That time I broke a bone on a vegetable…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2015 by roninsherpa

I’ve cracked a rib.

How did it happen?

I would love to say I was scaling El Capitan, free style and slipped…

OR that when base jumping my parachute failed to open and I careened off of a glass skyscraper falling into the top of an ice cream truck…

OR as I was saving the orphans, nuns and pet rescue dogs, part of the burning building collapsed on me…

But no…

None of that happened.


I was putting away the groceries and trying to organize the frozen veggies into a stack in the freezer. I was holding two or three in the crook of my right arm while stacking them in the freezer using my left. I smashed them against the door frame of the freezer to break up the ice and make them stack a little easier. So now I was standing there with the last package of California Blend Veggies pinned between my right arm and my chest, while I was breaking the ice on another one with my left hand. I could see there was a perfect place for the last one, but the large ball of ice/veggies needed to be broken to fit. I squeezed my right arm against my chest trying to crunch it when suddenly POW! I physically recoiled, stepping away from the freezer. It felt like I had been shot! It took my breath away.

It took a second, but I realized what had happened. I cracked a rib.


Just below my right pec there is an area the size of a dime where when I take a deep breath it lights up. There is nothing a doctor can do for a broken rib, you just have to take it easy and let it heal. It just sucks for a while.

So no shit, there I was, no burning orphanage, no attacking Martians, and no skydiving accident…

I broke a bone on a vegetable.


Happy Thanksgiving.

“100 Things” or “The Bucket List”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2015 by roninsherpa

Welcome to my updated list of:


100 Things to do before I die

This list is not in order of importance.

I recognize some of these are well outside my grasp but complacency is the mother of death.

Some are frugal while others are quite indulgent. Some are outright silly, but a man has to be able to laugh at himself. I encourage you to write your own list, and keep it in a place which can been seen daily. A goal is a dream with a timeline and ‘someday’ never comes unless you change today. You are worth big dreams.

1. Big Feet

2. Qualify for the Boston Marathon

3. Run all 5 Space Coast Marathons in the “Big Bang” Series, earning the 7 available medals

4. Run a marathon in all 50 states.

5. Run a marathon on all 7 continents

6. Badwater 135

7.  Marathon des Sables

8. Norseman

9. Ironman World Championships in Kona

10. See the Worlds Largest Frying Pan. It is in Wilmington, Del.

11. Buy a new car

12. Drive a Ferrari

13. Convince Congress to pass legislation to control electronic cigarettes as cigarettes and mandate displays be put behind the counter

14. 6 pack abs

15. Get over my anger and disappointment toward Lance Armstrong

16. Own a Range Rover with a winch

17. Restore a 1969 Mustang fastback painted red with a black hood

18. Visit Easter Island

19. Bora bora

20. Ride a bicycle in France

21. Organize a long weekend getaway with my girlfriend which she knows nothing about until I drive her to the airport

22. Own an Armani suit

23. Learn to speak French

24. Help pass legislation where electronic cigarettes are treated like cigarettes

25. Learn to cook 100 different meals

26. Own a condo

27. Visit the Sengaku-ji shrine in Shinagawa, Japan

28. Snowboard Aspin

29. Be a father

30. Learn to speak Danish

31. Fill my passport with stamps

32. Write a book

33. Know true love

34. Be in a movie or TV show

35. Meet Col. Chris Hadfield (astronaut)

36. Build my business

37. Sell my business

39. Earn someone’s complete trust

40. Play my sax in front of others with no fear

45. Learn to play “Lisa” “Pick up the pieces” and “Chicago Song”


2014: A year’s adventures

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2015 by roninsherpa
Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

2014 has been a busy year. There have been more events than what I’ve recorded here, but these are the highlights.


The first of the year had some of the worst snow in this area we’ve had in many years. Over 10 inches in some places with freezing rain, hail and sleet on top of that. People walked away from vehicles stuck on the interstate. The local municipalities do not possess equipment to deal with that type of weather, so we just had to wait it out. I was one of the lucky ones and never lost power.


I stayed at home and watched the Sochi Olympics.


I am a biathlon fan and Ole Einar Bjørndalen has been the man for many years. He has won more Winter Olympic medals than anyone, ever. He took a Gold medal in the Biathlon Sprint and helped the team take the Gold for Relay… and he’s 40. Most Olympians are in their teens or early 20’s yet Ole beat them solidly. It was awesome to watch.


This year my volunteer work in the fight against cancer has continued. Working with The LIVESTRONG Foundation progressed to my being elected Senior Leader last year. The position brings the responsibility of training and directing new and existing Leaders within my region: NC, DE, VA, MD, and KY. I also assist LIVESTRONG HQ with their efforts, in building and maintaining relationships with our affiliated partners, like the YMCA and Camp Kesem. Over the winter I volunteered as a member of the Leader Training Advisory Council where I worked diligently with HQ and a select group of other Leaders helping to develop the new online training platform which will bring a clearer focus and better understanding of duties and responsibilities to an appointed volunteer Leader.





In March I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to run in the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships. 30,000 other runners from all over the world came to take part. I was there working with my fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders, Anne Chen, Karen de Kerk and Jacob Elkjær. It was through Jacob’s hard work and organizing we were joined by over 100 supporters all wearing shirts bearing the LIVESTRONG Foundation logo.



