Monday, May 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - May 1977 - Part II

This is the second part of May 1977 and will focus on our trip to New Mexico. While I'm sure it was part of the same trip we took to Arizona and Nebraska, I'm not entirely sure. But I am pretty certain everything happened in May.

We start things off with what looks like a rest stop picnic area where I'm just chilling out on the picnic table. This photo is labeled as May 1977 but it's the small details that helped link this to the New Mexico trip. The key evidence is my dad's hat and lack of beard.

For the visit to New Mexico, we saw my Aunt Lorraine who was married to my mother's brother Dan Lester. The green van would play an important roll in my life much later.

Monday, May 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - May 1977 - Part I

May of 1977 was a busy month. There was travel to Arizona and Nebraska and possibly New Mexico. Starting in Arizona, we paid a visit to Aunt Wilma and Uncle George. Make sure you pay attention to my mother's shirt.

After Arizona, came Nebraska where we visited with Grandma Bertha. At the time, she was married to Merle Yaryan, her second husband. When I first started looking at these pictures, I had assumed that Grandma Bertha had come to visit us in California. But then I noticed that the kitchen furniture was different and that there appeared to be a bottle of Dorothy Lynch salad dressing on the table. For those that don't know, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing is kind of a blend between French dressing, Thousand Island dressing, and Ranch dressing. But more importantly, it was almost exclusively found in Nebraska, even into the early 1990s. I remember on later trips to Nebraska when I was older, we would stock up on Dorothy Lynch dressing and Squirt soda because they were impossible to find on the east coast. And while Grandma Bertha could have brought it with her during a visit, the exterior shot of her, my dad, and myself, match an earlier photo I have of her posing outside of her home with Christmas decorations. I was later able to confirm from my father that it was the home of both Merle and Bertha during their marriage when they lived in Mullen, Nebraska.

The New Mexico portion of the trip will be in a separate post, partly because there are a lot of photos, but mostly because I'm not certain it was the same trip.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 26, 1977

Not even a week has passed and I'm back in Dr. Cho's office with an ear infection.

Today also marks the 30th anniversary of my grandmother's death. And while I know this #40yearsagotoday project is all about me, I just can't wait ten years without mentioning her. Just last year, I wrote about her and her visit to see me for my first Christmas. And just over ten years ago I wrote about inviting her to Thanksgiving dinner.

Photo from

Ten years seems like a long time sometimes. But when I think about my doctor's visit 40 years ago for an ear infection and then a short 10 years later losing my grandmother, it just feels like the weight of death is sitting on my shoulders.

Friday, April 21, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 21, 1977

In what would become a frequent occurrence in my childhood, I see the doctor for an ear infection, a sore throat, or bronchitis. Or in this case, a combination of all of them. This is the first record of an ear infection I could find (as well as bronchitis) in my notebook so I can only conclude that this is the first one I had. It wouldn't be the last.

It suddenly struck me as I was reading this entry how odd my father's word choices were at the time. While he's intelligent, I can only assume he's writing what the doctor is saying or putting in my chart. For example, he writes the reason for the visit is "Acute Pharyrgitis [sic]" which is actually "acute pharyngitis" or in more common terms, a sore throat. While it is frequently caused by strep throat, specifically the Streptococcus bacteria, there's no indication that was the cause behind my sore throat. Cultures were taken but nothing was written down for the results.

However, it was also noted that I had "Bilateral otitis media" (an ear infection) and "Acute Bronchitis." But to go back to the odd choice in words, my father then notes I "had bad infection in both ears."

The back and forth between simple words and medical terms is confusing but I can only assume my father is parroting back what the doctor is telling him then simplifying that. My assumption is based solely on how well I know him and the fact that I often do something similar.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - April 8, 1977

Once again, I'm visiting the doctor. This time Dr. Cho gave me a "well baby check" that I can only assume went well since there were no other notes.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

2017 Stafford Airport Runway Runaway 5k Race Report

I swear I don't sandbag my races. Seriously. I mean, I may sandbag a little during the race just because I sprint at the Finish line, but I've always done that. And maybe I sandbag about my capabilities just because I usually lack self-confidence. But I don't intentionally line up at the rear, claim to be a walker, then sprint past everyone in an attempt to win the race. That's not my style. Yes, I line up in the back, but that's to slow myself down because I struggle with slower starts and always want to rabbit out front. I also line up in the back of the pack because that's usually where I finish. And I'm okay with all of that. But I'm not that guy that passes you at Mach 3 only a half mile in the race because I'm better than everyone else.

