Tuesday, December 29, 2009


On a beautiful cool and dry December evening I hit 1200 miles for the year.  It should have been 1700 or more.  I went with the Czarina for an easy eight mile run which we completed at a nice nine minute per mile clip.  Now that's not the eight minute pace that I would prefer but considering the injury filled year I've endured I'll take it.

The year started off promising enough.  I trained consistently through the early days of 2009.  I'm not a streak runner but I hit 92 days in a row before my right hamstring let go in early April.  Now I'll do a little swimming, biking, and the eliptical when I'm hurt but nothing compares with running.  Even when I'm in horrible shape I'd rather huff and puff my way through three miles then spend 30 minutes in the pool or on a bike.

I was getting into pretty good shape again by August with my weight ready to dip under 180 pounds when I started over doing it after I got laid off from work.  The next thing I know my right hamstring is gone again but this time it came with a kicker.  I developed a nasty sciatica problem in my right leg.  Even when the hamstring had healed the hip and leg just killed me.  The pain could be excruciating especially if I sat for long periods of time. 

I finally broke down and visited a chiropractor while visiting Lawrence in early December.  It sounded like a machine gun going off when the doctor made the adjustment to my right hip.  It convinced me to make follow up visits to a local chiropractor and slowly but surely the pain from my sciatica is beginning to ease.

All told I missed 121 days of running.  All but two weeks of that time off  was due to injury.  I've been running since I was 15 years old so the new year will mark my 40th year of training.  I suspect at some point either my right hip or right knee will need replacement, maybe both.  But I'm not ready to invest in a good road bike and biking shorts yet.

You see nothing is as satisfying as what I did tonight.  I followed my beautiful wife out onto the trails and watched the sun slowly fade into the western sky.  As we turned to head east and back to home we both marveled at the brilliant hues of purple that splashed across the horizon behind us.  We strode along in the dark of a tree line trail canal under the light of a near full moon, both of us moving almost effortlessly.  There's a peacefulness of hearing the easy breathing of yourself and your partner running through the moonlight.

Anyway, here's to 2010 and another 1500 miles.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Czarina Meets The Governor

It's been a tough week for the Czarina.  She's had to put up with two obnoxious men in the house for the last six days (me and the Boy) and it's beginning to wear on her.  It started coming to a head two nights ago when we watched a DVD of the movie "Up" as a family.  The Boy and I decided to start calling the Czarina "Kevin" in honor of one of the principals in the movie.  I won't go into a lengthy explanation as to the significance of our joke but needless to say it created a fair amount of laughter for the two trouble makers and unending source of consternation for the Czarina.
That brings us to the events of today, a ribbon cutting ceremony for completion of the iROX project.  I was the communications manager for this 435 million dollar interstate expansion until a few months ago when they started laying folks off.  Unimaginably they actually finished a 30 mile expansion of I-75 a year early.  Anyway,  I was invited to attend (and lend a hand to my pal Dave) and so with much glee the wife sporting her new hairdo came along for the festivities. 
The Czarina was bound and determined to meet the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist.  I was a little concerned earlier because she nearly jumped up on stage during his speech before the ribbon cutting.  I figured security was keeping a close watch on the Czarina as she moved in on her quarry.

My fears were quickly eased when she got her chance to meet Governor Crist.  The Czarina just wanted to thank the Governor for the widening project.  You see she has to drive a 26 mile stretch of the interstate everyday and the extra lane will make that commute a lot easier.

This picture turned out pretty good.  That's Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp on Governor Crist's right.  The Boy was there taking photos of the event as well.  When I get a chance I'll post them on Facebook.  The event and meeting Governor Crist lifted the spirits of the Czarina. The Governor made a point of telling reporters that she was an example of why the highway needed widening.  That brought the biggest smile to her face and as Andy Warhol would say, she had gotten her 15 minutes of fame.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


The Boy is in town for the Christmas holiday so that means it's time to go to the movies.  This afternoon we headed out with the masses to take in James Cameron's latest epic, "Avatar."  I read about one-third of the New York Times' review of this movie on Friday before stopping myself.  The gushing nature of it began to worry me.  The NY Times never likes anything suitable for the masses.

