Transfixus Sed Non Mortuus

Here I Stand, Pierced and Transfixed

Browsing Posts tagged exercise

On Saturday, I was able to participate in the Run Scream Run 5k to benefit Hope Clinic. It was a fun race, especially because I hadn’t been running in a while. I didn’t have any sense of where I was at in terms of pace, and I think that made it kind of fun.

The race started out in a back corner of Wiards Orchard in Ypsilanti. I started out pretty quick and went with the flow of people that were around me. The course wound around a little bit of gravel and up towards the entrance to the orchard. A little before the first mile was done, we went across the street and continued on a paved trail out there. It was quite nice, and I felt pretty strong. We passed the first mile point, and I hit the “lap” button on my stopwatch. It said 5:20. I had been hoping for something around the six minute range, so I was a bit surprised. I told myself to slow down a little bit because I know that a race isn’t won in the first mile.

The second mile wound around a field on the south side of Merrit Road, and was fairly flat. I went slower than the first mile, but I still seemed to be passing a lot of people. As the second mile approached, I hit my watch again. This time, I ran 6:44, which was just about right in terms of my overall pace that I wanted to achieve.

I started kicking it in for the last mile when I passed a kid about half my height. He was struggling a little bit, so I said a few words of encouragement, and he then ran up and started running with me. It was fun to hear his feet stamp because he was taking two or three strides to every one of mine, but he was able to keep up pretty good. We wound around for what I thought was the final sprint, and I told him to start pushing it. He did, and then we found out that we still had another quarter mile to go! This quarter mile went through the “haunted” portion of Wiards, so there were people with axes, rolling barrels, monsters, spooks, and all kinds of haunted stuff to run through. It was kind of fun to run through, but I just wish that I had known that I would have had to run through that versus just running to the finish line.

At last, I turned the corner for the finish line! The little kid was a little ways behind me. “Come on,” I said. “We’re there! Let’s sprint!” I started pumping my legs and I could hear him breathing hard and doing the same. There was a crowd of people at the finish line, so I couldn’t hear him after a short while, but I finished quickly and turned around to congratulate my new little friend. He ran a great race!

I came in 19:33 for my final time, and twentieth overall (out of seven hundred and fifty five runners). Overall, it was a lovely race, and I was proud of all the donations I got for Hope Clinic. What fun!

This past weekend, I was able to take an amazing multi-day bicycle adventure to Muskegon, Michigan. Not only was the bicycle trip to be a great adventure, at my destination, I was expectingg to experience the sights, sounds, and wonder that is the Michigan Irish Music Festival! Needless to say, I was pretty excited.

First, please allow me to describe the bike trip. My original plan was to try to do the trip in two days. The basic route showed about 180 miles. I thought I would try to do one hundred miles the first day and eighty miles the next. However, after looking at the route and at my past experience, I thought that might be a bit more than I could handle. I noticed that my route led me near Grand Rapids, Michigan. So, I naturally thought of my sister who is going to school at Grand Valley State University. When I told her about my trip, she offered me the use of her apartment if it worked into my travels. I accepted her offer, especially since it would be a good chance to hang out with her. So, I split my route into three days. The original route had me do one hundred and four miles the first day, fifty five miles the second day, and another fifty miles for the third day. This seemed a lot more reasonable. Additionally, the first day, I would travel the furthest I ever have in one day on a bicycle. I think the furthest I had gone was eighty-some odd miles on my bicycle trip to Chicago.

The night before my big ride, I started packing. I packed all my basic camping gear and food for the journey. I had to make some tough decisions on what I would bring, but after a couple tries at fitting everything and deciding what I didn’t need, I was packed up and ready to go. By this time, it was well past one in the morning, and I had planned to get on the road at eight. So, I crashed into bed and went to sleep.

I awoke a little after eight and realized that I was already running late for my big trip. I took a shower and got myself mentally prepared for the ride ahead. I ate a protein bar and filled up my water bottles and camelbak. Then, I knew I was ready to start the longest bike ride I had ever taken in one day.

I put my bike outside and strapped everything to the back rack, and set off. The time was about nine in the morning. The first part of the ride was uneventful. My route was taking me to Dexter, which I’ve ridden to and through countless times. As I got into Dexter’s downtown area, I was starting to loosen up and I felt like my muscles were ready for the beating I was about to put them through. I felt the sun on my back and felt like the day held endless possibilities. I was quite excited and happy, but alas, that happy feeling was not to last.

