Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Post of 2011

2011 turned out to be a good year. Many races were run,money was raised for charity,emergency medicine was performed. Athletics were officiated,work was completed and weight was lost. Some goals were met,some were not and some changed from the original concept. However positive forward movement was made in all areas. To all my friends,family and anyone I interact with make 2012 another good one. I plan on it.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Widgets


Hey it is a two fer Thursday. I was recently contacted by a student at UC Santa Barbara named Evan Thomas. Evan is working on a few online projects to benefit veterans.

The first is a Medal of Honor Data Base











The other is a Veteran Grave Locator












Check them out and help a young person out with some feedback. I have added them to this blog in appreciation.

De Oppresso Liber


Former Action Guy By The Numbers:2011

n Ok in what I have officially named The 2nd Annual By the Numbers Post, I now regale you with...numbers

 Officiating by the numbers
Football games officiated-50 ( this is down from last year. Didn't have as much time to officiate Lower level games)
Baseball games umpired-75 (see above)
Wrestling matches officiated-100-150 ( Roughly the same as last year)
Top Ten Athletes or Teams officiated-20
Hall of Fame Coaches whose hand I shook- 1 (Butch Pedersen Football West Branch, Iowa High School Coaches Hall of Fame )
Number of Coaches that told us good job- Can't remember any this year, was a bad year for grumpy coaches

Running/Biking by the numbers 
Ultramarathons complete- 1 (Dances with Dirt 50K)
Marathons complete- 1 (Rockford Marathon)
1/2 Marathons complete- 1 (Soaring Wings 1/2 Marathon)

Marathon Relay Complete 6.6 Miles-1 (Quad Cities Marathon)15K run complete- 1 (Muddy Monster 15K)
10K run complete( Passionately Purple Quest for the Cure 10K)
8K run complete- 1 (Return of Turkey Trot 8K)
5K run complete- 2 (Alliant Energy 5K,Freeze Fest 5K)
Mountain Bike races complete- 1 ( Sylvan Island)
Miles run in 2011-1025 ( I still have a week left so add about 45 more to that. Those are scheduled miles)

Social Media by the numbers

Social media accounts-16 (twitter,facebook,myspace,linkedin,dailymile,google+,blogger,tumblr,youtube,posterious,instagram,foursquare, gowalla,getglue, pinterest,flickr)
Tweets-10691 (yep I have no life..still)
Blogs started-1  (Former Action Guy: irun iowa www.mikemac356.posterous.com)
Blog Posts-  tumblr-1107
                   google+- 57  
                   posterous- 62
                   instagram- 38
                   flickr- 137
                   pinterest-17
                   blogger-33 ( again no life..still and I like to talk about my favorite subject..me)

Emergency Medicine by the numbers 

Ambulance Services working for-2
Number of calls-100
Number of ratings taken and passed- 2 ( EMT-Intermediate and Advanced-EMT




Law Enforcement by the numbers 

Agencies working for-1
Hours worked-108 ( still new at this)
Number of Reserve Deputy Modules taken and passed- 5 

Fandom by the numbers

Times I saw the Troy Trojans football team - 5 (ESPN3 is awesome)
Times I wished I hadn't-5
Times I watched the Iowa Hawkeye football team- 12
Times I I wished I hadn't-5 (was a bad year for football at the old homestead)
Times I saw the Minnesota Vikings live at the Metrodome-1 (even though we suck this year the game was still awesome)
Times I disowned the Chicago Cubs-Everytime

Random Numbers

Years since Army retirement-7
Years since joining Army-29
Years since graduating Airborne School-28
Years since graduating Ranger School-23
Years since graduating Special Forces Qualification course-21
Time I miss Special Forces -Everyday
Kids graduated this year-0 ( next year will be the last)
Anniversaries-24
Birthdays-48
United States Practical Shooters Association Matches competed at-4

So there you have my year in numbers. Some things different from last year, some quite similar.  I hope I can maintain the status quo and keep things steady for next year as well.



See ya in 2012

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Do I Feel?


Ever since our administration announced the end of the war in Iraq I have not been sure how I feel. As I have talked about a few times on this blog I was part of the initial invasion of the country in 2003. It could even be said that Operation Iraqi Freedom was the culmination of my military career, it was the last time I would lead men in combat, it was the last time I would deploy on a real world mission, and it was the last time I felt truly in charge of my own destiny. Many people try to analyze how soldiers in combat feel, trying to get inside their heads and ascribe there own feelings and desires on to the members of our military. Killing is bad right?So those that kill must be screwed up when it is over? We have to think that way or the whole house of cards falls down.

I am going to be brutally honest here folks and realize that this statement applies to me and me alone, others have their own opinions. Ladies and Gentleman COMBAT IS FUN!!! Yes there are many moments where bad things happen and you wish you were far far away, but when you are in the heat of the moment and you are closing with and destroying the enemy as you have been trained to do all your adult life that is fun. By fun I don't mean ha ha funny I mean satisfying. The adrenaline and the intense feeling of being part of a hardass team of proven professionals cannot be replicated.

So how do I feel? Somehow I feel like a part of me has gone missing. During my career in the Infantry and Special Forces I went many places that the public never heard about or barely remembers. The Sinai Peninsula,Bosnia, and Kosovo where all real world missions where we braved the threat of hostile fire but these did not have the gravity of Operation Iraqi Freedom. So somehow the ending of the war in Iraq has officially closed my connection with the military 7 years after my retirement. As the years go by the phrase " I was in Iraq" will be said less and less as other conflicts supercede the one that once dominated the headlines. Eventually when I am an old old man  they will start doing countdowns of how many of us still survive.

