March Madness Continues

Well, the first week of the annual NCAA March Madness tournament is behind us and for the eighth straight year the kind folks at Outback Steakhouse agreed to sponsor my annual bracket contest.  So, last week, 50 of my friends and I logged our brackets in on ESPN.com’s site and waited for the action to unfold.

marchmadnessEarly on, Cindy Warner took the lead as she was the last person in the group to have a perfect bracket with 10 straight correct picks.  Then, she missed two of the final six games to stand in second place after day one with a stellar 14-of-16 correct.

Meanwhile, Rodney Yoder, Chris Runion and Trevor Gaffney each finished the first day only missing one game to take the lead with 150 points.  All three of them along with Cindy will receive one of the 20 free Bloomin’ Onion cards that Outback so graciously donated to the contest.

On day two, Justin Ross correctly picked 15 of the 16 games to jump into a tie for first place with Trevor and Rodney as they each finished the round of 64 with 28 of 32 games picked correctly for 280 points.  Greg Sergio was also tied for first place as he was consistent going 14-for-16 on both of the first two days.  Justin and Greg also earned a free Bloomin’ Onion for their efforts.

The round of 32 was were the field started to separate thanks in large part to losses by defending champion Villanova and no. 2 seeds Duke and Louisville as 20 of the 51 entrants in my contest lost their predicted national champion, myself included.

Brad Graley avoided the upset carnage, though as he correctly picked 14 of the 16 winners in the round to move into a first place tie with Trevor and Noelle Neville as the three of them each currently have 520 points.  And all three of them have a different predicted national champion.  Brad and Noelle will each receive a free Bloomin’ Onion as will Alex Connell, who is next on the leaderboard with 510 points although his bracket was busted with the loss of Duke.

The action heats up again tonight and the overall prize of the $20 voucher to Outback and the bragging rights that go with it are still up for grabs.  Good luck!

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Donatos…Chapter Three

It’s hard to believe that Friday wrapped up my third year already of working for Donatos at the home office.  And, this year was definitely one that put the emphasis on the field in my title of Field Marketing Manager.

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You know you travel a lot when you show up on the airport digital board

When the year began for me, we as a brand were just launching our newest store in midtown Nashville.  This was my first new store opening process and it was great to be in on the ground level from day one in this fun city.  I ended up making numerous visits to check on this store over the year to the point that the great staff at the Courtyard by Marriott Vanderbilt/West End became like family to me and even had my same room ready for each and every visit.  🙂  Thanks, ZsuZsa, Kim, Gary and the rest of the team!  I earned those Marriott Rewards Platinum and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards A-List statuses.

13668981_550920975098330_6019336125809047661_nAs the Nashville store began to get established and I continued working with all the existing stores and franchise partners, we also made plans for our next new store to open in Summerville, S.C. (left).  It ended up opening at the end of July and let me just say that going around town making business visits is not as much fun when it’s 100 degrees and you are dripping sweat.  Each market presents its own unique opportunities and the town of Summerville is filled with great people we get the chance to meet and share our great food with.  Our franchise partners there are a joy to work with and are out spreading the word about Donatos each and every day.

As the fall approached, it was time to figure out how to gain the business of college students as they came back to school in our markets with stores by universities.  One whirlwind day that seems typical of the year had me helping serve pizza to the 7,700 incoming freshmen at The Ohio State University inside Ohio Stadium (below) at lunch time and then flying to Nashville to feed over 1,000 incoming freshmen at Belmont University that evening.  Fun times!

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For the second straight year, I also had the privilege of running the Donatos summer-long 13-week contest that saw one of our guests win $1,000 each week and also pick a charity to receive $1,000.  It was such a privilege to hear the great stories of our guests as to why they picked the charity that they did and also to connect with these great organizations who are doing so much to benefit others.  I am extremely grateful to work for a company that believes in giving back.

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One other moment of giving to others that was a highlight of my year was getting to attend the Ohio State-Michigan game with three families (above) who had been touched by pediatric cancer.  It was great to be able to let them have this experience and boy did the game turn out pretty exciting with a double overtime win by the Buckeyes that included all of us on the field afterwards.

