Risk Management

dirty

Just saying hello

 

 

 

I have now had 24 hours to calm down and digest the “Travesty in Tampa” and I can honestly say  the more I have reviewed the replays, the more of a crime I believe it becomes.  I do not blame the umpires for reviewing the play and making the call that they did.  I do not blame Major League Baseball for implementing a rule which was made with all the right intentions.  I blame the over protective, over reactionary wussified world that we live in.  A world where we start teaching our children at a young age that scoreboards are evil, everybody is your best friend and no one ever loses.  We caution them of all the prevalent dangers in sports and life and ultimately create doubts and fears, often times unnecessarily.  Yes there are risks involved in everything that we do, but our goal should be to manage those risk, not eliminate them.  Without a certain element of risk that we inherently crave as human beings, there is no chance sports would be a multi billion dollar industry.

Rule 6.01 was implemented this off season to protect middle infielders from excessive aggressions by base runners trying to target middle infielders.  The safety of the players was rightfully on the mind of both MLB and the MLBPA but I do not think either one could have ever imagined the overall detrimental impact it would have on games just days into the 2016 season.

First and foremost I am 100% in when it comes to doing everything within reason to make the game safer for the players.  The problem is we have officially crossed a line which is now compromising the game of baseball as a whole.  Talking with FP Santangelo, a former teammate with the Oakland A’s and current broadcaster for the Washington Nationals, he estimated that there are nearly 10,000 slides a year at 2nd base, yet largely because of one unfortunate highly publicized slide in last years playoffs, MLB now has a major problem on their hands.

The solution is simple.  As recently as last year MLB had invoked a rule that required players to demonstrate complete control of the baseball in order to be awarded an out.  Within weeks there were several plays in which players clearly had caught the ball and then juggled the transfer.  In just about everyone of those cases, what used to be an out for the past 150 years was no longer.  MLB realized the problem immediately and swiftly amended the rule.  This situation is no different.

The spirit of rule 6.01 is to protect the middle infielders and even the baserunner.  Therefore, so long as there is not intent by the baserunner to aggressively target a second baseman or shortstop, a no call, just as in years past, would be made.  Then, in the rare case in which the runner irresponsibly charges into second base putting his and other players health at risk, the runner and the batter will both be called out.

This is a very subjective call so I would rather put my faith in the umpires on the field who are able to watch the play unfold in real time rather than dudes sitting in Chelsea Market crushing overpriced vegetable sushi 3000 miles away.  Ideally, this play would NOT be a reviewable.

Baseball is a team sport made up of individual performances.  When I was taught to break up a double play I was taught to use my entire body, no matter what it took.  Of course there was an element of risk involved for both myself and the middle infielders.  It is important that we understand these dudes get paid millions of dollars have a firm understanding of the potential dangers every time they take the field.  As much as this may be a disappointment to many, i don’t think it is possible to play baseball in a bubble.

Looking back, my most proud moments on a baseball field had nothing to do with individual glory found within a box score but rather individual efforts that ultimately benefited the greater good of the team.  Responsibly and selflessly and breaking up a double play represents everything that is right with the game, NOT wrong.

 

 

A View From Behind The Computer Screen #RoboUmp

When the San Rafael Pacifics approached me about returning this summer to celebrate the second annual Pat Tillman Foundation nights, I immediately began brainstorming different ways in which we could appropriately honor Pat’s memory.

By all accounts Pat was a very forward thinker.  He was somebody who would constantly challenge societies norms and status quo’s frequently levied upon us.  Just because things have always been done a certain way was absolutely no reason to not find a better or more efficient way to accomplish the same feat.

We as a society are constantly evolving with the ever changing technological world that we live in.  For well over a decade we have had the ability to accurately call balls and strikes with an automated system using 3 different cameras which track the ball 40-50 times from the time the ball leaves the pitchers hand until it crosses home plate.  This technology has now been implemented into almost every single television broadcast as well as when you watch a game on the Internet.

Something to me seems disturbingly wrong with the fact that anybody in the world can see whether or not a pitch was a ball or a strike by the true definition of the strike zone immediately after it crosses home plate EXCEPT the person actually having to make the call.