Over 30,000 runners took to the Copenhagen streets in the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships

Cancer does not care what nationality you are, who you pray to or what colour your skin is. Cancer is a bastard who wishes to rob you of joy. The LIVESTRONG Foundation works with their extensive network of survivors to bring hope, options and yes even joy back into the lives those dealing with cancer right now.

While at the World Half Marathon Championships I was able to meet with the reps of Polar Denmark and view the new V800 and V650. At the time, the V800 had just being unveiled to the public, but the V650 was still just a prototype.



Copenhagen was founded as a city more than 600 years before the United States was even around. The food, culture, and atmosphere of Copenhagen is addictive. I look forward to spending more time there.


LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman addresses the Leaders at the 2014 Assembly in Austin, TX.

In April, I traveled to Austin, TX for the LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly. While this beautiful group of people does not get together every year, when we do, it is fantastic. Leaders are people from all over the world who have but one common element: We hate cancer. We also love life and when we get together, it is easy to see how much. The Assembly is how we have received training, guidance and direction from HQ, not to mention fellowship with other survivors and caregivers. Every time I have the chance to be around other Leaders it fills me with purpose and hope.




Copenhagen Crew in Austin!


Unity is strength.


I was asked to once again to travel to Washington DC and address Congress and the Senate for One Voice Against Cancer’s OVAC Lobby Day. 27 different cancer related organizations come together to ask Members of Congress and the Senate for their support of a $32 billion package which supported the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cancer Programs, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, (HRSA).


With Congressman George Holding R-NC in The Rayburn Room of The Capitol Building


Presenting Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) with a lifetime achievement award for his work for Cancer.


With Senator Kay Hagan in her DC office in Dirksen Senate Office Building

The 2014 OVAC was a wonderful success, gaining a lot of commitments and support. Congressman George Holding (R-NC) came off of the floor just to meet with me. It is wonderful to meet with professionals who care so much. I was also able to take part in presenting Senator Tom Harkin a Lifetime Achievement Award for is unending support.

While in DC I was also able to visit with a fellow Polar Ambassador, Cheryl Hori. Cheryl works on Capitol Hill and rubs elbows with the President like it’s no big deal. Cheryl was nice enough to give me a tour of the Capitol Building pointing out some really crazy details like bullet holes and beautiful out of the way art few tourists ever see. She also allowed me access to the secret underground Senate train which runs from the Capitol Building, to the Russell Senate Building. It was a very special thrill to ride the same rails as Presidents, Senators and heads of state! The ride only lasts a few minutes, but it is a part of Secret Washington I had only heard and read about. Thank you Cheryl!


In the room intended to be George Washington’s tomb in the Capitol Building. That Star is the geographic center of Washington DC.


In the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda

 Late Summer

Most of the rest of my summer was spent working, eating right, watching the hummingbirds fight over the sugar water and training for the Petra Desert Marathon.




Training for Petra

The idea of traveling to the Middle East and running a marathon through the desert came from speaking with friends about their travels and adventures. Jacob earned the Norseman Black T Shirt, Anne summited Kilimanjaro… wanderlust and adventure burn deep in my soul like the red hot magma of a volcano. I trained in the middle of the day to prepare myself for the desert heat.

The Middle East


Amman, Jordan

The sights, the sounds, the foods and the culture of Jordan brought adventure at every turn.


Freshly squeezed juice from a street vendor in Madaba, Jordan.


Anne and I visiting the Madaba Mosaic Map in the early Byzantine Church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan.

Seeing the Madaba Mosaic Map was a real thrill. It was made sometime around 542 AD. Years later, in 746 Madaba was destroyed by a massive earthquake and the entire town was abandoned. The mosaic was not rediscovered until 1884. More than just art, the Madaba Map has proven to be a very accurate map of religious locations once thought lost, or even fictional.


The 2014 Petra Desert Marathon


Atop the desert precipice.

The arid desert heat was not the only challenge of the Petra Desert Marathon, the relentlessly brutal hill climbs would have taken any runner to task. The terrain was brutal with its steep pitches, and undulations. The 5km climb which happened at the deep end of the marathon, took its toll on me and I had hallucinations while on the course. I had been running with a woman named Odette from Cape Town until we got to that bloody hill. In the photo above you can see the road half way up becomes a wall which you have to somehow climb. I had to walk, I had to crawl, I had to… I blinked and as clear as day I was sitting in my mother’s winged back chair in the house I grew up in. The large red brick fireplace was in front of me with the huge, black steel, wood stove in it. I have the memory of this vision as clear as if it had actually happened. I saw the brass knobs on the wood stove and the small brass kettle which always held a bit of water. Then… things… shifted… and I was deep in the heart of a Middle Eastern desert, running a marathon again. It was surreal. I realized I had pushed my body’s reserves of sugar past a place I had ever been before. But then I remembered the my hidden trick for it: Pepsi. One of my running flasks held a few ounces of flattened Pepsi. It’s sugars react in my body much quicker and in a different way than Gatorade. Within minutes my mind was working again and I was able to catch up to Odette and Finish with her. It was the hardest bloody marathon I’ve ever done. I would do it again in a second!


Running a marathon through a city carved from the living stone thousands of years ago was an adventure of a lifetime.

