Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Once again Memorial Day is upon us, the day we memorialize those in our Armed Forces that made the ultimate sacrifice. I won't go on and on about how this not national bbq day or how most of the people in the United States give no regard to the true meaning of this day.

How can we expect them to? Less than 2% of us have actually served in the military and an even smaller percentage have given their lives. The common citizen has no frame of reference, no concept of what these individuals have done. They are immune to the constant buzz about "our heros in uniform" after 10 years of war. It has all become so normal so insignificant.

Those of us that have served need to keep the torch lit, we need to remember our brothers and sisters and educate those who do not.

One way we can do that is to donate to charities that keep our fallen warriors in the spotlight. There are many worthy ones but I choose to support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation

This organization helps the children of our fallen Special Operators achieve a college education. I can think of no worthier tribute than to support the families of those that have supported us.

Once again this year I am running an ultramarathon to raise money for SOWF please consider a donation by clicking on the link below

Memorial Day isn't just a day off

De Oppresso Liber
Rangers Lead The Way

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Marion Arts Festival Half Marathon 2012

This was the first year for this half marathon and to demonstrate the enthusiasm for this sort of race in the local area it sold out in a few weeks. Over 1500 runners registered for either the 5K or the Half Marathon. I think the count of Half Marathon participants was 900. I registered for this race just a week after running my ultra because of all the people I knew that were running it. I was a little worried about my legs but it turned out alright in the end.

I drove the 10 miles to the start from my house and parked about 3 blocks from the start. When I walked up to the start line I was struck by how much different this crowd was from the ultra crowd I was hanging with just a week earlier. Gone (mostly) were the hydration bottles and packs. Gone was the outdoorsy vibe and the small group feeling. It had been replaced by ipods, soccer moms and jogging strollers. Also the commercialism struck me as distasteful, have I become a running snob? I do know that at this point in time I definitely prefer trail running to the road.

Anyway, I saw a few people I knew prior to the start like Matt R and we chatted for a few minutes. Along the race course I saw Todd G, Dave S and Mark T. I missed seeing Brian and Kris and Jen but I knew they were there somewhere. The the National Anthem was played and the starting gun went off. As is usual at these events I was at the back of a big crowd and when we started shuffling forward the timing mat caught me by surprise. I almost didn't hit my running app or my watch but I managed to get them started.

The course ran down a city street that was slightly downhill for approximately half a mile and then it turned onto a bike path. There was quite a backup as we all tried to cross the foot bridge. After we exited the bike path we were back on city streets and people were starting to thin out. I was feeling pretty good surprisingly and ran the first mile in 8:02. In fact for the first 9 miles I maintained a sub 8 minute pace. The course alternated between streets, highways and bike trails.

 I steadily passed people until about mile 9 then the constantly rolling hills started to take their toll on my not quite recovered legs. I started slowing ever so much and my pace creeped up over the 8 minute per mile mark. However the race was almost over and I maintained a steady pace. Eventually we turned back into town and I saw the finish. I pushed it a little more trying to beat the 1:45 mark. I didn't quite make it finishing in 1:45:34. This was still a PR and a good race.

I hung out after the race for a few minutes but the food line was way to long so I walked to my car and drove home.

 Once I drove home I took a nice relaxing 4 mile run on the trails by my house.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Earlier this week Army Chief of Staff GENERAL RAYMOND T. ODIERNO announced that the Army would look at allowing females to attend the US Army Ranger school. Odierno theorizes that not allowing females to attend Ranger school would hinder their ability to advance their infantry careers.  Of course this announcement caused great consternation amongst the special operations community. I myself may or may not have said I would burn in protest the Ranger Tab I earned in 1988. Of course Odierno sets up a classic straw man with his argument that women will be held back from advancement without Ranger School. While the Army has allowed women to serve in Infantry units as support troops below the Brigade level for sometime. THEY ARE STILL BARRED FROM THE INFANTRY. So how does not allowing them to go to Ranger School hamper their Infantry careers when they in fact do not have Infantry careers?

As a libertarian leaning individual I am all about personal freedom and keeping the government out of our lives and after 22 years in the US Army in both Airborne Infantry and Special Forces units I think I understand the needs of that career path. When the military did away with the don't ask don't tell policy I was all for it. Who gave a rat's ass about someone's sexuality? Could they shoot? It was pretty much common knowledge that homosexuals had been serving already and I believe letting them acknowledge this publicly eliminated a big distractor that was taking us away from our real mission of fighting a two front war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To me it was about the mission and the big difference between then and now is no standards where changed to affect this policy revision.

