Saturday, May 31, 2008
At one o'clock on Memorial Day I was at the G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Prince William County (VA) with a friend, watching the Potomac Nationals, a single A entry in the Carolina League, club the Lynchburg Hillcats 12-4. Driving the 40 miles to the game at $4 a gallon was a lot more expensive than getting in and dining there. It was a beautiful sunny day and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Most refreshing was the lack of prohibition at the stadium on bringing food or water in.
Like many minor league stadiums, the seating is restricted to a ring of bleachers rimming the home plate area and extending out to just beyond the third and first base areas. The Man was guarding the entry points to the $14 seats behind home plate and the double row of club seats right alongside third base and first base, but the $1 seats (normally $8-$13) were any other seat that was currently unoccupied. We alternated between sitting over by first base with most of the fans, and third base with the fans from Lynchburg. The sight lines were excellent, and we could sit a mere dozen feet off the field down low, or further back by surmounting the bleachers.
The stadium itself has nothing to distinguish it. Set off the road in a copse of trees, there is no view from it of anything except the trees beyond the outfield fences. My friend kept commenting on how young the players looked and how much she just loves "little boys." I think she meant they were cute. Since I'm a guy, their young, studly appearances didn't interest me much, although I marvelled at how often they all practiced their crotch-grabs.
Their baseball skills were mostly unhoned (this is Single A after all) but the game was an exciting offensive display, with several home runs. There was one bizarre play where the batter hit a line drive back at the pitcher, who turned his back in defense. The ball careened off him and flew over to the third baseman who made a leaping grab of the re-directed line drive for an out. The pitcher came out of the game after being hit. It was time anyway because he couldn't get anyone out.
The bullpens, which were merely a row of chairs for the players set along the warning tracks beyond the bases, saw plenty of action. The home team bullpen had a rubber at least, the visiting team bullpen did not. Whenever anyone warmed up, a spare fielder would have to stand behind him looking towards home plate to guard his back from any errant line drives.
Gangs of teenagers roamed the corridors behind the home plate stands looking for private places. The only diversion I saw at the stadium, besides various silly races on the field between innings, was a baseball toss with a radar gun. I know better than to do one of those things, because men are always surprised at how wimpy their throws are. My friend insisted though, and paid the dollar for three balls for me. My first toss was an embarrassing 31 MPH. I wound up on the second pitch and hummed in a strike. 33 MPH. Daunted, I did a windmill windup and, in effect, uncorked a wild pitch straight into the dirt. Bingo, 50 MPH. Relieved to have hit the half-century mark, I went off to buy another dollar hot dog.
Going to see a Minor League baseball game is always economical and a lot of fun. It was a perfect way to end a nice long weekend.
Friday, May 30, 2008
I received a real surprise. Placed on my front porch, on Memorial Day, were four falling-apart, taped-at-the-corners boxes of old board games from the sixties, with partial contents inside. All related to warfare, three being American Heritage games representing the War of 1812 (Broadside), the Civil War (Battle Cry) and WW I (Dogfight). The fourth was based upon the sixties TV series Combat. On top of the stack was the Landmark Book Medal of Honor Winners. The Landmark Books were a series of illustrated history books written for children, mostly boys, in the fifties and sixties on obscure topics like The Winter at Valley Forge and Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West. I devoured them as a boy, and I have a full collection of them now.
There was no note. Just a stack of decrepit boxes placed upon my porch, secretly and anonymously, in a fashion (set near the front edge) that made it clear the delivery person had likely not set foot upon my porch.
The Landmark book was not mine. Three of the games were unfamiliar. They had all been acquired, apparently, by my former family when we were together. We used to go yardsaling and flea marketing a lot when we were on vacation in Maine during the late nineties. One box had a yardsale price sticker on it.
Then a half-decade of nuclear divorce litigation began, and in my opinion, my children became victims of PAS or parental alienation syndrome. This is where the custodial parent actively turns the malleable minor children against the other parent. The children view it as a form of support for the parent they spend most of their time with, and hence are most dependent upon. The domestic law courts are the great enablers of this very real tragedy. Research indicates that PAS has a devastating effect upon children for all of their lives. Some regard it as a form of child abuse. Others deny that it even exists.
My children haven't spoken with me, or anyone on my side of the family, for years even though I provide for full college tuition for them and they have residence a mere two miles away at their Mother's house. What do you think, is PAS real?