Winners Dinner in Little Petra

Our Winners Dinner was held in an ancient smaller place known as Little Petra which is some 600 years older than Petra itself. We dined under a night sky so clear and so uninfluenced by light, we could see the Milky Way. We ate, we drank and we rocked out to German House Music.

The Jordan Adventure was awesome. The food, the friends, the history, the professionalism of our guides and of course the challenge of the marathon itself. I would go back and do it all again in a moment.


Cancer doe not care what nationality you are. Cancer does not care what colour your skin is. Cancer does not care who you pray to. Cancer does not care about your hopes, dreams, goals or loves. Cancer does not care. I do.

Back home I moved into a new place. While I did not move far, I did move. My parents also moved. Their move was much more significant as they were coming from a house they had been in for almost 20 years.

Then it was time for Florida.


This is the fourth year in a row I have run the Space Coast Marathon in Fla. It is always held the weekend after Thanksgiving which makes it a perfect event. I see family, have a wonderful meal and then fly out of town the next day, and explore Kennedy Space Center. Over the years, I have witnessed rocket launches, made friends with actual astronauts and collected photographs of all manor of space craft. I am a total NASA Nerd. This marks the second year in what race organizers have called The Big Bang Series. For five consecutive years, each medal for both the Full and the Half, commemorates one of the Space Shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis. If a runner completes any three of these events, another medal dubbed the Milky Way will be awarded, and should a runner complete all five events a seventh medal titled the Intergalactic will be earned. I totally dig the Space Bling and intend to earn them all.


All the Full and Half Big Bang Medals! 


With Anne and Space Shuttle Atlantis

This year I was joined by my fellow LIVESTRONG Leader, Anne Chen. This was to be her first full marathon! It was also her first visit to Kennedy Space Center.

The Space Coast Marathon is special in a number of ways: First it does have the ‘space’ theme and each of the water stations have people dressed up in costumes like Mr. Spock, Jabba the Hutt, and Stormtroopers. The other thing to remember is that this event takes place in Florida, and is entirely on the waterfront. You can see pelicans, seagulls and if you are lucky, dolphins!


Stopping at mile 4 for a moment to capture the sunrise

Anne and I separated during the start and I did not see her again until mile 20 or so. I had held onto a GU energy pack which had a little caffeine in it to give her, I knew she would need it. She looked tired, but was soldiering on. I said “You are doing it! Look at you!” She said her knee was bothering her, but she was OK. I gave her the GU, gave her some more reassuring words and I was off again.


On the left is at mile 5 just after sunrise. On the right is just a few meters from the Finish Line.

This is my fourth Finish of the Space Coast Marathon, but I wanted to make sure it was special for Anne as it was her first ever. I collected my medal, (a lovely one by the way) found a Pepsi, and had a piece of pizza in the Finishers Village there in the park. While I was waiting I bumped into a few people I have only ever met through this race and congratulated them on their Finish. The announcer called Anne’s name and we all cheered and clapped! The final time did not matter because she Finished and we were all very proud of her. Anne collected her medal and mentioned her knee again. We found the med tent and had a nice sit down. A lovely attendant wrapped Anne’s knee with a large bag of ice and I got her a nice cold soda. I am very proud of Anne for pushing through the frustration of things not going exactly right and I commend her for having the awareness of not injuring herself further but accomplishing the goal. In my past I have at times “soldiered on” yet hurt myself worse.


Finishers of the 2014 Space Coast Marathon! Anne’s knee wrapped with ice.

2014 has been a year of adventure and change. Last year I chose to end my career in the cycling world, so much of this year has been spent taking various classes and state proctored tests to acquire my licences to work in the insurance world: Life, Health, Property and Casualty along with a few others. Without the help, love and support of my family, friends and sponsors, this would all be impossible.My mother’s lasagna and a hug cures the darkest moments of self doubt. My father’s words of wisdom and his advice ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS works if I do what he tells me to.

It is my humble honor to be a Brand Ambassador of Polar Electro, makers of the finest, most accurate self monitoring devices on the planet. As a 46 year old athlete who travels the world and puts himself into new and different atmospheres, with new foods and differing qualities of water, I have to listen to my body and understand what it is saying in simple terms, and Polar does that.

X-Bionic manufactures articles of clothing which improve your body’s performance simply by wearing them. Whether it was the chill of the Scandinavian winter, the arid heat of a Middle Eastern desert, or the humid autumn of Florida, I have found X-Bionic provides tangible improvements to performance.

This year I have run my events in the Asics GEL Nimbus models 14 and 16. I hiked the ancient city of Petra in the Asics GT-2000. I believe Asics provides the highest quality, best fitting off the shelf running shoes on the market.

These adventures and this effort would not be worthwhile alone. A special thank you to my friend, colleague and partner in crime, Anne Chen.

Birthday Space Station

Posted in Uncategorized on December 28, 2014 by roninsherpa


I subscribe to and you can too. It is a free service that works almost anywhere in the world and will alert you some 6-8 hours before the International Space Station flys over you.

I was thrilled that for the second year in a row I was going to have the chance to see the International Space Station on my birthday! I got the following message at 3:59am:


“Time: Sat Dec 27 5:39 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 48 degrees, Appears: NW, Disappears: ESE”


I was thrilled! When the ISS is visible for 6 minutes it means it is passing almost directly overhead. Most of the time it is 3 or 4 or 5 minutes, but at 6 minutes it covers the entire sky. When you are looking for the ISS, understand you are not seeing a spaceship. What you see is a dot of light. NASA says it is the “third brightest object in the sky,” the other two being the moon and sun. You can’t mistake it for a low flying airplane because it doesn’t blink. It is also traveling faster. Relative to the ground, the ISS travels some 17,500 miles per hour, circumnavigating the entire Earth in only 90 minutes. It is moving damn fast!

