Friday, July 30, 2010

8 Minute Pace

That's the plan as I enter my final two months of preparations for the St. George Marathon.  That would equate to 26.2 miles in just a hair under 3:30, a good 14 minutes slower than my slowest marathon ever.  But I haven't run a marathon since 2002 and I've undergone four surgeries in the last eight years.

This week went a whole heck of a lot better training wise than last week.  I actually ran a time trial and more importantly a 4 mile tempo run that told me a lot about my conditioning.  Based on what I did tonight I think I could run 8:15 pace for a marathon if I had to right now.  That means shaving about :15 a mile off my current comfort zone.  It's not impossible, but it won't be easy. 

It all goes back to the long runs which I dread over the coming eight weeks.  If I can get up to a 20 miler and condition my body for the punishment to come I might get there.  Wistfully I imagine nothing would be sweeter than running sub-8 pace for the race but the added years and pounds tell me that if I can run under 3:35 I should be elated.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

I've Been First and Last Look at How the Time Goes Past

A little more than 38 years ago Neil Young released the album that propelled him to solo super stardom.  "Harvest" featured Neil's only #1 hit, a little ditty called "Heart of Gold."  What made this album "different" was the slick pedal steel played by Ben Keith on many of the albums great tunes.  He passed away today at age 73.  Keith's playing added an unmistakable touch to Neil's music. 

I was lucky enough to see Ben Keith play with Neil on tour in 2000 in Milwaukee.  One of the indelible images from that night was Ben rocking out with Neil on a savage version of Bob Dylan's classic, "All Along the Watchtower."  I also saw Ben play Grandpa Green during Neil's debut of his epic environmental/media rip called "Greendale." 

I'm writing about Ben because he's one of those great musicians that never gets a lot of due.  Much in the way Charlie Sexton's playing makes Bob Dylan's music that much better, Ben did the same for Neil. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010


January 1980 I made the eight hour drive from Lawrence, Kansas to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I remember rolling into the Twin Cities late in the evening and seeing a temperature sign reading 32 degrees.  It would be the warmest temperature over the next 30 days.

WTCN was owned by Metro Media.  The small newsroom there had served as a sort of model for the Mary Tyler Moore Show although at the time this independent operation didn't have any Ted Baxter's on staff.  I was part of the team that would help transition the station into an affiliate for NBC.  The network's lackluster programming had opened an inroads across the country for ABC which had finally gotten its prime time act together.  Across the country NBC stations, with traditionally strong news operations, were dumping the network in favor of ABC.

The ABC affiliate in Minneapolis at the time, KMSP was so horrid, that NBC turned to the independent WTCN when KSTP had abandoned the network. The market leader was WCCO, the CBS station.  It may well have been the BEST CBS local news operation in the country at the time.  Their news was solid and straight forward.  Their investigative reporting was second to none.  KSTP was non-stop crime, car wrecks, and fires.  The Magid consulted station was anchored by the legendary Ron Magers and was giving WCCO a real run for the money.

WTCN was getting a lot of hash marks in the ratings book.  The station had hired an anchor team boasting the dry Jim Dwyer, meteorologist Glenn Burns who would later own Atlanta, and sports Bob Kurtz.  Ted Cavanaugh had assembled a talented team of young reporters, many of whom would rise to success in other markets, like Sally Fitz in Miami and Jane Velez Mitchell who now anchors her own show on Headline News.

Cavanaugh had also pitted the late Brink Chipman against John Hutchens, a huckster from Arkansas.  One of the men would rise to topple the amiable news director Gil Amundsen.  I watched the battle from the sideline as 10 p.m. producer Paul Adelmann did his best to tutor me.  Part of my learning experience included a heavy dose of David Brinkley, simply the best writing anchor in the history of television news.  I savored the experience of sitting with Paul and watching Brinkley's newscast.  Adelmann would point out the deft touches to copy and simple, efficient, yet wry style that Brinkley served up.

