Mini Book Review of “Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy” by Lindsey Moran

blowingmycoverI really enjoy true life, behind the scenes, espionage titles. In most cases, truth is far more incredible than fiction. This title from Lindsey Moran should have checked off all my boxes, but in many ways it left me wanting. Her story was incredible enough; as a CIA Case Worker with an interesting foreign post, her story was intriguing. I especially enjoyed the details she shared concerning her time in training. She also did a good job portraying the melancholy I am sure many CIA Case Workers feel. Unfortunately, despite her service to her country, she almost conveys a sense of regret. She doesn’t seem proud of her career (as I feel she should). It’s hard to explain entirely … I could understand a sense of regret, however, she almost seems remorseful and maybe even spiteful. The author conveys a sense of regret for the sacrifices she made regarding her personal life in favor of her professional one and ultimately (no spoilers here) is faced with a decision.

While I enjoyed parts of this book, there are much better ones out there.

Mini Book Review of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins

CantHurtMeDuring a conversation about ultra running, a friend asked me  if I had ever heard of David Goggins. He billed Goggins as the most inspirational man he had ever heard of and pointed out the author and ultra runner was a former Navy Seal. I was immediately interested because I am huge fan of the Seals. They are  the closest thing to actual, real-life super heroes I know of, so I immediately looked Goggins up and bought his book, Can’t Hurt Me. 

I don’t want to steal any of his thunder, but I will say that Goggins is, indeed, incredible. The things he has overcome and accomplished is beyond amazing. His life history is remarkable … but I wouldn’t necessarily say he is inspirational. I feel inspired when I read a book that encourages me to go out and reach beyond myself, and Goggins certainly attempts to do that, but he is so practically inhuman in the things he has accomplished that I can’t really relate. For instance, Goggins wanted to be a Navy Seal so he lost 100 pounds in a very short time frame and went out and did it. Likewise, he wanted to be an ultra runner, so he went out and completed a hundred mile event with no runs leading up to it. Who does that? He did, but can anyone else? I certainly can’t. I’m at the other end of the spectrum having just completed my first sub forty minute 5k. It took me two years to run a full half marathon. I want to be an ultra runner, but I’m no where near ready and I know it. As such, there’s really nothing from this book that I can take away and apply to my own life.

Goggins is incredible. He is other worldly. He is a hero, and I am now a fan, however, he is not inspiring. Physically and mentally, Goggins is a spectacle. He refers to himself as the hardest man alive and he may just be. I enjoyed his book and will be on the lookout for him on podcasts and such, but while he amazes me, he does not necessarily inspire me.

If want to be amazed, buy this book. Be forewarned, however – Goggins is a former Navy Seal and uses language you would expect a Navy Seal to use. If you are easily offended by four letters words, avoid this one.

It Feels Like Something is Broken Inside of Me

Saturday I participated in what, is for me, the hardest run on my schedule. For the second year in a row I signed up for and ran the Indian Run at the Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It is beautiful, well-organized run through one of the most beautiful parts of Ohio. But it is tough. When I ran it last year it was, at the time, my longest run ever. It included many sections of climbs that I was not prepared for and it was all I could do to finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line in 2018, I knew I wanted to come back and do the run again. My long-term goal is to someday do an ultramarathon, but this 20k run through Hocking Hills beat me and I immediately knew I wanted revenge.

That revenge was supposed to happen last Saturday. With another year of training and some modest weight loss, I was convinced I would do better than last year. In some ways, I suppose I did. I beat last year’s time by 18 minutes and physically, I think I feel better and am recovering faster than last year. However, once again, this run beat me.

My problems began at mile 4 with a steep climb up Steel Hill Road. I had strategically planned to walk the hill and did so, however, about half way up the climb I began suffering from painful calf cramps. These cramps plagued me throughout the finish and hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt while running. Every step was a struggle. These cramps put doubt in my mind that I would be able to finish and caused me to walk much more of the course than I intended. I only finished because turning around at that point would have been a more difficult run; plus, my cellphone was out of service which prevented me from calling my wife to come get me. So I trudged forward.

The problems got worse at mile 9. For the second year in a row, in that exact spot, I experienced what I can only describe as an asthma-like attack. Wheezing, a failure to catch my breath, and elevated heart rate accompanied a feeling as if I were about to pass out. It was a sensation I hoped I wouldn’t experience again after last year. It was sensation that put me in survival mode. I was no longer concerned about time, or crushing the run, I just wanted to survive it.

