Monthly Archives: October 2018

THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOEY LeBLANC

Back in the 80’s, East Texas, about half way between Castor Plunge and Otis. Deep in the Piney Woods National Forest. A few of us used to run the annual Spiral of Death 13K Trail Challenge.

Single track, long forgotten Tonkawa Tribe trails. Waist deep swamp crossings. Cypress trees, burdened by Spanish Moss, menacing, dappled darkness, tenuous to treacherous footing.

No awards, no timing, no t-shirt, nada. Start and finish at Joey LeBlanc’s decrepit cabin. His piece of the swamp built on lost generations. One of the Original Thirteen Families to escape Northern Persecution, trekking from Prince Edward Island south until only marsh and swamp lay before, and beyond the Gulf of Mexico.

The only race amenity a huge cast iron pot, suspended over open flame, drowning ladles full of rattle snake gumbo. Tastes like chicken. A keg of Abita Purple Haze, bacon pocked cornbread, and little sympathy for the few of us that dared tackle the Spiral of Death. Sounds like a fun race and it wasn’t. Damned creepy too.

Joey gave the command “Geaux!” and would in a moment be lost in the fog that often descended on our start. We could hear him rustling and splashing up ahead, the only way to keep from losing oneself completely was to keep him within ear shot. Not many could and that explained the low annual turnout, always the same 8-10 runners. Tormented cadre.

The swamp is haunting, living, moving with ebb and flow. The course would by nature change every year. You could tell Joey delighted in the futility of our chase, us laboring, he cavorting. We needed our keenest senses simply to follow him. Once we were all huddled waist deep in the shadows wondering where to go next when he popped out of the murky waters right at our feet, laughing and off again in an instant. No one ever beat him.

Here’s the rub. Joey only ran this own race. Even though he was able to best by far a handful of the most talented runners in Texas. We knew it fruitless to encourage him otherwise and just accepted this denizen of the Piney Woods for the Free Spirit he was.
More curious was the fact that Joey was always Joey in the very strangest of senses. We would comment that he remained seemingly unchanged from year to year. Was it the gumbo? The chicory coffee? While the rest of us raced from our mid to late twenties and into our thirties Joey just didn’t slow down. Or age. At all.
I visited Texas in 2016. Retraced memory into the depths of the darkened conifers trying to find Joey’s cabin. Local inquiries revealed no memory of the man. I found a long unused logging road that was vaguely familiar and finally to his shack.
The front porch was caved in, moss covering nearly the entire structure. I made my way to the door half expecting to smell the wonderful viperous gumbo. No aroma and no answer. I hung around a while reliving memories of the race and of Joey. Winds rustled ancient pines as I walked back to the truck. Then the unmistakable laugh. Joey fast approaching from the East. Just returning with a medium sized gator slung over his shirtless shoulders, bound for the Dutch oven no doubt. He seemed not at all surprised to see me, almost as though he had been expecting it.
Me almost 60 at the time . Joey, the same boisterous and boundless energy and I would be a liar if I told you my blood didn’t run cold to see that he had not aged a single day in the decades that had passed.

swamp

HALF FAST

Running and Racing!  That’s what we are all here for right?  We train, train, train up for the opportunity to be completely honest with ourselves.  To Race!  To measure against ourselves and those we consider competitors.  To acquit our efforts with relative pride and distinction.

That is on my mind as I’ve regained my competitive spirit.  Linda and I have been running every other day for almost 3 months now.  Running!  We threw ourselves in a Mile.   Racing!   But I knew my 6:33 was too good  to be true.  Honestly.   Would I have loved to crow it legit?  Sure thing but I knew deep down it was short.  We’ve been including one workout per week in our efforts. Nothing full speed yet.  Just half fast.

Doesn’t diminish my effort though.  It was still a race.  And I  gave it my all.  Every ingredient of the recipe satisfied except the distance, harder pill because the mistake was my own.   I wear big boy pants and owned up to the shortage.  Even my own USATF Certified course can be wrong.   No way every  person in the race had such a significant personal record.    Some will claim it, some  will blame it.  One will remeasure it.

