A FAIR SHOT

Before Halo, before the internet, before screens, before instant, total, and demanded gratification.  When  “get your ass outside” meant you’d better do just that.  Find your own entertainment, or else.  Parenting used to be that way, do what you’re told.  No pouting, no complaining, no questions.  We really did live that way!

What kept me busy through the early to late 1960s?  Apropos that we were dirt poor, my toy of  choice was often dirt.  Or more specifically, dirt clods.  Chunks of  fertile East Central Illinois farmland.  My backyard resembling a game of Risk, army men and tanks and jeeps, miniature green extrusions of  war.  My generation’s tableau.

The field set, battles would begin.  My single GI Joe general of both sides.  My right arm the only weapon in the world.   Alternating five throws from each side, taking down heavy armament first, then picking off standing and crouching and prone soldiers.

As our arms and conquests developed, the little green men were replaced by buddies that could  throw back.  Dirt clod fights were a staple then.  Exploding clouds of dust leaving no doubts as to accuracy.  Good honest fun.  Except the one time I substituted a piece of gravel, striking Mike Bilaescki right in the mouth, he sported that chipped tooth through our remaining school days.   I got my butt whooped good for that lapse in judgement.

Dad finally hung a hoop on the garage, replacing the clod wars.  Wiling away days and weeks, try after try, perfecting my version of  the “two handed set shot.”  And it got pretty good.  The only drawback was a defender.  Too small to get the ball over y’all.

I still like to test my accuracy.  Play my own version of Final Four.  Still pickup a clod and give it a solid  toss every now and then.

I’m still a Fair Shot.

 

 

I’M NOT TAPPING

For every person that has been too short, too bald, teeth not perfect.  For every dreamer that has ever tilted at a windmill.  For every voice that needs be heard.  For everyone that dares to jump in the game.

I’m not tapping.

Looking back over six decades one thing stands out among those I respect the most.  The Principled.  Those that refuse to back down.  Even with a 600 pound monkey drooling down their neck.  The Bigger the Battle, The Longer the Odds, The More Important.  All my heroes have maintained their principles, didn’t sell out.  Could not be bought.  Could not be silenced.

I’m not tapping.

Those that have written their own chapters of history.  Guided by some deep passion that keeps them going despite every opportunity to throw in the towel.

2012 would have been an easy year for me to walk away.  Team Nebraska swept away in a swirl of chicanery and double speak.   Ten years of hard work and excellence pulled out from under, naivete leaving me wondering by who’s hands.

2017 would have been an easy year for me to walk away.   Losing Lincoln Marathon sponsorship for Nebraska Run Guru Elite, Inc.  Because of this blog.  Because of my insistence that our USATF Clubs support our Nebraska Association LDR Program.  Because of my  pointing out when they don’t.   Hands revealed.

2018 would be an easy year for me to walk away.  My Nebraska Run Guru Elite, Inc. athletes not being offered elite entry into the Lincoln Marathon and Half.  Denying the opportunity for both our runners and those that would be pulled to better performances by racing them.  All the athletes paying a price, something that pierces me personally and painfully.  And steels my resolve.

I’m not tapping.

The USATF Nebraska Association LDR Program.  It is bigger than a single race.  Even a that race “owns” two of our USATF clubs.   My heroes have stood up to more than me.  And inspired me.

I’m not tapping.

There are  young men and young women out there somewhere reading this blog.  I hope I give them the courage to fight for their convictions.

Grant Wintheiser.   His performances over the last two years becoming Nebraska racing lore.  The fastest 10 mile and half marathon by any Nebraska runner in nearly 20 years.

 

 

 

HOLY SMOKE!

The Kansas City Smoke took the overall at yesterday’s Shamrock Shuffle 8K.  Zach Zarda (5th-23:48) Joe Moore (6th-23:49) and Evan Landes (8th-23:51) leading the fellas to the title.  The first Major for one of our USATF Elite Development Clubs.  A long time in the  making.  I cracked the bottle of Oban that’s been saved for just this special occasion.

