Hi, I am Randy from the flatlands of Superior, WI. Back in the day just might be an appropriate title for this. For my 30+ seasons of running I hope to share some regional running history, trail running information, and observations about our sport / activity / pastime.
Happy trails or roads,
December 9, 2011: Running & Rock & Roll & ...
When I think music of music and running, road racing would be the rock & roll of our sport. It's big venues, sold out events, sometimes completely over the top, much like arena rock with thousands of people. The cross section of fans and participants feels the same in both realms. They are both festivals, running and music; sometimes they even show up in the same event. Rock and roll is an upstart form of music too, much like road racing was in the way it gained mass popularity and emerged like the running boom did. Remember the early years of rock and later the British invasion. We are still honored to be experiencing the Kenyan invasion. Bill Rodgers was our Elvis, the rebel that accepted prize money back in the day, that changed everything. Rock has it's cities just like running: London, Detroit, LA and ect. Running has Boston, New York, San Fransisco and ect. Sometimes road running can embrace smaller arenas and the events have the feel of your favorite local live music venue. You find a bit of pop, grunge, wannabes, cover bands / tribute bands and for us masters, oldies!
Track is so very traditional very much like classical music or a symphony. It's reserved for the concert halls of our sport, Hayward field in Eugene, Oregon or similar esteemed formal venues. The sacred ground and traditions of track are reserved for a prim and proper side of our sport. The format is organized, precise, accurately measured and exactly familiar as an experience. Track has a defined order an expected etiquette. We have our formal garb for both too. Team singlets / uniforms on the lanes or in the blocks and the formal attire for an evening at the symphony. In many ways how you make your way to the track as a competitor is very similar to how one becomes skilled as a musician to play in a symphony. Just like the old saying:"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice."
I'll have to admit I had some problems about tagging a form of music to trail marathons & ultras. I was leaning toward country music. An ultra can involve losing everything and heart break just like a lot of country songs. At some point in every ultra or trail marathon I think you find bottom or give it all back. For me an ultra or trail marathon is more like bluegrass, a uniquely American music genre, in a way like the event that popularized trail ultra running, the Western States 100 mile. Bluegrass has a country and folk sensibility that gives me the feeling of the outdoors. Like hours on the trail, listening to bluegrass can seem to erase time, before I know it the Cd's finished and a block of time has vanished. The rolling melodies of bluegrass and rolling over single-track for hours are similar. Often, a depressing lyric and song can make me feel better. A bad day outside of running is easily re framed by a few hours on the trail.
Trail racing is like Jazz, free form and highly improvised. A think on your feet form of music. It's best when it comes naturally and emerges spontaneously. Just like how you feel when you find your grove on the trail, you don't think, it just happens. Cross-country and gospel they seem to fit, at least in my mind. A vibrant team conveying a message with energy just like a cohesive team of runners all pulling towards a team score. At times it can be both individual and team focused. Cross-country has an energy level like gospel that seems to build too.
Orienteering! I have lost my Cd's or my iPod and need directions to find them, please help me! My CD player is stuck on shuffle, I need to find my player instructions to fix it. What's the next song going to be? It's an assemble your own guitar kit. Where is Jack White when you need him? It might just be Caroling in you neighborhood, that could be a good fit because it involves music and stopping at designated spots with addresses. Orienteering, like this last paragraph, for me, a total mess!
The steeple chase would have to be some form of fusion, it is a track event, but different, in some ways it never really gets the same glamor or recognition as the 400, mile, 1500, relays, and sprints. Perhaps it's rap, a bit of everything to serve a musical purpose, sometimes it's not respected either. They both may have that in common. The abrupt change-ups in rap might be most similar to a form of running where the change-ups define the event, run, hurdle, jump a barrier and repeat.
What does this all mean? For me, I have very eclectic tastes in music and consider it part of the rhythm of my life just like running, a tempo and beat. As with music and running, enjoyment can be gained from all of the disciplines or genres. If after reading this should our paths happen to cross. You might find me with my buds in, Bono shades on, tunes playing, perhaps in rock mode. You may wonder, what is he really listening to? It might be Strauss, Mozart, or Bach. That may be a good guess considering my moniker. Remember on that day the book and cover might not match, there are lots of options, just like running.
The coolest Cd's have hidden track don't they, so I'll offer this, with that in mind. It's from a favorite lyric: "...you're never too old to rock and roll, if you're too young to die."--Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. That sort of fits my view of running, and overall outlook on things.
