Saturday, April 15, 2017

100 Day Commitment, Take Two

Since my first crack at Calvin Johansenn's 100 Day Commitment was that I would write every day for 100 days, most of it published on this blog, I figured I should at least write one blog post about my second 100 day commitment.  If you'd like to join us, you can get the details and sign up here.  100 Day Commitment. I encourage you to watch the video.  From having attempted and having marginal success in September of 2015, I would say his advice is spot on.  You choose your own challenge.

For this 100 days, I am committing to sleeping eight hours per night.  It will definitely be a challenge for me, as my standard operating procedure has always been to give up sleep whenever I get behind on things, despite knowing that this strategy is horrible for both my mental and physical health.  This will be especially challenging because I recently purchased another insurance agent's book of business, which has dramatically increased my work load.  On top of that, my wife's work responsibilities have increased lately, both my sons are in spring sports, and my older son will be graduating from high school soon.

Another factor is that I found out a couple of months ago that I have hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels).  Fatigue and poor concentration are symptoms of that.  They are also symptoms of sleep deprivation.  If I am not sleep deprived, that will give a better indication of whether or not the medication is working.  If I don't get enough sleep and am tired, we won't know if the medication needs to be changed because it's not working, or if I'm just tired.

I know that I will feel better physically and will have better concentration with work stuff when I get sufficient sleep consistently, but that's hard to measure.  I do have a couple of measurable things on the physical side, so I'm posting as a base to compare to at the end of the 100 days.  This morning I weighed in at 219#, which I think is a little skewed because I ate a big dinner late last night.  I think my "real" weight is more like 215 or 216#.  The other number I'm tracking is 18:38.  That was my time Thursday night at the Elkhart Time Trial.  Since I do that same race the 2nd Thursday of each month, that will give me a couple of comparison times.

I will be posting regular updates on Facebook.  I may or may not post here.  If do hope you join us.  Don't be fooled by the  fact that they let me in the group.  It really is a quality bunch.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wabash Trace 1, David 0: My FKT "Race Report"

Tragedy + Time = Comedy.  In the grand scheme of life, it was far from a "tragedy", but I think a couple of days is enough time for me to recover enough to make this at least entertaining if not funny.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 I attempted to establish a "Fastest Known Time" (FKT) for doing the full length of the Wabash Trace on foot, self-supported.  Rather than go into the details of the rules, etc., you can read it here if you'd like.  If you think what I did was crazy, you should look at what Scott Jurek did establishing an FKT for the Appalacian Trail last year.

Thank you especially to my wife Lisa for being my "support crew" on this attempt, to Scott Schumacher for getting me started on this running craziness, and to Larry Kelley for showing me that we really can do this ridiculously stupid stuff.

People have asked if I attempted this for some cause.  I did not, but if you feel inclined to donate to a great cause, three of my running friends recently completed some incredible runs for a great cause, the MS Run The US Relay.  You can read their stories and donate at these links.
Tammie Kruszczak
Sammy Bridges
Kristina Myint

This is going to be a long one, so I'll start with the very basics, so you can skip the long-winded stuff if you want.

Before.  5:58 a.m.

After.  11:43 p.m.

Route Attempted:  Full length of Wabash Trace Nature Trail from Council Bluffs to Blanchard, Iowa.  62.3 miles.
Route Completed:  Council Bluffs to 220th Street, between Shenandoah and Coin, Iowa.  50.5 miles according to Mapquest (Garmin battery died--with side excursions for food, etc., mileage would have been slightly higher).
Start:  5;58 a.m., July 19, 2016
End:  11;43 p.m., July 19, 2016

Truths revealed, reinforced, learned, discovered:

  • My family, friends and community are awesome 
  • There's no better place than southwest Iowa
  • I am a quitter.
  • "Your mind will quit before your body does."
  • "Be prepared"
  • "You can't outrun a bad diet"
  • "Respect the distance"
  • "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape."
  • Water flows downhill.  If the route starts next to North America's longest river, there's going to be some climbing.
  • Tacos are yummy.
  • 6ish pounds of water is a lot to carry, especially when also carrying an extra 20 pounds of fat.
  • July weather in Iowa is unpredictable.  Just like every other month in Iowa.
  • Roasted beets don't taste very good after sitting in the back seat of my truck from Sunday morning until Monday night in the July heat.
  • I hike at a faster pace if I sing.  Even though I've never been into recreational pharmaceutical use, singing Hank Williams III's version of "Pills I Took" is the best I've found so far
  • I need good sleep to perform well.
  • My Garmin on current settings has a dead battery at 48.25 miles and 15:52:02
  • The point at which I want/need to put in headphones and listen to music during a trail run is somewhere past 50 miles
  • The point at which my uterus will fall out is also somewhere past 50 miles.
  • Running at night is harder mentally than in the daylight
  • It's easier to quit when not running for a cause.
  • After 18 plus hours and 50ish miles in the same shoes and socks on a hot and humid July day, my feet are slightly funky
  • My singing keeps me from getting eaten by mountain lions

What I wore:

  • Altra Lone Peak 2.0, size 12
  • Dirty Girl gaiters
  • Injinji crew length socks with turkey image, of course
  • Trail Toes lubricant (on toes and feet)
  • CEP compression calf sleeves, neon green with reflective accents
  • Hind brand running shorts 
  • Body Glide lubricant (you don't want the details of where)
  • 2014 MS Run The U.S. Ambassador cotton t-shirt (king cotton!)
  • 2 Band-aids (nipple protection)
  • Brooks "run happy" hat
  • Camelbak Mule pack with 3.0 liter bladder
  • Nashbar clip on blinking tail light (attached to pack)
  • "race bib" cut from Casemate index divider (held to pack with 2 safety pins)
  • Garmin 310XT watch (without my heart rate strap) showing elapsed time in the top field, current pace in bottom left and trip distance in the bottom right of screen

