Pole Dancing Lesson

If you didn’t know by now, I like to do things that many might consider, uh, a little “out of the ordinary.” But then again, the title of my blog is “An Alternate Route,” because I like to take a different path through life. So this should come as no surprise.

I had a private pole dancing lesson with my friend, Nia. She’s an instructor at Studio X, a Richmond pole dancing studio. Currently, they only offer classes for women, but when you’re fortunate enough to know the instructor, you get the hookup.

I’m not going into much detail, because let’s be honest, I know you just want to see the pictures & video. But I will say this…

  • I expected it to be fun. But I had even more fun than I initially thought.
  • I expected it to be hard. And it was. But, based on feedback from Nia & the other instructors that saw me, I was doing moves that I shouldn’t have been doing my first time out.
  • I had no idea it would hurt that much. I had serious bruises for several days.
  • I learned that my flexibility is not nearly as good as I thought it was. Working on it…
  • I loved the challenge of trying to do new moves, and to do them with more grace, smoother, etc.
  • We didn’t even get to any spinning tricks or dance moves/choreography… and I still find myself wondering, “When can I get on the pole again?”

If I had a pole in my house, I’d use it several times per week. And I’d love to continue practicing. My dilemma is the same as it always is when I learn something new. When/where can I fit this into my life? There’s just not enough time to regularly practice all the things that I want to. And that’s because I think almost EVERYTHING is interesting. But I can’t do it all, so I’m still not sure where this may or may not fit in.

But, like I promised, here’s some proof that it actually happened.

Not Homeless… Just Saying Hi – Follow Up

UPDATE: 2/26/2016: I’ve kept the original article in tact below, in its entirety, so everyone who reads this can learn from it. I have since drastically changed my thoughts on privilege, and openly & adamantly declare that I am incredibly privileged.

I highly encourage everyone to read the comments by two of my good friends, NB & Janice. Both are exceptional human beings, and I can’t thank them enough for their friendship, as well as the huge knowledge & experience bombs they dropped on me. I agree with both of their comments 100%, and you should absolutely read through them in their entirety.

I also thank John, the guy on Twitter who started this whole thing by calling me out for my ignorance. I write on this blog for a few reasons:

  1. For me, to reflect back on previous life experience
  2. To help others who might have similar thoughts, or just enjoy my perspective
  3. For everyone, to learn something new, or perhaps even change their behavior for the better.

My blog is called “An Alternate Route” because I do a lot of things out of the ordinary. Some are well thought-out; others, like this one, aren’t. But it’s that unique journey by which I learn and grow. And I thank you all for being a part of that journey.


Now that 2 days have past, I’ve had time to let it sink in, and hear some reactions from friends & strangers alike, I’d like to share this with you.

Interesting Twitter Response

John (on Twitter) writes:

john-sico-twitter-homeless-experiment

I think John follows Hilary. I don’t follow him, nor do I know who he is. Nonetheless, he had something interesting to say about my experience. I’d like to add my thoughts (in more than 140 characters).

Fun?

The goal of this was never to have fun. That wasn’t my intention, nor do I think it was Hilary’s intention when she first stood on the corner. We weren’t looking for fun, nor did either of us anticipate it would be a whole lot of fun. And now that it’s over, I still can’t say I had much “fun.”

So what was the goal? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think too much about it before I did it. I knew it would be uncomfortable, and most things that challenge us out of our comfort zone, end up building character. Aside from stepping outside of my comfort zone, I just wanted to raise my sense of awareness, and take in what happened around me.

I’d also like to mention that I specifically left off the words “Not Homeless” from my sign. Some really good friends of mine thought that might be offensive, and had the potential to really hurt someone’s feelings. Extremely valid point, and thus, I decided to leave it off my sign.

I recognized what I was doing was questionable. But if we all shied away from doing questionable things, our world would remain stagnant, and life would have no purpose.

Now that it’s over, my goal (or, really, my hope) is that it:

  • made people smile
  • will make people think differently about those standing on the corner, regardless of what they look like, why they’re there, or what they may or may not be asking for
  • gives people hope that there is tons of goodness in this world, regardless of what the media throws at us day after day
  • inspires others to step outside their comfort zone & put themselves in an uncomfortable situation, on the corner or otherwise

Privileged?

I looked up the definition. Variations include:

  • belonging to a class that enjoys special privileges; favored
  • having special rights, advantages or immunities
  • not subject to the usual rules or penalties because of some special circumstance
  • having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure (as in, “I felt privileged to be able to _____.”)

