Dad To The Rescue

I spent this Father’s Day in my typical fashion, goofing around doing my typical stuff. I enjoyed a nice bike ride with Kari and spent some time swimming on a very hot day. The extended family appeared and more swimming and good food and talk was enjoyed.

At one point in the conversation we talked about the need to purge some of the junk in our house, and I admitted that I was the hoarder in the family. “But I’m a neat hoarder!” I exclaimed, and the wife agreed.

After dinner everyone was getting ready to leave for home. I noticed that Ben’s car had a brake light out. I thought I had a spare, so I attempted to fix it. It turned out I had a different bulb than what he needed, but I remembered that my mom had this old cabinet thing with a bunch little odds and ends in it. Sure enough, the bulb we needed was in there. My mom had saved the bulb, and I had saved the cabinet full of junk. We swapped out the bulb and off Ben drove.

I had barely got my tools put away when Ben pulled back into the driveway. I could see that his front tire was flat.

We pulled the tire and I couldn’t see any nails or punctures anywhere. I filled it with air and pushed it around the back to the pool to check for leaks. The problem became apparent immediately, the vavle stem was leaking.

That could have been a problem, but thankfully I had a tool – a tool that was my Dad’s that I had kept. It’s probably been in my possession at least 40 years or so. A simple little device to remove and install a valve stem core. Hoarder? – pffft. Please.

I tightened the valve stem and tested it again and it was still leaking. The valve stem core must be bad, no longer holding air. That’s a problem, because I knew that I didn’t have any extra valve stem cores laying around. I may be a hoarder, but I’m not crazy.

But wait! The tool itself was just a cap on an old valve stem, and the valve stem itself probably had a core in it. Sure enough, I pulled it out and was kind of shocked to see that valve stem cores had not been reengineered in 40 years. I put the old one in and surprisingly it no longer leaked. Fixed!

So on Father’s Day, I was able to save my son’s day, thanks to my dad leaving behind a simple tool for us to use nearly four decades later. Dad to the rescue for sure.

Happy Father’s Day!

RIP Running Streak

 

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My running streak is over.  Three years, three months, and 16 days.  At least a mile run every day since January 1, 2015.  6116 total miles of running over 1202 days.  It was a challenge, I was glad to have kept at it.  It made me a better runner, at least for a while.  It overstayed its welcome.  Now it’s time to move on.

The running streak kind of started by accident.  New Year’s Day is usually a day of laying around, watching the Rose Parade (a parade I marched in in 1982!), and spending time with the family.  But I ran on January 1, and then again on the second, and then by the fifth day I realized what I had started.  Then it became a challenge to see if I could run every day for at least year, and it seemed like a fun thing to try.  Most runners who attempt a running streak (AKA – “streakers”) follow the basic self-administered rule that you have to run at least a mile every day to have an active streak.  Since I felt that I could easily do a mile, I made my goal to run at least two miles a day.  That lasted until fall of that first year when I got some sort of stomach bug that knocked me out.  After spending most of the day trying to retain fluids and bring my fever down, I felt good enough to head downstairs to the treadmill and attempt to keep my streak alive.  I ended up jogging a mile, and it about did me in.  So even though I couldn’t keep the two mile goal going, I still maintained a running streak.  That was the only time in which not feeling well almost ended the streak.  There were a couple of times when a pulled muscle during a run almost ended the streak, but I was able to hobble through it.

The other challenges to keeping the streak alive were after a handful of big events.  When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2015, I was more worried about doing the day after mile than I was running the marathon.  Same thing for the 2016 Chicago Marathon.  The day after completing Ironman Lake Placid in 2016 was a challenge.  My wife and I drove to Cooperstown, NY the day after, and upon getting there after a two hour car ride, we chose to walk around the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After the walk back to our bed & breakfast, I attempted my mile.  It was rough, but I got it done.  Interestingly enough, after completing Ironman Louisville in 2017, the long car ride home from Louisville and the race before didn’t have much of a negative effect.  I think I could have run 3 miles that day.