Like a cloud that overshadows the sun in an instant, I experienced an immediate challenge. My rear derailleur cable snapped! I was just getting ready to cross onto Island Lake Road just outside Dexter when I heard a large snapping sound and something flew off right in front of me. I swerved off the road to examine what happened. I saw that the cable was frayed and broken right at the point where the cable meets the brake/shifter. When the back derailleur cable is broken, it means that I have to pedal in the hardest gear without the ease of being able to shift to an easier gear. This can be extremely difficult when there are a lot of hills. And I knew there were A LOT of hills between Dexter and my destination.

I got my phone out of my bag which has internet. I tried to search around for a bike shop to fix the problem. The time was about nine thirty. I saw that there was a shop in Dexter that didn’t open till eleven. I figured that would put me much too late to reach my destination before dark. I did find one in Pinckney called Village Cyclery and it didn’t appear to be terribly far out of my way. So, I deviated from my original route and headed into Pinckney.

When I arrived in Pinckney, I had a bit of trouble locating the shop, but I eventually found it…to be closed. I went next door and asked the good people if they knew anything about it, and they said that if his truck wasn’t here, then the owner wasn’t either. I felt pretty discouraged with myself, but I knew that I hadn’t much time to waste waiting for the owner. So, I set out yet again to find my route and to try my best to reach my destination in one piece.

Along the way, there were many steep and seemingly endless hills with which I had an extremely difficult time. I remember looking up at some of the hills like they were impossible mountains. However, as long as I kept moving my legs, I was able to crest them eventually. Sometimes, I felt like I was at a near standstill as I stood up on the pedals and tried to push down as hard as I could to keep the bike going.

Eventually, I reached the village of Dansville, Michigan where I stopped to take my rest. I stopped outside a nice-looking general store/ice cream parlour that had plenty of seating for me to sit on. While I rested there, I looked on my phone for more bike shops. I was feeling pretty discouraged, but thanks to google, I was able to see that Charlotte had two bike shops. There would be a pretty good chance that at least one of them would be open, and like Pinckney was, Charlotte wasn’t terribly far off my route either. I made the decision to go there.

As I started off again, I realized that I was already pretty tired and I was only a little over forty miles into my ride. That was quite discouraging, but I just focused on keeping my legs moving as I traveled up and down the hills, taking whatever the road would give me.

In truth, it wasn’t all bad. There’s something really special to me when I go on those long rides by myself, even when there’s tons of challenges along the way. I was able to see some great countryside that I hadn’t seen before. I really loved the pastoral scenes that would rise up and fall behind me in an ever-moving track of life. I saw strangers living their lives out in various ways, from farmers to utility workers. I remember thinking that there was beauty to be seen everywhere I looked. When the rhythm of what I was doing in each moment filled my consciousness, my tiredness fell away and could feel the joy of being on a journey where every second that I rode was a grand and beautiful thing, even if it was tiring.

I did get one flat tire as I was riding on Kipp Road in Mason, Michigan. It was a slow leak and at first, I thought that road was starting to just get a little rougher. Soon, it got a bit worse and I realized that I ought to at least stop to ensure that nothing was the matter.

When I got off the bike, I could see that my back tire was losing air. So, I removed my packs, flipped my bike over, and examined the back tire. I found a large staple lodged inside the tire.

Staple in Bike Tire

This bit of metal got stuck in my tire


“Well, there’s your problem,” I said to myself. Then, I changed the tire and continued on my way.

An hour or so later, I arrived in Charlotte. I was very happy that Skidmore’s Village Cycle Shop was easy to find and the shop owners were very friendly. They stopped what they were doing and took care of me. A nice lady at the counter helped me by using her computer to map my way back to my original route while the mechanic changed out the broken cable. I was so happy to see everything all ship-shape again.

After I got it fixed, I walked down the street to a park bench. I sat down on the park bench to rest a while and eat some dinner. I ate a grand meal of chia seeds, honey, an apple, and a protein bar. After that scrumptious dinner, I closed my eyes “for just a minute.” I awoke with a start to realize that another twenty minutes had gone by. So, I repacked my bike and headed for the hills.

When I say that I headed for the hills, I mean that literally. There were quite a few hills between Dexter (where my derailleur cable broke) and Charlotte. However, it seemed that there was nothing but rolling hills on the last thirty miles or so of my journey. I was worn out from the hard ride earlier, but the fixed derailleur cable allowed me to continue riding at a decent clip.