December 1, 2011: USATF MN -CC-> Championship meet
The final -CC-> meet for me was the USATF MN Championship in Apple Valley, Minnesota. It was a three loop 7.5K race. This was by far the most difficult of all or the courses I had raced this season. I was still a bit tender from some hamstring issues and decided to use flats and not spikes. The familiar crowd of teams appeared at the start line again, Northwood, Run-n-fun, Mollars....unfortunately, we were one grand master (50+) runner short of having a team so we were scored as a regular master’s(40's) team.
The race started and this time I was able to hang with the group for the better part of the first loop. It felt good not to get dropping off the out the back of the pack with the runners streaming away from me. Towards the end of the first loop, things had strung out a bit and I was back in my familiar no man's land, holding my own. Compared to the past two meets at Bolsted golf course the numbers for a championship meet were relatively small. During the beginning of the second loop I was starting to feel good about the entire DFL (don't finish last) thing, a few folks were behind me. Then I had another revelation, it was DGL (don't get lapped). A USATF championship meet does bring in some talented runners. If I were to just settle in and cruse in no man's land I could get lapped. The open runners just might catch me. For thirty plus years of running this is the first time, I ever had to think about something like this. Getting older has given me an entirely new set of situations to have to deal with. Sure enough on a switchback turn, I spotted the leader and figured I more than enough of a gap to stay on my lap.
Approaching the finish area for my third loop I noticed that the photographers and spectators were starting to run to the finish chute for the winner to arrival. This guy was moving much faster than I had figured. He eliminated a huge gap in almost no time. I made into my third loop with little to spare, without getting lapped, ego intact. I started my final lap comfortably alone. It was a good opportunity to run the final 2.5K of my cross-country season and reflected on the last five events. I concluded it was a very different yet rewarding fall. It was fun to see how high the bar can be set in your age group when you leave the comfort of the pecking order of your own community. Doing something that you may not be as gifted at as a runner was a humbling yet introspective adventure too!
When I considered my overall running proficiency by types of events, cross-county is rich on the enjoyment end, but clearly not what I excel at. It’s always been like that. If I had to consider my own proficiency and rank them it would be somewhat like this: number one would be the roads, road racing is what I naturally take to and have always excelled at. Track running would be number two, only because it works well with my efficiency and deficiencies. Number three would be trail ultra-marathons and trail marathons. I have learned what my body needs and am just too stubborn to quit. Number four would be short distance trail racing like NMTC spring and fall races, time on the trail lends to some level of competence. Number five is traditional cross-country, I love the venues but something in my overall running efficiency just makes me give up time. I have huge variances in my road and track times when I compare myself to other runners doing both, the difference in pace is about twenty seconds, or more per K. Number six on the list would be orienteering. This is a conglomeration of a number of things that I don’t excel at, including a stubbornness to find a checkpoint, a big downfall. Number seven would be the steeplechase on the track. I am a coordinated guy, but hurdles, barriers and water, need I say more!
I guess my message is this. Don’t be afraid to try some other forms of running. Embrace them all. Get out of your comfort zone and away form your ego from time to time. It’s a big sport with lots of variety. My six-ish weeks as –CC-> Randy was well spent. At the moment I have a big infusion of motivation, training and energy. I'm working a little harder as a runner and competitor again. I'm even considering some indoor track this winter. I am reminded of a quote that may best fit my entire -CC-> experience this fall: "Anything that's worth doing is worth doing poorly" -- Joachim DePosada.
Happy ( trails) or whatever you choose!
October 25, 2011: The Fury -CC-> #4
I'll get to "The Fury" in a bit.
Installment 4 is about running The Jack Johnson Cross-County 6K run at Bolsted golf course on the University of Minnesota campus. My second race of the USA Track and Field Minnesota ( USATF MN ) cross-country series. I am deep into my training and enjoying the routine of preparation each week for my weekend adventures. It had been two weeks since the USATF Highland race. The time between -CC-> events involved running the Essentia Harvest Run 5K in Duluth . My race went far better than I had expected. I ran a 21:12 for 5K. My recent work seemed to be paying off to some degree. I am starting to run some 5K times close to those when I was in my late 40's. Pre AARP times!
