Back in action (with the bling to prove it)

Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon finisher medal

Traditionally the finisher medal for the race is a giant penny, but in honor of the 50th anniversary, they did something special. So AWESOME!

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.~Abraham Lincoln

Last you heard from me I had fought through the 9-day Tour of Sufferlandria workout and and was a little better and a little worse for it. So what have I been doing these past two months? A lot! I just figured I’d spare you all reading posts along the lines of blah blah blah indoor training blah blah blah winter sucks blah blah trainer rides blah treadmill…

So let’s get to the interesting stuff. On April 5 I made my way back to Springfield, Illinois, for my first race of the year–the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon! Originally I was going to sit this one out since I knew I was spending the week before at a conference in New Orleans that would not see me return until 10:30 p.m. the night before, but then I saw the hardware for it and had to have it.

So with only six hours of sleep; minimal training the week before; and a diet that consisted mostly of gumbo, jambalaya, and fried chicken, I made my way to the start line of a scenic but hilly course.

The race ends in sight of the historic capitol building and features spot on Abe and Mary Lincoln impersonators. (Photo courtesy

The race ends in sight of the historic capitol building and features spot on Abe and Mary Lincoln impersonators. Abe kicks the race off with one of my favorite quotes. (Photo courtesy

As you likely gleaned between the “blahs” at the beginning of this post, I have been working to get my running game back, and that work paid off. I managed to finish the race in 1:36:59–a new PR!

Some perspective: that time saw me finishing 96/1,946 overall and 15/111 in my age group.

I’ll take it! I am sure that if I get a little sleep, some proper meals, and find a flatter course that I might be able to shave another minute or two off that time in the next month or so.

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle…time for me to get hustling!

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Steven’s Inferno: Finale

CharonGet up! breathe with the soul, for it is brave in every battle, and will always win, unless the heavy body be its grave.~Inferno

Read Part 2

He triumphed.

The priest was treacherous. The generous offer of rest afforded to The Crowned One was but a strategy to make his pain all the more cutting and all the more deep. Nonetheless he continued on. Revolution by revolution, bead of sweat after bead of sweat.

Past the seventh and eighth.

The keepers of the seventh and eighth did too challenge The Crowned One. Angels,  The Hunted, Blender–they appeared as false gods. But he was not fooled. He cast from their thrones, but at a great price. His muscles ached, his mind grew foggy, his eyes became heavy, and the weight of the burden he had undertaken drew down on him as the world weighs down on Atlas.

They found him.

On the eighth day, in the eighth circle did the Beloved Friend and the Bright-Headed One find The Crowned One. Beloved Friend’s wisdom rang true and together they drove the Blender from their path. Their spirits combined moved time itself forward at a hurried pace, though nothing could be done to rid themselves of the anguish, misery, and fatigue they had borne upon themselves.

They arrived at the ninth.

Well met, Friend. More than a week of toil has brought us to where we stand. Our blood, sweat, and tears have stained the Earth, but none hath been able to halt our advance. Now at last in this ominous place, where the air chokes the lungs and the sky strangles even light from the sun, we will end this. I will summon the keeper of the ninth that we may cast aside our burdens. Pray tell me where is The Bright-Headed One? Now that we have joined as comrades I would not begin without her at our side.

He answered with remorse.

The Bright-Headed One has gone from our reach, Crowned One. Death has taken her from me. Yet grieve not for her. Surely she finds peace in the halls of Hades tending the great beasts Cerberus, Fenrir, and Nismo. A brave heart may enter Sufferlandria, but only a strong heart might journey to its depths.

He noticed.

I too hope that she may she find the respite guarding the heralds of Hell, Ragnarok, and Ratchet. But what of you? I stare at you now Friend and it is as if you are in this place and not in the same instance. What devilry has been worked upon you?

He was with him in spirit.

Fear not Crowned One. It is as you say that though I am here with you, I am also not. I stand beside you on the edge of the ninth circle of Sufferlandria, yet two different roads did we travel to arrive here. You the long unforgiving path, and I one that is no less forgiving, but shorter nonetheless. We have talked much now. The time has arrived to be done with this story.