Two other highlights of the year for me was getting stories of our associates told on local TV stations in both the Nashville and Virginia Beach markets.  The story of Barbie Henry, one of our first hires in Nashville, aired in July and the story of Diego Roma from our Newport News, Va. store aired in November.

As the end of the fiscal year approached, I visited each of my franchise partners over the course of about seven weeks to begin making plans for the 2017 year.  While all this travel could get cumbersome, I try to make the most of it by finding great running routes and making new friends in all the cities that I visit.  I managed to get sunrise or sunset pictures in 9 different states this year while also running in such beautiful places as Lexington, Ky., Newport News, Va., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Nashville and Seabrook Island, S.C.  For those who think that it is too hard to exercise while traveling, I beg to differ.  I logged 3,018 miles running during my third year at Donatos and ran both the Boston Marathon and the Chicago Marathon while also doing four half marathons including lowering my PR three times!

The final two months of my third year at Donatos have been spent focusing heavily on the opening of our newest store in Owensboro, Ky. (below).  I knew from the start that these guys were going to be fun as they were heavily connected in their community and really understood the importance of relationships in selling pizza.  Well, they have been open for one month now and that town has just embraced the store, our product and the partners to the tune of the best first month of any store in company history!

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It seems fitting that in a year that saw me spend 70 nights in hotels while traveling that I wrapped it up in South Carolina working out the delivery area for a store in Boiling Springs that will open in a few months.  It should be an exciting year for Donatos with that store and two others (Bowling Green, Ky. and Murfreesboro, Tenn.) opening in the next couple of months along with possibly others as the year moves along.

As I put the wraps on my third year at Donatos, I have to say that it was my most challenging but also my most rewarding year yet.  It can be stressful at times trying to figure out exactly what works in each new market and also balancing life on the road while also having a personal life outside of work.  However, I feel like I grew more professionally and personally this year than ever before and I can’t wait to attack the challenges and new opportunities ahead in year number four.  #PizzawithPassion

2016 – Lots of Miles with Smiles

139694-051-036h-1As the calendar flips over to January 1, 2017, I think back to 2016 and can’t help but smile as I reflected with a thankful heart on all the places that my running took me and the memories that I made.

The year started for me just returning to running after taking 12 weeks off after suffering a broken foot on August 13, 2015 and then being sidelined.  So, my biggest goal for 2016 was to stay as healthy as possible and just enjoy being able to run again.

January saw me log miles on 29 of the 31 days as I finished the month with 240 miles.  For the first time since I started running five years earlier, I did not race a New Year’s Day race and the only race I ran during the month was the 5th Line 5K which finished on center ice inside Nationwide Arena.  Let’s just say it’s not easy to finish with speed when you are swerving down the hallway underneath an arena, but I still managed a 20:16 that day.  My longest run of the month came on the next to the last day of the month when I logged 18 miles on a gorgeous morning in Nashville, Tennessee with the Nashville Striders the morning of the VIP Party for our new Donatos that was opening there that week.  That was a great way to get to know the city where I would log a bunch of miles during the year!

In February, I logged 248 miles and took advantage of the extra day for Leap Year by running 27 of a possible 29 days.  There were several memorable runs during this month including 14 miles on a track (56 laps!) with the Brentwood Breakfast Club on Groundhog Day while I was in Nashville for work, 20 miles on a treadmill at my gym at a 7:25 pace overall, and a 1:30:50 half marathon time trial at Warm-up for Boston that was my fastest half time to date.

CapCity Sports Media www.capcitysportsmedia.comMarch roared in with numerous double digit runs as the Boston Marathon training was in full swing.  I finished the month with 276 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days.  Some of the highlights were another 20-mile run on the TJ Evans Trail, a 16-mile run in Mount Vernon that included both the Punisher and the hilly Gambier loop, a 16-miler in Huntsville, Alabama, a fast 15-miler in Nashville, and a 10-miler in Summerville, South Carolina as I logged runs in four different states in the span of a week at one point.  I also ran one race – the Scioto Miles 15K – and finished 5th overall despite hitting a deer on the way to the race.

