a house between the track and the highway. Conceivably, I'd still be sleeping there if I had not pushed on.
The race director and BoMF director is Joe. And he seriously won the 2nd day Pajama Run. He was so far ahead, I thought he was previewing the course. He did a great job with the race and had a very good attitude throughout.
When my wife's family arrived for the Sundown race, I was defeated and all but quit. I really wanted to sleep.
At my lowest grumpy point toward sundown I was super annoyed by a volunteer laying down in the middle of the course. But not annoyed enough to directly confront him. But annoyed nonetheless.
I ran my fastest miles just before 2 or 3AM because I was racing my wife back to the tent. She was wrapping up her volunteer super shift and I resolved that if I returned to the tent first, I was done and going to bed. I was concerned that neither of us would be rested enough to drive the 100 miles home.
We did stop at Bucky's the Beaver rest stop on the way home (and on the way TO the race for ice) and I hobbled something fierce to make it into the rest room. Then I hobbled more to mix the perfect cherry/vanilla Diet Doctor Pepper fountain soda. And I was starving but was too cheap to purchase anything good to eat. So I got one of those yogurt parfaits with granola. Good enough.
I shed a tear during a tired moment to Through the Wire by Kanye West.
I did not listen to much music along the course because by the time I "needed" it, there were only a few hours until dark.
Our nieces finished 1st and 2nd in their age group for the Sundown race. Is that what it was called?
No, it was called the Sunset Run.
Yeah, they are fast. Our 1st place niece fell descending the biggest hill and said she hit a tuck and roll and popped back up without a scratch.
I did a tuck and roll after falling off a high curb during a winter run and to this day have no idea how I did it successfully.
During the night at the race, in the valley, lowest elevation of the race, I heard a bird singing "Whip Or Whill" and confirmed that Austin does have whip-poor-wills, although I didn't see one.

I'm over my time limit, so wrapping up.

What Worked

I didn't get in many long runs ahead of this race, not like in year's past when I'd knock out an easy 20 on winter weekends. But I did have my 33 mile birthday run under my belt which provided confidence.
My running shoes, though too lightweight and half a size too small worked great. My feet felt fine.
My favorite running socks, which I can't find in stores anymore, worked great also, even though they have a few holes at the tips of the toes.
I did not get any notable blisters despite the heat. That's always a toss up, not sure why I get them sometimes. But I did not treat any blisters during the race.
I wore my make-shift legionnaires cap with an orange rag under my hat. Keeps the sun off the neck.
I wore a hat during the day, my head got a little warm though, so it was a compromise for sun relief.
I carried salt pills in a wrist bag, that was perfect.
Eating Pirate Booty, from an aid station, after almost every loop to get a little salt but mostly to fill my stomach to reduce sloshing.
I used, again make-shift, gaiters to keep debris out of my shoes and socks. Kept most stuff out of socks but particularly on the track, I had to clean out my shoes several times.
I walked almost every hill throughout the race and like I said, whenever the wind was strong.
I didn't stop at aid stations. I did stop at my tent but I wasted very little time at water stops.
This wasn't really my doing but the course was PERFECT.
OK, more hilly than my mind would have preferred but perfect. Only a 5 mile loop. And 2 of those miles were on the track at home base. That meant with the 5k portion of the course, you were never more than 1.5 miles away from the start. Mentally, that helped SO much because it was only a short distance before re-joining civilization. Huge boost. Huge.
Having family at the race. My wife the whole race. She needs to go to more races, more in24's. And she will. She's volunteering at Philly now.
Look how nice she setup my stuff in the tent.

Oh and Medical Tape to prevent nipple chafing. Flawless.
Back to family. Having my sister-in-law's family at the race for a few hours was priceless.
I ran a loop of the track with my middle niece (and ran to a distant tree with the youngest) and she was running faster than I'd like but it motivated me on every future loop on the track to push it for the same stretches I ran/sprinted with her.
Post race flip-flops. Nothing like setting your feet free. It felt so good.

And finally, I picked my worst daytime loop to take pictures around the base. I'm glad I did.

Yes, those pictures suggest more clouds than I recognized during the race.

What Didn't Work

Too much.
I was not acclimated to heat. It wasn't THAT hot, really, but it was hotter than the coldness we'd had back home lately. I don't do well in heat, period.
I failed to fuel properly. I did not commit to drinking Ensure after every loop like I know I must. I think later in the race, it contributed to my sleepiness and my sleepiness was resolved by a steady influx of cookies.
I failed to electrolyte/hydrate sufficiently. The at-times strong breeze made me unaware of how significantly I had been sweating. I learned that during those peak heat/sun hours, I need to double-up salt pills.
Because I had terrible cramps about 10 hours in. I almost seized up just straightening my legs while watching our nieces get their awards.
Heat rash. Dude WTF. I got a heat rash on my inner legs also 10 or so hours in. Show stopper.
But no problem, just change into my compression shorts.
Left them back at home. At Home home.
I'm serious, my wife and sister-in-law drove to a local Walmart and purchased the only pair of compression shorts and they fit me perfectly. That and 2 hours of rehydration got me back in the race.
Anything else fail?
You know, I actually did ZERO post-race recovery steps like consume protein and carbs, or ice bath or Stick my legs. And my recovery both same-day and days after was fine. My legs were OK.