I was about one hundred miles into my ride and as I was huffing and pushing myself up a hill, a guy came out of a house and yelled at me. He asked if I had seen his dog, which was black on top with a white belly. I told him that I had not seen the pup. However, a little ways down the road, I saw a black and white animal out in a soybean field. At this point, I was coasting downhill and still breathing hard from the earlier climb. For a second, I thought that I should keep going, but if it were my animal, I would want to know where it was. So, I turned around and went back up the hill that I had been coasting down to tell the owner that it was in the next field. Then, I turned around and started back up the hill that I had just ridden down. As I crested the hill, I saw that the owner had turned around and was heading back towards me, but it appeared that the dog was still in the field. I pointed at it, thinking that perhaps he didn’t see it. He slowed down, and I said, “Isn’t that your dog?” He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Uh, that’s a cat.” I looked back at the animal and it looked like a black-and-white animal, and yes, it probably was a cat because of its height in the soybeans next to it. I looked back at the guy and said, “Oh, my bad.” Then, I continued on my ride while kicking myself for going back in the first place up and down that hill three times. That also goes to show what kind of state my mind was in ten hours into the ride.

Aside from that little incident, I made it to Welcome Woods Campground in Hastings, Michigan. The entire trip (including rest stops) took me ten hours and fifty three minutes. The sun was setting as I pulled into the campground, and I found a campsite off the beaten path a little ways inside the campground. By the time I finished making camp, the sun had passed below the horizon.

I hurried up and cooked dinner in the dark. However, I was so exhausted that I kept falling asleep while I tried to eat the dinner. I kept forcing myself awake because I knew that I had another big day of riding tomorrow. Even if it was only fifty five miles, it was definitely going to be tough after that hundred and eight miles (as it turned out to be when I mapped it out later). At last, I finished my dinner and cleaned up a little bit. Then I drifted off to sleep. Well, actually, I didn’t exactly drift off…it was more like I dropped off the map of consciousness in a moment.

My phone battery was dead because I spent so much time googling and searching for bike shops the day before, so I did not set any alarm. However, I did wake up at nine in the morning without much issue, though my body felt quite heavy and sore.

I gathered my things and got ready to hit the road. My plan for the day was to go to Millennium Park in Grand Rapids for the day and then meet up with my sister after eight in the evening when she got out of class.

The ride to Grand Rapids was a pretty one, and it was much flatter than the day before. There were a couple of monster hills at the beginning, and one in the middle of the ride, but for the most part, it was gently rolling at best. I really enjoyed myself on that portion. The sun was continuing to rise behind me and the world seemed to be waking up all around me as well. I took my time and tried to take it pretty easy after the previous day’s hardship, and that helped make it very enjoyable.

Once I got into Grand Rapids, it wasn’t quite as pretty and there were a lot more cars. I found myself wishing for the long open roads that I had left behind. Nevertheless, I made it to Millennium Park without much incident in a little over three hours.

Millennium Park is a really beautiful place. There’s all kinds of lovely trails and there’s a paved trail that circles the whole park. There’s a large bridge a person can use to got to the Hopewell Indian Mounds State Park as well. When I got on the Indian Mounds’ main road, it looked like a normal two-lane road, but there were signs every once in a while that said “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way.” That’s when I realized that an entire lane of the road is reserved exclusively for bicyclists! I thought that was pretty cool.

After exploring Millennium Park and resting for a bit, I made my way out to Allendale to see my sister, Theresa. She wasn’t going to be out of class for a few hours, but I thought it best to get to my destination, and then I might be able to take some good rest and not feel like I had to get on the bike again any time soon. That ride was a bit of a challenge just because there wasn’t a lot of good roads to get there, and the road that I did end up taking to get into GVSU’s campus (Fillmore Street) had a gigantic hill about eight or nine miles into my ride. But, because I knew it was so close, I powered up it and found the rest of the trip to be fairly flat.

I arrived at GVSU and met up with Theresa and her roommate Mary Kate. They were very hospitable to me. Theresa provided ice for my knees because they were feeling quite sore from all the hard pushing the day before. They also gave me some milk, which tasted lovely after a long day of bike riding. We then went out to dinner at La Pita Fresh. It was Mediterranean cuisine, and I finished off a huge plate of chicken shwarma without any issue. I wasn’t dead tired like the night before, so I was able to stay up talking and watching tv shows with the girls for a little while before I needed to head to bed.

The next morning, I woke up about half seven and started getting ready. Theresa made me eggs, and I made her some oatmeal that I brought with me. I’m pretty sure Theresa wasn’t usually up at that hour, but she definitely was a good host in seeing me off. We shared our breakfast and then I got ready to do my final leg of the trip to Muskegon! After I had bidden Theresa adieu and thanking her for being such a gracious host, I headed off. It was about half eight or nine in the morning.

I got on the busy Lake Michigan road for a mile or two before I was able to take some back roads to the Musketawa Trail. It is a very nice flat trail that runs from Grand Rapids right to Muskegon.