I guess I just miss my teammates. De Oppresso Liber

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tandem


Standing on the ramp of the CASA 212 aircraft I couldn’t see anything but the red glow of the jump lights on the ceiling and the full moon as it slid in and out of the wispy clouds. Everything else was blocked out by the 6’3’ 230 pound Navy SEAL Lt I had strapped to the front of my harness like so much luggage. At 5’7” I was standing on my tiptoes to keep him from lifting me off the ground like a rucksack. Even though it was summer in Arizona the temperature at altitude was chilly and the wind swirled through the small two prop aircraft. The glow of the jumplights turned to green and the Jumpmaster gave the thumbs up signal to standby and I placed my googles over my eyes as we awkwardly shuffled to the edge of the ramp.


Our instructor/evaluator grabbed the lip on the edge of the ramp and swung himself out into space, hanging on by one hand like a human meat flag in the relative wind outside the aircraft. The jumpmaster swept his arm pointing out of the aircraft, in the signal to GO. Myself and my passenger rocked once, (he rocked, I was just along for the ride) and we tumbled out of the aircraft into the darkness of the desert night.

I attended the Military Tandem Master course in 1997. It was conducted at the Military Freefall School and was instructed by PO1 (SEAL) Shane H. and current United States Parachute Association President Jay Stokes. At the time Jay was a Special Forces Warrant Officer and the Chief Instructor/Safety Officer at the MFF School. I was an instructor in the Advanced Military Free fall course and was attending this training during a break in classes. Military Tandem was in its infancy and we were some of the first students to undergo the training. The concept was to train special operators to deliver cargo, either animate or inanimate via parachute into areas that may be denied more conventional methods.

We had spent the previous 3 weeks packing, inspecting and jumping the military tandem rigs manufactured by Strong Enterprises. We had started out conducting ground training and then progressed to “Hollywood” jumps with no passenger, passenger jumps, equipment jumps etc… Our last training evolution was to be a night, combat equipment, oxygen, weapon jump. To be more specific I and my passenger would both be equipped with a 60 lb rucksack, oxygen mask and bottles and a M4 rifle to simulate infiltrating a combat environment via High Altitude Low Opening Tandem parachute jump. I had swapped between two partners during my training a 5’2” 130 lb Filipino named Jonny and the aforementioned SEAL LT. Guess who was to be my partner for this jump? Well it wasn’t Jonny.

As we exited the aircraft I kept my head up as I felt the familiar wave where the relative wind coming from under the aircraft attempts to flip you over. Riding the wave is easy if you keep your head and feet up during the transition to stable freefall. If you don’t you can go for a ride ,as the wind will catch your extremities and send you tumbling across the sky. As we transitioned belly to earth something , perhaps part of our equipment, started pushing us over on our side. I panicked slightly as during training the terminal sidespin was the one malfunction that was shown to be the most difficult to recover from. I immediately reached for and deployed my drogue even though we were not entirely stable. I was taking my chances with a drogue malfunction versus the sidespin scenario. Fortunately the drogue deployed as designed, I immediately checked my primary, secondary and tertiary ripcord devices. I also checked my cutaway pillows in the event of a malfunction upon parachute deployment. I then tapped the Lt for him to come out of position one. Basically up until this point he had been in a ball as so much cargo. When I tapped him he went into a freefall arch to assist me in stabilizing our two bodies.

I checked my altimeter and we were approximately 9000 feet above the deck. I tapped the Lt again and we initiated a turn so that we were oriented to face the landing area on the drop zone. As usual the landing area was marked with an opened based triangle or wind arrow made of beanbag lights. From our altitude they looked like softly glowing points of light surrounded by the pitch black of the desert floor. As we turned, we started to rock violently or buffet. This was fairly normal in Tandem operations and signified that basically something was catching the wind unsymmetrically and there is not much you can do about it except for try and relax. As we fell though the buffeting became more violent and it started to push my oxygen mask up over my eyes. I had to keep grabbing it with one hand and push it down while trying to maintain stability.

At 7000 feet I tapped the Lt and he once again assumed position one. I visually cleared the airspace above me in preparation to deploy our canopy and at 6000 feet I waved my arms over my head to signal anyone above they were about to get a face full of F111 fabric. Due to our severe buffeting issue I then located and grabbed my primary ripcord, keeping my eyes glued on the altimeter until we reached 5000 feet. I timed the pulling of the ripcord so we were at the peak of the buffeting, this way our drogue would not entangle with our feet or any equipment when it was released.

The sensation you get from deploying the tandem canopy is different than the one you get from a normal freefall parachute. Normally when you deploy your pilot chute this, small parachute will pull the deployment bag containing your parachute out of the pack tray on your back and as the parachute elongates and fills with air you slow down from terminal velocity quickly and sometimes violently. I always packed a “snivel” into my chute so the opening was a little slower but softer. However during a Tandem deployment you actually speed up prior to canopy deployment. Once you pull the ripcord it releases the drogue that you had been trailing, this drogue acts as your pilot chute and deploys your canopy. When the drogue is released the tandem pair feels a “trapdoor” affect as suddenly for a few seconds you are back up to terminal velocity.

When our canopy deployed I immediately checked it for any holes or discrepencies. I then unhooked the straps at waist level that had been cinching me to my passenger, we were still connected by shoulder straps. I tapped him and he was worked his leg straps farther under his buttocks, so he could sit more comfortably in the harness. As he did this I located and gained possession of the steering toggles. I turned our canopy towards the landing area. I handed my passenger the lower set of toggles so he could assist in steering our huge canopy.

