Sunday, November 23, 2014

Half Measures

I don't understand the compulsion of runners who train for marathons trying to use shortcut approaches.  I've run plenty of marathons on short training.  I would say that out of the 20 marathons I have run, only 6 of them were done with what I would consider an appropriate amount of training leading up to them.  As you can probably guess those are the 6 fastest marathons I ever ran, 2 were under 2:50 and 1 under 2:40.
1986 Grandma's Marathon
Ran 2:51:42 in hot conditions
Before I met coach Tom Dowling in 1985, my marathon training was haphazard at best.  A long run to me was 10 miles and I had never heard of Arthur Lydiard.  An incredibly painful 3:11 marathon in the spring of 1985 when I thought I was in decent shape led me to Tom.

Following Tom's Lydiard based principles of building a very large aerobic base before attempting a marathon I can honestly say those 6 marathons were the easiest I ever ran.  For each and every one of those marathons I had at least 6 good months of aerobic base before attempting those marathons.  Yet, I continually come across runners who want to train and compete in a marathon with 4 months or so of training, many just running 4 days a week.

I understand that men and women with children cannot run 6 or 7 days a week.  But I cannot understand why aspiring marathon runners don't take the time, ie; months of building up long runs, to run a marathon.  Trying to go from a 10 miles long run to a 22 mile long run in just 4 months is an invitation to injury.

When I ran my fastest marathon, I literally spent a year preparing for it.  The payoff was a 9 minute PR and the easiest marathon I ever ran.  I checked my old running logs and the year leading up to the race.  I ran 25 runs of 16 miles or more, 8 of them were 21 miles or more.  I should add that I missed an entire month early in the buildup due to a hamstring injury 10 months before the marathon and another 3 weeks of training just three months out from the race itself due to a sore achilles.

All of my long runs save one, was at 7:15 to 7:30 pace.  The one was a 26 mile run done two weeks out from the marathon done at 6:55 pace with 5 water stops lasting about 2 minutes each.  A lot of runners I meet feel the need to try and run their long runs at something approaching race pace.  That's foolish at best and defeats the purpose of building your aerobic base.

I did plenty of speed specific training in the weeks leading up to my marathon PR.  It included mile repeats, tempo runs of 6 to 10 miles where I would be at marathon pace or better for at least the last third of the run and plenty of races used to sharpen my speed.

Again, several people I see preparing for marathons seems to forsake running 5K's or 10K's ahead of their big races.  That's a big mistake.  Racing gets you used to using the water stations and dealing with other runners.  Even experienced runners need prep races before their goal race.

My last marathon, in 2010, I was under raced and under trained.  I hadn't run a marathon in 7 years due to several surgeries.  In the 10 months leading up to that 2010 marathon  I had only four runs of 16 miles or more.  I ran only a couple of races leading up to the big race.  I paid the price.  I ran 3:56, my slowest marathon by 40 minutes.  The last 9 miles were a difficult shuffle in extremely hot conditions.  It was on the same course where 20 years earlier I had run 2:39:24 PR.  A marathon without proper preparation is a humbling experiences.  My half-assed training got me exactly what I deserved.

I know that most runners cannot see their way to breaking 4 hours in the marathon.  But with a proper amount of base training, you can make a difficult, brutally tough race, a lot more tolerable.  A marathon doesn't have to mean misery.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oops Hoops

Usually this time of the year I offer up my first assessment of Kansas basketball.  This will undoubtedly be the most interesting ride since Bill Self replaced Roy Williams in 2003.  An 11th straight conference title will mark Self's best coaching job ever, despite the fact that he has the most athletic team I've ever seen at K.U.

Here's the problem.  When I watched the Jayhawks step out onto the court last night to face Kentucky, my jaw dropped.  It was men versus boys.  Kentucky is big.  Kentucky may have the finest collection of talent since John Wooden ruled basketball at UCLA with Bill Walton at center.  Now don't get me wrong, Kentucky is going to lose a game or two this year, sorry Larry Brown.  Great teams playing 40 games always have one slip up.

Kentucky exposed Kansas in ways I've never seen a Bill Self team exposed.  This version of the Jayhawks looks like a squad straight out of the Roy Williams era.  They played soft.  Super frosh Cliff Alexander is the only interior beast Kansas has this season.  Jamari Traylor simply shrank when it was his turn to take over the spotlight.  Perry Ellis is a perimeter big man.  Traylor and Ellis never worked the high-low post the way we're used to seeing the Jayhawks play it.  This is really troubling.

Kansas fans will never admit it but they missed Nadir Tharpe.  His presence would have brought the much needed toughness that Self seeks from his point guards.  Frank Mason tried to play the way Self needs his point guard to play, but pushing the ball into the post on foolish runs to the basket only exposed his inexperience.

Worse still, Wayne Selden, who will be expected to be the go to guard this season, is probably K.U.'s fourth best option on the perimeter.  The three freshman, Kelly Oubre, Jr., Sviastolav Myhailiuk and Devonte Graham are already better than Selden.  Kansas will have to be an inside-out team this season rather it's normal outside-in team, unless Traylor finds his inner Marcus Morris and Cliff Alexander can learn to stay out of foul trouble.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Run Florida - World Series Nexus

I watched tonight's Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with more than a passing interest.  You see, I was in the ballpark 29 years ago when the Kansas City Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 11 to 0 to capture Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.  I was doing what I loved, covering sports.  I was working as a field producer for WDAF TV, the NBC station in Kansas City at the time and also the television home of the Royals.  I am and have been a huge Royals fan and attended the very first game ever played in KauFfman Stadium in 1973.

My life in broadcasting has allowed me to witness an incredible number of great sporting and news events.  Without a doubt, the 1985 World Series is at the top of that list.  I had the privilege of being in the locker room as Kansas City celebrated its first world championship. 

I also had the indignity of being arrested while trying to work my way from behind home plate to the first base photo bay by an over zealous Kansas City police officer who didn't believe that my all access pass that was the size of an iPad gave me the right to go to my crew situated there.  Fortunately, Royals PR maven, Dean Vogelar, bailed me out of the dugout jail, where a rowdy bunch of drunks had been tossed for running out on the field. 

It's funny as I reflect back because 1985 is the same year that I resurrected my life as a runner.  I had been semi-serious about my running as I approached age 30.  I had the good fortune that year to work as the assistant cross country coach at Rockhurst High School and the squad's two top runners, introduced me to a private coach who had a big an impact on my life as any individual outside of my mother.  Tom Dowling tapped into my potential and in one short year I dropped my marathon PR from 2:57:14 to 2:49:25.  It proved the importance of structure and guidance when it came to training.  Tom's direction paid dividends for the years to come.

But I started writing about the nexus of Run Florida and Wednesday night's World Series showdown.  It comes not only from my rolling in covering the World Series in Kansas City 29 years ago, but the presence of Kim Hudson, a Run Florida customer, who watched from the stands Wednesday night as her husband Tim, became the oldest starting pitcher in World Series history.  My love of baseball and my love of Run Florida and our valued customers were in a strange nexus indeed.

As much as it hurts that my Royals came up short against the Giants, I'm happy that Tim Hudson's stint on the mound, wasn't the deciding factor.  Besides his wife's loyalty to Run Florida, Hudson has long been one of my favorite baseball players.  He's always someone I wanted on my fantasy baseball team's and in fact was on my team this year, again.  Congratulations to the Giants and to Tim Hudson on finally getting a well earned ring.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I haven't gone on a wild, drug and alcohol fueled adventure in Las Vegas.  I am spending four days in quite possibly the worst city to try and get a good run in.  If you're staying on the strip, all that lays before you and your feet are concrete.  It is the worst surface imaginable to run on.  Plus in Vegas, there's navigating the pedestrians and the various crazed taxi drivers.

The point of this blog is to talk about concrete and avoiding it at all costs.  Asphalt is much easier on your joints than concrete.  In fact, Arthur Lydiard, the late great New Zealand coach, who invented the concept of long, slow distance, preferred that his athletes train on asphalt over grass or dirt trails.  Now that one may leave you scratching your head.  Here's Lydiard's reasoning, footing.

Lydiard wanted his runners on a smooth, reliable surface, especially if they were doing a tempo run.
Grass or dirt trails rarely offer reliable footing, unless you're running on a golf course.  Think about all of the crazy angles your feet end up at when running on a trail or on a cross country course.  It's hard on your muscles, tendons and joints.  Unless you train regularly on trails, running them on a whim will provide your body with a shock.

As for Las Vegas, I always head south off the strip and into the neighborhoods.  There are less people to deal with and a lot less traffic.  I actually found the University of Nevada Las Vegas track on my five mile run today and may make the 2 mile trek to it for a softer, safer, monotonous run on the tartan there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

As For These Shoes...