In doing so, it felt like something broke inside of me. I vowed in that moment that I would never sign up for the Indian Run again. It’s just too tough. The 20k distance had beat me down again and any hopes of ever completing the 40k or 60k distance were dashed. In fact, in that moment of suffering, I began to question why I run in the first place. I thought I had made some gains, I thought I had improved, but here I was suffering in the same ways for the second year in a row. It called into question all the work and training I have done over the last year. It made me feel like giving up.

I told my wife afterwards that I was never signing up for the Indian Run again. I could hear the shock in her voice when she responded by telling me she had no doubt I would be back. But beyond that particular run, if I’m being honest, I’ve entertained the notion of just quitting all together. I’ve thought about giving up. I’m not a natural runner, I’m built more like an offensive lineman than an ultramarathon runner, I’m slow …. and here’s the deal, I I always will be.

I don’t mean for this post to be a downer, but for the first time since I began running and losing weight, I am questioning if its all worth it. I’ve run a couple of times since then and I’m starting to recover physically, however, I feel like I’m a long way from recovering mentally. I feel like something is broken inside of me.

I’ve never experience this type of pessimism and dread following a run and I’m not sure how to recover from it. I don’t know if it is normal to feel this way after such a hard effort, but I know I don’t like. Running normally gives me pleasure and peace. That is not where I’m at right now … and I miss it terribly.It

Things I Would Endorse if People Cared That I Endorsed Things: AfterShokz Bone Conduction Headphones

aftershokzI must preface this review with a short story. I was running on a nearby rail trail the other day and almost got hit by a tractor. True story! One of the things I like about this particular path is the lack of motorized traffic. The most dangerous vehicle I normally encounter is a random bicycle. Because it is a safe path, I tend to turn on my tunes or a podcast and zone out while I run. Such was the case when the tractor almost took me out! I was running along in my own little world when this fella on a large tractor  passed me out of the blue. Maybe he yelled on your left, but I didn’t hear him because of my music, and I certainly didn’t see him until he practically plowed my over. I nearly jumped out of my skin and I instantly reached my maximum heart rate.

I came home right after that run and ordered a pair of AfterShokz Bone Conduction headphones. I have no idea how these things work, however the premise behind them is that they rest just in front of your ears and somehow transmit sound via vibrations into your bones. This leaves your ears open allowing you to simultaneously hear the noise that’s around you. Although skeptical, these headphones have intrigued me for quite awhile. I love the theory behind them. Having played drums all my life, I suffer from a nasty case of tinnitus. I have constant ringing in my ears that is made worse when listening to music through headphones, so I’ve always wondered if these bone conducting headphones would be a better alternative for me. My skepticism and general cheapness always kept me taking the plunge, however, the tractor incident pushed me over the edge.

I opted for the mid-priced wireless titanium headphones which were $79.95 on Amazon. There was another model that came in over a hundred dollars, but like I said, I’m cheap. Here’s my experience with them so far. Both Good and Bad:

The Good

Fit: These things wrap around the back of your head and feel like they should fall off, but they don’t. I have a pretty big sized noggin and they stay on me pretty well. They might come off if you take a nasty fall, but I think most headphones would do the same thing.

Function: I was surprised to learn they actually work as advertised. The sound is pretty decent. I can easily hear both music and podcasts while hearing the surrounding noise as well. When running on the treadmill, I was able to easily have a conversation with my wife without turning off my music. They probably aren’t quite as loud as some traditional headphones, but they are more than loud enough. Any sacrifice in sound quality is certainly surpassed by hearing oncoming tractors as they approach!

Connection: These particular headphones are wireless and connect to my phone via bluetooth. They connected easily and seem to have a strong signal. I can walk around the house with my phone in another room and not lose connection.

No Rubber Ear Buds: I think this is my favorite. You know those little rubber ear bud, stopper looking things on your headphones? I’m constantly losing them somehow. That’s not a problem with these. There’s nothing on them that can fall off and get lost.

Tinnitus: So far, these haven’t aggravated my tinnitus at all. That may not be the case for you, but I certainly think they are better for my hearing.

The Bad

They Tickle: There is a weird tickle from the vibrations where these headphones contact your head just in front of the ears. It’s really kind of weird and is going to take some getting used to. The more I wear them, the more I seem to be getting used to it, but for some people, it may be a turn off.

The Buttons: The button locations are not very intuitive. I imagine I’ll get used to them, but for now I’m having a hard time finding the volume up and down buttons while these are on my head.

As you can see, the good certainly outweighs the bad. I have yet to test out the battery life on a really long run, but if they come in close to they advertised 6 hour battery life, they’ll be golden! I really love these headphones and am glad I bought them. My only regret may be not buying the more expensive model … if they’re even better than the ones I bought, I’m sure they’re great!

