Monday, April 30, 2012

Action 410 - Honor Heroes (Mile 21).

I am dedicating each mile that I run in the Pasadena Marathon to another Marine Corps hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice, so that in my own small way, they may be honored, acknowledged, and remembered.

Action 410 - Honor Heroes (Mile 21). I will run mile twenty-one in honor of Staff Sgt. Joshua Cullins. A Marine Reservist called to Active Duty Service, SSgt Cullins was also a Los Angeles Police Department Officer. He had been injured in a roadside blast months before but had insisted on being returned to service as soon as he had healed. His death is a great loss to both the Marine Corps and the City of Los Angeles.

I will run this mile in honor of this fallen EOD warrior, dedicated son and brother. Semper Fi, Staff Sergeant.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Cullins died October 19, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom; He was 28, of Simi Valley, Calif.; assigned to the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Oct. 19 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

(Photo from North County Times; summary courtesy of

And my runner nickname is...

Thanks to my friend, Mimi Hatch, I now have a runner nickname to go with our team name, Weapons of Mass Reduction.

To celebrate my Marine Corps service and my sheer awesomeness (my words, not Mimi's), I am going with:

Tshirts and coffee mugs will be available soon.*

* Not true at all, but I can dream, right?

Action 409 - Dare To Dream.

If there is one thing that I have learned to appreciate about running, it's the time it gives me to think without interruption. Sunday's run was no exception. I had over two hours away from my phone, my iPad and my computer. My music played softly in the background and I thought about everything from Marine Corps boot camp formation runs to learning to crochet to why have I never seen this part of San Diego before?!

And then the fun stuff started running through my mind. I'm in a good place right now. I'm enjoying my job with SparkPeople as a Success Story Manager, because finding and promoting members who have made amazing changes in their lives makes me very happy. And I'm having a good time working with the start-up, because I respect the company owner and it's an opportunity for me to draw on many of my skills. It's all working out well for me.

But what if? What if the movie that I am in is a runaway success? What if my involvement with the film leads to other opportunities? What if there's interest in the book I have been threatening to write for years? What if I could actually make a living as a motivational speaker?

Action 409 - Dare To Dream.

Because that's what all of those things are to me... dreams. But what are dreams if not the biggest and best possibilities of life?

I'm not getting ahead of myself here. I'm just challenging myself to remain open to the next amazing chapter of my life. Because really, anything is possible.

Action 408 - Read The Fine Print.

By the time my husband and I got home from work today, we were both wiped out. Neither of us had any desire to cook, there was nothing in the kitchen, anyway, and we just wanted quick food and a lazy night. I was craving a chicken sandwich, so it was off to Wendy's.

As soon as I walked in, I saw there big posters announcing new Signature Sides. And the one that caught my eye (and my stomach!) was the Baked Sweet Potato. Yummola!

Action 408 - Read The Fine Print.

Sure, a baked potato is a healthy food. But see that little tan scoop in the photo? It's a one hundred twenty calorie glob of cinnamon sugar. It can turn a comparatively good meal choice into an exercise in... well... a need for more exercise.

I ate the potato. And I even added a bit of the butter. But it tasted more like cupcake frosting than butter and I tossed most of it out.

I try to make good food choices when I can, and tonight, the better choice was avoiding the calorie bomb and enjoying the delicious baked potato just as it was.

Action 407 - Deal With The Pressure.

I heard back from the Race Director at the Pasadena Marathon. It's a done deal. I will be running with Bib #1775. And just like that, this is all happening.

Action 407 - Deal With The Pressure.

When I decided to run a second full marathon, I saw it as a personal challenge. Me, my music, and 26.2 miles of willpower and determination. But now, it feels like it's becoming something bigger.

I'm wearing Bib #1775. Before the marathon starts, I'll be interviewed by a news reporter. I'll be posting real time updates to Facebook and Twitter via the RunMeter app. And I will be running with the with the presence of twenty-six different Marines. I feel like I will be anything BUT alone out there.

I'm feeling the pressure. I've always slipped quietly in and out of the pre-race expos, grabbing my bib and shirt and a few goodies and heading right out. And I'm used to being an anonymous runner out on a course. This time, though, I'm meeting the race director to get my bib. That feels like a big deal to me. And on the course, I feel like every dollar donated is another set of eyes watching me every mile.

I'm not complaining. I asked for every bit of this attention. And I'm confident that I will rise to the occasion. I will fulfill my original goal of completing the marathon and I will do right by those who donated and, most importantly, bring attention to those who have served and sacrificed.

People have dealt with far more and handled it with grace and ease. I can certainly handle this.

Action 406 - Run This Town.

I'm a guy who moved around a lot as a kid and then joined the Marine Corps out of high school, so I've never really felt all that connected to any one place. But I've been here in San Diego since December 2000, and I'm building more and more links to this place. And yesterday, more than one them popped up on my radar.

Action 406 - Run This Town.

As I headed north on the freeway, I could see the ocean as I looked across the coast highway and saw where my third leg of Ragnar SoCal ended last year. As soon as I got to the Del Mar Fairgrounds, I saw the Arena where I ran the Del Mar Mud Run.

At the top of the highest hill I ran yesterday, I noticed a trail where I hiked around a while back. Looking down towards the ocean, I saw La Jolla Shores where I learned to scuba dive.

And finally, running towards the finish line, I ran the Cove where I went snorkeling with friends.

Yesterday, it really clicked with me. This amazing town is my home. And every adventure I have here builds one more link between me and San Diego. It's a great feeling to finally feel settled and connected to a place.

These days, I really do run this town.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Action 405 - Get Some Sole.

There are many things that reinforce the idea that I am a runner. The ever larger stack of race bibs, for example.

Today, though, my affirmation comes in the form of running gear.

Action 405 -Get Some Sole.