Forgive me my obsession about running shoes, but I saw these on Facebook Tuesday and I felt it important to tell the story behind these battered Adidas. These shoes carried an American to Olympic glory 50 years ago.

On October 14, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, Billy Mills became the first and only American to win the Olympic gold medal at 10,000 meters.  Mills lived in my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas where he went to an Indian only high school called Haskell, after leaving his home on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota.  Haskell is now a four year college and is still a school for Native Americans.

Mills went to the University of Kansas where he enjoyed a great deal of success, but nothing that would foretell the Olympic gold that would come his way after he graduated college and joined the U.S. Marines.  Mills wasn't even considered the top American contenders at 10,000 meters in 1964.  A rambunctious high school boy from Spokane, Washington, Gerry Lindgren, despite his youth, was considered a medal contender.

Lindgren sprained his ankle a short time before the Olympic final.  Mills wasn't on anyones radar.  He was so poorly thought of when he went to the Adidas representative to get some shoes they turned him down.  Mills headed to the Puma representative who immediately agreed to give him shoes.

Back in 1964, when it came to running shoes, top track and field athletes had two choices, Adidas and Puma.  The German shoe companies were owned by brothers who hated each other and were equally bitter rivals when it came to snagging athletes to run in their shoes.  Asics, New Balance, Brooks, Mizuno and Saucony simply weren't players at the time and NIKE didn't even exist. 

When Adidas got wind that Mills would be wearing Puma they relented and gave him a pair of their shoes which he wore to victory.  During the medal ceremony Mills wore a pair of Puma's to acknowledge their help in getting him the shoes that he really wanted.

Those blue shoes bring back a lot of memories.  I owned a pair of blue Adidas Tokyo's through high school that looked a lot like those famous spikes of Billy Mills.  They were my favorite spikes to wear in cross country.  I wish I still had them.

I've been lucky enough to meet Billy Mills on a couple of occasions.  He's truly an inspiration.  Go to YouTube and watch his 10,000.  I dare you not to get goosebumps. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

What's In A Shoe?

A shoe can break or make a runner.  I found it out the hard way 24 years ago while training for a particularly hilly marathon.  I developed a nasty case of achilles tendonitis.  I tried a cortisone shot and within two weeks the searing pain was back.  It was then that I figured out the new Nike Skylon's were the cause.

I had run in Nike's, mainly the Pegasus, for the better part of the 1980's.  Nike really started tinkering with their shoes at the start of the 90's and quite honestly, many of their trainers are not very good anymore.  That injury sent me to the Asics GT 2000 series and that was my go to shoe for the better part of the next decade.

When I moved to Fort Myers in 2003, I immediately saw a return of plantar fasciatas which had bothered me about six years before when I was still running 50 plus miles a week.  That's when I found Mike Pemberton and thus a shoe love affair was born.  Mike put me in Mizuno's and boom, the plantar disappeared just like that.

That started a running conversation (excuse the pun) with Mike about running shoes and what different shoes do, both good and bad.  It took Mike more than three years to get me to run in Newtons.  That was a real change for this avowed hell striker.  But that move led me back to lighter trainers and an ongoing affinity for the Saucony Kinvara.

But enough about me, I want to write about what Mike and I see on a weekly basis from runner's, both experienced and inexperienced.  They walk into the store with a beloved shoe that look like it's been beaten to death, the runner  oftencomplaining about injuries.  Most of the time the problem is they have run in the same shoe for a year or even longer.  If you're running in the same shoe three to four times a week, you're going to get six months out of them at best.

The other mistake is the everyday runner, using the same shoe day in and day out.  They come in two or three months later wondering what's wrong with the shoe.  What they don't understand is they've put six plus months use of shoes into one pair.

Shoes need time to recover.  The EVA that the shoes are built on compress and a 24 hour break allows that EVA to return to its original shape.  The other thing about EVA is that it deteroiates over time.  It has about a one year life span and then it begins to lose all of its cushioning properties.  That's why it's a bad idea to hit the cut out tables at the big box stores because shoes many times are DOA.

What I'm getting to is that if you are running five times a week or more, you really need to run in two pairs of shoes.  I've been doing it since the late 70's.  I usually rotate between three shoes, the Kinvara, my Newton Kismets and the HOKA Clifton as a recovery shoe.  That's not unusual for a dedicated runner.  I know some runners that use three to four shoes, not to mention their racing flats.

The point is, different shoes do different things.  They work different muscle groups.  In fact, as I prepare to start increasing my long runs I'm going to have to think about investigating into a heavier training shoe that can withstand a 10 mile plus run. 

The shoes are an investment in myself.  Two pairs of running shoes will help stretch the life of both pair.  In the long run (excuse the pun), you'll get more miles for your buck if you double down on your purchases.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Red Line

Rolling along Monday evening on a four mile jaunt I looked down on the asphalt path that runs along 6 Mile Cypress.  I noticed some thoughtful soul had re-painted the half mile marks that show up along the five mile path that stretches from Daniels Parkway to Colonial Boulevard.  It reminded me of the importance of interval work when training for an important race, even for half marathons and marathons.  As I pondered the countless half mile and mile intervals I've run, something else occurred to me.  Running races ahead of a half marathon or marathon is equally important.

Preparatory races get your ready for your goal races.  It allows you to practice your strategy.  Running a few 5K's or 10K's before a longer race like a half marathon or marathon sharpens that edge.  Regardless of whether you plan on running a marathon under 3 hours, 4 hours, or 5 hours, a handful of races leading up to the big race is important.

This picture was taken about one month ahead of a marathon that I ran in Kansas City.  I'm leading an old training partner, Stephen Greer, over a bridge in Leawood, Kansas in a mid-September 10K race..  It told my coach that I was ready to run a marathon.  Because he wouldn't let me run intervals, (that's another story) I had to race to sharpen my speed.  Time and again it was a proven formula for the half marathons and marathons that I would follow.

You naturally run faster in a race.  The sheer force of the crowd of runners carry you along to speeds you normally can't hope to attain in a training run or during interval training.  I write about this as I see a group of hopeful men and women prepare with Coach Mike Pemberton for upcoming half marathons and marathons this winter.  You can log all the miles you want, but without some pace work, intervals, tempo runs and racing, those goal races won't be nearly as satisfying as you would like.

But that red line is a double edged sword.  Too much racing, too much speed work, will take an edge off of all of that work you've put in for that big race.  The red line can be your friend, but if you cross it one time too many, you can pay a heavy toll in injuries and illness.  Something to consider as we enter the road racing season.
 
 
 
 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Change of Direction

I haven't posted in quite some time because I've been a busy boy.  I am leaving television news, thus ending a career in television that started 40 years ago this month when Rich "Pureman" Bailey asked me to become his stat monkey at Cable 6.  It's been a hell of a ride ever since.

The seeds of change were planted more than three years ago when I had come back from Sacramento to Fort Myers in search of a new challenge.  I had talked off and on for years with Mike Pemberton, a running guru in Fort Myers who has operated a running shoe store for the most part of his 20 plus years here.  I first met him 11 years ago when I went to Mike with my plantar problem and he quickly resolved it.  I like to think of Mike as the shoe whisperer.  He's top notch at figuring out what you need on your feet.

Anyway, I asked Mike if I could throw in with him and sell shoes back in the winter of 2011.  I worked around the store, got to know his wife and his way of doing business.  He wasn't ready and I understood it. So, I was off to FOX 4 and a great group of people with the thought that I would have to survive in TV news until my far off retirement.

Then in May of this year, Mike and his delightful wife Candy asked me if I was ready to join in the fun that is Run Florida on McGregor.  Mike wanted to do what he loved best, coach and train.  The demands of running the store full-time was cutting into his passion.  It took a lot of talking and a lot of thought and a lot of support from the Czarina, but especially Mike and Candy and I decided that now was the time for change.

I have thought about getting into the running shoe game for more than a decade.  I had talked with Kansas City running impresario Garry Gribble about it.  I had been approached by others in KC about investing in a store.  It didn't seem right, especially opening up a store that would compete against a friend.  That's what makes working with Mike so welcoming.  I get to learn first hand from a seasoned pro and thankfully I have enough knowledge of what works and doesn't work to help others who want to run.

I'm still a journalist.  I always will be and this blog will serve as proof of that.  I hope to keep it running focused as it is now my profession.  I would ask that you check out our Facebook page and please like Run Florida on McGregor.  I'm excited.  I never thought I would grow up to be Al Bundy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Years After

August 12, 2004, I went to bed with a sense of dread.  How I slept, I don't know.  I have blogged before about Hurricane Charley.  Outside of the Hyatt Disaster in Kansas City, this was certainly the biggest local news story that I ever covered.  That Thursday night 10 years ago, I went to bed hoping Charley's forecast track kept it headed to Tampa.  My biggest contribution to our coverage would come that fateful Friday.  I told our News Director at WINK, John Emmert, that we needed to bring Mike Walcher and our satellite truck back from Tampa.  We agreed that Charlotte County would be the best place to set up shop.  Little did we know.

