Archive for June, 2010

Hump Day

The nice thing about a short week is that “Hump Day” comes early, although, yesterday did seem a lot like a Monday.

Over the long holiday weekend we traveled to Iowa to visit my parents. The weather was perfect, with warms temps and few clouds. However, as is the case when I make that trip, we ran into bad weather on our way back to the Twin Cities. There was heavy rain and lightning for about fifteen minutes, which isn’t a big deal, but at the time we were traveling through a construction zone where there was only one lane and we were meeting head-on traffic. The heavy rain made it difficult to see and the lightning was the cloud-to-ground type and was striking pretty close to the highway. I was happy when we cleared the work zone and by that time the skies had begun to clear and the sun was shinning by the time we made it home.

My kids are busy counting down their remaining days of school. As of this morning, they have seven days left, of which it seems there are many “end-of-the-year” activities going on. Today, my daughter has a talent show for her grade at her school. Any kid who wants to perform an act can sign-up and do his or her thing. My daughter and a couple of her friends are going to perform a dance, it should be fun!

Tonight, we will attend an “open house” at the school our daughter will attend next fall. It is a chance for her to meet her teacher and to see the classroom and atrium she will be in next year. It will also be the first time she will be attending a school with all of the kids in her grade under one roof, so for her school becomes a bit more crowded next year!

Later this week, my daughter and her fellow crossing guards get to spend the day at a local amusement park. They earned the trip due to their year-long service to the patrol. I guess standing outside with an orange flag when it is about ten degrees is worth it when you get a day to miss school in order to ride the rides!

My oldest son has a couple of finals to complete next week and then he will be officially a “senior”, which is something that I haven’t gotten used to yet!

My other son has an a picnic and a day at the park scheduled with his class. Before that he has a couple of finals to complete.

Yesterday, I officially signed up to go with my youngest son and his Boy Scout Troop to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming this summer. We will spend five days backpacking in the mountains and on the return trip, the Troop is scheduled to lower the flag at the evening ceremony at Mount Rushmore. To train for this trip, my son and I have been attending practice hikes with the group that is going on the trip. Last night we completed a four mile hike and we have several more on the schedule. We will need to carry approximately forty pounds of gear each day, plus we will be climbing in elevation along the way, so proper training is key. Besides Mt. Rushmore, one of the highlights will be reaching the top of “Cloud Peak”, which is a little over 13,000 feet!

So the “countdown” to a busy summer has begun!

Dam It!

I will be in Des Moines tomorrow to run in the Dam To Dam 20K race.

It is the 31st running of what the organizers proclaim to be “Iowa’s Distance Classic”. It will be my fourth time running the 12.4 mile course that begins at Saylorville Lake north of the city and ends downtown at Nollen Plaza.

It is one of my favorites races to run for the following reasons…

1. It is SHORT! It is a lot easier to train for and I should be able to complete the race in about an hour and forty minutes.

2. First part of the race is DOWNHILL! You drop down the first couple of miles then the course flattens out with a few rolling hills later in the race.

3. It has the feel of a marathon. With nearly 8,000 runners on top of dam at the start, the energy level is certainly high. The crowd support along the way is fantastic and the finish ranks right up there with any marathon. There is a drumline that performs about a block from the finish and it really gives you a strong boast at the end.

4. Festive finish area. Plenty of food and beverage await the finishers along with bands playing in the plaza.

5. Breakfast burritos!! My personal motivation to get to the finish! A “Farmer’s Market” is held a couple of blocks from the finish and there you will find a stand that serves one of the BEST breakfast burritos you will ever eat! The lines are long for this classic, but with assembly line precision, the wait is relatively short and it is well worth it!

6. Cool t-shirt and medal. Always got to get the “cotton” (okay, nowadays, technical shirt) and the hardware!

“Things I Learned This Week”…

*The oil spill in the gulf is inching it’s way closer to gulf loop that could impact the Florida Keys. My oldest son and I, along with his Boy Scout Troop are traveling to “Sea Base” in Key West, Florida in a few weeks. We spend five days on a forty foot sail boat as the crew of the ship. Our trip could get cancelled due to the oil spill, but it is small in comparison to the lives of the residents and animal life of the region being affected.