For the second straight year, I was blessed to be able to spend part of my April in Boston to take part in the Boston Marathon.  After running a 3:44:27 in 2015 at less than 100%, I was looking forward to another shot at the iconic race.  I really wanted to requalify (BQ) with a sub 3:25 and felt like I was trained for it, but when race day rolled around with a 70-degree starting temperature I knew that it would be tough to do.  I still went for it, but the sun and heat took its toll between miles 19 and 20 and I had to stop.  After depositing my stomach contents on one of the infamous Newton hills, I did manage to continue on and was really proud of the way I gutted out a 3:28:48 finish time to knock off over 15 minutes from my previous Boston finish.  April ended up being lowest mileage month of the year with 193 miles logged over 25 days of activity as I took five rest days.

I got right back to logging consistent miles in May as I logged 265 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days in the month.  I celebrated my sixth “run”-iversary on May 26 with 10 miles and also paced a friend at the New Moon Half Marathon.  I got to run 8 miles in Lakeland, Florida while my dad road his bike when I flew there to surprise my mom on Mothers Day.  I also raced the RadioU 5K and managed to finish fourth overall in 21:01 on the toughest 5K course I’ve run yet.

The mileage increased to 273 miles in June as I logged at least a mile on 28 of the 30 days of what turned out to be a pretty warm month.  Looking back, I remember calling several of those runs sauna runs and I definitely sweated off a few pounds.  Probably the highlight of the month for me was the lone race that I did…the Lake Michigan Half Marathon in Muskegon (below).  It was my first run ever in the state and I made it a memorable one as I lowered my half marathon PR with a 1:30:19 to finish 10th overall and win the 40-44 age group to score a large sandstone lighthouse sculpture as the prize.  I remember thinking as I ran along Lake Michigan and looked west across it to where Chicago would be that this was going to help me later in the year.

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I’m not sure where to start with July.  I don’t know if I’ll ever top it.  It was my best month ever with 303 miles as I logged mileage on 29 of the 31 days.  I had 17 double digit mileage days during the month including 17.76 miles to honor America on July 4th, 18 miles on July 16th and 20 miles on July 30th.  I also enjoyed running around beautiful Seabrook Island, South Carolina and running a 10K route back and forth across the famous Cooper River Bridge (below) in Charleston, South Carolina.

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I backed the mileage down to 264 miles in August while logging them on 28 of the 31 days.  A few of the highlights were a 16-miler at a 7:02 pace, a 17-miler and a 20-miler.  I also tried to go for a third straight half marathon PR at Emerald City in Dublin, Ohio, but I came up way short at 1:32:49 as the 70-degree temperature and 100 percent humidity did me in.  But, you never know what you can do unless you go after it, so I was glad that I attempted it.

September saw me log 263 miles while running 29 of the 30 days.  This month saw me log one 16-mile, one 19-mile and one 21-mile run as I was attempting to peak my training for the Chicago Marathon in early October.  I also managed to take a 40-mile bike ride on September 11th.

October may have been my favorite month of the year despite being my second-lowest mileage month with 212 miles and four rest days over the 31-day month.  The reason that I loved this month was that the weather was perfect and I got to do the Chicago Marathon.  I went into that race with a goal of 3:20 and I blew that away with a 3:14:09.  It wasn’t my fastest time by a long shot, but I BQ’d by over 10 minutes and also negative split the second half (1:47:05 to 1:47:04) for the first time ever in a marathon.  Plus, the entire time in Chicago was just perfect as I got to explore the city on a gorgeous fall weekend.  Two weeks later, I also did the OSU 4-Miler and set a new course PR in 25:17.