I’m not sure what John meant when he called me a “privileged white dude”—especially since we know nothing about each other, have never met, etc.—but by definition, I would certainly not consider myself to be privileged.

I was raised by two loving parents, who taught me many important life lessons, supplied food & shelter, and paid for countless extra-curricular activities growing up, not to mention helping big time with college. And I realize that, to no fault of their own, many people don’t have access to these things growing up. So, perhaps in that sense, I am privileged.

However, those same parents also taught me to work hard for things. That I had to do work in order to earn allowance. I had to eat my vegetables before I could eat ice cream. Likewise, my coaches made me earn a spot on the team, with hustle & countless hours of practice. My employers put me through stringent interview processes with many other candidates before awarding me the job.

I’m not immune from anything. I play by the same rules, and face the same consequences, as every other citizen of this country. And I challenge anyone to bring to my attention a special right or advantage that I’ve been granted because of some special circumstance that I didn’t have to work for.

In terms of the last definition, “having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure”… there is nothing rare about the opportunity to stand out on a corner, with a cardboard sign, smile & wave. Every person who has at least one arm could do exactly what I did (heck, even if you have no arms, get someone else to write it & lean it up against your chest from your wheelchair).

That’s the beauty of this challenge. The barriers to entry are about as low as they get.

White Dude?

I found it interesting that John used the words “white dude” to describe me. He may have meant nothing by it, but I interpreted it as an assumption that a majority of homeless people are some race other than white.

While there are sources out there that show african americans are more likely to end up homeless than whites, I found the historical stats & somewhat current stats to be interesting:

  • In the 1950s & 1960s, the typical person experiencing homelessness was white, male, and in his 50s
  • As of 2000… 44% single men, 13% single women, 36% families with children, 7% unaccompanied minors
  • As of 2000… 50% African-American, 35% white, 12% Hispanic, 2% Native American, 1% Asian
  • As of 2006, families with children comprise 41% of the homeless population
  • According to a 1996 survey…
    • 44% did paid work during the past month
    • 66% have problems with alcohol, drugs or mental illness
    • 38% say someone stole money or things directly from them
    • 30% have been homeless for more than 2 years

It appears, at least from the stats I could find, that a majority of homeless people in this country are non-white. However, 35% is still a decent chunk. And it does vary greatly based on geography (big city vs. urban vs. rural).

The two things that stand out most to me are: the number of homeless families with children and the percentage whom have had things stolen from them. And to think, the homeless guy who walked past me the other day actually tried to give me money.

Take what you want from these stats, but please think twice before assuming why, what or who is standing on the corner with a sign.

They might not be who you think, and it’s possible they’ve dealt with more than you can possibly imagine.

Thanks, John Sico, for the continued discussion. And Hilary, for having my back 🙂

Not Homeless… Just Saying Hi

Well… that was extremely uncomfortable, and fantastic, all at the same time. What an interesting experiment & rewarding experience.

First off, big thanks to my friend, Hilary Corna, for the idea/dare. I would have never thought to do this otherwise.

Not Homeless Experiment - Before Heading Out
Just before heading out. I ditched the jacket when I got to the street corner.

Here’s the recap of me standing on the corner for one hour, holding a cardboard sign that read,

“Just Saying Hi. Create a great day!”

By The Numbers

Not Homeless Experiment
A quick overview of my experience, by the numbers. For more in-depth commentary, read on past the list.

  • 60 – minutes spent standing on the corner
  • 10 – sips of water before I got the courage to hold up the sign
  • 5 – huge, deep breaths before I got the courage to hold up the sign
  • 1 – minutes before the first person waved or smiled
  • 2 – people who took a picture of me from their cars (that I’m aware of)
  • ~20 – car horns that sounded
  • 19 – car horns that sounded because of the sign. One lady was too focused reading the sign, she didn’t see the light change. And someone got impatient.
  • 1 – LOL, as in, laugh out loud. Yup. I heard her across 3 lanes of traffic.
  • 1 – person who dropped their phone (mid-conversation) to wave & smile
  • 2 – people who offered me money (1 of whom was [probably?] homeless, himself. See “Spare Change” below)
  • 2 – homeless people encountered & interacted with
  • 1 – times rejected when asking someone to take a picture of me (see “The Rejection” below)

Homeless Man Interaction 1 – Spare Change

Less than 10 minutes into standing on the corner holding my sign, a young man wearing a trash bag walked by (it was raining fairly hard for 1/2 my time out there). I said hello. He said hello back, as he passed. After getting 2 steps passed me, he stopped, and reached into his pocket. It took him a while before he pulled his hand out. Neither one of us said a word. When his hand emerged, he had about 50¢ in change. He was about to hand it to me, and then he saw what the sign said.