Within a few minutes of getting on the trail, I crossed a road and saw a little sign on the trail that said, “Bridge Ahead.” I thought it rather strange that the builders of the trail felt the need to warn bikers of such things. As I came to the bridge, I saw that it was a wooden bridge with some nice tall handrails. There was a sheet of maybe 3/4″ plywood in the center on top of the rest of the boards. I stayed to the right (off the plywood) and started across at a decent clip, but I soon found the bridge to be a bit wet. My front tire started slipping to the left, which I corrected, but in doing so, my back tire drifted to the left with my correction, and it hit the edge of the plywood in the center. With all the weight of my bags on my back tire, it brought the whole bike over in a half second. I went down hard on my left side and slide off the bridge and onto the pavement on the other side.

“That wasn’t so good,” I thought to myself. First, I made sure that I was okay. Blood was gushing from my elbow and trickling from my knee. Additionally, my left hip and shoulder felt pretty sore, but there didn’t appear to be any real damage. I picked my bike up and got out my first aid kit. I used some antiseptic and bandages on the bloody parts and got cleaned up in about fifteen minutes. Then, I continued on, ruing the time a few moments before where I thought it strange that they would be warning bikers about a “bridge ahead.”

I was traveling slowly on the trail about five minutes later when I heard voice behind me. They seemed to be getting louder at a pretty decent rate. I looked behind me, and I saw four bikers coming up pretty hard upon me. One slowed down to ask me where I was going, coming from, etc. He seemed pretty nice, but I was still in a bit of shock. I just answered his questions and didn’t say much else. Then, the four of them started moving past me. I wished them a good day, but then I thought that it might be easier for me if I drafted off them. They didn’t seem to mind, so that’s exactly what I did.

I got to talking with a few of them, and I found out that they were with Team Traction3, a group of tri-athletes who raise funds to benefit Safe Families for Children. They seemed like pretty awesome guys, and were very inclusive of me. It helped that two were named Jon and two were named Andrew, so the fact that I was a John as well made it that much better. We talked and joked, and I was able to ride with them for probably twenty miles or more, and they made my life much easier!

The Men of Team Traction3

These guys really helped me with the last leg of my trip!

We said goodbye near downtown Muskegon, and they headed north, while I cut west towards Muskegon State Park. Not long after I broke off with the Team Traction3 guys, I was able to find the Lakeshore Trail and make my way to the park. That is a beautiful ride along Muskegon Lake to reach Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan Ahead!

It was great to see Lake Michigan!

I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment as I reached Lake Michigan. I was reminded of my Chicago Trip, though I didn’t immediately jump into the water like I had on the last trip. Instead, I went to the campground and set up camp.

I then took a shower and a short nap to prepare for the Irish Fest, which would be starting that very evening…

On Greatness

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Greatness. It’s just something we made up. Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few, for prodigies, for superstars. and the rest of us can only stand by watching. You can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It is not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it, all of us.

I am putting this up here for my brother-in-law who does not run (yet), but wants to do the Tough Mudder next April.

My method is basically what I’ve used in the past for my own training, and also when I was “coaching” my little sister when she was running, but I also took a lot from the couch-to-5k and some half-marathon training books in terms of using “run/walk” ratios. I think the combination of all these should actually yield a very good result.

Some things I will try to remember to tell him:

  • The most important thing is to DO IT.  It’s really important to keep it up.  I know you can, and I know you will be ecstatic with the results.
  • The first few weeks may seem incredibly easy and you may want to do more than what I’ve set down here.  However, I would really recommend trying to follow the spreadsheet as closely as possible, even if you feel better on a some days and feel like you could go farther. Talk to me if you deviate from it and based on where you are at, I might be able to make a new one for you to still get you there in time, and hopefully without injury.  We can reevaluate it around February to see where you are at and if any changes need to be made
  • Nearly all the workouts have stretching before and after each workout.  Here’s the ones that I would recommend: http://running.about.com/od/stretchesforrunners/tp/stretchesforrunning.htm
  • The “fourth workout” of each week will be the one that will require the most time from you, so set aside either a Saturday or a Sunday for that one.  The rest of the workouts shouldn’t take longer than an hour to an hour and a half though you may want to plan for two hours as we get into march and april.  It will take less than an hour as you start out, but keep in mind not to schedule yourself too tightly.
  • As I’m sure you know, the best way to train is to spread the workouts out as evenly as possible with rest days/”off-days” between workouts.  However, given that there’s four to five workouts per week, you will have to double-up on some days.  I designed it so that for the most part, the best time to double-up would be between the first and second workout of the week, but most of the other days should not be too strenuous if they work better with your schedule.
  • I would recommend running a 5k one to two months before the tough mudder.  Though the tough mudder is a different animal entirely, I find it really helpful to have people I know go through at least one race beforehand to get a feel for running with others.  My suggestion is the Shamrocks and Shenanigans race downtown Ann Arbor.  It’s situated perfectly on March 11, 2012.  There’s more info on that here: http://www.runshamrocks.com
  • I have at least one day of walking each week.  That might be a great time to get the whole family walking.  I’ve found that even if it’s once a week, if I walk or run with people, it helps me train better during the rest of the week.

