Saturday, June 30, 2012

Run4Troops Trail Marathon

I found this marathon when I was looking for a race to run that would fill out my June race calendar. To my surprise I found a trail marathon in Dubuque run on the same trail as the Triple D Winter race I ran in January . As a bonus the race was put on to benefit our men and women in uniform. So of course I registered. I intended on using the race as my last long training run before my upcoming Ultramarathon.

I woke up at 0300 and grabbed my gear, hopped in the car for the 2 hour trip (including a stop for McMuffin) to the shuttle van pickup point. My plan worked well and  I arrived about 30 minutes before the shuttle was to take us to the start at 0530.

This was a point to point course starting in Dyersville Iowa and going 26.2 miles along the Heritage trail and finishing in Dubuque Iowa. I grabbed my gear (Camelbak minimule) and got on the van. The ride to the start was interesting as I talked to a gentleman from Wisconsin that shared my interest in ultra running and we talked about some of the races we had run. The van dropped us off at the start and I picked up my packet etc..

We had a pre race meeting where the race director talked about our wounded warriors and introduced the parents of a young Marine that had been severely injured in Iraq and was still at the national naval medical center. As is traditional for a lot of military events there was even a bagpiper. Eventually we moved to the start. The gun went off and we were paced from the start by an old jeep complete with .30 cal machinegun.

We followed the jeep up and back .2 miles on a paved road and then hit the crushed limestone Heritage trail. I passed a guy with a 75th Ranger Regiment patch on his fuel belt. I introduced myself, told him what Ranger class I had been in, and wished him good luck as I moved in front of him. I accomplished the first mile at an 8:30 pace and the second in the same. I started feeling like the day was going to be a good one, even though I was using this as a training run I felt like I might set a personal record. My previous best marathon time had been 3 hours 59 minutes back in 2005. I still took the time to snap some pictures along the way.

The race organizers had ATV moving up and down the course offering water and checking on the health of the runners. The day had started at a temperature of 76 degrees and was slated to get into the high 90's. The aid stations where well stocked with water and electrolytes. I continued my usual nutrition plan of 2 electrolyte pills and 1 GU every 30 minutes. Approximately the 10 mile mark I heard footsteps behind me and a guy ran up beside me. He said hi and he continued to run at my pace. He looked extremely easy and relaxed and we started talking. Over the next 16 miles we would talk about alot of things. I found out he was trying to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 1 year. He even had a website to chronicle this He was extremely upbeat, greeting everyone we passed and as the miles clicked by I found myself running easy along side of him. My breathing was relaxed and my foot turnover was light. We maintained an 8:30 to 8:45 pace and the miles just kept clicking off. I don't remember ever becoming fatigued. He mentioned his goal was to complete the race in under 4 hours. I told him that would be a PR for me and he seemed happy about that.

Before I knew it the finish was in sight. I crossed the finish in 3:53:02 a PR by 6 minutes!!! I did this while carrying a camelbak and in oppressive heat. I think I am ready for the Dances with Dirt 50 miler.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I was riding home in the back of a van last weekend. My Father was driving this van  and it contained one of my brothers, one of my sisters, my nephew and my youngest child. Everyone was asleep but my Dad and I was staring out the window at the countryside of western Iowa. We were on our way back home from helping another brother move and it was a 5 hour trip. 5 hours of cornfields, farms and small towns. My mind started to wander and I starting thinking about my Grandparents Leo and Helen. I started to think about their farm and the time I had spent on it.

Everyone in my family until my generation had been farmers. My Dad's generation grew up on farms but moved to the city and no one in my immediate family still tills the land. Being older I was one of the few grand kids to see my Grandpa's farm. My Grandpa retired from farming when I was about 13 or so and moved first to a small town then to a larger city.

I still remember staying there on weekends and over the summer. How we would wake up early, ungodly early for a city kid like me and go milk the cows. I can still smell the barn, its aroma of cowshit, milk and straw. I can see the big vat of milk as it was pumped full and then later in the day when the milk tanker would come by and empty it for the next day. I remember hearing popular songs of the 60's and 70's on WMT radio 600 on the old transistor radio nailed to the barn wall and covered with fly droppings.

