Bald-ology

For those of you that have had the pleasure of any sort of interaction with me, you might want to get tested you know I fancy myself a bit of a sports dude (like the pope fancies himself as a bit of a religious dude). I like stats that argue my point, I feel I can be objective even when talking about teams I dislike, and I usually give an informed opinion across a variety of sport. From marathon runners to late round fantasy football sleepers…I’m always up a sports discussion.

Since I also enjoy putting words in order to make the brilliance that is this blog, you’d think I’d like something that combined the two. However, I must confess that during this time of year I have such a hard time watching ESPN as they continually use a made up word that pisses me off to no end…bracketology. Seriously, bracket-ology. I cringe when I hear it, it’s the worst made up word of made up words. Worse than lenth (length), or strenth (strength). Worse than trickeration (trickery), or strategery (strategy). The mere throwing an -ology on the end of a word doesn’t validate as a “science.” It starts to boil an anger inside of me similar to when people call me Tom rather than Thomas.

Anyway, bracketology is ESPN’s prediction of who will make the NCAA basketball tournament. Their resident expert is a fellow by the name of Joe Lunardi who actually starts predicting the field before the season even starts. Lunardi is good at what he does, and his understanding of the teams, the numbers (RPI, Strength of Schedule, etc.), and what the selection committee values makes him an expert and a trusted source of info. But…

When it comes to actually predicting the field for the NCAA tournament, it’s not that hard. A couple years ago, I decided to give this a whirl just to see how close I was. I only had two teams incorrectly in/out. So, here’s my prediction of the field of 68 that will be announced tonight:

First off, there are 31 automatic bids from 30 conference tournaments and the Ivy League regular season champ. Those teams are:
Albany
Florida Gulf Coast
Kansas
Louisville
Montana
Liberty
Pacific
James Madison
Memphis
Valparaiso
Harvard
Iona
Akron
North Carolina A&T
Creighton
New Mexico
LIU Brooklyn
Belmont
Oregon
Bucknell
Davidson
Northwestern State
Southern
South Dakota State
Western Kentucky
Gonzaga
New Mexico State
Winner of VCU vs. Saint Louis
Winner of Miami vs. North Carolina
Winner of Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Winner of Florida vs Ole Miss

There are 37 at-large births into the tournament. I have 31 teams as locks to make the field as an at-large. They are:
Indiana
Duke
Georgetown
Michigan State
Syracuse
Michigan
Marquette
Kansas State
Oklahoma State
Arizona
Pittsburgh
UNLV
Notre Dame
Colorado State
UCLA
North Carolina State
San Diego State
Wichita State
Butler
Saint Mary’s
Missouri
Illinois
Colorado
Cincinnati
Iowa State
Minnesota
Oklahoma
Loser of VCU vs. Saint Louis
Loser of Miami vs. North Carolina
Loser of Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Loser of Florida vs. Ole Miss (Ole Miss actually isn’t a “lock”, but I have them in regardless of what happens today, for simplicity I’ll include them in this section.)

This leaves 6 spots open in the tournament and by my count as many as 17 teams that could fill those spots. So the task of picking the tournament field comes down to picking the right 6 of these 17:
Middle Tennessee (28-5)
Louisiana Tech (26-6)
Southern Miss (25-9)
Temple (23-9)
Maryland (22-12)
La Salle (21-9)
Boise State (21-10)
Virginia (21-11)
Kentucky (21-11)
Alabama (21-12)
Iowa (21-12)
Arizona State (21-12)
Cal (20-11)
Tennessee (20-12)
Villanova (20-13)
Arkansas (19-13)
Baylor (18-14)

Here it’s more a guessing game of how you think the committee will make their decision. Will non-conference schedule be the deciding factor? Conference that a team belongs to? RPI? Conference tournament games?

While there’s a lot of “mid-majors” in this list with lots of wins (i.e. Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech), I think some of the late noise made by the big conferences will win out this year. Here’s my 6 from the list of 17 (in order, best to worst):
Southern Miss
Villanova
Maryland
Temple
Virginia
Cal

Leaving the other 11 out. I placed them in this order:
Middle Tennessee
La Salle
Boise State
Kentucky
Tennessee
Alabama
Iowa
Arizona State
Baylor
Louisiana Tech
Arkansas

I’ll add this disclaimer: I haven’t watched an NCAA basketball game start-to-finish this year. We’ll see how I do this evening…here’s one last recap with the seeds I’d give the teams.

