31 May 2014

Mileage: MAY

May mileage is posted! I have some ground to make up, as the recent rolled ankle combined with my recovery week after the ATR set me back a little. Today's workout was indoors again (!), on the treadmill, keeping in the interest of prudence.

What's great about running is the more you do it, the easier it gets so the harder you can make it. Today, I cruised with the music, keeping a steady sub-8:30 pace and never once felt fatigued. Ankle ached a little, but that's to be expected (but wearing the brace!).

A week and a wake-up until the Heartbreak Half in Boston - and then the LSAT the following day! Race day wagers, anyone?

I can't seem to get away from red and gold!

30 May 2014

The hectic doldrums and a CoC

Yesterday was an odd day; there were nary extra minutes to spare and while I accomplished all of the day's tasks, it felt like I progressed only minutely down my list of things to do - ah, well, it's only a deadline, it'll pass.  I also didn't get to run, which may have had something to do with it, as my PT asked me to 'please take it easy for the next few days' and she clarified that it meant doing something OTHER than running. Swimming was a nil option today due to lightning and thunderstorms. Sigh.....back on the elliptical. Motivation meter low, but everything counts, so there I was, legs chugging away, rockin' out to Tina Turner.

Today, I am headed to the change of command ceremony for my old unit, The Black Knights; the incoming Commanding Officer was my previous Operations Officer at the MV-22 training squadron. It'll be good to get back up there and see old squadron mates. I am also having lunch with my last Sergeant Major, though he is now with another unit. In addition to the close friends I have made, I deeply appreciate the great number of the Marines with whom I served that still keep in touch with me. It's hard to quantify and qualify the impact they have had on my life and it humbles me still to have been able to serve with them; I always hoped that even as I sometimes muddled my way through, that they know I did my best to meet their expectations and be the kind of officer they wanted to follow. It was my honor and honest privilege to learn from them, to deploy with them and to have shared experiences (some more memorable than others, to be sure!).
I will try to get my act together and post some pics on the Twitter account (@12for12for1200) from today's happenings - give you a little insight into my past life as well as a ceremonial glimpse of those who put on the uniform everyday and make it happen. 

27 May 2014

Lump on a limb

The perils of having a bad ankle caught up with me on Sunday, as, during my trail run, I stepped squarely on a single-point, knobby root protrusion and down I went. I was wearing compression socks, which aided in the reduction of both the swelling and the overall damage, but as of yesterday, my left ankle looked like this:

I swam yesterday instead of running and have been RICE-ing and using Vitamin M (that would be Motrin) to help reduce the swelling and bruising. Ugh. No hills for me tonight and no preparatory 5K tempo for me on Thursday. Easy running and into the pool for intensity cardio. And PT exercises. 

In other news, the VA can't answer my call right now, but I can try my call again later or call after hours to use their automated system to set up a time when I can call and someone could answer. I am just going to drive to the VA offices here and present my case to them. Funny, because at the top of my letter in bold, it states - "IMPORTANT - Reply Needed." [We just can't take your call right now. But we need to hear from you within 30 days of the date of this letter (which means I have less than a month to get all my information together to defend my position on my case).] Woosah......

And, lastly, in case you still weren't sure if I am a Marine through and through, even my flowers are red and gold....yep, moto right outside my front gate. Planned it that way. 

Have a motivated day! 

26 May 2014

"In our youth, our hearts were touched with fire"

[From an address delivered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.]

Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth--but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperilled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluable; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred conviction that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south--each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then , it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier's death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.

But Memorial Day may and ought to have a meaning also for those who do not share our memories. When men have instinctively agreed to celebrate an anniversary, it will be found that there is some thought of feeling behind it which is too large to be dependent upon associations alone. The Fourth of July, for instance, has still its serious aspect, although we no longer should think of rejoicing like children that we have escaped from an outgrown control, although we have achieved not only our national but our moral independence and know it far too profoundly to make a talk about it, and although an Englishman can join in the celebration without a scruple. For, stripped of the temporary associations which gives rise to it, it is now the moment when by common consent we pause to become conscious of our national life and to rejoice in it, to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for the country in return.

So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiam and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhpas a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.

When it was felt so deeply as it was on both sides that a man ought to take part in the war unless some conscientious scruple or strong practical reason made it impossible, was that feeling simply the requirement of a local majority that their neighbors should agree with them? I think not: I think the feeling was right-in the South as in the North. I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.

