Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Can You Use a Little Mercy Now?

I was alerted to this youtube video by a college friend (Thanks Bonnie!) and found it to be well worth the time. In fact, I listened to it several times. I had not heard of Mary Gauthier before but I like the blues sound. However, it is the message of the lyrics that grab you--even if the tempo is slower than you normally appreciate. Her song is set to pictures of the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. There are racial insinuations and political decisions that I do not appreciate nor condone, but the message of the song is powerful; every single one of us can use a little mercy now.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Encouraging Update!

This just in; as I plundered around several web sites tonight (Sunday) I happened to check on the Trail of Legends site and discovered the results and photos from the Riverfest 5K race in Wetumpka a couple of weeks ago. Imagine my surprise when I saw these results;

Male 50-54

247 25.19 Grant, James 50 Montgomery, AL

250 28.36 Wishum, Roxy 53 Montgomery, AL

264 33.05 Rice, Neil 54 Prattville, AL

243 33.16 Wiggins, Kenneth 50 Wetumpka, AL

254 34.59 Hines, Brent 50 Wetumpka, AL

That's right, I thought I did not do so well but, in fact, finished second in my age group. Where's my trophy? I also found this;

I feel a little better.

Quote of the week

I found this on another blog as part of a much longer quote. As an amateur photographer, I immediately appreciated the thought.

"A photographer is always in a state of preparing himself for a given moment… we have only an instant in which to think and act." -Arnold Newman

After you think about it a while, perhaps whatever role we play in life causes us to be always in a state of preparing for a given moment. That is why I grow increasingly impatient with the time-wasters in my life. T.V. comes to mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

If at first you don't succeed, tri, tri again!

You are probably tired of checking my blog only to find those canned pictures of other folks competing in a triathlon. Sure, they all look like real athletes and seem very serious about competing. But if you want to see serious determination, check this out;

You see, someone as naturally fast as I am has to really concentrate to stay under the posted speed limit of 15 mph. One of the competitors said after the race that those signs did not apply to us, but with the recent "taking back the streets" campaign, I wasn't taking any chances! And just in case anybody thought I was kidding about riding my mountain bike in a triathlon, here is the proof;

This shot was taken about 5 minutes later and, as you can see, I have moved 20 or 30 yards closer to the cameraman. There is no telling how fast I was going. The official timer did say they were timing me with a calender. One guy said he had to line me up with a telephone pole to see if I were moving.

And for all of you who think I may not have finished before dark, here is a picture of the TRI-umphant crossing of the finish line.

The reason the finish line looks like a doormat is that sensors are underneath that pad that read the computer chip in the strap on my right ankle. This enables them to track each time you enter and leave the transition area. And they had computer print-outs posted at the end of the race showing names and times by age group. Actually, it was posted while some were still on the course. Later, I will post a more serious, philosophical perspective on competing in such an event. But, for now, have a good laugh. Yes, I know I look funny. No, I don't have any pictures of me drowning--I mean swimming. Yes, there were a few people still behind me at the finish--very few.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Medical School

You know the old joke; "What do you call the guy who finishes last in his class at med school?" "Doctor." So, what do you call the guy who finishes near the back of the pack in a triathlon? A triathlete! Of course, when I was young enough (and foolish enough) to think I might become competitive in triathlons, athletes would call people who treated a sprint triathlon like an endurance event "triathloids". After a hiatus of about a quarter century, I have entered and completed another triathlon. My part wasn't pretty but I got the medal and the t-shirt. I didn't do badly with the watermelon and cookies either. Here are a few pictures;

I have no idea who this young lady is, but her picture is included to represent that the gender ratio in the Georgia Veterans Park Triathlon was about 60% male and 40% female. I was a little surprised by the number of female triathletes.

Can you find me in this picture? Of course not! First of all, by the time I got out of the lake, there was no chance I would be riding with this many cyclists. Secondly, none of these pictures are from my triathlon. Since I do not have any (yet), I harvested these from the "net".

This could be me. Well, I am not that lean and I don't have a $3000 bike. In fact, I don't even have a road bike. That's right, I competed (?) on a mountain bike. It was a little like taking the Clampett's old truck to the Daytona 500. But still, I had a red shirt and black shorts. That might be me.