But after completing the Boston Marathon in 2018, I was sore.  I had shown up with symptoms that were clearly signs of being overtrained.  My feet were always sore.  I had developed a knee issue that forced me to dial back the training.  And my overall mile pace had diminished significantly.  The sub-8 min/mile pace that I comfortably ran at the 2016 Chicago Marathon was not even a possibility without really pushing myself into a higher heart rate zone.  I knew that upon getting to the Boston Marathon, I was going to be lucky to manage an 8:45 min/mile pace.  Boston is a net downhill course, and it tore me up.  I was really sore in my legs, so the decision to drop the running streak was pretty much made for me.  I could keep the streak going, but continue to have soreness, not see any gains in running efficiency, and jeopardize the other racing I wanted to do in 2018 just didn’t make much sense.  In the words of my buddy John, who taunted me occasionally, it was time to “let it go.”

The Annual Totals

2015 – 365 days – 2112 total miles run

2016 – 366 days (leap year) – 1824 total miles run

2017 – 365 days – 1682 total miles run

2018 – 106 days (ending with the Boston Marathon) – 498 total miles run

What were the negatives?

Training for an Ironman requires a smart plan, and I was following up non-run workouts with a one mile run.  It added an extra workload to an already tough training regimen.  It also added leg work on rest days that followed tough workouts.  Mentally it drained me, having to swim or bike and then do a run afterward.  Somedays, like Thursday would normally be a swim/bike workout day, and then I would also have to do a run, making it a mini homemade triathlon.

After completing the third year, I was getting pretty sore and tired.  My foot started to hurt most of the time, exhibiting a kind of plantar fasciitis-type symptoms.  Then my right knee started to hurt, really right below it on the top of the tibia.  As I got into my 16 week Boston Marathon plan, I had to take a couple of recovery weeks, which forced me to reduce my overall weekend long runs by about 4 miles each week.  The week of my plan that called for a 22 mile run before tapering for 3 weeks I only ran 18 miles, and I couldn’t hold my marathon race pace very well.  I was laboring.  I made it to Boston, but I was sore and knew I was just there to finish.  Boston 2018 was tough for many reasons, but my Boston Marathon time of 4:10 was 5 minutes slower than my Ironman Louisville marathon split of 4:05.  The proof is in the numbers.

Lastly, I had to plan a way to run on days when skipping it would have been nice.  We were up at our home in upper Wisconsin over Christmas and I had to get in several runs in sub-zero and single digit degree weather.  It was not fun.  Any trip anywhere meant also bringing the running gear and doing at least a mile.  I got through it, but some days it just wasn’t easy.

Was it worth doing?

When I started the running streak I really had no goal with it other than to last a year.  I mentioned the streak to my son Ben, a D-III college runner who mentioned that it might be beneficial to me.  He then added that it may not be apparent until year two, though.  Interesting.  There was a little bit of adjusting to the streak at first, both mentally and physically.  I didn’t really feel any different or notice any huge leaps in performance in the first year, with one exception – I got my first Boston Marathon qualifier at the Chicago Marathon in October 2015.  I basically got a personal best by about 10 minutes.  That was significant.

By year two in 2016, I had two big races on the calendar:  Ironman Lake Placid in July and the Chicago Marathon in October.  By this time I was really reaping the benefits of the running streak.  Running every day meant also doing the run after a swim or bike.  And since I liked to knock out my workouts in succession, running on days after a bike meant doing a lot of brick workouts.  And brick workouts build a strong ability to run after a hard bike effort.  Triathletes will often complain about having dead legs or legs of stone when trying to run after getting off the bike.  It didn’t take long for me to not notice that at all.  I actually felt pretty good when I started a run after a bike workout.

Doing well at IM Lake Placid also meant that the cross training involved with triathlon was also going to benefit me in the marathon in October.  When I finally ran Chicago in October, I was feeling strong and ready.  I lowered that marathon personal best by another couple of minutes, not only re-qualifying for Boston, but also making the cutoff easily.  The second year of the running streak got me to Boston.  Ben was right.

During the third year, I kept the running streak going and felt great as I got closer to Ironman Louisville in October 2017.  Louisville has had a reputation as being one of the tougher North American courses, but that was mainly due to the fact it was in held in the August heat, and the rolling hills that never end on the bike course.  Since it had been moved to mid-October, the heat wasn’t really an issue.  The weather did play a role the day of the 2017 race, but it really didn’t effect me negatively.  I set a personal best at Louisville in all three disciplines and overall.  I had a great swim, a pretty decent bike, and a run in which I almost went sub-4 hours.  Damn toilet breaks!

