Going the extra mile in my first Half Marathon

I got peer-pressured into running a Half Marathon a couple weeks ago.

Also I was promised free cupcakes at the end of the race and I have a very, very hard time saying no to cupcakes.

So I did some light training, re-aggravated some nagging injuries, and ran my first Half ever.

How’d it go?

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my performance. I ran an 8:24 mile pace and finished in a decent time and I finished 9th overall out of 99.

Half Marathon Split Times

But I also ran out of gas on the back half and I couldn’t find enough energy to push for the end of the race. My mile splits just sort of kept slipping and slipping until I finally finished.

Part of this was my training—I didn’t run more than 9.3 miles before the Half—and part of it was probably nutritional (I should’ve had some gel packs or something).

Overall, it’s a good result and I’m happy I finished.

Nagging injuries

Unfortunately, I went a little too hard in my training two weeks out from the race. I didn’t mean to, but I felt so good on my longer training runs that I just sort of kept going.

I started on Saturday with a 15k (9.3 miles) and smashed my previous PR with an 8:00 even pace. Then I did an easy-ish track workout on Monday, but also threw in a fast 800m (a PR of 2:44). Then on Thursday I ran a fast 5k (7:26 pace).

I felt really good after all those runs.

Then on Saturday, eight days out from the race, I ran a medium-pace 10k (7:54) and that’s when things started hurting. I’ve had a nagging groin injury for a while, and it lit up during this run. Then my knee on that side also started hurting, probably because I was changing my gate to compensate for the other pain. My calf on the opposite started aching too—also probably compensatory.

So I went from feeling amazing to having a few dings that would still be sore on race day.

Fortunately, I was able to get in for a sports massage session, and that calmed things down enough to finish the race.

Still, it’s been 10 days since the race and my calf and groin still aren’t quite right. I just have to take it easy for a while so things will heal.

And this also confirms for me that I don’t think running a full marathon is even remotely a good idea for me.

Pacing myself

Since I hadn’t run this far before, I started off by taking it easy. I held back on my first mile and it still only took 8:15. I was hoping to end up at 8:15 for the entire race, and I felt great at this pace—I thought I might actually hit it!

Once we settled in, I was able to start keying off my cadence and how I felt in general. I felt great for the first several miles, but I also knew I wouldn’t feel too great for the last few miles. So I picked it up a little bit and passed a few people, but still held back.

The middle of the race was pretty hilly and painful, and I was happy I hadn’t pushed too hard earlier.

Once I got near Mile 10, I thought I might try to push and pick up the pace. I did push, but my pace started slowing as I just ran out of gas. I’m fine with that—I expected to get tired on those final four miles since I’d never run that far before.

My biggest problem was muscle fatigue—my muscles (especially my calves) just were not used to running that far. My cardio felt really good the whole time—I was never even remotely out of breath, had no side stitches, nothing that indicated I need better cardio.

But to go faster, I’ll need to increase my cadence from an average of 171 SPM to at least 175 SPM. To do that, I need better muscle endurance and more late-race energy.

I feel like my plan and strategy were very good. I’m not sure I would do anything differently if I could run this race again.

How I’ll improve for next time

This is actually pretty simple:

  1. Train better. I think I’d be much better off running a few 11–12 mile training runs in the weeks before the race. I think that’s the only way to get my muscles used to doing that much work. It will also give me a chance to slowly push my cadence higher and get used to running faster.
  2. Mid-race energy. I drank a few ounces of Gatorade at the mid-way turnaround, but that was it. I should’ve had gel packs or something for a late-race boost. I don’t know much about this, so it’s something to look into before my next race.

I’m very happy that my cardio was strong for the race, and not surprised that my calves got tired. I can fix that.

Going the extra mile

But the most interesting thing is that I got a rare chance to literally experience a figure of speech: I went the extra mile.

It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds, but it still felt pretty crazy at the time.

This particular race was totally disorganized. It was so disorganized that the actual race distances weren’t right. Not even close, actually.

About 10 minutes in, I realized the course couldn’t possibly be 13.11 miles. It was an out-and-back race, and I could see that the shorter distances (5k and 10k) weren’t right because I got to their turnaround points before I should have.

So I started prepping myself: “Josh, you’re going to be tired when this is over. But you’re also going to need to keep going past the finish to get the full distance. That’s not gonna be fun, but you didn’t come out here to run ALMOST a Half Marathon, so you’re gonna keep going until you hit 13.11 miles.”