All the while I was stuck working weekends with Ted Baxter on steroids.  Stan Bohrman was the biggest egomaniac I had ever worked beside.  He had anchored in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Recently he had made his big screen debut alongside Jane Fonda in "The China Syndrome."  He was impossible.  He was a drug abusing alcoholic who believed the sun revolved around him.  His best claim to fame would be his son David Bohrman, who helped create "Nightline" for ABC.  About six months into the gig we got into a pretty good argument and he shoved me.  The next day I was demoted and Dana Benson got my job, which got his career off to a pretty good start.

It was a blessing in disguise because now I worked five days a week as a writer for Adelmann who molded me into a pretty decent writer and producer.  Before the first year was out Brink was running the newsroom, Bohrman had muscled Dwyer out of the anchor desk and Kurtz was headed to a fledgling cable operation called CNN.  Cavanaugh tried to recruit me as well but making 12-thousand dollars a year in Atlanta didn't sound very appealing.

This guy replaced Kurtz, whom I really liked and enjoyed working with along with weekend sports anchor Steve Pascente, a class act in his own right.  Steve had worked in Phoenix and went out of his way to offer his council and advice.  Ryther was a jerk.  He had left KSTP for Cleveland where he had failed and came back to the dog #3 in WTCN.  Pascente, being passed over, eventually returned to his old gig in Phoenix.

I eventually worked my way back to weekend producing duties but the poor ratings meant change was in the air at WTCN.  Brink was going to have to cut staff and I credit him for being straight forward with me.  It appeared my only option to stay in Minneapolis would be to work as Ryther's producer.  While he wasn't Bohrman's equal in the asshole department the thought of working for him got me off my ass and by March 1980 I had landed a job producing the 10 p.m. news for NBC powerhouse KARK in Little Rock.  The hard living drinker from Arkansas John Hutchens had grown to like me and when he returned to KARK after losing the power struggle with Chipman, he asked me to follow him.

WTCN would find success a half dozen years later after Gannett purchased the station and it became KARE, a station legendary for its story-telling.  Bohrman was long gone imploding at the horrific then NBC affiliate in Philadelphia KYW, while Ryther hung on at KARE for a decade before the station finally jettisoned him which resulted in an ugly legal battle.

Turkey Time

I woke up unusually early today, 5:40 a.m.  I knew I was supposed to meet a couple of folks I had met from my Eppies experience from the week before for a long run at 7:00 a.m.  I ate some cereal and surfed the web then headed out the door to run to the spot where we were supposed to meet up.

I somehow missed them so after a short loop I proceeded down the trail hoping to catch up to Steve or meet him heading back.  Along the way I saw more wild turkeys in the course of a few miles than I'd ever seen in my life.  They were everywhere along the trail.  More plentiful than the jack rabbits that frequently hop across the trail.  Much to my surprise I caught up to Steve at about five miles.  We spent the next eight miles talking and getting to know each other.  It was so much more enjoyable than going it alone plus the weather was picture perfect.

When all was said and done I had 15 miles under my belt and despite a sore hip by the end I was extremely pleased.  Another eight runs like this with a few edging toward 20 miles and I will be on my way.

One other comforting sight that I saw on the biking trails were packs of mostly overweight women who resembled the flock of turkeys above.  The rolling mass of humanity swallowed up the trail, much to the consternation of the bikers who usually dominate it.  I saw at least three such packs of joggers slowly moving along.  I suspect they are probably getting ready for the California International Marathon coming much later in the fall.  Six hour marathon here they come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Grind

My motivation for training has hit a wall.  I'm tired.  Part of it was Saturday's exhausting 12.5 miles which included a 5.75 mile relay leg in the triathlon.  Part of it adjusting to running and working full time, something I haven't done for quite some time. 

I can't afford any down time right now with a marathon staring me in the face in ten weeks.  I gave in today and took a day off.  It's been even tougher for the Czarina.  She's been busy entertaining Masha and Natasha who returned to Riga on Tuesday.  Her training has been sporadic at best.

The deal for me is getting some serious long runs in over the next ten weeks.  That means two and a half hour runs every weekend.  I'm not worried about total miles, just a single punishing run to condition my body to what lies ahead.  I also need to get to a track once a week for a tempo run.  I could do the same on the trails but I like the rhythm that running on a track for two or three miles brings. You know exactly how far you have left and how much resources you need to muster.