The fourth game, Dogfight, had been my family's when I was a boy. On the inside of the box, in my handwriting, was a log of a series of games I had played with my brother forty summers ago. Since he was eight and I was sixteen at the time, the score was 35 games to zero, mine. But I almost lost the last game. I still remember that he had several planes left to my one, so I had to take the 50-50 chance of flying through his AA batteries to destroy his fleet on the ground. Then I quit while I was ahead. Do you think I scarred him? My bad!
Obviously the boxes left on my porch came from my children's Mother's house in Arlington. From whom? Them? One of them? Her?
What did it mean? When half of you out there go through your divorces, you'll see how paranoid it makes you. Because it's an incredibly vicious free-for-all. It has no rules that anyone abides by, and the divorce lawyers rip and tear at the estate until it's an empty husk, whereupon they finally settle the damn thing. Feel free to email me if you would you like to know how I really feel.
The last thing my children or their agent ever left on my porch was a Motion for an Injunction. It was taped to my door, announcing that "they" had filed a "fiduciary" lawsuit against me during my divorce. Talk about piling on! I found it after work on a Friday. I had a grand weekend, and a really fun subsequent three years while it was being litigated and appealed.
The court later threw "their" petition out, finding after a full evidentiary hearing that it was a harassment suit, an unconscionable attempt by their Mother to interfere with my relationship with my minor children. It was appealed, of course. The appellate court found it was an unjustified appeal and socked her full court costs. But the matter was kept alive for years and that, my friends, is how PAS is done.
So I had concerns. My children haven't communicated a Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday, Fathers Day or Easter greeting to me in years. They haven't acknowledged a Christmas, birthday or graduation gift from me or anyone on my side of the family in years. They haven't responded to any offers to attend their graduations or take them to lunch or dinner. They have stonily ignored offers to take them to see David Beckham, any sporting event, or their cousin (on my side) who is a professional bull rider (he competed in an event in Virginia). What was the purpose of placing this pile of boxes silently upon my porch? My thoughts on this ranged far afield, from they're moving to they're dissing me by sending me war games on Memorial Day to they're thinking about me. Why no note or voice mail?
I asked two friends, a man and a woman, what they thought. The man said it wasn't nice; since there was no note I couldn't tell who it was from or what it signified. The woman merely said it was odd.
That's what the boxes on my porch were. More shi**y divorce stuff.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Then I thought about how I hate kids. Well, not really, but how I hate kids in races. Because they start out fast, get ahead of you, and then get underfoot as they suddenly veer here and there looking for friends or slowing down because they’re tired.
Falls Church has a free Memorial Day 3K Fun Run that is flat and fast. It is untimed, other than the fact that the clock at the finish line displays race time. There you receive an unnumbered slip of paper which you exchange for a free race t-shirt, provided by ex-Lt. Governor Don Beyer. There are no bibs, and no results are posted anywhere.
The run starts in front of the Community Center, and everyone in town, it seems, runs it. This seems to includes every single pre-teen in Falls Church. They all jam to the front. The first half-mile of this run is very treacherous with so many inexperienced runners in front. The last time I started downtown, I ran with my heart in my throat and my eyes locked on the roadway six feet ahead. It's a couple of minutes of high-stress running as youngsters dart underfoot until you get away from them.
To rectify this hazard, I have developed a mile run around my neighborhood that starts just down the block, runs past my house and hits the race course right at MP1. So at 9 o'clock on Memorial Day morning I line up by myself on my street and take off. A mile later I hit the race at the midway point, ostensibly joining the pack of runners exactly where I should be anyway. At least that’s the theory. Then I run the last 0.86 miles with everyone else to the finish line.
Thus I miss the chaotic start and avoid the real danger of going down hard on asphalt from tripping over some runner who doesn’t have a clue about race protocol. I can get a fast workout in, getting up to race speed quickly without having to work my way through a crush of people at the start. Plus I can drink coffee in my kitchen until two minutes before race time.
At 9 am I took off down the street. As I ran past my house, I noticed a pile of pizza-size cardboard boxes stacked on my porch. I thought that was odd and determined to check it out after the race. (I noticed this stack of boxes left on my porch as I ran by my house during the 3K race on Memorial Day.)
As I burned off a mile, I could see the race course two hundred yards ahead. The street was empty, with no runners streaming by. That was not good, as I certainly didn’t want to join the course ahead of the race leaders.
With a hundred yards to go, I saw the lead motorcycle cop go by, then the lead runner, then two more. Another two men ran by just as I crashed the course at MP 1, the first mile down in 7:00 according to my watch. I was sixth! Woo hoo! Not!
