las vegas

Harris Springs Canyon

(Desert Trails can be deceptively dangerous.  You need more water than you think you need and you won’t see very many people, if any.  Carry extra water!)

With one of my kids now in High School, its adjusted my morning running schedule.  The nice side effect though is if I drive her to school, I’m closer to trails.  I’ve been exploring an area on the far North West end of the developed portion of the Las Vegas valley.

This weekend I was finally able to get further along the trail than before.  My ultimate goal with this trail is the circumnavigate the mountain.  Not sure the name of the mountain and my google-kung fu was inconclusive.  However, given that there is a Harris mountain in the La Madre range and the wash and road is Harris Springs canyon, I’d guess the mountain is Harris.

Google Map

I went about 6 miles into the trail.  If I were traveling to do this trail I’d find somewhere to park along Kyle Canyon road to shave several miles off the route.  But the most convenient starting point for me is at the intersection of Grand Teton Road and Pole Line road.

If you are coming to town and want to do a trail besides the obvious ones in the Red Rock area, this is a nice easy route.  This is an awesome non-technical trail with both single track and double track in the area paralleling the wash.

Hopefully next weekend I’ll get out and complete the trail.  I figure I probably need to budget for a 20 mile run to complete this route.  I’ve already done some sections on the back side so I don’t anticipate a significant change in the difficulty.

 

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Vegas Trails and almost taper time

I’ve been progressing steadily towards my third attempt @ 50 miles.  In order to shake it up a bit I’ve been running some trails near my house.  Plus my upcoming race is a desert trail race so I can claim I’m simulating race conditions  🙂

Two of the trails are Gateway Canyon and Brownstone Trail.  Both have the same trail head if you go my way.  I park @ Desert Moon & Sky Vista, the end of the civilized world right now.  Though home construction has started back up again so by the time you read this you might be parking a little closer.

Either trail you take, the first few miles are going to be cleared rocky service roads,  The Brownstone road is boring for 2-3 miles but it gets more fun.  Gateway is a utility pole road but it is more trail like so it is still fun to run.

GATEWAY CANYON

Gateway Canyon

Gateway Canyon itself is a fun narrow canyon with some rock scrambling.  Nothing crazy but you will have to climb up some boulders — you probably could run the canyon if you start on the west side but I come in from the east.

Entrance to east end of gateway canyon

View of the east end of gateway canyon

The canyon has some neat spiral colors on the rocks, but I’m not the best photographer so I don’t have pictures of those.

You have several options once you get to the end of the canyon.  I turn left and run towards the small town of Calico Basin and turn the run into a 12 mile loop. You can push on and get into the main part of Red Rock and turn it into a 15+ mile loop, or if you go right you’ll turn into the better part of the Brownstone trail.

Near west enterance to gateway canyon

Heading towards Calico Basin

Rocks in Gateway Canyon

The only picture I think I took inside the canyon. Oh well

BROWNSTONE TRAIL

Brownstone Trail

Gateway canyon is fun to run, but I felt that the brownstone trail had better views.  Brownstone Trail Near Brownstone Trail

Once you get off of the cleared road, you are running up a wash – like running in sand, except with rocks.

Thanks — and remember its a desert.  Bring more water than you think you need.

Labor of Love 50 Miler (ok, maybe just a Marathon)

Labor of Love 50Mile (Or maybe Marathon) Race Report

Just before LOL 2015 Race Start

Just before LOL 2015 Race Start

Saturday was my second attempt at 50 Miles. I had my strategy down, had my training down…

Joyce with Calico Racing always puts on well organized events.  She knows many of her runners by name.  Aid stations were every 2 miles or so and nicely stocked for a road race (though maybe a bit sparse if you are used to ultra aid stations).

The course is a road course about an hour from home.  The starting line is around 4,500 feet, about 2,000 feet higher than Vegas.  Not that much elevation but I need to set up my excuses for race performance  :-).

Starting temp around 60-70 with a high in the low 80s.  Not particularly hot for me but hotter than it has been  (More set up for excuses).