Someone I love very much wrote this in rebuttal to some statements I made regarding this issue.

"This I agree with "no different standards for women" -- do the job like it was designed to be done. If one doesn't get a pass for age, gender doesn't get a pass either. Now if, like in some professions/job when standards are adjusted for age, height, etc. then gender makes as much sense -- because when adjustments are made it simply means that the "standard" wasn't necessary for the job to begin with. So eliminate the bogus standard (if indeed it is bogus) or maintain the standard as a critical element. The questions are: What determines if a person can do the job? What are the requirements? For example, if a standard now is that an airplane pilot is at least 6 foot tall and there is not a basis for that standard, then it should be lowered to whatever is necessary to be a successful pilot. Gender should not have anything to do with what the standards are but sometimes the standards should really be re-examined. For example, if there is a logical and verifiable reason that a pilot must be 6 foot tall then keep the standard. Man or Woman - if they are six foot tall they would meet that qualification/standard. However, if a woman applying for the position can show that the standard is not verifiable - that one only needs to be 5'10" then the standard was bogus to begin with and should be changed to 5'10."

Makes sense right? This person is very me. However the premise is wrong again. It is assumed that standard change will be objective and based on empirical evidence. That would be true if this policy change was in anyway related to a verifiable need. However since I have already established the "need" for females to attend Ranger School is bogus then the change itself must be based on something else. Everyone that has ever served in an elite unit knows what the something else is. It is the same something that put every Army soldier in a black beret in a misguided attempt to make them feel special, it is the same something that gives every kid in a elementary school foot race a medal because we don't want to hurt anyones feelings. It is the something that redistributes the wealth because the rich don't deserve what they have. There are no winners and losers, no one is better than anyone else. We are all equal and equal means average. One big homogenous group of homo sapiens.

If women are sent to Ranger School then the standards will change. This is not rhetoric but fact. Let us take the entrance PT test for example. Rangers have certain standards, to enter in to the school Ranger wannabe's must pass a PT test at the 17-21 year old age group no matter the age. However this is the male standard. Should female Ranger candidates be required to meet the male standard or the female 17-21 standard? Once this discussion is had then the standard has already been changed. If Army brass makes this move they will not accept failure, females will graduate to avoid the embarrassment to the chain of command. Standards will be changed subtly possibly unknowingly but they will in fact change. Standards will move towards the lowest common denominator until Ranger school is nothing.

Gen Odierno is no Ranger, he isn't even Infantry. He is an Artillery Officer that never spent a day in a Special Operations unit. This suggestion of his to allow women to attend Ranger school is another tired attempt by the regular Army Officer corps to drag down the special operation community to its level. These Officers, These West Point ring knockers have been pissed off at the snake eaters since the 1960's. They will continue to chip away at the elite units because they have no control over them and this bothers them so bad they can't sleep. This move by Odierno is pure and simple revenge for years of special operations successes . Success that sucked budget dollars into the Special Operation Command and away from "Big Army." And ultimately that is what this is all about, the almighty dollar and the ego of the regular Army Officer Corp.

Rangers Lead The Way

Monday, May 14, 2012

ICE AGE TRAIL 50: No Longer A Virgin

Ok buckle your seat belts this may turnout to be a long and somewhat rambling race recap. So lets begin at the beginning. In 2004 shortly before my retirement from the military I got the idea that I needed to run a marathon. I had always ran, both because the Army made me and because somewhere along the way I started to enjoy it. But just short stuff like 5 and 10K or maybe a 10 mile race here and there. So in 2004 I trained for and completed the Fort Collin's Colorado Old Town Marathon. That was fun, so I did the Des Moines Iowa and Madison Wisconsin Marathon's in 2005. I set a PR of under 4 hours in Madison and I was really starting to drink the koolaid as far as distance running goes. Then in late 2005 I heard about this guy named Dean Karnazes. Dean had written a book called "Ultramarathon Man." I bought it and devoured it at one sitting. I have since found out that Dean is somewhat reviled in the Ultra community for his self promotion but the story he told of all night runs and running hundreds of miles at a time inspired me. This ultra running stuff sounded like just the epic accomplishments I had been missing since I retired from Special Forces. So I found an ultramarathon within a 4 hour drive of my house. The Ice Age Trail 50 Mile was described as one of the best Ultramarathons to cut your ultrarunning teeth on. I decided that is exactly what I was going to do. Life had other plans for me however. On New Years Day 2006 I completed a training run of about 10 miles without incident. The next day my left knee started to ache. Over the next few weeks I kept running and it kept aching and then it started to swell. Sometimes it hurt so bad it would wake me up from a sound sleep. Being a guy I ignored it for  a few more months until my knee started "catching' when I bent it and sometimes the pain would bring me to my knees, no pun intended.