“Oh… you’re not doing this for money?,” he said, with a look of utter confusion. “No. Just for smiles,” I replied. His confusion quickly turned into joy, as he said to me,

“That’s probably the most optimistic thing I’ve ever seen.”

We exchanged ‘Have a nice day’s, and both marched on.

Homeless Man Interaction 2 – Working The Corner

About 10 minutes later, another man walked by. He was also surprised when I told him I wasn’t doing it for money. He had a cardboard sign of his own, and was actually planning to sit at the same corner & ask for money.

He said, “You’re not asking for money? You’re just doing it to make people’s day?” After replying yes, he asked if I would mind if he set up right around the corner, adding, “I’m trying to make a few bucks so I can eat.”

I told him I didn’t mind at all. Before he completely walked away, I was wondering if me standing there would help, hurt or have no impact on his efforts to make a buck. I said this to him, and he said he didn’t think it mattered, and that he’d be around the corner, where the cars couldn’t really see my sign.

I heightened my senses a little bit with him standing right around the corner. I had placed my jacket over a railing right by the intersection, and shortly moved it closer to me, up the road a bit, so I could keep an eye on it. I got a much different vibe from this guy than I did the previous man I spoke with.

Over the next 30 minutes, there were 2 times where he left his post, and slowly walked by me, as if he was leaving. Both times he slowed right as he passed my jacket. He was between me & the jacket, and each time this occurred, I looked back at him until he passed.

The first time he didn’t say anything walking by, but got only 5 steps passed me before turning around & returning to his post, saying, “I guess I’ll keep trying…”

After another 10 minutes went by, he did the same thing, passing me slowly, between my jacket & me. After getting 5 steps passed, he turned and said, “Do you know if it’s supposed to rain like this all night?” (Where’s Andrew Friedman when you need him?) Wishing I could be more helpful, I honestly told him that I just didn’t know. He then walked back by me, slowly, as if he was wondering or lost, and returned to his post yet again.

I tried my absolute best to judge this guy not based on the fact that he was homeless (or at least I’m assuming that’s why he was asking for money), but in the same manner I would draw assumptions about anyone, anywhere, in any situation—first, with keen observation, and then my gut feeling based on those observations. And I am confident that’s what I did.

The Kids

There were 2 times where parents were driving with kids in the car (under 10-yrs-old), and the kids rolled down their windows to wave & say hello. The parents also had big smiles on their faces, but they were no match for the kids’ elation.

Something about the kids’ enjoyment of it moved me more than any of the adults who showed their appreciation. I wonder how I would’ve acted as a kid if I saw that. Should we tip our hat to the parents of those kids, for raising happy, open-minded, outgoing kids? Or do we chalk it up to kids just being kids?

I do think there’s a certain ignorance that cannot be overlooked. Those kids have probably experienced very few, if any, homeless people on the street holding cardboard signs. They don’t jump to the same conclusions that many adults do, and that some people in their cars assumed about me… that I was standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign, for one reason, and one reason only: to ask for money.

As adults, we’ve had more time to experience life. For some of us, this experience has opened our minds to incredible things, amazing people & some of the most beautiful acts of kindness the world has ever seen. For others, unfortunately, this life experience has infected minds with fear & pessimism.

It’s the same life we’re living. The only difference is how we choose to let it affect us.

The Ups & Downs

While the entire hour was very uncomfortable, I was caught off guard by how quickly & consistently my confidence rose & fell. I would get 3 honks & a bunch of smiles in a row, and the next traffic light cycle, 4 cars stopped, easily in view of the sign, didn’t even look over at me, even after a big smile and a wave.

There were definitely more smiles, waves & honks than there were negatives. There were some people who saw the sign & showed no reaction. Others neglected to make any eye contact. But I’d venture to say, of all the people who made some kind of effort to notice me, easily more than 50% smiled/waved/honked. Probably close to 75%/25%.

The Rejection

I’ve been shot down before (by colleges, my parents, prospective employers, conference organizers, girls, you name it). But never like this.

Nearing the end of my hour on the corner, a man was walking by with a small bag of something he had just bought, and an umbrella over his head. I (made the mistake? of) didn’t clearly show him my sign before I asked him a favor.

