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The Inner Athlete - Was That Really Me?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

My favorite type of blog is when a fellow Sparker finds their "inner athlete". These people have a story about feeling physically inadequate most of their lives. Usually these feelings stem from bad experiences in gym class while in school.

I had a little different experience.

In grade school I was a big clumsy kid with two left feet. I fell down a lot and always had bruises on my knees. I was slow, uncoordinated and couldn't hit a ball with a bat to save my life. I remember one time in 6th grade I got up to bat during a softball game. I was determined to clobber the ball over the fence. I took a mighty swing as the ball neared the plate. I missed the ball, lost my balance and fell down on my back in a cloud of dust. The girls that were present burst into laughter. A teacher came over and asked me if I was alright. I shook my head and was sent behind the backstop at the end of the line. I hoped and prayed I would not have to get up to bat again. My prayers were answered.

In 7th grade we were all tested for the Presidential physical fitness award. Part of the testing process was to see how many chin-ups we could do. On the chin-up bar I hung there like a useless lump. The kind gym teacher told me if I could manage to bend my arms he would count it as one chin-up. I couldn't even bend my arms. I had a man-sized body with boy sized muscles. The gym teacher put me down for one chin-up anyway.

In 8th grade I got a paper route. I struggled to pedal my big heavy fat-tire bike up hills with the bike loaded with papers. In the summer my friends and I would race our bikes to the swimming pool and swim all day long. I traded my old Tonka trucks for a weight set. My dad was a welder and he built me a sturdy weight bench. I bought a book about weight lifting. I did curls, reverse curls, bench press, butterflies and military press. I did 3 sets of 10 reps just like the book said. By the way, I still have some of those weights even today.

In 9th grade, out of the blue, I got an invitation to go out for freshman football. There was an organizational meeting at the school prior to the season. When I walked into the room for the meeting my heart sank. There was a room full of better athletes than me. There were big kids, fast kids and strong kids all around me. It was standing room only. I went to a huge school. There must have been 75 kids there. I knew I didn't stand a chance.

We got our equipment for the first practice. The helmet was too tight and the shoes were too big. My dad had told me that I should volunteer for everything. He had been a college football player so I figured he knew what he was talking about. Just as a side note, my dad was an outstanding college football player. My mom had been a champion swimmer. I just thought the genetics didn't get passed to me. I was wrong.

Much to my surprise, I was fast and I was strong! I not only made the team, I started at defensive tackle and offensive guard. I was good. Really good. After football season was over I wrestled at heavy weight. I ran the 1/2 mile in track and was competitive. I was beating guys that were 50 pounds lighter than me. In 10th grade we were again testing for the Presidential physical fitness award. I got it! I was recruited to play college football. I decided to go to an elite smallish engineering school where I became a starter as a freshman.

But I still saw myself as a big clumsy kid. When I was senior in high school we played our arch rival in a football game. We beat the stuffing out of them. I was the blind side offensive tackle. After the game, some of the other players talked me into going to a pizzeria that was a local hang-out. As we walked through the door I saw the place was loaded with girls. They broke into clapping and cheering. Some of these girls were the same ones that had laughed at me in 6th grade when I fell down playing softball. I told my friends, "See ya", and walked out the door.

I just couldn't stand being treated like a hero by the same people that took so much pleasure in watching me fall down 6 years earlier. I never thought that athletic prowess made anyone special. I hung out with kids that had been my friends even when I was a clumsy athletic lost cause. Most of my friends were not part of the “in” crowd. But they were true hearted with lots of character.

Character is everything.

This is me in 1974. My hair was pretty short by 1970's standards. That kid weighed over 200 pounds and was really quick.

I threw the shot and discus and ran the 1/2 mile. To this day I still have real speed in the half mile. I would trade speed for endurance though!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BLACKROSE_222 3/8/2011 4:36PM

    Wow, thanks for sharing! Such a great story!

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MONIKA1948 3/6/2011 6:38PM

    Great blog. Thanks for sharing.

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RWALTON730 3/6/2011 12:27PM

    Excellent story. Character is everything. I wish I could get my 6th graders to see that. Thanks for sharing your story.

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BANDMAMAPC 3/5/2011 2:05PM

    So true. I have never been an athletic person at all. I was the clumsy one and also the slowest too. My only achievement was that I was pretty speedy when it came to dodgeball when I was in middle school. I used to be the one that was the last to be chosen for any team sport. Now, I can do intervals on the treadmill, walk first and run. I know about those cliques. They are awful! Good for you that you had the good sense to walk out at that time.

