Saturday, March 29, 2008

Maybe I'm amazed

Being quite new to this whole blogging concept, I’ve become increasingly amazed each day as I read more stories and see how the blogging community links together.

Last year after running my first ever marathon, I began to write a review of my race just for fun. The story was posted at an online site where I could just send the link for family and friends to read. How cool was this, I’m like a published writer, my picture is out there, I’m almost famous! I continued to write about my next couple races, but just did a word doc and sent that to family.

Then, this past February, I ran a trail race here locally. The local trail running club or as they prefer to be called, the Nerds, have a message board that I frequent, to learn all the in and outs of trail running. I found a link to their leaders blog, BadBen and somehow from there, I figured out how to set up my own blog.

Since I’m still just a rookie blogger, unaware of any specific blogger etiquette, I will make a feeble attempt to respond to one of my new blogger friends Lily on the Road and write my own 6-word memoir. Well, not without a little story first to set it all up.

I’m at work, in the office, sitting at my desk, staring at the computer day after day after day. Yeah, it can be boring, but there’s also times I enjoy it very much and hey, I’ve got the internet at work and most often, enough time on my hands to explore a bit between naps. OK, so I haven’t been real busy lately, but as the corporate world goes, they cut staff and then added more responsibilities.

So, we're at a meeting with the ‘Big Cheese’ as he tries to calm the waves of people stressing from the overload of work. He does his little speech thing, spewing out all the corporate buzzwords he can in the allotted time. "We need to partner for the common goal, we need to execute flawlessly," all I hear is blah, blah, blah. He classifies our group into 2 types of people, what he refers to as the ‘criers and the screamers.’ You know, the screamer is the one yelling, “you can’t keep giving us more work and expect us not to make an error,” while the crier pleads “I can’t handle this, I go home stressed every night, I’ll probably burn the kids macaroni and cheese because of this.”

The Big Cheese then looks over at me and asks, “Rich, you’ve been quiet, what do you think about this?” After quickly trying to focus on whatever the heck it was he was talking about, I respond, “I don’t know, I’m the laugher in the group!”

So there, my 6-word memoir shall be:
I’m the laugher in the group

Now, what do I do about this ‘tagging’ thing? I don’t have a huge network of online friends, maybe that will come in time. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to go about this process, but for now, here are a few of the blogs I’ve been reading.

  • Jenny - another local girl whom I just met in person last night. I enjoy reading about her workouts, boot camps and comparing races.
  • Michelle - an excellent writer who seems to be writing directly to me when she talks about food.
  • Topher - this guy must be popular, I’ve seen him linked in many of the blogs I’ve looked at, probably because he’s entertaining to read
  • Triguy- a sports guy and tri-athlete who I hope to get some inspiration from. Oh, and possibly a twin brother separated at birth! I guess he got all the looks.

And of course, there’s BadBen, the leader of the Trail Nerds whom I spoke of earlier. Ok, I need to go run.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Good bye winter solstice

After reading about Lily's recent encounters with running in the Canadian winter (or is it Canadien, what's the difference anyway), I had to go to my running log and pull some numbers. I've been to Canada many times, grew up in Michigan, and enjoyed many snowy days. In fact, snowmobiling was one of my favorite pastimes until I moved to KC. This is the second winter in which outdoor running represented the majority of my training. Being a spoiled wimp when it comes to cold, it was a difficult transition. Snow I like, but cold and windy are not two of my favorite adjectives, so let's see just how big a wimp I am!

We shall call the winter months November - February and these numbers are the totals from that time period.

February's miles were down a bit due to a couple reasons
  • An extended rest after a mild case of plantar fasciitis
  • A 5 day period fighting the 'crud' where I missed an entire weekend

Generally, winter here sees many big swings in temperatures. One day it's in the teens and snowing and a couple days later, we catch a nice 50 or 60 degree break. The difference this year; we didn't have many breaks. The numbers don't look too bad, so factor in the wind. Let's just say, if you live in the plains, wind is a fact of life, except the middle of the summer, of course, when temps reach the mid 90's regularly and you'd die for just a breeze! So, I've learned to embrace the cold, laugh at the wind and enjoy being outdoors.

Did I mention how happy I am that spring is here?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What is success?

I believe it was Albert Einstein that once said, “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” Well, I'm buying into the work and play part, but now I've gone and challenged the 'keep your mouth shut' part.

While out on my Saturday morning run with my local club, it's a nice day, the sunrise is a beautiful ball of orange and there's a cool, crispness in the air that has somehow stimulated me to talk more than normal. Our conversations often center around running and sure enough, I've opened my mouth and mentioned that I think I want to try a Triathlon. Geez, that's like making a commitment right there, I should have just kept my mouth shut. Well, I guess we'll see if A can still equal success without Z.