Hurricane Charley slammed into Southwest Florida the afternoon of Friday August 13, 2004 gouging a path across Sanibel and Captiva Islands before roaring up the Peace River bringing devastation to Pine Island, Cape Coral and much of Charlotte County.  Mike Walcher sat in the middle of it with his photographer and engineer Pat Senna watching the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office fall down around them.  I can only imagine the terror.

I know I was terrified for a time.  When it became clear that Charley was turning, about mid-morning that Friday, I feared the storm would bulldoze it's way over the heart of Lee County.  I was genuinely scared shitless.  The newsroom was gripped by fear.  WINK TV sat right next to the Caloosahatchee River so any storm surge could have left us several feet under water  Before we blocked the newsroom doors and sandbagged them, about an hour before Charley hit with its full fury, I went outside.  That somehow helped dispel my fear.

Once the storm hit my, anxiety level dropped tremendously. It was a big blow to be sure but it wasn't as frightening as it could have been. The worst of it had passed to our north. Mike Walcher and his photographer and Dan Bowens and his photographer experienced the worst of it as they were both located in Charlotte County. Both did wonderful work as did all of our other reporters out in the field who risked their lives to report on the storm... Trey Radel, Tim Wetzel, Melissa Keeney, Holly Wagner, Abigail Bleck, Candace Rotolo, and Judd Cribbs all stand out in my mind from that frantic day. We had a dedicated group of photographers like Darren Whitehead, Randy Hansen, Matt Lucht, Melissa Martz, Sean Peden, Tom Urban, Mike Levine, Andrew Miller and a couple of other guys whose names escape me. Even the sports guys, Brian Simon and Clayton Ferraro pitched in.

When the storm started to subside, it was a mad scramble.  Cell phone service was worse than spotty.  I don't think we had a true sense of how bad it was because by the time it was truly safe to venture out in Charlotte County, sunlight was fading.  I remember we had to abandon a live truck on U.S. 41 because it was simply to dangerous to drive it down the highway for fear of hitting power lines.  Looking back I know we were very, very lucky that no one was hurt.

On a personal level it was hell waiting for a phone call from my wife.  Phone lines were down.  She managed to get to our neighborhood grocery store, find a pay phone about an hour after it settled down.  Everywhere in our neighborhood there was damage.  We were very fortunate.  Charley claimed a couple of tree limbs but we didn't suffer the roof damage that many of our neighbors did.

As the night ground on, sometime after midnight and suggested to my boss that we had done all that we could do.  Power was out everywhere.  We were broadcasting on radio but it was so dangerous out that moving crews was risky and you couldn't see any damage in the dark.  So we went off the air for five hours to let our crews re-charge.  I went to a nearby hotel on a whim, knowing there would be no electricity, but I desperately wanted a bed, even if it was just for three hours.  Around 4 a.m. I heard the AC kick on and rested easily.

We went back at it at 5 a.m., fortunate to have the only helicopter in the market.  The video when it started coming in was indescribable.  It was difficult to recognize anything.  It looked like a tornado 10 miles wide had rolled up the Peace River through Charlotte County.  I was just too busy trying to stay on top of our crews, taking phone calls, juggling satellite shots and placating tired producers to really soak it all in.

I didn't get to go home until Sunday.  Emmert felt bad for me and let me go and see for myself that my wife and stepson were okay.  I didn't stay at home for another day.  Spending all day working in air conditioning and sleeping in a non-air conditioned house wasn't an option. 

Charley was followed by three more hurricanes in the span of six weeks.  We were lucky that Ivan skipped us altogether and slammed into Pensacola area.  Frances and Jeannie just scraped by Southwest Florida, but that's another story.

Charley took a massive toll on my health and the health of John Emmert.  I know that John made a couple of trips to the hospital due to the stress on his heart.  I was having issues with diverticulitis which was on exacerbated by the storms.  I kept getting sick after every storm.  Come December on a vacation getaway to New Orleans my stomach let go and I spent two weeks in the hospital there.

I hate hurricanes.  I pray that I never have to cover another one.  Too bad the newsroom that I work in now that is filled with green reporters don't feel the same way. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cross-s**t

I'm watching gym class on ESPN2, also called CrossFit.  It stands right up there with Tough Mudders and Spartan runs in my list of meaningless sports.  Except in this sport, it's painfully obvious that more than half of the competitors are loaded with steroids.

Since when did gym class become a sport?  And worse still, anyone engaged in this so-called sport is begging to get injured.  I can't imagine the toll it would take on anyone over the age of 40 who tries doing this. 

Seriously, if you want to get in shape and enjoy a well-rounded body, run, bike, swim and lift weights.  It's a simple formula.  I have a neighbor who just past the big 5-0 and he's lost a ton of weight and looks healthy by simply doing core weight training, watching what he eats and running three or four times a week.

What's worse is that any consideration of these CrossFit competitors being great athletes is laughable.  I would love to see a good collegiate decathlete like Curtis Beach give one of these Cross-Fit competitions a go.  Beach doesn't even rank in the world's top ten but he would blow away any of these guys.

The best thing that could happen to a CrossFitter would be an encounter with the late Ralph Wedd.  He was my PE teacher in the 9th grade at South Junior High.  I think Mr. Wedd would ruin any of these so-called CrossFit athletes in just one of his 50 minute PE classes.  These muscle-bound Venice Beach rejects would be crying for their mommies after the third round of calisthenics under Mr. Wedd's watchful eye.

Why is ESPN2 showing me this garbage when they could be televising the World Series of Poker?  Now that's a sport worth watching! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

CSN&Y 1974

40 years ago on a hot July day, the 18th to be exact, I rolled up to Royals Stadium with a running rival, Curtis Martin, for an amazing day of music.  Little did I know that I was witnessing a tour of historic proportions.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were making the first stadium tour in the history of rock and roll.

I remember drinking a lot of beer and smoking a little pot.  It was blazing hot sitting somewhere in the middle of the diamond, at about 2nd base.  The massive stage was set up in the middle of center field.  Jesse Colin Young opened the show.  His set was mostly forgettable, save for his greatest hit "Get Together."

The Beach Boys took the stage next, probably around 6 p.m.  They rocked the house.  I wasn't much of a fan, but Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine and the Wilson brothers, Carl and Dennis, brought their "A" game.  They were great.  I've seen them three times since that show and they were very good but it simply wasn't the same.  It felt like they were trying to prove something to the crowd. 

When CSN&Y finally hit the stage, the sun had taken its toll and I had sobered up.  They played for well over 2 hours.  The show is mostly a blur now.  I was there mainly because I wanted to see Neil Young.  He refused to play until the crowd quieted down, and sat down, for his acoustic portion of the show.  He played the epic "Ambulance Blues", and a couple of my favorites, "Long May You Run" and "Only Love Can Break Your Heart."  David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" left a strong impression as well.  They were good damn good. 

So it was great to hear a monster release of that summer of 74 tour.  I give credit to Graham Nash for making it happen.  I suspect it only happened because the set is decidedly Neil Young heavy.  You can feel the cocaine coursing through their veins when you listen to the music, especially Stephen Stills on the opening number, "Love the One Your With."  The music doesn't measure up to their other live offering from that era, "4 Way Street."  I think it's partly due to the drugs and the fact that this new release doesn't have any overdubs.

It's a great palate cleanser after listening to Neil Young's latest release, "A Letter Home."  It's a low-fi offering of Neil traipsing through some covers.  It's quite frankly embarrassing, especially in light of his push for better digital sound with his Pono project.  I would love to hear these songs recorded in  a real studio.  Instead, Neil fucks his fans over one more time, (yes, I'm talking about 2012's Americana) by recording these great songs in a portable recording booth owned by Jack White. 

I love Neil Young, but when he records crap, which 2 of his last 3 projects have been, he owes to his hardcore fans to do a better job of opening his vaults.  Archive 2 needs to come along and soon.  Thank goodness for Graham Nash.  Because of his efforts, I can enjoy Neil at his best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roasting

Summer is here and with a vengeance.  Running in southwest Florida during the same presents a whole set of challenges that other parts of the U.S. simply don't face.  It's a combination of heat, humidity and the threat of lightning.  The heat and humidity I can take, but the lightning a whole different matter.

Most of the sane runners I know here try to get their runs in before 7 a.m.  You beat the heat and generally only have a moderate amount of humidity to deal with during the time just before dawn.  I have never been much of a morning runner.  I prefer hitting the roads late in the afternoon.

