Sunday, February 24, 2013

2013 FreezeFest 5K

This is the third year in a row I have run this particular 5K. I think I may have run it a total of 5-6 times but I am not sure on that. I had along run scheduled for this day but as I had a streak going I decided to incorporate the race into my training run. The Freezefest is run on the roads at Squaw Creek park and is put on by the local running club (Cedar Valley Running Association). It is the first big 5k of the year in the area and the club social, so it is pretty popular. I almost didn't do it this year because the more I get into ultrarunning and the lifestyle surrounding it, the more I find a distaste for these bigger races and the hoopla that goes with them.

The morning of the race I parked my car at a local trail head and ran the trail and roads about 7 miles to Squaw Creek park and the start of the race. I arrived about an hour early so I went ahead and added some more miles on my run by taking an easy recon of the 5k course. So all total I ran a little over 10 miles prior to the race. After finishing my warmup I headed into the park lodge and checked in, collecting my number and timing chip. The lodge was pretty crowded with all the runners trying to stay warm but I found a chair to sit in and took my hydration pack off and replaced it with my number and timing chip for the race.

My recon had shown that the road was partially to totally ice and snow covered along the course. This was in stark contrast to the previous 2 years when it had actually been fairly mild and the roads had been dry. My streak of consecutive PR at the 5K distance was in jeopardy. I had lowered my 5K time in consecutive races over the last 2 years but it would be tough today with the conditions. My goal was to come in under 22:00, I had run this race in 22:03 the previous year.

About 10 minutes prior to the race the announcement was made for us to move out to the start. Like a herd of cattle we all moved to the road and lined up, I was somewhere in the middle, far enough back I had no idea what the starter was saying over the megaphone. Unlike the previous races I had run this year, I did not recognize anyone I knew. Another reason I have gravitated to the ultra/trail race scene. The races are small enough, at least for now, I usually know someone there.

Right on time the gun went off and we all ran a crossed the timing mat. I started out with what I felt was a good pace. It was hard to gauge as the miles are not marked on this course. I knew about where the mile splits where however and figured I ran the first mile in about 7:15 pace. It was hard to get a good rhythm as just when you got going, you would hit a patch of ice or have to dodge a slower runner. As in previous years the course took you east along the park road for about 3/4 of a mile then you had to turn around and run back along the same course past the start and do another out and back heading west on the park road. The ice played a huge factor in getting comfortable and although I wasn't breathing really really hard or even putting out maximum effort it was the best I could manage on this road. By mile 2 I knew I wouldn't break 22:00 and started to concentrate on finishing the race with a good relaxed form. About 1/4 mile from the finish I glanced at my watch and realized I had 2 minutes to break 22:00 and I just might make it. I speed up my pace, kicking it to the finish. Although I had a lot of power left it was not to be. I had started my kick too late and I finished in 22:19, 17 seconds slower than the previous year.

Post race I went into the lodge and ate some bananas and chocolate chip cookies. I then put on my pack and ran the 7-8 miles back to my car. My total run for the day ended up being 21 miles with the race in the middle. It was a good effort and a good training day. I am not sure I will run this race next year. Even though it is great to get runners involved and get people out and moving, the pretentiousness off the running mom's, snottyness of the fast guys, and the general chaos  in theses races are really starting to turn me off.

Here are some pictures of my pre and post race run.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trek The Trails 4 Mile Trail Run

Time to turn this back into a running blog if even just for this post. My friend Ross was the driving force behind getting a group of us to go to the this race. He told us about what a great time it was and he wasn't exaggerating.

The morning of the race I woke up early, took a shower and the guys picked me up about 0645 for the 2 hour drive to the Story County Conservation center north of Ames Iowa. There were four of us headed to the race from the running group I run with on Wednesdays and Sundays. This race was billed as a snow shoe/winter race and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be able to try snowshoe running. However having no snow is a big hindrance to using snowshoes.

The ride was pretty quick actually and we arrived about an hour before race time. We checked in and got our numbers then we all took off on a little warm up jog. We ran about a mile along the course then turned around. Due to the amount of ice I saw on the course I decided to use my YakTrax Extreme spikes for the run. I hoped it wouldn't be a mistake as there was some small areas of concrete on the course. But the majority was trail,ice and grass.