  • My fuel (in order of consumption):
    • 3 Donut Stop glazed donuts and 24 ounce "Kona" coffee from Casey's (pre-run)
    • water
    • 1 can mustard packed sardines
    • water
    • Sunbelt Bakery Golden Almond chewy granola bar and Southern Grove dried mango slices
    • water
    • 2 softshell tacos, waffle fries, lots of mustard, barbecue brisket sandwich and pint of Fat Tire Amber Ale at Classic Cafe in Malvern
    • water
    • Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate with caffeine
    • water
    • Pint of Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, 3 bottles Busch Light, 2 Dirty Sanchez at Emerald Isle in Imogene
    • water
    • another Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate with caffeine
    • water
    Things I carried but didn't use packed in various baggies:
    • 2 cotton bandanas 
    • Tifosi Pave sunglasses with interchangeable lenses in hard case
    • Merrell Buff (Sycamore 8 swag)
    • Bike MS crew length socks
    • size 10 water socks
    • 2 additional Sunbelt Bakery Golden Almond chewy granola bars
    • 7 Band-aids of various sizes
    • 5 Wet-Nap anti-bacterial wipes
    • Sawyer Mini water filter with backflushing syringe, straw, and collapsible squeeze bottle
    • orange paracord, approximately 12 feet
    • Sony Walkman radio
    • Yurbuds earphones
    • khaki hat from The Gap
    • lip balm that I think was in a swag bag from some race
    • Gerber multi-tool
    • my keys to truck and house
    • Iowa driver license
    • Trail Toes sample size  and moleskin
    • about 6 convenience store napkins
    • 3 spare Energizer batteries for headlamp (in Princeton Tec case)
    • lensmatic compass
    • D-ring attached to pack strap for no reason
    • one thick rubber band
    • Citizen chronograph watch
    • silver emergency blanket
    • 8 ounce squeeze bottle of Our Family brand yellow mustard (purchased at Mulholland Grocery in Malvern)
    • a magically disappearing baggie containing 12 Tums tablets, 5 stick pack of Extra spearmint gum and 8 yellow mustard packets

    Things I carried and actually used:
    • Princeton Tec Remix headlamp in hard case
    • Samsung Galaxy 4 cellular phone  (Verizon service)
    • Sharpie fine point black permanent marker
    • Body Glide
    • US Bank Credit card
    • blank deposit slip on which I wrote the distance between towns and total mileage
    • Approximately $60.00 cash of which I spent about $20
    So much for the "short" part.  Hold on for the long story.  It's very detailed for several reasons.  Most importantly, so  I have it in writing instead of distorting the details in my mind over time.  As my friend Gary Davis texted me, "it will be a memory that will stick with you until Alzheimer's sets in".   I also made it very detailed in hopes that even a small thing may help others' attempts at completing their goals.

    The "Why"
    I love southwest Iowa and the Wabash Trace.  I think it's an underutilized resource, so part of me doing this was to bring attention to the trail and get more people to use it.  My hope was that if I did it, then others would also do it in order to break my record, bringing more attention and use to the trail.  Those were my biggest reasons for this particular route.  I chose this particular day because it was a full moon and Taco Tuesday!

    This was also a training run for my 2016 "A race" the The Barkley Fall Classic on September 17.  No, I'm not running The Barkley Marathons (this year), just the baby version of 30+ miles in ridiculously difficult Tennessee terrain.  If you aren't familiar with the big Barkley, you should be, even if you aren't a runner.  It's an amazing testimony to human strength and perseverance.  You can watch a pretty good documentary of the 2012 version on Netflix, and if you want to read about it on the internet, Matt Mahoney's page is a good place to start.  My plan has been to have to have a long, difficult run each month leading up to September.  This fit the bill.  I intentionally planned it for mid-July, knowing the heat would be difficult since heat will most likely be one of the many challenges of the September race.

    There have been lots of stones in my pathway leading up to this attempt.  I had ramped up my training, especially running hills, in the spring.  I ramped it up too much too soon, however, resulting in a stress fracture in my left foot, which meant I was in an orthopedic boot with no running from April 29 through June 10th.  Not only did that dramitically cut my training mileage, it also led to me not participating in the Dizzy Goat 12 hour race on June 18th, which I intended to be a huge part of my preparation for my FKT attempt.

    Another unexpected "problem" was that I had a shot at winning the overall title for the Elkhart Time Trial series on my bike this year.  The top two guys in the area aren't competing this year, and the guy who has been #3 missed the second race this season.  With there only being five races, that put me in 2nd place with a solid chance at winning it, so I did a lot more training on the bike than I had planned, which meant even less time running.  "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape", so me trying to train for both but focusing more on the bike was a major factor in me not completing the FKT attempt.  I don't think the running prevented me from winning the time trial series, however.  That was due to my friend Tony Talbot getting stronger and faster each month and beating me in all four of the the races so far this season.  Way to go, Tony!

    I also had another difficulty added by getting a lung/sinus infection about a week before my attempt.  I was better but not yet 100% on "race day".  It cut into my preparation and still affected me on Tuesday.

    I also had a couple of major unexpected things happen with work in the weeks before my attempt that took away a lot of preparation time that I had expected to have.

    With all these obstacles coming at me, I briefly considered postponing my attempt, but I thought back to a lunch conversation I had with my friend Calvin Johannsen where part of our conversation was about him not really being ready for his 14ers Project, but that if he waited until he was ready, then he might never do it.  The way he's crushing his project (check it out here) gave me confidence that I could get mine done even if I wasn't really ready.