November saw me log 226 miles despite spending half the month on the road for work which meant runs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky as I logged miles on all but two of the 30 days.  It was also my biggest racing month with the Hangry 4-Miler (2nd overall in 28:01), the Buckeye Classic 10K (10th overall in 43:43), the and Thanks For Giving 4-Miler (1st in age group in 24:58).  In addition, I celebrated turning 45 by setting a new half marathon PR for the third time in 2016 by finishing the Cleveland Fall Classic Half in 1:29:40 to take third place in my age group.

I closed out the year with 260 miles in December as I ran all but one of the 31 days.  It ended up being the only month all year that I did not run a race in, but on the flip side I did run in shorts on all but four days as the weather was abnormally warm.  The biggest highlight of the month was the unplanned 20-miler that happened the day after Christmas as I tracked down all 12 items on the #RunChatHunt list while staying inside the city limits of New Albany on what would turn out to be a 68-degree day.  A singlet and shorts the day after Christmas in Ohio?  I’ll take that every year!

I ended up logging 3,021 miles to finish more than 500 miles higher than my previous yearly best of 2,488 miles in 2014.  I logged miles on 336 of the possible 366 days (it was Leap Year don’t forget) which averages out to 8.99 miles per non-rest day.  I also had the opportunity to see many amazing sunrises over the course of the year which is one of the best benefits of being a predawn runner.

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However, more importantly than the miles I logged or the races I ran are the friendships I made or strengthened during the year.  It was great to make new friends in the cities I visited for work as running is one of the best ice breakers around.  And I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing running partner and other close friends who have helped and inspired me more than they know on this journey in 2016.

As I head into 2017, my goal is not to attempt another high mileage year.  That was never the goal anyway until I saw it was within reach the final two months of the year.  Yes, I would love to average 200 miles per month and log 2,400 miles.  At the same time, I would much rather stay healthy and run fewer miles.  I also want to get stronger with consistent strength and core work.  But more than that, I want to continue to help others meet their goals either directly or by cheering them on from afar.  That brings me the most joy and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

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Giving the Mizuno Wave Rider 20s a Spin


I recently learned that I was getting the opportunity to try out a pair of the Mizuno Wave Rider 20 shoes thanks to being a part of the Fit Fluential network in exchange for writing a review.  Having just finished the Chicago Marathon with no big race on the horizon and also having worn out my latest pair shoes, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a brand and shoe that I had never previously used.

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After a week of primarily walking to recover from the marathon that saw me post a 3:14:09 and qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon by over 10 minutes, I was finally ready to get back to running.  The perfect opportunity to try out these new shoes for the first time came with the Ohio State 4-Miler when I landed a last-minute entry.  So, I broke out the shoes for their maiden voyage.

I have a rule about new shoes.  Regardless of how many miles you run in them the first time, I feel like I need the first run to be fast to teach them good habits and let them know what is expected of them on race day.  Typically, I would not wear new shoes on race day, but I figured that since it was only four miles that I was pretty safe.

I lined up at the starting line outside of Ohio Stadium with nearly 15,000 other runners and was not really sure what to expect since I was just coming off the marathon.  I knew that the excitement of the event would get me going.

Little did I know how much speed I had in me on that morning.  I ended up finishing 49th out of 13,840 runners in a time of 25:17 (6:19 pace) which was a course record for me in the event.  The Mizuno Wave Rider 20s felt great!  In fact, I did not even notice what shoes I had on and they felt light and spacious the whole run.  I was hooked on them right away.

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In 10 runs over the past two weeks, I have already logged 87 miles in the shoes including five runs of 10 or more miles.  They have also already run in four different states (Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee).  I have not had any issues with the shoes and like how lightweight they are.  I’ll be interested to see how many miles I am able to log on them before they wear out and I also have not run farther than 11 miles in them yet and want to see if they have the cushioning necessary to hold up to rigors of marathon training.  Since I am still recovering from the marathon, I really do not have any plans for a long run any time soon and they may be worn out before I get a chance to use them for that.  Of course, if Mizuno wanted to send me another pair of size 12s in the awesome orange (officially clownfish orange), I would gladly accept them and put them to good use.