I’m heading to the track this morning to get a Real Result.   I’ll do it again and again over the next couple weeks.  Repeatability and consistency equaling honesty.   I’ll keep you posted.  Half assed or Half Fast.

 

 

 

 

RACE RESULTS MONDAY

The weather gods smiled on your racing this weekend!

The GLH, fastest in the land!  The number of runners reporting personal bests in the 3 to 5 minute range indicative of perfection.  Phillip Reid of San Luis Obispo, CA led the field in 1:05:54, Pasca Myers top female in 1:16:50.  The Kansas City Smoke making a huge impression taking 5 of the top 10 spots.  Top Nebraskans Johnny Rutford (1:06:18), second overall, and Katie Fitzsimmons (1:17:54), second overall female.  Proud of my mates Liz Starbuck (13th, 1:24:51) and Nicole Norris ( 15th, 1:26:01).

Liz with two of Team Nebraska’s best.

The Bones Run 5K (NE14020KU) in Omaha was won by Daren Konda (21:36) and Lisa Sieczkowski (22:58).  Interesting observation, the average age of the 70 finishers in this race was 50 years old.

The  Red Kettle 5K also this weekend.  Not listed on the USATF website as certified.  In full disclosure I did not try and chase down any number of dead and loose ends trying to find out more.  Of note was our Christina Elder finishing 1st female and 4th overall.  Twenty flat.

Christina used to run for me on Team Nebraska.  I appreciate her loyalty.  Oh, and fierceness too!

Speaking of old mates, got the chance to hang out with Paul Wilson, Matt Pohren, and Eric Rasmussen this weekend.  Thank you to our host Clif Cisar.  And an excellent job by the UNO Coach hosting the Summit League XC Champs.

 

And the ubiquitous LRC Racing team sent a full female masters contingent to the USATF Masters 15K National Championships in Tulsa.  A real powerhouse now with the well landed additions of Shannon Mauser Suing and Stacy Mangers Shaw.  Thank you for supporting USATF!

 

 

BUENA SUERTE MEDIA MARATON

Good luck and  great racing to everyone at this weekend’s Good Life Halfsy.  Ben and company have established this as the most competitive half in Nebraska.  With  a 2.09 meter net downhill it should be fast.  The  Antelope and Rock Island Trails (sidewalks) comprise much of  the course, my only beef.    Run Guru Elite will be representing.   We’ll see you at the start line!  Buena Suerte!

“Touch Here For Power!”  Man I need some of that!

 

WEARABLE PARABLE

The Warrior and the Tailor.

A veteran of many wars was traversing the prairie.   Seeking an agrarian home.  His travels brought him to StatusQuomaha.  There he met an old man sewing stitches.  The octogenarian insisting his needlework was finest in the land.

The Warrior was shocked at such declaration.  “Where lies the magic in such a bare cloth?  “What armaments lie hidden in sleeve or waist?”  “When do the epaulets and inspiring finery adorn this simple rag?”

The Tailor, surrounded by his school of simple garment makers, could not understand.  “We all wear this fashion and it is good.”

The Warrior insisted any Real Cloth must include declaration of fealty, rended to a higher purpose.    The same calling which had wounded and hardened him.  The cudgels and spears and knives all morphing mere man into Warrior.  He scanned the gathering and  found them soft and uninterrupted by battles.

The Tailor, suitably suited.  The Warrior, never so.

***Update.  The Bryan Health Classic 5K and 15K courses were measured for USATF Certification.  From Omaha Running Club president Tom Whitaker- “Bryan Health 15K is USATF certified, certificate No. NE18010GM, and the 5K is USATF certified, certificate No. NE18011GM. Paperwork has been filed with USATF but not yet posted on the USATF website. Would be helpful to reach out and get the truth instead of leading the public astray.”