If you’re on the fence about these, I would highly recommend you pick them up. I’ve gone through several pairs of headphones over the years and have used many different makes and models – the Aftershokz have quickly become my favorite.

Disclaimor: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I actually use and like these headphones. 

There Are No Shortcuts

This morning during prayer I was lamenting to God about the man I am as opposed to the man I want to be. I confessed to Him that I’m not the man spiritually that I aspire to. Paul wrote to Titus (Titus 2:2) that older men should be “temperate” and “self-controlled”  and I was convicted because I’m not quite there yet, even though I should be. So I was confessing this to God and asking for His guidance.

I’m not one to often say God spoke to me, but in my moment of prayer this morning, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and clearly articulated, “There are no shortcuts.”

There are no shortcuts. 

Results

Too often, we complain about a lack of results when we’re not willing to do the work required to get those results. That’s true spiritually and physically. I’ve stood on the scale and shook my fist because I didn’t lose what I wanted to lose even when I knew in my heart of hearts I didn’t put in the required work.

I have lofty goals, both spiritually and physically. I want to be the guy Paul is writing about in Titus 2:2, “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” I have also set a goal to run a 50k at 50 years old (I just turned 49). Both goals are going to take work … and there are no shortcuts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). No spiritual goal is going to be achieved apart from Him. To become a Titus 2 man, I need to continue in my study of His Word and continue seeking His will for my life. The same is true of running a 50k. During a recent 8 mile trail run, I struggled mightily. In fact, I struggled more than I expected. It showed me how much further I need to go before I can run a 50k … and the clock is ticking. It’s going to take work.

There are no shortcuts.

I’ll either put in the work to achieve my goals, or I won’t. But it occurs to me as I write this, that nothing worth achieving is easy. I expect my goals to take work. God has told me so, Not because He wants me to struggle, but rather because there are rewards that can be found in the midst of the work.

Every run, every study, and every workout is a lesson. There are no shortcuts.

My Goal to #Run50

Yesterday I turned 49 years old. I feel blessed to have done so. I once had a doctor tell me I would be lucky to turn 30 if I didn’t get my diet and obesity under control. I was a young man then with a newborn baby. Since that time, I have lost significant amounts of weight and unfortunately gained significant amounts on multiple occasions. Most recently, I’ve dropped in excess of 100 lbs and maintained it, for the most part, for the last two years. I could still lose some more weight, but I have managed to get off my diabetes and blood pressure meds. For that, I am grateful, because I recognize it as pure grace. There are plenty of people out there in similar situations who are losing their battles with obesity and diabetes. They would give anything to trade places with me and go for a run; even at my slow speed.

Even so, I live in fear of failing. Of giving up. I fear I will gain my weight back and sacrifice my health and new found fitness for food and gluttony.

My mind is constantly working out this tension. The desire to become more healthy and conquer my weight issues verses my desire to indulge in pizza, chips, and snacks. As such, I have formulated a plan to keep me inspired over the next year. A plan to run a 50k at 50 years old. My plan to #Run50.

My longest distance thus far has been a 20k ran through the hills of Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It’s a run that I will be repeating in September. It almost beat me last year. I bonked after mile 9 and struggled to finish … so I recognize I have a long way to go if I want to run a 50k. My goal is to structure my next year of training to enable me to run a 50k ultra at 50 years of age. In doing so, I’m going to do my best to lose as close to 50 more pounds as I can.

I want to do this for me. I want to do this for those who can’t do it. I want to do this to honor God who has blessed me with life. I hope you’ll follow along and help me accomplish my goal.

Things I Would Endorse if People Cared That I Endorsed Things: Orange Mud Endurance Pack 2.0

IMG-0004As a bigger runner that’s firmly entrenched as a clydesdale (I’m 6’2″ and weigh in at over 250 lbs) I have been on the look out for quite awhile for a hydration pack that fits me comfortably. I’ve been searching for a replacement for the cheap pack I found on eBay that fit, but left me struggling to breathe.

I hit the jackpot with the Orange Mud Endurance Pack 2.0. Before purchasing, I sent the company an email and asked them if if it would fit and they assured me I would be good to go. They were right. The pack adjusts at both sides and at two points on the chest. With my wife’s help, I quickly had it adjusted to fit. My chest measures 48 inches and the pack fit with no issues. Not only does it fit, but I’ve been able to secure it in place and still get air. Needless to say, I’m in love with it.