The course is an 11 mile out and back with some repeat sections to get to the magic 26.2, 50k, or 50 Mile depending on the race.   Its about a 5-6 mile rise, then a steap descent (for a road race) for 3 miles and then more climbing.  The marathon has about 2,000 feet of climbing (4,000 overall for the 50 mile course).

Asthetically the course is nice, scrubby desert ‘forest’.  The landscape doesn’t change much but the road has enough bends in it that the terrain doesn’t get monotonous.

LOL 2015

Ok, back to the race.  The race had about 250+ runners.  80 toed the start line for the Marathon and beyond distance (13 of those were 50 milers).

I set a very slow 14 minute/mile goal pace, which would give me plenty of lee way for the 15 minute/mile cut off.  Did a decent job of keeping my pace down, I was running 12-13 minute pace and on the uphill section to boot but I kept my pace down.  Yay!

The 5-6 mile climb was ok, it wasn’t that steep but it was never ending.  My legs didn’t feel as fresh as they should have been.  The climb was slowly doing its thing to me and then the Sun started to do its thing to me as well.  Not much mind you, just slowly and relentlessly trying to stop my forward motion.

Did the extra lap at the top of the course and was able to figure out that there were 2 50 milers behind me at the 13 mile mark.  I was a little more tired than I wanted to be, but this was the start of the downhill section and I had time in the bank so I should be able to recover.

But around mile 18 was the big climb (the descent on the way up the canyon).  I mostly walked up the climb, but even that was too intense for what was going on in my stomach.  By the time I crested the hill my ‘health’ was fading.

This is a picture of the descent.  You can see the road off to the left of the picture

This is a picture of the descent. You can see the road off to the left.

I made it to the mile 23 aid station and was able to sit down for a bit.  Despite nausea, I knew I could complete at least marathon distance and so trudged on.  That was not a fun 3.2 miles but I did it.  I crossed the mat and downgraded to a marathon.

I then went over to the ultra aid station to get a soda and was told that they were trying to save the soda for the ultra runners.  Ouch.  I knew I should have gone to the aid station before downgrading.  🙂

So What went wrong?

I expected problems going into the race.  About a month before the race I did a 50k training run with no problems.  But a little more than a week before the race I ran into nausea problems doing a 20 mile run.  The difference is tempature.

During the winter I can run 10+ miles without water but during the summer it takes me 60-80 ounces of water to cover the same distance.  Over the past 2 weeks tempatures have climbed but I’m not acclimated to it yet.

My theory is I was taking in more liquids than my body could handle.  When I added the last climb to the heat, higher elevation, and the miles my stomach finally rebelled.

Oh, and of the 13 or so starters, there were only 7 50 mile finishers so I wasn’t the only one who downwgraded to a shorter distance.

E

Ed’s 50k Red Rock Canyon Run 3/19/2015

I had some PTO time to burn up so i took Thursday off to do a 50K long run.  Never mind that I was still recovering from my Marathon a while back and hadn’t run for 2 weeks.

I mapped out a a nice route.  From Red Rock Station (NV159 & I215) to NV160 (NV159 & NV 160) is 15 Miles.  Then to make it a loop instead of an out and back, I went a bit east on 160 until I hit Fort Apache and then took that back to I215 and followed I215 back to my car

Ed’s Red Rock 50k Route

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This is a pretty nice part of town and there were a few people out for their morning run or bike.

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After a little bit you get into undeveloped desert.  This whole section runs through Red Rock canyon.  Very pretty place to run.  No burros were on the road today though I did see 1 on a hill.  I was excited to see 2 coyotes run across the road.

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NV159 has a nice wide shoulder.  There are very few large vehicles on this section so you should feel very safe, even when it gets busy.  As you get closer to NV160 there will be more large vehicles as there are some Gypsum mines/plants.

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My last marathon was at the Red Rock Canyon loop.  I ran by the entrance and exit to the loop but that wasn’t part of my route today.  Which was fortunate.  The loop has more elevation change than the route I mapped out.  I believe I started around 2800 feet and peaked out around 3600 feet and bottomed out around 2600.

