Riding Is Part of Me

Right around Christmas time in 2006 I had decided that I think it would be fun to get a motorcycle (aka bike).  I am not sure why that idea resonated with me at the time but I know that I had always been fascinated with them.  My father ‘Bob’ had been a rider on and off for years mostly a Harley guy from what I can recall.  It always made me feel special when he would pull it out and take me for a ride.  Perhaps it was the nice crackle of the pipes or maybe the comfortable vibrations from the engine but whatever it was I had remembered it and was ready to experience it for myself as a young man. For the next few weeks I waited for my taxes money to come through and while I was broke, I was eagerly searching Craigslist for something decent that I could afford.

Eventually I came across a beautiful 1994 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6E.  After some initial haggling with the owner over the phone/text the original price for $2,300 was brought down to 2K flat and I had not even seen the bike. When I was funded, I went with my best friend Russell to check the bike out.  I had no idea at the time how to ride, so me getting on it and testing it was not going to happen, but he gladly took it around the inside of his apartment complex.  It looked decent enough, but I had no idea how to tell mechanically sound the bike was so I took his word for it.  I told him that I could give him $1,800 and he agreed.  We then exchanged and then we had the interesting task of loading the bike into the back of Russ’s van.  I remember peeling out of that complex with me in the back holding the new bike, I was so excited.

'Schooly' - 1994 Kawasaki ZX6E

‘Schooly’ – 1994 Kawasaki ZX6E

The bummer was that I had no idea how to ride and it was still just the end of February.  Now Russ had a little bit of experience as a rider and kinda went through the basics with me.  He was confident and a little overzealous and took it down the block and of course he just has to dump it, oh I was like Oh NOOOOOOOOO, but stuff happens.  We applied bondo and proceeded to learn how to ride.  I had already registered for the course in May to get my license but I was bit by the bug and was going to learn on my own until then.  I remember at that time I had just began bouncing at Barfly downtown and one night I decided to take it downtown.  I had never even gone past the third gear or been off a side street, partly because I only had my permit and also wasn’t supposed to ride at night but I went for it.  I can still remember that ride like it was yesterday.  Simply put, it made me feel free. Since that day I have been hooked.

Since my early days of riding I have learned many valuable lessons.  The Kawasaki was dubbed ‘Schooly’ as it was an old school starter bike.  It was a really fun bike with a nice sounding Muzzy exhaust.  I took great pride in fixing the bike up. While I was living on Russell’s couch that summer, I sanded the whole thing down and repainted it and made it look really sharp.  Applied all the decals I wanted and got lots of complements.  Not only that, but I must have given over 1000 girls rides on it that Summer.  I remember back how much fun it was.  The natural progression then was to learn how to do some tricks.

So by this time Russ and I both had bikes and would ride together and try to pop some wheelies. Yup not the best idea I have ever had.  Eventually I felt that I got the hang of it, but my arrogance caught up with me  later that season.  This also marks something that I can remember just as vividly as my first ride on Schooly.  I brought the bike up a little too high and tight and she came back so hard. Before I knew it I was thrown from the bike landed on my back and my head took a nice crack on the concrete.  I saw the white flash that almost guarantees a concussion.  I was able to tuck and roll for a bit and then quickly I came together and popped up on my feet quickly.  Immediately I looked to see if there were cars coming from behind me and then ran over to my bike.  It was badly mangled and spewing out oil, antifreeze and gasoline.  By this time Russ who was riding with me had turned around and was there to help me move it out of the road.

Onlookers were staring at us and someone must have called the police and soon an ambulance and cops were on the scene.  They grilled me a new one (which I rightfully deserved for doing something stupid), but the ambulance crew looked me over and suggested that I go to the hospital and of course I deny treatment.  Mind you, I was not wearing a helmet or a jacket when I went down; I was wearing a pair of cargo shorts and had shoes on.  So you can imagine that there was a lot of road rash on my legs, arms, back and stomach.  Luckily, I have the friend that I do and Russ helped me to get on my feet.  He really was there for me in my time of need. I mean he took a mesh pad and scrapped the rocks out of my knees and arms.  Not only that, but he took my mangled bike and dropped it off at Jordan’s Sportwheel.  What I bought, fixed up and made mine; I parted ways and received $400 for what was left of Schooly.  It was a low point for me for a couple of weeks.

