Thursday, October 17, 2019

Indiana Trail 100: I wouldn't have made it through this without...

Since I finished Tunnel Hill in 2017, my races have laregely been shitshows. DNF at Antelope Canyon. An 8+ hour 50K at the Swamp. DNF at GDR. . I did manage to set a marathon PR this spring (I still have no idea how I did that, by the way) but promptly followed it up with a relatively poor showing at Strolling Jim. I was beginning to think that my the best days of my (ultra)running career had gone just as fast as they had come and that I would be one of those myriad of other runners who just disappeared from the community.

The Indiana Trail 100 is 5 20-mile loops at Chain O' Lakes State Park in Albion, Indiana. It is part of the Midwest Slam of ultrarunning, a Western States and UTMB qualifier (so it's pretty hard), and since it's in Indiana (duh) you never know what the weather will do.

Training for Indiana Trail 100 began in earnest in mid-May. The plan was to run as many of the following as I could:
  • Off camber trails
  • Hill repeats
  • Miles in the dark
  • Back-to-back long runs
Where could I do that? Ah, yes! At the AgCenter ! It's two miles from my house, it's got a lightly trafficked trail, and aside from the one time security kicked me out at midnight, no one cares if you stash a couple of beers in the bed of your truck for 'aid'. It also has a couple of decent hills and an off-camber section - comparable to everything one would encounter at Chain O' Lakes. I spent many a-Sunday mornings over the past few months on the second half of my back-to-back long runs with my dear friend Andy. I wouldn't have made it through this without his friendship. I focused less on mileage and more on specificity, time on my feet, and consistency.

A coupla' Dumbasses with Shoes
Sue (that's my girlfriend, for any random reader who comes across this) and I drove up from Nashville to Albion the day before the race. She asked me what my goal was for this race. I told her, "I just want to finish. I don't care about a belt buckle. I don't care about qualifying for Western States." I think Sue mostly believed me when I said that. Sue would happily let me disappear for hours on end on the weekend. I wouldn't have made it through this without her generosity. I checked in and met up with a whole bunch of friends (and my sister, pictured here and OHMIGODISTHATJESSICABOHN?!) who had driven down from Michigan to run this dumb thing, too. Jessica got me into ultrarunning three years ago with her epic Western States finish. I wouldn't have made it through this  without her inspiration. We all headed to our hotels or campsites and then several of us went out to dinner at Bob Evans. I'd post a picture of what the food looked like but I hate pictures of food and this ain't a menu. We then made our way back to the hotel for the night where I promptly went to sleep. I can fall asleep just about anywhere. Watching the Detroit Lions game? Yup. Reading a book for class? Yup.

Shoulder flames
The morning of the race, we headed back over to the park. The parking situation is rough, so if you plan on running this in the future, make sure you get there in plenty of time.We all made our way to the starting line (or as I like to refer to it: "somewhere over there, I don't know".) Then, all of a sudden, 210 of us were off to tackle 100 miles in the Indiana woods for the next however many hours.

Lap 1
I was feeling awesome. It was a chilly morning which really suits me but it was not something that I had been training for: it was an exceedingly hot and humid summer in Tennessee. Everything felt easy and smooth. I had two race mantras that I told myself time and time again during this loop (and the others that followed):
  1. Walk all the uphills, run the downhills and the flats (strangely enough, another runner that I shared some miles with actually noticed this about me).
  2. DON'T YOU DARE RUN ANY UPHILLS, DUMBASS. I found myself saying this out loud a few times, especially during the first lap.
The end of Lap 1
I came through finisher's chute in just a hair over 5 hours. I got a high five from race director Mike Pfefferkorn, looked at the clock and realized that I was going way too fast. I jogged over to the main tent aid to re-stock. Steve (The Dude) Novicki was there and asked me how things were going. "Good," I told him, "but I'm running too fast." "Well, then, slow the fuck down," he replied. I wouldn't have made it through this without his advice and encouragement. I handed Sue my headlamp and asked her to charge it, she got me resupplied, and out I went for lap 2. Sue kept texting pictures to my Jogalope crew. I wouldn't have made it through this without all of those super fun Wednesday night runs.

Lap 2
The sun was up and things were still going great. Jessica and I have very different running styles but often end up with similar times at these really long distances. As we left the Hilltop aid station at mile 27, we got our picture taken.Yeah, she's taller than I am. So what?! We continued off into the beautiful sunshine. I continued to recite my mantras as the weather was trying to goad me to turn on the jets and run as hard as I could. I held back as much as I could. As I left the Rally Camp aid station at mile 32, I headed back down Pfefferkorn Hill and remembered that this was the hardest and hilliest part of the course and that the 5.5 miles before the next aid station were the longest of the race.  I would need to keep that in the memory bank for later. I made it back to the start/finish in about ten and a half hours. This was, overall, 30 minutes faster than I wanted or planned to be. I told myself, again, that I needed to slow down or I was going to blow up late in the race.