At 1000 we all toed the starting line. The official starter neglected to perform premission checks on his starter pistol and it misfired twice before he finally just told us to go. I took off at a pretty aggressive pace. We ran across about 50 meters of grass and then hit about 100 meters of sidewalk. I hugged the dirt to the side of the walkway until we took a left and hit some more open grass. We ran up the first of what would be a many hills and took a right into the park. The first mile was fairly level and was mostly service road and grassy field. I kept the leaders in sight until we entered the woods and then I concentrated on trying to catch the eventual women's winner who was about 100 meters ahead of me.

It was about the 3/4 mile mark where we hit the first of many extended sections of icy trail. I knew at that point that the YakTrax had been a good idea. I finished the first mile in 6:46 which was really smoking for me. I wouldn't be able to hold that pace though as we entered into the main part of the park and hit the serious trail running.

I didn't have time to do much but try an control my breathing. I really wanted to push it on this race and was concentrating on trying to run smooth and with good form. I neither gained nor lost ground on the women in front of me. As I went down a big hill and made a hairpin turn I glanced back and saw no one behind me. I am not sure if that was a good thing or if because of it I mentally relaxed a little but it would change eventually. Somewhere after the two mile mark I heard footsteps and it turned out to be Kelly another acquaintance of mine. I had met Kelly through mutual friends at a previous race the Chilly Chili Extreme 5K. Kelly is a strong trail runner and during that race she had done the same thing coming up behind me about the middle of the race. I was able to hold her off during that race however placing 4th as she placed 5th overall. Kelly dogged my steps getting closer and closer until she was only a few feet behind. We ran that way for awhile and she even asked me if she was crowding me. I replied in the negative. Approximately mile 3 we had to climb a fairly large hill, it is on hills like this where races are won and lost. I lost my personal race on this hill. Kelly was able to pass me and pull away as I struggled a bit . By the time we got to the top she was about 30 seconds ahead and I would not close the gap.

I did have a good race going however and I had almost a mile to run. I wasn't sure where I was at that point but I knew I was in the top 15 and possibly in first place in the masters division. So I kept pushing it. As I rounded the curve that dumped us into the the last half mile stretch I saw my friend Ross jogging back down the trail. Ross had won the race successfully defending his title from the prior year and beating his course record by 2 seconds. Ross shouted encouragement to both Kelly and I as we headed down the final stretch to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 30:01 missing my goal of 30 minutes by 1 second. Myself and our other friend Peter jogged back down the trail until we ran into Ross and our final friend Brian,who was racing in his first trail race. We encouraged Brian to the finish and then Ross and I jogged back down the trail take some pictures.

After that we all went in for the post race chow which was awesome and for the awards ceremony. It had been a pretty successful day. Ross won the overall race, Peter, Kelly, and our other friend named Ross all won their age groups. Personally I had an outstanding race all things considered. I came in second in the Master's division by 20 seconds and won my age group (40-49). The age group winners got a cool little piece of wooden log that was engraved with name of the race. This was a good race and I hope to run it again next year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Не танцуют ( I Don't Dance)

Every Special Forces soldier is taught a language. It is one of the characteristics that separates us from other Special Operations Forces. The old joke ( at least among my peers) is a guy in a bar asks a grizzled SF vet. "What makes you different than a Navy Seal?" The SF guy turns to the guy and fixes him with a long stare. Then he proceeds to launch into a 15 minute operations order entirely in German. Once he is finished he takes a breath and repeats it in Czech. He then turns back to the bar. To me that says it all and is mostly true.

When I graduated the Special Forces Qualification course back in 1990 I was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group. 10th Group's Area of Operation was Europe and the Northern Middle East at the time so I was told that I would have the privilege of learning the Russian language. 

So for the next 5 months or so I attended the Special Forces Functional language program as it was known at the time. To be quite honest we spent most of the time trying to figure out how not to study or how to trick our instructor into getting off topic. My first instructor was a female who had emigrated from the Soviet Union a few years prior. She was hired because she was a native speaker but we used to do everything we could to goof off. She used to let us bring in movies on Friday as long as they were" language" related. One week we watched the "Life of Brian" because we convinced her that this scene taught us grammer. Good times.