This might be my brother, Keith. Except he has never been to Australia. I sent Keith this picture to make him feel better. Keith and Josh (the associate minister) bought triathlon shorts for the race (like biking shorts) and family gave them so much grief that they almost did not wear them. Once you see all the crazy outfits, the self-conscious feelings fade quickly. At least they did not make the mistake this guy did and order the women's outfit.

The serious report is that the Georgia Veteran's Park Triathlon is an extremely organized event and was lots of fun. Yes, I did actually do as poorly in the swim as I anticipated. Once I survived that ordeal, the bike and run portions were fun. Keith did really, really, well. I am very proud of him. Josh also beat me but was a little gun-shy because of a bike crash during training a couple of weeks ago. If you are thinking about completing a triathlon some day, this would be a great first event. There were a good many first-timers in this race. I would like to add, as tactfully as I know how, that there were men and women of every shape, size, and age in this race. Please take this word of wisdom with you; never, never size up a competitor before a race based on age, size, or shape and conclude "I know I can beat that person." The odds are good that you can not.

Stay tuned for reports on these upcoming events;

Labor Day 1-miler Downtown Montgomery

9/29 5-K at AUM

10/28 Attack on Swayback mountain bike race (I have the bike for this one)

12/8 5-K in Wetumpka

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Run for your life!

Because SO MANY readers of my blog have asked for it (thanks, Laura), here is a report on my participation in the Riverfest 5K race in beautiful downtown Wetumpka last Saturday. First, let me say that on August 1 the official high temp in Wetumpka was 95 and 8/2-8/5 it was either 98 or 99. From 8/6 until today it has been over 100 and is predicted to surpass 100 through this week. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the high in Wetumpka was 105 each day. This information should not be ignored as you read this because it CAN NOT be ignored if you work (and/or play) outdoors. Last week was a 6-day workweek for me, including the Saturday of the race. I had planned to run the race and go to work late since Saturday is normally a short workday for me. My plan was to use this race as a barometer to determine if I had any chance to survive a triathlon near Americus, Georgia on the following Saturday (8/18) with my brother. The results are in; 1] I have little chance of survival 2] I signed up for the triathlon Sunday afternoon.

The race was fun, all things considered. The organization was less than ideal but much better than it could have been. The start time for the race was 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., depending on which source you were depending on. This poses some problem since showing up 30 minutes late for the start of a race that should be over in less than 30 could be both confusing and disheartening. I made the only wise decision--to show up prepared to run at 7 and not be surprised if it began at 7:30. That is exactly what happened. Well, not exactly. As it turned out, the "organizers" were not quite organized at 7:30 so the hour I had already been there and the two jogs from my truck to the starting line area were not enough. We needed to stand in the blistering sun a little longer. We started some time around 7:45. It is always fascinating to me to watch people at events such as this. O.K., it is fascinating to me to watch people almost anywhere, but especially when they are about to "perform". These events draw a wide assortment of people. All the characters are always there. The names change, but the characters are represented. There are true athletes; those who take it very seriously and train hard. They are not the first ones you notice and often it surprises you which ones they really are. Then there are pseudo-serious athletes; these folks have expensive, new apparel and gear. They drive sporty cars and have stickers displaying allegiance to various sports. And there is a variety of individuals that prompt you to want to ask "Are you REALLY running in this race?" Not just the ones that are old and heavy, like me, but they have complex waist-belts with multiple water-bottle holders or hydration backpacks and ipods and heart monitors and wires everywhere. Really? For a 5K? You know that is 3.1 miles? Do you really think you will need to refuel several times in the next half-hour? Will you really have time to listen to Mozart or Rick and Bubba? Do you really want a lot of distraction while you jostle with 150 other people running through traffic for 3.1 miles? You DO realize this is NOT a marathon, right? My favorite for this particular race was the lady who showed up late. By late, I mean later than the actual posted start-time (the second one, not the first). She screeched into the drive near the registration table, hopped out of her car (leaving it in the drive), and ran to get her race number. All eyes were on her as she explained to the lady at the table that she got "horribly lost". Really? In Wetumpka? With the registration table in front of city hall on MAIN STREET? Then you think the thing to do is drive through the crowd that has been standing here for an hour so you can park 7 feet from the start line? Here is what caught my attention about this lady; as late as she was and as rude as she was (because of the emergency of being late), you could not help to notice that her make-up was flawless. That's right folks--bright red lipstick, foundation, blush, mascara--she was ready to rumble. Perhaps she was applying make-up while driving, which may explain getting "hopelessly lost" in Wetumpka. Eventually, we did get underway and I was flying. Man, I was running near the front of the pack and it did not seem that hard. As many races as I have run over the years, I should have recognized that I was starting too fast for my level of conditioning. But I could not help myself--I was unleashed and could not be held back. Until about half-way. Then something began to hold me back--a lot. What is that? Gravity? The weight of years? The weight of Snickers bars? The wet blanket of Alabama humidity (did I mention that we ran next and twice crossed the Coosa River)?