The healing of my body took a little while, but I got past it all with only a few scars.  Less than two weeks after the accident I went back to Russell’s sat down at his kitchen table and it just hit me.  I had an epiphany!  I was going to buy another bike. By the end of the week I had a found the one that I wanted and took out a loan to purchase it. The next bike soon was named ‘Epiphany’, she was a Suzuki GSXR – 750.  It was a beautiful bike and had a bigger engine than the last.  That might sound like a bad idea, new bike and it’s faster, but I had a new-found respect for riding and for my safety. I felt like I had a mission for the remainder of that summer and fall to make a bunch of cash running security and staying on my grind in the night scene to pay it off.  It took a lot of work but I did it.

'Epiphany' my great idea!

‘Epiphany’ my great idea!

I really learned how to ride well on Epiphany and I took great pride in the maintenance of her.  I installed some LED lights on her and even put in a car charger so that I could plug my phone.  When I purchased her she had roughly 6K miles and it took me through the next two riding seasons.  I had the fortune of riding this bike to and from Milwaukee during Summerfest, back and forth to visit my brother and sister in Winona & Rochester and even a to Duluth and back. Each trip had a fun memories associated with it but I just loved how fun it handled and the power it had.

At the beginning of the 2010 riding season Epiphany had approximately 23K miles on her odometer.  On May 18th of that season I was on my way from work to go to Lake Calhoun and get a run in as I would often train for races there.  I was hit by another driver that day and went over the hood of their SUV and was pretty scrapped up.  Thankfully I was not severely hurt. I suffered some significant impact of my shoulder when I flew into their vehicle’s driver-side door.  Approximately six months later I underwent some arthroscopic shoulder surgery and now am back to about 90% on that shoulder’s side.

Scrapped up from getting hit by another motor vehicle!

Scrapped up from getting hit by another motor vehicle!

This was one occasion where It was really good that I had full coverage insurance on my motorcycle.  My insurance company came out and assessed my claim and let me know the approximate value of my bike and told me an amount they were willing to award me for the bike.  They quickly assessed it as a ‘total loss’ and were going to compensate me fairly, instead of taking the lump sum payment I suggested that I could keep the bike and they told me for 1K less I could keep the bike.  So I did just that!  I went to the impound lot and took a look at her a few days later.  To my surprise she was just like me, broken but not completely out of commission. I put the key in and tried to see if she would start, she fired right up!

After some crafty modification of the front fairings I was able to keep the body of the bike from rubbing on the front tire.  By taking only back roads I was able to limp the bike back to my townhouse.  When I got her home I was able to take a deeper dive into what was wrong with the bike mechanically.  The damage was most heavy isolated towards the front of the bike.  The air intake was shattered, the headlight was cracked, the neck of the bike was bent and the forks were at a more upright grade.  Some of the parts would have to be completely replaced, it would also need a significant amount of time to take the bike apart and find out whether it would ever be safe to perform normal riding.

So I had a big project ahead of me.  I took the next couple of months striping her down and then getting her fixed up.  I applied a new paint-job and eventually had her looking pretty sharp.  All the work took a couple of months to complete in my spare time and cost me another $350-$400. Through this process I learned much about working with my hands on the bike as well as some really good problem solving skills. Below are some before and after pictures of the bike.

Damaged and stripped down I really had my work cut out for me.  Luckily the engine was intact, mostly just body work.

Damaged and stripped down I really had my work cut out for me. Luckily the engine was intact, mostly just body work.

After the work was completed, this is what she came out looking like, new attitude and all!

Reborn she would forever be different, now known as the 'Green Machine'!

Reborn she would forever be different, now known as the ‘Green Machine’!

Before the Green Machine was finished being rebuilt I had already knew that I would be seeking out my next motorcycle.  I quickly fell in love with a sweet machine.  This creature is a beast of its own and deserves its own post.  For the remainder of the summer I had two bikes, which came particularly in handy as my best friend Russ’s bike was often down due to maintenance or a broken part, so often I would let him take the Green Machine.  It only got under my skin that he immediately would jump on it and wheelie it better than I could have ever tried (but I am past all that now).  I did want to keep it this bike as I had an emotional connection to it but my girlfriend at the time strongly encouraged me to let it go.  So I did the right thing and rode the bike for another 3K miles to ensure its safety.  Sold her that next winter for $2,600.  Not bad all things considered, she will forever be missed.  Between these two bikes I learned a lot about handling myself in the streets and how to appreciate and respect the freedom and risks you must take when on one.

