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Review: Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips

Disclaimer: I received a Brilliant Reflective Family Pack and Stick-On Strips to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


In May of 2017, I had been following a community of runners through a weekly conversation called #bibchat for a few months. During that time, I came across an opportunity to snag up some pretty slick running gear as part of a combo package. I received it, put the items to use, and – as one would expect – I reviewed it. One of the items I received was a pack of Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips. Let’s REFLECT (pun intended) on what I said THEN:

“No fanfare here. Simply put, these are removable and reusable reflective strips, designed to enhance visibility of the wearer in lower-light conditions. Incredibly smart idea and I wish EVERYONE who goes for a run/bike ride/etc after the sun goes down had these.”

Truth be told, I used those stick-on strips, but not nearly to the extent I could have. When the opportunity to give it another go came around, and especially now that our little one has arrived, I had to give it a go. Here’s what I have to say about Brilliant Reflective NOW…

My Take…

I love this product. There isn’t a thing about it that I don’t like. It takes some of the stress out of  running in the dark and/or at night. It makes me MUCH more visible to vehicles AND I can use the strips (or the family pack) to ensure my wife and I will be seen when out on an evening walk with our daughter, Shalane. I had entirely WAY too much fun plotting out where and how I could apply the family pack stickers to her stroller! 10/10 – I recommend any of Brilliant Reflective’s products to every single one of you.

Why I Love It

INCREDIBLY REFLECTIVE. Brilliant Reflective products are retroreflective material – meaning that when light that hits them, that light will bounce directly back to its source. It doesn’t even matter what angle the light comes from, the person wearing it will be seen.

ADHESION OPTIONS. Simply put, Brilliant Reflective offers up two options – stick-on and iron-on. I have some of the iron-on that I have not yet used. However, I have used nearly ALL of the stick-on strips and family pack that I have and it could not be easier to apply.

DURABLE & WASHABLE. The shirt in the above photo is in the washer as I type this post. It’s gone through the wash two times already with the stick-on strips with no issue whatsoever. Every strip I applied to this shirt has remained exactly where I put it. Knowing I can take them off and use them elsewhere is great, but knowing I can leave them right where they are and the functionality doesn’t diminish is even better.

AFFORDABLE. Getting a pack…or two…or three…of Brilliant Reflective will not break the bank. The iron-on versions and the Family Pack start at $14.95 and the stick-on version starts at $10. A small price to pay for enhanced low-light visibility and peace of mind.

WhyYOU Need It NOW

1. If a driver can’t SEE you, you’re at risk. The quicker you get a driver’s attention, the better off you’ll be – especially if they’re a distracted driver.

2. Wearing light or fluorescent colors aren’t the answer. These are great when the sun is up, but do next to nothing once the sun goes away. Add in a headlamp and/or knuckle lights AND Brilliant Reflective – THEN you’ll be more visible.

3. The odds of being struck and/or killed increases by nearly 1000% after dark. (National Safety Council)

4. 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur at night. (GHSA Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, 2017) Think about it – it’s dark. Drivers aren’t expecting to see runners, cyclists, etc once the sun goes down and when they do, it’s last second and reactions vary. Also, cars take longer to slow/slop than you might think. Toss adverse weather (rain, storm, snow, etc) into the mix and the stopping distance DOUBLES. And that’s just for cars going 30 MPH! How fast are people driving in your neighborhood or where you normally run?

REFLECTIONS on a Theme

Simplified, I put stickers on my running gear and on my daughter’s stroller, but in reality I did a lot more than that. Using Brilliant Reflective is a proven method to increase the safety of those who are out there running, walking, cycling, etc after dark. I’m definitely looking forward to getting some more!

Be seen. Be safe. Be BRILLIANT.

Head over to Brilliant Reflective and save 30% off your entire order by using discount code BRP30.


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Recap: 2018 Flying Pig Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Flying Pig Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


Everyone has that ONE television show and/or movie that they absolutely believe their friends MUST watch right now. For example, when “The Office” was in its prime, a good chunk of my friends would ask me if I had watched the most recent episode. The answer was always no, because I hated that mentality that something was SO popular that I “had” to watch it.