    The result of all of these unexpected obstacles and my reaction to them was that instead of doing weekly long runs of 20 or more miles and many other runs of 10+ miles after getting out of the boot like I had planned, when Tuesday rolled around I had done only one or two runs a week, with one of them being about 15 miles, a couple at 10 miles, and everything else shorter.  During this time I also did a horrible job of controlling my diet, so I had gained 10 pounds in weight instead of losing the 10 to 20 pounds as I intended.  I definitely was not prepared.

    However, I left Des Moines early Sunday morning to go to my hometown of Shenandoah with high hopes, confident that I would find a way to get it done.  I left early Sunday morning so I could make it to see my dad be honored along with three others with a "Christian Lifetime Achievement Award" for his commitment to his church.  It was very appropriate that a big part of it was related to the work he did as a Royal Ranger leader.  My time in Royal Rangers was a big part of me developing a love of the outdoors.  I paid close attention to and was inspired by the parts where he talked about the time at a leadership training where he was honored by the group for persevering and not complaining about the time on his feet despite his leg problems and pain.  Thank you, Dad! (photo by Becky Barr)

    I stayed overnight at my Dad's Sunday.  I was up a little before 5 a.m. Monday morning to make a drive to Council Bluffs (after picking up a couple of Donut Stop donuts, of course) to buy tires and make sure exactly how to get to the trailhead since I'd never been to that end before and to make sure I had a secure place to leave my truck the next day.  Another unexpected thing that had been thrown at me was that my son had run over a pair of glass clippers that had mysteriously fallen off the garage wall resulting in a ruined tire.  I was planning to get new tires soon, but not this soon.  Despite having to take a detour because of construction, I found my way to the trailhead and went for a couple of mile walk to see what there was to see.  I was glad that despite heavy rain and wind overnight, the trail was in good condition and the one broken tree was only partially covering the trail.  I also picked up as much garbage as I could carry, which was quite a bit, on the way back.  Earth Day every day.

    I stopped by Fill 'R Up convenience store across the street, filled up the truck with gas and myself with coffee.  I confirmed what my GOATz friends had told me, that they were very glad to have people park there while using The Trace.  I will be making a point of stopping there whenever I'm close.  They earned a customer for life.

    I won't name where I went to get my tires mounted, but they were the opposite of Fill 'R Up.  They charged me double what I expected for the mounting and balancing, and five minutes into the job they came back in to tell me that the lug was stripped because it had been cross-threaded when the spare was put on.  I'm 99% sure it wasn't since I was right there and helped Alex change the tire, that it was the tire place who screwed it up (pun intended).  However, I had no way of proving it, so I told them to go ahead and replace it, if they had the proper part in stock.  A few minutes later they came back again telling me that they wouldn't know until they had everything torn apart whether or not they had the right part, that they might have to order it, they didn't know how long it would take, etc.  I told them just to put everything back together, and I got out of there as fast as I could with what was left of my morning and my wallet.  In line with the rest of their poor service, they didn't even put the spare back on its holder, just threw it in the bed of the truck.  

    After more time and a few phone calls, I realized that I was going to be driving with a missing lug nut for awhile.  It wasn't ideal, but I wasn't going to let it stop me.  I went back to my dad's house to get at least some work done with what was left of the day.

    I then made another mistake that would come back to bite me.  I thought it would be good to take a nap.   I was wrong.

    After eating an awesome fried chicken dinner courtesy of my step-mom Kathy, I visited some family friends for a couple of hours and then headed back to Dad's for final preparation, which included eating my roasted beets.  I always eat a lot of roasted beets the night before and usually the day of my big endurance events.  I have no problem digesting them, they have anti-inflammatory properties, and help the body use oxygen better.  I then realized that I didn't remember moving them from my truck to the refrigerator, and then found them in the back seat of my truck.  They didn't look good at all, but I needed them, so I tried a bite anyway.  As bad as they looked, they tasted a lot worse.  One more obstacle to overcome.  No point in worrying about it then, so I decided to get some shut eye.  Unfortunately, I was wide awake because of my nap.  I had intended to get up around 3 a.m. and start my run around 4 or 4:30 so I could bank some miles before it got too hot.  However, since I didn't get to sleep until shortly after midnight, I set the alarm a little later.

    I got up showered and got to the Donut Stop just after 4 a.m.  The glazed donuts weren't yet glazed, but Randy told me they'd be ready in three or four minutes.  It was well worth the wait.
    I found my way through the construction and stopped at Lake Manawa Casey's store since Fill 'R Up wouldn't open until 5:30.  I got coffee, used the restroom, and lubed my feet with Trail Toes, other various places with Body Glide, and made my final preparations.  After dropping my truck at Fill 'R Up, I walked across the street to the trailhead, where I first encountered, "The Hipsters".

    "The Hipsters", a bearded man and a woman riding fixies without helmets were sitting on a picnic table having a smoke and gave me a friendly, "Good morning!" as I walked up, which I of course returned.  After using the portable toilet a wandered over to my "start line".  The clock on my phone said it was 5:56, so I decided to make my official start time 5:58, giving me 2 minutes to take a selfie, send my wife a text that I was starting, post it on Facebook, etc.  Typical with how everything else had gone leading up to the start, right then the rain started.

    It's not a yellow gate, but I touched one of the yellow poles by the start line and began my run as soon as my phone showed 5:58.  A few feet down the trail I made my first stop at a picnic table to put my phone in my pack and get everything adjusted.  I was immediately swarmed by biting flies, mosquitoes, etc.  Apparently my bug repellent wasn't going to be very effective today.

    I settled into a comfortable jog averaging about an 11 minute per mile pace.  I hadn't gone very far when I suddenly smelled smoke.   The Hipsters passed me smoking and drinking Budweiser tall boys and we said "hi" to each other again.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the broken tree had been cleaned up in less than 24 hours and that no one had littered in the stretch I had cleaned the day before.  The rain also stopped after only a couple of minutes.  It was going to be a good day.

