Friday, April 30, 2010

The Future Holds A Lot

Today, I officially signed up for the Fargo Marathon which is on May 22nd in, you guessed it, Fargo, North Dakota. I have never been in North Dakota before so that should be a treat. A little while before I counted all the states I have been to. To qualify, I must have been on the ground and not flying over. I am at 35 or 36 now so I will be 1 more closer to all 50. If I want to join the 50 states club, I will have to run a marathon in all 50 states so by definition, I will have been in all 50 states that way. It may be the only way I get to Hawaii or Alaska, maybe not.

Anyway, I did sign up for the Fargo Marathon and the Go Far Challenge. What is that you may be asking. Well, they have a 5K on Friday evening and then marathon, half marathon, and 10K on Saturday morning. If you do the 5K and any of the other races, you get 3 medals total. Kind of like the Goofy Challenge at Disney World and Gold Medal Challenge at the Icebreaker Marathon but only a 5K instead of the half marathon. Mike and I will be driving up on Friday and we both will do the 5K at a very easy relaxed pace. I am predicting a time of 27 to 29 minutes easy. We both want to run the marathon in a good time so no need to crunch out a fast 5K and kill ourselves.

In other non-running stuff, this weekend is the annual Father/Daughter Dance at my girl’s school. This year I am taking 2 of them. I will be sure to include some pictures as the girls love getting all dressed up and going out with Dad in his suit and tie. It is an interesting experience. The girls are usually dancing (jumping around) with all their friends while a lot of the Dads are watching and talking. Then they have some Dad/Daughter songs they play and we get to dance with our little princesses. They love it.

This past week I even took them out shopping for new dresses. Yes, me! We ended up getting them at JC Penney’s for a real steal at 80% off. Melissa, being older and a whole 8 years old, took a more mature dress with sequins while Megan (5 y/o) took the "poofier" pink dress that is more like a princess. For the most part I let them pick it out but with my approval, of course. I had a Mom or two at the stores looking at me and one even said I looked lost. I don’t think I was that bad but maybe I was.

I have also been working hard on the WELS Kids Marathon that I am the director for over the past few weeks. We are now ready to send out the information sheets and sign up forms to the school that have decided to participate. As of right now, there are 18 schools signed up, last year we had a total of 10. The deadline for the schools is 1 week before the school year ends so I can then get them their running/reading logs to hand out to the kids before school lets out for the summer.

I know I promised you all a recap on what the WELS Kids Marathon is. I will do that in the next few posts here. It really is a cool program to get kids off the couch in the summer and out exercising. And also getting them to continue to read when school is out.

I am planning on a somewhat longer run tomorrow, maybe 13, that is if it is not to bad weather wise outside. I could always use a weekend off but I think I will be out there anyways.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Race Report: Jailbreak Marathon

I ran the Jailbreak Marathon on Saturday in Wautoma, WI. As of Friday night going to bed, I still wasn't sure if I was going to run. The weather was an issue. Here is the report:

I woke up very early on Saturday to make the 2 1/4 hour drive to Wautoma from my home. When I left, it was dark and raining . . .hard. It continued to rain most of the way up and even caused the car to slightly hydroplane on the freeway a few times. No problems though except for me wondering what I was in for. Before I left, the radar showed lots of showers all over Wisconsin and radar blobs popping up all over. The forecast was for rain showers and 16 or 18 MPH wind and upper 40's in temps. Who would want to run in that crap? Apparently me as I could have just rolled over and gone back to sleep since I have not signed up yet.

As I got close, the rain slowed to a drizzle and I signed up about 1 hour before the 8:00 start. The registration fee was very reasonable, only $55 but then again, this was a small town marathon. For my $55, I got a long sleeve technical shirt, a water bottle, and a post race meal along with race entry and a fairly nice race.

About 10 minuted before the start, I decided to run with the Garmin. It is not fully waterproof anymore so when it rains, I get a wet spot under the display that takes months to go away and I did not want that, but it had stopped. 2 minutes later the rain started so I turned off the Garmin and went with just the Ironman watch. I figured I could attempt the math as the miles passed.