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind doing me a favor? Could you take a picture of me?”

His response was similar to that of millions of people around the world every day when they encounter a person on a street corner holding a cardboard sign. He barely glanced up at me, looked down to the ground & silently shook his head no.

Realizing there were very few people walking past me, I didn’t think I’d have many opportunities to get someone to take a picture of me. After the gentleman passed, and I realized he thought I was looking for something in return, I called out, “No, no… I’m just doing something nice. I’m not asking for money.”

He did acknowledge me again, very briefly stopped, and said [something like this, it was tough to hear him], “Yeah. Is that all?” But he turned right back around & kept walking. I tried to hold my sign in his direction so he could read it, but I don’t think he gave it enough time. Or he didn’t believe me. Or he just felt uncomfortable (if it’s that last one, dude should spend an hour in my shoes & then we’ll ask him about uncomfortable).

Sociologically Speaking

Did I wave at certain types of cars over others? Did I smile more at men, women, caucasians, african americans, BMWs, pickup trucks, etc.?

Who waved back? Were the young women just waving because they thought I was cute? (Sorry. Quick tangent for a little ego boost. Hey, after spending an hour on the corner, I can understand why someone might need a pick-me-up.)

As best I could keep track in my head, here’s how I would break it down.

  • An equal number of men & women showed a positive response
  • An equal number of white & black people showed a positive response (in total, there were probably more white people, but that’s only because of the demographic of the area I was in. There were a larger percentage of white people who drove by.)
    • Of the two homeless men whom I spoke with, the one who offered me change was black, and the one whom I had a bad feeling about was white
  • Type of vehicle didn’t seem to matter. I got positive responses from old cars, new cars, luxury cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and even the UPS guy.
  • One of the few breakdowns where I noticed a lopsided response was age. While I got positive & negative reactions from both younger & older people alike, it seemed as though more younger people showed a positive response. And even those whom didn’t show a positive response, many more younger people put an effort in to read the sign (turning their head, looking over their shoulder), regardless of their reaction.

The Hardest Part

…might actually have been holding a smile non-stop for one hour.

The Gas Station & Walk Back To My Car

Before I started walking back to my car (about 2 blocks), I thought about giving my sign to the homeless guy who was still on the adjacent corner. He had a really small cardboard sign (not sure what it said). I don’t know if mine would’ve helped, or how he would’ve used it, but it would’ve been a nice gesture. The only reason I didn’t was because I still wanted a picture of myself holding the sign. I wish I trusted the homeless man enough to ask him—and believe me, I definitely thought about it—but my gut told me not to.

I stopped at the gas station on the next block/corner, and before I could even ask someone, a woman looked up from the pump, smiled, and said hello. She saw me on the corner with the sign a few minutes prior, and asked why I was doing it. I briefly explained, and then asked if she’d take a picture. She kindly agreed.

After the photo opp, one more gentleman approached. He was just making light conversation, also curious as to why I was doing it. We talked for a minute, shook hands, and went on with our evenings.

What Did I Miss?

Looking back, there are a few things I wish I had done.

  • Walked back to offer the homeless guy my sign. It was a tiny bit out of my way to walk back to the corner, but it could’ve made a huge difference.
  • Asked the 2 homeless guys there names
  • Walked a little farther up the street, away from the intersection, closer to where the cars were stopped. I was afraid they’d think I was asking for money (dumb excuse, I know), and just really shy/nervous to interact with people.

Next Time

…and there just might be a next time. I’d be interesting to switch things up a bit & perhaps try again. If I did it again, I’d probably either:

a) Bring a boombox, a friend (preferably Ellen DeGeneres) and a sign that says “Dance Off!”, and, well… dance.

b) Offer to give people something. Perhaps, a smiley face sticker, or a hand-written card.

So… would you give this a try? How might you approach it differently?

And yes, I’d 100% recommend you try it. Please be safe, do it on a well-traveled corner, in daylight, and let others know where you’ll be & when you’re returning. Use your best judgement if & when talking to strangers (yup, the same thing mommy taught you when you were 5 still applies).

Blue Bee Cider Tour

A few friends & I recently took a tour of a new cider maker in Richmond, VA — Blue Bee Cider. This is the first cider manufacturer within Richmond’s city limits that I’m aware of.

Blue Bee Cider Location

Blue Bee Cider is located in the Old Manchester District, down behind the Corrugated Box Building & one block over from Legend Brewery. Their address is 212 W. 6th Street, Richmond, VA 23224. They’re in the old Aragon building. Plenty of parking is available in their parking lot.