His voice boomed.

I, the Crowned One summon you forth, keeper of the ninth. Come and lay your challenge at my feet. Before the sun sets this day you will bow to me, as has every other master of Sufferlandria.

The Ferryman came forth.

So a fool has come to the ninth circle of Sufferlandria? I am called the Violator, as is this place. I was your beginning and I will proclaim your end.

He readied himself.

You are not the ninth, Ferryman. You dwelt upon the edge of Sufferlandria. What is the meaning of this?

The Ferryman cackled.

You are blind, Crowned One. It was the deepest circles of Sufferlandria that called you forth. They and I are one in the same. Had you known me for that which I am when we first met, naught would have changed. Still we would have found ourselves in this place, on this day, with the whole of creation to bare witness. Now. COME AT ME!

He rode.

He rode hard.

He rode harder than he ever had before.

He bested the ninth!

Impossible! Sixty-four times I have come at you, and sixty-four times you have bested me. All that I am I used to break you. But only now do I see you cannot be broken.

The Crowned One stood in the very center of Sufferlandria.

I stand here in a place of honor, Ferryman. A high price have I paid for this moment. Yet having come to this place I am humbled. It is as you said. No reward awaits me. Pain was all I found. Yet I will leave here humbled and glad for the memories, however dark and distorted they might be.

The nine masters appeared before him. The Ferryman spoke.

You will leave here with no reward, but you will not go away with nothing. Leave this place and carry with you our respect–the respect of Sufferlandria!

The nine bowed low to The Crowned One. He did not gloat. He did not revel in the moment. For in having won the respect of the nine, they too had won his. He offered a low bow, then mounted the Talon of the Kestrel, and continued his journey in search of challenges, both wonderful and terrible.


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Steven’s Inferno: Part 2

the fifth circle

Through me you go to the grief wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain; Through me you go a pass among lost souls. Justice inspired my exalted Creator: I am a creature of the Holiest Power, of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love. Nothing till I was made was made, only eternal beings. And I endure eternally. Abandon all hope—Ye Who Enter Here.~Inferno

(View part 1)

Circle 3 concluded

The Crowned One faced the child.

You are truly of hell, Revolver. That one so small should cause so much pain–it cuts to the core of my soul, yet you leave no scar. Fifteen times you have come at me, and fifteen times I have repelled you. You are bested.

The child wept.

You stand short of breath and robbed of strength, while I lay here broken. Do not leave me vanquished. I beg mercy.

He remained unmoved.

Do not weep as a child. You are the Revolver. My journey to the final circle of Sufferlandria  continues. I have received no mercy from you and your brethren thus far. None shall you receive from me.

The child was elated.

Then you have learned much in the first three circles, Crowned One. I have tested you and you have passed. Continue forth. The next circle awaits, though mercy does not.

Circle 4

She greeted him coldly.

Welcome Crowned One. You have made it to the fourth circle. I will be the one to test you, though you will surely find that Hell Hath No Fury

A voice rang out.


They approached the Crowned One.

At last we have found you, Crowned One. I am Beloved Friend and this is my companion, Bright-Headed One. We too seek the ninth circle of Sufferlandria. Might we ride together as comrades in arms?

He responded.

Nay riders. Be gone with you. I have come this far of my own strength. I have no need for companions. I seek the center alone.

Beloved Friend contested.

There is no weakness in sharing the challenge with others. We too have come here of our own strength and have received our own shares of pain and misery. The suffering will not be lessened, nor can we lend one another strength. But it is the spirit we can sustain as one, and that cannot be done in solitude.

He relented.

You speak wisdom, Friend. I shall share my spirit with you, but not today. For now I continue on alone. But should you do what the keepers say is impossible and journey to the eighth circle, I will be there and will finish my quest alongside you and the Bright-Headed One.

They acquiesced.

Very well, Crowned One. Myself and Beloved Friend respect your answer and will await you in the eighth. However go forward with caution, especially when facing she, the keeper of the fourth. For I too can promise that Hell Hath No Fury–

The challenge began.