Finally I went to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist, who told me he could guarantee from my description that I had torn the meniscus in my knee and that I would need surgery right away to correct it. Well there went my plans to run an ultra, so I postponed my race for what I thought was a year because according to the doctor these things would be good as new in 3-6 months. Well I must be a slow freaking healer because I wore a knee brace and dealt with continued pain for another 2 years post surgery. I started to run again however and completed another couple marathons and many other races. I also started gaining weight unfortunately because I don't think I was running fast enough to burn the calories I was eating. At one point in 2010 I was at a post military high of 215 pounds, at 5'7" that is a little chunky.

I was still set on doing an ultra however and in December 2010 I entered and completed the Hawkeye 50K Ultra. Even though that was a great accomplishment I just wasn't satisfied. 50K races are only a little over 5 miles farther than a regular marathon and to me that wasn't ultra enough. 50 miles in my mind is where you get bragging rights. I waited too long to register in 2011 for the Ice Age Trail 50 and by the time I attempted to register it was sold out.. crap. It had sold out in about 3 days or less. So I was already in the middle of training for the May race. I found another race, Dances with Dirt in July and registered for that, I was going to run my 50 miles one way or the other.

Well to put it mildly Dances with Dirt was a spectacular blowup. It was July, 100% humidity, 90 degrees, killer terrain, and I still weighed about 205. This all contributed to me developing debilitating leg cramps and being forced to withdraw from the 50 mile distance and complete another 50K. But I learned and the Ice Age race was still in the back of my mind. I analyzed my failure in 2011 and decided I had been the victim of poor training, too much weight and poor race nutrition. I started listening to ultrarunning podcasts and reading about trail running,nutrition and gear. 4 months after Dances with Dirt in November 2011 I started my 6 months train up for the 2012 Ice Age Trail 50. I watched my caloric intake and slowly ramped up my mileage week by week. I also made damn sure I was registered the first day registration opened. Long story short prior to the race I ran about 1000 training miles and lost 40 pounds getting down to a weight of 165. That is what I weighed back in the 1990's. I WAS READY.

The Friday prior to race day we drove up to Wisconsin, the race being held about 60 minutes east of Madison in the Kettle Moraine state park. We had decided to camp out over the weekend and by we I meant me. My wife was ok with it although she may have preferred a nice hotel room. But me and Jay had a great time Friday night setting up the tent and watching Ranger TV.

We alos went into Whitewater and grabbed my race packet and ate some pizza. On the way back we scoped out the start line and I timed the drive from there to our campsite so I knew what time to set our alarm for. After it started getting dark we hit the old hay for some rest although I didn't sleep well in nervous anticipation of the next day. We rolled off the air mattresses bright and early at 0330 and fumbled our way around in the dark. I had slept in my running clothes so all I did was slip on my shoes and wait for Jay and my wife to get things together. At 0430 we met my sister and her husband at a nearby road intersection. they had driven in from Madison to help crew me for the race. They followed me on the 30 minute drive to the race start and we arrived right at my scheduled time of 0500 for the 0600 start. Score one for the clipboard guy, so far so good, the plan was running smooth. For the next hour  we milled around talked about strategy as I tied and retied my shoes and adjusted my gear. I hadn't been so nervous about anything in a long time. Finally the race director gave some last minute instructions and we were about to begin.