Yep, it's time. I run in Brooks Trance 10 shoes. I love the fit and the feel, and I have no problems no matter how far I run. I alternate a pair of orange with a pair of blue.

But it's been over a year, and I need new shoes. So I logged on and found a cool silver pair that look like these.

I'm definitely a runner when I get all giddy about an expensive pair of new shoes... and they're only going to be worn when I am out working up a sweat. I guess there's no denying it now.

Action 404 - Experience A Different Race.

As promised, after I finished my running the La Jolla Half Marathon today, I stayed behind to cheer on everyone who finished behind me. Mr. Run Jester Run, Ed Ettinghausen, gave me a heads-up about what to expect.
You want to know a little secret? The satisfaction that comes from being there at the finish and cheering each runner in is rewarding beyond what words can describe. Every time someone thanks me for being there for them, I think to myself, “No, I should be thanking you!” You’ll see. I’m warning you, it’s addicting.

Action 404 - Experience A Different Race. And I really did. As I wrote on a status update today, if you want excitement, watch the winners of a half marathon. If you want to see pure emotion, watch the last finishers across the line.

I did that today and it was amazing. I saw experienced runners that, I imagine, were recovering from injuries and were way behind their usual pace. I saw first time runners, many at the beginning of their physical fitness journey, struggling to keep moving. And I saw more than one runner being carried, literally, arms wrapped around the shoulders of two other runners and all moving together towards the finish line.

I cheered for every single one of these runners. And the reactions were often very similar. First, denial. They didn't think the cheers of "Good job, runner! You can do it!" were for them. When they realized the cheers and clapping was for them, they tried to see who was cheering without being obvious. Then we made eye contact and my cheering continued. "You're doing great, keep going!" And then, the best reaction imaginable. A big, wide smile crossed their face and they waved and said, "thank you!"

I understand what Ed was saying about this experience being addicting. I got to see the faces, one after another, of people truly giving everything they had to run down a goal. And for a moment, they knew what it felt like to have the crowd cheer along as they made their way to their finish.

And one other thing I noticed. At first, I was one of many cheering fans. People were waiting for their own runners, so they were happy to clap and yell and support those coming in. But once their person ran by, they left the course and headed over to meet up with them. And soon, it was a very different situation, with very few people standing and cheering. But, as groups of people walked by on their way back to their vehicles, they responded to my cheering a lonely runner by adding their voices. My yelling called their attention to a late finisher, and they cheered, too, as they went by.

Again, Ed, I get it. I was one voice, but that one voice gave other people permission and encouragement to add their own. Positive reinforcement and public support really is contagious.

I share this experience not to make myself the hero, but to thank Ed for inspiring me to do this. I walked away from today's event feeling like I had experienced a whole new type of race. For a few of them, at least, I know I made a difference.

And there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

Edited to Add:
Know this, folks. I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed more than a few tears last Sunday. Partly because the emotions on display were so raw and authentic, partly because I recognized the fear and anxiety on the faces as my own expression from just two years ago... when the thought of running a mile was overwhelming and scary.

("Look at the fat guy running. Sheesh!"
~ The voices I imagined I would hear if I dared to run.)

So, if you see me next time cheering on the last finishers, and I'm wiping my face, it's just drops of "I am so proud of these runners" in my eyes.

Action 403 - Gimme Ten.

This morning, I ran the La Jolla Half Marathon. I finished a difficult course with a respectable time, and I'm proud of my performance today.

Today was special for another reason, though.

Action 403 - Gimme Ten.

Yep, today was my 10th half marathon. I've now been running for about sixteen months, and it's still a bit surreal to think about where I am today compared to where I was when I started.

My first half marathon was in March 2011. I ran the Safari Park Half and I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace required. I just knew I would be swept. I was being paranoid. I ran a solid 2:09 and had an amazing first run.

Since then, I have run the San Diego Rock and Roll Half, the New Year's Double Half Marathons, Los Angeles 13.1, Carlsbad Half, Palm Springs Half, San Diego Half, Hollywood Half, and now, La Jolla Half. Ten half marathons in all, and I am proud of each and every one of them.

Thank you to the amazing friends who joined me along the way. Because of you, I had the nerve to step up, sign up, show up, and not give up. It's been 134 miles of sweat and, if I'm being honest, complete and total awesomeness!

And this ride continues next Sunday when I take on the OC Half Marathon. Time to start running down the next ten!

Action 402 - Climb Every Mountain.

I have been talking about it for a while, but now, it's a done deal.

Action 402 - Climb Every Mountain.

Okay, so maybe I wasn't climbing mountains today. But I was running up hills. And it was a challenge. Here's a great description, courtesy of FitnessFitale.
The La Jolla Half Marathon is the most hilly half marathon course in San Diego. If you Google “most difficult half marathon in San Diego,” the La Jolla half magically appears as the first search result. Above is an image of the elevation of the course. It begins at the Del Mar racetrack/fairgrounds and ends in La Jolla Cove. There is an 80 foot hill at mile 1.5, a 190 foot hill beginning at mile 3, a massive 420 foot hill (Torrey Pines hill – which is actually a hill that people hike up normally) at mile 6 (which doesn’t end until mile 7.5), and finally, a 150 foot hill to give you a swift kick in the ear at mile 12.5. At least the finish is downhill!

I struggled up the third hill. About half way up, I realized that I could walk up the incline and move nearly as quickly while expending far less energy, so I did. And I was still passing people.

With the hills came some descent, and I made up a good bit of time there. Overall, I ran 13.33 miles in 2:14:55, which means a 10:03 pace for the half marathon.

I'm absolutely thrilled with that time and performance.

I have no desire to run La Jolla Half Marathon again, but I am definitely glad to know that I have done it once.

Next up in the Triple Crown Series? America's Finest City Half Marathon in August. And I'll be ready.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Action 401 - Do The Deed.