I am not taken to hyperbole but "Avatar" may be the movie experience of my lifetime.  It's simply stunning.  The special effects are beyond belief, the story line while not epic is very, very good, as is the acting.  Although it's hard to critique a movie that's 95 percent computer generated acting.  Looking back on my life I would say this film is groundbreaking in the same way George Lucas changed the game with his initial "Star Wars" treatment.

Cameron hit a homerun a dozen years ago with "Titanic."  This is a grandslam.  Don't be put off by the 3D.  It truly enhances the entire movie watching experience.  Don't be put off by the science fiction aspects of this.  As I was telling the Boy on the drive home from the theater, Cameron has created an amazing variation of a cinematic favorite, the American western.  Instead of John Ford's enduring vistas in Monument Valley, Cameron has created his an entire world of breath-taking beauty and unnerving danger.  It's Cowboys versus Indians only this time Mother Nature holds the winning hand. 

I never go to movies in the theatre more than once, but I may have to make an exception this time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Journey Thru the Past

One of the first things I read every morning on line is the obituaries in the Lawrence Journal World.  I think it's something you tend to do as you get older.  It's a way of keeping a scorecard on life as you see the names of people who have brushed across your life in ways both direct and indirect.

This week the name Ryan Green popped up in the LJW obituaries and I was instantly transported back to a Lawrence High football game, probably 1977 or 78.  Legendary Lawrence High football coach Bill Freeman was in the midst of rebuilding the Lions back into a Kansas football power. My memory may be hazy and off base but I remember one play at the end of a game where Ryan broke loose for a long touchdown run that would have won the game and put the Lions into the playoff.  Ryan raised the ball in the air in a show of joy at having scored and an overly aggressive official flagged the gesture as unsportsmanlike costing LHS the touchdown and the game.  I always felt bad for Ryan because he really didn't do anything wrong. 

He was a heck of basketball player to boot. Ryan and later his younger brother Darren were among a group of players that come to mind like Mike Coleman,  Kenny Martin, and Roger Wellman that helped left LHS back into football prominence.  These guys didn't win any titles but they played important roles in helping put Lawrence High football back on the map after Frank Gibson had destroyed it.  The Green brothers together were something special.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Turner Gill?!? Really?!?

I hope I'm wrong.  I hope that we've all just witnessed a stroke of genius by Lew Perkins.  But deep, deep down inside, images of Terry Allen keep creeping across my mind.  Turner Gill was a great quarterback.  Were it not for Tommie Frazier he would rank as the greatest Cornhusker QB in history.  He had a fabulous one off year last season in Buffalo.  So as I survey the landscape of potential Jayhawk coaches I am left scratching my head.

I think all the talk about Jim Harbaugh was just that, talk.  Harbaugh used the Kansas situation to leverage more money out of Stanford.  Harbaugh's next coaching stop will be in the Big 10 or the NFL.  That left a field of three or four non-BCS coaches with better resumes than Gill's for Kansas to go after, like Skip Holtz.  This all seems to have the fingerprints of the new chancellor at Kansas.

First she probably blew a gasket when she found out what had really been going on during the Mangino era at Kansas and wondered why Lew hadn't axed the fat fellow a lot sooner.  My guts tell me she probably put a lot of pressure on Perkins to hire an African-American.  Letting Lew hire the coordinators beforehand was part of some compromise is my guess.  If race played a role in this Kansas should have gone hard after Charlie Strong.  . 

I'm probably wrong but given the amount of money Perkins had to play with ending up with Turner Gill just seems like a big letdown.  Believe me, I had nothing but respect for Turner Gill when he was at Nebraska.  I felt terrible when the Husker team he led was beaten by Miami for the national championship.  I truly hope he can take the Jayhawks to the next level. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

54 and counting

I turned 54 today.  As you can see, I got an appropriate gift from my step-daughter, son-in-law, and delightful granddaughter.  As readers of this blog will remember the old man had ruled the roost at a family race in Riga last spring.  Besides the fabulous t-shirt which attests to my prowess as the family's best runner I got a handmade card from little Masha wishing me a happy birthday.

