Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

As is customary I participated in Memorial Day activities today. What was not customary is I did not go to the large ceremony that is held not far from my house in the city where I live. Instead I went to the small town east of the city, where I am a member of the American Legion.

I was expecting to participate in the local parade and maybe listen to some speechifying..the normal Memorial Day fare. When I arrived however I was informed the parade was cancelled due to weather and the ceremony would be held in the local middle school auditorium. No problem, I then discovered I would be part of the firing squad and then due to the fact that I was a former senior NCO and only 9 years removed from active duty I was elected to command the firing squad. Again no problem, however I was nervous because I had not conducted this sort of ceremony in over 12 years. Also us Special Forces guys aren't really known for our drill and ceremony prowess.

So as any good NCO would do we practiced, and I screwed it up several times but eventually we got it right and we headed to the school. The ceremony was thoroughly enjoyable, The Legion Color guard with the aged veterans placing the colors on stage, the reading of poetry by the Ladies Auxiliary and the Gettysburg Address by a high school student swelled my heart with pride  like no big city ceremony does. The auditorium was packed with local folks, young children and boy scouts. The guest speaker was a retired Brigadier General, when reading the obligatory recitation of his awards and biography the emcee remarked how his farm had a record yield for the state in 1978. You don't hear statistics like that at Fort Bragg. And his speech was inspiring.

After he spoke we moved outside and conducted the volleys prior to the playing of taps. No one would have mistaken us for the silent drill team however things went off with out a hitch  and we received several post ceremony complements. I was also happy that for the first time in over 10 years I had organized a squad of men into action and heard the phrase "dirt dive" all in one day. It was a good day. Remember those that have fallen.

Monday, May 20, 2013


I don't usually get too serious on this blog but I lost a comrade today. Jan Wdowiarz was an immigrant that served his country in peace and war for most of his adult life. Woody spent his career in the Airborne and Special Operations Communities overseas and stateside. He was a good friend to many and was ultimately taken from us not by a sniper's bullet but by disease. Taken at an age when most people are looking forward to retirement and the golden years. Seeing my comrade's, the friends of my youth pass to the other side saddens me in a way I have never felt before.I am prepared for violent death but not this, not the stealing of a life insidiously by disease. Woody you fought like the  warrior you are and you will be missed. The world is a poorer place without men like you.

The Final Battle (A Warrior's Farewell)

The warrior stands tall with battle-ax 
Outnumbered, he fears not coming death 
To him, honor is not an unpaid tax 
But his shield whose enemies blood will wet 

Glistening is not a tear in steely eye 
Firm is the fist that he clenches 
The battlefield awaits those to die 
Fear is integrity that blood quenches 

And as the opposing ranks approach 
His heart hardens to any quarter 
Yet his mind flashes a final goodbye 
To the love he leaves before the slaughter 

A life hardened by war and hate 
Was briefly softened by her smiling face 
Surely this won't close to him Valhalla's gate 
As he feels his raging blood race 

One last prayer to Thor's mighty hammer 
He steps forward to meet his bloody fate 
As the Valkyries proudly around him clamor 
With strength and honor up there he'll wait.
C.A. Morrow 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ice Age Trail 50 2013- The Airborne Shuffle ain't a Dance

Again this year I traveled to the wilds of Wisconsin to participate in the Ice Age Trail 50 mile ultramarathon. This year ,unlike last year, I would be going with a group of friends who would be running as well. One of my frequent training partners, Ross S, would be running his first 50 mile race. Kelly would be running her first 50K and Julia would be running the half marathon. Our other friend Ross K would be crewing and providing some morale support.

The trip up was normal with me and my youngest Jessie arriving at the hotel Friday afternoon. We waited until the other folks showed up and we all went to packet pickup together. We browsed the expo and then ate at the restaurant next door. After returning to the hotel I tried to get some sleep but as usual pre race jitters made it somewhat difficult. I had been eagerly anticipating this race however it was not my "A" race. I was using the Ice Age 50 as a training run for my upcoming 100 mile race that will be held in 3 weeks on some of the exact same trails. Never the less I didn't get much sleep the night prior.

Early in the morning Ross S and I loaded into my Jeep and drove to the start. He and I were starting earlier than everyone else and wanted to get there plenty early. I met my crew of my sister and brother in law at the start. They had driven down from Madison as they had the year prior. We milled around and used the bathroom etc.. until the call to line up was given. We listened to some short announcements from the race director and the national anthem. Suddenly we were given the go which kind of caught us of guard, as we had to weave our way through the crowd to cross the start line. I gave Ross a fist bump as we headed out. I would see him again but briefly during the race.

 I started towards the back and is normal in these trail races I ended up having to run behind a large group of people. This always happens when a large group of people tries to funnel onto a single track trail. The first part of the course was a 9 mile loop on a nordic ski trail. The trail was wide and mostly grass. I had remembered this section from last year as fairly flat but  I had remembered it incorrectly. There were several large hills during this section. After the first 9 miles we passed the start/finish again. Here I met my crew and refilled my hydration bottles and nutrition. I then continued north to the meet of the course and where the single track began. After about 1.5 miles I hit the infamous confusion corner and took a left for the out an back to Rice Lake. This section was about 20 miles of single track and pine forest. Some very runnable sections as well as some elevation change. I felt pretty good during this section. About mile 10 I met up with Tim W the runner I had finished with last year. I would run with him on and off for the next 10 miles until I stopped to water the grass and lost him. During this section I also met up with Keith another member of Team Red White and Blue. We would yo yo past each other for the rest of the race. I met my crew twice during this section as I crossed a highway/aid station. Approximately mile 18 I passed Ross as he was heading back to confusion corner. At this point he was jogging easily and was about 6-7 miles ahead of me by my estimate.

