Friday, September 27, 2013

Upcoming Halloween Adventures in Southwest Florida

Welcome to the creepiest time of year. October is a ghoulish month that awakens our senses after a long, hot and overly wet summer. As the Florida flooding subsides and the humidity fades, that is when the freaks and frights return in the night. The question is, are you ready for some challenges that will chill the bones?

I present to you 2 amazing events to fill your party calendar for All Hallows Eve. Both combine the outdoors fun of athletic exhilaration with the unnerving allure of costumed creativity. The events take place on back to back weekends, one involves running and one involves biking but both of them embody the essential spirit of Samhain.

The first great challenge is Howl at the Moon 2, a sequel to the last year's Halloween 5k trail run. However, this is no ordinary jog in the park. Just before the sunrise on Oct 19th, hundreds of costumed runners will line up at Ann Dever park in Englewood and then charge into a haunted forest full of Zombies! You will run faster then you ever dreamed when an army of undead come out of the bushes desperately seeking the blood of the living.

2012 was the first running of this event and the turn out was fantastic (Read the story here). It was my very first 5k run and this year it will be my wife's first. If ever there was a good place to start a fun hobby, this is where you want to do it. Enter the costume contest, run the race and enjoy some Bocca Lupo Coal Fired Pizza. This year's event is being sponsored by a truck load of companies so there will also be goodie bags, t-shirts, cool medals and prize raffles.

Get details and updates at the Howl at the Moon Facebook Page.

One week later you are invited to the city of Venice for The Great Pumpkin Challenge. Those feisty devils at SCORR (Sarasota County Off Road Riders) have organized another brilliant island pub ride but this one has a Halloween theme. On Oct 26th at 7pm, costumed cyclists of all types will meet at the Venice Gazebo where they will be handed a card listing the items to scavenge for during the ride. The group will travel from pub to pub reaching their goals while stopping to enjoy various brews and ales.

The last pub ride was an absolute success with over 60 cyclists filling the city streets (Read the story here). From that event came an overwhelming demand for another such gathering, you will not want to miss it.

Get details and updates at the SCORR Facebook Page.

Never run a race before? No problem, it's a beautiful walk through the woods. Don't have a nice road bike? No problem, you can ride a mountain bike, a beach cruiser, a BMX, all are welcome!

What truly makes these events special is the amount of community participation. Southwest Florida is a small part of a big state and those who live here exist with only a couple degrees of separation from one another. At events like these we get to connect with our neighbors, our athletic peers and those who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle that great weather allows. Come join us for these two great events and don't forget to wear a costume.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Building the Ultimate Man Cave (Part 1 of 2)

When I was a little kid I loved visiting my grandparents and exploring their house. My grandfather built the place himself and included a tucked away cellar that served as his personal man cave. Keep in mind this was long before people would tag such nooks with a prehistoric metaphor. While the stereotype of cavemen was that of unenlightened Neanderthals hiding from the elements, the modern man cave is more a creation of the craftsman. It is a haven where one can design, develop and create.

My grandfather was a carpenter, landscaper, furniture maker, you name it. Within the dark, cool concrete walls of his basement was a long work area full of tools. On the opposite side was a weight bench and at the deepest end was a hole in the wall where older bikes or scooters were stored.

Grandpa's man cave was creepy, exciting and appealed to both the primal and creative sides of myself. It was a place to hide, to build and escape the world while also preparing for it. After 30 years of living like a nomad with nowhere to call my home, I have finally settled down in Florida. It is here that I found a place to build my own personal getaway. Construction has been 3 years in the making.

When I first arrived in 2010 the downstairs area of our stilt house was a mess. Countless boxes, old furniture, musty books and piles of rotted wood had accumulated into a cobwebbed covered catastrophe. On days off work I would haul out piles upon piles of garbage. Approximately 2 tons worth of rusted junk metal and warped pressed wood found its way to the side of the road.

It was a slow process that involved opening and sorting every single box and separating the good from the spoiled. Among the debris were several cans of paint and a handful of electrical cords, all of which was put to use. After cleaning the inner room from top to bottom, I painted all the exposed wood with at least two coats of white and then started to fill the shelves.

Thrift stores are a blessing here in the sunshine state. Whenever I needed a tool, an old TV, a light or wires, they were all within my very limited budget. The first room was built for less than $30. The toughest part was the amount of physical labor that was needed to clean, paint, move furniture, carry out the clutter and connect devices.

After little more than one hundred hours work, the trophy room is complete. An old DVD player connects to a large TV that can be viewed comfortably on a love seat which backs up against a wide mirror. An array of benches, weights and a stationary bike cover the floor under the reflection of fifty trophies and medals. Dry erase boards with training schedules, race certificates and personal photos fill the walls.

The trophy cave has become my favorite room in the house. I spend hours down there lifting weights and watching episodes of Smallville, LOST or Mountain Bike DVDs. I've added an ancient air conditioning unit that reluctantly works along with a box fan to battle the summer heat.

It amazes me that all of the beauty arranged in this confined space was done with so little money. I'm not a DIY type of person but necessity teaches you how to fix and fasten along the way. Each project carries with it a new level of knowledge that encourages you to try something else. The accumulation of little victories is what builds confidence.

Over the past few months my project has expanded. With the trophy room complete I have moved outside the door and started building a bike garage. The room is three times larger with much greater challenges but it will certainly be worth the effort. This time I took before photos so people will be able to see the difference that a little money and a lot of hard work can produce.