I make this point because, to me, “The Office” was to television what the Flying Pig was to running. Friends and fellow runners had hyped this race so much that I wanted nothing to do with it – ever.

Obviously, that has changed. Before I recap the race, and in the spirit of full disclosure, let me bring you up to speed on how I got there…don’t worry, it’s the CliffNotes version…

***

About three weeks prior to the Flying Pig (of which I had given NO thought or attention), I noticed that a significant amount of attention was being paid to races in and around Chicago. Being from Ohio, and having some pretty decent races coming up, I was curious as to why this was the case. I reached out to the coordinators of the BibRave Pro program and they were PDQ in getting back to me. I won’t share all the details of why the Ohio races weren’t getting as much attention, but know that there are definitely opportunities for them to get love again in the future!

After a little bit of back and forth, I was extended the opportunity to jump in to help promote the Flying Pig via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. This quickly escalated to an invitation, if interested, to participate (read: RUN) in said event.

So here’s a race I’ve been avoiding for quite a while and now not only a chance to promote it, but a chance to RUN it.

To paraphrase one Don Vito Corleone – they (Team BibRave) made me an offer I could not refuse. With that said, I officially registered to run the Flying Pig Marathon on April 25th. For those of you playing at home, that was a week and a half before race day.

***

Now that the backstory is out of the way, let’s recap this thing.

On Saturday, May 5, I was running a 5k in my hometown, which is roughly 90 miles north of Cincinnati. The race went well and almost as soon as I had arrived and run, I was back in the car and on my way to Cincy. Thankfully, I had some friends from college who were signed up for the 4-Way Challenge with Extra Cheese who had generously offered to let me crash in their hotel room the night before the race. Upon my arrival in Cincy and getting settled in the room, we ventured to the expo so I could collect my bib and other race goodies.

The expo for the Flying Pig Marathon is incredibly well done and VERY well organized. The layout was very friendly and you knew exactly where you needed to go, thanks in large part to the volunteers and signage throughout the Duke Energy Convention Center. As one would expect, vendors galore with all their various wares and enticements. However, the most noticeable was the primary event sponsor – P&G – who had a massive setup where expo participants could snatch up some free samples of various P&G products, such as Tide, Olay, and so on. They also provided a nylon laundry bag to keep all the samples (and other expo purchases) in, which made navigating the expo very convenient.

OH YEAH – can’t forget about that sweet race SWAG! For this year, it included a technical race t-shirt, a poster commemorating the 20th anniversary of the race, and a premium travel blanket (think indoor/outdoor blanket). I was VERY impressed as all I expected was the race shirt to be honest!

The rest of the evening was relatively quiet as we all turned in fairly early. This proved to by a fantastic decision as far as being rested for race day. However, it also proved very difficult as I am usually a night owl when it comes to falling asleep.

Our hotel was maybe a half-mile from the start line so it was a very easy downhill walk to the Cincinnati riverfront and Paul Brown Stadium. Finding the gear check and my corral was, again, super easy due to TONS of signage and fantastic volunteers. As I got settled in my corral (D for those wondering), I was fortunate to connect with Juan, a fellow BibRave Pro who was in from Texas for the race. Sidenote: this was my first official race as a BibRave Pro, so it was fun getting to meet up with a fellow ambassador! Of course, as with most things, we had to take a photo (pics or it didn’t happen, right?).

Met up with fellow BibRave Pro, Juan! (@3dotjuan)

There was a very nice woman standing close to us who was kind enough to snap a photo for us. We then learned her name was Sarah and this was her VERY FIRST MARATHON! As with most marathons that I have run, the race organizers provide TWO bibs for first timers – the normal race bib to be worn on one’s front and a “it’s my first marathon” bib to wear on one’s back. Not wanting to draw that level of attention to herself, Sarah opted to forego the first-timer bib on her back. Of course, I had to snap a selfie with her because running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and she SHOULD get her moment in the sun!

She ended up finishing the marathon in 4:12 – well done, Sarah!!