#1 – Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas, Louisville
#2 – Duke, Miami, Georgetown, Ohio State
#3 – Michigan State, Florida, Syracuse, New Mexico
#4 – Michigan, Marquette, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
#5 – Arizona, Pittsburgh, UNLV, Wisconsin
#6 – Memphis, Saint Louis, Notre Dame, Colorado State
#7 – North Carolina, UCLA, North Carolina State, Creighton
#8 – Oregon, VCU, San Diego State, Wichita State
#9 – Butler, Saint Mary’s, Missouri, Illinois
#10 – Colorado, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Minnesota
#11 – Oklahoma, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Villanova
#12 – Akron, Belmont
#12 (Play-in) – Maryland, Temple, Virginia, Cal
#13 – Valparaiso, Bucknell, Davidson, New Mexico State
#14 – Florida Gulf Coast, Montana, Northwestern State, South Dakota State
#15 – Albany, Pacific, Harvard, Iona
#16 – Southern, Western Kentucky
#16 (Play-in) – Liberty, James Madison, North Carolina A&T, LIU Brooklyn

Out of Tournament: Middle Tennessee, La Salle, Boise State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, Arizona State, Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas

We’ll see how I do when the bracket is announced tonight. I tried to use all my strategery, no trickeration, to predict the field. Sorry about the lenth of this post, we’ll see if my picks have any strenth. This is the bald version of bracketology.

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Inspirational Moments #1

Since I’m back working and training harder than I ever have (46.7 miles last week to get back after it, and a 5 miler at 8:13/mile today), I haven’t really had a whole lot of time or material on the blog.  Since my training is pretty boring to report on at this point I thought I’d write a series on a few of the moments that have inspired me.  These are moments that I think of during training and race day…hell some of them are moments that just inspire me to try and be better in my everyday life.

The first occurred while I was in high school and is one of the very few moments I look back on during my time in Colorado with a smile (ironically had nothing to do with me).  I’ve used this moment as inspiration in more than just my athletic endeavors but as I continue to chase my marathon goals it speaks to me more and more.  Moment #1: Ray Bourque wins The Stanley Cup.

This story starts during the summer of 2000, when Bourque found himself wearing a different sweater than the Boston Bruins sweater he wore during his entire NHL career.  Ray, in his 20th NHL season, was traded to Colorado in an attempt to get the veteran defenseman a shot at hockey’s holy prize, The Stanley Cup.  Bourque and the Colorado Avalanche made the conference finals that summer putting Bourque on the doorstep of the Cup Finals.

Colorado trailed Dallas 3 games to 2 in the series.  They won Game 6 at home and setup a winner-take-all Game 7 in Dallas.  Even in his 20th NHL season, at age 39, Ray was playing a key role in Colorado’s attack and found himself with the puck in game 7, trailing 3 goals to 2 late in the 3rd period.  Bourque beat the goaltender with a shot that could have tied game 7…it rang off the post.  Dallas hung on to win game 7, 3-2.  Bourque’s 20 year quest for hockey’s greatest prize came up short.

Knowing he’d be age 40 during the next regular season, Bourque came back for one last shot with Colorado.  The Avs, finished the 2000-2001 season with the Western Conference’s best record, they survived a 7 game scare from Los Angeles in the 2nd round of the playoffs, and found themselves in the finals with defending Cup champion New Jersey.  With the series knotted at 2, Colorado was blown out at home in game 5 by the score of 4-1.  Bourque’s Cup was so close, but was slipping away.

Colorado had to win Game 6 in New Jersey just to force a decisive game 7…they routed New Jersey 4-0 setting up Bourque’s final game, a do-or-die 60 minutes after 21 years of chasing hockey’s greatest prize.

For New Jersey, they’d done this before.  During the 2000 finals they lost a chance to clinch the Cup at home, then went to Dallas and won it in a double overtime game 6.  The 2001 script was eerily similar.  For Colorado, they’d seen this same scenario against Dallas a year earlier.

I don’t know if I’ve ever rooted harder for a team that wasn’t one of my favorites.  I remember watching every moment of New York Ranger games, or Iowa Hawkeye games with the hope that my team can pull through…but I don’t remember a moment like this where I was pulling so hard for a team I’d never rooted for before (and haven’t since).  The Avs won game 7, 3-1.

