Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Running Adventure

All long as I've been a runner, 42 years and counting, there are a lot of challenges I've wanted to tackle.  I always wanted to do the Western States 100 but once I got past the age of 40 I realized that probably wasn't going to happen.  I did the Pike's Peak Ascent with my good friend Chris Ronan about a decade ago.  When I was younger I would have considered doing the round trip up and down the mountain but I can live without that.

I've also wanted to tackle a 24 hour run.  I think it's something I'm going to do at some point but I know time is running out for it.  And then there's the various relays out there.  Hood to Coast comes to mind as something I've always wanted to attempt.  But this week I'm going to take part in the next best thing.

On Friday the Sunrise 2 Sunset relay from Fort Myers to Jensen Beach.  Nine of us will take part in a 180 mile relay race across South Florida.  The race starts about three miles from my house and finishes on near the Atlantic.  I figure it will take us anywhere between 26 to 29 hours to complete the race. 

The course is pancake flat except for the bridges.  Somehow I'm running 2 of the 5 bridges in the relay.  Another interesting segment has me running about five miles through Pahokee, Florida in the early morning pre-dawn hours.  Pahokee wouldn't be mistaken for one of the state's garden spots.  It's a poor, drug infested, farming community that sits next to Lake Okeechobee.  It should be a real treat. 

I need to pack shoes, clothing, food, and night running gear for this event.  Preparation and patience will be key.  I've got a feeling no sleep will be involved.  Most importantly, I hope the Czarina doesn't get lost trying to drive across the state to pick me up on Saturday.  I would hate to miss the Jayhawks taking out the Buckeyes!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Forgiving Roy

The saying goes that time heals all wounds.  Roy Williams decision to leave Kansas for his beloved North Carolina in 2003 many Jayhawk faithful took it as a betrayal.  After all a tearful Williams (when isn't Roy tearful) had said no to a return to Chapel Hill three years before.  But after a third Final 4 appearance and a loss in the title game to Syracuse ol' Roy decided to embrace Tarheel Blue.

It never bothered me that much.  Kansas had hired a jackass to replace Bob Frederick as its athletic director.  Al Bohl ran the athletic department like a used car salesman and his treatment of then football coach Terry Allen had stuck in Williams' craw.  When former K.U. assistant Matt Doherty failed miserably at North Carolina the job came Williams way and this time he said yes.

I remembert the alumni rally in New Orleans at that 2003 Final 4 and the rumble through the crowd focused on Williams possible departure.  Everyone I talked to wanted Bill Self to succeed Williams if the unthinkable happened, which it did.  Self, of course, helped ease the pain of Roy's return to North Carolina by beating the Tarheels in the Final 4 and claiming the 2008 NCAA Championship.

Today as Kansas rolled by the Tarheels claiming a seemingly impossible trip to the Final 4 I thought back to Roy's Final 4 teams.  Of his 4 trips to the Final 4 Roy took 3 over achieving teams to the big dance.  His best team ever lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual national title winners Arizona.  His 2002 Final 4 team was the best team in the country but lost in the national semi-final.  Roy gave K.U. more than its share of thrills but it could never close the deal.  The main problem was that Roy's teams were soft.

Bill Self's teams are not soft.  I loved watching K.U. play Roy Williams style of uptempo basketball.  But Bill Self has burnished Hank Iba toughness along with an ability to play uptempo when needed into a meld of winning basketball.  Kansas won against North Carolina State and Purdue in tough physical fashion.  These were games that Williams teams would have failed at.  That lockdown, gut check, ability is why Kansas beat North Carolina today.  Also it didn't hurt that the Tarheels were playing without their point guard.  But give Bill Self credit.  He's taken a team not even picked to finish in the top 3 in the Big 12 all the way to the Final 4.  I love what Roy Williams did for Kansas basketball.  We would have never gotten Bill Self without him!  Rock Chalk!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Boss, Americana and a Little Rest

I took a pass on a chance to see Bruce Springsteen.  The Boss took his latest road show to Tampa Friday night featuring tunes from his new album "Wrecking Ball."  I didn't go for three reasons.  One was money.  The other was the fact that K.U. was playing in the Sweet 16.  Finally, I'm not that thrilled by the new music.  Some of it is really, really good.  But by and large the album didn't knock me upside the head.

I liked "Magic" a lot more and "Working on a Dream" for that matter.  Maybe with time I will warm to "Wrecking Ball."  I think the topics, the heart and soul of this album, hit the mark.  But outside of the song "Death to My Hometown" along with re-worked versions of "Lands of Hopes and Dreams" and "American Land" the work seems dated.  Neil Young already hit on some of these themes with his album "Fork in the Road."  Maybe with a few more listens I'll find more to like about this work.

Meanwhile Neil Young has announced that his latest effort with Crazy Horse called "Americana" will feature a collection of old American folk songs.  I guess Neil decided to trod down a path already taken by Dylan and Springsteen.  Let's just say that hearing Neil do "Clementine" doesn't exactly get my blood worked up.  Hopefully Neil will ride the Horse to some new material later in the year.  It's been a long time since they've created any new music together.