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LKEITHO 3/5/2011 1:39PM

    You're absolutely right about character being essential. Sounds like you and your true friends definitely had it!

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CAROLCRC 3/5/2011 12:48PM

    I was an accelerated student - means I was at least a year younger than everyone else.... which really made a difference in phys ed! Girls didn't have to do chin-ups though... too hard for us! We had to do the bent arm hang - as long as your elbow was bent it counted. This was one point where being smart helped - everyone else tried to keep their chin above the bar, and lasted 10-20 seconds. I dropped down to about the top of my head at the bar, and held for almost 2 minutes... Probably my only athletic triump in HS!

Nice reflection back on how things have changed. Loved the pictures!

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DRPOOH63 3/5/2011 12:07PM

    Great blog! I hated those presidential fitness tests. Thanks for the memories.....

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ELISA322 3/5/2011 11:06AM

    Awesome blog and great pictures! That's so great you ended up doing so well in high school. I love the part of when you walked into the pizzeria and walked out when you saw those girls. Good for you. You are so right about character, it is everything.

I cringe when I think of my high school days. I was just thinking the other day of when we had to swim the backstroke for PE. Not only was I dead last but I could not swim straight to save my life. It was so embarrassing... same with the two miler, I was always last.

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Is she really going to run?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Nice Easy Pace

I went for a run today and put on the wrong shoes. I grabbed an old pair of Nike Pegasus +26 so I could go to the car and get my good shoes. I had left my good shoes in my gym bag in the car. It was getting cold and dark so I decided to hit the road. When I realized I had on the old shoes, I decided to take it easy in the old "packed-out" shoes. I ran well below my aerobic threshold. I didn't even look at my Garmin. I ran 4 miles at a nice easy pace of 11 minutes per mile. I really enjoyed myself! The course was hilly. Highest elevation was 8,400 feet the lowest was 8,000 feet. So the vertical was only 4oo feet. Had it not gotten dark, I would have just kept running. This was the most fun I have had running in decades.

Long Scraggy - will she run?

When I got back from my run, my wife asked me when the Long Scraggy race was going to be held. I replied, "April 30th - why do you ask?" She said, "Maybe I want to do the race." I was floored! We have never ever run in the same race. We are really incompatible runners. She has one gear. My pace is all over the place. She likes a hard surface. I like dirt. We don't ever train together.

She purposely signs up for a race and doesn't tell me. I invite her to run a race with me and she has always declined. If she runs the Long Scraggy it will be a huge step! She is very fit and could handle the race with no problem.

Will she run? I hope so.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ELYMWX 3/13/2011 10:34PM

    So, any update? Will she run?

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SUZWARNR 3/9/2011 1:10PM

    I hope she does it with you. It sounds like it would be good for both of you. :)

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CHRISTINECAN 3/9/2011 11:05AM

    There's a difference between both running the race and running the race together. Vive la difference in your styles and peaceful co-existence.

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LKEITHO 3/2/2011 9:34PM

    That would be great if your wife does the race with you! And congrats on what sounds like a really pleasant run!

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IFDEEVARUNS2 3/2/2011 8:23AM

    You can both run the race but not do it together. I like CAROLCRC's perspective on it!

I'm just learning to enjoy runs just for the sake of it, but as a beginner it's difficult: I always want to measure things, whether it's pace or distance. I'll learn....

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CAROLCRC 3/2/2011 8:00AM

    Love those runs when you aren't pushing to do a specific training run for your schedule. I often leave the Garmin behind and do what I call a "Zen run" - just focussing on enjoying the run.

Hope she runs... but if your paces are that incompatible I suggest you agree not to actually try to run 'together'. My daughter and I say "we start at the same time and end at the same place" when we sign up for a race together. (needless to say - she's the faster one!). But sharing the pre-race nerves and post-race relaxation is really special.

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    Cool beans!!! Sounds like a good time together.

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Trail Runner's Guide

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

I went down to a nearby used bookstore called, oddly enough, Mountain Books. My wife was trying to find the last few Louis L'Amour books for her collection. This is a cool store with books piled into shelves, on top of tables, and general disarray. As my wife was checking-out with her treasures I saw a really interesting book on the minuscule new books section. "Trail Runner's Guide to Colorado - 50 Great Trail Runs" for $16.95. I was hooked!