USATF Elite Development Clubs.  The very core of this column.  Its very easy for me  to celebrate with the Smoke and especially my  very good  friend Shawn Love.  Shawn was the original founder of the Smoke and I know his smile eclipses my own.  While no longer with the  club he remains their biggest fan.

Easy and hard at the same time.  Team Nebraska, KC Smoke, and Iowa RunAblaze.  Three USATF Elite Development Clubs that were among the very first designees.  RunAblaze finished 7th overall yesterday, led by Brogan Austin (7th, 23:50).

LRC Racing and Team Nebraska represented the Good Life.  LRC Blue finishing 11th, Team Nebraska 14th, and LRC Racing Yellow 22nd.  Best of ours was Johnny Rutford (LRC-24:35), Nolan Zimmer (LRC-24:42), Peter Falcon (Team Nebraska-24:49), Colin Morrissey (Team Nebraska-24:53) and Nolan Border (LRC-24:58).

Allow me a single puff of pride as Jay Welp led the RunAblaze “B” team with 24:31, good enough to finish 24th overall and lead all former Good LIfe competitors.  That’s my boy, or at least used to be!  Iowa City and RunAblaze lucky to have him now.

The LRC Women’s team performed with distinction.  Katie Wetzstein finished 13th overall in a fine 27:57 to lead her mates to a 6th overall in the Elite Club Competition.  Erica Doering (24th-28:53) and Hayley Sutter (28th-29:08) rounding out the top three.  Team Nebraska women were led by  Shannon Suing’s 29:52.

The Kansas City Smoke chose a rather appropriate backdrop for their team photo yesterday.

The only difference between the Smoke and Ablaze and our efforts here in Nebraska should be obvious.  They took the original Team Nebraska model One  Elite USATF Club In The State, For The State, and made it work.  If our efforts now appear fractured and scattered much of that responsibility lies at my feet.  My vision however remains that Nebraska, A True Team Nebraska, as it should be, as it once was, can again rise to meet the competition, the very best of the rest, of the entire Midwest and beyond.   Who or what could possibly want anything other for our athletes?  Hard question, easy answer.

 

ADIOS STATE FARM

Nebraska will lose one of its most historically competitive races Saturday.  The Grand Finale for State Farm 10 Mile and 5K.  A race that will always hold a special place in my giddyup.  Thanks to Chuck Smith for compiling the top 1000 or so times from the storied event, see link below.

State Farm was a proving ground for my efforts.  I’ve compiled my own Team Nebraska Overall Winners list.
2004- Siblings Mike and Gina Morgan representing Team Nebraska take the wins.
2005- Mike Morgan still with Team Nebraska defends.
2006- Ryan Salem and Gina Morgan add two more tallies for Team Nebraska
2007- Dustin Llewellyn and Gina Morgan, two more for Team Nebraska (course 1/2 mile short due to cone misplacement)
2008- Gina Morgan
2009-Gina Morgan
2010- Tom Nichols, Kaci Lickteig
2011-Aaron Carrizales
2012- Matt Pohren*  my last year riding herd
2013- Eric Rasmussen
2014- **LRC cracks the podium with Neil Wolford and Hayley Sutter getting the Ws
2015- Eric Rasmussen, Shannon Suing
2016- ***Neil Wolford-LRC Racing gets another notch
2017- *****Grant Wintheiser*****  Nebraska Run Guru Elite, Grant’s 50:51 the 2nd fastest time in State Farm History, behind only Kurt Keiser’s 50:22 in 2000.

Team Nebraska with a combined 16 wins.  13 of those during my tenure.  A mark that will forever reside in the Lincoln record books.  I feel a special bond with all those names above, all the athletes that understood what was going on.  And a heck  of a lot more performances from the club.  The all time list very heavily populated by those cats, male and female.

Kaci had more wins while running as an open athlete.  Michelle Brooks 59:23 in 2001 the only female to break the hour barrier.