    The miles clicked right along.  It was hot, but I was drinking plenty.  I was mildly surprised that I was constantly climbing, but when I actually thought about it, that made sense since Council Bluffs is bordered by the Missouri River.  Water doesn't flow up hill.  The trail was beautiful, and I saw several people out getting their runs done.  I didn't recognize any of them, but they were all friendly.  I was hoping to see Joe Chamberlain out there since I know he runs it often, but no such luck.  The Hipsters and I leapfrogged each other repeatedly, to the point that I even commented with a laugh, "Are we just going to do this all day?"  Each time I came to a bench along the trail, they would be there smoking and drinking, then a little bit later they'd pass on their bikes.  Before we got to Mineola, however, they turned around and headed back to Council Bluffs, and we waved to each other one last time as they passed me again.

    As I got closer to Mineola I noticed my hands were swelling and my wedding ring was tight.  With the large amount of water I was drinking and sweating I was doing, I knew hyponatremia was a possibility,  I was prepared and had packed several packets of mustard (thanks to the tip from Henry Bickerstaff a couple of years ago) to replace the salt I was flushing out.  I stopped at a bench and emptied my pack looking for them, but they were not there.  Apparently they had fallen out in my truck, I had left them at my dad's or something.  I wasn't worried so much about the gum that was in the same baggie, but I was concerned that the baggie also contained my Tums, which have worked well for me to both help settle my stomach and reduce cramping (I've been told they help with cramping because of the calcium).  I wasn't going back for them wherever they were, so I broke out the only other thing I had brought with significant salt, a can of sardines packed in mustard that I had thrown into my pack almost as a joke.  They hit the spot, and I had a great view while I enjoyed them, and there was a garbage can right there so I didn't have to put the empty, oily can back in my pack.  My goal was to cover about 4 miles every hour, so at almost 8 1/2 miles done in 1:54, I was ahead of schedule despite the heat and humidity.  This was actually the only time I used my khaki hat.  I was dripping so much sweat on the screen of my phone that it wouldn't take a picture, so I used the hat to clean it off so I could get these shots.

    The short stop refreshed me, and I picked up the pace a little heading into Mineola.  I knew I was too early for tacos at Tobey Jack's, but I hoped there'd be someplace to get water and electrolytes.

    When I got to Mineola I didn't see any businesses or parks near the trail where I could replenish my supplies.  A definite disadvantage to not doing as much scouting of the route as I had intended.  I didn't want to go off the trail searching for something that might not be there, so after checking my mileage sheet and seeing that I only had another 4.3 miles to Silver City, I decided to just push through.  I still had some water left and figured that if I ran out, I could either make it the remaining distance to Silver City or stop at one of the many streams along the way and filter some water.

    Just outside of Mineola, I started to worry a little about water, however.  There were lots of streams, but with the heavy rains from the day before, the streams were running high and fast, and all the stream banks were steep, with no obvious, safe paths to safe places to refill.  Even if I got to the streams, it would be a slick, steep climb back to the trail.  Fortunately, I had enough water to make it to Silver City.

    Between Mineola and Silver City I started feeling the effects of the heat and not having any significant long runs for a few months.  I didn't feel bad, but I started taking some walk breaks, knowing that I had a long way to go.  I also enjoyed a short ride on a trailside bench and a little nourishment.

    Nothing seemed to be moving when I arrived at 9:20 a.m. in Silver City yet either, except the thermometer mercury rising and three people sorting mail at the post office.  I asked them if there was any place there to buy food or drink and found out that the local bar and grill was the only option, and it wouldn't open until lunch time.  At least the park had a water fountain next to the trail, so I filled my 3 liter bladder, took a selfie, and texted my wife.  "Leaving Silver City, will take a longer break in Malvern.  Feeling ok, not great.  Ahead of my goal pace, but will slow down a lot later.  14 miles done".  I started the 8 miles to Malvern knowing that I had enough water, but I was short on electrolytes (my shirt is completely saturated in the picture below) and this was the furthest I'd run in a few months.  But I was moving into familiar territory, knowing that Malvern had good water, a grocery store and a bar and grill (I had just been there two weeks before seeing my brother and Matt Cox play a Friday night concert on the square) that would be open for lunch by the time I got there.  
    During that stretch I saw a few more people on bikes, including a couple out for a ride asking where I was going.  I replied, "Missouri".  I thought the guy was going to wreck his bike when he heard that, but he managed to keep it upright.  I told him that I was so slow that the only way I could set a record was to do something that everyone else was too smart to try.  He laughed, "You always set a PR that way!"  They wished me luck and said, "Try to stay cool".

    Over that eight miles it kept getting warmer, I kept drinking lots of water, and my walks got longer and my runs got shorter.  By the time I reached Malvern, it was about 50/50.  I would pick a landmark in the distance, tell myself, "I'm going to run to that ________" and then run to it and start power hiking.  I would then pick the next mark and say, "I'm going to start running again at that______". When I left Silver City I was running about 3/4 mile and then walking 1/4, but as I approached Malvern, it was more like running 100 to 200 yards and then walking the same.  About a mile or two from Malvern I decided to walk the rest of the way in to try to cool down a little bit, knowing that I was going to sit for a meal and hoping that the cool down would keep me from stiffening up and cramping as much.  I arrived in Malvern at 11:44. meaning it took about 15 minutes longer than my goal of four miles every hour.  I texted my wife that it had been a rough stretch, that I would be taking a longer break there than I had planned, that I had forgotten my mustard packets,  She asked if I was getting rained on, and I replied that they had called for a 30% chance of rain in the morning, but it should all be past now.  With that I headed to Classic Cafe to fuel up.

