Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Happens in Vegas?!?

Actually, it's what happens in St. George.  Tomorrow night I board a flight for Las Vegas and will arrive about a half hour after the Czarina's flight touches down.  We'll then grab a rental car and make the two hour drive to St. George.  If everything goes smoothly we might make it to the Super 8 by 1 a.m.  The poor Czarina will be suffering because to her it will be 4 a.m., although she rarely has problems sleeping in the car so maybe she'll snooze her way across the desert.

She called me in a panic last night because the marathon organizers have the website set up to allow you to print your bib number to help ease the registration process.  For some reason when she entered her name, her bib number doesn't come up.  Mine did.  I think she's secretly hoping she's not entered and can skip the race.  As I pointed out to her the registration page shows that she's in the race so I think she'll have to join me at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to board the buses for the trip to the starting line.

The Czarina has also spent much of this week fretting about the weather.  A pretty good heat wave has much of the west in its grips.  We've had record heat in Sacramento.  It could be pretty toasty by the time we finish the marathon.  Normally it's really cold, almost cold at the start for St. George.  Normally by the time you finish it's only 70 degrees.  It could be about 10 degrees warmer plus there's a chance of rain in the forecast.  Now 80 degrees in the desert is nothing like 80 degrees in the desert so I'm not too worried, but it has the Czarina pretty worked up.

Anyway, my bags are packed.  I'm ready.  Here's to a weekend of fun with good friends and a wonderful wife.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ageless Wonder

My mom got me a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Christmas in 1967.  It only fueled my love of sports.  I would glean through the pages reading about my heroes and living legends in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf and of course track and field.

George Blanda was one of those legends.  His five game run of saving the Raiders in 1970 was something to behold.  He did it kicking and he did it playing quarterback.  Mind you, he was 43 years old at the time.  Back then most NFL quarterbacks never made it to their mid-30's much less 43. 

As a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs I hated the Raiders.  But I deeply admired George Blanda.  He was a survivor and an incredible athlete.  He played in the toughest league in the toughest game on the planet until age 46. 

As our heroes pass away one by one it reminds us of our own mortality.  Many of my great sporting heroes like Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Bobby Orr, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Ryun, Billie Jean King, Jack Nicklaus and Billy Mills.  This just a small slice of the men and women who I admire for their athletic accomplishments.  Blanda, even though he was a hated Raider, was just one of them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Valley of the Sun

July 1987 I threw my lot in with KTSP (now KSAZ) in Phoenix. I was lured away from my good paying gig at WDAF with the promise that I would be the next Executive Producer because the current EP was pregnant and not expected to return once she gave birth. It never happened. It was probably just as well.

My near three year stint was marked by a lot of personal turmoil. Those that know me well understand what I'm alluding to so I don't wish to dwell on those problems. Instead I would rather focus on the good things that came from this experience.

The first thing was the formation of an enduring friendship with Craig Davidson. When I asked around the newsroom if there were groups that went out for weekend long runs, someone suggested, I believe it was John Warren who suggested that I call Runner's Den. Craig answered the phone at Runner's Den and invited me to join us long run group that met every Saturday in Scottsdale. That was more than 23 years ago. I put in more than a few 16 milers with Craig and the Mummy Mountain Mothers as we called ourselves.

Craig was just a great friend. He never judged me or my bad behavior. He offered unending support and spiritual guidance. He's the only reason I'm going to run St. George this coming weekend.

The other wonderful part of working in Phoenix was the great group of professionals that I got to work besides. Some of them are gone now. The late Burt Kennedy was the consummate professional. His knowledge, his easy going personality, and his courteous style taught me much. Gone to are Mike Makela and Alfonso Duran, two very good reporters.

I also got to work with two legendary anchors. Bill Close was Phoenix television news. He was crusty, could swear like a sailor, but had an unbending, no nonsense approach to journalism. He has long since retired. So has Dave Patterson, who was the main anchor during my time at KTSP. He had an anchor's ego but the chops to back it up. He was a first rate reporter and his ability to absorb information on the fly was unparalleled. He didn't get along with the producers. It took him nearly two years to realize that I wasn't a complete retard and our relationship warmed. Below is a promo from Cleveland where Dave anchored before a stop in Philadelphia. Why he ended up in Phoenix is anyone's guess.