It’s tradition that the team captain receives the Cup first, so Colorado captain Joe Sakic skated to center ice to accept.  He didn’t even hoist it.  He turned immediately to Bourque, handed him the cup and skated away.  This was Ray’s moment.  I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

Finally!

Finally!

Twenty-one years, 1,612 regular season games.  There certainly had to be moments that Bourque thought he’d never get to hoist the cup.  He’d been to the finals earlier in his career, only to be swept by Edmonton.  And after ringing the post in Game 7 against Dallas in 2000, there had to be the thought of, ‘maybe it just won’t happen.’

This is a story I love, the perseverance speaks to the endurance athlete in me.  “At long last…” great things are possible.

Perspective

To start with, last week was a complete throw away for training.  After Monday’s 5.5 miler (which went well), I just had nothing for speedwork Tuesday, took Wednesday off from cross training and never found enough to get back out.  I’ll have the occasional week like this, and have even scheduled an off-week in the past as part of a training schedule, but it still frustrates me.

Up to last week I had a fantastic start to this training schedule.  A really solid four weeks that, as I look at, I might have pushed a little hard for the opening 20% of a marathon training schedule.  Here’s a look:

Week 1: 19 miles
Week 2: 21.2 miles
Week 3: 25 miles (with my best speedwork session to date)
Week 4: 26.1 miles (on just 4 runs, with a 2:01:45 half-marathon long run)
Week 5: 5.5 miles

I still have to remind myself that I’m moving forward.  Slow progress is progress and when February closes I’ll have logged more miles through 2 months than either of the last two years.  I’ve had the best speedwork sessions I’ve ever run in the opening month of training, plus I’ve lost the weight I’ve gained following last year’s foot injury (I’m actually a couple pounds under the weight I raced in Fargo).  I’m making progress, and if I get good conditions at the Marathon-to-Marathon, I feel like I’ve got a shot at taking down the 4:13:53 that stands as my personal best.  We’ll see.

Four weeks away!
A reminder that the Powder Blue 5k is four weeks away.  So it’s a great time to start getting out and running the streets in prep for an early season race.  A reminder, you can walk, run, hop, crawl, or barrel roll…just get out and active to start the spring.  Have young kids?  Push ’em in the stroller for a 3.1 mile walk.  Been training hard for an April or May race?  Nothing better than a prep race.  Haven’t got out yet this spring?  Consider this a kick in the ass to get moving.  I’m looking forward to race reports…race weekend in March 22-24.

Races, Races, Races

My once/week posts have turned into once/month.  Seriously, how am I getting worse at this?

The Powder Blue 5k is Back!
Anyway, big news.  My spring virtual race officially has a date.  The 2nd Annual Powder Blue 5k will take place the weekend of March 22-24, with the home race going out at 9am on Saturday, March 23.  A quick reminder of what the virtual race entails…

Pick a day, either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday on the weekend of March 22-24.  You may run, walk, hop, crawl or barrel roll, however you cover the distance is up to you.  Go for at least 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), and take as many people with you as possible.  The idea is to get out and active.  Once completed send me a pic and a little info on your race (did you see something unusual? set a PR? share your time if you like).  At the end of the weekend I compile all the reports into one post which blows me away every time on how many participate.  This is my fourth virtual race, each one bigger than the last.  And since I’m a powder blue addict (the only color I’ll wear on race day), I’m partial to powder blue pics.  So get ready, race weekend is 6 weeks away!  (Here‘s a link to last fall’s GYRG virtual race, and here for last year’s Powder Blue 5k)

Looking for a repeat performance.
In addition to the Powder Blue, I’ve got two other races on the schedule that I’m training my butt off for.  April 21st is the 2nd Annual Fort Dodge Half-Marathon and I just got an e-mail from Race Director Amber with this year’s improvements.  An event that impressed me last year in it’s first attempt (race report here), Amber really committed to improving this race for the better in 2013.  They’ve added chip timing to rectify a timing issue from last year, upgraded in the shirt department with tech shirts that look really nice, added Powerade to all aid stations and improved the start location this year.  Commitment to improving the race experience is what draws me to this event and I highly recommend Fort Dodge for an early season half-marathon.  I’m hoping to take a crack at the 1:56:08 PR I set here last year and can’t wait for race day.  Fort Dodge, here I come!  (Anyone else near me that is interested in this race, LET ME KNOW.  I’d love to bring a few racers with me this year.)

A big improvement over last year.  Can't wait for it.

A big improvement over last year. Can’t wait for it.

