Saturday, December 26, 2015

Time Passes Slowly

We're a more than a quarter of the way through the college basketball season and I've been remiss in not sharing my thoughts about this year's edition of the University of Kansas Jayhawks.  I guess I've been too scared to share my feelings about this team.  As much as I resist the comparisons, this as close as having a complete unit as what Bill Self served up in the championship run of 2008.

One thing separates this team from the national championship Jayhawks is interior toughness.  Sasha Kahn with a side of Darrel Arthur and some beastly end of the year freshman heroics from Cole Aldrich made the team's interior defense intimidating.  Percy Ellis, Landon Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson, Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo don't even compare.  Yet the faint glimmer is the unfathomable depth in the Jayhawks frontcourt.  They have a ton of fouls to give and the athleticism of Bragg and Diallo are undeniable.  Ellis can score like Arthur and bring a 3 point shot than even Darrel dare not hoist.

Where this team measures up with 2008 is the front court.  Where Russell Robinson, Sherron Colllins, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush were tough as nails, Robinson lacked any offensive punch and the three point shooting while good, pales in comparison to the 2015-16 squad.  Every backcourt contributor on this year's team can shoot the 3.  It's almost to the detriment to Self's bread and butter scheme of working the high/low post.

Yet I think Bill Self has seen that he's got to live and die by the 3 ball.  Wayne Seldon has shown he's worked on his long range shot.  He sparkled at the World University Games.  Frank Mason III has shown every bit of toughness as Robinson and Collins and Devonte Graham will be a better all round player if he stays another year than Mario Chalmers.  Then comes the bombs away overload provided by Brennan Greene and Svi Mykhailuk.  The scariest part is out of this wealth of backcourt talent, the short man on the end of the minutes, Mykhailuk, has the most upside potential in professional basketball.

These guys play just enough defense to get by.  They are the best all round shooting team in Kansas history.  That's even with the spotty interior scoring.  Yes, Perry Ellis is hell on wheels, but he struggles against bigger, physical postmen.  Kansas has guards and guards by and large win national championships.  I'm not saying K.U. will win it all this year but this very talented team will have underachieved if they don't make it to the Final 4.

Oh, and if by some miracle Bragg, Diallo, Mykhailuk, Graham and Mason all come back for another season, next year's team will be even better.

Friday, December 18, 2015

He Could Coach More Than Football

I went to a high school in Kansas that was a football powerhouse.  A man named Al Woolard put Lawrence High School on the map, even into the pages of iconic Life Magazine.  By the time I got to LHS Woolard was serving as Athletic Director and the school had just hired a dour man out of Ohio named Frank Gibson to coach the Chesty Lions.

Gibson took a couple of great teams and failed to make the playoffs.  He did it mainly through running off most of the African-American players at a time that racial strife still haunted the school in the early 1970's.  By my senior year, the fall of 1973, the program, still full of talent, was in a shambles.  That team managed 1 win against 8 losses and fortunately Frank Gibson was shown the door.

Enter a humble small town high school coach named Bill Freeman.  Coach Freeman had made a name coaching three state championship teams including a couple in Osawatomie where he produced a future NFL quarterback named Lynn Dickey.  Lawrence High's fortunes were about to change.

I saw just about every Lawrence High game over the next four years as I worked my way through college helping out at the local cable TV station that showed all of the Lions games on tape delay.  Freeman made football at Lawrence High fun.  His first couple of years he had to teach the kids how to win again.  You could see the love his athletes had for him.  Even the African-American players bought into his down home, one for all and all for one approach.

It took 5 years but Freeman finally claimed the first of 5 state football titles in 1979.  He returned the program to greatness that would extend well past his retirement into the 1990's.  Freeman made a lot of Lawrence High grads proud to be Lions again.
Bill Freeman with LHS distance ace David Johnston
What really impressed me about Bill Freeman was his love of track and field.  He was just about as good coaching that sport as he was with football.  The Lions became he track and field power in Kansas when Freeman took control of the team.  He produced great sprinters, jumpers, even distance runners.

Yet I believe the greatest thing he produced was joy.  I would stop by practices time to time beginning in college right up until the end of his reign in the late 80's.  You could see how much his athletes enjoyed being at practice, taking up whatever challenges he would put before them.  Most of all they wanted to win for him.  Not just win for themselves, but for Coach Freeman.  I have rarely seen that kind of affection for a coach.

Alzheimer's disease finally caught up to Coach Freeman.  He was 84.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

1300 miles

I finished an easy 5 mile run this pleasant Sunday evening hitting 1,300 miles for the year.  I feel stale, bored and just not caring about whether I run or not.  I thought about this as I walked through our neighborhood, wondering why I was in such a sorry mental state. I came to the conclusion that it's because I don't have any goals.  Right now I'm just running so I don't get too fat.  I have no races on the horizon and that may be a part of the problem.

Age is taking a toll.  I'm three weeks away from turning 60.  Running fast just isn't in my veins right now.  I used to love to blow it out once or twice a week but right now I just want to get out and get in a few miles without hurting.

I know that I'm extremely lucky to be able to run on an almost daily basis.  A lot of men that I know, that I looked up to as runners, can't lace it up anymore due to injuries.  These guys pushed themselves to the limits to get the most out of their bodies.  I'm ashamed to say that I never really did that.  One of them, Charlie Gray, who was a dominant figure in Kansas City road racing for more than a decade just had a knee replaced.  I can't imagine Charlie not running.

As for racing, it's not an easy thing to do right now.  I last ran in a real race in May.  Since then I've joined the board of the Fort Myers Track Club.  That's put me on the front lines of helping with race day set ups.  I feel like it's only right that I give back to the sport that I love by doing the grunt work that makes it possible for others to enjoy a quality race.

I just need to scan the calendar and plot out a couple of weekends where I'm not working at a race.  One of my favorites, the Naples Half Marathon is just a couple of months away.  But I could certainly use a 5K or something under my belt before tackling 13.1 miles.  I've got to race.  You know the old saying, use it or lose it. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Marathon Mess

Nothing beats road racing in Southwest Florida in the winter, nothing.  The courses by and large are pancake flat and once the humidity gets sucked out into the Gulf of Mexico the weather is awesome.  Yet for all of the top notch winter 5K's and half marathons, the area lacks a first rate marathon.

A local for-profit company called Eident Racing has been trying to make a go of it with marathons in Fort Myers and Naples but the results over the last three years have been at best, dicey.  The courses by and large are lousy and course management has been spotty at best.  Plus in the case of the Fort Myers event, November is not a good time of the year to try and pull off a marathon.