The only time I did morning runs on a regular basis is when I lived in Phoenix.  You had to run before 10 a.m. during the summer in Phoenix or face death.  I would generally run sometime between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and take a quick nap before going to work at 2 p.m.  I would usually supplement the morning run with a light workout when I got home.  It could get unbearably hot and this was long before it became fashionable to carry water. 

I decided to run 6 miles this afternoon at 5 p.m.  A thunderstorm had just blown through so I was hoping to catch the cool side of the storm.  Unfortunately another set of storms blew up 20 miles to my east leaving me in unrelenting sun with the maddening humidity fluffing off the storms to the east. 

It was 95 degrees with a dewpoint of 75.  The feels like is well over triple digits.  I got through the first couple of miles and enjoyed something that resembled a breeze as I headed north along the trails from the storms brewing along the interstate.  I realized that 5 miles would be a better option because I knew the breeze would disappear when I turned around to head home.

That's when the slow roast started.  I ran some of the slowest miles that I've run since I had stomach surgery almost a decade ago.  It made me reflect back that it was exactly 10 years ago when I could still actually run something resembling fast.

10 years ago this month I ran a 4 mile race in Eugene, Oregon averaging 6:50 per mile.  I wasn't in what I considered good shape at the time.  Then we had a summer filled with hurricanes in southwest Florida and it ruined my health and didn't do much for my running.

As I muddle through the heat and humidity I reflected back to running in this kind of heat 10 years ago, going along at 7:45 pace for 5 miles and feeling a pain deep in my guts.  It made running almost impossible, almost.  A few months later and 4 hurricanes later my guts would let go and my running was never really the same. 

The fact that I can still pound out miles and actually managed a marathon again, after four surgeries, is really pretty amazing.  I never thought I would be able to run more than 10 miles because of the danger that dehydration posed to my stomach.  Somehow I've managed to keep training, enduring the heat and humidity, without blowing out my guts, again. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Hot Mess

We're on the backside of one of the coolest springs we've ever seen in our 11 years in Southwest Florida and of course I waited until last weekend to run a race.  I just wasn't motivated for the most part of the spring.  Coming off my injury in January my training while steady, was painfully slow.  It felt terrible to waste such a great winter and spring but my heart just wasn't in it.

I had really wanted to run a 5K in April.  The urge to sleep in on Saturdays overwhelmed my desire to race.  Then came May and there really aren't many good races to run.  Even though I had Memorial Day off, I skipped that race too.  The desire to sleep in was just too strong.

So finally, last Saturday, I entered the Fort Myers Track Club's Membership Run.  It was just a mile from the house so it meant I could get the maximum amount of z's in, before heading over to lace em' up.  The Czarina came along and so did the son-in-law Vlad. 
I was just hoping to run in the mid-24's, which is what I was running in much cooler weather last fall.  It wasn't humid, but I can tell you by the last mile of that 5K I was roasting.  As you can see in the picture I managed to meet my goal.  The Czarina finished about 3 minutes behind me, the son-in-law 1 minute ahead.  He was within reaching distance for the first mile but my slow fade did me in.  I think I could take him in a half marathon but who knows.

Anyway, it felt good to get one under the belt after 6 months of race avoidance.  I doubt that I will run anymore races this summer (yes, they actually exist in our summer sweat box) because I don't want to drown in a pool of my own perspiration.  I swear I'll be back in sub 22 minute shape by next fall, really!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Nearly Forgotten Coach

As fans of track and field, fans of sport, are looking back at what happened 50 years ago tonight, when Jim Ryun became the first high school runner to run a sub-4 minute miler.  You'll read nothing from the man who guided him to this astounding feat.  In a couple of weeks Bob Timmons will turn 90.  He is almost invisible, largely due to his diminished mental state.

My relationship with Timmie is complicated.  39 years ago I was busting my ass trying to keep up with the tough regine required to run at the University of Kansas.  I lasted about six weeks before getting kicked off the KU cross country team by Timmie. I cried like a baby when he told me, "Come back when you get in shape." I had quit the last part of a tough workout the day before, after battling a case of diarreha all day. It was one of the toughest things I've ever experienced in my life, certainly the toughest at that point at age 18.

I wasn't in the kind of shape that I should have been to try and run for KU. What's sad is that now at that same ability level if I was to walk on at Kansas, I would be a member of their varsity. My how the program has fallen.

During the Timmons era at Kansas, the program for most of the time was top notch. His predecessor, Bill Easton, had turned Kansas into a national power. Easton lost his job, due in part to Bob Timmons and a high school phenom he had coached, Jim Ryun.

Timmon's former athlete had decided to attend Oregon State. Timmons, who had become Easton's assistant during Ryun's senior year in high school, was handed KU's head job after Easton was fired for some minor transgression. Suddenly Ryun was Kansas bound, and the rest is history.

Ryun had a wonderful career at Kansas. The program continued to flourish for the next 15 years with the Jayhawks winning a handful national titles in track and field. They were unbeatable in the old Big 8. But Timmons reign had one glaring weakness. There were no more Jim Ryun's.

By and large distance runners from Kansas never lived up to the potential they had shown in high school. A few did, Kent McDonald, one of my old training partners, was an All-American and finished second at the old AAU nationals one year. Bill Lundberg was another standout who went on to coach.  George Mason, a high school nobody, flourished under Timmons.   I could name three or four others but the point is, none of his distance runners at Kansas, ever won a national title, or made an Olympic team, except for Ryun.

Timmons had made his name as a great high school swim coach and later on as a track and field coach. He put his swim coach philosophy to use in track and created two legendary high school milers, Ryun and Archie San Romani, Junior. But his workout regiment was brutal. I experienced it first hand. A few runners, like McDonald, learned to coast through some of the workouts, in order to stay fresh and competitive. But very few did and some simply burned out.

For a long time I despised Bob Timmons. I blamed him harshly for KU's fading fortunes in track and field at the start of the 1980's. He had faults, but at heart he was and is a good and caring man. And as I grew older, more sober, I began to realize that my bad feelings were a waste of time. I began to value the experience that I had with Coach Timmons and became thankful for that eventful day when he kicked me off the team.

I became so grateful in fact that I produced a documentary about Timmons and his prized prodigy Jim Ryun in 1996. Most people probably assumed I did it as a tribute to Ryun, a world record holder in the mile and an Olympic silver medalist. But the real reason I did it was to give Timmons the credit he deserved for putting Jim on the path to greatness. It was my way of making amends to the man, even though he never knew (at least I don't think he knew) that I had harbored such ill will for him.

Five years ago Runner's World magazine published a hit piece about Bob Timmons. Coach was very old and had terrible lapses of memory. I saw him two years before the article and he didn't even recognize me. You could literally see the fog in his eyes. I don't know what the point of the article was. All it did was dredge up a lot of bad memories for athletes who had suffered at the hands of Timmons more than 20 years ago. Ben Paynter, the author, did his homework. But in the end, the work is meanspirited

I later learned the impetus for the article came from a hatefilled, self-pitying former Kansas runner.  Timmons is really defenseless at this point in his life. His triumphs far outweigh whatever failures Paynter tried to foist the readers of Runner's World.  You can click here to read it if you care.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Aunt Betty

Death comes to us all.  It's the harshest reality of life.  When those we love and admire leave this earth, it becomes incumbent upon us to remember, to carry their spirit, to cherish it and nourish it and when possible, share it with the ones you love.

I met Betty Longhofer about 53 years ago.  Aunt Betty was married to Kenneth Longhofer, a hard scrabble, hard working, farmer who worked the rocky wheat fields on the edge of the Flint Hills in North Central Kansas.  Kenneth died too soon, a victim of the cigarettes, the harsh farm chemicals and the circumstances that come with the farm life.  He's been gone more than 25 years.  Betty left us this Monday.

Kenneth always seemed hard and uncompromising to me, but there was something to that hard edge to forced you to admire his tenacity.  Betty was soft around the edges and gave him balance.  She had an unvarnished charm and Midwestern sensibility that was the essence of the wisdom that you find in farm families across the great plains.

Together they raised three amazing children, Kenny, a farmer, Rita, who tried her hand at a singing career, and Keith, my running buddy out of the farm, now a veterinarian.  They are all whip smart, with a strong sense of family and a sense of humor that sneaks up on you in like a Greg Maddox fastball.  Being with anyone of my cousins is always a first rate exercise in the lost art of conversation.

As for my Aunt Betty, I remember her non-judgemental acceptance of a very odd and very picky eating little boy.  She never made me feel bad about the way I was.  Betty had a heart that accepted people at for who they were, as long as their hearts were in the right place.  And it would go without saying that nothing will ever replace Aunt Betty's ice tea.  It must have been the well water.  A well that couldn't have possibly been as deep as her heart.