It's 5:30am and I'm sitting in my car in the Del Mar Fairground parking lot.


In less than two hours, I'll be across the Start Line and on my way to La Jolla.

Action 401 - Do The Deed. Running, I mean.

Because that is really what this is all about. At the end of the day, this isn't about prep work or eating right. It isn't about expos or medals. And it isn't about mornings at the gym or nights spent packing a bag. It's all about the running.

For two and a half hours, give or take, I'll be on the road. I'll be repeating the same basic motion, putting one foot in front of the other, covering mile after mile until I'm at the Finish Line. In that time, my thoughts will wander. I'll think about everything, and the good stuff twice. I'll miss friends and wish for running partners. I'll admire the view and curse the hills. I'll sing along to music and make up stories in my head about the other runners.

All the while, though, I'll run.

And there is something very pure and authentic in that for me. Regardless of whatever else is happening in this great big world, I know what is ahead for me.

Excuse me, now. I've got to run.

Action 400 - Stick With The Routine.

I drive my husband crazy. I know I do. But there are just some things that he has learned to put up with.

The night before a race, I try to get myself organized early. I drag out the clothes I'm wearing, the gear I'm bringing, and the food and snacks I'll need before I leave in the morning. At this point, I am ahead of schedule. It's hours before I need go to bed and I'm doing great.

Fast forward to 10:30pm. Everything is still spread out across the bed, I have nothing actually ready to go, and I can't go to sleep even if I wanted to because there is no room for me to lay down. And then I freeze.

Action 400 - Stick With The Routine.

This is the point where I walk out, find my husband, and ask him to come into the bedroom for just a moment. He sighs and gets up, reluctantly, because he knows this will take way more than a moment.

He sits down on the far side of the bed and stares at me. I proceed to walk myself through my verbal checklist while grabbing up each item.

I'm wearing the orange shoes, the black shorts and this orange shirt.

Those items go into the bathroom, where I'll dress in the morning.

I'll wear these sweatpants and this jacket on the drive up there and before I start.

Those items go into the bathroom.

At this point, I pick up my bag and get ready to load it up.

I'm running with my iPhone but I'll bring the Shuffle just in case.

Those items go into the bag. 

I'm running with my hat and sunglasses but bringing my Halo headband just in case.

Those items go into the bag.

I'll eat this bar and this pack of GU in the morning, this GU on the run.

Those items go into the kitchen on the counter.

I'll put my car keys by the food so I know where they are.

Back I go into the kitchen to put the keys down.

Oh, I'll put my water bottle there, too,  so I don't forget it.

Back I go into the kitchen to put my water bottle down.

I need my RoadID,  my license, my credit card and cash, just in case.

Into the bag they go.

I need the course map and the parking information.

Into they bag they go.

Oh, crap. Where is my bib holder?! I need that. And where's my bib?!

I take them off the bed where I had set them earlier and put them in the bag.

My iPad is charged and ... wait, where are my reading glasses?!

Right where I left them, then into the bag.

Okay, I think I'm ready.

You'll notice that at no time did my husband do or say anything to help the process. And that is what makes him crazy. He doesn't understand why I need him to be in the room when I pack up.

It's simple. If he is in the room, I don't feel like a fool talking to myself. One by one, I call everything out and check it off my mental list.

That is my routine. And it works, so I'm going to stick with it.

Action 399 - Choose To Start.

The La Jolla Half Marathon is a point-to-point race, meaning it starts at one location and ends at another. In this case, it starts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and ends at La Jolla Cove. To lessen the impact of all those people at one end or the other, the race organizers offer free bus service before the race and after the race. And that leaves me with a decision to make.

Action 399 - Choose To Start. At least, I choose to drive to the Start Line, run my race, and then take the bus back to the Start.

All week I was sure that I would do the opposite, park at the Finish Line and shuttle to the Start. I gave it a lot of thought this evening and I realized I was making a mistake. I am an early riser and I get to events very, very early. If I shuttle up, I will be standing around for an hour and a half before the event. But if I drive to the start, I can sit in my car, play with my iPad, and relax comfortably until it is time to queue up.

After the race, I won't be fighting a lot of traffic, either. I plan to stay at the Finish Line until the last runner crosses (approx 11:00am), and the last bus departs at noon. So by the time I am ready to go, most of the other folks will be long gone.

This works for me. I just needed to think it through.

Photo courtesy of

Action 398 - Remember What Lasts.

I went to La Jolla this morning to pick up my race package. I was in and out of the expo quickly, so I decided to take a few minutes and check out the view. It was truly spectacular.

As I sat there watching the waves come in and out, one idea became clear in my mind.
This happens all the time. Day in, day out. Hour after hour. The water rushes in and the water rushes out. All the buildings and the people and cars that pass by, they come and go. But the waters continues to crash against the shore. Of all the things here, the water is what lasts.

Since I had just come from the half marathon packet pickup, it's no surprise that the thought clicked for me on a personal level, too.

Action 398 - Remember What Lasts.

I've changed my life by eating healthy and being active. I've run short and long distances, logged miles on the treadmill, biked all over town and pushed and lifted weights for hours. But all of those things are short-term, one-off moments. I have a great workout. I run a fast half marathon. I finish a two hour bike ride. Those are great moments and I'm proud of myself for making them happen, but when they are over, that's it.

What lasts? Me. My body. And it's healthier each time. What lasts is the long-term effects of each of those moments. Running a half marathon is a great experience, yes, but the benefits continue long after I cross the finish line. And a single workout leaves me feeling good, sure. But the long-term benefits of a leaner, stronger core will continue to benefit me long after the trainer and I part ways.

The individual moments are fleeting, and I will continue to enjoy each and every one. But I will also spare a thought to what lasts. I am doing more than collecting medals and photo opportunities. I am also building a healthy body that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

And that is an action I can be proud of.