The book has a technique section. I was pleased that the technique I had developed through trial-and-error was in this book:

(1) Stay upright going uphill
(2) Power hike if you get tired when running uphill
(3) Take small quick strides going down hill
(4) Lean forward going down hill
(5) Hurdle over obstacles

The book has 14 great trails are within 45 minutes of my house. In addition to the14 trails in the book, there are 10 other nearby trails I already knew about, including:

(1) Ben Tyler Trail
(2) Red Cone Pass
(3) Slaughter House (Don't you love the name?)
(4) Elk Creek Ranch
(5) Shawnee Park
(6 ) Kenosha Colorado Trail
(7) Gore Range Trail
(8) Harrigan Creek
(9) Gaunila Pass
(10) Harris Park

I can do a whole lot of running without my feet touching pavement. My running shoes are going to get really dirty!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MEGA_MILES 3/14/2011 2:59PM

    That sounds like alot of fun. Go hit the trails and make sure to file some reports.

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ELYMWX 3/13/2011 10:34PM

    Have fun!

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    Oh man that is awesome! Sounds like a great resource. Gotta love the woods.

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LKEITHO 3/1/2011 11:33AM

    Sounds like a great resource! Have fun!

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CAROLCRC 3/1/2011 8:01AM

    Cool! Love it when I find books dedicated to something unusual I enjoy.

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TEDDYBABE 3/1/2011 6:21AM

    What a find! You can hardly wait to get started I can tell! Happy trails!

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Long Scraggy - First Race of the Season

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I have decided to run the Long Scraggy race, which is scheduled for April 30th. My friend John is the race organizer. He called me to clue me in about the race . The Long Scraggy starts off with a 20% grade for 1.4 miles and then it gets hard. My friend John is hardcore. He is training for THE race - the fearsome Hardrock 100 mile trail race. Take a look at this bad boy:


The Hardrock 100 is one of the "Rocky Mountain Slam" series. Other "Slam" races include: Leadville Trail 100, Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Bighorn 100, or the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run.

Here is a blurb from the Leadville Trail 100:

"The legendary "Race Across The Sky" 100-mile Run is where it all started 29 years ago.
This is it. The race where legends are created — and spirits are crushed. 100 miles of extreme Colorado Rockies"

Take a look at the Leadville Trail 100 site:


Thankfully registration is closed for the 100 mile races. I am thinking about doing the LT100 10K run.


I have a lot of work to do to take on the Scraggy and the LT100 10K. I find that registering for a race is a great motivator. I did hill repeats today. On road where I live is a1/2 mile long hill that varies from 20% to 30%. It got pretty cold and windy (20F with 20 mph winds) while I was running. I jumped on the elliptical when I got home. I have also starting watching my nutrition far more carefully.

Here is a quote from the release for the 10K:

".... I have recently had a complete examination, preferably including a stress electrocardiogram, and even if I have, I have been warned that these races require special care. I have also been advised that I may be exposed to physical injury from a number of natural factors, including but not limited to snow on the trail, lack or overabundance of water, lightning, wild animals..."

These factors also include, among other things, the fact that I may become injured or incapacitated in a location where it is difficult or impossible for the event’s management to get required medical aid to me in time to avoid physical injury or even death."

I like the slogan of the Leadville races:


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LKEITHO 2/28/2011 4:49PM

    That last quote says it all! Sounds like your races, while still pretty tough by my standards, are much more reasonable.

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CAROLCRC 2/28/2011 8:11AM

    You do set ambitious goals! Way to go! I love the disclaimers on trail races - there's one near us that cautions that the trail runs along a gorge and you could fall in and it would be really difficult to extract you - basically says you need to make it back to the trailhead to get medical assistance...

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TEDDYBABE 2/28/2011 7:31AM

    Okay now! Going to follow this. The doctor I work for is doing a 100 mile cycle race in July in Leadville. Maybe same trail? Mountain biking. Have a good Monday! Have added you as a friend!!

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    Good luck!! Maybe one day you'll do a 100. (Not me!) I know someone who has done the LV100 and I just do not think I could ever be that dedicated.