Eident first tried running the race in 2013 on Fort Myers Beach.  A lot of runners assumed the race would include a run along the wonderful stretch of Estero Boulevard that runs by the beach.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  The out and back course took runners over the Mantanzas Pass Bridge to a mess of a maze 12 plus miles away in Lakes Park.  Runners got lost and the weather wasn't the best.

The 2014 edition moved to downtown Fort Myers.  Eident made the decision that three trips over the bridges spanning the Caloosahatchee River would make for a good marathon.  Plus, poor course management caused several runners to run a mile or so more than the standard 26.2.  It was an unmitigated disaster.

This year cane with slight improvements in the course and better course management, but
the weather turned the event into a death march.  The marathon and half marathon runners had to endure temperatures in the mid-80's plus humidity levels that were off the chart.  Eident is lucky that a runner didn't drop dead from heat stroke.

Make no mistake, planning and holding a marathon is no small task.  It is disaster waiting to happen.  But two things need to happen to fix the Fort Myers race.  The marathon needs to be moved to December or January.  November weather is too unpredictable to hold a race of this distance.  The course needs to include only one bridge.  No one wants to go over the bridges three time, they come to Fort Myers hoping to take advantage of a flat, fast course.

That's way the Best Damn Race in Cape Coral is the only viable marathon option for now in Southwest Florida.  Last year's inaugural race went off without a hitch.  The only drawback on the course is it is two loops.  That makes for a boring marathon.  But I'll take boring over bridges.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Racing Season

The 2015-16 road racing season has been underway for a couple of weeks in Southwest Florida.  The weather really doesn't start to cooperate until November and it stays pretty good until the beginning of March.  Now, there are a ton of races in Lee County and Collier County, but if you want to run in quality events, it's best to stick to races put on by the Fort Myers Track Club and Gulf Coast Runners.  The other "for profit" groups that hold races, simply don't measure up, with one exception.

I can't speak for the races in Collier County because I have only run a handful of races there.  This missive will focus on the races on the calendar up through the end of 2015.  We've already had a handful of good races like the FISH 10K on Sanibel Island.  It is a race that has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds.  It's attractive for two reasons, it's a great reason to get out to Sanibel, plus it's one of the few 10K's in the area.  The only drawback is the weather.  It can be warm and muggy.

There was also a night race in downtown Fort Myers called Cops N' Joggers along with a scenic 5K and 15K called Race the Roof.  However the weather at any of the aforementioned faces can be humid at best, crisp and cool usually doesn't arrive until November.

If you like hitting tackling a bridge then the Veteran's Day race over the Midpoint Bridge is the one for you.  I like it because it's a night race.  That usually means good weather.  It's held on Veteran's Day and it draws big crowds.

From November 11 you have to wait until November 26 for the traditional Thanksgiving Day race, The Turkey Trot.  There are now a proliferation of Thanksgiving Day races across the area.  This one is the oldest and is a ton of fun.  I do have one complaint and that's the start.  The street where it starts is too narrow.  It would be an easy fix if the start were moved a block over to Del Prado or move it back to the old starting line on SE 6th.

The final race in 2015 is the River Run, held in downtown Fort Myers, on Saturday December 5th.  This too is one of the rare 10K races and it takes you up and over two bridges.  This used to be a big draw but attendance has fallen in recent years.  I can't say enough about what a great test this race is and the weather is usually pretty good.

I want to talk about two other races that are put on by for profit companies.  The first is the Fort Myers Marathon.  Besides the 26.2 on November 8 there is a half marathon and 5 mile race.  Stay away.  The first two editions of this race have been terrible.  First of all, the course is not very good.  Second, the lack of volunteers make it easy to get lost on the course and in some cases, a lack of water stations.  Oh and as for an awards ceremony, forget about it.  Maybe Eident Racing has its act together this year, but I wouldn't count on it.

The other for profit race is December 13th's Best Damn Race in Cape Coral.  This is a marathon, half marathon plus a 5K.  Last year was its first and all of the reviews were positive.  The course is flat.  The only drawback is the marathon is a double loop.  Given the lack of quality marathons in our area this one is definitely one to consider if you're looking to run a decent time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

15 Years On

One of the things I regret is the fact that I didn't routinely keep a running log until 1985.  That's when the late, great Tom Dowling insisted that keeping one was an important part of a training program.  Tom started coaching me in December of 1985 and would routinely check my log and write observations and words of encouragement in it. 

Through high school and college I never kept track of my mileage or workouts.  I kept a list of my in season high school races and much to my regret, did not keep a list of the dozens of summer races I ran which included road races and track meets.  I only remember a handful of those summer races.  Remarkably, I can remember something about every race I ever ran for Lawrence High.  I guess they had more meaning than the out of season races.

Over the last month or so I started digging through all of my logs that I've kept over the last 30 years to create a database of all the races I ran.  I don't know why I'm doing it, except it's interesting to come across races that I have absolutely no memories of running.  I'm not sure I was a prolific racer.  Tom Dowling was not a big believer of racing a lot.  Over the 30 years I ran as many as 17 races in a year and as few as zero, which happened in 2005, a year in which I was dealing with a serious health issue which left me wondering if I would ever race again.

The one thing that stood out to me was the fact that the last time I broke 40 minutes for a 10000 meter road race was in 2000.  The 15th anniversary of that race is coming up in a couple of weeks.  It was in Fargo, North Dakota at a hospital charity race named for baseball great Roger Maris.  I wasn't in very good shape and was pleased that I ran 39:34, but if you would have told me that this would be the last time under 40 I would have laughed.

The following year I was training for a marathon and couldn't get below that 40 minute barrier.  I was 45 years old and still running 5K's in the low 19's which would translate to being able to break 40 but alas, it wasn't to be.  It was downhill from there.

I can remember a couple of years later it was a struggle to try and break 20 minutes.  A number of leg injuries, the illness I suffered and age was taking its toll.  But I think the biggest problem was my training.  I no longer had the desire to do long runs.  In my 30's the long run was a 21 mile Sunday ritual.  By my 40's it was a 16 mile ritual.  After my illness, concerns about dehydration made runs of more than two hours a dicey proposition.

Even if I were to somehow reinvigorate my training regiment, lose 20 pounds and devote myself to breaking 40 as a goal, I know that ship has sailed.  I think I could still run 5 kilometers under 7 minute pace but I have to ask myself, is it worth the work?  I'm still reasonably competitive in my age group.  Yet being a 60 year old cock of the block holds to luster for me. 