The National Anthem was sung under a tent and the rain began to come down at almost a pouring rate. All 36 people signed up for the Full Marathon went out and stood in the rain for a few minutes for the start. Jokingly I said I finally made it to the 1st corral. It drew a few laughs. The race started and off we went. The half marathoners and 5K'ers were still under the tent keeping dry so not much in the way of cheering to start. They all started later. Since I was only running this as a training run and not for a fast time, I took it easy and made sure I had fun out there.

The first mile was in the rain but then it went away for the rest of the race. We lucked out a lot. The course was also protected often by trees so the wind wasn't much of an issue either, not until a bit in the last few miles. Miles 1 & 2 were right at 9:00 which was a bit faster than I wanted to go but I did not have the Garmin to slow me down.

The course was nice for a rural marathon. There were a few small hills but nothing at all to complain about. We ran on county roads mostly which had very, very little traffic. The scenery wasn't awesome vista views of the country side but rather farm fields and forest areas. No complaints about the course from me except one small area. At just past mile 25, we had to turn up a road and run about 200 feet, then turn around and go back. I spoke to the race director about this and he said they had the course all set up but to certify it, they needed to add this distance. The problem here was that they only had a painted spot on the road and a sign art the side of the road saying to turn around. There was no one there to say turn here and go back, no cone to run around. At 25 miles, my brain isn't as sharp as the start so confusion set in. For mile markers, they had hay bails with a sign on a post. For most of the turns, they had the same hay bails with an arrow on the sign, no people. This wasn't an issue at all until he final 2 miles or so. I did come upon 3 turns where the sign was not there and didn't have any clue which way to go until I saw a sheriff in his car to direct me. Sheriffs were on the course helping out but they were sitting in their cars so no direction until I held up my both arms pointing in both directions in an inquisitive motion (is there such a thing?). The race supported the local Crime Stoppers so I suppose that is why there were quite a few sheriff deputies along the course.

Since there was only 36 runners in the full, it could have gotten quite lonely on the course so it was nice for me to meet a few runners going my pace at close to mile 5. We chatted about which marathons we have run and which ones we likes and disliked. Turns out I was able to run with Miguel, Jake, Kimberly, and Mark for quite a few miles. We passed the half in 2:00:43, faster than I really wanted but still feeling good. At about mile 14, Kimberly backed off and Mark went ahead. Miguel was running his first marathon and Jake ran a few and we were all taking walk breaks at the water stops. So when we saw Mark ahead of us taking a break, I knew he had an issue. Unfortunately, he fell back, I assume he had cramping issues but never got to ask him.

The water stops were further apart than I liked. For the most part, they were 3 to 3 1/2 miles apart which is too long for a marathon. But then again, this was a very small marathon so what should I expect. Miguel, Jake, and I kept together through 18 until they pulled slightly ahead of me. A bit later I reeled them in and we did this a few more times. At just past mile 22, we hit a hill that I took it easy up and then suddenly at about 22 1/2, I found some energy. I was able to pick it up and run fairly fast again. Miguel and Jake trailed but I just wanted to finish.

The last 3 miles went very well and again no crash and burn. In fact, mile 26 was my fastest mile at 8:45. I finished in 2:06:13. Since this was a training run, I was very happy with that time. I ended up in 24th place overall which is the highest place I ever had in a marathon (to be fair, it was the smallest field and all I needed to do was finish to get that). I was 5th in my age group which sounds great but there was only 5 in my age group. I thought it sounded better to say 5th place than last place in my age group.

After the race, they had a nice hot turkey or hot beef sandwich as well as potatoes and corn. I also asked for some water and they gave me a huge water bottle with COLD water. I love it. Since the run was over, the cold set into the bones but they had the shelter heated really nice so it was comfortable. And since it was a race for Crime Stopper, they also had 2 of the K9 Unit dogs there. One didn't want any attention, but the other seemed to like the salt from the sweat on my legs.

About 1 hour after I finished, I began my ride home just in time for the rain to start again. It rained quite a bit on the way home so we hit an almost perfect window of no rain (except for the first mile) for the race.