    I sat at the bar and ordered a draw of Fat Tire Amber Ale.  I knew I was short on both calories and salt, so when given the choice between the lunch specials of tacos or barbecued beef brisket sandwich, I chose both.  It was a little too much, but not a lot too much.  I finished it all anyway.  With lots of mustard on everything.  It was excellent.

    I joked with the bartender that I would just stay at the bar to eat instead of offending "the civilized people" in the dining area with my smell.  She laughed and said that I had a ways to go to catch up with a couple of regulars who come in for lunch after working with livestock all morning.  It sounded like it's an ongoing game of her giving them a hard time about it and them intentionally coming in without washing up first.  I also had another nice conversation with another employee who was making some monster bars to sell when RAGBRAI came through in a few days.  She asked if I would be riding (I will be the first two days) and said she had lived there for a few years before she and her husband started using The Trace, but she really enjoyed it.

    After my meal I not only was cooled down, but suddenly started shivering, so I paid my tab, hobbled across the street to fill my Camelbak on the square, and then went to Mulholland Grocery a few doors down to buy some mustard.  I put the bottle in my pack and went back to the trail, making sure I got back on at the same place I had left it.  I texted my wife at 12:36 p.m. that I was putting my phone back on airplane mode (I did that on the trail to save the battery).  I started the 13.6 mile stretch to Imogene noticing that it was starting to look like it could rain.

    I ran a half mile or so out of Malvern before I warmed up.  I felt better than when I had come into Malvern.  I didn't really need to pee, but I forced myself to so I could check the color to make sure my electrolytes were in balance.  It looked slightly darker than it should, but not bad.  I made a point of drinking more water.  

    In another mile or so the rain started coming down pretty steady.  After being so hot all morning, it felt great!  The rain lasted an hour or more,  There was some lighting, but nothing major.  The part of the day that I expected to be the hottest was actually fairly pleasant.  During this stretch I didn't run a whole lot.  I was trying to digest too much food, and I knew I wasn't even half done yet.  I was also climbing pretty much constantly.  It wasn't a steep grade (never more than 4% since it's rails-to-trails), but it wore on me.  Then when the rain stopped, the humidity was high and the bugs were hungry.  I lost count of how many deer flies, mosquitoes and unidentified biting insects I killed, but I'd guess that it was at least one hundred.  On the positive side, I knew this part of the trail well, and I knew I'd have tacos, beer and friendly faces when I reached the Emerald Isle in Imogene.

    I was still moving fairly well, just not fast.  I could hike at a pretty good pace (15-18 minutes per mile) and ran the few downhills, but any other time I ran at a decent pace I started overheating.  I knew that running now would cost me later.  I wanted to be running at the end.

    Because I didn't see another person in this whole 13+ mile stretch, I got bored.  So I started singing.  I got stuck in a time warp and ran through a bunch of Steve Miller Band, Billy Squier, Head East, John Cougar, and even a couple of Foghat songs.  However, Hank Williams III gave me the best pace, especially singing "Pills I Took".  With my lack of signing ability, it's a good thing there wasn't anyone else out on the trail.

    I finally reached The Emerald Isle at 4:50 p.m., having taken more than 4 hours to cover 13ish miles.  I was definitely falling behind schedule.  But thankfully I was going to be able to take advantage of all the specials that started at 4:00 p.m.

    I plopped down at a table off to the side since I wasn't sure if I'd be able to climb up on a bar stool.  Even though I usually follow the "man rule" of "don't fruit the beer", a Summer Shandy sounded tasty.  When I ordered one, I was also told that the table I had chosen was reserved for 5:00, as were all the other tables.  After finishing my first beer, I was recovered enough to stagger over to the bar just as the people who had reserved the table arrived.  I spent over an hour at the bar consuming three bottles of Busch Light and two Dirty Sanchezes and cooling down.

     It was more time than I had planned, but I wanted to recover enough to start running again, especially knowing that a lot of the trail from there to Shenandoah was downhill.  I chatted briefly with Becca, one of the owners who knew what I was attempting, telling her I didn't really want to go back out, but I was going to anyway.  On the way out I  had a brief conversation with my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Brownlee, and his wife, and then saw Uncle Curtis coming in for dinner just as i was going back on the trail.  He was just one of about twenty people I saw on the trail heading to Imogene for Taco Tuesday.  After seeing no one between Malvern and Imogene, seeing others out there gave me a big mental boost.

    I texted my wife at 6:03 that I was going back on the trail, that at my prior pace it would take me about 3 hours to reach Shenandoah, but I thought I could pick it up a little.  I was right.  I did that 10ish mile stretch in 2:50.  I ran very little, but kept up a pretty good power hiking pace.  I felt like I could have run some, but I wanted to save some energy so I could maybe run at the end.  In addition to the boost from seeing others, it helped me a lot mentally that I was in my "home stretch", both because I was more than halfway done and I was in the part of the trail that I knew best.  I hunted much of that stretch as a kid when it was still railroad tracks.  I have ridden my bike and run on that section more than any other part, and the second half of the only Marathon I've ever run was on that section of trail.  Our family farm is just off the trail north of Shenandoah, and for many years I have deer hunted land right along the Trace, including the time about which I wrote this essay.

    As I came in to Shenandoah's Sportsman's Park, one of my fears was confirmed.  Leading up to my attempt, I had planned to get some ice cream and other food and drink at the swimming pool concession stand since there were no stores in the last 18 miles, and had considered possibly taking a dip to cool down and refresh.  However, the swimming pool was closed.  I wasn't sure if it was because of the rain earlier, or if they don't stay open until 9 p.m. like they did when I was a kid, but it didn't really matter.  My options were to run to Casey's a half mile away (one mile round trip), or hope I got to the bar in Coin (12.5 miles away) before they closed, or get by with what I was packing if I didn't get there in time,  I've done quite a bit of training while fasting, training by body to burn fat for fuel, so I felt pretty comfortable with my choice to skip Casey's.  I filled my Camelbak bladder to its full 3 liter capacity and lay down on the "porch" of the Rose Garden and elevated my feet for five minutes, just as the sun was setting.  I ate another Clif Bar and texted my wife what was happening.  She texted back that she was just a few blocks away, outside the public library using the wi-fi to watch a movie on her I-pad.

