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Review: 2017 Akron Marathon

Originally shared over at BibRave.com, the following is my review of the 2017 Akron Marathon – with some slight alterations here and there. Enjoy!

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OVERALL: First and foremost, this race – nay, the entire Akron Marathon Race Series – is incredibly well organized. I can not express how amazing the organizers were at communicating information, updating their web presence, ensuring that the race series app was ready to go – the list goes on and on. It seemed like every little thing you could think of was thought of and planned for.

EXPO: The expo was a streamlined event for sure. Runners collected their bibs and “swag bag” in the first of two large convention halls, before moving on to take the obligatory photo with their bib & the race backdrop. After this, participants moved on to the vendor side of the expo. SO MANY VENDORS! Great showing from a TON of upcoming races, local universities, non-profit organizations, and so on. Near the end of the serpentine path that wound through the expo was where runners collected their official race gear, which included a 1/4 zip finisher pullover and lightweight running hat for the marathoners. Just being honest, I’ve worn my pullover every chance I had since race day!

BONUS: Three words: KARAFREAKIN‘ – GOUCHER. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with one of my favorite runners of all time. She’s incredibly humble and does so much for the sport. Hands down, one of the absolute highlights of the weekend!

RACE DAY: 
Parking – There’s a fair amount of parking, set up by which event you are running (full, half, or relay). My wife and I drove past the first marathon-specific garage (a block from my corral) and had no problem accessing the next one, only two blocks from the start line. Easy in, easy out.

Start Line Area – Unlike the two prior events in the race series, the Akron Marathon holds to a strict corral system. This ensures that runners start where their ability level dictates! Minus some minor bottlenecking getting INTO the corrals, moving around the start area was very easy. Lots of music and (thankfully) an abundance of porta-potties! Race started on time without incident and we headed out!

The Course – thriving with spectators at all points, offering boundless encouragement, cheers, smiles, and hi-fives! However, the course is also a challenging one, with varying elevation changes throughout – especially in the second half. There are definitely more significant hills on this course than what I am used to in the relative flatness that is the Columbus, OH metro area. This fact alone had me quite nervous about how this marathon was going to pan out! Thankfully, coming around a corner at just before mile 24, I realized that the 16-weeks of training had put me in unfamiliar territory – coming VERY close to cracking 4 hours. Ultimately, I finished in 4:06 – setting a nearly 40 minute PR. I think it’s safe to say I was ZIPPING (nod to the Univ. of Akron there) through Akron!

The Finish – First off, you finish the race on the home field of the Akron Rubber Ducks – a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians – which is pretty darn awesome.

Canal Park in Akron, OH on race day

Echoing my previous statements about the crowd support – there is an AMAZING crowd to cheer you in at the end! Always makes for a great feeling. Navigate away from the finish line, snag up your medal, and head over to the post-race party – or Finisher’s Festival – which was AWESOME. Live music on stage, beer, pizza & other food all out on the outfield. Can’t ask for too much more than that. On your way OFF the field, you can snag your SERIES FINISHER medal (and medal hanger) if you’ve completed all three events (1-National Interstate 8k & 1 Mile, 2-Goodyear Half Marathon & 10K, 3-Akron Marathon, Half Marathon, & Team Relay).

Walking away from the finish with my wife, I was racking my brain to identify anything I could critique about this race – and I couldn’t! Almost two weeks removed from the race, I still can’t. If you’re looking for a well-organized, friendly, and challenging event – come check out the Akron Marathon. I truly believe that you will NOT be disappointed. Thank you, Akron Marathon, for a great event and an even better race series!

 

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Ice Bucket Challenge

Update: To keep myself accountable, donations to both ALS Association (for the Ice Bucket Challenge) AND to the American Cancer Society (in memory of my father, Philip Ramsey) have been submitted. 


Yesterday (August 23), I was challenged by my mother-in-law to take the ALS #icebucketchallenge. Today, I accepted the challenge and, of course, recorded the video to document the event. However, you’ll have to wait for that.

What is ALS?

ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that impacts nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body – the drivers of the body if you will. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost, often leading to victims becoming partially or completely paralyzed. ALS is not a contagious disease and knows no racial or socioeconomic boundaries – affecting approximately 5,500 Americans annually. (Source: ALS Association)

This is where I get frustrated.

The piece that is missing from most ice bucket challenge videos and/or posts is the paragraph above. I hate to say it, but there is a lack of education throughout the Ice Bucket Challenge on what ALS actually is and how it affects its victims. This is what people NEED to know. Now, sure – there have been some great response videos out there – Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch, and so on. However, just as much fun as it is to watch others, it is important to know what it is you’re fighting against.

What is the Ice Bucket Challenge?

That’s a really good question. The simple answer, as best I can tell, is:

  • Someone nominates you for the challenge
  • You accept the challenge
  • You nominate others for the challenge
  • Douse yourself with a bucket of ice water
  • Remind your nominees that they have 24-hours to complete the challenge and/or donate. 