If this be so, the use of this day is obvious. It is true that I cannot argue a man into a desire. If he says to me, Why should I seek to know the secrets of philosophy? Why seek to decipher the hidden laws of creation that are graven upon the tablets of the rocks, or to unravel the history of civilization that is woven in the tissue of our jurisprudence, or to do any great work, either of speculation or of practical affairs? I cannot answer him; or at least my answer is as little worth making for any effect it will have upon his wishes if he asked why I should eat this, or drink that. You must begin by wanting to. But although desire cannot be imparted by argument, it can be by contagion. Feeling begets feeling, and great feeling begets great feeling. We can hardly share the emotions that make this day to us the most sacred day of the year, and embody them in ceremonial pomp, without in some degree imparting them to those who come after us. I believe from the bottom of my heart that our memorial halls and statues and tablets, the tattered flags of our regiments gathered in the Statehouses, are worth more to our young men by way of chastening and inspiration than the monuments of another hundred years of peaceful life could be.

But even if I am wrong, even if those who come after us are to forget all that we hold dear, and the future is to teach and kindle its children in ways as yet unrevealed, it is enough for us that this day is dear and sacred.

. . . Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow The Gleam.

- Lord Alfred Tennyson

25 May 2014

Arlington at 150 Years

I've seen this Military Times article several times, and am sharing it because it is a lovely synopsis of what I consider to be THE national cemetery, although there are over 130 across the country and territories.

Click here for the tribute to Arlington Cemetery at 150 years.
Image credit: Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.
If you've never been to Arlington, it is a place to pay homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and it is an integral piece of our nation's fabric - both its history and its present. It is a place to reflect upon what it means to serve and give to something greater than oneself, to be there for your nation in a way that, unless you have served, is hard to explain and define, but it changes your perspective on what is important in life....

If you are a nerd like me, you can read more about the inception of the cemetery (during the Civil War) and how it came to be designated as a military cemetery here.

 Official website: Arlington National Cemetery.

24 May 2014

VA headache

Coincidental to all the latest headlines, I yesterday received a letter from the VA, (improperly addressed to "Mr." - thanks for that) which stated that they were changing the rating for one of my conditions. The letter stated, "We have enclosed a copy of our rating decision for your review. It provides a detailed explanation about our proposal, the reason for it, and the evidence considered."

The evidence line stated "VA exam dated 7 April 2014." So, based on one exam, which lasted one hour, with a doctor I had never previously met until I was sent there for the mandatory periodic VA evaluation, and no other information from the two other primary doctors under whose care I have been for over a year nor the physical therapist who has been treating me for almost two years, they made a decision that I have improved.

Let's look at the timeline of events, shall we?

Apr 2013 - Final formal physical evaluation board findings completed and accepted by SNM (me)
May 2013 - Final VA and DoD disability ratings determined and accepted by SNM
Jun 2013 - Terminal leave starts
Aug 2013 - TDRL* (i.e. retirement) begins
Mar 2014 - Mail notification of a mandatory VA evaluation appointment in May. I am told to bring NO medical records except a list of both prescribed and OTC medications. This means the VA has no record of the twice- to thrice-weekly medical appointments over the past year, the 5-day hospitalization last fall, the postponed reconstructive surgery, nor the recent issues re: my broken ankle in March
Apr 2014 - VA-directed medical "evaluation" appointment (see above)
May 2014 - VA says they "noted some improvement" so I no longer rate the initial evaluated percentage

I have 60 days to "submit medical or other evidence to show that we should not make this change." The letter wisely advises me that "the best type of evidence to submit is a statement from a physician who recently treated or examined you." Oh, hey, thanks for the tip.

So.....less than a year after I am retired, I am so improved that they want to downgrade my rating - without actually reviewing my full, recent medical history. Sort of a bizarre way to make a determination, IMHO. (Incidentally, I am still awaiting the appointment date for my DoD annual medical review - the one where they decide whether or not to take me off TDRL and permanently retire me - and they want ALL records of medical treatment received since I left active duty.)

I looked it up and the VA actions fall under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 38:  Pensions, Benefits and Veterans' Relief, Chapter 1: Department of Veterans Affairs, Part 3: Adjudication, Subpart A: Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Heading 311: Administrative, Section 3.105: Revision of decisions. (There are specific instructions and provisions for how long they have to make revisions as well, under Sections 3.343 and 3.344, to name the ones under which I would most likely fall.) 