This was embarrassing to be so far up front, so I picked up my pace and hung onto the lead runners as best as I could. It wasn’t like I joined the course standing still. Slowly the five leaders drew off and other runners started passing me. The runners going by were easy to count that last 0.8 mile. Fourteen ran by, including a woman. I finished 20th out of, probably, 1,000 or more participants.
But of course my finishing place was a fraud. But since there are no places in this race anyway, it didn't matter. It’s unofficial.
But my time was real. My watch said 12:51 (6:54) when I finished the 3K run. The race clock, however, said 10:48. Either I started over two minutes early, or the race start got a little delayed. Sorry!
As I collected my t-shirt, I ran into D behind me on line, who is about my age and very fit. Our oldest children played soccer together. I coached the team. I asked about his son, and D said he had just graduated from college. Memories of five years of ruinous divorce litigation came flooding back. These contemporaries could be posterboys for the life-altering and family-destroying state of American domestic law.
My oldest never went to college despite graduating from the premier high school in the country, bar none. For the last four years he has lived with his Mother and worked as a gopher for the divorce lawyer who was retained, supposedly, by my three minor sons when "they" filed a "fiduciary" suit against me before the divorce action was even complete. The court found that the petition was an unconscionable harassment suit, an attempt by their Mother to interfere with my relationship with my children, and ultimately she was sanctioned and assessed costs of almost $50,000. But her actively involving our minor children in the divorce action so affected them that, in effect, none of my kids has seen me or talked to me or anyone on my side of the family since then, and my oldest changed his last name from mine to hers on his 21st birthday. The divorce lawyer supposedly representing these minor children, who is a past President of the Virginia State Bar, did a good job in "their" litigation against their father, don't you think? He presented a bill to these children of over $22,000 for his services.
D asked me how I did. I said 12:51. He looked puzzled and asked how he had finished behind me since he had run a 12:01. I congratulated him for beating me and told him that if he thought he had seen me finish ahead of him, it was only because I had run my race in a parallel universe. He looked even more puzzled.
The 2008 Falls Church Memorial 3K was in the books, and I headed home. I had a full day ahead of me still. I wanted to see what those boxes were that were left on my porch. And it was dollar admission day at the minor league baseball stadium in Prince William County (Woodbridge, VA) for the Potomac Nationals (Single A) game at 1 pm. As an added bonus, hot dogs were only a dollar.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I am afraid of getting injured, because that would interfere with my running. So although I do take some calculated risks in running, I'm careful and try to be prudent about them. I may run some signal lights but I don't weave through moving traffic. I will run in snow and icy conditions, but if the footing is slippery I'll stop. Outside of running, I won't play basketball or football or leg out infield hits anymore. That fast start/stop is a young man's game and ruinous at my age. Can you spell Achilles rupture? Do you know how long six months is? Several of my friends can, and do.
In terms of running, and perhaps life, I'm not particularly afraid of things so much as I'm afraid of failure. That's why when I started running at age 48, it transformed me.
I started running to lose weight, but then running gripped me. Continuing to run got me over my subsequent fear of not keeping the ensuing weight loss off.
Then I started running in races, and running with people. Although my racing is in the also-ran category, running races gives me a set of numbers (times) that are immutable gauges of what I can do. I started fearing that I would embarrass myself, or not fulfil my friends' expectations, or that I wouldn't meet my goals. I became afraid of giving in to fatigue or letting doubt hold me back.
But I continued to run races so I could confront and overcome these fears, and not succumb to them. Having put in the work of some training, I went out and tried to achieve results.
Usually it works out in some way, although usually not as I hope or expect. For instance, my half-marathon PR is 1:44:18 at the Inaugural Disneyland Half-Marathon. Because I was in the peak condition of my life then, I was hoping to approach 1:40 in the race, but the crush of runners within the narrow theme park the first three miles prevented this. But if I had paralyzed myself by saying I couldn't do a 1:40 and so why try, I wouldn't have a 1:44.
Sometimes it doesn't work out at at all and I have to reassess. My 4:34 debacle at Chicago last fall taught me things, not the least of which was not to try to run 26 miles when you're on antibiotics. But I overcame my fear of embarrassing myself and not fulfilling my friends' expectations by lining up at the start line.
Occasionally the stars line up. My 1:14:34 at Army in 2006, the culmination of my most fit period, is perhaps the best race I have ever run. But to do it, I had to put aside the fear that I would be slower than the 1:18 I had run at the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler earlier that year.