If you want to run this race, here is a quick review: $55 entry was very good. The course was nice but needed a few more directional signs, especially since the next runner in front of you could be up to 5 minutes ahead and way out of view. The medal is nice and the shirt if good. If you like cheering fans, there are none. the only people cheering were water stops volunteers and the friends of the guys I was running with. The after race meal was a very nice touch and tasted wonderful. Oh yeah, there were absolutely no criminals on the course, at least none that I noticed. Would I recommend this race to others? Depends on what you are looking for. A PR? Then No. A race where you are surrounded by lots of other runners and cheering fans? No again. A nice rural course with a friendly staff and low key yet fun? Then yes. Will I run this one again? Not sure. It filled its purpose for me which was for a training run and to add one more marathon to my list. If I need that again at this time of year, then I will do it again.

Now I am going to not run quite as long training runs as I prepare for the Fargo Marathon in 4 weeks. I am pretty sure I will be going up there with Mike.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A New Logo, What Do You Think?

Today, Mike and I went on a 6 mile easy run afterwork. He wanted to make sure we went 6 miles so he could reach 400 for the year. Odd way to do it but then again, I have run certain distances for the exact same reason so I can't fault him too much. He wants to catch up to me but it's hard for him to do when we run together. I am up to 425 miles this year.

Mike is a graphic artist where I work. I think he is pretty good at his job so that is the reason I asked him last year to design the logo for the Kids Marathon I am the director for. It is called the WELS Kids Marathon. Again, this year, Mike has donated his time and talents to design a new logo for us that will be used on out website, on the tshirts, on the running/reading logs, and on all our official letters out to sponsors etc. Here is the logo he designed for us this year:

Mike then took the logo and made it verticle for us to use in ways that may work better this way.

Some of you may be new to reading my blog regularly and may not know about this Kids Marathon I put on. In the near future, I will post a message all about it and what we have planned for 2010.

What do you think of the logo?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Race Report - Gary's Gallop 5K

Yesterday was the Gary's Gallop 5K in Wauwatosa, WI. This is a great little 5K with a lot of little extras that most 5K's do not offer while still having for a smaller field. There was 262 5K finishers as well as many people in the 3K walk. I ran this one 2 times in the past and each time I was able to place in my age group so that was a goal again.

It was cold there in the morning and the wind was blowing a lot, quite windy. The race started on the upper portion of a hill in the wide open and it was in the mid to upper 40's when I started my warm up but it felt much colder. It was sunny so that helped. I got in a good 2 mile warm up down the course some at 8:40 pace. I changed my mind about 10 minutes before the start and decided to run in only the singlet as a lot of the course was protected from the wind and I knew I would heat up. This turned out to be a good decision.

I had not done any speed work or very fast running since last fall so I was a bit worried at the pace I wanted to go out at which was 6:30 for the first mile. The wind and some of the hills worried me but I knew it was such a short race that going for it was the only decision. The gun goes off and away we go.

Something that really only happens in 5K or shorted races is the smaller kids who sprint out ling gang busters only to slow and walk by about 1/4 mile into the race. No exception here as some kids who look like 12 or younger are sprinting as fast as they could and some older people too and then 1/4 to a 1/2 mile later they were toast.

The first mile is mostly downhill so I have a good split at 6:32 and I am feeling fine. The turn around is at about 1 1/4 miles before heading back up the somewhat big hill we ran down. The hill slows everyone down some as I don't lose any ground or gain any ground on anyone. I do begin to hear a runner directly behind me. He is using me as a wind block. Very smart on his part as I am taller than most out there but annoying the same as it continued the rest of the race. Mile 2 was 6:51, the hill took its toll.

At about 2.4 miles, we turn into the sports complex again and I knew what was coming. Lots of wind right in the face. I tried to do a few small sures to get rid of the guy tailing me but no luck. I am passing people now so I did conserve enough energy for that. The race ends with a full lap on the track and the running from the end zone of the football field to the 50 yard line. A pretty cool finish but you seen the finish line for 1/2 mile. I surge again on the first part of the track when the wind is at my back but the guy is still there. I tell myself that there is no way I am going to let him beat me, he could be in my age group. With 150 meters to go, there are about 4 guys in front o me that I have to weave in and out of to pass. then we turn around the high jump area and onto the football field for the final 60 yard. Here comes the guy trying to pass me right at the end. Not going to happen as I flip it into one more gear and sprint to the finish line passing one more person but not letting this guy pass me.