Sure enough, I crossed the finish and my Watch said I had only run 12.1 miles. So I ran past the guy handing out finisher medals, grabbed my medal, and just kept going for one more slow, painful mile.

But when I finally stopped, I had completed an actual Half Marathon and I’m glad I did that even if it probably looked a little strange to everyone else at the finish line.

Of course, I’m still a little dinged up—my calf and hamstring are both strained—but I finished a Half Marathon and I got to experience a real-life figure of speech to boot.

Next time I hear someone say something like, “We need to go the extra mile here.”, I’ll know what that’s actually like.

Would I have tricked you with this Halloween costume?

As you can see, my friends and I go all out on Halloween—we do not mess around:

Wonder Woman Halloween Ensemble - 2017

That’s our ensemble costume from last year. I played Charlie, the military-looking guy on the right side (Wonder Woman’s left side). Friends and strangers alike have commented on how much I looked like Charlie, right down to his posture and facial expression.

That’s pretty cool!

But my appearance as Charlie was built on a dirty little secret…

I hadn’t even seen Wonder Woman and I had no idea who Charlie was before I put on the costume.

WAT?!

I did just enough to pull it off. Here’s what I did once we finished my makeup:

  • Watched a one-minute Wonder Woman clip featuring Charlie
  • Studied pictures of him on Google
  • Asked friends to describe Charlie to me

I didn’t need to be Charlie for Halloween, I needed to look like Charlie for Halloween, and I only had to keep it up for a couple hours.

In a weird way, I’ve built an entire business on this concept. My customers don’t need to be negotiation experts—that’s my job!—they just need to know enough to negotiate a job offer or two and then they can go back to their normal lives.

They can do this through self study or even hire me to coach them through it.

Maybe it’s time to update my coaching page to say “I’ll show you how play the role of ‘Expert Salary Negotiator’ next time you get a job offer”.

The many ways we say yes and no

I’ve been thinking a lot about how imprecise “yes” and “no” answers can be. Here’s what I mean:

FRIEND: “Do you think we’ll make it to the move in time for the previews?”
ME: “Yes.”

Here’s how yes and no translate to numbers:

Yes | 51–100%
No | 0–49%

My friend asked me a yes-or-no question, and my response was “Yes.”, which is a direct answer to the question, but it could mean a wide range of things. I could be saying, “We’ll definitely be there for the previews!” or I could be saying, “I think it’s more likely than not that we will be there for the previews.”

Although there are only two answers, each answer can mean many things, which means “yes” and “no” are actually pretty vague answers.

I think we all intuitively sense this, and that’s why most of us wouldn’t just say “yes” or “no” to that question.

If a friend asked me the question above I might respond with “Probably!” or “Probably not.” or “I think so!” or “I doubt it.” or something like that.

Although those answers are still one word or just a few words, they convey a lot more meaning.

Those answers encapsulate two ideas:

  1. Whether I think we’ll be there in time for the previews
  2. How confident I am in my answer

Here’s what I mean…

Question: “Are we going to make it to the movie in time for the previews?”

Answers:

A hundred percent! | 100%
I’m pretty sure! | 80%
Probably! | 75%
Probably. | 65%
I think so! | 60%
I think so. | 55%
I think so? | 51%
Maybe. | 50%
I don’t think so? | 49%
I doubt it. | 45%
Probably not. | 35%
I doubt it! | 25%
I don’t think so! | 20%
Now way, LOL | 0%

And of course those interpretations will vary by person, culture and many other criteria.

It’s also interesting how the punctuation—how emphatically we give our answer—can make a difference. “I don’t think so!” (with an exclamation point) seems more pessimistic than “I don’t think so.” (with a period).

One last thought: I struggled to come up with “yes” answers for 80% and 100%, and “no” answers for 0% and 20%. Maybe my vocabulary just isn’t strong enough, but it seems like that’s sort of a gap in the English language.

It’s fascinating how many things we can say with so few words.

How the right environment makes all the difference

In March, I ran a 10k training run (a little more than 6 miles) in just under 50 minutes. That’s slightly faster than a pace of 8:00 minutes per mile.

March 10k Training Run Time

That was almost six months ago.

Then I stopped running more than 5 miles at a time and started training for shorter distances (like a mile) and just trying to get through the miserable Florida summer.

The first signs of Fall have arrived, which means race season is coming up and I need to start training for longer distances if I want to run a half marathon this year.