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Warrior Dash 2013

About a month ago I was fortunate enough to participate in the Warrior Dash 2013 @ Afton Alps. This is the third year in a row that I was able to compete in this obstacle course. This race is owned and hosted by Red Frog Events, which in my opinion is one of the first companies to commercialize these type of obstacle course style races. Overall a pretty cool company.

Originally it was not in my plans to complete this race as the previous year I truly didn’t enjoy the obstacles as much as some of the other courses out there (i.e. Rugged Maniac, CampTITAN, etc.). However, I was tapped by my friend Patrick as he wanted me to run in place of his wife as she was not 100% good to go, so I took him up on his offer. Once I gave him confirmation, he looked into changing the registration over to me. Do you think that was possible? Well it wasn’t, so therefor, for that day I was to be running as his lady. Oh well whatever I thought. No one ever follows all the rules at those races; sometimes you play it by eat and jump into whatever wave time that works best for you as opposed to your specified time.

When the day came, as tradition calls for, I rode my motorcycle out to Afton bright and early. With my board shorts on, red bull and a granola bar all in my draw-string backpack, I paid for parking (which always annoys me as I feel I deserve a pass for such a small vehicle) and made my way to the busses to meet Patrick and his wife down at the race grounds. After meeting up he was able to get me the bib that I needed and he was able to check his bag in.

With only a minute or so before the race wave for 10:30 to go, Patrick and I decided to jump in. Unfortunately the race shoot was packed with people. Many of which I knew were there for the fun and social aspect of the race. Me on the other hand I had shown up with a goal of beating my time from last year (~30 minutes). Therefore I have my best to Patrick and took off for the front of the pack. The race had already began, so this meant that I had to zig-zag amongst the other participants. Soon I was through the thick of it and onto the obstacles.

You have to love that this years course made all the runners immediately dash to the top of a very steep hill.  Now that I have been through several obstacle course races I have learned that it is not worth it to sprint to the top and come out of it completely winded and unable to jog it out once you hit ‘unchallenged’ flat terrain.  So instead I will sprint two-thirds the way to the top of majority of the larger hills and then walk the remaining portion until I hit the apex.  This allows me to catch my breath a bit during the part of the hill that by the time I would get there running my running would be essentially the same pace of a brisk walk, so it’s essentially a wash.

With mastering the hills my next challenge became the periodic obstacles on the course and then the other participants. I have done my best to be respectful by calling out ‘on the left’ to folks as I pass, but on occasion I folks do not get out of my way in time especially at the obstacles so I have to improvise.  Luckily, I am able to think on my feet and get through quickly and without crushing others. One suggestion that I have for the folks at Red Frog Events would be to put in a ‘Fast Lane‘ on each of the obstacles.  That way those there for the competition can blaze through while the others can meander at their own modest pace.

This warrior dash had several fun obstacles including: cargo nets, fire to jump over, trestles to climb over and go under, walking planks, and the final mud pit to victory.  However, I am somewhat disappointed that the course creators have abandoned the section of donated cars that you would run over; I always liked that!

Upon completing the race which I felt pretty good about, I received my metal and waited for my buddy Patrick to finish. Soon thereafter we went over to the beer tent and got our beer.  He had the famous turkey leg and I afforded myself a beef hotdog, lol.  We were both victors but overall I was unsure of my overall time, I thought that I was close to beating my last year’s time but needed to wait for the official results. A few days later, Pat sends me a text saying the results are up.  This is where it gets funny and somewhat depressing.

My buddy’s wife (Me) placed 47th out of 8311 competitors.  Not only that but his ‘wife’ placed 2nd overall for all the women in the race.  This they still like to give me a hard time about because essentially it means that I got beat by a girl.  I do get a laugh about it, but my official time is noted below!

47 Heidi Tatro 62333 30 F 2/1550 30-39 27:39.70 8:45/M

Pretty proud of that time and it will definitely be one for the books! But I think that the real gain for the day was spending it with a fairly new friend and getting to know him better.  He is a very good person and is a very smart guy.  We probably stand to learn a lot and both benefit from a good friendship. Overall, I am glad I took him up on the offer!

Here is a picture of us all after we had completed the race! Good Friends = Good Times & Many Laughs!