I want to arrive in St. George knowing that I've given myself a reasonable chance at running a Boston qualifier.  Technically that's 3:45 for me since I turn 55 this year.  That's almost a half hour slower than my slowest marathon.  But right now running 8 minute pace for 26 miles (a 3:30 marathon) seems beyond my reach.  The competitive part of me wants to believe I can still run that fast.

I've got eight months of uninterrupted training under my belt.  I don't want to do anything that jeopardizes my health, ie; an injury that could derail the whole thing.  Now if I just grind my way through this stale point and get to October 2nd in good health and ready to run.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The last time I saw Neil Young in concert was at the American debut of "Greendale."  Neil's epic pro-environment/anti-media opus caught me off guard but it is a concert memory that I will always carry with me.  It was just another change up from the master of musical change up.

Neil's latest tour of smaller venues called "Twisted Road" has touched off a firestorm of criticism from so-called Neil fans.  They've bitched about everything from the ticket prices to the fact that this is a solo show with Neil shredding through some classics on just his electric guitar.  Even the song selection has come in for some criticism.

Neil played in Davis Thursday night, a suburb of Sacramento.  Since I work nights and I'm new on the job catching the show was out of the question.  But Neil also booked a show Saturday night in Reno, a mere two hour haul from my front door. 

I debated about making the trip.  I got up really early Saturday for the road race and worried about the late night trip home.  I also wasn't sure about plunking down the 100 dollars or so for a ticket.  Most of all I was worried that I would be disappointed.  The stuff I had been reading on the web gave me pause.  But with the Czarina's blessing I got behind the wheel and made the trip over the Sierra's to Reno.

I started hanging out in front of the theater inside the Grand Sierra Casino around 7 p.m. hoping to scalp a ticket.  A half dozen of us stood around waiting hoping to score some tickets.  One guy was bitching up a storm about the prices which I thought was crap.  As much as music artists now have their work stolen because of the Internet I don't begrudge higher ticket prices, especially for a small venue.  I was beginning to worry that nothing would come my way when a young couple walked up and asked me if I wanted a ticket, they had an extra.  I paid 110 dollars for a 115 dollar ticket.  I then proceeded to the black jack table where I won 55 dollars in 15 minutes.  Score!

It was then time to head to the theater and I was blown away.  The place held no more than 3,000 seats.  I was no more than 60 feet from the front of the stage, almost dead center.  Bert Jansch opened with a 45 minute set.  He's not much of a vocalist but his guitar playing was amazing.

Neil hit the stage at 9:15 p.m. and took the place by storm.  He opened with his classic, "My My, Hey, Hey," and never let his foot up off the pedal.  The mix of hits, rare gems, and new songs was mind blowing.  To hear an unreleased classic like "Hitchhiker" was worth the price of admission alone.  Better still was just the whole atmosphere.  One of guys sitting next to me described it best.  It was like sitting with Neil Young in your living room and Neil putting on a private show for you.  News songs like "Leia", "Walk with Me", and "You Never Call", are real gems.

Of the songs Neil played "Tell Me Why" was my favorite of the night.  It was the second one he performed of the night and it's always been one of my personal favorites from his classic album "After the Goldrush."  He also played "After the Goldrush" on his old pump organ and a beautiful "I Believe in You" from the same classic album at the grand piano.

Neil had a stumble when he started "Helpless" with the wrong harmonica and he made a joke.  The whole evening was priceless and for those who don't get this current tour simply don't get Neil Young.
Reno marked my Neil show number eight including a couple of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concerts, the out there "Trans"/"Flaming Pinks" Tour, and of course Horde stint with Crazy Horse which up until tonight was my favorite Neil concert ever. Below is "You Never Call", Neil's touching tribute to his long time collaborator L.A. Johnson who died earlier this year.  The lyrics are priceless.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Eppies Great Race

This Saturday morning marked my first race in Sacramento.  It was an odd affair but a popular one in the area.  A triathlon called Eppies Great Race.  Odd in that instead of a swim portion the race features kayaking.  One of my co-workers had a friend in need of a teammate to help with the run portion.