So I decided to try a 10k training run this weekend to see how it felt. I ran the same route as I did in March, but this time was significantly faster: It only took me about 48:30, which is a pace of 7:44 per mile.

October 10k Training Run Time

Ninety seconds is a pretty big improvement considering I hadn’t run that far in six months. That’s a big improvement over my previous personal best, and it felt great to run such a good time. 

Can you guess what I did differently to run so much faster this time?

Think about it for a second, then scroll down to see the answer.

Spoiler below!

Are you ready?

The answer is: Nothing.

I’m pretty sure the difference was the temperature.

When I ran that 10k in March, it was 79 degrees outside. When I ran on Saturday, it was only 72 degrees.

There are lots of studies showing that race times improve as temperatures drop (to an extent, of course).

So it feels good to run a personal best, but most of the improvement was just the lower temperature. My job was to train hard enough that I could finally take advantage of the improved running conditions once the weather cooled off.

Sometimes, the conditions just aren’t right to get the result you want. But as long as you keep preparing and putting in the work, you can make sure you’re ready to capitalize once the conditions are right.

Here are some other examples that come to mind:

  • Starting a business
  • Getting a raise
  • Running for office (a different kind of running, har har)
  • Inventing something
  • Planting plants

For all of those and lots of other things, timing is often the crucial ingredient that dictates success or failure.

Learning a skill, practicing, looking for ways to improve, waiting for the right moment to capitalize is often the key to success. And a big reason to keep working is that it’s not just doing the thing, but being prepared to do the thing when the conditions are right that makes all the difference.

I ran all summer in hot, humid weather, just waiting for it to cool off. I called those runs “maintenance runs”, and my goal was usually to run at an 8:00-per-mile pace regardless of the distance.

Maintenance runs were not fun and it often took a few hours to fully recover from them. But I knew they were helping me build strength and endurance that I could use later on when the conditions were right.

Sure enough, the weather cooled off and I smashed another personal best. That gives me confidence going into race season, where I’ll be able to capitalize on favorable running conditions after all those months of training in the Florida heat.

Before you write something off as a failure, consider whether the conditions are right for success. If they’re not quite right, keep working so you’re ready to capitalize next time there’s a good opportunity.

Would you be as calm as Maggie?

Imagine that you’re learning to fly an airplane. You’ve already spent hours and hours flying with instructors, and now you’re flying solo.

You just took off on a solo training flight and the tower radios with the following news:

“…your right main is now missing from the airplane – it’s fallen off the airplane. Say your intentions.”

What would you say?

I know exactly what I would say and I’m not going to write that here. But let’s say it translates to roughly:

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I’m generally very calm under pressure, but this would freak me out. I don’t know much about flying (I flew Cessna once, and that’s about it), but it seems like one of the main objectives of flying an airplane is to land the airplane (I did not land the Cessna—my uncle took care of that).

And the tower just said, “One of the things you need to land the plane just fell off. State your intentions.”

I’m not sure I’d be all that calm.

Maggie, on the other hand, remained calm as a cucumber and landed her plane like a pro.

That seems sort of like a spoiler, but it’s really not. The beauty of this recording is in the story itself—knowing Maggie lands at the end only makes it better.

Do yourself a favor and watch this—it’s well worth your time:

WATCH: 17-YEAR-OLD STUDENT PILOT LANDS HER PLANE WITHOUT A WHEEL!

Then I’ll share just a few of my thoughts.

All done? Wasn’t that fantastic?!

Every now and then real life gives us a story that’s better than the best screenplay or audiobook. This is one of those times.

Three things stood out to me in this recording.

Maggie’s voice over time

She’s cool, calm and collected at first (:59 in), then she sounds a little concerned, but not overly so (1:13), then it sounds like the full weight of the situation sets in (1:30), then she sounds much more relaxed once an instructor jumps on the radio (3:00).

Even when she was talking with the air traffic controller, she wasn’t nearly as calm as when talking to the instructor. Talking to the right kind of expert for that situation made her a lot more comfortable.

Once she knew she could rely on a veteran pilot’s expertise to help her get down, she knew she was going to be ok.

The importance of her training

Most of the instructions she’s given mean nothing to me because I’m not a trained pilot. I just hear a bunch of lingo punctuated by words I technically know, but don’t really understand.

If I were talking with that instructor, he would’ve had to stop every few seconds and explain basic things to me. I’m sure he could’ve done it, although it would’ve been a lot more work.