Anyway, I bring this up because yet again competition during a race got the better of me. I'll break it down like this:

- Run 5k race at easy but steady pace
- Turn around and re-run 5k race course at slightly slower pace
- Finish the day with 6 miles

- Run 5k at way fast pace
- Run another 1.5 miles a little later at slower pace
- Finish day with 4.5 miles

So things didn't go quite as planned but they went better than expected. My coach's plan for me was just the 5k race. And that's cool but I missed a stupid 6 mile run last week and it's been gnawing at me even though I know it shouldn't and I wanted to hit that next mileage mark. Well, I missed the 6 mile mark but I walked away with a new PR and a little more distance tacked on.

Now, for the race itself. I forgot to do packet pick-up the day before so knew I'd need to get there a bit early. After getting directions the night before, and reading all the rules about running at an airport, I opted to go even a little earlier. So at 0500 I got up, got dressed, and headed out the door. I got some coffee and breakfast, drove down the road, got gas, and arrived at the airport terminal around 0615. Way earlier than expected.

It was dark so it was cool to see the landing lights and the beacon flashing but it was a little hard to figure out where to park. So I parked at the terminal. It was rainy and cold so I stayed warm in my car. Around 0645 I got out and got my bib and swag and went back to staying warm. Around 0715 I hit the head and repeated the process around 0745. On my way back to my car I ran into an old co-worker and we chatted a bit. It was great to see somebody else that has done well after leaving our previous employer.

I hustled to the Start line, tried to dodge the wind, and we were off. We hit the first mile mark way too fast and I could only assume the sign was backwards. As we looped around the first time, we passed the mile marker at a more respectable, and believable, time so I figured we were on the right track again. But I still wasn't sure if we had started by going the wrong way at the start.

While I mulled that question in my head, I enjoyed the tail wind down the stretch. We turned back around and did the same loop around a second time and this time we hit the second mile mark at another more believable time. Fighting that stupid head wind sucked and I made every effort to tuck behind people in front of me but most of the time I was rolling faster than they were or there was just an open gap in front of me. So I dealt with it.

Headed into the home stretch, we followed our outbound route back to the Finish and I looked at my watch again to see where I was. Seeing that I was close to my old PR time of 30:53, I kicked it. I made the last two turns and kicked it again to pass a couple more people before the finish. The one younger guy edged me out I think, but I'm not sure because my vision was so narrowly focused on the end.

Anyway, I came across, looked at my watch, and then tried to factor in the time it took me to cross the Start line. I knew I was close but wasn't sure until the times were posted. I ended up besting my last PR by 25 seconds giving myself a shiny new PR of 30:28.


Temps were about 35F to 40F. Wind was light to moderate (maybe 10 mph sustained). Sky was overcast with light rain that eased up the longer we were out there.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the run I had coffee, two boiled eggs, and an English muffin. During the run I had plain water. Recovery was more coffee and two bacon/gouda sandwiches (which was after another 1.5 mile run where I had nothing to eat or drink).

Aches and Pains:
My wonky toenail on the right foot gave me fits the other day and instead of taking care of it, I ignored it. Well, it gave me fits again today and it serves me right. Nothing bad, just a toenail that has been a nuisance for years. Aside from that, I felt a little tight and crampy after the race but that's likely because I didn't drink as much as I usually do during a 3 mile run.

Wore shorts, thermal top, short sleeve shirt, gloves, BUFF, and winter hat. BUFF came off around Mile 2. Wearing shorts was perfect. Was chilly at the start but after a mile, my legs and fingers were plenty warm.

Today's Motivation:
Paying for a race is usually pretty good motivation. A new venue adds to that, especially one as unique as an airport runway (well, technically it was the taxiway, but still). As I neared the finish, that PR pushed me.

Naughty Neil:
I had some cheese and crackers last night and I ate them way too late. But I was busy watching HACKSAW RIDGE and felt the need to snack. Also stayed up a little too late (around 2330).