I pulled the googles off my eyes so I could see better, and we executed a number of slow,lazy S-turns upwind of our targeted landing area. Keeping our eyes out for other jumpers we kept our heads on a swivel as we and the other tandem pairs formed a stack up wind of the target. At 1500 feet we headed downwind and past the target landing area, at 1000 feet we turned to the right and went cross wind. At 500 feet we turned back into the wind and headed into the open legs of the wind arrow. At 100-150 feet we released our rucksacks and I felt the old familiar tug as they reached the end of the 15” lowering line and started swinging in the air. As we neared the ground may passenger lifted his legs in almost a sitting postion, approximately 15 feet above ground I heard our rucksacks hit the dirt and I flaired the canopy dynamically to slow our forward progress. Due to the limited visibility and the extreme height differential between myself and my passenger, I had no intention of trying to make a standup landing. When in doubt feet and knees together and execute a Parachute Landing Fall. We hit terra firma in a cloud of dust and basically slid forward into the wind arrow. Our rucksacks came bounding up behind us, hitting me in the back of the legs with their momentum. Members of the drop zone party came out to assist us in untangling ourselves and recovering our equipment. As we walked towards the bus that would take us back to the hanger, I breathed a sigh of relief. One down, one to go, I was to be the passenger next.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wrestling-What Men do during Boys Basketball Season


Where I come from the sport of Wrestling is as popular as any other with possibly the exception of Football. The average wrestling fan in the state of Iowa is probably one of the most knowledgeable of any "casual" fan you might meet. We live and breathe wrestling at all levels like those in Texas do Football. In my room at my parents house I had two posters on my wall. John Wayne in the movie "Green Berets" and the above picture of Dan Gable, multiple Iowa High School,NCAA,and Olympic Champion. One defeat in his High School and Collegiate Career. Unscored upon in the 1972 Olympics, and legendary coach of the University of Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling team.

As a high school wrestler honestly, I wasn't very good. I was unbeaten at the Junior Varsity level and about .500 at the Varsity level. However this didn't keep me from dreaming big. I would get up in the morning and run the 10 miles to school in a rubber suit (most of this stuff is frowned on, if not illegal for High School wrestlers now.) I would lift weights every day with the football players, I would run home. I would go days without eating trying to make weight. I would do things differently if I knew then what I know now but who wouldn't? But I was going to be like Gable. I knew that I was going to be an Olympic Champion. I believed it with my entire being. The year I failed to make the District tournament was one of the most devastating of my life.

But look what wrestling taught me. It taught me you had to be tough to realize your goals. It taught me everyone doesn't always get what they want. It taught me that you can push yourself farther than you think you can.It taught me to make a plan, to drive on to the objective and aggressively take what you want. All these things I used and still use.

During my 22 year career in Army Airborne  Infantry and Special Forces units I readily credited my wrestling experiences with giving me the edge to take on and pass the challenges of Ranger School,The Special Forces Qualification Course, Military Free Fall School and many other special operations courses.Wrestling gave me my first taste of what I was made of and what I was capable of doing.

When I retired from the military and moved back to Iowa, the epicenter of wrestling, I decided to give back to the sport. I knew I wouldn't have time to coach but I thought I could officiate, so I became a wrestling offcial and have been one for 7 years now.Officiating has its ups and downs, the fans in this state cut no slack when it comes to the sport. At any given high school meet in this area, 20 miles from the University of Iowa, you might see any number of former state champions, NCAA Collegiate Champions or even the odd World or Olympic team member acting as a coach or even just sitting in the stands as a parent. Everyone in this state has wrestled or knows someone that did. The pressure is intense even at the High School level and the Iowa State High School Wrestling Championships are televised statewide and have a rich tradition.

I enjoy everything about the sport and as the season starts for another year I have started officiating once again. When I am out on the mat seeing two young men and even a few young women these days, I am intensely watching as they grapple with each, trying to bend the other to their will and assert physical dominance. Sometimes I look at these athletes and wonder which one of them will be the next Olympic Champion, the next Ranger, the next Green Beret. Or which one of them will always remember when they were simply just a "wrestler."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Return Of The Turkey Trot 8K 2011


So once again I laced up my running shoes for my monthly race. The month of November it has become tradition for me to run the Return of the Turkey Trot 8K. This would be my third year running this race. The race is held in the next town over so it is also convenient.

So the morning of the race as per my usual pre race ritual I hit my snooze alarm until it was too late to hydrate or eat anything. Once I finally got out of bed I had just enough time to change into my running gear and drive the 9 miles to the start. Temperature was in the low 30's so beside wearing my running pants and a long sleeve shirt I brought a stocking hat,jacket and gloves for the race. Besides the temp however the sun was shining and the weather was good for running.

They had moved the start of the race about 2 miles south to Marion High School from its former location in front of the middle school. This was due to some major road construction around the former start. Said construction also made it difficult to get to the start since a lot of roads were closed. Parking was at a premium and I ended up parking in the back of the high school on the grass as all the lots and streets were full. As a mentioned last year http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/11/return-of-turkey-trot-8k-2010.html this race has gotten bigger than most local 5K. I think they said there were 1800 runners/walkers registered this year.

One thing I did like was that they actually took over 50% of the suggestions I had to make the race better this year. They staggered the start times for the races, changed the routes for all the races and added chip timing. However probably because of the location, porto potties ( I didn't see any) were still at a premium and water stops were still only 2. But I can see they are trying and it is overall a fun time. So once I parked I decided to ditch the jacket and gloves but I kept on my stocking hat. I walked in to the school to use the facilities and on the way out got to see the race mascot.
The reason this race is so popular is that they really make it a community event and there are a lot of school kids on "teams" running the 4K. The kids love the turkey. After hanging out with Mr. Gobbler I moved to the start line and waited for the signal. Right about 0900 at race start the mayor gave us a few words, they played the National Anthem and gave a benediction. Due to the staggered start the 4K runners would start after us so there were many people milling around when we got the READY,SET,GO!!!!