This line has been an extremely successful line for Mizuno over the past 20 years and they definitely nailed it with this special anniversary edition.  Not that it matters in the scheme of things, but the box they come in is pretty sweet, too, and sets the tone from the time you open them.  Well done and thanks for the opportunity to put these to good use!  I highly recommend checking them out if you are neutral shoe runner.

6 Years & Running Strong

Today is a special day for me.  It was six years ago on May 26, 2010 when I started my journey as a runner on the Kokosing Gap Trail in Mount Vernon.  I was 35 pounds heavier and was looking for some way to get in better shape.

CapCity Sports Media www.capcitysportsmedia.comFast forward 2,192 days later and that running journey has taken me through 17 states, 11,890 miles, and several dozen pairs of running shoes all the while introducing me to many great new friends and exciting adventures.

I shared a lot of my running history last year in a blog and there is no need to go into all of that again.  Over the past 366 days since that blog, there have been ups and downs.  I battled plantar fasciatis throughout the summer and eventually suffered a broken left foot on August 13 while on a run.  That led to 12 weeks of no running and very limited activity until the end of that recovery process.  However, I tried to find other ways to stay involved in running by supporting others and still going to races.  I’m not going to lie…it was HARD!  But, I realized that I can’t take running for granted.  Just like other things in life it can be taken from you in a blink of an eye.  Live in the moments and take full advantage of things while you can.

Ironically, despite all that time off due to the injury, I still had one of my best running years yet as I managed to log 2,229 miles.  I ran my fastest half marathon time in February as part of my training for the Boston Marathon, and I completed Boston for the second year and bettered my time with a 3:28:48 for my ninth marathon finish in 6 years.

One of the highlights of my running this year has been all the time I spent getting to know Nashville on foot as I have been there for work.  It’s a great running town and I’ve made several new running friends there and logged lots of miles.  I hope to run a race there at some point.

I’m looking forward to training hard but smart this summer and staying injury-free while preparing for a fall marathon when the weather is a little cooler.  Who knows where the journey will take me this year!

Back to Boston

13015463_843150638850_7772319922997962584_nI am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to take part in the Boston Marathon for the second straight year this past Monday.  Last year, I posted a 3:44:27 at less than 100 percent.  Fortunately, I still had a qualifying time to get me in for this year.  Despite breaking my foot in August, I patiently worked my way back to at least close to my best shape yet.  I had a big confidence booster in February with a half marathon PR, and I was able to get lots of training on rolling terrain due to traveling to Nashville a lot for work.  I went into this year’s Boston Marathon gunning for a 3:15 and felt like I had a good plan of attack in place to accomplish that.

It was nice to have a day and a half in Boston prior to the race in order to take in a few tourist things and also spend plenty of time at the race expo including picking up that all-important race bib.  After walking over 11 miles the day before the marathon last year, I made sure to not be on my feet as much this time around.  It was also great to hang out with some friends that I don’t see often enough and eat at some great local restaurants.  One of the biggest highlights was going to a special service on Sunday morning at Old South Church which has been around since the mid 1600s and is located right at the finish line of the race.  They honored all of us running the race and had special music with Chariots of Fire on the pipe organ and even a bag piper.  I highly recommend visiting this church the day before the race to anyone who earns that coveted BQ.  I also logged a nice shakeout run along the Charles River after church on a picturesque day (see below).

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Finally, race day rolled around and with it a 70-degree starting temperature.  Yikes!  As someone who runs most of my miles predawn and definitely not in that kind of heat so far this year except when on a treadmill, the temperature and bright sun were definitely real concerns for all of the runners.  However, I didn’t adjust my plan other than to try to grab drinks at as many fluid stations as possible on the course.

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I road the bus to Athletes’ Village with my running partner, Cindy Warner (see below), and it was great to pass the time with her instead of being in the midst of thousands of strangers.  We spent all of our time waiting to start by standing in line for port-a-potties.  We were smart, though, and picked lines that kept us in the shade under one of the large tents.  We were also well lathered up in 100 SPF sunscreen.  Well, except that neither one of us thought to put it on our legs and we both ended up with toasty red calves.  In the midst of all the people waiting, we did see our friend, Dan Bosch, and were able to wish him good luck as he headed to the starting line with his wave.