Conclusion

I decided a day or two before running Boston that I thought I would drop the streak after the race.  The race did take a toll on me.  Running a down hill marathon really tears up your quads, and around Mile 22 or so I remembered thinking that I really couldn’t feel my legs anymore.  Most of it was due to the 40 degree temps and all day driving rain and wind.  But after limping it home from the finish line, I kind of knew that I had had enough.  There was nothing left to prove.  The streak helped me get to the Boston Marathon, and I am forever grateful for that.

It’s been 9 days since I finished the marathon, and I have run a total of four times.  I have done a little biking just to do something different, but I have tried not to overexert myself.

I thought I would miss not running every day, but I am surprisingly enjoying the time off.  I’m looking forward to getting some rest and rebuilding my running without the pressure of keeping a streak alive.  At 54, it’s not like I was going to set a Guinness World Record for most consecutive days running.  One of the longest streaks lasted 52 years.  I’d have to live a very long time to be able to do that.  Had I started the streak in 1989 when I started keeping track of my running, I might have had a shot.  But I wasn’t as crazy then as I am now, I guess.

RIP Running Streak, it was a good run.

Further info on running streaks:  http://www.runeveryday.com/streaks.html

 

Confessions of an Un-peaceful Peaceful Sleeper

Last night I was enjoying a really deep sleep.  Honestly, most nights I enjoy a really deep sleep.  Now, you might ask how does one actually “enjoy” a deep sleep?  Well, I’m not sure really, but when the bedquake hit, it jolted me from the deep sleep I was enjoying and I was now no longer enjoying it!  A bedquake?  What’s a bedquake?

A bedquake is something my wife Kari has invented in order to prevent me from having a really deep sleep.  It’s a tactic she resorts to when the foot rub on my calf doesn’t work.  The foot rub on the calf is only good to disrupt my sleep if I’m not that deep into it.  One night I was just dozing off and could feel this strange calf massage thing going on.  I thought, “huh, that’s strange,” and just rolled over and went back to sleep. But if I’m in full REM, she goes nuclear and employs the bedquake.

Now since I am asleep I’m a little fuzzy on the details of how she carries out the bedquake, but what I can surmise from the brief few disoriented nanoseconds of awakening, is that maybe she is doing some jumping up and down on the bed, or possibly standing next to the bed and shaking it hard and then jumping back in just before it awakens me, like nothing was going on.  She’s somewhat subversive about it, just wanting to disrupt my sleep enough to get the results she’s looking for.  She thinks I don’t know about these two tactics, but I’m starting to see the big picture.

Now, you might ask why the hell is she doing this?!  It’s simple really.  I’m enjoying a really deep sleep and she is not.  And the reason she’s not – apparently I am a snorer.

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The Bedquake – Kari’s version of “Wake up and go to sleep.”

The best of wake up and go to sleep – A link to ten great seconds of the Three Stooges

I say “apparently” I am a snorer, because it’s very difficult to realize you are a snorer while being asleep.  But I am told I snore by Kari.  And the kids.  Sometimes during a nap I will wake up suddenly, like I was actually awoken by a loud noise.  I’m starting to think that I might actually be a snorer.  But being a denier is easier.  Okay, I snore.  Big deal.  I admit it, even with circumstantial evidence, I admit it.  But I don’t want to admit it because the implication is that there is something wrong with me for being a snorer.

I sleep pretty soundly, but I find that I sleep most soundly on my back.  Years ago I saw a report on back pain and how sleeping on your stomach would lead to back aches.  Since I had back pain, I switched.  And I have been a back sleeper ever since.  And I don’t move.  I’m like that scene in the movie Psycho where they show the bed where mother “sleeps.”  My side of the bed is starting to get a channel in it as well.

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Mother was apparently a side sleeper.

But I usually start on my side, and that will generally last until I’m about to be out.  Kari prefers the “on the side” sleeping me, because that is the non-snoring me.  Apparently there is a link to my sleeping on my back and snoring.  Side sleeping me = no snoring.  Back sleeping me = OMG!  TIME TO EMPLOY THE BEDQUAKE!

Snoring can be caused by several things, all of which I categorically deny having.  I’m not obese, I don’t smoke, drink or take drugs, nor am I pregnant (I looked up reasons for snoring and it was there).  Sleep apnea?  I looked at the symptoms of that too and none of them apply to me, at least the awake me.  Even if I did have sleep apnea, there’s no way I’m wearing that dumb mask thing.  No way.  I do go to bed with some nasal congestion.  Maybe I should look into a decongestant prior to bed, or a nasal spray or something.