I train now because I still enjoy running.  I race because I love the feeling of effort that racing brings.  Times mean little anymore.  The test of self means much more.  And I'm thankful that I have those logs that Tom Dowling insisted that I keep to remind me of those tests.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Run Florida

I'm a little late to my own anniversary.  Technically, I purchased a run specialty shop on September 1, 2014.  I didn't start working there full time until the third week of September.  So somewhere in the midst of this small business madness I'm celebrating one year as owner of Run Florida On McGregor.

While it may have been a long, strange trip for the Grateful Dead, for me it's been a short, educational one.  I had wanted to get into the run shop business for the better part of the last 20 years.  Mike and Candy Pemberton decided I was the one they could trust to not mess it up.  They had created a homey, old school, slice of running nirvana that they really didn't want to see turned inside out.  Outside of a picture of me running the St. George Marathon in 1990 behind the counter and a poster of this year's Prefontaine Classic overlooking the showroom, little has changed.

Oh sure, we carry a few more shoes, maybe too many more shoes, but I hate it when a customer comes in and we don't have the size they're looking for.  And that's probably the biggest lesson I've learned, inventory control.  The shoe companies don't make it easy.  They create too many shoes in too  many awful colors, a few of which are way over-priced and they obviously have a pack mentality.

The minimalist movement reared its ugly head about a half dozen when Born to Run hit book shelves.  Now thanks in large part to Hoka One One, the pendulum has swung 180 degrees.  Maximal cushioning with a minimal heel drop is the hot new trend.  And then there are the tried and true shoes that fall in between, but that's really not what this blog is all about.

It's about people.  95 percent of the people that walk into my store are incredible.  They are looking for guidance and direction and we bust our hump trying to find the perfect shoe from them.  There are the four percent that come in and try out shoes, never to return because you know they're going online to order them and save all of five dollars.  I'm okay with that because at least they know we exist and a time will come when they're in a pinch and they'll come back.

And then there's the one percent, unhappy, confused and just awful people in general.  They hate all the colorful styles.  You show them every conceivable style and color in every catalog and they're outraged that the shoe companies don't make old-fashioned black or white shoes.  They order shoes and never come in to pick them up.  Or they come six months later after you've called them three times and become angry when you've sold them after waiting for three months.  Then they have the nerve to ask you to order more shoes for them.  I asked them if I have a sign hanging around my neck that says I'm stupid.  Needless to say they aren't my customer anymore.

Yet it's really about the new runner who walks into the door looking to enter a world that you've lived for the last 40 years.  They want to run.  Maybe they want to lose a few pounds, challenge themselves with a 5K or a half marathon.  What they find, rather quickly, is a huge community that is ready to open their arms up to them.  Southwest Florida has some many running groups that support every type of runner imaginable that it's easy to find a place that fits for you.

So here's to another year of Run Florida On McGregor, where we celebrate good shoes, a good run and the good men and women, who grace our store, all in search of the best run experience possible.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Beijing Bust

Anyway you slice it, the 2015 World Championships was an unmitigated disaster for United States track and field.  We took six gold medals, the same number that we won in Moscow in 2013, but the overall medal count fell by seven.

What made this so cringe worthy were the lack of medals in events the U.S.A. usually dominates.  No medals in the men's 400 meter hurdles, no medals in the women's 100 meter hurdles, no medals in the men's and women's 200 meters, oh and yes, another botched men's 4 X 100 relay.  Sunday's men's 1500 final summed up the American effort.  Leo Manzano, Robbie Andrews and Matt Centrowitz all made the finals, an amazing feat.  Yet none of them finished anywhere near the top three.  Centrowitz was perfectly position with 300 to go but lacked his usual giddy-up fading to 8th.

Kenya and Jamaica dominated these championships.  The other obvious headline was doping.  Some of the performances screamed performance enhancement.  I'll offer two examples.  In the women's 1500 Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba ran the final 800 meters in the race under 1:57.  That was more than a full second faster than the winning time in the open 800.  Then in the women's 5000 another Ethiopian Almaz Anaya cranked the final 3000 meters in a near world record 8:19.

The lone American bright spot was Allyson Felix, who won the women's 400 and ran a stunning 47.7 in the 4 X 400 relay which should have resulted in another gold medal but only ended with silver.  Felix picked up another silver medal in the women's 4 X 100 relay to boot.

My favorite moment came in the women's marathon.  American Serena Burla, a cancer survivor, had allowed herself to be gapped by some 300 meters very early in the race.  Burla worked from about 5K to 15K to close that staggering distance to reunite with the lead pack.  She hung in with the group until the real racing began at 30K and still managed a respectable 10th place finish.

Track and field is in a world of hurt.  The rampant drug abuse is on a scale seen during Lance Armstrong's hey day on the Tour de France.  The IAAF appears as corrupt and ignorant as their soccer counterparts at FIFA.

As for U.S.A. track and field, one can only hope for better days in Rio at next year's 2016 Olympics.  Oh to be in Eugene next summer for the second best track meet in the world, the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Close But No Cigar

It was like watching a train wreck unfold in slow motion.  Molly Huddle seemed to have a bronze medal just for the taking.  A final sprint in over the last 50 meters and she would join an illustrious group of American distance runners to medal at 10000 meters at a major championship.  Behind Huddle, Emily Enfield was charging hard, but surely it was too little too late.  And then it happened, something I had seen countless high school runners and even adult runners doing in races and workouts, Huddle eased up and failed to race to the finish line. 

The Notre Dame grad threw her hands up a step to the finish assuming the bronze was hers as Enfield slipped by.  It was a jaw dropping experience.  Enfield was the third wheel of an amazing duo of Huddle and Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanaghan.  Even the pros can screw it up.  And unfortunately, that's the story the media is focusing on.

The bigger story is the fact that three American women, took three of the top six places at the 2015 World Championships.  For those of you keeping track, our American trio kicked some major Ethiopian and Kenyan butt.  If you were scoring this like a cross country meet, the USA came out on top.

Think about this long and hard.  20 years ago American distance running was in disarray.  Bob Kennedy was the lone beacon in a desert of distance running disaster.  The United States is now competitive from the 800 to the 10000, both men and women.  Let me repeat, the USA can deal with the East Africans from the 800 to the 10000. 

Odds are in the remaining distance races, the United States will be fortunate to pick up a couple of more medals.  It should happen in the women's 800, possibly in Tuesday's women's 1500 final and a sliver of hope exists for a medal in the men's 1500 as well.  Emma Coburn could medal in the women's steeplechase and leaves both the men's and women's 5000 where chances for a medal are fairly remote and downright impossible in the women's marathon.

The big story is that American distance running is back.  Enfield, Huddle, Galen Rupp, Evan Jager, Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowburry, Matt Centrowitz, Brenda Martinez and Leo Manzano are the real deal.  The USA is in the mix and isn't it grand.

