Saturday, December 24, 2016

2016 - The Year in Review

With only a week or so left in 2016, this year will probably go down as one of the best years of my life.  When I think back on everything that happened and all I accomplished in running and in the rest of my life it was really an amazing year.  For starters, I am having a daughter, that single accomplishment alone makes this year so amazing but so much more happened.  I ran PR’s, I went on trips with friends and family, when on a few running related trips, rocked another Man Weekend, broke some bones, won a Soccer Championship, finally took the step to improve my mental health and have begun therapy (one of the best decisions of my life), saw several friends get married, and was fortunate enough to have some of the best friends as a part of my life.  When I think back it’s just been an amazing journey this year and I can’t wait to reflect back and see if 2017 can top it.

When I think back to my running year I think the best way to break it down is into 3 separate seasons.  I had my Pittsburgh Half season from Jan – May, then I had my summer of “I’m up for anything” cue Bud Light commercial from May until September, and then I finished the year from September to November with my JFK season.  So much happened throughout this year that it will be impossible to reflect on it all.  I raced 34 different times, ran over 2800 miles and always felt like my fitness was always there when I needed it.  Several weekends I even ran races in back to back days, something I’d never thought of doing in previous years.  I PR’ed from the mile to 50 mile this year (post college), and won some prize money for the first time in my life.  I experienced life in so many different ways taking on challenges I never thought I could.  And enjoyed so many wonderful moments with friends along this running journey.  Trips to LA, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and even a fun journey out to Boonsboro, MD.  I think the best way to reflect back on the year is just hit on some of the highlights of each season.

 Let’s start from the beginning of the year because it sets the stage for the end quite nicely.  I started off 2016 hitting the trails several times, including a time early in January where I could barely run 8:00 minute pace as I was getting dropped at Greenbelt, and followed that up running at Patapsco for the Matchbox 20k (The best race in Honor of Rob Thomas and Co in the World).  Funny as I ran on the trails of Patapsco I remember talking through two conversations.  The first was how I hate trails, I’ll never do a trail race and secondly a lengthy discussion about racing too much and how I remember saying anything over 20 races a year I’ll never do as you are harming your chances at success.  Hmm.  During these 5 months I ran 11 Races of varying distances, but the race I remember the most would be Tim Kennard 10 miler.  Really one of my best races of the year where I ran sub 55 minutes for 10 miles, got second and set the stage for this entire year confidence wise.  It was also an amazing trip put together by one of the best running families you will ever meet “The Peck’s”, who are always a so supportive.  I also went over the Bay Bridge for the first time ever!  This cycle also including an amazing group runventure to LA to be a part of the Olympic Trials and support our boy Andy Weaver and watch some friends run the LA Marathon(a must do), but really just a really fun trip with a bunch of friends.  We stayed in the wrong part of town, LA #3 I think, went on a 12 mile hike to the Hollywood sign where we all thought it would never end, and watched many professional athletes run for their chance to make the Olympics.  A trip I’ll never forget. Also a quick half in DC (545) with Conrad was quite a fun day!  I end off phase 1 of my year with a trip with several friends to Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Half.  Another great race you should add to your list although I did not run the time I wanted I PR’ed and was happy nonetheless.  I also learned an important lesson to not get carried away when your fitness goes well, stick to your goals you set in the beginning.  Onward!

Phase 2 began a couple weeks after Pittsburgh and consisted of 10 races mostly in the 5k to 10 mile variety.  It began with my first trail race a 5 mile mud filled adventure at Gunpowder on a weekend where I raced Saturday, attended an epic Bachelor party that evening and rolled out the next day for a 5 mile race.  That ended up more or less being the theme of my summer, I’m up for whatever.  After a good run at McVet’s I was convinced by Pete Mulligan, who became a huge part of my year in supporting me from the Falls Road Running Store to just everyday training and even at races, to do Baltimore 10 miler.  That race and the Bel Air Town Run I managed to race over the same weekend and got 3rd in both, and was amazed at how well I recovered from day to day.  The summer also included a couple teammates and I joining a Social Soccer League, and despite all odds becoming champions!  All of us of course getting injured in some form or another along the way, but Das Boot will be ours forever (FUPA FC!).  I finished this phase off with my first Ultra Race down in Rosaryville.  One of the main reasons I did this race was spectating for some friends at HAT run and just falling in love with the atmosphere of ultra-running.  Everyone was so friendly, supportive and just hung out afterwards for hours eating and enjoying their accomplishments.  I knew I wanted to try this and set this race as a new challenge.  I ended up loving my first 50k, and had the luxury of having Mike Mashner run the first half with me reminding me to eat (could have used you at JFK!), stay hydrated and keep things under control and having Meg McNew give great support the whole time.  A fun end to a summer of whatever.  I learned the valuable lesson of if your toes seem broken, they probably are broken don’t “Bryn it up”.