OK, so let's get this crazy thought sorted out. I do a lot of running, no problem there. As for the biking, I do have my cheap little hybrid, a cross between a street and a mountain bike. It's the one that they sell to the consumer who doesn't know what he wants, just something to get a little exercise on the weekend. I ride it once or twice a year, so that could be a bit of a problem. And then there's the swimming. I swam across a half mile wide lake once at summer camp when I was 14 or 15. I remember how much fun it was, it wasn't horribly difficult, but wait, that was 40 years ago. Conclusion: I could drown. They can resuscitate me if I'm found within like 15 minutes of going under, right?

So, I'm not really talking about an Ironman here, rather a starter type race, you know, the 5-K of the triathlon world. I've selected a race called the Topeka Tinman

I love the name of the race, the Tinman. Sure, tin isn't quite as tough as iron, but it does have it's place in the world of metals. I mean, tin does show it's strength as it is unassumingly used for important and dynamic things like soup or tuna. Tin is even used to coat iron, protecting it from corrosion. So, using the "paper covers rock" theory, tin would actually beat out iron. If the name is any indication, this will be one tough race.
1100 yard swim
19.71 miles bike
7 miles run

Now that I've made the commitment to the entire world of bloggers, I need help. I have burning questions about how this all works.

What kind of swimsuits do athletes wear, do I have to make a trip to the local sports store for specialized gear?

What do you do after swimming, change into biker shorts, where would you change, would you just wear generic shorts that can be used for all events?

Where do you keep your shoes, your bike, your other clothes?

How do you keep certain areas of your torso from becoming numb when you're on a bike that long?

I'm serious, I really don't know how some of this works, so please, feel free to comment. Anyway, if I get through this, I guess we'll have to modify the formula for success to A=X+Y+C where C=commitment

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Running down south

I have to take a little time and tell you about a friend of mine who had the race experience of a lifetime. I've never met the man, but we've played fantasy sports together for years and we have spoke on the phone occasionally. It's funny, you feel like you get to know some of the people you meet online, many feel like good friends, even though there never was, or never will be any personal contact. This blog is in honor of Winston, who traveled many miles to pursue something very few men or women would ever consider.

Winston's trip began in late February as he headed south. Ah, nice warm weather in which to run after a long cold winter, but his plane didn't stop in Florida, nor Texas, nor Arizona. It kept going on to the next continent, South America, and all the way to the southernmost tip of Argentina. The plane stopped here, but Winston did not. Another 24 hours on a Russian ship crossing the Drake Passage with it's 50 foot waves, and finally he had arrived in, yes, Antarctica. So much for warm southern hospitality. The Antarctica Marathon was about to be run.

The weather was rough during the marathon. The temperature was 35 degrees with 20+ mph winds which made for bone chilling cold. It even rained a few hours after the start. The course had more hills, streaming crossings and shoe-sucking mud than the runners anticipated. There was a climb up a glacier around mile 4, where the slick ice took a couple of victims. One gentleman had fractured his hip during a fall and still walked on in pain to finish one loop, 13.1 miles. The toughness and dedication it takes to be one of these runners in simply amazing.

I'd like to take this time to congratulate all of the men and women who participated in this grueling event, and to you Winston, I hope to cross paths someday and get a chance to run along with you somewhere. I truly am envious.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I am that idiot

It's the wee hours of the morning and I hear the rain pouring down outside my bedroom window. I know my normal Saturday morning run with the running club awaits, but thoughts of skipping this week begin to dance in my head. Finally, I crawl out of bed, check the weather online and make that tough decision. What the heck, I'm going anyway! As I drive to the Streamway Northgate access sight, the rain begins to change to snow. Actually, this is a big break. Wondering whether I'll be running by myself on this day, I arrive to find Jay, Marty and soon comes Margaret. Allright, three other crazy souls!

Off we go for our normal run, all feeling a bit proud that were able to brave the weather to feed our addiction. As we turn north onto Ridgeview, the snow becomes heavier and is blowing right into our faces. The flakes are as big and wet as Japanese pearl oysters but provide a quenching of thirst when landing on the tongue. I imagine what I would have thought years ago if I saw someone running up the street in weather like this; what an idiot! Now, I guess, I've become that same idiot. I've grown a lot since those days and am proud of my new self. So, how did I get here? Well, rather than the typical attempt to do a light-hearted, comical running report, I'm gonna go off in a different direction.

I guess the turning point for me must have been in 1998. We're at my 13 year old sons soccer game and one of the other fathers, knowing that I loved hockey, asks me if I'm interested in playing with his team. Normally, my lazy lifestyle would have dictated an instant no, but something here peaked my interest. I did decide to give it a whirl. Geez, my son needs a better role model than a father running up and down the soccer sidelines with a cigarette hanging from his mouth all while yelling at the poor kid.