Blue Bee Cider Tour & Hours

Richmond VA brewery tourBlue Bee’s tasting room is open Friday, Saturday & Sunday from noon – 6pm. We took a tour of the facility, which is rather small, and considerably different from Legend’s, if you’ve ever toured their brewery.

The tour took us about 20 minutes from start to finish, but we didn’t have a ton of questions. If your group has the science nerd who insists on knowing about every chemical process, by-product & compound, I’m sure you could spend 45 minutes, easy.

Blue Bee Cider Owner & Cidermaker, Courtney Mailey

We were greeted with a smile as we entered, and sure enough, it was from the owner of Blue Bee Cider, Courtney Mailey. She’s passionate about cider, and excited to finally bring a cider to Richmond.

Courtney gave us a history lesson about the Aragon building, poured us all a glass cider, and then gave us the tour of the building, explaining the cidermaking process along the way. She was super-nice, patient with our silly questions, and very knowledgable about the process. It’s a quick, fun tour if you’re looking for a way to spend your weekend afternoon in Richmond.

She has a few part-time cidermakers on staff, but said she’s still barely keeping up with demand. They are selling out faster than they can produce it. But rest assured, they still have some available for you to try… and buy!

Blue Bee Cider Tastings & Prices

There is a small charge for tastings. Cider tastings are $1. For a glass of cider, it’s $6. And for 3 bucks more, you can keep the glass. And trust me, $3 for this glass is a steal. They’re fancypants, and might just make you feel like royalty.

Blue Bee Cider Tastings & Wine Glasses

You can also buy bottles of cider in 500mL & 750mL sizes, as well as cider tasting glasses, gift certificates & apparel from their online store.

What’s the cider taste like?

Blue Bee has 3 main ciders:

  • Charred Ordinary – A semi-sparkling cider, it’s a dry, old-fashioned cider that pairs well with salty hams and other traditional Virginia fare.
  • Aragon 1904 – A semi-sparkling cider which includes a few modern apples to create a lighter, more fruit forward off-dry cider.
  • Harvest Ration – A dessert cider fortified with brandy distilled from our own special blend of bittersweet apples.

Today we tried the only cider they had available: Aragon 1904 (named after the building they bought). It tasted very much like a champagne or a white wine. It was very light & airy. Lots of carbonation. And 8.6% ABV, more than enough to get you warmed up for the tour.

Non-alcoholic Apple Cider (Juice)

Depending on the time of year, they also make non-alcoholic apple cider, or apple juice. This usually sells out in a few hours after they start offering it, so you have to be one of the first ones in line. Sign up for their email newsletter to get notified when it’s on sale.

Apple Pomace for Fermenting & Compost

Do you like to ferment your own cider? Blue Bee Cider offers a pickup truckload of apple pomace from their facility for composting or animal feed during the apple pressing season – late summer to early winter. Apple pomace includes apple skins, pulp, seeds and stem remnants leftover after they squeeze the juice out of the apples. Contact them to find out when it’s available.

Summary

I’d highly recommend you check out Blue Bee Cider. For right now, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience within Richmond’s city limits, as there are no other cidermakers in town. The staff is really friendly, the cider is tasty & the view of the city skyline is pretty fantastic from that part of town, too. Stop on over at Legend Brewery when you’re finished with the tour to grab a bit to eat.

Check out Blue Bee Cider…

All photos courtesy of Blue Bee Cider’s Facebook Page.

(Unofficial) 2012 Richmond Marathon: Take Two

Well, here’s an idea. Run a marathon. Totally bomb your time, but have a blast doing it. Take three easy weeks off. Eat turkey. Eat more turkey. Then run the same exact course you ran three weeks ago, unsupported (sort of), to try & hit your goal time.

“Dude, sounds like a great idea. Let’s do it!”
– Me

I woke up at 5:00am this morning. Rested. No nerves. No worries. Just another Sunday run around one of the coolest cities on the East Coast.

Start time: 6:30. Broad & 7th. It was dark. Quiet, but not too quiet. Cold, but perfect running weather.

My goal was the same as it was 3 weeks ago. A 3 hour 30 minute marathon.

Finish time: 10:04. A 3:34:00 marathon.

I missed my goal… again. Failure, right? Wrong.

One of the things I love most about running, is that it changes my perspective. My perspective on life. On other people. On myself. And the world around me. My run today was no different.