Phase 3 begun with me taking the plunge and signing up for my first 50 miler, despite advice from friends suggesting maybe I should get some more ultras under my belt (in retrospect probably solid advice).  Phase 3 had me racing 11 times starting out with some shorter stuff and then moving into the longer variety.  An amazing adventure of 15 weeks or so of buildup towards JFK had me putting in some serious miles.  I raced and won my only ever RM Classic and now Ryan McGrath will have to live his life forever attached to me!  However I think the best memory from this training cycle was the Baltimore Marathon Relay, where I ran the entire thing with my relay team.  But having a year where I met so many different runners through so many ways, it was amazing to see them all out on the course.  Either running or cheering it really brought this whole running community together for me in a way I’ve never experienced before.  I also ran probably the race of my life getting 4th at the Atlantic City Marathon in a new shiny PR, which was totally unexpected.  Additionally, I had the best time working at the Baltimore Marathon Expo for the Falls Road Running Store where I got to see so many friends and experience working with something I am truly passionate about.  I’ve gone into great detail about my JFK 50 miler, but ended my year off with that race and it puts no damper on how amazing 2016 was.  I learned a valuable lesson of take in more calories in a 50 mile race you idiot!  It all ended with a special somewhat nice speech from RM (proceeded by 1 hour of roasting me mercilessly) being named MVP for the year for our running group.  Which was a really nice ending.

There are way too many people for me to be thankful for in 2016 for being a part of my journey and helping me accomplish what I have done.  For starters the Falls Road Running Store has been such a huge part of my life for everything they do from giving back to the running community, to helping me with my career (Seriously shop there, you will not be disappointed).  I am so lucky to have a store that supports the community and me like they do.  My Falls Road teammates have been nothing but amazing this year.  They are some of my best friends on and off the roads, and they support me like no other.  The reason I continue to be as passionate about running and it is as large of a part of my life is thanks to this amazing group of people who make everything so much fun(See Chug & Run Relay).  My family is so wonderful for everything they do for me with running and I would be lost without that support system in my life.  Of course my amazing wife Kelly who puts up with my addiction to racing and going out almost every weekend to run a race or run for hours on end.  There are not many wives in the world who would put up with me, but you are amazing! (By not many wives I mean 0 other ones, I mean most people can barely put up with me for several hours in an evening).  Lastly just the Maryland Running community, you all make running so awesome in this state.  When I quit running back in 2002, I never thought I’d come back but here I am but with a new perspective.   I want to run fast obviously but I love everything I see people doing to keep running going strong in our community.  There are so many clubs and teams across the state that do so much to make running available for all of us.  Everything all us runners are able to do is from the hard work of everyone to make running so special to us.

The most important lesson I learned in 2016 that will stick with me forever is to just enjoy everything about running.  Enjoy every run, enjoy the time spent with friends or teammates together doing runs.  Enjoy the races, enjoy the people you meet and the hard work that goes into everything.  Enjoy all the friends you made from running and realize they are a part of your life.  I think the hardest perspective for me to learn coming from being a college competitive runner in the early 2000’s racing a clock and living and dying on the results to now is to care about the people you meet along this journey.  And to just enjoy the journey.  There is always another race, but to share memories and fun with friends will always be a priceless thing you might regret one day.

Here’s to an amazing 2017 for everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

JFK 50 Miler Post Race Recap

Edited by: The Great Meg McNew 

Be forewarned: this will be long, but since it was my first real ultra I want to capture everything so I can look back one day.  What I ended up with was a day where I missed what I thought I was capable of running and almost quit halfway through. I was in a really bad place.  But thanks to friends I was able to salvage my day, finish my first 50 miler and have a very positive experience.  Like I try to explain often, sometimes it’s more than just your overall time goal that matters in running and this race is a perfect example.