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Justice

I've written about this time and again.  Doping is rampant in track and field.  The latest champion to lose Olympic gold is Turkey's Asli Cakir Alpekin.  She won the 1,500 in London in 2012.  It makes me angry.  Everyone knew that Alpekin wasn't legit.  But what really makes my blood boil is silver medalist Gamze Bulut, also from Turkey, hasn't been caught yet.  Bulut was a complete unknown before the Games and hasn't run close what she did in London since.  Did I mention that 4th place finisher Tatyana Tomashova of Russia was just stripped her World Championship medals last week?

In my scorebook that puts Maryam Jamal of Bahrain atop the medal stand along with Ethiopia's Abeba Aregawi and Shannon Rowbury of the United States.  And as an added bonus, the 6th and 8th place finishers in that race have been disqualified already for doping.

It's increasingly clear that the IAAF, track and field's ruling body, is protecting drug taking athletes.  I believe the IOC is just as culpable.  They fear the whole Olympic movement would fall apart if the truth came out.  Doping is rampant in endurance sports and that includes swimming and cycling.  Yet the most doped game in the world, American professional football, gets a free pass. 

Drug testing doesn't work.  The athletes with the best doctors win.  If men and women want to risk their future health by using steroids, EPO and human growth hormones, let them.  The charade has to end. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


It's Not Dark Yet

"I was born here and I'll die here, against my will."
Bob Dylan

Bob Timmons died Tuesday.  He was one of four men that coached me as a runner.  Everyone that ever knew him or competed for him knew him as "Timmie."  I never got around to having the privilege of competing for him because he never gave me a chance.  For a long time I carried that fact around like a cancer.  I disliked him for it and for some other petty reasons.

I was a better than average high school distance runner.  My senior year in high school was a disaster thanks to a lingering illness.  I decided I would walk on at the University of Kansas in the summer of 1974 and promptly did little of the work required to be part of a top flight college cross country team.

I remember the first time I crawled into the back of his pickup truck with a dozen or so other runners, some of them destined by to All-Americans, including Olympic silver medalist Jim Ryun.  He drove us northwest of Lawrence about 10 miles, unloaded us and told us to run back to Memorial Stadium.  Every workout was a humbling experience.  Many were downright torturous.

The day came about a couple of months into the season when we did repeat 2 miles.  I had been warned by the other runners, never crawl back into the pickup during a workout.  That particular day I had been suffering from stomach problems.  I quit halfway and sought refuge in the truck.

The next day in the bowels of Memorial Stadium Timmie pulled me aside and bluntly told me I wasn't cutting it.  I pleaded with him.  I had been beating half of his scholarship freshmen in time trials.  I was technically the 10th or 11th man on a 20 plus man squad. I cried like a baby when he told me, "Come back when you get in shape."

It was one of the toughest things I've ever experienced in my life, certainly the toughest at that point at age 18. Looking back now, it was probably even tougher for Coach Timmons.  It's sad to look at the state of KU's distance program because my sorry self of 1974 would be good enough to be a member of their varsity cross country team now.  

During the Timmons era at Kansas, the program prospered until the last few years of his tenure. 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 at Wichita East, 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 who ran for 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. 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 many 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 hatred was 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 for the better part of a decade.

So I was crestfallen when Timmie passed.  He was a great man.  He had was a man with few faults.  He was a man who simply wanted to give those around him the passion and strength to succeed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

They All Cheat

I read the mind-numbing response by Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar to the scathing series of stories from the BBC and Pro-Publica which questions whether his group of elite distance runners use performance enhancing drugs.  Salazar mounts a decent defense, but it is full of holes and out right lies.  For me, as a fan of the sport, for the last 25 years I've operated under the assumption that they all cheat.  I firmly believe that in one way or another, the vast majority of elite track and field athletes cheat.

Salazar's reputation was pretty hazy even back in the 1980's.  My private coach, Tom Dowling, worked with elite athletes during that era.  Tom told of how Salazar was known for experimenting with a lotion horse trainers used to reduce inflammation in their thoroughbreds.  He was always looking for ways to gain an edge.

Still by and large I believe distance running was relatively clean through the 1980's but by 1988... the Olympics had become a showcase for doping.  Ben Johnson got caught.  Florence Griffith-Joyner did not, but anyone who had truly followed the sport knew that something about Flo-Jo was amiss.  Then came Ma's Army and the string of stunning world records set by Chinese women in 1993.  These ladies were doped to the gills.

Looking across the 1990's my suspicions only grew with the record setting by Morceli, El Guerrouj and Gebresallasie made me question everything.  The world records at 5000 and 10000 meters were further taken down to ridiculous times by Bekele and all I could do is shake my head.

What we really need to take away from the BBC/Pro-Publica stories isn't what may or may not be happening with NOP.  It's the fact that the BBC reporter showed how easy it is to micro-dose banned substance, reap the benefits of those drugs and still beat the drug tests.  That's the real story and that's the real dilemma.

WADA is helpless to stop doping.  The various governing bodies of the so-called Olympic sports that include track and field, cycling and swimming, need to take a very hard look at their drug rules.  My takeaway is that doping is here to stay and the cheats will always be a step ahead of the tests.  I hate to say drop the rules against doping but I see no reason to continue the charade.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


When I started my life as a runner, I drew inspiration from Jim Ryun.  It was easy.  He was a Kansan who went to high school in Wichita, a mere 60 miles from where I was growing up in Abilene.  As I began to read about Ryun's exploits, my eyes were opened to other distance running greats.  There were Olympic legends like Finland's Paavo Nurmi and Czechoslovakia's Emil Zatopek and the man with a multitude of world records, Ron Clarke.

The Australian legend died Tuesday at age 78.  He is in my estimation, the greatest distance runner who never won Olympic gold.  The best he ever managed was a bronze medal at the 1964 Tokyo Games in the 10000.  He was undone by American Billy Mills and Tunisia's Mohammed Gammoudi.

The following year Clarke went on a record setting spree, the likes the world has never seen.  During a 44 day tour of Europe he set 12 world records, nine in just 21 days.  The bulk of his records came at 5000 and 10000 meters.  He was the odds on favorite to win gold in 1968 except for the fact that the race was run in the high altitude of Mexico City.  Clarke ran courageously, collapsing in 6th place.  Doctors would later learn that the run had permanently damaged the great Aussie's heart.

The story that endears me to Clarke is one I first read about 30 years ago in Sports Illustrated.  Clarke made a pilgrimage to then communist controlled Czechoslovakia to meet Zatopek following the disastrous Mexico City games.  The meeting between the two great runners went splendidly.  As the two men parted company Zatopek handed Clarke a piece of tissue with something wrapped in it, saying he deserved this.