Patrick, Heidi, and Jake - Warrior Dash 2013

Patrick, Heidi, and Jake – Warrior Dash 2013

Tough Mudder 2013

This past weekend I had the opportunity to complete the Tough Mudder obstacle course in Somerset, WI. Thanks to my friend Patrick, I was brought onboard a team of 8 total Mudders! The team consisted of Patrick, Jake B., Jake C. (Me), Ryan, Dan, Kevin, Tresa, and her friend. All were very nice people and had a positive outlook for the day’s adventure!

This was the first time I had been able to participate in a military-style obstacle course with a team.  I have in the past avoided team races because I am typically very competitive and enjoy setting my own pace and pushing myself to a limit where I feel I have given it my personal best.  Luckily, this event is truly not a competitive race but instead a group event in which you need your teammates in order to accomplish some of the obstacles.

The course itself was approximately 10 miles of off-road hilly terrain that had a plethora of challenging obstacles (20+). The pace of the group felt close to 11min miles but this was fun because we were able to have fun banter as we jogged from obstacle to obstacle.

Below are some of my favorite obstacles that we overcame during the TM course.

  • Bail Bonds (pyramid of straw bails)
  • Everest (half-pipe)
  • Mud Mile (hill of mud x10)
  • Walk the Plank (high jump into water pit)
  • Funky Monkey (monkey bars up and down)

Lease favorite ones:

  • Electric Eel (hard-hitting electrical shocks while sliding on your stomach)
  • Arctic Enema (ice/water pool, shocking as it drops your core temperature)

By the time our group had hit mile 7 or so, a couple of our crew had some pretty stiff cramps in their legs. We then dialed it back a little bit which was good to keep the group together and gave me a greater sense of ‘team’ and not the individual (me). After about 3.5 hours we completed the course and were immediately rewarded with a Dos Equis beer and a couple of protein bars, both were delicious and shared in good company!  We accomplished a great feet and going forward, I will wear my headband when I am drinking and rock my Mudder shirt when I am working out!

We got our stamina back up again after a 30 minute stretch on a hill just outside the main TM grounds. It was a beautiful day and we totally got blessed.  It must have been perhaps 80 degrees and sunny outside but these were welcomed conditions after rolling of a 90+ degree stretch for the last couple of weeks. Soon after we stretched and took off our mud-caked shoes we got up and headed to Patrick’s to enjoy a barbecue and get cleaned up.

As a good host, Patrick and his wife set us up with towels and a hot shower.  While we cleaned up they were busy preparing food which was very kind of them.  I had a few drinks and some amazing food (great burger and a brat), the guys took the opportunity to get to know each other better. Glad I met them and after our conversations, I concluded my day and headed home.  What began with a 7:30AM motorcycle ride to Pat’s lasted until 5:30PM, that day will not be soon forgotten.  I hope again to enjoy another Mudder season with this crew!

MarathonJake Defined

Since graduating in 2006 from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and leaving my past behind me to start a new beginning, I found myself in need of an outlet to dedicate myself to. I had always had a passion for fitness and health. Quickly I became involved in several activities including weight lifting, mountain biking, playing in a flag football league, and eventually found my way into different kinds of races.

Nellie coming out to show her support for me at the Twin Cities 10Miler!

Nellie coming out to show her support for me at the Twin Cities 10Miler!

In 2007, I had decided to run the Twin Cities Marathon, I trained for six months prior to the race and eventually the day came and I completed it. I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, and from that day forward I was hooked. I had found my feet! Over the next several years I competed and excelled at various types of races.

A few of the races I have done include:

Warrior Dash (5K – Obstacle Course)
Rugged Maniac (5K – Obstacle Course)
Get In Gear (10K Race)
Trinona (Triathlon – Olympic Distance)
CampTITAN (5K – Obstacle Course)
Men’s Health Urbanathlon (10M – Obstacle Race)
TC 10 Miler (10M Race)
TC Medtronic Marathon (26.2M Race)
Lifetime Fitness Triathlon (Triathlon – Olympic Distance)
Torchlight (5K Race)
MS Mudrun (10K Mud Race)
Gran Fondo (50K Bike Race)

My tastes have changed several times in the last 5-6 years when it comes to races. I started with simple run races, then transitioned to triathlons and now I have gotten into obstacle course races. I think that as I mastered each style of races I began to get bored and so I keep evolving. Who know what’s next to come but I am always hungry for adventure! Please follow along as I post more specifics of my race experiences!