Over the past few years, I have run on the Bolsted golf course during Rocky's Run a number of times, so I knew what to expect, where to park and the general routine. I had to give up on my Corolla / locker room and had become one of the squirrels (see blog -CC-> installment three) with my bag placed under a tree just like everyone else. Therefore, I go from just conforming to being upstaged by the person next to me, or my neighbor at the tree next door. The Molar Miler team member not only has a better tree, but a lawn chair too! You know what that means, with a suburbs mindset. At the next meet, I’ll bring a chair ... and a cooler! Sometimes you just don't keep up with the Joneses, you have to go one better! On a side note, his running bag was much cooler too; it had a nifty shoe compartment... I had my overstuffed Grandma's sling bag. I am thinking of addressing that one with some Samsonite...or would that be weird? Insert a mental picture here: a suitcase, cooler, and deluxe lawn chair all parked under a tree next to the Gopher -CC-> tent. That does seem to be a bit much to carry in one trip; I'll probably have to add a wagon (Radio Flyer of course, nothing cheesy) or a shopping cart. Can you say eccentric?
I did my regular warm-up of about 15 minutes and felt some heel pain from some indoor intervals earlier in the week. I was on the fence about wearing spikes or my race shoes, but figured after about a minute or two into the race that would be the last thing I would be thinking about. I decided to use my spikes. I did my best to change shoes while hopping around, one foot at a time. I tried to avoid poking my hands on the spikes or punching holes in my sling bag and warm-ups. Mr. Molar had it so easy! I did consider sitting on the ground, but with the morning dew, it would have been a guaranteed wet butt with a few leaves stuck on for good measure.
I made my way to the start line and received greetings from a few other teams’ members; I'm the new Northwood’s guy in the metro. I must be starting to fit into a new community of runners. I'll have to reconsider the lawn chair and cooler. We did a very quick count of the Northwood’s orange and discovered it was two fifty-year olds and one forty. No 50+ grand master's team today, we were to compete with the forty crowd, regular masters.
Jack's was a co-ed meet for men and women. About 150 Harriers toe the line. The gun sounded and we are off and running. It's an experience that's more about going out fast and slowing down the least. I found myself just about in the center for things and I'm struck by the full fury that a cross-country meet brings. Harrier has a far different connotation than runner. It was a "harried" event. Over the first three kilometers as we rolled through the turns and hills-- it was bodies, spikes, arms, legs, lycra, team uniforms, and the cheering that celebrated the congealed pack of runners while we moved down the course. Then I had a "moment." It was one of those times when you took it all in and fully appreciated the privilege that you were being presented with, in that moment. I considered Leah Holmes the current Superior Spartan standout and multiply it by 5, 10, 15 or more and I had the full appreciation of the depth and talent of the Gophers womans' team. I was very privileged at my age to be sharing the same course, while I tried to hold-on to their pace.
In what seemed like no time I was at the three-kilometer mark and the race was half over. Things had spread-out and my goal became trying to pick-up a position or two, with a steady push. It was then that I went from just hanging on to trying to closeout the race and hold pace. I noticed that my feet really hurt from the spikes. Regular racing flats would have been a better choice. Did my change in focus allow for the pain to creep in? I approached the final stretch and spoted the big Gopher arch at the finish line. I encountered some spectators’, they had a cowbell, and gave me a "go Northwood’s." I nodded in appreciation and carefully listened for the next ring/clank after me and didn't hear one. That was an old trick for determining how close your competition might be without actually looking. I kicked anyway and came up a bit short of gaining a position. I connected with my teammates from Northwood’s (Scott Davis and Peter Kessler). The day gave me a 27:50 and our team a master’s divisions win. My time goal was to run 28:00 to 28:30 for 6K; Bolsted is hilly. I'm the slow guy on the team at the moment, but showing up still made us a team. So far for USATF MN -CC-> season 2011, it's two straight for "Team Orange." Local runner Greg Hexum, running for Salomon Racing Team finished seventh overall agains a steller open mens field.
Next up is Rocky's Run 6K (non-USATF) on November 6th at Bolsted. That will be another opportunity to experience the "Fury of the Harrier's." The Gopher women will be taking the course again ... and I'll get my butt kicked...again! Rocky's Run is a celebration of Rochelle "Rocky" Racette a Gopher All American runner that tragically lost her life in a car accident in 1981. Proceeds benefit a scholarship fund in her honor.
