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


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."

Sunday, September 4, 2011


9.11.01 has become a symbol of many things to many people in the last ten years. But what it undoubtedly has become to many of us is the "where were you moment?" of the rest of our lives. Many people in an older generation often remembered where they were when President Kennedy was shot ( I was 2 months old not sure where I was) or what they were doing on Dec 7 1941 "a day that will live in infamy."

My experiences on Sept 11 2001 are unique to me but probably mirrored the confusion and sense of helplessness that was felt by people all over the United States and the world. On that day I was a newly appointed Team Sergeant for a Special Forces Military Free Fall ODA in 10th Special Forces Group. I had recently done a permanent change of station move from the 1st Battalion of 10th Group in Stuttgart, Germany to my current station of Fort Carson Colorado. My team was conducting a 72 hour isolation exercise at the Group ISOFAC (isolation facility) in preparation for a training mission to Montana. On that morning I had sent the rest of the team to eat breakfast at the mess hall while I stayed behind to guard our equipment and plan for the free fall jump we were going to conduct into the training exercise.

Sometime after 0900-0930 my team members started filtering back into the ISOFAC and started telling me about news footage they had seen of a plane flying into a building in New York City. At the time I imagined it was a small plane of some kind that had been involved, this sort of thing was not unheard of. Being in the ISOFAC by design we were cutoff totally from outside contact, that was part of being in isolation. So between my teammates somewhat jumbled story of what had happened and the fact that I had not actually seen anything myself, I really didn't think it was a big deal. Just another tragic accident.

We continued to plan for our mission brief back until sometime later our Company Sergeant Major entered our isolation bay and told us that the training mission was cancelled and to gather all of our equipment for a return to the Company area. He didn't have much information, just that trucks would be here soon to get us and that there had been some kind of attack in New York City. We gathered our equipment and personal kit and started speculating on what was going on. Eventually some trucks showed up and we loaded them up and walked back to the company area. We saw other teams that had been in isolation doing the same thing.

When we arrived at the company an organized chaos was occurring. Things were not totally out of control because the military has a routine and a structure. The organization will continue to operate, moving forward even in the midst of confusion. What was missing at this particular moment was information. As we unloaded our gear back into the team room I still had no idea what had happened. After we got our gear in the team room the Company Commander called a meeting of Team Leaders and Team Sergeants in the conference room. When we sat down around the table we could see that something was very wrong. Our CO told us that there had been an attack on the World Trade Center in New York City by an unknown assailant or group of assailants. He told us that 2 planes were involved and the Trade Center was in flames (actually I found out later by this time they had already collapsed). He said they would be shutting down all access to the Post except for one gate and that all people entering would be subject to a thorough search. All schools on post and in the area were also dismissing immediately. He then told us that we until we got further orders that we could dismiss our team members for the day so they could take care of their families.

Like many others my main concern was for my children. As I mentioned before we had moved to Colorado less than 2 weeks before and we were still staying on post in temporary quarters. My wife and son were in our room at the BEQ but my daughter had started her first week of school. She was at an elementary school off post and it was my mission to go get her and get her safely back on post. I hurriedly called my wife to see if she was OK and she started to tell me that she was watching the news and that planes had destroyed the World Trade Center and also hit the Pentagon.She said that there was video of people jumping out of the buildings to escape the flames. I told her to stay in the room and I was going to get our daughter and I wasn't sure what would happen next.

As I drove our mini-van out of the Group compound I could see they were already stringing concertina wire across the compound's avenues of approach and troops with squad automatic weapons and M240B machine guns had parked Humvees in the road,creating road blocks. Contingency plans were already being set in motion. I raced towards the south gate not sure if I would even be allowed to exit. Meanwhile MP's and other soldiers where stationed on the side of every road facing out in a defensive posture. I exited post with little issue and made it to the school. I parked and went inside to pick up my daughter who was waiting at the school office. The school was as chaotic as you would imagine with all the military and civilian parents trying to find their children and get them safely home. Once I got my daughter in the van I headed back on the short 2 mile drive to the gate I had just exited.