I will carry her with me forever. 









Monday, June 2, 2014

50 Years from Glory

I wasn't very aware of the world of sport in 1964.  I don't remember watching the Olympics or paying much attention to any athletic competition.  That awareness wouldn't take flight until 1965 when Sandy Koufax became my hero and not long after my mother got me a subscription to Sports Illustrated.
I wasn't aware of a Kansas kid by the name of Jim Ryun.  It's remarkable that so much history was happening less than 100 miles from where I was living at the time.  Once I discovered Jim Ryun, my quest for all things Ryun was pretty much unstoppable.  I was glued to the television in 1966 when one of the Wichita stations aired a documentary on him. 

I can remember watching him race Kip Keino in 1967 on ABC's Wide World of Sports, the announcers warning that Ryun would have his hands full with the veteran runner from Kenya.  You could imagine my delight when Ryun took flight and raced his way to a world record.  It is a memory stamped on my mind just as watching him compete in person for the first time at the Kansas Relays in 1969.  I remember the agony of watching Keino defeat him in 1968 for Olympic gold and the infamous fall at the 72 Munich Games.

Yet sadly, I have no memories of his perhaps, most stunning achievement.  A copy of it sits on a beta tape in our spare bedroom closet.  It is an old film that shows most of Jim Ryun's first sub-4 minute mile, the first ever run by a high school boy.  It happened 50 years ago this week.

Ryun went to the Compton Relays in June 1964 having just missed a sub-4 clocking about 2 weeks earlier at the Modesto Relays.  During the making of my documentary about his great running career Jim related to me the story of how Coach Bob Timmons had to grind down his spikes so they would grip the hard clay track.  I remember Jim wistfully wondering what had happened to those historic shoes.

He wore them on June 6 to be exact.  On that date he ran 3:59.0.  He split the half in 2:01.5 which means he ran the last half in 1:57.5, about what Galen Rupp ran last Friday for 800 meters when he broke the American Record for 10000 meters. 

Later that summer Jim Ryun would sprint to a stunning 3rd place finish at the Olympic Trials to earn a trip to Tokyo and the 1964 Olympic Games.  While his trip to Japan was less than memorable, it was a notable chapter in the career of the greatest high school miler in American history.  Alan Webb may have taken down Ryun's record of 3:55.8 36 years later, but his achievement pales to what the kid from Wichita East accomplished.

Ryun was an Olympian as a high schooler.  When Ryun set his long standing high school record of 3:55.8 in 1965, he beat Olympic 1500 meter champion Peter Snell and won a national championship in the process.  The time was an American record, which would stand for one year until a 19-year-old Ryun would break it by setting a world record of 3:51.3.

Jim Ryun can still be proclaimed America's Greatest Miler 50 years after having broken the magical threshold.  It's an astounding claim considering the great runners that would follow, Rick Wohlhutter, Dave Wottle, Steve Scott and Alan Webb.  Ryun's accomplishments, especially his run in Compton, will long endure.

Editor's note:  I put the date of this historic race as June 6, 1964.  I took the date from Bob Timmon's split log which covers most of Jim's races.  Track and Field News says the race took place June 5, 1965.  Who am I to argue with the self-proclaimed Bible of the Sport!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jayhawk Hall of Fame

The Czarina made the trek with me to Allen Field House during our recent visit to Lawrence to check out the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.  It was my second stop at the wonderful showcase of Jayhawk athletic history and the first for the Czarina.  She didn't seem too impressed by all the memorabilia, all she wanted to see was Jim Ryun.  The great miler is right there along with dozens of other Jayhawks in the Jayhawk Hall of Fame.
Kent McDonald, Henry Marsh, and Doug Brown 1976 Olympic Trials
The great majority of athletes in the hall are members of K.U.'s once great track and field program.  I looked about for Kent McDonald, figuring he surely would merit inclusion.  Much to my surprise I could only find Kent in a team photo of one of the great Jayhawk teams that placed at NCAA's.  When I got back to my sister's house I hit her laptop to check out the criteria for the hall.  Kent's omission surely must be a mistake.

I went through the list and much to my dismay, Kent didn't meet any of the standards.  He wasn't an Olympian, a world record holder or a national champion.  Kent McDonald is simply the greatest steeplechaser in Kansas history.  The only track records at Kansas older than the one Kent set in the steeplechase, are records set by the great Jim Ryun. 

Kent won four straight Big 8 titles in the steeplechase.  Kent was an All-American his senior year in the steeplechase.  He went to the AAU National Championship meet where he chased rival Randy Smith to a 2nd place finish, a school record 8:28.54, and the 8th fastest time in U.S. history at the time in 1975.  Kent went to the 1976 Olympic Trials but never made it out of the qualifying round.  An injury had been his undoing.  Smith also crashed and burned at those trials and as far as I know, never ran seriously again.

I would argue that Kent deserves a place of his own in the Jayhawk Hall of Fame.  He won four conference championships.  He was just a half second away from winning a national championship.  Kent also helped lead a Jayhawk cross country team to nationals. 

Kent got the most out of his training.  He somehow found a way to survive coach Bob Timmons gruelling workouts.  He realized early on that his slight frame couldn't handle 100 mile weeks.  Kent never bought in to Timmons' demand that his distance runners run twice a day.  McDonald was a fierce competitor with a surprisingly lethal kick.  His biggest misfortune was to come along as the same time as Randy Smith.

The two had battled in high school.  Smith went to Ryun's high school, Wichita East.  He set the state record for 2 miles and broke 4:10 in the mile.  That same year, 1971, McDonald would run 9:08.9 for 2 miles, one of the fastest times in the nation that year and that time still stands as the Lawrence High school record.  Kent finished 2nd to Smith in both the mile and 2 mile at state that year.

Smith went on to have a stellar career at Wichita State.  He finished 2nd to a foreigner in the steeple his senior year at the NCAA's, the same race where McDonald finished 6th.  The two then battled a couple of weeks later at Eugene, Oregon in the 3000 meter steeplechase, both landing on the all time steeple charts for the United States.  Both men went on to represent the U.S. overseas with Smith beating the Soviets in the USA/USSR dual in Kiev.

Kent went on to become a top flight road racer in the south after college.  He moved to New Orleans where he was a fixture on the local racing scene.  As he got older he became a first rate triathlete.  Kent even survived a harrowing head-on crash with a van while out on his bike on a training ride.

I was lucky enough to train with Kent McDonald for a couple of summers when I was in high school. Kent taught me what he could about serious running.  Kent tried his best to dissuade me of any notions of running at K.U.  I had to learn that lesson the hard way.  How he survived four years and kept his love of running is beyond me 

Yes,Kent McDonald still runs.   He coaches high school swimming.  I think he's a Hall of Famer.  Holding a school record for 40 years should count for something. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Missing the Real Outrage

The big stories that came out of this year's running of the Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi's remarkable win, 2 women under 2:20, Shalane Flanaghan's gutsy run and the healing for a city traumatized by last year's tragedy, are getting slightly overshadowed by a scandal.

People have discovered that runner's like to "bandit" the Boston Marathon.  For those of you not familiar with the term "bandit," it refers to someone who runs a race that they haven't paid entry for or otherwise qualified to run in.  The uproar began when a woman who was entered in this year's race, discovered four other people with her bib number as she checked the post-race photos.  The woman made the mistake of posting a photo of her bib online.  The ingenious assholes took advantage of that and created counterfeit bibs in order to get to the starting line. 

The revelation shouldn't surprise anyone because being a "bandit" at Boston is something of a tradition.  It goes back decades.  Running Boston used to carry with it some panache, prestige for the distance running community.  The first time I broke 3 hours in a marathon was in 1977.  I ran 2:57:14.  I missed qualifying for Boston by 7:14.  That was in 1977.  More people than ever run now and yet the qualifying standard for a 21-year-old male now stands at 3:05. 

Running a marathon under 2:50 isn't easy.  I didn't do it until 1985 when I was age 30, but by then Boston had bumped up the qualifying standard to a sub-3 hour effort.  That kept the fields for the race relatively small, usually just a thousand by the late 70's but slowly those numbers grew as more and more people took up marathon running.

By the time I actually decided to go and run Boston I did it on a whim, qualifying in 1994.  I qualified by running in an extremely difficult marathon in St. Louis just two months before Boston, running just 45 seconds under the 3:15 qualifying standard for a my age group at the time.  I joined about 12,000 or so runners for that race, ironically that was the same year they started allowing charity runners into the race.  It was the largest field ever, at the time.

The following year, Boston's centennial, the numbers skyrocketed.  They let just about anyone in who wanted to, run it.  I think they had close to 20,000 runners.  I think at that point the organizers realized something, they could make a lot of money with a lot more runners.  The cows were out of the barn, so to speak.

