Friday, November 27, 2009

Full circle

I remember as a little boy standing in our yard, looking up at my Dad perched precariously on the roof line of our house adjusting a television antenna. All rooftops in the fifties sported them, long upright slender rods bristling with short horizontal wires.

He was up there in his socks, turning the antenna this way and that. I worried that he might slip and fall, because all small children know that socks are slippery. I hadn't learned yet that on sloping roofs, penny loafers are even more slippery. I had this image in my head that if he fell, I would run inside, grab a mattress off a bed, drag it outside and put it under him to break his fall, before he hit the ground. Too many Saturday morning cartoons, I guess.

From his perch above the attic, my Dad called out to my Mom who was on the first floor watching TV. The windows were open.

"Barbara, is this any better?"

"Jim, it's fine! It's good! Please come down!"

"Come on Barbara, tell me if it's better or not!"

"It is, it's better, I can see the station perfectly. Now please come down!".

My Dad rotated the rod a quarter turn. "How's this? Better?"

"Jim, come down!""

"Barbara, try CBS."


I was five. I watched and listened in wonder as my parents tried to adjust our over-the-air TV.

The day I resigned from my running club, I went to Best Buy and bought a digital TV. Since I wasn't coaching anymore, I would have plenty of extra time each weekend to watch TV.

I don't have cable and my analog TV hadn't worked since the conversion to digital in June. Oh yeah, I had tried to hook up the government-sponsored conversion box I had bought with the coupon subsidy. That was a wasted 2 hours, and a squandered $10. What a scam.

I told the sales clerk over and over that all I wanted was something that I could take out of the box, plug into the wall, turn on and watch NFL football on. Lke in the olden days when you brought a TV home from the store, plugged it in and it just...worked.

Oh yeah, yeah, she kept saying. She sold me a Dynex 22-inch LCD TV HDTV 720p High Definition Multimedia Interface. I kept asking, Is it a TV and will it work right out of the box? Oh yeah, yeah.

Upon the clerk's recommendation, I also bought a TERK Amplified HDTV Indoor Antenna for seventy dollars. At home I set up the TV, plugged it in, attached the antenna to the set and turned it on. A menu came on the screen that indicated the apparently sentient being was scanning the area for channels and asked me to please wait. The clerk had told me about this procedure.

After a couple of minutes, the set came to life and presented me with a rugby channel. I had a very clear picture of a giant Australian amoeba undulating around the pitch in a scrum. It wasn't quite Tom Brady to Randy Moss but my TV set was alive again after many months of pure snow. I kept cackling, "Houston, we have liftoff!" as I clicked through the channels.

You're supposed to get all sorts or extra, extraneous over-the-air channels with HDTV. A bountiful boon from the government, upon mandating conversion, to us citizens too cheap or poor to purchase cable TV.

They were there alright. Two cooking channels. The rugby channel. A Japanese channel in Japanese with Japanese subtitles. Al Jazeera. Two weather channels. Two shopping channels. An African channel. RTV showing obscure 50s television series.

No NFL football. Round and round the channels I surfed. No CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox.

In frustration I called my bother-in-law, the college professor with an Ivy League doctorate. He can figure out anything. I spent the next hour on the phone with him while he researched TERK and Dynex on the Internet. I did exactly what he told me to do.

Yes, I had read the manual. No it was not helpful. I even read it to my brother-in-law but it was not helpful to him either.

He conjured up from the Internet a template on his computer screen with my exact remote on it. After half an hour he determined that the problem was the set was programmed to scan for channels only the first time it was activated. We had to fool the set, antenna or remote (I'm not sure which) into thinking it had to conduct another scan for available channels. I kept thinking of the Star Trek episode where Kirk and Spock destroy the supercomputer threatening the universe by tricking it into questioning itself endlessly.

My brother-in-law told me to pick up the the antenna and said, "Hold it pointing exactly north, northwest."

"Excuse me?"

"Just hold it up, pointing north, northwest until I say otherwise."

I thought of CPR protocol, to keep doing chest compressions until a qualified person tells you to stop. I've been there, doing compressions upon a dead person.

I so love the Redskins, apparently. I thrust this metal column aloft, alone in my living room. I held this short thick rod bristling with horizontal flanges pointed north, northwest. Towards Fairfax County, I guess, where the TV transmitting towers for the Washington stations are, I suppose. I'm sure my brother-in-law had already researched that information in the last hour.

A minute passed. I felt foolish, like I was engaged in a secret initiation rite during Rush Week.

The voice of NFL announcer Phil Simms suddenly came from the TV set. I looked, and Sunday Night Football was on the screen! I thanked my brother-in-law for finding NBC for me and hung up.