Lap 3
I grabbed my headlamp and cold weather hat back from Sue and threw it in my pack. I refueled and headed back out. The sun hung low in the late afternoon sky. The air reeked of burnt leaves dying on the trees. The wind had just enough of a bite. I was ready for the night ahead. I cruised on over to the Rally Camp aid station for the 3rd time. It was just about dark so I put on my headlamp which I had been carrying for the previous 12 miles. I was 52 miles in... in just under 14 hours which was right about where I wanted to be. I asked Sue to dig out my backup headlamp and put it my backpack just in case. She gave me some Dr. Pepper and Taco Bell quesadillas (sidenote: get yourself a partner that will drive 20 miles to get Taco Bell for you in the middle of an ultra). I wouldn't have made it through this without the deliciousness of quesadillas. I told Sue that I wanted new socks, trail toes, dry clothes, and a shot of Fireball when I saw her next at mile 60 and that I had to be out of the aid station in 8 minutes. Back I went over to Pfefferkorn hill and over toward the School House. It got dark and cold. And boring. Putting on a headlamp a second time at any race sucks. Putting it on and knowing that won't get to take it off for 11 hours really sucks. And those 5.5 miles from Rally to the School House really super suck. The number of times I said "Where the fuck is this fucking aid station?!" Let's just say that not even The Boss can count that high . I finally made it there, refueled as quickly as I could and headed the last couple miles to the Start/Finish line.

Lap 4

The next to last lap of any race is always the worst: you're nowhere near done, you've been out there for hours, and it's going to get way worse before it gets better. The race was really about to begin. I sat down to address my feet. I sat down and took off my shoes and socks. I pulled out the Trail Toes and reapplied like crazy. I noticed a small blister on my right heel but it didn't hurt so I let it be. I pulled out my socks and.... they were both Injinji toe socks designed for left feet. Ok. This was a problem. There was no way I was going to put my previous disgusting pair of socks back on so I did what any Dumbass would do: I improvised . I turned one of the two left footed socks inside out and *BAM* a pair of socks appeared! The Dude was nowhere to be found with the Fireball. That was problem #2. And problem #3? I was beginning to chafe. I did what I could with that and I'll spare you the gross details. Out I went again. Justin (one of my friends from Michigan who ended up finishing 5th(!!!) overall caught me at the first aid station. He looked like he was cruising! I wouldn't have made it through this without his leading from the front. I started doing trail math and figured that if I could average 19:30 per mile from here on, I'd finish. One of the problems with being a back of the pack runner at a 100 miler is that there are very few opportunities to see other people this late in the race, all you tend to see is the ever-looming shadow of the Cutoff Monster. Aside from aid stations, there were miles upon miles where I wouldn't see anyone else. But this was what I had trained for. All those lonely AgCenter miles in the dark running that dumb stupid hill hundreds of times. All those 3AM alarms on the weekend telling me to get my ass out there when my girlfriend and dog looked so cozy in the bed. This is what I had trained for and I know that for the next several hours, I had to want this more than anything else in the world. The moon was bright and full, lighting the trail so well at certain points that I didn't need a headlamp. I got to the Rally Camp aid station at mile 72. My improvised toe sock situation was working like a charm (and in all honesty, I don't know if I would have been able to get my shoe back on due to my foot swelling if I would have taken it off again). I ate some more quesadillas. I drank some Mountain Dew. I wouldn't have made it through this without the golden syrupy deliciousness of that drink. I asked Sue (probably a little too sternly - sorry!) if my headlamp power indicator had one or two lights left. "One. No, two. No wait, one. One?" "WHICH IS IT? Two or one?" I took it off and handed it to her. Then, like an idiot, I stood there debating whether or not to bring my trekking poles: "I don't want them. Yes. No.  No, wait, YES!" I took them and out I went into the night again. I started to hallucinate: I saw a sailboat, some antique cars, and I swear to god there was a black bobcat. I eased through the next 8 miles back to the start/finish. Normally, I am about the happiest person you will ever meet on the trail. However, when you've reached 80 miles as a back of the packer and still have hours and hours to go, sometimes you look like this guy:

