Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The Year of the Ultra

So I started out to make this post my third annual Former Action Guy by the numbers post. As I started writing I realized this year's numbers were dominated by my ultramarathon running. I decided this post was not going to be about the numbers but about the year of the ultra. This year really started for me in November 2011, that is the month I got serious about nutrition and training for my desire to complete a 50 mile ultramarathon. As many of you read on a previous blog post my first attempt at the 50 mile distance was disastrous in 2011.

Well as they say it is mind over matter. Once I truly committed to my goal, things started falling in place like dominoes. I lost 35 pounds and have maintained that weight for over a year. I am lighter now than when I left the military in 2004. Less weight equals more speed and I set personal records at almost every distance I ran this year. From the 5K distance all the way to the 50 Mile. Not bad for an old guy. I committed to training and ran just short of 2600 miles in 2012, I competed in and completed 3-5K, 2-10K, 1-15K, 3-13.1 mile(half marathon), 2- 26.2 mile (marathon), 3-50K ultramarathon, and 2-50 mile ultramarathons. I even attempted a 100 mile ultramarathon but had to drop out at mile 90. So that distance will have to wait for 2013. I have been training and scheming and racing for a little over a year now.

But it isn't just about the races. The focus on training and nutrition has made me more aware and alive than I have been in a few years. Running has allowed me to meet some awesome people this year and for the first time since I left the military I have some people I can call friends. Friends that will drive 5 hours just to hang out and run all night or friends that will show up at your house at 3AM to accompany you on a training run or friends that will offer their hospitality and support time and again. Ultrarunning has allowed me to become part of something bigger than myself again. It has also allowed me to give back as I raised money for several charities this year. Charities like the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Team Red, White, and Blue.

2012 was a great year and I am rolling into 2013 with some lofty goals. I have already scheduled 6 races for the upcoming year to include another 100 mile attempt. I also plan on taking some trips into the wilderness to climb and run. Things my friend Wilderness Bob would call the "adventure life." I am looking forward to it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Is It Just me?

I didn't want to write this post but is it just me or is the incessant debate over gun control this week getting on your nerves? In the wake of last weeks massacre of small children at an elementary school in CT both sides of the debate are on the offensive, On one side we have the gun control crowd screaming that something needs to be done, and by done they mean varying levels of ban on forearms and accessories. The gun rights supporters on the other hand are voicing concerns over losing their rights and they are buying up weapons and accessories at an astronomical rate. Try getting an AR15 magazine anywhere I dare you.

I didn't grow up as a shooter or even a big gun guy. My Dad used to take me hunting  once or twice a year between the ages of 6-12 . I got a 20 gauge shotgun when I was 10 which I still own. I used to shoot some clays and some rabbits but that was about it. My Dad started traveling a lot in my teenage years so with the exception of a .22 rifle I used to shoot the ground squirrels in my yard I didn't have much to do with guns. I think growing up I developed a normal relationship with firearms. I learned to view them as a tool much like a hammer or a car. I went to hunter safety class and was instructed in the proper handling of a firearm. But firearms were not the end all be all of things. Some days I would shoot my .22 and some days I would ride my bike. They had equal importance. Guns were not a scary thing anymore than Dad's power tools were, but I knew you treated both with respect and that there were safety rules that needed to be followed.

Then I joined the military and over the next 22 years I was taught to use a weapon for self defense. I shot a lot of rounds and became very proficient with a handgun and a rifle among other weapons. I shot bolt action, semi automatic, and automatic weapons. I became a weapons specialist in the US Army Special Forces. Weapons of all types were my job from a pistol to anti aircraft missiles and everything in between. They were still tools, tools I could use to accomplish my mission. It was my job to advise the commander on what tool to use and to train my team and our allies on the use of these tools. I am comfortable with things that shoot pointy bullets. They are not a mystery because I am properly trained in their use and confident in my proficiency.