For me, this is unacceptable and a major injustice within the game of baseball.  The moment I realized this technology was available, I have begged and pleaded for the automated system to be installed.

When I brought up the idea for us to automate the strike zone for the two Pat Tillman foundation games the Pacifics were all for it.  Then,  when Sportsvision agreed to set up their technology my dream became a reality.  For the first time in the history of professional baseball balls and strikes would be determined by a computer, not a human.

Of course it was a bit awkward for everybody involved.  Both catchers tried to consistently frame pitches.  The home plate umpires couldn’t help themselves by making strike calls, and players needed to get used to what exactly is the true definition of the strike zone.   Pitchers benefited by the total height of the zone while hitters definitely benefited by the width.

Overall, the two #RoboUmp games could not have gone more flawlessly.  To keep the spirit of the games at the forefront I donated $100 to the Tillman Foundation for every strikeout and walk totaling $4600 over the course of the two days while the Pacifics donated $1 for every ticket sold.

Umpires at the major league level are the best in the world at what they do.  They continuously have a ball/strike success rate of well over 90 percent.  Ironically, the umpires use the exact same technology to grade themselves that was implemented into the two games last week.

The major difference between any MLB game and the two Pacific Association games was that the ball/strike success rate of the Independent League games was 100%.  There are many baseball traditionalist who think above 90% is good enough and they enjoy the “human element” of the game.  For me, the human element I fell in love with as a 9 year old kid has been and always will be the players… Not the umpires.

Last night, Kevin Plawecki was leading off the bottom of the 3rd inning and worked the count full before walking on a borderline pitch up in the zone.  Immediately every single viewer watching on TV at home or on the Internet could tell that instead of ball 4 the pitch should have been called strike 3.  The next two guys were promptly retired which should have been the end of the inning.  Instead, Curtis Granderson stepped up and hit a two run home run giving the Mets the lead.  That was followed by a Daniel Murphy homer, a Yoenis Cespedes single and then a Lucas Duda homer.  What should have been an easy 1-2-3 inning turned into a 5 run 3 homer barrage.  All because of one missed call.

Ultimately, I have absolutely no desire to get rid of the home plate umpire or any other umpire on the field.  Just like instant replay, the only thing I would like to do is give them the necessary tools to get the call right every time.   Once the umpires union realizes that an automated strike zone will make their job easier and potentially create another on site umpiring job opportunity I don’t see any reason why MLB and the MLBPA would not agree to immediately begin using the automated system to determine balls and strikes.

If I were to have writen an article such as this 150 plus years ago I would have been limited to an ink pen and a piece of paper.  Then, in order to get people to read it I would have had to stand on a city block handing out duplicated hand written copies.

Fortunately, as in many other arenas in life, technology has prevailed.  Around the middle of the 19th century the type writer was invented and eventually became available for widespread use.  The copy machine was created by Chester Carlson in 1938 and then by the 1980’s word processors and personal computers took reign.

Today, I am currently writing this on my 3 inch mobile device 37,000 feet somewhere above middle America.  Upon completion in about 3 minutes from now I will press the publish button which will then post it to my website.  From there I will send out a link to the article on my Twitter account which directly connects to Face Book where it will be published as well.  Between the two, the article will reach nearly 50,000 people with the click of one button.

As much as I appreciate good calligraphy and social interaction with people on the street, forgive me for utilizing the 21st century world of technology.  MLB should give it a try with the strike zone, it makes life a lot easier! EB

 

Why Run? #NationalRunningDay

 

“We are not a bunch of lunatic fitness freaks – we are everyday people who don’t think of what we can’t do, we think of what can do and then do it.  We are health minded people who like to run long distances.”  Jim Richards, Ultra Running Veteran 

 

When I finished playing professional baseball and began my transition into the endurance world I had never run more than 4 miles in my life.   I had spent my entire career training anaerobic and the thought of completing a 4 mile run seemed DIFFICULT, 6 miles DAUNTING, 13 miles EXCRUCIATING, 26 miles OVER THE TOP, 31 miles UNREALISTIC, 62 miles NOT POSSIBLE, 100 miles NOT HUMAN.