And The Team Name Is...

Our group of Ragnar runners has really gone round and round with team names. We had funny ideas, we had serious ideas, and we had a few just out-and-out crude ideas. But finally, after hundreds of amazing suggestions (literally, hundreds, from a teammate's blog readers after she invited them to help us) and multiple rounds of voting, we decided on a name. And as promised earlier, it's time for the big reveal:

Weapons Of Mass Reduction!

Get it? Because as a team, we've lost over 1200 pounds. That is a lot of mass that we have reduced.

But now comes the tough part for me. I need a nickname. For example, one of our runners is named Allison, and she might be A-Bomb.

I've thought of a few - Carb Killer, J-Bomb, Gaydar, Glitterbomb - but they seem a little too... you know... meh. I don't love any of them.

So, let's hear it. Someone out there is brilliant and clever.

Action 397 - Follow Instructions.

Every race can be just a little bit different. And the same is true of every Health and Fitness Expo and Runner Packet Pickup. There really is only one way to make sure you are good to go on the day of the event.

Action 397 - Follow Instructions.

The La Jolla Half Marathon mails a preprinted postcard to each registered runner a week before the race. Each runner must bring that postcard, plus their photo identification, to the Expo the day before the race. If you do that, you can be in and out of the expo and on your way in a matter of minutes.

But if you fail to follow instructions, you can enjoy a long line outside of the venue, like these people.

Yep. They are standing in the "no postcards" line. After they sort out whatever mess that is, they will then be allowed into the expo to stand in another line.

Follow instructions. It's generally a good idea.

Action 396 - Take Those Hills.

I knew that running the La Jolla Half Marathon was going to be a challenge. But seeing this elevation chart? Whew. Not gonna lie. This makes my stomach flip.

The first hill before Mile 2, no big deal. The second hill to Mile 4, not too bad, but that descent afterwards will be tough on the knees. But the third hill? Wow. That is going to be a tough run. It starts about halfway through the course so I should still be in pretty good shape. The drop-off at Mile 10 is also going to be hard on the knees, but I will still enjoy it more than I did the run up. And the last mile? Uphill? Now that's just uncalled for. *laughing*

If you follow my race progress tomorrow via Facebook, know this. My goals are to have fun, run safe, and run strong. And in that order. I am going to give everything I have to this course, and I will walk away confident and proud no matter how fast or slow my overall time is.

I will take those hills.

(Graph courtesy of

Friday, April 27, 2012

Action 395 - Know Rock Bottom.

I called a friend of mine today. She's moved a pretty good distance away, and I miss her. Today, for whatever reason, she was on my mind, so I called her. Turns out, she is having a bit of a rough time. Her circumstances are her own to share (or not to share), and the specifics aren't important for this action. It's enough to say that she has been feeling down and is struggling a bit to get back on track.

Action 395 - Know Rock Bottom. Or more accurately, know what isn't rock bottom. She has some problems that she needs to sort out, absolutely. But she is nowhere near rock bottom. She still has a home, a car, food on the table, and every opportunity to sort her affairs. She is not homeless, helpless, or friendless.

And that, of course, got me thinking about my own recent descent into darkness. I look back on my life this past December and how everything seemed so overwhelmingly bad. I felt like I was bottoming out. And yet, like my friend, I was nowhere near that depth.

And as we talked about her situation and my own, it became clear that neither one of us would ever be that low. Even if our own situations seemed hopeless, we would still have a strong support system of friends. We would never be out on the street. We would never be hungry. We would never be in a place where we were truly at rock bottom.

That's a pretty powerful realization. Not everyone in this world can say, with certainty, that they have a circle of friends and family that would be there for them in their darkest hours. My friend can say that. And I can say that.

I know rock bottom. And I know I will never be there. That knowledge makes me stronger. And for that, I am grateful and thankful.

(Image courtesy of

Action 394 - See How Far I've Come.

September 1, 2011. Nearly eight months ago. That's when I registered myself to run the La Jolla Half Marathon. At the time, I had successfully run a Super Spartan, a Tough Mudder and two half marathons. I registered because I had decided to chase the Triple Crown, and there was no way to get there without taking on the challenge of La Jolla's hills.

Action 394 - See How Far I've Come. It's almost like I've become a completely different person. Since I registered in September, I have also ran the Marine Corps Marathon, the Carlsbad All Day 25k and seven half marathons.

More important than the events is the mindset I take with me now into a new event. I'm not afraid of it. I may do well or I may struggle, but I'm not afraid. I have matured enough as a runner to understand that not every race will be a PR. I won't walk away from every event thinking, "wow, that was my best event ever!"

What I will walk away with, each and every time, is the knowledge that I ran the best race I could, on the course that was there, at the time I ran it. I won't second-guess myself or beat myself up if my race isn't perfect.

I've come a long way, indeed. I no longer feel like I have something to prove to myself nor to anyone else. I am no longer running away from anything. These days, when I run, I am experiencing the miles and the moments and the joy of running.

Jeebus, did I really just write, "... the joy of running"?!

Wow. Even I was not clear on just how far I have come. Very well, then. Get ready, La Jolla. I'm coming for you.

Action 393 - Honor Heroes (Mile 20).

I am dedicating each mile that I run in the Pasadena Marathon to another Marine Corps hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice, so that in my own small way, they may be honored, acknowledged, and remembered.