October 17, 2011: Randy's -CC-> Adventure Installment Three
The first week in October was all about preparation for running The USATF MN Highland 5K in St. Paul as a Northwoods Grand Master's (50+) team runner on October 8th. The week started out with a twisted ankle on the Superior Hiking Trail, on a section with really good footing. I'm not being sarcastic; it was a super easy and flat. So I was a bit concerned about more damage occurring when I ran the NMTC Snowflake race the following Wednesday. That course has a tendency to catch you off guard if you're not paying attention. My plan for the Snowflake was to run carefully and let the race develop into the familiar train of runners much like the SHS alumni -CC-> run at Nemadji. Once I settled in, find a pace and start working on passing people in the train of runners. Overall it seemed to go according to plan up to the final few minutes of the run. A bit of a race developed at the end of the final loop. I timed my kick to the finish line and totally misjudged it by ...about a 1/8 to 1/4 mile. That's a long way to go on fumes! So I struggled to regain some form, wobbly at best, and did another push to the finish. Welcome a hamstring zinger. My planter fasciitis is mostly over, but I have a tweaked ankle and zinged hamstring. This must be buy one get one free for injuries month. Next up are two days of complete rest.
Saturday morning arrives and it's off to the Twin Cities to run some -CC-> and to visit my relocated daughter. The TomTom gets me to within two hundred feet of the registration table, that's amazing. The thing about navigation devices are that they tend to give me a bit of anxiety. I sort of trust them; it just feels weird at times when I'm driving. "Turn this way Dave ... is that you Hal." I'm still waiting to get locked out of my car by my HalHal err TomTom at the worst possible moment. I saunter over to the USATF registration table to pick up my number and touch base with the regional coordinator Craig Yodder. He informs me that there are two full Grand Master's teams competing. It would be a dual meet for the 50+ crowd between Run and Fun and Northwoods MN/WI. Open teams were also competing.
I parked curbside just a few feet from the start line in a great place to do a warm-up and get changed. I hate to generalize, but to non-runners, we runners may demonstrate some rather odd behaviors. I observed from the passenger seat of my Corolla / locker room that a number of teams and -CC-> runners were visiting a grove of trees nearby, they looked to be gathering in groups and scurrying around between the trees and seemed to be leaving some items at the bases. Some in groups and some alone. It resembled some kind activity you might see squirrels doing in the beautiful autumn colors. If I didn't know any better I'd thought that they had acquired actual squirrel behaviors. Big giant squirrels! Those behaviors were way too social to be entirely squirrel related. They would suddenly all meet up, form a herd and run away. More like Buffalo or Antelope. Then from another direction a herd would return to the grove and start with the squirrel behaviors again. Runners are a different breed, but... The Animal Planet? So I guess it works out like this, just like squirrels you keep your valuables / nuts at the base of trees so you can find them again. Not this squirrel, my Dad told me years ago, whenever you’re a visitor to the big city, keep you nuts locked-up. Corolla key in pocket!
Some things never change. Cross-country running on golf course has a feeling, smell and aura unlike any other kind of running event. If you were ever a high school or college harrier you know exactly what I mean. It's a total sensory experience of autumn and a running. The teams form up at the starting line and I meet my two teammates ( Robert Gazzola & Peter Kesser) from Northwood MN/WI Twin Cities branch. Okay, I'm going from squirrels to a car lot now. We assemble just like cars on a dealer lot. The new high performance models up front and the cash for clunkers (master's) in the next row. I take stock of the experience one last time and get a bit misty eyed. Here I am 27+ years later wearing my team colors of orange and black, just like the old days when I ran as a Yellow jacket (orange and black?) for UWS. The gun sounded and the familiar rustle of leaves and runners started down the fairway. I bank on my plans from the SHS alumni run and warm-up NMCT races. Just try to maintain contact.
Next up I expected the group of runners to form into a train and I would proceed to pick a few off. The problem here became "the train." It seemed that everyone else was on a bullet train and I was a freight train. The train formed about fifty yards farther down the course than I was; the other clunkers too. So lap one is spent trying to close the gap, that failed as the group / train strung out moving away from me. My oxygen debt check was being written. Finishing dead last in a USATF meet with about thirty-ish runners was a distinct possibility. I finish loop one and began my final circuit. When I mustered up the courage to look behind me I spot that a few folks were still back there. DFL - Didn't Finish Last again! All I had to do was stay upright, not get lost and cross the finish line. I was so far back that catching anyone wasn't a realistic possibility, for those behind me I had a comfortable cushion. I was way tired from being somewhat out of my league, but that was motivation.