Lap 5
I came into the aid station. The Dude tried to give me some Fireball. I didn't want any (sorry for the mixed messages, Dude). I "sprinted" out of the aid station and out towards the first check point. This was the last time I would see this part of the trail this year. Mile 83, and I felt a surge of energy back in me! Of course, that surge completely went away at mile 87. I walked into Hilltop, more than an hour ahead of cutoff. And I just lost my mind. I stood there in a daze. I had trouble answering questions. I didn't want pizza (WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE WITH PEANUT, YOU MONSTERS!!!). I didn't want pretzels (although the aid station made me load my pockets up with them). If I would have sat down, I would have been done. The aid station captain (whose name I didn't catch but I have to thank) said "Come on, let's get out of here... There's a trash can just up the hill." I knew what she was doing and I was powerless to stop her. Out the tent and up the hill I went. All of a sudden, I was hiking/running again. My spirits lifted. I hiked over to a mostly empty Rally aid station. The sky had grown bright with the morning sun. I drank about 20 ounces of pop (you're damn right, it's pop!) and told Sue that I need all the Gu gels I had left and I needed them now. I handed a volunteer my softflask and asked him to fill it up with water. I was in and out of there in two minutes with just over 3 hours to go! I knew with as little margin for error that I had that I needed a plan. That plan was to not stop for anything until I got to the finish: I had all the calories and liquid I needed to make it 3 more hours and I didn't need to spend precious minutes at the Schoolhouse aid station. Given my most recent pace, I was going to be cutting this thing close. I knew I had the worst stretch of trail in front of me. Those 5.5 miles got longer every loop. So I ran as hard as I could, not as fast as I could, as hard as I could. And at that point of the race, that was 17 1/2 minutes per mile. The Schoolhouse felt like it would never come. The sight of the Finish line from across the lake still some 5 miles away taunted me. Some day hikers in their comfy looking oversized jeans and sweatshirts asked me "Hey! How ya doin' this mornin'?!" I knew I had to be close. And then I saw it: the Schoolhouse. I have never been more excited in my life to see a place of education. I hiked up the hill and the volunteer asked "Hey, can I get you anything?" I didn't even stop. I just replied "Nope! I got somewhere I gotta be! Thank you... you have been awesome!!!" And on I went. I had 80 minutes on the clock to go 2.7 miles. I tried to run and just had nothing left. I had put all the effort into this race that I had. All those god awful early mornings. All those evenings when I could have been at home watching additional episodes of Chopped on the Food Network. All those band aids I had used to cover my nipples. They all came down to this one last section. I hiked as hard as I could. I had put so much effort into the previous 5.5 miles. My pace dropped precipitously. I got closer and closer to that finish line. Then... with a mile to go, I heard a (quite literally) familiar voice: my sister who had been out there in the dark running the race caught up with me. She and her pacer, the Respected Sir Jim Stevens, had finally caught up and passed me. Jessica shouted "I had a helper!" as she passed. And that was all the humor I needed. I looked at my watch, looked at my feet, and said to myself, "Ok... just don't fall." I rounded the bend and saw the finish line again on the other side of a lake. I heard voices cheering from half a mile away for someone who finished in front of me. I tried to run on the pavement through the parking lot and just couldn't. I trudged by the lake. I hiked up the hill by the playground. Then, I put both of the poles in one hand: I was going to try to run this in for the last 1/4 mile. Down the hill I came. I felt like I was sprinting. I saw the clock creep up: 29:38:36. 29:38:37. 29:38:38. 29:38:39. Just 21 minutes under the cutoff. I finished.

The 30 or so people who were at the finish line went wild and cheered me in. I knew I was one of the last finishers but I felt like I had won. I slammed my trekking poles into the ground, which caused everyone to laugh. Then I said "I am never fucking doing that again." which caused more laughter (Full disclosure: I am definitely fucking do that again.)

Mike Pfefferkorn handed me my belt buckle and gave me a hug. Folks, there aren't many better things than a hug from that dude.

I sat down on a bench and cheered in the two runners who finished after me. Then we got this picture:
I ended up laying down on that bench. Someone covered me with a blanket while I tried not to throw up.

I ate alot of fried food and drank alot of beer that Sunday evening. It was worth it. I'd do both of those things again. Hell, I'd run another hundred miler right now if it meant I get to eat that many fried cheese curds and drink that many beers!