Mr. & Mrs. Carroll

Getting married is probably the biggest decision that you will ever have to make in your life. The best part about making this choice is knowing that you have found you soul mate and life partner; I married my Nellie on 5.25.2013, the best day of my life!

With this posting I am hoping to disclose: 1) how we met each other, 2) the challenging journey that we have taken together to get here, 3) the wedding planning process, and 4) finally recap the day of our wedding.

How we met:

Most people have a cutesy type of story as to how they met their significant number, well let’s get this straight, my life does not resemble The Notebook. Nellie and I met at a Minneapolis club (Cream/Spin), I was actually working a night job there as a security bouncer and she was just out on the town to have a good time.  Mind you when I saw her, my thoughts were less than ‘pure’, but she took my number and text me before she had left for the night.  Most people will give it a couple of days and then hit up their ‘new interest’, not me, I was texting her before I even got home. We hit it off and their was a strong desire to get to know each other.  It must have went reasonably well, cause here I am 5 years later and we are married!

Our journey:

For the first few years of our connection, Nellie and I had some real challenges that did stack the odds against us in the beginning.  When we had first met, Nell was only just recently 19 at the time and I was 23 (there is almost a 5 year age gap – she still calls me old man). She was still in school at Mankato and I was living in Minneapolis and this gap kept us from really spending much time together besides the summer time and on weekends.  Though this was inconvenient, it may have been a blessing in disguise because we both had some maturing to do and some life experiences to live through before we were really in a place to have the committment we share today.

So besides the distance gap and the fact that we essentially both still needed to party and date others, there was yet another challenge that needed to be overcome. Jake has a daughter; this fact alone can really crush the possibility of having a ‘perfect’ relationship.  It took the duration of the next few years for Madison and Nellie to bond and build a relationship with each other.  This hurdle was hard to get beyond for Nellie because she felt that there was some unique connection with my daughter’s mother.  Anyone that has went through a failed relationship like this, would know that once you have mentally and emotionally laid the romantic relationship with that person to rest, there is nothing left accept the responsibility to co-parent your child together.

The good thing to announce is that Nellie and I were able to overcome these obstacles: yes – she graduated school and moved back to the cities, yes – we were able to get over the desires to date others and to be single, and yes – Nellie and Madison were able to build a loving relationship.  The stars aligned and we decided to give our relationship a real shot and our committment to each other was born. On May 26, 2011 on a flight out to visit Nellie’s father and sisters, I asked her to marry me and with the assistance of the flight attendants and the pilot, it went off without a hitch.  She was surprised and overwhelmed, she hesitated in shock and then said YES!

On one knee I said, 'Will you marry me?'

On one knee I said, ‘Will you marry me?’

Wedding planning:

Most couples get engaged and have perhaps a year to do their planning and accomplish their wedding tasks checklist.  Nellie and I gave ourself a couple of years, lol.  We needed more time to become comfortable and confident in our decision to getting married. As of one year into our engagement we decided to get started on setting the actual date which we determined would be May 25, 2013.  This date was selected to accommodate for many guests that we anticipated would be coming from out-of-town and since it was Memorial Day weekend, it allowed for an additional day of travel.  Not to mention we thought it would be nice that every anniversary that we will have a 3-day weekend to enjoy!

Upon booking of the reception hall, Embassy Suites in Brooklyn Center, we quickly realized that the pressure was on to secure all the other necessary details to make a dream wedding happen.  My main concern throughout this entire process was to 1) keep Nellie happy and give her what she desires, and 2) keep this wedding somewhat affordable.  Thank goodness that between the two of us, we have a pair of amazing mothers that stepped up to help us with some of the costs and planning of our wedding. Going forward we needed to accomplish both preparing ourselves and also preparing the details.

Preparing Ourselves

For preparing ourselves, Nellie and I committed ourselves to completing a weekend marriage counseling course and also a Catholic Church sponsored couple to perform a compatibility assessment of us.  Both exercises were very helpful and gave me a sense that I am getting to know my partner better we agreed on most of the major relationship items, such as church, children, finances, and friends and family.  But, I will be first to admit that it was noted that marriage is a lifelong process and you work together to get better at it.  I found it very valuable and would recommend attending marriage counseling to anyone serious about this level of commitment.