One thing not on here is the cross-training that he might want to do on one or two of his “off-days,” but I will leave that up to him. I’ve found in the past that what I like to do to cross-train isn’t what other people like. I think that it’s important that it’s something they want to do since it’s hard enough following the four (or five) day workout prescriptions.

Any further comments or critiques would be appreciated!

Spreadsheet link: http://tinyurl.com/cnzpkqs

Update: He did very well at his first ever Tough Mudder!

This Heat

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The heat index yesterday was well over 90 degrees with some very extreme humidity. I rode my bicycle down to Tecumseh to see my family, but since the temperature was so high, I carried about sixty extra ounces of water (as well as twenty ounces of iced tea for electrolyte replenishment).

I felt confined in my shirt so I put sunscreen on and rode shirtless. Every few minutes, I took a gulp of water from my water bottle on my bike. I made sure to “take what the road give me” by not pushing myself too hard and coasting lightly on the downhills.

After about an hour of riding, I stopped to take a rest. My body was sweating profusely, but I felt quite good. I didn’t have that “I’m dying from the heat” feeling, nor did I have the extremely cold feeling that accompanies overheating and then stopping quickly. I sipped on some iced tea for a minute and set off again.

As I continued on, I started to think how amazing my body really is. It really has some marvelous engineering. Unlike a dog that overheats and has to lie in the shade, I can cool down by just taking in more and more water. I can take long slow breaths or really fast breaths to cool myself and oxygenate my blood. The rest of the ride was pretty good, and I felt like I was able to judge where my body was at in terms of exhaustion, heat dissipation, muscle strength, etc.

In looking back at my life, I realize that I didn’t always like my physical body as much as I do now. Even if my exterior hasn’t changed all that much, I now realize how cool it is to have a body that works well. This new outlook may be the result of knowing how hard it is to come back from physical therapy (twice), or maybe it is because my mental/spiritual side of things takes my physical side into account more. I’m not entirely sure I can put the changes in me into words, but I do know that I like it.

The Twinkie Run 5k

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On Friday, I ran in the twinkie run five kilometer race over at Gallup Park. It’s put on every year by “Ann Arbor Active Against ALS (http://www.a2a3.org),” which is a group that provides funds for research in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease.

You might be wondering why it is called the twinkie run. I don’t know how or why it got started, but for every twinkie consumed during the race, you get a 60 second time deduction off your finishing time. Since I do love doing silly things (and this certainly seems silly), I signed up!

The weather was actually pretty good for a race. There was a slight wind from the WNW at like 10mph or so, which I duly noted before the race by licking my finger and sticking it up into the sky. The temperatures were in the high forties or low fifties and the sun was blazing brightly. All in all, it was a beautiful spring day.

I felt a bit unsure of myself as my friends and I walked up to the starting line. I was holding the first twinkie in my hand. I spoke with my friend Alf about what would be the best way to eat a twinkie while racing. You could just try to swallow it down whole. Perhaps a two or even a three-bite gulp would be best. I myself finally settled on a two-bite gulp, planning on putting each half of the twinkie in my cheeks like a squirrel. Then, I could slowly eat it while I raced.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the idea was to eat it BEFORE I started. Neverthelesss, I did the “squirrel cheek” technique as I started the race. It wound around the south side of the river by Gallup Park and headed east along gallup park road. For the first half mile or so, my mouth felt uncomfortably dry while my saliva tried to work on all that sugary sweetness bubbling around in my throat.

I soon got into the swing of things and I started returning to a bit of normalcy while I turned the corner and started heading back west (and into the wind). I drafted off a couple people, but soon passed them, continuing my increasing pace.

Just as I rounded the corner of the canoe livery, I found that a table had been set up with a bunch of twinkies. There were hundreds of golden spongecakes glistening in their clear plastic wrappings. I must admit that I felt a little queasy at the sight.