My final time was 20:33 good for 31st place over all. I was 11 seconds faster than last year when there was not any wind and I didn't run 20 miles the weekend before so I was quite happy with that. Last year I placed 19th so there were quite a few faster runners this year. The next thing I did not like was that I placed 4th in my age group, 1 place and 4 seconds out of the top 3. Last year I took 1st in my age group. Oh well, that is hey way it goes. I needed to run 14 seconds faster to get 2nd.

I did a 2 1/2 mile cool down and then the girls showed up for the Kids race. This is a nice little feature they have where kids 12 and under run 1 lap on the track and all get a ribbon after finishing. The announcer even treats it like a real race giving play by play. Grey sweatshirt guy won!

They had bananas, apples, Gatorade, hot chocolate and many other things for the runners so the perks were quite nice. I recommend this 5K to anyone in the area.

Here is one this I found interesting. I looked at the results today and saw who the guy that was tailing me the last 1 1/2 miles and ended up one place and second behind me is the same guy who last year was one place behind me with the same time. I think he will be gunning for me next year!

Next up is the Jailbreak Marathon next weekend . . . if the weather is good. I am not going to use weather as an excuse but I am only using the race as another long training run. No need to drive 2 1/2 miles if the weather is miserable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Close Call

Mike and I went on a 4 mile run today. We were both a bit tired from our runs over the weekend. Not even a half mile into the run, one of the fear all of us runners almost came to be. We are running down the road and way into the gravel of the shoulder at least 6 to 10 feet from the fog line on the road. We notice a yellow pickup truck heading our way but it has now crossed the white line and is almost in the gravel. While we both don't say anything, we think it is just someone we know from work trying to be funny. On the safe side, we move further in the the gravel and Mike is already on the grass past the gravel. As the guy passes us, dust flying, I can see him looking down at his cell phone or something like that not paying attention to the road at all. He passes but has no idea he just passed 2 runners.

This is my biggest fear about running these days. I am pretty good about judging what drivers will do and knowing if the see me or not, but I am not certain all the time. These types of drivers on their phones and texting scare me the most.

So I remind all my fellow runners out there to be safe and always be aware of the traffic around you. You never know when one of these idiots is coming your way. We didn't.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

South Shore Half Marathon

I am not calling this a race report since I didn't really race this one. I did it as a part of a long run Saturday morning but it was a nice race and I ran fairly well. Here are the morning's events.

I woke up at about 5:45 and was down to the registration area held at South Shore Pavilion by 7:00 AM. I saw a few friends and acquaintances I know from previous races and spoke with them briefly but I needed to get signed up and on the bike trail for my miles before the race.

The South Shore Half Marathon is put on by the Badgerland Strides who are a Milwaukee based running club. I have never ran this one before but have heard a lot about it. There are no big frills with this race. It is only $13 to sign up on race day and I got a pair of knit gloves and a race number. The race is not chip timed nor is it advertised to the community to come out and cheer on the runners. It is run entirely on a bike trail so it gets very crowded at times but it brings out LOTS of local runners for a really nice (and fast) race.

I finally got going on my before race run at 7:22 AM. The plan was to run 6 1/2 to 7 miles before the half marathon so I could get in an even 20 for the day. I wanted to run these miles slower and try to run the race portion faster, like a tempo run or fast long run. I ended up running this portion faster than I wanted to at 8:54 pace but got back in time for a quick restroom stop and then to the start.

There were 836 runners in this race which made it VERY crowded at the start area. I was able to find Paul for a few minute talk before the race started. We were even talking when the race started without us even knowing. No gun, horn, bell, etc. They just started running. This race is run on a bike path so it was very, very crowded at the start, and during most of the race. The first mile was the worst as everyone thinned out and got to their paces. I started easy and ran the first 3 miles at about 8:45 pace. It was sunny and beautiful out but there was wind in the face to start.

The race is an out and back with the final 0.1 just past the start line. There were some hills along the way but the course is absolutely beautiful as you run just along Lake Michigan and through many different parks and up the bluff along the lake before turning around and doing it all again in reverse order giving an awesome view of the Milwaukee skyline (what skyline it has) along the lake over the last mile.