Last year was exceptional.  One of the worst weather days in the history of the race.  Windy and precip and just plain nasty.  Grant showing rare talent.  Jay Welp, also in kit, taking down LRC and Team Nebraska’s best in the 5K.  One of my favorite Run Guru Elite days.

We’re sending Elizabeth Starbuck and Mark Abrams for the swan song and they’ll put their names and marks on the list.  Some history just can’t be re-written.

Good luck to LRC Racing and Team Nebraska at this weekend’s Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago.  Run Guru Elite will sadly miss that opportunity.  Here’s some motivation- David Adams (Team Nebraska) and Grant Wintheiser (Run Guru Elite) the only two Nebraskans to crack the magical 24:00 barrier.  Go get some!

Red & White Ruled The Day  State Farm all time list

 

GAME OF LIFE

Is there any more glorious reminder of Life than the onset of spring?  Perennials pushing up through the Good Mother, raising heads skyward, raising promise, raising hope.  Spring, one of life’s surest benchmarks.

By the time you enter your 60th year I hope you are blessed with a deep and personal  appreciation for all things living.  Understand the simple joy of a flower or a bird or worm or bee.    Or a friend.

Our friends at the Waterloo post office called at 6:30 yesterday morning.  “Your baby chicks are here.”  Shipped at 1 day old, the most fragile things.  Another right of Spring at the Bar None.  Twenty five Cornish that will be in our freezer by the end of June.  Another sixteen prolific and colorful layers to enhance our coop.  Egg production from those expected before year’s end.

There’s a sure rhythm on the farm.  Comforting.  Time to roll up the sleeves and get the last two months of seed starts into the ground.  Joining beds already planted with seeds (carrots, turnips, beets, beans, spinach, radishes) starting to just break.  Such happiness from the simplest of origins.  Just in time to start again,  tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and potatoes and every other green thing under the sun.

Variety then is one of the true spices of life.  This year we are introducing garbanzo beans, edamame, limas, terra del fuego, cannellini, favas (chianti anyone?) and my most anticipated legume, peanuts.

Be present and happy this spring.  Celebrate in your fashion.  Live and Love.  Be your own winner in this Game of Life.

Raised bed prep now complete.  Breaking everything by hand.  No fossil fuels necessary.  Clean and simple.

Onions, leeks, swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, fennel, rapini, lettuces, and kale.  Cole crops from the brassica family.  Cold weather tolerant.    Some started as early as Feb. 2nd.  Most will wake up in the garden tomorrow morning!

STICK TO RUNNING

God Bless Mr. Romine.  My 8th grade basketball coach gave this advice based on my diminutive stature.  I finished my junior high school career with a grand total of 1 free throw to my credit.  It happened like this:  Dribbling down the court and a bigger fella tried to steal the ball with a blatant foul.  I  made the free throw.  With the inbounds pass I went directly after my aggressor and knocked him on his ass.  My coach pulled me and that was my career.

One of the perks of this blog is the frequent emails received.  I hear a lot of inspiring stories.  Get compliments and complaints.    Inbox pinged last week with the admonition that I should “Stick To Gardening.”

I do go on about all things running.  And not everyone will send glowing reviews.   I’ve spent the last 17 years upsetting the local apple cart if you will.  Trying to advance programs and a vision.

I count the past decade and a half a success.  USATF members and clubs.  Course certification.  Competition.  Community programs.  Personal coaching.  Working with those that share my passion.   Educating the running community to a better way.

Bar None Produce is an extension of my running philosophy.   We proudly proclaim our methods and product to be superior, Bar None.  We back it up with hard work supporting a vision.  No other completely chemical free market gardeners in the Metro or maybe even Nebraska.  Educating the public to a better way.  I get emails about gardening too.  Telling us how much we are appreciated.  Telling me to “Stick to Running.”

My personal best of 2:07 for 800 meters, set in 1990 at age 32.   28 years ago, in flats.   All Comers Meet at Rice University.   I’m still running and playing checkers and gardening.