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It was finally time to head to the starting line and after I made one last bathroom stop we were on our way with 26.2 miles to cover between Hopkinton and Boston.  I stuck with Cindy for the first quarter of a mile and started to settle into my pace.  I finished the first mile in 7:45 and was really happy with that as I didn’t want to start too fast.  Over the next nine miles, I tried to stay steady with splits of 7:24, 7:28, 7:26, 7:36, 7:26, 7:29, 7:34, 7:23, and 7:23 to get through mile 10.  I slowed a little during the next mile with a 7:38, but I quickly got back on task with a 7:30 and a 7:25 to cross the halfway point in 1:38:50…right on track!  Wellesley and the girls of the scream tunnel had lots of energy as always, but unlike last year I stayed in the middle of the road this time and tried not to get caught up in it as I knew that I would need all of my energy and focus to try to meet my goal.

baa2016Miles 14, 15 and 16 went by with splits of 7:33, 7:44 and 7:33 as I stayed on track and started into the challenging Newton Hills.  Then, during mile 17, I nearly came to a screeching halt when I dry-heaved and started to realize that the heat was affecting me more than I realized.  I had been drinking regularly alternating between water and Gatorade and I had also taken a Clif fuel pouch at miles 5, 10 and 16 as well as pouring water over my head to try to stay cool.  I struggled through miles 17, 18 and 19 feeling nauseous with splits of 8:01, 8:28 and 8:05 as if the hills weren’t tough enough without feeling like I was going to throw up.

Finally, between mile 19 and mile 20, I did come to a screeching halt.  I walked to the side of the road and lost everything I had left in my stomach.  Or so I thought because 30 seconds later it happened again.  I felt bad for the poor spectators who were standing a few feet from me on the side of the road and I noticed mothers shielding their young kids’ eyes.  I sheepishly apologized for what had happened, but for the first time in my nearly six-year running career I had tossed my cookies.  Twice.  And I still had seven miles to go to earn my Boston Marathon finisher medal.

I rinsed my mouth out with the water I was carrying, took a deep breath and decided to see if I could get the legs to turn over again as I set out to attack the hill that awaited.  I knew that walking to the finish line would take me another two hours and I really wanted to avoid that if at all possible.  Then, I spotted it…just the fuel that I needed.  I ran to the opposite side of the road and grabbed a green freezer pop from a generous spectator.  The cold, sweet icy goodness refreshed me and I picked up the pace and started passing people.  My Garmin shows that I stopped for one minute and 48 seconds when I got sick, but I still ended up finishing mile 20 in 9:48 and then attacked Heartbreak Hill and finished that mile in 8:05 followed by an 8:07, an 8:19, and an 8:26 to get through mile 25.

baafinish2016The wind had picked up and I was fighting to push through it to get to the finish line that still seemed so far away.  Then, I started to get very light-headed over the final mile-plus as I was seeing black spots.  I’m sure this was because I was scared to eat any more of my planned fuel over the final 9 miles after the initial dry-heaving incident and was just trying to make it to the finish line.  Mile 26 was a 9:35 and then the turn on Boylston Street saw me pick up the pace to an 8:40 to get to the finish line where I crossed with my arms raised in 3:28:48 to finish 7,362nd out of 26,639 finishers overall and beat my bib number which was 8172.  (Boston bib numbers are seeded so the lower the number the faster you are compared to the rest of the field.)  It was great to have made it to the finish line even if I didn’t get the time I was shooting for.  I knew that I had given my all and that’s all that mattered.  Plus, I was 16 minutes faster than last year.  848 people who started didn’t finish and after 48% of the field re-qualified at last year’s Boston only 16% did this year due primarily to the heat.  I was also 5,830th out of 14,471 men overall and 1,077th out of 1,994 men in the 40-44 age group.

