A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Seven


A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

Karalynn and a man dressed in black cargo pants got into the van with Jennifer after a brief reunion. They drove two blocks and then stopped again. Karalynn jumped out and ran to a key pad on a massive iron gate that spanned the road. Melanie looked at Mitchel and raised her eyebrows as the gate opened. Mitchel gave her a tight-lipped smile. He drove down the long driveway behind Jennifer’s van. A large farmhouse with a wraparound porch at the end was blacked out, no lights. A white picket fence surrounded the home and property. Two horses stood silent in the pasture to the south.

When they came to a stop, three men in black cargo pants stepped out of the shadows. The man who had gotten in the van with Jennifer jumped out and approached the three. One of them came toward Mitchel’s window the other two made their way toward the two vehicles following them.

Mitchel rolled the window down.

“Welcome to the Christopoulos home. One second while we check the perimeter.”

Mitchel nodded. His expression serious.

Five minutes later, they all sat around the heavy oak kitchen table at Karalynn’s spare folding chairs had been brought in from the garage. The tile floor was a mosaic of lime green and lemon yellow. Sky blue curtains framed the windows, which had fitted boards in them blocking anyone from peering inside.

“Are the security guards really necessary?” Jennifer asked, cocking her head to the side and raising her eyebrows.

Karalynn pressed her thin lips tightly between her teeth and nodded her head. She was a small athletic looking woman of forty. Her husband, Galen, brushed a stray strand of her shoulder-length black hair from her face and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

“Unfortunately, they became necessary shortly after J-day. We didn’t want to believe it either, but when an AK47 became as prevalent as a woman’s handbag, there was no way I was sending my children to school or my wife to the store without a trained entourage,” Galen said.

Galen and Karalynn met when Jennifer and Karalynn had gone to Greece for spring break in their freshman year of college. They returned every year after that and on their last trip, Galen proposed to Karalynn. They have been inseparable since then.

Karalynn leaned against Galen’s sturdy form. “The neighborhood pooled money to have the iron gate installed and all the men take turns on the night guard.”

“People are shot in the streets daily, women, children, and elderly. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think the local officers can even keep track of who is shooting who, even with the SAFE chips and Homeland Security chasing down the Scrubs,” Galen said.

“There are Scrubs here?” Seth asked. Melanie had forgotten he was here until then. He had been standing behind her and Mitchel, but stepped forward now.

Galen nodded. “They come in two types here. Most are just what remains of the hippy movement they just want to live off the grid and then there are the hunters.”

“The hunters?” Seth asked.

“The ones who are out there killing just to kill. They psychologist on the news the other night said they get some thrill out of killing in broad daylight, the shock and horror of spectators feeds their sickness,” Galen said.

“How does Homeland know the difference?” Mitchel asked.

Galen shrugged. “They don’t.”

“Why do you stay here?” Melanie asked. “If it’s so dangerous?”

“We will be moving to Greece permanently as soon as our passports are renewed. As you can imagine, they are taking longer than usual now,” Galen said.

“Oh, I’ll bet,” Richard said. “Especially when folks began to realize that vigilante justice was not all it’s cracked up to be.” He shook his head and drained the rest of his beer.

Melanie looked down at the hot chocolate in her violet mug. A couple of crunchy marshmallows remained afloat. She poked at them with her finger.

Melanie’s eyes pled with her mother. “How long are we going to be here?” she asked, not wanting to sound rude, but growing anxious with the amount of daylight violence in the bigger city. She had known it was going to be worse here. The violence has increased ever since the war and it was actually the inciting reason that the Justice Law was passed. This whole time somewhere inside her childish mind she had made herself believe that it wasn’t as bad as the television reports had made it seem. But it was.

Jennifer’s expression softened. “Not long, a few days perhaps. We need to plan our route, gather supplies, and probably less a vehicle or two?”

She looked back and forth between Mitchel and Seth, neither of who would look at her. Mitchel stared into his own hot chocolate. Seth cleaned his the grime from under his fingernails.

Melanie, Jennifer, and Sam shared the guest room with a king size bed. Melanie watched as her mother got Sam ready for bed as if nothing had changed. Jennifer put Sam in the bath and sang while she washed her hair, just like at home. Then she brushed out Sam’s long hair, read her chapter from Black Beauty, and tucked her into the bed they were all sharing. Sam was in the middle and Daisy turned in circles at their feet until she found just the right position and collapsed.

Seth and Mitchel were in the second guest room. Holly and her family decided to stay in their trailer, despite there being plenty of space for them in the house. Richard had mumbled something about liking to know where all the exits and entrances were.

Melanie stared at the white ceiling. Her eyes followed the ridges that resembled the parched earth of a desert.