Once the race started it took me about 30 seconds to get to the actual start line due to the crowd and the fact I always start at the back. We ran slightly down hill for about .5 miles until we took a left into a residential neighborhood and started heading up hill. All of the route for about the next 1.5-2 miles was familiar as the course in prior years had run by the high school so in reality we were running the same course from a different start point. I was feeling pretty good and like always I started out fairly quick (for me) until I settled into my natural pace assisted by the adreneline of racing. The first two miles we ran south and east away from the start. The neighborhood also had some fairly significant ups and downs which tested my endurance as I don't run a lot of hills. I was really concentrating on trying to run upright to keep my lungs open and keep a quick foot turnover. I passed the first mile in 8:33 watch time and 9:00 gun time. I was breathing hard but easy as we headed back north and west.

At this point we joined the 4 k route for about a block and then turned back on our own. This was uncharted territory as this was the part of the route that had changed since last year. This part was fairly flat to rolling and somewhere about mile 3 I passed Kris T. who is married to Brian T. who I ran with in the Muddy Monster 15K. I asked where he was and she said he was up ahead somewhere. I continued on pace trying to run easy. We turned west and where now running past the old start point. It was somewhere in this area that I met up with my old nemesis from last year "little guy who runs." He is a year older as am I but you gotta have alot of intestinal fortitude to run like that as a 9 year old. I wished him luck as I passed him, there would be no back and forth today I was feeling too good.

The route continued west on a long fairly flat straightaway. I hit the 4 mile point in 33:21 and I knew I was on pace for a 8K PR. Looking ahead I recognized Brian about 500 meters ahead of me. I decided I would just keep running and if I caught him so be it.As it happened we turned back south towards the finish line and I steadily gained ground on him. Just about the time I caught him we headed into the cemetary. I had forgotten about the cemetary since in the last few years it was at the beginning not the end of the race. The route through the cemetary starts with a steep downhill and finishes with about a 200-300 yards steep incline to run out of it. Deviously they had kept it as part of the route. I passed Brian on the downhill and waved and remarked how the hill was going to suck, he agreed. I powered up the hill, passing many, but it took a lot out of my legs. Brian caught me shortly after the crest and we ran together for about a mile. As we turned back south and uphill for the last .5 miles to the finish my legs were still feeling the cemetary hill and Brian pulled ahead. I kept up my pace however and crossed the finish line just behind him.




Gun time was 42:03 and my watch time was 41:46. I had run a PR and beat my time from last year by over 2 minutes 30 seconds. As a bonus since I had started out at the back and he had started in front of me I had actually beat Brian by 6 seconds..sweet. Its fun having somone to run against even if its not really a competition. Now I have to find a December race.



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Goats

I hate goats, I think they are nasty, foul smelling little hairy quadrupeds. However in a lot of places I frequented when I was in the military they are a symbol of wealth . It is a lot easier to raise a goat than it is a cow. They eat about anything and produce milk,cheese,and meat. You can make clothing from their hide. A man with a goat has status and so they are very common, although still nasty as I said earlier.

Two particular instances involving goats stick out in my mind. Maybe you had to be there but these two episodes are two of the most hilarious experiences in my life.

The first happened in Greece. I described that deployment here: http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/06/elefsina.html   Of course after all the training was over our Greek hosts wanted to have a huge feast to celebrate. After our last jump the  rickety bus bringing us back from the drop zone stopped at a small roadside restaurant in a mountain pass somewhere north of Athens. Spread out before us was a banquet of meat, bread, cheese and of course the obligatory shots of ouzo. Not to go into all the details but just to say much ouzo was drunk and there was a lot of man dancing and shot glass smashing.

Somewhere during all the festivities a couple of my fellow team mates decided we needed to play a little prank on our team leader. The Greeks had slaughtered a goat for the occasion and cut it like a roast on platters etc... The head including the eyeballs was left and the Greeks where just going to throw it away. We convinced our little Greek buddies to cook the head and present it to our team leader as a Greek delicacy. Our interpreter Alex, who was a Warrant Officer in the Greek Army, was in on the deal. He had them place the head on a platter surrounded by olives and lettuce,the whole nine yards.

So they presented the head to our team leader and the lot of us spent about 20 minutes trying to convince him that it would be a grave insult to our Greek counterparts if he didn't eat the eyeballs plucked straight from their sockets. Honestly I can't remember if he actually did it or not, I do remember however that  I was very drunk and I laughed so hard at the look on his face as he was trying to make the weighty decision whether to cause an international incident by not eating the eyeballs or to just hold his nose and man up. That look was priceless. Nothing like a highly educated officer and a gentleman contemplating eating an eyeball in front of 40 of his closest friends..buddy is only half a word.

The second incident happened on a deployment to Uzbekistan that I chronicled here: http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/04/baxmal.html 
Once again we had pretty much finished up training and we were trying to fill some time in our training schedule. As usual when all else failed we relied on medical cross training to fill in the holes. Our medics instructed our counterparts to go into town and and buy some goats. The plan was to dispatch the goats and then when they were still warm and before rigor mortise had set in we would practice some of our trauma skills, life saving skills like IV cutdowns and chest tubes. Well, this all worked out fine as our medics instructed my team and the Uzbeks on how to perform these procedures. We all took turns and a lot of confidence was gained in ability to save a life or at least stabilize our fellow soldiers until more definitive care arrived.

The funny part happened towards the end, I instructed Misha one of the Uzbek soldiers to go out in the hallway where we had been keeping the goats tied to a radiator. I told him to bring one into the class room so the next person could practice his skills. Mind you, our medics had been putting these goats down humanely with drugs prior to the procedures. Suddenly from the hallway I heard this god awful bleating and scrambling. I went out into the hallway and there was Misha looking at me with the most terrified look on his face, like a kid caught with his hand in the candy jar. Meanwhile he had a hammer in his hand and was beating the goat between the horns in a desperate attempt to knock it out or kill it. The goat was looking a Misha wild eyed with its tongue hanging out as it bleated and tried to scramble away. As I approached, Misha went in to a frenzy but he kept hitting the goat on the hardest part of its head, right between the horns. I took the hammer away from him laughing my ass off because he was so befuddled and terrified that he was going to get in trouble.