By about mile 5 1/4, the leaders are coming back on the trail toward us slower runners. Now the race gets tricky as we all negotiate running on a bike trail with fast runners going the other way. I saw no problems but I suspect there were a few. As I get about a 1/4 mile from the turn around, it is VERY crowded both ways so passing and getting passed was not happening unless you wanted to run in the grass or dirt/mud but it was very wet along the course. There were even 2 spots (each way) that a large puddle covered the course. I get to the turn around and my average pace is 8:34, right where I wanted it to be.

Now I decide to pick it up and see what I can do with the wind at my back some and I begin to pass runners. Puddles? Forget them, I just run right through them as I didn't want any chance of mud on my shoes. I find that if I take quick steps on my toes, the shoes didn't get wet for the 4 or 5 steps I needed to get through. Mile 9 dips under 8:00 and I am feeling really good and then a guy in a bright green shirt passes me. He is running the same pace as I am and he is running maybe 25 meters ahead of me as we pass lots of runners. He becomes my goal, pass him by the end. I am keeping cautious to avoid any issues with injury or pulled muscles as this is only a long run. Mile 11 is a 7:32 with the wind at our backs and a nice downhill portion but mile 12 is 8:03 as we turn into the wind for a 1/4 mile on an uphill stretch. Bright green shirt is still right in front of me but I haven't poured on the fast running yet so I am confident I will get him.

Mile 12 starts with a nice downhill to the beach area right on the lake. With 1/2 mile to go, I pass Mr. Green Shirt and leave him behind. I run a 7:24 for the last mile but pull up right at the end to avoid passing 3 ladies at the line. I did not want to be seen as a jerk passing them just to pass them. My goal to push the end and beat Mr. Green Shirt was done so why pass the ladies? To show off? Come on, not cool. If this were a race and I was going for a PR, then all bets off, but I pulled off my goal.

My final time was 1:47:34, about 4 minutes faster than I anticipated earlier in the week. Average pace was 8:13 and I end up with one great long run workout. There is no medal for this half marathon, it was only $13 after all ($10 if you sign up in advance) so it was not expected. But it was well worth it and it was a very nice race. I highly recommend this one. I end up in 242 place overall (195 male). And as you can see by my time and place, it is a fairly fast half marathon as well. The winning time was 1:12:47 and considering he had to run past 835 runners going the opposite direction on a bike path, I would say that is smokin' fast.

Here I am coming close to the turn around. You can see how tight the bike path was.

Paul didn't run as well as he wanted to but still finished in 1:42:22.

A picture of the finish area and the skyline of Milwaukee along Lake Michigan.

Another picture of the finish area right on the lake. The cones mark off the final stretch of the course.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dodging Drops

It has been cold, cloudy, and rainy the last few days here in WI. But that does not stop me from getting out and going for runs. The good news is that I was pretty lucky on them by avoiding the rain both the last 2 days.

Yesterday, Mike and I planned to run after work but it was raining almost all day. By 4:30, it had started to slow down considerably and by the time we got out the door, it was just a light mist. Jeff joined us again for an easy 4 1/2 miles on the ole hills loop. We ran well and had good conversation along the way. Once we finished, we went inside and not 2 minutes later, it began to pour outside. We would have been soaked!

Today, Jeff joined Mike and I again for 5 1/2 miles. Again easy paced and no rain.

I made a minor decision today. If I run the Jailbreak Marathon in 2 weeks, I am going to make it another training run marathon. Here is why. This weekend, I am running a 20 miler on Saturday that will include a half marathon race over the last 13.1 miles. I am planning on running that one faster that I would normally run a long run. I hope to run it at an average pace of 8:30ish.

Then next weekend I am running the Gary's Gallop 5K near home. This race takes place at the same place where I have my Kid's Marathon race at and it run bu some people I know. Good news on this, since I run on the InStep Racing Team, I was able to get a comp entry into the race. This is the first comp entry I have been able to get so this is all good. It is a 5K so ideally I would love to break 20 minutes but it has a few hills in it and one that is not small. The last 2 times I ran this race, I ran about 20:40. I can hope though.

That would mean the next weekend is the Jailbreak Marathon with 2 races the preceding weekends. Doesn't sound like the best way to prepare to run a fast marathon so training run it will be. It is all good though, I do get to count it as one more marathon completed.