I do about 40 races a year and practically every week I put my fears to the side, again. Because if I don't, I have become afraid. I have let fear change my life.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I didn't know Zach, but I worked with his type when I was a Colorado State Patrolman from 1980 to 1987 and I would have trusted Zach with my life. I always say, if you need help immediately because you're in desperate straits, find a trooper. S/he will act right away to resolve your problem.
Here is Zach's name on the National Law Enforcement Memorial wall here in DC.
I got my pictures back from that week. Enjoy.
Here is the Massachusetts State Police band.
Next is an old squad car. Its hood is up, the universal sign of trouble on the highway. Somebody call a trooper.
Here's another old police car. When I started work for the state patrol, we had two dome lights on top, one blue and one red. That was quite an advancement from the single flashing light on top. You didn't turn them on, you activated them. By the time I left to go to law school, we had a bar of emergency equipment across the top. Progress.
The National Police Week in DC was international. Here are some London bobbies attending the tribute to fallen officers at the the memorial. Do you know why they're called bobbies? I do. Because Sir Robert Peel was responsible for putting the first policemen on the beat in London. Don't know who Robert Peel was? I can't do everything for you. Google him. Or as Stephen Colbert would say, check his wikiality.
Lastly, here's another old squad car. Doesn't it look fast? When I started with State Patrol, we had standard old Chrysler six-cylinders. Man were they powerful. They could get up to speed real fast and go 140 MPH.
Myself, I didn't like going over 90 MPH, and the once or twice I actually went 130 MPH, when there was no traffic and I thought an officer might be in trouble, terrified me. Grimly I went, hands compressing the steering wheel. But you gotta get there. Any trooper would have done the same for me.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Today was a nice day for running although there was a slight breeze. When the race started, Peter took off as usual. Today I decided to match his early charge. Usually I let him go and catch him mid-race, hoping I can put enough distance on him from there that I won’t succumb to his signature final furious finish. (Right: Here's another view of the "hill," looking back at the where the runners come from as they run up the sidewalk on the left. Notice the Tidal Basin off to the left beyond the trees.)
In the final leg, two men ran by me and I could hear two more closing in. This last stretch is interminably long, a slog down a flat straightway that just goes on forever for a runner like me who typically doesn’t do negative splits. I feel like a fly in amber on it, running numbly while getting caught by fast finishers.
The finish clock was reading in the 12:50s as I approached. I like to break 13 minutes but I was too far away for that. I finished in 13:01 (6:59), two seconds faster than the time I had on Sunday. Peter finished fourteen seconds later. I was 29th out of 66 runners.
I had evolved a strategy in this race of starting fast in order to beat Peter, but I didn’t break 13:00 which always used to be my goal. My fast start robbed me of the endurance I needed for a stronger push during the last half of the race and a surge at the end.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
He runs every monthly noontime Tidal Basin 3K race, just as I do. We’re like the Odd Couple with our familiar routine. He breaks off the start line, I pass him mid-way through the race and then he goes postal in the last quarter mile and puts me away. Occasionally, though, I put enough distance on him first that he can't catch me.
This youth’s adult running buddy, another regular at the monthly Tidal Basin 3K, also came by then. He went on to finish ahead of Peter also. The exact routine that was unfolding is scripted in almost all of the 3Ks the three of us run in.
When the results were posted, on a whim I searched the 10K results for everyone who finished ahead of me in the 3K, to see if any of them had run the 10K. I thought that I might be the first Capitol Hill Classic doubler to finish the 3K.
Nope, there was T, nine places ahead of me in 12:16. But he had run his 10K in 1:11:07 whereas I had run my 10K in 47:31 (7:39) so my total time was way better than his total time.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
This year I ran up the hill after every Mall run. I worked it. It's .35 mile and it's steep. It's three minutes of hard work.
Today was a perfect day to run, cool and overcast with a very slight breeze. As soon as I lined up at the start, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was H. Oh, hi.
H was a 10K student of mine two years ago. She has never beaten me. I used to think I could jump in on her races, pace her a bit and help her out. Then she got a personal trainer and started training relentlessly. I ran the last six miles of the MCM with her in October, her first marathon. She did a 4:07. My first marathon was a 5:05.
I was extremely happy with my 1:45 at the National Half-Marathon in March. Then H went down to hilly Nashville last month and threw down a 1:47 at the Half Mary there. Yikes.
I ran with H yesterday for the first time since December, four easy miles on the W&OD. She told me she was running today, so I went after a little intel. I asked her what her goal was on the morrow. Break 48, she said. Yikes. Not PR, or break 50 for the first time, no, break 48. Personally, I just was hoping I could break fifty.