Meanwhile the goat just started chewing on its lip and stood there quietly none the worse for wear. In my best Russian I asked him if a country boy like him had never killed a goat before. He just broke into a grin and shrugged his shoulders. I guess the sight of the Uzbek soldier trying to impress the Americans with the hammer and the goat after being in that bleak, dismal, wintry place for so long just released all my tension. To this day it is one of the funniest sights I have ever seen.

Well like I said maybe you had to be there but I am chuckling right now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy Cedar Rapids


So I was out for a run today and much to my surprise I came across our local faction of the "occupy" movement. It was a pathetic sight, about 5 makeshift tents, a few signs, a flag and 2 people milling about. One was a twenty something everyday average guy and the other was an old hippy (hey if your older than me and still rocking the pony tail your a frickin hippy.)

Ok so not to intimidating and I don't think any riots will be starting there as the spot the are "occupying' is a vacant lot in a flooded out section of town well off the main drag. I just happened to run by them totally at random. However seeing these yahoos got me thinking about this whole Occupy Wall Street movement.

I don't necessarily disagree with everything these people are saying, and as the saying goes I would defend their right to say it. And even though the original Wall Street occupiers may have had a message and an agenda it is my impression that this message has gotten garbled and the whole thing has turned into a circus. I was listening to NPR (yes I listen to NPR) and they were interviewing some occupiers about what they were going to do with all the money that had been donated. Some of the people were lamenting the fact that other occupiers were looking for free handouts ( I laughed at that one). As one of the people said "Since when does a revolution need a 501c?"

I guess my main issue with the whole sordid mess is these people seem to want to get something for nothing and if they can't have it they want to drag others down to their level. This my friends is the direct result of 50 years of handing out "winner" ribbons to every kid who runs a race and empathizing and getting to know the feelings of others. All this hand wringing and psychological posturing has done is give us a generation of "where's mine?" Instead of trying to make their own way these people are jealous of the so called 1%. They claim they are the 99%.. well skippy I make less than 100,000 dollars a year (way less) so I damn sure know I am the 99% and you don't represent me.

What happened to earning what you get? I am not jealous of the rich in this country, if they get to pay less taxes,good for them. I hope to be rich someday and if not I at least hope everyone gets to pay less taxes. I am pretty libertarian (small l) in my views, and I think people ought to pull themselves up and earn there own way. Sometimes you need some help sure but just because you need help doesn't mean you have to take stuff from the guy over there, just because he has more than you. Why can't you both have more? Why can't we all strive to be prosperous. Why can't we all work hard and earn what is due us to the best of our ability? Everyone doesn't get to be the CEO people, somebody has to clean the toilets. Be happy with who you are, always do your best and wherever that takes you is where you are supposed to be. Like that great philosopher Yoda said " There is do or do not, there is no try!"



You know why I run? Because good health is not given to you. You have to earn it, you have to earn it everyday. However as I get older I get less and less healthy no matter how hard I try. That is natural, its called aging. Nature doesn't owe me anything because I can't run as fast as I used to and I am less flexible and my hair is gray. Should I go "occupy" high school and complain about how all these kids are in the prime of their lives? Should I require them to color their hair gray and put on fat suits so I can keep up with them?

I spent 22 years in the United States Army, 14 years as a Special Forces operator. I have attended and passed some of the most ardous and physically demanding training in the world. At one point in my life I was an elite killing machine, you know what I am now? Well I am not that anymore. Why is that? Because I no longer can keep up, should I "occupy" Ft. Bragg and demand I be taken back? All that is ridiculous you say? I totally agree,just as ridiculous as some person complaining that they have 30,000 dollars in student loan debt and they can't find a job. Instead of getting a job, any job and earning a better life they would rather whine and blame it on the rich.

I have run marathons, jumped out of planes, been shot at, shot at people, been cold, wet and hungry. All that experience has taught me is that life has winners and losers. Life also has taught me that blaming your troubles on others does squat for you. Heck its even in the Bible "Thou shalt not covet your neighbors goods". Wake up, fight through the ambush. Quit your bitchin and do something with your life.

News flash skippy...everybody doesn't get everything. That's life, your job is to earn the best life you can. Be productive,contribute to society..earn it


That is all






Friday, October 28, 2011

Soaring Wings Virtual Half Marathon-Cedar Rapids



The Soaring Wings Half Marathon is held in Conway Arkansas to benefit the Soaring Wings Ranch childrens home. The cool thing about this event is that they give runners an option to register and run a virtual marathon without ever being in Conway. Once you send them proof you finished your own Half Marathon they send you a shirt and a finishers medal.

This is the farthest race I have run since the Dances with Dirt UltraMarathon I did back in July. I was planning on running the New Bo Fest Half marathon in September but due to a foot injury I didn't run the entire month of August so those plans were scratched. I saw this virtual race option on the internet and since I wanted to get one more long race in this season it was perfect.

So race day dawned crisp and sunny with a light wind and about 41 degrees, I took a vacation day from work so I slept in until 0800 when my youngest informed me he had overslept and missed the school bus. So I quick put on my running clothes and drove him to school. Once I got back I grabbed a banana and my water bottles and started out. I had decided to run a general route but my actual route was going to be somewhat of a mystery. I figured I would just run a big loop and at the end make up any distance needed. That plan actually worked out well. I also decided to take my time and take plenty of pictures.

I started out running part of a familiar route down 33rd Avenue heading east. I kept running down 33rd until it T intersected with Bowling street at about 3 miles.