I really think the issue lies with the jaw.  Try making a snoring sound, then move your lower jaw forward and try to make a snoring sound.  Can’t do it, can you?  When I’m sleeping on my back, my jaw naturally relaxes and gets into a position that promotes snoring.  That’s my thinking, and I’m sticking with it.

So last night I was having this dream, I don’t even remember what it was about, but it was building in intensity and then the bedquake hit.  For a moment I thought that maybe the dream was what jolted me awake, because I hate being unsettled by dreams.  But as I lay there in the brief moment of being suddenly awakened, I started to piece it together.  The bedquake was employed.  And maybe it was because I was snoring.  I was probably snoring.  OKAY, I WAS SNORING!  I’m an un-peaceful, peaceful sleeper.  I guess I better get used to bedquakes.

zzzzz – foot/calf rub

ZZZZZ – BEDQUAKE!!!

 

 

Tempus Fugit

WE HAVE A COLLEGE GRADUATE!  

CONGRATULATIONS BEN HEDGES, LORAS COLLEGE CLASS OF 2017!

Man, this week went by quick.  And it wasn’t just the week that went by quick.  I spent the weekend in Dubuque, Iowa having the pleasure of watching my son Ben graduate from Loras College.  My wife and I both thought that the ceremony was perfect, and of course it was over before we knew it.  I sat there in the gymnasium thinking of all the time and joys that were had as we watched him go from a child to a grown man.

It seems like yesterday that I used to push him in the jogger stroller along the bike path.

It seems like yesterday that I took him to preschool in Carol Stream, Illinois.

It seems like yesterday I waited with him for the kindergarten bus to come and drive him to school for the first time.  (It never came – thanks a lot, Carol Stream School District!  So I drove him there that first day.)  He would meet another kid in Carol Stream by the name of Josh, and even though we moved away, their paths would meet again, reuniting as college roommates and Duhawk teammates.

It seems like yesterday that I would time him and his buddy Chris run around our house trying to set a new best time.

It seems like yesterday we stood and watched him run a junior high XC meet in a downpour.

It seems like yesterday we watched him make a big decision of leaving high school soccer for running, a decision that proved to be life changing.

It seems like yesterday Kari and I dropped him off at Loras and drove away bawling our eyes out.  There wasn’t many tears at graduation, at least any that I noticed.  It was a very joyful occasion that I wish everyone could experience.

It seems like yesterday we watched him run at the D-III NCAA National Cross Country Championships.

It seems like yesterday that he turned 5 years old, then 10, and now 21.

It seems like yesterday I was filled with pride, watching him get his grade school diploma and his high school diploma.

It seems like yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the many yesterdays before, that I was filled with pride of becoming a father for the first time to a boy who would fill my life with many joys of yesterdays.  I can only hope that the tomorrows will be as joyful and fulfilling as all of the yesterdays ago.

Congratulations Ben!  You did it!

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Yesterday.

CUBS WIN!!! I lose.

The Cubs have won the World Series!!!  What are you going to do next?  Mope around, I guess.

After 108 years of World Series drought the 2016 Chicago Cubs have finally won it all.  And I can’t seem to enjoy it.  It was quite a roller coaster ride, the awesome season, the wins over the Giants and Dodgers and finally reaching the pinnacle of the sport.  I should be ecstatic.  But I’m not and I’m still trying to figure out why.

I have been a Cubs fan for as long as I can remember.  My mother had told me that my first baseball game was when I was a newborn at a Kansas City A’s game (!), but when we moved to the Chicagoland area in the late 1960’s, the Cubs were hot and I became a fan.  I can remember being little and watching Santo hit a home run on opening day and then running out to the garage and telling my dad and brother, who were deep into some mechanical project and probably could not have cared less.  But I have bled Cubbie blue as they say, since that time.

Many Cub fans have carried that burden of being beholden to the “loveable losers” for so long, and it seems that the relationship has now changed for me.  They are no longer losers.  There was a diehard Cubs fan being interviewed on the news that replied to a question from the reporter that really resonated with me.  When asked if the Cubs winning had sunk in yet, she replied that it hadn’t. She said that being associated with a team that has consistently let us down, we only knew how to expect the worst and to deal with losing.  She really wasn’t sure how to celebrate them winning the World Series, because it hadn’t happened for generations of fans.  I can really relate to that point.  I don’t know how to enjoy this.