I'm not a very fast ultrarunner. I like to have as much fun out there as I can. I am never going to win a race but I am never going to feel like a loser at one. I wouldn't have made it through this without so many people and I am sure that I am going to leave some of them out here. I apologize if I did.
Sue Black, Jessica Bohn, Andy Smith, Laura Hufschmidt, Justin Senkbeil, Daniel Larkin, Newton "The Ultramarathoner" Dominey, Matt Mueller, Alex the Dumbass, The Novicki's, Cindy the TwerkMachine, Tender Jason Peddycord, Mark IDon'tKnowYou Norfleet, Chad Hause,the entire Jogalope crew (we meet at Jackalope Brewery on Wednesday nights if you'd like to join us), my parents and my brother for their encouragement from miles away, and the Ten Junk Miles crew for their virtual companionship and making me look like a crazy person when I'm screaming at them and their podcast on the trail.

Go do shit that scares you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tunnel Hill 100 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Suck

Last Sunday, I did this to my ankle. Yes, it hurt.

This was a week before I was supposed to run Tunnel Hill. My shot at redemption, so to speak, after DNFing at Bryce earlier in the year. I wanted a belt buckle for finishing the 100 mile distance. I wanted to be able to wear it with pride. It's really the only physical possession I'd wanted for over a year. My life, somehow, felt empty without one - this object that I'd never had but I felt I needed. "Well, I guess I'll be 0-for-2," I thought. Through a bit of good luck and some aggressive rehabilitation in the next five days, my ankle healed up enough for me to drive up to Vienna, Illinois, and toe the line. "At worst," I thought, "I don't finish the race." Although that was never really an option for me. My sister, Jessica, originally had tentative plans to come down from Michigan to meet me here but it just didn't work out with her schedule so I went (mostly) solo.

I woke up at 4am on Saturday morning at the scenic Super 8 motel in nearby Anna, Illinois. I got a full 8 hours of sleep which is unusual for me because I usually don't get 8 hours of sleep anywhere, let alone the night before a race. I went to the bathroom several times, put on my kit (including my Dumbasses with Shoes shirt -- cotton ones available now for $15), and double checked my drop bags.

I made my way to the starting line and met up with Steve "The Dude" Novicki, Erin, Theresa, Michelle, and Ramon. I had met a few of these guys at races previously and they all know my sister so I just kind of tagged along with them for a bit. The Dude was racing the hundo as well so we sort of informally agreed to stick together for as long as we could. Here we are at the starting line full of hope and promise but before the day turned into a sufferfest... much like the first Chronicles of Narnia movie!

Look at how big my feet look! Life is hard when you're a hobbit. "Oh, let's send you on this dumbass quest and give you really unwieldy feet with which to do it! You think the wide base is going to give you a competitive advantage? You're about to find out you're a total idiot. Not a partial one. A total one." That's two high-fantasy references in the last two paragraphs. Don't worry, Sue still thinks I'm wonderful and lovable.

The Dude and I stuck together for the first 25 miles. It went really well. We met up with his crew a number of times. They kept jamming things in my mouth which normally I am NOT into but these were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so I was FOR SURE into it. Off we went for our second 25 miles. A few miles in, I noticed that The Dude and I were at different paces and we decided to split up for the time being. I rolled into the aid station at mile 36 and his crew which I had been utilizing until then asked "Where's Steve?" I told them "Uh... that way?" as I pointed back down the trail and then reassured them that I wasn't a total turd and that he told me to go run my own race. Here's a picture of me and The Dude still having fun.

I got back to the start/finish line at mile 50 in just a little over 12 hours. My feet felt pretty rough at this point in time, so off came the shoes and out came the blister kit. I can almost safely say that I will not be the cause of a blood zombie lycan outbreak thingy in Southern Illinois as a result of my amateur attempts of trying to fix my feet in the dark by myself. I put my socks and shoes back on and thought, "I've got 18 hours to finish this thing... That's like two 9-hour marathons! I can totally do this!"

I went out for my third 25 mile stretch. It had been dark for a little over two hours by now. All I heard were the crushing of leaves under my feet, the grinding of limestone rocks under those leaves, and the occasional owl. It was cold. It was dark. It got depressing. Real depressing. Like listening-to-an-Evanescence-record-album-in-your-room-by-yourself depressing. Or like Kelly-dumps-Zack-before-the-prom-for-the-college-guy-Jeff depressing. I saw the reflection of several deers' eyes in the woods and had to convince myself that there aren't mountain lions in Illinois (there aren't). I thought I saw a giant once but it turned out it was a STOP sign. I saw a woman named Mel wander off into the woods for a bit. How do I know her name was Mel? Because her pacers let her go off for a few seconds, laughed, and then asked "Hey, Mel. What are you doing in the woods? Why don'tcha come back to the trail?" I listen. I'm attentive. I'm Grade-A boyfriend material.