    I then made a major mistake.  I started thinking about quitting.  Up until that point, whenever I was hot, tired, and/or hurting, I kept telling myself, "I don't quit when I'm tired; I quit when I'm done".  I texted her that it was, "very tempting to say 'fuck it'.  But I'm not going to."  She replied, "But you've gone this far.  You can do it!!!"  That was at 9:06.  I got up, put on and turned on my headlamp, and started hiking.  I didn't need the light to see yet, but wanted to be visible to anyone driving since I had a short section to do on the side of the road rather than trail.  I was moving and telling myself I would muddle through, but the "quit" thought was still in my brain.  My lack of sleep the night before was catching up with me too.

    By the time I went by the cemetery and was back on the crushed limestone trail, there was no more light from the sun, but the full moon was up.  I could see the trail just fine, so I kept my headlamp on the lowest setting, not realizing this was another mistake.  The mistake was that without being able to see details like individual leaves, a certain tree branch, or a bridge up ahead, I was no longer breaking it down into small, manageable chunks in my head.  When it was light, I was picking out things a short distance ahead, reaching the goal, and then setting a new goal.  Although they were small successes, I was having many successes.  Leaving the cemetery, I knew that I would have an uphill grade until the trail crossed under Highway 2 a few miles ahead (I was thinking it was about two miles).  I told myself that I would hike hard to that point, and then would have another mile to hike until there was a bench by another crossroads that looked over a field of grape vines, just a little ways past the old Izaak Walton League.  I would reward myself with a nice rest there looking over that scene in the moonlight.

    I started singing, "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" both to get in a rhythm and to scare away mountain lions.  It brought back memories of a few years before where I had been running this same section on a similar night where, as I was running, I realized I was in the same area that several dogs had been eaten by one or more mountain lions in recent years.  I figured between my bad singing and bad smell, I was pretty safe.

    Somewhere in this section my Garmin battery died, which was another obstacle.  For the prior 40some miles, whenever I thought I might be going too slow, I would check my pace on the Garmin and concentrate on going faster if needed.  I no longer had this crutch to accurately judge my "speed".  Combined with not being able to see much, I really didn't know how fast or slow I was going.

    Unfortunately, I was wrong about the distance to Highway 2.  It's actually about four miles from the cemetery to Highway 2, and almost another mile to the bench I was going to rest on, but I didn't know that at the time.  I kept trudging along, feeling like I was barely moving.  It was taking much more time than I knew it should to complete the "two miles" to Highway 2, and I kept having more and more negative thoughts.  I kept seeing things ahead that I thought HAD to be the Highway 2 bridge over the trail, and every time I got there and realized it wasn't Highway 2, I was more and more disappointed..  Because it was taking so long to complete that "two miles" I kept pushing myself harder.  I did finally get to Highway 2 and kept myself going by telling myself that in another mile that I would sit for a bit on that bench.

    I finally reached the next crossroads and saw the grapes, but was devastated that there was no bench to sit on.  I almost cried at this point.  I still don't know if I went past the bench in the dark, that there had never been a bench there and I incorrectly "remembered" seeing it on my earlier scouting trip, or if the bench had been removed.  Regardless, I was crushed that I couldn't sit on it to enjoy the view.

    Things are a little blurry after that.  I kept hiking, thinking that maybe the bench was on the other side of the road.  I kept going for awhile and eventually found a bench dedicated to Larry Franzen.  I plopped down, turned my headlamp off, and closed my eyes for a few minutes.  I woke up hearing some animal scurrying around nearby and turned my headlamp back on to find a family of about 6 or 8 raccoons staring at me from a tree just to my left.  I'm not scared of raccoons, but I hate them (I still haven't forgiven the entire species for stealing the fried chicken from my cooler 20 or so years ago), so I spat some obscenities at them and got moving again.

    A little further down the trail I came up on a "porch swing" on the side of the trail.  At least I think I did.  Maybe it was before the Larry Franzen bench.  As I said, things were pretty blurry at this point.  I sat down and think I fell asleep again.  I either dreamed (pretty sure it was a dream) or hallucinated that there was a guy sitting next to me on the swing.  He had some bits of paper with some percentages written on them that he was trying to explain to me, but I couldn't comprehend what he was talking about.  He also offered me some granola bars or candy or something to eat.  I explained to him that I couldn't accept them, because that would disqualify me from this being a self-supported FKT.

    I got up from the swing knowing that I was now on "quitters road", that my attempt was over.  Even without the sleep deprivation, at the pace I was moving and not moving, it would take me way too long to finish.  My will to push on was gone, especially knowing that I wouldn't make it to the bar in Coin in time to replenish any supplies, and that it might take until noon the next day to get it done.  My mind quit, even though my body was still capable of forward motion.  I just wanted to get to the next crossroads so I could text my wife to come get me.  I "knew" that the next crossroads was right next to another place that I've deer hunted for years and I could direct her right to where I she could pick me up.  Rather than disappointment, my biggest emotion was relief.  I was happy to know it would be over, even if I didn't finish.

    When I reached the crossroads, I found out I was wrong again.  I was still short of my deer hunting spot.  Instead of it being gravel, I had reached a dirt road that I didn't want her driving down because of the rain earlier in the day.  I was so tired it took me four or five attempts to get my phone password right so I could even text her, which I did at 11:43 p.m.  I hiked about 1/4 mile up the dirt road until it intersected with some gravel and texted her that I was at the intersection of 120th and E.  Thankfully she figured out that I had mis-typed that and came to my actual location, which was 220th and E.  While waiting, I took one last photo of my beaten self.