I remember coming inside the house after morning chores and removing our clothes so as not to track in the house. Then Grandma would make breakfast with fresh milk and bacon. Eggs fried in the bacon grease. Maybe some cheese and always bread and butter at every meal.

We would go out again, maybe we would bail hay and Grandpa would let me drive the tractor, except he would turn it at the end of each row because I didn't have the arm strength. Or he would use the end loader to clean out the hog pens and I would have to get the corners with a scoop shovel. Sometimes my cousins, sister, and I would climb up to the top of the corn crib and kick the corn down into the whirling screw of the hopper as it ground up the cobs into feed for the dairy herd. Or we would catch the horses and go for a ride. Sometime Grandpa would send us off with the tractor and wagon to fetch a newborn calf or we  would walk to call the cows in for the afternoon milking. They didn't need us though as they were already headed to the barn just like clockwork.Sometime we played hide and seek in the corn fields.

Lunch would be sandwiches and more milk or maybe hamburgers. Grandpa would pay me a nickle a bird to shoot the Starlings and Sparrows in his barn with my BB gun, as they would eat his grain. Often I was in charge of feeding the calves and would mix formula and goose eggs together with water and feed them with huge baby bottles. They would suck on the nipple so hard I could barely hold on.

Dinner would be pork chops or chicken, with more bread and butter and maybe a dandelion salad drenched in bacon grease and vinegar ( don't turn up your nose it was delicious). Sundays we would eat duck or goose and have a huge meal for lunch. And pie, my Grandma made the best pies ever.  I still love pie to this day. Sunday afternoons we would watch the Floyd Warren Jubilee or Professional Wrestling which my Grandfather loved.

Grandma was a painter and a gardener. Her garden was bigger than most people's yards and she had vegetable and flowers that were amazing. She ran the LeHe art gallery out of her basement. She painted the most incredible pictures of clowns, little trolls, still lifes and landscapes of the Iowa countryside. She won many many ribbons. She had a library also, in my Grandma's library I first read Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, Tom Sawyer and Robinson Crusoe.

In the evenings we would all take our baths and hang out in the living room. We would eat popcorn, homemade ice cream and apples. We would drink green Koolaid out of a ice cold metal pitcher. So cold frost would be on the outside.

My Grandpa passed away in 1998, the last time I saw him we had some pie together. My Grandma died in 2009 the last time I saw her I held her hand but she didn't know who I was. They are together again now.

Sometimes I miss people

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Europe. Not many veterans are left that participated in this historic operation. I had the pleasure to meet one, talk to him and get to know him some time ago.

From 1991-1995 I was stationed at Fort Devens Ma. My wife is Native American and during that period of her life she used to love to dance at Powwows. We would go to a powwow somewhere in New England every weekend. Being regular powwow attendees we got to know some of the others that hit the circuit and they became familiar faces. One of these was an old gentleman named Onkwe Tase. Onkwe was in his 70's or 80's at the time. He was still in great shape and would stride around the powwow barechested even in the cold weather. The one dance that I would participate in was the Veteran's dance. It is basically where all the veteran's would process around the dance circle and post the US flag and MIA flag at the beginning of the powwow. Onkwe would also participate. Onkwe and I got to know each other and we talked about the Army over the camp fire and as we sat in lawn chairs watching the powwow.

Over the 3 years I knew him I learned this. He was a Mohawk living in Lowell Ma and his English name was Ed Guilliamete. He had been a police officer for 30 years in Lowell after the WWII but was now retired. On D-day he was a member of the 4th Infantry Division and had landed on Utah beach.

Onkwe didn't talk much about the fighting itself he preferred to laugh about stuff like the time they found a bunch of french porn magazines in a cottage or that they used condoms over the rifle muzzles to keep the water out during the landing. He would talk about all sorts of things mixing them with stories of his grandkids and time as a cop. Its been over 20 years now since I met him and my memory is starting to dim. Age is starting to catch up with me as it caught up with him and I doubt he is still alive. We lost touch after I was transferred to another base. I sure do wish I could have told him good bye and thanked him again for his service. We have lost almost all of the brave men who participated in this greatest of military operations  but we are richer for their bravery and sacrifice.

Thanks Onkwe my life was better for having met you