There was a gentleman at the “twinkie station” on a megaphone making sure that you stopped and COMPLETELY ate the twinkie before you continued on with the race. I started to scarf it down. The first bite took the twinkie down to half its former size. However, as I frantically chewed, the twinkie didn’t seem to want to dissolve. I didn’t have enough saliva to help with the digestion. My teeth chewed furiously while I looked at what remained of the twinkie. When it was about half-chewed, I chomped off another quarter of the twinkie. “Three fourths of the way there,” I told myself while I frantically chewed. I saw a couple runners start off again, and that made me chew all the faster. At last, I took the last quarter of the twinkie in my mouth and half-chewed, half-swallowed it down.

Another gentleman who arrived at about the same time as me said, “Let’s go.” I opened my mouth to show the referee that I had completely ate the twinkie and then sprinted off. The course was basically a repeat of the previous loop, so I knew the basic way to go. I started off pretty good, but on the long stretch along Gallup Park Road, I began to tire.

There was one person who was drafting off me, and decided to pass me as I slowed down around 2 miles into the race. He said, “Come on” to me, and I mustered some energy and tried to stay with his pace. I felt sick to my stomach and my legs felt like I was working anaerobically, but I stayed with him. We passed around to the north side of the river, and I tried to push it, but my breathing felt ragged and I just felt tired. My new-found friend started to pull away from me by a few strides. However, we crossed under the Huron Parkway bridge, and I decided to “kick it in.” I knew there couldn’t be more than a tenth of a mile left, so I told myself to “GET GOING!” I pushed hard, caught up with my friend, and said, “Come on! Let’s go!” and he started sprinting with me. I eventually passed him about twenty feet before the finish line, and sprinted the rest of the way in.

My time was 20:34 (before taking two minutes off for my two twinkies!). I came in third in my age group (out of ten), and eleventh overall (out of 242).

It certainly was a rather interesting race, and I wonder if I can improve my time next year by practicing how I eat my twinkie!

There’s a nice article here: http://annarborchronicle.com/2011/04/02/monthly-milestone-internet-twinkies/

Also, here’s a great picture from that web site of me trying to finish that last twinkie: Twinkie Run

Indoor Soccer

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I started playing indoor soccer a few weeks ago. As a team, we have started coming together, and I am seeing some marked improvement every week. Our first game, we lost 0-7. The second game, we got 1-8. Our game last Friday was 2-10.

So, in the grand scheme of things, though we are still losing, we are getting more goals. But more than that, I see that we are starting to play our positions, get more open on the field when we need to be, and provide a little bit better defense across the board.

I am looking forward to seeing the improvement throughout the rest of the season!

Yesterday, I participated in the annual Shamrocks and Shenanigans five kilometer race to benefit Mott Hospital’s “Save A Heart.” It has become a tradition of sorts for me. It is the first race of the running “season” for me, and I’ve always looked forward to seeing where I am at in terms of endurance.

This year, the course was changed due to construction in downtown Ann Arbor. I mapped the course on mapmyrun.com to get the elevation. In past years, there have been some pretty steep hills, and it appeared that this year would be the same.

The sky was overcast and the temperatures were in the high thirties or low forties. A cool day by all measures, but I thought to myself that these types of temperatures are just perfect because I’ve been running outdoors since the end of January.

Two of my sisters ran the race with me and we wore matching tee shirts that said “Walsh Rules” with our coat of arms on the back as we had the year before. They and a few friends of mine lined up in the middle of the pack to start the race.

We got to talking and before I knew it, the race had started. There were 1700 people or so, so it took a while before we actually crossed the starting line. The race uses radio chips to track the actual time, so I wasn’t in any hurry to get across the start.

The race began on a slightly sloping uphill along Ashley Street. I quickly moved to the outside left because I knew the first turn would be a left turn, and I wanted to stay on the inside. Once we turned down Washington, I increased my stride for a slight downhill, and had to dodge around a few people who were slowing down. I jumped and ran on a snowbank along the side of the road and cut a little wide on the next turn. The course wound around so that we were heading west on William, where there’s a slight uphill, and then we went back down ashley to jefferson, where there was ANOTHER slight uphill. The course curled around main street to where the first mile marker was. I hit my stopwatch, and checked my lap time: 6:30. That made me think, “Uh oh, I might have went out too fast. I might not have enough at the end.” However, my breathing was still good, and my legs felt pretty good.

There was a long uphill on Main street right after the first mile marker. I ran up that and still felt pretty good. Seeing that I felt so good, I decided that I would just keep the same general pace, and see where that takes me. I drafted off a couple of people who had a similar stride to me because the wind seemed to be coming out of the northwest, causing a cross-wind situation. I find that it’s a lot easier to run if you get in step with someone just off their shoulder. I did that for the remainder of the second mile with only a few exceptions where their pace didn’t match mine. I soon saw the two mile marker up ahead and clocked in at 6:45 for that mile.