I teamed up with Sherrie Reese and another gentleman named John (sorry, I never caught his last name) for this Sacramento classic.  I even received a team singlet, Koinonia.  It's a Greek word for communion through intimate participation.  I had to look that up.

Given the logistics of driving and parking I decided to jog to the start which sat about five and a half miles from my apartment.  The finish was little more than a mile from home.  I got up extra early and made it to the start line 30 minutes before the gun. 

The weather was perfect.  It was about 65 degrees with a nice quartering breeze coming across the mostly flat course.  There were easily more than 1,000 participants lined up for the start and despite the mayhem of starting on a narrow bike trail the start was uneventful.  I would run about 5.8 miles to the bike corrals and pass my ankle chip to Sherrie who would do the 12.5 mile bike portion before handing off to John and his 6 plus miles of kayaking. 

The first mile went pretty well at 7:25 and I gradually moved my way up to the field.  By mile three I began to feel the effects of the overly long warm up and by mile four I was hungry and tired.  I never felt like I was redlining and over the last half mile I started picking off more people.  I was worried about mayhem at the finish corrals but I easily made my way to our rendezvous point and Sherri happily snagged my Velcro ankle charm and hit the road. 

I wish I had run faster.  I should have been able to average 7:30 per mile but ended up at 7:41.  Outside the family time trial two weeks ago I've done nothing that resembles speed work.  I need to start doing weekly track sessions, even if its just a hard two miles if I intend to have a prayer of averaging eight minute pace for 26.2 miles.  The best part besides making some new acquaintances was getting 12.5 miles of running in.  St. George is less than three months away!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wells Fargo Run Amock

When the threat of unemployment hit me square in the face a year ago I started looking at the family finances.  Specifically, I wanted to see if I could do something about our mortgages, particularly our second.  Our ten year fixed note with Wachovia was killing us.  The bank hemmed and hawed and said nothing but it doesn't really matter because now Wells Fargo holds the note.

I've had mortgages with Wells Fargo for more than a decade.  I've never missed a payment and in fact pay on a bi-weekly basis.  Still we plunged ahead with the pursuit of a mortgage modification not knowing how long I would be without a job. 

By March of this year WF said we qualified for the modification on a trial basis.  Our payments would drop by more than 100 dollars over the next three months but no one from Wells seemed to know what a final deal would look like.  It took the credit counselor forced on us by Wells to contact to explain what was happening.  The bank was dropping our rate by about 3/4 of a percent but adding $5000 to the principal.  Of course the credit counselor was taken aback by the fact that the Czarina and I had no "debt" per say and that our credit scores were 800 plus.

Finally WF was ready to finalize the new deal.  When I told Curtis, the guy from Wells Fargo that had guided us through the process that I had a job now, he was overjoyed.  He told me that only improved our chances of being approved for the modification.

The deal WF was offering was a good one if we were to keep the house for more than five years.  But then the wheels started falling off.  First, I went through hell of getting automatic withdrawal for the mortgage taken off my Wachovia account and put on my new WF account in California.  It was a never ending circle of phone calls and emails that finally led me going to the branch bank and getting them to fix the mess.

Right on the heels of that one of their mortgage folks called saying we had too much money saved in stocks and the like to qualify for the modification.  I was stunned.  I said fine, we'll go back to our original 5.5 percent 30 year fixed and call it a day.  I was tired of the endless paperwork and faxing I had gone through to get this far.  The gal started choking.  "Well we can look at one of our other plans and see if we can do something else," said responded.  I said, no thanks, I'll have this paid off in 15 years so that's fine.