Last year on my birthday I watched a Russian Cosmonaut on NASA TV, live from the ISS taking a space walk to do repairs to the outside of the Station itself. That night we watched as the ISS orbited across the night sky.

This year I was poised and ready to see the station again. I was going to try to get a photograph of myself with the ISS in the background because I am just a massive nerd like that. It is bright enough to be in your selfie on a clear night. My trouble was that a massive cloud cover was drifting across the sky just at 5:25 when I was outside waiting. It seemed to be a race. 5:39 came and I knew the dot of light was overhead but those clouds had come from the NW and were traveling ESE. I was going to have to be lucky and wait for the final few seconds to try and get the photo. The issue is that the lower the ISS gets on the horizon, the atmosphere distorts the light and you may not see it go all the way to the treeline. It was a race. I was either going to run out of visible time, or visible sky.

Then it happened, with only the narrowest of views, between the clouds and a building, one little speck of light dropped from the clouds! As you see with the photo above there was only the narrowest of margins.

Fuzzy, off in the distance, through the haze of clouds, and atmosphere, there is a little dot of light in my photo. It is the International Space Station and seeing it on the same day two years in a row is pretty fracking awesome.


The Petra Desert Marathon – part 3 – RACE DAY: The Goddess of Fortune and Beethoven’s “Ode to Pepsi”

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by roninsherpa




We got to the Petra Visitor’s Center around 5:30 in the morning. 50 runners: 26 for the half marathon, and 24 the marathon. We walked through Petra’s grounds, through the Siq, past the Treasury, past the Roman Theater, out onto the Street of Façades to the Start Line of the Petra Desert Marathon.

Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

The Half and Full marathons were set on the same half moon shaped course around the valley and then up and over the crest of a pretty steep ridge. The Full marathon would break off through the desert in a few places and then an 8k out and back through a rugged agriculture area. Our Finish Line would be at our hotel which was outstanding. The hills were about 1000 times more severe than I had planned for, they were steep and unforgiving. However, I was not there to break personal records, only to cross the Finish Line.


What happened was my body ran out of sugar. You see your brain runs on sugar like your car runs on gas. Burn enough sugar out of your body and your mind will not work right. We have all seen those disturbing videos of the seasoned athletes willowing away, unable to hold themselves up. Late in the day, it began to happen to me.


Anne and I at about 05:45 the morning of the marathon. We stopped briefly to take each others photo by The Treasury.

Anne and I at about 05:45 the morning of the marathon. We stopped briefly to take each others photo by The Treasury.

But lets get there first. The Starting Line of the 2014 Petra Desert Marathon was on the ancient stone “Street of Façades.” The morning was cool but not chilly. I wore a light jacket to the Start Line.

2014 Petra Desert Marathon Start Line

2014 Petra Desert Marathon Start Line

With only 50 people running our group was a good size. Intimate, you might say. Because Petra is an active archaeological site, our run started under a controlled pace for the first 500 yards or so. The Race Director said a few remarks we all counted down and we were off.

We were running the Petra Desert Marathon.

Qasr al Bint on the left was built in the first century BC. Anne on the right listens to music on her glass iPhone and wears X-Bionic clothing which improves endurance simply by wearing it.

Qasr al Bint on the left was built in the first century BC. Anne on the right listens to music on her glass iPhone and wears X-Bionic clothing which improves endurance simply by wearing it.

It was at that moment I had an epiphany:  I was wearing some of the most technologically advanced running kit mankind has ever created, tracking my every step using a series of robots in orbit who were communicating with a computer strapped to my wrist, which was monitoring my vital signs. All of this was happening while running through a set of stone ruins so old that multiple civilizations have built their lives on top of the dust of those who came before only to perish away themselves. One of the civilizations to live here, were the Romans. I was running by the stone structure called Qasr al Bint listening to “O Fortuna” on my glass iPod. “O Fortuna” is a poem written in the 13th century about ‘Fortuna,’ who was the ‘Goddess of fortune’ and the ‘personification of luck’ for the Roman religion. It was a brilliant moment of recognition where we have come.

Anne runs up one of the first hills on the course.

Anne runs up one of the first hills on the course.

2014 Petra Desert Marathon

The course turned from the steeply paved road behind us into the harsh desert.

It is a difficult moment to reduce to words on a page, but I will try.

If we, as a species, can climb from a stone cave to listening to symphonic music played from a piece of glass, we can cure cancer. Is it arrogant to stand on the ruins of other civalizations and preach of collective intelligence? Am I foolish to believe in hope when faced with the mortality of my current wave of humanity? Do I dare hope for a better future for those to come? I think we must. I believe we can do anything. I believe together we can achieve great things and I believe the evidence of Petra still existing after so many millennia is proof of that.


Anne and I were able to run together for a short while until the Full Marathon course turned further out into the desert. After the split, the only humans I saw were at water stops. I found a few goat herds on the rockier bits, but once the sun crept over the hills they were hiding in whatever shade they could find.