22 + 23 = 22

Kicking off with big tips of the sombrero to our mates Ashley Schurman, Jackie Freeman, and my dear sweet Linda Kunasek!    And the other 25 in attendance at the USATF Level 1 Coaching Education certification in Lincoln.

For the benefit of running in all of Nebraska.  At all levelsAsk your coach if they are credentialed by our sport’s National Governing Body.  You don’t have to be a USATF Certified Coach to tell people how to run.  But if you are your athletes will understand and appreciate your dedication and commitment to the sport and to their training.

Linda came home impressed by those in attendance.  The New Generation of USATF coaches.  The Next Generation.  Those that will carry the message long after I’m retired.

I’ve been looking for a 5K.  Just itching now that Linda has joined her own new age group.  I really want to test this 60 year old body’s limits but I need a legit course.  I’ve got to be able to measure apples against apples and course certification provides that.

Certification is my first criteria for any race.  If I’m looking for a Real Test competition is a factor.   My old song and dance about a closed road course is in the top 5 as well.  Swag that matches the distance I run.  An event that supports Real Running and Racing, for all entrants, whether front, middle, or back, from here or there, my kit or yours.  How do you know Real Racing?  I’ll quote Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart “I know  it when I see it.”

No way to keep up with the multitude of runs this past weekend.  Leprechauns and Shamrocks and Shillelaghs.  And Shenanigans!

I noticed this recently, a RACE that is NOT A RACE unless you pay extra to be timed.   Same start line.  Same finish.  Same staff.  Same course.  $22 or $45 you still got the same thing.   How and why do you penalize someone because they are serious about their sport and effort?

My proposal is for charity events to charge the non-racing, participant only, the higher entry fee.  They are there to support your cause and won’t mind at all.  You enjoy so many advantages from our sport, please  share some of it back to our community!  An official  time without doubling the entry fee would  be a great starting point.

I call on all charitable running events to support, subsidize and advance the opportunities for all athletes (regardless of talent) because they use OUR SPORT!  You won’t lose your charitable base and you will be giving back to what helps your bottom lines.

Would you go bowling without your ball?  Would you shoot hoops with no rim?  Swim in an empty pool?  Hunt with no ammo?  Order an empty beer?   Read a wordless book?  Play poker with only threes?  Show up at a Black tie affair in your LuLus?

This is the ultimate example of our sport being used,  taking without giving back.  That is my opinion.  And gentle readers, a main impetus blowing my coals.  Racing has been co-opted and corrupted by fundraising entities that have nothing at all to do with running or athletics.  For many 22 + 23 = 22 is just peachy.  But not for all of us, not the Real Runners.

 

 

 

OUR USATF HIGHWAY

From 2002-2012 Team Nebraska was one of the most respected USATF Clubs in the U.S.   My mantra for over 10 years was “My way or the highway.”   Because there was No Other Way.

Our USATF highway is now well paved.  With a veritable plethora of “ways”.  All these ways, steered, pointed, and  guided by sundry interests.  Comprising athletics in Nebraska as we see it today.

The original bedrock however remains the same.  The vision for our USATF Nebraska Association’s LDR Program will not change.   Advocating for USATF members.

An analogy.  At Monday’s Valley/Waterloo Business Owner’s Association meeting the President indicated that those sitting  at the table would enjoy the rewards of the group’s efforts.  Member organization, member benefits.   If your not at the table, well…..

Our USATF Highway has broad shoulders, welcomes all USATF member clubs, all USATF members, regardless of ability, regardless of kit,    For the last 17 years, USATF Nebraska has strived to educate the running community.   To elevate expectations in road race management.  The USATF perspective.

Think of this for just a moment.  With USATF Nebraska LDR we enjoy Team Nebraska, LRC Racing, Club 402,  Run Guru Elite.  The USATF clubs that serve our deserving athletes.

There have been a lot of contributors to our USATF Nebraska Highway.  None more important than our athletes.   The vision and mission will not change.