But Maggie already knew how to fly a plane, so they could skip over basic definitions and jump straight to the tactics to land the plane (even without one of its wheels).

It’s a lot easier to conquer difficult situations when you already have a grasp of the basics—then you can jump straight to tactics to help you get through it.

Everyone says “Good job, Maggie!” when she lands

It’s great to hear everyone applauding Maggie and acknowledging that she’s the one who actually landed the broken airplane. Sure, they helped, but Maggie had to execute the plan to land safely. She executed the plan to a T.

As a teacher, instructor, or coach, the most satisfying thing is to see your student deliver a perfect performance. That’s how you know you did your job well.

There are lots of other great things about that video—it’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time to watch it!

The breakthrough that helped me smash the six-minute barrier

Earlier this week, I ran a mile in under six minutes for the first time. It felt really good for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s nice to achieve a challenging goal and it felt good to cross it off my list and see some results from all the hard work I’ve been putting in.

Second, I had already tried and failed to run a six-minute mile twice—both of my previous attempts were about 6:11—and that was really frustrating. I had been so close yet I felt so far away and it really stings to be totally exhausted without much to show for it. But not this time! This time I got it done.

What’s even better is that I had a significant breakthrough with this particular goal, but it’s difficult to describe without some context.

My one-mile run in almost-real-time

Before this attempt, I made a lap-by-lap plan so I knew exactly what I needed to do. It’s one thing to know I have to do four laps in 360 seconds. It’s another to know exactly what I needed to do on each lap to make that happen.

Here’s a summary of how I felt throughout the run—I took this down as a note on my iPhone once I managed to catch my breath and stave off some leg cramps:

First lap—1:27 I wanted to start fast because I knew that I could go much faster than the 90-second pace that I required. I added about 10m to that first lap to make sure I ran a full mile, so I wanted to be sure that I got around with time to spare on my 90-second-per-lap limit. That would give me some cushion if I slowed down later.

Second lap—1:28 I already felt tired, but I knew that would happen and had already prepared myself to just keep pushing and try and maintain the same pace through the second lap.

Third lap—1:32 This is when the mental fatigue really hit me. By this point in my run, my brain was repeatedly shouting STOP THIS RIGHT NOW!

I told myself that I was going to finish running a mile either way and if I just kept going at this pace it would be over quicker.

For the final 100 meters of the third lap, I basically had to get myself to focus on a six-minute pace again knowing I had been gradually slowing down and that I had probably used up most of the cushion from the first lap.

Fourth lap—1:26 I actually felt pretty good going in because I knew it was almost over. I’d also kept some energy in reserve, which I think was a result of my recent training to keep my legs working when I’m tired.

I started picking it up with about 300m left and began kicking with about 200m left. I went pretty much all-out for the final 100 meters although I never got into a full-on sprint.

My six-minute mile time with 400m splits

Even though I had been monitoring my time after each lap, I was really surprised to see a final time of about 5:54. That’s a significant improvement over my previous times. I actually had a little left to give at the end and the overall run went about as well as I could’ve hoped.

Before I say any more, take a minute to look back at that recap and see if you notice a theme.

My big breakthrough

Do you see it? There’s almost nothing about the physical difficulty of running a mile. The entire recap was almost entirely about my mental state throughout the run.

I started fast because I knew I had to. I got tired, but I knew that would happen so I just kept pushing. I told myself I would finish the mile regardless of how long it took, so I might as well just get it over with. I felt great and had some left in the tank, but I may have left some time on the table because I relaxed a little when I realized I had hit my goal.

It was all mental.

The last two times I tried to run a sub-six-minute mile, I lost too much time on the middle two laps. Those two laps are really tough because the initial adrenaline rush has worn off, yet there’s still a long way to go.

I expected to lose time in the middle due to physical fatigue, but I had also lost time due to mental fatigue because I wasn’t totally prepared.

I suspect I’ve been physically ready to hit this goal for over a year now. I just had to try it a couple times to see my own weaknesses and find a way to work around the mental fatigue that slowed me down.

And now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get that time down to 5:45. We’ll see.

How to get different results from the same old routine

I work out six days a week. Here’s my schedule:

Monday – Running – Track workout (usually sprints)
Tuesday – Weights – Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
Wednesday – Weights – Leg Day™
Thursday – Running – Medium distance (3.5 miles or so)
Friday – Weights – Back, Biceps
Saturday – Running – Medium distance (4.5 miles or so)

This has been my routine for a little over a year now.