I discovered that when I moved the antenna even 15 degrees off the direction I had it pointed, the channel blinked out. When I lowered the antenna, the pixels broke up and the picture disintergrated into a set of herky jerky disjointed still images.

Now I watch TV with the antenna perched atop a towering contraption I have built next to the set. Atop a box resting upon a footstool which stands on a chair sits the amplified antenna, pointing exactly NNW. When I move in front of the antenna, the picture momentarily fails. If the rube goldberg device gets jostled, the picture blinks out. Then I have to pick up the antenna and rotate it just right for the picture to come back. It seems our society hasn't progressed very far in 52 years.

"Barbara, try CBS."


Personally, I have given up. I ordered cable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Felicity or doom

Elysium is as far as to
The very nearest room,
If in that room a friend await
Felicity or doom.

What fortitude the soul contains,
That it can so endure
The accent of a coming foot,
The opening of a door!
[Emily Dickinson]

Happy Thanksgiving, Dan. I'm sorry you didn't call.

Call me or write me before Christmas, and let's get together then for lunch. We'll find a place open, even if I have to boil some spicy shrimp and bring it and some cocktail sauce down to Banneker Park at noon so we can sit on a park bench and eat overlooking the DC Waterfront. The hour would surely go swiftly, seven years is a long time to catch up on! I hope you and your two older brothers are doing well on this day of solicitude.

Love, Dad.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

That Day in Dallas

Forty-six years ago I was sitting in math class at Edwin Markham JHS 51 on Staten Island when school principal Miss Anapole came on the school intercom system and in what I now recognize was a hysterical voice announced, "The President has been shot! He's dead! President Kennedy is dead!" One student broke into a cheer and Mr. Guzio yelled at him, "You shut your mouth!" Tension and oppression immediately settled over us seventh graders and we sat in shocked silence. Those were in the days before they sent grief counselors to the schools.

We were called into the school auditorium where Miss Anapole harangued us some more about the event in a shrill voice. I remember the loudspeaker system humming as she shrieked and glared at us. Then we were turned out of the school shortly after noon and we all went home. It was a long walk home on that gray, cold November afternoon.

At home I lay on my parents' bed for awhile, listening to the radio. That was how we mostly got our news in those days. It kept replaying Walter Cronkite's intonation that it was confirmed, the president of the United States is dead. I cried for awhile, quietly and alone, because I thought that was the right thing to do.

When I visited Dallas last summer and toured the Texas School Book Depository, where the fatal shot came from, people around my age were asking each other where we were on that fateful morning. That's a reference us baby boomers can relate to, sort of like do you remember what you were doing the moment you heard that the Challenger had blown up (shopping at Target in Boulder and I saw it on a demo TV) or when you first heard about 9/11 (at Metro Center waiting for a Red Line train and Metro announced that trains were running slow due to "the attack" at the Pentagon). I was only eleven the day JFK was shot but I remember it quite clearly.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The fatal shooter

On my visit to Dealey Plaza in Dallas last summer, I stood on the Grassy Knoll contemplating that terrible day forty-six years ago when President Kennedy was shot. Looking up at the corner window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, I could see that the distance the shot traveled wasn’t so great. It was easy to imagine that a sharpshooter up there with a sniper’s scope and a stable platform upon which to steady his rifle could score a head shot on an unsuspecting target sitting immobile in a car that was slowly moving away. It wasn’t shooting fish in a barrel but it wasn’t the stuff of fantasy either.

Then a number of Segways rolled up and people in a tour group dismounted and ascended the grassy knoll. I could tell from their accents that they were Brits. The tour director wore a jacket saying "Dallas Tours." I sidled over to listen so I could get the benefit of her expertise for free. (Right: The Warren Commission said the fatal shot, the Magic Bullet if you will, came from up there, the corner window one level down. From it's original velocity of traveling 2,200 feet per second upon leaving the barrel of the rifle, the bullet would be hurtling onwards at 1,800 feet per second when it arrived here six feet above street level.)

Using sweeping arm gestures, she explained how on that fateful morning the presidential limousine had just executed two awkward ninety-degree turns and was slowly traveled down the middle lane in the broad roadway below us. She pointed out the window where the shots had come from, above and behind the car. She engaged the tourists by asking them what they would expect the driver of the limousine to do when he heard the first shot.

“Get the 'ell out of there, Luv?” one ventured in Cockney.

“No, actually, he slowed down further.”


“He did, he practically came to a stop. Some people have said that was so the agents in the Secret Service car following could come forward to protect the president.”

She had me engrossed now. My thought was that the driver panicked and his reactions froze.

“Another shot rang out. Still the car crawled slowly away. The president was hit by now and bleeding.”