She did manage to pound enough of the Русский язык (Russian Language) into my head that I was able to give a 25 minute class entirely in Russian on safety checks for a 60 mm mortar as a graduation exam. Once I was done though I was assigned to my first ODA and language training took the back burner as I tried to assimilate and learn all the new skills a cherry operator needed to know.

However keeping with the theme of jack of all trades master of none that is prevelent in Special Forces I would attend "language refresher" every 18-24 months. We would spend several weeks studying Russian and being "refreshed." Don't let me give you the wrong impression, our chain of command took this training seriously. Many of my cohorts were sent to immersion training or the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey California for advanced language studies. I took it a serious as I could. During the course of my career I managed to score a 1/1 on my Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) test at one point. The DLPT was graded on a sliding scale and we took it yearly. The scale went from 0/0 to 5/5. The first numeral was your reading score and the second was your listening. Those that went to DLI also had a verbal portion but I never was required to test on that part.

Anyway for a reference point you and I probably read and understand English at a 4+/4+ level,unless you can describe nuclear physics, then you are a 5/5. I had to score a 1+/1+ to be paid for my language ability and a lot of my peers did just that. I never put out enough effort and just studied enough to pass the test. A 1/1 meant I could carry on a decent conversation but no one would ever mistake me for a native speaker.

And so it went for the next 14 years I went to language refreshers but after the fall of the Soviet Union I never had much chance to use my language ability. I would often wonder why I didn't get to learn German, Czech, or Polish. Those guys were using their language all the time and getting some sweet TDY out of the deal. Not for us Russian speakers though. That is until 9/11. Suddenly I found myself in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan. We were training the Uzbek Spetznaz and the only common language we had was Russian. Finally I was using my skills. Everyday my vocabulary and use of the vernacular got better and better.

One day we were in the little cafe on the Uzbek base eating lunch. The "cafe" was really the living room of one of the soldiers apartments that they converted to a place to eat for extra cash. Grandma was handing out the black bread and borscht while we all sat around the kitchen table and drank shots of vodka. We ate family style and the din of conversation was overwhelming. The Uzbek soldiers were laughing and refilling our glasses as we tried to maintain rapport and not get too drunk as we still had an afternoon of training scheduled. As Team Sergeant I was walking a fine line, this is what all my training had been pointing me for most of my career. Leading a ODA in a remote location, teaching native soldiers in their own language. Eventually the conversation turned to the recent Olympic games and the different sports. One of the soldiers was talking about the ice dancers, I was trying to steer the conversation towards getting back out to the range but I was having a hard time getting the Uzbeks' to focus.

The Uzbek LT.finally looked at me and asked if I knew how to dance? I looked him square in the eye, tipped my shot of vodka back and said Не танцуют ( I Don't Dance)!!!! He roared with laughter as he helped me herd the cats back out into the mountainous winter weather for more training.

So that pretty much summed up thousands of dollars in language training..I don't dance

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Little Girl

The wheels of our Humvee splashed through the puddles of the muddy alley as we moved cautiously between the shanty like houses on either side. Although my eyes constantly scanned the environment, my squad automatic weapon was pointed skywards. Our cautious movement were due to the large amount of children chasing us and dodging between vehicles. We had been in Kosovo just a few days and this ethnic Albanian village had just recently been under the threat of Serbian attack.

NATO NATO !!! The children yelled as they pelted our vehicles with flowers. I imagined the troops that had liberated France experienced somewhat of a similar reception as they chased the Nazis across Europe. Our small 2 vehicle patrol stopped on the side of the road as our Team Leader got out of the vehicle to stretch his legs and get his bearings. He was mobbed by the older children, asking for candy and trying to touch his uniform.

Standing off to the side, shyly looking from the shadow of a doorway I saw a little girl. She must have been 4-5 years old. She had dark brown hair and brown almost black eyes. Her skin was brown and she was wearing a bright blue t shirt. The older children crowded her out but it was obvious she was curious about the Americans and our big green vehicles.