Later Clarke went into a restroom to unwrap the mystery object and found that Zatopek had given him his 1952 Olympic gold medal he had won at 10000 meters.  Clarked admitted that he wept.  Zatopek wanted to acknowledge how much Ron Clarke had changed the sport.

Ron Clarke's name belongs in the pantheon of distance greats like Nurmi, Zatopek, Haile Gebresalassie, Kenesia Bekele.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Prefontaine Classic

The day started as a gloomy, chilly with the threat of rain as I headed out the door of my Eugene hotel for a 5 mile run along the famous trails that run along the Willamette River.  As I enjoyed my morning run I spotted a few of the participants from the previous nights 10000 meter race and hoped this day would produce as many stellar performances.

We made our way over to Hayward Field, Fenway Park of American track and field.  The fans are great, the emotion they can lift from the competing athletes cannot be underestimated.  Those fans helped make for great performances that were standard fare for the meets namesake, the late Steve Prefontaine.

The field events began shortly after 12:15 p.m. and by then the clouds had given way to brilliant sunshine.  You knew it was going to be something special when in the warm up mile race, a gathering of "non-elites," if you will, took the track at 12:32 p.m.  Ben Blankenship rolled through a 3:55 mile dragging 8 other competitors under the magical 4 minute barrier with him.  Just to my left the women triple jumpers were going crazy, two bounding out to 49 feet, incredible world class jumping.

Across the infield, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie was setting a meet mark in the pole vault scaling nearly 20 feet while taking a couple decent cracks at his own world record.  In front of me in the shot put circle American Joe Kovacs was dominating a who's who of the world's best shot putters hurling the 16 pound ball more than 72 feet.

Then the fireworks on the track got going.  English Gardner flew to a world's best 100 meter of 10.84 only to be bested by Shelly Frasier-Price a few minutes later flashed down the track in 10.82 to take down Gardner's mark.  The sprinting was otherworldly with Justin Gatlin clocking a world leading 19.68 in the 200 and Kirani James gliding around the oval in 43.95.

The distance fireworks were even brighter.  On the women's side American Ajee Wilson battled Kenyan Eunice Sum to the tape losing by .05 in an 1:57.82 800.  Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba ran an epic solo 5000 meters in the recording the 6th fastest time in history hitting the tape in 14:19.76.  World Champion Jenny Simpson rescued the American cause nearly breaking 4 minutes to win a deep women's 1500 that saw 18-year-old Alexa Efraimson take down Mary Cain's American Junior Record running 4:03.39.

The men's mile that followed was anti-climatic.  The elite field refused to follow the pacemakers instead gunning a final 800 in 1:51 in which Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman edged Matt Centrowitz with his 3:51.1. All told 13 men had broken 4 minutes in that race bringing the day's total to 21.  No other track meet can claim as many sub-4 minute milers as the Prefontaine Classic.

Just before 3 p.m. Pacific time I sat and wondered at the spectacle that I had witnessed over the last two hours.  I knew I had just seen the greatest track and field meet in my life.  And outside of the Olympics, which I only witnessed first hand in 1984, the stats backed my guts up.  The geeks who track the numbers say the two days of running, jumping and throwing were the greatest in history.  I was just lucky enough to be there and see it.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Distance Night

The trip to Eugene proved a bit challenging.  Delta did its best to keep me from getting there.  Instead of landing in Portland on Thursday, I hit the ground Friday at Noon, just in time for my partner in crime Chris, to pick me up at the airport for the drive to Eugene.

The Prefontaine Classic, a world class track and field extravaganza, has been serving up appetizers the last half dozen years with a handful of races on Friday night.  Along with a couple of hot high school miles and a world class women's long jump field, U.S. distance god Galen Rupp was running the 5000 meters and his British training partner, Mo Farah, was going for his country's record in the 10000 meter.  It promised to be a night to remember.

Chris had lured me with 2nd row, finish line tickets, for Saturday's main event.  He also thoughtfully booked a hotel room within walking distance of historic Hayward Field.  When we arrived in Eugene, the first thing he wanted to do was visit Pre's Rock.  It's the rock face where 40 years before, Steve Prefontaine, flipped his MG and died.  We had made the same pilgrimage 11 years before when we attended the 2004 meet together.

I knew it was up a major hill, which didn't bode well for the run, but I had managed it then and I figured I could manage it now.  My 59 year old legs said otherwise.  I made it about 200 yards up the half mile climb to the spot and told Chris I had to walk.  I felt like I had sprinted a 400 as hard as I could.  I managed another short jog before finally walking to the crash site, were five other people had gathered.  I was a sophomore to be in college when Pre died.  I remember that day just as I remember the assassination of JFK. 

We managed to finish the climb off of Skyline Drive and meandered very slowly over to Hayward Field.  The place was decked out and swarming with people, even four hours before the start of that evening's festivities.  This massive NIKE poster greeted us as we made our way back to our hotel.  It was on the side of the three story student-athlete study facility that didn't exist the last time I was in Eugene.  In fact, the number of new buildings at the University of Oregon that have gone up in the last 11 years caught me off guard.

We made it back to the track about 45 minutes before the start of Distance Night.  In an incredibly classy gesture we were handed a special program, free, and a special race bib with the number 40, also free.  It then dawned on us that this very night marked the last time Steve Prefontaine had raced at Hayward Field 40 years ago.  It came with a touching video tribute on the big board that overlooks the track.

The competition was incredible.  Both the boys and girls high school miles were special.  All 10 girls in the mile raced step for step the entire race.  Ryen Frazier managed to nip Danielle Jones by 4/10ths of a second running 4:39.84.  The boys race was even better as Carlos Villareal flew over the last 150 meters to run down Mikey Brannigan with a 4:05.25.  Villareal made up at least 30 meters over that last 150 with an amazing kick.

Tianna Bartoletta, in the midst of the on track mayhem, powered to a 23' 4" long jump, which isn't bad for a woman known more for her 100 meter dash abilities.  In a matter of moments, the crowd favorite, Galen Rupp appeared and the stage was set for what was supposed to be a super fast 50el00 meters.  Unfortunately, the stellar field of distance aces couldn't deliver.

The group of world class runners refused to follow the pace setters, which meant it was going to come down to a kickers race.  That's bad news for Rupp, who has great wheels, but not as good as a handful of Africans.  Rupp charged to the front with 600 meters to go but it wasn't enough to Kenyan and an Ethiopian who went on to win the race.  Rupp settled for 3rd, but the real story was the man in 4th, Bernard Lagat.  The 40-year-old wonder set a master's world record in 13:14.97.