 

Exactly 5 years ago I started with a 4 mile run around the campus of University of Miami.   It’s now officially 5 years later and I basically haven’t stopped.  I slowly increased the time and distance of my runs to get to the point where I am today.  It’s that simple.

 

Through training, triathlon and individual running races, I have now completed countless half marathons, 7 marathons, 3 50k’s (31 miles) A 32.2 mile lap around Manhattan, a 48 mile Florida adventure run and a 62 mile (100k) ball buster.  I only wish more people would take advantage of the opportunity to experience the exhilaration, joy and mental clarity running has brought to my life.

 

In March of 2014 I finished my first ultra marathon, the “Way too Cool” 50k that featured 5,000 feet of elevation gain across crazy terrain including fallen trees, rocks and knee high creeks.  I immediately fell in love with the alternative running culture.  Imagine a very eclectic group of individuals with an extreme fascination for nature and exercise.   Add in a fiery competitive edge, an eternally optimistic vibe and a blatant disregard for what main stream society deems normal or even possible.  That to me is the ultra running community.

 

Ever since I got into the endurance world, there is a race that I keep reading and hearing about that has completely captivated me.  The Western States 100.  Originally this race was a horse race that started at Squaw Valley and covered 100 miles of the Western States Trail ending in Auburn, California.  The race features nearly 20,000 feet of elevation gain and 24,000 feet of descent.  Temperatures can range from temps in the 30’s over the summit to well over 100 degrees in the canyons.  In 1974, after his horse went lame, Gordy Ainsleigh was the first to attempt the race on foot.  The next year he returned to prove to his doubters that it was possible a human could run the 100 mile course within a 24 hour time period.  Gordy finished in 23 hours and 42 minutes.  More amazing is that he has continued to do the race every year since.  The “Western States” has now become known to be one of the most iconic and difficult endurance races in the world.  Every year about 1200 people qualify at other 100k and 100 mile races around the world, only 400 get in.

 

After I got my first taste of the ultra marathon world I knew I wanted more.  While checking into my first “Way Too Cool” I met a guy by the name of Jim Richards, a staple in the ultra community.  Jim was very helpful providing insight into a world that I knew very little about.  After the race we touched base and I explained to Jim that I had a goal to complete the Western States 100 and ideally do it in 2016, the same year of my 40th birthday.  Knowing there would be an arduous process involved, I needed direction.   Jim recommended several training runs and race options that could potentially dial me in to race Western States provided I was able to qualify and also find my way into the race.  To help get me more acquainted with the ultra community, via e mail, Jim introduced me to Julie Fingar, the race director of Way Too Cool, and Tia Bodington, the race director of the legendary Western States qualifier, “The Miwok 100k.”   I have done my best to pick both of their brains about all things ultra…

 

In November, after I finished my 6th Ironman in exactly a 3 year period,  I put the bike away, ditched the speedo and fully committed myself to the ultra marathon.  In December, I secured a spot into the Miwok and the training was officially on.  Looking at the result times of the 2014 Miwok was definitely an eye opening experience, basically I realized that I needed to somehow train myself to run for over 12 consecutive hours.  62 miles was intimidating but when you add in 11,800 ft of elevation the Miwok became flat out scary.  I had no choice but to attack this new challenge the same way I did playing baseball or racing Ironman Triathlon, work my ass off.

 

I figured 11,800 feet of climbing over the course of 62 miles roughly works out to 200 feet of elevation gain per mile.  Up and away I went… Every treadmill workout contained either a long steady hill climb or some sort of intense hill intervals.  I then took advantage of every opportunity to run some of the Bay Area’s best trails.  Windy Hill, Purisima Creek, Montera Mountain and the Dipsea were common training grounds.   While working spring training in Arizona I charged up Camelback Mountain daily and when I was in Florida I ran 48 miles from Tigers camp in Lakeland to Astros camp in Kissimmee.  I thoroughly enjoyed the organized Western States training run which covers the final 23 miles of the race.  I also had fun with several other “destination runs” that included running from Half Moon Bay to Palo Alto as well as the 32.2 mile trip around Manhattan.  Most importantly, I learned to LOVE running.  Time and miles were simply a result of enjoying the process.