OK so here we get to the meat of the issue. I fail to understand and no one can explain to me why it is a good idea to take the tools I need to accomplish my mission away from me. The mission I speak of is my human right of self protection and the protection of my family. All the arguments I have heard on gun control usually involve controlling me. Why must I be controlled? I have previously been deemed a responsible armed citizen both by training, proficiency and aptitude. Why do the gun grabbers need to penalize me to secure our society? I would think the more prudent and economical approach would be to utilize individuals like me to help solve the problem. We are being treated as if we are the problem. Gun grabbers get hissy fit mad because I don't see weapons as an issue, but I really don't see that they are any more an issue than an automobile. Both have the ability to injure or kill. I don't see anyone seriously looking to ban cars that drive faster that 65 mph. Why, because it is ridiculous just like this debate on "assault" weapons is.

Those who want to eliminate or severely restrict the ability of citizens to obtain and utilize firearms are deluding themselves. Just like Al Pacino said in "Scent of a Women" " I have been around ya know." I have seen evil, I have seen things outside the insular little world that I currently live in. Trust me sunshine, the United States is not normal, we are not like the rest of the world. We are the exception. American exceptionalism is a real thing. But it works both ways, we must be vigilant so the attitudes and habits of the evil that is in this world do not destroy that exceptionalism. That is where weapons and specifically guns are needed. Based on my personality, experience and training I cannot ignore this evil, because I know it is out there. And we will not know when it will manifest. I am not speaking only of terrorism although that is part of it, I am speaking about criminals and other evil as well. we need the tools to combat this evil.

Folks I have a strong libertarian streak. I truly believe that no one should be able to impose their will on another without consent. So to me this gun control cacophony is nothing more than a power grab. Those that are scared of weapons or do not understand them want to take them from those that are not scared and do understand them so as to weaken them and make them more vulnerable. Because hey this is modern society anyone that wants to defend themselves is a nut. they must have a screw loose right? Isn't that what the police are for? I am a reserve peace officer, I also have my own ideas on what police should and shouldn't do. One thing I do know for a fact though is their are not enough police to guard every citizen and they are purely reactionary. By nature they have to be, there just aren't enough of them. To me taking away my right to defend myself is very serious business, I do not fall into the trap where I let someone else be ultimately responsibility  for my safety. I will use their help but the responsibility belongs to me and its is a responsibility that can not be abrogated to others.

Debate this issue all you want, this is America and healthy debate is good. However lets elevate the discourse above the tawdry journalism and name calling that I am seeing. Lets not shout down others when they are trying to make a point and lets get together on this issue. Just so you know however I will never give up my weapons..never

Molon Labe

Friday, December 7, 2012

Man They Got Screwed

I was listening to a podcast on my run today. That is not unusual, I do that alot. What was unusual was the podcast I was listening to. Most often I listen to running podcasts or maybe one about guns. The one I listened to today had caught my eye because it was about Native Americans.

My Wife is Native American, 100% Arikara from North Dakota. I have always encouraged her to pass her culture along to our children. This has been met with varying success based on her willingness to tell them and their willingness to receive the information. Bottom line alot will be lost to my children when they no longer have their Mother to tell them the stories of her time growing up on the reservation. When she can no longer make them fry bread or cuss at the "sahNIŝtaaká", the white man every time a John Wayne movie comes on the TV.

I understand her frustration, she has told me how she was treated growing up by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. How she was sent to a boarding school at a young age where they would not let her speak her native tongue and they cut off her braids. Mind you this was not ancient history this happened in the 20th century. And that wasn't all of it. I have also read quite a bit about Native history in this country in an attempt to learn more about my wife and how she looks at the world. So I thought I knew how Natives had been treated.

The I heard this story about how the Dakota people where removed from Minnesota and Northern Iowa less than 150 years ago. This story is riveting.