Enough of this! I, the keeper of the fourth circle, will not be ignored. Be there one or one hundred of you, I will not stand down. Come at me if you dare. Surviving will not be enough this time. Here you must overtake me.

The race began.

Circle 5 

Her fury was not enough.  The Crowned One made short work of her, though the brutal journey was beginning to take its toll. His body had become weary, his energy waned, and the worse was yet to come.

He did not waver.

I have come to this fifth circle and seek to challenge the keeper. Come forth if you think yourself almighty or remain in your shadows and allow me to pass unabated.

They came forward.

Did you hear that younger brother? That sounded like a command. It did older brother, indeed it did. Impolite. Yes younger brother. Though I would say insolent.

He questioned them.

I see only one in my presence, but hear the voices of two. Name yourself. I came to endure pain, not nonsense.

They took offense.

There he goes again older brother. He dares to command us?! So it would seem, younger brother. We will teach him manners.

The deformed twins revealed themselves.

I, the younger, am known as the Extra Shot, as is this place. I am the beginning. And I, the elder, am the Wretched, as is this place. I am the end. Alone we are weak, but together, we are strong. And we are always together.

He faced them.

Together you are ugly. And you are always together. Two against one?! Even your tactics are ugly, but no matter. You will fall just as the other four did.

Circle 6

The ride against the Extra Shot and the Wretched was indeed ugly. Though their strategy was underhanded, it was effective. Before the end of the ride the Crowned One’s limbs seared with indescribable anguish. Pride kept him moving forward. Patience kept his sanity. But Courage won the day. In time even the devious twins took a knee and he pressed forward, more than halfway through Sufferlandria.

A priest appeared.

Welcome weary traveler who has come so far. I give you my admiration at making it to this place. Would you not join me in a brief respite? Surely even you, though strong, could benefit from a small constitutional.

He declined.

Good priest I cannot rest. A demon dwells in this sixth circle and I will find no rest until it is purified. Pray thee tell me have you seen the keeper of this circle of Sufferlandria?

The priest extended his hand.

You speak to him now, sir. I do not lie, for I am honor bound to challenge you. This is A Very Dark Place. Sleep now. And when you awaken I will be glad to accept your challenge.

His suspicions were raised.

What game is this, priest? There is no respite in Sufferlandria, only pain, nor could I stop lest I bring shame upon myself to last the ages.

The priest smiled.

Well said. But I keep to my words, both as a priest and as the keeper of the sixth. There will be pain, but also you shall have rest. For every four minutes of pain, you shall have three minutes to gather yourself before I come at you again. Am I not generous?

It began.

Your words would sound generous but not for the warning in my heart. Do as you will, but I know that the currency of Sufferlandrians is treachery, not generosity. I know not what game you play, but I will not yield.

Is the priest A Very Dark Place as treacherous as the other keepers of Sufferlandria? Will The Crowned One reunite with Beloved Friend and The Bright-Headed One? And will his journal to the final circle end in triumph or tragedy? Find out in part three of Steven’s Inferno.

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Steven’s Inferno: Part 1

Although we not visit all corners of Sufferlandria, we have route that with strong emphasis on PAIN, MISERY and AGONY. Despair will also feature, yes, and too so hopelessness. For the strong, many, many opportunities for COURAGE appear across route.~Grunter Von Agony, Sufferlandrian race director



He stood at the edge of the abyss, facing the ferryman.

“Why have you come here?” The ferryman asked, his bony hands clutching a battered oar. “What business does a mortal have in Sufferlandria?”

He responded.

“I am called the Crowned One, and I was sent here by the Bay Laurel Victor that I may experience the ways of Sufferlandria. You will let me pass.”

The ferryman laughed.

“Crowned One or not, this is not the place for the likes of you,” The Ferryman replied. “Few come to this place, but all regret having journeyed here. Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery–Hell hath nine circles. Here too, do we have nine circles, though all are called Pain.”

He did not flinch.