 

I arrived at the Miwok start line in Stinson Beach at 4:55 am 5 minutes before the start.  I hopped in the middle of a swamp of head lamps and off we went.  The first part of the course is up the infamous Dipsea Trail.  Within the first 2 miles of the race we climbed nearly 2000 feet before heading back down the mountain and into Muir Beach where the first aid station was at the 8 mile mark.  I spent the entire first section of the race chatting up a school teacher from New York City and another dude from Maryland.  We were not even 1/10 of the way into the race and I had already talked more than I had in all of my Ironman Triathlons combined.

 

In order to get to the Muir Beach aid station we had to run across a bridge then backtrack over that same bridge.  I passed several runners going the opposite direction on the way in and then several runners on the way out.  I am not sure if there was a single runner that did not offer some sort of words of encouragement or at the very least flash a big smile on the way by.  The overall love filled energy of the Miwok was flat out like nothing I have ever experienced in any sort of race.

 

Every aid station was basically the same operation.  I walloped a PB&J, refilled my water bottle and electrolytes and was off.  Once I got my first glance of the Golden Gate Bridge at mile 17, I basically hit that runners high which helped me float all the way to the return to Muir Beach at mile 32.  Unquestionably that 15 mile stretch is one of the most beautifully epic trails in the world.  When I rolled through Tennessee Valley the second time at mile 26 my entire family was waiting with signs and hugs.  I was 4 hours and 20 minutes into the race, had a marathon and nearly 6,000 feet of climbing under my belt, I had barely broken a sweat.  A little different then when I thought I was going to pass out at mile 3 of my first run around the Miami campus a few years earlier.

 

I snapped a quick pic with the family and cruised.  It wasn’t until after the Muir Beach aid station when we headed up the back side of the Dipsea that I felt any sort of fatigue.   This was the first time I completely dried out both water bottles before reaching the next aid station at the top of the mountain.

 

The course then headed north on some pretty sweet trails that took us in and out of redwood trees and exposed hayfields high above the Pacific Ocean.  For the most part the majority of the day was overcast but once I got to mile 40 there was a thick fog that settled in only to be quickly replaced by clear skies and sunshine.  It seemed as if every corner I turned there was a different weather pattern that included a heavy drizzle or even a light rain at some point.  If there is a such thing as perfect running weather, this was it.   As I approached the aid station at mile 42, Bolinas Ridge, there was a sign that was made by the Half Moon Bay Coastside Runners Club that read “Man Imposes His Own Limitations.”   Franz Dill, who has run both the Miwok and Western States several times, has been a huge mentor of mine in the ultra world, and was manning the operation with his wife Jen and other Half Moon Bay runners.   Definitely was nice to see familiar faces.  Franz busted out an ice cold coke, offered a few more inspirational words and I was quickly back on the trail.

 

Pacers were allowed at mile 50 so I picked up my firefighter triathlete training partner in crime, Kyle Hamilton, at the Randall aid station.  When we immediately began the climb,  Kyle, in his typical aggressive nature, starting firing up the 15% grade hill.  Somehow he must have forgotten I had 50 miles and 10,000 of climbing in the books.  The last 12 miles hurt in every sense of the word.  I could physically feel blood blisters forming on my feet, my calves were tightening up, my quads felt like mashed potatoes and my hamstrings were basically spaghetti noodles.  We walked every incline and continued to run any flat area or downhill.  The final 2 miles were straight down and hurt worse than any uphill I encountered the entire day.  I must have tripped 10-15 times during the descent,  it was a small miracle I somehow stayed on my feet.

 

As we approached the finish, my 3 year old boy hopped onto the course, I hoisted him over my shoulders before crossing the finish line 11 hours and 49 minutes after the day had begun.   I finished 52 overall out of nearly 400 that started the race.  Although pleasantly surprised, I don’t think I have ever been less concerned with my race results.  This was simply about the awesome experience of the day.

 

The race officially qualified me for the 2016 Western States 100 mile endurance run.  The process of getting into the race is now a new challenge.  There is something about running that can be very exhilarating, calming and peaceful all at the same time.  I hope every capable person has already or will one day soon experience the euphoric two foot ride of their lives.