The group of reporters and photographers were great as well. Dale Schornack, William LaJeunesse, Gilbert Zermeno, Richard McKee, Jeff Hollifeld, Linda Williams and John Cain are among the very best I've ever worked with at any station.

I also enjoyed our weatherman Dave Munsey. He was always giving me his old clothes which were expensive and looked great. The sports guys Fred Kalil and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth were simply awesome. J.D. welcomed me on my first day at work by taking me to a Triple A ball game and doing the Rock Chalk Chant, seems like Kansas had recruited him when he was a high school football star in North Carolina.

Two managers also made a great impression on me. Jim LeMay was like a lab rat on speed. His frenetic energy could wear you out. Jim went on to a great career as a news director and now works at CNN. Most important was the gentle guidance I received from Mary Cox, who is the best teaching journalist I've ever been around. Mary is smart, tough, determined and knows how to convey what she wants in the easiest to understand terms. Mary teaches and consults now. I still rely on her wisdom from time to time.

The thing that made Phoenix different is that we traveled to big stories. We went to major plane crashes, hurricanes, and the biggest story of that period, the Bay Area earthquake. It's a sign of a bygone era. Stations don't travel to big stories anymore unless the drive is under five hours. Our news director Dave Howell thought nothing of sending a crew half way across the country to cover a major story. I got to go on the road more than a few times including the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the 1988 Final Four. But nothing could beat attending the first two training camps of the Arizona Cardinals. Eating at the training table was first rate fare.

Unfortunately I needed a big change in my life. I needed support and security and I wasn't getting it in Phoenix. It was time to go home, back to Kansas. And my old boss Mike McDonald was back on Signal Hill after a short stint as a news director for the NBC station in Dallas. So Mike and I conspired for my return to WDAF. It was a professional step backward but a change that was needed to straighten out my personal life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Deer at Dusk

This last weekend of training before St. George presented me with something of a dilemma.  I really wanted to run a 5K race as a final dust buster before next week's marathon.  The problem is the only local 5K went off at 5:30 p.m. in 94 degree heat.  So I decided to run a leisurely 10 miles just as the sun started to set to beat the brunt of today's heat.

A little less then four miles into the run along the American River the deer began populating the edges of the trail.  They are surprisingly tame despite the comings and going of bikers and runners.  I kept a wary eye on doe's with their fawns.  I've seen pictures of does defending their babies.  It can be nasty.

Other than the deer it was a rather uneventful run.  My sciatica is only mildly annoying at this point.  I finally relented and had an x-ray taken of my right hip earlier in the week.  The fact that I haven't heard from my doctor tells me nothing serious is going on in my leg.  I'm positive the leg can stand the stress of a full marathon. 

Tomorrow I'm putting on my racing flats and will head over to the practice track at Sac State to run a three mile time trial.  I won't be able to come anywhere close to what I could run in a real race but at least it will give me one last hard effort where I get my legs going.  If I can run 12 laps in 22 minutes I'll be happy. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own

I think it must be separation anxiety.  The Czarina paid me a visit over Labor Day weekend and I can't wait to see her again in ten days when we arrive within minutes of each other in Las Vegas.  This move to Sacramento isn't the first time we've spent time apart because of my profession.  She spent a hellish six months on her own with a wild man of a teenage son to look after while I established myself as a news director in Fargo.  It's remarkable that those events didn't destroy our less than year old marriage.
She's very tough and strong willed.  Above all the Czarina is courageous.  I don't know how else she made it through Fargo.  This move is different because we're both very much alone.  The boy was with us through the first two moves be he is now a grown man living his own, successful life in Southern California.  I have a couple of guitars and laptops to keep me entertained while she only has Rudy.

The early part of the separation was easy for her to endure because the visit from Masha, Vlad and Natasha.  But now I hear nothing but complaints about Rudy's unending quest to get her to feed him canned cat food instead of his dry food. 

Thankfully her job search moved into high gear after the Labor Day visit.  She's even had me dropping off resumes at a local state office.  The Czarina is an amazing programmer because she brings to her work the same things she brings to our marriage, passion and commitment.  She doesn't give up on any task, no matter how daunting.  I know this because I've seen the sweat, I've seen the tears, I've seen her break a wrist because of her stubbornness.  We're quite a match and I am ever so grateful that she hasn't give up on me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cold Irons Bound

"I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around
Well, I’m all used up and the fields have turned brown."