I’ll make a simple declaration here.  I checked the USATF website in good faith for the certification.  Found nothing.  Checked the race website and found the confusing remarks about TAC certification.     You gentle  readers, can consider the circumstances and make your own conclusions.

 

 

A MOMENT WITH TRISTAN NELSON

Tristan Nelson (Left) turned 21 last April.  He is a young ball of fire.  A few words from this busy young man.

Will:   You just made your half iron man debut. Top 10 in your age group. Congratulations! Tempe, Arizona?

Tristan:  Thank you, 2 of the guys in my age group were top 10 overall. The youth will prevail. Tempe was hot and the roads during the bike were arguably of the worst roads I’ve rode on simply put there were bumps and cracks everywhere and the course was a 3 loop course so it kinda dragged on but I had a blast to say the least.

Will:   How do you think your strength as a runner served you on the final leg? Did you pass a lot of people?
Tristan:  I laughed when you asked this question as for some reason the swim and bike were most certainly my strongest part of the race. Which is funny to me as I am a runner first. Which makes me glad though because as I get to the point where I’m at Ironman 3-5 I should be a seasoned Vet when it comes to the run. I definitely had a better stride than 95% of participants though. Just have to get my body used to running after doing all that work before the run and I’ll be doing big things in the sport in no time!

Will:   You are a very busy young man. Race Director for the Valley 7 Lakes Marathon. Can you give our readers two good reasons to run in Valley next April 27th?

Tristan:  After doing this Ironman and seeing all sorts of different courses throughout the states into short time on this earth I would say that this course for the most part is a one loop course and a good amount of the roads are newly paved in the valley area. Most importantly, this course is flat as a pancake and the route is truly gorgeous when you are running through each one of these lakes and my favorite part is the SMALL TOWN CHARM, I’m a sucker for that because Valley is 12 minutes from Omaha where the hustle and bustle of the city is and out west it’s so much more peaceful and calm.

Will:  Election day is coming up and you are running for the DC West School Board. Here’s your chance for a free pitch, let’s hear what you got!

Tristan:  I was extremely involved when I was in high school, 5 sport athlete, student council, quiz bowl and much more. After I graduated I have found ways to get involved in my community and it is truly amazing at the opportunities that people can find simply by getting involved and that is my incentive is to get students as involved as they can be. Because if they do one sport or join band/choir they could meet someone that could change their life for the better rather than going home after school and drowning in boredom/homework wondering why they aren’t happy. There are many more things I could talk about but we can keep this answer short STUDENT INVOLVEMENT

Will:   You were elected as the Nebraska Association LDR Chair at last September’s meeting. Anything you’d like to tell us regarding your vision for the program?

Tristan:  Slowly but surely I would like the LDR programs to have as much participants as the youth programs do. Mainly because when these kids can look up to the LDR program in their own state and see these elite level athletes working their tails off and having fun while doing it and sometimes making a living from it. That will hopefully push these kids to want to be like the people in the LDR programs. Also, I have a deep passion for the sport of long distance running and what better way to advance the program than having a kid right out of the youth and college program from an athletic standpoint as I was a cross country and track runner in high school (as well as baseball, basketball and hockey) and at the University of Midland!

Will:   I know you’ve been studying hard for your Realtor’s license, are you about ready to shop the Bar None around for Linda and me?

Tristan:  Aha, I have been so busy with Ironman training and this upcoming election. I am glad it’s almost over so I can get back to the books and get my license.  I’ll help you guys sell the bar none only if you want to relocate to one of the 16 beautiful lake communities we have here in the Waterloo/Valley area (; . As I like to say if you need to know any info about lakes in the area I’m truly the guy with all the answers. I’ve ran and swam the length of EVERY lake but 3.

Will:   You are at the vanguard of some youthful energy the likes of which it is ever so refreshing to see. What is it about you and your peer group, especially in Valley and the surrounding area, that has you grabbing the world by the tail?