The sword continues to cut both ways: condemned to a lower quality of life if you don't push to better your physical and mental conditions and yet, penalized by the system if you do. Thank you, Mr. Joseph Heller, for the appropriate lexicon for this cycle. Sigh....all this really means is more paperwork. 

*See blog post 'Retired...with a catch, pt.1'


23 May 2014

Marines are still the most bad-ass...

According to the most recent Gallup Poll surveying the U.S. public.....

Although, we lose out to other service branches with regard to which service is "most important".....

Full details of the poll can be found here

22 May 2014


Condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of LCpl Steven Hancock, a crew chief stationed aboard MCAS New River, under Marine Aircraft Group 26, who was killed on Monday evening when he fell from an MV-22B Osprey during a training flight near Camp Lejeune, NC.  He was from Coal City, IL, just outside of Chicago, and enlisted in the Corps in March 2012.

If you want additional information, here's a link to the video of LtCol. Christian Harshberger speaking directly about the incident to the press at length and how the search was conducted.

20 May 2014

Prepping for Heartbreak: the hill sessions

There is a sliver of sunlight sneaking through the underside slit of my glasses and I focus on it as it creates a firefly glare on the lens, allowing it to distract me from the steady ache growing in my quads. It is windy out, but graciously not humid, a reprieve for the day; I am still sweating, though, and I can feel the salt drying to a fine film on my arms and legs. Hill number six of ten.

The course starts innocuously, a mild jaunt next to the Cape Fear River, for just over a mile before abruptly turning left and sending your legs into overdrive - there is no preparation for the incline change, you must just go up, and not just to the top of this street, but continue on, for another and then another until the hill ceases its climb, just over a quarter-mile each time. Then another turn left, a small reprieve for your legs, if not your lungs, as you traverse to the next street, down and then a u-turn back up for another quarter-mile. The distance of each hill grows as the blocks skew longer at the far end of the route and each repeat become over 600 yards, not counting the mileage in between the city blocks. The route is serpentine, wending through downtown, with traffic, denizens and tourists who gawk and offer the occasional thumbs-up and "you go, girl!"

I am grateful for Leslie C. to my front, she is smooth and steady and keeping me on pace. I push on the hills, churning upwards and scorching my lungs as they frantically seek the air I rhythmically gasp in. I know I have one block to regain my breath and prepare for the downhill. Ed Eyestone once told me, "You must also train to run downhill, just running up isn't enough." (He should know, being a two-time Olympian marathoner and all.) Another left turn to head down to the bottom of hill number six. Under his tutelage, I learned to safely absorb the down-grade and now I allowed it to carry me without using too much energy. Approaching a stop sign, a look for traffic - I call, "clear left, clear right," over my shoulder and proceed.

The sun is winking at me, or is it smirking? Nope, that's just sweat in my eye, since I did not wear my visor today. So maybe that is a smirk. Six up, seven down, seven up, eight down, eight up, my legs are in hysterics, laughing that I continue, and pretending they aren't coming along. For added fun, the wind picks up and adds resistance to each uphill pursuit.

At the crest of ten, the course is still incomplete - another left, cross the overpass, head back to the river and run the River Walk boardwalk. I stay in Leslie's wind trail, letting my legs roll on, and we make one last turn back to the start/finish.

Six and change (but I will call it six since I forgot my GPS watch). My first full hill session in over four years. Boom.

19 May 2014

The seven colors of running....

Rouge red: those two bright pink cheek circles some people get instead of full face coloration 

Peach blush: that hint of flush across the face just as your internal temperature starts to rise; most common after an effort run in cooler temps 

Robin breast red: those patches of red you get on your body wherever there's a bit of excess fat; most noticeable on the thighs and buttocks in the winter 

Strawberry red: a hot face with freckles

Tomato red: the ultimate facial coloring after a long or hard run in the summer heat (runs the shade gamut from grape to heirloom varietals)

Beet or radish red: you've maybe got some overheating issues

Ghastly pale: Hie thee to ye olde medical tent.....

Seven-mile selfie; got my peach blush going on.......

17 May 2014

Armed Forces Day

Your history lesson for the day...and I especially love how the Marine Corps supports Armed Forces Day but declined to drop Marine Corps Day - what we commonly call the Marine Corps Birthday....damn straight...

Image: (c)JulieGolob.com

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.