I still felt really well for after running two miles, so I decided that I wouldn’t leave any energy on the road. I would really push myself. I climbed the hill on Main Street again and began speeding up at the same time. I stretched out my stride further, trying to utilize my body structure. Soon, I had found a much faster pace than I had been going. I quickly started to tire at this pace, but I kept going. I remember on one of the stretches having a feeling of elation, almost like flying. It was amazing! Soon, I saw the sign for the 3 mile mark (letting me know that there was only 0.1 miles left). I kicked my legs into high gear, and powered up a hill and around a corner, where I could see the finish line. I pushed harder on my sprint and as I crossed the finish line, I hit my stopwatch: 6:45 (for 1.1 miles).

My official “chip” time was 20:02, which was a whole lot better than I expected to do. In my practices, I had been running in the 7:30-8 minute per mile range. However, my average pace on this race was 6:27! I felt tired after the race, but I felt amazed at my time! I am so grateful that I am getting back into shape, especially after the knee problem of two years ago and the shoulder problem of last year! As I mentioned, this race felt really good to me throughout. There was no point where I didn’t want to be out there running. It was actually one of the best races I’ve had in a few years in terms of how I felt, even if it wasn’t the fastest.

I placed 5th out of 98 men in my age group, and 37th out of 1687 runners and walkers.

This weekend was quite an excellent time for me.

First, I was able to go to my cousin Shelby’s wedding on Saturday. The mass itself was in the amazingly beautiful Holy Redeemer Church in Detroit (a few blocks off Michigan Ave). My mom, two sisters, and myself were able to bring the Walsh contingent. We arrived at Holy Redeemer quite early, so we hung out in the parking lot talking. A pack of three pit bulls sauntered by, and we got to talking about some of the wild dogs that must roam Detroit. We weren’t sure if these were wild or not, but we definitely didn’t want to take our chances on trying to catch them! They looked like they were on a mission as they went in single file across the parking lot to the dumpsters, and then moved on. It actually felt like a scene from a documentary about hyenas or something.

We went inside the church a while later, and looked around. I had been there many years ago, and it was nice to remember some of the lovely memories we had there. I had been there before heading off to the St. Patrick’s Day parades that the Walsh/Carey family always used to participate in. We had been there for some of the quinceaneras as well. I remember being taken aback by the sheer size of the church when I was a kid, and even on Saturday, I felt it was quite breathtaking.

After Mass, my family and I went to Fuddruckers because there was a three or four hour break between the Mass and the reception. We had a blast hanging out and talking. My mom parted ways with us after a few hours, so my two sisters and I hung out at the Hotel Fairlane (where the reception was to be).

While we were hanging out in one of the long ornate hallways, we saw an older couple come in. By his stride, looks, and the way he carried himself, I could tell the man was an Irish folk singer. They set up in the lobby where people were congregating before the dinner.

As he started playing, my one sister asked the other, “Isn’t that Charlie Taylor?” His voice sounded very much like him, but the other sister said, “I don’t think so.” I too remembered Charlie Taylor as a larger man with broad shoulders and belly. However, it turned out that we were mistaken. In fact, it was Charlie Taylor himself.

For those of you who don’t know, Charlie Taylor is an excellent Irish folk singer, and was a very good friend of my grandfather’s. He is classically trained in operatic singing, and has a lovely voice. My grandfather gave him his start at Walsh’s bar in Detroit many years ago.

When we found out it was him, we stood nearby for a while. When he sang “Danny Boy,” it immediately brought me back to some of the Irish funerals where he had sung that song while we were interring someone. A little later, I brought my two sisters over and we introduced ourselves to him when he finished a song. He seemed genuinely happy to see us, and said, “Oh, I remember you. Your grandfather and I had some great times!” We talked for a few minutes, and then let him get back to playing his set.

We talked to a few other interesting people, saw some relatives we hadn’t seen in years, and generally had a nice time waiting for the dining area to open.

When the dining area finally did open, we took our seats. At first, my two sisters and I were sitting all alone, but a couple who didn’t have any seats joined us named Andy and Corrine. They seemed like interesting enough folk. However, I was very excited when Charlie Taylor and his wife sat down with us!

Charlie and I talked about the Irish language and everyone soon joined in, laughing about the huge “difference” between pronunciation and they way words are spelled in Gaelic. Charlie talked about some of the moments in his life, and Andy asked about the Old Shillelagh. Charlie talked a bit about how he and another gentleman started it, though he was quick to tell us that he was the one who had come up with the name of the place.