Everyone’s eyes were shining as they stared at the road and looked up at the window. She had us hanging on her words.

“And then,” she said, gesturing her arm in the opposite direction to the far corner of the grassy knoll where it meets the overhead railroad viaduct, “the fatal shot came from there. It entered the president’s skull through his temple. That’s the shot that killed him”

(Left: The fatal shooter was standing in the little triangle framed by the lamp post, the sloping line of grass meeting the cement wall and the bottom level of leaves on the trees, to the right of center in this photo.) Everyone’s heads snapped around to look for that phantom shooter. Forgotten was the specter of Oswald up in his sniper’s perch.


“Now the car sped up. Only now did they rush off to the hospital with the already-dead president. Meanwhile a police line advanced across the street towards the Grassy Knoll, to seal it off."

Our heads snapped back to scour the roadway for the spectral police phalanx.

“That was to give the shooter time to escape.”

Ahh! (Right: The fatal shot came from here. It looks like a difficult shot to me because the target would be moving across the shooter's front, causing him to to swivel the rifle barrel to track it.)

“It was the CIA,” she added gratuitously.

Now I know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The fatal shot

Last summer I was in Dallas and I visited Dealey Plaza, the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. The goodness that flowed into America out of the magnitude of its effort to overcome the badness of World War II seemed to filter through that moment in time, and nothing was the same thereafter. Vietnam, Watergate, Irangate, trickle down (ketchup as a school vegetable!), Monica, W. We still don't have universal health care. (Right: Dealey Plaza. The Grassy Knoll is in the exact center of the picture. JFK had only a few seconds to live when he unsuspectingly encountered this vista.)

Driving down Elm Street in Dallas, as soon as I topped the rise leading down into the Plaza I recognized it instantly. The wide expanse of the split-roadway slope leading down to a highway underpass has been seared into the memory of every American who was a school child in the early 60s through countless published photographs of the event. Like a suddenly developed Polaroid photograph, there it all was. The Texas School Book Depository with its sixth floor sniper's perch, the broad roadway flowing past and under that window, the Grassy Knoll beyond.

I believe something more was going on that day than just a lone-wolf political-nut shooter taking out the President by a blind convergence of luck and circumstances. Additional shooters? I didn't know. My nagging doubt always centered upon the difficulty, nay, impossibility of three shots being fired with such great accuracy from a bolt-action rifle at such extreme range. The difficulty of distance was what impressed me from the numerous pictures I had seen of the place. (Left: The Texas School Book Depository is behind me. Although I am not in the roadway, imagine a sniper with a scope in the right corner window one level below the top row, trained upon me. Completely doable. A slow moving car in a parade procession would be traveling directly away from the shooter, not across his front, so he needn't swivel the barrel to track the target.)

In person I instantly saw that it was very possible. Actually seeing the site, the distances compressed. For a good shooter with a stable platform, that was a likely shot. Lee Harvey Oswald was a Marine sharpshooter.

In the next post I'll disclose the official Dallas version of the shooting, to which I am now privy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Access Denied

I had a cathartic visit this weekend with an old running buddy of mine, Bex, who moved away to California a couple of years ago. I admire her and listen to her counsel closely. She advised me to move on. (Right: Bex at the Lake Tahoe Relay.)

So I am not going to post the long memo I sent last summer to the club's director of training outlining my vision for the club's training program, the one he ignored and actively subverted with the assistance of his buddies. I am not going to relate the details of the profane late-night phone call I received, or how the president's blog was removed from the front page of the club's website, or answer the charge that I engaged in "passive-aggressive attacks on other board members." (It was a novelty to have a man accuse me of being passive-aggressive.)

Contractual information was withheld from me, I couldn't get information about who suddenly published different bylaws on the club's website, and the club veeps I asked declined to assist me in getting the president's blog restored to its traditional spot. They also refused to investigate and report to me on whether there'd been co-mingling with a club account.

My presidential authority having thus been rendered nugatory, this month's board meeting became a debacle when I had four club members openly dissing me practically to the point of a melee. I took full responsibility for the breakdown of the meeting because I was the president. I resigned.

I'll reaffirm a truism--bullies are cowards.

Everyone there made their choices that day. I'm moving on.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

The controversy that led me to step down from the presidency of my running club last week had its genesis in a dispute over who would direct the upcoming training program that is currently closely associated with a national marathon in the area. Briefly, the club’s director of training, one of three club veeps I inherited, chose himself to be director of this complex program. However, acting in the best interests of the club and after personally conferring with him last summer, I appraised him in a lengthy memo that I was appointing the director of the then-ongoing club 10-Miler Training Program to be the new program’s director instead. Briefly, that program director's credentials and track record were far superior to anyone else's in the club. The club's director of training had no track record.