Action 393 - Honor Heroes (Mile 20). I will run mile twenty in honor of Cpl Seamus Davey. A warrior to his last breath, his sacrifice saved the lives of his fellow Marines. His bravery and service were recognized with the awarding of the Bronze Star.
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the BRONZE STAR MEDAL (Posthumously) to


for service as set forth in the following


For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as a Reconnaissance Scout, Team 2, 7th Platoon, 2d Force Reconnaissance Company, Regimental Combat Team 2, 2d Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 04-06. On 21 October 2005, in Abu Hyatt , Iraq , Corporal Davey's team was tasked with conducting point raids and the cordon and search of over 70 buildings that were known to be a staging area for foreign fighters and insurgents. Upon entering a house, his team was ambushed by four enemy gunmen at ranges of less than ten feet. Corporal Davey was struck by multiple rounds and collapsed to the ground. Ignoring his wounds, and without regard for his safety, he continued to engage the enemy. Corporal Davey's suppressive fire drew the enemy's attention from his fellow Marines, thereby allowing them to safely withdraw from the room. Corporal Davey continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded. By his zealous initiative, courageous actions, and exceptional dedication to duty, Corporal Davey reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

The Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.
For the President,


I will run this mile in honor of this fallen warrior and fellow San Diego resident. He is missed by all who knew and loved him. Semper Fi, Corporal.

Marine Cpl. Seamus M. Davey died October 21, 2005 serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was 25, of Lewis, N.Y.; assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve's 4th Force Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Reno, Nev.; attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward); killed Oct. 21 while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the vicinity of Haqlaniyah, Iraq.

(Photo courtesy of; summary courtesy of

Action 392 - Watch The Road.

Sunday is the La Jolla Half Marathon. I only signed up because I want the San Diego Triple Crown Medal this year, and I'm already planning to run Carlsbad Half Marathon and the AFC Half Marathon. I've been worried about the hill, though. It's a monster. I knew it was there when I registered, but I just put it out of my head.

Action 392 - Watch The Road. And for the last couple of days, I have been. Why? Because I work on Camino del Mar, and the La Jolla Half Marathon course will take me directly past my office. From my desk, I can look out the window and see the road where I will run less than forty feet away.

This is a first for me. I have never lived or worked on the actual race course before. It's been a bit weird, really. But for better or worse, it's been on my mind for days. And come Sunday, I'll run that road, climb that hill, and secure that medal.

Come on, La Jolla Half. I'm ready.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Action 391 - Wake Up Grinning.

Sure, it sounds weird. But yesterday was just that sort of day. Everything went my way. Work was great, the movie project updates were exciting, and on and on. Really, all the interactions I had were fantastic. And when does that ever happen?

Action 391 - Wake Up Grinning. And I did. I woke up, popped out of bed, and thought, "I can't wait to get this day started."

It's amazing what a little good news and a better attitude can do for a guy, eh?

Action 390 - Bite Off More Than I Can Chew.

Uh-oh. Today's lesson? Do your homework.

I just posted a challenge to myself and to another Marine, another example of me finding any way possible to raise more money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. I saw a link to this Marine's fundraising page on my own, since we both registered to raise money for the same charity. I also saw that he was $1,000 ahead of me and on his way to his own goal of $3,000.

What I didn't see was exactly who this Marine is. In my mind, he was just another Devil Dog trying to do a good deed for others in need. And I still believe that to be true. But I didn't see that he is not just another Marine. He is a Lt. Colonel, a decorated and seasoned Marine with more accomplishments in his mini-bio than I have yet to imagine for my whole life. And currently, he is the Marine Attache at US Embassy, London.

Here's a little bit more about him from The Carr Center For Human Rights:
LtCol Don Thieme (US Marine Corps) is a career Infantry and Reconnaissance Officer.  He has served extensively in Asia, the Middle East and Europe in billets from Platoon and Company Commander to Regimental Executive Officer and War Plans Chief for all Marine Forces Central and Pacific Command.  He was an Olmsted Scholar at the Jagiellonian University (Poland), and completed both the School of Advanced Warfighting and MIT Seminar XXI programs. He has written, published and lectured at Tufts, United States Military Academy and other venues on military ethics, the lessons of the Holocaust, ethnic relations and broad variety of tactical and operational level issues.

Action 390 - Bite Off More Than I Can Chew. And boy, I did. I already donated $5 to his fundraising and I included a link to my own blog challenging him.

But I'm not backing down. I still believe in doing whatever it takes to promote this cause, even if my doing this challenge is a bit like this penguin rattling the polar bear.

Alright, my friends. I'm looking at you to help me here. You can donate directly at my fundraising page. The marathon is May 20th, so turn to!

Action 389 - Go For More.

Yesterday, I proudly (and gratefully) announced that I had reached my fundraising goal of $1,775 for the Semper Fi Fund. And I have spent the last twenty-four hours feeling relaxed that I had successfully met the challenge I created weeks ago. But really, what Marine is ever satisfied with just meeting a challenge?

Action 389 - Go For More. I checked out my fundraising page and I saw that another Marine, Don Thieme, has raised more money than I have. Nearly $1,000 more, in fact. And he also included this story about Marines he met while in the hospital:
Several years ago after a car accident, I had a chance to spend five weeks hobbling around Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.  I listened to many many Marines, some fairly lightly injured, others fighting for their lives, tell me their stories.  They were many varied and all humbling - but nothing could compare with the three Marines, greviously wounded, in the Intensive Care Unit in their individual "pods."  The medical staff thought they were certain to die, but a decision was made to pull all three of them into the center of the ICU where they could see and hear each other.  Within 36 hours, all three had made "remarkable" recoveries to begin their individual pathways to recovery.  When asked afterwards, each said "Once I knew my buddy was okay and had survived, I had something to fight for."

This simple story is so authentic, so powerful. I don't know any of the three Marines involved but I am already emotionally invested in their service, sacrifices, and amazing recovery.

I have so much respect for Don Thieme and his ongoing efforts to raise money for Semper Fi. And it is because of that respect that I want to try to raise at least as much money as he has. I think of this as a friendly challenge with the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund winning either way.