One of the first hills on the course. The shadows of the morning sun quickly giving way to the hot sun.

Desert selfie

The Pepsi.

In being a long distance runner I have discovered my body changes how it works over the course of a marathon. Later in the event my body requires a different type of nutrition to keep it functioning. Often you will hear endurance athletes speak of “hitting the wall.” This is typically in the later stages of an event. Typically in a marathon it will be around mile 17, 18 or 19. It is caused by your body running low on sugar and because sugar is what your brain works on, you can’t think straight. Sometimes if you push youself beyond that simple confusion stage, your body begins to shut down. The first thing your brain will shut down is your limbs. They are the farthest things from your vital organs so they get cut off first. These are the guys you see in the videos who wobble and stagger at the finish line. It is what made Julie Moss famous in the Ironman. 50 feet from the Finish Line she collapses and the girl in second place passes her to win. Julie crawled across the Finish Line and into history. It was all filmed and shown on ABC’s Wild World of Sports. Triathlon became a sport after that.

Julie Moss crawls across the 1982 Ironman Finish Line

Julie Moss crawls across the 1982 Ironman Finish Line

With Julie Moss in 2009

With Julie Moss in 2009

I was on that hill and I could swear I was just sitting in a chair. I saw it. I felt it. It was a wing back, claw foot chair upholstered with paisley flowered fabric. I knew I had just been sitting in it and that the brick fireplace was right in front of me. It stopped me in my tracks. I shook the cobwebs from my head. I snapped back to reality. For a moment I had faded into the ether of memories because that chair and fireplace was in the house I grew up in which my parents sold 20 years ago. I was 2/3rds of my way up a nasty, steep 3k hill in a desert in the Middle East and it was kicking my butt. The girl I had been running with was now no where to be seen. Poof. Gone. Woosh up that hill like it was nothing. Maybe I had been in La-la Land a little longer than I had thought. Julie Moss popped into my head. I heard her say “You have some Pepsi in your Fuel Belt.” I did. I had a small bottle of Pepsi I had opened the night before and let it go flat so it would not foam over when I was running. I took a few sips and within a few minutes I felt like a new person. The reality that my nutrition was not tuned in came to my mind and I had another sip. I read Chris McCormack’s book “I’m Here to Win” and in it he proclaimed that soda had made the difference for his late marathon issues. I had tried it before, but this was irrefutable proof that the man knows what he was talking about. Thanks Chris. Thanks Julie.

Taking stock, I felt exhausted. These hills were much more than I had prepaired for. Being reduced to walking many of the hills and running down them reflected a hole in my training. My legs burned with lactic acid, feeling heavier and heavier with each step.

At the top of the late race 3k hill which winds down behind me. The Race Doctor took this photo.

At the top of the late race 3k hill which winds down behind me. The Race Doctor took this photo.

The top of the hill finally came and the race doctor was there with some Jordanian men. At each water stop they had given us two small bottles of water, one of which I would promptly dump on my head. It was shockingly cold and would cause an involuntary grunt. Over the last of the marathon I had begun to look forward to it. The doctor said I was in good order. I handed her my iPhone and asked her to take my photo. I wanted to remember that damn hill.

I was off the road now, on some goat path. It wound around and up a little further over the summit of the ridge. Now I could see the town in the valley below. The road I was on was loose dirt mixed with large stone and all I could think of was my ankle twisting. A quick glance of my watch and a half hearted attempt at math and I was instantly worried that I would not make the 7 hour time limit. I drank the rest of the Pepsi and began to run. Soon my heart rate was off the chart and I was forced to walk again. I finally came to the 3k to go marker. This was the last water stop. I got my two bottles and said a silent prayer about finding the strength to finish what I had started. When I looked down at the little trash can that was sitting there for my bottle, just on top of everything else was Anne’s water bottle with all the LIVESTRONG decals on it.

“O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable.”

The Jordanian guy manning that water stop did not speak English and he probably thought I was a freak for laughing that loudly about trash, but it was what I needed to see, when I needed to see it. Funny how things like that work out, eh?


Of the last 3k 2 were down a very steep loose dirt and stone road. They had said the last kilometer was uphill.
That’s when I saw her. The girl who had left me in the dust on that awful hill. I had to catch her. Faster and faster, stumbling and making unashamed grunting noises I blasted down that hill. I imagined myself as the Road Runner with a cloud of dust behind me. The road became even steeper and suddenly I was on pavement. There was the police station. I was coming back into civilization. Then I was beside the girl in blue. “Where did you come from?” She asked. “Pepsi!” is all I remember telling her. Then there was the bottom of the hill… and the sharp left turn… and the road so bloody steep I wanted a ladder. Blue girl was in as much pain as I was, so I just kept saying things like “You can do it, c’mon! We’re almost there!”

Here is the elevation chart recorded by my Polar RCX5

Here is the elevation chart recorded by my Polar RCX5

I suffered. I just can not convey that fact through words on this page any more than to say it was harder than anything I’ve ever done. I was giving her words of encouragement so that I could hear them too. We topped that damn hill and turned toward the hotel. It was also uphill, but at least it undulated a bit…. A bit.

When we crested the last little bit I caught a glimpse of the other runners who had finished long before us. The Finish Line was a welcome site. Anne was there and I shared that I had seen her water bottle in that trash can at just the right moment. We had a laugh about one person’s trash being another person’s treasure.