I went into it with a 3:30, no excuses, no exceptions mentality. If nothing changed, today would have been a failure. But…

The truth is…

A 3:30 marathon is a really difficult time for me. I trained hard all summer, but it was undoubtedly going to be tough for me to maintain an 8:00/mi pace for 26.2 miles.

A 3:34 (all things considered) is a reflection of what I’m capable of. And above & beyond the 3:30 goal, that’s what today was really about.

A 3:34 shaves 12 minutes off my previous PR. And I don’t care who you are… that’s just cool.

My legs didn’t feel much better than they did 3 weeks ago. But my head was in the right place.

I had a random group of runners with a 7:30am running group cheer for me at the Huguenot Starbucks after my buddy, Marcos, told them what we were doing. Runners are runners. Strangers are friends.

At mile 23, if I maintained an 8:00/mi pace, I would have been right at 3:30/3:30+change.

Also at mile 23, my legs felt like poop. Without my friends, I might have walked. I’m proud of myself for pushing through, no matter what the pace was.

Friends don’t let friends drink & drive. Runners don’t let runners run alone. Oh, and friends don’t let runners drive after marathons (Thanks James).

On multiple occasions, we had cars stop at green lights to let us go. It was like the world communicated to them what we were doing, and they got the message loud & clear. I don’t care who/what you believe in, but that’s some powerful stuff. Awesome is as awesome does.

I have the best friends anyone could ask for. You could attend The Global Summit of Nice People International, pay a million bucks a head, and you still wouldn’t walk out of there with a better group of people.

I wish I would have talked to them a little more today (marathon delirium from 20 on). But there’s plenty of time to make up for that. That’s why man created Starbucks. It had nothing to do with coffee, I swear. OK, well, maybe a little. Caffeine’s a vitamin, right?

I joined MTT solely for the purpose of meeting new people, not for running a great marathon time. Perhaps it’s fitting that my MTT marathon three weeks ago wasn’t a great time, but the people I met during training were running beside me today. At its core, running is about health, happiness & community – not time, distance & PRs.

I wasn’t the only one who did something special this morning. Ginny Flynn, Leslie Buller, Kelly Casey, Denise Thomson (collectively known as the “Little Hotties”), James Minnix, Jennifer Selman, Ola Sopilnik, Marcos Torres & Cheryl Christensen did something even more special. They were there for me (when I desperately needed it). And more often than not, just being there is more than enough.

There was an article that went viral recently. It cited research that suggests… consistant endurance running and/or running over __ miles per week and/or running faster than ___ pace is bad for your heart, and could lead to heart complications & a shorter life. The truth is… if that’s the case… “Doc, I couldn’t think of a better way to go out.”

The truth is… in my lifetime, I’ll never believe that. There’s no amount of research, scientists & PhDs that will ever convince me not to run whatever pace – whatever distance – I want to run.

The truth is… one human heart is smarter than a million brilliant scientists. And it’s way more consistant than any researcher will ever be.

[random tangent about the human heart] – The friggin’ thing beats every single second of your life. Never stops. Never wavers. And it does it all by itself. Completely independent from everything else in your body. Heck, it even beats outside of your body… as if to say, “Yo doc. Put me back in. I ain’t done yet. This guy’s got more life to live.” [/end tangent]

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. And I couldn’t have asked for any better of a run than the run I had this morning.

2012 Richmond Marathon: A Different Kind of Race

Today was one of those days that caught me by surprise. It was a day where my race got flipped upside down, totally unexpected. Lucky for me… I love surprises. And this one turned out to be pretty special.

This past year, I’ve changed my approach to running. I abandoned my Garmin years ago because I was done obsessing over my time. I still carry a stopwatch, but half the time I don’t use that either. I have made an effort to replace numbers with people.

Marathon Training Team (MTT)

I signed up for the Marathon Training Team (MTT) because it guaranteed I’d be running with people. And all summer I met running buddies, friends and really cool, interesting people. I wasn’t concerned with how long it took me to run 5, 10 or even 20 miles. I just wanted to have fun doing it.

MTT > Fun

“Fun” is an understatement. MTT is so much more than that. My fellow (Wo)Mangos & I formed a team. We ran together. We tripped over sidewalks together. We shared stories & wore funny costumes together. We got injured (and recovered) together. We ran red lights, ate gummy bears, climbed hills & ran circles around the track.

Some of us still didn’t officially meet each other until the day of the race… but we shared so many of the same experiences. The greatest of which was running the Richmond Marathon… together.