 

Regardless if your goal is to complete 1, 10, 50 or 100 miles.  My only piece of advice… Keep running! EB

 

 

 

 

Here are two very two compelling e mails I received from Jim Richards and Tia Bodington, the Miwok race director, that essentially laid out their purpose, passion and goals for the Miwok and ultra running community.  Basically, a few more reasons to run:)

 

Eric,
We always leave the trails cleaner than we found them – our sweeps pick up everything they see.
And many ultra runs do trail work – removing non-native invasive species plants, clearing trails that are used by all of fallen trees and other debris and donating to the maintenance funds of the organizations responsible for the trails.  We have volunteers at races who are not ultra runners – they like the people involved and the atmosphere – both are contagious.
And, the sport is one of adventure, individual effort and helping one another.  If someone goes down in the trail an army of runners stops to help them.  Yes we push ourselves beyond what most people would ever consider doing, but we survive and come back to do it again and again.
 We help each other on the trails and always celebrate after the run is done.  Anyone who has ridden the bus for a WSER Training Run will tell you it is like being back in high school – noisy, lots of jokes and everyone having a good time.  We are not a bunch of lunatic fitness freaks – we are everyday people who don’t think of what we can’t do, we think of what can do and then do it.  We are health minded people who like to run long distances
See you on the trails… Jim

 

I’m really excited you’re going to join us for a day on the trails, Eric. You will have a great time, and I think you’ll really enjoy the different kind of challenge that the 100K offers. Plus the views are gorgeous, and the volunteers and your fellow runners are amazing.
One of the things I’m focused on is helping ultra events be “green” – I’m getting an MBA right now with a focus on Sustainability and I put that into practice with Miwok by:
– recycling everything we can
– composting all the food scraps
– donating any leftover food
– only providing useful, running-specific items in the cloth goodie bags
– promoting carpooling
– having a cup-free race (no paper cups in the garbage)
Jim has been instrumental in putting those goals into action at the Miwok 100K.
I also look for ways to contribute to the community that the race takes place in, making sure that lodging and restaurants at Stinson Beach feel a positive effect from over 400 runners and their families/friends in town.
Finally, I believe in real, unprocessed foods and although we still consume things like Coca Cola at the race for its sugar, sodium and caffeine, we use as many simple foods as possible. I started a small non-profit last year that receives a portion of any proceeds left over from Miwok and we donate money to other non-profits that focus on teaching young children and their families about growing/buying and eating foods that are nutritious AND delicious instead of taking the fast food route..
We want the Miwok 100K to have a reputation as a sustainable race that creates a sense of community and pushes both the runners and the volunteers to challenge their assumptions about themselves, overcome obstacles, work together, and oh yeah, have a whole lot of fun while we’re at it!!
Phew, that’s a lot. I’ve never really written the race’s “mission statement” before, but I guess that’s what grad school does to ya’.
Looking forward to getting the Miwok party started. See you in May,
Tia
Tia Bodington, RD
Miwok 100K

 

The only source of knowledge is experience- Albert Einstein

When Miami Marlins President Michael Hill introduced general manager Dan Jennings as the teams new on field manager he described Jennings as a “leader of men.”  Jennings has more than 30 years of experience in professional baseball as a scout and front office executive and I do not doubt that Jennings is a “leader of men,” within his field.  30 years of mastering his craft and developing relationships has undoubtedly earned him that title.

By all accounts Dan Jennings seems like a stand up guy and I truly believe there are a large number of Marlins players and coaches that respect him as a baseball executive and as a man.  Yet, the reality of the current situation is that Dan Jennings is entering a completely new field.  A field in which he has zero experience.  He has never managed, coached or played a single day of professional baseball so to think that Dan Jennings is going to receive and command the same amount of respect as a manager is absolutely asinine.

The bottom line is that although Jennings has been working in the same industry for over 3 decades, his previous roles do not qualify him to be a major league manager.  The same way being a GM of a restaurant does not qualify you to cook the food or being a GM for an airline does not qualify you to fly the plane.  Just because you are an architect that does not mean you have the ability to build the home.  For me personally, I am a television baseball analyst, unfortunately that does not qualify me to run the network.