Before I knew it, I was crossing the start line and on my way. The first few miles were relatively slow going – mainly because of how crowded in I felt, but this ended up playing to my favor in the later stages of the day. The first mile took me by one of my favorite locations in the world – Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds. GABP brings back great memories from my childhood, so this is already making this race very enjoyable. After crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and then coming BACK across into Ohio, the remainder of the course stays in Ohio – winding its way back into downtown and then out into the easternmost points of the metro area (as most marathon courses do).

What sets the Flying Pig Marathon apart from a lot of other races, or so I’m told, are the HILLS. There is a pretty significant incline that begins at about the marker for mile 6 and then levels out just a little after mile 7.  For those wondering, this is about 250 ft of gain in the span of a mile. That may not seem like much to some, but to others this is like climbing a mountain. After this, the hills become more rollers than anything – some being worse than others. However, aside from these rollers in the second half, the course is mostly a downhill or fairly flat course from mile 12 to the end.

Throughout the course, there were plenty of sections where there were supporters and aid stations to get runners through the event. In addition to the water/Gatorade/Gu stops along the course, some of the other aid stations included the GraHAM station (graham crackers) and the SWINE & Cheese station (ham & cheese?). Before you ask – yes – there WAS a bacon station. This is the Flying Pig, after all.

As I progressed through the course, it became apparent to me exactly why this race IS as popular as it is. It’s most definitely a combination of the people involved in putting this event on (from the organizers down to the volunteers at the water stops) as well as the amenities that make the pre-race, race, and post-race absolutely enjoyable.

As I returned to the riverfront area and made my way again past Great American Ball Park, another realization came to the forefront – I was going to PR. The goal coming into this race was to FINISH and nothing more, especially having completed another marathon (and PR’d there as well) only two weeks prior! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was still in good enough shape to not only finish the race, but to also put down another solid effort on a course that would be best described as challenging.

After crossing the FINISH SWINE (yes, that’s what the finish line is called at the Flying Pig Marathon), I met up with my friends/roommates and took in one of the best post-race celebrations/parties I’ve ever experienced. The park that they use for this post-race party is right along the river, with more than ample space for runners to walk around, stretch, grab food, grab a beer, and check out some of the local businesses who have set up shop. This is also where all runners would collect their post-race premium item – a black finisher’s jacket with a black version of the Flying Pig Marathon logo on the chest. I love the jacket…I just wish we didn’t get it on such a hot day!

Simply put, I avoided the Flying Pig for so long because of hills and the peer pressure of popularity of the event. With that said, I should have absolutely listened to that pressure, said screw the hills, and taken on this race YEARS ago. I totally understand the hype and the hills – yes, they are tough, but they could be MUCH worse. All and all, I am very glad to have accepted the gracious invitation to run the Flying Pig Marathon. A huge THANK YOU to Team BibRave for providing this opportunity and who knows…maybe I’ll get “piggy” again in the future!


In the days after the Flying Pig, I was able to jump on Athlinks.com and “claim” my race results. I say “claim” because the results from this race have not published to Athlinks as of the publishing of this post. HOWEVER, I was able to manually add my time to my account, which will become official as the race results begin to populate.

Athlinks allows me to keep all my race results in one location. Head over and check out my Athlinks stats HERE and learn more about how I claim past results as well as why I enjoy using it HERE. It’s incredibly easy to use and it’s a lot of fun to see races you might have forgotten about pop up in your results feed! So while you’re taking a look around over there, set up your own Athlinks account. That way you can start claiming your results!

Review: AfterShokz Trekz Air

Disclaimer: I received the AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


About a year ago, I became aware of a weekly Twitter conversation called #bibchat. As my participation in #bibchat has grown, I have met (in-person or online) some fantastic runners who have inspired me to push harder and strive for bigger goals. Additionally, I’ve been made aware of brands that are putting out great products for running – products I would probably not know anything about if not for #bibchat. One of those companies is AfterShokz and the product in question are their Trekz series headphones. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Trekz Air headphones.