I live on the edge of Cedar Rapids which is a town of over 200,000, so my route would take me through farm land and urban areas. I then turned north on Bowling and headed up the first of two steep hills. This hill was about a mile long and was actually divided into two parts with a flat area in between. At the top of the hill I turned east again, running along Wilson Ave and then C St until I hooked up with the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and once again headed north.
At about 7 miles I was still feeling pretty good, staying well hydrated. I stopped for a minute on the 15th Avenue bridge and then headed into the downtown area. I turned west on 3rd Ave and then zigzaged my way to 1st Ave still heading west. About mile 9 I hit the second steep hill, I was starting to get a little fatigued at this point so this hill wasn't as easy as the first.

At the top of the hill I headed south running past Kingston Stadium, Veterans Memorial Baseball Stadium, and the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. I stopped and synchronized my iphone imapmyrun app and my Forerunner GPS at this point. The iphone said I had run 11.09 miles by now and the GPS said 10.23. Since the iphone also said I had run 6 minute miles yesterday I went with the distance off the GPS.

I was on the home stretch, I contiuend south on Rockford Road then and quick jog west on Wilson again and then a turn south on 18th St. I was now back out in the somewhat rural area although new housing developments are taking over the cornfields at a rapid pace.

At 12 miles I once again hit 33rd Ave this time heading west until I got back to my neighborhood. I had guessed pretty good on the distance so I only had to take a little extra trip around the block to make up the last 3/10ths of a mile to finish at my front door at exactly 13.1 miles.

This was not a PR by any means. But all and all a good run/race and a great start to the morningf.




Saturday, October 22, 2011

Muddy Monster 15K Cross Country Run

I had been wanting to run this race for a few years but my schedule just never seemed to work out. It is a unique race for the area as it is run entirely on grass or dirt roads. I really enjoy trail runs so I thought I would give it a try.

After the usual pre race hydration ritual of a an energy drink I showed up for packet pickup. The race is held at Seminole Valley park which the city maintains with a historic village and farm. The race course winds through both of these as well as the park. I was required to park about a 10 minute walk from packet pickup in the grass. There was no designated parking lot so I parked along the roped off area and walked over to packet pickup to grab my timing chip and goody bag. The goody bag for this race is better than some I have seen with lots of snack bars and some coupons I might actually use.

It was pretty chilly at that point and I was wearing my stocking hat and coat
I was also wearing my running pants as the temperature was about 30 degrees. I would regret this later. So about 30 minutes before racetime I ambled over to the starting line and took about a mile warmup run. I started to regret my clothing decision almost immediately. By the time I ran that 1 mile I was already overheating. When I arrived back at the starting line I saw a couple of friends and fellow runners Kris and Brian. We talked for awhile then the National Anthem was played and we all lined up for the start.

I had taken my jacket and stocking hat off and was carrying them in my hand. I figured I could toss them under my car as the course passed that way. Once the gun sounded I took off at a moderate pace. My goal was to use this as a training run to put a few more miles in for the week. So I was shooting for 10 minute miles. I saw Brian take off up ahead of me and kind of kept my eye on him. The course was  3 laps of a 5 K route. There was quite a few 5K runners so the course was quite congested at the start. We ran through the grass by the car parking area and I tossed my jacket under my car, shortly after that we turned north and hit a small trail. The lead 5K speedsters passed me going the other way at this point. The trail dumped onto the access road that circled the living history village and we ran the perimeter of the village and headed back south on the same trail.
After coming back out into the park itself we hit the grass, running past the finish line and up a slight hill. We then ran about a mile east strictly on grass. About halfway through this section there was a large muddy and watery low spot. I tried three different techniques crossing this area during the race. I went to the left,I went to the right, and I ran straight through. No technique was better than the other. After the muddy area we headed down hill and hit a dirt road than continued east and then looped back on itself. It was during this section that I caught up with Brian and passed him, then about .5 miles down the road he passed me
We kept up with this back in forth for a few minutes then by mutual agreement started to run together. We crossed the start line and completed the first lap in 29:11. Lap 2 was more of the same with the exception that there were quite a bit fewer runners since the 5K runners had turned towards the finish. Brian and I ran at a steady pass holding a conversation for most of Lap 2. Somewhere on the dirt road section the lead 15K runners lapped us but we kept our steady pace. We finished Lap 2 in 1:00:05.

At the start of Lap 3 I was really regretting wearing my running pants as the temp had climbed to about 60 degrees. I was also feeling the reality of not running over 6 miles in the last 2 months. My legs were beginning to wear down and I was struggling a bit. As we looped through the historic village for the third time Brian started to pull away from me. I let him go as I just tried to maintain the current pace. Eventually he would finish a little over a minute ahead of me. I concentrated on trying to keep my pace under 10 minute miles. By the time I hit the dirt road on the return I was broiling and my legs felt like lead. I could see the finish line in the distance and I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Turning off the course towards the finish I was just concentrating on keeping my head up and powering through. Crossing the finish line at 1:30:47 I had managed a 9:47 minute per mile pace for the 9.3 miles. Decent effort although it wasn't as easy as it is some days. I also may be postponing that 13.1 mile run i had planned for tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NREMT-I Written Exam

This post has been a long time in coming. I took the Emergency Medical Technician Intermediate course  from October  2010 to March 2011.  Once I passed the class I took and passed my National Registry practical (hands on) exam. I posted about that back in April http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2011/04/nremt-i-practical-exam.html .

So I was on a roll and apparently over confident. I scheduled myself for the written test in April but I didn't bother to study. My first attempt at this test was a dismal failure I failed to achieve a passing score on any of the 5 sections. This was a wake up call, I can literally count on one hand how many exams I have not passed in my life. Well ,plus 1one.

So I procrastinated a bit and then scheduled another try in July. I studied but due to the fact that failure was unfamiliar to me I apparently suck at that as well. I failed again because I did not pass 2 out of the 5 sections. This test was becoming Moby Dick to my Captain Ahab.