    The Aftermath
    I fell asleep almost immediately in the car after I posted on Facebook that I had quit.  But before I dozed off, I was overwhelmed by the amount of positive posts and support from my friends and family.  I hadn't checked along the way because I needed to save my battery and the signal was iffy much of the way.  All that positive energy really prevented me from falling into a deep funk of disappointment.  Thank you.

    I woke up just as we got back to Council Bluffs and directed Lisa to where my truck was parked.  She was worried about me driving a couple of miles to our nearby hotel, but I managed.  Driving was much easier than my shuffle to the hotel elevator.  And I've never been happier to learn that my room was only a few feet from the elevator.

    After peeling off my disgusting clothes and shoes, I took one of the best showers of my entire life.  I definitely had some chafing and soreness, but it wasn't too bad.  I had big blisters between my big and second toes on each foot, but they didn't pop and didn't hurt.  Same for the small blisters on the end of my pinky toes.

    All things considered, I actually felt pretty good.  I felt a lot worse after my first half marathon.  I guess my body is getting used to the longer distances.  It only took two or three days until I had no soreness anywhere.

    I think the best lesson I learned on this was that I am a quitter.  I needed to be knocked down a bit.  I've always said, "I don't quit".  On that day, I found my limit and did quit.  Now that I crossed that line, I can build from there.

    I haven't decided when, but I will make another attempt, capitalizing on the things I learned on the first attempt.  Next time this "bib" will be filled out completely.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2015

    Long Term Care Plan v. Long Term Care Insurance (Part 1)

    As I outlined in an earlier post, I disagree with Dave Ramsey  (and a lot of other people) when it comes to long term care insurance.  Many people debate with their family, with "experts" and/or with themselves regarding whether or not to buy long term care insurance.  However, I rarely hear anyone talk about a long term care PLAN, unless they are using it as a synonym for LTC insurance.  Having no plan is a bad plan, no matter how good of insurance that someone might have, and some times having no insurance is the right plan.

    So what's the difference between LTC insurance and a LTC plan?  Maybe it will help to plug in "fire" for LTC to understand it better.

    If your house is burning down, the most important thing is to have a plan of action, so everyone gets out safely.  If everyone's dead, there's not point in having the insurance to replace your stuff that burns up.  Even better than an escape plan, is a fire prevention plan.  Almost all fires are preventable.  If you never have a fire, your never hurt by not having fire insurance or having bad insurance.  Also, once a fire starts, a good plan and things like fire extinguishers can minimize the damage, again making much less important to have good fire insurance.

    Having a long term care PLAN starts with prevention.  Many of the things that result in someone needing long term care are preventable.  Most physical problems that result in people being unable to live on their own are caused by poor lifestyle choices.  Heart attacks, strokes, broken hips, lung problems, etc. are mostly preventable.  Making healthy choices dramatically reduces the odds of needing long term care.  Insurance companies know that, so if you decide to buy LTC insurance, it will cost a lot less and be easier to get if you are healthy.

    The next part of making a plan is to assess your current status and figure out what would happen if right now you were suddenly unable to care for yourself with little or no chance of recovery.  What would happen?  I always recommend taking a lot of time writing out the answer to this question.  It's going to vary a lot from one person to another.  For example, if a person were a grain farmer, someone would have to take over planting, harvesting, etc. pretty much immediately, but if someone is retired or one of many people performing the same basic job as several others within a company, the situation isn't as urgent.  It would also look different for someone running a company where others were dependent on him or her for their employment.  Family situations are another variable affecting things dramatically.

    If you haven't already, now is the time to really think about this possibility, and get it down in black and white what you think would happen.  That is the foundation of a long term care plan.  We'll work on putting the rest of the building up soon.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2015

    Self-ful, Health-ful AEP

    On paper, 2014 was my least successful Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP).  The AEP, which now runs from October 15 through December 7, is akin to tax time for accountants or harvest time for farmers.  It is during this time that people on Medicare can change their prescription coverage and/or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.

    Overall, the chaos has been great for my business.  When I went on my own in 2006, very few people knew how the new prescription drug coverage worked, only that they needed to sign up for something.  Once people found out that I understood it and could explain so that most people could understand it, they told their friends and family about me.  It wasn't unusual for me to show up at an appointment I had scheduled at the home of a couple and have a half dozen other people there too.  I very quickly went from having a handful of customers to having hundreds.  Without that chaos, I probably would have failed quickly.

    Instead, my business took off. I helped a lot of people, and I've won a couple of trips and trophies for my number of sales.

    But it hasn't been all sunshine and tuna and pelicans.  I've had some rough times and close calls.  The standard has been that I would run like crazy, sucking down pots of coffee to wake up in the morning, run all day from appointment to appointment, and then pound drinks when I got home in order to be able to finally go to sleep and do it again the next day.

    I've been trying to back it off for several years, but 2013 made me realize I HAD to slow down during AEP.  Literally.  Right at the end of AEP two years ago I had worked myself into such an exhaustion that my brain was pretty much shut down, even though my eyes were open.  I was driving to an appointment and couldn't figure out why the guy coming the other way was turning left directly across my path.  It wasn't until after I had clipped his back quarter panel that I realized that he turned in front of me because he had the green arrow and I had a red light that I had just run right through.  My truck was damaged, but his car was much worse.  He was mad, but luckily didn't punch me.  I probably deserved it.

    I did better in 2014, but still ran myself down, got sick for the 9th straight year, and took almost no time at all for myself, my family, friends, or anything else but work.  In 2015 I got it right, I think.