I requested the training director to instead direct the much less complex upcoming 10K Program as his initial foray into directing club training programs. He hadn't ever directed a training program before, nor even been a site director.

Tomorrow I’ll post the memo I sent him, with names edited out for the sake of privacy, showing that I didn’t undertake the decision lightly. It’s very long. I stated several compelling reasons for the choice. I had unstated reasons also, that centered upon the director of training personally. He was inexperienced and I lacked confidence in his judgment and reliability. In my opinion, I was acting in the best interests of the club and he was acting in the best interests of himself. He absolutely ignored the memo and took actions in undercutting it that absolutely roiled the club.

Some other characters are about to enter this story. Called straight out of an Alexandre Dumas novel, three other board members (one's position is disputed and unconfirmed), all well under thirty, rode to this early-thirties veep’s rescue. (I'm approaching sixty.) Here's the crucial fact--these three amigos, all very close friends. absolutley and totally control the club's website all by themselves.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yeah, that's me.

If I write the Access Denied series explaining why I resigned last week, you’ll need to know the persons involved. Here are the qualifications I brought to the club when I became president in May.

Participant in the club’s initial 10-Mile Training Program

Volunteer Coach, 10K Training Program.
Volunteer Coach, 10-Mile Training Program.
Volunteer at some club races.

Director, 10K Training Program.
Director, 10-Mile Training Program.
Director, Reebok SunTrust Half Marathon Training Program (along with the club president, I helped create the Reebok SunTrust National Marathon Training Program).
Recipient of the Justine Peet Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award.

Club VP, Director of Training.
Director, 10K Training Program.
Director, 10-Mile Training Program.
Director, Reebok SunTrust Half Marathon Training Program (under the club president, who remained as director of the overall program).
Obtained RRCA Coaching Certification.
Club representative at the RRCA 50th Annual Convention.
Obtained CPR and 1st Aid Certification, completed additional course work in Sports Psychology and Lactate Tolerance.
Volunteer at various club races.

Winter/Spring 2009
Finished directing the Reebok SunTrust National Half Marathon Training Program.
Race Staff at the SunTrust National Marathon.
Director, 10K Training Program.
Finalized the deal bringing the ATM Training Program to the club and set up that training program’s leadership structure.

General—I conducted some hill workouts, scheduled some speakers for the training programs, participated in numerous club races and programs, developed a body of volunteer coaches and acted as the informal historian of the club’s 10K, 10M and Half Marathon Training Programs by weekly blogging. The last three years have been exceedingly busy for me. For instance, I devoted forty-seven out of fifty-two Saturday mornings last year to actively participating in the three training programs that I directed. Detailed planning and administrative work were routinely required each week.

Basically, I came from the developing training side of the club, as opposed to the traditional, long-established racing side of the club. There is a tension between the two. My training director credentials were first rate.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey Rae, you were wonderful

In January, before I became club president, I nominated a volunteer coach in a couple of my training programs for club volunteer of the year for 2008. I am publishing the nomination I sent in to the selection committee because it shows my thinking about what was important for the club. Let’s call my choice Rae, not her real name. All names have been removed for privacy sake.

Rae’s notable accomplishments:

Volunteer Coach for the club’s 10M/10K Program, summer 2008.

In this capacity, Rae created (along with two fellow coaches) and ran the Alternate Tuesday evening track workout program at the Yorktown High School track for the 10M Program. She created the track workout schedule, sent out regular e-mail updates about it with tips and encouragement, offered rides to it and regularly led the group on its runs.

Rae also organized a mid-Program Happy Hour, reserving a gathering place at a Clarendon restaurant for it, as well as a pre-race pasta dinner at a Ballston restaurant and a post-race bash at the Clarendon restaurant, complete with a cake. She set up a schedule of three speakers for the Program, who came to address the attendees before training runs on the importance of stretching, the choice of proper equipment, and injury prevention and physical therapy. She of course led her own small group of runners, working in close coordination with another coach to prepare the runners for the ATM, which several in her group successfully finished. She sent out weekly e-mails to her participants, each one of which contained an article on or summation of some important aspect of running such as hydration, nutrition, or preventing injury and icing and heat applications.

Rae's Extraordinary Intervention:

Most importantly, when her fellow coach brought in a runner after a nine-mile run who was acting a little strangely (he had purposefully and carefully kept running by her side and rested with her before they finally returned), Rae recognized the symptoms of dehydration, even though it wasn’t a hot or humid day, and assessed the runner, eventually taking the runner (along with the other coach) to the hospital when the runner exhibited some confusion. At the hospital, the runner received an IV infusion to replenish her fluids. A potentially serious situation was averted by the dedication, awareness and acquired knowledge of Rae and the other coach.

