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The Air is Thin Up Here…..

With the Hardrock 100 now 10 days away I arrived in Silverton, CO for my final preparations. There is nothing easy about 100 miles. If it is flat it is hard, if it is in the mountains it is hard. It’s just hard period. So why do I do it? I love the community of runners. We are young and old, fast and slow and yet there is one common bond, love of the trail, of high places, of desert and plains. Love of the night and the stars, of pain and elation and laughter and tears. Our success is never certain and failure is not permanent. There are only 140 of us from all over the United States. Some have come as far away as England and France. For many it is there first time for others it has become a yearly ritual to travel to Silverton, to come home in a sense. For me it is the culmination of a long wait. Across America I ran, across Spain and around Kilimanjaro, dreaming of one more opportunity to run in the San Juan Mts. Of Colorado. You can put pavement under my feet but you can’t take the dirt from between my toes. Time to move now. The clock is ticking….on all of us….play hard!

Living With……..

A phone call had connected us. A car brought him to my doorstep. Eduard is his name and although he has only seen 22 years of life he carries wisdom beyond his years. We are fellow runners. He dreams of running across the country and is already preparing for his adventure. In his eyes I see determination and conviction. Not just for his grand plan but for his life in general. We go for an 8 mile run in the rain. Eduard has never been in this part of the country. He picks my brain on nutrition and training and clothing. He is like a sponge for knowledge. I listen to the slap of our feet in the rain. It is the slap of three feet and the shuffle of his prosthetic leg. Eduard lost his leg at the hip in Afghanistan on his 21st birthday. Certainly it has changed his life but he says, he can’t imagine a life any other way. He rises every morning, attaches his leg and the shoulder belt that holds it in place. He will run in the morning and at night. Day after day after day. He says that maybe he will find his soul mate and that she can find a use for all the new left shoes that will never be used. His humor is warming. He says he gets discounts on full body massages and pedicures. Nice. I take him up to our ski area where the trails are steep and rocky to test his skill. He runs with a slight hop, his right leg is thick and muscular. Not one climb, not one descent is an obstacle. I am aging mare, he is a young stallion. With all the troubles, self doubt, inconvenience and despair that could be part of his life, Eduard has chosen to live without them, without his leg….and really live with what he has been left with. Maybe if we had a little bit of that magic, if we truly lived with what we have, instead of what we think we can’t live without, then perhaps we would be like Eduard…unstoppable………….Image

ABC’s……

Winona, MN is a small town nestled between two lakes and the Mississippi River in south eastern MN. Home to Winona State and St. Mary’s College. The bluffs that are above Winona have looked down upon this town and its Norman Rockwell life for well over 150 years. Something about the midwest draws you in. A simple life in a small town is alluring. Maybe I should have owned a coffee shop or a running store or sold square ice cream from a bike equipped with a cooler and handlebar bell. Watched corn reach for the sky in the surrounding fields and smelled fresh cut hay in the sweltering summer heat. Popped tar bubbles in the street after it rains. Walked barefoot in river mud. Cursed mosquitos. Sat on a bench under giant oak trees. Wandered in and out of stores in a real downtown. Rode a bike down the street as cicadas sing. Rock on a porch swing and listen to Johnny Cash. Listen to children in the park playing and watch a full moon come up….

Ahhh yes, Winona…..also host to the Lifetime Fitness Kids Tri on June 8th created an atmosphere of activity for children ages 5-13 as they participated in, and completed a triathlon consisting of swimming at least 25 yards, biking at least 1 mile and then running a lap around the college track. The amazing thing for me was to observe the pre-race excitement in the kids and their parents. For many of the littlest ones it was their first time swimming or biking without Mom and Dad or big brother or little sister. Parents should be given credit for encouraging their children to take part and for many it was their third or fourth or fifth triathlon. It was so darn cute seeing these little ones jump in the pool and swim or pull themselves to the other end, exit and run to their bike. For many it was a Bmx bike or a “My Little Pony” deluxe cruiser complete with basket. A winding mile took them to the track where they left their bikes and ran as much as a 1/2 mile. Faces had smiles and faces had determination and some even a few tears as they crossed the line and received medals.