The last year has been a tough year physically.  It started with a bad case of plantar fasciitis that made running almost impossible.  Then I pulled my right hamstring in March and again in August.  Since August I have struggled with a sciatica problem in my right hip.  The hip hurts all the time.  It actually feels better running but when I sit for long periods of time it's impossible.

I started running every day again just three weeks ago.  So this afternoon when I went out for a ten mile run along our favorite trail that borders the 6 Mile Cypress Slough.  The Czarina insisted on coming along knowing full well I was short on fitness.  She was determined to show no mercy.  By two miles she was a good 100 yards down the trail in front of me.  By five miles her lead had stretched to 200 yards. I was chugging along at about 9:40 per mile.  We made a pit stop at McDonald's and started heading home.  The Czarina wasn't happy because she wanted to loiter longer so by the time she started moving I was a good 50 yards ahead of her.

About three and a half miles from home she pulled up along side me.  I was going pretty good clipping along at just under 9 minutes a mile.  About one minute into our brief moment of togetherness the Czarina suddenly bolted ahead quickly opening up a 20 yard gap.  She was moving in earnest apparently intent on teaching me a lesson.  But just as we hit the seven mile mark she suddenly came to a halt  and as I rolled by her she yelled, "Why are you doing this to me?"  I responded, "Is there a problem?"  The Czarina shot back, "Why don't you slow down!"

I just kept plugging along.  I must have gotten a good 300 yards ahead of her before I stopped for water at a county park just two miles short of home.  When I came out of the park the Czarina was passing by and had a good 50 yards on me.  I caught up to her within a half mile and startled her saying, "You know what?  Husband is still the king," as I ran by her and on to the last mile and a half home.  She meekly responded, "Old Bonka is back."  Bonka is her term of endearment for me.

I didn't run particularly fast for the 10 miles but the message had been received by the Czarina.  No matter how old and infirm I may be and no matter how fast she thinks she can run I can always run her down and make her suffer.   Just as I did in Riga in May 2009.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreams of 2008

Okay, it's way too early to think about a national championship.  Kansas is off to a good start and ranked #1 in the country but this team is a long way from being a Final Four caliber squad.  It boils down to two things, toughness and scoring.  The 2008 national champion Jayhawks had both. 

On any given night Brandon Rush, Darrel Arthur, Mario Chalmers or Sherron Collins could fill it up.  This version of Kansas right now has two proven scoring options, Collins and Cole Aldrich.  Super frosh Xavier Henry has shown he can score but he hasn't had to do it yet in the clutch.  As much as it pains me to say it nobody else on this squad can really light it up.  Tyshawn Taylor, the Morris twins, and Tyrell Reed don't have the game that Rush, Arthur, Chalmers, Collins gave the Jayhawks in 2008.  The wildcard is another freshman Elijah Johnson.  He's got a nice shot and has shown the ability to penetrate but we won't really know about him or Henry until we get into the conference schedule.

That brings us to the toughness issue.  Nobody was tougher than Russell Robinson.  Sasha Kaun was a banger, a big time banger.  Both Rush and Chalmers could defend.  There is nobody on this edition of the Jayhawks that has shown the kind of toughness that Bill Self craves.  Sherron Collins loafs on defense more often than he should.  Cole Aldrich has shown he can be pushed around.  Don't get me wrong,  Cole is an intimidating prescence in the middle.  His shot blocking and rebounding rank him as one of the all time greats in both categories in Kansas history.  But there are times he gets knocked off his game.  Cole had his hands full with the big guy from Radford.  They didn't double team that dude for nothing.  Fortunately not many college teams have true centers anymore.  That brings us to the Morris twins.  I think the off-season conditioning program showed a willingness to buy into the tough mentality that Self demands.  Again, we'll know for sure if they can bring it during the conference schedule. 