With the crowd still buzzing Mo Farah and a host of more super African distance runners took to the track for the 10000.  Again the pacing was suspect, leaving Farah and Paul Tanui from Kenya to trade surge and counter surge.  The real story developed far back in the track.  Canada's great distance hope Cam Levins, had let the main pack go due to the super fast racing going on from the get go.  Levins found himself trapped in the 2nd pack some 80 meters done. 

Levins started slowly pulling away from that group with about 12 laps to go, slowly picking off those destroyed by the early, punishing pace.  He managed to go from 12th place to 4th place with a lap to go to run a Canadian record in 27:07.51.  Farah showed his amazing kick to win the shootout in 26:50.97, falling short of the British record.  It's still the fastest 10000 I've ever seen in person by a good 15 seconds.

It had been amazing evening and we hadn't even gotten into the good stuff promised for Saturday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Eugene Bound

Two weeks from today for the first time in 11 years I will hop aboard a jet and fly west to Oregon for one of the best track meets the world has to offer.  The Prefontaine Classic is always a distance running stud-fest.  It's a meet I first attended back in 1985 on a rainy Saturday evening where I watched Mary Slaney take down the American Record for 5,000 meters.
The second time I made it to the meet was in 1994. The star was pole vaulter Sergei Bubka.  I sat right in front of Bubka's family that evening.  Down on the infield NIKE's John Capriotti spotted me sitting with the Bubka's and invited me down on the infield to meet the great vaulter.  I had gotten to know Capriotti when he was the head track and field coach at Kansas State a couple of years before.  It was thrilling to meet the world's greatest pole vaulter.

The third Prefontaine meet, in 2004, featured a fearless mile run by Alan Webb, who dipped just under 3:51 in a solo effort.  That's probably my favorite moment and my favorite year for attending this track and field classic.  I went the meet that year with a good friend, Chris Ronan.  He wanted Webb's autograph, so we made our way down to the media area where Chris stalked his quarry.

This year's meet promises a great men's mile and unbelievably deep fields in the women's and men's 800 meters.  Again I will attend the meet with Chris.  This year I plan to make sure we take plenty of pictures and gather a lot of mementos.

The best part of the meet is Eugene.  The city has a feel to it that is impossible to describe unless you've been there.  The air is fresh and full of pine.  The running routes are numerous and nothing beats heading across the footbridge that spans the beautiful McKenzie River for a quick run along Pre's Trail.

And then there's Hayward Field.  It has changed so much since my first visit in 1976 when I covered the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.  The track back then was rock hard with a sandpaper type substance covering the surface.  A cinder lane circled the inside part of the track and the grandstands were old and weathered.  Just to the west of the newer, bigger grandstands, a cinder track used to sit where the athletes would warm up and where I watched in wonderment a workout one day which featured Alberto Salazar, Rudy Chapa and Bill McChesney.

Now the facilities are fresh and modern.  The track features a state of the art mondo track.  The cinders are long gone and the modern warmup track sits just to the south of Hayward Field itself.  Two more weeks and I get to go to running heaven.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Looking to the Future

The tragic events surrounding this weekend's Florida State Track and Field Championships overshadowed the legacy that lies at the feet of Coach Jeff Sommer.  His shocking death dimmed the incredible performances turned in by a handful of young women who will shape the next few years of high school distance running in Southwest Florida.  Not surprisingly, their achievements are directly and indirectly the result of Sommer and the standards he set for his athletes.

First, there's Sarah Candiano, who graduates from Evangelical Christian added two state titles at 1,600 and 3,200 to go with the championship she won in cross country.  She also anchored a 2nd place finish for her team's 4 x 800 team.  On that squad are two extremely young, but incredibly talented girls.  Sierra Oliveira, a mere 7th grader, finished 2nd in the 1A 800 meter in 2:15.62, a national class time.  Her twin sister Moriah was 2nd in the 400 meter in 57.65 to go along with a 2:18 split on that 4 x 800 relay.

It is impossible to speculate on how good the Oliveira sisters could be, especially given their youth.  This dynamic duo has the potential to re-write all of the records ever set in Lee County.  They could be a twin version of the prep prodigy, Mary Cain.

Estero's cupboard is hardly bare.  Back for another year of high school cross country and track are Daley Cline and Breeana Salcedo.  Those two will team with junior to be Megan Giovanniello to carry on Sommer's legacy.  This trio should help make next fall's cross country battles with Fort Myers High School epic.

That brings us to the Green Wave's Krissy Gear.  How many national class distance runners do you know who scored at their state meet in the pole vault?  Gear is an incredible athlete who has only begun to harness her ability as a distance runner.  She ran a sub-5 1,600 earlier in the season before claiming the 3A title on Saturday.  She followed her that race with her best 800 of the season, finishing 2nd in 2:16.32.

Gear could be the best distance runner in Lee County since Sommer coached Footlocker finalist Bona Jones.  Her ability to run off of a fast pace with a powerful kick could bring some out of this world times, before Krissy graduates from Fort Myers.

Next spring there could be as many as a half dozen Lee County girl's under 2:15 in the 800.  Nationally, most state's don't produce even one girl under 2:15 in a given year.  I don't believe we'd be seeing any of this without years of groundwork done by Jeff Sommer.  Think about it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Coach Jeff Sommer
The news came in the form of a phone call from a trusted running friend.  What she told me literally took my breath away.  Jeff Sommer had died at the Florida State High School Track and Field Championships.  My mind went blank and a sinking feeling hit my chest hard.

I always called him coach.  Calling someone coach is the ultimate sign of respect to me.  I met him when I first came to Fort Myers in 2003.  Our paths first crossed at one of the local road races where he routinely whipped my ass.  Then as fate would have it, I moved into his neighborhood, his house just a block over from mine.

Coach Jeff Sommer had spent years building Estero High School into a distance running powerhouse.  I've known a lot of great high school coaches.  Coaches you've probably never heard of, Verlyn Schmidt, Van Rose and Joe Schrag.  They set the standard in the state of Kansas.  But what Coach Sommer did stands out when compared from the trio of greats I mentioned from my home state of Kansas. 

Sommer's had no hills to train his runners on.  He trained his athletes in the humid, pre-dawn hours during the summer to escape the oppressive heat of Southwest Florida.  His 3D approach of discipline, desire and determination, produced some amazing distance runners.  Sommer was cheering on his talented squad of 4 X 800 girls to a championship when he collapsed.