I didn't go back to Boston until 2003 and the change in field size was stunning.  I didn't run due to an injury, but the Czarina did.  They still did a mass start for the race.  It would take the slower runners as much as 15 minutes if not more to cross the start line.  I think it took the Czarina a good 10 minutes to get there.  By comparison, in 1994 it had taken me about 3 minutes to make it to the starting line.

Now the race is so bloated they start it in waves.  And in light of last year's tragedy, the organizers decided to expand the field to a whopping 36,000.  Boston organizers won't say exactly how many but  several thousand of those runners didn't meet the qualifying standard.  They get in because they are running for a charity.  Therein lies the rub.  Thousands of Boston qualifiers don't get in because organizers feel obligated to make room for these charity runners.  That in turn creates a situation ripe for people who feel the need to "bandit" the race.

People used to "bandit" because they simply couldn't reach the tough qualifying times.  Now they do it because the field fills up in just a few hours.  So screw the phony baloney outrage over these "bandits."  Don't get me wrong, I hate "bandits," but Boston created this mess because of the way it handles entries.  I don't feel sorry for the BAA.  The race makes a ton of dough.  It's not taxing any resources.  I guess I'm just missing the point from the outraged purists.





Saturday, April 19, 2014

Primed?!?

The Lawrence Journal-World wrote an editorial as the Kansas Relays got underway this week in its brand new facilities called Rock Chalk Park.  The LJW was wishing that these world class facilities would mean the Kansas Relays is "primed" to return as one of the nation's best track and field competitions.  It pains me to report that it's not and I  doubt whether it will ever be again.

I blogged a few weeks back about K.U.'s decision to pull its budget to bring elite professional track stars to the meet.  It took a herculean effort to salvage the downtown shot put competition and that was the only one with nary a pro in sight.  The meet has become a sensational high school meet.  The college competition is tepid at best.

The university portion of the meet began to fall about nearly 40 years ago when Arkansas stopped coming.  The bleeding of top collegiate teams never ended.  I only saw one other top tier Division 1 school with athletes at the meet, Nebraska.  There were a handful of athletes from other lesser D1 lights like Rice, but consider this.  The two other D1 schools in the Sunflower State, Wichita State and Kansas State were nowhere to be found.

The university portion will never recover.  Mt. Sac now falls on the same weekend as the Relays and if you're a decent distance runner, you're going out to California to run fast.  Heck, even K.U. has sent its best runners in the past out to this meet, much to my consternation.  And there are a handful of other meets spread across the country that now compete against the Relays including one that Oklahoma hosts and one at Ohio State. 

K.U. will have to put some serious manpower and money behind the Relays if it ever expects it to land on a par with Drake.  Don't even think that it can share the same spotlight as the Penn Relays.  No, unless The University of Kansas decides that the Relays deserves first class treatment it is destined to be nothing more than a great high school track and field meet.  And maybe that's okay. 

Those of us who love the Relays will always have memories of such great athletes as Jim Ryun,  Stacy Dragila, Mike Boit and Maurice Greene.  But I feel gypped that the city to build these facilities only to have K.U. pull the rug out from underneath the meet by cutting a big chunk of its budget. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Size Doesn't Fit All

The wreck of a track and field meet that USATF held in Albuquerque six weeks ago has created a sideshow that could very well change the sport in some very dramatic ways.  When I last blogged about this meet we had two controversial disqualifications that left athletes pissed off to the max and fans shaking their heads.  USATF stepped up last week and said it would form a committee to examine the disqualifications, more than a full month after the meet happened.

What's become all too clear is that USATF is for amateurs.  It has no business running the professional side of track and field.  An organization that handles youth track to masters track simply should not be dealing with a professional sport where potentially large sums of money hang in the balance.

Professional track and field athletes should expect and demand a professionally run organization.  The athletes and their coaches should have a clear understanding of the sports rules and regulations.  The shoe companies cannot impose their will on how the sport is run.  Favored shoe company status (Yes, I'm talking about NIKE) is unfair. 

There is rumbling that a boycott of this summer's outdoor national championship meet could come about should the Albuquerque committee's findings be less than satisfactory.  Given the fact there are no World Championship slots up for grabs a boycott by non-NIKE athletes wouldn't surprise me in the least.  I think it would be a good thing. 

A better thing would be for Max Siegel to sit down with the athletes, seriously, the top 20 in each event, and figure out a way to divorce the professional side of the sport from the amateur side.  Siegel needs to bring all the shoe companies to the table and figure out how to make it possible.

The biggest hurdle is money.  I'm guessing that a lot of USATF relies heavily from all those membership fees it sucks in from youth and masters athletes.  Although, I'm sure this is chump change when compared to the sponsorship money that is at stake.  The devil will be in the details.

Now I'm not saying USATF should go away altogether.  The athletes need the officials and judges that USATF has trained to run their meets.  The bulk of those folks work for free.  And therein lies the crux.  A professional sport in the hands of unpaid part-timers. 

It's easy to see why Albuquerque turned into such a cluster fuck.  That's why in the end, at the very biggest meets, where money and prestige is on the line, there has to be an unbiased panel making decisions on how gets in and who doesn't, who gets disqualified and how moves on.  But that won't happen until a house cleaning takes place at the highest reaches of USATF.  Too many coaches and too many officials have allegiances and enemies that have led to mess.  I'll be honest, I don't see an easy fix to this can of worms.      

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Play Us... Why Should We?

The cry from Wichita and its loyal Shocker fans to the University of Kansas is play us.  The answer for K.U. is easy.  Why should we?  Kansas has nothing to gain and everything to lose.  And the whining from Wichita State about the snub from Lawrence seems to take away from the luster of W.S.U.'s greatest season ever.

The Shockers finished the season 35 and 1.  They went down to the best 8 seed ever in NCAA history when a young, but tough Kentucky team took them out.  The Shockers were denied the impossible dream of a 40 win season and becoming the first undefeated champions since Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers of 1976. 

Even if Wichita State had climbed that Mount Everest of NCAA basketball history, their program would have still lacked the luster of Kansas.  The Shockers don't belong in the conversation with K.U., Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and U.C.L.A.  Those schools are NCAA basketball history.  For example, W.S.U. has made the NCAA tournament only 9 times,  Kansas has been in the Final 4 more times than that.

Now with their glorious season at an end, I expect Shocker fans to whine endlessly about K.U.'s refusal to play a home and away series with the Gold and Black.  It's an issue that has some Kansas lawmakers threatening legislation to force K.U.'s hand on the matter.  Economics dictate that Kansas shouldn't do it.  It will cost K.U. a potential home game every other year.  That's a chunk of money and in college athletics we all know that in the end, it's about the money. 

A home and away series with W.S.U. puts the two schools on equal footing when it comes to the conversation of basketball in the Sunflower State.  Why would K.U. want to do that?  The answer is simple, because it makes for a good story.  It makes for a rivalry that Kansas could use with the absence of Missouri.  It would bring a little panache to the dullness of December or January college basketball. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Need a Race

I've managed to stay healthy for a good six weeks now, slowly adding miles to the daily run.  I finally had a heart to heart with myself about my tendency to just run how I feel, which is generally pretty damn slow.  I've been going out day after day just lumbering along, barely scratching below 10 minute per mile pace.  I realized that just wouldn't cut it.

I am now allowing myself to just slug along for one mile and then I make myself ratchet up the pace.  It really isn't that hard to run under 9 minute per mile if one decides to do so.  Besides, I need to take advantage of the incredible weather we're having. 

But the missing ingredient is a race.  I skipped out on the Edison 5K in February because it was only a couple of weeks after I resumed my daily runs.  I had planned to run my favorite 4 mile race in Lehigh Acres this Saturday but I was super bummed out when they decided to switch the race from 4 miles to a 5K.  I can run a 5K every weekend around here on pancake flat courses from now until the weather is staggeringly hot in May.  So instead of racing, I slept in and actually took a day off from the roads altogether.

So I need to scan the calender and just pick out a race.  I just don't like the idea of not being able to run at least 7:30 pace for a 5K and as it looks now, that's just not going to happen anytime soon.  So I will swallow my pride and just go race for the hell of it.  It's the only way I'll get faster.  It's the only way to keep from getting completely stale.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

World Class My A##!

The city of Lawrence, Kansas got horns waggled by the University of Kansas.  The city put up a butt load of money to build some world class facilities for K.U.'s athletic teams including a brand new track and field facility.  Just recently an article graced the Lawrence Journal-World touting the fact that K.U.'s brand new track facility is one of only five facilities in the United States that is considered top tier.