At first, I thought it was a novel way to simply engage and challenge one another. As the movement grew, it became slightly annoying, but then it also became somewhat entertaining. I’ve seen videos posted by celebrities, athletes, and even a good number of my dear friends. Of course, at a certain point, it became clear that eventually the nomination would be knocking on my door as well.

Some of my friends and I have had a number of discussions on this concept. Would we accept the challenge if nominated? Why or why not? Why has this taken off and become such a massive movement? Is it legit or just a fad? These are just a few of the questions we’ve pondered. To be honest, I had absolutely no intention of ever accepting the ice bucket part of the challenge. But, then again, I’m occasionally a proud and challenge-accepting person. Additionally, and probably more important, I see myself as something of a philanthropist. Maybe not the T.Boone Pickens (Oklahoma State) or Bob Sebo (BGSU) kind of philanthropist, but a philanthropist all the same.

Philanthropy 2.0

The idea of giving back isn’t about who gives the most or how often they give. It’s about giving back – period. You don’t have to be the person who donates a million dollars to an institution in order to have an impact. An individual should give when they are able to so and to those organizations or causes to which they have a connection. Even the smallest gift can make a difference.

My Response & Challenge

I’m well aware that to someone out there, my actions of accepting the challenge doesn’t necessarily line up with the words here. I’m okay with that because I know what I’m supporting and honestly, it was a bit of fun in the process.

SO, with all of that out of the way and in the spirit of giving, I have accepted the #icebucketchallenge from my mother-in-law and will be donating to the ALS Association as well as to the American Cancer Society. I have nominated my wife’s aunt, uncle, and younger cousin to take on the challenge as well.

To everyone else: I challenge you to go out and find a cause that interests you and support it in whatever way you are able – financially or otherwise. 

Until next time…keep striving.

90 in 90 – To Be Continued…

On Thursday (or day 60), I was able to log two more miles at a pace of 8:25/mile toward my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days. This two mile run had put the number of miles completed at 61. I was ahead of schedule again!

And then this happened: Hello foot, have you met the couch leg? Allow me to introduce you. 

Yep. Inadvertently slammed my left foot – my 4th & 5th toes to be exact – into one of the legs of our couch. I’m no stranger to stubbing my toes, but this time was different. It was all over pretty quick, with me hobbling over to an open spot on the floor, laying down, and thinking (and saying) some rather unpleasant things. The worst part was that I was pretty sure I heard something snap or crack when it all happened. Last night’s treatment of said injury consisted of taping my toes together (“buddy taping” or “buddy splint”), elevated my foot and applied some ice, and then went to sleep hoping that it would be fine the next morning – nothing more than a little sore and bruised.

Nope – not so much.

Remember that snap or crack sound I though I heard? Well, I definitely fractured (broke) my little toe, which has become my first ever broken bone in 30 years, 11 months, and 23 days of life. For those of you playing at home, that’s just a week short of my 31st birthday. Ugh.

What does this mean for my 90 in 90? Well, it means that the remaining 29 days and any miles I would have accumulated during them will have to be postponed for about 8-10 weeks. No running until closer to the end of August. I’m very bummed out about this, especially since I was in a position to get a comfortable lead of miles over days.

So for now, and with only 29 miles and 29 days left, I’ll just hit the pause button, save my progress, and come back to conquer the end of my 90 in 90 challenge another day.

90 Miles in 90 Days: Update 2

With my upcoming wedding to Tammi now only 33 days away and since I haven’t updated in a while, I figured it would be a good time to post an update on my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days.

Since the last update, I was able to stay on pace fairly well. Every day or every other day, I’d get out there and run maybe 2 miles at minimum just to stay on pace. However, then I took a personal vacation across the country and while I fully intended to run during this time, I slacked. I dropped off pace and it’s been a gradual up-hill climb to cut down the, at one time, almost 10 miles that I was off pace.

So, here’s the update: I’m officially back on pace.

Tonight, I completed a two mile run that puts me at 57 miles over 57 days (or 63% complete). My average distance is hovering around 2.5 to 3 miles per run, with my average pace per is right around 9:45/mile. Running a little further per run as of late and just a hint faster on average. I’d say that’s progress, even if it’s slow going.

Keep in mind, I had said the following in my last update:

“…this goal could be completed by running one mile, every day, for 90 days. Personally, I would much rather get ahead and stay ahead.”

So yeah, I dropped off pace and fell behind, but I’m right back in it and set to get ahead again. Lesson here? Simple. Just because you fall behind, doesn’t mean your goal is out of reachit just means playing catch up will suck. And catching up DOES suck, but it’s not impossible.

Going for 90 miles in 90 days might not be the biggest goal in the world, but it’s MY goal. And with just over 30 days left to go, I can’t wait to crush it in the next few weeks.

Sidenote / reminder: if you need motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Twitter (or Instagram) and search #nikeplus and keep up with my journey to 90 by searching #90in90. 