The Lifetime Fitness Kids Mascot is Trey, a giant three- eyed red ball of fur. Kids always like something big and furry and especially when it can dance. Trey wanders by the Hylands Booth and we head for the awards. As a Hylands Ambassador Athlete I am fortunate to share the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle. When I actually see it up close and personal, when I see the smile on a child’s face and the joy in their parents eyes I know its a good thing that we all our doing. As I close out the awards I am left with a chorus of voices that will carry on to the next event in Plymouth, MN on July 14th…

Prior to the start there were 235 voices chanting “Yes We Can, Yes We Can” and now at the end of their day I am left with “Yes We Did! Yes We Did!”…..oh you most certainly did…Image

Concrete Fitness…..

The other morning as I ran along a dirt road north of my home in Hope, ID, I paid particular attention to those random thoughts that dart in and out of my mind when enjoying the forward motion of my body, propelled by an old pair of high mileage legs with worn treads.

What is it about a run, a ride, a walk that inspires us to stand, tie the laces, open the door and enter a world where are senses are awakened to fresh smells, sounds and sights? For  as long as I can remember I now think that there is a deep seated need to move, to achieve. Mankind has inherited this trait from our very beginnings. Somewhere in our psyche a desire to create, to have warmth, gave us the persistence to create fire. This in turn allowed us to achieve more as we migrated through various parts of the world. This “achievement” enabled us to expand our horizons, brought us more food, creative shelter and the rest, they say is history. Had we not set into motion a dream, a desire, a curiosity to explore we certainly would not be where we are, excited about where we are going.

It is a good thing to lie dormant. I can vouch for that. When I sit in a white rocker chair on our porch and look at the lake life is quiet. Then the thoughts come. It is then that I make a choice. Let some things remain thoughts or make them concrete.

When we are in movement be it running, walking, bicycling, swimming we are on the path of achieving goodness for ourselves and our body. When we finish it is real. We have succeeded in 20 min., an hour, a mile or ten miles. We have achieved and that is much more than a thought in our head that gets played over and over as we tussle with excuses to move or not to move. So perhaps you will listen to yourself and then act….

Make those thoughts real.

Make your your days concrete.

Amazing results and achievements await…..

Obstacles

I have fallen a lot in my life.

Luckily, I can say it was never brought on by alcohol though I probably would not remember if it was. As a young boy of four I ran on high octane. Seriously. My memory is gray these days but I can still remember the excitement I felt after the surgery. Oh, the surgery……..

I was born a severe club foot in both legs and extremely knock- kneed. It was, I am told, to a degree,  that walking was difficult and running absolutely impossible.” Its o.k. son, don’t wander off now. and stay close” my mother would say whenever in public. Try explaining that to a four year old.

I credit my mother for many things. She worked her entire life in factories. First for G.E. then Admiral, packing televisions and finally a hardware factory for thirty years where she ended up driving a forklift on the loading dock. When she left she was making $9.34. I give her credit because she worked hard. I never heard her complain. Never felt anything less than love from her arms or affection in her voice. She raised my brothers and I on that meager income and still, for whatever reason, felt it important enough to seek medical help for my condition rather than take the easy way out and let me adapt to my physical shortcomings. So at the age of four I found myself in Rockford Memorial Hospital being wheeled down a long, cold corridor with my mother beside me, headed for surgery.

In medical terms it was described as a “Tibial Radial Osteotomy in the lower legs with a bi-lateral wedge in both ankles (Fusion). Basically both legs were cut open then the tibia broke diagonally then rotated outwards which would pull my knees straight. Then a small piece of bone (wedge) was put in the outer side of the ankle after some cartilage was removed thus creating a fusion after it healed.

Pros: I could now walk and run normally. More specifically I discovered when as I got older, I would NEVER sprain an ankle!

Cons: Braces and corrective shoes post-surgery. Scars. BIG ones and unfortunately I would never be fast.

I remember many times pulling myself to the dinner table. Scooting across the floor with only my arms. I remember the day the casts were removed and how I thought the “saw” would not only cut the cast off but also my legs. I remember being handed little slippers and being told I may not be able to stand initially. Yeah sure. I had places to go and friends to play with and I was just like them now, or so I thought. The slippers slid on my tiny feet, the doctor placed me on the floor and to my dismay, my legs buckled and I crumbled to the floor like a wet, rag doll.

That would be the first of many falls.

The first obstacle.