I got back to the start/finish line with exactly 10 hours left on the clock. "Dude! I can totally run a 10 hour marathon!" That's like two and a half miles per hour! That's the slow speed setting on a Power Wheels car!" How do I know that? Again... I am FULL of useless information. My right leg had started to really hurt by this point in time. A combination of the sprained ankle and my knee compensating for it by changing my stride really started to hurt. I slid my knee compression sleeve on and made the decision that while this may help me for the rest of the race, it's really going to hurt for the next few days afterwards... but that's a problem for Future Peanut. Off I hiked into hour number nine of total darkness with nothing but my headlamp, some food, and my dulcet voice singing "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music. Listen. I know I'm weird.

On I trudged up Tunnel Hill one last time. I kept waiting for the sun to rise: every aid station, every mile, every tree, every step. I knew that if I could just get to daylight, I was going to finish this thing. My right leg was angry with me. I passed through the Tunnel at mile 86. I knew I only had to go two more miles before the turn around to head home. I finished walking the hill and got to the turn-around.

Mile 90. The sun was rising behind the overcast skies. I wasn't afraid of STOP sign giants any longer and Mel probably wouldn't be making her way into the woods anymore that day. Back down the hill I went. My right leg was screaming at me. I asked a volunteer at an aid station if I was allowed to pick up a walking stick from the side of the trail (I'll be damned if I was going to get disqualified this late into the race). She told me that, yes, hiking sticks and trekking poles were legal. I picked one up and continued my tromp. I felt the dreaded Cutoff Monster catching up to me with each step. "Step" - that's a generous word to use at this point in the race. I started frantically checking my watch every ten minutes. I puked three times -- all the same concoction of Gu gels, bananas, and soup. I hurt.

Mile 97.2. I was off the hill at the last aid station. The volunteer there said "We don't have much left." I'm not sure if she meant food or time but I didn't care. I just forced a half smile, gave her a wave, and a breathy "Thank you" as I plodded on. "I'm three miles from home," I said to myself. Those same leaves crunching under my feet. Those same limestone rocks grinding beneath those leaves. Those same deer were still out there somewhere, too. I was getting passed by competitors who had run a much smarter race than I did. I didn't care. I just wanted to finish.

I came across the last bend. For the first time since the afternoon before, the clouds parted just a bit and I could see just a few rays of sunshine streaming down on the Illinois farmland around me. I could see the clock counting up. I could hear the 50 or so people at the finish line start cheering for me. I threw away my hiking stick which had served me well for the past several hours and genuinely thanked it for its service. I was going to finish. 28:54:47. 28:54:48. 28:54:49. 28:54:50. 28:54:51. 28:54:52. And, just like that, in a completely random and non-descript time, I was done. No one is going to write any articles about me. Eric Schranz isn't going to call me up and invite me to be on UltraRunner Podcast (especially with Camille Herron's performance at the same race to talk about). I might get my name printed in my high school alumni newsletter. But that's about it. Not too many people really care about this niche sport. And I kind of like it that way.

I stood there in a daze for a second. Someone asked me if I wanted to sit down. I did. Someone else asked me if I wanted a beer. I definitely did. Then, a woman came up to me and said "What size finisher's jacket do you want? Oh... and also, here's your belt buckle." I had completely forgotten about it! This thing I thought I had wanted for so long had completely slipped my mind.

I cheered on the 24 people who finished behind me. There were more than a few teary eyes as these last runners crossed. There was no great awards ceremony. No real fanfare other than this growing contingent of cheerleaders waiting at this finish line in a small park in Southern Illinois rooting louder and louder for total strangers as they crossed the line. No camera crews - a couple of people had their phones out to record their friends or loved ones finishing. Just high fives and mutual respect.

Twenty-eight hours, fifty-four minutes, fifty-two seconds. The soreness still lingers three days later. My right leg feels better but not yet good enough to run on. I still don't think I've realized what this means to me. I get glimpses of it every once in a while - like someone walking behind you and slapping the back of your head - but it hasn't really sunk in yet.

I believe not everyone can do this. And I believe that anyone can do this.

I would like to thank several people for their assistance and belief in me. I'd write out the reasons why but I don't think I need to.
Sue Black, Jessica Bohn, Daniel Larkin, Newton Dominey, Andy Smith, Steve Novicki, Theresa Flores-Novicki, Michelle Soltys-Cox, Ramon Hernandez, Erinn Sullivan Hadley, Mom, Dad, Eric Bohn (yes, believe it or not!), Matt Melanson, Aaron Benson, Steve Durbin, and (of course) Pippin.