“I have come here from afar riding on the Talon of a Kestrel,” The Crowned One challenged. “I will not be denied, least of all not by you. Will you carry me forward  or do you presume to bar my passage?”

The ferryman conceded.

“It is my purpose to bring fools into Sufferlandria. I will not deny you, but before the end of your journey, you will regret your choice to enter. Even the Grim Reaper himself has challenged the keepers within, and even he is not guaranteed success.”

He stepped forward.

“I come seeking no reward.”

The Ferryman began to paddle.

“Good. For you will find none here. Only agony.”

Circle 1

In time he arrived in the first circle.

“What is this place?” he asked.

A man donning the coat of a doctor met his gaze.

“You have come to the first circle, very good,” he said. ” I am called the the Rubber Glove, as is this place.”

He responded.

“I have come that I might journey to the deepest circle of Sufferlandria,” the Crowned One replied. “What must I do to continue on?”

The doctor challenged him.

“This place is the first resting place of fools on their way to the deepest circles of Sufferlandria. Here what we ask is simple. You give everything of yourself, and when you have given that, you give even more. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be pleasant. Will you not turn back now?”

He started pedaling.

“My legs are strong and my will of Iron,” The Crowned One said. “Do your worst.”

The Rubber Glove menaced.

“No. You do yours!”

Circle 2

Having proven more than a match for the Rubber Glove, The Crowned One continued on, reaching the second circle. His will unwavering, he called for the keeper of the second circle.

“I am called the Crowned One and I have come that I might best the keeper of this second circle of Sufferlandria. Will you stay hidden, or will you come forth with your challenge?

A monstrosity appeared.

“No one is hiding boastful mortal. I am called the Islagiatt, known to some as the Mountain, as is this place. The first circle was only one world of pain on the road to nine. Do not be prideful at having made it here. For you are only at the brink, and the plunge is yet a stone’s throw away.”

He sneered at the monster.

“Tell me what it is you want and let us be on with it.”

The monster roared.

“Two hours of pain are before you and a mountain awaits. To the top you must climb and climb and climb. There will be no descent during which you can rest, for this mountain denies the very laws of nature itself. Surely such a place must confound even the wisest sage. You will turn away.”

But Islagiatt’s words were but echoes to the Crowned One. He was already pressing forward.

Circle 3

Having overcome the mountain, the Crowned One arrived in an eerie place. The horrors of the first and second circles were but memories replaced by the artificial calm of this third. It was an unnatural peace in an unnatural place.

He muttered cautiously to himself.

“This place is all wrong. I can see the next circle ahead and I have only just arrived in this place,” the Crowned One pondered. “This circle must be some divine joke. It is clearly the smallest of them all. It should pose no threat to me.”

The child appeared.

“You should not take any challenge lightly, not matter how great or small.”

He warned her off.

“Peace child. This is no place for one as small as yourself. Flee from here with all haste that the keeper of this circle not find you.”

The child stood her ground.

“I am no child. Though I appear small I bring unto you a new world of pain. I am called the Revolver. And soon you will find that suffering compressed into a short amount of time can be even more dangerous than the longest era of misery.”

He maintained his resolve.

“Very well then child, revolver, or whatever you call yourself. I will meet your challenge. Come at me once, twice, even 15 times. I will take on any foe.”

Coming up–Will the Crowned One fall before the onslaught of the Revolver? Or will he fight his way into the fourth circle of Sufferlandria? Also the Crowned One finds himself contacted by the enigmatic “Beloved Friend” and “The Bright-Headed One.” Look for part 2 of Steven’s Inferno on January 31.

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2014 Race schedule is live!

I finally decided to sit down and plan what I will do this year as far as racing. I am pretty excited because while last year was focused on accomplishments (i.e. Triple-T and IRONMAN Wisconsin) as well as a lot of training events, this year will be about racing what I feel like. And maybe a little accomplishment as well!