A race goal that doesn’t involve numbers

The first half of the summer with MTT, I didn’t have a time goal. My goal was to meet some new people, and enjoy running with our group. As I started to get faster, naturally, I wondered what I could run Richmond in, if I really went for it. I realize this went against my new approach to running (all about fun, ignoring the numbers), but…

It feels good to PR

Doesn’t it? It makes us feel good about ourselves. And no matter how selfless we are, it’s human nature to feel a sense of accomplishment & self-worth.

I love to push my limits. Workout hard. See how much I can improve. Give it all I got & see what I’m made of. But you know what?

Some days you find out that your legs are made of Jello. And I’m OK with that. Not just because I love Jello (um, who doesn’t?). But because it’s OK not to hit your goal.

If we knew we’d hit every goal we set for ourselves, that’d make for a really boring journey, wouldn’t it?

There’s more to running than the numbers

When I think back to yesterday’s race… and how my legs crapped out at mile 10… and all the walking, stopping & pain that ensued for the next 2 hours… in a way, I got what I asked for.

For the past year, my approach to running was not about the numbers. And my legs reminded me – less than halfway into the race – that today wasn’t going to be about the numbers either. It was about the people. The experience. The community.

In the grand scheme of life, does 10, 20 or even 30 minutes difference in your marathon time really matter? 30 years from now, are we going to remember our fastest time or the funniest sign? Are we going to remember running solo to a new PR, or crossing the finish line with your friend by your side?

My point is this:

The experience is worth more than any combination of hours, minutes & seconds.

People made this race what it was. And it was the people that made the 2012 Richmond Marathon one of the most memorable races I have ever run.

I posted a separate write-up of all the amazing people who were a part of my journey.

2011 Xterra 21k Trail – Race Report

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Phew! I didn’t realize I could run that fast.

This was the first race I can remember where I told myself going in, “Go all out & see what happens.” Realistically, if I pushed myself too hard, I could’ve bonked, and had to walk it in. Basically, I was operating under the all-or-nothing principle.

The Start

I started in a lead group with about 10 others. Since there was no chip timing, I really wanted an even start with the best of the best. It would also be nice not to weave through people on the single track. And I figured I would push myself harder if I ran with the leaders.

The Lead Pack

A lead pack of about 12 started to develop. After 4 or 5 minutes, I quickly realized I couldn’t hang with their pace. I was probably doing low 7:00s, but these guys were easily in the 6:00s. And they had it on cruise control.

I tucked myself into the back of that front group, and found a pace I was comfortable with.

The Ruins… didn’t ruin anything

The infamous Myan Ruins came early on (I think to everyone’s liking). If they made us climb those things in the latter part of the race… well, that would just be wrong.

I usually take them very slow, careful not to waste too much energy. I crawled up them pretty quickly, staying in control. 5 seconds of walking was still needed at the top, to quickly regroup.

Buttermilk

I’m no stranger to this part of the course. I’ve run Buttermilk more times than I can count. Some days have gone well. Others… not so much. But I knew the trail, it’s baby hills, turns, roots, rocks, and short but steep descents. I ran hard. I ran well.

The Internal Conversation (aka: Forest Hill Park loops)

Being the first race I’ve ever gone all out, my mind kept playing tricks on me. An internal conversation ensued. Confidence vs. Self-doubt.

Slow down. You’re going too fast.

Keep pushing. You’re faster than you think.

Keep drinking. Don’t get dehydrated. It’s ridiculously humid out here (That last part is 100% true. No bones about it.).

You got this. Legs feel good. No cramping. Keep doing what you’re doing.

For 6 miles, I went back and forth. Luckily, Confidence prevailed.

10k Support

Through Forest Hill, we started to see some of the 10k runners who started 30 minutes after us. They were incredibly supportive. And quite mobile, making every effort to get out of the way so I could pass. Thanks guys.

Rock Hoppin’ River Crossing

I probably lost a little time jumping rocks across the river. I navigated it well, taking the shortest path possible, but I put on the brakes just slightly. I was running a near perfect race so far, and the last thing I needed was to bite it on a slippery rock, or twist an ankle.

I even waited patiently for two 10kers to climb the ladder onto Belle Isle. My old racing self would have climbed the wall, but I’m glad I waited. It provided a brief rest, and it was the gentleman thing to do.

Belle Isle

It’s really more like a small mountain in my opinion, but you can call it what you want. Pretty much a straight shot up to the top, a few hundred yards across, and switchbacks right back down.