Start - 00:27
Mile 1 - 10:12
Mile 2 - 10:10
Mile 3 - 9:51
Finish - 30:28 (watch time was 31:00)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - March 1977

This photo came from the Aunt Wilma and Uncle George Estate and with it came some artifacts. In the envelope was a scrap of paper with my name and the date "March 1977" and a "Gift Check" for $200 to Las Vegas casinos. The "gift" was likely an insert from the photo developing company that was advertising for the Vacation Ideas company. That particular office is now occupied by Valley Construction & Repair.

Friday, March 10, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - March 10, 1977

For one final time, I see Dr. Melvin "Mel" Cheatham. I would officially be "release[d] from [his] care." The final analysis pretty much sums things up: "Will never know what caused problem or why." And forty years later, we still have the same conclusion as to what the problem was behind my big head.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

2017 John Robbins 8k Race Report

Spoiler alert, I did WAY better than I expected!

Today's race was one I've done in the past but don't usually make it a habit of doing just because it's kind of an odd distance and usually not the warmest race. Sure enough, the weather forecast I saw last weekend when I registered was about 30 degrees off. In the wrong direction.

And while I was disappointed with it being so damn cold, I think to a degree (no pun intended) it helped me move a little faster. I know the first mile I was a little afraid to stop and walk because I wasn't warm yet and walking would just prolong things. And I really wanted to feel my fingers. So I kept moving.

That "keep moving" was really the key to today's success I think. It's been years since I've run, without walking, any reasonable distance. As an ultrarunner, you just have to walk at some point. Well, I do. So my body is so used to just walking whenever it feels like it. Little hills. Aid stations. Feeling tired. Whatever excuse works, I just walk when I want to. I'm pretty good about running again soon enough but, well, it's still walking and not running.

Anyway, let me rewind. I got up, threw some clothes on, and headed out the door. I did pour a cup of coffee to enjoy on the way and decided at the last minute to grab some eggs and an English muffin for breakfast. When I run this early in the morning, I usually just down some coffee and go then eat breakfast when I'm done running. But things worked out with my gut so the bread and eggs, and some coffee, seemed to be okay.

Once I got to the event, I chilled in my car. But with the heat on because damn was it cold. I snagged some water to mix up my GenUCAN Hydrate and tried to not drink more coffee. I wanted to run, not get the runs. Speaking of the bathroom, I got into the porta-potty line with about 15 minutes until the start.

Timing worked out pretty good and I only had to stand at the Start line a few minutes before they sent us on our way. As usual, I started way, way in the back with only a handful of people behind me. I trotted along, trying to pace myself and go slow and warm up my fingers and breath without coughing too much. After maybe half a mile, I stumbled onto two guys that were keeping a decent pace that roughly matched mine. So I latched on.

One of them slowly dropped back by the first mile marker but I stuck with the other guy, Ralph. Ralph would end up being my hero. We clicked through the first mile, me right on his heels, keeping a steady, and what felt like easy, pace. Until I looked at my watch and nearly freaked out that he was pulling me along at sub-12 pace. Figuring I would blow up soon enough, I kept shadowing him. As I said before, I didn't want to stop for a walking break because I wanted my fingers to warm up and I knew that usually happens around Mile 2.

Ralph and I trooped along and made it across the second mile marker. I checked my time and it was faster than the first! Well, I reasoned to myself, that second mile was a little down hill and I really was close to feeling my fingers, maybe I'll just keep going along behind him. We trudged up the hill and made the turn-around point which was a little less than two and a half miles. I checked my pace and tried to do some fuzzy math in my head and assumed the pace was slowing and I was happy to see that. After all, sub-12 pace is a little fast for me. Even more so since my training had taken me to my first 5 mile run only a few days earlier.

We crossed over the 3 mile mark, I checked my watch, and nearly shit a brick. We didn't slow down, we were right on the same damn sub-12 pace. I was amazed. I pulled up even with Ralph and told him he was my new favorite friend because I had not run this far, without stopping to walk, in at least 5 years. We chatted a bit, trading stories and adventures and previous races. We came up to the aid station, shortly before the Mile 4 marker and I lost him. He stopped for water and a short walk break but I had my bottle so I just kept going.