Looking back, after 15 weeks of training and more miles than I‘ve ever run in consecutive months, I can pinpoint a 10 day window where I caused some overuse injuries that plagued my taper and race day. I ran the entire Baltimore Marathon as part of a relay team, blazing the last 10k, then followed it up with an 84 mile week. After that,  I ran  a PR marathon in Atlantic City, ugh.  In retrospect, I can see how dumb it looks, but in the moment I got carried away.  It’s a mistake I shouldn’t have made. I try to never let myself get carried away when training is going well.  It’s the easiest time to push too hard when you feel on top of the world!  But I digress to the race.

I had my plan all figured out and my crew ready to go.  2 scoops of Tailwind in my water bottle and 20 ounces of water I’d drink at crew stops, and I’d fill up with Gatorade and water at all other stops.  I had some GU’s on me, chew-able salt tablets, some shot blocks and some Advil.  I am a terrible technical trail runner so I expected to get burned up on the Appalachian Trail (AT), come down the Weverton Switchbacks, hit the C&O, and start reeling people in since running a consistent pace for 26 miles felt like something I could do.  On Friday I headed out to Boonsboro and hit massive amounts of traffic, man Frederick how do people deal with that mess!  Got to the hotel around 6:00 and opted for a night in to relax and keep the mind calm.  Slept horribly as I always do at hotels, but whatever, I slept well the night before.  I set about 7 alarms for 4:20 am and I was ready to go.

For once, I had a really good breakfast before a race:  an oatmeal, a GU wafer, a Starbucks Frappucino in a bottle and half a power bar.  About 800 calories before the race is a win in my books.  Pete and Meg were nice enough to offer me a ride over to the race start, and it was much appreciated since I was stressing a bit on morning race logistics, where to park, pre-race meeting, how to get back to my car at the end of the day etc.  So I met them in the lobby and off we went. Pete, as a veteran of these types of races, and having run JFK before, did a fantastic job calming my nerves.  As we walked down to the starting line it seemed like we didn’t have a lot of time until the 6:30 start and were pretty far from the line.  When we heard the National Anthem go off, it became a bit of a rush to get to the line.  So I threw my clothes off, rushed to tie my shoes, and we sprinted up the sidewalk to  the front with about 45 seconds to spare.  Then I heard Pete screaming “Nick, you forgot your water bottle!” Man, what a mess!  Got my water bottle and Meg and I started side by side next to a Panda… Spoiler alert: who knew 7 hours and 2 minutes later we’d also finish side by side? (Meg and me, not the Panda).

The gun went off and I did some dodging around people and caught a chase pack. At 3 minutes into the race, Jim Walmsley was already 30 seconds ahead.  All race long it was nice to hear people tell me I was 10, 20, 30 minutes behind  the leader; he destroyed the race, as expected.  A nice group of 9 of us chatted as we ascended the climb to the AT.  There were some interesting dudes in this group from all over the US telling some funny stories.  We hit the AT still mostly together 2.8 miles in, only 47 to go!  The first bit of the trail is pretty easy so I wasn’t shocked I was able to hang with the pack.  After that portion of the trail we began to climb the last 2 miles before we hit the AT, where we would have climbed 1200 feet before entering  it. We hit a pretty steep portion here and I felt I was working a bit hard so backed off and let a group of about 4 people go.  Finally we hit the rocky AT, which I knew would be my weakness, so I figured I’d get dropped.  In the next 4 miles I mostly held my own to my surprise (turns out I was probably working too hard though) and I really enjoyed having someone in front of me to show me the best way through the rocks.  At about 9.5 miles I dropped the pack of 4 people I was with and hit up the aid station. I filled up with water/Gatorade, had my 2nd GU and saw 6/7th place entering the second half of the AT.  Six miles until we are out of the AT, that’s all I had ahead of me.  For most of these 6 miles I saw 2-7 places up ahead and it felt like I was gaining on them. Then at around 14 I caught the pack, but 2nd and 3rd place had already taken off.  The trail at this point gets very rocky and I watched someone turn his ankle really bad right in front of me so I slowed down a bit.  Another runner and I descended down Weverton Switchbacks together in 5/6 place and were careful to not fall down the side.  As I rolled out of AT in 5th place, I found my crew and it took 3 minutes to get all settled.  Grabbed 3 GU’s, a new water bottle and for some reason retied my shoes… no clue why they were pretty tight?  I figured looking at past years if I came out of AT at 2:10-2:15 (hours) I’d be very happy. My watch showed 1:58, I found out later that was 3 minutes faster than Graham last year.  Yeah…. Oops.  Wished I had some opera singer like JD did in Scrubs to sing MISTAKE to me before I made it.
At this point I knew I was ahead of pace but I honestly felt great. Two people passed me as I hung at the aid station but caught them back on the C&O and started with a 6:57 mile and then proceeded to drop the pace a bit, 6:35’s for the next 2.  I felt a 2:55 – 3:00 marathon was something I could do all along so figured I’d settle into that pace.  I was now in 5th place, rolling along with 6:30-6:45 miles, all alone.  Around 22 I saw 4th place in front of me and it looked like I was reeling him in.  I caught him at the mile 24 aid station and as I passed him I heard someone coming really hard behind me. I looked back and it was Michael Wardian and he was MOVING.  He flew by both of us and the other guy went with him.  I tried to go with him but it felt too hard for 24 miles in so I backed off and then things started going south fast.  At around mile 18 my IT Band started to really hurt, not just soreness but like a shooting pain in the hip, then my ankle issue came after that and started to really hurt around 22 and the knee pain came back right at 24.  I have been dealing with each of these injuries for  the past 3 weeks, but never all together.  If I was smarter I would have taken an Advil when the pain started but it was the last thing on my mind at that point. I was too focused on trying to catch 4th place.