In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman "praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas" and said, "it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace." In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated:
"Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America's defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense".
The theme of the first Armed Forces Day was "Teamed for Defense." It was chosen as a means of expressing the unification of all the military forces under a single department of the government. Although this was the theme for the day, there were several other purposes for holding Armed Forces Day. It was a type of "educational program for civilians," one in which there would be an increased awareness of the Armed Forces. It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life. It was a day for the military to show "state-of- the-art" equipment to the civilian population they were protecting. And it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.
According to a New York Times article published on May 17, 1952: "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won't be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty."
The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions, and air shows. In Washington D.C., 10,000 troops of all branches of the military, cadets, and veterans marched pass the President and his party. In Berlin, 1,000 U.S. troops paraded for the German citizens at Templehof Airfield. In New York City, an estimated 33,000 participants initiated Armed Forces Day "under an air cover of 250 military planes of all types." In the harbors across the country were the famed mothballed "battlewagons" of World War II, the Missouri, the New Jersey, the North Carolina, and the Iowa, all open for public inspection. Precision flying teams dominated the skies as tracking radar were exhibited on the ground. All across the country, the American people joined together to honor the Armed Forces.
(information courtesy of the Dept of Defense)

California fires

As the fires blaze across southern California, our military service members answer the call to help.....Aviation assets from 3d MAW and the HSSC3 are assisting in the efforts to fight the wildfires....and a shout-out to SSgt Derek Burleson - a great crew chief!

Links below have a couple of stories in full as well as photo galleries. This is what we do.....
Military Assets Into Service to Assist in SoCal Fires
Brush Fires in SoCal

15 May 2014

Retired....with a catch, pt.1

I am retired - I have a DD214 that says so. However, I am not "permanently" retired, just "temporarily" - because the Dept of Defense, in their wisdom, places certain service members on temporary retirement, just in case they happen to get better. The rationale in my case stems from the mental trauma condition and rating, they want to see if I get "better".  It's called TDRL - Temporary Disabled Retirement List - and you can linger on that list for up to five years while they "track" your progress.

What do I have to do? First, is simply maintain my therapy treatments, which I have been. Second, attend an annual medical "check-up" - wherein I bring any new medical documents, treatments, etc....and they decide if my mobility, pain, nightmares, etc...have improved. The doughnut hole to their theory when it comes to me; however, is this: I have to go back to the same facility where I was injured in order to be evaluated. Hmmm....so send me back to the place where all my trauma occurred and then measure me to see if I've improved. I've even asked to be seen at a remote facility, multiple times, to no avail - because "that's not what the doctors do."

During my rehab and limited duty evaluations, it was pretty much the same and I would sit in my car in the parking lot rehearsing the route I would take to get to the appointment, how to avoid passing anything to do with the Ob/Gyn clinic or the triage area, and my nearest exit. I have quelled panic attacks and had anxiety attacks while inside the Lejeune Naval Hospital as I tried to attend exams and check-ups. I finally refused to be evaluated by anyone but my flight doc and my civilian docs and communicated with the general surgeon via phone and email because it just got to be too much.

I have my first annual appointment coming up in June. I began mental preparation when my advance orders notice arrived in late March. I may ask someone to come with me. It seems asinine, how could a building affect me so greatly? But it does and I lose my bearing and struggle to breathe and not flee in escape mode. I talk myself through the doors and corridors, into the elevator and try not to completely break down. Part of being a Marine is about maintaining one's composure and wits when all around you is chaos; in this case, the chaos roars about my head and is compressed by the pressure of the building sealing all around me.

I haven't yet found a method to keep that chaos contained......

13 May 2014

Pizza Tuesday!

I have been with the Wilmington Road Runners since early 2006. Tuesdays are hill days. The second Tuesday of every month is also a club pizza dinner; a bonus. However, my PT said, please wait until next week to run hills. Hmmmm.....

So, I went to meet everyone running hills with no intention of running them myself. I ended up running a 39-minute loop of downtown with these lovely teammates, Michael and Heather, with almost no hills, but with a nice stretch through the historic district and along the waterfront in the 85 degree heat. And then we ate pizza.

I have no idea what my leg is doing......

It only hurts when...

I sit for longer than two hours.....
I sleep on my right side.....
I try to move furniture on my own....
I lift my daughter up when she's upset and wants a hug.....
I carry too many grocery bags....or bags of mulch....or luggage....
I remember in my sleep and wake up shaking....

So I stand up often,
I sleep on my left or back or stomach (lots of options!),
I ask for help, 
I kneel down and hold her in my lap,
I only carry two at a time....I don't even do it without assistance....I pack light! 
I remind myself that it's over and I am still here.
 And I have and can do everything I need. 