I was sad to leave him behind but in that half mile or so leading up to the aid station, I had done the math in my head and knew I was close to a PR. I knew my old PR was in the 55 minute range and pretty old. And I knew that sub-12 miles would get me close to a PR. And I knew that, even though this was only a damn training run, I wouldn't have a chance to run this distance anytime soon, let alone be this close to a PR. So in that half mile before the aid station, I knew I was close enough to a PR to take a shot at it. So when I dropped Ralph at the aid station, I felt bad. But kept moving because my focus had changed.

Even though Ralph was behind me, I tried to keep the same pace going. An occasional glance over my shoulder showed me that Ralph was close behind but I had certainly put a small gap on him. So I focused on the people in front of me and tried to either keep them as close as they already were or reel them in. I ended up doing a bit of both.

The fourth mile marker came and I checked my pace and I was still close enough to chase a PR but I had slowed down a little. I managed to pick up another runner keeping a solid pace and we chatted briefly as we ran up the last hill for half a mile or so. He wanted to slow down so I thanked him for his little boost and merrily went towards the finish.

If you don't know what a "kicker" is, you've never seen me cross a finish line. I'm one of those runners that holds a little back just so he can sprint across the finish line. Well, I didn't have much in my tank so when the tall guy passed me with only a few hundred feet to go, I couldn't cover the move. My brain wanted to but I knew if I really pushed it, something would go wrong and I'd miss my PR. So I kept it tame and only sprinted the last few dozen feet.

That last block or so I knew I had the PR in hand and it was just a matter of how big it would be. Turns out I did better than expected. My old PR, from way back on March 13, 2011, was 55:29. My shiny, new PR is 53:28. That's two minutes off a really old PR. But I'm probably just as happy, or maybe even happier, that I ran the entire race. And not to confuse you like I did my wife, I mean I RAN the entire race. I didn't take any walking breaks. None.


Temps were about 25F. Wind was light to moderate. Sun was out with a few clouds.

Fluids and Fuel:
Before the race I had coffee, an English muffin, and two hard boiled eggs. During the run I had GenUCAN Hydrate. Recovery was two bacon/gouda/egg biscuits and more coffee.

Aches and Pains:
Both knees felt tweaky but when I noticed them, I focused on my stride and soon forgot the pain. I'm wondering if it's the shoes or the stride or something else. Everything else felt fine.

Wore thermal top, t-shirt, pants, shorts, BUFF, winter hat, and gloves.

Today's Motivation:
I paid for the race. Otherwise, I probably would have just stayed in bed. Just so damn cold.

Naughty Neil:
Well, I had pizza for dinner last night. And some lemon pie. Not the best choices but at least I kept it to two slices of pizza instead of a whole pizza.

Start - 00:18
Mile 1 - 10:59
Mile 2 - 10:45
Mile 3 - 10:57
Mile 4 - 11:10
Mile 5ish -  9:34
Finish - 53:28 (chip time)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - March 1, 1977

Once again I was back to see Dr. Cheatham. He checked my head again but, as expected, there was nothing new to report.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Review - Come Walk With Me by Dr. Melvin Cheatham

Dr. Melvin Cheatham came into my life when my primary doctor, Dr. Cho, was worried about my abnormally large head. While I do not recall Dr. Cheatham, both of my parents say that he cared about me as his patient and did everything he could to diagnose my problem.

As it turns out, a subdural tap on each side of my head produced fluid but nothing else showed that would indicate any disease, infection, or cause for the larger-than-normal head size. And because the fluid shot out too quickly, and landed on the floor, they were unable to test it.

Cutting edge, at the time, EMI scans (now called CT scans) showed nothing out of the ordinary and all the other tests came up normal. But that concern, while mostly alleviated, was still there over the years. My mother said several years after visiting him, she took me back to see Dr. Cheatham even though I was no longer his patient. He noted that I seemed to be perfectly normal and was happy to see me.

All of this is just second-hand information to me. Even though I was there, I was too young to remember. But it speaks to his character as a man and as a doctor. So when my mother sent me a signed copy of Dr. Cheatham's book Come Walk With Me, I was excited to learn more about this mystery doctor that helped my family.