When the gun sounded, I went out fast to put as much distance on H as I could in the hope that she wouldn't overhaul me later. Running eastbound on E. Capitol Street, I turned the first mile at 7:00. Running around RFK, I clocked the second mile at 7:25. Westbound on E. Capitol Street I passed by the third marker at 7:40. I was definitely slowing down. I kept mentally checking my stored minutes in the bank, knowing that the looming signature hill would slow me up.
Milepost Four was way off. I passed it going down Capitol Hill on Independence Avenue at 9:32. I was momentarily fearful that I had just run a 9:30 flat mile in a non-marathon race but then I knew that there was no way I had slowed down that much. Still, I was too tired to make full use of "letting it flow" as I ran downhill.
On the bottomland below the hill, I got mesmerized by how long an out-and-back it was on Independence Avenue before we rounded a cone and came back for the fearsome climb up Capitol Hill. Suddenly in my reverie I saw H off to the side thirty yards ahead. Oh, had she been quiet going by me.
Decision time. Do I let her go, or do I HTFU? I found a reserve and powered up beside her. I looked at her and she looked at me. I can tell the look from a woman that says, Not now! I passed by her without a word.
But when you're ahead, you can't keep track of where anyone is who is behind you. Although I was worried about what finishing strategy H might have, all I could do was keep moving. I hit the hill.
Unlike last year, I handled it. I powered up half of it before it wore me out and the rest of the climb turned into a slog. But even during the late going I wasn't tottering along in a faltering shuffle like last year.
Hill surmounted, I tried to push the last mile in. Finally I saw Milepost Six. I got spooked that I would get caught in that last quarter mile and I passed the last .2 mile in 1:28 (7:20 pace). A friend watching the race from the finish line later said I was really flying at the end. She had no idea of what was driving me.
I finished in 47:41 (7:40) by my watch, over a full minute faster than last year. H broke 48 minutes, just as she had set out to do. She did a great job. But her beating my a**, probably badly, will have to wait til next time.
As I trudged off to the start line of the accompanying 3K race, I was really happy with my time and effort in the 10K.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Zach Templeton was 27 when he died in October on a divided highway outside of Denver. He was in the grassy median where he had stopped to help a motorist wrestle a 22,000 gallon plastic water tank back onto the trailer from whence it had fallen. Scott Hinshaw, 38, was also there helping.
Traffic was crawling past the men. When I was a State Patrolman, we called these drivers who slowed down to gawk at roadside spectacles lookie-loos. They are a menace.
Seventeen year old Cody Loos was driving down the road searching the floorboard of his pickup truck for some sunflower seeds to chew on. Such is the price of a man’s life, some sunflower seeds. Loos glanced up to see that traffic was almost stopped immediately in front of him and he jammed on his brakes. His pickup skidded, slid into the median and slammed into Templeton and Hinshaw. Templeton was killed and both of Hinshaw’s legs were badly broken.
No drugs or alcohol were involved. Only sunflower seeds.
The two men lay like crumpled dolls on the ground under Loos’ truck. Moments before, both had looked powerful and resplendent in their Colorado State Patrol uniforms. The blinking emergency lights on their now-empty units added a terrible stridency to the suddenly-chaotic scene.
This is National Police Week in DC. Hundreds of police officers from all over the world are in town to honor the thousands of fallen American peace officers whose names are inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. On Saturday there was a 5K race run in commemoration of the event. Last night there was a service for fallen officers at the Memorial.
I attended and perused the personal tributes laid upon the wall in memoriam. I was a Colorado State Patrolman for seven years and I know the names of several of my then-brethren, and others, who are there.
Some are legendary in Colorado State Patrol lore, like Trooper Tom Carpenter, who was abducted and forced to drive around in his patrol car by his assailant, who held his own service weapon to his head. Before he was brutally killed, Carpenter desperately engaged in outlandish radio traffic as a signal of trouble but no one caught on, and radio protocol was changed after his tragic murder.
As I walked the wall of heroes, I saw a CSP shoulder patch laid by a picture of a virile young man familiarly dressed in sky blue epaulet shirt and french blue slacks with a charcoal gray stripe. One of my own, a Colorado State Trooper taken in October. I reflected upon the photograph showing a strong man of youth and promise, noted the name and went home to research Zachariah Templeton.