Petra Desert Marathon 2014_Y2Q3226

The Petra Desert Marathon was a life changing event. The event itself was an ongoing struggle with myself asking and answering the questions of “Can I” and “Why.” Petra itself is a statement of foundation, and the ability to endure. I will relish my time there and always see it as a life event others pale in comparison to. My visit to the Middle East brought new and different questions to my mind about possibilities and the future.

Finish Line of the 2014 Petra Desert Marathon

Finish Line of the 2014 Petra Desert Marathon


My thanks to my friend and fellow LIVESTRONG Leader Anne for her invitation to this event and her encouragement during and after. She held her own and kicked my ass. This adventure would not have been the same without her.

Winston Churchill said: “If you‘re going through hell, keep going.” Cancer robs us of joy. It does not care who you are, what your goals are, who you love, or who you pray to. Cancer takes away choices. When I set out to run this marathon I knew it would be difficult, but it was easy compared to what someone suffers with cancer in their life. I support the LIVESTRONG Foundation because they directly help those families who suffer cancer with navigation services. If you know someone who is going through the hell of cancer please put them in touch with me, or call 1-855-220-7777. Thank you.


Petra Desert Marathon 2014 – Part 2 – Vin Diesel and The Madaba Map

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9, 2014 by roninsherpa


In 2011 I traveled to Arizona and ran the Mount Lemmon Marathon. It was billed as “The World’s Toughest Road Marathon.” The Start Line was just outside Tucson which sits at about 2500ft (760m) and the Finish Line is at 9159ft (2790m) which was an elevation gain of over 6000ft. There was no downhill section on the course. It was uphill the entire way with an average gradient of over 6% and there are places we would hit well over 10%. The closer you got to the top, the less air there was. I am not talking about a staggering difference for someone walking around, but at the end of a marathon when your body is starving and worn out, the difference was major. On the logo, you can see the elevation profile.


Mount Lemmon was easy compared to The Petra Desert Marathon.

My friend and fellow LIVESTRONG Leader, Anne had suggested running the Petra Desert Marathon to a group of us who like the taste of adventure. In the beginning there were a few of us who showed interest, but by the deadline, Anne and I were the ones with race numbers. Anne was keen on the Half and I was to do the Full. The event was put on by Albatros Adventure, a Danish outfit that runs a number of “Adventure Marathons.” Their stable includes The Great Wall Marathon in China, The Big Five Marathon in Africa and the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland, among others. Their trips are billed as “Adventure Marathons” because they are all held in exotic locations and include adventurous travel. We were going to the Middle East.

Technically it is called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” but most call it “Jordan” for short.


The idea of traveling in the Middle East was worrisome, and we were traveling into the heart of it all. The Syrian border is less than 50 miles from Amman. I spoke with friends in Washington DC, researched online, and everything I found said Jordan is very welcoming of tourists. There is no oil in Jordan and a large part of their economy is based on tourism. We stayed in Jordan for over a week and at no point did I ever feel uncomfortable. That said, there are some harsh realities there. There are almost 2 million refugees living in three large camps to the north. We did not see these camps, but we did see armed military everywhere. The men in the ball caps had small arms while the guys wearing the berets all had FN FAL assault rifles, AK47s or HK MP5 submachine guns. It was serious hardware.

Panorama of Amman Jordan

Panorama of Amman Jordan

Most of the buildings in Amman are white in colour, and square in shape. Most of them have rebar sticking out of the roof as if it was still under construction. It seemed out of every three buildings, one was unoccupied, unfinished and seemed to have been sitting there like that for some time. The city has spent untold amounts of money to install really beautiful, ornate tile sidewalks in the residential sections. However these sidewalks are unusable because there are very large olive trees growing in the middle of them, so people walk in the street with the cars.


Mosque with the moon. Amman, Jordan.


In Amman there are Mosques every 20 or 30 blocks. Each Mosque is different, yet all of them have the same type of structure having a dome roof and a small tower. On top of the tower will be a loudspeaker system over which a prayer will be said 5 times a day. While I don’t speak Arabic, the song, or prayer or chant would always be lovely to hear.

If someone could find a way to make money with black plastic bags they would instantly become a billionaire in Jordan because the bags are everywhere in and around Amman. The ground, roadsides and trees are strewn with millions and millions black plastic bags. That is not an exaggeration by any means. Farmers will have put up fences of barbed wire and millions of black plastic bags will drape the wire. It is an ecological nightmare. Once you get away from the urban areas, and into the desert, you don’t see any. Someone with an entrepreneurial flair could go in there, ask the government for a little start up money, and call it a “Beatification of Jordan” project, hire some of those refugees to pick up trash and pay them by the pound. Then take the recycled plastic and resell it back into the plastics industry. Jordan would get a face lift, and the business owner could get a few years of tax brakes (possibly) the refugees could feed themselves, and the country could get more tourist dollars because no one wants to hang out in a place with plastic bags in the trees. But I am just a silly American venting on the internet.