Preparing the Details

I would have never thought that there were so many minute tasks required to take care of prior to your big day.  It is enough to drive you crazy.  Shooting from the hip the following tasks were critical to the wedding:

  • Selecting the wedding party (Lela, Yolanda, Ola, Olivia, Danny, Janeen, Justin, Russell, Joel, Ryan, Michael, Sharif). Looking back we went through many iterations of the group, but overall we are happy with the inner circle we selected!
  • Determining the wedding colors (ivory, coral and mint green).  I shook my head and said yes dear and didn’t fuss on this decision much.  They really turned out great!
  • Booking the photographer (Wally Agboola). We are awaiting the arrivals of the pictures, but should be meeting with him soon.  He did a nice job shooting our engagement pictures.
  • Taste testing to determine the entrée and beverage options for the receptions (we chose to offer the embassador chicken; which was slightly breaded and very delicious, additionally we offered a salmon entrée with a fresh lemon zest squeeze, both served with garlic mashed.
  • Booking the videographer (Dan Moen). Nellie had known him from school and he worked very diligently and professionally to provide great work.

To be honest, I could continue to extend this list, but it was really to make a point.  That being, substantial work went into the celebration of our union. Nellie and I love all of our friends and family that we decided to make a couple of things we thought majority of our guests would like, they included: signature drinks (the Whoa Nellie & the Buckaroo), specialty mini-cheescakes from MuddyPaws, and a photobooth to take individual and group pictures. We truly had hoped to wow our people and to have them all talking about our wedding for the following days and weeks, and they did.

5.25.2013

The morning of getting could not have been better, I was for some reason really relaxed and in a great mood, nothing really mattered at that moment because in the back of my mind, I knew that I was going to marry her.  I had all of my fellas around me that morning as we took to our feet and got us a little breakfast.  Man my new-found brother Michael really knows how to throw down on some seasoned eggs!  Meanwhile, my other brother Nolde (Ryan, aka Toke Dog) and I headed to the gas station to grab a 12-pack of Modelo’s.  So upon our return the remaining posse had started cleaning up and getting ready to suit-up.  Fortunately my Aunt Britney was there with her nice Nikon photo to take pictures for us and to capture these moments with my guys.  Oh and my best friend Russ had his two sons there as well (Isaiah & Maurice), they were to be the ushers at the wedding.

My Groomsmen & the Ushers!

My Groomsmen & the Ushers!

As we got dressed and took photos we all knew that the next step was to get to the church, mind you, I was already missing Nellie and excited to see her in her dress. When we arrived at the church, I was greeted by a few family members which was nice.  My Dad was able to get my Grandmother which was nice. Meanwhile, my best friend Russell hit the liquor store and obtained the spirits needed for the limo ride directly after the wedding ceremony. It just so happened that he got back in time for us to both take a couple and loosen up prior to our grand introduction.

The groomsmen all waited for the ladies to arrive. A little drama with the limousine service and so they had the hotel shuttle bring them over. Before I knew it, it was show time.  One last visit to the bathroom and a little water splashed on my face.  Walking out, I was struck with nervousness and anxiety.  My gitters were out of excitement for what was about to happen.  As time called, I entered the church (which was full of friends and family from both sides).  I was escorted in by my mother on one side and my father on the other, I felt like the spotlight was on me. The bridal party pairs began coming down two by two until the front of the church was filled with a sharply dressed group of adults.

Next was Nellie’s grand entrance, just prior to coming down herself, our wonderful flower girls and ring bearer came down the aisle setting the stage.  Our daughter Madison, stood out amongst them as a junior bride, dressed just slightly different, she looked absolutely adorable. Little Destina was the last of the flower girls to go down and she did a terrific job of shouting, “The bride is coming! The bride is coming!”. It was hard to predict how I was going to react when I saw Nellie round the corner just before she approached the aisle. I felt a complete loss of control over my emotions when she first came into sight. Immediately I began to get intensely emotional, meanwhile, while I am struggling to fight back my tears, I was at a loss at how beautiful everything about Nellie was at that exact moment.

Finally, her father Destin handed his daughter over to me and we took our place at the altar in front of the church and the priest, Father Steve. Mixed with some comic relief he greeted everyone and made me feel comfortable. Our wedding service was a full Catholic mass, which may have seemed long for some, but being in the front of the house, it flew by.  When it came to our vows, it flowed naturally and before I knew it, I was leaning towards my best man for the exchanging of the rings. There was a lot of love and time into making our rings perfect for each other because we both knew that these are going to be a permanent fixture in our lives from this day forward. My bother Justin quickly placed the rings in Father Steve’s hands.