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I finally made it to NV160.  NV160 is a busy road with a lot of large vehicles moving pretty fast.  Fortunately the side of the road is a wide packed dirt shoulder.

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Fort Apache @ NV160 probably isn’t the best road to run on.  Very narrow paved shoulder and the gravel shoulder has several obstructions.  At one point, there is a blind curve and no gravel so you have to run on the road.  What makes this more harrowing is the heavy construction and gravel truck traffic.  Maybe the weekend traffic is safer.

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By the time I got to Wet and Wild water park the road was fully improved with sidewalks.

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Part of the reason I went this direction was because there is an urban trail that follows I-215.  I drive by it all the time and a trail that I haven’t run on always seems to call me.  Plus running a city street with traffic lights stops every mile isn’t the funnest.

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One of the signature items on this urban trail is the Town Center pedestrian bridge.  By the time I got to the bridge I had to debate if I really wanted to climb the switch backs or simply walk across the road – I took the bridge.

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I was able to complete this run with no acute pains and no nausea! Somewhere around mile 20-25 I ran out of legs so that may be a problem for a 50 miler.  And I don’t think nausea was too far away.  But this run was definitely a win and it really boosts my confidence for longer distances.

Calico Racing Red Rock Marathon 2015

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The 2015 Calico Red Rock marathon is my first race since recovering from my leg injury.  In 2014 I injured my leg during Calico Racing’s Twilight Red Rock run, which is the same course, just in the dark.  I “ran” the 5k option of the race with my kids.  I was training for a 100k so my mileage was higher than normal.  I could ‘feel’ that an injury was coming, but I had to run with my kids!

My legs seem to be recovered and I’m back to my normal mileage – though slower than in the past.  I intend to run a 50 mile race this year and need to be able to run these longer distances without injury – If I can’t complete a Marathon with healthy legs, how can I complete a double marathon?

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So I set out to run this race nice and slow with no thought to pace.  The course is a 13 mile out and back, climb for 6 1/2 miles and descend for 6 1/2 miles then run (walk?) back.  The half marathon starts an hour later and does the “return” leg of the marathon.

Since the start is uphill, keeping pace down isn’t too difficult – although it’s still tough to keep pace down when people are passing me.  But the wonderful downhill.   How can you not open your legs up and fly down the mountain?  The half marathon runners are spread out across my downhill.  It’s just so much fun to fly by someone, it just feels like you are showing them how awesome an athlete you are.  Never mind that I was at the back of the pack and nearly every other full marathon runner had already passed them.

This was the second time I ran this race.  I knew I needed to keep my pace down on the downhill.  But I didn’t and I paid for it on the return trip.  Not sure how but my left ankle is now swollen and I have a slight twinge on my right knee.  Over extending?  It’s my normal reoccurring problem.  So my return trip was mostly walking back.

If my goal was to race, this would have disappointed me.  I had the cardio-vascular strength tocontinue running but it was hurting my ankle and knee.  So I just had fun listening to my iPhone and staying fast enough to stop anyone else from passing me.

There isn’t a nicer on-road course in the southwest for either distance.  It’s challenging with the hill climbs, but it’s not a mean climb.  The road is still open to traffic, but it’s one way traffic and the entire 13.1 miles of the course is coned off (That’s a lot of work! 13 miles of setting cones and then 13 miles of picking them up!).

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As for my results, I finished in around 5:15.  I had fun but I did have more injury than I wanted in a lead up to a 50 Mile.  Fortunately I have some PTO time to burn this month.  I’ve mapped out a neat 30 mile course to try.  Perhaps getting a few more really longs run in will help my diagnosis some changes before the 50 Mile race I’m eyeing gets too close.

Las Vegas 100

So I’m thinking of running a 100k race in October – Las Vegas 100. I know, I DNFd doing a 50 Mile. However the race falls during a good time and they don’t have a 50 mile option.

First the course. It is a loop course in a park. When I first started thinking about Ultras, loop courses seemed boring. Perhaps loops are boring, but after running a 50 mile race I see a lot of advantages. The race advertises that the loops are 10, 7, and 5 miles long depending on the loop. But really, the loops are zig zaggy in the same desert lot so it really is 100k of mostly the same scenery over and over again.

