Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 Gobble Wobble 5k - Race Report

On a bit of a spur of the moment decision, I ran the 2015 Gobble Wobble 5k in Westmoreland State Park. So I set my alarm for a regular school day and headed out. With my coach's approval (for a change).

The race had about 90 to 100 runners. The course started and finished at the main Visitor Center. Most of the course was flat and on grass, pavement, or gravel. Only a small section was dirt trail. The first mile was downhill and mostly paved. The second mile was uphill and about half dirt and half paved. The third mile was flat with a few ups and downs and was gravel, dirt, and paved. It was well marked and had markers for every K (kilometer) and water tables every mile. The markers every kilometer threw me for a loop but I dealt with it. And there were plenty of course marshals around to keep on the right path.

I started in the middle of the pack and quickly settled into a fast pace. As we headed down hill, I passed the 1st K mark in 6 minutes. I hit the first water table in 9:55, 2k was at 12:30, and 3k was in 20 minutes. 4k was about 26 or 27 minutes. Mile 2 was 13:08. Finish was 34:30. So way speedier up front and certainly not the time I expected. The finish time was about on par with what I figured I would get and I expected to fall off pace towards the end, partly because of the course but mostly because of the training. I'm still working on that change from ultra-runner to 5k runner. So in the end, I felt too fast in the first mile, tried to stay on the bucking bronco for the second mile, and finally felt semi-smooth in the last mile.

The fountain in the park.

Course map.

Is this real? Did I really win?

Yes, I really did win.

Temps were about 45F but warmed to about 50k to 55F. Wind was light. Sky was clear and sun was out.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had coffee and two slices of toast for breakfast. Plain water during the race. Recovery was more water and a banana.That was followed by a lunch of chili, BLT, and cherry Coke.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really.

Wore shorts, pants, thermal top, t-shirt, two Buffs, and gloves. Took the Buffs off about halfway through.

Today's Motivation:
Getting a pre-training time on the books so I can measure my progress down the road. That was my sole motivation. And maybe because I felt like running a race.

Naughty Neil:
I had a burger and fries yesterday for lunch. Yuck. I mean, they tasted great but I felt dirty after eating them. Should have had a salad or a sandwich or something at the house.

Mile 1 - 9:55
Mile 2 - 13:08
Finish - 34:30
Place - 3rd (30-39 age group)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Home Alone - A Classic

The family and I recently went to a limited showing of Home Alone in the theaters. It was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the movie. But for us, it was a celebration of family time as we enjoyed one of our favorite Christmas movies.

We weren't the only ones in the theater but it was surprisingly empty. The small theater was maybe 25% full and most of the viewers were older, like my wife and I, putting them in the age-range of having seen it in the theaters as children when it was first released. Our favorite fans in the screening with us were the family of four that wore matching shirts that read "Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal," but in different colors of course.

As we sat down to enjoy the show, there were no previews. I really wish they had shown something like Rocky V, Look Who's Talking Too, or even Kindergarten Cop. Something from that era of the early 90s that would have set the tone for a great movie.

I think the lack of media coverage was due to everyone focusing on Back to the Future Day. Or maybe they were hungover or overdosed with nostalgia to think of another classic having an anniversary. Thankfully, I read the USA Today article, found a local theater, and bought tickets. THe rest, as they say, was history.

The most I got out of the showing, besides the family time, was catching some of the scenes and dialog that I missed after all these years. So let's walk through them.

The man at the desk.
In a great camera shot, we see Joe Pesci ask for the parents of the house by seemingly talking to every kid that walks by him. But did you notice the guy at the desk in the background? In the same window where we see the lamp move near the end of the movie, there's a man, sitting in a chair, at what looks like a desk. Who is it? Uncle Frank is my guess. He looks a little bald and is wearing a sweater vest.

"You probably have the kind of traveler's checks that don't work in France."
I remember the scene distinctly, it's when Buzz chokes on the pizza in the kitchen. And I remember them trying to get money to pay the pizza boy. And I remember Uncle Frank claiming he had no cash, just traveler's checks. But I've never heard this line before. It's in there, but it's in the background, hard to hear, and I think Peter, the dad, says it under his breath a bit.