Back to the site of #1.
Last year I used Fort Dodge as a stepping stone to my marathon PR 4:13:53 in Fargo on May 19.  I’m hoping for a similar boost this year as I return to the site of marathon #1, The Marathon-to-Marathon starting in Storm Lake on June 8.  While I’m super proud of finishing marathon #1 on this course, I’m equal parts embarrassed at the performance that day.  I’m out to prove I can have a good run on this course and can’t wait to take the line for my first marathon in (on race day) over a year!  Add the foot-injury comeback and I’ve got more want for this one than any previous race.  I’m not sure I’ll be in good enough shape to take a run at a PR (I need good conditions as well), but I’m damn sure going to try.  M-to-M, you’re getting all I’ve got.

Home update
In home news my wife got struck by the flu bug this weekend, but has been recovering well.  I’m sure she’ll be up and active again in no time.  She’s never been one to be too patient, so recovery seems to come fast to her.  We also got our new refrigerator last week and patched the hole in the wall behind the old cupboard.  How’s it look?

All I could do was laugh when I saw this.

All I could do was laugh when I saw this.

Look better?

Look better?

Valentine’s day, who’s lovin’ it?
And finally, if you’re looking for that special something for your valentine this week…there’s beautiful table-side service, candlelight, and flowers.  Where you ask?

You've got to be kidding me.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Back to Training & A Hole

For the first time in at least 10 months, I’m starting a new training program today.  A 20 week prep for my return to the site of marathon #1, the Marathon-to-Marathon starting in Storm Lake, IA.  This training program moves my long run day from Sunday to Saturday (the first time I’ve done that).  I’ve got Tuesday speed work scheduled, Cross training is set for Wednesdays, Hills and Tempo runs alternate on Thursdays.  I found last year that more runs of shorter distance and higher intensity work a little better for my preparation so I’m anxious to get after this plan.

My wife and I bought a new refrigerator that gets delivered next week.  A much bigger unit than the one we have so we had to take the cupboard that hung above the current to make room for the new when it arrives.  The task was simple, remove the current, paint to match the wall, slide new fridge into place…that was until I took the cupboard down.  Not a major deal, it’s an easy fix, but this is what I found after removing the cupboard…

All I could do was laugh when I saw this.

All I could do was laugh when I saw this.

Not really much more to write about today.  I guess January just doesn’t stir up a lot in the life of the baldman.  I’ll leave this post with a picture from my younger days.  I saw this at my folks’ house on Sunday and couldn’t help but notice how much I’m smiling in this picture.

Me

2012 in Review, 2013 Preview

One of the things that amazes me is how much more I learn about my marathon hobby as time progresses.  A sport that is as simple as ‘one foot in front of the other,’ breaks down to speedwork, motivation, training technique, injury prevention, injury recovery, strategy, diet, commitment…the list goes on.  As I’ve continued to pursue running the 26 mile, 385 yard distance to the best of my ability I learn more about the sport and more importantly more about myself.

My 2012 started with a goal to race in every month.  At least a 5k, and no phone-it-in performances, during every month of 2012.  I knew this would be difficult to race that often and avoid injury, but given my love for race day the goal fit me pretty well.

January’s race was the Freeze Your Thorns Off 5k and signaled a step forward for me as a runner.  Despite running a track that had snow drifted over in spots, and a sub-20 degree wind chill, I ran a then-PR 25:09 on a Friday night to start the year.  Knowing that I wanted to race in every month of 2012, to start with a nearly 2 minute PR was the “raise-the-bar” beginning I needed.  The yearly goals felt like they’d arrived early after that run.  I had reason for thumbs-up.

As 'The Boring Runner' originally captioned this photo...Thumbs up for frostbite!

As ‘The Boring Runner’ originally captioned this photo…Thumbs up for frostbite!

February was the first plane travel for a race, and the hardest race course I’ve ever attempted.  The Austin Marathon tested me in ways I’ve never been tested before.  Most of these tests I failed in Austin.  I set the pace too slow in an attempt to run a reverse split and a marathon PR.  I pushed on the wrong spots of the race course and left myself exhausted with more than 12 miles remaining.  While my first marathon in June of 2011 was a comedy of errors, I should have known better when Austin rolled around…I didn’t.  I barely survived the middle miles of Austin.

