Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Real Santa

I remember my first Christmas party with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.  Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go." 
"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. 
I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. 
As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 'Take this money and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's. I was only eight years old.

I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat. I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.
 "Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it -- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: 

Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

From the website:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A PR on my BD in ST. G

This is a milestone year for me.  This year I become 60 years old.  I don't put a lot of stock in decade milestones, but this one is important to me.  I guess it's important as far as running, because I wasn't running before the age of 50.
The Chicago Marathon was October 13th, and I had expected to run there.  But due to a malfunction with, I wasn't able to get in.  So I started looking for other marathons near my birthday, and discovered that the St. George Marathon was on October 5th, my 60th birthday.  However, St. George is a lottery marathon.  So you are not guaranteed entry.  I entered, and was picked to run.  Now to train.
St. George is known as a fast course.  It has around a 2500 feet drop in elevation.  I know people who have run it, and they told me that I would likely have problems going down the steep drops.  I wasn't too worried about that, but did try to do some downhill running.  Not easy where I run since my part of Oklahoma is not very hilly.
Since this was a milestone birthday, I wanted this to be a milestone race.  Before this run my marathon PR, my personal record time, was 3:42.  I decided that I at least wanted to PR in this race, but I also wanted to try to run below 3:30.  During training I wasn't sure about the sub 3:30 goal, I did think I could PR but you never know what can happen in a race this long.
I decided to fly into Las Vegas, and then drive to St. George UT.  The drive is about two hours and somewhat scenic, if you like mountains, rocks, and desert.  A friend that used to live in Oklahoma who now lives in St. George offered to let me stay at his home.  I arrived at his house and then we drove to the expo/packet pickup.  A nice expo, but I didn't need anything, so after pickup, we decided to drive the course.  Since we talked the whole time, I really didn't map out any strategy for the race.
Race morning, my friend drove me to the bus pickup and I took the bus to the start.  It was cold and windy and I was cold for a while.  They had camp fires, so I got close to one of those and was able to stay warm until the start.  The race begins and I run what I consider to be within myself for the first couple of miles.  It's down hill at this point, so I'm running close to 8 minute miles, which is what it's going to take to get below 3:30.  But the first 13 miles are really rolling hills, so while I'm trying to maintain 8 minute miles, it's taking something out of me on the up hills.  There is one very large hill close to mile 8.  After a few of these by the half way point I was starting to think all of my goals were out the window.  After the half you start almost constant downhills, with brief easing of the hill or leveling off.  At this point it was either run fast or step over to the side and start walking.  I wasn't willing to walk or put the brakes on to go down the hills, so I started running fast.  I continued to run fast with the occasional walk through the aid stations and came into town with a large enough cushion that I knew my PR goal was attainable.  I was hurting at this point, but determined to continue running.  I came into sight of the finish, and crossed in 3:35:22.  A 7 minute PR.  I sat down immediately after the finish.  I rested a couple of minutes then continued on to get my finisher's medal and exit the area.  My friend was waiting for me, and we went back to his house.  A shower, and I felt much better.  Made the drive back to Las Vegas.
A Personal Record on my Birthday in St. George.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 2013

On Sunday, April 28th, I ran the 2013 Memorial Marathon in Oklahoma City.  This was my 4th time running this marathon.  I had several reasons for running it.  It's our hometown marathon, it's for a good cause, and I felt like I needed to stay in long distance shape.
This year rather than put any pressure on myself to run, I decided to take it easy.  Two friends of mine were the 4 hour pacers, and so I decided to just stick with them.  Not that 4 hours is a walk in the park, but I felt like I could hold that pace without pushing myself.
Race morning I found my pacers and stood in the corral with them waiting for the start.  It was fairly cool but predicted to warm up quite a bit before the finish.  National Anthem, 168 moments of silence, plus 4 more for the Boston victims and then the gun.  It took a couple of minutes to cross the start.  As usual it was pretty crowded for a few miles.  Things went almost like clockwork with no major issues.  I've been dealing with some pain just behind my big toe on the ball of my foot.  I had bought some "dancer's pads" and this was really my first test in them.  While I had some pain, it was no where near the level that I had experienced in training runs, and my run in Scotland.
The pacers and I hung together the entire race, and finished in 3:58:31, almost perfect timing.
This was a good race for me, I did get hot near the end, but nothing serious.  Some runners experienced dehydration issues, and a few had to be hospitalized.  I'm thankful to have finished with no apparent injuries.
Thanks to Chuck for the picture above.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Glasgow – Edinburgh Ultramarathon