So what are the advantages?

* There aren’t many Ultra races within 5 miles of my house. I can do this race with the only expense being the race entry fee and supplies.

* I saw how much work it is for my race crew (AKA Wife). In a point to point 50 mile race it is a long day for the crew, especially when she isn’t into racing. With a loop course, the aid station is always in the same place.

* The course is at a park. While I’ll be mostly running in the desert, the park is large, grassy, and has duck ponds (and other animals). My extended crew can picnic and play at the park.

* After awhile, the scenery doesn’t matter (I hope). It’s me versus the race.

* Loops = more people to talk to? In my last race, as the field spread apart, there wasn’t anyone around.

How am I going to avoid 2 DNFs in a row?

* Pace Pace Pace.  I’ve taken to wearing a heart rate monitor again.  I’m going to try and keep my heart rate down below 160.  Probably in the 140s.  Still trying to figure it out.  Regardless, the HRM will keep me dialed back.

* I’ve been running with a light total knee compression wrap.  It seems to be working.  It also helps to remind me from time to time to work on running mechanics.

* Caffeine!  Not sure how I’m going to do it yet, but hopefully caffeine will keep me perked up at the end.

* Training.  I’m trying to get my weekly mileage up to 50 miles and I’m more serious about the training.

Now I just have to find a pacer.

Ed

Running in the Heat

Running in the heat

 

I run all the time during the summer.  For a ‘bread and butter’ run I’ll just wake up early.  But I love to run when its crazy hot out.  Probably for the same reason why I run far.  I do it because its hard.

When I started running I listened to podcasts and read articles on running.  I don’t know, but I think that every article on running is written by people that live in locations where a hot day is 75 degrees.

Here in Vegas, the average LOW temperature in July is 81.  But it’s a dry heat right?  That might be one of the silliest thing anyone can possibly say.  I’m sure running in high humidity is not fun, but when you go out running in 105 degree weather and 5-10% humidity, the sun just fries you to a crisp.  If you run on asphalt, you can feel the heat coming up through your shoes (Don’t try that barefoot running thing on asphalt during the summer in Vegas!)

High heat is extremely dangerous.  It seems every year there is some poor soul who dies on a trail only a mile from the trailhead.  It seems so ridiculous and it could never happen to you.  WRONG.  You may be a strong runner.  You may even be used to the desert.  Running in the heat can kill you if you don’t take precautions.  High heat is oppressive and it smells weakness.  As soon as it beats you down there is no getting back.

These are 2 articles from 2013 that all occurred in the Vegas area to hikers:

Scout Leader Death

Gold Strike Canyon Death

 

Rule #1 You don’t have enough water.

The amount of water you need seems to grow exponentially.  When it’s 60-70 degrees out I can do 10 miles without water.  I won’t be happy, but 10 miles with no support is no big deal.  When it gets hot, that same run will take 40-80 ounces of water to keep me going.  And I’ll be very thirsty the rest of the day.

It is very important to consider resupply. What if something happens during the run?  What if the you can’t sustain the run?  That quantity of water isn’t a convenience, it is a requirement.  If you walk or get sick you will need more water.  How are you going to obtain it?

Seriously, you need to carry more water.

 

Rule #2  Sunlight is Heavy

This sounds funny but it’s true.  The heat is oppressive, it’s hard to describe the feel, but it’s as if you are carrying an additional 5-20 pounds or more with you on the run.  It’s not like cold or wind or other inclement conditions, heat is it’s own inclement weather with its own challenges.  The heat and the glare weigh you down.  If there is no breeze, the oxygen in the air feels wrong.  If there is a breeze, it feels like a convection oven.  It cooks you faster.

You will fatigue faster than you think.  How are you going to get back to the start?  The combination of fatigue and lack of water is why people die only a short distance from safety.  You must be careful.  EVERYONE can handle 1 mile of outdoors and yet people can still die less than 1 mile from safety.

 

Rule #3  Every exposed piece of skin will burn in less than 30 minutes

I tan well.  But desert running requires protection.  I will burn fast without protection when I run during the day.  Sunburns hurt.  Wear a hat.  My hair used to do a better job protecting my head, but not so much anymore.