As I hit mile marker 20 in Austin the course is downhill for nearly the entire last 10k.  Amazingly I found life here.  In fact, I remember spectators on the race course seeing that life in me during that closing stretch.  Encouragement from a volunteer at a water station still sticks in my head…”making a late push to finish strong, keep it up Thomas (names were printed on the race bibs, you get called by name a lot at these races).”  I gave everything I had over the last six miles in Austin and despite a disappointing finishing time that started with a five (5:00:23), I felt like I’d accomplished more in those six miles than in the previous 13 months of training and racing.  I learned how to finish in Austin, it showed as the year progressed.

Just before the Austin lesson began.

Just before the Austin lesson began.

When I arrived at the start line of the inaugural HyVee Half in Fort Dodge there was that anticipation that something great was about to happen.  The race course was going to be downwind for most of the run.  The only part that wasn’t was a sheltered downhill stretch that would allow me to keep the pace I was running with the wind at my back.  There are days you don’t have it as a runner…and there are also the days that you know something amazing is about to happen.  My stretch goal for Fort Dodge was break 2 hours, lofty considering that would have been a 15 minute PR…instead I took it to 1:56:08 and left with the biggest confidence boost I’ve ever got as a runner.  I thought January was the turn of the proverbial corner…turns out that came in Fort Dodge.  This was my best race of any I’ve run, and will take an amazing effort to knock this off the top.

29.3 miles of family dominance in Fort Dodge.

29.3 miles of family dominance in Fort Dodge.

April was the race I named after my shirt…the Powder Blue 5k.  The rain let up for the running of the Powder Blue, but the wind howled for my April race.  The only plus was the into-the-wind portions of the course were downhill.

Where Fort Dodge was a beautifully executed end-to-end race…this was ugly.  I started WAY too fast.  My lungs were figuratively exploding less than 1 mile into the 3.1 mile distance.  I spent most of mile 2 mentally scolding myself for the mistake.  I hit the finishing downhill quarter mile and sprinted it out to make a respectable performance…then looked at my watch to find a PR 24:42.  Seriously?  I felt horrible, and I mean it, absolutely horrible.  There wasn’t a stride of this race I liked, it was another race of errors.  Yet, I had my third PR run in four attempts in 2012.  I can’t explain it.

Before the WAY too fast start.

Before the WAY too fast start.

The Fargo Marathon was this year’s main event and a chance to apply 16 months of training into one race to move myself forward.  But rather than the calm, this is going to be amazing, feeling I had before Fort Dodge…I was petrified before this race started.

Rebecca and I decided to run the Friday Night 5k in Fargo to shake our legs out in preparation for Saturday’s race.  We arrived to a 90-degree, high humidity, sauna of a 5k that no marathoner wants to see on race day.  If these were the conditions for the marathon, I was going to have to back off of my goals and just go for a “fun run” that wouldn’t have been much fun at all.  Add a horrible night’s sleep, a nervous drive to the start line that barely got Rebecca and my cousin Caitlin to the half-marathon start in time and I didn’t know what was coming for the marathon.

The weather was cloudy and cool as a storm rolled through the morning of the race.  Sweet relief from the heat, but maybe the added challenge of rain on race day.  Amazingly the rain held off for the entire race, the clouds kept the course cool, the choking humidity was gone…and so were any excuses, it was time to run the race I knew I had in me.

You know how this story ends…4:13:53, a sub-10 minute/mile pace for 26.2.  I always thought this kind of performance would move me to an emotional extreme.  Perhaps crumple into a pile after the finish line in tears of joy…or even an exuberant adrenaline rush.  Neither happened.  I was a little choked up, but didn’t have the energy to let out any sort of emotional outburst.  I kept looking back at the finish line…I think I might have been trying to force an emotional reaction.  Truth be told, I was exhausted.  The good kind of exhausted, like I’d left all I had on the race course.  I left all my strategy, all my emotions, all my heart, everything I had on the race course.  It left me somewhat numb afterward.  I had finally executed an end-to-end race over 26.2 (not just the 13.1 mile half).

After the Fargo race Rebecca and I returned to our hotel room for a quick nap and then maybe dinner out or a few drinks…a little celebration, just the two of us.  The only problem, we slept clean through and didn’t wake until the next morning.  Although Rebecca didn’t have her best race of 2012 in Fargo, I think she lived my Fargo race with me that we both were exhausted afterward.  I’m being 100% honest when I tell you that was the greatest night’s sleep of my life.

I can see it my face.  I'm exhausted here.

I can see it my face. I’m exhausted here.