I do realize that we have seen managers recently hired with no managing or coaching experience, yet each one of them has had extensive experience playing the game professionally as well as experience within the front office, where communication between on field personal and executives has become increasingly vital.

There is a extensive process that Dan Jennings took to become a successful major league general manager the same way there is an elaborate blue print on what it takes to become a successful manager in the major leagues.  Ideally, that process should include actual managing, coaching and playing experience.  Baseball lifers, guys like Ron Wotus, Mike Aldete, DeMarlo Hale, Jay Bell, Brett Butler, Phil Nevin, Dave Roberts, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Wally Backman,  just to name a few, have dedicated their entire lives to becoming “leaders of men” within their field with hopes of one day EARNING the opportunity to manage a major league baseball team.  Other guys such as Bob Geren, Don Wakamatsu, Tony Defancesco, Carlos Tosca, Dale Sveum, John Russell, Trey Hillman and Larry Bowa continue to grind away in hopes of EARNING that shot again.  This group and the entire group of aspiring managers across minor and major league baseball undoubtedly just took one big kick in the nuts.  I am interested to see how and if they fight back.

I believe I am very forward thinking when it comes to the world of modern day baseball analytics and the direction our game needs to go to remain relevant within the overall landscape of the sports world.  Forgive me if I am old school when it comes to wanting to keep suits and ties out of the dugout… EB

 

 

#WhoNeedsAnRV?

 

When I originally received my Spring Training work schedule for MLB Network I was faced with a of couple challenges.   I was to going to have to leave home on the 8th of March and not return until the 26th.  My trip took me from San Francisco to NYC to Arizona back to NYC then to Florida before finally returning back to San Francisco.  My immediate 2 thoughts were that it is way too long of a time to be away from my family and how was I possibly going to be able to get in quality training sessions to prepare myself for an upcoming BEAST of a race, the Miwok 100k.  The course entails nearly 12,000 ft of elevation gain over 62 miles of hard core trails.

I quickly scheduled to have the family come out to NYC for a week and began brainstorming about creative ways to accomplish some long runs.   As I was dissecting the schedule I noticed that the first camp I worked in Florida was the Detroit Tigers, located in Lakeland.  The next camp was the Houston Astros, located 48 miles away in Kissimmee.  BOOM!  Why not run the 48 miles?  The solution to my problem just slapped me in the face and kicked me in the balls at the same time.

Immediately I began searching all sorts of route options.  Unfortunately, not one of them seemed appealing.  The best route took me south east from Lakeland on the US 92/17 and eventually north to Kissimmee.  There were various backroads involved as well.  I landed in Tampa on Saturday and right away headed out to scope the course I intended to run the next day.  What I found was essentially what I had seen on Google Maps and what I had expected, roads with no shoulders surrounded by swamp lands and speeding cars.  Was the run possible? Of course.  Was the run ideal? NO, not even close.

At the last minute, possibly because my wife Tarah was becoming overly concerned with the idea of the run, my family decided to accompany me on the trip to Florida.  Once the route was detailed, it confirmed both of our beliefs that the only way to get the run done in any sort of safe manner was to have her drive a support vehicle along the way.  We hit up the convenience store the night before and loaded up.  Smart waters, Gatorades, Muscle Milks, Cliff Bars, Chips, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and 4 Sierra Nevada’s for the finish.  Other prep items for the run included 3 pairs of socks, 3 shirts, 3 shorts, 3 hats, 2 pairs of shoes, a back pack, a mophie and 2 headlamps.

Because of my work schedule which had me arriving at Tigers camp at 7am and not finishing until 4pm, the earliest I was going to be able to take off running from Lakeland was 4:30pm.  That undoubtedly ensured there was no way I was going to finish before midnight.  I obviously realized the elements and logistics of the run were going to be extremely difficult but I never expected to endure each one to such an extreme magnitude.