Both coaches took First Aid and CPR certification training in preparation for becoming club volunteer coaches.

RRCA Coaching Certification, Fall 2008.

Rae participated in a two-day training session along with several other club coaches to obtain her coaching certification. Rae participated in an informal group review session two weeks afterwards where the attendees carefully went over the test to ensure that they all understood the proposed answers and collectively submitted a passing test (a recommended study-session).

Volunteer Coach for the Reebok SunTrust National Half-Marathon Training Program, powered by the club, Fall 2008 & Winter 2009.

In this capacity, Rae volunteered to go to the Fleet Feet (Adams Morgan) site, a brand new Program location, and help that site director create the Half-Marathon Program running out of there, occasionally taking Full Marathon participants along with them on their training runs.

Rae created, along with two other coaches, the Tuesday Evening Beer & Burritos Run, a mid-week recovery run for Program participants that is well attended and has the potential for being a regular offering for the club as a whole. After a four mile loop run from Iwo along the Georgetown Waterfront, the participants have the opportunity to relax at a Rosslyn restaurant, enjoying a beer and some Mexican fare. Rae sends out weekly e-mails to the Fleet Feet participants (and anyone else who wants them) chock full of advice, training recommendations and well-researched running related articles.

Administrative Assistance:

In addition, Rae interfaced on behalf of the club with the Greater Washington Sports Alliance and Reebok, the race and Program sponsors, to create the early January "Test Ride" program, which included a Friday night gathering of Program and race participants at a District restaurant where information on the club, the race and running apparel was dispensed in an informal social setting. Attendees enjoyed appetizers (chosen and budgeted by Rae) and discounted drinks as they listened to a series of speakers, including two premier runners and the club president.

Rae spent dozens of hours organizing this joint project, finding the location, meeting with race personnel, offering creative ideas and proposing itineraries. She kept club Program directors [name] and myself fully informed along the way.

Although she recently has had a reoccurrence of an old nagging injury which prevents her from currently leading a group out on training runs, she regularly attends the Saturday morning gatherings anyway and assists in any way possible. She has lately taken on the task of ensuring that all club volunteer coaches receive their full allotment of Reebok technical apparel in the correct size to wear on Program training runs, and that all participants get their Program technical training shirts, in coordination with the GWSA and Reebok.

For Rae’s uncommon, productive and inspiring dedication to volunteerism at and for club functions, and especially for Rae’s alert, correct and caring monitoring and highly competent handling of the dangerous situation a distressed runner she encountered found herself in, I nominate Rae for the club 2008 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Club VP of Training

[I thought she was worthy. She didn’t win; rather, a board member won the award, which is a pretty regular occurrence.]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Loosed from its dream of life

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell.

I send Veterans Day greetings to my Uncle Harry, who won the bronze star in the Pacific in 1944, and my brother Jack, who won a medal in Beirut in 1982. I salute the memory of the following men who performed heroic deeds sixty-five years ago, my Dad (Peleliu), Uncle Bill (Manila), Uncle Bob (the Mediterranean) and my friend's father Sig (the Bulge). I love them all.

Well, my son Danny Lamberton didn't show up for lunch today at the Lost Dog Cafe like I had invited him to, so I phoned a friend and had a perfectly wonderful lunch with her instead. Life marches on. I'm sorry for my now-adult son, whom I haven't seen for years, who had his father stripped away from him when he was a minor by the pernicious process of PAS.

The Thanksgiving holiday is next, Dan. Call me before the 26th if you'd like to have Thanksgiving dinner with me. We can catch up on the last eight years, you know? I'll tell you all the Lamberton family news, because there's not a single Lamberton who has heard from you in over six years (another classic hallmark of Parental Alienation Syndrome).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fighting Prophet

Hmm, I'll have to think about Anonymous' comment in my last post.

Meanwhile, a friend related to me that she was reading a rollicking good book that repeatedly made her laugh out loud. I thought that sounded nice, to read a passage that made you burst out laughing.

I had such a moment today. I am reading Sherman: Fighting Prophet by Lloyd Lewis, copyright 1932. It's a fascinating book about a complex military man, an American hero (sorry Southerners).

Lewis describes General William Tecumseh Sherman when he was in his nervous, distracted phase early in the Civil War as he frenetically worked out his plans for command, when some people seriously considered him to be insane. Here's what made me laugh out loud on the subway when I read it:

Sherman was now entering upon that phase of his life when people would call him "queer." Absent-minded, [Kentucky legislator] Rousseau thought him as they stood at the railroad station near Maldraugh's Hill. Sherman, who was smoking incessantly, found that his cigar was no longer burning and asked a sergeant for a light. The soldier, who had just lit a fresh cigar, handed it to the general, who used it to kindle his own cheroot, then threw it into the dirt. Rousseau broke out laughing but Sherman remained preoccupied.