You see, working on this #40yearsagotoday project has taken me back to a time that's historically relevant to me and has sent me down a path of self-discovery. Not only am I learning about me as a baby, but I'm also learning about my parents and the rest of my family as well. So as I dug into my past, I became very fortunate to make contact with Dr. S. N. Charles Cho, the doctor who delivered me and cared for me as a child.

Even though it was only a few emails, I was pleased beyond my wildest dreams to make contact with Dr. Cho. I attempted to do the same with Dr. Melvin Cheatham but have been unsuccessful so far. So his book is the next best thing.

The book itself is about Dr. Cheatham's adventures in Africa serving as a doctor for the World Medical Mission in Tenwek, Kenya. Most interesting to me were the earlier parts of his life where he becomes a doctor through a very interesting chain of events. His work in Africa is extremely impressive but at times the passages get a little too graphic. I think this is just a doctor reciting back what he has done or seen and doesn't mean to make it graphic in a bad way, I just think he's being a doctor and keeping it realistic. I just struggled with the depressing reality of life in a country like this.

Aside from the biographical and medical themes in the book, Dr. Cheatham also talks about how God and his Christian religion impacted his life and his practice. I am not religious but I never felt like he was preaching to the reader. He was just simply stating his beliefs and, like the descriptions of surgeries, wasn't trying to rub anything in your face.

In the end, I got a nice impression of what Dr. Cheatham is like. Certain parts of the book are sad with people dying or the poor conditions many in Africa live in, but it wasn't overwhelmingly depressing. Some stories were positive and some of the patients made amazing recoveries. I would highly recommend the book for anyone going to Africa for medical or missionary work and for those traveling to the Tenwek region of Kenya.

And if you happen to know Dr. Cheatham, please have him send me an email ( I'd like to chat with him.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - February 25, 1977

It wasn't even two weeks after my last visit to Dr. Cho that I was back again, this time with the flu.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - February 14, 1977

I spent my first Valentine's Day with Dr. Cho getting a "well baby check." Things went "OK" at the check-up.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - January 31, 1977

I'm once again back at Dr. Cheatham's office to check on the growth of my head. Based on the notes, it all "seems to be doing OK." The second note sounds like Dr. Cheatham is at a loss for why the large head and is telling my parents they have the option of going for a second opinion at UCLA or USC.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - January 22, 1977

On January 22, 1977, my mother and I paid a visit to her mother, Dorothy Hollingsworth. The first photo shows my mother wearing a souvenir shirt from her Hawaii trip and my abnormally large head. The next photo has a my grandmother holding me with a hidden gem in the background. I remember that lion pillow as a kid. It was one of my favorite things to play with, or lay on, when I went to visit. The last photo was just me on a Disney blanket, probably getting a diaper change.

What's interesting about these photos, besides who is in them, is who took them; Gibson Brown. Gibson Brown was the father of Phil Brown. Phil Brown married Diana, one of my mother's sisters. Phil and Diana lived in the suburbs of Chicago and were notorious for making me feel like family every time I saw them. When Uncle Phil's father, the aforementioned Gibson Brown, passed away, Uncle Phil was nice enough to let me inherit the Hardy Boy collection that was in his parents' apartment. This small gesture is what helped me develop a long-term love affair with reading.

I still have those Hardy Boys books. And I ended up collecting other stuff too. Tom Swift. Nancy Drew. X Bar X. Star Wars. The list just continues and continues. But that first bag of musty, dusty, wonderfully smelling books is the seed that got me started on the adventure of collecting and reading. Even this past weekend I bought two books that I needed to complete yet another series of books from an author.

One side note, we (my dad and I) inherited a few things from the Browns' apartment. I'm pretty sure one of them was a tape measure from US Steel and another was a painting or drawing by Phil's mom, Lois. It's weird the little things you remember.

Friday, January 20, 2017

40 Years Ago Today - January 20, 1977

This visit was to Dr. Cho, my primary care doctor. There's no reason listed but I was sent for lab work, specifically a "hematocrit" test. The hematocrit test (or HCT) is a simple test that measures your red blood cell count. Since there's no reason given and no results listed, I would assume it's related to my head or maybe because I was anemic (or potentially anemic). Either way, things seemed to be just fine.