After hitting Rice Lake I made the turnaround and headed back to confusion corner. Somewhere around mile 27 I started experiencing stomach cramps. I would struggle with these for the next 10 miles. They weren't debilitating but hurt enough to make me feel sorry for myself. I tried to get rid of them by breathing deeply and concentrating on other things. Once I hit confusion corner again and the second out and back section, that is when the hilly part started. This 18 mile section really tested my intestinal fortitude. The elevation changes where extreme but there were some flat sections here and there on top of the ridge lines. I also saw Ross for the second time on this section. He was about 10-12 miles ahead of me and was in a heated race with a dreadlocked runner who was right on his shoulder. I gave him encouragement as he sped past. I was hoping to see my crew at the second turnaround but a miscommunication made me miss them. No problem, the first rule of ultra is you need to be self sufficient. On the return trip I was telling myself out loud to pick up my feet. Some of the downhills were really technical and a fall would have really hurt. I looked at my watch at the 40 mile mark and saw that I was close to a personal record for the 50 mile distance. I started to stress myself out about beating my previous time. Eventually I got ahold of myself, reminded my pride that this was a training run for a bigger race and I didn't look at my watch for the last 10 miles. As usual the last section was a blur. A blur of running the flats and downhills and walking the uphills with as purposeful a stride as I could manage. More like the Airborne Shuffle I had learned in the Army. I remember seeing another runner I had run with the year prior, a marine, but I couldn't remember his name. I gave him some encouragement as well. About 4 miles out I met up with yet another runner I had run a trail race with 2 years previously. I would accompany him until the end. I kept on keeping on, finishing in 10:58:36. This was about 5 minutes slower than the previous year but I felt I had run a much smarter race. I am ready for my 100 mile race in 3 weeks.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

On Killing

I am a the sense that I have killed other human beings or caused their death by my actions. Before you run to the cops I did these things during a time of war, so you won't see my mugshot anywhere. The other day I posted this video with an accompanying smartass remark.

Someone very close to me commented that this was a callous depiction of the taking of a human life and felt it was inappropriate. I answered back that I felt it was totally appropriate as the insurgent was trying to kill them. Essentially my defense was " he started it." Her comments did cause me to think however. Why did I react this way? Why did this video not affect me the way it affected her?

LTC Dave Grossman in his seminal book "On Killing" postulated that killing another human being is excruciating for a normal person. So excruciating that many soldiers in combat will intentional miss their targets while actively engaging the enemy. LTC Grossman also said to overcome the guilt of taking another human life many individuals will dehumanize the enemy. While there are many that dispute his conclusions, his explanation does provide a framework to explain my own reactions.

I have been conditioned from my late teens to think of an adversary, any adversary as subhuman. When I went to basic training the drill sergeants regularly referred to us as "Killer." The process continued throughout my military career until it reached its pinnacle during my stint in Special Forces. Violence of action is still the way I deal with most situations. Overwhelming firepower and aggressive offensive action, action intended to overwhelm the opposition, is now as much a part of my personality as my love of pizza. 

I do value human life, I am pro life and truly feel that every human life is precious. However those that would attack me or attack those I love are not in that category. They had a choice, a choice to leave me in peace. If they chose to follow the path that intersects with my aggression, they will reap what they sow. I carry a weapon for personal defense on a regular basis. I would not hesitate to use it to defend myself or others. And I would keep "defending" myself until the threat was eliminated. This is not to say that I look for trouble, just that I would not hesitate.

So am I right or wrong? Who is to say? As Popeye said " I yam what I yam and that it all that I yam." Society needs people like me, however those of us that are likeminded will never be understood by the majority of society. I leave you with a quote from LTC Grossman

"If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed."

Energy Bits

Almost every Sunday I participate on a virtual chat or forum on Twitter called #ultrachat. Nerdy I know but it is my kind of nerdy. Any hooo a few weeks ago the chat was sponsored by EnergyBits an endurance supplement. Towards the end of the chat as they usual do the moderator asked us our website or blog if we wanted to promote it. So I posted the address for this very blog. A few days later I got an email from the makers of EnergyBits. They asked me if I wanted a free sample in exchange for a review on my blog. Pretty smart marketing advertisement for the cost of a little product. I agreed and a week later I had a sample arrive in the mail. According to the EnergyBits website:

Made from 100% organicallly grown spirulina algae and loaded with 40 nutrients, ENERGYbits® algae tabs have the highest concentration of protein in the world (64%) all for just one calorie per tab. Endorsed by the United Nations as the most nutritious food on earth, spirulina algae has been a favorite of Olympic gold medalists for decades and is a super food in every sense of the word, delivering instant and enduring energy to your brain and body.

I am a man of my word so here is my review:

I tried Energybits on two different training runs. The first one was a 12 mile night trail run and I took the recommended dosage of bits and headed out with no other nutrition. I ran at a moderate pace but after about 10 miles I started bonking a little bit. This was probably a combination of not eating most of the day and the late night running. As the Energybits are high in protein I think I was a little deficient on carbs for this run.

On the next training run I ran 20 miles on a combination of trail and road. This time I mixed the Energybits with some other nutrition, a few gels and other snacks. I was totally fine and didn't get hungry during this run although I still didn't take as much nutrition as I normally do.

What did I learn using Energybits? I found out that at least for me they need to be used in conjunction with other nutrition however I do believe they helped in my recovery as I didn't take a rest day this week and I wasn't as sore as I usually am when I do that. Overall I give them a solid B+