You would think the University would be ready to roll out the new facility for this April's Kansas Relays with a whole roster of world class athletes ready to do battle on this super-duper track.  Think again.  K.U. decided the $200,000 it spends on bringing a handful of Olympic caliber athletes to the Relays is just too big a burden for its $70,000,000 athletics budget. 

That means K.U. has a world class facility that will now host a glorified high school track meet with a few dozen top caliber collegians thrown in for good measure.  Any pro that wants to run in Lawrence will do so on their own dime.

The K.U. Relays used to be one of the nation's premier track and field meets.  A long slide started after 1972 with Jim Ryun's last appearance and was accelerated when John McDonough got pissed at Bob Timmons and pulled Arkansas out of the meet in the late 70's that began an exodus of top collegiate teams that crippled the meet.

An appearance by a team from the Soviet Union in the early 1980's was about the only bright spot until the late 1990's when the Relays started luring some top flight runners to the meet.  Olympians like Maurice Greene, Alan Webb, Christian Cantwell and Bershawn Jackson helped bring some excitement to an otherwise flagging event.

A stroke of genius put the shot put smack dab in the middle of downtown Lawrence putting one of the U.S.A.'s strongest events center stage.  It was a great spectacle that helped draw people to downtown.  The money spent on pro athletes kept crowds at a reasonable levels and in turn helped put money into city coffers.

Now K.U.'s athletic department has pulled a nice bait and switch.  They got a new track facility, but heaven forbid it spends anything to bring in some athletes that might attract some crowds to the city and in turn generate tax revenue for the city that put up millions of dollars to build those new facilities.  The University of Kansas owes the city and the businessmen and politicians who supported this project a better explanation than the one that currently graces the pages of the Journal-World.  As a track and field fan and a graduate of Kansas, I'm outraged.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

And Then There's Brisbane

Bruce Springsteen's summer of fun is over.  He left New Zealand and returned to winter and New Jersey to rest up and get ready for another tour in the United States in about a month.  I know, I know, I just blogged about the Boss, but oh brother, the man has gone insane.

I'm still recovering from a download of his last show in Brisbane, Australia.  The date was February 26th to be exact.  It was an amazing display from a great songwriter.  He poured through a sensational hour of music which included a freaky opening song as a nod to The Bee Gees with "Stayin' Alive."  Then he suddenly began to second guess his next move, before sheepishly admitting he wanted to play perhaps his most under appreciated album, "The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle." 

Before the audience knew what hit them, Bruce and his massive band was roaring through this masterpiece.   It came complete with Garry Tallent on the tuba for "Wild Billy's Circus Story."  But it was what was played before that tune, "Kitty's Back," that just shook me.  My buddy Chris Ronan sent me a YouTube link which you can click on above of this performance.  It was if Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had channeled the Grateful Dead.  It rumbles for almost 15 minutes with some of Bruce's most searing guitar playing.  I can't stop thinking about it.

And to finish up hour number three Bruce and this unbelievable group of musicians ripped off another 12 tunes before calling it a night.  Tallent's bass playing particularly stood out for me as the show was rapping up.  30 songs in 3 plus hours.  It was a virtuoso performance.  The E Street Band is pretty damn good but when you add three extra horns, Tom Morello shredding on the guitar, and a trio of awesome backup singers and it just sticks to the ribs.

Finally, there is Jake Clemons.  He faced an impossible task of replacing his Uncle Clarence.  Listening to shows from a year ago you could just feel he was outmatched.  Not anymore, Jake can flat out wail.  His playing his stupendous.  I just pray I can get to one of their Florida stops in two months.  Download this one, it's money well spent on an incredible piece of musical history.

Monday, February 24, 2014

And the Stench from Albuquerque Is None Too Good

The big stink in Fort Myers aimed at a race that raises a ton of dough for sick kids by a selfish mom, is nothing compared to the shitfest delivered in Albuquerque by USATF.  I am mildly amused at the crazy crap that happened Saturday night during the women's 3000 meter.

Cancer survivor Gabe Grunewald steamrolled her way to victory, literally.  As I watched the race unfold live from the comfort of my couch, Grunewald first attempted to run up Jordan Hasay's backside on the final lap, and then nearly ran over Shannon Rowbury on the backstretch before finally sprinting to an easy victory.  I remember looking over to the Czarina and saying, she could be disqualified for all that nonsense.  She was, eventually, after a lot of monkey business, a lot of it by the 800 pound gorilla at the meet, NIKE.

The fact is an official did flag Grunewald for a foul.  The fact is the meet judge discussed it with the official and they agreed the bump didn't rise to the level of disqualification.  The fact is, a protest was filed, again and apparently again and the a jury decided to leave Grunewald as champion.  Then sometime in the murky minutes following the end of Saturday's session somebody, whether it was Alberto Salazar, or a big name at NIKE, someone obviously yanked the right chain at USATF and Grunewald was disqualified.

That meant Salazar's athletes, Shannon Rowbury who finished 2nd and Jordan Hasay who ended up in 4th, would go to the world championships.  The 3rd place finisher, Sara Vaughn, didn't have the necessary qualifying time for the trip to Poland.  Hasay remained remarkably mute about all that was unfolding through the weekend.  Rowbury didn't mention the controversy at the post race news conference.

By Saturday night social media was on fire and USATF was pulling up its drawbridge around the its shit-filled mote.  It got even more interesting during Sunday's final sessions.  After the women's 1500, a group of non-NIKE affiliated women joined hands and walked down the homestretch in a show of solidarity for Grunewald.  Then after the men's 1500, race runner-up Will Leer threw USATF back into the shit-filled mote and champion Lopez Lomong wholeheartedly agreed with Will's takedown right on national television. 

I give credit to Jordan Hasay.  She did the classy thing on Monday and withdrew her (Salazar's) protest.  All the while USATF hasn't explained the debacle of Saturday night.  Salazar has laid low, while the catcalls continue over his outrageous behavior at the meet.  I won't go into all of the BS but the women's 3000 disaster was only part of the outrage on parade. 

I think Salazar is a great coach.  But I think he's ego is out of control.  NIKE is out of control.  USATF needs to find financing that doesn't leave it so reliant on NIKE support to stay afloat.  You can smell the shit in the air, the athletes are ready to revolt.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sitting Atop BS Mountain

No matter how much good you can do in a community.  No matter how much money you raise for those in "need", there are always people who want to take a big shit all over it when they can't get their way.  It's happening right now in Fort Myers, where a mom is having a hissy fit about where she gets to start in a road race with her disabled daughter that she pushes along in the stroller.

Charyse Smith is a very fast runner.  She has a 7-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.  Recently she's started pushing her little girl Kayla at area road races.  Charyse asked a few months back if she could push Kayla at the biggest half marathon in Fort Myers which goes off in a week.  She was told yes, but it sounds like there was mis-communication.  Charyse wants to start up front.  The race organizers told her she has to start in the back, as a safety precaution.

I've run a ton of races.  As most runners know, the wheelchair athletes usually get a head start, to avoid any dangerous situations.  That usually includes anyone pushing a competitive stroller.  I've caught up to wheelchairs and people pushing strollers that are normally start with the wheelchairs.  It can get pretty damn tricky.  I've seen wipe outs.  I've nearly been hit.  It's a huge liability issue.

One runner decided to go to the web and post some half truths about the situation on one of the local running clubs Facebook page.  The post started a slew of moronic responses from idiots who never take the time to think there are two sides to every story.  I love hobby joggers who don't have a clue about what it takes to put on a first class road race like Hooters to Hooters.

Regardless, the damage is done.  The Fort Myers Track Club has had its reputation damaged and I think it's largely because of folks like John Biffar and Rachel Lee in particular, don't like the stranglehold FMTC has on the top local running events.  You see Lee owns a running store and along with Biffar, they have worked with The Speedsters and a group called 3D Running to make inroads into the Fort Myers racing scene.

It's great to have a variety of road races to choose from over the course of a racing season but I've been racing for 40 plus years and the trouble is their races simply aren't at the level of the FMTC events.  They may get there and I say good for them.  But it's painfully obvious for anyone with a tiny bit knowledge, to know that this isn't so much about get Charyse Smith a fair shake, it's about throwing as much shit on FMTC as possible.

Charyse could have taken the high road and stopped it.  I would ask her, if it's so freaking safe for her to start at the front of the Hooter's race next weekend, why she didn't do it last week at the Edison 5K?  Charyse knows damn well why she didn't run in front of the tremendous crowds that line the Edison course, it wasn't safe.  What makes her think Hooter's would be any safer?  Yep, not as many runners, but you've got a course with a curb jump about a mile and a half in and then there's the up and down on the bridge. 

If she runs her normal pace of between 7 minute to 7:30 pace for the race she'll be surrounded by dozens of runners having to dodge her and her stroller.  Trust me, coming down that bridge it will be a nightmare.  I know because I've nearly been clipped by one before.