[Tags: Tunnel Hill 100, Tunnel Hill, Tunnel Hill Race Report, Race Report, Ultramarathon]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rope Lights, Eddie Vedder, and Why I'm bad (to occasionally mediocre) on dates

Nashville Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher recently introduced an ordinance to ban rope lights on several streets in Nashville. I wrote her an email today. Here it is.
Councilwoman Vercher,

I am writing this email to let you know that I disagree with your recent proposal to ban rope lights. This is stupid idea and debating it right now is a waste of time and money.

I'm curious if you have any factual data that supports your claims that rope lights are dangerous. [I googled it and *SPOILER ALERT* I came up with nothing.] I have some in my house and they are both awesome and safe. I've got a string that lead down the steps from my kitchen and into the garage. The number of times they've kept me from falling down because I'm able to see has got to be at least 3 or 4. Maybe even higher than that. Also, my mom came to town to visit me once and said that they were "nice" and "they really helped her see". So, that's two people that they've helped be safe and not, you know, that thing you claim. Also, I have them in my music room. They really add to the vibe when I'm playing along to Pearl Jam records from the mid-90s. I can't definitively say though that they've helped me with the ladies. "Oh, you've got 50 feet of rope lights in your music room? Maybe we should go get a beer sometime and then you can try to kiss me at the end of night (Is it a date? It's kind of a date. Sort of. Who knows). But I'll just turn my head to the side and you can kiss me on the cheek and I'll smile awkwardly as I get into my Honda Accord and drive home and then never return your texts." she'll say. I don't know how to properly punctuate that. Can you put parenthetical expressions in a quote? Sure. I just did. But look! Another issue of rope lights helping people be safe. Think of all those women who HAVEN'T gone out with me because of the rope lights in my music room. I've saved a proverbial ton of women from an awkward evening and myself a lot of heartache. Safety everywhere!

Why is your proposed rope light ban only for Arterial and Collector streets? I had to look up what both of those things meant but I don't understand how the street size makes a difference. I mean, it's not a good street related rule like you shouldn't drive 100 miles per hour down Nolensville Pike. That one makes sense. An anti-rope light rule on Nolensville Pike doesn't make any sense. There are some really solid liquor stores who have signs that are illuminate by rope lights on that road. How would I know where they are otherwise? I probably won't. And that's a bummer because I really like beer. Are you trying to deprive me of beer? That's not very nice of you. First women won't go out with me because of the rope lights in my Eddie Vedder shrine room so I have to go buy beer by myself and drink it at home. Except now I won't be able to do that because I won't know where the awesome liquor stores are because you're trying to make them take down the rope lights. This just keeps getting worse and worse for me.

But wait! There's more!

Why does this ordinance (according to the story I read on Fox 17 today) not affect downtown Nashville? Don't you think those rope lights would be more of a distraction to the bachelorette parties and drunk Chicago Blackhawks fans who are "just here to have a good time, bro!" when they're driving down the wrong way on a one way street again while they're looking for a chill spot to 'just hang with the locals'. Like locals ever go downtown. Except for The Ryman. And sometimes Bridgestone. Why do the tourists get to enjoy rope lights and I don't?

I'm an avid runner. I wear lights when I'm out for run out on the streets. It makes me more visible to traffic. What if I were to wear a suit made out of rope lights? A company called Noxgear makes them and they look kind of awesome. Would that make me more safe or less safe? Would the police try to arrest me if I were running up Nolensville Pike wearing one of those? Do you think they could catch me if they tried to chase me? I'm pretty fast and I'd be able to see all around me with the light emitting from my rope light vest while they'd be running with just their flashlights jostling about. My money is on me instead of Officer MagLite.

I know this is starting to read like I'm an alcoholic runner who listens to grunge music and is bad with women and has a rope light obsession. I'm only two and a half of those things. Maybe I should make that my Bumble account bio. Might help. Hell, it certainly couldn't hurt.
In conclusion, this bill doesn't deserve our city council's time or energy. I ask that you withdraw this ordinance and focus on more important and pressing needs for Nashville: better sidewalks, better public transportation, and an improved greenway system. Those are the things that are going to continue to make Nashville awesome... Not ordinances about rope lights.

Shine on,

Stephen P Bohn

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Councilman Withers

Councilman Withers,

I am writing to you today to express my extreme displeasure with your championing of the Historic Home Event Bill.

This is not an issue like the extreme noise often emanating from the Ascend Amphitheater. Introducing sound ordinances for a venue of that size and, well, sound is appropriate. Across the country, most outdoor amphitheaters near residences have similar ordinances. That I understand.

What I don't understand is the purpose of this bill. But we'll get to that in a minute.