Meanwhile I had a chance to attend the Advanced EMT course at no cost, so I jumped on it. I figured if I eventually passed the Intermediate test it would be an easy bridge to AEMT and if I didn't then I would go directly to Advanced EMT. So the Intermediate test was put on the back burner. That is until I discovered that if I passed the test I would not be required to complete all the clinicals for AEMT. This was huge as time is almost more precious than money to me. It would also save me from being required to take 2 days of vacition to get some of the clinicals done.

So in October I once again scheduled myself for the written test. This was my third and final chance. If I failed it this time I would be required to finish all the clinical time as well as I would have to attend a 36 hour refresher course before being allowed to attempt the test for a 4th time. Lots was riding on this. Two days before the test I studied harder than I had studied for any test lately to include all the tests i took during my graduate studies.

The night before the test I was working an overnight shift at one of the ambulance services I run with. Although it was a quiet night I didn't get much shut eye. So I was anything but well rested the next morning. I showed up to the testing location for my test and started the check in procedure. These testing locations are tighter than Ft Knox. You have to check in with two goverment issued picture ID, then they take a biometric palm scan and your picture.. You have to empty all your pockets, take off all watches and bracelets. This stuff gets locked in a locker. Then you have to walk down a hallway and check in to the actual testing room. They take another palm print and verify your ID again. They have you turn out your pockets to prove they are empty and they give you any test materials or note taking items you may be allowed to have. Each individual computer has its own individual pan tilt zoom camera looking down on your testing cubicle.

The National Registry tests are "adaptive", which means it starts out hard then keeps asking you questions based on the previous level you answered until it is satisfied you know the material. It could stop at 65 questions or go to 135. It's a crap shoot, also even though I had taken the test 2 other times it was not like taking the same test 3 times, it was like taking 3 different tests.

Well I started answering questions and as before, some I knew for sure and some I thought I knew and some I had no idea. I mean who needs to know if an ambulance with a detached cab is a type II or III? The question count kept climbing and eventually I got to the maximum of 135 and the test shut off. This could mean good news or bad news, I did not walk out to the test facility with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I had no idea how I did.

For the rest of the day I was afraid to check the NREMT website to see if  the results were posted. Finally about 1400 I pulled the website up and held my breath as I entered my name. Low and behold the words congratulations and successful were attached to my name. Well I was on cloud nine, my attention span was short for the rest of the day to say the least. I had killed Moby Dick!!!

So mission accomplished and now my focus has shifted to passing the AEMT course and National Registry in December. Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Sparrow

Tomorrow is my Wife's Birthday. She is the best. I think I said it all last year in this post. http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/10/married-to-me-appreciation-day.html

Thanks Sparrow for another great year. Love You

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quad Cities Marathon Relay 2011

So last year I ran this Marathon and wrote about it here: http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2010/09/quad-cities-marathon-2010.html . This year however I was asked to be a member of a relay team. Never having been a member of any sort of relay I decided it might be fun. Unfortunately I think I missed out on a lot of the relay experience due to the fact that prior to the race I hurt my left foot and couldn't run for over a month. Also due to my work schedule I couldn't meet any of my relay team members until race day itself. I think it would have been more fun for me if I could have participated in the group training runs leading up to the marathon. That being said it was still a good time.

So on race day I woke up at 0400 and drove the 100 miles to the start line. Much like the previous year my pre race breakfast consisted of a bottled water and some Little Debbie Donuts. I met and was introduced to my team members outside the packet pickup and was given my race goodie bag. Once again the Tshirt was an excellent one. This race gives out the best shirts.

As I was going to run the first leg I went back to my car and got geared up for the race. It was overcast and threatening rain but it hadn't started yet. I hit the porto potties just prior to the 0730 start. I joined the 10,000 or so other runners at the starting line and I tried to worm my way up to the 9:00/min per mile marathon pace group. My plan was to hang with them until my hand off to the second leg at 6.6 miles. Unfortunately I couldn't get any closer to them than a good look at their sign. After the prerequisite words of wisdom from the local dignitaries a large Civil War cannon signaled the start of the race. I was so far back it took me 2 minutes 15 seconds to actually cross the start line.

I immediately started pushing myself in a effort to catch the 9:00 minute pacer. Unlike last year when I started out slow and stayed with my pace group this year I wove in and out of other racers trying to get some clear space to run. I was passing people left and right in the jostling crowd and every time I passed someone with a relay sign on their back I wondered how many more where a head of me. After about 3/4 of a mile we headed up an on ramp to I74 and crossed the Mississippi River as we headed north on the one lane closed to traffic. As the thousands of us ran across the bridge it swayed and bounced with the rhythm of our steps. I was forced to slow down crossing the bridge as we were all jammed into the one lane and their was no room to pass anyone. After we crossed the Mighty Mississippi we took the next off ramp which must have been at about a little over a mile as I had been running about 12 minutes.

From this point on my mission was to find other relay runners and reel them in. I could have jogged as I knew we where never going to win anyway but Action Guys don't jog,not even Former ones. So I continued to push myself. From mile 2-4 there was a huge hill that was certainly there last year but I had totally forgotten about. This hill sucked my will to live as I tried to keep moving forward. I caught up with and ran with a friend of mine Brian T on this hill but eventually he faded back a little. He was running the half marathon and had to pace himself a little better than what I was doing. I continued to try and keep an even pace as we crested the hill and took a right. Once again we were running on a fairly flat surface until we started heading downhill.

I tried to stretch it out until we reached the bottom and took another right that headed us back up hill again. We continued this pattern of big ups and big downs for the next several miles. The whole time I was cussing myself for not running more prior to the race, for agreeing to the relay, and trying to gasp for air like a fish.