I am still debating going with Mike to Fargo in May. That one I would like to run hard and get a fast time. I will continue to debate this one the next few weeks though.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rain Makes the Grass Green

We had our first real Thunderstorm of the year last night. I real good downpour of rain as well. The yard sure needs it and the grass is actually now starting to turn green from its winter color of gray. This morning before work, it was raining hard and then suddenly it was hailing. Not large hail, about a but larger than pea size but it always worries me as I had my van outside and don't want it to have hail damage. Good News, no damage. I also had to make sure the downspouts on the house had their extensions secured. The first year I was in this house, I had a little water in the basement when we had a lot of rain and the downspouts were not attached. No worries yet again.

I did wonder if I would have to run in the rain after work though. During work, it rained quite a bit too. The ditches were like small rivers flowing. But by then end of the day, the rain had stopped and I got out there for 5 1/2 miles. I wanted to run faster than usual so I took off briskly. My garmin had less than 1 hour of battery life and I knew I wouldn't get far before it turned off automatically, so I used the regular Ironman watch I have. If I was to run faster, I wanted to know how fast. The problem with this way, is I don't know my pace or mile splits my garmin gives me. All I knew was that the course was 5 1/2 miles.

The average pace at the end of the run turned out to be 8:00 on the head. It was a good run as well. I wore a long sleeve shirt but should have worn a short sleeve. Sometimes I get that wrong.

I am planning on a long run this weekend but may do it a bit differently. I have done this before and it makes a long run sort of exciting, if there is such a thing. My plan is to run 20 miles on Saturday morning. I am going to run 7 miles at an easy pace to start off with but then I am going to time it right so I get the the start line of a local half marathon being run. The Badgerland Striders (The Milwaukee areas running club) is putting on a half marathon along the lake on a bike path. It is an out and back course but the price to join is only $13 on race day. You don't get a medal for finishing (no problems there) and no shirt, but you get to run with a bunch of nice runners and get some food afterwards. At least that is what the race advertises. I have run quite a few of their races and they put on a well organized race which are always fun. I am looking forward to it.

So the plan is to arrive near 7:00 and sign up and get my number. I will then leave at about 7:15 for a 7 mile 'warm up' at the easy pace (9:15 to 9:30 pace). That should get me back within 10 minutes o the 8:30 start time. Once the race starts, I will begin easy and then see what I have in the tanks. If I could average 8:30 pace for the race, that would be a good run for me. I don't consider it a real race (for me), if so, I would go out much faster and not do 7 miles before hand. But it will let me work on running with tired legs and let me run with all sorts of local runners. The food at the finish area is a bonus as well. You can't beat it for $13.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Half On The Trail

The last few days we have had some absolutely beautiful weather here in Wisconsin. Thursday and Friday it was sunny and it hit 80F. It was spectacular. I was able to get a few nice runs during these days and let me tell you, it feels nice to get a really good sweat going. It might not be good for the people around me when I am done, but that is what a shower is for. It has been a long time since I was able to really get my shirt wet out there and it not be from rain. Now this might gross some of you out, and if it does, you must not be a runner. Sweating and wet shirts are a part of running. It is the feeling of a really good workout and knowing we are doing our best. It certainly can be uncomfortable at times being soaking wet from sweat but you take the good with the bad.

Today I ran with Paul. It was about 55F out this morning at 7AM when we started. Paul was just in Singapore on business the past week and missed the Trailbreaker Marathon so we decided to get a medium length run in. We ran on the trail that goes through my town because it is soft crushed limestone and is 13 miles from one end to the other and back.

We started slow and I felt pretty tired. Paul was also tired trying to get back to our time instead of Singapore time. We ran the first half, into the wind, in an average pace of 9:16 and it felt sluggish. It was a bit misty out and the threat of showers were in the air and in the forecast. We turned around after running an extra 0.05 of a mile and began back. Suddenly we both felt a lot better and picked it up. We ran the rest of the way back a little over 8:30 pace and ran to 13.1 miles instead of stopping at 13. If you don't know why, I am not telling you. We finished in a time of 1:57 so we obviously did well on the way back.

Turns out on the way home in the car, it started raining. We missed the rain by about 10 minutes so it was timed good.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter. I will be helping park cars at Church tomorrow so I hope there is not rain. Now it is time for me to make an Easter Egg hunt for the girls. We will go outside because the rain is gone and the sun is out. It is windy so lets hope the eggs don't get blown away.