 

Some other things to consider

#  Water gets hot

A nice cold drink of water sounds so refreshing on a long run during the summer.  However, your water will quickly approach the ambient air temperature. 100 degree water works, but it isn’t very enjoyable.

I sometimes use Hammer Perpetuem.  It’s a creamy electrolyte drink.   On a 100 degree run it turns into a warm slimey slightly curdled? milk drink–Yummy.  It probably isn’t that bad, but heat changes what sounds good.  When I’m 90 minutes into a run, hot Perpetum sounds as good as spoiled milk on the run.  Be sure your nutrition plan makes sense when you are over heating.

# Municipal water sources in the desert taste bad.

If you are running in an urban area you might be counting on drinking fountains to resupply.  The desert southwest US has extremely hard water.  Its perfectly fine to drink but it doesn’t taste good, even less so when it is warm.  Oh, and the water from a drinking fountain will be nearly scalding hot for about 15 seconds.  Let the fountain run a bit and “cooler” water will show up.

# Don’t count on drinking fountains

You know about Murphy’s law right?  If you have plenty of water, all the drinking fountains will work.  But if you don’t have enough water, they will be turned off.  Even if they do work, maybe only a dribble comes out, not enough to refill a bottle.

This can be a real problem in my area late in the summer season/early fall.  “They” like to shut off the fountains so that pipes don’t freeze.  Never mind that it’s still 90 out during the day.  There must be some crazy maintenance calendar that “they” like to follow regardless of common sense.

I do resupply out of drinking fountains from time to time, but the water tastes bad and occasionally I run into problems.  Just be careful.

 

Running in extreme temperatures is a great challenge, but you need to be serious about it.  Think about what you are doing and have a plan.

 

e

 

The Best Kept Free Secret Family Outing

 

This past weekend my daughters and I volunteered at Calico Racing’s Lovell Canyon race.  We try to volunteer at a couple of races each year.  If you haven’t worked an aid station before, you just gotta try it.

For me, as a runner, working an aid station is part ‘race day excitement’ and part ‘day at the beach’.  I love driving the course to my station.  Passing the starting line with the runners getting warmed up and driving to my table!  It’s also a great family adventure.  Wake up crazy early, drive to a remote area, and work and play for a few hours.

I think ‘day at the beach’ attitude is what you need to make this fun.  I’ve only worked races with a few hundred+ runners (I’ve never worked a major 10,000+ person race, it sounds more like work than fun).  The actual job is simple, fill up cups with drinks and hand it to runners.  But we want fun so we’ve started decorating with flamingos and wearing goofy looking hats, we cook ourselves breakfast, and just play the whole time.

The craziest thing is its free!  I’d pay to work an aid station and yet some Race Directors give out T-Shirts and credit for future races.  Really!  You are front line in a sporting event, participating, and its free!

Even if you aren’t a runner this should be a fun crazy thing to do with your friends and family!

 

Key points to keep in mind:

  • I like small time races.  You have a few of the fast runners, then the bulk of the crowd, then the stragglers.  Plenty of time to play.
  • Not all aid stations have chairs.  Bring your own.
  • You will be outside for hours.  It may be very cold at the start and very hot at the finish.  Even if it is rainy or windy, the race will go on.
  • Bring your own food.  Some directors might feed you but don’t count on it.
  • Race Directors are crazy busy on race day, and probably are living on caffeine so they might seem jumpy and grumpy – Show up on time or earlier and be helpful.
  • People running the race are generally out having fun, but they are racing.  Make sure your kids don’t slow them down.
  • Handing water to a runner who is racing can be challenging.  They don’t want to slow down and if you mess it up they won’t stop.  They’ll run the next 1-2 miles without water.
  • If you have time constraints, tell the race director in advance (NOT ON RACE DAY).

Black and White decision part 3

Hello:

I previously wrote about how I try and balance rules with practical considerations.  I believe my rules are 100% correct, if I thought otherwise I’d change the rule.  However, I try and balance my “perfect” rule with another principal I believe equally strongly in – independence.  I believe you should agree with me and be willingly to follow my rule, but I have no desire to force you.  If you disagree with me, it doesn’t really bother me.