    This year, my new sales were about 1/10 of what they have been in past years during this time, but I did a pretty good job of focusing on taking care of my existing customers, and more importantly, taking care of myself.  I got good sleep when I needed to.  I cut back some on exercise, but kept it going, and even did a "50k" race.   I didn't take complete days off, but I took some time to bow hunt during the rut, something I haven't done for the past 10 years.  I took a class.  I spent more time with my family.  I even took advantage of some beautiful weather and camped out a couple of nights when I was on the road instead of driving home tired or staying in a questionable hotel room.
    Poe Hollow, Mount Ayr, Iowa
    I wrote fifteen new blog posts during AEP, which is fifteen more than the prior nine years combined, and also wrote 2 new songs.  Instead of gaining 10 or 15 pounds and feeling completely wiped out at the end of AEP, I'm .2 pounds lighter and feeling great.  That's success in my book.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    New Strategy For "Bridge" Health Insurance

    Before Affordable Care Act (AKA "Obamacare") I often was asked to help find health insurance for people who were a couple of years from Medicare eligibility.  Most often it happened when a husband retired at age 65 and his wife was younger, usually by a few years.  Health insurance was easy for him because he was new to Medicare, and they could both collect Social Security if they wanted.  It made sense of both of them to retire while they were healthy enough to travel extensively if they wanted to.  Getting health insurance for the non-Medicare spouse required answering some health questions, but I could usually get her a decent rate by selling her a policy that excluded maternity and mental health coverage.  It was a safe bet that she wouldn't get pregnant, and if she hadn't had mental health issues by her early 60's, the odds were against her developing them suddenly.  I could get her a decent health insurance policy for around $200-300 per month.  That was affordable and reasonable.  Those days are gone.

    Now for someone in the last few years before being eligible for Medicare, that "bridge" coverage costs two to three times as much because everyone is accepted regardless of health, and the policy has to cover maternity and mental health.  That drives up the cost, making doing the things people want to do in retirement less affordable.

    As much as I dislike it, I'm wondering if the best solution is to manipulate income in order to qualify for a tax subsidy to cover health insurance cost.

    For example, an Iowa couple with an income of $50,000 with him on Medicare could get a monthly tax subsidy in the neighborhood of $150 per month for her health coverage (per this calculator, at least).  If income is $40,000 instead of $50,000, the subsidy increases to just under $280.  That doesn't mean the couple has to have $10,000 less to spend, it just means that they need to decrease INCOME by $10,000.  There are lots of ways to do it.  For example, take $10,000 more out of a savings account and take $10,000 less from his 401K.  One of the screwy things about the ACA is that the subsidy doesn't care what you have for assets.  You can be a billionaire in term of assets but still qualify for a subsidy if your "income" is low.

    Just one more reason to have some assets (Roth IRA, life insurance cash value, etc.) that can be used without increasing "income".

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015

    Why Not Self-Directed Roth IRA?

    Usually when I'm writing here, it's more to share my wisdom (just lobbing that one up there for you to take a swing at) than it is to ask for advice.  This time I'm asking.  I'd love to hear what others have experienced or considered, what holes you see in what I'm thinking, etc.  You could email me at or better yet, I'd love to discuss face to face.

    My older son recently started working at Hy Vee, so he'll be able to start an IRA, most likely a Roth.   I've been thinking about how cool it would be if he maxed out his contributions every year, how well off he would be with all those years of contributing and growing it.  But what's a good way to grow it?  I love fixed indexed annuities for conservative growth and/or income in retirement, but he's not even out of his teens.

    Here's what I'm thinking I would do if I were in his shoes.  I would max my contributions until I had enough saved to buy a piece of investment real estate (or rather a significant enough down payment that the rent would cover the payments).  Or one of the many other options available for a self-directed IRA.  I'm especially intrigued by the idea of  investing in "intellectual property".  The way I'm looking at things, he could be an entrepreneur who never pays taxes on what he makes from his investments, just keeps reinvesting them.  And then passes them on tax-free if set up as a Roth.  Seems like a heck of a deal.  With a lot of work involved to figure it out.

    I'd love to hear your perspective on it.

    Saturday, November 28, 2015

    Sycamore 8--Friday Favorite

    Sycamore 8 is my favorite local race.  About the only thing I don't like about it is that it's the first weekend in December, which means it is also on opening day of the shotgun deer season and the last weekend of Medicare Annual Election Period.  The stars have to align perfectly for me to be able to squeeze it in.  Unfortunately, they aren't lined up for next weekend.  But YOU can still register here.

    The race director, Brad Dains, is top notch.  He's pretty impressive as a runner, but even better as a race director and all around good guy.  Here's what makes it my favorite local race.  In no particular order.

    • It's close to home for me.  Which means I don't need to drive there if I want to run or walk there.  
    • The weather both times that I've done it has not been above 80 degrees (I'm not much of a warm weather runner).  In fact, I don't think it's even been above zero.

    • The race finishes in a parking lot, so I can get warm, dry clothes right after the race instead of having to walk several blocks to my vehicle.
    • The proceeds go to a good cause (Central Iowa Trail Association)
    • A bus is available to take participants from the finish line to the start.
    • I am very familiar with the trail since I run and bike it often because of its convenient location.
    • Warm, tasty soup at the finish
    • Eight miles is enough of a distance to be a challenge, but not so long that it gets boring or I'm overly sore the next day.
    • (saving the best for last?)  Great swag.  I have plenty of t-shirts already.  From this race I've received a stainles steel pint "glass", a very nice bottle opener/key ring that I have attached to my computer bag, and an orange Buff that I use often.  This year there will be a small bag f "Sycamore Single Track" coffee.  Trail running and coffee.  Can't go wrong there.
    Thank you, Brad, for directing my favorite race.  Someday I'll do it again.