So senseless was the devastating accident that claimed the trooper's life that Colorado State Patrol Chief Colonel Mark Trostel, in assuagement, could only conclude that God must have called away Templeton for duty, because never again would Templeton’s three-year old daughter feel his strong hands holding her, nor would his family and friends ever again be cheered by his infectious smile. Hinshaw is still working determinedly to recover from his traumatic leg injuries.
Loos, now 18, expressed remorse at a hearing in March while pleading guilty to careless driving resulting in death, a misdemeanor. Perhaps worse than the sentence he received, two years probation and 300 hours of community service, was having to face several of the victims of his act and listen to their outpouring of understandable rage, bitterness and grief.
Five months afterwards, Trooper Hinshaw would need a wheelchair to attend the sentencing hearing. He felt a guilt that was "absolutely unbearable" that he had survived while Templeton hadn’t. He wished he could have changed places with Templeton. Hinshaw addressed Loos, and spoke of forgiveness.
"I am willing to stand with you and do this community service with you and help you honor this man right here. You messed up, Cody, and that one decision cost a life. [However] I refuse and do not want you to let this ruin your life. ... Be better than you can ever be, always strive to be better, always be unhappy with where you are in life. Carry on, brother, we’ll get better."
The Colorado State Patrol released a statement afterwards that said in part: After the tragic loss of Trooper Templeton and the devastating injuries to Trooper Hinshaw, "our focus has been on assisting the Templeton and Hinshaw families through these trying times." Hopefully the conclusion of the criminal case will allow the Templeton and Hinshaw families "to seek closure and turn a new chapter in the healing process. ... It is also our hope that the healing process may begin for the Loos family as well."
In Memoriam to 24 Colorado State Patrol Officers.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Because the race has a caveman theme, I ran the 10K with my club yesterday, that is, with the 10K Group (TKG) Training Program my club puts on. It was the twelfth and last session before the target race, the Capitol Hill Classic 10K next Sunday. A group of 31 well intentioned souls had winnowed down to about eight runners who were apportioned out among up to five coaches each week. Since it was raining yesterday, the coach/runner ratio was an exceptionally high 1/1. Not even the promotion of handing out program t-shirts could induce a greater turnout in the drizzle (much less my promised Pre-Race Strategy lecture, which in the wet circumstances consisted of the exhortation to stay hydrated, remember your chip and be on time). (Left: I tested out the Program shirt last week at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. It worked fine, and even drew comments from three passing runners over the saying on the back, Get Used to the View.)
Saturday, May 10, 2008
This gave me a chance to run the Flying Pig Marathon. This is a very well put on marathon. The experience was a blast. The course, however, is, uh, challenging.
Before I went, I looked at its topographical map. It looks like a giant anaconda which has just swallowed a bus. Steady as she goes til MP 6, then a hellacious climb to MP 8, then down the other side and out. Sort of like National, with its climb and descent in the early mid-part of the marathon, before fatigue turns inclines into hills and hills become mountains. Very doable, on paper.
Still, one of Cincinnati's several nicknames is The City of Seven Hills. I no longer wonder why.
My training was abbreviated because I didn't know I was running this May marathon until sometime in April, when I was offered the opportunity to go to Cincinnati. I went out and was able to finish a 20-miler so I figured I could do the Pig. The next week I ran a 15-miler, the week after that a 16-miler and the week before the marathon I did a 10-miler. Then I lined up at 6:30 am on Sunday with the 3:40 pace group, "ready" to go. I had ankle and hamstring issues, but they wouldn't delay the start til I got 100%. Go figure.
They did delay the start, however, for a fire on the course. This caused a course alteration which lengthened the course. But unlike at Army in 2005, this did NOT turn the marathon into a Cincinnati Fun Run. They adjusted appropriately on the fly. (Are you listening, Chicago?)
By the time the starting cannon was fired, however, I was really ready to go, if you know what I mean. A quarter mile down the course I was relieved to find a handy bush along the Ohio. I never saw the 3:40 group again. Left to my own resources, I soon settled into a steady pace.
A jog by the Great American Ballpark (Reds) took us onto the Taylor Bridge into Kentucky. Two miles later we were back in Ohio running through downtown Cincinnati. We ran by the sports bar where I ate dinner and hydrated the two prior nights. Tragically, this was where I watched live on TV while Kentucky Derby runnerup Eight Belles was put to death the night before. Horse racing has a real problem.
Soon we surmounted what I thought was the climb of the race. It wasn't too bad and now I was literally at the top of the world. Up there I could see the Ohio far below, glinting in the morning sun. Downtown Cincinnati and its bridges were visible behind me, and stretching out in front was the great bend of the river.