It’s usually fine, but this week my legs are super sore, so my most recent Saturday run and Monday track workout were very painful.

That’s weird, right? I do the same types of workouts on the same days of the week every week, and suddenly my legs are so sore I can barely move? What happened?

My “weights” days go through a slow progression from high reps, low weight to low reps, high weight.

Last week was my first week back on high reps (15 reps) and now I’m paying the price. My legs don’t like that jump from low to high reps at all, so I’m basically going to be sore 7 days a week for the next month and then things should return to normal.

This is interesting because it shows that you can make significant changes within your regular routines without actually changing the routine itself. And those changes within your routine can teach you a lot about the other parts of your routine.

For example, now I get to see how much different my performance is when I begin my workouts on tired legs. I also get to train differently for my medium runs—my focus is more on maintaining a good pace even though my legs are tired as opposed to pushing my pace faster from week to week.

This has me thinking about other tweaks I can make to existing routines that might teach me something. Some ideas I’m batting around:

  • What if instead of 3 cups of coffee in the morning, I have 2 or 4? How would that affect my productivity in the morning and throughout the day?
  • What if I read a book with my coffee instead of reading the news?
  • What if I move one of my weight workouts to an earlier time in the afternoon?

None of these changes would change my actual routine, but they may still affect me in ways I might not anticipate. I could learn a lot by making small changes, which is nice because it’s a lot easier to make those small changes than to try one of those “I’m gonna try a whole new routine!” experiments that inevitably fail.

The War will be won on the Western Front

…or at least that’s what we’re counting on.

Some friends and I are playing a game of Axis & Allies: WWI 1914. We started about 10 days ago and we’re probably half way through the game.

Axis & Allies: a 1914 - Eastern Front

The early stages of the Eastern Front

I’m playing as Russia and the US along with my other Allies—France, the UK, and Italy. In the beginning of the game, the US sat out (just like in WWI), so I was only responsible for Russia and the Eastern Front.

It was immediately clear that the Eastern Front was a big challenge for Russia. My job was to hold the line as long as possible so the US could enter the war and swing things in our favor on the Western Front.

Fortunately, France and Italy have been playing well and getting lucky, so things are going well for us over there. I’m pretty sure the Allies will win the war on the Western Front.

This game is a lot of fun because it’s a good mix of strategy, tactics, and luck.

The luck component seems a little frustrating at first, but it’s a pretty true to how things actually happened in WWI.

A few countries would send a bunch of infantry to a battle front and although they might have some idea what would happen, the outcome would be uncertain until the battle actually finished. Maybe one side’s tactics were stronger, or maybe the weather thwarted one side’s game-plan.

In the real War, there were several battles where hundreds of thousands of soldiers were lost and nothing really changed.

The same is true in AA14 (my unofficial shorthand). We do the math on the possible outcomes, line up a bunch of infantry and artillery, then roll the dice to see what actually happens. Sometimes there’s a big swing, and sometimes nothing changes at all as both sides lose a lot of infantry and artillery.

It’s important to have a pretty good overall strategy, but the key to the game is to adjust our tactics any time we get new information. If there’s a big battle that goes our way, we may have more options available to us. If we lose a big battle, we may have fewer options and it might make sense to change course or ramp up our risk tolerance.

Lately I’ve noticed that this is true in my business as well: I make the most progress when continually update my current plan to match the information I have and to maximize the opportunities available to me.

When I get stuck on a particular plan without incorporating new information, I often make mistakes. My business is growing because I’m making fewer and fewer of those mistakes—hopefully I can maintain this trend.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…a 15-minute drive to get ice cream?

I bet this precise conversation happened 1,522 times here in Gainesville this summer:

“Have you seen the new Avengers movie yet? It’s great!”

“Nah, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I plan to.”

“When you see it, make sure you go to the new theatre – it’s awesome!”

“Oh yeah? Ok, I’ll check it out!”

Other than a slowly degrading mall, we’ve never had much shopping in Gainesville. There have been rumors of a new Town Center circulating for years, but they’ve finally started building it and the buzz is building.

We all thought a Town Center was a good idea, but we weren’t sure where they would build it.

All the options seemed pretty bad because there just wasn’t space for a big development anywhere in the city. They would have to build somewhere on the outskirts of town, so people would have to drive a bit to get to it.

This is sort of a Catch-22: How do you build a big shopping center over several years if nobody is willing to drive that far to shop?

For starters, you would build at least one or two things worth driving to and use those things as anchors while the other things get built.