12 May 2014

Mileage stats

April's mileage is posted on the Mileage page - I will update May shortly, to reflect the weekly training. Why is the April total so low? Yep, that's right, after I broke my ankle in March, I started training again on the 20th, and so April was a getting back at it month.

What kind of training am I doing? Mostly running and swimming right now, as I have therapy three times a week right now, as well as the LSAT studying...

What does my actual training consist of? It's a bit hodge podge right now - hill workouts, easy mileage, interval swim workouts, treadmill runs and my PT regimen incorporated into the day somewhere. Not terribly exciting but a simple joy in my day, even if it's hot or I am slow. I am really just happy to be moving forward.

Today, I was on the treadmill, as, having been studying in the morning, it was about 88 and sticky humid by the time I finished. Does anybody else do random things to change it up on the treadmill? I do all sorts of little things just to keep it interesting (things I learned while on the boat)! After a mile warm-up, I adjusted the speed based on the tempo of my running playlist - which gave me some Kenny Loggins, Icona Pop, Kanye, David Guetta and Capital Cities, to name a few. I ran the gamut from a 9:25 to an 8:05 pace for the five mile run and was never bored once. A good day.

Oh yeah, and keeping on the theme of yesterday....this was my after dinner activity.....

11 May 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

This is what it's about for me, at the end of the day....

The munchkins and I made brioche French Toast, done in a Monte Cristo batter (eggs separated, whites whipped, milk, half and half, spices and sugar mixed into the yolks, then added to the whites) and bacon for breakfast, yum! 

Now it's crowns, crayons and crafts...

Enjoy your day! 

10 May 2014

Logical thinking

I have been hitting the books for a couple of months now....prepping for the LSAT (because being a single mom with two little ones, maintaining a household, attending multiple therapy sessions per week and training for a year of races isn't time consuming enough....).

I actually enjoy the problem-solving exercises - Logic Games and Logical Reasoning - perhaps because I have been called logical to a fault (I have been known to say, "You know that's not theoretically possible, right?" in response to a joke's punchline.) Sigh.....

Here's an example of what I am slogging away at (click for the mini-slideshow):
The scenario, limitations and requirements.

My sketch and scribbles

Solved and checked - 5 of 5! 
I'm thinking the only reason I swept this one is because it was aviation based - ha! I hope my funky little diagrams serve me well during the test - it's coming up in June. I'll be taking it in Boston, right after my second race. I have taken the majority of all my academic exams in the greater Boston area, it seems, though for the life of me, I couldn't tell you at which institution I took the GREs. It's on record somewhere.

I solemnly raise my coffee mug in a salute to higher academics....

08 May 2014

General "Mad Dog" Mattis & PTSD

Below is an article written on Military1 after Gen. Mattis spoke in San Francisco last week. Although I was not injured in combat (but rather because multiple doctors royally screwed up and left me to bleed to death), I agree with him. I am not a victim, it's just some really horrendous circumstances that I went through - and nowhere near the level of the s&!t that the infantry boys went through. Does it mean I don't have horrible memories of what happened? No, I do. But I will not allow them to define me. You go, Mad Dog.

'Retired Marine General Jim Mattis, the most beloved and feared military leader in modern history, is not happy with the state of the nation. Last Wednesday night, at San Francisco's Salute to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, he explained why.

Standing in front of an uproarious crowd in San Francisco, General Mattis spoke from the heart about his country, his Corps, and his fellow veterans. He covered two main topics: the need for America to stay engaged with the rest of the world; and the role of our shrinking military in the 21st century.

There were no wasted words, per usual. General Mattis' sharp mind and quick tongue were on full display. He tore apart the cowards who swell the ranks of Al Qaeda and fund Hezbollah (we're all looking at you, Iran). He described the dedication of our Middle Eastern allies in the fight against extremism, and how we cannot leave them stranded as we finish the drawdown. He lamented the growing national debt that will "enslave future generations." He even stopped long enough during the Q&A to slap down any notion that he supported women in the infantry. [I agree with him here, too, btw - FSW]

And then he got controversial.

The appropriately nicknamed Mad Dog took aim at a dangerous moving target: Post-Traumatic Stress. "You've been told that you're broken," said Mattis, "That you're damaged goods" and should be labeled victims of two unjust and poorly executed wars. The truth, instead, is that we are the only folks with the skills, determination, and values to ensure American dominance in this chaotic world.
To a now-silent theater full of combat vets he explained how the nation has a "disease orientation" toward combat stress. Mad Dog's death blow was swift:  "In America, victimhood is exalted."