While I didn't follow the path of my Grandpa, he did teach me a lot. As a kid I was hired to dig in the garden or help him with woodworking. The lessons passed into memory and disappeared for many years but I'm discovering that you never really forget. A decade after he had passed away, I'm still learning from him. If he could see the sweat and effort reproducing hints of his craft, I'm sure he would be proud.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

The 3rd Annual Remember the Fallen 5K

Another 9/11 date has come and gone. While the images and emotions brought forth from that horrendous day feel more distant, the reality of its effects remains indisputable. We are a different country in many ways. The most obvious of which is our appreciation of those whose job it is to quiet the chaos. First responders around the nation know that when a crisis emerges, they can handle the job in part because we will all rise up to bolster their efforts.

On Saturday, Sept 14th the NPFR Honor Guard hosted the 3rd Annual Remember the Fallen 5K. This wildly popular fundraiser drew a crowd of more than 500 people with 428 runners completing the course (Up from 375 last year). On a day set aside for recollection, this was a race worth remembering.

The Firefighter Challenge - Intertwined among the hundreds setting pace on the streets of North Port were those few brave souls who wore the firefighter uniform for the full length of the run. Battling the heat and rising sun they hauled more than 20 pounds worth of gear with absolute pride.

The diversity of this race was worth noting as runners again defied the age barrier with the youngest being Aaron Morales age 4 who finished in 45:23. The eldest on the day was 79 year old Ron Davis who won his class in an impressive 28 minutes flat. These people are a constant inspiration to anyone who doesn't believe they can complete such a run.

Now for the trailblazers! The fastest man of the day was 31 year old Kerri Sullivan who rocked the block pacing at 5:22 per mile, finishing in only 16:37. The fastest lady was local favorite Heather Butcher who sailed through at 18:02. North Port's very own continued to fill the podium with Kathy Hendricks taking the Female Master's title with 21:24 and Jacquelyn Baldelli taking the Senior Grand Master's title with 25:06.

The largest female group was the 30-34 class with 42 runners. It was a tight battle won out by Echo Lazorko who probably has the coolest name in all of running. The largest male group was the 40-44 class with 31 runners (Including myself in 14th place), the big winner was Donald Dobbs who stole the show with a time of 21:11.

By the time awards came around the crowd was elbow to elbow deep. Sponsors included Fit 2 Run, Advocare, Awaken Church (Who handed out cold chocolate milk, yum), Active Suncoast, Youfit and many more. The timing was done by our good friends at Zoomers. There was also a strong team ethic as unified groups from The Foot Landing and The Pack stood out in the crowd and even got group photos.

Remember the Fallen can be described as nothing less than a success. The money raised on this day will go towards the National Fallen Firefighters Fund and the restoration of a 1946 Seagrave Pumper truck which will be used for local parades and firefighter funeral processions. You can learn more about the NFFF at their website

Photos and race results can be found at the following links:

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tempo Cyclery Re-Opens at New Location

Personability is everything, especially when it comes to bike shops. In our internet obsessed society the modern store front is faced with a multitude of challenges. Each day dozens of websites announce a new sale, promising the lowest possible prices and free shipping. Add to this the bidding wars on Ebay plus the digital yard sale known as Craigslist and it has to make you wonder how any bike shop can keep their doors open.

This gets us back to that personal touch. Since bike shops are in a losing struggle with online retailers, they have to make up for it in other ways. Their top three weapons are quality service, location and personability. At their September grand re-opening I got a chance to talk to Tempo Cyclery's owner and see their new shop. My question was, have they achieved the trifecta needed for further success?

Store owner Julian Angus jr
Enthusiasm can be infectious. When you are talking to a true cyclist, passion bleeds through every word. At the end of the conversation, you want to ride. That is how I felt after talking with Tempo store owner Julian Angus jr. "I'm a trail rider, love the trails but Florida has good streets so you'll find me more on the road bike." It took only seconds to discover that we had something in common. Julian and myself are of the generation seeking that ultimate experience on two wheels, we dream of racing the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado but it is the dreaming part that is important.

As a shop owner part of Julian's job is to help make dreams come true. It could be that first bike on which a kid learns his balance or the high end time trial machine meant to tackle the most exhausting of endeavors. It could be dual cruisers for the couple who have been riding together for decades or a rental for the elderly traveler who winters each year in balmy Sarasota. His shop is ready to fulfill those needs.

From passion to practicality, Tempo is covering their bases. This is why they moved to a new locale. Julian explains the decision, "It's a slightly smaller space but the rent is lower and the location is better." In this case smaller might be better as it has allowed them to open up new opportunities. "We had to downsize in order to grow." After spending four years on a busy section of Clark Road, they are now situated across from Publix on Palmer Plaza Blvd within easy pedaling of Palmer Ranch and the Legacy Trail. They still have a Clark Road address but the actual store is off the main drag (See Google Map Here).

A tactical starting point means that Julian and his crew can better serve their customers. This will include a fully stocked store - bikes, gear, accessories, tools and nutritional supplements. They will also have a private, professional bike fitting room. Group rides can set off right from the front door, rentals can stroll through a neighborhood with ample bike lanes and it is only a short ride to the starting line of the Tempo & Timmy's Time Trial.

Have they achieved the trifecta? Quality service, location and personability? I can attest to the second two but their loyal customers vouch for all three. If you would like to see for yourself they are open six days a week plus there is a special night coming to celebrate the new store. I'll let Julian explain...

"The last Time Trial of the season is at 5:30pm on September 11th and we are taking this opportunity to open the doors so everyone can see the shop. We'll be open before and after the ride with parking available in front of the store."

Since this is a special occasion they might add a theme to the Time Trial, perhaps costumes or prizes for racing on unusual bikes. To be a part of the event follow Tempo on Facebook and visit their website for more details.