Since then I've been bombarded on a daily basis from Wells Fargo with phone calls, sometimes twice a day.  Each time I repeat that I don't want the modification and they act stunned.  I don't know what in the hell is going on but it's getting old.  Part of me wants to stop paying both mortgages as a big FU to Wells Fargo.  We haven't done anything wrong and we've never missed a payment on either mortgage.  I feel like we're under siege.  Please let it end.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Holy Moly: Breaking News

Somewhere along the line a particular news director in a particular town decided that this particular TV newsman lacked balls when it came to breaking news.  He wanted our crews running on all manner of shootings, fires, and car crashes, even if it meant shit-canning a really good story.  His point of view of it bleeds it leads journalism, is part of what has led to the decline of TV news. 

This particular news director took particular delight in trashing my reputation.  He did his best to make sure that I didn't get this particular job in Sacramento.  Have I made mistakes when it comes to breaking news?  I've made plenty in 30 years.  I made two in particular with this particular news director, one of which really wasn't a mistake, but I digress.  The reporters and producers in that particular newsroom live in a climate of fear and repudiation.  It was enough to drive me out of the business.

I tell this story because tonight I was filling in on the 6 and 11.  It's a weekend but I and my other executive producer com-padres at News10 are team players.  After a very good 6 p.m. news we were set for a good 11 with a great lead story.  A firefighter burned in an explosion last week was getting out of the hospital and his company brought a truck to the burn unit for his release.  It was great stuff and one of our ace reporters, who happens to have even more years in this business under his belt than me, was putting it together with one of our hot shot photographers.

Shortly after ten p.m. firefighters responded to an electrical fire which turned into a problem when they discovered that someone had monkeyed with the wiring.  It appeared to be a marijuana growing operation.  That's not too unusual in this area.  The assignment editor wanted to run on it but I said let's wait until we get the lead piece edited and send the photographer.  I didn't see this as being worth blowing up my great lead up over.  In that particular newsroom I spoke about before I would have been broiled alive for not running on it.

At 10:20 another breaker erupted, this time a shooting at a motel in a bad neighborhood.  Again, it wasn't worth running on but as the information began to flow over the scanners it became apparent we had two victims and a large crowd at the scene. I decided my reporter and photographer needed to go.  They hit the road at about 10:40 p.m. with the great package in the can.  I figured they would make it in time for the top of the show and I built the graphics and wrote the scripts and floated them into the newscast.  I knew that it was at least a 15 minute drive and figured it would take another five to ten minutes to get set up.

Much to my surprise I saw the live signal two minutes before air.  The director, God Bless him, said, these guys will be ready for the top of the show.  I floated the breaking news to the top of the show and we were off and running.  We did two other hits with nary a glitch in the newscast and I didn't have to cut weather or sports.  The newscast rocked as did Dave Marquis and Brandon Atchison, the reporter and photographer on this particular story. 

The point of all this is my patience bad off.  If we had run on the fire we could have screwed ourselves on the shooting.  We were the only station live with a reporter on the scene at the top of their news.  Dave and Brandon got two great stories on the air instead of one because I didn't blow up my newscast chasing bullshit.  I'm not perfect and I'll make plenty more mistakes, but one particular news director can kiss my ass.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Riga Rematch West

I had planned to post this last Monday but I was waiting for pictures from my wife which never arrived... so you'll just have to imagine some of this.
When I finally found gainful employment last month it was agreed that our Eastern European extension of our family should visit Fort Myers.  We figured Masha at 46 months would be just old enough to appreciate some of the things Florida has to offer plus her mother Natasha was in need of a get away.

The Dorofeev's visit will last the better part of three weeks.  It was decided that I would leave Sacramento (just three weeks into my new job) for the 4th of July weekend.  I caught a Red eye Wednesday and arrived Thursday morning in Fort Myers.  Part of the Czarina's grand plan included an early morning road race in Naples on the 4th.  Constant readers will remember last year's intrepid adventure to Clearwater for a late night 5K in a sauna.

When thunderstorms rolled through Fort Myers Saturday afternoon dropping temperatures about 15 degrees I proposed that we skip the Sunday morning race in favor of a Saturday evening showdown at a local high school track.  Vlad agreed to the proposition but then tried to beg off because of Friday's day long trek to Tampa and Busch Gardens.  I pointed out that I had put in a seven mile run plus pushed Masha's stroller five miles on an evening hike to the nature preserve that same day.