But soon I discovered that the hills were far from done. Still ahead were lots more rolling hills, inclines, and, worst of all, short, sharp hills. Little ten and twenty-yard rollers that lifted up and down like a crazy roller coaster track. Major combat wasn't over. Well, bring 'em on.
The halfway mark came and went. We toured the Cincinnati suburbs to the NE. Suburbs are suburbs but the crowd support was great. We ran down some bike paths, which I always find interesting in marathons (where does this one go? Does it go all the way to downtown?).
We were actually detouring around the early-morning conflagration and the course was being stretched out thereby but hey, we all ran the same distance. Nobody made it "unofficial" thereby. (Cincinnati did a great job. This is a great marathon.)
We ran over a controlled-access four-lane divided highway where we got the shoulder and one lane, while the cars got the other lane. A line of orange plastic cones protected us dead-tired runners from them. Do you think the cars slowed down? (This is the midwest. Actually, many did.)
And then we were on the home stretch! A large sign announced the last mile. I tried to pick it up but the last mile was long, I tell ya. I finished in under four hours on all registers, the gun time, the chip time and the adjusted time due to the course lengthening. I loved this marathon. What more can I say?
Friday, May 9, 2008
Marathons are like, I imagine, combat. Intense experiences that you need time to decompress from. The closest I have ever come to a combat experience was the nine years of police work I did. Most nights I was out on my own on patrol, focused, active, confronting situations fraught with peril, occasionally experiencing fear (or once or twice, terror). It was intense and, at times, dangerous work. Twenty years after I left it, I'm still decompressing from it. Marathons are a lot like that.
You never really get over any of them. I can vividly remember each one I have run. For the several hours that you are engaged in them you are thrust deeply into their immediacy. All actions are aimed towards the solitary completion of a difficult task. Hours of drudgery and acute discomfort are coupled with an occasional uplifting moment such as when you view a magnificent vista or come upon a rehabilitating wounded veteran struggling along doggedly on injured or missing limbs.
You are limited by the possible. Do you need a 5:40 in the last mile to PR? It ain't gonna happen so enjoy the finish. Do you need a 7:40 instead? Then it's time to get a move on and hope for the best.
Like a soldier placed into the field, the whole community supports you. The supply train is loaded and people hand you drinks, food or comfort in the form of aspirin, cooling sprays or encouragement. If you falter, they will immediately succor you. But you have to go it alone. No one can cover any part of the 26 miles for you. On the race course, there is no place to hide from the elephant.
Also, you can't escape from your own effort. Were you a coward, did you do your duty, or did you perform extraordinarily? Deep down, you know the answer. It's your own secret, but the knowledge is there within you.
A few years back, a friend, perhaps feeling the tug of mortality after passing the half-century mark, asked me if I had done even one thing in years that had left me feeling truly exhilarated. The way the question was asked implied that after long reflection the answer would invariably be no, sort of like when W was asked if he could think of any mistake he had made following 9/11.
The answer instantly sprang into my head. Sure, I replied, I feel that way after every marathon.
That's how I felt about it then, and that's how I feel about it now.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Bobby Edwards was a streaker. This is what they call marathoners in Cincinnati who have run all of the prior Flying Pig Marathons in that city. On Sunday morning, as he was approaching the tenth mile in this tenth running of the Flying Pig Marathon, Edwards was feeling good. Suddenly, without warning, the 55 year-old sub-5 hour marathoner collapsed. He lay lifeless in the road while bystanders desperately called for help. A minute ticked by.
Patrick Conrey, an EMT from Clearwater, Florida, must have been getting hot in his fireman's gear as he approached milepost 10. Cincinnati fireman Oscar Armstrong III had perished in a fire on March 21, 2003. Two Cincinnati-area firefighters, Captain Robin Broxterman and Brian Schira of Colerain Township, had similarly fallen while fighting a fire on April 4th. Conrey was running the Flying Pig Marathon in full fireman regalia in tribute to them and to raise money for charity. (Conrey was running for others at the Flying Pig Marathon.)
Some paramedics from local fire departments were running with Conrey in support of his effort. This group came across Edwards lying motionless in the roadway a minute after he went down, at about the moment that a paramedic team standing by elsewhere on the course was being dispatched to the scene. With one precious minute gone by, every second counted for the inert Edwards.
Surveying the scene as the group ran up on the prostrate Edwards, Conrey said to his comrades, "It's time to go to work, boys." The unnamed local firemen switched from runners to rescuers instantly and sprang to Edwards' aid.