Isn't that a hoot? Isn't that gorgeous writing?

Or how about this passage:

Excoriating a reporter who had written that the general's manners were like those of a Pawnee Indian, Sherman was angered still further, a few days later, to read that the correspondent had apologized not to him, but to the Pawnee Indians.

Good stuff.

Monday, November 9, 2009

But Shane, there's too many.

The last six months have not been fun. The last sixty days, when I was alone in dealing with three insubordinate board members and a fourth buddy of theirs who were actively usurping the running club, were intolerable. I lost the struggle to these Generation-Y bad-boys because I received no support from the board. So I did the honorable thing by resigning the presidency. I go home and sleep at night.

The key sentence in my resignation letter was, "The refusal of key board members to furnish me with requested information has prevented me from properly monitoring the club activities for which I am putatively responsible." Crucial information was deliberately withheld from me by a couple of the bad boys, and by other board members as well. Over a series of posts I’ll document how it all went down. Let’s call the series, "Access Denied."

During the struggle I pretty much felt like I did during the worst days of my divorce, which cost me a quarter million dollars and my kids to PAS. But these bad boys who are half my age are mere chump-change compared to the battery of unscrupulous or worse divorce lawyers and "professionals" that my ex-wife threw at me while she was "winning." The children lost, that's all I know.

So these guys "won." The club lost, that's all I know. Life goes on. Maybe I'll actually start running again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Free at last.

You might recall that I felt honored to assume the presidency of my running club half a year ago. Here's what I sent to my club's board earlier this week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 5 p.m.

To the [name of club] Board,

Unfortunately, I feel that I can no longer properly discharge my
special responsibilities as President of the club, which includes
being in general charge of the business, affairs, and property of the
club. The refusal of key board members to furnish me with requested
information has prevented me from properly monitoring the club
activities for which I am putatively responsible. Therefore for
personal reasons, and in the best interests of the club, I hereby
resign, effective at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, 2009.

The new President will be [name], the current Vice President of
Operations. I have already spoken with her about this. [She] has
been very active in the club and on the board, and she is a past
recipient of the Justine Peet Volunteer of the Year Award. She will
be a fine and capable successor and she has my complete confidence.

I leave behind a club that is even stronger than when I assumed the presidency, with several important associations and programs either implemented or expanded during my tenure. It has been my honor and pleasure to serve both the club members and the Washington running community for the past several years as a volunteer coach, as the director for several club training programs, as a board member and as club President. I am especially proud that I am a past recipient of the Justine Peet Volunteer of the Year Award.

I will naturally support [the new President's] transition in any way I can, and I can be reached at [this email address]. Thank you for your
continued support of the club.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

We cannot walk alone.

I haven't been running much the last six months, ever since I assumed the presidency of my running club, even before I got injured at Army. (I haven't run since.) Too busy.

However, being a site director for my club's Ten-Miler Program, I did run about ten miles each Saturday with my trainees, and then about ten more the next day in support of the Sunday site director. That was like my guilty pleasure.

But as president, in addition to the public stuff I detailed in the last post that were accomplished on my watch in the last six months, along with writing the club newsletter every eight weeks, there were the hidden every-day occurrences I administered to like attending innumerable meetings with finance committees, race directors, advisory boards, etc., communicating with countless persons in endless phone calls and emails, maintaining club property such as undertaking several trips in the club van to get it fixed after a RD damaged it in an accident, driving around the beltway in my pickup to pick up 15 boxes of racing t-shirts and deliver them early the next morning, going to a race packet pickup site to restore order when no one showed up for over an hour except for five dozen increasingly angry runners, participating in the ATM Expo to answer questions about pacing, safeguarding the runners' bags in the club tent at the MCM finish line during those lonely hours when the club runners were out on the course...well, you get the idea.

And then there was one last meeting earlier today to hand over the reins of power for the last six months of my reign (I just made a series of jokes, BTW) to the club VP of Ops so she could be the adult in the sandbox for the rest of the way.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he said, "We cannot walk alone." He concluded that iconic speech by reciting, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

That's pretty much how I feel about it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It was a heck of a ride

Here is the body of work I was responsible for in the six months since I became my running club's president. The club has over a thousand members and over $100K in assets. There were some further things I accomplished, such as negotiating a potential $4.5 K contract to provide training over the winter for up to three hundred registrants for a local national marathon. This agreement replaced the old understanding which paid nothing beyond brand name exposure. But...well...that's for another post.