So what's the problem? We fought, we got a little screwed-up, and now civilians try to get us to talk about it a lot. Big deal.

Except that it matters to General Mattis, and we should probably care what he thinks because chances are he's right. The problem, he contends, is that eventually we start believing it. We start seeing ourselves as broken. We buy into the myth.

The alternative is something so obvious that it is pathetic we don't talk about it more. "There is also Post-Traumatic Growth," Mattis told the crowd. "You come back from war stronger and more sure of who you are."

This concept resonates strongly with me, and several other combat vets with whom I spoke/mumbled late into the evening over drinks. After all, it's a process we've all been through many times in the military. Growth after trauma is how we train to become physically fit and mentally capable of working together as a combat-effective team.

Break down, repair, break down, repair, break down, repair. It's a natural cycle, which offers a well-trod path to progressive improvement.

So why do we think that the story of our personal development ends when we go to war? The myth of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder tells us that we are now broken and cannot be repaired. We are a threat to ourselves and others. We need medication to be stable. We will be constantly challenged by the civilian world as we stumble along, out of phase with the safe and boring environment back home.

What if instead we could look forward to rapid growth as we heal from our wounds stronger than ever before? What if we could rebuild ourselves, and all we needed was the loving support of those around us and a little bit of time? Progress, evolution, healing, restoration - these are watchwords of Post-Traumatic Growth.

You have not heard the last of this, from General Mattis or others. A new domestic front is opening up for the veteran community even as the final combat operations feebly draw to a close. We are now fighting to take control of the narrative that will define the collective military and veteran community.'

Below is the comment left by WF, a Marine a combat veteran diagnosed with PTSD:

Veterans know that we are neither of these things. Leaders like General Mattis are challenging us to find a voice, and tell America who we really are - proud of our service, not defined by it. I have PTSD but it does not mean I am broken. It means I have a memory. I talk about what I have seen, and some doctors cringe, and some look at me with a blank stare. They all try to tell me that medication will fix it, but they are the ones who need fixing. The only thing that will fix my PTSD is time. My PTSD should only be called PTS, because it's not a disorder. Maybe it's just my way of keeping my friends memories alive. They died, but as long as I remember they will never fade away. I'm not sure, but one day when I'm old and grey; I can say I was a Marine, and I served with the greatest men in my history. PTS is just a scar. I have many scars to remind me of what I have done, and where I've been. My scars are what make me human, and sometimes my memories run down my face. This doesn't make me dangerous. The reason I have these scars, is because I was protecting my friends and family from harm. My PTS keeps me from being violent, because I know first hand what violence causes. It causes deep invisible scars, for which I trained and accepted freely. PTS means only that I am human, and I still have feelings. When you are looking for someone dangerous look for someone who has no feelings. A PTS sufferer does not fit that description. I love my God, my country, and my Corps, and I live with scars. I am a Marine! Any questions? Semper Fi

07 May 2014

Nought stands but the valiant heart....

“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
 - att. to Winston Churchill and George Orwell
PACIFIST. Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others
are committing violence on their behalf.
- George Orwell

The Evils of War

How evil a thing is War, that bows men to shameful rest!
War burns away in her blaze all glory and boasting of men:
Nought stands but the valiant heart to face pain, the hardhoofed steed,
The ring-mail set close and firm, the nail-crowned helms and the spears,
And onset again after rout, when men shrink from the serried array -
Then, then, fall away the vile, the hirelings, and Shame is strong!
War girds up her skirts before them, and Evil unmixed is bare.
For their hearts were for maidens veiled, not for driving the gathered spoil:
Yea, evil the heirs we leave, sons of Yashkur and al-Lakah!

But let flee her fires who will, no flinching for me, son of Kais!
O children of Kais, stand firm before her, gain peace or give:
Who seeks flight before her fear, his Doom stands and bars the road.
Away! Death allows no quitting of place, and brands are bare!
What life for us when the Uplands and valleys are ours no more?
Ah, where are the mighty now, the spears and the generous hands?

- Anonymous, Arabic 7th Century

Whoever he was, he was ready to fight.....

06 May 2014

What T-Rex and I have in common

Just because it's a sunny day and I have a forced (read: PT says so) gym workout today:


05 May 2014

One is done.....