CPR was started upon the unconscious Edwards. The standby paramedic unit arrived. For twenty minutes paramedics worked upon the prone runner in the roadway while marathoners streamed by.
Chest compressions were done. A tube was inserted in his mouth. He was shocked by a defibrillator three times.
Edwards was resuscitated and transported to University Hospital. He was speaking by the time he arrived. On Sunday night he was listed in stable condition.
Conrey modestly said, "I don't want to take too much credit. I was just there handing them drugs. Those paramedics running with me, they saved his life."
Edwards' daughter Stephanie Rabius said, "I could be planning a funeral right now. He had a heart attack. If they hadn't been there, my father would be dead."
Edwards asked his daughter at the hospital, "So, was I dead?"
She told him, "Yeah. You were."
Race medical director Dr. Jon Devine said the hospital cardiologist described the recovery Edwards made from his heart attack as "one of the greatest saves he's ever seen."
Conrey, a 3:22 marathoner who went on to finish the marathon in a time of 5:26:42 while carrying about 40 pounds of equipment, stated how he felt about having an unanticipated delay during his race. "You almost feel like that was the reason we were running the marathon today. It was twenty minutes well spent on the course."
There were some heroes afoot in Cincinnati this past weekend.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
The Challenge: Find a Captain. The oldest Commissioner stepped forward. He trained hard and won third in his category of Captains over 59. I already knew a fast woman runner in my agency, A, and our rock star, G, agreed to run.
In 2006, we finished 7/28 in the Executive Division, 15/113 overall. Our individual finishes in the field of 642 were 43, 122, 162, 165 and 424. Our times were G 19:14 (6:25), M 21:22 (7:07), A 22:04 (7:21), me 22:09 (7:23), Commissioner 26:59 (9:00). (Right: The Commissioner accepts his age group medal in 2006.)
We were ebullient over our good showing. For me it was a PR by six seconds of 22:09 (7:23) at the 3-mile distance. But my PR in the longer 5K distance, 21:58 (7:05) set in 2001, was still lower and I really wanted to break 22 minutes in a 3-Miler race, which are few and far between.
In the 2007 race, I had to replace M and his 21:22. The Commissioner was injured but gamely ran anyway because no other Commissioner could or would run (no Captain, no team, no race).
G improved by a full minute in the first slot, and A stepped up into the number two slot and more than replaced M's time. We lost time in the three through five slots, however. I wilted in the heat and felt like I let the team down when I ran 21 seconds slower than the prior year, losing almost half a minute in the third spot. Newcomer C did an excellent job, running sub-8 minute miles, although we lost over a minute in the fourth slot. The Commissioner couldn't overcome his injury, which prevented him from training, and we lost a few minutes in the fifth slot. (Left: The 2007 team, A, G, the Commissioner, me and C.)
In 2007, we finished 14/33 in the Executive Division, 36/124 overall. Our individual finishes in the field of 670 were 29, 145, 217, 280 and 615. Our times were G 18:14 (6:05), A 21:09 (7:03), me 22:30 (7:30), C 23:34 (7:51), Commissioner 32:35 (10:52).
The team slipped by 6:14 last year. C'est la guerre.
In this year's race, I had to find a woman to replace A and her 21:09. The Commissioner was still injured but gamely ran anyway when another Commissioner who stepped forward to run became injured (no Captain, no team, no race).
G improved by seven seconds in the first slot, M came back in the number two slot and we improved there by over a minute and a half, while I took over a minute off the third slot's time. We lost time in the four and five slots, however. Newcomer K did an excellent job, running sub-9 minute miles, although we lost over two minutes in the fourth slot. The Commissioner couldn't overcome his injury, which prevented him from training, and we lost a few seconds in the fifth slot.
In 2008, we finished 12/29 in the Executive Division, 35/108 overall. Our individual finishes in the field of 606 were 21, 58, 145, 354 and 557. Our times were G 18:07 (6:02), M 19:25 (6:28), me 21:25 (7:08), K 25:40 (8:33), Commissioner 32:40 (10:53).
The team improved by 45 seconds this year. We all felt triumphant. Team races, where everyone pulls hard for everyone else, are a blast. This race in Anacostia Park, SE, is a scenic, flat out-and-back along the Anacostia River. It runs under three bridges.
Personally, my splits for the 3 miles were 6:49, 7:19 and 7:15, for a PR by 44 seconds of 21:25 (7:08). I went out fast and held on, even finding a tiny bit of reserve at the end. I nailed the distance. It was just one of those races.