In addition to my full-time job, I have worked for a local florist on-and-off for the past 7 years. I have set up and cleaned up hundreds of weddings since 2009 both at indoor and outdoor event spaces in the Nashville area. In my time doing that never once have I ever overheard a single complaint from any neighbor of any venue of the event being too loud or too raucous. Furthermore, I am an ordained minister and have officiated both indoor and outdoor weddings in both Nashville and out-of-state. At no event have I ever received any complaint of an event being too loud or too wild. I have also DJed several weddings, again, at both indoor and outdoor spaces, and (you can see where this is going) have never received a single complaint from a neighbor at any time about it being too loud.
There are several wonderful outdoor event spaces in Nashville. In addition to the historic homes, places like Cheekwood and The Cordelle provide amazing spaces for people to have what one would hope to be the best day of their lives. These outdoor event spaces are part of the charm of southern living and hundreds and hundreds of event planners, floral shop employees, caterers, DJs, wedding consultants, and several other occupations depend on these places to give their clients the day of their dreams. People travel from all over the country to spend money in this town driven by these outdoor events. And your bill wants to take that away from people.

I can't understand why you want to introduce this bill. Can you explain it to me? Do you have a laundry list of complaints from neighbors of these venues? Do you just not like these venues? What is your reasoning?

From what I can tell, the Board of Zoning Appeals has, on multiple occasions, ruled that the property is the entire property -- not just the inside of the home. For someone such as yourself who used to work the real estate industry, I would expect that you would understand this.

Councilman Withers, it seems to me that you are entering into a fight that you cannot win and probably shouldn't enter in the first place. One needs only to look as far as the hubris exhibited by Aerial Development in their recent Shelby Hills campaign to see that neighborhoods belong to all of the residents and not a select few.

I have copied my councilman (Jeremy Elrod) on this email and am imploring him to oppose your proposal. This is bad for business, bad for you Councilman Withers, bad for Nashville, and just plain mean.


Stephen P Bohn

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Aerial Development has a wishbone where it's backbone oughtta be

If you have spent any time online in the past few days and you live in Nashville, you have probably seen this video from Aerial Development Group. Take a few minutes and watch it.
If you didn't watch it, it feels like the outtakes from a Mumford and Sons video. Maybe from the third single from their record. You know, the single that no one really cares about? That one.

I saw the above video on a friend's Facebook page a few days ago and wasn't sure if it was parody. Turns out that it isn't. It is, however, representative of everything that is wrong with "New Nashville" summed up in three minutes of everything I hate. Except for the part where people drink wine. Wine is pretty ok. 

As this video started making the rounds, the real parodies started rolling in. Good ones, like the one that my friend Casey made -- I'd post a link to it but he received a cease and desist letter from Aerial's lawyers and had to take it down. Of course, this just raised the level of awareness of the above video and led to Casey being featured on Channel 4 news yesterday (which can be viewed here) and an interview with The Tennessean. And, my, how the vitriol has poured in for Aerial.

This Nashville depicted in Aerial's video is not the Nashville that I know and love. I've lived here for a decade (yes, I am a dreaded 'transplant') and have lived in three different houses on the east side. When I bought my house two years ago, I looked at buying in East Nashville but it was largely out of my price range. Nothing but tall and skinnies as a far as the eye can see.

The Nashville I know and love are the artists, the creatives, the people that work 50 hours a week so that they can have a studio in their home. The people that bounce around in a van, driving from state to state for questionable at best return on their investment. The people that rebuilt this city on rock and roll five years ago. 

A perfunctory googling (hmm... didn't think that was a word but it appears that it is) of Aerial Development will lead you down a rabbit hole that has been carefully cultivated. You'll find pop music houses for the masses and designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of out-of-state Nashville soap opera viewers. If you're lucky and haven't been banned from their social media pages (like I seem to have been), you'll find Ikea's wet dream full of Edison bulbs and oh so perfect shelving units fashioned from reclaimed barn wood.

Times change, neighborhoods change, and people change. But the best way to change time, neighborhoods, and people is to let a time, neighborhood, and person do it intrinsically. 

You can't will a culture into existence, Aerial. You can't sell a dream to people who are already living theirs. You can't shut people up with by banning them from your social media (some of us are pretty smart and can get the information other ways). You can't cry when the other guy hits back. And you can't have a wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dear Councilman Glover

TL; DR: Councilman Steve Glover is threatening to withhold $28million for improvement projects for southeast Nashville if the plan that he supports to relocate the downtown jail is not passed by city council. Below is the letter that I wrote to him. He can be reached at if you are interested in contacting him.