At the bottom of the last large hill we once again turned right and ran about 2 miles along the Iowa side of the Mississippi on a bike trail. It was hard to gauge my pace for certain as they didn't have the course marked every mile but it was marked about every 2. I figured I was somewhere around my goal of 9 minute miles. I also had a goal to finish under an hour. At 54 minutes I hit the 6 mile mark, I could taste the transition point from here. I tried to hold a steady pace and as we meandered left I saw the cones marking the spot. I took off the bracelet that was acting as our baton and passed it to my team member that was running the second leg at 59:51. This turned out to be a pace of 9:04 per mile. I figured I had done my part. All I could do was wait.

I grabbed some water and fruit and waited a few minutes talking to anothermembers to finish. Once I got back I changed into some dryer and warmer clothes. I wandered around and ate some free hot dogs and chili, listened to the band. I talked for a long time to TJ and her boyfriend. After about an hour Brian showed up after finishing his race. We talked for awhile then it started pouring rain. I felt bad for the people still out there running but I was glad it wasn't me.

After about 4 hours I headed to the regrouping point for the relay. I met up with my team members from the other legs and we all ran in together with our final team member. Our team finished the race in 4:36:49.

Thoughts on this race:

Due to my injury and lack of training I was happy I hadn't signed up for the full or half marathon as I probably wouldn't have finished.
It felt really weird being at a marathon and not being IN the marathon if you know what I mean. Not sure I liked that.
I think relays would be more fun with people you know

All and all mission accomplished though, maybe next year I can get all my kids to participate, now that would be fun

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Mother-From Your Only Child


Today is my Mother's Birthday. What do you say or give to the person who gave you life? Kinda seems pointless somehow. Life, how can you possibly top life?

My Mom had 6 children and currently has 12 grandchildren. I am the oldest so I along with my sister who is one year younger, got the benefit of the mommy experimental years. I got to wear the homemade shirts (pretty snazzy) and rock the jagged cutoffs (so they wouldn't fringe,hello Mother that was the point).However I also got to ride my bike anywhere I wanted, catch ground squirrels in the park and play hide and seek with the other kids until way after dark. My Mom worked full time as a teacher so I learned to cook at an early age to help take care of my younger siblings. We also joke that this is a survival tactic as the only temperature setting on the stove my Mother knows is High. I went through most of my formative years eating stuff that was charred on the bottom and cold on the top. Don't take it personal Mother, you helped produce some awesome cooks and we never went to bed hungry,not one day. My Mom taught at the same high school I graduated from so when I was in high school I got away with nothing, not one thing. I gave up trying eventually. Thanks for getting me educated Mom ,when I could have been goofing around or smoking weed in the parking lot like some of my buddies.

The unique thing about my Mother and the thing that is often commented on is how she treats each and everyone of us as if we are the only child/grandchild she has. It is an amazing process. I still don't know how she does it. She pours her entire energy into each and every situation, and she makes you feel like you are the favorite. Which you are, until your brother calls and she does the same for him. People that don't understand  my Mother may call her pushy,demanding,nosy. I call that knowing what needs to get done and not caring how she accomplishes it. She rarely cares what anyone thinks about her. She sets out with a goal and pushes and pushes and pushes until it is accomplished. She does this because she cares deeply about her children and grandchildren and wants the very best for them.Nothing is more important than family to her, and if you don't get that, she figures your not worth the time it would take to explain it.

This attitude that I got from her, got me through a 22 year military career. It got me through Airborne School,Ranger School, The Special Forces Qualification Course, and many many other "gut checks." It followed me into combat and training. This attitude helped create a family of successful productive citizens who love their country. This attitude produced a career military man, a high school teacher, a civil engineer, two sheet metal workers, and a secretary. This attitude produced masters degrees, bachelor degrees journeyman,foreman, welders , emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, sports officials, and coaches. This attitude produced wrestlers,basketball players, golfers, and football players. This attitude produced scientists,writers, illustrators, bakers, and leaders. This attitude showed children what they can do not what they can't.

What do you give the person who gave you life? You give her a life back, 18 successful lives.

Happy Birthday-Mother from your only child

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

KILTED TO KICK CANCER

As a member of the US Army Special Forces or "Green Berets" I spent alot of years doing alot of things that most would call "high speed." To me it was business as usual, and this was generally the attitude of everyone in Special Forces. We prided ourselves on being "Quiet Professionals" and letting our actions and accomplishments speak for us. But our pride in not beating our own chests about our manly deeds actually has proved to be our undoing. In the fight for a section of the government defense budget he who speaks loudest gets the moolah. Sure we hear about Green Berets but who wins the public relations battle? That's right the NAVY SEALS!!!! Are they better than Special Forces? I doubt it, but that debate could go on for hours and is not my point . My point is the SEALS win the image battle hands down. One Bin Laden equals 500 "top Al Qaeda" operatives.

So what does that have to do with Cancer you ask? Prostate Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer, however Breast Cancer awareness is the Navy Seal's of cancer fundraising. The PR campaign that has been unleashed on behalf of breast cancer awareness dwarfs anything done by any other organization. Who doesn't want to "SAVE THE TA TA's?" This is a worthy campaign however I ask you to consider prostate cancer. 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. My own Father is a prostate cancer survivor.

Paramedic Kelly Grayson has started a campaign on his blog to raise the awareness of prostate cancer. To this end he has challenged all of us to join him in a contest called "Kilted to Kick Cancer." The rules can be found on his blog http://ambulancedriverfiles.com/kiltedtokickcancer/ . In a nutshell Kelly is asking us to wear a kilt during the month of September, in an effort to raise awareness of prostate cancer. If you don't blog or just want to donate please consider making a donation to my link in the upper right corner of my blog. Take the money you would have spent on a kilt and donate to prostate cancer donations go straight to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Make a donation, wear a kilt, be a "Quiet Professional."