*The latest attempt by “BP” to contain some of the oil happened late last night. Following the failed attempts of…”Top Kill”, “Junk Shot”, “Top Hat I” and the less publicized attempts of “Sling Shot”, “Shock and Awe”, “Shokacon”, “Half Rack”, “Full Rack”, “The Rambo” and lastly, “The Regis”, let’s hope for the sake of everyone that last night’s “Top Hat II” helps some!

*I’m heading to the Big Horn Mountains! This past week I officially joined the adult leaders who will accompany a group of Boy Scouts this summer on a backpacking trip to Wyoming. This will be the first “high adventure” trip for my youngest son. On the return trip the scouts will have the honor of lowering the colors at an evening flag ceremony at Mount Rushmore. We have begun training for this trip with practice hikes. Last night we hiked four miles, but it was the first time with a weighted backpack! I know I will pack a bottle of “ibuprofen” for the trip! If all goes as planned we will make it to the top of “Cloud Peak”, which is slightly over 13,000 feet! It should be a trip of a lifetime!

Happy Weekend!

Dam Wet!

Apologies for the later than normal post this morning. My wife left her work computer at home and so after the kids left for school I needed to provide courier services for it and drop it off at her office. It was the least I could do following her busy weekend with our daughter’s four dance recitals while I was gone to Iowa to run in the “Dam To Dam” race in Des Moines.

Speaking of the race…

It was wet!

A constant steady rain before and during the race that lasted until about mile seven, meant, soaked clothes and shoes!

But here is how the day began…

I spent Friday night at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in a suburb of Des Moines. From there, it was about a twenty minute drive downtown to park and catch a shuttle bus to the dam and the start of the race. Due to construction near the dam, the normal drop-off site for the buses was changed from one side of the lake to the other. This meant we needed to walk about a mile to get to the start area before the race. With 8,000 runners registered for the 20K, the organizers were asking people to arrive early to ensure everyone could make it on time.

This also meant I needed an early wake-up call…

3:45 AM to be exact!

I followed my normal pre-race routine of a hot shower to loosen up followed by a quick breakfast of “Pop Tarts” and yogurt.

Following “breakfast”, I loaded my gear into the car and headed downtown. I quickly noticed it was raining and pretty breezy. The forecast the night before called for 2 to 4 inches of rain and possible lightning for the race. I don’t mind running in rain, but I would rather not have to worry about being struck by a bolt of lightning while on a quest for a t-shirt!

I made it downtown shortly before 5:00, parked the car and headed for the buses. Myself and a bus load of runners made the trip to the Saylorville Dam, north of Des Moines in about 30 minutes. When we got off the bus there was a light rain falling with some lightning off to the south and west. Thankfully, it didn’t look too threatening, so the main idea at the time, was to stay dry before the race!

My sister had provided me with a disposable poncho the night before and after I made the mile long walk across the dam, the rain had started to pick-up in intensity.

It was time to break out the plastic!

It was now about 5:45 and the race was SCHEDULED to start at 7:00. The rain was coming down harder and there were still flashes of lightning around. The cheap poncho was doing it’s job and I was staying dry and warm.

Others weren’t so lucky.

Many runners had the plastic bags, but others simply had their race shirts, which were now getting soaked. Hundreds of runners sought shelter from the steady rain under trees that were near the starting area. Race officials then made an announcement to those people to be prepared to leave in the event of lightning.

Oh, they also told us not to hold onto or lean against the metal guardrail on the dam while we are lined up before the race.

Sound advice!

I began to make my way out onto the dam around 6:40. I dropped off my “drop bag”, which had dry clothing for after the race at the designated place.

I kept my poncho!

The plan was to get rid of it just before the gun went off. When I got near the start line, the wind became pretty strong whipping across the dam. We about five minutes away from the “scheduled” start when I noticed there were still hundreds of runners making their way across the dam to the start. Good luck making it in time for the start! Maybe next time, set your alarm clock a tad earlier!

But no…we were waiting for them!

The race organizers delayed the start of the race for about ten minutes in order to get those people past the start line. Good thing they did, otherwise, we would have ran right into them head-on!