Look at me, look at me, I'm getting screwed.  Who cares that Hooters to Hooters raises money to help save ICU children, like the one you want to push through the streets of Fort Myers?  Life's not fair, and the damage you've done can't be undone.  You've set a fine example for your daughter.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bruce Live

One of my major gripes for the last 15 years is the reluctance of artists to provide live copies of their concerts to their fans.  The Internet removed any impediment from providing soundboard quality recordings of any band.  And given the spiraling costs of concerts in this day and age, a free soundboard download really should come with the show, but I digress.

I just wanted to praise Bruce Springsteen for finally dialing up the 21st century by offering downloads of his concerts at a reasonable price.  He started the practice a couple of weeks ago when the Boss launched his first ever tour of South Africa.  For $9.99 you can get a download of the concert through the soundboard that's been sweeten to the extent that it can be over the course of a day or so.

I've already downloaded a couple of shows, one from South Africa and one from his current swing through Australia and I must say, the results are satisfying.  You get the whole concert, complete with mistakes.  In the South Africa show Bruce's microphone cuts out after the first verse of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and for a minute or so the band just vamps until the mic gets replaced.  Bruce's vocals could be mixed better, but I think a lot of the sound issues has to do the venue as much as the efforts to "fix" the soundboard recordings.

Now the challenge has been thrown down.  Bob Dylan has been touring non-stop since the late 1980's.  He's released a few nuggets from his live shows during that period, but never an entire concert.  You can find an endless supply of bootlegs and I have some pretty good ones, but nothing beats a soundboard recording.  Are you listening Bob?  And are you listening Neil Young? 

You can still see Bob and Neil for a reasonable amount of cash, we're talking less than $100.  But they need to give their fans more.  Bands like U2 and The Rolling Stones that charge major bucks for their shows, need to give their fans more.  You would think their managers would push artists to do what Springsteen has done and what Pearl Jam has done for years.

The Grateful Dead realized it years ago.  They started allowing tapers into their concerts in the 70's and it took off in the 80's.  You can download great shows from these tapers for free at archive.org.  You can even listen to soundboard recordings of the Dead, but you can't download them.  That decision to give it away, was in large part a brilliant marketing idea, because when the taping started, the legion of Dead fans mushroomed.  By the mid-80's every show was sold out. 

I'm not holding my breath.  Yet with cash from the sale of recordings dwindling, even rich as God artists like Dylan and Young can't be so stupid as to turn away from a cash cow like concert downloads.  You can bet they're watching Springsteen's efforts with great interest.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meet the Beatles

It's all a bit hazy, 50 years later.  I am vaguely aware of the television coverage of their arrival in New York City.  The fan frenzy shown by Walter Cronkite on February 7, 1964 is a faint imprint on my conscientiousness.  But what followed on February 9 will never leave my soul.

It's hard to imagine how The Ed Sullivan Show was must watch television for the vast majority of American families through most of the 1960's.  You were exposed to everything, from great pop music, to opera, to really bad magic acts and jugglers.  It's the great comedians that I remember the most, but on this particular winter night, the vibe in our family living room was completely different.

My older sisters were glued to the television.  My 8-year-old self sensed something big was about to happen because they never seemed to care much, one way or another, about any given performer on Sullivan.  The energy was astounding.  It pulsated through our old black and white television.  The Beatles hit the stage and it was incredible.  There was no lip-synching, there was only straight forward rock and roll.

You have to understand, American rock and roll was in a moribund place.  The Elvis period had died down.  I had been a big Elvis fan, at an early age.  But American rock had faded away.  Popular music seemed to be defined by Bobby Darin or Peter, Paul and Mary.  In fact, folk seemed to be the rising tide among young listeners with The New Christie Minstrels and The Kingston Trio.

The arrival of the Beatles was a course correction.  Whatever Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly had ignited back in the 50's, the Beatles re-lit the flames.  There was no turning back. 

After the show I remember my sisters going outside and holding a cold, dark, confab with the girl's who lived next door.  My sisters Dianne and Karen, poured over every moment that the Fab Four had spent on Sullivan's stage with Tammy and Candy Wehling.  It left quite an impression.

We lived in a small town in north-central Kansas.  Hearing a Beatles song on the radio was a rarity.  It was like forbidden fruit.  When we would visit family in Lawrence you could listen to the Kansas City radio stations, which played The Beatles non-stop.

My cousins who lived in KC even got to see The Beatles play Municipal Stadium.  Then they moved to Washington, DC and saw them again and again.  We were stuck in tiny Abilene.  And as the television appearances became rarer, we hoped for any concert movie to catch a glimpse of The Beatles.  It was cruel indeed to be so cut off from such great music.

I remember four years later as Beatlemania had ebbed, riding with my lucky cousin Mike who had seen the Fab Four in concert.  We were in his new Ford Mustang tooling along near tiny Enterprise, Kansas.  Mike excitedly described the latest great Beatles tune he had heard called, "Hey Jude."  Then as if by magic it suddenly crackled out of nowhere on the radio and I listened, rapt, shocked by the fact that such a long song, an incredibly poignant song, could get radio airplay. 

It's hard to describe how important their music was, how they changed the landscape.  How they changed the way we felt about music.  The Beatles changed everything. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Milk Carton Kids

I find it difficult to let new music into my life.  I'm very stubborn that way.  A few bands and artist creep into my musical vocabulary but it only happens every five years or so.  I know that it leaves me limited and stunted in my tastes, but so be it.  It's self-protective because I tend to buy everything in sight when I discover something new.  It saves me financially.
That brings me to The Milk Carton Kids.  They appeared magically in a documentary airing on Showtime called "Another Time/Another Day."  T Bone Burnett created it as a homage to the Coen Brothers movie, "Inside Llewyn Davis."  The Milk Carton Kids give a breathe taking performance of a song called "New York."  They sound like a 21st century version of Simon and Garfunkel but with a dash of Smothers Brothers.

You can catch a full flavor of their banter and repertoire on this week's Austin City Limits.  Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan form this duo out of California.  It's a folk based act with soaring harmonies and some tenacious picking by Pattengale.  Ryan is a jokster and it causes one to flash back to what a young Bob Dylan must have served up in the way of story telling back at The Gaslight. 

They are fan friendly.  If you check out their website you can download their music for free.  Check out their performance on Austin City Limits which features a short chuckle filled interview with the duo.  I promise, they won't disappoint.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Czarina Steps In

I put this off for as long as I could.  I had trained long and hard for the Naples Daily News Half Marathon.  But somewhere in the early weeks of January my left calf started bothering me again.  I listened to it and shut it down for 10 days and tried to run a couple of days before the race to see how it felt.  It wasn't bad but I knew it wouldn't hold up for 13.1 miles.

Still, I asked the Czarina to pick up my race packet so I could get my t-shirt.  She came home with it and announced that she would take my bib and run the race.  I chuckled.  The Czarina had injured her calf back in November in a soccer scrum with the grand kids.  Her running was shelved for more than two months.  She refused to take any of my advice to use the roller and ice it.

That meant the Czarina was constantly re-injuring her calf every time she attempted to run.  As fate would have it about the time I shut it down in mid-January she ran 3 miles without any pain.  Just to make sure she put in a 6 mile run to see how she felt.  So, the Czarina was running the half marathon with about 20 miles under her built over the course of the last 75 days.

I feared she would injure herself again but telling the Czarina not to do something is like telling the bull to stay out of the china shop.  She was determined to wreck havoc on her body.  She even took my bib which had my first name on it and covered it with her name.  Nothing was going to stop her.

I got up and went out with her that Sunday morning.  The weather was about as perfect as you could want for a long race.  It was just a touch about 40 degrees at 7 a.m. with no wind and no humidity.  I went for breakfast while she ran through the ritziest neighborhoods that Naples has to offer.  I went back to the course about 10 minutes after the first Kenyan had crossed the finish line.  I walked down the course with a camera in hand to see if I could catch her coming in, hoping against hope it wasn't going to end in a 3 hour walk. 

The Czarina came chugging along not long after the 2 hour mark.  She was moving very fast but she wasn't limping and was pretty pleased with herself.  She ran 2:15 which is a good 25 minutes slower than her best effort.  And yes, she could barely walk for the next two days and has continuously complained that I should give her my race shirt.  Fat chance!

As for my running, the calf started feeling great this week.  I've stopped biking and the elliptical and started with some short jogs.  I even got a MRI because of the never ending hip pain.  A couple of my lower discs in my back are bulging, but not much, at least not enough to do anything about it.  So it's back to running and hopefully I can rebound for a decent March 5K before the heat sets in.  At least the Czarina is running again and maybe, just maybe, will do a little more racing.