I can't explain why I feel such a sense of loss.  Coach and I spoke to each other less than 2 dozen times in the 12 years that we knew each other.  Our conversations always left me feeling that I was taking to a man in a hurry, a man on a mission, a man touching lives. 

And that's where the hurt comes from for me.  I know that Coach Sommer touched and changed hundreds upon hundreds of lives.  His good work spread across the community and he raised the bar for coaches across Southwest Florida and the entire state of Florida.  He did what my late coach did.

It was almost exactly ago, the coach that changed my life, Tom Dowling, died suddenly from a heart related incident.  Like Coach Sommer, the works of Coach Dowling lifted high school distance running across the Kansas City metro area.  The two men were opposites.  Coach Sommer was an intense, rolling bundle of energy.  Coach Dowling was a zen figure.  But both men trained champions on the track and champions in life.

My heart hurts for Coach Sommer, his family, his athletes, but most of all my heart hurts for our community.

Editors note:  The Fort Myers News-Press asked me to share these links:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Don't Hate Georges Niang

Watching the Laettner lovefest on ESPN Sunday night only further cemented my respect for one of the greatest players I've watched play my beloved Kansas Jayhawks in basketball.  I'm talking about Iowa State Cyclone Georges Niang.  I'm guessing he may not come back for his senior year, but Niang has been a very special player in the three years that he has terrorized the Big 12.

My great regret is that I've never gotten to see him play in person.  And despite his ability to absolutely light up KU, I don't hate him, like I did Anthony Peeler, Mitch Richmond, Chuckie Williams or Steve Stepanovich.  His play demands respect.

I go back 40 plus years to the days of great KU foes like Cliff Meely of Colorado, Lon Kruger of Kansas State, Willie Smith at Mizzou, Alvin Adams and Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma, I could name a half dozen or so more players that were simply a joy to watch during their tenures in the Big 8 and Big 12 conference.  These guys played hard and they played with class.

So does Niang.  I love watching Niang, a ball handling power forward with a beautiful stroke from three and an ability to glide through the lane with beautiful post moves that harken back to the days of when big men actually had post moves.  The two KU players that come to mind when I think of Georges is Nick Collison and Rafe LaFrentz.

Niang has the ability to rise to the level of his competition.  He's physical, without playing dirty, you can tell he respects those he plays against and most important, his teammates feed off of his emotion.  He is the quintessential college basketball player with a whole slew of old man moves.  It makes me wonder whether his lack of hopes will translate into the NBA game, but Georges Niang is a winner and the NBA always has room in its rosters for winners.

I don't think Niang has the supporting cast to make a deep run with Iowa State through the tournament but he's the kind of singular player who can do the impossible.  He could put Iowa State into the Final 4 just on his grit and determination alone.  Unfortunately the Cyclones don't have much of a bench.  But enjoy it while you can, because this might be the last great run of the great Georges Niang.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Good Ol' Dan

I've been lucky to work with a number of talented people in my 30 plus years in television.  One of the greats that I had the good fortune to spend more than half a dozen years with passed away Saturday. Dan Henry was 89. 

Dan stands out to me because he was the last of a breed in television news.  He was quite simply, a weatherman.  He didn't have a meteorology degree, a must in this day and age.  The only other non-meteorologist that I worked with that's still doing his think is KSAZ's amazing Dave Munsey in Phoenix, another heavyweight I had the pleasure of producing.

I had been told that in a previous life, before television, Dan had been a science teacher.  Even without the meteorology degree, Dan was by far and away the most popular weatherman in Kansas City television and was one of the most popular television talents in the city, period.  The guys at Kansas City's National Weather Service loved him.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  Dan was polarizing for the audience.  You either loved him and his quirky sense of humor, or you hated him.  But the biggest thing was, everyone knew Dan Henry.  I loved Dan because he embraced the changing technology that came to his weather office.  First it was the weather computer.  Dan, charmingly, tossed his magnet board aside and worked that computer into his shtick, complete with appropriate cartoons.

Dan loved wrapping himself in green in front of the chroma key wall, appearing before the viewers on Halloween as a floating head over a skeleton or some other bit of handywork drawn on the computer.  But when severe weather came around, Dan was all business.  And the addition of doppler radar, the first in the market by many years, cemented his role as the go to weather guy in Kansas City.

I loved Dan because he knew how to keep me in my place.  I produced hundreds of his weathercasts and he knew to the second how much time he should get.  If I gypped him one night he'd teach me a lesson by going 30 seconds long, just to remind me who helped pay my salary.  And on the night's I needed him to bail me out because of some sort of technical mishap, Dan would always cheerfully come to my rescue.

Dan Henry was an integral part of WDAF's ratings resurrection in the 1980's.  He had been with the long suffering, ratings dormant station for more than a dozen years when News Director Mike McDonald executed ratings gold.  It was a combination of a great anchor team, Stacy Smith and Cynthia Smith, sports director Frank Boal along with the unflappable Dan, that helped steamroll the competition.  When Stacy departed for Pittsburgh, Phil Witt filled his shoes and we never skipped a beat. 

Dan is a Kansas City television legend.  I'll never forget that smile, his love of all things Irish and his barbershop quartet.  He made life in the tough business of television news bearable for dozens of up and coming young journalists, including me.  Good bless you Dan Henry.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Son-In-Law

Prime racing season came to Southwest Florida Saturday night with the best 5K you can find in the area.  It was a family affair at the Edison Festival of Lights 5K.  My son-in-law Vlad, step-daughter Natasha and granddaughter Masha all toed the line with me for the big race.  This marked the fourth or fifth time I've run this twilight affair that follows a crowd filled parade route through the streets of Fort Myers. 

The only problem with this gem of a 5K is a crowded start and you better be able to withstand the smell of barbeque along the entire race course.  A Kenyan won the men's race barely dipping under 14 minutes, which gives you an idea of the swift nature of this out and back race.  When I first moved her I could run it under 21 minutes.  Last night I ran just a few ticks over 24 minutes, a real disappointment. 

Much to my surprise I finished 4th in my age group, good enough to take home a trophy.  In all the years when I could still run relatively fast I usually finished right outside the top 5.  Another surprise came from the son-in-law, who ran a personal best of 20:59.  It was a PR by about 90 seconds.

I asked Vlad, who just turned 40, two months ago, when he was running, because I never see him run.  He confessed that he was sneaking out after I leave for work and packing on the miles since the beginning of the year.  He managed to finished 2nd in his age group.  He was incredibly happy as we all were.