Man those 38 guys and the entire Dakota population got screwed

Naval gazing

I don't write a lot of posts about sentimental things but this week has been one of those weeks. It is a week that has caused me to be introspective and think about things I don't normally worry about. Things like my mark on the world and imminent death. Contemplating my own naval as I call it. Why am I even worrying about this things? This past week 2 individuals that I knew and worked with passed away. We were not best friends or anything but I did talk to them quite a bit during different times. Their deaths made me think about my own and I can only hope that my death causes someone to think as well.

Ron was an employee of mine who passed away in his easy chair on a Sunday afternoon. He apparently went in his sleep so it was presumably painless. Ron was a steady, punctual and dependable man who seemed to love his job. Ron would stop by my office everyday and greet me as he left for the day. Occasionally we would talk about baseball as I umpire it and he was a huge fan. We definitely had the employer-employee relationship but he was a genuinely nice guy and his death has affected me in a strange way. It seems like a cliche but it is my thought that he went way too young and somehow he didn't deserve to. His death made me think about what I am doing with my life and if I died in the next minute would I be proud of what I have done?

Dick was friend of mine from church, he was an older gentleman that was a pillar of our congregation. He always included my children or tried to get them to participate in activities at church.Even though they pretended not to like it I knew they appreciated his attention. If it was captaining a fish fry or helping set up for an outdoor service Dick was their to lend a helping hand. Such a kind and decent man should surely have a place at the right hand of God. I hope when I shuffle off this mortal coil I will have affected as many people's lives as he did.

Just sitting here typing this is making my mind wander to places I shouldn't let it go. I will close by saying thank you gentleman for letting me be part of your life and for influencing mine.

Rest in Peace

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chilly Chili Extreme 5K

I heard about this race from a friend of mine Ross just a few days before it was held. I hadn't planned on racing anything this weekend but how can you resist a race that has extreme in the name? I looked at the website and decided to play it by ear and race day register. This might be the first time I have ever raced day registered. It is definitely the first time in as far as I can remember. I asked Ross what made this race extreme and he told me all about the stream crossings and the obstacles. Not like one of the tough mudder type events but a run through the woods with benefits. Sounded like my kind of event.

I was a little hesitant because 2 days before the race I slightly re injured my ankle. But I ran some trail miles with a brace on it and it held up fine. So I figured I would do the same for the race. So I left the house early, drank some expresso and ate a PBJ pita on the way down. I arrived in plenty of time and was able to register and then run about 1 1/2 miles of warmup with some friends. Ross was there and I asked him what to expect. He advised that I should get in the front or I would get stuck behind the slower people once we hit the woods. So that would be my strategy and it worked fine.

This was a really low key event. The starter actually said Ready, Set, Go!!! So the bunch of us took off. The first 1/2 mile was on a gravel access road and I was able to work my way to the front. I saw Ross S and another friend Ross K up in the front. I would not see them again until the end. Those guys are fast. We took a right off the gravel and ran across a cornfield. You ever run across a harvested cornfield against the rows? Not the easiest on the stride and those stalks like to stick places they shouldn't. So after the cornfield I entered the woods in 4th place.

We were literally running through the woods following the orange marking ribbons. There was no trail, so we bounded over logs, climbed over rocks, and weaved between trees. I kept trying to catch the guy in front of me but I was putting out max effort and not making any headway. I was breathing hard and decided just to not let the person behind me pass me. And so it went over hill and dale. We crossed some more cornfields, waded a creek about 5 times. Used ropes to climb up the banks, leapt over logs, ran through a junkyard and some culverts. Crawled through some pipes and generally had a great time.

The course was somewhat confusing and I made a few wrong turns but I entered the last 1/2 mile still in 4th place and that is the way I crossed the finish line. Unfortunately 4th place in the race was also 4th place in my age group ( the age group was 22-49). I had a great time though and between myself and my friends we took 1st, 2nd and 4th men and 1st and 2nd women. I will definitely do this race next year