Tired can be impairment too! Just before the finish line I lost track of the course and ran around a putting green and found the club house. I figured out my mistake and made it back to the course. I didn't get passed and finished 23:09 for 5K. My two teammates ran under twenty minutes each. When the scores were compiled we accomplished something for Northwoods that never experienced when I was a Yellow jacket. We won! Northwoods takes the Grand Masters division with a score of 10 to 11 over Run and Fun. I socialized a bit and noticed that the fast guys all had really cool old retro looking spikes, just like mine. Mine are the real deal!
The experience of doing something entirely different this fall is becoming quite training and running adventure. It's welcomed change from the usual fall events. The rest of the day was spent taking my daughter out to lunch by her new worksite in Rogers Minnesota and then visiting her at her new apartment to do some Dad things. What a great weekend. Installment four will be about Jack's Run 6K -CC-> at the University of Minnesota, Bolsted golf course on October 22nd.
September 28, 2011: -CC-> Randy, installment two.
Tuesday was the Superior High School Alumni meet. I did graduate from SHS, but never ran as a student for the Spartans. My entire cross-country background came as a UW-Superior Yellowjacket harrier and track runner during my final terms at the institution. Twenty-seven years later it’s time to enter the -CC-> fray with some Spartans.
Going into the race I was hopeful that I would be running for a DFL position (nothing political intended here so don’t interject related comments please) DFL as in Don’t Finish Last! At 52 you tend to pick-up on the energy that a well trained team brings to a meet. I would be extremely lucky to put any SHS team members behind me. My hope was for some alumni runners to compete with. I was glad to see John Hogan show up to run his first -CC-> meet at 60+ years. He’s an original Northshore Strider and has been a fellow competitor for as long as I can remember. He has always seemed to be one of those folks that runs and races for the pure joy of training and competition. I guess we share that outlook, thirty plus years of racing for both of us. I hope I still have his game at 60+.
The start, well almost. The SHS harriers gather a down from the starting line for the team cheer. They sound and look serious, Spartan blue and all. The best we alumni can come up with is a mantra that John gladly provided “right foot, left foot, right foot …” Simple can be good. My contribution to the rag tag alumni group was: “You all remember how fast a meet goes out, we will be hanging on by our fingernails for the first half mile, guaranteed.” The whistle sounded once, then twice, and my track brain says restart! No, it was just coach Conway making sure everyone heard the start whistle.
Sure enough it’s a race to the first turn and then to each of the next few corners before the group established the familiar -CC-> train of runners. I’m glad to see a pretty good mix of SHS runners and alumni ahead of me and a few behind me too. My DFL fears are put aside for another year. I thought of my race plan of maintaining a 4:30 per K pace for a 5K. If I accomplished that goal and don't bring up the rear it would be a successful day. This was to be a confidence builder for my first USATF CC meet in the Twin Cities.
It seemed like the inner loop of the three loop course took a bit longer than it should have and then we started on one of the two outer loops. Finally it’s a mile marker! I have just gone through mile one at 6:32 pace. It felt more like 127 Hours! The good thing is that I wasn’t in oxygen debt. From there it was settle in, hold pace and start running folks down. Somewhere between mile one and two I manage to chase down a young SHS runner and make a pass. Down the next fairway he passes me back and complements me, “wow you’re an animal.” I think he was racing my psyche too! Then he opens a gap. Really, an animal? I think it was my inflated head and the added wind resistance that must have slowed me down. What kind of animal was he refereeing to a wounded gazelle or rabbit? I’ll just think of it in the general sense as a running animal of some type that doesn’t give up. Maybe he sensed my running injury and I’m a Plantarfasciitisapuss. I pass him back and this time it sticks.
Well back to the race report. I managed to keep picking off runners in the train and then it was down to the next two, they were way down the fairway. Keith Thompson (late to the race) drops in to run with me and we / I share some single syllable conversation ( grunts...) while he warms-up. Sizing up the two runners and the gap to be covered, I wondered if I had enough time and distance to catch them? I managed to accomplish the task. One of the two runners that I caught sits on me running my pace up to the last 100 yards. Then he gets then drop on me with his finishing kick. I lose a position on kick timing.
Overall it was a good race, 17th and 22:22 for 5K. After the race a number of runners poke fun at me for my ancient Reebok -CC-> spikes. It’s time to upgrade. By the numbers it’s 4:28 per K and I feel like I had a 6 or 8K race in me. Up next Hyland -CC-> on October 8th in St. Paul. NMTC trail folks should put this race on the calendar as a for fun to do race. It’s an annual event and had a good mix of running abilities and ages.
Time to think about installment three.