This year's family race featured a different line up.  Joining Vlad at the starting line were step-daughter Natasha and step-son Andrei who had also flown in from California for a week of fun.  The Czarina decided to stay on the sideline as race photographer and overseer of a most unhappy Masha.

After scaling the fence at the locked Estero High School track and a short warm up we toed the line for this 5K showdown.  Andrei jetted out to an early lead while Vlad took his time slowly reeling in his ambitious brother-in-law after about three laps.  I was off the back with no hope of running down Vlad.  My only hope was that Andrei would run out of steam after two miles and I could reel him in.

Meantime Masha was screaming for mama every time she rounded the track.  She was a little confused as to why Natasha wouldn't stop to attend to her urgent needs.  Natasha says she wanted to quit after two miles but kept plugging away because she didn't want to read about it in this blog.

When it all ended Vladik whooped my ass by half a lap.  Andrei, who at one point was 150 meters ahead of me finished about 70 meters in front my late charge.  Vladik's time was around 22:15.  The Czarina miscounted the laps and he ended up running one extra while Andrei and I waited for him at the finish line.  Andrei clocked in at about 22:55 and I finished in 23:09.  I actually was happy with the time considering I hadn't attempted anything fast in more than two months.

Natasha was on cruise control in the humid air and finished just a hair over 28 minutes, a near two minute improvement over her 5K race last year in Riga.  The Czarina is insisting that a longer race be run before I had back to Sacramento, something closer to the 12 kilometer distance at which I mastered Vlad last year.  Quite honestly, while I'm in better shape than I was a year ago, so is Vlad and I suspect he's learned his lesson.  Easy and steady works a lot better than jetting off and burning out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Mad Dog

As I started to doze off on last night's red eye out of Sacramento bound for Fort Myers I thought back to a man who had a short but amazing impact on my career in television news.  His name is Ted Kavanaugh.  His nickname, "Mad Dog."

As I headed back from Oregon in the late fall of 1978 Peter Spears urged me to write Ted Kavanaugh.  Peter told me Ted was putting together a news operation in Minneapolis for Metro Media and thought I would be a good fit.  I wrote and heard nothing. 

Somehow I fell back into a job at KMBC almost as soon as I returned to Kansas.  God love, Ridge Shannon, I still don't know what he saw in me.  So I was back running chyron and writing news copy when Ridge suggested I call Ted Kavanaugh.  Hmmm I thought, been there done that.  I was too thick to realize that KMBC was owned by Metro Media and thank goodness Ridge kept insisting. 

Finally I phoned Ted on December 11, 1978 and he actually took my call.  We talked for at least 20 minutes.  Near the end of the conversation we talked about my short lived experience in Eugene.  "You know Peter Spears?!?" Ted asked incrediously.  I replied in the affirmative and again he acted as if I had to be lying through my teeth.  I didn't bother pointing out the letter I had written to him earlier in which I mentioned Peter.  He seemed mystified by the fact that I had met and worked for Peter.  It turns out Ted had been Peter's boss at KGO in San Francisco.

At the end of the conversation Ted said something about flying me up to Minneapolis for a face to face interview.  My guts started churning.  I had never flown before and the thought of taking to the air left me deathly afraid.  My mind started racing trying to figure out a way to convince him that I could drive but I responded with a meek okay.

Off to work I went that day pondering the possibilities about a job in a big market like Minneapolis and chuckling at Ted's astonishment at my acquaintance with Peter Spears.  I worked nights which usually meant I didn't get to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning and I would rouse myself around 10 or 11.  I love sleep.

The following day, December 12th, my 23rd birthday, the phone rang bright and early at 8:30.  I staggered sleepily to the phone.  It was Ted offering me a job as weekend producer at WTCN, the soon to be NBC affiliate in Minneapolis.  I was dumbfounded.  My first thought was relief because I was dodging a much dreaded trip through the air.  My second thought was it's the best birthday present I ever had and still is.  The third was that I was about to embark on a great adventure helping build a big market news operation from the ground floor with a man whose nickname was Mad Dog.  The crazines that followed is worth a blog of its own.