Within about 90 seconds of crossing the finish line, I found myself in a wheelchair as things started spinning and I nearly blacked out.  I fought hard to pay attention to what was going on around me because the medical person told me that if I sat in the wheelchair for 10 minutes that I had to go to the medical tent.  I told her to let me know when I was at 9:30 and then I made myself get up because I was supposed to meet Cindy at the finish line and I knew that she didn’t have her phone and wouldn’t be able to find me if I wasn’t at the predetermined spot.  It took everything I had to get out of the wheelchair, but I did and then hung on tight to a railing while I waited for her to finish.  I got another volunteer to give me a bag of potato chips and the salt started to perk me up enough that I spotted her as she was heading my way after setting nearly a two-minute Boston Marathon PR in the tough conditions in her third time running the prestigious race.  What a welcomed sight!  We had both made it!!!

While my time may not have been what I was originally hoping for, I am so proud of my effort and determination in this one.  Sure, it would have been great if the temperature would have been 20 degrees cooler and the sky would have been cloudy.  But, just like in life, things rarely go perfectly and the true test is adapting to the situation and doing the best you can.  I can say that I did that on this day!  I’m also proud of all my friends in addition to Cindy who battled the elements.  Great job, Dan, Ken Varian (sub 3:00 in that heat – Beast Mode!), Bryan Stansberry, Megan Morris, Molly Stout, Ryan Arens, Jason Homorody, Laura Anderson, and Ron Hayes.  I will not be going for a Boston three-peat in 2017, but I’m totally okay with that.  It’s a truly special event and it should be earned every time.

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A huge thank you to the BAA and the city of Boston for putting on a great event and the truly amazing spectators who simply won’t let you not finish the race.  There were lots of great signs along the course, lots of high fives to give, and yes, the dude around mile 14 who had a $1 bill firmly in his hand got a good laugh when I tried to grab it.  He turned to his buddy and said “got another one!”  Ha ha!  Such a great experience and I can’t wait to see what the next adventure will bring.

And The Winner Is…

This year’s March Madness contest ended with a bang as Villanova hit a buzzer-beater to down the only remaining No. 1 seed North Carolina to claim the NCAA title 77-74.

juan poonOf the 51 people who entered my seventh annual bracket contest sponsored by Outback Steakhouse, only Adam Jackman correctly predicted that Villanova would win it all.  Unfortunately for Adam, his picks in the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight kept him from claiming the overall title in this year’s contest as he came up 40 points short of the top spot by finishing with 1100 points.

Congratulations to Juan Poon (left) for winning this year’s title and along with it the coveted $20 gift certificate from Outback.  Juan was the only person in the contest to correctly have picked both teams in the championship game and his early success helped to overcome the fact that his beloved Tarheels did not captured the trophy as he had predicted.  He finished with 1140 points.

Michael MacEachern, who was at or near the top in every round, finished third with 1040 points, while Hannah Miller was also consistent and finished fourth with 980 points.  Trevor Gaffney, who made a late run, rounded out the top five finishers with 970 points.

In addition to everyone in the top five and the previous winners from the first weekend of action, eight other people also scored a free Bloomin’ Onion from my friends at Outback and I’ll be mailing those out to the lucky recipients.  In the media division, Joe Rinehart of WNZR (820 points) just edged out Amanda Rykoff (800 points) of the Houston Astros and former 10TV weatherman Josh Poland (800 points).  Meanwhile, Holly Zachariah and Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch ended up deadlocked in the battle for workplace bragging rights.  Defending champion R.J. Bergman finished in 47th place in a rebuilding year as he made an early exit just like his favorite team, Duke.  And finally, after thoroughly beating her husband and former contest winnter, Patrick Neville a year ago with Northeastern (NE) and Villanova (VILL) in the finals a year ago, Noelle Neville finished dead last.  If she would have only picked Villanova this year.  🙂

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s contest and thanks as always to Outback Steakhouse for being such a great sponsor.  They donated the $20 grand prize and 20 Bloomin’ Onion cards.  Make sure to visit them when possible and send them a tweet to say thanks!  Hope to see you all again next year when we all go in search of our One Shining Moment!