That leaves four players, the two freshman and the currently benched Brady Morningstar and Taylor.  Henry plays defense like a freshman, Brandon Rush he's not, while I haven't seen enough of  Johnson to pass judgment.  Morningstar's return will force the freshman to play defense.  His tenacity is off the charts.  And then there's Tyshawn.  His ability to D up will make or break his playing time.  He's got the quickness and he appears to have the toughness but you've got to wonder why Self benched him this week in favor of Johnson?

Don't get me wrong, Kansas is good, very good.  But Memphis showed that a quick, physical team, can throw these guys off their game.  Henry and Johnson will have to grow up in a hurry if this squad wants to be dancing in April.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Replacing the Mangenius

I've been silent on the epic saga of ex-K.U. football coach Mark Mangino.  I wanted to think about what had happened.  Unfortunately the media completely dropped the ball on the issues surrounding his "resignation" but that doesn't surprise me because the Lawrence Journal-World would never print anything that would really hurt the university.  Despite his personal failings Mangino brought a measure of respectability back to Kansas football.  For that I am appreciative, but it was time for a change.

I've listened to all of the names bandied about.  The coach I'd really like to get, Gary Patterson at T.C.U., would never come to Kansas.  Only one name that's out there are now makes sense.  That's Skip Holtz at East Carolina.  He's done an amazing job there.  If he's got half of his old man's ability then he can keep Kansas competitive in the Big 12 North.

The other names that are out there, Turner Gill and the Brewster guy from Minnesota do nothing for me.  Gill couldn't back up last season's success with another good year and Minnesota has a schedule that's easier than K.U.'s.  Then there's Randy Edsall.  The UConn coach is reportedly on Notre Dame's short list.  Honestly, if he's good enough to be considered for South Bend then he'll wait until another big school comes calling. 

And that's the shame of it.  Athletic Director Lew Perkins has built some great facilities and has shown that he'll spend money like a drunken sailor to get what he wants.  I think Edsall doesn't want to play second banana at another basketball school and Patterson can recruit the Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma rejects in his home state and keep right on winning.  Luring those kids to Lawrence would be a lot tougher than getting them to Fort Worth.   

I just pray that we don't end up with another Terry Allen!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Road Trip

I paid a visit to Lawrence last week.  My little sister and niece planned a surprise birthday bash for my oldest sister.  As you can see I've got three of them.  All three were surprised to see my stealthy arrival was worth the effort. 

The second most important part of my journey was to get a picture taken with one Griffin Bloemker.  The Czarina had given strict instructions to make sure that I get a photo with the strapping five and a half month old.  Daddy's convinced he's going to be a future NFL quarterback.  He's certainly a happy fellow and he put on quite a show with his awesome antics during his bowel movements.

On a personal note I finally got around to seeing a chiropractor.  I have been suffering for three months with terrible pain in my right hip.  The chiropractor laughed as he ran his hand over my back and my hip.  It was really, really out.  It sounded like a machine gun going off when he popped it back into place.  The relief was immediate but he warned that I will need more adjustments to keep it from slipping back out.  I've been back training full bore for almost three weeks.  The Czarina is pushing me to run a 5K this weekend.  I think she just wants to see if she can beat me.  I'm not sure I'm ready to give her the satisfaction.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

On the Run - Spring 1974

It just wasn't meant to be.  The winter of 73/74 was brutal.  It seemed that every time I attempted to go on a training run I would get sick.  I remember hoping to log miles over the winter break with Kent McDonald only to be met with terrible cold and snow.  It was slow going.  One step forward, two steps back.

I can remember completing a hard training session in Allen Field House.  The field house was just a half mile from my house.  As I walked home I started coughing, blood spurting out as I hacked my lungs up.  The doctors just couldn't get a handle on my illness.

By the time track started I had no strength.  I was getting pounded by my teammates in training sessions.  Our first meet was a return to the indoor track at Pittsburg State.  I took it out hard hoping to shake Mike Mueller from Shawnee Mission Northwest.  I had a decent lead and then with a little more than a half mile to go a clueless pole vaulter walked across the track carrying his poles blocking the four inside lanes.  I had to come to a complete halt as he stood there dumbfounded and jumped all the way out into lane five.  As I got back up to full speed I could hear Mueller coming up behind me.  He went by me along with one of his teammates and I ended up third in 10:19.  I was spent.