I knew going into the race that I could knock out 75 miles.
I did not know that I would ONLY knock out 75 miles, 15 loops.
Too much time sidelined with dehydration and the heat rash. I could have walked through the dehydration but both at the same time knocked me down for about 2 hours.

I crossed the finish line, paced the final 5 walking miles, by my wife.
I was satisfied and proud of the effort and committing to the trip and experience.

My sister-in-law's family, Leah of AFM, and the BoMF team made us feel so welcome down in Texas, the trip couldn't have gone any better.
I'm really looking forward to the 20in24 in less than 2 months.

And I'm looking forward to visiting Texas again.
If things work out, I'd love to do the Austin in24 again. We'll see.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Last year I didn't publish a 32on32 and I regretted it when my birthday popped up this year.
I'm trying not to repeat mistakes of the past.

This past March I maintained my tradition of running my age in miles on my birthday.
It requires some planning.
I did not plan well.

Why not?
Well, primarily because I didn't have an account of last year's birthday run to reference.

Thinking back to my 32nd birthday, all I really remember is running kinda early in the morning, maybe 6AMish and choosing the worst initial route ever.
A 13 mile out-and-back where the "back" is a big ass hill.
Too much effort early.

Then a 2 mile out-and-back.
At which point it was still dark and getting very trafficky.

So I ended up at the gym for a spell. A 13 mile spell.
Because people still use the word "spell."

Notable because I told one or two people why I was at the gym later than usual and on the treadmill longer than usual.
Notable because after I had showered and changed, on my way out the door Roger at the front desk out of nowhere suggests that he respected my birthday run effort.
(Where's Roger been anyway?)

And then I knocked out the final 3 miles later in the afternoon.

Anyway, maybe that's how it went because I really don't remember.

This year, with the poor memory of the previous year still NOT fresh in my mind, I set out.

I woke just before 4AM to begin a 33 mile odyssey.
My plan was to run this sweet 13 mile out-and-back, then a 5 mile loop, then 13 miles to the local smorgasbord to meet my family for breakfast.

I donned my deteriorating reflective green construction vest and a brand new headlamp.
Fuel was a handheld water bottle with a planned stop at Wawa convenience store for more water.

I headed out for 6.5 uneventful miles to Wawa.
It was beginning to rain.
Glad I wore a hat.

Except it was also windy.
And kept blowing my hat off.
So I had to wear my hat backward.

Defeated the intent of the hat.

On the way back, up the big ass hill, it was raining more.
A white van swerved directly at me.
I stood in the residue of its exhaust and gave a prolonged middle finger.
In hindsight, at that time, I wished I had thrown a rock at it.

Now, I'm soaked.

I stopped home after the 13 miles for a potty break and refilled my water bottle.
I headed out for the 5 mile loop. No bald eagle sightings.

Home again for a final refuel.
I was soaked and cold but fairly comfortable because I had on two long sleeved technical shirts.

I lost the reflective vest and mistakenly kept the headlamp.
It was light out just a few minutes into my remaining point-to-point 15 miler.

During the final stretch of my run on the road, I played chicken with at least 3 horses and buggies.
I always yielded and ran in the lane of traffic.
The horse and buggie drivers always waved "Thanks."

I was behind schedule.

I thought the 33 miles would take me 5.5 hours, meeting my family at 9:30AM.

I hit mile 26.2 coincidentally at about 9:15AM when my family drove by and pulled into a nearby bank parking lot to rescue me.

This was bittersweet.
I was happy to be picked up.
I was unhappy RunKeeper recognized 0 miles of my run. Man.

I was happy to have 26.2 miles in the books.
I was annoyed to look at 6.8 remaining miles to be tackled later.

But fortunately, I had the afternoon while the kids were at school.

The smorgasbord was fantastic.
I drank so many ICEEs.

Home. Shower. Took Goodles to school.

6.8 miles at a peaceful 10min/mi pace.

All 33 miles while listening to tunes.
Pretty sure I ended with Kendrick Lamar. Love that kid.

Showered/changed at the gym.

The kids had dictated that we would go to a Moon Bounce place per tradition.

So while the Run Your Age tradition becomes more difficult year-by-year, let me acknowledge that subsequent Moon Bouncing is also increasingly difficult.
But so worth it.

I didn't stretch after completing the runs.
I didn't use The Stick to rub my legs down.
I didn't take an ice bath.

And my recovery was complete after 2+ days.
Next year, I need to do some Same-Day therapy to accelerate recovery.

At night, family came over for pizza, cake and ice cream.
I had a SpongeBob cake.

That's the 33in33.
Try it sometime.