Rising Sun

Pony Express 100 2014 002

Nearly all of my runs start before the sun has begun to brighten the sky. As the fingers of pink, yellow, and orange stretch into the spreading pale blue, my spirits rise. It doesn’t matter if I’m at mile 3 or mile 93 the rise of the sun always brings hope and joy.

Some of this is due to the rise in serotonin levels in the brain. But I also think that it is tied to instinctual knowledge that has been ingrained in all life since the beginning of time. The world becomes cold and dark and then it becomes bright and warm.

This cycle is just a part of life and a part of every run. There are miles of darkness and miles of brightness. There are many causes of this up and down swing during running, sugar depletion, mental doubt, and aches and pains. You can get through this by remembering that it always comes back up. Give it a few miles, the sun will once again rise.

Our training goes through cycles too. We deliberately put ups and downs in our training programs to allow for recovery and building. There are weeks were we are just beat and our times are all off, and then there are weeks where we crush every obstacle that dares to attempt to block our path.

All of the runners I coach, come to me at some point disappointed in their times or telling me how they struggled through a run which is normally very easy for them. I remind them that it can’t be sunny all the time and it can’t be dark all the time. It will come back up, just stay focused on the training taking it one day at a time.


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self pub

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Hurt vs. Injured

injured runner

Distance running hurts. I’m not going to lie, sugarcoat it, or decorate it with balloons. It is just part of running a half marathon or farther. Of course, some people are more conditioned and it takes longer for them to hurt, but if they run far enough they all begin to hurt too.

Feet start to ache, you can feel every grove in the road, and every tiny pebble is like a two-inch nail piercing the bottom of your foot.

Ankles protest at the angle of the trail or the road as they lean from side to side.

Hamstrings and glutes scream as you push up another hill, flashing with heat and squeezing with vengeance.

Aches and pains come and stay with you for a mile and then they melt away, sometimes they come back sometimes they don’t.

Hurting is a part of the experience and as a distance runner you have to be able to work through it to keep going. Injury is a completely different ball game. I’m not referring to delayed onset muscle soreness, which we all experience when we push our muscles to new levels.

Wait, what?

Hurting and injury are different. You push through the hurt. You rest and recover for an injury.

I wish I could say that telling the difference between being hurt and being injured was always cut and dry, but it’s not.

Injury is marked by sharp pain in a centralized location, which may radiate, but has a definite starting point. Injury pain does not go away as you run either, in fact, many times it gets worse as you run. Injury pain also continues into the next day and longer. Many times it is worse in the morning and then decreases through the day. You can tie an injury to a specific moment in a run or a twist of an ankle, fall, or whatever.

Injury will alter your gait and potentially cause additional problems. Continuing to run on an injury will make things worse and lead to a chronic problem such as tendonitis. If you run while injured, it hurts as soon as you start.

Injury requires RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Hurting is more of an ache or bruised feeling. You can’t point to a particular spot that hurts because it’s the whole muscle or area. It lasts a day or two, but diminishes and then goes away. If you take one day between runs, it is very minimal on your next run or gone entirely. Sometimes, it will linger as a heavy or tired feeling.

Know your body and listen to it. Push through the hurt, but always rest an injury. This will keeping running for many more happy miles.


A Vigil for Justice: Episode Twenty-Six


A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

“I’m going to get your mom and Seth,” Mitchel said.

Melanie nodded her head, but didn’t turn to face him as she climbed the three steps into the fifth-wheel. Holly’s arms flew around Melanie. She returned the strangle hold. Her eyes drifted around the space, they were now calling home. Pale peach counter tops and walnut colored cupboards. Matching pillows sat in the corner of the square navy couch cushions.

“Why…” Melanie began.

“Let’s wait for everyone,” Richard said, sitting down next to his wife on the couch.

Finally, Holly released her, and Melanie nearly fell over with the sudden freedom. She took a few more steps into the room and sat in the recliner. She couldn’t believe they were leaving Blue River to come with her. They had everything they needed in Blue River. Mr. Stein had the militia all organized and patrolling the streets. What did he think was going to happen there? Who had he left in charge? Melanie realized she must look crazy staring off into space. She shook her head.

A knock came at the door.

Jennifer, Sam, Seth, and Mitchel came into the trailer.

Having eight people in the trailer was making Melanie feel just a little crowded. She combed her fingers through her hair. Jennifer slid into the horseshoe shaped booth. Sam and Seth slid in beside her.

Holly’s mom, Pauline, pulled out a package of Oreos and a bowl of fruit.

“Drinks?” she asked reaching into another cupboard for red plastic cups and small paper bowls.

“Scotch,” Melanie said and smiled as she rocked in the recliner.

“Ooo, me too,” said Holly, bouncing on the balls of her feet and grinning ear to ear.

Richard rolled his eyes and passed each of them a cup of ice water.

Sam tickled the fringe of the Oreo package and Jennifer nodded her head.

“Do you have any milk?” asked Sam.