I positioned myself towards the back telling myself I was going to start out slow then slow down. That is the strategy all the accomplished racers said you should follow. I would be able to check out the terrain as the first part of the race was a roughly 10 miles loop on the adjacent Nordic Trail that would bring us back to the start/finish prior to heading out for the next 40 miles on the Ice Age Trail. So the gun sounded and I hit the timer on my watch, a few seconds after that I crossed the timing mat and I was on my way. This race did not allow music or earphones which I run with all the time so I was a little off my game at first but I soon settled in and listened to the conversations around me. At this point everyone was pretty bunched up because the 50K racers were also starting with us and there were about 300 runners trying to squeeze on the trail. The trail at this point though wasn't very technical and fairly wide as it was made for Nordic skiing. The loop wasn't too bad with only a few steep hills and easy running. I employed my strategy of one S-Tab and one GU Gel every 30 minutes. This had served me well on the two 50K races I had run as training prior to this race. It was during this section that a Marine named Eric noticed my tattoo and my Army shorts and we struck up a conversation. He was still active duty and was an active duty liason to a reserve marine unit in Milwaukee. This conversation passed the time and soon I passed the start/finish after about 1 hour 45 minutes. I stopped to grab some more gels and some water and I lost track of Eric. I would run the next 30 miles solo.

After passing through this area we headed north for 2 miles to "Confusion Corner." I would pass this intersection 2 more times before the race was over. This particular time I took a left and headed out on the 18 mile section down to the turnaround point. From now on the race would be run on technical single track with a lot more elevation changes and many rocks, roots and trip hazards. We would run 9 miles to the turn around and 9 miles back to Confusion Corner. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Due to the wonders of technology and good cell phone coverage I called my crew and had them meet me at the aid stations. They already knew when I wanted to change socks or get more GU or whatever. They did a great job. I made it to the turnaround and crossed the bridge to the aid station. I saw Eric at this point and he was about a minute ahead of me. I was taking my time at the aid stations, grabbing plenty of trail mix, HEED and other nutrients. As I headed back out on the return trip I started feeling the slight twinge of a potential hamstring cramp. I had felt this before at Dances with Dirt but this time I was prepared I upped my S-Tab intake to 4 per hour and had no cramping problems the rest of the race. It helped that it was cloudy and about 68 degrees as well. I met my crew at Aid Station #9 and they informed me I was over 90 minutes ahead of the required cutoff time. At this point I had covered 31 miles in about 6 hours, which was a good pace.This was good news as I had been worried about running too slow. After leaving my crew I just kept it slow and steady, putting one foot in front of another. At this point I passed into new territory, I was running farther than I had ever run before. I also started struggling a bit as my body was breaking down and I was running with no one else in sight for what felt like hours. Eventually I hit Confusion Corner again and headed out on the third leg which was a 8 mile stretch to another turnaround.

I just kept on keeping on during this section to the last turnaround, run, eat, repeat, up the hill, down the hill. The terrain was rugged but the scenery was awesome . Finally I hit the last turnaround and headed out on the last 9.7 miles to the finish

So at this point my feet were swelling and the soles were tender. I was starting to feel sorry for myself but then something happened. A guy came up behind me on the trail, I turned over my shoulder and asked him if he wanted to pass. He said" No you are doing fine" We started talking as we ran, his name was Tim. He was from Wisconsin and he sold Harley's. This was his first 50 miler and he had 3 girls. As we ran we talked about our families,running and things in general. Sometimes I would lead and sometimes he would. We kept making relentless,forward progress and as we talked the miles fell behind us. We hit the last aid station with 2.5 miles to go at about 10 hours 35 minutes into the race. Then Tim said something that was totally crazy..totally. He said" You know if we finish under 11 hours we can qualify for the Western States." The Western States 100 mile race is like the Boston Marathon of Ultra running. It is held on the Western States trail in California and you have to qualify, and get chosen in the lottery to run in the race. Then you have actually finish 100 miles..crazy talk. We looked at each other and by unspoken agreement we picked up the pace. He pushed me and I pushed him. I was running faster than I had the entire race after already running almost 48 miles. We powered up the hills and were passing runners left and right. When we heard the music at the finish line we picked it up even more. Running side by side we entered the clearing and saw the finish line, the crowd was cheering us on and I had intended to cross together but in the last 10 feet Tim said "After you, Wisconsin hospitality." So I crossed the finish line in 10 hours 52 minutes 36 seconds by chip time and Tim crossed a second later. I turned and shook his hand thanking him for pacing me to the finish. He said the same and then he disappeared into the crowd. I also spied the Marine Eric who had finished about 15 minutes prior. I thanked him for his service and he did the same for me. Then I wrapped my arms around my family and headed to the parking lot. This race was everything I expected after waiting 6 years. Now I can truthfully say I AM AN ULTRAMARATHONER. One more thing, Dances with Dirt I am coming for you!!!!