Last weekend's race took a toll on my legs.  My right calf stayed sore after four straight days of training so I decided to take a two or three day hiatus.  I hadn't missed a day of running since January.  I want to be healthy for next weekend when I take part in a coast to coast relay run across the state of Florida.  I'm joining a crew of 8 other runners for this adventure.  I've got to run 4 legs totaling more than 18 miles.  I just want to get through it all and stay fit enough to run one more fast 5K before the heat and humidity tighten its grip on Southwest Florida. 

Monday, March 19, 2012


I've written more blogs about this year's Kansas basketball team than any other.  It's a team that just keeps on giving and giving.  Every starting player on this team at one time or another has stepped up in a big game to lift the team to a win.  Last night it was Elijah Johnson's turn. 

Purdue did an amazing job of playing physical basketball.  By pounding the crap out of Thomas Robinson and putting the fear of God into Tyshawn Taylor the Boilermakers blunted the Jayhawks' two best offensive weapons.

But after a sleepy start Johnson stepped up in the second half and carried the team to a victory.  I saw a player who is ready to do what Tyshawn Taylor did this year.  I saw a player grow up and take charge.

This season of Kansas basketball has been one of the most satisfying since Roy Williams first Final Four run in the early 90's.  Given the lack of depth I thought this would be a Kansas team that would barely win 20 games and had no prayer of getting to the Sweet 16. 

Bill Self has done an incredible coaching job.  In the first half you could see that playing a traditional man to man against Purdue was disastrous.  Suddenly in the second half Kansas employs an amazing Box and 2 defense that bottled up the Boilermaker's long range threats and gave Kansas a chance. 

Then there was Johnson.  A player who I thought next year would have a difficult time winning a starting job.  You could see a stunning lack of confidence from the beginning of the season.  But then a switch seemed to switch on about halfway through February.  Elijah Johnson has grown up and like his back-court mate Taylor has learned not to carry the weight of his mistakes.  I credit the confidence to Self's coaching.  Bill Self never gave up on Elijah Johnson and it's paying off now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rolling in Lehigh Acres

Lehigh Acres is a unincorporated area in Eastern Lee County.  It's a large, sprawling community, named so because it sits on the highest ground in the county.  It's filled with foreclosed homes and a mish-mash of trashy lots, crapped out homes, along with some beautiful neighborhoods and gated communities.  It's a real roll of the dice depending on where you are.

This morning I got up a lot earlier than usual to run the annual 4 mile race in Lehigh Acres.  I'd run this race three other times with mixed results.  It's one of the older local races but the field is usually pretty thin.  The course is pancake flat and winds its way out and back through a tired neighborhood. 

Two years ago I ran the race just missing out on cracking 30 minutes.  I went into the race this weekend knowing that 30 minutes was well within reach, but hope for something a little better.  Despite missing most of January my training has gone exceedingly well.  Save for the perpetual soreness in my right hip I can tell I'm getting a lot faster. 

My neighbor Chris was running and the Czarina was basically taunting me with the fact that he would likely hand my ass to me as he did last month at the Edison 5K.  This time I let Chris take off and worked on finding my rhythm.  At Edison I had gone out like a man on fire and I paid the price.  I got about 3/4 of a mile in and felt really easy.  Just before the mile I passed Chris and worked at relaxing over the next 2 miles.  I snapped along at 7:15 pace and worked at reeling in a pack of five runners about 30 yards ahead of me.

With a mile to go there were just 2 from that pack left in front of me and I began thinking about Chris.  I knew he was back there lurking and sure enough with 3/4 of a mile to go I heard him shout, "John, I'm coming."  I could gauge that he was a good 50 yards behind me so I went to work.  I quickly caught the last 2 from the pack and with less than a half mile to go I could hear Chris shout again, only this time he was a lot closer.

I hung on for dear life and crossed the finish line in 28:59.  Chris came in about 3 seconds behind me.  I won my age group which is something I haven't done in a few years.  I think if I can loss another 5 pounds or so I can run a 5K under 7 minute pace.  I know it doesn't sound fast but I'll take it at my age.  To do it I may have to try and do some speed work.  It's a real dilemma because with it comes a big risk of injury.  But given that our racing season is almost over it seems worth the risk.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Olympics and Politics

Like it or not, politics play a major role in the Olympic Games.  From Hitler's showcase in Berlin in 1936 to the boycotts in 1976 by African nations to the cold war boycotts in 1980 by the U.S.A. and 1984 by the U.S.S.R., politics and boycotts are part of the equation.

Some of the boycotts or protest made sense.  John Carlos and Tommie Smith actions at Mexico City come to mind as an important way to show support for civil rights.  The African boycott in 76 was flimsy.  They wanted New Zealand barred from the Games because its rugby team had played South Africa, which at the time was an international pariah because of its policy of apartheid.  South Africa couldn't compete because of its treatment of its black majority.  In fact, South Africa was barred from Olympic competition from 1964 until 1992.