I beckoned her over and I jumped down from the hatch of the Humvee. I reached into my pocket where I kept a chocolate bar and I handed it to her. Her eyes lit up as she unwrapped the bar and shoved half of it into her mouth. I laughed, she reminded me of my own daughter who was back in Germany with my Wife. The little girl munched on the candy as the brown chocolatey drool dripped from  the corners of her mouth. She took her sticky fingers and pointed towards my right shoulder where I had an American flag patch sewn to my battle dress uniform. Through a series of hand gestures we established that she wanted to touch the flag. I made a face to show her that her hands were a sticky mess but I reached into my pocket were I had another flag patch that I had been saving for a moment like this.

Suddenly our lead vehicle started to move and I leaped back into the hatch of our vehicle. I threw the patch at the little girl and waved as we moved off further into the mountainous countryside. Several weeks later we passed through the same village. By that time our presence was not as unusual and the children basically ignored us as they kicked their soccer balls and played in the muddy streets. I had almost forgotten the little girl until I saw her racing across the open field that served as the village center. I recognized her because she was wearing the same bright blue t shirt. As she got closer I could see that the shirt was different somehow. That is when I saw the red,white and blue American flag that she had sewn on to the right shoulder of her shirt. Sewn in the same place we wore ours. I waved although we did not stop. She proudly pointed at the flag and I gave her a thumbs up as we rounded the corner and she was out of sight.

Sometimes I wonder about the little girl, she would be in her late teens or early twenties by now. I wonder if she still has that flag and if she is still as proud of it as  I am.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The gloves are off: MV Council Member draws the line

Like a lot of other gun owners and 2nd Amendment supporters I have been engulfed in the battle that has been raging about our rights as citizens and what that means in relation to my ability to defend my self and my family. I have made numerous posts on this forum and others championing the 2nd Amendment and what that means to the me. However most of the battle has happened in far away places with exotic names like New York, Washington DC, and California. I mean we here in the Midwest are experiencing the same general ammunition shortage and rising prices as gun owners in the rest of the country but a gun grab would never happen here in fly over country..right?

Wrong.. as I have said before there is no "national conversation" on gun control, there is no reasoned debate, there is no common sense. It is very evident that those that call for more gun control have the ultimate goal of total disarmament.

20 miles from where I live a city councilman has proposed in council chambers such absurd measures as law enforcement concealing their weapons, storing weapons at police stations and universal gun registration. This is in a small town that I have a close connection with. I am a member of  the VFW and American Legion in this town. I spend 5-6 evenings a month as a member of the volunteer ambulance service in this town. I spend a lot of money in this town. This councilman has brought the fight for my rights to my backyard. Watch the first 4 minutes of this video dated 12/17/12.

Mount Vernon CC 12-17-12 from Mount Vernon Lisbon Sun on Vimeo.

That isn't all. At the very next council meeting this same councilman dares to state that our rights under the 2nd amendment are no longer valid. That they may have been originally but not now. That no one has the right to own a weapon to protect themselves from the government. Watch this video from the council meeting dated 1/21/13. Cue it up to 3:36 and watch as long as you can stand it.

MV Council 12113 from Mount Vernon Lisbon Sun on Vimeo.

Sir, I respectfully disagree. You and those like you are exactly why the Founding Fathers crafted the 2nd Amendment. You do not bestow my rights upon me, they are bestowed on me as a natural right of being a human being. You are not my King,. In this country we do not dictate what citizens can or cannot say. You sir are the wrong headed one, you live in a world that I do not have the luxury to reside in. You live in the world where government allows its citizens to live of scraps from its table of power. Mr Councilman you power derives from your constituents not the other way around.

This is an example of the fight that we are engaged in. They are coming to your town, to take away your rights under the guise of saftey. Stay vigilant my friends, do not be complacent. The Mayor of this town is having a forum on gun control on 2/9/13. I will be there and I am bringing my friends.

As the flag of my great state so proudly proclaims : OUR LIBERTIES WE PRIZE.. OUR RIGHTS WE WILL MAINTAIN

Damn Skippy!!!!!