My second complaint about organization/planning is (and I hate to complain because I really appreciate the race--but when you fork out $20 for a race, you expect these things to be done) the miles were not marked. With no indication of the one, two, or three mile mark you not only do not know how to judge your level of exhaustion but also can not compute your pace. This is a major flaw and should not be tolerated by a race director. Otherwise, I may have won. Well, at least I could look back on the race and figure how many miles I had remaining when the real runner won. Seriously, the late start and lack of mile markers did not affect me too much since the best I hoped for was to run at the middle of the pack. But serious (and semi-serious) competitors need that information.

I saw Matt Dixon at the race which was a little weird since I had watched him perform in "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Faulkner dinner theater Friday night (just hours before). Matt did well--improving on his time from a couple of weeks ago by about two minutes and beating me by about that margin. Man, that hurts. Don't count on it again, Matt. I am not having it. Matt is also training for a triathlon--only he is actually training. I am sure he will do MUCH better in his than I will do in mine. Good luck, Matt. I am proud of you.

One more shortcoming of the race was that there was no visible clock at the finish line and nobody calling out times. Again, this is just not acceptable--not even to the back-of-the-pack runners. A registration and accompanying fees should assure these basics or you are just paying $20 to go for a run. Kudos, however, for the great fruit table at the finish line.

I had fun and am glad I did it. It had been a long time since I participated in an organized (?) event like this, so it was fun to get back into it. Also, a GIANT THANK YOU to my wonderful wife who got up early on Saturday, drove to Wetumpka, and stood in the heat just to cheer for ME! That means that although my time was over 28 minutes and lots of folks finished ahead of me, I was a WINNER! It is great to have fans. Thanks, also to co-workers who tolerated my schedule so I could go out and play. Next week I will post about the Georgia Veterans Triathlon. I continue to train even as I am writing this by finishing off a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. I am so ready! I hope it is 110 degrees Saturday.

How hot is it?

I am not saying that two weeks of temps over 100 degrees every day is too hot, but just today I have heard 4 different trees attempting to whistle a dog over.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why do you race?

People sometimes ask me this question. I rarely feel that they want to allow me the time to adequately answer. When I haven't raced for a long time and return to it in the middle of a 100 degree heat wave, I sometimes ask myself the same question. My favorite running philosopher, Dr. George Sheehan explains it better than I can. Here is one of his essays;

"What I have lost I can afford to lose. What I have gained is something I cannot do without."