At mile 25, it went downhill. I went from 6:45’s to an 8:17 mile. Everything was killing me now. I got passed by two people and fell back to 7th.  I had heard from experienced ultra runners  that there are points in every race this long where you just feel terrible, but just be prepared for it and you will eventually feel good again.  Even knowing that, I wasn’t expecting to feel this terrible.  After  two  more 8+ minute miles and some walking,  I made it to 28 miles and saw Ryan.  I told him “I’m done, throwing in the towel,” he convinced me to jog up to the crew where everyone was soo helpful to offer me everything and anything I needed, but I was a MESS.  I’m sure everyone has a funny Nick story from this aid station. I nibbled on a power bar, I struggled to swallow Advil pills, I chewed and spit out a shot block, I drank 2 sips of a V8.  I was an absolute disaster, but after 11 minutes or so my crew convinced me to keep going and it was much appreciated.  I’ve never DNF’ed before and I am glad I didn’t this day.

And off I went, really struggling.  At this point all I was noticing is was that my entire left leg was just a useless appendage.  Sure, it hit the ground every other step, but it was providing me no benefit.  I could not get a normal stride going. Everything was constricted, no push off on any step, every lateral movement hurt like a bitch, and my ankle was on fire, but NBD only 22 miles to go!  8-9 minute miles became the norm here with walk breaks scattered in.  At mile 30.5 I ran into my old pal Terri and her aid station.  So much energy here; she was amazing, getting me pumped up, telling me I could do this, even getting me to take a selfie when I felt like death.  I can never turn down one of those!  I left that aid station ready to go, and I felt great for 800 meters.  At this point I realized my last GU was at mile 18, and had no real solids in me.  My stomach was swish-swoshing around and I was popping chew-able salt tabs like it was my job.  So I pulled out this chocolate GU and managed to get ¾’s of it down.  Since we don’t litter on the C&O I put it in my pocket, and so began “The GU incident Part 2”, but that story or Part 1 is not blog safe.  From miles 30.5 to 34 I still had some run/walking going on, and I was just getting past left and right. At around mile 34 I heard I was in 22nd place, ugh who cares I just want to finish and die now. I looked at watch and figured I had 2 - 2.5 hours to go, ugh these numbers are so big.  At 34 I knew I’d see my crew in 4 miles and started figuring out what I wanted from them. I was going to finish this thing and I was going to get everything I needed to feel good there.  