Mr. Glover,

After reading the analysis of your plan for the relocation of the jail, I must let you know that I, as a resident, relatively new homeowner, and taxpayer of southeast Nashville, am very disappointed on a number of fronts. As an elected official, you work for the people that elected you. You do your best to serve the interests of the city at large at not just a part of it which is what you are doing here: namely the downtown area. You claim that the city would benefit greatly from the sale of the property of the current jail in downtown through not only the influx of cash from the sale itself but tax dollars as a long-term result. If the city were in dire straits financially, I might be inclined to agree. But the recent explosion of new buildings (both public and private) indicates otherwise.

You're still entitled to your opinion of where the jail should be (relocated or not) just as everyone else is. Your cavalier attitude toward not understanding "what all the ruckus is because there's already jails out here," is a shame. Just because a necessary evil already exists doesn't mean that it should be compounded. What grinds my gears, though, you threatening to block "funding for a new Cane Ridge Elementary School, a new community center in the Smith Springs area, a new Head Start facility and upgrades to Una Recreation park." (according to The Tennessean) if the plan to relocate the jail fails. You're threatening current residents by withholding a well-deserved community center. You're threatening current residents by withholding well-deserved upgrades to Una Rec Park. But more importantly than those, you're threatening children who certainly could benefit from a new Head Start facility and elementary school. If you were to ask anyone who lives in this community what they would rather invest in, I would wager that most of them would side with education and recreation as opposed to a correctional facility that would only seek to benefit future tax revenues of Downtown.

Southeast Nashville is a growing and rapidly developing area in our town. There's an awful lot to offer here: excellent food that, thankfully, the culinary country at large hasn't found out about yet; homes for those of us, like myself, who recently bought their first house can afford (all those new private 'tall-and-skinny' homes that are popping up in East Nashville just look terrible and cost way too much money); improving recreational options (my dog loves the new William Pitts dog park that's just a few miles away); and a whole host of other things.

You said it yourself: "At the risk of sounding rude, I don't see where it's going to hurt anything." Your shortsightedness into investing into the community in the interest of tax dollars makes you sound smug, arrogant, and totally unconcerned with the thousands of people who live and work in this part of town. And I don't care in the least if that makes me sound rude.

I'd suggest taking a long hard look at your plan and re-evaluate where your priorities lie, Mr. Glover, and maybe take a visit to the southeast side sometime. You'll find out that we've got lots of good things going on here and would like lots more to happen in the future. You're in a unique position to help make that happen and I hope that you leverage that opportunity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Return of "The Somethingth (sort of) Annual Give Flowers to a Single Lady in Nashville" Giveaway

Of course I have a date for Valentine's Day. It's February 14th.

- Or -

It's Valentine's Day again. Crap. I forgot to get a girlfriend.

Whichever makes you happiest.

Well, so here we are at the end of January... Two and a half weeks until Valentine's Day. Ah, yes... You know the drill. When a man puts on his finest suit, combs his hair, and reserves the finest table and waiter at the most hallowed of restaurants: White Castle. Candies are purchased from the finest chocolatier in all the land (that's CVS, by the way), a beautiful young woman spritzes on perfume, and waits patiently for Johnny Hero to show up in his mid-sized sedan for a night of romance, intrigue, and possibly a semi-drunken makeout session. Or whatever it is people do. I'm not sure. I don't have a date for Valentine's Day and (Tinder miracles not withstanding) that probably isn't going to change. That's ok.

The best job I've ever had, and let's face at this point in the game unless someone is going to pay me to be a combination Indiana Jones / beer drinker / nature photographer / hot tub tester, that's probably as good as it's ever gonna get for me. Plus, you know, I'm on Tinder and The Cupe so you can imagine how well my dating life is going. I pretty much just sleep on a pile of money with my dog comfortably nestled at my feet in front of my television... And... Uh... Why am I on dating sites again? Oh, yeah. Love.

As a result of my casual employment at A Village of Flowers, I've been asked to deliver flowers for them again this upcoming Valentine's Day. This is where things get awesome for you. IF: - You are single. - You are a lady. - You live in the Nashville area.

Why? Because you can enter the "The Somethingth (sort of) Annual Give Flowers to a Single Lady in Nashville" Giveaway. It's not a contest. It's a giveaway. You don't have to go out on a date with me. You don't have to cook me dinner. You don't even have to wait for me in my mid-size sedan. Well, actually, you kinda do. I'll be delivering the flowers that evening so I guess you'd have to be available to get them. But really, that's it. Pretty simple. One 'lucky' lady in the Nashville area will get a delivery of flowers from me delivered to them by me wearing a sport coat owned by me in a car being financed by me on the evening of February 14th.

You can send me an email at stephenpbohn at gmail dot com if you're interested in the giveaway. Or leave a comment below.