“Yes I do,” said Pauline, opening the full size refrigerator. She poured the milk and set the cup in front of Sam.

Seth grabbed a few Oreos.

Sam pushed her milk over toward him. “We can share if you want.”

“I double dip,” he said cracking a smile and popping an entire cookie into his mouth.

Sam scrunched up her face. “Gross.” She slid her milk out of his reach and scooted closer to Jennifer.

Richard set his hat on his knee. “I’m sure you are wondering why we decided to leave.” He brushed the brim of the hat. “After the little demonstration on your front lawn, I realized that no matter what I did, I can’t talk reason into a bunch of frightened people. Living surrounded by frightened people who have guns, is not a risk I am willing to take with my family.”

Everyone was quiet for a full minute. Melanie had seen the fear on many people’s faces in Blue River. Of course they were all afraid, and it wouldn’t be different anywhere else, he had to understand that, which meant the Stein’s were going to the safe zone too.

“Jennifer—”  he began again, his eyes meeting Melanie’s mom’s.

Jennifer held up her hand. “We’re in this together Richard. Holly and Melanie have been best friends for years. I would be glad to have your family along for this trip.”

He smiled and put his hat back on his full head of dark close-cropped hair. “In that case, let’s get this pony show on the road.”

Melanie didn’t understand her mom’s quick judgment of others. Two weeks ago, her mother wouldn’t be caught dead holding a civil conversation with Richard Stein and now, he is bringing up the rear of their caravan. His willingness to let go of everything Jennifer had done to make his life a living hell over the last month didn’t surprise Melanie at all. He had always been quick to forgive Holly for her silly impulsive behavior.

“Know when to hold ‘em and when to let ‘em go.” He had told her once when she was pouting about something Holly had done. She didn’t even remember what she was angry at Holly about anymore, but she remembered that.

They all piled out of the fifth-wheel and into their own cars. Richard pulled out in front to set the pace, since he was the slowest pulling the trailer full of water. Jennifer was right behind him, then Seth, and then Melanie and Mitchel.

Melanie stroked Daisy’s silky black head. “Do you think we will ever be able to look at others without wondering if they have what it takes to kill us or those we love?”

When Mitchel didn’t answer, she moved her eyes to his face. Wrinkles creased his brow, as if he were deep in thought.

“What?” she asked.


“Don’t do that, don’t shut me out. What were you thinking about?”

He threw her a glance. “I’ve spent my entire life wondering when my father would kill me, Seth, or my mom. I’ve always looked at people through those eyes.”

It was dark when they reached Denver, around ten. Men clad in black from head to foot and carrying automatic rifles across their backs and in their hands strolled along the streets. They turned their piercing gaze to the line of vehicles rolling down the street. Daisy’s chest rumbled with a deep growl. The glass of ground floor windows in many of the buildings had been shattered. The headlights of their caravan caused the pieces of glass littering the ground to twinkle like fallen stars. Round and lumpy black and white garbage bags stood watch along the streets.

Jennifer had taken the lead position since she was the only one who knew where to go. Melanie pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed her mom’s number. Mitchel glanced over at her. Yellow light washed through the truck as they drove under the street lamps that were still working. She pressed the phone to her head.

“Mom, don’t slow down in the city. You know where you are going, right?”

“It’s been awhile, but I remember.” Jennifer’s voice vibrated.

“O.K. just go straight there. If the intersections are clear, I want you to go straight through don’t stop for red lights or stop signs.”

Jennifer was quiet.

They should have loaded everything into the trailer and made Sam and Jennifer ride with Richard. Melanie ground her teeth together.  They were coming to an intersection with a traffic light. Melanie watched the brake lights flicker on and off on her mom’s van as she began to slow. The intersection was empty.

“Mom. Don’t stop.”

The van began to sped back up and Jennifer went through the red light. Mitchel, Seth, and Richard all followed in the same fashion.

They went through a few more intersections and then pulled off the main road and began winding through the neighborhoods. Melanie relaxed and hung up the phone with her mom.

“We’re almost there she said. Karalynn’s house is about ten more minutes and it’s all neighborhoods,” Melanie said. Mitchel patted her thigh and pressed his lips into a thin smile. “It’ll be better during the day.”

The red glow of brake lights caused Mitchel to turn his attention back forward.

A group of people stood in the middle of the street, mostly men with rifles. Two cars parked on opposite sides of the road had floodlights illuminating the group. A tall man held up his hand and stepped forward.

Jennifer slowed down. Melanie’s stomach clenched. There was no way her mom would plow through a whole group of people.

Melanie pulled her 9 mm out of the holster under her arm. “Roll down the window, so we can hear.”

“Where are you headed?” the man called out. He had lowered the rifle and came to a stop about ten feet from the front of the van.