I want to kick the year off with the St. Patrick’s Day 5K right here in Bloomington. For a long time it has been my goal to go under 20 minutes in a 5K, and I feel like this could be the year. Plus if I do it during the St. Pat’s 5K, I won’t have to race another 5K. I really loathe running 5Ks, they hurt a LOT! Still, I can’t not try…

Anyway, next I’ll be returning to an old favorite–the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon in Springfield. They have great medals, it is a fun course, and after doing the Illinois Half Marathon for the past few years I am ready to revisit this race.

On May 18 I will be teaming up with two friends and doing the Rev3 Knoxville Relay again. Yours truly will be combining the speed from the 5K and the stamina from the half and to bring the team home during the run leg of the race. Our goal is to win a relay team podium spot. I’ll just count it lucky if it isn’t pouring rain through the whole run like it was last year.

Next on May 31 is the Tri-Shark Classic. I can’t miss this one. It is pretty much a who’s who of triathletes in the area and I have always had a lot of fun. Maybe if the stars line up again I will even get another podium award. (Unlikely since it’ll be a tougher age group.)

The final race I have committed to is running the Rev3 half triathlon relay in Williamsburg, Virginia, on June 15. They had awesome medals last year, and myself and my friends decided we need them for our personal collection.

That should keep me pretty busy throughout the first half of the race season, but I’m not done. Check out my race schedule page for some others I am eyeing. I want to for sure do a half triathlon and maybe even a marathon. Maybe even more. We will see how the year goes.




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2013 Wrap-up

I thought I’d give a few updates as I come to the close of 2013.

First, I decided it was time to give this blog a new banner, so I sought out the help of my friend and coworker Mike Mahle. Aside from working on whatever is assigned to us around the office, Mike and I have also collaborated on a Batman Rogues Gallery journal that was sold at C2E2. We are also beginning work on a noir style story that should be complete this summer. Check out Mike’s work at Big thanks to Mike for helping to give this blog a new look.

Second, I am in the process of choosing my races for 2014. My current plan is to do a 5k in which I go sub-20, a half marathon, two 70.3 relays, Tri-Shark Classic, one or two 70.3 triathlons, and then finish the year with two marathons…now that I write all of this it seems like a lot more than I originally thought. I think I’ll still go for it. My intention is to do the marathons in states that are not Illinois and Wisconsin. I figure I might as well start to casually work toward doing 50 in 50. I may or may not decide to follow through with it, but at least this way I will be making progress in case I decide I definitely want to go for it.

Finally, I have had a major training breakthrough! I have finally broken in my Rev3 8-bit visor! If that sounds stupid, keep in mind that I have been working on it since April. (May still sound stupid.) Until recently that darn thing gave me a headache after wearing it for more than 30 minutes. Why bother? Because it looks so cool. If 140.6 couldn’t beat me, there’s no way a stupid garment of fabric and cardboard was going to win.

This was a great year for racing. I started with American Triple-T at the beginning of the season and finished with IRONMAN Wisconsin. There were a lot of triumphs and opportunities for learning in between, all of which made me stronger and/or wiser. I am looking forward to what 2014 will bring. Thanks for joining me for the ride.

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In the zone

I’ve been spending some time on my bike trainer lately and have made a surprising discovery…I can actually move between zones with relative ease!

Going between zones 1-4 was never really a problem for me in running. Since running is my specialty, it just came naturally. When my coach assigned specific runs I knew being in Z4 (185 bpm +) would hurt, but I knew I could get there. This was never the case with the bike. Some days even hanging in Z2 (135-165 bpm) could be a challenge.

It was so bad on the bike that when I’d open Training Peaks (awesome software if you aren’t already using it to manage your training) and see long Z3 (165-185 bpm) or even brief Z4 intervals, I would actually feel a bit of anger because I just couldn’t get there. I never knew how to hurt on the bike.

Lately I have had a breakthrough. I am able to really push the cadence and resistance to hit whatever my coach has thrown at me. I was surprised when I hit every zone and cadence goal the first trainer ride–I actually assumed it was luck. But after the last three or so rides I am thinking that I know a bit more about how to hurt on the bike.

Bring the pain!

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