But I run a household.  How can I balance my role as a leader in my home to all the crazy rules I like to come up with?  It actually hasn’t been challenging to come to an agreement with my wife, we have very similar personalities.  I simply state my case and my decision and let her make her own call.  She tends to respect my leadership in a decision and usually follows it, even if the rule seems (is?) crazy.

Where rules cause heart ache is with my kids.  I want my kids to have and do everything, but much of Las Vegas is centered around casinos.  Bowling, movies, restaurants, meeting rooms, even something as benign as a school field trip to an aquarium is centered around a casino.  I don’t want to force my rules on others, but I believe casinos are wrong and I’m supposed to train my child – even if my Church holds a less dramatic position.

My oldest child is now able to go to church “teen group” activities.  The signature event is a teen all-nighter with various activities, including bowling at a casino.  And it was really really important to my daughter to attend.  The event is chaperoned, and the group is filled with “good” church-kids.  Bowling has a separate non-casino entrance.  How important are my rules?  That was the challenge I was facing.

God can be funny.  The purpose of the law is that of a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24).  School works best when you think upon the rules.  While I was internally debating my rule, I heard the pastor that runs the event speak.  I don’t recall message, but he had 2 relevant illustrations.  He talked about an inappropriate incident that occurred while his family was watching the Bellagio fountains and another inappropriate incident that occurred at the bowling alley at a prior year’s teen event.  I believe the message was some sort of leadership message as both incidents ended safely because of strong leadership.

But those incidents confirmed my rule.  Consider this:  What do you think when you hear of a person placed in a bad situation that continues to stand for what is right?   That’s the type of child I want to raise – one that does right even in adversity.  But is that a biblically good situation to be in?  Aren’t you supposed to ask God to keep you away from temptation and evil (Matt 6:13)?  My child is not being blessed if they are being tempted, rather they are being blessed if they are not tempted.  A Christian should not unnecessarily place themselves in an evil situation.

Sometimes target fixation occurs.  I believe it was my wife that pointed out the solution.   I wasn’t opposed to the event in general, just the bowling portion, which occurred towards the end of the night.   Just leave early. Duh.

My daughter wasn’t pleased with that solution, but it was better than staying home.

Thanks,

Ed

Black and White decisions in Las Vegas – 2

One of my first attempts to apply my no-casino rule was during a convention at the Mirage.  I wanted to go to the convention, it was for work.  I decided I would enter the casino like normal but from the convention center area I would figure a way back to my car that avoided the casino.  Perhaps you know a better way, but I couldn’t find a direct route.  I ended up going through back alleys and walking around the backside of the building.

It was far from convenient and I while I could exit that way, I wasn’t sure I could enter the same way.  My ‘rule’ was facing a crisis.  I had a work obligation that conflicted with a personal conviction.  Out of a practical need I modified my “rule” from a blanket prohibition on casinos to a more flexible rule of “avoid casinos and never go when you don’t have to.”

At the time, I was making a practical compromise, but let me share with you a bible principal that supports this type of compromise. 2 King 5 tells the often told story of Elisha and Naamen.  Towards the end of the story Naamen is converted.  However he has a problem (2 King 5:18-19) – he is servant of his King, and when his King goes to the “false” church, Naamen is obligated to worship this false god.  Worshipping a false god is a grave sin – it’s as black and white of a religious rule as you can find in the Bible, you DO NOT EVER worship a false god.

God, through Elisha never tells Naamen that he can worship a false god.  Elisha simply acknowledges the problem and bids him to go in peace.

Where rules don’t work is the ‘user’ of the rule often forgets the principal of the rule, the heart and emotion that the rule is based on.  I am not satisfied with my compromise, but I can go into a casino with a pure conscience.  And by putting my rule under such direct fire and realizing that even though my ‘black and white’ position is correct, I’m still in a casino.  It is difficult to cast self-righteous stones at you when I’m in the same place you are.

Thanks

Ed