Rolled up to 38 and could hear my crew shouting a mile away. These people are so amazing.  They knew I was struggling and gave me everything they could to help motivate me.  I took some Advil,had a Skratch Emergency pack, and politely asked Ryan how our other 2 runners Meg and Cantor were doing, only to have Sean say “Oh look there is Meg now”.  They told me to get going and so off I went, to the 41 mile aid station.  Three more miles of trail until we hit the roads and a giant hill out of the trail on which I was told to just walk.  At this point I was basically taking a cup of coke at every aid station; the stuff tasted so good.  At 41 hit the road and up the hill Istarted walking. As I hit the ascent I looked back and saw Meg like 30 seconds back so I decided strength in numbers would be better for both of us to finish this thing, although somewhat thinking she’d probably drop me.  She caught me and off we went, 8.5 miles to the finish.  Honestly, at this point, just having company to keep me sane and chat with was all that was keeping me going.  This road section sucked so badly though.  8.5 miles is so far at this point. All we seeing were more hills, and the mile markers seemed like they were not changing.  Meg was in third at this point, so our goal was to make sure no one caught her.  I started complaining about my leg just being destroyed at this point and she told me how she basically fell on the trails and devastated her back and probably broke her leg. We were a fun bunch of people at this point.  A couple well positioned aid stations with some coke and refills of our water bottles were great.  Around mile 46 our nice sunny day started to turn into something else.  The wind started picking up and temps started dropping.  Around 49 we almost got hit by a car and watched a State Trooper blaze after the guy that almost hit us.  As we rolled down the home stretch, we could hear our crew going nuts.  7 hours and 2 minutes earlier Meg and I started this day next to each other with her telling me to pull that Panda’s tail(I didn’t do it) and we finished . 01 seconds apart.  (Or as Dave P texted me later .0002 seconds per mile difference!)

I had a really rough day. Looking back, I went out too hard on the AT and was too aggressive early on the C&O, but I just can’t put my finger on how everything fell apart so quickly.  Sitting here 2 days later my left leg is still shot and I can’t walk, but I am not in the excuses business.  It happened, and I’ll learn from this and not make the same mistakes.  But as everyone told me many times, it’s ultra-running and anything can happen.  I am beyond blessed my crew got me to keep going and not DNF, and for me it was a very exciting ending to be able to finish with a good friend when she was having an absolutely awesome day.  We were both in  terrible pain during those last 8 miles, and for me it was a great to have a friend to run with and not end up walking.  Plus it made for a pretty funny Facebook Live video, complete with us all chugging a Jordan Dillen homebrew about 45 seconds after we finished.  I’ll always say I love running for more than just results, and everything about this race was that for me.  I went for it and blew up, and when I tried to quit, my friends wouldn’t let me.  I suffered a lot and got to run it in and finish with a friend, something I could never have done if I’d quit.  When I look back at my first 50 mile race I will always think of it as a positive experience because of everyone who was a part of it.  I missed my time goal; ah well.  But like my prerace post said, one of my goals was to have fun, and that’s just what I did. When I look back on this JFK 50 miler, I won’t remember finishing 22nd.  I will remember my great friends all together at the finish line as we all were a part of a 7 hour day of racing together.  And it’s that feeling that will bring me back to the line to try another Ultra.

I want to thank everyone for their texts, emails, calls and nice words.  I am so thankful to have so many people in my life that support my love for running and my adventures.

Because of all their support, I want to shout out a bunch of amazing people that were a part of this:

All my Falls Road Running Teammates, who I train with day in and out thank you for everything.  Also to the Falls Road Running Store where almost all the items I used for this race were bought from.  

Dave Ploskonka, for all his JFK50/Ultra advice that I ignored 15 minutes into the race!

My amazing wife Kelly Klastava, who allows me to pursue these crazy running adventures while being 8 months pregnant and is nothing but supportive.

Tom Stott - for his great advice when all my injuries hit the fan during my taper.  He got me to the line feeling ready to go and calm.

Rich Wilson, Ryan McGrath, Tristram Thomas, Bryn Burkholder, Graham Peck, Mrs. Peck, Sean Caskey, Maggie Smith, Terri Gibbons, and Andrew Cantor for being the most amazing support people on the entire course.  I’ve never had a crew before and I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive group of friends.

Pete Mulligan, for being about as helpful as anyone could be and doing it all without a complaint and really without me ever asking him to do it.  Not sure how my morning or post-race would have gone without you, but it would have been bad.  