The state indoor was no better.  I slugged my way through a 4:45 mile to finish dead last in my Friday night heat.  The next meet we ran on the horrid cinder track at Washington High School on a windy, bitterly cold day.  Why they didn't cancel the meet is beyond me.  In the mile Clay Kappelman took me to the woodshed and I finished second in a blistering 5:02.  I was spent and we still had the two mile to run.  The gun went off and I drifted back to five place in a six man field.  By the mile I had pulled up to third.  Running in first was my teammate was Edwin Tubby, running his heart out because he knew he had a shot at beating me.  His effort started to catch up to him and with a half to go I had caught him and the other runner in front of me and won in a scintillating 10:48.  Eddy was heart broken and I was sick, literally, out of school for another week and missed our third meet of the season.

By the time I came back I got the chance to run a mile steeplechase at Northwest.  It went a lot better than the effort at the KU Relays my sophomore year.  I didn't fall and I managed to finish third.  The race was probably the best I'd run that spring.

The Relays followed and I went in the tank again.  I had time trialed my way onto the DMR beating out teammate Vince Miller who probably should have run the 1320 instead of me regardless.  It was brutal.  I got the baton in 1st place by at least three yards.  I held onto the lead for a lap then Eric Lathrop rolled by me down the backstretch followed by a whole slew of runners.  By the time I handed off to Clay we were back in tenth place.  I had run 3:25, a good 10 seconds slower than I was capable of.  I was scheduled to run the steeplechase the next morning.  I was mentally and physically beat and watched the race from the stands. 

I managed a couple of fifth place finishes in the mile and two mile the following week in Topeka before heading to the league meet at the same locale the following week.  The highlight was watching the boys mile.  Jim Nicolay from Shawnee Mission South had been enjoying a dominating season.  He had taken both the boys mile and two mile at the Relays running around 4:17 and 9:13.  On this night Tim Davis from West decided to take a page from the Filbert Bayi school of running.  Davis hammered the first lap in 60 flat with Nicolay 15 yards down.  Davis hit the half in 2:01 showing no signs of stress and Nicolay was even further down.  The stress began to show after three laps which Davis hit in 3:07.  Slowly Nicolay began to reel Davis in but it wasn't to be.  Tim Davis hit the line in about 4:16 a couple of yards ahead of Nicolay.  He would use the same strategy to win the state championship later that spring.

I ran the two mile and just hung on for dear life through the first mile.  I ran about 4:59 in fifth place and slowly began to drift back.  I ran 10:19 and finished 7th.  It wouldn't get any better the following Monday at our home meet.  I ran the best mile of the my horrible season hitting the finish line in 4:39, good for fifth place.  Then half miler Tom Reynolds was a no show at the meet and the coaches forced me into the 880.  I was completely drained from my effort in the mile and ran 66/66 to a dead last 2:12.  I had nothing in the tank.

My season would come to an end at regionals.  For the third year in a row I would finish fourth in the two mile.  I ran 10:19.  The same time I ran at the beginning of the season.  A lot of what happened over the season was my fault.  My training was spotty at best, even when I felt healthy.  My heart and head wasn't in it because it seemed like my peers had roared by me and left me in their wake.

But as disappointing as my senior year was I look back at my high school running career with many, many fond memories.  Watching Russ Wesley from Shawnee Mission West reel in Joe Clark from Wyandotte in a hotly contested two mile relay at North, watching Steve Shaad after yet another second place finish in the mile steeplechase double back 20 minutes later in the two mile relay and breaking into a joyous celebration when his teammate Mark Denney broke the tape at the Kansas Relays leading Bonner Springs to a victory, watching my teammate Tad Scales do the impossible and pole vault over 16 feet inside Allen Field House on standards set up on coke crates in order to reach the magical height and set a national record, and all those quarters run on the horrible cinder track at Lawrence High School, with Glen, Tom, Clay, Edwin, Vince, Keith, and Barney, the bond of sweat and pain will endure forever.