The reason I bring all of this up is because of a tweet I read today from American 800 meter champion Nick Symmonds.  He questioned Saudi Arabia's policy banning women from competing at the Olympic Games.  It got me to thinking about the rights of people, regardless of color or sex.  Saudi Arabia's policy and treatment of women as second class citizens seems awfully close to South Africa's old policy of apartheid.

I believe the International Olympic Committee needs to take a long, hard, look at Saudi Arabia's policy regarding women.  If South Africa merited an Olympic ban for its treatment of blacks it would seem to me a ban of Saudi Arabia would be justified for its treatment of women.  While Saudi women may not be suffering in the way that black South Africans did for decades, they lack basic rights that should be afforded to everyone regardless of race, sex or religion.  It's time for the IOC to step up and stand up for women.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wrecking Ball

I would blog about the new Bruce Springsteen album but Amazon has my disc on the slow boat from China. I know I should go digital but I like having a CD.  I don't trust the whole digital thing completely yet.  Besides, I've got two huge CD cases to fill up!  Springsteen's own site is streaming the album but I need to hit the streets with it and digest it during a few runs.

Speaking of running I plan to line up for my favorite 4 mile race this weekend in Lehigh Acres.  If you scan back a couple of years on this blog you'll notice I ran this race before.  Although I'm older I think I should be able to run faster.  I'm at least ten pounds lighter which shouldn't hurt. 

Speaking of hurting I'm getting tired of my right hip.  I've had a chiropractor offer to let me try a laser treatment on my hip which he claims can perform miracles.  It really only bothers me when I sit for a long periods.  I may have to take Dr. Ziggy up on his offer.

One thing I'm trying is a different type of running shoe.  It took me about three years but I was finally talked into trying to run in a pair of Newtons.  The shoe forces you to run on the balls of your feet.  I've had them for about three weeks and I must admit I like them.  The weirdest thing about them is that I consistently run faster in them than my conventional shoes.  I did an 11 mile training run in them last week and shocked myself by running under 9 minute pace.  I'd normally be happy to plod along at 9:20 pace.  I alternate between the Newtons and my other shoes.  I'm thinking in another month I may get another pair and go to Newtons only.

The only bad part about this is the price point.  Newtons are about 50 dollars more than a pair of conventional running shoes.  I hate spending more than 90 dollars on running shoes and when you're talking triple digits, well, it just makes me shudder.    

Friday, March 9, 2012


An interesting stat popped up at the end of Gary Bedore's post-game notes in the LJW following KU's whomping of SEC bound Texas A&M.  All 5 of KU's starter's have scored at least 25 points in a game at some point this season.  Think about that again, all 5 starters have scored at least 25 points in a game this season.

Over the last 2 decades the Jayhawks have put some very talented teams on the floor.   Now I'm not going to dig through the rosters over the last 20 years to check it out but I don't think that's ever happened before.  Even the talented 1996-97 team that was loaded with talent capable of matching that feat didn't do it.

I think this speaks volumes about the coaching job that Bill Self has done this season.  Early on I worried about Tyshawn Taylor's ability to play the point and the post passing by Thomas Robinson.  As the season progressed both players became more and more unselfish as they realized their teammates were capable of helping them carry the load.  Taylor's improvement in particular has been jaw-dropping.  His long range shooting has improved beyond belief.

This season's edition of the Kansas Jayhawks goes to show that it doesn't take a roster filled with McDonald's All-Americans to field a very good basketball team.  This squad has gelled and come together in a way reminiscent of the 2008 national championship squad.  Regardless of whether this team wins its way to a Final 4 or even a Big 12 tournament title, we've witnessed one of the best coaching jobs I've seen at Kansas, ever. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Off the Rails

The Republican Party seems hell bent on committing suicide.  Let's examine the events of the last few days.  Presidential candidate Rick Santorum blows up the U.S. Constitution deriding the separation of church and state.  Rush Limbaugh calls a college co-ed a slut and a whore for wanting birth control included in President Obama's health care plan.  And then there's Crazy Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona declaring their needs to be a criminal investigation into the President's birth certificate.

Republicans want to roll back the clock to the 1950's.  It's a time when prayer was still part of the daily rituals of public school, there was no female birth control and black people knew their place.  There are a lot of things that were great about life in the 50's, but we were also a nation coming to grips with segregation, a nation that refused to allow entry by women to the top levels of corporate America and a nation where religious intolerance, especially against non-Christians, was mind-numbing.

Government has no role in the life of its citizens as a morale arbiter.  Rick and Rush may think it does but I beg to differ.  But then Joe and Rush are comfortable in their bigotry in 2012 just as if it were 1952.  I know one thing, I'd love to be Sandra Fluke's attorney.  Ole' Rush is going to end up writing a big fat check to the Georgetown student after putting his big fat foot in his big fat mouth.