Bob Dylan

That pretty much sums up my final long run in preparation for the St. George Marathon.  I decided to log an 18 mile run two weeks out from the race.  I never made it to a hoped for 21 mile effort but I'm okay with it.  Today I just wanted to survive and I barely did. 

Between a week of work filled with stress and a fairly high mileage week (52) for me I knew this morning's run would be a bear.  It was overcast and humid when I headed out and by the time I hit 11 miles I wanted the run to end.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and I made it home running just a shade over 9:30 pace.

I suspect I'm tired from last week's ten mile race.  I can look forward to two weeks of mostly easy miles now.  I want to do a time trial sometime in the middle of this week and a 5K race this coming weekend if possible. 

I've averaged just a shade under 40 miles a week for the year.  It's not considering my right hip is a mess, I moved all the way across the country, and I'm still a good 15 pounds over what I would consider a decent racing weight. 

My coaching friend Mike told me I should just shoot for a 4 hour marathon at. St. George.  I appreciate his logic, why hurt? My response was, why did I do all this work just to run 4 hours?  I think he's just jealous.  Despite his considerable running and coaching accomplishments I don't think he's ever broken 3 hours for 26.2 miles.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Buffalo Stampede 10 miler

A tough week at work and a so-so week of training left me wondering what would happen Sunday morning.  I signed up weeks ago for a 10 mile race figuring it would be a good test for St. George.  But as I rolled out of bed I could tell I had made a mistake not eating a full meal the night before and I felt extremely sluggish.  I chugged down as much water as I could stand, took care of business in the bathroom and headed to Rio Americana High School for the 8 a.m. start. 

The flat course was a basic out and back with very few turns.  I was hoping I could average 7:45 per mile.  I even wore my racing flats hoping for an added edge.  Normally I wear light trainers for longer races.

A race called the Migration had started a half hour earlier for slower runners.  More than 300 runners lined up for the Stampede and I could tell it was going to be a fairly warm morning with almost nothing to call a breeze.  The horn sounded and I got out at what I felt was a solid pace.  I must have been passed by 50 runners in the first mile which I clocked in a comfortable feeling 7:30.  Though I had gone out fast I wasn't worried as another two dozen runners whizzed by over the next mile and I had to keep an eye out for the slower runners doubling back on the course.

By mile three I had settled into a steady 7:45 pace and I was now beginning to catch runners who had taken it out too fast.  I didn't catch many over the next seven miles but I held my pace and took water at nearly every aid station due to the heat.  As I headed into the last mile it appeared that 77:30 was doable even though my Garmin was showing that the course was long.  I hit 10 miles on my Garmin in 77:11, a good 200 meters from the finish.  I was a little disheartened but worked my way to the finish, my chip time showing 78:05.  The course was .14 long according to my Garmin, making up for the .14 that was missing from the Modesto Midnight Half Marathon.

It was a hard effort, much harder than Modesto.  And I'm much more tired hours after the race than I was after the half.  Another two weeks of hard training remains. Given Sunday's effort I really believe a sub 3:30 marathon is a possibility in St. George.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hay Is in the Barn

It occurred to me as I ran an easy 10 miles tonight that St. George is three weeks away.  The realization sort of stunned me.  I'm running a 10 mile road race on Sunday so that means no long run.  That leaves one final long run the following weekend.  That part of the grind will be over.

This has been a difficult week training wise.  I've felt very stale.  I tried to do a hard tempo run on Wednesday and my body just wouldn't let me.  I had to laugh when later that night I was reading some posts on my favorite message board about the great coach, Arthur Lydiard.  When one of his talented runners, Barry Magee, told Arthur he felt stale, Lydiard told him to do three straight days of 22 miles. 

I haven't even managed one 20 miler leading up to this marathon but my training has been remarkably consistent since the beginning of the year.  My mileage has been steady between 35 and 40 miles a week.  I managed 180 miles for the month of August and that's with a trio of days off thrown in for good measure.  I've enjoyed my best stretch of training since 2002/2003. 