In my last post, yeah I know it's been awhile, I mentioned that I had a surprise.  I really meant to blog about it before the event.  But I didn't get around to it.
In any event I had decided to do an ultra marathon in Europe.  I looked around at a lot of events, but decided on G2E for several reasons.  It wasn't large, but it wasn't the first year either.  It looked doable, and I read good reviews about it.  I also liked the thought of going to Scotland.  Since I was injured last year, I've only run one marathon and two half marathons.  So I knew it would be a difficult run.  The race is 55 miles.  And I knew I wasn't trained to run it fast, but still I felt like I could finish within the 12 hour cutoff.
My training went fairly well.  I mostly followed the marathon training with the runners training for the Memorial Marathon.  I did add in one 30 mile run.  I ran to another city and back.  It was kind of funny because I had to do this run on a U S Highway, and a lot of people driving between the cities know me.  So during the next few days people were asking me if I had run to the other city and back.
The trip fell into place.  I was flying on American, and set up my flights so that I had decent seats, and a big plane for the long flight from Dallas to London.  I chose an apartment converted to a hotel because of the proximity to the race start. Race day was Saturday, April 6th starting at 9 a.m.
I left Oklahoma City Wednesday, April 3rd around 5 p.m. and Dallas around 9 p.m.  I was flying on a Boeing 777 which I had flown on before to South Africa.  The 777 has personal entertainment centers even in coach.  You can watch movies, T V series, or documentaries.  My flight to London was 9 hours long.  I arrived at London's Heathrow around an hour late.  I missed my connection to Glasgow, but flights were leaving about every two hours so I made the next one.  No problems in Glasgow airport, a cab ride to my hotel and I was ready to settle in around 7 p.m.  I was hungry and asked the lady at the front desk for suggestions within walking distance.  Dinner, then to bed to try and get acclimated to the new time zone.  Scotland is six hours ahead of Oklahoma time.
The next morning I got up and set out to find the starting point for the race.  With one slight mistake I was able to find the start at Ruchill Park.
Confident I could find the start the next morning I prepared my gear and outfit for the race.  I had a running vest to carry the requirements for the race.  A headlamp, space blanket, cell phone, and water proof jacket were all part of the required "kit."
I didn't sleep well the night before.  But I chalk that up to jet lag rather than neveousness.  I got up, got ready, and walked to the start.  There were plenty of people already there.  Checked in, and waited for the start.
 A few minutes before nine the race director gave some basic instructions.  The course was pretty straight forward.  Keep the canal to your right and you were probably going the right way.  There was one major turn, but it was right after the second checkpoint, so you wouldn't have any problems there.  You must keep your cell phone on at all times, and you must report in if you drop out somewhere other than a checkpoint.  Right at nine he shouted "go."  Eighty-nine of us started on our 55 mile journey to Edinburgh.  I started middle back of the pack.  We had a few blocks of city streets before we reached the canal.  Once at the canal, the path was narrow.  I had a plan to just stay at a moderate pace and see what the day would bring.  The weather was almost perfect, overcast and just over 30 degrees.  I was running around a 10 minute pace and passed a few people after a couple of miles.  I made it to the first checkpoint, 13 miles, in just over two hours.  I felt good, made sure they got my number, topped off my water bottles and took off.  I hit the second checkpoint at just over 22 miles in three hours 45 minutes.  This one was the major aid station at a place called the Falkirk Wheel.  This is a major tourist attraction and billed as the world's only rotating boat lift.  While it was an interesting sight, I had hit the wall and was feeling sick to my stomach.  They had chairs here, and I sat down and briefly considered quitting.  I just didn't feel good, but something said get your butt up and start moving, so I did.  This was also the only major hill on the course, so I had to walk it anyway.  A short time after climbing the hill, I came to a long tunnel.  I had read about this, and they had recommended that you use your head light here.  I didn't because there was dim lighting inside.  It was a long walk, but it gave me time to recover some.  After coming out of the tunnel I started back running.  I  settled into a slow pace and could not get back below twelve minute miles.  I went through checkpoints 3 and 4 with no problems.  At each one they'd ask how I felt.  My reply was not bad, slow but I don't hurt.  I made the last checkpoint, 5, at mile 48 in nine hours and fifty minutes.  That left me two hours and ten minutes to go seven miles.  I knew I would finish, but I was dissapointed in my time.  The course enters Edinburgh about 4 miles from the finish.  It was getting dark but still light enough to see, and there were lamps along the course now.  Two young men were walking towards me and they asked me why I had two bottles.  I told them I had come from Glasgow and they seemed impressed and said "good on you mate."  I was pleased I was able to impress young men.  I cruised on to the finish, collected my shirt and medal.
I finished in 11:37:55, 65th out of 75 finishers, and 89 starters.
There was a party going on in a nearby bar, but I decided all I wanted to do was get back to Glasgow, shower, and go to bed.  I got directions to the train station, bought my ticket and took the just over an hour trip back.  Took a cab to my hotel and crashed.  This was a very low key but well run race.  I'm glad I did it and thank all those who supported us in the endeavour.
My trip back to the U S A was fairly uneventful.  Some flight delays, but I made all my connections and my bags arrived when I did.
The only reasons I can think of as to why I bonked and never got over it are that I was under trained and undernourished.  I only took gels, and wasn't averaging one an hour.  The aid stations only had water and an energy drink which tasted more like an electrolyte drink.  But I finished, and I finished within the time limits.  For that and the fact that I finished with no injuries I'm thankful.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Orleans Marathon