90 Miles in 90 Days: Update #1

Two weeks ago, as a result of being inspired – or kind of freaked out – by being 3 months out from my upcoming wedding and not really in the shape I want to be, I set a personal goal to complete 90 miles in 90 days. That’s it. Whatever else comes with it – changes in diet, workout routine, etc – is secondary. I’ve made many attempts over the last year or so to re-establish my running routine and this (so far) is working. With that said, and since today is 14 days in, I thought it would be a good time for an initial progress update.

Keep in mind, this goal could be completed by running one mile, every day, for 90 days. Personally, I would much rather get ahead and stay ahead.

With that said, I’ve completed 18 miles over the last two weeks, which means I’m 20% of the way to my goal and 4 miles ahead of schedule. What helps make that stat even better is that I’ve only run 8 times over 14 days with an average distance of 2.25 miles/run with an average pace of 9:50/mile. Any run around 2 miles has been completed in under 20 minutes, and any run around 3 miles right at the 30 minute mark. All good things that can only get better.

Thank you to those who have cheered me on in person or online. It’s always great to get that cheering noise from the Nike+ app! In addition to tracking via Nike & RunKeeper, I also upload progress after every run to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram – usually with the standard “#dropNgimme20” that I borrowed from the amazing Malinda Matney as well as from my wife-to-be, Tammi.

Sidenote: if you need motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Twitter (or Instagram) and search #nikeplus. There is an amazing community of runners out there. 

I’m not going to be winning any 5K’s any time soon. However, I am rebuilding my endurance and running on a more regular basis. While it would be great to crank out a sub-20 minute 3 mile like I used to, that’s not the primary goal.

The goal is 90 in 90 – and I’m on my way.

90 Miles – 90 Days

This past weekend officially marked 3 months, or 90 days, until Tammi and I get married.

Holy crap. It feels like just yesterday we were in Cleveland getting engaged.

Don’t get me wrong though – it’s not the wedding planning logistics that has me concerned – we’re actually ahead of schedule in a lot of ways. It is, however, the personal wellness part of the equation on my part that has me feeling much more like Grumpy Cat. Early last fall, I had hit a fantastic milestone – I had dropped approximately 20 pounds and was back in a good place with my running and workout routine. That was then. Today, I’m back up those 20 pounds and pretty much lost all the progress I had made throughout 2013 on my running.

So, yesterday I decided to go for a run. While I was out I decided to set a short-term personal goal to make some positive change in my own wellness. That goal?

Complete (at least) 90 miles in 90 days. That’s it.

The plan is just to run – or as Tammi and I often say – “get dem miles”. I’ll use the  Nike+ (during runs) and RunKeeper apps to track my mileage, duration, and so on. While the primary objective is 90 in 90, I’ll also keep track of food intake via the LoseIt! app to track any changes in weight.

 

That’s my goal – what’s yours?

Update: As of today, I’m at 4 miles.

Phil and Maynard

The last week of March / first week of April is not really a great time of the year for me and could best be described as an emotional rollercoaster – complete with the highs, lows, loop-de-loops, sharp turns, and stomach turning moments. But before I touch on that, you might need some back story to bring you up to speed.

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In September of 2002, I was broadsided with some pretty awful news. Only a few short weeks after I had began my first year of college, I got a phone call from one of my father’s co-workers informing me that he (my father) had been exhibiting some rather odd and erratic behaviors – from as simple as spacing out for long periods of time to as complex as forgetting the combination to the store safe, a combination that had not changed in 28 years. To make a longer story a little shorter, after a number of hospital visits, I was informed that my father had brain cancer, probably the most aggressive type he could have. Doctors did everything they could (which was a LOT) and our family rallied to be as supportive as possible. However, about a year and a half later on March 29, 2004, my father lost his battle.

In 2007, the family found out news of a similar nature, only this time about my grandfather (dad’s dad). He had been experiencing some odd lower abdominal pains, thankfully though not super severe. Unfortunately, this led to one of many doctor appointments which revealed a type of pancreatic cancer. It spread quickly, but you couldn’t really tell because he just kept on going as if it was just another day. This continued until April 2, 2008, when he went peacefully.

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This year, March 29th and April 2nd marked the 10th and 6th anniversaries of their respective passings. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. What is more surprising is how that week has actually went – emotionally, that is. I thought for sure, and feared, that I would be a complete mess. However, I find myself in a good place this time around. I kept plenty busy – attending Kappa Kappa Psi North Central District Convention, getting to see my students at Aurora High School perform their way to a 3rd place state finish, attended the ACPA conference in Indianapolis, and even got to meet a first cousin for the very first time after 30 years. Needless to say, there was a lot happening in a span of only a few days, but dad and grandpa were (and still are) heavy on my mind.

So, I suppose there are two significant take-aways from this post. First, being able to take the time to reflect and remember two men who had such a significant impact and influence on who I am today. The other seems cliché, but it does bear repeating and that is a reminder to take advantage of every opportunity you have with someone because the next opportunity isn’t promised.

I miss my dad and I miss my grandpa, but I hope that with each passing day I am doing the things that would have made them proud.

Three Generations – Maynard, Preston, & Philip Ramsey (2001).