I feel confident that at the very least I will run under the Boston qualifier in three weeks unless something really untoward happens.  In fact a race under 3:30 seems well within my reach.  But I guess I should be focused on Sunday and the 10 miler before me.  I would like to think I can run 77:30 but I'm going to try and do what I did at Modesto.  I plan to take it out easy and slowly ratchet down the pace.  Based on two weeks ago something under 79 minutes should be within my reach.

Now I just need to find a 5K for the week before St. George to sharpen what little speed I possess.  There are plenty of races in the area, I've just got to figure out which one makes the most sense. 

San Bruno Misery

It never fails when I land a new job.  Something terrible seems to happen sometime within the first year on the job.  During my first tour as an intern at KMBC it was the Coates House Fire that killed 20 people.  In Minneapolis it was the riots at the Red Lake Indian Reservation.  When I hit Little Rock a Titan II missile exploded killing some airmen.  Back to Kansas City and while it took a little longer than usual the Hyatt Crown Center sky walk collapse killed more than 100 people.  When I got to Phoenix a flight passenger jet bound for the Valley from Detroit crashed on takeoff killing a lot of people from the area.  You get the idea.

Tonight a huge natural gas line exploded in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.  It's one of the few communities in the Bay Area that I am somewhat familiar with.  I used to date a woman who lived there.  The destruction is beyond believe.  Block after block of homes were consumed by the fire.  So far the death toll is only one, but I suspect there may be victims we don't know about at this moment. 

Technically this disaster didn't happen in the Sacramento coverage area but it's less than a two hour drive from our newsroom to where it all happened.  I'm proud of the way our reporters, photographers, and producers responded tonight.  Our assignment editor did yeoman's work tweeting and putting updates on Facebook throughout the night while coordinating directions with the crew.  It made for a 13 hour day but that's nothing to the monster hours I've pulled during hurricane coverage.  Here's hoping that we don't have more excitement like tonight for a very long time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Czarina Visits!

It took three months but the Czarina got on an evening flight last Friday from Fort Myers and paid me a weekend visit in Sacramento.  The poor girl was tuckered out by her cross country journey but that didn't stop her from devouring a bag of potato chips when she got to my apartment.  She also managed a quick critique of my housekeeping, which while negligent, was better than she expected.

We enjoyed a morning run along the American River Trail.  The Czarina was thrilled at getting in a run without feeling like she was in a sauna.  She wanted to see the surrounding countryside so I took her to Auburn and we made a stop at Ikeda, a tourist favorite for burgers, fresh fruits and pies.  She picked up a bag of dried banana chips while I inquired about a good place to go for a hike.  The Czarina wanted to make a trip into the wilderness by foot so we were directed to a trail about four miles outside of town.
The fun started as we headed out Forrest Hills Road and across a very high bridge that spans a branch of the American River.  Even though we were traveling on a very wide and nice two lane blacktop the Czarina was in full freak out mode.  By the time we had crossed the bridge and made it to the turn off for the trail she was demanding that we leave.  I proceeded to creep my Ford Escape down a windy blacktop toward the trail and her demands only intensified.  The drop offs were pretty frightening but it wasn't anything to get too riled about.

I finally found a spot to pull off and we took a gander at the beautiful valley.  It was breath taking and she wanted pictures but she refused to drive down to the bottom of the canyon where the rivers converge.  She did insist on stopping at the bridge for another scenic view and then it was off to her favorite destination of the entire trip, the Thunder Valley Casino.

The scary trip must have done something to her appetite because at the buffet she went through three plates of food including two steaks and two trips to the dessert bar.  The Czarina can eat but her performance at Thunder Valley was amazing.  We got in a good three hours of gambling and called it a night and headed home where we watched the worst movie about running ever made called "Running."

Sunday's highlights included a 14 mile long run around massive Land Park and a trip to the station.  She finally got a chance to see where I worked.  We also toured some of the neighborhoods in East Sacramento, Fair Oaks, and Carmichael.  We even went as far east as the dam at Folsom Lake which was pretty cool to see.

Sadly, our visit ended Monday morning as I had to drive her to the airport and head into work to produce the 5 p.m. news.  The Czarina had a good time and agreed that Sacramento was a pretty cool place. Hopefully this will put some umpf in her job search.  Our next rendezvous is just three weeks away when we hook up in Las Vegas for our marathon adventure in St. George!