In the actual club posting this was taken from, real names were used but the following has been slightly edited, mostly for privacy.

Spring 2009: 10K Training Program.

Ten program participants ran in the Capitol Hill Classic 10K target race, with four runners finishing in under an hour and one athlete taking second in her age group and another athlete taking third in her age group. Thanks to the Program Director [Peter] and all the volunteer coaches.

Summer 2009: Ten Mile Training Program which on my watch became the exclusive training partner for the Army Ten-Miler Race. 173 trainees registered, which potentially collected over $12K in revenues for the club, representing a six-fold increase over the program's revenues a year ago. Some Program highlights:

We provided 16 weeks of training at three different sites over two weekend days. Included for participants were three Happy Hours, one picnic, a pre-race dinner, six seminars and a weekly informative email. The Program Director had a speaking role at the ATM Expo, and there was a club Table for our racers at the race finish line.

The race administrators were so impressed with the professional job we provided that it indicated it wants the club back. In a mass emailing, under the heading "[Club Name]/ATM 10 Mile Training," the Army Ten-Miler Race reported that for "the first time ever the ATM used pace groups provided by [Club Name] and they were a success." Thanks have to go to the Program Marketer, the three Site Directors [including Peter], and all the volunteer coaches.

Summer 2009: Marathon Training Program:

About 100 trainees registered for 5 months of training. In addition to coaching, the MTP provided three seminars, social events, and a tent at the MCM Finish Line. Thanks to the Program Directors and all the volunteer coaches.

Fall 2009: Army Ten Miler Race Pace Program.

The Pace Program Director and several other club members [including Peter] led pace groups in the race, and all six led their groups to the finish line within thirty seconds of their goal times.

August 11, 2009 Bart Yasso event.

The club co-hosted, along with Saucony, a Fun Run on the Mall with noted runner Bart Yasso. At the subsequent social gathering in Georgetown, Saucony provided gait analysis while Yasso gave out free autographed copies of his autobiography. The Membership Coordinator set this up.

Other notable club events:

There were four club social gatherings, including a dinner at Generous George’s in Alexandria, two Happy Hours at Gordon Biersch in the District and a Happy Hour at Sette Bello in Arlington. Thanks to two club members for setting these up.

There was an attempt to partner with Channel 9 (WUSA) and Pacers on a charity-event 5K race in Silver Spring last month, which was cancelled in the last week by Channel 9. However, in addition to negotiating complete financial that the television station would cover all the losses, if any, the club got television exposure out of the non-event when a club member was interviewed by the local news during prime time. In addition, the club forged important new relationships with powerful local concerns. Thanks to the VP of Operations [and next club president] for doing so much work in setting up this race.

The club welcomed a new SLR Director, Membership Coordinator, and Volunteer Coordinator.

Awards were presented to the Snowball Series and Bunion Derby winners. These runners mostly ran in the normal complement of club races put on by our hard-working Race Directors and club volunteers. Notable was the complete face lift given to the Larry Noel 12K (formerly 15K) by its RD, and the 25th running of the National Capital 20-Miler and 5-Miler races under the direction of three longtime club members.

The club purchased an AED Defibrillator unit to be on hand for potential emergencies at track workouts and club races. The club provided six volunteer coaches with the opportunity to receive RRCA Coaching Certification training this fall, and negotiated that payment for all such training (including CPR/1st Aid) be paid for by the local national marathon.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hail Meb too.

You will remember my friend Ashley. She is a running buddy of mine who moved to Nashville a couple of years ago.

In 2006, Ashley paced me the last ten miles to my then-PR at the NYCM. She also enabled me to finish the infamous Chicago 26.2 mile "Fun Run" in 2007 by finding me walking disconsolately at MP 24, barely ahead of the No-More-Running Police who were out on the course, and jogging me the rest of the way in. (I was sick when I ran that marathon, which didn't help with the 90 degree heat that day.) I hated her for the 17 minutes it took us to go the last two miles, but loved her afterwards for finding me and bringing me home.

Overcoming a continuing spate of injuries, and despite a current injury, Ashley ran her first marathon last weekend at the NYCM. She threw down a 4:14 while thoroughly enjoying her run, stopping to take pictures, text, high-five people, etc. She feels she could have gone faster (she was injured) but that's a good ground floor if she continues on in marathoning.

She had a wonderful experience, and who wouldn't at the NYCM? It is my favorite marathon, bar none. But there's more to the story.

Two posts ago I indicated how excited I was to hear that an American had won at New York for the first time since 1982. An American, Meb Keflezighi, who ran shoulder-to-shoulder with the best Kenyan in the world at MP 24 and then vanquished him in Central Park. Meb won convincingly in a PR of 2:09:15.