The exchange of rings is a symbol of our unending love for one another!

The exchange of rings is a symbol of our unending love for one another!

Before I knew it, Nellie and I were announcing our vows to one another and soon thereafter saying, “I Do!”. We gave our sign of commitment to each other with our wedding bands which we will wear for life.  Next, we did the Unity Candle which signified the ‘coming of one’, Madison was included on this and our family worked together to all light our family’s candle.  Though there was a couple of technical difficulties with the candle sticks, it was priceless!

Three flames into One!

Three flames into One!

Soon there after, Mr. & Mrs. Carroll were being ushered out of the church in loud applause and congratulatory banter. We shook hands and gave hugs in the atrium of St. Alphonsus following the ceremony; we were overwhelmed with love and support by our close family and friends. Luckily we had just enough time to take wedding photos in the church prior to leaving in the limousine.  We did sets with our new families which was really nice.  We have both grown to know each other’s families and love them.  I have embraced my wife’s culture and traditions and continue to try new things that make me a better person, husband and father.

My family including: Janeen, Joel, Jake, Nellie, Matt, Justin, Bobbie, Madison, Scarlet and Chloe!

My family including: Janeen, Joel, Jake, Nellie, Matt, Justin, Bobbie, Madison, Scarlet and Chloe!

Bride's Family: Ol Ma, Lilly, Destin, Jake, Nellie, Jannie, Denissha, Tiana, Michael, Aiden, Destina.

Bride’s Family: Ol Ma, Lilly, Destin, Jake, Nellie, Jannie, Denissah, Tiana, Michael, Aiden, Destina.

With the entire 14 person wedding party all fitting in the stretch hummer limo we booked it to the ‘Rose Gardens’ in South Minneapolis. Everyone toasted several cheers to Nellie and I throughout the ride to the photo spot. We were blessed with good weather that day.  It was overcast and probably 70 degrees just cool enough to keep us  guys from overheating in our suits and because the sun was hidden we didn’t have to squint too badly for the pictures.

Nellie & Jake @ the Rose Gardens

Nellie & Jake @ the Rose Gardens

During the course of each mini-event of our big day, the time kept slipping by and we began falling more and more behind schedule. By the time we arrived at the reception hall, we were approximately an hour and fifteen minutes late.  Dinner was ready to be served upon arriving.  It was so funny, we had drunk all the alcohol in the limo and Nellie had to use the bathroom so dang bad she was almost in tears! What ensued next was both infuriating to the bridal party but also quite humorous in a pathetic way. All of our guests had already been seated at their respective tables and were awaiting the grand march of the bridal party. The troublesome part was that our DJ, Uncle Dilano was working off of CDs (like what DJ still does that anyways?), so therefore, he was not prepared to play the correct entrance song for each of the paired couples. Thankfully, our very good friend and MC Lonnie made the best of a difficult situation. His comedic personality and gregarious presence made everyone take the delays lightheartedly. As a side note, when it was my best friend Russell and his partner Olivia’s turn to enter, their sweet moves to ‘Dirty Dancing’s – Time of My Life almost led to the knocking over of our wedding cake, dramatic and historical. Eventually it was Nell and my turn to enter, we marched to Chris Brown’s Forever and it drove the energy and excitement that we were looking for to celebrate our union.

Entering the reception hall with our amazing grand march song - Forever by Chris Brown.

Entering the reception hall with our amazing grand march song – Forever by Chris Brown.

The remainder of the night went better than I could have imagined (minus the hassle of the DJ not playing the music that Nellie specifically chose, sad). Our food was prepared perfectly and we had many great speeches and toasts from our loved ones.  Then we opened up the dancing with Mother/Daughter and Mother/Son; finally we got down to business and it was time for OUR first dance, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carry’s Endless Love; which kinda got screwed up by our DJ once again, grrr!