Was Kevin's mom a seamstress?
Check out the basement. Notice all the mannequins? You may remember Kevin using them in his first attempt to deter Harry and Marv from breaking into the house by hosting a fake party. But I never really paid attention to where they came from. Then my wife mentioned that the sewing machine in the Master Bedroom was older than the sewing machine in the basement. Which got me to thinking, was Kevin's mom a seamstress? There are mannequins, sewing machines, and even a dressmaker's mannequin in the house.

Marv swears.
Again, I knew this. But in the theater, it was much easier to hear. Sure, Harry says some stuff that sounds like swearing, but it actually isn't. And Kevin says "ass" at least once. But it's the Marv scene that stood out. If you're not sure of the scene I'm talking about, it's when Marv checks out the kitchen door by himself, sticks his foot in the dog door, then looses his shoe. He says "shit" but you can't hear it clearly on the DVD. It's pretty clear in the theater.

The deeper link between Kevin and his neighbor.
It never dawned on me before, but there's a deeper link between Kevin and his neighbor, Old Man Marley (aka The South Bend Shovel Slayer). It hit me when they were in the church talking before Kevin heads home to defend his house. Kevin admits to saying things he shouldn't have and thinks that it has driven his family away. Mr. Marley then goes on to admit essentially the same thing. They have the same family issue and I never noticed it before. I always glossed over this scene because it was light on action and only had a few good jokes.

Old people as friends.
About the same time I caught on to the link between Kevin and Mr. Marley, I realized that in the second movie he befriends an older woman. Not much else to say here but thatjordangirl has a nice image to share.

The lamp moves.
I knew about this one. So did my kids. But did you? Check out the last scene or two from the movie where Kevin greets his mom and the rest of his family. In the background you see the lamp in front of the window. Then as he goes to the window to look at his neighbor, The South Bend Shovel Slayer, the lamp has moved.

This wasn't really a scene from the movie itself, but a scene in the theater. The audience was laughing at something, there was that lull in the laughter, and my son says, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "Classic!" Indeed it was son, indeed it was.

Not only was the movie a classic, but his reaction and the experience is classic. I can only hope your holiday season brings about positive memories and scenes to remember for years to come.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Living Vicariously and Coaching

This fall I took it upon myself to organize and coach a small group of kids in the hops of starting a middle school cross-country team. It didn't work out as well as planned but it certainly could have been worse. With a decent start and lots of interest, I was happy as kids showed up once a week to practice and I did my best to guide them through the basics of running trails.

Sadly a late start, a lack of school support, and some bad weather killed the vibe. I think the kids had a great time and I know I did. Even though I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I was glad to learn from them and about the process.

Later in the already late season, it ended up just being Elizabeth and I running together. I could have pushed her more and ground her through some intense training but I wanted her to have a good time and enjoy running. I mean, she's only in 6th grade so I didn't expect her to go out and break records.

Anyway, I had a blast every time we ran. We'd talk about serious stuff, like growing up, and not so serious stuff, like goofy jokes, and everything in between. But it was nice to enjoy the run and live vicariously through her eyes and her experiences. Granted, I probably could have skipped the memories of my own awkward pre-teen years, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

Moving forward to Saturday's race, I knew Elizabeth wasn't going to be performing at the top of her game just because she's only training once a week. Sure, she's gotten older and stronger, but she doesn't play a sport on a regular basis so I knew she wasn't in peak condition. My goal was to have her focus on doing her best while having fun.

I think she did both. We got to the race start, checked in, got a bib, and generally tried to avoid the rain. On the drive in, we discussed some of the family history she's researching so we kept doing a little of that as well. My dad showed up so we chatted with him a bit. Saw a few other runners we knew and generally hung out until it was time for our warm-up.

We did a short jog and a few stretches before the race. Hit the bathroom one last time. Then we headed out into the fog to go run. I gave her some last minute words and headed off down the road to catch her going by. She passed by looking comfortable the first time. Looked good around the one mile mark. Looked a little tired at the two mile mark. And crushed it at the finish. She kept her splits but deleted them before I could tell her to pass them along to me. But her finish time was a new PR of 28:59, roughly two and a half minutes off her old PR.

She was so excited she jumped up and down. I did too, but on the inside. After lots of praise, we headed headed out for a walking cool down, forgot to stretch, hung around for a few minutes, then headed home. She wasn't in the top of her age group, which was loaded with a ton of runners, but she enjoyed the donut on the way home.

While I generally save the data section for my own reports, I figured I'd put it in here just for posterity.