As soon as we came down, I knew precisely how far until the finish. And for the first time in a while, I looked down at my watch. 6 minutes left to break 1:40.

It was time to see what I had left in the tank.

Tank. Full.

How, I have no idea. Well, I’m sure adrenaline had something to do with it. And I knew there were no more hills, so it was game on to the finish.

Up the ramp to the footbridge, blinker on, get in the left lane, pedal to the floor. At this point, my breathing sounded like a 200lbs wild animal of some kind. My form might also have mimicked that of a wild animal, although I was trying to keep it together. Sometimes I just get too excited.

Home Stretch

Down the footbridge, onto Tredegar St, pedal still on the floor. I might have eased up just a bit for 10 seconds. I needed to make sure I had something for a sprint finish.

Smiling on the Inside

I had a look of pure anguish on my face. I usually throw my tongue out at this point too. Arms pumping. Lungs working overtime. Eyes squinting. I looked like absolute hell, but I was smiling on the inside.

The Finish

I blasted through the finish in 1:39:29 (a 7:37 pace). On that course, with those hills, and that humidity… very respectable.

12th overall, and actually 3rd in my age group. They gave me a medal. That’s never happened before.

Post-race

I saw a guy I recognized from last week’s 50k. We talked for a while. Real nice guy. From Montana. Going to school in Winchester, VA. Nice to meet you, Rob. Thanks for the conversation.

We stuck around to watch a few more friends finish. I stuffed my face with muffins, and devoured a dozen orange slices. Misting tent. Porta-potty. And lots and lots of deep breaths. Phew! That was awesome.

The Takeaway

I sit here now, 60+ ounces of water later, an ice bath, self-massage, cold shower, protein shake, and just flat out laid down for 30 minutes. And I feel good. Real good.

The human body is an incredible machine. If you treat it right… listen to it… give it what it tells you it needs, when it needs it… it’s capable of some pretty incredible things.

If you don’t believe me, please test it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you discover.

2010 Richmond Marathon – MTT Volunteer Report

My Richmond Marathon volunteer experience was different from previous years. I got the same sense of satisfaction for helping the runners, but this year I gained a new perspective on what running is really about.

Spending a few hours with 3 amazing coaches from the Marathon Training Team will do that.

While an injured hamstring prevented me from running the 2010 Richmond Marathon, my love for the sport could not keep me on the sideline.

I’ve been a course marshall the past 2 years. Today’s marathon, however, was much more exciting than standing on a street corner, telling 10,000 runners to go exactly where they already knew they had to go. Since I missed out on the Marathon Training Team (MTT) fun all summer, this was my last chance to see what all the hype was about. I was assigned to drive 3 amazing MTT coaches all over the course to meet up with runners — Vicki, Donnie & Q.

Marathon Training Team coaches are da bomb

When I arrived at mile 5 to meet the coaches, I instantly knew I was in the right place. 25 yellow shirts, a tall green hat, a few pairs of striped socks & a viking helmet. Yup. These were the guys I was looking for.

  • Donnie has been involved in with the Marathon Training Team for 8 years, but this was his first as a coach
  • Vicki has been a coach for about 5 years
  • Q has been there since the beginning. He has also been seen dressed in drag. The guy is just in-it-to-win-it, and that’s all there is to it.

The epitome of running

Fun. The MTT coaches have figured it out. These guys love running, and their joyful energy is contagious. They were all over the course, at every turn, beside every MTT runner. Crazy shirts, hats & socks. Smiling at every runner, until the last one crossed the finish line.

The journey. Running is about the journey towards a goal. A personal goal. A life change. A complete 180°. Or maybe just a new hobby. Whatever the journey is… it’s yours. Own it. Be proud of it.

Friendship. Most people see running as an individual sport, but running is meant to be shared. Although I didn’t have a chance to share it with the Marathon Training Team this year, I witnessed it first hand in the 3 hours I was out there. It’s magical. And not in a Disney World kind of way. In a goosebumps, happy tears, genuinely joyful kind of way.

Energy. Rejuvenated.

Typically, when I volunteer for a race, it’s all about the runners. While my reason for volunteering still had the runner’s best interests at heart, this experience was an exciting one for me.

My energy & excitement for running has been rejuvenated. Dealing with a nagging injury for 5 months had a negative effect on me.

Being out there today helped me forget about 5 crappy months of no running, and once again look to the future – a future full of fun, friendship & incredible journeys.

It’s not until you share your running with others that you truly experience what the sport has to offer.