On this blog. On Facebook. On the news. At the Expo. I will talk about this cause anywhere and anytime, to any and all who will listen. The work they do is so important, and the Marines they serve so worthy, that pushing for more donations is the very least I can do.

Good luck, Don. I'm coming for you. Semper Fi!

(And I'm going to donate $5.00 to Don's campaign to get his attention. Sure, it will likely fire him up and get him to kick his own fund-raising into double-time mode. But it will make it more of a fair fight and increase the overall money coming to the charity. And that's a good thing.)

Step Right Up!

Have you ever wondered how sporting events like marathons or triathlons happen? No, I don't mean who plans or organizes them. I mean, do you know the single most important part that makes or breaks an event? Volunteers. They are the heart and soul. And for one day, I had the opportunity to see an event through their eyes.

The Ragnar Relay series rolled through Southern California last week. Runners left Huntington Beach on Friday, April 20th and ran through the night to Coronado Beach the following afternoon. I signed up for two volunteer shifts, so I was able to work at an Exchange Point and at the Finish Area.

First up was the 4:45am - 10:30am shift. My original plan was to get to sleep early the night before, but that really didn't work out so well. By the time 1am rolled around, I realized that sleeping at the house wasn't really going to work. So I loaded up the car and drove over to the Exchange area. And that's when I saw the signs that read, "No Parking Between 2am and 4am."

Drat. It was nearly 2am and I didn't want to drive back home, so I pulled into the Hilton parking lot and slept a couple of hours. Then, at 4am, I started driving up and down the road, looking for any sign of an exchange. Finally, I saw it. It was off in the distance, but I know an Exchange when I see one.

It was just a couple of trash boxes, some orange traffic cones and a bit of tape, but it was an Exchange starter kit. I pulled my car right up in front of it and left my headlights on, thinking that it might make it easier for the other volunteers to find the site if I lit it up a bit. No, not so much. It didn't really help. And I still had a while before anyone else showed up. By 6am, though, the coordinator and the other volunteers were all present and accounted for.

We talked over the different assignments, set up the exchange, donned our safety vests, and were officially open for business. And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Turns out, the heat the day before had taken a toll on the teams. The heat index for the mid-afternoon made the temperatures feel like 110 degrees, and the runners were all slower than expected.

Still, our merry group of volunteers was ready to see the Ragnar teams arrive.

And they did, slowly but surely.

We called out numbers cheered on runners, offered up our own water to teams without, and generally tried to share the Ragnar spirit. By 10:15, when our replacements arrived, we had seen fewer than twenty-five teams. It was going to be a very busy afternoon at Exchange 32.

But not for me. I bid the folks farewell and headed off to my second assignment at Coronado. (I stopped at home enroute, though, because I knew there would be breakfast made for our weekend guests. Blueberry pancakes for the win!)

After a fuel stop, I made my way down to Coronado Island. It was a bit overcast there, but I knew that would be a welcome relief to the already-heat exhausted runners.

My first assignment was at the water tent near the finish line, but I was soon asked to help out with the loading of the Ragnar truck. It was a busy few hours of lifting, sorting, stacking, carrying and hoisting. But that's the reality of volunteering for an event like this. There is heavy lifting to be done and the volunteers are the ones who get it done.

Here's the truck with just a bit of what gets packed into it:

And here are just a few of the traffic cones and bases that had to be offloaded from the vans and staged for the next truck:

It wasn't easy work, but I learned my lesson. Volunteers put in long hours and make it possible for runners like me to come out, enjoy an event, and walk away without a thought to the work it took to happen.

Thank you, Volunteers. I will not take you for granted again, believe it.

Action 388 - Show 'Em My Good Side.

This is the home page of the website for Crown City News.

Welcome to Crown City News. CCN provides in-depth local TV & Online News for Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley.

I share this today because of an email I received from a reporter with CCN. I'm not sure how, but she found out that I am raising money for Semper Fi Fund as part of my training for the Pasadena Marathon, and she asked if would be available for an on-air interview the morning of the event.

Action 388 - Show 'Em My Good Side. Yep, you better believe I said yes. One, I love attention. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Two, and this is much more important, this will be my chance to spread the word about the Semper Fi Fund and all the amazing things they do injured Marines. It's a way for me to take the kindness and generosity of all my friends and multiply it by all the people who will see the newscast and view the website.

Thank you in advance, CCN, for considering the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund important enough to share with your viewers. I am honored to speak with you and share their story.

Action 387 - Celebrate A Non-Scale Victory.

Back when I was still carrying a lot of extra weight, I thought that the scale was the end all, be all of being healthy. If I stood on the scale and the number was high, I was fat. If I could just get it low enough, I'd feel like I was thin. What rubbish.

Sure, the weight matters. But it's just one indicator of fitness and health. There are far better ways to determine if I'm moving in the right direction.

Action 387 - Celebrate A Non-Scale Victory.

This is the watch I bought to celebrate completing the Marine Corps Marathon.

See the wrist bone there? Yeah, that's because the watch keeps sliding down my arm. The watch used to fit snugly above the break of the wrist, but after the last couple of months of eating better and working out consistently, it feels too loose.

And I like it.

Action 386 - Feel Pity.

A friend of mine is currently dealing with a complete and total idiot. This friend, Jane, reached out to vent about someone who is being completely unreasonable (Jack). I know the friend and I know the other person, and my first reaction was to be pissed off at Jack. But the more I think about it, the less angry I get.

Action 386 - Feel Pity. It's true. I can't get over the fact that Jack is just a miserable, sad little man who won't accept responsibility for his words and actions, blames the world for everything bad that happens to him, and is unable to develop and maintain mature, adult relationships.

It sounds like I'm venting, and that isn't my intent. I'm just surprised that I'm not really angry at this person, despite his attacks on my friend. I'm sorry for him and a little sad at the realization that he is beyond any kind of rational conversation.