Charlie told the girls the story of the exploding potbelly stove at Walsh’s Bar. I had heard this story before, but it was great to hear Charlie tell it. Basically a gentleman and friend of the Walshes (whose name I’ve forgotten) came in to Walsh’s Bar with a brown paper package of steaks and a few other groceries. When he wasn’t looking some practical jokers switched the steaks out of the package and replaced them with coal. However, they didn’t notice that there were two cans of soup at the bottom. As the gentleman got up to leave, they stole his brown paper package, and started tossing it around the room. They were all laughing and carrying on playing “monkey in the middle” until one clever prankster decided to throw it in the potbelly stove that heated the place. They all had a good laugh about it and explained to the gentleman that they had not actually thrown his groceries in the flame. He was greatly relieved, until a gigantic and resounding explosion rocked the whole scene. The soup cans had exploded from the extreme coal-fired heat. In fact, Charlie told me that the potbellied stove was ruined and had to be replaced.

Charlie gave us lots of other great stories and anecdotes about his life and his travels. Before I knew it, a few hours had passed. Charlie’s dinner didn’t agree with him, so he and his wife left. So, the girls and I went out on the dance floor for a while. We shook our booties and had a great time.

Before we knew it, it was much later than we had planned to stay and we said our farewells. We were able to take my cousin Margo home and talk to her for a little while longer, and then we headed back home.

I woke up the next morning very excited because it was the day of my “2011 Winter Sports Crawl.” I had been planning this event for a long time, and I was very excited. The idea behind a sports crawl is to have multiple games and sports throughout the day. In one way, it is sort of like the olympics, but the biggest difference is that its main idea is that it is a pick-up type game where anyone and everyone plays and is welcome.

We played kickball in the snow at first. We used a sled to make the “track” to roll the kickball. It was kind of fun because the kickball would sometimes jump out of the track at the last second, making the ball really hard to kick. We started out by just throwing it a few times while we waited for people to arrive, and then when we had enough for a team we played a few innings. I had a lot of fun with that!

Next, we played football in the snow. It was a lot of fun to just lay out and catch the ball. Andrew was on my team and was covering my other friend John, but John was super fast and was running some great routes. Andrew said for me to take over because John “has cleats, or at least that I’m going to tell myself.” We had a good laugh about that, but then I wasn’t laughing so much trying to keep up with John. I had a couple of good defensive plays, but that man is fast!

We then played “snow gauntlet” and “snow pie.” I had originally planned on ice skating, but no one really seemed to want to do it. So, we played the “snow pie” for a lot longer than originally planned.

When we had finished with all that, we took a break and went to dinner at my friend Robin’s house. We had pizza and pop and just hung around for a while.

Then, we went to Veteran’s Park and finished the sports crawl with some sledding. The hill was very fast and a bit icy. We decided to go to a smaller hill near the big one to avoid injury. Then, Adam and Andrew proceeded to ride a picnic table all the way down that hill! It was pretty impressive from where I stood.

A few of us went out to McDonald’s afterwards for some hot chocolate and socializing. Since, it was Sunday, we didn’t stay for too long, said our goodbyes and went on with the rest of our merry lives.

To sum up, this weekend was simply wonderful, and I am really grateful for the lovely times and memories. Even though my body took a bit of a beating and I’m still sore even now, I wouldn’t change any of it!

The Weekend

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This weekend was nothing short of amazing for me.

On Saturday, I was a groomsman in my friend Bryan’s wedding. It was really amazing to witness the love that he and Christina share, and it was such an honor to be a part of it. I really enjoyed the “pre-wedding conversation” that Bryan and I had, and overall, it was a really nice day.

The reception was also great fun. They had it at the Bauery Restaurant up at Mount Brighton (where they had their first date). Bryan contracted a few members of the band Millish to play, and they brought a few of their friends to make up a “bluegrass” band. They were a blast to dance to. I spent nearly the entire night dancing my little heart out, and generally having fun. Some of my family and friends came out, so it was great to dance with them, as well.

When I got home that evening, I just crashed and fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I was a little sore from all the cutting of ye ole rug the night before, but I stretched out and prepared for a wonderful day, for Sunday was the Third Annual Sports Crawl!

You may be asking yourself, “What is a sports crawl?” A sports crawl is an amazing event where we play multiple games/sports for an entire day. Before the day was done, we played football, sand volleyball, basketball, soccer, kickball, and light-up ultimate (in the dark). It was such an amazing time! There were about forty people that showed up throughout the day, and I had a lot of fun with everyone involved.

This morning, however, I woke up, and my muscles felt very sore, and boy was I tired. However, it was totally worth it. A weekend filled with good friends really helps keep me grateful for everything that I am blessed with.