What would you build first?

In Gainesville, the answer was a fancy new movie theatre: a 10-screen Regal RPX theatre with comfy reclining chairs, huge screens, and great audio. It’s the first new theatre here in over 20 years and it’s lightyears ahead of our other theaters.

It didn’t take very long for all of my friends to find it and recommend it—now it’s our go-to theatre because it’s so much better than the others.

I’ve been out to “Celebration Pointe” (with a silent ‘e’ so you know it’s fancy!) several times to see new movies, but there was no way I would’ve gone out there to buy clothes or eat dinner.

But now they’re starting to open other shops around the theatre and I’m already acclimated to driving out to Celebration Pointe so it’s no big deal to drive out to shop or just hang out in the common areas.

Last week, some friends and I drove 15 minutes to get ice cream at Kilwins and then hung out and talked in a pergola for a couple hours. We never would’ve done that if they hadn’t been so intentional by opening the movie theatre first.

The big picture and overall vision matter, but so do the individual steps you take to implement your plan.

An amazing 4th of July

This 4th of July was the opposite of last 4th of July in almost every way. I won’t recap all of last year, but it was a harrowing experience.

This year, everything went swimmingly.

Getting down to Sarasota

We went down a little later this year and arrived at dinner time on the 3rd. We ate at a place called Pop’s Sunset Grill and it wasn’t bad. It was nice catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

The view from Pop's Sunset Grill

After we dropped our stuff off at the house, we made a run to Kilwins. This is a nice tradition, but it’s not quite as special now that we finally got a Kilwins in Gainesville a few months ago.

That being said, I ended up with the largest single scoop I’ve ever had (I described it as “a pint on a waffle cone”) and it was delicious.

We wrapped things up by playing Pictionary (my team got destroyed) and then Taboo (my team won easily). Word games are my bailiwick, but I’m terrible with drawing and visual stuff.

The 4th

We took our time getting started on the 4th, hanging out and drinking coffee until 11 AM or so. We had a big group this year, so we split into two and decided to do shifts on the wakesurfer.

My group was on the beach first, and we played some bocce (my team barely won) and goofed off in the water while the first wakesurfing crew had fun in the Gulf.

After a couple hours, we did a pretty quick shift change and had to change locations because the Gulf got too choppy. We made our way to the water sports area and got to work.

Wakesurfing

The thing about water sports is I have never done them and I don’t particularly like water. I mean, I went tubing a couple times as a kid, and would occasionally find myself on a lake, but that’s about it. So I’m terrible at them and it takes me a bit to get the hang of them.

And so it is with wakesurfing. I tried for quite a while last year and could never even get up on the board, so I had a pretty clear goal for this year: Get up on the stupid wakesurfing board at least once.

I almost got up on my first try, and then failed probably eight times in a row. I was getting pretty close to just calling it quits when everything fell into place and I got it. I quickly got up four times in a row and got that monkey off my back.

Me, wakesurfing

That’s the good news. The bad news is I never really had a good run, so I still haven’t really experienced the fun part of wakesurfing. But I guess that’s a goal for next year.

The festivities

When our shift ended, we headed back to the house for a traditional 4th of July cookout. There’s something comforting about grilling burgers and hotdogs on the 4th. And the desserts this year were phenomenal—some kind of frozen lemon pie and a delicious blueberry cobbler.

The skies looked pretty good before we got on the boat to head out into the Gulf, but they looked ok last year too. I think we were all a little nervous that we’d get caught in another lightning monsoon even though all signs pointed to good weather.

It was cool and breezy the whole time and we got to see an amazing sunset.

Sunset on the Gulf

The beach and Gulf were significantly less full than last year, and there was hardly anyone on the water for the fireworks.

I think part of it was that the 4th fell on a Wednesday, and part of it was people shying away from another run-in with a lightning monsoon. The end result was basically a private fireworks display for our crew and it was amazing.

Fireworks on the Gulf

Fireworks on a boat

We didn’t make it back early enough to get Kilwins so we just jumped straight to games instead. This time, we played Mad Gab first. We only got through about half a game before we quit because it was too easy and our scores were basically identical. We audibled over to Taboo and my team pulled out the win.

Everyone turned in surprisingly early this time, probably because we were all pretty tired from the day’s festivities.

Heading home

Our return trip was pretty uneventful. We rolled out around 10 and just headed straight home. It was nice to have a super easy day after a pretty busy couple of days in Sarasota.