They say that the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. And I see now that is how I am feeling about Jack. After years of watching him yank my friend around, and a couple of years trying to maintain a friendship of my own with him, I get it now. He isn't worth any kind of affection... nor is he worth any kind of anger. He just really isn't worth anything to me.

I feel pity for the person he could be but just isn't. Beyond that, I won't really be thinking about him at all going forward. And I really hope my friend, Jane, can find her way to that same point soon.

And that right there is my spiritual lesson. I understand this is really my friend's issue to deal with and isn't about me directly. But I can still learn from it. And I choose to walk away and leave him in his sad little place.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Action 385 - Work With My Strengths.

It's been a busy night here at home, but it's also been an interesting experience working on two very different tasks. My husband had to take his final tonight for a Medical Terminology class, and I had a ton of SparkPeople Success Story work to do. What we did was find a way to get everything done while helping the other with the tasks.

Action 385 - Work With My Strengths. I'm very organized and methodical, so it made sense for me to help Ric study for his final. We spent the time reviewing specific material that he had culled from the last couple of months. After he took the final, he spent the next hours helping me by cleaning up photos from members.

Could I have done the photos myself? Sure, but not as fast as he was able to do them. And certainly not as well. And could he have studied on his own? Sure, but not as efficiently as studying with someone else.

I worked with my strengths tonight. And now, at the end of a very long day, Ric and I both have a pretty impressive list of "done!" items to show for it. That works for me.

Action 384 - Do It Because I Want To.

Most of the time, I do the right things. I eat healthy and I work out. But every now and then, I want something very different. Tonight was one of those nights. I wanted a quick dinner (other things to do besides cook) and I wanted an indulgent desert (Ben and Jerry's!).

Action 384 - Do It Because I Want To.

I don't blame a bad mood or no time or work stress or someone else. I don't even blame myself. I wanted something specific and I let myself enjoy it.

And now, I feel way too full and will wake up tomorrow wanting my regular, healthy foods.

Balance, John. Balance.

Action 383 - Cry At The Office.

It's a beautiful day here in Del Mar. The sun is shining outside, I'm rocking out to some great tunes, and I'm quickly making my way through a project. What could go wrong? The answer is... absolutely nothing. It's more a question of what has just gone amazingly right.

Action 383 - Cry At The Office. Why? Because I just received an email informing me that I have now met my fund-raising goal of $1,775 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. More amazing is the fact that I reached it when a single person donated $650. And he donated that in the name of his father, former Active Duty Marine Norman Husk.

This Marine left us in December, and his son has chosen my run and this charity as a way to honor his Father's service to his beloved Corps and this nation. And I am so grateful, not only for the donation which enabled me to meet my goal, but also for the opportunity to be part of a tribute to another Marine.

Thus, the tears at the office. Thinking about everyone who donated to this amazing cause... thinking about the difference every single dollar makes to the Marines in need... and thinking about each of those people, givers and receivers, running the marathon with me in spirit. And thinking about the long, long line of proud Marines and my honor at being one link in that chain.

It's a lot to take in all at once. But I am clear on one thing. I will run the Pasadena Marathon proudly sporting my Semper Fi Fund tech shirt, honoring Marines past and thinking of Marines still with me today. I consider each of you my Brothers and Sisters and am humbled by your service and sacrifices.

Semper Fi, indeed.

Action 382 - Honor Heroes (Mile 19).

I am dedicating each mile that I run in the Pasadena Marathon to another Marine Corps hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice, so that in my own small way, they may be honored, acknowledged, and remembered.

Action 382 - Honor Heroes (Mile 19). I will run mile nineteen in honor of 1st Lt. Travis Manion. His brave service and ultimate sacrifice saved the lives of other Marines under his command and turned the tide of of a must-win battle. I will run this mile in honor of this fallen Spartan warrior.
During his final patrol mission on Sunday, April 29, 2007, Travis was killed by enemy sniper fire while fighting courageously to defend against an enemy ambush. At his memorial service in Fallujah, an Iraqi Colonel spoke and shared that Travis was his brother, “a brave warrior who never feared the death.” Travis’ mark remains in Iraq and in the hearts of all who honor freedom and service. As a testament to his strong character and leadership, the Iraqis named their operating base Combat Outpost (COB) Manion, one of only a few Iraqi facilities named for an American service member. Travis was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star w/ Valor for his actions in Iraq.

Marine 1st Lt. Travis L. Manion, died April 29, 2007 at age 26, of Doylestown, Pa.; assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died April 29 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

I run this mile, too, in memory of the founder of the Travis Manion Foundation, Janet Manion, who passed on April 24th, 2012, after a valiant battle with cancer. She is again reunited with with her son.

(Photo and summary courtesy of

Action 381 - Delete. Delete. Delete.

I've been grumbling about how busy I am and how crazy my schedule has become. And I'm finding new ways to be more efficient and productive. But one action has been the most helpful.

Action 381 - Delete. Delete. Delete.

When I logged into our Hulu account this morning, we had nearly one hundred shows in our queue. After clear-cutting my way through a lot of garbage, our count is down.

Yep, I cleared nearly 70% of the shows out of the queue. They aren't worth the time it takes to watch them. Instead, I've kept the few that we really enjoy and, when I can, I'll allow myself the luxury of a mini-marathon of the best ones.

This isn't the first time I've dropped shows from my viewing habits, but each time I do it, I get more aggressive. Soon, I'll be down to just a few that I won't live without. (I'm looking at you, BBC.)

This is good. Think of it as another unexpected benefit of this project.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Give That Baby A Name!

You wait all your life for something so precious, so loved. You spend long nights dreaming about the day that your life is complete. You imagine every little detail of something so wonderful finally becoming real.

Action 378 - Give That Baby A Name. Yep, it's time.