Tristan:  I believe the source of all of it is DC West Schools. Mainly because we are a small town community where if you are an outgoing person like myself you can easily take advantage of all the connections and people in the schooling system and what I’ve found more importantly the community itself. All the knowledge you need about this community is someone sitting at the tavern or at the gas station or walking their dog by the lake. It’s so simple when you can start a conversation with a deep breath and “hello” and after that you can pick most anyone’s brain about what they know in the area so I’ve found it extremely fun to know as many people as I can in Waterloo and Valley because I know that one day it will all pay off.

Will:   Your mom is a hoot. She recently spent a weekend at William Shatner’s. What’s up with that?

Tristan:  She is childhood friends with Williams wife, so my mother went to Indianapolis recently to visit her sister (aunt Dawn). She ended up staying an extra week with Liz (Bills wife) to hangout and catch up at her family farm outside of Indy. And yes the old coot is a hoot alright.

Will:   What’s your favorite beer?

Tristan:  I enjoy the finer things in life, I have never liked to drink. I like to call myself a well water connoisseur but I will say when I do head to the Spruce street tavern I like to enjoy a Blue Moon WITH an orange. I’d also say I’m a Miller High life guy, Simply because of the high life baby.

Will:   What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tristan:  This is a tricky question for people my age and I always thought it was funny because as a young kid I really wanted to be a well know businessman who owned a breakfast, lunch and dinner place so I’d always have free food. But as I’ve gotten slightly older, I always tell myself I just want to be the happiest person in the room with a smile on my face no matter where I go. With that being said, my best trait is that I am extremely adaptable to my surroundings. So, if you were to ask me 10 months ago that I’d be doing a half Ironman, be elected Nebraska LDR chair, running for school board, getting my real estate license, helping to coach the local CC team and even be a race director for a full marathon in my home town…my goodness would I think not only you are crazy for saying that I would be doing these things; but me the craziest for wanting to put all that on my plate, I’m coming back for thirds… So the real answer to this question is that you can never truly predict the future and what exactly you are going to do with your life. But you can take advantage of the people you meet (in a good way) and the opportunities that are put upon you. As of right now I’m a very busy person and I strive to be busy the rest of my life. From a young age I would be at school all day then go straight to practice, go home do homework then after that go to hockey practice. So as long as I’m busy and doing things I’m passionate about, I could care more about who or what I am! I also have big plans for my far future that I cannot attain until I grow into the person that is able to do those things so until that day I’m just getting closer to that person I want to be every day.

RACE RESULTS MONDAY

Last Friday’s Nebraska State XC Meet didn’t disappoint.  A hometown tip of the sombrero to DC West’s Ryan McArdle who finished 8th overall and set the school record of 17:30.  The boy’s Falcons finished 5th in Class C1.

My notes:  Class A Boys Champs Fremont.  Could not be happier for Jose and the fellas, NRGE Farm Team.  Liem Chot of Lincoln NorthStar first overall in 16:08.  In the Girls race, sophomore Kaylie Crews (18:42) of PLVS toting home the All Class Gold, nice work Coach Stenger!  Lincoln East narrowly (6pts) edged Fremont for the team title. No seniors in the top 7, Giddyup!

Class B Boys found Omaha Skutt on top.  Sophomore Ryan Zavadil (16:27) led his mates including Coach Mike Mingo’s son Cole, to the pinnacle.     Samantha Palermo of Norris led the women in 19:57.  Lincoln Pius X took the team title.

*If I may, a Burke aside.  Sam Runde ran 1 xc race for Burke as a freshman and set a freshman school record 17:05.  He ended up in a boot after that race.  He also ran a freshman 9:52 track two mile and was in a boot again the next day.  He spent this xc season in a boot.   I keep reminding him to keep his chin up.  Sad.