And my running partner Meg D: she and I had many funny conversations about who would beat who at JFK50, and after all that we basically tied (but she was the real star getting 3rd overall).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

JFK50 The PreRace

With all my training behind me and 4 miles to go I wanted to get out a blog post before the race with my thoughts and feelings of how everything went and how I feel before the race.  Training started after my brief 10 day recovery from breaking two toes from a “freak” soccer incident!  1145 miles later here I am two days before the JFK 50 miler and my body has finally come around and I feel great.  I can honestly say however I have not been this nervous for a race since back in about 2002 when I was a young Junior running for Monmouth University, when I was racing for a team and to keep my spot on the roster.  This entire week my nerves have been a bit on tilt just thinking about this race, but nerves are not a bad thing.  Being nervous before this race just shows it’s important to me and that I know I put together a great training cycle and now I just have to execute for about 6 + hours.  For me this feeling is what I hope keeps me motivated all race and ready to push my hardest when the going gets tough.  It’s my body’s way of telling me that we want to do our best now just leave it all out there.  In a weird way to say, It’s a great feeling honestly that I have missed over the past few years!

As I said 1145 miles I logged over 15 weeks to get myself to the start of this race.  A lot of races, hard training runs and workouts but above all else a lot of fun.  I can’t say in my life I managed to put together this many consecutive weeks of mileage, sticking to a plan and races and as my fitness continued to improve I kept getting more and more motivated to keep at it.  It helps to have a bunch of teammates to keep me honest and moving in the right direction at all times and to always offer some great advice when I am freaking out about the race.  It also helps to have some super smart friends who can offer me some quality advice and exercises to perform when I feel my body breaking down during my taper.  And to once again keep me from freaking out!  If you’ve ever gotten to know me, I can be quite the “over thinker” “drama king” or mental case when it comes to running!  My coach called me the practice champ back in high school because I could dominate workouts in the low stress environment of practice but on race day I’d talk myself out of my race the second it got hard.  Having all these friends to reach out to and keep me level headed these past few weeks has gone a long way to helping me get to the starting line feeling confident.

As I begin to tackle my first 50 mile race I am filled with some anxiety of the unknown and of making sure I have thought of everything, excitement to tackle a new distance and run a fantastic race, but most of all filled with confidence that I have trained to the best of my ability and there is nothing left to do but let it rip. For the past two weeks I battled some issues and my taper was a little lighter than I wanted but if it gets me to the line healthy that’s all that matters.  All the work has been done.  At 630 am on Saturday November 19th, a day I have had pinned on the wall at my desk and spent countless hours explaining to co-workers what the 50 meant in JFK 50(You are running 50 miles!?), I will line up with some amazingly talented men and woman and I will run as confidently as I can and let the pieces all fall into place.  My goals are simple:

  1. Run my race
  2. Don't go out too hard
  3. Be as efficient as possible on rocky terrain
  4. Be Mentally Tough
  5. And most importantly have fun!

In the end I want to do great, but I am going to enjoy this too.  I am going to see my amazing crew who are volunteering their Saturday mornings (Ryan, Rich, & Tristram) at 3 different spots and feel nothing but joy when I run past them.  They are going to spend 8-10 hours of their day out there for me and I am so blessed.  I am also so very thankful that I was able to make it 15 weeks without a major injury and that I am able to line up for this race and be able to run it.  That in itself is a small victory and not something I should overlook.  I need to be mentally tough as I grind through the 26 miles I will run on the C&O, just a marathon on the trail, after already running 16 miles no biggie.  I need to be cool and under control early as we climb 1300 ft in 4.5 miles from downtown Boonsboro to the Appalachian Trail and be efficient on the rocky terrain as I remember the many runs I did at Patapsco and other parks getting ready.  And last of all just run my race, it's 50 miles and I need to run it the way I am capable of, and let it come to me.  There is plenty of time to make moves.  If I can accomplish all these goals, I will run the best race I capable of on Saturday.

In the end this Saturday is going to hurt and I will probably end up losing my mind somewhere around mile 35 on the C&O trail, but I am going to run my ass off.  I am going to enjoy this day and all the hard work I put in to get here but that will not for a second stop my determination to run to my potential.  I am here like anyone else to run the best race I am capable of and continue to hurt and push until I get there.  As always, thanks to everyone for your support as I continue to chase my dreams and to everyone who has offered me some advice or calmed me down over the past few weeks.  And to anyone who continues to read my blog, I love writing about my thoughts and my training and I appreciate anyone who takes the time out of their lives to read it.