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USFBULL 2/27/2011 10:41PM

    Way to go, registering does get the blood flowing and the training a little more sincere. Nicely done emoticon

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Sweet Run Alabama – Bad Run Colorado

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sweet Run Alabama – Bad Run Colorado

Saturday, February 19, 2010

As I write this blog I am flying through the inky blackness on my way home from Alabama. My backside is killing me! I have been sitting all day long. I ran really hard yesterday up some pretty steep terrain. Running hills puts a lot of stress on the glutes and hams. Sitting on a plane is torture on sore glutes and hams. I just paid $7 for a Budwiser in an attempt to get some relief. Just three more hours to go – ouch! Mon Capitan has the seat belt light on due to some clear air turbulence. I think he is clearly over-reacting. The plane seems to be flying fine to me. I need to get up and walk around!

Thursday, February 18, 2011

My work schedule allowed me to take Thursday morning off. I headed for another trail run in Oak Mountain State Park. The weather was still beautiful. I had spied a trail during my last visit that I thought would be reasonably flat.

As I entered the park I saw a guy running on the side of the road. He was running smoothly and looked quite fast. I am reminded of an old running adage; “Not all runners that look fast are fast, and not all runners that look slow are slow.”

I think I fall into the category of a runner that looks slow and is slow.

The trail I thought was flat was not flat. The trail had a little rise at the beginning and just kept getting steeper. The good news is that the trail surface was pretty smooth and Alabama has real breathable air.

At any rate, I did not run well. Here are my performance figures for a 5K training run:

Time: 29:13
Average pace: 9:21 min/mile
Fastest Pace: 5:45 min/mile for ½ mile (I only have ½ mile of real speed)
Slowest Pace: 12:24 min/mile for ¾ mile (I have an infinite amount of slow)

Temperature: 72 degrees F
Wind: Calm
Humidity: 41%
Average grade 10%
Maximum Grade 24%

So what happened? Why so slow? I found that my legs gave out. This is new for me. At high altitude my lungs give out. The hills at Oak Mountain State Park were just steep enough to wear me down. Plus I think running at a 5:45 min/mile pace on a flat stretch did not do my stubby legs any good.

Oh joy, Mon Capitan just announced the plane will be landing shortly. More later….

Sunday, Feb 20th

I am back home in the nose-bleed zone in Colorado. I just attempted to go running. I think a week in Alabama has totally wimped me out. The lack of oxygen was less fun than I had hoped. A lot of people run for fitness. I run to feel that I have accomplished something. The more adverse the conditions, the better feel when the run is over. A lot of runners have the same feelings.

The temperature was a balmy 26 °F. I decided to run in shorts. Big mistake! I managed to get in about 1 ½ miles and then beat a hasty retreat to house to finish my cardio workout on my elliptical trainer. My running pace was really bad at about 12 minute mile. I was cold and the lack of air I felt most acutely.

Temperature 26 °F
Feels Like 12 °F
Max Wind Speed 15 mph
Max Gust Speed 25 mph
Average Humidity 84%
Snow Depth: 20”

I am back home. Are there really places that are warm? Alabama seems like a distance memory.

Enjoy the photos!

It is always good to know where you are

Oak Mountain State Park low water crossing - the geese took thier own sweet time getting out of the way

Mico rental car at trail head - snappy little thing

Surprisingly steep trail

Nice and smooth

Nice little bridge on the trail

Trail starts to climb, and climb, and climb.

On my way home in a tiny plane - see the guy on the ground - he would bump his head on the wing if not careful! This plane was a flying torture chamber!

Home again. Toto, we are not in Alabama anymore!

Rocky Mountain High!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DEUSMACHINA 2/27/2011 12:53AM

    I still can't get over your hills, man. 24% gradient??? Sweet baby J!!

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ELASTI-GIRL 2/26/2011 10:22PM

    I hear you on runners and how they look vs. how they are. My dh watched me run a 5k race and commented that if I ran as fast as I looked, I'd have come in first! lol. I didn't. I'm short and have quick leg turnover...for a short person...so I give the impression I'm roadrunner...but I'm not!

Great pics and post. Hope your legs have recovered :)


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LKEITHO 2/26/2011 9:51PM

    Glad you made it back alright, even if it was back to the snow!

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L3DESIGNS 2/26/2011 9:35PM

    Welcome Home!

I'm planning on running in shorts tomorrow... but it'll be much warmer than Freezing... Not so sure about running in Florida... Not too sure about 15C and 95% Humidity... the Humidity might do me in... I've been running in 0-5C with much lower humidity levels....

I'm sure you'll acclimatize quickly to "home"

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    Welcome back to Colorado! I always miss the thin air, and welcome it when I get home from a trip somewhere that is usually sea-level.

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