In my post, I included a picture of me with Meb a few days after he ran a sub-2:10 at this year's London Marathon. Meb is back.

At a post-race party in New York, Ashley met Meb herself. She said it was utterly thrilling. Ashley is the one on the left.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hey Danny Lamberton

Hi youngest son Dan. As you know, you haven't spoken to me, or anyone on my side of the family, in over half a decade because you are the victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, perpetrated upon you when you were a minor by your Mother Sharon Rogers and her coterie of "professionals," when she involved you in our divorce proceedings early this decade. You should know that some people consider PAS to be a form of child abuse, and I am sorry that I was unable to protect you from it.

In my unending (at least until you turn 21 like your two similarly-situated brothers) attempts to contact you, I am inviting you to lunch with me at 12 noon on Veterans Day next Wednesday, November 11th, at Westover's Lost Dog Cafe. Bring anyone you'd like (like Jimmy Rogers and/or Johnny Lamberton). As you undoubtedly know, your Mother knows your address but refuses to give it to me, so I must resort to these entreaties on the Internet.

We can start our brand new father-son association during that noon hour next week. It will be the first day of the rest of our lives. Quite frankly son, I'm 57 now and you and your brothers just might be running out of time.

Since it will be Veterans Day, I'll tell you everything that I know about my Dad, your grandfather, James Wilson Lamberton, who died of lung cancer when he was 61 while I sadly watched him depart from this sphere, before you were born. I wish you could have met him!

Among his many other notable achievements he was a war hero, serving during World War II with the First Marine Division at the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Both were terrible, bloody affairs.

He waded ashore at Peleliu on September 15, 1944 as a 19 year old boy and he once said to me in response to yet another wondering, inquiring little boy question that I impetuously put to my strong father about his wartime experiences, "The division had 15,000 Marines and took 5,000 casualties. Imagine, Peter, lining up all in a row and looking to the left of you, and to the right of you, and knowing that one of the three of you was going to get hit."

It was one of the few things that he ever said about that horrific battle. I was and continue to be awestruck at the sacrifices that he and others like him made for us.

Come on Veterans Day and I'll tell you everything I know about this hero that you never met.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hail Meb

There's a larger story here, that Meb Keflezighi, born in Africa, is as American as apple pie. Some people I respect grumble about his Americanism (he was born in Eritiea, and consider that tongue-twisting name) and maybe I'll get into that later.

Meb: He won the silver medal in the marathon in the Athens Olympics (2004). He sorta played it safe in the race and didn't go after Stefano Baldini for the gold. But he medaled for the USA, the first long-distance running medal for the USA in three decades.

A few weeks later, I was attending a baseball game in the Tropicana Dome in Tampa. They announced during the 7th inning stretch that there was a special American athlete in attendance that night, Meb Keflezighi. I started clapping.

The rest of the audience was silent. Who?

The announcer continued, "The silver medalist at the Olympic Marathon."

The Tropicana Dome erupted into cheers.

A few weeks later Meb ran the NYCM and finished 2d, to a Kenyan. A cash purse, don't you know. Can Americans ever seize the prize from persons whose existence is defined and controlled by the money derived from a contest?

Meb was fading. He didn't even qualify for the 2008 Olympics, His friend Ryan Shay died during that qualifying race in Central Park.

No American medaled in 2008.

I thought Meb was through. Too old, and hurt too. (He had suffered a dog attack while on a training run and had hurt his hamstring,)

Meb ran London this year and did a nice time. He was ninth in 2:09:21, first American, but nice guys finish last. Ryan Hall is the new American darling. He finished 3d at Boston at 2:09 :40. You can't equate marathon courses, both Boston and New York are considered very difficult.

I have run against Meb. A few days after London, at a 3-Miler in the District, I ran and beat him. Hooray for me.

Meb was pacing a politician. How American can you get?

I was dying to get this picture taken with an American hero. Meb WAS American long distance running.

Uh, Meb IS American long distance running. He won the NYCM today, wearing (and pointing to) an American singlet as he entered Central Park, at the spot where fellow American Ryan Shay collapsed and died in 2007.

Meb outdueled 4-time Kenyan winner of the Boston Marathon, Robert Cheruiot, in the final miles, Ryan Hall didn't make it to this closing party, finishing fourth in 2:10:36. Meb cried afterwards, knowing that he did it for a fellow American Ryan Shay.

I cried too when a friend called me and told me what Meb had done. She thought that Meb wasn't quite American but I knew. Meb has brought American long-distance running back to where Frank Shorter left it in the seventies. (I have a Frank Shorter story too, that's how old I am.)

American hero, Meb Keflezighi. Woot Meb.