Just a couple of weeks before I had run another 5K where I somehow managed to win my age group running under 24 minutes.  I'm beginning to get some longer runs in which should help my endurance.  Now, I've just got to convince myself to do some "safe" speedwork.  I've gone more than a year without getting injured.  I want to keep it that way.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


News of Dean Smith's passing gave me pause to consider the weight of his contributions to college basketball.  John Wooden may have been the game's greatest coach but Dean Smith must certainly rank second.  He didn't as many national championships as he probably should have, but his teams were always in the hunt.

I take pride in the fact that Smith came from Kansas.  He played basketball at the University of Kansas under the great Phog Allen.  He was offered the Kansas job a couple of times in the 1980's and said no both times, resulting in two in hires of Larry Brown, a North Carolina grad and Roy Williams, who coached as an assistant under Smith.

The two schools, Kansas and North Carolina, owe much to each other.  The coaching legacy between the schools is so intertwined between head coaches and assistants that only the hardcore fans see the links.  What is important to remember is that Dean Smith but Kansas basketball back on the map.  Larry Brown brought a luster back to the program that had slowly faded away under Ted Owens. 

Larry escaped Lawrence after winning a miracle national championship in 1988 and after Dean said no to the job a second time, he recommended Roy Williams.  As hard as it is to believe, Williams took Kansas basketball to even greater heights, even though he didn't win a national championship.  Roy elevated K.U. back into the holy trinity of college basketball.  He put it there with Kentucky and North Carolina and for that Jayhawk fans should always be grateful.

I only saw Dean Smith coach once in person.  He brought a team that would go on to win his first national championship to Kemper Arena in Kansas City to play K.U.  Much to my surprise the Jayhawks upset the Tarheels.  Nothing about Smith or the game really stands out except for getting to see Michael Jordan play as a freshman.

I'm sad in a way that I didn't get to see Dean implement his famous 4-corners offensive scheme.  It's a fixture of a bygone era, rendered almost useless by the shot clock.  It still stings when I recall how a top-ranked Notre Dame used that same offense to hold off an upset minded Kansas in double overtime back in 1974.  I don't know whether to blame Smith, Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps, or Irish freshman sensation Adrian Dantley for that difficult loss.

It shows how Smith's influence stretched across basketball, not only through his great players and the outstanding coaches like Brown, Williams and George Karl that stem from his tree, but what he brought to other schools and the game as a whole.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Race Management

Running a long distance road race requires a lot of preparation and a fine sense of energy management.  Putting on a long distance road race requires a lot of preparation and in the end an uncanny ability at time management.  More on that in a bit but first I want to dissect my race over the weekend in Naples, Florida.

I ran the Naples Daily News Half Marathon on Sunday.  In the weeks leading up to the race I fully expected to run under 1:50.  However, the best laid plans can be undone by the simplest of acts.  That act was pulling a shoe box out of a large box of shoes, spraining my back and leaving me unable to run for almost a week.  Now missing that amount of training just a couple of weeks before a race shouldn't have impacted my goal.

I simply failed at the first rule of racing, preparation.  I needed a couple of more long runs and several more tempo runs.  I could tell when I returned to running a few days before the race that I needed to lower my expectations. 

Race day dawned muggy and in the back of my mind I knew that breaking 2 hours could prove challenging.  I needed water right from the get go and by mile 6 I simply let my mind drift and spent the next 6 miles checking out the shoes of my fellow competitors, most of whom were passing me.  I made a major mistake in not carrying a couple of GU's with me.  Part of me wants to think of myself as a 30 something runner who doesn't need to worry about replenishing dwindling fuel supplies in my body.

I woke up at mile 12 and actually mustered a decent last mile.  As I approached the finish line I noticed a commotion about 50 yards short of the finish.  Paramedics were busy putting another running onto a gurney and as I crossed the finish line they were in full pursuit of a nearby ambulance.  I crossed the finish line in 1:54:43 and the gentleman who had his heart stop just minutes before survived his near death experience, the best news of the day.

The Czarina, who had bravely run the same race the year before on no training, managed to cross the finish line in around 2:09:52, about 6 minutes faster than the year before.  She was happy and I was happy that we had both enjoyed one of the best half marathons in the country.  And then we waited, and waited and waited for an awards ceremony that was woefully behind schedule.

Turns out there was a time management problem.  Something happened to the timing system.  I didn't learn my official time until 48 hours later and I will never know my official split times or my "real time."  By "real time" I mean the time from when I crossed the start line mat to the finish mat.  It probably took me about 30 seconds based on my first and second mile splits.

A timing failure for a major race like the one in Naples is a black eye.  Having worked on numerous road races, including at the timing table in the days before chip timing was available, I can attest that the work and need for attention to detail is killer.  Money and age group awards are at stake a mistake can be a major embarrassment for the race and its sponsors.

It's a shame that it happened, but it should serve as a reminder for runners who have become accustomed to results being posted within minutes of the finish that a lot of behind the scenes work goes on to make that possible.  Sometimes people and their machines don't live up to our expectations.  In my book as long as there is a well marked course, plenty of water tables along with some food and fun at the finish line, than the race is a success. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Where Have I Been

It's a new year and I've gotten into a bad habit of not blogging enough.  Part of my reluctance stems from my ownership of the running store.  I feel pressure to stick to all things running, when in fact, I like to ramble on about other things like K.U. basketball and on rare occasions, politics.

I have been running consistently and doing a little bit of racing.  I raced a Thanksgiving Day 5K in 23:55 which felt okay and then ran a horrible 10K about 10 years later in 50:40, about 2 minutes slower than I expected.  Part of it was the weather, the other part was the fact that I have not done anything resembling speed work.
I started incorporating more tempo runs into my daily grind.  I think this was something that was sorely missing from the routine.  I like doing tempo runs on a track, but the local high schools are like prisons and it is nearly impossible to penetrate the facilities here.  A track, despite the monotony, is ideal because you know exactly where you're at in terms of distance and pace. 

I'm lucky in that I have really good asphalt paths to run on adjacent to my neighborhood.  I take full advantage of them. One is even marked every half mile.  But I still miss doing work on the track.

I'm focused on the Naples Daily News Half Marathon which is 10 days away.  I first ran it in 2013  and missed it last year because of a leg injury.  I'm hoping to run about 5 minutes faster than I did the last time.  Anything under 1:50 would be good.  My fitness is much better despite the loss of speed.

I'll probably follow up the half with a few 5K's including one of my favorites, the Edison Festival of Light in late February.  It's probably the best road race in Fort Myers.  It starts downtown and follows the route of a parade that starts about an hour later at dusk.  The streets are lined with crowds and that certainly makes for an enjoyable time.

As I approach my 60th year, I'm not willing to concede that I can't run under 7 minute pace for a 5K.