Wait, no! Not that kind of baby. I'm talking about our team for Ragnar Florida. I mean, "whew, we're finally going to give that baby a name!"

But no, I'm not going to share it in public, yet. It's really more of a team thing, and we'll reveal it together somehow.

Just know that we have decided. And it's awesome.

Action 380 - Go Crazy.

A running buddy of mine, kind enough to invite me to join her team for my very first Ragnar Relay Race, just posted this on Facebook:
Ragnar Napa?

That's it. Just two words. But immediately, I clicked LIKE. Right after, I checked the Ragnar website to find out the date. And then I began scheming to see how I can somehow afford to sign up for yet another Ragnar.

Action 380 - Go Crazy. It's the only explanation. Why else would I react to the words "Ragnar Napa" like someone rang Pavlov's Bell? I am obviously crazy. Crazy about Ragnar Relays, crazy about the people I meet when I run a relay, and crazy about the experience of living in a van for 36 hours, running through strange cities and towns, and generally having the time of my life.

My friend and fabulous Spark Buddy, Nancy Howard, gave me this sticker that really sums it all up nicely for me.

PS: Denise, I tried saying no to you once before, and we both know how that ended up. I'm going to start checking out those runner assignments right now!

Action 379 - Reach Out And Touch Faith.

I'm a fixer. Talk to me about a problem you are having and I am quick to offer up a solution. Someone talking behind your back? Confront them directly and sort it out. A family member being a jerk? Take the high road and leave them to wallow in their own muck. Co-worker not pulling their weight? Lay it out for them that they need to step up or you'll let them fall.

Oh, yeah, I am all about the solutions. Well, for everyone else, that is. It's only when I try to deal with my own questions that the answers seem elusive. And I'm starting to think that the big mysteries are going to stay that way for me. It might be time for me to approach this whole spirituality thing from a whole new angle. What if the answers aren't to be found in a book or a chapel or a pilgrimage to some exotic land? What if the answers have always been much closer than that?

Action 379 - Reach Out And Touch Faith.

My friend, Leslie, keeps telling me that she thinks spirituality flows from my actions. I tell her that I feel adrift and removed from the power of god, and she tells me that I seem more aligned with god than even I know. Maybe that's true, but it makes for an odd "come to Jesus" moment.

I'm going to continue to be me and stop pursuing some grand spiritual answer. It's time to go back to the basics. I'll ignore the questions and focus, instead, on my own actions. I will strive to be the grace that I seek from this life.

It's a bit of a weird action, even by my own standards. But I need to let go of the idea of an epiphany that changes everything. Life isn't always like that. What I do know for a fact is that many of the people in this world that I love and care for are struggling for reasons of their own, and the very least I can do is listen and encourage them when the opportunity presents itself.

I'll stop chasing faith and, instead, reach out and offer it to others. We'll see where that takes me.
Reach out and touch faith
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own Personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there

Feeling's unknown and you're all alone
Flesh and bone by the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I'll make you a believer

Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess
I will deliver
You know I'm a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith

Your own Personal Jesus
Feeling's unknown and you're all alone
Flesh and bone by the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I'll make you a believer
I will deliver
You know I'm a forgiver
Reach out and touch faith
Your own Personal Jesus
Reach out and touch faith

(Image courtesy of

Action 378 - Go To Extremes.

I had it pretty great. I knew it then. I really know it now. I worked part-time from home, had a flexible schedule, and could easily schedule a two-hour workout or long run.

These days, I'm working full-time in an office, part-time at home, writing material for new classes I am teaching in June at Mira Costa College, running events nearly every weekend and training for the marathon.

Action 378 - Go To Extremes. I went from all the time in the world to no time at all. If I do take some time to myself for fun, I end up falling farther behind on work. Every moment of every day, I'm dealing with the pressure of missed deadlines and backed up timelines.

I honestly don't know how much longer I can do this. I really love what I'm doing, in both jobs, but it's a lot to fit in with everything else already on my plate. I can't let myself get so stressed out about it that I end up resenting the work, because I really, really am excited about it.

Ugh. I'll find a way. Until then, I'll keep going to extremes. Besides, sleep is over-rated, right?


Action 377 - Enjoy A Lobster Lunch.

It's another busy workday and I'm staying in the office for lunch, so it's frozen meal time again.

Action 377- Enjoy A Lobster Lunch. I chose another Healthy Choice meal, this time the Lobster Cheese Ravioli. It was only 270 calories, it tasted pretty good, and you can't be the easy prep and clean-up.

So now I'm full without feeling stuffed. That works for me.

Action 376 - Honor Heroes (Mile 18).

I am dedicating each mile that I run in the Pasadena Marathon to another Marine Corps hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice, so that in my own small way, they may be honored, acknowledged, and remembered.

Action 376 - Honor Heroes (Mile 18). I will run mile eighteen in honor of Staff Sgt. Joseph "Joe" Henry Fankhauser . A career Marine, he had already served four tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Fallujah. He was about three weeks into his second tour in Afghanistan.

I will run this mile in honor of this fallen EOD warrior, dedicated husband and son. Semper Fi, Staff Sergeant.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Fankhauser, 30, of McAllen, Texas, died April 22, in support of combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  He was an explosive ordinance disposal technician assigned to 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

(Photo from Heather Fankhauser via Facebook; summary courtesy of

Monday, April 23, 2012

Action 375 - Be More Colorful.

With the marathon less than 30 days away, I am thinking more and more about how I am going to keep my running fun post-Pasadena. I've decided that I will incorporate shorter runs if they offer something unique and fun. And I've definitely found one that fits the bill.

Action 375 - Be More Colorful. And there's no better way to do it than to sign up for The Color Run.

The Color Run

It's a 5k, yes, but it looks like a lot of fun. And since it is a shorter distance, I think I can get some non-distance running friends to join me.

Bring on the color!