The day started off with a blocking home plate demo with Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila.  Ironically, one of the most epic collisions I had in my career was with Avila in 2010.   I interviewed Brad Ausmus, Joe Nathan, David Price, and capped off the work day with a live talk back with the guys back at the MLB Network studio.  At that point I thought my day was done but I was then instructed to make sure I talked with Miguel Cabrera who had just played in his first spring training game following foot surgery.  I don’t like chasing guys down for interviews but knowing that I needed to get onto the road, I basically turned into a paparazzi reporter as soon as Miggy came off of the field.

The weather was my biggest pre run concern.   In the morning there was actually a ton of fog that did not burn off until game time.  The projected high was in the low 90’s with 90% humidity but because of the overcast morning and the breeze in the afternoon the temperature seemed bearable.  I was hoping the wind would continue until nightfall.  Wishful thinking.  Just about 4pm the breeze stopped and the humidity went through the roof.   I generally don’t do well at all in extremely hot conditions.  In baseball terms I am the Sulton of Sweat.  Losing key salts and electrolytes with my eternal buckets of perspiration make it very difficult to replenish at the same rate I am losing fluids.   The furthest I had ever run in my life was 31 miles.  I was not only going to ask my body to go nearly 19 miles further than it had gone before but I was going to do it on a fuel tank that was on the borderline of empty.

Right after the Cabrera interview I shot out to the “support vehicle” that Tarah was going to drive and Super Man changed into my initial running gear.  I fired out a tweet announcing my intentions of running from Lakeland to Kissimmee, then another one indicating that I was going to donate $100 to the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT’s) for every mile I was able to complete.  I then took a “launch video” right out in front of the Tigers stadium as I began mile 1.

I had sent Tarah the intended route and told her to meet me about 10 miles up the road for my first refuel.  The beginning mile was gorgeous.  I was able to run on quiet side streets by the stadium then along a path that wrapped around a gorgeous lake.  I then hit the highway and essentially had to run on swamp grass to avoid traffic.  Around mile 3, I was enjoying the scenery as the highway wrapped back around toward the lake when something caught my eye in the shallow area of the water.   A big ass alligator was bobbing his head up and down.  It was only the second alligator I had ever seen in my life and I guess you could say this was also my first big WTF moment of the journey.

A couple miles later I was running along what appeared to be old vacated warehouses and fenced in tire yards.  While passing one I heard frantic footsteps from behind me, then WHOOF WHOOF WHOOF!!!  I was so startled that I literally tripped and just about fell on my ass as two dogs jumped up against the fence in full attack mode.  I captured the dogs on video but the video doesn’t do it justice because the dogs had calmed down a ton by the time I was able to pull my phone out of the pack.  The next few miles were spent dodging traffic as if I were playing a real life version of Frogger.  I basically had to pick my poison.  Run on the concrete highway with a solid 8 inches of shoulder or run on the swampy terrain that was right next to what looked like a levy of water that the Incredible Gator could pop out of at any moment.  I watched enough of Steve Irwin, the famous crocodile hunter,  to make me believe I had a much better chance against the gator as opposed to a car, truck or semi rolling at 70mph.

There was so much action going on that by the time I reached Tarah at mile 10 I didn’t even realize how much I was sweating.  My shirt and shorts were both sopping wet and I had no choice but to go for the early change.  The back of the SUV looked like something that belonged in some sort of designers magazine.  My alternate outfits were laid out perfectly.  All of my liquid and food options were very neatly displayed and set up for my easy choosing.  My wife was undoubtedly going for support vehicle of the year.  I quickly changed my shirt and shorts, grabbed a fresh water and gatorade then I was off.   Miles 10-15 in dry clothes made the journey more comfortable but the road conditions continued to deteriorate.  Small shoulders and any sort of sidewalk paths became non existent.  During miles 16-23 the sun began to set and orange groves dominated what I would describe as a gorgeous and somewhat euphoric setting.   At mile 20 there was even a dude hosing down the outside of a produce stand that obliged when I asked him for “a little love.”

Tarah was waiting at a gas station around mile 23.  Shady would be the word I would use to describe the atmosphere but I don’t feel as if it would do it justice.  There was one guy sitting on the bed of his truck looking at my wife as if he just got out of prison and hadn’t seen a female in 15 years.  There was another guy leaning up against the side of the car drinking a 40 of Old English and a third dude sitting on the curb smoking a joint.  I tried my best not to worry, judge or over analyze the situation but it was impossible.   We needed to get out of there in a hurry.