The rest of the night became quite a blur of friends, music & dancing, and sharing the moment with my new wife.  I made sure she was okay throughout the night and obviously she was the center of my attention.  Ugh, my legs and knees were burning so much from all the dancing that by midnight I was happy to be shutting the place down so that the evening could slow. By the end, Nellie was wrapping up and saying goodbye to friends and family while her man snuck away for a second (after gaining permission of course, hahaha).  My best friend Russ and my best man (my brother Justin) snuck away and rolled up our tux pant legs so we could stand in the man-made pond in front of our hotel as we smoked our cigars.  It was the perfect way to enjoy the end of a night that I was looking forward to for months.

The final chapter of the night is best left for only the newlyweds, however, I can say that it was a very incredible experience and sharing each other is a memory now that will never fade. This concludes the best day of my life!

Newly Weds!

Newly Weds!

The Man I Am

 

MarathonJake - Rock On!

MarathonJake – Rock On!

Disclaimer:

Everyone has a story to tell.  With this blog I will formally document the defining moments in my life. It is my goal to leave my children, family and friends with a way to know me better and to see how I chose to live my life! To set the stage for my blog’s audience, I will (at a very high-level) explain some of the things that make me the man who I am, including: personality, family, education and profession, hobbies and finally my life ambitions. In the future, I will create different blogs/threads to expand on some of these different dump buckets that make up my existence. Till then, let’s just jump right into it!

My Personality:

Essentially, I have a ‘Type A’ personality and all the good and bad that goes with it.  My life ambitions and drive to accomplish them all seems to be unending.  I seem to live my life like a busy worker-bee trying to understand how one gets ahead and create a healthy and comfortable existence for myself. On the upside, I have been described as: outgoing, friendly, leader, intelligent, athletic, adventurous, loving, motivated, positive, funny and helpful.  However, the rub: arrogant, impatient, quick-tempered, and insensitive.

My Family:

As of 1.12.2005, I have been a father to my first-born little girl, Madison Rose Carroll, a.k.a (Peanut Butter).  She is the light of my life and has taught me much about growing up and becoming a responsible adult. In addition to my daughter, I was recently (5.25.2013) married to the most incredible woman who I have ever met, Nellie Teresa Francis.  Simply stated – without her, I do not exist. Beyond my immediate family, I have an older brother Justin and a younger sister Janeen. My mother Bobbie and my father Bob have not been together since I was a young boy, but I have a solid connection with them both.  All-together this is my inner circle of family and it is now finally getting expanded with each of their significant others (Matt, Joel, and Liz), not to mention my two favorite nieces (Chloe & Scarlet)!

My Education & Profession:

For this information please review my LinkedIn page for a step by step snapshot of my schooling and career path. In a nutshell, I have my Bachelor’s of Business Administration and am working on my MBA.  I greatly value education and highly regard teachers as selfless leaders looking to better the world.  My profession consists of a mixed bag of Information Technology related functions surrounding assurance/audit, security, and general problem solving.

My Hobbies:

For some, what they do for their past-time activities usually change over time and I really am no different.  I have picked up several things that I find enjoyment in and I hope to one day blog about each of these individual passions of mine in more detail so as to give you a real feel of what it means to ‘enjoy’ being Jake.  My primary focuses in recent years (since about 21) have consisted of: Motorcycles (purchasing, riding them, fixing them up, modifying them slightly, and appreciating the feeling that they give me); Friendships (maintaining them, sharing laughs and memories, building deeper connections, and evaluating their benefits and why they are so important); Races (distance races, triathlon, bike races, obstacle courses, and social jogs); Fitness (weight lifting, cross-training, endurance cardio, and sporting activities); Cooking (grocery shopping, nutrition, creative foods, meal preparation, grilling, hosting dinners and of course eating); and lastly, Traveling (experiencing different places, people, food, sight-seeing, and taking photos both domestic and abroad).

My Life Ambitions:

Life is won through experiences that make you happy, smile, laugh, love and the good times we share with loved ones. My ambitions mirror my ability to maximize all of those precious moments in life. I would like to be able to help family and friends and to be considered a great man and one day enter the kingdom of heaven. First, I must create a means of accomplishing all of my goals and I do that through executing on my education and career path and by increasing my knowledge of the world and business and by building a trusted network of colleges and friends. Through this, the financial backing to support my family will be solidified.  Through this life long process I believe I can raise a beautiful family, help others in need, and retire at a reasonable age so that I can travel the world with my sweetheart Nellie and focus on our hobbies! This will be a fun challenge to accomplish before my final resting, but I know that I will take each day as a blessing, amen!