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


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