After flying in we had a day to tour Amman on our own before we met the others. We wanted to see the Roman Theater located downtown near the shopping districts. To get there we needed a taxi. We were lucky finding a taxi driver who spoke English. He was a younger guy and he drive a spotless (SPOTLESS) Subaru AWD. Driving in Amman is a contact sport… like being in The Fast and the Furious. We had Vin Diesel driving our Taxi. We told him the Roman Theater and he said in broken English “Citadel! Theater Rainbow Street! Yes! I take you! 15 Dinar to be yours for an hour. I wait. You go and see.” ZOOM! And we were off. Up on two wheels at one point, zipping past situations I know I would have hit someone, blazing across town. As quick as it started, it stopped. We were at the Citadel. (To be honest I did not know what the Citadel was.) But it had closed just moments before. The nice guard with the machine pistol and the scowl told us it was closed. I have a great photo of the Citadel in the sunset because that was as close as we got to it.


Back to Vin and YEEEEOOOOOWWW we were off. I could see the theater but we seemed to be going the wrong way… Vin stopped in the middle of the road and pointed to a rail on the sidewalk. “Come.” We got out and just over the railing…

Roman Theater. Amman, Jordan. Thanks to Vin Diesel the cab driver.

Roman Theater. Amman, Jordan.

Vin Diesel was earning his cash. ZOOM we were off again and suddenly we were at the Theater. Sadly it had closed at the same time the Citadel did, but it is more accessible and we were able to get good photos. A local man approached us saying he was an off duty tour guide. He gave us a 60 second low down of the Theater pointing out some Roman writing we had not noticed before. He then suggested we step off to the side where we could get a better photo. The hair on my neck stood up and I thought we were in trouble. This is how all the kidnapping movies start… but my fears were unfounded. He was trying to get us to go to a shop who I am sure his family owned. We looked around the shop and I bought a coffee table book of Jordan. In the middle of the shop was a bowl of different older Middle Eastern money which was for sale. There were bills which had Sadam Hussain, Muammar Gaddafi, and others I did not recognize. If I were to regret anything from my time in the Middle East, I regret not buying some of those bills. They were kinda cool. We headed out and Vin Diesel zipped us down Rainbow Street and back to the hotel.

Vin Diesel the Fast and Furious cab driver in Amman, Jordan.

Vin Diesel the Fast and Furious cab driver in Amman, Jordan.

Our group was chauffeured around Jordan in a large bus. There were about 15 of us on the bus. 11 different nations all came together in the Middle East to run a marathon in the desert. Running a marathon is no easy task, 26.2 miles (42K) A lot of people dream of finishing just one in their lifetime, they see it as a crazy thing to do. Then there are the group of crazy people who run a marathon each year, to better their Finishing Time or even to qualify for one of the 6 Majors. The first group of people often looks at the second group and calls them “Crazy.” Well… then out of the crazy group there are a select group that run Ultra Marathons. These are marathons over 26.2 miles, like 100miles. The Marathoners look at the Ultras and call them crazy. Then there are people like myself and Anne who run Adventure Marathons. We “run where the brave dare not go. “ We are the ones the crazy crazies call crazy.


Running a marathon in a Middle Eastern desert is cruel and barbaric. Anne and I were lucky we have established relationships with a few supporting companies who provided us with some outstanding equipment which made the difference on race day. X-Bionic, Polar Electro, and Raw Bite each helped us complete this monumental task. Without each of their support, this would truly have been impossible.



Our group toured Mount Nebo, where Moses looked down into the Promised Land which he was destined never to reach. The Church of Moses was under construction and we were unable to view the brilliant mosaic floor. However we were able to see some original pieces set aside in a viewing tent and two large pieces which have been done in recent times. Mosaic artwork is one of my favorites and these pieces did not disappoint.

Plaque describing view at Mount Nebo.

Plaque describing view at Mount Nebo.


Then we got to visit Saint George’s Church and view the ultimate mosaic which is called “The Madaba Map.” Dating to the 6th century, the Madaba Map has been proven accurate which has helped explorers with archaeological finds as resent as 2013. Mosaic art really is one of my favorites and I loved the Madaba Map. I could have easily made a vacation of viewing it for a week.

Mosaic sign on the front of St. George's Church.

Mosaic sign on the front of St. George’s Church.

In an adjoining building a chart hangs where our guide expertly described the Madaba Map section by section.

In an adjoining building a chart hangs where our guide expertly described the Madaba Map section by section.


The Madaba Map


My favorite section of the Madaba Map showing fish in the fresh water of the Jordan River, but another fish swimming away from the Dead Sea because of the salt.

It was a four hour bus ride to the hotel we would call home for the next week.

Beit Zaman is a breathtaking hotel. It sits on a hillside and overlooks the valley town bellow. The residents of the town are all friendly and curious about these funny runners dressed in spandex running up and down their hills. After unpacking Anne and I met in the lobby with some of the other runners to go for a training run. All I can say is damn those hills. Anne is from Copenhagen which is flat, so I know the hills were killing her. This marathon was not going to be easy.


As I said in Part 1, Anne and I were both here in support of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. We took time the night before to put LIVESTRONG decals and wrist bands on our water bottles. We wanted to make sure we had something that showed our support.

X-Bionic "The Trick" Running shirt and shorts, Asics Nimbus, Polar RC3 and RCX5 GPS, Raw Bites and LIVESTRONG

X-Bionic “The Trick” Running shirt and shorts, Asics Nimbus, Polar RC3 and RCX5 GPS, Raw Bites and LIVESTRONG

Then I retired for the evening going over plans for Race Day. Visualization, preparation, rest and relaxation are key elements to a successful marathon.