But in all honesty, I think I let myself down.  After getting into the playoffs in 2015 and then having a quick exit, I told myself that I was no longer going to be emotionally invested in this team, or really any team anymore.  I couldn’t take the losing.  My thought was that by being detached from it emotionally, if they won a game I could be happy, and if they lost, well I wouldn’t have lost sleep over it.  Essentially, I guess I wasn’t a die-hard fan anymore because I just couldn’t take them losing any longer.

As a youth baseball coach, I had confessed several times that I almost always felt worse about beating another team than when we lost.  I just felt bad for the other team for some reason.  I knew as a long time Cubs fan that losing sucks.

Game 7 of the World Series was everything the sport’s final deciding game should be.  It had the drama of the two teams with the longest World Series droughts battling it out in the final game of the year.  The Cubs jumped out to a lead that we all new would never be a comfortable one.  I sat in my chair watching the game in an almost catatonic state.  I wasn’t moving, blinking, or anything – just breathing and watching.  As if on cue, the supposed “curse” was starting to kick in and by the time our closer gave up the game tying two run homer in the eighth inning, I was convinced that it was over.  I couldn’t take the pressure and went to bed.

As I lay in bed, I tried to sleep and nodded off at least once thanks to getting my mind off of it by listening to a little music.  But the bedroom door was cracked open slightly and I could still tell that my wife was still up watching the game.  I knew it had been tied, but figured they would have lost after listening to at least one full album of music.  So I hit replay and listened again and tried to fall back to sleep.  Hopefully I would wake up to the Cubs being World Series champs, or get up to the already familiar feeling of we almost did it.  But then I heard fireworks.

As I wandered back out to the living room, my wife looked at me and patiently let me come to the realization that the Cubs had done the improbable.  They had won.  I sat on the couch and watched the replays over and over again.  It didn’t seem real, but there was the proof.  Bryant, Rizzo, and gang being interviewed.  The celebrity fans in the locker room.  The fireworks still going off.  And I missed it.  I missed it because I couldn’t stand the thought of them losing again.  This time the Cubs hadn’t let me down, I had.

By winning, the Cubs took something from me it seems.  They took the part of what being a fan of that team was – being able to love them even though they let us down for over a century.  I’m not sure how to accept that they are no longer the “loveable losers.”  I need therapy.

A few days have now passed since the Cubs won the title and I’m feeling a little better.  I’m enjoying the celebrations that have gone on in the city, the special thoughts by long time Cub fans on social media, and the burden of being perennial losers has been lifted.  I think I have started to take a little more pride in the team, and can stop punishing myself.  But I might have to atone for my lack of faith.  I’m no longer rooting for a loser.  I’m rooting for the Cubs.  The 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.  That’s going to take a while to sink in.

 

 

 

To blog, or not to blog…

I’m not sure why I am jumping into the blog-o-sphere.  It’s kind of terrifying in a way.  I don’t really know what I am doing.  I think people who blog are somewhat narcissistic, and it’s readily apparent that I can be a narcissist, although I don’t like being told that I am.  It’s just that I am proud of some of the things that I have seen and done, and would love to share that.  What I really want to accomplish in starting a blog is to document things in my life that are significant, particularly my experiences in running, triathlon, family and life. I want to be able to look back and and have fond memories, share experiences and leave something behind for my kids to remember me by.

My father passed away in 1979.  I was 15.  There are a few photographs around in a box somewhere, but what memories I have of him have faded.  Video really didn’t exist in homes like it does now.  There are no home movies, or videos of my father.  I had a cassette player with a microphone.  I used it to record dumb stuff, and the device and tapes are long gone.  There are no tapes of my father’s voice.  I can’t even close my eyes and imagine an image of him.  I don’t want to leave the same empty legacy for my kids.

This page will be filled with family, drumming, running, biking, swimming, and whatever endeavors I take up.  Hopefully everything will be positive, and those who may be clicking around the internet and stumble onto this page, will find something useful.  I hope you enjoy reading these experiences as much as I enjoy blabbing about them.

So why not leave a few words, pictures and experiences in a format like this?  That is an easy question to answer.