Some of the murals that were in the school/church/building where the race HQ was located.


Temps were about 60F. Sky was overcast. Light rain before and after the race, none during the race. No wind.

Fluids and Fuel:
Soy milk and Pop Tarts for breakfast. Plain water before, during, and after the race. Recovery was a donut with vanilla icing and fall sprinkles.

Aches and Pains:

Wore capri pants and short sleeve shirt.

Naughty Elizabeth:
Probably shouldn't have had a donut, but what the hell, she's a kid and did a great job.

Today's Motivation:
Dad and the desire to run a half marathon.

Finish - 28:59

Friday, November 06, 2015

Underoos - Are They Deadly? Or Just Bad Luck?

To steal a line from The Goldbergs, way back in 1980-something, I was just like any other kid out there wearing Underoos.

It's okay to feel weird watching a bunch of kids dancing around in their underwear. But that's not the point here. My point is that I have a theory that Underoos are deadly. Or at least bad luck.

You see, it all started when my wife pointed out an ad for grown-up Underoos. I think there was something Star Wars related to what she was showing me but my reaction was a big fat no. Because I have a history with Underoos and it isn't a pleasant one.

Way back when in the 1980s, my dad would drive us around in an old Ford Econoline van. It was pea-soup green straight out of the 70s. It was huge. It was old and clunky. It had captain's chairs in the front and a bench in the middle and nothing in the back. That's about all I remember.

When we drove it around, because it was the only car that was functioning, I would always ride on the edge of the seat up front so I could see what was going on and so I could see the road. This meant that I had to wear my lap belt a little loose. It was never a big deal.

Until the accident.

I've been in a few car accidents in my life. But this is likely the most memorable for me. I can remember my dad and I went to Roma's, a local eatery, for dinner. As usual, I got a lollipop for dessert. We were on Route 206, heading up the hill after crossing 301, when there were headlights coming into view on the left side of the van. The top of the hill had a road that crossed over and it was the source of the car. My dad yelled something like "oh shit" or "hold on" and that was it. We hit the car.

I was knocked unconscious for a few seconds at least. We would find out later that I hit my head on the dash hard enough to crack it. I only had a small spot of blood on my forehead. We would also find out later that the lollipop I had in my mouth flew out and landed on the floor. I was very lucky I hit my head and not the lollipop. To this day, our family bans lollipops in any moving car.

When I came to, I tried to get out of the van. My door wouldn't open. The front fender had moved backwards to cover up the door preventing it from opening out. So I had to get out on my dad's side of the van. I don't remember smoke or flames or even bright lights. But I do remember the screaming baby. The sound doesn't haunt me. Never did that I can remember. It scared me in the moment though. My dad moved me off to the side and I think I stood somewhere near the scene but far enough away to be safe and be out of sight of the other car.

And that's the part that doesn't haunt me but does stick with me. The other car had four people in it. The screaming baby was in the rear on the driver's side. It was thankfully in a car seat and survived with barely a scratch. There was an older daughter in the rear passenger side. She had a broken hip, pelvis, leg, or a combination of. The driver was the father who suffered injuries but I don't know what or how many. The wife was in the front passenger seat and she died.

It gives me chills to think about that, especially now as I'm a father and husband. Death scares the shit out of me and when I dwell on it I get anxious and a bit panicky.

After the accident we went to the hospital to get checked out. We rode with a friend I think but he kept trying to get us to take a ride in the ambulance. Once at the hospital, we were checked and cleared. I think my dad has some bruising on his arms and was sore while I had the minor scratch on my forehead and scratch on my waist. The loose seat belt worked but the buckle dug into my hips. I remember wearing my Incredible Hulk Underoos and being embarrassed when they checked on me at the hospital. I guess I felt like a grown-up for having survived the wreck but here I was wearing little kid underwear.

In the end, my dad and I lived to drive again another day. The other driver ran a stop sign and unfortunately there were consequences. I'm sure my scars are nowhere as deep as the other family.

Speaking of which, if anybody out there has any information on the other family, the date of the accident, or even an official police report, I'd appreciate the information. I've always wondered what happened to the people in the other car. My dad doesn't remember the date or even the year of the accident. I'm doubtful the police have a copy of the report but I can't search for it until I know more about the accident.

2015-12-06 - Update - You can read an even longer, more detailed version of the story here.