The 24-ATR was an incredible experience - not only was the scenery fantastic, but the race organization and support was impeccably executed. I send a huge thank you to Race Director, Alex Papadopolous and the entire Athletic Equation team, they definitely know how to do a race right. 

I chose this race for its location as well as the fact that, for this race, the AE team donates the net proceeds to the Semper Fi Fund as well as the Seal Foundation. They are also a benevolent organization within their community and work to give back by supporting and enlisting local businesses to help them with their races. And such a fun, encouraging and kind group of folks - how many people do you know who volunteer 72+ hours of their time to not only provide food and water, encouragement, patience, and, sometimes, a pacer, and even a jacket to keep you warm while you steel yourself for the next lap at zero-dark-thirty? Oh, and they stay awake, too, for over 36 hours. A huge thank you to them.

The weather was gorgeous, partly cloudy, with temps not budging much higher than 72 with plenty of canopy cover; a perfect day for the first race of the series. I started off probably a little fast and had great company discovering the course over the first loop. The race was a 10K loop, over technical single-track, creek edge trails, ascents and descents and an abandoned miller's trail that ran by a graveyard, all through "Quantico-like terrain."  You keep using that phrase, Wilk, but I have no idea what you mean.......

Basically, you went up, turned a half-corner and went back down, strode out for about 60 yards, then climbed again. Depending on which way you ran the loop, you either encountered technical hills, then the relatively flat creek trail for two miles first and the major hill section on the backside or you did the hill section first, followed by the flat, ending with the technical hills back to the bridge. Either way, you were picking your way through rocks, navigating root systems, playing billy goat over wooden bridges and then opening your stride as you listened to the stream burble your pace to you. (It subliminally influenced me to go faster, not necessary advisable coaching in a 24-hour race.)

I had an "ultra friend" (thanks for the phrase, Justin!) for every lap, and with the race format, you were also guaranteed to meet a body comin' thro' the rye in the other direction. Just as I started my fourth loop, at a steep step-and-drop turn, my right foot slipped and I came down hard on my left leg on the downslope, heavily jarring my left knee. I shook it off and continued on, but as the day wore on, my left IT band would gradually tighten, and despite the ibuprofen and K-tape, by the end of 70K, I was having serious difficulty with the downhills.

I was, at this time, linked up with Kirsten, an inspiring soul who had also been told that she should no longer be running, and who, just that week, had three doctors wave her off starting the race. She had rankled her left ankle in the same area as I my knee, and I came upon her during my seventh lap, with a friend helping pace her through her sixth. We decided to work together for another two laps, and she would reach 50 miles. And so we did. As it got dark and cold, we just kept trucking along, laughing at the comical way we sometimes contorted ourselves over the obstacles. (We even found Jesus, if Jesus was a small painted rock placed along the trail at one of the most difficult inclines.)

And the food!!! Never once did I have any issues with nausea nor did I eat even half of my food, for the spread was cornucopic in scale! Breakfast was fresh strawberries, bananas, pancakes, oatmeal, juice smoothies, coffee and once the race started, there was an endless supply of hot and cold foods, including the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten at a campsite, pickle juice, drinks and smoothies, Coca-Cola slushies, quesadillas, chocolate candies, more strawberries and bananas, three soups, rice balls, tater tots, hot dogs, pierogies....it was endless and I never had to fill my hand-held canteen myself. I was always asked if I needed water or Gatorade and, did I want ice (amen, yes!).  There was also a huge fire when the temperature dropped and even marshmallows for roasting, of which I partook following my last lap, something to nibble on as I hobbled back to the cabin.

All in all, a hugely successful kick-off and, several PRs for me - fastest 50K time, longest single day distance and longest duration time. Full results are here: ATR 2014 Results. (When you look at the results, bear in mind that the time includes stopping to change clothes, to pee, to eat and drink, to tend to blisters and to regain your composure before heading back out into the dark!)

(To my fellow ATR runners who asked about it, if you would like a shirt, click on the T-shirt page for the details, by running, you donated, and I would be honored if you supported the cause by getting a shirt!)

Thank you again to all and to my friends who came to support me at the start and end of the race!

Scenes from the trails

Click on any picture to see the pics in slideshow format.

Driving up I saw a USMC convoy heading to AP Hill
for training - no weekend libbo for you!

At the starting line at Happyland Campground!

Final race brief by race director Alex P.

The field of runners
The camp swimming pool
View from the bridge
The bridge to and from the Lollipop loop
Single track downhill

The most benign uphill of the race -
seriously, this was an easy one

At the 5K halfway point - potato chip break!