June derailed the year for me.  Six days after Fargo I took one horribly awkward step and injured my foot.  I no longer could walk the mail route, I no longer could run…I could only deal with the pain of feeling like I was stepping on a shoe full of rocks for months.  I missed a marathon that I’d already paid for, I had to watch my wife, sister-in-law, and friend run a mid-summer 10k that I wanted to be a part of so badly.  I was laid off, couldn’t even get interviews for jobs that fit me perfectly…I went from the peaceful feeling of an amazing night’s sleep in Fargo to the worst night’s sleep of my life.  I gained back 15 pounds, I spent more time in a hospital than I want to admit (for me and a loved one).  I lost my hobby, my job, everything that I’d become so comfortable with over the last two years.  I’m not going to lie…this was hard.

The newest in marathon footwear.  Guaranteed 30-minute miles.

The newest in marathon footwear. Guaranteed 30-minute miles.

Upon getting cleared to return to running (my job gone at that point), I went out for a couple miles/day in September.  I watched Rebecca and the Kingsley girls race in Sioux Falls and made the hasty decision to run the half-marathon in Des Moines on just six weeks of running, post-foot injury.  I knew this was dumb, my foot went numb before mile 10, but I felt home during the Des Moines half in October.  Rebecca beat me for the first time, I know that meant a lot to her.  I was the heaviest weight I’ve ever been for a race, out-of-shape, under-trained…I was miles behind the Fort Dodge and Fargo performances from earlier in the year.

Wasn't ready for this...don't care.  Had fun anyway.

Wasn’t ready for this…don’t care. Had fun anyway.

As October closed and November entered I was getting better, but with no marathons on the upcoming schedule and feeling winded and out-of-shape after runs…running lost its’ luster for a little while.  I felt a little pickup after notching 100 miles in November, my first 100 mile month.  As my trail become snowed over in December I kept logging the miles as part of the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak, a run everyday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

I had no idea how thankful I would be for the run streak.  I set a goal of a 2 mile minimum instead of 1.  As the streak progressed, it turned into a 3.1 mile (5k) minimum.  I averaged 4.6 miles/day.  I ran a 5k PR on December 23 (24:28), I finished the streak with a sub-10 minute/mile half-marathon in single-digit temps.  Even more than the Des Moines half-marathon…I felt home again.

Streaker

So now it’s on to 2013.  I’m taking the first three weeks off to let my legs recover from the run streak before diving into to marathon training again.  I’m employed again, working much closer to home than the 70 mile drive to Denison.  I’m getting the chance to golf again in 2013, run either mornings or cool nights (whichever I like), and spend more time reading, writing, and enjoying the blessings God has given me.  As for the race schedule, tentatively looks something like this…

March 22-24 – Powder Blue 5k – My Virtual Race
April 21 – Fort Dodge Half Marathon – Fort Dodge, IA
June 8  – Marathon-to-Marathon, Marathon, IA
July – Midnight Madness 10k, Ames, IA
September – Sioux Falls Marathon, Sioux Falls, SD
October – Des Moines Marathon, Des Moines, IA
Sometime in the Fall – Get Your Rear in Gear 5k – My Fall Virtual Race
December – One final 2013 race?

I’m going to spend the early part of 2013 training harder than I ever have.  Speedwork, hills, better long runs, smarter rest…I’m trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together better than 2012.  Injury or not, 2012 was amazing.  I accomplished things I didn’t know were possible.  Here’s to the new year and new opportunities!

Running, Coaching, Fantasy, Chiefs, and Politics.

One thing I’ve never been, is too focused during a blog post. There’s usually enough swerving from topic to topic that my original idea gets lost by the end. Then there’s the occasional post where I don’t even attempt to weave together a main theme…this is one of those. You’ve been warned.

If you haven’t heard, I run.
To get the running update out of the way…I’ve completed the first 14 days of the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak. Where the rules are to run a minimum of 1 mile per day, my low day so far has been 3.25 miles. But as the streak continues something predictable is happening…yet I find it odd in a way.

Over the last three or four days, my legs haven’t exactly felt great (14 days of consecutive running has nothing to do with it?). Since my legs have felt heavy, tired, muscles a bit sore, I decided it was a good time to back off just a little and run some easy pace days. Add to that the wind has howled this week and I should be seeing my splits back north of 10 minutes…but they’re going the other way. While I should predictably get faster as I continue to get back off of this summer’s injury, I’m a bit puzzled how my tired legs are carrying me faster. It’s encouraging, but makes me wrinkle my forehead.