Up next, Part 3:

RACE DAY: The Goddess of Fortune and Beethoven’s “Ode to Pepsi”

The Petra Desert Marathon – 2014 – part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2014 by roninsherpa


It was the darkest place I had ever fallen into. I struggled for reason to take another step, everything hurt and I had no energy. Salty, grit chafed my every move. Raising my leg far enough to get my foot off the ground was an effort beyond my capacity and I was still over a kilometer from the top of that hill… which had just gotten steeper. I couldn’t focus, confusion had set in. I felt as if I were on a mental train, speeding past all the stops watching the world go by in a blurry fog. The heat was sweltering, there was no shade, no wind, I was alone in a desert, in the Middle East, 34 kilometers (21 miles) into the Petra Desert Marathon and I was hallucinating.


“There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.” – Lawrence of Arabia 1962

The idea of running a desert marathon was born two years earlier in a Chicago blizzard so intense, it had shut down O’Hare. I remember on that morning’s run around Soldier Field, the bitter wind off Lake Michigan formed ice in the corners of my eyes, the dirty frozen slush soaked my shoes, and I thought people are crazy to live in this shit. Funny how extremes breed extremes.

Frozen at Soldier Field

Frozen at Soldier Field

I was in Chicago attending the LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly. As I write this, I have been involved with the LIVESTRONG Foundation for 7 years. I started with the purchase of a yellow wrist band and over time I took more and more responsibility until progressing to Senior Leader overseeing Leaders across 5 states. “Leaders” are a group of volunteers who run event booths, hold fund raisers, and advocate politicians to support government funding of programs and organizations which educate, treat and research cures for cancer. I have had the pleasure of meeting with senators, members of congress and heads of state to share my family’s cancer story and lobby their support.


Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC)


Senator Tom Harkin (D- IA)


Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)


LIVESTRONG is an international Foundation, and we have Leaders all over the globe. I work with Leaders from Japan, Denmark, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, South America, Mexico and many, many others. Cancer does not care what country you come from, it does not care about your politics, or your religion. Cancer robs you of joy and opportunity. Cancer treatments often make you sicker than cancer does. My Uncle suffered having operation after operation, along with chemo and radiation all of which took its toll on his body. In the end we believe the treatments were what killed him. With proper, continued funding, researchers will be able to find better treatments and hopefully even cures. It is the main reason I work with LIVESTRONG.

2012 Assembly group photo

Often times over the years I have run in other events trying to raise awareness for our cause: The Marine Corps Marathon, The Wrightsville Beach Marathon, The Mount Lemmon Marathon and my annual trip to Florida in late November for the Space Coast Marathon. I joined my friends and fellow Leaders Jacob and Anne in Copenhagen, Denmark earlier this year to take part in the World Half Marathon Championships where Jacob organized over a hundred people who all wore LIVESTRONG Foundation shirts.

World Half Marathon Championships 2014 Copenhagen, Denmark.

World Half Marathon Championships 2014 Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Petra Desert Marathon was Anne’s idea. She announced she was going and asked if anyone else was interested in joining. I jumped at the chance. The entire event was being put on by a Danish company called Albatros Adventure. It was a 7 day event which toured the heart of the Middle East with the Petra Desert Marathon at the apex of the trip. It SEETHED of Adventure! We had some months to prepare for this adventure and we set out to find proper kit and gear for running a marathon in such an extreme place! Both Anne and I have had the pleasure of working with Polar Electro, manufactures of the finest quality heart rate monitors on the plannet. I was planning on using my RC3 GPS and my RCX5 GPS to record the marathon, and Anne has dubious honor of using the newest multisport personal computer from Polar, the V800. These units are all equipped with GPS and will map everything! Now to find other partners!


Petra is such an awesome place. I remember seeing photos of it in National Geographic growing up. Of course we have all seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy and his father come to Petra looking for the Holy Grail…


Wise people travel. Smart people ask stupid questions. Intelligence comes from experiencing new things and meeting new people.  Seeing parts of the world outside your normal four walls expands your mind to the consideration of other possibilities. You become smarter by traveling.


Anne and I met in Heathrow Airport in England, and flew together into Amman. We flew into Amman later in the evening. Flying over, I noticed that almost every street was lit. We discussed it and after a while we figured it might be for sand storms.

IMG_3702Thanks to Google Earth, Google Map and of course the superb Albatros website I knew quite a bit about what to expect about the physical surroundings. The Queen Alia International Airport is a brand new, modern airport which is beautiful.


We had made arrangements with our hotel, The Amman International Hotel, to have a driver pick us up. He had a sign with our name and he spoke English. Easy. No problems. Got to the hotel, checked in, and I took a shower. A note here about most of the showers in Jordan… they all have a tub/ shower but with no curtain. Instead they all have this half wall that only covers half of the side, and it is mounted on a hinge. I had been traveling either in an airplane, an airport or a taxi for the last 19 hours and was probably so out of it I just was doing it wrong, but water goes everywhere. The whole floor was wet. There was a drain in the floor so I wasn’t worried.

A note here about long distance air travel: sleep on the plane. You will not want to buy the damn little neck pillow, but buy the damn little neck pillow. Otherwise your neck hurts and you drool.


Next time we meet our fellow travelers, our guides and we meet the Fast and Furious Taxi Driver!



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