A couple days later, I dug out my 25 year old vintage hockey gear and headed out to the rink. I used to play alot when I was younger, so hopefully, I won't make too big of fool of myself. It felt rejuvenating to step out onto the ice again. I skated hard that day and after a few shifts I remember thinking; "Holy missing oxygen Batman, I can hardly breathe." Somehow I made it through that game, had a blast and they invited me back. I knew right then, if was going to play this game again, I'd have to quit smoking. so after 25 some years of toking on the cancer sticks, I made the commitment to myself. After so many previous failures to quit, this time I finally made it.

I went on to play hockey until I turned 50 and I'd like to think I motivated my son, Billy, enough to pick up the game himself. We played together on a summer league, on what we called a father/son team. Many of us fathers on the team had kids the same age and they were all skaters. We played about three summers in a row together and it was one of my proudest moments as a father, to be playing alongside my own kid. My son went on to play with the high school team and I finally chose to hang up the skates. It was a tough decision for me, hockey had helped me quit smoking and got me back into shape and was just plain old fun.

Once my skating career was over, the pounds started to attach to me with relative ease. I kept going to the gym and running on the treadmill a mile or two, but that had little effect. My daughter had now left home on gone on to college and began running to keep in shape. We became running partners during the summer and in 2003 she convinced me to try a 12K race. At the time, the furthest I had run was 4 miles and I thought I was going to die after that. I completed that race and was so excited to cross the finish line, a new pastime was born. My daughter continued to push me and eventually it became easier and easier. Then in 2006, we were in St Louis where I ran my first half-marathon and Alison ran the full. I remember waiting at the finish line for her to come in and I watched some of the other people cross the line.

Hey, I look like I'm better shape than that guy, whoa, that guy is older than me and they all made it through. On that day came the first thought of ever attempting a full marathon. I think I really became a true runner on that day. Now, I've finished 3 marathons and plan to do 3 more this year. Some kids look to their parents as role models and for support, but I can honestly say that I am now both influenced and inspired by my daughter.

Thank you Billy and Alison.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Red Bridge Ramble

The Red Bridge Ramble is the first trail run of the year in the 2008 Vasque Kansas-Missouri Trail Race Series. You can run the entire series and earn points along the way, culminating in a champion after the Psycho Wyco run in Feb 2009 or, like myself, just run these races for the pure enjoyment of being outdoors. It's also an excellent break from the demands of running on pavement on a regular basis. If you're new to trail running or want to give it a try for the first time, this is a perfect introduction to the sport. This race is a small, low key event made up of many local trail enthusiasts who are always willing to help a rookie. Warning; you will get wet, you will get muddy!

The morning started off like most early March mornings in KC, cold, as we were reminded that Punxatawney Phil did predict six more weeks of winter last month. On top of that, some number crunching politician figured if we start daylight savings time earlier in the year, we'll put more money in everyone's pockets (except mine.) So today I began my day at 6:oo am, well it's really 5:oo am, oh, I don't know, it's just cold out! I arrived at Minor Park ready to shed this chill and work up a sweat. There are about 80 others brave souls who have the same plan. I see a number of faces I recognize, seems there's quite a few regulars that attend these runs.

The course is going to be modified somewhat today as a safety precaution. Original plans had us crossing the Blue River, but knee-deep waters and strong currents make crossing too dangerous. Besides, we all signed up to run, not swim. The normal 8-mile run will this day only be in the 6 to 7 mile range. After last minute instructions, we're all ready to get started. Just like on the elementary school playground, somebody yelled, "On your mark, get set, GO!"

The first few miles of this course are relatively easy, some open field, wide smooth trails and just some gentle rolling hills. The biggest problem early on is learning how to maintain your footing. The lower elevations on the course are muddy, but the ground is frozen with hundreds of footprints, which makes landing on flat ground almost impossible. I'm careful to watch where I step, but it's difficult to make out the terrain as all the footprints blend together. Well that, and I don't wear my glasses running, so it's all a blur anyway. A short distance into the race, we come to the first of multiple stream crossings. The water is only ankle deep, but provides a thorough soaking to the lower extremities. The water is numbing cold, but the sensation only lasts a few minutes and soon you've forgotten it all. The course continues to become more challenging as many rocky areas, exposed tree roots and mud become more common. Eventually, one of the challenges catches me off-guard and down I tumble. I surreptitiously get back on my feet, looking around to see who may have witnessed this clumsy act. Oh cool, nobody's behind me! I check for blood: none, so on I go with only a bruised ego. Halfway through the run we have now climbed to the course's highest point and below you can see spots of whitewater on the Blue River. On the side of the trail I spot a lone golf ball. I know that the golf course is adjacent to the park, but that must have been one hell of a slice!

The remaining miles are a return trip on the out-and-back course. Overall, the course a decent challenge but not too technical for a first-timer. I would recommend this race to anyone that wants to get outdoors and allow a bit of the 'little kid' in him or her to escape. Enjoy nature, enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy running. Happy Trails