However traveling this 2 miles would take me the next 5 hours of my life. Almost immediately upon turning on to the road that went back on post we came to a halt. Then we inched forward literally a few feet every 20-30 minutes as traffic was funneled into one lane and each vehicle underwent an exhaustive search of it and its occupants. I won't bore you with the details but just imagine if you will listening to conflicting radio reports for hours while trying to entertain a bored 3rd grader in  a van on a warm September day. Throw in the fact we had no food and water and things became very interesting. Eventually it was our turn to be searched. Suspicious MP's checked my ID even though I was in uniform and asked my why I was coming on post. I told them my story of picking up my daughter and the fact the rest of my family was in temporary quarters.They then proceeded to tear apart every inch of my vehicle utilizing dogs and mirrors to check inside,outside and underneath for bombs. After about 20 minutes I was allowed to proceed and I made my way straight to the room. The reminder of the day is a blur as I tried to procure some food for my family who was living out of a suitcase. At the same time I was trying to find out what was going on back at the unit.

We fell asleep from exhaustion later that evening and the next morning I woke up to find school cancelled. That was a good thing as I had no idea if I would be able to take my daughter there anyway. For the next week or so I reported to work and returned home. No training, no jumping, nothing was happening as there was a moratorium on flights and  guidance was slim. Rumors abounded of deployments and operations to be assigned. Eventually 5th Special Forces Group took the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan. By November my team was in Uzbekistan conducting counter terrorism training with the Uzbek Spetnatz. For the next 3 years, until I retired, the events of Sept 11 would plunge me into a cycle of deployment and refit that had me visit Uzbekistan,Kosovo and Iraq.

On Sept 11 2011 I will remember where I was and all the things that happened to myself and my teammates because of that day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


As happens occasionally I have hit a ho hum period in my life. Or more specifically I have hit the doldrums

doldrums [ˈdɒldrəmz]
1. a depressed or bored state of mind
2. a state of inactivity or stagnation
3. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography)
a.  a belt of light winds or calms along the equator
b.  the weather conditions experienced in this belt, formerly a hazard to sailing vessels
I was going great guns until about July. I had a great winter training season and had run personal bests in 5K's and other races. I was planning on finishing a 50 mile Ultra marathon. I was also moving ahead in my career in both my full time and part time jobs. My boss quit in April and I was encouraged by his boss to apply for his job. It seems like I had a good shot at it. I passed the course to upgrade my emergency medical technician rating as well as the practical exam and all I had to do was pass the written test.

Then things started slowing down, I had to take on the job of 3 people at my full time job as I covered for my old boss,myself, and one of my employees that was fired. This caused me to become very reactive instead of proactive. It also has made me irritable and stressed. And oh by the way after leading me along for 4 months and letting me keep the ship afloat they hired someone else to be my boss.
I took my EMT-I written test not once but twice and still need to pass it. I have one more shot before I will need to redo at least part of the course. I usually never ever have issues with written tests but I am very gun shy of this one now. It is almost a phobia, the damn thing has me spooked. if I don't pass it I am out over 600 dollars though. Each time I take the test it costs me $100 as well.
 I did not finish the planned 50 miler as chronicled here http://mikemac356.blogspot.com/2011/07/dances-with-dirt-50-mile-ultra-some.html . Shortly after this I injured my foot and then my knee started acting up. This is the same knee I have had surgery on but it has been fine for the last 2 years. Basically haven't run the whole month of August. I have had to cancel 3 races and a few more are in jeopardy. Running is what keeps me balanced so not being able to run also makes me grumpy and out of sorts.

To top it off I had a very irritating season as a baseball umpire. For some reason the coaches just seemed extra unreasonable this year. It is making me seriously reconsider whether I will be officiating after this wrestling season. I also haven't even felt like posting on this blog, as is evidenced by my low number of posts in the last few months.
I am having a birthday in a few days and I just don't feel like I am moving forward. Moving forward is something I need to continue to do, my personality demands it. Just the fact that I am whining in this post shows how much I am off my game. Normally I would fight through the ambush and just deal with adversity, somehow right now at this time I just don't have the energy for it. I alternate between being angry, hopeful,motivated, and resigned. 
 I need to get my injuries fixed,rededicate myself to work, pass my test and refocus. I know that's what I need to do just don't know when it will happen. Thanks for letting me vent if your still reading.