Class C Boys Champs Sidney.  Senior Aidan Wheelock (16:31) of Minden taking the overall, a crowded trophy shelf now.  Six of the top 7 finishers seniors.  Class C Girls led by Lucia Keag of Ogallala (19:49), team title to Holdredge.  Maddie Wilt of DC West finished 19th overall in 21:24.  She was the second Freshman finisher behind 3rd overall Alexus Sindelar (20:13) of Pierce.  Maddie will lead a strong DC West girl’s team next year!

Class D Boys team champs Malcom!  Ainsworth Senior Benjamin Arens (16:02) the All Class Champ.  Class D Girls Champs Ainsworth!  Overall to Ainsworth Junior Rylee Rice (19;25).

The GOATZ 50K was yesterday.  Cory Logsdon and Kaci Lickteig all laureled up!

The Bryan Health Capitol Classic 5K & 15K were held in Lincoln yesterday afternoon.  From their website: ” 15 & 5 Kilometer courses certified by TAC.”  For my gentle readers that may have raced there yesterday TAC stands for The Athletics Congress.  It existed from 1979 to 1992.  TAC was replaced by USATF in 1992.  The courses are not USATF Certified.

 

COCK-A-DOODLE-TOO

This is one  of  my favorite Friday’s of the year.  Why?  Because there is no  where to hide.  I eagerly tore through this morning’s  OWH looking for this opening statement:

“Coaches are predicting team titles…..”

Why wouldn’t they?  In high school the runners are subject to the tic toc clock doc.  And each other.  Frequently over the season.   Testing mettle.  Forging  metal.  Gold every athlete/coach/alchemist’s goal.

I’ve spent almost 20 years now ranking Nebraska talent.  Making comparisons.  Setting standards.  Pissing people off.  Pissing clubs off.  Who should be an “A” level athlete.  Who  the B’s are.  Even the “Cs”.

Which club is best.  It used to be Team Nebraska and it was indisputable.   LRC Racing assumed the mantle in 2012.  Undeniable.

For now.

Got an email from an old buddy a couple days ago.  Crowing the fact that LRC is the only competitive club in Nebraska.  His team, his town.  Cock-a-doodle-doo.

Not quite ready to completely un-rank Team Nebraska.  Current lull notwithstanding.  Hopeful they can once again reach for the heady heights of excellence.  Competitive running is important.  And not just between club mates, A,B, or C level.

Here’s a not well kept secret.  Nebraska Run Guru Elite is still around.  With a new found patience.   And its own marathon.  A marathon whose leadership is 100% in agreement with the words in this column.  No attempts to silence or censor, no sponsor demands or strings, no obfuscations, no bunched panties, no geographical/hierarchical struggles.  Everything right here in Western Douglas County.  Good Mates, Good Friends and Good Neighbors.

My biggest accomplishment so far in the Good Life?  The fact that I’m still around.  Fighting the Good Fight.

Cock-a-doodle-too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

CROSS COUNTRY

Sending good Giddyup vibes to every thinclad headed to Kearney for manana’s meet.  Especially our  DC West Falcons.

The USATF Nebraska Association XC Champs are coming up on November 11.  Thanks to our association President Scott Rainbolt and our newly elected LDR Chair for getting things set up.  Back in Omaha this year at the fabled Walnut Grove Park.   Will any of our lads approach Seth Hersch’s course record of 14:52?  We’ll see.  His remarkable mark set as a high schooler.  Ponder this, Seth may very well turn out to be the best ever runner from Nebraska.  Omaha Proud!  (gnashing of teeth, pulling of beard, much wailing at the Platte)

Speaking of youth, 15 year old Tierney Wolfgram finished 6th overall at the Twin Cities Marathon.  Good time for any athlete, 2:40:03, six minutes faster than my personal  best, how about yours?

On the other end of the spectrum 70 year old Jeannie Rice ran the Chicago Marathon in an age group world record 3:27:50.

Good luck to our Good Mate, young Tristan Nelson in his half iron man debut in Tempe Arizona this weekend.  Your Valley 7 Lakes Marathon Race Director dipping his toes into the triathlon.