I put a towel around my waist and stripped down my disgustingly wet clothes.  The Prince of Perspiration struck again.  I then fired on my most breathable and shortest pair of shorts.  Ones that would make the old Dolphin shorts proud.   I finally realized I would be much better off and able to stay much cooler without a shirt and backpack strapped to my body.   I shoved my phone into the one small pocket on the backside of the shorts and then held a bottle of water in each hand.  I had lost so much fluid at this point I knew it was going to soon start taking its toll.  Without the pack I had no way to carry my nutrition or pills so I instructed Tarah to meet me every 2-3 miles wherever she could find a safe spot off of the main road.  Then, when I began running again I actually back pedaled the first 100 yards to make sure Tarah made a clean get away from the lions den.

With a fresh pair of shorts, no shirt and no pack you would think I would have been more comfortable at this point.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  I had lost so much fluid and was so incredibly depleted I was miserable.  I was light headed and basically every step between mile 23 and 30 was a struggle.  Not to mention the towns that I continued to run through were flat out sketchy.   On several different occasions the cat calls seemingly came from every direction… “Boy, you shouldn’t be running through this here neighborhood,”  “Look at this crazy white dude, what’s wrong with you?”  and “Run, Forrest, Run”  were three of my favorites.

After meeting Tarah at mile 27 she could tell I needed something and needed it fast.  When we met again at mile 30 she was waiting with a large pepperoni pizza.  Outside of our wedding day I cannot think of a time I was that excited to see her.  I went to town and mowed the entire pie within minutes.  I grabbed a coke and a water then immediately took off running again.  I was completely rejuvenated.

Once I passed mile 31 I entered unchartered territory.  I have run two 50k’s (31 mi) in my life but never before had I surpassed the 31 mile barrier.  Believe it or not, my easiest miles were actually 31-40.  The pepperoni pizza/coke combo dialed me in.  Just about any endurance athlete will tell you that coca-cola is an absolute savior when the tank is low.  The huge amounts of sugar and caffeine serve as a super turbo fuel source.

The temperature definitely cooled as the time and miles clicked off but the running conditions did not improve one bit.  There was one stretch in which I felt like I was running on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles and then another extended area on the Old Tampa Highway where I actually had to have Tarah drive behind me with her hazard lights on because the only shoulder was a gator infested swamp.  On at least 3 different occasions I shined my light into the swamp and witnessed sets of alligator eyes glowing outside of the water.

Somewhere around mile 40 as I ran past the Gatorade plant, barely noticing, because right beyond the plant there were 3 police cars lighting up the night.  I don’t know exactly what was going on but there was a guy cuffed and stuffed in the back of one of the cars and a 3 other dudes sitting on the curb handcuffed as well.  Seemed appropriate for the theme of the night.

As I was coming down the home stretch I was hurting and could barely look past 10 feet in front of me.  I saw something on the road so I veered to the left a bit then jumped my ass half way across the highway when I saw what it was.  Some sort of snake with some very interesting markings.  As I cautiously approached it I realized it wasn’t moving.  The tail looked like it had a rattle on it but I didn’t think rattle snakes existed in Florida.  The next day my wife sent me a picture of the exact same snake.  The picture was on a caution sign inside a gator farm saying “Beware of Rattle Snakes.”

The final 4 plus miles were run through the streets of downtown Kissimmee then along a path on the side of the highway before rolling up to the gates of the Houston Astros facility.   According to my Garmin the total distance was 48.12 miles.  The total time was 8 hours 15 minutes and 37 seconds.  I got into endurance sports 4 years ago.  Since then I have completed 6 full distance Ironman Triathlons and two ultra marathons.  Of all of the crazy endurance challenges I have done in my life, considering all of the elements, this quite possibly was the most difficult.  The weather, the traffic, the roads, the swamps, the gators, the snake and the backwoods Florida towns made it a wild, wild, wild freaking experience.  Looking forward to next spring and figuring out WHAT’S NEXT?  #WhoNeedsAnRV? EB