GallagherAgain

I’ve smashed through a barrier into better times, like Gallagher smashes…you get it.

Don’t hate the player coach, hate the game.
Wisconsin head football coach Bret Bielema is headed for a pay raise and warmer climates as he’s reported to be the new head football coach at Arkansas. While there’s a lot of people voicing their opinions over this, I feel the need to offer mine. It upsets me that the “season” for college football coaching changes comes between the end of the regular season and the bowl games. This leads to the situations where coaches are painted as weaselly for taking a different job before their team plays in a bowl game.

To go back to Bielema for a second, there’s nothing wrong with a coach taking a different job and for more money. I know if I’m offered 25% more money (or more) for the same position elsewhere, I’d at least consider it…if not take the new job on the spot. No issues with Bielema, he can’t wait until after the bowl game…the position will be filled by then. So here’s where I think the “game” needs changed. The NCAA needs to institute a rule that new coaches cannot be hired until after last bowl game has been played (or two weeks after to allow candidates to interview). This way a candidate like Bielema can fulfill his obligation to Wisconsin for that season, then move on to, in his view, a better job opportunity. Looking at this season’s BCS Bowl participants…20% will not be coached by the same man at their bowl game as they were all season. That’s a problem.

The only coach to have won the B1G title game is moving on. But has to miss the Rose Bowl to do so.

Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. Are you kiddin’ me?
I have refrained from blogging about my fantasy football team other than a tongue-in-cheek report on draft night. To make this story short, I’m in as the #4 seed in a six-team playoff bracket that begins with tomorrow night’s Broncos-Raiders game to kick off Week 14. I can’t say the team I drafted has held up well, so I’ve had to be savvy on the waiver wire this season (my first playing fantasy football). A very brief look at how my draft has held up…

1st round – LeSean McCoy, injured
2nd round – Rob Gronkowski, injured
3rd round – Darren McFadden, injured
4th round – AJ Green, Healthy and the #1 WR in fantasy (whew!)
5th round – Steve Smith, bust
6th round – Roy Helu, WHO?!? (I actually cut Helu before the season started)
7th round – Philip Rivers, bust
8th round – Jay Cutler, bust
9th round – Brandon Lloyd, bust

Horrid, right? I’ve made a fantasy living out of cleaning up on the waiver wire on a week-by-week basis to scratch into the postseason (and was 14 points from being the #1 seed in the playoffs). So I’m down to Colin Kaepernick, Bryce Brown, and a bunch of other undrafted pieces to try and scratch out a three-game win streak at the right time. I’ll say this much…I’ve had a ball playing fantasy this year!

Jim-Mora-Playoffs

I’m laughing just looking at the picture.

Let ’em play!
This weekend the Chiefs took the field after the tragedy that took place Friday night/Saturday morning. We all know by now what happened. Here’s what I want to comment on…there were a lot of people (fans, media, NFL players, others) criticizing the NFL for not postponing the game until Monday or Tuesday. I honestly have no feelings either way. The decision needed to be made by the Chiefs staff and players…and it sounds like the NFL worked with them to make the decision to play as scheduled. If the players, who were closely connected to the tragedy, wanted to play…who are any of us to tell them otherwise? They played because it felt normal, they’ve setup a trust for the 3-month old child that was orphaned in the tragedy…the Chiefs had handled this with nothing but class so far. Well done!

scott-pioli-romeo-crennel

I’d hire these two for my team in a second. GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel have been all class in Kansas City through a trying season. Proof there’s more to football than just wins and losses.

I’ll just throw my vote away next time.
I logged on to Yahoo today to see the following as the lead headline…

Votes

Do our government leaders still not get it? I certainly cannot speak for everyone…but I will speak for myself here. I, an American taxpayer, voter, and lover of all things common sense, beg the President, Congress, and all in elected office…PLEASE, LEARN TO WORK TOGETHER! The Republicans are not evil. The Democrats are not evil. Both parties cannot be 100% right…and also cannot be 100% wrong. But this complete inaction around political differences makes me, an American taxpayer and voter, feel like you just don’t understand. This is something that most of us learn in the early years of school…Kindergarden, 1st grade at the latest. It’s called…how to get along. So quit wasting our money on filibusters and lip service and start taking action. Work WITH each other, not in hatred of each other. And if you can’t do the job…then get the hell out of office and let someone who will.