Sunday, February 24th, 2013 I ran my first marathon since April of last year.  I did run Comrades (56 Miles) in June of 2012.  The reason for my marathon drought was the injury I detailed in my last post.
While I felt good about my return to the marathon, I wasn't 100% sure I was ready.  My training had gone well, but I still hurt a bit after my 20 mile training runs.  Specifically, I was having a pain in my right leg that seemed to be IT band problems.  While I've had ITBS before, it would always happen long before 20 miles.  So it appears that it was just fatigue.
A lot of my running club friends ran this marathon, and I had several options on travel.  In the end I decided to fly.
My travels to New Orleans went without problem.  I decided to take a city bus to save money.  I traveled light, so I only had one duffel bag to carry.  The bus cost two dollars and took me to within 6 blocks of the hotel.  Probably the cheapest ride into the city I've ever had not counting riding with friends.  My hotel was offbeat, but very nice.
Like most races I had three goals.  Dream goal, Boston Qualify with a cushion, realistic goal, just qualify, backup goal, sub 4.
I went to bed the night before feeling good.  Fell asleep and around 12:30 I awoke to hear the loudspeaker declaring an emergency.  I got dressed, went downstairs, via the stairs from the 6th floor.  I stood around with the rest of the guests while the fire department verified what we all knew, false alarm.  Oh well, back to my room to try to go to sleep.
Next morning I got dressed, and walked across the street to a convenience store for coffee, and to judge the weather.  It wasn't too cool, so I went with a short sleeve shirt and shorts.
To the starting line and corral 3.  I stood around and talked with friends.  The gun, a few minutes to allow our corral to start, and we're off.  Willie, Bill and I were running together for a few miles until they both said they needed to make a pit stop.  I continued on figuring they'd catch back up to me.  I was running within my goal pace and having minor ups and downs.  Bill caught back up with me soon, and after a mile or so he left me.  I was still running within myself and feeling more confident that I'd be able to hold my pace the entire race.  In past races I'd had problems hitting the wall around 19-22 miles.  When I hit 19 a little ahead of goal I decided to pick it up.  Felt good until around mile 23 but was able to hold on to the finish.  Official time 3:43:50, a little over 10 minutes faster than my Boston Marathon qualifying time.
Went back to the hotel, showered, took a cab to the airport and no problems getting home.
Next up?  A surprise, stay turned.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So What's Up?

So, what's been going on?  Yes, it's been a long time.  For 2012 I had several marathons on my calendar after completing Comrades.  Chicago in October, and New York in November.  I was training hard to hopefully go for a P R in Chicago.  While in Las Vegas for a family reunion in late July, I was doing my 3rd run in a row.  I had run 12, 15, and was running 11 this day.  Around mile 9 my shin began to hurt.  I walked for a few minutes and there was no pain.  So I started running again, and immediate pain.  Fortunately I was near my hotel, so I just walked there and figured I'd take a couple of days off.  Back in Oklahoma after a few days I tried to run again.  pain within 1/2 mile.  I knew something was wrong, and thought I had a stress fracture.  Doctor did MRI and the diagnosis was "shin splints."  However, shin splints is a generic term for several different injuries.  More specifically mine was "medial tibial stress syndrome."  Chicago, out, New York, out.  To be fair, I was told I could run these, but not well, and that I might set my running back a few more months.  Not what I wanted, so I bit the bullet and pulled out of both marathons. I took physical therapy for 2 months and cross trained by riding a bike. I ran 3 miles in August, about 80 in September, and bit by bit built back up to over 200 in January.  My first race back was a small 5k in which I ran in the 24's.  I was ok with that because it was very windy and the course was hilly.  I ran a Turkey Trot 5k and pulled it down to a high 22.  I ran a 1/2 marathon in December under 1:45 and figured I was ready for a marathon.  That will come February 24 in New Orleans.
Much more has been going on, but this is hopefully a first step in starting back to write in my blog.
Stay Tuned !