Mitchel brought the truck to a stop at a slight angle to the van. He reached under his seat, pulled out his gun, and checked that the magazine was in place. He slid a spare between his legs. Daisy sat up and looked around yawning.
“We are staying with friends who live down the street, Karalynn Hanson,” Jennifer called out the window.

The man lowered his rifle. “Jennifer Craig?” a woman’s voice came from the group. They moved aside and a small woman in sweats came jogging forward.

Jennifer opened the door of the van and got out running into the arms of her longtime friend.

The Curse of the Over Trained


If you are overtraining, you will feel tired, your legs feel like lead, you will not recover in the same amount of time as you usually do, and your friends and family will think you are grouchy. A solid way to determine if you have recovered from your previous day’s workout is to check your resting heart rate. First, you have to know what your resting heart rate is. You should take your pulse when you first get up in the morning before you have moved around. It is best if you can just wake up naturally (without the alarm) and count your heart rate for 30 seconds and times by two. That is your resting heart rate. If you get up in the morning and your heart rate is elevated, your body has not recovered and you should take a rest day or take it easy. Most runners run four to five days a week and take one day a week as full rest. The days you do not run, you can do some other form of exercise or nothing at all.

The golden rule for increasing miles is the 10% a week rule. If you follow this rule, you reduce your risk of injury and overtraining. Never increase your total miles by more than ten percent a week. So, if you are running three days a week and you want to add a fourth day you have two options. You can decrease your runs on the other three days and add the fourth day with the extra 10%. As an example, say you run three miles Monday, four miles Wednesday, and 3 miles on Friday. You want to add Saturday. Your total for the week is ten miles. One mile is 10%. You could safely run two and a half Monday, three Wednesday, two and a half Friday, and three on Saturday. The next week you could do three miles on all four days.  The other option would be to just start to build the Saturday using the 10%.

Coupled with the golden 10% rule is a 20% decrease rule, which should occur every four weeks allowing your body to rest and rebuild. When you run, you cause micro tears in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your legs. This is a good thing overall because it allows you to build and get stronger. However, if you don’t rest every so often then your body does not have a chance to build and will continue to break down. Every fourth week reduce your miles by 20% to allow your body to rest. You should also be taking at least one full day of rest every week for the same reasons. If you don’t rest, you will end up injured and forced to rest. It is a million times easier to take a day off a week and reduce your miles every fourth week, than to miss a race because you pushed it too far.

Frosty the Runner-Man

winter running

The cold and snow makes running outside less appealing to many runners. The mountain trails are covered with snow and hidden ice until the spring making trail running more dangerous and nearly impossible. Main roads leaden with heavy traffic are colder than the cozy inner neighborhood streets. The wind whips through the wider streets biting at any part of your body not covered. Neighborhoods with heated homes and narrow streets wrap you in their warmth. When the temperatures are really low and it is just too risky to be out there for a twenty-mile run, think about breaking up your run. Go out for ten miles in the morning and then ten more at lunch before you have enough time to totally recover. Try to keep less than eight hours between the two runs. You may have a little extra laundry or need two showers but that is better than frostbite to the ears, nose, fingers, or toes. You can start outdoors for ten miles and then move to a treadmill or indoor track.

Runners need to be aware of the dangers of frostnip and frostbite when running outdoors for longer distances in the winter months. Exposure to cold temperatures for a long time or a short time if the temperatures are very cold may cause these conditions. Frostnip is causes white patches of numb skin. Frostnip does not lead to permanent damage but frostbite can. Frostbite causes the skin to become white or grayish-yellow and it feels hard, waxy, or numb or is blistering. It can also become darkened or black. Some other symptoms include swelling, itching burning, and deep pain during the rewarming/healing process. Wet (i.e. sweaty) clothing, not enough clothing, and high winds increase your chances of getting frostnip and bite. Warm the area affected using warm water not hot water. Do not rub or massage frostbitten skin, it could damage it more. Don’t break the blisters. If you have frostbite, you need to seek medical attention.

Being a little cold on a run is not usually a bad thing and can actually help with holding a faster pace. But hypothermia is definitely too cold. Hypothermia is when your core body temperature drops too low to maintain normal body function. Exposure to cold air, water, wind, or rain also causes hypothermia. Having a soaked base layer combined with a decrease in your core temperature, from slowing or stopping, can cause hypothermia if you don’t start moving again soon. Symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, cold, pale, or blue-gray skin, lack of interest or concern, poor judgment, mild unsteadiness in balance or walking, slurred speech, numb hands and finger problems, such as zipping zippers and tying shoes. More severe symptoms include muscles becoming stiff, slow pulse, shallow slow breathing, weakness, or sleepiness, confusion, loss of consciousness and shivering which may stop if the body temperature drops below 90 degrees. A runner with hypothermia needs to get warm quick. Hypothermia is a serious condition and can be life threatening.