I first came upon the aging process in a race. I felt no sense of advancing years in my day-to-day activity. My work week was unchanged: I wrote, I traveled, I lectured. Some people marveled at my energy and endurance. It was my weekend race that finally told me I was no longer young. The changes that come with age are subtle-but not to a runner. My 10-K time measures me quite accurately. Any change in performance dictated by age is precisely recorded in minutes or seconds on the digital clock at the finish line. "Crumbling is not an instant's Act," wrote Emily Dickinson. And the physician in me knows that almost 90 percent of my liver has to be damaged before its impairment is apparent. The body has enormous reserves to call upon. But in the race, I call on all my reserves. I am operating at full throttle. The least diminution in function becomes evident. The race, therefore, is the litmus test for aging. Long before anything else goes, race times signal the approach of the last stage of life. A look at my weekly race results will tell you bluntly that I am no longer middle-aged. I am now a full-fledged citizen of the country of the aged. Three years ago when this happened, I refused to believe it. Running had been my fountain of youth. For years I thought it was inexhaustible, like the never-empty cup of coffee some restaurants offer. After I began running in my 40's, I quickly became 32 years old and stayed that way. Decades came and went, and I was still in my prime. When my 10-K times slowed down and I began to run personal worsts instead of personal bests, I took stock. It was not age, I told myself. I had been 32 years old for the previous 20 years and did not intend to get older. All I needed was more training, some hills and speedwork, and I would be back to my best. I took up arms against age. I increased my training and within a single Thanksgiving holiday ran four races. Each race I ran a little faster than the previous one, but never near the times I had registered the year before. And I was no longer in the top third of the field-now, I was well back in the second half of the pack. How did I feel about all this? Terrible. And don't remind me that most people my age have run up the white flag. Do not tell me I can still outrun the average person twenty years younger than me. Do not point out that age has compensations that will more than pay for the lost few minutes in the race. I am rebuilding my life on those thoughts. But first, help me bury the runner I once was, and then we can talk about what the future holds. Apparently, it still holds plenty. My initial depression has receded. I realize now that there are more things at stake than setting a personal best in a road race. I can even answer truthfully (and this is the most difficult part) when someone asks me, "What was your time, Doc?" My times continue to get slower and slower. And, therefore, the "me" that I am is different. But the me that I am has developed insights and wisdom that I did not have before. What I have lost I can afford to lose. What I have gained is something I cannot do without. The race, however slow my times, remains an ever-changing learning experience. Whenever I race, I learn something new about myself and those who race with me. I will never be 32 years-old again, but it no longer matters, because I've learned that winning doesn't matter, it's running that counts. And when I push to the limit, I am a boy again-an untried youth listening to the wisdom of my body.
Copyright © The George Sheehan Trust

I think I will stick with it a while.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Utilice por favor el carril que da vuelta.

This post is only for the employees of Caffco and Southern Homes and Gardens on Hwy. 231. The sentence in Spanish says "Please use the turning lane." There are 7 lanes on Hwy. 231 in front of your workplace. The middle lane was designed by intelligent engineers to allow you a safe place to decelerate and stop while waiting for an opening to turn across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic. Do not be afraid of the turning lane. It is there to help you. DO BE AFRAID of coming to a complete stop in the far left lane (read fast lane) every morning during rush hour. We are all trying to watch out for you until you can secure a driver's license and perhaps even some liability insurance. You have been so brave to sneak across the border and come all the way to Alabama in an Astro van with 17 relatives. You show no fear of violating numerous traffic laws. Please do not be afraid of the turning lane.
Gracias. Tenga un buen dia.

Crabby Old Man

The following is a poem sent to me by a friend. It was written by a man in a geriatric ward of a small hospital in Tampa, Florida. I am sorry I do not know his name to give credit. After he died the nurses cleaning his room discovered this poem and it has circulated via e-mail since then. It is worth a read.

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? .....What do you see?
What are you thinking..when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, ..not very wise,Uncertain of habit ........with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food.......and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice.....'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice .the things that you do.
And forever is losing .............. A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not...........lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding ... The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes,'re not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten.......with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .......who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen ..........with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now. .......a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows......that I promised to keep
At Twenty-Five, now ......... I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide ..... And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ........ My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other ........ With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons ....have grown and are gone,
But my woman's beside see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ....... Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children ........ My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me .......... My wife is now dead.
I look at the future .........I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing ......young of their own.
And I think of the years...... And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man.........and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age .....look like a fool
The body, it crumbles..........grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone........where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass ...... A young guy still dwells,
And now and again battered heart swells.
I remember the joys.............. I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and over again.
I think of the years ....all too few.....gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact........that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people and see..
Not a crabby old man. Look closer....see..ME!!

I will add just three comments;
1] Life is short (James 4:14)
2] Make fun of young people, not old people--you have already been where the young are and will someday be where the old are!
3] Take time to consider that the person in front of you is a combination of traits, strengths, weaknesses, and experiences that adds up to more than what you first see.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

No Excuses!

Lord, forgive me when I complain about my busy schedule and help me remember this picture of the president of the United States making time in his schedule to run with wounded veterans. Forgive me when I complain about aches and pains or allow fear of doing badly prevent me from doing what I need to do. Help me to remember this picture of one veteran with one leg and the other with no legs bravely making the effort to run with the president. Thank you for two legs and two feet that amazingly work the way you created legs and feet to work for Adam so long ago. Thank you for the opportunity to choose how I spend my time. Thank you for reminders such as this of how blessed I am and how much is possible with your help.