The pack itself comes with a a 2 liter soft bladder. The bladder is nice, however, I’m not especially fond of the way it closes. The top of the bladder folds over and then you slide a plastic piece over the top that works sort of like a ziplock bag. It works well but it normally takes me several tries to get it closed. Otherwise, it’s great.

Pocket-wise, this pack has plenty. There are two compartments besides the bladder compartment on the back, two vertical shoulder pockets, and four o

unnamed
From Orangemud.com

ther pockets on the front that can accommodate flasks, gels, or trash. I was also happy that my iPhone X fits in these front pockets giving me quick access.

I love this pack. If you’re a clydesdale runner or cyclist, don’t hesitate to get one. If it fits me, odds are it will fit you as well. I’m sure it’s just as good for smaller athletes as well. You can pick one up at orange mud.com.

Mini Book Review of ‘Training for Ultra’ by Rob Steger

traingultraMini  first became familiar with Rob Steger through his excellent podcast entitled Training for Ultra. In the podcast, Steger connects with all sorts of personalities from the Ultra Running community and recaps races and training methods. He has frequent reoccurring guests which serves to engage the listener in a way that few podcasts can accomplish. Along the way, Rob shares his own story of how he became an ultra runner.

I was eager to learn more about his story, so I picked up this book for my kindle. Essentially, this book serves as a detailed account of the first three years of the author’s ultra running endeavors. I was amazed at how much he accomplished and how far he grew as a runner in just three years. While he points out he is a ‘middle of the pack’ runner, Rob Steger has accomplished amazing things. Early in the book, he states that his goal is to inspire people to run, and he has done just that.

This book will make you want to train for an ultra event. i enjoyed it a great deal.

Am I Still a Runner If I’m Injured?

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’re aware that a hip injury has sidelined me recently. I’ve certainly griped about it enough! There was no fall, stumble, or other mishap that led to my injury. I didn’t get hit by a car or fall over a steep cliff on a nasty trail. I can’t even say I had upped my weekly mileage too fast. I went for a run in January during a period of less mileage than normal (cold weather has that effect) and my hip just started to hurt. I fought through it for four miles. They next day, my hip hurt a little worse, so I took a day off. When it still hadn’t resolved itself after a couple of weeks I shut my running down and eventually went to a sports medicine doctor. The diagnosis? An MRI revealed I had a “mild focal marrow edema involving the inferior margin of the left femoral neck.” I’ve heard it described as a bone bruise. My doctor called it a “baby” stress fracture and indicated it would turn into the real deal if I didn’t stop running. He shut me down for another three weeks. Then I am to ease my way back into running and shut myself down if I still experience pain. I’ve already missed all of February and with this plan of attack, I am likely to miss most of March as well. In addition, the half-marathon I had signed up for at the end of April isn’t going to happen. Even in a best case scenario, there wouldn’t be time to train for a long run.

I must admit I was originally fairly disappointed. Running has been my primary source of exercise over the past two years. It has helped me lose well over one hundred pounds and has given me a great deal of joy. I love it. I’m slow and I struggle, but I love it. My running is my alone time with God. It allows me to pray and to listen for His response. Not being able to do it hurts. I am blessed, however, that there is hope this will all heal and I will able to run again soon.

I wonder though, how long can I lay off of running before I am no longer a runner? The doctor gave me the go ahead to bike, swim, and lift during my layoff … but I identify as a runner. I’m hoping to use this forced time of cross-training to work on my swimming and maybe even dabble into some sprint triathlons later this year. But in the meantime, not running stinks! Maybe I need to identify as an adult-onset athlete rather than an adult-onset runner. Cross training may have to become my new best friend.

Happy running to all those out their doing it. Know that I am jealous!

Mini Book Review of ‘Fitness Confidential’ by Vinnie Tortorich

I bought this book hoping to learn more about author’s no sugar, no grains diet (or NSNG). I suppose I expected it to be like other formulaic diet books out there. You know, an intro to the plan followed by the phases of the plan, followed by suggested recipes. However, that wasn’t the case. In all honesty, Tortorich spends little time presenting his diet. As it turns out, “no sugar no grains” is really as complicated as it gets. He spends more time exposing the cesspool the fitness, health, and diet industry has become and even more time chronicling his own journey. I won’t repeat them here for fear of ruining the book, but Tortorich’s battle with his health and fitness demons made for a good read. He is a straightforward guy and cuts through the usual nonsense one would expect from a health expert. His foul language and bluntness may offend some, but I actually kind of found his book refreshing.

For anyone who does want to learn more about the NSNG Diet, Torotorich is a prolific podcaster and Twitter user and he tends to share most of his knowledge for free.