First 10K loop completed w/ Bryan

20K done
30K done
40K done
50K done, new PR for time!
60K done
70K done
80K done, new PR for single-day distance!
90K done! Soup broth, tater tots and smiles!
New distance and duration PRs! (I ended up in 8th place overall).
The munchkins send me a sign on Sunday morning! They're the best!!

02 May 2014

All difficult things....

T -20 (give or take) hours til the first race kicks off!

Just about to get on the road to the first race in the series......TAE's 24-Ultra Adventure Trail Race, in Triangle, VA, just outside the gates of Marine Corps Headquarters Base, Quantico.

I will be tweeting updates throughout the race (Twitter handle is @12for12for1200), and if you are interested, the link below will take you to the official race updates, which should be updated every four hours. 


Also attached is a map of Prince William Park with the entrance Happyland Campground,with the race route highlighted in yellow. Happyland is also the  Race Headquarters and the Start and Finish of the race. If anyone is in the area and wants to swing by and say hello, please do! I will tweet out my bib number once I have it!

A quote I read today which is perfect for this race: "All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small." - Lao Tzu. Thanks, dude, good words.

Click for a larger version.

01 May 2014

Gear list

A gear list for an ultra is somewhere in between what you take for a 10K and what you pack for a deployment (if all you were doing on deployment was running).  You have to create the list yourself, though, which ensures that you will forget at least one thing you need and have two of something you don't.  The nice thing about a mandatory gear list from the military is that you know exactly what you are required to pack so additional thinking is minimal, concerning mainly the number of extra pairs of socks you really need, especially if you’re a guy.  Another difference is no one dumps out your gear bag when you check-in at an ultra to make sure you packed everything you were supposed to and then yells at you when something is missing, while kicking your extra socks everywhere.

Conversely, a food list has something in common with a military deployment – you know they will provide food and you have an idea of what it’ll be;  however, 1) you’re not sure that you’d eat it unless you were fahkin stahvin, and 2) you’re not confident that you won’t throw it back up, so you want to bring food you think you’ll want eat  even after 15 hours on your feet and, hopefully, you don’t throw up.

With the above in mind, I am bringing the following to Virginia:
  • Sleeping bag/pillow (for the night prior to the race, staying at the Camp Happyland cabins – yes, that’s the actual name)
  • Isomat
  • Sunscreen (SPF 70)
  • Lip Balm (SPF 20)
  • Running sunglasses
  • Running visor
  • Head lamp and extra batteries
  • Glo-belt
  • The Stick
  • IcyHot (yeah, it probably won't do much, but I will FEEL like it is)
  • Two left-ankle braces
  • Camel back/hand-held running water bottle
  • Three pairs running shoes
  • Five pairs compression socks
  • Two short compression tights w/shorts
  • One pair capri compression tights
  • Two long compression tights
  • One pair long running pants
  • Two short-sleeved running shirts
  • Two long-sleeved running shirts
  • Two beanie hats  (one for running, one for post-race until it warms up)
  • One pair running gloves
  • One light, water-resistant running jacket w/removable sleeves
  • Two pairs warm-up pants
  • One sweatshirt
  • One fleece
  • Three or four towels (to stand on while changing sweaty gear, for showering, etc.)
  • Toiletries
  • Two sets of civvies (for dinner Friday night and breakfast Sunday morning)
For my food:
  • Four bagels w/honey coconut almond butter
  • Macaroni and cheese (Annie’s not Kraft)
  • Baby carrots
  • Four-six bananas
  • One container of blueberries
  • Two bottles - Bolt Farms Soy Chai Latte Protein Shake
  • Three bottles - Califia Farms Chocolate Almond Milk Protein Shake
  • Three bottles - Grandma’s Mint & Honey Iced Tea
  • Potato Chips (these are tough, sometimes I can eat them, sometimes I just can’t)
  • Annie’s Cheddar Bunny crackers (also known as Cheez-Its)
  • Boiled baby new potatoes, skin on
  • 8-10 Honey Stinger waffles
  • One bottle Hammer Endurolyte Electrolyte Pills
  • Several packages Gu Chomps
  • M&Ms???? (still undecided as of today)
And, of course, the essential coffee mug for pre and post-race– that said, if they have coffee during the race, I’ll be drinking it. Best of all, the race will have soup broth as the night creeps in, which is pretty much the most awesome thing ever and also, a weird parallel to training field chow in the Corps, hmm….

I know I’m forgetting something.