So that meant another ten minutes of trying to stay warm and dry!

I bid my friend, the poncho “goodbye”, the gun went and we were off!

This was my fourth “Dam To Dam” and my goal was to run it in under one hour and forty minutes, something, I hadn’t accomplished in my previous races. I figured I had a shot at it since I was coming off training for the Green Bay Marathon and despite the wind and the rain, the conditions were pretty good for running fast. In years past, the sun and humidity and a couple of good sized hills had hurt my time and kept me from a sub 1:40.

This time, the hills were still there, but the heat wasn’t!

My plan was to run steady 8 minute miles and cross the finish line under 1:40, dry off and head for the “Farm Boys Hearty Food Company” stand at the farmer’s market for one (or two) of their famous breakfast burritos!

My 10K time was 48 minutes and I was “on-pace”.

We were now leaving a more exposed area of the course and heading for a part that offered more protection from the wind. I was feeling good and liked my chances for a strong finish. The rain had let up, but there were a couple of spots along the course that were slippery and required me to slow down a bit. Thankfully, I had built up a bit of a cushion.

With one mile to go, I knew I was going to able to reach my goal.

I crossed the line in 1:39:17, a “PR” for me in the Dam To Dam 20K!

My niece and her husband, along with my nephew were near the finish and cheered me on. I collected my finisher’s medal, grabbed some PowerAde, changed into a dry shirt and headed to the burrito stand! There I met my father, sister and brother-in-law, who also came down for the finish.

I polished off two of those burritos and I don’t think they have ever tasted better!

I then headed back to my sister’s place for a hot shower. I spent Saturday evening at my parent’s house and made the four hour plus drive back to the Twin Cities yesterday afternoon.

Time was of the essense, since I needed to make it back in time for the final performance of my daughter’s dance recitals!

I made it home with about an hour and a half to spare!

I met my wife at the performing arts center of a local high school and we enjoyed a very energetic two hour show!

I am happy to report the show was much drier than the race!

As always, a special thanks to the organizers, the volunteers, the race course entertainment and the spectators, who braved the elements to make the 31st running of the Dam To Dam such a huge success!

Also, thanks to my wife, who managed several events for our kids “solo” this past weekend so I could run a race!

Finally, thanks to my sister for the poncho!!

Post race...soaked & happy!

Post race...soaked & happy!

Breakfast burritos!!

Breakfast burritos!!

Post- dance recital!

Post- dance recital!

Monday Morning Dad

Recovering from a weekend of attending graduation parties.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended four parties for six kids from our neighborhood, who graduated from high school on Friday evening. It was a bit on the cool side here this weekend, with a threat of rain, but thankfully, the rain held off, which made the parents of the kids even more happy!

My wife and I are now “on deck” for next year’s round of grad parties. Our oldest will be a senior next year and we were paying close attention to the details at all of the various parties. We both agreed we have a lot of work to complete before next spring!

Speaking of work…

My oldest son began work on his Eagle project for Boy Scouts this past Friday. He is leading a project that will add landscaping near one of the holes on a golf course that is part of our local parks district. We had a lot of rain early Friday morning, which delayed the installation of boulders that are part of the design. The weather did clear enough for us to prep the site for the boulders and approximatley 300 plants to be put in place today and tomorrow. My son will be leading crews of about six scouts for two shifts each day today and tomorrow. Following the completion of the project he will need to complete the written report of the project, complete two Merit Badges, and submit the necessary paperwork before his Eagle Board of Review.

Leading a project of this type is one of the wonderful benefits of being in Boy Scouts. Over the course of the past several months, my son inquired about several project ideas, met with his project sponsor several times, developed the plan for the project, received the necessary approval and is now leading the project. It does a great job of teaching leadership skills to young men.

Friday was also the first official day of summer vacation for my kids!

Our unseasonably cool weather made it seem more like the first day of spring break!

Judging by the looks of our calendar, it looks to be a busy summer for my kids! Scout trips for both boys, a church backpacking trip for my oldest, a week-long scout camp for my youngest son and dance classes and church camp for my daughter!

My motto…

Keep ‘em busy!