We’re still trying to iron out our 2018 USATF Nebraska Association LDR Championships schedule.  We’ve conducted our road 5K champs and have the State Farm 10 Mile on March 24, and Havelock 3K on June 2nd.  We are still looking for events to host our 2018 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon championships, at a very minimum.   If your race, no matter the distance,  is interested please reach out to our LDR Chair or USATF Association President, Rubin Carter

 

 

 

 

 

SKY PIGS

This has been a year for the record books.  Migratory birds numbering more than even the hoariest can remember.  We count it fortunate that our work is under the skies.

This season won’t last but it has been a sight to behold to be sure.  Too easy and a far shortfall to say there are millions.  A couple of times I’ve been completely awe struck, dumbfounded with eyes cast towards the heavens.  Reminding to keep our mouths closed.

Our little slice blessed by the Good Mother.  And this route is celebrated throughout  the  Good Life and throughout America.

Well, not quite all of America.  I’ve indicated that the Twin Rivers Homestead is chock full of interesting characters.  A mom and daughter walked up to the fence last night.  We talked of the winged wonders.  Mom used a term I’ve heard three times in the last week.  Sky Pigs.

See, one person’s beauty can be another’s burden.  A lot of it is what you are used to.  What you’ve seen, what you expect.   Here along the Platte and Elkhorn these birds are a spiritual awakening, certain and final harbinger of spring.

What mom told me next shook me a little.  Her son used to live in Nebraska.  He’s a pilot.  Got his wings spraying the corn and bean fields of Madison County.  He’s plying his craft differently these days and my imagination has a hard time grasping.  Son still flies, still lays down passes, spraying lethal gasses.  In Alaska.  The Tundra.

What pray tell could he possibly be ridding?  Snow geese.  So numerous as to be doing real damage to our environment.  One person’s beauty, another’s  curse.

Sky Pigs.

CARPE CARP

Sieze the carp!
Carp.  A freshwater fish native to Midwest rivers.
Carp.  To complain in a demanding way.

At sixty years old I made my very first Friday Night Fish Fry last week.  St. Johns in Valley.  My family grew up poor.   We ate what my dad hunted primarily.  And fished.  Every free day during the summers I’d be at the Lake Fork River with my fishing pole and a box of Wheaties.  Not for breakfast, if you crush them  just right and add a little river water, and Viola!  Wheatie Balls.  The dependable go to when no nightcrawlers available.  Pop that Wheatie in the water and the carp frenzy ensues.  Used to slay those carp with Wheaties.  Dozens loaded onto multiple stringers.

Even the poor have standards.  Carp is a bottom feeder with a bad reputation.  We would take our stringers to the Kearns family, a dozen kids in foster care, recipient of much largesse from our small community.  If there were extras or leftovers or spare, we all knew it would be in good hands with the Kearns.

Carp was on the menu last Friday night and naturally I had to take that trip down memory lane.  Well prepared and presented, tastes exactly as it did 50 years ago.   I might can go another 50.

Our Valley/Waterloo community is becoming more and more our home.   Bar None Produce now a member of the  Valley Waterloo Business Owners Association.  In an unlikely twist your scribe has dove into the civic pool with  gusto.  Unlikely because most of these meetings we’ve been attending start at 6 or 7, later than this guru prefers.

Tristan slayed the Valley City Council at last night’s Valley 7 Lakes Marathon presentation.  The local support for the race grows more with each.  The VWBOA  in attendance lending support to our efforts.  Tristan, only 20 years old, standing toe to toe with the civic giants, accepting each challenge and describing our response.  Ducks in a row, ducks in a row.


The Valley 7 Lakes Marathon now lays claim to the Flattest Marathon In The World with only 21 feet total elevation gain.  Better profile than London, better than Berlin, better than Rotterdam.  Better profile than any run in the United States.  Superlative.  Completely closed road course.  It will be the Only closed road marathon in Nebraska.   It will be the Flattest Marathon In The World.  It will be April 27, 2019.  It will be for you!    Valley and Waterloo beckons.  All proceeds to benefit the DC West Cross Country team and Nebraska Run Guru Elite, Inc.