Spoiler alert: I love these headphones. 

Not long after I got involved with #bibchat, I had an opportunity to get a pair of headphones from AfterShokz. The pair I purchased was the Trekz Titanium – which I reference HERE – and they have served me very well. Naturally, when the opportunity was presented THIS year to test and review the latest & greatest version (Trekz Air), I jumped at the chance.

My approach with the majority of my running gear is that it must fit and work well before I give a second thought to how it looks. Well, I try to employ that mindset at least! So that’s how I’ll layout this review – function before looks. Luckily for me, AfterShokz makes this very easy. But first, some background…

Background and Technical Info

The Trekz Air is the newest addition to the AfterShokz family. They are about 20% lighter than the previous Trekz Titanium model and have a much more comfortable fit. They have a run-time of approximately 6 hours and are water/sweat resistant. The OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness – which is absolutely essential when running in any environment, be it urban, suburban, or rural. They are wireless and connect via Bluetooth to your device of choice and have dual noice cancelling microphones which make picking up a call while on the run a seamless action. The Trekz Air come with a hassle free 2-year warranty.

So what’s my take on them? 

Fit

The Trekz Air fit perfectly – almost TOO perfect because it I barely even know I have them on. They are much lighter than their big brother (Trekz Titanium) and the piece that wraps around the back of the head is just right. It’s not too big, not too small, and it doesn’t bounce or rub against my neck.

Sound Quality & Battery Life

The sound quality with the Trekz Air is great as well. When synced, the volume control (behind the RIGHT ear) actually takes over the volume control on your device rather than having two independent volume controls. This is a great upgrade from previous wireless headphones I have tried! Podcasts are still a little quiet and are often drowned out by a strong gust of wind or a passing truck, but that’s to be expected. Aside from that, music and other content come through strong and sound amazing.

The great sound quality will just keep going and going thanks to the battery life that is packed in. These headphones can go quite a bit without having to be recharged. This is great especially when someone like me takes them off and tosses them in the car and doesn’t remember to A) turn them off of B) bring them in the house to recharge them. Either way, in the month or so that I’ve had these, I think I’ve only had to charge them fully ONCE. Coincidentally, that is happening now!

Looks

Well, they fit amazingly, they sound great, and they hold a damn good charge. So, how do they LOOK? If you look at the picture above this and the one below, you can see that they honestly blend in and are almost not noticeable at all. The side profile photo a little bit further up shows a little bit different look, but again, they look like they are supposed to be there and they’re out of the way. I think the most common questions I’ve gotten when other runners see me wearing them are:

  • “Aren’t they supposed to go IN your ears?” NO. 
  • “Those look weird to me. Do they feel weird sitting over your ears?” Nope. *at this point, I usually take them off and hand them to the person asking, insisting they try them on.* 
  • “Do they still sound like normal headphones?”YEP. *as they try them on, I’ll usually play something fun…like The Humpty Dance.*

Caution: side effects when wearing AfterShokz Trekz Air include answering all kinds of questions, making new friends, and advocating for your fellow runner’s safety.

Like I said at the beginning of the review, I’ve been using Aftershokz headphones for my running for about a year now and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. My first pair sold me on the idea and my Trekz Air has set the bar massively high for anything to dethrone it. The Trekz Air fit like they almost aren’t even there, the sound quality is fantastic, and they hold their charge for a WHILE. Plus, they look great no matter which color you go with.

So, if you want to run safely AND still want to be able to enjoy your content while running through some comfortable and powerful headphones, then you’ve got to get yourself the AfterShokz Trekz Air!

I’m not the only one who thinks so – check out what some of my fellow BibRave Pros are saying!

Danielle – Lindsey – Amy P – Barb S – Amanda L

SamanthaLoganAmyLisaBrad – Dodie


Convinced? Want to get a pair for yourself? Of course you do. Especially when you have three awesome color choices – Slate Grey, Forest Green, or (my personal favorite) Midnight Blue. Head over to bibrave.aftershokz.com and use the code BIBRAVE30 to save $30. 

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!

***

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!

 

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.